Wednesday, 31 August 2011

The Grapes of Wrath

Pops would never forgive me if I didn't show you these. A newcomer to grape growing, George has finally produced a wonderful crop. The vine itself was very nearly destroyed by the recent unseasonal winds but the stuff inside glass has produced a fine eating grape. See pic.
Pops offering me grapes as I boarded out the roof... I felt like Emperor Nero!

The newest LTF crop

So there we have it, the roof is theoretically finished (need a real deluge to test it) and the grapes are coming thick and fast. These from under glass are ready first but there's about 30 other bunches maturing slowly outside on the exposed vine. Hopefully they'll survive the weather and perhaps create the first LTF vintage?

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

The mission to end all missions...

So last night it began and, from my previous micro blog, both me and wife put in 12 hours to get the job started.

It's a roof job so VERY weather dependent.

We began by removing the glass from the roof (a very precarious job which finished with a small hole in my thumb but nothing more serious, thankfully).

Me recoiling after a right hook from wife
Then we began tearing old roofing bits and bobs out and taking them to the recycling centre as it was such a dry, beautiful day. The weather forecast was dry and sunny for the next three days so we didn't need to worry.

Books in peril due to a severe case of 'lack of glass'

Me feigning tireness to get off work early (fail)

This morning we finished the small amount of brickwork and tidying up and began putting wooden boards on the roof. Then.....

Wife admiring new farings (huge, 5 metre long door wedges to pitch the roof) one of my engineering solutions... brag brag

Me battling elements to get the job done. What a hero... swoon.

Inevitably the heavens opened and we all ran for cover under the new (but sadly felt-less ie, dripping) boards. Waiting, waiting, waiting.

Eventually the rain slowed to a steady drizzle and I, being very short of patience and watching our wonderful and extensive book collection in peril, decided to begin putting the underlay on the roof. Although not completely weather proof, at least it would be safer for the books, electrics, floor and various other things threatened by the downpour.

It's 8pm now and the rain is finally subsiding. The underlay is on and tomorrow we put the thick felt (or Top Sheet to those in the know) on and begin the tricky job of the weather seal. This is a device designed to fix the felt to brickwork whilst simultaneously frustrating the hapless workman into a frothy frenzy. Can't wait.

Wife took some shots yesterday of me sweating away until the early hours (see above). She was sweating too though, I was just too tired to pick up the camera.

Welcome to our new living room (well that's the plan, it could well be a swimming pool if this underlay doesn't work.) I'll get some shots of it up as soon as we have finished (late 2034-ish, weather permitting)

Ah, renovation. Such an innocent word, full of hope and the promise of new beginnings. Well, the room's full of water and our backs could certainly do with some renewing.

Until the next post, goodbye and happy roofing everyone.

An apology

No blog yesterday as myself and wife decided to remove a huge glass ceiling and take it to the recycling centre (approx 5 car loads). We then realised that we'd have to sort out the brickwork surrounding the ends where the glass overhung (another couple of car loads of rubble away, then mixing the mortar began).

Anyway, the short version is that me and wife were bricking up by lamp light at 11pm last night. And we didn't even get it all finished! So I'll blog the highs and lows of the whole project tonight.

There's pictures, action shots, all to come so stay tuned!

Monday, 29 August 2011

BBQ Success, and so to work

What a wonderful evening. So wonderful in fact that I forgot to blog and simply enjoyed real life for a while.... bliss.

Windswept garden warrior

So I took a few pics of me and wife battling the elements, determined to have a barbeque at all costs.

Ash in its annual dance with the elements

As the old Ash tree bowed under the relentless attack from East Yorkshire winds, me and wife, stooped low to avoid being carried, wizard-of-oz-like into the night, began the ressurection of the old barbeque. Well, 'barbeque' is a little optimistic. A seemingly random collection of broken tiles, bricks, the innards of an old fireplace and a steel plate. But to those in the know.... oh yes.

Blurriness perhamps something to do with beer?

So we ate and drank and generally forgot about the daily grind and enjoyed each others company for the evening. May there be plenty more of that in the future.

Spot the wife competition 2011

I need to try and get all our business links on here somewhere, perhaps in a side bar... hmmm.... leave it with me, I'll see what I can do.

