Wednesday, 22 December 2010

'Twas the week before Christmas....

What a funny week it has been. On the one hand I've been wringing my hands with worry over the snow, the lost deliveries and the decimated online sales. But on the other hand it has been oddly nice to be snowed in, to trudge to the office through the garden, to enjoy the fact that, actually, there's very little I can do about the weather.

My other half is away at the moment too so it really has been a quiet week. Just me, Humphrey and an occasional visit from UK Mail to collect parcels. But I quite like the enforced seclusion, and the fact that I haven't bought half the presents I planned to buy.

And this afternoon I decided to 'call time' at Cottontails, put the 'Closed for Christmas' signs up on the website and head outside into the snow with a few friends....

Merry Christmas everyone! xx

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Now who is this knocking at Cottontail's door?

Now who is this knocking
at Cottontails door?
Tap tappit! Tap tappit!
She's heard it before

And when she peeps out
there is nobody there,
But a present of carrots
put down on the stair.

HARK! I hear it again!
Tap, tap tappit! Tap tappit!
Why - I really believe it's a
little black rabbit!

This is from one of my all time favourite books - Appley Dappley's Nursery Rhymes by Beatrix Potter, and it was this little rhyme which popped in to my head when I first met one of Maileg's new style 'black' (well, dark brown) rabbits a few months ago. We order a fair few months ahead so it's taken a while for the new rabbits to arrive, but here they are!

You can see him, and more of the new Maileg stock (including this lovely little tea set in a tin) in the 'New Arrivals' section of the website.

(ps More gift guides coming soon... I've chosen my favourites but just need to find a quiet hour to write the post...)

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Cottontails Favourites for 1-2 years

Time for a few favourites for one to two year olds now. To be honest a lot of the soft toys would be just as nice for new babies too, but whereas my favourites for new babies tended to be neutral and super soft, these ones have clothes to come on and off, and a bit more colour and personality.

Nini the mouse and her little baby - at 50cm in length Nini is quite a big soft toy, and she has lovely long dangly limbs and a very soft and huggable plush body. She is £39 and comes with a lovely gift bag.

And here is Julius the dog and puppy. Same price and size as Nini (above) but a much more manly creature!

Next I have chosen a classic - a solid beech wood rocking horse designed especially for little ones. Not too big it measures just 58cm in height and is recommended from 12 months in age, £106.

Jeanne the rag doll comes with her own little linen gift bag which can double as a little girl's handbag. Jeanne is my favourite of the Moulin Roty rag dolls and she is £47 (but do have a look at her big and little sisters too!)

Next is a beech wood and wicker doll's pram with a canvas hood that lifts up and down. A lovely, sturdy little pram at £66.

I always think hand puppets make a nice alternative to a normal soft toy, and here are a few of my favourites - they are each £13.

Next up is a lovely set of soft safari-themed skittles from the Les Loustics ('Little Friends') range by Moulin Roty. The set of four skittles and ball is £30 and they come in a really nice carry case.

My next choice is actually two toys - but they work really nicely together and I just love the colours. Solid wooden walking trolley is £63.50, and the set of twelve fabric cubes (which again come in a nice carry case) are £40.

I have always referred to this next chap as 'a gentleman bear' and have noticed other retailers using this description now so it must be catching on! Monsieur Alexandre is a lovely traditional bear. He comes in his own box and is wearing a rich burgundy night shirt and cap - which makes him a particularly suitable bedtime companion, £47.

Next up is a little trike - recommended from 12m upwards this cheerful little bee trike is just as popular with boys and girls. My favourite bit is the wiggly antennae!

And to finish, here are a few more of my favourite soft toys for this age group:

Lila the mouse, £23.50 - she has pink roses on her cheeks and really pretty dress!

Albert the sheep is available in two sizes - 20cm at £13 or 30cm at £18. Albert was lucky enough to have a 'makeover' in 2010 and is now wearing a natty fawn outfit.

And finally Jeanne the goose. Like Albert (above) she is available in two sizes - 20cm for £13 or 30cm for £18. Jeanne is quite a new member of the Grand Family range of toys but she has been an instant hit - she really is a pretty little thing, and it makes such a nice change to see blue on a little girl's toy.

My next post will be looking at toys for three year olds - and it opens up a whole new world of toys as so many are only suitable for those over 36 months. I am really looking forward to this one!

Cottontails Favourites - new babies

Here are a few of my favourite things for new babies - these are my personal favourites and I tend to like soft, gentle colours, as you can see. They are all safe from birth and come with a lovely gift bag or gift box.

Lola rabbit is one of Moulin Roty's oldest and most enduring toys, she was overhauled a couple of years ago and given an even softer fur coat. You can see the whole range here, but this is my very favourite - the musical rabbit at £25:

Next is a gorgeous activity dog from the Koko la Lune range - at £40 he has a pedigree price tag, but there is quite a lot to him as he rattles, scrunches, rings and plays music:

Now we have Lila mouse - perfect for baby girls. There are lots of toys, rattles, comforters in the range, and this is my favourite. She even has tiny little pink roses on her cheeks! She is £18:

Next up is this little wooden play ring from the Balthazar and Valentine range. Its a nice little gift for someone who wants to give something a bit different. There are lots of textures and the three little attachments to ring, rattle and scrunch, it is £15:

Next is one of the classics - a teddy bear. Leo is very soft and cuddly and comes in a lovely gift box, all part of the charm - there are two bigger sized bears in the range too, but this size is nice for a little baby, and he is only £20:

For anyone looking for something little, something perfect for tiny hands, I love this soft fleecy sheep rattle, he is just £11:

Another activity toy, this quirky stacking hen would look lovely sitting on the nursery shelf until baby is old enough to play with him. There are bits that rattle, ring and scrunch and he is safe from birth, £40:

I'm going to finish this list with a bit more bunny. We don't do a lot of things to wear at Cottontails (which is odd really, as many years ago now we started life as a high street baby clothes shop) but these little slippers for 0-6m are pretty irresistible, £13:

And finally here is one more soft cuddly comforter. (By the way for anyone wondering, a comforter - or 'doudou' as they are sometimes known - is simply a flattish soft toy, usually made of a few different fabric textures - they are the much nice up to date equivalent of a a bit of blanket!) This one is £15 and is soft and fluffy on the back with velour and cotton on the front:

And in the next post I'll take a look at gifts for one year olds....

