Wednesday 27 March 2019

#AtoZChallenge 2019 - Late Theme Reveal

#AtoZChallenge 2019 - Late Theme Reveal

I seem to be totally disorganised for this year's AtoZ challenge, which is a shame because it's the 10th anniversary! I only decided on my theme very late and completely missed the theme reveal blog hop, but I do have one now and I will be taking part.

My theme this year is Ghost Stories, specifically, short ghost stories written by me inspired by places in Kent (where I live) that are haunted.

Every day (I hope ;)) I will be posting a flashfic ghost story. Some will be scary, some funny, some poignant and all different.

There are so many haunted places around here it wasn't difficult to find spooks to inspire every letter, except Z. Did you know there is only one village in Kent that even has a Z in it's name? Nope, neither did I until I looked. Luckily it has a spooky connection, even if it isn't actually a true life ghost story.

Let me know if you're taking part this year and if you have a theme!

Friday 8 March 2019

Vitalis by Natasha Duncan-Drake #FreeFictionFriday

Free Fiction Friday for March 2019

Welcome to Free Fiction Friday for March 2019. Every month at Wittegen Press we give our subscribers a free short story written by one of our authors (that would be me of my twin Sophie :)).

Our newsletter is really easy to join and we are very strict on our no spam rule and the privacy of our members. Just fill in the form on our Landing Page at Mailchimp and the links to this month’s story files will be in the welcome email.

Vitalis – by Natasha Duncan-Drake

Genre: horror, sci-fi
Hannah won tickets for her and five of her friends to attend the pre-opening, exclusive event for the new Vitalis theme park, the latest enterprise from the phenomenon that is the Vitalis corporation. She is incredibly excited until she gets there and finds it all just a little weird.

Author’s Note:
This story was inspired by my recent trip to a certain theme park near Paris that I shall not name. We had a wonderful time, but it was too tempting not to twist it up for a short horror story :).

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Wednesday 6 March 2019

Recipe: Roasted Veg, Nuts and Rice - #Vegan and #GlutenFree

Roasted Veg, Nuts and Rice

So while we were a Disneyland Paris, there was a distinct lack of vegetables in our diet, so this week, Rob and I have decided to pack in  as many veggies as possible. We're not eating totally vegetarian, but this dish turned out to be vegan and gluten free, as well as filling and delicious. It's is also super easy.

Serves 2 hungry people
Prep: 15 mins, Cooking time: 45 mins


  • 2 large parsnips (Morrisons Wonky parsnips are great for this)
  • 1 medium courgette (zucchini)
  • 10 small Chantenay carrots (or a couple of large carrots cut into pieces)
  • 1/2 small butternut squash
  • 1 medium red onion
  • 50g pecans
  • 50g unsalted cashews
  • Italian seasoning (to taste)
  • garlic powder or garlic flakes (if your Italian seasoning does not already have it)
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (more for drizzling)
  • 150g Jasmine rice


  1. Preheat the oven to 220C (430F, Gas 7).
  2. Peel and cut each parsnip into six (cut in half width ways, split the bottom half into 2 and the top half into 4, for 6 relatively similar sized pieces).
  3. Peel the Chantenay carrots (or peel and chop the big carrots into Chantenay sized pieces).
  4. Cut the courgette into approx 12 pieces (I do batons, but rounds would be fine too).
  5. Peel and chop the butternut squash into chunks of a similar size to the rest of the veg (I tend to buy one that has a longish neck and then use that part because there are no seeds involved :)).
  6. Place all the veg in a bowl and drizzle over the oil and the seasoning and garlic, mixing so all are coated (a pair of silicon tongs are great for this).
  7. Chop off the top and bottom of the onion and peel it. Then make cuts vertically through it that do not quite go all the way through.
  8. Place the onion in the centre of a baking sheet (I cover mine with baking parchment to prevent sticking) and drizzle with a little of the olive oil, and a little of the seasoning.
  9. Arrange all the veg around the onion - keep the bowl with it's residue oil.
  10. Put the tray in the oven for 15 mins.
  11. Turn down the oven to 200C (400F, Gas 6) and turn the veg on the tray. Cook for another 15 mins.
  12. Put the nuts in the reserved veg bowl and cover with the residual oil and spices - there will be plenty.
  13. Scatter the nuts over the veg and return to the oven for the final 15 mins.
  14. Cook the rice as instructed on the packet.
  15. Serve the veg and nuts over the rice in a bowl and drizzle with more extra virgin olive oil for flavour and moisture.
It can be left in the oven for longer if necessary, but be careful that it does not burn.

This really is a wonderful way to do veg - the higher temp at the beginning gives the veg some colour and caramelisation, and then the rest of the cooking softens it to a wonderful roasted consistency. And the nuts, oh my the nuts - yum! I could not finish my portion, it was so filling, but Rob polished his off completely, which is why this is for hungry adults. If people have smaller appetites it would easily do 3, just add a bit more rice.

And the best thing about this recipe is you can use whatever veg you like. You might need to blanch things like broccoli first, to stop it being tough, but it will all work. I understand Aubergine (Eggplant) is supposed to be amazing roasted.

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Monday 4 March 2019

Disability and Disneyland Paris

Disability and Disneyland Paris

As you may have guessed I have just come back from the magical Disneyland Paris, and I thought I would share my experiences. We were there from Monday afternoon to Friday afternoon and did just about everything. In case you were wondering, it was a friend's 50th birthday and a whole group of us went to celebrate.

For those who are unaware, I am disabled. I have severe bilateral talipes, aka club foot in both feet. When I was younger it meant I couldn't run or jump, and walking was harder than for normal people, but I could still cope, these days I use crutches when out and about.

