2017: my word for the year

Instead of setting unachievable resolutions that will be forgotten by February, this year I’m choosing a word. A word that will help me focus on what I want to achieve in 2017. At the end of 2016, I realised the year had passed me by. While it was full of stressful experiences and things I’d rather forget, I probably could have gotten a lot more out of my year. I’d love to say I have ‘no regrets’ about anything, but I’m sure I could have put more effort into some things in my life last year.

It’s hard balancing a business, a house, pets, and a job, as well as everything else in life. But I don’t want to spend my life just treading water. When people look back on their past year, listing their achievements, I’m a little jealous. I feel like I shouldn’t compare to people who’s lives I only see a hint of online, but I also wonder if I’m doing something wrong by not being proud of myself for the year I’ve just had.

I was talking with the Mr before Christmas about what I might have achieved if I’d actually stuck to things. If I’d put effort in. Instead of coasting along, where would I be if I’d spent the last year being driven and motivated in everything I do. Feeling constantly drained and exhausted does have it’s affects on my mojo, but I’m also convinced that there as steps I could take to improve my energy levels. I want to feel passionate about life again – feel ignited, enthusiastic, alive, with a sense of purpose. I need to find that thing that makes me feel energised and motivated to get stuff done.

When I was thinking about having a word for 2017, the first word that came to mind was ‘commit’. It was perfect. I’ve been so flaky and inconstant about most things over the past few years. If I could just do something consistently, I’m sure I could achieve anything I wanted. But I let excuses and laziness get in the way. I never ‘feel like doing’ anything. Again, chronic fatigue has a lot to answer for. But I also think my mental state creates fatigue too. It’s so easy to feel ‘blah’ about things and put them off. And the more I feel like I can’t be bothered, the more tired I feel, and then I feel like I can’t do anything.

So, this year, I’m committing to life, committing to myself. I need to stick things out. I need to have a plan and make it happen. No more flaking. No more excuses. No more ‘I’ll start tomorrow’. Every time I feel like I can’t be bothered, I need to remind myself of how I felt at the end of 2016…looking back wondering what could have been. One perfect example is my health – my 2016 was full of sporadic episodes of healthy eating, followed by binging on anything and everything. Going to the gym was inconstant, and aside from running prior to the race for life in the summer, my cardio was limited to dog walks and walking to the fridge (kind of a joke, kind of not!). People achieve amazing things in a year, they completely transform their bodies – that could be me, if I was consistent.

But it’s not just my health I want to commit to – it’s my business, my family, my home. I want to have the motivation to go after the things I want. Instead of wishing, actually go out and do it. I want to end 2017 feeling accomplished and proud. Here’s to 2017…and all the things I’m going to commit to!

 

Goodbye 2016, Hello 2017

 

2016 was a weird ol’ year. Some bits were quite ok, but not to be pessimistic, most was pretty rubbish. It was a year where my family had plenty of personal challenges and stresses, along with political events and changes that had (and are yet to have) world-wide significance. To be honest, even though I try to think positive, 2016 was a year I’m looking forward to leaving behind. Looking back at my intentions last January, I’m not even sure I achieved much – my plan for 365 running miles definitely didn’t happen, for starters. But, you know, I’m not going to be so hard on myself. I saw something on Instagram that said something along the lines of ‘I’m not doing resolutions, because I know I’m doing the best I can’.

So I’m kind of going into 2017 with that mindset. Do the best you can. Having said that, I don’t want to use that as an excuse when I just don’t feel like it. I don’t want to get to the end of 2017 and think ‘what could I have achieved if I put more effort in’. I want to enjoy my year without putting too much emphasis on what I ‘should’ be doing, but then I don’t want to let the year pass me by again. I know it’s so easy on social media to compare, and I don’t want to be doing that, but when so many people are listing their ‘amazing experiences’ from the past year on Dec 31st, and I’m sitting here thinking ‘I survived it and I’m glad it’s over’, it’s hard not to feel that I must be doing something wrong.

