The garden may be covered in a blanket of snow but green is very much the colour of the weekend with St Patrick's Day celebrations yesterday and the Irish rugby team's spectacular Six Nations win.
So I have put together a green gifts wishlist to showcase the brilliant work of our directory makers.
Grab a cup of tea and have a browse. It's good to be green!
Green Russian Dolls pin cushion by Stitch City, £4.50
Sterling silver and Liberty print friendship bracelet by Lou Gray Jewellery. £15 plus postage.
Follow your dreams ceramic dish by Love & Lovelier. £14 plus postage.
Flora Clutch Olive Green by Seascape Curiosities, £42 plus postage
Hammered 9ct gold ring with gorgeous chrome-green tourmaline by Lydia Niziblian Jewellery, £245 plus postage.
Kids cute A5 drawing pad by oh! Susannah. £5 and shipping.
Green stars harem leggings by Zac and Bella. £15.50 plus postage.
Lime, turquoise and orange braided necklace by p& d designs. £24.95 plus postage.
Pink & green French macarons by Majestic Macarons. Price per quantity.
Since creating Little Otter Events back in 2013, I have met some amazing talented people many of whom have now become friends. One regular face at our events who has been a huge support to me over the years, is the very lovely Melanie Constantinou of baked by Mel.
Mel set up her own small business baking from home and was asked to talk about her journey and share some of her advice as part of an International Women's Day celebration last week, hosted by Her Worship the Mayor of The Vale of Glamorgan Councillor Janice Charles, organised by Julie Brown PA to the Mayor.
I caught up with Mel to find out a bit more about the day and how she got involved...
What did you talk about Mel?
I spoke about starting a small business from home and how/why I had come to that decision. I started baking as a business as a single parent to two small boys living on Machen mountain, outside Caerphilly. After many wanderings and living in various places, here I came, to settle in Wales…though with my family, all in Essex…it was tricky to fit in working hours and I struggled to imagine how I would return to teaching. Keen to improve our circumstances, I realised a home-based business would suit us perfectly. Naturally (very )…I turned to cake!!
I was specifically asked to speak about non-aggressive networking too and I gave out some of my tips. It was an honour to be invited and spend time in the company of so many inspirational women including:
International Women's Day...
Started by the Suffragettes in the early 1900's, the first International Women's Day was celebrated in 1911. International Women's Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.
This celebration held in Barry was part of the #pressforprogress campaign which is the campaign theme of International Women's Day this year which kicks off on March 8 every year. The IWD campaign theme provides a unified direction to guide and galvanize collective action. The campaign theme does not end on International Women's Day. It's just the start. Throughout the year many groups worldwide adopt the IWD campaign theme for further campaign work, gender-focused initiatives, continuing activity and events.
A huge well done to Mel for speaking in public which is always a nerve racking occasion! To find out more about Mel and her work, please visit her page on the Little Otter Events directory. To find out more about IWD campaign #pressforprogress, visit their website.
Happy Mothers' Day to all the wonderful women out there doing the hardest job in the world. You are all superheros.
Since I became a mother back in 2007, I have been on such a journey. There have been many amazing, wonderful times and my daughters fill my life with so much joy. But there have also been some really difficult and hard times when I have wondered if I am up to the job.
But then the clouds lift, the phase passes (there is always a phase!) and I remember the best piece of advice that I have ever been given by a midwife - to be kind to myself.
I saw someone on Instagram recently talking about how it is ok to be a "good enough parent" - there is so much pressure on women to have it all and do it all, to lead a 'perfect' life, juggling a successful career and a happy home life. And social media can make you feel like a failure and that you are not coping or achieving when everyone else is. But the truth is, there is nothing wrong with being "good enough".
As long as children are loved, fed and cared for, they will not remember the school kits that you forgot to pack, or the welsh cakes you forgot to buy for the school eisteddfod. I drop so many balls each month and my house is always messy (I blame my creative streak) but my kids are so loved and happy that I really need to stop feeling guilty about the things that I don't remember to do.
After all nobody looks back on their life and wishes that their Mum spent more time dusting when they were young! Kids just want your time. And I plan to treasure every moment I have with my two, even when the times get tough. So the duster can stay in the cupboard today, the hoovering can wait and we are off to visit my Mum.
Have a lovely Mothers' Day and be proud to be good enough.
If you came along to our Christmas markets in Rhiwbina and Penarth last year, you would have been lucky enough to see the work of Hayley McGhan of Zac & Bella. Barrybased, Hayley designs and makes a range of beautiful clothing and accessories for children & adults and her hard work was recently recognised by Dragons Den Judge, Theo Paphitis at his Small Business Sunday (#SBS) awards.
I caught up with Hayley to find out more about her award and the ceremony she recently attended in Birmingham....
