Monday, 21 December 2015

10 unexpected benefits of going vegan

Having recently gone vegan I noticed a few things happen that I didn't expect and I've been making a note of these things as I go, as I know once I get a bit more experienced this new phase gets forgotten! I didn't give up dairy with the aim of any of these things happening, but they are all very welcome.

If you are thinking of going vegan, or just curious as to how it goes, then these are the benefits you may not expect:
  1. You will automatically start eating better, even if you aren't trying to, I expected to eat more fruit and veg but didn't think about the fact that I would eat more variety of fruit and veg or that I would make healthier food choices due to choosing vegan options. It's not all health food though if that's not what you want!
  2. You will get excited about food again. I'm trying new recipes, new foods and new ingredients that I never considered before. 
  3. You will learn to appreciate your supportive family and friends, and learn who your real friends are. Tom has been great, my family have been great and most of my friends and colleagues have been great...some others not so much but it's comedy gold for me to watch people try to pick apart my eating habits. Why do they care so much what I eat or don't?
  4. You will get more organised about food, especially when away from home. I prepare batch lunches for work and freeze them, or always make sure I have sandwich ingredients at home. This is great for saving cost and eating better, as instead of grabbing pizza from the canteen I have a sweet potato bake with tofu or whatever else I've prepped that week. This is mainly due to lack of vegan choices at my work but I also find I am more organised about having food shopping at home, as more fresh produce is needed so I get more organised about using it up before it goes off.
  5. You will discover local shops or restaurants you never even knew existed. There are 2 vegan restaurants in my town, and numerous shops with loads of vegan options, and there is a vegan fair every year, and there are vegan clubs, and there are restaurants which are now on my must visit list as they have good options. It's like rediscovering my local area and like I've joined a new community. 
  6. Weight/bloating loss. I lost a lot of 'mass' from my middle, I say 'mass' as I've not lost any weight on the scale but I am a lot slimmer and I think a lot of it was bloating from my cheese and carbs heavy diet before.
  7. On that note, the amount you can eat. Cutting dairy and meat cuts a lot of calories and fat, so you have to replace that. For someone like me whose meals are quite healthy and balanced that means adding in snacks, and lots of them. Most of them are healthy, but I found out recently I can have Jammy Dodgers and most bourbon biscuits so a few packs of those have been done away with over the last few weeks :)
  8. Better skin. I've been trying to clear my skin for years, and being 27 and still having teenage spots is a right downer. I'm not saying it's gone, but it's on the way there! I still get breakouts especially linked to 'that' time of the month, but they are getting less and less and my skin generally is less greasy, my blackheads are reducing and I think it looks generally a lot better.
  9. I feel AMAZING. Where people get the stereotype that vegans are all weak and tired I will never know. I do a decent amount of exercise, and have noticed no drop in my abilities or energy levels. Quite the opposite in fact, I feel like my energy levels and mood are more even throughout the day. Instead of feeling more tired as they day goes on I feel like I have the same energy at 6pm as I did at 10am. I can only put it down to cleaner eating and less hormones etc from dairy.
  10. My conscience is lighter. I've finally taken the last step in stopping dairy and my lifestyle is cruelty free. I use less water, greenhouse gases, pollution and deforestation that an omnivore diet and I know that no animals were exploited to make my food. It's quite calming :)
Have any of you noticed any unexpected benefits? 

Monday, 14 December 2015

Second month vegan

My second post on vegan food through the past month, don't worry I'm not going to spam you with food pictures every month but just documenting my finds over the first few weeks!

November saw some new meals for me, my first roast dinner at someone else's house for one. My dad cooked it for me, I brought Linda McCartney pies and left one in his freezer for next time, he did all the veg and potatoes with no dairy :) We had the second one shortly after and Toms mums and I took Tesco nut roasts.

First take away too, from Eurasia in Cheltenham - no photo as we got a power cut as it arrived so we ate in the dark! Tom likes an Indian takeaway so I knew this would be a hurdle to cross and bulk emailed a load of local restaurants to see who offered a vegan choice. I had mushroom sagwalla, chapati and poppadoms - just not having the mint and yoghurt dip. I like a korma so am looking for somewhere that does vegan korma (theirs has dairy), but it was a really good alternative and they were very helpful emailing me back and also answering questions on the phone when we ordered. Naan breads seem to mostly have dairy, but shop bought ones don't always so next time I might buy some in before we get takeaway.

Also had a Papa Johns pizza with no cheese, and lots of garlic sauce.

We also found out that the Asda create your own bases are vegan, so Tom picked me up a cheeseless one. I swear I've eaten more pizza since going vegan than I did before!

I began meal planning for work lunches, as there is little to no choice in the work canteen and also I want to make healthy choices to support my training and making sure I have food to take to work is part of that. I did vegetable bake, with satay tofu. Alongside some Alpro yogurt with frozen fruit, chopped nuts and chia seeds it was a filling and very nutritious lunch.

I tried my new's pretty gross...but on talking to the people at the pulsin' stall at the vegan fair last month their pea and rice powders mixed are the best for vegans trying to gain muscle. I am seeing some improvement but also started working out and lifting weights a lot more in October and November than ever before so probably down to that.

Also forgot to post a picture of my new badge from the vegan fair.

It makes me chuckle.

I started taking a small carton of soya milk to work for tea, and it seems to be better than my previous system of taking it in a flask as I kept forgetting to take the flask home to refill. Only I can't find resealable small cartons, anyone know of any? Not the large ones as I only need it for tea and I move work place every week so only need 5 days worth at a time.
breakfast - mushroom, avocado and spinach on toast
Tried out the Tofutti sour cream, it's OK not exactly sour cream if you have it alone but it's a nice enough substitution on stuff. I add some chopped chives to flavour it a little. So far have had it on nachos, fajitas and chilli.
Chilli and sweet potato for lunch
Cheeses - Well I got more Tesco ones, the cheddar style spread and the other cheeses from the range. I talked about the smoked one here, and the strong flavour soya one is good too. The tangy one not so much, it has a weird after taste.

I also tried more Bute Island Sheeze ones. Still a no from me. Although the garlic and herb cream cheese is very good! It's nice in a sandwich etc but also in a pasta sauce, and I even used some on a random tart creation to add a bit of flavour, using jus roll pastry.

Snack wise I am loving cheese and crackers still, plus Bourbons and Jammie dodgers are vegan. Life changing for tea and biscuit situation. I was keen to eat less rubbish but I need a treat every now and then and a cuppa with a few biscuits is a must when the going gets tough at work.

