Sunday 15 January 2017

Getting Back Into The Garden.

Before we had the kids Sam and I would spend a lot of time in our garden. When we bought our house back in 2009, apart from a greenhouse and a ton of terrocotta pots, all we had was grass. It was the perfect blank canvas and we spent the next few years working on it together.

When we discovered we were expecting Wilf, who was due in May 2012, one of the first things Sam said to me (obv after the excitement!) was "oh, you're going to be rubbish in the garden in the Spring." I'm sure what he really meant was that he was just going to miss having a green fingered side kick but, if I'm honest, I've been a bit rubbish in the garden ever since!
Sam is a true gardener, he's knowledgable about it, takes time to read, research and plan and does genuinely have that special knack. So as home life (and work) has absorbed me, he's well and truly earned his spot as head gardener.

Don't get me wrong, I've dabbled a bit over the last few years (and I'm well and truly on board with the allotment) and of course I've enjoyed the abundant fruit and flowers each Summer. BUT I've decided it's time to get back out there! New year's resolution?! Yes perhaps it is, but it's one I'm determined to see through until at least the late Autumn when the last of the Dahlias fade again.
We spent a good few hours out there last weekend and, as I raked the leaves that covered the boarders and dug up weeds, I decided on a few little projects I want to get done. I thought I'd share them with you here in case you fancy giving them a go too:

  1. Dedicate a small patch to the kids that they can have as their own. We had this idea when they were much younger and imagined how much fun it would be to let them choose, care for and harvest their own fruit, veg and flowers. They're now old enough to give it a go and I'm excited to sit with them both to chat about what their 'favourites' are and help them to plan it. 
  2. Rebuild our bug hotel. We were given one of these a few years ago but I noticed over the weekend that it needs a bit of renovation work. I'm sure it's something the kids would love to get involved with too. 
  3. Start a nature journal. I picked up this idea from a lovely blogger called Polly, who I had the pleasure of meeting last Summer at the Sisterhood camp. A simple but lovely idea to record sightings and adventures out in nature. Whether that's through drawing, writing or photos, I'm sure it'll be a lovely thing for us all to look back on one day. 
  4. Take part in this year's RSPB BIG Garden Bird Watch. Wilf and I loved doing this last year and he still remembers sitting on comfy chairs by our patio last January, with a clipboard and pencil ready to tick off when birds landed in our garden. Despite not seeing one, for a WHOLE hour, he still talks about it and was delighted when the spring birds finally arrived. This year it's being held over 28-30th January, the idea is for people to choose an hour during this time to record bird life in their garden. If you fancy joining in you can find out more here
  5. Encourage birds and wildlife into the garden. There's loads of ways this can be done, from the obvious such as leaving feed out for the birds to planting wildlife friendly plants and creating mini habitats and hideaways. There are some great resources out there which I plan to tap into and I'll share here along the way. And finally, 
  6. Find a nice comfy bench to enjoy it all from! We have a lovely metal bench at the moment but it's not the comfiest and to be honest, is now a bit battered and rusty, so I'll be on the look out for something to spruce up. I'm sure it'll make the perfect spot for a morning cuppa or evening drink.
I'd love to hear if you have any garden projects that you're planning on tackling this Spring and, if you have kids, how you encourage them to get involved too. 

Friday 23 December 2016

A Weekend:In

I've loved writing this blog during 2016, sharing snippets from our family life and the odd adventure here and there. One of the absolute highlights of my blogging journey this year has been the opportunity, on a couple of occasions, to meet up with other bloggers in 'real life.'

Tapping away at a computer screen and publishing posts, in itself, can feel a bit lonely at times. So getting the chance to meet other creatives to chat, inspire and encourage each other in a non competitive environment has been such a treat. One such occasion was at an event hosted last month by a lovely lady called Olivia Tripp.

