Monday, 23 February 2015

The Mariner’s Revenge

I know I posted a blog, only yesterday, about The Decemberists… I’m not obsessed, honest… but I just came across this amazingly well animated adaptation of The Mariner’s Revenge Song. It’s even better and more fitting than the Lego version even, so I just had to share it. The style used is just perfect for the story.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World

Last night dad and I went to see, American-alternative-indie-folk-band, The Decemberists play at Brixton Academy in London. They are a band that we have both been itching to see play live for several years now, but never had the opportunity to previously. We were seated upstairs in the circle – I’ve never been upstairs in Brixton Academy before – which meant we were by no means close to the stage. However, that didn’t matter one bit as we were directly in the centre and had a clear view of the stage, albeit at quite a distance, and the sound was perfect.

We knew they’d be great live, having seen a few videos of them playing in the past and having listened to their live album (which for a live album is actually really good – I say ‘actually’ because I’m not usually a fan of live albums). But I don’t think either of us expected them to be quite so incredibly good. I would definitely say that last night was up there with the best gigs I’ve ever been to. They don’t just play their songs, they perform them. I’d never really considered it before but they are a pretty theatrical band, in terms of the themes of their songs anyway.

This song, which was the [second] encore last night, pretty much sums up what I mean. (The Lego version is particularly good too!)

A lot of the songs that the band played last night were, unsurprisingly, from the latest album – What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World. The album came out in January and, although I’ve been listening to it on Spotify, I hadn’t actually bought a physical copy. Yet. So, I decided to splash out and buy the vinyl version last night. It’s a double LP, which is a first for me, and it is beautifully packaged.

Back in November last year I posted the video for Make You Better, the first single from WATWWABW, here on my blog. The kaleidoscopic-style imagery is taken from the album artwork (also featured in that blog). But now I can hold the beautiful vinyl packaging in my own hands – and listen to the record(s) of course, which I’m doing as I write this.

 I particularly like the framing on the back.
I was quite surprised to find the image on the inside of the sleeve to be this way around.
 The two inner sleeves, each a slightly different design.
As there aren’t actually enough songs on the album to fill four sides, only three, the fourth is
simply a laser-etched design (not to be played! because that would end in tears).
Now playing!

Friday, 20 February 2015


Ever since Veganuary and also since I’ve begun to use Yummly more and more, I have become more in love with food (vegan or otherwise). And, in turn, I have become more in love with the actual process of cooking. Cooking interesting, healthy and fresh food. Sometimes new recipes, sometimes my classic staple recipes and sometimes completely random concoctions that I’ve thrown together using whatever I have!

A lot of my food I share on Instagram – much like millions of other Instagram users. Instagram is great for sharing photos, there and then, but once you’ve posted a few more images to your account, the old ones slip somewhere into the depths of your Instagram history. So, because I don’t really want to lose all of my foodie photos I created a new Pinterest ‘board’ for them instead.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Punny Pixels

Punny Pixels is an amusing and well illustrated Instagram and Tumblr featuring – yep, you guessed right – puns!

Some of my favourites:

And because it’s Valentine’s day, here are some Punny Pixel cards:

Monday, 9 February 2015


One of my friends first showed me Yummly, a recipe database website and iPhone/iPad app, last year when a group of us were at her house and we were about to commence cooking a chickpea and butternut squash tagine. I started using it a few weeks later and have since started recommending it to others myself – I told my mum to download the iPad app only yesterday!

Yummly is a great little tool, that is both visually appealing and highly functional – you don’t just search for a recipe, you can search by a specific ingredient and tailor your search to your own dietary requirements. I used Yummly a lot during my month as a vegan, changing my dietary preferences from pescatarian to vegan.

You can save your ‘yums’ to your own account and categorise them if you so wish – dinner, sides, desserts, salads, soups, whatever you want. It will also recommend you new recipes that you may want to try based on things you’ve yummed or been looking for. Recipes come from various sources all over the Internet, like BBC Good Food and the Good Food Channel, but are usefully compiled into one place with Yummly.

This is my profile with most recent yums, most of which I haven’t actually cooked yet.
And some of my ‘collections’. I’ve only just really started using this feature.

