Sunday, 12 November 2017

Going Eco: a Truthful Update

You may have read in September this year, that I am attempting to assuage my consumer guilt by reducing my environmental impact. In order to do this without overwhelming myself and therefore ultimately failing, I am trying to make small changes and be more aware of the way in which I live and how that impacts upon the environment. 

I have written before about breaking down large problems and finding tiny solutions to chip away at it. I began then, in May, to try to reduce my landfill output by using reusable face pads instead of disposable ones and stopping buying plastic water bottles. In September, I made a few conscious purchases to further lessen my environmental impact.

So, I may as well be honest here. This is, after all, my blog and I'm in charge of it. So if there is anyone reading it you may as well know what's really going on. Here's a breakdown of what has and hasn't worked for me on this quest for an eco lifestyle, failings and all:

Solid Shampoo Bars
I bought a Lush solid shampoo bar for £6 and was quite pleased with it. I did, however, find that my roots were greasy after a day which is not normal for me. I endeavoured to be more thorough next time, which I was. My hair still didn't stay too clean for long and, being the lazy washer that I am, I've started using the solid shampoo about only every third shower. Not a triumph yet.

Glass Fridge Jug
Love it. I've got two. One has never had anything it in and the other gets filled with tap water when I remember and put on the table for dinner parties. Must try harder...

Almond Oil
I'm sure it's a fabulous oil for skin. Haven't tried it yet...

Charcoal Soap
I bought Charcoalogy soap from TK Maxx and love it. It leaves my skin squeaky clean but not dried out. I did mention that I am a lazy washer so I do only use it a couple of times a week.

Reusable Cotton Pads
Now these I do use every day. I use them to cleanse my face with my micelar water, and to tone too. (I have bought witch-hazel to tone with but haven't yet).

I have toothy tabs from Lush for travelling but they taste vile and I've yet to get used to them. I also have their Atomic Tooth Powder which is better. But I love my Kiing Activated Charcoal Toothpaste that came from a vegan festival in Portsmouth. I haven't been using it every time I brush my teeth but a few times a week so far. It's minty and satisfyingly black.

Natracare Panty Liners and Sanitary Towels
The next best thing to non-disposables. These cotton pads are so much better than anything else I have found on the market. Team these with my MoonCup and a period is a dream (well, less of a nightmare than usual).

DIY Multi Purpose Cleaner
I made this one which works great but smells very strongly of vinegar (go figure) and has gone a less-instagrammable brown colour now...

Glass Containers
Mostly used for display in the kitchen to be honest but I'm also getting better at using them for fridge food storage.

Water Bottles
I have a reusable bottle that I bring everywhere with me with the exception of my holiday in Barcelona where I bought bottled water almost every day... I slipped! Forgive me.

Has anyone got any tips or recommendations? I'm loving trying to change my lifestyle but am struggling an some areas. Any haircare tips? That seems like the hardest part!



Saturday, 11 November 2017

Revisiting Oxford

From the ages of 19 to 22 I lived in Oxford. I started off at Brookes University for a year and a half and, after deciding that the course wasn't for me, continued living there for another year and a half, working in some incredible places. I had some of the best times and some of the worst times whilst living there. I learned how to be an adult, made a lot of friends (a few of which are among my closest friends now), learned how to be in a relationship and learned how to deal with a broken heart. It's a beautiful city and I hadn't been back properly for five years.

I have family in Oxford and have always loved visiting them. When Tom and I recently visited for a weekend, staying with my family, I was a little apprehensive about how I would feel about the city. I would see the houses in which I lived, walk past pub gardens in which I cried, parks in which I picnicked and buildings in which I worked. When I thought about Oxford, I felt a sense of loss and all the complex emotions from happiness to sadness echoed in my stomach. 

Oxford is a beautiful city. If you haven't been and ever get the chance to go there, please do. I needn't have worried about returning there at all because, although it was exactly as I left it, I wasn't exactly who left. I'm no longer the vulnerable newby-adult trying to figure out how to live. Don't misunderstand me, I am still a newby-adult and I am trying to figure out how to live, but I'm more or less comfortable in my search and familiar with my sometimes overwhelming emotions... and it turns out, Oxford is amazing regardless of the past or the present or the future. 

We spent the day wandering around the town, myself acting as a poor tour guide - 'I think that we're nearly there', 'I feel like there's a pub called The Red Lion (whose bouncer always I.D'd me) round this corner', 'I can't remember how far it takes to walk there but...'

A small part of me felt a sense of ownership over the city and I had pride in showing it off. We got caught in the rain in Christchurch Meadow and saw Greg Davies (the Taskmaster himself) in the Covered Market whilst we were having pastries. 

I took Tom to about the only eatery in which I was happy to part with my well earned money: G&Ds. George has three cafes in Oxford - named for each of his three dogs. They specialise in bagels and ice cream. Need I say more to convince you?

