Raise the curtains for the 2013 Babyccino Kids Holiday Gift Guides!

We can’t believe it’s this time of year already! The days are getting shorter, the evenings are getting darker, and the holidays are approaching rapidly. Time to get ourselves organised — to make our houses cosy and festive, and organise the gift giving. (Let’s try to be in time this year!)

We have tried to make your holiday preparations a little bit easier by creating four wonderful Gift Guides, with a selection of our favourite gifts for boys, some wonderful gifts for girls and darling ideas for babies as well. And of course there is a Stocking Stuffer guide too!

There are so many cool ideas in the guides that our kids and their little friends will love! (Of course our first holiday purchases were made when preparing the guides…) We hope you will enjoy them as much as we do!

xxx Courtney, Emilie and Esther

PS Tip: send a link to the Babyccino Gift Guides to grandparents or aunts & uncles who are stuck for gift ideas!

Exciting new spaces in Paris

For once I am giving the urban planners of Paris a cautious thumbs up: this summer not one, but two new public, urban spaces opened! And, to boot, they are great for the whole family.

On the right bank, after being a massive building site for a long while, the new Place de La Republique is finally ready. It is hated by all taxi drivers, who get stuck at the red lights, but it is loved in the neighbourhood. Some of the top attractions are the toy library, where you can borrow for free anything from chess to stilts to baby toys. There is also a great little water park for children right beside a lovely café/restaurant. The new trees are still small and their could be more play areas, but in general this space has some great potential.

Over on the left bank a much bigger project is slowly coming together: a long stretch of the banks of the Seine (from the Musée d’Orsay to the Pont d’Alma) has been closed down to traffic and now is solely pedestrian. It is not quite finished yet, but there are already amazing play areas and great restaurants on barges and along the banks. It is such a treat to have access to the river, something that was really lacking in Paris.

It is so nice to see an old city like Paris still constantly evolving and adapting to its population!

– Emilie

Our Summer holiday in Middle France


Summer Holidays rock everywhere I reckon, but we just had one of our best holidays ever, so I wanted to jot down a few of my memories!

I need to preface this with the mention that we had one of the worst springs in history (my history at least). So everyone was longing for sun, warmth and the big outdoors! Also we ended up spending much of spring in Paris and I for one was going a bit stir crazy!

So our first stop was the Haute-Vienne part of the Limousin, which is the area my family comes from. It is not especially well known, but I have been going there my whole life and it has developed incredibly over the years. We also have a very simple little farmhouse down there (photo above), which is very rustic but very charming; it feels like home.

We went to the bustling market on a Wednesday in the little town of Piegut, where we picked up some amazing tomatoes, confit de canard, plums and cheeses.  There is a lovely café there and a cute little ice cream shop.

We went climbing in trees around the lac de la Haute Charente, which is a huge amount of fun, especially when you zip line across a lake!

We went to some of the evening markets all around the region where the locals butchers sell their meat which is great in front of you. There is also normally a cheesy cover band playing and locals and tourist alike get to join in the fun.


(Above Coco dancing to an Bob Marley cover band at a fête du village, the lovely plums from Piegut market and Coco and Vi hanging out by our local swimming lake)

We then rented a VW camper van and drove around the amazing Dordogne. We discovered the lovely village of Limeuil and visited the Aquarium and old style village of Bournat, which the girls loved. We discovered a troglodyte village and the Lascaud caves. We swam in the Dordogne river and ate amazing food.

(Above the bridge over the Dordogne in the lovely village of Limeuil and a baker baking bread the old fashioned way in Le Brounat.)

The next stop was the lovely little village of Carcans-Plage (also known as Carcans-Ocean). It actually is not really a village but more a bunch of beach shacks, with world class surf. It is tiny, though a lot of people turn up for the day and is surrounded by pine forests. We cycled for hours along the bike paths in the pine forests without seeing cars and jumped around the waves. I even took some surf classes! I especially loved the lovely wooden beach shack rentals, which the local town built; perfect for families.

(The beach, the local pine forest and Vi ready to hit the surf.)

Finally we returned back to the Limousin for more BBQs, family, friends, sun and fun! I still wish it had never finished and I was still hanging out in my hammock!

– Emilie


(Photo taken by Coco of Vi and me enjoying the sunset in the Limousin!)

