Knitting loom

IMG_8201
Have you ever heard of a knitting loom? Well, I had not, at least until recently, when I had the chance to catch up with Erika from Miko Design. She told me how she discovered knitting again, thanks to these nifty little things.They are sold at HEMA over here in France and in the Netherlands. You can also get them off Amazon.
Since then we have been looming away at our house – it is seriously easy and strangely addictive. Both my girls now have a new pair of leg warmers and we are in the process of making a poncho. Hilariously, we have no idea what size it is going to be, so it might become a present for baby Marlow or fit Coco perfectly, who is now 8.

As you can tell, we are weaving loom novices, but YouTube is full of knitting loom tutorials, as, for example, this one or this one on how to knit a hat.

Coco

Have fun, it is a great way to get back into knitting or, in fact, learn how to knit!

- Emilie
P.S. The lovely jumpers the girls are wearing were not knitted on a knitting loom but are from Babaa Knitwear.

Baby & Me Magazine, my favourite childhood items

childhood favourites at Baby & Me Magazine
This month’s issue of Baby & Me Magazine features the best and most stylish of children’s products in the 2014 Style Awards. They handed out awards to winners based on their criteria of iconic design, good looks and innovation (you can see the winners here).

This month they asked me to round up some of my personal favourite children’s products — the products we have used and loved in our family, ones that I hope to keep forever and pass down to my grandchildren. The products shown above are a few that made the cut. You can find my column in this month’s issue here.

x Courtney

 

Portable sleeper for newborns

 

fisher price sleeper

fisher price portable sleeper

portable sleeper, folded

We’re visiting my husband’s family in Lake Tahoe this week where the kids are having loads of fun playing with all their cousins.  My sister-in-law recently gave birth to her fourth baby, a little girl called Ruby, and we’ve been enjoying spending time with her and getting lots of newborn snuggle time. I can’t believe Marlow was ever that tiny! Or that sweet and calm for that matter. : )

My sister-in-law has a little portable baby bed she uses for the baby, and she told me it’s the number one thing she would recommend to anyone having a baby. I love recommendations like that!

Not only does the Rock ‘n Play Sleeper fold-up easily for travel or storage purposes (or simply for moving from room to room), but the cocooned shape and inclined position of the bed is perfect for keeping new babies feeling secure and comforted. I remember my babies always hated being put down to sleep on a flat mattress and they would often wake immediately after being put down, which is why I think this little bed looks like such a perfect solution.

The sleeper is available from Amazon (US and UK ).

x Courtney

Painting rocks!

ivy painting rocks
We’ve been staying at my family’s beach house on Bainbridge Island this week, where the water is cold and the beaches are rocky. The kids are in heaven! We have all spent the past few days collecting rocks on our beach walks, and today, while Marlow napped, we sat down in the shade to paint them. It was a fun afternoon activity and one that we all enjoyed.

The results from our rock-painting session were not overly impressive, so I thought it might be better to share some more inspiring images of other painted rocks, in case you are hoping for some inspiration beyond the typical painted ladybird! All images found on Pinterest:

painted rocks1
I love all the different faces in this image. (My boys were especially into painting faces – they wanted to make ‘pet rocks’.)

grid-cell-3344-1402697046-4

Love the bright colours and patterns here. (Image found here.)

abc painted rocks

Paint the alphabet! Fun and educational. (Image from here.)

f0738111637ae6ccba1648f1dc554472

Thought these were cute!

painted owls

Love these painted owls!

We used acrylic paints, and mixed our paints inside sea shells since we didn’t have paint palettes. It worked perfectly! Hope you all have a wonderful weekend.

x Courtney

Sweet shadow puppets from Nogaravin

nogaravin_shadowpuppetsLast week our oldest daughter Sara and I visited the Kleine Fabriek, the children’s fashion and lifestyle trade fair here in Amsterdam, where we met our lovely Polish shop member Noga Ravin. I’ve always loved the look of Noga’s ‘Doggy Bags‘, but it was nice to discover her original and innovative range of products in person.