For the first time at Disney I also used a wheelchair.

Now I cannot stress this enough -  if you have trouble walking or standing and are going to Disneyland Paris, please consider either hiring a wheelchair once there, or borrowing one from somewhere - it will make your life so much easier. I've been know to make my way around places like Howletts Wildlife Park and the odd castle with only my crutches to help me, which is fine, but I could not have done without my wheelchair at Disney.

The place is big! There are seats in various places, but we had fully able bodied people in our party whose feet were incredibly painful by the end of our stay. There are fake cobbles everywhere in the main park - not really bumpy ones, but enough so you know about it if walking on them.

Disneyland Paris has 2 types of accelerated access card for those with disabilities:

  • Priority Card - for those of us who are disabled
  • Easy Access Card - for those who have a temporary disability, for example, a broken leg
These require different documentation to obtain, which you do by going to the City Hall, once inside the park. For more information on what you will need, here is the link to Disney's page:

I have a blue badge, which is one of the documentation options, so I took this with me to the City Hall and a very nice young lady set me up with a pass.

There are 3 levels of disability which come down to how mobile we are without our mobility aides, in my case, my chair and my crutches. They will talk you through this, so don't worry, and cast members on duty on the rides also check when we hand over our passes to go on. In the end about the only ride I couldn't go on was the Peter Pan ride, and this was because, in an emergency, there is an 8 metre ladder. While I can do stairs no problem, as long as there is a hand rail, ladders are out - especially 8m ladders.

They also gave me a map with all the rides and explaining all the mobility requirements for each. It was great.

On the Rides

We can have up to 4 able bodies helpers with us on our pass, but they have to be with us when we register in the City Hall. They write the number on our pass and mark the passes of those with us.

On the actual rides they only checked my pass and the number of people with me, though, so I was able to get whoever wanted to ride with me on in my little party. We were in a group of 11, so I tried to let everyone have a go at the no queuing from time to time. The parks were pretty empty when we were there though, it being Feb and not half term, so they may be more stringent during peak time, I don't know.

There is no constant disabled entrance for rides and exhibitions, but there are signs on each to indicate where the disabled entrance is. In a couple of cases it was a bit difficult to see, usually because some numpty was standing in front of it! But FYI, on the Indian Jones and the Temple of Peril ride, it's hard to see because it's brown on brown - they coloured it to go with the ride - doh!

In my experience the disabled entrance was in one of three places:
  • A special disabled only entrance - tea cups, photo ops, orbitron etc
  • Through the fast pass queue - Ratatouille ride
  • In the exit - most of the roller coasters and bigger rides
It feels a little weird rolling in through the exit, but you get used to it and all the cast members are fantastic. :)

Sometimes it means we miss some of the special stuff they put in to entertain those queuing, for example, in The Tower of Terror, there are holograms and ghosts stories to keep people entertained on the way in (according to friends who have been there before), but going in the exit meant we missed all that. However, we had a very good cast member, Yolanda, who was playing a spooky bellhop, who was in character all of the time and absolutely great instead.

I think the most we waited for a ride was about 10 mins, even on the busiest day when some of the waits for the normal queue were 90 mins.

It was absolutely great inside the parks - at least as far as everything official went. Some people, are however, numpties and deserve their ankles being bruised by wheelchair bits. The number of people who just walked right in front of my chair as I was moving forward, causing me to have to grab the wheels to stop it in time was large!

The Wild West Show

We were all booked in for the Wild West show, which is in the Disney village, just outside the parks proper. When we arrived there was no obvious information for disabled guests, so we joined the main queue. I had only taken my crutches for this, because I thought the wheelchair might make it difficult once in the arena.

The reason I wanted to mention this is because of the reaction of the staff. They were brilliant. I sat down on the floor because there were no seats and one of the lasses on duty in the ticket booths spotted me. She immediately came over, moved us to another spot and found one of her colleagues who was on duty in the main arena to help us. They took us into the bar area early so I could have a proper seat, and they reserved our seats in the main arena for us so we didn't have to worry about getting up there in a hurry.

This proactive approach was a wonderful surprise and all the staff have my thanks.


The only trouble we had on the first day was parking. It was not clear at all what we had to do to access the disabled parking, and the chap on the route was thoroughly unhelpful. Let me make this clear now, so that no one has to suffer like we did.

When we drive up to the park, the first thing we come to are a line of booths (like a toll booth arrangement) where we can pay for parking. We didn't need to because we had it included in our stay at the Davy Crockett Ranch. I think this is where the confusion arose.


Along with our entry card, we need to show our disabled documentation (or the disabled pass once you have one from the city hall) and the booth attendant will give us a little map to show us where the disabled parking is, and the daily code to get into the car park.

The disability car park is right up near the entrance to the main park and there is a long walk from the other parking, so, yes, we really, really want to use it. It's quite large, but it does fill up. We were in what counted as a Disney hotel, so we had access to the park for magic hour, 8:30 to 9:30 before everyone else is let in. When we turned up for it, we were often first into the car park. However, one day we didn't go early because we were doing brunch for our friend's birthday, and we got the second to last car parking space in the disabled car park - so go early if you can.


So, yes, it was a great experience. Lots of fun was had. One of the things we never took advantage of was special places for disabled guests for parades and shows, but that's because we were off peak so there was plenty of space everywhere. I am still singing Princesses and Pirates in my head even now.

If you are disabled, take advantage of the options available, they are there for a reason and will improve your experience.

Hands up who's done Disneyland Paris, or one of the American parks. Anyone had experience of being disabled at the US parks? Was it well organised?