Friday, July 29, 2011

The Story of Stretch

After returning from Wales I was walking through my local park with Gerry when I came across two ladies. One asked me if Gerry was a Lurcher and said that they’d seen a stray black and white lurcher in the park a few times the week before, but nobody had managed to catch it. I kept a lookout over the next few days, but saw and heard nothing.

Fast forward another couple of days and my friend Jeni who also has two lurchers in our area text me and said her friend had told her there was a stray lurcher on the green that fit the description of the dog the ladies in the park had told me about. I went out to look but there was no dog. I think I was looking in the wrong place.

The next night my boyfriend went to the shops and text me and said the lurcher was on our road, so I grabbed Gerry and a spare lead hoping he’d attract it over. However it was so nervous it ran off immediately and wouldn’t come over for food.

Yesterday evening I was out with Gerry again and I came across the lurcher on the green. A young man walking a boxer stopped to talk to me and said the lurcher had been there for days on the green, and some kids playing there told me it slept in the trees on the edge of the green every night. I stayed put while the man went home to fetch a tin of dog food. We spent about half an hour trying to catch him. He ate some food and I managed to touch his nose but he’d just run off any time we got near. At one point he stood in the middle of the road and refused to move, blocking off the traffic, and the police arrived and asked us what we were doing!!! We gave up and the man said he’d come out the next night at 7pm and try again.

Well I’ve been having trouble sleeping lately so at 5am I thought it was a good idea to go out to the trees on the green and see if the lurcher was asleep there… And he was! I took some food, which he ate, but he kept walking off and sitting or lying down further away from me. It took a great deal of patience, but eventually I sat next to him and petted his paw. He immediately got up and walked off. For about 20 minutes that’s all I did, sat near to him and tried to pet him, then every time he just walked off. Eventually I got to stroke and scratch his neck, head and shoulders properly… but he ran off before I got to slip the lead around his neck. So I had to start all over again, following him, sitting next to him, regaining his trust…. Then BINGO! I got the lead around his neck and he gingerly followed me home.

I called him Stretch, because that’s all he’d do – get up, stretch, walk off, sit down, stand back up, stretch and run off again!

I spent all morning ringing Sighthound Welfare organisations and groups to get him a place in a rescue home. My friend Jane managed to sort one but the only problem then was it was 2 hours drive away down the country!!! I don’t drive and neither do many of my friends, so I had to text, message and ring a lot of people (even people I didn’t know!) to eventually get a lift organised with a girl I'd met briefly before, Hilary, who also owns a greyhound and goes on Sighthound Strolls with our group.

Gerry was very affected by it all and was yelping and howling at the intruder in the garden. I wouldn’t let him out to meet Stretch because he’s been on antibiotics for his skin condition and couldn’t get his Boosters done as a result, so I didn’t want him to catch any infections or diseases from the stray… Not to mention fleas and ticks. So he waited inside and cried! Needless to say, I was also very tired and stressed by the time Hilary turned up!

He was amazing in the car on the way down, very quiet and not at all vocal or fidgetty. He was sick twice and he did a wee too! You can imagine the smell…! I think the sickness was probably due to the copious amounts of treats we gave him to try and coax him into the car, so it was our fault really, haha! In the end we just lifted him in, so they were totally unnecessary! We had yummy vegan treats in the car - bombay mix and popcorn - Hilary didn't even know I was vegan, so it was pure luck she brought some snacks I could eat. She is vegetarian herself, so I guess that was handy!!

Stretch is now safely in the custody of ERIN HOUNDS. An organisation that specialises in rescuing Irish greyhounds and lurchers and rehoming them in the UK. He is at a Kennel in Carrick-on-Shannon where he will be looked after until the time is right for him to go to a new home. He was taken to a stable where he was isolated from other dogs for the night so he could undergo treatment for fleas and ticks. He will later be moved to a pen nearer the other dogs, and eventually he shall find his forever home :)

I am so looking forward to watching his progress! Apparently he has already had his first bath and has been de-flead, wormed and had the mites from his ears removed. Next will be the 8 ticks on his body... not a pleasant job to say the least! He's brightened up and now wants to play, and the redness in his eyes is fading too.

I was so sad to leave him there, he looked so folorn, but I told him it was for the best so I know he will forgive me ;) Once he's feeling heathier and comfier, I know he'll appreciate his second chance and will make someone a lovely pet!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Innocent Veg Pots

As Tesco had Innocent Veg Pots for sale half price last week I bought five of them to review on my blog. Only one in their range isn't vegan, so I was excited to find a selection of readily-available vegan ready-meals that I could eat on the go at work or for dinner when I was feeling lazy or not too peckish. They are all advertised as low calorie (around 300 cals a pot) and certainly do pack a lot of healthy veg and pulses into one serving. I've just finished the last one, so here's my verdict!

