Thursday 23 November 2017

Mamas, love your body (A letter to myself and other mothers)

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There is little I find sadder on social media than reading a request for information on cosmetic surgery from mamas who want to "fix" their post-natal bodies. I am not talking about mums with serious issues as a result of pregnancy and childbirth that are causing pain or restricting movement, I am talking about normal cosmetic things that happen during pregnancy that society, the media, magazines, advertising, have deemed not normal, attractive or acceptable. Don't get me wrong I'm not judging, I get it, I really do, I have those feelings too, and this letter it to myself as much as it is to you a reminder of what is important, what is true and what is real.

Sometimes what we really need is not a new face cream but rather some fresh perspective.

Mama, I am talking to you now, crying out to you to show your body some love.  Look at the amazing things your body has done for you.  It has grown a new life and carried it for nine whole months, that amazing body of yours grew another human, a miracle! Thank your bodies for giving you your daughter or son, thank it for it's strength, it's resilience, it's ability to endure one of the most powerful forces on earth; bringing forth new life. Your body will never be the same as it was before your carried life, those rounded hips, your strong thighs, that ocean tummy, those milky breasts, but why should it be?  Different isn't bad, changed isn't wrong.   Why should we have to try to hide that we made a life?

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We've all seen pictures of women in the media, air brushed to perfection, bodies of young women, un-worked, flawless.  We're bombarded by these pictures on almost a daily basis, but these images are not reality. Of course the women in these images exist and I am no way shaming them for the bodies they have, but they are only showing one kind of beautiful, and not only that but a beauty that has been refined beyond the point of reality.  What about the beauty of an empty nest?  That tummy of yours is exquisite mama. It stretched and grew to accommodate your baby, that skin you grab and fret over is a testament to your body's greatest achievement, and it is a beautiful thing.  Your baby no longer resides there but the echo of that second heart beat remains with you as a reminder of your strength and power. Those breasts that grew and fed your infants are a marvel my love! Of course they don't look like they did when you were a teen, nor do they resemble the huge round orbs that we're confronted with on billboards and magazine pages, shiny and rounded, pumped up and plastic and full of lies.  But those breasts on your body are yours, doing their job, wear them with pride for they are real, love them, for they are truth.


We are shamed, as mothers for not having our teenage bodies any more.  We are fed a steady stream of shame, cartoon pictures of mothers with breasts dragging on the floor, photos of mummy tummies with felt tip lines marking where hard earned skin will be cut away, Magazine pictures of celebrity mothers shamed for their post-natal bodies.  Mama, don't believe these pictures, don't let them draw you in, don't believe their lies.  Your body is perfect, exactly how it should be, it doesn't need to be fixed because it isn't broken.

What are we teaching our daughters, or nieces, our younger sisters, when we seek cosmetic surgery on bodies that have simply done their job? Do we want to send them the message that when they have children, that very process that brought them into the world, is something to be ashamed of, something to mend, hide, cover up, disguise, pretend never happened?  We should be celebrating our extra skin, our stretch marks.  Wouldn't it be amazing if we longed for these in the same way our childish minds longer for the beginning of breasts and our periods, as a mark of womanhood, of womanliness?  The only way we can change the world, change the way the world sees the bodies of mothers is to change the way we see ourselves.

Gustav Klimt, Mother & Child

I am calling out to you mama to be proud of your body, say positive words about it, honour your body by sending out words of love about your it into the world, tell the world that you're not going to be shamed for the scars and marks of your body's ultimate achievement.  Reject the lies you've been fed, let's change the future, for ourselves and our children.  Let us tell the world what is normal and what is true, and stop accepting the negative world view of a mother's body; because you my love are truth, you are normal, more than normal, you are consummate work of art, you are perfection.

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Wednesday 25 October 2017

Spy Theme Letter Activity

Hi Everyone,

Today I am blogging for who have inspired me with their letter detectives preschool activity.  This would be perfect for a Spy or detective themed topic or, you know, just for fun. I would like to try something like this with UV pens and lights too!

Preschool Reading & Writing Activities: Turn Your Child into a Letter Detective!

