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ravenousveggie

Thoughts on veggie food, work, play and life in general

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ravenousveggie

Veggie Abroad

I have just had the most glorious few days away in Spain.

A great trip with the right combination of relaxation, exploring and cultural delights.

When we arrived my partner and I were both exhausted.  We had worked or volunteered almost every day in the previous couple of months, so a break was needed.  We gave ourselves permission to recuperate. This meant having a decent amount of resting time.  This started on the first day fo our city break. We had breakfast and then went back to our room and back to bed for a few hours.  We slept solidly, so must have needed it.

Our days were filled with visiting the local tourist sites and then sitting in a local park for the last part of each afternoon – refreshment and kindle in hand.

Photo by Mantas Hesthaven on Unsplash

The evening food foray was probably the most stressful part of the day.  Despite thoroughly search Trip Advisor, restaurants mentioned as being “vegetarian friendly” were not always so, and also the opening hours mentioned did not always tie up with reality.

The biggest thing that became apparent was that Spanish customer service is quite different to that in the UK.  Staff attentiveness to customer needs was quite rare. One restaurant we went into we were greeted and seated, and then watched as the same member of staff washed the floor before handing us a menu or asking if we would like a drink.  The arrival of another member of staff did not improve things. She merely washed the same floor as had been done when we arrived.

This lack of attentiveness was apparent is almost every establishment we went to.  As for the young lady in the local supermarket we visited most days, she did not crack a smile once.  She could give you a look of “how dare you interrupt me” as you stood patiently at the till. Her colleague on the bread counter was the complete opposite.  

Finding vegetarian food was a bit of a challenge.  Although there is a vast array of veggie friendly Spanish food it appeared to be difficult to track it down.  Tapas menus would be lengthy but veggie options often almost impossible to find. We did find food and it was lovely. I guess I always think it is a shame that in a large city it is difficult to experience the vegetarian food that fills the cookbooks.

This is something I have experienced on many trips.  I wonder if people visiting London find the same thing?

Another cultural difference was the size of the beer glasses. Used to ordering pints, we had to quickly get used to the smaller serving sizes.  Not wanting to resort to going to the usual Irish Pub we persevered with the local bars. Not once de we find a pint glass, or anything near it.  The locals seem very happy having small servings and having repeated trips to the bar. You could buy larger servings by going to the supermarket and buying cans or bottles there.

We were also intrigued by the fact that you could sit at the park and buy a beer at any time of the day. Perhaps these smaller servings of drinks breed a better respect for alcohol.  The smaller servings did not just relate to alcohol. After a particularly warm walk I sat down looking forward to a refreshing orange juice. Imagine my surprise as my juice arrived in a small tumbler.  Coffee also arrived in much smaller amounts than I am used to.

On the plus side the proliferation of coffee shops and the more relaxed lifestyle, meant that vey few people had take-away coffee and you rarely saw used cups in bins. In fact I saw very little plastic waste as we walked around the city. Where I live the increased number of coffee shops has led to an increase in waste.

I love to travel and experience different cultures. It does leave me wondering what visitors to England think of us. Is there anything they see that they would like to ee in their own countries? Or anything that they find more difficult when visiting?

No Can Do Attitude

I tend to think of myself has having a “can do” attitude.  If a client rings with a problem or issue I see it as a personal challenge to find a solution within the required timescale.  This isn’t always possible, and I’m not a miracle worker, but most of the time I can get things done, or find an interim solution.

I have a colleague who has a “no can do” attitude.  If a client needs something done last minute she fixates on why they didn’t ask for it earlier.  Their poor admin is not her problem. She tells them how difficult it will be to sort it, but without finding a solution first.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

I find this really frustrating.  And it also causes friction in the office as others find her attitude too fixed and negative.  We have all had days when things crop up that we hadn’t planned for, or had forgotten about. But we think on our feet and get through it.

If you have a friend that needs something done and is in a fix, you will do your best to help them. I don’t see a difference between a friend and a client  in these circumstances (although there are things I’d do for a friend that I wouldn’t do for a client!)

I don’t know what the answer is to changing her attitude. She is not good at learning new things.  Perhaps we are the ones that need to find a way to look past this perceived weakness and put in place a better way of dealing and communicating with clients in these circumstances.

Monthly Loves – May

May seems to have happened in the blink of an eye – it must have been all those bank holidays!

Zoom – this video conferencing software is transforming my life – giving me more time in the office and getting me out of the car.

Bagels – I had forgotten how good bagels are for lunch.  Avocado, tomato and olive is my current favourite filling

The British Library – They have an interesting mix of exhibitions and information, plus an excellent small business support hub.  Makes me wish I live in London so I could attend the seminars more easily.

Magnesium Supplement – transforming my sleep pattern and helping my recovery from a shoulder injury.

