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Mom Story: Mimi from Hello Shiso

Opening pic

Mimi from hello shiso

Hi, I’m Mimi and I live in Berkeley, CA with my husband and two kids – Otis (7) and Bee (4).  I’m the owner and designer of hello shiso, which makes accessories for kids. We’ve mostly been making hair accessories for girls, but I would love to make bibs and bags for girls AND boys soon.  

I write a blog shisomama, where I post pictures of my kids on Fashion Show Sunday, and I’m an avid user of Pinterest

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 Craftsman-style house built in 1906, and there had only been one owner in this house before we moved in (he moved in when he was 6!). It was a mess and really needed a lot of work when we bought it, so we were able to update it and make it what we needed, including a kid-friendly backyard full of fruit trees. We added a backyard studio a few years ago, and it’s been really wonderful having a space so close to home for my business.

Neighborhood pic

What do you like best about living there?

I love that everywhere I look, I see memories that we’ve built as a family. And I truly love our neighborhood – we all know each other (street parties and BBQs are common, and there have been many jumpy houses rented) and kids are always on the street, traveling in packs. You can’t walk down the street without stopping to chat. 

Do you like to spend time decorating your home, and your children’s room?

I love it! I just wish I had more time for it. I’ve got a long list of projects that I’d like to get to soon, and the list just gets longer and longer.

Kids'-room-pic

Do you keep your children’s play area separate, or do you believe they should have a space in every part of the house?

The kids have a play room, which started out as a playroom/studio until I got kicked out and we built a studio in the backyard. But the kids play all over the house and in the yard. 

Where do you look for interior inspiration, favorite magazines, websites, blogs?

I’m a little bit obsessed with Pinterest. I also love Design Sponge, Remodelista and A Merry Mishap, among a million other blogs that I don’t have time to read. And I love Japanese books and magazine, which I buy when I’m in Taiwan – they always have great styling.

What are your children’s favorite items in your house?

Cardboard boxes, if you can believe it. Every box gets pulled out of the recycling and co-opted for play. After a while, I can’t take it anymore and recycle a few while they’re at school, but then more show up.

Cardboard box pic

Some tidying tips? Do your children tidy up after themselves?

Unfortunately for my children, clutter makes me crazy! Recently, we borrowed a neighbor’s policy of getting rid of the things that the children do not clean up, and it’s been somewhat effective. But we all try to tidy up and do chores like laundry folding together, and we’re all trying to be better about putting things away as soon as we’re done with them.

What places in your neighborhood do you like to shop at?

One of the reasons we bought our house is because we’re within walking distance of so many great stores and restaurants.  We’re definitely regulars at  Elmwood Café, which used to be an old fashioned soda fountain and pharmacy.  The new owners have continued the tradition with homemade sodas.  They’re also right next to our beloved bookstore, Mrs. Dalloway, and you can peek into the bookstore from the café.

Elmwood cafe pic

What is your idea of a perfect day with your children?

We start the day off with something relaxing, like a leisurely breakfast or a trip to the farmer’s market, continue with something fun like a hike or bike ride and finish off by hanging out and having dinner with friends. With no fighting or whining.

Park pic

What is a normal day with your children? What do you do on the weekends?

Weekdays can be a bit chaotic with carpools, play dates, activities and a little bit of “alone time” with me for each kid, but we are often lucky enough to have our weekends look like our idea of a perfect day. Though occasionally with more whining and bickering. And every Sunday, we do Fashion Show Sunday, where one or both of the kids gets dressed up and we take pictures. We’ve been doing it since Otis was teeny, and it’s usually good for a few laughs. My family always looks forward to seeing the pictures.

Fashion show sunday pic

Can you mention some of your ‘how-to-raise-your-kid’ advice?

I think you have to do what feels right to you and your family.  I always tell my kids “Different rules for different families” and I feel that’s true in so many ways.  So much depends on what kind of parent you are and what kind of kids you have, and I try really hard not to judge other people’s choices. 

What kind of DIY projects do you like to do with your children?

We love to make art together, as well as cook and garden. Lately, Otis has also been interested in sewing, and it’s been fun watching him try something new which requires so much patience and concentration. He’s very proud of his projects.

We always take sketchbooks and pens when we go out. I have a little packet filled with thin sketchbooks that is always ready to go – it helps us kill time when we’re waiting. Otis also loves to make word puzzles of all kinds.

Making art pic

Are you a crafter or DIY person?

I love DIY!  I always feel like if I just had enough time, I could figure out how to do just about anything.  I’ve made a giant homasote board and a chalkboard art table for the kids’ playroom, and my husband made a fort for the kids in the backyard. The DIY to-do list is long.

