Alice’s Bear Shop – Lyme Regis

Alice's Bear Shop

Every now and then we kind of stumble across shops that we’re immediately drawn to – and Alice’s Bear Shop is one. Last year when we stayed at Devon Cliffs we did a day trip into Dorset, and found the shop while wandering around.

Now you’re probably thinking a teddy bear shop doesn’t sound very grand, but if I was to tell you that in the back of the shop there’s a Teddy Bear Hospital – where you can take your old bears to be repaired, you’re getting the picture.

Alice's Bear Shop Books

There’s SO much more though. Rikey Austin started Alice’s Bear Shop a long time ago, and has written and illustrated several books about bears which over the last year have become some of H’s favourites. In fact, on stepping into the store you can find all sorts – with a teddy reference in there somewhere. I have now touched a teddy which sells for £50!

Rikey herself has a story to tell – which has recently finished being filmed in the form of a documentary – she’s hoping her story will inspire others to give it a go – and she is a really inspirational lady. We chatted about bears, and how she doesn’t want to make lots of money – that all she wants is her bears to be loved (as teddies should be!) – it isn’t about spending lots of money buying the latest teddy, it’s about finding a teddy you love and treasuring it forever.

I like that way of thinking – the only way I could understand it was by putting it to my experiences with my job I have now – I was buying the records in my teenage years and here I am working for the same companies – I’ll never be rich, but I’m working amongst something I know I love. If you’re doing that, you’ll get what Rikey is doing too.

This Sunday we picked up two more bear books, as well as a t-shirt and print – the print is set to be framed and put on H’s wall (with the big reorganisation of her room), and I love how she knows the names of all the bears (and knows enough letters to work out which bear is which when she isn’t sure). The Tilly book is set to be released in hardback quite soon; towards the end of the year; and Rikey is going to be doing a signing in London – we’ll have more news when it happens.

What is it that attracted us to Alice’s Bear Shop? Seeing the hospital reminded me of my childhood – these days toys don’t get repaired, they’re disposed of and a new one bought – and as we try to move into a better ecological way of life this kind of thing is important – you don’t stop loving a toy when it gets worn out – but how many Teddy Bear Hospitals are there these days?

Teddy Bears Brainbox Game drawn by Rikey Austin

The books too – they’re all lovely stories all based around Alice whose mother mends bears. Alice has a special power in that she can talk to the various bears and often rescues them or finds out what they’re trying to do. The stories are charming and once upon a time each bear in the story had their own toy equivalent – those days are over though.

There’s more than that too – Rikey has illustrated some Brainbox Memory Cards in the last year – we bought the teddy set for H for her birthday (which arrived just in time!) and there’s a new set featuring fairies which are available now. I’m holding out for Rikey’s ‘bad fairies’ collection personally!!

Alice's Teddy Bear Hospital

If you’re visiting Lyme Regis, you can find Alice’s Bear Shop at 55 Broad Street, Lyme Regis, Dorset DT7 3QF. We went on a Sunday when they were open until 5pm, but you can phone to check at 01297 444589. There’s parking nearby (which was full when we went) and a larger car park at the top of the hill which makes it a ten minute walk, tops.

Please pop by and visit – if you’re someone who has ever loved a teddy you’ll get this shop – and in fact if you still have your teddy and it needs a repair, why not get it checked into hospital? It might take a few days, but you can pick up or have it posted back to you once it’s mended. We love it!

Loving Argos….

ArgosCrazy, I know. Many a lunch hour I’d dread going to Argos – I’d reserve what I needed to get, and get in there after I’d done everything else in the hope I’d be out of there within twenty minutes (as just going in and ordering was even worse). A visit to Argos was PAIN.

Well, today I graced our local one in Wandsworth with my presence and was in and out within three minutes – it looks like they’ve had a swishy computer upgrade – I processed my reservation and spotted a new computer system up there – there was a regular sized queue at the tills, but not many people waiting to collect.

My receipt said it’d take three minutes, and indeed it did. Gobsmacked doesn’t cover it… I was out of there in less than five minutes.

Something somewhere has gone right – I don’t know if all Argos stores have had this upgrade, but all I do know is that it was really quite nice to shop there – no more waiting forever, just a nice quick shopping experience.

So Argos, whatever you’ve done, thank you. I’ll be back and I’ll have less of that fear of a long wait!

