Welcome to the blog for Ali's Craft Studio by Alison Lloyd. I am a crafter of peelable stained glass designs & handpainted keyrings and I look forward to sharing with you my news direct from Kent (the Garden of England)

Make sure you visit the shop at www.studiocrafts.net to purchase your own handmade decorations to bring fun and colour into every corner of your home

Friday, 31 December 2010

Goodbye 2010, Hello 2011...

OK, lets get it out of the way first - I am really sorry that my blogging skills have left a little to be desired in 2010!   But, look on the bright side, there are only a few hours left so things have to get better, right!  So, I declare to one and all, I promise to be better at blogging in 2011 - yes, I realise this isn't exactly the hardest thing to achieve but it is a start....

Right then, now the unashamed grovelling is out of the way, hope you all had a great Christmas with family, friends and loved ones and don't now feel the impending guilt of over-indulgence.  After all, think of it as supporting the economy - the alcohol, chocolate and general, fattening foods economy that is!  

The snow was pretty to look at but I'm
begging you snow Gods - quit it now!
 I am delighted to announce that despite their best efforts, the snow Gods didn't ruin our celebrations as everyone was able to get to us in Kent to spend Christmas here. It was hit & miss for a while and never have I viewed so many live traffic webcams in my life to virtually travel the route from Yorkshire to Kent and check on the state of the roads.   As it turned out, when my brother and Mum travelled on Wednesday morning, it was the easiest and quickest journey here they had ever had!!

Even the shopping trip to the supermarket to collect Tarquin (the turkey) and other goodies went smoothly.  Normally it resembles something between shopping in a war zone and a third world country with empty shelves and trolley rage but the shelves were full and the customers seemed just grateful to be out of the house and able to stock up for Christmas dinner (which someone once described as just a normal roast dinner but with hats on - hmm, I'll get back to you on that one!)

Now all the family have returned home and hubby is trying to get back to some normal working patterns (even though most people don't seem to be returning to work until January) so it has gone from a full house to just me and the cats....  it is normal but really feels strange and quiet!

So New Year is upon us and I feel confident that it will be a great year.   I have decided to approach the new year with a positive outlook and plan to 'retire' some designs and introduce new ones so if you have requests of what you would like to see, please e-mail them to me at craft.studio@virgin.net

I am starting to fill in the calendar with events for 2011 and will update my online list as soon as I have confirmed dates.   Already it looks like 2011 will be busier than 2010 and that was pretty busy!!

So, I hope you all have a very Happy New Year and that all your dreams and wishes come true.    Maybe 2011 is the year I finally will win the lottery......   If I do, I'll certainly let you know!

Happy 2011 Everyone!

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Great Feature, Great Blog - Really short post!

A really short post from me today (yes, I know this is unusual!!)  but I wanted to let you know that I am so pleased to have recently been featured on the blog of a wonderfully talented crafter - Charlotte Hupfield of Charlotte Hupfield Ceramics.

Charlotte was kind enough to do a series of interviews with other crafters and my one is featured here.  When you have read my feature, please do have a look around the blog at Charlotte's work.

I will do some more posts shortly on the feature in ABC magazine, my 'almost' interview with BBC Radio Kent and freezing my wotsits off on Bromley High Street so watch this space....

Sorry for the teaser but I have to run now as I have a ton of orders from this weekend for designs purchased as Christmas gifts so need to get these started so that they can be delivered in plenty of time!

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Brrr - If this is Autumn, I don't want Winter!

How bizarre is the weather at the moment?   From mild, almost summer-like days everything has suddenly flipped and now it feels like the middle of winter.  Having just watched the horror weather forecast, the talk of 80mph winds due tomorrow and torrential rain is not making me feel much better!!

Last weekend, we were at a fair at the old Fort Purbrook in Portsmouth - a wonderful old building with views to die for but unfortunately past experience has shown us that warmth and heat weren't top of the agenda when it was originally built (they were also sadly lacking in forward thinking and the signal for mobile phones and chip & pin machines is quite frankly shocking!!)

So, dressed like Nanuck of the North with thermal leggings, vest and socks, long sleeve t-shirt (as opposed to the short sleeved one which is normally favoured at shows), thick trousers,  two coats, scarf, gloves - you name it, I was ready to face the worst it could throw at me!  And, I am pleased to say...  I was baking!!  We were placed in a slightly different location to normal and the room was much warmer due to more efficient heaters and assisted by strong sunshine beating through the window throughout the weekend.  I ended up de-layering throughout the course of the day and scratching my head at the absurdities of the British weather!

I am pleased to say that it stayed dry so the visitors came along and once again I was really pleased to see some previous customers along with many more new ones.   Lots of people were buying items as gifts as well as their Christmas Decorations which again highlighted the difficulties of knowing what needs to be made each week.  (Must remember to write 'Crystal Ball' on the top of my list to Santa this Christmas!)

