Monday, 10 December 2018

Upcycling vintage furniture

In my new home I have gained a love of antique and vintage furniture from my OH (Sweep) who used to be an antiques dealer. His knowledge and enthusiasm for older furniture has inspired me and I've starting looking at these items with new potential. In the past I had delved into junk shops and found old pine that I've painted in eggshell white, such as my beloved dresser and my church pew that think came from a chapel in North Wales. I love the history that these items carry and the stories that they could tell. My church pew has a number on the side of it, I wonder who sat there and where they lives, what kind of life did they leave....
chalky white upcycled dresser

So....lately we have been going to local auctions and picking up all kinds of goodies, some unusual items for the home, things to sell on and furniture items to complete the home. It's an evening out with home cooked food and some funny characters, this is rural Shropshire and it's a whole new world to me. Whilst we have been going there, we have picked up cabinets and desks, some to give makeovers to. We both love Halloween, so we had the idea of making a Halloween cabinet for all our spooky treasures that we have been collecting. I love this upcycling  and so I was super pleased when Door Furniture Direct got in touch with regards their campaign around upcycling using their great range of crystal and marble door knobs. 

We have had the idea to paint the cabinets in a crackled black look with green underneath for a  Gothic feel and for door knobs I thought the quintessential Halloween colours would look amazing. I found these fantastic coloured cut glass cupboard knobs in amber, green, black and purple and I thought they would make for the perfect Halloween cabinet to display some of our delicate vintage spook finds so they are able to be seen but protected. I picked up two different sizes for a contrast on the drawers and cabinet doors. 
Coloured crystal door knobs
There are a choice of metal rose too, to compliment your piece of furniture - polished brass, polished chrome or satin chrome. I chose the satin and I particularly love the purple cut glass cupboard knobs, the light shines lovely through them and I think they'd be great on a bedroom wardrobe or dresser too. 
Antique Cabinet

We are going to look for some paint that the vintage shop in my old town sells and Sweep might try some arty effects on another cupboard we have purchased, he really wants to paint a vintage style jack o'lantern. I know it's nearly Christmas but Halloween is such a collectable love of ours so it will carry on all year. We may even try to sell some for other enthusiasts. Back to the auctions over the winter to gather more interesting pieces of furniture and I hope to have a finished piece to show you soon. Upcycling is so satisfying and I'm glad to be having a go again, creating unique items for your home with your own stamp on them. Plus going to auctions is a lot of fun, quality pieces, well made and often purchased for so little so an inexpensive way to do the home up with furniture that will last. Adding different cupboard knobs instantly adds a new look and only takes minutes, it's a good way to match to any other colour accents in a room. 

Doing our home up is going to take a while what with work and children but upcycling gives me a buzz as it is a quick win, a lovely addition in not much time for instant room updates.

*Collaborative post

Thursday, 29 November 2018

The very start of Christmas

Over the weekend we headed over to the first significant event of the Christmas period, the Ludlow Medieval Fayre. However, there was so much festivity on the way that they we actually arrived there later in the afternoon. The first little distraction was Stokesay Castle and the adjacent church, looking like a little fairytale escape and a medieval taste of things to come later that day. We stumbled by some broken boughs of fir and cones that we bundled into the car to take home and decorate with, now adorning the kitchen. The church was framed with holly trees absolutely bursting with berries, has it been an especially good year? The birds must be very happy about that.
Stokesay Castle

Back into the car, we then stopped off at a frost fayre in Church Stretton with stalls of crafts such as knitted teddy bears and Christmas cards, all the usual crafty things, glass and jewellery and mince pies and raffle tickets. Nothing grabbed our interest but it did get me thinking about making a start on some Christmas shopping and what I need to buy. Little Bird is especially tricky to buy for as he has autism and doesn’t understand the concept of toys so much, often clothing is a better option for him. Places like the Condor UK Online shop with a large range of knitwear would be good for some snuggly items for him, he loves to be cosy at home more than anything. I’m also looking for a dressing gown and some pyjamas for him for over the Christmas period, perfect for watching The Snowman in, as is our tradition. Clothing is such a great present option, from children’s cotton socks to boots and jumpers, it’s probably what I’ll ask the family to get him too. Off out into the cold, we then had a little look around the pretty town itself with steam engines chuffing around and shop windows full of seasonal cheer.
painted Father Christmas

