Monday, 20 January 2014

Gratitude 9/365

WI quiz night. We won!
Roast pork made into tortillas tonight.
Hostages on TV and finding a new programme to watch.
Watching my hyacinths growing daily.
Sashenka on my Kindle.  I'm enjoying this book a lot.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Oh. My. Goodness. The Birth of a Firm part 1

Who knew that having a new business was just like having a new baby?
No, don't laugh. Listen to this story.

It was about a year and a half ago that Mr Angel Jem read this book, The Litigators, by John Grisham. I love JG, I read a lot of JG for the same reason I watch a lot of courtroom dramas and sit on a Sunday watching football. Mr AJ likes them, so there's a lot of it about and it's well worth sharing an interest together (and, no, he CANNOT crochet, although his Mum used to dressmake and he has a lot of respect for useful crafts.)

The role of the book is crucial in our story. The hero, David Zinc, has it all; a good job in a big firm, a big BIG firm. But it takes all his time and he is working for the firm. So one day he walks out. Just goes, sets off, gets well drunk in a bar and wanders off to a very dubious part of town where he meanders into a 'boutique' (meaning small) law firm and asks for a job.

We were in London. Seriously. Staying for a week in Harrow, walking around and feeling trapped in a corporate career that was not as fulfilling as we wanted. I was on supply, and poor Mr was thinking about his bosses and doing a Yosser. (What did you say? You're too young to remember Yosser Hughes? Go see the You Tube clip of him AT ONCE!) He kept saying," I could do that. I could run my own company. I could be my own boss."

And the book was the last straw. I read it after him, with a funny tickly feeling in my stomach, thinking all the while, "Yes, he could. Mr AJ could really do something like this; a small firm, a really small firm. He could work from home..."

But the money keeps you in the office. The fear keeps you from voicing the idea out loud. The worry (that dreaded 'what if???') keeps you from a leap of faith, much like some women are forever saying, "It's not the right time.", "I need to earn more money before I have a baby." "It's too much of a lifestyle change."

And the weeks passed by, with the two of us circling a thorny issue; was it the right thing to do? What would it mean? Who is going to say anything first? It was just like I remember the thorny issue of when should we start trying; can you really mark out a right time?

In the end it was a flash argument. A heated Kitchen discussion. And the fateful words, "Well, WHY DON'T YOU JUST START UP YOUR OWN FIRM THEN AND STOP COMPLAINING????"

And then the pregnant pause; the two of us looking at each other and thinking it was a possibility. That was just before Christmas 2012. And we began to whisper about it to each other. If we started our company, we could do this, if we worked from home we could do this... if you are home full time then I can work full time when the Princess goes to Secondary school.

So we read up everything we could; we found books on running your own firm, setting up a legal practice, being a free range human. We started writing down what it would cost, what we needed to keep us for a year, what we could do without and what we wanted to keep. And then, we sat down one day and said yes. YES LET'S.

To Be Continued.....

This is the first part of the story of how Mr A J and I set up our new firm, Peter Kneale Solicitors. Mr AJ is the lawyer, I'm just the IT technician. If you read this blog, even if you only lurk, please go to our website and if you feel happy to, link back to us. Even just a share on Facebook is useful in promoting a small firm.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Gratitude 8/365

My nephew helping me to add a sitemap to Mr Angel Jem's website.
Slow cooked lamb with mint sauce.
Match of the day and some good football.
Building links both virtual and actual.
Crocheting a ripple blanket that keeps my knees warm.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Gratitude 7/365

Football on Sky. I love watching it with Mr AJ who gets real enjoyment from it.
Cheap hyacinths at Morrisons. January isn't January without them.
Brisket beef that takes 5 hours to cook. And Yorkshire pudding.
Closing the curtains at dusk after a cold sharp day.
A new crochet magazine with interesting reading and a cute free gift.

What I spent
Hyacinths 4×1.25
Magazines 2× 4.99
Mini chocolate 2× 42p

I grab it where I can...

Half an hour in the house free from people, work and that little nagging voice saying "You should do the washing."
Be still!
Go AwAy!
Just let me be!!

I never realised how much I would miss just being at home, not doing, not making, not having the endless list of work (house or otherwise) and how much worse that would get when Mr was at home working full time and I was out til 2pm, leaving a bare 60 minutes when I could sensibly hope to have time just to be before children came home.

And how much time a new business takes! It is all-encompassing, like a baby, like an elderly relative, it sucks time up and spits out little in return. Don't get me wrong, like a baby or my aged P's I love it, I really do, I love knowing that the website is mine and the IT skills I use and expand daily are well worth it, adding to my CV and meaning I feel more confident and able to say yes to opportunities that beckon me on.

