Wednesday, 21 December 2011

All things BRIGHT and BEAUTIFUL


It’s December Solstice today or the shortest day of the year. 
This means that the sun has reached the most southerly point for the Northern Hemisphere. Meaning it also marks the point that the days start to get longer and the evening start to get shorter. So although it is our shortest day of daylight…. we have all things BRIGHT and BEAUTIFUL to look forward to!

With that theme in mind I thought I would share all things wise and wonderful that we will be sharing with you in 2012.


New Makers and New Collaborations
2012 means new beginnings and we have new makers just round the corner and collaborations of exclusive unik gifts that are in the pipeline ready to launch soon! Keep your eyes peeled
 
New Vintage section
Some toys are just meant to last and we’ve managed to find some that have and we love. So we’ll be launching a vintage section of treasures to the website to accompany the gorgeous products we already have.

Our own Mummy made makes the Website!
Yes…we’ve been multitasking mummies and managed to get ourselves organised enough to make some treasures to share with you. As well as knitting her Squashies and softies, Sarah scribbles and paints and her little fella Freddie bunny and dancer will be gracing us with their presence on the website very soon.
I’ve finally made Ida’s personalised treasure box. And with 2012 almost upon us will be making bespoke and commissioned boxes for your little ones treasures.

And the future plans
I plan to make my own unik unisex easy to put on and take off collection of simple baby clothes. Fingers crossed my little ones will give me enough time to do it!
We plan to re-vamp the website again to make it easier and more inspiring for you to navigate round. Will let you know when it’s done and dusted and ready to view!





So with an exciting New Year almost upon us…I can’t wait for 2012 to begin!!

Pull those crackers, wiggle those hips and pop those party poppers, spring and 2012 is almost upon us!!

We are looking forward to all things BRIGHT and BEAUTIFUL!!




Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Have a Happy and Healthy Christmas. We'll see you in the New Year!



Looking ahead


With 2011 almost at an end (apologies for jumping Christmas, we close to spend time with our family over Christmas, so after Christmas eve we don’t re-open till 2nd January) I am looking ahead to all things new and fresh.
2012 will be the first year in three that I start the year off not pregnant! 
Phew…. a much lighter start to my new year.  With a lighter frame (?) but a growing family I start 2012 with a positive approach to look for new and exciting makers to add to the unik family.
We are always looking for new, traditional and unique jewels to add to our trove. We would love to hear from you if you make something wonderful that should be shared and loved forever.
We already have many new things to add to the unik website that Sarah and I are very very excited about (I will tell you more later). We (Sarah) are working on the website to bring these new things to you soon.
In the meantime, If you want to show us your treasures click here.
Happy Making!
Even Ida and I are having a go at making some real treasures!!
Watch out for them in 2012!


Monday, 19 December 2011

And it's goodbye from her...


Today's my last working day of 2011... Anna's going to be taking the helm and steering u-ni-k into Christmas Eve and then we'll both disappear off for Christmas & reappear refreshed and bubbly in 2012!

So, I'd like to take the chance to look back at the last 9 months & thank a few of the people that have inspired, helped and cajoled Anna & I to where we are today.

Over a year ago in The Lighthouse in Woking, Anna, the other NCT Mummies and I were all discussing our careers now that we were Mums. It was here that Anna and I agreed to join our creative ideas together.

So my first thanks goes to the NCT – without the sanity, hilarity and barmy grouping that was us Mums to be and our partners at “Preggers Anonymous Class of March '10”, I'd probably not have found Anna and started u-ni-k gifts. Actually I'd probably not have survived the first 12months of being a Mum without the support of these ladies either. THANK YOU !

While finding our feet and trying to contain our 'just launched' excitement; our friends and family were a fantastic resource of advice, networking support and guinea pig customers.
So thank you to our friends and family, we wouldn't be here without out you and your honest opinions! THANK YOU

You can follow u-ni-k here on the blog, by liking our Facebook page and on Twitter. Various people have helped us grow as a company and as people through these mediums.

A special thank you to Hele aka Milkpetal, Keri of Buy Student Art, and Susan of Fat Hen & Flo for their comments, support and follow on the blog.

A HUGE thank you to David Earp, Nikki Stock, Tony Liddicoat, Kathleen Hughes, Manami Ohki, Gary Liddicoat and Alessandra Maio Lewis for their likes, comments, and support on Facebook.

