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Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Kind Mama & Baby Essentials - My Guest Post on Alicia Silverstone's blog

38 weeks pregnant

For the second time, a big thank you to Alicia Silverstone for posting my guest post on her blog The Kind Life. My last guest post talked about my experience of pregnancy and Alicia's latest book The Kind Mama,  this new post is about preparing for mamahood with a list of planet and budget friendly baby essentials. Below is the post from The Kind Life, and here is the link to it. 

"In my last post here on The Kind Life I talked about how Alicia’s new book The Kind Mama helped me create my own baby essentials list, cutting out the stuff that just goes to empty our wallets and produce more waste. Several of you kind lifers said you’d be interested in me sharing the list, I am really grateful for your interest and am very happy do so!
I am pregnant with our first baby, this is a new adventure for my man and I, and I am sure it will be a learn-as-we-go process, so just to say this is very much a tentative list and we may find in hindsight we’d do it all completely differently, and that’s ok. This list is based on advice from friends and family, my own extensive research, and information from Alicia’s book The Kind Mama. Pregnancy and parenting are all about following our instincts and making choices that feel right to us – this is our list, it may not be right for anyone else, but if along the way this post inspires you to find just one or more ways in which you might like to make your parenting style more environmentally-friendly, then you’ve made my day :)
The green baby and mum essentials
Remember you can get almost all of these items second hand through friends or the internet!
For mum
-       Breastfeeding essentials: 1) a couple of maternity bras and tank tops, 2) a light cotton breastfeeding blanket for times when you might want a little privacy, 3) cloth nursing pads, 4) an electric breast pump, 5) a few BPA-free anti-colic system glass baby bottles and 6) small glass mason jars to store your milk without using plastic bags.
-       Food, food, wonderful food! : Pre-prepared healthy vegan snacks and frozen meals so you don’t need to worry about cooking in those first days after baby arrives, have some healthy snacks in your hospital bag as well. The Kind Mama has a whole section full of healthy yummy recipes to inspire you, and then of course there’s The Kind Life recipe book as well that I love!
For baby
-       Cloth diapers: This is the option we’re going for, from the research I’ve done I’m tempted to go with those that fasten with snaps and have more coverage than the ones with inserts. Alicia suggests some good eco-friendly brands in The Kind Mama. What are your suggestions kind lifer mums?
-       Burp cloths .. a lot of them: They don’t need to be purpose-marketed or even new, you can even make these yourself easily by re-using old cotton clothing items or handkerchiefs.
-       Baby clothes: The top 4 golden rules: 1) go for cotton and natural fabrics, 2) don’t get too many as you won’t need as much as you think, 3) avoid newborn sized clothes as they will often be too small from day 1 or be outgrown in no time and, last but not least, 4) second hand is best – charity shops are full of nearly new baby clothes and friends and family will be all too happy to give you their hand-me-downs!
-       Baby skin products: baby wipes are not only expensive and polluting but will often give babies skin rashes because of the nasty ingredients these contain – the same goes for other baby skin products, the fewer unpronounceable ingredients the better. Alicia has some good recommendations in The Kind Mamaon how to avoid and treat skin irritations using natural products and even breast milk! Once baby’s big enough for soap, Dr Broner’s Baby Mild Castille Soap is apparently a good green option.
-       Baby’s pharmacy kit: 1) the baby nose cleaner, I hear the aspirator one works better than the bulb syringe one, 2) a soft ended baby thermometer, 3) a pair of small round edged nail scissors, 4) homeopathic remedies
-       Getting out and about – Strollers, carriers and car seats: there are enough options out there to make anyone go insane trying to pick one! There is no single perfect answer that works for everyone’s needs so go with what feels best for you and your baby, remembering there will no doubt be a good second hand option out there for what you need. We love the idea of baby wearing, there are many carrier options out there, ideally try them out once you’re baby is born to see what works best for you and your partner. As for strollers, our main decision has been to not get overwhelmed into buying a top-of-the-range-massive-fancy-all-in-one-spaceship-like stroller, we’re not planning on taking our baby to the moon! For car seats the most important factor is safety, so if you get one second hand make absolutely sure that it’s never been in any accident before, check online that the model has not been recalled and don’t get one that’s older than about 5 years.
-       Sleeping: We aim to try co-sleeping at least for the first few months. The Kind Mama is a great source of information about co-sleeping. We’d like to simply have baby in bed with us but we move around a lot and can’t be sure to always have a safe bed for co-sleeping so we’re planning to get the mini arm’s reach co-sleeper. Another good option for frequent travellers, especially those going to places with mosquitoes as we do, is the Samsonite popup bubble, for babies up to 18 months, it weighs about 5lbs and is great value for money.
There you have it, our attempt at having a kinder, less overwhelming baby essentials list, and minimising the clutter! Hopefully I haven’t forgotten anything too important, and if I have please let me know, I would love if you fellow kind lifers, especially those of you who are already parents, would share your thoughts, input and advice on what you think of this list and your tips on how to be an eco-friendly parent!
Kate xx

