Wednesday, 30 December 2015

2016 Hopes & Goals


As we approach the end of 2015 I think it's natural to experience a period of reflection whereupon we may think about how this year went for us and what we would like to achieve within the next year. 

I feel extremely on the fence this year when it comes to new years resolutions. On the one hand I think they can be extremely motivating and the whole idea of a new year and a new you can seem really appealing, particularly if you've had a difficult year or have a list of things you'd like to change or improve on. A new year does mark a new beginning and an opportunity to put the past behind us and move on from things that may have been holding us back. I totally get why a lot us wait until the new year to make some important life changes. It's like you can plan ahead for the next year and spend more time envisioning where you want to be whilst allowing yourself mentally to come to terms with the whole idea. 



I do believe that a lot of this comes down to being in a certain frame of mind and embracing thinking positively. I saw an inspirational quote a few weeks ago which said 'the best time for new beginnings is now' which I totally agree with. I'm sure we've all been in the situation where we've put the diet off until Monday because the beginning of a new week feels like a fresh start. When in fact it would probably be more beneficial all round to just start the diet now! But for some reason that can feel like a far less achievable target. 


I keep hearing the phrase 'it's just another day' lately and the logical side of me couldn't agree more. It is just another day and the only thing that changes in reality is the date. The emotional side of me will think differently though and as much as I would like to make some changes right here and right now I know that deep down I am someone who generally achieves more if I plan, prepare and phsych myself up. I'll admit that I do need that little bit of extra motivation to set my mind to something and get my arse into gear!


But am I just setting myself up to fail? I'm sure I wouldn't be alone in admitting that a lot of new years resolutions have been broken in the past and the levels of high motivation have only lasted a few weeks. But maybe that's just me!? I'm sure the levels of pressure and expectation we voluntarily place upon ourselves at this time of year isn't always healthy for our bodies or mind. Then again, maybe if you truly believe you can achieve something then you will.   


I mentioned in my last post that 2015 has been a real mixed bag for me. I have had some really amazing highs and I have been fortunate enough to travel to some beautiful places. My blog and following have gone from strength to strength and I'm feeling really proud of everything that I have achieved. My blog has also allowed me to make some amazing new friends in my area which has been a total surprise but one that I welcome. I really do feel like I have a great community of people around me at me moment and it's refreshing to feel so appreciated and supported.  
  
On the downside i've experienced big changes in my career which has left me feeling really uncertain about my future. I've reached a stage where I have no idea what I want to do outside of writing and photography. I know that i'd like to do something rewarding and ideally within an animal environment but i've yet to find the right opportunity. I've also experienced a lot of stress and consequently my anxiety levels have risen again which has been hard to deal with and made life feel like a real challenge at times. I think when you're in your twenties you imagine to have life completely worked out by the time you reach your thirties but it would appear that I still have a little way to go!


So what are my hopes for 2016? To be honest I think i've decided that the best way forward to is to set some small and achievable goals rather than one huge challenge. I also want to incorporate things that I actually want to do and can look forward to. I think life is a constant learning curve and i'm always striving to improve upon things and better myself in any way that I can but it's still worthwhile to have some targets in mind and something to aim towards. 

It's taken quite a lot of thought to come up with this list but i've actually enjoyed the process and  I've even found it to be quite a therapeutic process. So here goes....

  • Spend some time volunteering with animals
  • Continue to work on having body confidence through a healthy diet & exercise
  • Visit one new country and one new city
  • Sign myself up for a course where I can learn something new
  • Invest in a decent DSLR camera and improve my photography skills
  • Work on managing my anxiety levels better
  • Grow my blog and social media following
  • Dedicate one day a week to myself and self care
  • Finish my crochet throw (80 granny squares to go!)
  • Spend less time online and more time reading 

I'd like to wish you all a Happy New Year and I hope 2016 is filled with lots of fun, laughter and happiness for all of us. Whatever your hopes and goals are for next year remember to be kind to yourself and others around you! And what ever you have planned this NYE I hope you have a great night and wake up on the 1st feeling ready to take on 2016. 

