Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Winter Holiday


Earlier this month we headed off to the Forest of Dean for a last minute break as Mr B realised he could have some time off work. It was lovely to spend some time together relaxing before the craziness of Christmas!

We stayed at the Forest Holidays site in a woodland cabin. We checked out the local area before going and due to the lack of vegan eating out we loaded up at Wholefoods on our way down the motorway and cooked all our meals in the cabin.
We went on some lovely walks - Small absolutely loved the location, she even had a forest range to herself for a guided walk.

My favourite part was having our own hot tub!  It was absolutely amazing just relaxing in it amongst the trees - I never wanted to get out!
Small met santa on a stream train which she loved and we cooked a mock Christmas dinner with a Tofurkey pack everything picked up. Whilst is not something I would normally eat, it was nice for a treat and even came with chocolate brownies!

Happy (belated) Holidays!


It's been a busy one this year, but a things are starting to wind down and I finally have time to pause for a moment and write a blog post!

It's the first year Small has really been able to grasp the concept of Christmas and she's been really excited so I've been working hard to make it a magical one for her. I'm not big on religion myself and prefer to mark the passing of the year in my own way, but it's lovely that there is an excuse for family to get together.

I hope you've all had a wonderful winter holiday with your loved ones x x x

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Plant Based Eating


A little over a month ago I recommitted myself to stricter healthy eating in a bid to feel better. I've tried (and failed) at plans like Dr Mcdougall's maximum weight loss and Engine 2. The thing is, I think the reason I didn't keep these up was because I was being too strict with myself. It's really hard to stay motivated and excited about something when you feel deprived. The second difference is I now have lots more cookbooks with suitable recipes and experience cooking in this style - I've never been that excited by the food in Dr Mcdougall's own books as they have no pictures!

My favorite cookbooks at the moment are; Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, The Forks Over Knives Cookbook, The Low Fat Vegan and Happy Herbivore Holidays and Gatherings (in fact I love all the Happy Herbivore books!).

Here is a taster of some of the food Ive been eating recently - I have plenty of tasty recipes I've come up with to share with you in upcoming blog posts!



Soy Free Breakfast Scramble (mashed potato instead of tofu)


Mashed Potatoes with Everyday Mushroom Gravy (from Happy Herbivore)


Hearty Bean Soup with Mashed Squash


Home Made 'Hash Brown' Potatoes

Friday, 21 November 2014

Suma Bloggers Network - DIY Raw Chocolate



I'm a big fan of raw chocolate - for a little treat now and again there's nothing better than an Om bar or something from Kate Magic's online store. As much as I like it, I have to be honest with myself - those little bars of heaven can be quite costly. I love making my own chocolate because not only is it more cost effective, it means I can get creative with the flavours!



The basic chocolate mix requires raw cacao powder, raw cacao butter and something to sweeten it. I love the Raw Chocolate Company for their powder and butter (available from Suma). My personal favorite way to sweeten the mixture is with agave, but I've also tried it with coconut sugar with success.  You are also going to need some kind of molds - I've found silicone ones the best as it's easy to pop the chocolates out after setting. You could get as creative as you like, there are so many cute molds out there! I think these would make an awesome home made Christmas gift too.



Into my molds I popped various other yummy things to create some variety - goji berries, cacao nibs, walnuts and nut butters all make excellent fillings! You can even use sturdy cupcake cases (ones that will free-stand) to make nut butter cups.

Recipe

100g Raw Cacao Butter
70g Raw Cacao Powder
1/2 cup agave syrup

Method

Get some water up to boiling point in a saucepan and get a heat proof mixing bowl ready. Into the mixing bowl place you cacao butter. Place the bowl on top of the saucepan and reduce the heat so that the water is just simmering.
Melt the cacao butter very gently until it is all liquid. Take the bowl off the heat - careful, that thing will be hot!
Add in the cacao powder and mix quickly until everything is sooth. At this point add in the agave and mix throughly.
Carefully pour the chocolate mix into the molds along with whatever fillings you have chosen.
The best way to set your chocolates is in the fridge for at least 3 hours. Make sure you have a free shelf so everything can be laid flat.
Once set - enjoy!

