Friday, 29 July 2011

Marketing - a necessary evil?

I'd like to point out that the views in this post are entirely my own and do not represent that of u-ni-k gifts or Anna Matthews. So all grief to sarah@unikgifts.co.uk, OK?!

Marketing, it's just adding a strap line and colouring in big words making sure to stay in the lines right?! I have a hate-hate relationship with Marketing. A hang up from my project management days, as we'd keep the Marketing team cc'd in on all our project updates, invite them to join in our new system training sessions, and organise regular meet ups to walk them through the new functionality so that they would be informed and knowledgeable come the roll out and accompanying marketing campaign. So invariably they would ignore the updates, send 'underlings' to the training and meet up sessions (these 'underlings' would sit there bored drawing doodles on a pad thinking IT were sad boring geeks who weren't very important) and then go off and make up their marketing campaign based upon what their friends in 'sales' told them.

Not surprisingly this would end with me, the responsible 'buck stops here' project manager seeing something in the national press that proudly proclaimed my new project had warped into something I didn't recognise and with additional bells and whistles. So when the big boss or 'project sponsor' asked to see and play with the bells and whistles, I was in the enviable position of letting aforementioned boss know that there were not any bells and whistles. I can't count the times I've had the following conversation:

Big Boss: "Why aren't there any bells and whistles, it says here there are some bells and whistles? What release are the bells and whistles in?"

Overworked Project Manager: "We've not planned to have any bells and whistles, they weren't in the spec (you signed off mumble mumble). No one told us they wanted bells and whistles, so there isn't any. Look at all this other great stuff it does, look it will clean your house and cook you a 3 course meal..."

Big Boss:"I don't care about that stuff, I want bells and whistles."

Overworked Project Manager:"OK, we can deliver bells and whistles, just let me go away and do some due diligence to let you know how long it's going to take and how much is going to cost"

Big Boss:"I don't want to hear about that, use your current budget and deliver it next week".

And you wonder why nothing ever works when a big company rolls something out and the call centre staff say to you the customer. "Our computers are down again. It's our IT department, they're rubbish". No they're not, it's all Marketing's fault.

So imagine my horror when Anna and I started a conversation about advertising. Should we? What publication would we choose? How much are we willing to spend? Do we hire a professional to help us?
My initial thoughts of - What with colouring in and staying in within the lines and making up stuff as you go along?! Pay money for that? come from the old me, and I'm trying very hard to be a mumpreneur - a new me.

Anna is being very patient with me, she knows that I'll eventually come round and we'll have a lovely tasteful advert letting our 'target audience' know that we are there as the best source of children's gifts. I may even link to it from the website to let you all see how I've grown into a mumpreneur!

In the meantime, we can be found on UK Handmade's directory, Business Mum's Directory, Surrey Business Mum's Directory etc.

Have a lovely weekend everyone!

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Ohhh a name, the pressure of a name...(Kim in Pretty Woman)


As Anna's big boy bump nears his arrival date (in your own time Big Boy Bump, no rush...), there must be several conversations about names in the Matthews household. Now The Naughty has a lovely name, she's the only Ida we know and we love that it means 'hardworking' (in it's original German form) but I like to think of her as 'prosperous and happy' (the old English form).
How do you follow a name like Ida?! Well the office of national statistics released their top boys names for this year, and Oliver, Jack, Harry, Alfie and Charlie are all still in the top 10. 
Chart of the top five boys' names
I'm hedging my bets here but I think none of those names are on their list.
But to help them out, here are a few websites that have baby name suggestions, meanings and spellings:
Choosing a baby's name is a very hard thing to do, I mean this is the name this person is going to have all their life (unless of course they change it). This name has to survive all the trials and tribulations that young children, teenagers and call centre staff trying to add you to their system can throw at it. You have to be so careful, I know a Benjamin Dover... yes really, Ben is a lovely fella but his parents just didn't think it through... Ben Dover. 
So with the minefield of the playground and the battlefield of call centre staff in mind, here are a few websites to visit once you think you have a name sorted out:
http://www.babynamer.com - Has a drawbacks shows the nicknames that the child could have.
And if the Matthews household is still short on ideas:
Hopefully I've provided some food for thought there. However, as I said to Anna; it'd be great it the name could start with a U or an N. We have the I for Ida and the K for Kathryn....
Ulysses, that's the kind of name that can follow a show stopper like Ida!!! Come on Anna... what do you think?!
:p




Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Turn off the TV and go and do something more interesting instead.

Our Sky box broke just before '3rd & Bird' which is the start of our 'shut down' routine for DangerBaby. Now since she was poorly the 'shut down' routine of Cbeebies bedtime hour, bath, book and bed have been THE thing to calm DangerBaby down and put her in the right frame of mind for Zzzzz-ing the night away. So imagine the shock, no horror, when the TV is not on at the right time! She points, squeals and stands there looking at the TV and Sky box while Mummy presses lots of buttons (how unhelpful was the Sky call centre man... as one of my former projects I was appalled at his customer service if I was still wielding my big IT stick in BSkyB he'd have soon learnt a little about communication!!!!!).

