Friday, 30 December 2011

Reflection on 2011

Morning! I can't quite believe this year is nearly over, it seems to have flown by and I am sure I am not the only person saying this.  I wanted to take a few minutes today to reflect on what 2011 has brought and what I have achieved.  So often we make time to moan when something isn't right but rarely take time to celebrate things we have achieved.

2011 has personally been an interesting and at times a difficult year. Obviously the biggest moment was in September when Kitty started primary school.  For thirteen and a half years I had had a small child at home with me so seeing my youngest head off to school full time was a huge wrench for me.  It also meant that I would have more time to concentrate on more projects and take on more freelancing.  It took a while to get used to not having a little one at home with me and means I relish the weekends and school holidays even more.  My children are the most important thing in my life, alongside my wonderful Drew, and they all will always come first.  With this in mind I have become more determined to ensure I work from home.  This year has also taught me that my chidlren aren't so little anymore and new challenges have been set in our parenting.  I carry in my head an image of Jack when he was about 18 months old, wrapped up in winter coat and cute hat, digging for worms in the garden, that gets me through those moments when he is pushing boundaries we've set, shouts and protests, or is yet again denying losing his sports kit or tearing his school uniform.  This keeps me going, to know that somewhere is still that adorable boy and not this monstrous son heading into his teens.  The best piece of advice I received was from my fab neighbour, as we both chatted about the problems with girls, was that you don't always need to have the last word.  Now when Lucy is screaming and shouting I try and bite my tongue and allow her the last word. 

So with tumultuous teenage years upon us and our youngest at school full time life has taken a new road in our parenting and I am sincerly hoping the solid groundwork over the past years will reap rewards now as we head into the unknown.

Professionally 2011 has been fantastic! But not without a few tough decisions along the way.  Whilst I had a mini meltdown in the Summer I decided to stop Inspired Celebration.  There were various reasons for this and looking back I am pleased with my decision and it brings a smile to my face that this blog still gets over 6000 page views a month even though I haven't posted on there since July.  Obviously giving up on a project is never easy and for a while I felt like I'd failed but when you invest so much time in a project you eventually want some kind of reward.  However it also led me to joining up with Katie of Les Enfants and putting my party knowledge and love of good design to use as I became blog editor on her blog in September.  Let's Plan A Party is already a success and I have plans to make it even more so in 2012.  This has also led me to write for some big blogs, including The Party Times and for Boden. 

Obviously a major part of Summer this year was Riot Raffle.  Wow what an amazing experience that was.  There were moments when I cried at the amount of admin involved in putting together this but more importantly I am still amazed at the support you all offered in donating amazing prizes and buying tickets.  I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

So what will 2012 hold? Having read my horoscope for 2012 I am going to be very busy from January through to July, which is fantastic news! I know some are sceptical about horoscopes but after them being very right for 2006 I have taken heed a little more.  I have so many ideas all the time and know to be successful I need to narrow these down.  So I am going to be writing more about two things that are very important to me on this blog, which are family and fantastic design. That's all I'm saying for now!

I am also going to be designing and making alot more, especially now that I won a year's e-shop with Create.  This is such an amazing prize and I am absolutely thrilled to have won. I was planning on building a site with Create in the new year anyway so now I have no excuse not to! For now you will have to wait a few weeks whilst I build it and make lots of beautiful things to sell, but to tease a little the ideas include children, nostalgia and toys!

I have this above my desk

Well what a year it has been! What are you proud of for 2011, I would love to know.  But for now I want to say a huge thank you to you all for your support and kind words.  I wish you all a very happy new year and know you will all have huge success in 2012.

Take care

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Getting Organised

Morning! I hope you have all had a wonderful Christmas and that Santa brought you everything you asked for.  I know lots of you will be having a lovely rest but will also be thinking about 2012 and probably like me hope to be more organised.  So today I thought I would share this Blog Planner I found on Living Locurto .  It is perfect for helping you plan some blog posts!

Click here to download your Blog Planner

Also did you notice my new social media buttons? These were designed by the fabulous Isa of Noisette Marketing and you can download you own ones in a choice of four colours over on her blog and they are free.  Whilst you are visiting The Academy be sure to stop a while as there are some great posts on there to help with your creative business.