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

'Cheesy' Pumpkin Soup


It's no secret that Autumn is my absolute favorite time of year. I love the colours, the leaves and feeling cosy in knitwear. I always make at least one visit (but usually lots more) to my favorite farm shop at this time of year due to the sheer variety of pumpkins and squashes they sell. Most of them they grow themselves on site.


Small got involved with it this year and as a result is currently obsessed with pumpkins. Here she is in the process of picking 'baby pumpkin'.


The best thing to make with pumpkins? Soup of course! Here is my recipe for lovely hearty soya free and vegan pumpkin soup.....

Ingredients

1 medium pumpkin
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
dash of oil
1 onion
2 cups vegan vegetable stock
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 carton alpro rice cream


Pre heat your oven to 200C. Cut your pumpkin in half and remove all the seeds from inside. Place on a roasting tray and drizzle with the oil, nutmeg and cinnamon. Bake for around 45 minutes. Once cooled a little remove skin and cut into smaller chunks.
Fry onions until brown then add pumpkin to the pan. Add the vegetable stock and nurtitional yeast and simmer for around 10 minutes.
Add the rice cream at the end once you have removed from the heat. Blend until totally smooth.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Don't Cry Because It's Over, Smile Because It Happened




On Friday we headed down to our flat in London to spend the weekend taking in the sights, eating vegan food and seeing family. As usually happens, we set off after Mr B finished work and picked up a Basilico pizza close to our destination to save us getting shopping in as soon as we arrive (and let's face it - the pizza is ridiculously good).


On Saturday small decided whatever we did had to include trains. The DLR trains are her absolute favorite, so we decided to go into central and try out a new vegetarian place on Eastcastle Street just a short walk from Oxford Circus. We went to Ethos for their 'Brunch' which was a buffet style meal with a set price of £17 PP which included an orange juice or coffee (they charged us £10 for the toddler).

  
The quality of food was really good - the food was clearly labelled if it was vegan and they also had labeling for gluten free products. I have to confess I was a little confused by it being called brunch though, none of the foods I would associate with being 'brunch foods' were available - instead it seemed much more like lunch. The sort of foods on offer were salads, olives, bread, mashed avocado, spicy rice, seitan ribs, lentil dishes etc. Despite the seitan ribs not being vegan when we arrived, after asking they brought out some that had been made vegan near the end of our meal which were easily the best part! The Thai sweetcorn fritters were also another highlight for me.


The only thing that disappointed me was the lack of choice with desert. They had some pretty tasty looking vegetarian options, but only a couple of vegan ones which had run out when we came to that part of our meal so we left desert - less.


I'm not sure that for a family it was good value - at £10 for a toddler who only eats small portions that's quite a lot. Maybe they should have a different buffet price for under 5's? It's nice to have a new place to choose from however in a nice central location.


On Saturday evening we had the luxury of some babysitting - so whilst Small stayed with her grandparents Mr B took me to check out Tanya's. I love raw food and am always trying out new things at home in my dehydrator (who knew they were such a useful kitchen appliance?) - I was so so tired when it was time to go out, but I'm really glad Mr B made me as I had a wonderful evening.


We had the cheese platter to start, with some cheesy kale chips and some coconut bacon on the side. They also have a wonderful selection of superfood cocktails with a handy guide in case you don't recognise any of the 'super' ingredients. I had an absolutely amazing Pina Colada that was divine. 


We had the desert platter next which was lovely - I think the beetroot and orange cheesecake was my favorite! The raw chocolates were seriously the nicest I've ever had - the mint variety (pictured below) was amazing!


All in all it was a pretty awesome weekend - it's so nice to spend time with my family when Mr B isn't focused on work and we can all enjoy ourselves!

Vegfest London 2014


This past weekend we headed down to London to spend some time with Small's grandparents and whilst we were there we went to check out Vegfest. We've been to other Vegfest events during various years including Bristol and Brighton so had an idea of what to expect.
We decided against taking in the pushchair (which was a good job considering all the stairs in the multistorey carpark!) and took Small in on foot. We also decided to go on Sunday afternoon - whilst this did mean that some of the stalls had packed up and gone home (or run out!), it did mean the crowds weren't too bad to navigate with a toddler and we didn't have to wait to long to buy food etc.


