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

Friday, 28 October 2016

Golden Leaves - The Easiest Craft Project You'll Try This Year

I don't know about you but after every walk and scoot we go on at the moment, we come home with pockets full of sycamore "ellodoctors", acorns and a host of different leaves. So a few weeks ago we collected some up to put to use in a quick and easy craft project.
It really couldn't have been easier! With one pot of glitter glue and two paint brushes we transformed our collection into some beautiful, autumnal decorations.
The next things to get the golden treatment are acorns and fir cones but, for now, we're enjoying seeing our park souvenirs around the house. 
Why not give it a go too? You get to feel quietly smug about laying on a seasonal half term activity AND end up with some free decor too! An all round Autumn win.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

A September Round Up And Giveaway With Carolyn Carter

I have loved this past month, it's felt long but has past in a blink all at the same time. A lot has happened in our little family and we're just starting to find our groove in a new pace of life.

The biggest change is that Wilf has started school and Anwen has started her two mornings at a nursery. They're both loving it and coming back with tales of things they've seen and done each day. Wilf's accounts of playground adventures over dinner each evening have had Sam and I scoffing, trying not to spray food over the table as we stifle laughs. "We all closed our eyes and punched each other" up there with things we weren't expecting to hear.

Anwen has chosen to surprise us with sayings at other unsuspecting moments. Like when the allotment secretary popped by last week and she asked to smell her pink lipstick and then informed her "Daddy got a willy." I laughed it off heartily obviously, whilst cringing and hoping she hadn't made out the very.clear.intonation of my two and half year old.
September also threw a couple of adventures our way, with a getaway to Bristol for the night, a night back at my parent's in Pembrokeshire cheering on Iron Men and a very special wedding in Henley.

Sam was the best man to two very special friends and I was honoured to help with flowers and gatecrash the top table (albeit with invitation). Apart from a stubborn white owl who refused to fly the rings down the aisle(!), the day went without a hitch and we danced late into the night.
As always its been busy with brief moments of calm (see below) to stop and recharge.

I've caught myself on a number of occasions recently rushing completely needlessly. Whether it's because I haven't brushed off the school run rush (always) or because I'm always just late for things (probable) but I'm trying to remind myself to just.slow.down a bit more.
A great weekly reminder for me is My Thursday Breaktime. Seeing lovely moments of calm, usually involving hot cups of tea (destined to go cold if mine are anything to go by), inspires me to carve out a small part of my day just for me.

Here are just a few of the gorgeous photos that caught my eye in the gallery last month.
@emilytalling  @toosmallforadog
Organic Surge joined us during September and generously sponsored it with a lovely prize including four of their deliciously scented hand and body washes. Although there were a whole host of great entries, I kept coming back to this sweet scene by Hannah (@hannahruthking)
I love everything about it. The smooth white sheets, the creamy coffee, matching blues and those toes and leg rolls? Don't even get me started! A huge congratulations Hannah, please drop me a line so we can get your prize to you.

I'm delighted to announce some more very exciting news in that we have made a perfect partnership for the cosy month ahead. Carolyn Carter is joining us in celebrating breaktimes and I couldn't be more delighted.

I discovered Carolyn's work through instagram and have fallen for her paired back style and the beautiful craftsmanship in her knitted work. You can find her full range in her shop here.
Carolyn is kindly offering a very generous prize of a pair of wrist warmers (in a colour of your choice) and a mini plant hanger, for our favourite October post. To enter your posts simply tag us @littlemaldod and @carolyn_carter along with the usual #mythursdaybreaktime hashtag. 
I can't wait to see what this month has in store for you all. I'll be reminding myself to stop charging about and finding some fun down on the allotment this weekend to help me with this. Stay tuned next week for a little green fingered update!

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Back to Flower School With Bloom & Wild

For as long as I can remember, the arrival of September has brought with it feelings of excitement and anticipation. With a new term and sudden shift from slow summer living back to routine, lunchboxes and brand new pencil cases, I've always loved the changes this month brings.

