Life Lately - Monthly Reads / Values Plan / World Vegan Month

My intention for this blog at the start of 2018 was to share my experiences in slow and simple living. I’d made my values based plan where I documented the changes I wanted to incorporate over the coming twelve months as well as a monthly breakdown of what I was reading and ready to pass on by paying it forward. As you may have noticed from the sporadic nature of these posts, I’ve failed to keep up with them and for that I’m sorry. Yet, it’s important to acknowledge that even when we are trying to live slowly, busy periods take over and we have to learn to lean into them. Although my book was finished from a writing point of view, those Summer months were taken up with edits and queries from the copy editor followed by a period of proofreading to ensure that the book didn’t have any glaring errors. The last few weeks have been spent working on publicity features for various magazines and blogs. Writing a book really does take a lot of work. Then throw in helping my son to revise for his first set of mock GCSEs, six form open nights and a trip to Glasgow for a week to catch up with my family; time has simply run away from me.

Rather than write lots of separate posts, I thought I’d combine them into one long one. So here is an update on what I’ve been reading, my slow and simple values plan and why I’m going vegan for the month of November:

Monthly Reads -

Firstly, I have to tell you that there are no monthly reads for me to share with you. I’m struggling to keep my eyes open most nights and I haven’t been getting through the number of books I usually do. For our trip to Glasgow, we opted to take the train, a five hour journey and I’d planned to read for the duration. In the end, the three of us sat at a table and chatted for the entire trip and as we always take the Settle-Carlisle line train (one of the world’s great railway journeys), it’s impossible not to spend part of the time simply gazing out the window at the glorious Yorkshire Dales. So, no reading got done at all. The final reason I haven’t any books to share with you here is that I’m working my way (very slowly) through the Game of Thrones books (don’t judge me, the tv show is my favourite guilty pleasure and boy, do I love those dragons!). I have a pile of other books to read but for now I only want to curl up on the sofa with Jon Snow and Tyrion Lannister. Last time I shared a book post was back in August and you can read about the books I really enjoyed here. The lucky recipient drawn from the random number generator was Lee McCormack who is receiving my copy of ‘The Enchanted Life’. I hope you enjoy it Lee. I’ll share some other books soon and resume my pay it forward over the winter months.

Glasgow - I wanted to quickly mention our Airbnb apartment in Glasgow as it was just fantastic. It was our first time using Airbnb as previously we stayed in hotels or with family, but I would absolutely do it this way again. The freedom of having your own apartment to come and go from, a full kitchen to use and a comfy sofa to lounge upon make it a far better way to enjoy a city break. This flat was based in Partick in the West End, my old stomping ground. The apartment was modern yet the owner had furnished it with some beautiful vintage finds. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay and it was the perfect location for getting around as it’s close to both Byres Road,Great Western Road and the Botanic Gardens as well as being a couple of minutes walk to the subway station. The flat was also right next to an Italian deli that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and it was where I ate one of the finest pavlovas ever. I didn’t take my camera with me to Scotland as it was family time and I simply wanted to live in the moment and embrace being in my old city so these are the only pictures I took. But I wanted to share this space as it’s a real find and great if you are looking for somewhere to stay in Glasgow.

Values Plan -

As I’ve missed July and August’s plan, I’ve more or less moved the tasks I wanted to accomplish on to September and October. I have made a couple of alterations as Autumn brings with it colder, wetter days and I needed a couple of new items of clothing to cope with the seasonal changes. If you haven’t read about my Slow and Simple Living plan before, then check out my original post here.

September -

Home - buy wardrobe for my bedroom - Fail. - I’ve been hunting for a vintage one that we can fit in the space and get down the twenty steep steps that lead into my home. We’re currently using a clothes rail, which although practical, looks pretty awful and I’d prefer everything to be shut away where I can’t see it. Having a wardrobe would enable us to have some extra storage on the top too as we could do with somewhere to store off-season duvets and blankets. I plan to donate the clothes rail so it won’t be thrown away. For now, the hunt continues.