 

Her newest invention are these shadow puppets, made out of thick felt and so eminently simple. Sara and I were immediately playing with them at the fair! (And no, that’s not my hairy arm in the video above. ; ) ) There are five fun designs in six different colours, and a velcro closure ensures a fit for all sizes and ages. Cute, don’t you think? Family fun guaranteed!

xxx Esther

Psst: find an exclusive 15% off to Nogaravin here, this month only.

Playtime Paris, a quick recap

IMG_4962

Playtime Paris is one of my top events of the year. Usually Esther, Courtney and I get together, talk, lounge, catch up, plan and do all the things you would normally do if you lived in the same city. This time the girls did not make it over and it made me miss my lovely girlfriends a lot — meeting up for Playtime has become a bit of a tradition.

IMG_4963

But even without my partners in crime Playtime was still so much fun to visit. It is so much fun having a peek at what people have designed for next year. It is also great discovering new brands and having a good catch up with some of our collaborators and friends. There are such talented people out there and it is such a pleasure seeing their work.

IMG_4966

Here are some of the highlights from the show:

1) Velveteen – this has become one of my favourite brands. Lovely, relaxed designs with a little twist to them that makes it stand out.

2) Hucklebones – the details going in these clothes are amazing and everything is so original and well crafted.

3) Bobo Choses – these guys just never get it wrong. Since we first discovered them 5 years ago every collection has been inspired and fun!

4) Macarons – talking to these guys makes me want to be a children’s clothes designer.

5) Elfie – these two girls are some of the nicest girls around and their collection is cute, whimsical and always full of little surprises in the details.

5) Milk and Biscuits – my favourite new discovery. The designer is the lovely Kate from England who now lives in Shanghai. She had some of the funkiest, spirited fabric designs I have seen in a long time.

IMG_4969

Cannot wait for the next event.
- Emilie

Croquet

croquet-game1

I have a new game obsession for this summer and it is… croquet! It was partly brought along by reading ‘Alice in Wonderland’, but also because it just looks like a lot of fun. Apparently it actually used to be an Olympic sport — back in 1900 and in only one Olympic competition — but still! It also makes me think of cucumber sandwiches, victoria sponges and afternoon tea on the lawn. Basically… summer in England!

It’s also the perfect game to play with the kids and adults, as long as no one takes it too seriously… It is pretty simple and you can always team up.

I picked up our set here!

- Emilie

GG* Crêpe Shop!

crepes for sale
GG* crepe game
Kukkia is a toy brand from Japan, which in my opinion is one of the best in the children’s market. The Kukkia toys are beautiful, yes, but what I love is that they are simple enough to allow children’s imaginations to do the work. Many of their toys are classic concepts (like building blocks, wooden cars or dominoes!) but they put a modern twist on everything, adding innovative details that really put the toys in a league of their own.

The GG* Crêpe Shop is a perfect example. They know that children like to play ‘cooking’ and ‘shop’. Many of us have little play kitchens for our kids with chef pans and fake food. But Kukkia have taken the concept a bit further, creating a set for children to make  their own crêpes and set up a little crêpe shop, all the while being encouraged to learn and develop their motor skills along the way.

ivy's crepe

making crepes

The Crêpe Shop set comes with three different fabric crêpes, each with a different fastening: velcro, tie or button. The idea is to encourage children to practice tying bows and fastening buttons in a fun way. So clever! The set also comes with wooden and fabric food toppings, a wooden spatula and a ‘hot plate’ that also doubles as a chalkboard sign when it comes time to ‘sell’ your crêpes. Again, so clever.

