Imperfectly vegan

I’ve been unwell for the last few weeks and so am behind with basically everything, including the ‘It’s new year, how was last year, what will this year bring?’ type of post I had been thinking about for a few days.

So, belatedly, here we go. This time last year my boyfriend and I decided to give Veganuary a try. We had done Dry January the year before and got on well with that, and thought it would be good to combine it with something a bit more challenging. I say more challenging because up until the end of 2016 we were ferocious carnivores. If there was meat in it, we would try it. We loved buying it and talking about cooking it, and cooking it and inviting other people to share it with us. So we expected Veganuary to be a challenge.

So how did we get on? Well, one year on, we are still vegan. Imperfectly vegan, but we have made a significant change in our lifestyles. In fact we have really enjoyed learning a whole new way of cooking and thinking about food, and we no longer buy meat, eggs, fish or dairy products at all for out home cooking. We try to eat the vegan options when we eat out, and seek out vegan restaurants when we go away.  I am not, however, very good at checking labels, and have had a few vegan fails this way. We also don’t make a fuss about insisting other people cook vegan when we visit them at home (the majority of people we visit have been amazing in doing so anyway, and I am grateful to them for that). I think we have a few new tweaks on the vegan diet this year to explore new tasty options, but I think that counts as a success.

I’m  not really a fan of new year resolutions, but there are a few things I would like to do this year which at least give me something at aim at.

  1. I have signed up to the great north swim, which happens in June, and have begun training with my sister. We trained for a swim together last year and really valued spending that time together. This year I’m aiming for a longer distance, 5km, so I have lots of training to do – and should be fitter at the end of that.
  2. Finish a rough cut of the documentary. I have been working on this for several years now and I have other projects I want to move onto. I’m beginning to get the hang of animating the sections I want to animate so really just need to put the time in now.  It’s time to try to put this to bed.
  3. Revise my play and send it out to someone who may want to make it. Or turn it into a novel. It started life as a novel so this feels like a nice option to me.
  4. Spend more time walking in the woods, less time in front of the telly.
  5. Art, art, and more art. To keep me sane.

Do you have exciting plans for the new year?

Courgette update: time and benign negligence 

The courgette keeps on growing with very little attention for me. We have had rain and sun this week and all I’ve needed to do is top up the moisture levels with a few watering cans of water now and again. We actually have six of these ladies busily gaining size and volume. If we are lucky and all of these plants go on to fruit we’ll be facing a bit of a glut later in the summer. This suits me well as my boyfriend is particularly skilled in making courgette chutney, this is something to look forwards too.

We’ve also got lucky with a few little tomato plants, which have self seeded themselves from plants we had last year. Luckily I am too lazy to do any serious weeding and so we now have four little tomato plants with very little investment in effort from my end. I have watched these little guys, day by day, sprout up first with curiosity and then with admiration as these tiny plants continue to grow and establish themselves. 

For various reasons I have been thinking a lot about patience, and about how sometimes the best thing to do is to do nothing. A little careful watching and waiting can sometimes be more effective than knee jerk active responses in taking you to where you want to be, or even to somewhere you didn’t know you wanted to be, but are very pleased to arrive. In the last few weeks patience, or benign negligence, has filled my little garden with an abundance of natures blessings. 

Like any of the art work featured on this blog? You can now buy my stuff at Threadless, or at Redbubble.

Sunday Doodle

We’ve just got back from spending the weekend in Brighton (UK). It’s one of my favourite places. I like that the city has a visible artistic community. I like the Victorian heritage visible in the architecture of the beautiful train station and the many of the features on the beachfront. This time we also took advantage of a number of the vegetarian and vegan restaurants and ate some really yummy food.

This week we’ve not been doing very well with the vegan food. I’m actually glad that we’ve slipped up as much as we have because I’ve been able to track how different I feel when I’m eating more meat and drinking more. I’ve certainly felt a lot worse this week, and have also felt a lot more anxiety this week too. Some of that was work related, but it’s a good reminder of how the mind and the body are not separate, isolated entities. After a number of delicious vegan meals out in Brighton this weekend, I feel like we’re getting back on track for healthier eating this week.

Feeding ourselves: Vegan food, art, and all the treats


It’s been quite an up and down week. I’ve been feeling quite tired and grumpy, and like I’m not really ready to go back to work tomorrow. I’m feeling better now, but was feeling pretty grim at the beginning of the week, and have been thinking about what has happened between now and then to improve things. It’s has led me to reflect a bit on the things we can do (or not do) to look after our selves when things begin to feel a bit stressful.

