Tuesday, 23 August 2016

So, farewell to Rio....

Has anybody else been addicted to the Olympics? I remember when I was a student and the Olympics were in Seoul that I adjusted my body clock and got up to watch the events I most liked. Back then I loved the Decathlon (Daley Thompson <3), the showjumping and the 1,500m. I don't remember being as enamoured of the cycling, the Triathlon and the shooting. I watched what was on BBC and made do with just a shout out for events that, in all honesty, would be the ones I'd love to take part in like the pistol shooting or air rifle. And the trap shooting I love now!

But then, thinking back, the coverage wasn't as wall to wall and available as it now is. This time if I had a random event that I fastened onto and wanted to watch, the BBC sport app made that possible. Trap shooting? No probs; you could watch Tim Kneale (how I love that we share a surname!) slog it out with Steven Scott online, or watch the highlights on your phone, or any one of a dozen ways to find out how we were doing.

 I know I've made use of the website in quiet moments here at work, when there are no phone calls, no post and no visitors and an earphone doesn't look out of place on a receptionist. And the office can be so quiet when it's just me.

OK; I'll answer that question you want to know; am I enjoying work? Yes, oh yes, I am loving it. It has made me rethink things for the future. I know that in 6 months time, for instance, I will be using the online case management system we have to take some of the secretarial work that Peter has been doing for himself onto my shoulders. I know that we are building an online presence on Facebook and Twitter and that I am responsible for that. I love faffing with the website, and trying to boost the SEO. It suits me. Sad as it seems, I am still not missing school and the fact that I have spent what would have been 6 glorious relaxed, lazy weeks of summer at a desk, writing or planning or learning and I don't begrudge that is both amazing and wonderful. My one regret is that this year while we are getting established I haven't been able to spend the time with the children as I usually do, for days out or picnics in the park. I know they are young adults and need me less, but I liked just hanging with them.

I have favours to ask; you know we have a firm website Peter Kneale Solicitor ? Well, it has links to our Facebook and Twitter feeds as well. If you are a tech-person, would you mind clicking over and liking the pages? The more likes and shares we get, the better our online presence and the bigger our online presence, the more work we get....

Our Twitter feed is; @KnealeSolicitor

and Facebook is Peter Kneale Solicitor

Just click and like or follow. I post about 3 times a day max, usually a blog link, or a bit of useful or interesting information. And on Twitter we like a lot of tweets and re-tweet some as well. Oh, and if you have a business that needs boosting, let me know. I'm a great believer in you scratch my back and I'll massage yours!

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

A Sunny Day in Liverpool

I hope you are all having a lovely day today? Somehow when the sun shines everything feels a little bit better. The warmth of the sun isn't the hot, burning heat of June or July. I swear I can feel a breath of Autumn coming on, even though today is supposed to be the hottest day this week.
At the very least, I got my copy of September's Country Homes and Interiors last week and I've been luxuriating in the colours and patterns of the season. I'm looking forward to apple pies, a proper stew when the weather grows colder and the smell of decaying leaves when they start to fall.

Last year at around this time I was busy making my Autumn Ripple blanket, as you can read if you click on its name. I still love all the colours I used, and how they worked together. It sits with my pile of blankets in the corner at home and when the nip in the air moves in and before we turn on the heating it will be my knee warmer of choice.

And I made a cushion to match as I told you in this Wednesday Wind Up (must start posting those again) although I notice I have been very remiss in not posting a picture either of the cushion as a WIP or a completed article.

I've been on a bit of a making drought since I went to the workshop in April; I was busy with school, getting the office ready and just all those lifey things that stop you from doing stuff. I have a list of things I want to do, which I'll share with you one day, and a list of wool that I have to use up before Peter realises that the large plastic box at the bottom of the bed is actually full of wool and not, as I have persuaded him, sheets. I still had bits of wool left over from my autumn blanket and the rain last week made me feel drizzly so I started a round cushion especially to decorate it with leaves and have my own autumn cushion wreath to use in the house.

I'm using Attic 24's Flat Circle pattern in treble stitch, because it grows quickly. I have peculiarly done the backing first and I'm doing the front side now. The back is a stripey pattern of Stylecraft Special DK Sage and Spice, both very beautiful autumnal shades. The front is a centre of denim, with a border of sage and both sides are bordered with a couple of rows of teal. I'm in the office now, but tonight I'll take a couple of shots and upload to this post just to explain.  The front is deliberately plain so that I can applique some crocheted leaves on in a wreath pattern. I've used a variety of patterns to make beech leaves, sycamore leaves and oak leaves in a mix of gold, saffron, claret and pomegranate. I've enjoyed making the bits, and hopefully tonight (when Mr Mr is out) I can finish the front and start the sewing on. I will post the finished article, I promise!