EDIT – yesterday I even joined the queue to purchase something – I was in and out of there in five minutes. Seriously, Mr or Mrs Argos boss, this new system is great, thank you for improving things – I really like going back now, I’m not spending my entire lunch hour in there. Has anyone else found the new Argos to be a bazillion times improved too?

The Baby Show, ExCeL February 2012

This will be my sixth or seventh baby show now, so feeling quite the pro at this going to fair lark, we (being Rachel, myself and our kids) jumped into my car and we did the drive across London – possibly a foolish one taking in the sights of Streatham and Tooting (lovely traffic…), arriving there with an hour and a bit left to shop.  One thing I’ve learnt from previous baby shows is you don’t need to take nappies (not an issue for us any more), and you don’t need to vary your snacks too much as there’s always tons of freebies you can pick up. Oh how wrong could we be on the latter? No Ella’s Kitchen, Organix or Annabel Karmel stands this time around – though fortunately some goody bags which did the trick.

We had the stands we wanted to see, so raced into the venue – H and I to see Pixie & Punk and Fudgy Bear as we’d got our tickets from them and Rachel to check out the Mia Tui stand.

H chooses which design she wants from Pixie & Punk

Fortunately Pixie & Punk were easy to find – so a chat with Tagore Ramoutar to thank him for the ticket and to buy a t-shirt and bag, as H loves her ‘Where In The World Is Rufus T Bear’ book – so we need a Rufus T Bear to go with it (and I love how he’s buttoned into the pocket of the shirt) – so picked out the lovely pink and cherry t-shirt – the colours are so lovely which is what made us notice Pixie & Punk in the first place. Go and check them out – if you love stripes you wont be disappointed! Even better, it’s not a pinky pink – it’s a nice un-girly one, so we approve.

Mia Tui Amelie Baby Show
Mia Tui Goodness

We knew Rachel would be at Mia Tui for a while, so headed off to find them – and despite never thinking I’d need one of the bags, I too was persuaded and hooked – the bags are HUGE! Now H is toilet trained we don’t have the need for a changing bag any more – just one bag with both our things in is needed (like spare pants, trousers, socks) – and as we’re using the buggy less and less it’s not even like I can have two bags with one hanging off the handlebars – the Amelie bag fitted that need perfectly! Even better, you got a free Amelie if you bought a Grace. It had to be done, and I handed over my money, and tried not to gush too much (after about five minutes deliberating whether or not to buy) – I’m really not a handbag kind of person, and I think that’s what appealed – I’ve seen the bags online and hadn’t realised just how big they are, plus they can be worn across your body, so you’re not putting strain on your back – we’ll be gushing more about Mia Tui very soon….

My Carry Potty
H chooses Her Carry Potty

After that my main reason for going had to be done – while H is pretty good as far as going to the toilet goes, we’re doing a couple of long drives this year and after the very excellent Paula over at Mummy vs Work recommended the My Carry Potty, we (well, I) decided it was the solution for us. Holly chose the one she wanted, we paid and got a George and Hollie book thrown in. As we’ve already got one, stay tuned as I’ll offer this as another potty training themed giveaway (and I’ve decided, even though I set January and February as a potty trained theme, actually, it’s not just about one or two months – it’s a few – so let’s keep it going!) in the not-too distant future. H then insisted on carrying her My Carry Potty, so Fudgy Bear got put into my lovely huge great big Amelie bag – until she decided she didn’t want to carry that any more – but – a big hurrah! The Amelie bag fitted a My Carry Potty in there too – you’d never have known. It’s ginormous!!!

Fudgy Bear
H admires photos of herself on the Fudgy Bear stand

We found Fudgy Bear‘s stand, alas no Fudgy, but a deal for the books so picked up two more which is always good – Fudgy Bear is well and truly in H’s life right now – and she was even more impressed to see photos of her on the stand from the Foyles reading (and quite excited too!). More on Fudgy coming very soon… I worked out what I love the most about Fudgy is the good fonts used in the books and reading materials – so many people use Comic Sans – I’ve been put off schools that use it on their website I’m so anti-that-font. So we love Fudgy even more than we already did for that.