The master at work
Ok, so another culinary blog. With so much on our plates at the minute it's a real delight to be able to ramble away on here reminding ourselves that we have had some leisure time after all.

Me taking credit for wife's toil
See you next time and thanks for reading!

Sunday, 28 August 2011

BBQ Day... hooray!

The rain has stopped and we found an amazing Polish supermarket on Beverley road. We bought some amazing sausages and are planning to have a barbie this afternoon.

Got a few jobs to do still. The lawns need cutting (worse luck) and the business admin needs looking at as we are rapidly collecting a heap of fileable paperwork.

Still, the prospect of one of GGs famous barbies should keep me going until later.

Here is a picture of some Polish sausages..... not sure why..... I just can't wait for them I suppose.
Mmmm, Kielbasa. (Pronounced kee-o-bass-a)
Polish sausage is pure meat, no grissle, no biscuit meal, just meat. By slicing it a little before cooking to release some of the juices and (caution, Polish father-in-law tip incoming) take a few sprigs of conifer (for the piney smell) and place them at the edge of the barbie (don't let them burn, do let them smoke) and put a lid on the whole affair. After about 10 minutes, turn the sausages over and replace the conifer sprigs with new ones. 10 minutes later... mmm barbeque heaven. Enjoy!

Sorry for the Delia Smith-esque blog. Will try to get back on message next time.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Wow! What a washout

The day began reasonably normally and I headed off leaving wife at the farm creating more wonderful things on Zazzle.

I had a small concreting job to do and so, I did it. Within minutes of finishing the heavens opened and my lovely work was effectively dive bombed into a horrid, cementy soup by the rain. I began again. 4 hours later it looked as good as it had before. Then, you guessed it sports fans....

So I finally arrived home bedraggled and hungry to a house that looked like a bomb had hit it.

That's right, horror of horrors, the annual paperwork clearout. (Picture me going white and heading at high speed to the greenhouse, man's traditional hideout)

However, wife and mother have done a splendid job and now the house seems to have about three extra rooms. All the better to run business from. Heh heh heh.

So onwards and upwards we strive.

Also, lovely wife has worked out how to link this blog with facebook, twitter, linkedin and all that other jazz so no more racing around dozens of sites with the same message.

That's all for now folks, thanks for reading and a special cheers to DanutaJR who's just started following us! Cheers Nute.

Better weather, fantastic new promotion tool.

Hello from the thankfully dry Shed.

I just received news from an Uncle that he's promoting our stuff on his blog too.

An amazing guy, from diving the barrier reef, winning awards for dive training, helping to find missing persons or identifying butterflies he seems to have an unending capacity to both help and teach.

And we're on his blog! Hee hee.

Ok, enough gushing, his wife's pretty cool too by the way.

So I spent all night last night fighting with wife to try to get her to go to  sleep. Zazzle is both exciting and addictive. Once one type of product is set up, it is very easy to continue creating others. However, if you log out, it is harder to get to the 'easy' bit again. So, this is what causes me to drag, kicking and screaming, wife to bed.

Even as I type this morning, I can see her circling the computer like a vulture. Yes dear, ok dear, only a moment more dear.

I'm off to do various bits and bobs now which I'll save for the next blog.

Uncles blog is Postcards from Sussex and is well worth a visit.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Rain rain and more rain....

The rain it poureth so we've spent all day creating and designing new products for GGs Little Shed. We're particularly proud of our seascape mousemat (photo taken by Weronika, GGs sister) and a coded, yes coded tie. The design is based on one of GGs coded acrylic pieces called 'Try Harder...' and contains an overlapping design based on the original print.

The second sold item has been posted and is winging its way towards sunny London as we speak... unless it gets caught up in the Bank Holiday madness.

Overall we're a happy bunch thus far, although a few thousand sales wouldn't go amiss.

The most important thing at the moment is that we're all very busy with various projects and so we're not under each others feet too much. (Allowing for the occasional battle for web time as we're not a two computer family... yet.)

Here's a few pics of the garden/jungle that surrounds the Shed.

Affectionately known as the 'weeing' lady 
View from swing into main garden, currently underwater

Beautiful benefit of the deluge

So that's our little country wonderland,

Until the next post....

Spreading the word

We have spent the last few nights completely lost in web land. We've been Blogging, Tweeting, Zazzling (see previous post), Ebaying and generally word spreading through friends and family.

