Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Veganuary Round Up


If you've been reading this blog (thanks, you're my new favourite) then you'll know that this year I have been taking part in Veganuary. That means eating and drinking no animal derived products of any kind. You'll also know that I was already a life-long vegetarian so this was a smaller leap for me than it may have been for some others. 

It's day 31 and Veganuary is officially coming to an end. 

and I feel like I know what should happen next.

At first, I was worried that I wouldn't be able to do it. I thought I'd have a melt down and need a Snickers bar or that I'd smell pizza and wouldn't be able to resist. I thought that I might wake up one morning having completely forgotten about Veganuary until 4.30pm after I had already eaten cereal with cow's milk, a baked potato with cheese and seventeen chocolate biscuits. I am happy to report that, honestly, it hasn't been hard at all. I have learned that dark chocolate, rich tea biscuits or vegetable finger sandwiches are just as suitable for curing meltdowns as a Snickers. The smell of cooking cheese has started to turn my stomach a little. I haven't forgotten about Veganuary, nor has it always been on my mind. 

I think it must be because there are strict rules. It's not been "I shouldn't eat that", it's been "I can't eat that and I won't". It's a personal challenge and I have wanted to succeed for every day of this month. I haven't wished I wasn't taking part. It hasn't felt like I was depriving myself in some way. It hasn't felt like a punishment or even a sacrifice. I feel more compassionate, less guilty, less helpless and perhaps more myself. 

But now I'm scared. Without the safety net of Veganuary, will I be able to keep it up?

If someone asks why I'm refusing cups of tea and biscuits I won't be able to say "I'm doing Veganuary". Instead I'll have to say "I'm vegan" or perhaps the less committal "I'm eating vegan at the moment" or arguably the least risky "no thanks, I just had a cuppa before I came". Not buying something with dairy or egg in the ingredients will not be because of Veganuary it will be because of 'Vegan'. To be honest, it's all a little scary. 

I think I've decided to not put pressure on myself by saying "I am now Vegan''. I'm just going to continue to make choices I believe in, see where it leads me and keep re-reading 'How to Go Vegan' as it really is a fabulously positive book. 

Hx
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Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Put Your Money Where Your Morals Are



I'm trying to change the way I approach buying stuff. I've started to think about each purchase as a vote. Humour me here:

If I buy a plastic container full of disposable plastic cotton buds the folks at the top will think 'Oh, excellent, they sold. Let's make more. Let's make more things like that. This is what people want.'

But this is not what I want. 

Have you seen that picture doing the rounds of the seahorse holding onto a plastic cotton bud? I don't want plastic pollution in the sea so why am I voting for it by buying it? Furthermore, why on earth am I voting for it when there are easy, better alternatives? Today I bought organic cotton buds with paper sticks. They're still disposable and yes, that's bad (I've still got a way to go) but there's now no plastic. One tiny vote of mine goes towards paper over plastic.

I used to buy any old shampoo and conditioner from the supermarket that promised to leave my frizzy wavy hair shiny and sleek. So that's what I was voting for.  Now I use a bar of shampoo from Lush. I haven't got to grips with conditioner alternatives yet so I've started buying conditioner from Faith In Nature whose ingredients are from 'naturally derived, cruelty-free sources'. This morning I bought a Faith in Nature shampoo for my other half as I noticed in the shower that his shampoo was running low. Another vote for eco-friendly alternatives. 

Plus all this stuff was bought from an independent, local health food shop. That's a vote for local shops, for independent shops and for shops that offer healthy and environmentally friendly options. 

This is where I want my money to go. I'm aware that I am very lucky to be able to afford some of these alternatives as they can be more expensive and harder to find (something that might change if more people vote for them by buying them). Thankfully there are also choices to be made that don't  necessarily cost more money - buying vegetables loose, using reusable shopping bags, mending holes in clothes rather than buying new ones, to name but a few. I'm also aware that I've got a long way to go if I really want to make much better choices - less plastic, no palm oil, smaller carbon footprint etc. etc. But I honestly believe that these very small changes that I am starting to make will make a difference. I'm putting my money where my morals are. 


