Living in a Parallel Universe to those in the Rat Race.

Do you ever have those days where you feel you’re living in a completely different universe to your old friends before home Ed and the rest of the traditional world?

The sun is shining and the Easter Holidays are finally over so off we go with friends and family for long days out at parks and tourist attractions. With packed lunches and cheap entry fees due to it being term time and the wonderful fact that so many places now offer Home Ed discounts on top!

We have most of these places to ourselves while the majority of children and adults in this country are at work or school and we count ourselves lucky that we get the lifestyle that we choose.

While I’m luckier than most, being self employed and working around my children, I appreciate every day I get to have fun in the sun with my kids with no bed time to rush back for or early mornings to race out for.

I live outside of the rat race. I avoid rush hour, as lets face it, no one sits in traffic if they dont have to!

I hear working parents who send their children to school say “ooh I don’t know how you do it!” And “I couldn’t do it, I don’t like my kids enough” and “How do you cope not getting a break?”

But what we get is so much more than time out without kids. We get to ENJOY our kids! We dont have to spend our evenings shouting at them to finish home work or rush around like a maniac getting them to school in the mornings, or cram every day out into packed weekends and school holidays when the prices rocket.

Being able to holiday either around the world or explore our own country during off peak season means we can afford to holiday more often and to places we couldn’t have otherwise afforded to go. No school fines for us and having now taken the children to many new countries I feel so blessed to be able to travel without the crowds and queues that so often go hand in hand.

When the rest of the world go back to school I breath a sigh of relief that we get to roam with our home Ed groups to uncrowded places on hot sunny days all the while knowing the rat race is in full force in an alternate universe that I am not a part of.

Happy Days!

Marie

X

Vegan meals for non vegan children

Being Vegan in the home with our families is one thing. We don’t have to think too much about being different from others….until our children ask can their friends come to tea.

I dont know how or if this affects anyone else, but I used to get into a blind panic the moment I said yes!

All of a sudden I feel the food i have isn’t good enough and panic that the parents will judge.

My experience of play dates is that of children having very child like meals together before the adults eat. Where as on a normal day we as a family all eat together and rarely have child like dinners. So I save these types of food as a treat for when they have friends.

So I now have my list of fail safe meals for children who come to tea and always make sure i stock up the freezer so that when I am asked, I can calmly say “yes, no problem” and mean it at the same time!

1.Nuggets, chips and beans.

2. Sausage, mash and beans.

We use Frys nuggets and sausages. The problem is they do more than one version so here is a guide to which ones non-vegan kids think are yummy and which ones they think are yuck!

I find shops such as Asda and Morrisons don’t always sell the yummy versions so shop around at Tesco and Sainsburys too. We shop online and alternate which shops we buy from week to week to make sure we are always stocked up with a variety of vegan goodies.

The best bit about shopping around is that all these supermarkets do a good offer on your first order so look online for the voucher code. For the first few weeks of shopping you will get big chunks off your shopping bill for free from the First Order voucher codes.

3. Hot dogs.

Again we use Frys. I haven’t found anyone who can tell the difference between these and meat hotdogs yet! (Although lets face it, thats probably because meat hotdogs never did have any meat in them to begin with!)

We buy these from Ocado/Waitrose as not all supermarkets sell them.

4. Linda McCartney vegetarian sausage rolls.(That are actually vegan)

These are great either as a snack or with a gravy meal. Perfect to swap what ever substitute the adults are having to these for the kids. Again they taste as good as the real thing and are sold in most supermarkets.

5. Quorn Southern fried chicken style vegan burgers.

Taste just like many chicken burgers

6. Frys Meat Free Traditional Burgers and Toffuti creamy smooth slices, cheddar style. These are too meaty for me as I’m not a fan of anything that reminds me of actual meat so they are great for non vegan visitors.

It goes without saying that you can add as much or as little vegetables or salad to these meals.