What You Need:

  • Highlighters in several colors
  • Magazines or newspapers
  • Several index cards or post-it notes
  • Magnifying glass (optional)

What You Do:

  1. Choose a letter of the alphabet. Make sure that your child knows what it looks like, both as a capital letter and as a lowercase. (You may want to print both versions on an index card or post-it note, to give him a reference.) Once you've given your child a target, arm him with a set of old magazines or newspapers to hunt through, and a magnifying glass if you've got one, to add to the Sherlock Holmes experience. As he finds his letter, he should highlight it.
  2. Want to add extra excitement? Use a timer and see how many versions of the letter your child can find in two or three minutes. Tally the number and see if she can "beat" it the next time.
  3. If your child is having difficulty with this, don't despair. The magazine and newspaper pages may have too much writing on them. You can create your own page using a computer's word processing program. Instead of those Word Searches, so common in the newspaper, you're creating a Letter Search. Be sure to use a large font size, then type letters randomly, using some uppercase and some lowercase letters. To keep frustration levels low, use your focus letter frequently, at least at first. Here's an example of what a letter search for "Aa" would look like.
  4. Once your child is finding all of the letters of the alphabet quickly, challenge him with some high frequency words, instead. Some possible words to start with include: “the”, “a”, “to”, “my”, “is”, “you”, and “and”.
The more she practices, the faster she'll get. So keep those highlighters handy, and the hunt fresh.

Hope you have fun with this activity, let me know if you give it a go and if your kids love it.  What other ideas d you use to get your children into letters?

Saturday 30 September 2017

Hello Autumn!

Oh I do love this time of year. The colours alone are enough to make my heart burst at the beauty of it all.  At Forest School I sometimes feel like closing my eyes as it's too much beauty for my little mind to handle!

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There are lots of wonderful festivals at this time of year too and I am trying to enjoy them all, savoring and relishing every one.  Squeezing all the meaning I can out of every moment.

Friday the 22nd September was the Autumn Equinox which marks the day when the number of daylight hours is equal to the number of night time hours.  It means that Winter is approaching and that it is time to say goodbye and thank you very much to Summer.

We decided to visit the standing stone circle at Avebury to mark the occasion. I am not entirely sure why.  I am drawn to the place at these times of the year when the seasons change, maybe it makes me feel a connections to my ancestors or British history or nature, I am not sure.  It is notable that the meaning of the standing stone circle at Avebury is still not known.  It is thought it might be to do with fertility, but no one can say for sure, it doesn't align with the stars, or with the sun or moon as Stone Henge does, it is till a mystery to historians. I find this fascinating because there were a number of people camping at Avebury who I thought must be Druid based on their dreadlocks and rainbow tie die (not that all Druids have dreadlocks and wear rainbow tie dye, or that all those with dreadlocks and rainbow tie dye are Druid, I happen to have penchant for rainbow tie dye myself.) who are obviously drawn to the place at this time of year also, but like me really don't know the meaning of the stones.

We walked round the circle, I tried to go "through" the stones (in the style of Claire Fraser from Outlander), it didn't work, incidentally, and we visited the museum and manor house.  All really interesting  (I highly recommend a visit).

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That evening I had a little fire in the garden, said thank you for all the good things that summer brought us; camping, visiting family, the seaside, birthdays, playgrounds, swimming pools..... and welcomed in the Autumn, (although with slight hesitation and apprehension because I am really not a fan of winter.).

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The Autumn festivities continues into the week and yesterday we celebrated Michaelmas, also known as Feast of St Michael and All Angels.  The Bible story in Revelation tells us that there was a war in Heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, (who was the Devil), and the dragon was cast out of Heaven.  Incidentally the Archangel Michael is often pictured in artworks holding a set of scales, supposedly to weigh the souls of men, and Michaelmas comes within the astrological sign of the scales (Libra)!  (I love the interconnectedness of it all!) The scales represent a balance between the darkness and death that Autumn brings and our own ability to raise ourselves up into re-birth and resurrection.  We have to fight against the inner-dragon in our own being and find the spirit to come alive in the dying year.  Taking up a new task has long been a theme for this season and we are encouraged to take a new step on our inner journey.  (I read about this in a beautiful book I have called All Year Round)

We marked the occasion by making a bread dragon, which started off as a pretty convincing dragon (though I forgot the wings!) and became a rather puffed up, swollen dragon, (giving new meaning to the song "Puff the magic dragon"!)

