As a regular blogger with DisneyLife, I wanted to share some super ideas for the mini superhero in your life, as we have a budding superhero in our house and have used the subscription service a lot recently for him to enjoy adventures with his favourite caped crusaders.

Over to my hubs, aka. To Become Dad, to tell you more...

With me as his father it comes as no surprise that Ethan could recognise – and name – most superheroes by sight not long after he could say “mummy” and “daddy”. I’ve always been a big fan, particularly of Marvel, with Spider-Man being my all-time favourite.


A few years ago, Disney signed a deal with Netflix that allowed the streaming site exclusive rights to much of the Disney catalogue and, for a time, that included the Marvel universe, thanks to the $4bn (£2.5bn) purchase of the comic giant way back in 2009. Indeed, that deal still exists, after a fashion, allowing Netflix to create original shows such as Daredevil, Jessica Jones and, more recently, Luke Cage, as well as continue to offer a much reduced selection of Marvel cartoons. But the bulk of the Disney content was removed gradually as Disney began to phase in their own streaming service known as DisneyLife.

DisneyLife, which is available on PC, Android and iOS, is a veritable treasure trove if you’re a Disney fan. From the latest films and Disney Channel shows to some really obscure classics, it is almost an embarrassment of riches.

So, it was with some relief that I discovered that Disney Life had become the new one-stop shop for all things Marvel, albeit with a few caveats…but I’ll get to those in a moment.


Upon signing in to DisneyLife you’re presented with a number of tiles for the most popular shows and characters. Naturally Marvel and a few of the key superheroes make an appearance here, allowing you to quickly get to the action.

There are dozens of Marvel cartoons on offer here covering most of the “big” names, from Hulk and the Agents of Smash to Avengers Assemble and even the relatively new Guardians of the Galaxy cartoon.


Ultimate Spider-Man makes an appearance, but the site doesn’t offer the far-better Spectacular Spider-Man, nor the classic 90s Spider-Man I used to watch as a teenager.

As I mentioned earlier, there are also some omissions when it comes to films: none of the live-action, Marvel cinematic universe films are on here, I can only assume due to the service being “family” orientated (although the presence of the Pirates of the Caribbean films challenges that assumption), nor are any of the X-Men or Spider-Man films (due to long-standing and ongoing rights issues with Fox and Sony, respectively). In fact, a quick scan of Netflix shows that Guardians of the Galaxy is the only Marvel film available on that service, and none of them show up on Amazon Prime, so it would appear as though you’re currently out of luck if you want to watch the big-screen adventures of the Avengers and co as part of a streaming service – a shame, but thankfully we own them all digitally through Google Play anyway, so they’re only ever a click away.

What DisneyLife offers over other, similar services, however, is the extras. Clicking on the Jack Sparrow character tile, for example, not only brings up the four available Pirates of the Caribbean films, it also brings up a trailer for the soon-to-be-released fifth film as well as loads of behind the scenes featurettes and content.


Not only that, but through the app the service also offers countless read-aloud books and stories: perfect for car trips or putting on something for your kids to fall asleep to.. These stories are also graded by reading ability, should your child be at the stage where they’re able to read for themselves, with ratings such as “early reader” and “preschool”. There is also a great selection of soundtracks available if you just want to listen (or sing!) along to some of the classic Disney songs from your favourite films. It’s worth pointing out that the stories and soundtracks are only available through the app and not available through the computer version of the service.

A new feature, which I’ve literally only just discovered whilst typing this review, is the ability to watch Live TV, offering the Disney Channel, Disney XD (home to the fabulous Gravity Falls) and Disney Junior. A nice surprise!

However, even with all this great content on offer, there are a couple of minor downsides and ongoing issues I personally have with DisneyLife: it doesn’t remember and therefore show which episodes of something you’ve watched so if you have a child that likes Jake and the Neverland Pirates, as our son does, unless you’ve also been paying attention you may not know which episodes he has or hasn’t seen, until they inform you ‘we’ve already watched this one, daddy’ in that irritated voice only a toddler can pull off. It also doesn’t automatically play the next episode of something once the current one has finished – something that every other streaming service manages and which is a godsend for when your child wants to watch relatively short cartoons as it means you don’t have to mess with phones, tablets or whatever else to get the next one playing every 10 minutes. I mentioned this in our last review of the service and I’m sorry to say it still hasn’t been implemented.

