Friday, 28 July 2017

Summer cocktail classics with a twist by Hayman's

It won't come as any suprise to you that gin is really big right now. Everywhere you look there is artisan gin and I recently found out there is a London bus tour featuring an afternoon tea with specially selected gins which I am thinking of taking mother in law on for her birthday. It's possible to try a different gin every week and not run out so when I was asked if I wanted to try Hayman's gin I thought, "hang on, you'd like me to try gin you say ?" It didn't exactly require a hard sell.

I'm by no means a gin connoisseur, but I do like a G and T with a splash of fever tree tonic, ice and a slice of lime. However, with the gorgeous weather we've been having, Hayman’s have added a dash of Englishness to classic cocktails and created three refreshing drinks using seasonal fruits, mixers and gin. English Ruby Fizz, Lavender Lady and Victorian Mojito are classic summer cocktails with a delicious twist. Why not give them a try ?

Hayman’s English Ruby Fizz

Semi-sweet, refreshing and with an eye-catching pink tint, the English Ruby Fizz is the ideal al fresco cocktail.  The sweet taste of the raspberries partners perfectly with the spicy ginger notes.


  • 50ml Hayman’s London Dry Gin
  • 20ml lime juice
  • 10ml sugar syrup or Grenadine
  • 4-8 fresh raspberries or raspberry syrup
  • Ginger Ale to top with
  • Lime wheel and fresh raspberries to garnish


1.      Fill a highball glass with plenty of large cubes of ice
2.      Set aside the ginger ale and garnish, and combine all remaining ingredients in a shaker with ice
3.      Shake well for approximately 12 seconds
4.      Double strain into the highball allowing the liquid to run over the ice
5.      Top with ginger ale
6.      Garnish with a lime wheel and raspberries
Hayman’s Lavender Lady

The Lavender Lady is the Hayman’s take on the traditional sour White Lady cocktail.   The egg white creates a silky mixture, which perfectly accompanies the honey and Cointreau.  Top the cocktail with a sprig of Lavender, and sit back in the garden and relax.


  • 50ml Hayman’s London Dry Gin
  • 20ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 10ml of locally sourced honey or 20ml of honey water
  • 10ml Cointreau
  • 1 medium egg white
  • Dash of orange bitters
  • Sprig of lavender to garnish

Honey water:

1.      Combine equal parts of honey and hot water
2.      Stir until mixed


1.      Add cubed ice to a cocktail shaker
2.      Pour the Hayman’s London Dry Gin over the ice
3.      Add all the remaining ingredients, except the garnish
4.      Give all the ingredients a very hard shake and strain into cocktail glass
5.      Garnish with a sprig of lavender

Hayman’s Victorian Mojito

Nothing says summer like a sun lounger, a good book and a refreshing minty mojito in the back garden.   The Victorian Mojito combines Hayman’s London Dry Gin with fresh mint and lime juice balanced with sugar syrup to create an ideal English classic.


  • 50ml Hayman’s London Dry Gin
  • 25ml freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 20ml sugar syrup
  • Premium tonic water or soda water
  • Freshly picked mint leaves


1.      Fill a highball glass with cracked or crushed ice and a few fresh mint leaves
2.      Pour in the Hayman’s London Dry Gin and let it run down over the ice
3.      Add the lime juice and sugar syrup
4.      Churn vigorously ensuring the ingredients are well mixed
5.      Top with the tonic water or soda water
6.      Garnish with a mint sprig

Disclosure: The nice folks at Hayman's sent me some samples of gin to try. 

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Kindness is not optional

I'm very annoyed. Not in the usual, oh the kids are playing up, Hubbie is getting on my nerves, why is there no milk left for tea way. No, this is a serious, deep-rooted and heartfelt anger at something that I cannot fathom the reason for. Why are some people weird about autism ? What is it that makes these people act in a way that under any other circumstances would be considered unacceptable ? I have specific examples of this that have happened in the last 48 hours.

Yesterday I spent the whole day with fellow bloggers visiting Winchester - there was a lot of walking involved. I know my blogger pal fairly well and have met some of her children. I didn't, however, how that one of her boys is autistic. I have met him - albeit briefly - and it wasn't something that was obvious to me or that would have been an issue even if it was. So when she told me he's been excluded from a friend's party and that other children don't come to his birthday parties I was so angry. I just don't understand why other people's discomfort is paramount in treating a child this way. Ok so he might not eat the same food as the others so he will bring his own. He might prefer not to take part in all the activities, but that's ok isn't it ? Why choose not to invite him rather than try to meet his needs so that he can participate ?

