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Sunday, 31 January 2016

Can you believe I'm in my final week?!

No, me either...

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DAY TWENTY-ONE - THURSDAY 21ST
Today for dinner I had my fail safe stuffed mushrooms with a side of crispy sweet potato fries..only they weren't so crispy and had little flavour in them. I do feel a little unadventurous going back to stuffed mushrooms again, but as a whole, it's a tad more complicated then just something random on toast and it has tons of flavour. Hey, if it ain't broke, right?!

DAY TWENTY-TWO - FRIDAY 22ND
Another fail safe was stir fry, but since my dad and my brother had curry, it was almost necessary to have something filling and overly delicious.

DAY TWENTY-THREE - SATURDAY 23RD
Saturday I lazed about for the most part, getting up around noon for a simple lunch of mushrooms on toast. They were yummy, but I soon found out that eating JUST mushrooms on toast today was a bad idea..


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DAY TWENTY-FOUR - SUNDAY 24TH  
..which led to a terrible hangover today. Like, bad enough that it (almost) put me off drink for life. I put off eating for as long as I could, but eventually gave in and had some avocado on toast for a late dinner/supper.

Now. HOLD THE DAMN PHONE.

I know everyone raves about avocado on toast but really? I thought it would be rank. I'm not a lover of avocado at the best of times, I mean it's okay in a salad or something the weird slimy texture when peeled is enough alone to put me off.

But I was wrong. It turns out that something as simple as avocado on toast is so damn nice.

DAY TWENTY-FIVE - MONDAY 25TH
In fact, it's so damn nice but I had it again for dinner today. Lunch was a cheese and onion sandwich with crisps, and again I found myself feeling super healthy again today. All I've been drinking at work is pretty much water non-stop, as I've ran out of green tea, so it could be that...

DAY TWENTY-SIX - TUESDAY 26THToday for lunch I had a super filling cheese, onion, cucumber, carrot and tomato roll which filled me up to no end. I simply chopped up anything healthy in my fridge and threw it in. Dinner was simply chips and curry sauce as I went out for a drink at my local and couldn't help but gorge on something not-so-healthy but still vegan according to the pubs website.


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DAY TWENTY-SEVEN - WEDNESDAY 27TH
Getting back late the night before, I found myself way too tired to make a proper lunch, so today I simply had olives and Oreos. So very basic, but still rather yummy! For dinner I braved another one of Linda McCartney's frozen range of vegan & veggie food and was pleasantly surprised. Despite the fact that it burned my mouth to fuck, the cheese plait, along with roasted vegetables and crispy sweet potatoes again was delicious and something I'd definitely have again.

DAY TWENTY-EIGHT - THURSDAY 28TH
For lunch, I recreated Tuesday's lunch and had a giant roll with many a healthy fillings. I actually had a date tonight, so another night arriving home late meant I just fixed myself a quick sandwich for dinner/supper, but having such a big lunch anyway I didn't want much.


DAY TWENTY-NINE - FRIDAY 29TH
Today was admittedly a bit of a struggle for me as I had plans to head into London again. I planned ahead and found a lovely looking vegan restaurant, only upon arrival, found it was closed. We didn't have much time to look elsewhere before we headed straight over to ASOS's DigiDating event (super fun, by the way) but despite the fact I hadn't eaten since dinnertime the previous day, I didn't worry too much as I had plans to meet some friends later for another vegan friendly restaurant. Only on the way home, we got the wrong train and didn't make dinner.

I think this made me realize how tough it is being vegan when you're out and about and just want something on the go. I did get some oreos, but it made me realize it's not like you can just grab much from a vending machine or grab something to takeaway from the many foodie bars in a train station.

Friday I threw together a quick salad for lunch and, as I had plans to go out that evening, quickly had some avocado on toast for dinner. Heading into the uber cool Vaults in London was tough when they were serving delicious pizza, but I persevered...!

DAY THIRTY - SATURDAY 30TH
Today was a tough day, I'll admit, when many of my vegan friendly food plans fell through. Firstly, as I was heading to London again, I sourced a vegan friendly restaurant myself and my friend could go to for lunch before our event. Only, it was closed. So off we headed to ASOS's DigiDating event (which was super fun by the way) and I didn't worry about it too much - I had plans with other friends that evening to go for a meal at another vegan friendly restaurant so figured even though I hadn't eaten since dinner the previous evening, it would just make me eager for our meal.

Only we got the wrong train meaning I missed the meal. Do'h. I eventually grabbed some Oreos from a vending machine, but it made me realize how hard it is for vegans to grab vegan food on the go. It's not like any of the food stands in train stations sold anything vegan, and even when popping into a mini M&S I couldn't find anything.

Trying vegan has reminded me how important it is to plan ahead and know what you can buy that is vegan, but it still made me realize there's little to no option for spontaneous eating out and about or on the go...

DAY THIRTY-ONE - SUNDAY 31ST 
And so we make it to my last day! My last dinner is in actual fact another stir fry, something nice and filling, as I take time to reflect on the past month.

It's been tough, but I did it. I didn't give in, despite wanting to at many points, even when giving in would be the easier option like on Saturday. But I persevered and I'm so damn glad I did.

