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H&M Conscious picks for a safari




I've always been a bit on/off with ethical clothes shopping. On one hand it's a great thing to do but on the other hand it is one of the trickiest forms of ethical shopping out there (at least that's how I've personally found it). And while I've been on a bit of a roll since mid-2016, there's a few situations where I've found it particularity challenging, one of those being when I'm looking for something very specific.

One recent example is when my work invited me on an educational training holiday to Kenya and in the space of a month I had to pull together a wardrobe that would take me from beach, to safari, to luxury resort, to chilly night and warm days, and would also respect local customs. Okay then, challenge accepted.

Thankfully I actually found refuge on the high street. Usually when I'm needing something short notice I hop over to H&M because - even though it's still high street and not *perfect* - it's better than most (I liken it to buying a lipstick from a cruelty-free company that has a testing parent company). For extra brownie points they launched their H&M Conscious range a while back that boasts seven commitments ranging from using natural resourced efficiently to choosing responsible partners.

This is where I get lucky though. The range was bursting with khakis, browns and whites - just what I was in the market for. It's pricier than the usual range and I'm not exactly going to get much use of safari themed clothes on a day-to-day basis here in Scotland, so I have reign myself in a small bit - but here's a guide to what I did buy and what else I almost did.

The first thing I picked up was this Lyocell shirt dress for £34.99. It's available in both khaki and beige, of which I opted for the former. The dress comes down to my knees as well which did mean it wasn't super flattering but meant that even when I was climbing in and out of jeeps I didn't accidentally flash my pants to everyone.

Second up on my shopping receipts, is these pull-on trousers retailing at £14.99. Out of everything I brought with me to Kenya, these were the bomb and I'd recommend something similar to anyone else going on safari. They were baggy and light enough that they weren't uncomfortable during mid-day heat (the hot season is January/February mind you) but meant that my legs were covered as the temperature dropped at night. Plus the helped keep the bugs off my legs! Heck if I was going again I'd purchase these in beige as well.

The third (and final) thing I purchased specifically for my trip was this long-sleeved jersey top. My previous trips to Africa (Cape Town, Zambia and Botswana) plus a jaunt to Peru almost 10 years ago, taught me that hot countries aren't always hot at night and you'll need to wrap up a bit. However, this wasn't quite the best purchase as when you are on a holiday of the adventurous persuasion you won't always have time to change between activities so it's much better to bring layers that you can take on and off. I'd skip this for next time and purchase a few floaty t-shirts and hoodies instead.

Something I did see but didn't purchase was this Lyocell top in khaki - but I wish I had. Now having been on safari I see how perfect this would have been and would have chosen it over the long-sleeved top. And something that I never seen in my local H&M and only found online when I sat down to write this post is these Lyocell shorts in 'Light Mole' that would be perfect if you're heading over in the super-hot season.

Kenya also has some amazing beaches that look out onto the Indian Ocean, so remember to pack a swimsuit. The H&M Conscious range doesn't have any swimwear but it does have these lovely white denim shorts that would be perfect for covering yourself up with as you travel between beach and resort.

Finally, I hate the idea of wearing jeans in a warm climate but many people in my safari group lived in them. If you're someone with a good heat tolerance, pick up these Super Skinny Low Jeans. I might check them out now that I'm home for wearing in this country.

Have you been on safari? What would be your must pack items? 

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Vegan Tuck Box





My relationship with surprise subscription boxes has been a bit on-off. I was subscribed to Petit Vour and Glossybox waaayyy back in the day, and I'll admit now I was only doing it cause I was a new blogger and I thought it would help me blend in with the cool kids. 

I did enjoy receiving them but I ultimately unsubscribed because there was always something in the box that I had no interest in (I actually still have a few products floating around my bathroom cabinet that originated from the 2011 boxes). Yes, these boxes might be great value overall in terms of price but I'd much rather spend money on something I'd definitely use, even if it was a higher purchase price. 

And then I went cruelty-free in in 2012 so even if I wanted to subscribe to a beauty or food box I'd have very few options. One option I do have is Vegan Tuck Box, a UK based subscription box that specialises in vegan snacks to keep you going throughout the day. 

They offer two different boxes: the Vegan Variety Box (with 5-8 snacks) and the Vegan Ultimate Box (10-13 snacks) the second of which they recently sent me to review. Will this leave me sold on the idea of subscription boxes? Let's have a look. 



The first thing that struck me as soon as I opened the box was how much food there was in it. Like, I was aware that there would be a double-digit amount of snacks but the box was almost stuffed to the brim (and getting a neat picture of it all wan't easier). 

On second glance the next thing to please me was the variety of snacks. I usually get weird looks when I share this but *drum roll* I don't like chocolate. I'm a savoury girl through and through, who will take a pastry/crisps/decent sandwich any day over chocolate or even cake (every year I ask for a birthday burrito and no one buys me one?). In my particular box there was chocolate but I also found Bombay crisps, coconut pecks, morning tea and even some vegan Parmesan (is this a snack? I don't really care because vegan Parmesan). That's definitely enough to keep my savoury tooth happy. 

As some of you may know I very recently returned from a work trip to Kenya. When I was first asked if I wanted to go I squeamishly said yes because the question I was thinking was exactly the same question I typed into Google later that day: "can you be vegan in Kenya?". Turns out the answer I got wasn't what I wanted, so in the suitcase the snacks went. 

Turns out Kenya was not quite as bad as I assumed....vegetarian and vegan food is a bit repetitive and the V symbol isn't used, but you can do it. Saying that I was still glad to have a few badboys in my bag. My favourite was definitely the Hoots Smoked Bacon - salty and savoury at the same time which is totally my kind of snack. Next up I really liked the Inspiral Salted Caramel Coconut Pecks, which I was a bit surprised to find I liked and I think they would be really nice sprinkled on top of a cupcake rather than eaten by themselves. I also really liked the Ten Acre Bombay Spicy Crisps and I am fully aware that curry flavoured crisps are not to everyone's liking but they're totally to mine so there. 

And I loved the vegan Parmesan, but obviously I didn't take that to Kenya because that would be weird...

