Gloucestershire Holiday, Part 1.

This past week, we have been holidaying in the Gloucestershire/South West area. We spent five nights in a hotel in Gloucester (complete with a fridge and a microwave – essential for vegans!) and travelled to various places nearby. As always, we took a whole lot of pictures of the area and the food, some of which I’ll share in this post!

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The city of Gloucester is itself quite beautiful, and on our first evening we went for a walk in the sun. We found the cathedral – which was at the time closed due to it being quite late (ah, the deceptively bright British summer evenings!) – but from the outside it was still an awe inspiring sight.

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We walked down by the docks which were very windy and full of seagulls – but again full of lovely sites. Pictured above is the Johanna Lucretia, which starred in the film Amazing Grace (about William Wilberforce and his campaign to end the slave trade). The docks were surprisingly quiet and it was a lovely walk.

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On our way back to the hotel, we stopped by the pizza place Fat Toni’s. They offer vegan cheese on all of their pizzas at no extra cost – which is wonderful news! We decided to try it out, along with a pot of their vegan pesto dip. They also offer vegan ice cream, but it was a rather large tub and with no freezer to store it in we had to pass! I had the “La Franca” pizza, with artichokes, garlic, tomatoes. It was delicious and so good to have a pizza with vegan cheese readily available!

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After a good sleep in the hotel, the next day we decided to have a day out in Bath, since it was only slightly over an hours journey from our base in Gloucester – and having recently graduated with a history degree (and a slight focus on ancient history) I was eager to see the city!

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Bath Abbey is simply stunning, and it’s well worth having a look inside (free entry!) – pay attention to the great windows at the west and east – one depicting Old Testament stories and the other depicting scenes from the life of Jesus. They are very impressive!

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Next we walked up a very very big hill (seriously an endless amount of steps) to Alexandra Park, where we were rewarded with this amazing view of the city. It’s hard to get an idea from photos of the view, but you could see the whole city and beyond – it was well worth the walk.

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I didn’t manage to take a picture of lunch – which was a tempeh wrap from Harvest – but I did get a photo of this lovely drink I had – I love rhubarb and this had a wonderful rhubarby taste to it! We bought our lunch to take away and ate it in the Parade Gardens in the centre of Bath, alongside the river Avon. The gardens do have a small entrance fee (£1.50 per adult) but since our lunch was fairly cheap we decided to pay for the privilege of being able to sit down and eat!

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Finally, we went to the Roman Baths. These are not cheap – a £15.50 entry fee per adult (though I got a slight discount with my student card!) but if you can, they’re well worth it. It seems like they’re going to be packed, and to be honest they are pretty busy, but it isn’t a bad thing. In fact, being busy it kind of forces you to take time to look at the exhibits and appreciate them. Do take one of the audio guides – there are some fantastic commentries by Bill Bryson along the route!

At the end of the day, we were tired and didn’t fancy eating out and so just had food in the hotel room whilst we watched the Olympics – but that was good enough for us! Having a microwave and a fridge made that easy.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of the holiday, coming soon!

 

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A trip to North Norfolk!

At the beginning of last month, we went on a trip to Norfolk for a long weekend away. I’m afraid I’m only just getting round to sorting out the photos as I’ve been pretty busy with uni (just two more months to go though!). We were incredibly lucky to have lovely weather that enabled us to go on some great walks in the Norfolk countryside.

The first walk we went on was a round walk through Castle Acre and towards West Acre (click for walk map). We started at Castle Acre Castle (a weird sandwich of a name), which is an old motte-and-bailey castle, originally built not long after the Norman invasion in 1066!

Next we walked past the Priory, another nearly millennia old building, originally founded by order of Burgundy. We didn’t go in the Priory itself, but it’s owned by English Heritage now and you can pay to access the building.

The walk leaves the roads and takes you through fields, where we sat down and had lunch!

The sun lasted most of the walk, which was great, allowing us to get some lovely photos of the scenery.

And then finally, a walk along the river Nar, which was ever so slightly flooded, and we got a bit muddy. By now the clouds were closing in a little and we were ready for the walk to be done! But it was a lovely walk in a great area of Norfolk.

The next day, we went on a Woodland and Coastal Walk at Sheringham Park. As the name suggests, the walk began in the woodlands in Sheringham Park before heading towards Weybourne Station and the coast.

Once again, we were blessed with beautiful weather leading to great views, like the above of Weybourne village!

We walked past Weybourne Station, part of the North Norfolk Railway, which unfortunately was closed so we were unable to go in and have a look, but from the bridge overlooking it it certainly seemed a lovely quaint little place.

