For a while now we’ve been writing regular Tuesday Tips posts — posts in which we share little parenting insights, tips and things that we’ve learned or picked up over the years. We enjoy these posts a lot, both writing them and reading them, and especially the tips and tricks that our readers leave in the comments section (or sent by email).
But sometimes we just want to share a thought, a question, or an insecurity. Something we don’t know the answer to, but something we want to talk about and hear your thoughts on. So we’re going to start a new series called ‘Thursday Thoughts’, and we hope you will enjoy and join in (and we hope we will learn and grow from it)!
Sara is now 10 years old, and the inevitable question has come up — when does she get a cell phone? Some of her friends (including her best friend) have been given a cell phone for their 10th birthday, and apparently about a third of the children in her class now have of a phone of their own.
We are not big screen-users in our family. It seems that there are roughly two routes to take when you are raising children — you are either relaxed or restrictive about screens — we lean toward the latter. Our kids do not have an Ipad or Ipod, and hardly watch television (they do watch the occasional dvd though). But, when we are having dinner and one of the kids has an interesting question or insight that we can’t respond to accurately, we tell them to search for the Ipad and look up the answer. And, now that it’s getting colder and wetter and it’s dark early, we sometimes like to cosy up in the living room and watch a fun film together. So I guess we don’t ban out screens completely, we’re relaxed restrictive about them.
With that in mind, I always thought the age of 12 would be a good age to give my children a mobile phone. They are then in the last year of primary school, and they will have started to cycle to their school, their friends and their after-school activities by themselves. An age, I imagine, when they will need (and get) more independence, and a mobile phone might make sense. They are hopefully responsible enough by then, plus, it could come in handy at times.
As a child, I had to cycle 8 kilometers to secondary school every morning, and back every afternoon. ‘Through rain and wind’, as we say here in the Netherlands. On a few occasions, cycling was impossible — a lot of snow on the way, or a flat tyre, for example — and I would have to find a house on the way, ring the bell, and ask kindly if I could make a phone call to my mum so she could come and pick me up. I sometimes wonder, do children nowadays have a chance to develop the (social) skills to deal with these sorts of little problems in life, when they get a mobile phone at such an early age?
A friend of mine has 3 children, 2 teenage boys and a tween girl. His wife passed away a few years ago, so he has the tough job to raise his kids all alone. He has always been extremely relaxed about screens; he feels that they are such an integral part of our lives, that it’s only natural to let children grow up with them. He gave his daughter a cell phone (no smart phone though) when she was seven, so they could reach each other on the days that he was working outside the city. When she was ten she got a smart phone, and he says it’s all good.
I was talking with Courtney about this (who has even stricter views on electronics) and she nearly fainted (half joking) when I mentioned it might be time to give Sara a phone. She said that this is a parenting decision that is still so far away for her, that she hasn’t really even thought about it yet, but she guessed it would definitely not happen before her kids were 16, and then certainly no smart phone!
So many parents, so many opinions.
But I think I might have to reconsider mine. I wonder if maybe the age of 12 is a bit late in our Amsterdam way-of-life. If, next year, most if not all of the children in Sara’s class have a phone, should I still keep her from getting one? Even if we wouldn’t allow her to bring her phone to school yet, she could still join the class WhatsApp group, and send messages to her friends, and use it on occasions after school?
It’s a difficult decision to make, and I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions about it to help me shape my own!
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I am shocked that, for the second time this year, I am sitting in front of my computer to write a post about a violent tragedy that has hit my beloved city right in the heart. Our home is, for the second time in 10 months, right next to the site of inhumane violence. We were very lucky this time as the girls and I were sitting in a plane flying to Dublin for a weekend with friends and family. But we are back now and the air is still thick with the horror of Friday’s events.
The main reason the atmosphere is so different than during the attacks on Charlie Hebdo is that this time we, here in Paris, feel like we have been targeted for being us and for living our normal lives, so the fear is palpable. We love sitting on lively terraces, enjoying an apero and laughing. We love live music and eating in restaurants. We love talking, arguing, drinking and celebrating life and our city. This is what the terrorists so callously honed in on and they hit us right in the heart of our being.
We have all done a lot of soul searching this weekend and the impulse to flee or lock ourselves and our family into our houses is overwhelming, but we cannot do it as that would let the terror win.
I remember seeing the above photo a long time ago and it has always stuck with me. A beautiful, made up woman in Sarajevo walking through a dangerous, sniper haunted neighbourhood passed armed guards, refusing to cower in the face of danger. I am not comparing Paris to the Sarajevo of that time, but I love her spirit and I believe Parisians will do the same thing. We will continue sitting at the tables of our beloved cafés, we will continue populating our streets and taking advantage of the beauty of our city. Because a couple of cruel individuals will not scare the inhabitants of this city and threaten that lifestyle and the liberty we hold so dear.
