Thursday, 19 May 2016

Review: Didi Vegan Cafe in Albufeira, Portugal

We recently got back from a holiday in Portugal. I’d only been to Portugal once before when I was around six or seven and had a very vivid memory of cutting my food on a loose tile in the pool. Apparently this is a memory I stole from my younger sister because it was her foot, not mine, that suffered an injury. According to my dad, I then spent the rest of the holiday vigorously checking the swimming pool for signs of loose tiles. You can only imagine how fun I am to go away with.

We booked our holiday in January, nothing makes me book a holiday quite like the misery that is the post-Christmas comedown. It’s just such a depressing time of year, isn’t it? The perfect time for booking holidays. I didn’t want to fly in my third trimester, so we decided to go in early May. We flew the day before my 30th birthday because it seemed like a nice idea to spend my 30th sunbathing on a beach. Obviously, this was before I knew how terrible the weather in Portugal would be. I think my birthday was cloudy, but I can’t remember if it rained or not (it probably did).

Before we went, I had a look for vegan eateries in the area we were staying in and found one a couple of miles away in Albufeira. The original plan was to eat there on my birthday but alas, the weather was bad so we waited for a sunnier day. In the end, we chose the perfect day to go. Didi vegan cafe is a short walk from the beach so after filling up on vegan food, we spent the rest of the day enjoying the glorious weather on Albufeira beach.

Our airport transfer driver laughed when we asked him about vegan cafes, he didn’t think we’d be able to find much vegan food in Albufeira. Never trust your airport transfer driver, they are crazy, there is loads of vegan food in Albufeira, the supermarkets there are as well stocked with vegan products as UK supermarkets.

Didi cafe was really easy to find, tucked away on a sunny side street in Albufeira’s Old Town. The cafe is nice and colourful, immediately attracting your attention from the street. We decided to sit outside because it was a nice day.

I had spent most of the holiday wishing I could eat croissants. We used to go away quite a lot when we were younger and the morning ritual would always be fresh croissants with jam and butter. The shop at our apartment complex had croissants (not vegan, obviously) and I found myself staring longingly at them most morning. I cannot describe the joy I felt when we arrived at Didi vegan cafe to find out they served vegan croissants every day. The only vegan croissants I’ve eaten are the Jus Rol ones, which are really good but incredibly tiny. Like, magnifying glass tiny. Why are they so small? I have never seen a normal croissant so small. Anyway, I am pleased to report that the croissants at Didi cafe were not small. They were croissant-sized and they were amazing. Seriously, so good. I cannot express just how much joy a good vegan croissant can make to a pregnant women, but it’s a lot.

Before I go on, please don’t judge me for how much I ate at the cafe. Remember, I am pregnant so it’s almost certainly fine to eat enough to feed an elephant. Until this baby is born, I won’t know for sure that it is not an elephant and I don’t want to take any risks. So, anyway, after the mouth-wateringly delicious croissant, I had a pie. It was more of a pasty really, filled with broccoli and leek. It was really tasty and came with a really good side salad that reminded me of the side salads they used to serve at Cafe Kino when I lived in Bristol.

After the pie, I was pretty full, but then I found out about the desserts. Oh god. I really wanted a cheesecake so I went in to have a peek at what was on offer. They did have a cheesecake it turned out, but the cheesecake was next to a lemon mousse, so I had that instead. These were individual desserts and I honestly don’t know how to describe how good the lemon mousse was. If there was ever a food that could right wrongs, it was this. It tasted like the lemon roulade my parents used to buy for dinner parties (yeah, mum and dad, it was me who used to eat all the roulade. Soz). It was creamy and amazing and I was 80% terrified that maybe it wasn’t vegan because it tasted so much like the lemon desserts of my youth. But it’s ok, it was vegan, no need to panic. I have thought about it daily since. It was definitely worth the rainy holiday just to eat that amazing mousse. There is no photo of the lemon mousse because it was so good that I ate it all immediately. Sorry.

