Can you believe the Summer holidays are here already? It feels like no time at all has passed since I took Chloe to school for the first time.
No time at all since I was telling her she'd grow into her pinafore and we were out buying new school shoes. Now the pinafore has been relegated to the "no longer appropriate" pile (wow she's grown) and her little shoes finally gave up the ghost last week when the strap just fell off in her hand. I know it's typical isn't it that her shoes would break the week before the end of term.
She's had her easing in day with her P2 teacher and she can't wait now to start moving up the school.
Obviously she's looking forward to the prospect of a couple of months at home with mummy too...
You can tell, right?
It's been a bumpy year what with her reading being a bit all over the place but it's not all doom and gloom as we finish the year. For a start I was talking to another mum this afternoon who said she's had the same thing with her son and that an awful lot doesn't seem to have stuck with him this year, but we're just going to concentrate on working with them over the Summer and most importantly, being consistent with them.
We've had Chloe's report card home from school and there's actually quite a lot of really good news on there. She loves maths for a start and it seems to come pretty naturally to her. We had been told in the P1 updates that only a small number of children had been ready to move on past counting to tackling small sums and Chloe was one of them. When we're walking anywhere together she'll even ask to "do her numbers" as we walk and she can easily manage small sums and has no trouble with answering "what's one more than" or "one less than" type questions. She also has a very good grasp of money for a child her age, but some of that is probably to be expected because she only ever sees me dealing with cash, not cheques or cards so it's drawn her attention more often and quite a lot now I let her handle her own money when we're out shopping. Best they learn about money and how quickly it can disappear from a young age, hopefully she'll appreciate it more.
She loves art, music and drama, something which I'm really seeing in her in the past few weeks and she's been described as quiet yet very confident. Happy to let others go ahead, but not afraid to make her own voice heard when need be. It's been lovely to watch her do little dance routines and sing loudly, not only for me, but wherever the notion happens to take her, coffee shops, town square, middle of Tesco, she doesn't care where she is or who's watching just as long as music is playing. It's great to see after the whole ballet debacle, Chloe's more of a swaying finger snapper.
And the reading hasn't been a complete wash either. It isn't something she particularly enjoys doing (I wonder if there are any early reader books with fart jokes). The problem is that she doesn't really like it and she's become very nervous at the thought of reading, getting something wrong and being told off for it so she just refuses to it. Of course if her teacher can't see her read then she has to assume that she can't do it, I get different results at home. It isn't helped that Chloe thinks her teacher shouts. In fairness she doesn't shout, she's just a lot louder than Chloe is used to. I'm softly spoken around Chloe because I never wanted to have to shout to get her attention, my mum's softly spoken (for the most part) and her first two teachers were both very quiet as well and she just hasn't been able to get used to the volume at all. Chloe hears loud and automatically thinks she's being shouted at.
She's perfectly capable of reading, she just doesn't realise it and she has trouble letting go of her nervousness. I know from my own personal experience that pride will kick nervous's ass from one end of the street to the other and when Chloe feels proud of her reading ability, she all of a sudden wants more and I can see her start to enjoy it.
She read today for her P2 teacher and she practically glowed when she ran from the building to tell me and she was joined by one of her friends who told me they'd each read a page in a book and Chloe was brilliant and she almost looked like she might cry, the pride was swelling inside her so much. Today was like a clean slate for her, a fresh start for her and Chloe seemed really happy to be able to show off what she's capable of to a new teacher.
Now it's just a matter of keeping her interest over the Summer and making sure that she's proud of herself and her abilities. A little bit of pride goes a long way.
- It's not a good idea to slide down the banister when it's screwed to the wall.
- Oh your leg's stuck now is it?
- Stop pulling, you're making it worse and can you not scream when your mouth is so close to my ear!
- Paint goes on the paper!, and
- Do schools really need to close for nine whole weeks.
Oh yes, the Summer holidays are here and following what can only be described as weeks and weeks of glorious weather, I'm now preparing myself for nine long weeks of rain chucking it down.
And because one woman can really only be expected to sit through so many mud pie making sessions, it's time to break out the craft kits:)
There comes a time in your life when you just have to admit that you just aren't very good at something. For me that something is gardening.
I'm good at the grunt work like weeding and turning over beds and getting everything ready to plant, but the planting itself is a wee bit of a problem.
Although not a problem that Chloe shares, she's obviously inherited her granny Freda's green thumbs. A woman who could probably have grown deep sea coral in her own back garden if the notion had ever taken her.
I've never been so glad we let Chloe do much of the planting in our own garden this year because it's really coming along well.
This is a pot of what should have been micro salad leaves, designed to chuck in a pot and start eating in 2-3 weeks (we're impatient). Instead, after Chloe had planted the seeds, we waited 2-3 weeks and the salad counter at Sainsburys appeared. We've eaten salad every day for at least three weeks from this pot now and it's still growing like weeds.
