Friday, 30 September 2011

Our cheeky Forest Friends

With autumn fast approaching and the dark nights drawing in, I’d like to introduce our new paper Forest friends.
Foxy Fox, Barry the Badger, Scotty Squirrel and Hannah Hedgehog can be found hanging around my back garden waiting for the cob nuts to fall from my trees so they can eat a tasty supper. They are all a little cheeky, especially Scotty!! He’s always stealing the birdies food. And Foxy,…well you have to be quick or you miss her. She likes hanging out at the bottom of my garden next to the over grown pond. She’s been basking in the last of the summer sun today! And Hannah…well she’s normally snoozing somewhere….zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. And Barry, we only see him when he’s hungry!

These 2D treasures are quickly transformed into these 3D gorgeous animals simply with scissors, a ruler and glue. Perfect for Kiddies and Kidults alike.
Designed by Madeleine Rogers for Mibo, they are printed using vegetable dyes and printed on recycled paper.
Madeleine founded her company Mibo in 2001, first designing dashing lampshades. Her signature modern and clean designs quickly gained recognition with Habitat, The Conran shop and Heals snapping them up.
Where possible all Mibo products are made in the UK, using organic and recycled materials.

Snap them up quick…they are a fast bunch and will be gone quicker then you know!

Thursday, 29 September 2011

To Breast Feed. A simple choice?

Breast Feeding.
Naively before I had my two terrors I thought you simply made a choice between breast or bottle. Simple. Choice made.  
Only mummies with poorly babies, or babies with poorly mummies had the choice made for them.
How wrong was I!!

Why does nobody ever tell you how hard breast feeding is?
With the naughty I was totally confused with the different advice that I was given, and upset with what I felt was my body failing me.  To become a mummy and not be able to feed your child naturally (if that is how you have chosen to feed) is an emotional wrench. Your baby is so tiny and one of your first duties as a Mum, you have failed at. You feel helpless.

Now I am not going to give any advice or fast fix as I struggled too. I found it very hard with the naughty. I'll never know if quantity or quality is the problem with me. Who knows! Without being able to inspect the milk myself I was left with the quandary of what to do for the best. We are all told breast is best, but other than that the advice given seams to contradict it’s self.

Through my struggles with feeding Ida and Sam, I have heard the following…you’ll see why I have been in such a muddle!

-Never feed from one breast for longer than 30 minutes.
-Feed as long as baby wants to feed even if this means constantly (impossible when you have a 14 month old daughter to entertain and look after)
-Feed baby only from one breast at each feed.
-Feed baby from both breasts at each feed.
-If quality or quantity is poor top up with formula.
-Don’t top up with formula; instead try to increase milk supply with expressing.
-Try to increase your milk supply by first breast-feeding from each breast for 30 minutes, then formula feeding (takes another 20 minutes) then expressing for 20 minutes. My baby was feeding every 2 hours at this point meaning I had exactly 20 minutes after doing this before feeding would start again!
-Do not give expressed or formula from a bottle, use a cup!? But don’t waste a speck!
-Improve your diet. (I’m a greens and fruit eating vegetarian that eats a balanced diet…. I love fresh healthy food! I found this insulting...maybe my over emotional hormones)
-I even have a friend who’s midwife told her that her daughter was obviously repelled by her breast. Poor Mummy and Naughty Midwife!

So with all the advice above, i am sticking to my own advice for once, Mummy knows best.
I am again sticking to my guns and working on the basis that if the way I choose to feed my baby suits myself and my family then that is what I will do and I will not be made to feel guilty about it! 
Especially by other Mummies that have breast-fed easily and don’t understand the emotions and difficulties you have agonized over to make the decision to move to the bottle.

My Man Sam

 **I was told this amazing fact by a supportive friend when i was trying to decide whether to switch to bottle with Ida....over 75% of the English Rugby team were bottle fed! And look at those strapping, healthy looking fella's! It didn't do them any harm, did it!

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

The tradition of gift giving- Baptism and Christening

Sarah is busy squirreling away with the function and layout of our new website. It’s all very exciting and is looking fabulous already. Well done Sarah! Tweeking to be finished very soon!

As  we have introduced a new section to the new, sleek website called “Special Occasions” I thought I better do my research about what is traditional and appropriate for a Christening gift. All I knew was silver was always a suggested gift but I have never known the reasoning behind it. So I set about looking up exactly what, why, when!

In the similar way that couples getting married are given a Trousseau (a bottom drawer gift) or money for there new life together, Christening or Baptism gifts were given with the same agenda. A small token of money or a gift with a value was given as investment for the child as he or she grew. Many people know the tradition of giving a half a sixpence or a lucky sovereign to a child as a suggestion of a nest egg.

