Let’s talk about Carbon Monoxide Poisoning.

Some things never go away, and sometimes that’s a good thing. I lived to tell the story and as time progresses things come to mind which make me wonder if it was all a part of the same thing. So let’s revisit that time we had a carbon monoxide leak.

It was 2015 going into 2016. I was feeling tired all the time; understandable, it had been a busy year and I was probably doing too much as usual, everything at once, so ended up feeling quite burnt out. So that’s PTA, Rainbows, knitting, swimming, football and more – then there’s work and school and the juggling between the two. So I felt tired? Welcome to the club Jo. It was no big deal, we were all tired.

There was nothing which seemed odd and okay, I was forgetful. This much I do remember. I remember being told things verbally and not retaining that information. But I’m old. Probably just the old menopausal brain fog, eh? There’s a perfectly reasonable reason for everything when you find it. Nothing to worry about.

Then of course there’s the Christmas crash. No work for two weeks and just stopping – and it all catches up with you. Family time, having fun, being really tired as you’ve had a busy year. All the normal things everyone goes through.

But it wasn’t that was it. It was probably something else. But I’ve no idea, no indicator when it started.

By early January I was feeling groggy most mornings. I’d wake up with a dull head, a dizzy head, I’d get out of the house and I’d make my way to the station and feel like I was staggering all over the path, couldn’t walk in a straight line.

Ah but I obviously overdid it leading up to Christmas, maybe I’ve not had enough time off to feel normal again. Maybe this is parenthood? We just feel this way all the time and get on with it? Don’t moan, just try stronger coffee, it’ll pass, it’s a virus. If it goes on for too long I’ll go to the doctor, although the last time I went to the doctor they said “it’s a virus, it’ll pass, we can’t do anything about it” so maybe it’s not worth wasting their time. So let’s just leave it, put up and shut up.

I took a day off sick in early 2016. I felt rubbish, I had a day in bed all nice and cosy and warm and tried to rest and sleep it off. Not that being off sick means you stay in bed all day – you have to head to school for pickup and all those things because your child can’t walk themselves home at age six.

It didn’t really help, I still felt odd the next day. Okay, let’s just power on through it. Get on the train, get to work, get a nice strong coffee and another one to really wake me up and then somewhere around the magical 11.30am mark a wave of normality hits you.

The only thing I can describe it as is the moment the headache from the hangover goes. That sudden wave of normality again.

But it’s not a hangover – I only have a couple of glasses of wine on a Friday and Saturday night; that’s not the kind of volume which makes you feel unwell like this. It’s just a virus. A strange virus.

Slowly January turns to February, to March and I’m still feeling unwell. H has an invite to a birthday party – we’re all sat on our bed, H wanted to come and snuggle with us, she’s sat on top of the duvet when all of a sudden she opens her mouth and vomits all over it. This isn’t like her at all – she doesn’t get sick very often. Particularly not like this. “Maybe it’s an ear infection?” I suggest so we try olive oil drops which do little or no good, the dizziness stays.

Everything is so completely, utterly normal. We live our lives. As a family, we go out to places, though I’m really forgetful from time to time – a typical menopause symptom of course.

We dream of moving out of our house, but we have great neighbours and moving means new neighbours – but we’re not fans of our house. The landlady doesn’t really want to spend money on things like new curtains or carpets and we had lived there a few years by this point. We have an awful heating system – it blows hot air into the upstairs landing and into the kitchen and front room. It’s a proper old fashioned heating system – and it wouldn’t surprise me if we were the last house with that sort of heating in the area.

You switch it on, you wait about five minutes and then the noise of a fan starts, and heating comes out of the vents. Our bedrooms are often cold because of the heat distribution so we often keep the doors open in the hope they’ll catch some warmth from the vents on the landing or if we’re feeling extravagant we’ll pop an electric heater on. The landlady increased our rent by over £230 the previous year so money is a little tighter than normal.

So, there’s absolutely nothing going on in our very ordinary lives other than I feel rubbish every morning and there’s no reason why, but I’m too busy to find out why because I’ll be told the virus will go when it’s ready, so why bother?

