GYM & TONEIC

Swimming in gin at Victoria Baths

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Same month, second festival – living it up to the gin-lush label! On Saturday 25 March I attended my second gin festival of 2017, second festival in the same month… I was invited along to the Gin Festival at Victoria Baths in Manchester, to sup and sample gin and blog about the event.

This was by far my most gin-fuelled fête to date, another fantastic festival that has just got bigger and better each year. I had my partner, Heath, my good friend, Nicola (crazy marathon runner), my little sister, Grace, and her boyfriend, Tom, in tow. I dragged them there kicking and screaming… they snapped my hand off to come along, all being massive gin lushes like me!         

On arrival, I was greeted with a bloggers gift bag, including 4 free drinks tokens (wahoo!), the gin book; a gin bible listing all gins to be sampled and so much more! A gin festival pin badge, pen (you can never have too many pens), and a handy gin goblet carrier bag (a great idea). We then got straight to it; supping and sampling in the sampling pool. We tried all the gins on offer, there were a lot more gins to sample than the previous year (if truth be told I was well on my way before we’d even begun!). A firm favourite for all was the latest gin on the scene, Tinker, a light and fruity, Spanish style gin. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Spain make great gins! This may not be made in Spain, but it’s Spanish inspired, and I’m a big fan of light and fruity gins.

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To the main gin room I stumbled… as per previous years gins were split by bar, A, B, C and D, all listed in the gin bible, with a description of the botanicals each is made with and the garnish each should be supped with. We all flicked through the book and circled gins we’d like to sample, and split up in search of our chosen gins. As always, I’ve looked to sample gins I hadn’t supped before, always seeking out new favourites.

Gins I supped and sampled…  

White Rose Leeds Gin. A gin produced in Yorkshire, made with juniper berries, cassia, apricot and the subtle aroma of Yorkshire’s famous white rose petals. Best served with an apple garnish. I have to admit I wasn’t as impressed with this gin as I thought I would be… I felt it was quite a strong-tasting gin, and was expecting it to be a lot lighter and fruity.

Wight Mermaid Gin. A gin produced on the Isle of Wight, made with rock samphire handpicked from the chalk cliffs and Isle of Wight grown Boadicea hops. A gin that is slightly sweet with a touch of sweet pepper and hints of lemon citrus. I loved the sound of this gin, mermaid was the selling point, and being made by the sea. Again, I wasn’t as impressed with this as I thought I would be, another strong gin, that was a little too strong for me. I couldn’t taste the citrussy elements, pepper was most dominant to taste.

Black Tomato Gin. A gin produced in the Netherlands, made with signature black tomatoes which are grown near the distillery, a splash of local sea water and peppery juniper. I didn’t try this with tonic, I had this in a Red Snapper cocktail, gins own Bloody Mary. I LOVE a Bloody Mary, like a meal in a glass, a healthy cocktail in my mind with tomatoes being so good for you. This went down a treat, they even added beetroot to the mix, again very healthy ad good for you. This got a big thumbs up! Not sure I would’ve enjoyed it quite the same with tonic, I’ll have to try it again at some point in the future and let you know.

Tinker Gin. A Spanish inspired gin produced in Leeds, made with liquorice and elderberries, orange and lemon. Best served with a slice of pear. This was a firm favourite of mine in the sampling pool and only left me wanting more… so of course this had to be supped as one of my selection. A gin that is light and fruity, easy and pleasing on the palate. We bought a bottle to take home, for further supping and sampling, and it didn’t last long!

With all the above gins supped and LOTS of gins sampled in the sampling pool, I was very tipsy indeed, we all were! This was the booziest festival I’ve been to, and it just gets bigger and better each year! On top of the hundreds of gins to be sampled, there was a great selection of street food to choose from to soak up all the booze. If you’ve not experienced the Gin Festival yet, you must! I will be there again next year for sure… seeking out new gins and no doubt loving it even more.

Check out ginfestival.com to find upcoming events, buy tickets and gin!                         

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The Gin Society Festival 2017

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On Friday 3 March I went to my first festival of 2017… A gin festival of course! I attended The Gin Society festival at the iconic Manchester Cathedral once again, but this time with my gin twin and fellow foody, fashion and boozy blogger, Dawn (check out her blog Just Mee Dee).