However there are many many other traditions in the UK that we can follow if we choose to.

The Victorians strongest influence on traditional gifts was again the emphasis of the “token” of a gift of financial value, therefore introducing the silver sterling gift. Many gifts of this time were eggcups, spoons, napkin rings and cutlery all in silver sterling.
The tradition of the silver tankered or christening cup dates back to an earlier tradition of drinking vessels in Northern Europe.
The tradition that I am most accustomed to is the giving of a silver spoon at a Christening or Baptism.  This originates from the Tudor time when an Apostle spoon, a spoon with a figure of one of the Apostle’s on the handle, was given.  This is thought to be the origin of the phrase “born with a silver spoon in your mouth”

But the tradition of giving a gift to a little one for their naming ceremony dates back even further then that.  The importance of Marriage, Death, Birth and coming of age in pre-Christian Europe were all given as equal importance as the changing of the seasons. As a very new religion of Christianity developed, it adopted many pagan traditions like Christmas and the Easter, all coinciding with the pagan traditions of Saturnalia, Winter Solstice and Spring equinox. The pagans also had a tradition of giving new born's gifts that precedes the well-known story we all know of the three Wise men giving Gold Frankincense and Myrrh. In the pagan story of Magi in their Christmas story, the gift given to the new born child were the same gifts given to Christ, and date back a lot further than the birth of Christ.

Now please don’t be scared. As a non-believer myself,  I just like to know the reasoning behind traditions and then choose whether to follow them. If for you the above has some other symbolic meaning, fantastic.
But what I think this shows us more importantly is that new born's and little ones are meant to be treasured and celebrated because even though they squawk a lot, they are VERY special.  And really any gift, in my opinion, is suitable as long as it is chosen and given with love.
So if you choose to keep to tradition and choose a silver spoon or a simple hand knitted teddy you can rest assured that it is received and loved in the true spirit it is given with. 

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

A follow up to it’s a kind of magic: Hands on teaching and learning

 As Sarah mentioned in her blog of yesterday, sometimes you need to be able to touch and physically see things in the flesh to be able to know how things feel, how they work and how special they are.

Through Baby Led Weaning Ida, I have taught myself that the best way of getting Ida to understand and communicate is through play and repetition. She leant to squash, smudge, squelch and drop a piece of sweet potato long before she leant to eat it.
We sit for what feels like hours after meal times with Ida pointing at her plate at the animations of the “sunshine”, “cow”, “sheep”, “flower”, “cloud” as I repeat the words over and over again for her. Then I break the repetition and I say, “where is the sunshine?” to which I am awarded with a smile and point at the correct yellow circle. Hurray! Progress.
The naughty is also very good at asking for the dingle dangle scarecrow song by signing, “cow”… “when all the cows are sleeping”… I wont’ sing it all! So when a daytrip with all the other antenatal Mummies to a farm was mentioned I thought yay!!

We all went to the marvelous Bocketts farm at the weekend. A lovely farm that has been opened to the public for Children and Adults to learn about farming and animals all through play. With the last of the summer sun shining brightly, the bags of animal feed ready to be used, wellies and waterproofs at the ready (just in case) and a packed lunch ready for all the babies to share amongst them (our BLW friends understand that babies who are weaned this way are very good at sharing thier lunch, as long as you share yours!)
We fed the Sheepies, we watched the Piggy’s race, we laughed at the chickens and I was an ever so happy and proud Mummy as we strolled up to the Big Cow and her calf with feed at the ready and Ida chuckled to herself and them signed, “cow”. She knew that this BIG animal was the same thing as the black and white Fresia on her plate at home.

Children learn through play. Your can sit and sit for hours with the TV and Books and teach them but sometimes you just need to get outside and feel, see, smell and touch the real thing.

Our next sign to learn is “elephant”. In honor of the Fluffy Companion Ida has decided is her favourite. Then when her bespoke handmade Breakfast set by Helen Beard is completed we’ll be able to play spot the Elephant with her. Her forever reminder of her Special Elephant friend through her early years, reminding her how very special he was. We may even nip to the Zoo to she how BIG Elephants really are!

Monday, 26 September 2011

It's a kinda magic...

Although a picture says a 1000 words, it is very hard to show the quality of handmade goods in a photograph or two. You could have the perfect light, the best model, the most up to date megapixel digital SLR and a sales copy that should cause people fall at your feet begging to own one, but you still would be missing out on that one to one touch experience that really shows the quality of the goods.

