August 2019 | Monthly Wrap Up

Saturday 31 August 2019

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How has it taken so long for August to finish? It feels like a freakin life time!!
Favourite part?

For some reason, it feels like I’ve done hardly anything this month, however I’ve actually been quite busy. 

Right at the very beginning of August my friend Charlotte and I went up to London to see our friend Lizzi in a preview of the show which she (and her company) brought up to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival about a week later. It was great and we were both so proud of her!

Depsite not having seen my friends as much as I would have liked this month, I’ve still seen them a few times, including a great long-awaited coffee catch up and an evening drinks turned spontaneous night out. 

My grandparents also came to visit us for a few days, which was absolutely lovely. We had a great day out in Winchester, looking around the cathedral and going to see the house where Jane Austen died (love a bit of Jane Austen tourism, my no.1 gal).

The next Saturday I spent the day in Cardiff with my family, as my brother and his girlfriend were going to see the Wales v England game, and the reat of us decided to tag along to have a day out. It’s been ages since I’ve been in Wales, so it was really nice to go back to some of my favourite places, more specifically a secondhand bookship and comic store in Castle Arcade which I visit every time I’ve been in Cardiff for years. It’s a tradition now, what can I say.

On the Bank Holiday weekend, my family and I went up to London to watch a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Globe Theatre for my dad’s birthday. It was honestly one of the best things I have ever seen on stage. I was laughing the entire time. It as outrageous, raucous and clever, and the atmosphere was so unique and genuinely electrifying. If I lived in London, I’d be there all the time with £5 standing tickets. 

I’ve done a lot of experimenting with food this month, which is something I absolutely love. One of my favourite things about being vegan is that it forces you to be more creative and experimental with food. Several times at work I’ve seen some of the cakes or traybakes which we’ve been selling, really wanted to eat one but been unable to because of the animal products they contain, then made them at home whenever I next had some free time and the right ingredients. For example, I’ve made some cracking scones and some millionaire shortbread. I’m very proud of how well both turned out and I’ve got some more ideas on how to improve them in the future.

This is the tofu bowl I had for my lunch when we visited the Tate. It was miso-ginger and (I think!) deep-fried, and it was deeeee-lish!
I’ve also tried a new slow cook baked bean recipe and I can’t wait to make a vat of the stuff at uni. It was so sweet and tasty, I could genuinely eat bowls of the stuff. I’ve also experimented more with tofu marinates and methods of cooking it, as well as a lentil-sundried tomato mix which turned out to be really delicious.

Best read?

I first read Daughter by Maya Angelou – an emotional and heartwarming read by an incredible woman. I just love her.

The next book I read was Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal, and it is definitely in the running to be my favourite book of the year. One thing I’m doing this year as part of my role as he social media manager for my university’s Feminist Society, I am running a monthly book club, and I chose this book to be our first read. You can read my full book club review of it here. 

Next, I read Be the Change by Gina Martin, a toolkit for all activists. I genuinely couldn’t put this down, I was reading it whenever possible, something I don't tend to get from non-fiction books. It was fascinating and so useful and relevant to my life and wat I'm doing at the moment. Anyone who wants to make a difference, organise a campaign or want to do live more ethically then this book will definitely help!

I then read This Is Not a Drill by Extinction Rebellion, a collection of essays written by members of Extinction Rebellion, climate scientists and activists as well as a couple of MPs. The facts are so real in this book; it really leaves you nowhere to hide. This was a devastating read, particularly as it coincided with the beginning of the burning of the Amazon Rainforest. Please read and please act. 

I am now currently reading Insufficiently Welsh by Griff Rhys Jones and Sweet Sorrow by David Nicholls. The first book I am reading in pieces, as he discusses one part of Wales at a time. It’s heartwarming for me, I always feel a bit of comfort when reading about my home country

Favourite tunes?

