Simple stocking filler ideas for kids *AND* win two personalised Christmas stockings!

21 November 2018



It is that time of year where the festivities of Christmas begin.  And to be honest it makes me feel a bit overwhelmed.  The thought of gift giving and buying gifts just for the sake of it really makes me quite sad actually.  Don't get me wrong - my favourite part of Christmas is buying someone special a meaningful gift.  It is the futile trend that society has gotten into of buying plastic, rubbish and silly off the cuff gifts which just tend to get put in a shelf on a cupboard or given to charity.  And then are't we missing the whole point of the season?

I feel especially passionate about this when it comes to giving gifts to the kids.  We don't like clutter in our house and especially not a lot of toys.  We find that the less things the kids have the better they play.

So, in that light - I thought I would put a list together of some simple stocking fillers for kids.  We don't personally do stockings, but I know it is a common Christmas tradition and a lot of my family and friends include them on Christmas Day.

1. Bamboo toothbrush 
2. Audiobook - we have this Julia Donaldson boxset and the kids love it!
3. Melissa & Doug WaterWow Pads
4. Fancy Biscuit
5. Jumbo Chalk
6. Silk scarves
7. Mini playdough - I normally use this recipe.
8. Fun Waterbottles
9. Cookie Cutter
10. Panda Post subscription

I hope you have found this list inspirational and it makes you stop and think before you buy stuff which you or your family may not necessarily need.

AND!!

To celebrate Christmas this year with you, my lovely friends, I am giving away a set of TWO personalised Christmas stockings for your family!  All you have to do is:

1. Comment below on what you plan on putting in your family's stockings this year.
2. Like The Little Banner Company's Instagram or Facebook page.
3. Tag a friend on Instagram or Facebook.

And that's it. Good Luck!

To note:
A winner will be randomly chosen and announced on Wednesday 28th November.
Competition open worldwide.
You have to inform me of the names to be put on the stockings by the 30th November.
Designs and trimmings will be chosen by me.


♥♥♥


Hello October

5 October 2018



I know so many of your are thinking the same as me - how is it October already?  I always find that once September hits the year seems to fly.  It has been "half term" here this week and I am sneeking some work while I can!

Today I am taking the boys to watch The 3 Little Pigs at the Nassau Theatre in Claremont.  They are so excited.  And now that the weather is much warmer we can hopefully spend the rest of the day outside playing...when I say "we" I mean the boys while I sew and try to work!

We have a lot going on this month.  It is Harry's birthday, then building works are starting at our house.  We are knocking down a wall between the kitchen and dining room to make it open plan and putting vinyl flooring throughout the whole house.  While we are super excited for the outcome, we are dreading it a little as we won't really have a house for a while.  So I have warned my friends that we will be camping out in their lounges most afternoons.   We won't have a kitchen for at least 4 weeks either...but to make it simple I will just get meals delivered from The Flying Pan I think.  

I have quite a few craft markets coming up in the next month too.

Sat 13th October - Rondebosch Park Craft Market
Fri 26 October - WPPS Christmas Market
Sat 3 November - Constantia Christmas Market
Sat 10 November - Rondebosch Park Craft Market

I will share the details a few days before each one on social media so to keep you updated!

Have you listened to any of the podcasts I recommended?  I love finding others who have chosen to take a creative path and how they are doing.  It helps me to remember to keep pursuing my creativity as a sustainable, fulfilling option and that its okay to feel the way I do.  Often us creatives have many insecurities about making our creativity our job.  And that shouldn't be the case at all.

Have an awesome October my friends.

11 Podcasts I'm listening to

3 October 2018



Since finding my creative soul again I stumbled into listening to podcasts. It is so relaxing to sit at my desk while I sew and cut felt for my orders and stock for craft markets (thank you for all your support so far!) and listen to inpirational ladies talk about motherhood, small business, being creative and generally just making me feel so normal.  It also helps me curate my business, nurture my wellbeing as well as give me such amazing ideas.

I thought I would share some of the podcasts I have been listening to lately - it can sometimes be hard to find ones that fit in with your interests - so here they are:

1. Magic Lessons - Elizabeth Gilbert
When listening to Jen Carrington's podcast she always mentions Elizabeth Gilbert's book (which is now on my bedside table ready to read!) and this is an add on to the book where Elizabeth interviews everyday people about their life and helping them make their creative dreams come true.

2. Elise Gets Crafty - Elise Blaha Cripe
I have followed Elise for many years now through her blog.  She has grown incredibly these past few years and launched a podcast where she interviews small business owners and chats about everything and anything to do with it.

