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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

Sunday, 30 November 2014

IT'S THAT COMPLETELY STARK RAVING BONKERS TIME OF YEAR

Hello everyone

I bet the title of this blog post sums up how many of you are feeling?  I know Christmas only happens once a year and I know it only lasts for a short period of time, but I also know the whole world goes potty at this time of year and shops as if the world is about to end (or the supermarkets are closing down for good).  Trying to keep on top of everything is almost impossible and if one more person asks me if I have finished my Christmas shopping yet, I will not be responsible for my actions!  Despite organising craft & gift events and about to take part in some, I have to admit to not having bought any presents yet.  It gets harder each year to know what to give people that is different from what I gave them last year, finding something they will like and something that doesn't require a second mortgage to buy (or make) it.

I hoisted the Godalming Bazaar banner outside of the Borough Hall for the last event of this year, stood back to check all was okay only to see that the date I had put on said 6 December 2015!  I am taking bookings for next year, but think my banner advertising is a little premature.  

Over the next two weeks I have two events I am organising/managing and three events I am taking part in - one is a two-day fair.  My last event takes place on 14 December and my plan for the following day is to sleep for 24 hours or do I mean days?

I dropped into the Normandy Scouts Christmas Fair this afternoon - very busy and clearly very well supported by mums, dads, sisters, brothers and other relatives.  A wide variety of items for sale: cakes, cards, fruit, vegetables, jewellery, etc.   My cake-making friend was taking part and her cheese scones looked very tempting.

Back to work now, more bags to decorate, more wreaths to make and if time permits, scented candles to make too.  I made the following wreath yesterday and although the ribbon is dark green, it seems to have taken on the blue colour of the butterflies when photographed, and also when viewed in natural light.  Very unusual.


I am joining up with Handmade Monday this week and look forward to seeing how the crafting bloggers are doing with their Christmas work.  I must try to get back into the blogging habit - I do enjoy it, but it does seem to make its way frequently to the bottom of the To-Do's that are in my head.  
Have a good week everyone - if you live in or near to Godalming, it would be lovely to see you at the Bazaar next Saturday and don't forget this is Small Business Saturday, so a great opportunity to support lots of local small businesses.

Jill

Sunday, 26 October 2014

BYE BYE SUMMER

Hello everyone

With the clocks going backwards, it really does feel like winter now - such a long time to spring.  I understand we are going to have some nice weather over the next few days with unusually high temperatures for this time of year, so all is not yet lost.

How has your week been?  I know for all small businesses, particularly those of us in the world of handmade, this time of year is really hectic.  It's that time of  'I can leave that for a few days' and then realise that was not the best decision to have made.  It's a time when two (or more?) pairs of hands would be good, as well as 48-hour days and, of course, not having anything else to do other than create.

I have split my time this week between event organisation and making stock for my forthcoming events.  Really could have done with one or two 48-hour days or preferably two pairs of hands.

Here is one of my completed wreaths.  It has 11 metres of burgundy-coloured velvet ribbon wrapped the polystyrene ring and a gorgeous glittery peacock fixed to the bottom.  I am not too sure whether (and what) to add to the wreath or just leave it with the peacock adorning it.  I am happy as it it, but do wonder if it is a little bare.


On the event organisation side of my life, I have an Early Christmas Bazaar taking place in the Tongham Village Hall on 1 November and this coming week will see me out delivering flyers, putting up posters and banners and hoping the weather stays good until after next Saturday.  This is anew venue for me, so am anxious about it being successful.  I am always anxious about any of the events I organise, but a new place brings with it new challenges and they are often very ahrd to manage.  I tell myself it is all part of life's rich pattern (although the pattern is sometimes not my choice).

A short post this week as it is back to work and finishing off some more wreaths.  I hope you all have a good week and don't forget to drop in on my fellow crafting bloggers taking part in this week's Handmade Monday.

Monday, 20 October 2014

A WORK-IN-PROGRESS CRAFTER

Hello everyone

Where does the time go?  Do you find that at this time of year the days and weeks disappear much faster than in the summer?  I seem to have so much work-in-progress (WIP) or is it that I just start too many things that I use WIP as an excuse?

I seem to spend a lot of time running to keep up, trying to remember all of the things I have to do, and thinking of all the new things I really must try when I have the time!  It could be that I still suffer from the disease I suffered from when I was a wage slave - an inability to say 'no, I really don't have the time to do that'.  I used to say 'yes, I can do that' and then panic because I knew I was over-committed.  Now, I still have a problem saying no, but justify it by telling myself it is okay because it is my own business that might suffer if I say no.  Oh dear, will I never learn?