Hx



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Monday, 22 January 2018

What am I supposed to put on my FACE?


Did anyone else watch Cherry Healey's The Truth About Looking Good? This BBC documentary sought to decode the skincare industry and help us figure out just WHAT ON EARTH to put on our faces.

When it comes to skincare I'm lazy and inconsistent: easily convinced to buy a new product that I will then use a few times and then forget about. I'll moisturise routinely for a week and then not again for two months. I'm a great advocate for natural beauty, believe that the society in which we live is inherently ageist and think it's terrible that our perception of beauty is based on how young a person looks. Now this is the part where I am a hypocrite: I still want to stay looking young. I think that wrinkles should be accepted, even celebrated but I just don't want any! Many of our lives are filled with this inner turmoil. So what do we do?

In her documentary, Cherry Healey concluded that there are two ways in which we can stave off wrinkles, fine lines and ageing skin: Retinol and UVA Protection. 

Retinol - Using a 0.1% retinol solution in our skincare routine is supposed to reduce the appearance of fine lines. I'm still unclear as to whether this would help stop new fine lines from appearing or if it's just to help with the appearance of existing ones...

UVA - We all know that the sun is bad for our skin. Apart from absorbing the small amount of Vitamin D we need, we should stay out of the sun. As a very very pale strawberry-blonde I can attest to this. We know that we're supposed to use a high SPF and that we should use it all year round (I really don't) EVEN when we're inside all day (I really really don't). But what I didn't know is that it's the UVA protection that's so important when it comes to our skin. A five star UVA protection is best.

Okay, okay, but really, what do I put on my face?

My criteria for skincare is getting harder and harder to fulfil. I used to care about affordability and effectiveness but now my specifications have broadened (as well as my ever ageing skin's needs, apparently)

HERE'S WHAT I WANT:

UVA protection
High SPF
Not to make my skin break out like crazy
Cruelty free
Vegan
Maybe some of that retinol wonder stuff
I want it to work. 
To be able to afford it
Ecological packaging

This list works out like a venn diagram of chaos and I'm not sure there are any products that fit in the centre of this mess.

I'd love to make my own simple, natural skincare products but don't have the knowledge to make sure they were doing the right thing for my skin. I might give it a try anyway... I'll keep you posted.

In the meantime, any advice, recommendations or miracle-solutions would be appreciated!

Hx





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Monday, 15 January 2018

You can get FREE water saving stuff!


Did you know that you can get free water-saving devices in the UK? A couple of weeks ago I had a pang of ecological guilt and began researching the changes we could make in our home. I ordered a compost bin (which currently sits in the centre of the garden as it's been too dark and cold to install it properly since it arrived last week) and signed up for some free eco stuff!

Through savewatersavemoney.co.uk I found out that UK residents are untitled to free devices to help us save water in our homes. All you do is input your postcode and the site will show you what free stuff is available in your area. You can choose from a selection of gadgets and they'll post them for free straight to your door.

Here's what I ordered:

  • 'save-a-flush' toilet cistern bag - it swells up to reduce the amount of water used in each flush
  • Shower regulator which reduces your shower to 8 litres per minute. I installed it easily by screwing it into the connection of our shower hose and you really can't notice it's there
  • 4 minute shower timer - this sticks to your shower wall to help you keep your showers to a sensible time. Okay I haven't managed a 4 minute shower YET but last time I flipped the timer again and it only ran for about another minute so I'm getting better... if I didn't bother shaving my legs a four minute shower would be EASY
  • Bubblestream aerator for our kitchen tap - this should reduce the amount of water coming from the tap and has a handy swivel system so you can direct the water flow BUT I haven't figured out how to install it yet and I'm not entirely sure that it will fit on our kind of tap so the jury's out on that one at least for now
There were lots of options available to choose from and I could have had even more free stuff but it would have felt a little wasteful to get more things just because they're free - I mean I didn't NEED that 2 Minute Tiger Toothy Timer...