The Thai Coconut Curry pot was the first one I opened. I was a bit apprehensive about this one as it seems to have quite a few negative reviews on their website. Some people even described it as being overpowering, tasting like Lemsip! I can imagine, however, that these people probably don't eat Thai curry very often and may have been put off by so much lemongrass. I love lemongrass, so that isn't a problem for me! I really did enjoy it - it tasted quite fresh and authentic for a readymeal, with lovely crunchy water chestnuts and filling split yellow peas and edamame beans. I'd definitely have it again. The smell from the kitchen at work was divine!

I wasn't very impressed with their Thai Vegetable Sweet Chilli though. To me, it lacked flavour. It seemed a bit watery and wasn't spicy enough or sweet enough... very mediocre indeed, although it did fill me up adequately and was still quite enjoyable. If I'd have tasted this one first of all, however, and had not already bought more of the range, I don't think I'd have been that keen to try the others, especially if it had been at full price (€3.99) instead of €1.99.

My faith was restored when I tried the Mexican Sweet Potato Chilli pot. This was definitely one of the nicest. I absolutely adore sweet potatoes and this pot was packed with them! The flavours really complimented eachother and it was just as tasty as any Mexican dish I have made at home. I love that pinto beans were also thrown into the mix and not just the usual kidney beans, and that the rice was brown.

The Portugese Piri Piri was another hit as well. Lovely sweet red peppers, potatoes that were not fluffy or soggy, and again a good mix of different beans, such as black turtle beans, which I would not normally expect to see in a ready-meal. I think that this pot could have done without the added demerera sugar though, as the chilli sauce had plum purée in it which would have sufficed for sweetness.

Finally, I had the Indian Vegetable Massala, which smelt very appetising and attracted Gerry to my side as soon as I plonked my bottom into my chair! Fantastic combinations of flavours and vegetables in this one - I love aubergines, carrots, lentils and chickpeas so it really appealed to me from the offset. This is another I'll definitely be having again soon. It would have been nicer if there were more than two spinach leaves, though!

So on the whole, I really do recommend Innocent's range of veg pots. I'm still not sure if I'd pay full price for them, but if I was stuck somewhere and unable to find a vegan lunch in a supermarket then I'd definitely consider one instead of a sandwich, seeing as nowadays in Ireland even a dull, boring, wrap can be almost as expensive and not half as nutritious or flavoursome. They really do fill you up and it's great that you get your five a day in one pot. I'd say if more omnivores packed a couple of these in every now and again they'd be a lot better off, seeing as many meat eaters I know seem to not eat as much veg as they should! One let down, however, was the amount of sauce. I feel that even though the pots are sold as low-calorie, they could have been made even healthier by cutting down on the sauce and upping the amount of veggies and pulses, and adding less sugar. You have to bear in mind that, even though they are sold as a healthy snack, they are still technically ready-meals and should not be consumed on a regular basis in place of good, decent home cooking!

I'd love to try the Indian Daal Curry pot and the Moroccan veg pot with giant cous cous (pictured below), but Tesco does not seem to stock them!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

And So It Begins Again...

Hi Everyone! So good to be back...

I had a wonderful time in Wales, full of gorgeous vegan food as always.

First stop was the Mulberry Bush - the little organic shop and vegetarian/vegan café in Lampeter. I didn't actually manage to take a photo of my food as it totally slipped my mind when we wandered upstairs and bumped into an old friend. I had the vegan dish of the day which was a creamy mushroom pie, accompanied by some very tasty beetroot, carrot and broccoli salads. My father opted for the vegetarian quiche, spicy potato wedges and a salad.

We did a bit of shopping afterwards, as my father hadn't got any supplies in, so I got some gorgeous Sojade blueberry yogurt from the shop downstairs and then went across to Sainsbury's to stock up on tomatoes, cucumber, bread, and some Good Life nut cutlets. These cutlets were extremely good, I'd really like to sample more in their range. I have discovered they are available in the Health Store at the Square in Tallaght so I'll definitely be buying some again in the near future. We cooked the cutlets in dad's halogen oven (the wonder-oven!!) and topped them last minute with some cherry tomatoes and Cheezly vegan cheddar cheese, and ate them with dad's homegrown parsley and vegan butter-covered baby "charlotte" potatoes, baby broad beans and peas. Perfect!