I made a great chilli and froze a few portions, basically 5 types of beans, some sweetcorn, mushrooms, spinach and soy mince with a load of herbs, bbq sauce and chopped tomatoes. It froze well and I had some for lunches, some for dinner and it lasted ages. Great to have some portions in the freezer for when I run out of time to make work lunches.

I had my first vegan meal out at a nice restaurant, more on that here. We also went for a meal at a local pub The Swan, they have 2 clearly marked vegan options on the menu. I had vegan pesto linguine, it was lovely. Tom had steak and said it was overcooked, karma for you.

I made some vegan cakes, with a betty crocker mix and a can of cherry coke! Just mix the 2 together and bake. They were really good, nice and moist and chocolatey, they didn't raise quite so much so fill the cake cups a bit more.

Tom made a lovely vegan cottage pie one night in early November as his first attempt at making me something vegan, he ate it too with no meat/dairy added and it was really filling and nice. It’s a Jamie Oliver recipe, took about 1.5 - 2 hours in total. It would be nice for a Sunday dinner or if you are having people over, but it was maybe a little complex or time consuming for what we would usually have on a Tuesday night. He’s been very supportive and has been buying me stuff that’s vegan with the shopping, and been very patient about eating out and having takeaways. He’s still not convinced about nutritional yeast and vegan cheese though.

Next month is the start of the set menu Christmas meals out, so we will see how that goes. Some I am looking forward to, some have not been so helpful so we will see how they do. Also the big meal of the year, Christmas day. I'm looking into what to take round to peoples houses!

Monday, 7 December 2015

Fit Girl Gift Guide

Recently while I was washing up tupperware for the millionth time that week the thought crossed my mind 'would it be weird to ask someone for decent tupperware for Christmas?' Probably, but I would seriously love it as a present. This post started to formulate itself in my head, so here's a gift guide for the fitness obsessed girl in your life if you're looking for some inspiration :)

Gym wear. Leggings, vests and tee's. Hoodies, cycle wear, running gear, hiking gear. Socks, headbands or accessories if you aren't sure on sizes :) 
from here
from here
from here
from here
Vouchers - For a new type of class, bootcamp or experience. Or again for clothes, we can never have enough gym clothes.
Like this groupon for yoga classes
Food. We are obsessed with eating. A meal plan subscription, or a veg box delivery. Vouchers for a health food shop, or a website.

Kit - Depending on their activity of choice of course, yoga mat, wrist supports, knee supports, palm guards, chalk bag, reflective stuff for winter running, bike accessories, touchscreen gloves.
From here
from here
From here
From here

A sports massage, or spa day. Something to soothe those aching muscles and tired feet is always appreciated!

A shiny new gym bag. Who can resist? I prefer a backpack myself, but there are so many styles out there, and there are some really cute options.
From here
from here

Equipment - skipping rope, weights, kettlebell, pull up bar, resistance bands...what do they want to have for their home gym or kit bag?

Foam roller, or massage ball, or other rehab stuff. I don't know about you but I consistently have something aching. This small set might be perfect for someone short on space. Like me, if anyone has not got my Christmas present yet :)
From here

From here

Some other little funny gifts or stocking fillers...
Recipe books - Paleo, low fat, vegan (try this list from no meat athlete for ideas) healthy. 

Mini toiletries - Awesome for the gym bag, the little gift sets of shower gel, shampoo, conditioner, face wash, moisturiser. Buy cruelty free of course from places listed in this post :)

from Lush
Hair ties. Seriously, I can never have enough hair ties. nice quality ones that won't snag hair, or some of the invsibobble ones that don't leave a crease in your hair, maybe some headbands and dry shampoo.

Tupperware, or any food storage. Shakers, flasks, small plastic posts of snacks....ones that don't leak and won't break after 3 uses. Or like this set from Argos...look at all the sizes!!

Have a good Christmas! xx

Monday, 30 November 2015

Cruelty Free Products

Recently I started substituting all of our cosmetic and cleaning products to cruelty free versions. I don't know why some animal tested products had found their way back in but they had. Maybe I just got lazy over the years or to be honest I think I just stopped checking products after a while as I thought I knew who tested and who didn't.

Also AVON started testing on animals again. Which screwed up my whole system as ALL of my cosmetics were from them!! So I had to restart the whole process of finding cruelty free cosmetics, and I thought I might as well redo the cleaning products while I was at it. Seriously AVON wtf, like wt actual f. Anyway...

It is so much easier nowadays as you can check in store on your phone if a company tests on animals (when I went veggie in the olden days it was if in doubt don't buy it, go home and look it up or ring them on the landline and ask...then go back and buy it if it was ok). I also use facebook groups and this website or this one, and the BUAV leaping bunny logo is on approved products. 
The Cruelty Free International Leaping Bunny
I tend to operate on the assumption that if something doesn't have it on the label that it doesn't test on animals then they probably do...some beauty brands I have found that are cruelty free:
  • Superdrug - All own brand products are cruelty free and most are vegan (If I'm giving up cheese I damn well won't ruin my efforts with non vegan shampoo!). This includes make up, sun creams, all dental products, ladies sanitary items etc. Superdrug is my first choice now to be honest, it's like a one stop cruelty free shop :) Their vitamin E Oatmeal range is really nice the face scrub leaves my skin really nice and soft and the day cream has spf in it and it's not too heavy or greasy. 
  • Body Shop -  All body shop products are cruelty free. However, their parent company L'oreal tests on animals. Depending on your opinion this may be an issue or not, in this day and age most companies on my list will have a parent company or partner that is not up to my ethical standards somehow I am just not aware of it, realistically as long as the actual product I'm using was not animal tested I'm reasonably happy to use it if there's not an alternative, but I do try to find alternatives to these if I can and don't buy at the Body Shop so much now.
  • Lush - Lots of vegan products too and the bath bombs are just awesome aren't they?! I've not tried much of their 'proper' beauty stuff just soaps and fizzy bath things but I hear good things about moisturisers and face masks.
  • Own brand Sainsbury's - Other big supermarkets own brands are also meant to be good (I hear Asda and Tesco and Morrisons have similar ranges) but I have only tried Sainbury's so far. The own brands beauty products are all BUAV approved, I use their own brand deodorant, soap and cleaning products.
  • Co-Op - Their cosmetics and toiletries are BUAV approved. I have used some of their range before but mainly it's little things like hand soap and washing up liquid that you might just pop to the local shop for. 
So far these few brands have been plenty, they are all easily available on the local high street and have everything I need. I'm not a great make up wearer, I don't wear it day to day only if I'm dressing up...but I had a skim over the BUAV approved list and recognised these brands from local shops ELF, Barefaced Beauty, Marks & Spencer, Liz Earle, Molton Brown, Pukka, Urban Decay. The list is massive I'm just make up challenged so don't recognise a lot!

