The battle of the recipe boxes

We’ve all been there. Got home from work late, staring blankly at a fridge full of ingredients, trying to come up with some inspiration, failing miserably and before you know it the pull of Deliveroo is too strong and a Nando’s is on it’s way…

For 9-5 workers and especially those of us in London it’s a feeling all too familiar. According to London newspaper City A.M Londoners spend 107 hours a year on their commute so when combined with the hours actually spent working it’s no wonder the majority of us don’t have the motivation or inspiration to decide what to cook.

That’s where recipe boxes/kits come in. The concept of having food delivered to our door isn’t exactly new but what’s different about these deliveries are that you choose your ingredients based on the menus you choose. Meaning you’ve already decided what you want to eat so you’re only getting enough for what you’ve opted for. There are so many on the market but I put the main 3 to the test; Gousto, Hello Fresh and Mindful Chef. But which came out on top?

Mindful chef:

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The most expensive of the three I trialled mindful chef thanks to a 25% discount code through work. Each recipe is priced per portion and all recipes are dairy and gluten free. They’ve also partnered with food blogger Madeline Shaw to allow you recreate some of her favourite recipes.

The box:

I ordered a 3 meal box that came to £38 with the discount and included a Sri Lankan prawn curry, chicken and pesto courgetti and a fajita steak salad. Quite frankly I couldn’t taste the difference in the quality of the ingredients versus the cost and mindful chef really annoyed me with the courgetti dish. I know you can get pre-spirallized courgetti in the supermarket so given that the recipe stated the dish was courgetti it failed to let me know I required my own spirallizer until it was too late. Though perhaps this reflects more the target market of mindful chef. Furthermore the recipes used ingredients quite foreign to us so getting the cooking right with such new ingredients was a challenge and even sometimes just choosing the menu. Not everything I want to eat should come with pomegranate even though it’s one of my favourite fruits. We were supposed to have 25% off our first 3 boxes but I cancelled it after the first – a severe disappointment in our eyes.

Hello Fresh:

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Our first venture into the “recipe box world” we got a discount on our first 4 boxes with hello fresh. Unlike mindful chef the costing is broken down by number of dishes you have. The more dishes you go for in a week, the less the price per portion so at full cost 4 meals for the week would cost £34.99. Like with all these recipe boxes you can build your menu around you staring at the start if you’re vegetarian, vegan etc so your menu is completely tailored.

The box:

Of the 4 boxes we had total our general feelings were “ok”. We had some absolutely stand out dishes that we’ve often gone back to and our eyes have been opened to adding more citrus ingredients to stir fry dishes. However we also had some shockers including a turkey dish that resulted in us throwing away the “crispy kale” element. The recipe cards are on full sized A4 paper. A huge plus for both hello fresh and mindful chef are that the recipes are bagged up separately and numbered accordingly so all your ingredients are kept in one place ready when you need them. We went back to hello fresh again with another discount code but generally it still fell short of the mark for us. There were never really anything massively wrong with the meals (bar the odd few) but there weren’t any that really wowed either.

Gousto

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Ahhhhh our crowning glory. I literally LOVED gousto from the first box. The extra touches just seal it. From the info booklet on where the ingredients are sourced to the free wooden spoon there’s just something about gousto. At exactly the same price as hello fresh (4 meals for £34.99) it’s been a revelation. Not only have 90% of the dishes been super tasty but a lot have wowed us. There’s a particular Thai chicken curry that I’ve recreated at least 3 times it’s THAT good. If I could combine the individual ingredient bagging of hello fresh with gousto I’d never go anywhere else. All the recipe cards are pre hole punched and you get a nifty little ring binder with box 2 – and every subsequent 50th box to build up your own little recipe library.

