Making Healthy Choices in an Indian Restaurant or Indian Takeaway

A good Indian probably one of my favourite takeaways to get and after I went for a family meal to one of my local ones last night I realised that it was a perfect destination for a 'how to make healthy choices' post! I used to be a massive Korma lover which is loaded with calories because of the cream, then I moved onto Tikka Masala which is almost as calorific but since doing Slimming World I've experimented a lot more with what I've been having as a main meal. You'll probably be quite pleasantly surprised by what you can get whilst staying well within your Syns for the day...

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Starters:

I love poppadoms so I always have one (5 Syns) with the cucumber and onion mix (free) that most places do, you can also have some of the other dips but they're obviously synned; Mango Chutney is 2 Syns per tbsp, Raita Dip is 1 Syn per tbsp and Lime Pickle is 1.5 Syns per tbsp. You could also have a Chicken Tikka starter which is pieces of chicken marinated in tikka spices served with salad, I would maybe count a couple of Syns for any oil that might be on it but that is probably what you should go for if you're trying to keep Syns as low as possible. 

Things to stay away from are Onion Bhajis and Samosas for obvious reasons; they're deep fried and they're flour based which increases the calorie/syn content. I also wouldn't go for a kebab that wasn't 'proper' meat, by that I mean things like Sheek kebabs as you have no idea of the fat content of the meat. 

Mains:

If you think you have to have a dry dish to stay within Syns then you'd be wrong; if curry is your thing then you can have a guilt free Lamb/Chicken Rogan Josh (average portion 550g 10 syns) or a Chicken Dhansak (average portion 550g 10.5 syns) with boiled rice (free). If you are wanting a close to syn free option then Chicken Shashlik is a nice choice (chicken tikka pieces with cooked tomatoes, onions and peppers) or a Chicken Tikka Main (just don't have any of the curry sauce that comes with it). 

Things to avoid would be naan breads, cream based dishes and obviously chips.

Dessert:

Indian restaurants aren't exactly famous for their desserts are they (aside from the cool little ice creams which come shaped like a penguin or a bird) so I won't say much on this front other than fill up on your starter and main!

The Perfect Life as told by YouTube

Basically I want to talk about YouTubers and Bloggers and their lives that are out there for everyone to see. It’s a relative new concept which has become popular within the last 5 years or so and it’s a weird one. There’s no denying the fact that it’s strange how people want to show their lives for everyone to see on the internet. Can you imagine if we told our grandparents when they were our age that in 2010 people would start writing an online diary called a ‘blog’ and there would be people who were famous for pointing a camera at their own face and broadcasting it on a world wide platform? They’d think you were joking!

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The more famous YouTubers seem to have the ‘perfect life’, and I do think this is down to what they are told to post by their management company (you’ll find that there are loads who have multiple channels so they have a bit more freedom). Big house, nice clothes, expensive makeup, the latest games consoles, wonderful holidays, perfect friends and happy family lives; so much so that they have fans who are in complete awe of what they have and they’re constantly receiving proclamations of love on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr… etc. There’s a massive array of YouTube viewers, I know, but the viewers of the most famous ones who have also appeared on TV do seem to be under 18 and this is what worries me a little bit. 

I know youngsters are open to things like TV which can show real life in a very skewed manner but I just think that it’s easier to know that most things on TV are ‘not real’ because they show ‘traditional celebrities’, I say traditional because there has been this shift in what we class as a celebrity due to the rise of YouTube and blog fame. In my opinion, viewers are much more likely to buy into a YouTuber than they are to someone who is on TV because YouTubers seem much more like our ‘best friend'; they’re just normal people who have found popularity by broadcasting themselves on social media. So when sponsorship is rife and YouTubers are under pressure from their management to keep up appearances it becomes increasingly harder to distinguish what’s really real and what’s not. 

What originally brought this into the forefront of my mind is when my 15 year old niece asked me about what I believed on YouTube and I just answered 'take it with a pinch of salt' because I don't want her thinking that what is portrayed on YouTube is 'real life'. Shit happens and although I don't think anyone should broadcast it, I also think it's wrong to make out like everything is perfect, not just for anyone watching it (especially the impressionable teens who make up a vast majority of a lot of audiences) but surely a charade like that is bloody exhausting?! Behind the scenes is obviously a very different thing, other than anxiety (which seems to be the most talked about condition), how do we know what these people are going through? We don’t, and I think when watching YouTube videos, it’s so important to remember that. 

