Cocktails Launch At The Chop And Ale House, Cheadle

Being a food and drink blogger I have been fortunate enough to drink and dine in some amazing places. Some of these places I would never have known about had it been for my blog and for that I am truly grateful. I have to say though I was incredibly excited when an invite dropped into my inbox for a venue inside a hotel I know really well. The Chop and Ale House  inside The Village Hotel, Cheadle.

I’ve lived in quite a few places but grew up in Cheadle, a village in Stockport. Most of my oldest friends still live there and my family also own a shop on the high street. It is home and I visit often. Unfortunately the bar scene in Cheadle has deteriorated massively over the years. As a teenager there were numerous watering holes with DJs playing allowing us to drink and dance into the early hours. This is no longer a feature and, apart from some decent local pubs, there isn’t really a ‘bar’ in the village now. That is until The Chop and Ale House re-launched a few weeks ago.

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Residents of Cheadle and surrounding areas, you now have somewhere to drink cocktails! I can’t tell you how excited I was. So excited that I went to the event on my own and sat at the bar to sample the delights. I loved the disco ball decorations on the bar and the barrel lighting.

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Whilst the Chop and Ale House is set out like a restaurant there are also areas where you can just grab a drink. The cocktail menu is extensive and, let me tell you, really well put together. They’re not just trying to keep the pub goers happy here, there is something for everyone and if you prove me wrong? Just ask the bar staff and they’ll be happy to whip up something bespoke for you.

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The English Garden (at the top) was lightly fruity yet floral with elderflower and had a real kick from the Hendrick’s gin. Yes you read that right, no Gordon’s here. I could not believe my eyes. Now I have a sweet tooth but the Straight Up Vanilla was too much for me. Marketed as an adult take on a cream soda others lapped them up though, it is nice to have options for all palates especially in a village where there isn’t an array of cocktail bars to try.

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The Kim Sha (at the top) was a favourite of most guests and it isn’t hard to see why. Vodka with peach liqueur, passionfruit syrup. It almost reminded me of a sophisticated take on the Sex on the Beach cocktails I used to drink as a teen. Much more fruity than the sickly sweet drink I used to have though. The frozen strawberry daiquiris were also popular and blended to order.

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As if the cocktail menu wasn’t enough to keep me entertained I also got to sample some of the menu. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the brie with apricot jam but it worked surprisingly well with the slight bitterness of the apricot cutting through the creamy cheese. I didn’t think it needed the bread it was sat on but then I’m not eating much bread at the moment anyway. The butternut squash soup had a lovely kick of spice whilst the lemon tart had the sharp bite that I often miss in this dessert. Not bad for the restaurant within a hotel in a little village.

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I was bid farewell with a rum (they know me too well already) cocktail and a little goodie bag with chocolate and a cocktail mixer, the former I scoffed on the train on the way home. Well I did walk from Gatley train station and any local people will know that IS a long way, ahem.

As a resident of Cheadle I would never have thought to come into the Village Hotel to eat or drink but that has now changed, the samples of the food were promising and the cocktails, well, you must know me by now. If I haven’t got halfway through the menu by the time Christmas arrives there is something wrong.

I attended the launch of the Chop and Ale House as a guest and was not asked to pay for my food or drink. This is a genuinely unbiased review and I can’t wait to drink something other than Gordon’s gin in Cheadle in the future.

An Introduction To Kiehl’s And Their Hydro-Plumping Re-Texturizing Serum Concentrate

I’m dreadful when it comes to beauty counters. The amount of times I have popped in for something in particular and come out overloaded with bags of products, I don’t want to think about it. In fact I avoid department store beauty counters now, the temptation is just too much. You can imagine I was torn between feeling excited and nervous when Terri mentioned Kiehl’s had asked for beauty bloggers to go and trial some of their products at Selfridges, Trafford Centre.

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The Kiehl’s stand is at the back of the store but stands out due to its very own Mr Bones! The products are quite plain with the same design throughout but simple is sometimes best and does say to me that they know the products work and they don’t need to spend a fortune on packaging to promote their product.