The box:

As with all the above, the boxes come with the individual ingredients. All chilled ingredients come in a fully recyclable cool bag with ice packs that can be put in the freezer and re-used for picnics etc. This means you can have the box delivered when you’re not even home and it keeps the ingredients fresh. They stay fresh for a while too, there was one box we forgot to cancel over Christmas that had to stay in our foyer for a couple of days – still fresh. Gousto are also pledging to reduce their plastic packaging and already send a lot of ingredients loose for this reason. Big plus for the environment. Most of the recipes have been really tasty and if anything the biggest disappointments have been the ones that have been in collaboration with Joe Wicks aka ‘The Body Coach’. The next menu is released on Tuesdays at 12pm and gousto have a cross-platform app so you can easily choose your menu for the week. The subscription is completely flexible giving you the option to pause, skip and changed delivery dates with ease to suit your eating pattern for that week.

For the cost there generally isn’t much in it except mindful chef which is quite frankly not worth it in my eyes but there is just something about the gousto recipes that have been far superior to anything else we’ve tried.

To try and of these recipes boxes visit the sites below. These links are referral links and therefore I do receive “credit” to use on future boxes for myself but do not receive direct payment from the companies for the referral.

Gousto – Get 50% off your first box and 30% off any additional in the first month: cook.gousto.co.uk/raf/?promo_code=CHLOE18158490&utm_source=weblink

Hello Fresh – Get £20 off your first order: https://www.hellofresh.co.uk?c=TOMNOD&utm_source=raf-share&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=clipboard

Mindful Chef – Get £20 off your first order: https://www.mindfulchef.com/?referral_code=96ZMGQB

 

Rogue Orchestra presents: Drive

When your favourite movie has such an iconic soundtrack as “Drive” does it’s impossible not to get excited about ANY event and even more so seeing it performed live by an Orchestra in London.

The Drive soundtrack has long established itself as something special developing quite the cult following. So much so that Radio 1 took the chance to completely remaster the soundtrack with new performances from bands such as The 1975 and Foals to give it an update in 2014. Having seen all this it’s fair to say I was expecting big things from Rogue orchestra.

The event was in XOYO club in Shoreditch in the basement bar and despite the ticket outlet I used advertising it as an unreserved seated event it was very much a standing event. Moreover the event actually ended up starting late. My high expectations were lessening by the second.

The “Green” room in XOYO

Anyone who has seen the movie would recognise the opener in a heartbeat with its perfect electro-pop beat. Rogue orchestra only highlighted this more by showing the opening credits to the movie alongside the performance; a very thrilling touch.

The orchestra continued on through the soundtrack with lead vocalist performing on maybe one in every three tracks. It was clear they didn’t have the licensing agreement to show most of the movie but rather repeating a lot of the same clips over and over. With a soundtrack that Drive has and the amount of instrumental only songs this felt like an oversight. It quickly killed the atmosphere and took a vocal performance to pick it back up momentarily before it only dropped again at the next track. They ended the first half with probably the most well known song on the album “Real Hero”. As the most well known it did seem a strange decision to end the first half on this.

The opening song accompanied by some movie clips

The second half seemed to only cover off a few more songs on the album before moving into more generic and general synth-pop songs from the likes of Eurythmics. None of which were familiar to me and ultimately I was left generally disappointed with the whole event. If it had been sold as a celebration of synth pop I might have understood but it was an orchestral performance of the Drive soundtrack which didn’t include eurythmics. Overall I feel like they had the opportunity to do A LOT more with this than they did. I would have much preferred a theatre venue with the orchestra on stage and screens at the side relating the scenes of the movie to the music. Even though it’s my favourite film I’ve only seen it a handful of time so it was difficult for me to match the movie to the music which felt like a shame (and has subsequently made me watch it again).

I’d certainly return to another orchestral performance though I may choose to read up in future first exactly what I’m attending!

NG x

FOOD: Dinner at The Terrace on Piccadilly

One of the most amazing things about London is the amount of different restaurants available. So when I was tasked with finding a restaurant for a pre-theatre dinner I was more than happy I stumbled upon The Terrace at Piccadilly.

The restaurant

A tiny little London wilderness disguised in a hotel with an atrium feel. Even on a winter evening the restaurant itself is beautiful, cosy and intimate so I can only imagine just how stunning it is in the summer. The array of plants and seating make it a perfect spot for dinner or drinks. It’s also exceptionally instagrammable if that’s your flavour.

