Handmade phone case giveaway winner & cookbooks organisation

Congratulations to Hanta Ralay, you have won a handmade case for your Iphone 5. I have sent you an email requesting your address so will post your prize once I have your address. I don’t have a malagasy fabric, so will make it with another fabric that has a malagasy style to it.

There was only one participant so I will keep the remaining 2 cases for another giveaway in the future.

On the home front, I have been itching to do some organising. I have lots of books and they are all over the place. I started with my cookbooks, I like to browse them on the sofa so it made sense to have them all near the sofa. I have a Leksvik coffee table from Ikea which is perfect for the job. It was originally in a plain dark wood colour so I painted it pearly purple. My partner added some castor so that the table is easy to move around when needed.

ikea leksvik coffe tableThese are close ups of the books if you are curious:

cookbooks 1They are loosely organised by genre.

cookbooks 2I left one slot for snacks.

cookbooks 3I also have my vitamins and herbal supplemetns in the red box, and below that are my diaries, notebooks and gardening catalogues.

cookbooks 4Next, I want to tackle my gardening books but I don’t know where to put them yet!

Win a custom made russian doll case for your phone

Hi everyone! I took some time off blogging as the recent months have been quite hectic for me. I spent most of december in France, to attend my sister’s funeral and to spend some time with my family. I didn’t close my shops while I was away, so then spend most of january catching up on december’s orders. Thank you so much to those of you who have been very patient with your orders.

Today, I have 3 custom made russian doll cases to give away, one per winner. You can use it as a phone case or a purse or a business cards holder/case. I made the one in the picture to fit a Samsung phone. The one you will win, will be custom made for your phone, so you need to let me know the name/model of your phone. If you don’t like the russian doll fabric, you can ask me to make it in a different/surprise fabric.

handmadewithjoy phone caseTo win one of those cases, please visit my etsy shop and let me know (in a comment here) what you think I should make and sell that is not already in my shop. Don’t forget to put in the comment the name/model of your phone in case you win, and wether you want your case made with the russian doll fabric in the picture or a different/surprise fabric. The giveaway is open to anyone worldwide, the 1st person to leave a comment will automatically win, and I will draw 2 winners among all the other participants on March 11th (the giveaway is open till March 10th 2015 12pm GMT time).

If you’d rather buy one for you or for someone else as a gift, you can find it in my shop here: www.etsy.com/listing/224412544/russian-doll-case-custom-made-for-your

Good luck!

My sister Andrianina

My sister Andrianina recently graduated to the spirit world. She was highly educated with several master’s degrees and several post-graduate degrees (mathematics and statistics were her favourite studies), and she was also a spiritual person with a belief/interest in the spirit world so I think that she would approve of the term “graduating to the spirit world”. I miss her physical human side, but I also know that her spirit lives on and that she is in a wonderful place now. andrianina2andrianina5andrianina6andrianina8This quote from Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, M.D. sums perfectly what my sister Andrianina and I believe in:  “Death is simply a shedding of the physical body like the butterfly shedding its cocoon. It is a transition to a higher state of consciousness where you continue to perceive, to understand, to laugh, and to be able to grow.”

Small business talk: bigcartel shop review

If you regularly read my blog, you know that I opened a bigcartel shop in January 2014. Bigcartel has 4 pricing plans depending on how many items you want to have in your shop.

bicartel pricing plansI was on the Diamond plan which allows you to have up to 100 items for sale in your shop and costs $19.99 per month, payable by paypal. This monthly payment is the only fee you pay as they don’t charge any final value sale’s fee.

I was very excited when I opened this shop, as I liked the shop design (you have a choice of different templates to chose from in order to customise your shop), but best of all I thought that I would save money as I would only have to pay a monthly fee and not pay an final value sale’s fee. It seemed like a great idea at the time.

10 months down the line, I have decided today to downgrade my shop to the Gold pricing plan which is completely FREE but only allows you to have up to 5 items in your shop. I could have completely closed down the shop but why not keep it with its 5 items in it, it is free after all.

I have come to the conclusion that bigcartel does not work for me. I don’t do much marketing or advertising for my shop, so the only traffic that I get is via my blog, a bit from google and a bit from the bigcartel directory. You can see this in my shop dashboard below (screenshot taken before I downgraded):

Their dashboard is really great as you can clearly see what items get the most click on, what customers are searching to buy, and how do they find youbigcartel shop dashboard.

In 10 months, I only got 3 sales from the shop for a total of about £60 (or $96). Yes, you read that right, it is pathetic, given that I have paid about $200 in shop fee. I often redirected new customers and repeat buyers to the bigcartel shop (with a promise of a free delivery or a discount code) but no they still went ahead and bought either via my etsy shop or directly from me. So that is why I have given up on bigcartel.

