BLOGS I’M LOVING | RETRO FLAME

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There are some blogs that I read and whilst I enjoy immersing myself in their world, it is in fact just that, a totally different world. I’m not denying that I enjoy learning about their latest designer purchases but beyond that I sometimes struggle to relate to them as a reader.

Erika Fox is no such blogger. Her blog is largely focused on affordable, hight street fashion and she does a sterling job at proving that you don’t have to break the bank in order to look a million bucks.

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To my great delight she also has a YouTube channel where she produces a range of videos from vlogs and apartment tours to outfit videos. 

Originally from Ireland she is in fact living proof that if you have a dream, to move to a big city and establish a career in something you’re passionate about, then you can do just that. In fact she has produced several blog posts and Q&A videos on her experience of relocating and is always so willing to provide any information and answer any questions if you’re wanting to do something similar.

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What with her impeccable and sophisticated style and signature red hair, this lovely lady from The Emerald Isle is a shining example of what you can achieve through hard work and determination.

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So, if you’re like me and are always on the look out for a new blog to add to your reading list then I can’t recommend Retro Flame more. What’s more, if at the moment you can only dream, like I can, of moving to The Big Apple, then you can vicariously live through Erika for now.

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Diet Update

It’s two years since I went pescatarian and for the past seven months my diet has been around 90% plant based. I say 90% because there are times when a friend has taken me out for afternoon tea or my granny has forgotten and cooked me a piece of salmon along with everyone else. I’ll be honest, in those situations I don’t have the heart to decline what has been so lovingly placed in front of me. I’d much rather spare someone else’s feelings than my own.

I’ve always been fascinated by this way of eating and have spent hour upon hour watching countless YouTube videos, Netflix documentaries and reading books – How Not To Die being my bible. It’s hard not to be lured in by the glowing and radiant appearance of people who eat a healthy plant based diet. They look and say that they feel phenomenal. And I agree, they look great and seem to have such a zest for life.

So I decided to see what it was all about. I’ve never enjoyed eating meat and dairy wasn’t hard as I’ve been lactose intolerant on and off all my life but eggs and fish are where I struggle. Of course, this is made easier nowadays by the plethora of vegan substitutes now available. Linda McCartney sausages are my all time favourite and Alpro Soy Vanilla Ice Cream is better than the real thing in my opinion. That being said, I started this journey in order to become a healthier version of my former self so I don’t eat these things on a regular basis.

When I first started I fell into the trap of thinking that I could eat endless amounts of anything as long as it was wholegrain, cue the two bread rolls (with dairy free butter and jam) as an afternoon snack, the midnight snack bowls of all-bran cereal with handful upon handful of raisins. I gained weight. Not a tremendous amount but my jeans that once were loose were now snugger than ever. I also didn’t feel particularly great either, didn’t have a lot of energy and felt like nothing could satisfy my never ending hunger.

That’s when I decided to properly put my mind to it and read the advice of qualified scientists and nutritionists. Enter the likes of Dr Michael Greger, Dr Neal Barnard, Dr McDougall. Their theories and research are astounding, I challenge anyone to not read one of their books and not feel compelled to make a change, no matter how big or small. Thanks to their guidance and knowledge I’ve now managed decipher what foods work for me and what don’t. I eat a lot of leafy veggies, potatoes, beans and pulses, nuts and oats. I tend to steer clear of bread and white pasta as they don’t really satiate me and as a result I could probably eat a family size serving of pesto pasta in one sitting and not think anything of it.

There is something else that I wanted to touch on: Animal welfare. I didn’t feel I could write this post and overlook the primary reason most people choose to stop consuming animal products. Whilst I genuinely find the idea of eating another living thing somewhat repulsive, it’s sometime easy to forget that side of it when you’re presented with it to eat. I know that probably doesn’t make a lot of sense for some people, I doesn’t really for me now I’ve said it out loud. I would never call myself a vegan because besides from the few occasions I eat fish and eggs, I wear leather and I can’t guarantee that every beauty product I own hasn’t been tested on animals. I think it’s unrealistic to suddenly dive in head first with a change as radical as this one and I don’t think it’s right that people are chastised by hardcore vegans because they wear leather. Instead people should be praised, as any change, big or small, towards living a life free of animal products should be celebrated.

I commend people who suddenly decide to commit to not consuming animal products anymore, that’s really an amazing feat. Of course if I really wanted to do it then I could, there’s nothing stopping me. However I know myself, and I know the best way for me to stick to something is not to rush into anything, and instead slowly incorporate it into my life so that it’s sustainable in the long term. No one knows you better than you, so always do what’s right for you and don’t be discouraged by anyone else’s comments or feel that you have to label yourself.

