l’Asticot waterproof coats

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I’ve been looking for a winter coat for Pim, and it’s not the easiest job. Plenty of cool choices around, sure… but I do have a little list of requirements.

Children here in the Netherlands are often exposed to rain — not only because of our wet climate, but also because (despite that wet climate) the Dutch like to cycle a lot. So when I’m looking for winter coats, I look for waterproof coats. Other characteristics I look for in the winter coats for my kids are: a simple silhouette, a neutral colour (so it can be passed down to siblings), warmth (obviously, but without being overly thick or puffy so it doesn’t restrict children in their movements), natural materials, and practicality. Also, the coat needs to be strong and durable (I bought a new winter coat for Pim last year and it’s full of holes already!), and, well, it has to have a certain ‘cool’ to it — of course!

Casper has already been wearing the above l’Asticot waterproof winter coat for a few weeks, and I really love it. It meets the above characteristics easily: it’s made of 100% organic materials, it’s warm (lined with organic polar fleece, and with a longer back, warm cuffs and high collar and hood), it’s not puffy, it’s machine washable, it’s durable, and it’s cool, with the contrasting stitching and lining. So… I actually just ordered Pim the exact same coat!

Now, I’m not saying it can now start raining (or snowing) here in Amsterdam, but if it does, the boys are ready for it!

xxx Esther

Merino wool basics from Smalls

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I was just thinking the other day how nice it would be to find thin, stretchy merino wool tanks for the kids to wear under their clothing as an extra layer of warmth on these cold winter days… and literally the next day I discovered the range from Smalls. It could not be better timing.

Smalls is a new British company started by two kiwi mums now living in the UK. They’ve created a range of the softest, non-itchy New Zealand merino wool base layers perfect for this time of year. Their merino shirts and tanks are thin and naturally stretchy, easy to layer under other clothes for extra warmth. Equally, they’re stylish enough to wear on their own — the colours are all so nice.  And as if that’s not enough, Smalls supermerino is machine washable, naturally breathable, flame retardant, anti-allergy and itchy label free!

The range is designed for kids aged 2-12 years old. I’m thinking of getting one for each of my kids!

Courtney x

Wool and the Gang, cool knitting kits

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I’ve been feeling so much like knitting lately, so the Wool and the Gang kit I ordered came right in time! I’m going to be knitting the Mini Tartan Hula Hoop for Sara, and if I hurry a little I might just be able to finish it before Christmas.

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Do you know Wool and the Gang? It’s a super hip company, providing über cool knitting kits with everything one might need for one project — wool, needles, the pattern, and very easy-to-follow instructions. (If you love the Wool and the Gang designs but are not so into knitting, you can also purchase a ready-made piece, knit with love by one of the ‘Gangstas’, a global-wide team of knitters.)

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I love their branding, the quality of their materials, and their belief in handmade and sustainable fashion. Knitting their projects is so fun!

In spring, I made the Sailor Jumper (modeled by Pim below, after a rough and dirty game of football!) and I love how easy it was to knit that jumper and how nice it turned out when it was finished.

pim_WATGThe Wool and the Gang knitting kits make really great presents too — everything comes wrapped in a cool paper bag, and anyone who has an interest in knitting (even if they’ve never knit before!) I’m sure would love to receive a kit like this.

xxx Esther

Our favourite Christmas books

We keep our Christmas books tucked away on the bookshelf behind our sofa all year long until the start of December when we dust them off and stack them up on our coffee table. I think the fact that they’re hidden away for 11 months of the year makes it that much more special when we finally bring them back out at Christmas time. The kids pounce on them like they’re a long-lost treasure, each one finding their favourite book in the stack.

Don’t you just love this time of year with all the traditions — the favourite books and Christmas songs, the family recipes passed down from generations, the special ornaments carefully unwrapped and hung on the tree, everything drumming up feelings of nostalgia and anticipation and… magic!

I asked each of the kids to choose their favourite Christmas books, and apart from a small argument between Easton and Quin over a shared favourite, they each happily narrowed it down to one. I quickly snapped some photos on my phone, and here they are:

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Marlow loves the Dear Santa book with its lift-the-flap features.

