Going vegan: Week one

I’ve been vegetarian for around 12-13 years, since I bought a Goldfinger album which contained some brutal information about slaughterhouses in the sleeve, and heard their songs with animal rights messages like Open Your Eyes and Behind The Mask. I declared to my parents as I returned home from that same shopping trip, having read the album booklet on the way back, that I was now vegetarian. (They were fine with it, except my dad was understandably mildly irritated that he had just been to Sainsbury’s and now had to go back out so I had food to eat!)

For years I’ve been a very happy and content vegetarian. I haven’t missed meat at all; in fact, I barely liked it anyway (I practically only ate chicken) and so it was an unusually easy transition for me. Throughout my vegetarian years I’ve found it easy to be quite strict, eschewing fish, gelatine and non-vegetarian parmesan. But I always held off from taking the next step to veganism, thinking about how much I love cheese and chocolate snacks like Minstrels and Maltesers.

Suddenly, though, practically out of nowhere, I’ve been filled with a new resolve. It partially came from watching Cowspiracy and What The Health last week, the former helping to remind me of the environmental impacts of dairy as part of the wider animal agriculture industry. I felt that not eating meat or dairy is the simplest thing I could do to help the environment. Plus I’ve always been aware in the back of my mind that dairy farming is just as cruel and often inhumane as farming for meat, but now I feel less inclined to ignore it. Continue reading

It’s the little things that matter when it comes to self-care

January is traditionally the time for self improvement, new life goals or big changes, with New Year’s resolutions and trends like Dry January and Veganuary. But it’s also the deepest darkest month, the glum period after Christmas, and the time when it’s acceptable to stay in all weekend and be cosy on the sofa.

So I gradually begun making some small changes at the end of the month and start of February instead, largely in an attempt to stop myself falling indefinitely into indifference and laziness outside work hours.

These are things I began doing, or continued doing with increased purpose, which I believe are good for both mental and physical health. Continue reading

Sharing the love: Lessons in compliments from my cat

As anyone who’s met me in the past year-and-a-half is probably aware, I have a cat. She’s called Shanti and she’s very fluffy and cuddly.

On any given day, I’ll probably say most or all of these things to her:

“You’re lovely.” “You’re so pretty!” “You’re beeeautiful.” “You’re perfect.” “You’re my bestest friend!” and so on.

All normal things for a crazy cat lady to say to her feline friend.

But one day I got thinking – how come I, or indeed so many of us, don’t give these compliments to our real-life human friends with remotely the same regularity?

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My London bucket list

I’ve lived in London for three years now and I love being near so many places of interest and activities.

In reality though I work in Surrey so it’s not as simple as it might be to get out and about in London. But weekends and evenings certainly still have a sense of possibility (and I do get to a lot of concerts and shows).

I’ve decided to create a bucket list of everything in London I’d love to do that I never have so I can start work on it this year.

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Frenchie Covent Garden: vegetarian food review

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The carrot dish

A new restaurant opened in February in Henrietta Street, just off Covent Garden Piazza. The man behind  a popular Parisian restaurant and wine bar has brought his spectacular French cuisine to London, and the city’s food scene must be better for it.

Although the restaurant does not yet have a full website, we called ahead to check there were vegetarian options and were assured there were. However, upon arrival I was concerned to see there was maybe one veggie friendly small plate and one big plate on the menu.

However, upon asking one of the loveliest waiters I have ever known, he insisted that they could pretty much prepare anything and come up with a whole host of vegetarian concoctions. Just tell him what vegetables I don’t like and he’ll check with the chef and make me a surprise, he said.

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Camellia Festival at Chiswick House and Gardens

On Sunday afternoon I went for a stroll in Chiswick House and Gardens and checked out the Camellia Show which is currently on in the conservatory.

If you’re in the area, pop along: it was a lovely half hour (and free). The flowers were certainly beautiful while a handy guide explains the history behind most, apart from the few unknown varieties.

My favourite detail was about the Chandleri which was first offered for sale in 1825 at £5/5- the equivalent of half a year’s wages for a maidservant.

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Photos: The truly Magical Lantern Festival at Chiswick House

The UK’s first event of its kind, a mighty impressive Magical Lantern Festival has landed at Chiswick House and Gardens in west London to celebrate Chinese New Year.

As it’s just down the road from me- and I actually saw the lanterns being set up during a weekend ramble in January- I could hardly not go, so I took my parents on what felt like the iciest, coldest night of winter so far.

Luckily putting up with weather was worth it- wandering around the gardens, which are beautiful enough normally, and admiring a whole zoo of Chinese lanterns was a great way to while away an hour and a half.

My highlight, and seemingly everyone’s favourite part, was the 66-metre long dragon centrepiece which is first viewed across the lake, making for some fantastic photos. Hearing young children get excited about seeing the dragon was sweet, but the adults were certainly keen too!

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In pictures: Lumiere London Light Festival

For four days this weekend, from Thursday 14th to Sunday 17th January, the centre of London was taken over by magical light installations in the King’s Cross, Piccadilly and Oxford Circus areas.

Londoners and tourists in their thousands flocked to see this artistic spectacle while it lasted, thus creating the biggest problem of the event: overcrowding! It was insanely busy, especially in King’s Cross where people were effectively funnelled from the station to Granary Square.

It spoiled the magic a bit, especially at the small low-down installations which people crushed around, but there’s still plenty of cool stuff around from 30 different artists in total.

The other problem is it was basically impossible to get to it all in one night so you had to choose wisely to see the best bits if you only wanted to make one trip…

The actual installations were generally pretty visually amazing: highlights for me were the flying fish over Piccadilly, the Circus of Light show on the Granary Building and the Garden of Light in Leicester Square.

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The Crime Museum Uncovered

Crime never changes. It’s human nature and, sadly, the horrible things that happened in London 100 years ago are still happening today in one guise or another. That’s the tragic lesson in a video in the final room of The Crime Museum Uncovered, currently exhibiting at the Museum of London.

Through four rooms and dozens of fascinating case studies, you learn how crime in London evolved (or not) over many decades. The exhibition starts strong with some Jack the Ripper artefacts and theories- including a letter from someone purporting to be the serial killer which became the basis for a police appeal poster.

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Kew Gardens Christmas Illuminations Trail

What a beautiful place to stroll around for an evening. The Christmas illuminations trail at Kew Gardens is full of ‘wow’ moments, with something totally different and exciting around every corner.

The vast Palm House looks spectacular as it changes colour and pattern – with an accompanying water and music show in the pond in front.

The Choir of the Holly Bushes sings to you as you walk through their colourful, circular selves, and you will almost certainly end up with their carol in your head for the rest of the night.

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