So with unhelpful man from Sky not helping (the clue is in the description), it was TV off and entertain ourselves. Now in geek central (as u-ni-k IT HQ is known to some), we could have just moved to the soft room and watched the TV in there... or put 'Are you there Charley Bear ?'on the car DVD player... but we choose to take the lack of technology as a chance to return to some of the good old games that didn't rely on voltage or plastic throw away toys.

We used our Shuktara blanket to make a den, that we hid in and out of until running off with it over our head in the direction of the front door (Daddy DayCare was due home for work and you never know if you run at the door he may just appear... sometimes he does!). We picked up the knitted, sewn & stuffed body of a toy rabbit (I've yet to stitch them together and if it works may sell them on www.unikgifts.co.uk) and played ball. It was a lot of fun!

As we settled down , we did some singing on the sofa and drank some bedtime milk. Once we were all snug among our cushion mountain, we watched the birds chase each other around the garden. When Daddy came home it was time for bath, book and bed. Sure enough, the rest of the routine worked smoothly and by 9pm DangerBaby was in the land of Zzzzzz.

It was lovely to see her imagination work (apart from the bit where she picked up the matches from beside the log burner but that's another story), the pace of her games from tents, to hide and seek, to singing and dancing, to spotting animals and birds in the garden to telling Daddy all about it was amazing.

So my message today is simple: please remember to spend some time with your children playing without the TV on. They have so much to teach you. We forget that children (and babies) have a rich imagination that only need the simplest of toys to kickstart some magical game. So if you're looking for a gift to give to a small child, think outside of the box and give them something that makes them use their imagination!

(For inspiration visit www.unikgifts.co.uk or www.facebook.com/unikgifts where Anna or I will be more than happy to help you find the gift you need)

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

An extra special type of unique!




We have found our first “exclusive” for u-ni-k gifts. Or rather she found us on twitter! In line with our unique (u-ni-k) philosophy and hand print logo we have a gorgeous jeweller to add to our happy list of makers.

She is the lovely Louise of Little Silver Touches who makes personalised, handmade fingerprint jewellery in 99.9 % fine sterling silver. Mum of two, Louise works independently and every piece is handmade by her with love and care. Each piece made is as unique as every person’s different fingerprint, handprint and footprint. Working independently means the are very few constraints, therefore within reason, anything is possible, just ask!

Every mum, dad and grandparent, treasures the tininess of our babies when they arrive.  I remember thinking Ida had the smallest feet I had ever seen and knowing that I had to capture this smallness quickly before she grew.
As a non-jewellery wearer myself even I couldn’t resist buying a charm with Ida’s fingerprint on at 6 months of age for myself. I even splashed out and bought a pair of cufflinks for my partner for father’s day, which he cherishes and wears whenever he can.

The making process is very simple. A moulding putty is used to take the imprint, or dimple in very small children’s cases (as there finger prints are less definite until they are 12 months old). This is done in the comfort of your own home by you and then sent on to be made into the jewellery piece of your choice. Whether it be cufflinks, charm, necklace pendant, key ring or bracelet.
Handprints and foot prints are taken slightly differently with an inkless wipe kit, which is completely harmless to your little ones, skin. 

I had Ida’s name and her age added to my charm so I would always remember how tiny she was and I will hopefully be adding to my charm collection when BIG boy bump arrives.

Louise is currently working on a collection especially for us that we look forward to showing you very soon! In the meantime we have added our favourite pieces to the u-ni-k gifts website to share with you all.

Go and take a peek!



Monday, 25 July 2011

Laughter with tears!


Sarah and I have been having a bit of a time of it over the past few days. Somebody has stolen our daughters and replaced them with little monsters that refuse to sleep. There must be something in the air!



Being a Mum you are always learning…always being tested by your little ones. You get yourself into a little routine and start to feel comfortable only for them to  “change” what they do, what they want and what they need and chaos’s occurs!
This weekend I was truly tested by my daughter…who screamed herself to sleep on Saturday night after a day of tantrums and tears from both her and I. Sleeping is obviously cheating at the moment.
At the end of my tether, as Daddy is either working all the overtime he can or trying to get our new house into some type of habitable order before baby 2 pops out, I was literally at rocking, pulling my hair out stage. Infact at one point I found myself staring off into space in a trance like state, as if my body was protecting me from the screams!

So, during a good moment on Saturday when Ida was eating, (for those who know her, know my daughter is a food piggy, loves everything, eats everything…. oink oink!) she pulled a “scared stiff silly face” as the washing machine violently spun its final spin. She has always found the washing machine on spin hysterical.  I looked up tired expecting a grumpy face or a tantrum erupting and instead was awarded this silly expression, which then turned into giggles and laughter from both her and I!  We laughed and we laughed until we cried!

Gorgeous!!
It’s the little nuggets of happiness tears and laughter that make horrible days like that bearable!

Friday, 22 July 2011

Heirlooms should be like seeing old friends.