Monday, 8 August 2016

And I'm back in the room.

Where do the days go? Forget the days... the weeks fly by and before I know it, I've missed months of blogging and I'm reading and playing catch up on all your posts and drowned in a sea of bloggy friendship misses.

I'm back in the room and (hopefully) here for a loooooooong while. When did I last post? Oh my goodness, June 5th!!! 2 months ago! I was still working at school and still looking ahead to finishing and I haven't told you everything that is happening in my life and oh my goodness it has been fun and... stop!

Go and get a cuppa. This might take some time.

So, my life at the moment. I am working with this man (just kidding!) who is just the best husband a gal could have. He's training me up into the dark side of the force and showing me how to manipulate people (well, insurance companies at least) to pay out for injuries.

This is where I work. It's an office, and there's not a lot you can do to make an office different except to be Google when Different gets kind of samey samey after a while. We have an elegant, refined office, with settees and tea canisters and computers and everything that makes an office an office.

I designed it and painted it and moved the furniture in and make the tea and do the photocopying and do anything and everything that needs to be done. And very often I get all the work I HAVE to do done by, oh, say 3pm. Then the rest of the time is mine. Like now. I am writing this sat on my office chair. I'm happy to be here.

We get people through the door as well. We need at least 3 a week with reasonable claims to make the place pay. Last week we only had 2, but one had 3 cases so that makes up for the shortfall. And I am the social media person who spends hours in the morning on Twitter and Facebook and the blog; that's the firm blog not mine, obs.

We had an interesting discussion about what my name/title should be. Am I the receptionist, the legal secretary, the office manager, the office junior, the cleaner, the caretaker, the IT consultant, the social media consultant or what???? Since I am, actually, all of those things the title Office Ninja suits me best. I creep around, do what has to be done and creep off again. If you see me then I'm not doing my job properly!

I'm still tutoring, but I haven't anybody lined up for October, by which time we should know if this is going to work or we are on a hiding to nothing. If Peter Kneale Solicitor is a go, then I am quite happy to be an Office Girl and not teach again.

The firm has an active online presence, natch. Somebody left me next to a computer and said "We need to get out there, but it can't cost anything." Challenge me, why don't you? So I have a favour to ask. A MASSIVE favour, but I know you'll do it, because bloggers are all awesome.
Could you please find Peter Kneale Solicitor on Facebook and Twitter and like the pages or follow us? You can share as well if you're feeling kind, but just the like is good. And if any of you are feeling uber generous, you could link back to the firm page at www.knealesolicitor.co.uk  Google like lots of links with white hat optimisation, and every one helps.

I will tell you about my last days in school and the presents I got another time. You will be back, won't you?
And if you miss me and want to connect better, then find me on Facebook where I am Jo Kneale, on Twitter where I am @AngelKneale and on instagram where I am angeljem5.

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Frida's Flowers are beautiful, but complex.

Stylecraft's CAL this year, designed by Jane Crowfoot, is called Frida's Flowers. It's a lovely, colour-rich, flower-heavy throw based on the clothes and colours of Frida Kahlo, the mexican artist. Have you seen it?
 I was lucky enough to touch and see the original at a crochet workshop at Black Sheep Wools in April. You can read about my day here.

It is gorgeous, and so loaded with colour; saturated is the right word.

And I did buy the yarn pack with the best of intentions, but life (or guinea pigs) got in the way and the yarn lies, alone and bereft, at the foot of my bed. Don't worry, I have plans.

But, having been to one workshop and enjoyed it; like a one-day crochet retreat, almost, the times of silence interspersed with conversation and questions was so relaxing; I wanted to go again and booked as soon as I was home.

Yesterday's workshop was called Frida's Flowers Motif Workshop, with the aim being to start and get guidance on a flower motif that can be used in a small shoulder bag. The workshop was run by Jane Crowfoot, who is fast becoming my favourite designer of crocheted items. I love her use of colour and listening to her talk about the design process and the steps it takes to achieve a finished product leaves me open mouthed in admiration. I'm not a patient person, and I know sometimes I will take less than perfection to get a thing done NOW.

But Jane is so patient, and so keen to get everybody to a stage they can be happy with. The pattern wasn't an actual motif off the Frida's Flowers blanket, since they are hexagonal and this was octagonal, but used the same colours and similar structure in parts.

This is Jane's finished square. You can see the richness of the colours just pops against the deep black. She always apologises for the black, because it is such a pain to use, but sometimes you just need that stark background to show off the colours.

