Lucky by David Mackintosh

Lucky by David Mackintosh
Lucky book
Lucky 3
Lucky 4

This book is for my son, Elias. No seriously … it is. I met David Mackintosh at a friend’s place recently and when I sussed out he was the Author/Illustrator responsible for Marshall Armstrong Is New To Our School – I had to tell him about how Elias loved that book – he even slept with it by his bed for quite a long while, which in Elias’s world means it was VERY special (and probably a bit magic)! So David (very sweetly) sent Elias his newest book, Lucky , and it is a book we all really enjoy and laugh out loud to!

David combines illustration with photo-montage and bold typesetting for a distinctive look which is pacey to fit with the story-telling – you can’t help but go into character when you read this book and when you go back to read it again you spot quirks and little jokes in the illustration that first time round you missed.

But what David does so well is capture a child’s voice and way of thinking. The story, told by our hero, is about how a kid’s imagination can play Chinese-whispers with itself. One idea turns into another and before you know it imagination has turned into reality. There is also an underlying story here of brotherly love and maybe even a question of what ‘lucky’ is? At least the grown-up in me can see that this boy – disappointed by his ‘luck’ not paying off as he imagined it would – is really a very lucky boy indeed.

-Mo  x

New spring collection at Elfie

spring collection at Elfie
elfie party hats
elfie boys clothes
elfie london
These images from the new collection at Elfie are just so springy and happy! Not to mention so English – don’t you love the pairing of floral dresses with lace cardigans and the wellies worn with shorts! I also love all the colourful felt party hats. Bring on springtime. Not long to go!

Courtney x

Gommini Minigoms PlayScape

gommini minigoms playhouse gommini_2

Germany is in so many respects so much further with responsible and sustainable processing and production methods than many other countries here in Europe. There’s such a strong local manufacturing of eco products, with use of honest materials, but the research for new, innovative materials, which allow new product design and at the same time leave less of a footprint on this world, is a trend I’ve also been noticing in Germany. I’ve written about the admirable production processes of the German clothing label Macarons before, the wonderful eco-wines of Weinreich, but also toy manufacturer Gommini is such a company.
Gommini uses Valchromat for their toys, a high-quality, solvent free, wood-based material which contributes to an efficient and responsible environmental management and encourages sustainability. The products are then treated with a purely natural oil, resulting in a very smooth and pleasant feeling, ‘soft’ surface. I love the modern look of their products.

We gave our children the Minigoms play scene for Christmas — a selection of 2D buildings, landscapes and openings that can be assembled and combined in different ways. The toy is not offering a fixed scenario — it can be used in all sorts of manners, allowing for the input and creativity of the child. It can for instance be a stable for the Schleich animals, a garage for the cars, a city for the train track, a house for the Playmobil characters, etc. It’s been a grand success by all means — it’s easy to assemble, wonderful to play with for all ages, pleasant to look at, and easy (flat) to store.

gommini_3

If you’re ever looking for an evergreen kind of playhouse for your children that will stand the test of time, then this Gommini Minigoms playscape is certainly something to keep in mind.

xxx Esther

Lennebelle, an interview and a little video

A few weeks ago, sweet Lenneke, from the gorgeous Dutch mother & child jewellery line Lennebelle, came over to our house with her husband Joey to shoot some photos and the little video above for her beautiful series ‘The Mama Stories’, in which she regularly interviews a mama about motherhood and her lifestyle choices. It was a really fun day, and I got a deep respect for Lenneke, who was 36 weeks pregnant with her second child at the time (now over 38 — I’m waiting for baby news!), and Joey, who is such a talented photographer / videographer. It’s so nice to get to know all these wonderful people through our job, entrepreneurs who seek the adventure and fulfilment of making something beautiful, and Lennebel is definitely a testimony of the talent and energy of the couple behind the brand.

I have shared some photos of the day below, you can see my children (and me!) wearing Lennebelle‘s beautiful bracelets and necklaces. And you can see more photos and read the interview here if you’re interested!