I was reminded yesterday the true meaning of an “heirloom”.
A friend is going away on her summer holidays and wants to make sure that all the valuable things she treasures are left with a friend incase of a break in. You’d think she would be worried about the TV or expensive gadgets. But no, …a few of the things that she classes as her treasures are the back up hard drive to her computer that holds all the images of her son’s first year. Gosh…I couldn’t imagine loosing all Ida’s, or even photos of family members that are no longer here to share Ida’s growth with. It would be too painful to think about.
Another treasure of her’s she wants to keep safe is a family heirloom that has little value except a sentimental one.

It started me thinking that perhaps heirlooms were more than just objects of value that have been in families for generations as the dictionary states. And how do you start an heirloom off?

I’ve spoken about my treasures before and I am sure you are all bored of hearing about them! But hey! Today I unpacked my vintage gorgeous blue tea set from the boxes still to be unpacked from my move. I don’t know why as I have no where to put it yet but I missed not seeing it and was hoping that unpacking my ceramics and treasures would give me inspirations about colour for my new home. Now it’s not really a valuable tea set. It was bought for me one Christmas by my Mum and Dad after I spotted it treasure (junk) shopping with my sister. 

Ida and I had great fun unpacking it today. Ida LOVED ripping up the polystyrene nuggets into tiny pieces…. and cardboard boxes…well, as I have said before, who needs toys when you have cardboard boxes! Anyway as she tried to help me stack the cake plates, while I winced waiting for a smash, I realised that my tea set is probably one of the few things I would grab if I was allowed to grab 5 things from a burning fire….among my family photo album and old letters and cards. Irreplacable things that i treasure in my heart.

So I decided that I would add the gorgeous blue tea set to the list of treasures that I would pass down to Ida and BIG boy bump when I am unable to use and treasure it anymore.

An heirloom doesn’t have to be expensive or elaborate. To start an heirloom off you don't have to spend a fortune. It is simply one of those things that is irreplaceable to you. Whether is be the Steiff teddy bear that my sister’s partner has bought his soon to be born nephew, a pair of handknitted booties or the battered tea set that as I unpacked it today was like seeing old friends again!

So it will become…my very old battered heirloom gift to Ida. Given to her with love.


Thursday, 21 July 2011

It was easier managing a global roll out...

I used to think women who were housewives and mothers had not reached their full potential. I assumed that they had put their real life 'on hold' while they 'got over' the kids and housewife stage. I mean how hard could it be to spend all day at home with a baby that sits in their rocker and coos?

So when I discovered I was pregnant, I imagined all the time I'd have to read, to play the piano, to tame my garden. I'd take the baby swimming once a week, we'd take walks in the park, and sit in coffee shops with her quietly in her pram while I read the paper and drank my coffee. After a while I'd go back to work while she went to nursery and my life controlling businesses around the world would resume.

How wrong, no, how naive I was. Being a Mother is the hardest job in the world, and the most important. A child requires 100% of your mental capacity and as much love and attention as you have. There's no 'you' time anymore, all your waking hours you are a Mum. So you are 'at work' 24/7 and it's critical you do your best. You're helping a young person become a fully functional part of society. It's up to Mums to remind children to say thank you, to look before crossing the road, to first show a child how to hold cutlery.

Managing a house with a little one doing their best to undo everything you just did behind you is exhausting. The challenge of keeping yourself, your little one and your other half clean and fed takes a huge amount of time. And leaving the house? Making sure you have everything you need is a logistical task that a term at Sandhurst would half prepare you for.

I'm glad I trained as a professional project manager - I'm used to planning, managing multiple small tasks at once, and presenting a professional face to 'sponsors' while knowing it's all a sham because underneath the surface things are not quite finished.

How women without this training cope I don't know, but my hat is definitely off to them. I've managed multimillion pound programmes of work all around the world, and I can tell you now, being a Mother and a Housewife is MUCH harder.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Join the revolution - Don't settle for second best!

I'm not easily rankled, I'm not a laid back person quite the opposite really, but there are things that really annoy me and a bit like Anna last week I'm going to rant about them.

u-ni-k IT HQ is in Surrey, which can lay claim to being part of England, GB, and the UK. All three of which have a proud heritage of high quality workmanship, visionary concepts and hard work. These combine to create world leading products or services. We should be building on our rich heritage not saying “the UK doesn't make anything anymore, that's why our country is in the state it's in”.

I believe we are still rich in people who make high quality, world leading products. Just visit any local fete or local market and there will be the world's best products right there. Any county show will be showcasing the softest homemade knitted clothing, sewn toys to cherish, or beautiful hand thrown pottery. All of which would have been made by hand, right here in the UK. Why don't we hear about these small pockets of industry? Because we the consumers aren't looking for them.

It's like apples, I come from the best apple growing country in the world. England has the perfect climate for apples and although the original plant came from India, it is here in the UK that more species have thrived and settled. English apples taste better, last longer and look superior to those grown in France or South Africa. However, walk around any supermarket and 95% of the apples will come from a faraway land. (Oooh my blood pressure is up just thinking about it!). Why? Probably because of price, we the consumer have demanded lower and lower prices pushing the small apple grower in the UK out of the competition and the big commercial growers abroad have stepped in.

