Aether Cone, a Thinking Music Player

Cone Thinking Music PlayerI’m sure every family is the same, but we love a bit of a swing in ours. Very often, after breakfast or dinner, we turn up the volume and dance in our living room. It’s crazy! We all join in, and it’s just so much fun. And very often, we end up with a big fat group hug in the end.

Also, sometimes when I’ve had a busy and difficult day, and I feel stressed and tired and my patience is low, it helps to get up and move, to be crazy, and sing along. Music surely is medication for the soul.

casper dancing on cone music player dancing children

It has recently become much easier for our children to initiate their own dancing because the awesome Aether Cone entered our house. The Aether Cone is not only a striking music player (in fact the most beautiful looking one I’ve ever seen), it’s also incredibly easy to understand and to work. Not only easy for me (too many buttons and screens put me off completely), but really handy for the kids as well! The only thing they need to do, is press the center button and ask out loud for any artist, song, or radio. Within seconds, the Cone will be playing their choice and our family will be in full swing!

dance2 dance3

And last weekend, my dad was here, and he just had the best of times with the Cone as well. He kept thinking of song and artists from his childhood (the early sixties), and voila — the Cone followed his commands without fail. Just to indicate how simple and fun it is to work with!

I’ve also understood that the more we use the Cone, the better it will get at playing the songs we love. I’m currently writing this with some lovely random background music in the background — I just took the Cone into my office (it’s portable with an 8-hour rechargeable battery). On the associated app on my phone I read that right now I’m listening to Isobel Campbell, a Scottish singer-songwriter. Nice suggestion, I must say!

xxx Esther

PS This post is sponored by Aether, a company we respect for making beautifully crafted products that use powerful technology and simple, natural controls to make everyday moments nicer.

Capturing Childhood online photography classes

Capturing Childhood is an online film and photography school offering online courses for getting to know your camera and improving your photography skills. Their courses are meant to inspire and educate, to encourage parents to capture the everyday moments with our children.

I recently enrolled in their Manual Overdrive course with the hope of learning how to use my camera in manual mode (are you like me? do you also have a fancy DSLR camera but have no idea how to use it properly?! I was desperate for some simple tips!). I had never taken an e-course before (!) and was slightly intimidated at first… but after just the first lesson, I realised how cool an e-course can be! The lessons are emailed over to you with a link to the course website. You can work at your own pace, choose when to devote some time to the lessons, participate in the online community boards, and get as involved with the ‘homework’ as you wish to be. I found the lessons to be straightforward and easy to follow. The teachers (Kat Goldin and Kat Molesworth) speak to you with the ease and familiarity of a ‘real’ conversation, making the online lessons more relatable, more personal.

Despite being an admittedly poor student, I did pick up some handy tips for using my camera, and I feel inspired to take more photos! Do take a peek at the Capturing Childhood site. I’ve just spotted they also now offer a ‘Shooting Stories‘ course about making movies!

x Courtney

(Photo from Capturing Childhood)

A video interview with Alexandalexa!

The team from AlexandAlexa came over to my house recently for a little interview (!!) about the children’s fashion world. They wanted to know about Babyccino Kids and how it started, and about how online shopping has shaped the way mums can buy for their kids. They also asked what sort of considerations I make when buying clothes and toys for my kids and to share some of my favourite brands from the AlexandAlexa shop.

So…. I got to put on a bit of make-up (a real make-up artist came over!) and I sat down for a bit of q&a. It was a fun afternoon! I’m slightly nervous about sharing it with all of you — it’s a bit like hearing your own voice on a recording machine — but if you’re interested, you can watch the video here!

xx Courtney

A Christmas Pink Martini

My husband and I have uber-opposite music tastes — it is one of the subjects we get really annoyed with one another about.  However for many years now, one of the Albums we both agree is brilliant is Pink Martini’s Sympathique . If you don’t know Pink Martini — they are a Portland-based group who do ‘lounge’ music inspired from various music genres and styles.  Often doing covers but in such a great, fresh way (bit like Nouvelle Vague, whom I also love).

Their new Christmas album, Joy To The World , is everything you want from a Christmassy album — jazzy, stylish and suitably jingly and their version of White Christmas (Part 1) might even beat Bing’s (I know it is almost sacrilege to say that but it is seriously beautiful!).


