Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Spending to save money

Thank you Chris and Gemma's person for your comments.

My microwave and washing machine are both on the way out.  The interior of the microwave is peeling off, and I've never been very happy with it anyway - it has a huge amount of condensation dripping down inside and pooling at the bottom after each use (it was a cheap one).  It seems to take longer to cook things now as well.

The washing machine is temperamental now, sometimes it seems to just get stuck - it's humming away but not actually doing anything, I have to shift the dial along a notch (when I notice what's happening when I get up in the morning) to get it to start up again.  It sometimes doesn't spin off the water properly, so the washing is still wringing wet, and I then have to put it on a spin cycle.  The fabric softener compartment just gets bunged up every single time now, I have to take the drawer out, empty it and flush it through constantly.  The normal 40 deg wash, which is the one I mostly use, is taking far longer than it used to, to do the full cycle - it took long enough anyway, without the 20 mins or so extra it takes now.  And it's not cleaning as well, sometimes OH's clothes (he's a dirt magnet) look almost as dirty after washing as they did going in.

We've been putting money by for ages specifically to replace appliances when we need to, so buying new items now isn't a problem.

I decided this time I'd have a combination microwave/oven/grill, mostly so that if I only have one thing to bake, I don't need to put the big oven on.  Our cooker is a double oven, but the smaller oven/grill compartment must have a loose wire or something, as every time we've used it recently it's thrown the main switch of our leccy supply.  The new combi oven looks good and isn't too much bigger than our old microwave....I need to read the instruction manual first before using the oven or grill part though, it's definitely more complicated than the old basic mic!

We're on Economy 7 for cheaper overnight electricity, so I do my washing mostly overnight....I load the machine before I go to bed, and OH puts it on when he comes home from work in the early hours of the morning.  So when the machine has had a temperamental fit and stopped mid cycle and I have to move it along to get it going again when I get up, this defeats the object of doing the wash on the cheap overnight rate!  I don't particularly want to be getting up in the middle of the night, once OH has retired, just to put the machine on either.  We've tried a few times putting the machine on a timer switch but, for some unknown reason, it never works.  The timer works, as we've tested it on other appliances, so I don't know why it won't work on the washing machine.  So I'm going to spend some time tomorrow googling for machines that have an inbuilt timer and shorter wash programmes, and are generally more efficient and cost saving.

Both of these new appliances should hopefully help us to lower our electricity bills, as well as working more efficiently.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Shopping in a different place - very good!

Firstly, thank you Sheila and Rainbowchild (new follower I think, welcome) for your comments.  Betty's ear infection has almost cleared, thank goodness.  Rainbowchild, yes I heartily recommend 1-2-1 training - Betty having the individual attention of the trainer without all the distractions of loads of other puppies has worked wonders.  We're seeing Carrie-Anne again this Wednesday, we're going to work more on recall, which Betty still only does when she wants to, basically!  Also the 'drop' command - she likes us throwing balls for her and she nearly always brings them back to us, but refuses to let go of them - the bulldog/shar pei stubbornness!

Following Frugal Queen's post yesterday about F**mFoods, we decided to try it out - I regularly buy toilet rolls there which are really good quality and very reasonably priced, but hadn't bought any food for ages.  We had a couple of disappointing buys from there a while back, and I assumed that because their frozen food is so cheap, it must be from dubious foreign sources. 

Well, I was very pleasantly surprised....I looked at the pack labels and it seems a lot of their products are actually British.  Quite how they manage to have such cheap offers, I have no idea.  I spent £62, some of which was food for the dog (I'm still making a lot of her food), and after a quick tally up of what I bought, I reckon what I got will make dinners for the 2 of us for about 6 or 7 weeks!  I was amazed, frankly.  I suppose the real test will be what the quality and taste is like when I come to cook it.

They have lots of multi buy offers - 3 packs for £10, 3 for £6, 2 for £5, 4 for £3 and so on, and there's a wide variety of products in each of the offer options, so you don't need to buy 3 of the same thing.  The only thing I would say is that I wish they grouped all of the products in each offer option in the same aisle - they're not, they're scattered all over the place, so I found it quite confusing to keep track of how many items I'd got in each offer bracket. 