Of course, if you know the story, you know what happens next. We had our Gas Safety Check – in April. It was due in the January. The engineer went into the loft and came down pretty swiftly. The heater was condemned, switched off and we were instructed never to switch it on again. When I asked the engineer “What’s the worst case scenario here?” (meaning, how long would we be without hot water or heating) and he replied “death” I didn’t really understand what he meant.

When your gas boiler is switched off for safety reasons, Leaky Flue Safety Warning Gas Boiler, Gas Safety Week 2017 Carbon Monoxide poisoning,

But now I do. Now I understand what happened. Those types of heaters go up into the loft. There’s a pipe, the flue which pumps out all the bad fumes into the air outside. Ours had rusted and had broken away. Those fumes were pumping into the loft. The loft hatch? Right outside my bedroom door.

Almost every night I take myself off to bed early, and Shaun stays downstairs watching tv with the heating on, as you would. So the heating is on, I’m in bed, the fumes are being pumped… I mean, it really doesn’t bear thinking what could have happened.

We are extremely lucky.

What could have made a difference here? A few things.

  1. Recognising the symptoms of Carbon Monoxide poisoning. Most of them are easily mistaken for something else.
  2. Having an annual Gas Safety Check. I don’t know why ours didn’t happen when it should have.
  3. Having Carbon Monoxide detectors in all the right places in your house. It never occurred to me that the fumes were being pumped into the loft and outside from there – so all our detectors were downstairs.

We never took the time to study and understand our heating system – well, why would you? But actually, it could save a life – knowing where to put a carbon monoxide detector is important. Everyone will think about the kitchen and near the boiler – but it never occurred to us we should have one upstairs as well.

Needless to say, we’ve moved, we know what is what in this house. We part-own our house so all Gas Safety Checks are organised by us – and I keep on top of when they’re due thanks to the alerts you can sign up for at gassaferegister.co.uk

I will never stop talking about what happened as it’s so important to spread the word. You don’t think it would be you – none of us do. However, it so easily can be.

Three Things

We’re on imminent lockdown here in London. There are three things we won’t run out of which I’ve previously mentioned on here..

Smol. Laundry capsules that arrive in the post automatically every few weeks. They arrive when I need them, you just need one or two capsules in your wash. They don’t have referral codes, so head over to them, they do trial size packs and when you can’t get to the shop and need to wash things maybe you’ll be glad you have some in your cupboard.

smol laundry capsules

Splosh. Cleaning all around the house. Just over a month ago I accidentally ordered too many hand wash refills. A month later and we’re getting through them a lot quicker than we previously had for obvious reasons. You keep the plastic container, top it up with warm water to the mark on the bottle, then add from the Splosh refill packet. Job done. Splosh refill packet is empty, post it back to them where it gets recycled. We use Splosh for handwash, shower gel, bathroom spray, kitchen spray, glass cleaner, laundry powder (because it smells SO good), toilet cleaner and washing up liquid. There is a lot of choice and you can take out subscriptions now, getting an automatic redelivery at the time of your choosing.
I do have a Splosh referral code – WDECMRLM96 – you save 15% and I get £3 off my next order.

Splosh cleaning products, Washing up liquid, toilet cleaner, bathroom cleaner and kitchen cleaner

Who Gives a Crap. Currently not taking on new subscriptions but supplying existing ones when their next delivery is due. When I started doing subscriptions of various things, toilet rolls was quite near the top of the list. I don’t know why – I mean, it’s not like it wasn’t something easy to buy. I do like that each roll is wrapped in paper rather than plastic, and once you’ve cut out the WGAC parts the patterns come in quite handy for crafts at Brownies too. Oh, and money goes towards toilets being built in countries that need them, so it’s loo roll with a conscience.
For £40 every few months I get an enormous box full of toilet rolls which lasts for 5-6 months (I go for the bamboo ones these days). Smooth! Here’s a link to my referral code – https://www.talkable.com/x/bVzSyO

Who Gives a Crap 48 rolls delivery in a box, pretty wrapped toilet paper

If I was able to book my usual weekly slot with Ocado then things would be just fine. Up until recently I’ve quite enjoyed quiet weekends at home not doing much, not getting outdoors. Of course the weather has now changed and I’m desperate to get outside.

