Thursday, 26 March 2015

Etsy Finds: March

I thought I'd make this a monthly thing. Here are my favourite etsy finds for March, apparently I've gone for a cat theme this month.

So cute, so sparkly! I need these.

Also comes as a brooch, I need both.

If I buy this I'll have luck wherever I go, right?

A combination of my favourite things: cats, origami, and necklaces.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Bitch Planet: Stay Non-Compliant

When I first noticed Bitch Planet in my local comic shop I wasn't sure what to make of it. Knowing nothing about it beforehand, I knew it would go one of two ways. Either it was just going to be another sexist comic full of scantily clad women tearing each other apart, or it was going to be something special. I decided to try it out, and boy am I glad I did.

After reading the first issue, I fell in love. Bitch Planet is a prison planet, where women who are deemed to be 'non-compliant' are sent as punishment. Non-compliant with what, you ask? Well, with the fathers' ideals of how women should look and act. In the first issue we have Marian Collins, whose husband paid a fee to have her sent to Bitch Planet after she (understandably) made some threats when she found out he was having an affair.

The scariest thing is that while reading, you notice that this fictional world isn't all that far from the real world. If you look at politics, especially in America, it is constantly men that are making decisions on how women should lead their lives. They decide if we have the right to abortion, birth control. Don't even get me started on how victims of rape and domestic abuse are treated. It really isn't all that far from 'The Fathers' who run this fictional world in Bitch Planet. It may be exaggerated, but the underlying themes are still there and I love that this comic is bringing people's attention to them.

My favourite part of this comic, though, is that each issue has a feminist essay at the back. So far each one has been fascinating, informative and a joy to read. When I went back to the comic shop to buy issue #2 after thoroughly enjoying issue #1, the guy that served me told me that the essays were his favourite part too, so I was pleased to know that the comic is reaching out to men as well as women and hopefully opening their eyes to some issues they may not have ever noticed.

Every third issue gives us the origin story of one of the characters. Issue #3, the first of these origin stories, is about Penny Rolle. We see Penny growing up, she gets taken away from her loving Grandmother and put into care. She's attacked for her natural hair, told it's too unruly. Later when she's running her own café, she's attacked for her weight and skin colour. She snaps, trashes the place and ends up on trial in front of the Fathers who claim they want to help her become her ideal version of herself, as if this is the cause of her rage. My favourite moment in this issue is when they hook her up to a machine that's supposed to show them her ideal version of herself, only to discover she already is. Their reaction reminds me of a Mindy Kaling quote:

"I always get asked, 'Where do you get your confidence?' I think people are well meaning, but it's pretty insulting. Because what it means to me is, 'You, Mindy Kaling, have all the trappings of a very marginalised person. You're not skinny, you're not white, you're a woman. Why on earth would you feel like you're worth anything?'"

They simply cannot comprehend how she could love herself exactly as she is, so she gets sent to Bitch Planet. Out of their way.

One final thing I like about this comic is the back page. It's full of amazing vintage style adverts, some of which are real things and can be purchased if you live in the US. Some of them are fake, like the diet parasite, which carries a wonderful disclaimer that if anyone actually tries to buy it, the money will be donated to the Girls Leadership Institute "in the hope that tomorrow's generation fares better".

Basically, I'm overjoyed not only that this comic exists, but that it's so popular. People are already getting 'non-compliant' tattoos, if you search the #bitchplanet hashtag on twitter you will find an outpouring of tremendous praise and adoration for the comic. If you're not already reading this, I hope you want to now. I'd love to hear other people's opinions on Bitch Planet, and if anyone has recommendations for anything similar I would love to hear them.

Stay non-compliant, ladies.

Bryony :)

Thursday, 19 March 2015

That time I was ill so I read all of The Walking Dead in 5 days...

I mentioned briefly at the end of my last post that I've not been well recently. That kind of feels like an understatement. I had a virus, a pretty nasty one, that involved a fever with pretty high temperatures and a cough, headache, the usual 'not feeling so good' stuff. I thought I was on the mend but the fever and the cough got worse, eventually after a week of this I went to the doctor and discovered that the virus had left my immune system weak and as a result I'd got a chest infection too. I was prescribed antibiotics, the fever broke the next day and I started to get better.