Ivy's favourite christmas book
Ivy chose Olivia Helps with Christmas , which has been her favourite for the past couple years. We always laugh because Olivia tries to help, but isn’t very helpful. Classic Olivia!

quin's favourite christmas book

Quin chose The Night Before Christmas because I think he’s on a mission to memorise the whole story before Christmas! (I normally don’t read this one to them until Christmas eve, but we’ve broken the rules this year for Quin.)

Easton's favourite christmas book

Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree is the book the boys argued over because it’s really both of their favourite, but Easton won in the end and got to take a photo with the book. : ) This really is such a cute rhyming book and a very sweet story too.

Some other favourites in our family are:

1. Christmas in Exeter Street , about a house that gets filled to the brim with visitors on Christmas eve. There are so many people in the house – even a baby sleeping in the kitchen sink!
2. The Polar Express , a classic!
3. The Twelve Days of Christmas , a beautifully illustrated book based on the song — we can’t help but sing when reading!
4. My Wonderful Christmas Tree , another beautifully illustrated counting book.
5. Christmas in Noisy Village , an Astrid Lindgren book that perfectly captures all the sweet activities leading up to Christmas. The illustrations are so good!
6. The Christmas Wish , a new-to-us book this season which the kids really love (especially Ivy), featuring photographs of a little girl on a snowy adventure to find Santa.
7. The Snowman , which isn’t technically a Christmas book, but still captures the magic of this time of year.

Please share your favourites below!

Courtney x

My thoughts on TV and other electronics

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I’ve had lots of questions recently about my parenting ideas, especially when it comes to electronics, so I thought I’d answer the most common questions in one post. I want to emphasise that this is what works in our family and for our children. I know it won’t work for every family… and it may not work forever for us. As our children grow, so will our parenting style. Below are some answers, and as always I welcome your thoughts and comments.

1.) Do your kids ever watch TV?

Almost never, except for the World Cup and the Olympics. But let me explain a bit… Both my husband and I grew up in big families and in homes without cable TV. Growing up, my family had a really old television that on good days, broadcast three channels. As a young child, I watched the occasional Sesame Street show, and sometimes, if the antenna had blown in the right direction, we could watch cartoons on Saturday morning with clear reception. Watching TV was not something we did as a family. Instead, we played a lot outside (I grew up on a farm), and we played a lot with each other (a benefit of having loads of siblings). Apart from the odd conversation where I couldn’t contribute my views on Doogie Howser or the Wonder Years, I don’t think I missed anything. I am really thankful for a childhood filled with imagination and adventure and I hope to create the same sort of upbringing for my own kids.

We don’t have some absolute no-television-whatsoever rule. We have a TV. We just aren’t really interested in TV. And we keep it in a cupboard—out of sight, out of mind. I also encourage my kids to play and find creative ways to entertain themselves without a screen. There was a short period when we allowed the boys to watch Scoobie Doo on Saturday mornings. After a few months I started noticing that, instead of crawling into our bed and enjoying a slow-paced morning, they would wake up and run straight downstairs to sit in front of the television. They stopped helping to make pancakes, couldn’t be bothered to set the table, and were cranky at breakfast time. It was then I decided that I prefer Saturday mornings without Scoobie! It really only took a couple weeks to break their interest and they went back to helping with the pancakes.

We DO let the kids watch the occasional movie, usually an old Disney classic (Robin Hood, The Rescuers, Peter Pan!) or one of the pretty films by Hayao Miyazaki, etc. In my dreams we would live in Australia or somewhere sunny and my kids would play outside and would never sit in front of a screen. But… a good family film on a cold, dark winter’s day is a nice treat every once in a while. Now that my kids are on school holidays I’m looking forward to the next rainy day so we can all sit down and watch ‘The Sound of Music’. My favourite!

2.) How do you keep your kids from the commercialisation of Disney? Do they ever ask you to buy them t-shirts with Disney princesses or super heroes on them?

I think I’m lucky with this one in that my kids never ask me for Disney t-shirts or Disney toys. Living in Europe I think we have less exposure to these things (and they don’t see them on TV). We also try to keep our kids out of shops. Most of our groceries are bought online, clothing is bought when the kids aren’t around and we avoid malls at all cost (which is easier to do when you live in a big city).