I want to ensure that my children do not live in fear and are not afraid of walking our neighbourhood streets, and the only way I can do this is by leading by example. Hopefully I can pass this message on to them.
Top image was created by @jean_jullien on Instagram.
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We gave the kids journals for their birthdays last spring in anticipation of our big journey ahead. I had hoped they would write in them regularly (daily even!) to document the things they see and do each day. The kids were enthusiastic about the idea and they excitedly packed them into their backpacks at the start of our trip.
But… when the time came to write their first journal entry, all three kids stared up at us with a blank stare, followed by questions and complaints: what should I write? I don’t know what to write about! How much do I have to write?
We suggested they write about their day and all the things they saw and learned. And yet, they still sat there looking down at a blank sheet of paper. We soon realised that perhaps it would be easier for them if we asked a few specific questions for them to answer, and this method has worked really well over the past couple months. We start each day with the date, place and weather. We then ask 3 to 4 specific questions (tailored for each child).
Here’s a list of some of the questions we generally ask:
- What did you do yesterday?
- What new words did you learn?
- What new foods did you try?
- What was the most interesting thing you saw?
- What was the most fun?
- What was the highlight of your day?
- How did it make you feel?
We then ask them to draw something they saw, ate or did. I’m loving their drawings just as much as what they choose to write – it’s such a fun visual way to capture a memory. It is already so much fun to look back at all their journal entries from the past couple months and I’m so excited for all the pages yet to be filled! It’s going to be such a special thing for them to keep and look back on for the rest of their lives.
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Our London ShopUp opens a month from today on 10 December! The event runs both the 10th (Thursday) and 11th (Friday) at Chelsea Old Town Hall. This year, we have asked our well-connected friends at The Mamahood to organise some fun and festive workshops for you, and they look amazing! You can read more on The Mamahood website, but here is a quick look at what is on offer (click the pictures to read more!):
Wreath making with Bloom and Wild:
Gingerbread making and decorating with Primrose Bakery (who will also be selling baked goods in our cafe!):
Modern Calligraphy with Quill London:
Availability is limited, so we would recommend signing up as soon as possible if you want to join in the fun. Head over to The Mamahood to see detailed information on each workshop; signing up is easy via their (super cute) website!
We have also arranged to have a customisable letter press station with Prickel Press on Thursday and a hand painted customisable card station on Friday with Betty Etiquette in the cafe. (You can sign up for these when you arrive.) They will be conveniently located next to our charity, mothers2mothers who will be running our wrapping station to help raise money for their incredible organisation.
Lastly, we are so very excited to announce that Santa himself will be visiting the ShopUp this year! He is bringing a listening ear, a Polaroid camera for photo ops, and sweet little toys for good boys and girls! Find more info on Santa’s visit here.
This year’s event is shaping up to be our best yet (we always say that, but it is always true!). Please sign up on our Facebook event page if you’ll be joining us! We’ll be posting more updates there! xx
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When we were vacationing in Morocco last week, we met a lovely British lady in a hotel who was staying there with her 7-year-old identical twin girls. We ended up following a cooking course together (tajines!) and while we were preparing the different delicious veggies and herbs, we were chatting about so many different things, amongst which how it is to raise twins. One of the things she mentioned really stuck with me, a very interesting insight that she got from a stranger on the streets of London when the girls were still babies.
She told me that a man stopped her when she was pushing her double buggy about, and said that he himself is one of a twin, and asked if he could share a piece of advice with her. He told her that if she possibly could, she shouldn’t share with her girls which one of the two in fact was the oldest. The amazing phenomenon of twins of course, is that they really are the same age, except for maybe those few minutes between the birth of the first one and that of the second. It is true that we all have a place in our families, you’re either the oldest, or the youngest, or a middle child (or an only child, like me). But with twins, there should’t really rest a position on their shoulders — they should simply be the same age.
So my new friend decided to follow the advice of this stranger, and never mentioned to her girls who was pulled out of her belly first when they were delivered by c-section. She said that at some point, when the specifics of delivering babies would occur to them and they would maybe ask, she would tell them of course, but until now the question had never come up, so she simply had never discussed it. So interesting! She also told me, that what she found fascinating, is that when the girls were immersed in roll playing and an imaginary world, they would naturally take on the roles of the ‘oldest’ and ‘youngest’ — according to how it really is! This could, of course, be accidental, but it is interesting to mention nevertheless.