Otis's cape pic

What do you do with all the projects your children make at home, or in school?

We have a huge stack which keeps growing, even though I try to go back periodically and weed some out.  I’ve also been trying to take pictures instead, which is also good since then I can show them to family that live far away.  I’m so sentimental, so it’s really hard!

Artworks pic

How do you like to celebrate birthday's and other special days in your house?

I love traditions and it seems like most traditions around here are celebrated with food.   For birthdays, we always eat noodles, which is a Chinese tradition. The birthday boy or girl gets to choose whether we eat the Chinese noodles which I grew up with, or spaghetti and meatballs, which is our new tradition. We usually throw parties for the kids’ birthdays, and last year for my husband’s 40th birthday, we had a pig roast, which was amazing and completely memorable.

Birthday pic

Do your children have friends over often? If yes, what activities do they do?

YES! I try not to pack my children’s schedules with too many activities, since I feel it’s such a luxury of childhood to be bored and to create fun with friends. Luckily, there are often impromptu play sessions with neighbors, and we’re almost always happy to have kids over to play. They stream in and out of the house, and create amazing games. There are many lemonade stands, and the occasional yard sale.

Play date pic

How do you buy your books?

We love our local bookstore, and we receive a lot of wonderful books as presents. Luckily, our public library is very close, so we visit every week or two. We are discovering how wonderful it is to have knowledgeable book sellers and librarians, who always give us such wonderful advice.

Library pic

What are some nice activities you can do with children in your area, and what would you recommend when people are visiting?

We have amazing playgrounds in Berkeley, plus some great parks where families can take hikes together. We also love going to our local farmer’s market (there are so many in the Bay Area) – ours always has live music and kids playing in the creek, whether there’s water or not. If we’re ambitious, we go to a museum – the Exploratorium in SF is one of our favorites. 

Are you a ‘cook’ or ‘food lover’ or both?

Both! I used to be completely obsessed with food, but starting with my first pregnancy, when I was sick for 9 months, I became less interested.  Isn’t that sad?  Even though I’m not dreaming about the next meal in the middle of eating one anymore, I still love to cook for friends. 

Cooking pic

Do you cook together with your children? Does Dad cook?

I do try to cook with the children, which they love. My family has also slowly been teaching the kids to make their favorite foods, including dumplings. I do most of the cooking in the household, though my husband is an excellent pancake maker. Lately we’ve been doing a food exchange with our neighbors (so we cook for them one night, and they cook for us one night) and it’s been really great – I cook one less meal, and it’s also such a treat to eat by someone else’s palate. 

Where would you like to go on vacation - with or without your children? 

I try to take the kids back to Taiwan every summer. I have a lot of family there, and it’s important to me that they get the family time, the culture and the language. I just wish it wasn’t so hot! Some times we take trips to other countries in Asia with my family.   

My husband and I are dreaming about the day we can take a nice, long trip by ourselves. I’d love to go back to Paris, which I love!

Beach pic

What are your tips for traveling in a plane or on a long road trip with your children?

I always search for small, portable items and fill their backpacks with these toys and a special snack or two. I’ve heard of wrapping each toy like a present, and I think I’m going to try that this summer.  We also have an iPod filled with music and especially audio books. We also bring books, though I think we might have to move our son to a Kindle pretty soon. 

What a lovely Mom Story, thank you Mimi for sharing it with us!!

..hello shiso

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Mom Story: Yvonne from Beautiful Bag

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Hello, my name is Yvonne Kusters, I am married to Steven and together we have a wonderful daughter Faye, 10 years old. Eight years ago we moved from the Netherlands to Kuala Lumpur. We really enjoy living in the tropics. Can you believe it? Every morning the sun is shining, how lovely is that?

Six years ago, together with Brigitte Tops, we started the company Beautiful Bag. Colorful personalized bags, we started a website with 2 designs. Today we offer a variety of 20 different kinds of products. 

Beautiful bag is an exclusive, trendy and international lifestyle product that completely fulfills today’s desire for individual accessories that make a personal statement.  Mischievous eyes, a shining smile; these are the candid moments that make a gorgeous subjects to place on an item from Beautiful Bag.

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Besides the personalized collection, we are very interested in B2B. This year we have been selling a collection of bags with colorfull flowers, which are selling in Holland’s famous flower park, De Keukenhof and currently at Schiphol Airport. For the other half of the year we will be selling at…still a little surprise…but very magical…

Since 2010 we introduced a new collection ‘keep the memories alive’. The collection includes: tablecloth, table runners, placemats, wall frames full with photos of Malaysia. Mainly for expats who are leaving, these products are very popular as farewell gifts. Soon we will expand this to other countries.

