Monday, 24 November 2008

Vegalicious is the New Vegan

I turned veggie when I was eleven, following a philosophical discussion with a junior master at my boarding school about whether animals had souls. I thought they did, he thought they didn't. 

He did, however ask the question that would change my eating habits forever, "If you really think that, how can you eat them?".

There was no satisfactory answer to this, and in the weeks that followed I couldn't stop associating the meat on my plate with the original animal. Yuk.

Luckily for me, my mother was a great cook and took on the challenge of cooking for a lone veggie in the family with gusto. My sister eventually turned veggie too - the food was that good.

Twenty four years after I became a vegetarian, I decided to try being vegan. The only vegans I've met have been pasty, skinny or militant. Usually all of the above. Not the best advertisement for going meat and dairy-free. But even they didn't shake my feeling that a vegan diet must be the healthiest, kindest way to eat. Kind both to animals and to the

Quite by accident, I was recently tipped over the edge by a book purporting to be about weight loss.
Skinny Bitch is an excellent read. It's an irreverent, straight-talking guide to exactly what you are putting into your body and how to eat more healthily. And sings the praises of a vegan diet. Even if you don’t need to lose weight, I urge you to read it. 

Just like my old Junior Master, Skinny Bitch raised some simple questions which changed my perception of my diet, namely: 'Why eat things that cause cruelty to animals – is this a valid choice for a compassionate person?', 'Why persist in consuming milk and milk products when we’re supposed to be fully weaned by the age of four (at the latest!) - can this really be healthy?'
I’ve always loved food, for me it is truly one of the most enjoyable things in life. So, four months ago I chose not to be vegan but to be ‘Vegalicious’ (vee-ga-lish-us). 

This is my word for being a veggie who doesn’t eat eggs or dairy AND who is in luscious health with pink cheeks and not a hint of scrawniness. Being Vegalicious also involves eating delicious food that is full of flavour.

And forget the militance so common with veganism. A Vegalicious chick like me isn’t on any crusade to convert friends and family. Instead, I enjoy treating my friends to yummy food that subtly changes their perceptions. No, I’m not talking about magic mushroom risotto. I mean the Vegalicious blueberry muffins that my friend declared “better than the ones at Starbucks by miles”, the wonderfully moist apple and cinnamon spiced cake (No eggs! No milk!) that I made as a houseguest gift when J and I stayed with friends in Manchester a few weekends ago…

On Saturday, my friend Kath came for a 'girlie night in' as I had Els and J was away. I enjoyed cooking Kath a Thai curry (with butternut squash, chickpeas, mange tout and baby corn) followed by a caramelised apple tart with a hint of aniseed. For breakfast on Sunday, we had Vegalicious buckwheat pancakes with fresh blueberries and maple syrup. I really don’t think she felt deprived.

Nor did J's friends who came over for an impromptu lunch later that day when J had returned. I made a simple, yet delicious, pasta sauce by slow-roasting fresh tomatoes with loads of garlic, olive oil and rosemary. I turned part-baked baguettes into garlic bread using a non-dairy margarine, and rustled up a cherry (tinned, but still yummy) and almond crumble which I served with Alpro non-dairy custard which, believe me, is just like the Real Thing.

I can’t say I’m a Skinny Bitch yet, I think I’m eating too much for that, but I’m certainly a healthier one. My intermittent IBS-type symptoms have all but disappeared, and I feel lighter inside (strange but true). I’m also happier as I’m living more in line with my values.

As a newly Vegalicious person, I am spurred on by the decidedly non-pasty vegan role models I have recently discovered, including the very healthy-looking lead singer of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers,
Anthony Kiedis,  cute and curvy Alicia Silverstone and the rather beefy NFL athlete Tony Gonzales.My old heroin poster misconception of how vegans look has finally been replaced by healthier, more inspiring examples. 

Vegalicious is definitely the new Vegan.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Autumn Leaf

Goodness, I have been stirring the pity pot recently. For a good few days after Els returned into the loving arms of her mother (that’s me btw), I’ve been cussing my fate.