The VW Combi summer trip


We have just come back from holiday and it was one of the best ever! There was no internet and no TV and lots of books and adventures. It is such a treat to get out of the big city and out into nature and have some time to roam…

I will share our adventures in the next few days but I wanted to give you a sneak peek of our trip of one of the things we did: we rented a VW combi from the ’70s for a week! We named it Orangina and it was simply so much fun. The camper had a bed in the roof you could open so the girls slept upstairs, I slept downstairs and we were free to roam and park up for the night where we wanted. The freedom was incredible! We mostly spent our time in the Dordogne, which is the perfect place for this type of holiday. The camper does not go very fast, so it is worth being in an area where there are a lot of things close to each other. It is such a cool feeling driving around in such an old car, you get used to the slow rhythm pretty quickly and other drivers wave and honk their horns!

I rented the van from a company called WeDubYou and it came totally stocked with everything we could have needed and I absolutely recommend them!

– Emilie

PS Important tip, if you ever want to go on a roadtrip in a VW combi, bring as little as you can, a pair of shorts and a couple of T-shirts for everyone is more than enough!

TA DA at the Centre Pompidou


Last weekend Esther and co were in town, which was a serious amount of fun! It was so great catching up, though at the end of the weekend we did start wondering what we should do, as it was literally pouring with rain the whole time. That being said, finding things to do in Paris is not very hard…. We all wrapped up and headed over to the Pompidou Centre, specifically the Children’s Gallery, which is hosting a brilliant, interactive exhibition: Ta-Da!

The artist Navid Nuur wants kids to learn again about how to play and create with everyday objects and see the beauty in them. It is really well done — I think everyone’s favourite was the 3 columns filled with play dough or the machine that made medals out of a 5 cent piece.

The Centre Pompidou is, by the way, one of my favourite places to take visitors. It has such a great view over Paris, the permanent exhibition is amazing, as are more of the temporary ones, and, not to forget, the gift and book shop are full of beautiful bits and pieces. (I do love a good museum shop!)

– Emilie

The photo is of little Ava arriving into the Centre, complete with rain coat and umbrella.

Holiday get-away: Tarifa, Spain

Coco and her friend overlooking the sea and the coast of Marocco on Paloma beach

I have just been away on an amazing break with the kids, and I would love to tell you about it. (To put it into context, we Europeans have been having one of the worst winters I can remember and all we wanted to to was to shed the jumpers and socks and shoes and put on the flip flops and skirts.)

Tarifa is a beautiful little town on the most southern tip of Spain — it is so close to Africa you can see the Maroccan coast most days, a mere 20 km away. The town itself is lovely — it is an old walled city. But it is the surrounding beaches around Tarifa that make this place amazing — the beaches are empty, clean and beautiful, the food is incredible and cheap and everyone loves kids. It is super relaxed and the whole area has a bit of a hippy, surfer vibe to it, just what you need to let go and have a good time. I could have stayed on and on, and a week felt like 2 days, so here is just a little list of the few places I discovered (if anyone has any other tips, please do share!):

STAY:

We actually rented a house, as I went with a friend and her two children which was lovely and had everything we needed. But we did also discover some hotels, which looked really nice.

The Hurricane Hotel is a great little boutique hotel with a chilled out vibe. It has an amazing pool, a great restaurant and is right on the beach. Basically the perfect combination. It is about a 6 km drive out of Tarifa town.

Hotel Dos Mares is close to the Hurricane Hotel and maybe even a bit more child-friendly. For example, the pool has a nice, shallow paddling area. You can rent little bugalows that line up along the beach.

Camping Torres de la Pena is a nice budget option and if you don’t fancy camping, they also rent out some bungalows. The beach bar is super relaxed and literally on the beach, so kids can play while parents drink a good café con leche.

I- Escape has a few listing in and around Tarifa. I did not see any of them, but I-Escape is always a good bet. I really like the look of these natural energy powered bungalows.

The kids hanging out at the Hurricane Hotel pool.

Do:

Tarifa is a seriously sport location, all day long you can see wind- and kit- surfers sitting on top of their VW buses watching the wind for the perfect moment to take off. The place we were recommended was the Club Mistral,which gives lessons to older kids. They also rent out boards for windsurfing, kitesurfing and plain old normal surfing. You can pick up cheap body boards for kids pretty much anywhere and they are a serious amount of fun as there are little, non scary waves most of the time.

Hurrican Hipica: Horses are everywhere and there is nothing more peaceful than going for a ride on the beach. We loved the Hurricane Hipica, run by a group of super efficient girls, one of the best maintained stables I have ever seen. Violette, who has just turned 5, had her first riding lesson there and it was possibly the most exciting thing ever.