The potatoes she planted have went absolutely bonkers. They're very nearly as tall as me and just about to flower. The two bags filled with Robert's slightly less impressive attempt are buried somewhere in behind that monster up front.
And the peas. Keep in mind that these are even last years peas, peas which I did plant last year and not one single thing grew from them and she's managed to get them to grow. There is a third pot in behind these two with one pathetically lonely little plant in it. That's the one I planted, with this years peas, or I should say that's the only one of a dozen I planted that bothered to show up to the garden party.
Watercress! A tiny little tuft was brought home from school growing on a piece of soggy kitchen roll which had been stuffed into a little cardboard egg box. As soon as Chloe arrived home that day, she walked into the garden, scratched a hole in the dirt alongside a palm tree (which should have been sent to mum's house) and planted it egg box and all and look what happened! It's hard to tell from the photo but the cress is at least a foot tall and probably just as wide.
Herbs. I'm chuffed to bits with the parsley. I use it often and always wanted to grow it in the garden, but I've tried again and again and it always dies within a couple of weeks of planting. I even went so far as to call Robert out for "wasting money on it" at the garden centre and behold what a parsley plant in the hands of Chloe will turn into. And trust me this plant has been pillaged by me since it went into the ground and I still can't keep up with the rate it's growing.
We'll have to start having parsley on our breakfast cereal at this rate.
And the leftovers. Robert took an empty salt cellar from the house and filled it with all the leftover seeds from last year. He still isn't entirely sure which seeds he put in, but we dug over a patch of dirt and left Chloe to shake the seeds in at random, figuring that we'd know what they were if they started to grow.
There's mint, and it's growing so I'll have to get up there today and rip it out. That sounds terrible but we already have two large pots of mint and if we leave it in the ground it'll take over. Mint is about the only thing I can grow successfully so that should give you some idea of its hardiness and determination to grow!
There is definitely rocket which has been pillaged again for salads. We have thyme. I have never been able to grow thyme, not even when I've bought a plant and just moved it from one pot to another and Chloe can knock out bucket loads of the stuff with year old seeds.
There are also more lettuce plants in the mass of green too, not to mention sprouting broccoli (another of my failures), spring greens and I think what looks like the beginnings of a couple of dwarf french beans, all from duff old seeds.
I'm not bitter though, because I get to eat all of these wee lovelies. Now I just have to bide my time until she wakes up, a nice pancake breakfast for daddy and daughter and then I'm sending them out into the garden, because I really think that this year might be the year we manage to grow proper carrots:)
or perhaps that should be Wii....
because we finally caved in and bought one:)
Not forgetting the other kind of wee
You can check out all the winners here and will soon be able to show your love for Folksy by grabbing one of the new badges here.
I just wanted to say a big congratulations to all the winners and runners up and a big thank you for Folksy for having the competition and MOO for my lovely prize of 100 mini moo cards.
I've four so far and I'll be keeping these back for the craft fair in the meantime. I'll likely list any unsold bags on Folksy afterwards.
They're my ideal size for shopping and can hold a fair amount without any risk of me going overboard and overfilling a bag that is too big and hurting myself, again. These are 12 in square and 2.5 in across the base.
And just to keep her happy, a photo of a little cat who can't stand to feel left out and spent the entire time I was outside trying to snipe in front of the camera.
Especially when it's pre-stiffened and will make perfect tote bags.
Oh yes, craft fair season is well and truly upon us once more.
I'll be at the Belmont Tower Craft Fair on 3 July to begin with so if you're in the area, pop along and pay me a wee visit. There is also a great outdoor food market on the same day so you can pick up something really lovely for dinner too.
So, where will you be?
Setting up shop online is easy, but the actual selling takes a lot of hard work. First you have to make something and make it well, then you have to photograph it beautifully, then you have to write a description which reads as though you hadn't bothered your backside to offer photos in the first place. Then you have to market your products and that in itself can be on uphill struggle.
On the other hand selling offline can actually be much easier, you just make and take to a shop. Beautifully made things will sell themselves because customers can pick them up off the shelves, try them on, hold them, feel them and smell them. You no longer need to bother with beautiful photos and wordy descriptions and because some shops also like to use their own branding and packaging, allowing you maybe a label or swing tag, that's another thing you don't have to worry about.
But the thought of approaching a shop can seem very daunting and can put people off the idea before they've even tried.
I've put together a little list of tips of what to do when considering approaching shops to hopefully make the whole thing seem less scary and hopefully more rewarding.
- Firstly, spend some time in the shops you are considering. Pop in a couple of times over the course of a few weeks. You want to get a feel for how busy the shop is and how well it's doing. Many a designer has lost items when a shop they stocked closed without warning.
