Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Lava shell massage - tried and tested

When Bloomin Beautiful invited me to try a lava shell massage in what turned out to be a very stressful week, I couldn't have been more delighted. I go to their salon in Swindon regularly for HD Brows and Shellac treatments but this was something new. They're always really friendly and do a great job, so I was really looking forward to it.

I've had massages before on spa days but they've always been aromatherapy massages to this was a new experience. When I arrived, the therapist showed me the shells and explained that they have a teabag-like package inside when means that they warm up by themselves when they're not being used. I was asked if there were any particular areas which she should focus on and left to get undressed. I stripped down to my pants and lay face down with my feet under a heated throw (so cosy!) and placed a towel over my back, well at least as well as I could.
When the therapist returned, she dimmed the lights and pulled the throw up to cover me and keep me warm. She uncovered a section of my body at a time, first my legs and feet, one at a time, then my back and upper arms. I then turned over so she could do the fronts of my legs and upper chest and arms and hands. As she worked on each area, she applied some massage oil and worked over each area using both the lava shells and her hands. When the stones started to cool, she'd set one aside to reheat, they're warm but not too hot, just nice and comforting really. The shape of the stones means that when the therapist is working a really gnarly area (like my knotted shoulders!) she can use the edge of the stone to get into the muscle better. I usually get a bit anxious about having a massage, but being covered by a warm throw and just having one area uncovered at a time was really comforting and preserved my modesty; I just tried to clear my mind and almost dropped off. When I was lying on my back I was given a wheat bag to cover my eyes which was really helpful as I have these silly translucent eyelids which always let light in, it meant I was able to relax fully.

After my hour's full body massage I was left alone firstly whilst the therapist brought me a glass of water and then afterwards to get dressed. The treatment had worked wonders, my stresses were forgotten and I felt completely relaxed from the warmth of the shells. I'd certainly recommend it as a pamper treat and will be back myself next time I fancy an hour's time out which will leave me feeling blissfully relaxed.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

September round up

There goes another month, Autumn is well and truly here. It's been a really nice Summer but I'm ready for evenings in front of the fire and getting wrapped up in boots, scarves and jumpers. We celebrated the arrival of Autumn by heading out for a Sunday roast at the pub in our village. It was incredible, we really must do that more often.

We've been taking Barney to puppy school since he was about ten weeks old. We started with puppy playgroup, which was mainly socialisation, with a bit of obedience thrown in. After that we moved onto the next level which was the Kennel Club's Puppy Foundation course. It was based more on training (sitting, staying, walking on a lead etc.) and after four weeks, Barney passed. Hurrah! We've now moved onto the intermediate class at school which may lead to us achieving the bronze level, we'll see how that goes though!
I passed, Mum!
We've also started going on dog walks organised by the puppy school. I have to admit I was massively fed up after the first walk, Barney was jumping up at all the other dogs and was pulling so hard to get to them that he couldn't breathe and was making himself sick. Just a few weeks on (thanks in the main to bribery by sausage) he's much better. He still jumps all over the other dogs given half a chance, but he's not pulling as much and will focus on us rather than his four legged companions if we persuade him enough.
We try not to walk Barney too far whilst he's young, but we took a trip out to Barbury Castle and walked around the site of the Iron Age hill fort. It helped blow the cobwebs away and we'll be back in a few months to do a longer geocaching walk around the area. 
I'm feeling a little windswept
Andrew used to work at Aardman (animators, best known for Wallace and Gromit and their other claymation work) and as a result we were invited to their 40th birthday party. It was held at Colston Hall in Bristol and soon filled up with hundreds of employees, former employees and friends of Aardman. Tim Vine did a slot and there was an incredible live version of Sledgehammer accompanied by the video, animated all those years ago by Nick Park. It was really good to catch up with familiar faces and Aardman always put on a good party.
Happy birthday, Aardman
I've been having physio on my ankle over the last couple of months as it's never really recovered from me spraining it about nine years ago. The physio has been useful but they referred me to a podiatrist which has really helped. They've given me inserts to put into my shoes to make me walk with proper form and exercises to work the muscles which haven't been working together as they should. I can already feel the difference and I'm hoping it'll make walking (and running in due course) much less painful. Hurrah!