Firmm Dolphin and Whale Watching: One of our big, major highlights was a boat trip out into the straights of Gibraltar to see dolphins. We thought it was going to be a tourist trap, but it was the opposite. We were surrounded by dolphins doing summersaults all around us. It put the biggest smiles on all of our faces. It is also not unusual to see whales. The Firmm boat trips are great as they are part of a research organisation, which uses the trip to collect data and makes sure that the trips are respectful to the animals.

Since coming back and doing a bit of research for this post, I have found out that there is a lot of rock climbing to be done in and around Tarifa. There are even little rocks which could be a lot of fun to explore with older kids. I didn’t really find a website, just different blogs talking about it!

It is also very easy to jump on a boat and go on a day trip to Marocco which is a mere 20 boat ride away. It is something we sadly ran out of time to do…

Not the best photos of the kids on horses on the beach. Note the surfers in the water behind them.

Play:

Beaches, beaches, beaches, what more can one want? We stayed close to Bolonia Beach and it is very easy to understand why the Romans decided to build a town on this beach. It is so beautiful. The beach is incredibly clean and has a massive sand dune at one end that is a huge amount of fun to climb and run down.

We also visited Zahara Beach on a recommendation of an Instagram friend and did not regret it, we spend a whole morning body boarding on little waves and then had some tapas in the town itself.

Another beach between Tarifa and Bolonia is called Paloma Beach and one of the most amazing things to see is the wind picking up and the kite from the kite surfs flying up in the air  – Actually really beautiful, though I suspect I would be ripped of my surf board and fly off into the air with the kite, it looks like such a hard thing to hold on to.

Little orange tree on a square in Tarifa town.

Anyway, a lovely holiday and so close and yet a world away from the rest of Europe.

– Emilie

Nosara Week Away Travel Guide

I called this post a Week Away Travel Guide as opposed to a Weekend Away Guide, as Nosara, Costa Rica is not the kind of place most of us can pop over for the weekend. But I can pretty much say with confidence that if I could pop over there quickly for a weekend, I would probably be there all the time! It looks so amazing and sounds like such a great place to take children on a wonderful adventure.

Now imagine after growing up in California, then living in Australia, you decided to call Costa Rica your home! How incredible does that sound? Shelly, the author of this post, did just that: She now lives in Nosara, Costa Rica and it sounds like the perfect place to travel to!

In her 40-something years of life, Shelly has been a world traveler, waitress, writer, magazine editor, non-profit founder, entrepreneur and artist. By sheer luck and twists of fate, these paths have led to and helped define her latest, greatest and most challenging role as wife and homemaker; mother and teacher to Pixel, Robert and Beckett; and hostess extraordinaire. Shelly is the author of The Book of Questions for New Parents and the blog Kitchen Ranch. Here is her guide to Nosara, Costa Rica:

Nosara, located on the Pacific side of Costa Rica, has recently enjoyed some very favorable press. National Geographic named Nosara as one of the top surf towns on the planet, a BBC Travel Segment included Nosara as the best beach in Costa Rica, and the New York Times raved about the world class waves in their travel section.

It is not surprising to me that this small and dusty jungle town is getting attention; Nosara is perfect. I know that is a bold statement, but after living here I feel confident in making it. The beaches, the ocean and the jungle backdrop are awe-inspiring. (more…)

Happy Easter!

Is it snowing for you outside as well? If you’re stuck inside like us, here are some last minute Easter craft ideas. Happy Easter!

xxx Courtney, Emilie and Esther

Bunny Masks

Bunny Egg Warmers

Chick Sugar Cookies

PomPom Easter chicks

Amsterdam!


We recently visited Esther and Family in Amsterdam, and it was a such a great trip! So great, that the whole train carriage on the way home had to listen to my kids’ lamentations about how Amsterdam is so great and Paris is not!

I know what they mean–  it is so nice discovering a new city and, as a tourist, you have the luck to only see the good sides of a city and Amsterdam has many, many good sides. It is beautiful and small, and super accessible with kids. You can rent bicycles all over the city and the choice of different bicycle types is incredible.

