Monday, 31 December 2012

December Favourites

Kerastase Bain Satin
As you will know if you are a regular reader, I am a tad obsessed with haircare! I purchased this shampoo as part of a recent Feel Unique haul to try to tame my damaged hair after too much bleaching. Initially I was unsure about it - it's pretty expensive and I didn't take to the scent immediately but now it's my favourite shampoo. I always thought that conditioner made the most difference to my hair and that shampoo was just incidental but having tested this thoroughly I can assure you that it's the best shampoo I've ever tried. It really softens my hair and helps to smooth down the damaged bits, making it look healthier and shinier

Philip Kingsley Elasticizer Extreme
Another new weapon in my haircare arsenal, I use this before washing and using a masque. Far better than the original version, which gave me no noticeable benefits, this really seems to have strengthened my hair and helps to detangle it. I am really pleased with the results and will definitely repurchase

Soap & Glory Smoothie Star Body Buttercream
I picked this up as part of a Boots 3 for 2 offer and I love it, it smells so creamy and sweet (a bit sickly if you're not into that sort of thing) It contains five different oils so is really nourishing, especially on my dry legs and elbows

Lush Bubblegum lip scrub
A gorgeous smelling (and tasting) scrub for dry winter lips - I'm a bit late to jump on this bandwagon but this little pot of goodness will never be out of stock in my bathroom from now on. It's the perfect consistency to leave lips soft (but not sore) and ready to slather in your favourite lip balm

Honey Flavoured Jack Daniels
Jack Daniels is one of my most favourite drinks in the world so I was really excited to try this festive honey flavoured version and it's just as delicious as I imagined. Mix with Diet Coke and ice and have yourself a very happy evening!

My new iPad
I spent a long time umming and aahing over whether to get an iPad - whether I needed one, whether to get the mini version, whether to just forget the idea of a tablet and go straight for a MacBook to replace my failing laptop. I suppose the answer is that no one needs one but they are good fun, make internet browsing quick and easy and being able to watch whatever film I want, whenever I want (thanks to my existing LoveFilm subscription) has been a revelation. So yes, I love it!

Snugg iPad cover
I wanted a case to protect my new baby, one that would also serve as a stand, make it easier for me to hold for long periods (when watching a film for example) and switch it on and off automatically. This one serves the purpose perfectly and comes in a range of colours. Not only that but I ordered it at 4.30pm on 27th December and it arrived before 10am the next day. And that was free delivery! What more could you ask for?

What were your favourite things this month?

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Festive House Tour

It's a bit late in coming but here it is ....

DISCLAIMER - I'm no photographer!!

I'd been meaning to do this for ages but hadn't really got round to it. Meaning that I was a bit nervous about it and wondering if I should do it at all. So when the mood took me on Christmas Eve I just went for it, no forward planning, no tarting the place up (or I would definitely have lit all the candles and moved the crisps I was eating!)

I really love this place, especially at Christmas and I'm really pleased that I have these photos to remember it by as we won't be here this time next year. Just looking at this post gives me the cosy feeling I get from simply being here, I hope you get a bit of the cosiness too!

Friday, 28 December 2012

Friday Round Up

liz, 6.45am at m&s - done - and all packed away
chjristmas shopping delivery - festive deer - christmas fajitas
chester breakfast - turkey & leek pie - my favourite little christmas guy

Firstly - I hope you all had a fabulous Christmas! I hope Santa was good to you and that you spent plenty of time with the people who matter most to you

For me, it's been a great week. Despite battling with yet another chest infection and a Sunday morning trip to the hospital, it's been festive fun all the way!

