Monday, 13 August 2012

so I made a cake.

I think this yummy cake is a Pinterest find although I can't find the pin now. But it is fab for lazy holiday mornings when you aren't really in the mood for whipping up a full English or some 'Special Eggy Bread' as we call it in our house (that's a whole other post in its self!)

The best thing about it is that you can make it when you have a spare half an hour between wading through the chaos that is your house during the summer hols (if your house isn't scattered with toys, grass, wet towels, random pens without lids and probably quite a few raisins like ours then you either don't have kids or you need to share your secret!)

I made ours today because we went out last week for a lovely walk in the fields a few mins from our house with Daisy the Dog and took a pot to collect blackberries. We did this last year but didn't think about it until late September so most of the good ones were gone. This year though we got in early and within about half an hour we had a good haul and in Jack's case a black and red face. They have done a few little treats after dinner for the boys sprinkled with a bit of sugar but today they either needed eating or binning.

I have made this before, the recipe called for blueberries but I thought I would try it with and blackberries and it seems to have worked. I think I remember the original recipe saying that it even works with frozen fruit, but it is nice to feel a little bit smug knowing that you picked the fresh fruit... for five mins you can pretend you are the perfect mother :)

So... the recipe. All the measurements are in cups I'm afraid. I have a set of cups that I inherited from my mum so I just use those but you can always find the conversions here (good old Delia) if you haven't got any.

Serves 6-8
½ cup salted butter, room temperature
2 tsp. lemon zest or more — zest from 1 large lemon
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar
1 egg, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
2 cups fresh blueberries (or any other fruit that you feel like trying, frozen or fresh)
½ cup buttermilk

1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Cream butter with lemon zest and 1/2 cup of the sugar until light and fluffy.
2. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until combined. Meanwhile, toss the blueberries with ¼ cup of flour, then whisk together the remaining flour and baking powder.
3. Add the flour mixture to the batter a little at a time, alternating with the buttermilk. Fold in the blueberries.
4. Grease a 9-inch square baking pan (or something similar) with butter or coat with non-stick spray. Spread batter into pan. Sprinkle batter with remaining tablespoon of sugar. Bake for 35 minutes. Check with a toothpick for doneness. If necessary, return pan to oven for a couple of more minutes. (Note: Baking for as long as 10 minutes more might be necessary.) Let cool at least 15 minutes before serving.

I hadn't heard of buttermilk before (but that just might be me) but I found it pretty easy to get hold of in Sainsbury's or Morrisons down here.

Enjoy lovelies, let me know which fruits you try it with.

Claire xx

Monday, 18 June 2012

Can I use my logo as my blog/web header?

I get asked this a lot, and I mean A LOT so don't worry if you are one of the people who has ever wondered this. Basically the answer is pretty much no... but I feel mean just saying NO and I do sometimes feel like people may think that I am just trying to get extra money out of them because they may not completely understand what the difference is between a logo and a banner or header.

A logo is essentially an image that is used to identify your business. It consists of a combination of colours, graphic elements and font and with it you are creating an image that your customers can get to know, trust and recognise immediately.

It doesn't have to illustrate or represent every aspect of your business, for example people who make cupcakes, jewellery, sock monkeys and frying pans ( I'm exaggerating slightly but you get my drift) don't have to have an image of everything they do on their logo. It just needs to give your customer the right impression of your business and be about what YOU do, not be a representation of what is in fashion this year or look like a competitor's design. Don't forget, if you do well then you will still be hopefully using the same design in 10 years time so you don't want it to age too much. Where logos are concerned the simpler the better and a good catchy tag line will do wonders for encapsulating the feel of your business.

So now you have your logo... its attractive, its eye catching and best of all its yours!

So what is a web header and why can't I just use my logo instead?

A web header is what goes across the top of your website, is long and thin in size and shape and usually consists of your logo, a tag line, possibly your contact details or even media icons like facebook, twitter etc. Here is where you can start to add a little bit more design to your site. Expand on the logo design to create a web banner that is exciting and eye catching. If you make bunting, then add some. If you make cakes, add some of them. If you make hand made hanging hearts whack some of those on there! A web banner can be used to set the overall feel of your website.

