Review: Kat’s Kitchen, Keswick

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The front of Kat’s Kitchen

Before venturing up to the Lake District this summer I was convinced that there would be no vegan options on any pub, cafe or restaurant menu, let alone whole establishments catering to the lifestyle. This notion came about after visiting last summer and finding it incredibly difficult to dine out with non-vegan family in pubs and hotel restaurants, as most, if not all dishes contained meat and dairy so I resorted to eating the sides every vegan opts for in this kind of crisis – chips, side salads and garlic bread if you’re incredibly lucky to find that it’s vegan.

Before planning another trip there back in May, I had a look on Trip Advisor for places that served vegan food in a bid to prepare myself a bit better than last time. That was when I came across Kat’s Kitchen in Keswick, a market town in the North West of the Lake District.

The cafe serves an array of both homemade vegan and vegetarian food and Kat even runs a cake making service from the cafe itself, as well as selling vegan produce you may not necessarily find in supermarkets, such as Tofurkey mock meats.

The extensive menu includes a vegan full English breakfast, sandwiches, mac and cheese, shepherdless pie, cakes, smoothies, milkshakes and coffee, to name but a few items on their menu.

The cafe also gives diners access to both outdoor and indoor seating. Outside food can be enjoyed on picnic benches, each decorated with pansies in vintage style troughs, overlooking the River Greta. The inside of the cafe has an even homelier vibe with comfortable sofas, quaint tables and bookshelves made from up-cycled wooden crates.

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Vegan BLT and flowers in the sunshine

I’ve visited Kat’s Kitchen on five separate occasions now, each time tucking into a delicious Vegan BLT. This consists of Tofurky Smoky Maple Bacon Tempeh, tomatoes, leafy green salad, ketchup and vegan mayo on a white bread bap, served with a side salad.

Before trying this BLT I’d never eaten tempeh before. I always thought it looked a bit funny but after trying it a few months ago for the first time at Kat’s Kitchen I’ve been hooked since and I can’t stop returning to get my BLT fix.

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Vegan BLT

This particular tempeh is the perfect bacon substitute. Not only does it sit lightly on your stomach, it’s also filled with flavour and tastes like meat, without having an overly realistic texture to accompany it. The salad and sauces compliment the tempeh perfectly, making for a healthy yet delicious version of a traditional BLT containing animal products.

My boyfriend, Chris also highly recommends this BLT and thoroughly enjoys the strawberry milkshakes, served in glass jars and topped with whipped cream.

Whether you’re popping in for a quick brew and a slice of cake, or wanting to chow down on a plate full of plant based goodness, Kat’s Kitchen will have you feeling right at home and returning time and time again to indulge in the warmth and comfort of tasty, home cooked food.

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Why I’ve invested in a Keep Cup

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My reusable cup from Keep Cup.

Encouraging people to care about the environment can feel like a pretty futile task, especially when many hold the belief that their individual choices and actions have little to no impact. But our planet has reached breaking point and is in desperate need of some TLC.

10,000 coffee cups are thrown away every two minutes in the UK alone. This results in a staggering 2.5 billion being thrown away overall each year. The impact that disposable cups have on the environment and wildlife after being thrown away is devastating, and they worryingly could be affecting our health too.

What happens to disposable coffee cups when we throw them away?

Less than 1% of coffee cups are recycled in the UK due to the way they are manufactured. Disposable ones are made from cardboard but are lined with plastic polyethylene, which is fused to the cardboard, making them incredibly difficult to recycle; so much so that only three specialist plants are able to recycle them in the UK, meaning most end up in landfill and oceans. They can then take hundreds of years to break down due to their plastic lining.

Once broken down the problem doesn’t stop there. The plastic part of disposables cups break down into micro-plastics, which can be ingested by sea creatures. A study conducted by Plymouth University found that a third of fish caught in the English Channel had ingested micro-plastics. Upon entering their bodies the plastic causes blockages in their digestive systems as they are unable to break them down properly.

When these fish are caught to become food for humans, people then go on to indirectly inject what these fish have been eating in our oceans.

Why Keep Cup?

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I chose to go for Keep Cup’s Brew design in the Roast colours. Unlike disposable coffee cups this particular design is made from durable soda lime glass and non-toxic plastic. All parts of it are recyclable should anything break and the website even allows you to purchase spare parts so if something breaks you don’t have to buy a whole new cup.