Besides my work I love to travel which suits my passion for photography. Kuala Lumpur is an excellent base to travel from in Asia. China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, Indonesia and India all great countries to explore.

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 landed house located on a hilly golf course, 10 km outside Kuala Lumpur. It’s a wonderful green tropical place to raise our daughter. There are cycle paths all over the golf course, a big pool and best of all, many children for her to play with.

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What is it you like best about living here?

We really love the outdoor living.  We don’t even have a dining table inside. The last eight years we’ve eating on our table outside, at the terrace. 

Do you like to spend time decorating your home, and your child's room?

Yes, you can say that. I’ve done a lot of styling in my previous job and now and then I love it to turn the house up side down. Always gets inspired when traveling in Asia and visiting local markets, temples etc. but also when reading Bloesem Blog.

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Do you keep your child’s play area separate, or do you believe they should have a space in every part of the house?

We love to have Faye around, don’t mind if it gets messy. At the moment she is really into cooking, making a big mess in the kitchen, but always ending up with something new. 

Where do you look for interior inspiration, favorite magazines, websites, or blogs?

Trendtablet, Flavourite, coolhunter, Bloesem blog, Elle fashion, Flow, VT wonen.

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What places in your new neighborhood do you like to go shopping at?

I like to go to the night market in Sungai Buloh on a Friday afternoon,  lots of tropical fruit en veggies all very fresh,  colorful and extremely friendly people.

Also SSF is one of my favorite shops, fabrics like organza in many wonderful colors, ribbons with prints, plain in different sizes and lots of nice vague tropical flowers.  

If you are living in a foreign country, how do you find it?  How do you meet new people, make new friends? What is it that you miss most about 'home'?

We have made many friends during the 8 years we are living in Malaysia, lots of them moved forward to other countries after a couple of years.  Some  friends we are still in contact with, they come back to Malaysia for holiday or we meet them during our summer break in Holland. Sometimes we visit them in their new country to see how they live, spent quality time with each other and build new memories together. What I miss about home is family and friends.

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How has your child adapted to the language, food, and cultural differences?

Our daughter Faye was 2 years old, when we moved to KL, she is 10 years now. For her Kuala Lumpur is her home town, she speaks fluent English, but find it difficult to keep up with Dutch. She often mixes them up. She loves to eat Roti canai (as all the children do here), but is not the creasy about spicy food. Rice she loves to eat with her hands, hard to get rid of that (Asian influence)

Going to an International school, means contact with children with different cultural backgrounds and celebrating all the local festivals like the Indian Deepavali, Chinese New Year, Malay Hari Raya, for each festivity she dresses up to school in the traditional  costume.

What's it like to raise a child in your town?

KL is a lovely town to raise a child, because of the nice weather, she can always play outdoor on bare feet and never needs to wear a coat. What’s not great is that the school is far away, she needs to go by school bus which means leaving in the morning at 6.40 am.

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What is your idea of a perfect day with your child?

The perfect day for us are the Sunday’s,  having lunch together and spending a whole afternoon at the pool and reading a book while Faye is playing with her friends. Coming home cooking a meal together, and watching a movie with the 3 of us. Sunday is family day. 

What is a normal day with your child?  What do you do on the weekends?

Wake up at 6.10 am, breakfast, and off to the school bus. Faye comes home between 3 and 4 pm. I always try to be home when she is comes back, we then drink a cup of tea, eat some fruit and then it’s time for homework. Hmm.. not our favorite subject in the house…when she finishes her homework, she runs outside to her friends to play. Around 6.30 we have dinner and often after dinner she play’s outside as well. On Saturday morning we bring Faye to Rugby, often she has parties in the afternoon. Sunday we take it easy.

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Tell us a funny story, quote, or remark one of your child recently made.

The other day she wrote me a letter because I was not feeling well, it started off with ‘because you are the first mum I have’   huh??

Are you a crafter or DIY person?

DIY suits me better. Although I have a wonderful back up, my colleague Brigitte in Holland, who loves to comment on my designs of necklaces and photo-editing. Designs for the beautiful bags we do together. Often I suggest the color combination and she prepares the final design before sending it to the factory.

 Any decoration ideas on how to hang, keep or use them as presents?

As possible scan it, my experience to hang it, is that it gets dirty and at the end you need to throw it away. Our bathroom downstairs if full with drawing from kids, but all laminated. 