I've tried, and come woefully short, to explain the softness, the sheen and touch-ability of the Nyoki bonnets and booties. There's something in the handmade process that doesn't carry across through pictures or words, but pick up just one little bootie and the feeling is universal. You want to pick it up again right after you have put it down. It's hard to let go. The same goes for the Shuktara blankets, the knitted Micies, Squishies, and Softies – they have a need to be loved. Probably because they are made with love, by people who care about them.

Our less cuddly pieces are just as irresistible; the wooden Markus Kempe pieces exude a warmth on an emotional level that just speak to your inner child. They make you want to sit on the floor and go brrrrmmmm or clip clop depending upon which toy you pick up. You're already half way through an adventure in your own little world by the time you pick up a piece. It's almost as if there's some kind of invisible mini you whispering into your ear.

Actually, it's magic. The magic of handmade. The love and care that the artist or creator puts into each of their pieces is the same kind of love that a parent gives a child. So the hours spent making a handmade piece weaves each loving minute into the material, breathing warmth and love into it. The finished product is not only made of cotton or bamboo or wood, it's seeped in love and it is this magic that you feel on an unconscious level.

Like the fairy who brought Pinocchio to life for Geppetto, our handmade pieces cast their own spell over people. It's just a shame that unlike the world of Harry Potter, our website doesn't have the ability to let you touch and feel our pieces using some kind of magic... Perhaps we'll find a way to bring these lovely pieces to you... [watch this space].

Friday, 23 September 2011

We love Bunny Rabbits!

A blog dedicated to Bunny Bunny our constant companion

This Sunday is International Rabbit Day, I kid you not – there is a whole day around the world where our long and short eared furry friends are celebrated. The official wording behind IRD is “International Rabbit Day is an international day which promotes the protection and care of rabbits both domestic and wild.” So it's not all carrot crunching and washing of ears, then?!

At 1 day old
Rabbits play a big part in my life, DangerBaby can always be found with BunnyBunny or both BunnyBunnies (she knows there's two so there goes my 'backup bunny' plan). She will not sleep without a Bunny, BunnyBunny has been with her since the day she was born and I can't see a day where he will not feature in her life (I still have Panda and I'm over 30!).

Her two favourite things!
We read stories with bunnies in them, and when she points at a picture the phrase is always the same – 'BunnyBunny hop hop!'. They're a firm favourite. It's not surprising then that as soon as I started to knit animals the first thing I tried after a panda was a rabbit. It took me a while to find the pattern that I loved the most and can't stop knitting. I found Barbara Prime on Flickr and was hooked from the sheep to the rabbits onwards. I use her patterns as a basis for the u-ni-k bunnies (deviating when my experiments show me that her pattern doesn't always suit the yarn I am knitting with).
BunnyBunny at the Drs
with chickenpox

I've just finished Dirty Dorris, the little sister of the u-ni-k Bella Bunny. I'm knitting her jumper as we speak... so she can be photo'd an put on the website along with the Micies, Squishies and other Softies. I'll of course put the results of the photo shoot on this blog and on the Facebook page as an exclusive sneak preview, once she's dressed.

Bella and Dorris are not the only rabbits we have over at u-ni-k, Anna has two (real ones) called Seth and Primrose and we of course stock the lovely letterpress limited edition prints by Mandy Suttcliffe of Belle and Boo, and just Boo. Rabbits also feature in our framed vintage playing cards, as breakfast boards (the one photographed on the site is actually Kathryn's) and pull along toys.

So celebrate International Rabbit Day with us at u-ni-k and bring one of these lovely creatures into your life!

If I'm going then so is BunnyBunny!

Thursday, 22 September 2011

When children don't play's tough on Mummy & Baby

Uh oh! Woman driver!

I've started taking DangerBaby to social activities like toddler groups, play areas, and swimming! She's 16m and craves the company of her own kind; children. It doesn't matter if they're older or younger just not adults. So when we can't organise a meet up with one of the NCT Mummies and their little ones we head out.

I'm trying very hard not to be a 'helicopter parent' hovering over my child protectively, as she toddles about at high speed exploring the world and rejoicing in other children. I have a lovely little girl who is happy and sociable. But she has very big feelings and can be upset by the smallest of injustices. So it breaks my heart when she's the victim of one of less sociable children.

Without exception, everywhere I have taken my child (including the church toddler group) she has been pushed over, hit or otherwise 'rough and tumbled' out of the way. It's usually the older girls that do the pushing or shoving. The result is always the same, my little one on the floor.

Playing nice
My little one sits there with a bemused look at first wondering how she ended up there and then realisation dawns and a sad bewildered look at the child that pushed her over. Why would a fellow child that she wants so much to play with ...not want to play with her?