Aptly named the Weekend:In the event was held at The Chickenshed, a stunning building tucked away in the Monmouthshire countryside. As I wove my way through single track roads to find it, I vowed that I'd return soon with Sam and the kids to explore this pocket of my home country a little more.
As usual I was pushed for time leaving the house in the morning and, as usual, arrived feeling flustered and apologetic for being a bit late (it's a state of affairs I'm well versed in.) I was welcomed in to the beautiful space, with views of fields as far as your eye could see, and instantly relaxed as we enjoyed a delicious breakfast, thanks to Pinkmans Bakery. Note to self, search them out for a croissant next time I'm in Bristol. 
We were then treated to some amazing workshops from some truly inspirational businesses. We had a chance to hear some of their stories of how they'd got to where they are. I came away thouroughly inspired to stick at doing what I love and to graft hard to see my business flourish. As you can see (and might imagine) the stationery session with Papersmiths and wreath making with Talullah Rose Flower School were both right up my street!
Playing with paper and pens, wrapping gifts and making cards whilst chatting to new friends over cups of tea, has got to be one of the most relaxing Saturday mornings I've spent in a long time.
If I wasn't feeling festive enough already, after a delicious lunch we moved on to wreath making, which got me there quicker than you can say 'holly berry.' We were utterly spoilt for choice on the foliage front and each picked out different combinations from what was on offer. I was amazed at how completely individual everyone's wreaths were, it was wonderful. If you're looking for a little last minute inspiration for making one of your own then check out the #wkndin hashtag on instagram, where you'll find a wreath line up like no other.
It was one of those afternoons where you look at your watch and wish for time to stand still because you don't want it to be over. In fact, I was enjoying myself so much that I quite forgot to take my camera out again and instead soaked up the lovely company, conversation and atmosphere that Olivia had brought together.
The afternoon finished with a really interesting talk from Caro Somerset, a shop and B&B in Someset, another place I've since added to the visit list (perhaps just a visit with Sam for that one though!)

If that wasn't enough we were also treated to some wine tasting from More Wine. We were introduced to sparkling wine in tins and my thoughts of wine in a bag have changed forever (for the good!) Did you know they're more cost effective and keep the wine for longer as you don't end up with big gaps of air like you do in a half finished bottle. 

Sadly I had to stay restrained and say no to more wine (after a few sips) as I was driving. I could very easily have cosied in and spent the evening chatting away. 

I felt very lucky to have been invited to such a well thought out and special day. To also have made new friends and been introduced to some great independent businesses along the way was just the icing on the cake. 

Saturday 10 December 2016

Confessions Of An Elf Mum

It's ten days since Penny and Pip, our Kindness Elves, landed back at our house after 11 busy months of sitting at the back of my dressing table drawer and a brief spell at the bottom of a golf bag, helping Father Christmas with important jobs.
Needless to say the kids are delighted to have their friends back! They first met them two years ago after I found inspiration from the wonderful Anna Ranson's blog The Imagination Tree. You can read more about the idea behind The Kindness Elves and the idea of bringing them into your home to help spread kindness, over on Anna's site here.