Toddler Mum-MumNow, this lack of free food led us completely by accident (and don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect free food as such, I just knew people gave it away so it was a risk worth taking, knowing I could buy if needs be) to a new product from Baby Mum Mum – biscuits made from premium Japonica rice. There’s a Stage 1 and Stage 2 kind, and there’s many benefits which I’ll go into more when we do a more in-depth review, as they were great, and a good snack for H – the Stage 2 kind are strawberry flavoured too which went down very well!

So, with some snacks, a huge bag with some of our things in it and a need for caffeine, I started to look for the cafe (and Rachel!), and stumbled across a site 5 Point Plus. This is a really excellent idea – and one I know a lot of parents come across. We’re lucky, H is more than happy to stay put in her car seat and is often more into fastening herself in than trying to escape, but a lot of kids do try to get out – and this is designed to keep the child safe. According to the site, up to 70% of children will try to escape their harness – so it’s a much more common problem than you’d think. It’s a simple velcro-fastening band which goes around the back of the car seat, fastening to the side belts, keeping your toddler safe until you’re able to fasten them back in. Really truly, check this out. They’re for sale in Boots for £25, and if you’ve got a mini Houdini on your hands then it’s one of the best solutions I’ve seen.

5 Point Plus

5 Point Plus - how it works

We stumbled across The Gro Company‘s stand, and I gushed for ages about The Gro Clock and how well it has worked for us, then something else, and something else until I felt embarrassed. Sometimes I really can’t help myself… (there’ll be a Gro Clock review soon too) – there are plans to develop a new Gro Clock which should appear in a year or so with a new story (I suggested they make toys with the characters from the story, although I guess you could do it easily yourself), so while it wont be for us (as we’re doing just fine with one), it’ll be interesting to see.

Prima Baby were doing excellent goody bags for two issues of Baby & Pregnancy for £2 and tons of goodies, so we’ll be trying out the Halos & Horns Baby Moisturising lotion (as I do also like their fonts) when we get a chance.

Our coffee break was done, and we headed over to Buggyaccessories stand, where we said hello to lovely Emily from Bundlebean (we’re going to review here soon, we’ve had a good six months use from it now easily) until the Bay City Rollers ‘Bye Bye Baby’ came over the tannoy.

The penny eventually dropped, it’s time to go… H was bopping around or just throwing herself onto the ground refusing to walk (oh don’t you just love toddlers?) and we made our way out – just in time to grab a leaflet from me&i who do gorgeous Swedish designed clothes for kids – but we had no time to browse, and our parking ticket was about to run out. Sighhh. So I have a leaflet and I wish I’d seen more – gorgeous clothes.

So, thoughts about The Baby Show? I think this may be one of the last ones we do – I feel like we have everything we need now, and unless another small person is going to enter our world, I suspect we have all that we’re ever going to need. I was (again) disappointed at the lack of traders with potty training solutions (though My Carry Potty and Pourty are the two leading brands as far as this goes, so that’s okay), as I’d hoped to pick up a Piddle Pad which helps keep your car seat dry in case of an accident when travelling. The facilities were great, parking was good (though expensive – two hours for a fiver, any more than that for £9!),  but overall I can’t really complain. We bought the things we set out to get – and I’m a convert to Mia Tui and even surprised the lady on the Prima stand as I took everything out of the bag to try to find my camera lens cap – as Seasider in the City said, it truly is a Mary Poppins bag!

We got to Croydon on the drive home and H needed a wee. The My Carry Potty was christened in the car park just next to Reeves Corner, and oh, was I glad we had it – it was dark and I didn’t fancy holding a squatting toddler… plus of course it all remained contained and airtight until we got home!

The Brighton Baby Show, November 13th 2011

Phew, another Baby Show, another weekend of chaos, but at least this time it’s near the sea, so you can breathe. Add to this the weather was amazing, and we had to do it. I’d never been to the AMEX Stadium, though knew roughly where to head – and after a while wondered if I’d got it wrong, and whether it’d be obvious to see where we turn off; there were no signs, but eventually the stadium was pretty easy to spot.

We queued and got checked in, and once the doors opened we were ushered through quickly. This was good, however, the biggest downside with the new venue (last year it was at the Racecourse) was that you couldn’t get from one side to the other if you had a buggy – you had to leave the venue. Actually, I lie, that wasn’t the biggest downside – that was not being able to get a phone signal inside the main areas! A lot of the traders were having problems with this too, and at one point one trader had to walk over the other side of the room for his card machine to connect – it worked though.

