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My Mum never seems to enjoy her Birthdays, she never seems to get presents she wants with most of her family taking the easy way out and buying her clothes, chocolate or flowers, while I'm sure she appreciates the gesture you can tell she's always disappointed by the lack of thought and effort that had been put into her gifts. Since having my own family I've tried to put a lot of thought into her gifts knowing how disappointed I would be if my family gave me as little thought as hers did, one day while I was visiting her we started talking about her childhood and she mentioned how when she was a girl all her friends had cuddly Koala toys but her parents would never buy her one, realising this was a great present idea I stored it in my head ready for her upcoming Birthday. I spent some time looking for a suitable toy until I was passing the Bear Factory at our local shopping mall one day and spotted an adorable cuddly Koala in their window, it was absolutely perfect and so we entered the shop ready to make our purchase. The Bear Factory, now I believe named Build A Bear Workshop, is a specialist bear shop that sells pre-made bears, or rather stuffed toys as they do dogs, cats, dinosaurs and all manner of different creatures, they sell clothes and accessories for your bears but also allows you to choose and empty bear case and have it filled for you on site. We decided to have the bear made from scratch as it would make it all the more personal so we chose our empty Koala and paid our £10 for him at the till, the young lady who served us then led us over to the filling machine, sat down and popped what looked like a vacuum nozzle into a gap in the Koalas back. We were asked if we wanted our Koala soft, medium or hard stuffed and as the toy was going to be for my mum and liable to end up on display rather then cuddled we chose to have him "hard" so that he would be able to sit up properly, the difference in stuffing levels seemed to be purely down to how much was fed into the body of the toy with soft having the least amount and hard having the highest. Once the Koala was 99% stuffed the lady gestured to a box which contained lots of small coloured fabric hearts, we selected a padded red heart to go in my mums bear and both my children held it tight between their hands to warm the heart and then make a special wish for their Nanny before kissing the heart and putting it within the Koalas body. I thought this was a lovely gesture and gave the bear a little more meaning then simply filling one or buying it pre-made. The back was then fixed up tightly and our Koala bear was complete. We were then led to a computer area where we entered our Koala's special code and a screen came up with his "vital statistics" i.e. the type of bear he was, his size and the date we were buying him. We leafed through a book of name suggestions and my son choose the name Elmer, entering the name and who the bear was for and from into the computer we were then able to print out a special certificate to accompany the Koala and choose a special coloured ribbon to tie the scrolled certificate with. Elmer the Koala was now stuffed and ready to go to his new home with my mum and hopefully bring her a little joy that she missed out on in her childhood. At 38cm tall he's a good sized bear and perfect for a youngster to get their arms around and cuddle, although for this purpose I would recommend he only be soft or medium filled so he has that extra hug ability. There are 2 styles of Koala available, a 35cm bear that has more of a cartoony look and is less detailed and the 38cm which became Elmer. Elmer's style of Koala has lovely soft fur which starts dark at the roots and becomes a lighter grey by the tips which gives the fur a far more realistic look, the fur on his chest and paws is crisp white and a perfect contrast to the grey fur of his body, it's well weaved into the base fabric of his body and is unlikely to easily be pulled out or shed. He has a lovely soft black nose and shiny black button eyes that you can't help fall in love with, although you may not wish to give him to a baby in case the eyes were pulled out and caused a choking risk. Hard filled Elmer stands upright but had he been soft or medium his body would have been far more flexible and he'd be able to sit on his bottom, a perfect bedside companion. When the day of my Mums Birthday came I was actually in hospital, I had given birth to my 3rd child Jack that morning and had given my Mum an unforgettable gift in the form of another grandchild, she didn't mind being in the labour room with me and missing any early morning Birthday celebrations but I was still eager for her to return home and open her Koala, we had signed him from the Grandchildren which I knew would mean a lot to her and so I eagerly awaited the call I knew I'd receive from her. When I heard from her she was over the moon, she adored the Koala and couldn't believe I had picked up on such a small comment and given her something she'd always wanted but had never received until now, a childhood wish finally fulfilled. Elmer is now full of extra special meaning with the arrival of my son on the same day he was given, it is a constant reminder for my mum of her grandchildren and the special event that happened on July 14th 2008. He sits proudly by her bedside the pride and joy of her bear collection. The Bear Factory, or Build A Bear Workshop, provides a wonderful opportunity to personalise a gift and Elmer is one of the nicest style of bears I've seen from their range, he's soft and cuddly with an adorable face, he's great quality and with the ability to give the bears hearts, wishes, names, even voices if you want to they're an ideal gift for any occasion, £10 may seem like a lot for a stuffed toy but when they come with so much thought and meaning the money spent seems unimportant.