It seems like different things are available depending on your local water authority so punch in your postcode and find out what you can get! You can help save water and get the thrill of a parcel in the post for free!

Let me know in the comments what you can get and if any of the free items work for you
(the comment section should be working properly now to allow comments without logging in)! Also if anyone could tell me how to install the bubblestream to our tap that would be great...

Hx
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Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Three Ways in which Veganuary is Easy


I had often considered trying veganism in the past but had written it off as too difficult. I worried about what people would say - being a vegetarian already invites so many questions on an almost daily basis. Veganuary is, for me, the easiest time for a Vegan Trial. Here's three ways in which Veganuary is EASY:

1. People know what it is! 
I have written a short screenplay to illustrate my point:

FADE IN.  A COFFEE SHOP.

Two women make their way over to a small table and sit down.

WOMAN 1
Don't you normally get a brownie?

WOMAN 2 (casually)
Yeah, but I went for sweet and salty popcorn this time 'cos I'm doing Veganuary.  

WOMAN 1
Oh, okay cool.

THE END

2. Even if they don't know what it is, it's easy to explain.
Again, a short screenplay:

FADE IN.  A COFFEE SHOP.

Two women make their way over to a small table and sit down.

WOMAN 1
Don't you normally get a brownie?

WOMAN 2 (casually)
Yeah, but I went for sweet and salty popcorn this time 'cos I'm doing Veganuary.  

WOMAN 1
What's that?

WOMAN 2 (still casual)
It's where you try to be vegan for January. Y'know, like Dry January or Stoptober and stuff. 
Thought I'd try it out.

WOMAN 1
Oh, okay, cool. Can I have some popcorn?

THE END

3. There's a helpful community willing you on!
Type #veganuary on the end of a foody instagram post and I can almost guarantee that a friendly, encouraging person will comment to tell you you're doing a good job or give you tips to help you. On Day 1 I posted a picture of my vegan lunch and immediately received words that made me feel supported (and yes a little smug, so what?)


Hx
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Monday, 8 January 2018

Veganuary Week 1: An Honest Summary



It's Day 8 of Veganuary. I started the month optimistic about the 31 dairy free days ahead and so far I'm happy to report that my optimism has not yet faltered. Here's a little, honest summary of the month so far:

What's gone well:
I have...
  • made my own Vegan Parmesan which was both incredibly easy and incredibly delicious
  • eaten amazing recipes from Aine Carlin,  Deliciously Ella and Minimalist Baker
  • dipped pretty much everything in peanut butter 
  • eaten a LOT of dark chocolate and a box of jelly beans
  • managed to bring lunches in to work to cover a variety of potential cravings
  • been at a make-your-own pizza party and not felt hard done by when going cheeseless



What's been hard:
  • not eating the chocolate covered gingerbread on the table next to me when my dark chocolate was all the way up two flights of stairs
  • making sure I'm prepped for snacks to avoid spending huge money in supermarkets or succumbing to only highly-packaged foods (which I am trying to avoid
  • realising that chilli rice cakes, chilli crisps from Aldi and vegetarian-sausages-and-beans-in-a-tin are not vegan. LAME

Is anyone else taking part in Veganuary? What's going well so far? What are you finding difficult? 

Hx


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Friday, 5 January 2018

Three ways to SHAKE THINGS UP This January


I'm a cliché. I've got that New Year, New Me Feeling.

2017 has been, in the words of David Mitchell on The Big Fat Quiz of the Year, 'internationally disastrous' and it's taken its toll. Sometimes it's hard not to get overwhelmed by everything that's going wrong and it can be hard to keep positive. January blues are a THING and it can help to take small steps to keep things interesting. 

