February Round-Up 2019

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I like February. Where it starts dark and grey and in the middle of full on winter, by the end of the month there’s usually a feeling of ‘hope’ in the air- the days are growing longer, spring flowers are beginning to appear everywhere and there’s normally a small taster of spring-like weather during the month sometime. The endless days of everyone leaving home for work and school in the dark, and then returning home in the dark again in the evening- so depressingly repetitive at the beginning of the month, are gradually replaced by signs of daylight first thing and fading light at the end of the day…

This year however, February began rather more slowly, and with less enthusiasm than normal. The girls’ near miss on the ice only two days before meant that everyone was still a bit shaken up, and the snowy weather wasn’t helping matters. After heavy snowfall on the evening of the 31st January, we had a very cold and clear night meaning the snow had frozen- it was almost impossible to get out of our driveway onto the road until full daylight when a slightly warmer day started it thawing. Mike and Games Boy managed to leave for work in good time; however the girls had to wait until the first buses were running through the village- halfway through the morning!

I really struggled to get my head around working… or anything really for the first few days of the month… Curly was really finding it hard to shake off the nightmares and ‘what ifs’- suddenly she dreaded the journey to school which, despite being an hour long, has never previously bothered her, and her being upset affected me so that it was nearly a full week into the month before I could get going and concentrate on much at all…

A nicely timed order coming in managed to break the cycle of ‘trying to get going again, but not quite managing it and then wishing I’d done more in the day’ that characterised those first few days of February. Though not a huge order, it was enough for me to get my teeth into (so to speak), and finally got my mind back into working mode! 🙂

I spent a couple of days looking at SEO for my website– the bits that make it show up on Google and all the other search engines. It’s a complicated business- having to work out descriptions and titles for all my outfits which include all the sorts of words and phrases that people would search for… whilst also trying not to add too many, as that can make things worse and cause the website to not show up at all… :/ Starting with the basics though, I concentrated mainly on my homepage and category descriptions as they’re what people’s first impressions of my website will be based on, leaving actual outfit descriptions for a later date.

My next task was to tidy the website up a bit- deleting outfits and bedding that are sold out, and adding ones that are nearly sold out to my Clearance category. I refreshed the pictures on the advertising Slideshow on the homepage and made sure the Latest News category wasn’t showing anything out of date.

With the first real ‘spring like’ weather appearing only mid-month, and some real warmth in the air I set a promotion up for my fleece items- Snuggly Sleepsuits and Blankets, along with a reminder that winter still had a way to go! Shared to my Facebook page, Instagram account, and in a Newsletter I felt I’d gone a fair way to keeping my little business known to Google and other search engines for a day or two!

With a second Blog post published too, by the time the half term holiday arrived February was already faring far better than the whole of last year! I never find it easy to work when the children are off school for the holidays, and despite the fact that the only two still at school are that much older now, that’s still the case! However, having set a couple of bits in place for the week- re-wording and adding my School Summer Dresses being the main one, I was able to sit back a bit and take advantage of the very unseasonably warm weather and get some extra washing done instead! 🙂

For the sake of only a couple of days, it’s amazing quite how short February always feels, and by the time the girls had gone back to school March was nearly upon us. However I still managed to fit another couple of bits into an already busy month, and the day they went back I set to; re-wording and adding in the new version of my Dolly Christening Gown– previously popular, but incredibly difficult to find acceptable replacement fabric for! With a certificate in place for a particular brand, and some of that fabric duly bought towards the end of last year, all that remained was to set it up. Made a little more difficult by still having one last size 3 dress worth of my previous fabric, I simply hadn’t found the time until then to re-write the description for it and add in the new one!

Mike had been suggesting for some time that maybe I should look into re-starting my advertising on Google, something I hadn’t done for a few years as I don’t like paying out for advertising if I don’t have to! The more paid out for advertising, the less profit from any sales, but on the other hand with sales as slow as they’ve been in recent months, any help I can get is very needed… so I sat down and re-activated my Google AdWords account and began to plan my potential advert- still unconvinced as to how much it was really worth the effort of doing so!

Family-wise, after those initial few February days, when time dragged and everyone struggled to let go of the ‘what ifs’ and focus on the fact that no harm had come to any of the girls, life slowly began to get back into its usual pattern. With the mornings and evenings still dark, early February is always fairly quiet and slow going anyway- the first really bright spot in the year being Little Blondie’s birthday on the 10th.

This year her birthday (her thirteenth! 😮 ) fell on a Sunday, so for the first time she really wanted to achieve a long held ambition and spend it down at the beach. Coinciding her birthday with another winter check-over of the caravan, we packed a simple little picnic and set the older children packing up the essential wellies and spare clothes (in case of large waves!) while we went to church, where Little Blondie was made a huge fuss of- she was asked to help out during the service, was sung to and wished much love by all our friends there.