Anyway, I’m not here to moan, I’m here to tell you about more companies that we met and saw their nice things.. so read on.

Flyer-wise, we got some good ones – Toy Rentals – brilliant idea (although I am the world’s worst at returning library books, or LoveFilm DVD’s) – check out http://www.toyrentals.co.uk – it’s set to launch in January 2012.

Mathemagical have loads of stimulating toys, games and activities relevant to them, and teaching them about maths – making it all good fun. Classes run in Brighton, Horsham and Worthing – head to http://www.mathemagical.co.uk

If I was an extremely wealthy person I’d be able to afford to get away, so for now I’ll dream from afar, but Mama Me Time offers stylish retreats for pregnant women and run away breaks for mums – http://www.mamametime.co.uk

Haven’t You Grown‘ Sales feature Baby, Toddler & Children’s Nearly-New Clothes, Toy, Book & Equipment Table-Top Sales – find details of upcoming sales at http://www.haventyougrownsales.co.uk

Kiddie Coupons is a great idea – and currently running in West Sussex. The 2012 edition costs just £15 and has coupons, great ideas for family days out and dining, and lists all child-friendly features at each and every venue – brilliant! http://www.kiddiecoupons.co.uk

Brighton has a new destination for children’s grooming, haircuts, pampering, parties and shopping – hello Bertie & Belle – head over to http://www.bertieandbelle.co.uk for more information – it opens on December 10th 2011.

Onwards to the excellent products and traders we saw and met – BundleBean was there and looked really busy – have you bought one yet? Have you read my gushing about them yet? Should I gush more…? With the weather so mild right now, our BundleBean is getting a lot of use.

Ohh we fell in love with the Rokka. It’s gorgeous, so versatile and it’s several toys in one – it becomes what a child’s imagination wants it to be – we were impressed with it – even though it’s quite expensive. You need to see it to believe it, and have a good drool – fabulous stuff – http://www.rokkaplay.com

My Wondercube had their stand – we bought one last year at the previous Brighton show, and it was nice to see again – it’s still going strong, and so many stories you can tell with it as your child grows up – http://www.mywondercube.com

Quack Quack Moo had a stand – we’d been sent one of their blankets for review back in April, so it was nice to meet up with them – we picked up one of their Buggy straps and H has been using it when we’re out and about – she quite enjoys holding on to it. A bargain at £2.50 too. http://www.quackquackmoo.co.uk

Baby Choes are lovely – really simple black and white prints on shoes which appeal to newborns, made from really soft leather – you need to check them out – http://www.babychoes.co.uk

Pixie and Punk had a stand, so I finally got to check out their t-shirt/toy/book combination – though only went for a book (they had one about various countries around the world which I’d not seen anything similar to) – I kind of wish I’d bought a t-shirt now… next time! http://www.pixieandpunk.com

The Nod Pod is new, and looks lovely – perfect for newborns, it is a baby blanket brought up to date. It keeps legs, toes and heads covered, and keeps arms safely wrapped up too. The blanket works with baby carriers, car seats and pushchairs without needing holes and zips to accommodate straps.  The blankets are made from supersoft fleece and I think it’s a damn good idea – I wish we’d had something like this when H was little. http://www.nodpod.co.uk

One that interested me a lot was a sample of ‘Dry Like Me‘ – a pad which would go into a pair of pants, while potty training. I’m working on a feature about potty training – if you’ve got this far, then do pop over to the Mum Friendly Facebook Group (if you’re on there) and let us know your tips if you have any – so many people do so many different things, and there’s so many things out there! I think this is an excellent idea, though I didn’t find their stand, unfortunately. However, I love samples of things and being able to try them out – so I’ll definitely try this one! http://www.drylikeme.com – you can register to test things on their site too – worth doing!

All in all it was a good baby show – loads of stalls all packed into a better sized area than last year – and even better, lots of information for local groups and activities – something which I’m sure Brighton isn’t short of. H got to meet Mister Maker “I was a little bit shy, I didn’t talk to him” she said after she’d had her photo taken with him – even though she’d been having pretend conversations on her Makka Pakka phone all the way down in the car with him. Aaah, toddlers. There’s some great stuff linked above – please take the time to visit them – they’re all lovely.

