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!

When I first started this blog, I threw myself into it much in the same way as I did veganism: headfirst and with aplomb. I was super smug with myself when I posted more than one article per week. Even though I was working full time, I still found time to write. Armed with determination, I was convinced I wouldn’t abandon this blog like I had so many others.

Cut to a few months later and… yeah. Not so frequent with the blogging. To be fair, alot’s changed in that time. I had planned on writing a big catch up post, but sitting thinking about how much has happened is giving me crampy fingers already.

I’ve started a new job, which is pretty sweet. I spent alot of last year ‘in between jobs’, and when I did work it was in sound production. I really didn’t enjoy it, and dreamed of doing something more… well, I hate to lazily toss in ‘creative’, but yeah. I was lucky that my current job started a mere week after my last one, so I had a cheeky week of downtime then it was back to it again. Since my work is in the back of beyond, in deepest Ayrshire. I’m now a car owner- it only took me six months after passing my test…!

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My other big change was getting accepted into uni. My last course didn’t qualify me for much apart from working in technical film production, so after months of endless failed applications I figured I would give education another bash. As of next week I’ll be studying for the MA Creative and Cultural Business at Glasgow Caledonian uni and, even better, I can still work around it.

Since losing our old dog Eddie last year, the house has been a bit empty. Without the sound of tippy tappy feet creeping about looking for cuddles and treats it just felt like there was a huge void. Not anymore! We adopted another lhasa apso in the form of Lemmy, and he’s settled in like he’s always been here. There’s something about having a pet that brings so much happiness and energy to a house. Plus, they’re pretty much the best little confidantes.

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Blogging has been great for getting into writing again, and so have my posts for Scotcampus. However, my dreams of being an actual, publish writer were actualised with the creation of IN BLOOM- a creative snapshot of youth culture in Glasgow and beyond. It’s quite surreal seeing my name in real, physical print. I’ve been showing off my copy to anyone who’ll listen- I’ve never spellchecked anything so thoroughly in my life and I’m actually pretty proud of it. You can support local culture and read more about it here!

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May or may not have signed a copy at the SWG3 launch party and left it lying. Clue: may have.

Last month the boy and I also went to see a pretty awesome/heartbreaking piece of film at favourite vegan haunt, Stereo. The Ghosts in Our Machine documents photographer Jo-Ann McArthur and her gut-wrenching journey as she exposes the animal face behind the food and entertainment industries. It was a pretty difficult watch, but not as in-your-face traumatic as alot of animal rights films. There are plenty of beautiful scenes as Joanne visits a friend who runs a farm sanctuary, rescuing animals deemed unfit for ‘purpose’ and giving them a chance at a life. If you’ve never seen an animal rights film, this is a really great, accessible start.

 Stereo also put on a free buffet, which was pretty amazing. I’ve never seen people dive upon a table of food so fast- well seeing we’re never really given that much of an option!

There was also a really engaging Q&A afterwards with director Liz Marshall, which made the film's impact more hard hitting and tangible.

There was also a really engaging Q&A afterwards with director Liz Marshall, which made the film’s impact more hard hitting and tangible.

Sooo… I think that’s me pretty much caught up (on everything that I can remember for now, anyway!). In between everything else I’ve also been cooking ALOT. The beauty of my work being pretty far out from anything convenient means that I’m making more of an effort to make proper dinners and take leftovers for lunch. I’ve also been working hard to perfect the recipe for vegan macaroni cheese. It’s been a hard slog  delicious mission so far and I reckon I’ve just about cracked it. Now I’m all about tarting it up- after all, the best part of mastering a basic recipe is breaking the rules and chucking in whatever takes your fancy. Especially now we’re fast approaching autumn- my FAVOURITE season. Perfect time for stodgy comfort food to keep out the chill!

I’ve got into full on rambling mode now, so I’ll wrap it up here. Here’s some foodie type pictures, because they’ve been clogging up my phone and I need to delete them so I can refill it with doggy photo spam. If I can remember the recipes, I’ll post them soon. And definitely not leave it so long in between blogs again!

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SO THESE ARE THE GREATEST THINGS EVER, EVEEERRR.

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Chipotle and chickpea falafel bean and bean stew- my post-car buying celebratory dinner. Daaaaayum.

