Last year, around this time, I met Kellie and Jonathan Stones at an event here in Byron. Kellie and Jonathan are the husband and wife team behind the family-run business, Castle & Cubby — they design and create the coolest, eco-friendly cubby houses, tree houses, mud kitchens, sand pits, garden boxes and outside furniture! How cool, right? They had a few cubby houses on display at the event, and my kids (actually, all the kids) spent the entire time playing in them.
Seeing the cubby houses brought back memories of my own childhood cubby house — my siblings and I would spend hours playing out in our little house, even sleeping out there with friends. I immediately hinted to Michael that we’d have to get a cubby house for the backyard of our new house, and within 15 minutes of that discussion Kellie approached me about working together. I literally lept at the opportunity!
Five months later, once we finished our renovations, Kellie and Jonathan came over to discuss our cubby house. What struck me the most about the business of building cubby houses, is that there are so many factors to consider: what will it look like, how big should it be, where will it go, how can it accommodate different children of various ages, etc. When we spoke about where to put the cubby house, Jonathan made the point that the cubby house had to be in direct view of the kitchen window because children are more likely to play somewhere if they know they can be seen and if they can see you back. Isn’t that interesting?
Being the cubby house experts that they are, Kellie and Jonathan also explained that the house should be elevated, so that little children in the house could interact with bigger children outside of it. They also explained that cafe-style windows and a Dutch door create an opportunity for much more interaction in child’s play. I love that these details are so well considered when designing the cubby houses. It’s that attention to detail that I admire so much about Kellie and Jonathan’s work and their wonderful creations.
I also love that Castle & Cubby design cubby houses of all styles. We specifically asked for a cubby house that matched the style of our home, so that it would look like an extension of our house. They used the same paint colour as our house for the outside, and used reclaimed wood for the window boxes and awnings, to give it an older, more traditional feel, similar to our home.
Inside the cubby house, they created a play kitchen and oven, as well as bench seating with built-in storage. Everything is honestly SO cute and well considered in terms of the use of interior space. I’m not joking when I say they are cubby house experts.
Kellie and Jonathan started Castle & Cubby around five years ago after building their first recycled apple crate cubby house for their son. After that first cubby house, they received feedback from friends and realised that others might also enjoy the sustainable nature of these play spaces. A little ad on eBay to make some extra cash turned into the first stages of Castle & Cubby just six months later. They have since worked so hard (in their own backyard!) to build their business into what it is now: a sustainable brand focusing on inspiring imagination and encouraging outdoor play in children across Australia (now with two workshops, in Melbourne and Byron Bay, and servicing ALL of Australia).
Not only are the cubby houses SO cool and so thought-out in terms of encouraging interactive play, they are also completely organic and sustainable. They only use untreated timbers and safe second-hand recycled timbers. They are passionate about organic play spaces, ensuring absolutely no chemicals will be leached into the ground or onto children’s hands.
Not only that, but they are also really passionate about educating families and children on the benefits of sustainable play, organic gardening and sustainability. After building our cubby house, they came back a few months later to build garden boxes so they could educate the children about organic planting. They asked Janene, a permaculture garden specialist, to come and talk to the kids about growing their own organic veggies and flowers. Now the kids are taking great responsibility in keeping these garden beds alive, which is wonderful!
Castle & Cubby came over a few weeks ago to take photos of our cubby house for their own website (you can see and read more here), and I thought I’d also share with you here because so many people have asked about our cubby house. If you live in Australia, I definitely recommend reaching out to Kellie and Jonathan about a bespoke cubby house for your own backyard.
The first dandelions have turned into seed buds so walks in the park have become even more fun. Blowing those fluffy pompons is so fulfilling — even I can’t resist the contentment of baring a nice, fat and full blowball!
Yesterday we decided to try and create our own dandelions, using simple kitchen utensils like our dish brush and a fork. Fun!
First the children used watercolours to create the background field — green for the gras and blue for the sky. With gouache, they painted the dandelion stem and the leaves (we picked some leaves earlier in the park so we could see what they look like).
Then, we dipped our dishwashing brush in white gouache and created the puffballs. For the flowers we used a fork. So easy but we loved the result!
Casper added some insects which I thought was a nice idea. And voila! Done! Such a simple craft project, but don’t you think the results are so pretty?
Griffith Park Pony Rides has been part of LA families’ lives since 1948! The Pony Ride pasture sits on four acres within Griffith Park, which is a one of the largest natural terrains within the city of Los Angeles (the Los Angeles Zoo and Travel Time Museum are just around the corner, and also located in Griffith Park!). The pony rides happen in a safe and controlled area of the park, guided by trained staff. Its an excellent experience to let your kids enjoy!