I was actually really pleased with the selection of companies were at this show, and felt they were a bit more interesting than some of the other shows we had been to. There were plenty of soya free vegan products for me to oggle over, as well as food for Mr B and the toddler. I had a lovely hotdog from the Vegusto stall which I thought was really nice - I'm already a lover of their products!


Mr B and the toddler had a Pad Thai from the Thai street food stall that was there - I had a sneaky taste of some of the mushrooms and noodles and it was yummy. Small absolutely loves noodles (she calls them eagles) so there wasn't any other choice really about what they would be eating!



At these shows I've never really been interested in any of the speakers or cooking demos - but this year they had a really good line up! I would have loved to have seen Kate Magic, Mimi Kirk and Brendan Brazier (being the Vega lover that I am). In the end I decided that it however would have been madness to try and get the toddler to sit still through any of these - maybe next time!


I brought home a great haul of stuff with me! Amongst the stalls were some bargains to be had - I stocked up on Pulsin protein bars and Rebel Kitchen mylk. I even picked up a cute toddler sized Sea Shepard tee for the mini one.


I was also really impressed with the boxes from 'The Vegan Kind'. I'd heard about them before and seen other bloggers review them, but had never had one myself. I was drawn to the stall by their beauty boxes (which were sadly sold out) but I had a lovely chat with the lady on the stand and came away with a box for a bargain price and a Vego bar.


I was also really pleased I came away with some samples of Vega protein smoothie. I already use Vega One every day (the vanilla chai flavour) but have to confess I'd never tried any of their other products. The smoothie doesn't contain as much good stuff as Vega One, but it does have greens as well as protein - so much more beneficial than just regular protein powder.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

I Just want A Bit Part In Your Life

Sometimes I really miss Mr B. It kind of seems like an odd thing for me to say maybe, but it doesn't make it any less true. I guess I need to clarify. We're lucky enough that Mr B has a good job and I get to be a stay at home mom to Small, and Mr B spends some of his time working from home too. However I'm sure any parent with young children can relate - we just never seem to get any quality time as a couple. Try as we might, when we do get a second to talk the objective often seems to be to relay all the important yet mundane points of the day. I know you know what I mean - "we need to buy more nappies" or some half asleep unintelligible thing about washing maybe. You get my point.

Then there are the lifestyle choices. I know that cosleeping was the best thing for Small, for both her emotional and social development but at almost 2 1/2 we feel the time is right and we are trying to transition her to her own room. This is easier said than done. We're making progress, but it's slow. Many evening & night time wake ups mean we don't really get any time together then either. I just have to keep reminding myself that this is just a phase of Small's life and it won't be forever (although I already feel like she's growing up too fast!).

I guess I've really realised how much even good relationships need work and attention to flourish when there are children in the picture. It's the little things that matter.

What I'm trying to say is - Mr B, I love you with all my heart. You are an amazing daddy & thank you for working so hard so that Small & I can hang out.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Soy Free & Vegan Quiche - 'Cheese' & Onion



My tried and trusted quiche recipe, although delicious is tofu based and as I can no longer eat soya products it is sadly off the cards for me. The funny thing is, since I was told I needed to avoid soy - I've been craving all the things I normally make that contain it! I started off a vegetarian in my teens and my relationship with tofu then was a rocky one, but as the years went by I learnt to love it and all the ways it could be yummy (like tofu scramble... Oh I miss you!).
I decided I just HAD to make a quiche that was soya free, but every bit delicious. I scoured the net and only came across recipes that were gram (chickpea) flour based - they didn't look like my 'creamy' yummy pastry based treat, so I decided I'd just have to make one up. 
Lucky for me it came out awesome! It's probably not a good idea to try and eat it right from the oven - it needs to cool a little to set. It's best eaten cold - if it's been in your fridge for a few hours it should totally set.

I really recommend getting hold of the Oatly cream for this recipe - it's the best one I've tried that's both vegan and soya free.

Ingredients

1 package short crust pastry

1 yellow pepper - chopped
2 leeks - chopped 
1 TSP garlic
1 TSP onion powder 
1 TBSP black salt (optional - gives things an 'eggy' taste)
2 packages Oatly cream
1/2 cup Oat milk
1/2 cup cornflour (yes.... Really. Without this it won't set!)
3 TBSP organic white flour
2 TSP lemon juice
1/2 TSP mustard powder
1 cup vegan soya free 'cheese'

Preheat oven to 180C. Roll out your pastry and have your non stick quiche tin ready. Line the tin without trimming the edges, prick the bottom with a fork and weigh the middle down with baking paper and dried beans. Bake for about 15 minutes.