Thank you Kate!! You will find your list worked out just right. We loved using snap diapers and would place the cloth inside (we never used inserts – since the whole thing will get wet anyways.) We also didn’t stick with velcro, Bear was a Houdini and could pull it off. To help keep your little one’s bum clean without filling up landfills with wipes or their skin with chemicals, use cloth such as organic cotton or repurposed t-shirts and keep a spray bottle filled with water next to the toilet. After 3 months you can mix in mild essential oils like chamomile and lavender. One of my favorite baby carriers is the Ergo organic baby carrier. Thanks again Kate! "

Thanks Alicia!

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

5 simple steps to a better day

Do you sometimes feel like your days slip by, one rolling into the next without you really living or enjoying them? I do. Sometimes it’s because I am too busy running from one thing to the next, my mind already on the following item on my to-do-list while I’m still in the middle of doing the previous one, that’s if I even get to my to-do-list in the first place. Other times it’s because I am bored, and end up searching for ways of killing time by switching off and watching TV instead of truly living in the moment. Either way, whether it’s boredom or busyness, I’m often not fully in the present, therefore not truly living my life to its full potential. I truly think that when it comes to this, I am the norm, not the exception, and that so many of us suffer from not inhabiting our lives, too preoccupied as we are with the next work project, week end plan, programme on TV, meal to cook, place to go, thing to do.. the list is endless.

Enough I say! I have decided to get back to being in the moment, and stop letting life slip away from me out of stress or boredom. Want to join me? Here are 5 very simple steps to help you on your way. They say it takes 21 days to form a habit, why not give it a try!

1. Rise and Shine.. early!
We all know the saying ‘The early bird gets the worm’ well let’s imagine that the worm in this case is symbolic of you starting your day by truly focusing on yourself, rather than just rolling out the wrong side of bed, switching on that auto-pilot mode and mindlessly going through the motions of getting ready, not appreciating breakfast as you gobble it down, not noticing the sunrise on the way to work, not enjoying the music on the radio or having fun while walking the dog. So this week, try it out, set your alarm a little earlier and follow the 4 simple steps below, adding whatever else you want, this time is completely yours to fill with whatever you enjoy, whether that’s exercising, reading the newspaper, cooking or going for a walk. But remember, the rule here is that this is your time, so stay well away from your personal admin or work to-do-list and emails!

2. Set your intentions
You’re up, well done! Now start off by sitting down with pen and paper for 5 minutes, think about how you intend to live your day and write this down – this can of course include things you want to get accomplished, but it’s more than just another to-do-list, it’s about focusing on how you intend to approach your day, relate to your self, and to others. If you set your intentions you are much more likely to have the day the way you want to have. If you like you can come back to what you wrote throughout the day, checking in to make sure you are on the right track.

