Wherefore art thou toothbrush?

For some reason, we do not have good luck when it comes to toothbrushes.   The toothbrush, in our house, is like the dental equivalent of a pair of socks. I buy two, I loose one immediately. I put five in a cup on Monday – and have only one left on Friday. I don’t know how or why it happens but it just does.  

Anyway, after a visit to the kids’ dentist last week we left with the usual parting bag of goods and waved goodbye with promises to brush and floss daily….but this time I noticed that there was something different about the toothbrush –  there was a suction cup on the bottom of the handle.  Hummmm…I thought…if all goes according to plan, after they bush they can stick it right back on the edge of the sink or on the mirror and not chuck it somewhere and/or force it to live in one of those crusty cups full of who-knows what — this is genius!  The Plak Smacker comes in fun colors with a larger grip handle  (easy to spot if they are hurled under a bed or behind a dresser) and the quality is exactly the same as the other ones you find in the store. In my limited web research I found that it really is primarily sold to dental practices but there are a few places to find them on-line at cheap and cheerful pricing.  I plan to buy 20 immediately as I know I will loose at least some of them regardless.   The also sell these cute little suction cup sand timers.


Pick your own

May is here — we can officially start the count-down to Summer (which I have been doing since 1st Jan but now the goal is in sight!). With May comes the start of some of my favourite Summer activities (eating outside, picnics, French cricket, boules, paddling in pools to name but a few).  The best of these has to be ‘picking your own’.   The very brilliant Garsons Farm in Esher (Surrey) opens up for ‘pick your own’ this month and the season continues until October.  Over the next 6 months there will be 42 different crops, in a total of 106 different varieties, available for picking.  Whether you are in the mood for gooseberries or cucumbers, cherries or cabbages, Garsons can accommodate (seasonally dependent of course). It is such a fun day out — all the kids getting their own punnets and picking which crop to collect… with the occasional cheeky fruit ‘scrumped’ (picked and eaten) on the way round the fields. (more…)


Here in the UK we get free dental care when we are pregnant and for a year after the baby is born.  I knew when I was pregnant with my second child that there was something wrong with one of my teeth and I was right — I needed a root-canal.  Scary!  It had to happen after the baby was born and took 6 (yes that is S-I-X!) sessions to complete.  Now I think the dentist did a good job but the experience was pretty shocking.  The place was like a flashback to the dentists I went to as a child in the early eighties — the same furniture, the same smell, the same vinyl coated weird chair to sit on, the same bright lighting, the same ‘trying to be all smiley and friendly’ posters telling me to brush my teeth.  I could not imagine taking my tiny children to a place like this to check their teeth; they would immediately know something was up — this is not a place where good things happen.  Definitely not.

Luckily for my children, I had heard of Toothbeary, a dedicated children’s only dentist based in Richmond upon Thames.   (more…)

Coola Sun Care

Is there anything more mentally taxing then applying sunscreen to small kids? I love the summer and all, but the one thing that really causes anxiety during the morning routine is when we have to apply sunscreen to the family. I hate it.  The chase….The begging them to stand still…The sudden jerky movements while you try to rub the pasty lotion back to the color of skin tone.   I am sure you have all been there.

In the past I have opted for the spray-on kind but I have found that they are very drying and don’t protect nearly as well as the thicker lotions.  A friend of mine from home had told me about Coola Sun Care and I decided to pick some up before heading out on vacation this year… and so glad I did! It’s a lotion but it is not greasy and it rubs in very quickly! It’s also made with 100% organic ingredients but it’s not holier-than-thou about it. I really like the simple sleek packaging and they carry a full line for the body, face and lips. So far it’s the best sunscreen that I have come across and I am definitely loading up on it for the summer months!


Resolution 2 of 999,999. Soul Cycle.

SpinBikesSoul Cycle just opened an amazing new space in Tribeca and while I totally TOTALLY dread working out I decided to just suck it up and force myself to go.  After all, as mentioned before, the only cardio routine I have these days is courtesy of the Dancey Dance segments from Yo Gabba Gabba.

So anyway– Soul Cycle has had a following for quite some time in other areas of the city and I was nervous as hell to go.  I had never done a “spin class” before and I was pretty confident that I was going to die on the bike and make a total scene. As I stood in the lobby waiting for class to start I tried my best to look like a pro but when I saw the sweat drenched people emerge from the prior class I started to panic. (more…)

Papaw ointment — an Australian treasure

lucas papaw ointmentI’m probably not winning any points for originality with our Australian  readers, but before coming to  Australia I had never heard of Lucas’ Papaw Ointment and it has since become our favourite Australian discovery. This natural remedy, made from an enzyme in papaya fruit, can be used on burns, boils, cuts, insect bites, open wounds, chapped lips, haemorrhoids, and the list goes on. And it is definitely the best treatment for nappy rash I’ve ever used.