So, I'll soon be posting a conclusion post about how I feel, my next steps and some of my favourite recipes. However, in the meantime, that's me. That's my meal diary over and out and this is me saying I BLOODY WELL DID IT.

I want to throw myself a party, but more importantly I want you to know despite being tough at times it's also been REALLY FUN. I'd totally recommend it, even if it's just for a month.

Veganuary is definitely one of the best ideas I've ever had (as in terms of participating, I didn't make it up, ha!) and I'd challenge you all to give it a go next year.In the meantime, I think I owe myself a drink for completing it all!

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*This exciting challenge is in collaboration with Veganuary 2016 at Veganuary.com

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Thursday, 28 January 2016

I officially hit four weeks of being Vegan today! That's crazy...! Although I'm not quite done yet (Veganuary finishes on the 31st), it's reasurring to know that I'm going to make it.

I'll of course be posting about that on the 31st, but in the meantime I thought I'd share with you some of my favourite vegan instagrammers. Some of these I've only followed recently, but they've all been a massive help. 

I've never been very good at food presentation and some of these are just proof that vegan food can look damn delicious, whether thrown together randomly or not. Ever taken a photo of food and thought it was missing something? I used to think that when I first started taking pictures of my vegan food but in some of these photos, I honestly couldn't even tell there wasn't any meat on the plate at all.

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@Leiveggie makes even the most complicated of meals look super easy to make. Her vegan mac and cheese (as shown above) looks AMAZING, and with tofu, roasted broccoli, mushrooms, tomatoes and a splash of ranch dressing, it looks super filling too. Even that tofu looks nice and I have yet to try tofu...

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@vegoutmaning offers a real mix on her instagram, including breakfast, dinner and dessert which is nice. Her chia pudding is even making me consider attempting to make my own again...and that breakfast smoothie looks like something out of a restaurant!

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Smoothies, cakes and delicious breakfasts - what more could you ask for? I am absolutely loving the breakfast photos lately, with all the goodness just piled into one bowl, and it inspires me to want to do that myself but I never get up early enough. Still, there's the weekend, and I think some of these would be perfect for a Sunday morning lie in. @porridgequeen's feed fulfills my lust and makes breakfast look like the most important meal of the day..

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Another real mix of vegan friendly food, you'll find everything from the simple home comforts of baked bean, rice and broccoli to adventurous maki that wouldn't look out of place in Yo Sushi!, @veganosaurusflex does it all. And he's super buff too. Just saying. If you ever needed to try going vegan in the hopes to get fit, he proves that it's doable..

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Here we have @majaalicefood, who, like me, is kind of testing the waters a little although she's attempting to give up meat for a whole year as opposed to just a month. And judging by her feed, she's doing pretty damn well at it, my food does NOT look that good for just testing the waters! I particularly love her homemade vegan bread = vegan baking looks tough but worth it!

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And finally, we have @plantbasedkrystal who just goes to show that just because you're going healthy, doesn't mean you have to give up your sweet tooth! She has lots of vegan alternatives to yummy deserts and food worth indulging for...

So there you have it, five of my favourite vegan instagrammers gracing my feed right now, reminding me that I'm not missing out on anything by giving up meat. I wish they could all come cook for me...

Do you follow any foodie instagrammers? Or will you start following some vegan friendly bloggers now? Let me know!

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Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Here's the music I've been loving this month!

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Panic! At The Disco have a couple of entries of course as I've been listening to their new album on repeat! I feel sorry for my poor dad who has to listen to me signing along to Halleujah at the top of my (very bad, I admit) voice most mornings...

I've also picked two (slightly) local bands. 

You might have heard of Eliza and the Bear, as a couple of their songs are quite well known now and I saw them at a local gig on Saturday. They were pretty awesome and it was so nice going to a gig again, I haven't been to a 'small' gig in so long.

One of their support bands, Slowlights, I absolutely fell in love with. Their sound just hit me instantly and made me feel like I was in some basement bar in New York listening to an up-and-coming band. They very much reminded me of The 1975 (who I then had to include as well ha) and if you've ever seen Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist then you'll know exactly what kind of sound I'm talking about - this London based band would be right at home on that movie's soundtrack or just in New York in general.


And of course, David Bowie had to appear on this months playlist. I'm not going to lie and say I was a huge fan, but I grew up listening to him with my brother who was a big fan and I always liked his music. On top of that, I always looked up for him for being a complete legend. Honestly, I probably knew him more so as an actor than an artist, especially since The Labyrinth is one of my all time favourite movies, but that's the beauty of it - he was known as so many different things to so many different people.

Such a sad loss.

The last song is personally one of my favourites from Queen and David Bowie and simply had to have a place on the playlist.

Anyway. Do let me know what you think, I'd especially love to hear your thoughts on Slowlights and Eliza and the Bear!

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Saturday, 23 January 2016

I'm definitely a yes person. If there's something I want to do, I'll go ahead and book it almost instantly, which can sometimes be a bad thing when I pester my friends to give me an answer like, RIGHT NOW because I get scared if I don't book it or buy it there and then, my chance will be lost forever.