The-Mamma-Stories-featuring-Esther,-Sara,-Pim,-Ava-&-Casper-for-Lennebelle-Petites-2 The-Mamma-Stories-featuring-Esther,-Sara,-Pim,-Ava-&-Casper-for-Lennebelle-Petites-11 The-Mamma-Stories-featuring-Esther,-Sara,-Pim,-Ava-&-Casper-for-Lennebelle-Petites-15 The-Mamma-Stories-featuring-Esther,-Sara,-Pim,-Ava-&-Casper-for-Lennebelle-Petites-49 The-Mamma-Stories-featuring-Esther,-Sara,-Pim,-Ava-&-Casper-for-Lennebelle-Petites-51 The-Mamma-Stories-featuring-Esther,-Sara,-Pim,-Ava-&-Casper-for-Lennebelle-Petites-3 The-Mamma-Stories-featuring-Esther,-Sara,-Pim,-Ava-&-Casper-for-Lennebelle-Petites-25 The-Mamma-Stories-featuring-Esther,-Sara,-Pim,-Ava-&-Casper-for-Lennebelle-Petites-1 zThe-Mamma-Stories-featuring-Esther,-Sara,-Pim,-Ava-&-Casper-for-Lennebelle-Petites-1 The-Mamma-Stories-featuring-Esther,-Sara,-Pim,-Ava-&-Casper-for-Lennebelle-Petites-48 The-Mamma-Stories-featuring-Esther,-Sara,-Pim,-Ava-&-Casper-for-Lennebelle-Petites-41xxx Esther

 

I like Animals by Dahlov Ipcar

i like animals
I Like Animals book
I Like Animals 4

I like vintage kid’s books – one day I’ll write some more about that, but suffice to say it’s quite a habit. I always argue with my husband that I’m cheaper then other wives – I don’t need Jimmy Choos! I spend literally NOTHING on cosmetics! But he argues that we need to buy a bigger house to store the books and so it turns out that even a penny-book obsession can get out of hand.
You see there is a snowball effect with my purchases – when I stumble upon an illustrator (usually) or author that I think is brilliant I start trying to track down more and more of their books and so one purchase can turn into 3 or 4 or more!

I discovered Dahlov Ipcar when I stumbled upon a copy of My Wonderful Christmas Tree and thought it might be good for our Advent Book Calendar. I loved her illustrations so much that I searched for more and discovered that a few of her books had recently been republished and bought back to life with remastered artworks by Flying Eye Books, and so I bought I Like Animals for a little boy who does.

What hit me first is the use of colour – this book feels right in keeping with today’s fashion – a coral pink, khaki-mustard, forest green and petrol blue – Some pages printed with all and others using just one – the result is striking. Not so much of a story but rather lists of the different animals and where you’d find them. It’s a really lovely book to look through.

Mo x

Beautiful, retro-style doll prams from The Tipi

dolls pram from The Tipi
retro dolls pram
grey dolls pram
We’re moving house this week (!!) and have spent the past month paring down our belongings and clearing out all of the stuff we’ve accumulated over the past four years. It’s really kind of appalling how much stuff one family can collect into one house. And I thought we lived quite minimally. Ha!

Anyway, we’ve made several trips to the charity shop giving away lots of toys that don’t get used or haven’t stood the test of time. This exercise has made it even more clear to me that kids really don’t need loads and loads of toys to be happy — just the basics: legos, Schleich animals, and Kapla blocks for the boys, and dress-up clothes, dolls and a doll’s pram for the girls. Their favourite things!

I wanted to quickly mention how much the girls love their retro-style dolls pram from The Tipi. Not only is it beautiful to look at, but it’s really well made and sturdy in design — something we will certainly be taking with us to the new place and hopefully something we’ll keep forever for future grandchildren to use!

Alright – back to packing!

Courtney xx

Valentine’s Craft: Animal Brooches and Magnets

Animal Magnets and Brooches

Valentines day is tomorrow already and a DIY is in order! Tila has a few very good friends in her kindergarten and I thought it would be nice if she gave them something tiny to let them know how special they are to her.

Animal Magnets and Brooches

So I bought a box of plastic animals (the whole box of about 15 animals cost around 5 euros) and decided to make them into magnets and pins. Tila also wanted me to paint them but you can easily just leave them as they are (especially if they are hand painted, like Schleich figurines) and only glue magnets and/or brooch pin-backs on one side.

