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Friday, 31 August 2012

TODAY'S GUEST BLOGGER IS......

In-house Marketing for Small Businesses

We all know how important marketing is to any business, whether a one man band or a large franchise. Marketing is the point at which you engage the customer and begin to shape your relationship with them. At this moment the difference between a smart, well thought out strategy and a half-cocked one can be the difference between a long and fruitful business – client relationship and a missed sale.

Does that mean you should immediately get on the phone to a team of marketing experts and agree to whatever high fees they charge for the “re-branding” of your business? Not necessarily. Selling your company is something you should be able to do yourself though it will take plenty of hard work, careful planning and time spent understanding the mind-set of your customer. If you have the time and inclination for that, you can get cracking on a marketing strategy that will push to the maximum your company’s profit potential.

Who Is The Customer?

No matter what you’re selling or what you’re charging, how many people you employee or how big your budget is, every marketing strategy starts at the end – i.e. the final user.  Your customer is the person to keep in mind at all times throughout the branding and selling process.  It is they who will say “yay” or “nay” to whatever it is you’re offering and, so, it is they who you need to convince with the strategy.

This, of course, is easier said than done. After all, your customer base is not a single person with a single set of opinions and behaviours but a (hopefully) huge number of different, sentient, decision makers who may react to different sales techniques in different ways.

They do have one, definite thing in common, however, and that is you.  They are all potential buyers of your product. Once you keep that in mind you can extrapolate. For example, say you sell medium priced sporting goods. Your customer is likely to play sports, which means they are likely to read sports magazines and the sports pages of the paper.  They are probably into keeping fit and healthy.  They quite possibly have a gym membership and a cable hook-up for the sport’s channels. They probably earn a decent living, though not enough to afford luxury level equipment.

Already you should be starting to see opportunities: the advertising spaces which will give most exposure to your target market, the concepts you should be matching to your product, the kind of budget your customers have to spend and, therefore, the sort of product you are pitching.

What Is The Product?

A silly question with an obvious answer? Perhaps at first, but let’s look a little closer using the original example of a sporting goods store.  What is it about these sporting goods in particular that makes them worth buying? Are you the only store in town? If not, are you the cheapest offering great penny bargains or the better quality, with a top class selection?

Until you have answered the question of why people should shop in your store (and, no, because you’re a nice person is not a valid answer) you will not have a workable marketing strategy.

Playing With The Price

Perhaps the most common technique a small business engages in when it comes to marketing is a quick fire price reduction.  This can be a great way to launch a new product or get people interested in your services before you return the price to normal.  You might even try lowering the price to zero and offering free samples to new customers in the hope they’ll see how good your product is and be willing to sign up later on.

Gyms use this kind of technique (among others) all the time – a one month, free membership to get the customer hooked on working out.

Buying Space

If you decide to go down the print advertising route, consider how much you spend and what you get. The price of four ¼ page ads in four papers might be the same as the price of two ½ page ads in two. Maximum exposure is crucial to any strategy. Look for ways to get your name in as many places as possible, particularly if you are starting out.

Advertising and marketing: we all know we need to do it but, often times, we don’t know where to start and so the temptation to spend big on professional advertising can be a big one. Remember, however, you know your product better than anyone.  Think of who is buying it, think of why and you should be able to get yourself thinking about the best strategy for you.

Evelyn Taylor

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

THE COLOUR DILEMMA CONTINUES

Hi everyone

Dark, grim and grey here - the weather that is not the colours on my website.  Although I wonder if grey will go well with lilac and lime green......

Thank you everyone who commented on my Sunday post with colour suggestions.  The light lilac is nice, but looks a little washed-out.  One suggestion (thank you Lesley) was a dark purple and oddly enough just before I read the comment, I had changed the side bars to that colour.  It looks good - not sure if it is too powerful, but am still playing around with colours at the moment.  My website is with Vistaprint and my biggest problem at the moment is they are not that quick a dealing with problems.  I raised the left-aligned text issue with them and received a standard 'do this and this' email.  Advised that following their Q & A guidance I had already done that without any success and the responses was?  The same 'do this and this' email.  I sent a brand new email with all the problems (left aligned text when I have centred it, text revert in parts of a paragraph to Times New Roman, and the colour issue - when I change the width the colour reverts to something else which I cannot change).   That was 2.5 days ago and I am still waiting.  Rather disappointing.

I have been kitten feeding this week as the normal fosterer is on holiday.  Started off with two 4.5 black girl kittens and one 18-month old ginger girl.  Now have just the two black kittens - no I haven't lost the other one, she has been homed.  They are gorgeous and love to play with anything and everything they have in their pen.  Climbing up the walls and swinging from various things is great fun for them.  I hope they get homed soon as they really need some company, stimulation and attention.