There are a few different levels of Pony riding:
The Pony-Go-Round with real ponies for the smallest of riders (one year and up), where parents are allowed to walk with the child and next to the pony. The child is secured in the saddle and the ponies are attached to the carousel. It’s a great first pony riding experience if you want to guide your child. The next few pony riding levels don’t allow parents to go with the child!
Slow Ponies are the next step up from the Pony-Go-Round. The child is secured to the saddle and they are lead through the inner circle of the track on a slow pace. Parents can watch and wave from the designated waiting area. The staff does not walk with your child for the full 2 laps, but instead they are around to guide and help, if needed. A little nerve-wrecking to see your 18 month old all by himself out there doing laps on a pony (image below)! But a good lesson in letting go and trusting your child’s capabilities!
The Medium Pony Rides are for children three years and up. The ponies go a little faster. I’d say they run for half the time! They go around on the outer circle of the track. The staff takes your child and helps them get on the pony and secures them to the saddle while you wait at the waiting area from where you can watch.
For the Big Pony Rides your child must be seven years old and up, or 48″ tall and up. This is the most advanced level offered at Griffith Park Pony Rides.
If you are looking for a ride for the whole family, you can go on a wagon ride! To find out the ponies names and a few facts about each, head this way!
Each pony ride costs $5. The park is open from 10:00am to 4:00pm on weekdays and from 10:00am to 5:00pm on weekends. There is free parking.
After much deliberation by our team, followed by tough decision making by our wonderful judges, and then finally a tally of votes from all of YOU, our wonderful readers, we are super excited to announce this year’s winners in the Babyccino Awards! Drum roll please as we announce them all below…!
Thanks for supporting our wonderful shops & brands and taking the time to vote for your favourites! It’s a wonderful selection and we’re so proud to present these shops with their much-deserved awards! Please check them out, if you haven’t already!
We adore banana cake and fortunately it’s one of those foods that it’s acceptable to eat pretty much anytime of the day! This olive oil and almond version is one of our favourites — it’s gluten and dairy free and you can just pop all the ingredients in a kitchen aid and beat together for 2 minutes and it’s ready for the oven!
It’s that easy!
It’s also great to use up all the half eaten bananas that my daughters have a habit of leaving. I slice up the leftover bananas and pop them in a freezer bag and freeze until I have enough for the cake. You can use the frozen slices straight from the freezer and if you have any leftover they are also great popped into smoothies.
Banana and Olive Oil Cake
3 ripe bananas, plus one sliced to decorate
3 tbsp olive oil
2-3 tbsp maple syrup, depending on how ripe your bananas are
1 1/2 cups [or 150g] ground almonds
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 180oC and line a baking tin with grease proof paper (I use a 15x25cm tin). Place all the ingredients in the bowl of a kitchen aid and beat together for 2 minutes or until smooth. Pour into the prepared baking tray and arrange the slices of banana over the top. Place in the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes or until golden and springs back when you lightly press on the top. Remove and allow to cool for 10 minutes before moving onto a cooling rack and slicing.
I am super excited!!!! This coming Friday 17th of May and Saturday 18th of May we are hosting another Babyccino x The Reunion Pop Up in Paris! It is going to be sooo much fun.
Right after last year’s event, Amandine and I had lunch and decided: we just had to do another event in the spring! I need to point out that Amandine was about 5 months pregnant at the time. We were talking about dates and she was totally unfazed when we decided on the weekend of the 18th of May. Meanwhile, baby Georges was born exactly one month ago and this superwoman is back in the saddle and getting this event up and running. I have sooo much respect for that!
All the work has paid off and we are having 60 of the best baby and children’s brands coming to join us. There will be some treats for well deserving mamas too!
The venue called L’Atelier Richelieu is amazing, right in the centre of Paris and easy to reach from every corner of the city.
I cannot wait: it is always so fun working with so many inspiring women and to do this in my city is very special.
Esther is also coming over from Amsterdam and bringing my favourite young man Bram with her to join the fun. It really is a “family” affair as Lara, who writes our Paris city guide, designed the logo and art-designed the whole event.
I hope to see and meet some of you at the event this weekend. Please do pop around and say hi!
We live in an interesting age. Technology is developing with the speed of light and a life without mobile devices has simply become unthinkable. I find this such a strange phenomenon, especially given the fact that it’s not even that long ago since we didn’t even have wireless communication! (I think my dad, because his work as a vet, was one of the firsts with a car phone in our village — it was in the late 80s and the device was gigantic! Before that, he always carried a beeper with him and whenever there was an emergency, he had to find the nearest landline and call my mum who would then give him all of the details. Which, of course, he would write down in the book he always kept next to him in the car.)
