Guest Post: Men’s Pampering At Chapel Holistics, Cheadle Hulme, Stockport

As a full time personal trainer and red blooded male I spend the vast majority of my time engaging in manly pursuits such as arm wrestling, weight lifting, hunting and not forgetting rescuing damsels in distress.

Imagine what went through my head when Keeley asked me to go and review a spa evening!!

My first thought by the way – ‘I’m not getting waxed’

Of course, working in the fitness industry my experience of massages usually involved some evil ba$7ard sticking his / her elbow into my thigh to work out the knots so deep down I was actually quite looking forward to something a little more relaxing.

My day job as a trainer often involves clients (both male and female) looking to lose weight. Why am I telling you this now? Well……pretty much every body composition change is governed by your hormones. If your body is full of stress hormones (cortisol) then guess what? You aren’t going to see the changes you want. Still think you shouldn’t be spending time relaxing?

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I arrived at Chapel Holistics, situated in the shopping precinct Cheadle Hulme to be greeted by Carmen the owner and her husband Stuart.

Carmen explained to me that around 40% of their clients are men. Some of the guys had been introduced to spa treatments by their other halves and just kept coming, for others it’s a ‘secret’ that they sneak in for a relaxing treat occasionally!

There were several treatments on offer ranging from massages to facials and eye brow shaping – apparently brow shaping and HD brows are a real thing that people ask for….who knew!!

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……..so anyway, I decided to avoid looking surprised for the next week and opted for an Indian head massage.

This involves massaging the back of the head, neck, scalp, shoulders and arms. Apparently this will help with headaches, back pain, stress reduction and even insomnia.

I must say that once we got started it was actually very calming and relaxing so thumbs up from me!

If anything it was possibly a little too light for my taste.

This treatment normally lasts for around 45 minutes and costs £28.

Next up – Thermal stone massage!

According to the folks at Chapel, this involves heated stones being used on various points on the back to give a deeper massage and allow the muscles to really relax.

This was much more up my street! I found this one very relaxing and the therapist managed to loosen my shoulders up quickly without huge amounts of pain.

A 30 minute massage should cost £25

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed the Chapel for Chaps evening and would highly recommend that any of you guys reading this give it a go – the girls reading this, treat your fellas to a session.

I should point out that the treatments I received were free of charge on that occasion but I fully intend to go back!

Soon.

If you would like to read any of my fitness or nutrition based ramblings, catch me here –

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Travel: 48 Hours Eating Around Lille With iDBUS

As you may know I travelled to Lille for the weekend earlier in the month with iDBUS. iDBUS run a luxury coach travel service from London Victoria to several locations at competitive prices. We picked Lille as it was only 5 hours from London and neither Charlie nor I had visited before.

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The best thing about iDBUS is that there is plug sockets and wifi on board so laptop in hand, off we went! I’m sure the signal isn’t really designed for laptop use and we found the connection very hit and miss in the UK but once we hit France, it was great! Going we had a plug and table each but coming back there was no plug. This was frustrating but luckily the coach was fairly quiet so we could have a plug each. The journey was smooth, comfortable and thoroughly enjoyable, I’d definitely consider travelling with them again especially considering they offer return journeys from as little as £23. It’s nice to see France as you drive through!

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On arrival we had a quick wander and checked in at our hotel Balladins. I’d not heard of the chain before but we paid just £90 for 2 nights so it was an absolute bargain. It reminded me of our Ibis budget as it was very basic yet perfectly acceptable. The staff were wonderfully friendly giving us advice and tips on where to go.

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Charlie spotted La Palais de la Biere so we stopped in for a quick refuel before much needed sleep ahead of a day of sight seeing.

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The local meat platter was a delight and, accompanied with warm bread and cold butter, really hit the spot before we nodded off to sleep.

