Make Walkies a Doddle – Review

My dog loves going out for walks, say the word “walkies” and he will get very excited. He will jump around and woof until you put his lead on and open the door. Often when I come down in the morning to take Eddie for his walk, I find that my son has put the lead somewhere and I can’t find it. This results in an excited dog waking everyone up while I have to hunt around the house to find his lead. When I heard about Doddle for Dogs I was really interested to give it a try. Featured on the Dragons Den, Doddle for Dogs is a dog collar which contains a hidden retractable lead. This means that when I want to take Eddie for a walk I no longer have to search the house to find his lead, it is there on his collar and just needs to be pulled out. It is a great idea.

Doddle for dogsThe lead itself is contained in a lightweight pod on the collar. The pod does not seem to annoy Eddie in any way he is happy enough to wear the collar in the same way he does a normal collar. The pod itself is only 5cm in diameter and it is not bulky.

Doddle for dogsWhen I want to remove the lead from the collar I just pull on the tab and the lead extends. The lead is about 1m when extended, so it is the same length as a normal short lead. The material is strong as well, it is guaranteed to hold a dog up to 27kg which is the size of a small Labrador. I had no problems holding Eddie with it. Doddle for dogsWhen I want to let him roam free I can just let go of the lead and it will retract into the pod. This means I don’t have to carry a lead with me leaving my hands free. If I need to grab him in a hurry I can and don’t have to fiddle around trying to clip a lead to his collar. There is an eyelet on the lead as well so I attached all Eddie’s dog tags so I can be contacted if he does get lost.

Doddle for dogsMy son loved using this lead as well. He found that as well as it being great outdoors he could now grab the lead and get the dog to go with him whilst he was in the house. It also comes in handy when someone is at the door, it makes it easy to grab the dog and prevent him escaping.

I really liked the Doddle for Dogs dog collar, it was really easy to use and made walkies a doddle. I would have liked a slightly longer lead so that Eddie had a bit more freedom, but if you are just walking your dog on the streets the length is ideal. I would also like it if the Doddle for Dogs came in a light up version now the nights are getting darker. I can easily get a little light to add to the collar though. A big advantage is that the collar can be cleaned in a washing machine, great now the paths are getting muddier.

The Doddle is RRP £24 and is currently available in 2 sizes: neck size small 28cm-32cm, or a neck size medium of 32cm-40cm. For an additional £8.99 Doddle offers an engraving service. Two lines of text can be added to the pod, perfect for adding your details in case your dog goes astray.

Doddle for Dogs Giveaway

 If you have a dog of your own and would love a Doddle, Doddle for Dogs are kindly running a giveaway where you can win one. I am hosting the giveaway on their behalf so please read the terms and conditions in the rafflecopter widget. The giveaway ends on 08/11/2014 at 12:00 PM (London). If you do enter good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I was sent a Doddle for dogs collar in return for an honest review.

Halloween Pumpkin Soup

In case you haven’t noticed Halloween is on the way, time to get creative and start carving pumpkins to put in the window.  The origins of carving faces into pumpkins is lost in time. As a child pumpkins were not commonly found in shops and we used to use carve turnips into Jack O’Lanterns. We had great fun making funny faces in them, the hard part was scooping out the insides. Pumpkins are much easier to carve and I have been creative over the years. I managed to make a dragon pumpkin one year and even a puffle pumpkin when my son was really into Club Penguin. Originally a Jack O’Lantern was a watchman with a lantern, but it is also another name for a will o’wisp. These are strange lights seen over the marshes at night which are said to signify the presence of ghosts. Possibly the carved pumpkin acts as a ward against ghosts on Halloween, when ghosts are meant to be out and about.   Pumpkin soupThe problem with carving pumpkins is that you are always left with a large amount of pumpkin that needs to be used up. Pumpkins also contain large amounts of seeds, which can be toasted and eaten. This year I am going to plant some and see if I can grow a few pumpkins next year. I had great success with my potatoes, tomatoes and broccoli this year when I planted my vegetable garden. Sadly the slugs ate all my butternut squash.

Halloween pumpkinWhile there are all sorts of recipes for left over pumpkin I like to use mine to make a big pot of Halloween Pumpkin Soup. It is a lovely warming soup that can be served with warm bread, the perfect snack for trick or treaters coming home on a cold night. It will no doubt be followed by plenty of sweet treats but it is great for warming you up. It would also make a great centre piece for a Halloween party, served in a cauldron or a hollowed out pumpkin (without the face carved in it!).

Pumpkin soupI found that pumpkin on it’s own could be a little bland but adding a couple of potatoes into the soup adds a touch of creaminess to the soup. I spiced my soup up with chilli and garlic flakes and a little black pepper. Other spices can be used instead, nutmeg and cinnamon are also a favourite.