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Got in from work one random weekday evening and there was nothing to put on my toast, so I made some houmous. Because why not.

I first started this blog as a way of keeping myself on the right track. Mostly because I know myself too well: if something isn’t written down, or organised in list form, I will fall apart like a bad sandwich.

Back in February, I left my diary on the train and had absolutely no idea where I was supposed to be and when. Thankfully balance was restored when some kind soul handed it in to Stirling train station- whoever it was has no idea how much they actually saved my brain for meltdown.

So, as you can imagine, taking on an entire lifestyle change was going to need some kind of documentation- for no other reason than to remember why I was doing it (and that I was actually doing it in the first place). I posted my blog on Twitter, as is the done thing these days- but given that I didn’t use it quite as much as other platforms, I didn’t have any aspirations for it.

Since then, the response has been pretty amazing. I’ve connected with loads of similarly minded people, not just online but locally too. Local bloggers are always great because they have insider tips, know about places you haven’t discovered and it’s a really great wee support network to have.

Still, I could never have expected that my wee blog would end up on a local news site! A Twitter alert from the Glasvegans profile informed me that my review of the Handmade Burger Co. had got a mention on the STV Glasgow page. The page offers a daily, live rundown of everything happening in Glasgow from restaurant openings, events, pubs, clubs and everything in between, and even just being a tiny part of that was pretty cool- thanks for the mention, guys! Put me in a right good mood in time for Nine Inch Nails at the Hydro.

The whole two pictures I took came out blurry and terrible, but if you’re at a NIN gig and concerned with taking pictures, you don’t deserve to be there.

When you’re adjusting to a big lifestyle change, it can seem really daunting. It’s not as simple as just cutting something out: when I first went vegetarian at 16, I didn’t eat vegetables, I just… didn’t eat meat. Pasta, chips, rolls and potato scone- I convinced myself that because it wasn’t meaty, it was fine. Then got confused over why I had actually put on weight…

Taking on a vegan diet has been a huge adaptation- even for someone like me who didn’t eat much dairy in the first place. Most of your evenings seem to be taken up either buying fresh food or cooking it (often both). Take it from me: it does get easier. If you’ve got a good support network around you it’s relatively painless.After a while it just seems like a natural part of the routine.

However, it’s hard being pious all the time, and I would’ve found the transition much harder if I couldn’t still have the odd treat. Here are my top five accidentally vegan junk foods that have got me through a none-too-easy month…

  1. Oreos

Finding out that Oreos are safe is like Vegan 101. It’s the one thing everyone knows, and they can’t wait to tell you.

“You’re vegan? Did you know Oreos are vegan?”

Well, if I didn’t, I certainly do now. And if that’s the case, double stuff Oreos must be doubly vegan. I’ve tested this theory under contained scientific conditions (i.e. not sharing) and can confirm the results are delicious.

It even made up for the non-vegan white fudge coated efforts that we picked up in an American candy store, for an exorbitant fee. I usually avoid American candy- no ingredients list should be that long- but after my first motorway drive, I felt they were earned. Ah, well. More double stuffs for me!

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For the full effect, I can only ever have it in my Hello Kitty water bottle. Because adult.

  1. Hello Kitty Chocolate Milkshake

I actually picked this up a while ago, before embarking upon the road of all things vegan. It was my boyfriend’s 30th and I picked it up as a post-party hangover treat. It worked wonders. I was never a fan of the super-artificial tasting Nesquik, so I’m always a bit sceptical of milkshake powders. Basically my logic was no Frijj, no dice.

The Hello Kitty powder is suitable for coeliacs, therefore dairy free, and it lasts for aaaages… unless you have one as a night time treat, every night, like I did. I’ve seen a lot of legitimately nutritious recipes involving cocoa powder and for Kitty’s sake I’m determined to try at least one in the near future.

  1. Lindt 70% Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate is usually on the Safe List as long as it’s got a high percentage of cocoa. There’s still always an opportunity for error- as I found out after eating a bar of their Blueberry Intense– but the regular, no fancy additions chocolate is safe.

The higher the percentage, the more bitter it is too, which makes it harder to eat a huge amount. Always good when the bars are relatively small but still packed full of calories… I managed to make mine last a couple of days, and that was including work and gym visits. Which totally justified eating another wee amount afterwards, and another wee amount after that.

