Cotton chalk books — great for travel

Chalk book
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chalk + talk
chalk in chalk book
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Just before we left London, with the impending 9-hour flight to Seattle on my mind, I discovered these cool chalk books from one of our newest shops, Little Goldie. The ‘Chalk & Talk‘ books are great for travel because they fold or roll up easily into your carry-on bag (or daily tote) and can be pulled out whenever you need the perfect form of entertainment.
The books are screen-printed with chalkboard ink and include 4 chalks tucked in the back of the book. You can wipe the books clean with a damp cloth when you want to draw again – or simply pop them in the washing machine.

We’ll be taking this little book with us on our upcoming travels — handy to have on planes, trains and automobiles (camper vans, ahem), but also great for keeping little ones entertained in restaurants or whenever you need a bit of calm and quiet. ; )

Courtney x

See you next week!

kids on bainbridge island

Emilie and vivi copy

Esther's house in France

We’ve decided to take a little blogging break this week to enjoy some time away from our computers. We are each in our favourite summer spots enjoying slow, lazy days with our families, and we hope you won’t mind if we push the pause button this week and resume as normal next week? In the meantime, here are some of our favourite blog posts from the past year in case you missed them:

See you next week!

Courtney, Esther and Emilie xx

P.S. Photos above are from our Instagram feeds (Courtney, Emilie & Esther) where you can follow along this week if you miss us. ; )

Keep track of your adventures with Adventure Logs

Adventure Log cover
Quin writing in Adventure Log
Ivy's adventure log
adventure log

You might remember these adventure log books from my recent round-up post of gifts to buy your ten-year-old, but I wanted to give them an additional special mention because we’ve been having so much fun with them this summer. The kids each have their own adventure log and I’ve been encouraging them to spend some time every evening jotting down their favourite activity of the day. I think it will be such a fun way to record their summer holiday and all the wonderful things they’ve done, but I’m also happy that it gives them a reason to sit down every night to reflect and write. It’s a good ritual we’re hoping to continue throughout the next year.

The Adventure Logs come in packs of three and are available in black or yellow. I bought some black ones for this summer and another (yellow) set for our upcoming travel adventures.

Courtney x

Pretty stamps from Felicette

Felicette stampsMy love for stamps has seriously rubbed off on my children. We have quite a collection of them and can’t stop discovering more desirable ones. (BTW, I have this same problem with pens — I never seem to have quite enough of them. It drives my husband crazy, but I’m hooked!)

Felicette stampsWe recently discovered the stamp collection by Felicette, and oh, they’re so pretty and cool! I love the one with the glasses pictured — they’re just so Sara. She’s been using them for everything lately.

Felicette3 Felicette stamps  library stamp ex libris
Felicette also offers custom name stamps, which are perfect for the children to personalise stationary, for instance. And I love the library stamps (I still have my own childhood books and many of them still have an ex libris with my name in my childish handwriting — I love this!).

xxx Esther

I (Don’t) Like Snakes, by Nicola Davies

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I like snakes 3
One of Ivy’s classmates has a couple of pet snakes at home and this last term she brought the snakes into the classroom for the kids to see. The class spent a week talking and learning about snakes, and Ivy came home telling me all sorts of interesting facts. I was actually surprised by how interested she was on the topic of snakes!

So when I saw this new book, I (Don’t) Like Snakes  written by award winning zoologist Nicola Davies and illustrated by the talented Luciano Lozano, I knew I had to get it for her. It’s a really great book which combines a sweet narrative about a girl who hates snakes, with loads of interesting facts. A super clever and really appealing way to be both educational and fun!

A great book for kids in the 3-8 year range (though my 10-year-old enjoyed reading it too!). The book is just out and available from Amazon (UK and US).

Courtney x

Harry by the Sea, by Gene Zion

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Harry by the Sea has been a favourite book in our family since Easton was a baby. In fact I was surprised to see that I’ve never properly mentioned it before (apart from a round-up of my boys’ favourite books here).