I bought chicken thighs, breast fillets and Swedish meatballs, at 3 for £10.  3x 600g packs of thick cut bacon for £6 (bargain, I thought).  2 big packs of stuffed pasta for £5.  A box of 30 B***seye fish fingers and 4 large battered cod, also for £5.  Sausages, pizzas and chips.  They had several bags of frozen fish all at £3.99 - cod, haddock, salmon and yellowfin sole - I got the sole as it was a larger pack at 650g, the others were around 450g.  A large bag of mussel meat - not had mussels for years and wasn't all that keen on them back then, but OH likes them and I might have changed my view after all this time!  800g pack of fresh beef mince - we had their frozen mince way back and weren't keen on it...we like our mince chunky, and the frozen stuff just kind of dissolved into mush.  The fresh mince was good value.  Also got Cheddar, milk and some packet sauces. 

For the dog I bought 6 tins of tuna in sunflower oil for £3.99 (she loves tuna) and 4 bags of frozen veggies for £3.

I wasn't keen on their fresh fruit and veg, the veg in particular looked tired and limp, so went in the normal big supermarket (which is on the same retail park) for that.

So, all in all, and pending the taste tests, I think it's extremely good value and will be shopping there again.

As I've said before, we've always shopped in the big supermarkets before, when we didn't have to worry about how much we were spending.  Now though, as OH's retirement approaches (37 days to go!) and we need to think about keeping our food costs down, we've been trying out the cheaper shops and, quite honestly, wish we'd started shopping in them ages ago.  Their products are much better quality than we'd imagined, and at a fantastic price.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Lots of garden and kitchen work

Thanks for all the comments about Betty's training, we are noticing a difference in her now, she definitely doesn't pull on the lead as much and is quicker to respond when called.  We didn't take her to training today as she's got an ear infection, poor thing, and has been a bit subdued.  She went back to the vets this morning for a check up following 5 days of treatment - the vet said it looks like the infection is responding well to the antibiotics and should clear up completely within the next few days.

It seems we're not the only ones who aren't growing as much this year, or are late getting going with sowing and planting.  OH's been busy in the garden, the strawberry runners he potted up last year have now all been planted in a new bed, and he's done a bed full of early potatoes.  The 2 small old polytunnels have been dismantled, the covers have been chucked as they were so ripped and worn, but he's keeping most of the poles to reuse as cold frames or pea/bean supports.  We've bought a new polytunnel which is slightly bigger than the 2 old ones put together, OH has prepared the ground and put up the frame, we'll have to wait until next week to put the cover on as he's back to work tomorrow.  New neighbours have given us some staging to put in the tunnel, along with a couple of compost bins....these were left in their garden by the previous owners and they don't want them, we'll give them veg in return.  We'll buy some tomato and cucumber plants next week, seeing as we haven't grown any from seed this year.

I've spent a couple of days in the kitchen - two lots of dog food made, plus a trayful of biscuits for her.  A loaf of bread and 2 pizza bases for the freezer.  Fruit cake and 2 rhubarb and apple crumbles.  2 double portions of cauliflower cheese, a large trayful of roasted veggies portioned up, and a Savoy cabbage cooked and portioned, all for the freezer. 

We had a rare treat for dinner tonight.....nipped out to the supermarket late this afternoon and they were just putting out some meat reductions, got 2 small thick fillet steaks for a third of the original price.  We were going to have sausages tonight but had the steak instead, it was beautiful.  I can't remember the last time we had fillet steak, it must have been years ago.  Will have the sausages tomorrow.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Another good class, and garden stuff

Thank you for the comments, we are so glad to have found Carrie-Anne the trainer and Betty is doing so well.  Chris - £70 for training, blimey!  Was that for just one class? 

This morning Betty did brilliantly, I was so pleased and Carrie said she really is getting on very well.  We did more loose lead walking and even off the lead walking to heel - well, it was kind of off the lead.  Carrie had brought along a massively long training lead, about 30 feet or so, she held the very end of the lead very loosely with most of it just lying on the ground, and Betty walked alongside first OH, then me, with us keeping her attention and at our sides by holding treats, she did it perfectly. 

