Monday 30 September 2013

Blog Challenge: Great Adventure #19

Friday was another surprisingly sunny day, so after a late afternoon nap (Ebony’s, not mine), we decided to head to a nearby park for some paddling. I packed a swimming costume (again, Ebony’s, not mine) just in case, and we set off. It was just me and Ebony this week so I didn’t take the camera and had to rely on my phone, so sorry about the crappy photos.

We used a different entrance to the park, which ran along a private road so Ebony was able to walk much of the way. There were fields of sheep and cows, and the sun was beaming down on us. It made me feel thankful we live in such a beautiful place (well, ok, maybe not our actual estate), and so close to natural beauty.

We went paddling for our great adventure in week 8 (you can read about it here), but haven’t been for a while because of the weather. Although it was a hot day, the temperature was starting to drop and the stream is shaded by trees so I wasn’t sure whether Ebony would want to paddle. I needn’t have worried though, as soon as we reached the water she took her swimming costume out of my bag, and lifted her arms in the air.

The water was chilly, but Ebony didn’t seem bothered at all. She stomped about splashing through the water, wading past fallen leaves in autumn shades. She threw stones as far as she could (not far), and kept choosing stones for me to skim across the river. The river gets deep quite quickly, but is fortunately clear enough to spot this, and I had to keep asking Ebony to come back to shore. She’s far too brave nowadays, always marching off in the opposite direction.

We stayed in the water for a good twenty minutes, occasionally sharing it with canine visitors, and then Ebony announced she was cold and wanted “hoooome”, so we made our way back up the bank. We sat on a bench for a while and ate a snack while she dried off, and then I was able to get her dressed. The walk home took ages because Ebony walked most of the way back to the main road. There were acorns falling from the trees, and each time one dropped she had to go over, inspect it and pick it up. We watched a squirrel darting around in the trees, and she spent a while shouting “MOOOOOO!” at the sheep.

We had a really nice time exploring this week. Now that she’s a bit older and more able to communicate, our outings feel more like spending time together than me looking after her. I know how lame that sentence sounds, but it’s true.

I hope you’ve all had some great adventures this week too!

Have you read my first great adventures post?

Sunday 29 September 2013

Ebony's First Protest March

We took Ebony on her first protest march today. Well, her first protest march outside my womb anyway. The Conservative Party *spits on floor* are holding their annual conference in Manchester this weekend, and so there was a huge protest march planned. The main Save the NHS march was organised by the TUC, but there were loads of other groups taking part in the march for various causes.

We’re big fans of the NHS, so wanted to attend the march anyway, but decided to march as part of the anti-badger cull march. I want Ebony to feel involved with and inspired by veganism, and I think an important way to do that is to take part in marches and demonstrations.

My parents were always protesting things when I was growing up, and there’s a wall of fame in their house that showcases the various local newspapers we were photographed by attending demos. I want Ebony to have the same sort of experiences, and to grow up feeling a part of society. I want her to grow up believing her values and opinions are important, and that she should be proud of her choices, and that she has the power to make a difference. I look forward to the day when she tells me off for being unethical or a hypocrite, as I start to see her political views form.

Protest marches aren’t particularly baby friendly - there’s cigarette smoke, shouting, hideous megaphones and no toilets - which is probably why we haven’t taken Ebony on a march until now. Protest marches are very toddler friendly - there’s shouting, noisy megaphones and people dressed as badgers - Ebony had a great time. There were dogs to stroke, music to dance to, and balloons to hold. She marched with gusto, in that weird forward leaning way that toddlers do when really they want to be flung in the air. She collected stickers, balloons and noise makers. She waved endlessly at a friendly human-sized badger,and loved all the people milling around.

I’m so glad we took her, I think she really enjoyed it, and it was good to be part of something I believe in. We almost made it to the end of the badger march, but had to hurry through the last bit as Ebony was about to fall asleep on Laurie’s shoulders. She was tired out after her exciting morning standing up for badgers.

I can’t wait to take her on another demonstration soon.

Here’s some information about why you shouldn’t support the cull of badgers, in case you haven’t yet seen it.

Tuesday 24 September 2013

Supporting My Independent Toddler

At 20 months old, Ebony is starting to assert her independence. She is pushing boundaries, setting new limits, and trying to find her place in the world.

She wants to do everything herself now. When we wake up in the morning, she wants to get herself dressed. This often means that for the first hour of every day, until I can coax her into something more suitable, she wears a jumper on her bottom half, three socks on one foot (and none on the other), a cardigan, and a knitted hat. And putting together that unique and daring ensemble, can take anything up to an hour in itself.

She wants to stand at the sink, and select her own toothbrush (which usually means mine gets chewed heartily before being discarded at her excessively socked foot). She wants to clean her own teeth, which she does terribly. She wants to wash her own hands, which seems to consist of pushing the plug down, filling the sink up and then miming washing her hands while making a “wooosh” noise to compensate for the lack of actual handwashing.

She wants to decide what we do each day, “Mummy? Shoes. Park!”. She wants to choose which shoes she wears to the park (wellies, whatever the weather), and she wants to zip up her own coat (which she can’t do, and this often ends in a frustrated wail; “Mummmmmy! ZIPS!” She wants to walk out of the front door by herself. She wants to open the garden gate, and stride confidently down the pavement, all by herself.

She will, usually, hold my hand while we walk near roads, but not always. Sometimes she will sit still on the pavement to avoid holding my hand. Other times she will walk only on tip toes, or backwards, or run as fast as she can (not very) next to the road, as I work out how quickly I could intercept her should she choose to run for the road.

She doesn’t always want to get in the carrier now, she likes to walk herself. She wants to sit on her own seat on the bus, and press the button, “Beeps, mummy!” She wants to make her own friends now, “Hello, boy!” she confidently announces to every passing child, regardless of their sex.

She wants to explore things by herself. She doesn’t want to be helped up the slide, or to be shown how something works, she wants to conquer her own world.

But she wants to do all of this, with me in her sight. She wants me to stay close, but stand back and not interfere. She needs to know I’ll be there to kiss her better when she falls, or carry her home if she is tired, or procure food for her if she’s hungry. She will march off at playgroups, but will turn to me with a look of indignation, “Mummy! NO! Muuuummy!” should another child dare to treat her unfairly. I am summoned to help each time someone gets in her way, or steals her turn on the slide.

She is proud of her independence. When she does something new, she looks for me, so we can share in her moment of triumph. “Eba,” she says, nodding, each time she does something herself, “Eba.” And, if she feels she is being cheated of her independence, “EBA? EBA!” she shrieks while trying to fasten herself into the car seat, hold her own umbrella or cook dinner.

There are some things, of course, that she can’t do yet. And those things are a struggle, with Ebony fighting for her independence, and me fighting to keep her safe. She wants to walk down the street, but must do so holding my hand. She wants to cook dinner, but can only cut soft vegetables with her own knife. She wants to climb, higher and higher, but can only do so in safe(ish) places.

I want to give her her independence, and let her explore the world - but safely, as I watch from a distance. I want to be there to help her when she discovers she doesn’t yet have the fine motor skills to zip up a coat. I want to let her walk the whole way to the greengrocers, even if it turns a 20 minute task into a two and half hour round trip. I want to let her walk free from hand holding, even if that means we have to travel everywhere by country paths and back streets.

I want her to grow up knowing that she is trusted, and capable and independent. I want her to feel confident and self-assured, so I am supporting her independence now, even though I feel more than slightly terrified about how quickly she is growing up.

Monday 23 September 2013

Blog Challenge: Great Adventure #18

After a brief cold spell, the sun made an appearance this weekend so, despite being tired after a late night on Friday, we decided we should make the most of it. After a busy day of tidying, copywriting and shopping, we visited Etherow park for a pre-dinner stroll.