The food

Nibbles: freshly made flat bread with an avocado dip and home made hummus and an amuse-bouche of cherry tomatoes mozzarella and pesto.

Starters: Pan-fried scallop with pancetta and petite pois

Mains: Chloe – tiger prawn linguine, Tom – braised beef cheeks with a side of lobster mac and cheese.

Every single course was delicious. There were some definite stars of the show including the avocado dip for starters. The braised cheek was exactly as expected and I have to say it left me suffering with major food envy with the way it melted and fell apart. There were also some slight misses for us both. That’s not to say there was anything unpleasant about any dish but we both agreed that neither pasta dish blew us away. It didn’t taste that different from what a good home cook might make.

The price

To say it’s in the heart of Piccadilly the pricing was quite reasonable and typical of central London. As tastecard holders this restaurant is also one of their 2-4-1 venues meaning that both our starters and our mains were buy one get one free. This offer is available for 2 people Monday-Thursday but pre-booking is required. All in all it’s definitely a restaurant that’s staying firmly on my radar and no doubt somewhere I will return to again.

NG x

REVIEW: The Book of Mormon

I have a confession. I don’t like any animated comedy TV series. Family Guy, Simpsons, American Dad, Futurama and even South Park. I’m not just talking an “I don’t find them funny” kind of dislike; oh no. I’m talking full scale them actually being on in the background borderline angers me kind of dislike. So why on earth would I go to a musical created by the same people behind such TV shows I hear you cry. Well, it was the top of Tom’s list and recently his birthday so I decided to put my personal opinion aside and get him tickets. Also part of me was curious. I mean with nine Tony Awards and a Grammy I couldn’t possibly hate it could I?

The Theatre

The Prince of Wales Theatre in the heart of Leicester Square is the BoM’s home. A Mackintosh theatre it has multiple bars with a surprising amount of room as far as theatre’s go. I’m also a big fan of the fact that like many of the London theatres they serve Yorkshire crisps and popcorn #represent. We had dress circle tickets and I have to say the gradient of the rake was quite impressive. It certainly helps make the theatre feel intimate and you can pretty much guarantee a decent view right from the back. Added bonus that you don’t have to be concerned about someone tall sitting in front and as a shortie this is a regular concern for me.

The view from our ‘Row E’ seats

The Music

I don’t know where to start. I went in to this pretty much blind. I’d only ever heard the opening song “Hello” and that was from a video from Facebook a few weeks before my theatre visit. Needless to say that one video was enough for it to be on repeat in my head EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. But “Hello” is only one of the many incredible songs in this show. It has a remarkable way of taking some controversial subjects, putting a joke into and still making the music sound like an absolute broadway classic. Seriously impressive stuff. Though good luck picking a favourite song AND not having “Hello” in your head for daaaaays.

The Show

Whilst it’s certainly not “family friendly” though that does depend on the sense of humour of your family I guess. It sheds light on some very important themes and messages. Religion being the obvious one, Mormon culture and values another and not forgetting the oppression and violence facing the villagers in Uganda. Though you will be forgiven for laughing at what can sometimes feel like the most inappropriate times. You’ll come away laughing as if you’ve spent the last 2 hours at a stand up comedy gig. I guess that’s the brilliance of comedy writing. There’ll be moments that will touch your heart, make you spit out your drink and come away thinking “WTF”. Never in my life did I expect to see a scene in a musical that included Hitler, giant dancing coffee cups and skeletons with doughnuts but BoM more than delivered on that front. You’ll also never think of/look at a frog in the same way.