DSCF9251 (5)Back home, and with the older girls collected we set off for the beach. Whilst sunny, the weather was disappointingly windy so the plan to eat our picnic on the bench outside our caravan to save on mess was abandoned- but standing around inside our ‘closed up’ holiday home somehow felt rather special- Little Blondie certainly enjoyed it and especially appreciated her surprise birthday cake and balloon that we smuggled in! After a lovely bracing walk on the beach, we returned home to catch up with Games Boy and let our not-quite-so-little birthday girl open her presents. 😀

After the weekend, things fell a little flat again for a couple of days- Apple came down with a nasty fluey cold and was off work for a couple of days, and Mike spent all his non-working hours driving around backwards and forwards all over the place on ‘taxi duty’ as Knitting Pixie’s car was still out of action- the only casualty of the girls’ incident on the ice.

As usual he had to work on Valentine’s Day, but as a very sweet little romantic gesture had managed to leave some heart shaped choccies scattered over my pillow- the first time he’d done such a thing since we were first married! Another rare treat- dinner at a pre-booked table (!) up at our local pub, had to be fitted in between yet more taxi duties! But much as that meant poor Mike couldn’t have much to drink, it was definitely one of the more memorable and romantic Valentine’s days in our history- which just goes to show that the day doesn’t have to all be about extravagance and huge expense! ❤

The much needed half term holiday arrived with full-on wintry feeling weather as we woke on the first morning to thick ‘November’ type fog! Nothing could dampen the two younger girls’ spirits though- they were totally hyper after the long drawn out, wintry first half term of the year, and they spent the day ‘party dancing’ their way around the house and constantly reminding us that it was only three weeks until we could go and stay at the caravan for the first time this year! Just what I felt like on a day that looked like it was made for curling up in front of a cosy fire- and not for thinking about spending time on the beach…!!

In church it was time for the electoral roll to be renewed, and we were finally able to add our names to it- although we’ve only been worshipping at our new church for nine months, we feel so much a part of the family there that it was odd remembering that we still hadn’t had the chance to make our membership there official until then!

After a couple of days of full on wintry feeling weather, the half term week suddenly and rapidly changed and by mid-week we were in the middle of hot summer weather! Confusing or what?! By now I was a bit more convinced that it might soon be time to think about caravan stays, and with the weather now being conducive to drying washing outside, I was able to at last get down to the job of washing the caravan curtains that we’d had sitting around at home since November!
Two lovely sights in the garden at once- washing hung out on the line for the first time this year, and our caravan curtains heralding happy times to come. 😀

As is always the case, the half term holiday passed by way too quickly. The glorious weather continued though, and with it the feel good factor that that always brings. The girls had a great time working their way through our stock of board games, including one or two of the older ones we actually still have around from my childhood! And I managed to start working my way through the ever growing list of tidying jobs around the house that I bizarrely never seem to have the time or energy to tackle during term time!

With the girls back at school, the weather seemed to see no reason to continue and two days later we woke to it being dull, cold and foggy again!! A bit of a shame really, as I was just beginning to forget that we still had a whole month of official winter to go… :/

January Round-Up 2019

DSCF9011 (2) webJanuary’s a funny old month. I’ve never really looked forward to it- Christmas is properly over within days of the month starting and therefore all the prettiness of the season has to be taken down, to be replaced by bare empty walls and spaces that rarely get lit up by sunshine…
Somehow this year the month didn’t seem quite so bad though- I think maybe the weather helped with its mix of bright, but cold days and some actual sleet and snow… for once we didn’t get many of those dark, dreary, rainy days that January is known for!

January always brings with it a fair amount of work, even for a little business like mine. All the carefully planned out Christmas pages need to be taken off the website, or hidden where possible to make things a bit easier later in the year! The Christmassy ‘look’- in my case the Christmassy themed logo and background need to be changed back to their normal ‘all year round’ design, and all my Christmas items need to be taken off so that no one tries to buy them mid-year!

I know most of the larger companies and shops these days like to banish their seasonal look well before the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, with many ridding themselves of anything festive at close of business on Christmas Eve, but I don’t care- the true season of Christmas doesn’t end until twelfth night, or Epiphany on 6th January, so that’s when Little Dolly Clothes Shop ends its festive season too!

And so began a couple of days of time consuming, though not terribly difficult, fiddling about on the website. The Christmas bits need to be ‘hidden’ from the store, and any links through to them removed along with my Christmas category. The website has to undergo its mini makeover- reinstating the usual version of the logo, and my Christmassy background photo removed and replaced with the year round pink colour. Likewise my Facebook page needs to have its cover photo changed back, and I have to check that any recent posts directing people through to my Christmas pages are no longer top of the page.

