Saturday, 25 June 2016

Teddy Bear Sandwiches

Some really bad stuff has been happening this month, so for this post, I'm only going to talk about the positives and then move on to the recipe.

Last night, I finally received my official degree classification results, after having friends from other faculties receive their own from Wednesday onwards.  I've achieved a BSc Honours 2:1 in Web Design and Technology, which I feel is really good for me because there was a point in January/February where I knew I'd passed but hadn't done very well in one module but hadn't yet received the results in another module where I thought I'd done really badly, so I had been panicking about getting a 2:2, but then my hopes of a 2:1 were reignited again when I actually got a good result in the other module.  So I have a 2:1 now, and I will be graduating at 10am on Wednesday 13th July.  Sadly, most of my closest friends at uni (BUSOM friends) are in different faculties and will be therefore graduating in different ceremonies, but I'll still have a couple of media friends who might not be on my course, but who I've shared modules with.

Although I haven't recently been at Disney World or Disneyland (I visited the former last July), I am still pretty Disney-obsessed practically all the time.  This morning, I was reading a Winnie the Pooh book (an original A.A. Milne one with illustrations by E.H. Shepard) and I decided to look around my bedroom for some of my Winnie the Pooh merchandise:
  • I have Winnie the Pooh pyjamas, T-shirts and jumpers in my wardrobe.
  • I have a Winnie the Pooh rug on my floor that my mum and I made using a pattern when I was 9-12 years old.
  • I have a Winnie the Pooh clock on my desk that currently doesn't work, but I might get new batteries for it soon.
  • I have Piglet and Tigger pictures (from an amazing Winnie the Pooh stationery design studio CD, which was also used to make bookmarks and birthday party invitations when I was little) that I coloured in a while ago and stuck on my bedroom wall.
  • A Winnie the Pooh album, including songs like The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers and Forever and Ever.
  • A ceramic letter K figurine with Kanga and Roo flying a kite.
  • Two keyrings.
  • A necklace that my best friend gave me for my 18th birthday.
  • A piglet mug which I drink water from almost every day.  It also has a matching Winnie the Pooh mug, and we also have plenty of other Winnie the Pooh mugs around the house.
  • A Winnie the Pooh toy.
  • More Winnie the Pooh bookmarks and notebooks.
  • There's also even more Winnie the Pooh things around the house, including a candle!

On top of all this, there's even more Disney things in my house including lots of videos and DVDs, mugs, CDs, a Monopoly game, jewellery-making kits, pins from the parks, books, LOTS of other things.

You'll probably wonder why I'm discussing how much I love Disney?  Well, today's very simple recipe is for teddy bear-shaped honey sandwiches, inspired by Winnie the Pooh's favourite food.  Sadly, unless you want to use marmalade instead of honey, they're not vegan (but are vegetarian-friendly), but they could be a great idea for kids parties!

Ingredients (serves 8)

8 slices of bread, either white or wholegrain
honey or marmalade


  1. Toast your slices of bread using either a toaster or a grill.
  2. Spread honey or marmalade on your slices of bread and put them together to form sandwiches.
  3. Using a teddy bear-shaped cutter, cut shapes out of the sandwiches to serve!

Friday, 17 June 2016

Vegan Chocolate "Cup" Cake

There are probably many shop-bought chocolate cupcake mixes out there, where you can put a small amount of the mix into a coffee cup (rather than one of those big mugs), add a liquid to it, and microwave it for a minute or two to get a cupcake.  One of these mixes that I've had was from Foodness, where you spoon a couple of spoons full of the cupcake mix into a cup, add a bit of milk, cook it in the microwave, and then eat it.  Sure, you could use a plant-based milk such as almond, hazelnut, oat or soy milk as an alternative to dairy for making this, but this unfortunately still won't make the cupcake vegan as there is actually egg in the dry cake mix itself.

While I was trawling through the World of Wanderlust website (a travel website founded by Brooke Saward), I came across the recipes section of the site, which included recipes inspired by her travels.  The recipe that the one I'm going to share with you was inspired by was under the title of "A Single Girl's cake for Valentine's Day" because the recipe yielded enough to make just one cupcake (plus a very small amount left over).  While this recipe didn't need milk to be added to it for cooking, it still contained one egg yolk.  Back in October, I made some Oreo cupcakes for a film-watching afternoon with my friends (featuring Rent and playing a Hobbit card game), which used mashed up banana as an alternative to eggs.  Surprisingly, my family still thought it tasted nice even though it contained no eggs and was completely vegan, so I knew that a banana could be used again in this recipe.  I've also skipped the espresso that was in the original recipe on the World of Wanderlust website!