It's great to have them back and their excitement (mainly from Wilf) as they head downstairs to see if they've left a note is just magic and makes my heart want to burst. The truth is though this pair are hard work and the life of an elf Mum isn't as magical as it might seem. So here, my friends, are a few confessions...
  1. I don't have a long list of kind activities and notes all pre-planned. Most nights, JUST as I fall asleep, I sit bolt upright, exclaiming "PENNY AND PIP!" and drag myself downstairs to find them and scribble a note.  
  2. When Pip went "back to help Father Christmas with some important jobs" the truth was that he was just lost and I was too tired to find him. He was later found down the back of the sofa and quickly returned to the elf front door while the kids weren't looking. 
  3. The other night that 'bolt upright' moment didn't happen and the first thing I realised yesterday was that I HADN'T left a note. Cue heading down the stairs before the kids and quickly swiping them into my dressing gown pocket. Still half asleep I couldn't for the life of me come up with a kind message so quickly wrote that they'd gone to help Father Christmas wrap yet more presents and would be back when they got back from school. 
  4. They weren't.... cue quickly finding them, brushing off the dog hair and sneaking them onto the Christmas tree along with two chocolate coins. 
  5. I may have conveniently forgotten to remind the kids about P+P's suggestion to bake biscuits after school this week when I'd forgotten to buy the ingredients we needed. I acted none the wiser at dinner when Wilf remembered about it.
Despite my failings the kids are absolutely clueless and the magic that these two bring is, to them, truly believable. When I couldn't find Pip the other day I remembered Wilf asking if he could take him to bed with him that night. When I crept in to his room I found Pip safely tucked inside his bed guard pocket. Christmas and magic through the eyes of a four year old is simply the best! 
Something I have managed to get right is to find the perfect elf size tiny tree to welcome them back to our home. This miniature tree from Bloom & Wild arrived just a few days before Penny and Pip and we had great fun decorating it together. The kids were amazed to find "a TREE!" inside the letterbox box and we took great delight in hanging the baubles and lights that came with it. Severe restraint was required to stop myself from evenly distributing them once they'd first finished with it (obvs restraint went out the window before taking these photos!) You can find a few varieties of these lovely trees, along with their full Christmas collection of blooms, on the Bloom & Wild site here.
In a bid to avoid the late night note writing, I sat down with the kids last night and we wrote notes of 'kindness spreading' activities to put in our DIY calendar from Cotton Twist. Anwen wasn't that fussed and just ran off with the envelopes, glitter tape and attempted to grab the scissors. But when I asked Wilf to come up with suggestions his first response was, "I know Mummy, let's give some toys to children that don't have any." That's my boy! We did this last year with Penny and Pip and it's stuck with him all year.

So whilst I might not be the most organised elf Mum, I know that by welcoming these two into our home we're creating moments that will stay with the kids for a lifetime. Most importantly though, they're leaning ways of spreading kindness and love and that, for me, is the very best kind of magic. 

Thursday 1 December 2016

A Final #mythursdaybreaktime - With a Double Whammy Giveaway

About 20 months ago, on a whim I started a weekly project on Instagram with the sole purpose of celebrating breaktimes. From quick 'pause' moments, restful mornings and lie ins, to hour long refuels with tea and cake to poolside drinks abroad.

The project was called #mythursdaybreaktime and (at the time of writing) has seen a staggering 3,344 photos being shared in a gallery that's bursting with beautiful images and thousands of cups of tea.

Every week since starting I've shared my favourites, always with a monthly round up of the photos shared. Thursdays have always felt a little bit different because of this project and I've received the loveliest comments from people throughout it, saying how it's reminded them 'to sit down for a moment in a busy day', or that 'scrolling the gallery to see what others are up to has given a break in itself.'
My favourite post this month. Spot the Spaniel! Congratulations to @lornarachel.
The truth is though, I've been struggling to find the time to keep up with everything recently. Work is busier, naptime afternoons seem to be a thing of the past (I was CLINGING on I tell you) and so, I've decided to make this my last monthly round up. Of course the gallery is there for people to post into and I'll certainly be popping by. I've genuinely loved seeing posts being shared by people on the same day of the week, each telling an individual story.

I'm so happy to have brought you some amazing giveaways throughout this project, all from brilliant British, independent businesses. I thought it would be nice to mark this final month with a little extra something for you all. So I'm delighted to tell you that I'm partnering with TWO amazing businesses to bring you a prize that, for me, sums up the perfect breaktime. Yes, one involving plenty of tea, cake and some chocolate thrown in for good measure.
The first prize comes from Milk and Honey Bakes, a genius business idea which involves sending chocolate brownies through the post. The delightful Bristol-based founder Hannah, sent me some of her Chocolate Orange range to taste and they were SO unbelievably good. They arrived beautifully packaged in tissue and ribbon, making them the perfect gift to send to someone. Hannah is kindly giving a box of brownies to the lucky winner who also gets to pick the flavour from the mouth watering options available.

The second prize comes from Fair Do's (Siopa Teg if you'd like the Welsh version), a brilliant Cardiff based Fair Trade shop. Tucked away on a road in Canton, West Cardiff this shop stocks and champions an amazing range of fair trade gifts and treats. They're kindly giving away a selection of fair trade chocolate treats and teas. If you live in Cardiff and fancy buying some Fair Trade goodies for Christmas then get yourself down to their late night shopping evening next Tuesday 6th (5-8pm). Their Facebook page here has full details.
ALL you have to do be in with a chance of winning these delicious prizes is join in with #mythursdaybreaktime anytime from today, 1st December to Thursday 15th December. One favourite image will be selected and announced on Friday 16th. The winner will need to pick out their brownies and provide address details in time for them to be sent out on Wednesday 21st - just in time for some Christmas feasting!

