Feeling hot hot hot !

Wow, what great weather we had this weekend! So who has a Braai? Ok BBQ? Yep it has the be done.

We went the whole hog and had 2! First one Friday night and another last night. You have to love eating outside.

Last nights Braai was all about using the leftovers. It’s amazing what you can create with a bit of imagination.

Saturday temperatures reached over 34 degrees for us! Not that I sat out in it myself! Oh no! We had friends round on the evening so first things first I needed to catch up on the housework! It has to be done especially with 2 malting dogs!

Talking of malting dogs, they do struggle when it’s so warm! Fido thankfully knows how to cool down. He stands in the shower waiting for someone to turn the taps in for him!!

Anyway, back to the friends coming for dinner. As it was going to be such a lovely day I decided the menu needed to reflect that.

Hubby offered to make his prawn soup! It’s light but very tasty. Perfect for a hot summer evening.

For main, I opted for pineapple and salmon kebabs with Jerk seasoning, with home grown new potatoes and a pomegranate and feta salad. As a salad dressing I made a Dijon mustard dressing. So far all free on Slimming World, but still tasty.

Now, this is where it got interesting. For dessert, I decided on an ice cream cake. Well why wouldn’t you!

The cake requires 2 layers of ice cream and a raspberry coulis, topped with a ginger biscuit layer! Sounds fab doesn’t it! And it was apparently (I made a syn free version for me).

The problem I had was the weather! I mean, when it’s over 34 degrees outside, how are you supposed to stop the layers melting while constructing them!

It was a case of moving very quickly and having a hubby on hand to open freezer doors for you!

I published a video of it here!

I had to laugh when I watched it back. I looked quite fresh at the start of it! By the end I was definitely wilting !!

The main thing is the food went down a treat! Note to myself though! Don’t try it again unless it’s about 10 degrees cooler!

I’m not complaining though! I love it when it’s hot hot hot !

Have a good day.

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When it’s not quite how you expected!

So today I’d planned the topic of my blog out! It was supposed to be titled ‘The Sun is out, the sky is blue!’. Well the sun is definitely not out and the sky is a grubby shade of grey!

The weather reports have been promising us a heatwave. Europe is steeped in temperatures in the 40’s. We were not going to get those type of temperatures, but in the 20’s is still good for me!

Yesterday was a horrible day. It did start off around 18 degrees and humid, but oh boy did it rain. I really considered not taking the dogs out, but then that wouldn’t be fair. Being Border Collies they have so much energy. If you don’t exercise them you know about it! Especially Lola who is currently going through the terrible 2’s!

So I popped on a pair of shorts and raincoat. Yes you heard right, shorts. I figured that wet legs would be more comfortable than wet trousers or jeans! And I was right!

By the time we got back the 3 of us were dripping wet. I was able to jump into the hot shower but the dogs had to settle for a rub-a-dub-dub! In normal speak, a towel dry!

The downside to wet dogs is that smell! Eek! Lots of Scentsy wax warmers were needed. I tried opening windows but the rain was just heavy!

Thankfully it finally stopped late afternoon, but not before it had dropped around 50mm of rain! I know that as I bought my hubby a weather station for Christmas. It’s great for keeping a check on what the weather really did in our area.

Working at home yesterday meant I had time to be creative in the kitchen last night. I do love having that extra hour our so. I’ve posted one of my videos from that session here:

Tomorrow I will publish my gorgeous breakfast cakes.

After an amazing dinner it was time to relax, in anticipation of the heatwave today!

I woke up all excited this morning. I dressed in shorts and a fleece!

As I stepped out of the house it dawned on me. Instead of sun it was raining. That was not forecast!

We had a drizzly walk. Quite cool too! I’m not loving this.

It’s nearly July and I can count on 1 hand the sunny days we have had this year! I’m so disappointed.

I’m praying now that this is just a blip! Tomorrow I’m going to be swamped in that heatwave.

Fingers crossed guys!

What a fab weekend

I can’t believe it’s back to work again so soon. This weekend has been amazing. There are 3 reasons why it was so special:

1) A 4 day weekend

2) The sun was out

3) It was hubbys birthday

The 3 combined meant we had a fun filled weekend.

As you know, we both have a very early start during the week. To be able to wake up when we wanted to, relax in bed with a couple of cups of tea, and getting up when we wanted was magical. The dogs loved it too. Especially Lola who isn’t a morning girl.

Friday we decided to go into Birmingham for the day. A bit odd you may think for people who travel there everyday for work! Whilst we work there, we never really go into the centre.

