Monday, 26 October 2015

Kent Vegan Festival 2015

The Kent Vegan Festival has landed! Organised by Jo Kidd of the Abbots Mill Project and a team of others, this one-day festival's aim is to 'raise awareness about veganism as a holistic, healthy, environmentally sustainable and intrinsically non-violent way of life' in an inclusive and welcoming way. Well.. with over 1500 people through the door, I'd say it did a cracking job!

It was so busy that when we arrived there was a one-in one-out system in place and the queue snaked around the building towards the high street. It was exciting to see so many veggies in one place, Nick and I sometimes feel a bit alone in our pursuit of the vegan lifestyle. Being together with so many people that eat the same stuff as us was such a lovely feeling.

Passers-by stopped to see what was going on as a live band played in the car park to the front of the building, and all around us were excited people of all ages and appearances, rebutting the myth that vegans are hemp-wearing hippies (although there were a representative amount of those, too). Stood behind us in the queue for example, was a smart, middle-aged couple. The lady wore a white faux-fur coat and patent heels, and I overheard her talking about not having eaten a sausage roll for 21 years. A few minutes later a dreadlocked couple wandered past to watch the band, the man with a tiny baby snuggled beneath his baggy, multi-coloured knitted jumper.

You see, veganism doesn't discriminate! I'm not saying it's always easy in this meat and dairy fuelled society, but it is easier than ever before and only getting better (cue D:Ream). Anyone can choose the compassionate path at any stage in their life, it's not like The Vegans will turn you away because you used to love a bacon sarnie (we've all been there, well, a lot of us anyway). It's not a special club reserved for animal rights activists or protesters. Or hippies. Or 'clean eaters'. It's a special type of activism that's quiet and personal and massive and will make you feel... well... good. 

St Peter's Methodist Church hall looked tiny under the weight of the crowd, and it was difficult to look at the stalls as people 'sorried' and 'scuse meed' round the room. There was no less than four vegan bakery stalls (we bought from two!) and the food hatch had a huge line of hungry lunchtimers waiting for grub.

We grabbed leaflets as we pigeon-stepped past each stall, it was so busy and hot and I had envisaged striking up conversations with stall holders and other visitors. By the time we reached the queue for the food hatch we were so hungry and Archie was not in the most patient of moods. Having seen a bit of everything, we hot-footed it to The Veg Box CafĂ© instead, where Nick had a delicious burger and chunky chips and I enjoyed a Bhudda Bowl which - despite being different each time I visit - is one of my favourite things in the whole world.

All together I'd say the first Kent Vegan Festival was a resounding success, with hundreds of vegans flooding to the tiny hall to see what they could get their hands on. I sincerely hope it makes a return in 2016, but at a much bigger venue. Bring it on!

If you'd like to know more about veganism, take a look at this or get in touch!

Saturday, 24 October 2015

The Alphabet Project // E is for Empty

I found this letter really difficult! But here's my entry, an empty Minnis Bay on our first anniversary in August.

How Does Your Garden Grow? // Wilting Away is Beautiful, too

Something I have never paid attention to before is the beauty in a flower wilting and dying away. The shriveling of petals and change in colours and shape is fascinating and I can't help but think it's a flower's last moment of glory even though it is mostly overlooked. I am enjoying taking photographs of the flowers I was so excited to see blossom just a few weeks ago, like my brave little anemone. 

And I almost pulled this out during our rampage last week, but noticed seconds before little spots of yolky yellow peeking out. I am not sure what it'll be, but I planted it at the same time as the gladioli bulbs and I think it might be a variety of them. 

The fuschia is doing really well, especially since we moved it and it has more space. I wonder though, will it grow much taller? It's very small at the moment with the flowers almost touching the soil.

Mabel's been enjoying a rogue pot of lamb's lettuce and the spiders have grown big and plump now. They sit slap bang in the middle of their webs, guarding them with a stillness as if they're playing musical statues.

The rest is yet more of the snails I love discovering, succulents and my new fixation with cyclamen... Hope you enjoy them and have had a lovely week.

Mammsaurus HDYGG

Monday, 19 October 2015

How Does Your Garden Grow? // Bulbs and a Looking Glass

I have a confession to make - we pulled the poor old honeysuckle out last weekend and I am sorry (not sorry). It was very woody at the bottom and spreading outwards along the floor. All through the summer we tried to tie it to the trellis but it just wouldn't stay and I felt it was encroaching on its neighbours and looked pretty messy. It does feel so much tidier without it and we have popped a little shrub in its place by way of an apology.

We also pulled out the dozen or so gladioli I had plonked throughout the flower bed. They were lovely but in the wrong places really, and too spread out from one another. At least I know lovely flowers can be grown in our garden, but I have learnt to plan their positions a bit better next time!

Talking about planning, I have turned to Pinterest for bulb-planting inspiration and I think I have seen what I am going to do for next year...

I love clusters of the same flower and I think I have mustered enough skills in the last 12 months to achieve this look. I have quite a few pots and I went on a little spree a few weeks ago and bought bulbs for daffs, tulips, crocuses and muscari. I don't have any of the big hyacinths but that's easily remedied! I also bought some white and blue alliums (but I don't think 5 will be enough!!), some more anemones and some snowdrops, too.

And how gorgeous does this gladioli patch look?! Definitely something to try this time round. It is just so striking and lovely.

In other news, the good old geraniums are still going strong and I rescued a mirror my neighbour had left out on the street for the rag and bone man. Any ideas for it would be great! I am still in love with the lavender and feeling a lot less guilty since I re-potted that patio rose. It's bloomin' blooming now!

