My Girl and Me, Partnering in Play

Family Play Ideas for Toddlers

Thank you LEGO® DUPLO® for sponsoring this post. Looking for creative play ideas for your little one? Find more play and learning inspiration at

I remember being pregnant with Essley and worrying (in addition to a million other things) that I wouldn’t be good at playing with her. I’m sure that sounds ridiculous (now that it’s been a few years, it admittedly feels a little ridiculous typing it out), but I’m just gonna go for it and be totally transparent here. I’ve always liked kids, but I wouldn’t necessarily have described myself as a “kid person” before I had them myself. I enjoyed doing adult things (and still do, obviously), and I wondered if once Essley was old enough to engage in play together if I’d be easily distracted, or get bored immediately, or just not be a natural at child play time. I assumed it would just be something at which I had to work, but it wouldn’t be something I instinctively loved, and that was okay.

Guess what guys? I was wrong. So wrong. I worried for no reason (which I’ve come to learn tends to most often be the case with worry in general), because not only do I absolutely treasure my playtime with Essley, I think I’m actually good at it. Really, I’m fairly confident that we’re all good at it. Spending creative playtime with your kids (or any kids you love) is not only an incredible way to bond, it’s also really fun. We were all kids once, after all, and I genuinely believe taking the time to partner in play with the little ones is therapeutic on so many levels. It’s just the best.

Essley and I are both way into creating art, working on crafts, and building things, and it’s those types of activities you’ll most find us doing together. She also loves make believe and role playing, and we often end up in elaborate pretend scenarios with her toys and dolls. One of our favorite things to do together that involves both of these is to play with her LEGO DUPLO sets. LEGO® DUPLO® building toys are perfect for children Essley’s age because they’re specially designed for the small hands of little ones aged 1½ – 5 years. They’re also twice the size of standard LEGO bricks, so they’re safe for preschool aged kids. And playing with them is genuinely fun for me (and my husband), because I enjoyed LEGO bricks so much as a kid myself, and it brings back some pretty fantastic memories. It’s also fun because there is little I love more than watching Essley’s imagination in action.

While she does have random LEGO DUPLO pieces hanging around that she likes to use, lately she’s been especially into her building sets (mainly her Big Construction Site set). She alternates between wanting to build it just like the picture on the box and making something completely different with the pieces. I have to say, there is something quite satisfying about putting the pieces together the way you’re “supposed” to (sort of like a puzzle) – but I also love when she decides to come up with her own unique creations. It makes me so happy to see her use her imagination and explore different possibilities, and she’s (usually; we are dealing with a 3 year old here) so sweet about delegating things for her dad and I to do with her pieces. It’s also so cool to see her creating goals for herself as she plays, and getting so excited at the end of building something, knowing she achieved success in doing so. Play, as we all know, is essential for early learning, as it’s the biggest way little ones learn about their world. And as parents, we’re our childrens’ very first partners in play! I feel like when we’re doing this together, I’m able to truly witness her learning and growing, which is indescribably wonderful.  I love her so much, and I cherish these times where we creatively play together.

Are there any other parents who thought (before kids) they might not be good at playing with their children, only to find out they were absolutely wrong? Who else loves to use LEGO DUPLO products when you’re partnering in play with your little ones?

Thank you for supporting the brands that help make Bubby & Bean possible. I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.


Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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Promenade des Anglais, Nice

Promenade des Anglais, Nice

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Saturday Survey: Christmas Trees

I posted yesterday about a Pug who felt it was more than unfair that a tree had been brought into his home. How does your dog feel about your Christmas preparations? Until next time, Good day, and good dog! Dog Blog

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Links I Love, Right Now (+ Wow, What a Week)

