In my hand luggage

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I have been on the road so often lately that my suitcase is just sitting open on the floor and gets emptied and refilled again on a regular basis. I also never have the patience for waiting for suitcases at airports, so I have been honing my talents of traveling not only with a capsule wardrobe but also with a little transparent bag instead of a sponge bag.

I thought it could be fun to share with you my little “capsule” transparent bag, so here is a list of some of my favourite things I always travel with:

  • Uriage facial wipes because they are the best: efficient, great for sensitive skin and one wipe is enough to get your face squeaky clean.
  • I actually am now French enough that I feel like I am missing something if I leave the house without perfume. Esther gave me this perfume stick recently and I am addicted, it is teeny and is not classified as a fluid and it also smells heavenly.
  • Klorane Dry Shampoo: This stuff is genius, especially if you have to get up early, jump on plane and then  go straight to a meeting.
  • I actually often do not take a foundation when I travel but only a tinted moisturizer. This Caudalie one is great, as it makes my skin look fresh and natural and also moisturises very well which basically makes it a two-in-one.
  • This Burt’s Bees lip balm is actually not available in France so I scoop it up every time I am in the UK or the US. I get very dry lips when I travel, so I love the fact that it moisturises and also adds a little colour to my lips.
  • I always have an eye mask with me as I like to sleep in the dark and I never know where I might pitch up for the night. Especially in Northern European countries in the summer I hate getting woken up when the sun is rising! This eye mask from Muji is super soft and machine washable.

Do let me know if you have any tips, I would love to hear!

– Emilie

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

Babyccino Kids YouTube Channel (and our first video!)

Broad Bean recipe
pod the beans
broad bean salad
As we’ve hinted over the past few weeks, we’ve been working behind the scenes on some videos for a new Babyccino Kids YouTube channel! It’s something we’ve been talking about doing for ages now, but were just not ever organised enough to make happen.  Last month we finally mustered up the courage, lined up the right crew, and then all met up in Amsterdam to work on our first videos. It was both hilarious and encouraging — being on film is not something any of us are particularly good at (or fond of), but we had so much fun together and managed to make a few videos we feel proud enough to share (and we’re hoping our on-camera skills will improve over time!).

We’re so excited to share our channel with you (which you can subscribe to here) as well as our very first video!!  We share a really easy and delicious summer recipe for Broad Bean Salad which is one of my favourite things to make this time of year.

We hope you enjoy!

Courtney x

Video footage was shot by Esther Verkaik and edited by Chee-Han Kartosen-Wong. A big thank-you to both of them for their patience with us as we navigate this new space. 

A dolls’ garden party for Ava’s 5th birthday!

dolls garden party dolls party

Ava recently turned 5 — the age where a birthday party really, really matters. We had family and friends over on the day of her birthday (the so-called ‘family party’), but she was also really looking forward to the party for her little friends.

dolls_party_9 dolls_party_18 dolls garden party Babyccino Kids

I had been really, really busy with work and all sorts of end-of-school activities, so I didn’t have the energy or time to prepare anything before the day of her party. But it was all fine — that Sunday morning, the warm sun came up (familiar?), so we transformed our back yard into a big dolls’ house.

dolls_party_21 dolls garden party Babyccino Kids dolls_party_6

We put up the playhouse and the wigwam, and also created some other spaces using sticks and fabric. We made a dolls’ hospital, a dolls’ kitchen (using our wooden toy kitchen), a dolls’ dressing room and bedroom (we used baskets and baby blankets to make extra beds), a dolls’ play area with miniature dolls — we even had a dolls’ bathroom (the old baby bathtub and hooded baby towels came in handy here!).

dolls garden party babyccino kids dolls_party_3 dolls garden party Babyccino Kids dolls_party_8

It was really fun and easy to set up, and so adorable once finished! I asked all of Ava’s little invitees (4 girls plus her 3 siblings of course) to bring their favourite doll, and that was all it took, really. They took over the garden immediately and had such fun.

dolls_party_16 dolls_party_20 dolls_party_11 dolls_party_19 dolls_party_13We were lucky to have the garden that day, but of course such an idea would also work perfectly indoors. Definitely a recommendation if you have little ones who love dolls!

xxx Esther

Visit Greece! Camping at Serifos

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This is Pepi‘s second post about family friendly destinations in Greece (see her first post about beautiful Sifnos here).