After stockpiling these little tubes to take back to London with me, I discovered you can actually buy it in London (the creator was, in fact, British)! Dr. Lucas formulated the papaw ointment more than 100 years ago in Australia after leaving London for a warmer climate. Its natural antiseptic quality is great for preventing infection in wounds, it’s totally safe to use on babies and children, and it is so natural it can also be taken internally to aid digestion. It also smells nice — an added bonus!


First-aid elephant from Goodies of Desire

elefant_blau_bildBefore we moved to a new house a few weeks ago, we used to live in an apartment building.  Parking in the basement, large elevator, and the rooms conveniently laid-out on one single level. Disadvantage: no garden.  Advantage: no stairs.
Last week I came home from work and found my 4-year-old daughter sitting on the sofa with a package of frozen red cabbage wrapped in a tea towel, pressed to her forehead.  A bump the size of an egg was slowly developing.  You guessed it, she fell from the stairs (or, as she stated, her little brother pushed her, but I’m not sure how much of a truth there is in that).  Poor girl.

Now I’m not against red cabbage, (we prepare it with a little sugar and apples — truly delicious with good sausage or game), but don’t you think this cute little elephant from Goodies of Desire would do a much better job at soothing a little (or bigger) owie?  I do, and thus, from now on, I keep one in the freezer compartment of my fridge for cases of emergencies.  Good to have around.
The friendly elephant is filled with cherry pits and the label says that in addition to the usual bumps and bruises it can also be useful for ‘Kopfenschmerzen & Kater’ (headache & hang-over) or ‘Milchstau’ (engorgement).  VERY good to have around. (more…)

Invisible Zinc

invisiblezincjuniorAll those scorching Australian summers that I spent oiling myself with ‘Hawaiian Tropic’ –- how it makes me cringe! If only this product was around when I was in my late teens… okay, who am I kidding, I still would have ignored the facts, all for a deep bronze tan that didn’t ever last. The fact is that the sun ages your skin prematurely and causes cancer. Whilst I did come to my senses long ago,  I am sure that I still wear the damage of those early reckless years. These days, I don’t leave home without having applied Invisible Zinc to each and every member of my family (husband excluded here, he is not partial to me assaulting him with ‘goo’ every morning — not for want of trying, mind you).

The concept behind Invisible Zinc is technology that provides a physical (not chemical) barrier between you and the sun’s UVA and UVB rays. They use a world patented form of Zinc Oxide that has been milled down so that it is no longer visible to the naked eye …fortunately you can banish all images of the white zinc-nosed, speedo-clad Aussie lifeguard, not quite the look I favor either when I head for the beach!  Zinc Oxide is a natural sunscreen agent that sits on the skin reflecting dangerous UVA and UVB rays without unnecessary chemical sun-filters (incidentally, most chemical sunscreens offer little or no protection against UVA rays).

So Courtney, take note!  This Aussie product is a must-have for you and your family over the coming months… and for those of you shivering in the Northern Hemisphere, as strange as it may seem, summer is just around the corner! (-:


11-13 weeks scan at the Fetal Medicine Centre

babyMy first two babies were born in London.  Even though I had both of them through the National Health Service system, I went to the Fetal Medicine Centre (FMC), a private clinic on Harley Street in London, for the 11-13 week scans.  Reason is, the founder of the FMC is Professor Kypros Nicolaides, the world’s authority on fetal medicine and the person who discovered the relationship between Down Sydrome and the measurement of the nuchal translucency!
Since I was exactly 12 weeks pregnant when we met with the girls in London a few weeks ago, I decided that this little baby also had to receive the test of all tests at the place of all places.  And it was fabulous to see that little person happily moving around inside of me!
Everything looked absolutely perfect at the scan, BUT (and here’s the but!) I was told that the nasal bone of this little 12-week-old creature was on the small side.  Not non-existent, but small.  And, I was told, a non-existent, or very small nasal bone is one of the soft markers for Down syndrome.  However, since the rest of the rest of the test was good, and the results of the blood test were fine, the overall chance of a chromosomal disorder was still considered small. (more…)

Tantrum-free hair products

Tantrum hair productsIt’s funny the things your kids notice. I recently tried out the new Tantrum range of hair products, and instantly my boys pointed out the ‘yummy’ smell of the bubbles! (I was more attracted to the ‘paraben and allergen-free’ qualities, but of course kids know nothing about that!)