Marlow has recently discovered it, and she too is loving the funny story about Harry the dog at the beach and how he gets himself covered in seaweed and disguised as a sea monster. A sweet summertime story in the Harry the Dirty Dog series which was originally written in the 1950s (hence the cool 1950’s illustrations).

Courtney x

p.s. Marlow’s overalls are from Muny and her bow hair clips are from Numi.

Doodle Nest art books — the perfect way to preserve your children’s art

Doodle Nest book
Doodle nest art book
Doodle Nest Easton's art

As part of the process of packing up our house I’ve come across all of the children’s art from the past ten years. I don’t save everything they make, but I do like to keep our favourite pieces, and of course I always keep the sweet love notes and cards. As a result, we have several big plastic Ikea boxes in our basement holding stacks and stacks of the children’s art.

But for what? Sometimes I wonder what the point is when they’re just down in the basement in a plastic box, hidden away for who knows how many years. We used to hang our favourite pieces in a gallery art wall in the hallway of our last house, but we took them all down when we moved and those too went into a storage. I needed to do something to preserve and display our favourite pieces, and that’s when I discovered Doodle Nest and their wonderful service.

Doodle Nest takes you children’s art and creates bespoke art books, collages, and gift cards for you to keep and treasure forever. All you have to do is gather up your favourite art and send it over to the team at Doodle Nest, and they do all the work to create your book (see photos below of all the art I sent over! I love getting this behind-the-scenes glimpse of founders, Andrea and Constanza, as they sort through it all).

The behind the scenes at Doodle Nest
Doodle Nest behind the scenes

Doodle nest art book eastons art

Andrea and Constanza thought it would be fun to divide the book into chapters for each child, so they created a little profile page for each child with a photo and a self portrait. It is such a great way to view all the artwork on an individual basis, and I also love that they put the child’s age at the bottom of each piece, so that the kids know how old they were when they made each piece.

Doodle Nest book Quin's art

Doodle Nest marlow's art

Doodle Nest book Ivy's art

It really is such a beautiful book, and I’m so happy to have it.

Now… to find a special place to store it while we’re away for the next year… ! : )

Courtney x

Where Bear? by Sophy Henn

Where Bear?
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Where Bear 4
Marlow (2 1/12) has made a big switch lately in terms of the books she enjoys. Instead of the simple picture and word books she liked just a few months ago, she now prefers books with a story.  I suppose her attention span has improved a bit and she’s able to stay engaged until the end of the stories now, which is really so fun! I’m enjoying reading with her and observing as she discovers some of our favourite books (some of her current favourites are The Tiger Who Came to Tea , Sick Day for Amos Mcgee , and The Happy Lion ).

This new book, Where Bear? by Sophy Henn, is another one that she really loves. It’s a sweet story about a boy and his bear cub, and how the bear cub grows bigger and bigger and how the boy needs to find somewhere better for the bear to live. But… where bear? The zoo? The circus? The jungle? A cave? It’s a really simple story with the sweetest illustrations (and a cute ending).

“Where Bear?” is available from Amazon (UK and US).

Courtney x

Birthday gifts for a 10-year-old boy

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easton reading comics

I still can’t believe my baby is TEN!! It’s been an emotional year as I anticipated his birthday and reflected on the past decade, but then when the day finally arrived, it was happy and joyous (and I didn’t even shed a tear)! We celebrated our big boy with pancakes for breakfast, an afternoon spent at the school’s summer fair, pizza dinner with friends and then a sleepover party that evening. It was a happy day!

Following on from my post about what to buy a 6-year-old birthday girl, I’d love to share some of Easton’s favourite gifts he received last week. I’ll admit that I was really, really stumped for what to get him. And the sweet boy didn’t make it any easier, insisting he didn’t really need anything.