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How do you like to celebrate birthdays and other special days in your house?

I like it the ‘old fashion Dutch way’. Organizing lots of funny games, or treasure hunts instead of going to the cinema etc.  Kids love it as well as it’s quite unusual for them here in KL. Birthday cake often prepared by myself. 

Does your child have friends over often? If yes, what activities do they do?

Yes, the gate is always open and kids walk in and out. Often she brings friends over on a Friday afternoon who stay for a sleep over. They all love to play outdoors, or are off to the swimming pool within the compound. 

What kind of sports does your child like to do, and are you very involved?

Faye likes to do touch rugby on Saturday mornings together with lots of her friends. Now and then she is participates at tournaments in Singapore. We'll join, and make a nice family weekend out of it. 

As I am not that sporty myself, I am not a mum who loves to shout next to the field on a Saturday morning, rather prefer to drink a nice cup of coffee somewhere (I do feel a little bit guilty though).

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Are there musical instruments in your house?

We love to listen to music as Steven my husband is a big collector, it’s all digital. Faye is considering to start with guitar or/and singing lessons. She started with piano when she was 5 years old, but somehow it didn’t work out.  Probably she was too young and not interested in it at the time.  

Does your child read books online?  Do they go to the library?

Faye is doing part of her homework online, although she is not reading books online. At school there is a big library, she brings new books home every week. But with her daily homework, play dates, and activities she does not spend that much time reading. 

What are nice activities you can do with children in your area, and what could you recommend when people are visiting?

Sunway Lagoon, Water Park, jungle tracks, skytrex-adventure.com, science museum, China town, KLCC park, Little India. For the little ones there are many out en indoor play- entertainment. Indian lunch and Seafood restaurants

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Are you a ‘cook’ or ‘food lover’ or both?

I love to cook and to try new recipes.  It’s definitely not one of my talents, and often things go wrong, but at the end I always try to make it look nice. That helps a lot. I love to organize dinner parties and bbq's, always making an effort to decorate the table in specific colors, or theme.

Do you cook together with your children? Does Dad cook?

Faye our daughter, and my husband love to cook as well. Regular on Sunday afternoon, we start cooking with the three of us. Preparing fresh pasta, risotto, fish on the BBQ nicely marinated. It all goes together with a good glass of wine, and a lot of chatting what the next week will bring for us.

Where do you like to go to on vacation, with or without your child? 

Kuala Lumpur is just a perfect  base to start your journey in Asia. A missed chance if you don’t take that opportunity. We have been to China, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand and India, and  a lot in Malaysia as well off course. Faye is very used to traveling on a budget (what we prefer) carrying her own backpack, and playing with the local kids.

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Do you keep some sort of travel journal with your child?

The first couple of days we try, but it never seems to work out. But she has her own camera which is nice to see at the end, what she has captured.

Every year I design a digital photo book for her, it’s always ‘open’ on my computer. Every week I update it, and add the photos which have been taken that particular week, not only holiday’s, but also daily things like - playing, cooking, reading a book, dress up days at school, watching television, sport events...etc.

How do you prepare for a trip, any useful tips?

Hmm we don’t prepare that much, we are quite laid back…sometimes we do have a rough plan. But we only book the first night, and then start traveling around. We like to be flexible, stay longer if we love the place, or meet nice people to hang around with, and travel further if we want to.

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What place does your child love to go?

To be honest after traveling in India, China, Myanmar etc. she often say’s she would like ‘a proper holiday’. That means not traveling around, but stay longer at one place and preferably a 5 star resort! Although she enjoyed all the trips we did with her. This year we decided to combine our home leave to Holland with two weeks Tuscany/Italy with my brother and his family. 

What a colorful Mom Story, thank you Yvonne for sharing it with us!

..Beautiful Bag

..Beautiful Around the World

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Mom Story: Lesley from Leilalou

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Lesley from Leilalou

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 200 year old house in a tiny hamlet consisting of 5 houses (all vacation homes except ours), a chateau and a chapel. We overlook a stunning valley on the border with Spain.

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What is it you like best about living there?

The view from any window in the house and every direction you look while in the hamlet is absolutely breathtaking. It’s the reason we bought the house and it never stops amazing me.

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Do you like to spend time decorating your home and the children’s room?

Our home is decorated mostly with items from Scotland. I love the designer ANTA who’s headquarters are in the village next to where my parents live in the Scottish Highlands. This spring I plan to redecorate my children’s room. They share a room now and I’m planning themes which will work for both boys and girls. Peter Pan seems to have it all with pirates, fairies and Indians. I’m currently making a Teepee using my own Native American Indian designs so that’s my starting point.

