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Cromarty, a childhood by the sea

cromarty

Cromarty. The place of my childhood and where I still call ‘home’ or ‘where I come from’. If you haven’t been or heard of it, it’s a smallish town on the Black Isle just North of Inverness in the Highlands of Scotland.cromarty

It’s one of those places, which, although it has a fairly small population, as one of my aunties once said to me; it doesn’t matter where you go you will meet someone with a Cromarty connection.

Of course all the opinions expressed in this article are my own and as such completely biased. Perhaps even more so now I no longer live there. Though I visit as often as I can, I see the town through rose tinted glasses and my memories of childhood are only the happy ones.

Nevertheless it was, and still is in the minds of my children, the best place to spend a childhood, especially in the summer holidays. The freedom to wander to the park, the beach or the bakery is something my children cherish as much as I did. Perhaps I took it more for granted than they do. It was an everyday event for me, not the occasional holiday treat it is for them.

So this month I challenged myself to compile a Cards and Gift Wrap box that reflects my memories of childhood summers in my home town of Cromarty.

My Cromarty box

The designs I chose to put in my box have all been inspired by different memories of my Cromarty childhood.

Fishing

I can just about remember my dad helping with the salmon fishing. I certainly remember seeing the huge salmon nets drying on the Links. When I was young the pier was stable enough to fish off the very end of. You could also climb down the steps at low tide and pick muscles off the structure for bait. Or sit underneath the pier at low tide and pick up a star fish or two and watch crabs scuttling about. Perhaps it wasn’t stable enough but there was no health and safety that I remember. Nowadays most of the steps have worn away. I certainly wouldn’t be letting my children climb down them as I did. Is that because they are less safe or because we are more cautious, perhaps a bit of both.

Summer Fruits, picking blaeberries

One of my fondest memories is going for a walk up the Sutor (the hill that sits behind and overlooks Cromarty) with my aunties and picking blaeberries. There was no need to take a picnic as we just stopped half way and ate as many blaeberries as we could. They were all around us. There was no thought of taking any home, it was just free food in the wild. I have taken my children up the same place but they have been more interested in wild raspberries and brambles. Collecting them, at least the ones we didn’t scoff, and taking them home for bramble jam. Oh and that reminds me of another fond memory. Going round to an auntie’s of a Saturday afternoon and being given custard with a dollop of homemade bramble jam. I can still taste it now.

Then there was all the fruit in our garden. My mum is still in the same house, the fruit is still there. Cooking apples, eating apples, plums, rhubarb, strawberries, all growing in abundance. It’s no wonder that rhubarb crumble, closely followed by apple crumble, is my favourite desert even now. Cromarty is known for being a good place to grow fruit, especially fruit trees. The Black Isle is very fertile land. The climate in Cromarty combined with the soil seems to make good for fruit in particular.

Swans

As you drive out the shore road from Cromarty towards Jemimaville (its sister town of Barbaraville is across the Cromarty Firth), you will often see at least one pair of swans swimming or nesting along the beach beside the road. Swans, as you probably know, mate for life. I don’t know what their life expectancy is but it always appeared, even now, to be the same pair nesting each year with a family of Signets in tow.

Lighthouse

Cromarty Lighthouse isn’t stuck out on a promontory away from the town but just at the top of the Links. Built in about 1844, the Lighthouse guided cromarty lighthouseships in from the Moray Firth to the Cromarty Firth for about 160 years until being discontinued in 2006. Most of the buildings now belong to Aberdeen University and form a marine research centre. The Lighthouse was significant to me not because it is so prominent and sits round the corner from our house but it was also right across the road from the ‘family home’ on my father’s side. There is something familiar about it and sight of it reminds me of my father standing in front of it, at the top of the Links looking out to sea. Perhaps looking for dolphins, contemplating what the weather was bringing, watching a tug or oil rig or perhaps just watching.

