Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Giveaway: Raw Chocolate Treats & raw cookies Cookbooks


























I was very kindly offered some cookbooks to give away on the blog, and since it’s VeganMOFO this month, I can think of no better time to give them away.
I was sent a copy of Raw Chocolate Treats by Jessica Fenton. This beautiful book is being launched today, so I feel really lucky that I got to have a sneak peek at it before it hit the shelves. Jessica Fenton is a chocolate-loving foodie, passionate about eating organic, vegan and raw food. This book is fantastic, and a great starting point for people who, like myself, are new to raw food. I’ve tried the odd bit of raw food at vegan events and at friends’ houses, but have never tried making any myself. This book explains each of the ingredients in detail, including the health benefits of each different food.
We’ve just had a new kitchen put in, so I haven’t been able to try out any of the recipes yet. Our cupboards are bare, but nice and shiny which is all one really wants from a kitchen, surely? As soon as I’ve stocked up on fancy ingredients, I’ll be giving the love macaroons, almond butter truffles, and guarana and goji nutty loaf a try. I love the idea of delicious, healthy treats I can share with Ebony. Plus, there’s the added benefit that they won’t make a mess of my nice new cooker.
The other book I am giving away is raw cookies by Julia Corbett - this one isn't even out yet. It's available for pre-order at £17.92 here. This handy-sized book contains 60 recipes for gluten-free superfood treats. This is not, however, a vegan book. Lots of the recipes are vegan, but some of the recipes contain honey, though I’m sure you could substitute for agave syrup or another natural sweetener. Again, because of my kitchen-free existence for the past couple of weeks, I haven’t had chance to try out any of the recipes yet, though I’ll be sure to blog about them when I do! I will definitely be trying out the dark chocolate cookie fudge, the cookies and cream chocolate-dipped sandwich, and the raw butter snickerdoodles.
If you can’t bear to wait for me to eventually get round to trying out some of these delicious recipes, then enter below for your chance to win a copy of each book.
Good luck!  

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, 29 September 2014

Vegan Parenting: How to Survive a Birthday Party

Kids’ birthday parties are loud, messy and chaotic. They’re also a lot of fun - if you’re a kid (and headache-inducing if you’re not). Attending a child’s birthday party is not hassle free - there are costumes to create, presents to buy, and hours of pass the parcel prep to be done (seriously, my kid can drag out her pass like no other). If you’re the parent of a vegan child, you’ve also got the added drama of the food. I’m sure every vegan parent worries about their kid feeling different or left out, I know I’ve spent many hours thinking of ways to make sure Ebony doesn’t miss out on things. Apart from zoos, she can miss out on them, obvs.

Since it’s VEGAN MOFO this month, and I completely ran out of time to actually post any blog posts never mind come up with recipes to share, I thought I’d write about how to survive a birthday party with your vegan kid in tow.

