This month’s “Toy of the month” are a fantastic set of sand toys called “Beach Stamps” which the boys and I have been super excited to try out. The fantastic Australian based online store Finlee and Me are the exclusive Australian supplier and they kindly sent them to us to review.
We have spent a few beach days testing them out over the last few weeks and I have to say they are an easy, fun and great alternative to your everyday sand toys of buckets, spades, diggers and balls.
Beach Stamps are designed and made in the USA by the Red Rooster Toy Company and they come in all different types and various variety packs, we tested out the “15 Variety Shapes” pack.
They are super easy to use and come supplied with rubber bands which you attach to the plastic stamp moulds with their easy to follow instructions. There are even spare rubber bands in case of breakage, although the rubber bands seemed very robust to me and not very easily broken.
At the beach:
As you can see from the photos we loved testing these beach toys out and what I liked most as a mother at least, is they are a great size for small hands. Also if you want an easy beach toy to pack for your beach adventures and let’s face it as a mum, you generally have about 3-4 bags filled with towels, lunch, umbrella etc; then these are a perfect solution as they don’t take up much room, but they provide hours of creative play!
H did try and put them on his feet as suggested on the back of the packaging but it wasn’t so successful, however, I think my eldest who is nearly 6 would have found it easy to do and a lot of fun!
Beach Stamps are aimed at 4+ according to it’s packaging but my nearly 3 year old loved them and had no trouble playing with them. As a 4 year old + you could go further with the type of play to be enjoyed, such as making up stories with the stamps or asking them to pick a certain colour to help with learning colours. But ultimately they are just a lot of fun and it is great to watch your children enjoy some creative play with them.
They are not too messy either for the child nor when cleaning up and there is not a huge amount of sand left in them which you cannot get out. They were nearly 100% clean after playing with them and popping them back in a ziplock bag. 10/10 on the mama radar!
We also had a play with them in our sandpit and I think they would work great with kinetic sand too which my eldest is dying to get for his 6th Birthday next month.
The shapes in our 15 variety pack where varied, ranging from a love heart, to a girl, a dinosaur, a smiley face, to a sailing boat, a penguin,a boy, a sun, a sheriff’s star as well as skull, cross and circle. For older children, I thought you could have fun playing games of naughts and crosses on the beach with the circle and cross stamps.
Using them in our sandpit:
Mostly what I loved about these set of sand toys, are the open ended play and the endless possibilities that can be enjoyed with these beach stamps. They would make a fab gift for a birthday and with the reasonable price, they could work quite well for a school birthday party gift as they hover around the $20.00 mark. They are perfect also for Easter or in the kids stocking at Christmas time. Or add them to a box of kinetic sand for the perfect gift for any boy or girl!
Ages: 4+ .
NB:- The packaging says 4+ but after testing them out, I think they are perfect for 3+.
Today I am so excited and honoured to bring you the first in my “Pay it Forward” 2015 initiative and to let you know more about the divine kids linen and decor range from Cream Empire!
I have been following Cream Empire for quite a while now on my Instagram account and I adored Carolina’s monochrome bedding as soon as I laid eyes on it. It is so refreshing, so modern yet utterly classic. I would love to buy each and every piece as each design is so appealing and it is easy to mix and match with other kids linen and decor.
Born and raised in Melbourne, arguably Australia’s fashion capital, you can see that the city and its style has certainly influenced Carolina’s designs. I read recently that Melbourne woman only wear black, I am not sure that is exactly true, but black and white at least is definitely Carolina’s colour of choice.
Having only been in business less than a year, with a science degree already under her belt and fluent in Spanish, Carolina is one clever, talented and brainy mama with an eye for design and a head for business. Cream Empire has gone from strength to strength in such a short space of time and Carolina has branched out to designing and making cushions, pillowcases and cot/stroller blankets on top of her cot sheets & duvet/quilt covers. All of which are made from 100% cotton.
You can choose from custom designs like batman, clouds, hot air balloons, grid, icecreams and stripes for cot bedding or even bassinets and then mix and match it with fun pillowcases that Carolina has designed herself like Wonderwoman and Batman. She has created so many gorgeous designs in a timeless style that they can go with more Cream Empire decor, or other children’s bed linen you may already own. It is fantastically versatile and it won’t date especially if you need it for baby no 2 or 3!