By the time you have children, your priorities, and therefore the criteria you choose your travel destinations change. And although each family’s choices and preferences may be different, there are some basic facts such the children’s amusement, comfort and of course safety that you cannot really ignore as a parent.

Since we had a baby, we try not to give up our favorite destinations like the Cyclades but always seek for new places or why not some different vacation mode such as camping for our holidays. So if you are planning summer family vacations and you need stunning weather, magical beaches, healthy and tasty food, and most of all welcoming people then Cyclades is a great destination.

Especially now after the Greece’s Economic Drama that peaked the last 3 weeks, travelling to Greece is more vital for us the greek people than ever. The yearning for stability, in monetary and emotional terms is essential. And tourism is liquidity. And although Banks were out of function for 3 whole weeks after the Capital Controls were reinforced, now we are almost back to normal since they are open and ready to service the customers – which means that ATM will not be queued.

People are even more welcoming and more grateful than ever. And prices are significantly cheaper BUT the places and the smiles, remain as wonderful as always.

For relaxation: Camping Coral – Serifos

Serifos has a very friendly and a very well equipped camping, ideal for families – the CORALI. Only five minutes away the port on the famous beach of Livadakia. Coralli camping caters to even the most demanding camper, offering a combination of nature at its best and top notch camping facilities. Plenty of shade is provided by the tamarisk trees and the atmosphere around is really laid – back.

Your kids will be close to nature, at a safe environment so that you can also have some time to relax.

travel_6In this picture: Camping Coralli

For accommodation you can choose between Bungalow and Apartments, which, however, I recommend you to avoid as they are farther from the center of the camping and sea and their interior is not the most suitable especially for young children. (more…)

Visit Greece! Sifnos, a wonderful family destination

sifnos_tavern argiris_where to eat

Our friend Pepi from Athens is the driving force behind one of the biggest online children’s boutiques in Greece, Alice on Board. She’s a wonderful mama and sweet friend, and we were super happy when she offered to write up some family friendly destinations in her beautiful country. Greece is one of my favourite travel destinations, I love the amazing culture, the friendliness of the people, the yummy food… but I’ve never been with my family. After reading what Pepi wrote though, I was investigating flights to Greece immediately. : ) Here’s Pepi’s introduction of the beautiful island of Sifnos, and there will be another post following about camping at Serifos too. Thanks so much, Pepi! xxx

If you are looking for summer family vacations and you need stunning weather, magical beaches, healthy and tasty food, and most of all welcoming people, then Cyclades is a destination I suggest you should consider. Especially now after the Greek economic drama that peaked the last 3 weeks, travelling to Greece is more vital for us Greek people than ever. The yearning for stability, in monetary and emotional terms is essential. And tourism is liquidity. And although banks were out of function for 3 whole weeks after the capital controls were reinforced, now we are almost back to normal since they are open and ready to service the customers – which means that ATM will not be queued.

People are even more welcoming and more grateful than ever. And prices are significantly cheaper BUT the places and the smiles, remain as wonderful as always!

For the Cyclades lovers – Sifnos
We initially visited Sifnos in our earliest year (no kids) and although it may initially seems as an ideal island for bachelors, trust me this is a myth. What we actually adore in Sifnos is the variety offered in terms of activities, if of course you are not one of those that only need a beach to stay all day long.

sifnos_profitis elias 1000In the picture: Profitis Elias

WHERE TO STAY:
Every time we visit Sifnos we prefer to stay in Ag. Marina in a nice hotel close to the sea, Alkyonis Villas, which offers spacious rooms, especially for big families, terrace overlooking the sea – very important since in the evening you can enjoy and a glass of wine by yourself.  (more…)

Beautiful sleepwear from Atticus & Gilda

Ivy in Atticus & Gilda pyjamas
Atticus & Gilda

Ivy in pyjamas

I discovered Atticus & Gilda at the recent Dot to Dot tradeshow in London and fell in love with this brand immediately. The gorgeous pyjamas and coordinating eye masks caught my eye, but really it was meeting and talking to the founders that drew me to this brand. Lucy Gaiger and Conchita-Maria Scott are two costume designers who have spent years working on hit musical theatre productions. They still have their ‘day jobs’ as costume designers, but decided to use their expertise to create a beautiful line of children’s sleepwear, made using the one-of-a-kind trimmings they’ve collected over the many years during their careers. The result is a collection of gorgeous, fairytale-like sleepwear, the type Wendy would wear in ‘Peter Pan’.

