Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Animal Tales - 56


Welcome to Animal Tales, the blog linky that brings together all sorts of animal blog posts from all over the world.  It runs from Tuesday morning thought to Thursday night and showcases a wide range of animal related posts.  Please note I am now happy to allow sponsored posts, reviews and give-aways.


Favourites from Last Week

Once again many thanks to everyone who joined in last week with some great posts as ever.  I very much enjoyed pictures from Angie's farm over in New England - brrrrr, it looks cold there as well as more snowy pictures from Jenn in Ontario, Canada.  In comparison we have had more rain and very strong winds so I been spending each day trying to find blown away food bowls etc and all the pigs have been confined to barracks, not out in the fields where it is just too wet. Despite that, the frogs have decided it's Spring and our pond is full of frog spawn. 



Over to you now.  Please add your posts below. The posts can be old or new and as varied as the animals who we share our world with. If you tweet with the hashtag #AnimalTales I'll retweet you. Just give me a nudge if I appear to have forgotten you.

Full details of the linky can be found here but can I remind people of a couple of the "rules":
  • Please can you comment on at least 2 other blogs linked up - that is, after all the whole purpose of joining a linky to find and comment on more blogs and hopefully drive traffic back to your blog.
  • Please can you include my badge (preferably) or a link back to this blog.
  • Pinterest - not a rule but for even greater exposure of your blog post please do join the Animal Tales Pinterest board and pin a picture from your linked posts.
  • Finally if you want to add a sponsored post, review or give-away, please do.
  
 






Monday, 8 February 2016

10 Tips to stop your dog getting Fat

Also just like us, overweight pets are at risk of nasty conditions like diabetes, heart disease and arthritis, and flab even lowers their life expectancy - See more at: http://www.poochandcompany.co.uk/dog-blog/post/dog-obesity-how-to-stop-your-pooch-getting-fat/#sthash.LdHJJUfT.dpuf
Also just like us, overweight pets are at risk of nasty conditions like diabetes, heart disease and arthritis, and flab even lowers their life expectancy - See more at: http://www.poochandcompany.co.uk/dog-blog/post/dog-obesity-how-to-stop-your-pooch-getting-fat/#sthash.LdHJJUfT.dpuf
Also just like us, overweight pets are at risk of nasty conditions like diabetes, heart disease and arthritis, and flab even lowers their life expectancy - See more at: http://www.poochandcompany.co.uk/dog-blog/post/dog-obesity-how-to-stop-your-pooch-getting-fat/#sthash.LdHJJUfT.dpuf

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about how dogs can be an important part of your keep fit and lose weight campaign and in doing so you dog will also get fitter and perhaps lose some weight if it needs to.  It is important that dogs do not become fat as overweight dogs are at risk from diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and reduced life spans.  They are only with us for a few short years so we owe it to them to keep them as fit and healthy as possible which means keeping them at their optimum weight.



10 Tips to stop your dog getting Fat

Feeding

  • Don't overfeed at meal times - if needs be, weight the food so you know you are giving the right amount.
  • Don't feed loads of snacks or titbits from the table or allow them to clean bowls for you.  You might feel those begging eyes are irresistible but perhaps for one moment don't see them as eyes that are begging for food but for eyes that are begging you to take away the pain from arthritic joints brought on by being overweight.
  • If you do feed snacks keep them small and low fat - a dog will be as pleased with that as something bigger and more fattening. It is the fact they are getting a snack that pleases them just as much as what it actually is.
  • Be firm - if they are begging say no and make them go and sit on their bed.  Remember those eyes, begging to stop the pain.
  • If using snacks for training keep to a minimum and reduce their meal accordingly.
  • Weight them regularly - our vet is happy for us to pop in whenever we want to put Saari on the scales .... she is less keen it has to be said!
  • Check what weight they should be for their breed and age.
  • Don't leave food out or they might steal it - SAARI - this one is aimed at you!  If they have stolen then cut their next meal down accordingly.