Thank you to everyone that has joined in with this project. I truly believe in the power of taking a break. There's a well known saying which rings so true for me 'you can't pour from an empty cup' and it's spot on. Even taking a few moments out to pause can be so important and refreshing. Obviously the longer breaks involving a hot drink and a sofa are the winners but a break is a break whatever it looks like.

Thank you so much for reading today. I can't wait to see the festive images shared over the next few weeks.

Tuesday 29 November 2016

A Winter Weekend - With Gap

Every time a new season comes about, I make a grateful nod to the one that's just past and welcome in the new one with open arms.

Out of the four seasons, Winter often has a hard time, branded a cold, dark month where the days are short. Maybe some of that's true but there are so many things to celebrate in it too (less than month now! *lets out silent squeal*). At the top of my Winter bucket list are walks on crisp, blue sky days followed by long afternoons by the fire, with a film and a big bowl of popcorn. This past weekend we found all this in plentiful supply.

There's lots of ways that new seasons are marked out for us as a family. From changes in our home, bringing in seasonal finds from our walks which, if truth be told, only sometimes make it to the mantle piece, to changes in what we eat and wear.

For me, cosy knits and bobble hats are what Winter dressing is all about and I love finding a new warm jumper, which I usually end up living in until Springtime. I recently picked out some new pieces from Gap which have given a fresh injection of colour (and all important cosiness) into all of our wardrobes.

I found it impossible to resist their 'Crazy Stripe' collection and loved choosing the boys and Anwen and I a few matching pieces. The kids are at an age now when they notice when we match and absolutely love it. Twinning is winning, as they say, although I'm not sure how long they'll think so, so I'm maximising every opportunity!

I can't remember what we were talking about here, but it's very possible that I was showing her how cold my hands were. Despite the sunshine it was freezing out!
This little hero will jump at ANY opportunity to help his Daddy, and getting the wood burner ready to warm us all up is a favourite job of theirs.

As soon as I saw this flash jumper I knew Wilf would love it. He did and it was instantly nicknamed his 'super hero' jumper. Something tells me he'll be seeking it out to wear whenever he can, probably sporting some super hero moves and sending out invisible lazer beams from his finger tips at the same time.
Absolute heroes. Both of them.

Did I say twinning? Forget it. Tripleting. That's where it's at my friends! These stripey leggings are ridiculously comfortable and, with their elasticated waist band, are likely to be my trouser of choice come Christmas day. For now though, they'll make the perfect pair of trousers to enjoy a weekend film in.
Can you guess who finished their popcorn first and went looking for more? Poor Wilf didn't stand a chance.
Adding a tree to our mantle piece this weekend, definitely got me in the festive spirit and, despite being completely dumbfounded as to where this year has gone, made me so excited for December and the magic it holds. It also made me realise just how much Christmas shopping I still have to do! Thankfully though, I managed to tick a few bits off in Gap when I called in.

These glittery numbers sing Christmas sparkle to me and I've found myself pulling the denim shirt out for every social occasion since getting it.