I'm still really busy at work, but starting to see light at the end of the tunnel. We've managed to find time for a few interviews to bolster the team. It's been a full on but we've found one really good candidate, hopefully we'll find another to bring on board soon. 

We're still doing jobs around the house, we had a wasps nest destroyed and have ordered a new cooker. Our current one is dying a ring at a time, so hopefully the replacement will arrive whilst it's still partially working. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

Now onto my progress against my plans for the year...

Read sixteen books
I had a day off work in the middle of the month with a streaming cold and fancied curling up on the sofa with a book. I picked Raven Black by Ann Cleeves which had been on my Kindle for a few months. It felt a bit like relevant work reading as Shetland comes up a lot at work, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. It was just what I needed at the time, enough plot to keep me interested, but nothing complicated.
Find one hundred geocaches
We're still at 534 finds, 46 for the year to date. We normally do a lot when we're on holiday but as this year's holiday was peternity leave it's thrown our numbers out a bit. Hopefully we'll make up a little ground over the remainder of the year. 

Try three gym classes
No progress on this, with the physio and podiatrist I think this will need shelving until next year.

Meet up with an old friend
We saw a few old friends at the Aardman party which was really nice. I've also exchanged emails with a couple of other friends, hopefully we'll be able to coordinate diaries and catch up over the next few months.

Blog once a month
September was a bit of a bad month, with my only blog being my August catch up post. I've got a couple of blogs planned for this month, so hopefully I'll do better in October.

Watch a new film once a month
After watching Divergent last month, we watched Insurgent next which again I really enjoyed. We also watched Super 8, I wasn't sure what to make of it, I didn't even know it was sci fi when it started, but it was better than I expected once it got going. 

Take six day trips
No progress on this one, I think this may need to wait until next year, but you never know!

October has been busy so far (as you can tell by the fact I didn't get around to posting this in the first week of the month...) but I'm hoping things will settle down. I'm looking forward to a few movie nights in front of the fire and walks kicking fallen Autumnal leaves.

Monday, 5 September 2016

August round up

Another month gone and looking back at last month's round up, Barney has done a lot of growing over the last 31 days!

As Barney's got older, we've been able to get out and do more, both with and without him which has been really nice. At the start of the month he was looking really shaggy, with a particularly long fringe, so we thought it was time to take him for his first trip to the dog groomer. I thought he'd be awful, as he fidgets like crazy when we brush him at home, but he was fine. He wimpered a little bit, but the groomers were great, they're a mother and daughter team and seemed to just know intuitively when he needed an extra set of hands. He looked much smarter afterwards, and could see out from under his fringe. It didn't take him long to get back to his usual scruffy self though.
Look at his little legs!
We'd done four weeks at Janet's puppy playgroup, not far from where we live. It was good for socialising him with other puppies, with a bit of training and fun thrown in along the way. In the final week there was a musical chairs competition. As you'd guess they play music and when it stops the puppies have to sit and whoever doesn't sit, or gets up first is out. Astonishingly, Barney won. He was very proud of his winner's bandana, although I think it might have been designed for someone a little bigger!
Still sitting, even though the game had finished
That evening we went for a barbecue at a friends house, who kindly suggested we bring Barney. To be honest, I was expecting mayhem. They have two daughters, a five year old, Ffion, who is scared of dogs (including Barney) and a six month old. There was also another couple invited who hadn't met Barney. He was excited when he got there and wanted to meet everyone, but we once we settled him down with something to chew he was really well behaved. He sat on my knee at the end of the night for a sleep and Ffion even came over to stroke him. The other couple are looking at getting a dog and had ruled out smaller dogs as they thought they'd be over-excitable, but I think Barney may have changed their minds.
We took him over to see his brother the next day. The last time they'd met up they barely stopped play fighting for the hour they were together. This time they seemed a little calmer. We even managed to bribe them with treats so we could get a few photos of them together. It's great to see them together and compare and contrast their differences. Barney is definitely little brother.
Luckily they're both motivated by food!
The next weekend we had a couple of friends over who again hadn't met Barney before. Their daughter is nine months old, so we're certainly getting Barney used to children. It was a bit of a struggle containing him as he wanted to meet the visitors, but we didn't want him inadvertently causing any harm as he's still at that stage where everything he encounters goes into his mouth. We went for a walk to distract him, but he was still a bit of a handful. Anyway, it was nice to see them and I don't think they left thinking he was too much of a rabid hound!