We also came across this marvellous sign (click the picture to enlarge) showcasing some fine Norfolk language!

Soon, the walk headed along the coast, which although providing lovely views, was extremely windy! This part of the walk was particularly difficult as it became very cold and gusty and the coastal path seemed to go on forever!

We did eventually turn off and head back towards the park itself, where the weather, once the wind had died down, proved to be lovely and warm.

And finally back in the park itself before we headed back to the car. I can highly recommend the coastal walk at Sheringham (follow the link above for the instructions) as it was really fun and had some great views of the area.

West Midlands Vegan Festival

Last weekend was the West Midlands Vegan Festival, held in Wolverhampton Civic Centre, which turns out to only be an hours drive from us – so we decided to go along and have a look! It was the first vegan festival I’ve been to – sure I’ve been to vegan restaurants and shops, but never a festival!

It was a nasty, rainy day, and parking was admittedly difficult (we payed £6.70 for a 4 hour stay!) but once we got to the Civic Centre, it was lovely and warm and we soon dried off.

The event started at 10am and we arrived probably about 10:30 and it was already packed full! There were people in the streets of Wolverhampton holding signs pointing to the “Vegan Festival” so I’m sure that attracted more! At just £1 per person entry, it was great value.

Note: I apologise for the poor quality of the photos – I only had my phone with me!

First of all we stopped off at the Change Kitchen stall and my husband bought a samosa – for just £1 again! I found things were surprisingly affordable at this festival, I suppose I still had the idea that vegan food must be expensive, but it wasn’t for the most part. We then went on and I, being still cold, got a cup of hot Vanilla Chai Tea – which was milk, sugar, and caffeine free, but still so tasty!

I bought some makeup from the Beauty Without Cruelty stand which was great to see – so many vegan cosmetic companies seem to be only available online, and I hate not being able to try products first!

We stopped by the Harper’s Bizarre Candles stall – I won’t say too much about this because I have to keep some of it secret from prying eyes, but their candles have the most amazing scent! I can’t recommend them enough. We also went to the Handmade By Erica Jayne jams & chutneys stall, which had a little taster section where you could test the lovely food!

Next, we bought a box of cupcakes from Care for a Cupcake?, which I have to say were absolutely delicious! We shared them with Greg’s family who also liked them.

We bought some cashew cheese from a stall called “Annie Mae” and it was lovely – the person behind the stall was also very helpful with letting me know the ingredients of the cheese when I asked because of my intolerances!

Not the greatest photo, sorry!

We also stopped at the Vegan Store website’s stall where we bought chocolates! Honeycomb toffee and some iChoc white chocolate – mm.

Next it was lunch time! We were so spoilt for choice here. There were so many stalls selling food and I wished I could have tasted them all! We actually bought some samosas and pakoras to take home from the Centre for Conscious Awareness because we couldn’t miss out!

But in the end, we decided to go with a hot dog from Shambu’s, which was slathered in lovely onions, mustard, and ketchup, and a “Loaded Nacho Plate” from Mex It Up – nachos, beans, pulled jackfruit, salsa, cheese sauce, and jalapenos!

The food was absolutely delicious and I wish I could have it every day!

After that, we headed home. And got soaked in the rain on the way to the car, but it was well worth it!

So my recommendation is – if you have a vegan festival anywhere near you? Go to it!

Walking in Matlock

So, Vegan MoFo 2015 is over for the year! You can see all my posts this year here if you’d like to re-visit them. It’s been great reading everybody’s blogs and seeing all the great recipes posted!

Now that the month of food is over, I shall make a post pertaining to the “Walks” part of this blog’s name!

We moved to Derby a few months ago and this leaves us in the great position of not being very far from some lovely walking areas. We decided on Sunday to drive up to Matlock and go for a short walk there.

The River Derwent

Matlock itself appeared to have some sort of fair going on so we swiftly left the town and found a route by the river. It was part of the Derwent Valley Heritage Way which is a 55 mile trail which begins at the Ladybower Reservoir right in the heart of the Peak District, and ends near Shardlow at the edges of Derbyshire, where the Derwent joins the Trent.

Our first view in Matlock however was the impressive Riber Castle, which stands high on the hills above the town and yet is somewhat incongruously flanked by a crane and building supplies. It is not open to the public, and from what I can tell is in the process of being converted into apartments.

Riber Castle

The first part of the trail was not particularly interesting being just a small path by the roadside, however we quickly came across a train station and just missed a steam train puffing by!

Matlock Riverside Station

The station appeared to be small and unstaffed and the train did not stop there. The route then turned into woodlands and countryside which was particularly beautiful in its autumnal colours.