Not forgetting our Top 10 Twitter friends: @kev_brett, @mummy_loves, @K_erri, @ChicUniqueUK, @SFRProdReviews, @babysigningmum, @CharlieMoos, @CraftBlogUK, @MultipleMummy, and @SilverTouches. Thank you to you all.

There are so many more of our Facebook and Twitter friends we could mention, but for me these are the ones that really stood out and stepped up to help us in 2011. THANK YOU!

It's been an incredible year, not only online, at home, in the Christmas Markets and in the post office queues... but also in the press. We have loved working with and appreciate the mentions in ST Kids, The Telegraph, Selvedge, Families Magazine, Natural Health and not forgetting our world exclusive in the Woking News & Mail. Our sincere thanks to the journalists that put us in their publications: Daisy Bridgewater, Polly Leonard, Robina Cowan, Amie Coussens and Hannah Tudor.

So I finally come to our u-ni-k family; our friends and makers without whom we really are not much at all! So a quick mention to those who have really helped us this year:

The always fabulous David and the equally as fantastic Shuktara who enrich and brighten up our lives with the beautiful Shuktara blankets and of course David's sense of humour.

The stoic Markus & Britta in Borgholzhausen for their lovely wooden toys and for graciously not correcting my poor German. We really appreciate your quick turn around to our last minute orders and we love watching our children enjoy your warm wonderful wooden toys.

Louise of Little Silver Touches has been an inspiration, a hard working Mum who has been human, honest and not scared to answer the phone while the kids are shouting in the background :p. Louise has always tried to complete our orders by the date required, even when we can't always guarantee the prints to her by her deadline date. Louise you're a superstar, thank you for everything!

The lovely Helen Beard of well Helen Beard fame for her lovely ceramics, we treasure those whimsical sketches of hens, people and places. We appreciate you agreeing to share with us your new children themed pieces, all while being a fellow first time Mum! Thank you!

Last but by at no means least – Mandy of Belle & Boo. We love your drawings, clothes and nostalgic childhood memories that your Belle and Boo inspire. I particularly thank you for the Belle and Boo drawings – as I'm sure they'll remind me of my own Daughter and her constant companion BunnyBunny long after she's put BunnyBunny up on a shelf.

Saving the very best for last:

Anna & I were able to meet and discuss notes / ideas, take minutes of our meetings, sketch design, look in magazines and drink tea [Anna] / coffee [me post breast feeding]. Our nighttime work load was quite mind boggling for first time Mums, we've been tired and grumpy – our houses are a mess, our kids are a handful, and we've at least both lost a room and a bit to our u-ni-k stuff in our homes. So the biggest and best thank you goes to our partners and children for providing us the support to start the business and their continued patience / support ever since.

THANK YOU.

With that I sign off for this year. 

Merry Christmas one & all, May the New Year bring you health, happiness and sunshine!

Sarah x

All together now...

Bring me Sunshine, in your smile,
Bring me Laughter, all the while,
In this world where we live, there should be more happiness,
So much joy you can give, to each brand new bright tomorrow,
Make me happy, through the years,
Never bring me, any tears,
Let your arms be as warm as the sun from up above,
Bring me fun, bring me sunshine, bring me love.
Bring me Sunshine, in your eyes,
Bring me rainbows, from the skies,
Life's too short to be spent having anything but fun,
We can be so content, if we gather little sunbeams,
Be light-hearted, all day long,
Keep me singing, happy songs,
Let your arms be as warm as the sun from up above,
Bring me fun, bring me sunshine, bring me love.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

My hopes for Christmas Day...

One day DangerBaby will be old enough to use a computer and I'm sure the first thing she'll want to do on this solo flight is 'surf the net' or 'talk to her friends' [I'm thinking that the tablet PC will replace the home phone soon]. When that day comes I hope she'll come over to her Mum's & Aunt Anna's blog and read through some of our posts... So baby girl, here's what I hope your 1yr old Christmas Day will be like.

Let's wake up to snow! A blanket of white, sparkling like diamonds, covering all the grey roof tiles and tarmac making the world seem clean and new. We can jump on the bed to wake up Daddy and show him our 'we're it excited it snowed' dance.

