Monday, 21 November 2011

Dream Toys 2011 - The Cottontails Alternatives

Every year the Toy Retailers Association publish a list of 'dream toys' for Christmas and I have just been looking over the list for 2011. A world away from what I do here at Cottontails, it is a list rich in plastic and electronics - in at number one is 'Doggie Doo', a pooing plastic dog.

But I'm not too worried about this - after all I am not trying to compete with Argos or Toys r Us - what I try to do is offer an alternative to the mainstream - and thank goodness - I have just returned from a shopping trip to the dreaded Tesco where children's toys are piled high as you walk in. It's a relief not to be going head to head with that.

However, I'm not completely out of touch and I know that lots of children will really love a pooing dog or Full-auto Long Range Nerf-Disc Blaster (yes, really). These toys are bright, active, instant. The have big box packaging appeal and are doubtlessly being promoted all over children's tv.

But maybe there is room in the stocking for something a bit more traditional too? And, with this in mind, I have put together some alternatives. Here are five toys from the original list along with some rather more traditional, quirky and charming alternatives...

1. Doggie Doo vs Philbert the velvet sausage dog

Doggie Doo (£34.99) - the aforementioned plastic pooch produces his own poo. Philbert (£19.99) is a velvet sausage dog who lives in his own little cardboard kennel. He has Liberty print ears and he does not poo. (This is a good thing, right?)

2. Fijit Friends vs Bunny & Mouse Little Wardrobe

A 'Fijit Friend' (£55) is a funny dancing robot doll billed as "your interactive BFF". As an alternative I have selected a couple of more traditional 'best friends'... The Bunny and Mouse Little Wardrobe (£55) play set includes two little soft toys in their own carry case (wardrobe) along with a whole host of outfits - perfect for plenty of 'interactive' playing.

3. Milky Bunny vs oooh too many to choose from!

Milky Bunny (£59.99) is from the 'Emotion Pets' series and has batteries so she moves, snores and makes little noises. Scary eyes though. We have so many alternatives at Cottontails, where rabbits are our forte, that I couldn't choose just one. A few favourites though include the lovely French bunnies Lola, Sylvain or Jeanette who comes in her own a sturdy gift box. Or for something more interactive how about a handmade wooden hutch from Ostheimer with some wooden bunnies and a bag of hay.

4. Moshi Monsters Moshlings Treehouse vs Maileg Mouse House

The Moshi Monsters Moshlings Treehouse (£20) is a plastic moulded tree which opens up to reveal a place to play with and store your Moshlings (small plastic collectible things, I think). Maileg make two homes for mice. There is a wooden home (£35) fashioned on a cheese which also includes some furnishings and a little bell on the doorway*, or there is a much larger sturdy cardboard home based on a milk carton (£43). It might be nice to buy some mice to live in the house too - how about these little babies that come in their own matchbox bed with blanket? (£20)

(*Sorry I have sold out of wooden mouse houses.)

5. Let's Rock Elmo vs Moulin Roty Orchestra in a Bag

'Rock out' with Let's Rock Elmo (£69.99) - a plush toy who sings and comes with his own plastic drums and tambourine, or play percussion with Moulin Roty's Orchestra in a Bag (£73) - a cloth carry case full of eight traditional wooden instruments including xylophone, tambourine, bells, and whistle. Either way, it's not going to be a peaceful Christmas!

Sunday, 20 November 2011

The ducks are famous!

Wonderful news - my runner ducks are on a Christmas card!

Catherine over at Bumpkin Bears has featured them on one of her lovely hand made Christmas cards.

I feel like a proud mum and have treated the famous trio to fresh tomato, peas and a lovely deep layer of hay in the duck house.

Well done ducks! (And thank you Catherine.)

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Once upon a time there was a mouse...

Those of you who read our Facebook page will have already heard about this - we have had an adventure with a real life mouse!

(This is not the Real Life Mouse, this is an actor)

Friday afternoon, and my other half turned up in the office doorway with a tiny, drenched, barely moving baby mouse he had rescued from the cat. It didn't look too hopeful, but I popped the little chap into a box with some of Humphrey's hay and placed it next to the heater under the desk. He was so, so tiny. Half the size of my little finger.

Over the next few of hours the little mouse brightened up considerably! He dried out and started to move around in his box. He had a bit of a problem with a back leg, but otherwise seemed pretty fast and agile. It was hard to catch him, even in the little box. I was delighted - it looked like he was going to make it!

I toyed with letting him out into the garden that night, but it was torrential rain and pretty cold. I decided to keep him in his box over night and release him the next morning. I added a handful of rabbit food, a bit of chocolate, some leaves, a cotton reel table and a tea set water bowl to his box. (I admit I also dreamed about keeping him as a Cottontails pet, but knew this wouldn't be a happy life for a wild mouse, so the next morning was to be 'release day'.)

The next morning. I gingerly poked about in the hay looking for the little chap but there was no movement or scrabbling. My heart sank when I thought he might have died, but I couldn't find him anywhere. And then I spotted a tiny round hole in the corner of the box. HE HAD ESCAPED!

(Angel Mouse could barely fit her nose through the escape hole)

I was happy he was clearly alive and well and full of beans if he had managed to stage an escape, but not so happy at the thought that somewhere in my office, rammed to rafters with expensive toys, lived a tiny nibbling creature.

Not long afterwards I noticed the phone wasn't working. The cable had been chewed. Oh dear.

Well... I don't really have a conclusion to this story as to be honest I don't know if he is still here or not. I spent the whole day spring cleaning and emptying every little cubby hole in the office. A couple of times I thought I heard a scrabbling sound under the packing table over by the door (when Humphrey - the usual creator of scrabbles - was asleep at the other end of the office) and I had the door open all day. I am hoping he has made his way back into the big wide world.

But I don't know. After all, if I was a mouse who happened up this office, complete with Mouse Houses, mouse furniture, mouse beds and a ready supply of fresh bunny food throughout the day, well I might be tempted to stay....!