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While researching Michaelmas I came across a website which explains an ancient tradition that occurred on the Island of Iona in Scotland (more interconnectedness because.....Outlander) all the people and even the animals walked sunwise around the Angels Hill to seek God’s blessing on the island for the coming year. This tradition goes back to pre Christian times when Druids believed the Devil was frustrated by anything that had no end, no break, no entrance.  Celtic Christians adopted this idea, it made sense because God has no end in both time and love, and the three selves of God (Holy Trinity) form an ever circling presence. Celtic Christians would walk circles around their crops asking for God to bless them, as an adaption of the Druid practice of turning sunwise to entice the sun to bless their crops.  There is a couple of circling or Caim prayers that can be spoken to ask God to encircle anyone or anything you pray for:



Aren't they lovely!
If you want to know more visit THIS website, where I got these images and this information from.  I also came across THIS website which gives even more information about the meaning behind Michaelmas.  I really love how us humans have this deep desire to make meaning, and it is this very desire that urges me to paint, document and write.

Now as I continued to research Michaelmas, another piece of interconnectedness came up, I happened to stumble upon talk of a St Michaelmas Bannock, relevant because you know....Scotland...Outlander...St Michaelmas!! This is THE food they eat in Scotland in the 1700's!  So I was immediately drawn into this, and who would have thought I would even come across a website with a recipe for a vegan Bannock, which also talks about Outlander! (You can just imagine my excitement about this and having no one to share it witht!)  SO I am planning on making myself a vegan Bannock next week and will let you all know how it goes (check my Facebook page)

These festivals are all about transition; the transition from Summer to Autumn; and because we humans so love to embed meaning into everything, we can take this opportunity to meditate on the beauty of the season, everything is dying and it seems somehow ironic that it is at this transition point into dormancy that we find the most beauty.  At the same time the dying leaves and sleeping trees whisper the promise of the new life that is to come in the opposite time of the year (the other side of the scales if you will).  While we were walking round the stones Boris found a little chick's egg, with it's tiny peck marks going all round.  It seemed meaningful that at the turning point of the season, as it turns to death and darkness, we were reminded of the promise of new life in the mirroring season to come.

So as Summer ends and Autumn begins I am following with tradition and trying to take a moment to think about what tasks I want to complete before the year is out.  At this time of year it's easy to feel like starting new projects is a fruitless task with the end of the year approaching and the thought of New Years Resolutions on the horizon, but I feel like I really want to make the most of the year by setting goals that I can achieve before the year is thorough. I still have so many unfinished projects on the go, from my book that I have been writing for about two and a half years now to video tutorials and half finished paintings, and I also have some festive projects and products I hope to release soon.  I really want to feel a sense of completion on these.  Maybe I should pray a Caim prayer over them and the coming season!

Wow, that was a much longer blog post that I had planned, I do so love meaning and interconnectedness (is that even a word?) and Autumn! We have several more Autumnal festivals still to celebrate this season including Harvest Festival, Hallowe'en (Samhain), All Saints Day, All Souls Day, Rememberance Day, Guy Fawkes Night and Martinmas, to name but a few. I am excited for the season ahead and all opportunities for fun and family and friends that it brings.

Thursday 21 September 2017

I stopped Eating!!

And started juicing!

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Recently I watched an episode of an American TV show about weight loss. It was really inspiring, a woman was enrolled onto a special support programme of diet and fitness and with the help of specialist gym equipment, qualified instructors and nutritionists she lost loads of weight and at the end of the show she looked really amazing, I will come back to this later.

The weekend before last I finished off my three month(ish) wholefoods vegan diet with a four day juice feast to knock those last few kilos of weight (that I really didn't need) on the head and to see if I could improve my health.

It was HARD!  I wanted solid food!  Buuuuuut not as hard as I thought it would be.  Unlike a few years ago when I did Raw Till 4, I didn't get any "detoxing" symptoms (I am putting detoxing in inverted commas because I don't like the term as it is so unscientific, but what I mean is my body didn't have such a shock switching to juice as it did switching to Raw Till 4 so, no diarrhoea, no headaches or nausea etc which I think is a testament to how healthily I was eating before hand.). although I did feel tired and had a wobbly moment on the morning of the third day where my husband had to feed me some banana so I could get out of bed!

The good news is I reached my weight loss target and actually felt pretty good on the last day and like I could have carried on for longer, (I didn't of course!  I gorged myself on Chinese food that very evening and have subsequently gained two kilos!!)

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Now I need to work at maintaining (re-achieving) my goal weight, I am already getting carried away eating toast and the like so I need to be really careful.