7. For lunch time snacks besides the usual sandwiches and crisps I also find ryvita thins with caramelised onion humous go down well, along with carrot and cucumber sticks.

Please feel free to share your children friendly meals. I’d love to hear what you choose.

Marie x

My Top 10 Vegan meals

Some of my favourite vegan meals are actually the same as before I became vegan. (Im a creature of habit)

Number 1 being a Roast dinner!

You can’t beat a roast, even as a vegan!

My vegan roast usually looks something like this…

A Frys Peppered steak pie

(Linda McCartney Vegetarian sausage rolls for the kids)

Crispy roast potatoes

Crispy Sage and onion stuffing balls fuelled with cranberry and apple sauce for an extra wow factor

Roasted parsnips

Broccoli, carrots and either kale, cauliflower or cabbage. But really what ever veg we have to hand will go in.

Then finally lashings of Bisto gravy cooked with plenty of red wine and vegetable water.

The joy of the Frys puff pastry pie is that the pastry makes up for the lack of Yorkshire pudding.

I love a bit of puff pastry and quite often cook up empty vol au vents especially to have with a gravy dinner so the pie is now a bonus along with the chunky meaty filling.

This is always our Go To meal for our non vegan friends as everyone eats pie right? And its a very good replica. Not to mention I cook the best roastie potatoes…but then don’t we all??

Number 2 is a good old English Fry up.

This was difficult to replicate at first but once we found our favourite substitutes this meal came back into our lives!

So we have the usual suspects, toast, chips or hash browns (In this case, mini hash browns which were delicious) baked beans, tinned tomatoes, fried mushrooms.

Then our fake meats…Moodleys bad ass bacon from thevegankind.com and Linda McCartney Vegetarian sausages (which are actually vegan)

There are a few different brands of these substitutes which are equally as good though so shop around.

We used to include either an egg replacer scrambled or very free range eggs from local chicken owners who we could be sure kept their chickens in a suitable setting. But we have since found that we just don’t need or miss eggs any more.

If you are wanting to get fresh free range eggs, please don’t trust the shop bought free range as they are rarely as free range as you’d think. Although if you’re vegan you’re probably fully aware of this already.

I put a post on my local Facebook group asking for info on any local people to myself keeping chickens and I was suddenly inundated with options. So that is well worth a try if you really can’t live without eggs.

Number 3 is a good old fashioned and simple pasta with a tomato based sauce topped with plenty of mature cheddar.

This is of course fairly simple as it was almost vegan in its original form!

You may want to double check the ingredients on the sauce you choose (unless making your own, which we quite often do) but most are pretty vegan already.

The only real difference here is the cheese. There’s a few good options but in this particular picture I used Sheese.

This was actually my second favourite simple pasta dish before becoming a vegan. My first being tortellini with red pesto sauce! Although I have found the sauce, I have not yet managed to recreate the tortellini!

So if any of you reading this blog have found the answer, (which doesnt involve me making my own from scratch) I would love to hear from you! Please comment on this blog or message me the details. Ill be sure to write about it once Ive tried it!

4 is Potato curry!

Lovely with many curry sauces, however my children’s favourites are Korma and Tika Masala so these are the ones we create the most. These are also lovely with quorn chicken style pieces. I love as many veges as possible in a curry and Santanas too.

A pack of shop bought mini popadoms and hey presto. Jobs a good’n.

5. Chilli with rice, tacos and potatoes!

I know this is normally done with one of the above carbs but we love them all so tend to have all 3 at the table. We throw loads of kidney beans and baked beans in a chilli and blend as many vegetables that the children dont like as possible and pour them all into the sauce to get as much goodness in them as possible. While leaving all the veg they do like as chucks for texture. There are plenty of vegan mince substitutes available and I’ve found it really is just personal preference as to which one people prefer. (Not Morrisons own though. I haven’t met any one who likes that one yet)

Some salad, home made coleslaw and vegan cheese finishes off this meal nicely. Oh and a good old dollop of mango chutney!