3. Grow with Soul - Kayte Ferris
I first stumbled across Kayte through Sara's Tasker's podcast and she immediately drew me in.  Her  knowledge and how she makes every step of organic and slow marketing seem so simple is awesome. I am so excited to start coaching sessions with her in a few weeks! Eeeek.

4. Hashtag Authentic - Sara Tasker
Sara Tasker - known as the queen of Instagram is a motivating lady who knows her stuff.  Her podcast is aimed at helping you become successful in the online world while still staying grounded and being true to you.

5. Letters from a Hopeful Creative - Jen Carrington & Sara Tasker
Two of my favourite ladies have come together to present this podcast where they get listeners to send in letters about what they are struggling with or asking a question to do with their creative business and then they discuss their input - which is highly sought after!

6. Work Like a Mother - Amy Elizabeth
Amy is a down-to-earth normal working mom who has conversations with other working moms about everything from creativity, business, motherhood and everything that goes with it.

7. Walking with Wildflowers - Keri Bainborough
I found Keri on Instagram through Nikki who shared her Vegan cookbook (which I bought straight away and use on a weekly basis!).  Keri is also - so down to earth and so comfortable with her spiritual self and I find this so inspiring.  She talks to various woman about vegan life, feminism, moon cycles (SO interesting) amongst other things.

8. Coffee & Crumbs - Ashlee Gadd, April Hoss & Indiana Jones
These mama's are so authentic, funny and make me giggle so much.  They talk about motherhood and EVERYTHING that goes with it - there are some really interesting episodes which I have listened to more than once and have even made my husband listen to!  Namely - this one and this one.

9. There are Other Ways - Fiona Barrows
I love Fiona's voice and clarity on living life differently and following your own path.  Hearing about how others have found their true calling and followed their heart helped me realise that I CAN do it too!

10. Explore your Enthusiasm - Tara Swiger
I have just started listening to this podcast - it is all about helping you do your best work, to be enthusiastic about it and be your own successful self.

11. Make It Happen - Jen Carrington
Oh I love this lady so much - she is truly inspiring.  She "helps creatives cultivate and build impactful, fulfilling and sustainable creative lives".  I love that so much - her conversations are honest, insightful and so easy to listen to.

I hope you find inspiration, joy and nuggets of gold which will fuel your creativity.
May it help you believe that you can make your vision of what you want your life to look like come true.

If you have podcast suggestions - please pop them in a comment below or leave a comment on Instagram.  I would love to hear them.

Making it happen

25 September 2018



Nearly 5 months ago I wrote about getting out of your comfort zone and just getting started.  A lot has happened since then and I wanted to share what I have been up to.

Back in July, I started making banners again.  I started The Little Banner Company back in 2014 while I was on maternity leave.  I needed a creative outlet and to share my creativity with others.  And it made me SO happy.  I got quite a few orders and was really enjoying it.  I then had to go back to work and fell pregnant again so it fell to the wayside.  We then moved to South Africa....moving country with a toddler and a baby is no small feat and didn't have time or the space for creating and running a business.

Fast forward two and a bit years and I finally feel like the fog is clearing a bit.  Jack and Harry are 4.5 and nearly 3 (how did that happen??!) and I have decided to revive my business.  It all started because my mom asked me to make her another banner and once I started again it made me realise how much I LOVE doing this.  Being creative and sharing it with others is my calling.



I have been doing a lot of soul searching and have decided to only work adhoc in my admin job and put my heart and soul into The Little Banner Company and this blog.  I want to work for myself, I want to be my own boss and I want to live the life I have imagined.  This is a risky step but guys - I have to do this.  Admin does not bring me joy.  It does not light up my soul like creating does.  So why settle with it?  Life is so short.  And I am going to make it count.

I am so incredibly lucky to have a family who believe in me and support my dreams.

And now this is where you come in!
Please do tell me if you want something that I don't sell!  I love getting ideas from others and creating new things.  So share your thoughts about what you or other people would love to see in my shop so I can make it happen.  In the next few weeks I will be launching my Christmas stock as well as going to quite a few different craft markets around Cape Town!

Hop on over to my spaces on the internet and let me know what you think!  I love hearing from you guys, so please - say hi here or on Instagram or pop me an email.


You can visit my website here.
You can find me on Instagram here and here.
(Note - I have decided to shutdown my @gatheredbyclaire instagram and facebook and just have @clairechoudhry and @thelittlebannercompany)

Chat soon.