But I still need to be the sole practitioner in my abode.
In my house.
In my home.


Morrisons came through for me big style today, with their hyacinths at £1.25 for 3 bulbs just peeping through. I coordinated with just white, in the absence of any sweet smelling blues. And I treated myself to a basket of magazines. You can see my new year resolutions are clearly expressed in the choice: to look after my body, get fit, make something and be happy with the simple things in life. It's my nurturing budget for the month gone at once, but worth it. I can avoid the shops and get on with creating stuff.

Funnily enough, Simply Crochet had the patterns I needed to get started. I will get my cotton yarn out and get covers made for my tins. I'm thinking of covering some tuna tins just to have pots of goodness for my hyacinths, but that'll wait.

Today at 11.30 I sat still.
I drank a cup of warm chocolate, with cream and marshmallows.
I read a whole magazine from cover to cover.
I ate a mini bar of chocolate.
And I relaxed.

And breathe.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Gratitude 6/365

Tivo meaning I could watch an excellent episode of Simon Schama's history of the Jews that I recorded back in September.
Kindle meaning I can read Robert Harris' new novel, An Officer and  Spy about the Dreyfuss Affair in France.
Laptops meaning I spent about 2 hours trying to get a site web for Mr Angel Jem's website.
Galaxy Tab meaning I can post on Blogger even now while my laptop recharges.
My Family meaning all of the above are only tools to enhance my life with Mr AJ, DP, JW and the Princess.
Money spent
4.48 on a wrap from McDonald's for lunch
9.30 on fish for tea and a small custard pie that had my name on.
I haven't spent much on line this week: what I have has been refundable by other sources (for school or business) so I'm happy with that.  First sign of the laptop out and I get asked to do this, that or the other. Being busy is a good way to avoid spending.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Gratitude 5/365

Going back to school after a holiday knowing that I was going BACK to the same school.
Baked camembert for lunch thus combining a treat for the first day with finishing off some stuff from Christmas.
Watching Dead Poets Society with DP and wishing I could have had or been a teacher like Mr Keating.
Fried mushrooms.
Teaching someone to multiply decimals and watching him get it.

Money spent today.
9.50 on Doritos for lunch, chorizo and peas for tea.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Gratitude 4/365

Mr Angel Jem's new business and the fact he keeps pushing me past my comfort zone.
A quiet Sunday afternoon with the FA cup and the last of the Christmas tin of Roses,
Planning ahead for the week; menu planned, work planned and social life, such as it is, planned.
Playing Filofax. New diary, new year.
Cottage pie for tea. I still have to make this; a quiet half hour in the kitchen and something warm and rib sticking for tea!

Money Spent
Nothing today. No books, no magazines, nothing.

Friday, 3 January 2014

Christmas Collage 2013

What I love about Christmas is how much of it stays the same year after year. Rather than throw everything out and start again, my Christmas decorations basically get tweaked with the addition of something nice and the retirement of something worn or tacky (depending on your own personal attitude) And this year has definitely been the year of the PJ day. About 6 days this holiday have been lazy do nothing days. You can't beat a good, relaxing holiday.

Gratitude 3/365

  • Watching Death Comes to Pemberley with Mr Angel Jem and then today with my eldest and youngest.
  • Having a lovely chicken and chorizo paella to make for candlelit supper for just me and Mr AJ tonight.
  • Watching the rain on the windowpane outside as I sit inside.
  • Rippling along with MY blanket
  • Pear cider nicely chilled

Money Spent today
£29 in Tesco's. It was 4 pies for lunch, some ladies necessities, 2 tea towels for £1.75 and two magazines that fell into my basket; this month's Country Homes and Interiors and Craftseller, just for the Scotty Dog.
£2.99 on John Newman's album, Tribute. This was with a £2 voucher from Money Saving Expert

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Gratitude 2/365

  • Messing on the computer to draw up a poster for Attendance Tigers at school
  • Sharing chips with curry sauce with my three children
  • A Virgin TiVo box that means I can watch Sherlock again (and again and again)
  • Having Nordic slippers that keep my feet warm
  • The final day of Christmas lights. I'm de-Noelling tomorrow

Money Spent today
Chips £9 (included a curry sauce and large sausages)
Drinks £3
Filofax Finance sheets £2.50

I sort of feel I should record what I've smoked and what I weigh in a Bridget Jones way, but I didn't ever enjoy that book, I don't smoke, and I daren't tell anyone yet the truth. So, no. Gratitude and spending are enough for now.