Whilst your pastry is blind baking, make up your filling. This part is super easy! Just pop it all in a food processor (save 1/4 cup of the 'cheese' for the topping) and blend until it's really smooth.

Remove your pastry case from the oven and discard the baking paper and beans. Fill with your mixture and sprinkle your remaining 'cheese' on top. Bake for 30-40 minutes. Allow to cool before serving.



 

Friday, 29 August 2014

Win Tickets for Vegfest London with Lavera


Do you fancy going to Vegfest London? Haven't brought your tickets yet? Want to win a pair of tickets? .... then read on!

VegfestUK - Europe's Biggest Veggie Events

Vegfest London is one of Europe's keynote veggie lifestyle shows and they are returning to London Olympia for a second year on September 27th & 28th 2014.
·        200+ stalls full of top-notch food, bodycare, cosmetics, fashion etc
·        Brendan Brazier, Patrik Baboumian, Sarah Jane Honeywell, Vegan Smythe, John Robb
·        Loads of special discounts and free samples
·        14 specialist caterers with exceptional global cuisines
·        Freebies for early visitors on both days
·        A host of high-profile speakers from all over the world
·        Meet the Expert 1-to-1 sessions
·        Book signings
·        Cookery Demos
·        Nutrition talks
·        Lifestyle talks
·        Campaign talks
·        Cinema
·        LifeWell Hub, helping health, happiness and wellbeing reach (r)evolution
·        Workshops
·        Kids entertainment on both days for all ages
·        Live music and comedy

VegfestUK are supporting the Vegan Society as this fantastic vegan outreach organisation celebrates its 70th birthday in 2014. The Vegan Society will host several talks and cookery demos at prime times during the show, as well as organising collections on the gate and handing out leaflets. More on the Society at vegansociety.com

For more information on Vegfest check out the programme HERE


Lavera is Germany’s leading natural brand and one of my personal favorites. Not all, but many of their products are suitable for vegans (HERE is a handy page to help you figure out which are suitable). I've been going back to this brand for years as unlike some cruelty free make up brands which are only available online, Lavera can be found in many health food shops - even Holland & Barrett.
They are offering a runner up prize of a fantastic hamper of their amazing vegan suitable products worth around £80. You could win;

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Soft Lip Liner Apricot Beige
Lavera Trend Sensitive Soft Lip Liner contains carefully selected organic oils and waxes to protect and nourish delicate lips

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/69321719/Lavera/New%20folder/60990_Tinted_Moisturising_Cream_Natural.jpg
 Tinted Moisturiser
A tinted moisturiser with organic aloe vera that combines 24 hour moisturisation, skincare and a hint of colour to soothe andhydrate the skin. Leaves the skin fresh and radiant looking.Suitable for all skin types. Dermatologically approved.Light coverage.

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/69321719/Lavera/New%20folder/Lavera%20Trend%20Mineral%20Loose%20Powder.jpg 
Fine Loose Mineral Powder
Lavera Trend Fine Loose Mineral Powder is a micro fine translucent powder that will leave your skin with a velvety matt finish. Use Lavera Trend Fine Loose Mineral Powder to fix Tinted Moisturiser and Natural Liquid Foundation with careful powdering. (A personal favorite of mine!)

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/69321719/Lavera/New%20folder/Lavera%20Trend%20Beautiful%20Lips%20Golden%20Kiss.jpg 
Lipstick in Golden Kiss
Lavera Trend Sensitive Organic Lipstick - No. 07 Golden Kiss is a warm pearly gold. The clever combination of natural ingredients will keep your lips healthy and conditioned leaving lips perfectly cared for.

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/69321719/Lavera/New%20folder/Lavera%20Beautiful%20Mineral%20Eyeshadow%20Lily%20White%20Open.jpg 
Eyeshadow in Golden Beige or Lily White
Lavera Trend Sensitive Organic & Natural Beautiful Mineral Eyeshadow 01 Lily White can also be applied with a larger soft bristle make up brush. Lavera Trend Sensitive Organic & Natural Beautiful Mineral Eyeshadows have been dermatologically and ophthalmogically tested.

