Monday, 19 September 2011

Book giveaway: The Eco-Friendly Home, worth £14.99

Win The EcoFriendly Home!
Win The Eco-Friendly Home, worth £14.99!
I have a copy of this insightful book to give away to a lucky reader (you might want it for yourself or to give as a present). All you need to do is leave a comment using your blog name or online profile on my 1930s house blog (click here) Competition closes on 30 October 2011 and is open to UK mainland only. Only one entry per household please.

PS. If you are into DIY and female, there's a Haynes manual for us ladies... Tips on those niggling jobs and a few 'man' jokes thrown in! Click here for more info.

Testing, testing.... tinyme school labels

tinyme school label offer - save over 50% on labels

I was one of the lucky bloggers invited to test tinyme labels. I was offered tinyme's basic mixed pack, which has three label options with a mind-boggling choice of 90 different design and colours. The pack contains 48 Standard Vinyl Name Labels (51.5mm x 24mm);  48 Iron-On Clothing Labels (51.5mm x 24mm) and 24 Large Vinyl Name Labels (104mm x 24mm). Basically you stick the vinyl labels and iron on the others. The result was pretty cute  (I won't upload a photo as it has my daughter's full name).

Michela chose the label's design and went for pink/purple with a butterfly and dragonfly motifs. The labels arrived pretty quickly, before the mentioned 10 working days. As I ordered them quite late, I thought they wouldn't arrive in time for the first day of school but they did! The labels are made to order, so this is pretty good service.

I ordered my sample before the massive promotion you can see in the photo above, but the value of my order was already discounted from £41.97 to £25.99. This didn't include postage and handling, which are charged per order value. So if the order value is up to £24.99 you pay £2.99, £5.99 for higher orders.

Sticking the labels
With my iron in my right hand and a piece of baking paper on the iron-on label, I pressed down for the indicated time and nearly melt the first label. The instructions specify hot iron, but I don't advise using the max setting. I reduced the heat and doubled up the baking paper, which meant it took a tiny bit longer but the label was OK and stuck to the fabric.

I used vinyl labels for shoes, book bag and Michela's rucksack. She is in reception so she doesn't have as much kit as older children.

One week on and one machine load for uniforms, I can say the iron-on labels washed well (I wash at 30 or 40 degrees). The label inside a pair of sock was slightly wrinkly but it could have the spin cycle, I use a powerful one to minimise drying time. The vinyl labels really stuck well to the inside of her shoes, sweat didn't dislodge them. I will update this post later in the school year to let you know what happens.

Value for money - you get what you pay for!
I am a school label virgin because I used my partner's old sewing-on labels at preschool (by some coincidence, they share the same initials and obviously the surname). This old-fashioned type is still on sale but made with more modern materials. The design is pretty basic, you have a white label with the name in a colour or you have a background colour with the name in white. The cheapest deal online was £11.99 for 30 regular vinyl labels, 30 small vinyl labels and 30 Navy iron-on labels. Iron-on labels only come in white with navy print. Shipping delivery for this order would be £1.99.

Aside the basic design, which won't be a hit for a little girl who loves colours and patterns, the limit of 19 characters and space means I would have had to chop her name. I suppose I could have used her initials, but then her dad's old labels could have done well for another year. Also you get less labels numberwise - this makes a difference for iron-on labels as you use more of those.

STOP PRESS There is a great promotion running at tinyme, which means that if you haven't got your school labels sorted yet, you get a great deal - 150 premium labels for £23.99. If you want to find out more, just click here! Browse this site for other cute kids products such as height charts, wall decor, personalised books... and much more.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Creativity, cupcakes and civic pride

Last Saturday I attended a women writer's day at the Creative Salon, part of the Cambridge Art Salon, a "public space for nurturing art". Click here for an article in the local press.  Amazingly I recognised two women who were there, Sue from Sookio, whom I briefly spotted at a TedxGranta event in February and local entrepreneur Sue Flay who runs The Secluded Tea Party events. Sue brought some mesmerising chocolate cherry cupcakes and a decadent chocolate cake, which we scoffed at the end of the day after a champagne toast.