Friends of ours in Amsterdam had identical twin girls this year who are now 8 months old (their 4th and 5th children!), so I mentioned my story to them and they also shared a piece of advice they got from an adult twin man — this friend of theirs told them never to speak about ‘the twins’ but to always stress the individuality of the girls by mentioning them by their own names. I can so see his point!
Raising twins is definitely different at times, and I would love to hear more interesting insights — maybe you are one of a twin, or maybe you have twins? Please share your tips and thoughts!
PS The cute photos are of my dad’s little twin brothers, dating from the 1940s. Casper looks just like them I think!
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Natalie, the wonderfully creative founder of Starting With Art, has come up with all sorts of fun ways to keep your little ones busy during our London ShopUp this December! Trained both as an artist and educator, Natalie is uniquely qualified to nurture your budding artists. We can’t wait to for you to see what she has planned!
In order to whet your appetite before December, we asked Natalie to share some ideas with you about how to encourage your children to explore their creative sides through art. We absolutely love the ideas she has come up with; we can’t wait to try them ourselves!
I’m sure we all have memories of finding something buried in our mothers dresser and spending hours creating magical worlds with the found objects. These objects were never anything particularly special but always evoked a sense of curiosity. My magical moment was the day I discovered my mother’s button collection buried in one of her drawers; the pure joy I experienced as I opened a box revealing circular morsels of delight was profound. It was certainly my invitation to play, albeit a sneaky little one!
As winter draws in and we find ourselves spending more time inside, rather than those sneaky finds, we can create ‘Invitations to Play’ for our children using everyday things you might already have somewhere buried in one of those drawers yourself…
What is an Invitation to Play?
To put it simply, an invitation to play it is a set of arranged materials that captures your children’s curiosity, challenges and tempts them to examine, make and play. The way you select what you arrange will be based on your child’s age and what they are interested in.
I have added a few set-up suggestions with an art making focus; these are the starting point and as exciting as this is, we can never predict the endpoint; that is one of the beauties of children’s art making and play. There might not even be an endpoint, but rather a process of questioning and exploration; this is good too. If you want to explore the Invitations to Play you set up, then sure enough your children will dive in and absorb themselves for hours, perfect for a wintery afternoon of making.
Remember this isn’t a step-by-step guide; it is more of a suggestion of how to allow your children to explore their creative urges. Feel free to use any materials that you feel might pique your children’s interest.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
Bubble wrap and paint – children love popping the bubble wrap with paint on and best of all it can be folded, paint squished and colours merged.
Cardboard, pens, stickers and tape encourage sculpture making with endless open-ended possibilities.
Post-it-notes are an excellent open-ended resource, they can be written on, used to make shapes with and they stick anywhere.
Cotton buds are excellent for developing fine motor skills and creating spots. Painting on tin foil enables a different sensory experience with fun effects. The best thing is that it also covers the table and can be lifted off with no paint residue.
5. Cork boards can be found in discount stores, watch your children create wonderful patterns with coloured pins. Again this is a brilliant way to develop those fine motor skills (just check your child is aware of safety when using these).
Threading buttons has to be a favourite. If you incorporate wire and plasticine, mini models can be constructed as the plasticine secures wire to the table.
Thanks so much, Natalie! We can’t wait to see you at The ShopUp next month! x
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While it has certainly not been as easy as we had imagined, we are gradually finding our way with homeschooling the kids. Every day the kids test our patience, get distracted and, in turn, can make a simple morning of learning be an extremely frustrating experience… but, there are both good days and bad days and the highs definitely outweigh the lows. It is incredibly rewarding to watch your children learn a concept you spent a morning trying to teach them, or to watch as one of your children suddenly grasps a concept they struggled with the day before.
At dinnertime every evening, we go around the table and ask the kids questions about the lessons we taught in the morning. Sometimes the kids need reminding, but sometimes they surprise you with their knowledge and understanding… and it is those moments where it all starts to feel worthwhile. To watch your children learn! It really is the most wonderful and inspiring thing.
While homeschooling comes with its challenges, one of the benefits is that we are able to work closely with each of our children by focusing on topics that really interest them. This way, they are engaged and excited by the topic and the learning comes more easily. For example, I know that Quin (aged 8) is visual learner. He loves drawing and learns well whenever there is something visual in front of him. While working with Quin and Ivy on their multiplication tables last week, I noticed that Quin started to lose steam. He normally excels in math, but he was getting bored of the basic memorisation. So when I saw this post on Kirsten Rickert‘s homeschool feed, @mayaclimbstrees, for these multiplication flowers, I knew it would be a wonderful way to help him learn his multiplication.
