Doodle books from Start Creative

Start Creative doodle books
We have one more week of summer holidays before heading back to London and diving straight into school and a busy Autumn schedule. I’m starting to psyche myself up for the routine that is coming… but first, I have a 9-hour flight with four kids to survive. I’ve been trying to convince one of my siblings to fly back with me to help with all the schlepping of children and luggage, but haven’t had any takers… so it looks like I will fly solo, just the kids and me. Eeeek!

Thankfully, a set of doodle books from Start Creative arrived this week for us to check out. The timing couldn’t be better.

product-lines-interior-2_f03b6997-5859-4966-b232-addb203d4adb_1024x1024
scribbles-inside-1_31efaa15-474d-4f28-b0ed-e4036632f626_1024x1024
Each little doodle book provides the start of a doodle on each page — a simple line, swirl or scribble, which the kids can use as the starting point for their drawing. All your kids will need is a pencil and a bit of imagination!

I also love that the books are perfectly sized for travel, small enough to fit into any carry-on tote or child’s backpack (I’ve already stashed some in our travel bag, ready for our flight!).

x Courtney

p.s. Last year, after surviving the long flight back to London with all the kids, I jotted down some simple tips for flying with kids. I’ll be studying these tips to prepare myself for next week’s flight, and if you have any other tips to share, please do!

Mabo Kids summer sale

DSC_5221
DSC_5217
DSC_5219
DSC_5239

When Mabo Kids announced their summer sale a couple weeks ago, I quickly scooped up a few adorable pieces for the kids, my favourite being this little chambray playsuit for Ivy. So sweet! I snapped a few photos of her earlier this week when we were out at Fort Casey near where my dad lives. I love how summery these photos are — the dried grass, the flower seeds blowing, her blonde wispy hair… and of course the cutest little summer outfit.

There are still some remaining pieces in the Mabo sale, and if you hurry on over you might get lucky with the right sizes, etc.

x Courtney

Back to school!

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetCan you imagine? My little Ava, who was born only yesterday, started school today! Sara and Pim are also in new classes (Sara is at the top level of the school already! Two stairs to climb!). It was pretty crazy this morning, preparing thee lunch boxes and having to bring three children to their new classes, but everything went well and Ava was a star. When I picked her up at the end of the day, her teacher told me she was ‘a natural scholar’. Funny girl! (Maybe she’ll be a professor one day!)

TopTenWith ‘Back to School’ on our minds, this week’s Top Ten is filled with a selection of 10 cute products which will make every (first) school day super fun. When are your children beginning school? It feels like we are the first ones to start!

xxx Esther

PS Ava’s cute ‘Doggy Bag‘ is from Nogaravin, and her dress from Kallio.

Old school boys look, and a new collection from La Coqueta

cas1 cas2

It’s been so-so with the weather in the Netherlands since we came back from France last week. Lots of rain, and often we’ve been wearing cardigans and socks to keep ourselves warm! It really seems that autumn is early this year… I’ve been dressing Casper (who, by the way, had a huge growth spurt the last few weeks!), in shorts and knee socks a lot and I can just eat him up. I love that old-fashioned boys look!

la_coqueta1 la_coqueta5 la_coqueta6

It seems like the new look book from La Coqueta came perfectly in time. Isn’t everything just so adorable? (Including the models!!)

la_coqueta4 la_coqueta2 la_coqueta_3 la_coqueta7The collection will launch today… I will definitely stock up on some old-school outfits for Casper for the coming season, because if the weather stays like this, he will definitely be getting lots of wear out of it!

xxx Esther

An easy way to transform a room

pim_bed_2We’re back from France, and we found our house renovation next door in full swing. Once again, I’m thinking of tiles patterns, paint colours, concrete floors and curtains. I even wake up in the middle of the night, trying to solve the most unimportant little design questions imaginable. Crazy! (And annoying!)

pim_bed

One of the things that came to mind in my nightly brainstorms, is that I should most definitely use the painted rectangle idea again. A few years ago, to define Pim’s part of the room he currently shares with his big sister Sara, we painted a blue rectangle above his bed. It was really quick and easy to do, and it had such a cool effect. This is how we did it:

We chose a paint colour from the local DIY store, and bought enough paint to cover about 2 m² of wall. With (painters) masking tape and a level, we defined a rectangle above Pim’s bed, approximately 2 meters wide and 1 meter tall. With a paint roller, we painted the rectangle (in our case, two layers of paint were enough). After about half an hour (before the paint dried out too much), we carefully removed the tape. The next day, when the paint was totally dry, we hung the Ferm Living houses on the square, the work light and the knitted garland from Oeuf. I’m still so pleased with how it turned out!