As consumers we now have a selection of plastic shiny looking, dull tasting, regimental apples to choose from, we could have the world's best but we're now settling for 3rd or 4th best. It's been like this for so long that we don't know what choice we have, we think we have choice because we can see apples.

The same goes for many other products available here in the UK, we the consumers have not supported our homegrown producers and we've now forgotten that they are there. So the small producers are now found in the fringes; in local fetes, school fayres, county shows and, dare I say it..., on small internet sites like www.unikgifts.co.uk.

So in this quiet corner of Surrey I am starting a revolution (I did state I'm not a laid back person), I am supporting high quality, small makers / producers / craft people by buying their products. I am not going to settle for 2nd best because that's the choice the commercial big players say I have. I may pay a little more, but you would expect to pay a little more for the best.

I, a consumer, will find the best products for my family because we deserve the best.

English apples grown at u-ni-k IT HQ

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Clear as mud... do you speak my language?

It's amazing how we all assume that we can be clearly understood, well we all speak the same language and communicate regularly via lots of different methods. The art of the conversation is alive and well, even if it is carried out in pieces that are under 140 characters. Or is it?

Communicating via a medium like the internet (admit it; for a brief moment there you thought I was going all paranormal with the word 'medium', I'm a techie geek not touchy feely so no, no talking to ghosts on this blog) is a curious thing. How often have you received an email and thought “I don't like that tone of voice” or seen a comment to a Facebook status update and thought “Ooh that's a bit harsh!”? It seems that although we are using a written word to communicate we are still imposing inflexions to the words and phrases we are reading. Giving the screen in front of us a voice as it were.

Verbally my life is full of banter, I joke and tease my Mummy friends and take all their return comments in the humour it's meant. This doesn't work well through the written word; let's take what Italian Stallion's mother said to me last week:

“Oh Dear! Look at what your child is doing? You're such a Bad Mother!”

Now written down does not seem jovial or pleasant, how ever said smiling over a cup of tea and a Welsh cake it was a high compliment indeed at DangerBaby's new found skill of showing her son how to break our home cinema equipment (not that Italian Stallion needs any encouragement in that department!).

We miss the subtle eyebrow movements or smile lines (they are not wrinkles!) in the written word, and we add tones depending upon our current mood. Which is why it is a real skill to write successfully online. Your written words need to be read with the tone with which you write them, you should be leading your readers into the tone it was meant. A skill few possess but all of us should aspire to... So as I write this with a smile on my face, I hope you understand that I don't yet have the skill but I'm aspiring to it.

Thank you to Katie from “what Katie did next” for the inspiration to this blog. If someone had been clear in their request for images, this would have been a very different blog about IT Speak and how to understand it. I'll save that one for another rainy day...

Monday, 18 July 2011

Something for free...

Useful free resources for the Mumpreneur

For those of you that haven't read through the 21 pages of “about us” on the u-ni-k website (Anna and I 'talk' a little too much...) you'll not know that u-ni-k gifts is our first business venture. We combine over 23 years of experience in our separate fields of expertise but we've never launched a venture before.

There's lots of people out there who will take your money from you in order to help you start a business; you've seen the adverts on TV about 'learn at home' courses and 'use these 10 helpful tips I provide in my lecture for £99.99 for guaranteed success in your business' shiny magazine adverts. I've never been or signed up to any of these things and although we are still learning as we go, we've not yet paid above and beyond the odds to start our venture.

I'm not selling a 'how to start out in business' course or book here; I just want to pass on some of the free helpful places I have discovered when starting a business.

The best place to start:

Some useful reading for the legalities:

Free Online storage / document sharing:

Free blogging website templates and domain space etc:

Free professional website design feedback:
Website information every business needs:
Free website keyword tools:
Website improvement tools:
Website Grader
 


Social Media:
These are just a taster of what is out there. I promise to update you all soon with the free integrated stock system, accounting software, and some more 'fun' links for those who have mastered their work life balance!
Oh and if you've ever been to one of those seminars or done an online start a business course. Do let me know what you think?

Friday, 15 July 2011

Christmas in July. I know- scary!


My Goodness!
Today I was told by a very lovely lady from a lovely publication that this month they are focusing on their Christmas Guide.

In July!!
I know, Crazy!!!




So today I have been absorbing myself with Christmas!! While attempting to play football with an only just walking Ida, as the hot July sun shone down and baked all my green veggie’s I am growing to a crisp…. (Must remember to water them in a minute!) I looked at our unique gifts through the eyes of a Christmas shopper! And was pleasantly surprised… Yay! I could actually do an awful lot of my shopping in just one spot!

In addition to our new Daddy and Up cycling maker that we have added to our family this week, we have also worked with some of our makers to make exclusive gifts just for us.  We cannot reveal what or who they are yet but come September we will have our very own exclusives, in addition to our other gorgeous gifts. We will shout it from the roof tops as soon as we have the peices to show you!
Until then- Beauties is all I have to say.

