Don’t forget the birds!

This is a project I remember from when I was a child. Every winter my mum would buy a big bag of peanuts, and we would sit down and string them together in long garlands, to decorate the trees and feed the hungry birds. This week, the birds must be especially hungry (it’s freezing cold here in Amsterdam), so I put the kids to work. And they loved the exercise! We used plain red baker’s twine (like this), and a big ballpoint needle. Kids happy, birds happy, mama happy — a good hour spent!

xxx Esther

Boskke

How cool are these?  I am proud to say that my friend Patrick designed these hanging pot plants to allow anyone to have plants in their home no matter how small that house is.  Growing up in New Zealand we never knew the concept of limited space but after moving to London it became apparent that not everyone is so lucky.  Patrick designed these while studying ceramic design at Central St. Martin’s and living on the 12th floor of a tower block.

There are so many great reasons to have plants in your home including purifying the air you breathe. I really want some for my kitchen so I can hang my herbs!  Check out the Boskke story here.

Stephxo

Gardening time!

This weekend we had such a treat: one day without rain and even (yes!) a few rays of sunshine!! Hurray for May! Seriously, the weather has been so lousy here in Amsterdam, we’re in much need of sun. Anyway, we decided it was time to spend a day in our little garden to plant all the seedlings we’d grown in the windowsill of the kid’s room the last weeks: tomato, pumpkin, courgette, sunflowers, nasturtiums, sweet pea… They had by now grown into little puppy plants so it was time for them to hit the rough Amsterdam climate outside.


Carrots, radishes, salad and rocket are best sewn in the full ground (outside). If you don’t have a garden or balcony, you can also easily grow these vegetables on your window sill. Just one word of advice (we keep doing this wrong!) — don’t sew the seeds too close together, or the carrots, radishes etc don’t have room to grow! Plain salad and rocket are also super easy to grow (even in the windowsill), and you can keep cutting their leaves for a long time.

Of course we set the children to work immediately. They love gardening! Obviously the small scale of our vegetable garden-to-be will far from feed our entire family, but it’s a real pleasure to harvest our own grows, little as it may be, and it’s educational for the children. Here are some really fun ideas for gardening with kids:

Sara received this super cute Gardening Giftbox (from French brand Moulin Roty) as a gift and it comes filled with little pots, compost, seeds, a watering can and gardening tools — all packed in an adorable little suitcase. So cool! Sara and her friend spent hours working in the garden, preparing the soil, sewing their seeds, watering the plants, etc.

I got some bags of seeds at the Balcony Gardener. These bags are really pretty and also make gorgeous gifts (I just ordered a few more of them!). They also sell beautiful quality kid’s sized gardening tools which we love.

Finally, if you live in the Netherlands or Belgium (or speak Dutch), this little Moestuinkabouterpakket is such fun and so very, very cute. It comes with seeds, bags to sew them in, labels, a little book about the garden gnomes that will help you to look after the seedlings (provided you make sure their hat and coat is hanging ready for them to wear!).

xxx Esther

Nasturtiums — a gardeners dream!


In Dutch we call them ‘East Indian Cress’ — my favourite plant in our garden! I love the pretty round leaves of the nasturtiums, I love how wild and crazy (and easy!) they grow, and I love the beautiful, tissue-paper-like flowers, with their bright, happy colours. Both the leaves and the flowers of the nasturtium are edible, which only adds to their appeal. They have a delightful, peppery sweet taste (a bit like radishes), and look so beautiful in a fresh, green salad. My kids love picking them before dinner, and they love to eat them too (high in vitamin C, I’ve read)!

xxx Esther

Tulips!


My dad and his girlfriend sent me a few photos of the tulip fields surrounding their house. I thought they were so beautiful, I just had to share them with you. I remember playing as a child in these tulip fields, and riding my bicycle up and down the paths. These photos make me miss home! Anyway, hope you enjoy. Have a lovely weekend!

xo Courtney

p.s. Photos taken by Susie Jungemann.