Back for the second year, the festival was bigger and better, as expected, with the gin-revolution still showing no signs of slowing – praise the lord! There were more gins to be supped and sampled, more producers sharing their wares and more guys and girls guzzling the good stuff.

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On arrival, we were given a gin goblet and guide, a fancy printed feature listing all gins to be sampled; fruit gins, world gins, British gins and gin cocktails, as well as a brief history lesson of gin. We flicked through the guide in search of new gins that tickled our fancy, made a note and then marched off (in different directions). As I’ve mentioned before, me and Dawn share a whole lot a love for gin, but have very different tastes when it comes to the supping. She prefers the tough stuff (that I can’t handle even the smell of), whereas I prefer light and fruity gins that are easy on palate and nose.

I have to say, I was disappointed once again that the first 2 gins I selected to sample were out of stock. The first gin that grabbed my attention was ‘Mom – God save the gin’, which would’ve been a perfect and very fitting festival opener (looks as though everyone else thought so too!). The second gin I wanted to sample was ‘Tinto’, a sweet and sour Portuguese gin, red in colour. It was the colour that grabbed my attention, and the sweet and sour combo that intrigued. But hey-ho, I’ll have to sample these at another festival! 😉

Drink gin to repent sin! On to the gins that I did try…

Dutch Courage from Holland, the historical home of gin, another fitting festival opener! A gin citrusy on the nose and palate, with a spicy taste and notes of violet, anise and juniper. A full-bodied gin with a bittersweet and intense finish. Best served with ice and a slice of lime. I have to say the description lured me in, I really liked the sound of it, but wasn’t so keen on the taste, a bit bland in my opinion.

Boodles – Mulberry a British gin, that combines mulberries with notes of raspberry and currant to create a sweet and subtle medley. The addition of rosemary and sage botanicals, create a balance and complexity of flavour. Best served with fresh mint. I enjoyed this sup, but it’s very sweet. Not a gin I could sup all night, one or two and that would do.

Filliers Dry Gin 28 – Pine Blossom a Belgian gin, that I had to try after reading the first descriptive line. ‘Featuring a breeze of pine blossom running through its centre’, the word breeze has a special place in my centre, working on the awesome women’s cycling initiative, Breeze, for so many years. A creamy, earthy and intensely refreshing gin, best served with rosemary (I’m a big fan of gins served with a rosemary garnish).

Last but by no means least…

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Alnwick Gin a British gin, new to the scene, produced in Northumberland. Hand-crafted and expertly infused with locally foraged botanicals and exotic spices for a crisp, aromatic taste with a smoky finish. A unique taste of wild and rural sophistication, best served with grapefruit and rosemary. However, I supped mine with apple and cinnamon, a taste sensation, like drinking apple pie. This was by far my favourite of the night, so much so I purchased a bottle for the road.

We had lots of fun at the festival, it was great to see its growing success and to get to speak to more producers. Who couldn’t sing more praise for the event organisers and hosts, who’d catered so well to their needs. One of the things that stood out from discussions, was that this is a festival supporting small start-ups, by not charging them a small fortune to share their wares, like many other festivals do. Expansion, growth and popularity is all good, but out price your producers and they’ll go elsewhere… then you’re left with the big brands that can pay the big bucks, as the only ones in attendance and you lose your audience! People like me, who always want to try something new, the latest gin on the market, looking to find my new favourite sup. You’ll never catch me asking for a Gordons, a Bombay or a Tanqueray or wanting to try the same gin twice. The Gin Society festival has still got a local, artisan feel, that’s not showing signs of becoming cutthroat and corporate any time soon.

If you’ve not experienced a gin festival yet, then this is a must! You can find more information and tickets for upcoming events here. I’m going again in a couple of weeks’ time, to the Buxton event with my other half, Heath, who’s a lover of gin. Another stunning venue, that’s a bit closer to home. I’ll be sure to report back on new gins we sup and sample.

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Scaling Snowden

Me, Heath and Oliie

On Saturday 18 February I scaled Snowden and made it to the summit in under 2 hours! 1hr 45 to be precise… impressive for a newbie, novice mountaineer (wannabe winging it!). Snowden had been on my bucket list for a long while… I took on the challenge with my other half, Heath, who’s climbed it a number of times, and his beloved dog, Ollie, who’s also completed a number of climbs alongside his master and bestest bud – look at the love in the pic above; man’s best friend, my man… and me!