My last task of the season was to have a little photo-shoot with all my Christmas dresses- a couple of them still only had very old style photos from several years ago, and all of them looked a little dull. So taking advantage of the fact that our tree is always the last bit of our decorations to come down, I spent the morning of the day that the girls went back to school with ‘Annabell’ modelling my dolly Christmas dresses, sitting in front of it! 😀

In an effort to get the year off to a good start, and to get myself re-focussed on my little business, once all that was done I had a little tidy up of the website- checking for broken links, making sure the homepage slider only showcased relevant things (difficult at a very slow time of year!), and popping anything that I only had one of left in stock into the ‘clearance’ category. For good measure I made up an album of these items to share on Facebook.
I couldn’t quite believe it (given the rubbish lead up to Christmas) when this resulted in two orders coming in!

Having recovered from the shock (then made worse again when yet another order followed only a few days later! 😉 ) my next aim was to plan ahead a little bit and work out what else I could showcase or offer during a very slow time of the year to tempt people to buy. For the last three years I’ve held a little mid-January New Year Sale, with a simple voucher code giving a percentage off any orders for a few days covering the middle of the month, so this seemed a good place to start.
With a voucher code set up on the website, and the dates for the sale planned, I also then scheduled a Facebook post advertising it a couple of days beforehand, and one for the first morning of the sale quoting the code to use.

I also made sure to mention it in my first Newsletter of the year which I sent out mid-month. My newsletters are something I want to re-establish, after losing most of my subscriber list thanks to all the GDPR fiasco last year, (after which I found out I could have kept them all!) so having something definite to push for the January one made a good start.
If you haven’t seen any of my newsletters, you can see the latest one (at the time of writing!) by clicking the link HERE– if you like it, then please do sign up to receive it direct to your inbox, THIS LINK will take you to the sign up form on my Facebook page 🙂

There are quite a few bits that go on quietly in the background on any website, and the quieter months of the year are the ideal time for a little business to go through and make sure any tweaks that need attention have been sorted. So as well as adding my Little Sweethearts Dress (not Valentine’s, but appropriate for the time of year!) back onto the site, and hiding a couple of autumnal pieces from the store- having advertised the fact for a few days previously, I also went through checking the ‘hidden’ parts of my bedding set descriptions- search tags and keywords and so on, and got them all up to date.

January is, of course also the deadline for submitting tax returns- something I still have to do despite earning next to nothing through my business! All my good intentions of getting this done a lot earlier in the year always disappear in a mountain of busy family ‘stuff’ and I inevitably end up doing it with only a couple of weeks to spare! This year was unfortunately no exception, and so I set to early in the month, gathering all my figures together and set myself up to submit them. After the annual battle to actually log in to the government website, I carefully filled in the form- only to suddenly get to the end without having been asked to fill any numbers in… A careful double (and triple) check then confirmed that thanks to a change in requirements I no longer need to send in a return as my turn-over is less than the new threshold, unless I choose to… which I did, just so as not to have wasted the previous couple of days figure sorting… :/

Family-wise the New Year dawned bright, clear and crisp- it looked so lovely outside that we couldn’t resist bundling ourselves up and going out for a walk to try and rid ourselves of some of the many pounds put on over the Christmas holidays! Of course, the morning after New Year’s Eve is not the time to try and get going very early, so by the time we eventually rounded up anyone who was coming with us it was mid-afternoon and the clouds were gathering! Still, we had a lovely wander down through our village and along through to the next- Mike and I have walked it several times previously, as has Apple but for Curly and Little Blondie it was a first- and a good opportunity to fine tune their photography skills!

One of the main jobs during the early part of January is to dismantle the Christmas decorations- a job which seems to take ever longer as I end up putting more up each year! I’ve learnt to be a bit more relaxed about it in recent years- I was never superstitious and don’t believe in ‘luck’ as such, but was brought up to believe that they all had to come down on twelfth night, by dark, and so that’s what I’d always stuck to. Six years ago, our house fire struck at Christmas, having always used this routine- nothing much else comes close to being extremely ‘bad luck’ so if anyone ever tries to use the ‘its bad luck to leave decorations up’ with me, that’s exactly what they get told! 🙂

Rather, these days I begin to take them down on the 6th– the lights around the front windows usually go first, to offset any disapproval from neighbours or passers-by, and then over the next few days the rest follow. It works from a psychological point of view too- after a couple of days, even I get to the point where I’m glad to see the tree come down! The last things to come down are two of our nativity sets- these always now stay in place until Candlemas at the beginning of February.

