A tassel toothpick, or: a tooth fairy wand :)

Tassle Tootpick

Ever since my first daughter Tila lost her first tooth I do something silly when she leaves her tooth for the ‘tooth fairy’. In Slovenia, where my husband and I come from, we have a tooth mouse instead of a fairy. So every time Tila leaves her tooth under her pillow I replace it with a tiny present (or a 1 or 2 euro coin if it’s weekend). Plus a few raisins which are supposed to be mouse poop! This makes her laugh every time, even now when she knows the truth about the ‘real tooth fairy’, or in our case, mouse.

Tila lost 3 teeth in the last couple of weeks and this time I decided to add a tiny something that I thought she would also really like. So I made a tooth fairy wand and it took me under 5 minutes! It turned out pretty cute and I think it might also look great on a cake or on muffins etc..

Tassle Toothpick
There are only four things you need to make a tooth fairy wand:
– a toothpick
– thin (gold) paper or tissue paper (size about 5 x 7 cm)
– double sided tape
– scissors (I suggest embroidery scissors if you own a pair)

a tooth fairy wand

tooth fairy wand

tooth fairy wand

tooth fairy wand

Tassle Tootpick

1. Cut the paper into strips leaving about 1 cm at the bottom to keep it together
2. Cut the right length of the double sided tape and carefully tape the sticky side to the bottom of the tassle. Remove the backing.
3. Cut the pointy tip on one side of the toothpick and place it down at the beginning of the tape.
4. Now start rolling the toothpick along the entire length as straight as possible to wrap the tassle around the toothpick several times. You’re done!

***
– Polona

You can follow Polona on Instagram or visit her online boutique Baby Jungle shop!

PS A visit from the ‘Dummy Fairy‘

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Homemade sourdough bread, delicious and healthy. Here’s how!

I recently received interesting post from England — a little plastic bag with a grey brownish ‘blub’ inside. This ‘blub’ was highly anticipated as it happens to be a sourdough starter — a culture of naturally occurring bacteria and yeast which can be used to bake delicious and healthy homemade sourdough bread. We have since been baking our own bread and pancakes and are loving the beauty of the sourdough process!

Our starter was sent to us by my friend Nomi, and I’ve asked her to share her secrets and recipe here. Thank you, Nomi, for sharing your bread and your experience! : )

homemade sourdough bread Nomi

Hello, I’m Nomi and I live with my British husband and three children (Aoife, 8; Fergus, 5 and Nora, 2) in the beautiful (but usually incredibly rainy) North West of England. I myself am Dutch and we are raising our kids bilingually, or at least we try to! I have a PhD in psychology of language, and some of my research involved bilingualism, so it is interesting to see how all those theories I learnt about play out in daily life.

Lancaster, where we currently live, is surrounded by beautiful countryside, so at the weekends we often venture into the great outdoors and enjoy ourselves in the woodlands and the hills of the Lake district. We all love walking and being in nature. We have an allotment where we grow our own vegetables and lots of berries and as parents we really try to install a sense into our children that there is pleasure to be found in the simple things in life, like growing your own, playing in puddles and streams and being creative.

My favourite thing to do is when my kids’ school sends a message that one or both of the children need to dress up as something, and I get the chance to create a costume for them (often with limited materials, since the school can sometimes give pretty short notice!). I love making things, and you can often find me doing so, whether it is sewing, knitting, crafting, baking or cooking, and perhaps unsurprisingly, luckily my children love being creative too!

homemade sourdough bread Nomi

A year and a half ago our family of five expanded by one. Not another baby, nor a pet, but I was given a little bit of sourdough starter to care for and to bake with, together with a recipe, and it has been with us ever since. We even took our starter to live with us when we all went to Rome for my husband’s work for a while! The bread that I have been baking with it is so tasty and looks as good or better than any rustic bread you can buy at an artisan bakery (and at the fraction of the cost) and I really like it that it only takes two ingredients to make your own starter (flour and water) and three to bake a loaf (flour, water and salt)!

Homemade sourdough bread is kinder on the digestive system and contains fewer gluten than yeasted bread. You can easily make your own starter in a few days, as it grows on the naturally occurring wild yeasts in the air. Especially in this warm weather! If you don’t have a starter you can find the recipe here, or buy some online (Amazon sells it!) but by all means ask around if someone you know happens to have some already. Sourdough folk tend to be more than happy to share their starters, since it makes it easier to retrieve it when yours happens to run out, or ‘dies’ if you’ve neglected it for too long! (However, I’ve found mine to be very tolerant of slightly neglectful behaviour if I keep it in the fridge!).