3 tablespoons plain flour
2 teaspoons cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
dash of vanilla essence
1 tablespoon oil (I used olive oil)
half a large banana, mashed


  1. Mix the flour, cocoa, baking powder and sugar in a mixing bowl until well-combined.
  2. Add the mashed banana, oil and vanilla essence, and continue to stir until all the ingredients are combined.
  3. Pour the mix into a well-greased coffee cup.
  4. Cook in a microwave on medium high for 90 seconds, until the cake has risen and cooked through, but avoid overcooking.
  5. If you wish, serve with vanilla ice cream, strawberries, caramel or a dusting of icing sugar!

Thursday, 16 June 2016

My Birthday Wish - We Need To Talk About Orlando

Less than 2 weeks ago, on Tuesday 7th June 2016, I made a wish as I blew out the candles on my 21st birthday cake.  My brother commented at the time that I seemed to take a while to think about my wish.  I know the whole thing about your birthday wish not coming true if you tell someone about it, but I feel that this needs to be said:

My birthday wish was for a full stop to homophobia and transphobia, and any other hateful behaviour towards the LGBT+ community.  This wish was in immediate response to reading an article about a 17 year old girl from Texas called Sarah who had been sent to a Christian-based gay conversion therapy facility because she had taken her girlfriend to prom.  With the help of her cousin (Supergirl actor Jeremy Jordan) and the public, she has now been released from that facility, but she was to not have any contact with the outside world at all for a whole year.  I was horrified that these types of facilities had still not been banned in the United States and shut down since President Barack Obama expressed that he wanted them to be banned following the suicide of Leelah Alcorn in December 2014.  This wish was also in response to the transphobic comments that have very recently been made towards a few of my friends, including misgendering and asking if one of them was a "boy girl".  I want the homophobia and transphobia to stop.  I want to be able to call my best friend by her correct name and pronouns all the time rather than only around certain people (this isn't because she isn't out to those people, but rather their refusing to use the correct name and pronouns).

On Sunday 12th June 2016, at approximately 10:30am, I started to see a headline trending on Facebook about a shooting at an LGBT+ nightclub in Orlando, Florida.  I knew that on Friday night, singer Christina Grimmie had been shot at her own concert in Orlando, but at the time, I didn't click on the headline and continued to do other things and read a book for a while.  When I turned my laptop back on later in the day, the news of the shooting was everywhere - across all three social media platforms I mainly use (Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr), across the news sites, and if you dared to type "Orlando" into Google, you'd read about the shooting and not anything about Disney.  I was going to watch Aladdin on Sunday evening, but during one of the advert breaks, I decided to switch over to BBC News 24, where they were only reporting about the shooting and were due to have a statement made by Obama.  By this point, they had already identified the gunman, and were discussing his possible links to IS and how he'd allegedly called 911 just before carrying out the attack to pledge his allegiance to the group.  But the only thing I knew was that this attack had been carried out at an LGBT+ nightclub.  This is what I added to my reblog in one of my earlier posts on Tumblr about it on Sunday evening (I've reblogged and talked about it on Tumblr a lot in the past few days):

"I am so fed up of hearing the BBC and their sources put the suspect’s religious beliefs as more of a cause of this crime than his beliefs about the LGBT+ community.

He could have gone to yet another school or university.

He could have gone to a supermarket.

He could have gone to a cinema.

But he went to an LGBT+ nightclub intentionally.  He went into a space where people are meant to feel safe and were just having a good time and he targeted them.  Neither the media, the police nor the government can overlook this."

Now that the news about this attack is starting to die down on the news (or I've just started to avoid the mainstream live news), it's still being mainly labelled as a terrorist attack linked to IS by all the main news corporations.  This media branding has even made me question whether or not this was just another attack that IS have claimed responsibility for or if it was a homophobic hate crime.  But I'm still standing with it being a homophobic hate crime, and it's been really helpful to have had friends around me who realise this and think the same.

One of the things that I've thought about over the past few days was the possibility of this happening to me or any of my LGBT+ friends.  If you're wondering why I'm putting myself into the picture, it's because I identify as LGBT+.  Well, the + really.  I identify as the A and the P in LGBTQIAP+ because I have identified myself as asexual since March 2015 and panromantic since October/November 2015.  I am currently in a romantic relationship with a girl and have been for over 6 months now.  Neither of us are the type to enter an LGBT+ club or any club, but I have friends who feel comfortable at these clubs (including a non-binary friend who spoke about this in a video they made following the attack in Orlando).

What if this had happened to any of my friends?