Other Products
Cleaning products were actually more difficult, I've not found as much of a range of places but the few I have found and use are:
  • Astonish - I LOVE Astonish! It's UK produced, cruelty free and mostly Vegan, the washing liquid smells lush and most of all it is CHEAP! Most of the items in the range are £1 or thereabouts. They also do everything. I use their washing liquid, bathroom cleaner, mould spray, carpet shampoo, oven cleaner, hob cleaner, multi surface spray, pot & pan cleaner, liquid soap...I keep finding new things! I get it in The Range, Poundland or Savers.
  • Own brand - Again own brand Sainbury's or Co-Op I have used but I hear others have a range. Before I discovered the joys of the Astonish range (I am not even being sarcastic there I literally love them) I used mostly own brand stuff. I still use own brand washing up liquid as I've not seen Astonish locally, either Sainbury's or Co-op.
Brands I've not yet tried but am squirrelling away in case of Astonish shortage (I do find it not always readily available, Poundland can have it in one day and not the next so am always looking out for alternatives just in case) 

  • Ecover - Seems to be getting more available, it is certainly stocked in 2 of my local shops. This range appears more expensive but I hear good things about the washing up liquid. 
  • Method - Non toxic and natural products, I've heard people rave about them but so far not actually seen them in a local shop. 
  • Marks and Spencer, Wholefoods or Waitrose - These are the more up market supermarkets and their ranges are meant to be good, I just don't regularly shop there (I'm not very posh I'm afraid) so haven't had a look. I do go to whole foods occasionally to stock up on what Tom calls my 'weird foods' like smoked tofu, quinoa in bulk and when I just want to browse the new vegan offerings but I tend to just go there for food. and then run away before my bank account realises where I am and starts to cry. 
I also don't wear leather, suede or fur of course and have some tips for similar ethical clothes wearers. 

  • Vegetarian shoes that are stylish and affordable do exist! Do not be put off by what comes up when you google vegan shoes. New Look shoes are my best friends, the non leather ones of course, I hear they are approved by PETA. Also goes for wallets, bags, belts and other accessories. 
  • I got my wedding shoes from Mels Shoes, they are beautiful and smell like my little ponies. Enough said. I got the heart glittered but it was originally red.
  • Trainers can be an issue as a lot of them have leather in them somewhere, shop around for your preferred style. New Look again if non leather for casual trainers, for actual training trainers I have some Karrimor ones. 
  • Fake leather is pretty abundant nowadays, I have a jacket from Primark that I love but beware that fake leather does not breathe well.
That's my brain dump on my experience recently, feel free to comment and let me know any of your tips or brands!

Monday, 23 November 2015

Vegan and vegetarian food while eating out

A lot of questions people ask me generally, or if they are considering giving up meat and/or dairy, is about eating at restaurants. 

I had my first meal out as fully vegan last week (before I've noted vegan choices but not necessarily always picked them), I made a little extra effort than I had before and rang the restaurant we planned to go to in advance to check what they had available. We went to the Storyteller in Cheltenham.

They were very helpful on the phone advising that at least 2 of the vegetarian options could be made vegan easily if I just ask for no cheese or dressing. It’s south west American food, the fajitas and burrito could easily be made vegan I was informed. It was no hassle ordering, the waiter got what I wanted straight away and adjusted my order with no problems. It was also really nice and I got extra guacamole with my starter as I wasn't having the cheese dip, without me even asking. Great service, and the food is reliably tasty, fresh and interesting every time we go and the vegan option was no different. 
Over the years I have had a few sub-par meals but only been to one place where they had literally nothing for me, so I’ve put together a brief guide on what type of places I find best for providing decent options and what type of places to avoid. Most of these are UK based but some of the generic cuisine groups will apply in other countries. These are places I have just found to be good or not so good in my own experience, but it is always worth reading the menus as there will of course be exceptions to this – or maybe I’ve been to the exceptions!
Let’s start with where I have struggled as it’s a shorter list:
  1. French – I find not many French restaurants have a great choice, some will have vegetarian but it is usually very cheese laden. The only restaurant I have ever had to leave after sitting down and ordering drinks, as they had nothing and didn’t want to modify any menu items for me, was a French place in San Francisco. In Paris I also struggled and didn’t even sit down in a lot of places. I’m sure there are places in Paris but it was a surprise trip and I wasn’t prepared.
  2. BBQ or steak houses – Obvious really.
  3. Chain pub/restaurant places – Talking your reasonably price family eatery/pub, Beefeater etc. Most will have some vegetarian options, but not much vegan in my experience. Also the food is sometimes pre prepared so there can be little room for alterations, or the places I have been are just unwilling to alter. Harvester do have a salad bar that you can fill up on.
These kind of places will likely have something but you are often going to only have one option, or have to have an array of side dishes rather than a main course.

Places/cuisines that are better:

  • South American/Mexican – You can usually have the fajitas, quesadillas etc with meat or vegetable filling, ask for no cheese and no sour cream and a lot can be made vegan. Check about dairy in the refried beans and quesadilla filling though.
  • Indian – Again curry usually comes with option for meat or vegetable, and they use coconut cream not dairy cream in many recipes. Be careful of things being cooked in ghee for vegans, just ask what they cook in.
  • Chinese – A lot I’ve been to have a vegetarian section of the menu, and lots from that can be vegan.
  • Thai – Use of tofu in Thai food seem more common and it’s part of the main menu not a side option for vegetarians, after eating lots of carbs and wine in Napa I was so happy to find a Thai restaurant with vegan options and tofu, and cider!
  • Caribbean – We have a small Caribbean restaurant near us called Marinades with a vegan section of the menu, I hear this is quite usual for Caribbean places, Turtle Bay also have good vegetarian options although in our local one they are not marked with a v or anything you have to ask to be sure.
  • Local pubs – I am always surprised by the choices in small local places. We have a pub in town called The Swan who do quite a few vegan options, most pubs nearby also do plenty of vegetarian things. If it’s somewhere you go often and they know you will be a repeat customer if they enable you to eat there then independent places are usually quite receptive to feedback in my experience.
  • Carvery – Toby Carvery have multiple vegan options for main, and even dessert. We have a local carvery that also do great vegetarian options. It’s the last place I expected to find such choice!
  • Italian – LOADS of vegetarian options, vegan possibly without the cheese.
  • Pizza – Lots of vegetarian, and vegan if you find a place where the base is vegan and have it with no cheese. Most places will do pizza without cheese if you ask but the base may contain dairy so worth checking. Papa Johns, Pizza Hut (I hear not delivery only restaurant) and Pizza Express do vegan bases, sometimes you have to order the gluten free or light bases so check the menu or ask.
    Papa Johns Pizza with some Tesco soy cheese
  • Tapas/small plates – Usually a few options for vegans, and quite a lot for vegetarians, in the places I’ve been. Great for group meals as you just order all the vegetarian and vegan choices, and then some others if you have people who can’t live without meat.
  • Vegan and vegetarian cafes and restaurants are becoming more common – always worth looking up to see if there is one near you. We have 2 in Cheltenham. The hardest part is persuading people to come with you!
I started taking these cards to anywhere that I go that has good options, as I think giving positive feedback and praise, and highlighting that I have chosen to eat there for their vegan choices is as important as asking restaurants with poor vegan choice to improve. I saw similar online and thought it was a great idea. I’m always looking to give praise where due, and selfishly if it helps give more choices when I go back or ensures their vegan options stay on the menu then great!