So how does it work? You need a to be feed your starter regularly to keep it happy. This means daily if you keep it on your kitchen counter, or weekly/bi-weekly if you keep it in the fridge. In both cases keep your starter in a jar with a loosely fitting lid so air can still get in!

Feeding always goes like this: you put a little amount of existing starter in a large bowl, say 50 grams, and add the same weight in water and flour (it’s best to go by weight and not volume in this case), effectively tripling the amount (in this case you would end up with 150 gram of starter). Stir and set aside covered with a loose fitting lid, or a wet tea towel somewhere and wait for it to become bigger and bubbly. You are looking for it to become at least twice as voluminous and full of little bubbles, which mean that your starter is happy!

Of course the amount of fed starter you want to end up with depends on how much you need for baking that week. With experience you will know what works for you and your family. I usually feed my starter once a week like this to keep it nice and alive, and then take small amounts out for my loaves which I then feed on the day to reactivate.

And now on to the recipe for my bread. I use the ‘basic sourdough recipe’ from sourdough.co.uk and have found that whenever friends have trouble with their own sourdough loaves, as soon as they start using this recipe, their bread becomes just as wonderful as mine, so I dare say it is fool proof!

Ingredients:

-50 grams sourdough starter
-50 grams of rye flour
-100 grams strong wholemeal flour
-400 grams strong white flour
-10 grams of salt
-water

-an oven proof cast iron pot (like a le creuset pot) with a lid
-a colander and a tea towel or a banneton
-semolina to coat the bottom of the pot

As I mentioned before, in the morning I take 50 grams of starter from my jar in the fridge, put it in a big bowl and feed it with 50 grams of rye flour (my starter likes rye), and 50 grams of tap water (cold or luke warm). I mix it together and leave loosely covered to become active during the day.

Then after bedtime I take my leaven (the activated starter), and add 300 grams of water, 100 grams of strong wholemeal flour and 400 grams of strong white flour. I mix it quickly with a wooden spoon and leave it between 30 minutes and 2 hours.

Next I mix the salt with 15 grams of water, and add that to the dough. I push it in slightly with my fingers and leave it to seep through for about ten minutes (can be longer if you want).

Then it is time for the first knead, which is actually not really a matter of kneading but of picking up the dough on one side, stretching it upwards towards you and folding it double. Turn the bowl a quarter turn and repeat until you’ve stretched and folded the dough at least four times. No need to take it out of the bowl at all!

homemade sourdough bread

homemade sourdough bread

Repeat this ‘kneading’ two to three more times (every time doing the four turns) at half hour intervals during the rest of the evening and then by the time you go to bed, you can take your dough, fold it back into itself so the top gets slightly stretched and taut, while all the loose ends are gathered on the opposite side and then it is time to lay your dough to rest for the night. I use a thickly floured proving basket (a banneton) for this, which creates a beautiful spiral pattern of flour on my bread, but if you don’t have one of those use a colander lined with a tea towel and sprinkled with ample flour instead. I have done this a few times myself when I wanted to prepare more than one loaf at the time, and it works fine. Make sure you put the ‘knotted’ side of the bread up and the top down, sprinkle with flour and cover with a wet tea towel and put in the fridge overnight.

If this all sounds a bit too laborious, please know that I have found the recipe to be very tolerant of forgetting a kneading round or two, leaving the salt in for too long before you start kneading, or the intervals between the kneads too long. Basically, as long as everything is mixed in and you stretch the top nicely, if you manage to put it in the fridge overnight before you bake you will end up with a pretty nice loaf in the morning!

Before you can bake, put your cast iron pot with the lid into the oven and preheat it at 220 degrees Celsius. Take the pot out, sprinkle the bottom with semolina so the bread won’t stick and then turn the proved dough into the pot, with the knotted side down (I hold my banneton upside down above the piping hot pot, keeping my fingers on the dough and once I feel the dough move down I remove my fingers and let it drop; it’s a bit of a trick but it works). I slash the top of the dough a couple of times using a small serrated knife (I like to do a leaf pattern, but a simple line or cross works fine too). The cuts will give the bread somewhere to go when it expands in the oven. Don’t worry if your bread hasn’t risen much (either outside the fridge the evening before, or overnight when kept cool): I find that the best ‘oven spring’ occurs when I use the dough straight from the fridge!

