Our summer holidays in Holland

Oh! It is so nice for me to remember our holidays in Holland this past summer! We went in July and we were so lucky with everything. We are in a program of house exchange and everything went just perfect!. We really loved our house and the garden with the lovely wooden house.

Great memories and lovely times in our garden!. So much fun. But speaking about fun… how great it was for us to ride a cargo bike the whole holidays!. For us Spaniards, riding bikes is not the norm, let alone a cargo bike!. That was just amazing, and we really really enjoyed it!

We really enjoyed our area, with the lakes, and canals. We had amazing weather so we got to do many things outdoors. We also went to our nearest city, Haarlem. We adored it! One of my favourites shops was Meneer Paprika. A really cool store and cafe, the paradise for children and adults!.

A very relaxed, healthy, quiet, and amazing summer we had!!. Really looking forward to going back to The Netherlands. In fact, looking forward to next summer!!!!! ;-)

Happy to be back here!!

-Maria

To read more from Maria, visit her lovely blog Escarabajos Bichos y Mariposas.

Insider tips: Positano, Italy


The lovely Joanna from A Cup Of Jo (who is expecting her second baby any minute now!!) recently asked me to share my insider tips on Positano with her readers.

We’ve now been to Positano every year for the past ten years. For us, it feels like going home — some of the locals even feel like family. It is certainly one of our favourite places in the whole wide world, and so it was easy answering her questions and sharing our tips. Thank you Joanna for featuring them on your blog!

xx Courtney

Vacation at home

This summer many of us might have to stay at home. When I read in a magazine about this new word “staycation” I thought it was a good idea. In that magazine says that if  it happens and you have to stay home, it doesn’t have to be something bad — we can even turn it into something good, and really enjoy it. Today, some simple but nice ideas!

1. The most important thing is to have holiday spirit. That will make you have the perfect holiday. Put the world on hold: turn off your phone, do an “out of the office” message on your email, skip the news for a week. Even if you have access to it, why not stay away during the vacation.

2. Go on a picnic. Prepare a beautiful basket, with good food, and make a party outdoors in the wood or the beach. That would make it so special.

Via

3. Be a local tourist in your own town. Sometimes we do not take notice of the beauty of our towns just because we live there. Approach your city like a tourist and do all those things tourists do while in town. It is almost certain that you’ll learn and see amazing things.

4. Learn something new. With the long days and the holidays you can find some time to do something you couldn’t do during the winter. I want to learn to knit this summer!.

Via

5. Look for shows and concerts that are happening in your town. Those you don’t usually go because they are late and you work the next day!.

Nico in a concert in La Laboral (Spain) last year

6. Treat yourself with some extra spending. Order food from your favorite restaurant and invite your friends to a lovely dinner in your house! And let yourself do extra expenses like go to the cinema, enjoy cafes, and terraces… without feeling guilty.

7. Get your house cleaned for you and forget about daily tasks. Not having to make the beds, do laundry or dust will just make a big difference!.

8. Take a camping trip in your own backyard or your livingroom. Kids will feel as if they were in the other part of the world.

Via

9. Enjoy mornings in your own house. Most of the year we rush, sometimes even in the weekends. Spend some time at your house with no hurry, play your favourite music, plan the day, have long and relaxed breakfast…

10. And if life gives you lemons… make lemonade!. With tons of sugar, please!

Via

I wish you all enjoy your holidays, wether at home or not!

- Maria

Hometown Tulips

Happy May Day! I know I shared tulip photos last year, but couldn’t resist sharing some new ones from this year. Once again, my dad and his girlfriend climbed to the top of their house and took photos of the surrounding fields. So pretty! I grew up in that house surrounded by tulip fields. I used to ride my horse up and down those fields. I even got married in the muddy tulip fields! Such a special part of my childhood.

Anyway, just wanted to share. (Thank you to my dad’s girlfriend, Suze Jungeman, for the photos!) And don’t you love the chicken tip-toeing through the tulips?!

x Courtney

Tulips!


My dad and his girlfriend sent me a few photos of the tulip fields surrounding their house. I thought they were so beautiful, I just had to share them with you. I remember playing as a child in these tulip fields, and riding my bicycle up and down the paths. These photos make me miss home! Anyway, hope you enjoy. Have a lovely weekend!

xo Courtney

p.s. Photos taken by Susie Jungemann.