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A short stroll from our hotel saw us at the Wazemmes Market that was the only place bustling on a cold Sunday morning. A flea market on the outside and a food market on the inside, this place was a shrine of goodies and I was quick to pick up some local cheese. We also visited Aux Merveilleux who had a queue out of the door for their beautifully light meringues.

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Hoping to soak in some local culture we popped into Le Palais Des Beaux Artes housed in a beautifully ornate building. The place is vast and we didn’t see nearly half of what it had to offer but I loved how these two statues look like they are squaring up to each other across the corridor.

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Lunch was calling so we stopped at Aux Bretons where I ordered a goat’s cheese salad. True to French form it arrived on toast atop some leaves with roasted apples. The dish was divine and just perfect washed down with some local wine.

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Lille is full of beautiful buildings and I loved this church next to an ornate apartment building.

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The Opera de Lille was no less spectacular and by this point we were seriously flagging from touring so many beautiful places! A quick nap and we popped back out to Grand Place for some dinner.

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Brasserie Flore on Grand Place was our location and their moules frites was incredible. A very light cream sauce coated the mussels with carrot and celery for some added crunch. The fries could have been a little crisper but I hardly touched them anyway, there were so many mussels to get through!

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Now I was full, I promise I was, but my ‘dessert tummy’ was crying out for an authentic crème brulee and I am so glad I ordered it. The custard was looser than any I’ve had in the UK but it worked so well. The topping with the delightful crunch when cracking through the burnt sugar, something we get so wrong so often. Just gorgeous.

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Not being a beer fan I decided it was time to take the plunge and tried a beer flight at 3 Brasseurs. As predicted I didn’t like them all but, surprisingly, I preferred the darker of the beers. I expected to like the lighter varieties so I was pleased to add something else to my drink list!

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For our last day we went for a bit of a shop on Grand Place hitting my favourite place in the world, Sephora before Carrefour for wine and Hema for pretty stationery.

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I should have apologised to the other passengers of iDBUS on the way home as I tucked into my Wazemmes Market goodies of soft cheese with figs and cheese bread. I’m not sorry really, it was the perfect company when travelling home working on my laptop and listening to music streamed through the wifi. The perfect end to a perfect trip.

Travel and accommodation provided courtesy of iDBUS. Everything else paid for in full.

 

Recipe: Clean Chicken Curry With Spice Kitchen

I’m a fairly new convert to a good curry. Takeaway wise I have always favoured a good greasy Chinese but have found I can knock together a pretty good curry in no time that is healthy, filling and nutritious. Why would I waste money on something that totally irritates my IBS and contains thousands of weird chemicals when I can create something that I know the exact ingredients of at home? Well, this is what I thought. Until I really started reading the packets of my herbs and spices. I never knew they contained weird additives to stop them from going off. The lovely chaps at Spice Kitchen have the answer.

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Spice Kitchen source the freshest spices from around the world then hand blend and roast them before carefully packing them to be delivered to your door. I swear the package arrived at my desk at work and a colleague actually asked if I had Indian food for my lunch as he could smell the spices through the packaging! My spices were carefully packed in simple Ziploc bags ready for me to blend and/or grind as I saw fit. Spice Kitchen also sell authentic spice tins known as ‘masala dabbas’ in India. I think I need one when I place a repeat order as it would really help to keep my spices fresh and easy to use. The biggest positive for me as a clean/paleo eater is the omission of any nasties. These are fresh spices and this is evident by the intoxicating smell that hits your nostrils the second you open the packet.

So not really having much of an idea when it comes to individual spices I thought I’d combine the lot and see what happened. I really need to do this more often as the result is a taste sensation, I present to you the easiest chicken curry known to man that you can whip up in less than an hour and satisfy the hungriest healthy eater.

Clean Chicken Curry – Serves 4

Ingredients

2 teaspoons cumin
1.5 teaspoons coriander
1/4 cinnamon stick
1.5 teaspoons turmeric
4 curry leaves
1 teaspoon chilli powder
2 teaspoons garam masala
1.5 teaspoons mustard seeds
3 cloves
2 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon avocado oil
4 chicken breasts
2 carrots
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 carton passata
Salt and pepper to taste

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Method

Put all spices and garlic in a spice grinder and blitz. I used the Nutri Ninja and it worked just as well.

