In Love with a Map


Day Seventeen: A Map as Your Muse


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I have a confession to make.  I once fell in love with a map book and still have feelings for it.  There, I have said it.  I hope you don’t think any less of me…

Maps have always been kinda fascinating to me, all those lines everywhere, all those different places and things out there to discover.  They seem to hold endless possibilities for exploration and adventure.  Maybe they appeal because they show the way and to someone still trying to find their way in life, that attracts.  I had never though got as excited by a map as I did with this one.

As part of our Big Adventure we travelled round New Zealand in a motor home for 4 weeks.  Tucked away in the glove box was this map book, quietly unassuming, waiting for me to pick it up.  Once I did, I was hooked and would often exclaim ‘this is such a good map book’ (often = daily…possibly more than once…)

Although we had a plan of where we would be travelling to, we chose places to stay as we went and this map simply had all the information we needed – DOC campsites, dump stations, sightseeing spots and of course the roads!  We learnt names of mountains and lakes, saw spots used in the Lord of the Ring films, changed routes because we saw something interesting on the map, found random places to stay.

The map book became as much as part of our travels in New Zealand as the motor home was or we were.  I can’t think of our time there without thinking of it.  I fell in love with it so much that I didn’t want to part with it.  Asking anyone for anything is not really in my comfort zone especially if they might think I’m odd or there is a chance they might say no.  This map book pushed me to do something I am very anxious about and I happily carried my map onto my onward flight from Auckland.

I may never return to New Zealand and may never ever need to use that map again.  The sight of it though makes me happy, it brings back memories of that trip, reminds me of freedom and most of all it reminds me that I can be brave.  Who’d have thought a map book could do all of that.

If we were having coffee right now…

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Hello!  Let’s get our drinks, grab some comfy chairs and have a catch up.  I’ll have a coffee with oat milk today, what about you?  Biscuit or cake?  Nothing for me thanks, I bought some vegan snacks to sneak nibbles of whilst the staff aren’t looking.

If we were having coffee right now, we would exchange greetings, hugs and the usual ‘how are you?’, ‘ooh I like that top/pin/etc’ and weather comments that form a typical part of any get-together.  I would apologise for sneezing and sniffing my way through our coffee date and grumble about having allergies before sniggering at making people jump with an extra loud sneeze.

If we were having coffee right now, I would be all pleased with myself because I am still going jogging.  I have only managed to go out twice a week since we last met rather than the three times which is my goal and I am fairly happy with that because…I am still going jogging!  The jogging without music and paying attention to my body seems to be working a treat too and I am actually not minding the experience.  Oddly I don’t seem to think much when running and that is quite a wonderful relief from my over active mind.

If we were having coffee right now, I tell you how frustrated I am that I still can’t think of a new name for my blog.  As you know I want to decide the new name before I move to self hosting the blog and am feeling all sorts of ‘grrr’ that this is holding me up.  I have come up with plenty of names ranging from the naff to the ‘ooh I really like that one…oh someone already has it’.  I would ask for your ideas….

If we were having coffee right now, I would tell you sadly how I am thinking of closing down my little button jewellery business Mr B’s Button Jamboree.  I am very proud of myself for setting it up in the first place and what I have achieved with it, I simply don’t seem to have to time to give to it anymore or develop it in the way I once wanted to.  It doesn’t really fit into my future plans ~ no I am not telling you what they are right now, those are something for another coffee date so patience!

If we were having coffee right now, I would tell you that next week I am off to sunny Sheffield for the weekend.  It is not a pleasure visit as such though I am sure it will be a fun time.  ColobusYeti is taking photos at Yorkshire Cosplay Con and I am tagging along for the ride.  I’d excitedly show you their website which has photos scrolling across the main page…most of which are his from last year’s event!  So next weekend will be a interesting mix of cosplay, working wherever I can find a spot and exploring Sheffield.

Ooh is that the time?!  I’d best go now.  Thanks for joining me lovely, it was great to see you!  Lets do this again soon yes?  Big hug and goodbye ❤

 

All in a Muddle with Social Media


 

Day Sixteen:  Mine Your Own Material


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Scrolling through the examples for this task, one jumped out and said ‘me, me me!’  Amongst the suggestions for using your own posts on social media as inspiration for writing about how we now document and live our lives online, the one clamouring for my attention was how using social media feels.

This is something I think about way too regularly and still am none the wiser about!  How exactly do I feel about the world of social media we live in and how can I use it in a way that works for me without the unhappiness and stress which so often seems to dog my relationship with it.

