I found it a little difficult to find simple, stylish, safe baby products that worked with the rest of my home. For some unfathomable reason, most easily available baby stuff seems to be plastic, polyester, lime green or in primary colours. Also, I think there's a lot of scaremongering and playing on a new mother's insecurities to purchase lots and lots of unnecessary and expensive things.
Here, a list of minimal and beautiful things I've found, purchased and like. I haven't bought things I felt were unnecessary but everyone's different: you might want a baby monitor, bouncer, nappy bag or whatever, I tried to just get things that seemed unavoidable and then see what I need once the baby arrives. You can't really use breast pumps or bottles until they're around 6 weeks old; and they're not really interested in toys until that age either. I'll do a separate post on the toys, books and clothing I like next week.
Ikea Sniglar Crib
Affordable, yes. But also the most simple design I could find; and the only one that I found made of untreated wood (beech), something important to me for avoiding offgassing (the fumes that come with new furniture).
Little Green Sheep Crib Mattress
A natural mattress made of wool; since the baby spends so much time on this I wanted to make sure it was free of chemicals and flame retardants and all those bad things. This one is good as you can flip it over to a different firmness once the child is older.
Naturepedic Changing Mat
I felt like the baby will spend a lot of time on this, so chose to buy a slightly pricier changing pad. Again, it was the only one I could find that didn't have flame retardants and a plastic cover.
Numero 74 Changing Mat Cover
I love this French brand, the washed linen fabrics are so soft and the colours are neutral and clean. I bought a soft grey one.
Weleda Calendula Changing Balm, Baby Oil and Baby Wash
I've used Weleda throughout my pregnancy and it's the cleanest product I could find, I love the natural scents and it's really affordable too.
Numero 74 Quilts, Cushions and Pillows
Again, this French brand has gorgeous soft linen pillows, quilts and decorative cushions, I bought them in a range of greys.
Nature Baby Moses Basket
I love Nature Baby, it's an iconic New Zealand brand with a beautiful range of organic products. This Moses Basket is simple and lovely with a natural mattress insert.
Nature Baby Sheets and Blankets
I bought white organic crib sheets, Moses basket sheets and a couple of soft blankets from Nature Baby too.
Nature Baby Sleeping Bag
Sleeping bags seem much safer and easier than blankets and sheets; we got a few of these in different weights. I like the simple designs and organic cottons they come in.
Stokke Baby Carrier
This was the only carrier I could find that was made of a fabric designed for a hotter climate. It's simple and looks kind of like a backpack, comes in all black, works in multiple positions (front and out facing as well as on the back) so it can be used for almost three years; has been approved by the Hip Dysplasia Foundation and will fit both me and my husband.
BabyZen Yoyo Plus Stroller
I think strollers are very personal choices based on budget, location and situation. I was after something that was lightweight and small as Hong Kong is hilly, we don't have a car and there are often stairs and escalators to deal with; plus we travel a lot. This French brand is great, the base converts from newborn to six months and can be used until around two years of age; looks stylish and comes in all black; works with most carseats; folds up to carry on size and is super light.
Cybex Aton Q Carseat
As with a stroller, a carseat seems like a very personal decision. I wanted one that would work with the stroller we'd chosen, came in all black and has a high safety rating; as well as being suitable for a newborn right through to 18 months. This ticked all the boxes.
I got this soft, stretchy black baby wrap by Solly.
You could go crazy here, I tried to keep it minimal and just bought multipacks of newborn size white socks, mittens, onesies, hats, bibs and muslin swaddles from John Lewis. I'll do another post on the childrenswear brands I've found and loved.
A Pinterest board of nice baby related finds.
A to do list for your third trimester.
The prettiest maternity and nursing bra ever.
Little Spree is a nice source of high street kids clothing finds.
A new discovery: Common Muse. The Singapore based brand is sleek, simple and comes at chain store prices. I've been on the look out for a pair or two of new earrings for a little while; tempted by the Celine baubles but earrings are the sort of thing I buy and then don't wear enough to justify spending too much on.
Common Muse is a rare find, free of any superfluous detail, clean, minimal and elegant. To be honest, I want the entire collection!
Common Muse is a rare find, free of any superfluous detail, clean, minimal and elegant. To be honest, I want the entire collection!
Gorgeous, natural loose shapes and Topanga Canyon vibes from new US label Doen. These are all the things you've always wished you'd found vintage but never have... in the right fit and natural fibres (silks, cottons, wool). I love their ethos (clothes made, funded and designed by women, for women) and their marketing and branding too; as well as their profit donation of a children's garment to female literacy foundation Room to Read. Plus, of course I am going to want a silk tunic in the colour 'nut milk'.