GG* crepe shop
quin's crepe

Ivy has been making crêpes for everyone in the family. Her favourite customer is Quin (who prefers the sweet ones over the savoury!). : ) The GG* Crêpe Shop and other Kukkia toys are available to purchase from Abacus Kids or from Sisters Guild.

x Courtney

* This post was sponsored by Kukkia, a brand we have loved for years (even before they ever reached out to us). Thanks for supporting the brands that help to support this blog! : )

Bastida — clever clothes that grow with your child

bastida1

bastida2I remember reviewing Bastida over four (!) years ago, and writing about how much I liked the concept behind this new brand from Barcelona. The idea of Bastida is that all of the clothes in store are adjustable by way of clever zippers, buttons and strings, so they can fit smaller size to bigger size — one piece, good for several years, and several children.

bastida3

Alicia from Bastida recently contacted me again and I had a peek at her now expanded collection. It is still so innovative and clever, and so cute too! There are now pretty tie-up dresses, cool zip up hoodies, and ingenious onesies that fit newborn babies until they’re one! (I love this photo of Polona‘s baby boy Talan, featuring the Bastida onesie.)

It is so nice to see brands developing and companies expanding over the years. Definitely one of the highlights of our job! I can’t wait to see how Bastida is going to develop further…

xxx Esther

Djeco mini games (perfect for traveling!)

djeco_mini_games
My good friend Kim always brings the best gifts for my children. She recently visited us from London, and again managed to bring something awesome! She spoiled each of my kids with a Djeco Mini Game, and they are such a big hit. With the vacations around the corner, and so many of us traveling to faraway and exciting places, I thought they were just too good not to share.

djeco
Djeco Mini Games are a variety of 30 cards, all bundled in a pack, with each of them featuring yet another old-fashioned brain teaser. There are card packs with ‘spot the ten differences’, ‘find the missing piece’, ‘sudoko’, ‘maze’, ‘connect the dots’ etc etc — so much fun (also for adults)! And perfect entertainment for in the back of the car, on the plane, in the train, in a restaurant… You name it. I’m definitely going to pick up a few more (if indeed we manage to get away with our house renovations in full swing).

You can find a good variety of the Djeco Mini Games at PSikhouvanjou, Little Citizens Boutique, and My Little Day.

xxx Esther

Tortustick, a fun toy for kids of every age

tortustick

I popped into Eenymeeny yesterday to pick up a few craft/activity books for the kids (we have a 9-hour daytime flight on Friday!) and this Tortustick game was out on display. Marlow immediately sat down and started playing with it, and to my amazement she actually sat still for a good 45 seconds. : )

I ended up buying it because I figured that not only will she enjoy playing with it, but it will appeal to the bigger kids as well. The game comes with a set of cards with different patterns, and bigger kids can use the magnetic stick to drag the colourful balls around the maze to match the patterns on the cards.  A fun toy for kids of every age (around 2 and up)!

x Courtney

Travel Kids – by Lalé and Babyccino Kids

Co-branding Babyccino / Lalé  - Photos enfants - 2013/05Finally school is out for summer over here in France. Of course, we are sad not to see our friends for a couple of months, but seriously, the break is very welcome and needed!

We have great plans, ranging from the kids flying on their own to Italy (!) as unaccompanied minors, to holidays in the French countryside and possibly some beach time and surfing. We will see how plans pan out,  all I know is that it is going to be fun! Do you have any fun plans for this summer? I am excited to hear!

Travel Kids - Lalé pour Babyccino - 2014/05

Travel Kids - Lalé pour Babyccino - 2014/05

Talking about traveling:  we still have a couple of our Travel Kids left, which you can order via the (all renewed!) Lalé website. Our travel packs are made in collaboration with one of our favourite designers, Lalé, and we are so thrilled on how they turned out! They are perfect to throw in your bag to go on trips — be it planes, trains or automobiles. My kids are super excited to wear the eye mask and and neck cushion on the plane, just to have something cozy to snuggle up to!

I do hope you have a great summer!

