Friday, 28 February 2014

Beauty Wishlist

I am always on the scout for new beauty products that I want to give a try, and in the olden days I probably would have splashed out on these as soon as they became popular without really worrying about unused products in my cupboard. Nowadays I make sure I have finished an item before I replace it with something new, which means I generally have a wish list running somewhere on my iPad with the items I am hoping to purchase next.

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Ole Henrikson Truth is in the Eyes - £30.81 from Beauty Bay
This is a sneaky one, because I have actually already bought this and am just waiting for it to arrive. I have lots of little bumps around my eyes and although I am not sure that they are actually millia, since seeing Meg's post about this stuff I have been contemplating picking up a tube. At the moment it is reduced at Beauty Bay so I snapped some up.

Real Techniques Stippling Brush - 15% off at £9.34 from HQ Hair 
I really don't need any more makeup brushes, but I do have a few blush products that are very easy to apply too heavily so am very tempted to grab this to give it a try.

Nars Narsissist Eyeshadow Palette - £50 from John Lewis
I know I will probably never get round to getting this, the difficulty I had in even finding it online testament to its probable scarcity, but I love the idea of it, I have 3 Nars eyeshadows that I absolutely love, in reality though I will probably just pick up singles that I want to try.

Bumble and Bumble Thickening Dry Spun Spray - £21.50 from Boots
This is one of those products that I want to try purely because it is the dupe for something else, the Oribe Dry texturising spray which at an eye watering £40 a can I know I will never buy. I have since heard about an even cheaper dupe though from Charles Worthington, so maybe I will try that instead!

Laura Mercier Mineral Powder Foundation - £31 from Space.NK
I have been contemplating going back to mineral foundations for a while now, liquid has been making me want to claw my face off within a while of applying because the cold air is drying out my skin more than I can hydrate it. I have heard great things about Laura Mercier and I think once I have finished a few other foundations off I shall treat myself to this one.

Babyliss Big Hair Styler - £44.99 from Boots
I really want this one, with me starting a new job soon I am going to be getting up very early so anything that can help make styling my hair easy I am on board with. The only thing stopping me at the moment is that I am debating wether to chop some more of my hair off, so am not sure which barrel size to get, as soon as I decide, I shall be buying this baby with my Boots points!

Glam Glow Mud Mask - £69.99  from HQ Hair (25% off the gift set linked until 3rd March with the code GLOW99, which makes this about the same price as one small tub!)
I have heard so much about this, and I really really want to try it, but the price is eye wateringly expensive for the size of pot, so this offer has actually got me realistically considering it. This mask is supposed to be amazing at sucking all the rubbish out of your face but also leaving it glowing and bright afterwards. Part of me is still so loyal to my Origins mask that I probably won't pick this up, but I fancy a splurge I know what is going in my basket.

Antipodes Vanilla Pod Hydrating Day Cream - £26.99 from feel Unique
Pretty soon my Kate Middleton face cream is going to die a death and being a fickle skincare person I want to try something new. I have read so many reviews of Antipodes products and this stuff sounds right up my street. Hydrating, bam thats what I am desperately lacking at the moment! This isn't too pricey for a day cream either so I shall probably pop in an  order when my Karin Herzog runs out.

Kiehls Creamy Eye Treatment with Avocado - £20 from Space.NK
If you follow me on twitter you will know about my love of avocados, I eat them just as they are all the time, can't get enough. So an eye cream with avocado in it? I suspect this will be too thick for my eyes, which is why I have held back until now but part of me really wants to just buy it to see.

So those are the items on my wish list, what do you have on yours?

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Book review: What I Did ★★

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What I Did by Christopher Wakling is the story of six year old Billy, who is having a grumpy day the same as his dad is having a grumpy day, while at the park he sees an opportunity for adventure and runs away from his father while he is on the phone and nearly gets run over. His father smacks him in his anger and his relief that Billy is unhurt, unfortunately for Billy and his dad a passer-by observes this event, reports his father for child abuse and the lives of the family are changed forever.