I’m not going to make resolutions. I know the person I want to be, and I know the life I want. I don’t need to start 2017 with a long list of unachievable targets to hit. I want to find my passion. I want to be that bright spark of energy. I want to feel unstoppable. I know a lot of people don’t make resolutions, but pick a word for the year instead. My word came to me straight away – it’s not glamorous or fun, but it was the first word I thought of when thinking about what I want 2017 to be like. I’ll reveal my word in another blog, but I’ve been saying it to myself since Christmas, in an attempt to end 2016 with good intentions and it’s been working so far!

A few days ago, my mum showed me something that popped up on her Facebook memories from years before. It was a blissfully unaware ‘happy new year’ message from a January before a particularly painful year. Our lives were never to be the same again after that status, and yet my mum’s message for the start of the year was so full of hope and optimism. It made me realise how we really don’t know what’s around the corner. We really should treasure every day as if it’s our last – treasure your loved ones, don’t stress over the things that really don’t matter, and make the most of the time you have with people.

So, instead of the usual resolutions, I’m looking forward to a fresh start for 2017, time spent wisely, more love, more laughs, more life in my days.

Pumpkin Lush

I love autumn, Halloween and all things October! Mum treated me to a few Lush surprises, including this seasonal lush pumpkin. It was lovely – smells gorgeous, and such a stunning dark yellow colour. I’ve had yellow Lush bombs before that haven’t been as pretty, but the pumpkin ballistic is a vibrant dark yellow! And since the pups have discovered how exciting bath bombs are, they try and watch every time I lob a ballistic into the bath 😍 

Dreaming of the Coast: Beach Days in Norfolk

I dream of living by the sea, the fresh salty air, the smell of the sea, sand between your toes. Even a pebble beach would do – I just love the beach atmosphere and the clarity you get at the edge of the country, looking out to the horizon and having nothing else to think about. It blows off the cobwebs, clears your head and invigorates your soul. Unfortunately, I live a good three hours away from our nearest beach. I’m pretty sure I’m about the most inland you could get here in the UK. It doesn’t stop me wishing for beach days and savouring the odd trip to the coast now and then.

A few weeks ago, we took a trip to one of our nearest beaches, Hunstanton. I have fond memories of visiting Hunstanton often as a child – I think everyone who lives local to us in Northamptonshire used to head to Hunstanton for every beach day, and I even had a few school trips there as it’s about the closest beach we have at about 3 hours away. Now I’m older, I realise how traditional and seasidey it is – plastic windmills, windbreakers on the beach, a gaudy fairground and arcades with flashing lights and thick fusty carpet. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still pretty with it’s little bungalows and flower displays around the town, but it definitely hasn’t moved with the times and is exactly how I remember it 20+ years ago when I used to ride donkeys as a child and eat ice-cream on the sea front (although, to be honest, I’m still eating ice cream on the sea front!). It definitely has a old-world charm and nostalgia.

Having done all the family traditions (ice cream, the amusements, fish and chips, a cuppa in the sea life centre…), we headed off in search of golden sandy beaches that my dreams are made of. We stopped off at the stunning Norfolk Lavender garden and shop, which is a gorgeous place to browse and sniff (it smells amazing there!) before making our way to Brancaster beach. Although it was busy with summer holidaying families, it was just the place I needed to be – beachy grasses, seashells and soft mounds of sand. The only thing missing was the sea which was so far out, I had to enjoy from a distance.

Next time, we might have to spend a whole day at Brancaster, or even search for neighbouring beaches that are a little less busy. I’m totally in love with spending time on what seems like the edge of the world, I might have to find myself a beach house one day.

Watch Me Draw: Ariel from the Little Mermaid – Disney Fan Art, Speed Art

The Little Mermaid was once my favourite character to draw – her swooshy tail and flowing hair. Plus the movie is probably one of my favourites too. My old Deviant Art was full of Disney Fan Art, but Ariel was the one who got the most ‘likes’ and lovely comments. It’s been a while since I drew Disney characters and I really miss it. Growing up, I wanted to be a Disney animator and I was obsessed with Briana Garcia on DeviantArt. I’ll never be able to draw as well as her, but I know I’ll improve on my own skills with practice.