I managed to pick up some pyjamas for the girls before leaving London, and Ivy has been living in her pair (and eye mask) all week. I snapped the photos above while we were out visiting my grandparents in the San Juan Islands last week. I looked outside one evening and saw Ivy in her pyjamas with the setting sun behind her and quickly grabbed my camera to take a few photos. Magic hour in a magical place!!

Courtney x

p.s. They also make nice pyjamas for boys, and I was excited to see some overnight sleep sets (with toothbrush and eye mask) in their newest collection launching later this year.

Needle (or dry) felting

needle felting

My kids (and I) have a new hobby: needle (dry) felting. We really love it! It’s incredibly easy to do, and so fun. Relaxing too — the rhythmic movement of poking the needle in the wool is actually really nice.

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felting_3

For needle felting you need just a few supplies: a sponge (a simple kitchen sponge works fine), some felting wool and some special, barbed felting needles. That’s all you need for making all sorts of shapes! An easy start, I thought, is to felt on top of wool felt sheets, and make pretty wool ‘paintings’ like this. Pim made a really sweet book marker as an end-of year gift for his teacher this way.

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conscious craft needle felting
Or, you can use cookie cutters as a mould and create independent shapes. Ava and Sara made really sweet hairbands — first they made little felt blossoms and hearts, then they felted them to elastic hair bands (using a piece of wool felt to ‘glue’ the hair band to the shape). It entertained them for a an afternoon and their hair bands turned out really sweet!

Conscious Craft has a perfect selection of felting supplies, and you can also buy a blossom hair bands kit here. Fun!

xxx Esther

Let it go!

Upside Down

Last Saturday the girls and I went to a music festival; we listened to music, danced and had a generally great time. But we got home very late and the girls were tired, so after putting them to bed I decided to test something: the next day I was going to let it go! (Like in the freaking Disney song). I decided I was just going to let the girls chill out and allow them to dictate the rhythm of the day, and not take control! So I let them get up when they wanted, play as long as they wanted and move at their own pace throughout the day. And you know what? We had a fabulous day, but my gosh, it was hard!!!

Why? Because in my head I had activities planned: people to see, places to discover, things to do — things I personally thought are important and fun to do.  But obviously those decisions were taken without my daughters’ consent, and they weren’t a priority for them. We had planned to go to the swimming pool… and we got there 3 hours later than I had hoped because the Lego mini people were apparently having a music festival! I think part of the reason why it was so hard is because I project what I think is going to be fun on my kids, who, I sometimes forget, are now individuals with their own tastes and preferences.

But, I must say, we had a lovely day without any arguing or conflict.  The girls came to me when they were ready, they were happy to go out and ready to face the world, and for once I was not pleading and coercing everyone out of the door. Meanwhile, I tidied my desk and did things around the house that I usually don’t have the time to do. A win/win for everyone!

So I am going to make a conscious effort when I can (and when it is possible) to let go and let my little people be, even if we are not on holiday and even if I have in my mind projected many fun things that we could do.

Do you find it hard to let go and just let them be too?

– Emilie

P.S. Photo taking by the lovely Emily Ulmer a wee while ago.

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

I like snakes 1
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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

Dream Car, by Huzi

dreamcar_3 Dream Car by Huzi

It’s always so great when children’s toys are not only great toys (encouraging kids to create, learn and be imaginative), but also when they look so good you’d rather display it on a shelf in the living room than hide it at the bottom of the toy box.

dreamcar_1 dreamcar_2 Dream Car by Huzi

The Dream Car, designed by Mike Mak for Huzi, is such a toy. Handcrafted from natural wood and finished with mat chalkboard paint, the dream car is certainly extremely handsome to look at. But it’s a clever toy too! It can be assembled and disassembled because of little magnets that make a fun clicking sound. It can also be drawn on — a pretty little box with chalk (and a clever eraser in the lid) comes with the car.

dreamcar_8 dreamcar_7

Everything is packed in a beautifully designed gift box, proof of the designer’s eye for detail. A lovely toy, which will be played with for years and is sturdy enough to be passed down as a heirloom toy. It makes a wonderful gift, too!

xxx Esther

PS Casper’s PJs are from The Bright Company.

