TGIF

Good Gym

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Do good, get fit. This is the mantra of GoodGym, an organisation with the goal of combining fitness and community activities, with encouraging runners to spend time helping others. As we sometimes struggle with the motivation to exercise at The Amazing Blog, we think this is an excellent solution.

In a nutshell, GoodGym’s concept is to make the most out of the time spent running. This is in the form of running to and from activities, whether that be to help an elderly person who need’s a lightbulb changing, or running to a group gardening activity at a community centre. The motto of Good Gym? Why waste your energy at the gym when you could use it to improve other people’s lives?

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Winning first prize in 2008 at the Social Innovation Camp, GoodGym was formed as a non-profit organisation in 2009. The company itself is commissioned by local authorities and the NHS, testamant to the benefits of getting involved. Over 1 million people aged 65 and over admit to always, or often feeling lonely, and recruiting volunteers has become increasingly difficult as a result of busy work and private lives. This is where GoodGym noticed a niche, focusing on creating an easy method of committing to a long-term project.

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GoodGym provides three different types of runs. On Mission Runs, you run to help older people with every-day tasks, such as gardening, or changing a lightbulb. It gives you the chance to run different routes each week, while having a significant effect on someone’s life. On Coach Runs, you see an isolated person on a regular basis. This only claims about 20 minutes of your week, and besides giving someone something to look forward to, having a commitment can also increase your likelihood of completing exercise. On Group Runs, you get the chance to run with other people from your community, completing tasks such as planting trees for your local park, running back together to stretch with a qualified trainer. All this is completed within 90 minutes, fitting easily into your daily routine.

In terms of commitment, there is no specific pressure, GoodGym aims to achieve your fitness goals, while helping the community. How often, and where you do this is, is up to you, but if you sign up to visit an older person, then it is understandable that this commits you to at least one run per week. Mission and group runs are more flexible, and can be attended whenever you like. There really is a solution for everyone here, with support available from qualified trainers at all times. Signing up is easily achieved online, and although membership is free, there is a voluntary donation of £9.95 per month if you so wish. Visit the GoodGym website for frequently asked questions, here.

Currently operating in 47 areas, with a futher 73 in proposal, you’ll be sure to find a local group (especially in London). Check out the availability in your area on the GoodGym website here.

Friday Favourites – Spring Alcoholic Drinks

As regular readers will know we like to champion indie beauty and food brands which are our passion at The Amazing Blog, So for this week’s Friday Favourites we’re publishing one in a series of three features showcasing indie alcohol brands that we’ve recently discovered (and enjoying!) this spring. And as the weather warms up, what better way to keep friends and loved ones entertained with some our glorious and experimental tipples! The UK alcohol market is a competitive one and hard to navigate when there are so many options. However, hopefully we’ll make it easy for you with these first four spring #amazingfinds. They’re all newly launch alcohols, taste delicious on their own, on the rocks, or as an inventive cocktail with mixers.

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The first new launch alcohol we have will surely raise some eyebrows: It’s a line of tea-infused alcohol from NOVELTEA. Before you write it off, we can assure you that it tastes good and adds an extra kick to our beloved cup of tea. We also note that this would have been perfect for National Tea Day which was on the 21st of April (Easter) last weekend. The company was founded two years ago by German artisan mixologists Vincent Efferoth and Lukas Passia, who had a passion for disrupting the current market and inventing an entirely new category of alcohol. They achieved both by harnessing Britons’ love for both tea and alcohol with three distinct flavours in a ready-to-drink format. The alcohol is made by cold brewing real tea extract for 10 hours to draw out each tea’s distinct taste and natural sweetness.

We tried all of the flavours (The Tale of Earl Grey, The Tale of Tangier, and The Tale of Oolong), which were inspired by the country where each tea originated. NOVELTEA most recently launched The Tale of Oolong in February of this year, and it was our personal favourite. It’s a Scottish whisky that is infused with Chinese oolong tea, red rose petals, papaya, and mango flakes—giving it a sweet after taste. The Tale of Tangier is a Moroccan green mint tea and Caribbean white rum while The Tale of Earl Grey is a black earl grey tea and British gin. Each flavour has a smooth and rich taste that will suit any tea and alcohol preference.