Links I Love // Bubby and Bean

This has been the weirdest week you guys. We got back from a 6 day trip to the Dominican late Monday night, and when we woke up Tuesday morning we were thrust back into reality in a way that honestly felt a little violent. I’ll share some photos from the vacation next week, but for now, I’ll just say that as incredible as it was to be in an absolutely gorgeous place with absolutely perfect weather and a huge group of our best friends and their kiddos, it was also exhausting. This vacation is an annual work trip for Robbie (a festival that has been held for the last 10 years in Jamaica, Mexico, and now the Dominican Republic). When I took Essley in 2014 when she was 11 months, it was my favorite of them all because I got to experience it through her eyes. Last year I was 9 months pregnant so I couldn’t make it, and I was majorly bummed. This year, I was so excited to get to go again, especially with both kids – but man was the experience with an “I’m in a testing you every chance I get” phase 3 year old and a 10 month old who hates sitting still a whole new world. During the periods where Robbie was working, trying to wrangle both of them myself around a huge resort full of potentially dangerous situations (swimming pools meant for kids who know how to swim, concerts with partying adults, etc.) and even just normal activities (food buffets, small kid pools, etc.) was challenging in ways I never anticipated. Most of my friends were smart and brought helpers or nannies, and I get it now. And yes, I feel like a complete jerk whining about being in a tropical place in December (poor baby!), but man. It was amazing and beautiful and the kids had so much fun and I’m so grateful, but it was hard. The flight back was especially interesting (the highlight was probably Emmett whipping two cups full of ice into the air and subsequently in the laps of those sitting in the two rows behind us; good times), and Tuesday morning we woke up before the sun even rose to Emmett coughing and sneezing his way through a high fever, Essley jet lagged and half asleep and ultra crabby for her first day back at school, and a pile of work that was infinitely more difficult for me to tackle than it should have been. And since then I’ve just sort of been walking through a haze, trying to get the kids back on schedule, catch up with work, get holiday cards sent, get birthday parties planned (both kids were born within two weeks of Christmas), and just make some sort of sense out of our current level of household disorganization. Boy have the times changed since the days when I planned trips 2 days before I left and came back feeling rested and renewed. HA. Hahahahaha.

(I also feel the need to say that despite my complaining over something that is about as far from a real problem as you can get, every time I look in the mirror and see the tan on my face and remember how lucky we are to get to do things like that, I mentally slap myself back into reality and express gratitude over and over. Tired or otherwise.)

And now that that rant is over, let’s get to the topic of the post. While this week has been nonstop in every way, I did have moments (like a 5 hour flight with wifi and several nights where I stayed up way too late just to have some kid-free time) where aimlessly browsing the internet allowed for me to come across some great links to share via a Links I Love post. So here they are:

Yes, it’s complicated and it’s not over, but it was pretty awesome to get to read that the Army Core of Engineers halted construction of the Dakota Pipeline.

Will someone please please please buy me this dress (as seen in top photo) to wear for New Year’s Eve? New Years Day is my birthday so it can be a birthday present too! Isn’t that a great idea? Huge, huge thanks in advance for such a thoughtful gift. Love you. (I would totally take this one too.)

I was recently introduce to Tessemae’s ridiculously delicious organic salad dressings and now I can’t stop. I’ve been drooling over all of their recipes this week. I want to eat every single one of them.

Check out this awesome gift wrapping hack that lets you wrap your holiday presents in 15 seconds each. Pretty neat.

I ordered this scarf on sale over Black Friday weekend. It was waiting for me when I got home from our trip and now I want it in ALL THE COLORS. Robbie has been side eyeing me like WTF babe because I’ve been wearing it around the house nonstop, even when I have my pajamas on. #BlanketScarvesForever

As you may be aware from my big post about Emmett and IS last week, this past week (from the 1st through yesterday) was Infantile Spasms Awareness Week. I read tons of articles and posts on the topic, but this one about a new study that shows that over half of kids with IS go misdiagnosed for an average of a month before they’re properly treated (which can cause profound long-term affects) really struck a chord with me. I am hugely passionate about parents and doctors making themselves aware of the symptoms, and hope that studies like this prompt the healthcare industry to take action at making IS awareness and education a priority.

Here are some things other countries describe as “American,” and they’re hilarious. Cool American Doritos, man.

While this post is now a couple of weeks old, I keep revisiting it. I’m so happy for my friend Elsie and her adoption plan via a special needs program in China. It brings genuine tears of joys to my eyes. I can’t wait to follow along.