Hence why I have a nice array of little adventures lined up for 2016. Since Mexico has been pushed back to another year, I had to fulfil my desire for adventure another way, didn't I?

I thought it might be nice to pop together a little post of things I'm looking forward to the most this year, especially as I'll be blogging about most of them anyway.

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GIGS
So many gigs! Okay, well, apart from Slam Dunk, there's two actual gigs so far but I'm sure there will be more. These are SUM41 on The Kerrang! Tour in February, which is great as I thought I'd never have the chance to see them, and BUSTED in May of course!!

THE CRYSTAL MAZE
Yes, in March I'm going on The Crystal Maze. Well, technically it won't be on TV but basically these awesome dudes started a crowdfund and raised the funds to build the whole set again - complete with the crystal dome - for people to come and compete. SO MUCH FUN. I grew up watching this show, wishing I'd had the chance to go on it myself and now I will! The Aztec Zone is my favourite...

WALES
My bestie found a good deal on Groupon for a two night stay in a holiday village which I think is a super sweet idea as for years now me and my friends have spoken about staying in a little caravan park (like the good old days with our families) for an old school throwback holiday. This hasn't been planned as such yet but the deal is there to be booked and I'm making sure we take a trip to Bounce Below...

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LOST VILLAGE FESTIVAL
Lost Village is this quirky impressive festival in the middle of some woods in Lincolnshire. I'm not really sure what to expect, but my cousin went last year and it sounds amazing. Dress up is encouraged, as is letting go and just exploring the woods to discover impromptu theatre, pop up DJ sets and HOT TUBS. So cool. Lost Village takes place over a festival in May, which will then be followed the very next day by...

SLAM DUNK
One of my favourite not-so-low-key music festivals is Slam Dunk. I'd always wanted to go but never really went until recently and since then have been for two years running (this year will be my third). It's awesome because it's really up my street in terms of music and I've seen so many different bands over just one day for such a cheap ticket. In past years I've seen The All American Rejects, You Me At Six, The Ataris, Red Jumpsuit Apparatus... it's always a nice day with lots of sunshine, lots of drinks and lots of friends.

This year I'll be exhausted as it's the day after Lost Village, but me and my friends have actually booked into a hotel for the night rather then navigating a way home, and I have the following day off work to recover luckily. This also means that outfit planning is a MUST.

IBIZA
IBIZA BABY! Yeah, I'm surprised too. Ibiza doesn't really seem like my scene and if I'm honest, it's never really appealed to me. But again, we found a super awesome package deal, and since I'm not going to Mexico this year, it's the perfect opportunity to top up my tan. The deal includes activities and entries to club throughout the week which is what makes it really cheap and this even includes an awesome inflatable assault course in the sea on the Monday. YAY! Also it's generally quite cheap - for Ibiza - but expensive for a general holiday. But that's because we decided that if we're only gonna do Ibiza once in our lives (well I am) we might as well go all out. So we've booked into a studio overlooking the pool at Ibiza Rocks hotel! Fun times. Party hard. Yay.

VENICE
My bestie also got a deal from her mum for Christmas for a few nights in either Rome or Venice and of course, has decided to take me! Eek! She's picked Venice (great choice) and we just have to book the flights. This will be perfect for a girly city-break towards the end of this year and I can't wait.
...no wonder I'm so skint all the time!

On top of all this, hopefully I'll get away with work this year and there's always room for little jaunts and adventures here and there when I'm driving of course. I think it's important to fill your life with things to look forward to, whether it's holidays in the sun or mid week breaks with the friends you love the most.

What are you looking forward to this year? Let me know!

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Thursday, 21 January 2016

For this week, I didn't really feel like I needed to do a weekly shop, as some of my meal plans from last week I'd skipped out on and I still had a lot in the cupboards. So my food diary is kind of bland and varied this week I'm afraid!

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DAY FIFTEEN - FRIDAY 15TH
Today for lunch I just threw together a light salad, as I knew I'd be having a somewhat filling dinner that night. I decided to make dinner for my friends and although the kitchen was a tip afterwards, it just about managed to be a success. For starters we had stuffed mushrooms, and for main, homemade vegan pizza, homemade onion rings (which didn't have much flavour) and pizza express doughballs with my own vegan substituted butter. Afters was vegan ice cream bought by a friend!

Now, looking back afterwards, I've noticed that doughballs (in the restaurant, anyway) list milk/dairy as an ingredient, but the ones from Tesco do not. I think had I checked this before hand, I wouldn't have risked it. I'd checked the ingredients for the ones I bought from Tesco, but never thought to check with Pizza Express directly. I mean, essentially it's the same doughballs by the same company, right?

But I went by the ingredients of the ones I used so hopefully I should be okay.

Dinner was nice overall. It was lovely to cook for friends, an actual challenge for me, and definitely nice doing something different to going out and getting drunk.

DAY SIXTEEN - SATURDAY 16TH
Today, after a lovely lie in, I attempted mushrooms on toast again, this time using the actual toaster for the bread. Success! It was really nice!

For dinner, I headed into town with a friend for dinner and a few drinks, and had a vegetable curry at The Whitehouse. This was lovely, bar a bit spicy, and it was definitely nice to go back to a comfort food.

