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.







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


Seven expert tips on helping children to read

Written by kim cotton on . Posted in Uncategorized

Storyteller Grand Mobile

Knowing what the experts do can make it easier to help your child learn to read.

I am totally passionate about reading. It’s one of the reasons why I do what I do today. I truly believe that reading books like the Magic Far Away Tree and so many more magical books gave me a great sense of imagination and love of whimsical beautiful characters – like those i sell here.

The following tips were written to help teachers in supporting their students to read so for us it’s a little gem of information that we’re getting from the experts on helping our children to develop a love of reading and all the fantabulous things it will bring to their lives.

1. Help your child focus on the meaning of their book. So often we think learning to read is just learning the sounds and words and putting them together yet we forget about the most important aspect – what it means – or comprehension. Ask your child about the book their reading – or you’re reading to them. It will go a long way to help them focus on what’s important during the exercise of reading and also help them to enjoy the book  more if you can discuss it with them and find out the parts they may not understand.

2.Use different tactics to understand what’s being read: talk to your child on what’s the title about, what the pictures say, if a word feel right in the sentence or not, what your child’s understanding of letters and sounds tell you about a word.

3. Predict what’s going to happen next. Rhyming books are terrific because they often set a child up to predict what the next word is going to be. As your child what the sentence or book is about, what word might come next in a sentence and whether a word chosen makes sense in the context of what’s being read.

4. Gently prompt your child to fix up a mistake if they’ve read a word wrong. 

5. Talk to your child about different strategies they can draw on to work out words … sounding them out, reading ahead to get the gist of the sentence, asking you or someone else to help. 

6. Show your child that you love reading by reading with them, to them, or when you’re relaxing. If you don’t like reading much, keep it to yourself as it may discourage your child from reading.

7. Choose authentic well written books with fantastic illustrations and good story lines – ones that you love reading to your child are a good measure. Children are intelligent little beings and like all of us love a good story. It engages them, helps them develop a wider vocabulary and gives them a sound structure of good grammar and sentences – and most of all it’s entertaining. Try these books for a start if you need some suggestions.


This post was inspired by Brian Crambourne from Wollongong University who published The seven messages of highly effective reading teachers in the online publication The Conversation.

Product pick: Storyteller Grand Mobile of course 🙂

French storyteller mobilr

Mastering the art of French eating

Written by kim cotton on . Posted in all, Uncategorized

mastering the art of French eating book

A delicious book about mastering the art of French eating

When a book sets its scene describing France’s hearty approach to food it’s easy to keep reading.

“In France dining is meant to be a special, pleasurable part of the day; food offers not only fuel for the body but also a connection – between the people who have joined you at the table, between the generations who have shared a recipe, between the terroir (the earth) and the culture and cuisine that have sprung from it …”

Journalist and an American diplomat’s wife, Ann Mah, penned the Mastering the Art of French Eating – Lessons in Food and Love in Paris in response to her husband’s deployment to Iraq. What she thought was going to be a year of romantic dinners and hand-held promenades along the Seine when her husband was originally posted to Paris, quickly turned into a lonely place for one … a bit like being stood up at a restaurant.

However, rather than crying into her soupe l’onion, the passionate foodie drew on the inspiration of former diplomatic wife and author of the famed The Art of French Cooking, Julia Childs, and immersed herself in the love affair France has with food. With the forensic passion of a sleuth reporter, Ann peels back the layers of 10 signature dishes from 10 different regions starting with the national dish Steak Frite in Paris, leading to crepes in Brittany, the pistou of Provence and uncovering the origins of Burgundy’s boeuf bourguignon and its true flavoursome story. 

Did you know families in Brittany had special days for eating crepes? Or that Lyon is considered the world capital of gastronomy because of the ‘Meres Lyonnaises’, the female cooks of the grand bourgeois homes who produced a few meals perfectly before they lost their jobs after World War 1 and opened their own “bouchons” … or that men dress up in special costumes and devote societies to the cassoulet and many other dishes for that matter?

Like the cassoulet, the book is assembled and layered with moorish chunks of information that are basted with sauces of interesting facts and anecdotes, where the regions, like ingredients, are still individual but drawn together through a rich delicious and very personal narrative about Ann’s life, fears and loves. It’s not only a great read, it’s a fab travel companion and food compendium.