Claire x


♥♥♥♥♥

Fuss Free Supper: 7 Grain medley and butternut balls with a ranch dressing

6 June 2018



Eating healthily is something I have always been passionate about.  Don't get me wrong, I love my cakes and biscuits too but being more aware of what I put in my body has become more important to me as I have gotten older and since I have had my kids.

A plant-based/vegan diet has always interested me.  I haven't had the guts to watch any of the documentaries about dairy farming or the like but I will one day.  In the mean time, we only eat vegetarian and often vegan too.  But I do find that with some vegan meals - there is a LOT of meal prep and I just simply do not have time for it some days.

This is where you have to be clever.  I have come up with some fuss free vegan meals which require little prep but are seriously tasty and nutritious.  These recipes have come about purely by chance with what I have had in the fridge and cupboard and are also often inspired by some amazing ladies who I follow on Instagram.

This specific supper was inspired by The First Mess.

All you need:

Fry's Butternut Balls
Woolworths 7 Grain Medley heat & eat pack
Some fresh vegetables - I used mushrooms, pepper, carrots and courgettes.
Vegan Mayo
Garlic herbs
Black Pepper
Dairy-free milk

Let's get cooking:

I cooked my butternut balls as per the box instructions.
They don't take long at all, maybe 12 minutes.
I cut up my veg finely and fried them up in a wok with some olive oil.
I made the creamy ranch dressing using 3 tablespoons vegan mayo, a few splashes of dairy-free milk, garlic herbs and black pepper.
Then I popped the 7 grain packet into the microwave for 90 seconds.

I mixed it all together in the wok and scattered some dressing on top.

Hubby loved it, as did I.  Seriously yum and it took me maybe 5 min prep of the veg and 5 minutes putting it altogether.

Eating well does NOT have to always be time consuming and expensive.  You just have to get some inspiration and find the right products.  I also always try to have basics in my cupboards and fridge so to give me plenty of options!

♥♥♥♥♥

Monday Motivation

21 May 2018


Monday Motivation

14 May 2018


DIY colour sorting wheel

9 May 2018




I am trying to make more time to make things.  I love making and creating - it feeds my soul and it makes me happy.  One of the things I love to make is stuff for the kids to play with.

Playing = learning for small kiddies and this colour wheel is an easy and fun activity to keep them busy and learn about colours.



Things you will need:

Thick cardboard (I used a duplo box)
Scissors
Felt
Glue
Colourful objects from around the house
Container to keep the objects in

I traced a circle from one of my baking bowls onto the card and cut out a circle.
I then measured 8 equal "slices" and then cut the felt to fit these.  This was quite difficult but I made it work by cutting one a bit smaller eventually.  Seriously, at the end of the day perfection is not the point of this exercise. It is for your kids to play with something you lovingly made.

I gathered different coloured objects from around the house - I used coloured sticks, pegs, pouch lids, blocks, pom poms and feathers.  Jack loves it and Harry is beginning to play with it now too.  Such a simple yet effective activity to bring out and keep them occupied.

Have fun!

Getting out of your comfort zone

8 May 2018


Comfort: The enemy of progress.
Another inspirational snippet from my favourite movie at the moment (The Greatest Showman).

I have been thinking A LOT lately about what makes me happy, work, creating, starting projects, money, the purpose of life.  A lot of stuff right?  But I am at a point in my life where I need to find my purpose.  I have gotten out of the haze of early motherhood and I feel energised again and want to get passionate about something that is for ME.

Becoming a mom changes you forever.  It makes you give up your life for someone else in those first years. One of the wisest things I read was "Your baby needs you, it's that simple and that hard".  And boy it is hard.  But as you grow as a mother you learn to cope, your learn to nurture and before you know it your kiddo's aren't babies anymore.

Anyway, I digress.
I want to get out of my comfort zone of an admin job which brings in money but gives me no joy at all.
I want to create.  I want to make.  I want to blog.  I want to connect.  I want to do SO MANY things and it is all down to one thing really.

STARTING. JUST START.

I am the biggest fan ever of Elise Blaha Cripe.  This lady is a GO GETTER.  She is the goal setting queen and is just flipping amazing.  I have been listening to her podcast as well as others and some audio books.  It has made me realise how positive thinking and mindset is KEY to getting what you want in life.  So I am working on that.

So why or what am I sharing with you today?  I am not sure really, but just writing and sharing with you all out there makes me accountable in some way I suppose.  I want to progress this year.  I want to find my purpose and for me starting to blog and create again will hopefully get me there.

