Sunday, 31 October 2010

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire....

Yesterday's walk took us through woods full of sweet chestnuts, so later on...

We bought the chestnut roaster at an auction, it's old and I like to think many families have enjoyed using it. The hardest part is allowing the fire to die down, I like chucking more logs on! The lid is great - chestnuts explode sometimes!

Sing along with me...

Friday, 29 October 2010

May I introduce

Nev of boutiqueaholic, an as-yet-undiscovered shop on Zibbet.

Nev describes her knits at Boutiqueaholic as handmade, unique, quality, cost-effective, with high attention to details. Everything is ready to ship, and right now Nev is offering a special deal: *BUY TWO ITEMS - GET FREE INTERNATIONAL SHIPPING FOR THE SECOND ONE!*

Several of Nev's knits caught my eye in particular.

I'm a big fan of bright colours, so this cowl was the first item I wanted to share:

I also love this lacy cardigan

This set is in perfect Autumn colours!

Although Nev's stock is ready-to-ship, she also offers a knit-to-order service in a wide range of colours - so I'm sure Boutiqueaholic won't stay undiscovered for long - good luck Nev!

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

email signatures - don't hide under a cloak of invisibility!

I blogged yesterday about my email siggy - I don't want any of my contacts to not know what I do. Big thanks to Anke for adding extra details for other email users.

I choose to just use text, because I know many people have picture sigs blocked as part of their security protocol. Indeed, I often get mail myself that says "pictures blocked" I'm one of them.

However, if you choose to use a picture, this is how to do it in Outlook Express:

Select Tools, then Options as before. Next, select Compose.

You're going to create "Stationery". Click in "Mail" and "Create New" and the Stationery Wizard will open. Click next - mine then shows the first available picture that is pre-loaded. To choose your own picture - for instance, your online shop banner - click Browse and go to wherever you've saved your banner to select it.

As you can see, I've also selected for the banner to appear "bottom" and "left". (If I was really going to use this as a signature I'd make sure it said more than just "Niftyknits" in the text, I'd put the entire url.)

Click next - you will now be asked to select the font you will use for your emails. Be aware that if you choose an unusual font, it will only actually work if the recipients have also installed that font. If they haven't, they will see the email in whatever their "standard" font is - that's why I stick with Arial.

Click next - choose (or ignore!) the margins - click next - and give your stationery a name to save it. Click finish - and then select, and select the file you have just saved (mine is banner1)

Your emails will now automatically be written on your beautiful new stationery!

If you have also created a text signature, you will need to make sure either that they are in different positions (eg picture on stationery at the top, text signature at the bottom) or choose between them...otherwise, like me on my first attempt, you might end up having them on top of each other!

As I said yesterday, if you use a different email system, remember Google is your friend. There are loads of free tutorials out there!

Monday, 25 October 2010

Getting noticed... wear a big hat?

I don't know about you, but sometimes my online shops seem to be wearing a cloak of invisibility.

I blogged a while back about Waggleforce and Project Wonderful - plenty of ideas there about getting your name out - but today I want to suggest adding a signature to your emails.

It's EASY, really really EASY - and it's free. Everyone I email (yes, even the guy who gave me a quote for a roof repair!) gets my website address and an invitation to sign up for my newsletter - you can put whatever you wish. It's possible to include pictures, but many recipients will have blocked them as part of their security protocol, so in my opinion it's better to stick with text.

I use Outlook Express - at the top of the page there is a menu. Choose Tools, then Options, then Signatures.

click "new" on the right, then "text" and type in whatever you wish to say.

Click OK - and you're done! Next time you write an email, your signature will appear as if by magic - never again (assuming you've typed it correctly!) will you type out your web address and get it wrong. Or maybe I'm the only person who mistypes their own address ;-)

If you have more than one person using the email account you will need to click the "Advanced" button and tick the account for which you wish the signature applied.

***IF you use a different email service the process may be different - but reember, Google is your friend. Someone, somewhere, will have a free tutorial for you!***

If you'd rather use a picture signature - maybe your online shop banner - I will blog about that tomorrow.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Now *that's* what I call a fountain.

My daughter sent me a link recently - she knows I like fountains. I'm quite overwhelmed by the majesty, the sheer scope of what follows - but I also feel really sad at "conspicuous consumption" on such a grand scale.

Wiki says: "Illuminated by 6,600 lights and 25 colored projectors, it is 275 m (902 ft) long and shoots water 150 m (490 ft) into the air (equivalent to a 50-story building), accompanied by a range of classical to contemporary Arabic and world music."

