Posted on December 30, 2011 in Hounds, Life, the Universe and Everything, Oddities by Jay6 Comments »

OK, so who got a houseplant for Christmas this year? No? Well, then maybe you are thinking of picking one up in the sales next time you go to the garden centre, DIY store, or even the supermarket?

Think carefully.

The plant up at the top there is a cycad Sago Palm, and apparently is on sale all over the damn place as a houseplant because it’s attractive and easy to care for. Unfortunately, it’s also highly palatable to pets and has pretty, bright orange seeds which might also be attractive to children.

‘Unfortunately’, because the cycad Sago Palm is extremely toxic, and there’s an estimated 50-75% chance of death if you (or your cat, dog, or child) eat any part of the plant, the seeds being the most lethal. Fortunately, because I read the Poodle And Dog Blog link on Facebook this morning, I now know this, and so do you.

I don’t normally use this blog as a vehicle for warnings, and I don’t usually post chunks of someone else’s text, but I’m going to this time because a) I think it’s a good warning, and b) I have what feels like flu, and therefore no energy to be creative. So this is from Wikipedia:

“Cycad Sago Palm is extremely poisonous to animals (this includes humans) if ingested. Pets are at particular risk since they seem to find the plant very palatable.[2] Clinical symptoms of ingestion will develop within 12 hours and may include vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, seizures, liver failure, or hepatotoxicity characterized by icterus, cirrhosis, and ascites. The pet may appear bruised, have nose bleeds (epistaxis), melena (blood in the stool), hematochezia (bloody straining), and hemarthrosis (blood in the joints).[3] The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center estimates a fatality rate of 50 to 75 percent when ingestion of the Sago Palm is involved. The incidence of Sago Palm ingestion by pets has risen by over 200% in the last five years.[4] If any quantity of the plant is ingested, a poison control center or doctor should be contacted immediately. Effects of ingestion can include permanent internal damage and death.

All parts of the plant are toxic; however, the seeds contain the highest level of the toxin cycasin.”

Admittedly, there are many, many toxic houseplants, and there are many, many toxic garden plants. However, plants which are equally toxic – eg the Yew and the Laburnham – do not seem to be so palatable, and don’t get eaten so often. Also, the aril of the yew (the ‘berry’), is pretty much the only part of the tree which is not poisonous, so although they are bright and attractive and taste sweet they won’t actually kill your dogs or your children*.

Unlike these things.

The cycad Sago Palm appears to be very tasty and is eaten quite often by pets. This is a quote from the Veterinary Information Network (VIN) (it’s American, so they use ‘veterinarian’ not ‘veterinary surgeon’ but it’s the same thing):

“I swear, it seems to me that dogs are attracted to sago palms. In the cases of toxicity I see (several each year), it seems to be the only plant in the yard the dogs chew on. … I think we need to be more proactive in trying to warn owners they should not have these plants at all.”

If you follow the link, you’ll see there’s one particularly sad and cringe-making story there about an unsuspecting owner who unwittingly killed his dog by playing a game of fetch with the seed pods. How bloody awful for them both.

In case those of you here in the UK are thinking that we don’t need to worry because we don’t have them here – yes we do. I quickly found them for sale at a nursery in Norfolk where they state that they were ‘probably the food of dinosaurs’. Being highly concerned that this might give people the false impression that these palms are harmless – or even edible, God help us – I sent them an email with the appropriate information link, and the Managing Director got back to me very quickly and said they would amend the website, alerting customers to the danger, bless his cotton socks.

It’s so nice when people do actually listen and do something. Well done, that man!

I didn’t used to worry too much about house and garden plants, although I took out all the Monk’s Hood and Laburnham when we moved in. But Ranger does chew on plants and I’ve had to chase him off my day lilies more than once.

So you can bet your bottom currency note of your choice that I will not be buying one of these things.


* Or so I’ve read. I haven’t actually tried them, and I wouldn’t advise anyone to do so. Just for the record.

Posted on December 26, 2011 in Food and Drink, The Home Front by Jay15 Comments »

And actually, despite feeling really rather ill, I enjoyed the day.  See, if this isn’t flu* it certainly feels close and it developed fully just in time for Christmas Day.

Both sons came over with their girlfriends (though one was missing for the morning since she had to work) and Great Fun Was Had By All.  No, really .. even me!  I managed to cook a turkey dinner with a side order of lamb in red wine and rosemary sauce and three choices of dessert (a fourth being provided by Son No. 1) and it all went down very well, even though the bacon and chipolata rolls were a tad singed and the turkey leaked grease all over the worktop which then seeped into my nice turquoise tunic top while I carved it.

All the gifts were greeted with delighted exclamations of surprise and/or glee, and I have to say, two of the most notable were from me to OH.  Viz: one hard-to-find replacement for the favourite mug he broke recently and was mourning, and a Tuesday sock.

A Tuesday sock (singular)?

Yes.  You see, OH was given a pack of days-of-the-week socks some time ago, and fell in love with them.  He loves orderly things, and it gives him great satisfaction to wear these socks on the correct day.  However, a couple of weeks ago I found one in the washing machine with a load of my stuff and I kidnapped it.

OK, more explanations.  OH likes to use fabric conditioner and I don’t.  Also – and this is quite funny – he accused me of losing his socks in the wash some time ago and began to do all his laundry himself so he could keep track of things.

So when I found a Tuesday sock in my laundry, I immediately went to taunt him with it, and then hid it and refused to give it back.  OH became quite nervous about what he would do when Tuesday came around and there was only one Tuesday sock left, and I had the brilliant idea of wrapping it and giving it to him back in his little pile of Christmas gifts.

His expression was priceless, and quite made me forget my own personal misery for a while.

“But .. hang on, this is MY sock!!’

Towards the evening, of course, I began to feel worse, and when the chaps and T went out with the dogs, I curled up in my chair wrapped in a fuzzy warm blanket and dozed.  I felt so rotten that I felt totally unable to play Mah Jong with Son No. 1′s brand new set when they got back.  Ah well, another time.

This morning I feel a tad better.  My temperature has gone down to near normal, but I’m still full of gunk, aches, coughs and sneezes and my chest hurts.  Gah.

I hope I’m OK for our ‘official’ Boxing Day on Tuesday.


* Yeah, yeah.  I know.  It isn’t flu, clearly, or I wouldn’t have been able to function at all, and certainly wouldn’t feel the slightest bit better this morning.  But sheesh. This is Christmas!  I didn’t need a feverish cold, either!

Posted on December 21, 2011 in Life, the Universe and Everything, Oddities by Jay5 Comments »

This will be the last Retail Therapy post.   It’s the last one before Christmas, and it’s MUCH too late to do any ordering now, but I don’t want this blog to become an Etsy vehicle anyway, so enough is enough.

For now.

So, what can we do this week – since it is much too late to be ordering Christmas gifts?  Well, why don’t we look at thank you cards?  Maybe they’re an anachronism in these days of phone calls for pretty much everything and social networking for everything that’s left, but I think they’re a great tradition and people do love to get them.  The witty ones at the top are printed on an Adana flat bed press with antique woodblock letters – by Print for Love of Wood.  SO much nicer than the generic W H Smith or Clinton Cards offerings, if you ask me, and at £2.50 each, hardly more expensive, even though these are lovingly hand made especially for you.

There is a great selection of beautiful, hand made cards out there.  For instance, if you have loved ones you won’t be seeing at Christmas, you might want to pick up half a dozen of these delightful hand-made cards.  You can send one to Auntie Em, for that jumper she sent you with the four foot long sleeves.

Now, I ask you – what aunt wouldn’t love that?  You can buy these charming floral thank-yous from Celebrationz, for £2.61 each.

And maybe Uncle George would appreciate getting one of these in the post to thank him for that stale box of liquorice allsorts.

Not over-the-top cute, these, but really nicely designed and cool as cucumbers.  Perfect for the male rellies, and the more discerning women, too.  Chevron ‘Thank you’ notecards from Delightfully Noted.

… or maybe these would be more appropriate!

I don’t know how stale they might be, but I just love the idea of thank you notes covered in sweeties, don’t you?  Get them while they’re hot fresh off the press from Pink Box Crafts.

It’s the thought that counts, after all, so if you do get totally inappropriate gifts from your nearest and dearest, don’t curse them.  Thank them warmly, with a really puzzling card, and brighten their day.