We also got to have our first date night out since we've had him, we went out to a local restaurant for our wedding anniversary. The food was amazing, I couldn't finish my dessert so they gave it to me to take home with me. How could I say no?! We came home to a yawning puppy who seemed to have slept the evening away. We can definitely go out more often!

We knew that Pablo had lost his first teeth a few weeks ago and so kept an eye on Barney. He's now lost most of his front incisors (just one to go, I think), and is growing new teeny, perfect teeth. It's so fascinating!
Unfortunately the Dog Tooth Fairy doesn't pay out when he swallows them
We've also been for our first couple of geocaching walks with Barney. It's nice to have him with us when we're out but you can tell when he's had enough as he stops walking nicely and turns into a velociraptor. At least he's not yet eaten a log book!
Time for a water break
Aside from Barney, we've had lots of jobs done around the house. We finally got the septic tank fixed (hurrah!) and then emptied, had the chimney swept and the kitchen work surfaces polished. The house has been a bit of a money pit since we moved in, but we're trying to get on top of things without doing major projects until they really need to be done. We've also made a decision to get the boundary out of the front of the house done next year. That'll be our most costly investment, but hopefully it'll add kerb appeal and a little value when we come to sell. 

Now onto my progress against my plans for the year...

Read sixteen books
No progress on this, in fact I think I should have opted for six, not sixteen. I think I just need to start one on my Kindle and spend some time reading it at lunch time rather than trawling through Twitter or Googling whatever puppy issue is troubling me on any given day.

Find one hundred geocaches
We started the year on 488 finds and we're now at 534, which makes 46 for the year to date. I can't see that we'll make it to one hundred, but hopefully we'll keep doing the odd geocaching walk when we can. It's always a great opportunity to get out and explore a new area. 

Try three gym classes
No progress on this, I'm seeing a physio about my ankle and doing strenghtening and control exercises so I should be able to start more weight bearing exercise shortly. 

Meet up with an old friend
One of the friends we met up with this month I've probably known for over ten years, and we're both quite old, so perhaps that counts?!

Blog once a month
Tick! I wrote about everything we bought when we were getting Barney, so if you're ever in the same position, it may be worth a read. 

Watch a new film once a month
We saw Divergent on DVD this month, I really enjoyed it. Barney less so. There was a snarling German Shepherd near the beginning, and he doesn't really like people fighting. He ran away from the snarling dog and hid behing the sofa when the fighting started. Luckily, he seemed to think sitting on my lap would help, so we managed to watch the film without further interruption.

Take six day trips
No progress on this one, I think this may need to wait until next year, but you never know!

September has already got off to a flying start, so I'm looking forward to seeing what the rest of the month holds. I love September, cosy jumpers and the woodburner going at night. I'm just hoping for not too much rain, so we don't have a damp, steaming dog in front of the fire! 

Friday, 5 August 2016

New puppy? Here's what you need to buy

After we'd been and chosen Barney at six weeks, things went really quiet. Deafeningly quiet. We kept waiting to get a collection date but heard nothing. By the time the puppies were almost eight weeks old we decided we couldn't wait any longer before buying things for him. We didn't want to tempt fate, but equally we didn't want to get a puppy home and be completely unprepared.

We tried to think of everything, and were well prepared when we had the call and collected Barney with two days' notice. He's now been with us for eight weeks and this is everything we bought in the first month. Hopefully it'll be useful to someone in a similar situation.

