My Family & Other Animals

Sunday 25 June 2017

"So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodbye...."


And so it is with a heavy heart I join the long list of people who are saying goodbye to New York's finest, Mr. Kenny Kiernan and his wonderful wife Elena. While I have never met them, I think I can safely count them as friends now. It's amazing how a few e-mails back and forth over the last five years can actually bring you quite close to someone.
Always quick to respond, they both make you feel valued and that your opinion matters to them, which for a challenge blog is really lovely; naming no names, I have worked on several blogs and to be on friendly terms with the people who not only provide you with the most amazing images to work with but who also show a stunning generosity of spirit to their Design Team members is something to be treasured. Such has been my time with the Design Team, both as a member and a guest, I will take some lovely memories with me associated to the cards I have made for their challenges.
Waiting for that email, the one with the images attached, has always been a massive buzz for me. Even before I have seen what I have been sent, I just know it is going to beat anything else out there in the blogosphere. So for my final post working for Kenny and Elena I have revisited a post from 2012. We received 2 copies of the above image (called rather interestingly 'Bow'), one with some pretty classy lingerie on and one in the all-together! I obviously decided to use the more adult one of the two images (adult - yes, classy - hell yeah!!), so after colouring all the skin tones in all I had to worry about colour-wise were her hair, eyes and lips, her garter and oh yeah - the bow!
I tried to keep it simple and hope I have achieved this, I usually leave that up to you though, gentle reader, then I send them out into the world for others to enjoy/hate whichever floats your boat.
Rather than use the image on a card, I managed to pick up a lovely idea from some craft magazine or other and turned the image into a bookmark. So easy to make, these could quite easily be made in bulk and popped into Christmas cards as a little xmas bonus for family or friends alike!
So, it is with a wish for all the very best that life can give Kenny and Elena and their two beautiful children for the future, I hope you will join me, Gentle reader in sending them all huge hugs and some big wet sloppy kisses.
All the best kids, hope you and yours all have reaches that well exceed your grasps.

P.S. Don't forget to visit where all their fabby digi stamps are retailing at an amazing $1 and their clear stamps an even better $3.99!, go fill your boots, or your baskets!
Or, you can visit them on Facebook too, either way, please say goodbye as I am sure it will mean a lot to them.

Monday 3 October 2016

"I Ripped Your Heart Out From Your Chest....

...Replaced It With A Grenade Blast. (Sonic Youth - Incinerate)

A bit dramatic?, not really.
Friday the 30th of September is indeed going to go down as a very black day in our house.

