Landmade, for simple household items from France

One of the many advantages of living in a relatively small flat in Paris is that my storage space is limited, which in turn means that I  don’t accumulate a lot of useless stuff. (BTW, this actually goes completely against my nature, so it has been an ‘interesting’ learning curve — to learn to think hard before buying!). Basically I have been trying to stick to quality rather than quantity.

I love, love, love this French website I discovered recently as it sells simple household items that have been around for generations and have one thing in common: quality. Most of the items are French-made or from neighbouring countries. Every single thing on the website has a story and is guaranteed to be useful for a very long time. Here are some of my favourites: the great Duralex glasses I wrote about a while ago, the cast iron “cocotte“, the swipping pan that actually looks nice just hanging in the kitchen.

My other favourite is the chestnut chair which is made in my region, the Limousin, so I have a little sentimental attachement to it! Unfortunately the website is only in French at the moment, but it is pretty easy to navigate, especially with google translator.

– Emilie

Cachette — wonderful finds!!

Cachette is a new Anglo-French lifestyle concept store that has recently launched, and it is selling a gorgeous selection of homewares and children’s products. I love the artisan quality of it all, the simplicity which has a directness and honesty to it that reminds me of other times, without it being antique or scruffy at all — it’s a super fresh collection! All the finds are totally up my alley, and I’m pretty sure will be up yours as well…

xxx Esther

Duralex Glasses

In a household of 3 clumsy girls (I can bank for the fact that clumsiness is indeed genetic), we need hardened utensils, that can survive a lot of rough and tumble. Thus, I am a big fan of Duralex, famous for making the same iconic hardened glasses for the last 60 years at least.

Have you ever been served a coffee in a little glass in a French café? Probably a Duralex Gigogne glass. Show any French person a Duralex Picardie glass and it will take them back to their school cantine days, where everyone got to drink out of Duralex glasses. I love their utilitarian chic and the fact that they are almost unbreakable (I say almost, as I will never forget my mother trying to demonstrate how unbreakable these glasses are by hurling one on the floor, where it smashed into a thousand pieces, much to her embarrasment!). They are perfect for families with young kids, especially if you are getting a bit tired of colourful plastic cups.

I picked my glasses up at Merci, but I also found them on this website which deliver internationally. Alternatively, you can find them in most French hardware shops. For our readers on the other side of the Atlantic there is a dedicated USA Duralex website!


Cerise sur le gateau

I don’t know if you are the same but I have a drawer in my kitchen in which I stuff everything: instructions for the toaster (easily the most useless thing ever printed!), loose pieces of wire, pens, and take-away menus. I also have a couple of random bags full of similar stuff peppered around my flat. In France we have an actual word for this: “un fourre tout”  — literally translated: “a stuff everything”. (I hope this does not reveal us as a nation of slobs.)

The fourre tout (on the English website it is described as a zip-up bag) designed by the lovely label La Cerise Sur Le Gateau has given me a stylish excuse to continue stuffing my stuff in little bags! I love their cute designs. They also have other super sweet things on offer — How gorgeous are these little bags for shoes and boots?


TG Green Special Edition Mugs

Some people spend their life searching for the holy grail. I spend my life searching for the perfect mug. I was brought up with the belief that a cup of tea is a remedy to anything from a common cold to a broken heart. All the politicians out there take note: sitting down with a good cup of tea will pretty much solve the world’s problems!

So as you might be able to guess, I have tea making down to a fine art and I reckon the receptacle of the tea is almost as important as the tea itself! I don’t like fussy, little china cups or mugs with silly logos on them. My mugs need to be substantial but not too big — the result is cold tea. Check out these mugs from TG Green: Perfect! I love the colour twist on the classic cornish blue pottery. I think having a good cup of tea out of the bright yellow strippy mug is going to make me happy!


Home safety (and the Ouch! Box)

I was recently chatting with a friend and she told me that they had just spent the weekend making their house safer. Of course my interest was roused — what did they do that I should be doing??

