A Birthday Morning @ Blanche Bakery

Before Blanche was a bakery, I knew their signature rose-icing cupcakes from blogging events around Cardiff. I was always thrilled to see them catering anywhere, bringing their delicious, 100% vegan and aesthetically delightful treats to the party. I remember being completely floored by their pepperminty, candy cane-flavoured cupcakes at the LUSH Winter event, and slipping one in my bag to take home for my brother, so I wouldn't have to describe how good they were. Come last December, I got a little invite telling me Blanche Bakery was finally going to have a permanent residence! Finally, somewhere I could go and get vegan cupcakes whenever I wanted! I was so excited to try their brand new menu in their brand new digs... and then the worst thing happened. I got a disgusting holiday cold that quickly got to my lungs and set up camp. I was sick all over Christmas and far beyond it, and I missed all the fun.

I was adamant, though, about how much I wanted to go and support this new vegan business - so I decided to spend my birthday morning there. Thinking about immanent birthday cupcakes got me through all those bed-ridden days where I could barely eat solid food. That's the lovely thing about having a January birthday; I have lots to look forward to when I would otherwise be feeling blue and lacking energy, like most of us do at this time of year. Aquarius season is my time to level-up, get inspired, refocus and reboot. It always feels like a brand new start, an early spring. I want to go out and eat cake.

At Blanche, they're normally so busy that they don't book tables, but when I told them it was my birthday they were kind enough to reserve the window booth for me and my family to have a Saturday breakfast bright and early at 10.30am. It was the perfect way to kick off my b-day celebrations and fill everyone up with coffee and sugar before we went vintage clothes hunting. 

The interior design of the bakery is flawless; painted all white, bar one accent wall with green foliage and a pink neon sign declaring "but first, coffee". White tables and Eames-style chairs lend themselves perfectly to the airy and artistic minimalism of the whole. To say it's Instagram-friendly would be doing the place an injustice; it's a gorgeous coffee shop worthy of a world city. Their offerings include fresh toasted sandwiches with seitan or vegan bacon (try their BLT-style sandwich early on in the day, if they have them) as well as freshly-baked cupcakes and decorated doughnuts. One of the best things about going to an all-vegan cafe is that they have all the nut milks you could want, and they know how to work with them. The coffee was superb and dusted with one of my favourite details of the whole visit, a Coraline-esque black cat-shaped layer of chocolate.

If you're in Roath and need to stop for a refuel, Blanche Bakery is at 16 Mackintosh Place. They have free wifi and you can get your order to go, should you need to, but please do stop for a while to take a few pictures and enjoy the ambiance if you can. I think it's going to become my new favourite blogging spot for when I'm down that way with my boyfriend. Be sure to go early if you want to take your pick of all the sweet things - they will sell out.  

Vegan Blueberry Pancakes

Veganuary is everywhere this year, and I'm low-key thrilled about it. So many people on my timeline are making positive big or small changes, rethinking their lifestyle, trying new recipes, getting excited, educating themselves, using their platforms to create awareness and give encouragement. I have a lot of vegans in my life and on my social media feeds, but I also have a lot of omnivores, and people who are somewhere in between. Vegan food and cooking is something I'm really passionate about, and one of my blog goals for 2018 is to write about it more, and share the recipes I like to make for my clan. Regardless of whether you're making changes to your diet or lifestyle this month, these American-style pancakes are fantastic and everyone should try them.

You really don't need cow's milk or eggs to bake incredible treats. Think of this recipe as a blank canvas for whatever you want to throw in, and if you're not in the mood for blueberries, just add whatever you like in their place; mashed up banana or strawberries, chocolate chips, walnuts or macadamias all work great. Here is all you will need for the basic blueberry pancakes. These quantities will give you more than enough for two people to have a generous stack each.

