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Sunday, 5 July 2015

CRAFTER OR EVENT ORGANISER - CAN I BE BOTH?

Hello everyone

Wow!  What a hot week it has been.  If anyone dare says we haven't had a good summer, I will be just a little bit upset.  Okay, I know we still have lots of potential summer-time to go, but so far, so good.  The garden loves this weather, means lots of watering, but everything is blooming (including the weeds!), my tomatoes are doing very well and the sweet peas are gorgeous.  We planted some near to our back door and they have done really well, they are in a position where it is easy to water them, which really does help.

This week was spent getting work ready to photograph to send with my application to take part in the Farnham Maltings Christmas Fair.  This was a very successful event for me last year, so I really would like to be part of it again this year.  One of my submissions was a hessian bag I had decorated with glittery butterflies - these bags have proved to be and still are very popular and I do enjoy working on them


I don't take part in many fairs these days, I am more 'this side' of the table and working on my application did make me stop and think about where I am going.  Organising events is incredibly time-consuming and hard work and even though I have planned for my events to take place in the last four months of the year (one or two at the beginning of the year as well), they still take up around 2, sometimes 3 hours a day on admin.  I have also added a new string to my event organising bow: Surrey Village Vintage.  The aim of these events is to have all things vintage, but only vintage - I am being helped with this new venture by Fee Fraser, who is my 'Vintage Consultant'.  Fee has a lot of experience in this area, lots of contacts and great ideas to help the events go well, standout and become established.  If you are into vintage, check out the events on the website and make a date to visit one of them.

As the title of this blog post says, can I be a crafter and an event organiser?  The event organiser part of me wants to continue with them because apart from the hard work, I really do enjoy them and the chance to see an incredible amount of beautiful handmade work all in one place makes if worthwhile.  Much better than a department store - and the staff are often much more fun and friendlier.  When I begin work on an order or to make some stock, or browse a website of gorgeous card-making materials, fabrics, ribbons and buttons, I wonder why on earth I am spending so little time on what was my original craft-world, and craft-love.

It isn't decision time in Christmas Pie Crafts, but possibly time to become more organised so that both crafting and event organising can be part of my life without feeling one misses out.

Off to the garden now - our pond is looking a bit too full of water lily leaves.  Beautiful though they are, they are rapid growers and soon cover the surface of the pond.  The fish just about manage to peek out - mind you it is partly their fault that the lilies grow so well.

Have a great week everyone - see you at my next blog post.

Jill

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

MILLY'S DIARY

Hello everyone

How are you coping with this very hot weather?  I am very sensible and stay in the shade for most of
the day - being black and white means I have some sensitive bits and have to be careful.  We cats are struggling in this weather, but Jill and Richard make sure we have plenty of water - plus you can't beat a drop of pond water, water from a plant saucer or from a puddle.  Yum!

I forgot to tell you last week that Jazz had to go to the vets.  That boy is a regular visitor there and I understand there is talk of him having his own named seat.  Jazz had a very poorly eye and Jill had to give him half an antibiotic tablet twice a day and squish some eye ointment into his poorly eye.  Poppy, Coco, Daisy and I thought it was hilarious watching Jill and Richard trying to get Jazz to take his medication.  Not sure why, but they didn't find it so funny.  I have said it on many occasions, humans are weird!

Poppy caught a magpie last week, but it got away.  She dragged it into the hedge, and it shot out squeaking and squawking, followed by a rather embarrassed Poppy.  She doesn't appear to have tried to catch any since then.

It's hot inside, so I am off to find a cool spot.  I will be back next week and paws crossed, the weather will be a little cooler.  Before I go, please don't forget to take care of your animals in this heat:

Don't leave them in cars
Make sure they have plenty of water
Take dogs for their walk very early or late at night when it is cooler.

'See' you next week.

Milly

Monday, 29 June 2015

HOT STUFF HERE IN NORMANDY

Hi everyone

It is hot and getting hotter.  Can we cope with 32 - 34 degrees this week?  Of course we can, we moan so much about the weather when it is hot and then moan when it isn't, but it is so nice to have sunny days.  Perhaps some rain at night would be welcome - we have recently had a water meter installed (compulsory) and to long watering sessions for my plants are no more.  The information given out that 'you will probably pay less than you used to' is not quite true - well not for us, in a short space of time ours has shot up by £5 per month.  Will be interesting to see what the cost is after one year of metered water.