We all ate quite a lot and the bill only came to about €50 which I thought was really cheap. The staff were really lovely (I think they were the owners, in fact). It was a really nice cafe and was quite busy by the time we left. The only disappointment was that they didn’t have any vegan ice-cream in (this is crazy, no?). Apparently they start serving ice-creams in June so we were a little early. Having spent a lot of time in the rain, I can see why, but Ebony was disappointed that she didn’t get a vegan ice-cream to eat on the beach (next time I probably won’t promise this unless I know it’s a definite).

The croissants were so good that we ended up going back for breakfast a few days later. If we’d been closer, I would have eaten there every morning. I managed to eat three croissants in one sitting which I thought was pretty impressive but Laurie and my sister both looked horrified. Don’t stand between a pregnant woman and her vegan croissants.

Didi Vegan Cafe is located on Travessa Cais Herculano 11, Albufeira. The restaurant is open daily from 10am until 9:30pm and is closed on Sundays. It is definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area. If you do go, please buy me some croissants. And a lemon mousse.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Hello, Third Trimester

I can’t believe I’m already in the final trimester. The beginning of this pregnancy seemed to drag, but ever since I stopped feeling nauseous, time has flown by. I keep losing track of how many weeks I am, partly because I’ve fallen behind on my updates probably. I will sit down and write them soon, hopefully before I completely forget how I’ve been feeling. It’s all very well planning weekly updates, but real life has a habit of getting in the way.

If today is anything to go by, the third trimester will be filled with tiredness, aches and pains, Braxton Hicks and plenty of skin stretching. I’d forgotten how horrible it is to feel your skin stretching, I think I’d assumed this symptom wouldn’t be quite so bad the second time. Certainly, my tummy looked like it was still suffering the consequences of the stretch before I got pregnant, so I have no idea how the stretching still manages to hurt so much. I spend a lot of time in the bath these days, and when I’m not there, I’m standing next to it, applying coconut oil to my poor, stretching skin.

I feel very huge. I definitely feel bigger than I was at this point last time, though I could be misremembering my massiveness, I suppose. I am just reaching that stage where getting off the sofa without huffing is quite an accomplishment. If I overdo things, which I frequently do, I pay the price with back and hip aches, though they do seem to disappear quite quickly if I take things easy.

The baby seems to be filling more of me now. I can feel nudges higher up and often find myself feeling breathless. I think my poor lungs are losing a battle for breathing space as the giant baby overtakes my entire insides. I am really not looking forward to the heartburn portion of the pregnancy, I can remember that being awful last time. I don’t like anything to come between me and my food (animal ethics aside, of course).

I feel like I survived the second trimester pretty well. In fact, when people asked how I was feeling I often found myself beaming in response. This would never have happened during my first pregnancy when I basically spent the entire nine months carrying a noose around, just in case pregnancy got any worse. I’m actually enjoying being pregnant, something I never thought would happen. I thought I just wasn’t built for pregnancy (I’ve written about this before here) but I don’t feel that way anymore. I’m enjoying being pregnant, I’m excited about the birth (ok, I’m a bit terrified that this baby might be huge) and I can’t wait to have a newborn again. All of the unknown from the first pregnancy simply isn’t here this time. I have an Ebony, I know that motherhood is the greatest thing in the world and I can’t wait to do it all over again.

So, third trimester, let’s do this.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Our Trip to London with Quorn Kids

I became vegetarian at the age of eight after the rather traumatising death of my guinea pig, Nancy. My mum and dad were supportive of my decision (something I didn’t realise was rare until years later when I worked as the Youth Campaigner for a vegan campaigning charity). My mum used to cook meals piled high with fresh veg and lentils and I never felt like I was missing out on food because of being vegetarian.

When Quorn products became readily available in supermarkets, I started eating those too. Sausages, burgers and sandwich slices were amongst my favourite Quorn products. When I became vegan aged 21, I was a little bit devastated to find out that Quorn products contained egg (the thought of no more Quorn burgers topped with cheese slices was almost too much to handle) and so I wouldn’t be able to eat them anymore.

I heard rumours that Quorn was trying to veganise products but I never really believed them. But then, last year, Quorn introduced a vegan range. They brought out some vegan ‘chicken’ pieces which are great in a stir-fry and spicy ‘chicken’ style burgers. Laurie is a big fan of the burgers and Ebony loves the little ‘chicken’ pieces.