Ebony was excited to see the ducks on the lake, and quacked loudly at them all. She hasn’t yet cottoned onto the fact that geese are evil, and so often stands way too close to the huge birds. I try to avoid reliving my childhood trauma of being bitten by a goose, and step in to rescue her. We found a few ducks searching for food, diving under the water and wriggling their tails in the air. Ebony found it hilarious and immediately tried to copy them.

Once we managed to lure Ebony away from the birds, and the old man with the remote controlled boat, we headed across the park for our walk. We didn’t pick the most ideal route for a walk with an independent minded toddler, and ended up walking on a thin path sandwiched between two sections of the lake. As Ebony swayed carelessly between drowning and death by goose, we tried to keep her on land by pointing out blackberries to pick.

After eating to the other side of the lake, we realised that it was time to be heading home if we had any chance of cooking a roast dinner before Ebony decided she was hungry. We cut across the woods to get back to the car, and Ebony was immediately distracted by some trees she wanted to climb. She had fun climbing through the branches, and out the other side, and repeated this many times before we managed to convince her it was time to leave.

As we were almost back at the car, Ebony saw a chair and, as always happens (is this normal??), wanted to sit on it. As she sat on the bench, we picked a few more blackberries to try and stave off hunger long enough to cook dinner.

Have you been on any great adventures this week?

Find out more about great adventures.

Wednesday 18 September 2013

My Top Five Vegan Recipe Books

I have quite an extensive collection of vegan cookbooks, I’m pretty sure most vegans do. Some I bought during my first few months of veganism, when I was desperately searching for something to fill the void left by my classic pre-vegan dinners; waffle and cheese slice sandwiches, and yorkshire puddings filled with peas and gravy. It’s fair to say I wasn’t much of a foodie in my younger days.

Since those early days, where I invested in the go-to vegan books, my library of recipes has expanded further with each passing birthday and Christmas. My collection is a strange mix of recipe books I’ve longingly awaited the release of, and others I’ve picked up for 25p at the local charity shop. The charity shop finds tend to have been printed in the 80s, and filled with uninspiring recipes for lentil-filled bland dishes. I usually try out a couple of the recipes, before retiring the books to the back of the shelf, only to be brought out in times of desperation.

There are, however, a number of cookbooks that I find myself reaching for time and time again. Most weeks, as I sit down to do the meal plan, I will have these five books, and perhaps a handful of others, scattered around me for inspiration.

This is my absolute most favourite and most used cookbook. I haven’t tried all of the recipes, nowhere near in fact, but the pages of the ones I’ve tried are in disrepair because of overuse. The first thing I ever made from this book was the potato and kale enchiladas, they’re so good. They have become a go-to dinner party offer in my house. If you love spicy food, then this book is perfect because they don’t shy away from big flavours.

This book is seriously amazing. The food is so decadent, I usually binge-bake for a week and then have to hide the book from myself for a month or so. The jaffa cakes are amazing, and taste so much like jaffa cakes - it’s worth buying the book just for that. Every recipe I’ve tried has been amazing, so if you don’t have it yet, you need this book in your collection. You can read more about my thoughts on this book here.

Isa’s books are amazing, and I think every vegan must own at least one book by her. I think I have most of hers now, and I love them all. This one is great because it focuses on low fat, healthy meals. Lots of vegan cookbooks seem to focus on sweets and fatty foods, I suppose because in the past it was harder to find vegan food like that. Now though, it’s easy to find vegan junk food, so I think a low-fat vegan recipe book was needed. This book is responsible for my recently acquired love affair with quinoa, amongst other things.

I was sent a copy of this book to review for the Vegan Society, it’s aimed at new vegans and offers a lot of nutritional information alongside a selection of recipes. The recipes are taken from other books, so there are some really good dishes in here. There are lots of family-friendly recipes (salt-free, for example) so I use it a lot to cook meals for my toddler.