We didn’t really prep and plan in much detail, Heath picked the route we walked (Snowdon Ranger Path), we picked a weekend we were both free and went for it, whatever the weather! Luckily the weather wasn’t so bad the weekend we picked… when I say wasn’t so bad, I mean it wasn’t torrential rain or snow. It was however blowing a gail, with 32mph winds whipping at us from all directions, and virtually zero visibility once we were up in the clouds, you could barely see 50 feet in front!

We parked and set off from the Snowdon Ranger Youth Hostel, with only one other couple in sight. I was a little nervous before we set off, with no idea how tough the climb would be, and seeing that we were pretty much the only ones on our route didn’t help matters… The higher we climbed the colder, windier and mistier it got, not being able to see how steep we were climbing and how close we were getting to cliff edges made me a nervous wreck. I almost lost my head a couple of times, convinced we would get blown off a cliff… and when the other couple passed us as we were having a very brief picnic stop (trying to shelter from the wind behind a boulder) and the woman said ‘are you writing your last will and testament’, that was it, I was ready for throwing in the towel and turning back!

Masked mountaineers
Masked mountaineers

Heath reassured me that we weren’t the only ones walking up and that once we got nearer to the top we’d see loads of people, so we pressed on… head down, mind over matter, concentrating on staying upright and putting one foot in front of the other. Sure enough, as we got closer to the summit we saw civilisation, it was like Piccadilly Circus up there! We walked at snail’s pace, queueing to climb to the very top and couldn’t see a thing… we / I made it though – wahoo! In a decent time (for my first time) too. We stayed up at the top for no more than 5 minutes, it was cold and you couldn’t see a thing… the cafe was closed, so a much needed coffee to warm the cockles was out of the question and conditions were too bad for the train to run, so we had no other option but to start our descent, which we completed just as quick, we practically ran down!

All smiles at the summit
All smiles at the summit

I didn’t appreciate the climb as much as I would’ve done had we been able to take in the stunning scenery and scale of the challenge from the summit. However, I’m glad I’ve done it and ticked off one of my to do’s, and I’ll definitely return and scale to the summit again some time over summer. I know I’ve made this sound more of a chore than a challenge, but it’s an awesome achievement and I did enjoy it, despite my tale of treacherous conditions.

Life’s a climb, but the view is great!

Here’s what you can see at the summit of Snowden on a clear day.
Here’s what you can see at the summit of Snowden on a clear day.

Taking on a challenge in tricky conditions makes it all the more satisfying upon successful completion!

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New Year’s resolutions: do’s & don’ts

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New Year, new chances, same you, just a few tweaks here and there… this notion of a ‘new you’, come New Year is a load of sh#t! Something I’ve come to realise, accept and embrace. You’re not going to turn into someone else overnight, you’re not going to turn into someone else full stop. You are you, I am me. We all need to stop day dreaming about being someone or something else, about total transformations and all or nothing overhauls. We all need to be a bit more forgiving, accepting and easy on ourselves.

It’s the second week in January and I’m sat here writing this post, a post that should really have been published and posted on my blog on the 1st, because it’s a fitness and lifestyle blog, and everyone is consuming content about New Year’s resolutions and complete fitness overhauls as soon as the clock strikes 12 on New Year’s Eve/Day, (OK, maybe not quite 12 when the drinks are flowing and dancing is in full swing!), but you get what I mean! I’ve had a busy last few weeks moving in with my man and getting myself sorted with work in my new surroundings (The High Peak), and I took a trip down to Devon in-between Christmas and New Year. I’m just getting back on track and back into the swing of writing and planning content for my blog, and that’s OK… As is it totally OK to start thinking about New Year’s resolutions and goals now, if you dreamt up drastic and unrealistic goals on New Year’s Day and jacked them all in within the first week. Start now, start next week, give yourself time to contemplate and consider what you really want to attempt and achieve this year. Make a list of goals, dreams and desires as long as your arm and then chop them down in to a 1, 3 and even 5-year plan. Having dreams is a good thing, dreams can become reality… just be realistic with what you can achieve and by when. It’s OK just to have one goal… smash that and then focus on the next.