What are your thoughts on the perfect YouTube life?

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Slimming World Ready Meals An Honest Review

It's been a few weeks now since Slimming World released their ready meals into Iceland, everyone went a bit mental for them and it was proving pretty difficult to get hold of them in some stores (who knew a ready meal could cause such a stir?!) but I finally got hold of two of them the other day so I thought I'd share my thoughts on them. They do 8 different ready meals: Chicken Pizzaiola,  Hot Smoked Salmon Farfalle, Chicken Tikka Masala, Sweet Potato Curry, Singapore Noodles, Beef and Veg Crush, Meatballs with Pasta in a Spicy Tomato sauce and Roasted Vegetable Pasta as well as bags of syn free meatballs and sausages. I came away with Chicken Tikka Masala and Meatballs and Pasta in a spicy tomato sauce simply because the were the ones I fancied at the time (and they didn't have any of the beef and veg crush, otherwise I'd have got that too).

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The most important thing, I think, is that these are all completely Syn free and absolutely perfect for anyone with a busy life and who really struggles after work to choose something Slimming World friendly when they just can't be bothered to cook. I love them because I can just heat one up when I've finished work at daft o'clock and I can enjoy it without the guilt and without messing around with any meal preparation. I would imagine that a consultant would say you need to have your 1/3 speed foods as well but I'll let you into a little secret... I don't bother most of the time because these are meals for when I can't be bothered to mess around with stuff so to me preparing and adding speed foods would defeat the object. 

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I'll start with the Meatballs and Pasta: out of the two I would say that this is the most pleasing to the eye when its on the plate (or in the posh pasta bowl as I chose to put it in). It takes 12 minutes in the microwave from frozen (6 mins, stir then 6 mins again) and it's a good plate/bowl full of pasta. I was pleasantly surprised at how many meatballs were in mine; I counted 6 and they are proper meaty meatballs, so much so that I would say they taste a little bit odd to start with because it's just pure meat (beef and pork). When you look at the meal frozen, it looks as if there's not going to be much sauce but there's more than enough and the cooked cherry tomatoes and spinach are a nice little additive. The sauce is quite spicy so if you're not into spicy foods then this would be one to avoid; I like spicy foods and for me this is a bit of a mouth tingler. Overall I think it's quite nice and would probably give it a 7/10 

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Next up is the Chicken Tikka Masala and I'll start by saying that although this might not look as nice on the plate I can tell you that looks definitely deceive with this one. It is absolutely amazing, honestly probably the best Tikka Masala ready meal I've ever eaten. You don't get rice with it which is a bit of a downfall but it's absolutely jam packed with chicken and it actually tastes like proper chicken, not the reformed stuff that you usually get in ready meals. It is a little spicier than most chicken tikkas i've had from takeaways but not mouth burningly spicy and you get plenty of sauce as well. I would say that even though these ready meals are made for one you could easily split this one into two if you added some speed foods and obviously your rice (if you wanted to be really clever you could do cauliflower rice to get even more speed foods on there). One tip I have for this one is that you need to let it stand for 5 minutes or so once it's cooked otherwise it does appear quite watery, trust me the wait pays off because the sauce thickens up beautifully. I'd give this a 9/10 (would have had a 10 if it came with rice)

Overall I'm absolutely loving the fact that Slimming World have teamed up with Iceland to do some ready meals and I can say with absolute certainty that they are in a different league to the Weight Watchers ones in taste, portion size and the fact that they're totally Syn free! The only slight down side is that they retail at £3 each which is on the pricey side for a ready meal but at the moment they're on offer at 2 for £5 which makes them a little cheaper. To be honest, I personally don't mind paying the £3 because I know that the ingredients are the best, the meat is the leanest you'll get in a ready meal and overall they're just superior to other microwave meals. 

Simple Skincare Routine for Combination Skin

I think we're all a bit guilty of slapping product after product onto our face with the mentality that more equals better looking skin but just lately I've really cut back on the products I use on my face on a day to day basis and I have to say that not only am I loving not having to spend so much time, I'm also loving how my skin has been reacting to it. I've cut it right back to just two products both morning and night with two midweek face masks.