I mostly listened to The Beatles this month until the release of Taylor Swift’s most recent album, Lover. Since then I’ve just been listening to T-Swift on repeat. 


Favourite watch?

This month I’ve been rewatching Grey’s Anatomy (this time with my family) and Agent Carter (oh Peggy, I miss you), as well as Grace and Frankie. I also watched all of Good Omens with my dad and honest to go it was so good. I absolutely loved it and will be watching it again and definitely reading the book as soon as I am able. 

I am also currently watching Mindhunters on Netflix. The haracters are so interesting, it’s so tense and fascinating. For anyone who finds serial killers interesting, you will love this.

What did I learn?

That although I can try my hardest in whatever way to help improve the world, sometimes the big things happen and you feel like any difference you may have made has been for nothing.

What’s happening next month?

BACK TO UNI!!!!!! Genuinely though, I am so excited to get back to uni. I need a bit more structure and purpose in my life. Get me back to Newcastle. 

What’s been on my mind?

Honestly? Newcastle. Missing my friends (both from uni and from where I live as schedules conflict a lot). Also stress from the bloody state of the world. Eco-anxiety is real folks. As well as fascism/dictatorship anxiety. Woop, thank you Boris Johnson, you dickhead. 

Favourite blogger/vlogger?

Melanie Merphy, Hannah Witton, Madeleine Olivia, Venetia Falconer… I can’t think of anyone I haven’t mentioned previously.

Favourite post?

Why Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is a Modern Feminist Cult Classic. I loved writing about one of my absolute favourite shows and just wish I could’ve got more in. It’s not a perfect post and I didn’t include some points I wish I did but otherwise it would’ve been extremely long. I’m really proud of it anyway, and I hope you guys like it!

Biggest inspiration?

A little girl making the decision to go veggie when I was serving her at work. It was great and I was (and still am) so proud of her for not eating the ‘meat jelly’. The world seems pretty dim at the moment and it’s taking a lot for me to stay above ground sometimes. I’m trying to hold onto any little piece of hope possible. 

Any other favourites?

Almonds. Particularly almond butter stuffed in dates. Man those are good. Honest to god I’m obsessed, and I freaking love making almond butter. Next, I’m going to try making some of my own chocolate spread.

If you liked this post you might like: July 2019 | Monthly Wrap Up

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Why Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Is a Modern Feminist Cult Classic

Friday 23 August 2019

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It’s no secret that I am a massive fan of the TV show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. At this point I probably know at least half of the songs of by heart (if not more… there are a lot), all of which my flatmates are probablydefinitely fed up of hearing – and I won’t lie, they do sound super weird without context – and I’m still rewatching episodes here and there to try and get over the series coming to an end. I love sharing my love for this show, and when anyone asks me for a new TV recommendation (feminist or otherwise), I will always mention Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. It’s viewing figures have never been all that impressive, despite its critical acclaim, but I believe that this show will live on for a long time as a feminist cult classic. We are saturated with so much TV at the moment that sometimes it can feel overwhelming by all the content we have thrust at us constantly, and that means that sometimes gems such as Crazy Ex-Girlfriend can be pushed aside and forgotten about. So what is it about this show which makes it so special to me? I thought I’d explain.

**(There will be a spoilers ahead, although I’ll try my best not to go into too much detail, they’re necessary to get my point across)**

