Monday, 31 December 2012

The Dartmouth Arms

I decided we should go out for NYE as it will be our last year being just the two of us, so we booked a table at The Dartmouth Arms, Burnhill Green – my favourite Italian.  I wanted to eat at 6pm then get home and chill out together to see the new year in.  They had a set menu.  I started off with cheesey garlic butter bruschetta which was lovely and had plenty of cheese and garlic.  Mark had meatballs and oh the tomato sauce was to die for, so rich and tasty!

Main course I had chicken in a tomato and pepper sauce with garlic roast potatoes and veg – proper chicken breast, not bashed and flattened like most places!  The potatoes were a little dry but otherwise the sauce was very tasty.  Mark had a mushroom and fillet steak linguini and that was beautiful too, very tasty, not too creamy but really tasty sauce.

For dessert I had a toffee temptation which was a vanilla ice cream with a praline filling and a toffee sauce topping – it was really tasty and something a bit different.  Mark had a huge slab of tiramisu which he said was very tasty. 

It was £29.95 for the set menu which I thought was good value for New Years Eve and lovely food, decent portion sizes too!!

Pushchair Shopping

Well we popped into Toys R Us to look at cots and decided on their dark wood sleigh bed cot they had in the sale, so we ordered that.  While we were there I also looked at pushchairs (or should I say ‘travel systems’), luckily there’s not much choice as I want a 3 wheeler, living in the countryside I think it’s the best option.  So I decided on the Quinny Moodd (which is supposed to have better suspension than the buzz).

However my sister in law threw a spanner in the works and mentioned the iCandy as you can convert that to a double pushchair for when number 2 arrives (we do hope to have two close together).  It would make more sense to buy something with this option as I would like to buy new really.  What a minefield though!  I found Quinny’s website easy to navigate and find out which model was best for us, but iCandy there are so many models I am lost!  I think it’s the apple jogger I want as that has three wheels, the peach jogger doesn’t convert to a double pushchair.  It’s ridiculous though as there aren’t any prices for them anywhere and it means a trip to John Lewis to test them which is over an hour away.  Still I suppose will only do it once!!

Oh and I am not superstitious about having the pushchair in the house, would rather be prepared!

Friday, 28 December 2012


The poor lad we have been telling him off as he keeps looking as if he’s going to wee everywhere!  We noticed him going in and out of his litter tray a lot without much happening in the wee department.  Luckily the vet had a free appointment and wanted to see him there and then in case he had a blockage, turns out he has cystitis which is caused by stress, poor lad feel do bad for telling him off now!  He’s had an antibiotic and an anti inflammatory injection so no going out still just yet!

Monday, 24 December 2012

Clothes Shopping

Logged onto the Next sale today and ordered a load of half price maternity wear.  I don’t mind buying cheap tops from Primark or Asda or wherever but I wanted some good quality trousers so have ordered some black and some blue jeans and some black work trousers – all under the bump, I suppose I should have mixed and matched but I think I will be more comfy in those as I always wear hipsters and hate waisted trousers so fingers crossed!

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

12 Weeks

We went for our 12 week scan today only to be told I was probably 13 weeks (tomorrow), though I personally can’t see it but there you go.  So my due date is now 27th June 2013, would rather it be earlier than later though!  Baby measured 6.6cm long (our first date was on 6th of the 6th month J ).  Of course they took some more blood.  So it’s real, there is really a baby there, although I have been sick I don’t know if I ever really believed it!  So now we can tell people, hooray!

Sunday, 16 December 2012

We're In!!

Hooray, so happy, dogs are settled, we’re settled.  Clee the cat is still stressing out big time, poor lad, wouldn’t have thought it would bother him this much! 

Here’s the dogs in the garden, the pond will be filled in as Rum has already thought he can walk on water and I don’t like the thought of having a toddler and a pond!

Wednesday, 12 December 2012


What a cool date to complete on, seeing as I am pregnant I am not allowed to lift a finger so it’s been a very relaxing house move for me, but for Mark it’s been a bit hectic.  He’s been a godsend and done so much, I am not off work till next week so it’s all down to him at the moment!

Monday, 10 December 2012

Midwife Booking

We went to see the midwife at Bridgnorth hospital which is a lovely little place and definitely where I want to be as long as there aren’t any complications, I don’t want to be in a zoo being ushered in and out with loads of other people, it’s just not me.  So hopefully it works out.  She tried to hear a heartbeat but couldn’t as baby was hiding too low down, she did say I was about the right size so that’s good to know.  She also took loads of blood!