Then all of us and Bunny Bunny can open our stocking presents! We can snuggly buggly together in the big bed while we show each other what Santa brought us.

Nana & Grampa will be asleep so we'll all creep downstairs for some water or juice [you] and coffee [us] and look at the presents under the tree! We'll turn the tree lights on and put on Radio 2 to listen to some Christmassy music... we can dance in the kitchen and race to the lounge to grab Daddy off the sofa to dance in the kitchen with us!

Then because we've made some noise Nanna and Grampa will wake up and come downstairs to join us in the dancing and you can show them your presents. Grampa can hold BunnyBunny while you show them your new books/teddy/things. Woweeeee!

We can all have a scrambled egg breakfast while having our second cup of juice/water [you] and coffee [grown ups except Nana who will have tea]. More singing to the Christmas songs on the radio! Then we'll put our boots on with our pyjamas and go outside to the garden. We're the first ones to make snow prints! Look see the bird footprints!

Quick dash upstairs while Daddy washes up so we can have a shower while there's still hot water!!

Our post shower dance and we'll get dressed for present opening and lunch! Daddy dashes upstairs [in hope that we've left him some hot water]. We have a full 5minutes of 'oooh pretty' at your Christmas outfit!

Parade downstairs so that Nana and Grampa can tell you how pretty you and Bunny Bunny are, and we can say Happy Christmas to Uncle Rob who has managed to come over early for present unwrapping!

Ooooh so many wonderful presents! You are a lucky girl... hopefully we'll not fight too much about not eating with your quilt [don't want to be washing that and carrying back across country damp!]

Kathryn's Memory Quilt
A Pegasus drawing
A dinosaur made from
a romper
 You eat all your lunch and have some pudding [which you don't like because of the raisons but you have an apple instead]. You LOVE your paper hat from the cracker and have somehow managed to end up with everyone's cracker toys as yours.....

We then take everyone for a walk in the snow to see all the sparkly christmas lights in people's gardens... ooooh sparkly!



Back in time for a cup of coffee [me] / milk [you] / sherry [Nana] and some CBeebies with Bunny Bunny.

The walk has made you hungry so Mummy fixes you up some cold cuts and salad.

Now you have some time with Nana & Grampa to play games, play with some of your presents before watching a little more CBeebies [The Bed Time Hour].

As a treat we'll let you stay up a little later than usual, but once it reaches 8.00pm it's bath and bed time!

Daddy bath's you and Mummy reads you a bed time story. You fall to sleep with Bunny Bunny and have snowy adventures in your dreams!


and when you wake up - it's time for second Christmas with Granny!

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Looking forward...

I'm going to start the beginning of my last rota'd work days of 2011 (yes I only have 4 official work days left this year) looking forward to next year.

For those of you who know us on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/unikgifts) and Twitter (http://twitter.com/#!/u_ni_k) you'll see how cheeky this post is and will know that Anna's going to kick my behind for this (more than the arts vs. science degree debate!), but here goes:



2012 A very special year – Let's party like it's 2012...
Are you excited about 2012? Well you should be, and here's a few reasons why:
Leap year proposal
2012 is a leap year, which for us using the Georgian calendar means that the month of February has an extra day. Yep Feb 29th is the topsy turvy day that traditionally ladies propose to their menfolk. Now I know in these days of equality a lady can propose to a man (or another lady) any day of the year that she chooses but there's something special about the lovely tradition of proposing on the 29th Feb. And lovely traditions are something we at u-ni-k are rather fond of, and you never know perhaps Anna will take this upcoming opportunity to propose to her other half. [I'd wear an extra special hat on that day!]
2012 also sees some events to celebrate being British!
Buckingham Palace
It is the year of the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II – A diamond anniversary used to be the 75th year but is now more commonly the 60th year of celebration. If it's a marriage celebration in the Commonwealth realms, one can receive a message from the monarch for 60th, 65th, and 70th wedding anniversaries, this is done by applying to Buckingham Palace in the United Kingdom, or to the Governor-General's office in the other Commonwealth realms. [Better hurry up with that proposal then Anna....]
You'll be bowled over to know that diamond anniversaries are usually celebrated by the giving of diamonds (duh?!), but since the QE II herself owns plenty of diamonds over 6000 in the Imperial crown of India [which includes the Koh-i-noor – a huge diamond at 105.6 carats!!!!!), she'll probably not need any more. So don't send her majesty any diamonds, but get out the bunting and celebrate with her!
London 2012
THE OLYMPICS!












