Lucky Dip Club

Have you ever received something so brilliant in the post that you want to tell all your friends about it? I had this feeling initially with Graze boxes, about my Elle magazine subscription, Netflix and so on and so forth. Looking back though, I think it was just the excitement of the new and unknown that made me feel that way; as opposed to the actual content! Earlier in the week however, I received a real treat - my first box from Lucky Dip Club.

I heard about Lucky Dip Club from a friend of mine months and months ago. We swiftly signed up to the email updates to let us know when the boxes would launch, and in all honesty I forgot about it. Then last month, up pinged a message from the lovely Leona - some of you may well know her from Lady Luck Rules OK, she's the kind of lady you kind of want to be your best friend and also owns one of the coolest watches i've ever set eyes on. Lucky Dip Club was up in action and I knew that I had to get my hands on one.

Then last Wednesday, it arrived. Brown (boxed) packaging, tied up with strings (cue singing...) I opened it carefully, peeling back the paper to find a few of my new favourite things; starting with a delightful, personalised thank you note (thank you again Leona!!) and revealing some absolute gems.

This month I got:
- A personalized hand-printed wooden broach
- A set of 1970s style temporary tattoos and nail art
- An adorable cat mirror in a handmade vintage pouch
- ‘Flower power’ washi tape and cocktail sticks to make DIY washi flags for cupcake toppers
- A duo of cute fridge magnets
- Some jumbo stickers

The content supersedes the £15 that I paid for it, quite obviously. The detail of it all is really rather exquisite and the personal touches make it truly special. There are a limited number of boxes each month you can buy, or you can sign up to a subscription. Make sure you go and have a read here, and whilst you're at it sign up to Leona's Twitter (@luckydipclub) and Instagram for more information, sneak peeks and competitions.

This is a box for those who like the unique; who love buying trinkets for their dressing table, and having pretty handmade bits-and-bobs for their handbags. I know I’ll enjoy my Lucky Dip subscriptions for months to come and honestly don't think that excitement will fade!

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Dalston Street Feast

I like to think of Street Feast as a meaty, ‘street-eats’ emporium located in a used container warehouse… but then again, if I described it that way I don’t think anybody would go. Street Feast is actually a night market whose home is Dalston Yard, every Friday and Saturday they assemble some of London’s best food traders, restaurants and bars for what I believe is the ultimate venue to eat, drink and be merry.

I thought after a day of high class at Chelsea Flower Show it would be best to mix it up and hop over to Dalston. Dalston holds a dear place in my mum’s heart as it’s one of the places she used to drive through to my old house over in East London, and for me it’s the venue of many a memorable (or not so…) night out. I’ve been to Street Feast, and its winter sister Hawker House, many times before; introducing my mum to one of my favourite places was a real pleasure.

I explained the process - we buy all the food and drink we could muster and have a ball. We went for Le Bourguignon Bun from Le Bun (– French American treats), the trio from Indian Street Food giants Rola Wala, tacos and pork belly croquettes from Breddos Tacos and buckets of ice cream from Sorbitium. Man oh man, my absolute favourites were the croquettes and Le Bun; sauce running down your arms, wiping your mouth with your sleeves (my mum used a serviette of course but I’m far more uncouth); real mouth watering, savour the flavour foods. I’ve already got my eyes on what I’ll be having next time and oh there will be a next time (Bleecker St Burgers, I’m coming for you).

If you’re in need of a brilliant night out with good friends and great food, cruise over to Dalston, you certainly won’t regret it.

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Chelsea Flower Show

This weekend my mum came to visit me for her first extended trip since I moved to London. I had planned a fun-filled, action-packed time, which started with dinner and the theatre. Before the show we went to eat at Social Eating House; if you’re looking for somewhere special, truly special, you should take friends and family. It is one of the most unpretentious yet exquisite restaurants I’ve been to in some time. I had a roasted Cornish brill, sweet millet with sour cream, chives and black curry while mum had the cod à la Polonaise with cauliflower, asparagus and Jersey Royals… proper buttery, fresh Jersey Royals. The flavours were divine, the food fresh and importantly the staff were thoughtful but not overbearing. Without a doubt a place to treat yourself to if you’re visiting or living in London, especially with someone special. Skipping down the street to the theatre (we may have been a little merry following cocktails and wine) we were off the see the Jersey Boys musical, a fun filled sing-a-long and an excellent show. I would definitely recommend it if you get the chance to see it! Or if you’re not a theatre buff/it isn’t on near you/you’re broke, you can always wait a few weeks until the film version comes out in the cinema.

Day two was Chelsea Flower show - I’ll be honest, I hate garden centres. I know my mum will read this and she is the first one to know… Flowers, fountains, compost, planters, all of it takes me back to being younger and bundled in the car with my sister and being lugged around greenhouses with mum and dad. She however loves the plants, so being Daughter of the Year off we went to Chelsea, which in my opinion was to be like one giant garden centre. Since living near Chelsea has never really been my stomping ground, this made for a nice adventure and some lovely window-shopping for mum and me. What’s also brilliant about Chelsea Flower Show week is that many of the shops at Sloane Square join in the fun, making for some fantastic displays and great photo opportunities! Kate Spade was my favourite, but I have a feeling that is also something to do with the beautiful woven bags inside the shop that I have my eye on.

I will admit the show was ace. I mean, there comes to a point where flowers look like more flowers but what an excellent day we had! The weather started off a little drizzle-y and grey but improved tremendously throughout the afternoon. Out of all the plants, the cacti were my absolute favourite; I may have come home with five… I think mum fell in love with the ‘Crochetdermy’ Gorilla (who was meant to represent Boris Johnson) and, she had enough of a flower fix to last until at least next year.