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Soft Eyeliner in black
Create glamorous dramatic looks with the new formulated Lavera Organic Soft Eyeliner Pencil which gives intense and long-lasting colour. The addition of organic jojoba oil in the formulation, gives this eyeliner pencil its soft texture making it the perfect choice for lining your eyes without dragging the skin. Organic ingredients have been chosen to intensively care for the sensitive eye area.The new and improved organic soft eyeliner pencil has been dermatologically and ophthalmologically approved and is suitable for those who wear contact lenses.

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/69321719/Lavera/New%20folder/Lavera%20Volume%20Mascara.jpg 
Volume Mascara In black
Get natural looking volume with the Volume Mascara. With its newly improved formula and easy to use brush, this fabulous product will create sweeping and volumised lashes. This lovely product is also super kind to sensitive eyes, containing organic jojoba oil the volume mascara cares for your lashes and will not cause any irritation. It is also suitable to wear with contacts and comes in colours black and brown.


Thursday, 28 August 2014

Suma Bloggers Network - Easy Raw Cheesecake



I'm back with another lovely recipe for the Suma Bloggers Network. I have to admit that my plans for this months post went horribly awry! I fully intended to make a soy free nut based 'tofu' and show you how it can be used - but folks it's harder than it looks! Luckily being the prepared blogger I am I instead used some lovely Suma nuts to whip up the gorgeous and easy raw cheesecake.

I first tried raw cheesecake years ago and loved it, but put off making my own for ages as I always thought it wouldn't work without a high powered blender like a Vitamix or similar. I'm happy to say that's not the case! I made this cheesecake which turned out wonderfully smooth with a £25 blender!

The best thing about my recipe is that it's not overly oily. I know people into raw foods love coconut oil - and so do I, but I've had lots of raw deserts that contain so much it's just too overpowering. I think I've found the perfect balance of just enough to help it set and keep it's shape without feeling like you are just snacking on oil!


Ingredients

For the base

1 cup walnuts
1/4 cup macadamia nuts
1/4 cup desiccated coconut (plus a little extra to 'dust' your pan)
5 or 6 dried dates that have been pre soaked for a few hours

'Cheese Filling'

2 1/2 cups Suma organic whole cashew nuts (soaked for at least 2 hrs)
1/2 cup Suma Mexican agave syrup
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup coconut oil (warmed just to the point of being liquid)
5 TBSP Pulsin pea protein powder
1 vanilla pod

Fruit Topping

1 1/2 cups of frozen raspberries (other frozen fruit also works well)
1/4 cup brown rice syrup
3 TBSP raisins

To make this you'll need a springform pan, blender, food processor and plenty of space in your freezer! This recipe makes quite a big cheesecake - I easily got about 8 - 10 portions from it which is great as it can just be stored in the freezer and eaten when you are ready.

To start with you'll want to get set up with your food processor and make the base. Sprinkle some coconut into the bottom of the springform pan to form an even layer. This tastes good and helps prevent sticking.
Place the remainder of the coconut, walnuts, macadamia nuts and dates into the food processor and pulse until it resembles a biscuit crumb base. Scoop into your pan, spread it evenly then press it down with the back of a spoon.

Next it's time to make the 'cheese' portion. Depending on your blender size you may have to do this in batches. Scrape out the vanilla pod into the blender jar (a blender is best for this, a food processor won't give the same smooth & combined finish) and pop in the rest of your ingredients. Make sure everything is really well blended - this might take up to 5 minutes and stopping a few times to scrape down the sides. If your mixture is too thick to blend, add a little water - but be careful - you don't want it to become too runny. You should be left with a mixture that resembles really thick custard - it will set and become firmer in the freezer. Pour this on top of the base so that the top is evenly spread and pop in the freezer for at least 1hr.

While the 'cheese' is setting you can make the last part - the topping! Pop the frozen fruit, rice syrup and raisins in the blender and mix well. After your 'cheese' has set a little in the freezer, take it out and spread the fruit mixture on top. I find a large knife is useful to spread the top evenly. Pop back in the freezer for 1-2hrs before serving.