So, when Quorn invited us down to London to find out more about Quorn products, I said yes. It was half-term so Ebony and I headed down to London just the two of us and we had an amazing time stuffing our faces with vegan food and seeing the city sights. The Quorn event was held at the Kids Cookery School, an amazing place with child-sized everything. The children were taken into the kitchen to prepare some food (Ebony marched in loaded up with vegan cheese and butter) and the rest of us stayed put to learn more about Quorn.

Alison Crusher, one of the products developers at Quorn, was on hand to answer any questions. I’m not embarrassed to say that I found it really interesting to find out more about exactly how Quorn is made. I knew it was made from a fungi but hadn’t realised how environmentally friendly the production process is (perfected over many years). Obviously, I am pretty clued up about the environmental and health benefits of eating foods like Quorn instead of meat. Quorn products seemed to go mainstream around the time of the BSE crisis, and I remember many of my friend’s parents switching beef mince for Quorn mince around that time.

As the only vegan in attendance, Alison spent quite a while chatting to me about the veganising process. Would you believe it has taken years of research for Quorn to create a method to successful mimic the molecular makeup of egg using only vegan-friendly ingredients? The company have been funding PhD researchers for a number of years to try and find a way of veganising the products. They have now had some success but are still working on more ways of expanding the vegan range. There are more vegan products due to launch later this year which is exciting and definitely a nod to the fact that veganism is going mainstream.

I’m really pleased that the vegan line is expanding because a lot of catering companies seem to opt for Quorn products now. I know that the vegetarian option at Ebony’s future school is Quorn so it would be great to easily switch this for one of the company’s vegan products when it’s time for Ebony to start having hot dinners. It also means there will be even more vegan products available in supermarkets which can only be a good thing. I’ve been vegan for eight and a half years now and I can’t believe how much things have changed in just that short amount of time. It is now easier than ever to find vegan food when you’re out and about.

Obviously, I used this as an opportunity to emphasise my love for the Quorn fajita chicken strips in the hope that Alison will one day veganise these especially for me. I’m sure she will. It was really interesting to be able to speak to a product developer and find out more about how the products are made, and she seemed genuinely interested in asking about vegan options and the types of vegan products people might like to see on offer so that was really good.

Whilst I was busy learning all about vegan Quorn, the kids were busy cooking up a storm in the kitchen. They made pizza from scratch (Ebony’s pizza was heavily loaded up with pretty much a whole packet of vegan cheese) and then made burger buns to serve their burgers in. She was really proud of her pizza and, to the disgust of those around us, ate it cold on the tube on the way back to Euston.

You can read more about the event over on Quorn’s blog here.

The beautiful photos were taken by Preston perfect Photography.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Sleepover Essentials

1. Pyjamas £19.95 GAP I often find myself lusting after Gap’s childrenswear, they have some really beautiful things. It’s important to look wonderful at sleepovers (this is a thing, right?) and I love these striped pyjamas, perfect for summer sleepovers. // 2. Ten Acre Sweet & Salty Popcorn Thanks to my terrible parenting, Ebony has developed a taste for sweet and salty popcorn (why is it so much better than both sweet and salty popcorn?). It’s not something we have very often, but I do usually get us a little bag of popcorn to share whenever we’re having a lazy day and watching a movie. // 3. Kawaii Pear Night Light £12.50 Not On The High Street I love this cute little night light and I think it would be right at home at a sleepover. Ebony doesn’t use a night light usually, but I think one would definitely come in useful for when friends sleepover. // 4. Cloud Cushion £15 Made Comfort is everything, especially when you’re reclining in front of a movie so I think some nice scatter cushions are in order. I love this cloud design, we have a brightly coloured cloud cushion in her room now so I think this would be a nice addition. // 5. The Despina Guest Bed £239.99 Beds R Us I love that this bed makes use of the usually wasted space underneath by fitting in another bed. Something like this would be a great thing to have for future sleepovers and would save the argument of who has to sleep on the crappy airbed. // 6. Crochet Throw £40 BHS This throw caught my eye in the window the other day, I think it would look wonderful in my new living room. But, since I’m already way over budget, maybe I could pretend it was Ebony’s future sleepovers. What do you think?

