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Review: PitPat Pet Activity Monitors

Ad - we were given these in return for a review but all words are our own

Last month we were sent a couple of PitPat Dog Activity Monitors to try out, obviously on the dogs, not ourselves……..They arrived the day we flew to Copenhagen, so we didn’t get to try them right away, but we’ve had 3 weeks of trialing them now, so I wanted to let you know how we’ve been getting on with them!
 

 

So, off the bat, I should tell you, in case you aren’t aware of our feral little beasts – their names are Grandmaster Flash, and Grandmaster Melle Mel – Flash and Melle, they are 7 and 3.5 respectively, and they are Jack Russel x Pug crosses - which means they are kind of small dogs. About 10kgs each (depending on how much they’ve eaten lately), so I was a bit worried that the PitPat’s, although they are only 5cmx5cm, might look really big on their collars, or be quite heavy for them, but, as you can see from the photos, they fit really nicely, and save from a few times they scratched at them when they first went on, they pretty much ignore them now, which is good.



We’ve now been using the PitPat Monitors for the last few weeks. There have been hikes round the reservoirs, there have been walks through the woods, we’ve scrambled through streams, Melle has swum (yes, it is waterproof), Flash has chased balls, they have played with other dogs, they have played with people. The dogs have well and truly put their trackers through their paces!
And we love them.

It is so so much fun checking their data at the end of the day. And interesting. Because pretty much every day it tells me that Flash has done more running than Melle, which is crazy because Flash, in my eyes, is super lazy – but it tells me he does more running, which might make sense because he dithers so much then has to sprint to catch up with us. Whereas Melle, he’s just constantly on the go on a walk, noodling about, always on the go - but maybe not running.
 

And in the house Flash will relentlessly chase the ball if he’s given the chance, where as Melle will happily cuddle you all day, but Melle will get up and wander round the house with you every time you move, even if you try and explain you're just getting up to grab a drink, but Flash, once he's settled, it'll take a lot to get Flash off his napping position on the sofa!
 
I knew this about them, obviously, but It really is fun, at the end of the day, checking their activity and sometimes seeing how it matches against what I’ve been doing. Because I swear there are days I've walked further than them, just down to the times I've had to go back to them and figure out what on earth they are up to!
So, now I've told you about how we use them, and the things we've found out from them. I'll show you the actual app, because it's so easy to use. Obviously we have 2 dogs, so our app interface has 2 dogs set up on it that we can toggle between. But each dog has their own dashboard, which we can look down and see their activity over time. And then, you can delve a bit deeper into the actual stats from a specific day.
Here you can see how their activity can vary, especially on a day, like the one at the top, when my mum has spent the day indulging Flash's ball obsession!
 
 
 


This last shot shows the badges you can 'win' for hitting your daily activity quota, and also the screen that you hit when you want to download the data. It's super simple to grab the data - you just click the fetch data button on the app, and push the paw on the tracker and it downloads! It is all done through Bluetooth, so I try to only download it once a day, and usually when I've taken their collars off for the day.



So, what do you think? Is a Pitpat the sort of thing you'd like for your dog? Because I'm currently raving about them to all the dog walkers we meet on our adventures!



(I should also say that the dogs don’t tend to wear their collars in the house until we go on a walk, unless they are at my parents, so sometimes the data is just based on our walks, but sometimes it’s a full days’ worth of info.)
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Cancer: Lets talk about hair baby........

Can we take a minute to chat about the mess that is my hair. Again.



In the week that I've finally got to the point post chemo where I can use a proper dye on my hair, I'm still dealing with a lot of the side effects of having had treatment that makes your hair fall out!


So, yes, I know I was lucky* enough to be able to cold cap and not lose all my hair during either of my chemo cycles. But for the second time in less than 18 months I'm having to deal with the fall out of losing 60% of my hair and having it grow back again.

Seriously, what on earth am I meant to do with it? It's like there's a two inch fringe growing all over my head. Again.

It sticks up between my old hair on the top of my crown, stands out sideways around my ears, creates a shelf along the back of my head! Basically, if I cropped there a mullet growing that any Toni and Guy stylist in the early 2000's would have been proud of!

This time last year I'd just about got to the point where I could see an end to having to hide my weird short regrowth when I went back into chemo in May, and now I'm at an awkward stage where it's not long enough to hide with any style! All over again. I can get away with a beanie or cap on a dog walk, or if I'm out and about somewher chilled, but there's no making it look nice any more!

I wore head scarves last time I was growing it back out (it was more summery) but people told me I looked like I had cancer and that made me self conscious, plus, real cancer patients, the ones who lost their hair, look at you a bit funny when you rock up in one! Like you're not really supposed to be joining their gang. (I think I've mentioned it before, but online, it feels like there's a definite hierarchy when it comes to cancer worthiness. People who have lost their hair definitely score higher than people who didn't. Maybe I'll do a post all about the hierarchy of cancer one day. If I'm feeling brave! And don't get me started on the amount of people who've been pregnant who have told me that their hair also fell out, like it's the same thing!)

