Veganuary: done.

Almost exactly a month ago, I bet an 11-year-old boy (having stuffed myself with cheese fondue and chocolate fountain the night before), that I could be vegan for the entirety of January. He may have ended up with the cash, but I survived!

Veganism is, according to The Vegan Society website, defined as, ‘a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.’

What constitutes ‘as far as is possible and practical’ naturally varies considerably between individuals and circumstances. It is here – in the ambiguity – where I claim victory. Throughout the month, my only consumption of non-vegan products been by accident (I pinkie promise): the time I knew that Pringles were vegan, but not that this excluded the sour cream and onion variety; the time(s) I forgot because I was in a different environment (dauphinoise potatoes and Costa cup of tea); that time I was at a friend’s house and turned a blind eye to the fact that they used butter when they cooked apple crumble. These lapses aside, I was vegan for January. I mean, I returned to London on 3rd January with a bag of Christmas chocolate that I have abstained from, but instead gradually donated to friends. (How f***ing virtuous is that??) I did my best – I went as far as possible and practical. In your face, Jo! You can’t make me part with my dollar!

Tomorrow, I am looking forward to baking chocolate brownies, drinking a glass of milk, and eating cheese until I feel ill (yesterday I bought a big block of cheddar – eeep). My resolve and willpower as the month ends is dwindling quicker than you can say hot chocolate.

For the rest of the time, however, I will undoubtedly be more conscious of the ingredients of the food I eat. I will (I will) be inclined to make vegan make the more vegan choices both in my cooking and when out an about. But first, pizza.

Here are some things I discovered from my stint as a (budget) vegan:

  1. I will survive

It is possible to survive without cheese on all your food! (I didn’t think this was a conceivable option). There are equivalents of most foods most of which just aren’t the same, although I think (eventually) one acclimatises to watery-flavoured stuff.

  1. It’s ok to make mistakes

And this doesn’t just include thinking that coconut and white wine would be a decent marriage of ingredients in a risotto. It’s not, btw. Mistakes also include accidently eating non-vegan foods – it’s hard to be super vigilant all of the time – and just needing chocolate sometimes.

  1. My bread consumption increased exponentially

Fact. This has been my chocolate/snack/everything replacement. When I’m tired or have had a long day of work – I gotta have me some choc.

  1. Sara Pasco is my new idol

Sara is a very cool. And a vegan. I listened to her book, Animal which is INCREDIBLE; it sheds a whole new light on the female body, and it is personal and emotional, and it is funny.

  1. Veganism is not popular

I did not enforce my Veganism on others – but did come into trouble when I went to visit the houses of friends. Although all involved were inconceivably kind and understanding, I nonetheless felt oh-so-guilty causing extra hassle.

  1. More Vegan puddings should exist

Admittedly, this was based on only one experience at the restaurant Bills. BUT THERE WERE NO VEGAN OPTIONS. I should not be confined to just fruit tea. #humanrights

  1. January feels like it goes on forever

Seriously, why is it not over yet?

  1. Cheese + Milk = my butter half

I now will really appreciate milk, butter and cheese sooo much more. I love you.

  1. I need a proper cup of tea

Anyone who knows me (at all), will know that my daily tea consumption can be considered impressive. The hardest thing about January has been not having a proper cuppa: hot water and a tea bag (yes – I have lowered myself to this) just isn’t the same. Nor is just hot water. In regards to tea, I feel like I am depriving myself, not making better options for myself and the environment. I need my tea, ok – I am British after all.

10 things: Why Eddie Redmayne is a fantastic beast of a human

I’ll admit it: Eddie Redmayne was my teenage crush. At my rural all-girls school, my friends and I prolifically adorned our pin-boards with pictures of this magnificent creature. We spent our school-nights debating for hours whether his hair was ginger or brown or golden. It didn’t matter, his hair was perfect. One friend in particular claimed him as her own; her (very persuasive) line of argument was that she and Mr Redmayne were soulmates because both had ginger hair, studied History of Art, and knew people who went to Eton.

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Our fervour peaked in 2012, to coincide with the release of the WWI TV Mini-Series, Birdsong. We gathered together to enjoy/oogle his performance/good looks. We were obsessed. We were meant to be (yes in a collective sense – I don’t think we figured out who had priority). We shared the same interests: Eddie performed as Angel Clare in the BBC TV Mini-Series Tess of the D’Urbervilles; one of our number played Angel Clare in the School Production of Tess of the D’Urbervilles. Yes, Angel was being performed by a girl; I said, it was an-all girls school. (Side note: the school once imported a boy for the role of Danny in Grease, and he pretty much had a nervous breakdown). Eddie excelled at donning-tights in various period dramas and so did we (they were part of our uniform). Eddie specialised in the Tudors (think The Other Boleyn Girl and Elizabeth I), and we were trying to; the Tudor period accounted for much of our history A Level syllabus.