With the worlds biggest Primark, hubby was intrigued as to what it was like. I needed to get him a birthday present from my parents do this seemed like to perfect excuse to go.

I have to say, shopping for men’s clothes is a nightmare. He wanted a lightweights jacket. Do you think we could find one? It was so hard! It seems that men only get a limited amount of space in stores! Very frustrating!

As hubby isn’t a shopper, we agreed we would get his things together, then he would go off and do some photography around the city while I shopped for me!

Check out what we bought here !

After a few hours we met up and had lunch on the canal at Marco Pierre White Restaurant- Bardolinos! It was so lovely to chill out and enjoy a nice late lunch together!

Saturday was even more chilled which just a hair cut for me before heading out to Hubbys favourite Thai restaurant for Dinner.

Sunday was his actual birthday so after another lazy start, we went off for a nice long walk around Charlecote. With the warmth of the sun, it was a perfect day out!

In the evening we celebrated with friends at their house.

The last day of the weekend was equally as chilled! We visited a museum at our local airfield which was a training airfield for British, Canadian, American and Belgium RAF. Reading stories of bravery and lives lost, it was very humbling. A spot of brunch at the cafe followed by a bit of gardening and a braai, it certainly had been a magical weekend!

Now I’m back on the train and it will soon be a distant memory, but at least they will be good memories!

Have a great week.

So what are you doing this weekend?

I’m so glad it’s Friday. Early mornings and busy weeks mean that by Friday I’m exhausted.

I’m so excited this weekend! Why? Because I have absolutely nothing on!

Ok that’s strictly not true. The house will still need cleaning. That washing basket won’t empty itself. Believe me, I’ve asked it so many times to no avail! The dogs will need walking and of course we will need feeding, but apart from that I have nothing on!

Tomorrow there will be no alarm clock waking me up! Ok technically again, I won’t set an alarm. I will just have Lola and Fido waking me! The challenge will be how many times I can send them back to bed before I have to give in and put them out!

If it’s around 5 I don’t mind. I can put them out and all go back to bed, but if it’s after 7 it’s a dilemma. Is it worth going back to bed to sleep? Shouldn’t I just pop the kettle on and watch tv in bed with a cuppa? It’s always a tough one!

The main thing is that this weekend, I don’t have to be tied down to doing anything at a certain time.

I know it’s sad, but I find weekends like this so precious. It’s a chance to recharge my batteries and spend time on things I enjoy.

We may end up packing lots in, but it will be at a far leisurely pace than normal!

So whatever you are doing this weekend enjoy it!

Happy Friday !

Dogs behaving (very) badly!

OMG, I think this programme from Channel 5 may have just saved my sanity!

If you haven’t seen it yet, and you have dogs who don’t behave well, you have to watch it.

Graeme Hall is one of the UK’s top behaviourists and dog trainers. Each week, he helps dog owners sort out their dogs annoying or potentially dangerous behaviours.

Being the owner of 2 Border Collies, with 1 in particular having a list of bad behaviours, I was interested to watch it. As with many of the previous series about changing dog behaviours, I was a little skeptical, to say the least!

We had Fido at 16 weeks old, from his previous owner who could no longer keep him. She lived in a first floor flat, which was quite small with 2 young children under 5. If anyone knows Border Collies, they are extremely energetic and need a lot of exercise. They are also very clever.

The minute I saw Fido and his living environment, I knew we had to take him home.

I already had a dog, a Collie crossed with a retriever. The vet had recommended a puppy to help keep him active. I wanted a rescue dog, as I had always had rescue dogs, but we had had a bad experience when a previous dog we had hoped to home, had attacked my dog. Fido seemed like the perfect solution. He wasn’t technically rescued, but he did need rehoming!

From the minute we brought him home, he showed signs of trying to be the dominant male. He constantly tried to attack my older dog. Ember was such an amazing dog. He never turned on Fido. He was so tolerant and patient!

He came from a dogs home himself and was very traumatised. It took a lot of hard work and commitment to get him to the dog he was, so I wasn’t a stranger to working with dogs.

Even toilet training Fido was a nightmare. I don’t think I slept for the first 6 months, putting him out in the night to do his business. He had so many accidents. Even though it was cold or wet (it was in January), I never gave in. Wrapped in layers, I would stay in the garden until he did his business. I praised him like they tell you to, but it still took forever. I think a lot of this was due to the fact that back in the flat he didn’t have a garden. As he wasn’t vaccinated until a week or so before you took him, he wouldn’t have been able to go out, so his toilet was the flat and puppy pads!

