Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Maileg Matchbox Mice - and a little house for them

A few weeks ago I spotted a rather lovely looking wooden shelving unit in the Scandi-Chic catalogue (the nice folks who supply all my Maileg stuff). I had the bright idea that I could order a few, spend a weekend customising them with cute little ditsy wall papers, little Maileg mouse pictures, that kind of thing. And then sell them for a fortune obviously.

So I duly ordered several shelving units.... and then Christmas took over and OF COURSE I haven't had time to do any mini interior decorating. What was I thinking? In fact they have just been sitting in the hall at home since they arrived. The other half isn't very pleased.

So, I've finally found a minute to pop them on the website 'as they are'. They are £57.50 and you can see them on the website here. They are still lovely, even without a quirky cheese fridge in the kitchen... And if I still have some left come the New Year, maybe I will find time to start decorating...

Also new in today, a plethora of Maileg matchbox mice. Seven new ones to be precise. You can see them all here on the website, and here are some snaps I took earlier. Thankfully they came out okayish... because at this time of year there is no time for faffing about with photography. Let alone decorating a mouse house.....

Friday, 8 November 2013

Say Hello to the Hazel Villagers - woodland animals and lovely outfits

It's always lovely to introduce a new range to Cottontails, but I am particularly excited about this one. I think you are going to love them...

Meet the Hazel Village animals - soft toy woodland creatures with additional lovely little outfits. Charming, quirky and ethically made, each little animal comes a 'back story' written on a little card around his or her neck.

Hazel Village is a small toy maker, established in New York in 2010. It's rare for me to find another company whose ethics, approach and sense of play matches so closely that of Cottontails, but in Hazel Village, I think we have found a soul mate!

Here are some of the animals enjoying a 'Welcome to Cottontails' apple pie making session a couple of days ago. I thought the apple pie would make them feel at home...

Lucy Owl picks some Bramleys

Gwendolyn Raccoon sorts through my baking basket 
(I saw her dip her paw in the golden syrup...)

Helping Lewis Toad with apple peeling - he's a bit too young to do it on his own

Grating nutmeg with Own Fox

Lewis uses his big toady hands to make pastry...

...then Owen wields the rolling pin

A 'Hello' pie from Cottontails, with bunnies around the edge
(bunny cutters available to buy here)

The animals watch the aga, Great British Bake-Off style


It's an apple pie midnight feast!

All these lovely animals - and quite a lot more - are available to view and buy on the Cottontails website - see them all here

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Maileg Makes: fabric carrots

A few years ago Maileg produced rabbits with their own carrots - they came tucked into their pockets and were very sweet. Maybe they will again one day,  but in the meantime why not have a go at making your own?

I have a little bunch of fabric carrots here at Cottontails which I use a lot when I'm photographing the bunnies - and they are actually not that hard to create.

Simply take a triangle of orange fabric, sew up two sides to create a cone, flip inside out and fill with stuffing, then tie up the top using some bits of green fabric.

Bunnies and their carrots....


As I say, they're really not that hard to make - certainly much quicker than growing them! - and your Maileg bunny will be very grateful.

Monday, 14 October 2013

A new website, a new office and a milestone birthday

  Those of you who follow our Facebook page - or listen to me wittering on on Twitter - will be well aware that I have been working on a new look for Cottontails for some time now (for about 18 months actually - how time flies.)

Well, I am happy to say that our little overhaul is finally complete. Have a look at our website - although it is not a million miles away from where it was, you will hopefully find it looking a little fresher and with a few new features:

  • A fresh new look - lots of hand drawn illustration
  • Customer account - simply login (top right) and enter your details
  • Gift Guide - added to left hand menu, a new section for customers who want some inspiration
  • New content - Our Story, Rabbits, Press / PR
  • Contact details - we've moved, so new address & phone number
  • Social media integration - you can share each product page on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest 

The new Cottontails website - our home page

Brand pattern. logo, account, gift guide, illustration...

And a whole load of other tiny details and behind the scenes administration changes. You would not believe the work this has involved. I guess it would be different if I had a design team, a technical team, any team at all - but it's just me and Rudolph here at Cottontails. (And to be honest with you he hasn't brought a lot to the table on this project...)

On saying that I have had huge, huge support from my web designer Tamsin, who has built the actual site, brought everything to life for me, had loads of brilliant ideas, cheered me up when I felt I couldn't go on and generally been wonderful. As she always is.

And also a warm thank you to the lovely Kaitie and Jay at Leaff Design who set the ball rolling last year by working up a lovely new logo, brand pattern and some initial ideas for the website - which I have stayed pretty close to all in all.

Again, I've already mentioned this but I am now working from new premises. Last month I signed a lease on an office at a converted farm / business center in Lower Eggleton. Leighton Court is a small development with a farm shop, cafe, couple of other small businesses - it is also a working farm and there is a huge amount of apple picking going on at the moment.

Cottontails, Unit 9, Leighton Court, Lower Eggleton

My office, number 9,  is 'round the back' (up a farm track) and quite separate to the rest of the units. And it's big! At about 550 square feet it must be four times the size of the room I was in at home. To be honest it's a terrible mess at the moment - I have bought new shelving from IKEA which is still in packs on the floor, all my stock is in boxes, packing materials all over the floor... but I am hoping to start 'nesting' and get things sorted now the website is done.

It really is a great space for Cottontails. Quiet, in the countryside, a bit of character, just about affordable. And the first time I drove here with my keys, to start moving things in, a little rabbit hopped across the drive in front of my car. Perfect.