Animal Magnets and Brooches

I painted them with Montana spray cans but you can easily go with acrylic paints (just don’t forget to use a primer first to prevent chipping). If you decide to spray paint, apply several thin layers and wait a few minutes between coats or until completely dry to the touch. (Don’t spray too close like I did or you’ll get one very thick layer of paint that will take ages to dry! Spray about 15-20 cm away.) After the final coat is done it’s best to wait overnight or at least a few hours before gluing the magnets and pins on. We also added tiny hearts on their behinds (except for the lion, because the boy it’s meant for hates hearts. But we still hid one on the back ; ) .)

-Polona

PS The glue I’m always using and is also on this photo is UHU’s Bastelkleber and I absolutely love it! I used it on almost every surface already and I think it works even better than super glue plus it’s solvent free and transparent when dry.

To read more from Polona, go to her cute blog Baby Jungle!

Favourite snow-themed children’s books

Snowy Richmond Park
Otto in the snow

favourite snowy books

favourite snow books

Finally it happened. Finally it snowed here in London. As it is the way of the Englander – it seems we have been discussing this possible event for weeks – the postman, the lady in the supermarket, my next-door neighbour, my Mum – we do like to talk about the weather in this country and SNOW is a rare and exciting event. Apart from halting all forms of transport the bare splattering of snow transforms our landscape and of course for children … well there is nothing quite so heart-warming as their excitement as they look out of their windows when woken to the words of ‘it’s snowing”.
As we have been waiting for the snow (which sadly only lasted a few hours) I dug out the snow-themed books we had on our shelves and I thought I’d share them with you:

Snow by Roy McKie & P.D. Eastman
This is a ‘Beginner Book’ from 1962, which means it is simply written using short, repetitive words that a child just learning to read can manage. The main focus is on pictures, which have a bright and bold primary palette and really express the fun of kids playing in the snow.

Immi by Karin Littlewood
We’ve written about this beautiful story here but the pictures are so lovely that a snow-themed read-athon was a great excuse to pull it out again.

The Story of the Snow Children by Sibylle von Olfers
I’m a big fan of the art of Sibylle von Olfers and this story of the Snow Children is (I think) one of the most enchanting examples – the story of a little girl called Poppy, who is tempted by the fairies of the snow to visit the Snow Queen. The berry-red of Poppy’s coat and mittens ping of the page against the tealy blue, gold and crisp white of the fairies snowy world. It is remarkable that a book published 110 years ago feels so fresh.

One Snowy Night by Nick Butterworth
This is a story from Percy the Park Keeper – a gentle series that my children really like. The story sees Percy taking in the park animals one-by-one as they shiver and suffer from the cold one snowy night. I think I like this one as it reminds me a little of our own household with my children creeping into our bed one-by-one at various stages of the night (except in our house it doesn’t need to be snowing!)

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
I can’t believe I haven’t written about this book yet! It is one of my favourite books. The story itself is a simple tale of a boy going out to play in the snow and worrying it won’t be still there when he wakes the next morning but what makes this book special is the bold colours and graphic layouts – each page is a surprising piece of art. I only recently learned that the book was also groundbreaking. Published in 1962, The Snowy Day was the first full-colour children’s book to feature an African-American protagonist. Keats had previously only illustrated other Author’s books and it occurred to him that his own minority was never featured so he changed it and he won the prestigious Caldecott Medal for doing so!

I’d love to hear what your favourite snow-themed books are? I’m optimistic that we’ve not seen the end of the snow – we still have some tobogganing to do and a snowman to build!

-Mo  x

New spring collection at La Coqueta

La Coqueta spring2015
La Coqueta dress
La Coqueta boys clothes
spanish children's clothes
spanish boys clothing
la coqueta suspenders
La Coqueta spring2015 _2
Celia from La Coqueta sent over her new spring/summer lookbook today and it has me longing achingly for spring! I know it’s still only February, but the tiny signs of spring are starting to crop up. There is sunshine at the end of this wintry tunnel!

