Sunday, 24 February 2013

My Week: Hair and Handbags

  • The Walking Dead. Love it so much. 
  • Siro-A's amazing show at Leicester Square Theatre, highly recommended. It's fairly short, but witty and awe-inspiringly well-choreographed. Book here. Sample it here. Click here quickly and you can get free tickets for this afternoon.
  • At Strada with Tesco vouchers (see post here). 2 mains, 2 desserts, one bottle of wine - £20 vouchers = £30, bargain.
  • A very naughty 2am KFC. Haven't done that for months. Was it worth it? I expect not!
  • Tonight: The Londoner's fish tacos, if I can just drag myself to the shop sometime in the next 8 hours to get some coriander and limes! Looking forward to it already, the recipe looks straightforward and foolproof.
  • A few weeks back I got an email telling me I'd won a Redken Smooth Locks Treatment at my local Supercuts. I had to have my hair tested to see if it was strong enough to take the treatment (and not over-processed). Supercuts is a walk-in salon, so I had to take my chances in terms of timing. I needed to stay in to try and get Beyonce tickets online at 9:30 but after they sold out in something like 10 minutes (which is a whole other rant) I hotfooted it down to Holloway Road and luckily the salon wasn't busy. First Wendy washed my hair with the Smooth Locks shampoo then applied the activator which is a very strong smelling substance indeed, not vomit-inducing but not pleasant either. The activator stayed on for 12 minutes before being rinsed out thoroughly (no unpleasant odour remained) and then the smooth sealer was put in before my hair was blowdried to perfection. The treatment is heat activated so blow-drying is an essential part. The results were great, I am blessed with having straight, manageable hair anyway, but it feels deliciously soft and light and looks really healthy, even after a night's sleep. The treatment which costs from £30 should last up to ten washes, longer if used with the Smooth Locks shampoo and conditioner. Here are the results:

  • I also picked up a mystery parcel from my local sorting office. Turns out I had won some Talullah Tu jewellery in a competition with Love it Magazine. It'll look great worn like the model with a strapless dress, or will dress up a plain t-shirt and jeans.

  • I went to the Orla Kiely sample sale in Clapham on Saturday (don't be jealous, I told you about it). I queued for about 25 minutes in the cold but boy was it worth it. I went with a particular bag in mind, which I'd seen in Mitsukoshi. but at £255 couldn't justify it (see my post here). That particular bag wasn't there, but this one was and I snapped it up at a much more palatable £120, it's an early birthday present to myself. It's a larger bag, but I like to have a big handbag anyway for notebooks, cameras etc, and it's a much more classic bag that will last me for years. It will actually probably be a good size for my upcoming one-nighter in Paris. Owning it makes me feel quite excited and nervous! This is the most I've ever spent on a bag and I know it's modest compared to some, but it's worth £345 according to this ebay listing (which has some much better pictures). I am going to take really good care of it, promise, I've already sprayed it with protective spray!

  • I also snapped up an Olive and Orange top for just £5. It's a simple top black/grey stripy long sleeved top (I've tried taking a picture but it's coming out all crazy, I can never get thin stripes to photograph well), one that will be great for all purposes, I can dress it up for work or dress it down for cosy weekends. Olive and Orange is Orla Kiely's diffusion brand which seems to have disappeared. The website is down, they haven't posted anything on Facebook or Twitter for a long time, and my online searching isn't bringing up any real results. Can anyone in the know shed any light on this for me?
  • While I was queuing to get into the sale, I got chatting to some ladies who'd travelled from Manchester to be there! They said that they'd heard about it through the Orla Kiely mailing list, but that usually the sale was held at Old Truman Brewery and that sometimes they hear about it through the venue before OK's own site, so I'm not taking any chances, I'm signing up for both newsletters and Sample Sales London, just to be on the safe side!

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Savvy Spending (or How to Have a Life When You're on a Budget)

Amongst my friends and colleagues I am regarded as the Money Saving Expert.One friend even told me that recently when she was considering whether something was a bargain or not, she asked herself whether I would approve....maybe we need 'What Would Kati Do' bracelets?! The truth is, at university I was terrible with money and lived in my overdraft at all times. After finishing, things didn't pan out all that well on the job front and I often worked three jobs at once. Around 2008 I started keeping track of all my finances on a spreadsheet on a memory stick. Fast forward 5 years and that spreadsheet rules my life, although now I keep it on Google Drive. I haven't been overdrawn at all for at least two years. I never miss payments or completely run out of money, and I've even managed to save a little.