How did you become a #SBS winner? What did you have to do?
I became an #SBS winner on May 22nd 2017. Every Sunday, Theo rewards small businesses that tweet him @TheoPaphitis and describe their businesses in one tweet including the all-important hashtag #SBS. Only tweets made in the time slot between 5.00 PM and 7.30 PM each Sunday count. I had entered for quite a few weeks & the tweet that won for me was a very simple description of my business with some really eye catching photography of my products.
What does the award mean to you?
I was absolutely blown away to have won the award. At 8pm on the Monday when Theo retweeted my tweet my phone went crazy for 2 hours and then continued into the following week! Theo has over 500,000 followers therefore the exposure to such a huge audience was fantastic. I gained many new followers and still do as a result of the award. The biggest thing for me however was to have my business recognised by such a high profile successful business man. From all the businesses who apply each week, less than 1% are successful so it was huge recognition.
Any top tips to other small businesses hoping to win?
Keep trying! I entered every Sunday for quite a few weeks. Keep your tweet simple & punchy- Theo loves humour so adding a bit of personality also helps! And also some eye catching images will help your tweet stand out. You can also find tips from Theo’s website www.theopaphitis.com.
Where was the award ceremony held? How did you celebrate?
I was given my award during the #SBS event which is held annually at Birmingham ICC. The day was absolutely amazing as it was a huge networking event. I was able to meet other winners who I’d built up a relationship with over Twitter & we even swapped products to advertise for each other. There were guest speakers at the event including AO.coms John Roberts who was so inspiring & the support you felt for small business to be successful was overwhelming. The sponsors of the event including Ryman stationary, iLaw, hp, Robert Dyas and DHL were holding meet the expert sessions - the free advice & knowledge I got was invaluable. The highlight of the event was obviously meeting Theo himself and receiving my award. And for the journey home we had the best goody bag!
What was Theo like?!
Theo was brilliant! He was very down to earth & so inspiring. His talk about small businesses being the backbone of Great Britain left me feeling as though my business is good enough and you don’t have to be a huge international retailer to be successful. Meeting him for an official photograph was great, I took along some Zac & Bella new lines which he had a good look at and he was very sincere in congratulating me - I can’t wait for next years event already!
A huge congratulations to Hayley on her award! To find out more about Hayley and the Zac & Bella range, visit her page on the Little Otter Events directory.
Porcelain triangular shaped earstuds, white with 24ct white gold dipped tips, sterling silver posts and backs by Ruby Anne Jewellery. £17.99 plus postage.
A5 Recycled Paper Vintage Sheet Music Notebooks, Upcycled Journals - Various Colours Available, by Stitch City. £8 plus shipping
Pretty party flamingo glossy oilcloth wash bag with wipe clean lining paired with a padded glasses/gadget (up to iPhone 6) case by Tommelise Danish Design. £18 plus p&p.
Mothers Day Card, Sul Y Mamau, Cardiau Cymraeg, by oh! Susannah. £2.50 plus shipping.
Award winning bara brith posted out with a personalised message, from baked by Mel. £15.99.
Leafy Sunflower Green White and Yellow Floral Vintage Patterned Fabric Button Stud Earrings 19mm or 15mm, by Stitch City. £3.50 plus shipping.
Mam Arbennig, Lovely Mum Badges, Button Badges, Bathodynau Botwm, personalised pin badge, great for Mother's Day and Birthdays, by oh! Susannah. 45mm £2.25 plus shipping.
Silk fabric blue and white knot bracelet by p&d designs, £9.95 plus shipping.
'Home is Where Mum Is' ceramic house plaque, glazed cheerful red and ready to hang. By Love & Lovelier. £10. Free collection from Llantwit Fardre, or £3.75 P&P.
Sterling silver and Liberty print friendship bracelet by Lou Gray Jewellery. £15 plus postage.
Looking for special gifts ahead of Mothers Day?
This Wednesday 28th February, we are holding an online market on our facebook page Little Otter Events. The market will only be open from 8pm until 10pm and many of the items listed are available at a special discount for one night only.
Please have a look through the items for sale on our facebook page, carefully read descriptions and then get ready to log on at 8pm on Wednesday. The first person to type SOLD underneath an item after 8pm has the chance to buy it. All items must be paid for within 48 hours of the sale. Please note that packaging and delivery are additional to the advertised price unless otherwise stated.
Here is a slideshow of some of the items that will be for sale. All items will be listed on Facebook in a Mothers' Day album on the Little Otter page.
It is only since becoming a Mum that I have truly appreciated all that my Mum has done for me. Her wisdom and kindness has guided me through the choppy waters of motherhood since I became a Mum in 2007. So when Mothers' Day comes around, I like to be able to spoil her.