- Emilie

Sturdy summer sandals from Angulus

Angulus shoes
Angulus shoes for girls
Angulus shoes for babies
Marlow and I left the house the other day to pick the big kids up from school and only after we arrived to the school did I realise we had forgotten her shoes! I guess that is the sign of summertime. She ran around the entire afternoon with her bare feet and never complained!

Alas, there are times when shoes are required, and for this it’s a good thing for Angulus. The shoes are extremely well made, with sturdy straps and nice thick soles. Marlow has been wearing a pair of Angulus sandals passed down from Ivy and they’re still in really good shape.  And many of the styles are unisex, so they can be passed down from sibling to sibling, despite gender differences.

The Angulus site is in Danish (an English version coming soon!) but you can also buy them from UK-based Igloo Kids or Four Fairies and a Prince.

x Courtney

 

Velib’ now for kids

velibThe Velib’ (the Parisian city council bicycle scheme) has had a huge impact on the city, more than anything I have ever seen. Bike paths have popped up all over the place and even the infamous Parisian taxi drivers seem to have gotten used to bikes on the road, at least they have stopped screaming at them or trying to run them down! Most people I know use a Velib’ on a daily basis, so Paris just might become another bike friendly European town — I am keeping my fingers crossed.

So now we need to get the future generation onto bikes, which is not that easy in Paris. It is quite daunting teaching a kid how to ride on a public, busy street and most family flats are too small to be able to fit bicycles in them. This is one of the reasons Paris town hall has just launched a Velib scheme called P’tit Velib’ just for kids with 4 locations in Paris. The little bicycles have the same minimalist chic look as their bigger counterparts and come in 4 different sizes from push bike to teenager bike. At the moment you can pick them up in the bois de Vincennes, bois de Boulogne and the Berge de Seine. I do hope this scheme grows and comes to other locations in Paris, it is such a great idea!

- Emilie

 

Easton’s favourite books (great for ages 6 to 12)

Manfish a story of Jacques Cousteau

Easton (aged 9) has always, since the time he could speak, been obsessed with nature and animals and especially sea life.  One of his first words was ‘dolphin’ and by the time we was three, he knew the names of all the different whales and sharks! As a result, some of his favourite books are ones about the sea.

While he now mostly reads chapter books, both for school reading and for pleasure, I still catch him reading some of his favourite picture books, especially the books about sea creatures and animals.  I thought I would split up his list of favourites into two groups: picture books and chapter books.

Here are some of his favourite picture books:

1. Manfish : This sweet and beautifully illustrated book tells the story of Jacques Cousteau from the time he was a young boy up through his adult life and film-making career.  Easton wants to be a marine biologist when he’s bigger, and I think he really relates to the young boy in this book.

2. Zoo-ology : I have now bought three different copies of this book because it’s one of the most read books in our house (I often find it under the covers in their bed!), and I keep replacing the book due to broken bindings or torn pages. The book features more than 300 animals, each page featuring a different type: feathered, nocturnal, large, small, underground, etc.

the red sea sharks

3. The Red Sea Sharks (The Adventures of Tintin) : Easton loves all the Tintin books, but told me this one is his favourite.

4. Down, Down, Down: A Journey to the Bottom of the Sea : This fact-filled book takes you down from the surface to the very bottom of the sea, showing you all the crazy sea creatures who live in each ‘layer’ of the sea.

5. Maps : I’ve written about this book before here. It is still probably my boys’ current favourite book!

6. Stuck : Another Oliver Jeffers favourite. My boys think it’s hilarious to see all the things that Floyd gets stuck up in the tree in the effort to get his kite down.

7. Small and Tall Tales of Extinct Animals : Easton is fascinated by extinct animals and by the thought that some of the animals on our planet will one day also become extinct. This is another great animal picture book that shows extinct animals and gives a brief description of each.

the terrible thing that happened to barnaby bracket

And here are some of his favourite chapter books:

1. The Terrible Thing That Happened to Barnaby Brocket : I haven’t read this book, but Easton told me it’s very funny and it’s about a boy who floats and can’t control his floating, even when he wishes he could be normal and please his parents.