These are the 5 remaining items in my bigcartel shop. They were the most viewed items in the shop.

handamadewithjoy shop bigcartel

This is just my experience with bigcartel. I know some sellers who get lots of sale from their bigcartel shop, so I am not discouraging anyone to give it a try. Do you have a bigcartel shop? If yes, what is your experience with it?

Spice storage in a small kitchen

I like to cook and bake and therefore like to have lots of different ingredients ready to be used. But my kitchen is small, I don’t have a proper pantry (only a pink ikea bookcase cupboard that I use as a pantry), so my kitchen does look cluttered.

pink ikea bookcase pantryMy spices were not efficiently organised. First they were in plastic containers, I put 2 of those containers on the ikea varde shelving (only the spices I used often), and the rest inside my pantry:

ikea kitchen shelfThen I added 2 more little shelves (ikea forhoja) underneath the varde shelving so was able to put some of them there. That was a better solution, but still, I could only put like half of them there and they were cluttered:

ikea varde kitchen shelvingSo I looked for a better solution and found this 4 tier spice rack on amazon, I just love it, the quality is great, the price is very affordable and it only took a couple of minutes to install (you don’t even need a power tool to install this). My spices are now organised by alphabetical name and they are easy to access. We put ours on the back door of an upper cabinet. The only little problem is that I should have bought the 5 tier one as I have so many spices I need an extra tier.

spice storage for small kitchenI don’t know why I didn’t do this years ago. This spurred me to spend more time decluttering my kitchen this week. Do you have a small kitchen? How do you organise it so that it looks nice and not cluttered?

The garden in august and september

It is already autumn in my part of the word (small town outside London) but it still feels like summer. Right now, the garden looks messy as I have lots of deadheading, tidying/cleaning and grass cutting to do (path between the raised beds in the front garden). But despite its shivelled look, I love this garden, I can see some progress made every year, it is getting greener, prettier and more productive.

Here are some pictures taken in august and september.

Back garden

I didnt’ have much time to work on the back garden, I hope to focus more on it next year. One thing I did was to plant some dahlias and zinnias as companion plants to a gooseberry plant (this is the plant last year) and a fejoya goyava (planted last year also), both are each in a 55cm pot. The banana plant you see there is still small as I keep it in a 35cm pot.

dahlia zinnia bananaMost of the strawberry plants in one of my blue raised planter have died so I planted lots of other stuff in it: cosmos, marmalade rudbeckia, thai basil, vietnamese coriander, lemon verbena, lettuces and some chives.

previous strawberry planter

I also planted an early moorpark apricot in the raised bed against the garage wall.

Side yard

I wanted to incorporate a sort of mini orchard in this area and I am glad to say that I finally made it happen, I planted some fruit trees in the ground along the boundary wall (I lifted some paved tiles and planted them there). Some of the trees are doing OK, a few are struggling, I have to wait till next year to see if they all make it or if I need to replace some of them. The varieties are: opal plum, czar plum, early rivers plum, lord napier nectarine.

side yardI planted a clematite with each fruit tree, I find that if planted together at the same time, the clematite fares better. This one is with the greengage Reine Claude Ulena tree planted last year (the 1st planted in the ground in the side yard).

clematite up a greengageI plant most of my tomatoes in pots here as it is south facing. In this 55cm pot there are 2 tomato along with 2 cucumber plants (next year i think I will only put 3 plants per 55cm pot).

tomato cucumberThe midget pear tree is having 5 fruits this year.

midget pear tree with 5 fruitsI also grow most of the courgettes here, these are the varieties I planted this year: black beauty, golden zucchini,  round de Nice and lebanese. The lebanese one is the most prolific, each courgette becoming huge before I get a chance to harvest them so I make a courgette lasagna with them.

2014 courgette varietyThese autumn raspberries are not very prolific in a pot so I will re-plant them in the ground later on (don’t know where yet) so that they can give me as much fruit as the summer raspberries planted in the ground in my back garden.autumn raspberriesI feel that there are not enough flowers in this area, so I wil try to amend that next year. Here is the only purple ricinus planted here, it is still small as it was sowed very late.

ricinus plantAnd an exciting (for me) purple flowering tree – abutilon suntense –  that I grew from seed in 2012, you can see it as a baby tree here. It hasn’t flowered yet and I want to keep it small so it is currently in a 35cm pot.

abutilon suntense treeFront garden

This is the nicest part of the potager. The pear tree flowered profusely but it only has 7 fruits.

front garden potagerOne of my arches collapsed due to several gale force winds, and also because I planted a new squash there this year which I thought has small fruits but the squashes are big and heavy, to heavy for this kind of arch.

collapsed archAnd some of the raised beds.

veg raised beddahlia raised bedrhubarb raised bedAs you can see, I struggle with the grass in this area (it grows faster than I  can trim them), I want to change the path between raised beds into a gravel path eventually so I am saving to pay for that.

I am already dreaming of next year’s garden and hope that this winter will be as mild as last year.

How is your garden growing?