Ebony has started asking if she can have sleepovers with her friends. Obviously, she’s too young right now, I can’t see any of her friend’s parents putting up with her crawling into their bed at 4am in the morning. She loves the idea of having people stay over, although I have no idea why. When I think back to the sleepovers of my childhood, I am filled with nothing but dread. From what I can remember, sleepovers just extend the amount of time kids can argue for.

My favourite sleepovers were always the ones I would have with my sister. There was no falling out and crying in the garden and I always got to choose the movie (one of the many perks of being the oldest). The only downside was that Rosie would always fall asleep early which was fine until we reached horror movie age and then it was terrifying.

We’ve almost finished decorating a few rooms in our house and, as part of the reshuffle, Ebony’s playroom has moved to the front of the house. Long gone are the days of just an uncomfortable wooden bench to sit on, there’s now a bright red sofa bed in there. Whilst lying on the sofa together yesterday, we talked about how one day she might have sleepovers on that sofa bed when she’s older. And it got me thinking about other things that might be fun for her future sleepovers.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

On Losing The Only-Child Status

Until now, I’ve only really thought about how good the new baby will be for Ebony. After all, she’ll be getting a brand new playmate to climb trees with, play pirates with and build intricate Lego houses with. I used to have the most fun playing games with my sister and I am looking forward to Ebony enjoying that same sort of bond.

A sibling is a friend for life. My own sister is a really important person in my life and always someone I can turn to when I don’t want to talk to somebody else. I imagine, as your parents age, this bond becomes even more important. And up until now, that’s what I’ve been thinking about when I’ve imagined Ebony and a sibling. I’ve thought about them appearing at the conservatory doors, covered in mud after an enthusiastic afternoon spent playing at the bottom of the garden. I’ve imagined them having sleepovers together and cuddling up in bed together. I’ve imagined the benefits but haven’t even stopped to consider the other side of getting a sibling.

Of course, having a sibling isn’t always fun and games. Sometimes they ruin your games, embarrass you in public and steal your clothes. Sometimes you hate them. But that’s all to be expected. That’s all part and parcel of family life. It’s the other side of it that has started to worry me.

Ebony has spent over four years enjoying the luxury of life as an only child. She hasn’t had to share her toys. She hasn’t had to compete for attention. She hasn’t really had to do anything,unless she’s wanted to do it. But all that is about to change. Pretty soon, there will be someone else calling some of the shots. We’ll be running out of the door late not because Ebony couldn’t find her school shoes but because the baby forced out a badly timed crap. Ebony will be woken up in the night not because she’s cold but because there’s somebody screaming in the room next door. Ebony will climb into my bed in the middle of the night to find that somebody else has stolen her place.

I hope that, because she’s older, she’ll be better equipped to handle these changes. But I don’t know. At the moment, she is really excited about the new baby. She already thinks of the new baby as her best friend and is so excited to have a baby in the family. But will that change when the reality of what it means to be a big sister sets in? Will she end up resenting the new baby? Will she feel pushed out or rejected by this squishy little person in my bed?

And it’s not just her I’m worried about, it’s me. How will I cope with Ebony no longer being my only baby? For the past four years and three months, she has dominated most of my thoughts and pretty much all decisions have been made with her in mind. How will I cope with juggling her needs with those of the new baby? Will I miss all of the one-on-one time we have always had the luxury of enjoying? Those long cuddles at bedtime, will they come to an end as I rush out of the door to soothe a crying baby yet again? One thing I’ve always tried to give Ebony is time. Time to master things herself, time to explore and investigate and time to spend together, no matter how long it all takes. Will I still be able to grant her this basic right, or is she going to be caught up in the whirlwind of looking after a newborn?

How do you juggle the needs of a newborn with the lifelong expectations of the first child you love so much? And how do you juggle at all, without feeling like you’re about to drop shitloads of balls?


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