So these things aren’t going to change the world. But they can arrive at your front door with little or no bother. I like things coming to me rather than me having to get them. Every little bit helps, and let’s face it, we need clean homes, clothes and hands right now.

That Time We Bought a Tent.

So we got back from a week in Dorset, having stayed in a holiday cottage and a gypsy caravan (cramped, small, creaky). We decided to stop at Go Outdoors on the way home – and it became That Time We Bought a Tent.

That time we bought a tent, we headed to Go Outdoors in Poole. One of our Brownie leaders had done similarly recently, and confirmed that you can join the Go Outdoors membership scheme AND get the most from your Girlguiding discount. So I spent a lot of time browsing.

Go Outdoors has a few branches dotted around the country, so Poole was our destination. Smelly, tired and in need of a good shower and toilet, that was us. I think we looked the part, like we had already been camping. We definitely smelt it! Go Outdoors had exactly what we needed.

Tents on display. Big ones, small ones, wide ones, ones that looked too big. Ones that were definitely way too small. This was the city of tents, the place you can go inside and see whether the tent is for you. Fortunately in my super-tired state of mind they also included the price if you’re a member there (£5 a year, 10% discount on everything). So all I had to do was include my Girlguiding 15%.

We had a lot of extras already like sleeping bags and blow up mattresses, our additional costs were camping essentials like a gas stove and cutlery.

Zenobia 6 tent without the porch, pitched in back garden for idea of size. Bought a tent.

We opted for the Hi-Gear Zenobia Eclipse 6 as it had really good reviews. Plus it has lots of space. While we always try to pack light we never quite do, so space to spread things out was important. Every review mentioned the tent hasn’t leaked either which is a bonus with our unpredictable weather.

My favourite feature was the bedrooms having a blackout element. I get woken up by light coming into my sleeping area, so anything that blocks it is a good thing. Shaun’s was having lots of pockets inside the tent to put things like our toothbrushes (which we then forgot where they were as there are a LOT of pockets!). H just loved having a tent and her own room.

Inside the Zenobia 6 tent during daylight from the bedroom (blackout) area. Gives an idea of space and also the darkness. Bought a tent.

There’s also the logic in putting a tent up. You put the poles in and pin it appropriately and that’s that, right? Which seemed to work for this tent. It probably took us around half an hour to get the tent up, with additional time to set up each bedroom. Someone pointed out to us they never bother removing those bits as they’re all packed together anyway.

A six man tent seemed a lot though. As we had blow up mattresses already, we soon found out that two of those alongside each other took up most of the space. Actually our tent was really a four man tent (for us). Roll mats will definitely make it suitable for six people.

Zenobia Eclipse 6 tent with porch on campsite. Bought a tent.

The final part of our tent was the separate porch. We couldn’t work out if it was important or not, but at £99 with the GG discount to be applied it felt like it wasn’t breaking the bank. As our first proper camping trip would show, it was definitely a good purchase. Cooking in the rain while being sheltered is a good thing – and we weren’t the only ones. Everyone does it. A porch is definitely the right thing to get.

The porch didn’t reach the floor so we removed the front door and used it as an outside space rather than an extension of the tent.

Cooking on a gas stove in the porch area of the Zenobia 6 Eclipse tent. Bought a tent

As we were on our way home from holiday, the car was full. There was no way it would fit in our little Skoda Fabia, so we decided to go to the nearest Go Outdoors the following day in Tonbridge. It takes up almost all the boot space with the porch and additional carpet – but it’s worth it. So much so, that night H and I camped outside (it’s noisy in London, I didn’t enjoy it); then we all went off camping in Sussex/Kent the following day!

So that’s our ‘That time we bought a tent’ story. It just happened, but I think we had reached the end of our tether spending around £100 for so-called ‘glamping’ options. Now we can take our own tent, less stuff, spend £20 a night instead and we only have ourselves to blame if anything goes wrong!

I think it ticks something off the bucket list too.