DAY SEVENTEEN - SUNDAY 17TH
TODAY I WAS SO HUNGOVER. It was horrible. Somehow, a couple of glasses of wine the previous night turned into, er, well, more like a few bottles. I'm really not liking the whole drinking thing so much lately. It's really lovely when it's sociable, but I hate drinking too much, making a fool of myself and spending all day hungover. I'm getting too old for this.

When I finally found my stomach settled enough to eat, I made a delicious creamy, mushroomy kind of pasta thing, but by the time I'd had two bites I was full up. NO FAIR. I'll definitely try making it again though...

DAY EIGHTEEN - MONDAY 18TH
I'd thrown some fresh tomato and basil pasta together the previous night for lunch today but found myself too tired to make the sauce. Alas, lunch was filling but rather bland.

On Sunday, my nan had come round to make a vegetable curry with me so this was my dinner tonight, with plain rice and a plain naan too. This was super filling and yummy and I must remember to grab the recipe from her so that I can make it again.   

DAY NINETEEN - TUESDAY 19TH
I went back to a boring lunch today, a cheese and onion sandwich and a packet of crisps.  But for dinner I made mushroom risotto which was super yummy and again, a new recipe for me! And...that's about it for Tuesday!

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DAY TWENTY - WEDNESDAY 20TH
Today for lunch I had risotto left over from yesterday, which was a nice, filling and warm lunch. Lately, I've becoming a bit more forward planning with my food, thinking about what things can be made easily or perhaps other recipes that are less basic but that I can make enough of to last me for lunch the next day.

Is this what being an adult is?!

The past few days I've skipped breakfast because I just haven't had the energy to try something new (not that I had anything in the cupboards anyway) and jam on toast was getting a bit repetitive.

I think again, the hardest part has been breakfast. Personally, I haven't found much variety for breakfasts and none that can be put together anyway - I never leave myself enough time in the morning for anything but a quick bite of toast. However, I think this is a lesson I'll be taking with me once this month is over - having more of a variety of breakfast and making sure I get up early enough to sit down and eat it properly to start my day off right.

Health wise, I haven't felt a massive improvement other then the sense that some days I look in the mirror and think my tummy is a tad more flat/my waist a bit more defined. This didn't happen a lot beforehand but likewise there's been a couple of days when I've felt I looked a bit thinner the day before and less so the following day.

It might be my imagination but I do think perhaps it's been where I've been having energy drinks or packets of crisps - my best friend had commented that since started this all, I looked less bloated (as opposed to losing weight). I didn't even think I got bloated, but that would mean a lot in all honesty.

It makes sense that the fatty foods that aren't so bad for me didn't necessarily make me put on a lot of weight, but the bloating may be the answer to why I used to notice a subtle difference on a day to day basis.

Hmm. Food for thought - and definitely motivation to stick at it all.


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*This exciting challenge is in collaboration with Veganuary 2016 at Veganuary.com

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Wednesday, 20 January 2016

You might be wondering why I'm doing Veganuary. I'm the least likely person ever to give up meat and, as selfish as it sounds, I've never really given much thought to why people go Vegan or what happens to animals to make meat. The thought of animals getting killed for meat made me sad, but I was just ignorant to it.

I'm fast approaching my third week of being Vegan so I thought it might be a good time to reflect on why I'm doing this.

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Admittedly, for the most part, it's to feel better in myself. It's a new year, so time for a new start, and I'd been making some conscious decisions even in the run up to Christmas to be more healthy. I hadn't done anything quite as dramatic as giving up meat, but I'd been making healthy lunches for work a lot more (ironically I think now that I'm Vegan my lunches are less healthy then they were, because I often find myself reverting back to cheese and onion sandwiches, sometimes with a packet of crisps. Before, I definitely had more salad based lunches), and trying to incorporate more exercise into my life.

I think this was a change I was personally ready for. I don't think I could have gone from completely unhealthy, without these prior changes, straight into being vegan. It would have been too much of a big change for me and my heart simply wouldn't have been in it.

Since I'd already been feeling fairly good in myself for taking more healthy options, this helped me tradition to something a bit more dramatic.

After losing my mum also, it's made me realize just how important it is to look after yourself. Although the cancer had spread by the time she had passed, and although there's no way to tell really if it was that first form of cancer that had led to what happened, the day I discovered my mum had bowel cancer petrified me. 

So I've tried my best to look after myself and with the world filled with so many misdiagnoses of IBS and so many more young people (very bravely) baring their Colostomy bag, it does hit home. It makes me realize that these kind of issues are a lot more common then I already thought and that looking after my diet and my body is more important than ever.

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And for the less selfish reasons...

ANIMALS
Being vegan means giving up meat, obviously. Although I'm just one person, by choosing not to eat meat, I'm still making a small difference by not eating meat or dairy that has come from a tortured animal.