Dolphins

I forget that not everyone grows up watching dolphins swimming past the end of the street on a regular basis! Porpoises and dolphins were a common sight. It was quite common to see a school leaping in and out of the water in and out of the Firth. I have often stood on the beach and watched one leaping maybe just a few metres in front of me. Locally they are known as tumblers. Since moving to the Outer Hebrides I find that the Gaelic for dolphin, leumadair means jumper. I wonder if the two names are related. Perhaps it is just typical of how we name animals from their behaviour in many cultures. Certainly in Cromarty the dolphins were there long before the Gaelic came but that’s a story for another day.

Fossils

Just along from Cromarty is Eathie Beach. Take a hammer and chisel, find some (loose) grey sandstone and tap away and you’re 99% guaranteed to find fossils. Hugh Miller, a local geologist, was famous for his discoveries and you can visit the place of his birth, Hugh Miller’s cottage. I have fond memories of day trips walking the steep path down to Eathie beach. Less fond memories of lugging a bag full of fossils home. There is still a Salmon fishing bothy there where at one time my father would have worked.

Pirates

Anywhere by the sea must have its pirates. Cromarty is no exception. There is a whole graveyard full of them! In the oldest surviving end of town is the ‘pirate graveyard’. Visit it and you’ll see lots of old tombstones with skull and crossbones on them. Just along the shore again is MacFarquar’s Bed, an old smuggling cove, pirates again right? These are the stories I still tell my children. If you want to spoil your imagination and know the truth then you can find out more here.

Flip flops and the Helter Skelter

For those who buy my subscription box every month there are always a few added extras. This month I added some flip flop stickers. Every year my flip flops hurt my feet. That bit between the toes was never comfortable and yet every year I bought a new pair of flip flops from my auntie’s shop with the dogged hope that this year they’d be better.

Every August is the Black Isle Show, one of the largest agricultural shows in Scotland. All I remember from going as a child is the helter skelter. It’s the only ride I would go on! I’ll be at the Black Isle Show in August in the craft tent. If you’re in the area please come along and say hello.

So what’s Cromarty got to do with cards and gift wrap?

Every month I put together a deluxe subscription box on a theme. The box contains gift wrap, cards, gift bags, tissue, ribbon, tags and other extras. This month I have chosen ‘Cromarty’ as my theme and have picked cards and gift wrap which reflect my childhood memories of Cromarty. It’s been a delight to put together and the hardest thing is knowing where to stop. If you’d like a box you can pre order yours here. I hope it will help me to make sure something of Cromarty is gifted far and wide. I also hope that one day you will have the pleasure of visiting Cromarty and seeing it for yourself.

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Mothers Day Cards

Mothers Day Cards

Mothers Day isn’t very far away so I’ve picked out my favourite Mothers Day Cards for you below. All exclusively designed to deliver a smile to mum on her special day.

My top 5 Mothers Day Cards

Butterfly Tree, illustrated by Kim Anderson

I love this card, it’s glittery and just so pretty. Butterflies can symbolise hope, life, transformation…all things that our mothers give to us. Lots to be grateful for.

Fabulous You!, illustrated by Sophia Coleman

I adore this card, not just for Mothers Day. I firmly believe all teenagers, especially teenage girls should receive this card on a daily basis! What better way to make mum feel special than showering her with compliments.

With Love Heart Tree, illustrated by Karen Tye Bentley

This beautiful embossed card says it all. When you want mum just to know she is loved.

Painted Hearts, illustrated by Louise Anglicas

No words, just hearts. Not just plain hearts but hearts that pop out at either side to stand out from the card. This is a really specially designed card with a bit of wow factor!

Good Friends are like Stars, illustrated by Lucy Smith

When your mum is your friend, maybe even your best friend, then this is the card to send. If you and your mum don’t live close by each other and perhaps don’t see each other as often as you’d like, this is the card for her.