We have friends whose son has sensory issues and they are currently looking at whether or not he is on the autistic spectrum. We have known them and him for many years. While Brown Bear would dearly love to invite this boy to his birthday party we have spoken to his parents and they have told us he wouldn't enjoy it and it would be a struggle so we arrange to have smaller one to one play dates instead. My boy and theirs play side by side and if he needs space he goes and Brown Bear leaves him to it. We respect their advice on how to best be around their son and we talk to our sons about what we have planned so they know what to expect. I don't consider this to be difficult to do, but clearly other people struggle with it.

Then today when I went swimming at lunchtime one of the women who I see there all the time was in a grumpy mood. I asked if she was ok and she said, "No, I'm not actually." and proceeded to explain why. It was a petty minor thing so I sympathised and then got on with my swim. An hour later in the changing room she was still in a mood about it and was carrying on about how this young man in the pool had really upset her by jumping in and it had upset her so much. I nodded and said, "I'm sure he didn't mean to upset you." She was determined to be upset about this and carried on. Then she made a comment about him along the lines of, "Well he has autism doesn't he ?" That did it. I was not taking that and said, "What does that have to do with it ?" She went on to say he should not be working there if he had, 'health issues," and I told her that was inappropriate and not to continue down that line. I know this young man and his parents, I teach his mum yoga. When she told me her son with autism worked at the pool I had no idea who she meant for ages. I wasn't looking specifically for him, but I can honestly say he doesn't have any obvious mannerisms or behaviours that would mark him as different at all. It surprised me that this woman would mention it at all as it was irrelevant to her complaint.

When I spoke to his mum later she told me he had apologised to the woman - even though he had done nothing wrong at all - and she still made a big deal about it. I am beyond annoyed at the woman for thinking she had a right to suggest he shouldn't work and that he had behaved incorrectly because of his autism. I know that he is fully qualified to do his job and that he has all the support he needs to ensure he can manage that job and from seeing him at work most days I also know he has a great rapport with people. Her having a bad day is no excuse for this sort of scapegoating. However, the use of mental health to justify downright ignorance is rife. I often hear people use terms such as, "a bit OCD," when what they mean is fussy. Or they will refer to someone as, "on the spectrum" when what they mean is they are socially awkward or just not their cup of tea.

Being considerate and thoughtful is one of the qualities I really want to instil in my children. That means to all people, not just those who look or act like them. If I meet someone who makes me feel uncomfortable do I just choose not to have anything to do with them to make it easier for me ? Well if I feel threatened by them in any way I might do that, but my preferred mode is to see what we have in common. I was leaving Waitrose with a big cup of tea the other evening and I saw a woman sitting on the ground with a thin blanket, but no jacket or jumper on. I thought about it for a few seconds then went over and said, "do you want a cup of tea ?" She smiled and thanked me. I apologised that I hadn't got any sugar and she said it didn't matter and wished me a lovely evening. I don't know her. I don't know anything about her. In that moment she looked like she needed a hot drink more than I did.

Isn't being kind the right choice every time ?

Friday, 21 July 2017

Postcards from Cornwall

I'm not big on sending postcards really. I find that they often arrive long after we've come home and I'm not convinced that anyone really wants them these days. Facebook has enabled us to all share our own images of places we've been to so those revolving racks outside souvenir shops appear to gather dust as people bypass them. We once received a postcard about 2 years after it was posted during my sister's honeymoon. I remember being very surprised that it made it at all after so long.

The other reason I don't always buy postcards it because they don't necessarily capture what I want to share about the place. I bore most people with how much I love Cornwall and the specific things that I love don't always feature on the souvenir items. Here are some highlights from our most recent visit.

On our first night we went for dinner in Looe to a place called Cornerstone. It's an american style diner - which appeals to Hubbie - and the milkshakes alone are worth a visit. I can also - however - recommend the veggie burger.

amazing milkshakes 
Excellent veggie burger 
In the morning I went for a run. We were staying near woodlands and the Deerpark area is stunning - as is so much of the area.

beautiful deerpark lake 
We took a drive to Polperro to explore and it reminded me a little of Portmerion in Wales. The scenery is just breathtaking. Brown Bear asked if he could touch the water so I let him carefully walk down the steps to the waterside and Blue Bear warned, "Be careful, it's dangerous."

