Blog Hop

I love reading about what makes other bloggers tick so I was chuffed when Charlie invited me to take part in her blog hop. I met Charlie within my first few months of blogging, in fact, it was nothing to do with blogging how we met. I was interested in joining Manchester WI and she was on the committee so we met to discuss how the WI works and what it involves. It turns out I found a really good friend and we now spend time together probably more regularly than we should. We are usually each others +1 to events and a day doesn’t go by when we don’t speak, text or email. Today she has been given spot 27 in the top 100 most influential Mancunians on Twitter… she beat the likes of Liam Gallagher and Jason Manford! Not bad for ‘just a blogger’ as we are so often referred to.

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That’s one of the main things I love about blogging. I get to meet the most amazing people and I have made some lifelong friends from it. Anyway, back to the job at hand, the blog hop!

Why do I write?

I’ve always written in my spare time. This started when I was totally obsessed with Take That in the 90s and I would write to loads of penpals about our love for the boys and our recent sightings. I was always in a good position living in Manchester and within a bus ride of Manchester Airport. I would sit there for hours waiting for a glimpse of my favourite band. I’m pretty sure you couldn’t do that now due to the heightened security! As I matured (I’m still a huge Take That fan I would like to add) I still wrote to penpals but about life, love and other interests. In fact, I am still in contact with lots of the people I used to write to as a child/teen. This is where Facebook becomes such an amazing communication tool, I can stay in contact with people who live on the other side of the world with ease.

I started writing this blog as I had lost a lot of weight previously but the lbs had started to pile on. I figured keeping a blog about my journey may help me and keep me motivated. Unfortunately my love of food took over and my blog became more about eating and drinking out than weight loss! This has changed in the last few months though with regular posts about eating more healthily when at a restaurant and what options to choose.

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What am I working on?

I’m trying to focus my blog back on healthy living to provide people choices when it comes to dining out in Manchester. I also have the trip of a lifetime booked for next month when I will be hitting the roads of America for a 3 week road trip with my friend (you can read about it here). I plan to blog my way around the West Coast and incorporate more travel related posts into my writing in the future. I have been well and truly bitten with the travel bug and Vietnam/Cambodia/Laos is next on my agenda.

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How does my blog differ from others in its genre?

I wouldn’t say my blog is vastly different from other lifestyle bloggers who like to write a bit of a few things. I don’t have a niche like food bloggers or fashion bloggers but I tend to write about what I like, what I have a passion for, and I hope that comes across in my writing. I’ve fought with myself on many occasion about whether I should specialise in just one or two different things but then this is me, this is my blog. As much as it is lovely that people read it I write it for me, to document my life so I can look back at it in the future and remember all the fun stuff I got up to. Because of this mishmash of topics I’ve been lucky to do things I would never have been able to do otherwise. I will be on TV next week eating Heck sausages at their home farm in Yorkshire, I got to meet Shelina Permaloo at the launch of the new Weight Watcher programme where I spent 3 hours in London one random evening after work before coming back to Manchester the same night. All very random but completely thanks to Phat Cupcake and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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How does my writing process work?

Oh dear this is something I really need to get better at. I do take notes but I tend to get so excited by things that they stop halfway through an event then I have to rely on photographs to jog my memory. I have recently invested in a DSLR camera and am loving learning how to style photographs and use the light more for my photographs to get the perfect shot.

When it comes to sitting down to write a post I operate in 2 very different ways. Either I am able to sit and write 3-4 posts in one day and then schedule them for the following week or I literally write them and hit publish that night, like now. I know Charlie gets people to check her grammar and word flow but that isn’t me. I literally type, quickly read through and hit send. This backfired on me recently where I hadn’t taken enough notes and I made a few mistakes on a post. It has taught me to take better notes at an event and to get an expert to read over the technicalities to make sure they are right and conveying the right impression for the topic or brand. I think I have done that since and I will continue to pay more attention to the little details to ensure my posts are as accurate and interesting as possible.

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Nominations

My first nomination is Rebecca from The Lucky Rainbow. Like me she writes about different things on her blog but she is also eating clean so I get to be inspired by the food she is eating and cooking! One for eating in moderation, like me, she also reviews the restaurants and bars of Manchester and I love her style of writing so much, you must check out her blog.

My second nomination is Dannii from Hungry Healthy Happy. This is one of the first blogs I ever read and I am completely in awe of what Dannii has achieved. She has lost 100lbs by eating right and exercising, no fads or diet pills here. She looks amazing (although she did before) and is my complete motivation on my current weight loss journey.