So, onto a lighter note: What changes have I noticed within myself?

  • Stronger nails
  • Shiny, thick hair
  • Clearer skin – this isn’t to say that I still don’t get spots but they’re a lot less angry and frequent
  • Improved energy levels. I am no longer a victim of the classic 3pm blood sugar level sump.
  • Eating a wider variety of foods
  • Cooking a wider variety of recipes
  • Lower food bills. Think about it, a £0.46 tin of kidney beans vs £3.50 for a chicken breast.

 

What I eat:

Breakfast

Oats: Microwaved // Baked // Overnight // Homemade museli // Stovetop

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Flaxseed/cinnamon/cacao powder/nutmeg

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Banana, grated apple, berries, nectarine, raisins, pear, plum, peach, dates, courgette*

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Water, almond milk, coconut and almond milk, oat milk

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Agave nectar, golden syrup, coconut sugar, choc shot

*If I’m feeling extra peckish then I add grated courgette to bulk up my oats, extra greens and you can’t even taste it.

A combination of all of these things form my breakfast 95% of the time. Other breakfast items I reach for are:

Toast + dairy-free butter// jam/marmalade // almond butter/banana // avocado/tomato

Fruit salad and yoghurt

Parfait – yoghurt + granola + fruit

Lunch

Leftovers

Salad: Lettuce, cucumber, pepper, radish, beetroot, spring onion, sweetcorn, apple, any leftover veggies

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Starch/Carbohydrate : White potato, sweet potato, quinoa, brown rice, white rice, couscous, buckwheat, pearl barley

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Protein: Beans (borlotti, cannellini, kidney, black), chickpeas, tofu, falafel

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Dressing: Balsamic/mustard, hummus, dairy-free mayo, white wine vinegar

Dinner

Stir-fry // Stew // Lentil casserole // Nourish bowl // Curry // Veggie Pie // Sausages and mash // Chilli // Burrito bowl // Soup //

On the whole I try to keep my diet pretty clean, i.e. not eating a lot of processed foods – during the week anyway, weekends are a different matter entirely ;). As such, I use ingredients in their whole, natural state and incorporate them into making veggie/vegan twists on the classics i.e. Veggie shepherd’s pie, lentil casserole, bean chilli etc.

I’ve included some snaps from my foodie Instagram account for your perusal.

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If anyone has any questions/is more curious about my transition so far then please ask away. I almost wish I had been able to ask someone questions when I was considering eating a more plant based diet.

Also – if anyone has any blogs/vegan foodie websites that they turn to then please let me know, I’m always on the hunt for new recipes.

Homesickness

I’ve suffered from this for the entirety of my 24 living years. Naturally it has peaked and troughed over the years but it’s something that I still suffer with to this day, even though yes, technically I’m an adult now.

There are several homesickness incidents from over the years have stuck in my mind – some that my brother still refuses to let me forget!

My grandma’s house, age 4-6: My cousins and my brother would stay at my grandparents’ house every Friday night for a sleepover. We lived precisely 5 houses up from their house but it was years before I joined in. I remember every Friday night saying that I wanted to try and sleep at their house and every time my grandpa would walk me back up the road. Looking back this is an instance that upsets me the most because I missed out on spending valuable time with them.

Filey, 10 years old: What was meant to me my aunty and uncle taking all us kids away for a weekend and out of my grandparents’ hair actually turned into my mum coming to pick me up again: The very same day we’d gone.

France, 14 years old: This was a big deal. This was the first time I’d been abroad without my family. It wasn’t helped by the fact that I had altitude sickness and couldn’t partake in any of the activities. To this day I remember bawling my eyes out in the bathroom shower, I was inconsolable, and my teacher, who had heard my crying from next door, came to comfort me.

France/Italy, 20 years old: This was also another biggie. France was the toughest as I didn’t know a soul, was living in student halls and although I (kind of) spoke the language I was still in a completely alien environment and culture. My mum and grandma had taken me out a few days before I was due to move into my accommodation and we stayed in a hotel right in the centre of Nantes. For weeks after, whenever I felt low, I went and perched on the bench opposite and would picture us all there together. Italy was better, the friend I lived with both suffered from homesickness so, more often than not, we took solace in each other.

Guildford, 24 years old: First time living alone, new job, new city, 5 hours from home, perhaps the most alone I’d ever been. I don’t think I’ve ever consistently cried as much as I did during the first two to three weeks. I’m not talking about a little sob, I mean gut-wrenching, debilitating crying.

