Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Love your local market! :-)

Renting a market stall is a fantastic way for budding entrepreneurs to have a retail space without the cost and risk of renting a commercial premises. As part of Love Your Local Market fortnight we tried out a stall on Morpeth Market.  For those who aren't familiar with it, Morpeth is a beautiful little town in the picturesque Northumberland countryside, the kind of location it is a pleasure to pass a day in.  Though I went into it not really expecting much in terms of sales, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised and have now become a regular trader.
Although the e-commerce revolution has made starting your own business far easier in so many ways, it is also an incredibly competitive platform. Trying to stand out from the crowd in search engine results is nigh on impossible without big coroporations' budgets to pay to get you to the top of the results list for any search, even vaguely, related to your products. At a market stall however, meeting your customers face to face, them seeing for themselves and being able to touch the merchandise are great selling tools.  Added to that getting instant feedback 'I love that design but it would be better if it was longer/ shorter/ brighter/ paler etc etc' is something you're unlikely to get from your website, if it's not what they want the majority of online customers will simply close the tab and look on another site rather than bother to explain why it's not quite what they're looking for.
I also learnt quickly that making a market stall work is all about having something for everyone.  It's all well and good having a target market for my own line of babywear, the sort of people who are interested in the fact you use organic cotton and manufacture in Britain ...and are willing to pay the little extra necessary for the afore mentioned.  However on a market you will get a wide range of tastes and budgets and it is better to buy stock in to be able to cater for as wide a range as possible than to stick rigidly to your ideology and not sell anything; as my partner never tires of telling me, 'a queue makes a queue' - i.e. if a couple of people are browsing round your stall or better still buying something, others will be drawn to you to see what they're missing out on.

For more information on my first week at Morpeth Market see this article by Sanderson Arcade
and for more information on Morpeth in general and it's Wednesday and Farmer's markets see our facebook or twitter @IMieiCherubini pages or go to Northumberland County Council's websiteor the 'More in Morpeth' website and finally, if Morpeth is too far to travel, to find out about markets near you see the Love Your Local Market website.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Bilingual kids 'more successful'... so what is the perfect age to teach your children a second language?

With the government set to change the way foreign languages are taught in schools (see this article by the BBC for more details) there couldn't be a better time to introduce a second language to your child, but many parents have a lot of doubts and questions, 'will it confuse my child', 'what will it add to their general education and learning skills' etc etc, keep reading to find some of the answers to the questions...
The best time to teach your child a second language is the same time they are learning their first one.  
"Kids this age are developing language skills rapidly, and they quickly absorb whatever they hear," says Erika Levy, Ph.D., assistant professor of speech and language pathology at Comlumbia University Teachers College, in New York City. "They can learn to understand new words in two different languages at an incredibly fast rate."

So why are increasing numbers of parents choosing to teach their child a second language? Well a popular reason is their family heritage, if children have grandparents or other relatives who are originally from Italy, Spain, China, etc it is nice to keep that close tie with their roots by teaching the child to speak the language. As well as this, in today's society where overseas travel and trade are so common, it is a huge advantage to have at least a second language to maximise such opportunities (incidentally research shows that bilingual people find it easier to learn further languages).
A recent study conducted by Strathclyde University with colleagues from the University of Cagliari in Sardinia showed that the bilingual children were "significantly more successful in the tasks set for them".
It was led by Dr Fraser Lauchlan, an honorary lecturer at Strathclyde's school of psychological sciences. He said: "Bilingualism is now largely seen as being beneficial to children but there remains a view that it can be confusing, and so potentially detrimental to them.
"Our study has found that it can have demonstrable benefits, not only in language but in arithmetic, problem solving and enabling children to think creatively."

Of course the easiest way to teach your child a second language is if one parent is already fluent in it,
Here are some things to remember in a bilingual household:
  • Try 'one person, one language.' It's helpful to have one adult speak only the second language to your child so she doesn't get just pieces of it and is familiar with the flow and intonation.
  • Expect minor mix-ups. It's natural for a child to confuse the word order or use words from both languages in the same sentence. They will quickly learn to separate the languages.
  • Don't underestimate their progress. Even though many people think learning two languages causes speech delays, that is not the case. Your little one might say fewer English words than other kids their age, but if you add in the words they know in their second language, their total number of words will probably be more than that of their peers.
If neither parent is bilingual don't worry, here are some tips to teach your child a second language:
  • Start as early as possible. By the age of 2 - 3 years old, children are not only increasing their vocabularies, they're starting to recognise the speech patterns they've been hearing since birth. The earlier you introduce a second language, the easier it will be for your child to pick up its unique sounds. The ability to hear different phonetic pronunciations is sharpest before age 3, and we lose the capacity to hear and produce certain sounds if we aren't exposed to them early on.  Some easy ways to introduce the language (if you don't speak it yourself) are watching childrens tv programmes, flash cards with simple words and playing music in the target language to familiarise your child with it from as early an age as possible.
  • Create a relaxed learning environment. The best way for a child to learn to understand a new language is for them to hear people speaking it fluently, so if there is a second language in the family this is an ideal opportunity. Hearing friends or relatives speak the language will make it much easier for the child to pick up.  If not taking your child to lessons designed for their age group or having a bilingual nanny is a great tool to help them learn the language quickly.
  • Teach 1 word at a time. If you don't want to do formal lessons, you can introduce bilingual basics by pointing out to your child that objects can have two names - one in each language. Young children have a remarkable ability to compartmentalise vocabularies, If you say they Good Morning! or Buongiorno! in the same context they will understand that they are different ways of saying the same thing and as they progress they are able to separate the two vocabularies. As your child learns new words, tell him what they're called in a second language too.
  • Have reasonable expectations. Of course, a child won't learn to speak another language fluently from hearing words, watching videos, or singing songs. But simply being exposed to a language will help them understand phrases when they hear them. So even though you probably won't be having an Italian conversation with your child very soon, if you say "Buona notte" every night at bedtime, they will figure out what you mean.
 For fun, effective Italian lessons for children in the Newcastle and Northumberland area tailored to your or your child's needs with a fully CRB checked female tutor see Cherubini Italian Lessons 
For Italian lessons in Newcastle upon Tyne click HERE
For Italian lessons in Morpeth and surrounding area click HERE