A Story for Christmas...

My son loves Sherlock Holmes. Of course we watched it last night, but this was his Christmas present to me. A really beautiful gift, as he has signed away all rights to the story so any money I ever make from it is mine..... (I jest. It's a 70-30 split in my favour)

Please read and enjoy;

Irregular Christmas by D P Kneale
221b Baker Street
24th December 1881
An extract from the accounts of Dr John H. Watson
In the year that I had known the venerable mind of our age that was my friend Sherlock Holmes; I had never seen him celebrate the festive season on any given holiday. He sneered at Easter, laughed scornfully at the celebrations of Pentecost, and given me scornful looks when I mentioned the holiday of Valentine’s Day.
So you will forgive me if I did not anticipate Holmes celebrating the monumental date of Christmas.
In the weeks leading up to the holiday, Holmes had not reacted with the scorn I anticipated. The most hostile he achieved was a scornful glance as myself and Mrs Hudson navigated a Christmas tree into the room. Nevertheless, I was fully expecting an eruption of ascerbic comment and criticism upon the arrival of Christmas Eve.
It was approaching the tenth hour of the night, and I was on tenterhooks. Holmes had sat in his chair all day, saying not a word to either me or Mrs Hudson. Doubtless I was anticipating a great tirade of the illogicality’s of Christmas, but I was to be disappointed. Holmes did not say a word.
That was, until a group of boys singing Christmas Carols outside the window proceeded to sing ‘Good King Wenceslas’.
As the sound of this carol entered our lodgings, Holmes stiffened in his chair, then proceeded to retrieve his violin and play Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony as loudly as he could. When this did nothing to relieve the sound of the carollers, he stood up, grabbed a bucket sitting by his armchair, and proceeded to fling open the windows and turn the bucket upside down.
I was shocked. I had expected a reaction, but not like this.
That was, until I saw that the bucket did not, in actual fact, contain water, but several twenty pound notes. There was much excited shouting from the streets below, as well as cries of adulation and thanks.
Holmes resolutely shut the window and turned to me.
“It would appear, Watson,” He remarked “that I have accidentally spent the next years rent.”
“Good heavens, Holmes!” I exclaimed.
“Apologies.” Holmes replied, placing the bucket by his desk “But I have a particular disliking of that carol.”
“That particular one?” I queried.
“Indeed. The king, in my opinion, was a rather crass ruler.”
“Indeed?” I questioned.
Holmes sat at his workspace, lighting his pipe.
“The king helped the homeless man purely because it was Christmas, correct?”
At my nod, he continued.
“Was he there last month? Would he have been here the next week? No.” Holmes was standing now, pacing and violently gesturing. “But that night he wanted to feel all warm inside. That night he wanted them to say: what a generous king he is.”
I stared at Holmes in astonishment. Never, even whilst on a case, had I seen Holmes this animated.
Holmes sighed, and ran a hand through his hair. Then, he tuned to a cupboard and pulled out a hat box. He proceeded to open it, taking out a tall silk top hat with a red ribbon around the brim. He placed the had atop the bust of Julius Caesar in the window, also placing a rag ball coloured red beside it.
I watched in amazement at this strange behaviour from my colleague. Had Holmes lost his mind?
The question of my friend’s sanity was answered by sounds of shouting from downstairs, and our good landlady’s protestations.
I have often reflected on the dramatic entrances of clients onto our humble stage of 221b Baker Street. What I have neglected to mention was that, of these, none could rival the many sudden and unexpected entrances of the Baker Street Irregulars.
There they came, the half a dozen dusty street arabs that, at the time, made up their ranks. They burst in in a disorganised rabble, with Mrs Hudson’s complaints hounding at their heels.
"'Tention!" cried the tallest, a dark-haired boy I knew as Wiggins.
The group hastily formed itself into the required line. There was an aura of command about Wiggins that I had seen only on the battlefield, so I did not blame them for their adherence toward his commands.
Wiggins turned to Holmes.
"Mister 'olmes." he said, tilting the deerstalker cap uncommonly like Holmes' towards my companion.
Holmes inclined his head in reply.
"Wiggins." he greeted.
Without turning around, Wiggins addressed one of his-and I realised that already I had started to think of them as his-Irregulars.
"Stop lookin' at the table, Vicky."
One of the Irregulars, who I suddenly registered as a girl, protested "But its real silvah"
"Vicky." he shot her down.
"Well, Wiggins." Holmes interrupted before the argument could escalate "What brings you here on so cold a night?"
