Saturday, 30 January 2016

The Hundred House, Norton - Game Night

The Hundred House is a local favourite of ours, it has 2 AA rosettes and prides itself for using local produce as well as herbs from their beautiful gardens.  We had gone in for a bite to eat earlier in the month and seen the game night advertised, being a big venison fan we booked it.  The price was £26.95 for three courses including bread.

Mark and I had the same starter of Mini Beef & Venison Burger, Moydens 1665 Smoked Cheese, Dill Pickle Relish served in a Brioche Bun.  The burger was really tasty and juicy, with a relish that complimented it perfectly, my only gripe about the burger was the brioche was a little dry.
For main course Mark had Wild Boar Faggots seasoned with Thyme & Parsley, Braised with White Wine Tomato, Beans & Bacon, as Mark said they weren't just faggots, they were really tasty and juicy with perfect accompaniments.  I went for Roast Hauch of Venison, Turnip & Prune Gratin, Cavolo Nero, Juniper & Port Wine Sauce - I know venison for starter and main, it is my favourite and you don't see it that often so I have to make the most of it when it's there!!  This was beautiful, the venison was cooked to perfection and sliced lovely and thinly, there was just enough sauce - quite often in some of these restaurants they just drizzle a little on to make it look pretty and there is never enough.  Here, there was enough to make it look good (ie not flooded in sauce) but also enough to taste good.

For dessert we both chose the same which was Rich Dark Chocolate & Blueberry Roulade with White Chocolate & Mint Ice Cream.  The desserts at The Hundred House have never excited me, we have probably been at least 10 times and never once have I seen a dessert that jumps out at me on the menu and I am a dessert person.  The choice was this, apple pie or pannacotta.  This was nice but it wasn't amazingly tasty like the starters and mains tend to be, the ice cream was very good and I am not normally keen on ice cream but the roulade was just a roulade and nothing special. 

It was a lovely night, nice food, cosy fires - looking forward to game season and another game night as we will be back again!

Monday, 18 January 2016

Monday, 11 January 2016

West Midland Safari Park Photographer of the Year

I had a good start to the new year last week as I had entered the West Midland Safari Park Photographer of the year with the below photo:

We entered the 'Wild Encounters' category and the awards night was last Friday.  The photo had been shortlisted a couple of times to eventually get through to being a finalist, which also meant that whether we won or not it will be exhibited at the Safari Park.  I am please to announce we won our category :)  Really pleased to have won and didn't think we would as there were so many fabulous entries and mine looked over exposed at the exhibition I thought!

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Christmas & NYE

Happy New Year!

December has been an awful month!  We have rebuilt our house this year, we bought a bungalow we planned to extend but when we looked into it we found it was riddled with damp and we were better off knocking it down and starting from scratch.  Our deadline for completion was Christmas.

So of course we were running behind schedule, the tiler we employed did an awful job so we sacked him and it now became Mark's job.  All the trades were busy in the run up to Christmas so we couldn't get anyone in, the tiler really messed us up the most as it put us a lot further behind schedule.

Luckily business is quiet in December so it meant we could be there most days and we did manage to get it in a liveable condition and Mark managed to get the stairs in with the help of family on 20th so we moved in on 21st.  All be it without doors, skirting (any upstairs electrics/lights - another trade that screwed us over, the electricians). 

Our Christmas tree went up after lunch on 22nd, it is a beautiful 10ft tree and I just had to put it up, seems such a shame we couldn't have finished earlier and it have been up longer as it looks stunning.

What I would say is, if you can afford it have your builder do everything.  The project management was fine but it is the trades you are employing, you don't know them, even people who recommend them, are well reviewed, have years of experience etc  They still mess up!  They don't care really, they take your money and they are gone.  If the builder employs the trades, he has a relationship with them already, he knows them, has worked with them so they aren't going to mess up are they?  If they do it's the builder's responsibility.  If we do this again we will definitely do it this way or we just won't do it. 

Anyway we are in, things are slowly getting finished and we enjoyed Christmas and had a NYE party, it's a good job our settee hasn't arrived as the lounge made a great disco!  I had bought Macy a disco light bulb for Christmas, it's great as it fits like a normal bulb but it spins and throws all the pretty lights down.

