Great Adventure # 2

For our second Great Adventure we headed to Newnham in Gloucestershire, which is where my partner used to live.  It is aaaages away from our house, about two hours, but we needed somewhere to stop off for lunch before picking up our bunnies from the sanctuary where they were being bonded, so we decided to have a picnic adventure.

I'm really glad that I 'had' to go out into the wilderness that day.  I am good at going out in the sun, rain and snow but I think if I was to be perfectly honest I don't go out often on grey days.  I don't think to, it just doesn't cross my mind.  It was a very, very grey day, but it was surprisingly beautiful! 

We walked along a path alongside the river Severn, which was a great change of scenery and felt really different.  Narrow path, wooden bridges, sand, long grass and tall reeds.  My partner also came along on this adventure which added a different dynamic! 

We found a beetle on some cow parsley and enjoyed watching it, but I did not like trying to take a photo of it as the focus on my phone camera couldn't tell which bit I wanted to focus on - the flowers, Eric or the bug!

My favourite moment was when we threw Eric into the long grass and he started rolling around, giggling, so I decided to join him and we rolled around in the grass together.  Back to nature!

On the way back we found some mole hills which Eric jumped on and excavated with his hands.  Is this sort of behaviour harmful to moles? If so we will desist next time!

We definitely enjoyed this adventure, but it was slightly marred by the busy road running alongside the river path (I didn't notice that on Google maps when we were planning where to go!)  It didn't feel as 'wild' or peaceful as last time, but I'm really glad we experienced a different environment on a grey day.  And it was heaven after being in the car for two hours!

The rules
Why don't you join us on a great adventure? All you need to do is:

  • Challenge yourself to head out into the wilderness once a week, every week - whatever the weather.
  • Leave the balls, bikes and toys at home - this challenge is all about nature.
  • Blog it and link up below - use #greatadventure on Twitter and Instagram. I'm going to be posting my great adventures from the fortnight every other Saturday or Sunday, but you can join in at any time. If you don’t have a blog but still want to join in, just post about your adventures in the comments below!

We Like To Read # 2

The book we've chosen this week is one that's really special to me as it holds so many memories of my own childhood. 
'The Tale of Mrs Tiggy-Winkle' - Beatrix Potter
When I was a child I had a box set of miniature Beatrix Potter books.  They were absolutely tiny and came in a box with a little drawer that pulled out with the books in.  I adored them.  I got them as a Christmas present one Christmas Eve from Tomte.  We used to go to the Lake District for holidays for many years when I was a child, and when we were there we would visit Beatrix Potter's house and Gallery.  We also used to listen to a cassette tape of Mrs Tiggy-Winkle in the car on long journeys and I can still hear the story read in the same voice, and the song sung the same as it was on the tape.   And I had a copy of Mrs Tiggy-Winkle exactly the same as this one (which is one of a set of vintage Beatrix Potter books my Grandma bought for Eric from a charity shop).

Eric's been enjoying a new animated Peter Rabbit adaptation on CBeebies at the moment, he gets so excited when it's on each day and will watch it absolutely rapt, so I thought the time was right to introduce him to the Beatrix Potter books too.  I'm not sure why I haven't read them with him before, they have been on his bookshelves for over a year, I think I just felt he wouldn't be interested.  Also as they are such beautiful vintage copies I didn't want them to get ruined! But Eric is over the chewing-on-ripping-out-all-the-pages-of-books phase now, and lately he's had a much longer attention span and ability to get involved in the story.  So tonight we read Mrs Tiggy-Winkle for the first time!

When I showed him the book and told him Mrs Tiggy-Winkle is a friend of Peter Rabbit's, and is a hedgehog who wears clothes, he was immediately keen!

The book seemed to have a calming influence.  Eric was excited, but not PANTS-DINOSAURS-LOUDNOISES-STOMPING-IKNOWLET'SJUMPOFFTHETOPOFTHESOFAEXCITED, more quietly excited and interested to find out about Mrs Tiggy-Winkle (whom he called Mrs Tinkle Winkle!) He turned pages slowly and thoughtfully, looking in detail at the illustrations, and was gleeful when Peter Rabbit made an appearance.  The story is really gentle and the illustrations are naturalistic, soft and whimsical.  I really love the idea of animals having removeable coats, stockings and gloves, like Sally Henny-penny's yellow stockings, little white mittens belonging to Tabby Kitten and Cock Robin's red waistcoat, that Mrs Tiggy-Winkle washes for them so they're all clean and lovely.  It's relaxing and the ideal bedtime story. 