The blend is roughly 1/3 spirit and 2/3 tea (11% ABV), so it is quite delicious to drink on its own. We particularly liked that it can be consumed hot like tea, cold like whisky (or whiskey!) Or with other alcohols such as prosecco and rum. If you’re in the mood to try a new category of alcohol or tea, NOVELTEA is for you. It comes in elegant glass bottles and two sizes (25cl for £9.95 and 70cl for £24.95). The brand is available in over 150 stores across the UK and exports to China, Hong Kong, and Germany and online here



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Next up is Spytail Ginger Rum, which brings a 19th-century French recipe of using ginger and cognac barrels to the modern day. The Caribbean dark rum is bottled a small distillery in France’s Cognac region that is famous for its spirits craftsmanship. Inspired by sea exploration, Spytail gets its name from an early engineering drawing of a submarine housed in the Cognac maritime archive. The rum is owned by Biggar and Leith, a New York-based company that specialises in importing fine spirits from distilleries dedicated to innovative ideas and high-quality products. Thomas Gladstone founded the company in the late 18th century after he moved to the port city of Leith, in Scotland.

To create the rum’s spicy taste, it is aged for 3-6 months in cognac casks for depth and flavour. It is then mixed with ginger and spices to give the rum an extra kick that appears after its initial smoothness. The ginger infusion is not overpowering and adds a nice touch to the delicious rum. You can drink it perfectly well on the rocks, in a cocktail, or with Coca Cola. However, if you want a stronger ginger flavour, you can add fresh ginger or spicy ginger beer. We loved it with the latter on a sunny day, making us feel like we were French explorers on the sea.

The ginger rum also comes in an ornate round bottle with a submarine port-hole and coordinates of French novelists Jules Verne’s grave on the front. It looks just intriguing enough to display on your bar during parties rather than hidden in your cupboard. Spytail Ginger Rum (70cl) is available at multiple online retailers like Amazon and The Whisky Exchange. We have chosen Master of Malt see here for a bottle starting at £24.97 and containing 40% ABV.


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There are no tiger by-products in Shropshire Spirits Company ’s Tiger Gin nor are there even tigers on the logo, but the name is something the company fought hard for in its early beginnings. Founder JJ Lawrence, a self-professed ‘Shropshire Lad’ and gin enthusiast, set out to make and produce his own gin in 2016. Eventually partnering with family-owned distiller Alcohol Limited, Lawrence entered a trademark war with Heineken Asia Pacific PTE’s Tiger Beer. The high courts sided with Lawrence, and the company proved the tiger within itself. We applaud!

Besides its dramatic backstory, Shropshire Spirits has made a top-quality tipple. Tiger has been recognised as being one of the best gins in the world by gaining no fewer than 16 world awards! It has a juniper berry base, which gin lovers will know is the basis of any good gin, but it is the other botanicals and how they fuse that make Tiger Gin stand out. Liquorice root powder adds immediate sweetness followed by warmth from cinnamon and cassia bark. However, you get a citrus aftertaste from dried sweet lemon and orange peels. The entire production process takes around nine hours with the ingredients mixed into a neutral grain spirit overnight then blended with another neutral spirit for a 40% ABV.

The gin’s citrus flavour pairs well with an orange slice or lime if you want to make a classic gin and tonic. It also makes a marvellous base for a martini. While we love a good G&T, Lawrence intended Tiger Gin to be consumable over ice, and he’s done just that because it’s so got a slightly sweet and smooth taste. It’s ideal if you’ve just run out of mixers and don’t want to dash out for more or for your friend who can’t get enough of gin on the rocks. See the list of stockists here to buy Tiger Gin (70cl). Prices start at £37.

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While clean products have been immensely popular in the beauty and skin care industry, it appears the trend has also moved into vodka and spirits with WM Spirits PURE Vodka. This vodka indeed goes back to the basics with no added colours, flavours, sugars, preservatives, or chemicals.

The inception for WM Spirits came during a time of prosperity for the UK in 2016, as Andy Murray won Wimbledon and Queen Elizabeth turned 90 years old. However, as a group of individuals they felt that the vodkas on the market were littered with impurities and unspellable ingredients. They decided to change that and the market by committing to ‘create drinks that taste great, are clean, and a brand that people can trust’. The independently owned brand is also dedicated to sustainability with the goal of being carbon neutral and staying ethically conscious.