I’d like to add that I haven’t met either of these bloggers but I religiously read all their posts and really hope we can get together one day, probably over a cocktail. Well you can only eat clean 90% of the time.

Restaurant Review: Bill’s, Manchester

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I’d heard of Bill’s Restaurant before it arrived in Manchester but had no idea what they were about. Located between Byron Burgers and The Restaurant Bar and Grill I did wonder how Bill’s would fare being sandwiched between 2 established restaurants in the city.

On arrival we were warmly welcomed, shown to our table and told the history of Bill’s. It started as a small grocery shop in Lewes, East Sussex by Bill Collison. Unfortunately there was a flood which damaged the shop so it was renovated and a new café was opened inside. Their ethos of good food and good service was a bit of a sensation and they have since expanded across the country with several new venues to be opened later on in the year.

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The interior is vast but separated into different areas so it feels more intimate than you might think. There’s lots of Bill’s merchandise for sale around the front of the restaurant ranging from jams, truffles and oils. I found this confusing as I didn’t know anything about Bill’s beforehand and I’m guessing the majority of Manchester hasn’t either. It makes sense when you hear that Bill’s is a grocery and café elsewhere but I’m not sure if this concept travels well.

That said we settled down with the vast menu to try and make a choice. The theme is Mediterranean with a British twist. Bill’s have an excellent breakfast and afternoon tea menu that I will be back to try as soon as I can. I mean, come on, their veggie breakfast includes houmous and guacamole!

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There are very few cocktails on the menu but an extensive wine list that looks a bit different to the usual you find in Manchester restaurants. There’s a pinot grigio reisling from Brazil for example (Alisios Do Sieval) that is exquisite. It wouldn’t be a proper Phat Cupcake review without a few cocktails thrown in and I tried the hedgerow fizz first. Sparkling wine and elderflower topped with a frozen blackberry was refreshing and light. The perfect aperitif for any fizz fan. I also enjoyed the Amaretto sour with pink lemonade and lemon juice. Fruity with a lovely sour finish, it wasn’t overly sweet and the garnish was simple yet effective!

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Onto the food and I chose the grilled asparagus with chorizo and hollandaise to start with Charlie going for the crab cakes. The asparagus was lightly grilled giving it a lovely taste that worked well with the fatty chorizo and slightly sour hollandaise. I’d have liked more chorizo but, from a clean eating point of view especially, this was the perfect dish. Charlie’s crab cakes were more crab balls but also contained prawns with a slight heat from the addition of chilli. The mango and spring onion salad gave a lovely fruity element and the dish worked really well.

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Onto mains and I chose the chipotle, coriander and lemon chicken with Charlie going for the hake dish from the specials menu. My chicken was supposed to arrive with sweet potato fries but I think we confused our waiter with Charlie’s request for some tenderstem broccoli as a side as this came with my dish. No matter though as the wait staff are attentive so quickly sorted this and my fries were ready in no time. The chicken was lovely and moist with a lovely marinade. I expected more heat from the chipotle though and I couldn’t taste the paprika mentioned on the menu. The chilli buttered corn was a delight with a gentle spike of heat to the sweet corn and the sweet potato fries were some of the best I have tried. Slightly crispy on the outside and just cooked on the inside so they are still firm. They also had a huge hit of salt which is great for me but be aware if you are not a salt fan!

Charlie’s hake was served atop a gorgeous potato rosti cake and topped with a guacamole salsa. The dish as a whole was light and beautifully presented with moist fish, a crisp skin and a well constructed rosti that didn’t go limp under the fish. I really enjoyed it and I’m guessing she did too as I got the teeniest little taste before it was gone.

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Onto dessert and there isn’t much on the menu for the health conscious. The pecan pie had been calling my name since I looked at the menu at lunch time and, with my American trip looming, it seemed so wrong not to order it. That said I would rather work on being confident enough with my body to wear a bikini on my said American trip so we decided to share the cheese plate. The highlight for me wasn’t the cheese funnily enough, it was the sultana bread. Cut thinly but still with a fluffy inside it was lovely and fruity. A lovely change to the normal crackers you usually get. The cheeses were good too; Westcombe cheddar, Cornish brie and ‘Wrekin’ blue gave a nice selection with my favourite being the cheddar. Very mature with a flavour that lingers it had a light citrus taste making it a different one to include. The ‘Wrekin’ blue was soft and a lighter blue cheese meaning I liked it, I’m not a fan of heavier blue cheeses! The brie was as brie should be; creamy, mellow and melting but unfortunately it hadn’t been rested out of the fridge prior to arriving at the table. It had started to melt as we ended the meal, a shame we couldn’t wait long enough for it to be at room temperature to try it!