- Try and get a feel for the products in the shop and more importantly what sells. This will give you an idea of the shop's reputation and what they are well known for. Do handbags languish on the shelves for months on end and yet every time you pop in they seem to have new jewellery. This means that the shop is known for jewellery and that is what customers will intentionally go to the shop to buy. If you don't sell jewellery then you only have the opportunity of selling to passers by who may not be looking for anything at all. Always try and find the right place for you.
- Think about the location and what effect it will have on you. For instance, I don't drive so delivering to shops in my own town is a dawdle, delivering to the towns immediately surrounding my own takes a little more planning but isn't in itself a hassle. I can even manage Belfast with a huge bag and little fuss, but anything beyond that becomes much more of a headache and you'll need to take that into consideration. In stocking a shop you could be paying as much as 50% to the shop owner. Are you fine with only earning 50% and taking on any hassle involved in delivering too.
- Once you've worked out which shops you would like to approach, make an appointment. I honestly can't stress this enough, I know a few people have had success by just dropping in the off chance, but keep in mind that the shop owner holds all the cards and at this early stage the only thing you have to offer is respect for them and what they do. I personally can't abide when someone assumes that just because I'm not making something or packing an order that I must be sat here with my two arms the one length and all the time in the world to do what I please and the same holds true for shop owners. Just because they don't have a queue at the counter doesn't mean that you can assume they're standing there with nothing to do and you'll be a welcome break in an otherwise boring day.
If you do choose to just drop in unexpected, I would suggest starting the conversation by saying that you love the things they've chosen for the shop and you believe that your products would fit perfectly and could you possibly arrange a time to call and have a chat with them when it's convenient. You may get lucky and they'll have time there and then, but if they've actually just been waiting for a few spare minutes between sales to nip to the loo when you happened to walk in then you've at least offered them the opportunity to offer you a quick response, even if it is just to tell you to phone later in the day.
- If a shop isn't interested in your products, don't take it to heart. Try and keep in mind that nobody knows the shop and customers better than the owner. They're running a business and have to make all their decisions with their head rather than their heart. It doesn't matter that you make the most beautiful brooches she's ever set eyes on in her life, if she's stocked brooches before and hasn't had any success with them or if her biggest sellers are soaps and candles, then chances are she just won't be able or willing to sacrifice the shelf space for your products. Don't take it personally, it's just business.
- So you've taken the first step and now you have a date and time to go back again. I would suggest taking good photographs of your range of products, take photos of things in groups, a selection of jewellery, highlighting one or two pieces in photos of their own is a good way to go. You don't want the owner to feel as though they're plowing through your holiday snaps for the past ten years. 15 or 20 photos at the very most will be more than enough, then choose a few key pieces to take with you. I would also suggest wearing something of your own if you happen to make something that can be worn. If you have your own packaging take a sample of that too to show the quality.
Don't worry if the shop owner asks if you can leave a couple of things for her to think it over. I was asked the same thing when I first approached a shop and later that day a customer saw the pieces I had left behind the counter and asked if they were for sale, had that not happened the owner may have decided against stocking me in a few days. I got lucky.
- Going back to the respect thing again, I would say to make sure you are presentable when going to the shop. It isn't a formal interview so you don't need to break out the good suit, but just make sure that you are tidy and well presented. Leave enough time for a quick chat to turn into a coffee or even a lunch, you want to give the owner your full attention and not look as though you really need to be somewhere else. With that in mind, don't take the kiddies with you either.
- If the shop offers to take a few pieces on sale or return don't let it worry you. Most shops will only consider consignment until a designer has a proven track record with them. It's a way of letting you get your things onto shelves where customers can see them, but the only risk to the shop owner at this stage is letting you have a shelf.
- If you are offered consignment, try and stop yourself from calling in to the shop every day "just in case something has sold", but do keep an eye on your things or more importantly where they are. If a couple of things sell, you could bring up the subject of them maybe being better located within the shop, at eye level or closer to the front of the shop, if however nothing has sold in a few weeks, suggest replacing them with a few different items. This will help keep the shop looking fresh for the owner, it makes you look proactive and it has the added bonus that regular customers to the shop will view your items as popular, regularly replaced and updated and therefore desirable. Nobody has to know that you took the last batch home again and that they didn't leave the shop wrapped beautifully in customer's bag.
- And lastly, negotiate. Just because you agreed to 50% on your first day selling through a shop doesn't mean you're stuck with that figure. If you find that you're selling well through a particular shop and getting the call to restock more frequently then it may be time to consider a renegotiation of your percentage.
In the early days if the owner felt that 50% was reasonable for your products to take up her shelf space before selling a month or two later, whereas now she finds that your products are selling within a couple of weeks then you should be able to successfully renegotiate the owners percentage down a bit. Go easy though, maintaining the relationship is important and you can always come back to the subject and whittle down the percentage a little at a time.