But what to buy the woman who has everything?! If you are facing the same dilemma as me, have a look through our gift inspiration made by local makers, many of whom happen to be Mamas!
And log on to Little Otter Events facebook page on Wednesday 28th February for our market night when some of our directory makers will be offering special discounts for one night only.
Mama necklace, Lou Gray Jewellery, £45
Oilcloth makeup bag and glasses case, made to order, contact Tommelise Danish Design
Gift box of 12 Vanilla And pastel Sprinkles Macaroons, Lolo's Cake Away, £16.50 plus shipping
Fabric earrings, Stitch City, £3.50
Black & Grey Diamond Clutch Bag, lined in Pale Pink Suede, The Pocket Pirate, £85 plus postage
2lb loaf of bara brith, Baked by Mel, £15.99 including UK delivery
I am so excited to launch our online directory this weekend on our Little Otter Events website.
Since the very first Rhiwbina's Handmade Market back in November 2013, I have been approached by people who came to an event, got home and regretted not getting the contact details for a maker. Over the years, I have been asked for details of "the maker with the brown hair who was by the stage". Or for "the lady who sold beautiful silver jewellery and had a stall in the hall".
I love that people get in touch, and often ask me for contacts and ideas on who to approach if they have a gift in mind. So this weekend, I have launched an exciting new venture that I have been working on for a while - the Little Otter Events online directory.
The directory is a carefully curated collection of makers who produce the high quality of work that you have come to expect at Little Otter Events.
Each maker has their own page showcasing their work, all the contact details you need to get in touch with them, and then a little bit about the maker so that you get to know the face behind the brand.
One of the very best things about coming along to a Little Otter Event (apart from the cake!) is the opportunity to chat to makers and get to know them. I wanted the directory to reflect this and I hope that you enjoy getting to know this talented bunch.
The directory is very much a live venture - so content will change as more makers come on board or existing makers add new products.
I will be blogging with gift inspiration every week including ideas for those special Mums as Mothers' Day is fast approaching. So keep in touch with us over social media to be the first to hear about promotions and events from our talented makers.
I have grown to love London more each time I visit. As an adult in my twenties, I visited London occasionally but was always intimidated by the size of the city and the busyness of the tube. Having grown up in a small town, I worried about being mugged in the Big Smoke as I feared that danger lurked around every corner!
It was only in my late 30s when I visited with my two young children that I began to truly fall in love with the city. Travelling with children opened up a different side to the city as people talked to us on the tube and asked to have their photo taken with my daughters on the London Eye. My girls' enthusiasm and awe for the city rubbed off on me and now I can't wait to visit.
At the end of January, Gethin (my husband) had a weekend of work planned in Paddington and invited me to stay with him. It is our wedding anniversary on 28th January and so he was feeling guilty for being away. Geth asked me if I would be ok on my own in the big smoke and able to amuse myself.... Hell yeah! So with the girls happily spending time with their grandparents, Geth and I jumped on the 9.18 train from Rhiwbina and headed to London.
On arrival, Geth headed straight to work until 9pm, and I felt lucky to have the whole afternoon ahead of me. Having spent the morning sat on a train, I decided to get some fresh air and walk down through Hyde Park. The Italian Gardens are a lovely spot to sit with a coffee and contemplate the world and I really enjoyed people spotting on my walk.
When I asked for advice from fellow parents ahead of my trip to London with Awen & Tiri, a good friend recommended spending time at Princess Diana's Memorial especially on a hot day. We had so much fun whilst we were there - the atmosphere was so relaxed with loads of parents and children, couples and groups of tourists all splashing around in the water and taking photos. This time, the memorial was really quiet with just a few couples walking around and I suddenly missed my girls and wished that they were with me.
I continued down through the park and then cut across to The Victoria and Albert Museum. I have always wanted to visit it but have never made it through the beautiful doors. It is open late on the last Friday of the month so I knew that I had plenty of time to explore the seven miles of exhibition space. I must admit that I was slightly overwhelmed by the size of the museum and got completely lost as I found the layout very confusing even with a map! But the welcome desk had a really helpful leaflet on the top ten items not to miss so I wandered around and tried to find them all.
My heart was in my mouth when I saw the Armada Jewel aka The Heneage Jewel. The Jewel is decorated with a profile portrait of Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603) in gold and on the reverse is an image of a boat sailing peacefully on stormy seas which is intended to represent the Church of England, steered by Elizabeth, weathering religious turmoil. It was made around 1595 and is a beautiful locket containing a miniature painting of Elizabeth I which they believe she gave to her loyal and active courtier Sir Thomas Heneage. The colours on the back are so vibrant and I was overwhelmed to see something so old.
The jewellery room is a must visit for any magpies. Look at this collection of rings and gemstones!