The staff were attentive throughout our meal with our waiter explaining everything well and also sharing his passions with us. Turns out he knows a thing or two about cheese having worked at the Cheese Hamlet in Didsbury and is a keen photographer offering me some tips on seeing my DSLR. And that’s what this place is about. You are welcomed and treated well, who wouldn’t want to come back to that? There is also a nice menu with some great clean eating options meaning you don’t need to miss out when dining with friends. I think it is different enough from Byron (a burger joint so doesn’t offer the same sort of dishes or dining experience) and The Restaurant Bar and Grill (more upmarket and a more formal dining experience so for a different occasion) to coexist in such close proximity. I, for one, am glad. I’ll be back for my veggie breakfast as soon as I have a day off work.

We dined as guests of the restaurant and weren’t asked to pay for our food or drinks. This has not influenced this review in any way which is honest and unbiased.

Beauty Review: Honeypie Minerals

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I’m not a huge fan of mineral foundation. I find it goes everywhere when I try to apply it and I can never find the right colour to suit my skin tone. So when Honeypie Minerals offered to send me some foundation and asked me to pick a colour from their chart I was a little dubious. I couldn’t find the right colour in the shops, how the hell would I find the right colour from a chart online?

The chart is actually really easy to understand as the shades aren’t just in the regular light, medium or dark, they also categorise their shades into cool, neutral and warm undertones. This gives a much better range of shades and means it is easier for you to find one that is just right for you. The best thing? Even if you can’t find your perfect shade they will blend one for you! It is £5 more but I think that is a small price to pay for the perfect colour match for your skin.

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Honeypie Minerals are 100% natural meaning they are free of parabens, preservatives, chemicals and talc. A lot of other mineral make up brands use talc to blend their powders which can lead to breakouts and dry skin. Honeypie Minerals use mica (with anti-inflammatory and calming properties) zinc oxide (for a matte finish and natural sun screen protection) and titanium dioxide (none irritating and a skin protectant) as well as iron oxides for the colour pigments.

Honeypie Minerals sent me the lightly tan shade of their foundation, the pink rose blush and some eyeshadow samples.

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The foundation colour is perfect for my skin tone proving their colour chart really does work! I had just returned from holiday when I selected this colour so it would have been slightly too light then but is perfect now my tan has started to fade. The powder is incredibly fine and buffs onto the skin really easily. The pots are a little small though so I find I end up covering most of my bathroom floor with it when I’m applying. I also find that my skin needs too be really well moisturised otherwise it goes patchy. I’ve been using this with Smashbox more than primer blemish control and I find the combination gives me a light coverage and a dewy finish. It is perfect for holidays in hot weather and I’ll certainly be putting this in my travel bag for America. It costs £11.99 so slightly more expensive than my regular foundation but a lovely alternative in the summer months.

The blush is a light pink that gives exactly what it says on the pot, a rosy finish. It is a matte colour so great to pair with your favourite highlighter and bronzer without being a shimmery mess. I used this with my Nars contour blush for a completely matte finish and they complimented each other perfectly. It is easy to apply although, like the foundation, the pot is a little on the small side meaning it does tend to go everywhere when shaking off the excess powder before application. Once on the skin it gives a lovely ‘pinched cheek’ natural finish and I had lots of compliments from friends and colleagues when I wore this for the day. It costs £5.99 and there are 5 other shades to choose from.

From the top the 3 shades of eyeshadow I received are smokey black, purple plum and mushroom. At £4.99 they are a great price to experiment with the different colours. I found these really easy to use and easier to manage than the foundation due to using a much smaller brush to apply. They all have great coverage and it is highly pigmented meaning a little goes a long way. All of these shades have a matte finish and can be used dry (like the swatches above) or with a wet brush for a more intense effect. My personal favourite was the mushroom which is a beige-taupe colour with a slightly grey finish. It is the perfect natural shade to wear every day and I added the purple plum over my eyelid when I freshened my make up for the evening when I got home from work. If I was going on a proper night out I would have applied the smokey black to my lash line with a wet brush as it is the perfect colour to use as a liner.

Have you tried mineral make up? What do you think and which is your favourite?

These products were sent for the purpose of a review. This is an honest and unbiased account of my experiences with them.

Say Yes To Dairy With Lactofree Featuring BBQ Recipes

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My final challenge from Lactofree wasn’t an easy one. Creating some recipes then having a picnic outside with friends is pretty impossible in this weather we are currently experiencing! I managed to grab a dryish day, cooked some food and took it outside to my Mum’s pretty garden so we could enjoy some fresh air. Here are two of the very simple recipes I used to create our garden feast.