Has Vegan Tuck Box ignited a passion in me for subscription boxes? Well, no - but thankfully they have worked people like me (who want good snacks but don't necessarily want to subscribe to a surprise box every month and risk having a cupboard overflown with stuff they don't want) into their business plan in the form of single issue boxes. There's seven styles of single issue boxes (one of them is a savoury themed box too!) that range in price from £5 to £18.50. While I doubt I'd sign up for a box every month, if I find myself travelling again (especially in a country that's a little more difficult to explore with my dietary requirements) I will definitely pop in an order. 

What's your take on subscription boxes? 

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Cruelty-Free Careers: Melanie of White Rabbit Skincare




White Rabbit Skincare has taken the vegan beauty community by storm and requires little introduction. But how much do you know about its amazing founder, Melanie, and how she made her small skincare business her full-time job? First up in my new Cruelty-Free Careers series is the lady herself talking all things business and her journey to accidental entrepreneur. 

Hi Melanie, for those of us not familiar with yourself and White Rabbit Skincare could you give us a bit of a background?
White Rabbit Skincare is a luxury, cruelty free skincare brand which has been created to address the need for high performance, but naturally based skincare products. Our products are 100% naturally derived, cruelty-free, vegan and always carefully made by hand to ensure the highest quality. They are certified cruelty free/vegan by PETA and endorsed by Naturewatch. 

Where did you the idea or motivation for White Rabbit Skincare come from?
I was diagnosed with the skin condition psoriasis as a teenager, and didn’t want to use the steroid creams prescribed by doctors. Not only are these packed full of chemicals (and remember: 60% of what you put on your skin is absorbed into your bloodstream!), they are often tested on animals, and as a huge animal lover, this was a no-go for me. So initially I started using things like coconut oil and shea butter on my skin, then started making my own ‘proper’ skincare products. Interest started to pick up from friends/family and beyond, and the rest, as they say, is history! 

Was running your own business a lifelong dream or did the idea come later in life?
I often think of myself as an ‘inadvertent’ or ‘accidental’ entrepreneur – I’m no Alan Sugar type who has been doing it my whole life; I just think the opportunity as it were happened to me at the right time, and I’ve been incredibly lucky that it has developed from a hobby into my full time job!

What did you want to be while you were growing up?
Anything animal-related: I remember for years wanting to be a horse riding instructor, then in my latter teenage years a marine biologist – I was obsessed with Orcas (killer whales). I ended up (pre White Rabbit Skincare) going to university to do an Honours degree in history! 

What was your career like prior to starting White Rabbit Skincare? 
Mostly admin/office based. My first job was a Technical Records Officer in an aircraft maintenance company, then as an office assistant in a food company, then a receptionist at a welfare-to-work organisation and finally before White Rabbit Skincare, a sales and social media assistant at an events company! Such roles have taught me how to be organised, work well with other people – and be patient! 

Were there any new skills you had to learn to start your business?
Too many to list! When you have your own business, you are literally a Jack-of-all-Trades, and it is incredibly different to working for someone else. It is without a doubt the biggest challenge I have ever faced – and probably ever will be – but I love it and can’t imagine doing anything else now!  

Did you have anyone helping you in the background – such as friends or family with a particular skill set?
White Rabbit wouldn’t be where it is now without the help of family, friends and organisations such as The Princes Trust or Entrepreneurial Spark. My family and friends are amazing at helping out at events or working into the wee small hours when we’ve got a big order due out – such as the recent inclusion of our comfort cleansing balm in the You Beauty Box. I’ve also very fortunate that our accountant is one of my friends from university, and my Mum is product labeller extraordinaire! 

If you are thinking about starting your own business, I would highly recommend contacting the aforementioned above organisations. We’re still with E-Spark now – which is a business accelerator – and they have helped push me out my comfort zone and get my business to where it is now, and where it’s going! 

What has been one of the biggest challenges?
Other than practical issues, such as finance – which all new businesses face – one of my personal biggest challenges has been confidence, and believing in myself. But I’m now at the stage where I take EVERY opportunity given to me – you never know where it will lead – even if it terrifies me, and work to make myself and my family proud! 

We first met when you took part in the @CfBloggerschat – has social media and blogger outreach been a massive part of your growth?
Definitely. It’s now one of the first places people refer to for reviews, advice and so on – plus it’s an excellent means of us interacting with our customers. 

What other marketing channels do you use to promote your business?
Social media such as Instagram and Facebook is really helpful/important to us, and also things like our blog and YouTube (although admittedly this needs work!). We also like collaborating with bloggers/youtubers/influencers, and regularly attend events/exhibitions – we love meeting our customers (established and new) in person. 

Do you have any plans for White Rabbit Skincare in the future?
World domination (in a eco-friendly, ethical, earth-loving manner of course)! But seriously I would love for WRS to become a global brand; one that people automatically associate natural, vegan skincare with. Our vision is to be ‘the most influential natural and vegan skincare brand in the world’! 

Thank you for your time Melanie, does anyone else have anything else they would like to ask Melanie?


P.S. I already have a few of these interviews lined up, but would love some more. I'm not specifically looking for entrepreneurs either - of you're an accountant/receptionist/PR person for an animal charity/cruelty-free beauty company/vegan food brand, I'd love to hear from you! 
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New to my Beauty Stash #1



For a blog that is primarily recognised as a cruelty-free beauty blog, my beauty tag has been a bit quiet this past year. In fact, when I have blogged about beauty it has been a press sample. Eh, oops? There has however been a straightforward reason for this: I was trying to use up everything I already owned. At some point last year I was finding it difficult to close the lid of my beauty box and some of my natural products were, well, not looking that fresh anymore because I had too many of them to finish using before the sell by date. Plus, I still had animal tested products and non-vegan items floating about my cupboard. 

Thankfully the time has come to say that my beauty box once again closes and that I finally have a fully vegan perfume collection (remember this Anna Sui gift set blog from 2012? I finally shifted the last of it a month ago). So what does one do when they have achieved this task? Buy a whole lot of new beauty products. But this time I am restraining myself and trying hard to avoid any buyer's remorse. Here's just a collection of what I've been buying this month.

Barry M Flawless Colour Correcting Wand for Dark Circles. I have been a fan of green concealer for years and would recommend it to anyone who isn't blessed with a naturally even skin-tone. But despite suffering from prominent dark circles, this is my first foray into a peachy concealer to balance out purple tones. At first glance the colour looks a little too close to a regular concealer, but time will tell whether it becomes a staple in my beauty stash like green concealer has. 

