It’s been a while!

We lost two very special family members unexpectedly in 2013, one on my husband’s side and one on mine, so it felt that everyone we saw was impacted by the shock. My Phoenix business came into its own, as I stopped what I was doing and was able to be available for our children, and somehow we all began to get through the grief.

A year on, I have just received my Christmas stock, and feel ready to get back to my routine. I am chuffed, and somewhat amazed, to tell you that I have just achieved Senior Trader with Phoenix Trading! The fact that my business could tick along, with brochures, baskets and bags going out to the world, without me having to brave a ‘work’ environment, saved my sanity at the time and I am so thankful for the flexibility of this wonderful company. Thanks also go to my wonderful and loyal customers and my lovely local Team of Traders who make it all worthwhile – thank you!

I am also thrilled to share that Phoenix International Charity (the charity aspect of the Phoenix company) has made a substantial donation to the charity which supports my friend’s daughter, Hope4Mae. All of Phoenix Trading’s Christmas cards support Phoenix International Charity, as well as 3 major national charities each year. As Phoenix Traders we can nominate local causes to have a share of the charity pot, and my nomination of Hope4Mae was successful!

Mae and 'Betsy' - her walker, Sept 2014

Mae and ‘Betsy’ – her walker, Sept 2014

The donation will support Mae’s after-care and rehabilitation, following a pioneering operation to release spasticity in her spine, caused by cerebral palsy. Mae is beginning to stand and walk since her operation, and is beginning to achieve her dream of walking independently. You can read Mae’s story and donate on her website.

So, in the coming weeks I will be bringing you news of great new Phoenix items, the new business opportunity, plus that other word that starts with Chr… and ends with Mum frazzled in a chair after feeding the masses! 😉 In the meantime you can see daily news on my facebook page. Please pop along and say hello!

It’s great to be back! 🙂



In memory of my delightful Nan, much-cherished ‘Ninny’ and general bloomin’ lovely woman, and our wonderful and brave niece. Always remembered xx





Reasons to be cheerful

For reasons I have not yet disclosed here, 2013 has been a particularly trying year for our family. I will, no doubt, find a way of expressing some of the events in due course, but I feel some things are best viewed at a distance.

Suffice to say we have had time to take stock and have become acutely aware of the things we appreciate. Many are things which are directly under our nose and easily overlooked when there are ‘bigger fish to fry’.

Here are a few thoughts on our reasons to be cheerful.

1. The kind words of others. Our family and friends have been a support and, at times, in ways they have not realised. I unexpectedly came across these words on facebook at 3am one ponderous morning and they really resonated with me:

Life isn’t fair, but it’s still good. Life is too short – enjoy it. Cry with someone, it’s more healing than crying alone. Make peace with your past so it won’t screw up the present and the future. It’s okay to let your children see you cry. Don’t compare your life to others; you have no idea what their journey is all about. If a relationship has to be secret, you shouldn’t be in it.  Take a deep breath, it calms the mind. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. It’s never too late to be happy but it’s all up to you and no one else. When it comes time to go after what you love in life, don’t take no for an answer. Burn the nice candles, use the nice sheets, wear the nice lingerie, wear the nice clothes. Don’t save it for a special occasion. Today is special. Over prepare, then go with the flow. No one is in charge of your happiness but you. Frame every so-called disaster with these words: ‘In five years will this matter?’ Always choose life. Forgive but don’t forget. Time heals almost everything. Give time time. However good or bad a situation is, it will change. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved. If we all threw our problems in a pile and we saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back. Envy is a waste of time. Accept what you already have, not what you need. Yield. Friends are the family we choose. Life isn’t tied with a bow, but it’s still a gift.

2. It’s okay to be happy when there is sadness. At a recent family wedding our 6-year-old came up to me, sweaty from dancing and with a beaming smile and whispered ‘Today I forgot to be sad!’ It was wonderful to be able to tell her that she should be enjoying her day and that we were happy to see her smiling. The ways in which children often accept difficult times as part of the process of life is a lesson for us all.

3. You may not have been given all the tools to cope but you can always learn. My experience in mental health as an Occupational Therapist brought me into contact with many people who had been damaged by their past, whether that was from childhood or subsequent life events. The amazing thing about humans is that we are infinitely adaptable. We can collect tools along the way to change the path ahead of us.

4. Find your strengths. It is often only in the face of adversity that we can recognise our strengths. We have recognised that we can pull together through tough times and that we are good at sharing our thoughts and feelings as a family. It’s something that many families don’t have and it is something that can be changed by any given generation.

5. Cherish your successes. We have chosen to live a more simple life so that I may work from home and spend more time with our children. Many things have changed to enable me to do that but we feel that we have made a success of our choices. It is during difficult times that I am so pleased to have made that choice, and to be able to take time to get through at our own pace.

Thinking of anyone else who is going through it at the moment. Take care 🙂

Doing the ‘little things’ for your business WILL add up!