 Considering I’ve been lucky enough to see shows at £20 a ticket BoM is certainly on the slightly more expensive side of the scale but it’s also worth every penny. Like with all the shows week nights will always be cheaper and there are plenty of websites out there with flash sales and last minute “seat filling” offers. The run time is 2 hours 30 mins with a 15 minute interval. Bookings are currently available until mid May with group bookings running longer. There is also a daily lottery where 21 top-price tickets from each day are made available for £20 each. More information can be found on the theatre website:

https://www.delfontmackintosh.co.uk/tickets/the-book-of-mormon/

NG x

 

Things to do in Greenwich for £5 or less

Maritime Greenwich is undoubtedly one of my favourite areas in London. I don’t know if I’m slightly biased because it’s walking distance for me but it has this brilliant way of making you feel like you’re miles away from London whilst also being reminded just how close you are. There’s also lots of things to do and still get change from £10.

Where to eat

Goddard’s Pie and Mash shop has been a Greenwich staple since 1890! “Eel Pie Houses” as they were traditionally known date back to the 1700s and Goddard’s still feels traditional. A single Pie and Mash will set you back a mere £4.30. Just expect the queues out of the door on a Saturday lunch time. Think the best possible ‘dinner lady’ vibes and relish in the old fashioned bench style seating. The perfect place to warm up on a chilly winter day and if you’re feeling adventurous be sure to give the jellied eels a try.

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You simply can’t beat a classic

Comedy

Up the creek comedy club is my favourite to visit. It’s hosted an array of comedians including James Acaster, Joe Lycett, Tim Vine and more recently Nish Kumar. Every Wednesday it is home to “Shoot From The Hip” a comedy improv night and if you’ve never seen a comedy improv night before you MUST. This particular one is free to visit too. If that wasn’t enough comedy for you it also hosts every Thursday “The Blackout” one of the most exciting nights of comedy you’ll ever see. 15 amateur comedians have 2 minutes to impress, succeed and they’ll carry on for a further 3 minutes. Fail? Well the crowd can get pretty rowdy for a comedian they don’t like. The first time I went a poor guy was booed off in the first 30 seconds. Brutal. Entry to The Blackout is £6 or free for students.

Markets

Weekends in Greenwich are fantastic if not for the vast array of markets available. You obviously have the famous Greenwich Market with all of it’s artwork, food and artisan coffee but just up the road you have both the vintage market and clock tower market. Be sure to stop by the vinyl stall and have a browse if music is your love. My best friend once managed to find a yellow stone roses vinyl and to this day I’m still insanely jealous! There’s everything from clothes, to antiques and jewellery. Well worth a peruse and all free to look around.

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The Park

I defy you to go to Greenwich and not stop by the park. Not only is it home to The Royal Observatory, next to The Royal Naval College and close to the Queen’s house, it’s also a great place for dog walkers, families and everyone! There’s stunning views and even a deer park. The Pavillion Cafe is a great spot for afternoon tea or any kind of pit stop. Which you’ll need if you took the ‘steep’ route to the top though it’s well worth the climb. The park itself is free to visit but entry to the observatory and naval college is charged separately.

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The view from the top of Greenwich Hill

So there you have it, just some of my favourite things about Greenwich.

NG x

More information about what’s coming up at Up The Creek can be found at their website www.up-the-creek.com/

 

Learning to love the girl in the mirror*

I’m back! I recently took a bit of a blogging hiatus for no particular reason other than I simply didn’t have the motivation to write. I hate nothing more than having to force myself to put pen to paper – or fingers to keyboard in this case – so I simply don’t do it. Luckily for me, during my break I received a copy of Learning to love the girl in the mirror*. A self help book from actress Helena Grace Donald about she overcame her eating habits and mental health struggles.

The book made a great travel companion

About the book

For me, the book couldn’t have landed at a better time. I have/had been struggling mentally. Putting myself on cruel, punishing diets that left me both physically and mentally drained to the point where I resented every single thing about myself. Quite the antithesis to LOVING the girl in the mirror.

Whilst it’s clear the book is aimed at teenagers currently going through their problems it wasn’t difficult to make it relate to my now “adult” problems as well as remember exactly how I was suffering throughout my teenage years. It was emotional thinking back and the throwback social media challenge of looking back to 2012 nearly made it more difficult but it was a very constructive read.