Our children will once again still be sharing rooms in the new house, but this time, Casper will move in with Pim, and Ava with Sara. So I’ll have a boys bedroom and a girls bedroom to decorate. Fun!

xxx Esther

Weekend Getaway: Budapest

budapest for kids

Have you every been to Budapest? I would love to go! I’m a little bit obsessed by old European capitals at the moment, so Budapest is right at the top of my list of places to visit. One of our lovely readers, Diane, visited Budapest recently and put together a little lists of things to do and see.

Diane and her husband John are avid travelers.  They began taking their daughter (now 4.5) abroad when she was 18 months old.  They now travel with two kids (their son is 2). Here is their list of things to see and places to play, eat and stay:

Family

SEE:

Castle District – Located on the Buda side of the Danube, the Castle District is a must see for three distinct reasons. First, the trip to the Castle District is a blast for kids as it includes riding in a funicular. Once there, you will be dazzled by a wide array of buildings including the Royal Palace and the Matthias Church. But before you explore the charming streets of the District, stop and look across the Danube for the third (and, in my opinion) best reason for visiting the District – the views of Pest. You will have stunningly perfect views of Hungary’s enormous Parliament (third largest in the world), its distinct bridges and the lovely Danube itself. This is the perfect place for a family photo, if I do say so myself.

Heroes’ Square and City Park – City Park is a little like New York’s Central Park in that it has a bit of everything on its grounds including Budapest’s zoo and Szechenyi Baths. We elected not to visit the baths with two small kids but did spend an afternoon at the zoo. As it is located in the middle of town (and is one of the oldest zoos in the world), Budapest’s zoo feels intimate and the animals don’t seem so far away. After spending part of the day at the zoo, it is worth taking a stroll through City Park to visit Vajdahunyad Castle, especially if, like me, you have a child obsessed with princesses and castles. On the way out of the park, stop in (closed-to-traffic) Heroes’ Square and take in the imposing monument and statues of Hungary’s most important national leaders.

Memento Park – The final resting place for communist statues, Memento Park allows you to imagine what life was like behind the iron curtain. Although the significance of the statues will be lost on smaller kids (as it should be), they will enjoy climbing on the larger than life statues and sitting in the old Trabant car parked near the entrance. Once they are older and learn about the Soviet bloc in school, you can pull out the old photos and show them just how close they got to history. Memento Park is a bit out of the way in outer Buda but there are several easy public transportation options. Our kids enjoyed the trip out there just as much as they did the statues.

DSC_2701

PLAY:

Mini Polisz – Located at Nyugati ter, near the train station and WestEnd City Center, Mini Polisz is the ultimate interactive and roleplaying museum for young children. The space is divided into different businesses, including a Tesco grocery store, bank, mechanic shop, hair salon and doctor’s office. Children can move from one location to the next, taking on the jobs required of each business. Among the more creative sections is a roadway where kids can practice obeying traffic rules while riding scooters and trikes. There also is a baby room for those under one and a snack counter. For a more substantial meal, head over to the WestEnd City Center mall which offers over 50 dining options.

Children’s Railway  – Operated by children (under adult supervision), the Children’s Railway is a fun way to see the hills high above Budapest. The train’s route takes you past a number of sites, including Challenge Land Adventure Park, an outdoor park with several different ropes courses for visitors 4 and up. As we had a little one with us who couldn’t participate, we opted to skip Challenge Land but a lot of people recommend it!

EAT:

Verne Restaurant  – Verne Restaurant is just one of a seeming endless row of restaurants located on the popular pedestrian shopping street, Vaci utca. What distinguishes Verne from other restaurants is the enormous playground located in the back of the restaurant. We had not seen a playground of that magnitude at a restaurant not called McDonald’s. It came equipped with a slide, playhouse, sandbox and plenty of shovels and buckets. Our kids did not want to leave. For the adults, the restaurant offers a varied menu including pizzas and traditional Hungarian dishes.

Pizza Eataliano  – With three locations in popular tourist areas of Budapest, you are never far away from an Eataliano outpost. As the name suggests, this is the place for pizza and also pasta, all at a reasonable price (especially if you dine off of the lunch menu). The children’s menu offers several pizza and pasta options and includes dessert (ice cream or chocolate cake).