3. Say your thank you’s!
Take a couple of minutes to thank someone and write this down along with your intentions. Think of someone in your life, a friend, a colleague, the guy who sells you the newspaper, anyone, that you would like to thank for the most meaningful or smallest of gestures. The purpose of this exercise is to become more aware and appreciative of those around us, for who they are as well as for what they add to our lives. At first you’ll find it easier to thank the people you love or appreciate, but after a while you can try and do the same for the people you don’t get on with so well. This is when this exercise gets really powerful, because suddenly we have to make a conscious effort to see these people as individuals, to think about the difficulties they might be facing and recognise their qualities. Challenges are always the best opportunities for learning and self-growth so if nothing else, we can thank the people we find difficult for offering us such opportunities, if we were only surrounded by people we got on well with 100% of the time, we wouldn’t have the same space to grow and improve!
4. The minute meditation
I’m not suggesting you light incense, sit in lotus position for a full hour and chant buddhist hymns, unless you want to! Just spend 5-10 minutes in a peaceful and quiet corner of your house, where you will be undisturbed. Close your eyes and just focus on your breath, when your mind wanders simply observe this without judgment and bring it back to your breath, accepting that your mind will wonder, again and again, and that’s ok. This simple exercise will help clear your mind and alleviate stress, and is also a good way for you to check in with yourself and observe how you are feeling, physically and emotionally, without trying to fix or change anything, as a lesson in observation and self-acceptance. After a while, you’ll start recognising your breath as an anchor that is always within reach, so throughout the day if you find yourself feeling stressed or overwhelmed you can simply focus on your breath for a few minutes, as a way of giving yourself a time out and space to find balance and awareness.

5. Do one thing fully
 Chose one simple thing, it can be the same thing or a different thing each day, like brushing your teeth, eating your breakfast, drinking your coffee, or walking to work, and give it your full attention. This exercise is meant to get us out of our auto-pilot mode, which stops us from truly experiencing the moment, and after all what is a life but an accumulation of moments?! So as an example, let’s say you’ve chosen to focus on drinking your coffee: sit down to drink it without doing anything else, no phones, computers, newspapers, radio, just you and your coffee. Now focus, observe your coffee – the colour and texture of it, notice how the mug feels between your hands, inhale and appreciate its aroma, then with each mouthful focus on each and every flavour and sensation. You may find this incredibly boring at first, perhaps a million other things are crowding your mind and you are thinking about what a waste of time this is, but persevere a little and the chances are you will soon appreciate this coffee a hundred times more than you usually do!  And if you find yourself surprised at how much more this technique enabled you to enjoy something as simple as a cup of coffee this morning, think about what would happen if you applied this to other things in life?

There you have it, 5 simple steps to help you be more mindful and in the moment, I find if I do these every morning very quickly I can feel their benefits throughout the whole day, I feel calmer and more grounded and I appreciate my self, others and my days much more. Try these steps out for just a few days and you will probably notice that you will start applying their principles almost unconsciously to other situations in your life, by being more mindful, more in the moment, and increasingly aware of how you am thinking, feeling and relating to others. Let me know how it goes :)

And, last but not least, remember to congratulate yourself, if you did the above steps that means you took time for yourself, to be in your present and be more mindful of your self, your surroundings, your life!

If you’re interested in reading more about mindfulness try out these two books –
‘Mindfulness: a practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world’ by Mark Williams and Danny Penman
‘The monk who sold his ferrari’ by Robin Sharma


Sunday, 22 June 2014

The 3rd Trimester Begins, and Brown Rice Pudding Recipe!

Serves 4
Preparation time: active time 10 min + 40 min cooking

Hello people, it's been a while since my last recipe post, and surprise surprise, once more it is in the breakfast/dessert category, my favorite! 

Before I go on to that though, here's a quick update on all things pregnancy - I have just started my 3rd trimester, pretty exciting! I'm still feeling great, but have definitely slowed down a notch, baby bump is getting bigger by the day it seems, I find myself rolling around like a beached whale making grunting sounds whenever I try to get off a sofa or bed, to my partner's great amusement,  and I have a little less energy now. The third trimester is when baby starts putting on fat and goes through an impressive growth spurt, so it's more important than ever to be eating well, and enough, increasing daily caloric intake by about 300 kcal. A valid excuse to eat more? Sounds good to me! Which brings us to today's recipe..

This brown rice pudding is a perfect comfort dish for breakfast, dessert or snack. Creamy, sweet and healthy, it's a great way to use up left over cooked brown rice. You can play around with this recipe anyway you want to, making it more of a decadent dessert by adding chocolate chips, or a healthy breakfast, with different dried fruits and nuts and even perhaps omitting the cocoa powder. It's up to you, any which way you go, it's bound to be delicious!