We had an away day yesterday at Gunwharf Quays.  The weather was really gorgeous and we had a lovely day of shopping, lunch and a boat trip.  Lots of sales on at the moment - which is good as prices there already heavily discounted.  Got some good craft materials too.

Back to the website and fingers crossed I can soon sort out the problems.  I hope you enjoy the rest of this week.  don;t forget to drop in on Friday for this week's guest blogger post.  I will be back with my main post on Sunday.

Jill

Sunday, 26 August 2012

THE LAST BANK HOLIDAY OF THE YEAR

Hi everyone

I know it isn't the last one, but the next one is Christmas and it seems a long way off - I'll forget the fact that at the moment I am surrounded by material for making Christmas cards, gift boxes, etc.

1 Crafty Tales

I haven't done a lot of craft work this week as I have tried to concentrate on my website - yes, I know I have probably written those words at least ten times in my blog, but it is getting to the point where I know I really do need to get a move on and get it published.  As you know from my blog, I love bright colours and originally my website was black (text mainly and some accents), white and lime green - the lime green was rather prominent.  I liked the colour scheme but have come to the conclusion over the last week that it really needs softening.  I therefore decided to introduce purple, well lilac really, into the colour scheme.  I have used lilac as the background side-strip colour and also in some of the accents.  I decided to use dark purple for the text, but still kept some lime green as I think it is a fresh bright colour.  I may still go for a lighter shade of lilac on the side strips, but am playing around with that at the moment.

I am ploughing through adding items, but the dilemma is that a lot of my card stock is at Bourne Mill - it is my bricks and mortar selling point, so I keep very little stock is at home.  This means I need to make stock that only goes on my website, not something that I am relishing really as it means working twice as hard (oh dear, sounds pathetic).  However, with long winter nights on their way (sorry to mention winter, almost as bad as mentioning Christmas) I should have more free time to work on stock production.  My big problem at the moment is that when the weather is good, I really want to be outside either working in or enjoying my garden.

In the meantime, this is my home page - so far.  What do you think of it?  Do you think the lilac should be a shade or a few shades lighter?  I have had some feedback that the green doesn't go well with the lilac, but the green is 'me'.  It's one of my original colours and I don't really want to lose it - plus a lot of my promotional material uses this shade of lime green.


I plan to 'go live' on 1 September, even though not all of my sections will have stock, but I think I have dragged my heels long enough and a small presence (growing regularly) on the internet is better than no presence at all.  I really cannot attend any events this year and to the many people who ask if I have a website, reply 'it's nearly ready' - especially if they asked me the same question last year!

It's time for the Handmade Monday bloggers to visit the other participants to catch up on their makes and 'doings' for the past week, but before you go, it would be great if you would consider being a guest blogger here on the Christmas Pie Crafts blog.  If you are a regular Friday visitor you will know the posts have been really great and just as good are the ones I have ready to be published.  It's a great chance for you to increase traffic to your blog and website as well as other social networking that you are involved in.  Interested?  Email me on christmaspiecrafts@virginmedia.com - it would be great to have some more Handmade Monday-ers take part.  A bit of free promotion for your new Christmas stock?

Did you read Krissy's guest post on Friday?  I really recommend you visit while you are here to read about how Krissy decided to open up her boutique.  Many thanks Krissy for being one my guest bloggers - I really enjoy reading about how people came to the 'today' stage of their life.

2 The chitter, chatter bit

News of the day: Trio broke out of my neighbour's home!  Smashed her way through the cat flap, wandered around the garden, jumped up and landed on a 6' high piece of trellis and miaowed to be rescued!  This is the cat with one hind-leg missing who has only been 'in residence' for about two weeks!  She has been exploring in sheds and garage, brought out many cobwebs (better than a duster) and seems very happy to be free.  Shadow is completely confused by her, but Jazz is interested as he likes the 'older woman' cat.  Another one of our neighbours had a very elderly lady cat and Jazz would follow her everywhere - she was a bit grumpy (Holly by name and by nature) and this irritated her very much.

I met up with Caroline on Tuesday and over large cups of coffee we attempted to solve the crafting riddle of the day; we didn't find a solution, and after lots of coffee think we had forgotten what the original question was, but it was great to take time out and catch up with what each of us has been working on.

I had a call from Cats Protection last week asking if I would be able to feed some kittens next week.  A cat-fosterer who lives near to me is going on holiday for a few days and I am the nearest CP person to her home.  I went to meet my charges on Thursday and they are so cute: one long-haired ginger girl called Fifi (18 months old) and two long-haired black kittens aged 4.5 months.  I also met some of the fosterer's own cats - three tabbies, and all gorgeous.  Not sure I can do this work without increasing the size of my own cat population.  My biggest concern, apart from wanting to take all stray cats and kittens home with me, is how I will cope with a case where the kittens or cats are not as healthy as those I have met so far.

