French birthday gateau

Written by kim cotton on . Posted in all, On Attitude & Adventure, On Health & Happiness, On Love of Learning, Uncategorized

It’s not everyday one has a significant birthday. To celebrate, a French birthday gateau was ordered from extraordinary Belgium chef Didier Lannoote. 

However, when we came to collect our Chocolate Raspberry and Fresh Creme Mousse it wasn’t ready. What ensued was an amazing birthday surprise as we watched a master turn plain into wonderful in less than five minutes. Here’s how …


Despite it already looking heavenly, Belgium pastry chef Didier Lannoote has not quite finished the birthday gateau when we arrive.

French birthday caught unprepared


With only five minutes to spare his artistic hands begin to move skillfully over the smooth glaze.

French birthday cake chef hard at work 


Under pressure, a little drama breaks out in the kitchen. Boxes go flying and staff are barked at …

French birthday cake French chef stress


So we decide to look at the chandelier.

French birthday cake chandelier


But only for  a moment … as we peek back into the kitchen the gateau is taking on a life of its own.

French birthday cake preparation


And within five tiny minutes it’s voila! Bon anniversaire.

French birthday cake voila


See our products picks for a French Birthday cake.

Spirited-Mama-French-vintage-measuring-cups-image                French-vintage-kitchen-scales

French-heart-cookbook-lectern               French-vintage-dishrack


French children's chef's apron                       little-gardener- French apron




Why toy wooden boats make great gift for kids

Written by kim cotton on . Posted in all, On Attitude & Adventure, On Health & Happiness, On Love of Learning, Uncategorized

Toy wooden boats are great gifts for children. Here are our top five …

Wooden boats are the perfect decor piece for a child’s room

Toy wooden boats are sturdy, playful, grounded and add a sense of familiarity to a room – everybody loves a boat. For these reasons toy wooden boats look fantastic in a child’s room. Place a toy boat on a book shelf or bedside table and they remind us of adventure and stories of far off lands … the Wind in the Willows or the Owl and the Pussy Cat. Toy boats will hold their own beautifully as a feature piece and they will also neatly complement many other special pieces we love to add in our children’s spaces to make them feel safe and inspired such as classic books, vintage teddies or beautiful images. A good toy boats’ ocean theme can also be played up with other sea  items such as our amazing Whale grand or turtle mobiles, building a sense of respect and love of nature.


Toy wooden boats help children make sense of the world 

The power of the toy can never be under estimated. For children, a toy is a mechanism for learning – it’s how they work out for themselves how to function in the world. Toys such as wooden boats that float in the water can be used to experiment with space, time, velocity and role playing. They can be raced, carry treasures across a stream, in the bath or pool or simply amble along pushed by a current or the wind. Toy wooden boats help children use their imagination ~ they can become skippers or navigators and learn to lead or they become traders or explorers travelling in search of exotic lands, adventure and shells, like these little beauties pictured.

Spirited Mama toy boats - childs play

Toy wooden boats are eco-friendly

Our toy boats are made from sustainable beech wood grown 50km from the atelier (workshop) in a small area in Brittany, France. Each boat is handmade with love ~ from the shaping of the hull to the sewing of the sail ~ using the same methods for the past 70 years when the boatmaker Nicolas’s grandfather began Bateaux Tirot in 1946 when traditional clogs were replaced by rubber shoes after the war. 

The evolution of tradition

Our toy wooden boats are value for money

Toy wooden boats won’t end up in landfill next year. Our toy wooden boats not only look beautiful with their shiny award-winning finish, they are built to last. We say they’re  tougher than a tantrum. So when a toy wooden boat is given as a gift, you can be assured it can be used as a stimulating toy, and be placed on a shelf to add a hardy character to a room for years to come. 

Spirited Mama - happy French wooden toy sailing boats image

Toy wooden boats bring the family together

From grandfather to father to son, the Tirot family have passed down their boatmaking skills to each new generation for 70 years. Similarly, when grandparent gives his granddaughter or grandson a toy boat as a gift it becomes part of the family’s narrative, their history, a sweet reminder of the loved one who gave the gift. Our boats have been purchased as gifts for new arrivals, Christenings and other special occasions, and in some cases adults have bought them as gifts for their husbands or for themselves to remind them of a time and a place when the family were together.