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Roasted Squash and Sage Risotto

After a hectic few weeks there is nothing more I look forward to than cooking a proper meal. I believe baking is the pursuit that leaves me most satisfied with my achievements, but I find risotto the most soothing. Slowly feeding the rice with stock and stirring away is my idea of a night well spent.

I think of this a summery dish to eat on those night when summer is edging closer but you can't quite part with the comforting starchy-ness of rice, when the transition to salad isn't quite complete.

I’m sure we all know how to make a good risotto but I thought I’d share with you my favourite – roasted butternut squash and sage. I’ve thrown extra bits in there like the peas and spinach and used coconut oil over butter as I find it complements the sweet nuttiness of the squash. The recipe will serve two, or make one super good dinner and two portions for lunch/the freezer.

Now, go put your slippers on, stand in front of the hob and stir til your heart’s content.

Butternut Squash and Sage risotto

Half a butternut squash
1 white onion
1 clove of chopped garlic (or two if you’re like me)
1 heaped teaspoon of coconut oil or 1tbs olive oil
150g Risotto rice of your choosing
125ml white wine
700ml good quality vegetable stock
30g Parmesan cheese (plus a little extra to serve)
A fistful of sage
Salt and pepper to taste
Large handful of chopped spinach (optional)
Big sprinkle of peas (optional)

1. Before you make the risotto, heat oven to 220C/fan 200C/gas 7 Scatter the chopped squash into a shallow roasting tin and roast for 30 mins whilst your risotto is cooking until it is brown and soft.
2. Prepare your vegetables, weigh out the rice and chiffonade the sage (roll the leaves tightly and slice into tiny thin strips).
3. Prepare your stock and bring to the boil then keep on a low simmer. In a separate pan, melt the coconut oil over a medium heat. Stir in the onions and sweat gently for 8-10 mins until soft but not coloured, stirring occasionally. My only tip for sweating onions is to add a small pinch of salt to stop them from browning and reduce the liquid.
4. Stir the rice into the onions until completely coated in the oil, add the garlic, then stir continuously until the rice is shiny and the edges of the grain start to look transparent.
5. Pour in the wine and simmer until totally evaporated. Add the stock, a ladleful at a time and stirring the rice over a low heat for 25-30 mins, until the rice is cooked al dente (with a slightly firm, starchy bite in the middle). The risotto should be creamy and slightly soupy. When you draw a wooden spoon through it, there should be a wake that holds for a few moments but not a moment longer.
6. When the squash is cooked, mash half of it to a rough purée and leave half whole. When the risotto is just done, stir though the purée, then add the cheese, spinach and peas. Throw in the chunks of squash, stir and serve.
7. Treat yourself to an extra handful of parmesan too.

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The Great Escape: Two

Waking up on Friday morning and not hearing rain was likely the biggest relief I’ve felt since I lost my car keys in a supermarket. On Thursday night we heard of a secret Kaiser Chiefs do on Friday; everyone I’ve spoken to about this has winced “… The KAISER CHIEFS!?” then I’ve had to tell every one of them to listen to Employment again and when they do, all their reservations dissipate into thin air. There was a slight apprehension that it would be too cool to play any of their hits from 2005 to 2009 (yes really, I Predict a Riot was release nine years ago) but much to the delight of everybody in Concorde 2 it was a wonderful performance of many of their best songs! Newly slim Ricky Wilson, has a very interesting on stage persona, which I can only describe as a little angry but infectious - all in all, properly enjoyable and good clean fun!

An afternoon of nipping around town to a few gigs and eating gelato(some of the best flavours i've had since living in Italy) set us up well for the evening, which was to culminate in seeing one of my very favourite bands Dry the River. Early in the evening we watched a Norwegian Band called ‘Team Me’ who I can only describe as tuneful and sweaty and a second band, Glass Animals, who were a little trippy; we left half way through the set because quite frankly they were awful, the heavily drunk seemed to enjoy them, but it just wasn’t to my taste I guess!

Up next at the East Wing were Bleanavon and Famy (who had a real marble bust on stage…) who were slightly throwaway, both with a breathless earnest nature that made it all slightly manic. There was one unintentionally hilarious song sung by Famy in a 90s hip-hop style, despite being from West London, which was fantastic to listen to in a comical way. However, Dry the River (@drytheriver)were totally on form. Heartfelt apologies for playing new music were accompanied by some wonderful melodies, a slightly heavier sound than their debut album ‘Shallow Bed’ but a truly brilliant change nonetheless. The set was luminous and ethereal, everything I wanted and more. Big claps for Dry the River, a band I would absolutely recommend you listen to.

Saturday was absolutely gale force; meaning, naturally we chose to start the day on Brighton Pier. My little pal was nearly blown away with the seagulls, but we won lots of tokens and lollies in the arcades. For our last day we had few plans and so decided to watch some of the acts at the Festival Hub, where the bar and a few of the stages were based. Now, this may get a little gushy but one of my favourite sets from the weekend was from the newly-discovered Josh Flowers and The Wild (@JFandTW) – sincere, earthy and true, Josh’s vocals were absolutely on point. Guys, there was a cello; little more needs to be said. A balance between rock, folk and blues makes their songs irresistible and I urge you to see them live or at the very least have a listen. That afternoon we also saw the magical Josh Record in the Jubilee Library, not a venue but an actual library! Elements of Bon Iver crept through with a hint of the ‘Jeff Buckleys’ and I was sad not to be able to see him at Brighton Unitarian Church that night, but London called.

A truly ‘great escape’ (excuse the pun); there were of course clashes and not being able to see James Bay and a few other acts was a shame, but you pick your battles! Also, a well-deserved shout out to the couple that ran our B&B ‘The Andorra Hotel’, the friendliest people in Brighton! I certainly shan’t hesitate to buy a ticket for next year’s event and neither should you!

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