Gelarto Rosa – Rumored to be the best ice cream in Budapest and it certainly lives up to its hype. This tiny shop scoops the ice cream into the shape of a perfect rose. As a bonus, they offer dairy-free and other allergen-free flavors. This meant that my son, who is allergic to several common foods, was able to enjoy a daily treat. As the shop is small, there is generally a line out the door but it is worth the wait. Plus, the shop is just a few storefronts down from Szent Istvan ter (St. Stephen’s Square) and its beautiful Szent Istvan Bazilika (St. Stephen’s Basilica). Take your ice cream over to the (car free) square and let your kids run around while you enjoy the view of the beautiful church.

Jegbufe  – Ever wonder what it must have been like to live in the Communist era? Jegbufe gives you a chance to step back in time. In business since 1952 (and apparently not renovated since them), Jegbufe is a Budapest institution serving pastries and drinks just as they did prior to the fall of the iron curtain. In addition to retaining the Soviet-era décor, Jegbufe has kept the communist system of ordering goods: first, you view the items you wish to purchase. Once you decide which you would like to buy, you get into a separate line to pay. Once payment is complete, bring your receipt back to the original counter and claim your treat. Not surprisingly, they only take cash, and it can be a bit of a challenge to use a stroller inside. No doubt just like in the communist days.

SHOP:

Játékvár  – If there is one item that makes a young child uniquely Hungarian it is their possession of an affordable, plastic ride on scooter. They ride them everywhere: in the mall, on the playground, at the zoo and on any and all pedestrian-only streets and squares. Naturally, we had to buy two for our own children (and find a way to get them home, but that’s another story). We bought ours at Játékvár at the Mammut I shopping mall, located near the Millenaris cultural center. However, these ubiquitous scooters can be found in various shops throughout town. If you have plans to tour the zoo, spend time in City Park or stroll down pedestrian-only Vaci utca., you can’t go wrong by investing in a riding scooter for your children. These scooters may just be the best souvenir we have ever brought back from Europe.

IMG_8397

Memories of Hungary  – There is no shortage of souvenir shops in Hungary selling cheap bags, magnets and other tchotchkes. However, for unique souvenirs of high quality, there is one shop that should be on everyone’s list. Memories of Hungary, located down the street from Szent Istvan Bazilika (St. Stephen’s Basilica), sells a wide array of beautifully crafted items including clothing, handbags and ceramics, as well as wine and food. For little ones, they have books, stuffed animals and beautiful hand puppets. The store’s employees speak perfect English and can help you find the right souvenir for that hard-to-shop-for friend or relative.

STAY:

Apartment Rentals –  We had great luck with Golden Stars Apartments  which offered an array of apartments of different sizes throughout Budapest. They also arranged for an airport transfer with car seats. We elected to rent an apartment on pedestrian-only Vaci utca. Vaci utca was the ideal location for a family with small children. We were a stone’s throw away from many food options, including the kids’ favorite, McDonald’s, and the kids rode their new riding scooters to dinner each night. When my son lost his right shoe (we only brought one pair with us), we had several options for purchasing a new pair. When the kids got a little restless during the witching hour (you parents know what I mean), we took them around the corner to a perfect playground set against the backdrop of the Danube. And when it was time to head out and sightsee, we had several public transportation options available to us within a five minute walk, including trams and the metro.

For those who prefer hotels, you can’t beat the family activities available at the Four Seasons Budapest, located on the banks of the Pest side of the Danube. The hotel offers both baby- and kid-sized amenities for their littlest guests, including baby toys and child-sized robes and slippers.

- Emilie

P.S. Diane hired a local photographer to take photos of the whole family in Budapest. Such a great idea, I never have a single photo of the whole family when we go on holiday. She used Brita Photography.

