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Pianta - Vegan Pizza from Pizza Express

pianta pizza express

I'm late to the party, but somewhere within the past year Pizza Express released their first ever vegan pizza in their stores, the Pianta. I hadn't eaten in Pizza Express previously but had heard they were accommodating to vegans anyway though the introduction of a cheese-free pizza was a very exciting announcement for vegan for diners in the UK (and meant we didn't need to feel awkward asking for edits). 

Recently I finally managed to make it along to try it out. The Pianta is cheese free and instead topped with artichokes, rocket (mine has spinach because they had ran out of rocket that day), chestnut mushrooms, pine kernals with olive oil drizzled over to finish. 

My verdict is positive and I'm glad a major UK chain has decided to put a vegan option on the menu. I'm also glad that it doesn't contain a vegan cheese as I reckon vegan pizzas taste better sans cheese, rather than with a cheese substitute (and having a soya intolerance I'm quite glad they skipped this step!). It was quite rich however and I did struggled to finish it. Some of the comments I received on my Instagram also echoed the view that it wasn't the easiest of pizzas to get through in one sitting. 

Pizza is one of those foods I have missed since my vegan switch and I am so grateful a pizza chain  has put something vegan on the menu, making it easier to eat out (especially with non-vegan friends). I'm hoping this will encourage the other pizza players in the UK to consider adding a vegan option to their menus. 

Have you been to try the Pianta yet? What were your thoughts?

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The Linkables

If you read only one thing this week, make it this: racism is not a mental illness

And on breaking up: artist Sophie Calle had women of various professions analyse a break-up letter from a professional viewpoint. The results are interesting

So...pop-ups are annoying. But they work. If you really don't want to use one, here's an alternative seven spots on your website you can use opt-in forms. 

A big bumper guide....for starting a lifestyle blog.

If you're wondering who would win a rap battle between Daenerys Targaryen and you go

For anyone doing a bit of DIY design: a beginner's guide to font pairing (There's more to it than I thought). 

A pretty big (almost marketing-degree level) guide to producing better content

My girl Hayley updated her blog roll

So...I can't say I drink gin all that often (pass the rum, or white wine) but if you do here's 15 ways to do so that are a bit different

An important article about the Women's World Cup and different countries approaches to parent players. 

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Sholeh Persian Resturant, Tradeston

soleh resturant glasgow

A couple of weeks ago my parents came down to visit me in Glasgow, Naturally, we went and took our tastebuds to a new restaurant. However before anyone rolls their eyes and says "so another Indian then?". No, it's not. We went to the Sholeh Persian Restaurant in the Tradeston area on the southside. 

Persian isn't a food type I've had any experience of before, but I had walked by before and spotted good vegan credentials and decided to give it a try. We were only slightly peckish so shared a plate of hummus for starters (which was the best hummus I've tried). Then moved onto our mains. 

Persian Bamieh

For mains I had the Bamieh. On their menu they describe it as "Okra slow cooked in our special tomato sauce with saffron, forest berries and onion." Because I had only recently had my first try of okra and liked it, I decided to give it try in another dish. This wouldn't go down as one of the best things I've ever eaten however this was a non-expensive restaurant and the quality was what I would expect for that price. Aside from the taste (it was tomato meets pasnip if I'm honest) I'll mention that this was a very rich dish. It did taste nice however I couldn't get through the whole thing cause it was filling me up. 

You should maybe look away now, as I'm about to share my mum's chicken dish....

sholeh chicken

This is the Zereshk Polo ba Morgh which is a "Succulent sweet and sour chicken dish served with steamed saffron rice topped with forest berries, pistachios and almonds." My mum said it was nice. 

Have you ever been to Sholeh? Have  you ever tried Persian food?

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Cruelty-free brands update

cruelty-free beauty brands july 2015

Here is a round-up of brands that I have contacted over the past month. I recently received a suggestion asking if I could include a copy of the e-mail for my grey area brands so people could make up their own minds. I'm working on some way to include this into my list however for this month I'll confirm that all new additions in the grey area section ended up there because I received no e-mail response. 

Grey area
Other Notes

I did fire an email off to Cheeky Cosmetics however the e-mail bounced. I will try again another time. 
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Ones to watch from the GSA Degree Show 2015

An art show can be an odd event to see me at. I like clothes, fashion, jewellery, prints for my home and pretty things. But the actual art side can get a bit lost on me. So sometimes I feel like I might as well be at a conference on aerodynamics that is all in Old English. But, I'm also big into new designers and always want to help the next big thing get their first step, so I popped along to the Glasgow School of Art Graduate Show this week to see what new design talent I could spot. Or see if I could get any prints for the empty hooks in my flat.

amy dunnachie

The jewellery and silversmith offering this year was very strong and I struggled to narrow down my favourites. You might have spotted that I like whimsical and sometimes childlike jewellery so I went with Sinead Toner as my first pick whose designs made use of white and pastel pink. Her piping detail however was the clinch for me as it reminded me of the iced gems sweets from my childhood. Very very veerrrrryyyyy close second however was Amy Dunnachie (pictured) who's range also had a reminiscent feel to it and was inspired by her coastal upbringing. She makes great use of unusual materials that you'd find at the seaside such as rope, nails and - one of my favourite jewellery materials - wood. Just look at those statement rings! 