Heat the oil in a pan and fry the spices until they form a smooth paste with the oil. Add the chicken and fry until browned and cooked through. Add the rest of the ingredients and enough boiling water to cover. Pop on a lid and simmer until the sauce is thick and coats the chicken. I like my curry really thick but if you prefer a ‘wetter’ sauce, take off the hob earlier.

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I play with this recipe by trying different meat, vegetables and side dishes. My favourite is some steamed spring greens or chopped leeks so I can keep things clean but it works perfectly with rice.

Enjoy, let me know if you try it and what you think.

Spices provided for review purposes.

Cuisine With A Conscience: Tampopo Supporting MAG

This month sees the start of a special partnership. Tampopo have partnered with MAG in support of the work the charity does to try and protect people in other countries against the very prominent threat of deadly landmines. MAG current works in fifteen countries such as Libya and Cambodia clearing unexploded devices from past war and conflict that detonate and, not only injure, but kill people every day.

You can now donate to MAG by eating delicious pho at Tampopo as the dish will give a 50p donation for every portion sold to MAG, you don’t have to do a thing.

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I can’t think of an easier way to give to a great charity and this pho is just delightful. Chicken or rump steak in a clear broth scented with fresh herbs, star anise and lime as well as noodles. Not the easiest thing to eat with a spoon but wonderfully warming and the perfect comfort food for the cold weather we were experiencing on the night. The rump steak was served raw and cooked in the hot broth making it tender and cooked to my liking.

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We also tried the goi cuon and gai yang on the night. The fresh rice paper rolls and chargrilled chicken thighs are on the starters menu so make the perfect appetite starter for your pho. Both are lightly spiced and beautifully fresh. I love the open kitchen here and watching your dishes being cooked in such a vibrant kitchen is a delight.

The work MAG do can’t continue without your help. They are a small charity based in Manchester and brought some models of the mines they clear to show us on the night. The thought of these terrifying objects being hidden from view just waiting to detonate and seriously harm or kill someone is unthinkable. Next time you are thinking of doing something for a worthwhile cause, I would recommend you consider them.

 

February Special At All Star Lanes

All Star Lanes love a good special and do one most months. February is no different… let me introduce you to the pulled chicken sandwich.

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For one month and one month only you can try a twist on a classic. The pulled pork has been shelved for a chicken version complete with slaw, pickled red onions and crispy chicken crackling. I thought the chicken may be dry but the sauce keeps it nice and juicy with the tart red onions cutting through the sweetness of the BBQ sauce. I had mine with some regular seasoned fries and have to admit to dismantling it and scooping chicken up with the fries. I do love a topped fry! The chicken crackling was light and thinner than pork crackling making it much easier to eat giving the burger that extra bit of crunch. A pretty tasty addition if I do say so myself although the bun makes the whole sandwich a little on the sweet side. You know me by now though right? Sweet is my thing!

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Speaking of sweet we visited on Pancake day so took advantage of the free pancakes offered to us! We were really late dining so they were a little on the dry side but the fruit and cream helped to give them a bit of squidge. After all, they were free for anyone who ordered two mains on the night so surely no one would grumble at that!

The pulled chicken sandwich is available through February and costs £8.50. Make sure you order the fries to scoop it up with.

We dined as guests of All Star Lanes but paid for our drinks.

Health Review: Keen Triple Nut Butter

I absolutely love peanut butter but it isn’t paleo friendly and, trying to eat a paleo diet as much as I can, I can’t help but miss it. I’ve tried other nut butters but find they are really dense in texture and far too thick when trying to cook with. So when the lovely people at Keen Nutrition offered to send me some of theirs to try I was hoping they could answer my prayers for a smoother and lighter nut butter.