Put the lid back on and move the pot back into the middle of the oven to bake at 220 Celsius for 50-60 minutes.The cast iron pot with the lid on will trap the steam from the dough which creates a lovely crust. Then remove the lid and give the bread another 10 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius to brown before you take it out.

That’s it! I have done variations using only white flour, or rye instead of the wholemeal, I sometimes use my starter straight from the fridge and take 100-150 grams straightaway without first feeding it and I have even taken a part of my rye starter and begun feeding it on strong white flour only to create a white starter, which I use for pizzas and bagels, but I may save those recipes for another time here at babyccino!

homemade sourdough bread

Good luck and don’t forget to hand out bits of your starter to friends and family (they might make lovely teacher’s presents too when packed in a cute jar with a recipe attached)!

Nomi

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What should we write about?

I’m having a major case of ‘what should I write about?’.  It’s funny how writing comes in waves for me. Sometimes I find it so natural and I have loads of ideas and it’s easy for me to sit down at my computer and just write. And then sometimes… it just doesn’t happen like that, and I just feel so inspiration-less.

I wanted to write a ‘Thursday Thoughts’ post for today, but honestly couldn’t think of anything to write about.  (I think my brain is too consumed by house renovation stuff at the moment. Tiles, knobs, lighting, window hardware…!!!)

So I thought I simply would ask you!  What topics should we write about? Do you have any questions for us? Do you like reading our parenting posts, or do you prefer more of the product recommendations? Please leave suggestions in the comments section below. Perhaps next week I’ll be back with some more interesting content. : )

Courtney xx

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Wakka by Kukkia — The kind of screen that works for us : )

The lovely Kaz, toy designer and creative force behind Japanese toy brand Kukkia, came over all the way from Japan to join us at our latest ShopUp event in East London. She’s such an amazing woman — a beautiful ball of positive energy, really! She is so fun and expressive, you just have to love her.

Kaz from Kukkia

Emilie, Helen and I all brought one child with us — Vivi, Edie and Pim, all aged 10 or 11. They were transfixed at Kaz’s stand from about the beginning. They had a blast discovering all of the super fun and clever toys and chatting away with Kaz. Who asked them to give their honest feedback about her toys and even challenged them to design a toy for her!

wake Kukkia

She also very kindly gave a ‘Wakka‘ toy to each of them — immediately dubbed ‘Gameboy’, because it looks just like one. Big difference though that there is not one bit of technology inside the Wakka. It works entirely on water! By pushing the left and / or right button, little puff of water are pushing away tons of tiny rings that you will have to get on the two spikes. Entirely addictive, I can tell you.

Wakka by Kukkia

The Wakka by Kukkia comes in a pink or yellow pouch with a cool denim strap so can be hung around the neck and picked up to play with at any time. This toy is a huge hit in our family. Casper is unable to get all the rings on both spikes, but instead has invented a ‘good’ and ‘bad’ spike. He just has to get the rings around the ‘good spike’ which is totally doable. Pim is by now a Wakka master — he can get all rings on the spikes within a minute!

The Wakka is such a fun ‘old fashioned’ toy, and it’s great to bring traveling too. Children will definitely be entertained for quite some time!

xxx Esther

PS When do you give your child a mobile phone?

SaveSave

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Domino Park in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Domino Park Playground viewed from the river
Entrance to Domino Park
House at Domino Park Playground
Climbing the stair ramp at Domino Park playground

We found our new destination for summer fun yesterday in the newly-opened Domino Park in Williamsburg Brooklyn and we haven’t stopped raving about it since. With an excellent playground, a fountain for splashing, plenty of green space for relaxing and play, and even a casual spot for tacos and other Mexican fare, the park should be on your agenda whether you’re visiting New York for the first time or a local who lives a neighborhood or borough away. With the opening of the park in early June, this section of the Williamsburg waterfront became accessible to the public for the first time in over 160 years, and the smartly-planned park’s mix of open space, recreation opportunities, and historical references in the form of artifacts and inspiration is already proving to be an enormous draw. Occupying the site of the former Domino Sugar Refinery, the park features elements from the factory itself that have been preserved and repurposed as decoration and as materials used in the construction of different features.