Our copy of the book has that lovely 'old book' smell, and reading the same edition as the one I had when I was small was really nostalgic.  The illustrations feel really cosy and comforting, and as well as remembering them from when I was young the scenery in the pictures also reminds me of our Lake District holidays.  I really love the world created in this story, it is magical and familiar and I remember how much it used to spark my imagination. 

I'm surprised, but pleased, that Eric liked this book so much, and we'll definitely read it again.  

Don't forget to check out the other We Like To Read posts on Fritha's blog Tigerlilly Quinn and Fiona's blog Pea Musings!

Vegan FAQs # 2 - Where Do You Get Your Protein?

2. Where do you get your protein?

This is the question I get asked most often, nearly everybody asks when I tell them I'm a vegan! The answer is: from plants! Nuts, lentils, peas, avocado, all different types of beans (like baked beans, butter beans, cannellini beans, pinto beans, black beans, refried beans etc.), almond butter, tofu, peanut butter, edamame, soya milk, quinoa, tempeh and faux 'meat' products are all high in protein.  You can get beans and pulses in tins or microwaveable pouches that can be used straight away with no soaking required, or you can even sprout dried beans and pulses like my friend Keith (who isn't even a vegan!) It's very easy to cook using these ingredients so I make lots of traditional meals but substitute the vegan equivalent for the meat.  

It's really not a big deal to get enough protein, and protein requirements are actually a lot lower than most people think.  Recommended amounts have been halved in the last 20 years and more and more diseases are being linked with eating too much animal protein.  The WHO (World Health Organisation) recommends no more than 8% of our energy (calories) should be from protein.  

It's also worth remembering that there are successful vegan body builders, runners, Olympic athletes, cyclists etc. (like Carl Lewis, Venus & Serena Williams, Mike Tyson, Molly Cameron, Fiona Oakes, Maria Navratilova and many more) who are obviously getting enough protein and are at optimal health! 

A few people have misguidedly informed me that meat, dairy and eggs are 'higher quality' protein, which is simply untrue; you can get all the essential amino acids from plant proteins.  I have also had a few people tell me that the only way to get enough protein on a vegetarian or vegan diet is to combine different proteins which is off-puttingly complicated, but this opinion is actually based on out of date research which has been disproved, and even the author of the book has since repudiated her claims.  

In it's Journal of the American Dietetic Association, the American Dietetic Association, one of the world's leading health bodies, sets out its position that "well-planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.  Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.  [...] This article reviews the current data related to key nutrients for vegetarians including protein, n-3 fatty acids, iron, zinc, iodine, calcium, and vitamins D and B-12.  A vegetarian diet can meet current recommendations for all of these nutrients", 

For more in-depth, referenced information I highly recommend the Protein Myth factsheet and reading The China Study.

Great Adventure # 1

I absolutely love being outdoors in the fresh air. Most of my favourite childhood memories are times spent outside... walks around the common and playing in the sand at the sand cliffs there, a sailing trip with my Dad when we went to an uninhabited island in the middle of the channel where we found gold shells and sailed back in a thunderstorm, Guide camps in the middle of parkland where we had a campfire and raft races. I want to create these memories for Eric (and relive them too!)

Having said that I'm definitely guilty of getting a bit caught up in the hectic, busy, rush of daily life: washing up, cooking, washing clothes, drying clothes, sorting clothes, folding clothes, putting clothes away, playing, tidying up, playgroups, food shopping, seeing friends, driving lessons, running errands, etc. and not making the time to relax outdoors and go on an adventure.

I saw the Great Adventure Challenge on my friend Fiona's blog Pea Musings, and instantly wanted to be a part of it too. The challenge is that once a week you have to get outdoors into the wilderness, whatever the weather, then blog about your experiences. If you're time-deprived and can't write lots you can just upload pictures of your great adventure. Perfect! I thought this would be the ideal challenge to get me back into blogging, have fun with Eric and make time to relax.