There were 12 of us, gathered around the table. The workshop at Black Sheep Wools is lovely, large and bright without being a sun trap. There's a large table in the centre and everybody has ample space to sit and do what you need to. Like I said, whole minutes pass by in silence, especially with a good design like the flowers, and it is almost like a retreat,a chance to concentrate and be mindful. There's no way you can concentrate on the detritus of every day life outside and get the counting, placing and stitching right.

 There were a few repeat offenders on the workshop; it turned out that, after the Lily pond workshop, about 6 of us had gone straight home and booked on this one. That was great, because there was a good feeling of companionship already in the room, and some of the chit chat had already happened so we didn't need to ask about locality, or family. It reminded me why I should find a knit n natter or hook, stitch and bitch group.
Jane is always keen to stretch the people on the workshop, and wants you to leave having learned a new skill or a new piece of advice. Here she was demonstrating finishing techniques for thread ends, but I loved the beading using double, half treble or treble stitching. I have dreams of a beaded evening bag in black cotton with silver or diamond beads. I need to let that ferment for a while, and to finish some other WIPs I have.
The workshop started at 10 and finished prompt at 4. Lunch, by the Black Sheep Wools cafe, was lovely as always and tea, coffee and cake at 3.30 was most welcome. Yes, I was tempted by some stuff in the shop, of which more later, and the 10% off voucher for attending a course was a welcome inducement.
"Ah!" I hear you cry, "But how far did you get in the 6 hours of hand cramping, neck aching crochet???"  (you were thinking that, weren't you?)

 I got this far and a little further. Not a finished motif by any means, but a couple of rows short of the black and certainly not just at the start. I also got as far as the pink row on my other side, so that's a win. The centre has beads on, and I wanted to make sure I had enough to complete both sides. Giventhat I was out last night and have an emergency to complete today, I think this will have to wait until Monday to be finished, and then put on my To Finish pile, which grows by the week. I am also reminded that I never showed you my finished pieces from the last workshop.... that will have to wait. I'm time poor today, and off to wake the crowd for breakfast. Have a good Sunday, and see you all later in the week x

Friday, 3 June 2016

Bring me Sunshine....

Yesterday we went for a rare family day out. We are buried deep in revision and pain at school at the moment, so grabbing a glorious sunny day and escaping seemed like a good idea. We decided (ok, I decided) that we would go and look at a city I have often gone past but never into.

We went to Lancaster; if you travel north on the M6 you very often pass the University, but it's not a place I remember going to. We didn't see that much yesterday, either, as we had plans for the afternoon. We did go up to the castle, which was a prison for many years. I couldn't resist getting the lads to stand under the sign!

And the guy at the gate in the photo above is a prison guard... really!
The Pendle witch trials were held here, and other famous trials. There is a castle tour, but we were on a mission and didn't feel like it yesterday. Fortunately Peter's football team play in Lancaster during the season, so I am on a promise.

WE'd gone specially to see the museum, which has a small exhibition (free entry) about Morecambe and Wise. Eldest David is a big fan, so I grabbed the chance before it goes off in July. There were a few exhibits like suits, personal items and playbills and plenty of interactive parts. I actually have video of me dancing with them here.... available for a price!

This was the most crazy I could get Fan boy to be; and this was under duress. But he enjoyed looking at the rooms, and pointing out the things he knew but I didn't.... like the first appearance of Morecambe and Wise as a duo was at the Liverpool Empire in 1941.

And then it was on to Morecambe and a walk up and down the prom. Apparently I went to Morecambe when I was 3 months old and cried ALL NIGHT LONG.
I cried a little yesterday, too, but only because it was lovely to see the faces of people responding to the statue. Little kids, for whom he means nothing yet, just made faces, and climbed over him and were generally not that impressed. But a lot of teenagers and on wards have seen enough of the clips to recognise comedy genius and to do the action, or to chuckle at the lines.... 'Tea, Ern?'.... 'You can't see the join!'.... 'He won't sell much ice cream going at that speed!'...... and the rest.

Again, Fan boy wouldn't oblige with the action, but he did have fun hanging around the statue for a while.

But I always oblige. Look at the sky... and the lack of sea.... and the panoramic view. I had Bring Me Sunshine on my phone so it was a nice touch to sit and listen to it at the statue.

And our final touristy moment before we had Fish and Chips at Atkinson's was to run into the Midland Hotel. We were hungry, so only I went in to grab the photos I wanted. I loved the foyer, all 1930's Art Deco and cool marble. I'm guessing Eric Gill was involved somewhere, since one of the function suites was named after him.

