A little over a month ago, I was sitting in a bar on the tenth floor of a Berlin hotel. I had a rum and coke in one hand and a cigarette in the other and as I laughed and chatted with my boyfriend and two pals, I felt pretty contented. It’s been a pretty testing year so far: the graduate job hunt seemed like a series of defeats, I was turfed out of my shitty bar job and I’d been feeling that things were at a bit of a standstill. However as I sat on the bar’s 360-degree balcony, taking in the Berlin cityscape, I had a weird feeling that things were going to be OK. It might’ve been the half litre of wine I’d had (to myself) with dinner, the pre-gig anticipation or just the atmosphere, but bad luck can only last for so long. At the very least, I had another job to get me by, I was in my favourite place and I was in great company.

Exactly a week later I was back in Glasgow, standing in my flat, by myself, with a positive pregnancy test in my hand.

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So, with uni deadlines looming, a busted, virus-ridden laptop, a distinct lack of employment, it’s not been the hottest start to 2015 so far. I was humming, hawing and rebooting my laptop while watching Nick Broomfield’s new film (I know how to procrastinate well), thinking that since it’s March, surely the year is worth some quarterly review.

Obviously that was way more work that I was willing to put in when it’s howling with sleet and rain and there’s imaginary holidays to plan. Poking about with blog settings and figuring out how to work Bloglovin’ seemed like a much better idea.

Then I found an old post from a previous attempt at a blog, that I’m not sure why I actually gave up. Apparently not blogging, and making up excuses for not doing so, has been an ongoing habit. This post first featured in January 2014 and it’s still more relevant than I’d like it to be…

New Year, New Start. Or New Calendar, At Least.

It’s the end of the week but I’m all about the new. New year, new post, new attempt at telling myself I’m ‘totally going to keep up with blogging this year’. I said the same thing last year with scattered and infrequent results, and I’m in no way promising myself that I’ll follow up on it this year. But still, if you can’t kid yersel’ on in January, when can you…?

I always make New Year’s Resolutions and rarely actually make any progress with them. Or they’re so broad (‘totally get fit’) that any attempt at completing them is a vague win for progress (‘sign up for one class a week. In September’). In any case, I’m most definitely not alone, as less than 10% of us actually make good on our promises. So, what’s the problem?

Mine was always that my resolutions were vague and impersonal. The same ones everyone makes. Lose weight. Get fit. Learn to drive. Luv lyf. 2013 was… lackluster at best. I sorted out my love life, but the rest has a way to go. Still, I made some headway. I done some exercise. I got trainers for Christmas to support this. I passed my theory test. I got Instagram like all the other cool kids who eat food and wear clothes. Totally onwards and upwards, right?

I decided to actually put in some research this time. 2014 was going to be a good yin, and the internet was going to help me, because as everyone knows, nothing is official ’til it’s on the internet (scientists also support this theory, as does NASA, and most journalists). I had a look at the most popular resolutions, and had a wee think about how I could adapt them for myself. Make them more personalised. That way, I couldn’t fail, no…?

1. Appreciate others and, in turn, appreciate yourself.

That’s a song we can all dance to.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the internet, it’s that if I dislike or disagree with someone or something, it’s because I’m rotten with jealousy at this snarling, empty hole in my life which this person or opinion is fulfilling in their own. To try and generate empathy I’ve started wearing those celebrity masks you get out the Newsbox and walking around with a giant hashtag of my own name following me wherever I go. So far some One Direction fans have built a shanty town outside my house and my mum’s super pissed because she can’t get her car out the driveway for work in the morning. I tried to explain that I’m just putting myself in other people’s shoes.
2. Let go of your phobias and fears.
My biggest phobia isn’t dying alone, or failure, or never spawning potential bone marrow donors. I don’t like cows. When I was a child I playfully clambered onto a country fence and mooed at some cows residing in a field. The cow mooed back right in my face and I fell off said fence, seriously winding myself and embarking on a lifelong fear of the bovine. It was also my first day of school, so the whole experience made me hate school too. It’s also a tiny reason why I became vegetarian.* I’m hardly going to start eating meat again, so I’ll have to focus on eliminating my fear of looking foolish in public instead. I could overcome this by mooing at some cows and nail two birds with one stone, but I don’t want to progress too much, too fast.
*This isn’t even any word of a lie. It’s a true story. Ask my parents.
3. Dance like no one is watching.
 