It is a process, these things don't happen overnight. 
But I do know that a little progress everyday is how magnificent transformations are made.

Monday Motivation

7 May 2018


Things to do with kids in Cape Town #2

4 May 2018

In this series, I will be sharing some of our favourite things to do  with the kiddos in Cape Town.  I love hearing about new places to visit and fun activities for the kids to enjoy.  So I hope you get some inspiration - get out there and ENJOY our beautiful city and all it has to offer.
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This week I am only sharing one place to visit with kids in Cape Town, because, well, this place deserves a post all on it's own.  Bugz Play Park is absolutely freaking AMAZING.  We have visited so many times.  It is only a short drive of about 25 minutes outside of Cape Town, in Kraaifontein.  There are so many activities to do with the kiddos.  Swings, slide, boats, water activities, indoor play, sandpits, jungle gyms, face painting, train rides, horse rides, petting zoo, zip slide, meals, snacks, drinks and rides for the older ones.

Find ticket info here.  We normally get the VIP pass for Jack as he is a bit older now and wants to go on the various rides or you can just get the normal ticket and buy tokens for R10 as and when you need them.

We always thoroughly enjoy our day when we visit and I cannot recommend this gem enough.

We try to get there early morning and spend at least 2-3 hours there to make the most of the cost of the ticket.  It is a big enough place that you don't feel crowded even if it is busy.

Get there this weekend - it is a really great day out for the family!


Missed last week's post?  Click here!

Banana & Blueberry Baked Oats

2 May 2018


With winter on its way here and the colder mornings arriving (I say colder, but it is still t-shirt weather most days hehe) I wanted to share a comforting breakfast recipe perfect for weekend mornings.  I found this delicious and simple recipe on one of my favourite websites - My Kids Lick the Bowl.  Do yourself a favour and head on over to Stacey's amazing website filled with recipes for the family.

You will need:

2 Bananas, sliced
2 cups oats
2 cups milk
2 eggs
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup of blueberries (fresh or frozen)

Then....

♥ Heat your oven to 180 degrees
♥ Grease your baking dish and place sliced bananas on the bottom
♥ Cover the banana with the oats
♥ Whisk together the milk, eggs, honey, vanilla and cinnamon and pour over the oats.
♥ Scatter the blueberries over the top and bake for about 20 minutes.

So yummy.

Enjoy!

Happy May and some exciting news!

1 May 2018



Happy May lovely people.

There is so much to be thankful for today.  It is a public holiday here in South Africa - woohoo!  We are so lucky here, we get a LOT of public holidays which always fall on whichever date the day falls rather than a Monday like in the UK.  So yesterday the kids had the day off school.

AND!! I have some VERY exciting news to share.....we have officially got the keys to our house which we have bought here in Cape Town.  After two years of renting and not having our "own" space we finally decided to take the leap of faith and purchase property here.

We are SO blessed and grateful that we have this opportunity and we cannot wait to make this house our home.  I have so many plans but you know what....the only thing we cannot wait for is to have outside space.  A garden for the kids to play in.  For us to sit and have supper in.  A room each for the kids (yes, who am I kidding, they will still end up in our bed, but hey!).

Just MORE SPACE.  Our own little space to call our own.

I will share before and after photos as we will be renovating a bit but nothing huge.  I will do a home tour once we are unpacked and settled in.

Have a cracking month guys.  Be intentional.  Live each day.  Find happiness in the simple things.

♥♥♥♥♥

Monday motivation

30 April 2018


Things to do with kids in Cape town #1

27 April 2018

In this series, I will be sharing some of our favourite things to do  with the kiddos in Cape Town.  I love hearing about new places to visit and fun activities for the kids to enjoy.  So I hope you get some inspiration - get out there and ENJOY our beautiful city and all it has to offer.
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Rush Trampoline Park


I first came across this place when I was searching for ideas online.  I was a bit sceptical at first and thought it might be grubby and not really suitable for little ones.  But boy was I wrong.  This place is phenomenal.  On your first visit you need to take a few minutes to fill in an indemnity form on a tablet screen at the entrance (this is a one off thing), you then pay (R125 for an adult and toddler for 1 hour on a Sunday morning for the toddler session) and you get a pair of socks (also a one off payment) and you are in.  There are a couple of sponge pits, loads of trampolines, a balance beam, balls, hoops, cute kiddie music in the background and most importantly a little cafe upstairs for afterwards with coffee, popcorn, healthy drinks and maybe some cake!  We like to go bright and early on a Sunday morning as they have a toddler session from 9-10am so it is child-friendly then and no hectic jumping.  We really love it and I enjoy jumping too!  Anything fun is good for the soul I say.