Man Gift

I have been long-suffering when it comes to purchasing “man gifts.”   I am always at a loss to come up with something that goes beyond the boring ol’ tie and wallet default, but recently I stumbled upon a genius idea… buy him something that SEEMS like it’s for him but will secretly benefit the whole family!!! Man oriented cooking gear and a good man cookbook.

Now that it is summertime, my husband loves nothing more than scorching meat on a hot fiery bbq and his hero/mentor/favorite person on the planet is Adam Perry Lang. Adam Perry Lang IS the “God of BBQ” and these books ARE the holy grail. I have personally tasted many of the recipes and although they can be labor intensive they are all beyond incredible. Lang recently released a short version of his first book “Serious BBQ” called “BBQ 25″  which offers less time-consuming recipes but if you know someone who loves to grill – get them a copy asap!  Also worth nothing is that Lang splits his time between London and NYC which I thought was pretty cool and he is opening a restaurant with Jamie Oliver in London in October 2010.

Then again there is always the beer holster.

-Dina

DIY Colourful Lanterns

My daughter made one of these glass jar lanterns at school for her Christmas dinner, and I thought they were so cute that I’d have her make a few extra — they’re just lovely on a summery (garden) dinner table! They’re really easy to make (a child can do it), and all you need are some empty glass jars, some coloured art tissue paper, Mod Podge, a brush and zig-zag scissors. Just cut squares of different sizes of the tissue paper and glue them on the glass jar, slightly overlapping. When finished, paint a layer of Mod Podge, let dry, insert candle and presto! Fun to make, and with great results. I’m planning on hanging loads of them in a tree for a summer dinner — I’ll have to put my daughter to work!

xxx Esther

For the little budding gardener

Considering how gardening helps children learn about the cycle of life and about time, patience, nature, and cause and effect… I can’t think of a better gift for a child than this mini greenhouse by HaPe. Not to mention the cool design — it is made of birch plywood and bamboo and cleverly designed to allow gardeners to open the rooftop for planting and watering. Two sliding doors offer a second access to four double-walled, fully functional plastic trays that can be filled with earth and seeds. It is pretty fantastic!  I have ordered one for my daughter for her birthday  — a real step up from the pint milk containers and fast-to-sprout seeds she has been tending to. A  little garden of her own to love and nurture!

Incidentally, HaPe International is the maker of a great line of all natural bamboo games that were developed by designers, teachers, and technicians from over 15 different nations. It is the world’s first collection of bamboo toys. (more…)

Bacsac — a garden on the go

bacsac-ed01I have been hankering for my own vegetable garden for some time now.  Whenever I hear stories of the home veggie garden type, the abundant yield of fresh, nutritious and ripe fruit and vegetables that costs so little and provides endless enjoyment for the whole family, I am, pardon the pun, green with envy. But living in a townhouse with a little sandstone courtyard leaves very limited scope for such endeavors, especially one swamped by a huge trampoline.  Briefly I considered converting the rooftop into a garden until my husband talked practical matters. Undeterred, I did some research and that’s how I came across the simple brilliance of the Bacsac.

The Bacsac, a French creation, is a simple, portable planting bag made from a permeable/porous geo-textile that prevents asphyxiation of the soil — allowing you to plant just about anything, anywhere.  They are available in an array of shapes and sizes, 100% recyclable, UV-resistant, frost resistant, tear and traction resistant, adaptable, hang-able, stackable … and just genius(more…)

The Pocket Garden

The Pocket GardenOn the window sill in Courtney’s bathroom in London sits a little sunflower growing in a bag and every time I look at it it makes me so happy! Sun, new plants growing, birds singing in the garden, woo-hooo — it’s springtime!
It must be so weird for our friends on the other side of the globe to read this, who are getting ready for winter!
Anyway, the little plant growing on Courtney’s window sill comes from The Pocket Garden, a lovely company that sells cool little bags filled with compost and seeds. The only thing that’s needed for the plant to grow is a pair of scissors to cut open the package, some water on a regular basis and a sunny spot! Very cute to give as a gift (through Send-a-Thought), or to teach your children a thing or two about nature.

xxx Esther

Tickle me plants

tickle-me-plantAbout two years ago we visited the Eden project in Cornwall (UK) where my husband and I at some point spent a good 15 minutes playing with a plant that would react to our touch by closing its leaves! So cute! It was as if the plant was communicating with us!
I recently found out that this specific plant is called a Mimosa Pudica, or ‘Tickle me plant’, and that growing one yourself is apparently super, super-easy!
The seeds will sprout within a couple of days and become ‘ticklish’ in about a month. The kids can see it grow and finally play with it as if it were a pet! The plant even appears to go to sleep at night by closing its leaves.

