Don’t Shoot the Dog!: The New Art of Teaching and Training by Karen Pryor

visual of book jacket - Don't shoot the DogThis is my first ever “dog book” and I enjoyed reading it. For me it opened my eyes to training with positive reinforcement and Prior made a great case against punishment for any creatures as a training method. To me it seems tempting and obvious to scold a dog or child for doing something you don’t want them to do but this book made be re-think that mindset.  Stop telling people and animals off and start thaking them and praising them for all the “right” things they are doing! This is very powerful and a really nice way to change your own behaviour.

The part about shaping behaviour for one’s own bad habits left me a little cold however. As a lip and cheek chewer I am finding it really difficult to self-train an incompatible behaviour etc. It’s a good starting book for me as I am left with the feeling that there is a lot more to learn. My next book is Dogs: A Startling New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior & Evolution. Can’t wait to get stuck in.

Cats welcome at our holiday cottage

Cat harnessI would love to meet all the pets that come to stay at our holiday cottage in Bellingham. But alas this is not possible. One of my favourites so far though has to be the cat, “Benson”. He was so good and so well-travelled. His “parents” have always had him in the car with them on trips and he loves it. He was run over as a youngster and our guests basically taught him to walk again by putting him on a leash and taking him out every day a few steps at a time. Now he’s going great guns and his owners told me that they had a great time with him in the cottage and that Bellingham was “the friendliest village in the UK”!

p.s. the photo isn’t Benson – just a nice photo of a cat harness.

I don’t use a harness for my cat but they can be a safe way of letting your feline friend roam outside if, for example, there is a danger of traffic or other predators in the vicinity.

If you want try a harness make sure that you introduce it very slowly day by day with treats and fuss. Only slip it on when your cat is in a calm and happy state and then only for a few seconds. Repeat many times with treats and fuss and build up the time that she wears the harness. Eventually she will associate the harness with nice things and then you can let her wear it around the house before you attach the leash. Let her get used to the leash by leaving it always in a slack position. Do not try and force the cat into the direction you want her to go – she will not appreciate this. Instead try and coax her with a gentle pull in the right direction and as soon as she is going that way loosen the leash. Once outside let her roams for herself and just follow along holding the leash loosely. A gentle pull in the right direction with treats should get your cats walking nicely but they are not “walkers” like dogs.

In time she will learn to love the harness and enjoy her outside time as much as Benson.

It’s curtains for us

I love updating the décor of the Bowery. It makes me happy and I know our customers appreciate it. This week we have new curtain poles and curtains to put up. I will be able to put the poles up tomorrow and pin the new curtains to length but I’ll have to take them back home to sew and make the matching cushions with the surplus fabric. I know I have the ability to make a basic cover with a zip no problem but one with Oxford type edges? Zip free? Hmmm. I’ll obviously Google for guidance.

Photos to follow.

Settee covers and a smile

Our settee and lounge chairs were looking decidedly shabby. W didn’t want to throw them out as the carcasses are in perfect order. Buying a quality new suite is also expensive. Welcome to the world of settee covers. We realised quite quickly that there isn’t much competition in this market so we phoned Plumbs, booked an appointment for a home visit and waited for the hard sell.

Dave came round to measure up had us in fits of laughter from the start and it couldn’t have been a better experience. I was totally suprised at how casual it all was and it was no problem for him to help us choose for our taste and budget.

We waited about eight weeks for them to be made and delivered. Dave came back to fit them for us. We went for piped decoration in a luxury cotton blend. Dave threw in all the scatter cushion covers too and it came to about £750 which we thought was a great deal. It sounds a lot but another company who offered a copy service with no piping or extra cushions were quoting around £1000 – no fittng just postal delivery.

Plumbs is simply massive – they buy all their fabric in bulk and everything is automated in a gigantic factory so the costs of materials is kept very low. The service is great and I would recommend them to anyone thinking of updating their sofa with new covers as opposed to new settees. They look amazing and it keeps your old settees out of landfill for a few more years!