Barry M Flawless Light Reflecting Concealer. I'm cheating a little bit by including this as I've been loyal to it this product for a year now. I like it and you should buy it.

Barry M Brow Wow Pencil & Brush (Medium - Dark). For years I have been using the HD Brows pallet, but my e-mail regarding animal testing never got replied to so I know when it finishes I'll need a replacement. I picked this up as possible substitute and have already given it a whirl. Turns out it is strong and dark when applied making it great for my evening look but not for a day in the office. It will definitely get used from time to time but I don't see it becoming a daily staple. 

Barry M Coconut Infusion Nail Paint in Storm. I'm not exactly new to Barry M Nail Paint and already have a full bag of polishes under my dresser. But I've been finding myself drawn to muted colours as of late and my collection was definitely low on neutral shades. So I was glad to let this grey-brown into my life. 

Barry M Flawless Original Primer.  This is the last product from Barry M, I swear. When I got to the till in Superdrug I found out it was 2 for 3 across beauty so picked something else in a hurry (for any smart asses: I bought the eyebrow pencil and concealer on a separate shopping trip). I've been of the opinion that only high-end primers are worth the purchase - but with a special deal on it was time to give a drugstore primer one last try. We'll see if this changes my opinion.

Lush Caca Rouge Henna Hair Dye. I'm cheating again by including this as everyone knows this has been keeping my hair fiery since 2012. 

Superdrug Solait 50 SPF Moisturising Sun Lotion. While sun-protection is not exactly the most exciting purchase I've ever made, my upcoming trip to Kenya definitely is! Obviously sun screen is very important for such a trip, and will be the first time I'll be putting vegan sun-protection to the test. 

Gosh Rebel Eyes Mascara. One type of beauty product that I definitely became low on was mascara, and I opted for this one from one of my favourite beauty companies. While I feel I'm in the minority here, I love a small rubber brush and this is just that. Fingers crossed this is good. 

Superdrug Hair Therapy Cleansing Conditioner. I've posted no physical evidence of this online yet, but my hair now only falls to just past my shoulders. As a result I'm no longer in the market for heavy but super-moisturising hair masks, but something that adds moisture but doesn't weigh the hair down. This hair treatment is described as light weight and ideal for keeping coloured hair vibrant - fits the bill!

Superdrug Active Haircare Shampoo for Normal Hair. Keeping on the topic of haircare, I decided it was time I got a shampoo specifically for my swimming bag. Aside from chlorine, it also claims to protect against UV rays and sea salt, so it might just make its way into my Kenya suitcase. 

Original Source Green Banana & Bamboo Milk Moisturisering Shower Milk. I'm not new to Original Source Shower Gels and already rate them highly - but this probably the best smelling one so far. 

Superdrug BB Cream in Light. Something I'm very much in the market for right now is a great day foundation/tinted moisturiser/BB Cream/CC Cream that covers the 'worst of it' but is natural looking at the same time. While I've already found my holy grail of evening make-up foundation, I've not found my daytime equivalent and I picked this up in hope it would fill that beauty shaped hole in my life. I've used this once already and while it does make my skin look brighter, it doesn't do much in terms of hiding imperfections (maybe if you have dull skin but even skin-tone you might like this?).  

What have you been purchasing recently? 

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5 realistic weekday vegan breakfasts



If you flick through Pinterest or Instagram you'd think vegans luxuriously lie around in the morning sipping herbal tea while digging our fork into a tofu scramble. But in the real world we're probably stuffing our faces with toast as we run out the door. 

I mean, who has time in morning? I live 15 minutes from my office and my alarm goes off when some of my colleagues are probably leaving their house. As much as I love food, I'd rather get some extra sleep. Plus, who can control work rage when you've only had avocado on toast? Not me. 

Look, I'm definitely not opposed to crafting the perfect vegan fry-up or taking time for prep French Toast at the weekend, but when I'm heading out to work I want something tasty, filling and convenient. Even if it would look a bit shit on Instagram. And because this post is about keeping it real, all photos are genuine phone snaps from half eight in the morning. You're welcome. 

Baked Beans and Toast



This fail-safe has been with me 2012 and it's not going anywhere. I like my toast with spread and Tesco-brand Marmite (sticking it to the big man at Unilever, y'all).

Overnight oats


Sounds a bit fancier than it is. The evening before I grab a mason jar because I'm a recovering hipster, and fill it with almond milk, soya yogurt, chia seeds, oats, maple syrup (sometimes golden syrup because it's cheaper) and vanilla essence. Sometimes I add banana and coco nibs when I'm feeling fancy/happen to have them in the cupboard. I work using the measurement suggested in these recipes

Cereal

One vitamin that can be limited in a vegan diet is B12 and one of the few sources is fortified cereals. So I usually have a cereal box popping about my cupboard. I can't say I'm particularly brand-loyal when it comes to cereal and I usually buy what is on special offer (pro vegan tip though: ASDA own brand coco pops are vegan). Splash with almond milk and drizzle with some maple syrup and tada! 

Smoothie
I usually have a bad of frozen fruit in the freezer so sometimes I'll make one up at night ready for me in the morning. Smoothies made with frozen fruit are also typically better if left to defrost a little. My favourite recipe is still this one I shared four years ago. 

Soya yoghurts

I don't have these for breakfast very often because I haven't got enough willpower to buy a packet of yoghurt and keep them for particular times of day. But if there's one there at 8:30am I'll take it. 

Fruit
No, fruit is not filling and I would never have it as a stand-alone breakfast treat. So I have it as a 'dessert' after devouring one of the above. 



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My hopes for Batgirl's first film




I love my superheroes but when it comes to picking a personal favourite, it's Batgirl. Hands down. The first time I ever flicked through a Batgirl comic I was immediately taken by her balance between feisty and calm. Brainy but also good in a fight. Her redheaded-ness. And her vigilante backstory that is less I'm-a-rich-orphan-playboy-who's-parents-were-murdered and more I'm-going-to-fight-for-the-better-good-because-its-the-right-thing. (Internet nerds: I know Barbara Gordon isn't the only Batgirl, but she was the first one I became familiar with so pipe it down). 

Obviously I am overjoyed at the news that Batgirl is getting her own film, with Joss Whedon at the helm (did I mention that I'm also a Buffy fan? Oh, I did...very recently). The announcement did take me by surprise because - despite personally being a big fan - I didn't think she was lucrative enough. I had high hopes of her showing up in another DCU film as a sidekick (I'm still not over that Jenna Malone 'surprise character') or even her own television show, but never thought someone would consider her for her own title film.

Which is why the nerves are kicking in a little. Will it be given the budget to compete with Avengers or Wonder Woman? Is she mainstream enough already or would it have been smarter for her to have a cameo elsewhere first? As with all film adaptions of our favourite comics and books: will they do it justice? 

We'll have to wait and see, but in the mean time here are my hopes for the film. Are you listening Whedeon?

1. Joss Whedon employs female crew members
While Joss is very talented and I appreciate how many strong female characters he has created for the big and small screens, it's not enough. It doesn't fix the underlying problem of why there's a lack of strong female characters (answer: film execs are still mostly men). If Joss really is as much of an alley as he claims he'll be using his clout in the industry (and give up his own privilege) to discover and mentor talented young female directors/runners/script writers/special effects wizards/costume designers. 

2. Gail Simone
On that note - wouldn't it be amazing to have the super talented Batgirl writer Gail Simone involved? 

3. Feminist metaphors and undertones
One of the reasons why it's important Joss hires women to work with is to call him out and prevent any faux-pas (which all alleys do from time to time). Batgirl has always been a firm feminist favourite thanks to her intelligence and practical costume choices, so to not have a girl-power undertone would be out of place. 

4. Stephanie Brown and Oracle
I know this will never happen as Barbara Gordon is the version of Batgirl most people are familiar with, but I love Stephanie pulling on the mask while Barbara is the brains behind the missions. While shooting Barbara in her back (while naked! as a plot device to hurt her dad!) was an absolutely ridiculous decision, the writers did what they could with the situation and created something amazing from something so shitty. Barbara Gordon/Oracle became one of the best representations of a wheelchair user in comics (and pop culture in general). It would be great to see this replicated for the big screen (or a TV show). 

5. Black Canary 
I think we can safely say that Birds of Prey isn't on the table (boo!) but Black Canary regularly pops up in Batgirl comics and she's one of my favourite non-central characters. She's currently on the TV show Arrow so has received some mainstream attention - maybe it's time for some more? 

6. Dick Grayson
While the writers need to ensure that they don't make Barbara nothing more than a man's love interest, she and Dick Grayson are one of my favourite comic love stories. While their romance is on/off, whenever they share comic scenes I just feel it. I ship them like a teenager (so does Tumblr).

7. Alysia Yeoh
As Barbara Gordon's best friend in the New 52 incarnation, it would be difficult to not include her. As the first trans-gendered character in a mainstream comic, her inclusion would break new grounds and would be a great opportunity for a trans actress. 

8. A Gotham City Sirens cameo
If there's an upcoming film where a Batgirl teaser cameo would make sense...it's the Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy and Catwomen mash-up. It would introduce her to a wider audience and we'd get a first glimpse of her, without it feeling forced. 

9. Emma Stone
With some dubious casting choices recently made in the DCU, it's time fans were listened to. Emma Stone has been a top choice long before Batgirl was announced and I can picture her in the role. Though there are already rumours Lindsey Morgan will play her

10. Suitable for teens (and maybe children)
The DCU has been a bit dark so far, and maybe its time to lighten it up a bit. If Whedon goes down a Batgirl of Burnside route then it could open the universe up to a younger audience. Even if he goes for a different incarnation of the character, she is a younger member of the Bat-family so a teenage-aimed film could totally work. It would be nice to have a superhero film that parents can actually take their kids along to without being traumatised. 

11. That it's actually good
As a massive fan of Batgirl, I have a vested interest in this film doing well. But that's not the only reason. Female superheros aren't taken nearly as seriously and many internet nerds dismiss female superhero films - even before they're released. While female superheroes shouldn't have to prove themselves, they do - and it's not cool. 

Plus I'm a DC girl at my very core and I think I speak for all fans when I say the DCU needs a film that can recapture the awesomeness of The Dark Knight. Not another Zack Snyder shitstorm. 


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March Linkables



Eh, so remember me and my much-loved Linkables series? This post has been sitting in my drafts since January and was - shockingly enough - originally titled January Linkables. Alas, life got in the way and my poor link list fell to the bottom of my priority list. I have instead been keeping myself busy by working in an industry that has its peaks in January, attending the Scottish Greens Spring Conference, and watching every Marvel and DC film ever made (I'm now working my way through the Arrowverse).

Anyway, enough of my film chat - links!  And I've made it a bumper issue, given that it took my three months to publish it.


Politics, Feminism and Everything in Between


With everything going on in the world it's really important to make sure you're feminism is intersectional. If you're looking to get involved in issues that aren't just middle-class white lady issues, here are 50 groups to get you started.

Are you based in the USA and work for a company with a wellness program? They're a load of discriminative shite.

As much as I wish this wasn't true, it is: Fear of losing white privilege led to Trump’s election

Co-signed: Yes, you can be sex-positive and still prefer vanilla sex.

Being Your Best Self


One of my New Years Resolutions was to hold my ground more so I was interested in learning how successful people stick up for themselves while remaining likeable

What do people who've remained happily married for decades feel the secret is? This guy did a survey

My quiet nature has landed me in many sticky situations...and I agree that my silence is sometimes my failure

This made me feel weirdly emotional: The Apology we Owe each Myers-Briggs personality type

"ISTJ: I’m sorry for taking advantage of your willingness to work without recognition. I’m sorry for not appreciating how much effort you put into literally everything you do."

Print out and keep in your networking handbag: 15 body language secrets of successful people.

I've joked for years that I inherited the personality of my childhood dog, rather than my parents (my parents are both outgoing non-geeks while my dog was quiet and like to bask in the sun). According to science there's a chance this is true.

Despite being in my 20s I still struggle to not gush about my current crush/squeeze even though I know it's boring the fuck out of everyone. Here's why we do it.

Veganism and yummy things


Vegan tofu hollumi. I repeat: vegan tofu hollumi.

Other tofu wizardry: tofu omelette.

Baileys Goes Vegan....for real this time.

Loathe salad but wish you didn't? Maybe you're making one of these 8 common salad mistakes.

Geek and Pop Culture


Today in articles that are probably trash but I'm reading them anyway: what does Jonathon Cheban actually do? 


Why don't we just let Madonna age the way she wants to?

I've always found name-dropping super cringey, and I'm not the only one.

Replying to guy on Tinder using only Carrie Bradshaw quotes (True story: my Tinder profile used to say "I like to think I'm a Samantha, but I'm probably a Miranda" and the guy who's opening line was a SATC chat-up line went on to become my first Tinder date). 

And the internet's favourite question: why do cats love boxes so much?

Travel


I never blogged about my holiday to Disneyland® Paris because it was technically a work trip...but I finally got round to blogging about it on my employer's blog



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How I stay organised at my 'real' job




Hands up if you love a desk tour blog post!

*Both my hands up, waving them about like I just don't care*

I'm a nosey parker and love seeing how people choose to organise their lives. As beautiful as these desk tours are however, most of them just don't apply to me or provide me with any actionable inspiration. I don't work from home and when I do blog, it's usually from my bed. The only desk I see on a regular basis is the one at my 9-5 job, which I know doesn't sound super glamorous but I'm lucky enough to work somewhere where I don't have to hide the quirky and can bring in super cute stationery and no one would blink twice or treat me like a little girl.

I've been at my current work for over a year and now have a system of organisation that works for me, and keeps me on top of the fast-passed social media and copywriting environment. I'm not going to share a picture of my actual office but I've included links below and the photo above is stationery I actually own.

Desk Planner
For my birthday last year, my work mates bought me this pretty desk planner from Paperchase, and I honestly don't know how I managed to organise myself before it came into my life. It has a 7-day diary where I can input any routine meetings, tasks and deadlines - such as weekly reports that are due on certain days etc. Plus, the to-do list is obviously very handy. I'll admit I don't use the urgent tab or the built-in sticky notes very much though. 

List Book
Prior to my desk planner, my list book was my holy grail of organisation. While it's been replaced as my core organisational stationery, I still find use for it. The A5 rip-off sheets are what I use when I need to staple a piece of paper onto a document (such as feedback on work I've proof-read for someone). I still use the included sticky to-do list label to keep a list of smaller tasks that need done as part of a wider campaign that I then attach to that campaign's file.  

Multiple notebooks
I know some people (and by some, I mean everyone in the office I can see from my desk) prefers to have one notebook for all meetings, projects and random scribbles, but I work better with separate pads for separate tasks. I'm not saying I have a dedicated notebook for every campaign (because that would be excessive) but I have a meeting notepad, a content writing notepad, social media campaigns notepad, and a cruise notebook. I find it easier to find my notes from the morning meeting if I don't have to flick through 10 pages of more up-to-date scribbles.

Magazine File
Since my job is primarily a copywriting job, managers usually pass me magazines and brochures that are incredible sources of inspiration. The industry magazines are eventually moved to an official filling cabinet but I like to keep a copy of all our recent holiday brochures (and those of our suppliers) beside me for quick reference. And this woodland creature themed magazine file is the cutest, no?

Titled Sticky Notes
These cute owl sticky notes (that I don't think you can buy now) were one of the first things I bought when I started my current job. I still have them and they live propped up against my aforementioned magazine file. I don't use them that often as - truth be told - they don't stick very well, but they do come in handy for quick reminders that need that need to be kept within my eye-line. 

E-mail Rules/Re-directs
Like most offices we use Microsoft 360 and, like most offices, I'm included in many group e-mail addresses where only 10% of the e-mails actually apply to me. To keep on top of this I use the Rule feature (which I only discovered a month ago and it's helped me organise myself so much). The general jist is: you set up folders for each group e-mail address and have all emails go straight into them, keeping my inbox free for e-mails that are sent directly to me. Then remembering to periodically check the other folders every hour to catch the 10% of emails that are relevant. 

It's the best thing I've ever done for my inbox. Here's how to set them up yourself

Bulldog clips
When I'm preparing for a meeting I use bulldog clips to keep all the documents together. I also put a slip of paper from my list book in the front to remind myself of things I need to bring up.

List of phone numbers
Every now and then a Word document is sent round with a list of phone numbers and we're asked to print it off for our own reference. I'm a complete rebel and make my own with phone number that I know I need close at hand. I keep it sellotaped to the edge of my desk top monitor. 

Other handy stationery I keep nearby: 
Stapler, paper clips, poly pockets, and highlighters!

What's your must-have stationery, either at work or for your home office?

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IndyRef2 can wait: a guide to the Scottish council elections


Source: BBC News


Apparently Scotland just loves elections and five in three years wasn't just enough fun for everyone. Why not have a sixth just for the bants. No, I'm not speaking about IndyRef2, but that glamorous event known as the council elections. Yes, I know elections when we decide who empties our bins are not nearly as fun as a will-they-won't-they referendum, but all elections are important (I say this, despite the only election I've ever skipped since turning 18 was a council by-election *cough*). 

I wouldn't even blame anyone if they forgot since the yet-to-be-confirmed IndyRef2 has been taking over our newsfeeds. Jesting aside, let's focus on the councils elections as they are 1) confirmed and 2) happening in just over a month.What I'm about to write here is not a soapbox about who to vote for (but, erm, I'm voting Green in case you were wondering) but a guide to voting and why it's important. Like did you know you can vote in two places if you're a student? And that you number the boxes instead of tick them? Ever been to a husting? And are you keeping Scottish Independence out of this? 

1. The council elections give small parties a chance
This is my personal number one reason why I believe council elections are extremely important. With a fairer voting system in place it's much easier for lesser known parties to break through and get a seat, thus giving them a platform to gain more seats in other elections. Given that I am a member of the Scottish Green Party you can see why this is important to me because we've got a better chance of achieving seats and proving to people that we're a serious party worth voting for. 

It does however mean that smaller parties who are a bit sucky have a better chance of slipping through. So if there are smaller parties you want to block, you've got to get out and vote for someone else. 

2. You number the candidates on the ballot
Spoilt ballots turn up every year after council elections because people forget that you number the boxes rather than tick them. And until six months ago I thought you had to number them all! Instead you just number the candidates you like in order of preference (and a blank box effectively means you're not in favour of them at all). 

3. You can vote in two places if you're a student
If your term time address and home address are in different councils you can vote twice. However, I've known multiple people (myself included - back in the 2012 council elections!) who have had to reapply for dual-voting multiple times before they were registered properly. You might have to shout down the phone and refuse to hang up until they process your request properly, but it is your legal right. 

4. If you're undecided, hustings are a great place to gather information
Election hustings are usually attended by political geeks who probably already know they are voting for, or are friends with the candidates. Which is a shame, because hustings are the one of the best ways to get to know the candidates and what they stand for. Have a wee Google and find out when and where your local ones are happening.  

5. Council elections have nothing to do with Scottish independence!
A few of the Scottish Green Party candidates have returned from canvassing saying that people have been asking them about independence. Scottish independence is a hot potato right now and I realise why people are curious to hear the Greens take on it (we support it) but let's not let IndyRef2 cloud people's judgements for an election that will literally have very little impact on whether we vote Yes or No. When you're quizzing candidates or casting your vote, make sure you keep in mind what councils actually can control: such as council housing, bus routes, pot holes, recycling, leisure facilities, road works and - ready for it? - bins. 



P.S. Vote Green
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Why Buffy the Vampire Slayer is one of the best TV shows ever





For the past week my Facebook Newsfeed has been in a Buffy 20 year anniversary frenzy. Clearly the algorithms know me well as I'm a massive fan of the show and still rate it as one of the best ever made (and judging by the flood of articles, I'm not the only one). 

So much, that it might surprise you to know that I didn't grow up with Buffy. It first aired in March 1997 meaning I was the humble age of six when it graced our screens. I actually did watch one or two episodes but the scene where Darla creeps up at the window behind Joyce Summer made me hide behind a pillow and I didn't watch an episode again until my teenage years. Heck, I didn't even binge watch the entire show until 2013! Clearly, this show ages well. 

Given that I wasn't born early enough to make the threshold for having grown up with Buffy, I know several adults who haven't watched a single episode. I think this is wrong, and reckon anyone who hasn't watched it needs to do so pronto. Here are my top reasons. (with spoilers, duh)

1. The badass female characters

We all know Buffy herself breaks the mould - feminine but feisty and cutesy but ass-kicking. But the whole show is full of strong female characters, and that strength isn't necessarily supernatural. For girls like me who grew up shy and smart, Willow was our proof that we could grow up to be a talented super-powerful witch who successfully seduces Seth Green. 

2. The metaphors and potential for geek analysis

The local high school being directly on top of the Hellmouth = high school is hell for a lot of us

Angel loses his soul after sleeping with Buffy = guy is nice until he gets to sleep with you

Willow's addiction to magic = general addiction

Love between creatures and bigotry towards different creatures = just general real-life bigotry

3. It wasn't all supernatural

We had Xander who - on the surface of things - was an annoying teenage boy with self-esteem issues. But he represented something important: he was proof that nobody needs superpowers to save the world. Buffy stated herself that he clocked more field time than any of the Scoobies put together, fixed the windows (Dawn was right, they did need fixing) and he - literally - did save the world with words of love. 
Then we had Warren who serves as a painful reminder that humans can be just as evil as vampires and whathaveyou. And the heartbreaking death of Buffy's mother - a death that wasn't caused by a demon but a brain tumour, something we all know too well doesn't just take the lives of characters on a TV show. The same goes for Tara's death. 

4. David Boreanaz

*drool* (#TeamAngel)

5. Successfully transitioning away from the high school setting

There's a lot of awesome TV shows that become not-so-awesome once the characters were forced the graduate. I actually enjoyed Sabrina's college years but I feel like I stand in the minority on that one. During her tenure Buffy transitioned from high school student, to college student (and dropout) to fully-fledged guardian of her younger sister. How many television shows that pulled that one off?

6. The passive humour

I've never been a fan of slapstick humour (JackAss? Not interested.) or punch lines, but give me California cool passive jokes and I'm rolling around. Here's a wee compilation.




7. But the show proved that didn't even need its dialogue

One of the most celebrated episodes of the season - and one of my personal favourites - was The Gentlemen. In case you're unfamiliar, the evil guys steal everyone's voices leaving the show to prove that it had more to offer audiences than just funny quips

8. The questionable clothing choices

The clothes in Buffy were awful. And not just awful in a dated 90s kind of way. Just awful. But that's partially what made the show and has become a massive in-joke for the show.  

9. Willow and Tara

Willow and Tara were one of the earliest examples of a loving lesbian relationship on American TV and, to this day, remains one of the most positive representations. Joss Whedon wasn't allowed to explicitly show their love for each other on screen and he had to get clever prior to showing their first on-screen kiss. 
10. It's a show for the misfits

The fact that the first two seasons were a massive metaphor for high school being hell makes it pretty obvious this show wasn't aimed at the popular kids who ruled the school hallways. If you ever felt out of place, Buffy was your gal.



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Lotus Vegetarian Cuisine




If there's an international cuisine that I've not ever been overtly keen on it's Chinese. Not that I've ever had a massive vendetta against satay or noodles; it's just never been my first choice. Then when I went vegetarian and later vegan, I began to stray even further away from oriental restaurants as Chinese food is typically meat heavy and a lot of it is infused with fish sauce. 

That's why I was surprised to discover that Glasgow - in all its multicultural and vegan-friendly glory - was now going to be home to a 100% vegetarian Chinese restaurant. Lotus Vegetarian Cuisine can be found close to Bridge Street Subway Station on the Southside and offers a menu filled with tofu, vegetables and faux-meat. 

When me and Elaine (who runs Vegan Events Scotland) first walked walked in, we had to admit it didn't feel like much. The place was empty, and the overall feel was very simplistic. We sat down and looked over the menu (which was printed on an A4 sheet of paper - I really do mean it when I say they didn't go all out on image) and made our choices. Elaine shares my love of large portions so we ordered a few dishes to share between us and were left to natter. 

The wait for our food was long. During that time a man came in to order a takeaway and began getting huffy about the wait. Granted he was trying to order off-menu with Scottish takes on Chinese food such as chips and curry (tbh, he was the kind of customer who makes me glad I no longer work in hospitality). I'm not usually one to care too much about how long something takes to arrive, but they were chancing their luck and we were obviously not the only ones who were getting impatient. 