Kiehl’s have a huge celebrity following with household names proclaiming to be regular users of the products and Alanis Morissette designing a limited edition pot for the brand’s ultra facial cream. It’s not hard to see why. The brand has been around since 1851 and still uses the old fashioned aeroplane image as its symbol. Founded as an old-world apothecary in the East Village New York, the brand blends cosmetic and herbal knowledge passed down for generations to bring the best products possible. They are so confident that their products work that they offer a money back guarantee!

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As well as an impressive money back guarantee Kiehl’s also offer a skin consultation as standard as well as encouraging you to take away samples of their products to try before you buy. The little tabs above were placed on my forehead and cheek to determine my skin type. The result wasn’t a surprise; I have combination skin with more oily spots over my cheeks than my forehead.

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Our visit to the Kiehl’s stand was to celebrate the launch of their latest product; hydro-plumping re-texturizing serum concentrate. Made with 15% plant based glycerine it is paraben and fragrance free. The product is designed to help correct signs of age related dehydration whilst plumping the skin to reduce the appearance of fine lines and a tired looking complexion. It is almost gel like in consistency and glides onto the skin with ease. Immediately after using this product my skin felt softer and smoother. After using for a week my skin looked less tired and my make up glided on much easier. Winner! This product retails at £40 for 50ml so is on the pricier side for a serum but it is well worth it.

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I was also offered some other samples when in store and my favourites are the powerful strength line reducing concentrate and the midnight recovery concentrate. As a woman in her early 30s I do worry about lines and I appreciate this product is probably more suited to those with deeper lines than I have but I found it ironed out the fine lines I already have so well. This little sample tube has lasted so long and it retails at £49 for 50ml which, for a line reducing product, is really quite reasonable compared to others on the market.

I also loved the midnight recovery concentrate for its overnight results. It’s a facial oil like no other delivering a real hit of moisture to dry skin overnight and a radiance that no other product has ever given my skin. I’ll definitely be buying some when my sample runs out! It retails at £36 for 30ml but I still have loads of my sample left as I don’t need to use it every night.

Huge thanks to Terri for the heads up and to the fabulous Kiehl’s staff for an introduction to the range. Make sure you pop in to your nearest outlet for a skin consultation and to try their amazing products, I promise you won’t go back.

I was provided with samples of products from Kiehl’s during my visit. This is an honest review and anyone can obtain these samples when in store. I challenge any other brand to beat their money back guarantee, samples and results of the products.

Guest Post: Gin and Cocktail Fun With Langtons Gin

You can pretty much guarantee I’ll get invited to drink cocktails on a day I’m doing something else. Langtons Gin invited me to sample their gin and some cocktails made with it and guess what, I was booked on my personal training sessions! Emma from selflessly offered to go for me and see what they are all about:

Hi I’m Emma from, today I’m guest posting for Keeley and I’m going to talk to you about one of my favourite subjects- gin! The other week I was lucky to meet Craig, a brand ambassador from Langtons Gin. Langton’s caught my eyes a few months ago at the Manchester Gin Festival, mainly because of the mountains on the bottle.

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Craig started by making us a simple gin and tonic, with a slice of lemon (definitely my preference!) and talked to us about the process of making the gin. Langton’s is made in the Lake District and what’s special about it is the water used to make it. The water is sourced from an underground lake and has been filtered through slate, which makes it unbelievably pure.

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The gin is distilled with 11 different botanicals, including citrus peel, bitter almonds, coriander and cinnamon. After which it is seasoned with oak bark, again sourced from the Lake District.  The water is added afterwards, the spirit is distilled four times before this though!

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Craig then made us a martini using Langton’s. I’m not a huge martini fan but it was very well balanced, the citrus notes in the gin really come out in this drink.

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I then got very excited. I am a HUGE fan of sloe and damson gins and Craig surprised us with a small batch Damson gin from Langton’s, which I’d never seen before! The damsons are frozen 3-4 times to get the most from them, but very little sugar is added so it’s quite dry compared to some very over sweet sloe gins you can get. We had the damson gin neat (yum) but also in a cocktail called the Rhubarb Triangle. The gin is shaken with rhubarb syrup and then poured over ice and topped with soda.

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Have you tried Langton’s before? What’s your favourite tipple? Let Keeley and I know in the comments!