There are various options for training your puppy. We opted for crate training, if you're going down the same route you'll need a crate that will be big enough for your dog when he's fully grown. To encourage him not to foul his crate (not that it's been entirely successful), we blocked half of it off with cardboard so that there was room for his bed but not much more. You can place puppy pads in the other half so he has somewhere to go if he can't keep his legs crossed. We opted for getting up in the night with him instead, so he doesn't get into bad habits. As a result we have a pristine pack of puppy pads. Perhaps they'll come in useful one day and I'm sure if we hadn't had them, we might have needed them on the journey home. I like an insurance policy!
Barney chucking out zzzs
Whilst on the subject of toilet training, we bought plenty of kitchen roll to mop up spills, Dettol wipes to make sure that no scent was left behind which might encourage him to use the same area again and a big box of poo bags (we bought biodegradable ones, no point putting a naturally biodegradable substance in something that will last for two hundred years). I'm amazed how quickly we're getting through the poo bags. Puppies just seem to eat, sleep and poo for the first couple of weeks. 

We also bought some baby wipes for cleaning his eyes and ears, and any other parts which are mucky but don't warrant a full bath. For full baths, we bought some puppy shampoo and a microfibre towel, he's had a lot of baths (don't ask!) and now is really well behaved, there was a lot of squirming and squarking initially though. As he'll need grooming when his adult coat comes through we bought a brush which we use on him every so often, really just to get him used to the process.

We started out with a basket shaped bed, but now have this either in the front room or Andrew's office so he can be in the same room as us, but has his own area. He now has a piece of vet bed in his crate to sleep on.
Bed time
To help them sleep on their first night with you, it's recommended that you place a cuddly toy with their mother and then bring it home. The cuddly toy that we were given was so smelly that it only lasted two days and he slept through the first night we removed it. Probably coincidence, but it's worth doing so you have the option. We also had a radio tuned to the same station that they had on at the breeders. Again, it's anything to make their transition a bit easier.

We'd initially bought a metal food and water bowl (well, two actually, one for inside and one for outside so he always had access to fresh water), but soon replaced the food bowl for a bowl which slowed him down when eating. He ate like it was a race (part of being from a large litter, I guess) but it can't do his system any good. He's still a quick eater, but at least he takes a little longer. We bought some treats to help with training but gave up on them as they upset his stomach. We tend to use praise for training, with bits of kibble if he needs something more. We stuck with the food that he had been on since weaning as our vet favours it. We came home from the breeder with enough to last us a week, and then bought more. It's suggested that if you're changing to something else to do it gradually unless you're moving to a raw diet, which you can do as a straight change. We also bought a clicker to help with his training, we've not used it much but it was good for encouraging him that being quiet is good!
Mmm, lunch
Our first trip out with Barney was a trip to the garden centre up the road to get him a collar and lead. He wasn't even allowed out for walks at that stage but it's good to be prepared. 
Doesn't he look smart?!
As we wanted him to get used to car journeys as soon as possible, I bought him a car seat and a safety harness, so he'd be safe if anything untoward were to happen. He squirmed and squealed for the first few journeys, but now seems happy enough and settles down for a snooze whenever we go out. 
Are we nearly there yet?!
We tried not to go over the top with toys, but it's fair to say we have collected a fair number. Ironically it's things that are free, such as an off-cut of wood or an empty squash bottle which he seems to like the best. 
These were all the toys that came to hand, but Barney couldn't leave them alone for long enough for me to photograph them
When we got Barney he came with a month's free pet insurance. We've since bought an annual policy to make sure that he's covered if he's ever unwell. We could just set the money aside and pay ourselves if he needed treatment, but given the cost of some procedures and medications, we decided it was better safe than sorry. 

We've since bought more things, a water bottle for walks, more beds for around the house and a steam cleaner to clear up muddy foot prints. This dog owning lark isn't cheap, good job he's worth it!

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

July round up

Well, July absolutely flew past, my memory is that the weather was good on the whole which is always welcome, especially with a puppy in the house. It's made evening walks much more pleasant.
My boys :)
Barney's been with us for eight weeks now, whilst on the whole I can't remember what it was like before him, I do fondly remember lie ins and lazy Sundays. Oh well... He seems to have had a growth spurt over the last couple of weeks and is teething. No teeth lost yet to leave under his bed for the Puppy Tooth Fairy, but it an only be a matter of time.