Nor as the odd issue whereby the service will randomly refuse to play content, possibly due to it signing you out in the background whilst you’ve been watching something, the only solution to which seems to be shutting the app down completely and reloading it. It doesn’t happen as often as it used to (it used to do it every single episode of something), but it does still happen and, more recently, a new error comes up stating something along the lines of ‘cannot obtain licence’, whatever that means. A quick reload also solves this issue, but it’s still a minor annoyance worth mentioning.

What the team behind DisneyLife has finally implemented, however, and I thank them for it, is a ‘continue watching’ reel which allows you to pick up where you left off in films or TV shows. This was lacking during our last review but has thankfully now been put in place, making it easier to continue watching Toy Story without having to skip through to find where you were.


Overall, DisneyLife is a welcome addition to our home. It hasn’t replaced Netflix as our streaming service of choice, nor will it ever do so, but it does complement it nicely, offering a great selection of content both old and new for kids of all ages.


You can read our full review of the DisneyLife monthly subscription service, but as a brief guide, here's some things that you need to know know about DisneyLife this year:

* It's more than just movies, with stories, songs and games to enjoy

* Now features Live TV for the Disney Channel, Disney XD and Disney Junior

* Download your favourites to enjoy when you go away

* Watch on your TV, desktop, tablet or mobile - it's up to you

* You can get 10% discount at the Disney Store

* Try it out for seven days for free

* Just £4.99 a month with no contract or strings attached


We are DisneyLife bloggers but all opinions are our own.

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Following on from my bathroom makeover dreaming post, I wanted to share a few ideas for how to create a hotel bathroom feel in your very own home.

I don't know about you but whenever we stay away anywhere, one of the first things I do is take photos of the room and the bathroom. I love decor and feel so inspired by the gorgeous bathrooms that hotels often have - and immediately wish that our own bathroom could in any way resemble these stylish spaces.


The key things that stand out about hotel bathrooms for me include:

* Space - even in smaller hotel rooms, the bathroom usually feels spacious, probably because the designers have had to think about the best layout and which tiles and details are essential but also add to making the room feel open and inviting. To this end, if you're planning a bathroom makeover, speak to a specialist such as Premier Care in Bathing to help you get the most out of your space. Or, if you need to work with what you have, think about floor space, shelves and all corners of the room. Opt for light or reflective surfaces, from white tiles to chrome taps and mirrors, to make the room feel bright.

* Large mirrors - every hotel bathroom comes complete with a BIG mirror, so you can get ready with ease, either alone or as a whole family, plus they help to reflect light and increase the feeling of space. Use a large mirror on one wall to create the same effect - functional and stylish too!

* Sleek sanitaryware - sinks, toilets and storage are all essentials in any bathroom and in hotels, they often have sleek lines and coordinate perfectly. Wall-hung sanitaryware and storage will help give your bathroom a more exclusive feel and they also free up floor space which again makes the whole room feel more spacious.

* Task lighting - most hotel bathrooms feature a range of lighting options, from overhead to task lighting, so if you are using a vanity mirror, your face is illuminated, or when using a main mirror, you have flattering light to get ready by. Consider spotlights, dimmer switches and task lighting in the form of mirrors to give you a range of lighting options to suit all occasions.


* Fluffy towels - of course, the one thing that makes hotel bathrooms stand out is the fluffy white towels, sometimes monogrammed with the hotel logo, and if you're lucky, matching robes and slippers. Why not recreate this at home, and opt for crisp white towels and your own monogrammed dressing gowns? Easy to do and it will make you feel like you have your own getaway right in your own home.

* Sink side saviours - the other thing that comes to mind with hotel bathrooms is the complimentary toiletries on offer. When we stayed away in Alicante, we had some luxury minis left for us each day and useful kits too, offering everything we need. At home, you could add some special soaps to a dish by the sink, or handwash in a dispenser, and any other touches that will give you a touch of hotel style every day, and will make guests feel right at home.