My friend Fred,
Portland Harbour
A showcase of British Talent, hospitality and global presence – this is the year for the London 2012 Olympics! Britain is full of Olympic spirit and 2012 is their year to shine. The Olympic complex is mainly based in London, but the watersports (sailing, windsurfing etc) will be based in one of my favourite places – Weymouth! [at the excellent Portland Harbour]. So once again, out comes the bunting and flags, time to shout for your team and celebrate all things that make GB Great.
My wedding...
Not forgetting this will also be the first vintage year of u-ni-k IT HQ's damson gin. Damsons from the garden, gin from a local store, sugar and time hopefully have made this a classic vintage. We'll let you know once the hangovers have cleared. [First tastings seem to have gone down well...]
So, a busy year all in all [especially for Anna as she may have a wedding to plan] she'd better book a date before December though. Many have predicted the end of the world or that cataclysmic / transformative events will occur on December 21 2012. So good job we partied like it was 2012 then for the rest of the year!
:p

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

2012, The year of the Dragon


If you are due to have a baby in 2012 after 23rd January your baby will be a little Water Dragon.



Chinese Astrology has a close relationship with Chinese Philosophy. According to Chinese Astrology the year you are born tells you a lot more then just your age.

My Ida is a Tiger- apparently I have a born leader on my hands! And SamSam as I like to call him, is a Rabbit- He’s timid, sweet and sensitive. Ummmmmm…that’s my two pretty much down to a T.

Chinese Astrology is based on the 12 animals- Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig and five elements- Metal, Fire, Wood, Water and Earth.  It is understood that these 12 animals appeared in front of the Buddha/Jade Emperor in the above order after an invitation to visit.  These twelve animals rotate in a 12-year cycle, with each year being named after the animal. For example we are currently in the "Year of the Rabbit".  The 5 elements represent the 5 largest planets. With the combination of these 5 elements and the 12 animals they combine together to create a 60-year cycle.
The beginning of the year is not as predictable as our new year starting on 1st January. The Chinese New Year normally starts towards the end of January.

The Dragon is the 5th position in the Chinese Zodiac and apparently is the mightiest of the signs. Dragons have strong traits such as ambition, dominance and they are passionate. Dragons help others. But don’t worry new Mummies to be, the Water element of the Dragon is said to calm the fire for all 2012 Dragons. 

So, coming from a lady born in the Sign of the Goat (apparently I’m dependable, intelligent, creative and calm) I look forward to meeting all the little water dragons out there very soon. Especially the water dragons that will be making a little apearance in my family and friends lives!

Hurry up little dragons,...I can't wait to meet you!

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

It’s Quality not Quantity

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/topics/christmas/8933225/The-price-of-Christmas-112.50-per-child.html


The price of Christmas: £112.50 per child- The Telegraph, 4th December 2011, Adam Lusher



“It is the debate that rages between parents every year: how much to spend on the children's Christmas presents?
This year the discussions are likely to be tenser than ever, with incomes stretched and jobs at risk.
To keep costs under control, parents have adopted different strategies - with some setting a strict limit on spending per child.
Many are reluctant to discuss the issue, not least because of the role played by Father Christmas in delivering the gifts. But a new straw poll suggests that parents will spend an average of £112.50 per child this year, covering everything from a main gift to stocking-fillers.
Retail experts say hard-pressed families are likely to carry on spending on children's presents even while cutting back in other areas”

I stumbled across this article the other day after a conversation with Sarah at our little one’s Christmas party. As we cheered over our little ones dancing and ohhhhhed and arhhhhed over the twinkly lights we talked about the abundance of gifts that we expected to receive that we wish hadn’t been bought. See Sarah’s blog from last week “Ask Mum”.  
So after reading this article and having a chat with Sarah we decided that QUALITY was most definitely more important than QUANTITY.  Especially when money is tight and pennies are being counted by all.
So this Christmas make sure you buy one gorgeous treasure that will last a lifetime rather then sack loads and stocking full’s of gifts that will either break or be thrown away when the Christmas sparkle is over.
Sarah and I are being wise this year and spending our money on gifts that are real treasures and will last forever.