Whichever card you choose, you’ll be sending an exclusively designed one that will make her say, ‘wow, thank you that’s beautiful’. If you need gift wrap to go with it then I would recommend either the Flowers and Stars or Flowers ones from Flamingo or the Designers Guild Delahaye Magenta gift wrapMagenta swirl from Deva.

If you’re looking for gift ideas then you might like the colouring in garden poster or check out my Etsy guide for some unique ideas.

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National Handwriting Day: What does your handwriting say about you?

National handwriting day

National Handwriting Day is January 23rd and has been going for 40 years. If you want to know what your handwriting says about you then read on. If you wondered what your scrawl tells others about you then take the test at the bottom.

On National Handwriting Day, take a look at what your style of writing could say about your personality

Is the pen mightier than the keyboard?

The rise of computers may eventually kill off handwriting but, for now, there are still some aficionados out there who refuse to put their pens down.

National Handwriting Day on January 23 celebrates the handwritten word, with the Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association (WIMA) encouraging others to use a pen or a pencil to “rekindle that creative feeling through a handwritten note, poem, letter or journal entry”.

“Though computers and e-mail play an important role in our lives, nothing will ever replace the sincerity and individualism expressed through the handwritten word,” said David H. Baker, WIMA’s Executive Director.

The rise of the computer keyboard Almost one in 10 children who go online believe information from social media websites or apps is “all true” – doubling from last year

WIMA adds: “Throughout history, handwritten documents have sparked love affairs, started wars, established peace, freed slaves, created movements and declared independence.”

But what does your handwriting say about your personality? Research by the National Pen Company in the US claims handwriting can give clues about 5,000 personality traits.

It’s all based on graphology, the process of analysing handwriting, which is classed as pseudoscience as it is considered to be without scientific foundation.

Here’s what the research by the National Pen Company says: click through for more via National Handwriting Day: What does your handwriting say about you? – Telegraph

Apparently I’m very private and hard to read. Probably true but not once you take time to get to know me.

Bring back the pen – Virgin.com

The Art of Handwriting – Is it Lost?

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5 Steps to Perfect Gift Wrapping

Phoenix Trading gift wrapping Flamingo Paperie

Here are a few simple steps to make sure your gift wrapping looks good and doesn’t take hours to do.

1 Buy Quality Gift Wrapping Papergift wrapping service

If you want your gift to look neat then you need wrapping paper that won’t crumple or rip when you start to cut it or fold it. A decent grade of paper (100gsm or more) will make your job easier and make the end result look better.

2 Use Matching or Complimenting Tag

I have 4 children so I’ve been to a few children’s parties and how often have I seen presents with no tag and no card attached. There probably was a card when it was handed over but in the excitement it’s all been put to one side and the card and gift have become separated. It’s really nice to say thank you afterwards but if you don’t know who the present is from then you can’t. A good idea is to stock up on plain tags that will go with anything, like manilla ones, or a multi pack.

3 Use Ribbon

It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money to add ribbon to a present. The most elaborate is probably organza ribbon but for a special occasion it really does the business. However baker’s twine is a really good buy and has lots of other uses too, or raffia is very cheap and a multi-coloured one looks fab.

If using organza, try adding an extra complimentary colour to the bow.

4 Cut straight lines

This is very hard to do with poor grade wrapping paper (see point 1) as most likely the paper will rip as you cut. Especially that foil stuff that looked so good on the roll and seemed really good value but when you open it you realise why it was so cheap as it falls apart in your hands.

Buy wrapping paper that has gridlines on the back, it makes your job easier and we’re all for that.

5 Keep it Simple

Don’t try and overcomplicate things. Sure you can find some great ideas for Japanese wrapping with fancy folds and origami on Pinterest and maybe for the odd occasion it’s great to give that a go. But when it comes to children’s parties, or Christmas where there’s a lot to do, keep it simple and make your life easier.

You can find lots of other great ideas and inspiration on Youtube.

If you found this useful and want another simple wrapping idea try The Gift Bag

 

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Charity Christmas Cards Supporting Local Charity

The Nativity Stable Phoenix Trading Charity Christmas Cards

Every year Flamingo Paperie donates 1p for each of its charity Christmas cards it produces via the Phoenix International Charity. This in turn supports Macmillan Cancer Support, Cancer ResearchTogether for Short Lives and lots of local charities that we Flamingo Paperie Partners get to nominate.

In 2016 my nominated charity Hebrides Alpha Project received £150 from the Phoenix International Charity. The Hebrides Alpha Houseing project provides supported accommodation for people recovering from alcohol, drug, mental health or crimal justice related issues.

In addition to this I donated 20% of all my personal Christmas cards sales to the charity too.

Over the past few years Laxdale Cubs and Beavers invited me several times to help them raise money for their nominated charities. Because of this, I thought it was time to give them something in return. So I nominated them as my local charity for 2017. I’ve already donated £100 from your Christmas card orders this year.

I was also really privileged in early December 2017 to support a coffee afternoon in memory of a family friend. From Christmas card sales that afternoon I gave £50 towards Cancer Research UK.

snowman and hedgehog honor ayresFlamingo Paperie charity Christmas cards – look good, are good and do good!

Click here to buy your cards now and support some great causes.

The 1p donation by Flamingo Paperie is unusual for card publishers. This is not the same as the usual charity donation on Christmas cards that retailers give. Flamingo Paperie are effectively the wholesaler in this case. It’s unusual for a wholesaler to make a charity donation on cards. I am the retailer and I’m choosing to make a 20% donation on top of the wholesaler’s contribution.

If you’d like to know why sending Christmas cards is a good idea then you might like 10 Reasons to send an actual Christmas card

Are you a business owner? If so then you might be interested in how to Increase Your Business By Sending Business Greeting Cards

 

 

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Artist Profile – Alison Vickery

Alison Vickery Phoenix cards online

Flamingo Paperie are always looking for new artists to add to the fabulous range of cards that they produce. I thought it might be helpful to share information about the artists that design Flamingo cards, stationery and gifts. Our exclusive illustrations by Alison Vickery were amongst our bestselling designs in Phoenix Trading.

As well as producing fabulous artwork, Alison Vickery also runs workshops for all ages, as she said about herself,

“As a member of Gloucestershire Art for Schools, I enjoy running Art Workshops for children who always like to see my Phoenix artworks, picking out the ones they have seen or sent as cards. The children are excellent for the ego as they say things like ”you are one of the best Artists in the World”, I then come down to Earth with an elderly group who sometimes nod off.”

Everyone who is an Independent Flamingo Paperie Partner or is in my Customer Club gets to vote on which designs get through to each new product launch. So becoming a Flamingo artist is not necessarily as subjective as you might expect. Conversely 1000’s of people will vote on your design.

One of my favourite designs and so suitable for spring was Narcissi and Pink Hyacinth

Phoenix Trading cards Alison Vickery artist narcissi daffodils spring

Alison also takes part in the Stroud Open Studios in May each year.

Find out more about how to become a Flamingo artist. Go on – give it a try – and I look forward to seeing your work in the next Trader survey!

And if you’d like to know how you could have the privilege and joy of selling her work too then ask me for more information about becoming a Flamingo Paperie Partner today.

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Valentines Card Messages

Valentines card messages

If you don’t know what words to write then check out my top 10 favourite love poems and verses for your Valentines Card.

1 ‘My Love is Like a Red Red Rose’ by Robert Burns

Robert Burns

Red Heart‘ card beautifully illustrated by Laura Stone. Furthermore it is a verse that I can’t write without singing it in my head!

2 ‘Silentium Amoris’ by Oscar Wilde
Oscar WildePainted Hearts Valentines

Painted Hearts‘ is a new card that is illustrated by Louise Anglicas with pop out hearts too!

