Thursday, 30 September 2010

Win a Snapdragon Tea Cosie - From The Wilde

Thank you to Helen at From The Wilde for our fabulous October giveaway. The Snapdragon chicken tea cosie - £44.95 - is a stylish way to keep the pot warm for another cup or two.

From The Wilde is an eclectic collection of products from some of Britain's most exciting and contemporary designer makers, artists and illustrators. The artists are carefully selected to provide you with a fantastic range from kitchenwares through to fine art. Every part of the collection is 100% handmade using carefully sourced materials to ensure the best quality. If you have a love of the countryside and nature then this website allows you to have a small piece ''From The Wilde'' in your own home. My favourites have to be the wols by Chain of Daisies, who wouldn't love one of these in their home, and the beach hut cushion by Jo Fulham perfect for a seaside feeling everyday.

So how can you win this great prize? Simply follow my blog and one of the blog followers will be drawn at random on the 31st October 2010.


Toys for Toddlers

Today Toy Talk announce their winners of the 2010 Toy Talk Awards. I love choosing toys for my daughters and I am quite sad that they are now moving on more grown up toys. However, I think it is a testament to the wooden toys that I bought when they were toddlers, that they still play with them now. I want them to have toys that are stimulating, environmentally friendly, that aren't all pink, and that will last more than 5 minutes. So I have put together some of my environmentally friendly favourites for toddlers and preschoolers.

One of their all time favourites was the baby walker with wooden bricks. It won hands down against the very irritating flashing lights and sounds version from V-Tech. The walker was great for helping them take those first steps and they could also use their imagination to create alsorts from the bricks. This version is one of many available from Why Wood Works.

For my eldest daughter's second birthday we bought her first Brio train set and she loved it. Now she is nearly 8 and still enjoys setting the whole thing out, making cities and role playing. The great thing about the train set is that you can add to it over time and children can save pocket money to spend on a new train or other accessory. Available from Amazon and many other online stores.

I have to confess a love of Pintoy and Plan Toy. I am just a little sad that there is no more room in the playroom to add a Pintoy hospital or a Plan Toy kitchen set. However, the girls do have a Pintoy doll's house which has given them hours of pleasure rearranging furniture and acting out little scenarios.

As well as the big companies I think it is important to support small companies who are making limited numbers of toys. However, it is vital to ensure that any toys purchased have a CE mark and meet European Toy Safety Standards.

This tractor and haywagon from Toys For Children is a beautiful example of the type of toy that will last and become a family heirloom. The beauty of wood is that as it is handled it increases its beauty unlike plastic that is not meant to last.

I have often found with jigsaw puzzles that although my children love them, they can easily get damaged and once you have done them a few times the interest wears off. However, we bought a magnetic version of one of these wooden puzzles from Myriad. They can be used to build and make as many patterns as a child has the imagination for.

Finally something that I wish I had invested in. Ostheimer are a German company who have handcrafted toys for more than 50 years. They make a beautiful range of wooden toys that would look stunning in any playroom or bedroom. It is almost impossible to choose my favourite, but I think that this beautiful dragon just makes it to the top. Available from Myriad and Laughing Bear Toys.

So why settle for plastic make your children's toys something that are a pleasure to play with, and that will last for years. I know I am already planning to store all my children's toys for future nephews/nieces.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

The Tooth Fairy Visits

On Monday, while I was out my daughter's first tooth fell out. I came back to shouts of 'Mummy come and look, I have a surprise for you.' Fortunately it had waited until after the school photographs. As she has an older sister we were ready for this event, and have a tooth fairy cushion and container so that teeth can await collection. However, many first time parents may be unprepared for this event, and there is nothing worse than putting the tooth under the pillow and then not being able to find it, only for it to turn up a week later to screams of 'The Tooth Fairy left my tooth!' It also helps with the trauma of those first teeth coming out if there is somewhere special to put them.

This lovely Tooth Fairy box is from Cocoboat. It is handcrafted so each one is a little bit different and you can choose the hair colour and a name up to nine letters long.

