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So, 2016?




I know what everyone is thinking about round up posts to conclude 2016: we probably shouldn't bother writing one as it has been a shit year yah ahahssshaha. Election fuck-ups and dead celebrities aside, some good things have happened. No really: humpback whales are no longer endangered, the ozone layer is repairing itself, global malaria is down by 60%, there's now an ebola vaccine, tiger numbers have grown for the first time in 100 yearsSea World is finally getting what has always been coming to it and Leo won that goddam Oscar! 



On a personal note, 2016 has been a good year for me (something I almost feel guilty saying). Not because of any noteworthy event such as getting engaged or a promotion, 2016 was just the year where things clicked for me. At the start of the year I exclaimed that this was the first NYE in sometime when I felt genuinely excited for my future. And that still stands: I'm happy with where my life is going and everything has fallen into place for me. 
(Cat is out the bag; I'm a sociopath)

A few people have asked me - and by a few people I mean, like, 3 people - why I don't blog as much and if everything is okay. Everything is fine. I had previously been using blogging as a career building tool, hence a blog 4 times a week and numerous brand partnerships. At the end of 2015 I finally got my foot properly in the door of a job that allows me to do what I love, and my blog shifted to being personal. I still love blogging, and will never give it up, but I'm loving blogging on my own terms and I don't see myself returning to those stressy weirdo days with my head in my inbox. 

However, no year is 100% perfect (just as 2016 hasn't been 100% imperfect) and some of you will be aware that this was the year that I lost my gran. She was a private lady and that's why I've refrained from speaking about her passing publicly, aside from one Instagram of the beautiful ring she left me. While I loved my gran and miss her dearly, she passed the way we all ideally would: well into old age, with no major health problems, mentally sharp enough to enjoy her last few years, lived long enough to see her grandchildren grow up, and had reached a point where she no longer feared death and accepted that we all have to reach the sky one day.  I've lived my life somewhat unhappily for a few years now and I'm full of love that she lived long enough to see me happy once again. 

2016, you were definitely something. I don't want to take away from how shit this year has been for some people - especially those who will be directly squished-on because of shitty elections. But on the whole I was content and my emotions were positive. And that's not something I've been able to say in an end-of-year round-up since 2012. So thank you for something. 

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How we organised Christmas dinner




Christmas Day has come and went, so now it's time to pack up everything and start writing about our latest rose gold purchases and the best way to hide dark circles.

But wait, I still have another xmas blog post - about how to organise a gigantic Christmas dinner. Like, I know most of you would have benefited from this prior to Christmas Day but it wouldn't have been as authentic and I would have been making assumptions and talking out my behind. So erm, bookmark this for next year please? 

To start with, let's illustrate what me and my parents were trying to pull off here. There were 11 people on the day, two of whom have (different) dietary restrictions and my mum who hates onions. Plus, it was the first Christmas Dinner held in our house in years, with a brand new kitchen that nobody really knew how to work. And while me and mum share similar DNA, our attitudes towards organisation differs widely - my mum was still perusing recipes on Christmas morning as if it was no big deal whereas I was standing in the kitchen on the 22nd telling my parents off for not having a plan.

But my mum loves hosting and I love cooking so the challenge was on. And here's how we did it, and what our advice is for other people. 

1. First off, look at logistics
My parents' new kitchen has two ovens, a steamer, a hob, a deep fat fryer and a microwave. I also have an uncle who lives in the same street so we can use his oven and hobs. I was also arriving home on the 22nd and wouldn't be working so I could also cook in advance. These are luxuries I appreciate not everyone has, but if you do have relatives who live in the same street and you have time off work, make use of them/it. 

2. Remember it's about your guests, not you
When hosting any dinner party it is tempting to put on a spread of only foods you love. Believe me, I'd love to cook a 100% vegan Christmas Dinner with chilli and tangy flavours but alas everyone else in family eats meat and prefer their food to be straight forward and traditional. So those Brussels sprouts infused with chilli oil will have to make-do for another time.

Some questions to ask yourself include who is driving and can't drink (so you can buy in the appropriate number of soft drinks), who eats meat and who doesn't, who has a food allergy, are there any foods someone in your family hates (like my mum and onions), who has a big appetite and who has a small appetite and would your family prefer a quirky take on Christmas cuisine or would they prefer a traditional Sunday roast-esque affair?

3. Research and plan your menu
Now that your know who your guests are, have double checked any allergies and have had a look at the logistics, now you can start planning your menu. Because we had quite a few stoves and ovens at our disposal we were able to go a bit crazy (which was great, considering there were 11 people and 2 had dietary restrictions). In the end we ended up picking a home-made tomato soup for starters, a ham, turkey and vegan dish for mains, god knows how many roast vegetables and two gravies. While dessert was a buffet selection of sorbets (store-bought and homemade), banana-based chocolate ice-cream and a cheese board. We also bought in plenty of soft drinks and a few new wine bottles.

4. Cook some dishes in advance
On the 23rd I prepared some vegan truffles....that went wrong. So we had time to come up with something else, which ended up being the banana-based chocolate ice-cream. Then on Christmas Eve my dad prepared the tomato soup while I made the filling for my vegan main. So on Christmas Eve all that was left was for me to wrap mine in pastry and leave in the oven, roast the aforementioned god knows how many vegetables, plus cook the turkey and ham.

5. Think about what time to invite everyone round
We went for 3pm which would allow us to finish up everything but isn't late enough in the day that we only get a few hours with our family (which is what this get together is meant to be about after all).

6. Ask people to bring dishes (but co-ordinate) 
Obviously my uncle (and cousins) brought stuff round from their house, however my aunt who lives a few towns away brought a pavlova cake with her. But remember to check what everyone is bringing - when we held Christmas at my uncle's one year there were double the amount of roast potatoes than planned.