3 ‘Romeo and Juliet’ by William Shakespeare

William ShakespeareWith Love heart tree Valentines

With Love Heart Tree‘ card, probably one of my favourites for a Valentines card and illustrated by Karen Tye Bentley.

4 ‘The Wonderful Wizard of Oz’ by L. Frank Baum

Frank L BaumSilver Heart Valentines

Silver Heart’ card. A classic card that is suitable for so many occasions including weddings and anniversaries. Illustrated by Laura Stone.

5 ‘Sense and Sensibility’ by Jane Austen

Jane AustenPerfect Pair Valentine

Perfect Pair‘ card. Another versatile card, illustrated by Sue James.

6 by Dr Suess

dr SuessLove Valentine

Love‘ card. I love Dr. Suess and I love this card. If you love Alison Hullyer’s illustrations then this is the one for you.

7 by Aristotle

Aristotle

Fabulous You‘ card. Got to have chocolates on Valentines Day haven’t you? If you think so too then this very tasty card is illustrated by Sophia Coleman.

8 ‘The Rose in the Deeps of His Heart’ by William Yeats

Yeats

Passion FlowersWith Love Champagne‘ card. Show your true passion by sending this card illustrated by Tim Mason.

9 ‘I Love Thee’ by Eliza Acton

Eliza ActonLovebirds on a bicycle

Lovebirds on a Bicycle‘ card. How adorable are these two lovebirds in this illustration by Sharon Blackman?

10 Valentines Verse and Valentines Card by you?Valentines card messages

Still to be written!

If you need gift wrap, tags, ribbon for your present too then you’ll find a lovely selection along with the cards right here.

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Artist Profile – Amanda Loverseed

Amanda Loverseed

Just as Phoenix Trading were always looking for new artists to add to the fabulous range of Phoenix cards that they produced, so too are Flamingo Paperie. I thought it might be helpful to share some information about Amanda Loverseed. Amanda is one of the artists that design Flamingo Paperie cards, stationery and gifts.

One of her current designs is the Reindeer Stable Christmas Card. You can see a video of a slightly different way of displaying it here.

Reindeer Stable

Amanda Loverseed’s designs

Amanda Loverseed is probably one of our most well-known and perhaps most recognisable artists. That is to say her artwork is easily recognisable as it is very distinctive!

She works mostly in pen and ink and watercolour, making her work very detailed and very bright. She likes working in a variety of styles and on different subjects, one day drawing black Skull and Crossbones and the next Blue Butterflies. And yet her work always has that distinctive ‘Amanda’ look and most of her work has a signature snail too!

What Amanda said about herself:

‘I have always worked as an illustrator. I studied illustration at Cambridge College of Arts and Technology and immediately, after leaving college, had my first two children’s books accepted. It is particularly interesting to work on designs that require research such as the ‘Kings and Queens’ poster.

I live up a track in the middle of a field with my husband and two cats, Millie and Spinach. I have a wonderful view of the South Downs from my studio window and, whenever I get tired with drawing, I walk along the track and the two cats come with me. If I am out and about I am always looking for inspiration, such as a quirky building or car that will make its way into a ‘Cut Thru’ design or an idea for Christmas cards seen in the spring.

I love illustrating for Phoenix and the creative freedom it allows me and enjoy working with people who care passionately about the quality and integrity of their products. I am delighted that a chance meeting with a Phoenix Trader at a Christmas fair in 1999 should have led me to work with such a friendly and dedicated company.’

I’m glad that meeting happened in 1999 as it’s a privilege and joy selling her designs!

Choosing our artists

Everyone who is a Flamingo Paperie Partner gets to vote on which designs get through to each new product launch. This means that 1000’s of people could be voting on your design. Not as subjective as you think is it?

Alongside her cards her designs are often made in to cross-stitch kits, most notably by Bothy Threads. In particular her cut-thru designs that have also often appeared as Phoenix cards too. Some of these have been made in to giant posters and jigsaws. One of my favourites was her cut-thru spaceship!

