Thursday, 29 November 2012

Goodbye Humphrey


I always knew that one day I would have to write this post, but that doesn't make it any easier.

Just over three weeks ago, dear Humphrey passed away.

I haven't felt able to write about it until now, needing a bit of time to come to terms with it by myself.

You know that thing where, when people are nice to you, you kind of fall apart? Well what with it being the build up to Christmas, and me working on my own, I had to try and keep it together, so couldn't risk a blog post opening the floodgates really.

Some of you may have noticed a bit of a lull in posts on here, Facebook, Twitter a little while ago... well that was me just not knowing what to say. It seemed ridiculous to be writing about advent calenders and pixies when I had just lost my precious little friend...

I don't have children. Humphrey meant the world to me. He worked with me in the office, sat with me on the sofa in the evenings and slept on the landing at night. Well, okay, sometimes on the bed.

Over the nine years I had him we did lots together. We moved house three times, closed the shop, went on holiday together. And he has seen me through some really difficult stuff.

He had been unwell for a few months. His teeth had started to grow a bit oddly - so common in bunnies - and sharp points were forming and causing painful mouth ulcers for him. It meant he couldn't eat properly. Thank God I have a wonderful, wonderful vet (and insurance) so we were able to keep him going for a while longer, with little dental operations. But the last one, well he just didn't recover properly. He was starting to suffer and I couldn't help him. He didn't want to eat, even his most favourite things, it was heart breaking. So, on the 7th November, I made the decision to say goodbye. He died it my arms at the vets at 5.30pm.

He is now buried in the garden outside. I am going to plant some bulbs there for the spring.

So, there we are.

I have written the blog post I was dreading.

I have so, so many happy memories from the last nine years, and too many photos I want to share, so I have put together a little film with some of my favourite pictures and clips. I've been working at it, on and off, for a couple of weeks, it has been a really nice thing to do and has helped me a bit.

If this video doesn't work, this link should take you directly to the film on YouTube -

Cottontails is not the same without him, and of course there will be another bunny in time. Probably in the New Year. Definitely a rescue rabbit. It's just the way it goes with our little pets isn't it.

And until then I will try to resume posts and also to share news on the ducks and the goats, not quite so cuddly and they never sleep in the bed, but of course I love them too :)

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Cottontails on the move

It's been a long time coming but we are now just two weeks away from moving home to Tree Farm, and as I work from home, this means Cottontails Baby is on the move too.

Sadly it will mean saying farewell the lovely garden office but there are plenty of outbuildings at Tree Farm and this one has been allocated to Cottontails:

Cottontails Baby - new HQ at Tree Farm

It looks pretty quaint from the outside (and indeed it is) but as you can see, there is more than a bit of work to do:

View from back of office

View from the door

The Cottontails creatures are going to love the indoor ivy

Mouse checks out the electrics...

New interior walls, a new floor, new felt on the roof and a new ceiling, lots of insulation, new windows, new door. So more than a weekend DIY project. But hopefully, with someone in to help, it might be ready in a month or so.

But there's definitely going to be a 'spare bedroom' stage in between.

So, the next month is going to be pretty full on, moving house and moving business, and I can't even picture where I'm going to be working in three weeks time... but it's all very exciting. And at least it's not October / November, when stock and sales explode for Christmas. (Oh, wait a minute. Who planned this?)

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Humphrey in print!

A little while ago Humphrey entered a competition to star in a short story... and he won! 

That rabbit. Is there no end to his talent?

The competition was run by Juliet Wilson aka the Crafty Green Poet - writer, poet, author, recycling-crafter, environmental campaigner and lover of all things rabbit. You can read about the story competition here. And please do take a look around her blog - it is well worth following. She is someone I would like to be more like.

The short story 'A New Start for Humphrey' arrived in the post a few days ago, along with a 'congratulations kit' for the star and last night I settled down to read it. It is a fascinating, thought provoking story set in a future that is at once bleak and hopeful, and I can't tell you how lovely it is to see Humphrey captured in print...
"Sheena smiled as a plump grey-brown rabbit hopped towards her and sniffed her foot... 'Look at those sweet turfts of hair behind the ears!'"