Bateaux Tirot St Germain and the 200s

Special hearts French mobile giveaway

Written by kim cotton on . Posted in all, On Attitude & Adventure, On Health & Happiness, On Love of Learning, Uncategorized

Do you know of a special heart … a children’s centre, hospital or elderly nursing home that could do with some French mobile magic? 

We are donating four sets of L’Oiseau Bateau French mobiles to four organisations to create an enchanting wonderland for the special hearts who use the services … children, patients and carers, too. Each centre will receive a combination of six grand and petit mobiles valued at more than $800 for each set.

To let us know about a centre close to your heart, leave a comment on our Facebook ‘Special hearts French mobile giveaway‘ post (it’s pinned to the top of the page) with the name of centre and why you think it could do with some enchanting French mobile magic.

Please do not include private information about any individual, just 30 words max will do on the type of centre it is and how the mobiles ca brighten the experience those who attend it.

It could be a:

  • special children’s centre 
  • child care centre in a disadvantaged community
  • children’s ward in a hospital or
  • even a nursing home where seniors with dementia or Alzheimer’s can benefit from the happy ambiance and sense of comfort the mobiles create (often called reminscence therapy).

If you don’t belong to Facebook then please leave a comment below and please share it with your friends or community.

Spirited Mama Moonboy French mobile


  • Judges decision is final.
  • Six mobile sets comprising grand and petit mobiles will be sent to four centres in Australia.
  • Freight will be covered by Spirited Mama.
  • Prize cannot be transferred for cash or other products of any description.
  •  Mobile ranges sent are at the discretion of Spirited Mama.
  • Feature ends 30 May 2016.
  • Any entry revealing information on an individual that breaches Australian privacy laws will need to be deleted.

Five reasons to visit France in Winter

Written by kim cotton on . Posted in all, On Attitude & Adventure, On Health & Happiness, On Love of Learning, Uncategorized

Five reasons to visit France in Winter? There are many reasons to visit France in Winter. Albeit the temperature can be chilly, France takes on a special magic in Winter … from the fairy lights of Paris to the stark vineyards of Burgundy and the majestic snow adorne Alps of the Haute Savoie. Bistros beckon with warm bourguignon, stores lure with incredible sales, and the most elegant hotels offer amazing deals. 


Le Relais Bernard Loiseau French Winter


1. France in winter is beautiful

France in Winter is beautiful, discreet and quiet. She becomes the elegant old dame and the haunting beauty. In this season of crisp mornings and dark evenings there is a sense of peace, and permission to regenerate and to reflect while being immersed in a deep rich history. It doesn’t mean the country sleeps; it’s lit by thousands of sparkling lights that make everything pretty and glowing. France in Winter – with its space and solitude – allows you to feel the country is yours, and for a moment, you become part of its tapestry  you feel like you belong.

St Germain French Winter


2. Amazing French hotels offers 

In a French winter, the crowds are less and the French hotels offer great deals. Three nights for the price of two … original room prices reduced and upgrades are given to chambres you would normally only dream about – like this gorgeous room upgrade I was given at Symphonie des Sens in the old part of Rennes, Brittany, while on business. I felt like a queen, especially after a complimentary glass of champagne. C’est perfect!


Symphonie des sens


3. The French sales that keep on giving

Imagine yourself meandering through a little medieval town after taking in the wonders of a master impressionist exhibition when you see the sign ‘soldes -30%’ in a gorgeous window display. It’s written in French but the word ‘sale’ is a universal language. And the French sales mandated by the French Government to take place across the country once in winter and once in summer – are unforgettable. You walk inside the store and the most strikingly fashionable outfits from French or international designers draw you in – not just one off pieces, but whole ensembles – the shoes, trousers, shirt, jacket, scarf … and lingerie. Silks and woollens and leathers, fine stitching, classic cuts, original styles … and being winter chances are your size is still available …  all at reduced prices. To me, it’s heaven. You take it home less the duty further reducing the price, and each time you walk out the door in your new French outfit oh la la  you are reminded of that little ancient town on that cold sunny day. This is why the French sales keep on giving. But if you can’t make them then visit our French Heart Store or join our newsletter for exclusive specials and sales.

