A Wet December Day’s Musings

20191123_124211 (2)Friday 6th December… how can it already be so close to Christmas? In two weeks’ time the last Christmas post leaves the post office, and I currently have nothing lining up to catch it. Yet only two years ago at this same time I had forty outstanding orders, and two or three new ones coming in daily…

How I wish I could get that time back. I don’t only love the actual sewing part of my job; I love the thrill of each new order landing in my inbox… the anticipation that accompanies opening each new email that arrives to say someone else wants to buy one of my creations…

So what’s gone wrong?! I really don’t know what’s happened to change Google’s view of my store. Nothing much is different from that, and the other previous wonderful years, full of adrenaline filled late night sewing… I’d already gone through all the difficult and time consuming task of testing my dolly clothes and bedding to CE standards. I’d expected the introduction of the newer more expensive clothes (increased only to cover the cost of the branded fabric I now have to use) to have an impact. I knew that people would notice the difference and maybe only buy the cheaper, older style things I was keeping on in order to use up old stock.
But the change didn’t take immediate effect.

I knew too that money troubles would affect the way people were spending, and that something such as beautifully handmade doll’s clothes come way down the queue of spending needs in most families, and really count as a luxury when compared with everyday essentials such as food and decent clothes for the human people in the family!

But again, the money situation has been bad for too many years- since before I even started out with my little business. People were still willing to fork out for non-essentials when it came to their little one’s birthdays and Christmas, and Little Dolly Clothes Shop has stayed strong and thrived throughout the very poor economic climate… until last year…

Why was there a sudden change? I wish I knew. Maybe after ten years of hoping, people have suddenly got wary of spending any more- not knowing just how much longer this crisis could go on for. Perhaps they’re fed up with hoping and carrying on as normal, and are tired of always seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, but never quite reaching it? Perhaps their ever shrinking purses have just got way too small to even take out a tiny amount to spend?

Or maybe I’m just kidding myself.

Maybe my business wasn’t ever really any good and the public have only just noticed?

I don’t think so though, and I don’t think my nearly seven hundred sales, countless grateful emails from customers and the number of lovely comments from passers-by when I venture out into public with my doll’s clothes says so either!

But all of my thoughts above only go to explain so much- if they’re even valid points, it only says why people have become unwilling to shop once they find my store. I understand that, even if I don’t get the sudden change in attitude!
But none of that explains Google’s sudden reluctance to acknowledge me.

When sales suddenly dropped last year I had done nothing different to my store, since changing the layout and introducing my Logo a couple of years before! It was only after a few months of nothing that I started to look into what I could suddenly be doing wrong.

I found lots of ‘useful’ tools on the website builder that I use- the ability to give each item a ‘title’ that shows up on the computer’s browser bar, and a dedicated background page for every item and page, that can be filled in with useful search engine optimisation (SEO) stuff- keywords and a description for the search engine to read. Each page can be identified with a proper web address, rather than just having to have some random string of numbers and letters, and there’s the ability to choose tags within the store for when people are browsing and looking for something particular.

Towards the end of last year I spent many hours, too many perhaps, going through each and every page on my website- updating descriptions, adding browser titles and giving every item its unique web address- all things which should, in theory, boost my store’s chance of showing up in all the search engines and bring in all my longed for sales. But still nothing changed and last Christmas I had only a handful of sales- nothing that even warranted a late night finish…

And so this year I also spent too many hours researching, trying and failing to resurrect my little business- as told in my last Blog post ‘Search Engine Troubles’ a couple of weeks ago. I also realised it probably wasn’t doing me any favours having a different web address for the website, from everything else connected with it! My Facebook page, my Instagram and this Blog all use the complete shop name in their web addresses- something I didn’t even consider when I opened up shop ten years ago!

So back in the summer, I took the plunge and changed the URL used for the store- while being careful to keep the previous, shorter version, in the background and linked through to it. I knew it would take time for Google to acknowledge the change, and with visits to the site being so poor I figured that changing in the middle of the summer would give plenty of time for things to hopefully pick up a bit before Christmas.

But sadly, even that doesn’t seem to have made any difference. It seems that everything I do is in vain, and nothing seems to be picking my poor little business up out of the downhill stream it seems to have got stuck in…

My only ray of hope is seeing other people comment- on Facebook craft groups particularly, that their own small businesses are currently struggling… and that the country is about to face an election which could prove to be very important for its future, and its economy… and that one day, a decision over Brexit will finally be taken, and the country can move forward towards a brighter future.