We stayed for four days during which time Esther and I put the world to rights, crafted and dreamt up some serious crafting projects for sometime in the future, the children got on famously and we visited some of Amsterdam’s sites. We visited the Artis Zoo and saw some lions, giraffes, wallabes, zebras and seals basking in the spring sunlight. We took a boat ride around the canals and learned all about the history of Amsterdam. We went to play in the Vondel Park which has some great play structures. We ate little pancakes and waffles fresh from a market stall. We did not even make it to the Nemo Science Museum, but check out Esther’s Amsterdam tips as she has some great ideas.

Above, the Vondel Park. And below, the giraffes at the zoo, which we stayed looking at for ages! I don’t think I have ever seen a giraffe as up close before.

Such a great trip and if you ask my daughters,(and 20 other people on our train), it’s the only place to be!

- Emilie

Pretty Spring party dresses by Millie Manu

Spring flowers are finally in bloom in our garden — I saw daffodils this morning! This means that Spring is around the corner, with all its positiveness. A sweet smell in the air, gorgeous flowers sprucing up everywhere, fresh green leaves on the trees, the first picnics on freshly mown lawns, little boys in shorts and stripy jumpers, little girls in their new spring dresses… I can get pretty excited about it all. (I would be perfectly happy skipping the first three months of the year — cold, wet, boring and depressing as far as I’m concerned!)

I think the above dresses of the newly launched party collection by Millie Manu are just so, so perfect for any kind of celebration this coming season. I just couldn’t resist the mint green Flo Dress for Ava — so gorgeous! It’s entirely made out of silk — chiffon on the outside, and lined with silk as well. It has lovely little details and is made beautifully.

She’ll be the queen of the ball with Easter this year — and we’re all so excited because Courtney and her family will join us in Amsterdam to celebrate together!

xxx Esther

Meri Meri Easter decorations

It’s hard to resist these insta-cute packaged Easter party decorations by Meri Meri. From paper plates to egg hunt bags to dressing up bunny ears! Everything you need for a festive Easter holiday! (Of course I had to pick up the bunny ears to bring with me when we visit Esther and family over Easter. Stay tuned for photos of all our kids dressed as bunnies!) And how fun are these cupcake kits?!

Meri Meri takes the hard work out of party prepping by offering coordinating themed party wear, all in the sweetest, most festive designs. Gotta love that. Available from Little Baby Company.

x Courtney

Easy Easter idea: Indian Chief eggs

These Indian eggs were quickly made using a black marker, some masking tape and a little feather or pipe cleaner. I put them in my kids’ lunch boxes as a surprise, but I thought it would also be fun to make them for Easter. So easy, and so cute!

xxx Esther

I love you more than…

We don’t have a Valentines Day tradition here in the Netherlands, and part of the idea I think is majorly over-commercialised, but the main thought — expressing and celebrating our love for our best friends and family — I think is important to emphasise. On Valentines day; every day!

These prints by This Many Design are so sweet. They are made by Kari Lazenby, who plays a game with her son every day where they say what they love the other more than — which gave her the idea for the I Love You More Than print (which you can personalise). Kari screen-prints the works by hand on beautiful French company paper, so each one is different, making them more unique than they already are.

xxx Esther

Easy Valentine’s Day cards

I sat down with the kids last week and we made the easiest Valentine’s Day cards. (Things have to be easy these days because I’m either carrying around a baby in the sling or feeding her with one hand and trying to multitask with the other!) Anyway, I thought I would share them in case you’re also juggling too much (which mother isn’t?!) and looking for an easy Valentine’s Day card to make with the kids…

All you need to do is cut a heart shape out of craft paper, fold the sides of the heart inward, turn the heart upside down and fold up the bottom, and then fold over the point of the heart. And voila! You have a little envelope! Seal with a sticker and send to someone you love! (Don’t forget to write your love message on the heart before you fold it.)

xx Courtney

Happy Holidays!

It is nearly the end of the year already! And what a year. We’ve lost, learned and loved, and beautiful babies have enriched our lives. We want to thank you once again for your support and all of your warm wishes!

For now, let’s press the pause button and rewind — time to spend a cosy and relaxing holiday with family and friends. We wish you a very happy time, and we look forward to an exciting new year ahead with you.

See you in the New Year!

Love,
Courtney, Emilie and Esther

A giant cookie!

Crystal, one of our readers, sent us this beautiful image of a giant cookie she made with her 2 children a few weeks ago. It’s a lemon poppy shortcake that was carved before baking, and the photo was used for their Christmas cards this year. What a great idea!

Crystal was so sweet to write down the recipe / method for us — so here we go. Thank you, Crystal!