Both Quin and Ivy have really loved this little project. We’ve worked on a new number each day, and the results are wonderful both for the understanding of the concepts and the pretty artwork to show for it. I thought I would share with you all, because it’s a simple and fun project whether you’re homeschooling or not.
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As often as we can, my husband and I sneak away to a local restaurant to catch up over drinks before enjoying a quiet, child-free dinner. We are both so busy during the week, that we have to make our date nights a priority or they simply won’t happen! Focusing on each other (instead of the kids) allows us to reconnect and really listen to each other in a way that is difficult to do with all the distractions of day-to-day life.
My favourite dates involve a leisurely stroll to dinner at a local restaurant. We hold hands and flirt and it feels like we’re dating again! Every now and then we mix things up by going to a film or an event, but the goal is to focus on each other, so we try to keep it simple.
Given that our families live nearly five thousand miles from London, it isn’t always easy for us to find someone to watch the kids. In fact, we struggled for years to find babysitters who could accommodate our frequent date nights: local sitters were often unavailable, and trading babysitting with friends was too time consuming. Needless to say, I was thrilled when a friend recommended a babysitting website that solved my childcare woes. The site is childcare.co.uk.
You can use Childcare on your computer or via an app on your phone (I prefer the app). Families create a profile for potential sitters to browse, and sitters create profiles for families to browse. You can then easily message each other within the app to ask questions and set up interviews. We have used a variety of sitters through Childcare, and are beyond relieved to finally have a network of babysitters to call on. You can also use the service to find a nanny, childminder, au pair, tutor, or even a private midwife!
We managed to squeeze in date nights the last two weekends and we ended up doing the same thing both times (drinks and dinner at our favourite local spot). I would love to hear your favourite date night outings so I can mix things up for this weekend!
Childcare is a great service that I have tried, tested and love; we are happy to have Childcare on board as sponsors of our London ShopUp this December 10 and 11!
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My husband is the king of spreadsheets. I often joke that he doesn’t make a single decision without consulting a spreadsheet first. I think he may have even created one before he asked to marry me. : )
While this is obviously an exaggeration, he does use spreadsheets whenever significant finances are involved; such as buying a new car, renovating a flat, budgeting a big holiday. While I like to joke, it’s comforting to know that we’re making smart decisions based on his careful planning. It allows me to be the more emotionally driven, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants type of person. We make a good team.
It goes without saying that our year of travel has been carefully budgeted. Michael has worked out a weekly budget for each destination so that we can make decisions accordingly. It’s not always easy to achieve it, especially when first arriving in a new and unfamiliar place, but so far we’re doing okay. I thought it might be helpful to share some of the small things we do to help keep us on track.
- The first step is to decide what you want to spend. We had a figure we thought the year should cost, but once Michael started plugging in realistic numbers for accommodation, food, transport and entertainment, he found we were 30% over our target. So the next step was looking for ways to whittle this down. Michael uses Excel but there are many apps (including free ones) you can use to help you budget.
- Decide on a weekly budget for your accommodation and stick to it. Renting apartments or hotel/motel rooms with kitchens can help make big savings on food costs. Location matters too. Find a place within walking distance of the shops, museums, parks, etc. and you’ll save on transport costs. (I also like Emilie’s tips for making use of the many stylish hostels now available!)
- Eat at home or picnic. Whenever we get somewhere one of the first things we do is find the local grocery store. It’s always fun browsing and deciphering a foreign a market. We stock up on simple breakfast foods (yoghurts, cereals, fruits), lunch supplies and snacks. Even when we were in Yosemite, far removed from any towns, we were able to find little general stores that sold sliced bread, cheeses and deli meats. Instead of buying bottled water or other drinks when we’re out, we bring our reusable water bottles and re-fill them throughout the day if necessary.
- Eat locally and seasonally. This past weekend in Brazil, we visited the farmer’s market and paid less than one dollar for six mangos! We also stocked up on passion fruit, bananas and papayas which are abundant and cheap here. We’re chopping up these tropical fruits and putting them over our breakfast instead of the raspberries and blueberries we found in California. We’re also going for the local beer instead of our favourite imports and drinking Brazilian wine.
- Don’t wait until you get to the beach to buy your sun creams, water toys or floaties — these things are much cheaper at the local grocery stores in town.
- Talk to the locals and get insider tips! In the village we’re currently in, there are three pizza restaurants, including one that is nearer the centre and looks the most appealing from the outside. A local resident told us that we should try the other two restaurants first because the pizza is half the price and just as good.