Well, first, they installed smoke and carbon dioxide detectors. I must admit that I was kind of shocked when I heard that they had only just installed them — they’ve been living in their flat for over 5 years and have 2 small children! (I mentally prided myself on having bought a smoke detector within a week of moving in our new rental house last year. And we don’t have gas in the house so a CO2 detector is not necessary.)
Secondly, my friend got a fire escape rope ladder as they are living in a fourth flour apartment (we are on the ground floor – check).
Step three: they bought a proper First Aid Kit. They even got one of those shiny silver emergency blankets! She didn’t have a clue what to use it for yet, but — step four — she would soon find out in the First Aid for children course she booked.
OK, impressive. That same evening I sat down and got an Ouch! Pouch, which includes the mysterious thermal blanket we discussed and a variety of other First Aid essentials (like bandages, plasters, alcohol pads etc.). I also got an Ouch! Box, which not only looks cool but is lockable, and will from now on hold all of the medications that thus far lived in an old shoebox. Plan B is to follow an online First Aid course; I followed an infant First Aid course when Sara (now 5) was a baby but I have forgotten lots of it.
So… How safe is your house? Do you have any more essential safety tips I should be thinking about?

xxx Esther

donna hay kid’s magazine

I think the time has come to introduce my party bible! It is none other than the superb Donna Hay Kid’s magazine! What a treat! Eye-candy from the first to the last page; the photography is so stunning. Choc-full of children’s party themes, recipes and ideas,  it all appears so effortlessly stylish. I particularly love Donna’s tips on how to make cakes look half way reasonable with her ‘cheats guide’ to birthday cakes. (Truth be told, my super sombrero cake for our mexican fiesta still flopped even after following it to the letter, but for general folk, this shouldn’t happen!)

The brilliance of domestic goddess Donna Hay is widely recognized in Australia. Her cookbooks and magazines are legendary here and would, I am guessing, grace the book shelves of a great many Aussie homes. I can never wait for the next edition of the party issue to roll by (it’s a whole 12 months between editions but hey…I am very patient). Incidentally, Donna recently launched her new website. There are some irresistible party and entertaining ideas in her online store, as well as all current and past issues of her cookbooks and magazines. So, if you love to throw a party… or even dread it, I urge you to have a look!

– Sara

Retro-inspired Personalized Lunchboxes

These gorgeous personalised lunchboxes by Feterie are high on my birthday list for my children this year. With a bit of a retro-cool vibe, they are of lightweight tin construction and as functional as they are stylish. I think they’d be great for toting around paper and coloured pencils too, or whatever knick-knacks it is kids love to drag around (footy cards in my son’s case).  I can also imagine them being great for keeping all my daughter’s hair paraphernaila together — those elastics, clips and ribbons crop up all over the house, yet when we need to tie her hair each morning for school, there’s never one to be found! Feterie ship world-wide.

– Sara

A quick word on Baker’s Twine

I have a bit of an obsession with baker’s twine.  I ordered 4 huge spools of it a few months ago and I am looking around for more. Now I’m no crafty, but even I can think of a million uses. In fact, we seem to be using it in some shape or form at least once a day (yesterday my daughter used it to make some bunting for her dolls house). Great for gift wrapping instead of ribbon, just team with brown butcher paper… It is also beautiful for wrapping baked goods. It adds a nostalgic, rustic look that is simple and classic. Traditional red and white baker’s twine is perfect but I am totally smitten with these delicious, eye-popping colors from The Twinery.

– Sara

A Supermarket find

I know it is a pretty hellish activity to do with kids but I love going to the supermarket and I love it when you find a new whizzy product.  A while back I discovered Method cleaning products — a range of non-toxic, environmentally friendly products for cleaning the home.  I can sometimes be a bit skeptical of these kinds of things; whilst I love the principle, I find the products to not be as effective as their Earth-destroying counterparts.  I soon discovered that this wasn’t the case with Method — their products clean brilliantly and always smell good too — I was soon a loyal convert.

A few months back I noticed, whilst cruising the baby-aisle, Method’s new range of baby and kid cleaning products — genius!  We immediately filled the trolley with the Rice Milk & Mallow Hair & Body Wash (with a practical water-scoop lid to wash bubbles off bodies) and the cute Penguin matching bubble-bath.  Both smell gorgeous and clean well and I can feel like the good Earth-conscious Mama I desire to be when using them. They are available from most UK supermarkets – hoorrah!