It can be kept in the freezer for about a week - in it has been in there overnight make sure you remove it about 1/2hr before you want to serve so it can be sliced!



Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Just So Festival Review 2014



Both Mr B and I loved festivals before we had a child, and this year we decided that we were ready to get back to it and take Small along too. We went to Bugjam 2014 for our first taste of festival with a child and picked up some pointers of things that'd make our lives easier next time.

We arrived at 12PM Friday (the advertised car park opening time) to find they were already letting people in (some people had their tents up!). I'm not sure why they tell you to absolutely not turn up before the time if they are going to start letting people in anyway, but we experienced this at Bugjam too. We had left the rainy Midlands deliberately early to get ourselves there in time to bag a good camping spot - luckily not too many people were in ahead of us and it was only 5 minutes walk from the car to tent.

We took a radio flyer and a trolley as we knew there was going to be a walk from car to tent. Online beforehand I saw mention of there possibly being people around to help carry, but I personally didn't see anybody so I was insanely glad that we went prepared! (Mr B says he saw some, but obviously weren't enough for everybody). We had packed my Beetle with no room to spare, but it wasn't TOO bad ferrying things over to our camping spot. I stayed at the tent and entertained the toddler whilst Mr B did the to and froing. They also had a company called Trolley Tots hiring out wagons online before the festival (I think they sold out quite quickly at around £50 hire charge for the weekend) which had a pick up point close to the car park so those who had managed to reserve one could pick it up and use it for unpacking their car.

The campsite had one set of toilets which were a mix of portable toilets and one block of flushing loos. I always had to queue for the flushing ones, and there never seemed to be anybody waiting for the other! Mr B tells me he never had to wait for the mens! They also had several blocks of showers - which were actually very good. I never had to wait (although I'm told you might if you try to use them around 7 or 8AM) and they were actually hot with water pressure. I had a shower every morning and even washed my hair which is a festival first - it felt like luxury! The showers did get a bit grubby by the second morning and there was a lot of grass on the floors and discarded toiletry bottles which nobody seemed to be collecting. I guess depending where you set up in the campsite it could have been quite a walk to the loos/ showers as there was only one area instead of several dotted around as I'm more used to seeing at festivals. There wasn't really enough water taps around and because everybody had to use the same washing up area it became VERY muddy very quickly.

It also seemed really odd to me that there wasn't anywhere selling basics. I expected at the very least there would be a stall selling basic camping items people might have forgotten as well as basic food items like bread, milk and baby food - but there was nothing even close.

The campsite was really a strange experience. Parents seemed to be terrified of breaking their children's routine and putting them to bed at 6 or 7PM. This meant the campsite was very quiet in the evening - which is certainly a good thing, but meant there wasn't much of an ambiance. It also meant that we were woken ridiculously early (don't worry we managed to get back to sleep and have a lie in) by cries of 'Tollomy come and eat your brioche', 'Rufus and Tarquin would you stop fighting this instant' and 'Othello would you PLEASE let mummy put your wellingtons on!" (yes seriously). As we ended up being a reluctant co-sleeping family fairly early on, Small's bedtimes seem to more closely echo ours so it meant we weren't missing out on evening entertainment as many seemed to do.

The actual festival entrance was only a short walk away and we didn't have to wait too long at the ticket exchange to get our wristbands the first time we went in. One thing that slightly concerned me was the checking of tickets. Literally nobody checked anything to get into the camp site - we were all set up and had been there for hours before we had to show our tickets. I felt they should have at least looked at them as we entered the car park. It was honestly the safest festival I feel I have ever been to, but still feel they should have had a bit more security. At times our wristbands weren't really looked at - while this was OK this year, it might be a problem if the festival were to get bigger.


We received our tickets in advance along with a programme, planner and CD featuring some of the bands that were playing over the weekend. I marked out all the things I wanted to try to get to but wanted to remain a little flexible as I wasn't sure what we'd want to see and do once we arrived. I would say that it turned out Small was a bit of an awkward age. At just a few months past her second birthday she was technically in the 0-3 or 0-4 age group for a lot of things - however on seeing the activities I felt that we couldn't really participate as all the other kids in these groups were pre-walkers and I wasn't sure their mothers would have been impressed with Small jumping all over everything! Most of the craft was aimed at an older age group and I'm not sure what she made of some of the shows. We actually didn't end up actually participating in much for this reason, though I'm sure if we return next year she'll be that bit older and more interested/ able to join in with the 'older' kids stuff.