7. What can be cooked together
Not all of our roast vegetables went in separately. The asparagus, broccoli, green beans and some brussel sprouts were roasted together in an olive oil and garlic mix. While the roast potatoes were all roasted by themselves. Some brussel spouts were also cooked in the steamer.

8. How to present it
My parents new kitchen has a breakfast bar which is where the carvery took place. They also have a new cabinet just outside the kitchen which is where drinks (and later, desserts) were found. The vegetables were all served on the table where everyone was sitting.

You might have a big enough dining table that allows enough room for a turkey or you might have to ask people for their order and fill all the plates in the kitchen. But thinking about this in advance can save a lot of time.

9. Decorate the night before
Don't make cooking harder for yourself by also having to decorate that morning. Get that sshhhh done the night before. Fairy lights? Check. Table out? Check. Table cloths? Check. Place settings? Check. All cutlery clean and polished? Check. Floor clean? Check.

10. Remember your leftovers
Christmas is awful for food waste and it's difficult to avoid if you're wanting to ensure your guests don't run out of things to eat. When planning your menu, also think about foods that store easily. Cooked vegetables don't if I am honest, but cooked meat stores easily and frozen desserts can last a while (but a fruit salad will need to be eaten that day).

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A Christmas playlist you haven't already heard 200 times





Despite my love of cheesy pop, I have very little time for popular Christmas songs. Wizard? Can leave it. Fairytale of New York? Will switch the channel. Band Aid? You don't want my opinion on super-rich tax dodging celebrities recording charity songs. As a teenager I remember my angst as the music channels shifted from being whatever was popular at the time into full on Christmas (and tbh, I still feel that angst). It's not because of some anti-establishment Grinch belief; it's just very few of the well-known classics do anything for me. 

But because I'm still music fan and a fan of over the top celebrations - every year I scout the internet for the best in festive melodies that aren't what we hear every single year. So here's my collection of lesser-known indie jams, forgotten Christmas songs from really well-known acts and some songs you'll have actually heard of. 

All I want for Christmas is You - Mariah Carey
Love is Christmas - Sara Bareilles
My Only Wish (This Year) - Britney Spears
Christmas Without You - OneRepublic
New Year's Resolution - Camera Obscura
Christmas Time (Don't Let the Bells End) - The Darkness
Sleigh Ride - TLC
8 Days of Christmas - Destiny's Child
Holiday Celebrate - Toni Braxton
Santa Claus is Coming to Town - Bruce Springsteen
Early Christmas Morning - Cyndi Lauper
Xmas in the Hood - 3LW
Last Christmas - Ariana Grande
This Christmas - Christina Aguilera
River - Tall Heights
Last Christmas - Carly Rae Jepsen
Christmas is All Around - Brad Callow
It's Only Christmas - Ronan Keating

Open on Spotify

And this gem that Spotify didn't have a high-quality version of:




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Vegan Christmas recipe round-up




As I type this, me and my parents are finalising our Christmas Day menu. And this is no easy task. My mum loves hosting (she also has a new extension and kitchen to play with) and I love cooking so neither of us want to do the 25th of December by halves. Plus, we're preparing a 3-course meal for 11 family members, one of which is vegan (me!) and another can't eat wheat. No biggie.

But it's got to the point where we're having to cut back and reduce the amount of dishes we're talking about. But all of those extra recipes sure do make for a good blog post! If you're still not sure what to cook for your meat-free Christmas dinner, I hope the following can be of help. I've included recipes that are vegan by default, ones that require a quick substitution and also vegetarian recipes for those of you taking that first step.

Starters


Baby artichoke bruschetta - http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/bread-recipes/baby-artichoke-bruschetta/

Aubergine boats - http://www.veganrecipeclub.org.uk/recipes/aubergine-boats

Make-ahead mushroom soufflés - http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/4979/makeahead-mushroom-souffls

Parsnip soup with parsley cream - http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/847640/parsnip-soup-with-parsley-cream

Sweet potato & butternut squash soup with lemon & garlic toast - http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/sweet-potato-butternut-squash-soup-lemon-garlic-toast

Main - Centrepiece



Cashew Nut Roast with Sage and Onion Stuffing - http://whyveg.com/recipes/make_this.php?recipe=45





Main - Sides








Lentil Mushroom Walnut Balls with Cranberry-Pear Sauce - http://ohsheglows.com/2013/11/13/lentil-mushroom-walnut-balls-with-cranberry-pear-sauce/


Sweet potatoes stuffed with apples, cranberries, and pecans - http://www.foodista.com/blog/2011/11/22/heavenly-hasselback-sweet-potatoes

Desserts



Co-op are also selling a pre-pared Christmas pudding that is vegan suitable - https://www.goodhousekeeping.co.uk/institute/food-reviews/christmas-pudding




Drinks







Barnivore to check what brands are vegan friendly!

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Christmas Gift Guide: Geeks and Nerds




Hands up if you're hoping for something geeky under your tree on Christmas Day?

*puts up hands*

I might still like unwrapping make-up and clothes, but ultimately I want something I can geek on. So, um, this is perhaps a little less "what to buy a geek for Christmas" and more me hinting exactly what I'd personally like under my tree. 

But I'm sharing it anyway. 

Retro Gaming Console. Did you know you can buy GameCube's for as little as £50 these days. And game boys for even less. Heck, there are Playstation 1s going for £40 on eBay. Shelling out for the most recent model might put you back a few hundred, but any geek appreciates a new addition to their console collection. 

Light Saber Chopsticks. I don't even like Star Wars (bad geek, I know!) but even I'd use these.  

A floor plan of their favourite TV show. I'd personally be eyeing up Carrie Bradshaw's flat

Harry Potter Bookmarks. Yes, please.