General tips for eating out when starting as a vegetarian or vegan are:
  • Most places will do something vegetarian at least, vegan is a little harder and you might have to ask them to modify a meal. Most will be able to at least do you something even if it’s just a jacket potato with beans, or some chips and salad. It’s just about smart choices and picking where you eat.
  • Most places use the V symbol to mark vegetarian, but not all places mark vegan out of those options. Some put Vn or Vegan by them, but you will often have to ask. Not all places will mark vegetarian although it is becoming common, again just ask if you aren’t sure.
  • If in doubt ask to see the allergy booklet. This will include what has dairy in it.
  • Sometimes things look vegetarian but don’t have the V by them although they are in use on other dishes on the menu – they may use meat stock or something so always ask don’t assume.
  • Be polite, but remember this is not an unreasonable request, don’t take poor customer service just because you need to ask a question, sometimes people can think you are being fussy or just don’t get what you want. Maybe they don’t even know what vegan means. Be direct but polite, explain what you need simply and clearly, stick to your guns and if the waiter can’t answer your question ask them to go ask the chef or manager. If they can’t do anything then advise you will have to take your custom elsewhere, which usually gets them motivated.
  • Set menus. Bane of my life, say you are going to a big banquet or have to pre order for a Christmas meal at a restaurant. There will often be a vegetarian option, but usually only one and I’ve rarely seen that be suitable for vegans. Again the best thing is just to phone the venue in question and explain what you need, as early as possible too so that they can have time to sort something different or alter an existing dish. Starters and desserts are usually ok to work around. Main course is the trickiest as often there is only that restricted menu being served. I’ve had plain risotto with some sprouts on top for a Christmas do, and had the menu redone to include something for me so the results can really vary.
    yay rice and sprouts for main course.
  • If there is nothing on the menu outside the door but you have limited options or you really want to try the restaurant (or the people you are with do) then it is always worth asking if they have any specials or could alter a dish for you. Most places will, some won’t but it is always worth checking.
  • If you are going with a large group and they book somewhere that is totally unsuitable like a steak house or something don’t automatically assume you can’t go, it’s always worth phoning the place to see what they can do for you.
  • If going abroad learn the phrases ‘I do not eat meat/fish/dairy’ ‘Do you have any vegetarian/vegan food?’ ‘no meat/fish/cheese’. I also learn the words for please, thank you etc too just for being polite, and of course the most important ‘1 white wine and 1 beer please’. If you can’t learn them maybe print them off or write them down to take with you, when we went to Albania I struggled to master any phrases (man it is a hard language!) so took a little sheet of phrases to read off, and if you can’t say what you mean just point to the phrase you want!
Good luck if you're starting out, and if you have any tips to share please do in the comments. I'll write up any restaurants we go to that have good vegan/vegetarian options. Toby carvery are probably next but their vegan choices are so good I need to go a few times to try them all off the new menu :)

Monday, 16 November 2015

Book Review

I read a lot, and since it’s back to school time and the weather is getting cooler I thought it was a perfect time to start sharing some of the books I've read so you might read them too! 
Revival – Stephen King
I am biased as I could read Stephen King all month, but this was another really good book that draws you in and gets into your head. As usual it’s not a book for anyone who doesn't like violence, death or gory details in their reading, as he doesn't spare your imagination in a lot of the novel. The start was interesting, set in a rural American town and from the perspective of a child. I found the characters really easy to get behind and you get the sense of gathering danger, tension and something brewing. The relationship with the preacher and the effect it has on the characters throughout their lives is a constantly evolving story, at the start you think he might be the good guy but that soon comes into question. The middle was also interesting about how the main character had turned out as an adult, the topics of drugs and recovery were well told from the perspective of an addict. Also a different setting than many of his books, and I enjoyed the change. I liked the beginning and middle much more than the end. I don’t want to spoil the ending but it went a bit beyond what I thought it would and was a little unbelievable. It was also kind of depressing, I know they are not usually the brightest books but this one actually made me a bit sad! 
Overall – 9/10 A great read and I finished it in a few days, but not my new favourite Stephen King novel.

The Book of Fires – Jane Borodale
To be honest I picked this up at random from the library because they didn't have any of the books I was looking for and I just wanted something to read.
I found the story slow to get going, and the main character Agnes a bit hard to get to like as we know nothing about her at the start other than she is poor and pregnant, to me she was very passive to what is going on in her life and around her. Once she gets bit of motion and the story picks up a few chapters in I was a little more interested, and in the middle to end of the book I started to like her better. However main character aside the descriptions of England in the 1750’s are very detailed and paint a wonderful picture, as with the fireworks and the sights and smells of the workshop. I found the writing style a little different at the start, but got used to it. I found myself skipping over sentences that were overly descriptive, but then finding other areas jarring and the writing very curt. The ending was unexpected and you really don’t know what Agnes is going to do about this baby until right in the last few chapters, which alternately annoyed and intrigued me. I wanted her to just make a decision, she makes this big change in the first few chapters then cannot seem to put any plan into action after that. I also found it a little unbelievable that she fell into a job straight off the cart from the countryside, there was little to no struggle or hardship for her on arrival to the city which would be more realistic.
Overall – 6/10 Not my usual reading but was interesting in parts, if the main character had a little more about her it might have been better but that is probably written to show how women of the period behaved.