Here’s a few do’s & don’ts to consider if you’re yet to set yourself goals, or re-set yourself goals…

Do’s

Be kind on yourself. Before you tear yourself up and get depressed about all the things you think are bad about yourself, and that needs to change. Consider all the positives, what you like about yourself, your good qualities, how to do and be more of that! Less of the bad chat and dressing down, more bigging up and being body (and mind) positive.

Celebrate every tiny victory. You might have only lost 1lb this week and you wanted to lose 3lbs, the fact is you lost weight! You might have managed to complete an additional set, run another mile, lifted a heavier weight, whatever your victory give yourself a pat on the back, reward yourself even (there are still lots of January sales on!), make yourself a gold star chart like we had back in school.

Have a little fun. Resolutions and goals don’t all have to be about health and fitness, losing weight and placing restrictions on yourself. Have some fun, try new things, add to your life instead of taking all the fun away!

Don’ts

Deprive yourself. Starve yourself or buy into these bullsh#t, quick fix detoxes and diets. You’ll end up out of pocket and back where you started, maybe worse off in terms of weight gain. Just be sensible, wean yourself off 3 mince pies a day. Consider things like portion size, healthy food swaps, drinking water instead of wine.

Do too much too soon. Study your list that’s as long as your arm and then break it down, pick two or three goals to focus on, then break them down further. Set mini milestones and realistic timelines. Go all in, but on a few things at a time.

Give up! When the going gets tough, take a break, pause, reflect, refine and then carry on. It’s OK to tweak your goals, change timescales, move the goal posts. It’s your goal!

Don’t stop until you’re proud!

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5 Top tips to minimise festive flab!

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With just over a week to go, Christmas festivities are in full swing… it’s time to let you hair down; eat lots, drink lots, party and socialise lots and generally have a bloody good old time! It’s a time to celebrate with your nearest and dearest, a time to indulge and be merry, a time to relax a little with your weekly fitness routine, and treat yourself to a mince pie or two!

You’re going to put on a few pounds over Christmas, we all are! Don’t over stress it, just do what you can to minimise any weight gain and maintain physical activity levels as much as possible. Think of it as damage limitation…

Here’s 5 top tips to minimise festive flab…     

Easy on the chocolate treats
Easy to say, bloody tough to do… it’s everywhere! Advent calendars, boxes of chocolates brought in to work, tubs of Quality Street everywhere you go and on special offer 2-4-1 at the end of every aisle in all the supermarkets. If the chocolates weren’t enough, then there are the boxes of luxury biscuits to contend with… you need will power of steel to resist! Limit yourself to two or three here and there, it’s all too easy to grab a handful and mindlessly devour one after the other, before you know it you’ve turned into Augustus Gloop and devoured them all! Why not have a go at making your own tasty treats, like protein balls, that can fuel you for longer and are great for snacking on the go. Check out these recipes on Women’s Health website. You could even store them in a Quality Street tub, so it feels like you’re digging in to chocolate treats 😉

Grab a workout where you can
With all the Christmas parties, school nativities, family gatherings and get togethers, it can be difficult to find even 5 minutes for yourself, never mind finding the time to make a trip to the gym! Change up your routine and do home HIIT workouts, just 15/20 minutes is all you need to get your heart rate and metabolism fired up, and get a serious sweat on! HIIT workouts are great as they’re quick and effective, and a lot of the exercises and circuits you can do require no equipment at all, just your bodyweight. Joe Wicks (The Body Coach) is the king of HIIT and has hundreds of videos you can follow on his You Tube channel, check it out and give them a go.

Drink gin!
Yes you read that right… drink gin! You’re going to lots of parties, drinking lots of booze… that’s a lot of calories you’re going to consume (empty calories that have no nutritional value). So plan your poison and stick with a clear spirit, like gin or vodka, that isn’t as calorific as something like larger or cider. Drink it with tonic or soda, and stick with the same drink all night… the dreaded next day in the office, with the hangover from hell won’t be as bad that way too! Check out my gin blogs for gins I’ve supped and sampled, my all-time favorite is still Bloom gin, I really like Manchester Three Rivers and Manchester Gin too!