The day before the girls went back to school was another fine day, so after church we took the opportunity to go down and check up on the caravan. It was a lovely day- only Curly and Little Blondie came with us, and with no water or electricity currently connected up to the van, there was little to do other than check that everything appeared to be okay and then take a wander down to the beach. Even at that time of the year there were other people walking along the water’s edge, dog walkers and others who had come down for the same reason as us, or who just wanted to appreciate the ‘out of season’ peace and quiet of the place. Although too cold to spend more than an hour down there, it was enough to satisfy our ‘sea air’ cravings for a few more weeks! 😀

For the majority of the rest of the month, life just flowed on busily as usual with no major interruptions. Most of us ended up suffering in some way at some point with the coughs and colds of the season, including Games Boy who had to take his first ever sick leave from work! We enjoyed a lovely dinner and lazy afternoon round at Mike’s mum and dad’s around the middle of the month- it’s always good to visit them, as not only do we have a great afternoon but they usually feed us so much we don’t need to eat for about a week afterwards!

The weather started to turn colder towards the second half of the month, and my first bunch of daffodils for this year (bought by my lovely hubby) certainly did a good job of brightening the house up! For a couple of days we had a few light flurries of snow- nothing that settled, but enough to make the weather a bit more interesting for Apple who was starting work late and needed to wait around at the bus stop at the top of the village! The younger two girls and Games Boy took to spending their weekends together playing board games, and the new Switch console which he had treated himself to, Knitting Pixie spent most Saturdays out and about, and Apple had several (very late!) evenings out with work colleagues or with old school friends…

Then suddenly, and after a few ‘warmer’ rainy days, right at the end of the month the weather took a major turn for the worse. The temperature was into minus figures, with plenty of sleet and snow in the air- although we by no means had the worst of the snowfall in the region! However- an extremely cold night of light snow settling on top of ice, together with the main road through to town having not been gritted, resulted in our four girls being involved in a very scary incident- when Knitting Pixie’s car spun on the road, while on their way to work and the school bus.  Thankfully, other than having a few odd aches and pains, none of our beautiful girls were hurt- though all (us included) were obviously extremely shaken from their experience.

The month ended with yet more snow falling, but for once none of us had the usual enthusiasm for it. The idea of ‘snow days’ off work and school may seem very appealing from the safety and warmth of being indoors, but the reality of the danger hiding behind the prettiness rather shook us all up.

Hopefully February won’t bring too much more of the white stuff, although of course the cold weather is always good for finishing off all the nasty illnesses of the season…
Two positives the month will bring though- Little Blondie’s birthday and half term both fall in February, so they should definitely lift everyone’s mood- whatever the weather! 🙂

December Round-Up 2018

DSCF8814 (2) webWhether you love it, hate it, or simply tolerate it- December is pretty much ‘Christmas month’. And that goes whether you have a large family or no family, work from home, don’t work at all or run your own business. There’s just no getting away from it by December- it’s nearly Christmas.

Business-wise December was… well, pretty much a write off. Having had a lovely large order come in at the end of November, I started the month feeling fairly positive for the first time in ages. I was already feeling pleased about the fact that I’d sold three bedding sets at the second of the two Christmas craft fairs that I did, so things were definitely looking up.

I’m used to December being pretty full on and busy, so fitting in sewing with family life isn’t too much of an issue- even if it IS one of the most demanding times of year all round! So I set to and managed to make up and send out the lovely order over the first few days of the month, along with another couple of little bits I’d had in and then waited for the Christmas rush to begin.

Having had a quieter than usual season last year, and an unusually quieter year overall this year, I wasn’t expecting much… but I was expecting to get some more orders in- however small…

Of course, while I was waiting there was still plenty of work to do for Little Dolly Clothes Shop. Being a vital time of year for ‘keeping up with the competition’, I made sure that I posted an update on my Facebook page most days- either showcasing some of my items, or a quick update on what I was getting up to outside of the business along with a little hint of how close Christmas was getting… I also tried to post on my Instagram page a couple of times a week. 🙂

Keeping the website up to date is pretty essential at any time of the year- however, December really isn’t the month for getting deep into any of the way-too-involved admin for trying to get it showing up in search engines etc., so just making sure everything was in tip top condition (i.e. all links through working, my ‘latest news’ page showing just that etc.) was enough to ensure that my site would stay noticed by Google etc. until the new year, when hopefully I’ll have the time to go a little deeper into working out what I need to do next to make my little business stand out better.