Melbourne’s top 10 in Caos Magazine!

Recently, wonderful Spanish magazine Caos asked Babyccino if we could compile a list of the 10 top things to do when visiting the city of Melbourne. We were very excited to oblige! Here is the list written up which was of course then translated into Spanish (and which, most will agree, makes everything sound just so much more wonderful). (more…)

Vegemite — a great Aussie icon


Ah, Vegemite. Without doubt it is Australia’s favorite sandwich spread. But while it is loved by the locals, it is generally repulsed by our visitors.Visually, I will concede, it is a little unappetizing (hmm…black sticky tar?). And chances are, unless you grew up on it or follow the guidelines below (without digressing I should add) you will probably never acquire the taste for it. For first timers the taste of Vegemite is very unexpected, surprisingly sharp and in order to avoid gagging which so many of the uninitiated do on their first bite, you need to apply the Vegemite sparingly with liberal amounts of butter. But, rich in Vitamin B Aussie kids are brought up on the salty-tasting spread from babyhood (hooray for toasty Vegemite soldiers dipped into soft-boiled eggs!) and it is a school lunch box staple. I personally know many Aussies who won’t travel without a small jar or easy-squeeze tube of Vegemite for fear that they will not find it and then shock horror, what on earth would they have on their toast in the morning? (more…)

The Elephant Parade

I happened to be in the heart of London, on Oxford Street, the other day when I came across some wonderful painted elephants at Selfridges.  As I continued my stroll through town I saw more and more … on Bond Street, in Green Park — what were they all about?

London has become home to The Elephant Parade. During May and June, 250 colourfully painted elephants will be dotted around the capital to shine a spotlight on the plight of the endangered Asian elephant.  The campaign is from the charity Elephant Family, whose aim is to try and protect the elephant’s habitat which is increasingly threatened by human expansion.

The elephants here in the capital have each been painted by an artist or celebrity and together they make up London’s largest outdoor art event on record (with an estimated 25 million people viewing them over the next weeks).  (more…)

Sugar Coated Almonds

There is a very old tradition here in France to offer sugar-coated almonds — known as dragées — when a child is born. They are actually traditionally given out at baptism, but as there are not that many baptisms around anymore, I think it is a great tradition to carry on to celebrate the arrival of a new little person.

When I was born dragées only existed in pink and blue and white. My mother searched the whole of France for some green ones (she had a very May 68  approach to colour type casting of genders, which did not mix very well with something so traditional as dragéés). The tradition goes back as far as the 12th century when an apocathery figured out that almonds lasted longer if sealed in a coat of sugar. Almonds were reputed to combat sterility — hence the tradition of offering them to celebrate a baby. (more…)

Re-live the 17th century in Rembrandt’s House

Rembrandthuis - atelierLast weekend we did something unexpectedly fabulous: we took the children to Rembrandt’s House. Rembrandt, as you might know, was a very famous Dutch painter who lived from 1607 till 1669. From 1625 onwards he lived in Amsterdam. For a big part of his live he was very rich, already well known in his time, and he lived in a beautiful house that is amazingly well conserved and restored and can be visited today.
I didn’t really know what to expect with two little children, but they were SO impressed. Our daughter (4 yrs) listened to her own audio tour, aimed especially at kids, and I can say that at the end of our visit she could give me specific information that I didn’t pick up myself.

If you’re in Amsterdam and want to combine some culture with history and a fun family activity, the Rembrandthuis comes recommended. There’s no restaurant, but walking down to the Staalstraat takes less than 5 minutes and you’ll find Pucinni, with great coffee, good sandwiches and amazing cakes.  In the same street you’ll find cute kids gift shop Beestenwinkel, my favourite grown-up gift shop Klevering (that happens to stock some really lovely kids items as well), and a bit up the road there’s Droog Design, a showcase of the famous Dutch design group.

xxx Esther

Top things to do in Melbourne (part 1)

headerWith a steady stream of visiting friends over the Christmas holidays, and many with young children, we have been busy! Whilst we treated them to the hedonistic pleasures of the Aussie beach culture, we also spent a great deal of time indoors appreciating the ‘higher arts’. This can be tricky with young kids in tow, especially those who are jet-lagged and tantrum prone, but Melbourne has some fabulous museums and galleries, several of which are especially wonderful for children.  Here are my top 3.