So, as we are halfway through another week, don't forget to head over to http://www.studiocrafts.net/ to get your Santas, Snowmen, Nativity Scenes, Wreaths and all kinds of Christmas decorations as well as some really unique and affordable gifts for your friends and loved ones.  I will resist the temptation to tell you how many sleeps there are left until Christmas Day but it is pretty scary.... (and exciting - I love Christmas!!)

For full details of where you can see us between now and our final show before Christmas (which is on December 17th at Bromley Market), please head along to the events page.

Piggies on Sleigh - a fun Christmas decoration!
Who says, you have stick to the norm?

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Crafters Delight

Yes folks, I have found it!  The one piece of 'kit' that makes life so much easier, you wonder why and how you haven't managed to think of it and use it before!!!

'Please tell us, oh all-knowing one...' I hear you all cry!   Well, it is this...

...wait for it...

Glass clear vinyl sheeting!! (pauses for whoops and hollers)

Yes, I finally managed to get hold of two 3m lengths of clear vinyl sheeting to cover my tables on the many outdoor stalls I have through the year and today was a perfect example of how wonderful it is.   Bromley was a town of all seasons today - sunshine, rain, wind, we pretty much had it all.

However, thanks to the aforementioned sheets, my normally frantic running around covering over stock and trying to deflect rain and drips was absent!   The plastic protected everything from the rain and the wind did not cause the usual whipping up of tablecloths as the plastic hung some way down the front of the table (behind my banners) so the wind couldn't get underneath.

Yes, I realise this is not the most exciting thing for non-crafters or for those crafters who aren't on the craft fair circuit but believe me - if you have ever done a craft fair in a rainy, windy, outdoor location, the joy is palpable!!

Oh yes, and I am pleased to say that on a pretty quiet day numbers-wise (there were a few tumbleweed moments down the High Street today) I didn't do too badly considering!  Tomorrow we are back at Hempstead Valley Shopping Centre nr Gillingham, Kent so the plastic sheets can have a well deserved day off as we are indoors.  (I'll be honest, I won't miss the rain and cold plus I can throw in a bit of shopping too!)

If you are in the area and want to come and say Hi and get your Christmas decorations (this is the last trip to Hempstead Valley before Christmas) you can find our stall in the area outside Marks & Spencer.

Hope to see you soon & happy crafting.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Busy Week Ahead

This weekend saw us again at Lancing College in Shoreham, West Sussex at the wonderful Christmas craft fair organised by Woodland Crafts (thank you Paul & Anita!!).  As a maker-only fair, the quality of items on show is truly astounding.

It was a great weekend and we were all extremely grateful that the horrendous weather which was forecast earlier in the week stayed away and we were blessed with two gloriously sunny, albeit cold days.  Whilst we were inside the college, had the weather been as originally forecast with heavy rain and galeforce winds, I am sure that most of the customers would have decided to stay in their warm, cosy homes!

Fortunately, the visitors came out in force and it was great to see lots of regular customers as well as many new ones and I now have a heavy week ahead making up new stock in readiness for my next shows at Bromley Market on Saturday and on Sunday it is our last visit to Hempstead Valley Shopping Centre before Christmas.  (We will be back at Lancing College in 2011 - both in April and October - keep an eye out for dates on the Fairs List of the website)

It is pretty much non stop now until mid-December when I stop my shows for the year (although my online shop is open every day at http://www.studiocrafts.net/) so I anticipate that I will be kept very busy just keeping Christmas stock topped up! 

These peelable decorations are ideal for temporary decorative occasions such as Halloween, Easter and Christmas as they can be stored away when removed and used for many years to come.   What did become apparant this weekend was also how perfect they are as gifts for friends and family across the globe - they are lightweight and easy to post without it costing you a fortune in packaging and postage costs.  I had a number of customers who were purchasing items for sending to Australia this weekend.   Hopefully Ali's Craft Studio will become a well known name down under!

Why not have a look at what is in the shop and get your decorations and gifts sorted out all in one go!  And as there is a set £1.00 postage charge per order to the UK (£4.50 for worldwide orders), you can stock up safe in the knowledge that there is no nasty surprise when completing your order.

It certainly has the right feel for making Christmas related designs - it is soooo cold here now!  I am so glad that I have a heater under my desk to keep me nice and toasty!  So, I guess this is going to a short post as I have to get back and bring to life more snowmen, stars, reindeers and Santas ready for colouring tomorrow.   Stay warm everyone and I hope to see you at a show soon.

Friday, 8 October 2010

The power of electricity

You know how they say, you don't know how much you need something until it is gone?  Well, yesterday, I realised just how much I need electricity in my daily life!   Twice, yes twice, I was thrust back into the dark ages when power cuts struck.