"The col'?" one of the Irregulars suggested, and they all laughed.
"We been relyin' on too much Charity." Wiggins replied, his face sombre. "On 'count o' it bein' Christmas. Too many people wan' to feel good 'bought themselves."
I leaned forward, astonished. It was as if these urchins were colluding with Holmes.
"You do not enjoy Christmas, then, Wiggins?" I asked.
One of the other Irregulars, answered.
"Wha' good' Christmas if yer on the street? Just another day fer yer ta starve, innit?"
This was met by sounds of approval from the others.
"An' 'nother excuse fer fat rich bastard's ta eat all the grub." Another offered.
I stared at them in astonishment. I glanced at our Christmas dinner, 'a measly spread', I distinctly remember saying to Holmes. He had stared at me in astonishment, and it was only now that I understood. How ungrateful I must have seemed to him.
I looked at Holmes. He was staring at me with an imploring expression on his face. I turned back to the Irregulars.
“I don’t suppose…” I started, then, retrieving my courage, I carried on “I don’t suppose you all would care to join us?”
The Irregulars stared at me in astonishment. Then one of them, a boy standing on Wiggins’ right hand side, stepped up shyly.
“Wou’ ‘hat be alrigh’, Mr ‘olmes.” he asked, and I realised from the high pitch of the voice that this was a girl dressed as a boy.
Holmes smiled at her gently, a rare sight on his face. “Nothing would make me happier, Titch.” Then he turned toward me.
“Good lord, Watson!” he cried “It has just occurred to me that you have no idea who these children are!”
“I’m afraid not, Holmes.” I replied.
“Wiggins!” Holmes barked “Introduce the men!”
Wiggins threw a salute, then marched down the line, proceeding to introduce each individual Irregular to me.
“This ‘ere’s Titch, our secon’ i’ comman’” he introduced the girl, who smiled shyly at me. Holmes beckoned me into confidence.
“No doubt you have deduced that the ‘boy’ Titch is, in actual fact, a girl.” he remarked to me. “I would consider it a great service if you divulged this information to no one. You, Mrs Hudson, Wiggins and I are the only ones who know this information. The other Irregulars are oblivious, and she would wish it to remain so.”
My heart lifted at Holmes’ trust in me, and at my nod he waved for Wiggins to continue.
“This’s Connor, our littl’ spy.” he introduced a nervous boy whose eyes snapped and darted, and whose fingers nervously fingered a pound coin in his hands.
“A very good observer.” Holmes informed me, “And has several other…talents.”
Before I could inquire further, Wiggins continued.
“‘awkins, our Whitechapel” Wiggins introduced a small boy, glancing hungrily at the table.
“The youngest of the Irregulars,” Holmes whispered to me “Barely two. We give him the easiest tasks of the group, and pay him the most.”
I stared in pity at the boy, but was distracted by Wiggin’s continued introduction.
“Vicky, our klepto...klepto...klepto...” Wiggins stumbled.
“Kleptomaniac?” Holmes suggested.
Wiggins nodded. “That’s the one. Put ‘em back, Vicky.”
“I ‘ain’t got nothin’” she protested.
“Vicky.” he commanded. Vicky grumbled, then put on the table four knives, two forks, and a silver soup dish.
There was a moment of silence as myself, Wiggins and even Holmes stared at her in astonishment. Then Wiggins cleared his throat and introduced the last member of the group.
“This ‘ere’s Ellie.” He introduced the last girl, who gave a graceful curtsy… to the table. It was only when she stood up again that I saw the white film over her eyes, and realised that she was blind.
“Well,” said Holmes, rising from the armchair, “I believe I shall call down for more food from Mrs Hudson, and then we can begin. Don’t stand on ceremony, take a seat.”
They all did, Titch leading Ellie to a chair between herself and Wiggins. I took my customary place at the right side of Holmes' seat, and Wiggins took the left. The other Irregulars took up seats around the table, and presently Holmes came back burdened with a tray of turkey and roast potatoes, a burden the Irregulars were happy to relieve him of.
There are many things that I enjoyed and still enjoy about my time with Mr Sherlock Holmes, but that Christmas, with Titch helping Ellie to eat her food, Wiggins and Holmes having a whispered conversation, Hawkins and Vicky entering into an argument between Connor and Titch, only to have the argument halted by Holmes and Wiggins giving them an identical sharp look, that always remains in my mind.
After dinner was over, Holmes retrieved his Stradivarius, and led the Irregulars into a re-enactment of Silent Night, and then, with much calling out and wishes of Merry Christmas, the Irregulars disappeared into the fog.
"Well, Watson," Holmes puffed on his pipe, "I don't suppose you would wish to invite the Irregulars next Christmas?"
"Gladly, Holmes. Gladly." I replied.