With her signature style in monochrome, Carolina has recently added pops of colour, but her heart lies with black and white and in particular designing and creating cushions.
I am so thrilled to have been able to get to know a little more about Carolina, her brand, and her motivation to start this business.
Meet the Maker: Carolina Leyton and baby Javier
1. You design and create some seriously gorgeous nursery linen which all began because you couldn’t find linen for your own son’s nursery. How did you go about sourcing your own fabric in Australia and creating your own designs from scratch? Is your background in design or textiles? Have you always loved to sew?
When I first started my brand cream empire, I used fabrics from fabrics stores but I found this to be very limiting as I could never find exactly what I was looking for. I decided after much research and many bumps in the road that I had to start designing my own fabrics. I’ve always had a passion for designing and graphic design. Before cream empire was made I wanted to start a prints and wedding invitation brand as I had so much fun designing and making our wedding invites. This idea didn’t flourish as I was too busy in my ‘real’ job at that time as a research scientist and finishing my masters in science. When my little man was born and I was home, I thought this was the time to start off my dream of a small business.
To help me designing, I have completed an art and graphic design short course and will continue to take up new courses in this area as I love learning new things. I’m even considering going back to uni… Ahhh!!
Since a little girl I loved making things, my grandma taught me how to sew and knit. I never thought that this skill would help be in the future.
It was such a challenge finding fabrics to print on in Australia that I had to source fabric overseas. After endless emails with fabric wholesalers I found a printing company that could do what I was looking for. In June 2014 I launched my own designed products and launched my new and improved range.
2. What is the process around the design for your fabrics? Where do you find inspiration for the each new design?
My inspiration for each design comes from my love of fashion, beautiful things and my everyday life. Of course my little man is a huge part of my inspiration as well.
3. As a mother of a young baby, it seems a crazy idea to start up a new business whilst looking after a new born but so many mothers do it and make a huge success out of it, like yourself. How do you find the work/life balance of taking care of your son and starting up a new business? And all those sleepless nights? Would you have ever imagined doing this before having kids?
It’s hard, it’s very challenging but I would not have it any other way. When my son was younger it was easier to sew in between his naps but now it harder as he is a toddler and sleeps less. Due to this, I had to hire a helping hand as I was finding it very difficult to balance the workload. Now it’s perfect and feeling like this is what I am meant to be doing.
4. Being a handmade local business based in Melbourne and a one woman show, how hard did you find it to ask for help recently? Do you think as woman and mother’s we don’t ask for enough help?
We definitely do not ask for help. This is such a terrible thing. So many mothers out there including myself always think we can do it all, but really we can’t. It’s such a hard thing to ask for that extra helping hand, I don’t know why but it must be in our genes. To able to recognize that we need help is such a big step.
5. As a new business you started out creating monochrome designs and you have now added colourful prints like your cloud and gelato linen, what are your customer’s favourite? What are yours?
I think I will always be a monochrome style type of brand. I love black and white in home decor. My customer’s favs are definitely the grid. This would have to be my favourite as well.
6. You have created some gorgeous new designs recently including my beloved grid design, what plans are afoot for 2015 for Cream Empire? Where do you see the baby/kids linen industry heading as there are new players start up?
There are definitely many more competitors out there now than when I started. I find this to be very motivating for me. It’s fantastic that there are so any creative talented mummas out there!
For my brand, we have many more new things on the cards, I can’t wait to share what we have coming. We have our new A/W15 collection that will be launched soon. I’m so excited!
With new designs and plans to add single bed linen to her range soon (yes!), Cream Empire is an exciting, refreshing and modern brand that oozes quality and just the right amount of style for your children’s room. I am loving all her designs and I cannot wait to see what else is in store for this gorgeous kids linen company this year! Check them out here.
One of the things that I love to do in life is to give; I love giving little presents and cards, the joy that it brings the receiver, lights up my world. It is just something I have always loved doing and one reason I started this blog as I adore researching and buying gifts and making cards for friends and family.