"They sat side by side, thinking about the future and petting Humphrey, who was sitting quietly between them."
And Juliet has even included one of Humphrey's naughtiest habits:
"Humphrey settled down and started to chew, then suddenly picked up the water bowl, emptied the contents and bashed the bowl against the balcony railings" 
 - he does exactly this in the evenings, except against the radiator!

A congratulations kit for the literary star

Juliet also sent a copy of her poetry book "Unthinkable Skies" - I am looking forward to sitting down with it - and a nice cup of tea - this weekend. This one looks pretty timely...

And incidentally, she is next on the list to host Sylvain the Cottontails Traveling Rabbit, so fingers crossed we'll be hearing a bit more from Juliet very soon.

Juliet's book. And a Cottontails mouse.

Thank you so much Juliet!

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

The Cottontails Travelling Rabbit - would YOU like to host him?

Sylvain rabbit has got itchy paws. He has decided he wants to go off on an adventure. Too many Famous Five books if you ask me...

All ready to set off on his adventures...

He has packed a little bag, acquired a compass, and is all ready to head off on his travels.

But it's a bit world out there for a little rabbit, and I think he needs some safe places to stay during his adventures.

Essential supplies - compass, carrot and lettuce

Would you like to play host to Sylvain rabbit?

He would arrive at your house (with bag and compass) and stay with you for a few days. Perhaps he could help out in the garden, or do a spot of work around the house? And he would love to be taken out to see the local sights.  He is fully litter trained and very well behaved. Usually.

In return for hosting Sylvain, all I would ask is that you:

a. Share some of his adventures - take a few photos and put them on your blog, Facebook page etc

b. Pay the p+p to send him on to his next destination - second class post is fine (but don't tell him I said that)
Please leave a comment on this post, or email me if you would like to play host to Sylvain.

This is something completely new so I have no idea if there will be much or any interest. But paws crossed. He is very keen to get out there and have some adventures! 

"I think I shall head East..."

Saturday, 8 September 2012

A lovely review of Cottontails Baby

I just had to share this with you - a simply lovely review of Cottontails Baby from Kate at Leaff Design Ltd.

In case you haven't already heard of Cottontails Baby, it is the toy shop that dreams are made of; independent, traditional and utterly charming.

Earlier in the week I had emailed Kate - it was a bit of a bleak email, I was telling her how things have been pretty tough here over the summer -  it's a constant balancing act, trying to keep up excellent service levels (packaging, delivery, little extras) while staying competitively priced. And let me tell you, this summer has been harder than ever.

And out of nowhere she has put together this little gem of support. She has captured 100% what Cottontails is about and I am so grateful to her - for understanding, for taking the time to write.

Cottontails is not a hobby business, I need to make a living from it so ultimately there has to be some commercial sense behind what I do, but there is also real heart and soul in this little business - my heart and soul - and getting this kind of feedback and support is what keeps me going sometimes.

Thank you Kate!

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Why do we say White Rabbits on the first of the month?

Today is the first of September.
First of the month and the month has an R in its name.
You know what this means don't you?


Tiny felt rabbit, hand stitched, £9.50

Obviously this is my very favourite superstition. Any excuse to think about rabbits.

But where does it come from and what is it all about? A quick bit of research found the following:

Saying 'white rabbits' on the first of the month will bring good luck throughout that month

Some say you will get a present before the month is out

It only works during a month with an 'R' its name

It must be said first thing in the morning, before any other words are spoken
There is some debate about whether is should be said once, twice or three times

Some say it should be said at the top of the stairs
The first written reference appears in a 1922 novel 'Solomon in all his Glory' by Robert Lynd: "Why," the man in the brown hat laughed at him, "I thought everybody knew 'Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit.' If you say 'Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit'—three times, just like that—first thing in the morning on the first of the month, even before you say your prayers, you'll get a present before the end of the month."