Yummly was launched in 2010 by foodies on a mission to invent the ultimate kitchen tool. Whether it’s finding a recipe or going to the store, Yummly wants to make it easier for foodies to do what they love – cook, eat, and share! Yummly’s mission is to be the world’s largest, most powerful, and most helpful food site in the world. about Yummly

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Happy Cats Café

It’s not very often that a completely random follower on Twitter actually intrigues me enough to follow back, view their website (even when the link doesn’t work at first and I have to search for it instead!) and end up ‘pledging’ money to them – all within the space of about half an hour. In fact, the money part has never happened before (I don’t go throwing money around willy-nilly! (Willy-nilly is a ridiculously weird phrase…)).

If you’re a regular user of Twitter and you actually tweet often, as I do, then you’re probably prone to picking up more than a few strange accounts as new followers each week. Most don’t stay followers for long as they probably picked up on a certain word or phrase you tweeted and are trying to promote their own business or just their own personal Twitter account. I normally at least read the bio of new followers, but very rarely do I actually follow back.

Today was an exception. Probably mostly because it involved cats.
Cats and good cause.

(I strongly believe that their logo should use an accent over the e! (I hate it when people pronounce café as kaff. It sounds like it belongs in Eastenders, which is certainly not a good thing! I’m pretty sure that this Happy Cats Café is indeed intended to be pronounced café.) But cute coffee-bearing cat here anyway.)

The Happy Cats Café is, or at least will be, a cat café in Birmingham – the first of its kind, at least in that area of the UK (there’s definitely one cat café in London, I haven’t been, but I’m not sure about anywhere else in the UK). At the minute it is running as a Kickstarter campaign and needs to reach its goal of £10,000 if it is going to become a reality. I really hope it does!

I’d heard of Kickstarter before today but didn’t really know how it works. Basically you pledge (meaning you don’t actually pay right away) whatever amount of money you can to a cause you think is worthy. And, assuming they reach their target (that being when you would pay, but only if they are successful), you are rewarded with something when the idea becomes a reality. In my case, and for the money I pledged today, I would get to be amongst the cats at the Happy Cats Café for 45 minutes with whoever I decide to bring along – plus a cuppa each, as it is a café afterall.

Now, ‘what is this cat café thing anyway?’ I hear you asking. It, like many of lifes greatest wonders, comes from Japan. Of course, the Japanese love cats! Look, here’s Maru:

A cat café is a themed café. Apart from the usual servings of a café, the charm arises from interaction with cats that walk around the café. They can be watched and played with if they wish. Cat cafés are often used by those that cannot have cats in their own homes, due to housing restrictions and living situations etc. Cats therefore provide relaxing companionship in what some people experience as a lonely urban life.

Cat cafés are very popular in Japan, with Tokyo being home to at least 39 cat cafés already*Japanese cat cafés feature strict rules to ensure cleanliness and animal welfare, in particular seeking to ensure that the cats are not disturbed by excessive and unwanted attention, such as by young children or when sleeping. Many cat cafés also seek to raise awareness of cat welfare issues, for example abandoned and stray cats and many often have cats from local animal shelters to help them lose any fear of humans and advertise them for possible adoption. Happy Cats Café on Kickstarter

* sadly, I didn’t actually visit any cat cafés when I was in Tokyo last year. I know, I know! I should have. I even saw a sign for one in Asakusa… So I’ve never been to a cat café, Japanese or otherwise.

Ally and Damian, the people behind the Happy Cats Café idea, want their cat café to have a Japanese theme in terms of the design and ethic. Which, quite frankly, sounds amazing to a Japanophile-cat-lover like me. Plus it reflects on the origin of the whole cat café idea.

Check out the Kickstarter video, below, and join me in pledging to this great cause… well, if you agree that it’s a great cause!

Saturday, 7 February 2015

[Hypothetical] Ghibli Land

I saw this in a tweet by Tofugu late on Thursday evening (I’d just finished my book, after reading for around 3 hours prior) so could be forgiven for thinking that I’d dreamed up Ghibli land. Except I hadn’t… someone else had!

This hypothetical Tokyo Ghibli Land illustration is the masterful work of Japanese illustrator Takumi. The thought and effort that has gone into making the perfect Studio Ghibli theme park is beyond impressive. I’ve been to the Studio Ghibli museum in Tokyo, Japan, which is probably about the closest real-life thing to a Ghibli theme park but it’s certainly no where near as impressive as a full-scale Ghibli Land would be – and I don’t even like theme parks!