I’ve been to Church Stretton before, significantly here when I wrote about it, little did I know that I’d be living not so far away! Funny how life pans out. We had a browse around charity shops and I bought a couple of Christmas carol cd’s for the car, had coffee and cake, then did a little homeware shopping. There is a wonderful store that sells ironware for the house – brackets, signs, door furniture etc and they do garden stakes according to the season. Near Halloween, Sweep picked up a pumpkin, witch and bat one, today I found a Rudolph one, promise to show soon with all the rest of my Christmas goodies. The florists here had a selection of wintry feel plants, skimmia, cyclamen and small firs, I made a mental note to look out for some back in Shrewsbury to tidy up the brick planter at the front of the house. I drive myself silly with checklists that I have to complete before Christmas, not only gifting but smartening the house up and making sure it looks just right. This year being a little tricky as I only moved across to Shropshire in the summer.
Christmas plants

The houses here are very pretty and we played a little game of ‘where would we live….’ Obviously out of our price league but fun anyway, walking down the roads by the church, looking in estate agent windows and discussing where we could live when we retire (long way in the future!) Perfectly symmetrical houses with cute windows and some already with Christmas trees and lights put us in such a good mood. Father Christmas drove past driving a tractor and waved, so all in all a very good start before we had got to the Medieval Fayre…..and that will be another post….
Holly by a church

*Collaborative post

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

6 living room design tips

By following a few simple guidelines, you can create a living room that is both functional and beautiful

The living room is home to many things. A sofa for you and your family to lounge on, a television, a coffee table for drinks and snacks, and shelving for all your books and knick knacks. If you have an open plan living room, you may even need to create a space for dining.

It may feel as though simply finding a spot for all these items is enough hassle, without the added worries of decoration and styling, but by bearing a few simple design rules in mind, you can give yourself a living room that is more than the sum of its parts. Here are a handful of tips for you to consider when decorating your living room.

Image source Vinterior 

Create different 'departments'

This is an especially useful tip if you're decorating a more open plan space. Creating different 'departments' of your living room for different purposes - for example, an area for the sofa, coffee table and television, and another for a dining table, or desk and bookcases - prevents the space from becoming too jumbled, while keeping a nice sense of cohesion. Separate them with rugs, to create little zones.

Vintage chairs

Chairs are primarily functional items, but they are also the main focal point of any living room. Investing in some vintage chairs is an excellent way to introduce some character to the room. Antique furniture has history, guaranteed uniqueness, and makes for an interesting conversation piece. 'Vintage' is a term that encapsulates a myriad of styles, from Victorian parlour settees to whimsical art deco chairs. Companies like Vinterior specialise in traditional furniture, and have hundreds of different chairs in their collection, to suit every aesthetic
Colourful vintage armchair
Image source Vinterior

Keep it clean

You don't want your living room to appear too cluttered, so try and select a few key items of decoration, like a plant, flowers or a handful of tasteful ornaments, and be sure to give them room to breathe. However, if you're a natural hoarder and have a lot of treasured items you'd like to have on display, give them their own special area in a glass fronted cabinet. This will keep them safe, dust free and give them the attention they deserve.

Size matters

There may be a large corner sofa that's piqued your interest, but unless you have a large living room with plenty of space to spare, then it would be best to choose something smaller. Take measurements of the space you have available, and select pieces that fit those dimensions. Furniture that is too small will get lost in the space, while items that are overly large will get in the way and appear ridiculous.
Large Green Cupboard
Image source Vinterior

Keep windows clear

One of the most common mistakes people make when rearranging their living room is to put a sofa or other large furniture underneath a window. Not only does this make cleaning the window sill and watering any plants more difficult, it also limits the amount of natural light the room has access to. Arrange your furniture around the window to allow as much light as possible to flood into the space.

Play with it!

Don't let yourself get stuck in a rut. All too often, when we buy new furniture to replace the old, we end up putting it in the same place. Redecorating a room is an opportunity to let your creative side loose. Move furniture about and take pictures of it from different angles. Something as simple as moving an armchair could drastically change the way you feel about the space.