Tantrum is a children’s hair salon here in London specially designed to make the hair-cutting experience a good one, both for you and for your child. As well as their King’s Road location, they have just set up a boutique in Hamleys, taking hairdressing to a whole new level.

The new range of hair products includes a shampoo, conditioner and a detangle spray which, according to a friend who has a daughter with super curly hair, actually works! (Emilie, you should check this out!)


Swine Flu

grippeAThe Swine Flu, in France known as la grippe A, has landed in France and the media frenzy is on!

School started last week and, as in other countries, measures are being taken on how to prevent the spread of the virus. Children are being asked to sneeze into a tissue, wash their hands and cough into their elbow. If there are more than three cases of the flu at any school, the authorities will decide if they should close down the school. In October, if the media is to be believed, all children will be offered the vaccination at school.

Without wanting to trivialize the subject, the hysteria around swine flu seems a bit overblown! From talking to friends who have been diagnosed with it, it isn’t any worse than the common-all-garden variety. There have been very sad cases of people passing away after having been infected by this flu, but the toll does not seem to be higher than during the normal flu season.

So why all of this excitement? (more…)


ZoobugMy daughter is very much loving her new Zoobug sunglasses. It’s funny how kiddie sunglasses nowadays are so nice – I don’t remember having such cool sunglasses as a kid. (I actually don’t recall having sunglasses to start with!)
The fact is, it’s a good idea to find your kid sunglasses with good lenses, as the sun can do a lot of damage to young eyes, and so you want them as protected as possible.
Zoobug was created by Dr. Julie Diem, an ophthalmologist from London who after searching good quality sunglasses for her niece discovered that they simply didn’t exist!
Zoobug sunglasses are sweet looking, sturdy and flexible and have lenses that are UV400, filter blue light and are impact resistant, giving sensitive children’s eyes the best protection possible.

xxx Esther

The wonders of tea

800px-tea_bagsI have just returned from Ireland where I was visiting my family and I can promise you I don’t think I have ever had so many cups of tea.
The Irish LOVE their tea, and long may it continue as there is nothing better in life than sitting in a warm kitchen, taking a bit of time out while sipping a good cup of tea and solving the worlds problems. (I actually think that a lot of the world’s problems would be much better solved if they were being discussed over a good cup of tea in a warm Irish kitchen instead of in conference rooms of the White House and 10 Downing Street, but that is a different matter entirely…).

Now, I have always known how good tea is to drink but I had no idea that you could also use the leaves for all sorts of things. On the flight from Paris to Dublin my toddler had a gunky eye and the lovely (Irish) air hostess suggested that I wipe it out with a cold tea bag. I have no scientific understanding of the medicinal value of the common black tea bag but I thought it was worth a try. I tried it and her eye cleaned up instantly! Now it might have been getting better on its own anyway, but I reckon the tea bag trick cannot do any damage and certainly is much nicer than squirting antibiotics into her eyes…

- Emilie

The science of shopping

shopping.jpgI’m usually a fashion magazine reader, but lately I’ve been tempted (while stuck in line at the checkout) to grab the mags that promise easy weeknight dinners or dresses that make you look thinner, like plenty of hurried moms out there.  My latest purchase was the July issue of O Magazine, in which I’ve discovered a very interesting article on shopping.  I consider myself a bit of a shopping expert, or shopaholic at the least, and I’ve even managed to make a career out of it with my shopping tours in Paris.    (When I was 2, someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up and I answered, “A shopper like my Mommy!”)

And this article, entitled 6 Common Shopping Traps, proves what I’ve known all along– shopping does something to the brain to make you feel better!   That is, in some individuals, anyway — it seems that “feel good” parts of the brain are activated when they shop, and others have strong reactions in the pain centers in the brain.  Think I can convince my husband that shopping is actually making me healthy?  Check out the article for more info and other tips on how not to overspend.  Thanks, Oprah!

xx Rebecca

Smoothie maker

kitchenaid blenderA while ago I was sitting in my neighbour’s kitchen and spotted some brown bananas.  Thinking of Courtney’s delicious banana bread recipe, I asked her if I could have the bananas if she was planning to throw them out (I knew she wouldn’t make banana bread herself – it’s not common at all here in the Netherlands)!  She kindly refused, explaining that they had a family addiction to smoothies, so every over-ripe banana was very much needed!
Smoothies?  It started to make me think:

  1. Smoothies are yummy
  2. Smoothies are healthy
  3. I finally found the excuse to buy one of those cool blenders!!!

So, the next weekend I convinced my husband that for the health of our family we needed a KitchenAid blender.  (I admit, I completely went for the look of it; I didn’t read one review and didn’t compare prices!)  And I love it.