  1. Offer to take food - sometimes this is necessary, other times it isn’t. It will totally depend upon how well you know the parents of the other child, how accommodating they are, and the type of food that will be available at the party. If the party is being catered for (by a soft play centre, not by a professional catering company, I don’t have such fancy friends), you could ring up the venue in advance to check that they can cater for a vegan diet. I’ve been to birthday parties where lots of the food has been fresh fruit, salad foods and crackers, where Ebony has had no problem eating her fill. But I’ve also been to other parties where the table has been filled with chocolate, sweets and other foods that probably aren’t vegan. Offer to take some food to help out, you could take a dish or two if you have time.
  2. Find out what’s on the menu - young children don’t seem to notice when what they have is different, but now that my daughter is two and a half she is well aware when she doesn’t have the same as everyone else. Finding out what foods will be there can help you to plan ahead. Sandwiches, sausage rolls, pizzas, pretty much anything can be veganised without much fuss. If they’re having jelly and ice-cream (is that even still a thing?), make an individual jelly portion and pick up some vegan ice-cream from your local supermarket.
  3. Warn your kid - I tend to mention to Ebony, just before we walk into the party, that a lot of the food probably won’t be vegan, so we’ll need to find out what she can eat. This just helps to avoid that awful moment when your child sees something, wants it, can’t have it and cries whilst other parents look at you in a who-the-hell-raises-their-kid-as-vegan-anyway-it's-basically-child-abuse sort of a way.
  4. Take sweets - it’s a birthday party, there will be sweets. They’ll be lurking between layers on the pass the parcel, sitting on the DJ table waiting to be distributed to the best dancer, and filling bowls on the food table. Make sure you have some vegan sweets on hand so that you can make a quick switch if your child is given some sweets. There are lots of sugar free vegan sweets available if you’d like to try and limit the amount of sugar in your child’s diet. The great thing is that many vegan companies have now caught on to the fact that marketing is important, so the sweets come in brightly coloured bags, just like everyone else’s sweets.
  5. Know your labels - lots of products are accidentally vegan - oreos, party rings and jammy dodgers are all vegan friendly. Make sure you go armed with the knowledge of which biscuits, crisps and other foods are accidentally vegan, so that your child can eat some of the food from the party table.
  6. Take cake - there is nothing worse than watching your child hungrily eyeing up the cake, only to be told she can’t eat it when the slices are dished out. I usually try to bake a batch of cupcakes before the party, and take one with me so that she can have a cake with everyone else.
  7. Be hawk-like - it’s important to keep an eye on your child. Kids are fast, there are bound to be sweets littering the floor, and there could be swarms of well-meaning adults ready to offer sweets and chocolate to your child. Keep some vegan friendly snacks to hand so that you can swoop in and make a quick exchange should your child stumble across any non-vegan goodies.
  8. Party bag shake up - make sure you have a quick look through the party bag before you drive home. You don’t want to arrive home to find your kid’s face covered in milk chocolate thanks to a hidden bar in the party bag. Have some more foods on hand to switch, just in case. By this point, as the sugar-crash is looming, I usually opt for a healthy fruit and nut bar, and pack of raisins.
  9. Have wine ready - after two hours of listening to Let It Go on repeat, and ten minutes spent trying to prise the pass the parcel out of your child’s grasp, and repeatedly explaining to strangers that your child is vegan so can’t eat whatever they were about to shove down her throat - you’ll need wine. Have it ready. For when you get home, obviously, don’t break it out at the party, unless you have awesome parent friends, in which case, go ahead.

Have I missed anything off this list? What do you do to help your vegan kids feel included at birthday parties?



Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Review: What The Ladybird Heard Live

I recently took Ebony to see her first theatre production. A few months ago, I booked tickets for us to see What The Ladybird Heard at The Lowry in the hope that she would sit through the whole production and the money would not be wasted.

We already had the book (one of my charity shop bargain finds), so as the big day approached, I simply made sure it was one of our regular fixtures for bedtime reading. We are big Julia Donaldson fans in this house, and though this book isn’t one of my favourites, it is fun to read and Ebony enjoys it.

I’m always surprised to discover just how much Ebony takes in about her bedtime stories. We went to meet Laurie for lunch before the show, and Ebony recited a lot of the book for us over a pizza. After lunch, we said goodbye to Laurie and headed for the tram.

The tram took much longer than I was expecting, who knew Salford was so far from Manchester? We arrived just in time, and sat down moments before the show started. We were sat on the front row which was amazing, and though there were some props at the front of the stage, these didn’t seem to restrict Ebony’s view at all.

The show lasted an hour, and Ebony was enthralled throughout. She tore her eyes away only to explain the plot to me, point things out and repeat things the characters had said. It was so good to see her enjoying the theatre, at one point I had to fight back tears, though this is the case at every theatre production I attend. I had a particularly traumatic theatre visit at a young age, where my parents surprised me by taking me to see Les Miserables, which is something you should really give six year olds (who really really want to see Les Mis because their two bestest friends have seen it and they feel completely and utterly left out of all Les Mis related playground games and singing sessions) advance warnings of because it was so overwhelming, amazing and unexpected that I don’t think I ever quite recovered from the shock. Each theatre visit is a trigger, even to this day, reminding me of just how immense the theatre can be.

The show followed the basic storyline of the book, but with plenty of extras to keep children entertained.

The set and props were amazing, truly. Some of the props were almost animation-like, and looked just perfect. The blooming flowers were such a lovely touch, and the whole show seemed to be filled with these clever little tricks to really bring the show to life. I also loved the animals - many of whom were fashioned with discarded props from around the farm, and I thought that was a really creative way of including each of the animals in an interesting and fun way. The ladybird, who doesn’t really have much to say in the book, was brought to live using a number of techniques, my favourite of which was a small red LED flying around the stage. At one point the lights went out, and I immediately expected to hear some crying from somewhere in the theatre, but instead all the children were mesmerised by the tiny ladybird darting about above the front row.