- Transportation can be a significant cost. In each stop on our year away we are looking for the least expensive ways to get to and from the airports and around town. A big decision is whether or not we need to rent a car. In LA, the cheapest option was to rent a car. So far in Brazil we are able to walk everywhere and take the occasional taxi. Sometimes the cost of frequent taxis is still less than renting and fueling a car.
- Do a bit of research before planning your activities each day. For example, when we were in LA we discovered that some museums have a ‘free-entry’ day. We made sure to visit on those days.
- Get the right credit cards. There are only a couple options out there with no foreign transaction fees and favourable exchange rates. The Halifax Clarity card was the clear winner in the UK. In the US, a Platinum American Express card seemed the best option, despite the high annual fee. The best cards change from time to time but you can get lots of good advice on sites like Money Savings Expert.
- Use good foreign exchange services like Azimo to pay in the local currency. For example, when paying by bank transfer for our accommodation in Brazil we converted pounds to Brazilian Reais. For cash we use bank machines or exchange at a local bureau rather than at the airport.
Obviously not all of these steps are worth the effort for short breaks, but if you’re going for longer the savings can really add up. Dare I say it’s even a bit fun to find creative ways to stay on budget. As always, if you have other tips or questions, please share them below.
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I’m a big fan of muslin blankets — they are so great for all kinds of purposes: swaddling little babies, drying them, keeping them warm (or keeping them shaded from the sun), as a breastfeeding cover, or as a play mat. My kids still use them as towels, throws, play blankets — or we use them as scarfs. I always throw one in a bag if we’re going somewhere, you never know!
When I was in NY for the ShopUp a few weeks ago, I couldn’t resist picking up this beauty from the wonderful Brimful shop stand. It is just SO gorgeous! I love the poem on it, in that beautiful handwriting. Such a sweet message that makes this everyday item so much more meaningful!
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As I mentioned in an earlier post, we spent a week in LA back in September and stayed in the beautiful home owned by Peter James and Marisa Vitale. Marisa is a talented family photographer and offered to snap some photos of our family while we were in town. I jumped at the chance to get a rare photo of all six of us and to document the start of our family’s adventure, all of us so full of excitement… and admittedly a few jitters. We met Marisa at Temescal Gateway Park fresh from an afternoon at the beach (notice Ivy’s hair is still wet!), and went for a short walk under the big oak trees while she snapped photos. I’m so happy to have these photos and thought I would share some favourites here with you. My kids, especially the boys, are getting so big. It’s funny how sometimes you don’t notice until you see it in photos.
Also, a few of you have asked for LA tips so I thought I would share some of the things we did while we were in LA (mostly Venice beach). We spent a lot of time with Michael’s family in Pasadena so we didn’t have as much time to explore the city as tourists, and we were also on a budget so we didn’t eat out as often as we wanted to. : ) But in any case, here are the highlights:
- Temescal Gateway Park (where photos above were taken): A pretty park with lots of paths to explore. Just off Sunset Blvd.
- The beach! We spent a lot of time at nearby Venice Beach because it was within walking distance of our house. We also went to the beach near Temescal Canyon and Sunset Blvd which was less crowded.
- Boogie Boarding: you can rent boards from the beach-front vendors on the boardwalk. My kids loved this!
- Venice boardwalk: we spent an afternoon watching the skateboarders and street dancers. It was quite a scene with all the music and people!
- We also walked down Abbott Kinney Blvd just to check out how much it’s changed since we last lived in LA. We have a policy of not taking our children into shops if we can avoid it, so we didn’t go into any of the shops, but it was fun to see so many great new shops there. (Burro looked really cute from the outside, and there’s even now an Aesop on Abbott Kinney!) Speaking of shopping, I kept hoping to have the opportunity to sneak into General Store for a little peak around but I never made it in. It looks SO cute (and oh my goodness, the website! dangerous!!).
- We didn’t make it here, but Marisa suggested we check out Tonga Park in Santa Monica with cool native plants, water features, benches, etc. There’s also the nearby Santa Monica solar-panelled LED ferris wheel within walking distance.
- While I was in LA for the ShopUp, Michael took the kids to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles (which they loved) and the Arboretum (which, despite the heat, they found very interesting to see all the different plants and trees).
- Superba Food & Bread: This is located (dangerously) around the corner from the house we rented. Great for picking up bread and croissants (and coffee) in the morning, but they also have a wonderful menu for lunch and dinner.
- Whole Foods Market on Lincoln Blvd: We did most of our grocery shopping here. Just behind the store is Ozone park with two different playgrounds (for big and little kids) on opposite sides.
- Groundworks Coffee on Rose Ave: Great spot for coffee in a charming little spot.
- Cafe Gratitude: Unfortunately we never made it to this restaurant but I had so many friends tell me to eat here. It’s a well-known restaurant amongst those seeking organic, vegan and locally-sourced foods. Looks so good!