You can't use a logo design for this because unless your logo is long and pretty thin you are pretty much trying to shove a square peg into a round hole, your logo will end up either squashed and distorted or the top and bottom will be cut off and you will end up with just a bit of the middle.

Ok, fine I hear you say, I understand what's what now, so why can't you just design me a web header without me having to shell out for a logo design as well?!

Well as I said, a blog or web banner usually consists of your logo or business names and other bits along side it. If I designed a web header for someone for £30 I am essentially giving them a logo design for 1/3 of the price of what I usually charge. My prices are based on not only the time it takes to create the logo designs which are all drawn from scratch and don't contain any stock images, but also the time I take getting to know what each of my customers wants and needs from their design,and then time researching and sketching so that I can give them the best designs I can. I don't think it would be fair to charge some people £90 for a service and then let others have it for £30... plus, I can't really feed my forever hungry boys on that I'm afraid :)

I hope that has cleared things up a little bit and hasn't got too heavy or sounded like I was being nasty or trying to make anyone feel silly. This is what I do so I should know what I am talking about but when it comes to icing a cake or knitting a hat I wouldn't know where to start and I'd leave that to you lot... the experts at what you do. Thanks for reading, comments greatly appreciated.

Claire x

Thursday, 31 May 2012

It's June....

So I AM doing a photo a day for June, its going to be a pretty big month for me so I think I'd like to record it.

Day one: Morning!

I had big plans for my first day, I was going to take him down the beach once we had dropped the bigger one off for school and get a gorgeous photo of the Solent while the morning mist was still around... but this little monkey had other ideas! Falling asleep at 6 pm as soon as you come in from nursery = getting up at 6 am with a whole lot of bounch in your step. Poor old Rex the Rabbit!

Claire xx

I've got the skills to pay the bills... I hope!


So after years of dreaming about it I have finally done it! As of the 15th of June I will officially be a freelance designer and Illustrator.
I can't wait! I am also a little (read alot of a little) nervous! EEEK! I keep swinging from excitement to sheer terror! What if, after a year of pretty steady growth my little baby business suddenly bombs and I have to go back to working for someone else with my tail between my legs?! I just have to keep telling myself that I can do it, in the words of the Beastie Boys ' I've got the skills to pay the bills!'.
So may exciting things are whizzing round in my head, big plans to take my business from little part time venture to something that can actually support me and my family. I'm so proud that I have managed to get this far with it, if I can manage with with two kids and a part time job having every day to create means that the sky is the limit!
I've just opened for new orders after a little bit of time off to recharge my battery and live life a bit, find me inspiration again and feel really creative for the first time in a while. I think the time off is exactly what I needed to make me realise that going full time is the best thing for our little family. It means I can plan my days around my boys and the husband so that family time can really be family time. Oscar is going to nursery two days a week and Jack has his clubs on those days after school so that is 16 whole hours of child free time a week to really crack on with the important work stuff so that when they come home we can do the important family fun stuff. Jack is such a creative little monkey and I want to be able to encourage that as much as I can and give Oscar the opportunity to find out what he loves as he grows. Being the second one he is coming on so quickly already to keep up with his big brother, he loves reading ( obviously use that term loosely lol) books, harrssing the rabbit and sticking his fingers in the dogs bowl. Sounds like a perfect little gentleman already!
I am going to have to plan my week down to the last second I think, because I do have a tendancy to get a little distracted... a few hours a week for admin, a set time of day for responding to email and a day a week where I write a blog post...I've got big plans for my little blog. I'm not a brilliant writer (i tend to waffle... you have probably guessed that!) but hopefully I will get a bit better with practice. I want to use it as a place to share our little adventures, share recipies, creative ideas (usually all found on Pinterest) and just be a little record of how much better life is now that I have taken this huge leap that is promising so much... I hope it delivers and hopefully you will all enjoy reading.
I'm going to start with the June Photo a Day challenge from the brilliant Fat Mum Slim, I'll post it here, on Facebook and on Instagram and maybe it help me to get in the habit of blogging. You can follow me on Instagram at @mrslever and on facebook here.