Monday, 6 January 2014

Buona Epifania a tutti!

La Befana vien di notte
con le scarpe tutte rotte
attraversa tutti i tetti
porta bambole e confetti!

Buona befana a tutti!

For those of you thinking what is a witch doing on a Christmas scene, La Befana is a 'goodie'... in Italian folklore La Befana delivers gifts to children on the Eve of the Epiphany (5th January) much in the way Santa Claus does. Just like Santa she leaves only coal in the stockings of naughty children and sweets and gifts in the stockings of good children. For further information see the wikipedia page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Befana ...though the image of witches on this page is enough to give you nightmares!

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Fabulous festive offer! 20% discount on all shoes & accessories!

UN SCONTO DI 20% SU TUTTO DELLA CATEGORIA Scarpine & Accessori QUESTO NATALE!!! Inserisce il codice SCARPINE13 alla cassa nello spazio Codice Coupon

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Christmas shopping 2013 review

Well the dust has settled from what turned out to be a wonderful Christmas and once New Year's Eve is done we're back to normal... as normal as we ever were.

As I ended up doing all the Christmas shopping and the subsequent returns and exchanges for my very large family, I thought it may be useful to share my experience.

The good guys... we'll be back next year:

Fenwick of Newcastle were really helpful when we were purchasing gifts and equally helpful and very quick (a bonus in their packed store) to sort out refunds and exchanges.
Swarovski (also the Newcastle store) have been marvellous, only one exchange with them but the staff were great in assisting the purchase of various well received gifts. Great customer service!
I did a lot of shopping from Not On The High Street, all personalised items yet they all arrived really quickly, beautifully packaged and exactly what we wanted, we'll definitely be back.
Not for Christmas shopping but Pepperberry have solved my New Year's Eve wardrobe dilemma with quick, fantastic customer service.  They didn't have my size in stock in the store yesterday so they ordered it to be delivered... it had arrived by 10am this morning, very impressed. I'm a regular customer because Pepperberry never lets you down.
Next, various stores.  Lovely staff, great service and well wrapped up breakables!
Amazon, quick, efficient, great prices.
Hugo Boss store, lovely friendly staff who are always helpful and efficient.
Marks and Spencer, various stores, well it wouldn't be Christmas without M&S Christmas pyjamas and all the goodies from the foodhall. The staff were consistently lovely in various stores at various points throughout November and December. 10/10 for good old M&S!

And now for the not so good:

John Lewis in Newcastle is hit and miss, particularly in the beauty department.  Some brands such as Clarins give great customer service, as do the beauty electricals staff. Unfortunately getting help in the perfume department is a task on par with finding a cure for cancer/ the holy grail/ a well wrapped up girl in the big market. It would appear most of the beauty counter staff find the season challenging and miserable as this was the message conveyed, a sort of 'come dancing' smile with thinly veiled pleas to buy something immediately or stop hovering around irritating them.
Selfridges.com, horrendous customer service, failed on every aspect.  For the special presents I usually order from Harrods and Liberty, this year unfortunately I succumbed to the temptation of 20% off and ordered with Selfridges.  In short, the packaging consisted of a shabby carboard box with 1 sheet of transparent yellow and white tissue paper - not particularly great at protecting the contents from the elements/ our postman's shotput style of handling parcels. The wrong size had been sent for a sweater (unfortunately the one item that was needed before Christmas but hey this was the 28th November I ordered, surely they would have this sorted out well before Christmas?) so I had to pay to send it back recorded delivery then ring a number to get a refund of my postage.  Well the number was permanently engaged, so I emailed... still awaiting a reply.  Not until the 20th December did they tell me they weren't going to send out the correct item because they didn't have anymore in stock! Then they gave me a 'partial refund' so it has cost me not only the £9 postage both ways but an extra £21 in getting the sweater elsewhere as there was no 20% off.  Won't be back and will be telling all my friends and family to steer clear of this one.

So that's my round up for 2013's Christmas shopping... would love to hear your experiences of the good, the bad and the ugly!