- We got a babysitter one evening and met Michael’s family downtown LA to celebrate his sister’s birthday at The Factory Kitchen for delicious Italian food.
That’s all I can remember, but please feel free to add more tips in the comments below. I’m sure families travelling to LA would appreciate all the recommendations!
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There’s a new stroller in the land — have you heard of the Greentom Upp yet? Designed here in the Netherlands, it is cool, hip and functional, but also very innovative: it is completely, 100% green.
Casper and I have spent the last month or so test-riding the Greentom Upp Classic, and I’m impressed. It is a really comfortable-to-ride pushchair: it’s super light and easy to manoeuvre. It is also very strong: I asked Pim (8) to assemble the pushchair when it arrived here in parts, and he did that so quickly — I was upstairs doing laundry, and when I came downstairs 20 minutes later he was sitting in it himself and racing through our living room with it!
I love how basic the stroller is, eliminating all the unnecessary little tidbits and bringing it back to the essence of stroller design. I also love that the Greentom is so sustainable — it is entirely made out of recycled parts! The frame is made of 100% recycled polypropene and bioplastic, and the fabrics are entirely made out of recycled drinking bottles (for example, there are 58 PET-bottles used for the fabric of the Upp Classic that we have). Assembly takes place all over the world, limiting the impact of shipping and stimulating local economies. And, as I read on the website: when your children start asking for skate boards, the products can be returned to Greentom who will re-use or recycle all of the parts. How cool is that?
There are three varieties for different stages — the carrycot for newborns, the reversible for bigger babies, and the classic for pre-schoolers (which we have). You can purchase all the different parts separately, or as a set, and I think that for a stroller of such quality the prices are very reasonable.
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My husband has given me flowers on the fourth of each month since our first kiss on 4th Feb, 2002. (So sweet, right?!) Over thirteen years of flowers later, I still find myself charmed when I receive them. Their fragile nature, and purely aesthetic function make flowers such a special, and luxurious gift.
Given my expert flower receiver status, I was intrigued to hear about a new flower delivery service that is changing the way we send and receive flowers. Bloom & Wild packages their flowers in a box that is just the right size to fit through your mail slot! Genius! I was lucky enough to be the recipient of one of their boxes of flowers, and I was truly impressed. The packaging was simple and beautiful, and the flowers were perfect. I was particularly impressed that they stayed fresh and perky for well over a week!
When my lovely friend Sarah (of the super cool shop, Archie’s Boutique) recently celebrated her birthday, I thought it would be fun to send her some pretty flowers for the occasion. She wasn’t home when they arrived, but when she returned, she found that they had been posted through her door! She was sweet enough to send me some pictures to share with you:
We are thrilled that Bloom & Wild has agreed to sponsor our London ShopUp this December 10th and 11th! Not only will some of their beautiful flowers decorate the event, but they will also be holding a flower arranging workshop on the evening of the 11th.
PS Bloom & Wild is now kindly giving our readers £10 off their first order — just use code BABYBLOOM10 on check-out (or pass on to your partner)!
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We recently spent a sunny week in Los Angeles to mark the start of our year-long adventure. We had moved from LA to London twelve years ago, so it was nice to go back and spend some time exploring the city again, to spend time with friends and family and to get a feel for what it’s like to live there as a family.
After speaking with friends who live in LA, we decided to stay in the family-friendly neighbourhood of Venice beach, which was definitely the right decision. The neighbourhood has changed so much in the past 12 years, with so many great new restaurants and shops, but it still has a very artsy, laid-back bohemian vibe which we loved. It was great to be able to walk to shops and cafes, but more than anything it was so nice to be so close to the beach. My kids fell in love with boogie boarding and are now hoping to learn how to surf!
We rented the Superba Avenue Residence through Kid & Coe and it was the perfect place to stay. It’s such a cosy family home, filled with colourful knick-knacks and loads of fun toys and books in every corner. The kids loved the outside playroom with rope swings hanging from the rafters and spent so much time playing in the gated gardens surrounding the house. They even had a slide on the front porch! The kids never wanted to leave the house!
What is so nice about renting a home through Kid & Coe is that you can feel at home straight away and your children have all the comforts (toys, highchairs, beds, step stools) to feel settled immediately. I also love getting a glimpse of what it’s really like to live in the city you’re visiting, like stepping into another family’s shoes for a bit. After spending a week in Venice beach, I’m now dreaming of moving our family to LA!
It was also lovely to meet with the owner of the home, Marisa, who is a talented photographer. She offered to take some photos of our family to mark the start of our adventure and I quickly jumped at the opportunity. I am so happy with the photos she took and I’ll share some with you soon.