Ellsworth Kelly, Lemon Branch, 1964
Listening to Julia Houlter and Cate Le Bon (thoughtful, alternative approaches to pop!), reading Talk by Linda Rosenkrantz ('transcribed converstations of louche art world New Yorkers in East Hampton in the 1960s'). Liking languid black and white line drawings. Eating vegetarian kimchi dumplings. Making foamy matcha oat milk lattes (not sure about these as they take a lot of fiddling and taste better when someone else, perhaps more expert, makes them). Looking at beautiful pictures of Hong Kong gardens by Mary Gaudin (just round the corner from my apartment, I wish my pictures of the gardens looked more like this). Reading new blogs like Sartreuse (I love reading tidy minimal French blogs of younger women and wishing I was this careful and chic!).
I'm not sure if it is impending motherhood, passing 30 or just a lack of time, but all I can imagine wearing right now are garments in simple monochrome. Grey, black and white. Maybe a little camel and navy if I'm feeling wild. Loose, well cut shapes and natural fibres. Effortlessness appeals. So do flat sandals and unadorned bags. And only one piece of jewelry, please. Happily, this seems to inadvertently translate as chic and elegant.
I love the new direction Australian designer Lee Mathews has taken of late. Her new collection for A/W 2016 is an ode to simplicity, in a limited palette and austere yet wearable shapes. How good is that drop waist print dress and that white shirt? I'm going to wear the dress with flat black Celine espadrilles; and pair the white shirt with my favourite black culottes. I was also quite pleased to find a simple black pure silk camisole (do you know how stupidly hard it is to find one that has no extraneous detailing, is pure silk and isn't hideously overpriced?)
I'm also enjoying her journal, with profiles of women of note from Australia; and the Lee Mathews Instagram is a paean to Barbara Hepworth, Alvar Aalto and Robert Mapplethorpe, interspersed with pristine shots of perfect products.
Images courtesy of Lee Mathews
I've been reading about the zealous proponents of a zero waste lifestyle for the past year or so, and their extreme (and extremely admirable) reduction of waste is inspiring. I don't think everyone should or could aspire to this level of commitment (and I also find it amusing that comparatively comfortable Americans are espousing a lifestyle that is one those in poverty carry out by necessity every day around the world). However, it's made me much more conscious of what I buy, where I buy it from, how I buy it, how I dispose of waste and how I cook, which can only be a good thing.
Climate change and pollution seem like a far away issue, often. But they are really not. Collective change and voting with one's wallet and consuming less and consciously are the foundation of what will lighten the use of fossil fuels. If we are not buying it, then (eventually) the manufacturing won't be done. It's not a huge political issue (well, it is) but one rooted in personal action, and one that can be managed elegantly and enjoyably. I think.
Some resources and reminders I've found helpful in reducing waste and so on.
/ DON'T / As in, don't buy it, or take it. Minimising stuff coming into your house is addictive. No, I don't need a receipt. No, I don't need a bag. No, I don't need a plastic fork, or a napkin, or a free pen.
/ BUY IN BULK / This can mean lots of things. I struggled to find bulk bins for dry goods like rice and spices in London, and it seems even more difficult in Hong Kong. However, fewer grocery trips and choosing to purchase a large sack of rice or flour or dish liquid each month rather than a 200ml option each week will still have benefits and minimise packaging. Delivery services, preferably local ones (ask for minimal packaging) are great if you don't have a car. Then you can nerd out and decant your groceries into glass jars and it's also much cheaper. Things like Dr Bronners soap are available in bulk 5L vats, I buy this and use it for handwashing, shower soap and hand soap.
/ BUY SECOND HAND, HANDMADE OR DIGITAL / Where I can, I buy things used. I prefer it, especially for furniture as it reduces offgassing and is more to my taste; I'm also obsessed with Vestiaire Collective where I can indulge my Isabel Marant habit for half the price. Most of the things I've bought may as well be new, to be honest, they're so lightly worn. I'm still working on the clothes thing, but books can almost always be found second hand, magazine subscriptions can be done digitally (try Zinio or own apps like The Paris Review), as can newspapers. Then you don't have stacks of magazines sitting on your floor which is really nice.
/ BUY IN GLASS (OR STEEL, OR WOOD) / Plastic is ugly, and it does awful things to your health and it doesn't degrade. And for some reason we still consider it as disposable. Since swapping over my food storage ie tupperware to glass alternatives I am far more careful with it. A glass water bottle is carefully looked after and beautiful. We don't have cling film or sandwich bags, keep a stash of reusable cloth bags by the front door, have two reusable coffee cups so we don't use takeaway cups, use wooden dishbrushes and cloth napkins instead of paper towels. When you're choosing packaging for cosmetics or food too, it can be helpful to look for glass alternatives. RMS Beauty is packaged entirely in glass, Weleda comes in metal tubes rather than plastic (although both add an unnecessary cardboard box to proceedings).