Last Friday I went to Chester with my best friend Liz for our annual Christmas Shopping trip (post to come) Sunday brought a huge shopping delivery and a visit from Matt's mum and Christmas Eve brought last minute food shopping and a mammoth house clean

Christmas Day was the loveliest day of the year. We visited Matt's dad in the morning on the way to a huge present swapping session at my sister's house. I think it was the first time this year that we've had the whole family in one room and it was great. Then it was back to our house, I popped the (frankly, giant) turkey into the oven, lit the fire and we began to warm up for the Christmas feast. There's been a distinct foodie theme this week as you can see from the above photos!

Having Christmas dinner with my nephew Finley-Joe was the high point of my year. Watching a two year old wearing a cracker party hat, eating from his new Gruffalo's Child plate and wishing everyone 'Merry Christmas' individually, by name (including the dogs) might be the cutest thing I've ever seen!

We've spent the rest of the week lounging around at home, watching movies by the fire, cuddling the dogs and eating even more. It's the longest time we've spent together since .... I'm not even sure. Perhaps ever. I haven't even left the house since Christmas morning and that's just fine with me. This year has been a whirlwind of work and building and spending barely any time together so I'm savouring the time I'm spending with Matt this week, even when we're sitting in companionable silence and all I can see of him is his feet peeking over the edge of the other sofa

The weekend holds a trip to visit Matt's mum with the dogs in tow, finally publishing my festive house tour post (eek!) and not a lot else. I'll need to come back to reality and catch up with the washing at some point but I'm not thinking about that right now. I'm just enjoying the view

Have a great weekend everyone!

Friday, 21 December 2012

Friday Round Up

mulled cider anyone? - two new additions - aftersun. most ridicupus free gift ever from liz earle
soap & glory bath foam on 3 for 2 - present for my nephew - homemade mincemeat
unfortunate calendar picture this month - mince pies - festive nails

Well I hope you guys have all had a better week than I have. It's been a bit rough. For the last week and a half I've been feeling a bit ... bleugh. A bit down I suppose. And you know sometimes when you feel like this you find yourself on a bit of a downward spiral? I've been struggling to sleep despite being really tired and when I do sleep, I seem to be sleeping really deeply, so that when I wake up I'm not sure where I am or what day it is. And every day I've woken up and thought 'please, please let today be better'

The lowlight of this week was pulling onto the drive on Tuesday night and seeing a small, dark shape on the grass. 'oh no', I thought, 'please don't let that be a chicken'. But of course it was. A small, wet, defeated black Pekin bantam, lying in a pile of feathers with her eyes tightly shut. It broke my heart and I immediately ran to the shed with a torch to check the others. The shed usually holds three Buff Orpingtons and our tiny black Pekin Frizzle but only two Buffs huddled together in the corner. I checked the small coop next to it, which usually houses three black and two lavender Pekins - just one black and one lavender remained, huddled together, pale-faced and wide-eyed with fear. I couldn't help it, I burst into tears at the thought that we'd lost five of our pets to a no doubt extremely nasty end - probably either a fox or a stray dog. I took my torch and scoured the boundary hedges to see if I could find any more bodies and spotted a heap of pale Buff feathers under the hedge near the bird table. My heart sank. Less than hopeful, I prodded the hen and almost imperceptibly, the feathers tightened. I shone my torch at her face and unbelievably, her eyes were open. She was so tightly tucked in between the hedging and the fence that I couldn't get at her. I rang Matt and summoned him and his decent torch home and between us we managed to extract the Buff from the hedge. She was frozen with fear but had no visible signs of damage. We spent the next hour with the torch, peering under the hedges and managed to find two more Pekins - a black and a lavender, terrified but unharmed

I think the poor dead chicken was the little Frizzle and one black Pekin is missing. Both special in their own ways - the black Pekin was one of our first chickens and was the first one to lay an egg. She wandered off last New Year's Day and was missing for a fortnight until Matt spotted her in our neighbour's coop, badly beaten up by his much larger hens. And the little Frizzle, such an odd looking little thing, the smallest hen we had and the loner of the group. She liked to hang around by the bins, scratching around in the gravel and spent every night tucked under all three Buffs in the shed, keeping toasty warm in her own living feather duvet