Obviously as I write this the sun has gone to bed and the rain has started to fall. We are in England after all. Who knows if the Summer is over or only just at the very beginning. Just please remember that we have many new wonderful makers on our horizon and lots of gorgeous ones we are already very proud of. 
As we all know, we never have enough time in the day so make your life easier. 
When you do start to think about tinsel and baubles again, we are practically a one-stop Christmas shop for under 5’s!!


Thursday, 14 July 2011

Our first Daddy made maker, Be inspired Daddies…Mummies…Grannies and Granddaddies!!!


At last…we have found a brilliant Daddy maker and he has agreed to become one of u-ni-k’s family of makers.
Hurrah!!!
His products are in the pipeline and will take a while to be shown on the website but both Sarah and I are thrilled that we have a Daddy at last.

When we started u-ni-k gifts, as "want to be" creative people ourselves, we know how special it is to make or receive a gift that has been made and selected with love and thought. We decided from the very beginning, where possible, we would try and encourage and source other parents to make for our website. We have a very new Mummy, ceramicist Helen Beard who had baby Yannick 4 months ago. Mum of 5 boys Joanna Sloane of the Old Rectory and soon to be mum of two, her sister Stephanie Sloane add to the list. We even have a Granddad, Mr Richard Ord who makes our gorgeous silver keepsake nappy pins for us.  I am sure Mr Ord’s Grandchildren all have treasures that he has made with his own hands that they will cherish forever.



So…while we wait for our new Daddy maker to produce the beauties he is well known for…we call to all other Mummy and Daddies to be inspired and show us your wears!!!
We are always looking for new, unique or exquisite gifts to add to our trove of treasures. We hope that by finding creative parents and grandparents to make for u-ni-k, we will always ensure that the gifts we promote are extra special.

As Sarah reminds me frequently…..Mummies can do it!
So Can Daddies…Granddaddies, Grannies………an on, an on.


Wednesday, 13 July 2011

To recycle or upcycle?


Whilst mooching through the stands at Bubble, the trade fair for baby and children’s products in London last month, Sarah and I stumbled across a gorgeous potential new supplier. The makers used the method of upcycling to create new and fresh unique pieces for children. Each piece was a one off and a totally simple design. It sent me thinking about upcycling and what it really was. Surely re-cycling and upcycling is the same thing? So today while chasing the Ida who has just discovered walking or should I say running, because apparently that’s easier….(?In her head anyway?) I decided to look into upcycling being the hippy mummy I try to be.


Upcycling is becoming increasingly more popular amoung those concerned with climate change. Recycling is a good way of transforming new from old. However, it requires energy and resources to collect, sort and process all our unwanted waste and transform it into new products.
Upcycling is even greener as people have a purpose for the unwanted items before they are thrown away. Normally the only energy used to make the new item is your own steam!
I first heard about this while at Art school many moons ago when a girl approached a farmer to take all the inner’s of tyres from the tops of the drying straw when they were no longer needed and transformed them into handbags. An excellent idea I thought. She was even paid by the farmer to take the tyres away. Alas I am not really a handbag kind of girl, and nor do I want to add tyre handbags to the u-ni-k website. So stumbling across this new maker brought a very BIG smile to our faces!! A upcycled children’s product. Fantastic!!

We’ll be launching the new makers collection to the u-ni-k website very soon. Be patient…they are worth waiting for we promise! I already want a Anna size version of one of there pieces they are soooo gorgeous!

So, you learn something new everyday! Run before you walk and Upcycle!! Not only is u-ni-k helping the environment by buying organic, recycled cottons  and safety and environmentally friendly dyes, it also buys from up-cyclers!!
As I write this Ida has discovered her own method of up-cycling. Despite her box full of toys, she uses a Pampers box to push Mr. Elephant round the place. Who needs toys when you have cardboard boxes!




Tuesday, 12 July 2011

A day in the life of our Shuktara blanket.

Anna and I truly believe in the products and makers we have working with us on u-ni-k. So much so that we use, treasure and love the u-ni-k pieces we have ourselves. Today's blog is all about DangerBaby and her Shuktara blanket.

We don't have a name for our blanket, everything is “DaDah!” at the moment, unless she's trapped her fingers in a drawer / cupboard / something she knows she's not allowed to play with and then it's “mummmmmMa”. So for ease of reading we'll call it “blanket” from hereonin.

Blanket is usually waiting for DangerBaby on the sofa bed in her room, we're currently not sleeping with a blanket as it's warm and she wakes up hot and upset if we put one in with her at night. So on the sofa it sits waiting for the little toddling feet to run over and throw her face into it to appreciate the softness. It's then up and out of there dragged with Bunny Bunny off to a bathroom or a bedroom to empty all the drawers. Downstairs for CBeebies and breakfast!