That genius idea is from Words For You, and of course, since it is more than just a card, it’s a little more expensive – but still good value at £4.59 for one.

And of course, if you get something wonderful, you’ll definitely need these absolutely delightful art deco cards on which to jot down your gratitude and send off into the void that is the Post Office, to be delivered later by your very own Sally the Post Lady*.

These are from The Polite Fox, hand printed on an antique printing press in a beautiful pure blue on a quality cotton blend paper.  If you are writing to someone older, who really cares about nice things and suffers from delights in a little gentle nostalgia, these are the ones for you!  Just £9.83 for a set of eight, high-quality cards with envelopes.

And for those with children, how about these cute-but-not-too-cute, children’s thank you notes?  Twenty four sheets in a pack with coloured envelopes – a bargain at £10 from Aimee and Lou at Yoyo me.

And don’t forget to get your order in now, because some of these need to be sent from the US, and I’m sure you’ll be wanting to get scribbling before the New Year is in.

*Sally the Post Lady is great.  She is our post carrier, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen her without a smile on her face.  She is often to be seen with her blond curls flying and toothpaste-ad smile flashing, as she cycles into the teeth of a force 9 hurricane to get our mail delivered safely.  She is pretty, and super-friendly, efficient and very Enid Blyton.  She brightens my day.

And I’m a straight-as-a-die woman, by the way.

Posted on December 12, 2011 in Life, the Universe and Everything by Jay8 Comments »

Now. What shall I show you this week?  I do, of course, have some spiffy stuff in my HoundMade Designs shop, but only for those of you who have dogs.  And even then, only for those who want to spend their hard-earned cash dressing them up for special occasions … and anyway, there’s not so much under ten pounds, so I’m showing you some spiffy stuff from other people, instead.

There’s still just about time to order from overseas, providing you don’t then want to post your goodies off somewhere else, so this week will be a mix of home-grown and overseas items. They’ll have to be small and lightweight, but then with everything under £10 or so, they’re going to be pretty small anyway.

How about Christmas jewellery? It makes a great stocking filler, it’s small, easily packed and posted, and it’s festive and fun!

And to start, I found these delicious Christmas tree earrings!

They’re only £9.84 and they’re from KCMisMe on Etsy. I have some Christmas earrings in my own shop on Etsy, Jay Silver, but it’s nowhere near as classy as these gorgeous things.

Oh, but .. wait! I did jewellery last week, didn’t I? And no doubt you all rushed off and bought some, and you’re all jewelleried out! So.

Who could possibly resist these adorable wine charms? Forget the Christmas trees and holly and snowmen and jingle bells and all. These are much more fun!

From Wine All About It, they cost a stunningly low £3.83! I don’t know how they even make them for that money. Better order quickly though, since they are made in Canada.

Next up, a super gift for a hostess, or a stocking filler, whichever you like. Have you ever seen such pretty, personalised wine stoppers?

Made by Ruthie Sutter of Pottery Kreations and costing a very reasonable £9.83, again, they come from across The Pond, so get those orders in!

Strolling over to Maureen Pinder, can you guess what these are?

Well, yeah, there’s a heavy clue in the picture, isn’t there? They’re wine bottle aprons, to wrap round your bottle of plonk classy wine to stop the drips spoiling your special tablecloth.  Clever, huh?  And extremely festive.  Educational, too!  AND only £2.50!

Lastly, something cute for the kitchen.  Yours, maybe, or again, a stocking stuffer for a designated driver!

Simple, but effective; a Christmas pudding tea cosy!  This one is made by Madam Morgans and will set you back only £9.00!  Sound expensive?  Not really.  Nine pounds is actually quite reasonable for a hand-crafted pretty thing like this, when you consider the work that goes into it.

People – for some reason – don’t expect to pay much for handcrafted items, and I suppose I’ve perpetuated that myth by finding you some real bargains during this series of Retail Therapy posts, but the fact is that many hand-crafters are at best paying themselves sweat-shop wages, and at worst, barely covering their costs.

And let’s face it, if you buy from places like China* you’ll surely be supporting the equivalent of sweat-shops because how can they produce goods so cheaply otherwise?

Just something to think on.

* Yeah, check those labels, you’ll find a very high percentage of Christmas gifts from reputable UK stores actually come from China. Even those with the Union Jack on them.