Halloween Pumpkin Soup

Halloween Pumpkin Soup
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  1. 1 onion
  2. 2 potatoes
  3. 2 cloves garlic
  4. 1 large pumpkin
  5. 1 litre vegetable stock
  6. olive oil
  7. salt and pepper to season
  8. garlic and chilli flakes to season
  1. Peel and chop the onions, garlic, potatoes and pumpkin.
  2. Place some oil in a large pan and add the onions and garlic.
  3. Gently cook the onions and garlic until soft.
  4. Add the potatoes, pumpkin and stock and bring to a simmer.
  5. Simmer until the potatoes and pumpkin are soft.
  6. Use a blender to blend the mixture until it is smooth.
  7. Add salt, pepper and garlic and chilli flakes to season
Dragons and Fairy Dust

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TalkTalk offers great deal on Sky

There is nothing better than sitting down to watch a good movie on the telly as a family after a long day at work. Even better if you have some popcorn to share. Sky movies have a great selection of new and old films so there is always something to suit your mood. From the latest blockbusters to well loved family favourites, I can always find something to watch. On the other hand my husband and son love Sky sports. Now the football season has started they can often be found glued to a match, hoping for a win. It is not just football though, they love boxing, formula 1, golf, tennis, you name it. Luckily with Sky Sports there is a great selection of Premier league matches for them to watch at home.

sky sportsThe good news is that TalkTalk are offering a great deal on Sky Sports and Sky Movies. For three months, you can watch both Sky Sports and Sky movies for just £20 a month. This will take you past the festive season allowing the family to watch the latest blockbuster movies over the Christmas period. With 11 Sky Movies Channels, including Sky Disney and Sky Superheroes and plenty of movies on demand you will never be short of something to watch.

With Sky Sports 1, 2, 3, 4, F1 and  with Sky Sports 5, home of European football there will be plenty of sports to entertain the men of the house as well. I am sure they will be glued to the Barclays Premier League matches when Newcastle is playing.

Normally TalkTalk homes can access Sky Sports Boost for £30 a month and the Sky Movie Boost for £15 a month on a month by month basis. This new deal saves you £25 a month, ideal in the run up to Christmas. This offer builds on the recent deal between Sky and TalkTalk to broaden and extend the distribution of Sky entertainment to TalkTalk’s TV customers. In August, Sky gave TalkTalk homes access to all Sky Sports channels as part of an Open weekend. Earlier this year, TalkTalk added seven Sky channels, including Sky One, Sky Living, Sky Sports News HQ and 100s of hours of on demand Sky entertainment content, to its Plus TV package.

One of the great benefits of TalkTalk’s TV packages is that you can add boosts to add extra channels as you require. These can be added and removed on a month by month basis allowing you to keep control of your spending and not be stuck with large bills. In addition to the Sky packages, TalkTalk homes can add Boosts for hit US and UK entertainment and favourite kids channels and on demand content to their package at the touch of a button. There are plenty of additional programs available on demand and with YouView you can stop, rewind, pause and record live TV at the touch of a button so you do not miss a minutes viewing.

If you want to sign up to TalkTalk you will find TalkTalk’s Essentials TV is half price for six months at £4.25, then £8.50, plus line rental. And Plus TV is just £9.25 a month for six months, then £18.50 a month, plus line rental. TalkTalk’s Plus TV package includes seven great Sky entertainment channels and a free YouView box, usually £299.

I am a TalkTalk Family blogger and am provided with TalkTalk in order to tell you all about their services.

The Gruffalo’s Child Comes to the Forest

Over the Summer plenty of people visited their nearest Forestry Commission forests and took part in the Gruffalo Trails. The Gruffalo has been a much loved children’s book for years, telling the story of a mouse who meets a number of predators on his way though the woods. To prevent himself being eaten he tells each animal he is on the way to meet the Gruffalo, a fearsome beast. The mouse managed to evade capture until at the very last he meets the Gruffalo, a creature he thought he made up. He managed to convince the Gruffalo that he is the scariest beast in the forest and survives. In honour of the 10th anniversary of the books publication the Forestry Commission created Gruffalo Trails in their forests.

The Gruffalo trails were a great way to get closer to nature and learn more about woodland. In fifteen forests you could even come face to face with a large Gruffalo sculpture. Lovingly carved from a tree truck, these 15 sculptures are all unique, each in a different position. It must be magical wandering though the forest and coming face to face with the Gruffalo himself.

Just in time for half term the Gruffalo trails have been updated to The Gruffalo’s child trails. The Gruffalo’s child tells the story of the Gruffalo’s child who sets off into the woods to find the big bad mouse, who the Gruffalo is scared of. Families are invited to join the Gruffalo’s Child on her journey though the forest and see what they can discover along the way.