In previous years I’ve had to set my Christmas last order dates extremely early in December, thanks to making everything individually after each order comes through, along with having a large number of orders to complete before the last posting date set by the post office! However, a quieter year last year (and several revised last order dates!) taught me to hold off for a little while this year and see what came in before making that decision. I did however make sure that in my constant updates I pointed this out!!

Still having a number of items already made up, left over from the craft fairs I did earlier in the year, helped with this too as during the week leading up to last posting I was able to advertise these as being ready to send out, rather than taking in new orders- something I think I’ll make sure I have in place next year too.

I also paid out for a little bit of advertising- something I don’t do very much these days, as in previous years it sometimes almost cost me more to advertise than I actually made in sales! Although of course, without the advertising I probably wouldn’t have got some of the sales that I did… Still, I made the decision early last year to ditch some of my ongoing advertising in favour of occasional adverts as and when it seemed necessary- and Christmas is definitely one of those times!

So with a Google AdWords ad in place, one or two of my Facebook updates boosted, and with everything else completely up to date I continued to wait for my Christmas rush to begin… And continued waiting until the last posting date had been and gone… :/

I’m a big believer in everything happening for a reason, and if you’ve read my most recent posts on here you’ll have seen that from mid-December onwards I was suffering from an extremely heavy cold, which unusually for me laid me low right up to, and through, Christmas itself. So I guess it was no bad thing that I didn’t ever have my normal Christmas rush to contend with- though one or two simple orders from my ready made up items would have been nice… :/

Family-wise December is always manic. With a large family, the early part of the month has always revolved around school plays, concerts, fairs, Nativities and Carol Services. As the number of our children still in school decreased, I somewhat naïvely thought that our expected commitment to such things would lessen- however with the younger girls’ secondary school having a lovely Carol Concert, along with our ongoing commitment to church taking a big place in our lives, the early December busy-ness isn’t going to ease off anytime soon!

Of course, I wouldn’t really want it any other way, and I’ve never once regretted making the effort of going along and supporting whoever has been involved. I love all the various Christmas preparations and each concert or Nativity brings with it its own special memories- even though the effort of fitting them all in has sometimes in the past almost had us at breaking point!! It’s just that given how hectic that particular time of year can be, attendance at yet another fair or concert can sometimes be the last thing we actually feel like committing to- especially the case in years gone by when we also had very small children to take along with us!

This year December began with Mike half way through working his stupidly long twenty-days-in-a-row shift following on from Black Friday. An extremely tired, and therefore grumpy, man is not much fun to live with (!), and so alongside all the other pressures that early December brings, we also had to tread extremely carefully with my dear hubby!
A last minute addition to our local pub’s schedule of events meant that there was live music playing up there on the evening of the last day of his long shift… If it hadn’t been the last ever performance by an extremely popular local band then maybe we wouldn’t have gone along, however it did give poor Mike a chance to relax and (start to) unwind after a long three weeks… even if he did almost drop off at one point- quite impressive when sitting only a few feet away from a very loud band!

During the next couple of weeks we had the girls’ school Christmas concert- with both Curly and Little Blondie singing in the choirs and Curly making an impromptu appearance with the hand bell group as they were a player short! We also had our church Carol Service- which unfortunately I was too poorly to attend, and Curly’s GCSE certificate presentation evening- which I really DID have to make an effort to attend as I was still feeling really rough with my cold… as did Curly herself as she was busy coming down with the same thing! How glad I was though that we made the effort, as she was presented with three separate awards in addition to her exam certificates! So, so proud! 😀

Christmas Day itself was lovely- it’s not often in our ultra-busy lives that we have the chance to just spend the day all together, with no real set ‘agenda’, just taking things as they come… Our new church doesn’t have a Christmas morning service, so for the first time in our married lives there was no rush to get the stockings opened and hurry everyone to get dressed and out of the door by 10 am- something that would have been very handy when the children were tiny!!

Of course, nobody really has much of a lie in though because ‘It’s Christmas!’ and it seems that even 24 year olds are excited to get down the stairs and see what ‘Father Christmas’ has brought, even if most of the gifts by that age are pretty predictable! 😀 Still- surrounded by most of our wonderful children, with the Christmas lights all twinkling away and a Christmas CD playing quietly in the background, I can’t think of a better way to start any day… Perhaps the fact that it only happens once a year, and that there won’t be many more years with quite so many of them still living at home was what helped to make it feel so extra special ❤

Boxing Day, by contrast this year was a fairly busy one. We weren’t going out so didn’t hurry to get up and dressed, and took advantage of one of the very few days that Mike has to get up and out to work with a bit of a lazy start- sitting and reading in bed with a coffee together rarely happens these days!
However, our lovely daughters had managed to work together with our extended family and had arranged for our Christmas family get-together to be down here in Devon for the first time, on the 27th, to coincide with a belated party for both our Silver Wedding and Mike’s 50th birthday 😀 Boxing Day therefore, was declared as a much needed tidy-up-and-get-organised day!

