Friday, 30 August 2019

And home...

It's a couple of weeks since we returned home after our trip to Disneyland Paris; so I thought I would just do a short post to summarise our visit.

This trip was our first 'Disney' trip as a family in a few years; it has been 6 years since we visited Walt Disney World and 4 and a half years since we visited Disneyland Paris. We have not in fact had any major vacations as money has been tight so this trip was not only a chance to visit Disney but also to get our travel groove back on!

Our last visit to Disneyland Paris had been just a few days after my mum died and was in early February when it was extremely cold, so suffice to say it was a trip that was marked with sadness.

This time around we were blessed with warm weather, sunshine, a very blustery day and a bit of a soggy (but warm) day. It was busy and crowded and some attractions had very...very...long wait times but we took it all in our stride, determined to simply 'go with the flow' and enjoy every moment and you know what? We did!

We had five full days taking in as many attractions as we could, and wanted to; we 'shopped' as much as we could afford; we tried our best to eat as 'low carb' as possible (not always an easy task) and we walked and walked...we reckon that we walked between 7 and 10 miles each day!

But most importantly we enjoyed the time together as a family; enjoying what was a much needed and deserved vacation for all of us. So although the 'Disney blues' have kicked in we have once more created some great memories and reinvigorated our love for Disney...just need to start planning the next trip now...
Arriving!
I will do some more detailed follow up posts to this one with lots more photos to share!

Monday, 5 August 2019

Getting closer...

Well it's getting closer to our next visit to a Disney resort...in fact we're now in single digit countdown!

In a couple of days we shall be heading our way over to Disneyland Paris for a much needed dose of Disney.

It is almost 4 and a half years since we were at Disneyland Paris as a family and 6 years since we last visited Walt Disney World so we are very ready for Disney!

These last few years have been tough both financially and personally and this makes this trip all the more wanted.

So I am all ready? Well...err...maybe! I don't really feel like I've done any 'prep' work or research and to be honest I think I did most of that when we were deciding when to go and where to stay. It's not quite the same as visiting Walt Disney World when you have to think about booking fastpasses and dining reservations and perhaps scheduling all the different parks in to make sure you get to experience all that you want to. Paris is a much more compact resort in comparison and most of my 'research' has been done online or is something that I already know. So while there are things that are different to our last visit we shall all just be happy to experience some 'Disneyness'.

To get us in the mood myself and Molly had a little home pampering...we have matching toe nails that took inspiration from The Lion King & Jungle Festival currently happening at Disneyland Paris...

...and then we decided on a more classic, sophisticated look for our fingers!
Mine done by Molly!
Molly's done by me...although I had to ask Simon to complete the Mickey as my numerous attempts were not good!!
So what will we be doing over the next few days? Well, we will be getting there by Eurostar which will take us direct to Disneyland Paris where we will take advantage of their Disney Express service; this means that we will get our tickets and hotel information on the train and then leave our luggage at the station where it will be moved to our hotel leaving us free to go off and explore!

We will be staying at Hotel Cheyenne which will be a walk down memory lane as this was the hotel we stayed in on our first ever visit to Disneyland Paris way back in 1999. So it may be fun to try and recreate some of our photos from our first visit...although I'm not sure my eldest will be willing to join in the fun as a lot of the photos involve him being either in a pushchair or being held!!

So are there any must-do's for us on this trip? I think there are only a couple of attractions that we haven't actually rode in the past; one is the Tower of Terror which none of us have a strong desire to ride (love the themeing just not the mechanism) but the other is Crush's Coaster. Now last time we visited we tried a number of times to ride Crush's Coaster but were thwarted by either breakdowns or ridiculously long wait times so this is a definite rope drop/extra magic time objective!

Otherwise we are really looking forward to experiencing the newly refurbished Phantom Manor; Big Thunder Mountain is a big definite (this is probably my favourite version); Star Tours will just have to be done as will Hyperspace Mountain (although not by me!); the castle here is just stunning and made all the more special by a visit to its guest underneath at La Taniere du Dragon and it goes without saying (if you know me at all) that It's A Small World will be ridden...a lot!

So packing is done, euros have been bought, passports are at the ready and now it's time to have some Disney fun!

Sunday, 28 July 2019

10 Days to Go...

10 Days to go until my next Disney trip!

So for the first time since February 2015 we, as a family, will be heading over to Disneyland Paris for a well deserved 5 day visit.

This trip will mark 20 years since our first visit to Disneyland Paris way back in August 1999. Back when we had just one child who was only 18 months old and whose favourite ride was It's A Small World; which he would point out to us by shouting 'windmill' because that was the nearest landmark to the ride! Don't think this will be his favourite this time around!