Bulbasaur planter. Because even geeks have plants. 

A Hand Towel with their favourite fandom. This Etsy shop has loads.  

A candle that smells of their favourite fictional place. Pretend you're in the Hufflepuff dormitories or out catching Pokemon. 

Batman cookie cutter. Because even the Dark Knight has a sweet tooth.

Programming Deck of Cards. Because, why not? 

Superhero Nail Decals. Even if that Captain America looks a bit out of place....

A phone case with their favourite fandom. Redbubble has a good selection. 

Tablet stand. For when they're binge watching in bed.

Middle Earth Mug.

Monopoly. But one of the cross-over editions: Frozen, Pokemon, DC, Call of Duty and Star Wars all have their own versions. 

Comic Photo Frame. An award-winning present

Game of Thrones cookbook. There's a few running around, but here's the official one.

RPG Dice Desk Calendar. For the organised geek.

Pop Vinyl. Choose their favourite character.

Punderdome. A card game for pun-lovers.

Loot Crate. A box of geeky goodness.  

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Drop Dead Vegan Burger at The Harley, Sheffield



Sheffield is honestly somewhere I've not ever paid much attention to. Growing up I knew it as the place The Full Monty had been filmed, and where the Harris/Nelson family on Coronation Street had original hailed from (my mid-00s pop culture knowledge is just that good). Aside from that, it has never been on my radar. 

The only reason I recently took a trip to Sheffield is because one of my best friends moved there to study for her Masters. Naturally I Googled local vegan-friendly restaurants, because that's exactly the kind of fun thing I do. And I was pleasantly surprised. It's not somewhere that gets hailed as a vegan mecca in online circles, so you can imagine my excitement when I ended up having one of the best vegan burgers of my life while in the city. 

The vegan burger I am referring to is Drop Dead Twisted BBQ Burger at The Harley. Not just a small patty that some restaurants 'create' to tick some box that allows them to claim they are vegan friendly. Nope, this burger puts out the stops. It boasts a double patty, vegan cheese slices, BBQ jackfruit and BBQ sauce. It was one of the most extravagant burgers I've ever had - and let's be honest, extravagant burgers aren't hard to come by, but extravagant vegan burgers are.



The patties are supplied by the local Twisted Burger Company. I'll be honest, I'm not exactly sure what the burger is made from (that is the one fault of the service - people need to know this for allergens or preferences) but the burger is a mock meat. You might already be aware but I usually prefer burgers that are clearly made up from vegetables (mushrooms are my personal favourite) so for me to stand here (or type here?) and say this is one of the best burgers I've had is a bit of an accolade. 

The venue itself is definitely of the indie rock persuasion (got to love a 10 Things I Hate About You quote) and not for the conservative. Their website states that the staff personally create the playlist to suit the venue and the particular even that is taking place. The bar was also very well-stocked with a wide range of spirits to choose from - as well as a modest cocktail menu! 

If you're ever in Sheffield (or perhaps you live there already) I would definitely recommend a trip to The Harley. It's located at 334 Glossop Road, but the Twist Burger Company also sells their food in The Yard (Ilkley), Vintage Bar (Doncaster) and various music festivals around the UK. 

The Harley


Twisted Burger Company




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What's your favourite scary movie?




There are two types of people in the world: those who read this blog title and thought I was genuinely asking what their favourite scary movie is and those who knew this blog would be about the Scream franchise. If you're the latter: can we be friends, please? I have friends I can speak incessantly to about Batman, but no one I can chat Scream theories to.  

In all honestly though, sometimes people try to argue when I say Scream is one of my favourite franchises of all time. 

It's the same argument: "the first one was great, but the 2nd and 3rd ones were okay and they really shouldn't have bothered with the 4th". We're all entitled to our opinions, but for me all the Scream films were brilliant and have went down in history as some of my personal favourites (in fact, my favourite Scream film is the third one - so suck on that!). 

As you will (hopefully) know by now (and probably do know if you follow me on Twitter) is that Scream has recently been made into a TV series by MTV. I was cynical when it was first announced - because even though I loved the films, there have been other franchises I've loved that really should have bowed out gracefully (Sex and the City - are you listening? Sabrina, also looking at you). But they've not long finished the second season and I'm eagerly awaiting the third season to find out who the other killer is. 

As an addendum, this is the final point where my love letter remains spoiler free. I don't know why you'd be reading a post about a film and tv show you've not fully seen yet and expecting no spoilers - but here's me spoon feeding it. If, like me, you don't mind spoilers (or have seen both the TV show and films) then read on.  

One of the reasons I didn't think it would work, is the inevitable passing of time. Sure Scream did stay away from hideous 90s fashion so it does have a timeless look about it - but it still has been 20 years since the first one was released. Aren't the actors old now? Does the same set still exist? How can they aim a show at teenagers who weren't even born yet when the original film was released? 


But the makers of the TV show didn't make all the same mistakes that other re-boots do. They aren't taking us back to Woodsboro again and again and again. They're not still trying to pass Neve Campbell off as a high school student (tbh, she didn't even pass as a high school student back then). And they're not taking Billy Loomis back from the dead.

The Scream writers were smart and kept what made Scream iconic: the killer who has watched one too many scary movies, the high school setting, the pop culture references, the whodunit, the creepy phone call, the voice. Those were the important parts - there's not a rule somewhere that Neve Campbell has to play Sidney Prescott until the day she dies (can someone let Hugh Jackman know this? I love Wolverine but it's time to let another character get centre stage). Other successful franchises go this route too. Think about James Bond - it has survived because they've switched up the actors and moved with the times.