Even if they were to ask, I’d be unlikely to buy these things (mean mama, I know). Perhaps they don’t ask because they know they won’t get, but I like to think they are generally not interested. Here again, our policy is not absolute. I once bought Ivy some Hello Kitty underpants and this year I bought some miniature ‘Frozen’ figurines for the Advent Calendar. But… I rarely buy the kids anything pink or plastic, branded or battery operated, and I hate the idea of kids being sold to everywhere they look or feeling like they must have the latest branded toy.

It’s not always easy (given my business), but we try not to make a big deal about ‘new’ things—especially clothes or toys. We hardly ever give them a new toy unless it’s a special occasion, like a birthday or Christmas, and even then we only give them a few things, placing emphasis on quality over quantity.

My kids are young and so I’ve been able to influence their wants for now. I know that may change someday and so will my strategies, but I hope the values will stick with them.

3.)Do you let your kids play electronics? Do you bend the rules for educational games on the iPad?

Not really. We believe electronics are addictive. No matter if it’s a Nintendo game or an educational one on an iPad, once picked up they are hard to put down. And you rarely walk away from a long session on a device feeling wonderful—mostly the opposite. I notice this firsthand — I have to give myself breaks from my iPhone and remind myself to be more present. Like other addictive things in our lives, limiting our children’s exposure to electronics just makes sense to us.

We also believe they get only one childhood and the rest of their lives to be tethered to a device if they choose. Their education, their careers and their social lives may demand it some day, but for now we would love for them to find joy in the ‘real’ world. And most importantly — play together! Every once in a while, they will ask to play a game on the iPad or watch a movie because they are bored. When I tell them to go play, they might moan for five minutes, but then ten minutes later I’ll find them building towers or playing games together. If we gave our kids an iPad every time they told us they were bored, there would be far less imaginative play in this house!

As above, we know this all will change someday. Already Easton has math homework on the computer three times a week and I’ve noticed how it has changed the play in our house on those afternoons. As our kids grow our parenting style will grow with them, but we will always maintain our focus on family, friends, nature and activities.

4.) Do your kids fight? Do they moan? Do they throw fits? Do they nag, make messes, and sometimes torment each other?

Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes, and Yes. Do I feel compelled to reach for my camera in these moments? No. Does anyone? My photos are about celebrating the joys of bringing up kids — the simple and the beautiful things in life. I would never pretend parenting isn’t hard work. It is. It is the most difficult and the most important work in our lives. I choose to focus on the positive side of family life and I hope it comes across as honest and loving (and hopefully inspiring too).

Courtney xx

p.s. I’ve written before about electronics here, a post which stirred up quite a healthy debate!

Stay warm with cosy knitwear from Miou

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Brrr… It’s so cold all of a sudden! No snow yet here in London, but we’re waking up to a frosty lawn every morning and I’m sending the kids off to school layered in knits!

How gorgeous is the knitwear from Miou? The colours are so rich and the baby alpaca wool soooo soft! I got this coat for Marlow which she wore as an outer layer during the Autumn and is now wearing under her jacket as an extra layer of warmth. It’s so perfect. Plus, how adorable are the hats? My favourite is this one with not one, but two pompoms!

And oh my goodness, that little snuggly baby suit!! Scrumptious.

Courtney x

Soor Ploom, a beautiful brand for girls

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Last month, the talented photographer, Sarah Winborn, came all the way from Berlin for a little photoshoot at our house.  She took photos of our home and family for an interview I did with the Little Years blog. You can read the interview here — I answered questions about work and family, including my least favourite bits about motherhood… and also my favourite thing too! Of all the interviews I’ve done, I think this one offers a really honest reflection of my thoughts on parenting. Also, that top photo Sarah took of Marlow — it melts my heart.

In these photos the girls are wearing outfits from Soor Ploom and I wanted to include a mention of this brand because it’s one of my very favourites. That suspender skirt Ivy is wearing might be my absolute favourite thing she’s ever worn. I LOVE it (and so does she!). You can find Soor Ploom at these stockists.