Betty's fine with her collar on but has never liked us putting a harness on her - it's not the particular type of harness as we have tried 3 different ones, she just seems to have an aversion to them when we first put it on her, although is ok with it once we're actually out walking.  Carrie showed us how to coax her to accept the harness, by first putting it on the ground and putting some food treats beside it, letting her come and take them of her own accord, and then letting her back away if she wanted to.  After a few minutes of this when she was more confident about staying beside the harness, Carrie said to then pick it up and hold a treat for her just inside the head opening.  We did this a few times until she was comfortable about putting her head inside the harness.  Then it was a case of actually putting it on her, praising her and giving her another treat once it was on.  Problem solved, Betty now doesn't mind the harness at all, and this took only about 15 minutes to teach her to accept it willingly.  Carrie-Anne really is worth every penny, she explains things so clearly and is so patient with both Betty and us.  We're seeing her again next week, she encourages us to think about any problems we might be having with Betty and promises to work on them the next time.

For various reasons, we're very late with veg seed buying and planting this year - in fact we've done nothing at all up until this week.  We've decided to not grow so much this year....having reviewed what we've grown for the past few years, we think it will be better to grow fewer things (as in varieties of veg), but instead concentrate on growing just the things we really like the taste of home grown, and that we use the most of.  So this year we will just be growing new potatoes, peas, onions & leeks, butternut squash, cherry toms, a few cucumbers, carrots, courgettes, purple sprouting broccoli and a few cabbages.  We won't be growing maincrop spuds - they get eaten very badly by slugs here, and maincrop spuds are so cheap to buy it's not really worth growing them for the space they take up.  We tried 2 or 3 different squashes/pumpkins last year - didn't get many, they didn't store as well as the butternuts do, and we weren't all that keen on the taste, so they're out as well.  No French beans either, we got totally inundated with them last year, to the point where we got sick of them in the end.  Fewer cucumbers, as again we had loads and it's not like you can cook or freeze them - our neighbours and OH's work colleagues were almost running away when they saw him coming for fear of having another couple of cucumbers foisted on them!  No tomatoes for cooking - I get fed up with skinning/cooking them all for sauces, when it's so much easier to make sauces using cheap tinned chopped toms. 

At least we have an established and good supply of soft fruit which we don't have to continually replant each year - strawberries, blackcurrants, blueberries and raspberries.  We also have 5 young fruit trees - 1 cooking apple, 1 dessert, 2 pears and a plum, not had much fruit yet as they're all young, but hoping to have some this year.

Thursday, 6 April 2017


Thanks again for all your comments....I had to laugh when Marlene said she has more photos of her cats' bums than their faces.

Well, the training went really well.  Carrie-Anne is lovely, so friendly, her love of dogs and her job shines through and she's so knowledgeable.  Betty took to her straight away.

Carrie showed us lots of techniques for getting Betty to walk nicely without yanking our arms off all the time.  She started off by showing us how to get Betty to focus on us, then to sit at our side on the lead, then to walk a few steps without pulling, all done with food treats.  She demonstrated herself with Betty, then OH and I each had a go, Betty picked it up very quickly.  It helped that we were in a big field with hardly anybody else around, so there were few distractions close to us.  There were kids playing football in another field nearby, which did attract Betty (of course!), but Carrie showed us how to get Betty's attention back to us - basically gentle but firm and persistent calling her name, using the word 'focus' and offering a food reward. 

She also showed us how to stop Betty from jumping up - turn our body slightly and totally ignore her until she gets down and has all 4 paws on the ground, at which time we should praise her.  Carrie said by just saying 'down' and pushing her off as we had been doing, we are in fact giving her attention and rewarding the wrong behaviour, encouraging her to keep doing it.  By ignoring her until she gets back down, and then praising her only when she's on the ground, she will quickly learn not to jump up.  We also have to get friends, family etc doing the same thing!  It's all so logical when you actually stop to think about it.