It is wonderful to not be overweight any more, it's is wonderful to be able to fit into all my old clothes, even if they are mostly wide legged trousers from the late 90's, to not have my thighs rub together when I wear a summer skirt, to be able to see my collar bones and most importantly to have reduced my risk of many illnesses like diabetes, cancer and heart disease.  But as I reflect on this journey I am struck by the stark fact that I am still the same person deep down that I was when I was overweight.  I don't feel like a slim person, a healthy person or any better than the person I was before.  What I have come to realise on this diet and lifestyle is that it doesn't matter how much weight you lose, how fit you are, you're still the same person you were before.

Now thankfully, over the past few years I have come to actually quite like myself, so it wasn't a massive disappointment to come to the end of the journey to find that I was in fact just as happy slim as I was overweight. But I know this isn't always the case.  In fact the mere fact of not liking ourselves to begin with can be the very things that is stopping us from losing weight in the first place.

We are sold the idea that if you're slim and fit and healthy you'll be happy too, and there is always this tendency to chase this idea, but sadly it's a lie.  It doesn't matter how slim or fit, or healthy we are, if there is something broken inside us no amount of dieting and exercising will fix it.

We might manage to fight our way along the road to a slim, toned body, but no true healing will have taken place if that journey doesn't also include a process of internal healing as well.

True happiness doesn't come from how you look on the outside, it comes from working hard on the important relationship we have with ourselves; addressing issues we have, facing up to ourselves and doing the really hard work internally.

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One of my affirmations from my be series available as a digital download in my shop

Going back to that American TV show.  The most important change the woman made in her life wasn't changing her diet or getting to the gym it was addressing some very deep pain she had from the past, issues with her family and a terrible incident that dramatically affected her life and caused her so much pain, self hatred and guilt. When she finally faced up to everything that happened and was able to put the past behind her the real change in her life occurred and she was able to be truly happy again.

I believe that the journey to a healthy body starts with a healthy mind and that somehow releasing the past opens up pathways that enable the weight to go; and to go forever.

I am reminded of some lyrics from a Dolly Parton  song that I love called "Better Get to Livin'":

                                          I said you'd better get to livin', givin'

Be willing and forgivin'

Cause all healing has to start with you
You better stop whining, pining
Get your dreams in line
And then just shine, design, refine
Until they come true
And you better get to livin'[....]

You better get to livin', givin'

A little more thought about bein'

A little more willin' to make a better way
Don't sweat the small stuff
Keep your chin up
Just hang tough
And if it gets too rough
Fall on your knees and pray
And do that everyday
Then you'll get to livin'.

Her words somehow sum up what we need to improve our lives; there is definitely a message about working on yourself from the inside, some positive visualisation, mindfulness and affirmations and last but not least submitting our lives to a higher power, and not just on the days when things get tough, but every. single. day. I am writing this to remind myself as much as to share with you as I face a future with a healthy body, I need to remember always to be working on my heart and mind, they are the most important and affect everything else.

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This was my first breakfast after my juice feast, I was seriously craving something savory and this really hit the spot.

If you're interested in the diet I followed to lose weight, check it out HERE, I am still offering this 7 day vegan wholefoods meal plan for "pay what you want".

Saturday 26 August 2017

Vegan-Paleo Feast

We're a loving lot us vegans, so I want to show our paleo friends some love by sharing a meal we can all enjoy together, here are some great recipe ideas perfect for vegans and paleos alike.  Lets focus on how we're similar rather than on how we're different and share the love.

                      Sweet Potato Kale Chilli #healthy #vegan #glutenfreeChocolate Orange Chia Pudding | whipped together in a pinch and is perfect for breakfast and dessert alike. | Paleo, Vegan, Low FODMAP

Asian Cucumber Sesame Salad | paleo, vegan & low fodmap     Creamy, spicy cauliflower tikka masala makes the perfect mid week meal. It's easy to put together and something the whole family can enjoy. Vegan, gluten free and full of flavour. Check out our recipe here. Cauliflower Tikka Masala - copyright: www.globa

Colcannon is an Irish side dish, traditionally made with potatoes, kale or cabbage, spring onions, chives, milk and butter. For my version, I’ve replaced potato    Paleo, gluten-free vegan cream cheese recipe with some spice - perfect for all kinds of wraps or with falafels, or to dip vegetables in it

4 Ingredient No Bake Flourless Breakfast Brownies (Paleo, Vegan, Gluten Free)  This noodle-less lasagna is #paleo and #vegan. Zucchini stands in for noodles and cashews are pureed for a creamy cheese substitute. The whole dish is bursting with flavor. Even my meat and cheese loving husband loved it!

