Kittens!

growing up with pets, kittens

Over the Christmas holiday, we got a call from some good friends here in the neighbourhood with a rather strange but lovely question: they recently had gotten two kittens to extend their family of four, but now it turned out that the dad had developed an allergy for cats. So would we want to adopt their little cats? (They could also have asked us to adopt the dad, but I guess they wanted to keep him 😉 ). We didn’t have to think long — Tamar and I both grew up with animals. My dad was a veterinarian and our country home and garden was always filled with all sorts of pets, and Tamar grew up in a farmhouse also full of animals. So here we are now, proud owners of kittens for the past week. Their names are Hunter (a ginger tom) and Kitty (a black queen), and they are so funny and cute. According to the kids, this brings our animal count now to ten: we have Domino the rabbit, Peet the parakeet, Bagel the hamster which we share with our neighbours, kittens Hunter and Kitty, and then there are Pim’s 5 stick-bugs. (Although three escaped overnight and Pim so far only found 2 back!)

I find it so lovely to be surrounded by animals again, it’s so cosy. I also think it’s good for the children to have animals around: if they are sad they always have a friend to cuddle with, and it also teaches them a sense of responsibility (feed their animals, keep their surroundings clean). I wonder, do you have any pets in your house? Or are you thinking about getting one?

xxx Esther

Sarah Glover and The Paper Creative

Sarah Glover notecardsSarah Glover of The Paper Creative is one seriously talented lady. Not only does she illustrate beautiful children’s books, she writes them, self publishes them and has even launched her own line of greeting cards and prints! Her designs are fun, bold and well, contagiously creative.

ABC of a CATOne of my favourite books of Sarah’s is The ABC of a C-A-T. A picture book totally dedicated to the life and times of cats incorporated into an alphabet book. So unique! I love the watercoloured illustrations and the fun phrases like ‘M is for meow’ and ‘P is for purr’. Florence loves reading along with me. It’s such fun making up the actions too!

L is for Lion

M is for MeiowAnother great book of Sarah’s is Grandad’s Tea. It’s a fun-loving story of a little girl’s time in her grandfather’s garden. It’s all about the make believe and together with Grandad Bert they have such a silly time!

Grandad's TeaSarah’s other work includes these super cute prints detailing the words of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. I think it would make a gorgeous new baby gift. And I love her Winter Warmers print. It’s perfect for this time of year. Check out all of her prints and other delights on her etsy shop here.

Enjoy,

Vanessa x

Play&Go play mat

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My friends seem to have baby in cycles – and, at the moment, I am back in the baby cycle with babies popping up everywhere around me – I love it! I do have a lot of fun finding the latest new baby presents and there is one clear winner. It is the Play&Go play mat –  and it is genius.

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Basically it is a pretty playmate that, in one movement, transforms into a bag with all the toys inside. I seriously wish it had been around when my kids were smaller. Perfect for when you have visitors and you need to quickly clean up!

Emilie

Casa Zinc at i-escape

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I’m so behind on posting about our travels (I’m blaming slow wifi — it’s been the one major headache of our travels!).  I have so much I want to share with you from the past couple months, starting with Casa Zinc, a wonderful little boutique hotel in Uruguay that we loved so, so much.

We discovered Casa Zinc on the i-escape site last spring when we were doing research on where to stay in South America. While we knew we would mostly be renting homes, not hotels, there was something about Casa Zinc that really appealed to us, and we figured it would be nice to stay in a hotel for our first few days in Uruguay to get acquainted with the area. We’re so glad we did! Staying in Casa Zinc and becoming friends with the super charming owner, Aaron Hojman, paved the way for a memorable month in Uruguay. It was thanks to Aaron that we received many great recommendations, met so many interesting people, made wonderful friends, and had some of our favourite experiences in South America.

But let me tell you more about this special place…

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casa zinc school room

Aaron, an antique collector and design guru, built this hotel just seven years ago (only seven!) using vintage and reclaimed materials. Everything from the floorboards to the bathroom taps! The result is a cosy, charming hotel that looks and feels like it’s been there forever. (Even the giant olive tree in the courtyard was trucked in on a lorry to feature prominently in that pretty space.)