Natalie Merchant — Leave Your Sleep

I discovered Natalie Merchant’s new album, Leave Your Sleep, on the Small Magazine blog recently and ordered it immediately. I’ve always been a fan of Natalie Merchant, but when I heard that the lyrics on her new album were interpreted from 19th and 20th century poems and nursery rhymes, I was sucked in.

This new album is a celebration of childhood and motherhood influenced by her relationship with her own daughter and her desire to share the power of poetry and speech with her.  It brings to life the old nursery rhymes and their traditional stories in such a beautiful, wonderful way.

It’s currently playing (on repeat) on my stereo — I love it.  But if you need further convincing, you can hear snippets of each song on her website.


A romantic night… IN

tango3A while ago Esther and I were asked by the new website Domestic Ease to write a post about how to have a romantic night at home, so as not to spend a fortune on restaurants and babysitters. We had a great time writing the post — some of the tips we have actually tried and tested ourselves while the others we will definitely try out in the future…

Here are our ideas for a fabulous date night that won’t break the bank:

1. Prepare a cheese fondue following this recipe, add some French bread and serve a good, dry white wine. Imagine you’re in the Swiss mountains.

2. Buy a (tango) dance instruction DVD and get moving!

3. Borrow (or rent) a display projector and play something hopelessly romantic on a big screen (a piece of white wall or a white bed sheet) in the living room. Cook up some popcorn and make yourselves comfy on a big blanket with pillows. (more…)

A year long photo project

yearoflexThis summer a few blogs published this nice movie which was posted on YouTube. Parents took (at least) one picture of their baby every day for the first year of his life, nearly always in the same position (basically lying on a white sheet). Then they made a movie out of it with a nice soundtrack. I think it’s brilliant!
You need some commitment sure, but it would be such a precious memory. It’s truly amazing to be able to see your baby’s growth in just over 2 minutes.
If you are pregnant now it may be something you could try to do. And personally I guess you could even cheat on a couple of days….


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

Les Chansons et les Comptines

jeanette.jpgHere in France a lot of the songs the children sing have been around for generations. It’s quite cute actually — my daughter is now singing songs that my grandmother sang with me, which have been hidden somewhere in a forgotten part of my brain and which I am now remembering.

So I have picked up a couple of CDs and we listen to them loads and have a bit of a dance-off (though the CDs we have are fun, I have not as of yet found a CD that is outstanding and that I could recommend). I was being a bit slow on the uptake and it is only after a while that I started to tune in and realise that some of the songs are not really politically correct in the world of 2009… (more…)

Under the Sea in 3D!

Under the Sea IMAX filmTaking young kids to the cinema can be risky business.  No matter how great the film is, it will probably end up being too long to keep your kids’ attention, they’ll likely spill the popcorn, talk too much and too loudly, and need several trips to the toilet.  (Can you tell I’ve learned the hard way?)

Last weekend, however, we risked it all and took the boys to see the Under the Sea 3D film at London’s BFI IMAX theatre, and it was a huge, huge hit!

You put the funny glasses on (which my kids loved), take a seat in front of the UK’s largest cinema screen (taller than 5 double decker buses!), and spend roughly 45 minutes feeling like you’re swimming under the sea, literally face-to-face with exotic sea creatures!  My kids thought it was the coolest thing they’ve ever seen!

The IMAX films are short, they’re 3D, and they’re educational. Perfect for kids!  I don’t know why I didn’t think of this before now…


Forum des Images

forum.jpgAfter being completely refurbished, the Forum des Images finally reopened its doors a couple of months ago. Founded about 20 years ago, the Forum is Paris’ premier film library and cultural cinema venue.

The new Forum is fantastic, and a stark contrast to the ugly Forum des Halles shopping centre that houses it. (The Forum des Halles is now also up for a major refurbishment, so hopefully what is known as the eyesore of Paris, will finally disappear). It does mean that the Forum des Images is right in the centre of Paris and very easily accessible.