After a day of cooking, cleaning, shopping and organising the annual Boxing Day pub quiz was a much needed distraction, and even though our usual team mate was unable to be there, we joined forces with some other good friends from the village and managed to achieve second place!

DSCF8416 (2)Our party was really special and felt like it was the ‘icing on the cake’ after the lovely few days leading up to it. A frantic morning of cooking, last minute cleaning and setting up the dining room for the buffet (with huge amounts of help from the girls) gave way to a wonderful long afternoon and evening of relaxing and catching up with family and friends. Although fully organised only a few days beforehand, the girls had rounded up both mine and Mike’s parents, my sister and brother and their families, various good friends from around the village… and had somehow even managed to organise a surprise visit from our very best friends from London- who come down just for the occasion, despite themselves also having a very busy family to organise over the Christmas season! 😀

I always think that Christmas is made special more by the people you spend it with, and the memories made than by what presents you get, or what food you eat- and for us this year that was especially true.
Midnight Christmas Eve Communion in our new church surrounded by new friends… Christmas Day surrounded by our beautiful children… Our lovely party shared with some of the most special people in our lives… And December ended with us seeing the New Year in- together with many of our friends from the village up at the pub’s New Year party.

Christmas, and December, 2018. Definitely one to remember! 😀 ❤

May to November Round-Up 2018

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10th December. Already! How did that happen?!? 😮

It seems like only weeks ago, not months ago, that I was taking the Christmas decorations down, and carefully storing them away… yet here they are again- most having already been carefully taken back out of boxes and lovingly put back into their Christmas time positions around the house… nearly half of the doors on the Advent Calendar are now open and time is flying past so quickly that I’m already on the countdown to my ‘last order’ dates for my doll’s clothes…

Yet somewhere along the way since last Christmas (and since my last monthly update post in April!) there’s been quite a busy and full year. As far as celebrations and milestone events go, it’s been our busiest year to date- with Apple’s 21st birthday back in May, Mike and my Silver Wedding Anniversary in August and Mike’s 50th birthday just a couple of weeks ago. Add to that Curly’s GCSEs and 16th birthday in August, and us finally realising our dream of owning our own caravan in our favourite holiday spot back in May, and we can see that it’s actually been quite a busy, but good year and one for which we have a lot to be thankful for 🙂

Unfortunately business still hasn’t been great- in fact it’s been worse than extremely slow, but Little Dolly Clothes Shop is still just about surviving with the odd order here and there and, thanks mostly to the fact that we don’t rely on it as our main source of income, I’ve been able to persevere with trying to keep it afloat until better times come along. Better times which, I suspect, may not come along until post- recession and post-‘Brexit’…

However, something I’ve finally overcome my nerves about this year, is taking my doll’s clothes out into the public and selling to people face to face. I’ve never been brave enough to try selling at fairs before- despite a somewhat nervous desire to, as I’m always worried that people won’t like what they see. It’s far easier to hide away online where, despite the in depth analysis available on Google and such like, you never really know exactly who bothers to look at the items you produce, and what they really think of them. Yes, I know that all my customers love what I make, and can’t compliment them enough, but it’s not the same as seeing people’s faces when they’re saying it….

So back in June while feeling brave one day, I signed up for a stall at a local-ish village fair. For the middle of a hot and sunny summer, the day of the fair was cold… and rainy… and windy… in fact it couldn’t really have been much more of a contrast to the rest of the month unless it had snowed!! Nevertheless, ably assisted by Curly and Little Blondie, and despite not really having a clue as to what we were doing, we had a good day and even sold a couple of dolly nappies.
Buoyed up by our ‘success’, I swiftly signed up for two more fairs over the next two months- one in our neighbouring village and one in our own!

With all the celebrations over the summer holidays, the time passed by quickly. We spent a lovely ten days down in our caravan, in between renting it out to try and get it to earn its keep a bit. Knitting Pixie returned home safely from her annual mission trip to Uganda, and although she went for a far longer time this year- ten weeks instead of her usual two, because we were all so busy we didn’t notice her missing from the house as much as we thought we would!

With the girls back in school for the new school year, it was time to turn my attention back to my little business and clearing out the summer outfits to make way for Christmas preparations on the website. As a Christmas lover, it’s no particular hardship to focus on the festive season at the end of September and as the glorious weather from the summer was beginning to be a distant memory, thinking about the end of the year seemed quite appropriate! 🙂

I did get a couple of sales out of my End of Season Sale, including quite a nice little order for several items, and it gave me a bit of hope that maybe soon things would start to look up a bit. Once upon a time not so ago, having an order notification email come through was a fairly regular occurrence- though it never failed to give me a little thrill whenever I saw one pop up in my inbox! It’s quite sad therefore to realise that these days I’ve kind of given up expecting to see such a sight and when one actually comes through I have to read it twice before I believe what I’m seeing!