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Cheesy Burgers – Makes 6

Ingredients

400g minced steak
1 onion finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon mixed herbs
1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes
1 garlic clove minced
1 egg
150g Lactofree mature cheddar cheese sliced
Mixed salad leaves – optional

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Combine all ingredients except the cheese and salad leaves in a bowl until well mixed. Portion into 6 and roll into balls before flattening to make a burger shape. Place the 6 patties on a baking sheet and pop in the oven for around 30-45 minutes, depending on how you like your burger cooked. 5 minutes before the end of cooking place the slices of cheese on top to melt. Sticking with the clean eating I ate mine on a bed of iceberg lettuce but they would taste amazing in a brioche bun with a dollop of BBQ sauce!

I’ve been eating very low carb recently so the next dish was a perfect post workout treat for me:

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Stuffed Cheesy Jackets – Serves 2

Ingredients

2 large baking potatoes
2 slices of bacon (it really doesn’t matter which bacon you use but I loved the taste smoked bacon gave to these potatoes)
100g Lactofree soft white cheese
4 spring onions finely chopped

Method

I would have loved to do these in the BBQ. All you need to do is stab the 2 baking potatoes with a fork and wrap in tinfoil. Chuck in the bottom of your hot BBQ for around 30-45 minutes until soft and fluffy on the inside. Take out of the tinfoil, cut a circle in the top and scoop out the flesh. Pop this in a bowl with the rest of the ingredients and mix. Once combined stuff back into the jacket and pop back in the bottom of the BBQ for another 10 minutes. You could do this in your oven too but you don’t need to use the tinfoil.

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I’m not sure why but these always taste so much better when done in the BBQ, such a shame the weather hasn’t been on our side!

You can find more recipe ideas and a competition which is currently being run to win a BBQ pack on the Lactofree facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/LACTOFREE.

What is your favourite healthy picnic dish?

In collaboration with Lactofree

Guest Post: Totally Tropical Trend

The lovely Lucinda from http://www.thefashionfictionary.com is here this week to tell you all about the new tropical trend…

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Tropical fashion has swamped the stores this summer. It’s everywhere, from palm trees to pineapples and it can be a little daunting, all those bold prints. Personally I love it! It’s the perfect way to wear co-ords and to brighten up your bikini collection! So here are my top 5 tropical picks:

1. Missguided Pineapple Print Kimono, £19.99

Kimonos are a super easy way to wear bold prints and inject colour into your look. I love the adorable pompom detail on this piece. Missguided have been on it this summer with trendy two pieces, fab florals and now this killer kimono. I’m in lust.

2. Topshop Lemon Print Co-ord, Skort £34 and Bandeau £30

I can’t resist a co-ord, especially one as fruity and fun as this. Taking three trends, the tropical print, the skort and the matchy matchy look and blending them into a beautiful two piece… all I can say is Topshop, you are rather fabulous!

3. Boohoo Francesca Floral Headband, £10

Summer means festival fashion so why not jump on the long standing bandwagon and add effortless style to simple hair do’s. Floral headbands aren’t going anywhere yet so make the most of them. This pretty package combines a colour palette that just screams summer. Trip to the beach anyone?

4. New Look Blue Print Palazzo Trousers, £29.99 

I’ve been after a pair of palazzo trousers all summer. The flattering cut and light material tick all the boxes for holiday wear. Throw over a bikini for beach wear or dress up with statement heels in the evening for a sophisticated look.

5. Asos Jade London Tropical Fruit Bikini, Top £30 and Bottoms £25

Nothing could put me in the holiday mood more than this super fruity bikini! Going for high waisted bottoms means we can skim over any wobbly bits for a more flattering look and you can add/remove straps from the bandeau top to make it work for most sizes.

What do you think of the tropical trend? Spotted any tropical picks of your own? Or even a tropical disaster? I’d love to know about it in the comments below!

Love Lucinda xx

Giveaway: 3000 Follower Giveaway With Wayfair

Living a healthier life can be an expensive business. Not only do healthy foods seems to cost a lot more but all the gizmo’s and gadgets to make life easier can cost a fair bit too. I’ve invested in a julienne peeler last week to make courgetti (recipe to follow!) but decent none stick pans and a spiraliser are top of my must buy list once pay day comes around.

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To help me celebrate reaching 3000 followers on Twitter (thank you so much everyone!) Wayfair are offering 1 lucky reader the chance to win £150 to spend on their website.