Maybe then, so can my little business.

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Search Engine Troubles

Little Dolly Clothes ShopNOTE: This article is based on my personal experience and is in no way intended to be an authoritative piece! 🙂

A few months back, just before everything went downhill with my Mum, I did something unusual for me- I Googled myself. Well, not myself exactly, but my little business. Interested to see where Little Dolly Clothes Shop ranked for any particular search, I typed in various words and phrases I thought people might use when looking to buy doll’s clothes and bedding, and then looked down the pages to find me.

After nine years in business, and with over six hundred customer orders behind me, I was expecting to find my store a few pages in… however I was more than a little shocked to find that it didn’t show up at all within the first ten pages for anything!!

Perhaps this could go some way towards explaining the extremely slow pace of business over the last few months…?

Rather upset about this, I started looking into why this might be the case. After all, I’ve put a lot of time and effort and hard work into it over the last three years, to get everything as attractive and saleable as possible. There’s all the work to get all my items CE labelled so that they’re both officially and legally safe to sell… I re-branded with a brand new look and logo, which is reflected on everything from the website to Facebook to my invoices… I keep the Facebook and Instagram pages (and also this blog at that time!) up to date… so what has gone wrong?

Despite my best efforts with my website, and all the time I’ve taken updating everything on it with new photos and new pages to ensure the new CE status of my products comes across, it appears this isn’t enough. The world of technology and the internet is changing faster than I can keep up with it and, despite thinking I had, it looks like I’ve failed to keep one vital part of my business up to date- the SEO factor.

SEO, or Search Engine Optimisation, is otherwise known as ‘trying to second guess just what exactly it is that Google and other search engines want to see on your website, so that they show them up in the first pages of their search results for any particular search term…’

Of course this doesn’t apply exclusively to online shops, but to all manner of websites, to blogs, to Facebook pages- though not your personal timeline, assuming you’ve set the privacy settings correctly! It can even apply to anything you’re trying to sell through eBay or other auction/ second hand sites.

So I did another search- what do I need to do to show up better in the search engines rankings? I read through many posts, and blogs to try to find out, but the one common answer I found? It appears that no one, apart from presumably the search engines themselves, actually really knows!

Apparently the guidelines change all the time, as do their criteria, as do the goal posts! Very helpful.

So what CAN we do? At one point, not so long ago, there was an emphasis on ‘keywords’- those words and phrases that customers, or people interested in your subject actually type into the search bar on Google etc. Website hosts, like the one I use for Little Dolly Clothes Shop, are ready set up so that you can type in a list of words you think people will search for- when the words match up, your site/ blog/ advert will show up somewhere amongst their top results. Simple!

Or not- as I now know. Keywords still play a part of the process, so it’s important to have a good list sorted and running in the ‘background’ if possible. It’s not quite as easy as it sounds- try thinking about what other people, from all backgrounds, and of all ages might just type into Google to search for any particular thing, and you’ll soon see what I mean! The first couple of words will be easy, but then you have to take into account just how differently any two people might refer to the same thing, how they might spell it, the kind of language they may use- ‘proper’ English, or ‘slang’ for example!

With a good long list (though not TOO long or they won’t all be stored- as I also now know!!) of keywords sorted, what else is there to know?

Every part of the page/ article/ item description comes into play when it comes to SEO, which is where I fell down.

When adding an item to the website, everything from the title onwards plays a part in getting it noticed on search engines.

The title, obviously important, has a bigger role than just to distinguish one item from another on your own website. It shows it up to the world- so when I add a dolly dress to my store for example, instead of just naming it ‘Pink Dress’, it needs to be ‘Pink Dress for Dolls’ or it will get mixed up with pink dresses for girls, or women! Something I hadn’t thought about as I thought it was only people already on my website who would see it!

Then there’s the description- again, I mistakenly thought it was secondary to the whole selling process, and that it just confirmed to anyone already on the item page what the dress was made from/ what actual colour it is etc.