Also honorary mentions to jewellery designer Sophie Warringham and silversmith designer Victoria Woods-McMeekin who's designs also caught my eye.

ruth crothers textiles

Onto textiles and it was two designers that caught my eye who I have decided to give joint favourites to. Pictured is Ruth Crothers who's illustrations of buildings printed onto clothing makes it stand out but the use of pale colours allow the pieces to still be quite wearable. Joint favourite was Natasha Samasuwo who also creates bold eye-catching prints with use of paler shades to balance the effect.

From the fashion section my heart was stolen by Jane Maguir who had hanging in her stall a sheer dress adorned with flowers to cover just the correct places. It's struck me as some kind of provocative wedding dress and whilst I wouldn't wear it myself there was something so enchanting about it.

andrew northcote

Onto Communication Design which was probably the most arty of the lot and I, erm, truthfully probably had a confused look on my face at most of it However two pieces caught my eye which when I returned home realised they were by the same designer: Andrew Northcote. The cat print above is honestly something I would buy to place on my own living room wall and whilst I don't play chess his abstract take on the game is something that would encourage me to maybe sit down for a game.

amber jones

Finally, I moved into Product Design which is not actually a form of design I was at all familiar with beforehand by my god was I blown about by some of the innovative ideas (some of which I would love to see come to fruition). Each student had to create three products and whilst there was some unbelievable displays two student's who work was consistently catching my eye was Hannah Steele and Amber Jones (who's Twitter says she quoted Sex and the City in her dissertation - my kind of person!). Hannah brought to the table a necklace which contains pheromones (as my favourite pheromone infused but probably not CF perfume is almost out I'm in the market ha!) whilst Amber's stand out piece for me was a yoghurt which works with the body as natural UVA protection.

Have a look at the other Product Design offerings in the Flickr group. The Product Design students also by far had the best marketing collateral for me to flick through (I'm a marketer and it made me happy to see well designed business cards, ha!).

Did you swing by the Glasgow School of Art this week or stop by any of the other degree shows this summer? 

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The Linkables

Must read: Pretty much the best post I have ever read regarding modern day blogging.

Us marketers will already be well-read in the art of selling to millennials. But what about selling to Gen Y in a B2B setting?

My new favourite fashion blog find: modHijabi.

If you're running a business: here's some creative ways to make your Instagram followers convert into sales

Not got much money but want to keep romance alive? Here are 45 fun but cheap date ideas.

I've always loved a bit of self-improvement and one the hardest things for me to accept was finding balance between self-improvement and self-acceptance.

Another reason Seattle is on my travel-bucket list: rain-activated street art.

The best way to deal with homophobic hate mail? Turn it into confetti.

I've never been a festival, annnnnd I'm not sure I ever will. But if you fancy it here's Sarah ultimate Glastonbury packing list

Want to improve your blog but don't have any post ideas? Here's a list of things to-do which don;t involve writing a post. (Also: new favourite blog about blogging alert).

So I've only just got into comics this year, but Batgirl is fast becoming a firm favourite. I think this post explains why I have so many feels towards her.

My favourite ASMR video from this week.

The beauty company Coty who are known for not allowing their child companies freedom to develop their own animal testing polcies, have just taken over a bunch of cosmetics companies

The statistics on domestic violence in the UK have been called into question. The real picture is much more depressing.

When I still lived with my parents I tried to blog in the garden on several occasions. It never really worked. But these tips might have helped.

I'm don't own a single bit of vinyl but it's something I've toyed with over the years. Since Dizzy Up the Girl might be coming to vinyl maybe it's time to start.

A sport I've never had any interest in? Rugby. But I'm still excited that Scotland is getting to host a major sporting event.

Despite working my name into my blog name, I actually hate my name and have considered changing it (I've seriously considered Amber). Here's Olivia's story on legally changing hers.

If you love handmade Etsy stuff, may I suggest my friend Chloe's shop?

Are you looking to monetise your blog and thinking about approaching brands? Laicie has you covered.

Confused about fandom terminology? Lynsey has a video explaining it.

New favourite Tumblr alert: placing googly eyes on Magic the Gathering cards.

And finally, Travelodge denies their advert puppet is based off David Cameron. (ha!)