Find out more about how to become a Flamingo artist. Go on – give it a try – and I look forward to seeing your work in the next Trader survey!

And if you’d like to know how you could have the privilege and joy of selling her work too then ask me for more information about becoming an Flamingo Paperie Partner today.

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10 people you could be Thinking Of this Week

thinking of you week

With Thinking of You Week just around the corner I thought it might be helpful to give some ideas of people you could send your 7 cards to.

1 – Your neighbour

Let’s face it you could send all 7 cards to people in your area and light up the whole neighbourhood with smiles. A little card to say, ‘Thanks for being a great neighbour’ would be lovely don’t you think?

2 – A family member

Who is special to you in your family but you never quite tell them often enough, or maybe they’re so special that you can’t tell them too often. How they’ll smile if you pop a card through their door this week.

3 – Work colleague

Who’s having a tough time at work? Who makes the office more fun and bearable and makes coming to work worthwhile? Send them a note to let them know that work wouldn’t be the same without them.

4 – Secret admiree

Who would you like to talk to but can’t quite pluck up the courage to do so? Or maybe you don’t get the chance without someone else around all the time. Why not send a card, they’ll feel very special and it might just break the ice.

5 – Someone bereaved

Who’s lost a loved one recently, or maybe it’s an anniversary of their loved one’s death? A card to let them know they’re thought of and cared for is a nice touch, especially if it’s a bit awkward to bring it up in conversation.

6 – Your bestie

I know you see them all the time, you talk and text on the phone regularly but I bet they’d love a card from you. It would be unexpected and special.

7 – Your postman

Well why not? They deliver all your mail, be nice if they got one to take home with them wouldn’t it?

8 – The Queen

Now Britain’s longest reigning monarch I bet she’d love a card for no other reason than to say ‘thanks, thought you might like this’.

9 – A celebrity

Well, when else would you have the excuse to send a card to George Clooney/Justin Bieber/Rihanna/Shakira?

10 – ‘Thinking of You’ surprise

You could be really daring and leave a card for someone to find! Check out Share the Love Letters for more on this.

The challenge is to send 7 cards over the course of a week, I’ve given you more than 7 possibilities in case some of the ideas don’t apply or appeal to you. Go on – send some smiles!

For more reasons to send cards read my other blog about being a Mad Hatter

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Artists Wanted!

artists wanted

Ever wondered how Flamingo Paperie find their artists? If you have ever thought your work might look good on a card then you’ll be interested to know that it’s Artists Wanted time.

What sort of artwork fits the Flamingo Paperie artists wanted profile?

Flamingo Paperie artwork is a real mixture of fun, contemporary and fine art. It’s difficult to say exactly what they are looking for because trends and fashions change. The easiest place to start might be to look at our current range to give you an idea.

Or see my latest video with a snapshot of the Christmas range from 2017.

How do I submit my work to Flamingo Paperie?

You can post your artwork to them at Artist Submissions
Flamingo Paperie
60 High Street
Wimbledon Village
SW19 5EE
Or you can email robin@flamingopaperie.co.uk.

Flamingo Paperie will consider ‘paper’ copies of artwork or digital artwork. Though I know first hand that the creative director loves to receive ‘real’ artwork through the post!

What happens after I’ve submitted my artwork?

Once you submit your artwork to Flamingo Paperie, they will send feedback on whether they think your work is what they are looking for. If you are successful then Flamingo Paperie shortlist your work on to a survey that the creative team get to vote on!

So get out those paints and brushes, go on – give it a go! Or pick up the phone and get that artist friend of yours to send her work in. Tell Flamingo I’m the one who told you that there were artists wanted and when you let me know that the artist is successful, I’ll send you something to say thank you. Good luck, hope to see your work in the next product survey!

If you’d like to know more about our current artists then take a look at the artist profiles of Alison Vickery, Alison Hullyer, Julia Rigby and Amanda Loverseed.

View the artists terms and conditions here.