Thursday, 30 June 2016

June Life


June is always a crazy busy month for me as it happens to be the month where 90% of people I'm closest to were born including my husband and my Mum. It's also my favourite time of year to take a holiday before the craziness of the school summer holidays begin.

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Tuesday, 28 June 2016

The Gate, Islington


Last week we celebrated my husbands birthday and as a little treat I decided to book us a table at The Gate in Islington, London. Prior to this I had been canvassing some views on Twitter as to where to go for a celebratory meal in London and The Gate seemed a popular choice amongst a few of my followers. It's also somewhere I have looked at going in the past so my decision was quickly made for me.


The Gate is an award winning purely vegetarian and vegan restaurant which also has a sibling restaurant in Hammersmith. As we were dining early we had no issue getting a table but from what I understand booking is highly recommended, especially at the weekend.  

The restaurant itself occupies a pretty big and open space. When we first walked in it looked quite impressive but I have to say, and after a closer look, it seemed to be a little rough around the edges and in need of some TLC in places. The table we were seated at was comfortable but it was close to the kitchen and we found the noise of the banter and swearing from the kitchen staff quite distracting! We were also sat next to a window which seemed to be a popular area for a number of flies to navigate which was again a bit annoying and not the kind of ambience I had hoped for a birthday meal. On reflection we should have maybe asked to be moved but by the time we realised our starters had been served and we couldn't really be bothered to move. 


When presented with the menu I was pleased to see that everything was really well labelled and there seemed to be a pretty equal choice of both veggie and vegan dishes to choose from as well as gluten free options. The drinks list was also labelled which is great and not something I happen to see very often. 


For an appetiser we opted to share some olives and focaccia bread which was served with some black olive tapenade. This was vegan friendly and very tasty! On reflection though I wish i'd asked for some balsamic vinegar and olive oil as another option for dunking our bread into. 


For our starters we decided to share the mezze plate which came with a lentil terrine with toasted bread and caramelised onions, asparagus, a slice of leek tart and a tomato and mozzarella salad with pesto. Although this was a decent sized starter to share I felt the price of it at £22 was a little steep for what we actually received. The presentation was really nice and the food was tasty, especially the lentil pate which I really loved. This sharing plate also worked really well for us as my husband is vegetarian so he didn't feel that he missed out in anyway and he got his cheese fix.  


For my main I chose the vegan beetroot tart which was again presented beautifully. As you can see from the photo above this dish contained a mix of different beetroot cooked in various ways. It was quite an original dish and not like anything i'd tried before. I did however find it to be a little bit sickly towards the end. 


I also went for a side of sweet potato wedges with my main and despite the fact that they looked very tempting they were a bit of a let down as they were served luke warm and a little undercooked.


My husband went for the vegetarian sweetcorn fritter which was served with roasted vegetables, guacamole and black beans. I really liked the sound of this dish on the menu as it seemed to imply a Mexican theme but in reality it was sadly a little lacklustre and needed a lot more flavour. But again the presentation was elegant. 


For my dessert I chose a pineapple and coconut parfait. These are two of my favourite flavour combinations so I really enjoyed the dessert and I could have easily eaten a second portion! It was also a really light and refreshing option for a humid June day.  


I didn't make a point of telling the restaurant staff that it was my husbands birthday on arrival so I was impressed to see that they had remembered that information from my original booking and they presented him his honeycomb cheesecake with a candle. Again the dessert was a hit with him too and we both felt that it was perhaps the best part of our meal.   


The Gate has left me with really mixed feelings.... On the one hand it appears to be ticking all the boxes and it all sounded superb on the surface but in reality we sadly wasn't left very wowed. If someone was to ask me what it was like I would probably reply with a simple 'Ok'. Maybe we have been spoilt recently with all of the amazing plant based food we have been enjoying which has perhaps raised our bar of standards. I just felt that the food was lacking something to make me want to keep going back. I would also have to say that I felt it was quite overpriced for what it was with this entire meal ringing in at just shy of £100. 

All of that being said I do feel that if this experience was in my home area of Essex I may have been more praising. I just feel that the standards when in London are much higher and we have eaten at some really amazing restaurants there which I know we enjoyed much more (Tibits, Ethos & Mildreds to name a few!). 