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Do you keep your children’s play areas separate or do you believe they should have a space in every part of the house? 

We are extremely lucky to have an extra room off the kitchen which I use as my sewing room and the children’s play area. It works well most of the time but when boredom of their own toys set in, I do tend to loose important sewing items….they turn up eventually in strange places.

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What places in your new neighborhood do you like to shop at? 

We have a beautiful local shop selling mountain inspired homewares. Lots of chunks of wood, carved hearts and gingham. I call it “The Bonnie shop” for obvious reasons. I don’t know it’s real name. They have fabulous Christmas decorations in there and every year since the children have been born, I have bought a tree decoration for each of them from there.

Apart from “The Bonnie shop”, the shopping experience here is a throwback to the 1950’s. I shop online or wait until we visit Barcelona usually which is only a 4 hour car journey away. We just love it there and go a few times during the year.

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If you are living in a foreign country, how do you feel about it?  How do you meet new people, or make new friends? What is it that you miss most about 'home'?

This is the 3rd foreign country I’ve lived in the last 15 years so I’m used to being an “outsider”. Apart from family and friends, the things I used to miss like food from home, favourite shops etc. get less and less until you find an alternative for most everything. The things I miss now are really conveniences of a city, though when I had them, I didn’t use them. The grass is always greener…

People here are very friendly. It’s really a French version of the village I grew up in Scotland. I don’t think you can ever replace the connection you have with people from your own country. You share a whole social culture. 

How have your children adapted to the language, food and cultural differences?

My daughter is in her second year of nursery school and this year with extra help from her teacher, her French has come on leaps and bounds. We eat a lot earlier than French families and our children go to bed earlier. Everything else is just normal life to her. This is where she was born and it’s her home. My son is only 2. He will go to nursery in September and then we’ll see how the language hits him.

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Tell us a funny story, quote or remark one of your children recently made.

“I can’t come for a walk with you Mama, my legs are actually still quite short”.

Can you mention some of your ‘how-to-raise-your-kid’ advice? 

Make clear boundaries, given them as much of your time as you can, and encourage their imagination. But really I think if Children know they are loved enough and are given enough confidence, they will go out into the world happily being themselves. 

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Are you a crafter or DIY person?

Both. My husband is the brains of the operation, I’m the DIYer. I’ve laid floors, pointed walls, tiled, roofed landscaped the garden. Crafting is my latest passion and I would love it to be my full time day job.

How do you like to celebrate birthdays and other special days in your house?

The garden is used for most special occasions (weather permitting). I love nothing more than bunting around the trees, the hammock up and the kids tucking into a little party tea.

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What are your all time favorite books for children? 

My favourite children's book of all time is Peter Pan. It’s timeless. I also have a beautiful book bought for me by a dear aunt called “The Tyger voyage” by Richard Adams. It has the most spectacular illustrations and tells the story of 2 tigers who travel the world. The story is told in rhyme.  

As a child I loved a series by Enid Blyton called The Faraway tree collection. I bought it again when my daughter was 2 in anticipation!

My children love Julia Donaldson books especially The Gruffalo, Room on the broom and Monkey puzzle. 

How do you buy your books? Bookstores?  Online? 

Mostly online now, but I do miss a bookstore. I had a job many years ago in a bookstore and spent all my wages before I had them.

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What are some nice activities you can do with children in your area, and what would you recommend when people are visiting?

As we live in the mountains, all activities are outdoors. Rock climbing, walking, skiing, paragliding, rafting. It’s all on the doorstep.

What movies do your children like to watch, is there one from your childhood you would love to show them?

My son is obsessed with “The Gruffalo” and “The gruffalo’s child”. My daughter is a Barbie fan I’m afraid.  They both love Toy story and many others. My husband and I both have films we can’t wait for them to see when they are a little older. E.T , The Wizard of Oz and “Princess Bride” , My husband is counting down the days until the Star Wars films will be appreciated.

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Are you a ‘cook’ or ‘food lover’ or both?

Both, in my life before children I was a head chef. 

Do you cook together with your children? Does Dad cook? 

I love to bake with the children, though I suspect they only do it to lick the spoon. Dad, never cooks unless for some strange reason, I’m not there. Recently we have started making dinners together. Tonight they made their own pizza, choosing their own ingredients to top it with. They were absolutely delighted with their effort and ate more dinner than if I had made it for them.

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Where would you like to go to on vacation - with or without your children?

