Lego Love

We have a bit of a joke in my house that my husband enjoys playing with the Lego more than our child. He makes all sorts of weird and wonderful creations – from spinning tops to cars and temples. So we both had a good laugh when I found this cool book on Lego – I Lego NY. Lego must be cool again because recently we went to see an exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney to see the work of Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson and we had a great time with Little C because not only was there a “mist room” but a table full of millions of pieces of white Lego. The creations were amazing: minarets, skyscrapers, skulls and all sorts of other futuristic buildings. It got me thinking how cool it would be to have an installation in a child’s room of only white Lego. We checked it out on eBay – you can buy people’s collections by the kilo, although didn’t come across any in just white… not yet!

-Natalie

Bellachara, a blowhole and a big beach

DSC_1540When we planned our trip to Australia we purposely scheduled our campervan trip in the middle to allow for some down-time after the camping. We thought we would return to Sydney to spend three more weeks in the city, but unfortunately we weren’t very organized and by the time we set out to book accommodation there wasn’t a single room available in the entire city! (Apparently this past week was the busiest Sydney has been in more than two years — with several concerts and sporting events in town as well as the Mardi Gras festival.) So we were forced to look outside of Sydney… which is how we stumbled upon Bellachara — a really lovely boutique hotel two hours south of Sydney. The hotel was a lucky find — it is extremely kid-friendly with a playground and kid’s club, the rooms are equipped with kitchens and full-sized fridges, there’s a laundry room, a restaurant, a couple pools, etc… (I totally recommend it for families in Sydney who want a weekend away!) Plus, it’s a really beautiful area with green rolling hills and beautiful beaches. Here are some photos of the area…

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Cool things to do in Sydney… with kids!

DSC00703It was lovely to meet Courtney recently as she began her big adventure along Australia’s east coast. It’s funny the feelings it stirred in me. I really wanted her to have a good time in Sydney. And I wanted her to love my neighbourhood of Bondi as much as I do. So I sent her off a quick list of things to do with children, and I thought it might be useful for anyone else visiting Sydney.

Of course, this list is not exhaustive and is skewed to areas near where I live. So I’d love to know your suggestions if you live locally.

Nielsen Park, Vaucluse – a Harbour pool that is kid-friendly with the most amazing view of the Harbour Bridge while you swim. There is a kiosk where you can get takeaway food, a café or you can just take a picnic. There are a few walks in this area too. There’s loads of great advice on this blog – Family Fun Sydney too.

Watson’s Bay – you can get ferries here to the city or just enjoy the park and wander around the streets which have the cutest cottages – used to be a fishing village although now highly coveted for real estate so everything is made over. But still has lots of charm. You can eat with your family at the pub there – Doyles or get takeaway fish n chips. (more…)

House swapping

barcelonaOver the summer break I spent a bit of time decorating my home. (No, the pic above is not of my place — but somewhere I might now be able to stay.) One of the reasons was that I wanted to take some photos so I could list it on a house swap website.

We featured an article on house swapping a couple of years ago in the magazine where I work. It seemed like a great idea. But I always wondered — is it too good to be true?

Well, I believe that you should “give it a go” — as Aussies like to say. So I took the plunge and listed with two sites. Creative Caravan tags itself as “Craiglist for Creatives” — the idea being that you can swap with like-minded people.

The other website is Homelink. I did a bit of research and was attracted to this one because there is strong membership within Australia so if I want to take a trip to Byron Bay or Tasmania then I can swap with people who live there… as well as people in Italy. And within a week of listing I got a message from someone wanting to swap in Martinique!

– Natalie

Babes in the shade

babes in the shadeA big issue for parents in Australia is protecting your child from fierce UV rays, especially in summer when the sun burns skin all-too-quickly. Many children (and adults) wear “rashies” at the beach. These tops provide high UV protection and saves you having to reapply sunscreen every couple of hours. The only problem is that they don’t always look good — or they can be quite expensive. Enter Babes in the Shade, an Australian business that has come up with some cool and affordable designs. They also have shirts with easy-to-use zips.