Based on our first time experience at The Gate i'm not sure we would choose to return again. I really don't like writing negative reviews at all, especially when it's a vegetarian restaurant with vegan offerings as I feel like that alone makes them a great place, but at the same time I also have to be honest and not mislead anyone. 

I'd love to know your thoughts....
Have you been to The Gate before? 
What did you think?
Please comment below and let us know!  
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Thursday, 23 June 2016

2016 Hopes & Goals Update


So we are now over half way through 2016 and I thought it would be a good idea to re-look over my 2016 Hopes & Goals post to see how i'm doing and if I have made any progress with what I originally wanted to achieve throughout this year. 

I've also felt myself slightly lacking in motivation since my holidays so I felt that now would be the perfect time to refresh my plan for the rest of this year and the next 6 months. 

Spend some time volunteering with animals

I feel pretty let down with myself that I am yet to achieve this. I did manage to secure a volunteer day introduction at a local RSPCA shelter but then the date clashed with something else and I had to put this on hold. I believe the next one is in August so hopefully this will be something I can attend and get started on. I've also seen via Facebook lots of occasional and one off volunteer days at animal sanctuaries which online friends have been involved with so i'm going to go online right now and sign myself up to an upcoming one. It's time to get my hands dirty! 

Continue to work on having body confidence through a healthy diet and exercise

I knew from the beginning that I would struggle with this one and, to be honest, it's always been a problem for me! 6 months into 2016 and I don't really feel any difference and I have to say that I haven't really applied myself enough to this one. I do eat healthy on a daily basis but I do also tend to ruin it with weekend treats so my weight stays the same and I never see a difference. I also tend to comfort eat if i'm not feeling great which is a problem. But I guess you could call that balance? I can't say i'm 100% happy with my body and I don't embrace my curves as much as I maybe should. All of that being said I feel like I am becoming more at ease with myself and not stressing about it as much. I wish I could be one of those really body positive women regardless of my size and I envy those who can be like that. Maybe one day i'll get there. But for now i'll continue to try to maintain some balance and implement more exercise into my routine. 

Visit one new country and one new city

I've had quite a few breaks already this year but sadly I am yet to visit a new country, but the good news is that I still have plenty of time! We always tend to book a short break away during winter time either for my birthday or to do some Christmas shopping so i'm hoping we can go somewhere completely new then. I'm thinking maybe Edinburgh as i've never been to Scotland, or maybe somewhere European like Norway or Finland. We shall have to see. I have however been fortunate enough to visit a new city, Palma in Majorca. It was so beautiful and great for shopping! 

Sign myself up for a course where I can learn something new

I can say that I have successfully managed to do this as I completed a photography evening course in the new year which helped me learn how to get to grips with using my DSLR and, perhaps more importantly, using it on manual mode. It was definitely more challenging that I expected it to be and learning in the evening was probably not the best time of day for me to apply myself as I soon found out. DSLR's are quite complicated pieces of equipment so it did take time to get to grips with everything and I am still learning. I think it's safe to say though that I feel my photography skills have improved so  much since taking part in this course. I also have a couple of more courses to attend including one which focuses on mobile phone and Instagram photography and also a yoga for anxiety workshop. Other courses which I'm interested in signing myself up for include couples massage therapy and a vegan baking course. 2016 is definitely shaping up to be the year of learning for me and i'm loving it!  

Invest in a DSLR camera and improve my photography skills

Well you will already know from reading the last paragraph that this has indeed been accomplished. I was lucky enough to be bought a DSLR by Mr Kirby at Christmas which I was so happy about! It's been on my list for so long now and i've already had so much use out of it in a short amount of time. Not only do I use it for both blog and personal photography but I also now use it to film my YouTube videos which was something I didn't expect to branch into this year.  

Work on managing my anxiety levels better

My anxiety levels are pretty low at the moment which I'm so happy about as i've really felt like i've been able to live my life and do the things I want to do without any hesitation and worry. I really noticed a difference when we travelled on our holidays too as I was so much calmer on the plane which was great! I've worked quite hard at the start of this year to ensure that I completed my course of group CBT. Since that has finished I've signed myself up for weekly restorative yoga sessions which i've found to be really helpful. I've tried to practice meditation at home on a regular basis and ensure I do all of the things that keep me feeling relaxed and positive. I do feel like this is perhaps something that I continually need to work at in order to stay healthy and happy and I am interested in maybe trying some hypnotherapy to tackle my emetophobia as i've heard so many good things about it. If anyone has a recommendation for a good hypnotherapist in the South East then do let me know! 