Main picture credit

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend centres around just that: the ‘crazy ex-girlfriend’ trope. Analyzing what it is, the societal ideas and preconceptions of it, and, most importantly, the real women and circumstances behind it. We start off with Rebecca (payed by creator and co-writer Rachel Bloom) being broken up with by Josh Chan (Vincent Rodriguez III) at the end of a summer camp they attended when they were 16. We then rejoin Rebecca ten years later as she is about to be asked to become partner at the law firm she works at in New York. After having a panic attack the moment before she is given her promotion, she sees Josh on the street outside and a switch is flipped in her mind. Following Rebecca through a series of rash decisions (moving to West Covina as a means of following Josh, quitting her job and trying to break up Josh’s long-term relationship to name just a few), we see how the prospect of an idealized version of love is seen as a quick-fix by Rebecca for her so-far undiagnosed mental health issues (she has to wait until series 4 for a correct diagnosis).  Many of Rebecca’s actions throughout the show (particularly in the earlier series) are outlandish, ridiculous, often illegal and nearly always unhealthy and damaging to both herself and the people around her. However, with her diagnosis and willingness to learn and be kind to herself, she learns to reign those in and, through practicing self-care and treatment for her illness, is finally able to love and value herself and her relationships. 

The fantasy ideal of romance along with the idea that without that “perfect” person you are not complete is broken down entirely by this show, made especially prominent by Bloom and McKenna’s satire on the romcom genre through twisting its tropes and by making the show a musical black comedy. Rebecca’s obsession with the classic Hollywood fairytale romance leads her to ignoring the underlying issues she needs to address (yes, I sang that to the tune of the second season theme song) and means that she makes unhealthy choices in an attempt to achieve these unattainable standards. And whilst it may take four series for Rebecca to completely understand what is the overarching message of the show: romantic love will not “fix” you, although you still deserve it, but you have to solve your problems yourself. 

At first, the show’s humour may seem a bit full on and weird, which can put some people off (I know some of my friends have been a bit confused at my recommendation initially because of that), but as you get to know the humour and the characters, they serve further to promote the messages the show is trying to convey. The points they make become more poignant as part of the juxtaposition which is so intrinsic to many of the musical numbers. Some of my favourite songs which are the perfect examples of this is Maybe This Dream and The Miracle of Birth - both performed by Donna Lynne Champlin and both contrast the unpretty side of what many women experience (starting periods on a run, a weak pelvic floor, childbirth, etc.) the first with a stereotypical Disney princess song and then the latter with a Stevie Nicks-esque feminine folk song.


Throughout the 4 series we watch as Rebecca’s relationships to all of the characters change, along with her declining mental health, and then again as she is able to rebuild herself through her own acknowledgement of her situation and taking responsibility for her actions (yep, again I sang that). And whilst the show is primarily about Rebecca Bunch, the show doesn’t sideline any of the other characters at all. Each and every one of the “side” characters has their own arc and is developed in a realistic and beautiful way – they remain their own person no matter their connection to the main character. Valenica, Heather, Greg, Josh, Nathaniel, Darryl… even Rebecca’s mother becomes more sympathetic as we get see more of her.

We see characters of all kinds, and the diversity of the characters really brings something special to the show. I mean what other show can you think of which had at least four episodes in a row without including a straight white man?? We have a Filipino man as a romantic lead, who takes up the role of Gene Kelly in one of his main songs. We have a middle-aged man discovering his bisexuality and singing about its legitimacy to his whole office. We have a mixed race black woman rising up the career ladder, being a great friend and having a loving, healthy relationship at the same time. I could go on. It’s true the show isn’t perfect – it could do better in various means of representation but it’s pretty damn good for the general standards of TV. In many shows, the character’s race or sexuality becomes a huge part of their character arcs. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend creates the characters’ arcs and development separate from their race, gender and sexuality, although at times they do come into play as they are significant in real life. The writers flip this in the character of Nathaniel, who’s whiteness, straightness and richness is basically his whole thing – at least in the beginning anyway. 