So here we are 20 years later heading back with two young adults and find ourselves staying in the same hotel...Hotel Cheyenne! Oh how times have changed; in fact that seems to sum up these last few months as we get used to our children leaving education and making their own way in the world.

Although we have visited numerous times since that first visit in 1999 it will be the first time staying at the Cheyenne for quite awhile as our most recent trips have seen us staying in the Sequoia Lodge. But it is merely a coincidence that our trip this time is back to the Cheyenne as it simply came down to a choice of availability and cost. Although the fact that the hotel has recently been refurbished and now has a Starbucks on site were both big pluses when making the decision. But I think it will be interesting to see just how much, or little perhaps, has changed from our first visit compared to now.

So I thought I'd have a look at the photos from our 1999 visit; this meant getting out the physical photo albums because this was pre-digital! Also these photos are so stuck, literally stuck, into the albums there was no way I could prise them out to scan them so had to take photos of the photos!

So here we go, and interestingly the dates of our visit back in 1999 and now are very similar which was a little spooky to realise!
Registration information from Hotel Cheyenne, including admission ticket and breakfast voucher!
I then remembered that while we were there back in 1999 there was an eclipse happening, which we experienced inside Disneyland Park and I kept the small information leaflet that Disney handed out along with some special 'glasses' to view the eclipse!
Information leaflet
Special viewing glasses and me wearing them!!
Here are a couple of photos of Discoveryland;

Outside Space Mountain & Les Mysteres du Nautilus
And of course there had to be photos of the parade...love the music to this parade...Dancin' a Catchy Rhythm was just the best parade music!
Wonderful World of Disney Parade
And then this was the time when the Main Street Electrical Parade had made its way over from the US which was a great surprise to us back then as this was the first night time parade we had ever seen when we'd visited Walt Disney World back in 1991. Unfortunately the photos were just too dark to include...lots of black with a few dots of light!!

I love looking back on old photos and all the memories it brings back but now I'm looking forward to creating some new memories.

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Real Food Rocks

If you've read any of my blog before you will know that along with my passion for Disney and tattoos I am also passionate about the way we eat.

My own personal story can be found in these previous posts and pages;

Eating Well, Staying Healthy
90 Day Challenge
Four Years On

But suffice to say I am now a strong advocate of the Low Carb High Fat approach to eating. As a family we eliminated carbs and sugars from our diet just over 5 years ago. We no longer have bread, pasta, potatoes, rice, flours, processed foods, grains or sugars in anything that we eat. Our cupboards and fridge are stocked with yummy cheese, butter, cream, meats, fish, green veggies, berries, greek yogurt and some very high cocoa dark chocolate.

I have lost weight and dropped dress sizes and have been able to maintain it. My skin is better and hopefully I am doing everything in my power to avoid the modern day diseases of diabetes and heart disease; both of which have affected my family directly in the past.

Whilst we do have the odd occasional treat; these are what we describe as 'rare and appropriate', I do find that the longer that we follow this approach the less I look for those treats...which as someone with a self confessed sweet tooth I never thought I would say!

I think the 'kids' find this way of eating the most tricky out of all of us; not because they are fussy eaters but I think simply because they are faced with a society that seems to revolve around social eating and drinking and one that means making good choices are tricky to find.

This past weekend Simon and I had the pleasure of spending a day at Brathay Hall, near Ambleside in the Lake District with about 800 like-minded people at a festival called Real Food Rocks.  This was a festival organised through an organisation called the Public Health Collaboration whose mission is to improve the nations health by changing the way we eat through adopting a low carb approach.



The event was organised by Dr Jen Unwin and was supported by a number of doctors, health care and fitness professionals. There were also plenty of stalls showcasing businesses who promote the use of real food, with real ingredients while also supporting a low carb approach.

Throughout the day there was the opportunity to listen to a number of experts talk about all aspects of a healthy lifestyle. We started the day listening to Dr Michael Mosley and his wife Dr Clare Bailey who strongly advocate the use of fasting, and a Mediterranean style diet incorporating fermented foods. Next we listened to Ivor Cummins the biochemical engineer and author of the book 'Eat Rich Live Long' who spoke about the modern diseases of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease and the positive effects that diet can have on all of these conditions.
Dr Michael Mosley
Ivor Cummins
We than had a short break where we tasted some delicious low carb beef curry served with low carb naan bread from The Low Carb Food Co, followed by a coffee from The Little Blue Pig and a gorgeous chocolate and raspberry brownie from Deliciously Guilt Free.
Beef Curry & Naan bread by the Low Carb Food Co.
Dark Chocolate & Raspberry Brownie by Deliciously Guilt Free
Then it was back to listen to some more speakers. We heard Dr Peter Voshol from the Netherlands speak about his success with treating patients with Type 2 Diabetes through diet. We then heard from nutritionist Jenny Phillips as she spoke about the types of food we should be eating which resulted in me buying her latest cook book! After that we came upon Bridgette Hamilton who unknown to us is based not far from where we live; she specialises in helping people kick their sugar addiction and lose weight through her Breakthrough Weightloss program. We ended the day with Dr David Unwin who is a GP passionate about low carb and using lifestyle interventions to help patients fight obesity and diabetes and is one of the leading voices on this here in the UK.