Grow my blog and social media following

When I look back over my blog and social media in 2016 I feel as though I have almost surprised myself but how much it has grown and evolved in only 6 months. 2016 is definitely the year that things have started to happen with my blog and as a result it has felt extremely rewarding putting more time and effort into it. My Twitter & Instagram followers have almost doubled since the new year and I've also for the first time earned money for my work. I've found that more and more opportunities are coming my way and it's such a great feeling as writing and photography are my main passions. I didn't expect to also branch into YouTube and vlogging but this has also become another creative outlet for me which I really enjoy and find so rewarding. I guess over the next 6 months I'd like to continue to see growth and development and i'd also like to attend more events and be able to network some more. I've somehow managed to regularly and consistently post new content this year and i've learnt that this is key to success. 

Dedicate one day a week to myself and self care

I've been pretty good at this and this is actually a goal which has made me happy whilst also being enjoyable. More often than not new years resolutions focus on big and unachievable challenges which also tend to forget about taking care of ourselves and our minds. Self care is hugely important to me and it's a big part of managing to stay well. Sunday is normally my day of the week where I relax more and when I try to stay away from anything work related and instead take the time to do relaxing things such as reading, practising some crochet or even simple things like going for a long walk or enjoying a Lush bath. I also now count my Monday mornings as a time for self care as it's when I attend my restorative yoga session which really does leave me feeling so calm and relaxed. It's also some solid time out and away from everything else. 

Finish my crochet throw

Oh dear .... (*holds head in shame)! I really haven't made much progress with this. I think where other creative activities like photography and filming have taken over this has really taken a back seat which is a shame as it's something I equally enjoy. This throw was meant to be finished by last Christmas and at this rate I don't even think it will be completed by this Christmas! But this is actually the prompt i've maybe needed to get back into it. I have the opportunity to go back to my crafting evenings on Wednesdays which is a lovely group where people just take along any project they may be working on and we all beaver away over a cuppa and nice chats. It really is time I got myself back to this and made some progress with my throw. I also want to continue with my weaving projects as i've so enjoyed learning this new craft. 

Spend less time online and more time reading

Spending less time online is something I now hear so many people saying they need to do. It's like we lead so much of our lives online these days and our phones have become an integral part of us. I'm very guilty of spending too much time on both my phone and laptop and I do find it hard to switch off. But i'm not going to speak badly about it because everything online has been so life enriching and so many various opportunities are always discovered online. I also love to chat to all of you online sharing ideas and experiences. I often think that i'd be lost without Twitter and the quick responses to any question I throw out there! I know I can definitely afford to spend less time online and I think over the next 6 months I would like to implement a wifi curfew and make sure all tech is turned off by a certain time in the evening. I think this would be a huge help!

So how do you think i'm doing!?

How are you getting on with your 2016 goals?

Let me know if you have any words of encouragement or ideas to help me complete all of the remaining goals! 
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Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Vegan Ibiza


I have just got back from an amazing 10 days in Ibiza. Despite its reputation for being the ultimate party capital of the world, this beautiful island is also one of the most chilled out, spiritual and happy places I have ever visited. I genuinely feel at home in Eivissa and it's one of the only places in the world which I keep going back to. 
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Tuesday, 14 June 2016

The Compasses


A couple of weeks ago I was due to go out for a celebratory family meal and I was left in charge of booking somewhere local which catered for everyone. Where I live in Halstead Essex it's quite a task as there is very little in the way of vegan friendly options which also cater for meat eaters. I had however seen a conversation within an 'Essex Vegans' Facebook group recently which mentioned The Compasses at Pattiswick being receptive to catering for vegans if requested in advance. 

I have dined at The Compasses numerous times before and i've always thought of it as a very meat orientated pub and restaurant. On the occasions where I have dined there in the past there has been a few vegetarian options but nothing labelled as vegan. I was pleased to hear that the chef and management were creating enjoyable vegan options and I decided that it would be the perfect venue for our family lunch as it really is a beautiful pub which is perfect for special occasions. 