I don't know if any of you have come across BlogFlash2012?  It is a blog-post-a-day event organised by Terri G Long (Terri's blog is about the Art and Craft of Writing Creatively).  Terri has provided a topic for each day of August and as you can imagine it must be hard work writing something new every day.  I haven't had a chance to read all of the posts, but particularly wanted to dray your attention to those created by Lesley Beeton (one of my favourite guest bloggers).  She has written some very interesting posts and I feel that most of them (all really) have a chapter 2 waiting to be produced.

I read a post on Twitter a short while ago with a link to a YouTube video about the Follow Friday (#FF) activity.  Like a lot of people who use Twitter, I take part in this and have tended to follow the crowd with a group FF tweet.  I am embarrassed to say I cannot remember who produced the YouTube (I am sure someone here will), but their recommendation was that if you want to encourage people to follow, just FF tweet one person at a time with a reason why they should be followed.  It was suggested that group tweeting can sometimes be viewed as spamming, so I decided to keep with the single FF tweet and I will continue this in future.  I did this on Friday and limited time meant I only managed two, and thank you to those same two who included me in their individual Follow Friday tweets.

The garden beckons as my neighbour has given me some lovely Primula Denticulata to plant - the garden is also the best place to be as Richard is removing the fireplace from the dining room!  The noise of the chisel and hammer are bearable, the moans and groans are not.

I hope you have a good Bank Holiday Monday - sadly I think the weather is going to be pretty grim.  I will be back on Wednesday with my mid-week catch-up and don't forget to visit on Friday to read this week's great guest post.

Jill

Friday, 24 August 2012

TODAY'S GUEST BLOGGER IS.....




Hello! My name is Krissy Worth!  I am the owner of Krissy's Boutique!  A lot of things have changed for me in my personal life within the last year and half, which led me to starting my own company.  Back in January 2011 I resigned from a job that I loved!  I was working as a lead teacher for an after school program.  It was great working with children.  After many jobs in my 30 years of life, this was the one that I called my 'career'.  You know that saying "when you do something you love it's never work"?  Well I was doing something I loved and to me, it wasn't work.  It was a new adventure everyday because as you all know children are very unpredictable.  I was at this job for about 3 years when certain things happened that brought me to the decision to leave.  Finances changed in my household and the job just wasn't paying enough, so my husband had a job opportunity to work at a place that offered far more money, so he took it and his hours interfered with mine, so one of us had to stay home.  I became a stay at home mom to my son Preston! 

Later in the year, in June, I found out I was pregnant!  It wasn't something we planned, but it was a happy blessing.  We had just moved into a new home a few weeks prior, so we were excited to welcome all these new and positive changes in our life.  My second son Cullen was born this past March!  Taking care of 2 young boys is not an easy task, but it's one that I would never change.  They sure do keep me on my toes and make me smile and laugh all day long.



A new baby meant we needed more income, so that is what brought me to the idea of starting my own business from home.  I thought of everything I was interested in and what I was good at.  I have always loved crafting and jewelry.  I decided opening an online boutique was a great idea.  It was something I always wanted to do and the chance was right in front of me to grab so that is what I did!

I started off by going to my local craft store and buying a bunch of different items.  I came home and started brainstorming some ideas. I came up with a few things and I knew from that point on, I could really do this! I started with some trinket boxes.  They were my first projects I completed. The more comfortable I got with different objects, the more ideas would come to me and by the time I knew it, I had a whole collection of items!  Frames, jewelry boxes, earrings, necklaces and so much more! I decided to name my shop "Krissy's Boutique" and I started a website on Facebook: www.facebook.com/krissysboutique and little by little I gained new fans, friends and customers!  I now have over 1,000 'Likes' on my page and the numbers keep climbing each and everyday! I am getting very good feedback on my items and I am so grateful because I do my best to make things I think people will love.  I know there are a lot of people not on Facebook, so I decided to open a store on Storenvy: KrissysBoutique.storenvy.com.  The prices are the same on both sites, but if you are a fan of mine on Facebook, you also get specials that only my Facebook fans can see, so be sure to join me on Facebook if you haven't already!

Krissy's Boutique is not like any other shop in your local town that you may have shopped at.  My items are good quality items that are 99% handmade and the prices are very affordable. I did not want to open a store that the average family couldn't shop at.  I know right now people are having a hard time in this current economy.  I know what it's like to be on a very strict budget, so this shop is for everyone!  Right now the prices in my shop range between 2.00 to 20.00!  I have beautiful jewelry, frames, tote bags, crochet items and so much more! I recently just launched a new collection that I am very excited about.  It's called the "Midnight Moon" collection.  I have always been into mystical, mythical, magical items and I wanted to convey my love for those things into jewelry and other items.  I hope when you visit my shop, you do take a peek at it.  Recently I have been very busy with a lot of custom orders.  The holidays are approaching and there is nothing better than a gift that you put that extra special thought into! Give me your ideas, and I'll create something special for you! 