I had planned to take time off during the summer from event organisation, but the best laid plans, etc, etc.  Last year I applied in July to take part in an event that was taking place in November.  Despite the paperwork saying 'you will be contacted within two weeks', no contact was made - in fact in all it took them nearly three months to reply and then it was to tell me I had been unsuccessful.  I did contact them a couple of times because there were other events taking place around the time of theirs that I was wondering if I should apply for.  Perhaps they were offended that I dared to question their professionalism as one of their replies to my chase said 'it is summer and we are busy with our families'  I appreciate and respect that, but they are running a business and should remember that communication is a vital part of their business - it shows their commitment and interest, both of which I feel were lacking.

Sorry, hadn't meant to whinge, now back to what I was talking about.  I had planned to take a break to concentrate on my own craft and wedding stationery businesses.  However, as applications for my events are coming in every day, I cannot ignore them and aim to reply to emails from stallholders and potential stallholders within 24 - 48 hours from receiving their message.

This week has been replying to emails, emailing potential stallholders for my new venture Surrey Village Vintage and preparing my applications for some two and three day events I would like to take part in.  If you are a 'strictly vintage' seller and fancy joining me in my new venture, please do get in touch - there is an application form on the website and it would be lovely to have some blog followers join me.

Off to cool down - something long and very sparkly in a glass would be nice.  Hope you have a good weekend and remember to keep cool.

Jill

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

MILLY'S DIARY

Hello everyone

Lots of gorgeous sunshine today - just my kind of weather.

Jill and Richard went on holiday and we are lucky that we don't have to go into a cattery while they are away.  Our friend, Jean, looks after us; she feeds us, reads us stories, plays with us and makes sure we are safe.  I was very well-behaved, I didn't remove anything from the local wildlife while they were on holiday (but embarrassed to admit I made up for it yesterday).  We did miss them very much while they were away and gave them lots of cuddles and purrs when they got back.  No presents from them for us though!

Jill read in the newspaper this week that Alan Titchmarsh's cat, Spud, had died recently.  Jill remembers watching Gardener's World when it was presented by Mr T and Spud often used to steal scenes from him by walking by, moving into shot, sitting in a spot where he was trying to plant something - all the things cats are good at.  Bye-bye Spud.

We had a strange cat visiting today - a long-haired Siamese boy.  Our neighbour has cat nip and we think he was after that.  It is very hard to resist and Poppy and Coco are always rolling in it and come home looking very spaced-out.  I am very strong-willed though and it doesn't really interest me - mind you when Poppy and Coco are on the scent, nobody gets a look in!

Bed-time for me - the sun rises really early and I make sure everyone gets up so that I can spend as much time outside as possible.  I want to top up my tan.

Have a good week everyone - see you next week.

Milly

Monday, 22 June 2015

SUN, SEA AND SEAFOOD - WHAT MORE COULD I ASK FOR

Hello everyone

Just back from a week in lovely Xlendi (pictured here) on the island of Gozo.  The temperature was around 30 degrees all week and it was a good excuse to relax, read lots and get a nice sun tan.

We stayed in the San Andrea Hotel which is 2 seconds (well possibly 3) from the sea and I really recommend this hotel for its location, friendly staff and great restaurant (the Zafira).  Despite on two nights having over one hundred guests in the inside part of the restaurant for events, the staff still maintained their usual excellent service for all diners.  This was the view from our hotel:


There are lots of beautiful bays on Gozo, which is a very popular island for divers.  Every morning during breakfast, we would watch the divers from a local school go off for their morning dive.  I used to think 'no way could I get into those suits in this heat'.  On their return they looked as though they thoroughly enjoyed themselves and came back the next day for another session.





There are many beautiful churches on Gozo and this is one that we photographed because of the spectacular paintings on the towers on either side of the building:




As well as being a cat fanatic, I am also a seafood/fish fanatic.  This holiday allowed me to indulge my fishy taste and every day was a fishy treat for me: lobster, prawns, seam bream, squid, octopus and many other delicious goodies.  The restaurants we visited were all in and around the Xlendi bay and throughout our stay they were visited by three lovely tabby cats - did we feed them?  Of course we did, how could we not.  Here is photograph of one of them:


You can see that he has one ear 'tipped'; this means he has been tipped, neutered and returned and is supported by the local SPCA.  Needless to say they are very friendly because they are hoping for food.  The restaurant staff are very tolerant of them and the majority of diners are too.