As always I love the entire collection, but I think my favourite piece is the Manilva dress. It’s just so perfectly simple — you just can’t beat a white cotton dress in the summertime. I also love the grey draped linen Osuna dress, also so timeless and easy to wear. For boys, I’m loving all the colourful cotton shorts and suspenders! And don’t even get me started about those floral baby rompers. Somebody get me a baby (mine went and turned twenty over night)!!!! : )

Celia told me this collection was inspired by a simple, clean lifestyle — a return to the basics. So good, right? I think this might be my favourite collection yet!

Courtney x

Handmade ‘Maria’ doll from Mamma Couture

girls with dolls
girls with dolls2
dolls and blocks
In the run up to Christmas I spotted a Maria doll on Mamma Couture’s Instagram feed (a ‘Maria’ doll meaning Maria from The Sound Of Music, complete with her own guitar!). I just knew Ivy would love this, so we ordered one for her for Christmas and it has been a huge hit.

The dolls are all handmade by Mamma Couture’s creator, Eva, who is happy to take custom orders on dolls if you have specific requests. I think it’s such a sweet idea to create a doll based on a character your child loves. It has certainly encouraged lots of ‘Sound of Music’ themed play scenarios with all her other dolls… and lots of ‘Do Re Mi’ sing along sessions too! (You can contact Eva for custom orders.)

Courtney x

(Photos by Caroline Leeming, taken for the feature on The Daily Muse.)

kidO magnatabs

kid O magnatabs
kidO magnatabs is an ingenious toy that works with little metal beads which are permanently sealed in the plastic magnatab base and a magnetic pen that brings the beads to the surface once you draw over the base. The geometric creations simply erase with your finger once you’re done. It’s incredibly simple, but it’s the kind of toy that my kids pick up all the time — Casper (2) loves playing with it as much as his big sister Sara (9) does.

kid O magnatabs

The kidO magnatabs are great for traveling as well — it doesn’t take up a lot of space in your luggage and will keep children perfectly entertained in the back of the car, the train or the plane. I got ours at the adorable brick and mortar children’s boutique Big & Belg here in Amsterdam, but Perfectly Smitten sells it online, or you can get it from Amazon (US or UK ).

xxx Esther

Shakleton’s Journey by William Grill

Skakleton's Journey Cover

I loved this book before I read it – my friend, Clem, had just bought it and I knew I’d love it – she is always right about these things. I flicked through it sitting in her garden and first fell for the illustrations – in a naval palatte of blues, browns, gold and a dotted journey-line of red they were so tender — I was instantly drawn in. Then I came to page 7 – about how many dogs were aboard Endurance (Shakleton’s Ship) drawn more like an infographic (I’m a stats geek with a love of graphic-design so an infographic is my idea of heaven on a page).

Shakleton's Journey inside 1
Shakleton's Journey inside 2

William Grill uses so many illustrative techniques to bring the story of this remarkable adventure alive. On one page we are in a picture book, the next is more like a cartoon built up of lots of small pictures showing scenes from that particular part of the story, then a storyboard page and then we have the pages that feel like they are from a deliciously doodled notebook – it is a truly gorgeous book and it was the perfect introduction to a fascinating story, which I knew very little about. I love it that my kids have got to an age where their learning is teaching me too!

The book is shown here with my late Grandfather’s nautical flags from when he was a leader of the Sea Scouts in the 1960s – they now hang in my son’s room!

Shackleton’s Journey is available from Amazon (US and UK ).

-Mo  x

Shoe Lacing, Montessori-Style

montessori craft project
I am a big fan of Montessori methods of education and I’m still mourning over Tila’s Montessori daycare she went to in France. There are none here in Germany in the area we live at the moment so I try to implement as many Montessori principles at home as I can.
I especially love their toys which are in fact called ‘materials’ simply because they are designed with an aim to help children spontaneously learn when working with them. There are many ways to make Montessori-style materials at home and most of them are very simple so I thought about starting a series of “Montessori-Style Crafts” posts.

My first project in this series is a fun and super simple craft that can be actually done by kids themselves and its purpose is to help learn how to lace and unlace.

1

Things you need are:
-Shoes
-A piece of thick cardboard big enough to fit the shoes
-Paint (I used watercolors)
-Knitting needle or skewer

2

First make the outline with a pencil

3

Go over with a black marker and draw in the rest of the shoe like the eyelets and the tongue, I even had to do pink toe caps.