Happy Yellow Spring Clothes from Rydale Clothing

Our lovely British weather is all over the place as usual. I’m never sure whether to wear a coat or not, whether it will rain or not and will I be warm or not. Even in June.
When I was given the chance to review something from Ryedale Clothing, I went for their lightweight rain jacket because it fitted everything I didn’t have in a coat and it’s a really nice, bright, yellow.

Ryedale Clothing are based in North Yorkshire. I’m a North Yorkshire lass so know the names of the places that a lot of the items of clothing are named after. The North Yorkshire Moors are my favourite place in the whole of the UK. This immediately made me keen to see what Rydale Clothing offers.

I opted for the Cayton II Toggle Jacket (currently on sale for £35) as it ticked a lot of boxes for me. The main one is being long – I’m tall. I want a waterproof coat that looks good and covers my bum. Even better if I can sit down on it while out and about. I sit between a 16-18 depending on the clothes, so went with a size 16 which is just right.

I didn’t take it to our Brownie camp at PGL as I saw we were due several warm days – the jacket is great for showery days – but did have it for our trip to Littlehampton straight afterwards. It was perfect for the weather – sunny spells and showers; paddling in the sea or wandering around.

My jacket is warm when it needs to be, cool when the weather warmed up. When it got really warm it was easy enough to tuck it into a bag without it using up too much space.

at Mewsbrook Park with H. I’m wearing what I call my menopause trousers – Next have started to do in-between sizes and as my body grows into its final shape these fit me perfectly and go really well with my Ryedale Clothing jacket.

The pockets are just the right size; I won’t be putting keys in there as they’re a fabric lining and I’m sure the keys would rip it.

The length is perfect for me – I’ve worn the jacket on many different occasions now.

Also, the colour; yellow is a departure from my usual sensible choices, but it’s a good one. I’ve had several people ask “ooh is it from Seasalt?” to which I’ve been able to point them in Ryedale Clothing’s direction. I love the lining which has little sailboats dotted all over. I’m not picking up any extra mucky stains on there which is good too.

In fact, I’ve had so many lovely positive comments about my coat that I’ve felt really happy wearing it. You can too – it’s over here.

I was sent the Ryedale Clothing jacket for review, all opinions are my own.


SSE Women’s FA Cup Final 2019 – Man City v West Ham

It is now the fifth year of the Women’s FA Cup Final at Wembley, and we’ve been to all five. Things have changed, though it is still a fun, affordable day out.

The Women’s FA Cup Final 2019 was on Saturday 4th May 2019. We travelled to Wembley to soak in the atmosphere. Having gone all the other times we knew there would be lots of things to do outside, maybe a chance to meet a player or two and maybe some things to have a look at, just like the previous years.

The Women’s FA Cup Final 2019 was between Manchester City and West Ham United – both Women’s Super League clubs. It was West Ham’s first time in the final, but Man City were always the favourites.

Women's FA Cup Final 2019 - Wembley's a building site

So it was a bit heartbreaking to arrive at Wembley and find it currently resembles a building site. The pre-match entertainment was at a minimum too, the SSE Wildcats Funzone had three things to do. In the past I would have said allow a couple of hours to hang around Wembley. Could it be that those days are over? We got through the entertainment in a very short time.

There was no mention of the upcoming Women’s World Cup, other than advertisements for the game in Brighton next month. This would have been the perfect time to tie it in with something.

It felt like it was more about overpriced food and drink, unfortunately. Wembley publicised an event at Wembley Boxpark. That seemed to be a giant pub with a stage. I asked if anything was happening and was told “we’re showing the game” (umm…. we’re at the game?!) so we didn’t stick around.

Wembley - Bobby Moore statue taken at the Women's FA Cup Final 2019

Outside Wembley you need to allow more time now as well. There is a bag restriction; so nothing larger than A4 sized (so don’t bother shopping in the Wembley Outlet beforehand; although they have a Haribo shop). Then there are the queues. We were eventually routed from the main Club Wembley entrance to the Bobby Moore entrance, and got to our block. We had great views and lovely comfy padded seats too.