Because (mobile) technology is so new to us, because it’s constantly developing and because most of us only started using it as an adolescent or young adult, we don’t have a precedent of how to raise our children with it. We simply do not have the wisdom of a collective memory, formed over the span of generations, to use when we define the framework into which we allow our children to manoeuvre.
At what age do you give your children a mobile phone? How should they use it? Do we limit the time we give it to them, and if so, how do we do that? So many questions, so little answers.
Social Media is obviously another big beast. It’s the love and the scare of many of us. We feel inspired and empowered by it one moment, only to feel inadequate and frustrated the next. We feel the pull of it, only to feel the aversion at the same time. We feel supported by an online community, only to feel more lonely and insecure as we’ve ever felt. If WE feel these emotions, as adults, how on earth are we supposed to guide our children through the rocky waters of social media?
How do we answer the questions that arise while raising children, teenagers, in this age of mobile communication? How do we define the rules without common experience or precedence?
We try, we test, we mould. We shape and reshape our parenting. When we make a mistake, we adjust and we try again. We talk, we read and we listen to other parents as we figure out what works best for our own family, set in our own culture and community.
And so do Tamar and I. Two of our children now have a mobile phone (Sara has had one for nearly three years now and Pim for about a year), so we had to set our own rules as well. And as we continue to learn and adjust, I thought it would be useful to share the boundaries we have set as a family. Which have worked well for us! Despite having a phone, our children still play, they still read, they still get dirty, they still are children!
But I would love to learn from you as well. Please share your thoughts, experiences and rules too!
At what age do you give your children a mobile phone?
We give our kids a mobile phone after they have turned 11. We don’t make a big deal out of it and we don’t treat it as a present (we do not give it as a present for their birthday, for example). We just give it to them, at an undefined moment, as an indication that now we think they are big enough to start the learning curve of how to deal with the responsibilities that come with owning a mobile phone.
In the Netherlands, children from around the age 11 (and older) commonly cycle to after-school classes by themselves (alone, or with friends or team members). Tamar and I feel that the moment we are trusting our children with the responsibility of finding their own way around town and navigating the busy Amsterdam traffic entirely by themselves, it is a good moment to trust them with a mobile phone as well.
Another reason is the fact that WhatsApp groups are commonly used in the Netherlands for practical communication with teachers and team members in sports, dance and music classes. When children are older than 11, parents are not even a member of these groups anymore! So if, for example, a class is canceled, it is directly communicated to the children using WhatsApp.
When secondary school starts (typically at the age of 12), children are simply assumed to have a mobile phone. Secondary school teachers use online systems to share homework and grades and class mentors share information with their student via class WhatsApp groups.
All in all, the age of 11 seemed like a fitting age for us to start giving our children access to a mobile phone. (By this time, the children are super excited to finally be able to join their class chat group! The biggest chunk of Dutch children get WhatsApp access way before our kids do, so they are usually amongst the last to join the group. Not that we feel that matters — I just want to point out that peer pressure, for us, is not the reason to give our children a mobile phone!)
Initially, we just put a very low prepaid card on the phone and they have no access to broadband. They are not allowed to take their phone out off the house (not to school, not to playdates etc). They can only take it with them when they cycle to classes that take place a bit further from home (horse riding, for example, is a 25 minutes cycle away from our home).
Do you allow your children on Social Media?
We allow a few social apps on their phones. Besides WhatsApp, Sara and Pim have the Pinterest and the Instagram apps on their phones. Sara likes to use Pinterest for inspiration for her bullet journal (she loves hand lettering, creating collages, etc). On Instagram they mostly like to follow their friends, me (and some of my friends) and Babyccino of course! Their accounts are private and they both know that they are only supposed to place content that I approve of. (I don’t approve of stupid selfies or irrelevant, popular content, for example!) They both rarely post anything, and if they do it’s usually a sweet family photos or a cute photo of their baby brother :). I follow both of them (and a lot of their friends, too!) — it’s quite sweet, really. I see or feel no danger here, and trust my instincts.
Which apps are they allowed to use?
Besides the prementioned apps, Sara uses a banking app and a guitar tuning app. They both use Sonos and Spotify to listen to music. Pim has the app Shazam, which he finds amusing, and an app he uses with his GoPro camera. That’s it! When they want a new app, Tamar has to approve it on his phone, so we are very much in charge of this.