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Adventures in vegan sushi making

vegan life magazine sushi

Sushi is a food that I love. But it's also a food that I tend to only eat when it's been prepared for me. In my experience rolling your own sushi is time consuming and results in a kitchen floor covered in rice. 

My own attempts thus far have pretty much been small rolls with a piece of cucumber or avocado stuffed down the middle (the fanciest I've ever attempted has been a spring onion and vegan cheese sushi roll). 

However in the latest issue of VeganLife Magazine* there was a recipe for a simple sushi roll. Deciding it was high time I actually followed a recipe and learnt how to make sushi properly, I went about buying the ingredients and setting up stock in my kitchen. For the very basic sushi I've made before I was able to find what I needed (nori, sushi rice and a rolling mat) in my local Tesco. However for my first attempt at what was actual sushi I had to head along to my local Chinese Supermarket to pick up some extra ingredients such as black sesame seeds and rice wine vinegar (plus chopsticks, and some Japanese mochi for later). 

Needless to say my kitchen still ended up looking like a child had played in it and I spent about the same amount of time mopping up rice afterwords as I did making the sushi. But the end result was the tastiest sushi I'd ever made though I'm not quite confident enough to start serving it at dinner parties. 

Below are some of my tips for making your own sushi: 

- One of my complaints about my own sushi over the years has been the lack of flavour. I discovered that one of the basic parts of a sushi recipe is to use a combination of rice wine vinegar, salt and sugar to add flavour to the rice once it has been cooked.
- This was my first attempt at 'inside-out' sushi (with the rice on the outside) and it was much harder to make than sushi with the nori on the outside. Be wise and master nori on the outside first. 
- It's easier to work with sushi rice that has been left to sit for a few hours rather than freshly cooked rice. 
- Sushi isn't the sort of dish you can quickly make for dinner - leave aside a large chunk of your day to creating your first batch.
- Buy a sharp knife that cuts straight through. 
- Always serve it with something! I'm a soy sauce fan but wasabi is meant to be good too. Sushi isn't meant to be eaten alone.

Have you ever had a go at you at making your own sushi? What are some of your tips? 

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My cruelty-free list and Leaping Bunny

Whenever I post an up-date to my cruelty-free brand list I usually get one or two follow up questions. I don't mind these questions and in fact I encourage them as it's great to see people consciously considering the ethics of their purchases and not just taking a list on the internet - even my own one - at face value. However a question that has popped up a few times has been why I have listed some Leaping Bunny certified brands in my grey area list and I felt a full blog post was needed to chat about this topic.

The bulk of the brands who land up in my grey-area list do so because they never replied to my e-mail. This includes Leaping Bunny brands. I'm strict about this and I stand by my decision that if a company doesn't view it as important to reply then I assume they must be hiding something (or just don't care about consumers opinions).

I would never want to suggest that Leaping Bunny isn't a valuable resource, and I want to make that very clear. If you don't have the time to e-mail beauty companies yourself, it by far one of the best - if not the best - cruelty-free brands lists to be referencing.  However, I just wanted to go over some situations where I didn't agree with Leaping Bunny and why I want a bit of extra reussurance when building my own list.

The Body Shop selling in Chinese airports. In 2014 Body Shop stores were spotted in Chinese airports. The official word on the street is that cosmetic products sold in airports aren't under the same mandatory testing laws as the rest of mainland China. However in practice this can be questionable and only after consumer concerns did Body Shop pulled out of all Chinese markets. Maybe their products would have been safe from these ridiculous laws, but Body Shop acting innocent and pulling out right after it made mainstream news put me off purchasing from them again. I'm not the only person who thinks this behaviour was questionable, however they remain on Leaping Bunny's list despite having put itself in a position which could have put their long-standing cruelty-free status at risk. 

Dermalogica got away with selling in China. In 2012 Dermalogica was briefly stripped of its Leaping Bunny status after it was discovered that they had been selling in mainland China. Reading the stories of this incident it makes me uncomfortable that it was consumers who tipped off Leaping Bunny and not Leaping Bunny maintaining scrutiny of its certified brands. Dermalogica has since stopped selling in mainland China and are back on the Leaping Bunny list however, like Body Shop, it was after being caught out. 

As a side note, when e-mailing brands I don't just ask them to confirm they don't currently sell in China, but that they also have no intention to. Leaping Bunny may find out if a brand does physically sell in China however they can't know if they're considering it. You don't lose your Leaping Bunny status until its public knowledge that you're 'expanding'.