We both shop here



Monday, 12 December 2011

When Royal Mail Fails...



It’s very simple, we have Christmas at the same time every year and every year we all send endless amounts of Christmas cards and gifts via Royal Mail.
And still a simple task of popping to the post office yesterday to post off our Christmas shopping for clients turned into a fiasco! Poor Sarah…three Post Offices with no joy! Apparently the computers systems blew up or something! Don't big companies know to plan ahead....it's all in the preparation! And we all know what date Christmas is, no? It's the same date every year!



As past years have dictated, we are all shopping more and more on-line. With busy busy lives and not enough hours in the day it is simpler to buy from a trusted website that gift-wrap and deliver to your door with a few simple clicks (Just like us, hint hint honk honk).

So with Christmas just around the corner we have Plan B all set so tomorrow or for the next week and a bit when we pop to the Post Office and Royal Mail will predictably let us down in some way  (no service, or predictable long long queues) we have a fail proof back up!!! A fast efficient and equally priced service without having to queue! A courier company.

Wise Mummies who laterally think and always plan ahead.

Phew!

Thank goodness for that!
Our happy shoppers won’t be left without gifts to give this Xmas!


* FYI we love our local postmistress’s and masters and know them on first name terms and by no means want anyone to think this blog is a moan at them. We think you are brilliant!

Sunday, 11 December 2011

We are in the press again!

Did you see it?
We are in the press again!
Saturday morning the paypal alarms were ringing as The Telegraph newspaper hit peoples door mats.
If you missed it (or your paper was missing the Gift guide as Sarah's was) here is the mention.




Our happy paper mibo animals are famous and recommended by the Telegraph.

Well done Santa Paws the Cat, Blixen the Reindeer, Timothy the Turkey, Delores the Donkey and Piper the Penguin.

You cheeky monkey's!

Don't miss out on your's. They have lots of little friends that are all waiting for new homes including Sophia le Hen from the Yolk Folk and Scotty the Squirrel from The Forest Friends....click here for details.
A perfect stocking filler or simply a treat for your little ones.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Trust me on this, when it comes to kids - ASK MUM


What I wish people had advised me when I didn't have children.

It's that time of year where the whole world seems to be obsessed with gift giving. Lots of people would like to preach about the origins and commercialisation of this time of year, but really people don't want a lecture. What people really want is time to get on with things, but what they need is advice. Most just don't know it...

Google adwords tells me that there are millions of people searching on the words 'children's gifts' or 'children's christmas gifts' or 'gifts for children' … actually the list is very long and as a parent quite scary. There are a large number of people out there who just don't know what to buy kids.

Common pitfalls when buying for children:

  1. Maybe cute in the shop but what's a
    toddler going to do with it?
    I saw something and I just bought it!
    Hmmmm no thought went into this purchase. Actually that's unfair, a max of 30 seconds of thought went into this purchase. So you didn't ask yourself; is this age appropriate? Is this something the child has shown an interest in? Is this something the parents are going to want their child to play with? I wager 9 times out of 10 this gift is going to be inappropriate. 10 out of 10 times I bet this person doesn't know the child they are buying for.


  2. Ha ha ha Surprise!
    When it comes to buying for a child, it's always best to check with the parents that it's OK. If you buy a barking puppy toy for a child that's scared of dogs, needless to say that's going to create an unwelcome atmosphere on Christmas morning. If you want to surprise the child, make sure the surprise is going to go well by clearing it with the parents first.

  3. Clueless, I saw in on an advert where the kids looked happy
    Don't have kids? Not sure where to start? Seen Moon Sand advertised and the little kid looks about the same size as your niece? WRONG! My Daughter would just eat the sand, make herself a little unwell, throw it all over the floor and then walk over to something more appropriate for her age. Adverts are targeted at an age group, if you've seen it at 10pm at night then it's not suitable for a toddler. 'Simples'

  4. Samurai swords, probably not age appropriate
    What age is the kid?
    Another pitfall, people think that their niece/nephew/grandchild is a child genius [and let's face it they all are..]. So it's cool to buy her a 3yr old toy because they are clever. Yes, yes they are clever but their play is still about learning. SO in the process of 'learning' that those things don't fit together and that you can move those other things like that... the expensive toys you bought them are broken, discarded and thrown away before they can really be appreciated. It goes both ways, buy something that is for a 3 yr old when the child is 7, then it's going to be discarded. Buy for the age group, it makes sense in the long run.

