Dabbawalla Bags & Packs

I first discovered these awesome Dabbawalla bags while my kids and I were visiting a friend over the summer. My son got the opportunity to go to his buddy’s camp for a couple days, but he needed a lunchbox, so we borrowed his friend’s Dabbawalla and I was instantly hooked. See, I have this issue with lunchboxes. I hate almost all of them. I buy them very frequently though, in hopes that the next will be “the one”. Alas, junk sticks in the corners even after rinsing, the metal ones rust, the cute soft lunchboxes get thrashed, and the worst are those that test positive for lead(!!). I’ve tried them all. The reason I so loved this Dabbawalla one was because it’s totally machine-washable, it has no corners for crumbs, it’s light enough for kids to tote around, and the design is simple and clean. And they’re made from an eco-friendly neoprene-like fabric that carries a certification which tests for over a hundred harmful substances. Perfect!

(Available in the UK from Peanut & Pip.)


Talking Fingers

My 5-year-old son was ready to start reading last summer and I didn’t know where to begin. He’s crazy about superheroes and villains and his favorite books are action-packed, and I was thrilled to find an online learn-to-read program that got my beginning reader’s attention the minute he saw the action figures. It’s called Talking Fingers. Admittedly, the site itself could use some aesthetic and navigational improvements, but we clicked on the link for a free kids’ demo of the “Read, Write and Type Learning System” and he was off and running. His job was to defeat a green, snarling villain named ‘Vexor the Virus’ who tries to steal letters from storytellers. I helped him out for a little while and then my 3-year-old started to wail so I left him on his own. Animations called ‘Lefty LaDee’ and ‘Right Way McKay’ showed him where to put his fingers on the keyboard so he could type a letter. From the kitchen I could hear him pronounce sounds like “h” “th” and “sss” – and I heard him whoop when he won a game and watched Vexor blow away in defeat. We signed up for the whole program, very inexpensive at $35, and by the time Kindergarten started my son was in love with letters and the sounds they made. He was proud of his four “certificates” – and eager to get more.


Children’s Photographer Emily Ulmer

The arrival of my children triggered an obsession with capturing every important (and not so important) moment with my digital camera. My amateur photography skills have developed, though perhaps not at the same speed as my little ones. I still haven’t quite mastered the understated photographic style I’ve always loved in my favorite design and European kids magazines.
When I saw the work of children’s photographer Emily Ulmer, I was so impressed by photographs that captured the innocence of childhood, but with the added sophistication of an editorial layout. These are no Sears Portraits– no forced smiles here. Emily’s style captures the thoughtful and pensive moments as well as the sweet and silly ones.


Author! Author! Scribble Press

Here in Los Angeles if there’s anything more prized than making movies it’s writing stories that become movies. Maybe that’s why LA was a natural place for Scribble Press, a make-your-own-book store where children can write, illustrate and publish their own books. Created by two mommy friends, this simple and reasonably priced press — a storefront with desks, art materials, and story templates to stimulate ideas — was an instant hit with my five-year-old son. To my amazement he was able to write and illustrate a story in a two-hour visit and watch it turn into a real book. At first I thought the writing process might be too difficult for a kiddo his age, but I was assured that much younger kids had authored before him. (more…)

The Children’s Nature Institute: Tykes on Trails Program

I was so excited to come across Tykes on Trails — guided trail walks for youngsters to learn about local flora and fauna. I signed up for a program at nearby Temescal Canyon Park and it was such a fun activity. After a non-strenuous, sweet little hike, we came home with stories to tell about shamrocks seen through a magnifying glass, acorns that fell from a tree, rocks you could skip across a stream, and a treasured lizard tattoo for my son. (I got a butterfly). Our walk leader gave us a plant clipping in a wet strip of paper towel, ready to put in water by the kitchen window until it grew some roots. This hands-on learning is such a great experience for kids. They LOVE it and the leaders are incredibly knowledgeable and able to keep the attention of the little explorers. As the walk leader says, the kids are in training to be “nature spies.” How cool?!

