Week four of Veganuary

I can't believe that Veganuary is almost over! After so many years of avoiding a vegan diet - because I worried it would be difficult and boring - I'm so happy that I finally committed to the challenge. I've discovered new recipes which I love, found out how much food is already 'accidentally vegan' and feel so much more positive and energetic.

Feel Good Friday #31

Every week Joe Wilson goes to a local cafe for his breakfast, stopping to speak to Big Issue seller Daniel Collins on his way. Joe says 'Each week, I stop and have a chat, give Daniel a couple of quid, if I have it, and buy him a coffee from the place I go to for a breakfast. Then, when I finish my breakfast I'll usually take him over another coffee and pay for a few in advance so he can get warmed up when it gets chilly.'

Earlier this week Joe popped into the cafe as usual, only to be told his bill had already been paid - by Daniel. It turns out the seller had won £20 on a scratch card and had decided to use his winnings to treat Joe for a change, as a thank you for his generous support. 

Joe says 'As I took a coffee over to him, his face was an absolute picture and he told me that it had made him happy that I'd had a nice surprise and it was his way of showing his appreciation for the coffee and the chats.'

Daniel, who became homeless after losing his job as a chef, says 'Joe is such a nice guy, he comes down every week and always comes over for a chat and buys me a coffee... He isn't a rich guy or anything, he is just a brilliant, kind man.'

Thanks to the kindness of people like Joe, Daniel is now getting back on his feet - he has a flat and is looking for another job. 

The Philosophy of Cats

'How many cats have been important in your life? Have you ever thought about it? The one that belonged to your parents or grandparents, the one that came to see you at the house rented by the seaside or in the mountains because you gave him a bit of milk... The tabby, the black and white one, the Persian, the Siamese... They are all linked to a memory of agreeable company.'

This question is taken from the opening chapter of The Philosophy of Cats, an inspiring book by Italian philosopher Federica Sgarbi. When I read this I couldn't help but reminisce about the cats I've met in my life: the affectionate black and white cat owned by my grandparents; the haughty but beautiful Birman who belonged to my high school best friend; the enormous ginger tom cat who I stroked on my way to work. These cats are all distinct in my mind, with memories and personalities unique to each. I'm sure the same can be said for anyone who has owned pet dogs, or kept horses, or remembers their first pet rabbit fondly. I'm an animal lover and believe that each has their own colourful personality - with likes, quirks and bad habits - if you take the time to get to know them.

When animal lover Federica visited her local cattery one idle Saturday, I doubt she expected to get to know any of the seventy-eight cats in any meaningful way. She visited out of curiosity, an idea she couldn't get out of her head, but ended up launching a project which would change her life - and the lives of many of the cattery's feline residents. When taken out of their natural habitat of comfy armchairs, window-ledges bathed in sunlight and the bottom of their human's bed, Federica felt the cats had been 'shorn of their true nature'. She couldn't stop thinking about them, meowing from the rooms and cages, unable to express their natural 'catness'. Her idea was to introduce the cats to the local town and the area around it, letting cat lovers know about the residents on a more personal level, and hopefully finding them new homes.

Federica started by creating a record of each of the cats in the cattery, including age, health, personality, and any individual anecdotes. She also felt it was important to give each one a name best suited to him or her. She then contacted the local newspapers to ask for their support - thankfully all were willing to help. It was then time to write personal adverts to introduce each cat, with the hope that her writing would help give each cat a second chance at a happy ending.

Week three of Veganuary

I think it's becoming harder to give an update on Veganuary because it's already become much easier to stick to than when I started on January 1st. I do still have the occasional craving for milk chocolate - although I'm going to try Ombar chocolate to satisfy my sweet tooth, after Nicole helpfully recommended it! - but resisting other meals which I used to crave has become less of a struggle. I worked at a student fair earlier this week where Dominos were giving out cheesy slices of pizza for free - even when my stomach was rumbling at lunch time, I didn't consider cheating by eating a slice. As I said last week, when you take on a new diet and lifestyle change, I think part of the battle is changing your frame of thought: because I don't consider cheese to be part of my diet - in the same way, for example, I don't think of pork as something I eat - it was much easier to automatically say no to the offer of a slice.

Feel Good Friday #30

When two week old Unbuntu (or Ellie, for short) was abandoned by his herd with a life-threatening umbilical hernia and abscess, the Thula Thula Rhino Orphanage in Zululand, South Africa, took him into their care. With medical treatment, round-the-clock-care from staff, and a special mixture of well cooked rice, protein, minerals and coconut oil, Ellie's body was slowly nursed back to health.

Sadly, his little head was harder to cure.

Elephants are sociable animals and naturally live in herds. Despite the attentive care of the orphanage, Ellie was desperately unhappy from living alone. Karen Trendler, who runs the Thula Thula Rhino Orphanage, says 'He wasn't showing much interest in doing anything... He was very lethargic, very disinterested.'

And there's where former service and sniffer dog Duma comes in.