Click here to get your social media icons.

Happy planning!

Friday, 23 December 2011

Christmas Wishes & Thanks

Wishing all of my fabulous readers a very happy Christmas.  I also wanted to say a huge thank you for all of your support this year, you are all amazing.  I'm looking forward to sharing lots fantastic things with you next year.

Now go, eat, drink and have lots of fun!!


Thursday, 22 December 2011

I am a winner!

I seem to have been very lucky recently and have won several prizes in blog giveaways!  I have been thrilled with my prizes and just wanted to take a moment to share with you my wins and say a proper thank you to the lovely bloggers who ran the giveaways.  I know how much effort putting together any giveaway takes, especially a business or blog birthday or an advent giveaway.  My own blog will be two years old in a couple of months and I am already thinking about what I could do to celebrate this!

So here goes, my lovely prizes

A gorgeous dinner set by Belle & Boo from Sisters Guild.  My three daughters were very excited about this prize as they all love Belle & Boo designs.  Even though this prize should probably have been given to their baby cousin they decided they wanted to keep it and use it everyday, with the little cutlery set being added to their playfood.

A fantastic set of printed tape and two Christmas magnets from Dots and Spots.  I love Becky's designs and was thrilled to have won this blog giveaway.  This set of tape has certainly brightened up my wrapping this year!

Little Scandinavian has been running an advent calendar full of fabulous prizes and I was very lucky to win this lovely FjallRaven backpack from Sparkle & Spin.  Kitty has adopted this and will be proudly wearing it on her back in the new year to school!

You all know how much I love interiors and of course interiors blogs.  A couple of months ago I discovered Nordic Bliss, which is a gorgeous blog full of Nordic inspired design.  I was one of the very lucky winners in the recent advent giveaways and won this wonderful Iitalla serving plate which will be displaying my Christmas cake in a couple of days.

I have also won a fab frame from The Articulate Gallery in a great giveaway on Poppy Sparkles blog, but sadly the photo didn't come out properly & my time is very limited to try again, sorry.

So as you can all see I have been a very lucky lady in the past few weeks and I still have another prize to arrive from another blog. Wow it feels like Chritmas already!  I am thrilled with all of my prizes and be sure to check out all of the wonderful blogs I have mentioned today, you will not be disappointed.

Have a fab day!

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Printable Christmas

Morning! Hope you're all warm and well and had a fab weekend.  I'm suffering with the end of term sore throat that my lovely children have shared, but apart from that the excitment is starting to mount for Sunday in our house.  Have you finished your shopping? Have you wrapped all your presents yet? I've just about got all the presents and still have some to wrap and have found all the free printable gft tags on various blogs a huge help this year.  I have also been thrilled to find some offering printable gift wrap too which is perfect for little presents or using as decorative strips over brown paper.  So I thought today I would share some of my favourites with you to help you finish your wrapping and they are all free! Just click on the links under the images to find the files to download and print.

Happy wrapping!

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Has Brand Loyalty Killed Customer Service?

Yesterday proved a very frustrating day as along with many other people I was left without my weekly food order being delivered by Sainsburys.  I had had issues on Thursday with amending my order and then received a call from Sainsbury's ten minutes before the end of my delivery time slot to say they would be unable to deliver my order.  I was told this was due to an error with their payments systems, that they would be unable to process my card payment.  However I was very welcome to make a twenty five mile round trip to collect my order, which they could still pick and pack for me and pay by my card instore.  As any of my Twitter followers know I was absolutely livid yesterday as I already had a very busy day of work and more school concerts and did not have time to go and do a grocery shop. 

I swiftly emailed Sainsbury's to ask several questions after this,

  • Why did they not inform me sooner that they were unable to deliver my order?  They had obviously known they would not be able to deliver as they had not picked my order
  • If they could accept payments instore why could they not accept payments for online orders?
  • Would my order booked for Friday 23rd still be delivered?
  • Did they not value their customers enough to provide decent customer service by informing us all sooner?
This last question led to me to ponder, has brand loyalty killed customer service?  I have had several problems with Sainsbury's in the past couple of months and I know several other people have had issues with other big retail brands this month.  Complaceancy has become rife within the big retail brands as they assume we will continue to shop with them if they simply appologise and maybe offer us a five or ten pound voucher to ease the upset.  Yet the tide is turning and we, the customer, expect more, even from big brands.  We no longer wish to just be seen as a profit margin, a finger typing in a pin number at the till.  For too long we have let poor customer service continue but now we are more aware of good customer service from independent businesses we expect it from big businesses too. 