Lemon-Poppy Seed Shortbread (from Claudia Fleming, The Last Course)

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons poppy seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until creamy and smooth, about two minutes. Add the lemon juice, zest and vanilla and beat well. In a bowl, combine the flour, poppy seeds, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix until combined. Form the dough into a disk and, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 3 hours (and up to 3 days or freeze for up to 2 months.) Preheat oven to 170° C. Roll the dough between two sheets of wax paper to a 1/2-cm thick rectangle. Return dough to refrigerator for an additional 30 minutes.

For normal cookies: Cut the shortbread into shapes with a two-inch cookie cutter, or use a knife, and place 1 inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. The original recipe says not to re-roll the scraps, but my kids didn’t want to stop, and it seemed like a waste of potential cookies, so we kept re-rolling and cutting until we had used everything up -to no noticeable effect on the baked cookies. Prick shortbread with a fork and bake until pale golden all over, 23 to 25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

For a giant cookie: After rolling it out to the rectangular shape I wanted, I popped it onto the baking tin, covered it with cling film and popped into the freezer for around 10 minutes. I kept doing this each time during the cutting to ensure that the cookie mixture was firm enough to carve/cut. I used a toothpick to sketch out the main shapes and then used a small sharp paring knife to cut out fuller shapes out around the toothpick lines. I then used a wooden chopstick dipped in water to smooth the inside of some of the cut lines that hadn’t cut so well. The cookie definitely cut better when it had just come out of the freezer, so I kept popping it in and out quite frequently during the process. I actually did this part while my kids were taking their afternoon nap -it would have been quite boring for them to watch this part. By the time they woke up, we gathered the scraps, ruled them into a few extra creatively shaped cookies, and the whole thing was ready to go into the oven! We kept a close eye on it’s cooking, and after about 25 minutes took it out when the edges were beginning to brown. Then we had to be really patient, (ok, maybe not that patient! There were a couple of the extra cookies to nibble on) while the giant cookie cooled down. It slipped off the tray perfectly, and we were able to photograph it right away. Finally we all had fun breaking up our giant cookie to lots of small irregular sizes and packing them away for tea later!

Madrid in Love

Last weekend Nico and I went to Madrid for a long weekend. It was so nice and one of the things we loved most was a pop-up store happening right now in Madrid (only december!). Madrid in Love.

A very special place, full of lovely things and lovely atmosphere. And really nice to visit with your kids!

After Madrid in Love, we went to a very nice place in Madrid. If you are looking for something sweet and tasty, Mama Framboise is the place. Amazing and super nice desserts.

If you happen to be in Madrid, I think they are a couple of lovely places to visit.

- Maria

Last minute Christmas decoration: a heart of light

This is a very easy DIY perfect for a last-minute decoration. I made it with some wire, wool, and christmas lights.

And here is the result. You could do diferent shapes with the wire. Maybe a star or a christmas tree, or you could even spell out words. I didnt have much time to do this, so I chose the heart, as it is the easiest thing to do ;-). After doing the shape you just twine the christmas lights and the wool in the end to cover the cord.

Hope you like it and give it a try. Christmas is just around the corner!

- Maria

Knitting Christmas balls


This year I have a new obsession: I’m knitting Christmas balls! My husband gave me the book ’55 Christmas Balls to Knit’ by Arne & Carlos for my birthday, and after initial scepticism about the exercise (I mean — knitting Christmas balls??), I have now finished my first ball and totally got the hang of it. So I immediately started the second one, with the eventual aim to knit four balls, one for each of my kids. Maybe I can make them a ball each year, so they can grow a Christmas ornament collection of their own…

xxx Esther

Advent calendar


Growing up with a German mother, celebrating advent was a big deal and magical to us children.  In our family I have so much fun putting together and collecting gifts for the advent calendar.  Henrik is now at such a wonderful age and gets really excited to open each advent. This year I found some great paper advent bags at Ikea and couldn’t pass them up.  I like to keep things simple and I just tied twine to the staircase.  I then attached the bags to the twine with wooden close  pins going up the stairs.

I rotate the gifts so that my two children get something every other day.  I usually give them small little gifts that range from $1-$4.  I also like to pick gifts that they can get a lot of play out of.  Because I have a 22-month-old that is into everything I only put one advent gift in at a time the night before.

It’s so great to see their excited faces when they open their advent bag.  I think it makes counting down till Christmas so much fun and bearable for children.

-Meta

« Newer PostsOlder Posts »