We only bought him a few small gifts, and the rest came from friends and grandparents. He ended up with the handsome selection of gifts below:

gifts for a 10-year-old boy

1. A simple Swiss Army Knife for carving sticks on the beach this summer.
2. A sweatshirt to celebrate double digits!!!
3. A subscription renewal of the Phoenix Comic magazine, because he SO looks forward to Fridays when his weekly comic magazine arrives.
4. A football from his favourite team
5. Adventure logs to encourage him to jot down all of his crazy outdoor adventures
6. A Swatch Watch!
7. A pack of playing cards because he’s really into playing cards right now (Crazy Eights, War, Go Fish, Concentration, etc.)
8. The Terrible Tales of the Teenytinysaurs, a comic book by the author of one of his current favourite books. (He’s really into comic books right now and I’m just happy he’s reading, so I’m going with it.)
9. A pair of swim trunks for the summer!

 

Please share in the comments below any other suggestions for what to buy a 10-year-old. I’m sure other readers would appreciate the tips!

Courtney x

Birthday gifts for a six-year-old girl

Ivy colouring chalk blocks

chalk blocks

Birthday season has just come to an end in our family, which consists of five birthdays in quick succession. Marlow is our odd one out with a birthday in November, but the rest of us all have birthdays in the springtime. Our birthday bunting literally goes up and down and up and down from April to June. It’s quite fun, but I’m always so relieved when it’s over.

Since it’s all fresh in my mind, I thought it might be useful to write down some of the favourite gifts each of my children received for their birthdays (not just gifts from us, but from friends and family too).  I’ll start with Ivy, who turned six in May, and who only asked for a compass for her birthday. : )

Gifts for a six-year-old

1. A pretty journal for writing down thoughts and discoveries (the same one her mama uses)
2. Cat ears headband — a fun accessory
3. A flower press to preserve her first 4-leaf clover and other pretty flowers and plants (a thoughtful gift from my sister!)
4. Eco-crayons that draw on paper AND glass! So fun!
5. A brass compass in its own leather pouch to learn her directions
6. An intricate and beautiful ‘Colour Therapy‘ colouring book
7. The ‘Little House on the Prairie‘ books because I remember how much I loved them when I was young (we also bought her audio books because she’s really into listening to stories while we’re in the car)
8. A blackboard blocks and chalk set to create her own houses, towers and towns

 

Please feel free to share other gift suggestions if you can think of them! (And obviously many of these gifts are great for boys too — I only specified a gender because it felt appropriate for some of the gifts.)

Courtney x

Smallprint — an independent bookstore with a neighbourhood feel, but online!

Small Print independent online bookstore

I have a confession to make: I’m not the biggest fan of playgrounds. I love watching my kids enjoying themselves (preferably in the company of a good friend and with a cappuccino in my hand) but I don’t get an enormous amount of fulfilment from pushing the swing 100 times or baking sand cakes for half an hour…
I do, however, love reading to my kids. And they love being read to, over and over and over again — so I hope that makes up for my lack of interest in playgrounds.

Small Print Independent Online Bookstore SmallPrint3

I love books and I have always loved reading. I love bookshops, too. Especially the slightly old-fashioned, independent bookshop, the one you find (or used to find, at least) around the corner, with a passionate owner who knows every book in his or her store and can recommend to you, as no other, what you need to read or gift. So I am really happy to have recently discovered Smallprint — a gem of an independent bookshop, aimed at small children… and entirely online! Smallprint offers the most wonderful curation of children’s books — some I already know (and love), but many are new to me, and very promising.

Smallprint online independent bookstore
Small Print online bookshop Small Print independent bookshop
I asked Jenny, the owner of Smallprint, to make a recommendation for each of my kids, and this is what she suggested. For Sara, she chose Yellow Square, an amazing pop-up book full of  ‘paper architecture’. For Pim she thought of Paul Thurlby’s Alphabet Poster Book, an excellent choice — he loves the cool ABC posters (and we’ll be decorating the boys’ bedroom walls with these). For Ava, she recommended The Bear Song, a beautifully illustrated book (and already a family favourite!) about Papa Bear following little bear, who is following a bee, hopefully leading him towards some precious honey. For Casper she picked Oh No!, a funny book with acetate pages that cleverly change the situation drawn on each page.