The good news for me is that I have actually made (or begun to make) some stock for the events I am taking part in as an exhibitor - and I have really enjoyed getting back in the crafting saddle again.  Yes, it is still work-in-progress, but hey everything has to have a beginning, middle and end.


My trusty glue-gun was used for this - holds the large gold Poinsettia in place and also the fabric centre I added to it.  I still have work to do on this wreath, but at the moment I am not too sure what other embellishments I will add.


More work-in-progress and no, not the beginning of the five Olympic rings.  These have been covered in ribbon and one has had string wrapped around it too.  I have lots of embellishments to add, just need to plan the design.

I had planned to write this blog post yesterday, but WIP got in the way!  The usual things that always take longer than planned: cars to garages for MOTs and repairs, kittens to cuddle, cats to feed and also cuddle, plants to plant out ready for winter and spring, plants to bring into the greenhouse away from winter, family and friends visits to arrange, and life generally.

My 'Me Day' on Thursdays is still very enjoyable.  I feel that I am at long last moving forward with my designs.  They still don;t always resemble what my mind's eye sees, but they are not as disappointing as they used to be.  I have been working on getting to grips with noses, lips and eyes this term and this is my first offering of the new style hat man:



Believe me, it is a big improvement from the Mick Jagger-look-a-like lips I was producing and sticking onto a tube of clay.  The Tate Modern will be on the phone any day now, so watch this space.

Back to WIP now - I was recently invited to take part in a Christmas Market taking place on the evening of 4 December, so I really have to make sure the WIP becomes WIF (work is finished) because my two-day event follows soon after.

Have a great week everyone and I am linking up this week with Handmade Monday and Creative Mondays, so don't forget to check out the bloggers taking part.  

See you next week

Jill

Monday, 13 October 2014

FOUR DOWN, FOUR TO GO

Hello everyone

Yet again, another month has disappeared since my last blog post.  Do you find that the days and weeks whizz by at this time of year?  I just feel this autumnal/winter-like weather has come a little too soon for me and I just want the warm weather to return as soon as possible.

In my time 'away' from blogging I have been on holiday (or rather we have been on holiday) to Malta, another of my Godalming Bazaar events took place on 4 October and I took part in a Wedding Fayre at the Frensham Pond Hotel yesterday.  Our holiday was lovely, very hot and humid but also very relaxing - for most of the time.  It did involve work for me as I took my laptop and various other bits and pieces so that I could keep on top of the event organisations side of my business - my latest event took place two days after we got home (not good planning on my part).  Here are a few photographs from our holiday:


The view from our apartment balcony.  The temperature every day was around 30 degrees, sometimes 34.  Humidity was also very high and this often created a misty appearance.



We visited Gozo, which is a small island off the coats of Malta.  Interestingly, it is much greener than Malta.  I was lucky to find some of my favourite animals, cats and these ones were supported by the local animal charity.

Back home and the weather here wasn’t so good and in fact on the day of the last Godalming Bazaar event, it tipped down until about 30 minutes before closing time.  Despite the weather, we had 354 people through the door.  Some may feel this is not brilliant, but the majority of you who are involved on either side of craft events, know that visitor numbers are often disappointing and I know that the venue I am using does not attract a big footfall for similar type events.  

The results of the day were that some stallholders did very well, some didn’t and some did better this time than last time – the life of a crafter at craft events is an interesting one.  There was plenty going on throughout the day: we had You Ukes playing from late morning to the end of the event, two lots of crafty make-and-take workshops and a face-painter.  Plenty to draw people in, and as the weather was poor, our refreshments people did a roaring trade.  

Here are some photographs of the event taken by Dawn Hart of Stonepit Crafts - thank you Dawn:






As the title of my post says, four down, four to go.  I have four more events that I have organised for this year and it's now on to the next one which takes on 1 November at the Tongham Village Hall.   Tongham is a village not far from me, it has a few shops and well supported activities take place in both the village hall and the community centre.  Fingers crossed this event does well for everyone involved.  The next Godalming Bazaar event is on 22 November - a Christmassy themed one I feel.

And finally......  Yesterday I took part in a wedding fayre at the Frensham Pond Hotel.  We had a steady flow of visitors and it was very successful for me.  I have to prepare 8 quotes for stationery ranging from just invitations to a full range of stationery.  I hope they all turn into confirmed orders - lucky for me they are spread throughout 2015 and 2016 so I will have time to work on them.  The most popular design was a simple one with a scroll at the top and a ribbon across the middle.  Here are a few pics from yesterday:



My lovely new pop-up banner.  The company I now use for my banners and flyers produce double-side pop-up banners.  Great if you are placed where visitors are walking by on both sides (back and front) of your stand.  I need to order one for the Christmas Pie Crafts part of my business, so might go for a double-sided one.



The scroll range of stationery.