The first one was at lunchtime so at least I could see and the Gods were being kind as I had just finished heating up my lunch in the microwave and sat down to eat it when everything went off.  Now as I have said, it wasn't too drastic as there was plenty of light (apart from the fact I was in the middle of watching a really interesting programme on SKY!) but it was sooo quiet.  I never realised just how much noise the general whirring of equipment made but it was spooky to not have anything.  Even Misty (the cat) was disturbed by the silence.   Thank heavens for battery operated radios!! 

Around 10 minutes or so later, a few beeps indicated that power was trying to come back and very shortly afterwards, the reassuring whirr was back.  All except for the SKY+ box - yes, folks the fun and games started again!!   Anyone who has been following my blog for a while knows my love-hate relationship with SKY+ boxes!!

The ominous red, standby light was on so there was power but after a 10 minute wait for it to settle itself down again, pressing the button on the remote to start it up produced.... nothing! (Visions of all the recorded programmes disappearing again started to form in my mind)

You know the drill - unplug for a short while, leave to let the hard drives to restart, press the SKY button...  Nope, not having it.  Repeat....

Well, after just short of an hour of pleading & cursing, unplugging and pressing the magical green light appeared!!

Fast forward to the evening...

I had decided to go into the craft studio to colour up a few more designs and was literally half way through my three snowmen design (with my loyal helper asleep on the window sill, of course) when POP - we were plunged into complete darkness!

Unusually, there was no moon at all last night so when I say complete darkness I mean it.  I couldn't see my desk infront of me, never mind anything else.   I searched for my mobile phone on the desk by fumbling around and finally found it so could create a little light to move the work off the desk onto the drying racks and safety.   So by the light of the silvery moon pink mobile, I found the camping torch which was fortunately in the porch and very handy and began finding the others which were in a bag by the sofa.   If you have ever had to change batteries in a large torch by torchlight, you will know the fun I had when I realised that half weren't working.   I love candlelight but they are a no-no with two uber-curious cats as it is a major fire risk! (coupled with the fact that I actually don't know where any candles are, but that is beside the point!)

Hubby was still working so I called him to let him know that we were in complete darkness and to be careful on the drive home (I assumed that traffic lights, etc would have been affected too).

Back again to the battery operated radio for a bit of noise (Misty was now following me everywhere as I had the light - Blinky was asleep in his current favourite spot on the top of the stairs and didn't give two hoots!)  then the realisation hit me again that I have the joy of SKY+ standby/restart still to come!

I couldn't make a cuppa, couldn't sit and browse the Internet, couldn't have a shower (we have electric showers) and couldn't even package up my orders for posting as the printer was part way through printing the packing notes when the power went off.  So I found myself sitting cradling my loyal radio staring into space.    It was the most bizarre feeling going into the porch to find absolute, complete blackness outside - it was like the world had disappeared!
One hour later, just as Hubby arrived home, the power finally came back on.   Time to go and reset all the clocks (again), check the timers (again) and find the SKY remote control ready for the battle of wills that is me vs SKY+ (again!)

So, I will never take electricity for granted again and feel like oohing and ahhing every time I turn something on!  (Oh, and just incase you are wondering, I now have torches placed around the house so I don't have that horrible situation again of being plunged into total and utter darkness if it happens again)

I am pleased to confirm that the snowmen are now completely coloured and no longer semi-naked and, of course, available to purchase online now at: http://www.studiocrafts.net/onlineshop/prod_815703-729-Three-Snowmen.html

Have a great weekend everyone - I will be at the Weald & Downland Open Air Museum in Singleton, near Chichester this weekend for the last time before Christmas so if you are in the area, please come along and say hello.

I'm off now to enjoy the luxury that is being able to make myself a cuppa....

Thursday, 23 September 2010

The end of Summer?

The nights are drawing in and it is feeling chilly at chez Ali's Craft Studio lately - does this mean it is the end of Summer?  I can't quite bring myself to admit it and whack the heating on but I guess it won't be long....

Last weekend we suffered from that most hated of weather for an outdoor craft fair scenario - no, not rain - wind!!  Lots of wind.  It is a nightmare - your gazebo feels like it is about to take off any minute and setting up/breaking down takes forever!

So, I have just about come to terms with the darker nights and having to put on more layers and thermal socks but please, just a small plea to the weather Gods - chill out of the wind front please!   Fortunately there aren't that many more outdoor shows left (apart from the wind-tunnel that is Bromley High Street!!)  

However, with this cooler weather, it doesn't feel quite so odd to be making so many Christmas decorations!   Yes, some people are really prepared and buy for Christmas before Christmas Eve!  People are buying not only for decorating their own homes for the festive season but also for presents.   Buying early means that you avoid the crowds but also spread the cost so I guess it is a great idea if you can be that organised!