So, I’ll be drawing more, and hopefully adding the speed art videos to Youtube as I work on them. For now, they might be just sketches, as it’s been a long time since I owned any decent colouring pencils – I wore down my Karisma coloured pencils until they were too small to hold and my cheapish everyday pencils aren’t as bold and vibrant as I’d like. It seems a lot has changed since I was regularly drawing – the Karisma’s have been replaced with Prismacolor, so it looks like the Prismas are top of the Birthday wishlist (hint hint mother!).

Subscribe to my youtube channel so you don’t miss anything 🙂


image

Drawing: Wee Jock’s first ink sketch video

Mum has been wanting a Westie for years and she’s recently added the gorgeous Wee Jock to the family – I decided to do a quick pen sketch, in an attempt to get more drawing practice in. The great thing about my new camera is that is has HD video capabilities, so I popped the camera on for a impromptu drawing session. If it proves popular, I might keep adding drawings and videos to instagram and youtube:

Small Business Thoughts: What to do when it’s quiet

My work is very seasonal – from September when Christmas order start coming in, then Valentine’s Day, then Mother’s Day, and up to Father’s Day in June, I don’t get a second to think about anything other than those big occasions. It’s just endless making cards, going to the post office, and coming back to make more cards. Don’t get me wrong, I love it (it’s my favourite part of the year!) – but there’s so many aspects to a business and fulfilling orders is only a small part. Once each occasion has passed, I get a small breather before it’s onto the next, and there are some super organised customers out there who are already ordering for the next occasion before I have time to sit down after the last post has left from the event before.

When things are so hectic for part of the year, it’s hard to know what to do with yourself when it’s quiet. It’s so easy to panic: “what has happened to make people not buy my products?” “are they all on holiday?” “are they not finding my products on the shopping sites anymore?”. Of course, it’s never anything too drastic – people genuinely have busy summers with holidays, kids, trips, barbecues, sporting events like the olympics, going on in their lives. With lovely warm weather, time with family and long, lazy summer days, customers don’t necessarily think about the next big gifting occasion (it begins with C and ends in…hristmas!).

So, what do you do when the order book is quiet and you’re twiddling your thumbs waiting for the highstreet to turn on the carols and fill shelves with Quality Streets and 3 for 2 gift boxes? After nearly 7 years running my own business (and that’s 7 years on Etsy and notonthehighstreet) I’ve been through many peaks and troughs of the seasonal gifting calendar. I thought I’d share my top tips for what to do when it’s quiet. And I’m sure I’ll add my tips on how to cope when it’s busy too at some point…unless I’m, you know, too busy! 😉

1: Work on unfinished projects

I am the queen of having great ideas (in my opinion anyway!) that don’t get seen through to the end. Quieter business days are perfect for working on a half finished project, new range, or designs that have not made it to your virtual shelves. If you keep a list or notebook with you all year round for jotting down ideas, you’ll have a heap of new things to try out when you find the time. Right now, I have loads of notes on my phone, paper, diary etc., all waiting to be mocked up, photographed and listed. It’s a great opportunity to try experiment with new that you’ve always wanted to try out…a new technique, material or even a whole new product line.

2. Spruce up your product pages

Go through your product pages and read your descriptions. I find that I’m often in a rush to list new products and if you can ‘copy’ an existing listing, sometimes I have descriptions that are relevant only to the product I originally listed…like a Birthday card that quotes Father’s day information, or colour options that aren’t available on your latest product. Check your descriptions, attributes, headings, delivery settings etc., to make sure they’re all relevant and it’s easy for customers to browse. Read up on SEO to tweak your search terms so more customers can find your card. If you need help, get a fresh set of eyes to look at your page and tell you what they think – a great option is something like Becka Griffin’s Shopfront Review on Etsy. I purchased a review from Becka, and despite being on Etsy for almost a decade, she had a whole booklet of things I needed to change to make my listings more customer friendly.