But I'm kind of in a really crappy hair place right now, and I know I've probably got another 6 months of growth before the short hair gets to a length where it'll start to actually blend in with the rest, (it's definitely growing slower this time round so maybe it'll take longer!) And then maybe another year after that before it's an actual style. Until then I'm trying to deal with the fact I've had one usable hair style (half up, half down) for the last 18months, and if it's not this style, it's currently hidden beneath a cap. That's not much choice is it?

So I'm getting impatient. I want nice hair now. I want to be able to properly style it. Grow it out of this bob. Have a messy bun. And beachy waves. And a balayage. Basically, I'd take anything right now that didn't look like I was cultivating a mullet.

I'm also kind of bored by people with decent hair telling me to be grateful forwhat I have, because I bet if it was them they wouldn't be happy about it either!

In short, I miss this old hair. I miss my long hair. In truth, I miss the me that had this hair!

*You know you're living a fucked up life when your idea of lucky is only losing 60% of your hair, twice, to chemotherapy. But yes. I know. There's always someone else worse off. And I can't complain. But let's face it I worked bloody hard to not lose my hair and having hair doesn't mean I didn't suffer side effects as much as someone who went down the #baldisbeautiful route! No matter what the internet thinks!

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Beer: Sheffield Beer Week at The Stag with Burning Sky Beer

On Sunday night Jim and I were invited to the closing event of Sheffield Beer Week, a beer and food pairing at The Stags Head, with Burning Sky Brewery. And as we both love food and beer, and have a soft spot for Burning Sky, there was no way we were going to turn it down!
The night started with a welcome drink of a cask Plateau, and a chance to catch up with friends who were also there with us! Cask wouldn't be my first choice of a beer, it's always too flat for me - but this was really tasty and a really nice start to the night's drinking.

Then the eating began!

Starter: Mushrooms on Toast - Wild foraged mushrooms sautéed in garlic butter and cream, toasted brioche, a sprig of fresh thyme and topped with a crispy panko quail egg. Paired with: Cuvée 2016
Seafood: Steamed mussels in a white wine velouté sauce, buttered shallots and pan-fried pancetta. Paired with: Arise
So, course 1 and 2 were made up of some of my absolute favourite things. Mushrooms on toast is one of my favourite meals for when I'm feeding myself if Jims out, but I'll be honest, they aren't this fancy or tasty! And Moules are my go-to meal whenever I'm in our favourite restaurants in Cornwall, although, to be fair, I'm even a fan of the supermarket packets. This had some awesomely crispy pancetta in it. My only issue with it was there was no more bread to soak up the sauce!

The Cuvée 2016 was absolutely delicious. It's Burning Sky's "Saison à la Provision from Foudre no. 1 and from a number of Chardonnay barriques, we then blended in a large portion of Lambic, imported from Belgium that has been ageing at Burning Sky."

We've got a bottle of their most recent release of the Cuvee in our bottle stash that we picked up at Indy Man so I hope that bottle is just as nice!

The Arise that came with the mussels was made as an easy drinking, after work tipple, and whilst it might not be something I'd order over and over in a bar, but it was perfect with the moules because it didn't overpower the flavours of the sauce!
Sorbet: Cuvée sorbet

Our next course was a sorbet made from the cuvée - which was way more flavourful than I thought a beer sorbet could be. 

And then we moved on to a meat course; 

Meat: Lamb rump glazed with rosemary and thyme butter, creamy dauphinoise potatoes, seasonal vegetables and a red wine jus. Paired with: Saison de fête
Both the lamb and the potatoes were amazing. The herb crust on the lamb was so good, but our tables only complaint was that the lamb was a little cold. Delicious, but it could have done with being a little warmer! I'm such a fan of a sour beer so this saison de fête was right up my street. A perfect level of sourness! 

Dessert: Warm spiced ginger and treacle tart with clotted cream topped with candied almonds and lemon zest. Paired with: Saison de Pêche
And then, just as I thought I was too full to eat anything else this treacle tart showed up accompanied by a peach Saison, and suddenly, there was room for more! It was so perfectly sweet and I'm pretty sure I could eat clotted cream every day if I had to! The peach saison was really lightly peached, and so drinkable. I definitely could have drunk a lot of it!
All in all, it was an excellent evening and the perfect end to Sheffield Beer Week for us. The beer was, as we knew it would be, excellent. And the food was really good, so we'll definitely be heading back to The Stag for dinner soon. It's somewhere we feel like we ought to go to more, it's a really nice space, and I'll be honest, somewhere we probably only visit in the summer as it's really nice sitting outside in their beer garden! But it's only 10 minutes from our house, so we'll 100% be back for food soon!