We stayed in two connecting rooms, a standard room for Michael and me (and Marlow), and the ‘back to school’ room with three single beds for the other kids. It was perfect. The kids loved the big chalkboard and maps on the walls in their room.

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Casa Zinc courtyard
Casa Zinc bocce ball

After a delicious breakfast in the dining room each morning, we did homeschooling in the charming courtyard for a few hours before hitting the beach. In the evenings, we would return to the hotel to play bocce ball (often with Aaron’s son Milos) before going out for dinner in one of the local restaurants. We loved the relaxed atmosphere and the cosy interiors. It truly made us feel right at home and welcomed in beautiful Uruguay.

Uruguay is such a gem of a country, like a hidden secret sandwiched in between its much bigger neighbours, Brazil and Argentina, which often receive more hype. It’s safe, it’s beautiful, the people are extremely warm and friendly, and there are so many charming beach towns along the coast, all within easy driving distance. We loved it so much and definitely recommend visiting if you get the chance. You can read more about Casa Zinc and view availability on the i-escape site.

Courtney x

Moulin Roty rag doll

Marlow opening presents

Marlow and doll

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My sister flew to New Zealand to meet us for Christmas, arriving late on Christmas eve after the kids had already gone to bed.  The children woke extra early on Christmas morning because of the excitement of seeing her and were even more excited to see that she had brought them each a small present. Lucky kiddos.

Meaghan gave Marlow this soft rag doll from Moulin Roty, and it’s so, so cute. I love the pairing of the pretty fabrics of the dress and the bloomers, and the little knitted bonnet is so sweet. I also love that it’s cosy to sleep with and squishes up into a suitcase or backpack – perfect for travel.

I know the gift-giving season is over, but this is a good one to bookmark for upcoming birthdays or other occasions. There’s a similar version of the doll at Cottage Toys as well, equally cute. And a boy doll as well!

Courtney x

Orlando (The Marmalade Cat) A Seaside Holiday by Kathleen Hale

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In the October half-term holiday we took off to Cornwall for a few days of much needed rest & recuperation.  We had no expectations about the weather (well this is England!) we just packed our wellies and braced ourselves for fresh air, exploring new territory and plenty of fish & chips out of the paper.

We found our beautiful Georgian sea-front holiday house through Kid & Coe and it couldn’t have been more perfect.  Our hosts had thought of everything!  When we arrived they greeted us with open arms and whilst they filled us in on all the activities we could do over the days of our stay, the local fisherman turned up – we bought a Dover Sole (caught only hours before).  Then we realised it was late on Sunday and we had no provisions to cook it with so our hosts came round with olive-oil, lemon, potatoes and mange-tout and helped us prepare our welcome feast.  We knew then that this holiday was going to be great.

The house was equipped for everything and whilst I had bought a stack of books for the kids it was far more exciting rummaging through the books in the sea-trunks in the bedrooms.  With her impressive eye for detail, our host Antonia had filled the trunks with classic stories of the sea.  Our children plunged right into them.

We have an Orlando book at home but this story of ‘The Seaside Holiday‘ was new to me too.  Whilst the book has a taste of the ’50s (when it was written) the book still feels fresh and the characters even more so.  In this story Orlando and his family (I adore his fabulous wife, Grace!) take up the offer to go to the Seaside with Vulcan the cart-horse and his wife and foal.  It is a story of friendship, conflict, heroes and bad-guys turned good.  The story is a little crazy and jumps between adventures but everything comes together by the end and you are left quite satisfied by the journey.

A great book to read snuggled on a sofa looking at a sea-view (if you can!).

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You can buy this book on Amazon UK here or in the US here.

A simple knitted beanie!

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One of my many New Years resolutions (which I started over the Christmas period) is to continue making things – just because it makes me happy. ; ) I love watching movies in the evenings, but I also like keeping busy so I have started to try to find simple projects that I can do while relaxing in front of a good movie – which is easier said than done!

My first success story (and there have been a couple of fails, I have to admit) has been this simple pattern for a slouchy beanie. I have made it for my friends, I have made it for my daughters and as a present for my friend’s little twin babies. It is so easy and I love the result. The genius thing about it is that you knit it on a round needle so you never have to do anything other than a simple pearl stitch.

Do let me know if you have any other suggestions for simple projects. I would LOVE to hear!