My relationship status with social media…well as Facebook would say…’It’s complicated’.  I love and hate it, part of me enjoys the world it opens up to me and another part resents the time I use on it, the effect it has on my mental state.  Looking at social media can so easily trigger anxious or depressed spells in me, make me feel isolated or sad yet it can also make me laugh, feel cared for and connected.  Just what is a girl supposed to do about that?!

I am on the big 3 (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) and have different issues/likes about them all.  Twitter I don’t really quite get if I am honest, it overwhelms me and I can’t keep up with it.  I dip my toe in it every now and again generally finding it not my thing and moving on.

Instagram is by far my favourite and one that brings the least amount of issues to the table.  Sure I can occasionally get caught in the ‘how many likes did I get?’, ‘I wish my life was like that person’s’ etc and when I do, I step back and have a little break from it.  On the whole though I find Instagram a happy, welcoming place to be and have found some of my most supportive friends there.  I no longer try to catch up with everyone’s posts and have a little scroll once or twice a day, 9 times out of 10 leaving with a positive tummy feeling (on an aside, why are so many emotions felt in the tummy…or is that just me?)

Facebook is the big one for me, the one I really wish I could sort my feelings out for.  I loved Facebook when it first started.  It was a social place where people shared photographs with others, talked about what they were doing.  It was like meeting up with my friends and having fun, except these friends could be at the other end of the country or even across seas.  Over times though that has changed, Facebook has changed and it has become more bloated.  I spend less and less time on it and when I do pop by for a scroll, my feed is full of shared memes (often at someone’s expense), articles, bad news or people arguing  about the state of the world/the UK/the TV/whatever.

I am all for debate and think it is good that people do get involved in politics or protests and petitions, something though about Facebook seems to say to people ‘hey it is okay to be really rude and offensive’  I find this and the constant sharing of bad news or ‘shocking’ events hard reading and often leave Facebook feeling down or with my anxiety pushed right up.

Facebook to me is no longer about spending virtual time with my friends, ironically sometimes I feel like I am losing touch with them more and more because of it.  I simply can’t be bothered to spend much time scrolling through all the stuff that clogs my feed and so miss seeing actual updates from people.  Nobody seems to tell each other their news anymore, it is all ‘oh I shared it on Facebook’.  Friendships no longer feel so special.

In contrast I have people on my friends list who I never really talk to or interact with yet I feel that I can’t unfriend them because of connections with other people.  I’d like to keep my friends list to exactly that ~ my friends, yet it feels out of my control to do so.  I know I can unfollow people to keep the peace yet it stresses me knowing they are there and I berate myself for not having the balls to defriend them.

This all sounds like it is obviously pointing towards a break up with Facebook however the situation doesn’t feel that straightforward (as life never is).  Virtually all my friends are on it including many in other countries and I feel that if I left it, I would lose touch with some of them.  I suppose there is the argument that is how life is, people come into your life and some stay, some move on.  I like though that I can keep in contact with people this way, I like seeing what my friends in New Zealand or Japan are up to, I like the odd exchange of comments or likes.  I want that connection, the question is can I have it without all that negative stuff?  I am not yet ready to give up Facebook, I need to find a way of making it work for me though or I will reach that point for long.

See I told you I was all mixed up about social media!  What are your feelings about social media?  Do you use it and if so, how do you balance the real and online worlds in your life?  Am I alone in finding it all such a muddle?!

Reasons for Reading

“We read to know we’re not alone” – William Nicholson, Shadowlands


Day 15:  Take a Cue from Your Reader (or not in my case, I picked one of the prompts as didn’t have any suggestions sniff sniff)

Back on day 2 or 3 when I made a disastrous attempt to write a list of things I am good at (it never saw the light of day), Phillip mentioned how he was jealous at how good I was at reading and all the stories I get to read.  I have never viewed my reading as a skill, it is simply something that I do so it felt quite odd to have this said to me.  It is not something I have practiced in order to get better or improve, I simply read, quickly and all the time.

This quote got me thinking about why I read as much as I do, what it is I go from continuously finishing one book and picking up another.  There is always a book sitting waiting for me to pick up and continue our adventure.  I suppose there are many surface reasons for why I read – that I want to be entertained, to relax and to enjoy are some that immediately pop into my head.