Dandy Gilver and a Bothersome Number of Corpses - Catriona McPherson
Again a book I picked up off the quick choice section of the library because I didn't really have time to look around, must go to the library with more time!
The book is a good read, I figured out the big twist pretty early on (it came to me while doing the washing up) but it didn't ruin it for me. The story follows Dandy Gilver and her partner on a trip to a girls school to figure out why the mistresses are disappearing, and there are a few side stories also. I feel like this would be a good holiday read, a story good enough to keep you interested but not too demanding or depressing. It’s quite an entertaining book, with insight into the period and attitudes towards married women working. The characters are well developed and relate-able, and this is part of a series but also works fine as a standalone book. The motivation for some of the characters to do certain things was a little vague for me, but I think the story as a whole is credible enough to work. It did stick in my mind, as mentioned I found myself thinking about the story while not actually reading the book which is always a good sign. I would be interested in possibly reading some of the other books of the series (which maybe feature her partner a little more as he was a bit part at best in this one) if they cross my path but haven’t so far rushed out to get them.
Overall – 7/10, entertaining and decent read, but for me lacking something maybe a few less twists for the story and a little more time spent on the main plot and motives of the characters would have helped.

The Martian - Andy Weir
I actually read this a few months ago but loved it and the film is out so want to include it. I would never usually pick up a book on space, but my work does a 6 book challenge over the summer where they pick books for you, and it’s great for expanding your reading. I'm sure the film won’t be as good, the book is always better, get in and read it before the film ruins it :)
I was truly gripped by this story from the start, it starts on Mars when an astronaut is left behind after the rest of the crew leave. This is where the story stays, with only short interludes back to earth to see what is happening with his colleagues. The writing has to be good to keep this one character Mark and his day to day activities as basically the whole book without the reader becoming bored. I found his character to be realistic and I could identify with him although we have NOTHING in common. There was humour and failures as well as really technical information that would usually bore me to tears but I found it interesting when related to a practical issue, i.e. what he could do with it to survive. You also really do not know what is going to happen and whether he will be rescued, I was reading literally holding my breath at the end! The only downside I could think of was that the book does end right at the rescue attempt, I was kind of sad not to see a little of the aftermath and the perspectives of the other characters on what had happened after being so invested in the plan to rescue him.
Overall – The best book I have read this year, funny, interesting and oddly quite real although about a man stuck on Mars.
Have you read any good books recently? Always looking for recommendations! x 

Monday, 9 November 2015

Newbie Vegan

First few weeks vegan went well! Feeling good, lost weight/bloat not sure but I look slimmer around the middle, eating well, not hungry, actually liking the lack of fat and grease from cheese. All in all it's been an easy-ish transition this time and I think it's going to stick.

Here's my finds, lessons and gratuitous food pictures.
I can still have  macaroni and broccoli 'cheese'
I went to a vegan fair on the 31st of October, so I went vegan fully 2 weeks before. I figured I'd be able to find any gaps in what I wanted and fill them at the fair. I was a little disappointed in the food choices there, a lot of bakery stuff so I had some nice cakes but I was looking for some food staples and a lot of it was cosmetics, accessories, and animal charities. Don't get me wrong all really good just not what I was hoping for as a new vegan.
Rice, tofu, spinach and nutritional yeast
However I did speak to some people from Pulsin' and got some vegan protein powders on offer, and some vitamins on offer from the vegan society so I'm set on those fronts for a few months.
Nachos with Tofutti sour 'cream' from Goodness Direct
I also got a box from goodness direct at the end of the first week as I saw them on a facebook group, I must say some of it is available in supermarkets I just didn't check first, but some of it isn't. This was by far the best buy and will definitely be making a repeat appearance.
The best vegan mayo I've had, it seriously tastes the same if not better than regular garlic mayo!

Nutritional yeast is also worth a mention, I add it to things for a cheesy taste and it contains B vitamins.

I also got loads of cheeses and will keep you posted if you're interested on which is best. Tesco smoked and cream cheese spread are also definitely worth a mention, they are very good. I was pleasantly surprised at the smoked cheese, and it melts! I was a happy newbie vegan when I discovered this. Considering they are also the cheapest I've found and Tesco own brand I am actually already declaring this as my favourite before even trying the others, they'll have to be good to beat it.

The Sheeze edam was really not very nice, it tasted like chemicals, so not 100% confident in the others.
Ritz crackers are also vegan, so I can still have crackers and 'cheese' when I settle on my favourite cheese!

This cheese is good for pizza and has a mild flavour like mozzarella, but doesn't really actually melt that well. Also quite expensive, so I may stick to the Tesco stuff as it actually melts.

My first vegan pizza - Sainsburys own brand pizza bases, lots of veg, some Tesco cheese and some Veganic, garlic mayo for crust dipping.
I also found Biscoffi spread, great if you have a sweet tooth and might miss chocolate spread. My word it is good. Do not buy if you are trying to be healthy!

A filling snack to take to work I found was some Alpro vanilla yoghurt with chia seeds in it and some frozen fruit, there were some chia pods on sale in Tesco for 16p each.
Tesco have the best selection of UK supermarkets it seems, our local one has a whole section of vegan cheeses, milks, yogurts. Brand names like Alpro and Violife but also an own brand range which is cheaper, always good to know. The freezer vegetarian section is also large, with vegan options included. The mexican bean burgers, with the smoked cheese on top and some avocado were my first night of being vegan dinner.
Lazy Dinner
We usually shop at Sainsburys and get cash back there so I may just pop into Tesco once every few weeks to top up my freezer stock and check out their range. I hear there are churros and an indian selection in their Christmas range that are both good, I'll test them out and let you know. I may have to test a few churros boxes, you know just to be sure it's good quality.
Vegetable bake with peanut butter tofu
Other than that my main meals have been mostly the same, just with some substitutions for vegan ingredients or taking the cheese out. Looking forward to some more discoveries :)

Check out my instagram and twitter for food pics and vegan finds as I go!