After the hour struggle to remove Bunny Bunny and Blanket off DangerBaby, it's shower and clothes time . Back downstairs to hoover, clean the kitchen, empty all the kitchen cupboards – if she hides under Blanket then I obviously can't see her empty the cupboards... and if I can then it's obviously Bunny Bunny that I caught...hmmmm, some more 'run amok' type activities and then lunch.

After our lunctime nap, we go out on an adventure. Blanket comes in the car as the settler with noisy book (DangerBaby has always hated the car. Screamed from the very first day we put her in a car, a little better now but boy I used to be house bound). I say adventure – usually a trip to Tesco or the post office, in a trolly blanket becomes the soft cushion on DangerBaby's back, offering protection from the hard trolly when she turns to see the other children go whizzing past.

Back home to play in the garden, Blanket is at its best here. A tent one minute, a theatre curtain the next, a soft landing from the slide, a princess headdress for peekaboo, a table cloth for tea time with teddy, something soft to wipe those gardening hands with. A quick afternoon snack with blanket and Bunny Bunny before Bedtime Hour begins and supper.

The long struggle to remove Blanket and Bunny Bunny from DangerBaby starts after Supper as it's bath, story and bedtime for our tired little girl. Bunny Bunny goes in the cot but Blanket goes on the sofa bed, waiting for the start of another lovely day.

Peek a boo Mummy!!

Monday, 11 July 2011

All work and no play makes mumprenuers dull people...

Yesterday Anna and I had a rare 'day off' from all things u-ni-k; we were meeting with our NCT group to celebrate our babies being 1 (ok that was a few months ago but scheduling conflicts meant that we were unable to meet until July). We had a fab fun filled day at Mizens Miniature Railway, Knaphill, Surrey. In fact I'm not sure who had more fun, us or the babies!

It was lovely to see everyone and the little ones have changed so much! In what seemed like a short space of time, everyone went from crawling to walking, from wispy hair to a full head of curls, and a few teeth to beaming smiles. The time passes so quickly at this age, if we don't see someone for a few weeks then they change from baby to kiddy in the blink of an eye.

So our babies have gone, they're now a full set of independent young ladies (and one happy go lucky gentleman... well he has to be with so many women in his life) ready to take on the new playground that is the world. If I'm not careful I'll miss some of it.

I know I am a work from home Mummy ('WFHM') but starting a new business means that I spend every spare moment I have working on the business; new webpages (I'm in the middle of re-doing the website), new makers, new tweeters, press enquiries, new photos of the stock , web images to be photo shopped, making those calls to Anna's voicemail re: this and that.. and checking the sales email inbox.. It's a never ending list of tasks to do around the normal Wife and Mummy jobs.

So all the “me” time that I used to have to read, knit, garden, exercise (oh how I miss swimming), even those hours I used to have to talk to Daddy DayCare, have disappeared recently. And I have it easy, Anna has a day job, a new house and garden to spruce up, a big boy bump and a toddling about Naughty who likes to hide her Mr. Elephant at the first opportunity. So as a new Mumprenuer she has more than enough on her hands, she's a true shining bonafide example of a SuperMum.

So how do we do it? Well here's our advice for all future Mumprenuer's out there:
  • be a great multi-tasker
  • only worry about the stuff you have the power to change
  • don't sweat the small stuff

Above all remember: All Work And No Play Makes Mumprenuer's Dull People!

Little ones having a lovely day!

Friday, 8 July 2011

This year u-ni-k will be supporting...

Throughout June we've been asking people to nominate a charity for u-ni-k to support, and the response was heart warming. Earlier on today we asked one of our Mummy friends to do what Anna & I couldn't bring ourselves to do – choose the Charity for us. Before we reveal who the u-ni-k gifts charity for 2011 – 2012 is let me tell you a little about the causes that were nominated: in no particular order:

Home Start –
Home Start help to increase the confidence and independence of families by:
Visiting families in their own homes to offer support, friendship and practical assistance
Reassuring parents that their childcare problems are not unusual or unique
Encouraging parents' strengths and emotional well-being for the ultimate benefit of their children
Trying to get the fun back into family life.

Forces Children's Trust –
Forces Children's Trust is a charity devoted to helping children whose father or mother has died, or has been seriously injured, whilst serving as a member of the British Armed Forces.
They are a small, agile charity providing support and positive experiences to children who have suffered a great loss. By participating in events like Theatre trips holidays with other children in a similar situation they can create their own way of moving forward.

Teenage Cancer Trust-

At Teenage Cancer Trust, we understand that young people with cancer require specialist care.
We know how damaging it is to take a young person away from their everyday life, their friends, their environment, their family – and put them in a cancer ward with small children or older people.
Young people have a much better chance in their fight against cancer if they are treated by teenage cancer experts, in an environment tailored to their needs. So we’re working every day to make that happen.
Teenage Cancer Trust aims to ensure that every young person with cancer and their family receive the best possible care and professional support throughout their cancer journey.