This final book is one I picked up for 25p at my local charity shop. Unlike my other bargain finds that now sit gathering dust at the back of the cupboard, this book sees a lot of use. Not all of the recipes are vegan, but most of the vegetarian dishes can be easily veganised. This book is great for achieving great-tasting Indian food, which is something I’ve struggled with in the past.

So there you go, those are my top five vegan recipe books. What are your favourite vegan cookbooks? Please share in the comments below, so I can add them to my wishlist.

Monday 16 September 2013

Recipe: Toddler-Friendly Sugar-Free Vegan Popcorn

I’m always looking for new snacks to give Ebony during the day. She loves fruit, but I think there must be a limit to the amount of fruit it is healthy for one tiny child to eat. A couple of months ago, we went to a toddler group at a Forest School, and at the end the course leader made popcorn on a fire. Up until then, I’d never considered giving Ebony popcorn as a snack, probably because in my head it’s associated with sugar and salt, which are things I try to keep Ebony away from.

After our visit to the Forest School, I invested in some popcorn kernels, so that we could try making our own at home. Ebony loves helping to make it, even without the added excitement of an outdoor bonfire, and shouts “POP!” most of the way through the cooking process. I thought I’d share our recipe as part of Vegan MOFO in case there are any other vegan parents searching the internet to find child-friendly, sugar-free snacks. 

Sugar-Free Vegan Popcorn
2 tbsp popcorn kernels
2 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp nutritional yeast flakes
1 tsp flax seed
1 tbsp mixed nuts and seeds

Follow the instructions on your popcorn packaging, but use coconut oil instead of vegetable oil or butter (or whatever it recommends). Toddlers need a high-fat diet to support brain development and the huge amount of running around the day, so coconut oil is the perfect cooking fat. For the popcorn we use, we just stick the kernels and coconut oil together in a pan (with the lid on!) over a medium heat. You have to shake the pan regularly to ensure the kernels don’t stick. Within a matter of minutes, you should have a pan of popcorn. Once the popping stops, remove the pan from the heat and season the popcorn with the nutritional yeast flakes and flax seed. Place the popcorn in a bowl, and then sprinkle the mixed nuts and seeds on top.

And there you have it, a healthy twist on a classic snack. Enjoy!

Sunday 15 September 2013

Blog Challenge: Great Adventure #17

I started this great adventure blog challenge at the end of May, so we've been pretty lucky with the weather (apart from that one time). But now, as the nights are drawing in, and the general gloom of winter starts to creep in, the weather has taken a turn. The days of strolling effortlessly through fields of buttercups and bluebells are over, and instead we shall be embarking on treacherous journeys across muddy bogs.

Yesterday was no exception, and as the hours ticked away, I knew that it was inevitable we would need wellies to embark on this week's great adventure. I decided to make the most of the weather, and spend an hour or so searching for puddles to jump in. Ebony loves jumping in puddles, so she quickly got herself into her puddle suit and wellies, and headed for the door.

I decided to head for the nearby country lane that leads to the canal, because it holds many a puddle on wet days. On route, Ebony found some puddles to jump in so the journey took a little longer than anticipated. She wanted to jump in the huge puddles in the road, and wasn't too pleased to find out that I thought standing in the road was dangerous.

Once we reached the country path, Ebony stomped about in the puddles along the road, before dashing across an empty field. She loves running, so it's great when she has the freedom to really go. She eventually came to a football pitch, and ran towards a puddle which turned out to be much deeper than it looked. I thought her whole welly must be underwater, and was expecting tears, but she seemed unperplexed, and when we arrived home, I discovered both her feet were bone dry.

Have you been on any soggy adventures this week? Please share your links in the comments below!

Saturday 14 September 2013

A Family Holiday to Brighton

Since becoming vegan six years ago this month, I have wanted to visit Brighton. Brighton is a vegan Mecca, and whisperings of this amazing place echo endlessly across the UK. Some of my good friends moved there a couple of years ago, and we finally made it down to visit them last week.