Do you have any other tips for recreating a hotel inspired bathroom at home? What do you most like about staying away?

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If there's one room in the house that needs attention, and has ever since we moved in, it's the bathroom. Despite it being one of the most used rooms in the house by the whole family, we have never got around to making it over and our bathroom does need some TLC to turn it into a space we actually want to spend time in, and soak away the stresses of the day.

I often think about the design possibilities and even though we have a relatively small space to work with, I know we could make the most of what we have if we start by rethinking the layout.


As much as a love a nice bath, the way our bathroom is currently laid out doesn't really make the best use of space. Something like a D-bath, walk-in bath or shower, perhaps even a wetroom, would be a much better solution. With busy family life, showers are our preferred option so we can get in and get out quickly and with some professional advice, from a specialist such as Bathing Solutions, I am sure we could change the layout around and make the room much more functional, and enjoyable to use, if we had a wetroom scheme.

And of course, when you have a wetroom, you just have to go for one of those experiential showers. It's worth finding out if you can have a thermostatic shower as whilst I love how with an electric shower, you have hot water on demand, your design choices tend to be more limited. With thermostatic showers, there's a lot more choice and I know that hubs dreams of a rainfall showerhead, and strong water pressure, whilst if we were able to keep a tub, I'd love a waterfall effect tap.

In our bathroom at the moment, there's a big wooden build-in unit taking up a lot of space (it used to house an old water tank) and so we could either take this away to open up a much larger walk-in shower area, or we could turn it in to stylish storage, so that toiletries are hidden away but still close to hand. Oh, to not have half empty bottles of shampoo, soggy bath toys and towels just hanging around here, there and everywhere!


The other big change we would make would be to replace all the tiles, top to bottom. This would be a big task for us as our whole bathroom is tiled. If we could take it back to basics, I think I'd stick to tiled floors and shower area only, for practical reasons and also to keep an eye on budget. I'd love to create a 'spa at home' feel, so sandstone style tiles like those pictured at the top would be perfect, and I also like the metro tile look, with grey grouting for a modern, contrasting look.

With the bathroom, there's a lot to consider before planning a makeover and it is an investment, so you need to consider how you use the space, what will suit your lifestyle and how to get the most for your budget. It's not something you want to be doing again in a few years so it's good to think about all the details and make sure you get it right. Perhaps one day we will make our minds up and get someone in to help us... I can but dream!

See also my hotel bathroom inspiration post.
I've never been away at the start of a new year before but this year, a friend surprised me with a couple of days away to a mystery location that was only revealed on the day itself.

I soon discovered that I would need my passport, which hubs sneakily offered up, and within just a few hours I was transported from wintry, frozen Birmingham to the much sunnier and warmer climes of Alicante. It was not what I was expecting at all and in next to no time, I had a change of scene and felt really relaxed. A world away from my normal routine.


I had only been through Alicante once, as a busy Spanish airport, en route to Benidorm, and had no idea what to expect. The hotel we stayed in had an exclusive level to it, with complimentary drinks all year round, a private infinity pool and stunning views of the castle and the beach and sea.

 

Over two days, we packed a lot in but still went at a really relaxed pace. The weather was 15-19 degrees by day so it felt warm compared to home and the sunshine was glorious - the pool was far to nippy to try out though! We ate lunch on the beach, shopped around the city (they had a Sephora so I was so excited) and enjoyed tapas in bustling diners and trendy cocktail bars.







We also visited the castle on the hill - just under 3 EUROS to travel in a lift to the top - and it had the most amazing panoramic views.






The flights cost around £50 return each, with just hand luggage, and it was just amazing to think how close we were to home - but how huge the change of scenery was.

The food was great, especially the breakfast banquet with everything from smoked salmon to cinnamon pancakes, the city was lovely to explore and the mix of town life, shopping and sea was fantastic. Alicante is a place you can really wander around with ease, with the main areas all walking distance from the centre and at this time of year, it's peaceful with few tourists.




