Tag Archives: 40Before40

One month down…

13 May

It has already been one month since I started my vegan challenge. The past four weeks have flown by (while I have mainly been in the kitchen preparing things to eat) As I predicted last week, I have now hit a plateau with my enthusiasm of trying new recipes. So, this week I haven’t many any new or exciting things to eat. Here is what my week was like…

Eating Out

I didn’t eat out at all this week because our day to go for a team lunch fell on a bank holiday. I was quite glad of this because we have already exhausted a hefty chunk of the restaurants that are within walking distance of the office.

Supermarket-bought sandwiches

I found myself getting really annoyed this week when the choice of sandwiches in the local supermarket was virtually zero at 12.10pm. I am pretty convinced that the meat-eating population are taking a few vegan sandwiches on the sly and leaving very little choice for vegans. Luckily, I spotted right at the back of the chiller a falafel burger, which I took with me to the park to eat. I like falafel. I like burgers. But I wasn’t convinced it was relatively dry, despite the huge serving of beetroot on the top of it, and took quite a bit of chewing. The weather outside in a little garden that I discovered last week made it palatable.

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BBQ

Our BBQ game is still going strong and I think it will stay that way until the weather decides to change. Along with the usual suspects this week we have also grilled sweet potato. My boyfriend surprised me on Friday when I came home to homemade vegan spring rolls. He did confess that he hadn’t made these but that they were gifted to us by a friend of the family who owns and runs a Thai food stand. We didn’t cook the spring rolls on the grill but ate them outside with grilled vegetables and salad as the sun was setting.

Family celebration

My boyfriend’s dad had a birthday this weekend so the whole family went round for a dinner on Saturday afternoon. I was worried about how I was going to manage with the food aspect and offered to bring my own food with me. Apart from missing out on having a slice of birthday cake, I didn’t feel I was missing out at all. I actually felt really full by the end of the evening.

Weight loss

I had the feeling that I have lost a bit of weight. My boyfriend bought some scales because we didn’t have any. It turns out that I have lost more than a bit of weight – more than 5 kilos or 11 pounds (if you are imperially inclined). It was a bit of a shock, especially as I haven’t feel hungry or as though I have been denying myself for the last four week. And I have been out of action in a sporty sense because of a knee injury. So all of that weight loss has purely come from eating better. I have been trying for at least the last couple of years to lose some weight and it looks like I have managed it without even realising.

Just two more months to go!

Staying strong

28 Apr

Two weeks into my vegan challenge and I am still going strong. This week has been a bit more difficult because we had a team dinner on Thursday but I managed to enjoy the evening and some food without too much hassle.

I have to say that I generally am feeling pretty good. I am sleeping better but I am not sure if this is because of the diet or just because I am more tired this week and I have slept better. But I have heard that sleeping better is one of the positive side effects of a vegan diet. I don’t think that I have lost weight (which is another health benefit, if you need to lose a few pounds) but we don’t have a pair of scales at home so I can’t be sure.

Anyway, here are some of the highs and lows from this week.

Soups

Soups are one of my favourite things to eat and it is easy to make a homemade vegan soup at home. Last Sunday it felt like I spent most of the day making soup. I made a Gazpacho soup, a Spanish soup that is served cold. Apparently this is one of my boyfriend’s favourites –  who knew? Luckily it got the seal of approval from him but it was fairly time consuming to make. I’m not sure that I would make it again unless I found a simpler recipe. I also made a carrot, ginger and coriander soup using carrots from our garden, which I put in the freeze for a week in the future, and a broccoli soup to eat during the week after work so that I don’t have to spend a lot of time preparing something. I must say that the broccoli soup was delicious. An absolute favourite of mine is Stilton and Broccoli soup which is off-limits but I didn’t miss the cheese at all.

Packed lunches

Taking packed lunches into work has been a life saver because there isn’t a huge variety of vegan-friendly sandwiches and salad available in supermarkets. So long as you plan in advance, a homemade pack lunch is perfect. I made an Italian bread salad to have twice this week at work. It was really easy to make and I even made the croutons for the “bread” art of the salad. It didn’t take any time at all to make and, because the weather has been so warm, I sat outside in the park and enjoyed my lunch there.