 And surely this must be by him; it so looks like Art Deco at its best.
Fish n chips and homeward bound. James had a cold and needed some medicine. In fact, on the way home two of the brats fell asleep, but not James. He did cough himself awake all night, and today we have had a quiet day of play and watching TV. Oh, and I needed to visit the vets.... twice. Don't ask. Let's just concentrate on Morecambe, shall we?

Have a good weekend and I might be back before Sunday..... or not ;-)
It really depends if I am (cough cough) doing anything REALLY good tomorrow or not...... (peep here to see!)

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Two's company, in guinea pigs.

The week after Ted died was a hard one. We kept finding little things we'd tried, we had to clean out the medicines she'd had. We kept asking was there anything else we could have done, any action we could have taken, anything at all that would have helped. The vet had said no, that these things happen, but it was amazing how the guilt grabbed us. We were busy that week with Christian Aid and work, so our evenings passed delivering envelopes and planning office moves (don't ask; the Saga of Virgin is for another day)

By the following Saturday we were slowing down. Sarah had a bad cold, Peter was out for the day and although I was supposed to take Sarah to badminton we cried off. We went for a coffee and to buy her material for a school project. I swear that was all. Just a Costa and a yard of material.

But we called into Pets at Home, just to look for hay or bedding or... well, any old excuse. And there was a little girl guinea pig there, alone, all alone. And such a pig! Nobody would ever choose her for her looks. May I introduce to the herd.....

Sherlock. That's her after a brushing and a tidy up. She has the maddest, baddest hair possible. Like Tina Turner in Beyond Thunderdome. Her neck is extendable like the Xenomorph in Alien, so occasionally she has the look of a dragon or a dinosaur, with her head sticking out of a ruff of wild, white hair. She is a character. And her and Lorelai are not the best of friends. because both of them want to be top pig.

Unfortunately, we'd only had Sherlock a day before it became obvious she had a runny nose. Ring up the store, complain and a trip to the vets later and I had another piggy on antibiotics. Seriously, are they never well? So this week I have been giving Sherlock anti inflammatories and antibiotics twice a day. She seems well enough,as you can see from the shot above of her heading off behind the computer. She loves to explore, and goes further in the room than either Lol (Lorelai) or Olgy.

We gave her to David. The death of Teddy hit him hard, because he had been coming home and taking care of her after lessons. He's in his A level year, so a distraction that sits and makes him smile is a good one. He named her as well (hence Sherlock) so that's good. And you should see a hulking 6 foot man take a little guinea pig out to the vets and talk to her about where we are. He'll make a lovely Dad one day, just lovely.

Alright, when are we? About Wednesday last week. And I was cuddling Olga, when I felt a rough patch in her fur. Cue Google, with a diagnosis of either mites or a fungal infection. And cue another visit to the vets and a bill. Don't ask. I have plans for a bigger cage, but the brutes keep me spending my savings.

Olga has a fungal infection; she's isolated for a week or so, until she looks a bit clearer, and I am administering an anti-fungal solution and Daktarin cream at regular intervals. We now have two cages set up next to each other, and little Olga keeps trying to bite through and get to her friends. Once we get the all clear, I might have to make the cages fit together permanently because they've got used to space.

We're not a good advert for buying guinea pigs from Pets At Home, are we? But, as I now realise, we should have adopted not bought. I'm a mad cavy woman who has plans for bigger and better cages, with fleecy cups and pee pads. I've loved looking what's available and (if I weren't bankrupted by the vets) I would have more to show you. I am loving looking at the guinea pig blogs and the forums around (and Good God, are they useful when you need advice!) and I love my little critters tremendously. Like my big critters, they aren't very photogenic. I need a faster camera, or to remember how to get the speed shots on my big camera. Unlike the big critters, they don't have a say, so my instagram has suddenly become packed with photos of cuteness and hairy creatures. I'm more relaxed about life, I haven't read a book in a month and my crochet has suffered because, between one and another, I haven't had the time. I cleaned the living room yesterday and realised it was the first time in a month. I will get back, I am taking time out from life this week to read blogs and post on them and to catch up with all my blogmates. Please forgive my absence, and drop me a welcome back below.

Monday, 30 May 2016

Say hello to my latest obsession....

Yes, I know, 6 weeks have flown past in the blink of an eye. I will have no other posts for May if I don't post this one. I do have a rather good reason. A story to tell. It has sadness, joy and a lot of cheekiness. Pour a cuppa, grab a box of tissues and let's go.