Considering the price, it was an incredible break and I dare say a lot cheaper than going away somewhere at home.


I would definitely recommend a visit to Alicante and would love to take hubs, and maybe bubs, for a visit soon. Perhaps there's something to travelling somewhere else in January as a great way to blow away the cobwebs?

My first #MySundayPhoto share for 2017 and I was a bit spoilt for choice, looking back at some simple but stunning snaps I managed to take during a brief visit to Alicante (which I will be talking about and sharing more of tomorrow).

We went to the top of the castle on the hill and enjoyed such amazing panoramic views of the city. We could see aeroplanes taking off in the distance and boats coming and going, the mountains behind looked like they were actually a painted movie set and the seagulls were circling around, flying on the breeze.

An absolute must if you visit, or if you go via Alicante elsewhere. It's much more than just an airport.



Photalife
The colder months can really take their toll on my skin and even though I generally have an oily t-zone and still get hormonal spots (who said spots were just for teenagers?!), I do get dry skin and at 32, I do have fine lines that start to show my age.

I do my best to take care of my skin and like finding new products to try. I love luxurious creams but sometimes they can be too heavy and can clog up my skin or not absorb fully, leaving a sheen and making it hard to apply make up.

I had seen a few posts about a 'tattoo cream' that was getting rave reviews and I then had the opportunity to try it out for myself.



XYZ promises to 'increase your skin’s natural collagen production to lift, firm and smooth the skin and visibly reduce lines and wrinkles'. Sounds good, right?

I have been using this cream every morning and most evenings too and I am really enjoying it. The packaging is attractive, making it a welcome dressing table addition and it does make it feel like a premium product; at £39.99 for 60ml, it is more than I would usually spend but I've found that a little goes a long way and I'm expecting that my tub will last for around 3 months by the time it's all used up.



The cream feels luxe and has a thick consistency, so when you apply it, you feel like your skin is being really nourished. But at the same time, it doesn't feel thick on your skin. It absorbs well and I've found that my skin feels smoother afterwards, with dry patches taken care of. My face feels comforted but also a little firmer too, and make up is ready to apply within a couple of minutes.



The nourishing plant extracts are meant to boost collagen and the overall results you can expect included smoother lines and wrinkles and improved texture. It was actually first developed to help skin heal after having a tattoo.



I have been really pleased with my XYZ trial and would recommend this cream if you're looking for a treat for your skin. With claims that it can make you look 7.5 years younger, it's worth a shot - and with a few people saying recently they think I look around 25, perhaps XYZ is working for me!

* I received this moisturiser for the purposes of review, but all opinions, and compliments received, are genuine.

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With a new year ahead of us, it's a great time to start thinking about what you want to get out of the months ahead. Whilst I do believe that you don't need to wait until 1st January to decide what you want and go for it, it is a good time to reflect and set some goals and I find that doing this makes me feel organised and positive - even when this time of year can be hard. Getting back into work and counting those pennies all means we have less time to get things done, and we want to get the best price for everything we do buy too.


There's lots of things we would like to do this year, from updating the house (we WILL replace our tatty old carpets!) to documenting our family life, so I decided to have a look at Bidvine - a handy website that connects you to lots of services, where professionals 'bid' for your brief - to get some ideas of costs and services available in my area.

I started by searching for 'Portrait Photographers in Birmingham'. We have had a few family photos over the past four years and I think we're due for another one this year. I like having professional photos as they know far more than I do about taking a good photo and the ones we have already are so lovely.

The Bidvine proposal submission was a really easy process to follow. You start by typing your general term and selecting an option that pops up, then you enter your postcode. On the next page, you're then given a series of questions which take just a minute to answer, simply by ticking the boxes that apply, before clicking 'submit'.


You're emailed a summary of your request and quote submission, and notified how long it will take before you get a full list of responses, plus this information is available on Bidvine at any time to review.

And that's it - the quotes, and contacts, come to you.


I was really surprised how quick it was to set up a new request and there's a lot of different local services in your area that you can tap into. The fact that you can send out your job and wait for people to come back to you with competitive quotes is really convenient and handy too; last year when we needed an electrician, we had no idea what cost to expect and Bidvine would have given us the chance to benchmark quotes and make an informed choice.