In the Scream television series we are taken to Lakewood (not Woodsboro), the main character is Emma Duvall (not Sidney Prescott), the film geek is Noah Foster (not Randy Meeks), the original killer prior to the film is Brandon James (not Cotton Weary), and we even get a different mask! Oh and the killer doesn't just use phone calls anymore - there's text messaging and killer selfies! (This was a bit cringey at first, but you get used to it)

Despite the changes, the TV show still pays homage to the original films. The opening scene with Nina reflects that of Casey Becker, and the closing scene at Nina's house party mirrors the final kill-off in Scream 1. Which made my pop culture heart flutter - but I did wonder if audiences who hadn't seen the films might be a bit lost. Not actually, as I've found out from friends. The references just go over their heads and they continue to enjoy the show - which is an accolade to the talent of the writers.


However, the references do have a negative drawback - I was able to guess the killers because I've seen the films. I didn't pre-emptively identify Piper as the killer, but once it was revealed she was actually the half-sibling of Emma and her killing spree was an act of jealousy - I got a sense of dejavu. If you've seen the films you'll know that in Scream 3 it was revealed that Sidney had a half-sibling through her mum, who had been given up for adoption - and killed out of jealousy. So when season 2 started it didn't take long for my suspicions of Emma's boyfriend Kieran to grow because Sidney's boyfriend in Scream 1, Billy Loomis, had turned out to be the killer.

You might be reading this and thinking I'm an old codger who rants about the youth of today. If you are good at maths and know my exact date of birth - you might have noted that I was only 6 when the first film came out. I do actually have responsible parents who kept me away from age-inappropriate media, and I didn't watch Scream until I was roughly 15. The fact that I watched it almost a decade after its first release (and loved it) is a testament to its timelessness. Okay, there are a few things that give away its 90s-ness (covered in this funny YouTube video) but it has stood its test of time. 

It wasn't until recently, however, that I discovered how important Scream was to the horror genre. Scary movies weren't having a good time in the early to mid 90s and Scream revitalised it. It was both a critical and financial success - due to its smart humour and cultural importance. The debate about whether slasher films encourage real-world killers is one that society still has today - and is actively discussed in the film. As Stu said "Movies don't make killers, they just make them more creative". The second film even comments on a lack of racial diversity in horror films: 


The revelation that they're had been two killers made it stand out as well. Think about it: how many slasher films have two killers. Two killers makes it harder for the audience to identify the culprit (I managed to guess Kieran, but I spent a lot of series convinced there would be a second killer - my money was on Brooke, which I know will annoy a lot of fans). 

Also, am I just old or is it really cool that the TV show includes a caption letting audiences know what song is currently playing? Is that new, or are all the cool shows doing it now?

To all that doubt Scream's brilliance and my love for it: 1) mind your own business and get back to whatever franchise is your favourite and 2) it saved the horror genre, managed to successfully launch a tv show two decades after the original and is full of pop culture references. 

And I don't know what else you could want in a film. 

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Christmas gift guide: your parents (or grandparents, and other grown-ups)




When people ask me in a frenzied state if I have all my Christmas shopping done, I almost feel bad saying yes. You see I'm a single, only child with no living grandparents and friends who only switch birthday presents...so my parents are the only people who are consistently on my list. 

Saying that, I think we're all in agreement that parents are the worst to buy for. You firstly have the pressure of getting them something great to make up for all the generous presents they bought you over the years (and everything else they paid for!). Then there's the added pressure of getting them something they don't already own. I mean, my parents have been around since the 1950s and I'm not entirely sure if there's any material goods they haven't purchase themselves over the years (the temptation get them something gimmicky is high). 

Whether you parents are the only people you buy for, or they're just two of twenty, then here's my guide to what you could get them (or any other older relative that you might buy for). 

Jamie Oliver Pasta Machine. Kitchen gadgets are always a great fail-safe for parents, especially when they're kitchen gadgets that they probably don't already have (but would be nice to have!). I also like the Master Pan, and the SMART Breakfast

Lapdesk. If your parents are anything like mine (or fit the stereotype of parents) they love to show off how good they are with technology *cough* and own every gadget ever (even if they struggle to work them). Give them a helping hand with a lapdesk so they can browse "The Facebook" while watching Corrie. 

Autoseal Travel Mug. Erm, it's practical? My parents love travel and anything travel related always ends up on my short list. 

Robot Mop. Just look at this gif!


This will totally make up for all the chores you didn't do as a kid. (Firebox)

A bottle of their favourite tipple. Whenever I get really stuck for ideas with my parents, it's a bottle of high-end single malt whiskey for my dad and gin for my mum. 

High-end candles. Stay out of the Yankee Candles shop. There's a range of luxury candles you can pick up for your parents, and my top pick is The Isle of Skye Candle Company

A boxset. Your parents grew up during a time when DVDs didn't exist and they had to tape everything off the TV (my mum will groan at me for saying that). But technology has caught up and their favourite films as a teenager have now been digital re-mastered.  

Gillian Kyle anything. The epitome of  mum/dad/gran friendly (if they're Scottish).

Family Crest and Surname History. If your parents are proud of their family ancestry, this is the perfect thing to get them. From: Getting Personal

The gift of experience. Whenever you're buying for someone who seems to have everything, look at  an experience. Helicopter rides, skiing lessons, or tickets to an upcoming show. There's a wide range from Getting Personal, but there's a lot of these on the market. 

Donate to a charity in their name. Gifts in Action have a large collection, but almost all big charities have a Christmas gift option.

Because I know not everyone's mum wants perfume for Christmas, and not everyone's dad wants gardening shears, I'm going to plug my wishlists based on personality types from previous years. Gift sets from small, cruelty-free brands, online shopping for ethical Christmas presents, gift guide for a Scottish fashionista,  Stocking fillers for a kitschy gardener, gifts for the well-groomed cruelty-free male, stocking fillers for a foodie who loves a drink,  AND (my favourite!) stocking fillers for redheads and gingers. Happy shopping!