Our oldest cat, Georgia, had not long turned 181/2, when she started to get very poorly. She had a heart arrhythmia and Hyperthyroidism but with the help of Nola, out vet, we were managing both conditions with a daily dose of pills galore. Never having accepted a pill willingly in her life we managed to put them in her food quite successfully (most days!) and her symptoms seemed to be levelling out when we went for follow-up appointments.
We nearly lost her a few months ago when things took a turn for the worst and Nola told us to be prepared for the worst, but with the help of her pills and extra vigilance from us we managed to get a two month pass from the vet who seemed quite happy to let her have some respite from the really stressful car journey and the intrusive tests she had to go through every time we went.
The last two months at home started out really well, she was eating and taking all her pills okay, she even seemed to have a little more energy, but sadly things started going down hill quite quickly. I noticed that her fur was beginning to get all tangled up and the fur on her back nearly started to look like Rastafarian hair! Her energy levels dropped quite quickly, she spent all day sleeping and then all night too, something she never ever did (nighttime was fussy time, whether you were tired or not!).
She stopped eating for the last few days and so stopped taking her pills too but the saddest thing was that she went blind. She couldn't even manage to jump up onto our bed and took to sleeping next to the wall in the corridor outside our bedroom (which had become her whole world virtually!). We knew we had an appointment with the vet on Friday but on Thursday evening as we were getting ready for bed, I said to Jo that I thought the time had come. She knew what I meant and after convincing me we were doing the right thing for George and anything else would be selfish on our part, we took her to the vet's knowing this would be her final journey.
So let me tell you about her. She was the most gentle and loving cat I have ever come across. She had a filthy temper on her, if she had finished letting you fuss her then she only knew one way of making it stop - claws and teeth to the ready and a full on attack of your hand. Of course we learnt the signs and so didn't have too many more attacks to worry about. She would attack anyone who went to fuss her if she wasn't in the mood and so (thanks to her mum and dad!!) gained quite a negative reputation as a bit of a nutter! She was actually the total opposite when she had you one-on-one, she loved nothing better than to sit, tight as she could get, next to you and then roll over and let you tickle her tummy for ages. She loved you to rub her ears, the more aggressive the better as far as she was concerned, this fuss would last for hours if you didn't end up getting a cramp!
She had the most beautiful face and her fur was so soft, especially the fur on her ears which I really loved stroking, they were like little silky triangles. She was also unusual in that she didn't mind you kissing her. We have another two cats who flatly refuse the kiss!, you have to surprise them in order for them to allow you a kiss on the head and even then, Willow will still run like her bum is on fire even after you kiss her, so determined is she that you will not get a follow-up kiss!!
Georgia was a beautiful spirit who will be missed every day for the rest of our lives. She was a massive part of our little family, some people will probably think we're like those childless couples who substitute cats for kids. Well not us.
She died in my arms, having her last fuss she slipped away without a problem, taking a massive piece of both of our hearts with her. Things at home will never be the same again, the whole house feels like there is something missing.
On a final note, just to round the day off in all it's fullest glory and to make sure I knew things were less than a little on the dark side, I received a letter from the WWF (not the wrestling!) who I have an adopted Tiger with (thanks to my wonderful wife), called Kamrita. The letter was informing me that the WWF thought she had passed away in the wild. They thought this because Kamrita was well tagged and monitored and she had literally dropped off the face of the earth. She was twelve years old, which is apparently a good age for a wild tiger and she had given birth to at least five cubs during her lifetime. She lived in the Khata corridor, a narrow strip of forest between Bardia National Park in Nepal and Katerniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary in India and while I only knew her through the pictures I received, reading that letter felt like a right kick in the guts. I lost two beautiful animals on the same day and today finally feels okay to talk about either of them.
They gave me so much pleasure during their lifetimes and while Kamrita probably didn't get it, I know Georgia knew she was special to us.
So goodbye and goodnight Georgia L-B and Kamrita,
always with us,
x o x o

I would also like to send a very special Thank You to everyone at Whitegate's Veterinary Surgery, Washingborough, Lincs. They did a stellar job of looking after both Georgia and us every time we went and they were always very friendly and welcoming, not like our previous vet's which was very clinical and all about the Benjamins.

Friday 2 September 2016

"Hello Mudduh..."

"...Hello Fadduh" A great little ditty from Allan Sherman, remembered very fondly being played on many a Junior Choice with Tony Blackburn and Arnold the Dog, something I used to listen to right up until I joined the Royal Air Force at the grand old age of 16 and a half (I was still a baby!).

Good morning Gentle Reader,
why so nostalgic I hear you ask? Short answer, no clue! just woke up like this and I've spent the last day and a half living in my own past, something I have found in equal measures both scary and fun. I think it really started on Facebook where so many of my old muckers are doing a 22 day, 22 press-up challenge for all the ex-serving and current members of all the UK Armed Forces personnel suffering from P.T.S.D. (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), something which has left a lot of returning Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen feeling isolated and unable to express themselves to anyone, especially their nearest and dearest. As I am sure you can imagine, this is not something to be taken lightly  (especially for members of the Army who seem to suffer the most, what with them serving on the front!), but for years both the MOD (Ministry of Defence) and even more distressingly, some quarters of the Medical Profession distanced themselves from this horrific disorder, even going so far as to say it didn't exist. Thankfully we now live in more enlightened times and there is a lot of help being offered to those who need it.
Please look around facebook, find someone doing the challenge and show them your support, thank you in advance Gentle Reader.