Courtney x

Cosy house suits for my boys from Shampoodle

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It’s getting so chilly here in Amsterdam… It’s been warmer than usual for this time of year, but this weekend it was definitely time to get all of the woollens out of the storage boxes. Our house has big steel windows — very cool (but also very literally so)!

Speaking of staying warm… I recently ordered our boys each a Shampoodle ‘Home’ suit — a sweater and pants made of warm, organic knit cotton to keep them cosy and warm in the winter months. And they’ve been living in them! I have a lot of trouble convincing them to take them off for a wash. (My husband wondered if I could order him such a suit as well. A lot of the Shampoodle styles come in adult sizes, but sadly not these Home suits… I would have, otherwise!)

Shampoodle is a socially aware Swedish brand known for their comfortable clothes which are equally perfect for boys or girls, young and old. The clothes are are designed for an urban life style and are perfect for playing, inside or out.

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And of course… I couldn’t resist ordering this adorable teal coloured friendly Ghost romper for Casper — that was a given, right?? ; )

xxx Esther

 

Scoot Basket

Scoot Basket
Scooter basket

I don’t think I know a scooter-riding child who wouldn’t love one of these Scoot Baskets on their scooter! My girls each have one and they love filling their baskets with little nature finds on our walks in the park (lately they’ve been collecting pretty leaves, nuts, and sticks).

The Scoot Basket easily attaches to any scooter with two velcro straps and stays in place perfectly. It also looks quite cute on their little scooters, don’t you think? Available from Scoot ‘n Pull, which also sells the Scoot ‘n Pull strap.

Courtney xx

Pim, in ABC123me

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When we were visiting Maud Fontein in her studio a few weeks ago, she took a few photos of Pim and I just love the way they turned out. They really show Pim the way he is — sweet, funny, and so at ease with himself. Also, I see a glimpse of a bigger Pim in there (and he’s a cutie)!

The cool corduroy jacket and trousers he is wearing is totally up his alley — he loves to wear things like that. Both are available from the new boys clothing brand ABC123me, which still offers a small but promising collection of high quality, easy-to-wear clothing. (Pim’s shoes are from Dutch shoe brand De Vries.)

xxx Esther

LileSADi, cool products with attitude

LileSadi_2 Screen Shot 2014-12-02 at 15.25.46I recently discover Lile SADi, a Dutch (Rotterdam based) label with super cool and contemporary products. Founded by Dinah and Sarah a few years ago, Lile SADi’s collections cover graphic wallpapers and prints and wonderful kitchen and home accessories.  All products are manufactured here in Europe to keep craftsmanship and individuality alive.

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Dinah and Sarah recently came out with a children’s collection and I so like all of the wonderful patterns and prints! So pretty and detailed and fun, and still so in style with their other work. How cute are those rabbit leggings? (Ava loves them!!)

xxx Esther

 

Cute crochet friends from Leggybuddy

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Leggybuddy is a Swiss company started by designer Suzanna Pezo Sommerfeld. She’s a mother of a little boy and co-owner of a young and very cool looking design agency in Zurich. As if that is not enough to keep someone busy, she recently launched Leggybuddy, a line of adorable hand-crochet animal characters with, as the name implies, beautiful long legs!

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Suzanne designs and makes all of the product samples herself in her Zurich-based studio, and then they’re hand-crocheted in Europe using all natural materials like cotton and wool. Leggybuddies come in a small and large size, and are often wearing adorable little costumes so they can be dressed and undressed. Outfits are also available separately, and they’re all beautifully hand-crocheted as well, with sweet details like contrasting stripes and little pockets.

leggybuddy_3 leggybuddy_5Casper and Ava love their Leggybudies — I find it so sweet that Dorian the mouse is easily transformed into a beautiful Christmas princess just by changing his cool crochet dungarees (with pocket) into a little red party dress with matching booties. There’s also a bottle (impressively crocheted as well!) and I’m also impressed by the amount of patience Ava is displaying towards feeding Prince Froggy and Dorian — she’ll be a good mama one day!

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It’s obvious my kids love their Leggybudies. And I really like to have them around too — they’re such cool looking toys to have on display in our living room!

xxx Esther

This post is sponsored by Leggybuddy, a wonderful European brand and also a member of our shopping portal. Thank you for supporting the brands that support our blog!