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This julienne peeler is the same as mine and is £24 on the website. I also quite like the look of their pans and this cast iron grill pan would help to pour unwanted fat/grease away when cooking. It’s currently £54.79 on Wayfair’s website which is fairly pricey but well within the £150 giveaway amount. If you are the lucky winner you can spend the £150 however you wish!

To enter all you need to do is complete the Rafflecopter below. The giveaway will run for the next 3 weeks and will finish on 17th September. The winner will be notified via Twitter, Facebook and/email. The prize will be honoured by Wayfair. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Beauty Review: Flint Plus Flint Glycolic Cleanser and SPF 30 Primer

You may remember a few months ago I was lucky enough to be invited to try the ultimate facial at Skin Health Spa in Manchester. It was incredibly pricy but I loved the salon and keep meaning to pop back in to have my nails done. This month I have been asked to review a new skincare line they are carrying in their clinics.

Flint Plus Flint has been designed by the brains behind the clinics themselves. Adam and Maxine Flint (get it?) know what works. I mean really. They’ve been recommending products to their customers for over 10 years whilst also carrying out over a million skincare treatments. Their new skincare line uses many of the active ingredients you will find in medical dermatology products but at a lower cost. Their aim is to be able to bring to the market a fresh looking brand that not only works but is easy to use.

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They have a really interesting concept for the Flint Plus Flint brand… it must work. Who’d have thought it?!  They are that sure that their products work that, if you don’t agree, they will give you your money back. I don’t know about you but I don’t know any other skincare brand that provides that kind of guarantee. Trust me there are many products out there that I wish would!

So onto the products themselves. You will find a small yet perfectly formed selection including every day cleanser, serum, moisturisers and an exfoliator. There is also specially formulated treats for your lips and eyes. Having looked through the products I selected the glycolic cleanser and 30spf primer to review.

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First of all let me say I love the packaging of this product. It is sleek, simple and completely unisex. I find a lot of men are put off skincare because of the way most of it is aimed at women. This product comes in a plain black box with a coloured cross on the front. The different colours specify the different products. And you know what else I love? All the products in the range are within hand luggage guidelines so you won’t need to decant into separate bottles when you go on holiday or use something else whilst there. With my American road trip fast approaching this is a very attractive selling point for me at the moment.

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I’ll start with the glycolic cleanser which is priced at £30 for 100ml. Keeping with the unisex theme this has a lovely fresh smell, not a whiff of floral in here which is a welcome change. The product dispenses as a clear gel and is a lot thinner than other gel cleansers I have tried. The directions say to use a small amount and they are not joking. I need less than a 5p blob of this cleanser to get a decent coverage to cleanse my skin. You leave it on for 2 minutes before rinsing off, the way you would a regular cleanser. This product contains 12% glycolic acid so it is important you use a daily spf to protect the skin. It also contains bisabolol to accelerate the healing process of the skin and defensil which is a skin conditioner. The defensil works to normalise sensitive skin immediately soothing irritated and inflamed areas using three active agents.

I expected this product to sting or feel tight when I left it on my skin for 2 minutes but it really doesn’t. I was left with beautifully clean skin that felt fresh and clear. My skin can be a little sensitive so I do get angry areas of redness after cleansing, it is one of the reasons my morning routine is a very quick splash of lukewarm water and a touch of moisturiser. I have found since using this in the morning, my skin doesn’t flare up as much and I can cleanse it properly. I was also shocked at the price for 100ml of cleanser at first. £30 seems an awful lot! Then I considered the ingredients and the teeny amount I need to use for every wash and realised it is actually quite good value for money.

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Onto the spf 30 primer and I am only disappointed that we haven’t had any decent weather to put the spf to good use! This will cost you £25 for 50ml which I thought was a fair price for a primer with a high spf, if it works that is.

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This product doesn’t really have a scent which is nice considering it is to be used after cleansing, toning, serum and moisturising. Unlike other primers I have used this is a cream consistency and is quite thick meaning, like the glycolic cleanser, a little goes a long way. It sinks into the skin quickly giving it a matte finish ready for make up application. Whilst it sinks into the skin it makes the skin feel hydrated and fresh, I can only imagine how welcome this would be on a hot sunny day! I used this all last week and was amazed by how long my foundation lasted. I have combination skin so my chin and the sides of my forehead tend to get shiny midday but not with this primer. As well as protection against UVA and UVB rays this primer also contains venuceane to fight infra red, reduce inflammation and limits wrinkle formation. As a 32 year old woman this is a huge selling point and makes that £25 a lot better value! As well as this wonder ingredient it also contains osilift which is a natural sugar found in purified oat extracts that has a tightening effect helping to provide both short and long term anti-wrinkle properties whilst also helping your make up to stay put for longer. The latter I have definitely seen in action. I didn’t notice much difference to my wrinkles but, like I said in my Boots No7 serum post, I don’t really have that many anyway. Hopefully the combination of a good serum and this product will prevent wrinkles for longer.