3 cups of cooked brown rice
8 oz/225gr of tofu
1 ½ cups of non-dairy milk (I used hazelnut)
½ cup maple syrup or other liquid sweetener*
½ tsp cinnamon + extra for sprinkling
½ tsp nutmeg
2 tsp vanilla essence
2 T cocoa powder
optional: chopped dates, raisins, nuts, chocolate chips (I used dates & almonds)

* For a low calorie version use a sugar free liquid sweetener, there are even maple-flavored ones out there.

Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C.

In a food blender combine the cooked rice, the tofu and the rice milk. Add the maple syrup, cocoa powder, nutmeg, vanilla and cinnamon. Lightly oil a baking dish and pour the mix into it. Sprinkle the dried fruits, nuts or chocolate chips, depending what you are using,  on top and press them down lightly with a spoon. Sprinkle with a little more cinnamon and place in the oven. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until browned on top and bubbly. Serve warm, with extra non-dairy milk or even cream if you like. 

Thursday, 5 June 2014

My guest post on Alicia Silverstone's The Kind Life blog

Fun news for Ohlalavegan today, I have a guest post on Alicia Silverstone's blog! A few days ago I was surprised to receive an email from Alicia's website community manager asking me to write a short piece on my experience of being pregnant and on my thoughts of Alicia Silverstone's new book The Kind Mama, which I mentioned in a recent post. Needless to say I was only too happy to do so, I love both Alicia's books - The Kind Diet and The Kind Mama - and her website The Kind Life and am super happy to be asked for this opportunity to contribute to it!

For those of you who don't know The Kind Life, it's a great place to find inspiration and articles about all things vegan, from recipes to animal issues to living green. Click here for the link to my piece on pregnancy and The Kind Mama. 

Thanks Alicia!


Friday, 23 May 2014

Cherry Tomato Basil Soup

Serves 4
Preparation time: 40 minutes

Today I received a beautiful veggie box, packed with half a kilo of bright red cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, zucchinis and salads. I love cherry tomatoes but half a kilo, for just 2 people? I had to find something to use up a few, and decided to try out a cherry tomato basil soup, that I could enjoy through the week hot or cold. I found inspiration in one of my fav cookbooks, The Candle CafĂ© Cookbook, changing up their Tomato Basil Bisque recipe by omitting the beet, adding courgettes and replacing tomatoes with cherry tomatoes. Success! Refreshing as a chilled soup in the midday heat of Myanmar, or warm and hearty with chunks of wholemeal bread in the evening, either way this soup will transport you to sunny Italy! The tofu adds creaminess and gives the soup a subtle flavour.

If you don’t have cherry tomatoes or would rather save them for something else then use ripe standard tomatoes instead, they’ll do just as well.


2 T olive oil
15 oz/425 gr of cherry tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 medium zucchini, sliced
1 cup of tofu, chopped
1 medium onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
2 sticks of celery, chopped
5 ¼ cups of vegetable broth
1 cup chopped fresh basil
1 t dried thyme
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
basil leaves for garnish


In a large pot, heat the olive oil and add the onion, garlic and celery, cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes or until the onions are soft. Add the zucchini and cook for another few minutes. Now add the tomatoes, broth and thyme. Bring to a boil then simmer on low heat for about 20 minutes. 

Transfer to a blender, add the tofu and basil and blend until smooth. Return to the pot, season with salt and pepper and serve hot or cold with basil leaves as garnish. Delicious with chunky wholemeal bread or home made garlic bread. 

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Good Old Days Chick'n Mac'n Cheeze

Serves: 6 people
Preparation time: 1hr 20 min

Food for the soul, this animal free and healthy version of chicken mac’n cheese takes me straight back to childhood, and rainy days spent cosily indoors. This makes a truly delicious meal, and I was so pleased with how the TVP ‘chick'n’ turned out as I hadn’t tried it before. My man and I both agreed that if people didn’t know us and came for dinner they would never have guessed this dish was vegetarian, let alone vegan, making it a great option for when you have meat-eating guests over or a bunch of hungry kids.

Photographic failure alert: While the food may have turned out scrumptious, I'm afraid the lack of natural lighting, and no doubt my own lack of photographic genius, resulted in the photos not doing this dish justice! Please take my word for it, it's much yummier than it looks on this post. Better photos next time, I promise.