Although the choice for sandwiches isn’t huge, I have discovered that there is a vegan range in Coop (one of the supermarkets in Switzerland) which has some really nice vegan wraps. As I ran out of time to make all my packed lunches this week, I tried the hummus wrap and was really impressed by it.

Recipes

The soups and the Italian bread salad have all come from my vegan cookbook which has not only given me some great recipes but also ideas about how I can make substitutions in my own cooking. Some of the recipes are a bit complicated and they require quite a few ingredients but I am slowly building up a good range of ingredients to draw upon in our cupboards. Again with the recipes, as with everything else, you need the time to plan and to make the dishes. I have already realised that I need to find a lot more alternatives or I will find that the diet becomes very boring very quickly.

The first BBQ

Although we can’t grill meat on the grill, we can grill vegetables! We had our first BBQ of 2018 last weekend and we didn’t go hungry. I made a spicy salsa, a guacemole, salad and a huge variety of vegetables. It was delicious! I was keen to try making a lentil burger to go on the grill but Markus wasn’t so keen. It remains on my to-do list and we will definitely be trying it one day soon.

Team event

On Thursday we had a team event at a very nice restaurant in Zürich. Not many of the team know that I have taken up a vegan diet and I’m not sure what they will think when I say that I am doing in voluntarily. There are lots of vegan restaurants in Zürich but this wasn’t one of them. It turned out the only thing I could have was a salad which grilled vegetables. I checked that the house dressing wasn’t made with milk, cream or honey. It was cruel to watch everyone else tucking into a medium rare steak or fish but I genuinely enjoyed what I ordered. I cringed when someone mentioned having a dessert but then I saw that they had a mango sorbet on the menu and it made me smile. The choice available to me was limited but I still enjoyed the evening.

My first week as a Vegan

22 Apr

Despite what most people have been telling me surviving the first week wasn’t so difficult and I am feeling surprisingly good. I was anticipating feeling lethargic and having headaches but so far the side effects that I have felt haven’t been that bad at all.

I was initially thinking that I would blog everything that I have eaten this week to prove that I haven’t been starving myself but I thought that might be a bit boring. Instead I will be blogging about what I have found easy or difficult this week.

So, here is my run down of how my week was:

Breakfast

Since I came back from South America, I have been mainly having fruit/veggie smoothies any way so breakfasts haven’t been a huge change for me. I also had porridge one day made with rice milk – I can’t face porridge made with water – and added some raspberries on top because I normally have a drizzle of honey over the top.

Planning

As it was a bank holiday on Monday, I used the time to set myself up for the week and plan exactly what I would eat. As my boyfriend was away on military service, I knew that the days when I was back home late after German class that I didn’t want to start cooking late and it would be better to have something already prepared. I made some roasted red pepper soup with chili so that this could be warmed up when I got back. I also made some vegan quiches, which were easy to make and very tasty. I met my friend, Mark, for lunch on Tuesday and he sampled them as well, so I have an independent witness.

Eating Out

My new team at work is a bit more sociable than at my previous job and we go for a team lunch every Friday. I was quick to get a suggestion in so that I knew that I would be able to eat something. As the item that I chose wasn’t labelled as vegan, I asked if there were any sauces or dressings on the salad and the waiter was happy to tell me that there was no diary products (cream, milk, yogurt) in it.

Freebies

One of the things I like about commuting in the spring and summer is that there are always freebies handed out at the main train station. This week there were two freebies – neither of which I could actually try. I brought them home with me as gifts for my boyfriend when he came back for the weekend. One of them was Rivella. A pop drink which is made from a milk by-product. I knew that this was off-limited and, for me, it is almost as bad as not being able to eat cheese! The second was an Espresso shot. It was a good job that I check the ingredients before because there was actually milk added. I’m not Italian but even I know that you don’t put milk into Espresso. So no freebies for me this week.

