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January 2015

Life with dogs

by Clare Mansell

 

life with dogs
After my post earlier in the month describing our Beagle’s escapades and the resulting vets bill, it was a little inevitable that I might be approached to write a post about pet insurance. We have now renewed the pet insurance for both our dogs (better late than never) and did it because we consider them a valued part of our family life, so I guess the bigger question is what is it about dogs that makes them so special?

I did not grow up in a pet loving family and getting our big dog nearly 7 years ago was entirely down to Jim. I think at the time in an attempt to sway me, he made all sorts of promises about taking charge of dog walks and the fact I’d never have to pick up after her (all lies of course!) I never in a million years thought that I would be the one who would suggest getting a second dog only two years later and now I can’t imagine being without them.

Trust me they are not perfect. They run off sometimes, need walking every day, bring dirt into the house and can drive you nuts with their barking, but the benefits outweigh the negatives.

Partly it’s the companionship. I’ve mentioned before that Jim’s job means he is away a lot and in the evenings after Theo has gone to bed it’s quite heartening to have some sort of company and another body to snuggle up next to you on the sofa.

Then there’s the social side. After Theo was born it was the dogs that got me out of the house every day and introduced me to strangers who became regularly faces I would stop and chat to each morning. When we moved back down south two years ago, almost everybody we met in our village were the result of an introduction started by our dogs (even if one of them was the farmer telling me off!) and many of those initial dog walking meets have blossomed into great friendships.

Then finally there’s Theo. Growing up with animals gives a child a certain understanding of the world and an empathy for other living things. With dogs in particular they also gain an appropriate confidence around them that they’ll need in real life (because love them or hate them, they are everywhere) and ultimately I think that’s all an important life skill.

Written for Argos Pet Insurance.

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who makes the best luxury hot chocolate

Who makes the best luxury hot chocolate?

by Clare Mansell

One of the best things about cold winter days for me is drinking a mug of hot chocolate. For years I tried to get used to the taste of coffee and then realised that some people spend years trying to give it up, so instead I have become a hot chocolate connoisseur and forced everybody else to embrace my wicked and decadent ways.

There is actually a surprising amount of choice available in the luxury hot chocolate market, so I decided to test four of the most popular with a little help from my willing taste testers…

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Spellbound By Lego

Spellbound By Lego

by Clare Mansell

Last week I was offered the chance to do something which I very rarely (if ever?) do on this blog. I was offered a toy review. I was a little hesitant when I replied, because if I can be entirely honest with you I’m quite picky about toys. On my list of dislikes are toys that aren’t made well, or only hold Theo’s attention for 5 minutes, or (and I’m being really honest here) are just plain ugly to look at.

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How to make sweet & savoury doughnuts in a doughnut maker

A few weeks ago I was given a doughnut maker by iwoot.com to review. To be absolutely precise it is actually a 3 in 1 sweet treat maker, but it was its doughnut making abilities that really called to me. I’m not sure quite what it is about doughnuts, but everyone in my family loves them and if you make them at home, surely they are only half as bad as if you buy them?

How to make mini doughnuts at home

Well actually it’s even better than that, cause the recipes I came up with really have a minimal amount of bad stuff in them and they are delicious too. Both sweet and savoury mixes start from the same dough mix…

230g self-raising flour
1tsp baking powder
100g butter

I divided the mixture and then added diffferent flavouring to each half…

apple and cinamon doughnuts

For the sweet I added one Bramley apple which I had pureed with about a teaspoon of water in a saucepan on the hob, a healthy scattering of cinammon and about 50g of sugar.

bacondoughnuts1600

For the bacon and cheese doughuts (don’t know them till you have tried them!) I added about 6 rashers of pre-cooked bacon and 120g of swiss cheese. Both mixtures cook in about six minutes and were a big hit with everyone from teens to grown-ups. You can see how the doughnut maker works and follow along with the recipe below..

I would love to know what you think of the flavours and if anyone has a doughnut maker already?

Linking up with Your YouTube & #PoCoLo

Tasty Tuesdays on HonestMum.com

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Holiday dreaming with Amadeus.net…

Holiday dreaming with Amadeus.net…

by Clare Mansell

Recently Facebook seems to be full of photos of people enjoying winter sunshine. Whether it’s Australia or the Caribbean, the photos of flip flops and beaches have got me thinking about holidays again. It would be lovely if we could get away for a family trip this year, not just for the sunshine, but also for the change of scene and the new experiences that travel brings with it.

 

Unusually for us we’ve actually been living in the same house in the same country for two years now which is a first! Jim actually may have quite a large chunk of the summer off work this year, so there’s a possibility (theoretically at least) that we could do some traveling, but where to go?

A few months ago I wrote about Amadeus.net, a website that allows you to build trips around the best priced flights. Since that post in the autumn they have upgraded their search facility and asked me to take a look.  Amadeus.net not only allows you to compare flight prices across the year from multiple airlines, but you can also take inspiration from the trip plans that other users are building and perhaps investigate a holiday destination you might not have otherwise considered.

Screen Shot 2015-01-19 at 18.44.00

What I found fascinating was how affordable some destinations are. My brother-in-law is running the Paris marathon in the spring and I’m quite tempted for us all to join my sister’s family for a long weekend.  Using the website I was able to compare the price and departure times of several airlines that fly that route. Budget airlines were surprisingly close in price to more traditional airlines and I know which one I’d rather travel on if the difference in cost is minimal!

Of course Sydney and South Africa also look a little tempting, but we might need to start small and build up to that! Have you made any plans for trips in 2015 yet?

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