My income isn't amazing although I am pleased that I only have to keep one job now to make ends meet, that feels so much better, working 9-5 plus weekends and evenings really takes it's toll! My fiance is on an internship therefore minimum wage (yes, in London!), and I think we have pretty good lives despite the low income! I just wanted to share with you some basic tips to make my money stretch further, none of it is rocket science but you might pick up something new.

Quidco is an online cashback site and I think it's one of the best out there. I have told friends about it in the past and they've surmised that it sounds like too much effort, but I have received nearly £800 in cashback over the last 5 years for little effort at all. A lot of the bigger earnings on the site are from bigger deals such as signing up with Sky, switching your gas and electricity suppliers or signing up for a new credit card so it's worth joining if you're about to set up a new home and need to set up up all your utilities. You can earn cashback on everyday things if you remember to go via the Quidco site, such as train tickets, clothes, and deals on Wowcher and other group buying sites. You can register your cards to the site then when you spend in certain physical stores you can get cashback too, such as Debenhams and Cineworld. You can see the fashion stores you can earn with here.  You can even check into physical stores using the Android or iPhone App and earn 5p-25p for doing so. Cashback is paid into your bank approximately on a monthly basis by BACS and some transactions do take longer than others, so you need to be patient. Please also remember it doesn't make sense to buy things you wouldn't have bought in the first place, just for the cashback - that just isn't money saving.

Lucky enough to be a student? Good, remember to USE your discount card! You can get 10% in a lot of high street shops, and at some special student events up to 20% off. If your student days are over or you never went down the further education route, check amongst your friends if anyone's doing an evening course for their job which qualifies them to get an NUS card., I am sure they wouldn't begrudge your for wanting to shop with them. If you buy a pair of shoes in Topshop for £60, standard student discount reduces this to £54, meaning you've got £6 left over. Win!...spend it on a cocktail, some earrings a coffee for the friend who shared their discount with you, whatever, just enjoy making your money go slightly further, this is maths that makes sense!

I mentioned in a previous post the Seven Dials Christmas shopping event, where stores were offering 20% off everything in store with their flyer...these things aren't to be sniffed at, we did so much of our Christmas shopping that night and managed to get everyone more than we might have otherwise been able to. Keep your ears sharp and eyes peeled, it's all about opportunity! And speaking of grabbing every opportunity, I've just been checking out the Seven Dials site and came across their privilege card scheme, which entitles you to 10% off in shops and restaurants if you live or work in the area, so I've signed up seeing as my office is right in Covent Garden.

Whilst perusing the Metro this lunch time I also came across an advert for the Orla Kiely Sample sale this weekend - I will definitely be popping down to Clapham for it to see if I can find this little number from my previous post!

February 2013
Thursday 21st -11am - 7pm
Friday 22nd -11am - 7pm
Saturday 23rd -11am - 6pm

Studio Voltaire
1a Nelsons Row

*Cash and cards only (regrettably we are unable to accept Amex)
*No refunds/return
*All items sold as seen

*£1 entrance fee - all proceeds go to Maggie's Centre*

On the subject of charity, never underestimate charity shops. If you saw my previous post you'd have spotted the gorgeous brand new tagged M&S top I got last weekend. My shopping buddy also got a set of gorgeous, brand new LHA wine glasses for £14.99, which is at least half price. And it's a good way to actually give some money to charity without even realising you're doing it.

I love eating out, but the cost definitely rack up when you do it all the time. When I know I am going to be eating out, I trawl for discount vouchers. The best places for them is Money Saving Expert but you can often stumble across them in other places. I also trade in my Tesco points for restaurant vouchers, where they are worth 4x their values, so £5 of Tesco vouchers is worth £20 in Strada, Pizza Express, Cafe Rouge and other such restaurants. On a trip to Bristol, my mum and I saved tonnes on eating out with the vouchers she'd amassed! While the food in these places is always good - I especially like Strada - it is nice to go somewhere different sometimes, so I am always on the lookout for deals elsewhere. I got an email at work the other day from Henry's, as we do a lot of client entertaining there. The email contained a voucher offering 50% off food which suited me well as I was meeting a friend for dinner in Covent Garden. We really enjoyed our meals, and it's a really nice atmosphere, so it was a bonus to be paying Wetherspoon prices!