It was so great to spend a day with people that all think the same way as we do. Time and time again it can feel almost alienating to follow this lifestyle. People who choose other lifestyles like being vegetarian or vegan can walk into shops, supermarkets and restaurants and are able to find all sorts of products on offer for them (although these are often highly processed and very far removed from being 'healthy' alternatives).Their friends accept their choice, they will make allowances for them when socialising and may even defend their choice...but choosing low carb does not always cause the same reactions.

Whilst shopping is straightforward as you simply only buy those products that you know are right i.e. real food! But dining out can sometimes be problematic and usually involves having to ask for 'insert name of bland beige carb' to be removed and replaced with veggies or salad but only to be met with a funny look and a question 'so...you don't want...?' Friends struggle to understand what being low carb means and the standard response is 'but I couldn't give up potatoes...bread...pasta...' Then throw into the conversation the 'wish I could lose weight like you', followed by me offering to explain but yet again to be faced with the 'but I couldn't' statement.

I know this way of eating is healthy, enjoyable, satisfying, yummy and easy to do and I just want to be able to help people to follow along and see the same weight and health gains that I have. But when everything that we have been brought up to understand about what is and is not healthy to eat is the complete opposite of eating low carb it is all too easy to understand why people have a problem grasping how this could be healthy.

I am angry that I spent the majority of my life following the 'official guidelines', doing what people in white coats told me or what was published through various media to then find I, along with everyone else, had been misled. It is so frustrating that the 'powers that be' are unwilling to change the dietary advise, that influence from the sugar, cereal and processed food industry is too entrenched with our governing bodies. That pharmaceutical companies need us all to be reliant on medications to keep their profits expanding and they have no interest in getting us healthy 'naturally'!

So I am determined to keep on doing what I am doing; sharing my knowledge, offering help where I can, continuously reading and researching more, learning more and then hopefully lead by example. I will continue to write blog posts about all that I am passionate about and hope that somewhere along the way I can inform and potentially change things for the better.

Thursday, 27 June 2019

Last Day...

So today marks the last day of my radiotherapy treatment.

This is not something that I have gone into in too much detail here on my blog. In fact it's not something I've wanted to make public to the world at large but now as the treatment comes to its conclusion let me fill you in.

Back in mid February, being a woman of a certain age, I got the letter through the post asking me to attend a routine mammogram which I duly did without an awful lot of thought.

Two weeks later I received a letter asking me to come into hospital for a further mammogram. Everything was worded very much along the lines of 'nothing to worry about but sometimes we have to do a second one'.

A few days later I was in the Breast Unit of my local hospital; I had another mammogram and was told there were a few white marks they needed to look at a bit closer and that after the mammogram I would have an ultra sound. So sure enough after a short wait I had an ultra sound and something was mentioned about having a needle procedure at which point I thought 'ok so by needle you mean biopsy - this is getting real'. After a long wait I underwent a biopsy, I then had a week to wait before I could go back for the results.

So as you can probably guess the results weren't great. I was given a diagnosis of Ductal Carcinoma in Situ; a form of breast cancer found in the milk ducts. Thankfully what was found was small and at a very early stage. The treatment plan set out before me was to undergo a lumpectomy, to remove the bad stuff, followed by a course of radiotherapy that would reduce the risk of re-occurrance.

Within three weeks of my diagnosis I was back at hospital for the lumpectomy. Thankfully this was all completed within a day and I was back home to recover. After confirming that all the nasty stuff had been removed and allowing sufficient time for my body to recover after the operation I then started a course of radiotherapy; 15 treatments in all.

Yesterday I saw my oncologist who was very happy with all the treatment given and then today I visited the radiotherapy department for the last time. It felt kind of strange to leave my gown behind today, this has travelled back and forth with me over the last few weeks and it seemed very poignant to leave it there...