When I initially took my Keep Cup out of the box I was surprised by how easy it was to wash, as all the parts are removable. I also thought it was fantastic how the cardboard packaging was recyclable as a lot of the time you may purchase a reusable product online and it’ll arrive at your door wrapped in layers of plastic packaging – defeating the purpose in a way of you buying a reusable product to help the environment.

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Although the glass isn’t completely shatterproof, it’s thick and kept my hot chocolate warm for over an hour whilst I went for a walk and slowly sipped at it.

The rubber band that fits around the cup ensures that you won’t burn your hands when holding your hot drink.

The lid is securely fitting and splash-proof so you don’t have to worry about any of the cup’s contents sloshing over the sides and burning your hands or getting on your shoes and clothing. One of main factors for me when deciding which reusable cup to choose, was knowing the plastic part of Keep Cups are completely safe for us to be drinking from. They are non-toxic and BPA/BPS free so I feel comfortable knowing I’m not consuming something that’s harming my body.

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If you haven’t already invested in a reusable cup I’d highly recommend checking out Keep Cup. They have an array of different designs and colours to suit your intended use, budget and colour preferences.

 

Review: Thamin Restaurant, Littleborough

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Instagram: amylilithlou

Of all the Indian restaurants I’ve had the pleasure of dining at, the Thamin in Littleborough without a doubt serve the best curries I’ve ever tasted.

Having visited the Thamin three years ago as a meat eater and thoroughly enjoying my chicken Rogan Josh, I was excited to see how their veggie options would fair when Chris and I visited for our anniversary last month.

Situated down a flight of steps, giving it a basement feel, the entrance welcomed us into the bar area where we could browse the drinks menu from the sofas. We chose to have a pint of Cobra each, which is our favourite beer to drink when we go out for meals. It’s brewed naturally and doesn’t contain any animal products and is usually a lot cheaper than cocktails and wines, whichever restaurant you’re at.

After a short wait we were taken through to the restaurant and seated at our table for the evening. The lighting in the restaurant was subtle, creating a warm red glow around the room.

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Christopher and the chutney tray

The Thamin has a great selection of vegetarian and vegan starters on their menu. We opted for a chutney tray with popadoms to dip in as we don’t like to eat too much before out main course, but other veggie starters on the menu included onion bhajis, vegetable samosas and mushroom pakora.

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Bombay-aloo

Our favourite go to curry option whenever we dine at an Indian restaurant or order food from takeaways is Bombay-aloo. It’s just potatoes in curry sauce and is usually served as a side dish, but we’ve never had any problems asking for a slightly bigger portion so we can have it as a main.

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Our curry

To accompany our curry we both had a portion of pilau rice and a naan bread each.

Although we had no doubt our meal was going to taste good, it certainly exceeded our expectations. The potatoes in the curry were soft and covered in a rich tomato and perfectly spicy sauce. They paired beautifully with the light taste of the rice and of course  the fluffy naan bread that no Indian meal for us would be complete without.

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Bombay-aloo with pilau rice

Indian restaurants are always a safe but delicious choice for us because we know that there’ll be quite a few vegetarian and vegan options wherever we go, and the Thamin was no exception.

The staff there were just as friendly as they were the first time we visited and made our meal all the more enjoyable. We loved celebrating our anniversary here and will definitely be returning soon.

Kim Kardashian ditches fur for faux in her latest Instagram post

Kim Kardashian has taken to Instagram to post about her new found love of faux fur under her latest snap.

The reality star shared a photo of herself wearing a colourful, Aztec print coat with extravagant faux fur trimmed arms and collar captioned, “Faux fur… it’s my new thing❤️🔥💋”

She appeared to be channeling Cher in a chic, black crop top and trouser two piece with layered turquoise necklaces underneath the coat.

Kim’s decision to stop wearing fur comes after vegan activist Pamela Anderson sent her a coral, faux mink coat in the hope it would encourage her to rethink her fashion choices, at the end of last year.

The gift was sent along with an emotional letter in which Anderson wrote: “I know your young fans would admire you and your brand even more if you dropped fur.”

Her post has garnered the support of Sia, who’s been vegan since 2014. The Cheap Thrills singer expressed her excitement and praised Kim’s decision to go faux on Twitter.

Comments under Kim’s Instagram photo are also full of support.