Monday, 2 November 2015

10 less obvious benefits of getting fitter

Everyone knows the big benefits of getting fitter, like losing weight, living longer and reducing your risk of certain health problems. There are however smaller, more personal or less talked about benefits that are also amazing, these are the ones I've experienced:
  1. Life is just easier, I can take the stairs, I can run around at work all day and still have the energy to go to the gym, I don't have to ask Tom to open jars for me any more, I can carry things that are heavy for longer, I can reach the top shelves without asking for help, I can sprint for the bus, I don't get tired standing at gigs and I don't overheat so quickly...
  2. You will eventually love feeling exhausted and sore, and the hour killing yourself at the gym or track will be the best part of your day. I relish getting covered in sweat, and feeling out of breath and tired. That's how you know it's working! I absolutely must come home at least one day a week and flop into the sofa proclaiming that I might die, I love feeling that I've pushed myself and made progress.
  3. You will see changes in random places and learn to love new parts of your body that you never noticed before. When you lose weight and gain muscle it happens everywhere, including your neck, face, feet, hands, ankles, knees...
  4. You will have SO much more energy. I used to lie in both days of the weekend for hours, now I get up at least one day of the weekend early ish to go to the gym. I also go 3 times a week straight from work for up to 2 hours. This would be ridiculous to me 3 years ago, but the more you do the more you can and want to do. This transfers to energy and motivation at work, at home and in life.
  5. You will feel proud of the small achievements and the big ones, yeah you want to run that race and will feel like a badass afterwards but you will also be grinning like an idiot after adding just 1 more minute to your max time on the treadmill.
  6. After you've been getting fit for a while, parts of the rest of your life will naturally change too. I drink less alcohol, eat better, and sleep more without ever having really made a conscious effort to do so. It has been a gradual slow change to certain ways of eating to fuel my body better, and if I drink the night before I'm going to the gym I don't perform as well. Also if you have been to work then to the gym for 2 hours getting home late and tired, then an early night is often inevitable!
  7. Strength is amazing to have in day to day life as a girl. I can lift my nieces and carry them around and put them on my shoulders, that isn't reserved just for their dads and uncles any more. I can move furniture around whenever I like, I can carry my own suitcase thank you very much, I can lift deliveries at work and of course I can carry far more shopping bags home from town :)
  8. You will just feel better about life. I can't explain it but I feel more awake than when I was a smoker living a sedentary lifestyle. I'm more motivated, more energetic, more open to new things, I get ill less, I get less aches and pains, I get less headaches and days where I feel tired. I have met new people, made a new lifestyle, made positive changes in my body, mind and life. 
  9. On that note you will also look better generally if you are living a healthy lifestyle, my skin is clearer, my hair is in good condition, I lost weight/puffiness around my face and neck at the start and I get less breakouts and greasy hair now I am eating better. 
  10. Taking care of yourself physically makes you really value your body. I am amazed at what I have put myself through over the last 2 years and that it has made my body what it is today, and me who I am today. I take care of myself so much better in other ways now, I get regular hair cuts, use better skin products and take daily multivitamins and vegetarian omega 3 capsules. I take time for myself every so often to recharge, I reward myself regularly - NOT always with food - I treat myself to a relaxing bath, a new book or new clothes. Little things that keep you loving life. I invest in my health and myself more, because you only get one body and self, and this is it.
There are so many more benefits to list! Leave me any of your weird or personal fitness perks in the comments :)


Monday, 26 October 2015

What I Am and What I'm Not

Over the last 2 years I have lost, gained, then finally lost again a lot of fat. Really as a side effect of training for various things, but often others seem to focus on the weight loss as my main achievement. Which kind of nags at me, like I've done a lot of cool stuff recently and all you ask about is my weight?

I was asked again the other day how much weight I've lost. My reply was I have no idea. I'm not being modest, I never used to weigh myself. Plus I am probably heavier on the scale that I was when I was 'heavier' anyway, but I'm pretty happy with my progress at the moment and I've changed a lot recently in terms of training and nutrition. The person asking again said how much did I think I'd lost.

If you go by weight on the scale and that works for you fair enough, but please don't define the health and progress of yourself and especially others by that number

We are all a lot of things more than that.

For example I am not a number on a scale, I am a woman who climbed a mountain last year.

I am not the size of my jeans, I am a person who has faced countless challenges large and small over the last 2 years and made it.

I am not on a diet, I am eating well and supporting my body.

I am not the dress that I can't fit my shoulders into, I learned to climb despite my fear.
First route I seconded
I am not my bruised and battered legs, I ran over 5k this week as a weekly workout when last year I couldn't run 500m.

I am not an 'ideal' body type, but I have gone from a sedentary overweight smoker to whatever I am now in 3 years.

I am not defined by my new found abilities, I am someone who remembers what it's like to cry, to fail, and to come out stronger for it.
Shin splints

I am not a woman who has it all or has it easy, I am a woman trying to have the best she can.

I am not in the gym 7 days a week, I am a wife, sister, aunt, daughter, friend. These roles will always be the most important.
Our wedding day

I am not my calloused hands and unpainted nails, my hands have crafted me a new body and lifestyle.

I am not less because I have some fat on my stomach, I am a person lucky enough to have plenty to eat and lets not lose sight of that.

I am not finding this easy, I struggle, sometimes I don't want to go, sometimes I want to stay in bed. I am proud of myself for ignoring that little voice and sticking to it.

I am not skinny, thin or small. I do not have a thigh gap. I have legs that let me lift, run and climb.
This route took me ages to get, but once I got it I couldn't stop repeating it cause it looks so badass!
I am not considered to have an 'attractive' body by everyone, I have a body that I love and that has done things I could never imagine.
My first ever race vest
I am nowhere near where I want to be, I am always striving for more.

I do not aim to make myself less, I aim to make myself the best I can be.

I do not have a goal weight. I have a goal.

Everyone has a list like this, and remember yours when society may try to make your story about something less.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Winter Bucket List

It's getting colder and the nights are drawing in, I love this time of year before the novelty of winter wears off! I'm still loving my new scarf and the fact I can wear boots again. Talk to me in a month when it's rain again. Lets be honest we don't get much of an Autumn most years it's chilly and nice for about 2 weeks then it's cold and wet until March.

This year I wanted to focus on the positives though! A winter bucket list of things I want to do this year over the colder months.