Other People

Other people irritate me most of the time but this week, especially at the beginning, have really irritated me. It seems like everywhere I looked there was someone eating a bratwurst, a McDonald’s or a milkshake. All of which are completely off-limits and have made me obsess a bit over food and the things that I am denying myself. The thing that really took the biscuit (which I also can’t eat!) was when I found out that Friday in the office is bacon butty day. The place where they get them from also has black pudding as well as egg, bacon and sausages. The smell was intense and lingered for most of the morning. But I stayed strong and resisted temptation.

There you have it. One week down and many more to go! #40Before40

#40Before40: Challenge #14

18 Apr

By the time you are reading this, I will have hopefully survived three days on a vegan diet with about another 87 days to go. As a quick recap, I decided that this would be a good challenge for me to undertake because I have previously tried a vegetarian diet for three months and I didn’t find it too difficult. It seemed logical that a vegan diet would be the next challenge.

Also, I read a lot of information saying that a vegan diet is very beneficial not just for animals and the environment, but also for anyone who follows a vegan diet. I’ve been quite surprised by the number of international athletes who are vegan and the number of athletes who are becoming vegan and reporting big gains. Of course, there are lots of Hollywood actors who are also vegan but they try out some weird stuff, so they haven’t  been a source of inspiration.

In essence, the challenge is to eat a vegan diet for three months. A vegan diet means not consuming animal products: no meat, eggs, milk, honey or anything else that was produced by an animal. I have had a long hard think about whether it is cheating to eat product that says, for example, “May contain milk” because it was made in factory that produces milk and this could mean that cross contamination has occurred. As I am not 100% motivated to ban animal products from my diet because of the traditional reasons that vegans do, I don’t class this as cheating. However, wherever possible I will avoid eating the products.

As I have maintained from the beginning, I think this is doable if the right planning and preparation has been made. I have no hope of succeeding this challenge if I decide a lunchtime that I will pop into the nearest supermarket and pick something up for lunch. As a result, I am planning meals one week in advance. I am not so optimistic that I will be able to keep this up for the whole challenge but I will try.

I will be researching new recipes online and in a vegan cookery book that I bought in preparation for this challenge at the end of last year. There should definitely be enough recipes and food ideas that I don’t get too bored or starve.

I started the challenge on 16th April 2018 and I am due to finish it on 15th July 2018. I will be blogging about my experience and how I am getting on with the challenge as I go. I know that a lot of people roll their eyes and groan when someone declares (and it is always a declaration isn’t it?) that they are vegan. So if that sort of thing offends you look away now! Or, you could read on as I complain and squirm about my self-imposed veganism. Whatever you are eating: Bon Appetit!

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Disappointments and small victories

11 Mar

I was so excited on Thursday because I was ready to tick off one more item off my #40Before40 list. Unfortunately, the paragliding we had scheduled to do in Iquique was cancelled because the wind was too strong.

I was disappointed but obviously in the interest of health and safety it was the best thing to do. The guy whose company it was actually explained to us the reasons why and said he really wanted to take us up there.

As a Brit, I find it a little bit strange that sports get cancelled because of weather, particularly “a bit of wind”. I’m pretty sure as a teenager that I took part in athletics competitions in hail and I definitely played hockey in 2 inches of snow.

We will try again at the next available paragliding place on our trip.

The bitter taste of disappointment was sweetened a little when we went sandboarding in the evening instead. If you know my #40Before40 list as well as I do, you will know that one item on the list is to try snowboarding.

Although they are not quite the same, it’s given me a bit of an idea about what I am up against.

I wasn’t 100% happy with the lack of instruction that we were given. Everyone else in the group had snowboarded before and I think that it would have been good to be able to have some tips of what to do.

It was quite exhausting because you had to walk up the sand dunes after every run and re-wax the bottom of the board with a candle before going down again. Obviously you don’t have to do this with a snowboard.

Also there was no aprés-ski available – no small bar at the bottom of the hill where you can get a beer or two. I will never not admit that I am more of a social winter sports person than any sort of winter sport athlete!