One fan wrote: “Thank you so much for choosing compassionate fashion! Faux looks so good on you!”

Another said: “Killing the look, not killing animals! Awesome Kim for being stylish without hurting animals!❤️❤️❤️❤️”

Kim’s sister Khloe was once a vocal supporter for animal rights organisation PETA and had even starred in the anti-fur campaign, ‘Naked’, in which she appeared nude on posters with the tagline, ‘I’d rather go naked than wear fur.’ This was before she denounced her affiliation with them after Kim was flour-bombed by an activist, who had links to PETA, for wearing fur in 2012.

How I gained 10,000 followers on Instagram, fast

 

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Instagram: amylilithlou

If there’s a social media platform people want to gain followers on in 2018, it’s Instagram.  With more than 800 million active monthly users it’s certainly the place to be growing your brand and business.

I’ve had my account for five years now and struggled for more than half of that to see any real growth. Apart from the odd person I’d become friends with at college and uni, or people I’d meet on nights out or at gigs, who’d end up following me, my numbers barely budged.

Since I finished my first year at uni in 2016, I’ve gone from having just over 1,000 followers to 10,400 in two years.

Here are a few techniques working for me, so hopefully you can adopt them and see similar results.

Interact with everyone

Instagram’s current algorithm is big on engagement. And how do you get people to engage with you? You have to interact with them. Every time someone leaves me a comment on one of my photos I’ll make sure I reply.

Instagram doesn’t currently show your photo to all your followers when you upload it. In fact, my photos with the highest engagement have been shown at most to 3,000 people and a lot of those people won’t be followers, but may have stumbled across my photo on the explore page.

The more interaction and engagement your photo gets, the more people Instagram will show your post to, including both your current followers and other people who follow similar accounts to yours.

Interacting with your current followers shows them that you’re actually a real person and the more you respond, the more people will want to talk with you and leave comments.

Post good quality photos, regularly

The key is not quality over quantity, but quality and consistency. No one wants to see dark, blurry photos shot on a poor quality camera, but at the same time posting more than two or three times a day can really get on peoples nerves and make them want to unfollow you, even if the photos are amazing.

When I’m having a productive week, ideally I have a photo or video to post everyday but if not, I make sure I post at least twice a week.

Your photos don’t need to be taken on a super expensive camera. I take most of mine on my iPhone and recently I’ve been using a small Nikon digital camera to take some of my better quality photos. As long as your photos are shot in good lighting, aren’t blurry and fit the frame well (by that I mean don’t take a photo and chop off half of someone’s head) then you’re good to go.

Poorly lit, blurry and photos that ordinarily wouldn’t look great, can work if that’s the vibe you’re going for. It just depends how everything fits together and looks on your page.

Have a theme

There are two ways to theme your Instagram and ideally you’ll want to do both of these things:

  1. Theme photos in terms of their colour and overall vibe/appearance.
  2. Theme photos in terms of their actual content – so what’s going on in the photo, who or what is the subject?

My Instagram has warm, orange and brown tones to it, giving it a vintage vibe and my photos have a running theme of mainly rock ‘n’ roll, vintage things and vegan food. Having a theme helps followers and potential followers know what to expect from you and eventually it means people will associate you with your theme. This essentially becomes part of your brand.

I’ve personally found that photos with myself in, particularly just my face, tend to get double the amount of likes, if not more, than any of my other photos. Even something as simple as a selfie can still be themed when you’re editing. I change the colours in mine to match my warm toned theme and as my style is a bit of a mix and match with rock ‘n’ roll and vintage clothing, that automatically fits in with my whole theme as well.

Use hashtags and your location

Instagram allows users to add up to 30 separate hashtags under each photo. Recent statistics show that posts captioned with at least one hashtag get 12.6% more engagement than those without, so for anyone that thinks adding hashtags to posts is too much effort or cringy as I’ve heard people call them, they’re definitely worth using. Just make sure the hashtags you use are relevant to your post and account, so no ‘#followforfollow’ and #picoftheday’ nonsense. Those hashtags are oversaturated with posts and aren’t specific enough and the likelihood of your photos being seen and engaged with is very minimal.