If the shove was really hard we'll then have some silent tears. It's heartbreaking but also a tough lesson for us both to learn. I can't chastise and put a strangers child on the naughty step and usually my cry of 'hey!' has alerted the other child's Mummy and punishment occurs in their own way. 

However, if the shove came from an older child who should know better I do fight for my child in the only way the other child will understand. A serious whisper from adult to child “Santa doesn't visit naughty little girls /boys [delete as appropriate]”. 

When my Daughter can speak I'll teach her that sentence so that she can fight her own battles. Until then, all I can do is reassure my child, put her back on her feet and send her back out into the world.
2 seconds before this photo both were happily playing together

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

A World of Imagination! PUFF PUFF ROAaaaaarrrrR !

I was watching Cash in the attic the other day (I know, I know- rubbish TV, but I was feeding Samson so I had to pass the time somehow when he’s on the wrong boob- I can’t type with my left hand! ) and they stumbled across a collection of weebals! For those of you who weren’t children during the eighties, - weebals were roly-poly funny egg shaped things with faces that couldn’t fall or be pushed over as they were balls. They were pretty ugly but definitely had a likeability factor. I can’t remember why I loved mine so much. The collection on TV were a small family that created quite a stir with an abundance of bids at auction. Who would have thought that the funny little round faces would be worth something in years to come. They are simply made of plastic!

You can never decide what your children will learn to love. Ida has a fascination for cardboard tubes at the moment because they are also secretly a trumpet and a telescope if you have a little imagination! She is also partial to a blusher brush!! Who would have daughter Miss Vain!

I love to watch her intently moving objects round the room, making little hoards of certain things and disregarding others. Opening boxes up and removing the contents then putting it all back in.  Reading an upside down book to me in a jibber jabber Ida language. Be warned, don’t ever turn that book round the right way! Squawk squawk how dare you!

A world of imagination is important. It makes play time come alive and makes a simple tent in your garden into a pretty home with  an elaborate window box with a purple stegosaurus who comes to tea every Tuesday for plum jam and scones and a cup of chai!

We have a steggie visiting us soon on the u-ni-k website. Be warned, she’s of the unique variety and a little naughty! Lets hope she can fill lots of little ones imaginations as they play!

Welcome steggie!

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

A newly named GREEN & NATURAL section

We support and love unique makers.
We support and love handmade products and those that make them.
We support Mummy, Daddy and Grandparent makers.

We also support all that is GREEN, all that keeps our world turning in a healthy happy way so that our children and their children can live in a healthy environment. What we do today supports and maintains a healthy world for our families in the future.
So when Sarah mentioned that the Planet Friendly section on our website was the least favourite section I was shocked and surprised.
So I am dedicating this blog to promoting all products on our newly named NATURALS section and will explain why the products on this section are GREEN and ever so lovingly special.

Shuktara kantha blankets
Hand stitched (kantha) blankets made in Calcutta from recycled Sari cotton’s. Not only are Shuktara supporting the local community by giving the skilled women jobs to stitch these beautiful blankets, the profits of these blankets also go towards the Shuktara children’s charity; Helping Indian children who have been disowned due to their disabilities. Not only does Shuktara support and educate them, it also homes them for life in a “home” environment rather than an institution. So not only are you helping the environment by buying a upcyled product made with hands and no machines, you are also supporting a fabulous charity run by my very good friend, David Earp.
We love it when each blanket finds a happy home, as they are truly beautiful.

Old Rectory sleep wear
Beautifully soft bed wear for children created by two sisters whose grandfather’s sketches of local nature spots and wildlife have helped create these timeless pieces. All have been made using only quality controlled and insured cottons, healthy working environments and Oeko-tex certified dyes. This means kinder to the environment as well as kinder to our children’s skin. We have a gorgeous collection of blankets, sleep bags, rompers and PJ’s. I only wish they did the PJ’s in my size!
Daisy Bridgewater from the Telegraph also recently caught the green bug and noticed how beautiful and special this collection is.

Belle and Boo letterpress’s
These special editions (editions of 50) are beautifully printed using the 20th century tradition of letterpress printed onto 100% cotton fibres recycled from the garment district. Letter pressing gives a rich and distinctive appearance to the print. A feeling of a product printed with care where you can almost envisage the person who has worked the beautiful press machine to create the captured print. The simple method works by pressing a raised surface onto paper to form an image. Not only are these Belle and Boo prints a beautiful finished product, they have also been made using a beautiful and hopefully not to be forgotten method of printing. The printing process itself is a work of art.