The Natural History Museum and the Pitt Rivers Museum were a joy to show to Tom. We spent hours wandering around, gazing in every cabinet, at each bizarre weapon, at each huge skeleton, at the shrunken heads and yes, we found the witch in the bottle. 

Both these museums are free, as is the Science Museum and the Ashmolean Museum of modern art and antiquities. The new library had a special Jane Austen exhibit on so we soaked up some literary history too. 

On the second day, we ambled down the canal to the pub we always visited with family around Christmas. It's as run down as ever, just how I like it. 

Have anyone else been apprehensive about visiting an emotionally charged place? 
Were you happily proven wrong, as I was? 



Friday, 10 November 2017

Visiting Barcelona as a Vegetarian & Vegan

Travelling when vegetarian or vegan can be tricky - and I'm not even talking about real travelling. A week in another European country can be difficult enough. We Brits, in general, are pretty embarrassingly useless at languages so rely on the intelligence and kindness of strangers abroad to know what we mean. Add that to cultural differences and, as a veggie or vegan, you may be in for a bumpy ride. 

You will have figured out by now, through this blog or simply through the above paragraph (nothing gets by you) that I am a vegetarian. I would call myself a vegan-curious vegetarian. Last week I had the enormous pleasure of travelling to Barcelona with my family and partner for one last fling with Summer before the cold weather really sets in. Myself and my sister were raised vegetarian and have chosen to remain so. My Mum has been vegetarian since the age of 16 and is now vegan. My Dad has been vegetarian since marrying my Mum. My brother in law and partner are vegetarian day to day but still eat a little non-veggie when out and about or when at home with their families. The six of us expected to spend the week gazing nervously at menus and opting for safe options of bread and salad. We travel together a lot and usually choose to buy food at a local supermarket to cook and eat in our apartment after a long day of exploring. We love this, but in Barcelona we were more able to engage with the local food scene than we have ever before because, guys, Barcelona gets it.

We kept coming across vegetarian and vegan restaurants, cafes and shops. Standard restaurants had vegan and vegetarian options and everywhere had beautiful fresh produce. We had more choice than we have ever had as a vegetarian travelling group in any other European city. The above picture shows Teresa's, a health food shop with fresh juices, vegan treats and meals. It's pricey but the window was packed with beautiful looking things. 

In Barcelonetta we sat down for a drink at a place called 'Makamaka' where my sister ended up having "the best drink of my life" and my Mum and I had a vegan snack of homemade seed crackers, a trio of hummus and carrots. Simple, amazing vegan food. Plus you get to sit here:

When we were in Amsterdam we found a vegetarian fast food chain called Maoz which sells falafel pitas with help-yourself salad and trimmings, alongside the best chips. We found another in Barcelona and that was one lunch sorted.

The market, La Boqueria, was a feast for foodie eyes. Veggies beware of the numerous stalls for fresh meat and fish - you might want to hot tail it through that bit. However, there are also numerous stalls with fresh fruits, juices, spices, dried goods and breads to gaze at. Plus, on the periphery were one vegetarian food stall selling wraps and burritos and one vegan place with some of the best falafel I have ever had and THE best tahini dressing. My Dad bought one, we all tried it, everybody bought one. The guy behind the stall was hilarious :"one won't be enough", he warned us. 

We were excited to find a restaurant called Vegetalia which has three premises within Barcelona. The whole menu is vegetarian and has vegan options. Not a stuffed pepper in sight. We had pizzas, paella, seitan, curry, burgers and vegetable crisps. The decor could do with an update as it certainly has a hippy 70s vibe (including wicker baskets on the walls) but it had its quirks  - in one of the restaurants the sink is a bucket with a plug in the bottom! The food was cheap and the staff were lovely. 
Veggies of Europe - eat there. 

Seeing as we were flirting with the last of Summer it would be foolish not to partake of a little ice cream. Most of the ice cream places had a selection of 100% fruit, vegan lollies. The above lolly was apple and raspberry, eaten in Park Guell. 

Almost every morning, my sister, mum and I would wander around the corner from our apartment in Sant Antoni to a little bakery called Macxipan where a wonderful woman helped us through our clumsy order for pastries. The best was a cone shaped pastry covered in a thick, crisp layer of dark chocolate. She would help us choose the one with the most chocolate: "Aqui? or aqui!?" I've never felt less silly for trying to speak a language of which I know none. 

Of course where there is food, there must be drink. Sangria and Mojitos were the theme of the week with a little limoncello and a lot of coffees for the guys. An amazing bar tender in a bar in Sant Antoni told us there was no menu, she could make whatever we wanted...

and whatever we wanted seemed to be the theme of food in Barcelona. 
Afterall, it's:


How do you other veggies and vegans find travelling around Europe? What are the best cities for v friendly eating? And, most importantly, how can I make that sangria at home?

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