One thing that we all enjoyed was watching John Hegley's 'I Am A Poetato' - it was a show with poetry and music that really engaged with the audience which I felt was lacking in some of the other things we saw. It felt like he was addressing the children directly and it really kept them engaged. Honestly Small was transfixed on the stage throughout and really enjoyed herself. We also saw lots of good music throughout the weekend on the Footlights stage.

We really enjoyed the High Seas area - the path to get there was through some woodland and decorated in a really magical way. The arch on the entrance was covered with a huge octopus and there was a loose 'pirate' theme in the area. We watched a few shows there and they even had a giant sandpit! (and almond milk at one of the coffee stalls for mummy).


The festival site was set out into different areas - Peekaboo (for the 0-4 age group), Lazy Days, New Curiosity Shop, The Imaginarium, The High Seas, Jitterbug, The Spellbound Forest, Head Over Heels, Footlights & The Social. I have to say although beautiful, the map was rather confusing at first - it did make more sense once we'd walked around the whole site and knew where things were, but then isn't that the point of a map? All areas were well signposted and the grounds of Rode Hall were beautifully decorated and a lovely setting for the festival. It was obvious a lot of effort had gone into the decorations and setting the ambiance for the weekend. I was really disappointed then to see kids smashing up the 'Hello' signs coming up to the entrance as people waited in line for the wristband exchange. In fact by the end of the first day they were ruined, but I'm happy to say I didn't see any of that going on inside the festival.


I was a little worried about vegan food before we went as I'd seen a blurb in an issue of 'The Vegetarian' (The Vegetarian Society's magazine) about lack of veggie food. I'd sent the festival a few messages on Twitter beforehand but didn't receive a reply (boo!) so took that as a negative sign and made sure we took LOADS of food with us to cook in the campsite. Wondering around the festival I was actually surprised and really pleased to see that loads of the food vendors had the words 'veggie' and 'vegan' on their chalkboards. We had some gorgeous bhajis with tamarind dip from Becky's Bhajis, yummy smoothies from Groovy Smoothies, lovely roast corn on the cob and several yummy meals from Goodness Gracious (which if by some miracle you haven't heard of them, they are a totally v*gan company often seen at festivals). There were several companies selling coffee with not just the option of soy milk, but almond milk too! (yay!!!) Bear were also there giving away samples of their Alpha Bites and selling their fruit snacks.

Would we return? I think it's almost a given that we'll be buying tickets for next year at some point. Overall it felt like a wonderfully safe festival where because it was all families we felt really comfortable and free to enjoy ourselves. The areas were well thought out and lots of effort had gone into creating a magical atmosphere for everybody. This post might seem a little negative in places, but honestly the overall experience was a really good one - I just wanted to be honest about all aspects as I found it difficult to find out certain things before going. Although there was alcohol on sale, it was discrete and we didn't have to worry about people being loud & drunk. I'm hoping Small will enjoying the activities a bit more next year and I've even been ogling people's pictures of the gorgeous boutique camping area!



Thursday, 14 August 2014

Festivals With Kids In Tow!


Thinking about taking your kids along with you to a festival? Already brought the tickets and wondering how you're going to manage? I'm here to share some tips I picked up from our recent festival trip with Small (2 years old).

The first thing I'll say is be prepared for it to be a different experience. I went to quite a number of the big festivals in my pre child days that were filled with friends, antics and booze. This was obviously not going to be the case this time - the important thing to realise is that different doesn't mean bad or worse. Bug Jam 2014 was in fact my first alcohol free festival and indeed my first I actually went prepared for. I think we actually took TOO much stuff, but it was a far cry from chucking a shed load of booze and a tent in the boot of the car and taking off. With this in mind (and the fact that we're off to another festival tomorrow) I've put together a list of things I think will make a festival with kids go all that more smoothly!

 

The basics

Suitable tent - we had to admit to ourselves that my pre child festival tent wasn't suitable. Although big, the sleeping layout just wasn't going to work so we had to invest in a new one.