Women's FA Cup Final 2019

As neutrals (as usual), we watched the game cheering for football. This year’s attendance wasn’t as high as last year, but it still felt like there were more people there. Having said that, behind the goal nearest to us there were a lot of empty seats; lesser so the Man City end.

The elusive goal happened in the second half, and there was relief on our side – it was a good game, and it was great to see the players, but if things had gone into extra time it could have ended up being a long night. As it was, I commented to Shaun that I was sure the last couple of games ended up being won by a single goal – and Man City took that (I’m sure) as some kind of psychic command to score another couple! The game ended 3-0, Man City were presented with the FA Cup, and everyone left easily. Especially the West Ham Supporters who left pretty quickly, no longer blowing bubbles.

The Women’s FA Cup Final has become part of our annual routine, and so much of that was the build up. Maybe they couldn’t do as much because Wembley is a building site, and will soon disappear behind tower blocks. It’s a shame, I always enjoyed getting face paints, even the cardboard clapping things from last year were a nice touch. There were feeble attempts in the crowd at mexican waves, but the heart there this year.

We’ll still go – at only £7.50 for adults and kids going free it’s a great reasonable day out. I say reasonable as once you’re inside you’re paying Wembley prices. How much food or drink can you fit into an A4 bag? (answer: packs of Haribo and a bread roll, pretty much). The 2019 Women’s FA Cup Final cost us the grand total of £15 for the three of us so we can’t complain.

We had an added bonus of being sat by the boxes which Phil Neville (England Women’s Manager) and Kelly Smith (ex Arsenal Ladies) were sat, so H got a couple more autographs. Within the SSE Wildcats Funzone there was the chance to have photobooth photos taken, and the chance to score a goal and measure the speed. They also had a small unattended stand where you could make a small paper banner.

The 2019 Women’s FA Cup Final game itself was great, don’t get me wrong. That’s why we’ll always go back. It was great seeing West Ham there rather than the usual teams – and maybe one year Tottenham Women will get their chance too. That’s the beauty of the FA Cup. You never know who it will be from year to year, so there are always surprises along the way.

Women's FA Cup Final 2019 banner

2018’s review is here.

Football, in Particular, Women’s Football

Things have changed so much in women’s football over the last year. Was it really this time last year H was doing Wildcats football sessions every week? Those stopped. You only get funding from SSE for a certain amount of time, so our popular sessions were pulled and moved further away; so we stopped because it was too far.

Wembley Stadium Women's FA Cup Final 2016 seats

Fortunately sessions with our same coach started up the road at Whyteleafe, and a few of us parents who stayed in touch came back. When you’re looking for a session and don’t necessarily want to be too competitive, it isn’t easy. There isn’t a huge amount here, but there are groups.

Then, before you know it, it’s that time of year again – the SSE Women’s FA Cup Final. This year we have Manchester City vs West Ham. Now, obviously were this the men’s team I’d have a problem cheering for either team, but this is the women and so we’ll go along, enjoy a game of football and cheer everyone. Football is funny like that. (it also doesn’t help that West Ham beat Tottenham yesterday)

Wembley Stadium SSE giant sponge hands, football, Women's FA Cup Final 2015

We have our tickets and we’re going in a group from our Saturday football group which is brilliant. It’s something I’ve always wanted. I like doing things in a group and being with friends; we haven’t really had a group of our regular friends who enjoy going to games. I’m hoping that they’ll have special events on like last year, when H got to meet Lionesses Fara Williams and Mary Earp.

H with Fara Williams and Mary Earp

It’s the fifth year at Wembley, and we’ve been to all of them. It’s a fantastic day, kids go free and adults are at the ridiculously low price of £15. I did a group booking and got tickets at £7.50 each.

I’m hoping the weather holds up now!

Then there’s Tottenham Women – rebranded this week from Spurs Ladies (hurrah! about time too) who are on the verge of gaining promotion to the Women’s Super League. We’ve had a great season across both Tottenham teams; I can only hope that the women get to play at the new White Hart Lane stadium sometime soon.

Tottenham women in their play off match vs Blackburn Rovers when they won and gained promotion to the Women's Championship.