Kid & Coe offered us a press discount in return for coverage of our stay. Kid & Coe is a company I have used before and is a concept I really love. All views expressed are my own, and I’m happy to be able to support this growing company.
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We’ve had a few emails come in lately requesting a Tips post on how to get rid of stains, and while none of us consider ourselves to be stain removal experts, we thought it would be a fun post to encourage readers to share their tips and tricks (so please do share!).
What I’ve learned is that it’s really important to treat the stain (even small ones) before you attempt to wash it in the machine, and that the sooner you treat it, the better luck you’ll have at removing the stain. Here are some other tips that quickly come to mind:
- Soak stains as soon as you can.
- Dish soap works well on grease stains like butter or oil, and then it’s best to wash with the warmest water that’s safe for the fabric after you’ve let the soap soak into the clothes.
- Ice cold water is best on blood stains (and again, try to soak as quickly as possible).
- If stains don’t come out in the wash, don’t put clothes in the dryer (that will set the stain and it will never come out after that). I usually hang-dry clothes that were stained, just to be sure the stain is out completely when dry.
- Hanging washed clothes to dry in direct sunlight helps to naturally bleach stains (especially fruit and berry stains).
- Lemon juice, baking soda and vinegar are natural stain removal agents that have been used for years and years.
- According to my mum, white wine is great at removing red wine stains (who knew?!).
- When Easton was a baby we spent a week in Paris with my family. My mom and I went to the supermarket to ask for a small container of laundry soap to hand wash some clothes and the lady handed us a bar of basic Marseilles soap and told us to wet the clothes and scrub with the bar of soap. I was skeptical, but I tried it out and it worked SO WELL. It’s a perfect laundry soap to travel with because it’s not a liquid, and it really works! (Esther and Emilie both keep a bar of Marseilles soap in their laundry rooms for this reason.)
- For sticky stuff like chewing gum or silly putty, you can stick the clothes directly into the freezer and then pull the sticky stuff off the clothes once it’s frozen.
- For very stubborn stains you can, of course, use a chemical stain remover like Vanish or Oxi Clean (though we usually try to avoid these harsh cleaners because they’re not good for the environment or your clothes).
I think that’s it, but again I’m really excited to see what other tips you all have up your sleeves, so please share!
p.s. Photo above is of the sink in the laundry room of my old house. Oh how I miss that laundry room! : )
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Following on from the excitement of our recent ShopUp event in NYC, we are thrilled to announce our next event which will take place in London on December 10th and 11th, just in time for Christmas and holiday shopping!
Mark your diaries now: December 10/11 at the Chelsea Town Hall. More info here.
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Personal shopping — it sounds expensive and luxurious, doesn’t it? It makes me think of those slightly hidden areas on the top floors of high-end department stores. Luxurious… and definitely mysterious.
But fact is: parents are busy. Very busy. Although we love (virtual) shopping and browsing, we don’t always find the time to scout the high streets (or the internet) for the best buys and coolest finds… even though new outfits for the children are desperately needed. Wouldn’t it be ever so handy to have someone (with great taste, obviously!) doing most of the work for you? Who would suggest a few outfits for your child, narrowing down the endless amount of items available to some great quality pieces that you can actually see and feel, and even try on? With no strings attached? Enter Shortstitch — a personal shopping service for busy parents.
Shortstitch recently asked me to test their service, and I was intrigued by the concept and impressed by their cool, clean and professional looking website. So yes, sure! (Please!) Since Shortstitch focus their service on children aged 4 to 10 year, we decided to ‘pretend’ shop for Ava, who is 5 years old, and is developing quite a fun personal style.
After answering some inquiries on the website sign-in, I received a prompt email with a request to put a time in the agenda for a style consultation over the telephone. I was asked a range of specific questions about Ava — are there any particular items she is in need of this season? Does she practise any sports? Are there other occasions she needs clothes for? We also discussed sizing, colours and general style preferences. The consultation took around 10 minutes, and was quite fun (don’t all mothers love talking about their children?).
Within 2 days I got a notification that my ‘box of YAY!’ was on the way. And how fun it was to receive a big package on my doorstep shortly after!
Inside, there was a gorgeous selection of clothes, shoes and accessories, all put together with the utmost care in separate packages and carefully wrapped in tissue paper. There was an accompanying personal letter, written full of enthusiasm and confidence, explaining the selections and suggesting combinations that could work for an array of occasions: ‘The navy skirt with the brick polo neck and brown boots will be a great everyday staple for school.’ ‘The leggings are quite versatile too. She will look super stylish arriving at swim class in those.’