-Natalie

An odd obsession

scoop_bunkI’m obsessed with bunk beds. There. I’ve said it. I don’t know why. It’s a strange obsession to have, especially as I only have one child. I think it’s because I live in an apartment and if I was to have more than one child then they’d probably have to have bunks. Perhaps it’s also because they look like a lot of fun, and I never had one as a child.

Either way, I love this one by Lilly & Lolly — a great Aussie company that designs and manufactures the products locally. In fact, this bunk is made from Tasmanian Oak. Beautiful.

-Natalie

Stylish boys’ rooms

C ad.jpgI’m like hawk-eye now when it comes to boys’ rooms. Since I had a little boy, I’m always on the lookout for spaces that are sophisticated but with a masculine edge – and yet still playful. Perhaps it’s a big ask, but I’m slowly getting a good clippings file. While this room, showcasing a new wallpaper from Australia’s Porter’s Paints, is a little old for Little C, it’s a good one to keep in mind as he grows up. I love the grey camouflage wallpaper. It looks great against the lime green, too.

-Natalie

Shop til you drop

Hamb t-shirtThis morning I went to Magnolia Square’s first shopping event in Sydney. The market has been running since 2005 in Melbourne with such great success that the founder, Nic MacIsaac, has branched out and taken the “pop-up-shop concept” north. While some of the brands were familiar to me from attending trade fairs, it’s such a great event for members of the general public as you can get access to gorgeous up-and-coming brands, often founded by “mumtrepeneurs”.  Media were invited to a preview this morning and I ended up buying several things, which has never happened to me before at these events. I bought a cute blue and white striped handmade and screen printed t-shirt from Hamb, a vegetable wax candle from Space Candles and an incredibly soft goat’s hair duster from Heaven In Earth.

And if you missed it this time, don’t worry, the event runs five times a year in Melbourne and no doubt, after walking past long queues in Sydney, it will be here again soon.

-Natalie

Sydney’s little star

Sydney’s little starThe synchronicity of life never ceases to amaze me. One day I’m at work chatting to our style director and he’s telling me about a cool little kid he’s just seen in the lift. Then a couple of days later I have a quick fix of The Sartorialist and low-and-behold there he is! It turns out that Iggy is the son of Shop Til You Drop editor Justine Cullen. No wonder he looks so great. Or at least I think so.

You see, as my son is fast-approaching the big ONE I’m getting more of a sense of how I want him to look. Is this a bad thing? Because I don’t like teddy bears dressed as policemen on his jumpers and I’m not crazy about Thomas the Tank Engine logos on his jacket. And yet these are gifts I’ve received for him. I don’t like them – the logos and cutesy elements. I don’t want to be ungrateful because people have spent their money to buy these gifts (and one of those people is my mother!) but little C is my son. Oh, I feel nasty even typing these thoughts. But should I just put him in these less-desired clothes when he’s just playing at home, pass them on to someone less fortunate than me, or just “suck it up” – as someone else at work likes to say?

-Natalie

Greekalicious

Greekalicious cooking classesI know it’s bad to wish away the days and years, but I can’t wait for Little C to become old enough so we can cook together. I have such happy memories of baking as a child – and licking the wooden spoon (I still do!). And when I heard that Maria Benardis was extending her Greekalicious cooking classes to children, I was so excited that I had to share it with you. You see, I’ve been to one of Maria’s Greek cooking classes and I was so impressed by not only the taste of her food but also the stories she passes on. After all, Greek culture is all about tradition and I can’t get enough of all the rituals and history. So, if you have children who are of an age that can cook and live in Sydney, here are the details for her April school holiday classes:

Wednesday 15 April, 10.30am-1.30pm – children age 4-8

Thursday 16 April, 10.30am-1.30pm – children age 9-15

Dishes include bread making, cheese filo pies, keftedes (Greek meat fritters) (4-8yrs), chicken soulvaki (9-15yrs), and a salad. Classes are $60 and bookings can be made online, or by phone: 02 9331 0734.