What are your hopes and goals for next year? I'd love to hear!  
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Tuesday, 29 December 2015

December Life


I'm sure for most of you reading this December was probably a pretty hectic month but for me December is the one month of the year where everything seems to happen all at once. Not only is it Christmas but it's also my birthday, my best friends birthday and the anniversary of when I met my husband. To say i've been busy would be an understatement! 
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Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Living Naturally Ayurvedic Herbal Hair Mask


I've been aware of the Living Naturally brand for some time now having been introduced to their products through my Vegan Kind subscription box and at various vegan events such as VegFest. I have in the past tried their soapnut shampoo & conditioner and their soapnut shells for my laundry, all of which are great products. So when The Vegan Lifestyle Association got in touch with me and asked me to review their Ayurvedic Herbal Powder Hair Mask I was excited to take part and get to know this brand a little better. 
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Friday, 18 December 2015

Lucky Dip Club ~ Cats & Cocktails

This months Lucky Dip Club box has been my favourite of the year so far with it's 'Cats & Cocktails' theme. Anyone who reads this blog or follows me on social media will know that I am a little obsessed with cats and i'm frequently buying cat related accessories. So this box really couldn't have been any more perfect for me! 
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Wednesday, 16 December 2015

My Favourite Things About Christmas


With Christmas being just over a week away now I thought it would be fun to share with you some of my personal favourite things about the festive season!  

All of my presents have been bought and wrapped, all my cards are wrote and ready to go and all my plans are in order. So what better time to sit back and reflect on what it is that I love about this time of year...

1. Vegan mince pies. I can't get enough of them. Especially warmed up with some Swedish Glace ice cream. Yummy! 

2. Internet Christmas radio stations. As soon as it hits December it's goodbye to my usual Global Ibiza Radio and hello 'Jingle Bells'! 

3. Christmas Trees. Especially their smell! I get so excited about our tree going up and having the living room transform into a cosy winter wonderland.

4. Nut roasts. I'm not a big lover of roast dinners, and I only tend to eat them once the weather starts to get cold, but my favourite part has to be the nut roast! They're so tasty with some cranberry sauce and all the trimmings. I really don't miss turkey at all! 

5. Giving. It sounds really cheesy but I genuinely love giving to those around me and it makes me happy buying others presents, especially when you see their faces light up when they open them. 

6. Christmas crafting. This is the first year i've really got into making some handmade decorations and I've loved it. 

7. Spending time with people. It seems like an obvious one but it's definitely what this time of year is all about. It's the people that make it and not the presents.

8. London. Christmas just isn't the same for me without a visit to the big smoke!

9. Eastenders. It's the only soap I watch and it really doesn't dissapoint at this time of year with the story lines getting more intense by the day in the lead up to what is always a catastrophic Christmas Day! Maybe one year they'll surprise us with a happy ending!?

10. Dressing the dogs up for a Christmas photo! They love it. I promise! 

11. Letting people who you don't see or talk to all the time know that you're thinking of them.

12. Shopping. It may be the worst part for many but i'm a shopaholic at heart so I love it. But one thing you'll never see me doing is racing for the new year sales. After Christmas I avoid all shops until February!

13. The Grinch. It's my favourite Christmas film and makes me laugh out loud every time I see it!

14. The Radio Times. It just has to be done even if you do already have the TV guide app. 

15. A fresh start. It's most certainly a frame of mind but I love the idea of a year being over and a chance to start afresh again.

What's your favourite thing about this time of year?  
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Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Planet Pure Laundry Liquid


When making the transition over to a vegan lifestyle you will undoubtedly look to change your diet first and foremost, then perhaps your make up and cosmetics and it may be the case that your household and cleaning products come as a slight after thought along the process. Well that was the case for me anyway and over a year into my journey I am still considering different household and  cleaning brands.  