I think outdoor play is really important for children - to practice emerging physical skills, get some vitamin D and freely experience motor skills like leaping, running and jumping. They can learn through their senses, they are free to express themselves in their own way, invent games and have autonomy. The outdoor light stimulates the pineal gland which regulates the biological clock, is vital to the immune system, and makes children happier! And everyone knows how much better you sleep after spending time outdoors!

Eric loves being outdoors. He likes going in the garden to see our bunny Bolly, to eat lunch or to shout over the fence at his friends next door. He loves looking for insects in the log pile at my Mum and Dad's house, or under rocks. He loves jumping in puddles. He likes climbing the big tree in our village (it has very low roots to climb on!). He enjoys going on days out to the woods or beach, or for walks along the stream. So I knew he'd love this challenge too.

We had the ideal opportunity for starting the great adventure as my friend Fi, her husband and their daughter, Ebony, came to stay.  It was the first time Eric and I had met Ebony, and she is now 17 months old, so I was ridiculously excited. She is sooooo lovely: bright, funny and the perfect, beautiful mixture of her Mum and Dad. It was really special to see my friends as parents for the first time and the bond they have with her.  It was also really nice to see how she and Eric interacted together. He was really excited about her coming, having previously only seen videos and photos of her on the computer, and he spent a little while planning which trains Ebony would play with and which trains he would have, and which games they would play with the trains together.  

When they arrived the weather was warm and sunny, so we ate lunch in the garden and caught up on all our news. Seeing a younger toddler brought back the memories of how it was when Eric was at her age and stage, which pulled the heart strings a bit (in a nice way). After lunch we decided to head out for a walk so I could show them our new area and we could both fulfill our great adventure challenge for the week (my first!). We went inside and played for a bit while my partner tidied up the lunch things (thank you Alex!), then got ready to go.  Cue heavens opening and the heaviest rain I have seen in a long long time! 

It was bucketing down! Raining cats and dogs! Pouring! And other rain-related words. I hurriedly tried to find appropriate waterproofs and umbrellas for everyone and Alex bowed out - he does not like rain. At all. Eric declined his waterproof trousers. And then we headed out!

I won't lie, I loved it. I really like the rain, it was exciting! The only bad thing was feeling sorry for Fiona, her husband and Ebony as I was worried I was dragging them out against their will. I have the tendency to be a bit bossy and scout leader-y!

We headed on the cycle paths to the edge of my village, and Eric insisted on being carried quite early on! From there we crossed a meadow, went over a bridge across a stream and through a tiny wood. The stream was swollen from the sudden deluge and the water was flowing quite fast, so Eric threw some sticks over the bridge and watched them come out of the other side.  We walked around the tiny pathways brushing past the cow parsley and overgrown plants. We found different sticks and splashed about.  


We were considering going on through the fields, but everyone was literally soaked to the skin...water was coming in through the shoulder seams of my mac, Fiona's coat wasn't even pretending to be waterproof, Ebony had a muddy bottom from falling over and all our trousers were wet through, so we decided to head back (via a huge puddle to jump in!)  

We got home, chucked all the wet things in a huge pile, changed into dry clothes and warmed up with hot chocolate.

I couldn't have wished for a better first Great Adventure. I'm so pleased our first outing for this challenge was with friends. It was exhilarating, relaxing and made Eric and I really happy.

The rules
Why don't you join us on a great adventure? All you need to do is:

  • Challenge yourself to head out into the wilderness once a week, every week - whatever the weather.
  • Leave the balls, bikes and toys at home - this challenge is all about nature.
  • Blog it and link up below - use #greatadventure on Twitter and Instagram. I'm going to be posting my great adventures from the fortnight every other Saturday or Sunday, but you can join in at any time. If you don’t have a blog but still want to join in, just post about your adventures in the comments below!

A Stressful Day!

Today should have been a lovely day, as today was Bunny Bonding day, when our poor, lonely, recently-bereaved rabbit would get to play Take Me Out with a bunch of boy bunnies! But today we woke up late.  