/ READ / I've enjoyed Reading My Tea Leaves ideas on the subject, measured and sensible and achievable. Her entire blog is full of ideas for simplification and careful living, her Habit Shift series specifically on small ideas for minimising waste. Trash is for Tossers is another good one, and then Bea Johnson's book Zero Waste Home, while rather extreme, is packed with ideas, many of which are summarised here. Also wonderful is Tamar Adler's An Everlasting Meal: Cooking With Economy and Grace.
/ COMPOST & RECYCLE & DONATE / Goes without saying really, but utilising council programs for food waste, recycling and donating unwanted goods to charity rather than piling it all in the rubbish bin is a pretty basic beginning. Something I find helpful is to put my recycling bag in my larger rubbish bin and use a small bin for actual landfill rubbish. If you don't have a composting program, there are often options to take your own to farmers markets or to a centralised bin at a local garden. You can just freeze your scraps and take them once a week. Recycling isn't a solution to waste and comes with its own questions (where does it go, how much energy does it take to recycle something, does recycling plastic result in further waste and emissions) but it's better than landfill.
/ MAKE STUFF / Things like almond milk (soak handful of almonds in water overnight, blend, strain) are very simple to make and the result tastes nicer than the bought ones, is cheaper and doesn't create a tetrapak for the rubbish every two days. I'm not suggesting you make everything (who has the time) but there are certain things that might be enjoyable and straightforward to do so. For me, it's almond milk, face oils and toners (I buy bulk natural oils and blend up my own ones, or mix rosewater and apple cider vinegar and put them in a glass spray bottle).
Cute, simple, slightly preppy... I am loving Marais USA Creative Director and Founder Haley Boyd's style. Vintage Levi's, white tees, oxford shirts, Converse, Marais' Jardin sandals and slides, a bob, straw baskets, Jesse Kamm's wide leg, white sailor pants. If anyone can tell me where I can find the cherry red sandals and the yellow slides in an 8 I'd be delighted.
Follow her on Instagram here.
Lee Radziwill at her desk in Paris.
What a luxury it is to have time. Time to read, time to think, time to learn. I am gorging myself on the written word, and after three years in a corporate job I can feel my intellect and inspiration slowly seeping back.
I haven't studied in an academic environment for more than five years, and coming to it at my own pace and direction feels precious. I love the ease of learning online and marvel that I can take a course at Columbia, for free, from my living room in Hong Kong. It's learning purely for interest and learning, rather than there being any impetus to complete a degree for the purpose of gaining a job, or simply complete.
Here are some of the resources I've found, and several of the courses I am taking or plan to.
Coursera offers papers from universities around the world, from Harvard and UCLA to Oxford and Edinburgh. I've found the approach systematic and easy to follow, with lectures divided into weekly snippets, regular assignments and set deadlines (along with email reminders). The course I am taking is high quality (the lecturer is on a UN special taskforce in his subject) and the tests stretch my skills and add new resources to my research approaches. Like anything, you can take this course as a bare bones opportunity, and simply watch the lectures and take the tests each week; or you can fully immerse yourself and follow the recommended reading too. There are a mixture of humanities, science, business and technology papers; and a blend of courses which are 'live' and set to start at a particular date alongside ones that are available anytime and you can carry out at your own pace.
Columbia University, The Age of Sustainable Development
On my list...
University of Amsterdam, Classical Sociological Theory
Stanford University, Child Nutrition and Cooking
MOMA, Modern Art and Ideas
CalArts, Fundamentals of Graphic Design
Experts in their field offer instructive videos. These range from perfecting Instagram photography (I know) to crafting the perfect cup of coffee; through to the less flippant. The coding, design and photography ones on this site seem to be the best, with tutors such as Jessica Hische a highlight.
On my list...
Basics of Photoshop
Perfect coffee by the founder of Blue Bottle
Seth Godin on Marketing
Daniel Krieger (NYTimes) on Food Photography
Note that A Cup of Jo is offering a discounted subscription to Skillshare at the moment.
There are more than 150 universities, as well as cultural institutions such as the National Theatre and NASA, on iTunes U which you can access through an app on your phone or iPad, or via the iTunes store on your laptop. I'm making huge assumptions that everyone uses Apple hardware as I do!
On my list...
Tate's series of Artist Lectures (Ai Weiwei! Dan Snow! Sigmar Polke! Nan Goldin!)
Yale's School of Architecture Public Lecture Series
Oxford's Literature and Form and Bodleian Libraries Series
London School of Economics Gender Institute Research Talks
Open Culture's brilliant and comprehensive lists of freely accessible lectures, books, films and more (starting here with 851 free art books from MoMA, The Getty and more).
Into Mind on making learning part of your daily routine.