I always thought, naively perhaps, that this would be a temporary affliction and as I aged and grew so would my ability to learn not to miss home as much, or at the least I would learn how to manage it.

I’m not embarrassed to admit that after nearly a quarter of a century I still cry myself to sleep sometimes and in an ideal world I wouldn’t have voluntarily chosen to live so far away from my family and friends.

That being said, I think my idea of ‘home’ has evolved over the years. Initially it basically extended to my mum. Now, besides the rest of my family, it include my friends, familiar surroundings and the feeling of being settled.

Although there are times when I start daydreaming and ponder what would actually happen if I just got in my car and drove home, I also think that it is good to push and challenge yourself – more often than not you’re capable of much more than you give yourself credit for.

TIPS AND TRICKS:

As a self-confessed expert on the subject, these are a handful of things that I find help me in the day-to-day.

  1. Cry: Seriously, don’t worry about holding it in, just let it out. You will stop at some point, by which point you’ll be so tired that you’ll probably fall asleep in no time. Every cloud and all…

2.  Talk about it: My poor mum has had a real earful over the past four months. But as          she says that’s what she’s there for, to be an ear or shoulder at any time of day.

3.  Keep busy: I can always feel that sinking feeling creeping in when I’m sitting inside,          on my own not doing anything, i.e. Sundays. This doesn’t have to entail spending                money either – go for a walk. There’s something about being in nature, as cliché as it          is, I’m always reminded that there’s a bigger, wider world out there.

4.   Make plans: Be they with your family or people that you love. Weekends, in my                  experience, are always the toughest. So, fill them up, visit people, be the host or                  pencil a date in your diary for when you’re next going home. Everyone needs                      something to look forward to.

5.  No situation is permanent, it’s just a block of time: I have my mum to thank for            this. I’ve always had this little phrase in my head, as she would (and still does)                      repeat it whether it was an exam, a school assembly or an interview that I was                    fretting about. We all know mums are always right, but she really hit the jackpot                with this one. It’s true, nothing lasts forever and you won’t be where you are now              forever.

6.  Time: It’s always tremendously exhausting and a mix of conflicting emotions at the            beginning but give it it time. Anytime anyone says this to me I always give a subtle              ‘mhm’ because it doesn’t help you in the present moment at all. But knowing that                it is hopefully a temporary feeling can put your mind at ease.

7.  Change your situation: Only you can do it. If you give it what you deem to be                      significant amount of time and you still feel the same then don’t do it any more. As            scary and overwhelming as that is, it’s also very empowering. Time is so precious              and there really is no point in being unhappy if you can do something about it.

 

 

 

BLOGS I’M LOVING: CUPCAKES AND CASHMERE

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Cupcakes and Cashmere was the first blog I ever religiously followed. It became the highlight of my day and I couldn’t wait to get home after school to read Emily’s latest post. As is only natural, it has changed somewhat since then, she’s got married, had a lovely little girl but I think the fact I’m still reading her blogs five years later is a testament to my admiration for her.

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I was that much of a fan girl that I sent her an email – approaching five years ago – to tell her how much I admired her, cringe! To my absolute delight she replied personally and I still have the email saved somewhere. She’s always been a great source of inspiration and sure it only took me half a decade to get round to starting my own blog but I got there eventually.

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Out of all the blogs I read I find Emily’s style to be the most functional and relatable i.e. I could see myself wearing practically every outfit she puts together. Alongside this, whilst some of the pieces she wears are more high-end, many of the pieces she wears are affordable.

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Her blog is brimming with variety, from homeware to recipes, outfits to skincare, so there’s definitely something for everyone. The posts on her blog are always written so eloquently and feature equally high-resolution images.

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These are some of her most recent posts that I’ve loved reading:

How I’m Learning To Open Up On Social Media

Five Things – this series has always been one my favourites!

How To Motivate Yourself To Workout At Any Time Of Day 

I Wore The Same Thing Every Day For A Week

If you’ve never stumbled across this gem of a blog then you can thank me later ;).

 

Homemade Vegetable Soup

This style of soup first entered my scope of awareness back in 2012 ish when my Mum was fully immersed in her healthy eating/Slimming World phase.

She would make a ginormous batch of this at the weekend and then we would either have it for lunch or snack on it throughout the week. Now the weather is turning this is the perfect opportunity to reinstate it.

Another great thing about this recipe is that you can basically add anything you have in your cupboard/fridge and leave out any veggies that don’t really float your boat. No specific weights/measurements are required as I just chop up enough veggies to fill a large saucepan, leaving room for liquid of course.