Deep down though the main reason I read is because I want to escape.  Reading takes me away from my anxiety and depressions, it lets me go away when I am feeling stuck, it helps me to feel at times when my emotions may be struggling.  Reading shows me new places, it takes me to different worlds.  It shows me all the potential that could be out there, it encourages me to dream.  My world would be a much smaller place if I did not read and I suppose I would indeed be much more alone.

 

Pile of books - from Pixabay

photo by Pixabay

 

You Are Not Alone

 


Day Twelve: Critique a Piece of Work


“Hold on, Hold On.

Everybody hurts.

You are not alone”

~ REM Everybody Hurts


Another day I initially felt very tempted to skip, another day I found myself thinking this isn’t my thing, what on earth would I write about?  Then something came to me, something very personal.  It is not really a critique or a review, more an expression of what one song means to me and how it will play for me at the end of my days.

When I tell people that I want this song played at my funeral, at the start when everyone walks in, the reaction is usually always the same.  It is always something along the lines of ‘wow you really want people to cry, don’t you?’ and accompanied by a look that suggests I am being mean, that I am bad person for wanting to do that to people.  It is a song with a reputation for being bleak, a depressing song about hurt and loneliness, a ‘tear-jerker’.  And to be fair, once upon the time I thought so too.

As a teenager, my brother introduced me to a new world of music, quite different to the boy bands my friends were listening to.  This was how REM came into my life.  I loved REM then and still do, they seem to get how odd, screwed up and yet awesome this life can be.  They say to me that it is okay to be different, quirky and expressive.

‘Everybody Hurts’ was released shortly before I split up with my long-term boyfriend and temporarily moved back into my old bedroom at my parent’s house.  I was devastated.  My world and security had broken down and I was lost.  This song spoke to me of my grief, encouraged my sorrow and let me dwell again and again on how my life had gone so badly wrong.  To me it was indeed a song filled with hurt and sadness.

For years though this song has become a positive message to me especially when life has seemed more than bleak.  It is a song of hope, of finding a way through difficult and painful times, of not being alone.  There is acceptance that life comes with suffering, that everybody hurts and cries.  It is to me the perfect song to be played at a funeral, at a time when grief can seem too much to bear.

It is a song that has held me through many difficult times, it is sometimes the very thing that has stopped me feeling so alone and empty when depression has struck or when I have come face to face with grief.  Everybody does hurt, I hurt and it is this song that has helped me to hang on through some of the worst parts of my life.  Thank you REM for giving me this song, my world would have been a tougher place without it.

Short words ~ Day Thirteen: Play with Word Count


“Come come! Come Out!
From bogs old frogs command the dark
and look…the stars”

Kikaku


The task for Day 13 was to try the opposite of how you normally write in terms of length.  Now I normally write quite longish pieces (I always quite liked the opportunity to write a nice long essay…didn’t appreciate the stress that normally went with that opportunity though!) so short writing it was today.

I used to write (bad) poetry when I was younger and you can’t get much shorter than the Japanese poetry style of haiku.  The standard structure is 5-7-5 syllables in western terms and I did follow this..until I went all rebellious on the last one.  I was in two minds over whether to post these and decided to in the end as evidence to myself that I can try new things.  Read, enjoy and laugh at my poor attempts at this amazing form of poetry…

 

Outside my window

Birds sing, getting their nests ready.

New life in spring time.

 

Crashing of the waves,

Storm brewing, turmoil inside

Seeking peace somewhere.

 

Worries, thoughts, what ifs

Head is jumbled, body is tense

Looking for release.

 

Blue skies, clouds rolling

Day for dreaming, fleeting life.

Time to be living.

 

Turning away, avoiding all the eyes.

Need some space.  Life overwhelms.

 

If you’d like to see some examples of traditional haiku, take a look here.  Have you ever tried writing a haiku poem?  I would love to see them!

My Disney World top 10 ~ Vegan Adventures in Orlando (part 2)


Ooops got a little distracted with my ‘Everyday Inspiration’ posts and almost forgot I promised you part 2 of my vegan adventures in Orlando….yep it’s Disney World time!

So let’s dive right in and have a look at my favourite places to eat.

1. Boma (Animal Kingdom Lodge)

Boy did we luck out staying at this hotel for our Disney stay.  It meant we had the super tasty all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant Boma to make use of…and we most certainly did!  Boma is an amazing place to eat as a vegan with personal tours of the buffet from a chef (some of which seemed happier about their role than others ~ our favourites were Arol, Ricky and the super smiley Lieu), lots of choice and specially made items such as vegan Mickey waffles and scrambled tofu at breakfast or tofutti ice cream with mini cakes or cookies at dinner.