x Kaela

Summer Sweetness: Upside Down Fig Cake

Living in Los Angeles, we’re so fortunate to have an abundance of fresh, organic and local produce year round. You can find farmer’s markets every day of the week in a multitude of L.A. neighborhoods with readily available, inspiring ingredients. One of the ingredients that I get particularly excited about each year is the fig. When figs are in season, I can’t get enough of this beautiful, sweet, fleshy fruit. I could eat them served just about any way – whole and fresh, mixed with yogurt and honey, in savory Moroccan dishes, and in this delectable, moist fig cake courtesy of my good friend Jules who frequents the markets every week, searches for the best of the best produce and creates dishes for her family and her blog, Renaissance Mamas that positively make my mouth water. Her cake is similar to the pineapple upside down, with the added sophistication of the succulent fig. I think it would be even more delicious with a big dollop of lightly sweetened crème fraiche. Yummmmm…  Here’s the recipe: (more…)

Arbor Collective Skateboards

Like most little boys, my son wanted one of these four-wheelers for himself after he first laid eyes on some local skaters enjoying their rides. We went through several superhero-themed “kid” skateboards only to come to the conclusion that they were practically disposable due to poor quality and cheap materials, not to mention the absence of any decent performance. I realized that this was an activity not soon to be outgrown, (most of my friends’ husbands are still proud owners of at LEAST one) and decided it was time to step it up a few notches for something with staying power. I turned to Arbor Collective.  I loved the sleek design and use of natural wood. I also happily discovered that on top of incredible aesthetics, performance and craftsmanship, Arbor is committed to creating products in the most environmentally responsible way possible and the owners fully stand behind every snowboard and skateboard they make. They use ecologically based alternatives to harmful chemicals, water-based finishes and recycled materials to produce impressive skateboards in a huge variety of shapes and sizes with designs by featured artists (this mini Pocket Rocket is the choice for my eldest). Arbor Collective has a sweet little showroom in Venice with friendly, helpful staff, and their website tells you about other places you can purchase their products. Have fun!

x Kaela

I Dreamt I was a Dinosaur

When I became a mom, I always knew I wanted to create a household centered around learning, and what better tool than a book? I have books for the kids to peruse in each room of the house for whenever they get the urge, and I’ve tried to supply them with a wide mix of books from basic picture books to classic story books to educational books.
Of course many of our children’s books are on every parent’s reading list — Shel Silverstein, Maurice Sendak, Mo Willems (who doesn’t love Knuffle Bunny?!), the Charlie and Lola books by Lauren Child, H.A. Rey’s Curious George, etc.
Recently I found some serious “boy” books that have interesting multi-media elements in their illustrations that I believe stimulate a different type of creativity in boys.
One of our favorites is I Dreamt I Was a Dinosaur by Stella Blackstone and Clare Beaton. This book is about rough-and-tumble dinos in prehistoric jungles, but the original illustrations are made not with pen and paper, but with hand-embroidered fabrics and trims. Toby Pteradactyl is a flying pink dino with a button for an eye, and dip-dyed lace for scales! Shells, tiny seed beads and sequins adorn the dinosaurs, volcanoes, and prehistoric plants. My favorite are the gorgeous trees on the inside jacket made from frayed cord and string. (more…)

The Santa Monica Airport — fun for the kids!

For most of us living in Southern California, kids + outdoor activities = the way to go. Yes, of course we have many parks and beaches (and parks AT beaches), and I definitely have my favorites, but here’s a different idea (at least to those who don’t know about it yet!) – the Santa Monica Airport. “Airplane” being one of my son’s first words, I knew that this would be a home run when I first discovered from another parent its entertainment potential (other than a possible ‘Brangelina’ sighting). This small, un-crowded, easily accessible airport is a great spot for KIDS!