We were hoping Ember would help us train Fido. Sadly, Ember passed away suddenly 6 months later.

Even as the only dog in the house, Fido continued to be a difficult dog, but I wasn’t going to give up on him. With us, he was such a loving dog, he still is. He is very needy and insecure, needed constant reassurance.

He never had a bed in his previous home. He slept with his owner. This was a hard habit to break, but again we continuously made him sleep in his own bed. Even now, he will try and get back onto the bed if we don’t tell him to get off!

As he got older, the problems seem to grow:-

Chasing cars, bikes, joggers etc on his walks
Barking at any noise such as Microwave, planes etc
Getting stressed if he hears the door bell, bangs etc to the point he loses it (behavioural wise)
Trying to attack other dogs
Not allowing anyone in or out of the house

It got so bad, I even thought of giving him up, although I am not sure I would have gone ahead with it.

We thought that maybe a companion might help him. We did some research and took advice. It was recommended that we look at females to help with his male dominance issue.

We tried rescue dogs, but he just attacked them. It seemed hopeless. We then decided that maybe a puppy that he could mold might be the best answer! So almost 2 years after we got him, we got little Lola, also a Border Collie. This time though, we picked her direct from her breeder.

Lola was a completely different dog. She was toilet trained in 2 weeks. Coming from a litter of 11 though she wanted to play with Fido. He didn’t seem to feel the same way back!She would constantly try and get his attention, which would end up with him going for her.

In the first couple of months I never left them on their own together. I wanted to make sure that I was there to protect Lola from him. When I mentioned it to the kennels, they advised me to stop intervening! Lola had to learn when to back off! So after a short weekend in kennels I picked up a happy Lola with a cut on her face!

I was absolutely gutted, but they were right! She had to learn boundaries! After that, things settled between them. Now they play happily together, if he doesn’t want to play she knows it, and walks away!

The other problems were not easy to sort! I would try and walk both dogs on my own. Getting out the house was stressful as Fido would fight with Lola to get out first. He would then try and chase every car that past us or attack any dogs we saw. By the time I got home I would be so stressed out, I was almost in tears, and it wasn’t even 6 am! I was beginning to dislike him!

As a last resort we called in a dog behaviourist! I could no longer cope with the embarrassment or shame of his behaviour! We were not avoiding people when we were out for walks. Letting Fido off in a field to run around wasn’t an option anymore. Worse still, Lola was learning these bad behaviours from him too!

The behaviourist pointed out that those 8 weeks before we had him were crucial for puppies, and if it wasn’t a good experience it could effect him forever.

One thing that I noticed with Lola was that when she wanted quiet time, she would go into her puppy playpen or under the chaise lounge. Fido never had that in his previous home. He would have had 2 active toddlers running around with him, in a very small space!

I suddenly realised this wasn’t his fault, so vowed I would stick with him! He deserved that.

That was almost 2 years ago!

I had researched different methods on the internet, read books and watched tv programmes. None of them really helped me.

Then the lady who looks after the dogs for me in the day told me of this programme. I’d seen Graeme interviewed on This Morning. I even tried looking for the programme on the tv, but was looking under ‘The Dog Father’. I now had the name and could series link it!

Every night I watched an episode! It was worth trying! What had we to lose?

I decided to break down all Fido’s issues and work on them one at a time.

The first one was the problem of anyone entering or leaving the house, including us! He barks and lunges at the door! To be honest, sometimes he scared me, so god knows what anyone else thought!

We had previously tried everything to no avail! We even had a child gate up in the hall to give us space between him and the front door to leave without him near us! Fido hates metal, so wouldn’t cross it! Then I saw Graeme deal with a similar issue.

The trick was to give the dog a line not to cross! Graeme only had 1 dog to deal with in the programme, whereas we had 2! I decided I needed to give them both their own lines ! That way Lola wouldn’t get in Fido’s way if he kicked off!

Fido’s line was the strip between the kitchen and hall. Lola the step.

My hubby and I both spent a couple of hours getting Fido to stay behind the line. Lola got it straight away. Fido took many attempts. My steps on my Fitbit certainly increased that day!

Every time he moved we put him back! Slowly I got nearer and nearer to the front door! And then it happened. I actually walked out of the house and Fido didn’t bark or kick off!

OMG I could have cried.