Adding your location above each post is another great way to get your account noticed. Statistics show that posts tagged with a location receive 79% more engagement than those without. If I’m ever visiting somewhere new or just out of my local town, I’ll always look at the photos people have uploaded to Instagram from wherever I am to find places to eat and things to do. If your photo gets a lot of likes in comparison to other peoples pictures from the same place, then it’ll show up in the ‘top posts’, making your account even more discoverable.

Tag brands

Tagging brands using their Instagram handle is a great way to gain followers. If you’re going to tag a brand in a photo, make sure the photo is of high quality and looks like something you’d almost expect to see on their page. If a brand comes across your photo after seeing they’ve been tagged and they like it, they may repost it. Not only does this then mean the brand are now aware of who you are and may potentially consider working with you in the future, but you’ve just gained exposure to an entirely new set of people following that brand.

This is something you don’t want to go overboard on. If all you’re doing is uploading photos of yourself for example, wearing different outfits and tagging brands and offering discount codes etc, people are just going to assume you don’t enjoy what you do and that you’re just on Instagram to get freebies and money. That’s going to put them off from wanting to follow you. Be yourself and be genuine.

Post at the busiest times

If you have a business account you’ll be able to see your analytics. One of these shows you which days and what times your followers are most active. This will differ for everyone but I’ve screenshot my analytics to show you below:

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There’s no specific day that my followers are most active on so I choose to post on whatever day I feel like.

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Today is Tuesday so here are my stats for today. Most days tend to follow a similar pattern when it comes to how active users are at specific times. Here you can see most of my followers are active around 6pm and 9pm, so I tend to post photos in the evenings. I’ve tried posting between 9am and 12pm before and the lack of engagement compared to the evenings is really noticeable.

Everyone’s analytics will be different, so make sure you check yours out and use them to your advantage by posting when your followers are most active.

I hope that this post has helped some of you out. Let me know if you manage to grow your account by using some of these tips and be sure to follow me on Instagram, amylilithlou if you aren’t already.

 

4 documentaries that will inspire you to go vegan

Changing my lifestyle from being a meat eating, animal skin wearing, horse riding, ignorant human, to becoming a passionate vegan, was beyond daunting at first. I made the change after spending months watching YouTube videos about the benefits of a vegan lifestyle and exposing myself to the truth of what really happens within the animal agriculture industry.

Something I only did after becoming vegan though, was watch the inspiring documentaries you’ve probably heard vegans talk about, even if you’re not part of the community yourself. Watching them only helped to reaffirm why I’m living this lifestyle so if you’re reading this and you’re not vegan, I’d totally recommend checking out the list below and giving them a watch.

Earthlings

Earthlings was the very first vegan documentary I watched, or rather attempted to watch. I knew how bad the animal agriculture industry was, as that was my main reason for ditching animal products, but I hadn’t thought at that point about how humans also mistreat animals for entertainment, scientific research, clothing and profit. My main reason for going vegan was the farm animals I’d seen in videos having their throats cut and having their babies taken away from them. This documentary opened my eyes even further to how other animals are exploited for human gain.

Both Chris and myself only managed to watch a measly 20 minutes of the almost two hour long film before we had to turn it off because it was so upsetting.

If you’re someone who doesn’t know too much about how animals are treated by people, I’d highly recommend giving this documentary a watch. It’s available on YouTube, but I’ve embedded it into this post to make things easier for you. See if you can beat my 20 minute watch time.

Cowspiracy

Cowspiracy is by far my favourite vegan documentary, if not my favourite documentary of all time. It focuses on the environmental impact of animal agriculture and highlights the lengths big corporations that are supposed to be protecting our planet, will go to to keep up the appearance that they’re actually doing something to help, when in reality they’re doing the complete opposite.

This documentary is non-graphic so if that’s something keeping you from watching vegan documentaries, then rest assured you’re not going to be seeing anything gory in this.

Cowspiracy is filmed in almost a ‘follow me around’ style as Kip Andersen, who also produced What the Health, (which admittedly I still haven’t watched yet) sets out to find answers to questions no one else is even thinking to ask.

I’ve embedded a video of the documentary into this post but if you’d prefer to watch it without the Spanish subtitles, then it’s also available on Netflix.

Forks Over Knives

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Photo credit,Licensed under CC BY 4.0

Forks over Knives is another documentary I found super inspiring, especially when I was just beginning my vegan journey. This film focuses on the health benefits of a whole food, plant based diet, which is essentially a healthy vegan diet consisting of unprocessed foods.