Learning to weave on a peg loom

ivy weaving

weaving loom

My sister just gave Ivy a Peg Loom weaving kit and it’s been really sweet watching Ivy learn to weave this summer. She’s intent on making herself a little handbag, which is one of the projects recommended in the loom kit. I’m kind of hoping we can buy some pretty yarns and make some weaved wall hangings, perhaps with some driftwood found on the beach (I was feeling inspired yesterday when I saw this photo on Instagram). In either case, it’s a great summertime project (for both of us).  The PegLoom kit comes with everything you need to get started, including yarn and a weaving needle.

x Courtney

MAPS Activity Book

MAPS activity book
colouring MAPS activity book
Remember the MAPS book we all love so much? Well, they’ve just come out with an activity book version which my kids are loving nearly as much as the book!! (Easton did make sure to tell me that he still loves the book more!)

colouring american states

The MAPS activity book is filled with loads of great activities, all based on encouraging children to learn and discover the different countries, continents and cultures around the world. There’s a page, for example, that encourages children to colour the 50 different states of America, using only four colours, and without letting any of the colours touch — a fun, yet challenging activity that my 9-year-old really enjoyed.

colour your own flag

Another page asks you to colour the different flags from countries around the world and then asks you to design and colour your own flag. Another fun activity! The book is available from Amazon (US and UK).

x Courtney

Dinosaur / Skeleton Memory Game

dinosaur_memory_2Do you sometimes play memory games with your children? And do you win? I honestly have trouble beating my kids! I remember that as a child, I loved playing Memory with adults, because I could actually beat them. I wonder, is it true that children have a better (short term) memory than grown-ups?

dinosaur_memory1Anyway, I recently got this cool Dinosaur / Skeleton Memory game, and it’s so fun. We love playing (and of cours Pim beats me all the time) – and at the same time we learn the names of all the dinosaurs. Which is a crucial triviality, especially if you’re a mum of boys!

xxx Esther

PS Another game I love playing with my children (and they beat me all the time too)!

Sweet vegetables from Mama Couture

mama_couture_veggies

How darling are these handmade vegetables from Mamma Couture? I love the different materials and shapes, and the sweet details like the little face on the peas. There are 13 different vegetables that come in their own fabric carrying bag, and the vegetables are available to buy separately as well. So pretty and so fun for the children! Ava loves cooking and grocery shopping for her doll family these days, and she agrees that these vegetables make a perfectly healthy dolls diet.

mama_couture_doll

Cambridge mum Eva, a passionate sewer and professional pattern cutter, is the creative wonder behind Mamma Couture. Eva collects materials from all over the world, creates her own original patterns, and sews every piece by hand. The production is always limited to a few exclusive pieces, and each piece is made individually, and thus unique. Besides her darling vegetables, she also makes adorable dolls, designed to bring comfort and be loved by children of all ages. So sweet!

xxx Esther

A day trip from Paris – Versailles

Louis14

Living in this lovely city of Paris is great… but it is easy to forget all the great things to do and visit just outside the city. A couple of weekends ago we jumped with some friends on a commuter train (the RER B) and within 40 minutes we had arrived in front of the stunning chateau of Versailles, known for its beauty and also the over the top extravagance of the Kings and Queens of France who lived there.

The children were amazed by the opulence of their surroundings and how crazy it was that this whole chateau was built just for one man and his entourage to live in! Good old Louis the 14th sure knew how to live it up!

Versaillesfront

The main palace is amazing to visit, but with a whole gaggle of children in tow, we opted for a visit of the gardens surrounding the palace and a visit to the smaller Trianon Palace together with Marie-Antoinette’s domaine, which has been restored very recently.

It was a lovely day: we picnicked, played hide and seek between the manicured hedges, strolled through the different gardens, and had a good look around Marie-Antoinette’s retreat.
kidsVersaillesGarden
neptun
We finished the trip with a boat ride on the Grand Canal, just like Marie Antoinette would have done, I am sure.

rowboat
These kind of day trips make me realise how lucky we are to have so much history right at our doorstep! Visiting Versailles is so easy, even if you are just visiting Paris for a week!

- Emilie

Kid Libs, Mad Libs for kids

mad libs

My kids discovered Mad Libs for the first time this holiday and now I’m wondering what took me so long to introduce them! The giggles coming from the kids’ table are so, so cute. Not to mention, they now know the difference between a verb and an adverb, a noun and a plural noun.

The kids have been playing with the Kid Libs version which are great for kids aged seven and up. And the nice thing about the game is that it can be played by as many people as you want. I’ve even caught Easton playing on his own and then laughing at his stories! We have a little road trip coming up this weekend and I’m planning on bringing a few Kid Libs with us in the car — I think it will be the perfect thing to entertain a captive car audience. You can buy Kid Libs Mad Libs from Amazon (US and UK ).

x Courtney

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! : )

Older Posts »