 Sales in Annecy French Winter


4. Beautiful French ski villages

France has some of the most beautiful ski villages in the world. Snow covered churches in 12th Century villages mingle with traditional chalets, Fresh scents of wood-smoke beckon you into little farm-like bistros on piste, exhilarating runs off towering mountains or through serene pine-fringed bunny trails, traditional mountain cuisine using locally produced ingredients and hot wine served with a dash of Grand Marnier. Skiing in France is not a sport, it’s a cultural experience that will satisfy the most die-hard skier or those who are simply going along for the ride. 

Three Vallees French Winter


5. French winter food is … everything

There is nothing more satisfying during a French winter than to wade through the thick curtains at the door of a French restaurant, take off a heavy jacket and sit feeling light and warm at the dining table. The anticipation is just as exciting as the meal itself. Rich bouguignon, steak a la planche, or the divine truffle experience like Chez Bruno’s in the south of France pictured.

Chez Brunos Truffles French Winter


Quick tips for visiting France in Winter

  • Wear warm socks ~ queues will be shorter for major attractions in Paris but there is often still a wait, standing on very cold stone.
  • Pack layers – singlet or slip, long sleeve shirt, jumper, jacket, tights or pants / jeans, scarf, gloves, hat if you wish.
  • If you don’t have the right gear visit Monoprix – France’s answer to Target.
  • Search your hotels online for three night for price of two deals or ask the hotel manager for an upgrade or discount.
  • Some attractions will be closed ~ possibly around Christmas, or February so do your research first before visiting.

Renne Brittany French Winter








French spring decor for children’s rooms and mama gifts

Written by kim cotton on . Posted in all, On Health & Happiness, Uncategorized

Enchant your children and fall in love with the blossoming spring bouquet of mobiles and musicoles created by French artisans L’Oiseau Bateau. 

Marguerite Daisy and the waltz of the tulips.

Spirited Mama Marguerite mobile with tulips


Butterfly girl in yellow with fresh spring pansies.

Spirited Mama Butterfly Girl in Spring


Purple on purple with Princess Inca.

Spirited Mama Princess Inca in Spring


Le Tambour popping with the poppies.

Spirited Mama Le Tambour in Spring


Ladybeetle in her secret garden.

Ladybeetle French Musicole with Tulips


Tightrope walker in harmony with native lilies.

Spirited mama Tightrope


See our full range of divine themed mobiles at our French Heart Store – more flowers, fairies and plenty of flying machines and sea creatures too.







Handmade eco-wood sailing boats ~ meet the artisans

Written by kim cotton on . Posted in all, On Attitude & Adventure, On Health & Happiness, On Love of Learning

It’s not often you meet the makers of the toys we buy for our children. It’s even rarer to meet a crack team who are the keepers of a dying tradition of crafting slow toys. Meet Nicolas and Carine Tirot ~ the last of the artisans of handmade eco-wood French sailing boats or pond boats which are crafted using entirely French materials.

     pirited Mama Bateaux Tirot the makers image


Originally a shoemaker, Nicolas’s grandfather, Francis Tirot, began making toy boats to replace his wooden clog business just after World War II in 1946. Francis’s already tight skills were perfected and handed down to his son Eurl, who bestowed them to Nicolas.

Spirited Mama Bateaux Tirot clogg to boat image


Each boat is handmade using beech wood grown in a sustainable forest in Brittany France about 50kms from the atelier. Nicolas works each piece carefully using a combination of modern tools and a couple that still survive from his grandfather and father’s days.

Spirited Mama Bateaux Tirot atelier 5 image


Carine, Nicolas wife, sews each sail and handprints the motif to create an individual work of art.

Spirited Mama Bateaux Tirot making the sails 2 image


Artisan craftsmanship like that of the Tirot’s is highly esteemed in France. Bateaux Tirot was awarded the Entreprise du Patrimoine Vivant for its quality leveraging it into the class of Hermes, Chanel and Christian Dior. The value is astounding given the long-lasting quality of each boat at a price that is affordable to all families. When sailed the boats are bouyant, beautiful and from a distance you would almost think they are real yachts and dinghies. (The real yachts are on the right yet who could tell the difference?)

