Saturday, 31 December 2011

Goodbye 2011

As the sun sets on another year, time to reflect on what's happened to me during 2011. It's been a challenging year, one where my financial problems have continued to drag me down and hold me back. A year when family relationships have continued to deteriorate and I'm being pushed into making some decisions that will make me very unpopular. But it's also a year where I've made lots of new friends, been charmed by some very positive people and finally been handed the chance to get off unemployment benefit and into self employment.

So here are just 5 important lessons I've learned over the past 12 months which I'll take with me into 2012 and beyond.

1) You might see something as your destination but it turns out to be a stepping stone. You'll meet someone or do something and you'll feel it's the most important thing that's ever happened to you. Then it turns out not to be as good as you thought it was going to be. But on the way you've made new friends, done something you never imagined you would do, or set yourself up to take on an even bigger challenge. So don't feel bad if the thing you originally thought you wanted didn't turn out to be so good. Look at the positive outcomes you got from it and be happy for those who got what they wanted too.

2) Take baby steps towards your goals. If there's something you really want to do but it seems too daunting and massive, just do one little thing towards it every day. Even if it's just a couple of minutes, if you're consistent in doing these things they'll soon add up. Before too long, living the dream could become a reality!

3) Respect yourself, don't wait for others to respect you. Sometimes it doesn't matter how much you do, you can't make people think better of you if they really don't want to. So don't worry what they think, just always ensure your own conscience is clear.

4) Positivity is contagious. Get to know people with a can-do attitude to life instead of those who just want you to know your place (even if relentless positivity can come across as naive!) A little gesture of encouragement is better than a thousand put-downs. Make the most of that energy boost like a surfer rides a wave.

5) It's better to have tried and failed than never to have tried at all. Life is far too short, will you honestly be able to look back on your time and say you had a go at everything you wanted to? That you used your talents to the fullest? That you lived to work instead of worked to live? Not all of us want to do the same things and we should never give in to peer pressure because we want to live our lives in different ways. Be yourself, not a sheep!

Whether you look back on 2011 as one of your favourite years or one you'll be glad to get rid of, I wish you all a very happy, successful and fulfilling New Year. Thank you for reading my blog and I hope you'll join me on my big creative adventure in 2012!

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Merry Christmas!

Following in my long tradition* of Christmas cartoons, here's a little offering to wish all my friends and followers a very happy Christmas.

However you mark the festive period, I hope it's a happy and fun time for you. Sadly that's not the case for many people so please take a moment to spare a thought for those who find it stressful, lonely or who are feeling the loss of a loved one.

My best wishes to everyone who takes time to look at my little ole' blog, thank you for your support and I'll see you back here very soon.

(*Est. 2010)

Friday, 23 December 2011

IOU 2 Illo's

It's December (you might have noticed). Being the case, I'm holding my breath every time I turn on this computer because, for the past 2 Decembers, my darling laptop has broken down. (Excuse me as I reach for the nearest wooden object and give it a quick superstitious knock.)

The first time this happened, the blog was in its infancy and I'd just embarked on an ambitious festive project, illustrating my own daily advent calendar. For 2 of those days I could only run on the battery and just had enough power to make a plain version of the graphics, with the intention of completing them later.

It hardly seemed appropriate to post Christmas graphics at any other time of year but, last winter, I was without my computer for over 3 months so I totally missed that window. So now, a mere 24 months late, I'm very proud to present the final 2 illustrations of my 2009 advent calendar!

This time, if you click either picture, you'll be taken back to the December 2009 archive. I've checked all the links out and updated a couple that no longer work, so click away and explore all the fun Christmas surprises I found for you.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Last Orders Please!

Well this is it. This weekend marks your LAST CHANCE to order from Café Press if you want to guarantee delivery in time for Christmas. You could always leave it up until about the 20th and pay extra for express delivery but I really would hate to see you forking out more money than is necessary. Not if it isn't coming into my pocket, at any rate! (Incidentally the standard post deadline from my Zazzle shop has passed so it's express delivery only now.)

So do please take a few minutes to browse my shops and treat a loved one (or yourself) to a unique item of giftware and clothing. You won't find them anywhere else but here and you'll end up with something that no one else in the world has got, for only a few pounds! Just like the lucky recipients of these sales which I made this week:

Octopus Women's Dark Tee Shirt in Caribbean Blue, £18.50 reduced from £22.00 - Click here to buy one

Octopus 10" Wall Clock, £11.00 - Click here to buy one

So all the shops are now fully stocked with the latest products and here's my pick of what's new in store.

iPad 2 cases join the growing list of gadget accessories

Kids' pyjamas are back in store after being temporarily unavailable.