One of my favourite characters is Paula, Rebecca’s best friend and colleague. Paula represents so much and I love her. She is hilarious, caring, loyal as hell and wants to do her best to help make the world a better place. There are loads of reasons why I love Paula, those mentioned previously just some of them. As a woman a little older than Rebecca, she is a great avenue to explore a whole world of other issues and themes, and the creators take full advantage of that. For example, through Paula we see the gradual gender-equalization of a previously stale marriage and how her and her husband fall back in love with each other, being a mature student, motherhood, the sometimes over-obsessive nature of best-friendships… When I think of Paula’s arc, however, one of the biggest messages which I at least take out of it is that of ‘you can do it’. She faces a multitude of obstacles – her struggling marriage, taking care of her kids, an unplanned pregnancy and consequently going through an abortion almost in secret, as well as her own self-doubt. I could write a full essay on pretty much all of the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend characters, but for me, Paula is perhaps the most inspirational. Her story is that of the empowerment of a woman who didn’t see activism as something ‘for her’ but takes steps to ensure that it is and makes a hell of a difference despite what she is told. 

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend subverts any and all genres it takes on and the expectations we get from that. And nothing exemplifies this than the last few episodes and the final ending. As Rebecca is faced with the choice of her three main suitors throughout the span of the show, we are lulled into expecting her to end up with a traditional ‘happily ever after’, but the last episode goes against this entirely. Yes, she does get a happily ever after, but with herself. The love of her life is music, her friends, her own company. As Rebecca says herself in the finale: “Romantic love is not an ending, not for me and not for anyone else here.” Instead of the reward for the female protagonist being a man to “complete” them, Rebecca gets personal fulfilment and growth. And Paula? Well, she has both. For both of these characters, their arcs are really about self-growth, improvement and maturing. This is demonstrated and celebrated throughout the entire of the last season. The episode titles change from being focused on Josh or Greg or Nathaniel to ‘I’. Rebecca’s focus has shifted from the men around her to her own priorities. The final song, ‘Eleven O’Clock,’ summarises this beautifully. Rebecca finally opens up completely to Paula (and subsequently her other friends) by showing her secret happy place where she is at her most vulnerable. The song goes through the past four seasons and we go through her journey to self-growth and self-improvement on fast forward. And then in the reprise we have a musical reference back to Paula and Rebecca’s first duet in the pilot – an emotional reminder of just how far they have come since then. 

Now, whenever I need a little bit of comfort, a bit of motivation and empowerment, a reminder of what women can do when they’re given the opportunity, I pop on the show’s finale and feel a bit better about the world. 

You can watch Crazy Ex-Girlfriend on CW and Netflix (among other places if you can find - I watched on Netflix).

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How to Eat Vegan on Holiday

Wednesday 7 August 2019

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Sometimes it’s easy to get a bit carried away as a UK vegan. I won’t lie, we have it pretty good. Most places have at least one vegan option and there are lots of vegan-only cafes, restaurants and businesses popping up all over the place (even in places you might not expect). With access to vegan food on the rise and seemingly abundant in the UK, we can easily take this for granted, especially if we go to other places. In this post I’m sharing some of the things I do before going away, for whatever reason, I hope they prove useful. (I also want to add a disclaimer that I have never been out of Europe, so I can’t offer any advice to people travelling to other areas of the world, but I hope that my points can translate to people visiting other areas as well.)

Title image taken at Vegabond, Amsterdam.

Do your research!

I can’t stress this enough. Research and knowing where you have options to go in various areas of where you’re going is so useful to me. You can suddenly find that somewhere you didn’t think would be very good for vegan food is actually super vegan friendly. I’m constantly looking for new places to eat, even if they’re near where I live – it’s so exciting. Food tourism is definitely a huge thing for any vegan when you go away – it definitely is for me and my friends. We find amazing food and find that it’s a great way to explore wherever we’re headed as it often takes us off the beaten track. 

One of the main tools I use when researching places to get vegan food is Happy Cow. Oh Happy Cow, how I love you. Genuinely, this website (or app if you prefer and/or have enough storage) is incredible. I use it all the time, even just looking up places I have no plans on visiting in the near future. You just have to type in the area you’re looking for (it may already come up with options near to your location) and it was come up with various places which have vegan options available. This includes fully vegan, veggie with vegan options, majority omnivore with some vegan options, ice-cream and health food stores. Whilst Happy Cow is amazing and can show you a lot of places, it doesn’t necessarily show everywhere available as it is updated by users, and new vegan options and businesses are popping up all the time. Nevertheless, it is still my go to resource for finding where to eat when I’m somewhere I don’t know. 