Well I thank you all very much for taking the time to read a little bit about me.  I would also like to thank Jill for giving me the chance to be a guest blogger!  I hope to 'meet' more friends along the way, so get in touch with me and say HELLO sometime!  I am also on Twitter: www.twitter.com/krissysboutique.

Have a great week everyone! 


Wednesday, 22 August 2012

OOPS, NEARLY FORGOT TO POST

Hi everyone

Clearly my week of changing blogging style has thrown me as I nearly forgot my mid-week post.  Possibly also due to having a change of routine with Richard being on holiday - and the sun is still shining!  I think I had better stop blaming him for the bad weather.

I have received a few emails this week from companies saying 'now that summer is over.....'.  Please, don't say that - August hasn't finished, September is sometimes lovely and even October is occasionally sunny and warm during the day.  Summer has been so grim, so let's try very hard to enjoy summer and stop pushing ourselves towards autumn (yes, a gorgeous time of year for colour in the garden) and winter.

The Jazz and Shadow 'battle' continues.  They had a run in yesterday and this morning.  I really do think Shadow wants to be friends, but his approach just frightens Jazz.  Jazz did disgrace himself on Monday - he caught a pigeon.  Richard managed to rescue it and although it didn't look 100%, we think it might have survived.  Horrible though it may seem to everyone, unfortunately cat's are hunters, and even a bell around their neck doesn't stop them.

A couple of weeks ago Rumpy Dog commented on one of my blog posts and added a note asking if I could remove the captcha part from my comment section.  I wasn't aware I had left this on until Caroline (Caroleecrafts) pointed it out to me on Tuesday - many thanks Caroline, I have now (I hope) removed it.  It seems this may prevent many visitors from commenting as it can be infuriating trying to read the letters, and now figures, in the captcha box.  Apologies everyone, hopefully it will now be easier to leave a comment - comments will still be moderated, but should be easier to leave.

Having said 'no to leaving summer behind', I am off to plant some autumn/winter bulbs in our front garden.  I always tend to leave it too late, but this year I have decided to get a move on and do it now.

If you would like to be a guest blogger, do please get in touch: christmaspiecrafts@virginmedia.com.  Your post can be about your business, a hobby, pets, travel or something you are planning to do.  It should be approximately 600 - 800 words, have lots of pictures and links to your website, blog, etc.

I hope you enjoy the rest of the week and don't forget to come back for my Friday Guest Blogger's post - as always I know you will enjoy it.  I will be back on Sunday with my main post.

Jill

Sunday, 19 August 2012

TIME PASSING

Hi everyone

Another week has whizzed by and although I have been busy I feel as though I have been standing still and have accomplished little.  Age or the time of year when the days are long and you feel you have plenty of time to do lots and actually do little?  Oh well, there is always tomorrow.....

Part 1: Crafty Tales

Up until a few weeks ago, I had been working hard on producing my mini-cards for my Christmas events.  I then stopped, moved onto wedding invitations and Christmas (sorry, a rude word at this time of year) got left behind.  It struck me this week that I am no further forward with my stock and therefore need to get a move on, or my stall will look rather empty.  However, I decided that Christmas might have to wait a little longer and as I had lots of orange ribbon (I bought some narrow ribbon when I bought the wedding stock) and some black material, I thought, hey, how about a Halloween fabric wreath.  So, here it is - it is a work in progress as you can see, but it should be ready in a couple of days time and I will then add it to my Etsy shop:


I think black and bright colours look so good together.  I am looking for a template for a bat as think I will add one to the centre just to finish this wreath off, or I may pin it to the wreath itself as perhaps the centre isn't big enough to do justice to an embellishment.

It has been a week of catching up on everything that was put aside for the invitations.  Not much progress on the Orders of Service as need information from the bride and groom.  However, there is plenty of time to work on them and they are nowhere nearly as complicated as the invitations.  It's time for to visit the other crafters who take part in Handmade Monday - I know you will enjoy the blogs and the work the other HMs have been creating during the past week so don't forget to check them out.

Part 2: Chitter, Chatter

Phew!  It is HOT.  Great weather for lazing around outside reading and doing very little and that's just what we did for most of yesterday and today.  We had a meal with a friend yesterday evening and sat outside until very late. Hedgehogs visit her garden every evening, but only one last night - think the rest of the family probably had a take-away and didn't need to come out for supper, feet up and glued to Hedgehog Street or possible Hedgehog-Enders.

I hope you have been able to read my guest post from Lesley Beeton?  Thank you Lesley, it is a great post and I think it is well summed up by Hannah's comment '....I love to hear stories of how people use their creativity in difficult times as I believe it helps others to find that part of hope that creativity brings'.  A lovely comment, thank you Hannah.  I know Lesley would like feedback on her post, so please do visit.