1. Melbourne Museum –  This fabulous museum, located on the northern border of the Carlton Gardens behind the Royal Exhibition Building, is futuristic and interactive and connects architecture and nature – in the middle of the museum, you can walk through a forest! The Children’s Gallery is designed for children 3 to 8 but I would think it would delight even the younger toddler. The children’s exhibition, entitled 1,2,3 Grow, explores the many ways things, including humans, grow. Activities, children’s art, stories, an indoor sandpit with fossils beneath the sand which children are encouraged to discover, a kids puppet theatre and an outside play/picnic area including games such as skittles for the whole family, are just some of the attractions. It doesn’t matter how often we visit (we try to put our membership to good use after all) my children are always stimulated and engaged. Young children particularly love the insect section and the Forest gallery. Click here for more details. (more…)

Do as the Dutch do, bike on a bakfiets

bakfiets

Thanks to its flat (meaning not hilly) landscape, the Netherlands is the perfect place for getting around on bike.  It’s also quite safe: bike lanes are virtually everywhere, and drivers are so used to the many bikes around that they take them in careful consideration.  So the ‘fiets’ is the preferred means of transportation for most, if not all Dutchmen. We cycle to work, we cycle to school, we cycle to the shops and we also grab the bike if we go out at night (this will also conveniently save us the money for a parking ticket or a taxi).
Kids?  No problem. We just take them in front with us when they are little, in a special seat hanging from the steer. When they grow bigger, they get a seat on the back of the bike, if necessary combined with the pre-mentioned seat on the front for a little sibling.
If you have three or more children though, it’s probably time to get a bakfiets.  A bakfiets is kind of a cross between a bike and a beach wagon, and you can conveniently fit in as many as 4 children (although I’ve seen people squeeze in even more!).  If you’ve ever been in Amsterdam, chances are high that you’ve noticed them around. (more…)

This is Australia…

xmas13It is the 17th book in the ‘This is…’ series and Sasek is visiting down under! This is Australia is a wonderful book to add to the classic travel series, first published in the  ’70s, which Courtney posted about here!

In line with the later books in the series, the colours are slightly vintage and the images are retro and whimsical. And Sasek’s mode of travel to the land down under? Not in chains like the first British colonists, but on a Qantas big bird!! (which incidentally, ‘flies very well’, unlike the Australian penguin and emu!) I absolutely love these books — they introduce children to the people, customs and places of interest in cities around the world, captivating young readers with gorgeous illustrations and a witty narrative. I also think it’s fascinating to see each city from a 1960’s perspective. And…needless to say, in my family we just love the Aussie edition!

Available for worldwide delivery at Amazon .

ps. Courtney, this is the perfect souvenir for your children and will remind them for years to come of their great Aussie adventure!!

– Sara

La Cantine

3338fc6I was on the phone to Courtney the other day and she was talking about getting packed lunches ready for her sons to take to school. I almost fell off my chair!
Here in France (or at least at my kids’ state-run schools) there is no way a sandwich is ever going to be introduced onto the school premises.
It seems like one of the main responsibilities that the French State has taken upon itself is to educate its masses into making every little French inhabitant a culinary expert.
My little girl has been going to the local maternelle since she was 3 years old. At lunch time she, and another 150 kids roughly her size, get taken to the cantine. They all sit down around the table and get served a 3/4 course meal. They start with a starter (salad, soup or similar), continue with a main course, then get a piece of cheese and finish off with a dessert. The weekly menu is hung outside the school for the whole neighourhood to see. And if I don’t have time to check it outside the school I can read about it on my town hall’s website! (more…)

My Neighour Totoro

200px-My_Neighbor_Totoro_-_Tonari_no_Totoro_(Movie_Poster)I think that film addiction must be genetic — my kids love movies as much as I do. We have started a tradition of Friday Family Film Night – to celebrate the end of the week – complete with popcorn and a glass of juice.

Now the challenge is finding movies that a 2-year-old and a 30-something-year-old will both enjoy. The greatest success we have had was the Japanese Kids Animated Classic My Neighbour Totoro, a lovely story of two sisters who move to an old country house with their dad while their mum is in hospital. In the countryside the girls encounter friendly spirits, namely the Totoros, the Keeper of the Forests. ‘My Neighbour Totoro’ was directed by Hayao Miyazaki and won him international acclaim all over the world.