Emilie

Tell me a Picture (Quentin Blake)

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My favourite subject at school was History of Art – I loved finding out the stories behind a picture and I loved how the more you looked, the more you saw.  I’ve spoken before (here) about taking my kids to art exhibitions in the hope that I can inspire some of my interest to rub off on them and I recently discovered this book which is particularly helpful in my mission.

Back in 2001 Quentin Blake curated an exhibition for the National Gallery called ‘Tell Me a Picture’ and this is the book that accompanied it.  He chose 26 paintings that he personally liked and he curates them alphabetically to ensure they are all treated equally.  He invites us to look at them, ask questions and discover them for ourselves.  The exhibition was introduced by a collection of children, whom Blake drew onto the walls next to the paintings and who told you the name of the artist and maybe the painting too and themselves gave you their point of view “well I feel sorry for the dragon. What has it done to deserve that?” (about ‘Saint George & The Dragon’ by Paolo Uccello) to start you off with your own views and questions.  These characters have made it into this book and for every painting there is a Blake illustration of children already discussing it – it makes for a charming conversation to have with your own children.

This book is not heavy on facts about the paintings chosen (there is a short paragraph about each painting and where the painting can be found at the back of the book).  The paintings have been printed full page to allow us, the readers, to properly study them and make up our own minds – this is more an exercise (or adventure as Blake puts it) at learning to look at art and it’s great fun!

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This book is available to buy here in the UK or here in the US.

-Mo. x

Last-Minute Holiday DIY: Christmas Tree Ornament

Christmas Tree Ornament

December hasn’t been on my side too much this year. I came down with a really bad cold and my immune system has crashed completely. But I’m finally feeling better after a few long weeks and even though Christmas is behind us already (can you believe it?!) we just started with our December crafts. Holidays have only started and I wanted to squeeze in one last fun DIY before the new year. It’s such a darling one and done in a few minutes. I hope you like it.

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Things you need:
Green fleece
Red fleece/felt
Small wooden beads
Nylon thread
Thick needle

First take the green fleece and cut a few (about 5-8) round pieces each different size. Now cut a star out of red fleece (I used the Magic Pen to draw one on first).

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Tie a knot around one bead and leave a little thread, don’t cut it.

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Thread a few more beads (about 5-7) on the top of the first bead and tuck in the excess thread. This is the trunk of the tree.

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Now make a hole in the middle of each round green piece using a thick needle. Sometimes you need to do this step two or three times.

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Pass the thread through the hole and add one bead on the top.

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Repeat this step until you come to the last round piece.

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Make two holes through the star and pass the thread through both of the holes.

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Voila! Now you only need to make a loop at the end, cut away the excess but leave a tiny bit of it and burn the end so it doesn’t untie.

That is it. So simple and so cute, aren’t they?

Ps. Wouldn’t they look great as a part of present decoration?

I wish you all amazing holidays and the most magical New Year!

-Polona

To read more from Polona, go to her cute blog Baby Jungle!

December giveaways!

We hope you’ve all had a wonderful, restful holiday week. We’ve been enjoying some treasured time with our families this week, and some rare (and much needed) time off our computers. We hope you have too! Before it’s too late, we quickly wanted to remind you about the giveaways for December. Santa may have come and gone, but these lovely prizes make perfect presents any time.

Storytime mag

Storytime is a wonderful magazine for kids with fabulous stories, gorgeous illustrations, puzzles and games. (Oh, and their subscriptions make a great last-minute present idea too!) They’ve put together a bumper festive pack of story goodies worth over £100 to give away to one lucky winner!

Lexypexy

LexyPexy is giving away £50 vouchers for their site to two lucky winners! Take your pick from their stylish, fun, eco-friendly, USA-made teethers and toys.

Bryony and co

Bryony and Co. is giving away a complete outfit to one very lucky winner! You can win a full-skirted Martha red check dress, a classic navy lurex cardigan and a red check hair bow! How perfect for the season!

Sapling

Sapling make luxuriously soft organic cotton babywear featuring exclusive designs. They’re making one mama or papa very happy with £100 worth of store credit this month!

You can see all the prizes here and entering is super easy. Good luck!

Llamas!