When The Vegan Lifestyle Association approached me about trying and testing some new Planet Pure laundry liquid I was more than happy to take part as I am still searching for my go to product for my washing and I am also always excited to discover new brands. 

Planet Pure products, sold via Fair Living, are most importantly both vegan and cruelty free which are the main stamps of approval that I look for on any of the products that I use.  

Their products are also certified organic to Austria's exacting standards with the ingredients deriving from unmodified plants and organic essential oils used for the fragrance. I admit that I don't make a point of shopping only organic but if a product I am using does only contain natural ingredients and no nasty chemicals it can only be a good thing for both you and the environment. 


As if all of that wasn't already enough, the whole range of products is produced to fair trade standards, thus benefitting the community in India who grow the soapnuts, which provide the cleaning power, as well as the workers in the factory in Austria, where socially disadvantaged people are employed.  In the UK they work with a social enterprise in Hereford for shipping who employ people with special needs. 

There are a number of different laundry liquids available from Planet Pure, all of which are beneficial to different fabrics and skin types. I was sent the 'Fresh Lavender' variety which is suitable for all fabrics. A 510ml bottle size will give you approximately 12 washes and costs a reasonable £3.99 whilst the bigger 1.55l bottle will give you 38 washes for £8.99. Financially it makes more sense to go for the bigger bottle but it's nice to have the option of the smaller bottle, particularly if you're looking to try this brand for the first time. 

When I opened my bottle of laundry liquid I was really impressed by the strong lavender fragrance. I'm not sure why but my preconceptions were that maybe it wouldn't smell that great or as powerful as other detergents but I was wrong. It would seem that the essential oils used within these detergents work really well. 

I was also a little surprised to see that the contents of the bottle consisted of a watery brown liquid but this is indeed what purely natural cleaning products look like! This does make me question even more so the ingredients within conventional detergents which produce such a wild array of colours that we're so often used to seeing. 

I have been using this laundry liquid all week and my initial reaction is a good one. One of the first things I done when removing my wet washing from the machine was smell it and again I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the initial fragrance from the bottle made a lasting impression on my clothes. Also, and considering that no additional fabric softener was used, my clothes felt pretty soft once they had dried. Sometimes my husbands t-shirts in particular can appear a little stiff once they've dried out but that wasn't the case this week. 

I was also sent a bottle of Planet Pure's stain removing spray which I shall put to good use as and when I have a suitable stain that needs busting. It claims to be able to remove the toughest of stains including red wine and grease which I will be interested to try and report back on.   

On the whole the detergent performed how I would expect any other to which is pretty impressive considering it's all natural, vegan and cruelty free. It was effective in cleaning my clothes and left them feeling soft and smelling fresh. I would most definitely be inclined to purchase this product again and it's great to know that by doing so I would be doing good for my wellbeing, the animals, and our planet.
* This review has been organised by the VEGAN lifestyle ASSOCIATION. It has not been paid for and the products were sent free of charge. All views expressed within this review are my own. 

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Monday, 14 December 2015

The Vegan Kind #TVK26


I was so happy last week to receive the latest Vegan Kind Christmas box on my birthday! I was already feeling pretty spoilt by everyone and having this turn up too was just such great timing. 


Over the past few weeks I've been really looking forward to receiving the December Vegan Kind box as I remember this time last year when I was a new subscriber and how amazing the festive box was.

So did #TVK26 live up to my expectations?


When I opened the box I was first and foremost overjoyed to see a Harpers Bizarre candle included! I received one in last years box and loved it so much that I have been a loyal customer of theirs ever since. I was also happy to receive the 'Not Even A Mouse' Christmas cake fragrance as this is one that I haven't tried before and it smells divine. The best thing about these candles is that they are indeed vegan and cruelty free but they also give off such a long and lasting aroma. They're great to smell in the tin but also when they're alight. I'm saving mine for Christmas Eve and I'm sure it will have us feeling all cosy and Christmasy before Santa arrives!