The Baby and Toddler Show for Traders, Olympia, 2011.

It was a last minute decision to go to this, and one I’m glad we did – it’s step-free for the majority of the journey which is a bonus. So H and I descended on Olympia, and I started to scan the room for names of businesses I recognised…

First up was Cheeky Wipes – we’d bought a kit for H from the Baby and Toddler Show, I’d seen a demonstration at an earlier one but left it, but I knew I wanted to get some – it’s such a good idea and fitted in with my idea of us using reusable things as much as possible. Our old wipes were the first lot made, and to see how much Cheeky Wipes have changed is great – the tubs you put your wipes and water in are much easier, plus have water levels marked (I could never get it right in our tubs!)- and now have easier lids to deal with – though this is set to change again earlier next year. The tubs will also be stackable, as well as toddler-proof. After chatting with Helen about things we’d done where I felt we’d done it wrong (putting too many wipes into the containers), I came away looking forward to seeing the new wipes – ohh and there’ll be some pink and blue ones too! More news when we have it…

Next to Cheeky Wipes was a stall Naturally Cool Kids, who I’d never heard of – but do five really simple products, and they’re all really good – plus they’re all natural and not tested on animals. After a good chat we came away with a sample of their menthol cool stick (which we’ve rubbed on H’s feet, then covered with socks and it’s worked a treat, stopping her from coughing all night) – they’ve got a nice cream which works as a barrier for dribbles and chapped noses too – I like. I will be buying from there soon…!

Hippychick had a stand, and it was full of all their great things – I love what they do, and am often taking up their Facebook offers – I didn’t get to chat to anyone really though I do want to get H one of their all in one waterproofs – a friend found one in TK Maxx once, so I’m hoping one day they’ll be discounted there again soon…

Excitingly, Baba Me, who are based in Belfast had a stand – and had a really prominent Bum Genius display. Our first reusable nappies were Bum Genius, and I’ve always been pleased with them – though we tend to use disposables more these days, unfortunately. What caught my eye was they’re about to launch (well, in January 2012) some reusable toilet training pants – with elasticated sides (in a different colour), and three different sizes (three sets of poppers/buttons – I can’t remember which), as well as three liners – so you can use the same set of pants three times. I’m liking this a lot… that could potentially be a pair of them (six liners in total) for H for nursery, for example as and when we do potty training – the liners are designed so your little one can feel they’re wet, but are designed to be removed and replaced with another liner, without getting rid of the outer. I approve!

We were pushed for time, so headed upstairs – where I saw a stand for Baby Swap Or Shop which is an excellent site and idea, but they were busy.

We skipped the buggy section, due to lack of time, but saw the Strider Rider stand – and finally got to see one of the bikes properly – oh they’re good – and really nice and sturdy too. The Strider UK people have just been in the US checking out some new bikes that are to be added to the range in the near future – don’t forget, if you were thinking about buying one, then there’s a Mum Friendly discount – check our discounts tab.

We had a brief stop at the BuggyTug stand, where the strap which they’ve had a while is getting an update – there’s now three in one, The TugTrio – and all for £9.99. You get a wrist strap which can be attached to a buggy – great for wandering toddlers who aren’t keen on backpacks but like to help push – the Buggy Tug, which connects the parent to the pram, and a Teddy Tug which connects a favourite teddy or toy to the pram.

We found the BundleBean stand – and introduced ourselves – the BundleBean is great – H even announced “that’s mine!” when she saw it – and an excerpt of my review on The Baby Website is now on their stand display! The BundleBean is something I wish I’d had a long time ago, and was perfect for the day we were out – Olympia was really warm, outside was chilly, and I had a toddler who needed a nap – and it did the trick in keeping her warm (but she got too excited about the train to actually have that nap) – check out BundleBean – they’re in lots of stores up and down the country, I’ll try not to gush too much, it’s an excellent idea.

After BundleBean, next door was the Hamster Pannier Buggy Bags stand – I’ve always been intrigued by them as it’s a good idea – plus they give your buggy more stability (something I need when I do the shopping…), and seeing them in person, they make so much sense – and are really easy to put onto the buggy and take off. I wish I could have stayed there for longer, but we had to get back.