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My friend Lisa just sent me a link to Larry the Llama at Land of Nod with a note telling me it reminded her of the fluffy llamas we recently saw in Santa Cruz, Chile. Yes!! It’s so true! How cute is Larry?! The perfect little ride-on toy/decór object! It makes me wish I had children’s bedrooms to decorate right now.

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Speaking of llamas, there is also this cute wooden llama rattle from Brimful shop…

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This organic cotton shirt with llama print from Waddler

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…and this buttoned vest from HBB Industria Argentina!

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Thank you, Lisa, for inspiring a bit of late-night random web searching for llamas! : ) (And woohoo for finally having wifi again after three weeks without it!) Happy almost Christmas everyone.

Courtney xx

Christmas Eve at The Mellops’, written by Tomi Ungerer

Christmas Eve at the MellopsI recently read an article on the Icelandic tradition of gifting a book on Christmas Eve and then spending the evening reading it. Isn’t it such a lovely idea? The thought of each of us cosying up on Christmas Eve with the fire lit and the tree lights sparkling, reading a new book is just perfect to me. It is a tradition which I’d like to begin this year and with so many gorgeous Christmassy books out there it’s such an easy tradition to adopt.

One book I recently picked up from Caramel Baby & Child is Christmas Eve at The Mellop’s. It’s a rather quirky read with such a fine moral. When each of the young Mellop pigs decide to spring a surprise on their father in finding a tree for the house they are dismayed upon their return only to find their father already has one. They make a group decision to gift their trees to the hospital, to the local orphanage and to the prison. However, each of these places already has one. It’s only until they come across a poor child in the street who’s family is less fortunate and so the pigs find the finest place for the trees.

Written and illustrated by French man Tomi Ungerer the illustrations are bold and humorous, and his use of only three colours gives the book a warm calming spirit.

Still available from Caramel Baby & Child and also from Amazon (US) and Amazon (UK).

Happy Holidays!!
Vanessa xx

A weekend in… Marseille

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Living in continental Europe has the distinct advantage that our next adventure is probably only a few hours away by train. I love picking up a magazine and a coffee, waiting for our train to arrive, settling into my seat with a good book and seeing the French countryside flash by.

Marseille, France’s second largest city is about three hours away from Paris. It is such an easy journey right from the centre of Paris and when you step out of the train, you truly are on holiday. Now, Marseille used to have a bit of a bad rep which is quickly disappearing and for good reason: it is a seriously amazing place to visit.

We went at the very end of October and still got to swim in the sea! The nature around Marseille is stunning and we did not even hire a car, we explored everything with the local buses.

So here is a little list of the things we loved about Marseille:

On arrival we walked straight into the Tourist Office (something I do every time on arriving in a new city). I explained what we wanted to do and was given all the information we needed – I love, love French Tourist Offices.

We stayed with friends close to la Plage des Catalans, a local beach which is in  walking distance from the city centre. It is by no means the most beautiful beach I have ever been to, but the kids jumped straight into the water. If you can imagine that they had come straight off a train from rainy, cold Paris – it was paradise to them. The restaurant on the beach serves descent pasta and pizza and a cheeky glass of rosé.

The next day we packed a picnic and took 2 local buses out of Marseille to hike over to one of the Calanques, the bus ride took about 20 minutes. It was a beautiful trip – a great hike through a forest and hills and then the reward of a beautiful inlet with crystal blue water.

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The last day we explored the city. Marseille’s old harbour has recently been redone. There is an amazing new museum called the MuCEM, specialising in Mediterranean culture right on the water front that you access via the old castle walls. We spent a whole afternoon there, exploring the grounds and the exhibits and the nearby cathedral – the setting is phenomenal.

Harbour

 

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We bought fresh seafood off the fishermen in the old port to cook at home and also went for a final swim as it was impossible to keep the kids out of the water for the very last time before the start of winter.

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It was so simple and easy and fun! I really recommend it to anyone needing a break (can I point out that a lot of the above photos were taken on the 1st of November!!).

Emilie

Ida Pearl — The Moon is going to Addy’s House

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When we were in NY for our ShopUp event recently, I had the pleasure of meeting the beautiful Ida Pearl, artist, writer, violinist and illustrator. Ida and I had a long chat, and we experienced that funny but special click people sometimes have when they have just met each other — that feeling of comfort, as if you have known each other for a long time.