Inside the playhouse at Domino Park playground
Top of the playhouse at Domino Park playground
Playground for younger children at Domino Park
Inside the Domino Park playground

We started our visit with a quick run along the Elevated Walkway, which features beautiful, unobstructed, views of the New York skyline, before quickly making our way to the playground down below. New York doesn’t lack for excellent playgrounds, but the one created at Domino Park feels new, fresh, and exciting. Its sugar refinery theme is carried through the three main elements in a playful way that evokes the operations of the old refinery: children will find a Sugar Cane Cabin, the Sweetwater Silo, and the Sugar Cube Centrifuge, all with familiar elements (slides, monkey bars, climbing portions) constructed in an industrial style. Though different portions of the playground were designed for children aged 2-5 and 5-12, my four-year-old had no problem navigating the entire complex of ramps, catwalks, slides, tunnels, and ladders. She loved the spiral climbing cage in the silo, with thick rubber steps that bounced underfoot as they led up to a giant tubular metal slide (you should have heard the happy shrieks as children flew down it!). I loved the nods to the site’s history: a color palette drawn from the factory’s signage, wood taken from the factory’s floor, and cast replicas of original factory wheels.

Tacocina at Domino Park
lunch at Tacocina in Domino Park
seating area at Tacocina in Domino Park
Cheese taco at Tacocina

After the playground we took a quick break for lunch at the park’s on-site restaurant, Tacocina. The casual Mexican fare (tacos, chips, Mexican drinks) seemed perfect for the setting, and the cheery eating area, with its striped umbrellas and colorful chairs, made for the perfect spot to get out of the sun and rest a bit before moving along to the central and southern portions of the park. I’m sure Tacocina is busier on nights and weekends, but our early weekday lunch was quiet and relaxed. The cheese taco was a big hit with my daughter and it’s not difficult to see why: with cheese in and wrapped around a tortilla, then griddled to crunchy, salty, melty perfection, it hit all the notes of an excellent grilled cheese sandwich. Balancing it out were the raw vegetable picados with carrot crema – the jicama, carrots, radish, and Peruvian pickled peppers perfect for a hot day.

Sprinklers at Domino Park
Sprinklers at Domino Park looking forward the Williamsburg Bridge
Close up of sprinklers at Domino Park
View of sprinklers at Domino Park

Our final stop before heading home was the fountain, located at the center of the park directly in front of the landmarked refinery building. A large number of New York’s parks and playgrounds feature some sort of water element for summer play, but I’m hard-pressed to think of many as much fun as this one, with eighty-eight individually-programmable water jets delighting the crowd of children that had gathered. The jets turned off, and then back on again, and alternated between gentle burbling and full-force blasts, surprise and joy evident in the screams that filled the air as children dashed in an out of sprays of water of varying heights. At night the fountain is illuminated, but even without colored lights it’s a tremendously popular gathering spot. The steps between it and the old refinery (again, made of wood reclaimed from the refinery) offer the perfect vantage point for taking in the whole scene. My daughter would easily have stayed in the fountain all afternoon, especially after a kind stranger offered her a cup to collect and pour water. But we had a ferry to catch, and a little brother, just awake from his nap, waiting for us at the carousel. I’ll remember a bucket next time.

A few additional details:

  • You can find entrances to the park along Kent Avenue at South 5th Street, South 3rd Street, and Grand Avenue. The park is open from 6am-1am each day, with the playground portion open from dawn to dusk.
  • The park is accessible by public transportation:
    • The J, M, or Z subway lines to Marcy Avenue, or the L to Bedford Avenue
    • The NYC Ferry’s East River route to either the North or South Williamsburg stops
    • A number of bus stops are close to the park, including the B24, B32, B39, B44, B62, Q54 and Q59
  • Parking is available at 325 Kent Avenue.
  • For now, restrooms are located in a trailer at the south end of the park, near Kent Avenue and South 4th Street.
  • If you’re not in the mood for tacos, we love Pies-n-Thighs, a Southern restaurant with excellent fried chicken, pies, and doughnuts located at 166 S. 4th Street (at the corner of Driggs Avenue). Also nearby at 175 Kent Avenue (between North 4th and North 3rd Streets) is Oddfellows, for ice cream and sorbet with inventive flavors.