Smallprint online independent bookshop Smallprint independent online bookstoreI’m so happy to see that people like Jenny start beautifully curated bookshops that are meaningful, and offer a personal touch and service that you won’t find in the enormous online bookstores we all know. She’s so good in selecting wonderful books for the right age, and her recommendations are terrific. A gem, for every book loving mama!

xxx Esther

 

Duck, Death and the Tulip, by Wolf Erlbruch

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It was a difficult choice to write about this book – you see my aim is to write about books that not only I love but ones my kids love too. My kids DO NOT love this book. You see this book tackles the scariest subject in all of our lives … death. There really is no way to make this topic ‘nice’ but I can’t think of a book which comes nearer.

You may remember Wolf Erlbruch for the wonderful tale of the Little Mole Who Knew it Was None of his Business. Whilst that book captured all of our hearts (especially kids who, let’s face it, love a mention of poo) this story of Duck, Death and the Tulip is, understandably harder for kids to love but I really, really love it.

Duck is going to die – we know that because Death has started to hang around – he is anxious and scared but as time goes on he gets used to Death. He wants to understand what will happen after he dies, he’s heard stories but wants to really know – Death can’t help but even so Duck starts to find him quite good company and when the time comes death is graceful, tender and gentle. Death is moved as he says his final Goodbye to Duck – but he straightens himself up, he is just doing his job – “that’s life” after all.

I really like this pragmatic approach – I, personally, found it comforting and it has been carefully interjected with spots of humour. I read the book with my children when there was no other theme of ‘death’ in our lives but I wonder if they might have felt differently about it if we’d read it together when someone we loved had died or was likely to die – maybe a relative or a pet? The book is available to buy from Amazon (UK and US).

-Mo x

Wee Gallery, 32 ways to dress a…

wee_gallery_2 wee_gallery_3 wee_gallery_4My children were each given a mini activity book from Wee Gallery recently and they’ve been a big success. With a very simple concept (dress the cat / bunny / fox etc), these sweet little books appeal to different ages, and make the cutest little presents.

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I also think they are great for traveling, or to take to restaurants, for instance. Just pop a few in your handbag for instant entertainment!

xxx Esther

Topsy Turvy World, By Atak

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As soon as you pick up this book you know you are not dealing with your average kids book.  Atak is a German folksy illustrator and this book is like turning pages of an art piece – each page thickly covered with colour and detail. This book , with no words, just uses pictures to play the typical kids game ‘Verkehrte Welt’ (direct translation – wrong way round the World). The mice chase the cat, the baby spoon-feeds the mama, cars fly and airplanes float, firemen have fire coming out of their hoses and the Punk gives the Banker money on the street. This absurd and fantastical World is not only funny but thought provoking – when we see things the wrong way round we can question if the ‘right-way’ is really right after all? This particularly strikes me on the front cover as the Circus Lion holds up a flaming hoop for the clown to jump through. Kids of all ages (and by that I mean grown-ups too!) will really enjoy staring into this book and looking at this Topsy Turvy World .

The book is available from Amazon (UK and US), and from Flying Eye Books.

-Mo x

How Things Work, by Okido

Okido Magazines
How Things Work 1

Do you know about Okido magazines? We have been subscribers for years. Okido is an arts and science magazine aimed at 3 – 8 year olds, published every 2 months. Each magazine has a theme – recent ones include Dinosaurs, All About Me, Celebration, Hair and Machines – and the topic is imaginatively bought to life through a variety of games, stories and things to make and do. Okido is the brainchild of Dr. Sophie Dauvois (a multimedia designer and scientist) and illustrator, Rachel Ortas and they now work with a team of talented designers to teach children through bright and fun illustrations.