Whenever I hear someone say “I dance like no one is watching”, I don’t imagine them swooshing their hair in rhythm to that song from Hair, holding hands with a commune of other happy, dancing, free spirits. I imagine them furtively drawing all their curtains, pumping up the Q Lazarus and jerking around awkwardly wearing their next door neighbour’s scalp. This is perhaps one to take under advisement, because the thought of touching other people’s hair gives me the boak.
In saying that, people have worn less on nights out and gotten away with it. Hmm.
 
4. Ditch the car and fit in more exercise!
This one seems to be pretty popular in that it’s often cited as the easiest way to squeeze exercise into your busy, busy, busy lifestyle. Everyone seems to have one these days, amiright? I for one just don’t know how I’m supposed to find the time for exercise in between The Real Housewives of New York and their counterparts in Beverly Hills.
This one also angered me because it felt like it was actively trying to mock me. I walk pretty much everywhere that doesn’t require transport. Also, I was so successful on my first attempt at a driving test that they want me to go and do it again. I then realised it was myanger that was holding me back. This is the year of letting go, I thought to myself. Instead, I would face the elements with a smile, rain lashing my face and ruining any attempts I’d made at taming my hair or hiding hormonal face breakouts, and grin like a sweet natured simpleton at all the fools with cars then can afford to run because they have jobs, as they roll their way to an early grave. And a double wide coffin. Joke’s on you!
5. Go after your dream job and stop living to work.
I don’t live to work. I would very much like to. I like to think of myself as a professional interview attendee. I’ve gotten quite good at it. I’d like to go after that big promotion, which in this case means actually getting past interview stage. There’s apparently an economic upturn, from here on it’s going to be like the old glory days, when recent graduates walked into CEO positions and blew their noses with £50 notes and tramps and aristocrats discussed their favourite caviar because everyone was equal and better off.
That being said, maybe I shouldn’t wait for the opportunity to come to me. Maybe I should just make it happen myself, become a self employed business type. I watch alot of films and frequently binge on TV shows, mostly once their popularity has waned (I’m only just feeling the horrific loss of the Firefly crew). I could become a professional lamenter, telling people how much better things were back in the day. Or I could take a tip from Breaking Bad and start punting drugs. I live near several schools and underpasses, so it’d be easy money. By this time next year I might even have my own caravan!*
I also own a hat like this and it makes me look both super professional AND #ootd cute.
*I may be missing the point of Breaking Bad, I’ve only ever seen half an episode, and it was the second one.
I felt like 5 was a decent number to round up on. Making ten resolutions seems a little far-reaching at this moment in time. Baby steps. Don’t run before you can walk. Make small changes and the big changes will happen themselves. You get the jist. By next Hogmanay, I’ll be such a new and improved specimen that resolutions will be a daily occurrence, I’ll be a walking good deed and a powerhouse of physical and mental strength. I will be actualised ambition in human form. And I’ll have done it all without once resolving to quit smoking. SUCCESS!

We had a pretty expensive time of it during April and May: a whole host of gigs came up within weeks of one another, and we ended up averaging about two a week.

I kept meaning to go and do a proper food shop during the month, but funds just kept getting diverted elsewhere. When June rolled around, it was a relief. Some time off from social engagements. But what to do with the time?

It’s good for the soul, every now and then, to do a little exploring further afield. To step out of your comfort zone and take in some culture. Saturday was mostly spent in a post-wine haze (although after braving a Tesco trip, I rustled up a damn fine vegan hangover breakfast). It was teeming down with rain and we had dog-sitting to do, so we decided Sunday would be our day for action.