We borrowed my parents’ motorhome for the week, and drove 300 miles south, because these are the lengths we vegans will go to for a take away pizza. The motorhome we borrowed is a beast, let’s call it the beast, and is over 7 metres long so I felt terrified for Laurie having to drive it. If the driving had been my responsibility, we’d have spent the week camped on my parents’ driveway.

Luckily I wasn’t in the driving seat, and we made it to Brighton in one scarily massive piece. We stayed at a big caravan site in Brighton, which was really nice. The campers were mostly retired couples trying to squeeze the last drops out of the British summer. We were lucky and, though it’s hard to believe it sat here in a jumper, last week was really good weather so we had the scent of sun cream following us round for that authentic holiday feel.

On the first night, our friends visited and we had some vegan pizza from a take away. When we get take away pizza at home, it’s just a crappy pizza with no cheese, but Brighton had a whole menu of vegan pizza options. The pizzas had vegan cheese and were covered in fake meats, which admittedly isn’t normally my cup of tea but it was quite nice for a change. Ebony fell asleep before 9, and didn’t wake up once, so we sat drinking beer and catching up outside the motorhome as it went dark.

The vegan highlight of the trip, was an evening meal at terre a terre. We weren’t sure whether to go in the evening, or stick to lunchtime for ease because of Ebony. We decided that, since we probably wouldn’t make it to terre a terre again, we should go all out and have a slap up meal. The food was amazing, and Ebony ate loads. We had a tapas starter that allowed us to sample things from across the menu, and she wolfed down a considerable amount of it. I think it’s safe to say we ordered too much, and I couldn’t even manage another mouthful by the time dessert arrived. Laurie had churros with a salted caramel dipping sauce, and I still haven’t heard the end of how good it was. We rarely go out for an evening meal these days, so it was fun to go out with friends. We bought Ebony a few little toys before the meal, in the hope of keeping her entertained which worked for a bit, but I think by the time we left she was a little fed up. She fell asleep in the back carry on the way home, truly stuffed after her big meal.

The next afternoon, by way of apology for the night before, we took her to the paddling pool on Brighton beach. It was a beautiful day and, as you can imagine, the park and paddling pool were busy, but she had fun stomping about in the water with Laurie. Sitting by the side of the paddling pool, watching Ebony and Laurie splashing, and hearing the local mums chatting next to me, it felt a bit like living in the past. It was sort of how I imagine my Nanny’s holidays to Blackpool were when she was a child; the kids paddling, and the parents gossiping on deckchairs. People weren’t reading their iPads, or talking on their phones, everyone just seemed to be enjoying the moment, and making the most of the good weather. It must be so lovely to live by the sea, and be able to head to the coast on sunny days.

The motorhome is such a perfect way to holiday with a toddler. The weather was so nice we were able to spend most of our time outdoors, so Ebony wasn’t restricted by the lack of space. We cooked some meals in the motorhome to save money - but ate them outside, there’s no way I’m letting Ebony be the first person to stain the seats in the motorhome. I think it’s actually much nicer than staying in a hotel, because it feels more like home. It was really nice to finally make it down to Brighton, and to see our long lost friends. I hope we’ll be able to take it away again next year on some more adventures - although this depends greatly on how many raisins Ebony was able to hide in the motorhome, and what stage of decomposition they are at when my mum finds them.

Thursday 12 September 2013

We Like to Read: Danger for Starlite

My parents are hoarders. When we told them we were expecting, my Mum asked if we wanted my old pram. Ebony had her first bath in my old baby bath. Last time we went to visit, they had erected a Fisher Price plastic play kitchen from the 1980s for Ebony to play with. I’ve never been into it, because of my dislike of spiders, but their loft must house a collection matched only by the museum of childhood.

Once we outgrew them, our books were packed into boxes and stored away. The ones in the loft are still out of my grasp, but I’ve been able to get my hands on some of the ones in less spidery locations. The cupboards in my old bedroom contained a big box of books, and there were more to be found on a bookcase in the fourth bedroom. Each time we visit, I bring a few books or toys back with me, and last time we went I managed to steal a whole box full because my parents were busy sunning themselves in France.

