Wednesday, 23 February 2011

The Bun Blog Pledge

It's a happy day at Cottontails today because I am taking The Bun Blog Pledge - and we have a very special guest to stay.

I'd like to introduce you to Ms Rabbit - the beautiful pink and white cardboard bunny who is currently making her way around Blogland to promote a very important cause.

Ms Rabbit is an ambassador for the BUAV's No Cruel Cosmetics campaign and I first heard of her a few weeks ago over on Annette's blog at The Dragon House of Yuen. I love rabbits, am passionate about animal welfare, and am always careful to buy cosmetics and household products that aren't tested on animals - so it is a pleasure to be able to host Ms Rabbit, have a bit of fun, but also to raise awareness of an important campaign.

She arrived today, a little tired from her long journey down from Scotland where she had been staying with the Crafty Green Poet, but after a reviving cup of tea and a chocolate eclair she was ready to get down to business.

We had quite a little crowd assembled to meet her and hear her talk about the campaign. It is, after all, a subject dear to a rabbit's heart.

Humphrey gave a welcoming speech, then Ms Rabbit stepped up to say a few words.

Ms Rabbit introduced us to the BUAV - that is a British Union for Abolition of Vivisection - and told us about their campaign to end animal testing in the cosmetics industry.

She told us about the campaign to date and how, after tireless campaigning, all animal testing for cosmetics was banned in the EU in 2009. All the rabbits cheered at this point...

But then she told us that currently it is still legal for cosmetics tested on animals in non-EU countries to be sold in Europe. The rabbits sighed and shook their heads sadly.

This was due to be stopped in 2013 - the final phase of the ban - but some in the cosmetic industries now want to see this deadline delayed. And if they get their way, it could mean 10 more years of needless suffering for rabbits, guinea pigs, mice and rats across the world.

But there is something we can do. Ms Rabbit told us all about a petition where we can say NO to any further delays and NO to cruel cosmetics in Europe. So please, if you have a moment, and want to see this needless suffering end, pop over and sign the petition here.

And then she told us to make sure we only buy cosmetics that haven't been tested on animals - for example products which carry the BUAV leaping bunny logo.

Tomorrow she and Humphrey are going to be rifling through my make-up bag and I'll tell you what brands and products she finds...

In the meantime, I'm sure Ms Rabbit would love to hear of any future hosts who would like to have her come to stay. Her needs are quite simple:

-she needs tea and biscuits (and eclairs)
-she likes to have her photo taken and to be blogged about
-she asks that you put the 'Bun Blog Pledge' badge onto the side of your blog
-and that you please sign the petition

(and she'll probably want to go through your make up bag too)

More from me and Ms Rabbit tomorrow...

Monday, 21 February 2011

Little houses

I love little things, miniature things. There is something magical and fascinating about things on a small scale. I don't know, but perhaps this is why I sell toys?

And one of my obsessions is tiny houses. From the tiny little homes for mice that I sell at Cottontails, to the wonderful child size play houses that are available these days. Here are some favourites...

I spotted this little creation on someone's blog over a year ago, and have been waiting for a chance to share it. Thank you PomPom for the link. (She is always sharing gorgeous children's illustrations and little treats like this house on her blog - well worth a visit)

The classic Maileg mouse house, always a bestseller at Cottontails, along with the little mice in matchbox who live there:

And this little toadstool house is from En Gry and Sif

And finally, I must tell you about Stone & Watkins play houses - probably the loveliest collection of children's play houses I have ever seen. Just look at these...

They do painted cottages, rustic wooden cottages, tree houses, bespoke designs. And inside there are little staircases, stable doors... Honestly, go and have a look at their website, it'll make you smile.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Vintage toys coming soon...

For some time now I have been planning to add a - very small - vintage toy department to Cottontails, and in the corner of the office I have a little 'heap' of the things I have been collecting for about 18 months.

My newest acquisition is this little chap, found in an antique center in Leominster this afternoon...

...Isn't he lovely?

I've probably got nearly enough toys to launch the department very soon, and I'll make sure I write about it on here when I do.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Make your own traditional toy

Last week I mentioned I have discovered some lovely new toy making kits for Cottontails.

Emily's Ark
, a small company based in Northumberland, design and assemble toy making kits which include everything you need to create your own beautiful soft toy animal (including some truly gorgeous mohair fur).

I have ordered the kits for George the rabbit (or is he a hare? I'm not sure - what do you think?), William the bear and Archie the Aardvark. They should be arriving at Cottontails soon and will sell for about £30.

I plan to have a go at making one up myself (so if I never mention this again, you can assume I have created a dog's dinner...)

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Spring Fair visit - French things and lapins

It's 8.30pm and I am not long home from the Spring Fair at the NEC. I've had a lovely day and, as usual, have come home brimming with inspiration for Cottontails. It does me so much good to get out there and talk to other people, play with the toys, make connections.

Tired as I am, I thought I'd write up my report on the day while it's all still fresh.

My main reason for visiting was to spend some time on the Moulin Roty stand. I look after their UK website for them, and so often I am trying to write product descriptions by peering at photographs and trying to comprehend a bit of French text, so it's a treat to go and spend some time among the toys - ooh-ing and ah-ing, seeing which bits squeak, which bits rattle and so on.

The stand was as lovely as ever:

The highlight was the new 'Aime & Celeste' range - it is exquisitely French in colour and style.