These fantastic Toothy Monsters are made by Marie at Heartfelt Handmade and are available from Folksy and Craft Market Corner. Each one is made to order and features a tag with the child's name on. You can select the colours that you would like and so each one is unique. 

The Ultimate Tooth Fairy makes a gorgeous range of Tooth Fairy pillows for both boys and girls. I particularly like this one. Each one is personalised by choosing a name and hair colour. The pillow also comes with a calling card that can be left inside with the money.

However, you may be looking for a Tooth Fairy box that will be a keepsake as a christening or naming ceremony gift. This beautiful solid silver Tooth Fairy trinket box from UK Children's Jewellery is ideal, featuring a little pink enamelled Tooth Fairy.

These wooden tooth boxes by John Crane are available from Natural Nursery and they are perfect for putting under a pillow, as they can be easily found. They have secure lids to ensure no lost teeth and are just the right size for a pound coin - or two if you have a generous tooth fairy.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Party Bags That Last

At the weekend my daughter went to a party for one her friends. The party bags from Party Pieces were cardboard ones that could be coloured in, and then recycled when they were finished with. I thought this was a lovely idea as all too often party bags are thin plastic ones that are emptied and discarded. It made me think about how nice it would be to give out party bags, and gifts that can be used long after the party is over.

Little Cherry was set up by Lucy Brindley who wanted to provide party bags and gifts that would not damage the environment. Little Cherry sells gorgeous felt and fabric bags that any child would love to take home from a party. Little Cherry also has a range of gifts, compostable party decorations and fabric bunting to brighten up any party. There is also a guide to making your own recycled party bags as a party activity.

Joanne the founder of Charlie Moos set the company up after becoming disheartened with the quality of party bags that her son had been given at parties. Joanne produces a range of quality fabric party bags that can either be empty or prefilled with a range of specially selected wooden toys.

Ethical Party Bags supplies these great little Fairtrade jute drawstring bags. They can be either empty or filled with a recycled pen, keyring and Fairtrade chocolate wafer.

I love these fabric bags from Happy Green Earth, they are a party activity and bag all in one. Each bag comes with a set of eight fabric crayons that the children can use to create their own design.

If you are looking to create a unique bag then Knot Just Jigs sells cotton canvas bags that you can have printed with a special message such as To xxxxx, thank you for coming to my party. They come with a variety of pictures from dinosaurs to fairies. You can then choose party bag fillers from their great range of wooden toys.

Frog in the Field also lovely party bags and you can either have an image of your own or select an image from their library to have printed on to them to make them that little more individual.

Finally I found these great bags from Kelso Kreations on Folksy. There are a range of bags and each one comes with a different craft activity such as the one featured, which comes with the materials and instructions to create a fortune teller - which I know I remember making at school and I am sure many of you will. Kelso Kreations also makes festive and seasonal party bags. So if you are planning a halloween party this is a great place to start.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Photograph Albums

Many of us nowadays keep our photographs on the harddrive of our computers, or on our phones. However, nothing beats looking back through a beautiful photograph album to bring back great memories.

A gorgeous handmade album is a great gift to give to someone so that they can store their treasured photographs. I have found a selection of lovely albums from the many available.

This lovely beaded patchwork album from Daisymade can be personalised with your own message and each one is made of a unique combination of fabrics. Daisymade also makes cushions, ribbon blankets, personalised jeans and name garlands.

For that special occasion then Designs by Lou Lou make a beautiful range of albums. All albums can be colour co-ordinated and personalised with a special poem or your own wording, as well as being presented in an handmade presentation box. Laney at Designs by Lou Lou also makes stationery, keepsake boxes and many other items for that special occasion.

This gorgeous butterfly design album is available from The Hummingbird Card Company. With 40 pages and parchment ovelays to protect your pictures it is ideal for storing your precious pictures. The Hummingbird Card Company was founded by friends Sally-Ann & Suzi. As well as this beautiful album they make cards, invites and a range of stationery.

For an everyday album then Rose Bon Bon creates some wonderful albums using ribbons, calico, denim and embroidery. They would look great on any coffee table so that your photographs are not just hidden away on a shelf.