-Natalie

Big on style

Little Nest chairsOkay, so this is perhaps a little extravagant, but chairs are my weakness (they’re like the shoes of the interior world – great accessories that complete a look).
Little Nest is an Australian company that produces replica products of design classics. Think the Barcelona chair – but for kids! All pieces that you’d covet for your living room but you can buy for your little ones. No frou frou kids’ rooms here! The company’s tag is “good things come in little packages” – too true.

-Natalie

Kid-friendly restaurants

Eating out with kids in SydneyNow that my little one is progressing quickly to finger food, it won’t be long until he can start eating out with us. Already we take him down to the local cafés but I haven’t really given much thought to whether the food on the menu is suitable for him. Until now…

Well, luckily I’ve found a great little book: Eating Out With Kids by Julie Chatto reviews places all over Sydney where you can dine with children. And I love that she has kids review each place too with comments such as: “I love it here, my mummy’s friend lives in North Sydney, so we come here with her and have lunch sometimes. I can run around outside without getting into trouble. I like the sandstone building – it reminds me of being in church, only I can be loud here.”

Too cute!

-Natalie

Products with heart

LarkLast week I went to the Life In Style Home, Fashion Accessories and Gift Fair as part of my job. The decorating trade show has a whole section dedicated to kids’ goods. I felt like Alice in Wonderland. One great company I came across is Lark. You may have heard of them before as the company was originally set up in the UK in 2004. Well, now it’s available in Australia as the founder, Allison Jones, has moved to Australia. The products are handmade and ethical — even more reason to jump onto the site. And oh-so cute!

-Natalie

Just awful

Australian Bush FiresAs I’m sure many of you know by now, Australia has just experienced its worst natural disaster after ravaging bush fires killed hundreds of people and destroyed many more homes. I received an email yesterday from a woman in my mother’s group who said that her brother had lost his home and all its contents, and she had rushed to the shops to buy supplies for his eight-day-old baby. That’s right. Eight days old! I can’t imagine what it must be like to cope with a disaster of that magnitude with a newborn.

Then on the news last night there was an image of a woman carrying a baby capsule. I’m not sure how old that baby was but it just cut me up that she was also in the midst of upheaval with such a young baby. This weekend I’m going to go through all the clothes that my eight-month-old baby has outgrown and donate them to the Red Cross. There are several ways people can help: (more…)

Gorgeous decorating finds

Cocoon CoutureI was rushing about trying to find a first birthday present for my best friend’s son this morning and in the process discovered Cocoon Couture. And not only did I love the product but I was thrilled when I turned over the packaging and saw that it was in fact an Australian company. Woohoo! I LOVE when I find locally designed products.

I definitely want to get one of their oh-so-cute bean bags. And, next time I have a baby (am I talking next time, already?!) I will get one of their gorgeous hanging mobiles.

-Natalie

Beach chic at Christmas

Caravan Interiors2Living only a five minute walk from world-famous Bondi Beach presents some interesting decorating dilemmas at Christmas time. I haven’t worried so much about what trinkets and festive fare to indulge in during previous years because I’ve always been too busy celebrating Sydney-style at friends’ places, parties and picnics – it is the summer social season, after all. But this year is different because this is the first time I will experience Christmas with my baby boy, Charlie. And so I want to make a little more effort.

Well, thankfully I have a great shop down the road that will provide me with many decorating options. After all, it is a little tricky to get the right Christmas look when you’re woken by summer sun (not snow) and a post-lunch activity is more likely to involve swimming in the ocean than riding on a sleigh. Caravan Interiors (02 9365 0500) on Hall Street, Bondi, is a must-visit shop. And its decorations are the most beautiful, beach-inspired ones I’ve seen yet. Wreaths are made of driftwood and shells and there’s not a strand of tinsel in sight. Oh, they also have a small but very carefully edited kids’ section, selling everything from clothes to toys to decorations.