Another meal I ate while at home was a mixed salad with two savoury vegan pastries we picked up at the farmer's market in Aberystwyth. This stall, run by a company called Parsnip Ship, was the only one to label its food as vegan. I think there were about 4 different things I could have chosen from, but I decided to bring home the mini Thai butternut squash pie, and a type of Indian bhaji that contained beans and many different grated vegetables. They were both really good and I shared them with my dad who loved them too. I'd definitely go back and get more on my next visit!

While in Aberystwyth we also popped into Lidl and I found that they now sell bags of vegetable crisps and a lentil soup which is labelled as suitable for vegans. I bought this soup but didn't get around to eating it, so I'm going to purchase a tin in Dublin and will let you know what it's like. Other snacks I picked up were some maple syrup roasted cashews, macadamias and almonds... WOW. These were fabulous! A really good find for vegans as they're quite like honey roast nuts but even nicer, and totally guilt-free! The cracked black pepper and salted cashews and macadamias in the picture were nice as well, but I have a sweet tooth so definitely preferred the maple ones. After shopping we stopped for a well earned drink at a café where they sold Teapigs products where I had one of the nicest chai soya lattes I've ever tasted, so I decided to buy a box to take home. My dad had never tried chai before as he doesn't drink tea, but he says he's going to order one next time he's at the Mecca. I seem to have got several people into chai over the last year or so, but wasn't expecting to convert a seasoned tea-hater into a chai-lover! The café also sold mint and vanilla versions, which I haven't heard of before, although I think it may just be a regular chai with a dash of flavoured extract or syrup added to the mix.

One of the evenings, one of my father's friends invited us over for a meal. I was seriously impressed at the lengths she went to, seeing as I think she finds it difficult to understand what I can/can't eat! We had a large mushroom stuffed with hummus, topped with crispy breadcrumbs, encircled with cherry tomatoes. The main was a version of Glamorgan Sausages, a well-known traditional Welsh dish. These sausages were wrapped in pastry and made with vegan cheese, breadcrumbs, leeks, herbs and spices. I must get the recipe and post it here, as they were delish!! My father loved them too, but the other non-vegans weren't too impressed. Dessert was a sweet gooseberry crumble, made with fruit from the gardens at local National Trust property, Llanerchaeron, where our friend is a volunteer. I never used to be keen on gooseberries from our garden as a child, but then again when I was younger I didn't like cooked fruit very much on the whole... this time though, I could have eaten it until I popped!

After eating such wonderful homecooked meals I was very disappointed with the one restaurant we did go to. I was expecting great things of the Belle Vue, seeing as this pub/restaurant caters for vegans on request. One of my father's colleagues is a vegan and eats there regularly, so imagine my shock when I received the most dry, bland and inedible dish imaginable. This "maize cake", as it was called (although it looked and tasted more like a lump of clay to me), was so dense and stodgy with no flavour to it whatsoever. It came on a bed of buckwheat (which is also quite dry, so you can imagine these two combined was not at all good) accompanied with roasted peppers, garlic, onions, tomatoes and olives. There was no sauce to moisten it at all, and when offered sauce I was only given the choice of mustard, ketchup or brown sauce! I'd have been happy with just a larger portion of the buckwheat and the vegetables, to be honest, and I left pretty much all of the maize cake, so I hope the chef got my point!! I very rarely like to make a fuss and complain about something when someone else is paying, but in hindsight I really should have said something, especially as my father and other people who tried it also thought it was rather disgusting. I was very glad that I managed to eat quite a bit of the starter - shared platters of crusty bread, olives, pickles, hummus and balsamic syrup. This was the meal's only saving grace! I certainly won't be asking to go back to the Belle Vue ever again, not just because of the food, but because service was terribly slow as well. Everyone else ordered meat and seemed to like their dishes, but there seemed to be a bit too much mashed potato heaped onto the plates. Everyone else's food came with some sort of lovely looking sauce, so it was quite annoying that mine came with nothing. Even a plain tomatoey sauce would have been very welcome.

It's a real shame when you go out somewhere and have a disappointing meal which cost quite a bit, then go somewhere else the next day and hardly pay anything for a huge plate of delicious vegan food. We went to the Royal Welsh Show during my visit, and I immediately spotted an Indian Cuisine stall selling lots of vegan/vegetarian options. For £8.50 dad and I shared a huge mixed platter of vegetable curry, lentil curry, onion bhaji, pilau rice, and naan bread (which he ate as I wasn't sure what was in it). We were so stuffed! It was such a good find. I suppose the Royal Welsh isn't a very typical place for a vegan to visit, seeing as it's an agricultural show and you're surrounded by meat and cheese from local farms, farmers showing their livestock in the ring and row upon row of stalls promoting dairy products and cattle feed supplements. I'm not sure why, but this doesn't really bother me at all. I guess it bothers me a bit that the money you spend on the entrance fee goes to the NFU, but then again not all farmers are dairy and animal farmers, so I try to put it to the back of my mind. Going to the Royal Welsh has been a family tradition since I was small and I wanted to go there and experience it again. The main reason also being to take photographs of the event. It was very enjoyable walking around the flower and vegetable tents, watching the Section D stallions in the main ring, talking to the people at the Greyhound Rescue Wales stall, sampling the world's first organic whiskey made by Da Mhile, tasting the Co-op's new Moroccan chickpea hummus, eating some yummy fresh cherries, meeting some cute otters, and wandering around various wildlife conservation and alternative energy tents and stalls. We were lucky with the weather and it didn't rain too badly, although there was still quite a bit of mud!