Another reason I could be feeling so nostalgic is the music I have been buying on iTunes. I wanted to download "For America" by Red Box, a track (and unfortunately, a band) nobody heard of, even in the 80's. They only had two hits and I didn't even expect to find it on iTunes, but there it was, a track off their debut album "The Circle and the Square" which I used to have on sweet, sweet vinyl. So I got that and at the bottom of the page were a load more artists and songs being recommended for me, among which was Level 42 and "The Sun Goes Down (Living It Up)" which took me to Hazell Dean's "Wherever I Go, Whatever I Do" (don't mock, I loved this track when it first came out!), this went to New Musik, then Dollar, The Rubettes, Fox, Slik and a few others, such a lovely trip down memory lane and it didn't cost a fortune with most of the songs only being 59p.
I highly recommend you give it a go, think of an old song you want but never got around to buying, download it from iTunes and see where their recommendations take you, I had a blast!
And so to this weeks cards from the Club Kenny K and Challenge #16, the theme of which is always "Anything Goes". It runs from the 1-14th September and the only rule you really have to stick to is that you must use either Free with the Club Newsletter image "Mad Mummy" (above, check out the inside of my card. I never do this and I think it looks lush, I will definitely have another go!) or the $1 Club Deal image of "La Spyda" (which is the lady on the right, below).

So go for it, make your craziest Halloween card (or another theme if you can think of anything, I couldn't which is why you have 2 Halloween cards!!). This is not a theme I would usually go for, this country is still quite new to celebrating the holiday and already I can see it turning into Christmas Part 2, let's see how much we can spend, just to impress our friends! I sincerely think it is only a matter of time before someone starts celebrating Thanksgiving and we all end up joining in. Whatever the US does we follow politely in their footsteps, taking up disgusting things like 'Black Friday', something so heinous it just ended up as a total show of greed, Walmart/ASDA are responsible for bringing it over here but they had the good sense to limit the amount of people they let in on the second year, what a shame none of the other retailers thought to do the same! 
Anyhoo my Gentle Reader, I will stop while I am ahead and still have followers!
You have a great week and I will see you back here really soon,
Love and Hugs,
X O X O 
Entered Into:
A Vintage Journey September Challenge - Create Within A Frame!
Artbymira Challenge #66 - Anything Goes
Colour Crazy Challenge - Week 21 Colouring Challenge
Craft For The Craic August Challenge - Photo Inspiration! (Below)
Crafty Catz Challenge #336 - Anything Goes w/Autumn Colours
Creative Fingers Challenge #115 - Always Anything Goes
Dragon's Lair September Challenge - Books and/or Paper
Jo's Scrap Shack Fun-Day Friday Challenge #154 - Anything Goes
PDE Linky Challenge '136 - Anything Goes

Wednesday 17 August 2016

"Do You Want To Kiss My Egg..."

Good evening Gentle Reader,
I hope I find you in good health and enjoying the beautiful British weather, it's not often you get to ask that question so it's nice to be able to share with you, especially as you can see the nights starting to close in again. None the less, the X Factor and Strictly are nearly with us again; two of Britain's defining Autumnal/Winter moments and less it should ever slip our overly-cluttered minds, these shows act like little stopwatches ever drawing us closer and closer to Christmas.
But we're not here to talk about the weather or the C word, one is just too dull for words (you wanna know what the weather's like? Buy a window!!) and the other one is still four and a half months away. Having said all that, I am here to do a job of sorts and that is to entice you over to the home of Kenny K's digi's (and his pre-coloured images) and not forgetting our Facebook page Club Kenny K. As it is the 15th, it's time for a new release and a new challenge, as usual it's Anything Goes with a twist; Die Cuts.
For my card I have used "Santa Baby" (available HERE at the very reasonable cost of $3.50 or in a bundle with the 2 other new releases, Dancing Santa and the rather fantastic Santa Selfie, which you can get for the extremely giveaway bundle price of only $8.00! how mad is that?) The dies I have used are a very old Marianne die 'Poinsettia', a leaf die I have no idea about! and a very new one from Spellbinders called Labels 46 Decorative Accents (available from IconUK HERE. A superbly priced UK site that always works out a bit cheaper than everyone else, is always up to date with the latest releases and charges no pounds and no pence for postage, which in this day and age is superb), which is one of the new ones I mentioned in a previous entry.