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Ida told me about becoming a mum, about the recent loss of her dad, and about the long journey of writing her beautiful book The Moon is going to Addy’s House. She told me it took her over five years to create this book — based on a simple story, a beautiful memory — simple, but by itself so strong it sums up everything about Ida’s loved, cherished, secure and safe childhood.

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The Moon is going to Addy’s House is a playful story about a little girl and her sister, on the way to their country home in the back of their car, playing hide and seek with the moon, which is following them in the sky above. It’s a sweet story my children love — they love the familiarity, they love pointing to the moon and the other sweet illustrations. But there’s also something soothing, more extensive about this book: the deep, thoughtful illustrations, so sensitive in their straightforwardness, and the fact that the moon is always there, as a metaphor for parental love and consistency. I think this is what makes this sweet book so relevant as only a classic can ever be.

Definitely a recommendation, and if you are a parent who sadly once lost a parent, this book will emanate a feeling of comfort and familiarity for you as well.

xxx Esther

Two books by Ruth Krauss & Maurice Sendak

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I had my first child over eight years ago and can’t believe I didn’t find these books until this year – I know I will buy them for every baby born from here on out!!!  In fact I want to buy them for every Mum I know – knowing the enjoyment they will get from reading these little curiosities.

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I’ll be You and You Be Me is a collection of observations and odd little poems that feel injected with child’s perspective – you know when your kid says something so sweet – which is not quite right, a bit muddled but perfect and actually strangely insightful?  Those things we all say we should write down to remember (I try but most of the time forget by the time paper and pencil are to hand).  This book feels like it is made up of those things.  Ruth Krauss’s writing and ideas is the closest I have ever experienced to capturing the beauty of children’s imagination.  And to be accompanied by Maurice Sendak!!!  His small, sweet illustrations are perfectly fitting.

My favourite observation in the book is on love; “love is they could push you down in the grass and it doesn’t even hurt – love is the same as like only you spell them different – only more of the same, sort of – Love has more stuff in it! Love is you give them a leg off your gingerbread man. No, two legs, And the head!” Isn’t that just so right?!

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A Hole is to Dig is a book of first definitions.  Imagine asking kids what a face is for?  well, “a face is for making faces” – of course!!!! This book is full of those kind of definitions – just as a child would see the world!  To that effect grown-ups will love these books almost more then the children – young children may just think it is all very accurate!!! However my 6 and 8 year old howl with laughter at some of the definitions: Hands: “are to hold” or “to hold up when you want your turn”, A Package: “is to look inside” and Mashed Potatoes: “are to give everybody enough”.  But there are also some very very true observations that I guess we would all agree with Children: “are to be loved”.

I’ll Be You and You Be Me is available in the UK here and the US here.

A Hole is to Dig is available in the UK here and the US here.

Mo. x

Our Third London ShopUp: Day 2

We started day two of the ShopUp with more sold-out workshops from The Mamahood — the wreath-making workshop with Bloom & Wild (seen below) was a particular hit.

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We love The Mamahood’s mission to build community amongst mums in their local communities. We are looking forward to watching them expand over the next few years!

Once the workshops finished, Santa resumed his place in his grotto. His schedule was quite full of excited children (and hesitant babies!), but he still found time to charm us all with songs and jokes, and even down a few mince pies from the cafe.

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We had so much fun meeting all the shoppers who came from far and wide to visit our amazing shops. Given the number of bags we saw them leaving with, it seems that they had fun as well!

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Another big thank you to our major sponsors who supported this event: Eve Mattress, The London Gifting Studio, and Childcare.co.uk. It was a pleasure working with each of you!

Now to start planning our spring event in L.A.!

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Thank you to Sarah Winborn for the beautiful photos (we can’t wait to see the video she is working on for us as well)!

Our Third London ShopUp: Day 1

We were thrilled to see so many of you at our third London ShopUp! We truly couldn’t have been happier with how it all went. We had some of the absolute best children’s shops in the world join us, and they were each truly spectacular — so many beautiful products. (You can see a full list of who joined us by clicking here.)

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This year’s ShopUp also brought us a wide array of fun and festive activities. The kids loved the beautiful, interactive Christmas trees that Starting With Art dreamed up.