The sudden nip to the air, which you can almost taste, that creeps in this month also heralds a change to the seasons and a nod towards cosier days. If you've been following this blog or my Instagram for a while you will have noticed that I love to mark these changes in our home and, for me, there's no lovelier way to do it than through flowers.

So when Bloom & Wild invited me to go 'Back to Flower School' with them, to share flower inspiration and tips for Autumn I was first the first to say yes (miss). My sparkling new pencil case was replaced with a letterbox sized box of blooms and my homework to create something beautiful from The Suki, a stunning limited edition bouquet.

With an evening with friends lined up at our house and an Autumnal menu with our weekend's allotment harvest planned, I decided to create two different wreaths to welcome our guests and adorn our candlelit hearth.

I kept both wreaths quite simple using all of the elements from The Suki, made up of an eye catching combination of Protea (with a pineapple looking outer leaf) and the sofest pink Bella roses. The tools I used can be easily brought from a local florist and in a few simple steps I was able to put together two beautiful Autumnal wreaths.

If you fancy having a go too, you'll need:

Florist Wire
Natural Twine
Scissors (any old pair will do!)
 Secateurs for the tougher stems (if you have them)
Circular Wreath

Front Door Wreath
For the first wreath I used an old wooden wreath that I've used in our home before. It had sadly been left to the outside elements and hung neglected on our patio wall. Waste not want not in my book though and I set about tidying it up and snipping off any straggly bits of wood and old string I'd tied to it. 
I selected each element of the bouquet, including a Protea head, Rose, Veronica and a small piece of the foliage (Dracena Sanderiana Gold) putting them together to form a small posy.
Using about 5 inches of wire I tied the bottom of the posy together, twisting the wire at the back to tighten it in place. I used this same method (using a longer piece of wire) to attach the posy to the wreath itself. Thankfully the wreath had plenty of space in it to work the wire through to be back.

The loose structure of the wreath also meant that I could add a few stems of Veronica, weaving them around easily to finish it off.

The pinks in The Suki complimented our front door beautifully and it was lovely to be able to reuse something I already had (albeit neglected and forgotten), giving it a new lease of life with a few simple touches. 

The Rose lasted well overnight but I knew it'd need a bit of water to keep it going. Thankfully it was easy enough to gently pull out of the posy and pop in a small bud vase along with some Veronica.

Natural Green Wreath
Also included in The Suki was some wild and exotic looking foliage with a strong, flexible stem which I knew would bend easily to create a more natural wreath. I've been inspired by lots of images of this style of wreath on Instagram so decided to have a go myself. 

I fastened the stems to each other using the same method I used with the posy. Wrapping a piece of wire around and twisting it at the back to keep it in place. Once the stems were attached I gently bent them round into a circle and attached the two ends together in the same way.
Unlike the wooden wreath, the dark wire was clearly visible against the green stems so I used a natural hemp string, wrapping it around the stems helping to bind them together.
I was really pleased with how this wreath turned out, the leaves gave it a much more untameable feel (it did have to be strongly encouraged to be a circle!) and the twine complimented the rustic style really well.
I had plenty of flowers left from the bouquet which I used to fill different size vessels to decorate our hearth, helping to tie everything together. Along with plenty of candles, it provided the perfect focal point as we enjoyed drinks and a catch up with good friends.
I loved trying something different with this bouquet, homework has never looked so good! I recently started a subscription with Bloom & Wild as I knew that as our Summer of garden flowers drew to a close I'd still want blooms around our home. The wooden wreath will be an easy thing to keep using, no longer forgotten and straggly but something I can now refresh with new blooms as they arrive each month, ready to welcome guests this Autumn.

Do you have something similar you could refresh and bring a new lease of life to? You can find the full range of Bloom & Wild bouquets here, why not pick a bunch and have a go too. If you have a go at making a wreath, do drop me a line and let me know how you get on.

 This post was written in collaboration with Bloom & Wild, whereby I was gifted The Suki bouquet and invited 
to create a project. All words and ideas are entirely my own.