This year I was touched by the “Pay it Forward” initiative that has taken off on social media over the start of the new year, a movement to encourage and inspire acts of kindness. There is so much bad news in the world, every day, even more so of late, that it is nice to see the real spirit of humanity, and that is essentially one of kindness and hope.
It inspired me and made me think, how can I help someone else, to brighten their day, or to give them something that might help them out in their life.
Now I am not a maker, nor am I creator, so I couldn’t make something to give to people, well apart from a hand written card. So I thought hard about what it is that I do, (my husband questions this most days with me!) and I thought that I could write up a feature on a new shop, kids designer, crafter or artist and get their brand and designs out there through my blog. Give them exposure across my blog and media channels that will help them to boost their brand. I thought that could be my way to “Pay it forward” in 2015.
I then posted this idea up on my Instagram account in January after being inspired by the fabulous Captain & Co and others I had seen on Instagram and Facebook. I thought about how many features I could write this year on top of my current work schedule and felt that I could manage 5 brands, writing about them twice over the course of the year. I felt bad only picking 5 once I had responses back, so I added in a 6th brand who had also been quick to respond to my post.
The 6 kids brands that I am so excited to write about this year are:
1. Cream Empire – stylish nursery and kids bedding and soft furnishings. Designed and made in Australia.
2. Canterbury Kids – a fab bricks and mortar children’s clothing boutique stocking Minti, Scotch & Soda, Bebe, Wilson and Frenchy and more. Based in Victoria, Australia.
3. Bowe Baby – produces practical and thoughtfully designed baby items like car seat shades with nappy holder, stroller covers as well as nursing covers and blankets that will “make parenting simple”. All designed and made in the USA.
4. Schooza – hugely fun kids dress up and costumes for all occasions. Designed and made in Australia.
5. Chykaboo – gorgeous baby blankets organic teething rings, softies and prints. Designed and made in the UK.
6. Jack and Evelyn – produces classically designed kids products such as toy boxes, poncho towels and baby bibs. Designed in Australia.
The first feature on Cream Empire will be featured later this week, so stay tuned!
This week, we have been very lucky to have some visitors come and stay with us. They are rather unique, a lot of fun, and they like to go on adventures! They go by the name “The Organic Family” and I have to say it has been a pleasure getting to know this sweet little family of 4, yes you may have guessed it by now, wooden dolls, by Goose Grease toys!
This little family consists of a mama, papa, brother and sister who have been lovingly hand crafted using wood that is sustainably sourced under fair trade practices in Bogotá, Colombia.
Goose Grease is owned and run by a wife and husband team, Anna and Juan Donado out of Brooklyn, New York. Juan is Colombian and he chose his home country to produce these sweetest of toys and Anna trains the skilled artisans to hand paint each doll, using non toxic water based paints.
I adore wooden toys as you would no doubt realise in reading my blog. Why? Well there are many reasons for my love of all things wood! One is the aesthetics and texture, they just look stunning and the natural softness of wood is a nice change from all the plastic in this world. Another reason is the heirloom quality of wood and the fact the toys can be passed down through the generations and not be broken or have pieces missing like plastic toys. Finally, that due to the quality and design, wooden toys generally don’t date, which means you won’t thrown them away when your child has had enough of that latest trend.
It was with much pleasure therefore that this little organic family came on a big adventure to our house via the fantastic new Australian based shop Noc Noc; who source and stock only handcrafted wooden toys from around the world. Heather’s passion for wooden toys is similar to mine, in that she chooses wooden toys for their environmental and sustainability factor. As a mother of 2 gorgeous kids, she wanted to consciously source toys that were handcrafted and of artisan quality. However, as I too have found, Heather struggled to find handmade wooden toys made in Australia, in particular, on a wholesale level. We just don’t seem to have the demand for it here, well not yet…
Goose Grease toys were one of her first purchases for the store and Heather tells me a little more as to why she choose these toys in particular:
As soon as I saw these dolls I had quite a physical reaction. I really felt like a small child again and I just wanted to hold and play with them (and I do). They are so beautifully made and feel so gorgeous to hold. Knowing that they are each lovingly hand lathed and then hand painted makes them so very special. I also just love how different each set is. The organic family just melt me. The Monochrome are the trendy family of the bunch. The ninjas make me giggle. So I can imagine that they also bring out these different emotional reactions in children too! I was over the moon when I found out that I could sell them in Australia and in fact we are now their Australian distributors.