Amongst the collection, was a board book called Danger for Starlite. I used to have a soft toy of the Rainbow Brite horse, and remember all the characters well. I’ve been reading this book to Ebony, and it has been making me feel very nostalgic. The book is in really condition too, so I can only assume that my obsession with keeping books pristine is something I was born with. Sadly Ebony doesn’t share this trait, and most of her board books are a little chewed around the edges, so I’m keeping this one on a high shelf for now.  

Are you an 80s child with fond memories of Rainbow Brite?

Have a look at the rest of the we like to read posts over on Tigerlilly Quinn.


Wednesday 11 September 2013

Recipe: Sugar-Free Vegan Appleberry Bites

Great British Bake Off night is date night in my house. Which is, admittedly, a weird date night for two vegans because we can’t really eat anything they make. So mostly our date night consists of looking at food porn, and wondering if and how it could be veganised. Yeah, probably not a great date night by most people’s standards, but I like it.

Last night was the night of the pies in Bake Off terms, so I decided to make a pie for us to enjoy while we watched. I took Ebony to the woods near our house, and we collected an impressive amount of wild blackberries. Ebony likes foraging, and knows not to pick the lighter coloured blackberries. After we filled our tupperware (and Ebony’s tummy), we headed home to start baking.

I decided to make a sweet, sugary pie for date night, and some mini sugar-free bites for Ebony to enjoy. I used this recipe for the pastry, but doubled the ingredients and substituted the butter for Vitalite, and the lard for shortening. I dedicated some of the pastry for Ebony’s pie, and kept it aside.

I preheated the oven to 200°C, and prepared a baking tray with greaseproof paper.

For the inside of the sugar-free vegan blackberry bites, I used:
  • ¼ cup blackberries
  • ¼ cup of granny smith apple (peeled, cored and sliced thinly)
  • 1 tbsp chopped dates

Ebony rolled out the pastry herself. Several times. And dropped some of it on the floor. And ate some. Then we put the filling ingredients onto the rolled out pastry, and folded it in to create a sealed pocket. I used a skewer to mark holes in the top to allow the steam to escape during cooking, and then placed it on the baking tray in the oven for 30 minutes.
The filling was sweet and tasty, and Ebony enjoyed having hers with a glass of almond milk before bed.

This post is part of Vegan Mofo.

Tuesday 10 September 2013

Blog Challenge: Great Adventure #16

After a week spent in sunny Brighton, there is a definite chill in the air up north. My much-loved cardigans are creeping out of the wardrobe, and Ebony is donning tights (“teeets”) again, so it’s safe to safe Autumn is on the horizon. Despite the forecast predicting rain, we managed to enjoy the sun at Quarry Bank Mill this afternoon.

I must have visited Quarry Bank Mill as a child, because as we neared the mill I had a vivid memory of walking those cobbled streets before. Ebony isn’t really old enough to appreciate all that the mill has to offer just yet, so we made our way down to the gardens.

Ebony has developed a love for climbing that is exciting and terrifying in equal measure. I’m proud that she feels able to clamber and explore, and yet it’s quite terrifying to see her lose her footing and come crashing back down. We spotted a sideways tree, and Ebony marched straight over and started shimmying along the trunk.

She is fearless, and doesn’t waste time worrying about her clothes. She found a pile of earth, and slid down on her bum with little care for the freshly washed white tights she was wearing. She climbed up gates, attempted to sneak under fences and enjoyed running across the grass.

We found bees, ants and birds to watch. We found acorns to inspect, flowers to smell and people to wave at. Ebony spotted some blackberry bushes and headed over, carefully selecting the dark ones to pick. She never tries to pick the light one, which forced us to ponder how well she would survive in the wild. Very, we decided, as she stuffed another handful of blackberries into her mouth, before wiping her stained hands on her now-not-so-white tights.

Have you been on any adventures this week? 

Find out what the great adventures blog challenge is all about.

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