Recycled silver spoons
Using recycled silver-plated spoons and capturing a moment of birth by personalising the naughty spoon with a name and date of birth. Organically upcycled vintage silver spoons.

Marcus Kampe Wooden Toys
Beautiful toys handmade using traditional methods of carving the wood, made in the deepest darkest woods in the Teuroberg forest. Made from sustainable Birchwood, Cherry and Alder trees. Marcus and Britte believe in following the natural lines and quality of the wood to create a beautiful finished piece. Each piece has been lovingly nurtured and made with love by a true craftsperson.
We were spoilt for choice when selecting our u-ni-k collection.
We finally selected a beautiful collection of vehicles & pull along toys for children to play with, coat hooks and racks to embellish a nursery and breakfast boards to make any meal time fun. The naughty ‘s mealtime is always made more enjoyable when a little animal on her plate is noticed and both her and I moo like a cow or baa like a sheep while eating her tasty meal.

Soon to be launched: TaDaa’s simple clothing shapes.
One of our newest makers- TaDaa are a duo team that have created a collection of children’s clothes from up cycled shirting fabrics made with 100% natural fibres. They have incorporated many multicultural influences when creating this collection as well as keeping the key features of the shirt when making the clothes, Meaning every piece is a one off.
The shirts that finally become the TaDaa collection are all collected from Le Relais, the French charitable recycling organisation.
We are looking forward to receiving our first delivery of clothes next week.

So now you all know how special our little family of GREEN and NATURAL makers are!! Not only do they care about making wonderful products for our children they are also looking after the environment by doing so.
Something we all should be doing just a little bit more!


Choose Natural!

Monday, 19 September 2011

Parenting methods: Unconditional Love and The best piece of advice

We are two Mums.
We both have similar parenting methods.
We both have Baby Led Weaned our girls. 
We have both let our girls get their clothes covered with strawberries as they learn to feed themselves.
We have both let our girls splash in puddles and get covered in mud as they play (good clean mud only!)
We both don’t iron our children’s clothes (I don’t iron my own clothes let alone my children’s clothes unless we visit Great Nana and Granddad, as that is a little like visiting the queen…I was once scorned for dressing the Naughty in denim!! Girls in denim! Great Grannies eh!!)
We both didn’t give our daughters dummies. Danger baby didn’t want one and I chose not to give Ida one.
We both get on our soapbox if riled!
We both rarely brush our hair! Never enough time!
We are both a little bit mad! Well….Sarah’s crazy…me a little odd perhaps!?
We both have decided to start a business while our children are small.

Crazy! I know!!

As new parents we all receive advice from fellow mummies, our own Mums and professionals about how best to bring up our children. Cultural differences, personal choices and learning as we go along all mean we make different choices when bringing up our children. Nobody is right, nobody is wrong. My choices have been made for many reasons.  Here are a few of them,

Because the way I have been brought up.
Because of the lifestyle I live with my partner
I want the best for my children.
Because I am a little hippy and like to be abit different

All I know is that through being a Mum and meeting other Mummies, we all have one thing in common. We all have the best intentions for our children. We may not agree with how other people decide to bring up their children, nor may we agree with the methods that they do it.  Sarah and I met at our anti-natal classes amongst three other couples. All of us have bought up our children very differently (the debate of last week...mucky pups!). All of them I respect for their choices even if i choose to parent in a different way. 

Whilst tweeting (working!) this morning I stumbled across a tweet from a fellow mummy blogger about her 11-year-old boy who has started lying. Only small white lies, but lies all the same. Now I am not there yet. My two are both under 2. I can’t imagine how hard it would be to tackle the lying subject with an 11-year-old. I am still learning and struggling now that the naughty has leant to say NO!
(Such a horrible word. If I say it we have floods of tears from her…. if she says it, it means I am in for a BAD day!! She’s Stubborn!! No- can’t be from me!)
This Mummy was asking for help…how should she deal with her son lying so blatantly?
So I sat…and thought about how I could help. Then I remembered the best piece of advice I was ever given from a friend. Don’t judge or advsie another Mum until your child has been there. 

So I tweeted back my support and wished her luck instead. Who am I to judge or advise when my two naughties are yet to get there.
We are still struggling with NO!

Help! Anyone!?

Friday, 16 September 2011

Mucky Pups have more fun!

Mucky Pups vs. Pristine Princesses

There aren't many things that will make me stand on my soap box [apart from the lack of British apples in the supermarket, all the issues Hugh's Fish Fight is championing, and a whole host of other things I'd like to mention but really must get back to the point], but people disciplining their children for being dirty is one of them.