What I love about this book is how female empowering it is. Every chapter starts with a quote from a female icon and the big sister notes honestly make you feel like you’re not alone. Finding people in your circle who can relate and understand is one of the hardest things. I try and explain how my dark days feel to Tom so he at least understands but being able to relate is impossible. Being able to find that feeling in a book is truly incredible and all hats off to Helen for that.

Whilst reading this book, for the first time ever I had my ‘light bulb’ epiphany moment of “I actually have my shit together.” I have a successful career, a creative hobby I love, a wonderful supportive boyfriend, I find time to go to the gym, I cook so I can eat relatively healthy and I live in London. All at 23. I can finally say I love me. My little miss critical will still try and find faults every time I’m in front of a mirror but each day she gets weaker because I get stronger. I no longer fear food/snacks but listen to my body so I can fuel it for my crazy lifestyle.

My favourite quote from the book

About the author

Helena Grace Donald was born in London and moved to LA to pursue her acting ambitions. Having overcome her own ‘Little Miss Critical’ from her teenage years, she founded Girl Unfiltered where she works to inspire girls and young women to learn to value themselves beyond their struggles. You can found out more about her mission and follow her through her website and social media channels:

www.girlunfiltered.com

www.instagram.com/girl_unfiltered

Are there any self-help books that you’ve been loving recently?

NG x

*I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for this review but all thoughts and opinion are my own

 

Where to mini golf in London

I’ve never been one for a “typical” date night. My dream date night is something different/exciting/active and mini golf is certainly up there with the best. My boyfriend actually plays golf so mini golf is the closest I can get to actually challenging him. So it’s fair to say we’ve been to a few so far in London. Here are our 3 faves:

Canary Wharf Mini Golf

Definitely one for the summer months this FREE mini golf has become a warm weather staple. Being so close to home, it’s the perfect excuse to get us out of the flat on a sunny day. It does open throughout the winter so if you can brave the cold you can get your mini golf fix and with a cafe right next door you can warm up with a coffee. It’s a great little course with tricky obstacles whilst still being perfect for families. There’s even some hole in one opportunities. Moreover, it is situated right next to the entrance to Canary Wharf tube station making it all the more accessible. Open 7 days a week until 4:30pm it’s certainly one way to get your mini golf fix.

Junkyard Mini Golf

If I had to pick a favourite it would be this one hands down. It is simply the most fun I’ve ever had playing mini golf. Located in the super cool Old Truman Brewery in Shoreditch it’s within easy distance from Liverpool Street Station and Shoreditch High Street. The cocktail menu is something to behold where classic cocktails are given a hip and old school twist – AT THE SAME TIME. Be sure to check out the “Hotline Ting” for additional popping candy and party rings (and yes I do mean the old school biscuit). With 4 courses in total it’s impossible to get bored. Check out ‘Gary’ the 90’s rave course for a unique sliding experience… Booking is nearly always required so plan your visit in advance.

Hotline Ting (c) classic cocktails with an old school twist

Plonk Mini Golf

With 5 locations across London, Plonk is quickly establishing itself as the mini golfing hot spot. From putt in the park to puzzle putt, Plonk has variety. We recently paid a visit to Plonk Dalston with friends for a Saturday double date. After some difficulty finding it (it’s inside a bar and not very well sign posted) we got ourselves two rounds of mini golf for £12 each. At peak times these do have to be played consecutively but you can go for bar breaks in between. Efes bar itself was nothing to write home about but actually the golf was very good. The capitalisation on space is extremely impressive and nearly every hole had various ways to play it of varying degrees of difficulty. If all the others are this good then I’m excited to continue to explore all that Plonk has to offer.

My skincare saviours

I have not been blessed with perfect skin. I never have and I probably never will. So skincare is my life. As a teenager I had VERY problematic skin (didn’t we all.) As an adult I have the definition of combination skin. An oily t-zone that just doesn’t hold foundation whilst everything else is incredibly dry. Add into the mix an occasional outbreak and you can see the issues. I’ve probably tried 90% of the skincare brands out there and still experimenting but I’m finally switching it up. I’m swapping high end, animal-testing brands for more animal friendly, easier on the pocket brands. I’m also vowing to stop being the laziest beauty person ever and setting myself a routine I can stick to.

