Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Book Worm - Claude in the City by Alex T Smith

I was introduced to this by my nephew and his mum (my sister-in-law) who both love these books because their humour appeals to adults and kids alike.
Claude is no ordinary dog - he leads an extraordinary life!

When his owners, Mr and Mrs Shinyshoes set off for work, Claude decides what adventure he wants to have that day.
There are six books in this series (to my knowledge) written by Alex T Smith. Claude in the - city, country, spotlight, circus and on holiday and on the slopes.
As you can see, Claude is prepared for all eventualites and amazingly enough he comes in need of everything he packs!
When not working author Alex enjoys doodling in his sketchbook, reading, people watching and eavesdropping. He is also a big fan of cake and a nice cup of tea. He lives with and under the constant 'supervision' of his canine companions - two very tiny, very naughty chihuahuas (Coco and Mr. Bongo) and an ancient and very bossy Yorkshire Terrier - Lucy Locket.  You can check out his blog here ...

All images (c) Alex T Smith
Creative Director at www.cobwebknits.co.uk

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

(Not so) Trivial Pursuits ... Photography with Andrea Pittam

I'm always on the look out for a new interest, especially if it can help me with my business.
I used to love taking photographs and have never got over exchanging my K1000 for a digital camera.  I haven't really mastered using my fantastic new whizz bangy camera to its full potential.
So perhaps this might be the course for me and could be of interest to you too.  If you don't live in the Bournemouth area, Google 'photography courses for crafters' - I'm sure you'll find something locally.

Here's more about Andrea Pittam of Kiss the Frog x ...

As a photographer, artist and crafter it seemed a good idea to run a course for other artists and crafters who are looking for some direction and help with their product photography.
For small kitchen table businesses and independent artists and crafters, big budget product photography is simply not an option and this course will show you how you can get the best out of the camera you have to showcase your products.
all images (c) Kiss the Frog x
You will receive advice on how to plan and prepare for a photo shoot, using natural light to create beautiful images of your products. There will also be a practical section to the course so you will need to bring your camera and some of your products too.

You can find out more about Andrea's course here ...

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Surf's Up - How to speed up those automated phone services

Bright idea: IT manager Nigel Clarke compiled a list of 12,000 phone shortcuts that bypass automated messages
We love this guy.  He has spent endless hours on our behalf working out the 'press 1 for ....' combinations so we don't have to.  If you want to speak to your bank, insurance company, online retailer,etc. and they have an automated message service which requires you to select from one of several options, you can visit his website www.pleasepress1.com and he'll give you the numbers to press, saving you time listening to all the alternatives.
Handy: Nigel's quick list to help you bypass those annoying automated messages
He still has local councils to tackle and is looking to the general public for help as councils seem to be the worst culprits but there are too many for him to handle alone.  So if you want to help this good samaritan in his work, give him a call.  I promise he doesn't have an automated service!
Good call: Nigel painstakingly listed the bypass numbers for 130 organisations, including Asda and Argos
All images (c) pleasepress1
Here's a bit from the man himself, Nigel Clarke, about what motivated him to set up this website.

Whether calling my phone, insurance or energy company, they each had a different and often worse way of trying to "help" me. I could sit there for minutes that seemed like ours, trying to get through their phone menus only to end up at the wrong place and having to redial and start again !  I once took nearly 3 minutes to go through 7 levels of menus, only for a robot voice to tell me they were closed !

What really annoyed me was that I had bought a product or service from them but, now they had me as a customer they didn't care - they were wasting my time making me to work through a maze of menu options in the hope that I might eventually get to speak to someone who could help me.

Was this making life easy for me or for the company ?   Did this show they cared about keeping me as a 'happy' customer ?  Was this the 'customer experience' they wanted me to have ?
Or were they deliberately trying to stall me on the phone and make more money out of me from the premium rate number I was calling ?