Carrot and Coriander Soup recipe, a delicious spin on regular old carrot soup, it's perfect for Fall!  Gluten Free  Vegetarian   Vegan   Paleo   Primal    3 Ingredient Sweet Potato Pizza Crusts (Paleo, Vegan, Gluten Free)- An easy, 3 ingredient stovetop pizza crust recipe made with NO grains, NO cauliflower and NO eggs! -

Sweet Potatoes with Coconut Curry and Mint. On Healthy Seasonal Recipes by Katie Webster. Vegan, Paleo, Whole30 and Gluten-free.   Roasted red pepper pesto courgetti / zoodles. Healthy pasta! This is grain free, gluten-free, dairy-free, refined sugar-free, vegan and paleo.

These are the most delicious fudgy paleo and vegan brownies that you'll ever make! Raw cacao, unsweetened chocolate and chocolate chunks make them extra chocolatey with rich flavor and chewy fudge-like texture. Kid approved, gluten-free, dairy-free and great when you need a healthy chocolate indulgence!  Cashew satay spiralized vegetable stir fry! Easy and Healthy satay with spicy cashew sauce and spiralized vegetables; all in a stir fry! Paleo and Vegan.

Roasted Cauliflower Tabbouleh | A heart warm salad perfect for the middle of winter. Ready in 25 min. |  Protein Breakfast Bars (Vegan + Paleo)

Paleo Vegan Meatballs | Vitamix Recipe  Get Free shipping on any #Vitamix with code 06-006499  Strawberry Milkshake Fudge #raw #vegan #paleo

Saturday 19 August 2017

What's this health kick I've been on?

If you're a subscriber to this blog you will be receiving my monthly newsletters and will know that I've been on a bit of a health kick recently.  (Not a subscriber?  Simply enter your details in the right hand side bar.)

I have been needing to lose weight for years, but the push for me finally came when I agreed to support my husband in cleaning up his diet in the hope it would help heal his Inflammatory Bowel Disease.

We switched to a wholefoods vegan diet (we were already vegan but eating far too much processed food), and I have to say it hasn't hurt one bit. I have lost some weight that I really didn't need to be carrying around and I feel great.

I decided to create a Facebook group called "Happy Healthy Mamas" to get together with other mums to support each other in achieving our own weight loss, fitness and self-care goals.  The group supports a vegan wholefoods diet, if you're interested in joining the group, click HERE

In the group there is a real range of mamas from those transitioning to a vegan diet to those who have been eating wholefoods for some time and are already hitting their goals. 
Some of the mums who are just starting out have asked for a weekly menu that they can follow, so I have spent some time putting one together as a downloadable E-Book.

I have decided to charge for this weekly meal plan E-Book so you know that I believe this is a really good plan that is worth paying money for.  

But because I want to share the love around and help others achieve their goals I am offering it for a limited time as a "pay what you want" price.  This means you choose how much you think a weekly wholefoods vegan menu is worth to you.  You pay the amount you want by typing it into the box below and clicking "Pay Now" and I will email you the weekly meal plan. 

The meal plan includes;
  • Seven different breakfast option,
  • Seven different lunch option,
  • Seven different dinner options with desserts,
  • Different snack options for each day,
  • Photo illustrations of many of the dishes,
  • Ingredients for each meal,
  • Cooking instructions for each meal,
  • A guide on how to use the meal plan day to day and for the future,
  • Other suggestions on healthy living. 

Enter the amount you would like to pay in the box below and click "Buy Now".

I will email you the menu within 24 hours.

Wednesday 9 August 2017

Uber Frugal Month Update

So we're into August now and Uber Frugal Month is officially over.  We also dedicated this month as "No Spend Month".  So let me tell you how it went.

We began the month really well, no spending at all.

We immediately switched out my youngest child' disposable nappies at night for cloth which was a super easy swap and I can't believe we didn't do it sooner.  We also took nappies off my 3 year old at night as we felt he was ready to go dry through the night.  This all went well.  I also started using cloths for going to the toilet.  This also went well thought there was a small increase in washing.