Did you also visit my mid-week blog post about Trio?  A must-read 'tail'.

This week is an odd combination: good weather and Richard on leave!  Those two happening at the same time have been unheard of this year.  He has two weeks leave and the first week is work (not that he is fully aware of the long list he has to tackle) and the second week is leisure.  However, as most of the work is outside, think the heat might prevent some of it being carried out and it may be a case of reversing the weeks.  However, no matter what the weather is like time off from work is always welcome.

We have an interesting situation that has developed over the last few weeks involving our cat, Jazz, and Shadow, the 3-legged cat who now lives with our neighbour.  Up to the time of Shadow's operation, they were friends. OK, they didn't go to the pub or play football, but they were quite happy to lay on the patio together in the sun fairly close to each other.  Despite being a big cat, Jazz is a softy and he wants to be friends with everyone (two legs or four, he doesn't mind), but he is one of the original 'scaredy-cats'.  His 'hello, I'm Jazz, can we be friends' attitude doesn't always work and often he gets cuff around the ear from cats who don't want to be his best pal.  When this happens, he never retaliates - in fact a few months ago a neighbour walked by with his small dog, Jazz began walking towards him (the 'be my friend' behaviour kicked in) and the dog started barking.  What did Jazz do?  Nothing, just sat there - possibly wondering why this particular 'cat' was on a lead and making sounds that didn't seem to be cat-like.

My apologies, I have wandered off of the plot.  When Shadow walks towards Jazz, he lurches because of his missing left front leg - this seems to frighten Jazz and he cowers and hisses.  They don't fight - thank goodness - but some pretty blood-curdling screams have been heard.  On top of this Daisy (who is clearly reincarnated from the women who watched with glee as heads were chopped off in the French Revolution) rushes out to grab a ringside seat!  This morning, hearing a cat scream, I went into the garden to find Jazz underneath one of our loungers and Shadow standing guard over him!  I managed to move Shadow away, lift up the lounger and rescue Jazz and carry him indoors - that's his street-cred blown to bits!  A difficult situation, and I am hoping that eventually they will get fed-up with the constant 'arguing' and become pals again.

I am off to enjoy some more sunshine - and do some more work on my Halloween.  I hope you enjoy this week and don't forget to come back on Wednesday for my mid-week post and Friday to 'meet' my guest blogger.

Jill

Friday, 17 August 2012

TODAY'S GUEST BLOGGER IS.....


My garden palette

Lesley Beeton

Some of you may know me as the Mad dog woman of Shackleford, but you may not know that I had a life-changing experience last year.  My mother was diagnosed with, and died from, cancer.  She was only 68 years old, too young, and the most upsetting thing was that she felt she hadn't done everything she wanted to in her life.  I left my job as a research scientist to care for her, and discovered another way of life, away from science, exploring my creative needs, becoming re-acquainted with art and photography.


I had always had a tendency to natural themes, and as I set about developing a portfolio, I realised that my garden could be a wonderful palette of colour, form and structure for my art.  At first, I drew from real life, floral still life if you like.  But I found I was too detached from the subject.  Then, I remembered my old point-and-click camera and found that by framing objects through the camera lends, I was engaging more with the subject.  After a couple of months, I bought a pre-loved Canon digital SLR camera.  I'm no camera expert but I love this camera.  The depth of focus it offers means that I can view objects in close-up detail.  This is important for transferring my ideas to canvas.


I have kept a diary of my garden this year, which has included my veggie patch, spring and summer garden, and rainfall (very interesting in this year of drought and deluge)!  This has made it a much more rewarding and engaging project, and as I have been constantly on the look-out for new material for my portfolio, I have felt less guilty about spending those extra few hours a week in the garden.

I am now exploring ways of publicising my work, starting with my blog Unfinished Untitled, and moving into stationery and photographic canvas, as well as design ideas like Fantasy Flowers (below) and working in black and white, which reminds me of looking down a microscope at a specimen.



Many thanks to Jill at Christmas Pie Crafts for hosting my guest post.

Your feedback would be much appreciated.

Thank you,
Lesley x.

@Shackleford_LB

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

A TAIL OF A TAIL

Hi everyone

I am sure you remember my posts about Shadow?  He is doing very well, has settled in and become a very home-loving cat - unusual for a boy cat as they like to wander and hunt and stay out late and cause their people to worry!

My neighbour, who adopted Shadow, volunteered at the time of Shadow's trauma to help out with fostering and out of the blue last week, she received a call asking if she could take in a badly treated female cat who also had had one leg amputated.  'The cat' arrived on Thursday and we helped put the large cage together that she would be housed in for her stay with my neighbour.  Once I saw the cat I knew that she would not be fostered, she would be cat number three in my neighbour's household.  She was black and my neighbour loves black cats.  This particular one is tiny, long-haired and has beautiful large green eyes.  Despite her traumatic experiences, she is friendly and loves to be cuddled and stroked - animals are so forgiving, aren't they?