In the US, you can buy Tickle-me-plant-seeds specifically aimed at children, but it might be a cheaper option to google Mimosa Pudica and check with garden centres in your own country. (In the Netherlands you can buy the seeds of ‘Kruidje-roer-me-niet’ here.)

xxx Esther

P.S. You can see a short video of a Tickle-me-plant here

January blues

Narcissus plantI’m just not cut out for London winters.  They’re dark, they’re dreary, they’re cold, they’re wet… the holidays are over, and spring still feels like miles away.  Ugghh!

Something that helps me beat the ‘January blues’ is having a pot of spring bulb flowers inside the house.  It’s quite uplifting to watch flowers bloom, despite the fact that they’re not blooming outside yet.

Good bulb flowers to buy right now are: Narcissus (which is a type of daffodil and is what I currently have in my house), daffodils, tulips or hyacinth… many of which also smell quite nice too!

Plus, your kids will also enjoy watching them bloom!

-Courtney

Send a thought!

Send A Thought basketDo you have a friend who just found out she’s expecting? Wouldn’t it be cute to send her a little gift box to show her how excited you are for her?  Or perhaps you have a friend (or many) who are sick with a flu bug, and you just want to tell them you’re thinking about them and hope they get well soon.  Send-A-Thought makes it easy to, well, send your thoughts!

You can send chocolate medicine to your sick friend.  Or expectancy tea to your expecting friend.  Or you could even send a little ‘hot stuff’ package to your husband at work to tell him how hot you think he is! Fun!  Just think of all the thoughts you can send…

Each thought comes wrapped in a gift box and includes your custom message hand-written on a little note card.  In a world obsessed with e-mail and text messaging, I just love the idea of sending something fun and unexpected to your friend’s letterbox!   (And I’m sure he or she will love it too…)

-Courtney

Petersham Nurseries

Petersham NurseriesTake the train from central London to Richmond Station and follow the high street through town toward the river. Turn left and walk along the river past the cafés and kayak sheds. Cross the pasture filled with buttercups and cowpies, and venture toward Petersham Nurseries. Set within this lovely garden center is a restaurant that will impress on many levels with delicious food and beautiful decor.

Award-winning head chef, Skye Gyngell, uses the highest quality ingredients in respect of the season, and with support of small farmers and producers across England. The food is amazing, and don’t even get me started about the desserts…

Petersham Nurseries Restaurant is one of my favorite restaurants in London.  It’s a beautiful setting (a garden – it doesn’t get prettier than that!), and it just has a very special feeling to it.  It’s also the experience of heading to Richmond for the day, which is a lovely little village. (more…)

Beautiful, but be careful!

Chinese LanternChinese Lantern (physalis alkekengi) is a truly fascinating plant. First, there are little white flowers. Then, in late summer, they develop into fruits, protected by larger, papery pods – green at first, but later becoming bright orange, perfectly resembling little Chinese Lanterns! Inside is a perfect, red berry…
When the lanterns have received their full colouring you can easily cut them and bring them indoors – they keep their colour for a long time and are very pretty in autumn arrangements – or for Halloween.
The berries are edible when ripe, and contain more vitamin c than lemons! They don’t taste very good by themselves (they’re very sour), but can be used for jams and jellies.

This highly ornamental plant can be successfully grown in the shade or in sunny spots. In fact, they are aggressive spreaders, so it’s best to grow them in a container if you don’t want the entire garden to be taken over (or if you have a balcony)! They like moist soil, so watering is necessary in dry times or climates.

So far so good, right? But here comes the bad part… (more…)