Me in the woods.

The path soon opened up further into fields and countryside full of sheep and other farm animals!

Sheep in the fields

Finally, before we turned back, we came across a lovely orchard full of many different apples which made me wish I could jump over and sneak a few away! We stopped for a snack in one of the fields which the Derwent ran through, then turned back to Matlock!

Hillside Animal Sanctuary, Norfolk – Vegan MoFo Day 18

When we were on holiday in Norfolk this summer, we visited Hillside Animal Sanctuary in West Runton. That’s near Sheringham and Cromer. Hillside also have a sanctuary closer to Norwich but that one is not open so often.

It was a wonderful place and really makes you think about what the farming industry does to these poor animals. Hillside currently has over two thousand rescued animals, most of whom were rescued from farms. They do undercover investigations too – exposing horrendous conditions in farms across the country. It’s horrifying how these things go on in secret, torturing the poor animals that so many people buy without a second thought in their supermarkets. If you read their Wikipedia page you can get a small glimpse into some of the things they do.

When you see so many of the rescued animals now living happy lives in peace at the sanctuary, after all the horrors they’ve been for, you can’t help but be inspired by them. Turkeys wandering around in the sunshine, knowing they’ll never be eaten for Christmas? Hens giving themselves a dust bath knowing they’ll never be shoved in a tiny cage again? Animals turned from skeletons into healthy, happy creatures? Just a few of the things you’ll see here. They even have a mini lake with ducks and geese!

And what’s even more special about this place – it’s all vegan! They have a gift shop, which is where I got the cookbooks featured in this post, along with trinkets, calenders, t shirts, and vegan-slogan mugs!

They also have a cafe which is what they call “animal-friendly”. This means vegan, I discovered after I asked. Nothing is made with animal products at all! It’s fascinating because it’s proper “packed lunch” fare – lots of cheese sandwiches, cakes, and crisps – but all of it is vegan.

I had a cheese and tomato roll, with crisps and salad, and my husband had a sausage and pickle roll. All vegan. Followed by some lovely cakes from the Vegan Cakery – there was a huge selection of cakes there to choose from! You could also get vegan snack ice creams from their freezer if you liked, and teas and coffees all made vegan.

I liked this because although it didn’t loudly proclaim “THIS IS VEGAN” it was – and the place was pretty popular, but I imagine most people didn’t even realise they were eating vegan food. Which is something that could completely change people’s minds on veganism, food that is not particularly “healthy”, not particularly “fancy” – just normal, everyday vegan food that tastes good.

So, if you’re ever in Norfolk, do plan a visit to Hillside! If not, check out their website or their gift shop online or just try and find a similar sanctuary near you. Hillside have rescued many animals (one poster said 200 just this year!) but there are so many more stuck in horrible conditions around the world, and they need all the help we can give them.

A tour of my kitchen! Vegan MoFo day 13.

My kitchen is not very big. I used to have a lovely, huge kitchen, but then we moved house. Now, this house is wonderful…but the kitchen is tiny.

This is the view from the doorway. If you turn round, you have to shut the door before you can see the rest of the kitchen.

So that’s that.

Well, that wouldn’t make for much of an interesting post, so I’ve taken a few photos of the insides of cupboards and drawers so you can snoop.

This is my “herbs and spices” cupboard. I use a lot of herbs and spices.

And this is my “tins” cupboard. I know a lot of people use dried beans but I am lazy and like the convenience of just opening a can of beans.

This is my “drinks and oil and pestle and mortar” cupboard. Yeah.

The inside of my fridge! Please do ignore the non-vegan things, they belong to my husband. The Quality Street tin, while looking un-vegan, actually is functioning as a cake tin for my homemade vegan bakewell tart. So there you go!

This is my “snacks and stuff” drawer. The white bags are full of nuts I got from the bulk shop.

My extremely messy “baking” drawer.

These are my little “trying to be posh” jars. The front two contain toor dal and risotto rice, then there’s red lentils and white rice, then oats, and pasta. I have another cupboard full of more lentils etc but I don’t have enough jars for them all!

And finally, because we didn’t have enough room in the kitchen, we bought this cute little drawers set! The top drawer holds onions and garlic, the second holds more spices, the third holds measuring equipment like scales, cups etc, and the bottom is for potatoes!

So there you go, that is my kitchen. There’s not a whole lot to see but I hope you enjoyed the little tour!