October of course sees the transition between the summer and autumn, and with the half term holiday seeming to get earlier each year that seems to dominate the month somewhat too. As Christians we don’t ‘do’ Halloween, but we did spend the first weekend of the school holiday at the caravan- our last proper visit of the year, and witnessed the site’s transformation into a weird but wonderful Halloween themed park!

Of course as soon as November hits, everywhere goes into full on Christmas mode, and so I can make no exception for my little business. With the summer outfits well hidden in the depths of my website and the winter ones on show, I also had to make sure my Christmas items were up and ready for sale- advertised them on my homepage, gave the website its Christmas makeover and kept my Facebook page up to date with constant reminders of what season was coming next- like it might have been forgotten otherwise. Every other business out there does it, so I have to as well!

I went to two more craft fairs in November too- one was a complete washout, with torrential rain and strong wind keeping everyone away, and was part of a primary school’s Christmas shopping evening. For that one we ended up squashed into a tiny space in an infant classroom, which didn’t bode too well… however I made the best direct sales so far!

46002431_2115512638480576_339395041648705536_nNovember also sees my dear hubby’s birthday, and this year it was a big one- the first one starting with a 5! Unfortunately he was so exhausted from long tedious days out working that by the time he got home and we attempted to celebrate with him, he was too tired to actually care less! After one of his favourite, but rare (!) teas of egg and chips, presents and birthday cake he promptly fell asleep in the armchair ‘watching’ television!! So much for some nice family time for his milestone birthday… 😦

Mid-November is the time that our caravan park closes down for the winter, so we spent a rather bitter-sweet short weekend there- a lovely end of season owner’s Christmas party on the Saturday (very strange having no usual timetable or public guests around!), followed by stripping, cleaning and shutting the caravan up on the Sunday. Something that never occurred to us when we invested in the van was just how much effort has to go into closing the thing up for the winter!! 😀

Having the caravan has also meant many extra weekends away this year, whilst seeing it through its early teething problems, and before it was suitable for renting out. We loved the extra time down there, and hopefully we can combine the extra visits with the renting out next year so we can still take advantage of having our own holiday home for ourselves!
However, having changed churches back in May, we’ve never yet managed to go for many weeks in a row! After many years of full on commitment it’s been strange, but quite refreshing to take a bit of a back seat for a change! Over the winter months we should be able to catch up and get to know our fellow congregation a bit better- and probably take on a few little jobs around the place too…

And so to Christmas… as I write this post, there’s Christmas music playing on a CD in the background, and the girls are in school at the start of the last full week before the holidays begin. My Christmas shopping is mostly done- though none of it is wrapped, and for once I even have a Tesco delivery booked for only a couple of days before the big day. The girls have their school Carol Concert later this week, and our church Carol Service is next Sunday.
As the saying goes- It’s definitely beginning to look a LOT like Christmas!! 🙂

April Round-Up 2018

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Where March was dominated by extreme winter weather, and with it an extreme lack of motivation for my business, April finally saw me feeling a bit more fired up and ready to do battle to salvage my struggling little business. All the plans I had at the beginning of March- when spring should have been beginning to kick in, got shelved when the Beast from the East and Storm Emma took over the entire month. So by the time April arrived and with it, finally, a hint of the warmer weather to come I was definitely ready for knuckling down to work.

Off on our Easter break to our favourite caravan park for the first week of the month, I began by keeping the Facebook page and Instagram account ticking over with a couple of short posts- when the internet permitted it! Reminding people about my End of Winter Sale, and giving details about when it would be finishing was just enough to ensure that my business didn’t suffer simply because I was away and taking it easy for once!

Back home and feeling refreshed after a week by the sea, I popped a little blog post on summing up our Easter holiday- the first post for a while that hadn’t been dominated by the unusually snowy weather we’d had! 😀

With the weather beginning to look a bit like spring was finally on the way, it was time to advertise the end date for my sale. Somehow it hadn’t seemed appropriate to think about the end of winter while there was snow on the ground- despite the fact that the year was marching on!