Wiki says:"It was built at a cost of AED 800 million (USD 218 million)." adds: "More than 6,600 lights with 1,000 different water combinations to drift into your dinner if you're on one of the Souk Al Bahar terrace restaurants when the wind is blowing your way. Music will be played to accompany your soggy steak."

And finally, from "On 01 July 2008 Emaar announced there would be a naming competition to decide what to call the new fountain with a first prize of AED 100,000. Only residents of Dubai were eligible to enter. The competition ended 15 September 2008 with over 4,000 entries, 15 of whom suggested "Dubai Fountain", which a panel of senior Emaar management, architects and brand consultants decided was the winning name. Leaving the winners happy and almost everyone else bewildered, not with a case of "Why didn't I think of that" but ... "I thought of that but it seemed too obvious". Now you know why Brand Consultants are so important and deserve every penny they earn."

Opinions? Like I said, I'm in awe - but can't help wondering what that sort of money could achieve elsewhere.

Friday, 22 October 2010

May I introduce...

Carol-Ann of PinkDaisy has recently joined us on Zibbet.

PinkDaisy offers handmade glycerin soap (100% vegetable), shea butter soap and mango butter soap. Each bar is carefully made with skin loving ingredients for a luxurious bath. Custom orders are welcomed!

I loved this photo of the Pumpkin Parfait Shea Butter Leaf Soap, doesn't it say Autumn so beautifully?

The sweet leaf-shaped soaps are scented with Pumpkin Parfait: a delicious blend of pumpkin pie, rich vanilla and coconut with a dash of sugar. I'm in the UK - and I've never yet tasted Pumpkin pie, but I'm sure they smell delicious!

The next soap to catch my eye is named "Love Spell"

The third soap I'd like to share with you is Chocolate Decadence Mango Butter Soap.

I wish PinkDaisy every success - if the soaps are as tempting as the names and photos suggest, I think they'll be flying out of the shop!

If you have an undiscovered Zibbet shop, I'd love to feature you! Please get in touch here

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

More free food

Our latest foraging crop - sweet chestnuts! Mr Nifty loosened the skins by putting them in boiling water briefly, peeled and chopped them and mixed them with sausage meat to stuff our Sunday Roast chicken - delicious!

I've put some in the freezer to roast on our open fire at Christmas, using a brass chestnut roaster I found at auction ages ago.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Knit long and prosper

First of all - I'm sorry! I know I've been neglecting my blog, but I hope you'll agree it's been worth it. I've been busily updating and restocking all my Trekkies, and adding a few new ones. Why? Well, because it's been Star Trek weekend on TV and I've watched ALL the old movies. I am officially all least until the next time.

Without further ado's the Next Generation!

Back row: Worf, Data, Geordi, Riker
front row: Deanna Troi, Dr Beverly Crusher, Wesley Crusher, Captain Picard

Data has had an upgrade, I found some yellow shiny beads which look much better as his unusual eyes. Geordi's visor has also been upgraded - and young Wes is just adorable!

Seven of Nine has also been upgraded - I think you'll be able to spot her new "attributes" in the Voyager team photo:

Chakotay is certainly showing increased interest in her new "staff profile" but Janeway and Tuvok look less than impressed.

Still just two Deep Space Nine Meerkats, Kira and Dax (so much yarn, so little time...where have I heard that before?)

I'm an old-school Trekkie at heart I'll leave you with my Original Series Meerkats. Live long and prosper! All *20* Meerkat Trekkies available from my Zibbet store.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Sloe gin, anyone?

I bought Mr Nifty a book about Wild food for Christmas, but as is usually the way when I buy early, we've already started using it!

The book not only helps with identification, but also tells you what to do with your bounty once you've collected it. We couldn't decide when to stop foraging though, so we picked way more sloes than we needed. Hopefully the garden birds will polish off the remainder.

You'll notice some sloes are much bigger than others (in fact, at first we thought we'd found a plum tree) Apparently though, older trees produce bigger sloes, and allegedly it makes no difference to the final product. We found the bigger ones much easier to work with though, so we'll be more selective next year. First task is to wash them, and then to prick the skins. You can also do this by putting them in the freezer overnight, apparently.

Recipes vary - we followed the book, and used 400 gm sloes, 250 gm caster sugar and 1.5 litre gin. I was very pleased to read that using better quality gin makes no difference, so we bought the cheapest "own brand" we could find!