This may have been my biggest downfall, as it looks as if the description (the main thing that will apply to anyone publishing just about anything on the internet) may just be the MOST important bit to get right, and one of the main things that search engines look at! AND it applies to all pages on the website- including the Homepage, the Postage info page, the All About Me page…

From the research I’ve done, the description needs to be written in plain English- like if you were talking to someone face to face and telling them about your product. The written piece needs to be a couple of paragraphs long- not too short or Google etc. will dismiss it, but not too long or the search engines won’t bother to read it… At the same time you need to make sure that all your vital keywords are somehow included, without over stuffing the piece with a load of words that just don’t make sense… Each item’s description should also be unique to that particular thing… etc. etc.
It’s a nightmare, especially when if- like me, a lot of the items you sell are very similar to each other and so the easiest thing would just be to copy, paste and tweak a couple of words as appropriate…

So somehow along the way, while fitting in visits across to the other side of the country to visit and have to say our sad goodbyes to my Mum, I sat down and went through my entire website- re-wording and re-writing anything that read awkwardly, sounded pompous or like gobbledegook, and tried to think what people would look for when searching for doll’s clothes or bedding online and make sure some of these were included.

Another, more recent search for ideas suggested that a website with good links and related sites look better to search engines too- so at least my Facebook page and Instagram page should be working in my favour a bit there.
But apparently, above even those, having an active Blog linked to your website is something that Google etc. look for and use as a measure of trustworthiness when deciding which results to show!
I’m not entirely convinced by this, after all sales have been a bit too quiet on my store for the last couple of years- during which time I was in a better frame of mind for writing and keeping this blog more up to date… I’m sure the state of the country’s economics and political unrest etc. has far more to do with the current pace of little (and not so little) businesses than whether or not they have a linked blog.

However, I’m willing to give anything a try. Anything to try to bring my little business back to where it was a few years ago- before I went through the time consuming, but legally necessary, task of testing my entire range of doll’s clothes, nappies and bedding to CE toy safety standards…

So I’ve finally finished this blog post- which I began writing at the start of the year. Now let’s see if it makes any difference… :/

Emotional Struggles

‘The diary of a real-life mum’s struggle to run a small business from home, as well as a full time family…’

Nearly five years ago, when I started this blog and came up with the tag line for it, the ‘struggle’ I was referring to was simply me trying to fit running a little business into the chaos of our busy family life. Little Blondie was still at primary school, and we had three others still at school too. Knitting Pixie was in only her second year out at work and was beginning to find her independence, and we were still getting used to the idea that our eldest son had moved across to Canada the year before. All whilst also coming to terms with having lost our house in the fire only a few months previously… all in all, life was pretty hectic.

My days consisted of walking to and from the primary school, working through mountains of washing, and the never ending tidying/ cooking/ cleaning etc. that comes from having a large family. I never for one minute regretted my life choices, but fitting in a little sewing business at that time was a struggle.

Or so I thought.

Maybe ‘challenge’ would have been a more appropriate description, as I now know what a struggle fitting a little business into your life can be at times. Though to a large degree our family life is just as busy and chaotic, with the children rapidly growing up these days it’s less about fitting it in around the family and more about the other things that life can throw at you. And that ‘struggles’ can be emotional, as well as physical.

DSCF3197 (2)Any of you who follow this blog or my Facebook or Instagram pages will already know that I lost my Mum to cancer in July. Though she had knowingly been ill for six and a half years, and therefore her passing wasn’t entirely unexpected at some point, how suddenly her illness deteriorated and took her from us was brutal. In the space of just five weeks she had gone from being ‘okay’ to leaving us- and the whole family were left in a state of shock.

Everyone always assumes (me previously included) that if a loved one is ill before passing away, that there is time for everyone to ‘get used to it’. That there will be the time for everyone to prepare themselves for what’s to come, and the time to say and ask all those little things that never get thought of otherwise. That there’s time to savour and make any last memories, and to gather together family members from all corners of the world to come and say their goodbyes. That somehow its better this way than if they were to just have a sudden accident, or simply not wake up one day…

Sadly, I now know that’s not always the case. Yes, I know of people who’ve been fortunate to have those last precious weeks or months to say and do everything they wanted to. But I also know that sometimes life doesn’t work it out like that for you. That a loved one can be ‘ticking over’ in their illness, so that- though never forgotten, it’s easy to be lulled into a false sense of security, believing that the final moments of that person’s life are still many years away…

I also know what it’s like to suddenly find out that there’s a lot more to someone’s illness than they had wanted, or felt able perhaps, to share with you.

So back in June, still in shock from finding out exactly how bad things had been for her over the previous few months, I was then faced with the reality that my Mum was declining- rapidly. Although we live 280 miles away from my parents’ house, we were lucky that we were able to visit her twice while she was in the hospital. The first time there was still hope- her recently failed kidneys may just have started working again at any time, so she was kept on dialysis to give them an easy job when they did.
The second time, just two weeks later, she’d not only been taken off the dialysis but all other treatments too and was facing, and waiting for, the inevitable.

