Long time, no blog.

2015 was busy, excellent, wonderful, life changing, extremely challenging, stressful, heartbreaking and then pretty wonderful all over again. I sure did learn a lot, and achieve a lot, in 2015.

One week into the new year and I'm feeling so excited about all of the wonderful new adventures and experiences that the future has in store.

The thing I wanted to write about tonight was my journey so far with living vegan.

I use the term loosely... let me explain.

Around this time last year I came across some information about eating animal products, and the cruelty associated with that, and it opened my eyes. It spurred me on to keep seeking information, and I have been continuing my education ever since.

My history shows that I can be a flighty person when it comes to routines concerning diet or exercise. I'll typically go through phases where I'm really into exercise, and then I won't really do anything for literally months. And same with diets - they can last a few weeks and then I fall off, then start again, or not.

So that being said, there was every chance that I'd start down this vegan path and then turn my back on it, but the amazing thing is, I haven't.

I haven't been fully vegan at any point in 2015, or even fully vegetarian. I've been gentle with myself at times because it's not been easy for me to change the habits that are ingrained in me, especially when you are literally the ONLY one among your entire circle of friends and family and colleagues who are eating this way. (The statistic is that 17% percent of people identify as vegetarian or vegan - where are you guys?!)

Anyway, throughout the whole of 2015 I've had some meat dishes here and there (I would say, 1-2 serves of red meat a month). I've had 1-2 servings of fish every week. Hardly any chicken, either - maybe once or twice a month. Dairy and egg consumption has also been hugely down. Barely any dairy milk (only splashes in tea if no other available), no yoghurt whatsoever. Some butter here and there. Cheese is tricky - I don't have a lot, but have found that hard to let go of for things like pizza and jaffels. Chocolate and treat desserts have also remained on the menu. In 2014, meat was a part of every lunch and dinner, and eggs were a part of many breakfasts. I haven't been 100% animal-free in 2015 but the change has been huge.

All in all, from January to December, I was consistent. Even though I have been far from perfect, not once did I grandly fall off any wagons or turn my back on my decision. I've always bounced right back to it immediately because I know it's the only choice.

Do I miss meat and stuff? Yes and no. It is mostly hard socially, and being the odd one out, when everyone else is getting into certain things. I don't want to eat them, yet a know they're tasty. Sometimes I eat them and then feel weak and guilty. And when I don't eat it, sometimes no one notices. Othertimes I feel sorry for myself. And often I will feel self-conscious because I suppose people think I'm trying to make a statement, but I'm not. I'm just doing what I'm doing. Sometimes you wish you still had the wool over your eyes because that would make my life so much easier! But at the end of the day, I know it's best.

It's difficult having people question you, in a way where they are kind of being aggressive. There is so much to tell, so it's hard to really give a meaningful answer without talking for 20 minutes straight. I don't want to feel like a preacher, and I'm also self conscious because I myself am not 100% vegetarian, so I feel like I don't have a right to say much.

I do miss the tastes and my favourite recipes. I suppose that's why I haven't fully "converted". I can't say at this point if I'll ever be able to commit 100%, and I say that with full knowledge that it's not healthy and unethical to eat animal products. But my hope is to continue to make changes for the better.

I don't miss meat when I'm at home, for the most part. I eat good food and I feel more energetic and less weighed down eating a plant-based diet. Sometimes when I have had red meat it tastes so oily and fatty and I just feel like I'm eating something dead with no value in it (funny that.)

Sometimes it's a struggle and I do crave meat and dairy products, and I eat them sometimes too, but I could never go back to eating how I used to.

My goal in 2016 isn't to be perfect. I know I will struggle and I know I'll eat some stuff I'd prefer not to. But I also know that I got through a whole year without losing my trajectory (without it being an effort) and I am so proud of that. So I will just continue onwards... making tweaks, building my recipe repertoire, and trying my best to be a strong and patient person.

I watched this YouTube clip tonight - it is kind of long, but I also think it covers a lot of bases and rings true.

I hope you have time to watch it.

Also, some great documentaries:

- Forks Over Knives
- Cowspiracy
- Food Inc.
- Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead
- Earthlings


101 Reasons to Go Vegan
Animal Rights Speech
The Excuses Speech


Fluoro Blobs Painting - Amazing

Flamboyant Fashion Camel

It's felt like squillions of days since my last blog. I miss blogging. Things have been completely hectic in life lately and I haven't carved out the time. Thing is though, you have to make time for the things in life that make you happy.