I have a brother who lives in Sydney and his partner has just had their first child. I just want to jump on a plane and go and meet her. 

What place do your children love visit?

My parents live on the east coast of the Scottish Highlands. Their house is metres away from the sea and they could sit on the beach and throw pebbles into the water all day long. Happily, we are going to spend this summer there and go camping on the west coast with friends.

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What a gorgeous Mom Story, thank you Lesley for sharing it with us!

..Leilalou

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Mom Story: Suzi from Babyology

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My name is Suzi and I live in Sydney, Australia with my husband and two sons - Felix, 7, and Theo, 4 (as well as two Burmese cats!). I'm Senior Writer, Production and Community Manager at Babyology, an Australian design blog for baby and children's products. I am an avid photographer and I like nothing better than getting out with my boys and my camera. Luckily this works in well with my job so I get to blend my passion for design and photography with writing - it's heaven!

What kind of house do you live in - are you and your family happy here, or is there anything you find lacking, or would like to change?

 We live in a large Federation double-fronted house in the inner west of Sydney. It had an overhaul in the 1980s and is a lovely home (except for the shocking salmon-coloured kitchen), but we're about to transform the rear extension to make it a modern marvel. Many homes around here are like that - we like to keep the old-fashioned facade, making surprisingly modern choices out back. We are very happy here - the children love the backyard and we are fortunate to have a fairly large one compared to many in the area.

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What do you like best about living there?

Our area is very multicultural, we have fabulous neighbours and can walk to the supermarket, schools, cafes and deli in five minutes. We are totally spoilt for choice really! We made sure the kids were both cafe-trained very early in their lives and they are well-versed in how to behave at a cafe.

There are those who think that city life means a lack of community but that is definitely not the case where we are. I run into people I know every day, we have brilliant parks which are well-maintained, I help with reading groups at my son's school and have weekly playdates with friends. I wouldn't live anywhere else in Sydney but I guess most Sydneysiders choose their patch and think it's the best. I grew up in the country and sometimes struggle with the congestion of the city, but the inner west affords us a nice large house rather than living on top of each other. It's a good balance.

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Do you like to spend time decorating your home and your child’s room?

It's the thing I love to do most! We are right now in a period of change with the upcoming renovation so I'm in the midst of planning brand new decor for each of my boys' rooms. Our bedroom is always a work in progress - we added a king-sized bed in January which meant all-new linen. Thrilled me senseless, it did! While I love a lot of colour usually, I keep our bedroom serene in monochrome... with a pile of books on the go.

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Do you keep your children’s play area separate or do you believe they should have a space in every part of the house?

The boys make anything their plaything - seriously, the sofas take a beating on a daily basis, being subject to acrobatics and rumbles. I don't confine the play areas but I do insist on toys going back into their rooms at the end of the day. When they were little we'd have a box to pile everything in and bring out again in the morning but now their interests revolve much more around physical activity and sports. Inside life often happens around this lovely little table in the living room - the boys eat, draw and read sitting there, then when they're in bed it's our coffee table!

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Where do you look for interior inspiration, favorite magazines, websites, or blogs?

My Google reader is stuffed to the brim with the best interior design and architecture blogs. Some blogs I follow are The Design Files, Contemporist, Fresh Home and Decor 8. Of course I'm a five-year devotee of Babyology and my kids have many beautiful products that we've written about - sometimes my job is a hazard!

My Pinterest boards are overflowing with ideas and inspiration and I have been a long-time reader of home decor magazines such as InsideOut and Real Living. I am ecstatic about finally getting to do my first renovation and need to be patient in this planning stage because I have been obsessed with interiors and architecture for about 17 years!

What places in your neighborhood do you like to shop at?

We have an awesome deli and an an Italian bread shop called Luigi's where you have to line up at 6am to get the best crusty bread on the planet. I also love our local greengrocer who has been there for thirty years and of course the Portuguese chicken shop where they slather the delightful grilled chicken burger with the best chilli outside of Portugal. We have just about every nation in the world living in our area; it's wonderfully multicultural. Oh and I mustn't forget to mention the Vietnamese Pho - nearby Marrickville has Pho that makes you feel like you've been healed. Oh and fresh Chinese dumplings... can you tell we love our food?

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What is it like to raise a child in your town?

Sometimes I bemoan the lack of freedom my children have compared to when I was a child. I had a huge field across the road from my house which I used to roam about and the most my kids can do solo is ride up and down the street on the footpath. It's very much a city life but we have occasional breaks to the country. I like to think they're getting some of the things I didn't get to do much as a child, like lots of trips to museums, shows and parks and cafes.