It's back to work now, although I did try to keep an eye on business communications while I was away.  My new venture, Village Vintage is up and running and I am recruiting stallholders, so if you are 'strictly vintage' and would like to take part in my vintage events, please do get in touch.  The Surrey Bazaar events are filling up nicely and I am planning to spend more time on my wedding stationery business.

I hope you all have a good week and I will be back again very soon with more Christmas Pie news.

Jill

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

MILLY'S DIARY

Hello everyone

Feeling incredibly guilty here, even more guilty than Jill is feeling - no blogging for absolutely ages.  Now, what excuse can I give?  Busy looking after foster kittens?  No, Jill isn't looking after them now, so my caring, helpfuness isn't needed.  Busy looking after my fellow house-cats?  No way!  They can take care of themselves.  I don't do 'looking after'.  Apart from the usual cat-like things that cats do, I have been busy just being me: beautiful!  It isn't hard work for me to be beautiful, but I do like to spend time on myself and despite Jill's saying my white sometimes looks grey, I don't believe her!  My black fur always shines and my white fur is always sparkling - nearly forgot my nose, which is always pretty pink.  Miss Perfect it is then.

Sorry, got off track there a bit.  Now, why haven't I blogged for ages and ages?  When you are small, or delicate as I like to think of myself, it can be difficult reaching a keyboard - I have asked for a smaller gadget, but as usual my request has fallen on deaf ears.  I have to wait until someone thinks 'oh, I wonder if Milly would like to write her diary' - yes, of course she would!  Every week I give a gentle reminder, a tap on the face, a delicate claw stuck in a knee, a live frog brought into the kitchen but sadly most weeks I get ignored - is that any way to treat a beautiful cat?

But as you can see, I am back!  My blog is alive and kicking and I am one happy black and white girl.  How did I manage it?  I brought in a slug that was stuck on my head!  As you can imagine, they gave in pretty quickly.

Have a good week everyone - slugs permitting, I will be back next week.

Milly

Friday, 22 May 2015

DIDN'T WE HAVE A LOVELY TIME, THE DAY WE WENT TO CHELSEA

Hello everyone

I certainly did have a very lovely time at Chelsea on Wednesday.  The weather was very kind to us, but boy did I suffer the day afterwards!  Sore feet, aching back and arms as long as broom handles from carrying lots of goodies away with us.

The wonderful thing about Chelsea is that you get to see some weird and fabulous designs - some you think 'I wonder what was in their mind when they produced this design' as well as 'I wonder why the judges gave this a gold award' and sometimes 'I wonder why the judges didn't give this one an award'.  Who knows what goes on in their mind, but it is the usual and the unusual that makes Chelsea fantastic every year.

My plant purchases included some more lovely Heucheras, Fuchsias and some Clematis, which will be collected by my Chelsea-loving friend when she is on holiday in Norfolk next month.  Among my selection is this stunning very, very dark red/purple one (the picture does not do it justice because the real colour is much darker):


I also bought two other dark red ones and two creamy white ones (one produces double and single blooms).

I love sculpture in the garden (not that I have much) and these took my fancy - a little too big for my garden but, hey, perhaps I can reproduce them in pottery:



I love lilies, but we had to give up on them a few years ago when we discovered that they are highly toxic to cats.  If you are owned by a cat, you will know they love to put their paws and noses on things they shouldn't, so they had to go - the lilies that is, not our cats.  However, the perfume from these flowers is amazing and makes me want to find a way of growing them without hurting my cats.  I would grow them in the greenhouse but in the summer that is left open, so perhaps they are something to be admired at shows and garden centres.



There were plenty of places to stop for a cup of tea, but these next photographs are for a very special tea party:


Tea for two?  Or two hundred? 


Milk in first?  