I was also really happy to receive a Sticky Mix box which I have again tried before from a previous TVK box back in the Summer. Last time I received a chocolate chip cookie mix which I somehow managed to mess up despite it being an extremely simple process to follow. This time I was determined to get it right and i'm pleased to show off the results!



These oat & cranberry cookies were delicious and so easy to make. I really love how they turn out slightly crunchy on the outside and soft and chewy in the middle. Within the pack you are pretty much provided with everything you need to make them aside from vegan butter and water so they really couldn't be any more straight forward. I'm definitely looking forward to trying more of these packs from Sticky Mix in the future.

Also included within this months box were some really yummy mini marshmallows from Freedom Mallows. These have always been my favourite vegan friendly marshmallows and in my opinion they taste just as good, if not better, than other marshmallows. I was hoping to do something creative with mine like adding them to a baked treat but they ended up just being eaten straight from the bag! I just wish more big shops stocked these marshmallows as where I live I only ever tend to see them in Holland & Barrett and vegan marshmallows on the whole can be quite hard to come by.

Another product which I loved in this box were the dark chocolate mint owls from Cocoa Libre. Tasting very similar to an After Eight, these chocolates were to die for and so moreish! I would have liked to have made them last longer but they were the first item to get eaten straight away between me and my husband. I've tried a few items from Cocoa Libre recently and I have to say that they have fast become my favourite vegan chocolate brand. 

The only items I felt some disappointment with from this box was the Sweet Freedom choc shot in orange spice and the Christmas pud Nakd bar. To be honest I have so many of the choc shots in my cupboard now it's getting a little out of hand! Over the past year they seem to have been the product to be included within everything and every freebie going so I have accumulated a lot of them. That's not to say I don't like the product itself as I often enjoy it on top of some ice cream or in my porridge, but personally I would have much preferred to receive something new to me. Likewise with the Nakd bar this is something I have tried a lot of in the past and unfortunately the Christmas pud bar is my least favourite flavour of the bunch so this just wasn't for me. 

This will be my final Vegan Kind review for a while now as I am taking a break from this subscription purely because i'd like to try some others out there and buy more one off boxes which will hopefully help to keep things more varied for me and my blog. I have however really loved being a TVK customer and I think this is a great value for money subscription to take out for any vegan, especially perhaps if you are new to this way of living as you are guaranteed to be introduced to many fantastic new products.    
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Thursday, 10 December 2015

Vegan Afternoon Tea At The Savoy


This week I celebrated my birthday and my lovely husband whisked me off to London for the day to  enjoy some shopping and a special afternoon tea at The Savoy. I had heard a while ago that The Savoy caters well for vegans (and other dietary requirements) with their afternoon teas which got me excited to see what they could come up with. A traditional afternoon tea is, as you well know, renowned for being an over indulgent treat normally laden with cakes, pastries, scones and clotted cream. I am always therefore really intrigued to try vegan variations of this typically English custom.

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Monday, 7 December 2015

Stockholm


Last week I visited the beautiful city of Stockholm for a few days with my husband as an early birthday treat. I love nothing more than a cold wintery city break at this time of year, especially to European cities as they all seem to know how to celebrate the festive season in style. 

This time last year we set off on an adventure to the vegan capital of Europe Berlin which was amazing and really set my mind on doing something similar again this year. Having never been to Sweden before, I was really excited to experience their culture and scenery.

I always think there's something very romantic about taking mini breaks at this time of year too. I have many fond memories of Andy and I wrapped up warm arm in arm and exploring different cities by foot. I love the frequent pit stops into cosy little cafes for hot drinks and sweet treats. When the early evenings set in and the twinkle of Christmas lights make the streets come alive you can't help but feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside. One of our favourite things to do is to pick up a small Christmas tree decoration from the places we visit too which then once a year serves as a little reminder of the good times we've shared together. 