Spirited Mama Bateaux Tirot saililng boat image  Spirited Mama Bateaux Tirot saililng boat image


But does the cat (or foreman) in the sawdust care? He tried to bite me when I patted him, which we took as a sign to depart the atelier to eat, drink and swap stories about our kids – another lovely French tradition.

Spirited Mama Bateaux Tirot atelier 2 image

You can see our beautiful range of handmade wooden sailing boats made by Bateaux Tirot here.

Thanks for visiting, please feel free to leave a comment on what you love about the concept of artisans and slow toys.

 Linking with gorgeous Grace.

Meet L’Oiseau Bateau ~ artisans of childhood

Written by kim cotton on . Posted in all, On Attitude & Adventure, On Health & Happiness, On Love of Learning

Twenty years ago, with a young family in tow, husband and wife team Catherine Nicol and Philippe Lemoine were selling the dreams they designed in the guise of elves and backpacks at local markets. Today as the owners of L’Oiseau Bateau (bird boat), they are sharing their dreams with the world.

 Spirited Mama Loiseau bateau creators image   

L’Oiseau Bateau is a tight team of 10 dedicated staff based in Valence close to Lyon on the south east department of Drome, France. Melody (below left) is one of the latest editions to the team while Agnes, the export manager (right)  is the reason why L’Oiseau Bateau has arrived in Australia. Nicolas  (far right) designs the promotions that make their way to the stores and websites including Spirited Mama.

Spirited Mama Loiseau Bateau team         Spirited Mama Loiseau Bateau designer 

In January 2015, Spirited Mama took her second visit to L’Oiseau Bateau to understand better the beautiful stories behind the L’Oiseau Bateau  creations and to give the team a better understanding of our French Heart Community. What started as a meeting over a traditional French lunch lasted into the evening as tours were taken of the local stores that featured the brand, meeting the staff, admiring the latest designs and well, lots of joking and laughter about ourselves and our countries. 

  Spirited Mama Loiseau Bateau lunch

And while L’Oiseau Bateau has become an international business, the artisans of childhood remain true to their vision – to inspire the imaginations of little hearts and big hearts … to make the world just that little more magical.

Spirited Mama Loisea Bateau imagination

The most beautiful toy stores in Paris

Written by kim cotton on . Posted in all, On Attitude & Adventure, On Health & Happiness, On Love of Learning, Uncategorized

The most beautiful toy stores in Paris reside in secret arcades and on famous streets which makes seeking them out as much a pleasure as it is to enter into their magical worlds. Each toy store is inspired by  timeless classic tradition and exists to delight not only young children, but the child in all of us.

Au Nain Bleu

252 Boulevard Saint-Germain, 75007 Paris. Metro: Solferino

Established in 1836 Au Nain Bleu is the oldest and most regal toystore in Paris. Residing on the famous Boulevard St Germain it rests among the stars of big brand designer names so you can indulge in some intense window shopping for yourself along the way or even stop off at Les Deux Magot – the old cafe Picasso, Hemingway, Satre and de Beauvoir  used to frequent. Inside Au Nain Bleu you will find traditional toys such as our beautiful French Bateaux Tirot boats, over-sized teddy bears, retro cars, beautiful books such as the Little Prince pop up book, dress up clothes for princes and princesses and doll houses. 


Spirited Mama Au Nain Bleu image



Les FanFan

42 Rue François Miron, 75004 Paris. Metro Saint Paul

Les FanFans holds a special place in my heart because it’s here that my life was changed. Le Fanfans was the first toy store in Paris I visited a number of years ago when I was travelling with my young daughter who was about to turn six. I was seeking birthday gifts along with something special for my ever-growing number of nieces and nephews. The owner was so charming and funny that it began my journey to create Spirited Mama and the French Heart Store. Le FanFans is indeed full of tresors for infants yet it is a typical toy store stuffed with magic tricks, laughing cows, metal carousels and games. It resides in the back streets of the Le Marais – on the Seine side of Rue des Rivoli among fashionable restaurants, small art galleries, fromageries and the latest gift and craft phenomenon Petit Pan, so after some retail therapy for the little one you can treat yourself to something beautiful, too. 