Monday, 19 November 2012


All I wanted for my birthday was to spend the day with my lovely hubby and eat some yummy food at the German Market.  So we went for lunch and devoured some deep fried cheese, spicy frankfurter, cheese garlic bread, a custard doughnut and some spiced apple juice (Mark had the alcoholic version).  It was so yummy, we don’t bother to look round the stalls, they’re all same old same old, once you’ve been once you’ve seen them all.  All we go for is the food, just jump on the train from Wolves, it’s dead easy.

Finished off the evening with a takeaway from my favourite Indian (Albrighton Balti) and ate with Mark and mum.  It was the perfect day!  And my naughty husband bought me a Kitchenaid mixer which I have always wanted but he really shouldn’t have!  I look forward to testing it once cakes stop making me feel sick!!  He also got me a onesie which I love and is so warm and comfy J

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Three Finals!!!

I compete in agility and my little sheltie has always been known as all or nothing, most of the time being nothing as we struggle to work together a lot of the time. Over 9 years I have tried to achieve consistency and struggled. Today out of 5 classes we won 4 and had a 2nd in the other qualifying for a national final. This is the third final she has qualified for so far this year and I am just so chuffed with her. Saying that I don't think any of the rounds was particularly pretty!

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Segway Rally

Many thanks to Buyagift for this Segway Rally for Two Experience

Mark and I have ridden a Segway before when we were in Paris last year.  We had booked a group Segway Tour and it turned out only the two of us had booked it so we effectively had a private tour, it was brilliant and we flew round Paris in record time on those speedy little electric machines.
We had seen the off road Segways at Cannock Chase and fancied a go on them, so jumped at the opportunity thanks to BuyaGift :).  

There are 12 locations available across the UK so chances are there is somewhere fairly local to you.  Our local group was at West Midlands Water Park near Tamworth.  Booking was easily done and I ensured we had an evening visit so we could get there after work.

Upon booking in we were kitted out with knee pads, elbow pads and a helmet. There were 8 of us in a group and a couple of instructors, we were quickly introduced one by one to the Segway and the instructor made sure he was close by for those a little weary of the machine.

The Segway is controlled by distributing your weight, if you have ever played on a Wii Balance Board it is probably a similar sort of skill!!  To go faster you put your weight on your toes and to slow down/go backwards you distribute your weight into your heels.  Steering is carried out by simply turning the handle bars left and right.  They are quite easy to control once you get the hang of them and are great fun.

The instructors let us have a play about to get used to them on a big flat area, they then called us in for a couple of games.  We were split into two teams of four and started off by a simple sprint relay back and forth, it got a little bit more tricky as we then had a slalom race and finally we had to do the slalom race backwards!!  Great fun and a really good way to get us used to controlling the Segway.

We then moved on to maneuvering the Segway up a bit of a slope, a lot trickier than it looks, you had to keep the Segway steering up the slope and lean into it.  Gradually the slopes got steeper and steeper, trickier and trickier!  Our instructor then took us to the top of the hill and told us to go down it!  Then onto a bigger and steeper hill which we went down and I sort of might have fallen off just as I hit the bottom!  Oops.

All in all it was good fun, I was a little disappointed at how slow the Segways were as the ones in Paris were a lot quicker so I expected these to be faster for some reason.  I also thought we might go somewhere, ie round a forest tour or something similar but all we did was a couple of slopes in the same area.  I would recommend it to someone who hasn't tried Segway before.

Visit Buyagift for this Segway Rally for Two Experience

Friday, 17 August 2012

What is she?

I sent off a DNA test for Dizzy 3 weeks ago and have just had the results - so what breeds do you think she is crossed with?
Turns out she is german shepherd cross border collie - as we thought, we did think possibly rough collie.  It is a fabulous cross, she is so intelligent and easy to train.  She can be a little dominant at times but otherwise is such an easy going laid back dog.  I would love another of the same cross. 

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Social ‘Petworking’ on the rise

Social ‘Petworking’ on the rise
- Hounds are ‘top dog’ on social media compared to cats -
Andy Murray’s dog Maggie May has posed with his Olympic medal on Twitter and Karl Lagerfeld’s cat Choupette gives fashion advice to her followers. It’s 2012 and pets on the net are bigger, better and fluffier than ever; the nation’s obsession with their pets means we are increasingly likely to give pets their own social media status from sharing photos to tweeting their thoughts.

Research from Petplan, the UK’s largest pet insurer, and host to one of the most engaged Facebook pages in the UK,[1]  reveals a 36% annual increase of pets with their own social media profile, as well as a 25% rise of pet owners sharing photos of their pets online.