We had a full hour of 1-2-1 for £15 - a total bargain, considering we learnt so much and Betty was responding so quickly.  We are seeing Carrie-Anne again for another hour next week, to practise the loose lead walking for longer periods, and some other things - she told us to have a think about what else we'd like her to work with us on.  She's also going to give us a written report and work plan next good is that?

She's a marvel and is such a lovely lady too, I'm so glad we found her.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Betty pics and good news

Thank you for all the comments on my last post.  Yes, I think you're all right - last week's puppy 'training' class was a waste of time for us, and a money spinner for the trainers.  Aly, having seen pics of Bruno and heard about his antics, I can just picture him as  Scooby Do!  Sheila, I did laugh at your comment....yes Betty is a cute hooligan!  Simple Living Marlene, that's terrible about your poor dog's damaged ear, the owner and trainer clearly weren't in control of their animal were they?  Marlene J, yes indeed Betty did have lots of fun at the class, shame she didn't learn anything though!

Following lots of positive and friendly emails with the new trainer I found, Carrie-Anne, I am happy to report we are taking Betty to her tomorrow morning for her first hour of 1-2-1 assessment and training, I am really looking forward to it (I expect Betty will be pleased too!).

Here are some updated pics of Betty, all taken within the last few days:-

Just look at that lovely squidgy face!

My 2 bubs asleep.....who's the cutest?!  ;-))

Out walking at the nature reserve.  She was facing me and just as I took the photo her head whipped round as a swan flew past!


Sunday, 2 April 2017

Nope, not going again!

We took Betty to her first puppy training class last week.....well, in the words of Craig Revell-Horwood it was 'a disaaaaaster dahhhling'.  We won't be going there again.

Several problems really - the biggest one being that the class was just too big.  About 12 or 14 pups of different breeds, ages and stages of training (it turns out it's an open, just turn up class so how they can work successfully with loads of different pups in various stages of training I don't know), plus about 20 or so owners.  As Betty just loves ALL people and ALL dogs, she was in a state of high excitement the whole time, which meant that she really wasn't interested in taking any notice of us or the trainers, she just wanted to play!  2 or 3 of the pups were quiet and well behaved, the others (including Betty) were just hooligans - all barking excitedly and jumping around, it was pretty much chaos.  And very noisy chaos at that. 

We started off with 5 mins of one to one with one of the 3 trainers, which was just getting Betty to sit for a treat.  Well, she does that very well anyway, doesn't need training for that.  Then it was loose lead walking, in pairs - Betty doesn't do loose lead at all, it's all running and tugging as hard as she can...particularly when she sees other dogs, one of the reasons we wanted to take her to classes.  Well, seeing as there were loads of other dogs there, that wasn't good.  You get just a couple of minutes' worth of training for that, seeing as there were lots of dogs to get through.  Then it was recall, one at a time...amazingly, as there were so many other dogs there, she actually did that quite well, as she could see OH was holding treats (she's totally food governed).  Sadly (and embarrassingly) it ended badly....the idea is you put your dog on the lead when she's come to you and had the treat....well OH did, or at least he tried to, but Betty was too quick for him and was off like a rocket tearing round the hall greeting all the other dogs, zipping in and out of people's legs and under chairs, to much laughter (and cringing from me).  Somebody managed to grab hold of her collar so OH could get her back on the lead....the lady beside me said "I'm not going to laugh, coz I know I'll be just as humiliated when it's my pup's (a spaniel) turn in a minute!".

The other big problem is that the class was only 30 minutes long - how the trainers are supposed to work with so many dogs and teach them anything meaningful in such a short space of time I don't know, I reckon it's impossible.

I've done some googling and found a local trainer who does one to one, at your home or a location near hers, as well as classes....she stresses that her classes are small, no more than 6 dogs at a time.  I think we need a few one to one sessions so Betty can learn without the distraction of loads of other dogs and their humans, and then perhaps a few of the classes.  I've emailed the lady this morning, she has some excellent reviews on her website and on Facebook.

Thank you for the comments on decluttering (I can't wait to get started on it actually) and Betty's antics with the dandelion.  I'll have to get round to putting on some updated pics.