All in all, a sad week for us. We also heard that one of my friends gundogs died during a field trial this week. He was lovely, an oversized yellow labrador called Mead, a really soft dog with huge brown eyes who liked to be the centre of attention and would sit on your feet and gaze at you. He was in perfect health and only about six years old, it was completely out of the blue. He brought back a bird, she took it from him and he just keeled over and died. My poor friend is distraught as you can imagine

On a slightly cheerier note, I had my hair coloured earlier this week, back to a deep auburn colour. It's completely washed me out but I feel so much better for it - the colour may not be as flattering but I feel more like me again. Unbelievably, Matt didn't even notice. Which is crazy considering that on the first day it was actually a very, very dark brown. Men eh??

On Wednesday night I got home from work at 9pm and sat in my car on the drive waiting for Matt to get home so if we'd had another chicken massacre I wouldn't be the one to discover it. (what a wimp) I then proceeded to have a nosebleed like you've never seen before, filling a whole pocket pack of Kleenex so at least I had a good excuse to be hiding in the car when he got home! When I got in I watched the whole three episodes of 'Inside Claridge's' on the iPlayer - if you haven't see it I strongly recommend you look it up, it was absolutely fascinating and right up my street. The attention to detail that the staff give is what a picky devil like me wants to see in every hotel and If I ever win the lottery I will become a regular for sure!

Hopefully my mood will improve today as I head off with Liz on our annual pilgrimage to Chester for shopping, good food and drink and car-chat. This weekend I'll be finishing off the final preparations, wrapping presents, ordering our Christmas Waitrose shop, baking, all that kind of stuff. And hopefully I'll cheer up a bit, hopefully the cloud will lift and by Monday evening I'll be ensconced in that warm, fuzzy Christmas glow that comes when you know you've prepared everything you can and you've consumed enough mulled wine that the rest of it just doesn't matter anyway!

Have a great weekend everyone

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Recipe - Homemade Christmas Mincemeat

This has to be my all time favourite Christmas recipe. Not only is it absolutely delicious but the smell of it cooking is to die for. It scents the kitchen so beautifully that you don't want to leave the room, better than any Christmas scented candle! It also makes a lovely Christmas gift in a nice jar with some ribbon and a pretty tag. Handy to have on standby for those awkward devils who bring you a gift when you weren't expecting one!

You will need

1lb cooking apples - peeled, cored and finely chopped or grated
8oz shredded suet
12oz raisins
8oz sultanas
8oz currants
8oz mixed peel, finely chopped
12oz dark brown soft sugar
grated rind and juice of 2 oranges
grated rind and juice of 2 lemons
2oz sliced almonds
4tsp mixed spice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 a nutmeg, grated
6 tablespoons of brandy

Simply mix together all of the ingredients except for the brandy in a large bowl, then cover with a cloth and leave for 12 hours

Cover the bowl loosely with foil and cook at 120 degrees C for three hours. This slowly melts the suet and allows it to coat all of the other ingredients. This coating prevents fermentation if too much juice seeps from the apples during storage

Allow the mincemeat to get cold, stir in the brandy and decant into sterilised jars

How easy was that? Add to pastry cases and top with pastry stars or sandwich between layers of puff pastry for festive treats!

Monday, 17 December 2012

And The Winner Is ...

... Carolin !

Thank you all for your entries! It was lovely to read your comments about your favourite posts and so nice to see comments from readers who haven't commented before too

And in case you were in any doubt as to the legitimacy of the draw, you might enjoy the pictures below starring Jessie ...

It was great fun and I'm sure you'll agree that draws don't come any more random than this! Apologies for the awful blurring - I should have anticipated that this would happen at high speed :-)

Carolin, if you could email me your address please, I'll pop your Christmas present in the post tomorrow for you

Friday, 14 December 2012

Friday Round Up

making chicken soup out of roast dinner leftovers - BIG new candle - yummy latte
this year's tree - all decked out - favourite new tree ornament
a very frosty gate - beautifully wrapped hush goodies - best card ever

I was so happy to see that so many of you enjoy these Friday posts - they are my favourites too!