I do occasionally have a good old wallow in the fact that poor lil ole me has to give up my only daughter for half the week (sometimes more) like a modern day

Els isn’t at all like Persephone of course. She’s hardly been abducted to the underworld. When she’s not with me, she’s in the loving arms of her father. So there’s no real reason to grieve is there?

I know this. I really, really do. But lately I couldn’t help but bemoan my situation. Poor old Part-time Mummy. Denied the joys of full-time motherhood.

Never did I think that the collapse of my relationship with El’s dad would jeopardise my time with my daughter. I assumed that I’d relinquish every, or every other, weekend. I also assumed I’d get financial help for my unstinting work as a mother. Neither assumption turned out to be correct. Sometimes that rankles.

I went for a walk when Els was at school and watched a leaf fall slowly from a tree. As I traced its hypnotic path I couldn’t help by identify with it somehow. I too felt buffeted by some unseen force, large and random, because how could it be possible that I myself had chosen the direction I have moved in?

How could someone so passionately in love with her child volunteer to give that child up? Surely I have been pushed into this place by Fate. Poor, poor me.

And then I had a Defining Moment. I realised my unseen force is Love, not Fate.

It was my love for Ella that moved me to choose sharing her care with her dad. He’s a good dad. She loves him and he loves her. How could I deprive my gorgeous girl of an equal parent and relegate him to a weekend dad role? How would she truly benefit from that, when she could have so much more?

Empowered by my past decision once again, all because of a falling leaf, I look at my happy, confident, well-loved daughter and feel proud that I let myself be moved by love all those years ago…and that I love her enough to keep letting her go.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008


Photo: .Waiting  
Sometimes it just works out this way.

I went part-time and freelance so I could spend more time with Els. So I could do the school run. So I could do supermarket shopping and some household chores when she’s at school and so get more Quality Time with my daughter.

Today I’m not getting Els from school because her dad is. Today I haven’t got much work to do because that’s just the way it goes with freelancing sometimes.

I feel guilty.

I’ve brazenly ignored the piles of washing to be done, the baskets of clean clothes waiting to be put away, the dirty dishes. Instead, I took my time over breakfast and then drove to Brightwell-cum-Sotwell for my new weekly French Conversation class in the
Red Lion.

After mon lecon francais, I came home, made lunch, called a friend, checked my email and started to write this. I’m about to go for a walk (it’s lovely outside), and then I’ll go into Henley to get my hair cut. It’s a Senior Stylist training session this afternoon…only £15 for a haircut! Bargain.

I should be enjoying today. Only it seems odd, me living the life of a Henley Lady of Leisure when I feel I should either be earning my living or being a mummy. Today is one of those days when I can’t do either.

I feel odd. Redundant. I'm on pause. A Mummy-and-Worker-in-Waiting.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Mothers for Justice

And today the downsides of being a part-time mum…I really miss my little girl.

I’m on the edge of falling into a slushpit of self-indulgent sorrow for the fact that I am enduring SIX WHOLE DAYS without Ella. Cue fantasies of dressing up as a superhero, climbing on top of
Henley Town Hall with a banner proclaiming ‘Mothers for Justice’.

Actually, I could just ask El’s dad if he’d mind awfully me having Els a bit more...but I’ve always tended to err on the dramatic side.

Because I miss her so much it aches, I’ll assuage my pain with sweet thoughts of the cute things El says. Here are a few current gems:

“I love you as much as the whole universe…and Wales”

“OK, I’ll keep an iron it for you “ (eye on it)

“For goodness snake, mummy!”

Four days down, only two more to go till I get to be a mama again…

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Quit Smoking Easily (or Shake, Rattle and Roll)

Photo: dadadreams
It’s been a good three or four weeks since I stopped smoking. It’s been amazingly easy, actually. So easy that I’m feeling a teensy bit foolish for not quitting smoking a long, long time ago.

I’ve had no cravings, no mood swings (even J agrees) and I have even managed to get drunk in the company of smoking friends without being tempted to have a drag. A laudable achievement.

Smug. Moi?

It’s not all down to willpower though. Oh no. It’s thanks to nutritional Guru, Patrick Holford. His new book,
How to Quit without feeling S**t combines dietary advice and a supplement regime to help you quit anything from sugar through to heroin with the minimum of cravings.