Polperro fishing village

Polperro is stunning 

On the walk back to the car park we spotted the model village with signs of train lines - a favourite of the boys. They were really keen to take the Polperro Tram - it's nothing like the ones where we live.

Lovely model village 
Polperro tram 

The weather predictions weren't too promising one day so we decided on a nature day and visited Golitha Falls. I have no idea why I thought Fitflops would be the ideal footwear for a walk in the woods, but we did enjoy it very much. Blue Bear wasn't keen to go too far so he stayed with Hubbie and played pooh sticks while me and Brown Bear followed the falls until it became a bit too treacherous underfoot.

Arty self portrait 

Golitha Falls 
I've mentioned many times how much I love the Eden Project at Bodelva. I visited when it first opened and have been a regular visitor for the last 5 years watching it develop and change with each visit. Last year we went to see Manic Street Preachers perform at the Eden Sessions and it was fantastic. I never tire of this place and on this visit Blue Bear seemed to really enjoy himself. He loved the plants, the activities and even spent time in the rainforest biome admiring the waterfall.

Eden Project 

Learning about climate

Our last full day was spent at Lappa Valley. The clear winner of best family day out for us. To get there you take a steam train - we travelled with an engine called Ruby - and once you arrive there is a boating lake, a diesel train, electric cars, a huge playground and crazy golf. My boy love it here - yes that includes Hubbie. He even suggested we take a later train back to make time for an ice cream !

Ruby the steam engine at Lappa Valley 

lunch at Lappa Valley 
Massive castle play area 
On the way back from Lappa we had time for one last stop so we decided to visit Fowey (pronounced "foy"). It's a steep walk down to the sea, but it's worth it for the views. Also we went to the best fish and chip shop ever. It's attached to the brewery so they sell alcohol and the chips are delicious ! Definitely recommended.

Fowey - pronounced "foy"

I'm so pleased we decided to visit some new and different places this holiday. The boys are taking more of an interest and it's fun to take them exploring. We even had good enough weather for an afternoon on the beach and they both paddled in the sea. I hope that's what they remember when they look back on their childhoods.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Wish you were here ? I bet you don't !

I grew up in a family that didn't take holidays. If my mum was able to save up she would book a caravan for a few days in North Wales or Devon. We'd be driving all day with nothing to do in the car and would always arrive late (usually in the dark) and would pretty much all complain the whole time. I consider holidays with my kids now to be my karmic reward for this. When we go away I pack the car, arrange for someone to feed Neo and Hubbie charges up the kids' devices so they are busy during the journey. We always leave early to get to our destination during the day and try to get the boys settled as quickly as possible. Once we've located the nearest play area I can unpack and put on the kettle.

The last time we went way was at Christmas and the boys were a nightmare. They argued and fussed all day every day and it was just horrible. At one point I told Hubbie to just get the train back home as his complaining was almost as bad as they boys' behaviour. He stuck it out and we had a miserable time. So what possessed me to book to go away again ?

Well, I noticed that all the families at my son's school have plans for the summer and they pretty much all involve going abroad. We don't take the kids abroad yet, but we do try and get away for at least a week over the summer. In the last few years we've been going to Cornwall because it's so beautiful and there is so much to see and do. There are places we all love to visit like Lappa Valley and then the Eden Project which I am a massive fan of and I bribe the boys to go to with the promise of a pasty for Hubbie and big slabs of homemade cake for the boys.

We're staying a lovely cottage in a part of Cornwall we've not been to before. Yesterday we went to a beautiful fishing village then spent the scorching afternoon on a beach with they boys paddling in the sea and then playing in the sand. It was pretty much what I had hoped for. There are young children living here who knock on the door to play with the boys and yesterday when we got back from the beach they had a paddling pool out so our boys jumped in with them and had a great time before dinner.

They woke up this morning and were playing and mucking about together - which is great, ast least we don't have to supervise them every moment. I got them to sit for breakfast and put some bacon under the grill for Hubbie. I had managed to cut the bread using the bluntest knife since those kids' knives you get in Ikea and made myself a tea. Hubbie took the bread I'd hacked for my breakfast and I eventually sat down to a stone cold cup of tea, mostly burnt toast and a not quite cooked egg - yummy !