"Two of the worst culprits are the dairy and egg industries. Research tells us that chickens probably suffer the most miserable existence of all factory farmed animals. Yet their eggs are consumed on an overwhelming scale. Dairy cows have their calves removed from them only hours after giving birth, after being forcibly impregnated to ensure they produce milk. Like any mother, they grieve. So too do their young." [Veganuary]

ENVIRONMENT
By going vegan, I'm reducing GHG emissions, saving water, protecting nature, reducing pollution, saving energy AND saving wildlife. I'm saving water, for example, by choosing food that needs less water to be made. Animals need water to drink and wash, to clean their living spaces and to cool them during hot periods. A beef steak uses 4650 litres of water, whereas an apple uses simply 70. That's a huge difference.

These are just two big examples of how much difference I'm making by giving up meat, if even just for a month, and I have to admit, that feels good.

Choosing to go vegan could have already saved 4650 litres of water and help an animal avoid getting killed for food.

That's kind of good to know!

So this is just an example or two of some of the reasons for me taking up this challenge and I'm pretty sure it's one of the best choices I've ever made.

Keep your eyes peeled for tomorrow's post summing up my third week!


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*This exciting challenge is in collaboration with Veganuary 2016 at Veganuary.com

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Monday, 18 January 2016

I still remember when I first started blogging.

Although creating a magazine for my dissertation at university gave me a final push to begin blogging - I'd planned to coincide the two - there was a time when blogging first came across my radar, back when blogging was finally becoming a 'thing'.

It was back in the day when More! Magazine was still an actual magazine, and they had created something along the lines of a blogger group where we could chat to other wannabe bloggers.

Now, when most people think about the rise of bloggers and the ones that really set the bar, they automatically think of people like Lily Melrose (LLYMRS), Poppy Disney and Zoella. 

But not me. I think of the girls I spoke to on that Facebook group, how the majority of this small group of us all created or began to create blogs at the same time. Amazingly, the majority of us are still going and to this day, these other girls are still my favourite bloggers.

I don't think we were the ones to launch blogging, no way, it's almost impossible to find out who that would be as many blogs seemingly just sprung up from nowhere! And some of us may not be as famous as the bigger bloggers but, to me, it was these girls who launched blogging 'for me'. 

So to celebrate what I think is the rise of blogging, I'm going back to basics and interviewing some of these special ladies. I think it's about time we stopped comparing ourselves to bloggers like Zoella and started celebrating what makes us bloggers special!

So my first interview is with the lovely Tanya Howard from Glamour Glitter Gloss who I love! Tanya is so lovely and absolutely hilarious and whenever I've seen her at blogger events we've always had such a laugh together. I'd kill to go on a night out with this party animal!

Although there was a time when she debated whether or not to continue her blog after it was deleted by Google, I'm super glad she didn't because I really love her blog. I really like her beauty reviews and her mix of lifestyle posts which is why I just had to interview her for this series of posts.

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What made you want to go into blogging? Were you reading any other blogs at the time? Was there anything in particular that pushed you to take the plunge and actually create the blog, rather than just thinking about it?
I was an active member on the More Magazine Facebook page and they had a competition to be a blogger on their website. I applied but did not get selected but it turned out for the best because you were very restricted in what you could actually post so I decided along with two other girls I met on the page to start our own blogs where we could be free to post when and what we wanted.

Is there a story behind the name you chose?
This is actually my third blog name. I chose it because I write about a range of topics so I didn’t want to pick a name that stuck me in a particular niche, and it’s also as simple as I like to think I can be Glamourous, I love a bit of Glitter and at the time of starting my blog I never wore lipstick, only lip Gloss.

Do you remember your first posts? What were they about?
I couldn’t tell you what I first posted about because I had to restart my blog three years ago because when I bought my dot com Google messed up and deleted my entire blog. Three years of work gone in an instance, at one point I wasn’t even sure whether to restart or not.

Did you ever think you’d still be blogging five years on?
Definitely not. It was just a bit of rambling on the internet that I never thought anyone would want to read and I just imagined my interest in it wavering soon enough.

Do you feel like your blog is still the blog you wanted it to be five years ago – are you still covering the same content you’d wanted to when you set it up?
I always wanted to write about a range of topics because personally I get bored reading about the same thing over and over. I have stuck to this but I want to get a bit more structure in the way I cover the topics.

How much do you personally think the blog has changed over the years? Are you happy with its progress? Do you feel like you’ve done what you wanted to do?
My photography has vastly improved from when I started and I am finally happy with my layout. I have been lucky enough to work with some great PRs and have great opportunities and see this as great progress with the blog and I’m very happy with the way things have gone.

Can you see any major differences when comparing your first few posts to your most recent ones – if looking at them, what would you say?
From what I can remember from my old blog I can definitely see improvement on how I write, the photographs I take and the way I portray a post.

What are some of your proudest moments of blogging so far?
Some of the highlights would be meeting Gary Cockerill, working with Dowal Walker PR, meeting my best friend and some amazing bloggers, attending Christmas In July, reviewing the Bluewater cinema, attending an London Fashion Week’s after party and Disaronno wears Versace.

..and some of your toughest?
Life getting in the way and causing me to take time out from blogging and then feeling writer’s block on my return. I always feel like people will give up on me if I don’t blog constant enough.