We cancelled our Netflix membership so that's a small monthly saving. Then we were invited to a party one of my children's friend's.  I thought at first I would make a gift, but completely left it too late and ran out of time so had to buy something.  I felt ok about this as you could argue it was an essential purchase, but I  was disappointed with my lack of preparation.  We were planning on cancelling our membership but needed to download to family tree so that ended up not happening. (Still planning on cancelling this as soon as we have figured out how to download the thing.)  Things carried on well after this, just buying our weekly food and other consumables.  Then we got ready for our holiday.

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We did have one sunny day!

We saved a lot of money on our holiday by camping (probably half the amount we would usually spend on a weeks holiday).  Unfortunately things went a bit downhill from here.  I had to buy some footwear for us all that we could use in the showers, so we ended up buying myself a paid of cheapy crocs and some jelly shoes for the boys and some sliders for my husband. On holiday things went even more wrong. We bought snorkels and goggles for the boys and a selection of brightly coloured buckets and spades.  I also made some purchases at a Museum for both myself and the boys (though my purchase was educational so somehow feels justified?!) We also ended up spending quite a bit of money on the camp site washing machines and dryers, and on reflection using cloth over the holiday was probably not cost effective compared to disposables because of the expense of the machines and dryers (it rained so no chance of line drying.) We also spent more on food by eating out and a fair bit was wasted due to not having a fridge. I think this could have been solved with better planning, and now we have done it once, I think we could be more efficient with meals in the future.

When we got back from our holiday my husband bought some new trainers which were on sale and I ordered some too, though sent mine back because, although they were cheap they weren't quite right so decided it was better to get pricier ones that fit perfectly for running in the future when I really need them, than cheaper ones that might bother me (and were also not essential). He also bought some trousers and I bought a new set of paints, (again justified by saying it's for my art business?!)

Unfortunately, because of eating out and other bits and bobs on our holiday we have ended up with both our bank accounts over drawn, but I am hoping that we are less overdrawn than we might have been had we not been "Uber Frugal" this month.

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This in my sold painting, but more paintings available HERE

On the whole it has been a positive experience and I am still taking what I have learnt through August.  I am questioning every purchase rather than just buying things without thought, and looking at things with an is-it-value-for-money mindset rather than thinking "it's too expensive" or "I can't afford it" which are not abundance ways of thinking.

On a positive note, I sold a painting this month!!  And I launched another mama's retreat day, this time an all day art fest!

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Wednesday 26 July 2017

Seven Days of Vegan Dinners

I am so happy that so many of my friends are choosing a compassionate vegan diet.  I have had lots of comments, messages and replies asking for vegan recipes so thought I would put together 7 days of vegan dinners to help people transitioning to a vegan diet.  All the quantities serve about two adults and three small children, but you can easily adjust the quantities to suit your family and appetites.
Some ingredients I haven't given quantities for such as the rice, potatoes and pasta etc, so just use how much you normally would for your family. Apologies for the lack of images for each of the meals. I will try to add images as and when I next do these recipes.

1. Pasta sauce and sausages:

this is a great staple and good for kids, the sausages will probably fool a meat eater in this dish.  You could also swap out the veg and tomatoes for a shop bought jar of sauce, or add a few veggies to a shop bought sauce if you prefer. I have chosen wholemeal fusilli but you can use whatever pasta shapes you prefer.

Wholemeal Fusilli pasta,
Olive oil,
Can of chopped tomatoes,
1 Onion,
1 Courgette,
1 Red pepper,
1/2 pack mushrooms,
3 cloves of garlic,
Vegetable stock cube,
Black pepper,
1 tsp Basil,
1 tsp Oregano,
1 pack Linda McCartney sausages,
(Optional) vegan cheese.

Chop up the onion, garlic courgette, pepper and mushrooms and fry gently in olive oil until soft, add can of chopped tomatoes, herbs, seasoning and stock cube.
Meanwhile cook the sausages and pasta.  When the sausages are done (15 mins in the oven) chop them up and add to the vegetable sauce.  Serve as you like, I prefer to mix my pasta and sauce together before serving. Add a little vegan cheese on top if you like it.
You could also do this as a pasta bake if you like.

2. "Chicken" curry:

This is a tasty general curry, add or takeaway spices to suit your own taste.