Four days after her arrival, Trio (as she has been named) has settled in.  She still spends time in her cage - as you know the weather has been very warm and it is too risky leaving her running (and she can) around with doors and windows open.   However, there are times when she is out and about in the conservatory and other rooms and she is surprisingly nippy.  After her exercise she jumps up onto a chair and drops off to sleep - after a wash and brush-up that is.

The surprising thing is how agile she is.  She has lost her back left leg and this does not slow her down or cause her to walk awkwardly at all.  Shadow lost his left front leg and walking for him is clearly not easy or comfortable, in that he doesn't have any easy gait.  It hadn't occurred to me how different movement would be dependent on which leg was amputated.

The reason why my post is entitled A tail of a tail?  Trio's fur was apparently very matted and she had to have a considerable amount of fur removed, in addition to what was required for her op.  With the exception of a small amount of fluff at the tip of her tail, her tail was also shaved and it looks like a piece of string!

I will keep you updated on Trio's trials and also let you know how Shadow is doing.

Enjoy the rest of the week and don't forget to come back and meet my Friday Guest Blogger

Jill

Monday, 13 August 2012

NORMAL SERVICE HAS BEEN RESUMED

Hi everyone

Well, it only lasted for one week, but I knew that it would be hard to break a habit, so my chatty post is back to its normal posting day of Sunday (Yes, I know today is Monday, but I lost track of time).  I found it hard to put time into posting on Tuesday and although last week was extra busy, it is something that I know I will find hard to do normally (very busy tomorrow, I know I would not be able to post then).  My plan is to arrange my Sunday post as first part for Handmade Monday (HM) and the remainder will be the chatty catch-up post.  That way the HM contributors will not have to get bogged down in non-craft-related chat.

Section 1: A crafters life for me

I spent most of last week working on my wedding invitation order.  The week included three nights of working from early morning until gone midnight to ensure I kept to the deadline that I had set myself - and agreed with the bride and groom.  Finally completed everything at the crack of dawn yesterday morning (well, a little later actually) and the bride and groom collected their invitations in the afternoon and I am pleased to say they like them.  You know how it is, we are hypercritical of our own work and are always somewhat surprised when it is complimented.  Why do we do this to ourselves?

This is a photograph of the finished invitation.  The invitation is a pocket with orange ribbon and a diamant√© buckle around it; around the half circle at the top are diamonds (I wish!).  On the front are two sections of purple card with cream card on top - the top one has the couples initials and wedding date (covered in this pic) and the bottom one has the name of the invitation.  Inside is a purple card which has cream card on both sides - one side is the invitation, the reverse is information about the venue, church, etc.  A matching ribbon pull has been added to the insert.  Finally, I made supports for the back of the pockets so that they could be stood up.


This week sees the start of making the Orders of Service - these are similar in design to the invitations in that they have an orange ribbon and diamant√© buckle on the left hand side.

I am very late with my Handmade Monday/chatty Sunday post, but don't forget to visit the other contributors to Handmade Monday.  Lots of great blog posts to read.

Section 2: Non-stop chat - almost

Did you watch the Olympics closing ceremony?  What a spectacular end to a truly amazing event.  To go through all of those times and parts that brought tears to my eye would mean a very, very long post, but I am sure they were the same for many of you.  How about the runner who continued even though he had suffered a broken leg!  Believe me, having broken a leg about 4 years ago, I can assure you that running was the last thing I was able to do!  And we still have the Paralympics to come - I am sure there will as many tear-jerking moments at this event as there has been in the last two weeks.

Did you manage to catch my Friday Guest Blog?  Rich Little of Bloggabase wrote about his new website that is for bloggers of all types of blogs - it's a really great idea and I hope it takes off very soon.  Do have a look and join.  Rich is looking for at least 2,000 members before going live, and at the last count he had just over 1,000, so half way there.

Most of my time last week was spent on work, work, work.  Great to have orders and I received two more yesterday for a Ruby Wedding anniversary card and one for a 65th birthday.  I want to get everything, including Orders of Service, completed this week as Richard is on leave next week, and don't want to be working while he is lounging!  I am hoping it will be third time lucky for him weather-wise as the last two breaks have seen heavy rain most days - he is getting a complex.

I had lunch today with a couple of friends at Elstead Mill.  We reviewed the Olympics and decided we needed to do some form of sport/exercise, but agreed hurdles and the pole-vault were definitely not on our list of possibles.  Up to a few years ago I used to regularly play golf, so that was a possible one for the list; we also thought we might try rowing.  I will let you know how (and if) these sporty plans develop.