Drink more water
I go on about this to everyone, all of the time… water is life! Drink water in-between your alcoholic drinks, and drink plenty throughout the day, between 2-4 litres. There are so many benefits to drinking water; increased energy, healthier skin, teeth and bones, increased metabolism and improved digestion, to name a few! Next time you think you’re hungry, try drinking a glass of water, it may just be that you’re dehydrated and mistaking it for hunger. I’ve written a separate blog about the importance of drinking water, you can read more about the many benefits here.

Lastly, plan as much as you can
If you’re out for a Christmas lunch and get to see a menu beforehand, choose healthier options such as turkey (minus the skin) and veg, a great source of lean protein! Choose a healthier starter, such as a fish dish and go easy on the dessert – do you really need one?

When it comes to the Christmas food shop, write a shopping list and stick to it as much as you can. Don’t be sucked in to the 2-4-1 Quality Street and chocolate treat offers! Also, never go shopping hungry, you’ll go wild with insatiable temptation.

If you have lots of social events in the week, plan meals around them. Try to have healthier home-cooked dishes and prep meals in advance where you can. More often than not, it’s the dirty, salty, greasy food you crave and eat on a hangover that leaves you feeling the most bloated and bleurgh!

Remember… everything in moderation! 

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Gin guzzling gift ideas

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Give the gift of gin this Christmas. Christmas is a time to be joyous and merry, and traditionally involves sipping sherry! But hands up, who actually likes sherry? No, me neither! It’s all about gin these days and there’s lots of festive cocktails and concoctions to be made. I’m sure ‘Father Christmas’ would much rather have G&T to wash down his mince pie too…

If you’re stuck for gift ideas and stocking fillers, here’s a few suggestions to put a big fat festive smile on the face of the gin lover in your life…

Ginvent calendar. Make the countdown to Christmas a merry one indeed with a gin advent calendar. At last there’s a calendar for adults, a calendar to blow all cheap crappy chocolate calendars right out of the water… at £125 it is rather steep and indulgent, but if you can’t indulge at Christmas when can you…

Emergency gin keyring. We’ve all been in a situation where this would come in handy! Forget emergency first aid kits… break out of the office and break open the gin! Note: I’m not condoning this kind of behaviour, just saying…

Gin related gym gear. Now you know my blog is as much about the gym as it is drinking gin, I love both in equal measures! Well now you combine the two with quirky gym clobber.

Join a gin club. There’s a few of these around, where you join the club and get a different bottle of gin to sup and sample each month. Here’s a few to check out Craft Gin Club , The Gin Crowd , Five O’ Clock Club , I Love Gin. Being such a kind and generous lover or friend getting them this, they may just let you in on the monthly sampling action.

Get tickets for the gin festival. But of course you’ll have to buy two, a present for them and a present for you! I’ve been to a few festivals this year (as you may have read / seen), the festival in Manchester at Victoria Baths was by far my favourite, so much so I’ve already bought myself tickets for next year’s event (it’s already ticked off my wish list!).

101 gins to try before you die. A gin book to live by. A friend of mine who has this book made a pact with friends to get together and try a new gin each week, they are still going strong. What a great idea and excuse to sup and socialise with friends.     

Gin mug. Life isn’t a fairy tale; I have lost shoes (and on occasions my dignity) and it has been gin related! This is also true, gin is for life not just for Christmas.

Finally… if you’re still searching for the most fitting Christmas jumper for your office party, check out this beauty on the gin festival website!

In need of more ginspiration? Check out:

BuzzFeed gin gift list

Etsy gin gifts

Not on the high street gin gifts

** Heath, if you’re reading this the above is a BIG hint and help if you’re struggling for gift ideas! **

Gin-gle bells, gin-gle bells, gin all the way…

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Sleep is life!

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Rest, recovery and sleep are so important when it comes to your health and well-being. The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) states that sleep is a basic human need and is just as important for good health as diet and physical activity. It’s a topic that is close to my heart, being a 10 hour girl that bloody loves her sleep, a girl who will happily call it a night and retreat to the land of nod at 9pm given half the chance. I never really have a problem falling asleep and if I do I consider it to be a big problem! I fall into the deepest sleep, so much so I’ve woken up to friends checking my pulse in the middle of the night thinking I’ve slipped into a coma or died – I cannot function without a lot of sleep!