  1. Watch a fireworks display. I know, me, firework phobic who once hid under the family car after bolting from my parents at a firework display. I figure it's time to get over it now I'm a big girl. This year I'm going to go watch a big display maybe with my niece and nephew (so I have to be brave not to freak them out) or maybe just Tom and I. Either way I want to wrap up warm and ooh and ahh at fireworks, not hide at home like the last 20 years.
  2. Cycle more. I recently started cycling to a new gym that I'm trying out and it's soo much quicker than walking I want to make the most of it being an novelty and build it into my routine. I reason getting rained on and cold for 15 minutes rather than 45 is better!
  3. Christmas - Not sure what our plans are this year but I want a nice family Christmas, and not to be too hectic and stressed like last year!
  4. Take some time away with Tom. I have some leave booked from work in December, only a long weekend but hopefully Tom can get it off work too and we can either go on some day trips or maybe even a cosy festive weekend break away.
  5. Get back into climbing. We've been outside a bit this summer and I did the lead course recently, but now's the time to get back to the warehouse and get training properly. I lost a few grades this year and last with our enforced break and since learning to lead climb so I want to get them back!
  6. Have a Halloween party! Planning this right now, and looking for my costume. We planned one last year but it kind of flopped because we vaguely planned it then went off and climbed Kilimanjaro and then it went off the boil, we didn't invite half of the people we meant to...cut to us and 3 other people on the night! Good night, but still we can do better this year :)
  7. Get fit. OK I'm already on the way there but I want to be back at my strongest by March, Super Human is in May! This involves new workouts, eating better and trying not to get too off track over Christmas and New Year.
  8. Take on some new challenges. I'm already trying out cross fit (God help me) and it seems to be going ok, I think I might sign up for something over the winter to test out my fitness before Super Human. Possibly a race, maybe an obstacle course mud run type thing.
  9. Go watch a Christmas film at the cinema. Tom doesn't like the cinema (wierdo) so I'll go with someone else if he won't come with me.
  10. Dry January....maybe. Not 100% sold on this one yet as it's a close friends 30th that month and I'm not sure I can deal with the 'ooooh are you pregnant??' remarks every time I turn down a glass of wine. I don't actually drink a lot and could just cut down drastically...either way, start the new year on a healthy note.
What's on your winter list?

Monday, 12 October 2015

Cruelty Free Living

Part time vegan
I've been a vegetarian for almost 15 years now, meaning I don't eat any animal products. No not even fish, and no I don't miss bacon (I miss haribo tangfastics, chicken and mayo sandwiches and ordering whatever I want off a menu just fyi), and no if I was trapped on a desert island with a pig I wouldn't eat it...

Now the usual questions are rationale behind stopping eating meat (so far as I remember, I was 14) was that I was against animal cruelty, also it's healthier to eat less red meat and I never have to worry about getting my 5 a day. I recently also started reducing my dairy intake, not going vegan necessarily (I don't check every label and ingredient) but let's say part time vegan, I've substituted as much dairy as I can so far...I'll probably go the whole hog sometime this is how I went veggie. 

For anyone thinking of going veggie or just curious, some of the myths and misconceptions I've encountered are:

But where do you get your protein!?
Um from my food? I train hard and get enough protein from my diet to fuel a very active lifestyle and the muscle gains I want. If I feel I might not be getting enough protein (mostly due to my own laziness with food prep) I'll have a protein shake or add some powder to a meal but to be honest that is rare and it would be the same if I ate meat. I add seeds, nuts and beans to a lot of meals for extra protein. 

It's so unhealthy to restrict your diet like that...
This mainly comes from people with little imagination on what I might eat, who think I live off lettuce and tofu. Yes you can be a vegan or vegetarian and be unhealthy if you don't eat properly, but the same as you can be an unhealthy meat eater. I could be vegan and eat oreos, pom bears and party rings (yep all vegan!) all day, have chips and some breaded pretend chicken for tea and drink 5 pints of cider an evening...being vegan wouldn't be the cause of my bad diet it would be poor food choices!

Protein and iron and B12 are the main things people seem concerned about, I take a multivitamin (which I ensure includes iron and B vitamins) and a vegan omega 3,6 and 9 (all in one) capsule daily - but the times when I forget I don't drop dead. I think actually because I look after my body I am more conscious of taking these vitamins not because I don't eat meat, I actually never ate a lot of fish as I just didn't like it so always took an omega capsule it just used to be cod liver oil. 

It's so much effort to cook vegetarian, my husband/wife/kids would never give up meat anyway
I find vegetarian cooking easy after a while of getting used to it, just sub in a meat free version of a 'normal' meal. Tom eats meat, I've never tried to convert him because I respect his opinion to do so...but I do the majority of the dinners so he ends up eating veggie a lot anyway. I tend to do something where I can easily make a meat version and a veggie version if Tom is getting meat, like spaghetti bolognese or chilli where you make the same base sauce, sides etc and just split it off and add meat to one and vegetables or pretend mince to another. Meat free options are now widely available in supermarket frozen sections, and vegan choice seems to be massively better than when I first tried it even just 5 years ago, this may be due to the rise in allergy awareness as dairy allergies are more well known. I now am mostly dairy free for breakfast (porridge with almond milk and fruit) and lunch (sandwiches or salad or if I'm organised a pre cooked portion of a meal to heat up like quinoa and vegetable bake) and dinner may contain some dairy but I am trying to minimise it.

Kids - I obviously do not have children to feed, but I would like to think I would raise them mostly vegetarian, with meat and fish at dinnertime but not every day (basically what I feed Tom now when I cook dinner not that I am comparing him to a child). If Tom were vegetarian there would be no question about raising them veggie, but he is not so they will get meat but less frequently than their friends. No this will not stunt them or otherwise impair them. It will also not be anyone else's business, I do not comment to the mother feeding her kid McDonalds or sugar laden snacks on her nutritional choices for her child and these habits are much more common than a measured and proven healthy diet which happens to not include masses of meat. 

Ask me in the future when I have a screaming 2 year old who only likes chicken nuggets and a 5 year old who only wants sausages if I'm still so ethically minded on this ;)

It's so expensive though?! You have to shop at health food places!
I obviously don't tend to peruse the meat aisle of the supermarket often but when I last checked vegetables were cheaper than beef. Also the supermarkets all now have good own brand vegetarian and vegan options, the freezer ones are often on 3 for £5 or bogof or something. The branded stuff like Linda McCartney and Quorn are now much cheaper too, comparable to meat options. Quorn 'ham' is great for sandwiches, and the Linda sausages are always in my freezer. It's all available in even the smaller local branches of supermarkets.

My multivitamins at the moment are from poundland, and I have some lined up to replace those from Lidl. The omega capsules are a new addition and were comparable to cod liver oil capsules if not a little cheaper depending on where you got them. My protein powder is rarely used but it's from Amazon I think it was around £10 for a huge amount, although to note do not get the unflavoured pea protein it is rank I am trying to use up the pot but it may go in the bin. Always go favoured with vegan protein!!