During that first week I felt so ill that all I could do for any kind of entertainment while I was stuck in bed was watch TV. I watched a lot of Gilmore Girls. It was ideal because I didn't have to pay that much attention to it, as concentrating was pretty difficult for me during that week. Once the fever broke my head felt a lot clearer so I was pretty happy when I realised I could now also read things whilst bed bound.

I can't remember why, but I decided that now would be the perfect time to get stuck in to The Walking Dead. I guess I thought I might find it easier to read comics than a book, I don't recall. Plus I'd been meaning to read TWD for a long time, I'd just been put off by the fact that there were over 100 issues to get through, 138 so far to be exact. It's a little daunting.

One of my housemates had the first 18 issues in Volume form, or whatever you'd call it. I stole those off him and began reading. I got through those pretty quickly and I was already realising just how much darker and better the comics are than the TV show, so when James came home from work I practically jumped on him asking him where the rest of the comics were (James has been collecting TWD since almost the beginning, so he has all of it in comic form). James had leant them to a friend a while back but very kindly managed to get them back for me that night. Thus begun my epic journey.

Due to the fact I was still pretty wiped out from the chest infection and virus, although I felt fine when sat down, I got tired out really quickly if I tried to do anything more strenuous than showering. Even having a shower left me needing a little sit down after. This meant that I really couldn't do much else except read a lot, so that's exactly what I did. Let me tell you, TWD put me through a lot. James got a lot of texts from me asking "WHAT THE HELL?!" and declaring "They're not gonna die, right? No no no no no!"

One of the upsides to reading the individual comics is that you get to read the letter page at the end. I didn't bother to read all of them, but it was always pretty funny after a character died to flick through them. A lot of people would write in saying "I can't believe you killed off X, I'm never buying this comic again, you've gone too far this time!!!" and Kirkman would usually respond with something along the lines of "Yeah, yeah, see ya next month". I guess I should thank George R. R. Martin for killing off so many of my favourite characters that I'm now always mentally prepared for anyone to die at any moment.

Another upside to reading the comics over watching the TV series is that everyone is so much more badass. Seriously. I realise that with a TV show comes limitations in what they can broadcast, and what they can do in regards to make-up etc. but compared to the comics it almost seems tame. One thing I don't understand is why the TV show has ruined a lot of really great female characters. TWD is littered with them, Andrea for example is actually still alive in the comic, and she's amazing. I love her. Carl is also a total fucking badass. And - spoiler alert - Rick loses an arm, and he's still running the show like a total badass. It's great.

Anyway, I can't say much more without really spoiling it for anyone who is still wanting to read the comics. But I will say that if it's something you're thinking of doing, then seriously, read them. Like now. It's amazing, it's dark, it's brilliant. I read it all in five days and now I have to wait for it to come out monthly like a chump. It was possibly the best thing to come out of me being sick for two weeks.

Bryony :)

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

30 Days of Yoga

Last August I wrote that I'd taken up yoga and was hoping to become a yoga goddess. This was fairly short lived, and after about a week or so I fell out of the routine I'd started. I tried again in October, but again it didn't really stick. I think this was partially due to the fact that I spent a lot of time staying at my boyfriend's house but had none of my stuff there, and not enough space to really be able to stick to a routine.

When we moved in together in January one of the first things I wanted to do was start doing yoga again. I now had the space, and seeing as I wasn't constantly running between two places I definitely had the time. Having enjoyed Yoga With Adriene's Complete Beginner's video when I first dipped my toe into the joy that is yoga practice I headed over to her YouTube channel only to discover that she had recently posted a series of videos called 30 Days of Yoga.