Once you reach the “public view deck” of this little unassuming airpot, voilà – you have front row seats to take-offs and landings! My son was enthralled and totally mesmerized each time a little prop plane or private jet would arrive or take to the sky – or even just start to taxi on the runway. (more…)

Get Your Glow On

When I was pregnant it came to me that what was going on my body was also going in my body. I was conscientiously eating organic food while I paid very little attention to the ingredients in my cosmetic products.
After my daughter, baby #2, was born, I figured make-up could be a quick fix for a life that was short on sleep. I wanted to appear composed and rested (how about beautiful — would that be too much to ask?) and at the same time I was determined to be healthy. I began to search for natural cosmetic products. The make-up shelf at the natural food store was a start, but I was far from convinced that the ‘naturalness’ behind the products justified the cost.
Enter Josie Maran Cosmetics. Josie Maran, eco-activist, Los Angeles-based model and mother came up with a line of natural cosmetics, free of petrochemicals and toxins found in most commercial brands. I came across her line at a launch party for a cool women’s “green” website that offered complimentary mini makeovers using Josie’s make-up. I felt great about the company’s commitment to the environment, and I felt great about their commitment to a fabulous product. I went home that night with a sample of JMC Organic Argan Oil in my goody bag. I had never heard of Argan oil, and there was a mini education in that product alone. Argan is a light, nourishing oil from the Moroccan Argan tree’s seed, believed to have potent anti-aging properties – a plus for us “mature” mamas! All Argan sold today is produced by a women’s cooperative that shares the profits among women of the Berber tribe. (more…)

Ships Ahoy! See-Saw Swing from Haba

We got this fantastic Ships See-Saw Swing for my son’s fourth birthday and his boat-themed party, and it really is the gift that keeps on giving. It was and continues to be SUCH a huge hit with the kids – my own and every single friend that comes over to play. We attached it to our swing set where it’s easily removable when we want to swap it for the regular swing. This was our best option as we’re lacking the great, big tree branch that would be a perfect home for a swinging sailboat to take kids to far away fantasy lands of storms, pirates and princesses. The swing has another convenient feature — holding many children at once (we’ve had up to seven), thus avoiding the dreaded and inevitable “my turn, MY turn!!” from the less-than-patient youngster.
There are several places to purchase it online, or if you’re in Los Angeles, check it out at The Acorn Store in Santa Monica. This is my go-to spot for creative and wooden toys – great for gifts!


Pedal Power

Having recently returned from one of my all-time favorite cities in the world, as well as Esther’s stomping ground — Amsterdam, I now have a serious case of bicycle-itis. The whole bicycle culture over there is just completely enchanting to me. Visions of every age using the power of the pedal as the main form of transportation, unlike Los Angeles, where the smallest of errands usually entails a full car load up. Not only that, but the bikes in Amsterdam are works of art as far as I’m concerned. My husband and I would duck into any bike shop we’d come across and excitedly “choose” which style ride we needed to have in our possession back in the States. My kids couldn’t get enough of piling into a cargo bike and away we’d go! And not only does bike riding appeal to my “green” side, it appeals to my “fun” side and totally takes me back to my childhood and the feeling of freedom that goes along with riding a bike. The geography of L.A. makes it highly unlikely (i.e. only in my dreams) to become a bicycle driven city, but that does not mean we can’t have our own little slice of the Dutch life. Thanks to the super friendly brother duo, Adam and Josef Bray-Ali, owners of Flying Pigeon LA, we Angelenos now have direct access to the SUVs of bicycle family fun. (more…)

Hello from Los Angeles

I am so excited to be the newest member of the fabulous Babyccino women! As a mother, a lover of great design and a frequent traveler, Babyccino Kids was such a great discovery for me. Besides having the pleasure of becoming friends with the amazing Esther, Courtney & Emilie, the posts have been so helpful when revisiting cities like Amsterdam, Paris and London with kids for the first time, which can be challenging to say the least! I am thrilled to now be able to share my city, Los Angeles, with all the interested readers near and far. L.A. is huge, so we have quite a bit to cover! There are a TON of things to see and do (and buy!), and it’s a great place to visit with kids. I’m looking forward to sharing the fun with you all!