Instagram pictures

You may have noticed on the right side of my blog some pictures from Instagram. Yes, I have finally joined Instagram and am enjoying it so far. I am using  a samsung tablet to take the pictures and like the convenience of it, I hardly use a camera anymore when I am out and about or away on a trip as I can just use my tablet.

To view other people’s pictures you can just go on Instagram and view them on any computer (it does not have to be a smartphone nor a tablet), but if you want to post pictures then you can only do so on your smartphone or tablet.

You can view my pictures here www.instagram.com/handmadewithjoy

Here are the ones I posted so far:

This is my mum’s potager and garden in France. I took this picture end of june. She is also a keen gardener and the 1st thing that she planted when she started this garden from scratch are those 2 palm trees. I dream of having one palm tree in my garden one day.

my mum's gardenThis is a fabulous houseplant book. I first saw it on morganours blog and had to have it. I want to review it in another post as it really deserves a review. Suffice to say, it does not have a lot of pictures but each plant has its own lovely illustration. You can get it on amazon or ebay, second hand, at a bargain price. I think I paid less than £3 for it (postage included). The book is from Readers’ Digest, the english version is called Success with Houseplants, and the french version is called Guide des plantes d’interieur.

success with houseplants bookThis is an echeveria plant that I got from Tesco while grocery shopping. It came with a square glass pot and only costs £2. It already has a little baby so I can propagate it later. The plants in the backround are some of my tomatoes.

echeveria plantI saw this butterly in the garden and snapped a picture. They are next to some housplants that are having a holiday in the garden during the day in summer. You can see there 2 purple oxalis triangularis, 2 pilea peperomioides, a philodendron from my mum’s house and a coleus that I have since planted in the garden.

butterfly plantsHere you can see some of those plants on my mantel shelf: a senecio or string of pearl plant, dracaena marginata, purple oxalis triangularis, pilea peperomioides, echeveria, money plant or crassula ovata and a papyrus plant.

plants on mantel shelfMore plants in the living room, next to the french patio doors: asparagus fern, philodendron xanadu, anthurium and a zamioculcas. The pots and plant stand are from Ikea.

houseplants on ikea plant standThis is a calathea plant that I got from Wilkinson (or Wilko), I love that the underside of each leaf is purple, and I was very taken by the lower leaves that have a pink edge. Wilko can be a great place to shop when it comes to houseplants as you can sometimes find treasures there at a great price (this one was only £3) but you have to be quick if you want a healthy plant. Anyone knows how to encourage this plant’s leaves to have a pink edge?

calathea plant from wilkoAnd finally a surprise flower bouquet delivery from Marks and Spencer. Thiis was from my bosses and colleagues at the counselling charity where I volunteer, as a thank you gesture for my work. How nice of them!

flower bouquet from marks and spencer

 

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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!

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?

Ipad cover giveaway

Sorry I haven’t blogged for ages, and thanks to those who keep reading this blog despite the long absence.

As promised, I am giving away 1 ipad cover this month, this is the one I made for the Handmade Gifts book. To win it, all you have to do is check out my etsy shop and tell me – by leaving a comment here – what is your favourite item in the shop. The giveaway is open till August 4th midnight (GMT time). It is open to anyone anywhere in the world. You can enter even if you have won previously. I will select 1 winner randomly.

ipad cover handmadewithjoymy ipad cover in Handmade Gifts bookThe giveaway is for the ipad cover only, the iphone cover on the picture or the book are not included.

Here are some pictures of the garden (taken mid july):

2 grape vines, each in a 55 cm pot, underplanted with spring anemones bulbs, strawberries and purple violas. There are 6 bunches of grapes this year.

2 grape vinesThis is a peach tree, that was supposed to be a nectarine tree from Thompson&Morgan that costs £34 (they completely ignored my complaint so I do not recommend them for fruit trees). It has 3 fruits on it but they are not ready yet. It is in a 66cm pot and I underplanted it with borlotti beans and dwarf french yellow beans.

container peach treeSome squashes climbing up an arch (potimarrom and gem rollet varieties). Because I have a small garden, I only grow small fruit squashes and pumpkins that can be grown up some arches. This year, I grow each one in 35cm bottomless pot (in the front garden raised beds). 3 pots to each side of an arch.

potimarron and gem rollet squashesThis is an eucalyptus gree that I bought very small in a 9cm pot, I grow it in a 35cm pot so as to keep it small as I do not want a big tree. It is now in its 3rd year and is looking lovely.

STA60037Some desiree potatoes, growing in pink flexitubs (£3 from tesco). I only grow potatoes in these pots now. The other potatoes that I am growing these year are the setanta variety.

setanta potatoes in pink potsA lebanese courgette, growing in a 55cm pot along with 3 tomatoes. If you look carefully, there is a huge courgette there that I forgot to harvest on time so it grew very big.

lebanese courgetteThis is the peach tree in the back garden. Despite being treated with a bordeaux mixture, it still got some curled leaves (which I forgot to take off on time so they profilerated). But I got 20 fruits from it this year, and they were big and tasted lovely.

peach tree in backgardenThis was the 1st peach of the year.

huge peach from my gardenI recently bought some peaches from Aldi and they tasted somewhat like a mango so I saved a stone and will try to grow it. I will have to do some research as I am not sure if I should grow it as a tree or grow it and then get a cutting from it to graft on my existing peach tree. Have you grown any fruit tree from a stone or done some grafting? Do you have any advice for me?