On our way out we walked past the gorgeous designs on the Ruby and GINGER stand, and chatted with the lovely ladies there – some really neat small changing bags as well as a cover for car seats – and gorgeous fabrics too.. another one we’ll be splashing out on at some point. There was a gorgeous tabard too which I wanted to get for H right there and then…

Our last stop was at Music For Baby – they make CD’s and they’re distributed the regular way, as well as being available digitally – including Spotify. There’s various versions of nursery rhymes done in different genres – their most current one being jazz versions of the songs. It’s done really well too – one that I like the sound of and will have a proper listen to is lots of percussion – the CD’s are all made with preschoolers in mind – and most of all, fun! The people involved have a good musical background too – they know what they’re doing, they’re really friendly and nice, and with the music on Spotify you can try before you buy – what’s to lose?

We were waiting at Clapham Junction and I got chatting to another mum who had been at the show. Ends up she’s a director for the company Olive & Moss – and they do some gorgeous baby and toddler clothes – plus they illustrate books and cards – it’s all really really lovely stuff.

I’ve managed to get tickets for The Baby Show this weekend, so I’m going to have a good nosey around, see what other goodies I can find… I suspect I may end up a bit skint…

Debenhams, Sutton

Let’s be honest. Debenhams in Sutton is showing its age. From the grubby changing rooms to the consistently broken down escalators and smelly lift, signs of wear and tear abound. So it’s safe to say I didn’t hold much hope for the child-friendliness of the ‘restaurant’ (we’ll call it a cafe for this review).

Don’t be fooled! The cafe is a perfectly acceptable place to feed your baby / toddler and had a few surprising touches. First of all, there is SPACE! And plenty of it. No need to squeeze my postnatal belly and buggy here (yes, Starbucks Sutton, I am referring to you). Enough space for your pushchair or double buggy even. Then there are the highchairs – bassinette style for newbies and good old standard wooden seats for the toddlers. And the safety straps are intact – mostly.

So, once you have unloaded your luggage and baby and strapped them in, you can make use of the ‘At Your Own Risk’ microwave. It’s super powerful, nuking baby food (I sneak my own in but there is a limited selection of children’s food available to buy, including innocent smoothies and annabel karmel ready meals) in minutes. The food area is clean, the microwave doesn’t pong and they even provide small food cartons (with lids) for you to heat and serve food. Handy if, like me, you forget/drop/melt your Boots baby food bowl and lid.

Helpfully, there are disposable bibs, individual wet wipes in sachets and plenty of napkins.

The food might not be all that, and the cafe staff aren’t that friendly, but just have a coffee and a sandwich and be thankful that baby is fed and might just drop off in the buggy afterwards while you browse the clothes. Be warned that the shopfloor is not as accommodating as the cafe in terms of space, so mummies, drive buggies carefully to avoid the tutting staff.

Epsom Ashley Centre.

So, not quite as good as it should be.  No parent child parking spaces in the Ashley shopping centre at all.   4 lifts, one usually out of order and as the stairs only go to level one, all the shoppers are trying to get in the lifts with trolleys from Waitrose, buggys and shopping.  If you are parked on the 1st level it’s an idea to use the customer lift in Waterstones but if you have some older children you run the gauntlet of getting past McDonalds!

The toilet & baby changing facilities are generally good and available to both gender parents.  If it’s just the loo for you but you have a buggy, the disabled toilet is big enough to fit you both in easily.

Shops.

Generally, most shops cram as much in as they can, and there’s very few which acknowledge people with buggies or wheelchairs might want to visit. However, I’m trying to stay positive, so here’s some shops which you should generally find are good to visit for various reasons.

Mothercare – a bit obvious, I’ve never been to a store yet which doesn’t have a changing/feeding area in it – comfy seats and a bit of quiet when you need it and don’t feel comfortable feeding anywhere.

Starbucks – while I’m not the biggest fan of their coffee, almost every one I’ve been to has good baby changing and facilities, plus plenty of space for buggies, child seats if you need them, plus what seems to be groups of NCT mums all doing the same as you…

Caffe Nero – much better coffee, and again really good facilities – though I’ve found quite a few of these you need to ask for a key at the counter before you can get into baby changing (apart from the one in Croydon!) – all well and good, but it’s a popular shop and there’s the conundrum of queueing or pushing in to ask for it… which is never ideal with a stinky/upset baby