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REN Clearcalm Clay Cleanser (£19.00) - This is an old favourite which I first bought around 2 years ago and I decided to get myself another bottle after I ran out of my Bee Good Cream Cleanser because I just fancied a bit of a change. This is still working just as well for me as it did when I first bought it; removing makeup and leaving my skin feeling fresh and clean whilst keeping it as clear as it's going to be. If you know REN then you'll know that they don't contain any parabens, sulphates, mineral oils or synthetic fragrances so they're generally good if you have problem skin, I also find this really calming on any redness I might have due to the clay element. I did a full REN Clearcalm Clay Cleanser review if you fancy a more in depth read into it.

Jurlique Rose Moisture Plus* (£32.00) - It's been just over a month since I started using this and I've been 100% loving it which has surprised me because if I'd have had to pick from the range of products on the Jurlique website I definitely would not have chosen this. It was actually picked for me by one of the experts at Jurlique because I mentioned that although I have an oily t-zone, I also have dehydrated cheeks which is where this product excels because it addresses both problems. The water-gel formula is brilliantly lightweight and doesn't over moisturise the areas where I don't need it but the Rosehip oil targets the dehydrated areas to leave my face with just the right amount of moisture everywhere.

Superfacialist by Una Brennan Anti Blemish Mask (£8.99) & Jurlique Purifying Mask* (£45.00) - I use each of these on a weekly rotation basis because I like how both of them make my skin feel although I do think that the Jurlique one is a little gentler on my skin and they're both very different in terms of how they apply and what they look like but as I say they both work well for me. I do think the Una Brennan one is marginally better for helping with blemishes due to the salicylic acid content but as for a deep cleanse Jurlique does a great job.

Each and every one of these products deserves a full review so I will get round to that at some point but in the meantime I just wanted to let you all know how much I'm loving my skincare cut backs. It's shown me that less can be more where skincare is concerned and that layering lotions and potions doesn't mean that your skin is going to look or feel any better. I obviously know that cleanser and moisturiser are an absolute essential to me but as anything else is a bit of a bonus really, not that i'm suggesting that I'll never pick up a toner, facial mist or a liquid exfoliant ever again though, that'd be a bit daft.

What is Quidco?

If you're reading this blog I can say with almost certainty that you shop online; whether it's for clothes, beauty products... whatever. Wouldn't it be ace if you could get money back when you buy something online? I always thought that cashback and things like that were a bit of a swizz and I was always really cautious with it but just before Christmas I saw Quidco advertised on the TV so I decided to sign up (my mentality is that if something is advertised on TV then it's pretty much legit). 


The idea behind Quidco is that every time you shop online (you can also get cashback in-store and there's also an app called Clicksnap which means you can get cashback on your groceries) you go through the Quidco website, it tracks your visit and how much you spend and you get a percentage of it back... I know it sounds too good to be true but it really is as easy as that to get some money back on what you spend. They have absolutely loads of different retailers on there including New Look, Topshop, Boots, Superdrug... basically if I were to list all the retailers on there I'd be here all night! 

The rate of cashback varies from retailer to retailer but there's some brilliant deals to be had and it'll tell you what percentage you get as you click through the Quidco site to the retailer. 

I've already got £20 cashback which I can claim at any time just from doing little shops, I haven't bought anything that's cost me a lot of money it's just that little purchases have built up over time. Obviously the more you buy the more cashback you get! The best thing about it is that it's totally free to use and there really is no catch to it!! Signing up is totally simple you just pop your details in on the Quidco website, click through on the confirmation email and you're good to go! If you've got any questions please feel free to ask me in the comments.

Do you use Quidco, if not, why not?!

*this post contains affiliate links, in other words, I earn a weeny bit of money if you sign up to Quidco

How to Use Nuxe Reve De Miel

If you follow me on Twitter you might have seen that I've been struggling a little bit with getting along with Nuxe Reve De Miel lip balm which has been raved about no end by the beauty blogging community. I bought it after reading review after review of people saying how wonderful it was and how they couldn't live without it but when I first started using it I couldn't help but wonder why they'd said it because I was pretty much on the verge of hating it. No matter how little I used it just looked weird on my lips, it made them go a funny colour and made it look like i'd somehow buffed concealer or foundation into my lips and then slapped vaseline on top. Not attractive. But obviously I'd paid the best part of a tenner for it so I wasn't going to give up that easy!