Vegan Mickey waffles

Yeah I know I have used this photo before on my blog, seriously though can you blame me when they look this good?!

Heading to Boma for breakfast would keep me going for hours.  I would get either the waffles or scrambled tofu (okay sometimes both…I would always share though honest!) and add in some quinoa cooked in apple juice, sweet plantains plus tons of fresh fruit.  Topping off with a yummy jungle juice and coffee ~ no dairy free milk was available though which was a bit of a disappointment, good job I am happy to drink my coffee black.

There was always tons of choice in the evening including pasta with marina sauce, various rice and couscous concoctions, hummus, salad bits including a really zingy watermelon rind, harira soup as well as a tofutti ice cream for desert ~ if I had any room left that was!

2. Erin McKenna’s Bakery NYC (Disney Springs)

If you are a vegan with a sweet tooth, this place would probably be your number 1 place to eat in the whole of Disney World ~ it was pretty close between it and Boma in my favourites and I am certainly way more a fan of the savoury stuff.

This place though = cake heaven.  The cakes are vegan, gluten free and delicious…my mouth is watering simply at the memory of them.

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The cakes in this box are the red velvet and vanilla with lemon frosting cupcakes plus a vanilla slice type thing (okay I *may* have forgotten what it was).  I can confirm that the French toast, chocolate with mocha frosting and chocolate with mint flavours are pretty damn tasty too.

Oh and they serve totally amazing soft serve ice cream too.

Yeah we *may* have gone there a few times….

3. Trail’s End Restaurant (Fort Wilderness Resort)

We booked a table at Trail’s End in the hope of getting the amazing Chef TJ who has an excellent reputation of creating wonders for those with special dietary needs.  We were seriously excited when we saw that it was indeed one of his nights to be working the kitchen. Now this is not something I ever usually say but OMG!  The creativity of this man and the food he produces is seriously awesome.  He personally bought out 6 courses…yep I said 6…and I had to keep eating even though I was more stuffed than an overflowing stuffed pepper because I knew I would not get this opportunity again.

Course 1. Vegan nachos – fried onions, chillies and a coconut based nacho cheese

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Course 2: A lovely fresh and simple tasty salad dish…all I can tell you about it is that is was delicious….must remember to make notes in future…

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Course 3.  Samosas and a creamy coconut mushroom soup.  This was my favourite course and I could have eaten this every day for the rest of the trip…..actually I could happily still be eating it now…

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Course 4: Magical smoked corn.  Hidden under this were some mini slices of corn and a smoke that smelt so good I wish I could have bottled it!

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Course 5: Tofu, rice and vegetable platter.  By this point I was completely stuffed and barely made a dent in this dish as gorgeous as it was.

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Course 6:  Candy floss tower complete with mini chocolate cakes, ice cream and fruit.  Of course I managed to make some room for this!

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This was without a doubt the best meal that I had at Disney.  The normal buffet eaters on the next table were incredibly envious of my special dishes that kept appearing!

To top off an already fantastic night, the Magic Kingdom fireworks started as we caught our boat back to the Magic Kingdom across the lakes, and we saw the start of the Electrical Water Pageant ~ a truly magical moment!

Why did it not come higher then I hear you ask?  Well I was kinda relieved that I didn’t need to get anything from the buffet as the choice was pretty limited to plain baked potatoes and a few salads.  I know the chef would still provide something tasty, I am just not sure it would be worth the effort it takes to get all the way out there.

4. Plaza Ice Cream Parlor (Magic Kingdom)

This place on Main Street USA makes it this high up on the list for one reason and the clue is in the name…yep ICE CREAM!  Vegan options here were my personal favourite Tofutti as well as the rather tasty Rice Dream.  So two options…heck I would have been excited about one!

Ice cream in front of Cinderella’s castle…maybe dreams do come true at Disney.

Tofutti ice cream from Plaza Ice Cream Parlor in Magic Kingdom, Disney World

5. The Mara (Animal Kingdom Lodge)

Although this little quick service restaurant at our hotel wasn’t overflowing with vegan options, what it did have was tasty fast food and friendly staff happy to tweak meals or get an allergy chef through from Boma.

It was our go to option most mornings (unless we decided to overindulge at Boma) where we would get oatmeal with raisins and fruit salad or occasionally ask an allergy chef for waffles or scrambled tofu from next door.