So I had a very enjoyable time. Gerry was ecstatic to see me when I returned, bounding all over the place. My dad got him a present - a ball that makes about 20 different zoo animal noises - so it was hilarious watching his reactions to it. I was also quite shocked to see that he'd put on a bit of weight, seeing as my boyfriend (who couldn't make it to Wales this time as he couldn't get time off work) is afraid to let him off the lead in case he doesn't come back to him, so he hadn't been burning off much energy. I've had to put him on a little diet, with restricted treats, and am going to take him on extra long walks to places where he can start running with other dogs again! Poor little Gerry!!

Since being back, I've been researching starting my own photography business, which I'm extremely excited about. There will be more news to come on that when I've actually got the ball rolling. On my return I also did a big food shop and have discovered that Tesco are selling Innocent's new Veg Pots half price, at only €1.99 each. I bought five of them and shall review them in my next blog post. All of them are labelled vegan and look like they are going to be really good - a brilliant idea for a healthy, quick, work lunch. I don't think I'd pay full price for them though... well I suppose it depends on how much I like them. Watch this space! :)

I'll leave you with a few random photos from my visit.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Blog Relaunch...

Yes I am still alive! I plan to get this up and running again pretty soon... I suppose lately things have been pretty unmotivational seeing as I lack the money to spend as extravagantly as I used to when I worked full-time, so no restaurants or fancy lunches anywhere, and no travelling for a while either.

I did go to a festival in Dublin last month called Forbidden Fruit. Three bands I love (Battles, Caribou and Tera Melos) were playing, and Aphex Twin was the final act of the night. It was awesome!! My friend and fellow lurcher-lover, Cat (Naturetable), who follows me on here and who I met through writing this blog, was also there but we totally missed each other! There weren't many vegan options at the festival, shockingly, but Kanum Thai whom I absolutely love, had a stall there, so I got a lovely peanutty noodley tofu dish. NYOM! Here's a pic of Caribou I took on my super-old vintage lomo camera from the USSR at the festival - totally didn't know how it would turn out, I double exposed the band with the top of the stage and the sky (they brought the sun out while singing their track "Sun"!) so it worked out really well.

Gerry-pups is ok, he's been through the wars a little with the demodex mites. They were hard to get rid of and he had terrible reactions to the treatments he was given by the vet. His hairloss on his hind legs keeps improving and then getting worse again, so he had a biopsy and now that the mites have gone hopefully all will be well when he gets off the next course of antibiotics and Ivermec. I'm so relieved I got insurance for him, or this would have cost me a complete fortune. If he still doesn't improve later on this summer he'll have to have allergy tests. Paws and fingers crossed that it was just the demodex that triggered it though! Emotionally he's very happy, as lively and mischevious as ever... here he is chasing bunnies. Yup, that's one thing I have to put up with, although he never catches them, he just likes to play. He does enjoy running off with dead things though :-/

He's still not vegan, but is on high quality organic food with lots of yummy things in between like veggies, rice, soya yoghurts, fruit, vegan-specific chews, etc. I still can't find a vegan kibble in Ireland or the UK that I can afford at the moment, and to be honest I've had enough on my plate to worry about with his condition and having to feed him tablets, syringing medication into his mouth every day, worrying he's going to bite out his stitches and having to cope with the nasty effects of the antibiotics on his poor little stomach!! Hope to God that he's going to improve soon....

As for me, I'm spending most of my time taking photographs. I went to Connemara recently and had a lovely time, but there aren't any vegan shops down there or restaurants, as far as I know, so it was mainly self-catering using ingredients from the supermarkets in Clifden and the lovely "Country Shop" in Letterfrack which stocked a good number of organic and health food products.

I'm off to Wales next week, so....... on the 20th July I plan to relaunch this blog with a mighty-fine post from my favourite vegan eateries in Ceredigion, a ton of lovely pictures, and details of all the meals my wonderful father concocts for me with his home grown veg :)

See you all then!! xxx

I'll leave you with some pics I took in Connemara...