Also lots more of their 'Pretty Ugly' range (that's the translation of Les Jolis pas Beaux).

There are lots more lovely gardening / nature toys to come too, including a selection of flora and fauna themed rubber and ink stamps. Sorry no photos of those - the samples haven't made it over from France yet.

After a happy hour or so with Moulin Roty I wandered around without much direction, just waiting to see what would catch my eye.

I've ordered some lovely Little Red Riding Hood themed toys from RJB Stone (an unusual move for me - I don't normally order from wholesalers, but the range was so sweet and the price was great. And there were rabbits! Who knew rabbits crept into the Little Red Riding Hood story...)

In terms of existing suppliers, it was lovely to put a face to a name and meet Jane from Snapdragon. I placed a little order and have plenty of embroidered goodies coming to the website soon - including these lovely bunny mirrors in a woolly pouch:

Also I've ordered some gorgeous 'make your own' traditional mohair rabbit kits - which I will tell you about in a separate post.

And finally I discovered a gorgeous French stationary company. Old fashioned school style exercise books, blackboards, chalk and rubbers, simple little colouring kits. Nothing is translated, it is unapologetic in its Frenchness, and I love that.

So lots more lovely things coming soon to Cottontails, and, in the meantime, lots of work for me to do on the Moulin Roty website.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Crafty competition to win £50 worth of toys!

Would you like to win £50 worth of Moulin Roty toys? If so then please, please, please take a bit of time to enter a competition we are running along with Moulin Roty...

To enter all you have to do is draw a picture, take a photo, or otherwise create something crafty which features a Moulin Roty toy in an autumn / winter themed setting.

The full details are here on the Moulin Roty website - along with lots of pictures of their lovely toys to inspire you. You don't even have to own a toy as you could just use a product picture on the website as your inspiration.

You can email your entry as an attachment through the Moulin Roty site, or you can send it directly to me at

It's really worth having a go - we've only had a couple of entries so far so £50 worth of toys really is very much 'up for grabs'!

Here are a few photos that I've created at Cottontails in recent times to give you a few ideas, but don't forget it could just be anything from a simple wax crayon drawing to a sculpture...

Here's Apolline, the Moulin Roty mole, doing a spot of harvesting back in the autumn...

A couple of Moulin Roty friends playing in the snow...

And an autumny pic I drew of Nini mouse ...

Go on - have a go..!

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

The Big Garden Birdwatch results

I spent a peaceful hour on Sunday taking part in the Big Garden Birdwatch - it was lovely to have an hour of 'enforced' nothingness - and this is what I saw from the Cottontails office window:

Robin x 2
Blackbird x 7
Blue tit x 3
Coal tit x 1
Chaffinch x 1
Starling x 1
Jackdaw x 5
Collared dove x 1

Inside the window I also spotted:

1 x Lesser spotted blue goose
1 x Turquoise and red crested hen

(But apparently these two species are not officially recognised by the RSPB)

The Saga of the Wardrobe

I'm only human and every so often I make a mistake - like I did before Christmas when for some mysterious reason an order slip made its way into the 'orders sent' pile before I'd actually processed it. The order in question was for a Moulin Roty Grand Family Wardrobe going to the US. I don't normally send this overseas due to the weight etc but the customer had sent a lovely email asking if I could make an exception, so I'd done all the necessary weighing and quoting, sent an invoice, she had paid it... and then the mix up occurred.

A couple of weeks later I had an email from her asking if I could track the parcel as it hadn't arrived. I had a dig around in my records and realised right away what had happened - I hadn't sent it.

To make matters worse I had, in the meantime, sold out of the wardrobe - and didn't expect any more in that side of Christmas.

Oh dear.

I had to write one of those difficult emails, confessing to my mistake and crossing my fingers that I hadn't just ruined someone's Christmas. There was still time for the recommended last posting date to the US so I had a trawl around the internet and found a couple of alternative suppliers to suggest to her.

Later that day I had a really nice email from her saying not to worry, these things happened. She had managed to source one from one of my recommendations. I refunded her original order, sighed with relief and thought that was that.

The next day she emailed me again. Her 'fall back' shop were refusing to send it overseas (I was not entirely surprised, as I said it is a heavy little toy) so could she please arrange to have it sent to me so I could send it on to her?

It meant me taking the £20 odd hit for the postage but I didn't hesitate - it was the least I could do, given my original mistake.

A couple of days later the parcel reached me, I re-wrapped it and sent it on to the US, still with a day or two to spare for Christmas delivery. Once again I sighed with relief and thought that was that.

Not so.

A couple of days before Christmas I had an email - it still hadn't arrived. She was very nice and understanding, there was nothing I could do. We both just hoped it would arrive soon. I closed Cottontails for a couple of weeks over Christmas and New Year and was appalled to find it STILL hadn't arrived when I reopened on the 10th January.

Just as I was going into worry overdrive, thinking I was going to have to sort out a refund for a second time, for an order that had gone to a different shop etc, I had an email to say it had finally turned up. No less than a month after I had sent it.

Thank goodness she was very gracious and understanding about the delay and even offered to pay for the postage. I refused but did say that if it was no trouble, I would love a photo or two to share with you all - and these are the photos you can see on this blog post.

At least it looks like the little girl in question loves her toy, even if it was terribly late.

I think maybe Father Christmas may have got the blame..?