The show featured everything a two year old could possibly want from life - singing, dancing, musical instruments, creativity, puppetry, and cats. Ebony loved the cats. A lot. The songs are catchy and repetitive in that way that childrens’ songs are, so I still can’t get them out of my bloody head, which has been really annoying for me, but I’ve also heard Ebony singing along to herself which is sweet.

All of the actors were fantastic, and really threw themselves into the performance. Lanky Len was definitely my favourite character, and the actor was so perfect for the part. He was like a real life Beaker (from The Muppets) but without the ginger hair. His voices, facial expressions and timing added another cartoon-like element to the production.

There was a whole song about the cow producing delicious milk and yoghurt, which wasn’t particularly vegan friendly, but we were on the opposite side of the stage, and it was right at the start of the show as kids were still quieting down so I don’t think Ebony heard it at all. The book doesn’t really touch on life on the farm at all, so I hadn’t really considered that they might sing about how much the cow loved making yoghurt.

One of my worries when I bought tickets, was that Ebony wouldn’t be captivated by the show and would instead be wandering around or talking loudly over the top. There was absolutely no need to worry, she was completely fascinated with every aspect of the show. Just behind us was a baby who must have been around one, and he too sat enthralled the whole way through, his big eyes fixed on the stage the entire time.

Another worry was audience participation, at two and a half Ebony isn’t quite ready for shouting into microphones or anything yet, and I was worried that our front row tickets might see us in the danger zone. Again, there was nothing to worry about, they didn’t put any kids on the spots with glaring spotlights and fluffy mics. The only real audience participation was some shouting and standing up at the end, but it was all voluntary and Ebony actually joined in (much to my disappointment because I usually use her as my excuse for not joining in with such things).

What The Ladybird Heard Live was an enchanting and magical performance that brought a much-loved bedtime story to life, and I would definitely recommend getting tickets if it’s coming to your area. You can find out more about the show, and check the tour dates here.

I’m already on the lookout for more shows to take Ebony to, so any recommendations would be much appreciated.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