So tomorrow's the first day, I'd better get off to bed so I can be up bright and early to take the first one!

Claire xx

p.s HOW is it June already?

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

A look back at my first year in business and some tips for the newbies.

As the saying goes, 'You can't judge a book by it's cover' but unfortunately people always do. Your logo has to say so much about you, your business, and what it is that you do in the first few seconds and if this isn't right then you have lost them before they have even seen what you have to offer (no pressure there then!)

When I started my little design business last year, if I'm honest the first thing I thought about was the logo. Maybe that's just me because that is what I do. I design things and I like to make things look pretty and organised.... although if you saw our bedroom tonight you may not believe me (seriously, piles of clean clothes everywhere waiting to be folded and put away, but that will have to wait, I've got work to do)

Honestly, even before I thought about pricing or anything else at all practical, I was thinking up lovely names for my business that reflected me and my life and imagining all kinds of lovely little images... it was doodles galore at my desk for a solid week! To be honest when I started out a year ago, I knew I had the talent and the ability to design logos, and my background in illustration and graphics and work in advertising behind me gave me extra confidence in those abilities, it was more the running of a business that I didn't have any idea how to do and I kind of dived in head first.

This was my first logo and at the time it reflected my style and me. My boys, my husband and our little home are the most important things in my world and I wanted that to show because that is who I was doing it for. That is our little front door of our cosy little Victorian Terrace in Portsmouth which Tom painted black because I thought it was much more stylish then yucky stained red wood. That is the wreath that I made myself which hangs there from spring to the end of summer when it is replaced by the autumn one and obviously a Christmas one in December. I loved it then and I still do.

The thing is with this logo, as time went by, and I designed more and more for different businesses, my style began to change. I spend stupid amounts of hours on Pinterest looking for inspiration, be it colour combinations, shapes, fonts or just even photos that might inspire me (usually when I can't get to sleep at 2 am because my head is buzzing with ideas) I started to move away from the hand drawn style that I started with and became much more about clean lines and colour and text. As this happened my logo just didn't seem to work anymore. I did still use the odd bit of hand drawn stuff but on the whole my drawing has become much more computer based and I create things on screen instead of paper.... It was time for a re brand ( and a reprice but that's a different blog post) This is fine for me because it's what I do, I could redesign my brand at any time, it was just a case of finding the time to do it.What if I couldn't do it for myself and I had rushed into a logo, had one designed for me when I wasn't entirely sure of what I wanted and then discovered 6 months down the line that it wasn't right and had to use more of my hard earned cash to get another one done?

I have had quite a few people come to me over the last few months who have been in the same situation I was in when I first started out. Its sort of a "OMG I am doing what I have always wanted and starting a little business doing what I love, I want it all sorted NOW" kind of a feeling ( I know because I am the most impatient person in the world!) and you want everything up and running as soon as you can. You lie awake at night imagining lovely designs and inevitably, as it does in wee small hours, your mind wanders until you end up miles away from where you started. My advice to anyone in this situation after this first year in business is wait a little bit and get to know your business and what you really want from a design for it. No one expects a brand new business to have everything sorted from the word go, especially if its something that you are doing part time or as a hobby that develops slowly.

Don't get me wrong, I am still learning as I go, but from what I have learnt in my first year there are a few things that I am going to be asking my customers to think about when they come to me for a logo for their new little baby.

If you are one of those people (and don't worry if you are, it DOES NOT make you a bad person or in any way shape or form silly and unfit for business, it just shows how excited you are and how much passion you have to put into your new project) then have a little look at these things to think about when starting a new business, it might help you work out what you want from your business branding when you are ready for it:

What does your business do or sell?
Who are you competing with?
What don't you do that your competitors might? (not a bad thing, just something to consider)
What makes you stand out from your competitors?
Where are you planning to take the business, is there room for growth and change as the market demands it?
Who is your ideal customer?

Three to five words your customer might associate with your business?
What does your business name say about your brand as a whole?
Where is your logo likely to be used a/now b/ in the next 6 months to a year (a logo designed specifically as a facebook profile pic will not necessarily work on a business card, don't forget, we can start with a simple design as the basis for your branding and go where ever you want to with the rest of your business branding.)