My parents came down to see us for another house viewing, and my brother joined us this time. The house we looked at wasn't quite right for them, but it was certainly an experience having five adults and a very excited puppy in our house. Luckily he behaved himself (we'll overlook the biting and toe nibbling), and hopefully he hasn't put anyone off returning. 

Andrew's boss's daughter had been absolutely desperate to meet Barney, they nipped over one Sunday morning at which point she realised that Barney isn't just a cuddly toy, he moves and I'm not sure she was quite prepared for that. She finally stroked him after a lot of persuasion from her father, but I don't think she'll be wanting a puppy of her own quite yet. We met up with them again the following week at their village fete. It's fair to say she pretty much ignored him, he was a huge hit with the rest of the villagers though.
Barney behaving himself, despite the apple bobbing going on a short distance away
Barney is from a litter of nine and I have to admit I never expected to see any of his siblings again, outside social media, as we collected him from a breeder some distance away. Bizarrely, one of his brothers lives 15 miles away so we arranged a reunion. It was fascinating to see the differences between them and exhausting that they hardly stopped for the whole time they were together. I'm hoping Barney will grow out of his constant play-fighting with other dogs.
A brief moment of them both still, building up some energy for another play fight
We've tried to catch up with household jobs over the summer, we had a guy round to fix my iPhone (Barney chewed the mute button, it appears the metal isn't as robust as I'd antiipated), had a shower replaced and the boiler serviced. It's all been a great opportunity to introduce Barney to anyone and everyone in the hope of making him a well socialised puppy. 

As another part of that we've been taking him to Puppy Playgroup. I'd expected it to be obedience training, but it's really just socialising them in a fun environment and teaching them a few basics to stretch their grey matter. There's a huge range of shapes and sizes of puppy there (although bizarrely another similar looking cockapoo), but thankfully Barney seems to be getting more relaxed about the company of other dogs as the weeks go by. 
Not the best photo, but a good indication of the distractions in class!
We took a quick trip to the Midlands to see Andrew's parents as they'd not met Barney. It's fair to say it didn't go brilliantly, they have an eight year old Westie who clearly didn't have any interest in playing with Barney and let him know in no uncertain terms. Barney didn't give up trying though, it ended up being a very noisy experience. Once we'd taken him for a walk in the sun and he'd shown himself up even more we made our excuses and left. I don't think I'll be in a rush to take him back until he's learned that not everyone wants to or has to play with him.
At least it was a nice sunny day for a walk.
It was my birthday towards the end of the month. We normally go away for the weekend, so it was surprisingly nice to spend it at home. We didn't even go out for a meal, opting instead for a barbecue at home so Barney could join us.
Barney was on top form, helping with the laundry
And checking on the contents of the shelf which has all his belongings on, you should have seen the looks on our faces when we found him up there!
In day to day matters, work is still busy but quietening down a little. I've dropped my working hours to four days a week to give me more time to deal with everything that's going on at home. I've also caught the Pokemon Go bug, which is good as it gets me out for a walk at lunch time to visit Pokestops and catch a few more weedles and rattatas. 
Shame that Pokestop across the square is just too far from work
Now onto how I'm doing against my plans for the year...

Read sixteen books
I've had 'How to Train a Superdog' by Gwen Bailey in the bookcase for years. I think my husband bought it for me to convince me that getting a dog would be a fantastic experience, so I'd let him get one. Years on, and here Barney is. Certainly not a superdog by any stretch of the imagination, but I'm looking forward to working through the training exercises in due course.

Find one hundred geocaches
No progress on this, I've spotted a good walk we can take Barney on to introduce him to geocaching. We've got a free weekend in a couple of weeks, hopefully he won't just eat the geocache container.  

Try three gym classes
I've actually started to think about this! Barney's sleeping better and is okay being left for short periods of time, so I may start to be able to make plans. How exciting! 

