Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Healthy Store Cupboard Essentials

If you are trying to be more healthy with your food I would say that your store cupboard is where it all begins. Being a Slimming Worlder there are some things that I try to always make sure I have in my cupboards either because a. they can be used in so many different ways and b. they're quick and easy to make a meal out of. Most of this stuff is also very cheap so this kind of healthy store cupboard would be suitable for any budget whether you're a student, a family or just a couple. I think one of the reasons I've been so successful at keeping to a healthy eating regime is because I have always planned what I'm going to eat to an extent kept the right things in my cupboard, I'm not going to go into fridge/fresh stuff at the moment but I thought I'd share with you some of the things you'd be likely to find in my 'store cupboard' whenever you might open it:

Tomato Puree
I made a schoolgirl error the other day and made spag bol thinking I had hoards of this stuff in, turns out that I'd run out of it so I had to make it without it. I usually make sure I have one or two tubes of this in because it can be used for spag bol, chilli or SW pizzas which are three of my favourite SW meals.

Plum Tomatoes
Again for purposes of spag bol and chilli and of course all day breakfasts. I buy Tesco Everyday Value because I don't think there's any difference at all between those and branded ones.

Tomato Passata
If you're unsure of what this is it's just basically sieved tomatoes so it's like a thick tomato sauce without the pips. This is great for chillis, curries and even for just using as a pasta sauce. You can get a few different variations to include basil or garlic to spice things up a little if you do use it as a pasta sauce, it's roughly 40p per carton and again I don't bother buying branded because own brand is just as good (Lidl also do a nice passata).

Very Lazy Garlic & Very Lazy Chillies
These are a brilliant alternative to fresh stuff; there's nothing I hate more than crushing garlic cloves because it's messy and it makes my hands stink! Same goes for chilli and if you happen to touch your eyes after you've worked with chilli and you forget - well let's just say I don't recommend it! 1 teaspoon of one of these is equal to 1 red chilli/clove of garlic so they're really simple to use and they last ages!

Spaghetti or Pasta
For me these are an obvious addition to any store cupboard because they're brilliant for making quick, easy and cheap meals. I like to cook pasta at night and then use it the next day for lunch because it's a nice alternative to sandwiches.

Baked Beans/spaghetti in tomato sauce
I would honestly feel lost without these in my cupboard at all times; they're brilliant for having with meals or on toast/jacket potatoes.

An alternative to sugar which can take some getting used to if you're a real sugar addict but now I can't really tell a difference especially in things like coffee/tea and on my Weetabix. Lots of healthy baking recipes include sweetener so I always make sure I have it in jar form as well as tablets.

Mug Shot/Savoury Rice/Pasta n' Sauce
I would think you either love or hate these packet pasta/rice things, I personally love them because they're low in fat/calories, they're quick and easy and they're pretty tasty. 

Mixed Herbs
Rather than having a rack of loads of different herbs I just buy the pots of mixed herbs because most of the recipes I do don't need specific herbs so these are a lot cheaper and more convenient.

Chicken/Beef/Veg stock pots/cubes
Stock cubes and stock are a vital ingredient in lots of Slimming World recipes and they are of course a main ingredient in soups. I always make sure I have some of each (usually more beef than anything else) because they're included in so many of the recipes I make.

Fry light
I never ever use oil in my cooking anymore because a. I don't like the mess it makes and b. I can't tell a difference between oil and Fry Light and Fry Light has infinitely less calories! Just a couple of sprays on whatever cooking you're doing adds a bit of a lubricant and helps to brown things off, like roast potatoes, in the oven. 

Are there any other essentials that you always keep in your cupboards?

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Monday, 2 March 2015

From the girl who thought she didn't like roll on deodorant

To me, roll on deodorant was one of those products that I never gave a second glance, as far as I was concerned gone are the days that i'd be swiping anything like that under my arms. I used to use roll on deodorant when I was at 'that age' where sweat became a problem and I remember my mum used to buy me a roll on called 'Mum' (does that still exist?!) and it was what I used every day up until being about 13 or 14 when I progressed on to spray deodorant. I don't know at what point it became uncool to use roll on but spray was what all the girls at school used so of course I had to follow suit and it's what I've used ever since. Well, that was until I was sent Bionsen Caring Touch to try.

Formulated with natural minerals, Bionsen Caring Touch* is supposed to be able to neutralise the bacteria which causes the kinds of body smells you don't want to share with other people without using potentially harmful ingredients such as aluminium and parabens. It doesn't stop you sweating because after all it's not an anti-perspirant but it is supposed to keep your under arms cool and bacteria levels to a minimum. It's perfect for those with sensitive skin because it doesn't contain alcohol, aluminium or parabens so the risk of your skin not agreeing with it is greatly reduced (and there's the whole argument about aluminium potentially being a cause of cancer so using this reduces the worry of that, which is always good!).