I’m writing this post off the back of a horrific 5 hours broken sleep, after going round to my friend Nicola’s house (Botty, the crazy marathon runner) for a ‘quiet’ girl’s night in with two of my other good friends, Sian and Georgie. I say good friends… they were downing drinks and dancing on tables till 5.30am, I took myself off to bed at 2am and tried to get some shut eye, whilst they caused carnage around her kitchen table (the below picture a snippet of the night), scenes from an American frat party at number 23! I’m tired, grumpy and seriously contemplating un-liking and de-friending them in real life right now…

shots, shots, shots
shots, shots, shots

I bang on to them like a broken record that they need to get more sleep, as they regularly pull all-nighters (on school nights too!). Telling them they’re all going to look 90 by the time they hit 40, to which they hurl abuse back at me too obscene to repeat in public… when the mirror on the wall cracks in front of you at 40 ladies, you’ll wish you’d taken my advice 😉 I only say this because I love you!

The body is set to a 24-hour clock, the internal biological clock being fundamental to the survival of all living organisms (so pretty important!). It influences hormone secretion, urine production, regulates body temperature and blood pressure. A good night’s sleep allows the body to wake up fresh and invigorated, ready to face the coming day’s challenges. Too little sleep causes drowsiness, inability to concentrate, reduced productivity and performance. In the long-term sleep deprivation has been linked to premature aging (Nicola, Sian & Georgie take note!), digestive disturbances, psychological problems, behavioral disturbances and a host of chronic diseases including obesity, diabetes and heart diseases (ref NSF). In short, too little sleep is NOT good!

Sleep scientists generally agree that most adults need 7 to 8 hours sleep a night – I’m an exception to this then! Getting too little sleep will create a ‘sleep debt’ that will eventually catch up with you and need to be repaid. Below are some top tips to get your sleep on…

Top tips for improving sleep

  • Exercise!
  • Set a scheduled time for sleep
  • Take a warm bath
  • Reduce stressful activities
  • Blackout your bedroom
  • Avoid caffeine before bed (up to 6 hours before)
  • Avoid nicotine and alcohol
  • Don’t go to sleep too full or hungry
  • Relax before bed
  • Control room temperature (lower temperature improves sleep)

‘Sleep is the best meditation’
~ Dalai Lama

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Life is best at the beach

St Ives in the sun!

Oh I do love to be beside the seaside. It’s my happy place, a place for relaxation, rest and tranquillity, a place I hope to live one day!

Last week I spent a fab few days down in Cornwall, somewhere I hadn’t been since I was little. I went down to meet my other half, Heath (Ted), who’d spent the previous week walking the South West Coast Way. He walked over 150 miles from Minehead to Padstow, Bear Grylls style… carrying his life on his back, camping out in the wild, trekking up and down costal cliffs, just one man and his dog! An impressive feat not for the faint hearted… luckily for me he was more than ready for a little of life’s luxuries when I came to meet him. I have to say I’m somewhat jealous(ish) of his seaside stroll (expedition – his reference), as he looks like he’s been to the Caribbean for a month the colour of him! Spending all that time outdoors, away from the stresses of everyday life, completely incommunicado, sunshine and stunning sea views – sounds like bliss! I might get involved with part 2 of the ‘expedition’ next year…

The first night we stopped in Padstow, in a really nice B&B a stone’s throw from the centre. I didn’t arrive until late on after driving to what felt like the ends of the earth… we checked in, threw on dressie clobber and headed out for dinner. I was seriously spoilt with an amazing meal at Rick Stein’s seafood restaurant as a belated Birthday treat, we hadn’t booked a table we just called in on the off chance of availability and managed to bag a spot by the bar, result! G&T’s were flowing, Tarquin’s Cornish gin to be precise (very nice), and the food was deliciously divine – if you’re in that neck of the woods and get chance to go, go!