Here are my Three Ways to Keep Things Interesting This January:

1. Cut Your Hair
Obvious, clichéd and so basic (does anyone know of a way to get the 'é' without copying and pasting? If not I'm going to have to stop saying cliché in all my writing) but true!
I've always had long hair, since time immemorial. It's been my 'thing' and part of my identity. But I'm 28 now so I think I've established myself as a human without it. And you know what? Long hair gets tangled, you can't wear it down when you want a scarf and it gets in the way of ALL ACTIVITIES. Most days I have my hair up anyway so what's the point in having it long? You'll see from the above picture that it was a mess anyway. My cheesy grimace in the right hand picture shows how happy I am with my new cut (it was also a Christmas Day picture so that may explain some of the glee). It doesn't seem like it was a big deal but it was for me and maybe it could be for you too?

2. Join a Class
I'm going with an obvious theme here today. Two years ago I joined a yoga class as part of a New Year New Me crisis and I've been going weekly ever since. Okay okay so I still can't touch my toes (I have tight hamstrings, what of it?) but I've made new friends, coerced a few lifelong friends to join with me, and I've found a new part of myself that I didn't know was there! It doesn't have to be an exercise class - try an art class, book club or choir. Just add something into your routine, learn a new skill and give some of your time back to yourself.

3. Shake Up Your Home
Does your house look the same as it did last Christmas? Has the dust settled around the same objects in the same place? You know that certain type of person that likes to move furniture all the time? You could be that person! It may seem silly but if you're someone who is very affected by their surroundings, like me, then the simple act of swapping a few things in your house can make a refreshing difference to the way you feel about things. Maybe your bed should face the window so you can see the sky in the morning, maybe your sofa shouldn't point directly at the tv, maybe your living room should be in the dining room and the dining room should be in the living room. Try things out, be flexible. Besides, it's free and lugging furniture around can be great exercise!

What are you doing to shake things up this time of year?

Hx

Disclaimer: This advice could be terrible. We're all free-styling on this Earth. 

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Wednesday, 3 January 2018

My Eco Friendly Christmas Presents This Year


You've already heard me talk about my recent eco-efforts. I decided that I needed to make lots of small changes to my lifestyle and hoped that they would add up towards a positive ecological impact. I'm trying to use less plastic, waste less and use things more consciously. 

I adore Christmas. I know that it's hugely commercialised and can sometimes be overtaken by the desperate shopping trips and needless buying but I find pleasure in searching for things I think my loved ones will like (of course until the last week where I prowl round the shops with panic in my eyes like everyone else). I am also very lucky to have friends and family who know me extremely well. This year, my supportive, like-minded family have chosen amazing Christmas presents, many of which will help me keep things a little more eco. 

This post is going to come across pretty braggy but I wanted to show you some of my new things that will help me on my eco-quest this year:


These handkerchiefs were made by my partner's Mum (using some Grayson Perry fabric!) I'm going to try to get into the habit of keeping a couple of these in my bag wherever I go, using less disposable tissues, cloths and napkins.  


Bee's Wraps helps you cut back on cling film and foil! The waxed fabric can cover bowls and dishes, wrap snacks and lunches and can be washed in cold water to be used again and again!


I've been trying to go paperless in our kitchen for a while now. These new cloths will live in a basket by the sink, on hand for spills and clean ups. That should mean no paper towels in the bin. We've got a little wash bin on the kitchen floor for all the cloths so they're ready to go into the next wash.


Hair towel wraps are a revelation. Those of you with long hair may know the struggle of balancing a heavy towel on your head whilst trying to get dressed. A towel wrap is small and shaped to twist and fasten around your head with a toggle. This one is made from eco bamboo, is wrapped in only cardboard and comes with a head band for face washing and make up application. And it's so soft.


Wooden washing up brushes are replacing my plastic ones. The brush on the right even has a reusable handle for when the bristles run out. 


So it turns out that plastic toothbrushes are a big pollutant. These eco brushes are made from quick growing bamboo and can be composted after use!


Beeswax candles are less polluting than paraffin wax and some say they even clean the air as they burn!


My new stove top kettle will stop the electric kettle switch being flipped over and over every evening. 