MissPond x

Restaurant Review: The Horse and Jockey, Wilmslow

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Last week I jumped in the car and drove out to the Horse and Jockey in Wilmslow. I’ve been to Wilmslow many times as there is a pub crawl my friends love doing. I was surprised I hadn’t heard of the Horse and Jockey before, that is, until I tried to find it! Located on Gravel Road in a very residential area you could almost say it is on the border of Alderley Edge. I did wonde what clientele the pub would be trying to attract in such an affluent yet residential location slightly off the beaten track.

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The Horse and Jockey is everything a country pub should be. A large bar area with groups congregating after work as well as cosy seating areas where you can either grab a quick bite or enjoy a drink with friends. There is also a nice outdoor seating area for sunnier days and a car park for those, like me, who live that bit further afield.

Seated in a booth Rachel and I decided to go for some of the Wilmslow Tapas. I’m a huge fan of Spanish food and incredibly picky when it comes to the different flavour combinations so was interesting to see what the Wilmslow spin on this would be. Head chef Gary Peill has won AA rosettes as well as ‘best gastro pub in the North West’ so I had high hopes for what he could create.

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The menu is fairly simple with the Wilmslow Tapas taking up the most room and some classic dishes including fish and chips, pie of the day and burgers thrown in for the more ravenous. I expected there to be a separate menu for the tapas as a compliment to the menu rather than dominate it. It would have to be good!

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We kicked things off with a pot of bread complete with olive oil and balsamic for dipping as well as some mixed olives. Rachel polished off the bread announcing it was very fresh whilst I dug into the olives that, even though on the small side, had a lovely flavour with a kick of garlic.

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Up next were the chipolata sausages served with HP sauce. The sausages were a little on the dry side and I’m not a fan of anything being served with bottled sauce to be honest but they were ok and a nice idea as a small dish to share.

I was so glad the ‘Spanglish’ potatoes weren’t marketed as being patatas bravas… when they arrived at the table and I checked the menu I was a little worried! As with the chipolatas they were slightly dry but the flavour of the chorizo and black pudding helped the potatoes become a bit more exciting.

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The corned beef pasties were so cute but slightly overdone making them, too, a little dry. The flavour was great though and there was a healthy amount of corned beef filling so slightly less time in the oven and these would have been perfect. A favourite dish of mine was the spicy meatballs which were soft and moist with a lovely punch of chilli and a little grater to top them with parmesan. Perfect for those who like more cheese then others! I smothered mine, naturally being a cheese lover, but it was nice to try them without first.

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The brie fritters were absolutely huge and I have to say I felt slightly overfaced by them at first knowing that Rachel doesn’t like them. I needn’t have been because wow, they were really tasty. A crispy yet fine crumb coated the huge chunks of molten brie whilst the red onion marmalade provided a lovely sweetness to balance the dish out well. I also enjoyed the garlic king prawns with Thai green curry. This is always a dish that can go so wrong but the sauce was just right, a gentle kick at the back of the throat yet still with aromatic flavour. The prawns were soft and juicy with the veggies just cooked so they still had bite. Just lovely.

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Two dishes that arrived that weren’t on the menu was a chicken leg and mini cheese pastries served on ratatouille. I passed the chicken leg over to Rachel who’s verdict was ‘okay but a little dry’. A sauce or glaze would have been a good addition. At first glance I couldn’t work the pastry swirls with ratatouille out at all but it tasted quite good together. The ratatouille tasted fresh whilst the courgette still had bite. The pastries would have been very dry without the sauce but they worked well and I quite liked the dish as a whole.

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Our final dishes of the evening were the calamari served with chilli dipping sauce and the mini fish and chips. Had I not been quick I wouldn’t have got a look in with either of these dishes as Rachel dove in, and she hadn’t tried calamari before! The calamari was beautifully fresh, no rubberiness or chewy texture here. The batter crisp and light, I wanted more but she had the pot and wasn’t giving it up easily. The mini fish and chips was a similar story with soft fish in the centre and a light batter on the outside. The chips were chunky and fluffy on the inside, just the way a good chip should be. A delight and two dishes we will certainly be returning for.