If recent fairs are anything to go by, Halloween is definitely becoming a time when people in the UK are thinking of adding some decoration to their homes too - it has always been popular in the US but us Brits do seem to be joining in the fun - and why not!!

So, if you can't bear the thought of scooping out a big pumpkin with a spoon, let me take the hard work out of it for you - simply decorate with these Halloween designs.  They won't start smelling after a couple of days and you can use them for many years to come!

For more details on the fairs coming up and if you are looking for some inexpensive yet unique presents just pop along to the website: http://www.studiocrafts.net/

Now, I must remember to go and get some 'Trick or Treat' sweeties before everywhere sells out!

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Hello, allow me to introduce myself...

Well, I thought perhaps I should as I have been so rubbish at blogging!  

As anyone who knows me will testify, timekeeping is a skill I am sadly lacking as I always underestimate how long everything is going to take.   So, after recovering from the shock of realising when I actually last posted, I have come to the conclusion that I have most definitely been abducted by aliens who have stolen a lot of time from me!  

However, I take comfort in the fact that I must be a nice guest to have on planet Zog as it happens frequently - like every morning before setting off for a craft fair when half an hour is definitely stolen between getting up and leaving at the time we planned to!

Say Hello to my time-stealing friend from the planet Zog!
I just don't know where the time goes.... one minute I am sitting on the stall in a field complaining about the heat and the next I am digging out my fleecy boots anticipating winter and Christmas!

I have to admit that I am a real sucker for all things Christmassy - from Santa and his reindeer (don't even think of trying to tell me he doesn't exist, buster!) and listening out for sleigh-bells late at night on Christmas Eve to decorating the tree and putting on those really cheesy Christmas compilation CDs which drive my hubby completely insane!

 OK, so we are only just into September so why am I talking about Christmas?   Well, currently laying out in my craft studio drying are numerous designs featuring snowmen, Santas, penguins in Christmas hats and Christmas candles.   Now I know how the big retail shops feel (apart from the copious amounts of cash flooding into the bank....) preparing and showcasing Christmas-themed items in readiness for shoppers.    And yes, before you ask, people really do buy Christmas decorations this early - I actually sold my first Christmas designs in April this year!  Some people are just way too organised....

Now, I have a plan to try to have a more handmade Christmas this year - from handmade presents to table decorations.   Please note, that the operative word in this sentence is plan.  To start with, I haven't yet thought of any suitable things to make as presents which are not going to cost 10x more than a shop-bought item due to the raw materials having to be purchased in advance and I also have no idea when these delights are actually going to be created.  So, all good intentions and all that, I am not holding my breath on this one!

Anyway, it isn't Christmas yet, it is our 9th Wedding Anniversary at the end of this month so hopefully we will be able to have a short break to celebrate and recharge the batteries.  

Then  we are into October and there is Halloween when I feel we have to have the 'Trick or Treat' sweeties in my pumpkin-shaped bag by the door even though we probably won't see any little ghouls, witches or monsters at our door - I am not one to take chances and hubby & I are pretty good at making sure they don't go to waste....

Witch designs have been proving popular over the last few shows so maybe people are starting to decorate for Halloween as well as Christmas.

And no, if you are wondering, I won't be scooping out the inside of a large pumpkin and carving a face into it - last time I tried it looked like some tragic farming accident and whilst the smell of a candle burning inside was lovely to start with, it very quickly turned into something very unpleasant indeed!   So I will stick to my pumpkin bag filled with sweeties for the steady stream (ahem) of trick or treaters beating a path to our door on 'All Hallows Eve' and my cuter pumpkin and cat peelable decorations on the window.  Much less mess and no smell at all....

If you are free this weekend, why not come down to see us at the Laughton Country Show near Lewes in East Sussex.  The stall will be featuring a multi-occasion display from general everyday designs right through to Halloween and Christmas!

Hope to see you there and I promise I will try to blog again a few times before Christmas!

Monday, 23 August 2010

When is an Airshow not an Airshow?

This past weekend we had a stall at the wonderful Shoreham Airshow which is normally resplendent with magnificent, awe-inspiring flying displays but this year the Gods had other ideas - low cloud, rainy, misty days and high winds put paid to all but a few flights which was a real shame.  Last year we were blessed with blue, Californian skies and a full program of flying including the incredible Avro Vulcan (the only airworthy XH558 Vulcan remaining which has a sound beyond belief!)

The incredible Avro XH558 Vulcan at Shoreham Airshow 2009

The south of England really suffered this weekend from horrible weather and the safety element was brought home on Sunday when the first flight of the day by a glider display pilot ended badly with a crash during the landing attempt.  Our hearts were in our mouths as the paramedics attended at the scene for almost an hour.  Fortunately, the pilot managed to scramble away from the badly damaged craft upon impact and is, according to an official statement from the display team, currently doing well in hospital and in good spirits which will come as a huge relief to all who were there.