All the products in the line can be found at Skin Health Spa clinics across the country or you can buy them online. I suggest you hide them from your partner, it is times like this I am glad to be single!

These products were sent for review purposes. This is an honest and unbiased review. In fact I wish I hadn’t tried them as I will now end up buying the entire range, I can see it coming.

Restaurant Review: Turtle Bay, Manchester

When I hear the word ‘Caribbean’ I always think of rum. This makes me happier than you could possibly imagine. So when I heard Turtle Bay was coming to Manchester I was very excited. Marketed as a Caribbean restaurant Turtle Bay is not only home to lots of rum but to some interesting cuisine that’s a little bit different to the norm.

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Anyway, more about the food later. We started with a rum tasting delivered by Bar Trainer Oliver. This was slightly different to other rum tastings I’ve been to as this was showcasing a mix of the rums available at the main bar in Turtle Bay rather than a particular brand. Oliver started by introducing us to the different sugar based products used to make rum such as juice, molasses and cane. He moved onto the rums available at Turtle Bay including Appleton Estate, Pyrat, Pusser’s Navy and Chairman’s Reserve. A new one for me and one that went straight into my top five rums is Santa Teresa Rhum Orange. Wow it is sweet with a slightly syrupy orange kick. It is more of a liqueur in finish than a rum but beautiful and one I will continue to try to track down around the city.

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With bellies suitably rum filled we sat down to eat. Turtle Bay’s décor is café style with wooden tables and brightly coloured metal framed chairs. I like that they have tried to keep a Caribbean style despite the vast space that this restaurant occupies. I’ve visited the Dominican Republic and all the restaurants I visited there were minute compared to this place.

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Trying to stick with the healthy living regime I went for the jerk pit prawns to start whilst Charlie went for the more carb heavy salt fish patties. My prawns arrived shell, as described in the menu, smothered in a herb butter. They had clearly just been cooked as they were rather hot which, combined with the butter, made them incredibly difficult to de-shell. Taste wise they were delicious and juicy, they didn’t need so much butter or the flat bread they came served atop. The flatbread unfortunately soaked up a lot of butter meaning it became a bit too soggy to enjoy. Charlie’s salt fish patty was tasty with a fiery scotch bonnet mayo which complemented it well.

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Onto mains and I decided to try the chicken festival salad with Charlie choosing the double dipped steak. I knew just by the name of it I would be jealous once the food arrived!

My salad was constructed perfectly with all the elements separate. I loved this as it meant I could try them all individually before mixing them together! The jerk chicken wasn’t too spicy which, was perfect for me but may not be enough for some people expecting a fiery heat from the marinade. The salad had raisins in to give it a little sweetness whilst the watermelon arrived in a ¼ sized chunk on the board. I ate it separately as a palate cleanser rather than combine it with the salad but it would have worked either way. As a side I also got Trini chickpeas and I am so glad I did. I love chickpeas anyway but these were lightly seasoned and gently fried so they were slightly crunchy on the outside whilst soft on the inside. They were far too moreish so I handed (begrudgingly) the little cone they arrived in to Charlie.

Whilst she munched away at my Trini chickpeas I got to try her double dipped steak. Cooked exactly as requested it was slightly chewy and would have benefited from being rested a little longer. The jerk marinade was tasty though as were the sweet potato fries it came with. Lightly seasoned they were not dissimilar to the sweet potato fries on offer elsewhere in the city. My initial jealousy wasn’t needed as I much preferred my lighter main!

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We ordered an extra side of sweet plantain after me first trying this delightful dish at a street food stall in London on marathon weekend. This wasn’t as good with the plantain being much sweeter than I remembered and slightly greasy.

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Onto dessert and I chose the BBQ pineapple whilst Charlie opted for the Spanish town Sunday. I had had my eye on that all day so to say I was jealous is an understatement! The pineapple had been lightly grilled and was served with a scoop of the coconut ice cream. The rum caramel glaze was delicious and sweetened the dish nicely whilst the ice cream gave a bit of richness without overpowering the dish. I thoroughly enjoyed this and it is something I will order again. Charlie’s sundae was layered with fresh mango, pineapple and papaya finished with a mix of mango sorbet and the same coconut ice cream I had on my dessert. The flavours were fresh and fruity; a perfect twist on the traditional fruit salad.