After just one day, the gin is a beautiful colour. The book says leave it for at least 3 months, other sources say much longer. Either way, we'll be trying it at Christmas!

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Niftyknits Calculator

When I first started selling online I was quite naive. I didn't really think it through, but imagined that if I priced something at £10, and the listing fee was 20p, then I'd made £9.80.

Not so.

On Zibbet, premium sellers pay a monthly fee, basic sellers have free accounts. Even that isn't *really* free though, as of course Paypal take a cut, and there are supplies to buy (including packaging, business cards) and my time to consider.

On Etsy and Folksy there is an initial listing fee and a percentage commission when something sells - and of course the inevitable paypal fees. For a UK seller, there is also the currency exchange rate to keep in mind...but let's not go there today other than for me to say I use Dollars2Pounds.

I asked Mr Nifty to set up an Excel spreadsheet for me, which I'm now offering to you as a download. It's set up for me, of course, as a seller in the UK. If you are NOT in the UK, your paypal fees may vary depending on currency.

Enter your selling price and shipping charge in £. find the current exchage rate by clicking on the link and enter it. The calculator will then enter your $ price (rounded to the nearest $) and subtract the Etsy/Folksy/Paypal fees. You can then enter your costs - for me that is yarn, beads, wire, packaging, business cards - anything that I have to buy in order to maintain my business. You might also need to include costs for your blog or website. The final figure is then your profit, your "wage". I charge for my time and expertise - it's entirely up to you, the maker, whether you do this.

If you end up with too low a final figure, then you need to reconsider your pricing, maybe even reconsider what you're making! Good luck!

Go to my website to find the calculator and click on the link to automatically download a zipped excel spreadsheet. Any problems - please get in touch so we can fix it.

Friday, 8 October 2010


Today's the official starting day for the UK Etsy sellers' silly sale. Lots of us have come together under the leadership (LOL, she'll like that!) of feltmeupdesigns

Search UK silly sale to find loads of fabulous bargains, handmade, supplies and vintage shops are all represented.

Christmas robin from feltmeupdesigns

My own shop has two silly sale sections (22 items so far!), more items may yet be added!

10% reductions here

half price section here

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Guess what I've been knitting?

I'll give you a clue - all the time I've been working on this project, Mr Nifty has been quoting from Kung Fu:

I had to pause for a while as I was *stuck* on what to use for eyes - as usual, the wonderful Overspill came up with a bumper assortment of weird and wonderful bits and bobs for me to rummage through.

I'm very pleased with the result!

available in zibbet

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Props...part three!

I blogged last month about the props that others use in their product photos: part one and part two here.

My mission, though, was to try to find something to use for my scarves and fiber necklaces.

This is the best of about a million photos poor Mr Nifty took of me before the batteries ran out. I think scarves look better modelled, but I don't like being the model. Mr Nifty drew the line and outright refused!

Then, in a charity shop, I thought I'd found the very thing!

I don't know what it is supposed to be used for, it's a semi-transparent alien head with a ridge around the base that makes me think it's a lid of something. I can't see through it from behind so I thought it would be ideal as a face mask....LOL not so!

I still like it as a prop, but I don't think I'll try wearing it again!

The scarf will be in the UK SILLY SALE on Friday - there are already lots of lovely bargains, but Friday is the day we'll all go quite silly. Yes, even sillier than now. My shop has a section with items reduced by 10% but I will have a half-price section on Friday which will include this scarf.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Morris Dancing at Tenterden Folk Festival

Morris dancing has a long history in the UK (some claim it's been around since the 14th or 15th Century) but there are now international sides too. Tenterden Folk Festival hosts teams or sides from all over, who perform along the High Street.

some dance with sticks:

some have blackened faces - there are various explanations for this. I quite like the idea that it was to camouflage the dancers at a time when the Established Church was trying to ban Morris Dancing because of its pagan origins.

some dance with hankies:

You may have noticed the chap in the pink frock? He's the team's "fool", who acts as if he's messing about, but is quite possibly the best dancer of the lot!

Sides have "beasts" who work the crowds and sometimes dance along too - can't be easy!

Of course musicians are crucial!

This is a hurdy gurdy or wheel fiddle - I'd never seen or heard such an instrument before.

This musician danced whilst playing - very impressive!

I'm not knitting Morris Dancers any more, but the last four will be in the UK Silly Sale in my Etsy shop on Friday - come and snap up a bargain!