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I tried the triple nut version which contains almonds, roasted hazelnuts and roasted cashews. That’s it. No nasties, no additives and no random oils. This makes them not only paleo friendly but also dairy free, gluten free, sugar free and suitable for vegan diets. Now I was dubious. The nut butters I have tried with added oils are thick and difficult to work with, how on Earth would one with no added oil work out?

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I think this picture speaks volumes in terms of consistency, this nut butter is lovely and runny making it the perfect butter to use in making recipes. The taste is also great with the roasted flavours coming through stopping it being too dry on the palate like other almond based butters.

Keen was founded by Aimee Beimers who used to be a nutrition consultant. Her passion for the clean eating lifestyle saw Keen born and the products are now handmade in a little factory in Bangor, Co. Down. They do other flavours including almond cinnamon and almond vanilla pod – both of which I can’t wait to add to my collection.

You can get your jar for just £3.50 online. Considering the price of commercial nut butters in the supermarket this is a steal and I’ll be investing in the other flavours come payday.

Item sent for review purposes.

 

Peck by Heck This Valentines

Being single this year could have been really depressing. All the flowers, hearts and pretty lingerie in the shops is a harsh reminder that I live alone but there was help at hand. Those lovely people at Heck sent me a lovely surprise that was better than any tacky card that I could have been sent.

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Just in time for Valentine’s Day the fair and square sausage has been given a hearty makeover. They’re not paleo friendly or great for clean eating but they do contain 97% pork so they’re fairly good for people following a ketogenic diet with 2.8 grams of carbohydrates per ‘heart’. The fair and hearty is also gluten free and suitable for coeliacs making it perfect with some eggs over this Valentine’s weekend.

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They cook really well in the oven (I struggle with my hob when trying to fry anything like this, my smoke alarms go crazy!) – nice and even. They’re really tasty, like the fair and square sausage, with just enough seasoning to make them extra tasty. Heck recommend you serve in heart shaped bread with a splodge of brown sauce however I am more partial to a plate full of eggs and spinach with mine. However you eat them, they taste pretty good.

Review: The Primal Pantry Paleo Bars

Eating paleo is all well and good until it comes to snacks. Having a sweet tooth on this eating plan is a nightmare and I’ve often struggled finding something to satisfy my cravings. When in America I tried Primal Kitchen’s paleo bars by mistake. I am a sucker for anything new and a pretty packet so bought one with my haul of quest bars to try. Then guess what, they hit the UK!

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The Primal Pantry is the new name for The Primal Kitchen. The company was founded by nutritionist Suzy Walker born from a passion to make the paleo/primal lifestyle more accessible. The bars are grain free and made using only 4-5 ingredients. The ingredients are natural and suitable for both vegetarians and vegans.

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Similar in texture to Naked bars they are easy to chuck in a gym bag for a post workout pick me up or, if really poorly planned, I’ve been known to gobble one of these for breakfast. The texture is chunky yet remains moist and not too dry, a winner for such a healthy bar.

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The packaging is clean, simple and to the point. The exact way the caveman would have wanted it. Living a paleo lifestyle isn’t easy. The idea is you eat unprocessed foods like our caveman (and woman) ancestors did. Now one could argue that these bars have gone through a process to look like this but the ingredients are 100% paleo friendly. The addition of dates gives the sweet fix that I so desperately need when cutting sugar out of my diet.

They’re not cheap at £1.49 each but they are made using the best ingredients and, for that sugar fix, I’m happy to pay. You can buy them in Superdrug or in bulk on the website. I know what I’ll be doing.

Item sent for review purposes although paid for in full when in America.

Kosmonaut Presents Barrel Aged Cocktails

Manchester is awash with places to get a good cocktail these days. I have my favourites and am regularly asked where to go by friends and family. I often recommend the same places though and the reason for this is simple, I like something unique and different. Yes you can get stonking cocktails in many places but something a bit special? That is a little harder to find.