The structure of the park is based on the circular shape of the original Disney Land: a circular park divided up into many ‘worlds’ along the side and an iconic castle in the middle. However in Takumi’s version Cinderella’s Castle has been replaced by Howl’s Moving Castle. Tomorrowland, Fantasyland and Adventureland have also been seamlessly replaced by attractions modeled after Totoro, Laputa and Naussica. And of course encircling the entire park is a Cat Bus monorail. – Spoon & Tamago

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Illusions of the Sea

Rob Gonsalves is a modern day master of optical illusion-style painting. Much like the classics Salvador Dali and Rene Magritte, who he took inspiration from at an early age, Gonsalves creates mind-bending and visually stunning images that look a little different at every glance.

A childhood of daydreaming and drawing has evolved into a career of making paintings that are primarily a celebration of imagination. Along the way I took a detour into the world of Architecture, but after an enthusiastic response to my paintings at the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition in 1990, I began painting full time. Huckleberry Fine Art, in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area took the success of my work to a new level, and began publishing limited edition reproductions of it. Three children's books have been created using my paintings: Imagine a Night, Imagine a Day and Imagine a Place. Master of Illusion is the name of the calendar series that contains my artwork, now in its sixth year. Rob Gonsalves’ Facebook page

Most of his stunning paintings have an unclear boundary between the multiple stories they tell, which forces the viewer to jump back and forth between them – like an optical illusion that changes every time you look at it. Bored Panda

Themes in his artwork include: architecture, people and the natural world. I particularly like his image of the sea, many featuring illusive sailing ships as they disappear off into the painting.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

The End of Veganuary: I made it!

January has come to an end and so has Veganuary. I made it! I was successfully a healthy and happy vegan for this month… and as I write this, I still am. If you haven’t done so already, please read – or at least skim through – my previous blog post on Veganuary, earlier this month.

So, I did a whole  (31 day) month without:
  • meat – Easiest thing in the world for me as I haven’t eaten meat in more than 14 years and don’t ever plan to again.
  • fish – Pretty easy, although I eat fish (I became a pescetarian – person who eats fish but not meat – about 4 years ago, after being a vegetarian previously) but could easily go without now and for the foreseeable future if I wanted to.
  • eggs – Pretty easy again, as I dislike eggs on their own although I like cakes and such with eggs in them!
  • cheese – Not difficult to give up for a month but long-term… I do genuinely love cheese.
  • chocolate – Slightly difficult, particularly knowing that I have a stash from Christmas waiting to be eaten. But dark chocolate is dairy-free, so I still got my choccy fix this month!
  • other dairy – Easy-peasy. I swapped cow’s milk for soya milk and normal margarine for a dairy-free sunflower spread. This is only difficult, again, when it comes to cakes and other tasty treats (like not being able to eat birthday cakes that are brought into work!). But it’s certainly possible to bake my own cakes without dairy and buy ready-made treats from specialist dairy-free/vegan places. It’s just not so convenient.
To start with, I didn’t share all of my vegan meals on Instagram/Twitter – in the previous blog post mentioned above, I only shared a few photos. But as I started to get into the swing of Veganuary, I began sharing a photo of almost every meal. Partly because it sort of made it more real that I was taking part in the global campaign, but also because I was genuinely pleased with most, if not all, of the meals I cooked up and dined on.

If nothing else, Veganuary has made me a more experimental and inventive cook – because meals don’t need meat, fish, or dairy to be tasty, healthy and visually exciting. Veganuary has actually made me excited about cooking and excited about food. I kept thinking about what I was going to cook/eat next, almost immediately after my previous tasty vegan meal! I’ve used ingredients that, although I may eat occasionally, I don’t generally tend to cook with on a daily and weekly basis – avocado, kale and butternut squash, to name a few. And I have used a variety of pulses, beans, lentils, tofu etc. – rather than just sticking some cheese on top of a meal (!) as I may have done previously – to add protein. But most importantly I have used ingredients in different ways to make colourful, nutritional and super-duper-tasty food and I haven’t felt that they lacked for anything dairy or otherwise. And I’ve felt good, really good. 