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We finished the evening with some cocktails and I went for the rum runner having been introduced to this heady concoction at All Star Lanes. Completely different this one arrived frozen and was a blend of dark rum, blackberry and banana liqueur, lemon, grenadine and pineapple. I have a sweet tooth but this was a bit too much for me. So much so that I didn’t actually finish it! I also tried a mojito which was good. I’ve had some poor mojitos in this city but this was good, light and fresh but not too sweet.

The service was impeccable at Turtle Bay and our food arrived quickly at each course. With the heat of the prawns and the need for more resting of the steak I feel this could be slowed down a little adopting the more Caribbean way of living, laid back and relaxed. I’ll be back though as the menu has some perfect options for those watching their waistlines yet not wanting to miss out on a good night out. And there is that rum…

We dined as guests of Turtle Bay and weren’t asked to pay for our food and drink. This has not impacted on this review which remains honest as always.

Splendid Sausage Co. Launches The Whoa-Nut And Something Is Afoot…

Whoa!! I hear you cry… what’s that? Well dear reader, let me introduce you to the latest dessert to hit the Manchester streets.

Splendid Sausage Company

This… this is a whoa-nut. We’ve seen cronut, a cross between a croissant and a donut. I wasn’t a fan but this whoa-nut I can get behind. Hand poured waffles are deep fried at Splendid Sausage Co. before being topped with the day’s special toppings to create the perfect dessert either to eat in or on the go. There is a lemon meringue version (as pictured above) as well as a mixture of 4 kinds of chocolate known as ‘chocolots’ (pictured below).

Splendid Sausage Company

Having the sweetest tooth ever I didn’t have to be asked twice if I wanted to try one of these beauties. I popped straight in to be welcomed with the raspberry and white chocolate version. I mean, raspberries are fruit so that makes them nearly healthy right?

Splendid Sausage Company

The waffle is sugared like a donut yet still slightly crunchy on the outside like a waffle. I was so confused that I had to eat the whole thing to be sure it tasted good. The verdict? It does. They are slightly chewy and the toppings fit perfectly in the little dimples of the waffle. I started all refined with a fork but soon ditched that to pick up my whoa-nut and eat it with my hands. I’m a fan and, at £2-£3, you get more for your money than a run of the mill Krispy Kreme. Now if someone could make sure they have sold out each time I’m passing my personal trainer will thank you.

Whilst I was trawling Twitter this afternoon I also spied this… I don’t know what is going on but something is certainly afoot at Splendid Sausage Co. HQ! I suggest you keep your eyes peeled for more…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FXaE5twPxng&feature=youtu.be

I wasn’t asked to pay for my whoa-nut. This is an honest and unbiased review of the sugary goodness that they are. 

Slimmer Saturday: Clean Eating and Dirty Training with Cheshire Personal Trainer

Regular readers will know that I have been eating and training differently over the past month or so. I would be lying if I said this has been simple but, instead of feeling hungry and exhausted after every workout, this has been more difficult from a mentality point of view.

I’m not one of those people who claims to have tried every diet under the sun and none of them work. I was a big kid, always was, and found the motivation at the age of 19 to do something about it. I lost just under 6 stone on the Weight Watchers diet and managed to keep the majority of the weight off. I’d like to say it was easy and the weight just stays off but that is certainly not the reality. If I’m honest I think I was bordering on some form of eating disorder. I would weigh myself 3-4 times a day and got into a dreadful eating habit of going to Weight Watcher meetings once a month to help maintain my weight. This meant that after my monthly weigh in I’d eat a chippy tea then, for the next 3 weeks, eat very little because I thought I had to ‘make up’ for my ‘naughty’ meal. I was losing more and more weight and decided enough was enough. I stopped going to my monthly meeting and tried to do things my own way.

Life being life things changed and I found my weight slowly creeping up. I love food (as you can probably tell from a lot of this blog!) and various lifestyle changes meant it was getting out of control. Something had to change and then I was introduced to John Preston aka Cheshire Personal Trainer. I’ve tried personal training once before and vowed, at the time, never to put myself through it again. The guy  spent the whole hour telling me how unfit I was and how I should be able to lift/move/push/press an awful lot more so you can imagine I was more than nervous at the thought of going back into that environment.