Gratitude 1/365

My children
My parents
Being able to sort out the firm's IT so far
Sherlock.... how did he survive? My favourite is the bungee jump.
Having a footie mad husband who comes in from a game and expects me to have ordered flyers without him. Duh?

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Present for presents

Of course I know that Christmas is about more than just presents, I do, I do.
But I do dearly love a haul of gifts that will brighten my winter and take me through to May when I can add to it with my birthday. I like a variety of gifts; I very rarely get a BIG present, generally I don't do perfume, I'm not a big Label lover and anything I need electronically I will save for and buy when I need it.
So, what did Santa bring me this year?

Rachel Khoo's new book. I loved My Little Paris Kitchen TV series and book a couple of years ago, so I jumped at the chance to get this book for Christmas. I love the recipes but even more I love the photos of a life lived partying in France.

It's very like the quilt of annual pictures that flood the blogosphere at this time. Attic 24, Little Tin Bird who managed three very pictureful posts, and Domesticali among the rest.

My favourite picture from the book is this wintery scene with a red hat and red skirt standing out against the black coat as well as the white snow. I always read books with covers like this; the flash of red is what grabs me.
 Dark chocolate gingers. My Nan ate these and got a box every year that she could dip into alone until I reached about 10 years old and realised that the hot throat burning was actually pleasant. Nana died 13 years ago; these are my present from and to her. More fun than a cold half hour in a graveyard when the spirit of a person is not there, but always with us. I shall suck on these with a sip of something strong and bless my ancestry.
 A copper cookie cutter. This is the Eiffel Tower. I need to bake a gingerbread Eiffel Tower. How do I explain that to my husband? "Well, you know that bit in Close Encounters with Devil's Tower, Wyoming..."
 My winter viewing for the next few weeks. In between tidying up the house, getting the washing done and daily updates on Mr's business website...... and work again from Monday, children to and from school and homework monitoring (JW, do your homework!!!)
I saw Pacific Rim with my boys and was the only 40+ woman in the cinema. Don't know why; it was fun. And Downton of course was my Christmas Day highlight watched on Boxing Day as we were home too late to keep the kids up.
Actually, if I get to watch any of this series again it will be a pleasant surprise and probably as snowy as in Rachel Khoo's photo above.
 More sweets! I love Love Hearts, as I wrote on this blog nearly 5 years ago, so a large tube to keep and break out if said snow day above ever happens is very welcome.
 My socks for the house have sparkly bows on. seriously. And I have proper slipper socks as well!!
 Dotty manicure set. Actually the Princess got proper nail varnish so we had fun playing spa day yesterday. I will show you my nails. Life needs sparkle, sometimes.
 A pyrographed wooden box. I made these presents, by which I mean I bought the boxes and decorated them. Pyrography was my learnt skill last year. I enjoyed it, since it's basically drawing with fire and I can draw. I mean to do more. If it can be pyrographed, it will be.
 My satchel from Zatchels. I bought it for myself in March when they had a half price sale and I kept it until now. Who said I have no patience?
 My new purse. I love the bird pattern from Cath Kidston and this was my big present at Christmas. Love it. Love it.
 And the sticker that it was wrapped up with. I'm keeping that.
 My bag charm from Traidcraft. The princess gave me this. It sits on my Filofax and clashes beautifully. I suppose I could be an absolute spendthrift and get an aqua Malden to match, but I am not such a desperate person, and crimson and turquoise actually do go together well if you close your eyes. Besides, it would be cheaper to buy a new bag charm.

So, there's my very long round up of what Santa brought me. Nothing too extravagant, enough to keep me happy during Winter and into Summer. I love them all, and will cherish them more for the memories of who gave them to me or why I get them than for what they are.

And my most treasured present of all actually came via email. DP, aged 15, wrote me a story. I love it. Please call by tomorrow to read it!


I celebrated New Year last night with the most important people in my life.  Just me, Mr Angel Jem, DP, JW and the Princess. She is 11 now and can stay up till Midnight better than I can!
And the ticking clock made me think.  This year is about keeping it simple.  I have work for me, work for Mr Angel Jem, my children, my parents and my husband. That's in no particular order,  of course.  I will see my friends regularly,  I will blog when I can or probably when I need a supportive comment,  I will keep the house just good enough and everything else can go hang for a year. 
Keep my life simple, laugh a lot and work on my IT t shirt collection.

Hope you all have a brilliant year ahead,  full of love and challenges.  Roll on 2014!