Adriene's 30 Days of Yoga were perfect for me because it felt like a challenge, something I could tick off every day and feel good about. I've also read that it only takes 30 days for something to become a habit, and having successfully turned vegan after trying it for 30 days, I liked the idea that completing these 30 videos would mean that doing yoga every day was a habit for me. I also liked that it was something different every day so I wouldn't get bored. It may not be ideal for everyone, but it certainly worked for me.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself throughout those thirty days. It wasn't long before I started to continue my practice after the video was over, I looked up poses I wanted to try and often found myself practising for an hour or more. It became second nature to plan my day around when I could fit in some yoga. I even carried on doing the videos whilst James and I were in Prague. But the best part was that once I finished the thirty days, I felt confident enough to 'rock up to the mat' (as Adriene would say) and just do whatever I felt like doing without a video to guide me.

I was also really surprised by how quickly I improved. Don't get me wrong, some areas of my body are definitely tighter than others and are probably going to take months or even years to progress to where I'd like to be. But my overall strength has improved rapidly and some areas of my body are more willing to open up than other parts, it seems. I thought I'd show two of the improvements I'm most proud of.

Even in the second shot, you can see I still need to work on opening my hips more as well as my chest. But I'm still so proud of the progress between the first and second photo, and the day before the first photo was taken I couldn't even get my foot into the crook of my elbow. But I really enjoy working on this pose, and although it could be a long time until my hips fully open I still love seeing the tiny improvements every few days.

I was so happy with myself the first time I got into crow pose and actually held it (for all of about 3 seconds). Imagine my happiness when, about a week and a half later, I realised I was getting so much better at it. When I look at these photos I feel so strong and empowered. That's exactly why I love yoga.

Something I've really struggled with is my upper back/shoulders. They're very tight. I really want to start doing back bends, but at the moment I just don't have the strength or flexibility in my upper back and arms. However I'm still really proud of the progress I've made in this area, the photo above was the first time I've been able to actually get my hands on the floor in this pose, until then my weight was all on my head which isn't good. It's just something I'll have to keep working on.

I've recommended Adriene's videos to a lot of people since I started, I know a lot of people like the idea of getting into yoga but it's difficult to know where to begin and Adriene's videos are easy enough that a complete beginner can do them but she also creates opportunities for more experienced people to get more from them too.

I've actually not been able to do any yoga for just over a week now as I fell ill with a nasty virus which lead to a chest infection but now that I'm starting to feel human again I plan on starting the 30 days of yoga again to get myself back into the swing of things. I'm sure I won't be able to help myself from sharing my progress as I go, and if you want to see more regular updates, I often put yoga related photos up on my instagram, which is linked at the top.

Bryony :)

Friday, 6 March 2015

Anniversary Trip to Prague

Sometime last year James and I discussed wanting to go on holiday together, I can't remember how it came about but we eventually decided to go away for our anniversary. After looking into Prague and realising how cheap it would be, we booked our flights and hotel and before we knew it February had rolled around and we were making our way to Prague!

Prague is somewhere I've wanted to visit for a good few years now, so I was really excited to have the chance to go (this may have also had something to do with the fact that I hadn't been abroad for seven years too). I'd been warned by a few people that the Czech Republic isn't a very vegetarian friendly country, so I decided to do some research into restaurants that served veggie/vegan meals before we went, and I am so glad I did because I would've struggled otherwise.

When we arrived on our first day we were absolutely knackered. We'd been up all night (we caught a bus at 1AM to take us to the airport, got there at 4AM, had to wait until 7AM for our flight and then arrived in Prague at 10AM). Luckily when we got to our hotel they said our room was already clean and we could check in early, I can't even describe the joy I felt at this moment. We went to our room and promptly fell asleep until 2PM.

Having wasted most of our first day (and still feeling pretty groggy) we decided to go for a wander. We walked all along the river as far as Charles Bridge, then headed into the town to look at all the shops. At first I was amazed by all these wonderful little knick knacks until I realised that all of the shops sell pretty much the same things, so I didn't end up coming back with much in the way of souvenirs.

We were pretty hungry by this point so we headed to a little vegetarian restaurant close to our hotel called Estrella. It was a beautiful little place and the food was absolutely delicious. I had a tofu thai curry with rice noodles and James had a beetroot tofu burger which tasted amazing. We headed back to our hotel for another nap before heading out for dinner.