Many of you will know about this beautiful young lady, my Sarah (Princess)

She was 14 in February and asked for some pets. She's been on about getting a hamster or a mouse or a cat or a dog for years. Mr Angel Jem is..... not a pet lover, shall we say, and has until now always said no. No. Definitely NO.
But this year Sarah is 14. She's capable of cooking a meal for us, doing the washing, taking care of herself and the house when I'm too busy/tired/ill to do it. She has, in other words reached the Age of Responsibility.

So I looked into what pets were available.

Chinchilla. 2 for £200. Yeah, right, like that's ever going to happen.
Rats. They may be very clever but.... the reputation puts me off.
Hamsters. Balls of fluff that like to make a noise and come out to play.... at night time. No, that wouldn't do either.

Fortunately we had been to the Rabbit Farm at Llanystumdwy a few times over the years. With photos to prove it.

Would a rabbit be good? Well, we don't have a garden shed, and our garage is very dark. Sarah wanted an indoor pet, one we could handle and love inside and I know you can have rabbits inside, but they take a lot of space and have a habit of chewing wires and leads. No, not a rabbit.

But the rabbit farm also have guinea pigs to hold and cuddle. I looked into these beautiful little creatures and.... well, they have definite advantages over many animals as pets.

  • They are quite large as babies and as adults. Fully grown guineas are about 30cm long. That makes them easy to hold, and quite easy to catch in a cage as long as you corner them gently.
  • They aren't nocturnal. They sleep in naps of about 10 minutes a time and not for whole days. Less chance of having a daughter desperate to play while the pet lies curled up and asleep at a time that suits and them comes out and makes mad squeeking and rattling sounds when she wants to go to sleep.
  • They are social animals who live in herds in the wild. That meant that getting just one was not possible. That means there's always an animal to pick up and play with for somebody.
  • They need a cage/hutch and a play area, with time to run and explore. 
  • They don't bite unless they are really provoked. 
So one day towards the end of April I made sure everything was ready and we went looking for 2 small piggies.

We came back with three. Natch.

 Teddy. Soft, furry, ball of fluff. She was lovely, and a real live wire when we got her. Don't get attached.

 Lorelai to the left. She has the longest white hair, with a beautiful tan face. She is big, loud and loves to be held.
 Olga. The runt of the bunch. She is small, but clever and very very beautiful. Those eyes are hidden in the black fur, but they sparkle so.

And here is home. We had the cage set up like in all the books. Newspaper, wood shavings,a good layer of hay, hay in the hay holder thingy. And we loved them all. 

I had done a lot of research, but once I had the piggies I realised that the shavings/hay mix. although probably fine for an outside pig or a garage or shed pig, smelled. And it meant the girls were permanently wet or smelly if it didn't get changed every day. I looked into alternatives, and invested in fleece.

But by the time the fleece was ordered, Teddy was already ill. She had a UTI. Who knew guineas were so delicate? That they caught so many illnesses? And that even getting to the vets and getting antibiotics as soon as possible was no guarantee of recovery. Within the week, Ted was literally on her last legs.
 We bathed the piggies to make them clean after the cage fiasco. Have you ever seen a piggy swim? They are not happy; not happy at all. But it cleaned up their bits, and they smelled better for it.

 The best grass, the freshest dandelion leaves. We tried everything as a treat for Teddy. She spent a few nights sat on the arm of my chair alone, or with a friend while we tried to tempt her.

 And I have never had to cut and serve so much vegetables! Peppers, cucumbers, spring greens, I am still finding out what their favourites are.

Looking back now, we can see how she faded. How her weight never went on, despite hand feeding and finding the treats she loved. By Friday 13th (how ironic) there was nothing left to do except take her to the vets for the last time. She was in pain, and so were we. We held her, hugged her, kissed her and stroked her until the end. And then finally we said goodbye and brought her home to be buried. If you've ever seen how soon a pet becomes a part of the family, then you don't need to be told how we felt. We had a rough weekend, an Egyptian burial with hay and toys and an apple for the afterlife. And we held our two remaining guinea pigs closer still. Poor little things, they kept looking for Teddy, walking around the cage and wheeking. Olga was eating less, and for a day I was worried that we would lose her as well. 

We kept Olga out for a couple of nights and she would sit in a hay filled box between me and Mr AJ while we fed her vegetables and a little fruit to make sure she had the vitamin C she needed. Mr AJ may not like animals, but he wouldn't ever hurt one and he really seems to like the guinea pigs, probably because they are part of the family.

By the middle of the next week she was eating again, putting on weight and, although a quieter and more subservient character than Lorelai, was happy enough about life.

That's enough for today. I need to do something else. I'll be back tomorrow with Piggies Part 2; The Squeakquel.