Anwen hasn't seen this little ensemble yet but it's a cert that she'll strip off and demand to wear it all as soon as she opens them on Christmas day. Goodness knows how many outfit changes this child will have by the end of the day.
If these ballet shoes came in my size I'd snap them up in an instant. I'll let you into a little secret though, a pair of shoes that did fit me were these silver boots! I have size 3-4 feet so, occasionally, I'm lucky enough to find a pair of children's shoes that fit. I may have given a little fist pump when I found this pair in my size. They are so comfortable and have become a firm favourite already. Although if you fancy a pair, I would advise that you avoid wearing with TOO many crazy stripes (some is fine but don't go head to toe). I overdid it one day recently and looked alarmingly similar to Mr Tumble.
Anwen also hasn't seen these sweet bear tights which have found their way into her stocking pile. I'll guess I'll just have to slip these socks into the gigantic pile I'm assuming Sam is gathering for me.
I'm fairly sure this scene is how the rest of our Winter will play out. Fingers crossed for more sunshine filled walks, followed by cosy days adorned in crazy, colourful stripes. Lucky for Sam there wasn't a men's range of these leggings because you know I'd definitely have gone there. 'Quadding.' Could that be a thing?!
I'm delighted to be joining with Gap to share a fantastic offer with you this week. If you fancy snapping up any of these items for your own Winter wardrobe or to fill some Christmas stockings then, from today until next Monday (5th December), you can get 40% off all full price items (excluding leather and cashmere). Simply screen shot the voucher below to show in store or reference the code to claim your discount, simple!

Wishing you all the loveliest of Winters, may your days be bright.

This post was written in collaboration with Gap. However all words and views are my own.

Friday 18 November 2016

Behind The Business - What it really means to shop independent.

Three years ago today, with an 18 month old son and a baby bump big enough to hide my feet, I launched little maldod. I had no idea where it would go but had a burning desire to set up my own creative business and, after months (years) of talking about, just went for it.

If you'd have told me that three years on it would have grown into a viable business (that's saved me from a bureaucratic, corporate world I SO didn't want to return to post maternity) I would have been overjoyed. If you'd have also told me of the inspiring women, cherished friendships and amazing independent businesses I would encounter along the way I'd, quite frankly, have been gobsmacked. 

During the time I've been in business it's been amazing to see the 'shop independent' movement grow from strength to strength. Indeed, my business wouldn't be where it is today without the support of people 'shopping independent' and spending their hard earned pennies with me. I genuinely get a buzz every single time an order notification pings into my inbox.
So for those of you that have visited little maldod and have browsed and popped an order in, thank you! Shopping independent really DOES make a difference. I love that I can also make a difference to customers, with small touches that just aren't possible for bigger shops and brands to make. Whilst writing this the following email arrived in my inbox:

"Hi Lowri, I just wanted to say how beautifully wrapped my items were. It is lovely that I don't have to wrap them myself, and instantly made me feel all Christmassy. This is why I love shopping with independent stores like yours, the love and attention that goes into the products and then to the customer is above and beyond."

For me, those words are what it's ALL about!

It's hard to miss the catchy mantras and eye catching graphics on social media encouraging people to 'shop independent', they're such good reminders, particularly at this shopping frenzy time of year.
However I wanted to share a little more of WHY and what it really means to the people behind the business when you shop independent. 

I asked a few friends that I've met since starting up, all of them bosses in their own right - sellers, makers, designers and doers, to share their own testimony of what shopping independent means to them. I hope you enjoy reading and are inspired by their stories. If you click on each name it'll take you directly to their website so if you fancy a spot of shopping it couldn't be easier!

Blossom and Bear - Fun, Colourful and Lovingly Made Items for You, Your Children and The Home
Running a small business allows me to channel my creativity into something productive and gives me the flexibility to work around my children. I can work in the evening and not miss that school play, sports day or school pick up. It means so much when people shop independent, it not only affects me and my business but my whole family! Plus it gives me a buzz to know people are enjoying products I have created.

Buddy and Bear - Playful Design for the Modern Family
Presents are such a personal thing and knowing that someone has picked out our design from all the billions of possibilities to make a special little someone smile is the best feeling. Each and every order makes me think, wooooah, somebody wants this and I'm doing it as my job, with my family. And I love it! Shopping independent is truly supporting dreams and making a direct difference to the makers and their families.

Cotton Clara - The Home of Colourful, Modern Textile Art
When people shop from me I feel very grateful and like I'm part of a great community. When I buy independent I imagine someone just like me, trying to do something creative and make 'work' work for them, and that makes me feel really happy that I can help make that happen.