If you are looking for an environmentally friendly option then there is the Banana Fibre photograph album from Boutique Gifts. Made from the husk of rice and banana fibre it comes in its own presentation box.

So there is no excuse now to keep the photographs on your computer, with these beautiful albums you will be proud to show them off.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Cosmetic bags to treasure

Packing for going away this weekend I looked at my cosmetics/toiletry bag, and I think it is time for a replacement. My old one is looking a little bashed and battered. However, combining usefulness with good looks is not always easy so I searched the web and here are my favourites.

If you are just looking for a make up bag and nothing larger then this one from Sewsmitten is great. With its 50's Girl fabric which is designed and printed by Penni and Gnome in their London workshop.

I then found this gorgeous makeup bag by Disaster Designs, available from Little Moose. It has got a waterproof polka dot lining and internal pocket to store your make up securely. There is also a matching overnight bag, wallet and handbag.

For those who like to take more with them then there are some fantastic vanity cases around. I particularly like the range by Kate Garey and I think Robot Love has to be my favourite.  Kate also makes a range of bags, fashion items, jewellery and soft toys.

Although not handmade and therefore likely to be seen in the High street I do love this retro Ladybird 'The Party' make up bag by Wild and Wolf, available from the gifted penguin. The Wild and Wolf Ladybird archive series won Gift of the Year 2010 and I have to say I already have some of their products earmarked for dare I say it - Christmas gifts.

Finally there is a gorgeous range of cosmetics bags from Natalie Farrell on Folksy. Each one is handmade by Natalie by carefully selecting each button, ribbon and printed fabric to make each one unique and just that little bit special.

So if you know someone who has been carrying around the same battered cosmetics bag forever, treat them to a new bag that is a little bit special.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Pamper gifts you will want to keep

Beauty products are one of the most frequently given gifts. The high street pamper products from the likes of The Body Shop, Neal's Yard Remedies and Clarins are lovely, but why not give something a little more individual. There are many small businesses producing some fantastic body products that are often SLS, animal product and paraben free.

Elaine Stavert set up The Littlecote Soap Co. after moving to Buckinghamshire. In her workshop she produces a range of beautifully packaged natural handmade soaps, bath products, skin-care and toiletries all made by hand. The pink champagne range is a great gift for any celebration.

Jane Maddern also makes all her soaps by hand in her workshop in Axbridge. Her soaps are beautifully wrapped in a range of cotton fabrics hand-picked by Jane, as an added extra you can select a personal message soap. I really like the sound of the Lavender and Chamomile soap, ideal for a relaxing bath. Jane also makes balms and handcreams.

If you want to try before you buy then Wild-Olive offers free soap samples. You simply pay £1.95 p&p to get three soap samples. If you review the soaps then you will also get a voucher for money off your next order. Wild-Olive also make a range of lovely sounding bath salts including energising seaweed. 

If you are looking for delicious sounding handcreams and body butters then SkinnyDip is a great website to visit. Made using Malvern spring water and a range of natural ingredients, the SkinnyDip products such as Soaked to the Skin, look and sound fantastic. This gorgeous box of eight fragrant bath fizzles would be the perfect pamper gift.

Many of the handmade soaps and beauty products out there look good enough to eat and Cottons products are no exception. Made without artifical colours, fragrances or animal products, their use of high quality ingredients and pure essential oils makes a gorgeous pamper gift. You can now find Cottons at Not On The High Street.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Baking is back

Whilst watching the Great British Bake Off last night - who knew baking could be so tense - I was thinking about how baking has made a great come back. With the likes of the hummingbird bakery, the Primrose Bakery and of course Paul Hollywood's Artisan Bread Company there is really no surprise that few of us can resist tucking into a lovely cupcake or freshly baked loaf of bread. It has also inspired many people to start baking, and sparked a trend for cupcake themed gifts.

So with all those keen bakers out there what better present than something they either use whilst baking, or a reminder of their love of baking. So what great gifts are available? Here are just a few of the many.