Needless to say, there were very few displays on Sunday (the worst day for weather) which must have been a huge disappointment to those who had paid to come along.   Fortunately, there was still plenty to enjoy at the show including, in no small part, the craft marquee with some wonderful work on display.  Despite it all, we had a pretty good weekend!   I know that many visitors were appreciative of the huge amount of work which the organisers of the show put in to the weekend and the fact that they managed to have any flying at all (including a Catalina Seaplane, an amazing display of skills by the Harrier team and mock dogfight involving the Spitfires and Hurricanes, plus at the close of play on Sunday when an impromptu display by a Chinook helicopter pilot who was working with the Air Cadets and not there to do anything but standard ferrying to and fro of workers around the site during the breakdown of the show).   Hopefully as the show raises money for the RAFA, people will be thankful of the small amount of displays they did see and the great stalls available at the show.  

So may I add my congratulations to RAFA and the team at Shoreham - in such dire circumstances, you did an excellent job and kept smiling throughout (even when you had to stand in the rain for much of the time!)

Lancaster Bomber

Last year I made some peelable designs of a Spitfire, Lancaster and Hurricane which were popular and got lots of attention.

Hawker Hurricane


This year I added the Curtiss Tomahawk (AKA Kittyhawk) and North American Mustang to the collection of WWII planes. 

I will be adding these to my online shop soon.

There was still one more plane I really wanted to pay homage to and after a quick call to check I was OK to use the image, here it is:

Avro Vulcan
The Vulcan to the Sky Trust keeps this amazing plane in the air by constant fundraising (I am giving a donation to the trust for every sale of this design sold).  If you have ever had the honour of seeing this plane in the flesh (so to speak) you would want to help too - even if you are not that interested in planes!   If you would like to know more about the XH558 and the Trust, go to Vulcan to The Sky  If you can help the cause, please do - believe me it is worth it!

Next weekend is a three-dayer at Rudgwick Steam and Country Show so please join me by praying for better weather!  Three days in a muddy field is fine at music festivals but the prospect of wading through mud to get to and from a smelly port-a-loo doesn't fill me with joy!  Oh the life of a crafter is so salubrious, you have no idea!

Fingers crossed everyone...

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Flying Time, Great Features and Hidden Monsters...

Flying Time...

Where does the time go?  I can't believe it has been so long since my last blog posting when it only seems like five minutes ago. 

It has been pretty busy here since I posted last - we have been to the Lingfield Steam & Country Show - a fun weekend event with lots of steam engines, animals and vehicles along with activities for all ages.  Can you believe I sold a great number of Christmas designs at this show - on the first day of August!  I do try to take my box of Christmas decorations to shows where I won't be back again before Christmas but usually don't expect to sell more than one or two so I was really thrilled to have so many bought so early in the year (I always recommend that people buy their Christmas decorations as early as possible as keeping full stocks is very difficult as the season gets underway).  Does feel a little strange however, selling snowmen and Santas is sweltering heat!

Is it Christmas Yet?

Last weekend, we were at a new show for us - Step Back in Time, near Battle, East Sussex.  We really didn't know what to expect  and after an interesting start (no plan showing where your stall was, and not enough space in the marquee for everyone who had booked!) we had a great weekend.  Good weather and lots of visitors makes for a great combination!

This coming weekend is another Steam Fair at the Weald & Downland Open Air Museum in Chichester - bring on the soot!!   We always come home covered in a liberal coating of the stuff and feeling like a 60-a-day smoker!  Hopefully the weather will be kind to us again to bring out the usual crowds.

Great Features:

I have been really lucky to be featured on two more great blogs:
I feel really pleased that anyone would want to write about little ol' me so thank you one and all for letting me have space on your great blogs.

Hidden Monsters:

OK, so I know you are still wondering about the rest of the title of this blog.  So I will put you out of your misery...

Yes, it relates to moths (yikes - even typing the word makes me shiver!)   I have decided that one of two things is true (or maybe both?):

  1. Moths do not talk to one another to warn about dangerous houses containing black moth-eating monsters
  2. Moths have death wishes and/or are stupid as they keep on coming!
Last week was a major milestone for me (but not one that I wish to repeat too often...)  As you know if you have followed my previous posts, my encounter with Godzilla the moth began when he cased me out from above the bathroom door.

This location, it turns out, is a real favourite for our dusty, fuzzy, yukky, 'get out of my space and stop dive-bombing me' flying friends.   And last week, I found 'Godzilla 2 - the revenge' lurking above the bathroom door (this time on the inside of the bathroom).

Now normally, my knight in shining armour/shorts would come racing to my rescue but as he had already left for work, I knew I was on my own! 