1 pack Vegan Quorn chunks,
1 can of Coconut milk,
2 Stock cubes,
1 Onion,
3 garlic cloves,
1 pepper,
Tin of chick peas,
Can of chopped tomatoes,
1 tbs tomato puree,
1 tsp Curry powder,
1/4 tsp Mustard powder,
1 tsp Garam Masala mix,

Fry onion, garlic, pepper and the spices in a little olive oil, add chick peas and quorn pieces.  Add chopped tomatoes and tomato puree and stock cube.  Meanwhile cook the rice in the coconut milk and a stock cube (you may need to add a little water). Serve with poppadoms.

3. Hot and smokey chick pea salad:

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This is a really meaty salad, the flavours in the chick peas and the sun dried tomatoes give a really meaty taste like chorizo.  Then the creamy avocado makes you feel like you're eating some sort of sour cream.  Very tasty.

Mixed lettuce bag/ chopped up lettuce leaves and a handful of spinach leaves,
Red pepper,
Cherry tomatoes,
5 or 6 Sun dried tomatoes,
I Can of chick peas,
Black pepper,
1 tsp Smokes paprika,
Pinch of Cayenne,

Arrange the leaves on a plate and add chopped pepper and cucumber, and the tomatoes and the sun dried tomatoes chopped up.  Cook the chick peas in a frying pan with a little olive oil, add the seasoning, cook till hot through.  Sprinkle the chick peas on top of the salad followed by the avocado chopped into cubes.

4. Fajitas,

A fun family dinner.  If you're not keen on the Quorn you could use butter beans or soya meat balls.

Tortilla wraps,
Vegan quorn chunks,
1 Onion,
1 courgette,
1 red pepper,
1/2 pack mushrooms,
3 Cloves of garlic,
1 tsp Tomato puree,
salt and pepper,
1 tsp Smoked paprika,
Pinch of cayenne,
(optional ) vegan cheese.

Chop up the onion and other veg and fry with a little olive oil, add the quorn chunks, tomato puree and seasoning and cook till all soft.
Serve in wraps with finely chopped lettuce, cucumber slices and sliced tomatoes, avocado and a little vegan cheese if you like.  If you're feeling adventurous the check out cashew sour cream and add this.

5. Bean Casserole,

This maybe my favorite recipe (sorry for the poor quality image).

Image may contain: food

1 can of mixed pulses,
1 can chopped tomatoes,
1 tsp tomato puree,
1 courgette,
1 onion,
3 cloves of garlic,
1 red pepper,
1/2 pack mushrooms,
stock cube,
1 tsp smoked paprika,
1 tbs soft brown sugar,
1 tbs cider vinegar,
1 can coconut milk.

Fry all the veg, add the puree and chopped toms, add the seasoning and stock cube and the can of pulses, add the sugar and vinegar for a bbq taste. and cook till veg is soft.  Meanwhile cook the rice with the coconut milk and a stock cube, add a little water if needed. You can serve with some tortilla crisps if you like.

6. Lasagna,

I have been assured by my meat eating friends that this is a very tasty lasagna. You can get dairy free garlic bread in most supermarkets or make your own with an oven bake baguette, some vitalite and crushed garlic.

Wholemeal lasagna sheets,
Frozen Soya mince,
Can of chopped tomatoes,
1 red pepper,
1 onion,
3 cloves garlic,
1 courgette,
1/2 pack mushrooms,
1 tsp Basil,
1 tsp Oregano,
1 pinch cayenne,
1 jar of vegan white sauce (or google a recipe for cashew white sauce)
Vegan cheese.
Garlic bread to serve.

Chop up then fry off the onions, garlic and other vegetables, add the chopped toms and stock cube and seasoning.  Add the soya mince and cook. Layer the mince sauce, lasagna and white sauce as you would normally and top with the vegan cheese.

7. Cottage pie.

Is this cottage pie or shephears pie, or neither?  I am not sure, but it tastes good so who really cares!
If you like you can switch out the chopped tomatoes for gravy granules and a little water.

Frozen Soya mince,
1 can chopped tomatoes,
1 red pepper,
1 courgette,
1 onion,
3 cloves garlic
1 tbs Tomato puree,
1 tsp Basil,
1 tsp Oregano,
Stock cube,
A dash of Almond milk,
1 tbs Vitalite,
salt and pepper,
(optional) vegan cheese or nutritional yeast.