On to the real world and to something which is probably anathema to most readers of my blog - The Olympics. I am not a massive sports fan but for two weeks every four years I am up through nearly all the night, waiting for one of our lovely boys or girls to win us a little slice of pride in the shape of a  medal (since starting writing this we have won a gold in the Cycling and a silver in the Diving, how awesome is that?). I'm not the only one though 'cause Jo loves the athletics, which made me think maybe one or two of you might like the Olympics too!
I watched Super Saturday and even sat through the bum numbingly Andy Murray tennis match (Yay, Gold!) but the real joy came on (what we call!) Super Dooper Sunday when we watched medal after medal turn up. We cried when they cried, laughed when they cried, we did it all. It really was a special day not just for Sport but for the Country as well, for a short while we are all in the moment, being optimistic and pulling together, willing these super humans on through adversity, bad health and set backs. For the first time in a long time, I am proud to be a British man, so please put your hands awkwardly by your sides and mumble the National Anthem along with me (if of course you know all the words to  "God Save The Queen", I am convinced that only Prince Phillip knows ALL the words!!!),
Anyhoo Gentle Reader, I am away,
to sleep, per chance to dream (after the beach Volleyball),
See you again soon,

Tuesday 2 August 2016

"Put Another Dime In The Jukebox Baby..."

Good evening/morning Gentle Reader.

So after a lot of confusion on my part, I am finally making cards for the Kenny K Krew again.
As I'm sure you know, I have been absent from my blog for a while with only sporadic returns when I really felt like I had to do something before I lost you all forever (thank God for Suze being there for me when I eventually came back, your a good 'un kid xoxo). I came back, lost my Mother, came back again, lost my mojo but I can honestly say I am back for good again as my mojo was found, it was under one of the cushions on the sofa that one of the cats sleeps on, you know what it's like - you'd rather not disturb them while they sleep, it always seems so unfair and I could watch my three girls sleeping for hours, it's so relaxing!
Anyhoo, bought some great new gear: I have some amazing new dies coming from Create and Craft, really large and ornate Spellbinders dies, I got some fantastic stamps and dies from Sheena Douglas, there's a rock 'n roll collection which has one of those fantastic 50's microphones on one of them and a set of Carnival of the Dead stamps and dies which I still haven't had time to use. I did however manage to meet the lovely Sheena again at an open day at my favourite craft shop (Let's Create in Coningsby village). I say I saw Sheena, there was only half the woman she used to be who turned up, I didn't recognise her at first she looks so fabulous. I didn't manage to catch which diet she is using but it clearly allows for cake slices so that could be the one for me!!
I have also been getting through a lot of my Copic Ciao's and my plan was that when one of them died on me I would replace it with a Copic Sketch marker as these can be refilled. Of course, I didn't really think it through as when you buy a Sketch you pay anywhere from £4.50 - £6.00 a pen, then you have to buy the ink refills which are usually well over a fiver each (or they have been where I have been looking!). Long story short, I had a load of pens which needed replacing/refilling so I bit the bullet and treated myself to the inks I needed and filled in all the blanks of the red spectrum that I was missing. This has really got my colouring juices flowing and for the last week that's been me, sat on the sofa, surrounded be cats and a pile of digi images and some of the new Lily of the Valley Seasons stamps (very pretty, as you would expect from LOTV).
So get yourself of to the Kenny K facebook page and have a go at this fortnight's new challenge, as always it is Anything Goes with a twist and the twist this time is Christmas in July. I already posted that one (see below) and the image for this post isn't meant to be posted until the 15th (I have JUST realised!!!!!), I guess that means I will have to come back on the fifteenth and remind everyone, which if I'm honest is not the worst thing I have done recently!!
Card features Kenny K's image - Rock Chick. I have used some old dies and some of my absolute favourite paper from Basic Grey, I have only just recently started using it as I always felt it was too precious for cards and should only be used on a scrapbook page (that way I would still own it for ever, Ha Ha Ha!) and yes, I am that mental about my Basic Greys!!
Why they are my favourites is another matter, firstly I just love the design ethos of the company, they are using some very talented artists and I also find that they go together no matter which set I use with which other set!, now that's some clever forward thinking.
So there it is, a small look into the mind of a crafter who is the same as everyone else out there in blogland, say it with me - One to Use and One to Stroke, One to Use and One to Stroke, One to Use and One to Stroke..... you get the picture.
So, Gentle Reader, I shall bid you adieu until the next time we meet,
love 'n hugs,
x o x o
Entered Into: As You Like It Challenge - Favourite Papers and Why?
Crafting With An Attitude Challenge 18 - Anything Goes/Just For Fun 
Digital Delights By LoubyLou Challenge 12 - Anything Goes (Using a Stamp/Digi) 
DL. Art Thankful Thursday Challenge 185 - Anything Goes
In The Pink Challenge 100 - It's Our Birthday - Anything Goes
Little Miss Muffet Challenge 143 - Anything Goes
Sasayaki Glitter Challenge - August Use A Die Cut
Southern Girls Challenge - Anything Goes with Team Lou!
Crafting By Design - August Anything Goes
Creative Moments Challenge 99 - Anything Goes & DT Call