Wardrobe - buy trench coat for Autumn - Bought. I’ve had a Gap trench coat for years but sadly it no longer fits. It was still in pretty good condition and I was able to donate it to my favourite local charity shop. Trying to find a new one that was in budget wasn’t easy but eventually I stumbled upon this one from ASOS. Yes, I know it’s not ideal as it’s from a fast fashion brand, but it was in my budget and it will last me for years. A good trench coat never goes out of style. The quality is really good for the price and I love the fact that it’s a simple cut with no belt.

Get organised - declutter again. In progress. I’ve been working through my book cupboard, linens, ornaments, kitchen ware etc. If you follow me on Instagram you may have seen that every Saturday I’m offering up one of these items to anyone who would like them. The others are being donated to local charities and organisations. Nothing is staying if I haven’t used in the past year - no exceptions.

Zero waste - switch from shower gel and handwash to soap bars. - Completed. (photo above). We switched to bars of soap earlier this year at the sinks in the bathroom and the kitchen but it took me a little while to get it to work well in the shower. The secret is to invest in a soap saver bag. This is a little bag that you pop your bar of soap in, wet it under the shower and then use it like a loofah to exfoliate. Between uses it needs to hang up over the shower head or on a hook over the bath to allow it to dry out a little. This works brilliantly well and means that no soap is wasted as all the little bits that fall off the bar are contained in the bag and get used. I bought mine a few months ago, one for each of us, but I can’t remember where I bought them. However, they are available from All Natural Soap here (they also make beautiful soaps that last a long time, we’re big fans). Recently I purchased a bar of eucalyptus, seaweed and sea salt soap from Midgley Green and that’s been my favourite bar of all - it smells incredible and it was gentle on my skin too.

October -

Home - paint bedroom. Completed. (photo above) This wasn’t really supposed to be on my plan for this year although I knew that the paintwork needed a refresh in the coming months. As I was searching for a vintage wardrobe, my goal was to find one that I could also paint. I’d fallen for a sage green colour and I was delighted when Earthborn paint got in touch and asked it I’d like to sample some other products from their range. As I’m a big fan of their claypaint and have used it throughout my home, I considered trying the Eco Chic paint for furniture as I could use it on my wardrobe project. They sent me a couple of samples and I fell in love with Gregory’s Den - a sage, greeny-grey shade. As I didn’t have the wardrobe situation sorted but I absolutely loved the colour, I decided to get the claypaint and do the walls instead. It makes more sense to paint the walls before I put a wardrobe in front of them anyway. The colour works really well with the William Morris wallpaper and it brings together a cozy, natural feel. If I ever find the right wardrobe, I think I’ll go for a darker grey or black colour as a contrast to the sage green on the walls. I’m thinking the teal blue curtains need replacing with some natural linen or hemp ones as it would soften the space even more. But there is no hurry and these will do for now.

Wardrobe - buy one jumper to replace old, tatty one. Bought. Again, I’ve had to buy this one from a fast fashion company but it was within my budget and it’s made from a better quality wool-blend. It’s toasty warm and I’ve got it on all the time. The last time I bought a similar sweater from the same store it lasted for years and I still wear it now. I’m hoping this one will also be as durable. I’ve been searching for vintage Aran knits but sadly never seem to come across any in my size.

Get organised - clear out old paperwork and shred. Fail. No hurry to complete this really but I’ll do it one day!

Zero waste - start shopping at new zero waste store in Leeds. Fail. Time constraints have prevented me from visiting the city centre but I do plan to go there in the next couple of weeks. My husband has been in and bought a couple of non-food things, so I suppose we’ve made a start! Ideally I want to be buying dry goods loose and taking my own containers.

Here’s the plan for the next two months. I’ll aim to get these on a separate post sometime in December.

November -

Home - paint porch.

Wardrobe - buy nothing.

Get organised - buy Christmas gifts for moody teen and start preparing edible gifts for other family members.

Zero waste - start shopping at several new zero waste shops in Leeds.

December -

Home - decorate for Christmas with natural finds only.

Wardrobe - buy nothing.