One of the major attractions are the children’s film screenings. There are screenings every weekend and on Wednesdays. At the moment, during mid-term holidays, there is a very popular children’s film festival on. Films start from 18 months onwards. The choice varies from classic art school films to old classic Disney films. (more…)


lol.jpgIn the US and other English speaking countries you had the “Breakfast Club”. In France we had a movie called “La Boum”, the ultimate 1980s teen movie. It was the movie that propelled Sophie Marceau into stardom. It had a very simple plot: teenage girl fancies boy and wants to have a party at her house and in parallel her parents are having marital problems… It all results in a happy ending. The whole package came with a catchy soundtrack and we all LOVED it.

Some clever French Film writer has revived the idea and a film called LOL  just came out in France; this time casting Sophie Marceau in the role of the mother instead of the daughter. I went to see it recently with a girlfriend (we loved it) and it turned out to be a very seminal moment in my life. I suddenly realised that I was not identifying with the teenage heroine but with her mother!!! I don’t think that has ever happened to me before. Granted she is a trendy, good looking mother… but still, I think I have finally realised that I am not a teenager anymore. (more…)

Dear Little Heart

Dear Little Heart CDI know it’s completely normal… but being pregnant with my third baby is so, so much different than the first, or even second time around.  For one, I’m so distracted by my two monsters running around that I hardly have time to think about a third.  And second, after already being pregnant twice before, I am more relaxed about everything.

I recently opened up a pregnancy week-by-week book (for the first time this pregnancy) to encourage myself to focus on this baby’s development.   From 20 weeks on, the book said, your baby’s hearing is fully developed and so he can hear your voice and other sounds outside the womb.  I should be talking to my baby, bonding with him or her already!

Just as I was feeling guilty about being a bad mum to number three, I got a lovely e-mail from Andrea Caro telling me about her CD, Dear Little Heart, designed especially for mums and their bumps!  (more…)

Last Christmas

whamn.jpgA few days ago my husband was dropping our daughter off at school and was stopped by the head mistress. “Monsieur” she said, “your daughter has been singing a beautiful English Christmas carol at school. Can you give us the words to it, as we want to teach it to all the kids.” My husband was not sure which song she was talking about, so he asked our daughter to sing it for him. She very dutifully obliged and much to his horror launched into a complete rendition of “Last Christmas” by Wham

I love the fact that an ’80s pop song got lost in translation and became, to the ears of a French person, a wonderful children’s Christmas carol.

What are we going to do? The head mistress is expecting us to turn up with some wise words about mistletoe, stars and angels. Instead we are going to turn up with a song that might be seminal to a lot of people of our generation, but let’s face it, George Michael is not famous for his traditional, child-friendly song writing skills…. I am not sure that the head mistress, who is a formidable old-fashioned lady, would approve!

– Emilie

Blue Planet

Blue Planet DVDIf you haven’t yet seen the under-water documentary, Blue Planet, I can’t stress enough how much you should! It is seriously extraordinary. Both the remarkable footage and the eloquent narration by David Attenborough make this nature series truly fascinating!

This BBC documentary series, consisting of eight 50-minute programs, reveals ocean life and behavior that has never been captured before. From the depth of the ocean to the shores, covering the entire planet from pole to pole, you can watch sea creatures you didn’t even know existed… including a scary deep-sea fangtooth and a giant-mouthed gulper eel! You can also sea an Orca whale capture and kill a seal pup.

It is both fascinating and heartbreaking; I’m quite certain I cried and laughed in almost every chapter. So… too scary for kids you might think, but NO! My 3-year-old son is totally obsessed! He sits there watching so intently for as long as I leave him. It is all he talks about at the moment.

Not bad, right? It’s true educational television. And when he becomes bored with this, we can switch to the sister series, Planet Earth , for an in-depth look at life out of the water…

– Courtney

Lullabies and Wildflowers

Melissa Errico: Lullabies and Wildflowers The last time I opened up a new CD and plopped it into the machine was probably 3 years ago before my first son was born (around the time I watched my last film)! These days I just don’t have time to think about new music or films, and we just always listen to a syndicated version of NPR radio from our computer. There you go, I’ve just shown all my cards: I’m indeed as nerdy as I believed my own mother to be when I was a teenager! Darn!

So imagine my delight when I received Melissa Errico’s new album, Lullabies and Wildflowers , in the post. I tore into it like I once did a Nirvana album, and plopped it into my computer with the same enthusiasm. And I’ve just listened to it on repeat for the past two hours…