ButterLondon and Pure Nuff Stuff have used the logo without certification. Whilst a consumer who references the official Leaping Bunny list on their website won't be caught out, a consumer who doesn't have time to cross-reference will be. Pure Nuff Stuff were previously certified but lost the certification in 2013 but continued to use it on their website. ButterLondon were never Leaping Bunny certified but have been seen using the logo on their products (I've seen them use it myself). Cruelty-Free Kitty has wrote a really informative post on the ButterLondon fiasco. If you are using Leaping Bunny's list remember to cross-reference the official list. 

As I said, I don't want to devalue Leaping Bunny or Cruelty-Free International. They do a fantastic job at making the world a more compassionate place and I didn't write this post in vain. I've just had a few questions regarding the inclusion of a few certified brands in the grey-area list and I thought I'd clear it up. 

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Independent shopping in Aberdeen

Independent shopping Aberdeen

Let's be real here, my home town of Aberdeen isn't renouned for independent shopping (or even shopping in general), artistic happenings, or any kind of culture (from my experience of living away from Aberdeen for seven years I think we're known for oil and bad accents). However, I believe that everywhere has it's plus points and I'm always wanting to support an independent brand. So when I was up visiting my parents last week I decided to go for a wonder through the city centre to see what I could find within the granite. 

Grampian Health Store
Let's start it off with my favourite kind of shop: a health store! The Grampian Health Store (on Market Street) sells everything you'd expect a health store to and I didn't see any brands I wasn't already familiar with. Butttttt, they have a take-out fridge which sells - wait for it - a range of vegan sandwiches. For the first time in a long time I used the eenie-meanie-mo method of picking a sandwich, and it felt good (I picked a veggie sausage and salad sandwich). 

An alternative shop based on Belmont Street which I always find myself rummaging in. It sells clothes for the alternative dresser who is in head-to-toe black or the alternative dresser like myself who loves brights, weird prints and pop culture references. 

Cavern Record Shop
Situated right beside where the old OneUp Records once was (RIP, my former MySpace heart still mourns) is a small record shop. Honestly it's small and is underground but if you still love some vinyl it's a good place to nip into if you're in the centre. 

So let's chat surf clothes, even though I've never been on a surf board. I wouldn't shop here, and whilst the brands sold are all mainstream, if you're looking for some beachy vibe clothes head along here instead of the high street. 

Not so much a shop, more a florist. But I like flowers and plants and sometimes wish I was a florist. But it smells nice in there. 

Plan 9
And lastly, a comic shop. Because, why no? You may not know it cause I keep it off my blog (assuming there's not enough of a cross-over interest between foundation and Bat Girl?) but I'm pretty big into them. But comic shops themselves...yeah. Smelly, boy-orientated, can barely find what you're looking for...yougetthepicture. Plan 9 was a delight! Comics were organised, the place smelt good (they also sold incense), a welcoming shop front and good hygiene standards (I visited another comic shop in Aberdeen that same day which had, erm, lumps of dirt on the floor). 

Do you know of any independent Aberdeen shops I've missed out? Let me know! 

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The Linkables

One mother's story on leaving the anti-vaccine movement.

Fossils fuels are currently as low as 40% of all UK generation

It's not exactly hard to find cat videos on the internet. But for all us dog people here's a cute dog video.

But if you are a cat person - who actually owns a cat - here's Lauren's thought on the Purrfect Subscription Box for cats.

A different Lauren on the first exhibition of her artwork.

But back to dogs: man takes dying dog on a bucket list tour.

If you're in the market for some expensive but beautiful bras, this Etsy shop is the stuff dreams are made of.

No matter what you love to do, it is not trivial (no matter what society tells you).

I'm all about looking after your mental health as well as your physical health and mindfulness has been getting a lot of attention recently. Here's article that sheds a realistic light on it.

Important stuff: how to get a busy person to respond to your e-mail.

10 things you're probably doing wrong (and how to do them right).

I'm planning on hosting my first giveaway soon, and I'm making sure I follow the law when I do so.

As if moving on from your ex isn't hard enough, some ex-couples can't afford to split up their property and live seperately. (As a side note, I almost moved in with a then-boyfriend but we split up...after the deposits had been paid. The only thing that got me out of that was my parents who earn a decent amount - this struggle is real!)

I'm yet to look into their cruelty-free status but Polish brand Bell Cosmetics, who manufacturers allergy-tested make-up, is coming to the UK.

I now and then (read: about four times a year) put together a book review post, this blog has given me some tips on improving them.

If you're looking to expand your knowledge on career building, a friend of friend has released a book which should be added to your pile.

I experience ASMR and I assure you it's not a sexual thing for me. And it's very problematic that it's widely being described as sexual by non-experiencers.

And on the topic of ASMR, here's a video which has recently been giving me tingles.

Someone in an age gap relationship explains why age-gap relationships in Hollywood films are portrayed problematically.

As you're probably aware Ingrid Nilsen came out as gay this week, and this why her coming out story in particular is so important!