My options:
  1. I could get my ladder and try the 'squish' technique.  If I missed, I guarantee, I would have fallen off the ladder and would have no doubt that as I lay on the ground, the little monster would have come and landed on me just to rub it in!
  2. I could close the door and use our other toilet for the remainder of the day until my aforementioned knight returned home to his castle and maiden in distress.
  3. I could turn to my new-found hero - Mr Dyson!
Option 3 looked the only viable choice and lo and behold, Godzilla 2 had an unexpected thrill ride courtesy of my purple 'Animal - never loses suction, even when disposing of moths' (maybe not the right slogan but it works for me!)   Problem is, I am now a little afraid to empty it incase Godzilla 2 forces his way out of the bin after he has been building up strength eating dust - after all, that is what they are made of! (does that make it cannibalism?)

Warning!  Moths Not Welcome!

Hopefully, the message will get out to the moth community and our address will be off the radar for a great place to hang out.   Lets hope so!

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Birthday Celebrations

If you read my last blog entry, you will know that last week was my hubby's birthday and we were heading up to Yorkshire for a brief visit to celebrate with the family.

Well, a wonderful time was had by all.   The drinks and conversation was flowing, the food was fab and the company even better!

Great company is the perfect recipe!

We had a great meal at Table Table in the new Gateway Plaza in my hometown of Barnsley, South Yorkshire - if ever you are in the area, do try it out!  The meal was great and very reasonably priced (so we could have more wine!!)

As you would expect from such a momentous occasion, the conversation was sensible (ish), restrained (not) and in no way did I inhale all the helium from the balloon to do my own squeaky rendition of Happy Birthday!!  (I'll get my coat...)

Phil and his cake with five candles
Phil, myself and 'that' balloon
So, the secret is out - my husband has reached his half-century but still isn't above balloons, party poppers and, of course, a cake with candles.   

As it was a Friday evening and the Barnsley Fire Brigade may have been having a busy time of it anyway, it was decided to limit the candles to a more respectable five and avoid risk of serious injury to ourselves and all the other diners that evening!

The Mums enjoy an evening tipple
Even the weather Gods were kind - we were able to sit in Mum's garden sipping bubbly (just a normal Friday then!) before leaving for the restaurant and also on Saturday morning before everyone headed home in the afternoon following a cooked breakfast which would rival any hotel!

Mental note, skin which hasn't seen the sun for a long time burns really quickly!  Ouch - as my shoulders are normally covered when outside at craft fairs (nice tan on the lower arms though) but were exposed last weekend, I now have some very burnt shoulders!!!

Thank you again to everyone who gathered for Phil's birthday and to Mum for making all the arrangements - it was a great weekend and, most importantly, Phil really enjoyed it too!

Cutting the Cake - Happy Birthday Darling!!

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Another week... Another story!

Let me start by saying that I LOVE animals - all sizes, all types, I just love them all!  Well, when I say all I have to exclude one of God's little creatures - MOTHS!  They terrify me!  They should not be able to fly around - they are made of dust for heaven's sake!!  What are they for other than to come after me late at night when I am safely in my home????

Last week was, as you know, a bit of a 'mare here at Chez Ali's Craft Studio and was topped off by my encounter with Godzilla (the moth).  The size of a small vicious dog (OK, so I may have exaggerated a little here) it held me to ransom in my own home!!  I swear that moths watch me like dust-filled, winged CCTV cameras before dive-bombing my head for fun! 

So, my encounter with Godzilla was as follows... 

I was about to get into my lovely comfortable bed but needed to go into the bathroom first and... there he was, above the toilet door, watching me (I am not lying when I say he moved round as I walked towards the door to watch me move!)  I couldn't not go in to the toilet (I will skip a minute of the story here...) so with all the bravery of an ancient gladiator about to face the lions den, I went in and came out again (after doing what I needed to do - in the aforementioned skipped minute) to creep slowly towards where my husband was already tucked up in bed.  All was reasonably calm until...
Godzilla attacked!   He came at me with gay abandon as I ran like a poor-man's version of Usain Bolt into the bedroom!   Hubby was happy (!!?) to get up and help his damsel in distress (he didn't bother with full shining armor and white horse as it all seemed a little extreme and his shorts were closer to hand)   "Tell me, damsel in distress," he said "where is this monster?  Take me to him and I will slay him and save you!"  (Or words to that effect)

Well, there was a problem now - Godzilla was on the move and nowhere to be found!   After a thorough (aka quick look behind the curtains and light fittings) search, my knight in shining armor shorts declared "I can't see it - it must have left!"  What did it do?  Open the door????

I did not sleep well that night - I could feel the beady eyes of Godzilla watching me from his hideout, waiting to attack.   My normally brilliant stealth hunters were not much use either - both were fast asleep and had no interest in my plight! 
Halftime Score: Me: Terrified - Godzilla: Laughing

I will let you know the final outcome of the Godzilla battle shortly (nothing like building the tension!) but I want to fast forward a little to this week which has been very different indeed.