All these questions will give you a better idea of what you want for your business as a brand. It gives your designer a good idea of what you do, where your business might go and what the logo needs to say. Don't forget, it might be your baby and you might love pink and purple butterflies, but pink and purple butterflies will not tell your customer what your business does if you are starting a men's clothing brand.

Don't rush in to choosing a designer either. Shop around, ask other businesses for recommendations and I know that as a start up cash will probably be tight but PLEASE don't go for the cheap option because no one who charges pennies for a design can afford to put in the time or effort that you need. I know I would say that but consider how much time and effort you put into your work, be it a handmade item or a cake or jewellery, a good designer should put in that much effort for you. Think about how important your business image is to you and then find a designer that cares just as much as you do and is willing to take the time to ask these questions and understand you and your business before they do your work.

I hope this has helped anyone who is just starting out to work out what they are all about before rushing into anything, I promise a little bit of work now will save a whole lot of hassle later on.

Monday, 6 February 2012

I launched my new printing service!

The Print Room is the newest part of Design@No.11. My aim is to provide a really good quality print service with good quality products that will show off your business to it's fullest potential, but that won't break the bank.

My business cards are 400 gsm card stock compared to a lot of  the larger companies that only use 280 gsm so they feel fantastic in your hand and scream quality and style. All my prices are inclusive of VAT and postage within the UK so when you get a quote, that is the price, no hidden costs further down the line.

I'm running a little giveaway to let as many people as possible know about this part of my little business. To enter all you have to do is share this photo on your wall and tag Design@No.11 in it. Send your likers over to say Hello if they want to. Then leave a comment on my blog below and you will be entered into the draw. On Sunday evening (Sunday 12th at 7.00pm) I will give everyone a number and use a random number generator to pick a winner.

That luck person will win either an A5 flyer or postcard design (it is up to them) and 250 free printed A5 flyers or postcards. (Winners outside the UK will be required to pay for postage I'm afraid.

Good Luck everyone and get sharing :)

Claire xx

Day 5 of a Photo a day for Feb

Day five of a photo a day for Feb was entitled "10 am"

This was my usually smiley and giggle little man at 10 am and pretty much all day.. I don't think he was very impressed with his first trip to Ikea.
More proof, if it was needed at all, that he is most definitely Daddy's little man :)

Happy Monday, I will be back later with today's post - 'Dinner'

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Day 4 of a photo a day for Feb....

Today's title was 'Stranger'... Well my Jack just gets stranger and stranger! :)

Friday, 3 February 2012

well actually I didn't have a spare minute yesterday.

So Day 2 of the photo a day challenge and I have already failed... ooops! I was a bit behind on everything yesterday, you know one of those days that seems to whizz by in a blur of rushing around not getting very much done at all.

Yesterday's photo was entitled 'Words' and these are three very exciting words in my life at the moment, they hopefully mean the start of a whole new exciting chapter for my little business in 2012, and I am pretty chuffed with my little logo as well :)

coming soooooon.....

Day 3 in the photo challenge was 'Hands' which had to be all about these chubby little monkey fingers.
Oscar discovered his hands at about 16 weeks old and is facinated by them, he can sit for hours and stare, giggle, gurgle and coo at the shapes he can make with his own fingers and I could sit for hours watching him. This week he has also learned to wave which he generally reserves for whenever Jack walks in to a room as his big brother is by far his fave person in the whole world.

Night night,

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

I am taking a photo a day in Feb!

I have been looking for a nice way to start my blogging again but life has been so busy at the moment that I haven't had a second to breathe and stop to think about what people might even be interested in reading. This morning I saw that thevery talented Jen from Pikelet Workshop had set herself a challenge to take a photo a day in February. Well, I thought, that sounds like a really rather lovely and fairly simple idea. That is what I will do soooooo..... Here is the 1st of Feb's photo - My View Today

I'm at real work today and the view here is pretty depressing some times so I have taken my view first thing and the view I wish I had all day :)

Why not have a little go yourself? I would love to see everyone's photos every day.

Happy February!

P.S the original idea came from FatMumSlim, pop over and check out her lovely blog.