Instead of detailing every step I have gone through over the past month I wanted to give you some pointers on how I’ve changed my life with John’s help and some useful sites you can refer to for help. I need to stress that I am not a nutritionalist nor am I trained to give advice on healthy eating and diet. This has been working for me and a few people have asked me to write about it so that’s why this post is here. As always, you should seek advice from your GP before you make any drastic changes to your lifestyle.

clean eating 1

 

  1. Change the way you eat

Most ‘diets’ tell you to eat low fat, low calorie food. The supermarkets are full of foods claiming to help you lose weight and lose weight fast. The biggest thing I have learnt over the past few weeks is that this is not a quick fix. There are loads out there claiming to help you lose weight in a matter of weeks ready for that summer holiday. Your health is a lifelong thing, not something you do for a few weeks then go back to how you ate before. I now eat as clean as possible. That means higher protein to keep me satisfied and higher fat. If you look at the ingredient labels for low fat foods you would be amazed by some of the stuff they add to make it taste anywhere near as good as the full fat version. This, in itself, is worse for you than the fat they have taken out! Fat isn’t the enemy… I now eat butter, cheese, good quality oils. All stuff I have been told is bad for me in the past. Below is what I eat on a normal day when I am not training:

protein pancakes 2

Breakfast
Protein pancakes with raspberries and Total Greek yoghurt

Lunch
Tuna and feta cheese with salad topped with a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar

Afternoon Snack
Carrot and pepper cut into batons with some natural peanut butter

Tea
Good quality burgers topped with goats cheese on a bed of spring greens

You’ll notice that this is very low carb but I include potatoes into my evening meal on days I train. I also allow myself one night a week where I eat what I want. It helps me keep balance and stop craving foods I don’t eat every day. I know that I can eat that chocolate bar if I want, I’ll just wait until my ‘cheat’ night. It also means I can still write restaurant reviews but will make more of an effort to eat the healthier, cleaner options on a menu.

You can find some great recipes for clean eating here:
Fitter Food
Primal Will
Nic’s Nutrition
Paleo Porn
Hungry Healthy Happy

clean eating 2

         2. Change the way you train

Every time I go to the gym there are rows and rows of people pounding the treadmills who are still there when I am done and leaving. Cardio burns calories, that’s true, but what about exercising in a way that continues to burn calories even when you aren’t working out? That’s where lifting comes in. Lean muscle works harder than fat meaning you are not only leaner but happier. That might sound farfetched but I love the feeling being able to lift heavier and for more reps has on my confidence. So much so that I have ditched my failsafe old leggings and baggy t shirts for new gym gear! When embarking on a new lifting programme I think it is really important to take some advice from the professionals. I am a member of Team Lean at Cheshire Personal Training where I go twice a week with a group of 5 other people. We work together to encourage and motivate each other with workouts set to push us to our personal limits. I’m never going to be able to lift as much as some of the other members in the group but you know what? That’s ok. I’m working to MY ultimate limit and that’s encouraged at Cheshire Personal Training. I’ve noticed a huge difference in just 1 month. I can lift heavier and for more reps. I can keep up better too. We regularly do tabata style sessions and I used to have to miss rounds to get my breath… not anymore. I can keep up and my stamina is building by the week. John is helping me be the best I can be, for me. Not for anyone else or to show a loss in lbs on the scales. Which brings me to my last point…

clean eating 4

         3. Measure don’t weigh

I’ve been a slave to the scales for most of my adult life. Slimming clubs focus on weight loss as a sign of success. I do weight myself still, I can’t really help it but at the same time I am measuring myself. Let me tell you, I’ve lost centimetres from every part of my body. The most interesting thing is learning where my body is getting leaner first. I’ve lost the most from around my waist and hips but my legs are taking longer to catch up. I’m a typical pear shape so this isn’t a surprise to me. I know my legs will catch up sooner or later!

clean eating 5

So there it is. I’ve got a long way to go but in just a month I can tell the difference. I’m leaner (huge thanks to the lovely people who have told me this over the last few weeks!) fitter and I’ve had no IBS symptoms whatsoever. Who’d have thought it? All this has come from my time with Cheshire Personal Trainer and I’d recommend them, not just for your personal training sessions, but for constant support, nutrition advice and feedback. You can follow Cheshire Personal Trainer on Facebook or Twitter.

Ultimately you need to do what is right for you and this, this is right and working for me. I’ll be keeping you up to date with my latest recipes, finds and tips as I continue on my journey to a healthier life. Please let me know if you are following a healthier lifestyle and what you are doing, I’d love to know!

I pay in full to be a member of team lean with Cheshire Personal Trainer This is an honest and unbiased post of my experiences. I’ve used some images taken from John Preston at Cheshire Personal Trainer.

 

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