The funniest variation I came across was someone saying it should be 'brown rabbits' said three times whilst walking down the stairs, backwards. (But surely this is more likely to bring broken bones than good luck?)

And finally here is my own definitive, Cottontails Baby, version of the myth:

On the first of any month, with an R in its name
Visit Cottontails Baby and play this little game
Place an order for a rabbit, fluffy-tailed and long-of-ear
And before the month is out, a rabbit parcel will appear

Go on, try it - it really works! And did you know we have a dedicated Bunnies department at Cottontails, where you can see all our rabbity toys and accessories in one place?

Tiny grey and white Ostheimer wooden rabbit £9.30

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Cottontails Top 5 Favourites: Moulin Roty comforters

I have decided to put together a series of posts called 'Cottontails Top 5 Favourites'... in fact it's been something I've been meaning to do for an age, and at last it is finally underway. Hooray!

So, first up, I am taking a look at Moulin Roty comforters.

Ten years ago, before I opened the shop, I didn't even know what a comforter was, so for anyone sharing my uncertainty, a comforter is a 'flattish' sort of soft toy designed for babies to cuddle and bond with. A sort of modern day alternative to 'a bit of blanket', comforters are also knows as 'blankies' and 'doudous' and are ever so popular as new baby presents.

All Moulin Roty comforters are safe from birth and machine washable (an essential feature), and there are so many lovely, quirky flattish little creatures to choose from that I almost abandoned this post (and the top five project) as just too hard. Only five? Almost impossible! But I have tried my best and certainly settled upon five lovely comforters... 

So, here are my Cottontails Top 5 Favourites Moulin Roty comforters, all available on the website of course (along with many more...)

 1. Moulin Roty Jeanne the Goose comforter - she comes in a lovely gift box, £19

2. Moulin Roty Koko la Lune dog - lovely long hound with velcro tag so he won't get lost, £16.50

3. Moulin Roty Dragobert comforter - friendly dragon with an irresistibly curly tail, £15.50

4. Moulin Roty Koko la Lune sheep - super soft cloud of fleecy sheepiness! £16.50

5. Moulin Roty Les Loustics elephant comforter - enduring favourite with leafy corners, £17

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Cottontails is nine years old today!

Today is our ninth birthday! Yes, nine years ago today I first opened the doors on our little high street shop in Pershore, and so began the Cottontails journey.

It's been quite a busy day today with a gigantic Moulin Roty order to unpack and lots of parcels to wrap (it's the last day of our sale today too), but I managed to find time to host a little birthday tea party this afternoon...

It was a lovely hour in the sunshine, eating Party Rings and Dolly Mixtures and toasting our ninth birthday with homemade elderflower cordial. As you can see, Humphrey joined in the fun too - although it wasn't long before he started to steal everyone's Party Rings and had to be returned to the office.

It's a nice time to be celebrating a birthday as there are one or two changes afoot at Cottontails - nothing major but a bit of a re-brand (it's three years since our last refresh, where did that time go?) and a refocus on our core strengths - lovely toys and gifts for new babies, first birthday presents, Christenings etc. In fact, the enormous Moulin Roty delivery I mentioned, well that contained lots of lovely new stock that I will be adding to the website tomorrow.

So, happy birthday to Cottontails and here's to nine more happy years!

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Little Red Riding Hood - Ostheimer wooden toys

Many months ago I started work on a new project, it was to be called 'Fairy Tale Friday' and was an ambitious plan to make little films of classic stories featuring some Cottontails characters.

Well, guess what? I totally overstretched myself, have abandoned the project and made the decision that such matters are best left to the BBC!

However, I did take some nice photos as part of the project and it seemed a shame not to share them, so here are a few of the stills from the film that never was (starring a whole range of relevant Ostheimer wooden toys, and a few irrelevant Ostheimer rabbits, because this is Cottontails after all...)

Little Red Riding Hood

Take this basket to your grandmother

And don't stray off the path!