Another way of researching is to look at YouTube videos and blogs to find out about other people’s experiences being vegan wherever you’re going. I loved reading travel and food posts anyway, but it’s always useful to get a person’s proper opinion on a place and they could help offer some insight you may not have got elsewhere. I know that for me blogs and YouTube videos were key to my being able to eat when at Disneyland earlier this year, as there aren’t many other resources you can use., and I ended up writing about my experiences there on my blog as well. Just search ‘vegan in [place you’re visiting] and you should get several pieces popping up (including a few of my travel posts plug plug).

It may sound a bit silly, but Google Maps can also be useful, although it may not be so detailed as other options. 

Although you may be spontaneous in other areas of your trip, it’s always useful having a few back up options just in case you can’t find anywhere straight away.

If you’re somewhere with a different language to yours, learn key phrases in that language beforehand

Whilst English is spoken in lots of places (oof that colonialism, am I right?!), it is useful to know the right words to correctly communicate what you need to. As you can’t learn a whole language in a few months, it’s practical to only learn a few simple words or phrases. Here, Google Translate is your friend (as well as friends who speak other languages or even people on social media who are willing to answer a desperate tweet). In many places, vegan is just vegan, but it’s still reassuring to know that you’re being understood. Make a list of useful words (such as the word for vegan, milk, eggs, meat, butter, animal, etc.) and keep them on a note on your phone to help you when you’re out and about. 

Make sure that if you’re travelling with other people, they understand and are comfortable

I’m lucky to have friends who are vegan and veggie, so finding food means finding food for us all, but sometimes it can be awkward when trying to find food for a group of people when you’re the only vegan there. Whilst you may not be able to control their views on veganism or change them overnight, try to show that you’re doing your best to ensure your food is sorted and under control. It’s always good to be around people who are supportive of your choices and are helping make sure you have enough to eat.

Find supermarkets nearby

One of the only ways to ensure that you’ll have plenty of vegan food (especially if you want to save money) is to cook it yourself. Obviously, in some cases you won’t be able to cook for yourself if you don’t have the facilities, but there are still cold options and snacks which can be useful. If you’re staying in a flat, Airbnb or any other place where you have access to a kitchen, then making your own food can be the perfect way of saving money and ensuring you’re getting the nutrients you need. Most places will have the ingredients for a basic lentil bolognaise or bean chilli, and probably soya milk as a basis. It’s definitely worth a further look around the shop as well as they may have some other products – for example, when I was in Prague last June, we found some pre-marinated tofu for a reasonable price, fried it and used in wraps for our lunches. This gives you freedom, as long as you’re willing to put the extra time in to cook and prep.

Ask questions and say you’re vegan more than you’d probably be comfortable with. 

Asking questions about the food you’re potentially going to eat is so crucial. It’s really the only way to know what’s going on with the food really. As a fairly seasoned vegan by now, I’m used to checking labels and asking questions, but this can be daunting when you’re just starting out. Honestly, if you’re a new vegan, it takes time to get used to and gets easier. 

If there’s anything non-vegan you can adapt in a simply way, do it!

On my recent holiday with my family, I was constantly asking for things without cheese. I had various pasta dishes and several veggie pizzas without cheese (I did check that the pasta and pizza bases were vegan before ordering). There are often things which you can do and often people will be accommodating. If they’re not accommodating you then say that you’re allergic to whatever it is you want to remove or change, then you’ll probably be taken much more seriously than saying you’re vegan. It may be warping the truth, but at the same time I know several vegans who have developed lactose intolerances since removing animal products from their diet, so it’s not stretching it that far and is probable. 

If all else fails: 

Ask for chips. 

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