Sleeping bags - we went for a fun Vango Penguin themed sleeping bag for Small to try and make sleeping in a different environment a bit easier for her.

Air beds - whilst maybe not essential, they can be purchased quite cheaply and make things WAY more comfortable.

Cooking - If you are going to make your own meals at the tent you need to make sure you have a safe cooking setup. We brought a folding camp kitchen so the gas cooker is away from the curious toddler. 



Things To Make Your Life Easier

Wagon - If you have young children or toddlers you are going to need some way of transporting them when they get tierd. At most festival sites a pushchair is out of the question, but some kind of wagon would be a good idea. We take a Radio Flyer which is also handy for transporting our gear from the car to the camp area. If your child is too young for a wagon, take a serious look at baby carriers!

A way to wash - whilst big festivals don't have showers, some smaller ones do. It's worth figuring this out as kids have a way of getting muddy without trying! If your festival doesn't have showers then consider taking a big folding basin and washcloths or a camp shower?

Clothes for all weathers - Despite what the weather report says, you never know what it will actually be like! Take cooler clothes as well as waterproofs, wellies, puddlesuits and warm fleece jackets for the evenings or as an extra layer at night.

Potty - If your child is in the early stages of potty training or sometimes doesn't give you much warning then definitely take a potty. Sometimes camp toilets can be a walk away and not always clean.

Toys & Games - sometimes it rains and you might be stuck in your tent for a while. Make sure you have something to occupy everybody!

First Aid - at the very least take a small first aid kit with some plasters and antiseptic wipes. Bug spray and sun cream are also pretty essential!

Comfortable backpack - If the festival is a good walk away from the camping area you are not going to want to be traipsing back and forth every 5 minutes. You'll want a comfortable pack so you can carry essentials for the day like waterproofs, snacks, drinks, nappies, wipes, first aid kit etc 

Picnic Blanket - Even if there is some seating, the likelihood is there are going to be 1000's of people competing for them. Carry a small roll up plastic backed  blanket and you'll always have somewhere to sit without lugging around heavy camping chairs.

Safe water - consider where you are going to get your drinking water from. Is the tap water in the camping area good quality? Why not take some big bottles of water with you, or if you camp often take a look at something like the 'Lifestraw Family' which makes water safe.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Sugar Free Baking with Nativa - Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies


A few days ago I recieved this amazing package from Nativa. I'd actually been really wanting to try out their products for ages, so jumped at the chance when they offered.  I was sent a baking pack, package of portable sticks, a tub and a tin of 'tablets'. 

 
I wanted to get stuck in straight away so popped some into my coffee. The package states one stick or tablet = one teaspoon of sugar and I found that to be exactly the case. In the UK at least, most of the tins or sweetner tablet dispensers actually contain lactose from milk which means they're not vegan (the powdered kind doesn't usually, but check the ingredients). I've left many supermarkets in the past empty handed after checking the ingredients of every one on the shelf. The Natvia tin has taken residence in my handbag! 

 
I'd tried other stevia based sweeteners in the past and not really loved them. Some of the ones on the supermarket shelves claim they are natural but still contain synthetic things I don't want going into my body or have a really strong aftertaste. Natvia really ticks all the boxes for me - it's totally natural, didn't have an aftertaste, helps you lower calorie intake, is suitable for baking and is available in different forms.


The part I was really excited about was trying it out in baking. This is the area in the past where other sweeteners have let me down - but Natvia didn't disappoint! 


Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup whole grain spelt flour
1 TSP baking powder
1/2 TSP baking soda
1 TBSP ground flaxseed
Pinch of finely ground natural sea salt
3/4 cup Natvia (from baking pack)
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
3 TBSP coconut oil cuisine (ie: the kind for cooking with low coconut taste)
2 TBSP almond milk
1/2 TSP vanilla essence 

Preheat your oven to 200C. Prepare a large baking sheet with baking paper.
Combine all the dry ingredients including chocolate chips in a large bowl.
Slightly melt the coconut oil if necessary and combine with almond milk and vanilla. Add to the dry bowl.
After a few minutes of mixing well you should be left with a ball of cookie dough.

 
Divide into 10 - 12 cookies (depending on how big you make them) and place on your prepared tray.
Bake for 8 minutes.