I love to discover new makers and their work wherever I visit so I definitely didn't want to miss the inaugural Women's Hour Craft Prize which is on display at the V&A. The finalists are a varied and eclectic mix and I would argue that many of them fall more in to the design and technology category than craft - see what you think by following the link.
Here is the winning piece by Phoebe Cummings, 'Triumph of the Immaterial'. Phoebe creates temporary sculptures and installations using raw clay. This sculpture will change as the clay dries out and will eventually erode and dissolve. I thought that her flowers were beautifully crafted and so delicate.
If you do visit the museum, make sure you pop in to the cafe. How amazing is the decor! Although I don't think the wire ball lampshades work....I'm not sure the Queen has wire balls in Buck House.
The V&A has a brilliant gift shop with a great selection of prints, postcards, art, books, accessories and jewellery, including a range from Donna Wilson, who I love.
After spending four hours walking around and marvelling at everything, it was time for me to jump on the tube and head back to the hotel to meet Gethin. As I was leaving a DJ started playing in the foyer, the lights were turned down low and loads of people were arriving to meet up with friends and enjoy the late night opening. Each of these late nights has a theme and there are free talks and activities happening across the museum. There was a really good atmosphere and I was sad to leave.
Saturday, Gethin had to be in work for 8am bless him so I was up and out and on the tube by 9am wondering how to fill my day as he was not due back until 6pm.
I headed to the iconic Trafalgar Square which was already bustling with tourists waiting for the National Gallery to open at 10am. How lucky are we to be able to visit these amazing exhibition spaces for free. There is a charge for special exhibitions but I was able to see Van Gogh, Monet, Matisse, Rossetti, Klimt, Constable, Di Vinci and so many other world famous artists for free!
This was one of my favourite paintings by John Russell, 'Les Terrasses de Monte Cassino'. Such beautiful pastel shades.
Before the 19th century most women painters who enjoyed anything like professional status were the daughters, and often the wives of male artists. So there is not a lot of art work in the Gallery by female artists but I did fall in love with this self portrait by Elizabeth Louise Vigee Le Brun.
After a morning of culture, I was ready for an afternoon of retail therapy and so my next stop was one of my favourite buildings in London, Liberty's.
I can't afford any of the clothes, accessories or jewellery in there but I do love to wander around, people spotting and gazing at the fabulous displays. (I really enjoyed the behind the scenes programme on Channel Four a few years ago and hope that it returns).
My love of all things stationery means that I head straight to this department every time I visit but this year I was sadly disappointed as they have downsized the range and didn't even have their expensive pencil sets! (You can never have too many pencils right?!) Maybe they have moved the range upstairs.....They did have an amazing selection of witty cards and notebooks in the Liberty print but usually I can find something a bit different in there and treat myself but sadly it was not to be.
So I headed upstairs to the home department as they always have a beautiful display of ceramics and this section didn't disappoint me.
Pastels do seem to be everywhere and I loved this range of pretty concrete vases from Scottish artist Emma McDowell. Carefully crafted by hand from start to finish, her pieces are often moulded using found or recycled materials.
Fantastic to see a big company showcasing independent makers too.
I have followed Jimboart aka James Ward for years on Facebook so it was fabulous to see some of his range in Liberty's. I need that pancake plate especially with Shrove Tuesday around the corner!
A welcome new addition since the last time I visited are the plants on sale. Succulents are everywhere in interior design and I loved seeing how the team at Liberty's worked this new range in to their home display.
More beautiful pastel ceramics......
Sadly I left Liberty's empty handed this time but really enjoyed wandering around. It is a beautiful place to visit at Christmas time so I will make sure that I head back there for gift inspiration in November.
It was getting dark outside and I felt really tired as I had walked a lot and so I decided to head back to the hotel, to order a large glass of wine and wait for Geth to finish work.
That evening, Geth treated me to anniversary meal in the restaurant at the top of the Oxo Tower building on the South Bank. The view over to St Paul's Cathedral was stunning. The staff at the restaurant were so friendly and attentive and the food was good. Here we are outside the restaurant before we headed back to our hotel.
A big thank to Geth for spoiling me that weekend.
London, it was fun. See you soon!
I'm so excited that we are returning to the beautiful Paget Rooms tomorrow for our Mothers' Day special Penarth's Handmade Market.
Tomorrow this hall will be full of stalls from some fabulous makers. There will be so much talent in the room and I can't wait to see what everyone has been working on.
Upstairs, Lucy from Dippy Egg will be running a watercolour workshop where attendees will have a go at painting a rose and then making a special card to take away with them. I'm looking forward to seeing how they get on.
David & Fiona from Wern Ganol Smallholding are running a popup cafe too serving cream teas, a delicious selection of home bakes and hot & cold drinks too.
I hope that you can join us! Doors are open 11-4. Here's a selection of some of the amazing work you will discover.