Fable Heart - "Believe in Dress Up"
Shopping small becomes more important to me every year. I now buy less things, but much better things- so probably spend the same amount as when I used to go to high street stores looking for a bargain. The reason I shop this way now, is because I truly believe that the way you spend your money and who you give it to is worth so much more than a political vote. You can either choose to support people who pay fair wages, and know exactly where they manufacture. Or you can choose to line the pockets of a board of directors who abuse people they never have to see, in countries they have never been to, to increase their growth percentage that year. That is the choice you are making, and it is so important. Really look at where you are buying from. And support businesses who support people.

Hope and Rainbows - Bespoke, Personalised Wall Prints and Gifts for Babies and Children
I didn't fully appreciate just how empowering it would be to create my own brand and my own product range when I first set out, but shopping independent gives individuals like myself a huge boost.. a compliment..  the reassurance to keep creating, designing and making, and to offer our handmade alternatives in a world of mass-production.

Hobo Soy Candles - Small Batch, Hand Poured Candles. Lincolnshire, UK
I feel amazed, excited and totally grateful when someone buys from me. The fact that they must appreciate the time and effort put into something handmade and that they can relate to my product as there's a lot of competition out there. 

Ingrid Petrie Design - Contemporary Art For Happy Walls
It means the world when people choose to support small, independent, creative businesses like mine. I can never thank my lovely customers enough for choosing my designs for their homes and enabling me to grow and develop the business. There is such a good karma in shopping independent and I support fellow businesses as much as I can, encouraging family and friends to do the same.

Sleepy Doe - Children's Printed Sleepwear and Bedding, Designed and Made in the UK 
For me shopping independent also means shopping local. Here in Bath there are so many inspiring, hardworking businesses and since moving here 5 years ago I’ve seen many grow from strength to strength, and it’s because local people choose to shop with them regularly. I have already experienced this support via Sleepy Doe, so it’s important for me and my family to reciprocate by supporting other independents as much as possible.

The Gray Store - Design Led Personalised Items For All The Family 
It's enabled me to set up my dream business and I couldn't have done this without the continued support of people shopping independently.

The Green Gables - Green Gifts and Stationery to Spread a Little Joy 
When a person orders from the green gables it means an enormous amount to me. Because my customers aren’t just buying a thing from me. They’re bringing something into their lives that I spent a long time dreaming up, creating and bringing into reality in its best form. I design and create each item with the intention of it being a positive addition to my customers' lives, and I’m honoured that they choose my stationery to spend their hard-earned money on. 

The Lovely Drawer- Contemporary Prints and Stationery  
Every person that chooses to shop independent rather than going to a generic high street store, means small businesses like mine can exist. I see every order come in, I package it all up and take it to the post office and every single one I'm so grateful for. It still feels like a dream that people want to buy things I've designed and made. It never gets old!

Thursday 3 November 2016

November News

Just a brief post today as there's a hundred and one things going on at the moment (on my mental to-do list at least!)

I wanted to share this beauty of a post shared in the #mythursdaybreaktime gallery, and my pick for our lovely giveaway with Carolyn Carter.
Shared by Rachael Clarke @hobosoycandles it oozes simple living of the coolest kind! Rachael commented that it's a shame that these will soon be put away for the Winter. All the more reason to look ahead to Spring and fresh new adventures I say! Rachael wins a stunning pair of wrist warmers and mini plant hanger (please contact me with your details Rachael).

If you haven't already checked out Carolyn's stunning work then you really should! Her knits are so beautiful and perfect for the chilly weather ahead. You can find Carolyn's full collection here.

A few other images caught my eye last week too. It's funny how certain colours just jump out at you sometimes. I love the vibrant, fresh greens in this collection .
@fourbearsandme @bottlebranch @emilytalling

November is, historically, the busiest month of the year in the shop for me. This year I'm throwing in three markets, prep for our FIRST EVER pop up (more details to follow) and involvement in a very exciting winter campaign into the mix too. Let's just say I'm preparing to fly by the seat of my pants!

All the MORE reason to celebrate those moments when you can sink into the sofa and take a deep breath, or simply pause and enjoy a hot (I'll take warm) cup of tea. I'd love it if you shared your breaktime moments with me too, simply tag in #mythursdaybreaktime on Instagram to join in.

Until next time x