Cats have traditionally dominated the World Wide Web but now it’s the socially savvy hounds who are the true social ‘petworkers’ as 7% of pooches have their own Facebook page, compared to only 4% of felines. Boo, nicknamed ‘the world’s cutest dog’ started and still leads the online trend. Currently Facebook’s most popular pet, this adorable Pomeranian has more fans than the Dalai Lama.[2] Along with Boo, four out of the top five most popular pets on Facebook are dogs including Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s pooch Beast. Since the explosion in popularity of Britain’s Got Talent winner Pudsey, dogs are now 12 times more talked about on Twitter than cats.[3] Dogs also dominate YouTube with ‘the ultimate dog tease’ being the most popular pet video with over 100 million views.[4]

Despite dogs’ dominance online, cats are still strongly represented. 83% of cat owners who put their pets online also regularly share photos of their felines compared to 69% of dog owners.  Although it seems that pup parents demonstrate a greater sense of humour with 42% posting status updates on behalf of their dog.

Francesca Keefe, Petplan Social Media Executive comments: “We’ve long known that animals are the stars of the internet, but in the last year since we started tracking pets’ presence online there has been an explosion in ‘pet pride.’ Increasingly pet owners are giving their pets a more active role in their life and spreading the joy that having a pet can bring. As well as the fun side of social media, we’re also seeing more and more pet owners take to Twitter as an effective way to look for lost pets.”

Jan Rezab CEO at Social Bakers comments: “As a global social media and digital analytics company we track online engagement levels across Facebook and Twitter and over the last year we have seen a significant rise in the interaction with pets on social media. There are many social media profiles dedicated to pets, but at the top of our Facebook pages, in the animals category, are dogs with cats coming in fifth.”

Case Study
Denver the dog, owned by Morgan Taylor
Someone who has experienced the phenomenon of social petworking first hand is Morgan Taylor, owner of Denver, a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever. Morgan started taking photos of Denver because he was his first puppy, and he wanted to capture those moments before they disappeared into memories.  He added the photos to his Flickr account under his "Littlest Duder" set.

There was an instant interest in Denver and a picture of him in the
park made it to number 11 on Flickr’s Explore page. As page views of Denver went up, new people added him to their contacts, and Denver's fame train was solidly in motion. After that a number of people contacted Morgan asking if they could post his photos on their blogs, requests he always granted. was one of these blogs, and he regularly sees traffic coming through from that post. Another surge in popularity occurred when a friend posted one of Denver's photos to, resulting in 73,000 views to that photo in a single day and 147,000 total views to his Flickr stream.

The most recent surge came from the UK’s Daily Mail posting
an article on its website. Following this publication, The Huffington Post ran a similar piece, with further information about Denver; as a result Morgan received 248,000 page views of his Flickr page in a 24 hour period.

Notes to editors:

Pick of the best social media pets

Number of likes
Celebrity comparison
Number of likes
Dalai Lama
Gisele Bundchen
846, 086
310, 767
Stewie Griffin
306, 483
Mishka the talking husky
286, 450
Richard Branson
249, 964
Professor Meowingtons pHd
101, 870
Al Gore
81, 194

Number of followers
Maggie May
Choupette Lagerfeld

Number of views
The Ultimate Dog Tease

Statistics from a survey conducted by Vision Critical July 2012 and the Petplan Pet Census March 2011 both surveying over 1,000 respondents

*Facebook and Twitter statistics taken from August 2012
**YouTube statistics taken from June 2012

[2] Social Bakers figures taken August 2012 
[3] Radian6 figures taken between 1st April – 20th June 2012
[4] YouTube figures taken June 2012

Friday, 10 August 2012


Well after having tried out the wakeboarding in Spain I decided I wanted to give snowboarding a go as I didn’t feel that strapping a plank of wood to your feet was actually that scary!!  Mark snowboards and he has tried to get me to give it a go for ages, I only learnt to ski three years ago and haven’t really done much of that.
A little while afterwards Tamworth snowdome emailed some voucher codes and I managed to book two 3 hour lessons (required to get you up to standard) for £29 each instead of the normal £86 – bargain!!
Lesson one I was very nervous and was in a group of 6, 3 children and two other adults.  The instructor was really good and basically kept hold of us until we were confident in going down the slope heelside and toeside.  Lessons take place from half way up the slope.  Unfortunately one lady hurt her wrist and had to leave the lesson.  The instructor started to teach those of us that were a bit more confident to turn so we attempted that a couple of times.  I came away thinking that the toe and heelside wasn’t too bad however the turns were DIFFICULT!!
Lesson two was about learning to turn and being able to run from the top of the slope without falling over a lot.  This time I did fall over a lot trying to turn, we were in a smaller group which was great (just 4 of us) and the slope really went quiet for the last hour so we got in a lot of practice.  Luke (our instructor) was very patient and would try and explain how to do it differently so something clicked.  For example, I was struggling going toeside to heelside, and on about my 4th attempt he said lift your toes and it clicked and I got it, before he had said weight on heels but I wasn’t doing it very well, as soon as he said lift your toes I could do it.  Ironically (typical me) he said I was struggling with the turn that most people find easy yet I had mastered the more difficult turn fairly easily!