If Tottenham do go up then we’ll be able to watch them more often. We have Chelsea and Brighton within a drive-able distance. We’ve seen them play a few times now, H got to meet the players when they played against Crystal Palace.

I’m still unsure if the money aspect of it all is too soon. Clubs like Yeovil Town who have a strong women’s team are struggling and can’t rely on support from the men’s club. Whereas teams like Manchester United bought their way back into the Women’s league because of theirs. It doesn’t seem right, though encouragingly there aren’t relegations happening this season to expand the leagues.

The next few years are going to be interesting….


Crikey, I haven’t posted for two months. There’s a lot to say, just no time to say it. I’m not going anywhere any time soon, just slowing down with life because there’s too much to fit in.

I’ve renewed the Mum Friendly domain for another three years. Not going anywhere – okay?

I have things lined up to be reviewed – books, clothes and more.

I took out an Art Pass subscription this year to replace our Historic Houses Association one which lapsed, so we’ve already visited places I want to share.

We have books and clothes to review and we’re still working with the lovely Stamptastic. I’ll be doing a review on their blog; seven years in and I finally had to buy a new ink pad (but I made sure H’s school was signed up in their PTA deal).

Then there’s Brexit. We went to the Put it to the People march, I’ve written about it and posted it retrospectively today. That seems to be my pattern so far this year, writing but not posting.

There’s also all the extra activities we do every night. Brownies, obviously. As H heads into her last term at Brownies, she earned her Gold badge; the highest Brownie award you can get. She was the first girl in our Division to do so – she was really proud, as was I. She already attends a Guide unit locally (which I help at, of course) where she’s a mini-Guide until she moves up in September. Oh, and I gained my Brownie Leader Qualification too.

We’re still going to football on a Saturday at Whyteleafe FC. Crystal Palace pulled our local girls Wildcats group. They opened a new one but it was too far; navigating the A23 on a Saturday morning is never fun so we gave up. Whyteleafe is only ten minutes up the road, not far from where our old Caterham sessions were. It goes without saying we’ve bought tickets for the Women’s FA Cup Final for the fifth year running; this time in a group with parents from our football group.

So yes, still here. Still doing everything in the few hours we have to do stuff. Just checking in.

We Marched for a People’s Vote

On 23rd March 2019 we marched in Central London for the People’s Vote.

The People’s Vote is a campaign behind getting the Government to break themselves out of the deadlock they find themselves in (read : stubborn Prime Minister who doesn’t seem to listen to anyone), and put the final vote about Brexit back to the people.

People's Vote March in London, 2019

The area we live in voted for Remain by a fairly large margin. We’re represented by a backbench Conservative MP who votes with the Government. Already politics is not speaking to or representing me. In turn, this means he’s not representing H either.

People's Vote 2019 Gove Will Tear Us Apart

So we marched. Well, we walked at a slow, steady pace from Green Park to Downing Street.

We ended up right outside Downing Street in time to hear Sandi Toksvig introduce Anna Soubry (who we couldn’t hear). We were in time to hear David Lammy, Nicola Sturgeon, Jess Phillips and so many others. So many great speakers. The politician who resonated the most with H was Jo Swinson (with her baby) who thanked all the children for being there. Because it’s their future and they can’t do anything about it.

Jo Swinson Put it to the People March 2019

It was a good, safe place for a nine year old to be and to be a part of something. It might all come to nothing, but it might make a difference. Already the Prime Minister has made remarks about the march which are putting it down, saying it doesn’t matter. Two million people would disagree, Theresa.

Jess Phillips Put it to the People March

Everyone was so friendly. So many older folks saying they were marching “for her” (H) because they know it’s her future too.

Nicola Sturgeon Put it to the People March

So we did something. We were a part of something, we saw brilliant placards, we heard brilliant speeches, we were there.

If it doesn’t make a difference we tried our best. But if it does make a difference we were a part of it.

I voted to remain, I didn’t vote for the mess this country is currently in. It seems to me this is more about holding a political party I could never vote for together, than the interests of the people living in the country. The EU isn’t perfect, but changes come from within – not outside.