This is such a hard book to review as I had very mixed feelings while reading it, the concept was so interesting but reading it was like watching a car crash, I had very strong repulsive feelings while reading and I completely felt like I didn't want to keep reading. Being me, I have to finish anything I start, I know its stupid but I feel compelled to. It was definitely a weird feeling.

The novel is entirely told through Billy's perspective, and I really struggled with that. Having read Room and enjoyed it I didn't expect to find myself so frustrated by the child in this story, I found myself getting incredibly annoyed and angry with Billy myself basically because his childlike logic was so flawed, to the point where I felt like throwing the book across the room. That logic was basically that Billy's Dad had told him that the incident was over, in the past, and so Billy refused to tell the social workers what actually happened, but still told them enough for them to believe that he was being abused. Now I know I was a talkative child, so maybe a bit different, but even at six if I realised that things were serious and some scary grownups were asking me to talk I would have opened my mouth and talked for England.

Further frustrating is that the adults in the story didn't check all the facts, there is a moment where Billy is talking about his favourite David Attenborough documentary and the social worker thinks he is talking about being abused. I got so angry about that point in the story because a decent social worker would have profiled the child enough to realise that he was obsessed with David Attenborough documentaries and looked into wider possibilities for Billy's words. As someone who has studied child psychology (admittedly only at A Level) I know you have to think a little further outside the box when it comes to what kids say.

The ending of the novel actually turned out to be nowhere near as devastating as I had been imagining which was a huge let down for me, after persevering I wanted a strong conclusion, but the story was neither happy nor sad at the end, simply meh. The moral to the story lacked resonance because it was being taught to a six year old, if the voice of the novel had perhaps been Billy as an adult reminiscing on the impact his silence had on the situation, it may have felt more important, but as it was, the conclusion left me feeling quite empty of feeling.

Overall this book simply left me annoyed, which is disappointing because I wanted to love this book. I think if you are able to cope with being frustrated to the point of nausea while reading a book you could probably read this, but for me it was an incredibly difficult read!

★★

Sunday, 23 February 2014

This week

Has pretty much been all about Pinterest. I officially have an addiction to scrolling the Home Decor section. We have had our offer accepted on the house we were looking at so my head is full of ideas for what we would like to do to it. No purchases are being made until we officially have the house but a girl needs to plan these things!!

Here are a few of my favourite pins from this week, you can see the rest on my "Home Stuff" board here

Georgina Carr's pin on Pinterest. Georgina Carr's pin on Pinterest.

As you can see I have a bit of a thing for open shelving in Kitchens, and I am really loving the idea of Ochre yellow in the living room, but who knows what we will end up with eventually :) What's your favourite home decor trend at the moment?

Friday, 21 February 2014

Book Review: The Secret Life of Bletchley Park ★★★★★

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Did you watch The Bletchley Circle when it was on TV? I did, I was absolutely fascinated (and currently have season two, which aired last month, saved on my telly box to watch in one sitting.)

I had never, before the making of that television show, heard of Bletchley Park. I knew there had been code breaking as I knew that somewhere was a group of Brits that sussed out the Enigma Machine, but I didn't know that some of the code breakers had been women, and how bloody good they were at their jobs. Now to some, this may not be unusual as nothing at all was revealed about Bletchley until the 1970's anyway, but I am a librarian, and Bletchley Park was basically the beginnings of GCHQ, which is where librarians who want to be James Bond go to work, so for me not to know about this I felt like I had been living with a huge gap in my knowledge.

What happens when I find I have a gap in my knowledge? I go a little crazy trying to find out a whole lot of stuff about it, and that lead me to this wonderful book by Sinclair McKay. The Secret Life of Bletchley Park is most definitely a non-fiction work, describing what life was like while there, how the code breakers were recruited from the nations top universities, and how difficult life has been afterwards for the people who worked there, unable to share any of the information they gathered or even mention that Bletchley existed.