This was the week that I finally got that Christmas feeling! Writing up my Old and New Traditions posts really helped (I got all nostalgic and excited) as did putting up our tree. We always have a real tree, we get it from the local estate and I always pick a winner. Just look at that beauty!

I also finally bought my Christmas cards, began my food shopping lists, sat down with my sister to plan our Christmas dinner and bought a few more presents. I'm usually about finished by now but I've been a bit lax this year. I've really struggled with ideas for Matt, usually I know what I want to get him months in advance but it's been hard this year because he's so focused on the new house that he's not really shown any interest in anything else all year! I asked him what he wanted and he came up with the following suggestions;

1. A bath tub
2. An armchair
3. A sword

I kind of wish I hadn't asked

I finally caved in to my hush fetish this week and made good use of their 20% off sale. I ordered two jumpers, some pyjamas, some cords and three dresses, expecting to send most of it back. But they were all so gorgeous that I kept them all except two dresses! Hush clothes are so cosy and warm and the pyjamas are particularly lovely - soft, warm and beautifully detailed - I wish I'd ordered more! My order arrived beautifully wrapped and included a competition entry, a complimentary magazine and collection of short stories and some teapigs tea. It was a real treat to receive such bounty in the post!

I also snaffled myself a HUGE new White Company Winter candle. It was crazy expensive but I had a 20% off code and a £10 voucher, so it kind of felt like a bit of a bargain!

I popped to Meadowhall for some late night shopping with Matt last night but it was actually a bit of a fail. We got there at 7.30pm and were absolutely starving, we couldn't concentrate so we went for some dinner. After much deliberation we ended up at Las Iguanas, which I wouldn't recommend. Terrible service and extortionate prices for just average food. Matt also complained about the portion sizes - his fajitas cost £15.30 and there was barely enough filling to make two. Never again! We spent most of the evening hanging around the Apple store whilst I deliberated between iPad Minis or MacBooks. In the end our shopping trip yielded a load of Hotel Chocolat goodies for Christmas and two tree decorations. So it wasn't what you'd call a roaring success!

This weekend I'll be finishing my Christmas shopping, taking some photos for an upcoming house tour post (eek!) and on Saturday night it's Matt's staff Christmas do so we'll be chowing down at our favourite Chinese restaurant. I'll be at the new house on Sunday, flexing my painting arm and on Sunday night Jessie will be picking the winner of my Christmas Gift giveaway - have you entered yet? I'll be leaving a reply to the winner's comment on the post so be sure to check back on Monday

Have a fab weekend!

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Christmas Traditions Part 2 - The New

I was overwhelmed by the response to yesterday's Traditions post - thank you all so much for your lovely comments!

As you may have gathered, I love me some good ol' traditions and I've started a few of my own over the years. Some are nostalgic and hark back to family Christmasses gone by but some are brand new and I like to think there will be new ones added over the coming years too

In the lead up to the big day I like to call my sister often and leave voicemails of our favourite Christmas song - 'Do They Know It's Christmas' by the original Band Aid - at top volume! I always have a poinsettia in the house because my mum always did and I still decorate the tree with a roaring fire on the go whilst listening to Christmas songs. I like to make the house feel as festive as possible - I swap out my usual plug in air fresheners for the spiced apple scented ones and always have lots of tealights and scented candles around the house. Last year I was mad about Yankee Candle's Christmas Cupcake but this year it's The White Company's Winter Candle that I keep reaching for, it's just gorgeous.