Our youngest is off school with chicken pox this week, putting me firmly into Mummy Mode over Business Mode! Quarantine has given me lots of time to ponder, and to catch up with my blog, social media and sending my new Summer supplement out! Here are my thoughts for today….

Having received support from Success Doncaster (now Business Doncaster) as a small business, I have been lucky to attend a number of introductory workshops about promotion and social media, amongst other things. I have had sage advice from such as Social Media Marketing Angel and Be More Social, which has been invaluable. It has made the technology feel accessible to me, and pushed me to extend my wobbly legs in that direction! (Picture Bambi on ice…?)

One of the main concerns from fellow small business owners on these workshops has been their lack of understanding about social media. Today as I browsed through my facebook newsfeed it dawned on me that, far from being a major social media skills issue, some basic principles were being overlooked at the first hurdle.

I talked at length with one local business owner who wanted to increase her local profile in Doncaster. I loved her product! I shared with her that I have ‘partnered up’ with a couple of other local businesses to make sure we share or comment on each other’s facebook posts, ‘like’ photos or otherwise interact to increase how many people see what we are saying. I asked her if she has a facebook page and she had, but in its infancy. I asked her for a business card and she didn’t have one – she has been in business for two years. I gave her my business card and invited to email/phone/post me her details! She has never been in touch.

Here was an opportunity for two local businesses, with complementary products, to share their reach to a similar audience. All that was needed was a click on ‘like’ when she saw my posts. Nothing technical there. Instead a missed opportunity. I may also have become a customer if I had come away with her details!

This also got me thinking about the pages I see on my newsfeed. I won’t name and shame (far too mean!) but these are my top 5 ‘red rag to a bull’ reasons why some pages won’t be staying when I have my next facebook ‘de-clutter’:

1. ‘Please like if you can see this as my posts are only being seen by about a quarter of my fans…..’ – you know the drill. My newsfeed is littered with these posts – usually copied and pasted. How irritating! How desperate? If you post something that I like, then I will click ‘like’. That will mean more people see it. If it’s not interesting/thought-provoking/ something I want to be associated with I won’t ‘like’ – even if you add a special post urging me to 😉

2. What a ******* day I’ve had. The cat’s been sick, my life is so awful, I hate my job….I have a migraine so I haven’t got all my orders out….no-one knows how hard I work and then this ******* of a customer posts some lies about me. Why do I bother?’ Maybe you shouldn’t? If you can’t wear a professional hat when all around you are losing theirs then at least don’t post about it! If a customer complains about you remember that they are your bread and butter, and a courteous reply to their complaint is likely to have better results.

3. Sharing a cartoon/photo/story that makes you laugh but is in some way offensive to your audience. As your customer, it tells me more about you than I might want to know. I’m not a prude but if it has very strong language, racism, sexism, general bigotry or narrow-mindedness I don’t want to see it and will hide your posts, or ‘unlike’ you. Simples.

4. Bad speling or txt spk. On Twitter I understand. A little. You have limited characters but, even then, I think you can be creative! But on facebook? If you can’t be bothered to check your spelling, use capitals or write the full word, are you really going to ice my child’s birthday cake carefully, or iron my laundry with care? Some ‘ppl’ won’t care but it will instantly switch others off!

5. Ramming it down my throat. I love new products. I love to see new releases from businesses I ‘like’. Even from businesses that aren’t yet known to me – I might find a new product I love! However, streams of uploaded photos all day long drive me potty. It makes me think ‘Oh…it’s that business…again!’ My finger clicks ‘hide posts’ before I even know I’ve done it 😉 You can use scheduled posts on facebook to type all your updates in one sitting and spread them out across the day, or week. you can add new photos to an album, then post the whole album as a link, instead of a stream of photos to your timeline.

I have learned to view social media as a great opportunity to share posts and businesses that I personally like. I have chosen to seek out local businesses and promote the items that I can recommend – the things that I choose to buy. I have found that, for the most part, this has been reciprocated; organically, because we both appreciate the other business or product. And isn’t that what social media should really be about?

Make the most of your community!

I have been struck this week by just how many events are going on in and around Doncaster, many of which are free. I hear a lot of complaining at the school gates about how much it has cost to go bowling / to the cinema / out to eat, so I thought I would collate some of the information together about free (or extremely cheap) local activities. You can also view a ‘Doncaster What’s On’ pdf with all Spring events.

From today until 6th July there is a free exhibition at The Point, showcasing the ‘everyday objects made new; every day for a year; by Jason Taylor. There will be a selection of his favourite creations on display. This is along the same road as The Mac Gallery and you can find all the latest news about their exhibitions on their website.

Bank Holiday weekend looks to be a great opportunity to entertain the kids whilst protecting your pockets!

On Saturday 25th May there will be a free Jazz Day in Doncaster Market, culminating in a parade.

Potteric Carr has a free activity day on Sunday 26th May (10am to 4pm), as part of Yorkshire’s Nature Festival. There will be activities ongoing throughout the day and entry to the Potteric Carr is free on that day.