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There are of course things that I like about the product; it smells amazing, just like chocolate orange and the formula is really rich so it is a nourishing lip balm but I just don't like wearing it out and about because it's too heavy and like I say I feel like it looks a bit weird. So I decided that instead of using this during the day I would have it by my bed so I could use it after my night time skincare routine and after I've brushed my teeth so that it has time to work over night and it doesn't matter what it looks or feels like on my lips. This little plan has worked really well for me and my lips feel much better and they are so much easier to apply lip products onto. 

I wouldn't personally have this as a handbag essential (I know that some do) but it'll be on my bedside table for as long as there's still some in the pot. They actually have this on offer on Escentual at the moment where they have 1/3 off all Nuxe products so if there was ever a time to try Reve de Miel then now would be it because rather than the RRP of £9.50 it's now only £6.50.

Soap & Glory One Heck of a Blot Review

You'll all probably know by now that I struggle with having an oily t-zone; I have to be careful which moisturisers I use and keeping foundation on my face for any length of time can prove a bit difficult. I don't like to use a whole lot of powder to try and set my makeup because I find it can turn cakey pretty quickly if I'm not careful but when I saw The Sunday Girl's review of Soap and Glory One Heck of a Blot I knew I had to try it. 

'It offers world-class shine control and oil-absorption, is ultra-light, and gives skin a traceless, smooth, velvety finish.'

It basically sounds like a dream product for anyone with oily skin.

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soap-and-glory-one-heck-of-a-blot

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I've been using it since the beginning of February so I feel like I can tell you exactly what I think about it now.  I use it in-between foundation and pressed powder because I found that pressed powder alone just wasn't enough no matter what brand I used. It's so easy to load up onto a brush because it's so finely milled and soft and it glides onto skin effortlessly without leaving any real trace of colour so it truly is a translucent powder so the fact that there's only one 'shade' should be absolutely no problem regardless of your skin colour. If anything it actually helps to neutralise any redness because it's ever so slightly yellow rather than being white (don't worry though, it won't make you look like a Simpson!).

It really does control oil breakthrough like no other product I've used before and it doesn't feel heavy or cause caking throughout the day. I have personally never had to reapply this during the day so I can't speak for whether it builds up or not but the fact that I haven't reapplied is surely testament to how good this is. I haven't had any excessive shine at all since using this; you know sometimes (especially on nights out) when you end up looking like you've got a face with shine to rival that of the moon? Well I've not had that at all. It doesn't reflect with flash either so you don't end up with a stupidly white or shiny face which is a bonus.

It comes with a mirror in the lid which is really handy if you are going to have it in your makeup bag during the day and it also comes with an applicator pad (I haven't used this because I much prefer a more even application with a powder brush). It's £12.00 which isn't cheap for a high street makeup product but the fact that it's out of stock on the Boots website at the moment speaks volumes for how popular it is. I actually bought mine in a store and it's worth knowing that even though that particular store didn't stock a full range of S&G products, they did have this among the bath and body stuff so it's well worth a quick look in your local Boots if you like the look of this. 

Disneyland Park Disneyland Paris Review

The park with the castle is arguably THE Disney park to go to if you have to make the choice between the two; for me it probably has the most Magical feel to it with how it's designed. There's a lot for little ones to do at the Disneyland park but I enjoyed it just as much even though there's not as much in terms of big thrills to be had here. Unfortunately Space Mountain 2 was closed, as was Phantom Manor and Captain EO so although we could take advantage of short wait times we obviously had to give something up which was the low season closures. It meant that we finished the Park by around 2pm but it didn't matter to me because it just meant that we went back to Walt Disney Studios because we had park hopper tickets. There's so many photos to be had here because everything is so beautifully designed so expect this post to be pretty photo heavy!

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It is so similar to Magic Kingdom in Orlando, especially city hall square and main street which leads up to the castle; for me this is where the real Disney magic happens. The parades pass through here, it's where all the shops are and it's where you'll see lots of photos taken because the castle in the background just looks amazing. I think Main Street is actually my favourite area in the whole of Disneyland because I just love the theming and walking down there gives me butterflies!

