Vegan Abroad: Birmingham

Mr. Cooke and I have a yearly competition. It’s the battle of birthday presents. For the past five years he and I have been trying to outdo one another for the best birthday present. This year, I think Mr. Cooke might have finally won.

For my birthday this year Mr. Cooke bought me tickets to Friends Fest in Oxfordshire. I am completely obsessed with Friends, and if you want to read more about the festival and what I thought of it, you can read about it here. 

We were only staying one night in Birmingham. We stayed in a beautiful hotel called Hotel Indigo. It was very central, only a 5 minute walk from the train station, which brought you straight to the airport, and had many restaurants within a second’s walk. With stunning views and a rooftop restaurant and bar, plus free use of the pool and pool vaccinates for all guests, this hotel was perfect for a weekend getaway.

Art like this can be seen all over beautiful Birmingham

We got to Birmingham in the early morning and from Birmingham we got an hour-long train to Oxfordshire where we eventually, with the help of many incredibly friendly locals, found our way to Friends Fest. You can read my review of Friends Fest here if you so please!

Eating in Monica’s Moondance Diner at Freinds Fest, Oxfirdshire.

By this stage we were hungry and only when we were at the festival in Blenheim Palace did we remember that there might be an issue with getting food that is vegan friendly. We were lucky enough though to be able to get some chips and onion rings that were vegan friendly.

The next day we went to a wonderful cafe, which looked small on the outside but was actually quite large on the inside. All of the food and drink is completely organic and vegan friendly. This was a great find for two fresh-faced vegans because when chosing your food you pick up a plate and fill it with whatever you want. At the till your plate will be weighed and priced based on that! If you are in Birmingham and want an array of vegan food to try definitely make sure to eat at Natural Healthy Foods. Even if you’re on the go you can pop into their vegan shop and grab a snack- handy!

On the second day we had a few hours to kill before we left for our flight so we decided to go to the National Sea Life Center, Birmingham. It was a reasonable price, and although we were lucky that there was space to buy tickets on the day the website does recommend to book ahead of time. The only negative I would say is that we were offered a booklet at the beginning of the tour, and although a child would really enjoy the tasks in it, I don’t think there was any point in two adults without a child present buying it. If you are curious about the creatures beneath the sea and want a great, informative and well-organised family day out, I would really recommend attending National Sea Life Center, Birmingham.

Walks along the canals are peaceful and have a great atmosphere

Until it was time to leave Birmingham we had a lovely stroll along the canals in the city. We had a wonderful time in Birmingham and will definitely be taking a trip back there in the future! Let us know below if you’ve been there, or are you planning to go?

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Vegan Vegetable Korma

I know what you’re thinking- do I eat anything other than various types of curries?!

The answer is yes, but since becoming vegan one pot curries have become my best friend.

I am really thankful for this, because when I’m back in the classroom in a week’s time I won’t have the same amount of time to cook as I do during the summer. I feel like I am acquiring a well-stocked freezer of home-made dinners ready-to-go when work has caused longer days, and less time at home.

This vegan vegetable korma is definitely going to be added to this list. Mr. Cooke and I love an Indian takeaway as much as the next Irish civilian, and I was worried that takeaways would be few and far between on this diet.

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However, this recipe is actually better tasting than the takeaways and is more filling, and my body doesn’t feel as awful as it usually does after eating a takeaway.

The recipe we have used for this dinner can be found in this month’s issue of Vegan Living Magazine in a handy little section titled Family Favorites. This magazine has lots of useful information for anyone who is unsure of vegan products or who needs a few new recipes to add new flavors to their weekly menu.

Vegan Pear and Walnut Salad

Waldorf salad. A total classic, one that I love to indulge in whenever I’m out.

Though, when at home I find it oddly frustrating and difficult to put a well-complimented salad together. Now that I’m a vegan and ham and cheese sandwiches are no longer an option, salads are becoming the thing I can see myself eating more often.

Mr. Cooke and I went all out when we decided to go vegan, and we have searched the internet looking for good recipes, with real flavor from actual vegans. One of the websites we found was Melanie McDonald’s A Virtual Vegan.

On Melanie’s site, I was lucky enough to come across her delicious recipe for a Pear Walnut Salad with a Maple Cinnamon Dressing.

This recipe is so good that I’m already drooling thinking about my lunch tomorrow. If you’re looking for something simple, sweet and tasty for lunch I would really recommend this!

I candied walnuts today, I feel like a super cook!

On a side note, if anyone has any good tips on how to further my skills and knowledge in salad making I would be very excited to learn!

Friends Fest in Oxfordshire

Friends. The iconic TV show, one that stole the ratings and has held the hearts of fans for over 20 years after the first air date.

I was only two years old when Friends aired, yet here I am, almost 25 years of age and it is by far my favorite TV show, and is the TV show I have most resonated with over the years.

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Standing outside of Central Perk was surreal

The characters are a classic mix of loving, funny, wacky and caring. The writing is timeless and the actors were outstanding. This caused for the perfect recipe for TV gold. Thanks to Comedy Central we have Friends on a constant loop where we can indulge and binge-watch our favorite six characters in New York’s most famous coffee house.