Week two of Veganuary

I was asked this week 'What's the first thing you're going to eat when Veganuary is over?' and it made me smile because I honestly hadn't thought about it. I'd put off trying veganism for twelve years as a vegetarian because I assumed it would be a horrible struggle, forcing me to eat meals I didn't enjoy, and leaving me endlessly craving food which was off limits. I can honestly say that hasn't been the case. Yes, okay, so last week I did have a dream I ripped open my Thorntons' milk chocolate reindeer left over from Christmas and devoured the entire figure in one sitting, but, two weeks in, I can easily say 'No, thanks' when someone offers me a treat from the office biscuit tin.

Feel Good Friday #29

For more than 100 years, Sardarpura, a village in India, has set aside a budget every January to help feed and protect the stray animals and birds in the area. 'Our forefathers had told us to have a budget for animals and birds so that they can be provided food for the entire year', says village sarpanch, Moti Desai. 'We humans can work and earn money but stray animals and birds have to struggle to keep themselves alive. They have to look all over for food'.

Learning to live lagom

I read about the Ikea Live LAGOM project on Twitter earlier this week and I now can't shake 'lagom' from my head. Lagom is a uniquely Swedish word with no direct translation into English. It comes from the phrase 'Lagom är bäst' ('the right amount is best') and can be interpreted as 'just right' or 'not too much but not too little'. 

When used as an inspiration for living, lagom can be interpreted as having enough of what you love, without taking more than you need.

When it seems expected to want 'more, more, more' all of the time, I'd love to give lagom a little squeeze. It reminded me of an occasion when a friend told me she wanted to buy a house with a second spare room, stating 'That's just what you do, isn't it? Buy a bigger house, get a bigger mortgage, buy a nicer car...'. 

Of course, it's not just bigger houses: overflowing wardrobes, queasy hangovers and uneaten food thrown in the bin are all little reminders that we could perhaps learn to live a little more lagom.

As well as curbing excess, I like to think lagom is a reminder to not deprive ourselves, especially in January when gruelling diets and spending bans can make an already grey month seem gloomier. Perhaps we could take inspiration from the Swedes and simply learn to strike a better balance, appreciating what we already have and learning to be happy with 'just enough'.

Week one of Veganuary

If you read my blog birthday post, or follow me on Twitter or Instagram, then you probably know that I'm taking part in Veganuary. I've been vegetarian for nearly twelve years but I've never made the transition to vegan, so Veganuary, an online initiative to help inspire and support people to go vegan for the month of January, seemed like a perfect opportunity to challenge myself. 

Even though I've been vegetarian for so long, I still prepared for going vegan with a dash to Tesco on the last day of December. I stocked up on tofu, almond milk, almond yogurt and spices - as well as the usual stash of fruit, vegetables and nuts. I also used Pinterest and Buzzfeed to make a list of different vegan recipes to try. I knew my best motivation to stay vegan is to have plenty of meals in mind which I'm genuinely looking forward to trying. As anyone who have ever been on any kind of diet will know, it's much easier to fall off the wagon when you're stuck for ideas or don't have the right ingredients handy - so I made sure I had plenty of both!

Feel Good Friday #29

As it's the first week of January and some people might be feeling a little flat, I thought I would serve up three Feel Good Friday stories this week, for an extra big dollop of happy. 


First up is the adorable Bunny who was accidentally left behind at Adare Manor Hotel in Ireland earlier this week. The hotel launched an appeal on Facebook to reunite Bunny with his human and thankfully a family friend spotted the post and got in touch. With his owner, three year old, Kate, due to collect him the next day, Bunny settled down for a luxurious 24 hours in the opulent castle hotel while he waited.

Adare Manor Hotel shared updates from Bunny's stay, including a spa treatment, luxury afternoon tea and chilling by the pool. By the time little Kate came to collect her bunny on Monday afternoon, he had really made himself comfy! However, no amount of massages or chocolate in bed will replace best friends - so when Kate's dad shared a photograph of the pair reunited later that evening, Bunny looked to be back in his happy place (and none the worst for wear after his little adventure).

Harry Potter illustrated edition

If you're a fan of Harry Potter then chances are you know about the new illustrated Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone released by Bloomsbury Publishing. As soon as I set my eyes on this beautiful edition in Waterstones I knew I'd love to find it gift-wrapped under the tree on Christmas morning. I'd therefore like to thank my mum for understanding that I'll probably never grow out of my love for Harry Potter and gifting me with this beautiful book last month.

Happy 2nd birthday, little blog!

It was on January 1st 2014 that I sat down and typed out my first ever blog post. I'd been reading other people's blogs for years, but it wasn't until 2014 that I had the confidence to write my own. To be honest, when I hit that little orange 'Publish' button for the first time, I wasn't really sure if I'd keep it up - and there have a been a few occasions when I've come close to giving up - but, two years later, here I am!

I started tartanmouth while living at home with my parents to save: ever since then I've ran literary events; watched my boyfriend launch his début novel; travelled to Dublin, Berlin, Paris and Orlando; survived the worst two weeks of my life; bought our first home; and added to our little family. This little blog has been a constant throughout, and, despite our ups and downs, I'm genuinely happy that I started tartanmouth all those months ago.

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