Please meet Esther van de Paal who lives 3 years in New York City (where she got engaged), 1 year in Brussels (where she got married) and 3 years in London (where she got a couple of children and met the co-writers of her famous blog babyccino kids. Esther moved back to her home country to live in Amsterdam. Trained as an architect, she likes things to be organized, functional and good-looking. As a mother of three, that seems hard to achieve, but at least her husband makes an effort. She loves cooking and having her friends over, who in return, love to spend time on her couch. She is fond of little creative projects (drawing, sewing, baking) and has a weakness for shopping and ‘finding the best deal’ – she’s Dutch, after all. (bio is from Babyccino)
What kind of house do you live in - are you and the kids happy here or is there anything you find lacking or would like to change?
We live in a small house from the 1950s. It's a rental so we can't change too much!
What is it you like best about living here?
The garden! And the amount of sunlight inside because of the big metal-framed windows from the '50s.
Do you like to spend time on decorating your home and the children’s room?
Yes I do, to a certain extent. My house is never finished -- I'm always on the lookout for cool items for my house (a lot of it I find on the streets!).
Do you keep your children’s play areas very separate or do you believe they should have a space in every part of the house?
Well, my kids are living in our house as much as we are, so they are allowed to play where-ever they please. I do keep most of their toys in their own bedroom though, and try to encourage them to play there (our living room is not very big)...
Where do you look for interior inspiration, favorite magazines, websites, blogs?
I love looking at blogs like yours, Irene, for inspiration. I also love the Dutch interior magazines (like VT wonen, Elle wonen, 101 woonideeën). Because I also work as an architect, I try to be aware of the trends in architecture and design.
What are your children’s favorite items in your house?
The Corbusier chair to use as a slide, the couches to jump on, the pillows and blankets to make houses from. And their toys of course...
Some tidying tips? Do your children tidy up after themselves?
Of course I did some good tidying up before I took the photos of my house -- honestly, my house never really looks so tidy! And yes, I do think my kids should tidy up after themselves, in their own way at least. But of course I'm still always cleaning, tidying, putting laundry away... Like every other mum I'm sure!
What's it like to raise a child in your town?
Amsterdam is very kid friendly. The best part is the possibility to cycle everywhere, so kids spend a good amount of time outside, on their bikes (or on the back with their parents).
What is your idea of a perfect day with your children?
Morning in pyjamas, breakfast together, doing a little craft project. Afternoon with friends, or a trip to a museum or something. Nothing too special, just having time for each other and being relaxed! Most importantly no computers around!
What is a normal day with your children? What do you do on weekends?
My oldest children go to school; they leave in the morning on the back of the bike with my husband. The baby (Ava), is either with me or with the babysitter when I'm working. Weekends we always spend as a family. We're away a lot, since we have lots of friends and family in other parts of the country or abroad.
Can you tell us a funny story, quote or remark one of your children recently made?
My 5-year-old daughter Sara asked what religion was. My husband explained that there are different things people can believe in, like nature, the plants, the water, the living things on earth, or 'people', like Jesus, or Mohammed, or Buddha...
Later at the table, I asked her what she believes in. She thought for a moment and said: "I believe in Jesus, and Maria..... and (with a big sigh), MICHAEL...." (Michael Jackson -- since he's dead as well).
Can you mention some of your ‘how-to-raise-your-kid’ values?
Our children should have respect for grown-ups. They have to be polite and behave well in public places (like restaurants). I'm old-fashioned like that!! On the other hand, we encourage them to play, be creative, be imaginative -- be kids, really.
What kind of DIY projects do you like to do with your children?
A selection of craft projects I've done with the children can be found on Babyccino Kids... Mostly they're quite simple and easy to do...
Any tips for keeping the house clean when crafting?
Not really!! I just clean up afterwards! We do have a huge Ikea table that is big enough for craft projects, even with groups, and it's easy to clean. I really don't care what happens to it -- paint, glue, whatever...
Are you a crafter or DIY person?
Yes, I love 'baking and making'. I wish I had more time for it!!
How do you like to celebrate birthdays and other special days in your house?
I like to celebrate those special days in our own house. I bake the birthday cake myself, and I try to come up with a creative idea to make it really special. I find that a theme makes it easier to find a way to decorate, think of games to play, craft projects to do, etc. (Although I don't go crazy with the way everything looks -- it's a kids party, not a styling competition!)
For my daughter's birthday this year the theme was 'horses' so we made our own stick horses and decorated them with the children. It was fun!
Do your children have friends over very often? If yes, what activities would they do?
Yes, they bring a friend home once or twice a week. I usually let them play by themselves, they love pretend play, dressing up, creating their own world... Sometimes I stimulate their play a bit, like for instance when I made the doctor's hats. The older girls also love to draw and do crafting projects on the big table.
What are some favorite games in your home?
The favourite game my kids play is 'baby cat', where my 5-year-old daughter is the baby cat and my 3-year-old boy is the daddy. I also like to play bingo with them, it's simple enough for the youngest to play as well.
What kind of sports do your children like to do and are you very involved?
Not really -- I think they're still a bit young to do sports. My daughter goes to ballet though.
Are there musical instruments in your house?
Two guitars, but we still need to learn to play!
What are all time favorite books for the children?
Joelle Jolivet's Zoology is always in our living room. And this time of year, Charlotte Dematon's book about Sinterklaas is a favourite with all of us!
What are nice activities you can do with children in your place and what could you recommend when people are visiting?
My recommendations on fun things to do in Amsterdam with kids in tow can be found in the Babyccino Kids Amsterdam Cityguide...
Are you a ‘cook’ or ‘food lover’ or both?
Definitely both, and my kids are very good eaters, thankfully. I don't have a lot of patience with children who refuse to eat!
Do you cook together with your children? Does Dad cook?
My kids love to help me cook -- dad prefers to wash the dishes...
What kind of place do you like to go to on vacation with and without the children?
We usually take the children when we go on vacation. Each summer we go to France for a few weeks, where my family has a little house in the countryside. We love to live in nature a few weeks each year!
Tips for traveling in a plane or a long road trip with children?
We bring an Ipod with a splitter and 2 headphones, and download a couple of audio books on it. Works like a charm!
..Esther van de Paal..