Now that I've experienced the Bidvine quote request service, I can start thinking about all the other things we may want or need this year... floor fitters, landscape gardeners, reiki therapists...

At the start of the New Year, I like to clear out the cupboards, read up on some new recipes and give our daily meals a bit of an overhaul. We all tend to have the best of intentions, don’t we, when a new year begins? And I have a fun and healthy recipe idea to share with you, in collaboration with Princes.

Having a well-stocked cupboard is really useful when preparing midweek meals and we always have some cans of tuna and some veggies too. But how about mackerel fillets? I really like mackerel, particularly in salads, but have never tried anything other than plain fillets. Princes has a full range of mackerel fillets in a variety of delicious sauces and I have been experimenting to come up with a tasty dish using their Mexican flavour.

I love Mexican food and mackerel is packed full of omega-3 fatty acids and so good for you, so I had a lot of fun putting this together. I wanted to create a quick dish that’ll appeal to little ones, mixing in that mackerel with a few different colourful veggies so that all the good stuff is hidden from any fussy eaters, and that’s quick to prepare too.

So, let me introduce you to my Mexican Mackerel Boats…


Mexican Mackerel Boats
Serves: 2-4 people (depending on size of appetite, with some filling left over)
Time to prepare: 25 minutes, from start to finish
Difficulty: easy peasy (little ones can help with the mixing!)


Ingredients:
1 x 190g can Princes Mackerel in a Chipotle Mexican Style Sauce
2 x jacket potatoes
1 x red pepper
3 x spring onions
1 x small tin sweetcorn
Grated cheese, to top the potatoes

Method:

1. Pop your jacket potatoes in the microwave for 12-15 minutes, depending on size. You can pre-heat the oven on a high gas mark to quickly brown off the skin once they are cooked through, if you like your jackets this way.


2. While your potatoes are cooking away, prepare your mackerel and veg. First, open your can of Princes Mackerel in a Chipotle Mexican Style Sauce and use a fork to mash the fillets up, creating a saucy mix that’s got an even consistency Put to one side.


3. Slice your red pepper into strips then cut crossways so you have small diced pieces. Add to the mackerel.


4. Trim the spring onions and finely slice. Add to the mackerel mix.


5. Drain your sweetcorn, then add. Stir into the bowl of mackerel, pepper and spring onion. Now, you can pop this into the microwave for a minute, to heat it all through (Princes says that the fillets are even better hot, but it’s up to you).


6. When your jacket potatoes are ready – whether straight from the oven or after 5 minutes of browning in the oven – cut them in half and let the steam escape. Then take a small spoon and scoop out the fluffy insides. Top tip: Don’t scoop too close to the skin, as you need this to keep its shape.


7. Add the fluffy potato to the bowl with the mackerel and veg, and mix together well. The sauce will help bind everything together nicely.


8. Fill the jacket skins back up with the mackerel mix – as much as you can stuff in!


9. Place each jacket skin on a wire rack, sprinkle with grated cheese then place under the grill for 2-3 minutes, until the cheese melts and goes all bubbly.


10. Your Mexican Mackerel Boats are ready to be devoured! Serve up with some salad. 
Top tip: You could make some guacamole if your children don’t mind a bit of green. Simply mash an avocado, add the juice of a lime, some sliced spring onions and a twist of salt – and some chopped jalapenos for adults!


This recipe was so easy to put together, is full of good things and a great way to sneak in some oily fish and veggies if your kids are less than keen. The fluffy potato and cheese are familiar, popular flavours and the sauce from the fillets is delicious and binds everything together nicely. It’s also cheap and quick to make – a winner for any busy mum sticking to a budget.


Top tip: If you have some filling left over, it’ll keep in the fridge for the next day, or you could roll into balls, dust with a little flour then pop on a baking sheet until golden to enjoy as some Mexican potato and mackerel bites. Yum!


The Princes Mackerel range has a wide selection of flavours inspired by cuisines from all over the world – visit www.princes.co.uk/around-the-world to find out more.

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