We thank you Nigel for starting the ball rolling with this.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Trivial Pursuits - embroidery with Wendy Stephenson

Another find on Facebook.  I wasn't sure whether to put this in the category Meet the Maker or Trivial Pursuits, but since she produces embroidery patterns to complement her adorable watercolours, I thought I'd include it in this section in the hope it may inspire some of you to have a go yourselves.
It was actually the sweet stitched image below that I saw first.  Made by Wendy Stephenson of snap dragon ....
Image of She stood in the storm Embroidery Pattern
.. a little further investigation unearthed more of her work including these cute little ceramic pots, cushions and other textiles.
I'm not sure if she does illustrations for childrens' books, but judging by these, she certainly could.
And so a little about the artist ...
"I love to take photographs, draw, paint, stitch and watch the clouds. If I can combine all these with a swim, then it's a day well spent. So welcome to my little studio space, and I hope you find something to make you smile!'

All images (c) Wendy Stephenson

Book Worm - The Sea Change, Joanna Rossiter

I don't believe in coincidences!  I rarely read the letters in newspapers, but when I do they're about something I've been working on.  I only occasionally read the financial section but again it's about a company I've got an interest in or who are going through similar experiences to me.
However, it doesn't cease to amaze me that when, for instance, I walk past a shop window and spot a book's cover, it turns out to be written by the daughter of an old teaching colleague!

And not only that but it's been included in Richard and Judy's Summer Read list who had this to say about it: 'What a debut from Joanna. We think it's a triumph of storytelling.'  And Orange Prize Winner Helen Dunmore said: 'A great theme: impermanence, and the sweeping away of everything we believed was certain. Joanna Rossiter really shines with lovely, fluid, restrained writing. This is such a moving story.'
I have to be honest and say I haven't read it yet (although I will) but it's only just been published.  However, here's the synopsis.

Yesterday was Alice's wedding day. She is thousands of miles away from the home she is so desperate to leave, on the southernmost tip of India, when she wakes in the morning to see a wave on the horizon, taller than the height of her guest house on Kanyakumari beach. Her husband is nowhere to be seen.
On the other side of the world, unhappily estranged from her daughter, is Alice's mother, Violet. Forced to leave the idyllic Wiltshire village, Imber, in which she grew up after it was requisitioned by the army during the Second World War, Violet is haunted by the shadow of the man she loved and the wilderness of a home that lies in ruins.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Days Out - Holkham Nature Reserve, Norfolk

If you're looking for endless beach and big skies, the beach on the Holkham Nature Reserve which is part of the Holkham Estate is just the ticket.
Marshes, dunes, beach and wooded areas, what more could you really ask for, totally unspolit.
Wellies might be useful so you don't have to worry about dodging all the riverlets that run down the beach.   
And twitchers won't be disappointed as the area is great for birdwatching. 
If you keep walking towards Wells-next-the-sea you'll be welcomed by the sight of a row of beautifully painted beach huts.  
Wells itself is small, with about twenty shops that will cater for most of your needs, especially that all important crab line.

Boutique and Unique - Polkadot of Winslow, Bucks

Stumbled across Polkadot on Facebook and thought you might like to see what they get up to.

Lisa (aka Miss Dottie) runs Polkadot and spends her days hand-painting gorgeous stuff & things in a farmhouse in the middle of a field in the beautiful Buckinghamshire countryside.
She specialises in handpainting wooden signs, canvases, hearts & boxes and the sound of sawing, sanding, drilling & painting, dogs & chickens can always be heard!

I love the fact that when Lisa gets cold she fires up the kiln and makes a few of her sweet little mugs, jugs or teapots!
There seem to be no end to Lisa's creative talents and she also produces a range of cards & prints.
As well as a shop in Winslow you can also buy her stuff online.

All images (c) Polkadot of Winslow

Truly Scrumptious - Madame Fromage, Cardiff

Madame Fromage
Having lived in Cardiff for 4 years and wandered through its arcades and market as a child, I have fond memories of the place.  And as a cheese lover I wish this place had existed when I was there.
And given my Welsh heritage on my dad's side and my mum's Breton ancestry, I wouldn't have thought it possible to find somewhere that embraced them both.  However, Madame Fromage in Castle Arcade, Cardiff, does just that!
With a daily portfolio of 150 French, Welsh and English cheeses you'll be spoilt for choice.  And their deli is also crammed full of jams, chutneys, oils, olives and sweet treats.
If you fancy a spot of lunch they have French gallettes, tartlettes and quiches or Welsh cawl and rarebit.  But even if you're only after a quiet coffee  you can experience the atmosphere of typical French cafe culture all year round in the beautiful Victorian architecture of Castle Arcade.
All images (c) Madame Fromage