My third and final bit of Major News is that Cottontails has celebrated a bit of a milestone birthday. Last month, in the midst of moving and working hard on the new design, we passed the 10 year mark, which I've tried to capture on the new home page, with my little party scene. So, it's a happy birthday to Cottontails, and here's to a happy future too!

(Ignore the text - I use Watership Down before I write the actual copy...)

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Maileg Makes: mini bunting - perfect for mice

Not everyone knows this, but the Maileg mice are very house-proud little animals and they take great delight in decorating their mouse houses. It's part of their nesting instinct.

And I'm telling you, there's nothing a Maileg mouse likes more than a bit of mini bunting. It's the very thing for draping around a mouse hole or hanging over a matchbox bed.

Here's how we made some at Cottontails -

We used Maileg ribbon and a few scraps of cotton fabric to make ours, and as you can see, it is ever so simple and really does 'pretty up' a little role play area. 

Just mouse and bunting

The Maileg rabbits can get involved too...   

From a recent feature in 'Mice Homes & Gardens' magazine

Friday, 4 October 2013

Amadee goes to the Autumn Show

Last weekend my friend Diane and I headed off on our annual day trip to the Autumn Show in Malvern - we go together every year and always have a lovely time chatting, shopping and eating cake. It's our strict rule that men are not allowed, but this year we changed things just a little and invited Amedee to join us. He is male, but he's not a man. He is a duck.

He spent much of the day in one of our (matching!) Seasalt shopping bags, but popped out from time to time to waddle around and pose for some photos.

We had coffee and doughnuts, we shopped, we looked at huge vegetables, we shopped, we enjoyed NOT looking at the vintage lawn mowers, we had lunch, we shopped… you get the picture. And Amedee got involved with most of it.

Diane loved him and they became firm friends. In fact she more than entered into the spirit of things and it was wonderful to have a fellow lunatic enthusiast along.  (Those of you who read this blog regularly will know the same cannot be said of my other half, who is never exactly delighted to spot a furry companion peeping from my handbag…)

Such was the success of our day out, I am tempted to take along a whole raft of Cottontails animals next year. Maybe hire a minibus?

Mirror mirror on the wall...

Amedee makes a friend (in a shepherd's hut)

Diane & Amedee enjoy the sunshine


Me and Amedee. And lots of gourds. 

Time for a spa

The fabulous White Elephant Vintage stall - lots of toys!!

Yes Amedee, celery bigger than you! 

And giant leeks! 

Amedee's makes like a leek

Bye bye to Diane

Should you wish to buy your very own Amedee duck, to take on days out etc, he is available on our website along with all his Grand Family friends.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Sorry for messy blog!

Just a quick note - I am in the middle of updating blog look / layout ahead of new website launch, and it currently looks like a dog's dinner. Should be sorted soon!

Blog: currently looks like his dinner

Monday, 30 September 2013

The world's biggest coffee morning - with Sylvain and Maisie

Like many of us, I went along to one of the events organised for the World's Biggest Coffee Morning last week - and of course I took a couple of little friends with me.

I lined up all the candidates in the morning before I left, and decided that the lucky pair would be Sylvain Rabbit (he is home with me at the moment, but will be off on more travels soon) and Maisie doll - in her pretty floral outfit I just felt she was perfectly dressed for meeting girlfriends and chatting over coffee and cake.

We had a lovely time at the the coffee morning, organised by Rayeesa of Rayeesa's Indian Kitchen - and even enjoyed a cup of proper home made chai as a coffee alternative. Rayeesa makes it at home from her special mixture of spices - you should have seen the size of the cinnamon sticks! Well, they weren't sticks. They were more like branches. I had quite a struggle keeping Sylvain from having a nibble. But Maisie behaved impeccably - and we all had a lovely couple of hours out of the office.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Comfort zones - gym and networking

Last night I did two things that, a year ago, would have been beyond me.

First of all I went to a gym class. It was a new Tabata class at my gym, Wye Leisure,  really hard but good fun. A sort of circuit training, working in pairs. A year ago I couldn't have done it. I mean, physically I might have just about managed it - you kind of work at your own level - but I don't think I'd have been brave enough to walk into the room in the first place. But these days I love these sort of classes, they are good for me in so many ways.

And then I had a quick shower and headed off to a WiRE meeting - Women in Rural Enterprise. Again, 12 months ago I would have been seriously out of my comfort zone - anxious about networking, worried that I'm not professional enough blah blah blah. But I enjoyed last night so much. It was only a small meeting but some really lovely, interesting women - I'll list the businesses at the bottom - and as ever there was coffee, cakes, confessions and laughter. Again, good for me in so many ways.

I didn't take my camera to either so here's a little recreation, starring some Maileg mini bunnies (available here, along with their gym wear - check out the leg warmers on uppy-eared rabbit!)

At the gym....

Quick shower and change, then off to WiRE...

The WiRE members at the meeting were:

Rayeesa (our host) who runs an Indian cookery school and makes frozen cooking sauce, Anna who does something financial to do with payroll (baffles and impresses me), Anne who runs a fabulous sounding business rearing pigs and creating ethical pork sausages and so on, and Katie and Charlotte from Lime Green Marketing - it was seriously good to listen to proper marketing and PR people in action, just the ideas they came up with over a rock bun were brilliant!

And finally, a note about the long-promised new website. It is nearly, nearly, nearly ready. Honestly. I fear I am starting to sound like the boy who cried wolf, but trust me there is a wolf and I am very much hoping he will be ready to meet you this weekend.