Spirited Mama Le fanfans toy store Paris image



Pain D’epices

29 Passage Jouffroy, 75009 Paris. Metro: Richelieu – Drouot or Grands Boulevards

Of all the toyshops Pain D’pices is the most enchanting. It resides in 19th century passage way built of decorative metal, glass and wood. While Pain D’pices offers many European toys to customers, it specialises in the miniature doll houses from the classic Georgian home to the modern mansion. But more impressive are the fitouts – everything you could imagine has been included – hundreds of tiny copper saucepans, brooms, fruit, wine decanters, miniature cheese boards (with French cheeses of course), French pasteries, rolling pins, vintage scales and all the furniture you could ever wish for. There are also miniature boulangerie, toy shop and petrol station storefront models that children (or adults) can build. If the children in your life believe in fairies then Pain d’Epice has the evidence.


Spirited Mama Pain de Epice toy store Paris image




Si Tu Veux

68 galerie Vivienne 75002 Paris. Ph: 33 01 42 60 59 97. Metro: Bourse

The most beautiful of all toyshops in the world, Si Tu Veux is found in a charming neo-classical 19th Century arcade in Paris’ 2nd arrondissonment nestled among the most illustrious antique and designer stores and a divine bar LeGrand Filles et Fils (so that you can have a well deserved champagne after finding the arcade). Sparkling in soft fairy lights, Si Tu Veux beckons the passerby to enter into a magical world which boasts classic European toys. The owner Madeline Deny publishes a regular blog that suggests all manner of creative and inexpensive children’s activities to do with the imagination and play – great to practice your French, or be inspired by one of the denizens of toy shopping.

 Spirited Mama Si Tu Veux Toy Store Paris image


And if you don’t have the chance to visit one of these beautiful Parisian toy stores in Paris itself then visit our French Heart Store, an online store as beautiful as the boutiques of Paris, which features provincial and artisan crafted toys and children’s decor sourced from the heart of France.

Spirited Mama French Heart Store image 

You might also like Paris with kids smart travel tips


Autumn pear and rhubarb crumble

Written by kim cotton on . Posted in all, On Health & Happiness

To me Autumn is all golden and brown and pear crumbly.

Autumn tastes

Where orange and tanned leaves glisten strong like polished leather before fading to the chill of the evening’s descent.

Autumn beauty

Autumn is a time for friends and gathering, for cuddling into old comfortable woollens and feeling the rush of a crisp breeze against the warmth of a still strong sun.

Autumn champagne

It’s a time for rambling, and swings, anticipation of lovely stews and cooking feasts.

Autumn on a swing

And it’s a time for pear and rhubarb crumble.

Autumn crumble

No wonder it’s a favourite time of year.

Pear and rhubarb crumble

4 pears – any variety  

1 bunch rhubarb

1 cinnamon stick

1 cup whole meal flour

1 vanilla essence

2T water

1/2 and a  bit of brown sugar

1 handful of oats (optional)

140grams unsalted  butter

How to make rhubarb and pear crumble

Wash then slice the rhubarb, carefully removing the bottom parts and any part that is too green. Peel and core the pears and cut up into chunky pieces. Throw into a cast iron pot with the cinnamon stick and about 2 tablespoons of water. Mix together the flour, oats, sugar and vanilla essence. Add in the butter in pieces and begin rubbing with your fingertips until the mixture is combined and crumbly. Sprinkle the mixture across the fruit and press together some of the crumble into little balls for a more crunchy effect. Bake for about 30 to 40 minutes at 180 degrees C. Make sure you don’t put a lid on it. The crumble is ready when the fruit is soft and resting in a syrupy consistency. Serve with either fresh runny cream, double cream or ice cream.

Matching treasures: Autumn and Rusty Romantiques

 Autumn Romantiques Doll        Rusty Romantique

Sharing with essentiallyjess x

Feeling good about child care

Written by kim cotton on . Posted in all, On Health & Happiness


Leaving your little one at child care can make any parent feel anxious, but there are simple ways to make it easier on you both.

I was wracked with guilt for years for putting my daughter into child care so I could work. I always felt I should have been around more and yet I also knew my little girl was really happy there. She developed amazing friends, learnt new skills and games, and, in turn, I was supported. Most of all my daughter had beautiful carers/educators who continued with her each year until she left to move onto big school. All was good.