This is where we hit our first hitch, I hadn't checked the opening hours for the restaurant we planned to visit for dinner that night so it ended up being shut when we got there. We then went in search of another place nearby but couldn't find it, and so, to my shame, we ended up at the Hard Rock Cafe. It was incredibly expensive for what it was and was definitely the worst meal we had throughout our whole trip. However it was located in Old Town Square which meant I got to see the beautiful astronomical clock at night time.

We returned to our hotel and slept for 11 hours! We finally got up around 1PM and headed to the cafe next to Charles Bridge for a spot of late breakfast/early lunch as we were starving. I absolutely loved this place as it had a beautiful view of the bridge and even had blankets on all the outside chairs so you could enjoy the beautiful scenery and still stay warm. The food was decent (I had a nice vegetable soup) and very cheap, but it's the view that makes it worth a visit.

We walked across Charles Bridge, there are some truly amazing statues on there and I loved that some parts of them are polished from people rubbing them. I can imagine it'd be lovely to come here very early in the morning when there's hardly anyone around and just take it all in, as the sheer volume of people on the bridge made it difficult to really appreciate it.

We took a small detour to find the Love Lock Bridge. James had bought a padlock before we left and we wrote our initials on it and the date and locked it to this beautiful bridge before throwing the key into the water. It was such a lovely way to mark our anniversary, I know this has become quite a trend in European cities so if it's possible we might have to do this at a different city every year.

Afterwards we decided to head towards the Castle, and popped into St. Nicolas Cathedral along the way. I was absolutely amazed by the building, it was stunning and just enormous. I felt like a tiny little ant. Every inch was covered in beautiful murals or statues. It was a struggle to capture just how awe-inspiring this building was.

From here was a lot of uphill walking to the Castle. We passed a gingerbread shop that I had to go in, as it had all these wonderfully decorated gingerbread biscuits in the window. I ended up buying some as gifts for my mum and dad. Then it was straight to the Castle, where there were some amazing views and more excellent gothic architecture.

On our way back I really wanted to visit a restaurant called LoVeg, which serves vegan versions of traditional Czech meals like dumplings, as well as raw food and other delicious meals. I loved this place, I had raw courgette spaghetti with tomato and cashew pesto and James tried the traditional dumplings with vegan 'meat' and a vegetable sauce. I'd really recommend visiting this place just so you can enjoy some traditional Czech food.

I suspect this post is mainly going to end up being all about the delicious food we ate, as after this meal we were quite tired so we went back to our hotel for a little while before heading our for our anniversary dinner (yeah we kinda ended up having two lunches that day). I had read that a restaurant called Lehká Hlava (Clear Head) had a romantic atmosphere so decided that it'd be a good choice for our anniversary dinner, and boy was I right!

The ceiling had stars on it! It was such a beautiful place, and the food was amazing. James was extremely happy as they had kimchi, which he hasn't eaten since he went to Korea years ago, and I had delicious grilled tofu and vegetable kebabs with rice and BBQ sauce. They had plenty of vegan options, and you could ask for a lot of a veggie meals to be made vegan instead. I'd recommend making a reservation if you're planning on eating here though as I think we were quite lucky to get a table.

A colleague had told me about a comic book themed bar, naturally I had to look it up because we could hardly go to Prague without visiting a freaking comic book themed bar! We got there and James was definitely in his happy place, the drinks were pretty cheap (I got mulled wine for about £1.50) and they were playing some great music. The decor was pretty awesome, too, it's all from Barbarella.

James bought a few badges from them, and it turned out they also have a comic book museum but sadly it was closed on Mondays and Tuesdays so we weren't able to go. If I ever go back to Prague, the museum is definitely on my list of things to do.

Monday was our last full day so we tried to make the most of it. We went to Old Town Square first and climbed the clock tower. I loved reading about the astronomical clock on the way up, however when we got to the top I definitely struggled with the height! The views were stunning but I don't think I fully appreciated them until I was back on solid ground!