2 cups of plain flour; 2 tablespoons baking powder; 3 tablespoons sugar; 3 tablespoons coconut or vegetable oil; 2 cups soya milk or any nut milk you fancy; teaspoon of cinnamon; teaspoon of salt; a punnet of blueberries; pancake syrup or agave to serve.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and baking powder. Add the nut milk and the oil and stir gently until everything is combined. Tip the blueberries into the batter and mix in softly (save a few for decoration afterwards!). Plop spoonfuls of batter onto a warmed, non-stick pan that has been lightly greased with a bit of the coconut or vegetable oil. Keep the temperature at a medium heat so you don't burn the batter. Cook until bubbles are forming on the pancake and the edges are going brown, then flip and cook the other side. Add a little more oil to the pan as needed. Cover in fresh blueberries and pancake syrup to serve!

If you try these out let me know what you think and what goodies you added to yours. I hope you're all having a wicked Veganuary, whatever changes you're making. Your efforts are important and I love you.  

A Christmas Gift Guide For Vegan And Cruelty-Free Babes

Although, technically, all my blog posts are vegan blog posts, I wanted to bring you a special gift guide with a cruelty-free and ethical focus. Whether you're buying for someone who's been making changes to their lifestyle, or you want to make an effort to support more animal-friendly companies in your Christmas shopping (and perhaps inspire someone with a conscious gift!) there's something for you here, no matter what your budget. Vegan/organic products get a bad rap for being expensive or inaccessible, but that's just not the case if you do a little research. There are eight vegans in my family (including a vegan doggo) and we all have vastly different interests and tastes, but we never fail to find each other amazing presents. 

Let's start with beauty gift sets. Paul Mitchell do some of my favourite haircare products - I love their detangler spray and their colour-safe shampoos. The new Lavender and Mint set for dry/damaged hair is perfect for someone who has been a bit mean to their tresses this year. My ends have been processed wayyy too many times and are in need of some intense repair, so I will be keeping this one for myself. Next up we have Sukin, a vegan, carbon-neutral, cruelty-free, and organic company from Australia who make ethical and affordable skincare. If you're new to the brand, as I was, one of their three-step gift sets with a cleanser, toner, and moisturiser is a great place to start or initiate a loved one. If you're in London, lots of places stock Sukin, but if you're in Wales you're best off ordering online.

If you want to get a bunny-loving make-up enthusiast something luxurious, how about some high-quality synthetic brushes? I love Spectrum for making totally vegan, colourful, long-lasting brushes that both perform really well and look good on display. The ones you can see here are these ones, but if you know your giftee's zodiac sign, these are stunning and unique. 

If you have a veggie or vegan friend who's missing a certain type of food or doesn't know how to make a herbivore version, a thoughtful cook book with exactly what they need might be just the thing. If cake is their obsession, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World is one that I use often and would recommend for anyone with a sweet tooth. Obviously don't get them a cook book unless cooking is something they really enjoy, but go for it if they are the kind of person who likes to experiment in the kitchen or is struggling for plant-based recipes since making a change,  

If you're really stuck, LUSH is always there to lend a helping hand. If you don't know what someone wants or needs specifically, a face mask is always a fail-safe option. Rosy Cheeks is 100% vegan and suits almost every skin type. It's a simple and fresh blend of rose oil, calamine, and kaolin to balance, cleanse, and nourish your skin. Perfect for someone who's always complaining about that's freaking what all the extreme weather and indoor heating does to their complexion (i.e, me)!

Some of the products here are samples, see my PR page for details

A Christmas Gift Guide For Moon-Worshippers

I've always been in love with the moon. She's a paradox, up there on her own; changeable and yet permanent, coldly mysterious and still our very idea of softness. A mirror that transforms our sorrow, and stays with us when we cannot rest. I'm never able to rely on a good night's sleep, but I can rely on her. The moon is a huge part of my practise as a witch, and keeping track of where she is and what she's up to is always an element of my daily life. I've put together a gift guide for those who love her like I do...or who just want a good night's sleep.

I recently started writing new moon intentions as a meditation practise, and this journal takes that idea a little bit further. It follows the movements of the sun and moon through the year (any year; you add in your own dates to this journal, so the information is always relevant) and through each astrological season. Each season, such as Aries or Scorpio, has affirmations and questions to ask yourself at this time, and plenty of room for taking notes or writing out your intentions. For me, no new or full moon ritual would be complete without Tarot, and finding new books to learn from always helps me expand my understanding of the cards. No two people interpret the Tarot in exactly the same way, so I appreciate different takes on it. This guide focuses on lessons to be learnt and questions to ask yourself, rather than predictions, and has colourful, modern illustrations of diverse characters instead of just white, female figures like a lot of older Tarot decks/books.