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Tanya's new blog business cards

Have there been any points where you’ve just wanted to give up? If so, what made you carry on?
I think every blogger has had a moment where they’ve questioned whether it’s all worth it and should they carry on. I just remind myself that I enjoy blogging, I’ve been lucky enough to have some amazing opportunities and meet so many new friends through it and I don’t want that to stop.

What have been some of your favourite brands to work with and some of your favourite opportunities?
Dowal Walker PR, who look after La Roche Posay and Paul & Joe. The PRs, the make up artists and brands representatives are all such lovely people. I’m actually in the process of planning a night out with one of them.

Have you ever had to deal with any particularly tough brands or had any problems working with a company?
I’ve been pretty lucky and can’t think of any particularly tough moments, I’ve had the standard uninterested PR/brand rep not bother with me but it has never really bothered me.

Are there any blog posts or campaigns you’re particularly proud of?
I wrote a controversial post on the No Make Up campaign for Cancer Research calling people out that were ever so proud of themselves for posting a no makeup photo but made no mention of the reason behind it and were just waiting for the compliments to come in.

What do you think you’ve learned from running a blog for this long – have you improved your photography skills or taught yourself HTML for example?
HTML still goes right over my head, I definitely need to learn about that at some point but so far it hasn’t affected me not knowing. My photography however has definitely improved and I’m really happy when I look at my photos now.

What do you think about your blogs presence among some of the other big bloggers – are you happy with its success? Do you ever find yourself thinking about your blog compared to other blogs launched around the same time as yours?
I don’t like to compare my blog to anyone, I think success is measured in different ways. Too many people get hung up on the numbers game, but if you’re happy with your blog and have great readers, what’s not to be happy about.

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 Meeting Tanya (along with Lisa, Bex, and Charlie) at a SheSaidBeauty blogging event

How do you feel blogging has changed overall since you began? Do you feel like it’s hit its peak, that there’s no room left for anymore ‘famous’ bloggers? Do you feel like blogging is going to calm down a bit now and focus more on what blogging was about when it first began as opposed to gaining followers, getting Instagram famous etc? Or do you feel like blogging as a whole is still quite new and that there’s still a lot more phenomenon to come?
Blogging was quite a small unknown world when I first started and it’s blown up in recent years. I think a lot of people jump on the bandwagon hoping to have the success of big Youtubers like Zoe Sugg overnight and expect to be handed everything on a plate straight away. People don’t realise the work that actually goes into it! I definitely don’t think it’s hit it’s peak yet though, I think blogging will dominate the social media scene even more especially with bloggers and vloggers being a lot more visible to the world, working in tv, with big brands and so on.

Do you still think you’ll be blogging in five years’ time?
To think I’ve been doing this for five years already is pretty crazy in itself so why should 10 years down the line be any different. As long as it’s something I enjoy, something I meet new people from, something that improves my life with amazing opportunities I will happily carry on blogging for as long as possible.

What do you see next for your blog – what are your short term and long term hopes and plans for it?
I hope to make more time for blogging, although I have been doing this for so long I still haven’t quite worked out that perfect work/life/blogging balance, but maybe this is the year to do so. I’m just happy writing content I’m proud of, meeting new people and brands, and having my little space on the net that’s all mine.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Here’s to another great 5 years, and I hope we’re all still going through it all together. The original blogging crew :)  

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Friday, 15 January 2016

Week two of Veganuary is officially complete! Yay! This week I've only experimented a little bit more with my cooking, but it was something tougher then just something thrown on toast for example. I found my weekly shop a LOT easier this time around too because I now know what was nice and worth making again, and of course it was all done online...

DAY EIGHT - FRIDAY 8TH JAN
On the last day of the working week, I barely had anything. I threw together a quick salad for lunch and then I think because I was so tired from not being used to my early mornings again - I came home from work and went straight to bed! I only intended to have a nap but next thing I know, I was waking up at 6am the following morning...so not much to report here!

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DAY NINE - SATURDAY 9TH JAN
Today I had a bit of a lazy day then made homemade tomato soup which was lush! It was a lot easier to make then I thought it would be and was rather filling. As a bonus, using a blender made the whole thing seem a lot complicated then it actually was, so it made me look like a good cook!

Throughout the days I've found myself snacking on my Nakd treats which have been rather yummy, so I had some of them for supper.

DAY TEN - SUNDAY 10TH
On Sunday I went to a vegetarian cafe with my brother, as blogged about here! I was a tad peckish later that evening too and as I was making lunch for the following day, decided to use up the remainder of the tiger baguette my dad had picked up from Tesco, so I made myself bruschetta. I was quite pleased with my efforts and didn't even really use a recipe - I'd been making garlic butter throughout the week so quickly made some of that and spread it onto the bread, before chopping up some onions and tomato's. I think that's the first ever time I've thrown something together without consulting a recipe first, just using what I know and what I had in the cupboard!

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DAY ELEVEN - MONDAY 11TH
Today I had the remainder of my soup for work and some brownies myself and my sister made on Saturday when she popped round. It was a nice change having something hot for lunch. I've struggled to think of hot lunches for work anyway, let alone ideas that are also vegan. So this was a nice change and the soup was still yummy, especially as I had some lovely crusty french stick with it!