To me, a good deodorant keeps me smelling sweet for at least 6-8 hours without having to reapply; anything less than that and I just think I might as well not bother because let's be honest we don't wear deodorant for the first few hours out of the shower; deodorant is for stopping stale sweat from offending the noses of your friends/colleagues. I never thought a natural deodorant could do that, I don't know why I just assumed they wouldn't be as good as products containing aluminium etc.

I can confirm that Biosen Caring Touch is pretty damn good; the first time I used it I was sceptical and I won't lie I did put another can of spray deodorant in my bag just in case but I was so pleasantly surprised I even had Jason sniffing my arm pits. Don't judge, I really was that surprised at how nice I was smelling even after 6 hours at work! Yes it's wet when you first put it on and I always make sure I put it on before I start doing my makeup while I'm still sat in my dressing gown which is a bit of a pain but no more of a pain than making sure I don't get white marks from sprays. It dries quickly enough for me and does keep my my under arms cool and feels really 'light'; sometimes sprays feel like they're blocking my pores because they're quite heavy and powdery whereas this roll on is totally different.

Am I a roll-on convert? Probably not just any roll on but Bionsen has got me really pleasantly surprised, the new Caring Touch range is released on 9th March and it will be exclusive to Boots so it's well worth a look when you're in store. 

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Sunday, 1 March 2015

A night away at Aldwark Manor, North Yorkshire

Jason likes to golf, I like to relax and be pampered so it makes perfect sense for us to make use of somewhere with spa and golf facilities so Jason can toddle off onto the green to whack a ball around a field (where the joy comes from in that I do not know but each to their own!). On Wednesday we went over to Aldwark Manor which is just near York just for a one night get away; we booked two rounds of golf for Jason and I had a choice of treatments included with a full days use of the on-site spa facilities as well as breakfast, lunch, evening meal and what I believe was a 'Q Star Room' all for £124 per person which I thought was absolutely brilliant value.

With 120 acres of parklands, the grounds themselves are absolutely beautiful; the perfect tranquil setting for a getaway from busy normal life. While Jason went off golfing on the 18 hole course I spent the day in the spa facilities where I had a chosen two treatments which were booked for 4pm so I had pretty much the full day to enjoy what the spa had to offer. The spa staff were really friendly and welcoming and I was given a mini tour of the facilities when I got there; there's a large area where you can sit and enjoy a coffee as well as a warm relaxation room and 7 treatment rooms where the ladies work their magic. I was given a consultation form to fill in where I chose my treatments and explained any of my specific needs etc. and then given my robe, slippers and towel to go get changed and enjoy the pool area.

The pool took up most of the space in the room where you could enjoy a slow relaxing swim or a faster paced workout depending on what you fancied. I didn't actually swim but I did use the jacuzzi which was really lovely; it was gorgeously warm and you could control the jets to have it as bubbly as you wanted. I stayed in the jacuzzi until my fingers started to resemble prunes and moved onto the steam room where I sat for a good 10 minutes just breathing in the steam which really cleared my stuffy nose and chest. There is also a sauna which I didn't use as I don't get on so well with dry heat. I was a little disappointed with the lounging facilities in the pool area; in other spas I've visited there have been ample loungers and chairs to sit on and relax but at Aldwark there were only 6 loungers in the pool area which did make it a little difficult as while I was there, there were at least 15-20 people using the facilities. There was of course the spa lounge but this was not accessible from the pool area unless you went through the changing rooms so you had to be completely dry before you could use it which wasn't ideal as I just wanted to lounge around the pool when I'd finished in the steam room/jacuzzi.

The buffet style lunch for spa customers was between 12.30pm and 2pm so you could drop in whenever you wanted to grab something to eat and I have to say it was totally faultless. There was a choice of soup, jacket potatoes with several toppings, salad, fruit, bread, meats and a gorgeous selection of cakes. I had a jacket potato with tuna mayo with salad and it was absolutely beautiful. I finished off with the most amazing chocolate brownie I think i've ever eaten and I've been thinking about how I can recreate it ever since I got back!

After lunch I went back to the pool area where I grabbed one of the free loungers and lazed around (ie. fell asleep) until 3.30pm when I went to get changed ready for my treatments which were booked in at 4pm; I could have gone for one 60 minute treatment or two 30 minute treatments but I chose a file and polish for toes and a shoulder, neck and scalp massage. I was met by my assigned therapist and taken to one of the 7 perfectly decorated treatment rooms. I was really impressed with the whole set up of the treatment room, it was so warm and cosy which is obviously the perfect environment for any spa treatment. I didn't catch the name of my therapist but she was brilliant; the massage was amazing and I left feeling totally and utterly relaxed. It was my first experience of ESPA products and I was really impressed; the oils that were used smelt divine and left my skin and scalp feeling great (I won't lie, it did take a couple of washes to get the oil out of my hair though). The toe polish was done with my choice of Jessica nail polish so I went for a nice girly pink and it was done with care and precision. Overall a massive thumbs up to the spa ladies as a whole and to my therapist in particular, the only thing I'd change about the spa is the lounger situation in the pool area; I would probably make the spa lounge more 'swimming costume' friendly to give more space for relaxation straight out of the pool.