Have you guys heard of Dr. Pops? I just got a box of their Honey & Eucalyptus and Zinc + Vitamin C pops for Essley for cold season and am stoked to try them. They’re basically suckers with supplements in them. Brilliant, right?

Just when I thought I couldn’t possibly love IKEA more (for those who missed it, we filmed an IKEA Home Tour episode with them over the summer and they are genuinely the best company ever), they decide to give their employees up to four months maternity leave. Other companies, TAKE NOTE.

I can’t stop looking at National Geographic’s 50+ best photographs of the year.

In my mind, Essley and I will be making a whole bunch of these super cute Christmas cookies over the next few weeks. (Translation: probably won’t happen, but a mom can dream.)

So, so shameless of me to post this link, but I really do love it: The 2016 Bubby & Bean Art holiday card line is currently shipping in 1-2 business days. Just saying.

There won’t be a post tomorrow because if I haven’t hinted at it enough so far in this one, it’s been a crazy freaking week and I need another catch up day. So have a wonderful weekend, and I’ll see you back here on Monday, hopefully much more bright eyed and with it than I’ve been this week.


Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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Baby bat-eared foxes

Look at the ears!

Natural History

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It’s ‘GOODBYE” but also ‘HELLO” to my NEW BLOG!

Dear friends,

It’s time for me move on – or rather sideways!  This blog, along with Menton Daily Photo has been running for 10 years and it’s time to consolidate so that everything is in one place.

Thank you, thank you for your loyalty to Riviera Dogs and to me. Your loyalty, your comments and encouragement helped me so much in my photography journey.

The new blog will be published probably once or twice a week – but with more photos and more words. And of course there will be lots and lots of dogs – but also stories of life in France and Italy and sometimes a little about photography.

Of course, if you want to look back at postings on this blog, well, they are not going anywhere. You’ll be able to find all the posts and photographs from the last ten years at any time – I just won’t be posting here anymore.

So onwards…. if you are interested in dogs (and you’d not be here if you weren’t) but also life as it’s really lived in the south of France and Italy and my journey in photography, come with me …

Click on the link Jilly Bennett Photography and do subscribe for updates. Don’t forget to click on the confirmation button you receive after subscribing and then you’ll find me in your mailbox on a regular basis.

I will, of course, still be posting every day on Facebook and Instagram.

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Friday Funny: Dog Has a Very Happy Butt!

Laughing out loud at this one! Until next time, Good day, and good dog! Dog Blog

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Adios! (+ Vacation Schedule)

Hi and happy last day of November! December is my favorite month (well, tied with June and July anyway; I can’t shake my summer love even during the most wonderful time of the year). I’m so excited to really celebrate the season and get to experience the magic of the holidays through my kids’ eyes. It’s so cliche, I know, but man is it awesome. But before we get into full swing holiday mode, we’re going to spend a few days hanging on the beach. In fact, as you read this we’ll all be on a plane headed down to the Dominican. And because, despite the fact that I feel I’ve come pretty far in just letting things go and remaining present, I’m still a Type A planner by nature and a week away from the office feels like an eternity (a blissful one, but still an eternity), I have a few things I want to share with you guys.

1. VACATION/WORK SCHEDULE: I will be out of the office through next Tuesday morning (December 6th). I will be checking emails but very sporadicly, so if you do contact me, please allow a few days for a response. If you have an urgent matter regarding either the blog or the Bubby and Bean Art shop, you can contact my assistant at morgan (AT)

2. HOLIDAY CARD ORDERS: The Bubby and Bean Art Shop will remain open for orders this week. Any orders placed from today through Sunday December 4th will ship the week of December 5th. Orders will be processed and shipped in the order they are received. Wholesale orders will be be shipped by December 7th.

3. BLOG: Although there will be a couple of days without posts while I’m gone, the blog will remain active. I’m especially excited about tomorrow’s post, which is a post from my heart to kick off Infantile Spasms (the rare type of childhood epilepsy that Emmett has) Awareness Week.

4. FOLLOWING ALONG: If you’d like to follow along with our Dominican adventures, you can do so over on my Instagram or Snapchat (both @bubbyandbean).