The end of winter also marks the beginning of school summer dress season- for real school uniforms as well as dolly ones, but just something else that seemed to be way behind time this year. Something I’d been trying to work on for a while was writing occasional blog posts showcasing some of my items and, where appropriate, giving a little bit of the story behind why I started making them. So as school dresses were one thing with a very definite back story, I made them the subject of my first post in this occasional series.
If you never saw this particular post, you can catch up with it HERE 🙂

With the end of winter finally in sight and the end date for the sale rapidly approaching, it was time to re-introduce my summer outfits to the website. Although an easier job these days now they are simply ‘hidden’ during the winter, it is still a fairly time consuming task- especially when I wanted to double check through each one for bad spellings, missing links or redundant information!
This done, it was time to remove the winter ones from both the website and Facebook shop- again a pretty straight forward task, but another one that takes up a fair amount of time!

With April going well so far, something simply had to go wrong or cause problems- and it was my Facebook page that decided to throw up some unexpected issues and slow down the good progress I was beginning to make with Little Dolly Clothes Shop this month.

With all of my summer outfits added back onto the website, it was time to add them back onto the Shop section of my Facebook page. As there’s no option to ‘hide’ things on there, I had to start each item from scratch- making for a slightly longer job than on the website. This being the case, I only ever aim to do about two or three at a time, or else my head explodes!
Each product has to be individually approved by Facebook before becoming publicly available to view, something I’m used to, and never before a problem…

When one of my summer dresses was dis-approved therefore it was a bit of a shock. Looking into it, and finding that the reason was extremely bizarre (‘we don’t allow items of an adult nature…’?!?) was even more shocking- it embarrassing even to be accused of trying to do such a thing!! 😮

And there went the end of the month… I managed (with difficulty) to find a way through to Facebook to query why my outfits were suddenly inappropriate when I’d shown them on my Facebook shop for the last couple of years or so. They replied that there were ongoing issues (at Facebook) at a higher level, and subsequently several of my previously approved items were re-approved (or not!) and re-shared on my page! No apology, no personal explanation…
When it then happened a second time, and I still got nowhere with any explanation or apology I began to get really annoyed, especially when one morning I woke to find that five of my items had been re-shared on my page up to six or seven times each…

Family-wise April was an unexpectedly busy month too.
Beginning on Easter Day with a lovely service in church, where we once again joined in with the singing group, we then went round to Mike’s mum and dad’s house where Easter afternoon was spent enjoying time together as a family- much needed as for various (mainly weather related!) reasons we hadn’t managed to spend so much time with them at the start of the year as we have recently, since they moved nearer to us down here in Devon.

Easter Monday was spent packing, preparing for and leaving to go on our annual spring break away in our favourite holiday place. The weather was pretty miserable, but compared to the snow of less than two weeks before it was positively spring-like! Neither of the older two girls would be coming with us this time, due to work and social commitments, but Games Boy was coming with us for the first couple of days. Mike was also going to be working for most of the week- commuting from the holiday park, so it was looking to be a bit of a mixed week all round!
Despite all the complications with who was where when, and the dull mainly miserable weather, we had a wonderfully relaxing time- and came away from there as usual dreaming of the day when we would one day be able to own our own caravan there…

Having Easter at the start of the school holidays of course meant that there was still a whole week to go until the girls went back to school, so while I began to work my way through the enormous mountain of holiday washing, Games Boy, Curly and Little Blondie spent a lot of time playing board games or the Wii U together, which doesn’t happen nearly enough in their fast paced lives these days.
Little Blondie also went to a friend’s birthday ‘party’ mid-week- Alpaca walking followed by a sleepover, needless to say she came back extremely tired from it due to lack of sleep! 😉

While we were away, Mike had made some vague enquiries about the real costs involved in caravan owning on the camp site, as we had been surprised to see posters around the place giving examples of the earnings which could be had by renting out in between personal visits to the place. He received an email a week after we came back home giving full details- which showed that it may not be such a far off ‘pipe dream’ after all.
Towards the end of the month there was an Open Day, and so we took off down to the site with Curly and Little Blondie in tow to check out the pre-owned caravans there!! One appeared to be ideal- both for us personally and also as a rental one, so we put our name down on it, filled in the paperwork for the loan to buy it, and crossed our fingers! 😀

The weather slowly began to improve by the end of April. It’s funny how expectations change when there’s been such a severe winter- we were calling dull miserable days ‘spring-like’ simply because there was no snow on the ground! Most of the daffodils, which had been on the point of flowering before March had never come into bloom, but buds were beginning to appear on the trees and the birds went into full on nesting mode!

Spring was most definitely around the corner at long last, Little Dolly Clothes Shop was once again giving me a sense of satisfaction (even if the Facebook page wasn’t!) and it looked like our nine year dream of owning our own caravan was about to become a reality. These, along with Apple’s looming 21st birthday and Curly’s GCSEs, meant that May was already looking to be an interesting and exciting month, before it had even begun… 🙂