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What to do when elections go to fuck




So, erm, the American election went well didn't they?

Okay, it went well if you actually wanted a misogynistic, Islamophobic and homophobic billionaire celebrity with no political experience who publicly mocks disabled people as President. 

But if you're reading my blog chances are you're not down with that (unless you're a troll or hate reader - then hello!). Chances are you put your cross in another box (or would have if you were American) and are now feeling frustrated, angry, upset, scared and a host of other negative emotions. 

I hear ya. The last couple of elections in the UK haven't exactly went my way. The UK voted for Brexit, The Conservatives won another five years, Scotland didn't go independent, and the Tories had a bit of a resurgence in Scotland. I sometimes wonder why I bother staying up to watch results come through giving I'll be both sleep-deprived and punching walls the next day. 

On the morning of the American Presidential result, I messaged my American friend to check how she was feeling. She was heart-broken but also asked for coping advice, throwing in a reference to Brexit. It was a difficult question to answer, as I live in Scotland where all council regions voted Remain. I don't have to live side-by-side with most Brexiters, and it still remains to be seen when the UK actually will leave the EU (if it ever will). 

But I've had a few days to think about it, and here's my advice for when elections go to fuck and what you can actively do. 

Understand what really went wrong

It's really easy to shout "racist, sexist, middle America who always votes for white men" and then go sulk. And while, yes, Trump (plus Brexit and Tories) win elections because there's still people out there who think women should only be married to politicians. Or that America should close its doors to immigrants, even though almost everyone in modern USA is descendent from an immigrant. Or can't even tell the difference between Iran and Mexico on a map. 

I will never ever say these things aren't true - they are. But it's not the whole story. 

Clinton won the popular vote but not the electoral college. There's a massive flaw in the voting system. There's a massive flaw in the UK voting system too: it's not about how many votes you win, it's about your supporters being concentrated into the same region! I am lucky that I can vote for who I want in a city like Glasgow where the Tories will never see light of day, but in other parts of Scotland I would be voting for the candidate I hate the least. The voting system is a massive problem. 

Another problem, was the mainstream media. I don't know how bad it was in America - but after a few weeks of watching the American elections on the BBC I actually had to Google 'who are the other Republican candidates?'. If this is how the news channels behaved in America, then it's no wonder Trump won the Republican candidacy. 

And then there's the other problem with the mainstream media - people sick of mainstream media so decided to vote for the candidate who wasn't media darling. Hillary was favoured by the American media and Hollywood, and some people took that as a sign that 'she was part of the system'. Donald on the other hand had very few endorsements so he's seen as some kind of cool anti-establishment figure. I don't know how because he's, like, the 1% of the 1% but it worked. 

We have the same problem in the UK - the BBC is state funded and meant to be unbiased. But unbiased media does not exist. Look at the way they followed Nigel Farage around before there was ever a UKIP MP, but didn't give the Green Party any attention even though they had a damn MP (in the form of the fabulous Caroline Lucas). 

And while we're on the subject of media bias ask yourself honestly: should Hillary have been the Democratic candidate? Did she maybe not get chosen due to media attention and voters thinking more about strategy rather than who really was the best candidate. Look, I'm not saying Bernie would have won - statisticians can analyse the numbers all they want but unless anyone has a crystal ball they can't say. 

AND (this is my final point) a lot of Trump's support came from un-educated Americans. You know, people with less information at their finger tips and have to rely on mainstream media. Sometimes university-educated, middle class, urban living, technology-savvy progressives need a reminder that they have access to a bulk-load more information than someone who is working-class, doesn't know how to use the internet, is working two jobs just trying to get by and lives in a small community. 

You on the other hand have a degree in sociology or politics, can pay to read news that is covered by paywall, can use the internet to dig up dirt or read a piece of information that the mainstream media is conveniently not mentioning. This is a privilege and you need to understand that many people don't have it. 

It wasn't even just the American elections - a lot of Leave voters were working class, as were a lot of Scottish Independence supporters. Because when you're fucked by the system, you'll vote for change - any change. Fellow Green Party member Chris wrote this well-balanced piece after Brexit, which covers what exactly happened

So what can we actually do? If you're in the UK donate to and support the Electoral Reform Society, and make electoral reform an important issue that you ask candidates about. Read news articles that go beyond mainstream media - dig deep, and when you find something don't keep it to yourself. Write a blog and shout your views loud and clear. And don't just campaign once candidates are chosen - campaign while they are being chosen. Don't just vote, be an actual voice. 

Donate to charities and organisations that need support

The world is still capitalist, and that's why billionaire business men win. If you want a candidate to win (whether Hillary, Bernie, or a third-party candidate) one of the best things you can do is donate to their campaign. With more money they can have more bus adverts, pop a leaflet through every door, run a TV campaign, hire a great press officer, have posters in all their supporters windows and provide badges for their supporters. Money doesn't grow on trees, and that includes the trees outside the White House. 

But it's not just political campaigns that need money. Since the Tories got in vulnerable people have become more vulnerable - and it looks like it might be the same when Trump takes his seat in the Oval Office. Donate to organisations that need you right now. It's difficult to list them all as so many need support - but Get Bullish has compiled a great list to get Americans started. I could name so many in the UK but some organisations that I throw donations towards include Rape Crises Scotland, the PDSA, and MS Society. I also give random donations to the Scottish Green Party on top of my membership fee. 

Vote in every election, every damn one

The next election in Scotland is the council elections. Yeah, those fun ones that have a really high turnout (eye roll). But the council elections actually have the fairest voting system - and that makes them one of the best to get your voice heard. Parties such as the SNP, Plaid Cymru, the Green Party and even UKIP will never have a Prime Minister under First Past the Post. But they can lead councils. And that's where small little parties have the chance to prove themselves worthy of the people's vote in bigger elections. 