Wheels of Experience-

Wheels of Experience is a Family charity raising money to buy a motorhome for their very disabled child Sophie. Being in a wheelchair and permanently connected to a ventilator has it's downfalls. Her family to make what time they have left with Sophie as normal as possible, this includes going on holiday once a year.
Unfortunately going on holiday with a child that runs off batteries and needs more supplies than a football team has it's challenges! They can't go more than an hours drive away, as they have to take so many supplies with them that it requires two trips out, and once they reach their location, they have to spend a day setting up our 'mobile intensive care' unit so that it's safe for Sophie. While on a break to the South Coast they saw several motorhomes, and then came the idea for The Wheels of Experience. They are trying to raise enough money to buy and adapt a Motorhome so that they can enjoy whatever time they have left with Sophie.
Shooting star chase / Guildford Children’ s hospice -
Welcome to Shooting Star CHASE. We are your local children’s hospice service, a charity caring for local families with a child or teenager with a life-limiting condition. We support families living in Western London, Surrey and West Sussex.


Helen’s House- Oxford children’s hospice-
Helen & Douglas House has the time and expertise to care for children and young adults with life-shortening conditions and support their families. The two hospice houses offer specialist symptom and pain management, medically-supported short breaks and end-of-life care, as well as counselling and practical support for the whole family.
Our aim is to help every young person - aged from birth to 35 – who visits us from Oxfordshire and surrounding counties, live life to the full....even when that life is short.

Great Ormond St Hospital –
Great Ormond Street Hospital is an international centre of excellence in child healthcare and together with our research partner, the UCL Institute of Child Health, we form the UK’s only academic biomedical research centre specialising in paediatrics.
Since its formation in 1852, the hospital has been dedicated to children’s healthcare and to finding new and better ways to treat childhood illnesses.
The hospital is also at the forefront of paediatric training in the UK. We train more children’s nurses than any other hospital and play a leading role in training paediatric doctors.

Scotties Little Soldiers –
Scotty’s Little Soldiers is dedicated to supporting the children of men and women killed in action while serving with the British Armed Forces.
The charity provides treats, trips and activities for families of the fallen with the aim of offering a respite – however brief - from the daily ups and downs of coping without a loved one

Count The Kicks–
Awareness Saves Lives
COUNT THE KICKS™ wants to empower Mums with knowledge and confidence during their pregnancy. We want to raise awareness of the risks surrounding later stages of pregnancy and also to teach Mums to take responsibility of their own health and care and that of their unborn babies. We want to ensure Mums work with their midwives and healthcare providers by being aware of the risks they could face during pregnancy and birth, and by being aware of their baby’s movements and development. We want to ensure every Mum has the confidence to call for advice if she is ever worried at all.
6500 babies are stillborn or die soon after birth throughout the UK each year . . . that’s 17 families who suffer the devastating loss of their babies every day!

Sense www.sense.org.uk-
Sense is the leading national charity that supports and campaigns for children and adults who are deaf blind. We provide expert advice and information as well as specialist services to deaf blind people, their families, carers and the professionals who work with them. We also support people who have sensory impairments with additional disabilities.
All these suggested Charities are fabulous causes; but we can't support them all.
This 2011/12 u-ni-k gifts will be supporting: Helen's House!




Thursday, 7 July 2011

Something to make you all smile!


Something someone shared with me today that made me smile. I thought i would share it with you all!
For all of the Mummies to remind you how special you are.

Only One Mother

Hundreds of stars in the pretty sky,
Hundreds of shells on the shore together,
Hundreds of birds that go singing by,
Hundreds of lambs in the sunny weather.

Hundreds of dewdrops to greet the dawn,
Hundreds of bees in the purple clover,
Hundreds of butterflies on the lawn,
But only one mother the world over.

By George Cooper

Love u-ni-k x

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

My Rant of the day- Girls in Pink

Ok, you’ve all been warned. I have had one of those days that can only be resolved with a good old rant!

To all of you who know me I hate pink. Probably from my University Art school  years when I went through a very late pink phase and wore head to toe pink. Pink Flairs with embroidered flowers, lacey pink top and I even put pink flowers in my hair. As a result I have an aversion to baby girls in pink.  When Ida was born I struggled with the reasoning why all high street shops were filled with  various shades of pink baby girls clothes. From hot pink, through puce and all the way to palest baby pink. Don’t get me wrong, in moderation pink can be sweet, lovely even. But why oh why is there never any thing to go with pink clothes other than more pink clothes! Therefore parents are forced to dress their children head to toe in various shades for a easy life! In my opinion, and it is my opinion, not the opinion of u-ni-k, it just shouldn’t be done!

Please please don’t be offended if you have ever bought Ida pink as a gift. She actually looks very sweet in it and on the rare occasions that her Dad or Grandma get her dressed for the day she is normally given her pink dose. So don’t fear, she does get her quota of girlie pink days.

Don’t think I’m one of those Mummies who will dictate to her children what they should or shouldn’t wear. When Ida is able to choose, I am actually quite looking forward to the day she puts weird combinations together and mismatches her own outfits.  I will even encourage it. I actually can’t wait for the day that she wants to wear her Spiderman outfit shopping! And if  she chooses head to toe pink clothes one day so be it! But while I do her shopping we have a pink free zone.