  5. Parents don't like it.
    So you bought the child a plastic pretend fast food bar because the child loved that time you took them to MaccyD / BurgersRUs! Wow the kid loves it, pushes the button and basically pretends to sell you a burger. Parents smile, let you play but don't play themselves. Yep, the parents hate it. The minute your purchase is packed in the car it is never going to see light of day again. Do they really want Prince/Princess Educated to play at serving people burgers/shopping tills/shelf stacking?! WHAT WHAT??! Do you not know their offspring are going to be a Doctor/Vet/Astronaut/Scientist/Prime Minister? If the parents don't approve then you've wasted your money.

So you know rugrats and it's that time of year where you have to spend some time thinking about gifts for them. Want to know the one piece of advice I wish someone had given me?

Ask the Mother

They are the one person that knows what the child would like or need as a present. Really, my little girl is going to grow out of her party dresses soon and we really LOVE the Annafie May in Coquelicot dress... but it doesn't matter who in our family we've told they've all 'bought something we saw while passing' or 'we have a surprise for her...'. So I'll use some of my Christmas money to treat her to one, in the meantime I'm practicing my 'oooh it's lovely' face and preparing my lovely husband's eBay account for some 'unused/nearly new' items.

:(

Is that the thing Uncle Bob gave me
for Christmas in there? 
[Don't believe me or disagree with this post, then go read the wise words of Oompa Grampa in our previous blog here... or leave a comment I'm always open to advice]. 

Those of you who follow us on Facebook know that both Anna & I use and love our products so that we can recommend them to other parents. 

If you are unsure and you don't want to lose face by asking the parents, then please feel free to ask us, we'll try to help you as much as we can. Our email is sales@unikgifts.co.uk.


Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Nursery rhymes...preparing you for your future!


I had a little nut tree,
Nothing it would bear,
But a silver nutmeg
And a golden pear.

The King of Spain's daughter
Came to visit me
And all for the sake
Of my little nut tree.

We know and sing a lot of nursery rhymes, and like me my Daughter will grow up with these words and tunes as part of her childhood. I hope that she will sing them with her children.

In and out the dusty bluebells
In and out the dusty bluebells
In and out the dusty bluebells
On this cold and frosty morning

Here we go round the mulberry bush
The mulberry bush, the mulberry bush
Here we go round the mulberry bush
On this cold and frosty morning.

But when you really listen to nursery rhymes they can be a little bit sinister...

Oranges and lemons ends with “Here comes a chopper to chop off your head” and Hush-a-bye baby puts a baby in a cradle in a tree top on a windy day. So inevitably the baby and cradle fall out the top of the tree!! Half a pound of tuppenny rice is the start of a shopping list that doesn't end well for the weasel. We sing these dressed up horror stories to our babies, without a passing thought.

Fairy tales that we read to them are not safe either, dogs rip apart foxes in Beatrix Potter (oh yes they do...what do you think the farm dogs did to the fox after it tried to kidnap a goose and its eggs?), Pooh bear doesn't have a healthy relationship with food, Cinderella is an abused step daughter that needs a man to rescue her, Sleeping Beauty is farmed off by her parents to three old childless women who have the task of raising her, Hansel and Gretel are put in an oven by an old lady, Little Red Riding hood is allowed to walk alone in a forrest full of rabid wolves... I could go on.

Why are our children's rhymes so full of horror and gore? Are we de-sensitising them for the trials to come? These rhymes and stories come from another age where perhaps they were good lessons of the trials to come. Perhaps it's time for more modern nursery rhymes to make an appearance? Perhaps not.

Our lives are sometimes full of trial and tribulation, but I hope for the sake of my Daughter that she faces them with strength and faith in herself. Unless of course it's a rabid wolf, to which point I hope she is very very well armed and a good shot.

Snow is coming...are you prepared?


It's been really chilly these past few days and the north of the UK are already experiencing snow. The white washed images on our news channels are a horror to some and a joy to others.

I'm in the latter group, as a winter baby I love this season but I'm also prepared for it. Like most things in nature, snow and the ice that comes with it deserves respect. With the wintery past few years here in the UK there is no excuse in everyone to invest in some basic snow survival pieces. Here's my top tips to help you cope with the snowy weather!