*Collaborative Post

Saturday, 20 October 2018

Email Marketing Advice, 8 newsletter subject lines that aren't just "October newsletter" :Guest Post

One aspect of blogging is sending out a newsletter to your followers, which admittedly I haven't done as yet, perhaps something to think about. However, I receive plenty of newsletters in my inbox each day both from blogs and companies, some do entice me to open and read about the latest happenings. But what makes me open them and which ones do I ignore? Certainly ones where I feel I am going to learn something or gain some benefit to my knowledge will encourage me to open and read, or if I feel the article will be an interesting read over a coffee as an escape. The email marketing platform provider Emma have a wealth of information to help with your campaigns, providing software with the tools to provided effective results no matter the size of the business or organisation. Here they provide some information which I found useful around my thoughts on newsletter campaigns and what encourages people to click and open.....
Desk and laptop

Email newsletters are having their day in the sun.
In fact, the Neilson Norman Group did some compelling research that showed that people preferred getting company-oriented information in email newsletter form versus hearing from them on Facebook. Sorry, Facebook.
And companies are riding the email newsletter wave, as further research shows that 83% marketers for B2B companies use them.
But newsletters are just one type of email marketing—how can you increase your newsletter’s open rate by differentiating it from other types of marketing email?
The answer: subject lines.

Crafting compelling email newsletter subject lines

While email newsletters can be used to sell a product or service, they are more focused on the following:
  • Informing readers of industry or company news
  • Reinforcing your company’s reputation
  • Building a relationship with your audience
  • Highlighting the usefulness of products and services
An intriguing subject line is even more critical for these emails, which is why you should never use the word “newsletter” in the subject line.
You want your audience to know there’s a treasure trove of good information, just a click away. You don’t want them to think, “Oh, another newsletter.”
Let’s examine what makes an outstanding subject line.

The hallmark of a great subject line

Great subject lines have certain attributes that help pique a recipient’s interest enough to get them to open the email — and that’s the goal.
Let’s look at some of the characteristics of phenomenal subject lines.

1. They’re personal.

Personalization in emails is key. In fact, personalization is shown to increase conversions by 10% and click-through rates by a whopping 14%.
Using personalization in the subject line is one of the easiest ways to get your recipient to take notice, and it’s simple as doing this:
  • Jersey Mike’s Subs: Lisa, earn double points today only.
  • Pizza Hut: Bob, try our new treat.
  • Guess: Lindsey, check out these hand-picked looks.
Simply write a good subject line and insert the recipient’s name where it makes sense.

2. They’re urgent.

Urgency is powerful, but you have to exercise restraint so your subject lines don’t come across like a ShamWOW infomercial (“Act now, before they’re gone!).
That being said, urgency can encourage those opening clicks, as long as you’ve taken the time to tone down your language and phrase things creatively—like these do:
  • Jaybird: Last chance to save big this holiday.
  • Pizza Hut: Tonight only. Save $5 on your order.
  • Sephora: Last day: Pick your 5 faves.
  • Converse: Ending in 24 hours: 25% off sitewide.
  • HP: Time is running out…Save up to $300.
  • Rapha: Your savings code expires today.
All of these subject lines manage to convey the “Act now!” message in a way that’s palatable. Also, don’t overuse these or you’ll risk toning down the excitement.

3. They’re mysterious.

Subject lines that are mysterious can pique curiosity, and that’s a good thing — as long as what you’re delivering is in line with your brand.
Check out this one from Digital Marketer:
“Good news for people who love bad news . . .”
Who wouldn’t be intrigued by that one? Don’t overdo these, though. Using these kinds of subject lines in every email will wear down subscribers.
Also, beware of using obscure topics that don’t really dovetail with your industry or image, which could be seen as spam.

4. They’re relevant.

Normally, if you’ve subscribed to a list, you’re interested in timely, relevant news pertaining to that company or industry. Here are a few sample subject lines for some niche markets:
For a hiking enthusiast8 Travel Tips for Hiking Pike’s Peak
For a digital marketerHow Slack Generates 100,000,000 Website Visitors Per Month
Using topics that are trending or headline news from a niche industry in your subject lines cannot only encourage recipients to click and read on—they’ll also establish you or your brand as a content authority.

5. They contain an offer.

Who doesn’t love an offer? You can craft email subject lines that include this tempting morsel but be careful to deliver what you promise.
Also, don’t use the words, “free” or “rich” in your subject lines—those may land you in the spam folder.
How about these?
  • SephoraYou’re invited: 10% off for Beauty Insiders.
  • IKEASave with this week’s flyer.
  • TopShopShop now. Save big.
  • RaphaComplimentary gift wrap on all purchases.
Notice how Rapha conveys their gift wrap is free without using the “F” word? This proves that you can get your point across without resorting to typical marketing-speak.