PURE Vodka is the company’s flagship product and takes after the brand’s inspiration figure, 1920s American prohibition smuggler William ‘Bill’ McCoy. While he was a bootlegger, he was a fair dealer and didn’t dilute his imported spirits. The phrase ‘the real McCoy’ has made him synonymous with authenticity, reliability, and quality—exactly what guides this product. PURE Vodka is hand-distilled in small batches and uses an innovative technique that purifies the vodka to an equivalent of 100 times while competitors like Grey Goose and Cîroc are only distilled around five times for purification. This process results in a poignant vodka (40% ABV) that goes down easily, without a piercing after taste. It is also organic, vegan, gluten-free, low calorie, and made in the UK with 100 per cent natural ingredients.

The vodka tastes so clean it seems a shame to mix into a cocktail! If drinking shots or vodka straight is not your thing then WM Spirits offers a convenient guide of different drink recipes here, and you can purchase PURE Vodka (70cl) here for £33.

Whether you want to support up-and-coming spirits brands, have a desire to try something new, or need a gift, these versatile brands offer something for everyone. Chin-chin!

Friday Favourites: Cookbooks

Regular readers of The Amazing Blog will know that when it comes to cooking, we’re almost a perfect split. Half of us are foodies, while the rest would rather exhaust a basic recipe, than slave away in the kitchen. That said, it is universally agreed that a good cookbook can make all the difference, encouraging even the most unenthusiastic amongst us to don an apron and wooden spoon. Luckily for you, we’ve taken one for the team, correlating four new recipe books worth a try. We’re sure you’ll find one just for you!

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Firstly, many of us are trying to introduce meat-free meals into our weekly diets, meaning a good cookbook can prevent the need to exist solely on a nut roast or vegetable curry. Our cookbook of choice is The Modern Vegetarian, designed to inspire even the most uninspired, encouraging delicious vegetable-based meals packed full of exotic flavours and textures.

Written by world-renowned chef, Maria Elia, this cookbook aims to prove that cutting meat out of a meal doesn’t cut out the flavour; instead, it is a gateway to try new flavour combinations and techniques. Elia’s experience is reputable; she has a Michelin recommendation and has earned 2 AA rosettes. Viewers of Sunday Brunch and Saturday Kitchen may also recognise her, having appeared as a guest chef on both. We don’t know about you, but we feel at ease knowing that recipes have been tried and tested by an expert – because whether an avid chef or not, few have the patience for a disastrous result! The book itself covers everything from ‘Sophisticated Starters’ to ‘Sofa Suppers’, but we were most pleased by the ‘Stylish Sides’ section. All too often, we’re faced with plain boiled rice or pasta to accompany dishes – something Elia has challenged and avoided. Instead, you can transport yourself to India with a Red Lentil Dhal (page 114) or try your hand at an Aubergine Houmous (page 113). Whichever recipe takes your fancy most, you’ll be sure to enjoy the conversational element of the book, with personal notes written by Elia, substantiating the authenticity of the dishes and making for an enjoyable evening read.

To explore innovative vegetable based dishes for yourself, then The Modern Vegetarian can be purchased here for £16.99.

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There's no doubt that the smell of food entices you into the kitchen, but what about our other senses? This is something we hadn't contemplated, so we were intrigued by Sybil Kapoor's Sight, Smell, Touch, Taste, Sound cookbook. This book recognises the combined importance of all five senses, dedicating a chapter to each, filled with delicious recipes, and reliable advice, from layering flavours, to using temperature and sound.

Kapoor has a wealth of knowledge in the realms of cooking; as the author of eight books, she is one of the most respected food writers in Britain and continues to propel her knowledge through a variety of publications. Each chapter is based around one of the five senses: Taste, Flavour (smell), Texture (touch and sound), Temperature (touch) and Appearance; however, our favourie part of the book, is the integrated feel. Each chapter is intertwined, with theory and advice allowing the reader to establish the links between senses. Kapoor aims to prove that by using a little theory and practical testing, you will be able to produce simple, yet delicious dishes. Now this all may sound a little complex to a less than enthusiastic chef, however, even ready meal lovers in the office were taken by the carefully designed recipes, especially the Stir-fried Squid with Chilli and Black Bean Sauce (page 144) and the Sticky Asian Beef Kebab with Cucumber Dip (page 92). For those with a sweet tooth, the Sticky Spiced Lemon Gin Cake (page 75) also proved to be a big hit - so whether you're interested in the links between the senses or not, you'll be sure to learn new tips and tricks to create delicious dinner party worthy meals.