I am not going to sweeten this book up, it is a hard read, when I took this on I was not an experienced non-fiction reader and I really struggled to get into this as it simply didn't hold my attention at first. I remember sitting in my armchair exasperated thinking why do I need to know so much about each of these individual people's lives?!

This book is oh so worth persevering though, you need to know about those people because they are the ones who finally accepted they could speak up about Bletchley, and they passed on their knowledge before they passed away. As a Librarian (who, if you aren't aware, is essentially the preserver of knowledge for future generations) I struggle to not feel angry that so many of the people who worked at Bletchley still do not feel they should talk about it, and are letting a huge hole in our history stay covered up, I felt a deep pride for those people who have told their stories and allowed others to learn about their experiences so it did not take long for me to become engrossed.

Sinclair McKay took on a difficult subject, and though dry at times somehow he has managed to make it incredibly interesting, and I don't think that a better job could have been achieved. I could not wait to keep reading about the stages of the development of the Bombe machines, how close they were to cracking Enigma several times before the Germans got wise and upped their security. The tension of the time period is very accurately transcribed into the book, and by the end I was determined to go and visit Bletchley, something which is absolutely on my to-do list for this summer.

This has sparked a new interest for me, and the next book I fancy reading to do with Bletchley is Enigma by Robert Harris, a fictional take on code breaking, and I imagine that if you are not quite up to tackling the non-fiction Harris might be a good place to start for fictional renditions.

If you do fancy a challenge though I absolutely recommend you give this book a try.

★★★★★



Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Sunday Snowdrops

I have a thing for wandering around the gardens of posh country estates. I know next to nothing about flowers (my poor much missed Grandad George is probably watching over us all absolutely appalled by this having been a gardener) but I do know that I love how they look, how they smell, and how they make me feel.

Different flowers invoke different feelings to me, and there is nothing I admire more during the misery of February than Snowdrops, their delicate stems that appear in swathes and brave the crisp winter winds remind me to persevere through the tough stuff to get the joyous outcome at the end.

This weekend me and James popped back to Doddington Hall, a new favourite place of mine to visit since my trip before Christmas. Their gardens officially opened on sunday for the season and their speciality is bulbs, every sunday they are open for you to wander around the grounds admiring the landscape and the beautiful views along with the pretty flowers as new varieties begin to appear.

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Apparently, I had to post this last picture because James said it was the best thing we saw there, as Lister make old trucks. He will always choose engines over nature *sigh*

I am really regretting not just buying a season ticket for the gardens (£25), as I can see them being a new favourite haunt for the weekends. If you are nearby and fancy visiting it is £6 to get into the gardens, and when it is less wet there are hours worth of walks across the estate. The cafe is definitely worth wetting your whistle in too (best carrot cake I have ever eaten, no lie!)

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Valentine's Book Review: Wedding Night ★★★★

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Seeing as it is almost Valentine's Day I thought a romantic book would be in order, and when you want a girly romance to whom else do you turn than to Sophie Kinsella?

The queen of writing witty stories about modern women, her novels always make you chuckle and have a good dose of romance to them. I thought her latest book, the hilarious Wedding Night, would be a good one to pick up if you are in need of a light fluffy valentines read, but don't worry if you're single, this is just as funny a read if you aren't loved up yourself.

Lottie is unmarried and impatient, so when her current boyfriend Richard fails to propose when she thought he would she throws caution to the wind and ends their relationship. Left single and miserable, when her old flame Ben reminds her of their pact to marry each other if they were both still single at thirty Lottie jumps at the chance to avoid all the hassle and go straight for the ceremony. When Lottie's older sister Fliss hears of her plans she knows they are disastrous and tries to step in and ruin Lottie and Ben's wedding night, and subsequently their honeymoon, it proves to be no easy task, it is however full of laughs!