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Adults and kids alike loved the braid bar from Ruuby!

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Thank you to those of you helped to support our charity beneficiary, mothers2mothers. They were there wrapping gifts and chatting about the amazing “Mentor Mothers” they work with in sub-Saharan Africa who are trained, employed, and empowered to teach other mothers how to prevent the spread of HIV. If you missed the opportunity to support this incredible organisation, you can do so now by clicking here! Donating as little as £3 can make a real difference in the lives of these women.

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Perhaps our favourite addition to this year’s ShopUp was Father Christmas! He was with us both Thursday and Friday and was, by far, the best Father Christmas we have ever seen (obviously because he was the REAL Santa!). He listened intently to each child, asking questions, clarifying gift requests, and posing for photos both from parents and from our elf with an instant camera.

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It is no surprise that Santa’s elves did some shopping at Hedgehog in preparation for Santa’s visit to the ShopUp. Their classic toys are always a hit with kids of all ages!

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Santa’s beautiful paper flower backdrop was from the talented women behind the Paper Flower Wedding who handmade each of these gorgeous flowers! His furniture was lent to us from sofa.com (who can still get a beautiful new couch to you in time for Christmas!).

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We want to give a massive thank you to all of our sponsors who helped make this event such a success. A particularly large thank you goes out to our major sponsors: Eve Mattress, The London Gifting Studio, and Childcare.co.uk. We had so much fun getting to know Eve Mattress and The London Gifting Studio who were able to join us at the event.

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Also a massive thank you to (the adorable) Nina Weinreich who provided bubbles for us on Thursday evening! The Weinreich wines are so deliciously flavourful, and we always love seeing Nina!

If you can believe it, this was only a recap of day one! We have another post on the second day coming to you soon, so stay tuned!

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Thank you to Lesley Colvin who supplied us with all these gorgeous photos!

Alfajores!

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It’s difficult to think of a time when we didn’t know what an ‘alfajor’ was… but the truth is that we’ve only just discovered these delicious treats since arriving to Uruguay 6 weeks ago. They are now our most favourite cookies ever! Alfajores are a very common Latin American cookie, most common in Argentina and Uruguay (with Argentina being the biggest consumer according to Wikipedia).

When we were in Uruguay last month, we were lucky to have our Argentinian friend (and lover and baker of alfajores), Delfina from Fanny & Alexander, show us how to make them. We spent a wonderful afternoon making two different types of alfajores. By the end of the cooking session, the kids had managed to mix up the two different doughs and the result was a marbled alfajore, our very own Adamo version. : )

The kids had so much fun making them that they declared it the ‘best day ever’. If you know her, you’ll know that Delfina has this affect on children.

Delfina has very kindly shared her recipes – both for the cream-coloured ‘Alfajores de Maicena’ with grated lime as well as the chocolate alfajores in chocolate coating. Both are delicious!!

Below are the recipes…
dipping alfajores into coconut

squeezing dulce de leche on alfajores

Marlow making alfajores

Alfajores de Maicena / Cornstarch Alfajores sprinkled with lime zest
-70 grams of butter
-1 cup sugar
-3 egg yolks
-1 lemon (zest)
-1 cup of cornstarch
-1 cup wheat flour
-10 grams of baking powder (roughly 2 teaspoons)
-250 grams of Dulce de Leche
-25 grams of shredded coconut
-1 lime (or above lemon) grated for zest on top

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour the tray.
Using an electric mixer beat the butter and the sugar until it is light and fluffy. Add the 3 yolks, and the lemon zest of half a lemon. In a separate bowl whisk together flour, baking powder and the cornstarch.
Add dry elements in the first bowl (with the sugar and the yolks) and combine ingredients using your hands until becomes a dough.
On a floured surface, roll dough to 0.5 cm thick. Cut into small circles, keeping in mind they are going to be the final size of the alfajor. Bake them for a few minutes (5-10) until cooked. Spread dulce de leche on cooked dough and create a sandwich.
Finally, rotate the edges of the alfajor in shredded coconut.
Ass a garnish you night want to add lemon or lime zest on the top of the alfajor, the zest also serves to offset the sweetness of the dulce de leche.
Tip: if the dough is too dry add more egg yolk not water, the water makes the alfajores harder.
The alfajores always taste better a few days old rather than fresh.