Make-up removal

In case you’ve been living under a rock, let me give you this advice now. Make-up wipes are trash. I know they seem easy, and cheap but trust me. They. Are. Not. Worth. It. Switch to micellar water instead. My favourite is the Bioderma – I have tried Nivea as well but it feels a touch more drying then the Bioderma. I use this with the large cotton wool pads for the easiest make up removal and so much better than wipes. I take a bottle everywhere with me and keep one in my gym bag for when I’m finishing work and heading straight to the gym. I’m vowing never to use a single make-up wipe again.

My holy grail micellar watee

Evening

My evening vs morning routine whilst similar, is still somewhat different. When the news first broke about the micro-bead exfoliator scandal, I ditched any exfoliator I was currently using and went straight to The Body Shop and purchased their seaweed scrub. I haven’t looked back since and so this makes up the first part of my evening routine. It’s the perfect scrub that’s gentle enough for daily use whilst still buffing away the nasties. I tend to only use this in the evening as I like the idea of my skin working it’s own magic during sleep so the last thing I would want to do is buff all that magic away. My next step is cleansing. I mix up my cleanser routine depending on the condition of my skin. If i’m a little bit more on the blemish-y side I’ll use the foaming tea tree wash from The Body Shop but if I’m blemish free, it’s the Vitamin E cleanser. Next is the tea tree daily solution. This light liquid is perfect just to keep blemishes under control/at bay and soothes the skin in preparation for moisturiser. Finally, moisturise. Exactly the same with cleansing I switch it up depending on my skin. If I have some spots to fight it’s all about tea tree based moisturisers. If I’m on the dryer side then it’s the vitamin E aqua boost sorbet.

Morning

After what I hope is a good night’s sleep and skin recovery; as I’ve already mentioned I bypass exfoliation and try to keep it as gentle as possible. This usually means the Vitamin E cleanser, the tea tree drops and a trusty moisturiser. If my skin is really dry I’ll use something as intense as Nivea Soft but I’ll also use this to replace my make-up primer. If it’s less intensive I’ll top up with my Vitamin E aqua boost sorbet and apply a normal primer. Quick, simple, effective.

Vitamin E cleanser, tea tree drops and my choice of moisturiser

Make-up

I am the foundation queen. Not because I know my stuff, because I own SO MANY. I’m currently working with 5 of varying degrees of coverage/consistency/skin type to get me through my different skin days and I still don’t have my holy grail. For breakout days it has to be Vichy Dermablend 3D. The foundation contains salicylic acid to fight breakouts whilst you’re wearing it. If I’m having a mixed skincare day I use this almost like a concealer and combine it with other foundations. Where I can I try and wear as little face make up as possible and let my skincare work away. My biggest qualm with foundation at the minute is everything is clinging to my dry patches. As a serial blemish–proned sufferer this is completely new territory. My only other advice for skincare is wash your make-up brushes weekly at worst. I know it’s a chore and nobody likes doing it but your skin will thank you. I mean think about it, if you have bacteria build up causing blemishes why would you want to continually wipe that all over your face?

Weekly treats

Whilst i’m ‘generally’ lazy with my skincare there’s one thing I never skip. Pamper Sundays. I’ve got myself into the perfect little self-care routine on a Sunday which always involves a face mask. Every week, like clockwork. Since re-discovering 7th Heaven face masks I’ve become obsessed. I always used them as a kid at sleepovers because they were so easy to get hold of at any local supermarket but I didn’t appreciate what a fantastic brand they are. They’re completely cruelty free, have supported animal welfare for 30 years and have a mask for everyone. So if I’m more blemish-proned I love a clay or mud mask. Pores my concern? It’s a charcoal or seaweed peel off. In a rush, then it’s all about the 5 minute tea tree sheet mask. Now my skin is on the drier side I’m going to give some of their moisturising masks a go. Like I said, something for everyone.