I know that you have all been losing sleep holding candlelit vigils for my toe (much appreciated) Well, your prayers and messages of love have not been in vain.  I told my toe about how everyone was wishing it well and it responded!   After a couple of days of snake-like skin shedding, it is now much better and well on the road to full recovery.  Thank you all!

This past weekend has been really fun - two fairs, one a bi-annual one so very well supported with lots of great stalls and events and hallelujah Great Weather!  The second one was my idea of heaven - a Rare Breeds animal event!  The whole event was simply brilliant with sheep, goats, chickens, ducks, cows, alpacas, rabbits....  The dulcet tones of all those animals in one place was amazing! (I told you I love animals).

Happy Birthday Darling!
This coming weekend is a little different for me - no fairs at all!!  

Friday is my wonderful husband's birthday and we are having a family gathering (all 8 of us!!) in Yorkshire to celebrate.  So we will be travelling to stay with my Mum and I can't wait to have a really great evening out with everyone.  (Will let you know how it goes at a later date!)  It is very unusual not to have a fair and it feels a little strange but we have a run of some of our bigger events coming up over the coming weeks and so it won't be long before the chaos starts again.

So, back to the epic battle between myself and Godzilla...

A couple of days passed without seeing the beast and even I was starting to think that he had opened a window, let himself out and closed the window again.... All was well until...

One night, I was in the spare room as hubby had gone to bed early and I didn't want to disturb him.  There is a window above the bed head and Misty was entertaining herself with some poor insect on the windowsill.   This time, however, she didn't get bored like she normally does and I started to wonder if I was ever going to get any peace.  In a moment of amazing brilliance (ahem) I didn't turn the light on as thoughts of Godzilla were still in my mind.  So, using the faint green glow of the alarm clock light, I tried to see what she was chasing AND THERE HE WAS, in full monster glory on the window frame!  What do I do?? 

And don't come back!
Well sometimes, sisters have to do it for themselves and with remarkable bravery (even if I say so myself) I managed to get the window open and boot Godzilla outside!!   I can only hope that he goes with tales of the horror house with the big, black, furry beast who attacks moths and tries to eat them - other moths beware!

FINAL SCORE: Me: Alive   Godzilla: Gone!!

The house feels so much bigger now that our lodger has moved out and this week so far has been a marked improvement on the last!  

As they say in the song...  "What a difference a day makes, 24 little hours..."
OK hands up - who is singing the song now??  Tee Hee!!

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

What a week so far... Whatever Next?

I feel like I have come back from a big void without access to the Internet, problems with SKY (again) and a feeling of what can go wrong, will go wrong!  It is amazing how much you miss the Internet when it isn't there anymore.  The past couple of days have definitely been a case of 'Whatever Next??!'
Whatever Next????

Yesterday, our wireless router decided it didn't want to route anymore (guess the hot weather disagrees with electrics too!)  All was fine in the morning but when I went to check my e-mails at midday.... nothing!

Sometimes the router gets knocked offline by other wireless equipment in the area so a restart isn't uncommon but yesterday after the fifth or sixth restart, reboot, reset and any other re- you could think of it became pretty clear that all was not well.

A call today to tech support at the ISP created more questions than answers (not their fault) as the router appeared to be working and connecting to their server but it wasn't sending the connection to our laptops!  Was it something I said?  I try to be kind to our equipment and talk sweetly to it when it appears a little under the weather but this blatant snub was more than a little frustrating!

To cap it all, this was the last of a run of bad luck - my SKY+ remote died last week (have you ever tried to watch SKY properly without a remote??) and a call to their customer services (??!) resulted in a frustrating morning trying to get a replacement from them.  Finally they agreed but it wouldn't be with me until today - a whole 8 days from the day I called!!  Still, at least the chappy on the phone was kind enough to inform me in great detail about the weather in India so maybe all the money I spent on the call wasn't wasted after all (@@!*!$%) 

I have been like a teenager on Valentine's Day ever since - running expectantly to the door when the postie arrives but every day was a disappointment.  Well, I could take it no more and called SKY again today to find out when this elusive plastic answer to my dreams would arrive.  