The ultimate in cosiness for a long, cold winter.

Luxury suede pillows in a choice of colours

A wide range of purses, bags and gadget sleeves

New shirts in the womenswear and menswear departments

Quality reusable bottles for hot and cold drinks

30 piece jigsaw puzzles for a little light brain training

Note: Prices in UK£ are converted from US$ and subject to change based on daily exchange rates.

As usual, look to the left of this page where you'll see each of these designs has its own button. Just click on the one you like and you'll be taken to its shop where you'll find all the goodies in store.

Do have a good look at what's on offer and don't forget to share a link to this page with anyone else who would be interested in my range of unique clothes and giftware. Just don't forget to place your orders by THIS WEDNESDAY, 14th December, if you want to receive them before Christmas.

Next: watch out for a few little festive treats as we head towards the holidays. I hope to see you back here soon!

Sunday, 4 December 2011

One Week On - The Adventures Of Frosty The Snowperve

So there ends my first week officially trading. Not that my bank balance would know it. I've still got to master that tricky little job of getting people to part with their money.

It's strange not having to go to the Job Centre, the Chamber of Commerce or anywhere else they might want to shunt me. It feels like I've forgotten something and I'm going to be punished. But no, I really am getting the New Enterprise Allowance, it's gone into my bank at the first time of asking which is a rarity! It's creepy how institutionalised those couple of years of being unemployed has made me, without even realising it. It's a big leap in the mindset to get used to being totally responsible for my own fate from now on.

I'm progressing with updating the Café Press shops, I need a big push to get those finished in the next couple of days. That would still give me time to get a Christmas project started although I think I'll have to scale it back and do the full release next Christmas instead.

My priority for now is just to get people aware that I've got lots of great Christmas gifts for sale, so that means daily promotion on Twitter and Facebook plus trying to find places to promote this blog. I can't stress enough, I really need YOU to help me by sending my links to anyone who might want to buy from me. My Enterprise Allowance is just a little safety cushion and already it's been gobbled up by a sort-of unexpected £140 bill. (Sort-of in that they've had 6 months to chase me up for it but of course the obvious time to do it is 3 weeks before Christmas!)

So over on Café Press I've achieved my main aim of getting my 4 Christmas shops updated. This has been a massive job because nobody's going to look at them before November so they're not worth doing earlier in the year. Last Christmas, as you may recall if you've been following my story, I was totally without a computer so I couldn't have done it anyway. So that's 2 years' catching up I've had to do. It happens to have been the busiest year I've known on that site in terms of them adding new products, so I've had over 300 of them to install, then individually tweak the print sizes and retail prices.

I've also had a bit of a problem with one of my designs in particular. This guy...

Cheery and cuddly he may be but he was giving me a headache. You see, the Café Press graphics tool doesn't give you the option to scroll your image around the product. It's automatically centred. Which meant that on the women's shirts his twiggy hands ended up in a rather unfortunate position. Let's just say I ended up calling him Frosty The Snowperve. So I've had to tweak the old fella and now the women's tees have him with his hands firmly by his sides and out of trouble! (Click on the illustrations to see them in more detail.)

The category that's had the biggest overhaul this season has been the bags. You'll find a lovely range of 13 new bags, wallets and purses, including gadget sleeves for Kindles, iPads and Nooks. These bags are perfect for getting you in the mood for Christmas shopping, so much so that 4 of them...

...come with a little extra surprise...

This bonus image, printed on the reverse side, is ONLY available on these 4 products in the 4 Christmas shops and is bound to put a smile on everyone's face on a busy, cold December High Street.

The hundreds of little snowflakes in this design inspired the other 2 shops, which are variations on a theme depending on whether you'd prefer a British or American date format. Here they are on some more winter must-haves.

The best-dressed way to open presents, in special Christmas nightclothes.

When it's cold on the outside, keep warm on the inside with a range of Thermos products.

Also exclusive to the 4 Christmas shops are these special gift stockings. The one on the left is also available in green.

To shop for any of these products, which aren't available anywhere else, look to the left of this page and click on the design you like.

I'm currently in the process of getting the latest products into the other Café Press shops. Watch this space for more news and my pick of the goodies on offer. Better still, follow me on Twitter or send a Facebook friend request (mention that you found me via this blog) and you'll be the first to know.

Have a great week and happy shopping!