The sparkly crescent hair clip is from Oliver Bonas; they recently opened a store in Cardiff, which means I'm in there practically every day now. The staff ask after my mum. I want to buy all the things but I don't really have the room in my flat, so I'm sticking to jewellery, clothes, and books for now. This is a gorgeous stocking-filler for the witch in your life.

Tropic were kind enough to send me a couple of their new releases for Christmas, the So Sleepy Mist and the delicious vanilla Body Velvet. They're both beautifully scented products; the pillow mist is a rich and earthy mix of lavender, eucalyptus, and frankincense; one spray is more than enough to wrap you up in olfactory bliss. I've been using this every night and I adore it. It reminds me of being a little child again, when my mum would drop lavender oil on my pillow before I went to bed. When I want to double-up on the lavender effects and really knock myself out, I have a herbal bath with an oil like this one by Kneipp (which is currently 50% off). Face masks also help to relax me when I'm losing sleep through stress or anxiety. I'm the kind of person who slaps on a face mask hoping it'll fix all my problems, clean my apartment, purify my soul, and give me an extra ten years of life. Most of the time I'm disappointed on that front, but I still love masks and use them several times a week. The Oh K! sleep mask mask makes a really cute little gift for anyone who likes their beauty sleep.

I've had the Sailor Moon Pop forever, but I couldn't not include her here. You can get her on Amazon or at Forbidden Planet. Lastly, I spotted this incandescent crescent moon pillow in H&M Home - it was the last one in my store, but they still sell similar ones. It goes perfectly with my cloud from IKEA, and makes my bed feel so pretty. All I need now is a star. Sweet dreams.

Some of the products featured here are samples, see my PR page for details

Miss Patisserie Haul And Press Evening

I don't often do hauls, for a few reasons. Sometimes I feel a bit showy-offy, and that's not really my style. I do however, LOVE to read them. I like pretty things. If I'm really passionate about a brand though, I will make an exception and overwhelm y'all with a good old-fashioned hauling, like I'm about to do. Sometimes it's just gotta be done.

Miss Patisserie have had an amazing year. They've recently started being stocked in Boots, so you don't have to live near Cardiff to try out their stuff. I'm really excited and proud to see them doing so well; I remember going to their first blogger events in their Castle Arcade store, and falling in love with this super-friendly, Instagrammable home-grown company. The founders and staff are all genuinely lovely people who really care about providing luxurious products that work without compromising on ethics. Everything they make is vegan, cruelty-free, with no parabens or GMO ingredients. Basically, they're just an exceedingly awesome company that I love buying from and working with over and over again. I hope they reach even greater heights in 2018.

Some of this stuff I bought myself, and some was gifted to me at their most recent press evening, one of the most fun work events I've been to in recent memory. The prosecco was flowing and it ended up like a festive night-out with my girlfriends, everyone taking selfies and enjoying vegan rose-shaped cupcakes by Blanche Bakery. As usual they were beyond generous to us guest,s and I left with a big bag of goodies to try, all of which were gorgeous in their own way.

The fresh coffee scrub has become one of my all-time favourite products. I was thrilled to see they'd given me a new one as the one I have is running out and I've grown quite dependent on it. Long-lasting and effective, it's usually the first body scrub I recommend to anyone. It leaves your skin feeling supple and baby-soft rather than raw or dry; I use it multiple times a week to keep my skin in tip-top condition. The only downside is this scrub does leave a bit of a mess after you've used it and you'll have to give the place a quick once-over with your shower head, but I think it's worth it. If you need something to really give you a boost on winter mornings, this is a great choice.