The 10 Worst Things About Staying At My Parents' House

We are having a new kitchen fitted at the moment (eeeek!) which is massively exciting, hugely terrifying, scarily expensive and a bit crap all at the same time. It’s crap because it has displaced me, so I have had to seek refuge at my parents’ house in Burnley. Ebony and I have been here since Monday, and there is no end in sight. Ok, there is an end, it’s Tuesday, but I have terrible eyesight. I have to wear glasses just to type this. And anyway, Tuesday is ages away (I’m writing this on Saturday, which I’m sure you’ll agree, is quite far from Tuesday). Here are 10 rubbish things I have noticed about staying at my parents’ house:
1. I can’t see what’s happening in my kitchen
This is so annoying. I saw it moments after my old, hideous, kitchen was smashed to bits and thrown out the backdoor, but I have not seen it since. I have been relying on Laurie’s descriptions for information. His extensive vocabulary for describing himself range from ‘tired’ all the way to ‘not too tired’, so you can imagine how much harder it becomes when he is trying to describe a kitchen. I have had some photographs, all of which are excitingly empty and filled with step ladders, but I’m terrified that something will be done wrong and I’m not there to see it.
2. This house is full of terrifying noises
Perhaps it’s to do with the number of horror films I watched her in my youth, or maybe it is because of the dark and gloomy corners, but this house is really terrifying. The noises, in particular, are creepy. Floorboards creak, windows rattle and the boiler sometimes bellows into life without warning. On our first afternoon, I was lying in bed with Ebony when I heard a phone ringing. Not the phone ringing, that would be fine, I’d just go and answer it. This was the ringing tone a mobile phone makes when you place an outgoing call, and it sounded like it was coming from under the bed.
3. Ebony has access to all of my childhood toys
Firstly, I cannot tell you how many hours I have lost to the art of balancing chairs on top of each other to reach discarded board games and intriguing looking boxes in the back of very high cupboards. I love discovering old toys, but Ebony is here and she’s not being at all careful with anything. She has so far lost two dice (I think she gave these to the cat), misplaced every single envelope content from The Jolly Postman, broken my playmobil bus and scattered the contents of Usbourne Ludo around the house.
4. The Toaster
There are no words to describe my parents’ toaster. Well, ok, there is a word, it’s old. It must be older than I am. It only cooks two slices at once, two slices! And they don’t even fit in properly, they get wedged down the side. It’s like a prototype of a toaster, one that was probably rejected after it caused the mental collapse of over fifty perfect of all testers, but for some reason my parents are still completely and utterly committed to its place in the family.
5. Everything is on a timer...
… which I didn’t realise until the light in the room I was sitting in went off. By itself. At night time. Leaving me surrounded by darkness, just before the creepy security light turned on just outside the window, forcing me to conclude that this was some kind of premeditated attack by a very sophisticated and electronically-minded burglar or psychopath.
6. They Have Bathroom Scales
I can no longer trick myself into thinking I probably weigh around x amount, because I stood on the scales and now know that I weigh much, much more than that. And I can’t pretend they’re broken (my usual trick), because Ebony also stood on them so I know they are correct. And, I can’t stop thinking about it, because Ebony liked standing on them so much that she keeps making me stand on them again, and again, and again.
7. We have no daytime friends
It’s so boring being stuck in my hometown where my only remaining friends all work during the week. We’ve been stuck walking from park to park, desperately trying to find something fun to do. The other day we found some graffiti about ‘stumpy dick’ which was quite amusing, but only because I haven't spoken to another adult in about a week. On top of having no daytime friends, Laurie isn’t around in the evenings because he’s been staying at home to look after our rabbit and check on the kitchen, so I don’t even have anyone to drink wine and moan about the long days of isolation with.
8. Everything is out of date
Ok, not everything, but most of the food I have set my mind of has actually been out of date. When we first arrived I spotted some milkshakes that I set my heart on, only to discover they were four years out of date. Then later, I stumbled across some tinned beans that I thought we could have for dinner, only to discover at dinnertime that they were three years out of date, and had gone very, very weird. The next afternoon I discovered that the chocolate spread I’d found was also out of date, but I ate it anyway, because it was only going to go on a slice of bread that would be half burnt and half completely untouched by heat thanks to the toaster.
9. They left me no wine
My parents’ house usually boasts a well-stocked wine rack, but now there are just some very dusty looking bottles on display which look as though they could be old and I don’t want to accidentally drink their fancy wine. It’s almost as though they’ve made a point of not leaving any wine for me to drink. Well, ok, I drank a bit of the wine. And all of their beer, and I am now working my way through the liquor cabinet.
10. They’re not here
Surely the best thing about a trip to the homeland is that parents, aka my free childcare, are there ready and waiting to entertain Ebony so that I can look through old photos, drink their wine and make fun of their toaster. I could be exploring the best of Burnley’s nightlife while my free childcare take over night duty, getting lots of work done whilst they take her to stumpy dick’s park, and eating home cooked food that I didn’t have to cook myself. But instead I’m sat here eating partially cooked toast while Ebony runs wild around their home.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Some People Eat Animals

September is Vegan Mofo, a month of blogging related to vegan food. I signed up last year, and managed to scrape together a few posts without proper planning/adequate time/much sleep, and I enjoyed doing it. So, I decided to give it a go this year, but with proper planning, plenty of time and shit loads of sleep.

Obviously, that didn’t work out. After months of having “Think about Vegan Mofo posts” on my to do list, I have achieved nothing. I haven’t had any sleep, and I don’t have much time. But, damnit, I’m going to manage a few posts somehow.

My daughter is two and a half, and has been vegan since birth. She knows that we are vegan, and she knows that other people aren’t. She knows that we only eat vegan food, and that not all food is vegan. She knows that we only use certain soaps, baby wipes etc because these are vegan, and that not all products are vegan. But she doesn’t really know what vegan means yet.

I’m not about to sit down my two and a half year old and start explaining about rape racks, debeaking and mastitis. She just won’t get it, and I’m already short on sleep so I don’t really want to risk any nightmares.

She’s not old enough to understand death, I know this because I foolishly tried to teach her a life lesson once when I saw a dead hedgehog. She thought I was telling her a cool story and made me repeat it many, many times. I don’t want to end up talking about unwanted chicks from the egg industry repeatedly to a toddler with wide eyes and a smile on her face.

But, the other day, while we were baking fudge, I thought I would try to explain to her what veganism is.

Me: Ebony, do you know what vegan is?
Ebony: I vegan!
Me: Yes, but do you know what that means? It means that we don’t eat animals.
Ebony: Ha! Hahahaha. (she thought this was a hilarious joke)
Me: We don’t eat animals, but other people do.
Ebony: *gasp*

She stayed looking horrified for a few seconds, before turning back to her fudge and telling me that she was vegan again.

You can find out more about Vegan Mofo here.

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