When it comes to entertainment I find cinema and show tickets can be so expensive at times, and I rarely used to go to the cinema because it just ends up being so costly. One day though I caught onto free screenings, and now many of my cinema trips are free! On the Money Saving Expert forum, there is a thread for free cinema tickets and another for free theatre and concert tickets (mostly in London) where people list free screening codes from websites like ShowFilmFirst. I am subscribed to both threads, so every time somebody posts something, I get an email and I am straight it! This is how I recently got to see Let It Be at the Savoy Theatre for nothing, and how I am getting to check out Safe Haven next week. I have however been turned away from a screening, this has only happened once but was quite annoying so if you manage to get tickets, make sure you get there early to avoid disappointment. Do also join the Show Film First Mailing list as occasionally they might invite you to events specifically.

I love my loyalty cards and am partial to a bit of extreme couponing in Boots when I have a big shop to do, I always use the "x extra points when you spend £x" vouchers you get through the mail, coupled with checking out that instore machine to see if there are any extra deals on things I was planning to buy anyway. You can save your points up for something special or spend them on everyday things, but £10 of points is 3 free lunches or a nice eyeshadow, so not to be sniffed at in my book.

I enter a lot of competitions on lazy Sundays when I haven't got much else on, and have had some good wins. You might not want to enter hundreds at a time, but if you spot one while surfing there's no harm in entering (as long as you tick/untick the appropriate boxes to avoid spam), somebody has to win, and it could be you. I've won £1000 and a car for a weekend, £500, vouchers, shampoo and shower gel, perfume, and Xbox, a phone. It can pay off! You can win major life-enhancing things, like cash or holidays, or even day-to-day stuff like shampoo which saves you having to buy it yourself!

Finally, even if something is super-discounted, it's not a bargain if you didn't need it in the first place. When you spot an amazing item at a ridiculous price, ask yourself if you actually love it. Are you going to wear it? What with? Is it dry-clean only? Is it really worth it? Is it just going to hang in your wardrobe and look nice? I've saved myself fortunes by questioning myself on this.

Some people might think it sounds like a lot of effort trawling for bargains, and can it really be worth it? The answer is YES! If you're in the same boat as me with a modest income, living in the most expensive city in the UK, then every penny counts. You can either lock yourself up and have no fun at all, or go wild and get into loads of debt. Or you can start spending a bit more wisely.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Saturday Bargain Haul at BeautyMart

Today I've taken my new non-smoking self for a bargain hunt in my local area of Holloway, and it's all been rather fruitful! I met my wonderful friend Laurel at Nag's Head with a view to visit all of the local charity shops, and that we did.

In Oxfam, I picked up season one of Grey's Anatomy for £2.99 on DVD. I have never seen Grey's but my friends rave about it, and this September my beau will be moving back to Sheffield to finish university so I'm going to occupy myself with this. As an exciting aside, we've just booked our wedding date for when he graduates next year, so I'll be treating the 8-9 months apart as an extended hen do!

In the Shelter store, I picked up this gorgeous M&S Limited Collection top for £6.75. It's brand new with the tags on, and was originally £25, so I consider this a real bargain! It's a great top to wear for work, or with jeans and a cardi at the weekend as Spring finally approaches.

BeautyMart's sample sale was today (and tomorrow, see below) at their Headquarters on Holloway Road so we tracked down their office just past the Odeon and had a rummage through the shelves and a very welcome cup of tea.
The charming art deco Odeon on Holloway Road
Racks of goodies at Beautymart HQ

I had been meaning to head to BeautyMart at Harvey Nichols for weeks, after a conversation with BeautyMart on Twitter about these DHC Make Off Sheets, so was chuffed to pick up a pack at 20% off (RRP £7). I've had a go with them already. The sheets are smaller than my usual make-up wipes (No7), and have a strong smell of alcohol but they do remove makeup very effectively and quickly. The fact that they come in a plastic tub too means that they will stay moist for longer.The pack contains 50 wipes so is very good value for £7.

In their bargain corner (where BeautyMart are giving proceeds from the to charity) I picked up some Becca tinted moisturiser in Cashmere which is a great match for my skintone, I'm pretty pale so can find it difficult to get a decent, natural match for foundation, so was pretty pleased to pick this up, along wit  Ainhoa Luxe Cellular Complex Hydro-Nutritive Cream, as pictured above. It contains caviar extract and is a lush gel cream that feels amazing on my skin, it smells great too. From the box: "...with light texture ad hydrating and repairing properties that helps to recover the skins tissues thanks to its composition based on Caviar Extract". Perfect for recovering my cigarette-ravaged skin!