This wee face demanded full attention, rain be damned. Except when he wanted to go walkies. In the rain.

This wee face demanded full attention, rain be damned. Except when he wanted to go walkies. In the rain.

Rather than stick to the city centre, we ventured west for the West End Festival parade. It rained on and off, but it certainly didn’t deter the swarms. It hit us as soon as we stepped off of the underground, and a romantic stroll down sunny Byres Road was a fool’s errand. Weans with balloons and street performers stretched as far as the eye could see. The smell of food from street stalls hung in the air, but sadly nothing vegan-shaped crossed my path.

Took some selfless, bought some comics and blu-rays, probably missed the point of the festival.

Took some selfies, decided we hated crowds, bought some comics and blu-rays and probably missed the point of the festival.

After ducking into Fopp and City Centre Comics to escape the crowd, we headed to Brew Dog. It wasn’t, as we thought, far enough from the main drag to be quiet. A quick glance at the menu revealed a hefty vegan haul (all of their side dishes, plus at least one main), which will definitely be due further investigation once festival madness has dwindled.

Et tu, Brew Dog. We'll see you on payday.

Et tu, Brew Dog. We’ll see you on payday.

We made our way back to the city centre relatively unscathed, and conveniently found ourselves feeling hungry within strolling distance of Stereo. It always comes up whenever ‘vegan scran’ is mentioned, unsurprising given that it’s still not that big of a market. However, I’d only been in once for food (their Monday Sharing Platter tapas deal is pretty epic), and Ally is decidedly un-vegan.

I had my work cut out for me. We’d went to Tchai Ovna a few months before, and as much as I love it, the falafel-to-salad ratio left us still feeling hungry. And quite a bit poorer.  I sold Stereo on it being cheap, cheerful, plentiful (again, my opinion was based on hunners of tapas so it was a risk) and, more importantly, close by.

Stereo was probably the quietest I’ve ever seen it- usually it’s a struggle to get a table- and we got seated right away. I was intrigued by the special of vegan black pudding, but not enough to try it. What would vegan black pudding be? Burnt vegetable bits from the bottom of the oven? Answers on a postcard please… we both settled for the safe option of falafel. It’s the one vegan option that most carnivores can happily settle for, and one you can’t really get too badly wrong.

The falafel sandwich, with added chips, works out to a mere £6.50– not too shabby. It also comes with a healthy smear of houmous and a side salad that was actually tasty, rather than just a limp sprinkle of leaves. The real test of any place, however, is the chips. Nothing lets down a decent scran like tasteless, frozen chips- and these did not let me down. They were proper home-made efforts, a little bit burnt in some bits and perfectly fluffy inside. Just like my nan makes. Well done, Stereo.

There was a slight mix up with our order- when our waiter brought it over, he was chased by a barmaid who needed some convincing that they weren’t for another table. I’ve had the same problem when working in hospitality, but mostly during busy shifts. I’ll chalk it up to being Sunday. Sunday shifts are the utter worst. We also only got one teeny pot of ketchup between two of us- for a sauce fiend like me, this involved some serious rationing. What’s wrong with a full bottle- or at least, a bigger ramekin?

Lack of sauce aside, it was pretty damn tasty and filled us up without feeling overly stuffed.  I finished mine off in no time, and was amazed to see that the boy had left all but the crispy, skelfy end chips too (which, conveniently, are my favourites. Success all round).

Both full, we headed homewards to dive into our comic book and blu-ray haul. After all it had been a pretty long day, and we’d managed to achieve what we set out to do. It’s good to get out of the comfort zone, but sometimes it’s just as good to dive back in.

The best thing about sick days as a child was comfort food. Not junk food, but stodgy nutrition to get me through the worst of whatever ailment was afflicting me that month (I got colds alot, as well as several nasty bouts of tonsilitis). Even as recently as last year, when I went through seemingly endless rounds of dental trauma, I wanted nothing more than Heinz tomato soup and sugary tea.