So it looks like I didn't mention on here the major news that Lindsay and I got engaged in May! Hoorays! And yes, that would be one of the major factors of life being a bit hectic, in a good way. Of course, I was so excited and surprised when Lindsay sprung that one on me (yes I may have given him a USB stick with two folders named 'Yes Rings' 'No Rings' but I thought it might get lost in his sock drawer for a year or so). That initial few days of sharing the buzz of our engagement with one another and our friends was really amazing, and quite overwhelming, too. One is not accumstomed to receiving so much attention in one big thwack, but hey, it was pretty great as well.

A few days after our engagement we flew up to Singapore for a week. It wasn't exactly planned that way, but I can vouch for engagement-moons! It was the best. We had such a fantastic trip and it was great to get away and enjoy one another's company and the glow of my ring  our news.

So I have to say, the only un-fun part about wedding planning, so far, has been the venue selection. We didn't have an idea to begin with so when we sat down to pull a shortlist together online, we were literally considering the whole state. #sospecific. Anyway, we decided to drive up to Byron Bay on a bit of a whim as there was a wedding fair on, and kinda fell head over for this place in the hinterland. We came back home to Wollongong and looked at a few other places closer to home, but our little hearts had been stolen so we ended up going with Byron, and we're both really excited.

Actually, in part, I think I have my Grafton Nanna to thank for that. My Grafton Nanna passed away a bit over a month ago. She would have been 87 on the 9th August. We travelled up to Grafton for her funeral. That weekend of the funeral we had planned to see one more venue, but of course we couldn't go because of the circumstances. The venue at Byron Bay only had one date in Spring 2016 remaining and we didn't want to chance missing out by delaying booking another week or more, so with that, the decision was made. So I said a quiet thankyou to Nanna because I think that she unknowingly gave us that little gift.

It was and has been a sad time for everyone. My Nanna brought us so many wonderful memories that we'll have forever. She liked to write, as well. She wrote detailed memoirs, and she and I were penpals for many years. It was a bittersweet farewell as we knew she had been ready to go, in her heart, for some time. When we were at the cemetery and her coffin was lowered into the ground above Poppy's grave, two little sparrows flew down and sat on top of the canopy above. I have chills even writing that now, which only affirms to me how real it was and is. It was the undoing of us all on the day and I believe that was Nanna and Poppy there with us, together again, with their own little sweet sendoff. Bittersweet.

Well I really didn't intend to come and write about that - but there it is.

Apart from the initial brain-haze with the venue selection, I've been having a lot of fun with planning our engagement party for November. Like, a LOT of fun. We're having the party in Mum & Dad's backyard and I am DIY craft heaven. Like it's pretty much going to be a DIY display with some music and wine also. And a glowstick ravecave. So yeah - loving this.

I'm working five days now and also still making wedding favours for Little Bow Thief, so all in all, life is pretty damn busy, but pretty great, too.

Today I bought an easel! Like a proper wooden artists one, a step up from the plastic white and red one that I had when I was a young thing. Not only that, but Riot was having a 50% off store-wide sale today, and I didn't even know it til I got there. Don't you just love that? I bought the easel primarily to prop up something for the party, but also, for the past year or so I've had this unrelenting desire to paint some stuff. Which has been a bit of a surprise because yes, I have always loved making and decorating things, but I've never actually tried to paint anything proper and thus I may not have any talent whatsoever. Hello abstractism. Pretty sure that's definitely the term. Pretty sure there is a painting in the Art Gallery of NSW that was made by a bloke throwing a can of Dulux at a canvas, so. Anyway, see those pictures above? I snapped those at a little gallery in Byron Bay. I like the brights. Maybe I'll use this as a little inspo when I get my artist on. I mean who doesn't love a fluro fashion camel? Um, nobody, that's who.

This blog has taken me five minutes past my sensible 10pm bedtime, so I'd better stop it there. This has been good, though. Says I :)

Why I Stopped Eating Animals & Animal Products

I've been holding off writing this post for a while, but now seems the right time.