However, if you think this review is going to be a don't-ever-eat-here affair, you'd be wrong. Because when the food did come, it was D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S. While there are restaurants who take ages to serve meals that other places could do in half the time (I'm looking at you Mono!) the hold up had obviously been due to an enthusiastic love of delicious food - and I can get behind that. 

The full menu can be found on their Facebook page - of which me and Elaine opted for salt and chillies bean curd, vegetarian beef with black bean sauce, pumpkin with miso sauce, and mixed vegetables fried rice. All were beautiful and I can't pick a favourite (though Elaine said she loved the black bean sauce the most). 

We had a chat with the owners and they were telling us about their move to Scotland and that this was their first restaurant. Apparently they were still waiting on a new oven being installed which would explain any waiting. They were such a lovely couple and it was also their friendliness that made the the wait worthwhile. While they certainly could work on styling and organisation, they clearly are very passionate about food and I think any true foodie (I know that makes me sound pompous) appreciates good food regardless of any other weakness the restaurant might have. 

I 100% recommend Lotus to anyone after good cuisine - just don't visit when you're in a rush. 

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Increasing my Omega 3 intake with ahiflower oil




If there's one question I hate being asked it's "how do you get your protein/calcium/omega3/other-nutrient-I-can-easily-get-from-plants?". 

Don't get me wrong, when you switch to a vegetarian or vegan diet you have to open the nutrition textbooks so you know how to get everything you need. But I hate how everyone and their Great Uncle Harold turns into an armchair nutritionist every time someone quietly mentions that they don't eat meat. That's because vegan diets offer everything you need and I wouldn't have cut animal produce from my diet if I felt there was any risk to my health. 

And now that I've said that, I can move onto my review of the Vertese Ahiflower Oil capsules. I've personally had a life-long tussle with omega 3 (something that is not connected to my veganism because, as I said, it's lifelong). My brain seems to function a lot better with high amounts of omega 3 but I rarely seem to hit that beautiful quota, and I have turned to supplements a few times. 

As some of you will know, a few years back I was an Arbonne Consultant. Aside from my favourite primer ever (their only product I rave about like I'm still getting paid to) they also sell nutritional products, including Omega-3+ Capsules. I adored these capsules but at £33 for a two-month supply I wasn't going to upkeep that habit once I gave up my membership discount. Then I also tried these Holland & Barrett Vegan Multivitamin & Mineral Tablets, which were rubbish and I didn't feel any different while using them.



So with a few different experiences with vegan nutrients, I didn't know how I'd feel about Vertese Ahiflower Oil. The ahi flower that these supplements were produced with only came to the UK market in October 2016 and has remained a pretty low-key source of omega 3. However, since its discovery it has become the richest plant based source of an omega 3 fat called stearidonic acid, and is a solid source of plant-based essential fatty acids. So if you think you're showing signs of being low in fatty acids (such as low concentration, dry skin and tiredness) then this is one of the best ways to boost your intake. 

Obviously, I don't have my own at-home science kit where I can measure my omega-3 levels and I can only go on how I physically feel after taking the supplements for a month. Concentration and tiredness wise I didn't feel much difference, however my skin was clearer and much brighter. Even though my skin is oily is can still get dry patches in the winter but one week of using these and my skin felt plump and healthy again. The capsules are also free from salt, yeast, gluten and added sugar. Plus, there's many places oil line where you'll only pay slightly over a £10 for them.

I by no means think that vegans require omega 3 supplements (or any other supplement for that matter) but if you don find yourself showing low signs of omega 3 then I would definitely recommend these babies (or you can splash out on the Arbonne version if you're feeling flush). 


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Alchemy Grapefruit Hair Remedy




For the most part I'm not a fan of loading my hair with products. And by loading, I mean putting literally anything on it. But it's not because I'm not a hair care fan (evidently I run a cruelty-free beauty/lifestyle blog and my haircare tag is buzzing) - it's because my hair is naturally thin and oily. Too much product just wears it down, so I'm pretty much a simple shampoo girl (even conditioner gets used sparingly). 

But one styling product that has been a focal point of my hair care routine has been hair oil. Which, I know I know, totally contradicts the Not-Weighing-My-Oily-Hair-Down-With-Oily-Products statement. But the way I've been using hair oil is at nighttime and letting it work its magic overnight and then washing it out during my daily shower (yeah, I wash my hair daily #haterstotheleft). 

I've never been a particular slave to certain oils, and I'm constantly trying out new ones. The most recent oil to enter my rotation is Alchemy Grapefruit Hair Remedy*. A natural hair oil, its ingredients list counts in at  ground total of five super oils and promise to improve shine. thickness and keep your scalp healthy! 

Now the first thing that I noticed upon receiving this hair oil was how thick it is. It put me off a bit as typically it's thinner oils that my hair co-operates with. And when I did use it overnight, it was just a bit too much and - while my hair was shinier - it lost any bounce. However the packaging recommends three ways to use the treatment: overnight, as a 20 minute treatment prior to showering and on wet hair before blow drying. We've established that overnight didn't work for me, and using it on wet hair before stylish just resulted in a stringy mess. However as a 20 minuet treatment? That was my bag! My hair was soft and shimmering but without being weighed down. 

In fact, when me and my flatmate were heading out to work one morning she commenting on how vibrant my hair colour was looking. So it's obviously not just me who reckons my hair is looking good.

The only tiny little thing I would complain about is the bottle design. Sure, it looks lovely on a shelf but the sizeable opening means you can very easily accidentally pour out too much and waste product. Tip very very lowly...

But still, this is one of the best hair oils I've ever tried. 

Ingredients: 
Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride (Fractionated Coconut Oil), Persea Gratissima (Virgin, Organic Avocado Oil), Ricinus Communis Seed Oil (Organic Castor Oil), Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis Oil (Organic Sweet Almond Oil) and Citrus Paradisi Peel Oil (Organic White Grapefruit Essential Oil). 

ALCHEMY OILS: 


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Reducing food waste with EcoEgg



Remember that time I had multiple internet orgasms over some laundry detergent

It was the EcoEgg. I first purchased one in early 2015 and later the same year the company kindly got in contact offering me their newest fragrance, Orange Blossom. That was some time ago, and I'm very happy/proud/pleasantly surprised to let you know that I still have both of them. No, they have not been hiding at the back of my grown-up cleaning cupboard; I have been using them every week for almost two years and they still show no sign of disintegrating. They claim on the packaging that they last for 720 washes - and I'm very much inclined to believe them. 

Now, I'm clearly not the only one who likes them as the company has went from strength to strength, and now boasts a wide range of eco-friendly cleaning products. From hard surface cleaner right through to reusable lint rollers, there's not much they don't sell. They don't even just concentrate on cleaning anymore, either. 

Recently the company got in contact asking if I wanted to review one of the newest members to their family of products: their Fresher For Longer Discs. If you're asking yourself what on earth these are, join the club because that's exactly what I wondered. Turns out, these little nifty things help kill off ethylene gas - which is the enemy when it comes to keeping mouldy lumps off your fresh produce. Apparently these are what cruise ships use to keep the food nice and fresh while out at sea for that long (in case you're ever in a game show and get asked that question). 

Learning what they were was one thing - actually believing in the science was another. I admittedly wasn't that keen to accept them originally as I was convinced I would have to write a negative review and be blacklisted and never be offered another product for review ever again in my life. 

My conscious was only cleared when I decided to look up some reviews on Amazon. And what I found was almost universally positive. So I decided to roll with it.

I do have to throw out in vegetables every now and then because I just don't get through them in time (spring onions and cucumbers are my failings) and I buy a lot of frozen vegetables because they keep longer (even though I would rather buy fresh) - so these were definitely worth a try.



And now it's time for the actual review

They ended up arriving just before Christmas, so this was the perfect time to try them out. Upon leaving my Glasgow flat to travel to my parents house to Aberdeen I placed a disc (there's four in the packet) on the spring onions in my fridge, the apples and clementines in my cupboard and some slices of bread still left in my bread bin (they're not advertised as suitable for bread, but I thought I'd give it a try). 

Anyway, when I returned to Glasgow a week later I was pleasantly surprised to find that while they were a little more tattered than when I last saw them, they were definitely a far universe away from how bad they could have been. And that includes the bread - which, yes, they worked a treat on. The spring onions were probably the vegetable in the least lacklustre state, but my apples were almost just as ripe as they were when I left.

They retail in at £7.99, last for three months and you get four in a packet making them absolutely amazing value. I mean, how much money have you wasted because you had to through out past-it vegetables? I bet the cost definitely works out.

Once this sample runs out I definitely see myself purchasing a new packet with my own money.

And I think I'll pick up that reusable lint roller too...


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Can vegans eat mussels?


La Fiorentina mussels
From this blog post (this was my mum's dish)

They say you learn something new everyday, and today (or, more accurately, when I wrote this post) I learned that I maybe didn't have to give up one of my favourite foods when I stopped eating meat. 

If the title of this post is anything to go by then you'll probably have guessed that the food in question is mussels. Seafood on the whole was one of my favourite food groups back in the day - give me a tuna sandwich (with a wee bit of sweetcorn) for lunch any day of the week and the cheap Tesco muscles were always sneaking about my fridge somewhere. Fish was the last type of meat I gave up prior to my transition and I'll be honest: I miss it. 

So gastro-reminiscing aside: wtf about mussels being vegan? Technically (maybe?), they are an animal and they do taste fleshy. So obviously if you don't eat meat for taste reasons then you could probably exit the conversation right now. HOWEVER, if you're a vegetarian or vegan who's reason is either an aversion to eating sentiment beings or because meat-farming is killing the planet, then we all need to sit down for a pow-wow.


Now, my research and knowledge on this topic is based on about, uh, three hours of Googling so I'd advise you carry out some of your own. Basically, the concept that mussels (and scallops and oysters too) could be vegan suitable came up in a vegan Facebook group, and the comments took off as apparently the internet has things to say about this. However, the jury seems very open on this issue and it doesn't look like there's going to be an official line drawn any time soon. 

So what are the arguments?

1. There's little evidence that mussels (and oysters and scallops) are sentient beings
While not a plant, scientific evidence leans more to suggesting (important word) that mussels react to threats similarly to plants. They don't scream out in the pain but they do react to the world around them. Mussels can close their shells to protect themselves, in the same vein that plants close up to protect themselves from gases. 

2. Mussel farming is sustainable
While there is a lot of scientific evidence to suggest that cutting meat from your diet is a sure-fire way to help get the health of the planet back on track, mussel-farming is meant to be a positive thing. A lot of the mussels that are available to buy (there are numerous kinds, and only some are suitable for human consumption) are farmed on ropes; not dug up from the seabed. 

Also, seafood is notorious for by-kills - such as dolphins caught in nets meant for tuna. Because mussels are raised in-shore and on ropes, it's very difficult to accidentally capture another creature from from the water while fishing. 

3. They're still technically an animal
For vegans who refuse to eat mussels, this is the main argument. And y'all I get it. Maybe mussels don't feel pain in the same way a cow does but they're still part of the animal kingdom and vegans should leave them the hell alone. 

So am I going to start eating mussels? 

Well, no. Despite having been one of my favourite foods back in the day (my mouth has been salivating writing this post) I'm not going to head to the shops and bulk-buy. While I think this is an issue that is 100% up to the individual and I would hold no judgement, I'm deciding against it for myself. And it's because it could be a slippery slope. I'm not exaggerating when I say I loved seafood and ripping into a packet of mussels could result in re-developing a taste for other sea-life (that are definitely out the question for any vegan!).

As I mentioned, I'm not a scientist (I have Standard Grade Biology....which I tried to get out of doing because I'm an arty-farty person) but if you want to read more from people who understand oxygen compounds or whatnot (is that a thing?) then here's a few links because this issue has been going on longer than my own personal decision to stop eating meat:
- The ethical case for eating mussels and oysters
- Consider the oyster
- Are oysters vegan? 
- Are we strong enough to talk about mussels?
- Why some vegans are okay with eating oysters
Are Bivalves Vegan? Specifically Oysters and Mussels?
- Vegans shouldn't eat oysters, and if you do you're not vegan, so...
- Did you seafood feel pain?
- Do oysters feel pain? 
- Mussels: your go to sustainable seafood



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