I always wrap my presents whilst listening to Christmas songs, drinking mulled wine and eating a mince pie. I love mince pies, I make my own mincemeat (recipe here) and these little devils are mostly to blame for the weight I will put on this month. Food plays a big part in my Christmas traditions, I always do my turkey the Nigella way and I bake her Christmas Morning Muffins (recipe to come!) for breakfast on the big day. I can't stand Christmas pudding or cake but we more than make up for the lack of them with other desserts. Last year's Pecan Toffee Roulade was a big hit but my Pecan Pie was a bit of a damp squib (it had a soggy bottom!)

I like to get in the festive mood by watching as many Christmas films as I can. I always cry too, I'm such a wuss! Love Actually and Elf are my favourites but a few years ago I bought 'Clue' for my sister as a bit of a joke - it was a film we watched as kids. Re-watching it with our partners all these years later we realised we knew pretty much every line. Plus it's absolutely hilarious, even more so now it's so dated so we all laughed ourselves silly. Possibly something to do with all the alcohol we'd drunk I suppose. Either way, it's now become a Christmas tradition despite the fact that it's not a Christmas film, so it will no doubt get some airtime on the big day

My best friend Liz and I like to fit in a visit to Chester in December. We go as close to Christmas as we can, so that all our Christmas shopping is done and we can just soak up the festive atmosphere, drink mulled wine and buy treats for ourselves! We also get up super early on Christmas Eve and queue outside M&S with all the other nutters, eating McDonald's breakfasts and waiting for them to open so we can have first pick of their side dishes, sauces, puddings, biscuits etc.

On the big day itself, Matt and I usually open our presents in bed, have a cup of tea and aforementioned breakfast muffins, then wrap up warm and take the dogs out for a Christmas walk. Us 'kids' do Secret Santa for us and our partners so that everyone gets a present and no one goes bankrupt. We all get together and swap presents on Christmas or Boxing Day, whilst eating and drinking like it's going out of fashion

Christmas afternoon is about lounging around, eating, drinking and playing games or watching Christmas TV. This year I'm going to start a new tradition - watching the Queen's Speech. I hadn't realised what a Royalist I was until the Royal Wedding last year. Turns out I love the Royals! So we'll all be tuning in at 3pm. My house, my rules!

This year we'll be meeting up with the whole family at my sister's house in the morning to open presents together, before Kay, her fiance Kieran and my nephew Finley Joe come to us for dinner and to stay the night. It's going to be a busy day but I'm pleased that I'll get to see everyone that's important to me AND I'll get to spend plenty of time at home as we won't be living here next year. Dinner will be a laidback affair with lots of alcohol being consumed along the way and we'll probably spend the bulk of the day eating. Luckily I know everyone will muck in and help. And we have a dishwasher, thank goodness :-)

Will you be starting any Christmas traditions this year?

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Christmas Traditions Part 1 - The Old

I'm a big lover of traditions, especially the family kind that have real history and lots of memories behind them. Christmas always brings out the nostalgic side of me and I love the comfort and happiness I get from carrying out old traditions

I have lots of festive traditions which began with my family years ago but I also have some new ones that I've started myself in recent years. I enjoy them all and I love the routine of them - they are part of the reason I look forward to Christmas

My family always made an event of decking the tree. We'd pick a Friday night and we'd light a fire and listen to Christmas songs whilst putting up the tree, lights, and other decorations. I remember these nights with great fondness, everyone was so happy. We had two little West Highland terriers, Max and Leo, and we'd wrap tinsel around their necks and dance with them. They would go for their Christmas bath and haircut the week before Christmas and they would always come back with big red and green bows around their necks then too!

My sister and I would always be allowed to open one present on Christmas Eve, chosen by our mum as it was always a new pair of pyjamas. We'd have an early bath and sit in front of the fire wearing our new PJs and eating mince pies whilst watching Christmas TV

When we were little, before the days of video cameras, my parents used to record our Christmas mornings on a tape deck. We have our pre-video Christmases on cassette tapes and I'm looking forward to sharing them with my children one day. We always spent Christmas Day at home with various family visiting throughout the day. Sometimes my parents would hide Christmas gifts around the house for us to find throughout the day - I remember one year lifting my table mat to find a folder containing details of a pony they'd adopted for me from a local horse sanctuary, that pretty much made my year!