Exercise

  • Regular walks - make sure they get walked at least once a day and at a decent speed.  If they are not used to walking far and fast then build them up slowly, as you would do entering a new fitness regime.  Every day means just that -come rain or shine, they need that walk.
  • Ideally run with your dog for part of their exercise or if that isn't an option (ahem, that would be me!) then get them to run after balls or toys.  A ball thrower is great for dogs who love to retrieve a something - that wouldn't be Saari then!

I have heard people say they can't resist those begging eyes.  I say again, whilst looking at the photo of the overweight beagle above, PLEASE, do resist because these are not the eyes of a happy dog full of the joys of life but one who cannot run and jump and be "a dog".  We owe it to our canine friends to not allow them to become overweight.

Have you got any more tips on how to stop our dogs getting fat?  And why not pin the image below to spread the message.






Sunday, 7 February 2016

30 Tips to Survive a Power Cut


Twice recently we have had power cuts.  A few weeks ago the hedge trimming machine cut through the electricity wire in the village and earlier this week we had a planned outage whilst EDF did some vital maintenance work on the line.  Both times we quickly realised how reliant we have become on electricity and to not have it can be a right pain in the whatsit.  However there are things you can do to make it easier to survive when you are plunged back into the Dark Ages!




30 Tips to Survive a Power Cut



At any time


  • Know exactly where you can find torches/camping lamps/candles.
  • Keep in a supply of the correct torch batteries as well as lighters or matches.


Before a Planned Outage Occurs 

  • Get torches etc out and ready to use - our electricity went out when it was s till dark!
  • Charge up phones etc and back up all your work on the computer.  I spent an hour yesterday uploading the gite to a French booking website taking ages to translate everything only to have the power to blip out for a second and I lost the lot.  When I started again I saved every 5 minutes!!
  • Freezers work best when full so, if necessary, a few days beforehand fill them up with plastic bottles filled with water (with head space to allow for expansion).
  • The day before the planned outage set your freezer and fridge to a slightly colder than normal temperature
  • As the power goes out add some pre-frozen freezer blocks into the fridge to help keep it cold
  • Think about how you'll cook if your cooker is all electric - get in some food supplies that don't need cooking i.e. cake - a power cut is no time to be dieting!
  • Check that elderly and infirm neighbours have everything they need
  • Boil up some water and keep it in a flask for hot drinks.


When the Power goes Out

  • First check it isn't simply your trip switch that has gone
  • Check on elderly and infirm neighbours


Heating - If yours isn't working:

  • Keep doors and windows closed to retain heat
  • Wear several thinner layers rather than one thick one to keep warm
  • Wear mittens, extra warm socks and a hat - most heat is lost through your head.
  • Do something energetic to keep warm
  • All snuggle up under the same duvet for an evening of spooky story telling


Cooking

  • If your oven is gas you can cook but any automatic lighting systems won't work so you'll need  a lighter or matches.
If your cooker is all electric you'll need to find alternatives:
  • Use a camping stove but ONLY outside
  • Light the BBQ
  • Eat out or get in a take-away if local restaurants have power
  • Eat salads - possibly a better option in the summer!


Generally

  • Play games by candle-light
  • Read a book - head torches are good for this.
  • In the daytime move closer to the window to get the best light
  • Open the fridge and freezer as little as possible
  • If it is cold, store food outside in covered containers but not if it is below freezing.  
  • Carefully check that food has not gone off as it may well not store as long as the temperature inside the fridge rises.
  • Enjoy the technology-free time.
  • If all else fails and you can, debunk to friends and family who have power or the local shopping centre, café, library etc.

Electricity always seems to go off at the most inconvenient time although to be honest I am not sure there is ever a convenient time.  With luck these tips will make your time in the dark ages a bit easier to cope with.  Have you any other tips to add or have you any interesting power cut stories to recount?





You Baby Me Mummy

My Sunday Photo - Feb 7th 2016


I mentioned a few weeks ago that I wanted to improve my camera skills and the lovely Lisa at Lisa's Life recommended an online camera  course with Emma Davies.  I signed up and I'm loving it.  We get an email a week with a topic to concentrate on and already I understand some of those many buttons and knobs on my camera.

I know how to change the aperture to change the depth of field so whilst your rather boring pumpkin is always in focus the background may not be ...



And I know how to alter the shutter speed to photograph fast moving objects like the water in this stream:



It's probably not too late for you to sign up if you want to learn how to use better your camera.  Click on A Year with my Camera if you are interested.

OneDad3Girls


Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Animal Tales - 55


Welcome to Animal Tales, the blog linky that brings together all sorts of animal blog posts from all over the world.  It runs from Tuesday morning thought to Thursday night and showcases a wide range of animal related posts.  Please note I am now happy to allow sponsored posts, reviews and give-aways.


And the piglets are called ...


Pickle - as already chosen by me because she is such a pickle:

Pickle Pig

Pumpkin - as suggested by a friend on Facebook as she is a cute as a pumpkin:

Pumpkin Pig

Mo (Farah)  - because she is sooooo fast!  Thank you to Bear and Cardigan for this suggestion.  She almost became Penelope as suggested by Charlotte at TheMummyToolbox but she didn't quite appear to be either Ms Cruz or Ms Pitstop but she did appear to be a Mo!

Mo

Thank you to  everyone who made suggestions and  I have answered your comments now.  There were some great ideas but a few were male names (these are girls), some suggested names of pigs we have already had and I am afraid I may have got into trouble had I named them after Ersatz Expat's suggestion of Napoleon as apparently it is illegal to call a pig Napoleon in France!


Favourites from Last Week

Once again many thanks to everyone who joined in last week and with 18 posts I think that may have been our biggest week yet.  So many good posts to choose from but particular favourites were Babi a Fi and her squirrel appreciation post, getting to meet Emma's new puppy, Ruby and a welcome return to Boris as he begins to learn how to be an Assistant Dog.

Over to you now.  Please add your posts below. The posts can be old or new and as varied as the animals who we share our world with. If you tweet with the hashtag #AnimalTales I'll retweet you. Just give me a nudge if I appear to have forgotten you.

Full details of the linky can be found here but can I remind people of a couple of the "rules":
  • Please can you comment on at least 2 other blogs linked up - that is, after all the whole purpose of joining a linky to find and comment on more blogs and hopefully drive traffic back to your blog.
  • Please can you include my badge (preferably) or a link back to this blog.
  • Pinterest - not a rule but for even greater exposure of your blog post please do join the Animal Tales Pinterest board and pin a picture from your linked posts.
  • Finally if you want to add a sponsored post, review or give-away, please do.
  
 








Sunday, 31 January 2016

Silent Sunday - January 31st 2016


It seems it is not jut small children who like making bubbles.  Allow your teenage son loose with the washing up liquid and you might not see clean plates but he will be adept at making hand-help bubbles.  That might explain why my washing up liquid went down so quickly this week!




OneDad3Girls


Thursday, 28 January 2016

Instant Booking Holidays - How much more are you paying?


I am sure you would all agree that booking a holiday can be a touch stressful.  You need to find the right place in the right location, providing everything you want for you and your family,  with availability when you can go, you also need to arrange to get there and all within your budget.  It's quite a big ask.  Thank goodness for large online travel agencies that list hundreds of properties, enabling you to find just what you want - so much more convenient than having to head off to the High Street travel agents as we did in the past ... or heaven forbid, trawl through the adverts in the back of a magazine with so little information available.  

Now, in the comfort of your own home, you can search through the listings, check amenities, availability, price and as soon as you find the place of your holiday dreams click on the instant book or book now button and pay by credit card.  Job done and dusted.  Within 24 hours the owner will have agreed to your booking and except for the packing you're ready to go .... 

Hopefully you'll be able to sort out all the transport details in that time and I sincerely hope your boss really can agree to the days off you have asked for ... which of course becomes even more complicated when there are more people in the party going.  



But I digress a little - what I really want to focus on in this post is the cost of instant booking.  Have you ever, for one moment, considered how much you are paying for this ease of instant booking?  Online travel agents need to make money and they are also keen to make as much money as possible for their shareholders so are you, in fact, paying more than you think for this instant booking "convenience"?  