3 T vegan margarine + a little extra for greasing the baking dish
450gr of elbow macaroni pasta
150 gr of large TVP granules (the bite size kind)
2 cups of prepared non-dairy cheese flavour sauce mix (see Note*)
1 t olive oil
300ml of vegetable broth (water will do fine if you don’t have any broth)
2 sticks of celery, finely sliced
1 small onion, finely sliced
½ cup of hot sauce
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2-3 T of nutritional yeast (optional)
sea salt and freshly ground pepper

*Note: I made the cheese sauce the lazy way, because that’s part of the whole idea of comfort food, with a ready-to-use non-dairy cheese sauce mix by Free & Easy, made with rice milk instead of water to make it creamier and adding a little nutritional yeast for extra cheesiness, salt and freshly ground pepper. If you’re feeling up for it then you could easily make your own by following this simple 5 ingredient recipe from Ohsheglows. 

Ready for the oven!


Soak the TVP granules in the broth or water with a teaspoon of olive oil for about 30 minutes, or until soft. Once they have soaked, squeeze them out with a cheese cloth, getting rid of as much moisture as possible. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C and lightly grease a 9-by-13 inch baking dish (I only had a small round one to hand which wasn’t ideal).

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil, add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain and leave aside.

Meanwhile, melt 3 tablespoons of non-dairy butter in a large pan over medium heat. Add the onion and celery and cook for about 5 minutes, until soft. Now stir in the prepared TVP granules and garlic and cook for a couple of minutes, then add the hot sauce and simmer for a few more minutes. Season as desired with a little salt and freshly ground pepper.

Prepare your non-dairy cheese sauce (see Note* above).

Spread out half of the macaroni pasta in the baking dish, then top with the TVP 'chick'n' mixture and remaining macaroni. Now pour the cheese sauce evenly on top. Sprinkle a tablespoon of nutritional yeast over the top and some freshly ground pepper.

Bake for 30-40 minutes until bubbly and there you have it, creamy, delicious mac’n’cheese that everyyone will enjoy. Serve with a side of greens for added healthy bonus points.

Half devoured in no time

Friday, 16 May 2014

Chocolate Fudge Pie and 5 1/2 month pregnancy update

Serves: 6-8
Preparation time: 20 minutes + 30 minutes to chill

Delicious, luxurious chocolate fudge pie that is truly - forgive the pun - easy-as-pie to make and with none of the added nasty stuff you'll find in the store bought versions. It's actually as healthy as a chocolate fudge pie can decently allow itself to be, and of course cruelty free!


The filling
12 oz / 340gr of silken tofu
2 T non-dairy milk of choice
9 oz / 250gr of non-dairy chocolate
3 T of liquid sweetener (I used maple syrup)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp vanilla extract

The pie crust
7oz / 200gr of digestive biscuits* (check they are vegan)
3 T liquid sweetener (I used maple syrup)
3 T coconut oil

* For more decadence you can replace with oreo cookies 


Preheat the oven to 200°C / 400°F. Process the biscuits until completely ground, then add the coconut oil and liquid sweetener and process until fully combined. Fold out the pie crust mix into a pie dish, pressing down to even out the surface. Cook in the oven for 5-10 minutes, or until lightly golden. Remove and let cool completely.

Melt the chocolate and blend all the filling ingredients together in a blender until smooth. Pour the filling into the pie crust and place in the fridge until chilled. The longer you leave it in the fridge the firmer the filling will be. 

Below is a photo of me, after eating the whole chocolate fudge pie all to myself. Juuust kidding, that's baby bump, now 5 and a half months on :) 

I'm happy to say that my second trimester of pregnancy is a dream, no nasty symptoms, loads of energy and the excitement of now being able to feel baby move more and more each week. Now that I have a proper bump - finally - and can feel baby kick, it seems much more real to me that I am going to be a mum soon, and that's really exciting! 

I've got a new book to add to my recommended pregnancy/parenting reading list - Alicia Silverstone's The Kind Mama, a controversial and in my view an empowering and fact-full book based on attachment parenting, trusting one's self as a parent, getting and staying healthy throughout pregnancy and beyond and being kind to the planet. 

More pregnancy updates and recipes to come soon. In the meantime, enjoy that pie!