Foxy felt slippers

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Loving these foxy felt slippers, created by shaping organic wool with soap, water and hand pressure. A traditional craft handed down over many generations, and here coming to life in such a darling, contemporary product! They are really lovely in every detail, with their little ears and sweet tail. The sole is made from suede so it’s anti slip and everything is sewn together with tiny little cross stitches. They are presented in a little drawstring bag made from organic cotton, so they make a perfect present. Adorable! And… the price is not bad! : )

Available from The Dandy Kid.

xxx Esther

 

Simple leaf print-splash art

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Did you ever splash drops of ink on paper using a toothbrush? My mum taught me this technique when I was a child and suddenly, when Ava and I were picking up pretty leaves the other day, I remembered how fun it was. All you need is an old toothbrush and some coloured ink. Dip the toothbrush in the ink lightly and use your thumb to spray little drops of ink on the paper. Don’t move the leaves when you’re doing it!

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When you’re done, carefully remove the leaves from the paper. Voila! So pretty!

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Your thumb will we coloured for the next few days. I think my mum used liquid water colour, ‘ecoline’ for this, which is probably a better idea if you have it handy. If not, a coloured thumb is actually pretty cool we thought : ).

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Pim and Ava made a few very pretty leaf print-splash paintings (or whatever you would call them), and they look really cool on the wall of my office. Simple is best, isn’t it?

xxx Esther

 

The Little Things… A Doll Hospital!

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For this post in the The Little Things series, we made something I think every little boy or girl will love: a doll hospital!

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This is such a fun project to make, and it’s really quite simple. Also, most of the materials we’ve used are recycled!

A trip to the local greengrocer provided us with the (future) hospital beds. With simple white paint (I used primer which was left over from our house renovation) I painted the vegetable boxes, and with red acrylic paint from the children’s craft box, I made a red cross on each bed.

From old pillowcases I made white mattresses, sheets and pillows for the beds. And I couldn’t resist painting a red cross on the sheets with fabric paint.



Nurse-cap (The Little Things by Babyccino Kids) Prescriptions for Doll Hospital (The Little Things by Babyccino Kids)

And then — how ADORABLE are these free downloads for a DIY nurse cap and doctor’s prescriptions? Sara from SakaDesign made them for us again. She’s so talented!

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I painted a similar red cross on a simple white suitcase (which we bought), to create a doctor’s case. And, of course, every respectable doctor’s case needs some serious doctor’s necessities!

The pharmacy around the corner kindly gave us a syringe, some plastic containers, a measuring spoon and cup. The simple bandages and plasters came from our first aid kit. We glued a strip of paper in the lid of the doctor’s case to hold the prescriptions, and filled the plastic containers with colourful ‘pills’ (M&Ms!!). We also put a thermometer, a scissors and a stethoscope in the case.

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And here are Doctor Ava and Doctor Juul, ready to heal some very sick baby dolls! As you can see, they take their task rather seriously. ; )

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The girls played for hours with the doll hospital. It was such a huge succes! (And I’m thinking, wouldn’t it make a very sweet holiday gift as well?)

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xxx Esther

PS –  This is the newest post in a series which is called ‘The Little Things’. Thank you Maud Fontein for taking these beautiful photos, and Sara Musch for the adorable download. The girls’ outfits are from Mabo Kids!

 

My adventurous children (for the Waddler photography competition)

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Waddler has been one of our favourite children’s clothing brands — Philip and Marina started their brand after a wonderful stay (of a few years!) in South America, and they have put all of their sense of adventure, respect and amazement of the world around them, and their love for life in general, in Waddler.

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Courtney already shared the photography competition Waddler is holding in cooperation with Plan South America and in which they are challenging parents to photograph their children (dressed in Waddler) and show their individuality and adventurous nature. I accepted the challenge, especially since I’ve never been to South America and would love to go!

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Here are the photos I took of Casper and Ava having fun in the forest last week , and discovering the little wonders of this natural playground around them. What a joyful time we had! Of course I hope we win the competition, but in any case, I’m happy with these photos and the memories we created while making them.

xxx Esther

 

Sticker crafting with Pipsticks

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My friend, Maureen, invited us over to her house last week for a sticker craft playdate for the little ones (and homemade soup for the mums! Yummm).  It was such a fun and inspiring morning in her gorgeous home, and Marlow loved making (and wearing) her sticker crown. What a sweet activity.