Meet up with an old friend
No change with this, but it's nice meeting people with Barney, whether it's other dog walkers in the park or puppy owners at puppy school. Few people can resist his hairy face.

Blog once a month
Only one post in June, a guest post I did for Penny at A Penny for Them. You can get details about it here.

Watch a new film once a month
At the moment I'm so tired in the evenings that we're back to watching NCIS and Deep Space Nine. I shouldn't mock, I love it really. 

Take six day trips
No progress on this over the month but hopefully we'll catch up over the remainder of the year, albeit with a very excited hound at our feet!

August looks like another busy month, full of puppy activities. I'm just hoping the weather is kind, as I found out yesterday, a damp dog makes for a very muddy house. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Guest blog - A Penny For Them

A couple of weeks ago Penny invited me to guest blog for her whilst she was away in sunnier climes. I was super keen as I love reading her blog and follow her on Twitter, where her tweets often make me laugh out loud. 

I really enjoyed the opportunity to write for another blog, but it was difficult trying to find a subject matter that would be a good introduction to me, for readers who won't have come across my blog before. Unsuprisingly the post includes puppy photos, if you can bear the sight of yet another image of a fluffy-faced dog, then you can read my post here

Have a look at Penny’s blog whilst you're there, hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

June round up

Well, that was an eventful month! Things are still very busy at work, so of course the sensible thing to do when I'm rushed off my feet at work is to get a puppy (not!)

If you've not read my other posts, we did indeed collect our puppy, Barney at the start of June. A month in and it feels as if he's been around forever and there have only been a couple of occasions when I wanted to put him on a train back to Liverpool. I took a few days of peternity leave to keep an eye on him when Andrew needed to be elsewhere, so all in all he's been very well looked after. He seems to like it here, now if only we could get him to sleep through the night so that Andrew can also sleep through the night, that would be perfect.

As you can imagine, our lives have been pretty puppy-centric since 5th June. Luckily we've had plenty of visitors (all visitors now come to see Barney, not us!) and have been able to get Barney out and socialising since he had his second lot of jabs. We even managed to go out for a sneaky lunch, just the two of us, whilst Barney was snoozing in his crate. A tiny glimmer of light at the end of the biting, house-training tunnel!

Now onto how I'm doing against my plans for the year...

Read sixteen books
Not fiction this time, but I read 'The Happy Puppy Handbook' by Pippa Mattinson. I'd never had a dog before and wanted to be prepared. This book was recommended to me and it was really good, it certainly gave me the confidence to know what to expect before Barney arrived and was a useful source of reference in the first couple of weeks. 

Find one hundred geocaches
No progress on this, Barney can only do fifteen minute walks at the moment, but hopefully we'll be able to take him for a trot via some geocaches soon.

Try three gym classes
My weekends now broadly consist of getting up with Barney so Andrew can catch up on sleep and then entertaining whoever is coming to see him. Hopefully in a few months I'll be able to get back to the gym reliably. For now, I'm enjoying our daily walks through the fields.  

Meet up with an old friend
No change with this, but I think we'll meet plenty of new people through Barney, he's a bit of a people magnet!

Blog once a month
I've been fairly active this month, there are a few new posts on here if you've missed them over the course of the month. There's the story of Barney's first day with us and a few things I didn't expect about getting a puppy. I also did a photo an hour post.

Watch a new film once a month
There seem to be so many new films that I'd love to see at the cinema, but I think I'll have to wait for them to come out on DVD. I'm not sure Barney can keep his legs crossed at home for three hours!

Take two holidays
I'm going to take this off the list. We had a really nice trip to the Isle of Wight, but I don't think it's going to be practical to do much more than day trips for the rest of the year.

Take six day trips
No progress on this over the month but hopefully we'll catch up over the remainder of the year, albeit with a very excited hound at our feet!

Hopefully July won't be as dramatic. It's my birthday month so hopefully the boys will spoil me suitably. Barney also starts puppy school, I'm just hoping he's not the terror of the classroom! All in all, I can't wait to see what it holds.