Snow boots
Essential! Warm, waterproof foot wear with a decent grip. I am agog at people who go out in snow in trainers?! It's amazing that they manage to stray off their doorstep. Trainers are not waterproof - so the feet are wet nearly instantly and wet feet on cold ice in snow are cold feet. I see people out in wellies, while seemingly sensible these still have the down fall of not having the correct grip... you're quite likely to fall over in wellies. Wellies are MUCH better than trainers though. I ask everyone to pop to their local garden centre and buy a pair of snow boots. Really they will change your mind about snow forever! If you don't have a local garden centre then at least ensure your welly treds are deep and not worn!

Snow shovel
It is your duty as a homeowner to clear the pavement in front of your home, and if you have an elderly neighbour you should clear their paths as well. There are people (toddlers, Mummies with babies, pregnant ladies... to name a few) that need the solid ice free surface of a cleared path. Clearing a path is miserable if you don't have a snow shovel. Try not to shovel it straight onto a road... shovelled snow into a garden or a green makes great snowballs or the start of a snowman!


Hat, scarf, gloves
Lovely hats available
at www.unikgifts.co.uk
Keep warm this winter, knit your own set of hat, scarf and gloves if you have to but you should always have some of these clothing accessories to hand. Being cold makes people miserable, so wrap up warm. If you don't have a hat for your little one, pop over to the Nyoki part of u-ni-k we have lots of lovely ones!

And most important of all if you are a parent:

DangerBaby enjoying
last years snow!
SLEDGE
Snow is fun! Find a hill that doesn't end in a wall, road or other obstacle. Walk up with with your little one and help them onto the sledge! Get on yours and whhhhhhhhhheeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! Race to the bottom trying to avoid bumping into everything especially those walking back up the hill!

Little babies love being pulled about in their sleigh, last year DangerBaby had this sleigh as a present from her Oompa. She toured all the local houses like a snow princess and some of her older friends took turns to run the sleigh around!




Hot drinks
Hmmmm hot chocolate
You've been outside burning all those calories, warm up with a hot chocolate topped with cream or made with that lovely Irish cream boozy drink!! Hmmmmmm




SO COME ON SNOW!!





(Please enjoy the snow responsibly, only drive if you have to & if you are going to drive clear the roof of your car of snow (when you brake it all falls forward blocking your view). Save yourself the bother, stay in and build a snowman or snow lady)




Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Happy Birthday Saint Nicholas


It’s Saint Nicholas’s Birthday today, a day to celebrate with gift giving. Did you leave your shoes and boots outside for him to fill with treats?

To celebrate his birthday I am going to tell you a little about Saint Nicholas Day.


In The Netherlands, Belgium and Lower Rhineland (Germany) during late November, as tradition tells, Saint Nicholas travels down to the Netherlands in a steamboat. He is known to arrive in early December and to celebrate his birthday; children put their shoes in front of their chimneys and sing Sinterklass (Santa Klaus) songs on the eve of 5th December.  As a token gift of thanks to Saint Nicholas’s reindeer, the children place a carrot or hay for them to munch on. The next morning the children wake up to find a small token gift in their shoes from Saint Nicholas. All children receive a gift from Saint Nicholas. However, there is a myth that states that if a child has been naughty, the Zwarte Pieten (Santa Klaus’s helpers) takes the children and put’s them in their sacks and returns to Spain with Sinterklauss (where SinterKlauss is thought to be from). Hence the song lyrics- 

“He’s going to find out who’s been naughty or nice”.



In Germany, Nikolaus birthday is celebrated in a similar way. Children place a boot outside their front door on the eve of 5th December and like in The Netherlands, Belgium and Lower Rhineland, the boot is filled with token gifts. However naughty children are not taken away here. Instead a tree branch is placed inside the boot.


Thankfully, in our household, children don’t get taken and coal or twigs don’t get left. A wellington boot and a crochet bootie (toddler and baby) were left outside our front door step and this morning Ida and Sam have woken up to find a little chocolate reindeer inside. Another new tradition I am starting…I couldn’t resist!

Stay away Zwarte Pieten…my little ones have been good this year! 