Lunch and dinner options were a mixed tomato flatbread which had obvious cheese plus some sneaky cheese too.  First time I ordered I asked for it without the ricotta in the description only to find mozzarella on it – not listed anywhere on the ingredients.  To be fair though I hadn’t checked first plus the staff made me a fresh one with extra toppings to make up for it.

My go to option though was usually the falafel burger without the yogurt sauce.  I always intended to go for it with the couscous options yet never seemed to manage it…the fries tempted me every single time…

And I failed to get a picture of the thing I ate the most in the entire holiday…

6. Aloha Isle (Magic Kingdom)

Tucked in Adventureland, this snack place serves the mighty Pineapple Float ~ vegan and just the ticket for a hot day in Magic Kingdom.  This little kiosk is all about the pineapple and the description reads Dole® Pineapple Juice with Pineapple Dole® Whip…I think it maybe has something to do with Dole?!  The Dole Whip is so tasty and fresh that I had to feature it fairly high up on my list.

Dole Whip Float in Magic Kingdom, Disney World

7. Tangierine Cafe (World Showcase in Epcot) 

One of the many vegan options available in Epcot, this quick service restaurant in the Morocco section serves light and filling mediteranean and moroccan style dishes with one very lovely option for vegans.  The vegetable platter comes with couscous, hummus, olives, taboleh and lots of other tasty goodness.

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I did read that the pita that comes with it is not always vegan so it is probably best to ask.

It was great to have a proper and healithy meal option at a quick service restaurant that wasn’t a snack.  What with Sunshine Seasons in Future World (I had the vegan korma which was pretty good) and the many options at the snack places, Epcot is the vegan place to eat at Disney World.

8. Blaze Pizza (Disney Springs)

This build-your-own pizza chain is remarkably vegan friendly and the pizzas are pretty fine too.  There are some signature pizzas you can choose from but hey where’s the fun in that?  Choose your base and toppings, get it cooked and enjoy your creation.  They have Daiya vegan cheese and both bases are vegan.  Staff change their gloves to do your pizza so let them know at the start.  Really liked my pizza and the choice available, shame we had an issue with two of our pizzas going missing…

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9. The Crystal Palace (Magic Kingdom)

We had a really good experience food wise here and got to meet Eeyore!  As I said in my An Introvert in Orlando post, I put aside my general uncomfortableness with character encounters to enjoy meeting Winnie the Pooh and his friends.  It was a bonus that there was quite a good choice at the buffet and we had a really good tour from our chef Brandom who went the extra mile and made us some special extra food as well.

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I would have put this higher if it hadn’t been so damn cold in there which made it quite an uncomfortable experience…take a sweater if you eat there, actually no take two.

10. Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Cafe (Magic Kingdom)

At the far end of Frontierland, the menu for this Mexican themed restaurant doesn’t offer much hope for vegan food.  Luckily though thanks to my advance research I knew there is a secret vegan option available if you ask ~ the Roasted Vegetable Rice Bowl!  Ask for this with plain white rice, pile it high with bits from the topping bar and you have a filling bowl of goodness.

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A little summary of other places we ate at:

Although those were my favourite places, here are some of the other places we tried (we did find time to go on the rides honest…it wasn’t all eating…)

B.B. Wolf’s Sausage Co (Disney Springs) – Italian Veggie Sausage in a roll

Tusker House (Animal Kingdom) – buffet with reasonable vegan choice, character dinner with Donald Duck, Daisy Duck, Goofy and Mickey (didn’t realise this at time of booking!)

Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe (Magic Kingdom) – after speaking to staff who made a real effort to help me out, I got a surprisingly nice falafel burger (without tzatziki and the bun) plus fries and my own little bowl of toppings.

Wolfgang Puck Express (Disney Springs) – had the whole wheat hummus wrap without the feta.  It was okay and did the job, wasn’t overly impressed though especially given the reputation of the chain.

Nine Dragons (World Showcase, Epcot) – I had the vegetable and tofu stir fry which was okay but fairly bland.

And the park that lets the rest down….

Without a doubt, Hollywood Studios was a real disappointment compare to the other Disney areas.  It was the only place I really struggled finding food that wasn’t fries and ended up being a kind of making do day.  Maybe once they finish all the development work there for the Star Wars area, things will improve.

There was so many places I didn’t get a chance to try out ~ oh well, we will just have to go back then eh mum!  Have you been to Disney World?  What are your experiences of vegan eating in Orlando?  I’d love to hear from you!

In case you missed here, check out Vegan Adventures in Orlando – Part 1