Still it gives me a bit of hope that I should be able to enjoy snowboarding to a small degree when I finally take the plunge and try it. That will have to be next season now as the snow will have gone by the time we get back. Only around 8 months to wait…

40 Before 40: Challenge #29

3 Mar

Challenge #29 on my list was to read all the books on the 40 Books Every Woman Should Read. This is a list of 40 books by female authors, the majority of whom, to my shame, I am not familiar with or even heard of.

At the start of the challenge, I had already read 4 of the books on the list, mainly because we were forced to read them at school and not necessarily because I was particularly interested in reading them.

As I have got older, I tend to read only contemporary books. There are quite a few older books on the list, like Little Women and Jane Eyre. To be blunt, I wasn’t looking forward to reading these at all. It was always hard work reading them as a young adult.

For this update, I have read two of these “older” books and I have to say that I have really enjoyed them. Below are some of my comments about the books that I have read from the list.

Near to the Wild Heart by Clarice Lispector

This is one of the authors from the list that I haven’t heard of. She is actually Brazilian and the book was originally written in Portuguese. Before I started to read the book, I found out that her writing style has been compared to that of James Joyce, who made famous the stream of consciousness narrative style. In fact, the title of the book is actually a quote from Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. I enjoyed reading Joyce for my English Literature A-Level exam so I was hopeful that I would also find this book enjoyable.

The main character is Joana and the story provides flashbacks between her childhood, her adolescence and present day. It tells the story of her relationship with her husband and their divorce (which must have been scandalous to read in the 1940s) and the woman, who her husband gets pregnant. In one part of the book, Joana meets with this woman, Lidia, who she knows is having an affair with her husband. Her reaction was a bit strange as she is not particularly bothered by this.

I really enjoyed this book. Sometimes the book was hard to follow because it flipped between different times but some of the descriptions and the writing was incredible.

Little Women – Louisa May Alcott

I had this book as a child but I only managed to ever read a couple of chapters of it. It is perhaps one of the most famous books on the whole list. The story is of a group of four sisters, who are growing up during the time of the American Civil War. Their father is away working as a pastor and the four girls and their mother are left at home waiting for news about his return.

The four young women have very different characters and personalities: one is a tomboy; another very quiet and interested in art; another the mother figure of the group, when their mother is absent; one is very shy and musical.

The story tells what becomes of the sisters as they grow up, which includes marriages, deaths, births, work and extensive trips to Europe.

The BBC showed an adaptation of the book between Christmas and New Year. As it was after I had read the book, I thought it might be a good idea to watch it. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t get into it. Perhaps the characters didn’t look as I thought they would have done. I also found the American accents a bit uncomfortable. As I was reading the book, I did have the tendency to forget that the story was set in America and not in England and so it sounded a bit funny to my ears. I only got about 20 minutes into the programme and I decided to stop. I guess, in this case, the book was better than the screenplay.

Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte

I always find this book confusing. Is it Jane Eyre written by Charlotte Bronte or Charlotte Bronte written by Jane Eyre? Again I think that this was a book I had when I was younger that stayed on my book shelf unread. In the end I really enjoyed this book, so it was a shame that I had left it so long to read this book.

As many books from this era begin, Jane Eyre is an orphan, who is unwanted by her uncle’s family, who she is put into the care of. Eventually, she is sent away to a boarding school, where she is educated and thrives, but not before she watches her best friend in the world die of consumption. She goes on to be a teacher at the boarding school but, after getting a job as a governess of a child in a private house.

Jane falls in love with the Master of the house and is due to marry him until the wedding is stopped because Mr Rochester is already married. His wife is actually a lunatic who lives in the attic (all very bizarre). Jane leaves in the middle of the night because she does not want to become his mistress. Exhausted and hungry, she comes across a house where the people take pity on her and nurse her back to health. The new Master of the house gives her the job of a new governess of a school for poor children. He wants to marry her but she is still thinking about what happened to her Mr Rochester, who she still loves and always will. She goes off in search of him to see what has happened to him and… I won’t spoil the whole thing. You can read it yourself.