I also asked Heather about the importance of wooden toys and what future they have:
I actually see us moving in a full circle. Back to natural, ecologically friendly toys. Whilst the tech age is undoubtably here to stay, I also see parents making choices to limit these techy items and give their children toys that will allow their imaginations to grow. I also most definitely am seeing parents who wish to limit the plastic and waste that occurs in their children’s worlds. I think different parents have different reasons for doing this whether it be environmental, health (the toxic chemicals in plastic), for aesthetic reasons or even for the nostalgia of our children having the wooden toys like we did. However I am definitely seeing a resurgence in wooden toy enquiries and an understanding of the higher price tag that come with these toys.
I am looking forward to seeing more from Noc Noc in the future and the new discoveries and treasures that Heather is no doubt going to find as she pursues her dream of creating a creative hub, made of only handcrafted wooden toys.
Now let us go and see what adventures the Organic family got up to on their stay with us!
The adventures of the Organic Family.
Families that camp together….
Football fun with the siblings!
Can we have an icecream, puhleeease Mum!
Finishing off a fun day with a play on the swings and tasting the delicious organic ice cream and juices!
Size: 6.5 – 9 cm tall
Non toxic paint, fair trade conditions, sustainably sourced wood.
****DISCOUNT CODE ****
Heather has very kindly offered free shipping on all Noc Noc toys using code “KGT15”.
I am always in awe of the makers that I “meet” on Instagram. Each day I am continually blown away by these creative talents; their divine handiwork and unique handmade gorgeousness.
One lady I have been utterly blown away with over the past 8 months has been Nicole from Zilvi, a kid’s interior decor design company based in Queensland, Australia. Her business acumen, creative talent and sheer and utter determination and motivation to make her business a success, is stuff many people only dream about.
Nicole is a rare breed, she is so completely beautiful (both inside and out) and not only creates gorgeous interior products but she gives back as well; starting her “Help Mama out” campaign, where money raised from the individual product goes to the family in question she is helping.
Nicole designs and creates using wood, acrylic and fabric making unique, individual and never seen before designs. Zilvi quite literally blew Instagram out of the water. She only uses Instagram as her marketing tool and she is one of those Instagram success stories you hear about.
In 8 months she has gone from 0 to 30k+ followers and 10 weeks into starting Zilvi, she quit her daytime job as a Manager of an wedding and corporate events venue to concentrate on Zilvi, full time. That is a phenomenal achievement in this day and age and shows the power of social media. However, given the millions of accounts on Instagram selling their wares each and every day, it shows that her designs have found a niche and truly speak to her target audience, which are other design led parents.
In the past, I have looked at these amazing successful Instagram businesses and thought, “wow”, how lucky are they to be so successful and for it all to happen so quickly! However, many of these talented mothers have had high flying corporate roles pre-baby in design, styling or events and have found that after giving birth, that their former life and career no longer suits their new life as a mama. Motherhood gives them the push they need to pursue the creative talent in new found ventures.
I have to say I think Nicole might be one of the hardest working creative talents I have ever “met”. Constantly creating new designs, working until the wee hours of the morning and so professional in both presentation and delivery. Nicole is continually evolving and adapting to ensure she is at the forefront of the designs she has created. Launching a product range directed solely toward children, Nicole is expanding her brand in March and releasing three new collections, Nursery, Kids & Home. I am sure they will all be a huge success and I cannot wait to see them as whatever she touches turns to gold!
We have been building up an arsenal of Zilvi products in our household as I adore Nicole’s products and cannot get enough of her creations. Our first Zilvi design was a gift to the boys papa for Father’s Day last year which he adored. I have also sent her wooden name plaques as gifts for children’s birthdays and they make the perfect unique gift idea.
Above: Zilvi Dad flag “My Dad is a Superhero”.