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Mrs Wordsmith

I find teaching kids how to read and expanding their vocabulary such an interesting subject. There are so many different theories and there are so many different methods out there, which makes it hard to figure out what works. Children are also so very different. One of my kids picked up a book at age 6 and since then has never gotten her nose back out of books. The other one found it much less intuitive.

It is complex, to say the least, but my rule has always been to try and keep it fun and playful as possible. We were super happy to have the  team from Mrs Wordsmith at the London ShopUp last month. I spent quite a long time chatting with the team and it was really interesting to understand the theory behind the product.

They explained that it took them at least two days to define each drawing to go with a word. Children’s visual memory is very strong so the right illustration is very important to associate with the word.

The idea is this: there are more than a million words in the English language and most people remember words by association. We mostly remember the most common term and associate more complex or less frequent words with that. So the clever people from Mrs Wordsmith have developed cards linking word groups together. To make this memorable to children, they developed learning tools designed by comic book illustrators. They are super fun and memorable, the designs are instantly associated to the word. So clever!

Our lovely Lara tested the cards on Beatrice who has just turned 5. She had a great time and did not want to put the cards down at the end of the day! Lara let her explore with the cards and enjoy reading and recognising the words on them. She just had fun with it and literally learnt by playing. Since then word like peckish and gobble have started cropping up in Beatrice’s every day conversation, words she did not know before.

Mrs Wordsmith have a monthly subscription system with includes word cards, pictures books and activity books. Each month focuses on 20 words, so each month children learn how to read, explore and use 20 new word groups, illustrated in a fun way by Mrs Wordsmith illustrators.

How fun!!

Emilie

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Despaña Fine Foods and Tapas Café – Spanish food in Soho

Despana storefront on Broome Street
Goods on the shelves at Despana
Chorizo at Despana Foods Soho
Interior of Despana Foods
Cheese at Despana

I’ve said it before, but one of my very favorite aspects of city living is the preponderance of specialty stores for everything you can imagine — entire stores devoted solely to ribbons, or pencils, or in the case of Despaña Fine Foods and Tapas Café in Soho, the authentic flavors of Spain. Our family loves Spanish food, and Despaña is both an inspiring place to shop for a special meal at home and an excellent place to stop for light meal of well-prepared tapas bar favorites. The floor-to-ceiling shelves along the left-hand side of the store are lined with the most gorgeous selection of products, all with such incredibly appealing packaging (I love just browsing and looking at them all!). There are olive oils and vinegars, tins of all sorts of fish, fruit preserves, rices, almond sweets, and more. Along the right-hand side of the store you’ll find the refrigerated cases, filled with Spanish meats and cheeses, some of them certain to be new to even the most savvy gourmand.

Tapas counter at Despana
Cafe seating at Despana
Meats and cheese at Despana
Paella rice at Despana
Admiring the jamon at Despana
Pimentos at Despana

We were in the neighborhood around the lunch hour not long ago, and finding ourselves with two hungry children, I was happy to remember Despaña only a couple blocks away. When my husband and I first started visiting Despaña years ago, there was only a very small seating area with a high counter and a table, tucked away by the drinks cooler near the rear of the store. At some point in the intervening years a new café portion was added, with tiled walls and long, marble-topped communal tables. It’s now easier than ever to stay for a quick sandwich or a progression of little dishes, with a extensive menu that offers a range of bocadillos (sandwiches), pintxos (little bites served over bread), tapas (small dishes), flautas (small sandwiches), salads and more. We ordered a slice of tortilla queso for my little guy (though in practice we all enjoyed tasting a bite or two!), a bowl of warmed olives, and a large meat and cheese platter to share. When it arrived it was almost too pretty to eat, with three types each of meat and cheese, plus nuts, pickles, olives, and membrillo. With warm bread to dip in one of Despaña’s imported Spanish olive oils and salty Spanish sparkling water it made the most delicious lunch – almost enough to make us feel like we were on a mini holiday. On the way out we passed the legs of jamón in the shopfront window and I remembered seeing that Despaña offers jamón carving classes in the evening – sounds like fun, right?!

Despaña Fine Foods & Tapas Café, 408 Broome Street (between Lafayette and Centre Streets)

Monday-Thursday, 10am-7pm; Friday 10am-9pm; Saturday 11am-9pm; Sunday 11am-6pm

Subway: 6 train to Prince Street or Canal Street, R and W trains to Prince Street or Canal Street, N, Q, J, and Z trains to Canal Street

(And one last note: should it appeal, don’t miss the sister shop next door, devoted to Spanish wines and liquors!)