These last four and a half months have been a whirlwind and at times a bit of a rollercoaster ride. Our lives were given a bit of a side swipe, our routines knocked out of place, our emotions thrown into turmoil, all of the usual life stuff was put into a whole new perspective.

I have been extremely fortunate to have had my amazing hubby and kids to support me all the way through this; a set of friends who would do anything for me and a fantastic team at work who have given me the time and space to get through it all.

I was extremely lucky that this was found early on and dealt with so efficiently. I cannot thank enough the wonderful team of NHS staff who have looked after me with such care and compassion. I have emerged at the end of it all in the best state possible; all the treatment has been successful and now I just have yearly mammograms to make sure it stays away!

So today I rang the bell to signify the end of treatment and then indulged in some cake to celebrate!


With much love and thanks to everyone at Royal Derby Hospital xx

Friday, 31 May 2019

And some more Disney ink!


Anyone who has visited this blog in the past knows that I love my Disney ink and this week saw the addition of some more...but not to me!

My daughter took her first step into the world of tattoos by getting herself a Disney themed tattoo - like mother, like daughter!

So we took a trip over to see my favourite tattooist Saint Heywood over at his new studio Acadia Tattoo. And there Molly sat like an absolute pro. She went for a decent sized tattoo after chatting through with Saint about placement and detail, deciding to 'go big or go home'!

I reckon the tattoo must have taken about 5 hours or so to complete with only one short break about half way through. Saint was his usual lovely self and made sure Molly knew what was happening and making sure she was involved in the whole process to get exactly what she wanted.
Initial outline complete

Sitting like a pro!


And in goes the colour
And the final result is this awesome piece of artwork


But of course I couldn't spend the day in a tattoo studio without getting a little something done on me! And while this one isn't strictly Disney it does have a nod to Disney in it.

Earlier this year as part of a routine mammogram I discovered that I had breast cancer. Thankfully it was found at a very early stage and was very small but I still needed to undergo a lumpectomy operation to remove the bad stuff and as I type I am waiting for a course of radiotherapy to make sure we've done as much as possible to get rid of it! It therefore felt right to get a pink ribbon tattoo to symbolise these last few months. When the cancer was discovered we kept referring to it as some 'naughty pixie dust'; it therefore seemed apt to get the words 'Faith, Trust, Pixie Dust' worked into the tattoo. After all having faith and trust in those around me has certainly helped me get through this whole experience; Simon, the kids and my friends have been amazing and I feel truly blessed to have them all in my life.

Thanks to Simon (Saint Heywood) at Acadia Tattoo for looking after us girls and doing an amazing job as always. The only problem now is what to have done next...

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

69 Days and counting

Yes there is a countdown happening!

Finally four years after our last visit to a Disney park we have a trip booked. This August we will be heading our way over to Disneyland Paris for a 5 day trip.

The last few years have been tight financially which has meant any Disney trips have had to take a back seat. But we now find ourselves in a position to be able to dip our toes back into visiting the parks once more.

The last time we visited Disneyland Paris (February 2015) things were very different. Firstly our kids were still kids now we have two young adults who we are blessed still want to come on vacation with us, but who are also now able to pay for themselves - win!

Back in February 2015 we made the trip under very sad circumstances as my mum had died only a few days before we were due to go. We made the trip with the blessing of family but it was a very hard trip to make, filled with memories of visits gone by made with my parents. And then there was the weather...the freezing cold weather! The wearing of layers upon layers to keep warm, the struggle to find shelter to keep warm, navigating the parks with limited food options and areas of the parks closed for big refurbishments.

Do not be fooled by the brilliant blue sky...it was blooming freezing!!
And although I did make a small trip back in 2017 with my fellow podcaster, Disney Dream Girl Michelle, there is something about visiting Disney which to me says 'family' and I am ready for us to embrace the Disney magic as a family once more.
Disney Dream Girls take on DLP - June 2017
Our lives this year are changing; both children are now young adults and both of them are reaching the end of their respective education paths and will be entering the world of work. We also find ourselves in a position to begin planning for much missed Disney travel and adventures and with a desire to ensure that life does not pass us by and that we make the most of every moment. This was brought home earlier this year when I had a brush with cancer. Thankfully it was very early stage; I have had the necessary surgery and although I have a few weeks of further treatment ahead it will all be completed by the time we set off to Disneyland Paris. But when life throws you a curve ball like this it does make you stop, think and re-assess...and although it is a cliche it does make you take a long hard look at what you are doing, why you are doing it and how can you ensure you make the best of the time that you have.

And so began the process of booking a trip!