I liked the book because, although it was a romance, it wasn’t too over the top. I think a lot of books talk about love as it is some magical spell that transforms people suddenly, when in most cases love is a lot more dignified and isn’t necessarily know to the beholder immediately.

Also I learnt the word “lugubrious” which means looking or sounding sad or dismal. This is my new favourite word. If I was still at school, I would be desperate to get this into one of my exam scripts. I might try to get it into one of my short stories.

I have now read 7 out of the 40 books that I need to complete this challenge. I am so glad that I decided to have this one my list. I’m really enjoying it.

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40 Before 40: Challenge #8

24 Feb

Here is an update about my #40Before40: Challenge #8, in which I am attempting to watch all of the Top 250 Films as rated by iMDB.

These are the films I have managed to watch recently:

5. 12 Angry Men

I had never heard of this film before, but what a film it was! It’s a really interesting look at a jury deliberating on the fate of a man on trial. I was captivated because, although the film begins with the judge saying his final words before dismissing the jury to agree on the verdict, the audience never once hears from the defendant or any of the lawyers. We only hear the discussions of the jury and what they remember from hearing at the trial. The case looks clear cut until one of the jury has doubts that the defendant is guilty and this leads to intense discussions about the notions of proof and doubt. I would highly recommend this film, if you haven’t already seen it.

49. Memento

I realised as soon as I sat down to watch this that I had seen this before: As I have so many left on my list to watch and I can remember clearly what happened in the film, I decided not to watch it. If I have time at the end, I will probably watch it again. It is a great film though about a man who had a condition where he can’t remember anything. Which is ironic because I couldn’t remember seeing it.

52. The Great Dictator

I have never seen any Charlie Chaplin films before and I was surprised by how much I liked it and by how funny it was. We are often shocked by things that comedians say or do today but this film shows that this has been the case for decades. The film essentially parodies Hitler, who saw himself as a great dictator. It was filmed during the time of the Second World War, which I find quite shocking with some of the impressions and suggestions that Chaplin makes. Chaplin plays both the role of the Great Dictator (a dictator of the fictional Tomainian) and a Jewish barber, who experiences trouble with his memory after saving the life of a pilot. I read later that Chaplin cast himself as a Jew because Hitler had mistakenly thought that he was Jewish. It was very satirical on many levels. I think that there is another Chaplin film on the list to watch and I am very much looking forward to watching that as well.

143. Casino

This film had a sort of an Ocean’s Eleven feel about it and at the start I had the feeling that it was going to run on similar lines. It was a typical gangster-type film with Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci, whom I can never watch without thinking of the Home Alone movies. I think that I liked the film overall but for me the film was a touch too long (two minutes short of three hours). I’m not sure if a shorter film would have taken away from the feel of the film or not but I guess that is a question that the director and the producers have to make. It also stars Sharon Stone as a former prostitute/coke head, who is married to Robert DeNiro’s character and you know that she is going to be trouble right from the off, even though he clearly loves and trusts her implicitly. In my opinion, this is the best role I have seen Stone play, though I am not sure that I would be able to name any other films that she was in off the top of my head.

153. La La Land

I love musicals but I am not so sure that I loved this film. If I am being honest, I don’t get why this film was such a big deal at the Oscars. The plot at the beginning was a bit too predictable: struggling actress who works in a coffee shop means musician who is having his creativity stifled by the industry hate each other but then end up dating. I can’t decide if I thought the ending was genius or a bit pathetic. It definitely wasn’t a traditional Hollywood ending and I’m still deciding how the ending made me feel and how I should interpret it. I did, however, love Ryan Gosling’s tap dancing.

So, that is another 5 movies off the list. I have now watched 90 and I have 160 left to watch. To me, it seems like I am making very little process with this list. I’m hoping in the next months, I can get quite a few more ticked off the list. I might have to have a big of a binge watch to start making a dent in the list!

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