The castle itself is really beautiful, as Sleeping Beauty's castle it's slightly smaller than Cinderella's in Florida but I think it's just as amazing to look at. In fact, there's actually more for your average visitor  to do than there is in America because not only can you walk through you can also go upstairs and there's things to see and explore.

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You go up a staircase where you can see a storyboard of tapestries and beautiful stained glass windows all related to Sleeping Beauty. It was really magnificent in there and although the stories were in French, if you're familiar with Sleeping Beauty then you'll obviously be able to identify characters and scenes from the film. To the left of the castle you can go into the dragon's cave which is where the dragon comes to life from the film, I haven't included a photo from inside there because I don't want to ruin it for anyone who hasn't been but all I'll say is that it's another example of brilliant imagineering.

The castle is a bit like a centre point for the whole park so from there you can go to whichever part of the park you want to. There's Fantasyland which is where you'll find It's a Small World (most repetitive ride ever but one that I wouldn't want to miss) and lots of other rides for smaller children, Discoveryland which is quite futuristic with rides like Space Mountain 2 (closed while we were there which I was gutted about) and Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast (I get so competitive on there!), Frontierland with a brill version of Big Thunder Mountain and Adventureland which is home to Pirates of the Caribbean and the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse.

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If rides aren't really your bag then there's loads going on throughout the day in different areas of the park, from character meets and parades to the absolutely fabulous Disney Dreams night time spectacular show. I really enjoy watching the shows and parades, they seal the deal with the whole Disney Magic thing and they really bring the park to life. We watched Mary Poppins and Minnie Mouse's spring parade during the day and then we went back to the hotel for a few hours and returned for Disney Dreams. I'd definitely say the night time show is an absolute must; it starts at 8pm and goes on for a good 25 minutes with scenes from loads of different Disney movies projected onto the castle with the music to go with it. The finale fireworks are so amazing I can't even describe how good they are so if you do ever go to Disneyland Paris try make sure you are there at least once at night (looking back now I wish we'd done it on both nights!).

My overall experience of Disneyland Paris was absolutely brilliant; every bit as magical as I hoped it would be. *This is where I turn into an ignorant Brit who hasn't bothered to learn a second language* The only slight problem is that a lot of the attractions are in French so it's hard to understand in parts but you just have to use your imagination and any Disney fan will be able to work through the language barrier. If you haven't done DLP then I would definitely say it's worth doing especially if you can get a good deal (more on that in a later blog post). 

I've got major Disney blues now, it's been a week since we set off and I just wish I could do it all again; roll on the next Disney fix!

Disneyland Paris Walt Disney Studios Review

If you follow me on any social media you'll know that I've just spent 3 nights in the most magical place in Europe with my friend, Leah. For those of you who don't know, Disneyland Paris Resort has two parks; Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios as well as Disney Village (which is where you'll find shops and eating places). I'm going to split this into a few different posts otherwise it would be one massively huge photo heavy essay (nobody likes blog posts that take an age to load do they and we all like little digestible chunks of Disney goodness). 

I'm going to do Walt Disney Studios today as this was the first park we visited, if you're familiar with Walt Disney World in Orlando then this is very similar to Hollywood Studios with added rides (Crush's Coaster & Ratatouille) but unfortunately the weather wasn't on our side as it would be in Florida! 

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There's still the iconic water tower to be seen from quite a distance at up close near the entrance of the park, the courtyard leads into Disney Studio 1 which is an introductory boulevard of shops and eateries with a bustling atmosphere. Designed to look like Hollywood, Studio 1 opens out onto the rest of the Disney Studios park with Hollywood Tower Hotel standing out above all the other attractions. I was so pleased to also find my favourite ever Disney statue of Walt and Mickey on a flower bed with the Walt quote plaque in front of it...