 Afterwards we went in search of a little Alchemy Museum I'd read about, but couldn't find it. We wandered around for ages (only for me to discover later on that we had been right outside it all along but somehow not seen it). We then went in search of a little raw vegan cafe I'd heard about called MyRaw. The waiter was so lovely and friendly, they didn't have any English menus but he was kind enough to translate everything for us.

I ended up choosing their raw exotic fruit pancakes, which had banana, pineapple, dessicated coconut and a berry coulis drizzled over it. I doubt I even need to tell you how delicious that was. James went for their avocado 'scrambled egg'. It totally blew our minds, it tasted exactly like scrambled eggs! I was pretty full after my pancakes but I couldn't resist trying one of their choca mocha slices (and I'm glad I didn't). I wish we had raw vegan cafes like this in Norwich because I would be throwing my money at them!

Nearby was a mall where I knew there was a comic book shop that James might enjoy, so we popped in for a look about before making our way to a street market which left me a little unimpressed. Most places sold the same kind of things, including these very creepy marionettes that James kept joking about buying. You only really needed to look at the first four stalls to have seen everything, then it felt like the same stalls were on a loop.

For dinner we decided to visit a chain restaurant called Loving Hut, I got the impression when we arrived that they were about to close up early and they weren't too happy about us being there. They turned the lights off while we were dining. The food was ok, but nothing amazing. I think partly that's down to the fact I'm just not a huge fan of asian food, as much as I think I am. But it wasn't a bad restaurant, and it was really cheap so I can't really complain. I also liked their cute sign.

Tuesday was our last day, we checked out, left our luggage at the hotel and went for a wander. I really wanted to try one last raw vegan cafe called Rawcha I'd heard about so we went in search of it. It was a bit of a strange experience, I felt like we were somehow bothering the waiter. The food was really nice and I wanted to try one of their desserts but felt so uncomfortable that I didn't. Perhaps it was us getting something culturally wrong, I'm not sure. I'd recommend the place for the food but the service wasn't great. Also they had a parrot, so swings and roundabouts.

After a little more aimless wandering we were on our way home again. I'm really happy with everything we managed to fit in, and I think four days was the perfect amount of time to stay. We did miss a couple of things, but moreso due to us not being able to find them/getting the timing wrong than a lack of time. I also found that although the veggie/vegan restaurants were understandably a little more pricey than most other restaurants, they were still extremely cheap by English standards. I think on average a meal for two of us, including drinks (and usually a dessert for me) came to around £15, which isn't bad at all.

I'd love to hear about other people's experiences in Prague, and if you're wondering whether I would recommend going the answer is YES. Definitely. It's beautiful.

Bryony :)

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Etsy Finds: February

I love etsy. Possibly a little too much. But I think it's important to support independent businesses and you can find some wonderfully unique items on there, so I don't feel too guilty about it. Here are my three favourite finds this month:

Recently I've become more and more interested in the moon. My favourite stone is moonstone (it's also one of my birthstones) and I've always been fascinated how it changes with the moon cycle, in turn this has turned into an appreciation of the moon cycle itself. This is why I need this banner in my life, it's perfect.

I got it into my head that I wanted a 'cat sat on the moon' necklace. Naturally I started searching etsy for something unusual. I found loads of necklaces I liked, and then I found this and fell head over heels. It's just beautiful, I love how the stone makes it look like the cat's sat looking out into a deep indigo sky.

As you can tell, there's a bit of a 'space' theme emerging here. As well as my growing interest in the moon, I've also become more and more intrigued by stars and constellations. Then I came across these leggings, how amazing are they? They're fleece lined, so they'd be perfect to wear on a night sat watching the stars, and seeing as they glow in the dark you'd even be able to check them for reference!

Bryony :)

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Life as a Vegan

"But what do you eat?"
"Don't you miss cheese?"
"Aren't you worried about getting enough protein?"
"But cows need to be milked!"

If you're vegan you've probably heard these questions countless times. Sometimes they're from well-meaning friends and family who're simply trying to understand your choices (or, even better, are considering following in your footsteps) and sometimes they're from people who seem to be overly bothered by what you choose to eat (or not eat) and want to enter into some kind of debate with you.