The Horse and Jockey hasn’t been open in this capacity for long but they have big plans and are reaching out to the locals for inspiration. A group of local tradesmen were at the bar when we arrived although they now pop home to change from their work gear before grabbing their pint. I’m told they have been told this isn’t needed but that they felt more comfortable this way! There’s a Sunday roast for weekends, a light bites menu for those who want a chat over lunch as well as a Mad Hatter’s tea party at just £8.95 per person; much cheaper than the same type of affair in the City Centre.

As for the Wilmslow Tapas you can order the dishes for £4.50 each or share 4 for £16 or 8 for £32. There’s also a Thursday steak night! The Horse and Jockey certainly made me miss living in a village and I’ll be back for that steak night, I’m guessing Rachel will be sticking to the fish tapas though.

I was invited to the Horse and Jockey as a guest and wasn’t asked to pay for my food or drinks. This is an honest and unbiased review, as always.

Tea from Natur Boutique

Believe it or not I am not one for a fad. I’ve tried a few diets in my time but have never taken weight loss pills or done these shake diets that appear to be so popular at the moment. Having a personal trainer who knows about nutrition and eating for weight loss helps massively so when Natur Boutique asked if I wanted to try 3 of their teas I made sure I took the research behind them to John Preston for his expert opinion.

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I was sent 3 varieties… Lemongrass and green tea, artichoke and diet tea. Let’s look at the lemongrass and green tea first…

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This tea promises to be a green tea like no other claiming research has now shown that lemongrass also contains anti-oxidants, like green tea, so combining the two provides a whole new level of tea. The green tea element is grown in Vietnam with the help of the local Hmong people who grow Neem plants amongst the tea to help as a natural insect repellent. Delicate buds and young leaves are picked for the best flavours and, due to the altitude the tea is grown at, it grows slower providing a richer flavour.

I personally didn’t need to know all this information but have to say this is a nice tasting green tea. I’m not a huge fan of normal green tea but this has a lovely light citrus taste which takes away the aftertaste I dislike in normal green tea.

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My least favourite tasting of the teas is the artichoke. This claims to be great for Irritable Bowel Syndrome symptoms, something I have struggled with in the past. It tastes strange especially to a newcomer to herbal teas. A slight liquorice aftertaste means it isn’t completely unpleasant but it certainly isn’t my favourite of the 3 teas. That said, if I get a nasty bout of IBS induced stomach cramps I’ll certainly give this a go.

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Last but not least is the dreadfully named diet tea. It screamed ‘fad’ to me. The research didn’t help either with some of the claims being from tests on high fat fed mice and rats. I am neither a high fat fed mice nor a rat… so why should it help me lose weight? There’s also some research around the effects of green tea consumption and resistance training on the resting metabolic rate in overweight women. This sounds more like it but proves the point that drinking ‘diet’ tea alone will not really help you lose weight. John hated the name but did say there is some good research out there around green tea for supporting a healthy diet and this one contains pineapple, hibiscus and java. As with the lemongrass and green tea I’m all for a drink that tastes better than the regular green tea I usually wince my way through.

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I drank a couple of cups of this tea for a week and did see some weight loss. I lost 3lbs on the scales and also noticed some centimetres had disappeared from my waist and hips. It’s hard to say whether this is down to the tea, my clean eating diet or the resistance training I’m doing at the moment. I did notice I went to pee an awful lot more (sorry, I know this is too much information!) and I felt fuller quickly when eating my lunch after this tea. It actually tastes really good too with a fruity edge from the pineapple once again taking away the aftertaste of the green tea. I’d certainly continue to drink this tea, not because of it’s ‘diet’ claims but for the fact that it tastes so much nicer than normal green tea!

Each of these teas can be purchased at Holland and Barrett and retail at £2.99 for a box of 20 bags. They’re also on the ‘buy one get one half price’ deal at the moment, great value and I’ll be stocking up before it ends!

What is your favourite green tea?

I was sent these teas to review and wasn’t asked to pay for them. As always this is an honest and unbiased review.