My mum would cook a huge roast turkey with all the trimmings and my dad's parents would usually come and have dinner with us. At tea time we'd have a cold buffet, which my sister liked to prepare, and we'd all be absolutely stuffed but there was always room for pudding. At some point we'd all get wrapped up in coats, hats, scarfs and mittens and take the dogs out for a walk, wearing their bows or tinsel of course

Things changed after my mum died and Christmas at home was never quite the same, although we all did our best to make it enjoyable it was as if the shine had disappeared from it. There was no getting away from the gaping hole that had been left at the centre of our family and it just felt sad. Of course it's got much easier now that so much time has passed and we've started new traditions of our own but I don't think Christmas will feel right again until the next generation come along and are old enough to make Christmas all about them

We're one of those new-fangled 'blended families' now as we have my soon-to-be-stepmum and her grown up children (and grandchildren) in our little circle too, which makes quite a number of us. We've all had Christmas together a few times but it's incredibly hectic having 16 or so people in one house, you don't feel like you really get to speak to everyone properly and it's catering on a massive scale! Last year Matt and I had Christmas alone together at home and that didn't feel right either. I feel like I'm still trying to find out what Christmas should be like now and I haven't quite found it yet

The year before I met Matt, my best friend Liz was house sitting over Christmas so I took Jessie and went along with her. We spent Christmas Eve in a hot tub sipping champagne and later, watching films in front of a roaring fire. The next day we put our Christmas dinner into huge bloomer sandwiches which we devoured like animals!

Do you have any Christmas traditions?

Monday, 10 December 2012

A Christmas Gift

*this is not a sponsored post. this gift was purchased by me with my own hard-earned cash*

I love Christmas (as you may have noticed) and I thought that it would be the perfect opportunity for made up of little things' first giveaway!

As I'm a huge fan of Liz Earle products and as they do Christmas so well, they seem a perfect choice for a Christmas gift

Cleanse & Polish is my ultimate favourite cleanser and apparently a bit of a beauty blogger favourite too. It's suitable for all skin types and is a creamy, comforting way to melt away make up before sweeping away with a hot muslin cloth

I have a festive Cleanse & Polish and a pack of two muslin cloths to give away to one lucky reader

If you fancy winning yourself a Christmas present from me, all you have to do is leave a comment on this post telling me what has been your favourite post on this blog and any requests for posts you'd like to see. That's it!

The winner will be chosen on Sunday 16th December. This will be an elaborate affair involving names written on envelopes and a Labrador choosing one at random

Good luck!

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Dog Walking Etiquette

Yesterday was a lovely crisp, cold morning. Perfect dog walking weather.

I've noticed that in my Friday Instagram posts, the scenic pictures really make the collage look complete, so I decided to get snap happy with my phone whilst I was out with the dogs. We're lucky enough to live in a rural area with plenty of beautiful places to walk, which makes for very pretty pictures

These woods have a pond which Jessie loves to swim in, whatever the weather. Even though it was partially frozen yesterday, there was no stopping her. Wilson isn't quite so brave, he tittuped around on the bank, holding a stick and dive bombing her on her way out. When they were pups I did all their gundog water training here with them, the pond has an island which is great for teaching them to cross water, stop and hunt on the whistle command. Not all dogs are keen on water, although they may like swimming they see the water as an obstacle between them and the game so they often slow right down and it looks laborious - this was never a problem for Jessie. She takes a run up and literally hurls herself into the water, often jumping so high that she lands bum first. It's hilarious to watch!