After that there was no stopping me and we were allowed to go from the top, I had one really bad fall coming from the top which was very painful!!  However other than that I did really well and we’re going to book a recreational session again in a couple of weeks.
I loved it and am keen to go again, it looks so much cooler than skiing and the boards look cooler lol!  Though my ideal board size is 141 and there aren’t many about so I don’t know whether I will get one of my own.  I really could do with my own boots though as the newer boots I had for lesson one fit perfectly but the boots I had in lesson two were the older style and felt a bit big.  You need to be comfortable so I think I might pay a visit to decathlon when the winter stock is in.  Would like some nice white ones!!

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Double Chocolate Cake with White Choc Buttercream

This is a lovely cake I made last night. The sponge is lovely and light and moist.

For the cake:
150g unsalted butter, at room temperature
150g light muscovado sugar
40g cocoa, sifted
150g self raising flour
1tsp baking powder
½tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 medium free range eggs
1tsp vanilla extract
142ml soured cream
2tbsp golden syrup

For the buttercream:

200g white chocolate
280g unsalted butter
280g icing sugar
1tsp vanilla extract

1. Heat the oven to 180C/mark 4/ Fan 160C. Grease and base-line 2 x 18cm sandwich tins. Beat together the butter and sugar until pale. In a separate bowl sift the cocoa, flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and a pinch of salt, mix well. Add to the creamed butter and sugar.
2. In a measuring jug whisk together the eggs, vanilla extract, soured cream and syrup. Pour over the dry ingredients and beat altogether.
3. Divide the mixture equally between the tins. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until springy. Leave to cool for a few minutes in the tins, then transfer to cooling racks to cool completely.
4. For the buttercream, melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of barely simmering water. Leave to cool slightly. In a large bowl, beat the butter and icing sugar together until creamy. Beat in the chocolate and vanilla extract.
5. When you’re ready to serve, transfer one of the cakes to a serving platter, spread ¼ of the buttercream on top, then top with the other cake. Then use the remaining buttercream to ice the top and sides of the cake. Top with the chocolate curls.

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Guess the breed?

We have guessed and guessed about what dog breeds are in Dizzy and have always though border collie and German shepherd but I got fed up of guessing so I have sent off for her DNA test. I am so excited, can't wait to see what she really is!!

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Tricolour Cupcakes Attempt Two

So I decided that I would be using this method for the day and I didn’t have a practice first!

For the cupcakes:
150g (5oz) butter, softened
150g (5oz) caster sugar
100g (3½oz) self-raising flour
2 level tablespoons cocoa powder
3 medium eggs
2 tablespoons milk
Few drops of vanilla extract
For the frosting:
75g/3ox marg/butter
175g/7oz Icing sugar
good slug of Baileys
Oven - gas mark 5 or 190°C or 170°C fan.  15 – 18mins

I divided the frosting into three bowls and coloured then red and blue and left the other plain.  This method involves four piping bags!  Put each colour into separate piping bags without a tip attached.  Then flatten the icing in the bags so that they all fit in another piping bag with the tip attached.
It was tricky to keep an even pressure and not squeeze too much of the one colour so I just had to continuously push the icing down the bags.  Otherwise I didn't waste any icing like the last lot and I got the result I was looking for.  Am just dissappointed in the cases which have gone a bit floppy - need to stick with foil perhaps.


Saturday, 14 July 2012

Tricolour Cupcakes

I have volunteered to do some cupcakes for an event at work celebrating the Olympics.  I saw some fantastic cupcakes with three colour icing and though that would look fab.
Today I tested one method of three colour icing to see what it looked like.  I used a standard vanilla cupcake and vanilla buttercream recipe.  For the cakes though I split the mix into three bowls and coloured them pink (didn’t have any red), white and baby blue.  They looked fab when cooked.
Onto the icing, the buttercream was split the same way and coloured as the cakes were.  This method I decided to put all three colours into the same piping bag, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be overly satisfied with the result but wanted to give it a go.
However I wasn’t too disappointed in the results, it wasn’t exactly what I was looking for which I expected, although it looked quite nice.  I did find I would have wasted a lot of buttercream as you couldn’t get all the colours evenly into the bag, as it was a test I didn’t wait till I had got all three colours piping through and just piped the cakes right away (only for our consumption so it didn’t matter what they looked like).  If I had been doing them properly there would have been a fair bit of wasted icing.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Agility Wins

At the UKA agility show yesterday my lovely Rum had four wins and a second! The naughty sheltie also had a win. I won't bore you with the details, if you want to know more go to

I have been working hard on the cross trainer this week to increase my fitness and it's paid off!