It follows the lives of people suffering with multiple medical issues and documents the changes they see following a vegan diet, as well as including informative interviews with doctors and medical professionals.

As someone with minimal medical knowledge I found this documentary incredibly insightful. It’s packed with facts and studies that contradict everything we’ve been taught about health and nutrition from being babies and I feel like I’m way more knowledgable on how a whole food, plant based diet can impact the body after watching this film.

There wasn’t a video on YouTube for me to embed on here but you can find Forks over Knives on Netflix.

SWINE

SWINE is a short film come documentary I haven’t seen very many people talking about, but it’s one that’s stuck in my mind since I first watched it in the weeks after I became vegan.

The film focuses on the serious issue of antibiotic resistance and how animal agriculture is playing a huge part in this. Antibiotic resistance essentially means that when we develop an infection, the antibiotics doctors would normally prescribe us to treat it will no longer work. This happens because we’ll have ingested so much already from eating animals, who were also given antibiotics to treat infections that developed from the unsanitary conditions they live it, that they’ll no longer work when we really need them.

The film explains this is much better detail but hopefully you get the idea.

SWINE was produced by Viva! the vegan charity. I’d highly recommend visiting their website for more information on why you should go vegan and for tips on how to do it.

I’m always happy to speak to people about veganism and answer any questions people might have. If you want to know more or want any advice you can tweet me or DM me on Instagram.

Review: Humblest of Pleasures, Hebden Bridge

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Humblest of Pleasures’ Instagram page is full of the most delicious looking cakes and wholesome comfort food, and the best part? It’s all vegan.

Situated in Hebden Bridge, a quaint town in West Yorkshire, Humblest of Pleasures is an adorable cafe, complete with pink shelves, potted plants and pretty, pink roses decorating the front of the bar.

I visited the cafe last month with my boyfriend Chris, after deciding we’d take a trip to Hebden Bridge for the day.

We arrived at Humblest of Pleasures around noon but unfortunately all the tables were taken as it was lunch time. A wander around the Antiques Centre and a couple of pints later, we went back to the cafe and found a free table to dine at.

Choosing what to have was an incredibly difficult task for both of us because everything on the menu sounded so bloody damn good. We’re used to going out to eat at restaurants and cafes that only have one or two vegan options on their menu, so when you’re given multiple options to choose from it can get a bit overwhelming.

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Both of us opted for the vegan Mac ‘n’ Cheese, consisting of macaroni pasta, and a ‘cheese’ and butternut squash sauce – costing £6.95 each. I also chose to add ‘facon’ to mine for an extra £1.

It was served in the cutest vintage looking bowls and the portion size was huge – we definitely got our money’s worth.

Unfortunately the taste of this dish left a lot to be desired. Now I know what some of you are going to be thinking, ‘Amy, it’s not real mac ‘n’ cheese, so of course it’s not going to taste like the real thing,’ but in all honesty it tasted like watered down rice pudding. There was no real cheesy flavour to it. In fact, it tasted sweet. I found myself eating a piece of vegan bacon (which was delicious by the way) with each bite to mask the taste of the sauce. It’s definitely possible to create an authentic tasting cheese sauce that’s vegan, but this one was just bland and both Chris and myself ended up leaving a lot in our bowls.

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As I mentioned previously, the cakes at Humblest of Pleasures looked absolutely divine on their Instagram page so there was no way I was leaving without trying one. All the cakes are freshly homemade and there’s different ones to try every day.

Admittedly I didn’t make a note of the name of the cake I tried, but it was delicious. One of the worst things a cake can be in my opinion is dry, but this was really moist (sorry to anyone who cringes at that word) and the flavour was lovely. The sponge had a slight vanilla taste to it and was really light and fluffy. The frosting on top and the filling in the centre tasted like sweet raspberries. It was definitely a welcome change from the usual chocolate cakes I opt for and the party rings on top were such a fun finishing touch.

I paid £3 for the slice in the photo above. I don’t think the photo does the size of it any justice at all, but I was so shocked at how big the slice was.

Although I didn’t enjoy the mac ‘n’ cheese, I want to revisit Humblest of Pleasures to try some other foods on their menu. The entire sandwich menu and full English breakfast are at the top of my list for things I want to try next, as well as some of their other cakes, given how much I loved the one I tried on my first visit.