Ingredients (roughly)

2 onions

2 cloves of garlic

3 carrots

2 parsnips

1 sweet potato

1 pepper

1 head of broccoli

Handful of green beans

Handful of kale or spinach

2 tsp mixed dried herbs

1 tin of sweetcorn

1 tin of beans – borlotti, cannellini, chickpeas etc.

1 cup of small pasta shapes – conchigliette are perfect

2 tins of chopped tomatoes + extra water if needed

1 tbsp tomato purée

2 tsp veggie stock powder

Salt and pepper to taste

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Method

Chop all the vegetables and garlic into similar shaped pieces, I tend to either dice or cube mine.

Place them all in a large pan – the larger the better as this wards off any over-boiling incidents.

Sauté in a little oil or water along with the herbs.

Add the chopped tomatoes, sweetcorn, drained tin of beans, tomato purée, vegetable stock and pasta shapes.

Essentially I just add enough liquid so that everything it covered in order for it to cook properly.*

Bring to the boil and simmer until all the veggies are cooked.

Season to taste.

*When re-heating it might need a splash of water adding to it if it’s looking dry.

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The variations of this really are endless. You can also add:

Aubergine, butternut squash, mushrooms, courgette, peas, swede, white potatoes etc.

Having a big batch of this in the fridge means that I always have a healthy option on hand if I don’t feel like cooking when I get home from work. Because let’s face it, the only time we reach for convenience food is when we don’t have anything ready to go.

I don’t just eat this as soup but I sometimes add a bit more water to turn it into a chunky pasta sauce or remove some of the liquid and turn it into a vegetable stew and eat it with mashed potato.

If you’re looking to get more veggies into your life then give this a go!

Things I’ve learned from working in an office

  • Office politics do exist – there are certain people who are treated differently in order to maintain office harmony.

 

  • People develop a real sense of routine, be it making a cup of tea at the same time every day or crunching on their crisps at bang on 12 o’clock every day.

 

  • Sitting down all day is awful. You feel so sluggish and tired even though the only physical activity you’ve exerted are your hourly toilet trips and tea making.

 

  • Daydreaming is a regular occurrence. I like to think of my daydreaming episodes as me allowing my eyes to have a break from staring at the screen.

 

  • Fidgeting is infectious. As soon as I twig someone across the room wiggling in their chair it sets me off too.

 

  •  You amass a lot of stuff in your drawers, stuff that is of no use and which you have no idea where it came from nor why you have chosen to keep it. Currently residing in my top drawer is a stash of Pret a Manger napkins, a leaflet on hearing aids and about 6 pens (I work solely on the computer).

 

  • Food is very important. There will always be someone in the room at any point of the day munching away. I have gone a step further and now have a whole drawer dedicated to teabags and snacks.

Current Favourite Vloggers

YouTube became a daily part of my life during my year abroad, which part of me is ashamed to admit as the last thing I should have been doing was sitting in my room glued to a screen, but alas, I was lonely and I spent many an hour watching a whole host of different videos.

Unashamedly I now have a video on at many points during the day – when I’m putting my face on first thing in the morning, cooking, washing up etc. It’s my way of escaping the mundane aspects of my life and living vicariously through someone else.

Negin Mirsalehi

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Possibly one of the most beautiful women on the planet, there isn’t one video on Negin’s channel that I haven’t yet watched. Her videos have been made even more addictive with the her addition of her absolutely scrumptious furry friend: Moosey. Watching her videos you can’t help but be infected by her charisma, charming personality and humour.

You can watch my favourite of her videos here.

Ashley Brooke

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A true Southern belle turned city-slicker this lady is living her best life, and my dream life for that matter. A picture-perfect NYC pad, admirable work ethic and a sweet as pie boyfriend; she’s living the dream.

You can watch my favourite of her videos here.

Rhiannon Ashlee

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This young mum has been on my watchlist for years, back when she wasn’t a mum for that matter, but a twenty-something year old like myself. She’s very relatable and down-to-earth and just over a year ago had her little mini-me Delilah, and since then it’s been heartwarming to see the bond they have.

You can watch my favourite of her videos here.

Bubzvlogz

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Bubzvlogz has yet to produce a vlog that hasn’t literally made me laugh out loud, or spit out whatever I may have had in my mouth at the time. Juggling two young kiddies, two (very fluffy) dogs and a husband with a larger than life personality, she does it all, and still manages to see the bright side of every situation.

You can my favourite of her videos here.

If anyone has any other recommendations then please let me know, I’m always looking to expand my repertoire.