Now, having just entered the world of smoothie making, I’ve discovered it’s an art by itself!  There are a million recipes to find; you can use fruit, (soy)milk, yogurt, frozen berries, nuts, tofu, cereal, even egg whites!


A shot…

ImmunisationNo, this is not the start of a crime scene investigation.  Yesterday I took my 4-year-old daughter to the health centre for her last childhood immunisation (until she’s 9, that is).
At the breakfast table — thinking that going cold turkey would be slightly unfair at this age – I matter-of-factly mentioned that this afternoon we would go to the doctor to get her a shot (as if we were going to get her a new summer coat).
Oh. My!!
Apparently, the little 4-year-olds have been spreading the news — my daughter started sobbing uncontrollably!
Only after the promise of a huge ice cream did she calm down a bit and we went on with our usual daily affairs. (more…)

What to do?

I’ve got another question for you all seeing as you were so helpful last time. What do you do when your baby can’t shake a cough? Little C has had a cough now for quite a few weeks. It alternates from being dry and chesty to rattly and wheezy. I just spoke to my mum and she says I should give him Baby Panadol every night until it clears. She is a big fan of pharmaceuticals, obviously!

I have been just trying to let it clear naturally. But it really isn’t going anywhere and my mum says that unless I treat it soon it might develop into bronchiolitis. As you might remember, he is nine months old and going to child care – so constantly exposed to germs. He doesn’t have a cold at the moment and is in good spirits. Just coughs a lot. What do you think I should do: let it run its course or intervene?


My pregnancy books

preg2.jpgI know most you have children already, but there is a chance someone might be looking for some suggestions about pregnancy books — if only to give as a gift to their good friend who is expecting for the first time.
To tell you the truth some people I know go through pregnancy (even the first) without reading anything but the NHS leaflets, and it’s perfectly fine! But if you are like me than you might want one or two (or three) books that tell you in depth what’s going on inside you.
So here we go, this is what I read:
1. What To Expect When You’re Expecting: This must be the best-seller pregnancy book ever. It’s easy to read and it contains loads of information. Although I read the revised UK edition it felt a bit too much focused on the American system.
2. The Rough Guide to Pregnancy and Birth: This could be a good companion to any other more “serious” pregnancy manual you choose. It does contain loads of advice and information, but the week-to-week progress is narrated in a semi-fictitious weekly diary. Really funny — this will not allow you to take yourself too seriously.
3. Birth and Beyond…: This is definitely my favourite. I found it reassuring and empowering, something you badly need during your first pregnancy. It covers pregnancy and the first 9 months of the baby’s life. Written by one of the world’s leading obstetricians, it takes a holistic approach covering aspects regarding both parents and the baby. It also includes an extensive reference section.

So this is what I have in my library.  What’s in yours?


A little dirt can’t hurt!

Having been raised on a farm surrounded by plants and animals, I’m pretty sure I ate my fair share of dirt, sand, and maybe even the occasional worm! (I remember my older cousins daring me to eat one!) While we were always told to wash our hands before meals, my four siblings and I grew up in a household where germs were truly no big deal.  Dogs licked our faces, my siblings and I often shared food, and we probably even ate something that had fallen on the floor.  My mom was certainly no ‘germaphobe’.

While my ‘dirty’ childhood probably makes many mothers today cringe, I was quite pleased when I read last year that kids who grow up on farms or with animals go on to be healthier later in life.  So… all that dirt was actually good for me!

I recently read this article in the New York Times which also suggests that dirt, germs (and even worms!) are crucial to building kids’ immune systems, and preventing autoimmune disorders, asthma and allergies.

I don’t know about you, but it makes me feel a bit more relaxed about what my kids put in their mouths!


The bitter after-taste of Chinese pine nuts

pine nutsIt started yesterday. A strange, bitter taste in my mouth — especially when I was eating something. My dinner, even my glass of wine tasted funny (what a waste)!
I didn’t think much of it at first; normally strange things like this just go away by itself. But this morning, my oatmeal tasted bitter, as did everything else I ate the rest of today. This started to become really annoying!
Now, I don’t consider myself a hypochondriac, but I decided to do some research on the internet. Was this a neurological disorder, maybe?? (I could be featured in the next Oliver Sacks book!!)

Within five minutes of browsing, I found the answer: the bitter taste in my mouth was caused by the pine nuts we had in our salad earlier this week!!! (more…)

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