We then both did it together! It was working. With lots of praise and treats, leaving the house was no longer stressful.

Now, I’ve talked about Fido’s bad points but he does have some good ones too! One is that he won’t touch food or treats until you tell him too.

I started to leave a treat at his feet, not to be eaten until we left the house! Bingo it worked!

The true test was when our dog sitter tried it and got the same results! We are over the moon.

I am now looking at other episodes to see how we can tackle some of the other issues. Fido barking at any noises is a real problem, so I am trying to work on that now too.

The door bell is a real problem and I think that will be much harder for us to solve.

Lola isn’t exempt from this either! She has learnt to bark at anyone walking past the house. Graeme also dealt with that on one of his episodes, so I am trying to put that into practice!

We have a long way to go, and are only really working on things inside the house right now. It would be good if we could sort out Fido’s aggression with other dogs. Lola loves playing with other dogs, and by not being able to take them out over fields, I fear she is losing out. They both would love the extra exercise if we could solve it!

They same Rome wasn’t built in a day! I can’t believe what a difference it has made so far. Life is definitely less stressful when we leave the house. We will keep up with it. This programme has really made a difference to us.

So Graeme – thank you ! Oh, and if you need a dog for your next series you are welcome to sort Fido out in respect of his alpha male problem and trying to attack every dog he passes !!

So if like me you want help training your dog, check out this series on Channel 5.

Thinking about those less fortunate!

Last week I got a text from a delivery company to say the wine I’d ordered from Slimline Wine was being delivered ! I was so excited ! As I left work I had a smile on my face.

As I started my walk to the train station, I passed my first homeless person!

I see many homeless everyday on my walk to and from the train station.  It is so sad to see so many of them.  Mostly men, but sometimes women too.

It goes through my mind every time I see them, why are they here?  Some, I know have mental health problems, other have fallen on hard times.  But what is the story for the others.

I’m going home to a lovely warm house, food on the table (well when I cook it there will be), and my latest wine order!  When did these people last have that?

As the temperature drops, I can’t believe they would choose this to a home indoors ? Who would, so why are they here?

I do try to support them as much as I can.  The odd £1 here, a sandwich or cup of tea there.  I do try to avoid giving money, as I know some would use it for drugs or alcohol, but not all.  If I am popping into a shop and I see one of them outside, I will add something extra to my shopping, to give them.

As I pass them each day, I wonder how many of them feel invisible?  How many people have walked past them that day and not even acknowledged them?

On this particular day, I’m rushing home to get my train.  Suddenly, I stop myself in my tracks.  I know, on my journey home, I am going to see some people who won’t have that luxury of a bottle of nice wine tonight.  They probably won’t even have a bed.  I feel very selfish.  I turn around and head to the local Tesco shop by where I work.

Inside I look around.  There are still a good amount of sandwiches available.  I decide to pick out a few packs.

On the way to the station, as I pass a homeless person I offer them a sandwich.  The first ones got a choice.  You can’t imagine the excitement of the first man, when he saw the tuna sandwich.  It made me feel so humble.

As I continued my journey, I passed out sandwiches.  As I reached the station I still had 1 pack left.  I wasn’t sure what to do with it.  Then I saw a pile in a door way which obviously belonged to a homeless person.  I gently placed the last sandwich down on an old sleeping back.  It should be a nice surprise for when they return.

I appreciate that not everyone is able to do what I did.  I certainly couldn’t afford to do it every day.  There are far too many homeless people around to make an impact on my own.  What is important though, is that we do what we can.  It doesn’t have to cost us anything.  A simple hello or smile is free.

We might not realise it, but that simple acknowledgement could mean everything for that person.

I also try and give them items of warm clothing, hats and gloves.  Rather than put in a charity bags, I like to know I’m making a direct difference to someone.

If you are trying to lose weight and have chocolate or biscuits you don’t want, why not pass it on to them?  They would appreciate anything.  Everyone I have spoken to, or helped has been so grateful and polite.

A couple of years ago I got to know a lovely young man and his dog, who were homeless. He never wanted money, but was always so grateful for a cup of tea or something to eat.

He was partially blind. He couldn’t get a job because he didn’t have an address !

One day, someone decided to set up a ‘Just Giving’ page for him. The aim was to get enough money together to get him a little place to live. People donated as much as they could afford . Others provided donations such as old plates etc. The smallest of donation all added up.

Very soon he was off the streets and safe!

Unfortunately, not everyone on the street is so lucky .