My Mum was always just ‘mum’. There was nothing that would have marked her out as outstanding to the wider world, nothing that would have made her headline news. But in that last visit I found in her an aspect of ‘brave’ that I would never have associated with her before, an acceptance of her fate even though her mind was still fully functioning at that time, and she was fully aware of all that was going on around her.

I’m a believing, church going Christian, but I don’t know how she sat there in her hospital bed, making small talk with us- and even having a bit of a laugh on occasions, knowing that the end was so close. She wasn’t in denial- she was talking about her preferences for her funeral, but she had a kind of resigned acceptance about her, having made her peace with God through the hospital chaplain who had visited her several times. I hope it helped her, but even with attending church every week I still can’t comprehend what she was facing.

Five days after our visit, she breathed her last. And I was left with a whole new respect for the woman who brought me into the world, but I could no longer tell her.

Of course I’ve had emotional struggles before. In (just!) under half a century I’ve survived childhood, learnt to be independent, found a loving husband and had six wonderful children and now have two beautiful grandsons. Our eldest son, along with his wife and their two boys, now live on the other side of the world. We’ve watched our children with various worries and heartbreaks that we haven’t been able to help them with. When we lost our house in the fire it was Christmas time, so the memory resurfaces every time we leave the house during the festive season each year. I was fortunate to have all my grandparents long enough into my life that I remember them all, but the time came to say goodbye to each of them, as it sadly did with other family relations too along the way. Others of our children are beginning to spread their wings and make their way out into the big bad world…

Life is full of emotional struggles. And I’ve come through them all, mostly now having had the support of my lovely husband beside me to help me… but this time has really got me down. The loss of my Mum coinciding as it has with the ongoing poor economy of the country, with Brexit and all that that entails and with everyone tightening their purse strings as a result- some out of necessity, some out of fear for what’s coming next…

Like I haven’t been fighting enough to keep my poor little business afloat anyway, now I’ve been struggling to even get motivated into pushing Little Dolly Clothes Shop forward. I know I need to. I want to. I know I ‘owe’ it to my Mum to persevere with my doll’s clothes, and not to sink just because she’s no longer here and I’ve been feeling a bit sad. But wrestling emotions at the same time as fighting against the economic and business climate?
That’s an altogether different story.

The Inspiration Behind My Business – A Tribute to my Mum

66460703_348838552408432_4512567149717356544_n (4)Any of you who follow my Facebook page or Instagram may have already seen that two weeks ago we lost my dear Mum to cancer. She had knowingly battled the disease for six and a half years, but over the last two years that fight had become harder as it spread. Complications and rare reactions to her treatment only helped to speed things up, and she lost her battle during the early morning of Thursday 11th July.

It was my Mum’s love of sewing, and her ability to turn her hand to any project that first inspired me to try it for myself…

My sister and I had been fortunate enough to grow up at a time when wearing handmade clothes hadn’t yet gone out of fashion- before the age of very cheap mass production meant that wearing anything homemade was frowned upon and belittled… and before it came round again full circle with this current era of sustainability, recycling and individuality…

Most of my very first dresses that I wore as a baby and toddler were lovingly handmade by my Mum- as were many of her own dresses back then. When my sister followed on three years later, our Mum simply made two of whatever dress she was making- one in each of our sizes…
It was the early seventies and popular high street shops were just beginning to take over the market place with ever cheaper clothes- that and, I suspect, less free time while bringing up two young daughters signalled an end to our handmade day to day clothes… though Mum did still manage to knock out several very super quick sundresses for our ‘pre-teen’ years- simple shirred elastic at the top of a simple ribbon tied dress. Many, many years before shirred dresses saw a re-emergence as one of the hottest trends in fashion! 😀

By the time our younger brother came along eight years later, Mum had moved on in her sewing. By then, my sister and I were into dancing- ballet mainly, but with some ‘character’ dances thrown in for competitions and shows. Again before the days of cheap and cheerful mass produced ballet dresses, our Mum spent many hours tirelessly producing our competition tutus, or other required costumes… she even had such a good reputation for making them so beautifully that she was asked by our ballet teacher to help with the costumes for one particular show.
My only regret from those days is that I didn’t realise the significance of how much effort she put into making them for us, and put more effort into trying to actually win the competitions for her! I certainly enjoyed taking part in them, but was too shy to really ‘put my all’ into the dances and so didn’t take the competitions as seriously as maybe I could have.