The main things that have been helpful have been focused around feeding the creative bits of me. To start with we went to see exhibitions of work by both Robert Rauschenberg and the William Kentridge. I found both exhibitions interesting and though provoking, but the exhibition by William Kentridge was particularly inspiring for me. This is because he used lots of film, narratives and animation in his work, which are also things that I like to play with. He has talked about using a ‘stone age’ approach to film making, and many of the pieces in the exhibition used these techniques, with beautiful effect. From a technical point of view there was little in his work that I probably couldn’t have a go at myself with enough time and effort. Seeing that kind of work on a large scale has been a trigger for me to think more widely about my own practice and where that could go.

We’ve also been out for several good length walks, one through the centre of London and one through some local woods. I tend to find my thinking is most productive when walking about, there is something about the rhythm of walking that works for me. A walk in the woods can really help me work through the kinks in an old idea, or snatch hold of and develop a new one, so this was a helpful thing to do.

Finally we’ve both been paying a lot more attention to what we put in our bodies, as we are a week into Veganuary at the magpie nest. We have had one vegan fail, but as this is time of learning for us I think it’s ok. One of the brands of gluten free bread we’ve used for some time uses egg as a binding agent and we didn’t think to check the label until we were half way through the loaf. What we have found is that we are having to think more creatively about what we cook, as a number of our ‘go-to’ meals are animal-product heavy. In putting limits on what we can cook, we are exercising our creativity in this way too, which is fun and an unexpected benefit.

Finally, we’ve also been indulging in some vegan treats. My boyfriend bought me a box of these chocolates from Booja Booja for Christmas, which are dairy free and particularly yummy. They have quite an intense chocolate flavour and I find one or two are satisfying enough so while they are on the pricy side, you can eek them out a bit. They come in a really beautiful hand painted box (see the picture above) which is particularly appealing to my arty/crafty creative side. I have been enjoying them anyway.


New Year Plans


It’s the beginning of a New Year, I hope everyone is feeling positive about making this year kinder and more inclusive than the last. I don’t tend to make New Year Resolutions as I don’t feel like they work particularly well for me. I tend to see my self as a work in progress, and in need of far more regular check-ins and course corrections. However it is a good time to take stock of what was achieved in the previous year and make some loose (and less loose) plans for what to do in the one to come. On Christmas day I wrote this post about actively practicing kindness and holding onto liberal, pro-diversity principles in the face of what feel like grim times. I feel like this is a pretty important perspective to go into the new year with.

Here in the Magpie nest we have a few other immediate plans:

Dry January – we did this last year (and did dry October too) and found that we felt much better for giving our bodies a bit of a rest from the sauce, so we are going to be doing that again this year. On both occasions we found that our wallets emerged in a better state too, so that’s a bonus.

Money – we are going to try to save up a bit of a financial cushion this year as we feel that we may want to start thinking about making some lifestyle changes of the ‘work less, live leaner’ variety pretty soon – it will be good to go into those with a bit of cash behind us as we work things out. I’ve been inspired by reading some of the posts at Frugal Health for Life in approaching this endeavour and look forwards to reading more of these.

Veganuary – We’ll be trying to go vegan for January. This morning we had our first vegan breakfast of home made baked beans and avocado on toast. It was yummy. I have to be a bit careful about eating well as I have a health condition that could lead to diabetes (I don’t want that), and my partner is gluten intolerant, so there will be some nutritional kinks to work out as we go along. I’m not sure how well we’ll manage this one, and imagine that after January we may well settle into something that looks a lot more like vegetarianism, but my partner and I are doing this together so it feels like a fun project to work on.

We’ve been watching quite a few documentaries on a range of things ranging from global warming, to animal cruelty, to many health issues, to the nutrient poor foods that have become dominant in the market, to antibiotic resistance. When you look at major contributors to all of these problems, the road seems inevitably to lead back to industrialised, factory style farming of animals. We’ve hit the point where we have a stack of reasons to give veganism a try, and only our own laziness as a reason not too. We generally cook lots of vegetarian meals from scratch anyway, so I feel we’ll get on ok with that side of things. We used to eat lots of bacon, and couldn’t imagine not having a bacon breakfast on a Saturday, but we’ve not really eaten that way for a while, and haven’t really missed it. We have been phasing out other types of meat and lots of forms of dairy for some time, but I think I may struggle with not having eggs. I really like eggs. Eggs could be a problem.

Building a creative business – I’m still exploring ideas for this. I’ve not even begun to think about starting trading yet, but I think I have some good ideas now for a set of art pieces, and may be in a position launch something later this year. Until then I’ll continue to highlight any useful resources that I stumble across on my route there.

Other creative stuff – I have a play and a film to finish, and ideas for another play, and another film (that relate to each other) to get going with. And a little animated series. Plus some art. Lots and lots of art. Oh gosh, what a list.

Mental health – I’m going to reduce my hours in the day job in April, I’m really looking forwards to having a whole day a week to myself to work on creative stuff. Let’s see how that works out.

That’s about it for a round up, but who knows what other opportunities may crop up as we go along. What New Year Plans do you have?