The animation and designs are stunning and the Totoro character is just enchanting. I could definitely watch this movie again and again. And if I can, you can bet that my kids can too! They are addicted!

I would love to hear if you have any other suggestions for great family movies. Happy Friday!

– Emilie

Eating out in France

cafe-lindustrieMichela and I are often asked about family-friendly restaurants in our respective cities. Try as we might, we are hard pressed to come up with good suggestions. There is a huge North/South divide in Europe regarding the obvious signs of child friendliness in restaurants.

In Northern Europe you will more often than not be offered a highchair when you enter a restaurant with your kids. Often you find changing tables in the bathrooms and kids menus, and many places even have special toys they bring out. In Southern Europe it is rare to find this kind of service, BUT this does not mean that children are not welcome. In fact, they are almost always welcome, but are expected to fit around the adults. (more…)

Cinema Festival

film.jpgSometimes I get fed up of living in the centre of a big city.

The traffic, the pollution the lack of green space, and space in general seems so much more oppressing in the summer time. But then I get reminded of the big advantages of city life: the huge range of cultural events right at my fingertips. From the 2nd to the 14th of July the Paris Film Festival is on and part of the festival is a great children’s program.

This year the focus is on my favourite pet subject, animation. Lots of things are on offer: workshops, lectures and, of course film screenings. The first public screening in France of the new Pixar 3D extravaganza “Up” is on offer, as are modern day classics like Wallace and Gromit and Disney’s 1963 “The  Swords in the Stone”. The films are for kids aged 3 and up, and there are so many choices that it should satisfy all tastes. You can check out the program here.

I guess city life is not so bad after all….

– Emilie

Madonna and the Malawi orphans

madonna.jpgThere has been so much in the newspapers lately about Madonna adopting from Malawi. I am not an expert in adoption and cannot claim to understand the complexities both legally and ethically of adopting from another country and culture.  But I do wonder whether it’s okay to take a child away from the culture it is deeply rooted in and whisk them away to a completely different environment. I honestly don’t know.

Maybe naively I have always considered adoption as a very viable option if I had not been able to have my own children. I do think that I could love a child as my own irrelevant of whether it is genetically related to me and my husband or not. There seem to be so many children in the world without a family who need a home and a loving environment.

But, in the case of Madonna, is this a mother honestly trying to give a little girl a home and love and support, or is she a celebrity used to getting whatever she wants and not thinking of the impact her decisions have on the life of this little girl?

Would love to hear what you guys think…

– Emilie

The threat on National Security by my Toddler

I have come to the point that I cannot wait for a computer chip to be inserted into the brain of my children and we can get rid of passports and the like.

This is not because I particularly like the idea of Big Brother watching them all the time — I am a big defender of personal freedom…. but I just cannot deal with having to spend another minute in a government office sorting out passports and social security or anything else, especially with an overheated, overtired toddler squirming in my arms.

The regulations for passports in France have gotten to the point of an absurd comedy. The entire team in my local passport office spent a whole half an hour debating if they could accept the photo of my daughter as she had her mouth slightly open. She got off on the technicality that you could not see her teeth, because, in fact, she does not have any teeth! They then spent another half an hour trying to override the automated computer system what was rejecting the darn photo as my toddler had a shadow under her chin. The fact that she has no neck, being a toddler, means there is always going to be a shadow… but this exception had not been programmed into the computer. (more…)

My little French girl

My 13-month-old is making me into one very proud Mommy, as she is starting to say her first few words!  She has ‘Mama’ and ‘Papa’ down, she is good at saying ‘yep’ and thankfully not so good at saying ‘no’ (though she does shake her head very vehemently to get her point across). But she has utterly proved her French-ness by deciding that her fourth word would be: Oh La La!

Thinking about it, she is being very clever. With just this one word she can express a plethora of emotions. You see, Oh La La in France is a state of mind and it means so much. In little Violette’s case she uses it when she drops something or is not happy with something, she uses it when she is surprised, or when she is given something she likes. It is always linked to a bit of a resignated head shake or alternatively with throwing her hands up in the air — theatrical gestures she must observe a thousand times a day.

Let me give you a few examples for Oh La La. A person accidentally steps on your foot: Oh La La. A person is wearing a weird hat: Oh La La. A person has jumped the queue and gone in front of you? Oh La La. It can also be used in a complimentary way: some dude likes a girl’s cleavage? Oh La La La La! (more…)

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