I'm not sure when the next American election is (or if any of them could be counted as fair) but whatever the vote is - make sure your vote is cast. 

Take care of yourself

If you need to cry, let yourself cry.  If you're one of the disadvantaged groups that are scared right now - you are allowed to be scared. Take a few days. Have a media blackout. 

Be a good alley

If you're not one of the disadvantaged groups Trump has made bigoted remarks about, now is time to be a good alley. Publicly let LGBT+, immigrant, Muslim, black, Asian, Hispanic, and disabled communities that you support them. And then take action. Donate to organisations that support them. If one of your disadvantaged friends is scared to leave the house, offer to go with them. Accompany your female friend if she needs an abortion. Call out racist and sexist jokes. Words are great, but actions are better.  

Also, do not ever fucking tell people 'now is time to unite and build a America for all'. By doing this, you are telling people that their fear of a Trump presidency is not real. You are telling them to roll over and accept a President who publicly mocks them. By saying this you keep the oppressed, oppressed. 

Look to the future

The next four years will be bleak, but there is life after every shitty government. 

And the proof?

Millennials - well, most - did not vote Trump. The cycle of life guarantees that these progressive attitudes will expand as people born in the past two - three decades grow older and finally kick bigoted views to the curb. And even take office. 

Then there's anger. The morning after the No vote in the Scottish Referendum, yes voters didn't roll over and accept it. They joined the pro-independence parties and the SNP became the biggest political party in the UK by membership. In the months that followed it became obvious that the UK Government wasn't going to keep its promises to Scotland (remember when they said that staying in the UK was the best way to guarantee EU membership, and that Scotland could never become a member on its own - still not forgotten that). 

So what did Scotland do? Sent a tsunami of SNP MPs to Westminster in the next UK election. Scottish Labour lost their stronghold on Scotland and could be found floating dead in Loch Ness somewhere. 

Heck, I've even seen it in Student Elections. One year my old university's students union Vice-President was shitty and wouldn't do his job. The next election? He ran for President and people were pissed. The turnout was high and the other candidate won by more than double the votes. 

Somewhere in the USA a young woman or girl, seen Hillary's defeat and is pissed enough that she has decided she will become the first female President. 

Sometimes, anger is what people need to get involved. 

Hold tight America, you deserve better and you'll get better. 

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Tampopo, Trafford Shopping Centre





Manchester has long been on my list of places to visit (you could argue I'm easily pleased). Growing up it was a pop culture hub with a famous soap and an even more famous football club. In my adult years it came onto my radar even more as a vegan hotspot, and the adopted home of one of my veggie blogging bffs Louise

So while heading out to Old Trafford Football Stadium was on my to-do list, so was meeting up with Louise for some vegan grub. Now, we had a bit of drama with this one. V Revolution is closed for renovations, Dough is closed due to storm damage and so many other vegan cafés were outwith the city centre boundary - and since I only had 24 hours in the city I didn't want to wander too far out. 

Then Louise suggested heading to one of the restaurants in the Old Trafford Shopping Centre. Originally I was a bit hesitant because I assumed they would all be chains that are available in Scotland, and I didn't exactly want to eat in the same-old while exploring a new city. Thankfully, there were two vegan friendly restaurants to choose from that were not available in Glasgow. 

We settled on Tampopo - an Asian fusion restaurant with clearly marked vegan dishes. If you live south of the border, this restaurant might be more familiar to you. There's three in Manchester and one in Soho, London. It had a very Wagamamas-esque feel to it - so even if you haven't been before, you'll know what to expect. 

The menu itself is large but when you narrow down the vegan dishes you're only left with a few choices - but I will never fault a restaurant for trying. (Also to note: the menu online is slightly out-of-date and is not the same as the one we were handed). This was also one of those nights where I could hear my stomach rumbling: I had had a busy day of travelling and walking round the Manchester United Museum, while Louise had been at work. So between us we ordered a starter and main each, plus a side and a dessert to share. It was one of those days.



We  each chose the same starter of vegetable tempura, and this honestly the best tempura I have ever eaten. Weirdly they included a tempura pepper, which was a bit random but the soy sauce was perfectly salty and we got a good amount of vegetables for our money.



For mains I chose the Singaporean Curry. I'll hold my hands up right now and say I'm not sure the differences between a Singaporean Curry and other Asian cuisines - but this was a good damn curry. The sauce is a mix of coconut milk and turmeric, while the vegetables were sweet potato and cherry tomatoes. I also came across a few little pieces of tofu - which cheekily weren't mentioned on the menu but I love tofu so I'm not personally complaining (though I know it could be a deal-breaker for some).



Me  and Louise also shared some Wok Fried Greens as a side. This was the only part of the meal I felt let down by. The spinach had been left too long to soak and had that horrible soggy texture that I can't stomach the taste of (the same happens when I order the Pizza Express Pianta off Deliveroo). The marinade was also no way near as flavoursome as some restaurants' take on this dish.



Remember that I mentioned that I was hungry? I was hungry enough to add in a dessert - even though I'm usually not a dessert person. There were two vegan options on the menu: mango sorbet or a banana split. The banana split would have probably been a bit more original, but I fell for my old favourite of sorbet. I know a lot of vegans groan at sorbet, but I personally really like it and this was a very creamy take on it.

Afterwards, we had a wander round the Trafford Shopping Centre itself. It's the second-biggest in the UK, and is styled after the malls you find in America. It certainly looked a lot different to other British shopping malls, with it's marble floor and water fountains. However, a lot of the shops were the same as you would find in Glasgow - with the only exception being Selfridges. And don't get me wrong - I had a massive rummage through it (it was my first time in a Selfridges). I didn't buy anything but was tempted by the Kate Spade stationery (but put it back down when I realised how expensive Kate Spade is!).

All in all, I would recommend Tampopo. There's two more in Manchester city itself so you don't need to go out to the Trafford Centre in order to try it. I love fushion Asian cuisine and it's just the trick if you're looking for something Wagamama-esque (but not quite Wagamamas).

Overall:
Food: 8
Atmosphere: 8
Location: 5 
Value for money: 9



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3 vegan lipsticks with orange hues




Orange is one of the lipstick shades I'm sure a lot of us have a love-hate relationship with. I mean, it looks great when models wear it - but us regular people who can't afford a professional make-up artist to steer us away from shades that downright don't suite us. Nah. 

But last year I did find myself caught up in the orange lipstick trend. I am lucky that my skin generally has neutral undertones. It leans slightly towards warmer shades but I mostly do suit all lipstick shades (aside from nudes, I'm one of those typical pale people who looks dead without some colour on my lips). 

If your own lipstick collection is still lacking some orange hues, here are my top 3. Okay they're the only 3 I own because I'm not a super-star blogger who can afford everything. But I would wholeheartedly recommend all of them.



L-R: Son of a Brick, Flirty Orange and Boss Lady. 

1. LippyGirl Son of a Brick*

I reviewed this lipstick in full last year and it remains my favourite for when I'm feeling a subtle orange. An earthy shade that is orange meets brown but is subdue enough to wear during the day. 

2. Gosh Flirty Orange

Quite clearly, this is the orange lipstick you wear when you are looking to stand out. An almost-fluorescent shade, this is one of the many lipsticks I own from Gosh. I've spoken praises for Gosh's lipsticks before, but they honestly are my favourite and I own an array of them (a Gosh swatch blog-post has been on my to-do list for a long time). Here's an outfit post from last year of me wearing this shade

3. LippyGirl Boss Lady*

This is a very recent addition to my collection and I am happy to report that the LippyGirl formula is still divine. Like the Son of a Brick Shade mentioned earlier, Boss Lady is also an earthy and warm shade. However, unlike Son of a Brick, it's a mix between red and orange - and it can look a bit red on the lips (here's an Instagram of myself wearing it). 

Do you have a favourite orange lipstick? Let me know in the comments. 




This post contains PR samples
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Phil Smith Vegan Product List




Phil Smith is a haircare brand that has been featured a few times on my blog. However, in these posts there has been comments regarding confusion as to what products are vegan. I actually discovered Phil Smith when I was simply just cruelty-free. But when I began stricter with ingredients I myself moved the brand to the side, because I was unsure as to what was vegan. 

However, recently the PR company who look after Phil Smith got in contact and provided me with a run down as to what products are vegan (and which are not). 

The following products are vegan: 

BOMBSHELL Radiance Shampoo
BLONDE BOMBSHELL Radiance Conditioner
BLONDE BOMBSHELL Radiance Intensive Treatment
RESCUE SOS Iron Hot Mist
COCO LICIOUS Coconut Oil Shampoo
COCO LICIOUS Coconut Oil Conditioner
GLAM SHINE Gloss Finishing Spray
GLAM SHINE Glossing Serum
BIG IT UP! Volume Boosting Shampoo
BIG IT UP! Volume Boosting Conditioner 
BIG IT UP! Volume Boosting Spray
BIG IT UP! Thickening Volume Cream
BIG IT UP! Volume Boosting Moose
GENTLY DOES IT Ultra Soothing Shampoo
GENTLY DOES IT Ultra Soothing Conditioner
HELLO MOISTURE Nourishing Repair Shampoo
HELLO MOISTURE Nourishing Repair Conditioner
HELLO MOISTURE Intensive Conditioning Treatment
DRY CLEANERS Volumising Dry Shampoo
DRY CLEANERS Revitalising Dry Shampoo
HOLD ON Firm Hold Hairspray 
TOTAL TREAT Argan Oil Cream
TOTAL TREAT Transforming Argan Oil
CURLY LOCKS Curl Perfecting Shampoo
CURLY LOCKS Curl Perfecting Conditioner
CURLY LOCKS Curl Perfecting Spray
CURLY LOCKS Curl Control Cream

 These following products are not suitable for vegans: 

WOW! BRUNETTE Colour Illuminating Shampoo
WOW! BRUNETTE Colour Illuminating Conditioner
SOS RESCUE Damage-Protection Shampoo
SOS RESCUE Damage-Protection Conditioner
GLAM SHINE Ultimate Glossing Shampoo
GLAM SHINE Ultimate Glossing Conditioner
SUPER SMOOTH Luminous Smoothing Shampoo
SUPER SMOOTH Luminous Smoothing Conditioner
SUPER SMOOTH Luminous Protein Spray

What product will you try next?


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Is ASMR a sexual fetish? Well, no







One of these videos appears sexual, the other one really doesn't. Who is turned on by donuts?

Sometimes before I go to bed, I like to watch videos on YouTube of girls whispering into a camera while role-playing. These role-plays can be visits to the dentist, sometimes it's a nurse or maybe a hairdresser. Occasionally I watch boys too, but I've always preferred the female videos. These videos cause me to feel tingles. 

When I say it like that, you would presume I'm opening up about a sexual fetish. But to someone who hasn't heard of ASMR - or has but doesn't experience it - that's exactly what it could look like. A pretty girl pretending to be a nurse whispering into a camera does sound like the start of a very bad porno. 

But ASMR is a relaxation tool and these tingles I spoke about happen in my head, not...you know, lower in my body. The fact that they are sometimes referred to as a 'brain orgasm' doesn't help either. 