2 & 3. The BFG and James and the Giant Peach : Both by Roald Dahl, both brilliant and imaginative. What I love about the Roald Dahl books is that there is a teensy element of something slightly scary. I remember reading The BFG and The Witches when I was little, and being slightly scared but also totally intrigued.

4. You’re a Bad Man, Mr. Gum! : Again, I haven’t read this or any of the other Mr. Gum books , but Easton really likes them. I think it’s another funny, silly read.

5. The Harry Potter books: My mum reads these to my boys when she comes to visit. So far she’s read the first three books, and they have loved them. Quin (aged 7) can get slightly scared at times, but Easton can’t get enough.

6. Where the Red Fern Grows: I selfishly read this to the boys last summer because I wanted to re-read the story I loved as a child. It was one of my favourites! I will encourage Easton to read it again on his own, because it’s just one of those magical books, and probably best read on a sofa all alone, where tears can fall freely.

7. Tom’s Midnight Garden : I bought this book after receiving several reader recommendations to do so. We’ve only just started reading it, but Easton wanted to include it in his list and I have a strong feeling he won’t regret doing so.

Easton isn’t the most enthusiastic reader, especially when it comes to chapter books without pictures… but we’re getting there. He seems to be especially drawn to simple or silly stories, mostly featuring boys as the main character. If you have other book suggestions to share for this age group, please do so below.

x Courtney

p.s. You can see previous posts in this series here:

Loom bands

loom_bandsI’ve heard that loom bands have been around for a while already in other parts of the world, but here in the Netherlands they’ve suddenly made their appearance in the last few months. And now, they are everywhere.

If you’ve missed the fuss — loom bands basically are little elastic bands in a rainbow of colours, that are weaved together to form anything from simple bracelets to complex three dimensional creations. My children mostly use their fingers and different weaving techniques to make their bracelets, but there are crochet hooks and loom kits available as well. Little S or C shaped plastic clips keep the finished artwork together.

Both Sara as Pim are completely obsessed, and so are all of their friends. Pim has his entire arm covered in the plastic bracelets and is still collecting more! I do make him take them off in bed — I must admit that all of that plastic does gross me out a little. But then again, it keeps them entertained for hours, it’s creative, social, and fun. Plus, they can even be stylish – yesterday one of my cool friends was sporting a black loom band with neon details that she made herself, which made me want to get into my children’s loom band stock immediately and start weaving.

So, are your kids (or you!) on the loom band wagon yet?

xxx Esther

Marie Puce, for bigger and smaller children

Marie_Puce_tween

Marie Puce is a sweet and stylish French label, designed and ran by two sisters based in the heart of Paris. They have a lovely brick and mortar shop in the 6th arrondissement, and there’s an extensive (and newly revamped!) online store as well — for those of us not lucky enough to live around the corner from their sweet boutique.

* Beautiful sundress in a stunning bleu-grey colour, 100% cotton — hot pink Bensimon shoes — soft 100% wool scarf — simple yet stylish leather bag.

Marie_Puce_girl

What is so perfect about Marie Puce, is not just their good (French!) eye for stylish children’s fashion, but also — their sizing goes up to size 18 for most of the girls’ pieces.

It’s not always easy to find a good selection of clothes for older girls, so I’m super happy with the Marie Puce collections for older girls. (Sara just turned nine, but she’s so tall, she wears a size 12!)

* Cool jersey tee with raglan sleeves — flowery shorts with pockets and waistband — darling Liberty playsuit — red vichy check bikini in Liberty fabric

Marie_Puce_Boy

When I was browsing the renewed online Marie Puce boutique this morning, I just couldn’t resist the urge to make a few ‘my favourites’ boards for different age groups. Let’s call it a wish list. ; )

For the boys, there’s a smaller (but very simple and sweet) collection. Sizes go up to size 12.