6. They’re short.

Return Path researched over 2 million emails to uncover the perfect subject line length. The results?
Most subject lines came in at around 41 to 50 characters and 61- to 70-character lines had the best read rates.
The rate dropped significantly for those over 100 characters, though, so pay attention to every word you use.

7. They use “power words.”

“Power words” are words that can be used to persuade or trigger the response or emotion you desire. These words can touch upon a reader’s emotional, intellectual, spiritual, or analytical sides.
Here are some examples of powerful words to use in your next subject lines.
  • Astonishing
  • Banned
  • Priceless
  • Confidential
  • Unexplained
  • Certified
  • Dependable
  • Lifetime
  • Worldwide
  • According to
  • No risk
  • Easy
  • Cheat-sheet
  • Downloadable
  • Formula
  • On-demand
  • No problem
There are, of course, words to elicit the right emotion in your audience, whether it’s appealing to their curiosity, their hopes, or needs.
If you’ve properly segmented your audience, finding the right power word should be a breeze.

8. They allude to scarcity.

Nothing makes people get moving like good old Fear of Missing Out (FOMO).
What would you think if you read:
“Only 10 spots left before the Millionaire Moneymaker course closes.”
If you were interested in making lots of money, you might just have to click.
Crafting a subject line, which alludes that not acting quickly might just cause your recipient to miss out on something really amazing, is a great way to improve your open rate.

Wrap up

Subject lines are critical for getting your email newsletter seen, opened, and read. While there are many ways to craft effective subject lines, using the word “newsletter” within the subject is never advised.
You’re offering not just a newsletter, but a well-defined goldmine of relevant content your subscriber needs to access.
Calling it a “newsletter” up front takes away from the effectiveness of whichever of the techniques we’ve listed you’ve decided to employ.
So, gather up your power words and choose the technique that makes the most sense for your audience, then watch the open rates skyrocket!

Content from Emma

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

5 great days out for your next school trip

Learning outside of the classroom is vital for children as they can get hands-on with real world challenges, lessons and ideas. I love it when the children come back from a school trip, as you can guarantee they’re enthusiastic, motivated and ready to learn more about the subject. Hopefully these ideas will inspire your next trip, so come back and tell us how it went, if you choose any!
The Making of Harry Potter
Inspire your class with the secrets behind the films, with Warner Brothers Studio Tours of the Making of Harry Potter. Not only will your children receive a one-hour lesson taught and planned by teachers in the onsite classroom, but they’ll also have the chance to fly their own broomstick! Unlock their creativity with this unforgettable experience and bring the magic to life. The day is part of a cross-curriculum education programme, meeting learning objectives across the Key Stages. You’ll receive resources to use before and after the trip, documenting everything from the arts and props used in the films, to the special effects and technology.
Harry Potter Diagon Alley

Home to history's greatest playwright, this quaint town is guaranteed to spark interest in William Shakespeare’s work. Take a trip up the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Tower and see for miles around, before exploring the town and all its hidden alleys and charming attractions. Then, enjoy an atmospheric backstage tour of the theatre, where the stories and legends are bound to captivate the entire class. Finally, settle down for a production and show your class the mastery of the Bard. His plays were written to be performed, not read and seeing them on-stage truly brings the stories to life.

Science Museum
Give your class a hands-on approach to science and all the wondrous things it contains. From deepest, darkest space to practical everyday experiments, the Science Museum inspires learning at any age. With specific itineraries depending on your Key Stage, you and your entire class will love the interactivity and immersion. Plus, there are plenty of shows and demos throughout.

Local farms
Do some investigating and see whether your local farms – or maybe ones further afield – offer school trips. Getting out into nature and learning where food comes from is a vital part of a child’s education. Farmers have a huge wealth of knowledge to share and whether they’re helping your class identify birds and butterflies or showing them new-born lambs, every child is guaranteed to have a wonderful day. Places like Odds Farm and Countryfile’s Cotswold Farm Park are specifically designed for visiting schools. They’re the perfect place to introduce your class to everything from soil and erosion to caring for animals.
Autumn farm pumpkins

Imperial War Museum
Let your class relive history at the incredible Imperial War Museum. From evaluating sources on the spot to meeting veterans and evacuees, you can take your textbook learnings and transform them into reality. Depending on the tour you book, your class can speak to people who were alive during the periods of history you’re studying, giving them real insight to what they’re learning about.
*Collaborative post