Stone fish delicious dish
Delicious stonefish dish
Ted trying to steal my tart...
Ted trying to steal my apple tart…
Padstow port
Padstow port

Day 2… We got up and headed down to the port for a mooch around Padstein (Rick really does own most of the port), before heading to St Ives. The weather was cloudy and overcast unfortunately, but that didn’t dampen seaside spirits. We scoped out St Ives centre, had an obligatory Cornish pasty for lunch and just as the heavens opened found a quirky little gin bar to take shelter, and sampled a few new gins whilst looking for somewhere to stay the night. We hadn’t pre-booked anywhere, we were winging the trip, winging it worked as we found a cool converted gypsy caravan to stay in on Air B&B for the two nights we were there, situated about 10 minutes drive away from St Ives centre. Before heading up to our gypsy retreat we had lush seaside style tapas at Porthmeour Beach Café in one of their outdoor booths, cosied up in blankets overlooking the bay. The rain didn’t subside that night, it turned into a monsoon / typhoon / I thought the world was ending style thunder storm. The scariest night of my life spent in a little wooden caravan that I was convinced was going to be hit by lightening and blow us into obliteration! Heath on the other hand slept like a log, completely unfazed and unaware the world was ending around us, despite me waking him every hour on the hour whimpering and whining about needing to go to the loo, but being too scared to move.

Our gypsy retreat
Our gypsy retreat

Day 3… We survived the storm and woke up to clear blue skies and sunshine, and headed straight for the beach. We spent the morning relaxing and sunning ourselves (me looking like Casper the ghost next to my bronzed up boyfriend) watching the world go by on the waterfront, eating lots… freshly caught and cooked mackerels, crepes and creamy Cornish ice cream. We ate dinner at another nice restaurant that evening, The Loft Restaurant & Sun Terrace, soaking up the last of the sun, and later enjoyed fizz by the fire back at base – a perfect way to end a blissful day!

Crystal clear waters at Kynance Cove
Crystal clear waters at Kynance Cove

Day 4… We packed up and left our gypsy life behind to head to Kynance Cove for the day, a National Trust site on the Lizard peninsula. Although overcast and cloudy, the cove was/is seriously stunning; you could be on the great ocean road, white sands and turquoise sea. It was brisk and breezy but that didn’t stop us exploring the coves and braving a dip in the sea, we were pretty much the only ones in the sea… and I was the only woman nuts enough to strip off and brave it in my briefs… yes I stripped off in broad daylight, stone cold sober, minus a swimsuit – you only live once 😉

My hunk in trunks ~ there's no photographic evidence of ugly Betty in briefs!
My hunk in trunks ~ there’s no photographic evidence of ugly Betty in briefs!

After a picnic and brew to warm us up we were back on the road, the end of our mini seaside jolly and start of the mammoth drive back up North… I forgot how stunning the Cornish coast is, you don’t have to jump on a plane to be beside the sea and sands. The weather may be hit and miss in the UK, but it’s what you make of it and you who you share it with that counts. I won’t be leaving it so long before I visit again, and I’m going to make a conscious effort to visit more of the UK’s coastline and beachy resorts!

You, me & the sea

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The Gin Society Festival

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All praise the superior spirit… gin! Gin gods, goddesses and worshipers came together to show, share and sample the good stuff in Manchester once again this weekend, at the first Gin Society Festival, and of course as a gindisciple ever keen to know and learn more I attended mass.

This being the second gin festival I’ve attended in the city, it was hosted at another historic and beautifully iconic landmark, Manchester Cathedral, the perfect place for worship and gin-appreciation!

The festival was held over two days, 2 & 3 September, I went to the evening session on Saturday (the day before my Birthday!) with my gin guzzling gals to celebrate turning 30 +2, all my Birthday wishes come true…

On arrival we were greeted with a goblet and gin guide, which listed over 70 gins to try from producers throughout the UK and Europe. We then purchased our drink tokens, which cost a very reasonable £5 per drink. Once again I had that liver capacity dilemma… I couldn’t try them all, so I flicked through the guide and selected gins I liked the sound of that I hadn’t sampled before. I have to say, I was a little disappointed to hear they had run out of stock of the first two gins I wanted to try, Ginvinity and 5th Fire – Red Fruits… opening the festival by losing my Ginvinity would’ve been the perfect way to start, but I guess lots of other gin-lovers had the same idea 😉

Gins I supped included…

Warner Edwards – Rhubarb an English fruit gin that I was told was a good substitute for the two gins I initially picked that I couldn’t sample. This gin combines Harrington Dry Gin with a rhubarb infusion, rhubarb that was originally grown in the gardens of Queen Victoria’s estate in the 1800’s! I drank this with ginger ale instead of tonic, as rhubarb and ginger go together perfectly, and was very impressed.