Eric woke up in the night and sneaked, cat-like into bed with us.  The disturbance usually knackers us out, as he waits till you're just nodding back off to sleep then kicks you in the back or demands milk.  After all this activity he usually sleeps later in the morning.  When we'd gone to bed I had planned to set my alarm for 6am as we had an early start, but Alex reassured me that there'd be no need as Eric would be up at 6:30/7, we didn't need to leave until 10, we'd have enough time.  This would have been an excellent plan.  That was before the unexpected interrupted night and late start.  

We woke up on an instant back foot.  Eric woke at 8.  We had 2 hours to get ready.  To the child-free that probably sounds like absolutely ample time to get ready, perhaps have a leisurely shower, a relaxed breakfast, watch a bit of telly or read the papers, potter about a bit, grab just keys and purse and pop out.  Possibly to organised super-parents it also seems like ample time.  To us, 2 hours to get ready is something from an awful nightmare, a hideous rush that will leave us sweating, tearing around, panicking, close to tears.  Eric needs milk, then to be dressed, beds need to be made, Alex and I showered, breakfast cooked, eaten, thrown on the walls then washed up, floor cleaned, teeth cleaned, make up put on (sometimes.  On some of those occasions Eric likes to help, which takes even longer), bunny let out in the garden and fed,  my bag packed, Eric's bag packed, possibly snacks and lunch to be made and packed.  Today we needed to make a picnic.  Furthermore there had been confusion and misunderstandings about who would be doing what in the morning, so tempers were flaring. 

Incredibly we actually set off on time, but stress levels were high.  They peaked on the M5.  Due to an accident we were at a stand still for 45 minutes.  At the beginning of the traffic jam Eric piped up with the dreaded "I need a wee!" After about 15 minutes he was crying cause he needed to go so much, I was crying cause I hated that it was probably hurting him as he was so desperate, and Alex was nearly crying at the sheer horror of the situation.  We were in the fast lane (although that's not saying much as none of the lanes were moving), we couldn't get in any other lane, we couldn't get to the hard shoulder, getting out on the hard shoulder would have been illegal anyway and as there'd been an accident we were worried emergency vehicles might come roaring up the hard shoulder, we couldn't get out and get to the central verge as it was a motorway and that would have been incredibly dangerous, the traffic wasn't moving at all so we couldn't get off at a junction, I couldn't get him out of his car seat and get him to go in a bottle as the traffic might have started moving again....argh! Eventually our poor boy wet himself and was much happier, but I was sobbing with guilt that he had had to.  Bad, bad times.  Is this terrible parenting? I feel like it is but I'm not sure what else we could have done.  

We eventually got off the motorway and managed to pull over so I could take the seat pad off Eric's seat, clean him up and change him into dry trousers and pants.  He screamed the whole time as he didn't want to stand with his socked feet on the grass.  I needed a wee too but couldn't find anywhere discreet to go, there was a massive ditch in the way of the bushes.  

We set off again and took a wrong turning.  It started to feel reminiscent of a time we recently tried to get to Exeter and stupidly trusted Google maps, resulting in the mother of rows about my navigational skills.  

We eventually got to the bunny rescue after 2 hours and 40 minutes.  

Ahhhh the bunnies.  This bit of the day was nice.  There were many, many lovely bunnies.  We looked at many, many boy bunnies, perhaps 10, and then we were introduced to Churchill.  It was love at first sight.  He is a ginormous, grey giant.  The most gentle bunny I've ever met.  I got in his pen with him and he just lay there contentedly while I stroked him.  Eric got in patted him, then threw a ball at him and he didn't flinch.  He was the one.  

Our bunny, Bolly, is quite a bossy, feisty girl and we were worried she'd bully a smaller rabbit, but she is huge, so we didn't we'd actually find a bigger one.  So we thought a giant like Churchill would be brilliant.  He's so laid back that I think he'll let her be the boss and not mind.  We had high hopes, but did the sensible thing and picked some back-ups in case their first date didn't go well and they tried to kill each other.  It's very hard choosing animals in a sanctuary when they are all lovely and you'd like to rescue them all.  

We left Bolly there to be bonded with a husbun and eventually left and ate our sandwiches in the car.  It felt really sad leaving her.  Bunnies are alot of hard work so I thought it'd feel like a holiday, but actually I just miss her.  