Vegetarian Cook Books from The Book People

I have a selection of vegetarian cook books sent to me by The Book People. I’ve been vegetarian since 1983 and of late I’ve been stuck in a rut with my food choices. Anything which gives me a cookery-style kick up the backside is a good thing, so I happily took delivery of a selection of books.

Vegetarian Cook Books from The Book People

There are a wide selection of Vegetarian Cook books from The Book People, with lots of choice. I chose books based on things which I’d like to try out in the hope it broadens my cooking repertoire, but I still need to be able to make it in less than half an hour.

With veganuary in full swing I was hoping to broaden my limited vegan recipes, or at least make my vegetarian options a bit more interesting. I found that all of these books are helpful, read my summary at the end for my final thoughts.

Our first stop was the Deliciously Ella cookbook. I have to admit, I haven’t really followed Ella’s blog though I was aware of it and knew her recipes were plant based and vegan.

Deliciously Ella cookbook

We started with a pea, broad bean and basil dip. It also has avocado, one of H’s pet hates. However, having the three main ingredients meant she really enjoyed it, and she pretty much scoffed the lot. The dip worked really well with some lime crisps too. We might have gone through two packs in the one session…

The only downside of the Deliciously Ella cookbook was that most recipes substitute with a nut of some kind, and when you’re baking a vegan cake for outside of the house (for example, bake sales), they have to be nut-free. Some recipes or alternatives that don’t use nuts would be good – what we’ve made we’ve enjoyed, and have just had to eat it all ourselves rather than share!

The Accidental Vegetarian cookbook has a chocolate cake recipe called ‘More Chocolate Than is Good For You’ which immediately appeals to me. This is of course a fabulous idea, as we move away from vegan cooking and into vegetarian options. We haven’t made it yet – that’s to come, probably to celebrate the end of February. We have the baking tins ready… keep an eye on my Instagram.

The Accidental Vegetarian is by Simon Rimmer, and has recipes that have been developed over time. He’s a meat eater and owns a restaurant. These aren’t quick recipes but they’re ones I want to have a go at.

I’ve often wondered if I could be vegan, but I enjoy cheese too much plus the occasional egg. We’ve recently started using yeast flakes in cooking which is a great substitute for parmesan, but have never found a good vegan cheese. Shaun – who eats meat – has occasional issues with dairy, so we often have to opt for vegan options with food. I feel like these Vegetarian Cook Books from The Book People bring the best of both worlds.

Maria Elia’s The Modern Vegetarian has the kind of recipes that make me feel hungry just reading them. Everything inside sounds delicious, but don’t include my regular food cupboard supplies so I’d need to plan in advance to make sure I have the right food in. This is another one I intend to do so keep an eye on Instagram.

The Modern Vegetarian cookbook

As a suggesion, Rosemary Popcorn is one that jumps out. We always have popcorn in our cupboard, but never rosemary. This will be put to rights and very soon. I’m also liking the Cardamom Flatbread. There are a good selection of recipes in here and some incredible sounding desserts too. Orange, Lavender and Almond Syrup Cake? Yes please! Although Shaun isn’t so keen on lavender in food.

When I first became vegetarian it was difficult. My only meat substitute was Sosmix, so I lived on that for several years. My biggest saviour in the world of not eating meat was when Linda McCartney started creating food in 1991. Oh my word, the world opened up when it came to not eating meat.

The Meat Free Monday campaign has a Cookbook to accompany it. The front of the book has an Independent quote saying ‘for meat eaters who can’t think how to cook without it, this will help and inspire’. I think they should probably add vegetarians who have forgotten how to branch out and cook different things; like me.

Week 8 in the Meat Free Monday cookbook

There are also vegan substitute suggestions – an excellent idea for someone like me.

The Meat Free Monday Cookbook breaks your year into seasons and plans your meals for every Monday. It’s great too – simple instructions though I haven’t followed any yet. It’s all basic cupboard ingredients too. The sort of book you can pick up and follow without buying anything you wouldn’t already have.

There are so many different types of cookbooks to choose from out there, these are just four. They cover so many different types of vegetarian food, and have recipes that inspire us. There is a great selection of Vegetarian Cook Books from The Book People – definitely check out their choice.