There were some Ruby and Millie products there too, I hadn't realised that Millie Kendall co-founded BeautyMart before the event so a perfect opportunity to pick up those now-hard-to-find products. I had a quick look for the makeup bag I spied in Boots 2 years ago and failed to get, but alas, it wasn't meant to be! I was chuffed to have had the chance to attend this sale and that it was so close to home. I spent a princely £10.60 on all 3 products, which is pretty good considering the RRP for the tinted moisturiser seems to be £35! The sale is at Block F, 443-449 Holloway Road, London N7 6LJ and is on tomorrow (Sunday 17th February) too from 10 til 4, open to the public.

Friday, 15 February 2013

An Affair with Allen Carr

Ladies and gents of the bloggersphere, I am going to be frank in this post. I hate being a smoker, but the only one that can change that is me. And so I am. And I'm writing about it to finally get it all out, every last ugly, embarrassing bit and remind myself why I am changing.

I've been struggling to quit smoking for years, pretty much since I started. This might not make any sense to those who have never smoked, "if you don't like it, why do it?". Because it is an addiction, that's the only answer. I have tried patches, gum, cold turkey, hypnotism, Champix, electronic cigarettes, Allen Carr books and audio, the works. Nothing has worked. 

The most effective method in my opinion is the Allen Carr method, referred to as EasyWay, despite the fact that I above I say that it hasn't worked. Let me explain my experiences, and his. He was a 100-a-day man who couldn't get through the simplest of tasks without chain-smoking, who one day had a lightbulb moment and stopped and it was completely painfree. In his book or on his audio book, Allen explains the mystery of smoking, the nicotine trap, dispels those reasons that we all think we smoke. He actually makes you look forward to not smoking anymore.

My experiences with Allen are as follows. I first read the book around 2005, when I was on my placement year from university. It was great, I finished the book, stopped smoking, went on about it and then got cocky on an evening out and thought I could have just one. I was wrong. I quickly fell back into the trap. I tried to read it again in my final year of university but at that point in my life I was having major anxiety attacks about my exams and was on mild anti-depressants and just couldn't stop. I carried on smoking, with some half arsed efforts to stop in between. I even tried sitting outside and chainsmoking until I was physically sick in the hope I could 'put myself off'. The most embarrassing bit of my story, is that, and the fact that it didn't get me to stop at all.

I tried Champix, which worked temporarily. However, it came with side effects. It gave me rotten constipation, and I was in quite a lot of pain by the time I admitted defeat and stopped taking the stuff. Again, I got cocky and had "just one" and then started all over again. I tried patches, but the same happened, I ended up ripping one off one day because my will to smoke was clearly stronger than my will to not smoke. I tried Champix again but the same thing happened as before. It wasn't worth the abdominal pain.

Before Christmas 2012, I decided to try Champix again, and waited two weeks for a GP appointment, but she refused to give it to me, on account of the fact I'd tried it before, and that she thought it was a psychological thing. She advised me to try Allen Carr again. I read the book before Christmas, but the material didn't sink in, and I had the odd few over the holiday period, and as soon as I came back to work was back on my usual smoking pattern which goes something like this:

Monday morning comes, I wake up craving a cigarette. Instead of waiting for it to pass, I go straight to the shop when I leave the house and buy 10. I smoke 4 on my way to work, one mid-morning, two at lunch, two in the afternoon and one on the way home. I do this because I don't want to have any cigarettes left tomorrow. Except tomorrow, what happens? I repeat the cycle. I buy matches instead of lighters because if I had a lighter I'd be admitting I am a smoker, then at the end of the day I'd throw them away only to buy more the next day. I've wasted so much money on matches! On the odd occasion that I get to work and don't buy cigarettes, as soon as I see a colleague who smokes, I cadge one of them, just one. Then another, then another until I can tell they are getting irritated with me, and I give in and buy my own. I tell myself I can't now stop midweek so continue smoking til Friday then stop all weekend. Then Monday comes again.

The fact I can go all weekend speaks volumes. I even quit for 2 weeks when we went to Tokyo, then on the last night, got tempted, the boyfriend spent ages trying to talk me out of it bit I did it anyway, then immediately regretted it. Then Monday came again.