I want to go to the Big Vegan BBQ in Glasgow but not myself, anyone keen?

I'm not really a podcast person, but the apolitical podcast does look like it be worth a listen.

During the summer I spend time upping my Instagram game (natural lighting, ftw!) and this list of 100 ideas for Instagram will come in handy.

Also bookmarked under Instagram: 9 marketing techniques I used to get 39,000 followers.

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Shri Bheema's, Aberdeen

shri bheemas

As you might be aware last week I took some time off work and headed up to my parents house in Aberdeenshire for some downtime. My main reason for my visit was to stop by Granite City Comic-Con but obviously I had to fit in some time to visit a North-East restaurant. And what cuisine did me and my parents choose? Indian. Yeah I know, me and my parents are creatures of habit...

This time we went for the award-winning Shri Bheema's in the Balgownie area of the Bridge of Don suburb (there's also a branch in the city centre). The website is currently down (so writing this review with be challenging and may require later editing) but they had a massive menu which made us choose them over the various other Indian restaurants in the same area. 

Shri Beemas onion bhaji

For starters we have a mixture of onion bahjis and some Indian doughnuts (which probably have a proper name, will update once the website is up again). The onion bajis were some of the nicest I've ever tried. This was primarily due to the texture of the bajis rather than taste, but neverhteless I would highly recommend them. The waiter did warn us that the doughnuts aren't always to everyone's taste but I loved them regardless (but I really like breads, waffles, doughnuts etc). 

okra curry shri bheemas

For mains I picked a mild curry with okra in it (which was delicious). For anyone who has never tried okra it's a very subtle tasting vegetable which can used in a wide range of dishes. In this dish the okra ended up quite sweet and tangy. When you slice it also looks a bit like stars, and that's always something to love. 

Since I blog about Indian restaurants a lot you may have picked up on my love for naans. However naans aren't always vegan and I'm now in the process of letting this once favourite food slip from my diet unless I can be certain it doesn't contain dairy. Due to the detailed menu (more on that soon!) I was able to ascertain that their naans were in fact non-vegan so I settled on a chapiti instead. My parents had a butter naan and assured me I was missing out!

shri bheemas allergy info

But my favourite thing about Shri Bheema's was the detailed allergen information. This isn't included on the online menu so was a nice surprise when we turned up. They have a lot of all the common allergies and intolerance listed, which are assigned a number to be used as a code throughout the menu. This meant I could dodge the soya but also easily see what contained dairy and egg. As someone who has a restricted diet partially due to choice but also due to an intolerance this was exciting to see. And even people who don't have allergies or food intolerances still want to know what's in their food. 

Have you ever been to Shri Bheema's, either the one the BOD or Belmont Street? Know any other Indian's me and my parents should visit?

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Henné Color hair dye review

henne color review

I have for a long time touted the benefits of using a henna hair dye over a traditional hair dye as the hair doesn't get damaged and the colour is a lot more natural. However, I have thus far only ever used the Lush Caca Rouge henna dye (review here) and decided it was high time I gave another brand a try. Last Christmas I bought the Henné Color in Auburn from Holland & Barratt and I recently gave it another whirl. 

First off, Henne Color comes with the henna already disintegrated, unlike the Lush henna which is in a block which needs chopped up, making it much quicker and easier to prepare. So already one point over the Lush henna dye. 

In terms of actually applying the dye, the process is very similar. I recommend being a lot more thorough with the Henné Color though as the results are more vivid so make sure you get an even application (the Lush henna only gently highlights the hair so it's not the worst thing if you miss a small patch of hair). 

When it comes to washing the dye out I found it took a lot longer for the water to run clear compared to the Lush dye. And by longer I found that even when washing my hair four days later I could still see an orange tinge in the shower. 

The actual results were much more vivid than the Lush henna dye. The reason I have only used this twice and when I'm off work is because the initial result is very bright and clearly not a natural shade of red. However once it fades it becomes something I can sport daily to the office. If you want to the see the results, check out one of my latest Instagrams

Pro: doesn't damage hair, easy preparation, easily available, vivid colour
Con: takes forever to wash out, doesn't look that natural

I now use a mixture of the Lush henna and the Henné Color auburn dye. The Henné Color I use when I have time off work to do an all over application. However the Lush henna dye is what I use every time I want to doe a gentle top-up and get my brunette roots covered. 

Have you ever tried the Henné Color or Lush henna dye? Any other brands you think I should try out? 

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Ethical shopping...for an energy supplier

ethical energy supplier

It's not very often that I talk about my 'real job' on here. I work in the utilities industry and it's a bit on the dull side. I work for a consultancy and we organise company's utility contracts and lower their consumption...yeah.yeah, I know you don't care. However, working in this situations means I can rattle on about tariff comparison rates, renter rights, smart meters and ethical suppliers as if it's my job (because it is). 