I did get another familiar product, the watermelon body souffle. This moisturiser has a kind of "whipped" texture and improves the tone of my skin with regular use, as well as smoothing dry patches and providing a bit of softness. I think it's a really hard-working body cream and have used it with nice results on razor burn, keratosis, and scars. It also comes in a huge range of scents if watermelon isn't your thing. Watermelon is VERY MUCH my thing, so while I was there I also picked up a watermelon bath slice that caught my eye. These retail at £2 and I think they're only available instore, but they can be broken in half to last two baths, which is an absolute bargain. I don't know about you, but I'm getting a bit tired of paying through the arse for bath bombs these days. Two quid seems mind-bogglingly cheap.

I got a few more bath melts and bombs to test out, which hopefully will tide me over until Christmas. I need lots of decadent baths during the winter to function as a person. The cupcake-shaped melts are a combo product, which is always nifty; half of it dissolves in the water and the rest can be used as an exfoliant in the tub. I like the rose and lavender ones best, but as with almost all Miss P products there's a big selection of fragrances to pick from. If you've never tried anything by this brand then do correct that asap; they are one of my ones-to-watch for the year ahead.

An Uncommon Wishlist

This post contains paid-for content, see my PR page for more

I love this time of year. The season of the witch, or the dark half of the year, as it is known. So many of my friends and family have their birthdays during these cold months, which means that hardly a fortnight goes by without celebrations and gift-giving of some sort. We sometimes end up exchanging small presents on Halloween, Samhain, The Winter Solstice, Christmas, New Years...and then my birthday roles around in January. Sometimes we create and cook up these gifts ourselves, but I also love to find new, quirky businesses to support when I'm buying for my clan, or asking for myself. What I've picked out above is just a tiny selection of all the nifty magical things I spotted at UncommonGoods. I'm especially impressed with their range of handmade jewellery, everything is so beautiful! I'm always far too pleased when I get jewellery from a lover but there's lots more gifts for your girlfriend here, if she's a slightly unconventional type like me, who wants all the things.

I find buying for friends a bit easier than buying for romantic partners, but sometimes I still draw a blank even though I pride myself on pulling cute and original ideas out of the bag when I need to. My aim is usually to get them something they didn't know they needed, that will be a complete surprise. I really like the literary-themed soy candles above, and the chakra-balancing bath salts (they even sell spell candles with hidden crystals inside!) both cool gifts for the Ravenclaws among your peer group. For more ideas for your pals, check out this page.

No matter who I'm buying for, filling up stockings at Yule is always the most fun, because it's where I get to really take risks and get random with my presents for people. In my family we're never able to guess anything that's in our stocking; they're like little bundles of tokens reflecting our personalities and our interests. We like to pack them full of laughs to get us going early on Christmas morning. Even though it's only November and I don't tend to start buying gifts until Advent on December 1st, just thinking about all the celebrations ahead and what gifts I'm going to give has its own kind of tender excitement. We're almost there.

How I Celebrate Samhain

When I was little, I used to throw very extra Samhain parties, with the whole house decorated like a haunted mansion and big buckets of sweets everywhere. We'd play games and perform pranks on guests, dress up however we wanted, and dance. I still love to attend those kinds of parties, but my own celebrations at home have become much more low-key. These days it's mostly a time for introspection, witchcraft, baking and mental preparation for the long winter ahead.

Samhain (pronounced "sow-en") is the Celtic New Year, on which many nature-based religions honour their dead and celebrate rebirth, whether that be in the form of reincarnation or simply returning to the earth from which we came. It is the last of the harvest festivals, heralding the start of winter and the "dark half" of the year. It's also supposed to be the best day of the year to do divination; perfect for Tarot reading or envisioning the new future you want. The veil between worlds is said to be especially thin, so the idea is that it's easier for spirits, guides, ghosts or deities to contact us, should we wish to speak to them. This is why lots of people try using a Ouija board on Samhain night, which I wouldn't recommend, to be honest. Most Wiccans and Pagans will put out pictures of their deceased loved ones, or a plate of food and drink for them. Pumpkins, leaves, dried herbs, conkers, and skulls are all used as altar decorations. However we celebrate, festivities always revolve around endings, closures, our ancestors, letting go of the past, looking back on what we've accomplished, looking inside ourselves to face our shadow, and killing off old habits or relationships that no longer serve us and will not last the winter. I like to carve elaborate pictures and characters into my pumpkins as well as scary faces, and cook comfort food. We rarely get trick-or-treaters at my top-floor apartment, but we still get in heaps of sweets and chocolate for ourselves and whoever should come knocking. One must never turn away a visitor on Samhain night!