The main stage at Friends Fest

Another fantastic Friends fandom dream Comedy Central has made a reality is the ability for fans to visit all of the important and iconic stills of the Friends world. This can be done through Friends Fest UK.

For the small price of €30 you can experience what the cast and crew of Friends lived through every day. The site explains how a group tour of Monica and Rachel’s apartment and Joey and Chandler’s appointment, as well as a tour of actual props used throughout the ten series of the show. Also outlined are Central Perk, The Moondance Diner, Phoebe’s taxi cab and the opportunity to recreate the classic beginning credits.

Recreating the famous title sequence with Mr. Cooke

I was lucky enough to have the chance to go to this festival thanks to Mr. Cooke. We had the chance to partake in all of the various activities.

Enjoying the props in the boys’ apartment

At first, we got there about three and a half hours before our tour date, we thought walking into the field that there would not be enough to keep us entertained for that length of time. However,  there was so much to do that we had enough time to do everything we wanted before we went for the tour. In a way it was better to be early as we had the chance to take everything in and when there were queues we were not stressed about pushing through each activity quickly.

Getting married in Vegas

The event was well organised and there were many Friends activities organised onstage for festival-goers to take part in or to observe and enjoy. There were also clips from the nation’s favorite Friends episodes on stage with garden chairs and loungers where you could enjoy your meal from the ‘Moondance Diner’, a sandwich from ‘My Sandwich’ or a drink from ‘The Chick and the Duck Bar.’

Monica and Rachel’s apartment

If you are a big Friends fan, like I am, this is definitely the place for you. From the gift shop that even sells Mockolate bars, all the way to the real props and the opportunity to interact with recreated sets your day is bound to be filled with a trip down memory lane with a twist.

We had a brilliant time and thank you to Comedy Central for for allowing us to be able to get this experience!

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Vegan Chickpea Curry

When Mr. Cooke and I decided to go vegan about a week ago we were worried because we love our food. We were worried that while the advantages of veganism would speak for themselves, that the flavor of the food would not.

Then I went searching for a vegan curry and this Vegan Chickpea curry was one of the top Google options that popped up.

We were instantly hooked!

We made it the first night with broccoli, and the second time we added courgettes instead. We found that the courgettes were a better addition to this particular curry. If you like your curry wetter remove from heat soon after adding the veg at the end once they are cooked.

Tip: Add poppadoms to your meal to enhance the flavor and experience of the curry!

If you want to try it yourself you can find it here from the lovely people over at Hurry the Food Up. They give great vegetarian and vegan recipes for people who don’t have a lot of time to spend cooking.

Rash Decisions?

rash decisions

I am not one to usually make rash decisions. I used to do that, but let’s face it, I’m nearly 25 now and I’m not getting any younger. I need to be more ‘adult’ about my decisions- right?

Well, I guess the decision to go vegan was half rash and half planned.

My uncle, Eamonn often jokes that once when I was young he made me a sausage sandwich and instantly I asked “Are these vegetarian sausages? Because I’m a vegetarian.” He told me they were, which they weren’t, and I have never heard the end of it.

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I’m not, nor was I ever a vegetarian. However, my God-uncle, Gerard was. It was cool to me, different. And I loved animals, at that young age it made sense.

Vegetarianism was a fleeting thought throughout my life, something I would try at some point during that ‘Experimental Stage’ of your life that everyone always talked about. Wondrously, college came and went, and with it left my apparent ‘chance’ to experiment.

You might think that it’s a rash decision to base my diet on one documentary and a past of ‘vegetarian sausages’, but I think otherwise. I have been dieting for a long time, I have been trying to find a cure for insufferable pains I have been having since I first became a woman at 12.

Pain

The What the Health documentary currently on Netflix followed several people with seemingly incurable illness caused by diet. These people were plagued with tablets and doctor’s appointments, as many of my years have been with my pains.

Seeing these people at the end after mere weeks on a vegan diet has me convinced. I’m changing my diet and I’m going to be rid of my pains! I know it.

Anyone out there for tips for a vegan newbie, I would be massively grateful!

Thanks for reading, I hope to have you here alongside of me for this journey.

Let’s get down to business

I originally set this blog up so that I could keep on track with my writing. And it really did fulfill its purpose as I did complete the first draft of my first ever novel.

‘But what happened after that?’ I hear a distant thought in your mind whisper.

Nothing. Nada. Zip.

I came out of college thinking I would take a year off to find myself and my writing ability. I panicked and now I’m nearly finished my Masters in Primary Education.

Big change, right?

Now I’m lucky that I have found an extreme passion and love within myself for teaching. I love it with all my heart and I live for the day that I have a classroom of my own.

However, the brave side of me, the rebel still wonders whether I would have a shot at publishing a piece of work or not.

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So for now, I am writing small bits, small amounts- for me.

This is something that I am really enjoying at the minute.

It will be interesting to see whether or not anything comes out of it-maybe it is purely a way of avoiding my thesis- who knows?

And who cares, really.

But let’s see whether or not this blog helps me back into that state of mind where I wrote 2,000 words every night without fail!

One can only dream!

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