Independent businesses are having their best year yet because they care about their customers.  The reason, their customers are their livelihood not just a faceless pin number.  Sainsbury's simply do not care if I choose to shop at Tesco instead, my annual spend on groceries is insignificant on it's own.  Yet as this has not only affected me, but hundreds of their customers, multiply my annual spend by this and suddenly the dent in the company profits may seem more significant.  Perhaps they could have prevented this profit loss with better damage limitation, by simply offering excellent customer service.  Yet complacency took over and the assumption that brand loyalty would outweigh the need for customer service may well have put a large dent in Sainsbury's profit margin.

What do you think, should big retail brands reasses their customer service policies? Do these giants need to take notice of the little people?  I know many independent businesses could teach these brands how to provide excellent customer service.  Do you think complacency has destroyed values within the retail industry?

Now I shall step off my soapbox and enjoy my weekend.  I hope you all have a fab weekend too.


Friday, 9 December 2011

Fabric Friday - Dressmaking

Good morning, I hope you are all safe and well after the terrible storms yesterday.  Todays Fabric Friday post is taking a slightly different angle as I contemplate the rise of dressmaking.  We all know that craft is having a huge renaissance and we are looking to buy handmade gifts this Christmas but what about our wardrobes.  Obviously there has been an increase in cheaper clothing over the past few years but will the need for better quality and more individual style mean we will return to dressmaking? 

Japanese Jacket Pattern from Pomadours's Craft Cafe

Personally I wish I had more time to make clothes for myself and my children, well my daughters, I can't imagine Connor and Jack being too thrilled with homemade clothes! A couple of weeks ago Victoria Hislop wrote a great article in The Telegraph that suggested it was time to 'fling off our fixation with junk fashion' and replace our wardrobes with fabulous handmade clothes.  Dressmaking has come on a long way since I sat in textiles classes at high school and made a skirt.  There are now amazing patterned fabrics that we can order directly for the designer or from fabulous online fabric shops.  Also there is a far better choice of dressmaking patterns.  I love Heather Ross's Weekend Sewing book and still plan to make several of the clothes in it.  I do like Amy Butler's patterns but they are not for a novice dressmaker, as her patterns are fairly complicated and long winded which maybe is what makes them seem more complicated. 

Dress Pattern from Little Dress Pattern

So will you be avoiding Primark and the like in favour of making your own clothes in 2012? Perhaps you will still be picking up a bargain but customising your finds?  I know that Sew Magazine always has some great patterns included each month which maybe a good starting point if you are looking to try dressmaking.  Maybe you already have a favourite pattern designer, please share in the comments as I would love to know.

Have a fab weekend

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Hooray for Independent Business

Afternoon! This week saw the great British institution of the BBC recognised that the rise of small business was outdoing the big retailers on the high street.  In their Breakfast news programme their reporter rushed around a city shopping centre and asked why people thought the high street giants were struggling? Thankfully they took the time to enter an independent chocolate shop where the owner swiftly explained that people were still spending money but wanted better quality products and were prepared to pay extra and that they also wanted the excellent customer service offered by independent retailers.  Hooray! We all swiftly chatted on Twitter that we had been saying this for months and finally it has been recognised by our own national news service. 

Perfect mini shopping bags from 3 Blonde Bears

Yesterday I was also excited to see a tweet that The Economist had written an article to suggest that our creative independent businesses could be the start of a new industrial revolution.  Now an even bigger cheer from our little creative studios! 

Wrap your British made gifts in British Giftwrap

To add to the Buy British campaign Deborah Meaden, of Dragons Den, has been asking small businesses that make gifts in Britain to tweet her (@DeborahMeaden), using the hashtag #butbritishhelpjobs and then she retweets just one, I think, later that evening.  So no excuses, get tweeting and help keep the hashtag trending!

Let's celebrate the small creative businesses this Christmas and beyond, this is the future!
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