My kind of cupcake



A Jammy Dodger the size of a table?  Plenty to share

After tea, how about some interesting vegetables - a basket of dark, nearly black, peas.  They looked lovely:



In the not so dim and distant past, I did an intensive garden design course.  I have always enjoyed gardening and did the RHS Certificate and Diploma courses at Merrist Wood.  Not much success with the exams, I didn't take them all and trying to fit the course and the exams in and around a full-time job proved tricky but I learnt so much about horticulture.  It seemed a natural progression to do a garden design course, and it was brilliant.  The highlight was a trip to the garden of John Brookes, and we were lucky enough to meet him.  He wasn't at Chelsea but my other favourite designer, Dan Pearson, was and it was great to see him back at Chelsea.  Having now seen my two garden design idols 'in the the flesh' is rather special.


I have been watching the Chelsea programmes on the television trying to see if my friend and I were in any of the shots - how vain is that!  We arrived just after 10.00 am and were 'thrown out' when they closed at 8.00 pm and we felt we had not seen everything that was in the show - never mind there's always next year.

Have a great gardening weekend everyone.

Jill

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

MOVING FORWARD AND, YES, STILL CATCHING UP

Hell everyone

Hard to believe we are rushing towards another Bank Holiday weekend.  Although I no longer 'go out to work' (I work from home) I still look forward to weekends, and Bank Holiday ones are just as welcome as they were when I was a wage-slave.  Hope the weather is good as we are holding a birthday BBQ for a friend of ours - nipping in and out between rain showers to do the cooking is never that much fun (but I do seem to be able to delegate this job to Richard).  But then isn't that what Bank Holidays are for?  Dodging the rain, hoping for sun and getting a mix of both?

Earlier this year, I held a Vintage Bazaar in the Merrow Village Hall.  Vintage events are becoming more and more popular, but there do not seem to be many taking place around this area.  With that in mind and with bags of enthusiasm, Fee Fraser of Thimble & Thrift, and I have begun a joint-venture to create events for vintage enthusiasts (both stallholders and customers) and our new venture is called Village Vintage.  A new venture is always full of excitement as well as 'oh goodness me, will it work'.  I hope so, we both have lots of skills and experience to bring to the pot, so if you are around for our first event (19 September 2015) or you are interested in having a stall, do get in touch.

My moving forward and catching-up has involved lots of changes in my life; not all good ones.  My sister was diagnosed earlier this year with Parkinson's Disease - she is a very lively, fit and active person so this has come as a blow to her and our family.  Not long after this 'news', a good friend had a stroke - a minor one, but still life-changing.  It is hard when you really do not know what tomorrow will bring; we can plan as much as possible, but the future is definitely not in our own hands.

Because of the changes around me and changes in my life, I had to make decisions to give some things up.  Sadly, I decided I had to give up fostering kittens for Cats Protection.  It was a very hard and difficult decision and I really do miss having them here, but it became harder and harder to fit in the viewings, vet trips, the support they needed, and it also often felt unfair to my own furry gang.  I still support the Woking Branch in ways that I can, but I do miss those kittens.  I also had to give up managing the accounts of a friend's church - again a hard decision, but necessary.

Now I think I am bang up-to-date with life in Christmas Pie-land.  I am off to Chelsea tomorrow - really looking forward to it.  I go every year with a good friend who like me loves to garden and it is the highlight of our gardening year.  I get to meet my favourite Heuchera people again, Plantagogo, and this year I also want to check out Euphorbias - lovely structural plants.

Have a good week everyone, and enjoy the Bank Holiday no matter what the weather does.

Jill

Friday, 8 May 2015

STILL CATCHING UP ON BLOGGING -THINK IT WILL TAKE A LOOOONG TIME

Hello everyone

May Bank Holiday and we have sunshine!  How lovely.  I know the UK is notorious for soggy Bank Holidays and that is why a sunny one is extra special.

We had several trees removed from our garden this week - I hate losing trees, but some of these were dangerous and had to go.  The incredible thing is how much lighter our garden is now that they have been removed and we lots more space too for planting.

I took part in a Wedding Fayre at the Frensham Pond Hotel on Sunday, 26 April.  I always enjoy these particular events; they are well organised and a lot of the exhibitors are regulars, so it is great to catch up with them.  It was also nice to get requests for wedding stationery quotes - makes the day extra special.