Off to granny's house

Meanwhile, not too far away...

Distracted by bunnies

"Where are you going, little girl!"

Wolf arrives at granny's cottage...

(It's not looking good for granny...)

 In the cupboard with you!
(I'll have you later, for pudding)

Little Red Riding Hood arrives...

 ...and finds 'granny' in bed

My what big teeth you have etc etc etc....


Oh thank goodness! A woodcutter arrives...

He saves the day

And rescues granny from the cupboard

And they all live happily ever after...

...especially the bunnies
(who are much happier when there's one less wolf around)


All the little wooden toy animals and people featured in the story are made by Ostheimer, and everything is available to buy at Cottontails  - find them all here.

Ostheimer are one of very few toy makers in the world who still make toys in a completely traditional way. It's wonderful.

Each piece is individually sawn, sanded and hand painted - not one part of the production process is computerised which is extremely unusual today. Made from sustainable wood - maple, ash and alder - with water based non toxic paints and a walnut oil finish, each piece is eco-friendly, hand-crafted and unique.

They are not inexpensive, we know that, but each little animal truly is one of a kind, and the ethics and toy-making philosophy of Ostheimer are exemplary.

And as for my film making activities, don't worry - there will be many more curious little Cottontails films in the future, just not any full on fairy tale feature films!!

Monday, 18 June 2012

A Hare About the House

You are going to love this!

Thank you so much to Annette over at The Dragon House of Yuen for introducing me to A Hare About the House, a charming 1950s natural history book. It records one man's adventures sharing his home with a rescued hare and his companion rabbit - and was written in the days long before house rabbits were as popular as they are today ('Yes, Humphrey, pet rabbits used to live outside. Imagine.")

I promise it will lift your day to dip into this book and you can get a PDF of it right here: A Hare About the House.

I started it a couple of nights ago and plan to continue tonight. It is an excellent distraction while the football is on, and Humphrey likes me to read aloud :)

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Introducing the Cottontails Price Nibble!

Okay, quiet please..... hush everybody.... I would like to introduce a brand new and rather fabulous reason to shop at Cottontails... Are you ready? Very well then... Drum roll please....It gives me great pleasure to introduce to you.....

....The Price Nibble!

Quite simply I have taken a handful of our very best selling toys and taken about 25% off the RRP, therefore ensuring we have the keenest prices around on certain core items, and hopefully enticing some more customers to the website... (where they will fall in love with Cottontails and shop with us for life...).

Cottontails Price Nibble

It may be madness (and it does sort of go against the grain for me) but my other half (who is far better at matters commercial than me) promises me it will ultimately make Cottontails far more profitable. 

And of course that would mean more of the finest carrots for Humphrey!

So, when you are browsing through the website, look out for the little nibbled carrot in the Price Nibble logo, and know that you are getting a super-duper price - for example, look at some of the lovely Moulin Roty Grand Family animals.

And if it all works out okay, I will be adding a few more 'nibbles' over time...


Monday, 11 June 2012

Hello Flower Sisters! Welcoming some new Maileg rabbits...

Maileg are best known for their characterful 'Brother and Sister' range of fabric rabbits - long tall bunnies with dangly limbs and sturdily stuffed linen bodies. They have become a modern classic and often grace the pages of Country Living magazine etc - casually propped up in the middle of the bed, or resting on a book shelf somewhere.

And now they have launched a new family of rabbits - The Flower Sisters. They still have the same simple fabric charm and dangly limbs, but there is one crucial difference: these rabbits are lops! 

Their bodies are a bit lighter than the classic 'Brother and Sister' bunnies, their embroidered faces have a sweeter character, but the main difference is definitely their long - very long! - floppy ears.

So far there are only four bunnies in the family and they are all girls. Meet Rose, Viola, Lily and Bell.

Also new in this week - some lovely Maileg stationery and posters, for example the classic Carrot Story poster, and some cards featuring the Brother & Sister bunnies.

I hope you like the new arrivals and you can find them all in the Maileg section of Cottontails.