I'm always happy to talk with the first type of person. I'm not out to 'preach' to anyone, but if someone wants to ask me some questions I will happily answer them and if it makes them think a little about what they eat that's great, if it doesn't, that's fine too. Now, to answer those questions.

"But what do you eat?"
My simple answer to this is "Vegetables!" but that's not completely true. I'd like to only eat vegetables but I haven't mastered that much willpower yet, sadly. In reality, I eat quite a variety of things. My go-to dinners include Thai Red Chickpea Curry, Five Bean Chilli, Vegetable Fajitas and Vegan Sausage and Mash. These are all things I ate before I went vegan, some are just slightly tweaked.

When out and about there's a surprising amount of food to be found if you know where to look. I am lucky enough to live just around the corner from a fantastic place called Moorish Falafel which sells (you guessed it) amazing falafels, you can have them in a pita, burger bun or just as a salad box. It's one of my favourite places for lunch because it's cheap and easy.

I've also found M&S to be a bit of a godsend. They have three really delicious vegan soups, they're usually on offer for buy one get one half price which is really handy. They also sell a number of small vegan salad boxes, they're quite unusual and really healthy. They're also usually on offer and they're great to grab if you're in a rush.

Something else that I've found useful is Accidentally Vegan, which lists commercial food that just happens to be vegan. There were quite a few things on there that I would never have imagined were vegan. I almost wish I hadn't heard about the site as it's expanding the amount of easily accessible junk food I can eat!

Don't you miss cheese?
Honestly? No. And let me tell you, my main reason for not going vegan earlier was cheese. I'm still unsure how or why I don't miss cheese, I genuinely thought I'd be found crying in the cheese aisle of my local Tesco after about a week of being vegan but instead I just kind of... forgot about cheese. There are so many other delicious meals I can eat that if I ever find myself wanting cheese, I just eat something else. I haven't even tried vegan cheese, that's how much I don't miss it.

Aren't you worried about not getting enough protein?
Of course I am, but here's the thing. I am much more aware of what I'm putting into my body now. I make sure I eat plenty of protein rich foods like chickpeas, lentils, beans. Even rice has protein in it, it's really not that hard to come by if you try. Before, I never thought about protein. I just ate whatever I fancied (usually cake) and that was it. Now, I'm really aware of making sure I eat food that is going to keep me healthy, instead of whatever I fancy. I'd say I probably get more protein now than I did before I went vegan, and not only that but my protein is most likely from a much cleaner source of food than before. I used to just grab any kind of meat, who even knows how processed it was, what hormones were in it?

But cows need to be milked!
This one always makes me roll my eyes. Yes, they do need to be milked. Yes, it would become painful for them if they weren't. However, they only need to be milked because they have given birth, and they have only given birth because they have been artificially inseminated with a calf who would have been taken away from them immediately (and possibly killed) because the calf would be using up milk that can otherwise be sold. Cows spend most of their time being milked and constantly contract infections from it. So yes, they do need to be milked, but only because of what we have done to them. 

Personally, I don't feel that it's wrong to eat meat or to consume dairy or eggs. But only if those animals are treated well whilst they are alive, or providing us with these products. I feel like it's incredibly selfish and arrogant to not care about the conditions so many animals are kept in just so we can eat meat/dairy etc. every day. I'm surprised at how long I kept my head in the sand in regards to these industries and what I was putting into my body, I feel so much healthier since going vegan, my next step is to try and eat more raw.

However I also know that I'm very lucky in that I live somewhere where vegan food is relatively easy to come by, I have friends and family who are willing to cook vegan food for me, and I work with two other vegans, so I have quite a lot of support. Without all of that I'm sure I'd struggle. Something I always say to people who say they're interested in being vegan but they're not sure if they'd be able to do it is that you don't have to be 100% vegan. Some people are very militant about it, but I think it's important to find a good balance. There's no point in being vegan if you're sacrificing your own happiness. So if you can't be completely vegan, be partially vegan! Make swaps where you can, cut down where you can, and don't beat yourself up about the rest.

Bryony :)