We used to have holidays that involved drinking on the plane and staying in bed until we wanted to get up. Breakfast made by someone else. Lunch with cocktails or wine. Dressing up to go out in the evening. Tours and walks in the local area and not a play park in sight. I rarely visited a supermarket for cereal, plasters or colouring pencils. Everyone keeps telling me, "they're not young for long," or, "enjoy it," and my personal favourite, "It gets worse when they are older." Oh joy.

Well. I've got to pack a coolbag with drinks and snacks so they don't have to go any length of time without consuming something. They will still insist on buying something to eat anyway. Probably ice cream. Oh well we are on holiday I suppose.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Brighton Beach Memoirs

Beautiful Brighton beach huts 
I was lucky enough to get some 'me-time' this weekend. Now I know that previous generations scoff at the idea, but with the long holiday coming up I realised I hadn't had a break away from the children since October last year. I love my boys - of course I do - but being with them every single day is wearing and tiring and frankly you can have too much of a good thing. Assuming your idea of a good thing is bickering, random shouting, screams and boisterousness.

Masts and skyline
Often me and Hubbie struggle to find babysitting so we can't always go to shows together. On the last 4 occasions that I've had tickets for Stewart Lee we've gone together twice and I've been once on my own and Hubbie went without me when Brown Bear was unwell and insisted on me staying home with me. I held out until the last possible opportunity then a kindly friend stepped in. I was gutted to miss it though. So now if we see a gig we want to go to we try and arrange to go together, but sometimes it just isn't possible. This is how I came to be at an Eddie Izzard gig in Brighton and decided to stay over and make a weekend of it by myself.

Me and my Mum on the West Pier
Like a lot of fellow Londoners I love Brighton. I've been visiting since I was a tiny baby when my parents would drive down - usually on the weekend of a vintage car rally so we'd end up stuck in traffic behind a Genevieve style motor. I went to the Grand for afternoon tea on my 40th birthday and my first husband proposed to me on a weekend staying in a boutique hotel in Regent Square. Me and Hubbie go to a two day festival at the Concorde 2 every August and one of our favourite places to eat is tucked away amongst the trippy hippie shops and chi chi coffee bars.

Sitting down to take in the sea on the prom
I have history with Brighton and any chance I get to go there I take it. My mini-break didn't start so well with me missing the train I was aiming for and then the one I was on sat outside Hayward's Heath due to animals on the track at Wivelsfield - no I am not making this up. So when I finally arrived in Brighton I went to check into my hotel - I booked to stay at the Grand, which is wonderful and luxurious as you'd expect. It is also covered in scaffolding and polythene at the moment so the room rate was heavily discounted to reflect this absence of a view from the windows. It didn't matter though as I had this gorgeous tea making set and movies on the TV !

Such a classy way to take tea 
It was a late night with a very noisy wedding reception downstairs until 1pm. At least I was able to watch the Rocky Horror Picture Show until the music finished and I was able to settle down to sleep. When I was checking in the receptionist had asked if I wanted a wake up call and I smiled at him and said, "No thank you I'll wake up naturally." Which is an odd expectation to have when I haven't woken up in a fashion I'd call 'natural for nearly 7 years. It was with what I can only describe as poetic irony that I found myself wide awake at 6am with no idea what the weather was like outside. I decided to go for a run and it was just beautiful - and already quite warm. Such a lovely start to my day.

Stunning Brighton Beach in the early light 
After a leisurely breakfast I went back to my room (sorry, I mean suite) to listen to the Archers omnibus. I usually listen while cleaning the kitchen or bathroom and I rarely give my full attention to the radio. On this occasion, however, I was able to relax and settled down with a cup of tea that I drank before it went cold. Oh the bliss. I'm not the best at seeing when I need to take a break and will often keep going long after I've run out of energy. This weekend was a chance to recharge and to spend time in a place that I really love. I won't leave it so long in future. 

West Pier - sadly a mere skeleton now 

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Top cat - he's the boss cat.

You know how you don't notice people close to you getting older ? One day the kids are tiny and then seemingly in the blink of an eye all their trousers are too short and their shoes are too tight. I remember going to the funeral of an elderly aunt and as I parked up at the crematoriam I spotted my Mum with an old man sitting in her car. I asked my sister who the old guy was and she said, "That's Dad." I hadn't seen him for a few months since he'd stopped dying his beard hair and with his turban covering his hair I just didn't recognise him. It was a bit of a shock.