Yes, I know I live in the UK where we have much stricter regulations on obtaining guns, but there's still other weapons that could be used.  The Admiral Duncan pub in London was bombed in 1999.  I have a LGBT+ friend who was in Orlando (or Miami, I'm not sure, but was definitely in Orlando a few days beforehand) at the time of the attack, and although I knew he was safe because of the reason why he was there, I'd thought about what could have happened if he was in Orlando for just a holiday rather than the reason why he was there, and had visited the Pulse nightclub that night?  The first post I saw from him afterwards was a sharing of a image about the irony of asking for blood donations for people from a community who are banned from giving blood themselves (because men who have sex with men and haven't been celibate for a year are banned from giving blood due to the increased HIV/AIDS risk), before a later post about how those who had shown solidarity with France in November 2015 and Belgium in March 2016 via the application of Facebook filters to their profile pictures but hadn't applied the Pride flag filter for Orlando to not do so straight away out of guilt, but to truly think about why they weren't standing in solidarity with Orlando.

While the media have been largely ignoring the identities of those whose lives were taken, I've read through the posts of friends and pages on social media about the names of the 49 victims and sometimes even a bit about them.

Luis Vielma worked at one of the Harry Potter rides at the Universal parks in Orlando.

Jerald Arthur Wright worked at one of the shops on Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom at Disney World.

Juan Ramon Guerrero and Christopher "Drew" Leinonen were planning to get married and build their future together, but will now share a joint funeral and will spend their future buried together.

I've thought about Shane Bitney Crone and Tom Bridegroom, whose story I learned about around this time last year after a classmate attended a screening of the Bridegroom documentary with a talk by Shane Bitney Crone himself during her year abroad in the USA.  A man who was prevented from seeing his boyfriend in hospital before he died from injuries sustained in an accidental fall from a roof, and all because of the lack of legal recognition of their relationship of 6 years.

I've also thought again about the 21 trans women, including many of colour, who were murdered in the USA in 2015 alone, including 21 year old Zella Ziona.  I've thought about Leelah Alcorn and Ashley Hallstrom (the latter of whom died in the same week as Zella Ziona) and the approximately other 20 trans people who took their own lives in 2015.

I've read again about Matthew Shepard, who was beaten, tortured and left to die on 6th October 1998 in Wyoming, USA.  He died from severe head injuries on 12th October 1998, the day after my brother (who will be 18 this October) was born.

I read for the first time about both the bombing of the Admiral Duncan pub in the Soho area of London, UK in April 1999, which killed three and injured approximately 70 others, and the Fire at the UpStairs Lounge in New Orleans, Louisiana in June 1973, which killed 32 and injured 15.  The latter of these was previously considered to be the "deadliest known attack on a gay club in US history" before Sunday's attack in Orlando.

I've wondered if this will EVER stop?  When will LGBT+ people be able to live in peace and have the same rights to safety, marriage, adoption, healthcare and even bathrooms as everyone else?  Not just in the USA, but in the UK as well.  Only yesterday, I read an article about protesters standing outside a parliamentary equalities conference in London and demanding legislation, similar to that passed in North Carolina, that would aim to prevent transgender people from using the bathrooms of the gender they identify with.  Although same-sex marriage is now recognised in all 50 states of the USA now, I feel like there's still been backwards steps since.

And right now, I'm scared that we will not go far enough forward for a long time.  I'm scared that I'm just going to continue to read and hear about homophobic and transphobic attacks against LGBT+ people both in the USA and everywhere else around the world.  I'm scared that I might still be silenced for trying to speak out when it's not to other LGBT+ friends or allies of the community.  I'm scared that other very similar attacks to that in Orlando could happen, and they'll be branded by the media as "terrorist attacks on all of us" rather than attacks and hate crimes against the LGBT+ communities of the world.  I'm going to cry over and over again at this and other similar tragedies that have happened and are happening and will happen around the world.

Everyday, I'm grateful for the acceptance, support and knowledge of my friends, especially those who have listened and supported me and possibly others over the past few days (and even before that), but I'm scared that one day, if they were in the USA or even other countries, that this could be them.

If there's a vigil held near you and you identify either as LGBT+ yourself or an ally, go to it.  Dress colourfully and know that I'm with you in spirit (although I may not be allowed to attend my nearest vigil in person with my friends), in the rainbow tie-dye Mickey Mouse T-shirt that I made last year and my Hogwarts badge.

Here are the words from a call and response chant that I saw in a video from a vigil held in Nottingham on Monday:

"Black and brown,
Trans and queer,
Their (Our) lives matter."

Sunday, 12 June 2016

The 100th Post and 21!

So this post was originally supposed to be published in April, but it's only being posted today, on Sunday 12th June, which also happens to be 5 days after my 21st birthday.  So Happy Birthday to me for yesterday!  At the time of starting writing this post (6th June), I don't know what it will contain, so let's start with some personal highlights of blogging over the past 2 years:
  • My Adventures in the USA series (July-September 2015): This set of posts followed my adventures with my family in both Washington DC and Florida, and listed my top 5 places to visit in Washington DC as well as in each of the Disney World parks and the Universal Orlando parks in Florida, and also featured some recipes inspired by the trip.
  • My Back to the 80s posts 1 and 2 (March 2016): In my excitement over BUSOM's main show, Back to the 80s, I posted little diary entries from my view as the show's producer in the days leading up to the show, as well as the daily countdown photos and other promotional things.
  • My interview with Australian blogger, Kara Ready (unfortunately not in person), in which she talked about her passion for media and journalism, veganism, travel, and her tips for health and happiness.
  • My post about my little trip with my friends from uni to our local Waterstones bookstore for a Harry Potter event.
  • The highlights of my short trip to Newcastle in February this year.
  • My post about what my friends and I did for Halloween last year.
  • My final week of uni before Christmas post.

Favourite photos

Homemade bread rolls in Summer 2014

Berries and overalls in Summer 2014
A banana and date smoothie!
Chocolate Rice Krispie nests at Easter 2015
Fruit haul for snacking around Washington DC

The World War 2 Memorial in Washington DC in July 2015

The wall of 4048 gold stars, each of which represent 100 Americans who died in World War 2

A waterfall at the Roosevelt Memorial Park

The White House!

The Hogwarts Express at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Butterbeer at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Orlando

Festival of the Lion King at the Animal Kingdom
Making my own tie-dye T-shirt at Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa at Disney World

My finished rainbow tie-dye Mickey Mouse T-shirt

Cinderella's Castle at Disney World Florida in July 2015

Fireworks at the Magic Kingdom in July 2015

Vegan Oreo cupcakes in October 2015

Carving pumpkins at uni in October 2015

Paddington on the Harry Potter display at Waterstones in February 2016

Falafel and Mango Chutney from Tea Sutra in Newcastle in February 2016

Activities Ball in April 2016

My birthday party mocktail in May 2016

What's in store in coming weeks

I've got a few ideas buzzing around my head for some upcoming posts, including the following:
  • a chocolate "cup" cake recipe - a homemade mix for a cake in a cup that doesn't contain eggs or dairy!
  • a chocolate brownie recipe - I think this recipe will be the closest thing to the chocolate brownie recipe that my family traditionally uses and which everyone loves, so I'm dying to try it!
  • a possible collaboration
  • a post on anxiety
  • a few posts on coffee - I want to see sometime which plant-based milks are the best for coffee, ice cream and coffee-based recipes, so I may have another collaboration for this.
  • my Sri Lanka adventure series - I plan to journal my family trip to Sri Lanka in August, and then write a few posts with my favourite places to visit and a few curry recipes!

Asparagus with Vegan Hollandaise Sauce

Asparagus with Hollandaise Sauce and Toast

For my birthday tea, we had asparagus with Hollandaise sauce and toast for starters, but unfortunately, the shop-bought Hollandaise sauce was non-vegan (contained egg yolk and possibly also butter), so I decided to find an easy recipe for vegan-friendly Hollandaise sauce in case I wanted to use it with asparagus again in the future.  I found this recipe and the recipe for the cashew butter used to make it on the Whole Foods Market website!

Ingredients (makes about 1 cup of sauce)

3/4 cup cashew butter (see recipe below)
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 a teaspoon ground turmeric
a pinch of cayenne pepper
a few bunches of asparagus
2 cups raw cashew nuts (will make 1 cup of cashew butter)


  1. To make cashew butter, place cashew nuts in a food processor and process for 2 minutes at a time.  Doing this at intervals will prevent the food processor from overheating.  Scrape down the sides of the processor when required until the cashew nuts break down completely and become a completely smooth butter - before this, the mixture will go through a dry paste, crumbly mixture and large ball stage.
  2. Combine cashew butter, mustard, lemon zest and juice, garlic powder, turmeric, cayenne pepper and 1/2 a cup of warm water in a blender for about one minute or until smooth.
  3. Add more warm water as needed to reach the desired consistency.  Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
  4. Rinse stalks of asparagus in water.  For larger stalks, bend the spear until it snaps and throw the harder end away.
  5. Boil in water for 3-5 minutes or steam for 4-5 minutes.
  6. Serve asparagus and Hollandaise sauce with slices of toast.

My 21st birthday cake!

Non-Vegan Cheesecake with Grated Chocolate