Christmas Eve Gingerbread
NYE Pinata

Friday, 18 December 2015

Quality Street Christmas Advert

You might not know that I have my animals signed up with an agent for media work. I have been working the animals for about 12 years or so.

Sweep got the call for 2 days filming in London for a Christmas advert - I never say anything at the time as am not sure what I can and can't say so it's best not to say anything!  Now the advert is out I can tell you it was for Quality Street. I was pleased to hear it was a 2 o'clock start so we missed rush hour traffic into London which can be horrendous.

These things sound glamorous but they are far from it, there is an awful lot of waiting around and standing about in the cold.  Sweep didn't actually get called onto set till about 5pm on the first day and nearer 6pm on the second day.

We had been training him to jump and catch sweet wrappers falling from above but they changed the plan on the day - another thing that happens quite frequently - you can prepare yourself and your animal as much as you can but on the day it can all change and you have to be prepared for this. 

I had been concerned about how slippy it would be if he was jumping, they were using pretend snow but it wasn't slippy at all - it was a paper substance not wet at all, completely dry.

Instead of him jumping at the sweet wrappers they wanted him to run into set towards the actors and then to start jumping at the wrappers - I did say I couldn't see him doing this as I had to hide behind a hedge so he is hardly going to know what to do.  So I let them see what would happen as this is usually the best way to give it a go and then they can see for themselves.  I got Sweep to run on to set and run about a bit but I couldn't get him jumping at the wrappers from a distance - the wrappers were floating slowly in the air and it wasn't that easy to see them.  So I got them to stand me on a box rather precariously just out of shot and I could then get him to jump at his target stick.

The other shot was that he had to walk off lead down a street with an actor so we loaded him with sausage and a tennis ball, Sweep was happy enough to go off with him then!  They wanted him running in the street happily doing his own thing but near enough to the actor, the actor was squeaking his ball in the pocket so Sweep easily ran round excited then!

Sweep was a good boy and worked well, he is completely focused and despite all the commotion going on round him he concentrated all evening.

This is the actual advert, watch out for it, I believe it has been shown quite a few times between prime time programmes:

Then there is the behind the scenes video which shows a bit more of Sweep and of myself and Mark who came with me to give me a hand:

Saturday, 7 November 2015

National Pet Show

Fast Forward Dogs Activity Training were invited to the National Pet Show at the NEC to do some agility displays, Denise kindly invited Sweep and I to take part.  We had a fabulous day, Sweep wasn't bother about all the noise at all, he steadied himself on the carpet surface and wasn't silly.  It was the first time we had tried his running A-frame outside training and it was perfect.

We took Macy along too and she had a great day, the show wasn't as big as I expected, you could probably get round it all in no more than half a day.  She had a great time - brushed a miniature horse, stroked a snake, a chicken, met a huge tortoise and more!

We had also seen these balloons on The Apprentice not long before we attended and we just had to have one!  As Macy was picking her balloon, a photographer from the press took some photos of her (below).  She loves this balloon and it has followed her everywhere since she got home, it will be a sad day when it deflates!

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Strider Bike Racing Attempt 2!

Last time we took Macy Strider racing she was a bit too young at just under 2 she couldn't really push her bike over the bumps, so I thought now she is a bit more confident on her bike and a bit stronger she will enjoy it more.

We were lucky with the weather as it was dry and sunny and quite warm for November!  Macy went out on the track for practice and was flying round, she was absolutely loving it and coped a lot better with the bumps.  Her first race she finished 2nd but didn't do so well in her other two heats.  There were some fathers there who were really shouting at their children but it really freaked Macy out as she thought they were shouting at her and that she had done something wrong, every time someone shouted she stopped!  And the worst was they would stand right at the finish so she didn't want to finish as it meant riding at these people who were really shouting!!  She was leading the one race but didn't want to finish because everyone was gathered there screaming at their children. 

It was a shame really as she loved riding her bike and she just wanted to go round again and again.  Next time perhaps she can switch off a bit more to the shouting and not let it bother her so much?  I would like her to do well as she was the only girl in her age group, would be nice to see her beating the boys and she could do it, but really I want her to enjoy it.  Here are some photos I took of her: