a transatlantic mommy / mummy blog – my kids say "tomato" & "to-mah-to"

Miffy gets modernised – the international children’s classic is updated

The kids and I were delighted to be invited for the unveiling of the new and updated version of the Miffy children’s books. Miffy has now been a published series for over 50 years and has been translated into over 50 languages.

miffy london

This will be the first time the boys can read the Miffy books for themselves, and their first copy in English (having it previously read to them in Dutch). In Dutch, Miffy is “nijntje.”

Dick Bruna, the author and illustratror, while best known for the Miffy books (32 books) actually wrote an additional 124 picture books for children many of which included rhyming verse, making it easier for kids to read and remember. I love how the Miffy books got started – like many a good idea (from a desperate parent) it started out as entertainment on a rainy seaside holiday in 1955. Dick created the sketches of the Miffy bunny character for his son and then made up stories at bedtime to go along with the sketches.

In the 1980′s the stories were translated into English from Dutch by Patricia Crampton and launched in the UK, as generations have grown up with the stories they’ve stayed the same. Is it really necessary to update the language of children’s books you ask? When I first thought about it – I thought about what would need to be updated in terms of children’s books. Would they be adding in the word of the year, “selfie”, scattering in a few references to technology and #hashtags?

I was pleasantly surprised when I read the before/after to see that the updates made it easier to read. Here’s a few examples:


miffy comparison


You can click here to see all of the old vs new comparisons of the Miffy Books.

Having read the before/after it makes me think through which other children’s classics could do with an update. Which would you have modernised from your kid’s bookshelf?

The new verse was created by children’s author and poet, Tony Mitton. Dick Brunna’s beloved stories and timeless illustrations have remained the same.

“Throughout my career as a writer of poetry and verse for children, I’ve sought to combine the language of natural speech with precise rhymes, aural texture, good scansion and metre. So to tackle such internationally known works as the Miffy books – with a brief of staying as faithful as possible to the Dutch originals – struck me as a challenge well worth taking up. I was flattered and honoured to be asked.

I find great satisfaction in problem solving and plying my verse writing as a craft – in the same way a carpenter might approach making joinery for a bespoke space. I love working intricately with the sounds, rhythms, rhymes, textures and meanings of language in verse. Working on the Miffy books gave me the opportunity to do this. There were strictures, of course. The books have a look, a format and a feel already known and loved. And Dick himself was very exact in his own original writing, so I was not allowed free rein to do as I pleased. One is using one’s skills within set parameters. In that sense it is like working as a scriptwriter rather than as a solo poet. My own children loved Dick Bruna’s books; I hope my new texts help today’s young children to enjoy them too.”

— Tony Mitton, award-winning poet who has updated the texts in the Miffy storybooks:


Miffy book for Highlight PR

The book launch event was held, (appropriately I’d say) at the Dutch Centre in London. The kids enjoyed tables full of Miffy inspired crafting – and colour your own Miffy bunny ears.

miffy crafts

miffy cuddles

After crafting, they joined in to an interactive storytime, then a reading by Tony Mitton

miffy baby

The kids then had photos with and did some dancing with a big plushie Miffy.

miffy photo  It was a great day out and fun for the kids to get immersed in a whole new Miffy experience.

The modernised Miffy books will be rolled out throghout 2014 by the publisher, Simon & Schuster, with the first 3 being available from 27th February 2014.

The new Miffy books are available from all good bookshops across the UK and online. In addition to the traditional books they are also launching a series of activity and sticker books.

Publishing schedule for the new Miffy hardback storybooks (£4.99 each):

  • 27th February: miffy, miffy at the zoo, miffy at the gallery
  • 22nd May: miffy’s birthday, miffy’s garden, miffy and the new baby
  • 11th September: miffy at school, miffy goes flying, miffy’s bicycle
  • 9th October: miffy in the snow, miffy the fairy, miffy’s dream

New Miffy Activty Books, published 27 February:

  • Miffy’s Play Date paperback sticker storybook (£6.99),
  • Miffy Dress-up colouring and sticker book (£4.99)
  • Miffy’s Day sticker, activity book (£4.99).

modern miffy


*Disclosure: we were invited to attend this free book launch event, Miffy books were provided to my children for their review, but the opinions, experiences and reviews are our own.

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6 years ago 0 Comments Short URL

Beaufort House in Chelsea… Our local with kids

For some time, Beaufort House in Chelsea has been our go-to place when going out to eat with the kids. Their Brasserie is a large open room, tastefully decorated – and most importantly ringed with booth seats.Parents who are reading this – I think you’ll fully appreciate the strategic advantage of this. We put the boys in the middle, and my husband and I sit at the ends so there is no escape!

Fortunately the kids love eating there as well. We’re always warmly welcomed by the staff, while there are less kids there at dinner, other families have surely felt the warm welcome for families, as on Saturdays and Sundays this place is packed with families enjoying leisurely brunch/lunch etc. Hakim, the front of house Manager is extremely welcoming to kids and families and while the waitstaff has generally been different people each time we’ve visited they’ve all been very kind and great with the kids (and their needs for extra napkins and ketchup!)

From the kids perspective – they’ve enjoyed the tasty kids meals. The kid’s menu is a nicely designed menu/placemat with scenes of London. Each child gets their own menu/placemat as well as their own set of Beaufort House colored pencils with sharpeners. There’s enough to color to last the whole meal! On one visit, their delight – the boys were even given Beaufort House boys. This has happened once, so I’m not sure if it was a one off thing or not.

We found the kids meal prices reasonably priced and sized and includes dessert. (They were even running a kids eat free promo for a while, whose absence I miss!)

For adults I’ve been impressed with the creative menu, which seems to change frequently – and their cocktails are delicious.

While we’ve spent most of our time downstairs in the ground floor Brassierie, they do have a Member’s Club above.

This week, I was invited along with some other London Bloggers to come see the Member’s Club. The club is spread over several floors and while during the evenings it’s generally full with members and their guests – during the days they use the event spaces for kids parties! I think I’ve found our new birthday venue.

Stairs up to Members Club above the Brasserie (it’s over several floors)

Guests were served Mojitos, champagne and delicious appetizers like duck spring rolls, mini fish and chips, truffle arancini and decadent lemon meringue mini pies.

Beaufor House Champagne Bar on the top floor, this has been used for teen disco birthday parties

(Sadly I was unable to partake of the cocktails and pate, and some of the other tasty looking items because of my baby bump)

While you probably wouldn’t see those items on the menu for a kid’s party, the kids party menu and setup looks interesting, and seems like it would be nice for the parents accompanying them.

Kids Party in Club Room at Beaufort House, this room can also be used as a screening room and there is enough room for an entertainerI’m glad I was invited along and get to check out the Member’s Club and hope to be back soon for future events. They had a children’s event over the summer with Pippa’s Poppets, and from speaking with Simon, one of the co-owners it looks like their planning on more family focused events during the daytime, which I think would be great and certainly look forward to.

For the neighborhood, I think their prices are pretty good for children’s parties. Here’s a photo of their brochure for the price list for kids parties (accurate as of this publication, but do ring them in case menu items or prices change in the future)

Have you been to a kids party here before? Or visited the Brasserie with kids? What did you think? 

For another perspective on Beaufort House, read this blog post from Life At the Zoo, Beaufort House Chelsea – A Hidden Gem.

See what the Domestic Goddesque has to say about it here Domestic Goddesque, Cocktails at Beaufort House and also more reviews here at the Goodlife Bloggers , Beaufort House King’s Road Chelsea – yes please, thank you very much!

Beaufort House kids party menu

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8 years ago 6 Comments Short URL

Do you indulge in Me-dia?

Often it feels like the only “ME” time I have to enjoy media is when travelling. Planes – trains, automobiles you name it – that’s when the channel is my choice! You wouldn’t think I’d have to travel half-way around the world to enjoy a little Oscar-nominated time, but there you go!

Each year I have a conference that falls about 2 weeks after the Oscars. As I have moved further and further away from the venue, my travel times have increased. The last 2 years it was a 13 hr flight each way (including a 1 hr layover). This means – plenty of time to watch all of the Oscar Nominees and Award Winners on in-flight entertainment! Noise canceling headphones, champagne, ice-cream, new moves and my own remote! How could I go wrong? Once I made way through the Oscar worthy movies I turned my attention to the pop-culture favorites including The Hangover Two. Terribly funny, until the very end where I was almost throwing myself in front of the video and flailing around with the remote trying to block the screen/shut it off as it showed extremely graphic movies to the rest of the plane passengers seated behind me (I was in the first row, aisle seat)

With all honesty – let’s just say this isn’t my first rodeo. I’m a busy working Mom, so for movies, books etc I enjoy pure escapism. It’s my time to give my brain a little rest. I’m a big fan of romance novels (or “Bodice Rippers” as my Nana would call them). especially the Paranormal Romance genre. In any case if you’ve read 1,2,3+ romance novels you tend to recognize the cliched phrases, and if you’re like myself if you’ve read about one heaving busom or turgid member you’ve read about them all and quickly begin to tune them out.