We drove an hour to Bristol and popped in to see Alex's mum for a bit but we were dog tired and just slumped on the sofa, drinking her tea and eating jam tarts while Eric threw plastic chairs around the garden.  

After another hour and 40 minute drive my bum was numb, my back was aching, my eyes were itching as I was so tired, my laptop had run out of battery so I couldn't blog in the car, Alex's batteries had run out too and he was barely functioning, and Eric just wanted me to read him his Octonauts magazine, which wasn't easy as I was sitting directly in front of him so couldn't get in a position where he could see the pictures and I could see the words at the same time.  

At last we were home bringing the total driving time to 5 hours and 15 minutes.  I had to make dinner, Alex wanted to crash out and Eric wanted to make trains.  Then Eric made us a present in his pants - a little brown nugget.  After a further 'code brown' in the bath I can conclude that today was not a successful potty training day.  Nor the most fun day we've ever experienced as a family.  

However, it ended really happily when I received a text from Alice at the sanctuary....

"They like each other :D"

We're so pleased!

NOTD: Pink and Gold Half Moons

I don't have as much time or inclination for beautification these days, but when I have the odd moment I quite like to be creative with my nails, and then when I see them looking all colourful it does make me feel cheery! Eric likes it when I paint his too... He only usually has one coloured nail though!

Today I painted my nails a soft pink, then painted the half moons with alternating gold and rose gold, and finished with a top coat.  

When I paint my nails they chip really quickly as I'm a hands-on kinda gal.  With this design, if the ends get chipped playing/washing up/being a busy parent then I'm hoping it won't show up as much!

Eric's verdict: "Wow! That's good! They're a bit good."!

The products I used are all vegan and cruelty-free, they are: 

SpaRitual Free Bird
Orly Rage
SpaRitual Impeccable Chip Resistant Top Coat

We Like To Read # 1

I saw the 'We Like To Read' series of posts on my friend Fiona's blog Pea Musings, which led me to Fritha's blog Tigerlilly Quinn, and I felt inspired to join in.  The 'We Like To Read' idea is that it's a collaborative project where bloggers share the books they love and are reading to their kiddie winkles.  

I absolutely love reading, it's one of the main things I enjoy in life, and I have always read to Eric, from when he was teeny tiny.  He loves books now and we always read a pile of books at bedtime and some in the morning (and if we're playing inside in the day maybe some more!) We go to the library every 3-4 weeks and it's one of his favourite places to go, he gets ├╝ber excited.  He's started to try to read to himself, making up stories that he thinks go with the pictures, which is just lovely.  Eric has lots of books, from ones that have been bought for him to ones that have been passed down, and many from my own childhood too.  I think those are the most special to share with him.  It makes me really happy to read him a book I loved as a child and see him smile and enjoy it with me.  

So you can expect to see quite a variety of books both new and old in this series!

Today's book is a new one that my partner and I bought for Eric.  It is....

'Norman The Slug With The Silly Shell' by Sue Hendra.

This is such a fun and cheerful book, with bright (but not headache-inducing) colours and exciting illustrations.  It's light-hearted, silly and feel-good.

For Eric, who is nearly 3, the book is just the right length - long enough to be interesting but not so long that he gets bored.  The pictures are eye catching and there aren't too many words per page, so it keeps his attention and he doesn't want to turn the page before I've finished reading the words.  

The story covers subjects like wanting to fit in, being different, being left out, using your creativity and persevering when you really want to achieve something, but it does this in a subtle and fun way.  It ends with the message that it's ok to be yourself rather than trying to fit in with everyone else, and that if you dare to have big dreams and ambitions, and you try hard, then life can be really fun.  

There is also a pants-related ending which Eric thinks is really funny!

Eric loves this book and he wanted me to read it three times before bed today! I would recommend it for any small people and their grown ups.

Please do check out Pea Musings, Fiona has been the original source of most of my new blog posts lately, and it is literally my favourite blog - I read it avidly and excitedly whenever there is new content! And check out Tigerlilly Quinn for all the We Like To Read posts collated together each week.

Why not join in and share what you are reading with your child?

Vegan FAQs 1 - How Do You Eat Out?