The result of all this hard graft? We sold another top. Hooray.

Ok, so it's not big time yet but, to quote the wise words of my wife once more, everything starts somewhere.

Photography next. We need to renew the pictures using our sweet new D40 and hopefully get them updated before the Ebay listing finishes.

On a personal note, we have so many comedy little projects up in the air at the moment that we're both chomping at the bit to get them finished. It's not just retail here at the shed you know! There's roofing, gardening, creating farm preserves, baking bread, painting, photography, marketing the business and a variety of other smaller missions that are all vying for our attention.

I really want to concentrate on the business though and I keep getting ratty when we get side tracked. All these little jobs need doing I suppose so I must try to hold it together.

I just wish that my email would crash and, on investigating the reason why, find that all the stock had sold within minutes and the resulting traffic had jammed the site.... Hmmm, this is why my wife is like the anchor that stops me getting into all sorts of trouble. By now I think I would have spread my investments across sardines, rubber ducks, warm toast and ice sculptures.

Thank you darling!

Me lost in Web land

Ok, here's a picture of me blogging. A kind of strange attempt at creating a infinite paradox. If you read the blog on the picture, you might be able to read tomorrows blog... or next weeks..... or even next years.....

Thursday, 25 August 2011


A few days ago I was contacted by Zazzle team via Twitter. They asked me if I'd like to put my art on sale on their website. We had a look and we found it quite interesting.
The way it works is quite simple. You get a profile and you make a store. Then the fun begins. You can upload pictures of all sorts and create custom products for sale. To give you the idea of the variety of products here's the link to main Zazzle website 

So today I have made myself a profile and a store on Zazzle! It's only the beginning but I have so many ideas I think I won't have time to sleep.

Please have a look.


Tuesday, 23 August 2011

New toys to help our rise to stardom!

Well, the day started well with the news that my wife's sister has just upgraded her camera from a Nikon D40 (a fine piece of kit to those in the know, don't you know) to a D90 (a intimidatingly professional piece of kit about which we know very little).

The upshot of this is.... we get the old one!

Fantastic news as selling things online gets very tricky if you've only got a grainy mobile-phone pic to show your customers just what it is you are trying to sell. The D40 will give us wonderful pics and so we are both very happy about this unexpected... and free investment. Thanks sis.

So we are both reeling from this good news when my mother arrives to tell us that she is prepared to invest in an all in one scanner/printer/photocopier for the business as well.

Few sales as yet but the confidence in us from our family is really helping to iron out those 'down days' every new business suffers in the early days.

Our new baby
With luck, a steady hand and a fair wind, we should be underway in no time.

Until the next blog.

Our Business - About

We have been battling away with various ideas as to what to do with ourselves to support both our current lives and our dreams for the future.

So, we decided to look into selling things online.

We are very lucky as we have quite a lot of space (warehousing) and a very supportive family who are willing to help us in this endeavour (deal with our stuff spreading every which where).

Our first step was to identify a market and we did a lot of online research into clothing, art, books and sculpture.

As we are unfortunately not yet millionaires, we decided to look into a small test purchase of clothing and, after much to-ing and fro-ing we decided on the Abercrombie & Fitch brand as we both like their stuff and we have always liked their commitment to quality.

So, let the fun begin. My wife starts designing the business, looking into postage, packaging, marketing, photography (nice pics mean a lot in this business) and various other tricky businessy things. My wonderful mother has agreed to help us with the account books so that's one major headache out of the way. Now, my role....

It is my job to source the clothes for the right price and to get them here. I found an incredibly cheap supplier and almost signed on the dotted line when I realised that they were based in Australia and the shipping costs would way outstrip the cost of the clothes themselves! Oops, spot the amateur.

Ok, so, round two. I found thirteen different suppliers and basically played them all off against each other to find the best deal. I nibbled away at first the extra costs (shipping, insurance, etc), then on the cost of the items themselves (bulk discounts, exclaiming 'how much?' very loudly, that sort of thing.) Eventually I got a decent price from a decent, UK based supplier and a quotation number. This is where my most cunning strategy came to being. I hung up the phone and googled the company. I found out who the major players were and eventually managed to hunt down the name of the Managing Director (I won't name the company so please don't ask).

By approaching him directly I managed to squeeze a further few percent off my first order (a lot weighing on the promise of further, larger orders) and so to work.