I have a lovely guest blog post on Friday of this week, so don't forget to check back.  As I am back into my usual blogging pattern, I will be back with a mini post on Wednesday.

I hope you enjoy this week and if you want to be a guest blogger, please do get in touch: christmaspiecradfts@virginmedia.com (many thanks to my previous bloggers for promoting this on their blog posts).

Jill

Friday, 10 August 2012

TODAY'S GUEST BLOGGER IS.....

Firstly, I'd like to say thanks to Jill for kindly offering me this opportunity to guest blog.

Secondly, allow me to introduce myself.

My name is Rich Leigh and I am one of the co-founders of www.bloggabase.com, a service I launched recently to try and improve the relationship between bloggers and marketers.  I've worked in PR for about five years, and blogged for longer.

In my day-to-day job, working with bloggers has become more important over the last couple of years, as clients have realised that niche audiences are sometimes more useful from a brand sales perspective than traditional media outlets.  Despite this, there is only one real way to identify bloggers to approach, and that's by good old-fashioned desk-based research (otherwise known as Google).  Trawling through lists of potentially relevant bloggers is something that takes a lot of time, and as such, across the industry, often falls to junior agency members, or professionals who are simply too stretched to make a good, thorough job of it.  This can lead to sloppy, irrelevant pitching, with a greater emphasis still placed on media relations, or talking to journalists.

That's where I think we are missing a service to help make 'blogger engagement' (or 'blogger relations' as you might also know it) easier and better for both parties.

Bloggabase will be a way for bloggers to send requests, receive targeted products and service review opportunities and also hear from guest posters and marketers who have stories to tell that bloggers might want to hear.  Through making contact with these marketers, it may also be a way for bloggers to make money from their blog, though for me, it's about the relationship, first and foremost.

My hope in launching it is that marketers will only contact bloggers about things they and their readers might care about, rather than the 'throw enough and some will stick' approach I have been subjected to when wearing my blogger hat.

If you're interested, please do take a second to sign your blog (or blogs, if you run more than one) up for free, here:

www.bloggabase.com (we're on Twitter @bloggabase)

It's for all bloggers, no matter what subjects they write about - we've had bloggers sign up with all sorts of interests, and even if you have a blog that is just personal to you and about nothing in particular, you may still find the service of use.

At the moment we're recruiting blogs - we aren't opening up to marketers until we hit 2,000 blogs just to ensure a useful proposition - so any help sharing the service to reach the target faster would be greatly appreciated and will of course make the service of use to bloggers sooner.  We're currently at more than 1,000 blogs, so I'm confident we'll get there soon and, I hope, find a way for marketers and bloggers to work together in a mutually beneficial way.

Rich Leigh
Co-founder

www.bloggabase.com and @bloggabase)

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

TUESDAY CONFUSION

Hi everyone

This is very confusing - I haven't got to grips with blogging on a Tuesday and consequently I am writing this much later than planned.  I promise that by next Tuesday, I will have sorted my head out.

Needless to say the Olympics are top of everyone's agenda.  The enthusiasm and friendliness of the participants and spectators is amazing and I hope it continues long after the games have finished.  Apart from the spectacular results, the great thing is that the event has far exceeded everyone's expectations in that so far it has gone without a hitch (OK, some technical blips and the odd doping issue, but all dealt with very well).  I am sure a large part of the UK population held their breath when it was announced we had won the games for 2012 - the majority wondering how on earth we could afford it, how could we cope with the massive increase in visitors to London and where on earth would the events take place!  But it is here and we are coping and having a tremendous time whether at the events or watching it on the television.

As mentioned in my Handmade Monday (HM) blog, I am devoting my Sunday blog to my craft work to fit in with the aims of the event.  That doesn't mean to say that I won't mention any crafty type things in the other blog posts I produce.  However, no new work to mention so far as still working hard on finalising my wedding order.  I had some lovely comments left on my HM post about my chatty style of blogging - thank you all very much, they almost made me feel I should have left my weekend post as is.  However, decision, made and I am sure it is the right one.

This morning I did an early morning kitten collection run in my role of Cats Protection Cat Catcher (always sounds a bit cruel).  I had to collect a kitten from a lady in Egham and take back to Woking for a vet's appointment; then I had to do the journey again to return him to Egham.  I feel shattered already and the day isn't over yet!  He has been poorly and although he is putting on weight and looks good, he is back on the anti-biotics.  I will probably have to do a repeat of today's trip in a week's time for his next appointment.  One of the good things about the volunteering is that I am getting to see parts of Surrey that I wasn't previously familiar with.  Thank goodness for Tom-Tom as I have no sense of direction.  I walk out of a shop and have trouble remembering whether I should turn left or right.