Humans are carnivores! It's natural to eat meat and dairy!
Actually we are omnivores not carnivores, our natural diet would be mostly plant based with some meat and fish but not at every meal and probably not even every day, it would not naturally include dairy. And when was the last time you hunted and ate a raw cow? Eating meat with every meal is a modern day invention, in other cultures and in recent history here for the average person eating meat was not as much of a requirement for every single meal and more of a few times a week thing. Meals can be cheaper, nicer and healthier without the meat. The attitude of 'It's not a meal without meat' really gets me when I hear it from people commenting on my diet (but won't hear a word against theirs), if you can eat healthier, for less money and more ethically by just replacing one ingredient easily are you that closed minded that you won't try it? It's on a plate, it fills you up and it's else do you want to call it if not a meal?

Dairy is actually the most unnatural, we are made to be weaned off milk and can actually get plenty of calcium from normal food sources. Drinking the milk or milk products of another animal is unnatural, and kinda weird and gross when you think about it. I find it hard to give up dairy totally but I keep trying, I tried 'veganuary' in January this year and failed rather spectacularly in a pizza binge. Now I am trying a more gradual approach of reducing and substituting dairy products until I feel I can say I'm either on or off the vegan train...

You'll feel/look/be so tired and pale and you won't be able to maintain it without long term health issues
I feel great. I don't think I look pale and unhealthy - well I'm pale but I'm ginger so no amount of meat is getting me a tan. I do more exercise than when I ate meat. I climbed a mountain last year. There are vegan body builders, and vegan slobs. It's all down to your lifestyle not your ethical food choices. My grandparents and parents were worried when I went veggie, I heard about people who got terrible issues 10 years into being vegetarian, and that I'd never be able to play sport or that I'd always look pale (I was a goth teenager so this was awesome news). I'll be honest I am tired sometimes, but I suspect that's because I am getting old...and I work full time and I have a full life and sometimes I stay up past my bedtime. Tell me the diet where you never get tired I want that one.

But my cousins friend/old work colleague/mums dog walkers sister went vegetarian and got 'stomach issues' and had to go back to meat. 
The mystical person who someone always knew who had health problems due to being vegetarian always had bowel or stomach issues. Actually red meat is suspected as a direct link to increased bowel cancer incidence (breaking out my work knowledge on you now) and the amount recommended per week of red meat is so small in comparison the the massive amounts people actually do consume you might as well not bother to cut back and just give it up. Dairy is known to cause bloating and irritates conditions such as IBD and eczema (that is purely anecdotal evidence on my part but everyone I know with eczema avoids dairy so...). It is also full of saturated fats and hormones and actually has no proven link to improving bone strength or density. Yes calcium does but we actually can get enough of that easily without milk, the hormones in milk may actually mean it is not good for your bones. Unless you need to be on a low fibre diet for a health condition, or are allergic, or diabetic and need to avoid fruit sugars there are no proven downsides to eating fruits and vegetables. 

Also I don't mind talking about this as I talk bowels all day at work but skip to the next part if you don't want to hear about it...My bowels are mega healthy. I never get any issues like constipation, diarrhoea, food poisoning, slow transit, bloating...and on holidays I never get a funny tummy other than the fact I sometimes have to live off of chips, pizza and pasta so get a little fat or bloated when I go abroad. When I was going on the Kilimanjaro climb I went to the doctors for jabs and asked while I was there did he have any recommendations generally, he said to eat vegetarian before the trek while in Africa as sometimes the food quality can be not ideal and you are less likely to get food poisoning before you even start. I said I was vegetarian already and we had a 'yeah we know what's up' moment. 

But I like to eat out/travel/go to dinner parties
I'll be honest I struggle when I travel sometimes, but I've never gone without food it's just not always ideal or what I would eat at home. It can get a bit samey if you are staying in a hotel that has 3 veggie options and you are there for 2 weeks, but we look at the options before we book and what is near to the hotel if the options there are limited. If in doubt ask, they laid on food for me at hotels before when I mentioned that I was not going to be able eat in the hotel restaurant. Tanzania, Egypt, Dominican Republic and Turkey were the best places I've been for veggie choices (in and out of the hotels) so you are far from limited on how far you can travel! I had vegetarian meals all the way to the top of Kilimanjaro. In fact the worst place was the nearest on my surprise trip to Paris, we celebrated our engagement with pizza (perfect if you ask me) as no restaurants had an option and few understood what I meant despite me knowing I was saying it correctly...some of them were purposely being assholes if you ask me...I can speak some French and learn the phrases 'I am Vegetarian' 'Do you have an option without meat please?' and 'No meat?' as well as of course the most important '1 beer 1 white wine please thank you' in the local language before any trip.

Spain is ok, tapas always has some vegetarian options. America is hit and miss, either amazing and lovely vegan restaurants and shops...or nothing. Literally one cafe didn't understand what I was asking them when I asked for a menu item without meat (as there was no vegetarian option). I came back from honeymoon so so fat but most of it was just carb loading from living off of pizza, nachos, burgers and pancakes as these were the main options.

Eating out at home is better now, there is at least a vegetarian option in most UK restaurants, with more and more offering vegan choices too. Yes we do go to places we know have a good choice for me, but only once (In San Francisco not even in the UK) have I been to a restaurant where they could not accommodate me at all literally all the options had meat in them and they did not offer any help just let us leave. One place in the UK I left before ordering any food more due to being treated with woeful customer service, they had a (singular) vegetarian option I just didn't like it, and they refused to alter any other menu items for me or let me order off the lunch menu (It was about 3pm). It burnt down very shortly after and Tom still thinks it might have been me. 

Most family and friends are used to me being vegetarian so eating at other peoples houses doesn't seem to be an issue. We don't have many friends who throw dinner parties (as the title of the blog suggests we aren't really grown ups). However when we go to peoples for Sunday dinner, or pizza and a film or whatever I always offer to bring my own, and barbecues I always bring something but so does Tom anyway it's what you do. My close family and Toms family keep vegetarian stuff in their freezers mostly for Sunday dinners and barbecues anyway. I don't ask them to but it's lovely to see and really nice that someone has thought about you, although I still offer to bring something as I don't want people to be put out to accommodate me. Other than one Christmas dinner where Tom was supposed to get me to bring a nut roast, but he thought his dad meant he would get me a nut roast...and therefore nobody got a nut roast...I've never been forgotten or not been catered for. So cheers family!!

I'm hoping to get dairy free by the end of the year, so watch this space and I'll share my journey from long term vegetarian to newbie vegan - and my inevitable fails!