Some Wiccans don't like the way people associate Samhain with fear and horror; they believe that this demonization of life's natural darkness only shows our immaturity as a society. To me, the release of fear and a celebration of our shadow selves is a cathartic and a necessary process for the soul - not in a Purge kinda way, mind - and hedonism has its place in the cycle of life. Fear is to be embraced if we are to overcome it. Especially on Samhain. So, I tell ghost stories and I honour my dead. I watch horror movies, and I work magic. It's a time to embrace the skeleton woman, to dance with the devil, to dive deep so that we may find treasure. By doing this we learn to revel in the darkness as well as the light. Samhain is reaping time, when things must die if we want to continue our journey, our life cycle, and our growth. We can perhaps go a little further into our own minds on this night, to meet the demons there, and find them friendlier than we thought. 

Basic Witches

When I was really young, a teenager who didn't quite know the length of her limbs yet, I liked to read Silver Ravenwolf books. They've aged a fair bit by now, and they show it here and there in problematic language with a 90's American mentality, but those books taught me a lot. They taught me that magic isn't about controlling the outside world, or bending it to your desire. In fact, they stressed the importance of respecting free will, and of never dishing out that which you aren't happy to receive in return. It gladdens my little rebellious, moon-worshiping heart when I see books like this emerge for a new generation, who might be drawn to the idea of witchcraft, but not know where to start. I was lucky, I had wise women I could go to for advice, but not everybody is so fortunate. 

Basic Witches, by Jaya Saxena and Jess Zimmerman, is an utterly beautiful-looking book. The illustrations, courtesy of Camille Chew, are pretty magical on their own. If you're looking for instruction on rituals, the witch's calendar, goddesses and gods et cetera, then it probably won't be very helpful, and it doesn't claim to be. More than anything, I feel it's a kind of feminist manual for discovering, or rediscovering, your own personal power and balance. It guides you through caring for your body, creating your life, and nurturing your friendships in a deliberate way full of witchy intention. It's packed full of many cool, simple spells that are easily adapted to suit your needs, if that kinda thing is up your street. You don't need any prior knowledge of witchcraft to have a go at them. Throughout the book you'll also pick up some of the associations witches connect to colours, crystals, days of the week and such, so that you can begin to create your own spells (in my opinion, spells you create from your own knowledge are the most effective and fulfilling) but these aren't the main point or substance of the book. It deals with some weighty and very current issues; body positivity, contraception and abortion, imposter syndrome, consent, libido, abusive relationships, self-care, social media, and mental health are all up for discussion. These conversations are woven through with more light-hearted magic, such as emoji runes, pop culture witches, cutting your own hair, whipping up your own makeup, and choosing a pet familiar. There is levity in the substance, and vice versa. You never feel talked-down-to or silly, and I would have loved the chapters on Glamours (beauty magic) and Enchantment (love and sex magic) to be a bit longer, as I found them so enjoyable.

The finished product is a book about witchcraft that feels very accessible, grounded, and modern. It's a sisterly work filled with witty and progressive advice for anyone, regardless of gender or religious background, who relates to the archetype of the witch: one who is persecuted for taking matters into their own hands, or for possessing too much knowledge. I would especially recommend it to people who might not consider themselves "magical", or "spiritual". I read a lot of books about the craft, about the ins and outs of herbalism, astrology, sex magic and goddess worship, but I also love to dive into books like this just as much; ones that are less about ceremony and more about the badass spirit behind all witchery. You don't have to believe in anything to read this book, except perhaps the power and potential within women, and the marginalized of this world. The magic being cooked up here is all in your mind, and there can be little debate about the power of the mind. Whether you're an atheist or just starting out on your journey into nature-based religions, there's much fun to be had in Basic Witches, and also much empowerment. Let's raise hell.

This post in NOT sponsored, but items were sent for consideration. All opinions are my own and completely honest, as always. For more, see my PR page.