And the ethical part is what I'm discussing today, because y'all know I'm big on the ethical shopping. Whilst shopping around for an ethical energy supplier is nowhere as riveting as a shopping for a cruelty-free, vegan, organic, fair trade is a form of ethical shopping that could actually leave more money in your pocket to spend on that cruelty-free, vegan, organic, fair trade foundation. You see, ethical in the utilities industry isn't just renewables and paper-free billing; it's about not ripping people off (which is what a lot of suppliers do). Ethical shopping can be something which is reserved for middle-class folks however choosing an ethical energy supplier is a moral consumer choice which is cost accessible for majority of people.

I'm not exactly huge on sharing my financial information on the Internet but for the purpose of creating a scene. When I moved into my current flat I was paying £112 a month for electricity (ouch!) from Scottish Power but when I switched to Ovo Energy it fell to £52 a month. My bill more than halved and I'm now with a supplier who isn't a member of the Big Six, on a tariff with is partially renewable and receive paperless billing. See what I mean about the ethical option being the cheapest option?

So where to start?

Choosing a smaller supplier
You may or may not be familiar with the term 'big six' - but it refers to the six main energy players in the UK. And I can assure you they deserve the hate they get in the press and no ethically savvy shopper would have them heating their home (we're talking about British Gas, SSE, nPower, EDF, E.On and Scottish Power). When I was researching suppliers I didn't even consider the big six, as I consider myself an active boycotter.

Comparison sites/DIY
When I'm researching for my flat (I'll do it again next winter) I run my details through comparison sites to get a flavour of what's available at my address, but then I go to the supplier website and get a quote directly from them. The difference between the quote offered on a comparison site and a quote from the supplier itself can be considerable. Oh, and comparison sites make commissions (they're effectively brokers/middle-men).

What are you wanting from a supplier?
I went with Ovo because it offered me a waaayyyy cheaper deal than any other supplier and being on a graduate income I decided that getting something cheap was more important than signing up with the bee-knees of the energy industry. However if situations were different I would have went with Good Energy who have a very good customer service rating and are 100% renewable (but with Ovo I still get a partially renewable tariff and I'm still sticking it to the big six) and their owner didn't donate a heap of money to the Labour party (looking at you Ecotricity).

Keeping up to date and familiarising yourself with the industry
The comparison site USwitch has a fantastic blog and Facebook page, and it's great place to keep up with domestic energy news. And as much as I hate the Daily Mail, their financial section This is Money is also a good place to start. My parents are also members of Which? and I have their login details and I make very few big purchases without it. The industry news site Utility Week is informative however without buying a subscription you can only read a limited number of articles a week, so only read information regarding domestic energy (and not, say the story on electricity transmission charges  - that's the kind of stuff I read).

Fixed price versus variable
Essentially a variable rate will mean you bill moves up and down depending on your usage. Whereas a fixed rate you only pay a certain amount each month regardless of your usage. A fixed rate tariff is however usually for a fixed amount of time. The basic rule is if you're a high energy user (work from home etc) a fixed rate would work best but if you're a low energy users (rarely in the house) then a variable rate would be the better option. My personal advice is that you should only choose a fixed rate if you've been switching for a good number of years and know what's a good price for your property and can be certain you'll be better off.

Renting and home ownership
What a lot of people don't know (and I also didn't know until I started my current job) is that renters have the right to choose their own supplier. The only situation a renter isn't allowed to choose is if they aren't responsible for paying the energy bills (i.e. utilities are included in the rent). If it's your name on the bills, it's your decision. The only thing renters need to be aware of is that the landlord can insist they change the supplier back when they move out, so don't choose a fixed term contract (unless you've spoken to your landlord).

Check your credit levels when you leave a supplier
A lot of suppliers work on a credit and debit basis where you pay the same amount each month and is designed to balance out the higher costs in the winter (but you'll pay a bit extra in the summer). When switching check if you have a credit balance and if so make sure you get it back (and it's best to claim it back before you announce you're leaving them). And avoid switching when your account is in debit.

How often should you switch
The guidance is every year. If you're on a fixed contract don't renew without checking other offers and if you're on flexible tariff it's still a good idea to check it every year. Just remember to check when you're account is in credit.

My experience with Ovo Energy
This was by far the cheapest option. However I've had the odd nuisance with them but for the price I haven't made that much of a fuss. I have two supplies in my flat, and when I applied to switch they only thought I wanted to change one supply which caused Scottish Power to block the move. Then, when they applied to switch them both they made one supply variable and one supply fixed. Thankfully I'm renting my current flat long term so it could be worse but they should have checked! But this is nothing compared to Scottish Power (who were banned from taking on more customers because their service was that shocking). I'm happy with them due to how cheap they are, but if you can afford something better I'd say go better.