The Aquarium


Another firm favourite in your family and I am sure MANY a family in Cape Town with young           kids. I would recommend an annual pass as it is totally worth it - kids under 4 go free and for me         and Mani it was R640 for the year.  Bargain.
There is a kids area with colouring in, a puppet show, snacks and importantly good coffee.  Our favourites are seeing Nemo, the big turtle Yoshi (who has now been released into the sea, sadly!) and seeing the penguins.
There is a new predator tank too!

Rhodes Memorial





Not ideal in the winter as it is mostly outside - especially when you have little ones, sitting inside is     just not an option really.  There is an awesome playground and sandpit with tables nearby.          
Beautiful views, yummy food and kiddie milkshakes.  
They do give you blankets to cover your legs with in the colder months if you are feeling brave!

Check back next week for more things to do with kiddos in Cape Town.


♥♥♥♥♥

Rainbow Zoo Biscuit Fudge

25 April 2018


If you are looking for a super fun but also SUPER sweet recipe for a party or a gift then this is a great recipe. The sugar content made my heart skip a beat, I won't lie so I adjusted the original recipe a bit by halving the sugar.

Zoo biscuits are South African - they are vanilla biscuits with icing on top with the added animal too.  They are a firm favourite with kids and adults alike here.  I remember them growing up!



What you need:

250ml castor sugar
180ml evaporated milk
30ml butter
Pinch salt (I omitted this as
I used salted butter)
150g marshmallows
200g white chocolate, roughly chopped
150g pack of Zoo Biscuits, roughly crushed
100's and 1000's for sprinkling

Let's get baking:

♥ Line a 20cm baking tin with baking paper
♥ Combine the sugar, milk, butter and salt (if using) in a pan on medium/high.
♥ Bring to a rapid boil for about 5 minutes - stirring constantly.
♥ Remove from hear and stir in marshmallows until melted, then add the chocolate and do the same.
♥ VERY quickly, divide into 3 bowls and add colouring into each.  I used blue, yellow and pink.
♥ Spoon dollops into your baking tin and gently press in your crushed biscuits and then sprinkle your 100's & 1000's.
♥ Leave to cool for at least 2 hours (you don't have to put it in the fridge) and then cut into pieces.

This is a real treat, to be enjoyed for a special occassion once in a while and is a really colourful, fun fudge for the kiddies!


On being sober - 6 years on.

23 April 2018

6 years without alcohol.
Who would have thought it?  Certainly not me, that's for sure.  It has become a new way of life for me, I no longer need a drink like I used to.  That is not to say I don't wish I could have one most days, but for me I have found other ways of coping. You see, alcohol became my way of coping with my feelings or a situation.  And drinking on a feeling is the best way down a one way street.

I wanted to share with you guys today because while I have stopped drinking and it is something I am immensely proud of, it doesn't mean that everything is sorted out.  It makes life a LOT easier and simpler.  I don't regret it for one second.  Actually, I can say with 100% certainty that stopping drinking is the best thing I have ever done in my life.  Because I can tell you now, I would not have my husband and beautiful children, nor my friends if it weren't for becoming sober.

But it just means the feelings I suppressed through drinking are much more apparent and I have a lot of bad days!  Anger, irritation, anxiety, feeling down, lethargic, no energy, no enthusiasm are just a few of the feelings I suffer with some days.  But I have learnt that this is my personality, my genes and I need to learn to cope with them (not with alcohol!) and find ways of concentrating on the happy things.

This isn't always easy, some days I have to just accept that it is going to be a hard day.  On these days, I just get through the day.  I do what I need to do and get stuff done.  I am kind to myself and I ask for lots of hugs and try to take joy from the simple things in life.  A little hand holding mine, a hug from my husband, an extra cup of coffee or a long talk with a friend.  You need to take these simple things and savour them.  This is how I cope.

I think what I am trying to say is, if you have a problem with alcohol, stopping drinking is just the first step.  You need to also sort out the root of the problem.  I have been under the illusion for a few years that by my stopping drinking - that was it.  Well Done, slap on the shoulder, now get on with life and be happy.  However, it is not always that simple.
All the things you were hiding from with alcohol have to be faced too - and that is OK!

Mental health is a HUGE thing worldwide - there is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of if you are affected by this in anyway.  Just know that you are NOT alone.  

And keep going.  One day at a time.

♥♥♥♥♥

Carry on reading my other posts about how I stopped drinking, on being 1 year sober and no regrets.

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