I also had my first go at arranging a large planter. I went for thyme and heather to accompany the little conifer, and split an ivy plant I already had. I have no idea if they're well suited to eachother, and it's not a great pic but you get the idea! 

Oh yes, and in pulling out weeds and old bulbs, I accidentally wrenched the calendula out! I was mortified... but I quickly planted it in a spare pot and it has bounced back... I hope it will be ok in there! All in all quite an eventful week in the garden, despite starting uni and the rest of the chaos family life brings. 

Mammsaurus HDYGG

Friday, 16 October 2015

The Alphabet Project // D is for Don't Look Down!

This photo was taken atop Cabo Girao in Madeira, which at 1932 feet above sea level, is one of Europe's highest sea cliffs. Nick and I honeymooned in Madeira last year and this was one of the highlights, although I was definitely scared and - rather uselessly - gripped the viewing platform handrail the whole time I was on there!

In fact when I think about it, this wasn't the only time my fear of heights was explored on our 'relaxing' week away - on our first day we went on a death defying* ride on the cable car in Funchal.

*it wasn't really death defying, but I still didn't want to look down...

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Wednesday, 14 October 2015

The Battle of Hastings

The Battle of Hastings was fought 949 years ago today and last year we went along to watch the re-enactment at Battle Abbey, near Hastings.

"The Battle of Hastings, fought on 14 October 1066, is one of the best-known events in England’s history, when William of Normandy defeated the army of King Harold of England. The battlefield owes its survival to the founding by William the Conqueror of Battle Abbey on the site as penance for the bloodshed."

The re-enactment is a two-day English Heritage event, perfect for families because it's accurate and interesting for the history buffs in your house but fun and engaging for little ones too. Archie had an absolute hoot as a Saxon for the day, joining in with a kids' battle complete with foam swords and battle cries. 

There's a Saxon camp on one side of the site and the Normans live on the other, all in tents and in full historical dress. You will find yourself watching a demonstration on Saxon bread making ten minutes before being laden with battle armour and a spear. It really was fun. 

A demo of the Saxon shield wall, which staved off the Normans so well the battle lasted all day, which was quite long by medieval standards.

Horses charging at the crowds, demonstrating their intimidating strength and power.

As we watched the Battle unfold, music boomed through loudspeakers around the field and an audio dramatisation narrated every tactical step, explaining the importance of each decision in relation to the defeat of the Saxons.

Men lay down to show they had been trampled or slain with a sword or hit by an arrow, and they remained dead on the ground til the very end. It was sad to see, especially when you consider this represented just a fraction of the real number of troops, and deaths.  Women rushed out to administer water to the men, then resumed their positions on the sidelines, watching intently with hope and fear.

Towards the end when the Saxons were facing certain defeat, Archie turned to me and said, 'don't we win, Mummy?' and it was at that moment it hit me that he didn't know this story. I realised that this is our history. It's not just a fairy tale or a myth, this battle changed our heritage and we are Normans now, too. This is a re-enactment of how we came to be, a reminder of what it is to be English - not Saxon or Norman.

We defend, we defeat, we are all of our fathers before us.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Apple Roses

Have you seen that fun apple roses tutorial doing the rounds? Well, this weekend I decided we NEEDED them. With custard. Have a look and tell me you don't want them, too...

Here's the method I used because - easy as it seems - they did take a little more effort than the video would have you think. They're still a quick and impressive treat though, and I would make them again but with a few tweaks next time (see below).

For 6 apple roses, you will need:

1 sheet of JusRol ready-rolled puff pastry
2 sharp, red apples, such as Braeburns
Juice of half a lemon
A sprinkling of cinnamon
A nice jam - they used apricot but I used raspberry - watered down slightly
A dusting of icing sugar

The video is so clear I don't need to write the method, but here's a few words of advice from me...


* The video appears to use just one apple for six roses, however I needed 2 apples. This means I had to up the time to 6 minutes in the microwave in order for the slices to be soft enough to roll.

* Don't do what I did and try to get more than six slices out of the sheet of puff pastry! They are better wider, the apple just slips out if they're too narrow.

* Next time, I'll peel the apples. These were nice except for the skin sticking in the back of your throat and AJ didn't like the texture at all. If you're sprinkling with icing sugar I can't see it making much difference anyway!

* Enjoy warm with vegan custard or ice cream. Deeelish!

Tasty Tuesdays on

Saturday, 10 October 2015

How Does Your Garden Grow? // Red Roses and the Brave Anemone

Another week of developments and discoveries in our little patch of the earth at the rear of our house. The rose bush I found in the bargain bin a couple of months ago has started blossoming again. I don't know what I do to deserve such gifts as it's been sat in it's tiny pot on the concrete since I brought it home. I am a bad gardener! But there she is, presenting me with a perfect red rose.

I'm much more of a soft touch than I ever thought I was, too. I mean, snails are the enemy aren't they? And now I even like bloody weeds! As much as I know I need to get rid of them, these do look sweet.

I have been watching an anemone shoot up and up the last couple of weeks and yesterday it opened its petals and stood proud for all to see. I love its delicate seeds and how the petals look airbrushed with red. I think it looks so brave, relying on it's long, thin stem.

Autumnal decay is creeping in but there is still plenty of colour out there, with gorgeous honeysuckle, fuschia and calendula. I love the drama of this season as the summer flowers make their slow and steady descent to hibernation alongside autumn-flowering shrubs that are just getting into their stride.

Dinner for one!

I also found a lovely, lovely book in a charity shop during the week for 50p (!) and discovered the name of a few of our shrubs. The 'pom pom plant' is actually called a Kerria japonica, would you believe! And there I was thinking I had made a botanical discovery.

Mammsaurus HDYGG