Tuesday Tips: breathe first!

breathe first tuesday tips

I’m not sure if I can state this generally, but I have the gut feeling I can speak for all mothers here: mamas, we do not take enough time for ourselves. (Speaking for myself, I definitely don’t.)

Isn’t it so easy for us mothers to forget about ourselves, to always put our children and family before ourselves? Aren’t we reprogrammed, the moment we give birth, to dedicate every second of the rest of our lives to the wellbeing of our babies?

It’s of course a very logical natural phenomenon, and it all perfectly makes sense out of an evolutionary point of view: we’re just another mammal mother fighting for the survival of our offspring.

However, never taking time for ourselves doesn’t, in the end, make us a better mum. It makes us stressed, unhappy, and tired. We need time to unwind, to feel good about ourselves, to be happy and loving and patient.

I recently thought about the safety procedures in an airplane. I always specifically notice (probably because it is so counter-intuitive) the phrase ‘please put on your own oxygen mask before helping your child’. I would always think of my babies first! But it makes sense, doesn’t it — we need to be able to breathe first, before we can help our children to breathe. It’s so perfectly simple: we need to look after ourselves in order to be able to look after our children. We need to breathe first. We need to clear out our busy minds. Because there’s no way we can look after them well if we don’t look after ourselves!

xxx Esther

PS dresses from Smokks

The Furoshiki, a Japanese wrapping cloth

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Have you heard of furoshikis? They are square fabric cloths used in Japan to wrap everything from lunch, presents, picnics, pillows, groceries, you name it! Made from gorgeous printed cotton fabric, furoshikis are as beautiful as everything coming from Japan.

Bottle_Wrap
furoshikis japanese wrapping clothBesides the primary use of a wrap, furoshikis are also great to be used as scarfs, napkins, picnic blankets, table cloths… The biggest size can even be used as a beach bag and once on the beach, it doubles as a perfect beach sheet. The uses really are endless!

Furoshiki japanese wrap cloth
You can find a lovely range of gorgeous furoshikis in different sizes at Musubi London, and here you can learn about the different wrapping techniques. (Don’t you love the wine wrap? What an awesome present to bring to a dinner party!)

xxx Esther

Harry by the Sea, by Gene Zion

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Harry by the Sea3
Harry by the Sea4
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Harry by the Sea6
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.

Foraging (or collecting edible weeds)

wild_chives

Have you ever gone to your local park, forest or garden to collect edible weeds? My kids and I love to go out and pick our dinner in ‘the wild’. It’s fun, and I think it teaches them something about food and nature. Also, it motivates them to help prepare dinner (and eat it).

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nettles
edible weeds, foraging, stinging nettle

We’ve been making quiches from stinging nettles, salad from dandelion leaves and wild rocket, pesto from nasturtium, we’ve picked and eaten chickweed and wild garlic. All of which we’ve picked in the park, forest, or uncultivated parts of the garden. Isn’t it intriguing how much of the plants and flowers growing around us (and are considered weeds) we can actually eat?

elder_leaves

wild_garlic

Our biggest discovery this year has been the bishop’s weed (elder) in the the garden of my parents-in-law. It’s absolutely delicious in a quiche or stir fried with some (wild) garlic. Do you know of any other delicious weeds you can eat, or maybe you have a good recipe to share?

xxx Esther

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

Tuesday Tips: Keeping a children’s travel journal

Kids travel journal
When I was in Paris last weekend, Emilie and I each bought travel journals for our kids in her local art store. Travel journals are such a fun and educational way to encourage children to contemplate what they have experienced whilst traveling. They’re also great for their language skills and artistic development — when working in their journals, kids are stimulated to express themselves in a creative way: they practise their creative writing, their drawing, they can try techniques like collage, etc. (Courtney’s children are going to keep travel journals on their big trip as an essential part of their homeschooling that year. She’s told me that she’s going to share some bits and pieces every now and then with us — I can’t wait!)