I feel great. I’ve never had such strong nails and my skin is positively luminescent. I feel full of verve and vigour, despite the traditionally depressing onset of Winter.

Thanks to Patrick, I am popping pills like a hardcore raver. I carry baggies emblazoned with dinosaurs and bears in my handbag. They were originally intended to hold El’s sandwiches for school. They are now labelled ‘Morning’, ‘Lunch’, ‘Mid-afternoon’ and ‘Evening’ and are choc-full with vitamins and amino acids.

Here’s what I’m taking:

On Waking
2 x ‘Drive’ stimulant formula pills
1 x 5mg NADH tablet
1x200mcg chromium

With Breakfast
3 pills from the Advanced supplement pack
1 x brain nutrient formula (phospholipids and B vitamins)
1 x 1,000mg Omega 3

With Lunch
1x200mcg chromium
1 x 1,000mg Omega 3
1 x 1,000mg Vit C

Mid Afternoon
2 x ‘Drive’ stimulant formula pills
1 x 5mg NADH tablet
1x200mcg chromium

With Dinner
3 pills from the Advanced supplement pack
1 x brain nutrient formula (phospholipids and B vitamins)
1 x 1,000mg Omega 3

I got them all from the excellent
Higher Nature. Apart from the NADH which they don’t stock – you can get that from Biovea.

I’m now thinking of going temporarily teetotal, using Patrick’s nutritional supplement recommendations for giving up alcohol. The reasons for this have more to do with vanity than health. The last time I stopped drinking for a few months I became a svelte and sexy 8 stone 4. I’m currently a curvy mama 9 stone 9.

I think I’d better get the holiday season out of the way first though. I can’t imagine Christmas without Cava (my all time favourite tipple).

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

All Things Are Possible

I nearly cried this morning when I heard Obama’s acceptance speech.

I'm convinced that Barack will help to save the world. He is committed to taking on the challenges of climate change, peace, human rights and extreme poverty.

How refreshing after that bumbling, dangerous Dubbya.

And what a striking figurehead for change. America’s first black president. Many of us hoped for it, but I wonder how many of us truly thought it would actually happen now. Can you believe that only 40 years ago black people couldn't get on the same bus as whites? There’s the ‘
Audacity of Hope’ for you.

When the American television series “24” presented us with the fictional African American president,
David Palmer, it may well have paved the way for today’s historical moment. After all, TV is a nation’s shared experience. “24” imprinted the hearts and minds of millions of Americans with the image of a handsome, fair-minded, charming, family-minded black president with integrity and charisma.

Sound familiar?

And here's a list of 10 of Obama's campaign promises that concern the world:

• Reduce the US's carbon emissions 80% by 2050 and play a strong positive role in negotiating a binding global treaty to replace the expiring Kyoto Protocol
• Withdraw all combat troops from Iraq within 16 months and keep no permanent bases in the country
• Establish a clear goal of eliminating all nuclear weapons across the globe
• Close Guantanamo Bay detention centre
• Double US aid to cut extreme poverty in half by 2015 and accelerate the fight against HIV/AIDS, tuberculoses and Malaria
• Open diplomatic talks with countries like Iran and Syria, to pursue peaceful resolution of tensions
• De-politicise military intelligence to avoid ever repeating the kind of manipulation that led the US into Iraq
• Launch a major diplomatic effort to stop the killings in Darfur
• Only negotiate new trade agreements that contain labour and environmental protections
• Invest $150 billion over ten years to support renewable energy and get 1 million plug-in electric cars on the road by 2015

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Yo! Mr Tumble

Photo  by woolloomooloo
I took Els to the Yo! Sushi in Reading and we met Justin from Cbeebies (aka Mr Tumble). I kid you not. He was lovely and happily spent some time talking with Els.

While Justin was paying at the till, next to where Els and I were seated, his girlfriend and I got talking about the festivals they had been to this ‘summer’ (it wasn’t really a summer, was it?). I’ve never had him down as a festi-goer myself, so this was quite a revelation.

Yo! Sushi is now second only to “Old MacDonalds” in Ella’s eyes.