Before u-ni-k was concocted and was still a small seed growing in our minds, me being the stubborn and unconformist person I am, wanted only gender-neutral clothes on the web site. Obviously that is pretty much impossible and impractical. Firstly, that would make life very boring. Secondly, not everyone is of the same opinion as me. And thirdly, when I saw those gorgeous floral prints on the pretty hand smocked dresses by Annafie, I couldn’t resist. So although I can’t promise there will be much pink on the u-ni-k website (Sarah would have to rugby tackle me to floor to get too much chosen and ordered) I can promise that there will be girlie pretty pretty florals. So although pink isn’t really my cup of tea, I am very partial to florals!!!

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Congratulations to our u-ni-k winner!


We have a winner! 
Hurray!!!





The lovely Simone Riches at SFR Product Reviews revealed the winner to the first u-ni-k quiz yesterday evening. The prize (if you are a regular reader of the blog you will already know) is a gorgeous Old Rectory organic cotton jersey baby blanket with a traditional rabbit and toadstool print in gender-neutral lime green. It is beautiful and Sarah and I were very reluctant to part with it.

The lucky winner was Liz Burton of Bedford.
Congratulations to Liz, and commiserations to all of you that weren’t successful in winning. Better luck next time.

Thank you to Simone for hosting the quiz.  For more information on what Simone’s website and blog is all about have a peek at - http://www.sfrconsultancy.co.uk
It’s a trove of information and reviews on all the latest items for baby and toddler’s.

And to our winner Liz, your new baby blanket is already with the Post Office on it‘s way to you.
We hope you love it as much as we do.

Monday, 4 July 2011

u-ni-k gifts, inclusion in the Harden's new version of “London Baby Guide”


If your soon to be or already are a parent then I suggest you get the following book.
Harden’s London Baby Guide by Kate Calvert.

I was given a copy before I got pregnant with Ida so mine is well used and loved with, I am ashamed to say, lots of turned down edges, highlighted pages and post it notes attached with my scribbles. The London baby guide is jam packed full of helpful places, people, organizations, classes and information that you need when you are pregnant or have a child. As the label states-“all the practical information you need from pregnancy to age 3”. I used mine when I was preparing to have baby, when baby was born and needed to learn more and as a shopping guide for the best shops for clothes, gifts and specialist goods. The book has given me advice on everything from advice on NHS versus private, home versus hospital, breast versus bottle with an amazing consumer guide to beat!

The writer, Kate Calvert is gorgeous and has kindly been giving me lots of advice in the set up of u-ni-k gifts. After several years of travelling freelance and contributing to publications from in-flight magazines to travel trade titles, Kate begun to focus on “travel with children”, with her extensive knowledge of child friendly travel worldwide, ranging from adventure holidays to self catering to the availability of childcare. Kate set up her travel friendly website www.family-travel.co.uk in 2001 as a independent resource for parents. The site has been listed as one of the world’s most useful websites. She has also written for the Independant, Families Magazine and Kidz.

When my baby boy bump finally arrives and we decide to venture afar with our new family we will certainly be using Kate’s guide to help us along the way.
In the meantime, we at u-ni-k are very pleased to say that the lovely Kate will be adding u-ni-k  gifts in the next publication of the book. Release date tbc.

Hurray for us!

Friday, 1 July 2011

A surprise gift that really means something and will last a lifetime!

A fellow Mummy and good friend of ours is currently trying to sell her house (if people aren't going to learn from us then we let them learn from their own mad mistakes, we're all big enough to know better but hey ho who am I to say that moving house with a wobbly toddler is a great idea?! I digress). So we've offered to hide her and the Italian Stallion (see earlier blog post about who we gave chicken pox to) while their house is viewed by potential buyers.

It's always a pleasure to have the little one around, he plays nicely with DangerBaby (some of the time) and makes such a fuss over Daddy DayCare when he comes home that it makes Daddy DayCare wish we had two little people instead of just one. It goes without saying that the welcome company of another first time mother is always a joy, we can share burdens and see what each other does to feed /chastise /encourage the little ones. It's mainly trial and error and it's nice to see other people do things the way you do. A good conversation about nappy contents over a cup of tea and a bit of cake puts everyone at ease.

We try as much as possible to make them feel at home and part of the family (yep it's a surprise they still come over) and we drive them around (the bend) on crazy adventures when we feel like looking at something other than the house and garden. Something I think any good friend should do.

So it was a heart warming moment when, Italian Stallion's Mummy handed over a beautiful cross stitched name plate for DangerBaby. Made and framed by her good self, it was really lovely and surprising to receive such a gift. Real time and thought went into the making of the name plate, and it's something that DangerBaby will appreciate as she grows. She may even be asking for one for her little one, from her favourite Italian Momma in a few years time! It may turn out to be the handmade gift that keeps on giving! If we manage to persuade her to use her talents for others we'll be glad to have her as one of our u-ni-k makers!