Thank you so much for the invite, Thornbridge, we loved it!

Gifted - We were given this meal in return for sharing the evening. All the views are our own!
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House Update: Our Kitchen revamp

The first thing we wanted to do when we moved into the house was to rip out the kitchen and start again with it - tiled work surfaces are definitely not our design choice! But, well, kitchens are expensive, and Jim is incredibly indecisive when it comes to designing a big ticket item like this - especially when it was his space to design, with him being the cook in our house!
Before
Then we thought about maybe tarting up what we had, painting the cabinets, and getting a new worktop, adding extra space to the narrow cupboard that was built into the corner, but when we bought a new washing machine we found out that the floor was rotten underneath the old one thanks to a slow drip that had probably been going for years and years and needed replacing, so at that point we knew we had to just scrap that plan and save up for the full renovation - floor and all! So we left things that were just down right messy and gross - like the unboxed in boiler, and the unpainted plaster around the door and window! Even though it was super embarrassing!
Before
But finally, towards the end of last year, we were able to go ahead with starting to plan a new kitchen. We'd been to see some of the big chain kitchen companies, but they were all coming in over budget for us, and so a few people suggested a local company, Sheffield Kitchen Outlet. And not only were they the most reasonably priced, but they came up with the nicest design we'd seen, and were able to get a fitter in who could do all the extra things we needed doing.
So, in December our kitchen was ripped out and we moved the kettle and microwave to the dining room, along with every other thing from our kitchen. Then the floor came up, to reveal a 15ft drop into the space beneath the kitchen floor, and even more alarmingly, we also found a bit of it in another spot, where the floor had rotted away and was just being held up by the vinyl flooring tiles! Which wouldn't be so alarming if I'd not just a few weeks before been jumping in that spot to show Jim how bouncy it was. Our builder, Scott, told me he was amazing I'd not fallen through it!
As you can see, there was a LOT of dirt, a lot of dust, and a lot of mess! And the hole under the floor - well, that contained a lot of cobwebs and some cleaning products that had fallen out of the back of the cleaning cupboard and through the hole by the washing machine! It was such a glamorous life I was living before, wasn't it!

But eventually, the floor was replaced so we no longer might fall down into a 15ft abyss, some rogue gas pipes from the middle ages were re-routed, some other now-defunct waterpipes were cut out, the height of the hole in the chimney breast was the increased, the walls were replastered, and then, only then, could the kitchen fitting start!
Now, onto the kitchen we chose. We haven't gone for anything groundbreaking or revolutionary in our kitchen design. We don't really have the space for anything too crazy, and we definitely didn't have the budget, but what we have gone for is what we wanted - not what would make a good instagram picture! Mostly because Jim doesn't give a fuck about instagram, but does care an awful lot about having lots of countertops!

We've chosen a mushroom-y grey cabinet door colour, I believe it's called Mornington Grey, in a shaker style, with extra height cabinets on the wall, to make use of the super high ceilings we've got. Currently, we've just got slightly off white walls because we just can't quite decide which colour to put on the chimney breast, and there is a pile of tiles in the dining room, just waiting to go on the walls under the cabinets and behind the hob!


Before
After

We debated a range cooker in the space where the chimney is, but in the end, Jim decided to go for two wall mounted cookers and a large hob in that space instead - which just made more sense for the types of cooking he does. He was also really keen on having a Belfast sink, so we have one of those too! And a wine fridge so that we could reclaim our actual fridge from all the beer we were keeping in it.........And his other pre-requisite was a lot of countertop space.......which he's also got too!

Before
After

My demands were anything other than a white floor, and space on the kitchen sides for my Kitchenaid.  Mostly because it's far too heavy to be lugging in and out of cupboards! And we achieved both of those too!
The ovens we have are a small microwave oven and then a full sized oven. Jim picked them specifically because they go down really low, so are perfect for him when he's proofing bread. Honestly, that was the criteria for picking the oven. The perks, or perils of living with a foodie!
So, there you have it. Our kitchen revamp.
I think you'll agree it's a little bit different from what we started with, and like I said, there are just a couple of bits of that we still need to do, but the main thing is that it's so much nicer than it was before, there aren't any gross tiled surfaces to contend with, and we've got loads of space for all our stuff!





Kitchen bought from - Sheffield Kitchen Outlet
Paint - Valspar 
Floor  - Camero Yorkstone tiles fitted by Mintons 
Square frames - Habitat
Coffee Machine - Nespresso Creatista
Clock - B&M Bargains
Spice Jars - Anthropologie
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Cancer: My 6 month scan results are in!


Last week, a week ago today, in fact, we got my 6 monthly scan results. And they were pretty bloody brilliant.

My scans were all stable. Which means the treatment I am on is keeping my cancer at bay. Nothing is growing in my sternum is getting bigger, nothing is springing up anywhere it shouldn't.

Stable. It's basically the best word we could hope to hear. It's the one we're all waiting for!

But as great as it is to hear this word, it doesn't mean that treatment gets to stop. No, far from it. I'll still be going to the hospital every 3 weeks for my IV infusions of Herceptin and Perjeta. I'll still be having my denosumab injection every 6 weeks, and my Zoladex injection every 4 weeks. I'll still be taking my letrozole tablets every day. And I'll still be living with the knowledge that a good timescale for an individual metastatic treatment to work is about 18months.

But for now, we're just rejoicing in the fact that everything is stable and this treatment is working! Oh, and cracking open a bottle of champers every now and then to celebrate it!
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Review: Dining with friends at the Price of Wales



I'm not sure about the rest of you out there that blog, but sometimes I feel a little bit self-conscious when I'm invited to events that allow you to take none, bloggy friends, along too. I know a few of my friends think this space is silly and have mocked me for it. So, this causes me some trepidation in inviting people along to events. Especially ones that require taking lots of photos.
But last week we were invited to the relaunch of The Prince of Wales pub on Ecclesall Road, here in Sheffield. But as it was my birthday week, and we were invited to bring along a party of four, I decided that I'd see if a couple of our friends who are so none bloggy they don't even really do social media. So the novelty of me taking photos of their food before they were allowed to take a bite wasn't as annoying as it might have been for some friends. 

Randomly the Prince is a pub that Jim not only used to chef at but is somewhere where we also know a couple of the current chefs - although, I should say we didn't tell them we were going to be visiting!

On arrival we were offered drinks, Beth and George went for a beer on tap, Jim went for a Jaipur, and I, well, I couldn't pass up the decorate your own gin bar.......I had a Gin Mare and Mediterranean tonic and then garnishes upon garnishes. I should have maybe chosen something savoury to go with the gin, but I couldn't resist the passionfruit. 
Next, as we were waiting for our table, we were brought a couple of platters of canapes - lots of small versions of things on the menu. As Beth is a pescatarian, we gave her first pick of anything that wasn't meat and her favourite was a brie bite. The falafal was mine!
Once we were sat down at the table, the real choices started. First up, wine! We decided to go with a merlot to satisfy everyone - I think I am the only white wine drinker of the group and whilst I could have gone with a white, or a gin, I thought I'd stick with the team decision! 
We decided, once we'd seen how many items were on the menu, that we'd try and have something different each. It was super easy to do as there were so many different items available. I chose to start with scallops - a choice I will make pretty much every time I see them on a menu, Beth chose the salt and pepper squid (which would have been my second choice, George had a duck liver parfait and Jim went with crispy chicken. 

My scallops came with pancetta and lentils which was just delicious, and I had a little taste of Beths squid too. It was really nice!
Our mains did take a while to arrive, but having worked with restaurants in the past, I know that these first nights sometimes run longer on the food than they do once the chefs are used to the menu, but we were bought another bottle of wine, which made the wait feel much less! 

Jim had the rack of lamb, picked in part for the dauphinoise potatoes - which to me seems like as good a reason as any to order any meal. Beth had the Sea Bass, George went with the Lobster and Crab fishcakes and I had the Pork Belly. It came with more scallops, but as much as I love scallops I did relent to give them away to other on the table.

My only problem with it all was that I knew we had puddling to come and we'd already had canapes and starters, so I eat everything on my plate, as I had me eye on an eton mess!
And Eton Mess was exactly what I chose for dessert. But with mangos and berries, not the usual strawberries. Beth went with a mini dessert - the cheesecake - and a tea. And George chose to have the crumble. As he was sitting on the other side of the table to me, I had to pass the camera to Jim to get this shot and you can't imagine how proud he is of the dripping custard shot!  
As for Jims pud, he went with a melting chocolate and peanut butter dome. Not only was it gold, but it came with a little theatre to finish! 
We did discuss finishing the night with a cocktail, but it was a school night so we decided to forgo those for another time. Plus, after four courses of absolutely delicious food, we were totally stuffed.

I have to say everyone was very impressed with their food, and with the ambience and decor in the venue. Beth and I have decided it's getting added into our roster of meeting places when we get together for lunches.

And it was so lovely to be able to treat some friends to a really great meal, on my birthday week. I hate having to pick places for birthday meals as I always feel like if one person gets something a bit iffy, it's my fault for choosing that venue, but we all had such a great meal that we left really happy, full and vowing to return.

[AD - This meal and the associated drinks were given to us free of charge in return for this blog post. But all the words and opinions are mine!]
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