Up on the roof

Recently a few people have remarked on Neo's advancing years and have asked what we have planned for when he's no longer with us. Now I know there is no intention to be unkind, but I just don't think of him as an old cat. In my mind he's practically kitten-like in his leaping onto the neighbour's wall to sunbathe all day and his plaintive miaowing for food hits decibels previously only heard at a Metallica gig.

I know people make comments about pets being part of the family, but Neo really is. He sleeps on Brown Bear's bed and is an excellent childminder, giving the boy hard stares if he doesn't settle down to sleep without fuss. He always used to check on the boys when they were small and gave them a wide berth when they were at tail-pulling age. He's no fool that feline.

Relaxing on my beanbag
Then I noticed he's not grooming himself as fastidiously as he used to. His claws are longer and he gets them caught in the carpet sometimes. His fur is looking distinctly yellower and while he was always a champion sleeper he's really snoozy now. The vet told me the other day that he's the cat equivalent of a human 75 year old and considering how inactive my father and father-in-law are at the same age I think he's doing pretty well in comparison.

He helps Brown Bear with homework:

He's still able to supervise train track building:

And his skills at hide and seek are legendary:

So, yes my cat is a senior now. He is showing signs of old age and does need some help to keep him comfortable. He is still, however, my first boy. I have never lost a pet by conventional means. My first dog - Tiger - was given away with the shop when my parents sold it. Yes it was a corner shop - let's not dwell on that for too long shall we ? We were assured the new owners were animal lovers, but I would have rather he came with us. My first cat Tibby was run over on the main road and my Mum told me when I got home from school. My parents aren't emotional about pets so they just don't get why I am so attached to Neo. I don't want to consider a life without him in it. I hope I don't have to for a while yet.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Urban gardening with Honest Tea

When the weather is hot and sunny my favourite way to spend time is being outdoors. We are so lucky that we have a great garden with space for the boys to enjoy and lots of room to grow plants and fruit. In fact I have rarely lived anywhere without an outdoor space so when I was invited to the mobile garden city in Stratford East I was really keen to go. The eyewatering early start was mitigated by the sunshine and some refreshing organic drinks to try.

The drinks company Honest has partnered with Groundwork to champion green spaces and urban gardening and to encourage everyone to connect with nature. I've lived in London for most of my life and I can see why new research has revealed that Londoners believe their daily life would be improved if they had easier access to green space, could spend more time outdoors and were able to grow their own herbs, fruit and vegetables.

We heard from Groundwork volunteers and staff about local school groups and families who come to the site to garden and grow food and local restuarants are also using produce grown here - we even harvested some rhubarb that was to be included in a menu later. TV presenter Julia Bradbury talked to us about the benefits of outdoor spaces and growing food and has created a new 'must have' item for my wish list - an outdoor shower. Who knew it was so easy to bring my favourite holiday feature to a suburban garden ?

Having taken a break for some fresh fruit and to try the organic fruit tea drinks we took part in a craft activity to upcycle the empty honest bottles into hanging planters. I'm not the best crafter, but even I managed to follow the instructions for this and I'm quite pleased with the finished item. With help I think my boys could make these and it is an excellent way to reuse a bottle.

I've heard about urban gardens, but to see a project for real was a wonderful insight into how invaluable green spaces are. This garden will be moving to Hackney Wick so the families who use it currently can still get there. I am delighted that HONEST® has partnered with Groundwork to champion green spaces and urban gardening and to encourage everyone to connect with nature.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post in conjunction with HONEST®

Saturday, 1 July 2017

The week in photos: Summer edition

I was sitting on the sofa and when I got up to make a cup of tea I put a big cushion down to stop Neo from stealing my seat. When I got back he was doing this. Touche fluffy face. Touche. 

My lovely friend Yasmin had the official launch of her new beauty room this week - there was cake, sunshine and some mini treatments. I went and had my nails painted in this bright summer shade. I love it. 

It was National Cream Tea Day on Friday so to celebrate we visited the fantastic Parklife Cafe in Croydon and enjoyed the most enormous scones I think I've ever seen. That is pretty much a meal on a plate right there !

Today was the annual adoption fun day that my boys love to go to. It's always a sunny day, there's an ice cream van, a burger stall, face painting, bouncy castle and lots of friends to play with.

Brown Bear loved playing football with some other boys his age:

Blue Bear got to practise being a firefighter:

And I got to sit down on the grass for a little while: