Friday, 31 July 2015

Adventures in the USA part 2 - Downtown Disney, Walt Disney World Florida

The second stop on our adventure was Orlando, Florida, where we stayed at Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa.  Our room had catering facilities, including a fridge/freezer, microwave, oven, dishwasher and washing machine, so we were able to cater for ourselves.  Following eating both breakfast and lunch at the hotel while in Washington DC (it was expensive, and we were practically spending almost $30 per person per day there, we really needed to save money on food while we were in Florida.  Therefore, on the first morning, we got a taxi to Winn Dixie, the nearest supermarket to the Disney World complex.  We needed enough food and drinks to cover 10 days of breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks (although we did go out for dinner once for a special occasion), so we ended up filling two shopping trolleys with fruit, vegetables, water, pasta, bread, cereal, milk and meat.  We discovered that we could save money by having a Winn Dixie card, so although we wouldn't use it again while we're here, we got one and managed to save $32.  For most of the rest of our stay, we were probably spending $15 or less per person per day for food.

Downtown Disney is Disney World’s very own shopping and entertainment complex, with a variety of shops for Disney merchandise, as well as jewellery, food, bowling and even a circus. In the early days of being in Florida, we had a few hours to spare in the afternoon, so we caught a bus to Downtown Disney for some browsing of some very inviting Disney goodies. Here are my top 5 shops/cafés/restaurants to see while there:

  • Rainforest Café – We did not been to this restaurant this year but in a previous year, but if you want to eat your dinner amongst the sounds of the rainforest and see and hear monkeys and elephants, swing over to Rainforest Café (there is also one at the Animal Kingdom). From memory, I ate an upside-down crushed Oreo cookie “mountain” topped (technically it was at the bottom) by vanilla ice cream “snow”. We also have a Rainforest Café glass that used to light up (this was nearly 10 years ago).
  • Pin Traders – If you’ve ever heard of Disney Pin Trading Around The World, Pin Traders is possibly the largest collection of Disney pins I’ve seen around Disney World (including in the parks and hotels). There are character pins from a variety of Disney animated films as well as pins to commemorate particular rides at the parks, and pins to commemorate the year of your visit. You don’t need to trade pins (in which case, you simply choose and purchase a pin), but if you do, simply ask a cast member at the shop, or in any park if you can see their Disney pins, and if you see one that you like, you can ask them if you can trade/swap pins with each other.
  • Basin – If you want bath products such as body scrubs, lip balm, solid perfumes, soaps or shampoo bars, head to Basin. I tried their “Love” shea body scrub, which I rubbed on my hands for about 30 seconds, and when I washed it off, my hands were super-soft. I asked the woman at the counter, and she said that the products sold are not tested on animals, and apart from a couple of products (including almond products – ask which ones specifically and they should tell you), they are free from milk and honey (I didn’t specifically ask if they were vegan though).
  • Disney’s Days of Christmas – This store is full of Christmas baubles, decorations and toys of the Disney variety. There’s a Christmas-themed train set, Frozen merchandise and so much more, so if you want to deck your halls with Disney-themed Christmas decorations, Disney’s Days of Christmas will have everything you need. Christmas tree not included.
  • Vivoli Il Gelato – When it’s summertime and quite hot, it’s important to stay cool, so slide into Vivoli Il Gelato for a 1-3 scoop cup or cone of ice cream. There’s rice to coffee to mango to orange to chocolate. I had a 3 scoop cup of Italian chocolate, lemon and salted caramel. The lemon was a bit tangy though …

I think my favourite of the three flavours was salted caramel. If you looked so far back to almost the beginning of my blogging journey, you’d find a recipe I found for salted caramel cheesecake following my experience of it at Colours Ball 2014. As with most of the posts I do now, I tried to find a vegan-friendly version of salted caramel ice cream (note that I am currently not a vegan, but hope to go vegan someday, and I want my blog to be a kind of cookbook compilation for myself). A quick Google search for “vegan salted caramel ice cream” came up with the following recipe from 40 Aprons, the author of which tells of her husband’s adoration of this salted caramel ice cream recipe.

Ingredients (serves 6)

Salted caramel sauce:
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons water, divided
1 cup cashews
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons vegan margarine, such as Earth Balance or Pure
2 teaspoons flake sea salt

Ice cream:
1 x 14oz can full-fat coconut milk (NOT light)
1 cup cashews, soaked at least 6 hours
3 tablespoons coconut oil
2 cups salted caramel sauce, divided


  1. Make your "heavy cream" by blending 1/2 cup almond milk, 2 tablespoons water, and 1 cup cashews in a high-speed blender until very, very smooth.  Sieve or press through a nut milk bag for the smoothest texture.
  2. Make your salted caramel sauce: Stir sugar and 1/2 cup water in heavy large saucepan over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves.  Increase heat and boil without stirring until syrup turns golden (don't wait until it turns amber, as that usually means it's burnt), occasionally brushing down the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped into water and swirl in the pan for about 12 minutes.  Remove from the heat.  Whisk in Earth Balance or other vegan margarine, then very gradually add cream (mixture will bubble vigorously).  Stir over low heat until smooth, then add 2 teaspoons of sea salt.  This will make about 2 cups of salted caramel sauce.
  3. Combine coconut milk, 1 cup soaked cashews, coconut oil, and 1 1/2 cups caramel sauce in a high-speed blender and blend until very smooth.  Transfer to an air-tight container and refrigerate until very cold.  Once the mixture is cold, churn according to ice cream maker instructions.
  4. Once churned, the ice cream will have the texture of frozen yoghurt.  Gently swirl in the remaining 1/2 cup of salted caramel sauce and place in the freezer for at least 2-3 hours.

Stay tuned for the part 3 of my adventures in the USA, where I'll reveal my favourite things to see at Disney's Animal Kingdom!

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Adventures in the USA part 1 - Washington DC

A few weeks ago, I finally went off adventuring again (friends of mine on Facebook will have recently seen a photo series involving flowers, food, Colours Ball, bowling with friends, and things I've been up to while fighting a wanderlust of just over two years), and this time it was to the USA with my family.  We had two stops, Washington DC and Walt Disney World Florida, which I will cover in a series of posts which should last well into September.  The first of posts will cover our time in Washington DC.  We spent 4 days here, in which we saw memorials to several presidents, a few of the Smithsonian museums, and the White House.  Below, I share my favourites of the places we visited and a couple of top tips!

Top 5 places to visit in Washington DC

  1. Franklin Roosevelt Memorial - Out of all the presidential memorials that I saw (including Jefferson and Lincoln), the Franklin Roosevelt Memorial was my favourite.  It felt like an endless road of walls filled with inspirational quotes and punctuated by small waterfalls.

  2. World War 2 Memorial - With a view of both the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial in the background, a granite pillar adorned with a bronze wreath to represent each of the United States, and a large central fountain and pool, the World War 2 Memorial in Washington DC could be a great place for reflection and expressing gratitude. 
    The World War 2 Memorial in Washington DC.

    A "Freedom Wall" holds 4048 gold stars, each of which represents one hundred American service personnel who died or remained missing in the war.  The 405,399 Americans dead or missing in World War 2 is second only to the 620,000 Americans dead or missing following the American Civil War.
    The Freedom Wall.
  3. White House visitors center - Since I'm one of those people who can easily go around a small museum reading stopping at every artefact and reading every sign, the White House visitors center is definitely somewhere to keep a few hours for.  In this mini-museum (everything is on one floor in one big room), you can learn about the role of the White House and Washington DC since its inception in 1790 as the capital of the United States of America, different presidents, hear audio clips from presidential speeches, learn about the role of the First Lady and the First Family, and see both original and replicas of items found in the White House and used by past presidents.
    The back of the White House.
  4. National Air and Space Museum - From the first hot air balloons to the early aircraft models similar to that flown by the Wright Brothers to Federal Express planes to modern passenger aircraft, you can see and learn about the history of the flight of man.  You can also see spacecraft, including modifications of the Hubble Space telescope.
  5. 4th July fireworks - As we arrived in Washington DC on the afternoon of Saturday 4th July, we were able to see the evening Independence Day celebrations (there were celebrations throughout the day, but we only arrived in the early evening).  Our hotel gave us timings of the fireworks display being held behind the Washington monument, where to see it from, and informed us that they would be holding a barbecue at the hotel afterwards.  Despite arriving at a patch of grass near the Smithsonian museums about half an hour to 40 minutes before the display was due to start, this patch of grass was already packed with American viewers decked in red, white and blue (I, meanwhile, had spent the flight in black and white), with rumours that some of them could have been waiting there for the 9:15pm firework display since about 3pm.  Given the nature of the firework displays that I had seen in Florida in the past and would see in Florida in the following week, the Washington DC fireworks display for Independence Day wasn't very spectacular, but I still think it was good to experience a part of the Independence Day celebrations.
Independence Day fireworks behind the Washington Monument.

Top Tips

  1. Fill up at your hotel's breakfast buffet (if they have one) and take extra food from the buffet to eat later in the day.  This can mean saving the time and money you would spend on lunch.  For breakfast each day, I ate a bowl of dry Raisin Bran, 2 slices of jam toast, and a big bowl of fruit (this is the equivalent of my typical breakfast, lunch AND fruit snacks when I'm at home), and then took fruit to eat later in the day.
    Extra fruit from the buffet which we took to eat later in the day instead of stopping for lunch.
  2. Unfortunately for us, breakfast wasn't included in the hotel price, but I managed to save $4 on breakfast each day by having a continental breakfast buffet (described above) instead of a cooked breakfast buffet.  I therefore spent $12.95 on breakfast and lunch combined each day instead of $16.95 each day as the rest of my family did.
  3. On the first morning, we went to Starbucks and since we could only see the water in glass bottles at the time, we asked the man at the counter where the plastic bottles of water were.  He then offered us ice-cold tap water in a plastic cup for free, so we had more water to take with us and it was so refreshing and cool.

Stay tuned for part 2 of my Adventures in the USA series, in which I will reveal my top places to visit in the Downtown Disney shopping district at Walt Disney World Florida!

Friday, 10 July 2015

A Couple of Minutes With Kara

Just over a year ago, while I was looking through the Instagram of Ariel Kaplan (Imogen Willis from Neighbours, or going a bit further back, Lisa from The Saddle Club), I found a comment from an account called "greengirlsgang".  They were a group of gorgeous young women from Melbourne and Brisbane who joined up over a mutual love of health, happiness and good food.  For a few weeks, they introduced themselves and shared a few plant-based recipes (such as Ally's banana and blueberry ice cream, which is very yummy) and met up to discuss their plans for the group.  Unfortunately, they are now on hiatus for health reasons.  One of the introductions described one of the group as "a self proclaimed 'human encyclopaedia of Lizzie McGuire episodes'" (one great show - I rewatched all the episodes in the summer holidays last year, I have a pin of the cartoon Lizzie that I got at Disney World when I was 11, and I realised in November that Lizzie McGuire is probably my fictional soul-twin).  This girl is Kara Ready.  I've only spoken to her a couple of times, but we brought down a Twitter troll who was denying gender inequality together, we're both feminists and LGBT rights supporters (and Lizzie McGuire lovers), and she gave me some great advice when I was struggling a few months ago with tiredness and not eating enough.  I'll let her introduce herself in this little interview.


Kara :)



Where in the world are you from?

I live just outside Melbourne, Australia in boring ol’ suburbia.

Tell us a little bit about yourself:

2015 marks the year that I graduated from my journalism degree and entered the big, bad world. I’m very passionate about media and the journalism industry so at the moment I’m spending a lot of time working on my community radio show, writing for magazines on a volunteer basis and just generally figuring out the type of journalist I want to be. I’ve discovered that not knowing where I’m headed- although very daunting at times- is half the fun of getting there.

What is your food philosophy and lifestyle?

I follow a vegan lifestyle and it’s something that I’m very passionate about on an environmental and ethical level. I guess you could say that at its core, my philosophy is to do as much as I can to avoid hurting others in every aspect of life. I’ve always felt that way but it wasn’t until late last year that I realised my eating habits didn’t align with those beliefs- so I changed to a cruelty free diet and lifestyle and haven’t looked back!

This wonderful vegan Chinese restaurant in Melbourne basically outlines my reasons for being vegan. We don't need to harm other for our food :)

How long have you been following this lifestyle and why?

I have been vegan for just over 6 months now and was vegetarian for 6 months before that.

What is your favourite fruit [or vegetable]?

My absolute favourite vegetable without a doubt is potato, preferably sweet potato but regular ol’ white potato is a winner too. Sometimes I genuinely think I could eat nothing but potato for the rest of my life and be perfectly happy.

Food wise, what country have you enjoyed visiting the most?

I absolutely adored my trip to India for a million different reasons and the food probably contributed to about half of them. The flavours, the variety, the fact that whole foods make up a very large part of their diet. It was just heaven and every Indian meal I’ve had since back in Australia has failed to match up.

Helping to make roti bread in a Sikh temple in India. I love the community and culture behind their food!

What are your views and tips for health and happiness?

This is such a huge question and one that I receive quite often on Tumblr because so many people struggle with it. I think my first tip, and perhaps the most cliché one, is to listen to yourself- your body, your mind, your thoughts and try and teach yourself to respond to them with kindness and compassion. When you can be open, honest and supportive towards yourself and how you’re feeling, your perspective starts to change because you allow yourself the room to make mistakes and learn from them without beating yourself up and dwelling on it. Health and happiness go hand in hand- I really think that when you master one, you master the other and that’s a beautiful thing.

Plans for the rest of 2015?

2015 has been a bit of an adjustment year for me so far as I’ve just graduated from university and entered the ‘real world’. This year has predominately been focused on writing as much as possible and searching for a job that will make me happy to go to work each day. Overall though, I’m just taking everything as it comes at the moment and trying not to put unnecessary pressure on myself by pretending that I ‘should’ or ‘need’ to be doing more than I already am.

My go to recipe is-

Easy vegan strawberries and cream smoothie!

The best thing about smoothies for me is that you don't need to do much weighing or measuring and can instead just chuck everything into the blender as you go! Perfect for lazy meals or snacks when you can't be bothered preparing something.

This recipe is for a yummy strawberries and cream smoothie using only 3 ingredients. Don't be afraid to add in more than what I've written- I've made versions of this with almond milk instead of water, cherries as well as strawberries and I frequently double the ingredients if I'm feeling really hungry or halve them if I just want a snack.

Things you'll need-
- 2 frozen bananas
- 2-4 fresh bananas [or more depending on your hunger!]
- A couple handfuls of frozen strawberries
- .5-1 litre of water
- A blender!

Blend all the ingredients together until you get the consistency you like. I like mine to be thick and creamy but if you want yours a little bit thinner just add more water! I told you it was super easy!

This recipe is also great because it can be made into a delicious summer nice cream for those warmer days! If you want more of a thick, ice cream consistency, just swap out the fresh bananas for frozen ones and take out the water and you're good to go! For now though, in this awful Australian winter, I think I'm just going to stick to my smoothie...

Social media:

Instagram: @kara.ready
Twitter: @kararready

Friday, 3 July 2015

Rainbow Salad with Chocolate Dip

Last Friday (26th June 2015), shortly after I published my post for last week, it was announced that same-sex marriage has now been legalised in all 50 states of the USA.  Although I'm UK-based, where legislation to allow same-sex marriage was passed in July 2013 and came into force in March 2014, I think that it's a great step for Americans to be granted this right as well.  So many couples have been negatively affected by their relationships not being acknowledged by the American government and in some cases, the medical system.  One example of this that I have been reading about is Shane Bitney Crone, who was prevented from seeing his partner, Tom Bridegroom, who had accidentally fallen from a friend's roof.  Crone and Bridegroom's 6 year relationship was not acknowledged by the hospital or the government, thus Crone was not considered as "family" when it came to knowing about Bridegroom's condition.  Unfortunately, Crone was also banned from attending his partner's funeral by Bridegroom's parents, who threatened Crone with violence should he attend the funeral.  I hope that this step forward will prevent things like this from happening to anyone else in the future, but with so many countries still to legalise same-sex marriage and some to even decriminalise homosexuality, there is still a long way to go.

However, to celebrate this (and a late Pride weekend), it could be fun for a Pride party to prepare a rainbow assortment of fruits on a plate for guests to dip in chocolate.


A handful or two of strawberries
1 orange
1 banana
1 green apple
A handful or two of blueberries
A handful or two of purple grapes
Approximately 50-75g good quality dark, dairy-free chocolate


  1. Wash and prepare all fruits – a sieve may be useful here. Remove skin from orange and banana, and cut both these and the apple into slices.
  2. Place all fruit into a large bowl or plate.
  3. To make fondue, break chocolate into pieces, place into a bowl and heat, either in a microwave or in a saucepan filled with water over low heat for a few minutes.
  4. Dip fruit pieces in melted chocolate to serve.