[By the way, if you find this chunk of text too tedious, scroll straight to the bottom of the post for the videos.]

Early this year I made a change that I could never have foreseen - I started being vegan. I was one of those people, possibly like you, who regarded 'vegans' as a strange and extreme breed, but I didn't even understand or know anything about their choice. Looking back, I don't think I ever actually gave any thought to the reasoning behind their lifestyle, most likely I thought they simply didn't like the taste or concept of eating animals.

Well I can tell you that I am a (pretty) normal person, and until this year I was on the 'vegans are strange' side of the fence, but now here I am.

I don't judge anyone who eats animals or animal products (much, unless they really try to argue with me without having done any research, or express concern about my vitamin intake while they eat a Big Mac) because I was in the exact same position just six months ago, and ate animal products regularly for the first 31 years of my life without a second thought. Guiltily, I also remember once commenting that having a vegan partner would be grounds for a break-up. So, I know. I don't judge anyone because I know that before I came across the information that changed my mind, I simply didn't know about this stuff. This wasn't due to intentional ignorance, but quite simply, because the information had not come across my radar, at least not in a way to make me take notice. So, as I said, I don't judge people because I don't think the information has really taken flight. I also understand that giving up eating animals or animal products is an extremely difficult concept to grapple at first, when you and your family have lived this way your whole life and when so many social institutions revolve around shared eating. I don't know if it's just that I'm noticing it more now, but I think that more and more information is filtering through social media. It is only a matter of time before people won't be able to remain oblivious... the information is streaming into the public consciousness and the question will be: are you willing to allow yourself to be informed and then establish your position?

150 years ago slavery was legal and accepted as normal. Things change, civilisation evolves. The way that the world regards eating is slowly changing, too. A 2013 Public Policy Survey found that 13% of Americans identify as either vegans or vegetarians. In 1971 this figure was just 1%. Things are changing.

The happenings that led me to start eating vegan were accidental. At the beginning of this year I found myself getting really frustrated at the fact that human beings, for a supposedly intelligent species, are so confused about what we are meant to eat. I guess I was searching for information because I wanted to lose a few kilos, but became overwhelmed by all the different gurus who claim utter confidence in their diet, yet the foundations of their diets all conflict. There are the paleos, the sugar-quitters, the pro-sugars, the fasters and the anti-glutens to name just a few. SO many different groups making the matter SO confusing. There is really not a cookie-cutter approach to nutrition and what works for one may not work for another, and people will say the same about veganism (and will try to use that as an excuse). I myself tend to think that it's probably normal for people to eat seafood and very small quantities of red meat occasionally (another post) but the thing about veganism is that at the crux, it's not about the individual. Maybe in the past when the population was in control and there was less demand for food, and you could humanely kill the odd animal on the farm, it might be different? But the world population now places demands on food production that have led to mass farming and inhumane conditions for animals, hand in hand with environmental destruction. "There may be no other single human activity that has a bigger impact on the planet than the raising of livestock." (Source) 30% of the world's ice-free surface is used not to raise grains, fruits and vegetables that are directly fed to human beings, but to feed the animals that we eventually eat. Current levels of meat consumption are not environmentally sustainable.

Put simply our food choices are not just about us - they extend to animals, the environment, and even our families (i.e. our health and longevity).

I was in my lounge room one night when I asked the question, "Why don't humans know what we are supposed to eat?" I googled that very question and took to YouTube. I clicked from link to link and soon, videos in the sidebar of my YouTube popped up with titles such as "Why you should never drink milk". I glimpsed those titles and thought, "What the?" This was a completely new premise to me... I cannot recall ever having seen any information about milk being bad for you (or for the cows!) before this moment. For that reason, I can understand why people don't quite 'get' veganism yet. The information is there in spades if you search for it, but unless you go looking (or accidentally stumble upon it as I did) you probably won't see it. But I decided to click and watch, and one documentary led to another, and another, and I have been continuing my education ever since.