What sort of rules do you have in place with regards to mobile phone use?
– No games! Our children do not play Minecraft, Fortnite or Pokemon. They also do not use educational apps (which, to us, are a bit like games in disguise).
– They are not allowed to take their phones upstairs (to their bedrooms). Phones stay downstairs in the living room. (If Sara has to check the school system, she can do so downstairs and write it down for homework etc.) This rule, BTW, also counts for friends that visit. Their phones stay in the living room too! (Of course every rule has its exception, and if Sara has a friend over and they ask if they can bring their phone upstairs for a bit, I don’t mind too much.)
– Absolutely no phones at the table during meal times.
– No extensive periods of time on the phone. In general, I find it ok for them to use their phones briefly for relevant communications and keep in touch with their friends in a respectful way. To listen to music or check their Social Media every now and then. We don’t have time restrictions set in place, but it’s easy to monitor the time they spend on their phones because the phone is always downstairs with us. In general, I don’t see them on their phone too often (and they ask before using it), so I’m pretty relaxed about it.
– If they break or loose their phone (and its accessories) there are consequences. For example, they may have to (help) pay for the repair. They have to learn the value of a mobile phone!
– They have to be respectful in their communications and display correct behaviour. I expect them to be aware of group pressure and recognise negative behaviour — they should raise the red flag if they feel there is something unpleasant going on.
How do you check all of this?
We know their passwords and check their phones! I occasionally check their messages, WhatsApp groups, etc. When I see them on their phones, I ask what they are doing. When I feel they spend too much time on it, I simply take their phones away from them for a few days. I feel it’s important to always keep the parental authority and control — for the time being at least.
What is your general screen policy?
We don’t have iPads, and the children do not use computers unless for (very occasional) school work. We only watch TV (or a film) on Friday night, and we make it FUN! It is the one evening a week where we don’t eat together at the table: we put snacks on the coffee table, the kids can each choose one fizzy drink (cola is popular!), we have popcorn etc. We all LOVE our Friday evenings all cozied up on the sofa. These evening have become so popular that most evenings we have friends joining us! These evenings are really about connection, and it’s great.
OK, this has become a long post and I do apologise for that! As I said before, please do share your thoughts and experiences, so we can learn from each other! I’m really curious what you have to say…
Viewing some of New York’s most recognizable landmarks from the water, during golden hour, aboard a 1920s-inspired wooden yacht…sounds pretty amazing, right? I can’t believe I’d forgotten about this trip we took last spring until it popped up in my Instagram memories earlier this week, but looking at the photos again I’m reminded of what a fun evening we had!
In a situation that might sound familiar to some other parents, on a weekend afternoon without plans I found myself scratching my head a bit to come up with an idea that could get us all out the door to have a little fun before bedtime. I’m not sure what made me think of it, but I remembered a sunset sail on a wooden schooner offered by Classic Harbor Line that I’d once taken with my mother and sister (highly recommended!) and thought that perhaps a boat ride might fit the bill. The sunset sail seemed more involved and less baby/toddler-friendly than I had in mind, but the 1-hour Statue of Liberty Cruise looked perfect, so tickets were booked and off we went.
We raced down to the pier where the boat, a gorgeous wooden replica of a 1920s-era yacht, was moored with no time to spare and climbed aboard to discover only one other family on the cruise that evening. The captain and crew said this was quite unusual, and it felt so special to have the entire boat mostly to ourselves! With large sliding glass windows on all sides, the interior of the boat was light-filled with gleaming wood and comfortably-cushioned benches and chairs arranged around small tables. Outside, the deck of the boat offered seating around the wheelhouse and railings along the sides that felt high and secure enough to allow me to relax a bit as my 3-year-old and 1-year-old moved about.
Leaving Pier 62 at Chelsea Piers we motored slowly down the Hudson River, the New York City skyline to the boat’s port and the New Jersey shoreline along the starboard. Interspersed in the skyline and easily viewed from the boat were many of New York’s most recognizable towers: the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, One World Trade Center, and the Woolworth Building. As we left the southern tip of Manhattan behind, we could see Ellis Island and then, quite close, was the Statue of Liberty. The boat slowed so we could take her in for a few moments before turning and heading back to the Pier.
The price of each ticket includes a glass or two of beer, wine, champagne, or soda and when we went last spring the boat offered a light menu of snacks – think chips, hummus with crudités, cheese plate, etc. – at additional cost (this may have changed since then, though you are also welcome to bring your own picnic aboard, which would be fun with more planning). We ordered a few small snacks and settled with our drinks by the window, watching the sun close in on the horizon and enjoying the feeling of fresh spring air coming through the windows. We marvelled again at the skyline as the boat pulled into the pier, took a quick spin on the nearby carousel (more on that below!), and still made it home in time for bedtime. Sometimes last minute adventures lead to such sweet memories, don’t you think?