To keep this simple – would you chastise your toddler if they came home from nursery looking like a “street urchin”?

For example if the 'street urchin' look was clothes are covered in food, play doh, a grey smear you have no idea what it is, and what looks to be mud or compost or leaf mould – some kind of nature muck. Hair is a mess and fingernails are black.

Would I be pulling my hair out dragging the toddler away from the nursery screaming at the staff about the lack of care?

Nope, quite the opposite. Each of those marks has a story to tell:

DangerBaby is learning to eat with cutlery and in the process of bringing spoon filled with baked beans to mouth, more often than not 80% of the beans don't make it to the mouth. Nor do the beans stay on her bib, they run off the bib and on to the trousers quicker than Mr.Bolt. I don't notice, I'm too busy saying 'Woweee clever girl you are a good nummy numnumer” and scooping more beans up onto her spoon. Result – Food on clothes.

We recently went to a toddler morning organised by our local leisure centre where as well as soft play there were crafts and other activities for toddlers. Not something we do at home, so DangerBaby had never seen paint covered paintbrushes, glue or glitter before. She happily toddled over to the paint, picked up a sponge, covered her hands rolled the sponge on a bit a paper and then dipped it in every paint colour going to make a nice brown smudge thing. Still holding the brush, she laughed with glee and ran at the glitter table. I only just had time to rescue the genius child's masterpiece before she put the paintbrush into the glitter. So with paintbrush rescued the obvious choice was her hands... in they went to the glue and then into the glitter and after a brief visit to her hair... on to the paper it all went. Two masterpieces later and I conceded to wiping the worst of the glue off her hands. Result – Strange grey stuff on our trousers (glue).

The glitter kept us amused for AGES [about 5 minutes] before she noticed the play doh table. Now cleanish, this strange stuff was sniffed, tasted [and I wonder why we both have horrific colds at the moment] and moulded about. All and any models Mummy tried to make were squished with a triumphant belly laugh and a huge smile. Result – Play Doh under our nails and in our hair.

All this fun tired us out and we headed home for lunch and a nap. [I'm still finding glitter on her bedroom floor and it's a week later].

Once she'd charged her batteries, we took to the garden to hunt for vegetables / strawberries / the last of any crop we could find. But this meant passing the leaky water butt with the bucket of water catching the drips. Splish splash! Wet hands over to the veggy patch to see if there are any strawberries, pull away the plants Mummy has just picked up, see a strawberry – quick wipe wet muddy hands on top/trousers and POUNCE. Yummy yummy. Pick up HUGE snail and poke it and wipe off all the dirt... go to put in mouth... MUMMY TO THE RESCUE! I chase her around the garden shouting 'No chew chew!' hoping that she'll put the poor snail down and find something else to keep her amused. She rockets off towards the greenhouse screaming with joy. Result – compost, water, muck, leaf mould all over her hands & clothes.[no snails were harmed in the writing of this blog]

By the time CBeebies bedtime hour and supper came along, we were both liking a bit like Stig of the Dump - or 'street urchins'. What a fantastic day we had!

As you can see I measure the success of our day by how my child looks after her supper. 

Last Friday, her hair was spiky and glittery with a little smear of brown paint, she had bits of baked bean juice on her sleeve, glitter, paint, grey stuff, red play doh, and garden muck on her trousers.

But most importantly of all she was wearing a very very big smile all the way to her bedtime bath.

My little mucky pup:

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Quick panic only 99 days left

Quick panic, only 99 days ''til Christmas.

Yep you heard it here first folks, we've passed that magical date in the calendar that lets retailers start the frenzy that is the lead up to Christmas. Pop to your local supermarket today and I tell you they'll have some of their Christmas decoration (cards, wrapping paper etc) and perhaps even some Christmas chocolates on the shelves. It starts now peeps.

So let's think about this, 99 days is a little over 14 weeks. If you want something extra special, made by hand by a talented artisan, you may have to order your purchase up 6 weeks beforehand.

So you actually have 8 weeks shopping time before Christmas.

But this is not factoring in the Royal Mail deadline date for Christmas parcel post, and let's admit that you need to add a few days just to make sure it arrives to your nephew in South Africa on time:

International Airmail
Mon 6 Dec 2010
South & Central America, Caribbean, Africa, Middle East, Asia, Far East (including Japan), Australia  and New Zealand
Fri 10 Dec 2010
Eastern Europe, USA and Canada
Mon 13 Dec 2010
Western Europe

Let's be safe and say you post it on the 3rd December. That's another 3 weeks of lost shopping time.