Creamy Courgette Pasta & “The Liebster Award”

So this recipe is super simple. It’s one you can whip up in no time if you can’t be bothered to do much cooking. It does use a few ingredients that you may not have “to hand” (courgettes, soya cream) but they aren’t that expensive. Literally chop a few ingredients, bung them in a pan to cook, and cook up some pasta…and you’re done. I served it with spaghetti, but regular pasta is cool too. I don’t really know enough about pasta to recommend certain shapes!!

Creamy Courgette Pasta

Ingredients

  • 180g spaghetti/pasta
  • 3 small courgettes (zucchini), sliced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 100ml soya cream
  • Salt & Pepper

Directions

  1. In a saucepan, fry the onion and garlic until softened. Add the courgette and cook until starting to go translucent.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the pasta.
  3. When the pasta & courgettes are cooked, stir the soya cream into the courgette mix. Season well with salt and pepper.
  4. Drain the pasta, mix with the courgettes, and serve!

The Liebster Award

So I had no idea what the Liebster Award was when Rosie from Vegan In Wales nominated me. But she has a cool blog and so I checked it out! It has a set of rules which are as follows:

 Here’s what you do when you get nominated for the Liebster Award:

1. Answer the questions given and then come up with 10 new ones to ask your nominees.2. Nominate 8 other blogs, let them know you have nominated them and put a link to their blog in your post.3. No tag backs.4. Nominees must have under 200 followers on any platform.5. You must tell all the blogs that you nominate that you have nominated them.

Seems simple enough, right? Well, I’ll do my best. Here are my answers to Rosie’s questions!

1. If you could bring any one animal back from extinction, what would it be?

Perhaps because I’ve been playing too much Skyrim recently, but I’d say the Mammoth. Yes they’d be absolutely terrifying but I think it’d be really cool to see an animal of that sheer size about. 

Spooky!

2. What would you say is the dish you cook most often?

I think possibly this would be my Rosemary & Bean Soup – we make it maybe once a week or a fortnight when it’s not Vegan Mofo time! So simple and easy to make.

3. If a zombie apocalypse was imminent and you could only take 5 store cupboard staples in your bag before fleeing, what would they be?

Haha, I’m imagining there being zombies at the door and I’m there like “hold on, let me search my cupboards!”. But I guess you’d need things that wouldn’t go off, so anything fresh is out. Rice would be good, if I could figure out how to cook it my exile. Lentils too, although they take time to cook they are super healthy! How about spices? Does “spices” count as one or can I only choose one spice? If just one, probably a trusty garam masala mix, or just cumin if you’re being really picky. That’s three…two more. I think I’d take some canned tomatoes, assuming I could also take my can opener, because that’s not food right? I use a ton of canned tomatoes. Also chickpeas, canned chickpeas. I’ve never used dried chickpeas and wouldn’t know how, so canned would be best!

4. Tell me about your favourite restaurant, and your favourite dish there.

This made me realise I totally don’t go out to eat much at all. I’m not even sure I have a favourite restaurant. One place we do like going is Mithaas on the Narborough Road in Leicester. I’ve never eaten in there but they do nice Samosas and Bhajis, and they actually know what a vegan is!

5. Are you a cat or a dog person?

I gotta say…I’m a cat person. I grew up with cats – my parents bought kittens shortly before I was born and I spent most of my life with them! Dogs can be cute too, but I’ve never really known any dogs, not as well as cats!

Flopsy & Mopsy, my childhood cats!

6. What animal do you think you are most like in personality?

Heh, I had to answer this one for a job application the other day. My answer was, I’m like a cat because I’m happy being social and stuff but also happy being alone, and I’m adaptable and inquisitive etc etc etc…complete rubbish of course! Actually I am like a cat because I like sleeping and eating and sunbathing and that’s about it!

7. What new ingredients have you discovered that you love since going vegan?

I love nutritional yeast. I only really started having it pretty recently, but I love sprinkling it on pasta, or stirring it through a bechamel to make a cheesy sauce! 

8. What are your favourite resources for getting inspiration for vegan food?

Oh the internet definitely! I love this month of the year because there are so many good blogs out there with new recipes, but the rest of the year I often use Finding Vegan to find new recipes and drool over pretty pictures.

9. What has been your biggest fail in vegan cooking and have you managed to resolve said fail?

So a couple of years ago I attempted making mince pies…and had a complete fail. Have I resolved it? Come again at Christmas to see!

Attempt 1: Mince Pie Mess. Attempt 2: Mince Pie Ravioli…

10. Do you have a non-vegan childhood favourite food that you have managed to re-create to be sfv?

I made millionaires shortbread once! It was super tasty. Really hard to make, but I used soyatoo whipping cream, and lots of patience, and trial and error, and managed to make it! I have only ever made it once though, but hopefully I will again one day.