* Braided leather belt — long sleeved and easy-to-wear Tunisian tee in 100% cotton — cotton shirt with a delicate pinstripe and Mao collar — orange 5 pocket bermudas – dotted 100% wool scarf – cool grey leather sandals

Marie-Puce_babyboyFor little baby boys up to two years of age (like Casper!), there are many perfect pieces… (Swoon!)

* Ensemble with shirt and linen bloomers – checked bib – darling sunsuit – easy jumper – classic shorts.

Marie_Puce_babygirl

And the collection for baby girls makes us very, very happy as well!

*Darling little Liberty dress – delicious bubble jumpsuit – traditional baby bonnet – flowery bib in Liberty rose.

Voila!

xxx Esther

A strawberry high-tea for Sara’s birthday

strawberry_high_tea strawberry_high_tea_13Sara turned nine (nine!!) a few weeks ago, so last week we organised a birthday party for her and her friends. I always ask what sort of birthday my kids would want (we’ve had themes like horses, knights, disco, cooking, sushi and a treasure hunt before), and this time, Sara came up with the idea of strawberries. A cute idea I thought!

So she invited 9 girl friends to come home with her after school, and we decorated the table for a sweet strawberry high tea. With finger sandwiches, cakes, strawberry tea, real cups and saucers, and lots of strawberries of course!

strawberry_high_tea_2 strawberry_high_tea_4As activities, we let the girls clean the strawberries for strawberry jam. They made labels for the jars, and together with Oma made the jam and filled their little jars.

strawberry_high_tea_5 strawberry_high_tea_9 strawberry_high_tea_6 strawberry_high_tea_11We also bought a terracotta pot and strawberry plant for each of the girls to decorate, plant, and take home.

strawberry_high_tea_7 strawberry_high_tea_8 strawberry_high_tea_10It was a lovely afternoon, and the girls (and Pim) had a wonderful time!

xxx Esther

Stylish UV rash vests for girls from Rockley Cove

RockleyCove rashvests
UV rash vest from Rockley Cove
We first picked up on the importance of rash vests five years ago when we took our first family trip to Australia. We landed in sunny Sydney, packed our beach bag and headed for the beautiful sandy beach. When we arrived it was evident to us, and no doubt everyone else, that we were the naive Europeans! Our children were the only kids on the beach not wearing a rash vest, or ‘rashie’ as they’re called in Australia! The sun is so strong there, and because you’re in and out of the water so much, sun creams are only effective to a certain point. We bought the kids their first rash vests on our way home from the beach that first day, and they wore them every day for the rest of our month-long holiday.

While I’ll admit they’re quite useful, and certainly crucial for adequate sun protection in certain parts of the world, the aesthetic part of my brain has always found them to be quite unattractive, often featuring big logos and ugly colours.

Enter Rockley Cove. The Rockley Cove rash vests are both practical and stylish. They’re made from quick-drying UPF 50+ fabric and include a high neckline to protect the neck and back. Handy and quite cute as well. We got them for the girls and they wore them on our recent holiday in Italy. I must say, they were the only kids wearing them on the Italian beaches (people probably thought we were Australian! : )) but it’s a lot easier than slathering sunblock on them every hour! (If only they would design some for boys!)

x Courtney

Nori Goes to Bed

Nori Goes to Bed book
I’m back on a book kick, can you tell?! ; ) I think it has to do with Marlow suddenly becoming a little book worm. I’ve been re-discovering all the toddler books on our shelves and it’s so fun to watch Marlow as she ‘reads’ them for the first time.

Nori Goes to Bed is actually a new-to-us book my friend shared with us recently and it’s become a big favourite. It’s an adorable book about a little cat who’s getting ready for bed with fold-down flaps to reveal the actions on each page.

nori goes to bed book2

nori goes to bed

The book is not an easy one to get your hands on — I found a used copy on Amazon, but if you can get one it’s a great little book for this sweet toddler stage.

x Courtney

Older Posts »