I am out this evening to have a meal with a friend.  She is having a fun-type wine-tasting get-together.  Thank goodness it is in walking distance!  Luckily there will be quite a few people there, so if I nod off to sleep in the corner nobody will notice - oh, I hope I don't snore!

That's my blog for today - a little less than I normally write, and I must get my post-Sunday blogging head working.  No blog tomorrow - think I will remove Wednesdays from  my blogging calendar as I will now be blogging on Tuesdays.  However, I am hopeful that I will have a Friday Guest Blogger (FGB) this week, so do please come back then.  Don't forget, if you would like to join the growing group of FGBers, please do get in touch: christmaspiecrafts@virginmedia.com.

I hope you enjoy the rest of the Olympics - I will  be back on Sunday with my HM post.

Jill

Sunday, 5 August 2012

GOING FOR GOLD

Hi everyone

What a fantastic week it has been for Team GB; some heart-breaking moments for some of the athletes and some really wonderful achievements.  Can there be a more exciting medal-winning day than yesterday?  Well done everyone.

This week has been wall-to-wall wedding invitations plus two 'need it now please' card orders: one for a friend and one for my sister.  As always, I forgot to take photographs!  I purchased some material for fabric wreaths this week, because I couldn't resist them when I saw them in the shop, but as the invitations (and now the Orders of Service) have been top priority the wreaths are further down the Crafts To-Do list.  Here is a pic of how the invitations looked in the early stages (a cream pocket with orange ribbon - the colour combination is lovely):


I am moving ahead with the Craft Workshops I want to set up; a message has been posted on Twitter and Facebook and I am producing some posters to place on local noticeboards.  My plan is to have everything in place to begin the workshops around late September.  I would also like to run Christmas card workshops and think this is a good time of year; school holidays will be over and perhaps parents may have time to attend a workshop on a Friday morning.

From feedback and comments posted this week on a very interesting Handmade Harbour blog post about blogging etiquette, I understand that chatty, newsy blog posts may not always be welcome in the crafting world and as my followers/readers know, I have a tendency to write (and enjoy writing) this type of post.  Handmade Monday (HM) followers take part in the weekly event because of the blog's aim to bring crafters together to share and talk about their work and see the creations of fellow handmade artists.  Even though my Sunday blog post is not written specifically for HM (it is my main weekly post), my future Sunday posts will be for HM only and will be about my creations and craft-related topics.  This will, as usual, be published on Sundays and from this week onwards I will publish my chatty, newsy round-up of the previous week's goings-on at Christmas Pie Crafts on Tuesdays.

Don't forget to check out the other Handmade Monday blog posts this week - lots of beautiful crafts, tutorials and interesting posts to read.  I will be back next Sunday with my Handmade Monday post, but do visit my blog throughout the week to catch up on the tales of life in Christmas Pie Crafts.  There will be a Guest Blog post on Friday of this week, and I have 4 lovely bloggers who are already writing their posts for publication in the coming weeks.

Enjoy the Olympics everyone - it's getting more exciting every day.

Jill

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

WEDNESDAY'S BLOG BITS AND PIECES

Hi everyone

Despite promising myself that I would not watch too much television, it has been very hard not to sit glued to the Olympics.  I am not a big sports fan, but like most high-profile events, they just have to be watched, don't they?  I have been so impressed by the good humour of everyone, spectators are clearly enjoying their time in London and (so far, I hasten to add) the predicted problems on the roads seem to have either not occurred or have been very minor.  Lots more to watch, so come on Team GB.

In my last post, I forgot to write about my visit to see the potential workshop venue at the Normandy Therapy Garden.  It is such a lovely spot, gorgeous flowers and veggies all looking really healthy and well tended.  The room is a good size, naturally lit from two sides and perhaps my only concern is that it seems to be a bit of a thorough-fare to all other rooms in the building.  However, I don't think that will be a problem.  The catering facilities are good and there is plenty of outdoor space (tables and chairs available) to enjoy a coffee break or perhaps lunch for a full-day session.  I am advertising my sessions on Blink Collective and I will begin to promote them locally, on my blog and my website - when it is finished of course.

Possibly no Friday Guest blog post this week, but the good news is that I have three lovely bloggers who are currently writing posts and these will be posted from mid-August onwards.  Can I ask a favour of my previous guest bloggers please?  Would you mind very much mentioning the guest blog post on your blog and asking if any of your followers would like to join in?  Thank you - it would be lovely to get more people interested in what has proved to be a great 'event'

Working very hard on my wedding invitation order - I am really pleased with how it is going.  I have a deadline delivery date of Monday, 6 August for the wedding invitations and later in the month for the Orders of Service.  As you can imagine, it is all systems go at Christmas Pie Crafts.

Back to the invitations.  Do come back on Friday as you never know there may be a guest blog post and if you would like to be a guest blogger, do get in touch on christmaspiecrafts@virginmedia.com

Enjoy the Olympics

Jill