3. Retake new product photos

Let’s face it, whatever you’re browsing online, nice photos sell it! Whether it’s a product, a blog, or even someone’s Instagram profile, if there are stunning photos, you linger longer, browse more, and even buy into what they’re showing you. I do most of my shopping online and there have been times where I’ve seen the same product for sale from different retailers with different pictures…some photos would have turned me off buying it, and other photos would convince me I need it in my life…showing the same product! Photos are everything! Every now and then, I refresh my photos. Not only do trends change when it comes to styling, photography skills improve too. I cringe when I see old product photos I took years ago, and each time I update my product photos, I am proud of the new fresh look I’ve given them. I love accessorising my shoots with stationery items, confetti, craft tape and twine. I also love the scandi look with whitewashed walls and minimal staging. Make sure your products are eye-catching, well lit, and customers can see exactly what they’re ordering. Flat lays are so much fun, and lifestyle shots are great to entice customers into thinking their life would be better with your product in it.

4. Read for inspiration, motivation, personal and business growth

Business books get me fired up to work harder all the time. Reading is inspiring, especially when it’s about a subject you love or written by someone you admire in business. I recently read a book by Tony Robbins, who said (and I’m paraphrasing) that to be successful in what you want to do, find someone who already is successful and do what they do. And it doesn’t have to be a book that inspires you, I am often inspired by blogs or business people on social media who share their story with the world. Nothing motivates me more than seeing people who are inspirational at what they do and that makes me want to achieve what they achieve. Reading to learn new skills, understand something a bit better, or just to refocus on the business is a great use of time!

5. Plan for the rest of the year

I’m one of those people who are always super jealous of super savvy, exceptionally organised businesses who are seasons ahead in their planning. Retail planning is always 6 months to a year ahead of where the calendar is right now – most products need researching, designing, prototyping, making, before being marketed and sold to the public. I’m lucky in the sense that my business is so tiny, I can think up an idea, mock it up and have it online for the world to purchase within an afternoon, so I know planning way in advance is not *as* vital to me compared to a big highstreet chain for example. However, even marketplace sites like Etsy and notonthehighstreet have curated categories, press and blogger events, social media campaigns etc., so they do need to know what we sellers are making ahead of the gifting occasions. Having products ready in advance for when they start thinking about their marketing means you’re more likely to get included in something special like a spot in a magazine or in a Facebook post to hundreds of thousands of potential customers. Make a plan of what occasions you need to create new products for (or improve existing products) and when you need to get it done by. This also ties into my first point, where you can use quieter times to plan new goodies!

6. Spend time doing non-business things

I find myself making excuses and being too busy for things for half the year. I wouldn’t dream of going away in the run up to any of the big events, and even an evening out for a meal is sometimes an hour or two I need to use for fulfilling orders (usually black friday or the week before Valentine’s day where every minute counts). In the summer months when I’m working more like part time hours than 20 hours a day, I can say yes to days out, trips away and evenings with friends. Sometimes it’s hard for other people to understand just how much pressure small businesses are under at the big gifting times of the year and it’s nice to be able to catch up when things are quieter, without feeling guilty for being away from your business for a bit.

7. Rest!

Similarly to point number 6, use the quiet times for a bit of relaxation, catch up on things you’ve been putting off while being busy. Sleep in, take long coffee breaks, visit friends and family, do things you’ve been wanting to do for months but never had the time. I’ve been spending the summer relaxing in the garden, doing yoga, riding my bike in the sunshine and trips with the family. It’s good to use quiet times to work on your business, but it’s also necessary to work on yourself – have a break, enjoy the time to yourself before things get crazy again, regain your energy and stamina as before you know it, it will be time for…dare I say it…Christmas 😉

8. And don’t panic! 

This is probably one of the most important things. Everyone wonders if things will ever pick up when going through a quiet time. I know so many people right now are concerned that it’s the quietest time of the year and they don’t know what they can do to improve the number of orders. But for all the busy times of the year, you have to have quieter times. August is notoriously slow in retail and everyone is noticing it right now. The important thing to remember is don’t panic and use your time wisely to improve your own offering.