  1. Tyrell’s Vegetable Crisps

My former crisp of choice was Walkers’ Sensations, particularly the Thai Sweet Chilli variety. I always erred on the side of caution with them, though: their poppadoms contain pork powder and the thyme roasted chicken ones have chicken powder in ‘em. The Thai Sweet Chilli ones don’t have any nasty meaty bits, but they do contain milk.

In earnest, I began searching for a new crisp, and found vegetable ones. They’re slightly salted, which usually equals boring, right? Nuh uh. They contain a mix of beetroot, parsnip and sweet potato crisps meaning they’re naturally full of flavour. A word of warning, though- eat them alone. Any attempts to lick the bottom of the bag may result in an unsightly purple face. Damned beetroots.

  1. Starburst

For years, I assumed that all chewy sweets were the enemy. Haribo were out, as were the occasional treat of M&S Percy Pigs (in a cruel and ironic twist, they contain pork gelatine). M&S upped their game with Veggie Percy Pigs which, for my money, were every bit as tasty as their meaty counterparts. However they contain beeswax which sadly isn’t vegan friendly- you can’t win ‘em all, I guess.

After an uninspiring trip to the chocolate aisle, I couldn’t find anything I wanted and in a fit of frustration, picked up Starburst. I fully expected them to contain some form of by-product, but my keen eye for ingredients couldn’t pick one up. Then I saw the three golden words- ‘suitable for vegetarians’. After mining through a wealth of internet forums I found that they’re not only suitable for vegetarians, but vegans too. Starburst, you and I have A LOT of catching up to do.

I hate saying that I’ve ‘been too busy’ to do anything. It always comes across as self-important. However, I’ve been kept steadily busy this past week with various gigs and things, that I’ve had little turnaround time in between.

May has been utterly ridiculous with the amount of events that are going on around Glasgow: I’ve already been to see The Libertine at the Citizen’s Theatre, Clutch at the ABC and yesterday had a double bill: the matinee of Wicked at the King’s Theatre, followed by Courtney Love at night time. Not including full time work and other life ‘hings in between.

 

 

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I feel like I’ve been a bit of a fraud this week as I haven’t given much thought to cooking anything- aside from my avocado cheese pasta concoction, that is. I’ve been mostly running off of soup, toast and other easy-to-throw-together things. We did pretty well with our fruit haul at the weekend, which obviously meant I could have something chocolatey. Unfortunately, vegan chocolate is… well, it doesn’t really taste like chocolate at all. Unless you mean the cooking variety. Lindt 70% has been an utter hero in such times of confectionary crisis and womanly woe.

The plan yesterday was to go and get a nice dinner somewhere, and explore Glasgow’s many veggie-friendly options but we didn’t have much turnaround time in between shows. We decided a beer ‘n burger deal was our safest, and quickest, bet and stopped by Rufus T’s. After getting shafted over £7 for theatre wine, I was in the mood for something cheap and cheerful, and wasn’t disappointed. Making my veggie melt sandwich vegan was as easy as saying “hold the cheese”. Almost feels like a cheat, really…

I feel like I need a total kitchen restock in order to start getting into cooking properly again. Sadly mid-month, especially one which is so event heavy, is never an easy time for that. Handily I got an Amazon bargain in the form of the The Daily Vegan Planner. It’s a 12-week, day by day journal, which allows you to keep track of what you made and ate, and also how you felt about it. It seems like a really good way of staying on track, and marking any changes in health or whatnot. It’s also got a tonne of recipes and a list of about 250 vegan friendly foodstuffs… seems fairly foolproof to me!

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It’s a good thing to invest in, as well as the other books and downloaded recipes I’ve collected so far: one thing I’ve learned quickly is the importance of variety. I never thought I would say this, but I think I’m actually getting bored of soup…! Or if not bored of it, then definitely looking to out it on hiatus for a while. I always thought the third week would be pretty hard going, and I wasn’t wrong: the first week’s shiny new-ness is over, week two of casually finding my stride is done with. Unfortunately for me I’ve got half a pot of the spicy sweet potato soup taking up space in my already tiny freezer… guess I’ll be putting that hiatus on hold for a while first.