Mo. x

Third Drawer Down

DAM_BROMLEY_PRINT_mediumI do appreciate a nice tea towel… and I’m fussy with mine. Perhaps it relates to my textile obsession.  Nonetheless, I like them to be made of good quality linen, aesthetically pleasing… and generally I find, the more use they get, the better they look. Now, because of this ‘pseudo fetish’, much to my husband’s amusement, and at times sheer frustration, I am always scouring the shops for tea towels.

Recently looking out of the car window at the lovely window shop display, waiting for the traffic lights to change…

Me in passenger seat: ‘Wow, is that…are they…my goodness I think they are tea towels!’
Husband in driver seat: ‘No, no darling, that’s just a painting…’
Me: ‘No husband, I really don’t think so… they look like linen… I’m sure they are tea towels. Yes, yes they ARE tea towels! Quick…STOP! I’ll be really quick!’
Husband rolls eyes and pulls over. And that was how I came to acquire 3 tea towels from Third Drawer Down(more…)

Moving house (with children) — 10 tips

verhuisdozenWe experienced again that moving house with a family is not an overnight job — it’s like giving birth, you sort of forget how painful it actually is!  The new house is very nice though, and room by room it’s slowly coming together.
Here are some tips that I have found helpful for before, during and after the move:

1. Take measurements (including ceiling heights) of the new place before the move and make a basic plan of what furniture should go where.  Think about how you will get bigger pieces into the new house — is the doorway big enough?  And the stairwell?  Does it fit through the windows, maybe?
2. Clearly label the boxes.  It should be extremely clear to what room what box should go — don’t worry too much about the content.  Your kids can help label / decorate the boxes!
3. Don’t overload boxes with heavy items (books), they will be too hard to handle and they will only break.  Keep inserts of drawers together: dump them in a ziplock bag, in the new house you can easily dump them in the drawer again.  Only bother wrapping breakable pieces and keep them in a separate, clearly labeled box.
4. Keep handbags, laptops, telephones, passports, jewelry and other small valuables together and move them in your own car.  Also keep a box with power cables, extension cables, router for internet connection and a couple of table lights with you.  And the tool box!
5. Pack a suitcase with overnight essentials for your family, toilet paper, clean bedding for the beds and some towels.  Make the beds in the new house as soon as possible, chances are high you’ll be too exhausted later! (more…)

Free Download from Homemade Happiness — for all of you!

Homemade Hapiness free download 2You probably recall that for our latest Birthday Week I wrote about Homemade Happiness:  great downloadable deco kits for every birthday, holiday or other special occasion.  I’m really quite fond of their designs and, in yet another attempt to get organized, have been using their to-do-lists faithfully (and LOVE them)!

Now this week we have a special surprise for all of you:  Caroline and Diana from Homemade Happiness have very kindly offered a free download of their beautiful ‘Oh so Sweet’ To Do Lists to ALL Babyccino readers!!!  Perfect timing as the holiday season approaches to help organize your preparations!

For the free PDF download just click here, and simply print the lists on your home or office printer, as much as needed.
Enjoy!  And thanks again, Homemade Happiness!!

xxx Esther

P.S.  If you celebrate St. Nicholas, check out the fantastic Sint downloads in the Homemade Happiness shop!  I LOVE that T-shirt print!

Hanging children’s art

dekaWe are moving home!  The new one is larger and, of course, better decorated. I have made the usual promise to myself (and my husband) to be more organised and to keep it tidier. So I’m on the lookout for smart tricks to help me keep my promise. This clever Ikea hack that I found on Ohdeedoh is one of them.
They used a Deka curtain rod to hang children’s drawings and paintings. It’s very versatile because you can cut the rod to the required length and the clips make it so easy to change and update the display.
I think it will be perfect in the playroom… and it’s so cheap!



CLASSICSIXSHOP_02I can’t stop wiping my kitchen bench. Or my kitchen table. And mopping… I mopped twice yesterday.