Gruffalo childs trailsThe Grufflo’s Child activity trails are located in 24 Forestry Commission Forests across England. Whilst following the trail route you can take part in activities based on the book and the characters found in them. To go along with the trail there are activity packs which cost £2. These contain an activity leaflet, colouring in sheet, a Gruffalo’s child sticker and a foraging bag. These packs also help children learn about how animals use Autumn to prepare for winter, searching out food and shelter. Autumn is a great time to visit the forests. Children can find seeds and leaves and try and work out which trees they are from. The forest is full of colour as the leaves change. I went to Hamsterley Forest last Autumn and it was really pretty to look at the trees.

You can find more information about the Gruffalo’s Child Trails on the Forestry Commission website. You will find the Gruffalo statues in the following fifteen forests:

  • Alice Holt, Surrey
  • Bedgebury National Pinetum & Forest, Kent
  • Cannock Chase, Staffordshire
  • Dalby Forest, Yorkshire
  • Delamere Forest, Cheshire
  • Haldon Forest Park, Exeter
  • Hamsterley Forest, Durham
  • High Lodge, Thetford Forest, Suffolk
  • Moors Valley Country Park, Dorset
  • Sherwood Pines, Nottingham
  • Top Lodge, Fineshade woods, Northamptonshire
  • Wendover Woods, Buckinghamshire
  • Westonbirt, Gloucestershire
  • Whinlatter Forest, Cumbria
  • Wyre Forest, Shropshire


Disclosure: I am an official blogger for The Forestry Commission and receive an annual Discovery Pass to visit.

Steak and Ale Pie Recipe

Recently I read the book Cold Grave by Craig Robertson. In one of the scenes in the book the DS Rachel took the time to prepare a meal in order to coax two other people into helping her with the case. She made a Steak and Ale pie and there is a lovely scene where they are sitting eating it at the dinner table, you can almost see the steam rising off the pie as they eat it. The book was set in Scotland in the middle of Winter and Steak and Ale pie was the perfect warming dish.

Inspired by the book I decided I was going to try making a Steak and Ale pie. The weather had turned a bit chilly and more Autumnal. The trees outside are a blaze of colour and I have been finding conkers and acorns lining the path when I have been out walking. It seemed that it would be the perfect dish for a windy wild day.

Steak and ale pieI have been moaning for some time about my lack of a decent pie dish, when I made my chicken and leek pie I used my casserole dish. While this works it does not look nearly as pretty when you put it on the table. I treated myself to a lovely green rectangular pie dish and I think this is going to become a much used dish. It was the perfect size for the pie.

Steak and ale pieWhile I did not make my own pastry, I did get a bit whimsical with the design. The animal gracing the top of the pie is meant to be a cow. It ended up looking a bit more like a llama but it did add a nice touch of decoration to the pie. Next time I will try creating a herd of cows walking across the pie for a dramatic effect.

Steak and ale pieWhilst the pie did take a while to make it was well worth the effort. The taste of home made pie is so much nicer than shop bought. You also know exactly what is in it and can add herbs and spices to suit your own taste. It went down well with the family as well, plates were cleared and it was the perfect meal for that Autumn day.

Steak and Ale Pie Recipe

Steak and Ale Pie
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  1. 900g stewing steak
  2. 25g flour
  3. 100g butter
  4. 2 onions
  5. 2 cloves of garlic
  6. 150g button mushrooms
  7. Fresh thyme
  8. 400ml ale
  9. 500 ml beef stock
  10. 2 tbsp Worcester Sauce
  11. Salt and pepper to season
  12. 300g puff pastry
  13. 1 egg
  1. Add the flour to the bowl.
  2. Dice the steak and add to the flour, making sure each piece is coated.
  3. Peel and chop the onions, garlic, carrots and mushrooms.
  4. In a pan melt half the butter and add the meat to the pan,
  5. Cook until lightly browned.
  6. Add the vegetables, thyme, ale, stock and Worcester sauce to the pan.
  7. Bring to the boil then cover and simmer gently for an hour until the meat is soft and the sauce has thickened.
  8. Pour the mixture into a pie dish.
  9. Preheat the oven to 220°C/428°F/Gas Mark 7.
  10. Beat the egg and use it to coat the edges of the pie dish so the pastry will stick.
  11. Roll out the pastry and cover the top of the pie.
  12. Use the rest of the egg to glaze the top of the pastry.
  13. Bake for 20-30 minutes until the pastry is golden.
Dragons and Fairy Dust

STeak and ale pie

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Homemade Thursday

As the recipe is based on one in a book I am also linking up with ReadCookEat over on Chez Mazimka blog.