For dinner I had stirfy again, this time with vegetable rolls. So delicious!

DAY TWELVE - TUESDAY 12TH
Tuesday was another simple day. For lunch, I had a cheese and onion sandwich which was rather bland as I used vegan bread (I don't know why since it turns out I can have most 'normal' breads) which was so very thin, and then the cheese wasn't very tasty either. Along with this I just had some fruit and some of my Nakd snacks.

We had our hairdresser round that evening so dinner was rather quick, which was an attempt of mushrooms on toast. I love mushrooms but I didn't flavour them very well and the recipe I used told me to fry/toast the bread in a pan - I'm not sure if it's the bread I used or the method but that just tasted weird. It did fill me up, but overall Tuesday wasn't really a great day for food!

DAY THIRTEEN - WEDNESDAY 13TH
Lunch today was my attempt of a falafel salad which was nice, but the dressing not so much. I tried to create a lemon hummus dressing I'd found a recipe for online and although it was tasty, it didn't go right with the salad.

Today's dinner, as you all know, was my disastrous attempt of a pizza! You can read about this here! (please don't, ha.)

DAY FOURTEEN - THURSDAY 14TH
Two weeks today! On Thursday I was officially half way through my Vegan challenge and I'm so, so pleased I've stuck to it. Although parts have been hard, it's gotten a lot easier as I've gone on!

Today's lunch was a takeout salad from Tesco, a falafel salad (the one I tried to recreate the day before as it goes) that I used to have quite a bit in my old job. I had glanced at it last time I went shopping but didn't think it was suitable for vegans. It was only when I had another look this week that I realised it was only really the sauce that wasn't suitable for me, and this was in a pot anyway so I just removed this and took a lemon into work with me to drizzle over it. Using my initiative! Dinner was stir fry again, simple but tasty.

Despite making a meal plan, I haven't really stuck to it - I have stuck to the meal ideas for the most parts, but not for the days I planned them for. This isn't so bad since I didn't really buy much stuff that could run out of date or be wasted, but still.

Dinner today was stirfry. I'm sorry. I keep going back to this damn tasty meal...

Tomorrow I'm cooking dinner for some friends for a number of different reasons. First of all, I'm feeling a bit more confident in my cooking and want to try it out on someone else. Secondly, we've just booked a big holiday to Ibiza in the summer, so nights in to stop us spending money are a must! I may attempt the pizza again, watch this space! 

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*This exciting challenge is in collaboration with Veganuary 2016 at Veganuary.com

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Thursday, 14 January 2016

Recently, the lovely team at Olive it! got in touch to ask me if I'd like to partake in their bloggers recipe challenge and my heart barely skipped a beat before I said yes!

The general gist of it was this. Us bloggers would receive a luxury Spanish hamper complete with Olive it! Spanish olives and a few other Spanish themed food/goodies. Our challenge was to create a recipe central to or using the olives and the winner will receive a meal for two at Jose Pizarro's London restaurant and a hotel stay nearby worth over £200 - wow!

So my delicious food arrived (unfortunately some of it I've had to put back as I can't eat it just yet being vegan) and got down to it.

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Now. I'm under now qualms whatsoever about winning because there's no way in hell I'm going to win. I'm not a good cook at the best of times, let alone for a competition. But the point is, I tried. And it was fun! It was a challenge and it was fun creating something to do with olives, which I love. They're a food that I never used to like but love now (just like mushrooms!).

So, the plan was to make a friendly vegan pizza. Only it didn't turn out that way. I chose pizza because that's the one thing I've been really craving since going Vegan and I really dig the super healthy Pizza Express pizzas - the thin base, all the salad on top etc. So I used the recipe for the base from Olives For Dinner and decided to just go with it for the toppings, using what I had in the cupboards and of course using the Olive It! olives. I also tried my hand at her caramelised onions - yummy.

So here was my list of ingredients.

FOR THE BASE
- Flour
- Water
- Dried Mixed Herbs
- Olive Oil

TOPPINGS
- Olive It! Black Pitted Spanish Olives
- Sundried Tomatoes
- Onions & Shallots
- Cheese (Vegan friendly, of course)
- Kale
- Algave syrup (which was just for the onions)

The base was easy to mix - I simply threw it all together, gave it a whisk and waited for a large flat plan to heat up in my pre-heated oven.

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Whilst that was happening, I fried the onions using butter and eventually adding a splash or two of algave syrup. I continually mixed these so they didn't burn and once I felt they were ready, I took them off the heat and added the base mix into the pan in the oven. The recipe for the base told me it should only take ten or so minutes to do so I grated the cheese and quickly chopped the olives ready and, once the base looked crispy, lowered the heat. I quickly fried a little bit of kale - just for a minute or two, so it wasn't so crispy - and removed the base from the oven, threw everything on top and popped it back in the oven for a further few minutes to melt the cheese.

But the thing is, I'm not very good at making, er, pizza bases. So although it ended up super thin like hers, it was kind of just...a mess. It looked all nice and tasty in the pan, but as I transferred it from the pan to the plate, it kind of got a hole in it and just collapsed.