It all started with a trip to my local kitchen/home-wares shop ‘Roost’ in Malvern where I was searching for a rocket-shaped cookie cutter. As I made my way to the counter I caught sight of the most gorgeously packaged apothecary style bottles of… something. I didn’t know what, all I knew was that whatever it was, I liked it. On closer inspection I realized that they were cleaning products. What’s more they were a ‘premium range of organic cleaning products’ and were ‘earth, food, child and pet safe’. I wasn’t  disappointed. Actually, I was so excited! Not only am I BIG on cleaning (perhaps even verging on the neurotic) but I am always on the lookout for more eco-friendly cleaning options. (more…)

Baking Soda

bakingsoda.jpgThis post is about the environment, money saving, muffins, clearing drains and a mother in sheer desperation due to 2 small children covered in chickenpox.

You may wonder what all of these things have in common…. Baking Soda, otherwise known as Sodium Bicarbonate or NaHCO3.

Whenever I am googling for random things like an alternative to household cleaners or something to calm itchy skin, Baking Soda always turns up trumps.

I guess it is due to the Baking Soda’s alkaline nature. If you add it to water it raises the PH levels of the water, making it softer and therefore soothing for itchy skin. It also breaks down fat, so can be used to unblock drains and clean kitchen surfaces. Last, but definitely not least, it raises dough and it is an essential ingredient for cookies, muffins and lots of other treats!

Anyway, even if I sound like an old-fashioned housewife, I now actually have a massive box of Baking Soda in my kitchen cupboard and it gets used regularly! Oh, how my world has changed….

– Emilie

Savon de Marseille

savon.jpgMarseille as a town is not particularly known for its cleanliness, but one of its most famous products is the soap. Le savon de Marseille is a French institution. It has been around for a least 700 years using, as its main ingredients, olive (the green variety) or palm oil (the white variety) and Mediterranean sea water. It traditionally comes as a big cube of soap and it it used to clean everything and anything. My grandmother still uses it to clean all her dishes as she does not trust modern dish-washing liquids to clean well enough! (Isn’t it funny how that generation is actually a lot more environmentally friendly than we are, without even trying?)

I personally swear it is the only way to get rid of nasty stains on baby and kids’ clothes. Just rub it on, soak it and wash normally, and most of the time the soap has gotten rid of all evidence. (more…)

Shopping made easier

bag.jpg bag2.jpg To save on labour costs, many Italian supermarkets now allow regular customers to use a bar-code reader while shopping to scan their groceries. Once the shopping is done you return the reader to a dedicated till and pay. This helps reduce queues at the till and shopping trips become faster.

This whole process is made even easier, if you use the easyshopping bag from Reisenthel. This useful bag stretches across the entire width of the shopping trolley and hooks on both sides. After filling the bag with groceries you just un-hook it, shut the aluminium bars and carry it away!
They also come in different colours so you can easily separate your shopping while still in the supermarket. How cool is that?
They have many retailers all over the world and the Reisenthel online shop ships internationally.


Trolley Dolly

Trolley Dolly

Sometimes someone comes up with a new concept that feels so logical and natural that it’s hard to imagine you ever lived without it…
This is how I felt yesterday when I first went grocery shopping with the Trolley Dolly. Invented by the clever Zoe of ZPM (Courtney wrote about her smart weekender bags before), the Trolley Dolly is basically a little bag holding loads of super strong and lightweight, nylon shopping bags. The purpose of this bag is solely to reduce the amount of plastic bags in the grocery shopping system, and thus on earth. (more…)

Tulip tips

Tulips in vaseHaving grown up on a tulip farm and having worked both in the fields and in the flower stalls as a child, I’ve learned quite a lot from my father about tulips and how to care for them. Because we’re nearing Spring and tulips are popping up in every flower stand around town, I thought I should write down a few of my best tulip tips.

Buying tulips:

1.) Buy the freshest tulips. Don’t buy tulips that are limp; make sure the stems are thick, plump and strong. (In general, the bigger the stem–the bigger the bulb– the healthier the flower).
2.) Make sure the leaves are tight and curled inward toward the stem. If they are already bending outward, they are not very fresh.
3.) The bud should be closed and on the tighter side, but you should still be able to see the color of the flower. (more…)

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