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dipping alfajores into chocolate

Alfajores de Chocolate
-1 cup of cornstarch
-1/2 cup wheat flour
-70 grams of butter
-3 Egg yolk
-1 cup sugar
-½ cup cocoa powder
-250 grams of Dulce de Leche
-25 grams of dried coconut
-10 grams of baking powder (roughly 2 teaspoons)
-1 orange zest
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour the tray.
Using an electric mixer beat the butter and the sugar until it is light and fluffy. Add the 3 yolks, and the orange zest of half a lemon. In a separate bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, cocoa powder and the cornstarch.
Add dry elements in the first bowl (with the sugar and the yolks) and combine ingredients using your hands until becomes a dough. On a floured surface, roll dough to 0.5 cm thick. Cut into small circles, keeping in mind they are going to be the final size of the alfajor. Bake them for a few minutes until cooked. Spread dulce de leche on cooked dough and create a sandwich. Finally, dip into chocolate sauce:

Chocolate coating
-1 bar of Chocolate
-25 gr of butter

Melt chocolate in a bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. Add butter mixed until combined.
When the chocolate is liquid set aside and quickly soak the alfajor entirely. To settle place the chocolate soaked alfajor on a cooling rack. And enjoy! Alfajores are rare in that they only get better (softer!) the older they are, so they’re best to eat 2-3 days after making…. if they last that long! ; )

Macarons, in Amsterdam and at the ShopUp today

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A little while back, we spent a fun weekend morning with our friends Veit and Julie from the German brand Macarons who visited us in Amsterdam together with their cute girls Cécile and Cleo. They also brought their friend the photographer Oliver Kröning along, who took some really cool snapshots during the day.

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We had a long lunch and then all went to the park for a stroll. Those are the best kind of weekends, I feel — long and lazy days with lovely food and lovely company!

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It was such a fun, relaxed day — with all of us wearing pieces of the newest Macarons collection. (Yes, there are adult jumpers available now, and how awesome is that green colour?)

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Macarons is here in London today for the ShopUp event (I’m writing this post from the café, while there’s a lovely buzz going on around me. It’s been such a great event so far, and there is so much more fun to come!)

xxx Esther

PS Congrats to the Macarons family with their newest baby, a little boy called Charles, born just two weeks ago! : )

Kids Cook French, by Claudine Pépin

Kids-Cook-French-(1)I’m so excited to share this book with you! It ticks all the right boxes for me: a cookbook for kids that is sophisticated, recipes which makes children want to enjoy real, wholesome food and delicate illustrations highlighting the beauty of the traditional French kitchen.

Kid’s Cook French is a book curated by a whole family and it’s intended to be enjoyed by the whole family. (Together with her husband, Claudine wrote the recipes, while her father and her daughter worked on the illustrations). Claudine Pepin advocates there no such thing as “kids food”, only “good food”. She truly believes the kitchen is the heart of the home and I love how she writes a note for children in the beginning of the book explaining cooking is fun; it makes people happy!

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My eldest daughter, Helena, was really keen to choose what she wanted to cook herself after this wonderful message from Claudine. So she took pen to market paper and wrote down her shopping list. Her first recipe was sauteed white fish in a secret sauce. I was so impressed with the simplicity of the recipes (considering they sounded so exquisite) as Helena hardly asked for help from me.

market-list-2Next up she made herb-roasted pototoes which having made it several times now has become a family favourite. It’s so simple and so absolutely delicious!

pommes-de-terre-roties-aux-herbesKid’s Cook French is a cookbook containing 30 glorious recipes, grouped as starters, mains, sides and desserts. Each recipe is written in both English and French which I think is awesome to encourage Helena’s (and my) French skills. The illustrations are as exquisite as the food to be cooked and I enjoyed the notes on each recipe, most of which are family anecdotes. This is a superb book which excites us about seasonal cooking. It’s a book which has yet to be included in our book shelf as we’re using it so often. As Claudine says, “family mealtimes are essential to communicate, to bond together, to laugh, to argue, to share, and to enjoy life” – I know you will all love this book.

Available online from Amazon (US) and (UK).

Happy cooking!!
Vanessa xx

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