“Pork is considered a vegetable that should be eaten with everything,” … local Lyonnaise epicurian Christian Proton.

To go in the draw to win a copy of Mastering the Art of French Eating simply leave a comment below. Or you can buy a copy of the book here at Spirited Mama.

Follow Ann’s blog or like her on FB


I want an AGA – Bimblegumbie Lodge, Thredbo

Written by kim cotton on . Posted in all, On Attitude & Adventure, Uncategorized

Sometimes things just take you by surprise. Like our recent holiday to the snow in Thredbo. Just two weeks before the holiday there was no snow. My daughter was competing in the Interschools Snow Competition for the first time and all I thought was if there is enough snow for her to compete we can then go bushwalking the rest of the time … instead, we skied till we dropped. And I fell in love with an AGA.

Thredbo - beautiful day


I’d purposely booked Bimblegumble Mountain Lodge because of its flexible dates. I thought it looked quaint but when we arrived, WOW! It was divine – an art studio in nature, a museum in the mountains, a snug from the cold – even the kids’ TV room was surrounded by artistic glorious splendour.

Bimblebumbie tv room

Our host Pru had bought the property in the 1970’s. And like many young business women it was on a wing and a prayer … a bit like how Spirited Mama started.

Bimblebumbie Pru

Pru, an artist, decorator, collector began making the property, situated on the breathtaking Alpine Way, into an ode to self expression – in the nicest, most welcoming and interesting kind of way.


Bimblegumbie installation

There were art deco vases installed with the backdrop of the ghostgums, hessian wall art, 100s of wine glasses of every vintage (very important), sculptures, installations and a mega compost system out the back.

Ski bunnies at Bimblegumbie

The kitchen, which we could all use, was to die for. And it’s there that I cooked on an AGA. I – want – an – AGA!

Bimblegumbie amazing Aga

I also want Pru’s happy car …

Bimblegumbie Car

Many of the guests had been coming for years. There was a big family reunion, a few couples, my daughter and I, and others who came and went. We played pool, swapped phone numbers, enjoyed mulled wine made by Pru’s gorgeous daughter Simi, and we glowed in the bon vivant. We walked, discovered an old piano that could hold a tune, and felt free as only a holiday allows.

Bimblegumbie piano

Our daily drive to Thredbo was sheer pleasure as the fresh mountains almost fell into our car windscreen they loomed so close. The trip home after full days whizzing around snow covered domes was rich with contentment, and anticipation of the next beautiful part of the day – toasting beside the fire, playing Scrabble with my daughter, under the grand chandelier, and cooking on the AGA.

Relaxing at Bimblegumbie

Going home I was a new person. That’s what holidays are for. And this was indeed a beauty.

Bimblegumbie - feeling refreshed


Tell me, am i crazy to love cooking on holidays?

Hi Jess!!! Linking in with IBOT x

Our product pic:

Our beautiful French Romantique dolls of course!

    Autumn Romantique Doll                                                                    

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.

The sweetest things

Written by kim cotton on . Posted in all, On Attitude & Adventure, Uncategorized

Markets are as much about the people as the stuff for me but this market – EQ designer markets – had the sweetest things – what do you think?

This is Rochelle from Summer Blossom. Her stall was so pretty – gorgeous flower garlands and hair accessories that made me want to run through fields of daisies. Rochelle is wearing Beach Girl Floral Crown – she looks absolutely stunning. Behind her are the Sweet Spring Flower Crowns, some of which are going to go on this year’s Santa’s list for my poppet, and me.

 Spirited Mama - Summer blossom

Win Supercharged Food for Kids

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


Do you want to supercharge your children’s lives by feeding them nutrient packed, delicious, creative and super healthy supercharged foods?

Then enter to win the book! Health guru Lee Holmes has released her first book aimed at children – Supercharged Food for Kids.

It’s packed with more than 90 recipes that are suitable for all kids including fussy eaters and those with allergies.

“You won’t find any Frankenfood (genetically modified food) in Supercharged Food for Kids, but you will find kids’ favourites such as pizzas, nuggets, pasta and desserts all made creatively with energy sustaining ingredients in mind,” Lee says.


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