Our fabulous swallows in summer

“Swallows are small birds with dark glossy blue backs, red throats, pale under parts and long distinctive tail streamers. They are extremely agile in flight and spend most of their time on the wing. They are widespread breeding birds in the Northern Hemisphere, migrating south in winter. Recent declines due to loss of habitat quality in both their breeding and wintering grounds mean they are an Amber List species.” RSPB

We have two swallows nests happily nesting in the archway between our house and the neighbours. It is a moment of pure joy to see them arrive in the spring and very sad to see them go when it gets cold.
Swallows are fierce protectors of their nests and I have seen them on numerous occasions swooping down at an unsuspecting cat in an agressive fashion (including my own cat). Every morning I can see them through the bathroom window as the perch on the telephone wire preening themselves in readiness for the day’s hunt of flying insects.

Here is a marvellous peom about swallows from just over the boder.

The Swallow
The swallow, bonny birdie, comes sharp twittering o’er the sea,
And gladly is her carol heard for the sunny days to be;
She shares not with us wintry glooms, but yet, no faithless thing,
She hunts the summer o’er the earth with wearied little wing.

The lambs like snow all nibbling go upon the ferny hills;
Light winds are in the leafy woods, and birds, and bubbling rills;
Then welcome, little swallow, by our morning lattice heard,
Because thou com’st when Nature bids bright days be thy reward!

Thine be sweet mornings with the bee that’s out for honey-dew;
And glowing be the noontide for the grass-hopper and you;
And mellow shine, o’er day’s decline, the sun to light thee home:
What can molest thy airy nest? sleep till the day-spring come!

The river blue that rushes through the valley hears thee sing,
And murmurs much beneath the touch of thy light-dipping wing.
The thunder-cloud, over us bowed, in deeper gloom is seen,
When quick reliev’d it glances to thy bosom’s silvery sheen.

The silent Power, that brought thee back with leading-strings of love
To haunts where first the summer sun fell on thee from above,
Shall bind thee more to come aye to the music of our leaves,
For here thy young, where thou hast sprung, shall glad thee in our eaves.

Thomas Aird 1802 – 1876

Thomas Aird

Swimming pool photos have arrived

Swimming poolAt last we have pictures of the pool and the sunloungers.


The rooftop terrace is beginning to look more friendly with the addition of some furniture and plants are to follow.

Stonehaugh Pie Fest

Last Friday saw the 2nd Annual Pie Fest competition in Stonehaugh. 18 people entered with various pies including meat, fish and vegetarian. Incredibly 1st and 2nd prizes were won with vegetarian recipes which is a great triumph for us veggies showing that veggie food can be really tasty for everyone. I scooped 1st prize with my mini shepherd’s pies and sweet potato topping. Paul Craney came 2nd with his vegetarian Jalousie. Recipes for both are below. See more pictures on our Facebook page.

My Mini Veggie Shepherd’s pies with Sweet Potato

1 third sweet potato,

2 thirds normal potatoes mashed with butter, milk, black pepper and salt.
Mushrooms cooked in oil and butter
Quorn mince
Splash brown sauce
Splash red sauce
Fine diced carrots (use juice for stock)
Thyme, Rosemary, Sage
Salt & pepper
Bake in ramekins 20 mins 200 degrees celsius.

Paul’s Vegetarian Jalousie

Green Lentils
Cashew Nuts
Garlic – mixed herbs – salt pepper

Baked in lattice pastry

Birthday card & coasters

digital birthday cardThis is the birthday card theme I did for my sister’s 40th birthday. That’s her on the front. I also used this image to create a load of cardboard coasters for her party. I just printed them out on standard play card and cut each one out individually – they were absorbent enough.


image of coaster designI liked this idea so I thought I would create some other coasters based on photos of my cats. I liked the round ones so initially started with these.

In the end I found a guy in Tynemouth Market that prints onto ceramic tiles so I gave him these images to print up as ceramic coasters for me immortalising Mister and Popeye



Photo manipulation and restoration

Photo montagePhoto montage is basically merging more than one photograph together to make an entirely different photographic image.

You can have a lot of fun with this technique duping your friends and family!

Photo touch upOh No! This wedding photo was a disaster but with the powers of Photoshop it can all be mended.

I can do an awful lot with old snaps. Get backgrounds enhanced, colours modified and improve the overall tone of  images. Family photo re-touch


Great result for my hubby. 6 nations has dominated our whole courtship. Rubgy world cup in Australia was our reason for going. (You too Keith and Jacqui – honest).

Spent all day in a friend’s house after walking the dogs while he went snoozing. This is his artwork published today on you tube:

I really hope you like it – it’s where I live and it’s totally wild.

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