This glass teapot stand is perfect for my cast iron diffuser teapot...


... that I'll fill with this Whittard's loose leaf Passionfruit and Mango Tea (did you know teabags contain plastic?) When on the go or at work, I've got this new deathly hallows diffuser!


Adorable wooden pins for my noticeboard in a tiny glass jar. I've also got my eye on this jar for handbag sized peanut butter portions because handbag peanut butter is a thing. 


This Aloe vera soap smells amazing and is wrapped in recyclable paper and string.

I'm looking forward to using all of these things for a long time. I feel a little like I've just started school with a backpack of new books and stationery to help me along the way.

Please comment with any eco-friendly presents you received this year - or any year! I'd love to hear your recommendations for a more sustainable lifestyle. If anyone would like any more information on any of the gifts above I can ask the person who gave it to me and let you know!

Sorry for all the humble-bragging...

Hx







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Monday, 1 January 2018

Veganuary...


I've been a vegetarian my whole life. This can be a little weird for people to understand: 'so you've never tried meat?', 'you've never been curious?', 'you've NEVER eaten meat, NEVER?' and the classic 'but BACON'.

I have the same few explanations to hand every time: my parents are vegetarians so I was raised in a vegetarian household, I've never been curious or tempted because, to me, meat and fish just aren't food. I'm alive and well, eat enough protein, I'm not anaemic or sickly and there's still so much food left once you take the meat and fish away. I usually also tell people that it's easy for me - I've never eaten it so I don't crave it, I don't need it. I just eat the foods I want to eat and that happens to be a vegetarian diet. But that's all about to change for a while. In fact, it changed last night as everyone was shouting 'Happy New Year' (I was asleep in front of Father Ted) because I am taking part in Veganuary

I'm a creature of habit and I'm not good at giving things up. I tend to claim that I have an addictive personality but in reality I'm just stubborn and no match for my fluctuating moods so I have the feeling that this is going to be a challenge. I don't eat very much dairy at all. I don't have milk in my tea, I don't eat eggs unless they're in cakes and I genuinely prefer coconut or almond milk in my cereal. But I do like chocolate. The sweet, sugary, milky stuff that melts my emotions into submission. I'm also partial to cheesy pizza and toasties and every kind of cake there is. 

My Mum has been vegan since the summer of last year and hasn't looked back. Ever since then I have considered veganism as a real possibility, previously flippantly stating 'but CHEESE and CHOCOLATE' and convincing myself I do enough by being a vegetarian anyway. But as my brother in law recently stated, 'the dairy industry is troubling' and it's hard to ignore it. So this January it's no meat or fish (duh) but also no dairy, eggs or honey. I'm not sure how this is going to go...

When I mentioned this challenge to my Mum she was excited to share her new vegan finds with me. I've already enjoyed all of the new meals she's been cooking since becoming vegan and have seen her find new ways of satisfying the cravings left behind. Nutritional yeast brings savoury cheesiness to the table and silken tofu makes an amazing chocolate mousse. These things we now know to be true.

So yesterday, after a week of at-home Christmassy indulgence and foody heaven, I was sent back to my Chichester home with a Vegan Care Package to get me started - see above! It includes Oreos (vegan!), Turkish Delight (vegan!), homemade cereal bars, Biona worcester sauce (no anchovies), dark chocolate, Moo Free chocolate, homemade almond butter, homemade chilli-peanut butter, and homemade VEGAN NUTELLA. Finally a fresh from the oven vegan garlic and herb cheese made from cashews. 

I sit here at my desk at 5.50pm having already eaten a quarter of the cheese with crackers and hummus, and started nibbling on the Moo Free chocolate (banana flavour!). So far, so easy. At home me and my partner eat vegan dinners 9 times out of 10 with lots of vegetables, beans, pasta, lentils and rice. At work lunches and snacks may be my downfall... I'll keep you posted up on my Instagram Page and every now and again on here.

Wish me luck.

Hx




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