Maureen is the founder of Pipsticks, a sticker subscription service for kids (and sticker-loving grown-ups) that delivers a curated pack of stickers to your mailbox every month. Each month Maureen puts together an awesome, seasonal pack of stickers from global suppliers, choosing the most unique and useful stickers kids are sure to love. In addition to stickers, each pack includes a blank postcard and a few sheets of colourful paper to use for craft projects and general ‘stickering’.

I think what I love most about Maureen, in addition to her sticker expertise and, of course, her homemade soup (!), is that she comes up with the cutest ways to use the stickers and offers all sorts of sticker craft ideas on her site. From sticker crowns to pretty pencils to sticker mandalas… most projects are easy enough for kids to do on their own, and make it that much more exciting to receive a sticker pack in the post each month.

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Marlow and Ike were so cute making their crowns together, and as you can see Marlow got creative and decided to sticker her outfit too. : ) You can see the full sticker crown tutorial over on the Pipsticks website where you can sign up for your own sticker subscription as well. (Enter code BABY11 at check-out to receive one month free off any 6 or 12 month subscription!)

Courtney x

p.s. Pipsticks will have a booth at this year’s ShopUp event selling sticker gift boxes and other fun sticker packs — they’ll also have a little craft station for kids as well, so be sure to check them out there! Just TWO MORE WEEKS!!

New house storage boxes from Famille Summerbelle

PinkMustardHouseBoxesInsituSide BlackBlue2BoxesInsitu 4BoxesFamille Summerbelle just came out with these adorable house storage boxes. I just love how clever and decorative they are. Yes please for my office, which is in need of organisation!

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Plus — a perfect present for the holidays, don’t you think?

xxx Esther

Sara, growing up (and Marie Puce)

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Sara is now 9 1/2 — not long before we’ll have a teenager in the house! It’s crazy to think back to the moment when we first found out we were going to have a baby. Tamar and I were living in Brussels at the time, we had just gotten married a few months prior, and I vividly remember the moment we looked at that pregnancy test, first seeing nothing, but then slowly, that (wished for) stripe appeared.

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And now, 10 years later, here she is, our first born, a beautiful girl, with the most gentle and caring character. Realising how lucky we are to have her brings tears to my eyes! She, being the older sister, has as much influence on her little siblings as we have. She is always positive, sweet, looking after the little ones…

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I love seeing her grow up (and up she goes! She’s such a tall and skinny girl!), and to see her character evolve, to see her learn about life, taking it all in, being happy with the world around her, with her self, her family and her friends. Also, I love to still see the child in her, who loves to play, to build huts, and to climb trees. It’s such a wonderful age, these years between childhood and adolescence!

Last week we were visiting the pretty Park Middelheim in Antwerpen where I took these photos of Sara.  I think they capture that feeling of ‘mature childhood’ so perfectly: the understanding on her face in the first photo, but also the curiosity and the joy in the last photos.

xxx Esther

PS How perfect is that dress (one of Sara’s favourites) and those boots, both from Marie Puce — cool and fashionable, but still innocent and girly!

New in at Donna Wilson!

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I’m not very adventurous with tableware — I think it’s my OCD qualities (!) that likes my kitchen cupboards to be filled with big stacks of matching plates, bowls, mugs, etc. My kids use the same tableware as we do (this range from Ikea!), that way we don’t clutter up our cupboards with different stuff for the kids.

But… I just couldn’t resist these beautiful ceramic plates from Donna Wilson! I can’t decide whether to let the kids use them for meals (and hope they don’t break them!) or to hang them on the wall like in the photo below. Don’t they look so pretty like that?

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I love everything in the new Autumn collection at Donna Wilson: beautiful scarves and bags (how fun is this coin purse?), colourful lambswool cushions, and a whole range of playful items for kids.

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I love how the Donna Wilson products always have an element of playfulness about them. They’re always beautiful, but also quite quirky and fun too.

Courtney x

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