This, in short, is pathetic and needs to stop. Cigarettes brainwash you into thinking that you need one, that you can't get by without one. You continue to believe that one day you will wake up and not want to smoke anymore. That won't happen. You need to make a concerted effort understand the trap of smoking, and then stop doing it. Allen Carr believes that stopping smoking doesn't take willpower, because that implies there is something to give up when in fact the opposite is true. I agree with him, but seem to lack the willpower just to get through the tiny niggling craving. The second I leave the shop and light up, I regret it, knowing I don't need it, but am now lumbered with a packet of 10, which I might as well now smoke as I've wasted the money on them.

I have even tried to keep my lack of success in stopping a secret from my boyfriend. I don't consider him stupid, he must know I have been smoking but I don't want to rub his face in it, so I chew gum before I get home and cover myself in perfume so it's not shoved in his face. I want to be able to be completely honest with him, and the best way to do this is not do the thing I have to try and hide anymore.So I'm going to get him to read this to understand the horrible icky stuff that goes on in my head.

I have downloaded and listened to the Allen Carr audiobook twice since Christmas and despite understanding and believing everything he says, I haven't been able to stop putting bloody cigarettes in my mouth and smoking them. But I am going to NOW, and here is why:

1. It's BAD for me
2. It costs me a small fortune. While my habit is only 10 a day on weekdays, I could give myself an instant £1k payrise by stopping.
3. There are actually no advantages to smoking. At all. None.
4. I hate myself every time I do it.
5. My boyfriend hates it. Your boyfriend hates it. Everybody's boyfriend hates it. Everybody who doesn't do it hates it, and come to think of it, many of us that do, do too.
6. I don't want to get another year older and still be smoking (my 28th birthday is 3 weeks away). I say this every year.
7. I don't want to be craving cigarettes on our wedding day, or in fact have any other day blighted by them. Our wedding is now booked which is yet another motivation to stop.
8. I want a family. I don't want to have trouble conceiving because I smoke. I don't want my children growing up thinking smoking is OK, or not respecting me because I still do it.
9. I want to look good. Smoking ruins the way you look and smell. There is no getting round this.
10. I want to feel good, be fit, healthy, run. I can't do this if I keep smoking.
11. It doesn't help me concentrate, relax me, relieve stress, relieve boredom. Having to go out every now and again and freeze to 'relieve' my craving is actually a massive inconvenience.

There are so many reasons to start stopping and no reasons to carry on at all.

'Just one cigarette' doesn't exist. I've had so many 'just one cigarette's, 'last cigarettes'. The truth is every time you smoke, you are keeping what Mr Carr calls 'the nicotine monster' alive. So then you crave another, and another until you're smoking full time again, and despise yourself for it.

I am a drug addict. There is no escaping that. But what do drug addicts eventually do? They recover. That's what I am doing now. Patches and gum don't work either. I can't replace a drug addiction with the same drug, by doing so I'm keeping my body addicted to it. Cold turkey is the only way. I could cut down or become a casual smoker but I know already it's all or nothing, and as Allen says casual smokers are no better off than full time smokers, they just wait longer to scratch the itch, making each cigarette seem more precious and ultimately making it harder to stop.

I met a man the other day, I interviewed him for a job at my company.  He was the unhealthiest looking man I've ever met. He was clearly a smoker, with a cough and yellow fingers, he looked and came across as the saddest man you could ever hope to meet. I pitied him, but by carrying on smoking, I could only ever become him. And I'm not letting that happen.

This points in this post are a summary of pertinent points in the book which are my reasons for quitting. You can read the book yourself or listen to the tape, I'd recommend it if you find it a struggle to stop. Even though it's taken several tries, all that information is now right up there in my head and I am determined to keep it there, and not let cigarettes or other smokers tempt me back into something that is actually revolting, with NO advantages.

I'm going to look at this post every time i get that craving to remind myself why I'm freeing myself, and keep the audiobook on my phone for an instant reminder whenever I get a craving. On my way home tonight I had my last couple of cigarettes and then threw the remainder in the bin for the last time. By Monday, after more than 48 hours without smoking I'll be in a much better spot, and this time I'm taking the opportunity to use it as my leap pad. I'm going to run to work, I'm going to not see my smoking colleagues as opportunities to cadge a ciggie to scratch the itch, but instead I am going to pity them. 