Fluffy socks and a face mask – pamper perfection

Easing on the purse

Prior to switching to all things The Body Shop, I swore by Clinique anti-blemish solutions and moisture surge. Here, the average price of each product is roughly £20. Compare this with The Body Shop at an average price of £10 and the savings are there to be made. Also, factor in the reward schemes I spoke about recently (link here) and the free £5 vouchers = saving big bucks. What’s more, o2 priority customers can regularly get discounts such as 30% in store or online and £5 off a £25 spend in store and online. 7th Heaven face masks are already an absolute steal at roughly £1 each but I try and be extra savvy and buy them in bulk when I’m back in Yorkshire where you can pick them up from Body Care at 89p. Whilst it’s only 11p, that’s essentially 11p per week making it what a fiver a year? Not exactly a monster saving but a saving all the same.

My beauty wish list

So where do I take my beauty to next? Well first on the list is nailing this dryness and foundation situation. I’m hoping it’s a serious case of winter dryness but with a skiing trip in March it clearly isn’t resolving itself soon. I’ve heard so many amazing things about The Ordinary for both foundation and hydrating products so they’ve jumped straight to the top of my list. I’m also interested in trying more from The Body Shop.

Do you have any recommendations that you think might benefit me? Why not leave me a comment with some of your beauty saviours?

NG x

You can shop all my Body Shop faves here

Pizza, a DJ and Dalston

This weekend I payed a visit to the fantastic Pizza Union in Dalston with Tom and some friends. It’s the only pizza place I’ve ever visited with a resident DJ and where you can get 2 pizzas and a bottle of wine for under £30 (in London). Here’s how my experience went down.

The location

I have to admit Dalston isn’t an area of London I’m particularly familiar with and it wasn’t an area we actually intended to find ourselves in. We were aiming to visit Draughts, the board game cafe up the road in Haggerston but with a 2 hour wait for a table we quickly decided to source a new plan. So we ended up in Dalston. We actually dropped by Pizza Union after a couple of rounds of mini golf at Plonk. It’s within easy walking distance from both Dalston Junction and Dalston and Kingsland – both on the London Overground. A small venue, seating is adequate with larger benches and smaller, intimate tables. The pizza making and HUGE pizza oven all take place in front of you and the eclectic neon makes it feel like a cool venue. Not to mention the fact it has a resident DJ. It was such an incredibly unique and exciting place to spend a Saturday evening eating pizza and listening to the tunes and I could see it being an excellent warm up venue for a night out.

The menu

Pizzas start from as little as £3.95 for a margherita with options to add toppings or make your pizza gluten free for £1 extra. For such a small venue the pizza menu is impressive with many pizzas and ingredients completely new to me and different to anything I’d ever seen before. They have a variety of drinks both alcoholic and non-alcoholic with the option to purchase full bottles of red, white and sparkling wine. They offer sides of olives, sauces and dips to add to your order. Not content with just pizza they offer salads and one desert option. A dough ring filled with Nutella and mascarpone. As a pizza bar it sits in between a self-service/table service venue. Once ordered you collect the pizza yourself but the plate/tray is cleared for you.

The food

I have to say it’s beyond good. I’d always like to hope that my local pub offers the best pizzas in London but I think I’ve now found a pretty close rival. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever had a pizza that’s quite so crisp. It’s a perfect 12 inch, thin and crispy pizza that I simply couldn’t fault. I almost feel guilty for not doing Pizza Union justice and only ordering a Margherita pizza. I’m not one to return to food places in London – since there are just so many – but if I was back in Dalston/Aldgate/Kings Cross/Spitalfields and I fancied a pizza, this is where I’d be heading.

You can find more information about Pizza Union through their website or by visiting them on social media.

https://www.pizzaunion.com/

@pizzaunion

 

The store loyalty cards you need in your life

It seems like every shop you ever visit wants to offer you their latest, exclusive discount/store card. So which actually carry the best rewards? I’ve put together the ultimate guide to my favourite reward cards and exactly what they have to offer.