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What is your idea of a perfect day with your children?

Anything active that involves coffee and tickling. Almost every day is awesome with these little guys. It's such a relief to be past the baby and toddler phase - we can do so much more in a day. They particularly love the skate park - when they're happy, we're happy.

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What do you do on the weekends?

We'll sometimes take a trip out of town, but mostly we take them to their swimming, dance and music lessons as well as Saturday soccer. I always said my kids wouldn't do too much in the way of scheduled activities, but they both adore what they do and never complain - they're at the stage where they want to be active all the time. Weekends always include a cafe or two and often a ride down by the river!

MS3

Where would you like to go on vacation - with or without your children? 

That's easy; Tokyo, Japan. Babyology's founders, Mandi and Ben Gunsberger went there a few years ago and I loved seeing all the pictures. I also have a friend there from my high school days (she was an exchange student) who I'm dying to visit. Plus there's Tokyo Disney and Junie Moon, the Blythe doll shop. I could go on and on about why I want to go there, but mostly it's that I want to take the children overseas. It'll have to wait though, because of the renovation.

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What places do your children love to visit?

The Powerhouse Museum. The membership is worth its weight in gold. It's the perfect place for kids on a rainy, cold day in wintery Sydney and it's always hands-on so I can just let them explore. We were there the other day and it just never loses its magic, even in the midst of a big renovation as it is currently! Other than that, we just can't beat the park. We ride, scooter and skate board around every park in the area. It's just what we do and it brings so much happiness. I know I'm never going to forget these days of simple joys.

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What do you do with all the projects your children make at home or in school?

Don't ask! I have two years' worth sitting there waiting for me to allocate it some time. It's very neat and out of the way, but that cardboard double decker bus is going to need a serious storage strategy!

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Are there musical instruments in your house?

There are many! We have a digital piano, electronic drum kit, guitars and keyboards. Oh and my violin from when I was a kid.

MS6

Thank so much Suzi for this great Mom Story!

..Babyology

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Mom Story: Food Writer Sophie Hansen

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Hello! My name is Sophie Hansen. I'm a mother of two (Alice 4 and Thomas 2), food writer and farmer (or at least married to one). I love growing, sourcing and cooking good food with my kids and write about this on my blog, Local is Lovely. I also contribute recipes to JustB Australia, Village Voices and Kidspot Australia. We live on a farm about four hours west of Sydney and farm deer Mandagery Creek according to holistic principles. 

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 moderately-sized farm house in a beautiful valley on the back slopes of Orange’s Mount Canobolas. When I moved here six years ago to live with my now husband, it was a functional brick rectangle with an interior palate of dark brown, pale brown and a little more dark brown. But just before we had our first child Alice (now 4), we gave the place a modest face-lift and now it’s a happy, bright and much-loved family home.

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We love living here. We have space and gorgeous views from every window and the kids have vast spaces as their own private playground. Thomas is a busy two-year-old and loves the fact that he can roam freely within the house paddock, pushing his bike and wheelbarrow as long and far as he likes (within the gates of reason!). Alice has a lovely old pony who lives in a paddock just next to the house and she often steals apples and carrots from the fridge for him. I know this sounds trite but I couldn’t be happier that my kids are growing up in the country with so much space and freedom to explore.

If I could change anything though it would be my lack of pantry and kitchen storage;  I write and test lots of recipes for my blog and other websites (justb, Kidspot, Village Voices) and often dream of having more benches and a proper walk in pantry. One day our budget will allow for this but for now, for us, its perfect.

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What do you like best about living here?

The aspect. Every morning I look out our window, up the valley, and catch my breath at the views. To us this valley is paradise.

Do you like to spend time decorating your home and your children’s room?

Yes! I love fiddling around with our rooms and am constantly moving furniture and paintings around. It drives my husband crazy!

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Do you keep your children’s play area separate, or do you believe they should have a space in every part of the house?

We do have a playroom but it’s also my office and a spare bedroom. In theory the toys stay in there but in practice they migrate to every room in the house as the day progresses.

What are your children’s favorite items in your house?

For Alice it’s her desk in the playroom, I try to keep it stocked with paper and pens/pencils and she loves hanging out there drawing her own little creations. Tom loves his big box of trucks!

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Some tidying tips?  Do your children tidy up after themselves?

Er...I wish! I was getting sick of Alice changing outfits ten times a day and leaving piles of clothes in her room so now we pick an outfit the night before, shut the cupboard door and then that’s it for the day. Day two and so far so good!