I'd been a member of Ebay for quite a while, selling a few bits and bobs, family heirlooms, that sort of thing so I decided to upgrade to a business account with them.

The stuff has all been ordered and paid for and arrived in record time.

Now, all the stuff (or a large portion of it) is currently on Ebay and , from a 30 day listing, has 12 days left. Hundreds of views across the board and a few watchers here and there but so far only one sale. Well, patience has never been my strong point but my wife assures me that these things tend to start small so, we'll keep you all posted.

Here are the obligatory links to our Abercrombie and Fitch Ladies wear including some super sexy short shorts, stripy halterneck tops and some amazing tailored fit jackets. Enjoy!

A&F Stuff - Reduced Bargains, Brand new

So there we are, we've put ourselves out there and we'll keep you posted as to how we do.

Wish us luck!!!!!

Monday, 22 August 2011

A little bit about us....

Welcome web guys!

Me and Wife on wedding day, where the trouble started.

Find us on Twitter (@magigab), Ebay (dansbarn) and, erm.. here!

Hi everyone! After years of pontificating we (my wife and I) have decided to let you all in to our little world. Fashion and Art are our main passions and we've got some amazing little tips and tricks for all of you interested in these wonderful worlds within worlds.

Many years ago my wife toyed with the idea of becoming a professional artist and so decided to attend art college. Now, 5 years after graduation, she is still plugging away trying to get recognised by the powers that be. Her work has received many and raving reviews but the business is simply too saturated by big names to be able to break into the scene without inside connections.

The world of fashion, especially in the design and marketing areas can be equally cutthroat. Newbies beware!

However, it's not all doom and gloom, thanks to the amazing tools and resources available on and offline. For example, a designer in a small village in our area recently gave up trying to 'arrive' and set to work creating her wonderful bespoke dresses for sale to the public via a little shop front she rented. Charging over £200 a piece, the idea initially seemed doomed to fail. Within a few months she had sold enough dresses and accessories (all created by her fair hand) to begin producing larger, more intricate designs. With these new designs came a higher price tag and so, within a year, her client base not only grew but so did her reputation as well. The store has been open now for 18 months, and has stayed open through the worst of the current UK recession so it just goes to show, if you can keep plugging and plugging away, just holding your head above water, eventually you will be spotted, as she was.

Now to us. We have both played with the entrepreneurial and have headed in slightly different directions in doing so. Myself, a keen gardener and landscape designer, found a small niche in this market for a couple of years and managed to support us through 2 moves, a rebuild and a business start-up. Well, that's not entirely true... without my wife's support I would have crashed and burned many many times before but, as with the small shop mentioned above, she gave me the confidence to push on and we did very well for a while... then the big boys moved in. My prices were suddenly sky high compared to other quotes, my customers were being cold called within an hour of me leaving their property. I was being targeted. And that targeting was unfortunately successful. After 2 good years trading, I had to close shop and move from the area.

Now onto my wife. Her passion has always been towards the more creative arts and she realised her dream, or so she thought, when she graduated from art college. Her teachers, although perfectly well qualified, shared the view of many a teacher at the time that if you want a student to be good at something, hammer them over the head with it over and over until they can do it in their sleep. The latter became true for my wife as she can copy an old master almost from memory and her copies of famous landscape painters are wonderful.... to me. My wife's passion for her own art slowly faded into the back ground as her teachers continued to force her down artistic paths she was not comfortable with. Sure the concepts were there, the techniques too, but not her, not her own thoughts and feelings.

So, many years later she decided that the genre to paint in was abstract, and so she did. She ignored the naysayers... 'abstract artists aren't artists', 'those who can, paint, those who can't, paint abstract', etc. She simply wanted to find a way of expressing herself through canvas and she did it.

Last year one of her pieces, 'Is there a way out?' was sold and given to a local celebrity as a thank you gift. It is now in a private collection in Hull.

This small token of appreciation, this justification for those years of repetition and stifling boundaries reignited her inner artistic fire and she has gone on to create some of the most wonderful pieces of abstract art I have been priveledged to see. We even have some hung on our own walls! How's that for progress? That slight success has really helped her confidence. And it feels good to see her working on her art again. Her own art.

My wife's art is available for viewing and for sale (via prints) on the FineArtAmerica website;