So, besides just reading books – I’ve found for really data-heavy work my best way to stay focused on the work itself is to listen to something. I sometimes listen to audiobooks if I’m working with large data sets or repetitive tasks to keep me focused, or while commuting.

If you’ve never been on the London tube during rush hour – you’re in for an experience. You will never be so close to so many people who don’t make eye contact in your entire life. Being short, I generally spend my commute snuggled under the armpit of a stranger or 3.

So, a few weeks back I was listening to one of my audiobook romance novels – I had picked up a paper and was idly perusing it, listening to my book and surrounded by silent people on the tube. (That’s right only tourists talk on the tube) Suddenly this train ride seemed more silent than others. I looked up from my paper – and shockingly everyone WAS LOOKING AT ME. This is not normal behavior for the tube or London in general. I quickly ran a mental inventory. Am I having a nightmare? Nope. Am I naked? Nope. Is there toilet paper on my shoe? Nope.

Hmmm. And that’s when I realized… The romance novel was still playing. Loudly. Via crappy headphones. That were broadcasting a very VERY dirty sex scene to the entire carriage and I had mentally blocked out the whole thing – and everyone was staring at me as I supposed listened and broadcast my smutty smutty story across the whole carriage….

Face burning, I remained stoic. Turned down the volume and kept my face bored and still…you know, kept it real cool! And hopped off at the very next stop! :0)

Since then I’ve got a fantastic pair of in-ear noise canceling headphones that can’t be overheard – and better yet, a Kindle! Woohoo! Now I can read whatever I want without having to fear about people judging my book by it’s cover. And if you spot me on the train and wonder what I’m reading on the Kindle? Let me enlighten you – it’s Fifty Shades of Grey.

So that’s my story about Me-dia, and I’m sticking to it – how about you?

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8 years ago 2 Comments Short URL

Childcare costs in Chicago and London

So childcare is not one of those things you necessarily want to scrimp on – you want the best quality of care for your child afterall. However – childcare costs, especially in large cities make finding the right solution very challenging.

When we lived in a suburban city in the US childcare costs were about $300-$400 USD/month at really nice daycare centers and in-home childcare (childminders) would be less than that. {total costs approx $5,000 USD / yr per child}

When we lived in an urban city in the US, in Chicago we were looking at about $215-$350 USD/ wk for up to 10 hrs per day 52 weeks a year. {total costs approx $15,000 USD / yr per child}

So if you have 2 kids in daycare in an urban city like Chicago, you’d need to make $40,000 / yr pre-tax at your job to come home with no money. Considering that – it’s no wonder that many women take a couple years out of work or stay out altogether to raise their children and watch them instead of paying for daycare.

Here’s an infographic I found interesting on this subject:

ChildCare FINAL Design

So having lived in Chicago I new childcare would be expensive in London but I was still kinda shocked about how much it costs.

If you’re looking at one of the private nurseries or daycare centers in central London they range from 250 – 400 GBP per week, with most being around the 350 mark. What does that mean in dollars? Well, it means 18,200 GBP which is about $30,000 USD/ child per year.

Ok sure – living in England you get paid in GBP not USD, but in a way it’s equivalent, because your salary is adjusted when you move to account for that. So for example if you’re making $40,000 USD in Chicago which is enough to pay for 2 kids in daycare and nothing more – then in the UK you’d be making 25,000 GBP – which is not enough for private daycare or nursery in central London.

Besides private nurseries – there are child centers and childminders (a babysitter who has an in-home small daycare). Child centers are like council run (think of it as local government run) daycare centers. These are about 200-250 GBP/week in central London. Ok great, but the waitlist for these is incredibly long. We were on some waitlists for these when we first came over – we were offered a place eventually, 10 months after we needed it. So, if you made 25,000 GBP you could probably afford a child and half at a child center.

Luckily, school starts 1 year earlier here than in the US. While Kindergarten starts at 5 in the US, Nursery starts at 3-4, and Reception at 4-5.

Ok so then you’ve got your kids in school, but what do you do if you’re a working mum, or working couple – how do you pick up the kids from school around 3? Well.. then we get into afterschool nannies, nannies and aupairs.

We had wanted to have a third child at some point – but trying to figure out how to afford it while keeping our current style of life in London has been a challenge.

How have you managed childcare? Did you find you had to stop working? How did you make it work?

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8 years ago 1 Comment Short URL

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