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The first ride we headed for was Hollywood Tower of Terror and I was so excited to see if it was similar to the one in WDW; I absolutely love the theming of the Tower of Terror and I was impressed to see the cast members were in character just like they are in Florida. The story of the Tower of Terror is in French which is obviously hard to follow if you don't understand but the initial video in the library at the beginning does have subtitles so you get the gist of what's happening when you get onto the actual ride. We actually managed to ride ToT 3 times in our trip because the queues were so reasonable; we never waited more than 10 minutes for this! I love that it opens out at the top to give you a brilliant view of the park... although I daresay lots of people are too preoccupied with the possibility of a terrifying drop to actually appreciate the view! To be honest, the first time I was too busy laughing at Leah screaming and aww-ing at the little boy behind me who was absolutely terrified.

After Leah had got over her fright we moved onto the Studio Tram Tour which in all honesty wasn't brilliant, the narration was done in French and then English but the whole tour was just a little bit lacklustre and although there was the 'movie scene' with the water and fire it just seemed to lack theatrics and there rest of the tour was just a bit boring really. 

Next had a little walk around the Toy Story Play Land area where you could find a few rides for young children as well as play equipment. I couldn't resist a photo with Rex...

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Next we went to pick up a fast pass for the brand new Ratatouille ride which was in a beautiful french style setting with a waterless fountain, a restaurant, a shop and obviously the ride. The fast pass wasn't valid until 4.20 so it was obvious that lots of guests had already been on the ball and got theirs as it was only 11am by this time! We moved on round to Rock 'n' Rollercoaster which I was really excited about because I loved it in WDW world; the theming is exactly the same and I think the ride is very, very similar if not identical. Again the wait times were next to nothing, we just walked pretty much straight on each time. The only ride we actually queued properly for all day was Crush's Coaster which you can't get a fast pass for.  


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As you can see by the photos, everything was actually really quiet which is the beauty about this time of year because although you can't rely on the weather you can rely on crowd levels being low because the kids are in school and people generally choose summer months to try and catch some good weather (although we all know that Parisian weather is about as unpredictable as ours in the UK!). 

I would say that Walt Disney Studios is aimed slightly more at the older Disney fan obviously with thrill rides such as Rock 'n' Rollercoaster and Tower of Terror but there's obviously there's lots of family fun to be had and there seems to be more scheduled shows than in the Disneyland Park as there's Cinemagique (a theatre/cinema style production including lots of different films through the ages), Disney Junior Live which is perfect for little ones, Moteurs... Action! (a car stunt show), The Art of Disney Animation and Animagique which was unfortunately clsoed (I was really quite gutted about that because it looked amazing). 

There's obviously opportunity to meet some of the characters; I managed to spot Mickey and grabbed the opportunity to wait for a photo (I still maintain that you can't visit Disney without meeting at least one character and why not make it the main man if you can!?). The queue wasn't bad at all, we only really waited 10 minutes or so but I imagine it's a lot longer in peak season. 

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Honestly, the matching Jack Wills hoodies were not intentional, although I think those teamed with the bum bags pretty much made us into easy-to-spot typical British tourists (I'm still highly recommending a bum bag for any Disney park visit though, they're SO much easier than messing about with a bag over your shoulder). 

We made Ratatouille our last ride as it was getting late in the day, it's the newest ride at Disneyland Paris and it's a great little 3D adventure where you ride around in a mouse cart following Ratatouille through the restaurant as he tried not to get squished! It even smells like a kitchen/restaurant in parts which is a clever little additive from the Disney Imagineers. 

I really, really enjoyed our time in Walt Disney Studios and I would say that it's very similar to what you find at WDW in Florida especially the big thrill rides and there's the added bonus of Crush's Coaster and Ratatouille which you won't find in Florida!

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Slimming World 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:

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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.

Sweetener
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. 

Bionsen Caring Touch Aluminium Free Roll On Review

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.

bionsen-caring-touch-roll-on

bionsen-roll-on

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. 

A night away at Aldwark Manor, North Yorkshire

My partner 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 he 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 my partner 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 for a spa venue.

aldwark-manor

With 120 acres of parklands, the grounds themselves are absolutely beautiful; the perfect tranquil setting for a getaway from busy normal life. While my partner went off golfing on the 18 hole golf 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.

aldwark-manor-spa

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 my partner 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.

aldwark-manor-room

Q-star-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...

aldwark-manor-feature-room

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 my partner and I shared a Chocolate Tasting Plate...

crab-and-crayfish-cocktail

chicken-main-course

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!