I arranged my reservation over email and mentioned that our table would require a vegan friendly meal. I was quick to receive a reply and pretty soon everything was organised. I was initially asked what I wanted to eat as a vegan but I was curious to know what the chef could create so I left it in their hands to come back to me with some options. 


The day we were booked in at The Compasses ended up being the hottest day of the year so far so we started our visit with a Pimms in the pub garden which was so enjoyable and relaxing. If you have never been to Pattiswick before it really does feel like it is in the middle of no where and deep in the depths of the Essex countryside. It's very quiet and idyllic, perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon! 


When seated at our table I mentioned to the waiting staff that I had pre-ordered my vegan meal and they thankfully knew what I was talking about. Looking at the Sunday Lunch menu on our table I was pleased to see that there was still a good selection of vegetarian options available but sadly the only roast dinners were all meat based which I always think is a shame as, in my opinion, it surely wouldn't be too difficult for any pub to knock up a batch of nut roast so the plant based diners also have a roast dinner option. 



When our starters arrived they were all presented nicely and I was handed my very own special vegan creation of a carrot, tarragon & chestnut pate with toasted ciabatta. 

I really enjoyed this starter and thought that it was quite inventive and out of the ordinary which demonstrated that some thought had been put into making it an enjoyable dish which isn't always the case when ordering vegan options off the menu. The dish was served cold and I guess if I had any criticisms it would be that this particular vegan take on pate would have been more enjoyable heated up. Aside from that it was very good and nothing was left over on the plate. 


For my main dish I was served a carrot, courgette & three nut roast with roast potatoes and vegetables. As soon as this was placed in front of me I was impressed and knew that I was going to enjoy it! It was really yummy and very filling. It was also nice to be able to enjoy a roast dinner in a pub with everyone else. This is definitely a dish that should be permanently added to the Compasses Sunday menu and I seriously think they would be surprised by how many people order it. 


Finally dessert was a vegan chocolate brownie with fruit compote. I didn't really have much room left for pudding after the first two courses but the others were happy to share it with me! I thought the brownie was really nice but sadly it was a little dry and I felt it could have done with a nice chocolate sauce or something similar. The compote, which was almost like a sorbet, didn't really go very well with the brownie and personally I would have liked something more chocolatey or maybe a more berry based accompanying sauce. That being said I really did feel somewhat grateful to be enjoying a three course vegan meal in this establishment so I shouldn't grumble too much!  


So the rumours are true.... You can enjoy a lovely vegan meal at The Compasses! Ok, there's a little pre planning involved to get things right and this does mean planning ahead and doing some initial leg work. But it can be done! And it can be done very well indeed. 

It would be great if more places like The Compasses were so accommodating to vegans and it would be even better if the majority of places all had some vegan options on the menu as life would certainly feel a little more spontaneous than it does at the moment. In my opinion vegan meals and options are in many ways less expense and work than meat based dishes so it's hard to see the problem but I am positive that in time Veganism will be both understood and accepted more. 

I think as long as you are prepared to plan ahead, and you have no issue in contacting an establishment beforehand, you should be able to enjoy a vegan meal anywhere you choose to. Many places would much rather have your custom than turn you away so don't be afraid to ask as after all - if you don't ask you don't get! 

Have you enjoyed an 'off the menu' vegan meal anywhere recently? I'd love to hear! 
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Thursday, 9 June 2016

Tints of Nature Dry Shampoo


Recently, and since coming off the pill, I have been experiencing quite greasy roots so I sadly can't get away with not washing my hair for very long. At the moment I wash my hair every other day and on the days when I don't wash my hair I always have to use a dry shampoo product to help my hair  to feel fresh, clean and smelling nice.
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Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Joe Allen's



To coincide with National Vegetarian Week I was recently asked to visit the Joe Allen restaurant in Covent Garden to research and answer the question 'Can vegetarians have a good time at Joe Allen?'.

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Thursday, 2 June 2016

Yorica


Last week I mentioned on Twitter that I was headed into London for the day and I asked if anyone had any good recommendations for places I should visit. The lovely fellow vegan and blogger Steph from The Zombie Said suggested that I should head to Soho to try out the vegan friendly ice cream parlour Yorica. I couldn't believe that i'd never heard of this place before! And after a little look on their website and Twitter page I knew that this was definitely somewhere not to be missed. 

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