Beauty
  • The Body Shop – With their “love your body club” card you get 10 points per £1 you spend. 500 points = a £5 voucher with an extra £5 on your birthday. You also get exclusive invites to in-store events and discounts are on offer. I really love this reward scheme as they instantly tie it to your account so when you buy online you don’t actually need to input the card details (providing you use the some account you registered with).
  • Boots – the Boots advantage card is the absolutely classic of all the ‘reward’ cards, established in 1997 it’s easy to see why it has survived the test of time. You get 4 points per £1 when you spend and each point is equivalent to 1p to spend back in store. They regularly hold exclusive ‘point’ events offering up to 10 points per £1 spend and they will mail point booster vouchers every quarter. Boots have also recently launched an app which allows you to easily see your point balance as well as load further point boosting offers straight to your card to redeem in store. My only slight niggle about the Boots card is that you have to pay the full amount in points, you can’t part pay in cash.
  • Debenhams – If you’re a regular Debenhams shopper then they Debenhams Beauty Club card is perfect. It offers 3 points per £1 spend. 500 points = a £5 voucher and an extra £5 voucher for your birthday. Other advantages include being the first in the know for new samples and a complimentary Benefit eyebrow wax/Elizabeth Arden facial for your birthday. They also offer free Click and Collect delivery for Beauty Club members.

A recent body shop haul, saving £5 with the loyalty card

Fashion
  • John Lewis – My favourite feature about the John Lewis card is that you can get a free regular hot drink and cake in their cafes. One of the most unique features of the John Lewis rewards is the option for the ‘Kitchen Drawer.’ This means that you can store all your receipts to your phone making it easy access for items under warranty. You also get exclusive invites and offers such as early access to clearance events.
  • Boux Avenue – The Boux Avenue VIP card gives you points per £1 spent to redeem on future purchases. Each point is worth 3p so 300 points = £3. Points can be used in full or as part payment and further benefits include exclusive VIP events and sale previews.
  • ASOS – everyone’s favourite site, ASOS offers their A-list scheme. Every £1 spent = 5 points. 500 points = a £5 voucher valid for 6 months. With 4 A-list “levels”, additional perks include extra points days and 48 hour preview access to sales.

Some of the featured cards including my Boux avenue card!

Supermarkets
  • Tesco – another point per £ offer, each point is then worth 1p so 150 points = £1.50. Every 3 months Tesco will send you vouchers based on your points value which you can spend in store, online or with one of their partners. These can include anything from cinema tickets, to meals out and even Uber credit. One of the best feature about Tesco is there are so many ways to collect. They even give you two handy key fobs so you don’t have to carry your card and since you can redeem points on Esso fuel it really helps remembering to collect those points.
  • Sainsbury’s – the classic nectar card. You can pick up your card in store or online, you can link an additional card holder to your account and you can collect points in SO MANY PLACES. Travel on Virgin Trains? You can collect nectar points on that. Bank with Sainsbury’s bank? Get nectar points. Shop at Argos a lot? Well you get the picture. They’re the largest loyalty scheme in the UK with over 16 million users regularly shopping at Sainsbury’s. 1 point per £1 is on offer with them direct on groceries and this increases depending on partner. Points can be spent just as easily as they are earned with redemption available on huge brands such as EasyJet, Vue Cinemas and Pizza Express. Failing that you can always use them on your next Sainsbury’s shop where 500 points = £2.50 off.
  • Waitrose – if you live anywhere south of the northern border you’ll know that Waitrose is a major deal. In terms of locality Waitrose is my second closest supermarket at home and probably my closest at work. Whilst they’re not the cheapest I have to say I’m impressed by their loyalty scheme rewards. It’s less of a point collector and more of a get stuff for free. Benefits include a free hot drink whilst you shop, free access online to the good food guide and 10% discount at the Waitrose Cookery School.

Are there any store cards I’ve missed that you love? Why not leave me a comment with some of your faves.

NG x