I decided to go for a heavy weight A6 flyer rather than a business card - I feel it catches the eye of visitors to the stand more than a business card will.


Purple is still very popular.

One last finally...  I have two new foster kittens, both girls - one is tabby and white and I have named her Ruby and the other one is black and white and I have named her Pearl.  They are only 9-weeks old.  Milly has said she will add some photogrpahs of them to her blog post on Wednessday.

I am off to join up with the Handmade Monday bloggers - I have missed them recently and looking forward to seeing what they have been up to since my last visits to their blogs.

I will, hopefully, be back next weekend with some more bloggy news - have a good week everyone.

Jill

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

MILLY'S DIARY

Hello everyone

As you can probably guess, I don't like this foggy weather - I snooze in the conservatory while it's like this.  It's all very well everyone telling me that the sun will shine in the afternoon, but I want it to shine in the morning as well.

Did you know I have my very own bedroom?  Well, it's a room within a room.  I sleep in the bottom of Richard's wardrobe and have done ever since I moved in properly.  If I didn't have my own room, I would probably have to sleep in a cardboard box.  It is nice and comfy sleeping on Richard's jumper - tough if he wants to wear it!  I get a little annoyed if the door is closed and I chase Jill and Richard until they understand what I want.  Humans!  You are such hard work!

There is another black and white cat in the neighbourhood.  A boy!  He has much more white on him than me and Jill says his white is cleaner than my white - she mumbled something about using the right sort of washing powder and then laughed because she thought she had made a joke!  He keeps coming into my garden, sits on the drive hoping I will come out and play.  I keep trying to tell him I am not interested, but he won't give up!  I shall have to get my big pal Jazz on to him - actually, that won't help, because Jazz is a friendly cat and will make him his new best friend!  Cats!  You are such hard work!

Sun's out - I'm off!  See you next week.

Milly

Sunday, 14 September 2014

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER

Hello everyone

Long time, no write.  I think I should write a blog post about the all the excuses I can come up with about not writing a blog post.  I did promise myself that no matter what I would write a post every week, but this year that promise has gone to pot!  Despite, as always, having plenty to say, because I join in with the Handmade Monday gang I feel guilty at not having any makes to show and share.  As time is whizzing by since my last post, I thought 'hey, join in anyway'.

What have I been doing since my last post?  In between the usual million and one things we all get bogged down with, earlier this year I applied to take part in the Farnham Maltings Christmas Fair, sent off my paperwork with photographs of my work and as you can imagine, the next few weeks were 'will I, won't I' times.  I was so pleased to receive an email telling me 'you have been successful'.  It is a two-day event, used to be just one-day, and so many people have said it is hard to get into, so you can imagine I am extra pleased.  Need to get on with making stock now - can;t make excuses for not doing that.

My latest Godalming Bazaar event took place on Saturday, 6 September.  From an organisation point of view I felt it was successful in that there was plenty going on at the event (craft workshops, wildlife charity, Town Crier and great refreshments) and we had a fantastic 512 customers through the door (compared with 247 visitors at the last Godalming Bazaar event).  Those of you involved with craft events, on both sides of the stalls, know getting customers through the door is hard work and getting them to stay and buy is even harder.  Of course there were moans - not everyone was pleased, not everyone did well, but it is very hard trying to please everyone and I am sure one day I will realise that it is a pretty impossible task to do that, but for the time being I shall continue to try to achieve the impossible.  I have had some great feedback from customers: very impressed with the variety and quality of work at the event, liked that there were not too many stalls selling similar items, great to have make-and-take sessions, first experience of a craft fair and pleasantly surprised, and definitely going to come along to the next one.

On to the next one which takes place on 4 October.  I have arranged two make-and-take craft workshops (I use two halls at the Godalming Borough Hall so one in each will be a great attraction), a face-painter, one of the stallholders is offering Henna Tattoos, another is giving Reiki and Indian Head Massage tasters. Plenty to interest and encourage people to spend time at the event and buy from a fabulous range of handmade items.  Oh, nearly forgot also have You-Ukes joining us between 1.00 pm - 3.00 pm.  Will I please everyone?  No, of course not, but it's great fun (and flippin' hard work) along the way.

Several foster kittens have passed through our home recently and gone on to fabulous new homes.  We are kitten-less at the moment, but there are plenty more out there waiting to be taken in, looked after and re-homed.  It does get a little easier parting with them, and I know they are going to good homes, but if I had a much bigger place.........

That's me more or less up-to-date and this week I will be catching up with my fellow crafters taking part in Handmade Monday - I bet there will be lots of Christmas-themed makes to have a look at.  There seems to be lots of new crafters joining in, so it will be nice to see what they all make.

Have a great week everyone, looks like we are going to have some more sunny days.

Jill