So the next time you see someone who is homeless, don’t put your head down and ignore them.  Say hello.  Give them a smile.

The small things in life can make a huge difference.

Fireworks stress out pets and animals

So this weekend will see many parts of the country, including mine, celebrating bonfire night!  I love fireworks, however for me, I now have to consider the welfare of my dogs during this time.

Animals have acute hearing, loud bangs can cause them pain in their ears.  There hearing is a lot more sensitive to sounds than us humans.

Fido is 4 years old, and has always been very sensitive to noises, so this time of year is even more stressful for him.  Lola sees him stressed, and feels the need to bark too!

This week is also the start of Diwali celebrations. Diwali is the five-day festival of lights, celebrated by millions of Hindus, Sikhs and Jains across the world. The festival, which coincides with the Hindu New Year, celebrates new beginnings and the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness.  It is celebrated also with fireworks.

This Tuesday was the start of the first firework display by us.  Fido was extremely stressed, pacing around, barking, crying and hiding.  It was a horrible couple of hours to watch and hear.  Even after they had stopped he couldn’t relax, because for pets, they don’t know if its going to start up again or not!

To help, we give both our dogs calming tablets, and are doing so right through to the middle of next week.  This doesn’t stop them getting stressed, but I hope in some way it does help them be a little calmer.  You can get them from your local vets or online.  I buy Magicalm from Healthspan, which I have shown to my vet to confirm it is safe for my dogs.  If you are giving them calming tablets, make sure you check the dosage, and follow the instructions carefully.  The link is here.

https://www.healthspan.co.uk/products/magicalm?sc_camp=A637DAE161C94D44A8EAF04FF8CA3979&gclid=CjwKCAjw6-_eBRBXEiwA-5zHaX00I4MnLUvay9jC2o8alTR4OQZaxL4uOYBWfrJjfgvvCJw_lspaJxoC3C0QAvD_BwE#/?pack%20size=60

So what else do we do to help them?  We make sure there are plenty of TV’s and radios on loudly around the house to block the noise out.  Curtains and blinds are closed.  I never shout at them as this stresses them out more.  Instead, I cuddle them, and stroke them, using soothing sounds.  They are even allowed to lie on the sofa with me for added comfort.

Fido likes sleeping under my hubby’s desk in his study.   Lola under the chaise lounge.   It is not uncommon for dogs to hide during times of stress.   I leave them both there, if that is where they have gone, as for them, this is their safe place.

Dogs will also potentially become destructive at this time.  Again, don’t get cross with them, it is their coping mechanism.

I make sure the dogs are walked well before the darkness falls.  That way, I can eliminate any possibility of them being outdoors when a firework goes off.  I never allow them in the garden until I know the fireworks are well and truly finished.  This might mean they have a little accident, but it’s a small price to pay.

If you are out when displays start, get your dog home as soon as possible.  Dogs will try and run and hide.  Never walk them this time of year without a lead. They are likely to dash off, and could potentially be hit by a car or become lost.  As soon as the first sound is heard, get them home to safety.

Other Animals

It isn’t just dogs that are effected by fireworks.  Cats, rabbits, birds and even wildlife.  More animals are killed on the roads this time of year, due to fireworks and they run around in panic.

If you have a cat, do the same as with my dogs.  As they are a law unto themselves, you may need to bring them in a lot earlier.  Make sure the catflap is closed or blocked, so they can’t get back out!

Small Pets

If your pets are in hutches/cages in the garden, bring them indoors.  If not into the house, the garage.  Make sure they have extra bedding and cover the hutch/cage.

If you can’t bring them in, cover them with think blankets or old duvets to block out some of the sound.  Obviously, make sure they can still breath!

Make sure you check on them later.

Wildlife

You may think there isn’t a lot you can do to protect wildlife this time of year, and in some ways that is true.

Sadly, many types of animals will be hit by cars, trying to flee fireworks, especially deer.  These can also cause damage to vehicles.

If you have bird baths or feeders in your garden, take them down early afternoon.  This will prevent them coming out of the safety of their nests or trees.  If you can’t remove them, cover them up.

After fireworks

We will all have seen fireworks lying on the ground after a display.  When it is safe to do so, make sure you discard of them.  The firework will still contain dangerous toxins, which if eaten by animals, could kill them.

I don’t want to spoil everyone’s fun.  As I said, I love fireworks, but with a bit of planning, we can make it relaxing for both humans and animals alike.

If you see an injured animal, please contact your local vet or RSPCA on  0300 1234 999