Hello again everybody! Sorry it has been SUCH a long time since I've written a post.  You can blame the whirlwind busy-ness of life with a 2 year old! I'm going to be writing more personal blog posts about what Eric and I have been up to, including the #greatadventure and the 'we like to read' series soon, but for today I wanted to start a new series of posts I'm going to be writing answering the questions I get asked most often as a vegan.  I'm going to do one 'vegan FAQ' per post (otherwise the posts would be sooooo long!) so look out for the next in the series!

We moved house last November to a completely new area so met lots of brand new friends, and usually when I meet people for the first time (or as I get to know them) there are some questions about veganism that I get asked alot, especially as I'm sometimes the only vegan the person has met.  So I've been really wanting to write these posts for a while. There are so, soooo many vegan questions people ask, from the serious to the bizarre! If you have any questions you've ever wanted to ask about any aspect of veganism then please ask in the comments below.

I should point out that all vegans, as with all groups of people, are individual and have different views, thoughts and opinions on posts are just going to be my own answers based on my personal experience.

So without further ado, my first vegan FAQ is....

1.  How do you get around issues with eating out? Especially when so many dishes have even traces of dairy? 

Lots of places these days are really great when it comes to special diets, and many have a 'special diets menu', that categorises or lists what is in each dish so you can check if it'll be suitable or ask for it to be made slightly differently.  

For lunch I like taking a picnic (especially as it's cheaper and you get to eat it in the great outdoors!) but there are usually some vegan options in coffee shops, Boots or Marks & Spencer! And there are also some great veggie cafes where I live.  

When I plan to eat out in the evening I'll usually ring the restaurant in advance to let them know that a vegan is coming to dine (fanfare!) and ask them if they have anything on the menu that is vegan.  If they don't, every restaurant I have ever spoken to and eaten in has been really accommodating and said they will either adjust something on the menu to make it vegan, or that the chef will create a fantastical dish for me! I then ring on the day to remind them.  

If I want a more spontaneous dining out experience that hasn't involved ringing ahead (which doesn't happen these days because of Eric!) I'll go somewhere that I know is good at accommodating vegans, like Wagamamas, Tam Popo, Pizza Express, Las Iguanas or Zizzi, etc. Often I will take a little tub of grated vegan cheese with me so I too can enjoy a delicious cheese pizza just for me by just substituting that! 

If we're getting takeaway we usually get Indian as I'm not a fan of Chinese food (so if any vegans want to share how good Chinese takeaways are at accommodating you, please comment below!), and I'll just check on the phone if what I'm ordering contains ghee or any dairy products, and if it is I ask for it to be made without.  

If I'm going to a new area or travelling overseas I usually check out Happy Cow  or Veggie Places to have an idea of where to go.  

Sometimes the meal I'm given can be a bit more of a miss than a hit, but I think that's the case whatever your diet is! 

Yesterday I had my lovely vegan friend Fiona from Pea Musings and her family to stay and she was telling me about her experience of vegan dining on her honeymoon.  She and her husband had gone on an amazing honeymoon, but hadn't really even considered the food until they got there.  They went to the restaurant and having realised they hadn't checked if there'd be anything they could eat, they resigned themselves to having to eat chips the whole time they were away.  When the serving staff came to their table they explained they were vegan but not to worry if there were no vegan dishes, that they would just have chips, but the member of staff protested and immediately went to get the chef.  The chef asked what exactly they could and couldn't eat and made them a lovely meal.  When they got back to their room that evening, there was a scroll on their bed, and it was a vegan menu designed just for them, with lots of different vegan dishes for them to order from for the week!  Apparently a highlight was a pudding where they were presented with a chocolate egg, onto which they had to pour hot chocolate sauce, which melted the outer egg, revealing a golden inner egg filled with mango sorbet.  AMAZING!

I've been a vegan for nearly 5 years now, and even in that time I think it's getting better and better as the years go on and people become more aware of veganism.  So it's really ok being a vegan and eating out.  I don't worry about it or even think about it anymore, I'm used to it and it seems normal.

Comment below with your experiences of eating out - I'd love to hear your tales of the good, the bad and the plain bowl of peas! And please comment if you have any vegan questions for my next FAQs