Fire and Knives
There was plenty of time of pure writing but what really made my day were the two talks. The writer who was supposed to give us a talk about her new book wasn't well we had two surprise guest speakers, which really engaged our small group of nine women. The first speaker was Shelley Davies, who discussed self-publishing in the virtual age and how it worked miracles for writers who were fobbed off by traditional publishing firms but were subsequently offered book deals when their ebooks proved popular. The second speaker was Tim Hayward, a writer and photographer, and the new owner of Fitzbillies, a renown cafe/patisserie in central Cambridge. Fitzbillies closed down in February but Tim and his partner bought it, restored it and re-opened it in August. Tim also publishes a food quarterly magazine, called Fire & Knives. He gave us a thrilling account on how he became a food writer and how he recently managed to secure a book deal. He mentioned the word luck a few times, but it was obvious that he worked hard for years at building his own career. After the talks we had some quiet time for writing, then we closed with a champagne toast. I cycled back home full of cake, creative ideas and three revised chapters of my alchemical novel. As far as I know one other member blogged about the day (if anybody else wrote about it, I'm happy to display a link) - read poet Shaista's post on the Creative Salon's writing day by clicking here.

On Wednesday it was my birthday and Michela's first day at school. My treat was lunch at Seven Days, an authentic Chinese restaurant in Regent Street that was recommended to me by a Chinese researcher whom I met at the Grad Pad. I had their excellent pork and prawn dumpling, followed by stir-fried duck and jellyfish. I drank prune tea, which came in a pretty bottle. I took a photo of it and might upload it at some point.

On Thursday I went to the Love Cambridge's AGM, where I heard great things about Cambridge's retail scene and overall appeal as tourist destination (here is the civic pride bit). Most members come from the retail, entertainment and hospitality sectors so I was a fish out of water but somehow I was asked to leave a couple of business cards. I spoke to very interesting people, including the Mayoress, a cabinet maker, two women running a marketing company with a cute tree frog logo and various other members. The event was held at the Royal Cambridge Hotel and there was a buffet at the end. I cycled back through an eerily deserted central Cambridge.

The new-recipe Fitzbillies' bun

I conclude with a photo of a Fitzbillies' bun, which was a lovely treat but seemed to have inspired mixed opinions at Agenda magazine. Having read the review and found out that the recipe doesn't include nasty fats, I now wonder if they will ever make those lovely lardy cakes I used to buy before Fitzbillies shut down.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Social media and relationship marketing for dummies

 Here is a brief, off-the-top-of my-head reflection on social media and relationship marketing, which I found among my drafts. I welcome comments.
A selection of social media tools

This concept has been carried over to the online arena, where relationships with potential customers are even more sophisticated and go beyond old demographic approaches. Take a hit TV show, whatever the target audience was in terms of age, gender, education or income, the reality is that the show is successful because it has broad appeal - which proves that interests and hobbies do trascend class, age and gender.

Brands are now keen for bloggers to feature their products and services. They are busy launching websites where they offer information, support and tools to build virtual communities that will generate sales and new customers. Welcome to relationship marketing!

Brands are also invading Facebook and Twitter to create a buzz around their products. There is no virtual space where a brand fears to tread - although, apparently, LinkedIn doesn't generate sales, despite the large amount of fake discussions.

So whether you have a degree or basic education, you are sophisticated or down to earth, you are working class or middle class, you are a Sun or Guardian reader, you are bound to find a website through which you can interact with like-minded individuals while being targeted as a consumer.

The market for consumer goods is mind-boggingly complex... take crisps: you get the down to earth crisp, the fun crisp, the sophisticated hand cooked crisp, the oriental or unusual flavoured crisp, the retro crisp (salt and shake).