Get organised - clear out larder.

Zero waste - focus on ways to reduce food waste over the Christmas period.

Going vegan for November - November is World Vegan Month and as someone who is keen to help the planet, I do feel strongly that eating more plant based meals and cutting down on dairy, meat and poultry is a key change that we all need to make. So throughout November, I’m joining in with World Vegan Month. I do have a couple of issues as I don’t really like a lot of the foods that are readily available on cafe menus and contained in a lot of vegan recipes - coconut oils, milk and creams are too sweet tasting for me, I really dislike the texture and taste of avocados, anything smoked smells repulsive and don’t even get me started on tofu!

I’ve been vegetarian for thirty years, I haven’t missed meat once and as I never was a fan of fish, I don’t miss that either. We eat a lot of vegan meals in our home - curries, stews, stir fries, warm salads and we make them regularly. However, I am a great lover of dairy products - cheese, vegetarian parmesan, yoghurt and cream but I do believe I could eat a lot less of them for the sake of my health and to help the environment. If anyone has some product recommendations for dairy free versions of cheese, yoghurt or cream, I’d be very grateful. I’m already using nutritional yeast as an alternative to vegetarian parmesan.

I thought I’d document each week throughout the month to share what I’ve been eating and my findings. Here are my thoughts on week one:

  • Going vegan has certainly made me think more about what I need to eat and make time to prepare ingredients. Lunches especially are an issue for me as it’s far easier to make a cheese sandwich when I’m busy. Cooking at lunchtimes and evening meals means I spend a long time in the kitchen. The last two days of this week I made a relish (that will last for about a week’s worth of lunches) and served it with falafel. This was far quicker and easier than cooking individual sweet potatoes every day. I need to find a way to make lunches a little simpler and quicker so next week I’m planning on making a big pot of soup or salad for lunchtimes.

  • I feel a little bloated and windy after eating so many nuts. Nighttime has been somewhat embarrassing. Ahem.

  • Breakfasts never tasted so good.

    I love the oat milk made by Oatly, it’s delicious, particularly the organic one. I won’t go back to having real milk in my coffee again as I prefer the flavour the oat milk brings. However, it’s pretty expensive and it’s contributing to a lot of packaging waste so I may try making my own.

  • Eating lots of nuts is also very costly and time consuming preparing them to make cheeses and creams. I do like the flavour but the texture was really off-putting to my husband and he wouldn’t eat it. I popped the ‘sour cream’ version in my wraps with veg chilli and to be honest, it tasted pretty much the same as sour cream.

  • It’s also expensive if you have to buy both vegan ingredients and dairy products for a family. Our food bill this week was significantly higher.

  • Walking through the supermarket I found myself looking longingly at packets of fudge, chocolate biscuits and giant cookies - all things I don’t ever really eat but because I knew I couldn’t have them, I wanted them more. I didn’t get any though. I also found myself tempted to add cheese to my veg chilli wraps but didn’t give in to that either.

  • I haven’t needed any snacks during the day other than a banana after I’ve been for a swim.

Here’s what I ate this week:

Breakfast - Mon-Fri porridge oats soaked in oat milk overnight with a little maple syrup and a sprinkling of cinnamon. In the morning I top with chopped dates, pumpkin, flax & hemp seeds, blueberries and slices of pear.

Lunches - Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday: Baked sweet potato, cashew nut cheese, quinoa and sauteed kale. Thursday & Friday: Tortilla wraps filled with middle eastern falafel and homemade relish.

Dinner - Monday - Pasta with roasted veg and homemade sun-dried tomato pesto. Tuesday - Veg chilli made with lentils and kidney beans, served with tortilla wraps and cashew sour cream Wednesday - same as Tuesday. Thursday - chicken noodle stir fry made with Quorn vegan pieces, lots of fresh veg and lentil protein noodles. Friday - Aubergine stew served with couscous.

And that’s been my life lately. The next few days will be mainly helping the moody teen crack algebra problems, analyse literature texts and revise all three sciences. It’s going to be a fun weekend but at least there is wine (vegan of course!).