I'm going to start living. Whether the 'little monster' likes it or not, I've smoked my last cigarette and I am going to rejoice in that.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Step on my old size nines...

Having size 9 (EUR43) feet has long been the bane of my life. From the age of about 13, my feet were already a size 9 and back in those good old days it was impossible to get nice shoes. My school shoes were flat, clumpy, boys' lace-ups and my leisure shoes were unattractive trainers. As I got older, and more fashion conscious, I'd buy size 8 high heels to fit in with my peers and simply force my feet into them, to hell with the consequences.

Many of us women seem predisposed to be obsessed with shoes, and I always wondered if it was more so in my case, since I just couldn't get them. When I was at University, which was *gulp* 10 years ago, I'd have trouble finding nice shoes in my size. One experience in Next really got to me. I'd seen a pair in store which would have been perfect for our May Ball, and a notice said they were available in my size, so I asked if they could order them in for me to try on. They told me I'd need to pay for them to be ordered in, which I thought was completely unfair, if I was a 'normal' size, I'd be able to waltz into any shoe shop and try every pair on with no intention of buying any, yet I had to pay in advance for the privilege of trying them on? I declined out of sheer stubbornness and bought a pair from Barratts who had a limited Tall and Small range at the time.

Shops like Long Tall Sally always did size 9 shoes, I think they even go up to a size 11, but the assumption was made that if you had big feet, you must be tall, and wouldn't want anything resembling a heel. I am 5'7.3" so although reasonably tall, I still want to be able to wear heels sometimes. And they were far more expensive than the average school girl or university student could afford. N.B, their overall range looks a lot better now but still on the pricer side. Evans also did larger sizes, but only in extra wide fittings, so boots always sagged around my legs. I wanted to be able to buy pumps in every colour of the rainbow in cheaper high street shops, like my peers could.

There's also the "what's a nine" debate. Some stores maintain its a EUR42 which means most of their stock is redundant to me, and usually even brands that make 9s, most of their department store concessions don't carry them. However, I do get the odd sale mega bargain, like these statement shoes from Faith at Debenhams, which I got for less than £15 when they closed their doors.

Things have got much better over the years. Now New Look do a great range of size 9/EUR43 shoes and wide-fit shoes. So do Next although I don't know what their in-store stock is like now,  whether you still have to pay in advance just for trying them on. I am amazed that Marks and Spencer still don't go above an 8 when budget favourite Primark can manage it. Topshop goes up to a 42, but generally I don't find their styles as wearable. Here are some of my current favourites from New Look, who are now doing half sizes too, amazing progress!

Blue Metal Trim Bow Pumps £15.99

Navy Cut Out Peep Toe Heels £19.99
Tan Cut Out Wedge Sandals £29.99
Lastly, Upper Street is a store in North London which makes made-to-measure shoes to your design. I heard about it when my friend, who at the opposite end of the spectrum is a tiny size 2 told me she'd made an appointment there. They make shoes from size 1.5 to 10 (although their 10 is a EUR43 so there seems to be a discrepancy across the board about continental sizing). Their prices are pretty high, starting at £195, but they are making shoes from your design so it's to be expected! I'm thinking of using them for my wedding shoes if there's enough left in the budget. You ca design your own shoes on the website, so go on...have fun!

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Speaking Words of Wisdom, Let It Be....

Last night I went to see Let It Be at the Savoy Theatre. I got tickets for the event through ShowFilmFirst, where I often get tickets for previews of shows and films. I went with two good friends, and we got fantastic 3rd row seats.I didn't know what to expect as I didn't know much about it, but the impression I got was that it would be a musical, like Mamma Mia or We Will Rock You, with Beatles songs built into a plot.The show started with a few songs from the earlier part of the Beatles' career, and after 4 songs I realised it wasn't a musical after all. There were several scene changes, taking us from the beginnings at the Cavern Club, through to the Sgt. Pepper and Abbey Road eras but it was more of a heavily invested tribute act than a musical!

Although it wasn't what I was expected, I really enjoyed the show. The band were fantastic, and were so far into character it was easy to lose track of time and start to believe you were actually watching the Fab Four themselves (Reuven Gershon was the spit of John Lennon!).  The scenery and costumes were also spot on, especially Sgt. Pepper's, and the performance overall was great, and the whole eclectic audience looked like they were really enjoying themselves, you could see the nostalgia in the older crowd's eyes. Although I am not a Beatles mega-fan, I've always liked their music and the spirit of the whole thing was fantastic so I had a great time.
Photograph by Laurel Waldron

Let It Be opened at the Savoy Theatre on Friday 1st February after its run at the Prince of Wales Theatre, you can book tickets here, prices range from £26 to £76. Or you can book through Get Into London Theatre for as little as £15, a great gift for a Beatles-loving parent or relative!