Cottontails Favourites

Over the last couple of weeks I have been working on selecting my own personal favourite toys at Cottontails.

It's been quite hard to choose, and has taken a bit longer than I had hoped (due to the fact than almost every waking hour has been spent chained to the packing table, battling manfully with brown paper and parcel tape) but I have finally managed to cobble something together create a list of professional recommendations.

One of the hardest things has been trying to pin-point the 'best age' for certain toys. I lack confidence in doing this and am constantly worried I get it wrong because I don't have children myself. So to help me get it right I asked a few real mums for their thoughts and guidance too. In fact the whole thing has shown me that age suitability can be quite a personal thing and varies hugely.

For this reason, a lot of my favourites appear in more than one age list, and if you are looking for something for a four year old - please do checkout the three and five year old lists too, it's probably just as likely you'll find something there...

I'll post my lists by age shortly in different posts, and plan to put a department on to the website too to help people searching in this way.

Finally, thanks especially to two mums who helped a lot with age guidance: Melissa who writes the lovely blog Country in the Town and is mum to Charlotte and Caitlin, and Sara over at Mitcheldean Soap who is mum to Jess and Timmy. Thank you both :)

Sunday, 14 November 2010

The End of Autumn

I spotted this the other day when trekking down the garden, and thought nothing symbolises the end of autumn quite as well as a pumpkin sitting on a compost heap. Which means it's winter. Which means I think it's okay for me to start writing about Christmas?

As a retailer I've already had months of thinking about it because I have to plan (probably not as much as I should) but I've tried to keep it low key. Until now anyway, as I really want to put together some Cottontails gift guides.

A good friend of mine who has just become an auntie (hello Auntie Anna!) emailed me the other day to ask if I could recommend something really special for her new niece. It stuck me that I am rubbish at recommending things. I really doubt my own confidence at choosing the right things, which is silly because I know my stock inside out, am 'passionate about it' (this sounds like a job interview!) and really shouldn't be afraid of sharing personal favourites. But I find it really daunting.

So, with this in mind I am going to write a series of posts recommending my favourites for various ages, occasions and so on. Hopefully it might be a useful resource for people, and also it will be a good exercise for me to gain a bit of confidence in making recommendations.

I'll mostly pick Cottontails things (obviously) but will try and share a few favourites from other websites too to make things more interesting.

So watch this space... a slew of posts to come!

Friday, 22 October 2010

Halloween Cupcake Wrappers

In a spectacular piece of disorganisation I have managed to list some Halloween cupcake wrappers with only one week to go before the big day.

Please buy some people, please - otherwise they'll be looking at me from the stock room for 12 months making me feel like a fool. (Either that or I will have to eat a lot of scary cupcakes. Hmmm, maybe not such a hardship...?)

Anyway, they're ever so nice, and feature a parade of Halloween characters, including a rabbit in a pumpkin. (Note to self - idea to shamelessly exploit Humphrey for marketing purposes and force him into a pumpkin?)

"Just you try it!"

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

As if by magic, the Maileg pixies appear....

I have been expecting the Maileg Christmas pixies for a couple of weeks now, so wasn't too surprised when I glimpsed a flash of red in the woods outside the office this morning. They are here!

They're always pretty shy this early in the year (these are the best photos I could get) but don't be fooled. Give it a few days and they'll be popping up all over the place.

In fact, one has already tried to sneak into the office this afternoon - but Humphrey was quick to react and 'see him off'.

Oh dear, it's going to be a long couple of months. If you think you might be up to the job of adopting one I would be very grateful and have listed them on the website here - but be warned, they're mischievous little folk!

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Autumn gardening with Sylvain rabbit

Thought is was about time for a Cottontails garden update...

Most of our spring / summer crops have been harvested now, but the parsnips are still in the ground (apparently they are happy to be 'stored' there) and I am trying not to look at the ravaged purple sprouting broccoli - am just hoping it might resurrect itself for spring.

Being a beginner, I kind of assumed I should just tidy things up and leave it alone for the winter, but a quick bit of research revealed that no, there are still plenty of things to plant in October. This left me without an excuse, so this afternoon Sylvain rabbit and I donned thick jumpers and headed outside to sow some more seeds...

We have planted peas which should be ready in spring (we are planning to eat tiny pea shoots as well as peas - rabbits love these apparently, and Humphrey has volunteered himself as a taste tester)

And broad beans (again, we are hoping that come spring we will be able to eat some plant tops - nice wilted in butter apparently - and also some whole tiny pods).

And in our new mini greenhouse thing we have filled pots and seed trays with spinach and various winter salads.

By the way, do you like Sylvain's jumper? Those of you with a keen eye and encyclopedic knowledge of Moulin Roty will notice that he is not wearing his usual stripey dungaree outfit. I am considering creating a small range of clothes for the soft toys and this is a prototype. What do you think? He is also wearing a lovely Snapdragon robin badge. I have a few in stock here or visit Jane's own Snapdragon website for loads more.