-Natalie

Top 10 Aussie baby finds

Oobi BabyAustralian kids have never looked so good. And there is a reason for that – well, I’ve managed to narrow it down to 10… of my favourite baby-related businesses. Sure, one of them is based in New Zealand (Merino Kids), but Australia often claims all the best of that country as our own (just ask Collette Dinnigan or Russell Crowe). And another (Dwell Studio) is from the US, but has recently made its way to our shores thanks to local distributor, Luxury Labels. So for a taste of what’s in store, check out these stylish shops and cool finds:

1.) Tuchuzy Kids: 86 Gould St, Bondi; (02) 9365 5371
I can’t tell you how excited I was when Tuchuzy took what used to be a sideshow in the men’s store (which is next to the oh-so-fashionable women’s section) to centre stage in its very own shop. Now there’s a great place to not only kit out my baby in the coolest threads but also buy presents for friends with bubs.

Bholu Giraffe2.)Bholu
Simple, stylish designs that are created with love — that pretty much sums up what Bholu is about. And not only does Jodie Fried’s beautiful company produce dreamy homewares for adults but a children’s range which includes cot sheet sets, lamp shades and toys.

3.)Merino Kids
I’m all for anything that makes life simple. And time and time again I find that nature’s answer is often the easiest solution. Case in point: sleeping bags for babies. While there is constant chatter in my mother’s group about “togs”, I’ve got a Go Go Bag by Merino Kids and because it’s made of merino wool, it allows my baby’s skin to breathe when it’s warmer during the day and keeps him toasty when it’s cooler at night. Perfect.

4.)Kido Store
Really, this is one of the best edited collections of children’s ware that I’ve come across so far. And the great news, for those of you who don’t live in Sydney, is that you can buy online. How did mums manage before the internet! (more…)

Sydney

SydneyIf I could live anywhere — apart from Paris of course — it would be Sydney. Where else in the world do you get to live in a vibrant, cosmopolitan city whilst living by the beach? I love the balmy weather, the wonderful Pacific rim food and the idea that I could potentially go for a quick surf — if I knew how to surf — after work.

I also love the Sydney style: a bit surfer and funky and yet also cute and chic. To be honest there is so much going on in Sydney that we would love to update you on a regular basis about this great city.  Which is why we are so excited to have found a fantastic lady to represent her city with gusto…

Natalie is the deputy editor of an interior decoration magazine and mother to a six-month-old little boy. We love her attitude towards motherhood, shopping and life and cannot wait to see what is going on with her from far away on the other side of the world. We hope you enjoy reading about Sydney as much as we do.

Without further ado… we welcome Natalie, our newest Babyccino contributor!

– Emilie

Hello from Sydney!

Natalie photoPicture this: there are four stylish, intelligent, successful women sitting in a café having a conversation and you can’t help but listen in. Your admiration soars when you soon realise they’re all mothers. Really? How is this possible! They not only look amazing but they’re engaging in the world around them with a passion and enthusiasm that is contagious. Then one of them spots you and invites you to join the conversation. Yes, this did happen (well, virtually)…

…and I can’t tell you how excited I am to join the Babyccino team as a guest writer. I’m bursting at the seams to share with you all that is wonderful about Australia from the eyes of a recent mum and a six-month-old (and growing oh-so quickly) baby boy.

I am a journalist with an interiors magazine which aims to present stylish homes on a realistic budget, and I have to say, hand on my heart, that this is the way I approach motherhood too. I believe in creating a wealth of experiences for my child which have everything to do with love and knowledge and little to do with gratuitous spending. Together we’re going to have a truly rich life, and a lot of fun along the way. The only thing is – should I now confess to the team that once I start talking…

-Natalie