International Cheese Awards, Nantwich

When it comes to the countryside I am one of those people who likes to look at it from afar. The thought of going to a festival and getting covered in mud whilst sleeping in a tent fills me with dread. Don’t get me wrong, I like camping. But I have to do it with a proper duvet and an electric hook-up. I went to the Foodies Festival a few months back and that was really muddy, so when invited to the International Cheese Awards as part of the Nantwich Show I was fully expecting to have to go out and buy wellies and a decent pair of waterproof trousers.

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I needn’t have worried. The International Cheese Awards was a very civilised affair held in the biggest marquee I’ve ever seen in my life with raised walkways throughout the rest of the Nantwich Show, perfect! This vast marquee housed over 4400 cheeses from around the world, all hoping to win a prize awarded by some of the biggest names in the food industry. White coats and hair nets were donned and rooms were chilled to keep the cheeses in their prime. The judging went on for most of the morning with us mere mortals peering through plastic curtains to catch a glimpse of the action.

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To keep us entertained we toured the different brands trying their cheese offerings and boy, there were thousands! From the mildest of cheddar to the stinkiest of blue, the sweet novelty factor and even cheeses based around cocktails, they had them all.

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I’m not normally a fan of stilton but this potted version with honey was sublime and the honey sweetened it enough for me to keep going back for more, thanks Cropwell Bishop Creamery for introducing me to this delight.

I nearly wrote the Old Irish Creamery off as being far too ‘novelty’ with their chocolate, curry and wine cheeses but they were actually really good with the curry cheese tasting like chip shop curry sauce, obviously mixed with cheese. They had the novelty factor but in a good way.

Another favourite was the Norweigan Tine Gudbrandsdalen which is a brown cheese with a sweet fudgey caramel taste. So different from anything else on offer but gorgeous and perfect for my sweet tooth.

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The winners were announced after a lovely lunch (you can see the full list here) and we were honoured to witness the admission of new members to the International Cheese Guild. Doesn’t he look dapper in his robes?

The day concluded with an Irish cheese and whiskey pairing hosted by The Little Milk Company. I don’t like whiskey but it turns out, I do like Irish whiskey with cheese! I wonder if the sheer amount of cheese I consumed on the day went to my head?

A great day was had by all and I can’t wait to head back next year, who’s with me?

I was invited to the cheese awards as a guest and wasn’t asked to pay for my ticket. This is an honest account of the day and not biased in any way. Massive thanks to Samantha Bell for the amazing photography

Summer Cocktails With Waitrose Cellar

You’ll have heard me harp on about cocktails many times in the past. I love a good drink and regular scour the bars of Manchester to find the best ones. But what happens when you don’t want to leave the comfort of your home and you don’t want to get dressed to go out (umm I swear this NEVER happens to me…)? Waitrose Cellar challenged me to make a summer cocktail using one of their own branded spirits so I thought it was about time I taught myself to shake something I could drink in the comfort of my own pyjamas.

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Despite not drinking very much at home I do have an extensive spirit collection so chose the vodka as it is something I don’t have much of and I figured, for a novice, it’d be the easiest spirit to work with.

I wouldn’t be a drink blogger if I didn’t try it neat first and this is a very spikey vodka, definitely made to be mixed! It is triple distilled and has a clean aftertaste which is welcomed but I wouldn’t drink this on its own.

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Enlisting the help of a bartender friend I scoured my cupboards and combined my favourite ingredients. Huge thanks to Hank for the help with this recipe!

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Ingredients – Makes 1

50ml Waitrose vodka
12.5ml coconut syrup
12.5ml lavender syrup
20ml freshly squeezed lime juice
Dash of cava (I used Cordoniu NV Brut)


Put the vodka, syrups and lime into a shaker, top with ice cubes and shake hard. Finely strain into a chilled glass (preferably a coupette but you’re at home, a martini glass like I’ve used will work just fine) top up with the cava and garnish with a lime wheel.

This is so simple even I managed it without ending up covered in juice or it tasting vile. The lavender gives a subtle floral taste with the double measure of vodka adding enough alcoholic punch to know it is there. I know what I’ll be doing next Saturday night… Pyjamas essential.

You can find more cocktail recipes on the Waitrose Cellar summer cocktails page.

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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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.

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