Friday 29 July 2016

"Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel..."

Good Day Gentle Reader,
another Friday morning and Jo and I are just getting ready for our usual routine. Get up, feed the kids (that's cats to you, kids to us!), take out as much rubbish as we can carry (have you noticed just how much packaging there is today?) then it's off to Gregg's.
Fortunately they have a shop just over the road from where we live so we don't exactly travel miles, but we really appreciate it for it's convenience. We take our glasses and Kindles (or book if we are feeling nostalgic!), I'll treat myself to a large Latte, Jo a tea and instead of breakfast at home she will usually have a sausage and bacon bap while I always have a 4 cheese and ham toastie. We usually follow up with another drink (Jo switching to Hot Chocolate now!!) and a sweet treat. Jo's weakness is a large shortbread biscuit with a big jammy heart in the top, mine has always been an oat and fruit cookie, that was until last week when they so cruelly took it off their rota, I have no idea if it is to return or when so I have started consoling myself with a Bavarian Slice (oodles of cream, sticky icing on the top! you can see it can't you!). We stay there for hours, chilling out and catching up with a good book, the manageress has told us she doesn't care, it's not like we stop people from sitting down and we spend a good bit of wedge every time we go.
For us, it means we are not totally housebound and we do get to enjoy a little bit of freedom every week. We have had a bit of a break from the shop recently as one of the members of staff was incredibly rude to Jo, so much so that she couldn't face going in the store for fear of going ballistic on the young woman in question.
She complained to the company who offered her an eight pound credit voucher with no mention of what they would do or say to the rude staff member. Jo turned their offer down as she felt she was being bought off and the end result was us missing out on our weekly treat until she could bare to go in the shop again. I supported her fully, after all she was missing her treat as well and I know that that bugged her more than anything else!!

In a totally unrelated topic I have made the above card for the Krafty Krew using one of Kenny's latest images. There are three to collect: Angel Seraphina, Angel Aurora and Angel Nevaeh (I have used Seraphina) and you can get all three for the special price of only $8.00, what a bargain eh!
He has been very busy just lately and he has made not only characters but backgrounds for those characters, which makes life so much easier when you are colouring. For the man in your life there are a couple of very affable gents having a beer and a cigar in what looks like a private reserve vineyard or a chic little bistro. There is a beauty shop background, a walk in wardrobe (filled with lovely clothes and all for free!) and a candy shop. So much for you to see and do and don't forget, if you don't have to time to colour then Kenny has even provided a selection of his characters already pre-coloured, giving you more time to craft other things.
So Gentle Reader, I'm off, it's time to get dressed so I will see you again soon,
take care,

Sunday 26 June 2016

To sleep, perchance to dream....