So, those are my questions. My job now is to nominate 8 people with less than 200 followers (I go by feedly, because that’s what I use) and ask them questions.

My nominees:

Charis from Floral Frosting whose blog is beautiful and food looks delicious!

Sal from Alien on Toast whose blog is hilarious and also contains awesome food.

Abi from Bake Eat Love who not only blogs but bakes too, and also posts some lovely family food.

Faye from Veganopoulous whose theme of “will my kids eat it” is wonderful.

Rachel at Thistle & Yellow Rose who not only posts nice food, but also has a super cute cat.

Caitlin at The Vegan Word who is on holiday at the moment (sorry!) but has wonderful travel stories!

Jasmine at Self Sufficient Cafe who has some lovely, healthy recipes on her blog!

and Amy from Boltonian Vegan who recently got engaged and that’s awesome! 🙂

Now I know probably loads of you have been nominated before, and that’s ok, no pressure! I am kinda new to the whole blogging scene so don’t want to push in or anything :p

But here goes, My Questions:

1. You can eliminate one vegetable from the world. Which one?

2. What is your favourite food-related memory?

3. Have you ever created some awesome food “by accident”? What was it?

4. Do you have a go-to meal for when you are feeling lazy?

5. If you won several million pounds/dollars, what would you do with it? 

6. What is your favourite drink? Booze or not, doesn’t matter!

7. Where would you travel if you could travel anywhere?

8. Do you prefer to cook sweet or savoury dishes? 

9. What is your absolute favourite recipe you’ve ever made?

10. It’s getting towards winter. Do you have any seasonal traditions that you do every year?

Walking in Loughborough

Greg and I decided to explore the more rural areas round here.

Turns out that all you have to do is turn off a short way down the road and we’re in the middle of woodland!

We have trees right behind our house so it’s not unexpected. But to be able to walk through was lovely. We’re having a bit of a butterfly epidemic at the moment (I blame all the buddleias here) so there were loads flying around!

We came across a little stone bridge that goes over the “Black Brook” which passes our house.

Our old house was nearby a canal, which was lovely to walk down, so it’s nice to have some water around!

Finally we came to the Stonebow Washlands which are a man-made set of three small lakes created in order to provide “flood relief, public space, and wildlife habitat”.

And all this in a ten minute or less walk from our house!

Exploring the new town

I decided to walk into Loughborough town to “explore” – to see the route to get there, to find out what shops are like, and just to get out for a walk.

I used Google maps to walk there because I am completely abysmal with directions. Ask anyone who knows me, usually if I say “I think it’s this way” the safest bet is to go in the opposite direction! But anyway it turned out to be about a 2 mile walk into town, not bad really except the day was a scorcher and I thought I was going to melt at several occasions!

Typical me, I found the library first off. After that I went over the road as there seems to be a park there, called Queens Park.

After living near Abbey park in Leicester it’s nice to know there’s another pretty park near here! It seemed quite busy but it is the school hols and I guess everyone was making the most of the nice weather!

I went into town and checked out the shops. Loughborough has a Holland and Barrett (thank goodness) but I didn’t go in as they’re usually one and the same. I found a health food shop called, wait for it, “elf foods”

elf foods

(picture credit: elf foods)

I didn’t get much because I didn’t want to spend too much but it looks like a wonderful shop! It sells all the usual things, vegan stock and ice cream and stuff, but it also has a “bulk buy” bit with nuts and seeds and dried fruit. I am sure I’ll be back in there to spend more money soon (don’t tell the husband!).

Moved! (AKA showing off my new home)

So here we are! All moved in. That was exhausting.

We collected the keys at 9.15, had a look around and set up our TV (we brought that ourselves so it didn’t get broken!). Then we went back home – or should I say, old home – to finish our packing, tape up all our boxes, and do our goodbyes to the house. The moving van came at 1pm, and they were really wonderful. Everything was in our new home by 3! Not bad at all.

Then the mammoth unpacking task started. Eeeeverything had to be unpacked, found places for, etc etc. Moving is tiring business.

We finished off this morning as Greg took the morning off, and as of writing this – all is unpacked! I leave you with a few photos of our new home! 🙂

Our garden – not very big but nice with a patio area. Apparently there’s a walking trail behind that we’ll have to go on sometime!

Our little seating nook. The living room is muuuch bigger than we are used to but it’s all good!

Check us out , three bookshelves eh! We’re going to put perhaps a dining table here. Proper posh and all.

That’s it for now. The kitchens a bit of a mess because at the moment there’s two washing machines hanging around and a dishwasher (long story) but stay tuned as I’m about to test out the oven by making cookies! 🙂