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Btw, if you don't have me on snapchat yet, you should totally add me just to laugh at my cooking disasters like the one above...

So I decided I wasn't making a pizza. No. I've just invented the pizza pancake!

Now hear me out - everyone loves pancakes for breakfast. And who hasn't had pizza for breakfast before? Don't lie, we've all done it...

With the caramelised onions that were super sweet and the thin but still slightly doughy base, it actually worked quite well. The mixture of kale, olives, cheese and sundried tomatoes worked well as super healthy toppings too so I think for those of you who prefer an unconventional breakfast, this ones for you.

It also works well as a late breakfast, especially on a weekend after a lie in.

In the end, as bad as it looked, it was actually really tasty. The toppings worked so well together and were healthy whilst regaining a strong taste. It's just a shame the base didn't work out and that my pizza ended up being a pizza pancake!

Still, it has taught me to persevere because although some (well one) part of this meal didn't work so well, the others did. I'll be attempting a pizza base again perhaps tomorrow or at the weekend, but for the meantime I think I'll be doing this again one weekend as a late breakfast before.

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What do you think? Total disaster or bad-recipe-turned-amazing? Let me know with a comment!

This post was created in partnership with Olive It!
 
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Monday, 11 January 2016

Although I know many restaurants offer vegan dishes or vegan alternatives - I was stumped when it came to thinking of somewhere to eat that may cater especially for vegans/vegetarians. If I lived in London, this wouldn't be a problem as London is well known for it's quirky and/or specialist restaurants.

Luckily, my brother knew about this cool vegetarian cafe in Hemel Hempstead and resolved to take me - so yesterday we headed down for lunch. I was really excited, as I thought it would be really nice to eat somewhere that catered for my diet and where I'd have a lot of choice.

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Woody's Cafe is right alongside The Grand Union Canal - a place I didn't even know that existed - in Hemel Hempstead. It was slap bang in the middle of the marina (or that's what I'd call it anyway) with all the different boats lined up - lovely. It reminded me so much of a marina I visited once or twice when I was at university.

With the cafe right there, it was a lovely setting and when we arrived there was seating outside which I thought would be ideal for summer.

Upon entering the cafe, I saw that it was small and busy - but not too busy that you don't feel looked after. I don't know how to explain the deco of the place by anything other then green. I know that sounds stupid, but from the moment we stepped inside everything felt and looked healthy and organic - does that make sense? It was kind of quirky too, but most definitely inviting.

Even on a Sunday afternoon we had to book as it was busy, so it's clearly very popular.

Even though it's a vegetarian restaurant, I found plenty on offer for vegans and many things that were gluten free too, Specials were scribbled up on the board and although the main three dishes that seemed to be on the menu were burgers, pizza and crepes, there was a hell of a lot of choice for each.

I will admit, that was the only time so far that I found myself really missing cheese as the bruschetta and pasta sounded amazing. 

But I enquired about the Mexican Spicy Burger and found out they did a vegan option (which was really just swapping the coleslaw for red cabbage) and so my brother and I both had that.

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Even though the menu was rather helpful listing what was good for each diet, I'm glad I asked, because I think a majority of the dishes could be made vegan even if not listed on the menu. So bear this in mind!

The Mexican Spicy Burger was actually a normal burger but without cheese and it was a bean burger instead of meat obviously and considering I don't actually like beans, this was really, really yummy. The thought of a bean burger had never really appealed to me in the past but this was just as good as any other burger - if not more tasty. I don't think I really would have been able to tell it wasn't meat because although you associate burgers with meat, this worked so well.

The burger had a lot of taste to it and even had a bit of a kick which went down well with the delicious potato wedges and organic cola.

I was beyond pleased with my food and it was so nice to not have to cook or research a recipe and study labels of products to create a meal that's healthy - that was also beyond delicious. 

The staff were friendly and so helpful too and, actually, everything was really affordable. I kind of expected it to be a tad expensive being that it's specialist and there's nowhere else around here doing that kind of thing but it wasn't. My brother said it's because obviously it's a lot cheaper to make without meat but still, it was really nice not having to fork out loads.

I really love that they honestly pride themselves on being as healthy and as green as possible. They source all ingredients locally when possible, and run 100% per cent on green energy! They even support Trees For Life.

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So, why should you go?

Vegan, vegetarian, gluten free or even just your average meat eater - even though you won't find meat here, you won't really care. I suppose when you eat meat, going to a veggie place probably isn't your top priority, but with how delicious everything is, you won't really crave meat and will be content with whatever you do have. Put it this way - if/when I'm eating meat again, I'll still make an effort to come here.

The Mexican Spicy (bean) Burger is amazing - I can vouch for that. Definitely a lot yummier and healthier then your standard McDonalds..

And finally, even if you're already super duper healthy, you'll still feel the benefits from eating somewhere like this. Whether you want a yummy kick start for your new health kick or you just want to balance out all the junk food you've been eating lately, here's where to do it.

I think I'd happily go back here even when/if no longer vegan and me and my brother have already resolved to visit again before the month is up. I definitely have my eye on one of their pizzas...

19 Dickinson Quay
Hemel Hempstead
Hertfordshire
HP3 9WG


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