Speaking of training, we were having a lovely time until we came across two other dog walkers with extremely poor manners. The first let his dog come flying up to mine and it attacked Jessie, snarling and hanging from her neck. The second allowed her dogs to stop and have a good sniff of Wilson even though I had taken both of my dogs off the path and had them sitting quietly out of the way

I don't allow my dogs to play with other dogs. Firstly because, as gundogs, they have to learn that they're just not allowed. They have to be able to concentrate on work and be relied on to sit motionless until instructed to do something, even when there are many other dogs around. The only way you can achieve this is to teach them that other dogs are not for playing with. If mine see another dog they come straight back to me - I then take them off the path and they sit at heel until the other dog has passed The second reason is that you just don't know how friendly other dogs are. Both of my dogs have been attacked several times by dogs that weren't under their owner's control and that really pisses me off. If you have a dog, you have a responsibility to ensure that it is properly trained and that you are in control of it in public.

Wilson isn't castrated because we had planned to breed from him. So he has the full complement of testosterone and as far as he is concerned, Jessie is his property - if another dog gets too friendly with her he will let the dog know he's not happy. Hence, when we see another dog coming, mine get put on leads and taken off the path, out of harm's way. It's incredibly frustrating when the other person doesn't take this hint and lets their dog come over and either attack my well-behaved dogs or take advantage of them sitting quiet and still and have a good old sniff round their bits! It's even worse when I ask them to take their dog away as Wilson might snap and they say 'oh don't worry, it will teach mine a lesson'. What lesson exactly? And would they be saying 'oh, don't worry' if my dog did theirs serious damage? I expect it would be more something along the lines of 'expect a vet's bill and I'll see you in court'!

Exchanges like this can really ruin a lovely walk and I make a concerted effort to walk where there aren't likely to be any other people and dogs. I know that not everyone trains their dogs to the level that I have but to be honest, it's just a case of good manners and common sense. If I see someone putting their dog on a lead as I approach, I assume they don't trust their dog so it would be incredibly stupid of me to let my dogs go flying up to it at high speed!

I don't imagine this will change any time soon, people will always be ignorant. But if you have a dog, I beg you not to be one of them! Think of your dog's safety and be careful around dogs you don't know

Jessie has been attacked twice, both times by terriers and both times whilst she was on the lead and they weren't. Terriers can be nasty little blighters and both times it was hard to get them off her but there was no serious damage done. Wilson has been attacked twice too, once by two Flatcoat Retrievers and and once by a husky. Both times the owners stood by, shouting but doing nothing whilst I hit, kicked, whipped and dragged their dogs off mine. It's terrifying and we've been lucky that he's got off lightly, shaken but with no serious damage

It's heartbreaking to watch your much loved, well-behaved pet being attacked by one which isn't under control. It hurts to see their wounded expressions - they don't understand what happened - they were doing exactly as they've been taught to do so why have they been hurt?

I'll stop ranting now! But please, please, if you have a dog be careful. There are some nasty dogs out there and they are indistinguishable from the sweet, playful ones until it's too late.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Friday Round Up

chicken dinner anyone? - a packed arena for elbow - a pair of goons
a frosty bathroom window - eggs! - mulled fruit juice, yum
an unwelcome visitor - i bake, she licks the spoon - new fringe!

In a break from the norm, this week hasn't flown. Not at all, in fact it's dragged a teeny bit. Maybe it's because I've barely seen Matt due to us both working so late at night and I've spent all week looking forward to the weekend. You may have noticed it's been a bit quiet on the blogging front this week, again because I've been crazy busy at work and getting home late on cold, dark nights doesn't make one feel like blogging, it makes one feel like eating lots of food and collapsing into bed. Or is that just me??