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The Simplest and Healthiest Fruit Ice Lollies!

Sometimes the simplest things are often over looked, and these whole fruit banana and watermelon ice lollies are the perfect example. I was recently told by my friend that these are ingenious. (I tend to agree!) They are a game changer!  Simple and sweet.  These ice lollies are a staple in our freezer and are the perfect snack! They require a few minutes (at the most!) of prep to make, and are an instant win. Actually, they are so simple and easy it didn’t even occur to me to post about them until they recently created a bit of buzzy excitement at school pick-ups which I brought to help cool my daughter down during our three week (and counting) London heat wave. (hooray!)



Children can help you make them (like my 5 and 2 year olds), and they will be proud of the end result! And all children (and adults) will be love them. They are as healthy as having a piece of fruit, because that is precisely what they are. Just frozen, and on a stick. So even healthier in fact than whizzing up fruit, using juice, smoothies, purees, etc and no hassle like cleaning up blenders or lolly containers to make them. You can probably do this with many types of fruits, but our two house favourites are banana and watermelon!

The banana goes very creamy and smooth — a lot like ice cream, after it has been frozen. And the watermelon tastes even sweeter and juicer as it melts. It even has the classic fruit lolly crush sound when you bite it.




The simple ingredients:

  • wooden ice lolly sticks (so easy and cheap!)
  • knife (we love Croque Maman’s  My First Opinel knife for kids in the kitchen!)
  • fruit!
  • beeswax wrap or parchment paper / aluminium foil

Banana Ice Lollies :

Peel bananas, slice in half (if large), insert wooden lolly stick into cut half, wrap up so they don’t touch one another (or get freezer burned), then play in freezer until frozen! Done!



Watermelon Ice Lollies:

Cut the fruit into quarters, so the wedges are easy to eat (these wedges can get very heavy when frozen so don’t make the pieces to big), then cut a little slice into the middle of the rind of each wedge, and just insert the lolly stick. Wrap well, and freeze. Enjoy!

Whole fruit ice lollies don’t melt as quickly, so are easier to travel with too, and don’t make even half as much of a mess as regular ice lollies! But do not worry, I am not that strict of a mama, my kids love the good ol’ ice lollies as well and some days they even have one of these and one of those. They think they’ve had a special double ice lolly day, and I just smile!

Enjoy summer days and your new genius healthy and yummy ice lollies!

ps We love our Babyccino boutiques, and the bathing suit on Beatrice, and swim trunks are from Canopea. Those perfect matching summer plimsols are from Cienta.

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‘If All the World Were…’ by Joseph Coelho and Allison Colpoys

Joseph Coelho has perfectly captured the sensitivity of talking about death and dying to very young children through his new book, If All The World Were. A book which is moving yet lyrical, gentle and softly spoken.

Coelho’s book is about a young girl’s love for her Grandfather. She recalls moments of their life together and the cherished memories left behind which she openly sees in her everyday life. Through beautiful vivid drawings, Allison Colpoys illustrations softly highlight the girl’s tender memories of her grandfather. They weave poetly through the writings of Coelho making this book one of my favourites I’ve read this year.

If All The World Were is a lovely story to share with children of all ages. You will have tears in your eyes throughout but it is such an important feeling to be raised with the young.

If All The World Were can be purchsed directly from the publisher Quarto Kids here.

Vanessa x

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Teens – Navigating the rocky waters of social media

Teens and social media is a ‘hot potato’ topic (as we say in French).

The fact is: as much as I love the idea of a totally unplugged childhood, we will not be able to avoid social media forever.  We ourselves use social media, and for good reason — it is a simple way to organise our lives, stay in touch with friends and find out what is going on in the world. All good things of course. But then there is the inevitable dark side of social media: bullying, trolling, recruiting, grooming, and the negative effects on confidence and self esteem. How do we try and educate our children on how to use social media in a way that gives them the right tools and knowledge to protect themselves from making themselves vulnerable to some of the crazier sides of social media?

My daughter is 12 and soon going to be 13, the age in France where it becomes legal to use most social medias and have an email account. Up to now I have been using the law to my advantage and so she has not had access to social media, but it is a matter of months not years. I am going to let her use social media, as it is part of her reality and the world she lives in. So it makes sense to me to try and teach her to use social media as responsibly as possible.