If you are someone who doesn't experience ASMR and is trying to get your head around it, I hope this post helps you understand it a bit more. Or at least understand that it is not sexual, at least not by default. 

(As a note, I know some people who watch ASMR videos would rather be caught watching porn. While the situation would be embarrassing, at least it would be easier to explain.) 

I experienced ASMR long before I knew what sexual attraction was

While ASMR as a 'trend' only took off in the last few years, I've been experiencing it my whole life. I have vivid memories of gentle tingles travelling down my head when a teacher would help me with a maths problem, or during an eye test. But on the flip side, I haven't experienced sexual attraction my whole life. That didn't kick in until I headed off to high school. 

Most people who experience ASMR will share a similar anecdote. We had these tingles our entire life, long before we encountered - shall we say - 'tingles' of the other variety. 

And these tingles are in a different part of my body

I can't speak for everyone, but I can speak on behalf of my own experience. When I watch ASMR videos I feel these gentle tingles in my head and ears. When I'm 'turned on' it's not my head where I feel the tingles, it's a much lower part of my body. And the sensation is different. The tingles from ASMR are relaxing and dream like. I'm not sure about anyone else, but when I'm sexually aroused I wouldn't call myself relaxed.

ASMR sends people to sleep, porn does not

Someone who creates adult films for a living would be offended if they found out people were falling asleep during their creations. The purpose of adult films are to arouse and excite. Whereas most ASMR videos are designed to help people relax and even fall asleep. Some insomniacs swear by them.

One of the best comparisons is a massage

When someone tells you they are away for a massage you don't automatically wink at them and say "Oh, a massage eh?". Massages are used for relaxation or health purposes, but it involves someone running their hands along your bare skin (sometimes with ointments). And in the privacy of people's own homes massage can be a sensual act used as part of foreplay, or for general intimacy. But we still don't think of massages of being intrinsically sexual. 

ASMR can be thought of similarly. The end goal is ultimately the same (relaxation, help with anxiety and sleep problems) but it can look sexual to the untrained eye. 

But yes, ASMR fetish videos do exist

And I'm not hear to shut them down. They have their own place in the world, and if these videos are what turns an individual on then that's it. I'm not here to tell someone what they should or shouldn't be turned on by - just as long as they're not leaving dirty comments on ASMR videos that aren't designed to be sexual. 

Similarly to massage, ASMR can be sexual - or it can be a relaxation tool. The same way whipped cream can be for decorating a cake or can be for licking off your partner's body. Even genitalia isn't always used sexually: a penis is also for urinating and a vagina is where babies enter the world. 

ASMR - like many things - doesn't fit into black or white boxes where everything is either 100% sexual or completely void of any sexual purpose. A lot of it is down to the individual and their personal desires, plus the situation.

However ASMR is not porn and isn't sexual by default. So the next time someone informs you that they use ASMR to relax, take it at face value and don't assume you've been given some insight into what they jerk off to in their bedroom. 




P.S. Read my other post where I introduce ASMR
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September Linkables


Source

Well, what do we have here? A Linkables? If you've been with my blog pre-2016 you'll know that I would post a round-up of my favourite links every Friday (and without blowing my own trumpet it was always a generously big round-up). I changed these posts to monthly at the start of the year due to changes in blogging schedules and life priorities and then, well, I actually just kind of forgot to do one ever again. 

Life and stuff has changed in 2016 (in a good way, but blogging is not as high up my priority list as it once had been - but again, in a good way) so some schedules just got thrown to the side. What I'm trying to say is that Linkables is not necessarily 'back' - I just found myself with some downtime (and some energy) to wind one up. Because I'm still reading just as many articles as I have before. 

So here we go...

Sex & Relationships

I've never really 'came out' as non-monogamous on the internet (until, erm, now for anyone who never picked up on my passive comments) so I've never received criticism on my personal choice. But here's a personal essay from someone who did a coming out article. It's not 100% pretty. 

Keeping to the theme of polyamory, here are 5 mistakes not to make

If you've recently been through a break-up 1) I send you my love and 2) here are some helpful reminders you deserve to hear (but might not hear enough).

One reason I don't think parenthood for me is that I'm introverted and relish alone time. If however you are an introverted parent, here are some tips on staying sane.  

As someone who has been officially single for almost six years I can assure you, you can move on without finding someone new

"Imagine if your best friend moved in with you, trashed your place, refused to get a job or pay rent, demanded you cook dinner for them, and got angry and yelled at you any time you complained. That friendship would be over faster than Paris Hilton’s acting career." - If you wouldn't tolerate this kind of behaviour in a friendship, why tolerate it in a relationship

Geek & Pop Culture

Looking for a new table top dice? Try some of these funky ones

Despite not being from Christchurch or holding the title of housewive, this was so much more relatable than most of the Real Housewives of spin-offs

I was avid reader of Bliss Magazine during my early teens and I still can't put into words how much it meant to my teenage self. A former feature writers pens her thoughts after it closes its doors


I spent a bit too long laughing at Alanis Morisette and James Corden's Ironic duet updated to reflect modern times. 

Social Media, Marketing & Blogging

Green Match has named their top Vegan Bloggers of 2016, with a mention for yours truly. 


One for marketer's trying to reach the millennial market: it's more complicated than you think

I've always been able to take or leave Fashion Week, but I'm well up for a Transatlantic Fashion Week on board a Cunard cruise ship.  

Misc. 

I've used AirBnB once, thankfully none of this happened to me


This is a dinner party theme I can get behind: the 'crappy' dinner party (aka making it about the company and not whatever fancy something you slaved away for). 

I find it difficult to tolerate whiny people, so should probably print this article out and keep it in my handbag

Some advice for shopping smart at vintage fairs from the ever stylish Kimberley of Wardrobe Conversations

A public reminder that men get breast cancer too


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