6 is a pizza.

I Can’t get enough of pizza for a Friday night treat. Although there are some vegan pizzas available, most are quite expensive, especially when you’re a family of 6 like we are. So we have resorted to making our own (Or getting Pizza hut take away now that they do vegan pizzas)

My favourite base for home made pizzas are pitta bread, however I have mentioned other home made pizzas in another blog Vegan meals for fussy eaters. We throw on plenty of vegan meats such as chorizo bites and chop up spicey vegan quorn burgers or southern fried burgers for extra flavour. Bbq sauce base is the best.

7 is Hunters chicken.

Details of this meal are laid out in my blog https://marieling.com/2018/04/13/vegan-meals-for-fussy-eaters/

8 is Spaghetti Bolognese

For this we either use Vegi Deli V Bites mince or Vegi Deli V Bites meat balls https://shop.thevegankind.com/collections/other-meat-replacements-such-as-bacon/products/vbites-vegideli-meat-free-meatballs-350g

Then just make up our usual sauce and veg as before, grate on some Violife Prosciano and add some garlic bread. We tend to make our own with oven cook baguettes with garlic sauce and spread mixed together.

9 is a chilled summer meal of schnitzel and new potatoes

There are plenty of schnitzels about but i tend to make sure they dont consist of chia as I dont like the taste and texture of that. Otherwise this meal is fairly self explanatory. We use a vegan mayonaise for the salad, a microwave vegan macaroni cheese on the side and Flora dairy free spread for the potatoes.

Finally number 10 is my mothers home made leek and potato soup!

Everyone has their own special recipe for soup. We used to have richmond sausages with this but of course we now dont. I prefer it without any substitute meat but my husband still likes sausage with his so we now use Vegusto Farmhouse sausages.

There are plenty more meals on my favourites list including fajitas and stir frys but these are probably my main ones.

Why be a sheep when you can be a Unicorn!?

So being vegan, home educating 4 children and working from home, I am fully aware that I am not what society calls normal.

However I test anyone to pick me out in a crowd. I also defy what ‘normal’ people see as ‘normal’ by dressing in a very average way. I shop in the average mundane shops. No exciting patchwork jumpers or pixie hoods and DM boots which those ‘normal’ people like to assume a vegan and home educator dress.

I like branded trainers, wear make up and go to the gym. All the traits of a young woman growing up in the 21st century. Except I make sure everything I wear and use is not tested on animals.

Do i fit in any stereotypical category?

Not really. I pride myself on being different. Not the same. I dress how i want to dress, I eat what I want to eat and I parent how I want to parent.

My friends are such a wide variety of mums who home educate and don’t home educate, are vegan and not vegan. Who work and don’t work (Although parenting in itself is work so of course they all work)

Who dress in what society call normal and who dress in what society like to call alternative. Some of my friends pride them selves in dressing like they are going to a festival every day. (Their own words)

And I love that! I love that we can all be so different but all get along just the same.

I have no room for judgment in my life. Be who you want to be. I am not religious but have my own beliefs….main one being “be kind to all beings no matter how small.”

When my children scream and shout and whale about over a spider I roll my eyes, stay calm and save the poor little thing from their radical reaction. Where do they get it from?!!!

So I am told on a daily basis by friends and family that I am NOT normal. Sometimes by those who also pride themselves on NOT being normal, and sometimes by people who I can tell are trying to be slightly judgmental. But I always pride myself on taking it as a compliment either way.

After all, why would I want to be a sheep when I can be a Unicorn?!

Since going vegan I have found I’m constantly under judgment from others who don’t understand. Their main point being…”But we’ve done it for thousands of years” and “most of the population do it so…”

My reply is always the same…”So why follow when you can choose for yourself? You know in your heart what is right so why be a sheep when you can be a unicorn?”