My favourite sick day comfort food though, was scrambled eggs. There was just something about it that made me instantly feel better. As much as I tried to avoid being an emotional eater, there was something about ill health that dragged me back into the habit. I hadn’t been feeling well recently- a combination of busy work times, being wiped out with a flu bug, a blocked ear, sinus problems and a late night trip to A&E. I’d also put my back out by over-exerting myself in exercise class and was generally feeling a bit bleurgh.

Sick days aren’t a luxury I can afford to take though: my current job contract is full time but temporary, and there are alot of big projects coming up that I’m taking part in. I needed something comforting, healthy and easy to make. I’d managed to make a decent attempt at roasted sweet potatoes and with mashed lentils and chickpeas- a combination which only took me about half an hour- but I wanted my sick day comfort food.

I made this in half an hour and had even less time to eat it, hence the shoddy picture. Trust me, it was pretty sweet.

I’d read countless recipes for scrambled tofu, but admittedly I was a little sceptical. Cutting it into chunks and chucking it in a pan was easy enough. But I’d made scrambled eggs so often that I wasn’t sure how adapting the technique to something else would fare. As it turns out, it wasn’t any more difficult than using eggs and was all the more delicious for it. I also swapped buttery white toast for something a little more nutritious and tossed a load of vegetables in for good measure.

Alot of recipes were pretty fancy, but I wanted to stick to the basics. I figure if I get good at making vegan versions of current favourite recipes, I can afford to start experimenting further down the line. But for now I’m keeping it simple. I was also pretty hungry when I made it so I didn’t want much fuss- I just wanted it in my face.

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Scrambled Tofu with Veggies and Mashed Avocado

  • 1 block of Cauldron Original Tofu
  • 1 wholegrain rye bagel
  • Houmous (hummus?)- any kind will do but I used plain with sun dried tomatoes because, umm, it was £1.
  • 1 avocado
  • 1/2 a red pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 an onion, chopped
  • A handful of chestnut mushrooms, sliced up
  • A generous glug of oil
  • A decent shoogle of spices: I used turmeric and paprika

Drain and press the tofu according to packet instructions. While it’s drying out, mash the avocado in a bowl with some salt, pepper and paprika.

Heat the oil in a pan and sautee the mushrooms, onion and pepper for a couple of minutes until they’re soft.

Once the tofu is pressed, crumble it into the pan along with the veggies and give it a right good stir, whisking it like you would scrambled eggs. Add in the turmeric and a little salt and pepper and leave it for about 8-10 minutes until it’s cooked through. Stir it every now and then to stir the oil and spices through it.

Toast the bagel and smear it with the houmous. Tip the tofu out and top it with the mashed avocado. BOOM- a mere 15-20 minutes and you’ve got a nutritious, vegetable and protein packed version of an old dairy favourite. Eat it right away because cold scrambled anything is gross.

I was really happy with the results- the tofu was nice and firm, and even when scrambled it held its texture better than regular ol’ eggs. You’d never even notice the difference.

In the (nearly) four weeks since taking on the vegan challenge, I’ve went out for food once. Last Thursday, as a stop-gap between Wicked and Courtney Love, the boy and I dropped by Rufus T’s for a quick somethin’ to keep us going. More vital fuel than anything else. I hadn’t actually went out somewhere for a proper meal. It’s not something I tend to do alot- mostly for financial reasons, really. However, it’s a different story when a) I’ve had enough rosé the night before to make me starving hungry but not hungover, and b) I’m out with my mum.

We’d ventured over to Braehead for a trawl around the shops, and I hadn’t given much thought to foodstuff. After an hour in M&S while my mum decided what to spend loyalty vouchers on, I’d definitely worked up an appetite. My experience of eating in Braehead was pretty limited: usually we’d head up to Fat Jackets, which is usually a good option but was rammed. On our last visit we went to The Filling Station, which despite my reservations was surprisingly OK, but I wasn’t sure they’d have many vegan options.