Obviously, this is Sophie Kinsella, it isn't going to tax the brain or make you feel like your life is full of meaning by the end of it, but when all you want to read is something fun and flirty this is the ideal story. The characters are daft, the plot line is crazy stupid, but that is absolutely what makes this story so enjoyable to read. I love Sophie's writing as she adds in such witty one liners which I identify with completely, her writing is often how my brain thinks ("putting the sausage in the cupcake" anyone? I snorted my tea when I read that one!) which I think is part of what makes them such easy reading.

We all have funny moments like Fliss and Lottie, and reading from both of their perspectives adds to the humour. I have a little sister and I often identified with Fliss's frustrations, and I am sure Tonia would identify with Lottie's annoyance at her overbearing big sister. The male characters are equally as enjoyable to read, I absolutely loved Lorcan and his interactions with Fliss's son, he comes across as haughty but is such a softy deep down and is only after his friend's best interests, something we all want in a man. Richard though a bit stiff at first quickly becomes a heart melter, and you end up rooting for him and Lottie despite his lack of proposal.

Wedding Night is a standalone novel, and although I loved both the characters and how funny it was I am glad that this isn't going to be stretched out into a series, the idea for the novel is so perfectly encapsulated in this individual volume that to try and adapt the situation to a wider range of plots would stretch it too far.

So why not treat yourself to a valentine's gift of a girly romantic read?

★★★★



Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Origins GinZing Mascara

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A couple of months ago I had one of those disastrous makeup moments. You know the ones, where your whole face turns into a melting mess and theres nothing you can do to stop it. I had a very sudden reaction to the mascara I was wearing and from being perfectly normal suddenly my eyes felt like they needed to be scratched out of my sockets, they ran like a river and spilled my mascara all over my cheeks. Fortunately I was at a friends house and she had makeup wipes on hand to sort out the mess, and she also had a recommendation for me.
Try Origins.

Origins? For makeup? I mean, obviously I know they are great for skincare but I had never even considered them for makeup before. She swore that their mascara was wonderful if you had sensitive eyes, so I stored the little nugget of information in my brain until I was next near a counter.

A few weeks later I popped over to York for a spot of shopping, and in their outlet is a Cosmetics Company outlet store, which stock Origins! Naturally while stocking up on my favourite face masks I had a gander at the mascaras they had. Origins actually make two mascaras that I have found, but in this shop they only had the GinZing mascara. It was nicely discounted being £12.50 as opposed to the £17.50 you pay in Boots, so I decided it was worth a try. I bought a tube and couldn't wait to get it home.

omascara2Touted as a brightening mascara that lengthens and lifts lashes, I have to agree with its claims. The product is slightly wet to give your lashes a smooth gloss like finish, while also being not so wet that your lashes clump together. This mascara has a pretty hefty brush in its arsenal too, the bristles separate lashes creating a fan effect that is natural and fluttery, while still retaining enough body to create impact.

The formula of this product is so incredibly gentle I wish I had come across it sooner, this has yet to cause my eyes to run, itch or need some serious massage at the end of a long work day. I can confidently wear this when wearing my contacts and not worry about it sticking to my lenses or irritating my eyes. After a month or so of use I generally have to dispose of mascaras because they begin to cause my eyes to sting, my ultimate signal for a mascara that is getting stale, yet three months in to this tube and it is neither dried out or funky smelling, and although it will be binned because Lisa Eldridge tells me to, I feel like I could keep using it for a little while longer.

The product stays on all day and holds my lashes in their imposed curl without effort. There has been no flaking, and it doesn't melt onto my lower eye lids until I give it a good rub, yet it removes easy as pie with my balm cleanser in the evening, further cementing its position as being anti-irritant (nothing worse than having to scrub at sore eyes).

Although I paid less than standard for this product, I am without a doubt going to be buying it again. Even if I have to shell out the full price, it is worth it for a product that lasts all day without leaving me with bloodshot eyes, I highly recommend it!

Have you ever tried any Origins makeup before?



Sunday, 9 February 2014

This Week

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I catalogued two cook books worth of recipes. I am indexing them all in the old fashioned drawers James got me for christmas as at last count I had 47 cookbooks, and they are a nightmare to navigate.