Sunday, 4 December 2011

A New Tradition: The Christmas stocking



With two new little ones to make Christmas sparkly and festive for this year, I have decided to start a new Mattews/Kircher tradition. I didn't have a stocking as a little girl. It was never a tradition that my parents choose to make. 
BUT, I have decided that my children will have stockings.
So, I’ve cut, sewn, decorated and painted stockings for them to use year on year and am really excited to start a fresh new tradition.

The Christmas stocking - is an empty sock or sock-shaped bag that children hang on Christmas Eve for Father Christmas to fill with small gifts of toys,  sweets, fruit and gold coins. If you have been bad, then you run the risk of waking up to a stocking full of coal. If you have been good, expect treasures galore.
There is no actual evidence as to the origins of the stocking, however there are many many legends that help explain this Christmas tradition.

Probably the most popular tradition is of Saint Nicholas. There are many variations to the lovely tale, but one goes a little like this.

Once upon a time there was a very very poor man with three beautiful daughters. He was too poor for his daughters to marry and he worried that they would never marry and have no one to look after them once he died. Saint Nicholas was passing through the town and heard of this tail from the local villagers. Saint Nicholas wanted to help but knew that the man was very proud so he decided to help by secretly giving the girls a bag of gold each. So one night he crept down thier chimney into the house and found the girls clothes hanging over the mantelpiece drying and placed the three bags of gold into the stockings drying, one for each girl. When the girls and their father woke up the next morning, they found the bags of gold coins and were of course, overjoyed. The girls all got married and lived happily ever after. Leading to the custom of Stockings at Christmas.

I have a few u-ni-k treasures that I will be filling Samson and Ida’s stockings with this year. Here are just a few of them.


Samson's stocking 

Hand Carved Wooden Ca
Organic cotton hat
Hand carved Breakfast Board






Ida's Stocking

Porcelain egg cup
A Creepy Crawly Paw Prints story

Hand knitted Bella


Thursday, 1 December 2011

Wood


It’s national Tree week. 

During National Tree Week 2011, The Tree Council is urging everyone who cares for their environment to take that step and put one tree – or more – in the ground.  Not simply because it is a carbon sequestration and storage tool and a regulator of the urban microclimate that takes up air pollution, nor because it ameliorates adverse effects of weather, reducing wind speeds on blustery days, giving shade on hot days, cooling the air, reducing heating and air conditioning costs and saving energy, which in turn cuts down air pollution caused by burning fossil fuels – though it is, and does, all of these things.  No, the benefits of a tree extend far beyond. To read more about National Tree week click here

Both Sarah's and my own Dad were trained/training carpenters, so we have both been bought up with wood. My own Dad used to run his hands over wooden products appreciating the grain and fluidity of the wonderful material. I am sure Sarah's Dad did the same. So it was no surprise when Sarah announced to her Dad that we were looking for a wooden toy maker and he knew of a wonderful man who could help us.  


In celebration of the wonderful being’s that are tree’s, and following on from my blog of yesterday about Ida's memory box that is made from sustainable wood, I would like to tell you a little about one of our makers Markus Kampe of Sternegasse. 
He is the genius behind the wooden toys and breakfast boards that we have as part of our collection of treasures. He works with trees that have fallen in the Teutoburg forest in Germany where his workshop is situated and works with the natural beauty of the wood to create wonderful toys. He is a real life Father Christmas. Read Sarah's blog about her recent trip to his wonderful studio. Here are a few of the lovely words that we received when our latest delivery of wooden objects arrived from him.





“Wood enriches life. Wood has soul and character. Wood lives – in diverse colors, with natural odors, and individual structures. 

Wood provides subtle opportunities to create objects. This is where our philosophy originates. The Sternengasse team develops, manufactures and distributes wood products focusing on the preservation of the wood’s original character. In this way Sternengasse ensures that every product gains a distinctive individuality.

With experience and tradition, our love for wood, and a richness of ideas, we offer imaginative wood products, for a more natural, exciting and enjoyable, as well as easier and better life – true to our motto:
Sternengasse - Wooden-Toys-Craft for a more natural quality of life. “

So lets celebrate tree's this week and all do our bit and plant a tree, care for a tree and appreciate wooden products. And if that wasn't enough, Celebrate tree's again on 3rd and 4th of December on National Tree Dressing Day.


Mr Crocodile
Tiger Frog
Elephant