Here is a video of all but one of the wins:

Saturday, 30 June 2012

Quick Lemon Meringue Pie

Have been wanting some lemon meringue pie and found this easy recipe which is yummy. I did cheat and used a ready made case.

1⁄2 x 375g packet sweet pastry
For the filling:
397g can condensed milk
2 medium egg yolks
Finely zested rind and juice of 2 lemons
For the meringue:
2 egg whites
125g caster sugar
24cm (91⁄2in) round enamel pie plate

Set the oven to 220°C/425°F/Gas Mark 7 and place a baking sheet in the oven to heat up.
Roll the pastry out and line the pie plate. Prick the base and pinch the edges to pattern them. Chill for 10-15 minutes.
To make the filling: Mix together the condensed milk, egg yolks, lemon rind and juice. Pour the mixture into the pastry case.
To make the meringue: Whisk the egg whites until stiff, then gradually whisk in the sugar. Spoon the meringue on top of the pie, either leaving it just in the centre or covering the top of the pie completely.
Place the pie on the hot baking sheet and turn the oven temperature down to 190°C/375°F/Gas Mark 5 and bake for 30-35 minutes, until the meringue has turned a light golden colour and the pastry is cooked.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Petplan Toy Test

Petplan has provided me with these toys as part of their Pet Toy Test review programme. Visit the Petplan UK Facebook page for more information and a chance to win the winning toy!

 This comes in a handy carry bag and easily fits together.  There are two uprights which have a spike in the ground enabling it to stand up, the spikes are a decent length so are quite sturdy.  There are four connectors which the frame sits in, these can also be used as jump cups if you didn't want to have the tyre jump in place.  The corrugated piping then just velcros onto the frame.  
It is a great piece of kit, it can't go very high as the top of the frame is only about waist high, but if you just want to have a go at agility then it is ideal or if you have a competing 'small' dog (ie under 35cm) then it is also fine.  
The frame sits into the jump cups so can't be dislodged however when using the equipment as a jump you can rest the poles on the jump cups enabling them to be easily knocked for safety.


These come in a set of 12 (6 orange & 6 blue), they have a long spike on the bottom to enable you to put them in the ground.  The poles themselves are probably about half the width of regular competition weave poles.  They also come with a handy measuring tape which has standard KC competition widths marked on it, this is brilliant as it helps you keep the weaves straight and evenly spaced when putting them in the ground.  You then just take the measuring tape out to use.

All sounds great, however the major flaw which I find with these is the colour of them, I think they need to be white.  My dogs are experienced competition agility dogs and compete at grade 6 (out of 7 grades) and struggled with them.  I am not sure whether it could be due to them being thinner than normal or whether it is due to the colour, I personally think it's colour.  My sheltie seemed to skip the orange ones when they were at the end of the set.  So my solution was to put some white PVC piping over the poles and then then completed them fine every time.  The spikes were long enough to keep the weaves quite sturdy however there were a couple that ended up a little bent.  

I found it useful as you can change the weaves into a V formation or a channel which is great for teaching new dogs to weave and there are full instructions on how to do these on the case for them.  
The tunnel comes flat packed but easily folds back flat as it just collapses and is held closed with velcro.  There are 2 points either end of the rigid tunnel which allow you to peg into place.  There is then an attachment which allows you to attach a floppy chute to the main tunnel, this just attaches around the rigid part as it is elasticated and has veclro attachments.  

However there aren't any points at the end of this 'floppy' section to peg into the ground, therefore it moves around a lot, I ran my sheltie through and she almost got stuck.  I therefore didn't use it further as I felt this could be dangerous especially with a bigger, more powerful dog, I wouldn't run my collie through as he could have broken his neck.  I therefore just used as a rigid tunnel which is quite short, if the 'floppy' section had some peg points at the end it would be perfectly fine.

All in all these are fantastic for anyone wanting to teach their dogs a bit of fun agility, there could be some amends made to the equipment which would make it a lot better.  I would also use some myself for competition practice, I just would add some piping over the weaves and wouldn't use the floppy material attachment to the tunnel.  Therefore my favourite out of the three would be the tyre.  I also reviewed on video - below.