Oh oh you have to gift wrap it before putting it in the post. Do you remember how long that takes? How many weeks do your presents sit, hidden before the dreaded 'gift wrapping' evening can no longer be avoided... 1, 2 weeks? So let's factor that in as well.

Then you run out of sellotape [other brands of sticky back plastic are available] and so have all your local shops, so you have to wait until next week when you're in town to pick some up. There goes another week.

All of a sudden you only have 2 weeks to find the perfect present, wrap it and post it to make sure that it arrives looking all beautiful for opening on Christmas day.

Feeling the pressure? How's that heartbeat? Need a cup of tea/coffee/wine?

And breathe. 

Anna and I are here to help. We're helpful people {it's in our nature, no really it is... along with being bossy [me] and a bit hippy [Anna]}

So panic not, drop us a line we will navigate through the maze of children's advertising to find you a present that will stand out from the crowd and be the favourite present of the holidays.

Oh and we gift wrap and post for you.

Stay Calm and Panic Shop with u-ni-k gifts at

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Celebrate illustrators as well as authors!

Yesterday was the official “Roald Dahl Day”, it's celebrated on the 13th September as it was his birthday (he would have been 95 this year). While this year's celebrations were overshadowed slightly by the uproar surrounding his families request for money to save his writing shed, the meaning behind the day should still be celebrated.

I remember reading James and the Giant Peach underneath the covers with a torch after lights out. I was forever being told off for reading after lights out, but I still read myself to sleep every evening [usually found asleep with book still fast in hand by Daddy DayCare] and reading to DangerBaby is an important part of our bedtime ritual.

Roald Dahl wrote over 50 children's books and you can't fail to have missed one of his stories (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The BFG...) or the equally iconic images that accompany them. While the author is celebrated, the illustrations are as just as famous but can you remember the name of the illustrator...?

Quentin Blake! His style is synonymous with the Roald Dahl stories. In fact for many, the drawings that accompanied the stories were more than the 'icing on the cake' as they brought the words to life. With Dahl and Blake it is hard to imagine a Dahl story one without the Blake illustrations. 

DangerBaby currently likes to hear the words but it is the illustrations that capture her the most. Illustrators like Quentin Blake make the bedtime story enjoyable for both parent and child. But the illustrator's contribution is often overlooked. We don't have a Quentin Blake day, which is a shame.

Anna and I have been trying very hard to bring original children's illustrations to u-ni-k gifts. We found and partnered up with Colin Petty for his Victoria Plum pieces, and I've recently discovered a lady who rescues illustrations from damaged vintage children's books and frames them for prosperity. Hopefully she'll agree to work with us and they will soon feature on u-ni-k gifts.

So in honour of all the illustrators out there (including the talented Kev Brett [@kev_brett] the man behind the hilarious eBook The Monkey & The Mouse [@tmtm_comic]), I am declaring 14th September 'Illustrators Day'. Hurrah for these people who help bring the words to life.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

There's not much difference between a Mum and an entrepreneur!

I saw a quote on Twitter that tickled me.."an entrepreneur is someone who works 16hrs to avoid working 8hrs for someone else". How true, especially recently as I've been working on our new look website:

[same address]

It also made me think.. what makes entrepreneurs so different to those who work 9-5 for 'someone else'? I trawled the internet and found the following reasons why:

  1. Entrepreneurs are not merely"self employed" but rather individuals who have a grand vision and a strategy for a particular idea.  
  2. Individuals who work for someone else enjoy the security of a steady income and a structured environment [to a degree]. Your part of an established 'team'. An entrepreneur is out there pretty much on their own.
  3. Entrepreneurs relish in the fact that they can grow their income in proportion to their hard work and success [fingers crossed].
  4. Entrepreneurs and corporate workers both work hard, but entrepreneurship requires a 24 hour work mentality [especially at the beginning when it's tough].
  5. Most corporations provide a safety net, so if you miss a task or fail to do something there is a network in place to offset the error; as an entrepreneur you will need an extraordinary skill set and extraordinary stamina to rectify any mistakes made.
  6. Many entrepreneurs are not interested in gaining resources (or making money) as quickly as possible; rather they are interested in long term growth and continually re-invest money back into the business idea or product.
  7. Corporate works have a life and enjoy weekends off, dinner with the family, and paid holiday (in addition to a defined pension program or a employee sponsored pension plan).
  8. Entrepreneurs are stubborn.
  9. Corporate workers can they can enjoy hobbies, sport, entertainment, music, etc., while a successful entrepreneur is busy.

So if you are thinking of starting your own business, you need to ask yourself a few questions and answer them honestly.