After my treatments I went up to our room where I met Jason and got ready for our evening meal which was booked at 8pm. We booked a deluxe room to add that little bit more luxury to our stay although I daresay the regular rooms are also really nice. Our deluxe room was actually more like a suite, we were in room 213 which had a downstairs lounge area with desk and bathroom and then an upstairs bedroom with a double bed. The size of the bed was a little disappointing as the couple we went with had a huge bed (more like 2 singles pushed together so you can imagine how big it was!) but it was a novelty to have a totally separate bedroom to the rest of the room.

I was surprised to find that there was a selection of drinks in the mini fridge included in our room cost and also a nice little jar of gourmet nuts which was a lovely little touch! If you did want to upgrade to something really special for your stay you could go for one of their feature rooms which look absolutely stunning...

Also included in our room package was an evening meal in The Brasserie, we got a £26 allowance to spend on the menu however we wanted and we just had to pay for anything over that plus drinks which I thought was perfect for us. After looking at the menu I went for Crab and Crayfish Cocktail followed by Duo of Chicken for main and Jason and I shared a Chocolate Tasting Plate...

The food was absolutely gorgeous and beautifully cooked; I would totally recommend staying in the hotel to eat because you're sure to find something you like because the menu is brilliant. Here's a link to a sample menu where you can get a bit of a taste for what you're likely to find in The Brasserie. We also ate breakfast the next morning in the same restaurant, I love a good cooked breakfast as a treat and this one didn't disappoint. It was buffet style so you just got up as and when you wanted and put as much or as little on your plate as you liked; safe to say I left feeling really full and set up for the day.

We could have stayed and made use of the spa facilities again but unfortunately we had to get back for work. Overall I really enjoyed our stay at Aldwark Manor and I would definitely recommend the Q Hotels group if you're ever looking for somewhere to stay. They have locations dotted around the UK so they're well worth keeping in mind because I would imagine that their other hotels are just as nice as Aldwark Manor. I've got my eye on a stay at Forest Pines at some point in the very near future!

Have you ever stayed at Aldwark Manor or another Q Hotels location?

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Saturday, 28 February 2015

Things you should never say to someone who has lost weight

Losing weight is honestly one of the best things I have ever done for myself, it's given me a brand new lease of life by giving me lots of confidence and belief in myself. However, there have been times when it hasn't been easy from a food point of view or from an emotional point of view. Don't get me wrong 90% of what people have said to me has been totally complimentary but there's always been that 10% of people who (sometimes knowingly, sometimes not) have said things that have either upset me or made me quite angry! Body confidence and confidence in general, no matter what your size, is quite a fragile thing and someone can shatter it in just a few words so next time you see your friend/relative who looks to have lost a bit of weight or who you know is on a healthy eating plan, just remember these things...

You can't eat that, you're on a diet!
Firstly, I am not on a diet, I am following a 'healthy eating plan' and secondly yes I CAN eat that because I have counted my calories/Syns/Points.

Wow, you must have been big before!
With this one I can never tell whether they're actually implying that I'm STILL big or what... 

Don't stop now, keep going
Well actually, I think I have finished losing weight because I'm happy as I am but you saying that makes me doubt myself. Have I lost enough, do I still look 'big'? 

You look so much better
This is a difficult one to be honest, and I know for a fact that these people don't mean to offend but although they think they're giving a compliment, to me it fills my head with all the things they must have thought of me before I lost weight. I know I look better, I feel better but this is one of those things that's kind of an insult and a compliment at the same time. If you want to say someone looks 'better' say 'you look great' instead. 

One little bit won't hurt/won't make a difference (when talking about synful foods)
Well actually yes it will hurt and it will make a difference. Everything that passes your lips will show on the scales and maybe that 'bit' won't make a LOT of difference it could tip me over into eating a whole piece or whatever. I remember my husband and I once had an argument about a piece of quiche because I wouldn't have a bite to 'try it' but I knew if I had a 'bite' I would have wanted a full piece and the craving would have then been there for the rest of the night. 

How much do you weigh now?
Quite a few people have asked me this and to be honest I've kind of got used to it now but I can't help but think 'why does it matter?!' there was something I saw on Pinterest which said something along the lines of 'my weight is no concern of yours unless I'm sitting on you' - so yeah, that!! Asking someone how much weight they've lost is different because you're not talking actual figures which show on the scales so if you really must ask the 'how much' question, try and ask in terms of how much they've lost.

Moral of the story is... if you're unsure as to whether it's 'ok' to say something to someone, don't say it! And if you're on the receiving end of anything like this remember that the person saying it probably means well and doesn't mean to offend, chances are they've never been in your shoes and the most important thing is to not let anything or anyone stand in the way of your weight loss! 

*if you're reading this and you've ever said any of these things, don't worry, I probably didn't take offence, you'd know if I had! haha

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