To tempt your own senses, Sight, Smell, Touch, Taste, Sound is available here for £24.00.

If you're looking to be transported to more exotic lands this Friday, then Baladi Palestine - A Celebration of Food from Land and Sea by Joudie Kalla is just the cookbook for you! Taking equal inspiration from her historical background and personal experience of Palestine, we were struck by how little we knew about this exotic and varying landscapes. These conditions create diverse and new flavours, all of which are included in Kalla's recipes. With twists on traditional dishes, this book has an authentic yet innovative feel to it. Better still, it is jam-packed with stunning photography, from food images to landscapes and the people of Palestine. We were sold before even trying the recipes - quite an accolade!

With over 250 pages, this visually interesting book is equally colourful in terms of culinary delights. Flicking through the pages, you're met with everything from spiced lamb, to filled speciality pastries and watermelon juice. One of our favourite elements of this book is the splitting of chapters, not merely by dish, but by the areas in which the ingredients are sourced. Varying from Markets and Village Life to The Bakery and The Farm, a quick flick through this cookbook tempts the senses, but equally gives a quick snapshot of the Palestine lifestyle. We recommend the chapter: From The River To The Sea, in particular, the Saffron Monkfish and Vegetable Skewers (page 177), delicious as the weather picks up.

To inject a little bit of culture into your cooking, you can purchase Baladi Palestine - A Celebration of Food from Land and Sea here for £26.

Last but by no means least, we discovered The RAF 100 Cookbook. Created to celebrate the centenary of the Royal Air Force, this cookbook contains 100 recipes from 100 countries, split by chapter, into monumental moments of RAF history. We love the concept behind this cookbook, drawing inspiration from the saying that "an army marches on its stomach" and taking the research from acting and former servicemen and servicewomen to create authentic and delicious recipes from around the world. Additionally, this cookbook contains the recipes of top household chefs such as James Martin, Tom Kerridge and Cyprus Todiwala, emerging a plethora of knowledge to inspire your weekly menu.

We often find that cookbooks are very niche in their flavour combinations, and while this is certainly no bad thing, we like the variety of this cookbook. Each of the 100 countries are covered in a sensitive and informative manner, with a detailed explanation of the RAF's involvement alongside each recipe. It is clear just how much time and effort has gone into this book, spreading as far as to include eye-catching photographs of the dishes, alongside black and white images of the RAF in past years. The way in which the chapters are segregated stays true to the inspiration behind the book, from The Early Years to The Modern Age, conflicts are addressed through the medium of cultural dishes. Additionally, a percentage of each sale is donated to one of five RAF charities, directly supporting the inspiration of the cookbook. It is very difficult to pinpoint certain dishes here; however, the likes of the Ascension Island's Saint Helenian Fishcakes (page 300) and Maldivian Fish Curry (page 288) stand out for their exotic nature. The point here though, is that this is a cookbook for all occasions - whether you're looking for a local dish or one from further afield, you need only flick through to the country of your choice for an authentic and delicious recipe.

To inject 100 new recipes into your repertoire, you can purchase The RAF 100 Cookbook here for £25.

Kill The Cat Tasting Sessions

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The first of March is here, and (thankfully), so is Friday! We're not crazy drinkers at The Amazing Blog, but we'd be lying if we didn't admit to enjoying a tipple or two at the weekend. We were therefore excited to be introduced to Kill The Cat...a craft beer bottle shop with a difference! Based on the famous Brick Lane, they have over 150 specially curated beers, not only providing standard beers but a vast array of unique and innovative flavours. Whether you're a connoisseur, or more amateur (we're certainly in the latter category), Kill The Cat are committed to providing their customers with a newfound favourite. Even better still, you can choose from three tasting tours - with expert advice to help you along your way to finding something a little different from your 'usual.'