Take a look for yourself at what I’ve been eating…

Kidney bean and peanut butter ‘meatballs’ – my first ‘vegan’ meal. It was also enjoyed by my boyfriend.
Simple stir fry veggies with a peanut sauce and sunflower seeds, on white rice.
Butternut squash, carrot, chickpea and kale soup plus mini naans that had been in my freezer a little while.
Homemade hummus/houmous.
Carrot and celery sticks, plus apple and strips of seedy bread with the remaining houmous.
Borlotti bean and butternut squash chilli with bulgar wheat, topped with avocado and roasted seeds.
Decent dark chocolate is dairy-free.
Avocado pasta with spinach and tomatoes.
Salad of tofu, sweet potato, butternut squash, tomato, spinach and kale.
Butternut squash, courgette, apricot and chickpea tagine with spiced cous cous, kale and flaked almonds.
Falafel and sweet potato wedges, plus salad and homemade soya yogurt/tahini/ketchup dressing.
Which was for my boyfriend too! (and he thoroughly enjoyed.)
No-cheese, no-risotto rice risotto – white rice, kale, squash, mushrooms, peas, red onion and almonds.
Green soup – kale, broccoli and green (but they look brown) lentils.
Vegetable and lentil bake with chopped nuts and sunflower seeds. This a large dish so I made enough for several meals all in one go!
Leftovers from the vegetable and lentil bake with pasta, plus additional kale.
Apple and banana oaty crumble-type cupcakes with bonus sunflower seeds, sultanas and chopped nuts. My first and only real attempt at any kind of vegan baking – I don’t have many baking ingredients kicking around!
Burrito made from yet more lentil and vegetable bake leftovers plus vegan ‘mozzarella’, on a bed of spinach.
First vegan treat in Inspiral Lounge (vegan café), Camden – raw chocolate and avocado tart with black coffee.
Ethiopian streetfood in Camden, a combination of white rice, vegetables and two types of lentils.
Tastiest soup ever! – sweet potato, carrot, chickpea, green pepper and tomato, spiced up with chilli and cumin. Topped with roasted pumpkin seeds and some sunflower seeds too.
Spiced cous cous, vegetable and vegan ‘mozzarella’ stuffed peppers.
Vegetable pasta bake topped with vegan ‘mozzarella’ and chopped nuts.
The colourful contents of the [above] pasta bake
These little dairy-free sweet potato brownies were a gift to me from Sophie (at work)’s mum! Interesting story behind the woman whose recipe it was (follow the link to go to the recipe on her blog).
Bulgar wheat with cumin-spiced chickpeas, plus an array of veggies including red pepper, mushroom, spinach and kale. Also, roasted pumpkin seeds.
Curry/soup made from coconut milk, red lentils, butternut squash, sweet potato, carrots, cauliflower, red pepper, sweetcorn and spinach! Topped with flaked almonds, of course. I did a big batch of this – two curries and two soups (soups were more blended without chunks of anything and more watered down!)
Remember the kidney bean and peanut butter ‘meatballs’ at the top of this collection of photos? This is the leftover portion (from the freezer, obviously), mixed up with kale, mushrooms and sweetcorn. Served on spaghetti and topped with avocado.
I have no idea what to call this other than colourful and tasty! Baked sweet potato with warm salad of kale, butternut squash, chickpeas, mushrooms, cauliflower, tomatoes and avocado.
My last Veganuary breakfast and the only breakfast I bothered to photograph (as I mainly just had porridge with soya milk). Soya yogurt with a sprinkling of oats, sunflower seeds and a dollop of apricot jam. Toast, one piece with peanut butter and one piece with sliced avocado. Plus a big pot o’ black coffee.
I ended Veganuary with a treat – cheese-free pizza at Pizza Express, which was delicious! Mildly spicy tomato sauce, artichoke, mushroom, spinach, pine nuts and rocket.
And to finish: dairy-free raspberry sorbet and espresso. Lovely!

Am I going to stay a vegan? No, I’m not.

Why did I bother doing Veganuary then? Because I wanted to challenge myself. I’d never considered being vegan before, I kind of didn’t think that I actually could do it. But it did and I could and it was great (for all the reasons already mentioned above and in my previous blog post!).

So, why am I not stay vegan? Because I don’t want to and this is, of course, entirely up to me. I love cheese and I will continue to eat cheese, plus I want to eat fish when I go to Japan again – so not becoming a vegetarian either. HOWEVER, I will be eating a lot more dairy-free and fish-free meals from now on, as almost everything I cooked and ate was delicious. Meals should not be reserved for one month of the year or one diet alone. I absolutely will do Veganuary again next year. I might even pick another month this year to go vegan again!

So, could you go vegan for a month? It’s easier, tastier and healthier than you think.