A few additional details:
Most Classic Harbor Line boats leave from Pier 62 at Chelsea Piers. The closest public transit options are the M23 bus and the A and C trains to 23rd Street. Aim to arrive 20-30 minutes before scheduled departure to leave yourself enough time!
A short walk north along the Hudson River Park from the Pier 62 departure point you’ll find the Pier 62 Carousel featuring animals native to the Hudson River watershed. My kids love this carousel, with fun animals like a racoon, bear, and even a sturgeon fish replacing the usual horses!
Be sure to check the full range of ticketed cruises to find the one that best suites your interests and timeframe. As I mentioned, I’d previously done a sunset schooner sail and loved the experience of being out on the water under the power of the wind – so different than being on a boat using a motor the whole time! I haven’t done them yet, but the architecture tours sound fascinating, and in the fall there are foliage rides north along the Hudson River to see the changing leaves. The 1-hour cruise we took is the shortest they offer, perfect for young children or itineraries that don’t leave time for a longer boat ride.
Another option for seeing the Statue of Liberty and Lower Manhattan by boat is a ride on the Staten Island Ferry. It runs back and forth between South Ferry in Manhattan and St. George Terminal on Staten Island all day long (every 30 minutes, with even more frequent service during peak rush hour). The Staten Island Ferry won’t bring you as close to the Statue of Liberty as the Classic Harbor Line tour, but it’s free – a big perk!
Guys, I’m really excited to share a new personal project I’ve been working on! After two years of mushy baby brain (no joke — I honestly thought my brain might never work properly again!), I’m excited to be back in entrepreneurial shoes — with fresh ideas and enthusiasm. Back in February, just before Wilkie’s 2nd birthday, a friend sparked an idea. And, before I knew it, I was finding myself on my computer well past my bedtime every night, working with excitement to get this idea off the ground. I’ve spent the last few months eagerly working, writing, filming and planning, and I’m really excited to share this new project with you.
I’m launching a 5-week collaborative e-course on family lifestyle, covering a different topic each week: Family, Home, Food, Travel and Lifestyle. I’ll be sharing thoughts, lessons I’ve learned, tips & tricks, insightful interviews, and fun tutorials in both written, video and live formats. I’ve never before done live videos on Instagram, so this is all new territory for me, but I’m super excited to be pushing myself a bit out of my comfort zone and connecting with people in this new way!
Through the course content — both written and video — I’ll be sharing thoughts and inspiration for families: ideas for cooking (including lunch box ideas!), getting children involved in food prep, organising your home, decorating your space, travelling with children, packing a suitcase, organising your wardrobe, shopping for babies and children, shopping for YOU, finding balance between work and family, and slowing down as a family. I’ve also interviewed other women who will be sharing their wisdom and the lessons they’ve learned: my friend, Melanie Deefholts, who specialises in childhood development, Natalie Walton, who will chat to us about styling and decorating our homes, Magdalena Roze on cooking nutritious meals for babies and mothers, Julia Ashwood on family travel and Chloe Brookman on growing a successful business and juggling family and a career. Each interview has left me feeling so inspired and empowered — I can’t wait to share them with everyone.
In addition to the course content, each week I’ll be expanding on the different topics on a new subscriber-only Instagram feed, as a way to build a community of engaged parents and to share and learn from people around the world. I’ll be raising topics, sharing interesting podcasts, asking questions and encouraging feedback and conversation amongst subscribers. I think this is the aspect I am most excited about! I’m so looking forward to connecting with people from all over the world.
I would love for you to join, and really look forward to connecting with you all.
In the meantime, I’ll still be here in this space writing and sharing as usual. Babyccino is my first work ‘baby’, shared with Esther and Emilie, and I’m so proud of all that we’ve accomplished in the (nearly) 12 years since we began. (And Esther, Emilie and I are still wonderful friends and love and support each other as always!) I’ve learned so much from Babyccino and the community here, and feel so fortunate to have grown as a parent alongside you all. It feels exciting to take the experience I’ve gained and to be forging a new path in a world I still love.
Thanks, as always, for your support.
p.s. I just wanted to clarify that there’s nothing wrong with baby brain. It’s actually a wonderful thing, and forces you to be more in touch with yourself and your family, and it should actually be embraced! (I was just happy when, after nearly two years, my brain started to feel a bit more focused again.)