The layout of the three restaurants on the ground floor is pretty smooshed together, so we ended up wandering towards The Handmade Burger Co by default. A quick glance at their menu told me all I needed to know: they had not one, but SEVEN vegetarian and vegan options. When your choices are usually split between ‘bean burger’ and ‘spicy bean burger’, this is akin to a religious awakening.

What’s more, the menu informed me that all of their burgers were made freshly to order every day. My mum said she’d had a veggie option at their Silverburn restaurant and had no complaints. All good points, then! I opted for the sweet potato burger with mango salsa- be warned, it comes with mayonnaise, so just ask them to haud it for a dairy free alternative.

I have a bit of a gripe with places that offer burgers for over a a fiver without the addition of chips. However, Handmade Burger Co offer a smaller portions menu (which my mum opted for) and we put aside our grumbles to get cajun spiced chips on the side. Any misgivings were forgiven when the food came- these were proper chips, fat chips with the skins on. I’m not the biggest fan of French fries, despite a penchant for the crispy end bits of a bag of chippy chips. These were no such thing. Properly spiced, even I found them a bit nippy- good job, HBC, good job.

I tried getting a shot of my mum's to, just to be fair, but mine pretty much dominated.

I tried getting a shot of my mum’s too, just to be fair, but mine pretty much dominated.

As for the main attraction, it was quite a beast. Many a time I’ve ordered what’s described as a ‘burger’ only to be handed a roll and Portobello mushroom *cough, cough* Lebowskis *cough, cough*. No such problems here. The sourdough bun was pretty massive, as were its contents. There wasn’t much of a garnish- the usual lettuce, onion and tomato- but I think anything else might have infringed on the flavours.

Crispy on the outside, and full of smooshy sweet potato-y goodness on the inside, this was pretty damn close to perfect. The mango salsa was delicious too, although I’d have preferred a little more. I’m a sauce fiend though so I won’t hold it against them- it’s rare that anywhere seasons food enough for my liking without me having to personalise it further (although I do try and taste it first in case I’m being unfair). When I put tomato sauce on my chips, it looks like a crime scene. Like tomato soup with chip croutons. You get the idea.

The only change I would’ve made was that it needed a wee kick. Mango and sweet potato equals alot of gooey sweetness. Thankfully, in place of the usual ketchup and mayonnaise, they had Tabasco and green jalapeno sauces on the table. I opted for the latter, which did the trick.

A cross examination revealed it to be full of gooey deliciousness.

A cross examination revealed it to be full of gooey deliciousness.

The real winner was that it didn’t fall to pieces when I attempted to eat it. I can never eat a burger whole- I’ve taken many a hit for having to cut them in half- and usually after one bite you’re left with a handful of sauce and veg that’s shot out of the roll upon impact. This stood up to even my oddly specific method of burger eating (cut in half, bottom of the roll, burger, top half, chips, repeat for other half) and the size was enough that I felt full without bursting.

Despite my non-meaty leanings, I was also impressed that my mum’s chicken burger was an actual chicken breast and not some mushed up, battered fillet padded out with God knows what. Good show all round! I was really impressed by the range and quality of veggie burgers, and I’ve got my eye on a return visit to road test their quinoa effort.

I’ve had my fair share of restaurant veggie burgers and can honestly say this was up there with the tastiest and most filling- pretty much as far removed from a roll ‘n mushroom as I could’ve hoped for. As we were sitting waiting to be served, the restaurant got busier and there was actually a queue of hungry shoppers waiting to be seating- always encouraging to see when you’re trying somewhere for the first time!

My only gripe? I really don’t know when I’ll next have an excuse to go to Braehead. In saying that, there’s a branch of Buddy’s opening in Cumbernauld soon so who knows- we could be coming up in the world. Maybe we’ll get a Handmade Burger Co of our own. Hint, hint…