My grandparents and even my parents generation (not all of course) genuinely believe the change from eating meat to vegan will never happen so why bother trying. I like to call these people the generation of the sheep. (Which is ironic given that the majority were brought up eating them) They were brought up in a world where everyone was conditioned to doing the same thing. Factory work and going to school to be alike each other.

Our generation and my children’s generation I believe are the generation of the Unicorn! We believe in change, we can home educate and see the light for other species not just our own. We have freedom to think and speak out for what we beleive. Thanks to social media we can make change happen faster too.

But what I really can’t wait for is the generation of the Rainbow!

Our rainbow babies yet to come. My grandchildren and great grandchildren who can be brought up in a world of kindness where meat on their plates is no longer the norm. Just like smoking in restaurants is not the norm for our children yet was very much the norm in our own childhoods.

I may be living a dream, but then I’m not ‘normal’. I’m a Unicorn! A mythical creature who stands for magic and hope and dreams coming true.

So ill take not being normal over normal any day!

Will you?

X

Home educating a large brood.

I hear people ask, will I cope home educating all my children?

I have a 3yr old daughter plus 3 older sons and have home educated all, and some at different times.

My eldest has diagnosed ASD and ADHD and can at times be quite a handful. I first began home educating him at the age of 7 alone.

Being my first Home Ed experience I was desperately trying to immitate school which I look back on now and cringe! Poor kid.

After a while the others followed suit and became home educated too.

I loved having them all at home. We joined many groups and spent most of the summer months out of the house at parks and pools, beaches, museums and anything cheap and fun for them to just experience life.

We would work when it suited us. Quite often we’d all sit round the table with our work at 9pm at night!

Being self employed, I was and still am lucky that I can work my own hours so just fit it in as and when. (Although it is always at the back of my mind that I am not working as much as I could if they were in school) But I have decided to enjoy their childhoods now and earn full time later!

When I had all the children at home I tended to follow what the older two wanted to do and the little two just followed along. My youngest was born into a Home Ed world and my youngest son had never been to school and watching them learn from their older siblings was amazing.

I gave my older children chores around the house which they wouldn’t have otherwise done but when you’re home all day or out all day with kids and no ‘time out’ from parenting then a bit of help with chores is almost a given.

Just small jobs such as emptying the dish washer and hanging out the washing on a nice day. Making their own beds….

Board games were our best friend in the Winter months. I bought as many educational games as i could find and we did lots of cooking together. My children now 13 and 10 are so capable in the kitchen that they love to show off to our family by cooking whenever they get the chance.

With my eldest sons difficulties times can and could be very difficult and I had days like everyone else where I wandered if i was doing the right thing. But once you really commit you find it just starts working.

I found it so much easier to be out of the house with my eldest as he was always into something and up to no good if left with no activity. He isn’t able to ammuse himself and will destroy what the youger children are doing if left to his own accord. So sports were a must. Swimming, trampolining, anything i could afford to wear him out. Learning at his own pace calmed him down and choosing subjects he wanted rather than subjects I wanted was key.

For a short while my eldest sons wanted to go back to school so I was left with a 5 and 2yr old.

I had to completely change the way I home Educated. Id spent so long teaching the older ones and not being able to afford all the learning experiences I’d like that I suddenly realised I could now afford to take my 5yr old out to science classes and Art lessons, drama etc which I just couldn’t do with them all. On top of that life had been going at a fast pace due to my eldest sons needs. We were out of the house most of the time to wear him out, yet now I found myself with two calm children who happily stay home and play with toys which actually meant I could squeeze in a bit more of my own work.

My youngest son has had a very different home Ed experience in that with one child and a toddler it was very calm and we slotted into a routine around him instead of dragging him around to things his brothers were doing.