What every baker needs is a way to display their efforts in the best possible way. Let Them Eat Cake is a fantastic website that creates one-off vintage china cake stands from beautiful mismatched china. The results are stunning and would add that extra touch of glamour to any afternoon tea. If you can't see anything you would like, or have some china that you would like making into a cake stand they also offer a bespoke service.

For those that have been inspired and would like to start baking, but don't know where to begin then Squeak Gift and Party have the perfect solution with their cupcake hamper. The hamper which contains all you need to get started with cupcake baking - even some edible gold stars.

For storing the beautiful cakes and biscuits then you could buy cake tins from many high street shops. However, for something a little different why not treat a cake lover you know to this beautiful handpainted tiffin tin from Rose and Grey? Each one is made of  four compartments and includes four metal plates, great for serving your cake or biscuits.

If you know someone who loves cakes, bread or pastries to eat, but who doesn't want to bake. Why not give them a wonderful treat from one of the many bakeries that now take orders online and deliver around the country.  Ice maiden cakes based in Somerset, where Julie makes fabulous cakes such as this vintage rose floral cupcake.  For biscuit lovers there is Biscuiteers who produce delicious iced biscuits.
Alternatively there are many themed gifts out there such as this lovely cupcake quilted notebook by Dinky Daisy. Perfect for keeping note of all those delicious baking recipies.
Unfortunately, I just missed National Cupcake week with this blog. However, David Bennett of the Sunshine Bakery in Chapel Allerton, Leeds gained the Cupcake Champion of Great Britain award. So if you are in Leeds and fancy coffee and cake it sounds like the Sunshine Bakery is the place to visit.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Perfect Purses

I was on twitter yesterday when PantsandPaper tweeted about a purse that she had made, and was selling on Folksy. It made me think what a perfect gift a purse is. Sam at PantsandPaper makes a range of one off purses, all with beautiful detail. She also takes commissions so you can have a favourite photograph included in your purse.

I then found this gorgeous purse by Bebe Bradley at makers-online. Bebe Bradley is one half of Meninafeliz is a collaboration between Bebe and Anne-Marie Vanner and you can find all sorts of original and quirky gift ideas on their website.

If you are searching for a leather rather than fabric purse then Fairysteps is a great website. Set up by Ren who is a self-taught shoemaker all the leather items available on the website are limited editions. I love this pink and purple Sprite purse.

On Cloth-ears site it was a very difficult decision which purse I would choose from their wonderful collection, but in the end I decided my favourite was their 'flutters and fancies' wallet purse, with the lovely birdhouses on the front.

Finally back on Folksy I found these lovely little coin purses by Dinky Daisy, who is also stocked by Not On The High Street. Of course there are also purses that I love by Cath Kidston and Orla Kiely, but I think the ones I have found offer the appeal of being unique or at least limited edition.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Original Art for all

Art can enhance any home and makes a great gift. If you know someone who loves art and you would like to treat them to an original work of art, but can't afford to treat them to a Hockney or a Hirst, then help is at hand. There are many talented artists all over the country selling original works of art at a more affordable price, and you never know maybe you will have spotted the next Tracey Emin.

This watercolour is painted by Mimi who uses her local area in Cornwall as the inspiration for her paintings. This view of Porthleven would bring a holiday feel to any home.

View of Porthleven £40.00

On Etsy I found a huge range of art to suit every taste and every budget, but I particularly liked this painting by Kate Boyce who uses mixed media to create her beautiful works of art. Etsy is particularly good if you would like to buy a piece of art that is based on your local area, or a favourite holiday destination, as you can shop local.

There are also some fantastic gallery websites for example apob Contemporary Art Galleries that showcase the work of many artists, including this beautiful art by Gerry Cameron.

If you are looking for a photographic piece of art then there are some stunning photographs available as limited editions, such as the work by photographer Chris Etchells that I found on Art


In contrast to this lovely clear scene in Scotland my final choice was by Christina Harris. I love the simplicity of the scenes that she paints of sheep in winter.

So when great art can be so affordable why shop on the high street and end up with the same canvas from Next as many other people? There are lots of online and independent galleries out there to suit every taste and budget.
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