Since then, Eddie has propelled himself into the mainstream, with fame-inducing roles including Maruis in Les Misérables, Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything, and Einar Wegner in The Danish Girl. He has won Oscars, for goodness sake. Meanwhile, my group of friends have also achieved: we have all passed our A Levels.

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The recent release of Fantastic Beasts of and Where to Find Them, however, has rekindled my love-affair. Here’s 10 (of many) reasons why he is so fantastic:

1. His face.

2. He is an incredible actor. All of Eddie’s performances are critically acclaimed. His work traverses time and gender – pretty impressive. He has won all the awards: Academy Awards, Golden Globes, BAFTA awards, etc.

3. Redmayne gushes over his wife #strongfamilyvalues. But not like Ryan Reynolds whose adoration of his wife, Blake Lively, makes my stomach churn. Although she is pretty hot, tbh.

4. He loves Hazza. He even stands up for Hufflepuffs.

5. Seriously. His beauty. Not many men can pull off Tudor garb.

6. He is super smart. He went to Cambridge.

7. He can sing. You’ve seen Les Misérables and his rendition of Empty Chairs at Empty Tables.

8. He doesn’t mind looking like an idiot. Whether acting out animals on Ellen or singing  and dancing Oliver! on The Graham Norton Show, he seems to enjoy mucking around and having a laugh.

9. He’s a wizard bloke. A gentleman one might say. An extremely affable fellow who is incredibly modest. And he gets pissed with journalists.

10. Did I mention how attractive he is?

10 things: Autumn

Let’s admit it: Autumn is a depressing season.

The wildness of summer is over: shoes, haircuts, and stationary are the order of the day. Orderliness. Structure. Timetables. I find the fading of the year a jaded reminder of failed resolutions, aspirations and dreams. We have to become accustomed to a vampire existence devoid of sunlight.

Yeah, I can be a little hysterical.

Plus it gets super cold. My hands start cracking, my lips chap, I get sores around my nose caused by colds, and I just generally transform into a haggard old witch. And not a cool one like Professor McGonagall.

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It’s important, therefore, to recall the highlights of the season and counter the impending gloom.

  1. Jam & chutney season

It’s harvest time. Enjoying chutney can, I think, be considered a hallmark of entering adulthood. Trees and hedgerows are bountiful with seasonal fruits – blackberries, apples, tomatoes, and plums. Blackberry and apple jam is, technically speaking, nom nom nom on toast.

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  1. Cosy Jumpers

Snuggling up in jumpers/slankets/duvets/sheep onesies has to be one of the plus points of autumn. Find a beautiful selection of knitwear here to see you through autumn and beyond.

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  1. Remember about Bonfire Night – 5th November

A seriously underrated celebration in British culture. Originally a festival for the survival of the monarchy (James I) against the attempted conspiracy by ‘evil’ Catholics such as Guido Fawkes, in the modern era it is all about FIRE. Sparklers. Bonfires. Fireworks. And a healthy dosage of mulled wine.

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  1. Not feeling guilty about watching TV

You never shouldn’t feel guilty about indulging in a couch potato lifestyle. However, with the quality of TV improving – finally the return of Have I Got News For You – and the cloaking of darkness, television binging is acceptable again. Anything by Aaron Sorkin is genius.

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  1. Fattening up for Winter

An essential part of the autumnal period. It’s important to build up a layer of fat to aid your body’s defences against the cold. Soups, stews, and – of course – chocolate. I think this theory is supported by some pretty scientific data.

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  1. Halloween – 31st October

An autumnal event designed, in many ways, to contribute to the fattening-up process previously described. Further – Halloween is the one opportunity you can literally party your pyjamas. Or perhaps that’s just me.

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  1. Thanksgiving & Canadian Thanksgiving

My university experience, for better or worse, introduced me to Americans. One perk is participating the celebration of Thanksgiving; it is very much food orientated. Thanksgiving is essentially the opportunity to eat as much as you like – à la Joey from Friends. Highlights include pumpkin pie, sour scones, turkey, and sweet potato dish adorned with marshmallows (not sure what it’s called). Hurry and make friends with homesick yanks before the 24th November.

  1. Winter Wardrobe

Aside from jumpers and blankets, bringing out your winter wardrobe is exciting. Who knows what you might find in your closet – the odd fiver, beautiful heeled boots, a dead animal?

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  1. Pumpkin-based stuff

This might be a hangover from exposure to Americans, but I now get excited about pumpkin based products. Pumpkin pies, pumpkin soup, and the oh-so-basic pumpkin spied latte. Also pumpkin-carving is an activity not just to be enjoyed by children.

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  1. Winter is Coming

And what that really means is: C H R I S T M A S. Be thankful we live in a world that isn’t always winter and never Christmas. And where James McAvoy exists.

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