4

Paint the shoes and make holes in the eyelets using a knitting needle or a skewer.

learn to tie your shoes craft project

Now put the shoelaces in (or even better – let the kids do it) and you’re done!

-Polona

To read more from Polona, go to her cute blog Baby Jungle!

Nursery idea: rug on the wall

yellow cot with rug on wall
My friend Mo, who owns Pipsticks and whom I’ve written about before (here), is expecting a baby girl (her fourth baby!) any day now. I was over at her house last week and asked to see her baby’s nursery… because honestly, isn’t there something so magical and exciting about a newly prepared little space for a baby? The perfectly clean sheets, the soft blankets, the miniature baby diapers… all just waiting for a baby to arrive! Oooh the anticipation!

I love the way Mo decorated the space, and I especially love her idea of hanging a colourful rug up on the wall above the cot.

 

rug hanging on wall
rug wall hanging

 

Mo told me she used a big yarn needle to loop pieces of chunky, grey yarn through the rug to attach it to a cheap, unfinished wooden dowel (which she picked up at her local DIY store). She spaced the yarn evenly, starting from the center, and made about 4 loops around the dowel at each spot. She then hung the dowel from the wall with nails. The whole thing took her only 15 minutes and instantly transformed the space. How clever is that?!

She bought the rug from Oliver Bonas which has a small, but nice selection of rugs. I love the vintage feel of the one she chose and think it looks so perfect above that yellow cot!

Courtney x

Photos by the talented Lesley Colvin

Colourful cashmere accessories from Olivier Baby and Kids

Olivier Baby cashmere bonnet
Olivier Baby cashmere snood
Olivier Baby bear hat
cashmere snoods
I recently got the kids cashmere snoods and I honestly don’t know what took me so long to catch on to this convenient fashion trend. Snoods are so much easier than scarves. Hands down. (I can totally understand now why scarves were banned from Emilie’s girls’ school! They’re a pain to keep wrapped around the neck, and often end up dragging in the dirt, falling off and getting in the way.) Snoods stay put and keep kids warm, all the while looking super cute!

Olivier Baby & Kids is a great place to pick up cashmere accessories for kids in a variety of pretty colours. I love the baby bonnets as well as the snoods (so handy with the strap under the chin), and how fun are all the colourful pompom hats?

Apparently it’s supposed to get colder before it gets warmer here in the UK, so it’s not a bad idea to stock up on winter accessories, especially now that the sale has started.

Courtney x

Birds of a Feather (and other books) by Francesco Pittau Gervais

Birds of a Feather Cover
Birds of a Feather inside 1
Birds of a Feather inside 2

All three of my kids fell in love with books when they first ‘read’ Dear Zoo – the definitive lift-the-flap book (in my view). In fact lift-the-flap books were always a hit in our house and that’s why this book by Francesco Pittau Gervais was a perfect gift for them last Christmas.

Whilst I am a big fan of one of Pittau Gervais’s earlier books – Elephant Elements (which I wrote about here), this series of lift-the-flap books aimed at older children – Birds of a Feather , Out of Sight , The Open Ocean are more sophisticated in their style. In ‘Birds of a Feather’ the flaps give you a hint to the bird hiding behind – maybe a silouhette of a particular feature of the bird, a detail of the markings on their feathers or the egg they came from, and the illustrations of the birds are really beautiful.
The book takes that which babies and young toddlers love about a lift-flap – the element of surprise – and uses it to educate in a playful but informative way. It is really a treasure of a book – but beware of young lift-flappers – the books are made using thinner card then the normal board-books and so are not as robust!

NB: the photo shows the German version of the book – the English cover is actually a lot nicer (in my view).

-Mo  x

Brio labyrinth game, suitable for 6-99 years!

brio labyrinth toyThis labyrinth game by Brio was one of the presents we gave Pim for Christmas and it was such an immediate success. During the courses at our Christmas dinner that evening, the kids were literally fighting over it, together with their grandfather (see photo!). So the fact that Brio markets this toy as suitable ‘for 6 to 99 years’ is really spot on : ).

brio labyrinth game

The classic labyrinth game was introduced in 1946, and it’s all about fine motor skills, reactivity and… patience. The little ball is balanced by turning the two knobs at the side simultaneously to keep it from falling in one of the holes. Different levels can be chosen by inserting a different board.