Chop up and fry the onion, garlic and other vegetables, add soya mince and tomatoes and cook.  Add seasoning.  Meanwhile steam the potatoes then mash with almond milk, vitalite and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Layer in a dish and cook as you would a cottage pie, you can add some vegan cheese on top if you like or some nutritional yeast for a cheesy flavour.

I hope you enjoy these vegan meals and they inspire you to start including more plant based meals into your weekly menu.

Saturday 1 July 2017

Uber Frugal Month

Hi friends,

In July I'll be taking part in Uber Frugal Month.

This is a month long money saving challenge. You can read more about it HERE, and I'm starting today.

We aren't an extravagant family, we rarely splash out on material things, but recently we have had a lot of payments going out and no improvements on money coming in.

There are several reasons I am participating in this challenge:
  • To recharge my commitment to non-consumerism/ materialism,
  • To learn new ways to save money,
  • To make steps towards paying off overdrafts,
  • To make steps towards putting aside money for things we need (new living room floor, kitchen units) and things we want (holiday). 
  • To be able to put more money aside to donate to charity,
  • To focus on the important things in life that money can't buy, family, fun and friendships. 
By the end of this month I don't expect to suddenly have a bank account overflowing with money, but I do hope that we are able to see a future where we have money to spend on things our family needs and some money left over for the things that make life enjoyable (like more camping trips), unlike our current situation where we seem to be working every month to pay off the overdraft. As well as avoiding waste and needless purchasing. I hope we will have re-focused our minds to non-consumerism, so that we need and want less, this is good for us as well as the environment. 

Where I would like to see us in 10 years time is for my husband and I to both work part time.  I would like to be able to make a living from my art so that my husband can work half as much. This way we can share the massive burden of childcare and home education and there is less of a burden on my husband to be the "bread winner". 

As I have mentioned in previous blog posts HERE  we are living in a very small house in a very pricey area, so another part of my ultimate goal would be to be able to move into a larger house (specifically three bedrooms with a second toilet and utility room, (easily pleased)).  I don't dream of mansions and fast cars and loads of clothes and jewellery (too much responsibility) but on a purely practical note, our house is getting too small for our needs and a little bit more space would make life less stressful.  A lot of boxes would have to be ticked for us to be able to achieve this goal, so in the mean time I would like for us to have enough disposable income to be able to pay someone to look after the children perhaps a couple of days a month so I can work on my art and business. 

In the longer term, I would like to see us being able to take our children travelling, to see the world a bit and to be able to live mortgage free, moving towards self-sufficiency. 

So this month is just the start of a much bigger plan and I know it won't be easy.  Children are demanding and the nag factor is hard to resist.  Buying things is just so easy these days I do it without thinking sometimes, I'll buy a book from Amazon that I could have borrowed from the library, or I'll buy something brand new that I could probably have got second hand somewhere, but that takes more effort. So effort is something I am going to need in bucket loads, but I'm making that commitment to the challenge. (I'm going to miss our takeaways on a Friday evening).

So what am I going to be doing to save money in an extreme way?
  • I'll be eliminating all non essential spending, (I'll be calling this a "no-spend month") so we'll be cutting our things like monthly payments to online subscriptions,
  • Reducing gas and electricity bills by being more careful with gas and electricity use (easier in summer!)
  • Reducing expenditure on food, by eating what we have already got in the cupboards, buying at the market, and having a fast from all processed foods, planning ahead, and by price comparing and buying from the cheapest place,
  • Seriously think about our need for a third car.

These are the steps I have already taken on the first day:

  • Cutting up an old dressing gown to use as reusable cloths,
  • Putting my one year old in a cloth nappy at night to reduce our use of disposables (he wears cloth during the day but disposables at night),
  • Putting my three year old in pants at night with an absorbent sheet to eliminate use of disposables (we already have a pack of the sheets so no extra cost there),
  • Setting up a monthly direct debit for my car tax so I can account for monthly out goings more easily and we can work on getting out of the overdraft,
  • Cancelling subscription to and Netflix, 
I'll also be hustling to get more money IN through my business and have a variety of things up my sleeve that I am going to implement and put into place in the next month, so stay tuned for that.

In conclusion I want to make it clear that we aren't about being miserly or having an attitude of lacking, I want our family to have an attitude of abundance throughout this challenge and that may well be one of the hardest parts about it, the frugality should be our first step towards wealth accumulation. 

Wish me luck, and let me know if you decide to join in with the Uber Frugal Challenge too. 

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