As mentioned it's my job to know all this and there's information that I couldn't fit into one blog post. However, if you're now inspired to switch your supplier I'm more than happy to answer any questions. And if I don't know the answer someone in my work probably will.

Happy ethical energy switching! 
 Morag x
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The Linkables

Swansea University has carried out what could be the first scientific study into ASMR.

Feel like you might have the opposite of FOMO? It's called FOGO

The beautiful Chrissy Teigen chats about why she stopped Instagramming her photos.

I have found that since my 23rd birthday, birthdays just don't feel like birthdays anymore. Maybe I should get some rituals, Veronica shares hers

Four of the world's most connected people chat about how they network.

I'm so glad some people have enough time of their hands to think about things. Such as the difference between hahah and hehehe.

The 10 sexist (and least sexiest) creative pursuits. I've actually done more of the bottom 10 than the top 10....

Another (prehaps New Age) way to look at womanhood.

For the astrologically inclined, what to read when you're going through transit.

I don't read that many non-British blogs but when the photography is this good...

Some tips on creating a blogging space.

A reminder, have you married yourself yet?

If you're in Tokyo and fancy a good cry, there's a hotel with a crying suite...

Every Game of Thrones location in real life.

I normally like my ASMR videos to be very high (camera/sound) quality but I was pleasantly surprised by the tingles from this cosplay shop video.

Theresa has some wise words on 'evil big corporations'.

You can live in a castle, but you need to fit a certain blend of perfect...

Fancy joining the Mile High Club but don't want to get into trouble from the stewards? There's a plane company in Cinccnatti that can help

A reminder that sexual orientation (like many other things in life) is fluid.

Here are 20 disturbing Barbie Dolls.

The case for why getting up early is a good thing.

16 responses from amazing women who are sick of being asked about their love lives.

"You are not a ‘sell out’ if you find a job you don’t mind and then spend money from said job on things and experiences you truly love. You are not contractually obligated to the universe to make a career of your oil paintings. It’s totally okay to be an accountant who sells her paintings on Etsy and teaches the occasional Community Ed class." - Sarah has some very wise words on career and city swapping.

On the topic of career advice, here's what an academic would say to his younger self.

A reminder on the difference between self-care and self-comfort.

The makers of Cards Against Humanity once released a game which was essentially a pack of cards for swingers.

The Women's Football World Cup starts this Saturday and here's the schedule for how to keep up on the BBC.

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A look round my parents' garden & wildlife tips

Even though I've not blogged about it this summer, those of you who follow me on Instagram will be aware of my passion for urban/balcony gardening. Mainly my passion is just growing my own food, the urban part is simply because - when push comes to shove - I would always choose to live in a bustling city centre than a quaint village. In fact, the only thing that I dislike about city centre living is my lack of garden.

I grew up in an Aberdeenshire village and this week I've taken a week off work and headed up for some down-time. My parents own their house with a garden and I thought I'd take some time to show you what they've done with it.

herbs in Aberdeenshire garden

Herb and Vegetable Garden

You might have gathered that my parents were would have their own vegetable patch (though they began growing them when they entered retirement, also known as after I moved out). They keep their herbs in a three tiered containers as seen above. Inside of it is a mix of various lettuces, parsley, coriander, mint and fennel.

flower garden
Flowers for the wildlife

Something my parents always try to include in their garden are flowers which are good for local wildlife, such as bees and butterflies. As 2015's summer appears to be hiding somewhere a lot of these plants haven't quite sprouted through. If you're looking for inspiration on this topic the May issue of Vegan Life Magazine* has a two-page spread full of ideas. If you're wanting to help the bee pollution of the UK some good plans to include are mint, sunflowers and alliums. You can also help them get ready for their winter hibernation by sinking an upturned flowerpot into the ground near a fence out of direct sunlight and fill with dry moss or hamster bedding. Then create a hose for them to enter through before fully burying the pot under soil. 

If it's butterflies you're supporting then planting wild flowers is the best thing to do. Some nectar-rich flowers include coneflowers, zinnias, marigolds, sunflowers and daisies. And let's not forget the flying species of animals as Vegan Life magazine contains advice for attracting birds and bats! For birds its the obvious inclusion of a feeder and a bird bath but if you're wanting to help the bat population you can do this by including pale, night-scented plants (such as white lilies and white roses) which attract the likes of midges which are a bat delicacy (yum...).

african drum in aberdeenshire garden

An African Drum

As you may know, my mum regularly visits Zambia to say hello to her friend and offer up her hands for volunteering. As such my parents' home has developed a not-so-subtle African theme, including this drum which I found hanging from a tree (I hadn't spotted it before - the drum, I had seen the tree before). Whether or not you choose an African drum or not, try placing the odd personal relic into the garden (just like you would your house). 