Still, the best thing to do is keep going, and not allow myself to get lazy. If I do, I’m worried that soup and I may just part ways for good.

It might be drawing closer to summer time, but Scotland operates on its own weather system. We can be basking in glorious sunshine of a lunchtime, and by home time be marching at an angle against a torrent of rain.

When it is actually nice outside, eating habits change too. Apart from a year-round soup obsession, I don’t like eating anything hot ‘n heavy when it’s warm. Chocolate is out the window too- seriously, is there anything worse than warm, slightly melty chocolate? Blarg.

I figured that since I’ve been getting into the spirit of trying new things that I should update seasonally. If it’s not macaroni weather I need to adapt to survive. After a recent shopping trip, the boy and I returned with a bag full of mango, melon, raspberries and strawberries, all in season and entirely delicious.

(If we sound like a pair of smug dicks, let me assure you: this is only a very recent occurrence). There really is a marked difference in buying fresh produce seasonally: there’s something weird and perverse about buying strawberries at any other time of year. I’d also picked up vegan onion and black pepper cream cheese, and I was determined to use it in EVERYTHING.

I came up with a really quick and easy comfort food, because as usual I couldn’t be bothered cooking. I spread the cream cheese on rye toast and topped it with some mashed avocado and cherry tomatoes, which I seasoned with cayenne pepper and paprika. I couldn’t get it in my face fast enough, and alas, it was gone too soon.

After this I wondered what else I could work cream cheese into. I had a notion for something pasta-y, and the most popular seasonal recipe I found was pasta primavera (I remembered enough of my Standard Grade Italian to know why this was suddenly popular. And who says you forget everything after school?).

Some recipes just involved pasta and green vegetables. As per, I didn’t have all of the ingredients to hand so just adapted it and swapped out some things for others. There were other recipes for a creamy version involving cheese, which I opted for in lieu of having asparagus or soya beans handy.

I’ve been trying hard to try new things but when taking on a big change, some degree of familiarity is nice. The recipe itself is a change for me: macaroni aside, I’ve never been a fan of creamy sauces. To me you can’t go wrong with a tomato-based sauce. Cheese and white sauces always seemed like more work. But since I’m out of my comfort zone as it is, I thought I’d give it a try…

It's pretty hard to take a decent picture of food this colour...

It’s pretty hard to take a decent picture of food this colour…

  • 150g pasta (I used gluten free conchiglie, because it was the only gluten free one I could find in Tesco’s )
  • 1 or 2 ripe avocado, mashed
  • A few scoops of vegan cream cheese (mine was onion and black pepper to give it some much needed flavouring)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • ½ red pepper deseeded and chopped
  • Meat free chicken (about 70g is enough, I have no idea how much I used since I dumped in what was left of the bag)
  • 2 tsps Very Lazy Smoked Garlic
  • A wee glug of olive oil
  • Some grated smoked vegan cheese
  • 1 spring onion, chopped

Boil the pasta as per the packet instructions. Gluten free takes a little longer so you have some time to play with.

In the meantime, chop the onion and pepper. Heat the oil, add the ‘chicken’ and one tsp of garlic. After about 2-3 minutes, add the onion, pepper and remaining garlic. Most recipes call for garlic gloves, but I like the smoked taste of this one. And also don’t have a garlic crusher. Ever tried doing it by hand? They smell rank afterwards and you never get it chopped up small enough.

Fry up the veg and chicken until soft. Mash the cream cheese in with the avocado and season well. I also added some cayenne pepper, to add some edge to the creaminess. When the veg and chicken are nearly done, scatter in the smoked cheese and stir until melted.

Once your pasta’s ready, chuck it all together and mix it over a low heat. I also sprinkled some raw spring onion through it once it was cooked, just to make it a wee bit crunchy.

The results? This was a pretty easy recipe, although in hindsight I would’ve made some changes. I used two avocadoes as they were both on the turn and I had to cut bits out. I reckon one might have been enough. I’d have added some more fresh chillies too, or at the very least more pepper.

There are more traditional recipes for pasta primavera that don’t involve cream cheese, and I’d be inclined to just ditch it altogether to make the final result a little lighter. However, it was a nice wee filler and a change from my usual. I also think I’m starting to find uses for the vegan smoked cheese!