So when Kosmonaut announced they were introducing barrel aged drinks to their menu it was quite exciting! The most exciting thing about barrel aged cocktails is the exclusivity of them. Each cocktail will be aged in a barrel for 28 days before being bottled where the ageing process will continue at a slower pace. The uniqueness of these drinks isn’t just the ageing time. Each cocktail will taste slightly different as the barrel used takes on the flavours of the drink. It’s hard not to be excited by this and the idea that each time you order your favourite, it is likely to taste slightly different.

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Kosmonaut are known for their simple yet classic drinks and they are sticking with these theme for the barrel aged drinks. I can’t reveal all their plans as yet but keep your eyes on their Twitter feed for a competition or two as they annouonce their new concoctions each month.

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The first of the drinks to become available is the Martinez. Known as the blueprint for the martini the drink mixes sweet vermouth, gin, maraschino and orange bitters. We were lucky enough to sample a regular version and one made with the barrel aged drink. Surprisingly for my palate I preferred the aged version. It has a slightly caramelised flavour with deep and rich notes and is much smoother thanks to the vanillins in the barrel.

There will only be 25 of each drink available so expect these to sell out quickly. Because of the exclusivity we only got to try a shot glass sized amount so I have no pictures of the finished article but then I’m sure you don’t need to see that when you have read this post.

Pop in Kosmonaut and give it a try, and make sure you follow their Twitter so you can have fun guessing what is coming next.

 

Health Review: Renew Life First Cleanse and Fibre Smart

There are two words I hate more than anything at the moment in the healthy living world. DETOX and CLEANSE. Urgh, they are everywhere! By taking a couple of tablets you can eliminate all toxins from your body and live a healthier life, no matter what else you throw down your neck. So imagine my delight when I was approached by Renew Life and asked to review their First Cleanse supplements. Oh I was looking forward to this one…

Renew Life produce a few different ‘cleansing’ kits and believe total body cleansing is one of the best things you can do for your health. I started my review by taking their ‘how toxic are you?’ quiz which asked me a number of questions to determine my ‘toxic score’. Living a fairly healthy lifestyle I did ok and was only scored as being slightly high on the toxicity levels. They recommended I try the First Cleanse based on these results accompanied with their Fibre Smart supplement.

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The cleanse lasts for 14 days and the packaging says to take the First Cleanse 1 in the morning and the First Cleanse 2 in the evening. They contain different ingredients which work in the body better at different times of the day. Some of the ingredients I have heard of as being excellent for helping the body to work properly. Turmeric root for, example, has a wealth of benefits and is used to make medicine for loads of ailments including stomach pain, diarrhoea and liver problems. There’s magnesium in the cleanse 2 which is recommended by my personal trainer to help repair the muscles following exercise but it is also good for constipation and to get things, er, flowing again.

The Fibre Smart’s main ingredient is flax seed which contains both soluble and insoluble fibre sources. I was worried taking both together would see me unable to leave the toilet!

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So enough about my opinions, did they do anything? I would suggest taking these with food otherwise they can leave a funny taste in your mouth and they do dissolve fairly quickly so make sure you take them with a big glass of water.

I took them for 14 days and have to say I could tell a difference. I had a dreadful cough at the start of the cleanse that had gone within a couple of days on the course. 2 days after finishing them my cough was back, go figure! My skin looks clearer, I didn’t have ‘toilet’ issues and my stomach felt better than it has done for a while. Not bloated or tender.

I was quite impressed with the results, I just hate the name. There is plenty of research out there that says the body does not need to ‘cleanse’ or ‘detox’, that’s what your kidneys and liver do. If you eat healthily you don’t need to do these weird fad diets out there at the moment. So do me a favour, forget about the name, and consider these as a way to support that lifestyle. I’d certainly try them again.

You can find a local stockist here. The First Cleanse costs £23.98 and the Fibre Smart costs £14.99.

Item sent for review purposes.

 

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