What else fascinated me about my youngest son is that he taught himself to read and write with no forced learning. It has really hit home that all those early years at school ‘teaching’ them to read and write is completely unnecessary and a total waste of time when he has spent the first 7 years of his life playing and having fun instead of sitting in a class room yet can read and write as well as some secondary school aged children I know!

Alot of his learning of this has been through computer games on the laptop. He chose the games and when he wanted to play and in this instance it has certainly paid off.

2 years on and my older sons are back out of school due to school not being quite as fun as they thought it would be (But they gave it a good try) I find the dynamics has changed again. It is no longer about them while my youngsters follow suit. Its more balanced. My younger two have their groups and friends and my older sons are just finding their feet in the home Ed world again. Im not rushing them. They are doing online subjects of their choice and join us for family days out and have swimming and gymnastics lessons. But for the most part I am still enjoying my 7yr old and almost 4yr olds time of learning and im sure the dynamics will slowly change again as the big two adjust.

We still all work together in the evenings and I dont rush them out of bed in the mornings. My parents are very supportive and have each of the children stay over every other week in turn which certainly helps.

Its chaos and messy but its happy chaos and mess. When they’re all grown up and gone, ill look back on this time with very fond memories and I hope they will too.

If you’re considering home educating your large brood, my advice is relax and let them take the lead. Make friends and go to as many cheap home Ed groups as possible to build up a network of support. There’s plenty of big home ed families out there. But my biggest tip of all is, do not try to replicate school! That in my opinion is my only fail to date.

Good luck!

Baking a cake with multiple children…

So baking a cake is easy some would say. If baking comes easy to you that is.

But what about baking a cake with the kids? Now multiply that to 5 kids!

Now there are two ways of doing this in my opinion.

1. Get 5 bowls, 5 whisks, 5 spoons…..you see where this is going.

Now this idea seems like the fairest way but what about you?

Can you really watch as 5 children do 5 things at the same time? Not to mention how you then turn this all into one cake..or are you planning on making 5!!?

2. The sharing method which your kids love to hate. Which comes with its own set of complications…”Can I go first?” “He’s already had a turn, can I go now?”

“She got to mix for longer than me, I wanted to do the egg!” You get the drift. (Although in my world there is no egg as we’re vegan)

So you get through all that and survive, the kids haven’t killed each other and the cake is sufficiently burned (sorry i mean cooked!)

Now it’s time to decorate it!

Decorating a cake with 5 children is most parents idea of hell. Until i came up with this life saving tip.

Divide the top of the cake into however many sections there are children. In this instance 5. Using either an icing pen or food colouring pen.

Share out equal amounts of the topings and icing to each child and mark their section with their name if you like.

All of a sudden you have 5 happy children all decorating the same cake at the same time with no fuss, no arguments and no issues!

Whats more is once they have finished they each know exactly how much is theirs. No arguments over which slice of the cake they get to eat either!

All that’s left to do now is relax with a cuppa….. whilst thinking Why didnt I divide it into 6 so I could have a piece!? 😄

And to tidy the kitchen of course…suddenly 5 little people are not so keen on hanging round.

Going from meat eater to vegan….the step by step process

It always frutrates me when i hear people say “I can’t go vegan, the fake meat isn’t meaty enough.”

As a fully fledged vegan who doesn’t like eating animal flesh and doesn’t particularly want to be reminded that a) I used to eat flesh or b) others still do eat flesh every time I sit down to eat, therefore I am more than happy for the ‘mock’ meats to not taste or feel EXACTLY like the real thing.

Just because vegan food doesn’t taste the same doesn’t mean its not as tasty. You like meat because you are accustomed to it.

Take a baby for instance. Their first taste of food is usually a puree. Which ones did your infant lap up and prefer?

Well having had 4 children myself I happen to know all of mine loved fruit purees but were never overly keen on the meat variety. But they became accustomed to the flavours as we present them with them daily. We dont tell our children not to try new foods so why do so many adults fear trying a new healthier life style? Is it really just because something tastes slightly different?