Sewing wise, I have finished a batch of these ipad covers, they have a pocket which is big enough for an A5 size notebook and some pens. You can find it here.

russian doll ipad coverGood luck on the giveaway.

Garden photos

Some pictures of the garden this spring.

Mid march:

We had a mild winter so the bottlebrush plant stayed green all winter long (it lost all its leaves last winter), I hope it is going to flower this summer.

bottlebrush plant

The unknown plum tree is the 1st fruit tree to flower in my garden. The olive tree also stayed green and healthy all winter long.

plum and olive trees

This week in april:

In the side yard:

One of the peony trees have 6 lovely flowers.

peony tree

The dwarf lilac is starting to flower.

dwarf lilac

3 Honeyberry plants, they have finished flowering and I can see small green fruits now (they turn blue/purple and are ready to eat in june, they taste like blueberry with honey).

honeyberry

A corner of the side yard with the pink magnolia tree (underplanted with swiss chards), I still have lots of deadheading and weeding to do!

magnolia tree

Front garden:

The lovely blossom of the japanese cherry tree. This tree is bang in the middle of my potager and really needs to be moved.

japanese cherry tree

Back garden:

This is the corner with the red flesh apple tree which is just starting to flower. I’ve planted a few things around it last year and want to make a border out of that area up to the rose arch as it is just mainly gravel at this time. I have no design nor plant combination in mind yet so will wait for inspiration to come.

garden corner

The japanese acer on the patio looks lovely already.

japanese acer

This is the small raised bed in the area where the peach tree/kiwi/raspberry plants are. I’ve planted some wallflower there with tulips (just poking out) and a new (to me) perennial geranium plant that I’ve grown from seed, I can’t wait to see it flower in summer. What look like odd things on top of the soil are egg shells and oat straw (the bits left over after I’ve made an oat straw infusion drink for me).

small raised bed

The cherry tree with all its lovely blossoms.

cherry tree

And finally a corner of the gravel area in the backgarden.

back garden gravel area

That’s it for now. I’ve just received my copy of Coudre c’est facile (a fab french sewing magazine) where there is 2 pages about me so stay tuned as I will blog about that next time.

Russian doll makeup bag giveaway

I’m very excited this week as the ad i bought on Nataliecreates blog is now live. It’s been up for 2 days now and there are lots of viewers but only a few clicks, which apparently is normal as the number of click is usually less than 1% of the number of views (according to Passionfruitads). Still, it is an experiment and at only $10 for a month, it is worth trying. I actually had not planned to buy an ad at all but I love Natalie’s blog and when she started offerings ads, I jumped on the chance. I figured that her readers are my target customers so I went for it without any hesitation.

passionfruitad

I used the picture on the back of my new business cards for the banner ad, and made it smaller by using this free imageoptimizer as the banner size had to be 250×125. The picture/banner looks ok on a tablet but does not look sharp enough when viewed on a laptop or desktop, so I think for next time I will need to either use a picture that is already small so it does not lose its sharp quality, or better still I should create a proper banner with my business name on it.

Another thing that I did this week is to test the usability of my blog via Peek. I first read about it on Whileshenaps blog: Peek offers a free 5 minutes video of someone using your site and giving their feedback about it. So I submitted my blog and was impressed by the service, it was very quick and did I say it’s free. Click on the picture below if you would like to view my Peek video (once there you will need to click on the green play button for the video to start):

peek madebylova blog

What do you think? Do you agree with the feedback? I think that she was right in some ways, I need to put a sub heading under my blog title, so that people know what this blog is about straight away (something like: this is a blog about gardening, sewing and running a handmade business), and I also need to put a picture of me on the About Me Page. So those are my tasks for april: improving this blog by making it clearer and less confusing.

Now let’s talk about the giveaway. I recently partnered with one of my favourite bloggers to offer a giveaway on her blog, but the whole thing has been postponed so I decided to do the giveaway on my blog instead. I am offering 3 russian doll pouches, one per winner so I will select 3 winners randomly. All you have to do is check out my main shop and tell me – by leaving a comment here – what is your favourite item in the shop. The giveaway is open till April 3rd midnight (GMT time). It is open to anyone anywhere in the world. This is the picture of the pouch, it can be used as a pencil case but most of my customers use it as a makeup bag. I am offering this particular design as it is the most viewed item in my main shop. The giveaway is for the pouch only, the makeup products in the pictures are not included.

russian doll pencil case

Good luck, and if you would like to partner with me for a mutual giveaway on your blog and mine, please do contact me as I am looking for mutually beneficial blogging partnerships (just leave a comment and I will email you back).

To add a COMMENT (enter the giveaway), please click on “Comment” at the bottom of the post.