It all sounds really easy, but it’s much, much harder than you think!

xxx Esther

Pim’s bed, and wonderful Jim Flora wallpaper

wallpaper

wallpaper_2

Last weekend, my husband and I did something new for both of us: we wallpapered a wall. We learned a lot about measuring, cutting, and patience, and got to deeply respect the skills of professional wallpaperers. But after hard labour I’m proud to present the results: the wall behind Pim’s bed is covered in gorgeous blue wallpaper! Pim picked this design, featuring original drawings by the late Jim Flora, because he loves music and plays the trumpet. So it’s perfect.

wallpaper_1

I love the quirkiness and originality of the wallpaper design, and the dark colour makes his bed really stand out. The bed is made of brass and antique, we found it in France last summer, stuck in a corner somewhere at a ‘Vide Grenier’. The plexiglass Star Wars sign was found on the street when we lived in New York 13 years ago, before we were married and had children. We stored it all this time, until we had sons who would appreciate it in their room! I found the bedside table on the streets here in Amsterdam, and it displays all of Pim’s little treasures. (He is such a hoarder!) The house shelves were an investment I made a few years ago for the old room, and we still love them. The badger rug is from Molly & the Wolf.

xxx Esther

Happy Birthday Madame Chapeau by Andrea Beaty & David Roberts

Happy Birthday Madame Chapeau
Madame Chapeau inside
Madame Chapeau inside 2

Beaty & Roberts are a pairing akin to Donaldson & Scheffler – if I see a new book from the duo I buy it without thinking, without reading the sleeve, without anything – it WILL be good.
OK, so unlike the latter pair these guys have only produced 3 books together (so far) but those 3 books are just soooo good – we have written about Iggy Peck Architect before and Rosie Revere Engineer and now I’d like to introduce you to Madame Chapeau … I’m sure you will fall in love with her!
Unlike Iggy & Rosie, Madame Chapeau is not in Lila Greer’s 2nd grade class but rather owns a hat shop in Paris and makes the most beautiful hats for her chichi Parisian clientele. But Madame Chapeau is a lonely lady until on her birthday a thieving crow gives Madame Chapeau the chance to see how many people are eager to be her friend.
The story starts with a pang of sadness for this lady who is quietly unhappy and lonely but how powerful the message is that there is love out there for all if you seize it and a birthday is always a good time to ‘seize’!

Happy Birthday, Madame Chapeau is available from Amazon (US and UK ).

-Mo x

Girls on Tiptoes

Girls on Tiptoes leotard
girls on tiptoes2
girls on tiptoes3
girls on tiptoes4
I’ve always been really reluctant to sign my kids up for classes and activities that take place on weekends. I just find the weekends to be such precious family time and I’ve never liked dropping kids off at classes (or even birthday parties for that matter) where it divides the six of us up. We’ve never been a boys-go-to-football/girls-go-shopping kind of family — we all really prefer to spend the two days together.

But this September I finally gave in. Ivy has been asking to take ballet classes for years now, and because the only available beginner ballet classes take place on a Saturday I had to make an exception to our weekend rule. So… Ivy now does ballet on Saturdays and she literally looks forward to it ALL WEEK LONG. Consequently, the ballet obsession has rubbed off on Marlow, and now, at any given point, you can be sure that at least one of my girls is wearing a tutu or ballerina leotard! (To think there was a point in my life where I had two boys and was only surrounded by trains and dinosaurs and building blocks!)

Anyway, with ballerina fever running rampant in our house, we’re really happy to have discovered the range of ballet and gymnastics wear from Girls On Tiptoes. The brand was started by three Polish mothers who have created a range of pretty-yet-playful pieces offering something more modern than the average pale pink leotard. The site, with its dreamy imagery, is mostly in Polish, but the shop is easily navigable, and I have a feeling it’s only the beginning for this great brand. You heard it here first. : )

Courtney xx

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