We decided that we wanted to get away sooner rather than later which meant that a trip over to Paris was the most obvious choice. I wanted us to be able to re-visit Paris to enjoy it at a warmer time of year, to put sad memories to rest and to be able to take the time to enjoy it all at whatever pace we liked!

We knew we would have to visit over the Summer months as my job working in education forces us to visit during the school holidays. We then had to factor in my sons university graduation ceremony, my daughter getting her A-level results, dates already booked for a concert and a theatre trip...this left us with just a few weeks in August to choose from!

We also wanted to make this trip as simple and as easy as possible for us; we need to get our travel legs back so to speak! Plus I just wanted us to be able to enjoy the trip with as few stresses as possible. So we knew we wanted to stay at a Disney hotel and to travel there by Eurostar...here's where hours at the laptop kicked in weighing up all the different options!

Now money as always will play a factor when planning any vacation but especially a Disney one. And despite looking around at various different options, selecting different dates, different days of the week and through various different companies I actually ended up booking with Disney themselves.  I would always recommend that when booking you take the time to look at all the options out there and then ask yourself what you want out of a vacation and which option best meets your needs. This time around booking direct ticked the most boxes for us and we were also able to take advantage of some discounts that Disney were offering. On this occasion our booking covers all travel, hotel and park tickets but we did briefly debate whether buying an annual pass would be a better option. But because we can't at this point in time guarantee being able to use the pass more than on just this occasion and knowing that if we could make more trips we would need the pass with the most accessible dates we decided not to bother. But this maybe something we come back to in the future if we find ourselves able to travel more freely around work commitments! Who knows?!

So we are getting there by Eurostar and using their direct service. There were other options available with changes at Lille but we decided that on this occasion we wanted the simplicity of the direct train.  It's worth noting that the direct service only runs on set days per week and that may have an impact on planning, availability and of course cost! We have also booked the Disney Express service; this means that we can drop our luggage at the Disney Express point at Marne-la-Vallee station (station at Disneyland Paris) and our luggage will be taken to our hotel so that we can go straight into the parks, and then on departure day the hotel will take the luggage to the station so we can make the most of our final day.

As we live in the center of the UK we will have to travel about 3 hours to get to Ebbsfleet which is where we are taking the Eurostar from. The train actually runs from St Pancras, London and picks up at Ebbsfleet and then Ashford before heading over to France. We did look into whether we could take a train from home to London and then pick up the Eurostar but it would have cost us more than the petrol for driving down to Ebbsfleet. We have decided to travel down the day before and have booked a cheap hotel for overnight; this will take the stress out of getting there on time as we would have had to have left home in the early hours as well as battle rush hour traffic! And it still works out cheaper than taking a train from home!!

Well that's the getting there sorted so where are we staying? We knew we wanted to stay in a Disney hotel but which one? We had two factors to consider - money and whether we wanted to try somewhere different to our last visit. To be fair this did limit our choice to the Santa Fe, Cheyenne and Sequoia Lodge hotels and having stayed most recently at the Sequoia Lodge we were leaning towards the other two.

Both the Santa Fe and Cheyenne are 'graded' as 'two keys' and tend to follow the same or very similar pricing structures. But it is worth checking these two and the Sequoia Lodge against each other as on some of my searches for accommodation across various different dates there were times when the Sequoia Lodge actually came out the cheapest. But for the dates we had settled on it came down to a choice between the Santa Fe and the Cheyenne.

We had, many years ago when the children were much smaller, stayed at the Cheyenne a number of times and had fond memories of staying there;
August 1999 - Hotel Cheyenne - our first visit to Disneyland Paris
August 1999 - Disneyland Park
(Excuse the photos as these were taken pre-digital and are now physically stuck inside a photo album, so much so that I couldn't remove them to scan them so I had to take a photo of them in situ!)

Coupled with a recent room refurbishment and the additions of a Starbucks we were swayed into picking the Cheyenne over the Santa Fe. For me personally the Santa Fe doesn't look as inviting as the Cheyenne but I am definitely going to have a wander over and have a look while we are there just to see for myself.

The Cheyenne is located within the Disney resort area but is classified as about a 15/20 minute walk to the main park. There are free shuttle buses should you not fancy the walk but we know from previous visits that the walk is easy enough to do and is a pleasant walk along the 'Rio Grande' river. Having visited before with very young children and never once used the shuttle bus we know that this short walk is not an issue for us; I'd much rather have a stroll along the river than fighting to get on a shuttle bus!

So we have hotel, park tickets and travel all sorted and booked which means that I can now start planning and researching! I really want to be able to take in all the details this trip and soak up all the 'Disney' that I have been missing.

Well that research won't get it done by itself now will it....