As it happens, I do get it. I WAS that adult once. So heres the process of how I changed….

When I initially decided to become vegan just over 1year ago, I too kept shouting out about wanting more meat substitutes that tasted exactly like the real thing. Yet i felt so passionately about the cause that it wasn’t enough to put me off being vegan.

Firstly i found I needed to shop around more to get good substitutes. Its all very well to try one supermarket brand of ‘fake’ meat and say “yuck Im not trying substitute meat again!” But would you do that if it was a pack of real chicken nuggets?

No. You’d make sure you didn’t buy that brand again but it wouldn’t put you off all together.

So my advice through knowlede learnt the hard way is dont give up after one fail. Yes there are some rubbish alternatives out there, and yes most of these rubbish alternatives seem to be stacked up in shops instead of some of the better ones, but dont let it put you off! Shop around, shop online and you will find ones you like.

What I noticed start to happen to myself was that after a few months of not eating the real thing, Id go back and try again with certain substitutes i’d previuosly disregarded and to my amazement I found i liked them.

I can only put this down to my own natural way my body and tastebuds adjusted to my new diet. Slowly i started to not desire foods I once couldn’t live witout and I started to realise that vegan wasn’t tasteless or too smelly or squishy or any other sense I had experienced. I was simply only very used to certain foods and changing was different. Not worse.

Now that I’ve been vegan for as long as 1 year, which lets face it is no time at all, I am now very accustomed to the vegan diet and can’t bare the idea of eating certain foods i once loved.

The hardest part was cheese and eggs for me.

I started replacing cheese in my sandwiches for marmite and I could begin to stand the smell of the vegan parmesan cheese on my pasta instead of my usual mature cheddar and although I do eat alot of vegan cheeses I haven’t yet found one i like enough for my sandwiches. But that’s ok. I prefer fresh salad these days anyway and there are some amazing cheese spreads.

Ive always loved a fry up. Bacon and eggs were a big part of that! As I said above, I am accustomed to vegan bacon and really enjoy eating it. I never feel its not good enough or tasty enough. More than that, my husband and 4 children eat it too with no fuss so it must be good. We tried egg replacers to make scrambled egg at first but then I slowly realised we dont need eggs. At first i couldn’t imagine a fry up without eggs! But then after a while I stopped liking the idea of eggs all together.

Tonight for dinner my family of 6 all sat down for a fry up. Vegan sausages and bacon…no eggs.

Do you know not one family member asked for egg. Its the natural process, they dont even realise its missing, its just not needed any more.

The journey my family have been though has facsinated me, watching each individuals perspective change slowly at their own pace. How we’ve all adjusted to a new healthier life style and now try so many new foods, textures and flavours.

My children fought it at the begining and now they embrace it. (Almost all of the time. Lets not kid ourselves)

Milk was a big issue for me at first. I tried every plant based milk going, starting with soya. “Yuck, yuck yuck.”

I stopped drinking milk and stopped having cereal. Breakfast was toast for about 4 months! Still not a reason to refuse veganism. Still not a good enough reason to fund the toture and pain inflicted on animals. So I endured my new diet doing exactly what i always tell my children to do…try and try again.

I slowly I guess forgot the taste of cows milk and when trying soya milk again in cereal one day, I found i liked it. I found it tasted “normal”. I guess drinking it in my tea all this time was just enough for me to get used to the taste without realising it. That was the start of me realising that my taste buds were begining to accpet my new diet and not only that but the realisation that all those years of being conditioned to meat and dairy could be easily undone with a bit of determination. Dairy free is not worse..just different. Different in a good way, as now if i was asked to drink cows milk, my tastebuds would not like it one bit!

So my advice to all who moan that substitutes aren’t exactly the same….give them a chance, they are not worse, you have become conditioned to eating certain foods. Lets now condition ourselves to eating healthily for us, our children, our animal friends and for our planet!

Thank you.