We had a night away last weekend to see Elbow in Manchester as I mentioned in this post. The gig was great and despite the fact that we thought we would be late due to a slow restaurant service and late taxi, we made it in time to get to the front and have a good view. Because they weren't promoting a specific album they did a range of tracks, new and old, mixed with their trademark chatty, intimate atmosphere. It may have been the best Elbow gig I've ever been to. If you've never heard any of their music, give it a try. It's like nothing else out there and Guy Garvey writes the most beautiful and abstract love songs you're ever likely to hear, as well as joyful, soaring celebratory melodies. I adore him. Do a little YouTube search and treat yourself!

You may remember that we were having chicken problems last week and I can report that we did eat three of our flock! Of the four eggs that hatched from our last batch of babies, they all turned out to be boys. Unlucky! Whilst we love our hens like pets, they are officially egg machines, so we agreed beforehand that any boys would have to go. To raise four gorgeous little babies and find that all of them were boys was a bit heartbreaking to be honest. We let one go to a neighbour and hung on to the last three  for a while as Matt had grown particularly attached to one of them but they caused havoc - fighting constantly and creating such bad feeling in the flock that all the hens stopped laying. You'd expect some of them to stop when the days get shorter but ours are usually fairly reliable and I was sure it was because they were unhappy. They all looked miserable. So I put my foot down and did the honourable thing. And you know what? The next day we found an egg in the box. And since then we've had two every day which I think proves my point. Even one of our young Buff Orpingtons has started laying for the first time so we have little brown eggs to contrast with the Pekin's white ones! No sooner had we got rid of our boys than a neighbour's randy rooster invaded the garden - I had to chase it off with a rake and have a word with the chap who owns it. 'Sorry', he said 'my daughter won't let me kill it. Shoot it if you want'. My reputation precedes me.

On Monday night we went to my sister's for one of our annual family traditions - Mulligatawny Night. My dad makes the most amazing Mulligatawny soup and around this time of year we all get together for a good old family chow-down. I took some Gruffalo books for my little nephew Finley-Joe which he loved, now he's two it seems like he's become a proper little boy and will chat away to us like mad. It's so lovely to hear him saying our names and being excited to see us, I love it!

I'm not feeling Christmassy yet so I got our Christmas decorations out this week and did some baking whilst listening to my Christmas playlist (and in keeping with tradition, left my sister a voicemail of myself singing along to 'Do They Know It's Christmas?' at high volume - our favourite!) Hopefully we will go and get the tree this weekend and I really need to get on with card and present buying, I'm usually far better prepared than this!

I bit the bullet yesterday and took my knackered hair to the hairdressers. I've been lightenening it for a while now and it's reached the point where it says 'No. No more'. The ends were like straw and it was really bothering me. So off I went and had four inches off the long layers and a little trim elsewhere as well as a new side swept fringe! It's been a while since I had a proper fringe and I gave myself a headache yesterday trying to keep it out of my eyes, what a plum. It feels short but not terribly so and it definitely feels and looks better. I just need to decide on a colour now as I'm abandoning the bleach for the last time. I've told my colourist not to let me do it again.

Last night we went to visit some friends for dinner and to coo over their now almost three month old baby, Jacob. We last saw him when he was about a week old and absolutely tiny as he was born five weeks early. He's come such a long way and is a really cute baby now he doesn't look so fragile. We had a gorgeous steak and stilton pie for dinner with lots of red wine and a good old catch up by the fire, I loved it

This weekend will be another dull one painting my new kitchen windows. I don't mind painting walls and celilings but window frames take so long, I hate it. But once they're done the sink unit can be installed so I'm trying to focus on that and just wade through

What will you be doing this weekend?

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

A Visitor

We had a new bird come to visit the bird table this weekend that I thought you might like to see

Pheasants are a regular pain round here at this time of year, usually playing daredevils in the road. But I love to see them, they remind me of my gundog days and I love their beautiful, festive colouring. They're pretty tasty too! Ahem.

He hung around picking up seed and inadvertently frightened off all the chickens, before trooping off back to his own little hedgerow somewhere

A little splash of colour against the leaves, he really brightened my day

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