Today's calls went as follows:
  • Call 1 - through to a nice lady in Scotland who couldn't understand either why the remote had taken so long to arrive.  I was put on hold so she could investigate.  A couple of minutes later : cut off!! AAARGGH!
  • Call 2 - back to India (no weather report this time so don't ask) to be told that the remote control order had been cancelled as there was no warranty on this piece of equipment - even though, as I gently(ish) pointed out - it was less than 1 month old!!  Solution - I could buy myself a new one for £25!!!   Needless to say, this customer service representative probably now wishes he worked for someone else and that someone else had the pleasure of answering my call!!   A 15-minute rant about what I thought of their company and service seemed appropriate (oh, yes I forgot to mention that I was told that I could contact Customer Relations if I wanted them to override the cancellation - but wait, you can't phone them - you can write to them!) Result: Total frustration, anger and stomping like a toddler around the front room!
Did I mention that the remote control for our TV also doesn't work properly???  There was a lot of getting up and down just to change the volume, change channels, etc. recently - well, actually that isn't strictly true - it was more watching crappy programmes because they followed what we had been watching but just couldn't be bothered to get up and crawl infront of the telly again to find something else to watch.

To cap it all off, I also have a very painful toe at the moment - probably caused by the heat - I won't go into details but it is agony  and not very pretty to look at and definitely not helped by the toddler-tantrum-stomping this morning! (it is infact the most painful toe in the world as I keep telling my husband but he doesn't believe me and thinks I am over-reacting! HMPHF, the very cheek of it!)    I decided that God was against me this week and going back to bed and pulling the covers over my head seemed a good solution!  But then I would probably stub my toe on the bed leg and suffocate knowing my current run of luck!

And so to this afternoon....   I tried to turn the TV off using the broken TV remote - and it worked - twice (I had to have another go just incase it was a fluke)!  So, a challenge had been laid down - two more to go - well, can you believe it, the SKY one followed suit!

Surely, the Internet couldn't suddenly start working too, could it?   Well, as I am able to get online to post this, I guess the answer is clear!  Yes it could!!!  The toe doesn't seem to want to join in this miraculous regeneration but I guess I can live with that for now. (Still the most painful toe in the world....)

So, my message to the Little Devil who has been screwing with the electrics in our house for the past week, wherever you are, listen up...it was a funny joke for a while but seriously - stop it now!!

In anticipation of hopefully not being thrown into the cut-off-from-the-big-wide-world void again tomorrow, I will sign off before everything goes caput again!!

Surely this week has to get better (doesn't it??)....

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Observations & Feline Entertainment...

During this hot weather, everything and everyone seems to be suffering - we really just are not happy in this country during extreme weather (hot or cold!).  It is truly a national pastime to talk about the weather in the UK and have a good old moan!

Therefore, to keep with the trend, here is just a small selection of the things that this weather has brought to my attention at Chez Ali's Craft Studio:
  1. My paint becomes thick and gloopy in the heat which makes it very difficult to create nice clean outlines on my work - it now lives in the fridge to try to keep it cool. 
    A very interesting sight for any unsuspecting person looking inside!  Mind you as hubby is at work, who would be looking in my fridge anyway?!  Hmm.... Anyway, I digress...
  2. Fur coats (especially black ones) and that bright, yellow, hot thing in the sky are not a good mix!  Just ask the cats, Blinky and Misty!  And they don't mind telling you frequently throughout the day (usually with a nibble and bite on your leg or elbow which will be repeated until you pay attention!)
  3. There aren't enough places in the house and garden to put bowls of water for said cats.  I am rapidly running out of containers and spend so long going round filling them all up that I am considering just flooding the ground floor to save time!
  4. Doors and windows being open do not make it feel noticeably cooler inside the house - it just means there are more flies coming inside.  Electric fans also just blow warm air around but do cause some entertainment as Blinky finds it really funny if the air blows up his bum!
  5. Cats can (and do) suffer from hayfever!
  6. Football teams and tennis players I am rooting for play much better when I am not looking at the TV screen!!  (honestly, I swear this is the truth!)
  7. The vole population in Kent may soon be at serious risk courtesy of Blinky - the stealth hunter!
  8. No food sounds appetising in this heat when I have to make it myself...
  9. Drinking more does not necessarily make you feel any cooler, it just makes you want to pee more!
  10. Finally, the lack of cool air in my craft room makes me look for any excuse to stop sitting at my desk with sweat running down my back battling with gloopy paint!!  Even doing the washing and emptying the dishwasher are preferable...
Yesterday, my internal moaning and muttering about being hot was relieved by Misty, our female cat who was also in my craft room trying to stay as cool as possible.  The scenario was played out in three stages:

Stage 1. Hot - Solution:  stay on the window but keep as low as possible - some breeze was coming under the curtain

Stage 2. Hotter - Solution: move away from the window as breeze has now died down (perhaps try putting head in cup if necessary!) 
She woke up when her whole face ended up in the cup!
3. Too Hot - Solution : stretch out on cooler desk (with cool air fan underneath) and push everything in her way to one side!! 
She obviously thinks that my craft work doesn't need such a big area!

Today, both cats were trying to stay cool - thank God for wood floors!  As I said, fur coats and hot weather....
In the foreground stretched out is Blinky, in the background sitting demurely is Misty and one of the many bowls of water dotted around...

Keep cool and happy crafting everyone...