I’m laughing out loud reading this because if you guys saw my house or office space, you would likely describe me as the least organized person you’d ever met. But when it comes to planning events, parties, or vacations, I’m meticulous.

I’ll be sending lots of sunshine from Punta Cana! Enjoy the rest of your week!

Background photo of Punta Cana, DR for top image found here.


Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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What I’m Wearing Now: November

Early Winter Casual Wardrobe Staples
1. Plaid Shirt Dress, Target (image above is slightly different; see here for exact dress, of which I now own 3 colors)  //  2. Succulent Earrings, Madewell  //  3. Allie Leather Choker Necklace, Urban Outfitters  //  4. Knit Beanie, Madewell  //  5. Chevron Coat in Black, Garnet Hill  //  6. High Waist Flare Jeans, Target  //  7. Jersey Leggings, H&M  //  8. Lily Tote Diaper Bag, Newlie  //  9. Classic Sheffield Watch, Daniel Wellington  //  10. Fold-Down Combat Boot, Rock & Candy  //  11. Madison Boots, Trask

November 17th was a grand day around here friends, because it was 74 degrees in Chicago. 74. In November. I wore a dress and bare legs and it was glorious. We’re back to cool temps though, which means it was only a brief moment of joy, but I sure did love it. I can’t complain too much about the cold returning, considering I’ll be back in full on summer wardrobe mode in two days when we’re in the Dominican. But as you can see from the clothing pieces above, November has had its chilly moments. (And yes, I once again started off a What I’m Wearing Now post with a discussion on the weather. But that’s how we determine what we’re wearing, which is the whole point of this series, right?)

Once again, I have been wearing this dress (which is only $ 28 you guys) incessantly, in three different colors. They’re still my favorite dresses, and I’ll likely wear them until they fall apart. I’ve also continued to rock the flared jeans on the regular. I did bust out the skinny jeans a couple of times this month, but for the most part, flares and bells have become my go-to.  I also got this coat (and yes that is faux fur, duh) this month, and while it’s a little outside the box of what I’d normally describe as “my style,” I love it. So much. And it’s gonna keep this mama all sorts of warm through what I’m sure will be a hellish winter in Chicago. Truthfully, this month’s wardrobe hasn’t differed much from last, but if December ends up being as cold as it usually is around here, I have a feeling next month will bring a lot more sweaters and its fair share of blanket scarves.

Before I go, I hope those of you here in the states had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend! We did, and as usual, it went by way too fast. Also, in case you missed it, I posted my annual big personal list of Black Friday/Small Business Saturday/Cyber Monday deals last week. Since may of those specials start (and end!) today, it might be worth checking out (right here).


Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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Lisa Vanderpump and Kathy Ireland Are Shopping Online For a PAWsitive Cause This Holiday Season

adoptashelter.comNovember is a key shopping and giving month.  With Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday just around the corner, Americans are gearing up for the Holidays. This month is also a key fund-raising time for animal welfare organizations.  Animal lovers can Share The Love by starting their online shopping at, picking their favorite shelter or rescue, and then connecting to their favorite stores. It’s easy, fast and free… and all purchases earn a cash-donation.

Lisa Vanderpump -“We are thrilled to have Lisa Vanderpump and Kathy Ireland headlining our Shop For A Pawsitive Cause campaign,” says Chris Ruben, founder of  “In addition to being very successful, these two wonderful ladies are deeply involved in charity work.  We are also excited to have Pinups For Pitbulls and Internet-star and Spokes Dog Preston of PrestonSpeaks.comon board. We want to reach shoppers during this key time of giving to let them know they can achieve both at the the same time… in their pajamas.  And, shoppers can register to win fabulous gift packages from Vanderpump Pets®, Kathy Ireland®, Pinups For Pitbulls® and PrestonSpeaks®, all valued at $ 150+ simply by subscribing to our free monthly eNewsletter.”

Halo, a proud sponsor of in previous years, fully supports the Shop for a Pawsitive Cause campaign and encourages holiday shoppers to share the love by giving back to animals in need.


Halo Pets

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