As for which book I’ll refer to the most, I think it will be a mixture of Deliciously Ella and the Meat Free Monday books – the other two are a bit more specialised and the kind of thing I would get out if we had friends over for dinner, for example. We’ve got lots of Deliciously Ella recipes bookmarked to make over the coming months.

Deliciously Ella Lentil and Potato stew

I wish I had more photos of the dishes we’ve cooked, this means I need to make more!

We were sent these Vegetarian Cook Books from The Book People. The Vegetarian recipe books are here. All opinions are our own.

Choose Love – Help Refugees

Choose Love – Help Refugees have a pop up store in London’s Carnaby Street this Christmas, and it’s the second year they’ve done this. I volunteered for a morning, and I thought it was worthy of a blog post because it’s such a brilliant Charity and cause. 

Choose Love - Help Refugees logo

Choose Love – Help Refugees grew from a group of people taking supplies to refugees to this; a worldwide organisation which provides essentials. With two pop up stores in London and New York, and a lot of celebrity endorsements, it’s difficult to miss the Choose Love logo on a t-shirt. But this is more than a logo, this is something really important and heartwarming. 

Yesterday I volunteered at the Choose Love in Carnaby Street, turning up at 9.30am full of nerves. I’m not very good at going into places on my own unless I know there will be friendly faces there. Within seconds I was with the team for the morning, with my borrowed Choose Love sweatshirt, learning about each section of the shop. I immediately felt at ease and ready. 

Choose Love - Help Refugees Covent Garden pop up Store

Downstairs is the area where you buy a specific gift for someone in need. It is broken into three sections: Arrival – Which has basics like food, clothes and things to keep warm. The second section is Shelter. People can often spend years in camps, so this offers tents, sleeping bags, supplies like toiletries and nappies – it provides humanity. The final section is Future. Helping groups who help refugees so they can start again. From medical needs to schooling, it is all covered. When you see everything laid out as it was makes it feel so much more real. You see the pictures in the press, but most of us haven’t lived what these poor refugees have gone through so can only imagine it. 

Choose Love - Help Refugees sections

Upstairs has the Choose Love – Help Refugees t-shirts, hoodies, sweatshirts, tote bags, posters and more. I can highly recommend the sweatshirt as being super warm too – so much that I bought one for myself. 

The great thing about the Choose Love – Help Refugees store is that there’s something to suit every price range. 

Prices range from £5 to £599 for the whole shop. You buy the whole shop, you’re buying essential supplies for everyone, you don’t walk out with everything. People were buying gifts for Secret Santa presents, people were coming in and spending Christmas present money and doubling it when they saw what was there. 

I’ve never worked in a shop but know I can speak to strangers fairly easy once I know what I’m doing. It was quick and easy to get your head around. People wanted to know more, and everything on show explained it really well.  By the door are gift cards so you’re able to mark up what you’ve bought for someone else. 

It was heartwarming. A shop people come into and come away with nothing but a fuzzy sense of having helped someone else. It felt like the true spirit of Christmas, and one which so many people got behind. 

Within the store is a Banksy sculpture, one from Dismaland. He has donated it to Choose Love – Help Refugees. If you wanted to try and win it you need to guess its weight. At £2 a time, you could end up with it before Christmas if you guess the weight correctly. 

Banksy Boat Raffle at Choose Love - Help Refugees

We had a busy day at the Choose Love – Help Refugees store in Carnaby Street. People coming to get their last minute Christmas shopping before it all gets too busy. We stood out in on Carnaby Street street calling out and holding up boards. I stayed on my feet the entire time – oh boy my back felt it by the time I got home! It was great, I had a lovely festive fuzzy feeling. I did something to help and helped make a difference. You can too – just pop over to their site.

Choose Love – Help Refugees Pop up Store is at 30-32 Fouberts Place, W1F 7PS, open until Christmas Eve. It is run entirely by volunteers and is open from 10am daily. Please check the website for exact opening hours. 

A special mention for the most amazing falafels around the corner too (over the road from Liberty), at the Choose Love linked Imad’s Syrian Kitchen. The perfect place to stop after a busy morning – make sure you visit!