There were jackets to choose from, a pair of gorgeous shoes and sturdy boots, adorable tights and socks, hair accessories, and then, of course, a selection of clothes for different occasions. All of exquisite quality, all beautiful, fun and unique, and quite daring — as daring as one could get away with within the ‘style boundaries’ I had set (timeless pieces, muted colours, tasteful patterns, no logos, etc.). I would say, definitely more adventurous than I would have selected myself — which makes it actually really special!
The luxury of getting to see and feel the garments, trying them on, and returning them to the Shortstitch box if it’s a ‘no keep’ is truly great. Unwanted items can be returned to the box which will be collected by a courier by appointment and free of charge. (However, I can already tell you that it will be quite difficult to return anything in the box!).
Now… of course one wonders, what does this fabulous service cost? Well: nothing! Nothing extra, that is — you only pay (recommended retail prices) for the items you want to keep. The styling service, the delivery and collection are all on Shortstitch. Nothing mysterious about it. How cool is that?
This post is sponsored by Shortstitch, a personal shopping service I tested and loved.
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We’ve just received so many great photos from Nicki Sebastian of our NY ShopUp. We thought we would let the photos speak for themselves and paint the picture of those two fun-filled days. So here’s a re-cap in (loads of) photos. It’s so fun to look through these and be reminded of what a great event it was! (An enormous thank you to our wonderful event manager, Miraya Berke of Pop Productions who did an amazing job.) Here are the photos: (more…)
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We had SO much fun at the ShopUp today, and we’re still buzzing from the excitement of having so many people turn out! What a busy, bustling day!!! We met so many wonderful families, watched so many happy kids, ate good food, listened to fun music, and most importantly were SO impressed with all our wonderful shops and all their gorgeous products. We couldn’t have asked for a better day! We wanted to share a selection of photos from our talented photographer, Nicki Sebastian, because we thought these great shots give a perfect re-cap of the day.
A big thank you to all of you who came today, and we hope to see many more of you tomorrow (Monday) from 10am to 5pm for more fun.
See you there!
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It’s hard to believe it’s finally here!! We’re all headed to NYC this weekend for our long-awaited NY ShopUp! We are so excited to spend a weekend together and to meet and mingle with many of you on Sunday and Monday. We wanted to share a rough schedule of events and activities, so you can make sure to stop by at the best times to suit you and your family.
In addition to an amazing selection of the very best shops all setting up booth in the prettiest Brooklyn venue (see photos above), we’ve also organised some delicious food trucks and super fun activities for the little ones. Here’s what’s in store:
- Kitchensurfing will be there with cooking demos and samples for the kids on Sunday at 1 pm & 3 pm and Monday at 11 am.
- We’ll have an activity centre set up by UrbanSitter so you can drop off your children for crafts, face painting and stories while you browse the shops!
- Lucie Hélène will be there offering magical, glittery face paintings and games!
- We’ll have live music on Sunday at 2pm from the very talented John-Michael Parker of Great Caesar.
- We have arranged for the tastiest food trucks to pull up and park inside (yes, inside! so cool!): Sigmund’s Pretzels, Driftaway Coffee, Blue Marble Ice Cream (Sunday only), Neapolitan Express Pizza and La Newyorkina popsicles (Monday only). Come hungry!
- We’ll have fun temporary tattoos from Tattly in the activity center
- Children’s photography by Rebecca Zeller is available over the two days (no need to make an appointment, though if you want to you can reach out to her here).
- We’ve lined up an amazing raffle in support of mothers2mothers charity who will be at the event with more info about their great cause and the prize you can win when you buy a raffle ticket. (If you’re unable to attend the event, you can still buy a raffle ticket here for your chance to win!)
- We’ll have free samples of tasty (and healthy!) children’s snacks from Bitsy’s Brainfood
- We’ll be selling a limited number of ShopUp totes for $5. First come, first served. So hurry, hurry!
Please note: you don’t even have to worry about parking! Lyft is offering a discount code for new users: All you have to do is download the app, request a ride, and a driver will come pick you up in minutes. Use code SHOPUP for $20 off!
It’s really shaping up to be SUCH a fun day out, and we look forward to seeing you there!!
Esther, Emilie & Courtney xx
- Kitchensurfing: personal chefs to cook you dinner in your own home
- Green Mountain Energy: longest serving renewable energy retailer in the US
- OneRx: fast and easy prescription savings
- Bitsy’s Brainfood: healthy and tasty snacks made of organic fruits and vegetables
- Passported: kid-friendly travel for grown-ups!
- Urbansitter: taking the guess-work out of finding a babysitter.