If you have an actual garden, what do you do include in it?

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Smoothies at Heart Space Wholefoods, Dundee

heart space dundee smotthie

A fortnight ago, I brought you the news about the best box of noodles I had ever had (they're in Dr Noodles, Dundee). For this Wednesday's food post I'm heading back in the Dundee direction to review....a smoothie. 

(Someone take me to an actual restaurant).  

This smoothie is actually from Heart Space Whole Foods, a health store which opened up in Dundee a year ago. I did ooh and ahh about reviewing the shop at the time but decided against it because there's only so much you can say about a small health food shop (but I did add it to my map!). I did review the long-standing Health Food Store two years ago but I was truthfully going through a blogging dry-spell where the ideas were just not coming to me. 

But back to Heart Space. It's located on Exchange Street, which is the small street off the bottom of Commercial Street and is lined with independent shops and cafés (it's worth a wonder). Heart Space originally started off as yoga classes (which still exist!) before the owners decided to branch out into retail. And they've created a lovely wee store. If you've ever been in a health food store, you'll know they have a habit of being a bit...lack-lustre. Heart Space brought in the branding experts, the visual merchandisers, the friendly well-trained staff, which just gives it a more polished and welcoming image. Product wise, it doesn't contain anything that you're average health shop doesn't stock...there's vegan options, gluten-free options and support for local independent companies. But it's prettier. 

And they've put in a smoothie bar! Unfortunately, as much as I want to love this smoothie like I love the rest of the shop, it was too thick and resembled chocolate mouse more than anything else (and my apologies, I cannot remember what was in in - I recall almond butter, avocado and cocoa powder). When I'd finished, it I felt like I'd eaten a small meal and had less room for my dinner (which was this stir-fry recipe!). I really really really wanted to like this smoothie and wish I had positive words but...I don't. 

So Heart Space: good health store for buying some vegan cheese, not so good for smoothie purchasing. 

Have you ever been to Heart Space in Dundee? Does your local health store have any little extras?

P.S. The two health food stores are so close to each other in Dundee, if you don't find what you want one, you can nip along to the other. 

P.S.S If you live in Dundee other businesses I've reviewed and recommend include Maggie's Farm and Jushi the sushi bar
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Dusty Girls Mineral Make-Up

Dustry Girls blusher and mascara

A type of make-up I've always felt to be a hit or miss has been mineral make-up. And I have, for the most part, stayed clear. But very recently Australian mineral make-up company Dusty Girls* got in contact asking if I wanted to try a few pieces from their range. Admittedly I was a bit hesitant given my general feelings regarding parting with money for mineral products, but I decided to give it a bash. And I was pleasantly surprised. So the very first review of any mineral product on my blog (in the whole four years it has been running) is going to be surprisingly positive! 

First up we have their Natural Mineral Blush in Pink Ladies. Almost always, I'm a peach girl with my blush. However when I watched back my one month balcony garden video I realllly felt the lipstick and the peach blush didn't go and it was time to invest in a bigger blush collection. The first time I swirled this product on my face I was immediately taken aback by how pigmented it was! This is a very pigmented blush which you'll need to apply gently, or if you like your blush very vibrant then it'll be right up your street. The shade itself I would say is a baby pink - perfect for pale girls. Also the staying power was what I would consider to be of average quality - I used it for work (a very small amount, mind you!) and did find myself wanting to give myself another application at lunch time (bare in mind I do have very oily skin). 

Second up I received their Natural Mineral Bronzer in Sunshine. Just like the blusher this is a very pigmented product. It only comes in one shade so be careful pale ladies. I have quite fair skin (not ridiculously pale) and it still worked well for me - with very gentle and careful application! The bronzer and blusher come in the same size of case, and it's a very generous case as of that and I believe I'll own this product for a very long time! 

Finally, I have the Night Fall Natural Mineral Mascara which is the first mineral mascara that has ever come into my possession. It's a small fibre brush and gets all the small eyelashes. It has quite an everyday normal effect on my eyelashes (does that make sense?) which isn't too wowza but you can still tell I'm wearing mascara. The only negative point is that it's not waterproof so not one to wear to a wedding or during hayfever season. 

Dusty Girls Mineral Make-Up

Pros: very pigmented, cute packaging, blush and bronzer are large sizes, mascara has a small brush.
Cons: mascara is not waterproof. 

About Dusty Girls
Dusty Girls are a 100% vegan Australian mineral make-up company. They are part of MooGoo who specialise in skincare for problem skin and have long been included in my cruelty-free brand list

This product was sent to me by the brand for my consideration. 
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