I think one of the main things I have tried to impress on my daughter is the fact that social media cannot be seen as an extension of a conversation that is happening in the same room. It is not a virtual living room where exchanges happen in a contained environment and jokes, opinions and emotions stay within that space. We might fight at home, but the fights stays within our 4 walls.

A very good friend of mine once said to me “write it, don’t send it”. It is some of the best advice I ever had. It is so easy to, in an emotional moment, start writing responses or attacks and publishing with a click of a button. But it is really, really important to write something, step away from the phone or computer, breathe and delete it.

The same goes for funny and silly posts. Whatever you put on social media might seem funny in the moment, but that post will forever form a digital footprint that you can be confronted with 10 years later. This is really hard to explain to a 12/13 year old who does not yet understand the concept of what her future holds. Again my explanations rests on the idea of context. What you do with your friends in private, even if you think it is super funny, is not something you want strangers to see. Social media, no matter your privacy settings or friend groups, is still the equivalent to strangers looking into your life and whatever you post, it might never go away. That does not mean that kids should not be having fun and expressing themselves on social media — I would love for them to just think for one beat before they press the “publish” button.

My cousin told her kids to invite me as a friend to their social media. She knew that they did not want her following them and wanted to give them the privacy they craved as teenage girls do and should. But I thought it was clever that she asked me to follow them and alert her if anything weird was going on. I live in a different country and do not know their friends so a little bit of their privacy is guaranteed.

If anyone has any thoughts or suggestions do share. It is such a vast subject and can be quite polarising. I am really interested on how people approach it all over the world.

I am still approaching it maybe with a certain degree of naivety as my children are not yet old enough to really experience what living a truly digital age means.

Emilie

The above photo is a lovely one of Esther’s daughter Ava and Coco having a very unplugged moment together!

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Gearing up for campervan adventures this summer

campervan adventures

As you might have heard, Tamar and I recently bought a campervan. It was a bit of an impulse buy, but we’re really excited about the idea of it. This summer we’re planning to trek around in it for 6 weeks, exploring Eastern Europe. We’re hoping to make it to Transylvania (I’ve been intrigued by Transylvania for years!). From there we’ll go south to the Black Sea, hitting Turkey and Greece on our way to Albania. And then back north through beautiful Montenegro, Croatia and Slovenia… These are just our rough ideas, but who knows, we might never make it further than Austria and that’s fine as well. It’s all about flexibility and freedom this summer!

Here are some photos of the interior of our camper. Looking to the front of it, you see the two front seats with behind them two tables. On the left is a table for 4 which converts into a double bed. The table on the right (for two) coverts to a abed as well and sleeps one child. You can also pull out the bench behind the driver seat all the way to the right, creating a longer bench. We’ve discovered lots of these clever things about our camper — it’s really optimised for space!

On the left you see the heating (which hopefully we will not be needing), and on the right the entrance door with a doormat I couldn’t resist getting ; ).

Above the front seats is where the ‘alcove’ is located. This is a really cosy spot where the kids love to hang out. It officially sleeps two people, but we’ve easily fit three smaller children up there. There’s a net in front of the bed that rolls down and can be clipped to close, giving a sense of security to whoever sleeps up there.

There are reading lights in the alcove and a shelve to keep some personal things. (Are your children obsessed about Beanie Boos too?) The small windows can be openend and have black-out curtains and insect screens, like all of the other windows in the campervan.

camper window

On both sides above the table are horizontal cabinets. We’ve given each child one cabinet for their clothes, which seems to work well and keeps everything more or less organised. There are open shelves on either side as well, for little knickknacks, but as soon as you hit the road you have to put these in a basket as otherwise they’ll all drop down.

Looking back from where the tables are, you see the tiny kitchen on the left with a hood and two cabinets above (where we keep our enamelware) and more storage underneath (cutlery etc). Opposite you the door of the fridge and the freezer. There’s even a little oven above! Next to the fridge is some bigger storage which we mainly use as a pantry.