Other achievements this week have been the completion of my new event website: Surrey Bazaars.  This brings all of the bazaar events under one 'umbrella'.  I hope that the reputation of the bazaar events (hard won with lots of great work (still continuing) from stallholders and helpers) will be recognised as a brand for events that are home to excellent handmade work.

I am looking to 'recruit' helpers for my bazaar events - these are self-employed positions and involve variety of work.  You would be amazed how hard it is getting someone to do this - I have posted on Facebook, Twitter and Streetlife and have had two enquiries - having received the details, the two enquirers never bothered to come back to me.  Very surprised and disappointed at the lack of interest.

Yet again, I forgot my lovely blog!  I started writing this one over the recent Bank Holiday weekend.  time has done its usual annoying thing of rushing by too quickly.  Since then we have had a General Election with the usual shocks, disappointments and surprises.  Where I live it is known as a safe seat and sadly because of this we never even have the whiff of a candidate - would be nice if they could be bothered occasionally to come and see what life is like in the outer reaches of their constituency (or potential constituency).

Before I completely forget this particular post, think it is a good idea to sign off now - no doubt there will be another 'catching-up' post soon, so do come back.

Have a great weekend

Jill

Monday, 13 April 2015

IT REALLY IS TIME FOR A CHANGE AND A CATCH-UP

Hello everyone

I really cannot believe that this dedicated blogger (well a used-to-be dedicated blogger) has not posted for over four months!  I haven't abandoned or forgotten my blog, I just never seemed to be in the right place (in front of something with a keyboard that is) when I remembered I needed to/should write something.  This could be a very, very long catch-up post, but I think it would be better spread out over several days of posting.

Where do I begin?  As most of my life last year seemed to be devoted to organising events, perhaps that is a good place to start.  Did I learn anything from year one?  Yes, I most certainly did.  Mostly that it is incredibly hard work and how stallholders do not realise that it takes up an amazing amount of 'hidden' time to organise each event.  When you receive an email late on Sunday night 'demanding'
a reply, ones event smiley-face tends to not be so smiley.

I learnt that giving away free table space in return for promotion/support of an event does not work and it tends to be taken for granted that the recipient of the freebie clearly thinks that being there is enough.  I offered three crafters a free crafting-workshop table/space in return for regular promotion of their participation at the event (which would have promoted the event itself).  One was very supportive, the others did nothing until prompted and then didn't even bother after the event to say 'thank you'.  Lesson learned?  Yes, well, not quite, but almost.

Promoting until my hands, feet and eyeballs drop off or out and my back aches seems to go with the job.  Advertising just about everywhere still draws comments such as I didn't see a poster here, here or here.  Have you tried advertising in this, this or this?  Believe me I have tried just about anything and everywhere to promote the events I organise - some incredibly expensive and turning out to be a dreadful waste of money, some just involving lots of poster-hanging and sore feet.

If I have been able to take photographs of events I post them on Facebook.  One participant at an event complained that I had not included photographs of her stall.  Part of my reply was to ask her if she had liked, shared or commented on the individual post I had made about her and her work prior to the event.  She did not reply.

It wasn't all frustration though, there were some funny comments, such as 'why don't you offer an iPad as a raffle prize?'.  'How about hanging a flag over the building?'  'How about fixing a banner up on a brick wall?' - the place suggested was about 15 foot off of the ground.  'People can't see the banner outside of the building' - I have tried up-rooting the railings it is fixed to, but it has proved a little tricky and the local authority got rather upset when I tried to demolish their building.  Another one was 'how about giving free entry to visitors?'.  Er, entry to my events is always free.

When I first began this post, I had no intention of griping or groaning, so my apologies for it turning that way, but it just seemed a good time to get rid of the gripes and groans.  However, I must give a special thank you to those stallholders and friends who have been brilliant with help, promotion and support for the events:

Lesley Beeton - my brilliant PR person
Jill Stobbart of the Gilded Raven
Linda Banks of Orchid Glass
Lee Sherlock of Bespoke Kisses
Karin Webb of KWOriginals
Dawn Hart of Stonepit Crafts

I will be back again later this week with more news of what is happening in the world of Christmas Pie Crafts and I promise no whingeing, well almost no whingeing.

Jill