Above: Zilvi “Fringe Dreamer “
Above: Boys room with feather garland and dad flag
Above: Zilvi “large feather garland”
In the meantime I have been lucky enough to track down Nicole who survives off only 5 hours of sleep each day to ask her more about her new life as a fabulous mumpreneur:
Meet the Maker : Nicole from Zilvi
You have had such phenomenal support from the IG community to the extent that you have taken the courageous step of quitting your day job and making Zilvi a full time job! How does that feel? Are you pinching yourself each day?
To be honest I haven’t had time to really take a moment and reflect on what I have achieved so far and to soak in the fact that I am finally living my dream of working for myself while being a Mum at home with Felix, it’s been increasingly busy from day one, which I am absolutely grateful for.
For most people it can take years to run a successful business but you have hit the ground running in a matter of weeks, why do you think people have taken to Zilvi so much?
When I first launched Zilvi, my products were unique within the small community of Instagram (as this is the only place I market my brand) as there wasn’t yet my style of work available. I shared with them my goal of one day making Zilvi my full time job, this resonated with so many Mums as they too shared this dream. I think while my followers not only enjoyed my products, they enjoyed sharing in my journey to reach my goal and within 10 weeks of launching, I was able to take a risk leaving a well-paying job to work on my brand full time. My journey has given many others hope that they too can achieve it, that it is possible, and that for me is just so rewarding in itself.
One of the things that struck me early on following you on Instagram, is that although you have become hugely successful, you also want to give back to the community and help make a difference to another family’s life. What inspired you to start “Help a Mama out with Zilvi”? Where do you see this going in the future?
After two incidents within 12 months of each other, one where I almost lost my life giving birth to Felix and another where I watched my employee almost lose his life through an accident involving fire; I quickly began appreciating just how precious life is. I felt incredibly grateful to be in good health and have all of the basic requirements to get by in life. Many don’t have their health or the basics, and so I wanted to give back while I am fully capable to do so and have no reason not to. And so came #helpamamaoutwithzilvi with my first project raising around $5500 for a young Father with brain cancer (#afeatherforbrad). I hope to launch my second project in the coming months and continue this regularly as an important part of Zilvi.
As a mother of a small baby, how do you manage taking care of Felix and balancing life as a mum alongside life as a “mumpreneur”?
We have a strict routine which has a healthy balance of work time and Mum time. My studio is baby proof so it is as much his space as my own. I never put my work before him. He is my priority, so if he is having an off day, we are out of the studio and my work simply has to wait. I do a lot of my work when he is in bed of a night time.
I am a big believer in dreams and it has taken me 19 years to realise my dream of becoming a writer (ahem ok well a blogger), did you ever imagine Zilvi would be your big dream, and how would you inspire others to take the plunge to realise their own dreams? Any tips from a talented mumpreneur on how to run a successful business?
I am still in disbelief. Every day seems surreal. I’m not sure it will ever sink in. I have received countless emails from Mums wanting to take the plunge or from those who have, and would like to grow their business, and each asks me to share what I have done. I can never really put into simple words what I have done. I haven’t followed a ‘plan’; however I do have experience in business and marketing so this may have been of benefit.
In regards to taking the plunge in the first place, the absolute most important point is to first have the support of your partner. So many of my friends who run insta businesses don’t have this as their partners work full time and don’t take the Mama’s idea seriously. This then adds pressure and stress to you as someone starting a new business and follows through to your relationship. So discuss this first with him and both have a solid understanding of the risk you are going to take. Tell him exactly what you want to do, where you see it heading and how you will fit it into your current life as a Mum, partner and now business owner.
The best advice I can give to anyone jumping into the world of Instagram with a small business is to be original. And be yourself. Create your own profile, don’t see someone who is successful and attempt to put their personality into your brand, you can’t maintain something that isn’t you. Provide your followers with unique products. Gain inspiration from others for current trends etc and be inspired to create your own original work.
Wise words from a Mama in the know and who is on a meteoric rapid rise in the kids interiors world! With this Mama’s work ethic, passion and dedication, I predict world domination soon…watch this space.
To see more of Zilvi’s beautiful creations and her three new collections, Nursery, Kids & Home, coming this month, check out her website here. Be warned, you will fall truly and utterly in love with each piece!
Disclosure: I have not received any gift or payment for this feature.
All photos have been reproduced with permission from Zilvi.