The Okido team have released some great factual books for kids and we recently got ‘How Things Work’ because, to be honest, I don’t know the answer to that question and my son asks me it a lot! Our guides through the book are Koko and Alex – 2 inquisitive kids who like to see how things work and try and build things. The book is really interactive with games and ideas and poses questions back to the reader to try and figure out by looking at the pictures or by experimenting themselves.

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Rather then just explaining things with text and pictures the book gets children to look at things differently – to start to question: how are things made? What materials are they made from? Why are they made with those materials? How materials can change in different circumstances.

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How Things Work 5

The book covers a wide range of subjects – How is a book made? How water can change in different temperatures. What is a machine? How things are made in nature / how we can copy those ideas. Electricity. Light. Sound. How a car works? How TV works? It goes on. And there are so many ideas of how to bring these subjects to life for children – games, experiments, things to make etc.

This is a great book to dip into again and again. It offers great support to subjects kids will be learning at school and makes them fun. I learned a thing or two!

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

-Mo x

Jemmy Button by Jennifer Uman & Valerio Vidali

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I think real life is usually a bit over-rated – in the fact that ‘stories’ can be so much more exciting than ‘real-life’ could ever really be. But this ‘real-life’ story is really quite remarkable.
In the early 1800s Captain Robert Fitzroy set sail from England to the islands of Tierra del Fuego (South America). He found the native people to be savages, lacking in any kind of sophistication. He believed it was possible to transform one of these wild children into a fine English Gentleman if given the right education. He brought a boy named Orundellico back to England with him. He gave his parents a Mother of Pearl button in payment – which gave rise to his new name – Jemmy Button.

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Of course Jemmy flourished in England with schooling in Christianity and upper-class Victorian manners and even attracted the attention of King William and Queen Adelaide. In 1832 he returned to his home islands – where the hope was he would spread his learning of civilisation – Darwin joined him on his journey home to study him in his original habitat. What happened I’ll leave for you to find out ….
Jennifer Uman and Valerio Vidali have adoringly illustrated this real-life ‘My Fair Lady’ tale. The two illustrators met online with a shared appreciation of each other’s work – but with Jennifer only speaking English and Valerio only speaking Italian their friendship was formed using online translators to talk about their ideas. They finally met when they had the idea to illustrate this story together and it is such a beautiful partnership – one of those books where every page could be framed.

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

-Mo x

Colouring-in fairytales from Caroline Ellerbeck

CE3Fairytales never bore, do they? I can read them over and over again, my kids can dream them and so can I, but they are always exciting and scary and they always end with a happily-ever-after.

Dutch illustrator Caroline Ellerbeck has designed a beautiful ‘colouring-in fairytale’ of some of the most famous fairytales (Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White), and they are now also available in English, French and German. I really love the sweet illustrations and how cute is the idea to personalise your own fairytale?

CE@ CE1You can find international retailers here (Scout & Co sells the English version of Snow White and Little Red Riding Hood).

xxx Esther

 

Use Your Imagination, By Nicola O’Byrne

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Imagination is brilliant isn’t it? … except when its not. I have a boy who has a wild imagination and whilst that is great for games and play it can be horrible for him at night-time when his imagination starts spinning tales of robbers and monsters. With him I have to be careful what stories are read at bedtime – anything slightly scary can cause him all sorts of problems to calm down and let himself sleep. And we all know kids books, even some of the stories we learn as very young children can be quite scary. Take ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ for instance – phew! That wolf is not someone you want to come across in your dreams.

That’s why Nicola O’Byrne’s book, Use Your Imagination, is so great – a book that tells kids that it is THEIR imagination and they are in control of it.

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Rabbit is bored and Wolf wants to help – maybe they can write story together? We can quickly see what sort of story Wolf would like to write – he tries his best to twist and turn Rabbit’s imagination into a story he’d like to eat hear but Rabbit is not so easily fooled – he realises that this story is up to him and he decides where it is going.