I'm normally a little over organised when it comes to planning out our holiday itineraries and this is something I wanted to take a slight back step from on this trip. Normally my itineraries involve days of research and include a number of veggie/vegan restaurants which I become obsessed with visiting. This isn't an all bad way to be and has resulted in us experiencing some wonderful places. However, I really just wanted to go with the flow more on this break and not dictate the holiday around where we were going to eat. This can of course be a little risky if you're hoping to eat purely vegan abroad and I would normally recommend planning ahead and locating vegan eateries. But this time I wanted to feel free from any restraints as I felt myself missing the days of just stumbling across somewhere cute looking and wanting to go inside. That doesn't mean I'd resort to eating meat just because the place looked appealing (I'd never do that!). It meant making the mental decision beforehand that I would where possible do my best to eat vegan but if I wasn't able to then I'd eat veggie instead and try not beat myself up about it afterwards. For the sake of enjoying being in the moment and enjoying the here and now I needed to loosen the reigns a little on this trip. 

To my surprise we happened to stumble across more veggie places than I'd anticipated and most of the time I was even able to eat vegan which was great! Stockholm, and in particular the trendy SoFo area, were indeed more veg friendly than I'd imagined. 

One of my favourite places from our whole time in Stockholm was a small restaurant called FLFL located within the SoFo area. This is a falafel restaurant and the food was just to die for! It was exactly what we needed after hours of walking around exploring in the cold and it more than hit the right spot. I was also pleased to see some clear vegan labelling on their menu! The falafel wrap and fries were huge portions and delicious. If I ever happened to be in the area again this is where I would eat.



One place which I had heard about as being the best veggie friendly restaurant in Stockholm was Hermans. I kind of knew that if I only got to visit one place I wanted it to be here and we luckily enough got to visit it one evening for dinner. Hermans reminds me of so many vegetarian restaurants I've been to in the past with its slightly rustic but homely interior and self serve buffet style food. I think because I had already heard good things about Hermans, and their amazing view over the city, I did go in with some expectations and once I saw the buffet these were more than met! All of the food looked so inviting. There was a selection of cold and salad type dishes along with a few hot dishes including curry and shepherds pie. To my sheer amazement everything just so happened to be vegan including the dessert selection. It did feel as though we'd hit the jackpot with Hermans! My only regret is that we didn't visit during the day for lunch as the view in the evening is rather limited.







Another place I managed to eat vegan was at Cafe String in SoFo. We went inside because it looked very eccentric and cool and luckily enough there were vegetarian options on the menu. The staff were really accommodating when I requested an avocado salad sandwich with no cheese and I got exactly what I asked for! After a few days of no avocado I really began to crave it but I wasn't hopeful I'd find it anywhere so this sandwich felt like a real treat. 


I think my main vegan downfall on this trip were the pastries and baked treats. If you didn't already know they have a tradition in Sweden called 'fika' which basically means stopping for an afternoon tea and something sweet. As a result of this all of the cafes have the most amazing and inviting selection of cakes! My sweet tooth has always been my downfall in life and this time was no different. I admit that I didn't even ask if any of these were vegan friendly but I'm pretty sure they weren't. 



To my amazement we did happen to stumble across a couple of other veggie restaurants on our travels but unfortunately it wasn't the right time to eat but both looked like great options. Firstly a restaurant called 'Chutney' in the SoFo area which was absolutely packed - always a good indicator that the food is good! Then we came across 'Hermitage' in Gamla Stan which prides itself on being 'the only vegetarian restaurant in the old town'. If we had more time in Stockholm these were two restaurants that I would have definitely liked to try out. 


All in all, and aside from the food, it was such a fun few days away together. We enjoyed so much walking, shopping and sightseeing. Highlights of our trip included a visit to the modern art museum and the photography museum, mooching the Christmas markets with a traditional cup of 'glogg' in hand, ice skating and of course a great deal of lusting over beautifully designed Swedish homeware. 



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