I viewed the venue for an event James and his friends are planning for this summer, very exciting!

I hosted a very successful event for National Libraries Day about helping people to read on their gadgets. I feel quite proud of the queue I had at one point.

I rediscovered my love of peanut butter on crumpets for breakfast. Can't eat them too often though or I will resemble a beach ball!

I cooked a delicious gnocchi recipe from A Beautiful Mess. It was the first time I remember having gnocchi and I really enjoyed it, though next time I think I will add a lot more spice and a good helping of parmesan.

I Finished a wonderful book, which I can't wait to review.

Finally,

I spent a huge amount of time in meetings for mortgages and viewing houses. They aren't kidding when they say this stuff is stressful, and cups of tea and paperwork are no fun so I took no pictures.

How was your week?


Thursday, 6 February 2014

Emma Hardie Natural Lift and Sculpt Body Treatment

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I've been dying to talk about this product for a while, but I am lazy and I have to admit I don't use body scrubs anywhere near as often as I should, which somewhat limits how much you can write about a product! I've had this for a while now though and given it a thorough testing so I feel like I can harp on about it.

Let me start by telling you that I am generally a fan of cheap and cheerful body products, I like the Body Shop, and recently I have ventured into Philosophy and Lush products, but generally I don't spend too much on them. Being a fan of the Emma Hardie facial skincare range though I spotted this in TK Maxx a couple of months ago and I just had to give it a try.

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Emma Hardie has done wonders for my face, and although I don't feel like there is a lot that the skin on my body requires (It is pretty normal, maybe a little dry from shaving) I wanted to see if this product could benefit me even when I didn't think it was necessary. I have to say, this has become a bit of a staple for me now, and I use it at least once a week to reinvigorate my skin after a week of shower gels and razors sap some of the moisture out of it, and it just feels like I am treating my skin.

This is no normal body scrub, it is a scrub and mask in one. The idea of a mask for the body at first confused me a little, as I couldn't really understand the benefits but Emma Hardie recommend it as a detoxifying treatment if you have body acne, which I have been a sufferer of in the past, and I occasionally get a few blemishes on my upper back. The rose and china clay smooth onto the skin and even a thin layer feels like it pulls out impurities. I also recently used this on an ingrown hair that had gotten a little infected on my leg (why are they always on my calf?!) and this layered fairly thickly for 5 minutes in a steamy shower pulled out all the bad stuff. Pretty impressive.
The scrub is mild because it is encased in the creamy mask, but still has enough buff to it as it uses Himalayan salt and red corn granules to still take off that dead skin.

The real selling point for me with this product is the almond oil. I smooth this onto my legs while I rinse my hair out and by the time I come to buff it off my legs feel really moisturised. I don't have really really dry legs so using a thick body cream or lotion is far too much for me to use regularly, and it is a complete pain waiting for it to sink in. This stuff manages to moisturise me while in the shower but without leaving a horrible residue like the Nivea in shower moisturisers do.

I have been using this once a week for a couple of months now and the pot is 200ml so there is still loads of product left. If you can find it in TK Maxx I would grab a tub to give a go as it is less than half the price in there, but if you can't find it, then it is available in the new packaging from Emma Hardie stockists including Feel Unique. It isn't cheap but it does multiple jobs for me and ticks several boxes so I think it is worth it.

Have you ever tried luxury body scrubs before?

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Book Review: The Alchemist ★★

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From what I can find, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is a book with a cult following. A lot of people have read it, a good chunk love it and a few hate it, and some even call it a modern classic. I am afraid that though I wouldn't like to use the H word regarding a book, I didn't love this book, and I really wanted to.

The Alchemist tell the tale of a young shepherd who decides there is more to life than remaining in his humble home. He sells his flock of sheep and embarks on an adventure to make more of himself. He travels far and meets a wide variety of different people, each with a life message to impart.