The travel journals we bought are just plain notebooks (I prefer my children to create their own content as opposed to the ‘pre filled’ travel journals). At home, we assembled a pencil case with good quality coloured pencils, a few waterproof black pens , masking tape, a small pair of scissors, glue and a small box of watercolours . This way they can write, draw and paint, they can stick or glue (entrance tickets of museums, sugar bags, clipped mementos, postcards, stamps, pressed flowers, feathers, etc.), they can make collages, etc.

In the back of the book, we wrote down a list with inspirational questions, helping them to contemplate and write about their day. (They don’t need to answer these questions, but the idea is that these questions help them come up with ideas for their travel journal content.)

Here’s the list we wrote down:

  • The date today. The location of today.
  • People I was with, or new friends I met today.
  • Where did we stay today?
  • What did we do today? Where did we go?
  • My favourite and least favourite part of the day.
  • What did we eat today? Did I taste or smell anything special?
  • What was the weather like today?
  • Special plants, people, animals or architecture I saw today.
  • Something I learned today.
  • Something I laughed about today, something that made me sad today.
  • Special souvenirs that we found or bought today.
  • A nice book I’m reading, or cool music I’ve listened to.

Once we set off for France next week, I will copy a map of the area we’re traveling in, so they can have a sense of where we are, and where we are heading to. They can mark the roads we’re driving on, and mark our destinations. (This will also help them to get an understanding of the length of the journey, as Andrea suggested in the comments of our latest Tuesday Tips post.)

Kids travel journal
Also, and this is of course a totally redundant gadget but I thought it would be fun to give it a try — I invested in a tiny portable printer. I never really print photos anymore, and I thought it would be so fun to use a photo as a story starter in their journal every now and then. I think I will let them print a special photo every few days (of a beautiful building, special tiles, beach treasures, of fun friends… whatever they think is most special).

I have shown my children some examples of travel journals on the internet (the image above was found here), showing them how mixing different techniques can give great results. They’re super inspired and are already sitting down a few times every day to work in their books. In fact, I have just bought a travel journal for myself too, as I am now totally inspired myself as well!

xxx Esther

Some photos of the three of us :)

Babyccino Kids girls
Babyccino girls

So last week Emilie and Courtney came to Amsterdam for a super quick visit. The reason (besides the fact that we love to hang out together for as much and as often as possible), is that we thought it might be a fun idea to try to make some little videos. So we talked, we cooked, we laughed and danced on over 5 hours of video. (And hopefully a few minutes of that is worth sharing with you, so stay tuned!)

Since we don’t manage to get together as often as we would like, we asked the talented Christina Schumacher to come by and take some shots of the three of us as well. I’m so happy with these photos of us — I feel it’s so rare to be together, and when we are, it’s not often someone remembers to take photos. So thanks, Christina!!

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babyccino kids girls

It was a busy, busy day, but so, so fun (like always with these crazy girls).

xxx Esther

Design your own butterfly wings

Seedling butterfly wings
Ivy with butterfly wings
Ivy received this Design Your Own Butterfly Wings Kit for her birthday a couple months ago, and in my haste to tidy up after her party I stuck it in our craft cupboard, hidden away until we found it last week! She spent an afternoon carefully colouring and glittering her wings, and then spent the entire weekend fluttering around in them.

I swear I was stopped at least ten times this weekend (mainly by grandmothers looking to buy for their granddaughters!) asking where I found them. It really is the perfect gift — one that encourages creativity, imagination and then… butterfly role play! What better?!

The kit is made by Seedling and can be found in the UK at Conscious Craft.

Courtney x

Ice pops!

ice pops
ice pops

We’ve been enjoying some tropical heat here in Europe so all the tricks to keep cool are coming out of our sleeves. The other day, Sara made some delicious ice pops, and they were really so super good I thought to share the recipe (which she found in the booklet that came with our pop molds).


ice pops

Here’s the recipe that Sara used (although I think she used more strawberries and three bananas):

  • 6 cups fresh strawberries (she left the green hat bit)
  • 1 ripe banana
  • juice of 1-2 lemons
  • 3 tbs honey

Puree everything in the blender and pour into your pop molds. Freeze overnight, or until frozen.

Stay cool!

xxx Esther

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