 

 

 

 

Lush delivery, The Experimenter Bath Art and Review

My Lush stash was looking pretty empty and I had an unexpected bit of ‘treat money’ so thought it was the perfect opportunity to go all out and buy a whole heap of Lush to keep me going for a while. I’ve been so spoilt by Lush baths, it’s disappointing to have a bath that’s not a Lush ballistic or bubble bar, and at nearly a fiver a pop, it’s a pretty expensive habit to have. While I’m going to save my Lush baths for weekly treats (yeah, we’ll see how that lasts!), I still needed to stock up on some goodies!

I’ve never used the Lush kitchen, and when I went to place my Lush order, there was nothing on that day that really stood out (I was too slow for Magic, which I would have definitely stocked up on!), so I went for the usual line of bath goodies: Yoga Bomb, Intergalactic, the Comforter, Brightside, etc. You’ll see them on here and IG as I use them, as I’m just addicted to taking photos of them as they’re added to the water. I also got a few shower gels – I’ve been buying Happy Hippie for years, it’s been my favourite for at least a decade, but I had such a massive Snow Fairy at Christmas, I’ve only just finished that! So I got a Happy Hippie and a gorgeous Comforter as I love the bubble bar scent so much.

First out the box and into my bath was the Experimenter. I’ve had it before but it was before I got hooked on taking pretty pictures of my baths! It was as good as I remembered, full of beautiful rainbow colours and so much fun! The only downside is how quickly it all blended into one greenish colour, but it was still a lovely mysterious glittery bath even when it had fizzed out.

Serious bath art photo attempts below…I’m dreading dropping my camera in one day! 😉


Lush Intergalactic Review, Bath Art and Cosmic Rainbows

I really love ‘Bath Art’ – you know, that amazing swirly mix of colours and fizz you get with a Lush bath product. And my favourite of the moment is Intergalactic…it just makes the prettiest rainbow of colours when it’s added to a bath. I’ve shared my thoughts on Intergalactic before on here, but I just adore the works of art that it produces in my baths, so I thought it deserved a whole new page of beautiful closeups and bath photos.

Swoon…

Blogging: Plans, Dreams and Musings

I’ve been blogging on here for a little over a year now, and addicted to Instagram for as long as IG has been around, but I want to up my game a little when it comes to content. I’d love to have a little community of readers and feel like I belong to a blogging community. I used to write for my own website, back in the day…a sort of blog for the era before ‘blogs’ became a thing. And I miss that. I felt like I was contributing something to the world…like I had a purpose online and people came daily to see what I had to say about certain topics. Do we only get once chance at things like that? Was that my ‘thing’ and now it’s over, do I get a second go?

It feels like back then, writing came easy. What I wrote about was what I loved, what I was good at – an organic, effortless combination of being passionate and knowledgable about a topic. I mean, it took time and hard work – so it wasn’t ‘effortless’ in that sense – but what I wrote about came naturally and I guess that came across in my content. Now I’m older, and the internet world is full of bloggers, youtubers, internet savvy writers and contributors, it seems like the internet is harder. I’ve got so many things I love in my life…do I write about it all, or do I pick one topic and focus on that? Do I have to be really, really good at something in order to provide interesting thoughts on it? Or, do I just dive in without a plan…stress free and with no expectations from myself? Am I interesting enough to bring traffic to my pages? There are a million questions I ask myself when it comes to blogging, and I have no answers.

So here’s to the future of blogging – I’m going to try and bring more content to my little home on the internet, make more of an effort with pictures and share more insights into my life. And if there are people out there that stumble across my site and enjoy it, then please let me know! I’m feeling pretty restless, jumping from home and interior posts, fitness, crafts, shopping, make up etc…I guess I just share what I love and hope that my enthusiasm for everything seeps through the internet. And maybe along the way, I’ll find my niche…that spark of inspiration where everything lines up and I find my calling in life.

Please do say hi in the comments section, and if you’re a follower of my blog, let me know what you’d like to see more of!