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Bites and Bags

January is finally over. It always feels like the longest month, but now that it's finished, it feels like not long at all until Spring and then best of all, Summer. I hate the winter months, I detest having to wrap up like a sausage roll, with the cold inevitably getting in anyway. I hate that after Christmas, there just feels like there's no damn reason for it to be this cold. I hate being constantly hunched up from trying to keep warm against the bitterness of it all. In summer time I feel much more relaxed, my shoulders are less tense, I don't have to wear so much makeup. Last summer was a bit of a wash-out, but I am looking forward to this year's, I have high hopes for some real heat.

This Saturday my mum came to visit and I showed her the delights of North London. She was raised in South London and has been in Kent for most of her adult life so had never spent any time in the north of the capital. It was her birthday last weekend, so I took her to Ottolenghi for lunch, which was incredible. There was a bit of a queue, we met at about 11 at Angel and headed straight there for lunch as had seen the queue on the way past earlier on. We queued for about 20 minutes before we could be seated, and then were treated to an incredible feast. The lunch special comprised one main item with 2 or 3 salads at about £13 or £16 respectively. We went for the 3 option, so that we could sample as much as possible.I opted for the mushroom quiche with the famous broccoli (which I'd been curious about since I read Stella Newman's mention), Jerusalem artichokes and butternut squash, while mum had the beef with aubergine, maftoul and red cabbage and we each tried each others. Everything was sublime. All of it. We didn't have a drink, or any dessert as the meal was so filling, and surprisingly reasonable at the £16 each mentioned above. You can see the lunch menu here.

I'd advise turning up fairly early, while the queue moved fairly quickly on this occasion it can apparently get really busy later on. They were still serving breakfast alongside lunch, which also looked amazing. It was a lovely dining experience, and I'm popping all of the cookbooks on my wishlist so that one day I can achieve such culinary delights in my own home.
Those famous salads on display

We spent the rest of the day mooching around Islington and had a lovely time with only a small drama when I left one of my bags in Costa and had to run halfway along Upper Street to retrieve it. I got this New Look  jumper dress from the Cancer Research UK store for a princely £5.95. I debated whether it was too Christmassy (the Christmas jumper trend got quite ridiculous this year, with people seemingly chosing to spend their hard-earned on the ugliest things they could find), but decided that it was just Christmassy enough and if I had to endure another month or two of this cold, I might as well have a reminder of the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.

Mum and I went to M&S, which is a place I rarely shop but recently have been finding more and more appealing. This time, the items that caught my attention were this bag and scarf.

Marks and Spencers
Orla Kiely
Whilst I was running along Upper Street, the strap of my blue leather satchel broke again which will have to be repaired. I love bags thought have managed to be quite disciplined in recent years and keep the stash to a minimum, but at the moment I have two bags that I can only use the hand strap on until I get them repaired, and I really am a shoulder-strap kinda gal. I've decided that if I get a bonus this month (it's the end of our financial year, but it's not been the best year so looks unlikely), I am going to treat myself to this Orla Kiely Caramel Mocha stunner. If I don't get my bonus, I'll settle for repairing my existing ones and console myself with the M&S number!

This week I've had the pleasure of going to a preview of a new comedy phenomenon, The Comedy Store: Raw and Uncut which is basically a series of Comedy Store stand-up shows, recorded and played in cinemas across the country from this month. I particularly enjoyed the performances of Addy Van der Borgh and Louis Ramey (who is a filthy, filthy man!), and will be seeking out more of their work. The whole experience of watching a stand-up show in a cinema was odd but not unpleasant, at times I nearly clapped and cheered alongside the crowd onscreen but managed to stop myself just in time!

I've just got back from seeing Hitchcock at the cinema, another preview screening. I really enjoyed the film, Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren were both fantastic, even Scarlett Johannsson was pretty good as Janet Leigh (but that bloody D&G advert makes me want to stab myself in the ear). It's made me want to watch ALL of Hitchcock's movies and learn a bit more about him and Alma. It's in cinemas nationwide from 8th February. Enjoy!