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Having discovered this brand, we were keen to delve further into the way in which they operate. Those with a penchant for beer may recognise that many companies group their beers by brewery or geography, and while this may be no bad thing, we were intrigued by the unique categorisation of Kill The Cat's offerings. Taking inspiration directly from the brand name (and with a little pun inspiration), you'll find that Cat 1 beers cover the familiar, whereas Cat 2 will provide a slightly rarer and unusual range. For the adventurous, Cat 3 is ideal, acclaimed to include beers that will ‘blow your mind.’ Now if you're feeling a little lost, then never fret, the beers are also arranged by their colour (light to dark), and expert advice is on hand, with top picks each month to provide a ittle inspiration.

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If you’re still not sure where to start, then a beer tasting is the answer, with three different options: The Beer Curious, The One Track Mind (IPA's) and The Killers. As the name suggests, The Beer Curious is an introduction to the world of beer, with a guided tasting of six beers, ranging from easy drinkers to more full-on brews. If you're a more seasoned pro or prefer IPA's, then The One Track Mind will float your boat, again with six drinks to try. Finally, for those looking to find innovative beers above the rest, then The Killers tour will be for you! This includes the tasting of nine different beers, picked acutely because of their uniqueness and rarity. Whichever tour you choose, you'll be enticed by the contemporary and fresh interior. Each tour lasts for around an hour, and you'll be treated to complimentary snacks - what's not to love?

Price wise, these tastings are reasonable, ranging from £22.50-£45 per person. These rates depend on the number of people in your tasting group, and the tour you decide on. To see the full price list, then visit the Kill The Cat website here where you can view their availability and browse the online shop. We think this would make an excellent gift for a beer lover, or an equally nice way to whittle away an hour or so with friends. Be sure to let us know how you get on, and we hope you have a wonderful beer-curious weekend!

Live Well London

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February is here, and we are proud to say that we are keeping to our New Year’s Resolutions at The Amazing Blog (well, for the most part anyway). Many resolutions revolve around health and fitness, aiming to make 2019 our year of maintaining a healthy body and mind. We were therefore excited to discover the new event, Live Well London, taking place from the 1st-3rd March in Old Billingsgate.

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This event will encompass a full line-up of classes, workshops, inspirational talks, live kitchen demos and much more. From fitness to nutrition, beauty and well-being, Live Well London offers a number of contributors and influencers who will be giving well-founded advice, from both personal and professional experiences. This ensures that you will leave having gained wisdom from a range of experienced professionals. Understanding the need for a varied range of advice, organisers have secured speakers from all walks of the fitness and health industries. Matt Roberts, one of the UK’s leading personal trainers, and best-selling fitness authors, will be on hand to provide science-based advice, to help you live a more energised life. The founder of Mind and Meditation, Niraj Shah will imparting her knowledge for those looking for well being and inspiration. If that’s not enough, then skincare expert Liz Earle will be offering advice on how to really take care of your skin. These names are just the tip of the iceberg, with a vast amount of other speakers with equal amounts of wisdom to share. Click here to see what's on over the course of the three days.

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The event will also include sessions from More YOGA and Barre Studio, unique and popular classes that prove exercise isn’t limited to running on a treadmill (although this is of course allowed if it’s your thing). The event focuses on four key areas: Well Moved, Well Balanced, Well Nourished and Well Restored. Well Balanced will help you to find new ways of moving, from addressing fitness crazes, to explaining the benefits of HIIT or Pilates. Well Balanced is centred around mental health, an ever prevalent and important topic. You can expect advice on mindfulness and meditation, as well as life-coaching and therapy. Well Nourished will focus on getting the glow from within, with tips and tricks on upping your intake of vitamins, and nutritional food and drinks. Finally, Well Restored will allow you to discover retreats, spas, wellness holidays, courses and more - because we’re all in need of a little escape sometimes.

We predict tickets will sell fast for this event, and as they are limited, we urge you to order sooner, rather than later. If you’ve fallen off the New Year bandwagon, or are simply looking for ways to ramp up your healthy routines, then we’re sure there will be something for you. Click here to purchase a ticket from £35.