Did you ever realise that humans are the only species on earth to drink milk beyond infancy? Our human mother's milk is perfectly designed to provide us with everything we need in infancy, just like a cow's milk is designed to provide a calf with everything they need. Don't you think it's funny that we regard drinking a cow's milk as normal, but the idea of drinking bottled gorilla milk is weird? Did you realise that humans are the only species to consume the milk of another animal? Did you ever think how weird it would be if, in nature, we walked up to a cow and started sucking from its udder? Did you ever realise that a dairy cow can only produce milk constantly because it is repeatedly impregnated with a metal rod and kept in a constant state of pregnancy? Like humans, when cows are continuously lactating they develop mastitis, so the cows are given antibiotics to treat those infections, and then we drink those antibiotics along with the cow's hormones that are designed for a calf. Cows are a very maternal species. But when the cow has its baby, it is ripped away immediately, and many are placed in very small cages and starved, because that's what makes the most tender veal. Cows have a life expectancy of 15 years but the dairy cows collapse and die of exhaustion after a few years (standing on concrete facing a wall and hooked up to machines with their babies being repeatedly ripped away).

You know those slightly sharp teeth that we like to call our 'canines'? Have you compared them to a lion's or a dog's? Could you (or would you want to) run and chase an animal (pig, chicken, lamb, cow) down the street and rip into it, fur and all, with your bare teeth? If you were a true carnivore, that's exactly what you'd want to do. Your pointy teeth are good for piercing into fruit, not animals.

Did you know that animals are skinned alive for clothes, and did you know that cows and pigs have their testicles ripped out without any anesthetic, and that baby chickens are hooked up to de-beaking machines to slice off the most sensitive part of their body, to stop them from being able to establish a 'pecking order' in those cages? Did you realise that eggs are chicken periods... well, did you?

Some of the documentaries contain graphic and heart-wrenching videos of animal cruelty associated with the production of dairy and meat. I was on my bed watching these videos with tears running down my face. You can't mince words about this stuff because it's truly barbaric and there is no way around that. Until you open your eyes and educate yourself you won't understand. This is what I tell people: I didn't go searching for this information or lifestyle - the information kind of found me, and I couldn't "unsee" it. I had to face my conscience and make the choice whether to ignore what I'd learned or to be honest with myself. It would have been the easy road to have ignored it all; it is a massive thing and it's not always easy, but I wouldn't change my decision.

This is what I also say to people - meat is delicious. Yum. Bacon, eggs, ice cream, chocolate, cheese, chicken nuggets, butter, cream - yum yum yum - some of my favourite foods. You think I don't like the taste of those anymore? Never said they weren't delicious. This isn't about liking or not liking it; it's about something that is more important than yourself. And yeah, it's about sacrificing and saying 'no' to stuff that you know is delicious (though tastes are changing) because I know how it got to the plate, and that it's not good for me. That is the only reason that, 5-6 months on, I am still on this vegan path and still have every intention of keeping on it. If it were just about a diet - a way to lose weight, then I would 100% have ditched it by now, because as I said, animal products taste good. It's not about me though. That's why I can do it. If the welfare of animals isn't something that interests you, consider looking into it for your health. If you're not encouraged by your health but call yourself an environmentalist, look into it for that.

I am not perfect. I have heard of people who decided one day to go vegan and then that is it - I admire them, but people have different relationships and battles with food, and cold turkey didn't come easily for me. I was straight vegan for a few weeks near the beginning and I felt amazing. I had an absolutely noticeable mental clarity. After that initial strong few weeks I have slipped into old habits and do eat some animals products sometimes, i.e. some chocolate and cheese and the occasional meat dish, particularly when eating with family. For these reasons I don't say "I'm a vegan", because I am not 100%, but I am working towards it and my diet has changed considerably. The trickiest thing is the social aspect, but that could be a whole post on its own.

Anyway, I could write for hours about all the various aspects of this, both my experience, and the amazing health benefits and environmental and ethical reasons behind it, but that would be pretty tedious. Instead, I am going to post links to some of the videos that influenced me from the start, because they will explain everything in greater (and more interesting) detail than I can. Maybe later I will come back and write some more about my experiences.I hope that you will be man enough to set aside some time by yourself to watch them.

Thanks for reading.

There are many, many vegan channels on YouTube - some of the ones that I personally get the most out of are Bite Size Vegan, Freelee the Banana Girl, Andrew Perlot and Teshia Mahar. I subscribe to their channels and when I have spare moments throughout the week I'll catch up and it helps keep me inspired and informed.

On Instagram I like to follow @animaliakirstea @freeleethebananagirl and @inthesoulshine.