What places in your neighbourhood do you like to shop at? 

For food? In Orange I love A Slice of Orange and Totally Local. For clothes, coffee and gifts it’s Hawkes General Store. Twenty minutes in the other direction from our farm is the beautiful town of Canowindra, it is home to the fantastic homewares shop Bendy Street Emporium.

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What is your idea of a perfect day with your children?

My perfect day would involve just the four of us hanging out on the farm all day - no driving to town, no work, no phone calls and no computers! We’d take Alice and Chutney (aforementioned pony!) for a walk, cook some sausages over a fire and maybe move some stock around. Just the four of us not going anywhere all day. 

What is a normal day with your children?  What do you do on the weekends?

When they aren’t at pre-school or family day care (three days a week), the kids and I are either hanging out at home or driving around our region visiting farmers and cooks for my blog, Local is Lovely. I think it’s really great that they are getting so much exposure to the way our food is produced and the amazing farmers and cooks in our area. They are learning first-hand that foods come in and out of season and that really nice people work really hard to grow the good food we eat. As well as being my Local is Lovely ‘roadies’ the kids have all the standard engagements such as swimming and ballet lessons, play dates and home days. As for weekends, if we aren’t travelling to farmers markets we spend our precious free Saturdays and Sundays just quietly together on the farm.

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Can you mention some of your ‘how-to-raise-your-kid’ advice?

My kids are still pretty little and like all Mum’s I have days when I feel I’m doing pretty well and days when it all seems a bit too hard. In general though I try to do these three things every day; make them laugh as much as possible, keep them active and feed them well. 

Do your children have friends over often? If yes, what activities do they do?

We live a good half hour hour of town so don’t have a constant stream of visitors. That said, we love seeing our friends so often invite them out for a cup of tea and some cake. There’s an old set of cattle yards near the house with a ramp and some sturdy sliding gates and that seems to be the big draw card for every child who visits us! They love climbing up, over, in and around the yards and jumping off the ramp. We have also tied a rope ladder to an old pine tree so the kids can access their little tree house. I generally find that the kids just need to get started with a play ‘scenario’ and then they’re off and running with the story. This week we converted an old apple bin into a pirate ship and that has provided loads of play ideas.

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What are your all time favorite books for children?

Because we spend so much time in the car, we go through lots of Audio Books, our favourites are Winnie the Pooh, Charlie and Lola, Dogger by Shirley Hughes and Mem Fox’s collection of stories. For actual books, my kids love the ‘There’s a Hippopotamus on the roof eating cake’ series, Dr Seuss plus all of the Madeleine books.

How do you buy your books? Bookstores?  Online? 

I spend a lot of time writing about the merits supporting local food merchants and try to do the same with other items we buy, from books to clothes and home-wares. We have a handful of really great bookstores here in Orange and I love to shop at all of them. I know it’s cheaper to buy online but we share a community with these bookstores and the people behind them. They support us by buying our meat so we like to support them in turn. Plus I love love love book shops and find the experience of going in to town and coming home with a crisp new book in my bag much more fun than ordering one online.

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What are some nice activities you can do with children in your area, and what would you recommend when people are visiting?

We have some really beautiful parks here Orange and our favourite is the historic Cook Park with it’s gorgeous old rotunda, glasshouses and fish ponds. In the park’s centre is a little shop called The Guildry, selling home made biscuits, slices, jams and preserves plus beautifully knitted baby and children’s jumpers, bonnets and booties. The Guildry is a real gem and all the ladies who bake, sew and knit its inventory work there on a roster system. A little further out of town is Lake Canobolas, a stunning piece of water surrounded by walking tracks, playgrounds and a little further onwards, orchards, vineyards and mountains.

What movies do your children like to watch?

We try not to watch too much television but do love cuddling up on the couch to watch a good movie. Most of our family’s favourites are old classics from Pollyanna to the Princess Bride and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

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Are you a ‘cook’ or ‘food lover’ or both?

Both I think! I have spent my career writing about food and spent three years living in Northern Italy working for the Slow Food movement. Now I am a primary producer and am incredibly proud that we grow such beautiful animals via a holistic farming system that is both economically and environmentally sustainable.

Do you cook together with your children? Does Dad cook?

Yes, we all love cooking and eating together. Because Tim works from home we usually share all three daily meals together and all share the cooking. I admit I do the lions’ share but everyone helps. Alice is just getting interested in what happens in the kitchen and it’s such a joy to me to see her mixing, stirring and cooking so happily.

MS9

What a lovely Mom Story, thank you Sophie!

..Local is Lovely

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