Manchester Gin a gin that’s produced in Chorlton, South Manchester (where I lived for a good while). Another relatively new gin on Manchester’s scene, made by a couple that met and fell in love over a gin and tonic! I loved the love story as much as I liked the sound of the botanicals, Dandelion and Burdock Root. I supped it with orange and rosemary garnish and was very impressed indeed; Manchester’s proving to be a great city for good times and great gins!

Batch gin from Burnley. I chose to try this as Burnley is just up’th road from my hometown of Ramsbottom, also because my nephew Alfie is the biggest Burnley FC fan. This gin contains nutmeg, frankincense and myrrh giving it a Christmassy flavour. Contrary to the flavour, the garnishes you sup it with give it a summery twist… lime and strawberry! I was very impressed with this lovely Lancashire liquor; I highly recommend giving it a try.

Sharish Blue Magic produced in Portugal. This fruit gin gets its colour from the blue pea flower, other botanicals include strawberry, cinnamon, lemon peel, ginger and liquorice. The magic happens when you pour on the tonic and the gin turns from blue to pink! Not only does this gin look lush, it tastes it too… best served with a lime garnish.

Good time Gin Guzzling Gals
Good times with my gin guzzling gals

I had a fab night with fabulous friends… supping lots of lush gins most definitely took the edge off my increasing age!

For a first festival it was really good, stunning location and lots of great gins to be sampled… only feedback from me would be, to have more stock (no running out!) and have a wider variety of food on offer… however with gin domination showing no signs of slowing, I’m sure it’ll be bigger and even better next year!

Find out more about The Gin Society festival and follow them on social Facebook and Twitter.

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Importance of a warm up & cool down

Static-Stretching

Warm your muscles up before you work! This is something I’ve wanted to blog about since I passed my PT and started working in the gym. I was guilty of not warming up sufficiently before I understood the importance of it, and as a consequence have had a fair few injuries over the years. Since working in the gym I could probably count on both hands the number of people I’ve seen warm up before they workout (this does not include anyone I’ve trained), I’ve become obsessive about it, that and drinking water… The number of people I’ve seen come in the gym and jump straight on the weights, heaviest weights too… You’re going to do yourself a serious injury, seriously!

If your muscles and joints aren’t warm, supple and ready to work, brace yourself to hear/feel a snap, ping or pull… Research generally agrees that the main way to prevent muscle injury is to raise the muscle temperature, as muscle is more elastic when warm and will stretch without damage.

Warm up

Start with CV. If you’re in the gym jump on a piece of cardiovascular kit – bike, cross trainer, treadmill… for 5-10 minutes, increasing the level/intensity gradually. You could also do a number of bodyweight exercises including jogging on the spot, high knees, butt kicks, star jumps and so on… Starting with CV gets your heart rate up, blood and oxygen pumping around your body which lubricates your joints.

And stretch… Now you’ve increased muscle temperature and got blood pumping around your body, lubricating your joints and limbs, stretch the muscles that you’re going to use in your workout. Stretches should be specific to your goals and workout, a mixture of dynamic (involving motion) and static (no motion).

Cool down 

At the end of your workout it’s important to do a cool down, gradually taking your heart rate and blood pressure back down to near resting rates. Research has shown that performing a cool down can reduce stiffness (DOMS) that can occur 24-72 hours after exercise. It also helps maintain circulation, preventing blood pooling (when exercise stops abruptly the heart continues to beat fast, pumping a lot of blood that pools in the lower legs). A cool down should be done over a 5-10 minute period, gradually decreasing intensity. You can do this by jumping back on the CV kit you used as part of your warm-up, followed by more stretches.

Some of the go-to stretches I do include:

  • Squat to overhead reach
  • Wood chop
  • Standing pectoral stretch
  • Standing latissimus and mid trapezius stretch
  • Standing quadriceps and hamstrings stretch
  • Lying glute and oblique stretch
  • Lying sphinx stretch
  • Cat stretch (my favourite!)

I also regularly use a foam roller, an instrument of torture (until you get used to it!) that I now can’t live without. Read all about the benefits of using one here…

Read more about the importance of drinking water here…

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