When the internet first took off owners were able to advertise with online travel agents who simply listed properties leaving you to contact the owner and book direct.  You could have a conversation with the owner, checking everything they offered was what you wanted and pay direct when you were happy with your choice.  To advertise, the owner paid an annual subscription to the site and you, the holidaymaker, would only be charged the price the owner wanted for the holiday with no hidden commission or booking/service fees.  

Not so with instant booking.  Now the holiday home owner lists for free and one or both of you is charged commission and/or booking/service fees by the online travel agent.  But has anyone any idea how much these fees are?  You might be surprised:


Airbnb:

Guest - 10-15%
Owner - 3%
So for a property charged at £1000 for a week, Airbnb will take £30 from the owner and will charge the holidaymaker up to an additional £150 for the week.
There is no owner subscription option available on Airbnb so owners and holidaymakers will always be charged.  There have even be cases reported where a 20% fee was levied to the holidaymaker.


HolidayLettings 

This is a  subsidiary of Trip Advisor:
Guest - 10-17%
Owner - 3%
Here you could be paying an extra £170 for that £1000 holiday.
On HolidayLettings owners can also advertise on a subscription basis where you should pay no extras but is is not always clear which owners are which.


Booking.com

Guest - Nothing
Owner - 15-18%
You might think that you will not be charged extra using booking.com but think again.  Owners may not be happy losing up to 18% of each holiday booked and many will add this on top of the price that they would normally charge if you booked direct.  Now you could be paying an extra £180 for your week.  
There is no subscription option and all holidays booked are charged a commission.

HouseTrip

Guest - 10-21%
Owner - 3%
OUCH - here you could be charged a whopping £210 extra when booking through Housetrip. 

HomeAway/Owners Direct/VRBO etc

Now a subsidiary of Expedia which includes many companies based around the world such as Abritel (French), FeWo-Direct (German) etc.  All these companies have now been changed to look the same and to charge the same fees. At the moment this is:

Guest - Nothing  (but see below)
Owner - 10%
Again, the owner may pass some or all of this 10% charge onto the holidaymaker. 

Currently owners can opt for a subscription listing allowing holidaymakers to deal direct and pay no fees.  However Brian Sharples, CEO of Owners Direct, has announced that he wants all owners to enable online booking by the end of 2016 so some owners may opt for this, especially if they don't get many bookings through the site.  This will be the same for all sites under the HomeAway umbrella but it may not be good news for the holidaymaker.  VRBO has just announced that it will be charging holidaymakers a service fee of between 4% and 10% on instant bookings and there is no doubt this will be rolled out to all other companies in the near future. 

Accurate Prices, Discounts etc

There is also an additional problem for owners using the instant booking systems.  Not all the companies they advertise with allow them to price their holidays accurately so they may not be able to pass on low occupancy discounts, reductions for longer stays etc.  Also, as nightly rates often vary depending on how long a holidaymaker wants to stay, the price quoted may not always be the best price as owners struggle to correctly quote with limited pricing structures available to them.   Six nights in a cottage or gite will generally be less per night than two nights per night but the owner may not be able to show this on instant booking sites.

Going on holiday is an expensive business and no-one wants to pay more than is absolutely necessary.  I think everyone would agree that hidden fees are the worst so if you want to make sure you are not paying more than you should then consider booking direct with the holiday home owner and not through instant booking on a large online travel agency.  By all means look on the sites but if you find something you like and it is only available with instant booking then use the power of Google to track down the owner's own website and book direct.  To do this look carefully through the listing as they may mention their name or location or see if any photos have the name of the property on them.  You might have to be a bit of a detective but you could save yourself a small fortune by booking direct. 

Owners are now also clawing back some of the internet from the online booking companies and there are Facebook groups where members can find cottages/gites to book direct.  Why not come and join the one I am an admin on - Book Your Holiday Direct with the Owner.

Oh and our website? No need to be a detective!  Just visit Eco-Gites of Lenault.

What do you think about instant booking fees?  Are you happy or would you rather pay a lesser amount or book direct?  Do let me know in a comment.  

Please pin me!



Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com
ethannevelyn



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 The percentage figures were kindly supplied by Steve Robertson of Essar Holiday Lets

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

The War Cemetery at St Charles-de-Percy


Scattered throughout northern Normandy are many war cemeteries where the fallen from WWII are buried in the country where they fell.  16 kms to the west of Eco-Gites of Lenault, just outside the small village of St Charles-de-Percy, is the most southerly of these where 809 British soldiers have found their final resting place.  They all died late in July or early August 1944 in the major allied thrust to get from Caumont L'Evente to the important town of Vire, driving a wedge through the German 7th Army and Panzer Group West.


As with all British war cemeteries they are maintained beautifully.  Each row of graves has a small area for plants around it, the edges perfectly straight and no weeds to be seen.  The grass is a perfect lawn.  A fitting place of calm for these brave men to lie after the horrors of war.  

Even in January, when I visited, there was colour and new growth to be seen, testament that their death was not in vain.  As was said on one grave I saw - "He died that we might live".  

Thank you brave soldiers.

Perfectly maintained beds

Heather at the ends of the rows of graves

Wych hazel

 Oxlip

Aubretia


For more details on other memorials please visit this blog on our website - Closest WWII Memorials to Eco-Gites of Lenault.


For more gardens post please do head over to Annie's lovely How does your Garden Grow linky:


Mammsaurus HDYGG

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Animal Tales - 54


Welcome to Animal Tales, the blog linky that brings together all sorts of animal blog posts from all over the world.  It runs from Tuesday morning thought to Thursday night and showcases a wide range of animal related posts.  Please note I am now happy to allow sponsored posts, reviews and give-aways.


Piglet Names

It looks like we are left with 3 piglets from Coco's litter of 10 (do pigs have litters?  I'm not sure if that is the right word).  Of the remaining 7 I know the names of some.  There is Major Pig, Minor Pig and Runty Pig with friends then Myrtilles and possibly my favourite - Prince William.  I am trying to remember the name of the first pig we sold but all I know is it isn't George because their other pig is called Peppa and as the new piglet is to be her "husband" he cannot be called George as in the TV programme George is Peppa's brother ... or so I was was told by his owner's 4 year old daughter!

So what are we to name our piglets?  One already has a name - Pickle.  She is the smallest of the three and the one who is always getting out.  She's a right little pickle!  I need some help naming the other two (which are both girls) and I have put more pictures up on this blog post.

NOTE - anyone who suggests Peppa will have their entry put in the bin!

Favourite Animal Tales

Once again many thanks to everyone who joined in last week.  Favourites included  Neesie's post on her dog Muffin and Clara from the expat survival guide and her post about going on safari with children.
Over to you now.  Please add your posts below. The posts can be old or new and as varied as the animals who we share our world with. If you tweet with the hashtag #AnimalTales I'll retweet you. Just give me a nudge if I appear to have forgotten you.

Full details of the linky can be found here but can I remind people of a couple of the "rules":
  • Please can you comment on at least 2 other blogs linked up - that is, after all the whole purpose of joining a linky to find and comment on more blogs and hopefully drive traffic back to your blog.
  • Please can you include my badge (preferably) or a link back to this blog.
  • Pinterest - not a rule but for even greater exposure of your blog post please do join the Animal Tales Pinterest board and pin a picture from your linked posts.
  • Finally if you want to add a sponsored post, review or give-away, please do.
  
 








Monday, 25 January 2016

Name those Piglets


From Coco's original family of 10 piglets we are now left with 3 piglets which we shall keep.  So far, however only one of them has a name, the naughty, smallest piglet who keeps escaping so being a right little pickle, that is her name - Pickle.

Over to you now as I need some inspiration to name the other two ... however I can assure you that is anyone suggests the name Peppa Pig it will be rejected straight away!!

They are both girls.

Piglet Number 1 is cream with large brown spots.  She is the fastest runner and the most nervous at the moment.  

Piglet Number 2 is also cream with a slight more hint of orange and with smaller black spots.  She is also the hairiest!


L-R Piglet No 1, Pickle, Piglet No 2


Piglet No 1


Piglet No 2 (left) and Piglet No 1


Piglet No 2


Piglet No 1

Mum is Coco Chanel and Dad is Boris Johnson!  Please do drop me your ideas for names in a comment below.


ANIMALTALES
A Bit Of Everything