Having reviewed Secure Transitions: Supporting Children to Feel Secure, Confident and included, I realise now the child care path was the right one for me – the carers knew what they were doing far beyond what I knew and were experts in helping deal with the most emotionally charged parts of the day – when I was having to leave my darling in the harried rush of the morning and reconnecting with her at the day’s end.

If you’re struggling with your child moving into child care consider the points included in the Secure Transitions booklet. It may help you understand a little more about how to help your child adjust to a new and healthy experience without too much anguish, and relieve you of feeling guilty (the way I did).

Helping your child adjust to child care

spirited-mama---little-coquThe Secure Transition authors liken the moment when you drop your child off to child care to when two little row boats come up to each other and the child has to step from your boat into the boat of the carer. It is a moment of negotiation. It can be stressful for you and your child but when you and the carer work together to maker the hand-over explicit, your child feels safe as they step from one boat to another. The connection is made. ‘Now I can step out confidently to play because I know I can always come back to my carer who is responsible for me’, the book exemplifies.

Before your child arrives at child care

Talking with your child about which staff member they will see when they arrive at child care can generate a sense of familiarity and predictability their day. When you get to the centre bring your child to their carer to demonstrate you are confident in saying goodbye.

In turn, when an educator or carer has a secure relationship with your child – they will know your child by name, greet them when they arrive, reassure them of their day and make them feel safe. This provides your child with solid ground to move into the rest of their day.

Spirited Mama - Floor cushionSaying goodbye to your child for the day

When it comes to saying goodbye make this a two-way conversation between you and the carer:

Here’s how Secure Transitions authors pitch it:

Mother to her child Sara: “I will be thinking about you today. Joan is here to look after you and keep you safe for me”.

Mother to carer: “Joan will you look after Sara today?’

Carer to Mother and Sara: “Yes Sara, I’m pleased I get to keep you safe and play with you until mummy comes back. You can always come back to me when you need me”.

Saying to a carer that they’ll keep your child safe may seem strange, but children understand its meaning, and it creates predictability for your child.

“What is important is how the message, ‘We can keep you safe’, is being conveyed, rather than the particular words used,” the authors state.

“Saying this out loud creates very clear expectations and tells your child that he or she is in the mind of two big people who care for [them]”. Similarly, with babies a tone of voice that conveys care, conviction and firmness of purpose gives the feeling that you and the carer have everything under control and your infant can relax.

Collecting your child at the end of the day

Backpacks-and-running-freeChildren have their own style of reconnecting at the end of the day. When you see your child, have your cuddle or greeting ready for them, the authors state. When they are ready to talk you can ask them about what they enjoyed rather than ask them whether they have been good or what they have made or achieved. Your child will feel less pressure of any kind of expectations. The authors say this helps them to organise their feelings to get back with you.

Listening to your child’s story frees you up to join in with them and enjoy them and also connect easily with the childcare staff to find out what happened during their day. It’s a way of supporting your little one to step back into your row boat and help gently set up for another lovely day on the lake.


The ideas described in Secure Transition: Supporting children to feel secure, confident and included come from the Attachment Matters project run by Robyn Dolby, Eilish Hughes and Belinda Friezer. The project examined how the relationships between educators and children support children’s learning and social competence with their peers. You can buy the booklet at Early Childhood Australia or email [email protected]

Care of your L’Oiseau Bateau treasures

Written by kim cotton on . Posted in On Health & Happiness, Uncategorized

Petit and Grand Mobiles

Love your French treasures and they will give you joy and inspiration for a very long time.

♥Your French mobile is not a toy, it is a decorative work only.

♥It’s recommended that to keep your mobile in excellent condition it is placed indoors.

♥Seek advice from a reputable hardware outlet on installing your mobile safely based on your unique circumstances.

Aprons, backpacks and satchels

♥Hand wash

♥Do not bleach

♥Do not tumble dry

♥Iron, steam or dry, at medium heat

♥Do not dry clean

Floor cushions, pyjama bags and other textiles

♥Wash at 30 degrees Celsius

♥Do not bleach

♥Do not tumble dry

♥Iron, steam or dry, at medium heat

♥Do not dry clean

Please note these are guides only and do not replace an individual’s responsible approach to care and safety.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers: