Thursday, 14 December 2017

Vegan Christmas Cards

It is December so I reckon it is okay to mention the C word now (not that I haven't already).  Besides time is creeping on and if you want to do that whole Christmas card thing, it's about time you got on with it!  

Although I don't go mad with cards, I do like to send some.  However, I do struggle finding ones that fit how I feel about the season.  Not so this year as, with complete delight, I discovered a set of wonderfully bright, bold and very vegan Christmas cards in a shop in Glastonbury.  I've found out more about them since. 

The Seasonal Veggies range of Christmas cards by Go La La (pictured at the top) comes in 8 different designs created by a dedicated vegan.  You can read more about them in the link above, including how to buy them direct from the website and details on how to get your own local retailer to stock them.  Alternatively you can purchase any of the 8 designs from EBay.

There are it seems a few other options for vegan Christmas cards on the market too now.  Spreading the love around, I also chose to buy some from the Viva! website, one of which is pictured on the left.  With the bright colourful typographical vegan messages including 'Avo Merry Vegan Christmas', they were hard to resist. Do check out Viva's entire range from the link above.

I didn't just send these cards to vegans.  Of course I know it will put a smile on the faces of those vegans I did send to. I am also however hoping that these cards will stand out on the mantelpieces of the non-vegans too and just spread a little vegan thought throughout the festive season and beyond.

Here's to a more compassionate season to all creatures over the Festive period and beyond.  

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

The Surfer's Oracle

Surfing should be a fun activity.  Above all else, if you're not having fun out there then what's the point?  There are sure to be people reading this who think the idea of climbing into a cold damp wetsuit in a windy car park in a hail shower in December is not their idea of fun in any way whatsoever.  Well, "each to their own" say the surfers, as they try not to think about that too much, and focus instead on getting out to the waves before hypothermia sets in.  All that is instantly forgotten as soon as the first wave is surfed.  Plus, surfing provides an excuse for a nice hot Pasty or two when you are back on dry land.  It's all about balance.

There are many factors that go into making a surf session fun, and one of the most important is timing.  A good days surfing (surfing being a relatively ephemeral activity), is made up of many confluences of natural factors like swell size, swell direction, the conditions of the sand banks (reef breaks being a rarity around these parts), the wind direction, having the right equipment for the conditions, and last but not least; the state of the tide.  Turn up too late, and you will have missed the best of it.  Too early and you'll be forced to wait it out, and bore everyone around you to death loudly making up stories about the last great wave you had.  This is one of surfing's great traditions worldwide.

A beginner surfer might turn up at the beach at random and 'hope for the best' conditions-wise, but a more seasoned surfer will make a study of the many aspects that make for a good surf, and time their surf accordingly.  Some surf spots work best at low tide, some at mid., and some at high tide.  Knowing which is which comes down to timing and experience, which can only really be learnt through putting in the work (play) over the years.  Technology in the form of smart phones and apps can provide some good info (if you can get a signal), but long before the days of checking the conditions or forecast on the Internet, surfers have been relying on the humble tide times for planning surfs.  The familiar yellow jacket of this yearly soon to be well-worn booklet has come to be a must have item for any regular surfer, other ocean user, or beach walker. 

Speaking of which, another very important function of the humble tide timetable is one of safety.  Every year in Cornwall, particularly around the holiday periods, there are stories about people getting cut off by the tide, and needing to be rescued by the emergency services.  Mostly the people do get rescued, but occasionally they do not, and that's easily done if they are exploring caves and cliffs that are off the beaten track.  This makes for some pretty grim news.  If these people had known about and checked the tide times before making their decisions, then they might still be alive today.  Indeed one of the many jobs the lifeguards perform on an incoming tide each summers day, is patrolling the beaches and caves making sure that people are not about to be cut off by the tide.  Having fished a few people out of the sea over the years, if I see someone walking towards a cave when the tide is coming in, I'll always check to see if they know what the tide is doing, and it's not unusual to be asked for this info by random strangers out walking the beaches.  Prevention is better than cure, and all that.  

I can't remember exactly when I first came upon the tide times booklets, but I do remember they were brought to my attention by my fellow vegan surf friend Dave, many many moons ago.  He also came up with the idea of charting his surfs in them, just as a way of counting up each years number of surf sessions, and as a way to compare conditions over the years.  Now I also make a point of noting the number of surfs, the size of the waves, which board I took out, the times when I change from summer to winter wetsuits or vice-versa, or when I put gloves on, etc., as the water temperature changes.  Probably very boring stuff if you don't go in the sea, but it makes for interesting reading if you surf.  Patterns emerge, and you might even think of planning holidays around favourable times of the year, like September, when the waves pick up and the summer crowds go home.  Of all the surfing essentials, this single item may well be both the cheapest and most important item of all, and those two don't go together very often these days.  Whether you live in Cornwall, or come to visit, it's well worth the £1.50 to pick up a copy of this little gem (for the area you are in), and keep it with you when you visit the beach.  It could prove to be a lifesaver.  You can find them for sale in many shops in Cornwall, or buy them HERE.