On the right hand side is another double bed, again with cabinets above. Underneath this bed is a huge storage area which can be accessed by that little door you see underneath, but also from the outside of the campervan. This is where our folding tables and chairs live for outside, as well as some of the children’s beach toys, some tools, etc.

campervan baby

The double bed in the back is handy because it’s quite high. It’s and easy place to change Bram’s nappies and also to put him to sleep. There is a curtain that divides the space and he’s been feeling really at home there. (That bed is also an immensely popular place for baby Bram cuddling sessions!)

campervan bathroom

On the left is our bathroom, which is super small and entirely mint green. Even though we’ve mostly been using the campsite’s facilities, it’s handy to have a place to brush your teeth and keep your toiletries, and of course a little toilet is nice to have as well.

campervan kitchen

The kitchen, as I said, is tiny. There are three burners but they are so close together that you can just really use two at the same time. But we’ve managed to cook on it nevertheless!

campervan cooking

campervan food

We’ve been practising campervan camping the past weekends, and it’s been amazing to have our mini house with us. We all love camping, and this is really camping PLUS! We have a little pop-up tent which we’ve used for outside sleeping and has allowed us to even have sleepovers with the children’s friends. It’s all easy and everything is so fun and flexible!

Right, so today we’re off — the seven of us in our little snail home heading for campervan adventures. I’ll be sure to report back from wherever we end up!

  
campervan adventures

xxx Esther

PS Italian inspired tuna and bean salad — the perfect camping food!

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Historical Fiction Books About The Civil Rights Movement

Whether in the classroom or at home, kids ages 9 – 12 (middle-grade readers) need quality historical fiction chapter books that illuminate our history. In this case, the Civil Rights Movement. These novels contain memorable characters and plots. Although they’re fiction, this often helps bring the history to life in a way that kids won’t […]

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Travel the World: Books for Kids About Japan and Japanese Culture

Travel to Japan by reading picture books and chapter books that are set in Japan and show Japanese culture and traditions. Books help kids learn about different countries and their cultures. For me, the book Shogun first got me interested in Japanese culture. I wonder what it will be for your kids? Happy travels! Picture […]

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Have You Seen These New Beginning Chapter Books? 2018

Beginning readers (ages 6 – 9) need engaging chapter books with interesting plots and memorable characters. That’s why I like to bring you the latest new releases so you have even more reading options.   Find ALL my book recommendations for new readers: Easiest Chapter Books for 6- and 7-Years-Old Chapter Books for 7-Year-Olds Chapter […]

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The Best Ninja Picture Books for Kids

So many kids go through a loving everything ninja phase. I know my youngest daughter did. She even had a ninja-themed birthday party! These are our favorite ninja picture books. We hope you like them, too. The Best Ninja Picture Books for Kids Hello Ninja by N.D. Wilson, illustrated by Forrest Dickison Kids love this […]

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Riveting Robot Books for Kids

Robots rock, right? (See what I did there? rrr …) Get your STEM-loving kids jazzed about robots with these books all about robots! From picture books to nonfiction tomes, these books will get your kids excited about robotics. Riveting Robot Books for Kids The Robot Book by Heather Brown This robot has two eyes, two arms, […]

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Read With Me Kids App Lets Parents Personalize a Printed Book

written by Christa Jimenez of Pura Vida Moms Disclosure: I had the opportunity to test the app Read With Me Kids in partnership with Imagination Soup and sponsored by Read With Me Kids. As usual, all opinions are my own. I’m always looking for ways to encourage my kids to read– we have an independent […]

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Notable Board Books Summer 2018

Check out these notable board books– there are plenty of great stories from which to choose. Any book is good, right? Keep on reading to your kids! Notable Board Books Summer 2018 Hero Vs. Villain: A Book of Opposites by T. Hat Fuller, illustrated by Alex Eben Meyer OOOH, I like this book so much. […]

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If You Have a Neurodiverse Child, Differently Wired Is a Must-Read

In a world full of parenting books for “typical” kids and books about understanding specific disorders, there aren’t many books that guide us on how to embrace and parent an atypical, neurodiverse child. Differently Wired: Raising an Exceptional Child in a Conventional World is a judgment-free breath of fresh air; it shows parents like me how to see, […]

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The Best Books for Kids to Read During Shark Week (or Anytime)

Hey, kids–Shark Week is coming up!! Did you know that sharks are fish? And they have no bones — only cartilage? Learn all about sharks to compliment your favorite Shark Week shows. Or maybe you already know about sharks but want MORE books to read… Well, here you go –books about shark researchers, shark facts, […]

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