Can you live with much less income [initially I hope ]?
Are you strong enough to 'go it alone' or do you have a supportive partner to help you through the tough mental, emotional, financial times ahead?
Are you willing to sacrifice all your 'you' time?

If you answered 'yes' to any of the above then you are prepared to become a mumpreneur! You should have answered yes because these would have been the questions that you asked yourself before becoming a Mum.

Having a child is very much like taking a business idea and turning it into a business. Both my babies (DangerBaby and u-ni-k gifts) occupy my thoughts 100% of the time and I can't remember when the last time I had some 'me' time.

I'm not earning the superpennies of a global programme manager and thankfully the loving Daddy DayCare is looking after us while we build ourselves up into the business we want to be, or at least until we are on our feet [unik not DangerBaby who is already running around]

Is it all worth it, you ask?

I'll let you know a year from now, but suffice to say it's hard work but enjoyable so far. [Being a Mum and an entrepreneur]

Tomorrow's blog will be celebrating Roald Dahl.

Many thanks to Vincent Scordo who wrote the inspiring article on February 9, 2009

Monday, 12 September 2011



Now I’m BIG on service. I don’t moan or shriek if I don’t receive the service I expect but I most definitely won’t shop or use the product again if I don’t get the service I feel is correct of the product I am buying. 

For instance I used to shop on line with a well known supposedly slightly more expensive supermarket before the terrors came along. The quality was fantastic. Hardly ever was my chosen shopping substituted.  The driver always called if he thought he may be late, They bought the shopping into my house wherever I choose for it to be dropped, were always polite, took my plastic carriers away from my last shop and left with a polite friendly farewell. The only time my shopping was late was because the heaviest snow fell in an hour in decades.
Since moving and having Samson, the purse strings have been tightened and budgets set so we can make the Kircher bungalow into the home we always wished for. As a result I no longer use the same supermarket. The supermarket that now delivers my shopping is frequently late. I nearly always have between 4-6 substitutes, the drivers smells of BO, and they must have a company policy of as soon as they step on your property they will not touch the carrier bags any more. Even when I was 1 week off my due date with Sam the driver expected me to lift every bag off the dirty cartons they were loaded on and carry them into my kitchen. This I actually complained about!!
Some may think my attitude is a little snobby! I personally think we have become a little too accepting of sloppy customer service.

I am equally as impressed if the service I receive is good. My ex-local pizza take away company always amazes me by their efficient, clean and professional service. Now you may say they are just a take away Pizza shop but to watch them work is like watching a finely tuned car. Their standard of service with seamless precision is streamlined due to the team knowing who was responsible for what. They are fantastic. Highly recommended!

Service has been drummed into me from an early age. My Dad worked from home so whenever the phone rang and we were big enough to answer it, we were expected to answer with a polite telephone manner and take a clear message. One of my first p/t jobs was as a shoe shop advisor for an exclusive shoe store where clients couldn’t shop without being served. My favourite clients were the old ladies that couldn't reach their toes, so needed my help and advice.... I loved to natter to them! The boss used to have us running round the stock room as a forfeit if we didn't reach targets at the end of the day.... obviously all in jest! And targets weren't all about money made. It was a reflection on cleanliness, quality of service and knowledge of stock. All integral to a good customer service.
We all know what it's like to be ignored by a shop person who happily takes your money but doesn’t actually look up to acknowledge you are there.

My last company I worked for was renowned for it’s service. If you arrived at opening or teatime you would be offered a cup of tea (builders and herby) or good proper coffee served on a beautiful tea tray! We carried your shopping to your car, hand delivered it to your home, called you a taxi to take you home, offered to alter the length or take in or out your purchased clothes to make it perfect for your body shape. We made to order, especially dyed things a certain colour, washed your clothes and called clients when something arrived we thought was made for them and always smiled. We even sent Christmas gifts to our loveliest clients and made our own packaging behind the scenes! Service is second nature to me now.  It’s a simple thing to offer…it’s free…and it’s something that goes a long way. It’s simple. When the economy is struggling and stores are finding it hard to meet targets, a simple smile goes a long way.

At u-ni-k Sarah and I will always offer a friendly, smiley service. We’ll happily advise you with your shopping. We can personalize, make a different size or colour or even make something totally unique when you can’t quite find what you were looking for.  We’ll even send it to your friend or family member and remind you the following year when the new baby that you bought for turns 1. And we make our own packaging too! We try to make your shopping experience special, as we are just as happy when our gifts find happy homes as you are. 
We were even a little sad to say goodbye to our favourite Victoria Plum original drawing last week, when she found a happy home!

Bye Bye Victoria!