Hello Gentle Reader, not a long post really, more a chance to let you know why I have once again been absent from my blog.
At the beginning of May my mum died. I know it's been a while but now I am able to talk about it, its still very raw and very painful.
To say we had a complicated past would be an epic understatement. For starters she was actually my Auntie! My mum's brother and his wife divorced and for whatever reasons they may have had, they couldn't for the life of them work out which one wanted me less and so I ended up living with his sister and her family. This was my Auntie Betty, Uncle Llew (or Lou if you prefer), Stephen and Lorraine, their two children and Kim (their psychotic dog!).
I did struggle to call them mum and dad, it wasn't that I didn't want too but my new big sister (cousin actually) threatened me that if I even thought about calling them mum and dad..... use your imagination, she was on the threshold of her teens when I came along and what pre-tween girl welcomes someone else's baby into their parent's arms (we have worked through all that and she even calls me 'bro' now, love ya sis x). To compound the situation Kim was notoriously vicious with a temper that could turn on a dime, so he was replaced by Dolphie, a miniature Poodle!!!
I think Mum and Dad where a little uncomfortable when I first stopped calling them Auntie and Uncle. Gone were the adopted monikers of Auntie Betty and Uncle Lou, but after a few shaky starts we got to the point where they really were my parents, not my aunt and uncle any more.
They were the only parents I had ever known and while my birth parents are still alive, I started to see the whole thing in black and white terms, our relationship had changed and had grown into that of parent and child not Legal Guardians and child!
Time has passed since those days, Dad died very suddenly and unexpectedly and he left a massive hole in all our lives. Mum managed on her own for quite a while until her first big stroke put her in a home, it was then my sister decided she wanted mum under her roof, she wanted to care for her, not a bunch of strangers! 
Things came to a head though when it all got to be too much for my sister to cope with on her own. Mum had terrible health issues including a stroke or two and quite a lot of mini-strokes, she had dementia and she would bruise like a Georgia peach if you brushed past her with a feather boa!!
So she went to live in a home in the same village as my sis, this allowed her time to visit mum each day for as long as she wanted but she also managed to get some of her own life back as well.
Mum may have struggled to remember what she had had for lunch that day but she always recognised her kids whenever we came to see her.
She had the biggest, loveliest smile I have ever seen, the kind that made your heart smile and your soul sing along. She spent a lot of time telling you the same thing, over and over, but she was never boring to be around. She would shrug her shoulders, grin, point at you and say 'you're mine' and off we would be able to go, remembering something else from our shared history.
We would reminisce about dancing the jive together in the living room, something she couldn't persuade my dad to do. I used to go to Ballet, Modern and Tap lessons every week and she was so proud of me, especially at competition time when I was the only lad there and I  used to win loads of medals and awards.
As a ruse to stay up late at the weekends I used to kneel behind her and I would offer to comb her hair. I will never understand the pleasure she took from those times, but I used to love it because dad was either out or had gone to bed and we used to talk about all sorts of things, plus she had me there to stop herself getting scared when we would watch the latest Friday night horror movie double bill on BBC2. She would always say "ten more minutes and then it's bedtime" but it's amazing how often those ten minutes turned into hours if she was enjoying herself,

but that has all changed now, forever.

I no longer have her there to reminisce with but all I have to do is think of her and I see that smile, the only thing that is getting me through this at the moment.

I know I said it wouldn't be a long post but you should know me by now, I never do anything by halves!

So Gentle Reader, take care and I hope to be back with you in the very near future.
My son gets married in two weeks, so that has given me something positive to look forward to, I will put a couple of pictures up when it happens.
So until then, ltake care of yourselves and have a big kiss and hug from me
(go on, while I'm in a giving mood!!).
Love 'n Stuff,
x o x o