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With wonderful pictures (that, with a simple white backdrop, also allow us to use our imaginations a little) and a fantastic lift-up crescendo to Rabbit’s tale (no pun intended). This is a book that will surely delight children and maybe empower kids to change the direction their imagination sometimes goes in. The book is available from Amazon (UK and US).

Mo x

 

One Thousand Things, by Anna Kövecses

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I knew as I approached the stand this was going to be a dangerous meeting. I had ‘eyed’ up the Wide Eyed Editions stand at last year’s Babyccino ShopUp event from across the room, and eventually gave in to temptation. I already had the Atlas of Adventures book and as soon as I looked through their catalogue I knew this would be the stand where I’d spend my Christmas presents budget.

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Otto (aged 3) found One Thousand Things by Anna Kövecses in his stocking. I love books that simply help encourage first words and conversation with young children. Here a little mouse takes us on a journey to learn 1000 words – split into 7 sections. The images look almost like cut-out images with flat and bold colours which are very beautiful.

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I have also found this book great for helping to teach my older daughter to read her first words and I have ordered this book a couple of times for new babies – I always like to buy a book for newborns and the simple graphics in this book make it a lovely book to look at with very young children. The book is available from Amazon (US and UK).

-Mo  x

Vriendenboek (A Friends’ Book)

Esther van de Paal vriendenboek Snor vriendenboek Esther van de Paal Julie Summerbelle Snor(All photo credits: Yvonne Eijkenduijn of Yvestown)

I’m super proud to announce a little project I’ve been working on with my friend Julie Marabelle (the super talented lady behind the well known brand Famille Summerbelle) and Snor, the coolest publishers here in the Netherlands: we made a Friends’ Book!

vriendenboek Esther van de PaalNow, if you’re not Dutch (or Belgian, or German) you probably have no idea what a Friends’ Book is… Our ‘Vriendenboek‘ (Friends’ Book) consists of 31 double pages with pre-printed questions — one to be filled out by the owner of the book (the ‘This is me’ section), the rest is meant for 30 friends and/or classmates. There are passport-like questions (like name, address, length, hobbies, sort hair, favourite school subject, etc), but also more creative questions such as ‘What is the nicest thing you and I did together’, ‘Draw your dream house’ or ‘This is what my bed looks like’. There’s  space for a photo, which is carried by a character in underwear that can be dressed with the cool clothes stickers that come with the book.

vriendenboek Esther van de PaalThe book is typically aimed at children of the age of 4 to 12 (primary school age), and the idea is that it’s a record of a specific year in your childhood, a record of your friends, but also of the zeitgeist of a specific era. My dad just emptied out his basement and he dropped of some boxes of stuff my mum had kept for me, and coincidentally I found my own friends’ book from 1984/85. It’s just brilliant reading the answers! Some examples: best film: Annie, E.T., Ghost Busters, First Blood (!). Best pop group: Wham, Duran Duran, UB40. What I want to be: Farmer, Housewife, Truckdriver, Horse Stall Cleaner. And goes on. So good! I wonder what has become of all of those childhood friends. I hope they are living their dreams! : )

vriendenboek friend's book vriendenboek06 vriendenboek friends' bookJulie and I have been brainstorming and designing to come up with a modern, cool and good-looking friendship book filled with fun and interesting questions, and it is finally here. And I’m so happy with how it turned out! The way the paper feels, the way the colours turned out, the quality of the stickers in the back — it’s all beautiful!

vriendenboek13 vriendenboek friends bookAt the moment, the Friends’ Book is only available in Dutch… You can get it here for shipment in the Netherlands, or here for international deliveries. And hopefully it will soon be available in English, and other languages as well!

xxx Esther

PS All the beautiful photos above are by my friend Yvonne from Yvestown. Thank you Yvonne (and your neighbours Josefien and Pauline, such sweet models)! And a big thank you to my Dutch blogging friends Bubbelmint, Oh Marie!, Moodkids and UrbanMoms for their lovely reviews. Julie also wrote a nice blogpost about our book, with great photos, here.

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