It is relatively short at just over 200 pages so in theory shouldn't take long to read but it took me eight days to plough through this. I don't think that I have ever felt so inclined to put a book down and leave it unfinished as I did half way through this, possibly only by Death Comes to Pemberley. I just did not feel inclined to keep reading the story, it is full of spiritual preaching and I loathe preaching that is trying to pass as fiction. I absolutely had to sit and force myself to finish it (which took an hour and a half, not bad) but even by the end I couldn't find much that I enjoyed to redeem it.

The story is in essence a nice tale of accomplishing your dreams and following them despite hardship. This is a great fable, and one which is lovely to conclude a story with, but the message runs throughout the whole book very strongly. The secondary characters are always teaching the Boy a lesson, and there are omens which he must take heed of or suffer the consequences. Don't get me wrong I am an eternal optimist and you will never find me giving up my ambitions no matter what life throws at me, and I believe if you keep trying you will always get there in the end, but I don't think that the reader needed to have this told to them in such an obvious way. I can understand why so many people may enjoy it, as it may provide them with the boost they need to see the better side of life, but for me this felt very forced.

I enjoyed the character of The Boy, though again, due to Coelho's method of telling the reader his message we lack insight into the main character, he was ultimately a vessel for the message and I wish he had been fleshed out so that we could enjoy him as a character as well.

Ultimately I feel like The Alchemist is a moral story, and if you are in the mood for being reminded of your life's potential you may enjoy it, but if like me you already believe in your own ability to succeed I would give this a miss.

★★

Sunday, 2 February 2014

A Treat for Pooches

Today it is time for some baking, but not of the human variety, it is time to do some baking for my canine friends.

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I have introduced you to my other half's dogs before, there are four of them in the household and they are absolutely wonderful. They are also very partial to the odd biscuit or three. Knowing I really wanted to give baking homemade biscuits for them a go, my Mum kindly bought me some bone shaped cutters for christmas, I was very excited to finally get around to using them earlier this week. I think the dogs were excited too!

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These biscuits are also incredibly easy to make, it took me maybe an hour with cooking time to make these, so relatively easy to whip up regularly if you would rather give your dogs a treat filled with stuff you can trust.

I spent quite a while looking at recipes on the internet to use, and eventually settled on this one from Sally's Baking Addiction. I have made a few changes to the quantities though to make for a slightly easier to handle dough as Sally described hers as stiff and it didn't seem to rise much, my quantities are listed below.

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You will need:
275g Smooth Peanut Butter
200ml Skimmed Milk
1 Large Egg
250g Wholemeal Flour
45g Porridge Oats
1 Heaped Tablespoon Baking Powder
A few strips of Streaky Bacon, or 2 blister packs of pre-cut bacon

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Start by frying your bacon, it needs to be cooked low and slow so that the fat renders but it stays flexible and doesn't crumble. Set it aside to cool while you pre-heat the oven to 160 degrees celsius, and start mixing the other ingredients together.

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Put your Peanut Butter, Milk, and Egg into a large bowl (It needs to be large so you don't make too much mess) and slowly start to mix it together. You need to be gentle here and don't slosh too much.

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Eventually the slop will combine and start to look like thinned Peanut Butter.

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Add the Baking Powder and Flour and start to bring together the wet and dry. The mix will take on a doughy consistency and start to come away from the bowl.

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Add your oats and cooled bacon slices and use your hands to evenly distribute them through the dough.

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Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and bring it together further. Roll it out to a half inch thickness.

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Take your cutters and start chopping out those bones! I ended up with over 30 biscuits after using all the scraps of dough. Place them on a lined baking tray and cook until just brown, this took me 18 minutes, turn them over and cook for a further 12 minutes or until brown on that side as well.

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Once cooked, remove from the trays to cool. They should be quite dry and crisp.

Keep them in an airtight container for up to a week, or freeze them for up to two months if you have less canine chums to feed. Needless to say these haven't lasted long (there are only 5 left after a week!) and the dogs absolutely love them so I will be definitely making them again.

Have you tried making your own pet treats before?