Friday, 8 December 2017

Cool Grapes and Cool Vibes

Best served chilled before positioning yourself in front of the fire!
We had the pleasure of visiting the Gloucester Vegan Christmas Market last weekend.  We needed some cheering up so thought why not?  It looked a fab event and we could take in the great Saturday Farmers Market in Stroud, a naughty vegan Chinese take-away from Tangtastic (now called Superstar), and a trip to the Wholefoods Market in Cheltenham to stock up on Christmas goodies at the same time.  Sadly we discovered the latter closed down permanently just over a week ago, but all the others certainly made the mini break very much still worthwhile.

It's not often you are delighted to see such a queue to get into an event, but that is what greeted us on Sunday, as we arrived at the opening time of 11am for the Gloucester Vegan Christmas Market.  It added to the anticipation, and what vegan is not delighted about the ever growing interest in the world of vegan?  It didn't take long for us to drop our entry fee and donation for Dean Farm Trust into the buckets at the entrance and get at the vegan goodies inside.  Having foregone breakfast in anticipation of the vegan food offerings inside, we started early and headed straight for Seitan's Grill.  Let's just say it was worth the early morning abstinence and lived up to the catch line of 'tasty as hell'!  We had hoped that starting early we would have had sufficient time (and tummy space) later on to sample more of the many food options on offer from the other food stalls, but sadly the wonderful seitan burger filled the gap more than sufficiently (seitan truly at work there?!).  The queues for food later on however, made us realise we had indeed made the right decision on getting in there early.

The multiple rooms of stalls inside meanwhile were a feast for our eyes in themselves.  It was difficult to know which way to turn such was the choice and variety of vegan delights.  You had to fight your way in order to get a glimpse, which as frustrating as it was, is also a thing of wonder in a vegan world.  

One such stall with a constant crowd of people in front of it was Cool Grapes.  With the stall dominated by a display of Vegan Baileys bottles, shining almost like the gates of heaven, it was no wonder.  Alan Clement, owner of Cool Grapes, gave up his career in IT to specialize in his passion for wines; more specifically organic and bio-dynamic wines (all vegetarian and vegan too).  I would have liked more time to have talked to Alan, as Phil and I do like our wine, but such was the demand on their stall, it was quite a whirlwind.  On returning home I took the chance to visit the Cool Grapes website and find out more about what they have to offer so do check them out if you are partial to a tipple or two of good quality vegan reds, whites, champers, sparkles, and even orange wine (read about this new fashion in the wine world on the website).

We had been fortunate enough to have also been visiting the Cool Grapes stall to claim the prize of a bottle of Prosecco, after I had entered and won the draw on the Gloucester Vegan Christmas Market Facebook page.  Alan gave us a wonderful description of what to expect from this bottle of sparkly vegan wonder, and we assured him it would very much be savored over the Christmas period.  

We also had a chance to sample one of the glasses of Vegan Baileys being sold on the stall.  I hadn't had Baileys since before I was vegan 30 years ago.  I had fond memories of it and had wondered whether I would still like it.  As Phil and I shared the glass we both confirmed that indeed it was creamy nectar of naughtiness and we simply had to purchase some.  We were extremely fortunate enough to be one of the lucky few who were able to purchase one of the bottles that were being sold off at the end of the day.  

All in all, it was a wonderfully successful and tasty weekend away and certainly, with two bottles of Cool Grapes goodies now safely back in Cornwall with us, it will continue to be enjoyed into the Christmas break!

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Make a Date With The Wild West Heroes 2018

Remember those days before computers when we used diaries and calendars to help us navigate our way through the complexities of how to fit too much into too little time?  Well, if like me you get irritated by the inhuman 'bing-bong' of an electronic device telling you what to do and when, you will no doubt be looking for a real calendar to hang upon your wall for next year.  Ahh, the good old days eh?  Apart from the fact that a real paper calendar is quieter, less irritating and nagging, you also get to look at lovely photos.  Make it even more of a win-win by splashing out on a charity calendar.

For anyone that loves calendars, Cornwall or animals, is vegan (or knows someone that is), wants to raise some funds for charity, or any combination of the above, it just so happens that we might know of the perfect solution.  The Cornwall Vegans Charity Calendar "Wild West Heroes" is a one-off design sold to support two wildlife charities in Cornwall; Cornwall Badger Rescue and Brock and Prickles and Paws Hedgehog Rescue.  Both of these charities are run by volunteers, and rescue and rehabilitate all sorts of wild creatures in Cornwall, and by buying this calendar you will be directly supporting their work.

The calendar itself, produced by Cornwall Vegans, features photographs and testimony from 12 vegan men who live in Cornwall and Devon, and explores their own individual natures and journeys.  Local vegans may even recognise some of these characters by face and reputation!  Let's face it ladies, any vegan man is a hero too!

The calendar was printed with solar power and is A4 opening up to A3.  There is plenty of space on it for making your own plans but helpfully a few special Cornish and animal related dates have also been added as well as bank holidays.  The cost of each calendar is £10 plus shipping, so if enough are sold that could be a very much needed financial boost for these two special Cornish animal charities.

To get your hands on your very own copy visit the Wild West Heroes Etsy page.  You can also read more about how the calendar came about on the Cornwall Vegans Calendar page.  And for even more details on the calendar, including more videos, check out the Cornwall Vegans Wild West Heroes Facebook page.  In the meantime, here is a plug from Mr October.....