Christmas was the other time she shone with her sewing skills, and that also gave her a chance to make things for our younger brother too- with teddies for him and dolls for us, though again she didn’t make half as much during our later childhood years as she had when we were much younger, by then most definitely due to even less free time…
The spare room door would remain closed during the couple of weeks leading up to the big day, and the constant whirring of the sewing machine could be heard throughout the house. She’d come out to decorate the house some more- another paperchain strung up here, or a paper fold-out bell hung above the stairs… then she’d feed us… and retreat back to her hidey hole.

Christmas morning was always met in those days with extra anticipation and excitement- not only to see what Father Christmas had brought us, but to see what new toy or doll was sitting and smiling at us from the very top of our sack… knowing that that was what our dear Mum had been so furiously working on for hours on end from behind that closed door. 🙂

Several years later- by then married and with two children of my own, the first of many school letters arrived home with our eldest, declaring that ‘this year’s World Book Day will be celebrated by the children dressing up…’ It’s hard to remember that even back as recently as the mid-nineties there wasn’t such a market for cheap and cheerful costumes, dressing up days at school weren’t the regular occurrence that they are nowadays, eBay and easy internet access hadn’t yet found their way into homes…
That, together with my childhood memories meant it came naturally to me to come up with some sort of homemade costume for him. Okay, that very first year we cheated somewhat- blue shorts, a red t-shirt and a duster with red painted spots around his neck made for a nice easy ‘Noddy’ costume…  but I did sew a triangle of felt together and add a bell to the top for his hat!

‘Book Day’ caught on, and two years later- by then with three children, two of whom were in school, I ‘properly’ made their costumes… nothing fancy- I didn’t even have a sewing machine in those days, but I had been treated to a cheap little hand held sewing device. It somewhat resembled a stapler, and didn’t do anything fancier than plain stitches, but was far easier and quicker than hand sewing with a needle and thread!

Another couple of years on, and it was time for our eldest to take part in the annual Year 4’s school trip to a Tudor recreation day. This not only meant a very long day out for the children and teachers, but also required a full Tudor Peasant costume- breeches, tunic, waistcoat, hat… My poor little hand held sewing machine had never worked so hard in its life, nor did it ever again- as after that I decided it was maybe time to invest in a full sized electric machine!

That year’s school Christmas play provided the first chance to make a costume with my new machine, and I managed to make an angel costume for Knitting Pixie with no (still un-invented) You Tube tutorials, patterns or help from anyone- just simply by drawing out what I wanted to make, and thinking back to watching how my mum set things out around her when sewing… Though pretty basic, the dress turned out exactly how I’d imagined, and in the years that followed was used by at least two of our other daughters in their turn! 🙂

And so began my love of sewing… World Book Days, End of Topic dressing up days, School Christmas play costumes, or simply wanting to dress all our girls up in matching dresses- all these things provided the chance to get the machine out and create something unique for my children… even after the internet had taken over our lives, and any costume anyone could ever want became easily and cheaply available to all- just with the click of a button…

As my children started to grow older I could see that their need for constant costumes was going to lessen, and my sewing abilities weren’t ever going to extend to making ‘acceptable’ clothes for the girls as they began to grow into young women!
With this subconsciously at the back of my mind, I was casually observing a very small Little Blondie one day, playing with her sisters’ dolls and trying to dress them herself. She was getting increasingly frustrated at her own inability to force the dolls’ arms and heads through the stupidly tiny armholes and into the tight dresses- made cheaply and therefore with the least fabric possible… Then she found the Christening Dress my Mum had made for Knitting Pixie’s favourite doll when Apple was baptised. Though quickly put together in one night, the dress had a far wider neck opening and the flared design- made with substantially more fabric, made it easier for her to force the doll into… on her own, with no need of help from me.

I completely re-worked the dress, but kept the basics- large neck opening, wide armholes and a loose, flared design that could fit any doll. I only ever intended to make a couple for Little Blondie and Curly’s own dolls, but something had started whirring away in the back of my mind, that said this was something that other little girls (and their mums!) needed in their lives… and one day while gazing out to sea- on our first ever visit to our (now much loved) seaside holiday destination, something clicked into place and an idea was formed. 🙂

Little Dolly Clothes Shop was born… and it will always, in part, be thanks to my Mum. ❤

February Round-Up 2019

DSCF9730 (3) blog

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… :/