On 28th May you can join a Teddy Bear’s Picnic Walk as part of the Get Doncaster Walkinginitiative.

On the 28th and 29th May Doncaster Museum is hosting Roman activities at a charge of just £1 per child for materials, adults free.

Sandall Beat Park is a favourite with our kids, hosting frequent holiday activities in the woodland centre (nominal charge for materials), and a rustic wooden play area in the centre of the wood. We often take a picnic and let them run their energies off for free!

For further inspiration about local events and resources you can also visit NetMums website (local activities can be searched by area) and What’s On 4 Me – again there are regional pages for this site, so lots of inspiration!

Whatever you choose to do over the Bank Holiday weekend I hope you have a great time, and save your pennies in the process!


'Walking in the Park' A Phoenix Trading card by Louise Rawlings

‘Walking in the Park’ A Phoenix Trading card by Louise Rawlings


Organising our home

We live in a 1950’s semi which is solid, and roomy, and we love it. One of the draw-backs is that we have filled the rooms. This is not a problem unless we begin decorating or renovating, whereby all that ‘stuff’ has to be housed somewhere else.

We are undertaking a number of projects at home at the moment. We didn’t intend to have them all running concurrently….it just sort of rolled into a steady rumble of chaos! I have recently realised that my husband is a perfectionist. Whilst admirable, this does mean he is less apt than myself to expedite a project and run for the finish post. It has to be just so….

So…., we have a ‘project pending’ in the toilet. We got as far as installing a new bathroom but, since the toilet is in a separate room, it didn’t get the same treatment at the time. It became one of those unforseen BIG projects, since the plaster fell off when the toilet was installed. Cue major plastering job.

We have a project underway in the hall and stairs. Since the plaster came off with the old anaglypta wallpaper we have recently had the whole area re-plastered. We are now in the throes of stripping back the heavily glossed door frames in order to stain them, and then paint the walls. The carpet is ordered and waiting patiently in a local carpet shop….I am desperate for it to replace the naked wooden stairs. Hubby is sanding everything in sight and cooing over the silky finish. It’s an endearing sight, if wearing a little thin 😉

I have resigned myself instead to manage things which are the ‘little’ jobs that get overlooked. I came across this article on Buzz Feed, which gave me hope to tackle the ‘stuff’, whilst hubby coos over the woodwork! I particularly like the idea of switching your hangers to easily show up the clothes you don’t use!


wardrobe clear-out


I have also organised our ‘stuff’ into boxes, weeding out the items that are used less. I have set some aside and, if not used before the projects are completed, they will be heading off for eBay or our local charity shop. It’s amazing how many items we have accrued over the years and I know we are more frugal than many of our friends!

It just so happens that all of this disorganisation has arisen in the midst of the kids’ birthdays and some calendar events for my business! It looks like we will be busy for the next couple of months 😀



Free days out to National Trust properties – this weekend only!

National Trust

Take a look at The National Trust website for special news of limited FREE access to local treasure houses this weekend only!

From the 20th to 21st April 2013 you can visit a local National Trust property for free. Terms and conditions are listed on the site. There are a number of participating properties and most of these usually charge admission. Do check carefully though, as the first list is those properties NOT participating in the offer! With over 200 properties participating you are sure to find one of interest near to you.

We are looking forward to a family day out, picnic organised, and lots of fresh air! Let’s hope the sun keeps shining until then!

What IS on the High Street?

My obsession with all things stationery is becoming a bit of a legend and, some might say, making me appear dull….I can deal with it! This, however , is far from dull and would brighten up any day in the office – at home or work.


Fab hilighter pens from Not On The High Street

Fab hilighter pens from ‘Not On The High Street’


I love this, and I like to support smaller companies. ‘Not on the High Street’ helps the consumer to do that in some respects, but we don’t always know where our purchases originate. Running my own business has made me more considerate about my buying habits. I have come across some lovely items whilst supporting local businesses and spending less of my cash in the large High Street stores. I think I still have a long way to go in my attempts to be a more savvy and ethical consumer.

I recently read about a family trying to support British business, and I was really impressed by their efforts. In their contribution to boost the economy and support British industry, The Bradshaws have pledged to buy only British products during 2013. You can see their progress, and trials, on their blog, A Truly British Family, well worth a read. The biggest surprise seems to have been that many items we take for granted are not actually British, but imported by British companies.

It also made me think of my ex-pat best friend, now residing in USA. She often makes pleas for Yorkshire tea bags, Walker’s crisps and Irn Bru, which just aren’t comparable or replaceable! Maybe when there is a plethora of choice for us every day we forget the home-grown items at our finger tips?

You can see a list of British suppliers on the blog, and you can happily add Phoenix Trading to that for your cards and stationery.

What’s your favourite British product or business?


Union Jack Heart from Phoenix Trading. Greeting cards made in the UK.

‘Union Jack Heart’ from Phoenix Trading. Greeting cards made in the UK.



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