Green Stationery

In my bid to leave less of a footprint on the planet I have been looking for environmentally friendly stationery.  I am a great user of refillable notebooks, pens, recycled paper and making scrap pads out of leftover paper.

I have recently put together a new package for my clients.  It helps them write a robust business plan and then to review it every month.  My task was how to package it. I wanted to find a way that the package can be stored and added to each month.  To keep it neat and tidy, but also easily identifiable and looking good so it motivates you to use it. It didn’t need to be big either.

So I started looking. It turns out that there are no really smart, colourful folders that don’t contain plastic.  Document wallets are either fully plastic, or of a cardboard design that are too big and clunky, or look like something that an official in a stuffy office would use.

Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

I searched various green stationery sites.  Some items such as pens and rulers can be made from recycled plastic.  But not in the case of presentation folders. Even some of the ones that look nice and appear to be made from card have a plastic coating.

Now I  know that stationery should not be seen as a one use plastic, but a lot of people don’t see it that way.  My company recently moved office and in the move we reduced the number of files we needed. This left a pile of twenty plus hardly used ring back files.  My co-directors were happy for these to be simply binned and put to landfill. They can’t be recycled due to the plastic coating. I balked at the idea and took it upon myself to find a new home for them.  I am happy to say that a week later I had homes for all but three of them.

If the majority of people see stationery as disposable, or don’t think that others can use items at the end of their life, then we need to come up with more recyclable options.

So this is a call for designers out there to come out with an alternative to the clunky, dull card presentation folders.  

In the meantime I have asked my clients who are using the new package how they would like it presented.  It turns out that as I have raised the issue, they have thought about it and are happy to find their own storage solution for the documents.

A good solution I think!

I have recently put together a new package for my clients.  It helps them write a robust business plan and then to review it every month.  My task was how to package it. I wanted to find a way that the package can be stored and added to each month.  To keep it neat and tidy, but also easily identifiable and looking good so it motivates you to use it. It didn’t need to be big either.

So I started looking. It turns out that there are no really smart, colourful folders that don’t contain plastic.  Document wallets are either fully plastic, or of a cardboard design that are too big and clunky, or look like something that an official in a stuffy office would use.

I searched various green stationery sites.  Some items such as pens and rulers can be made from recycled plastic.  But not in the case of presentation folders. Even some of the ones that look nice and appear to be made from card have a plastic coating.

Now I  know that stationery should not be seen as a one use plastic, but a lot of people don’t see it that way.  My company recently moved office and in the move we reduced the number of files we needed. This left a pile of twenty plus hardly used ring back files.  My co-directors were happy for these to be simply binned and put to landfill. They can’t be recycled due to the plastic coating. I balked at the idea and took it upon myself to find a new home for them.  I am happy to say that a week later I had homes for all but three of them.

If the majority of people see stationery as disposable, or don’t think that others can use items at the end of their life, then we need to come up with more recyclable options.

So this is a call for designers out there to come out with an alternative to the clunky, dull card presentation folders.  

In the meantime I have asked my clients who are using the new package how they would like it presented.  It turns out that as I have raised the issue, they have thought about it and are happy to find their own storage solution for the documents.

A good solution I think!

Bathroom Design

Do you ever walk into a hotel bathroom and think, ‘ooh this is nice – roomy, nicely decorated, shower and a separate bath!’?

And then you start to use it and wonder what the designers were thinking?

Photo by Steven Ungermann on Unsplash

A vast expanse of wall to use but the toilet roll holder is put somewhere where you can’t easily reach it (usually behind you). Toilets wedged in close to the shower for no apparent reason. 

Towel holders are on the other side of the room to the bath/shower, even though there is ample wall space to have them closer.  I love staying at Mal Maison – they have lovely rooms and their bathrooms always look and feel luxurious. They do fall down on easy to reach towel holders.

Sinks are frequently designed to look good, but not to use.  At Champneys I had a lovely looking sink, however it was so wide that it took forever to fill as it was so wide.    Often you get those deep, but small square or oval sinks, with taps which come out so far into the bowl that you can’t  wash your face without headbutting the taps or hitting them with your hands.

Then you get the taps that were not designed for the sink.  Taps that don’t reach far enough into the sink so that you can’t  wash your hands under running water.

When you re-do your own bathroom you probably spend ages looking at how best to maximise the space.  You have a good think about what you are going to need where, and how you will be using the space.

Is it me, or does this not seem to happen in hotel design?

Portion Size

Do you ever go out to eat but feel let down by the portion size?  Now I don’t want you to think I am a greedy person with ‘eyes bigger than my stomach’ (as my mother would say).  Its just that sometimes the portion size of veggie food is so much less than that of the meat and fish options. It just leaves you feeling short changed. And hungry.

One of the first things you get asked by non vegetarians is ‘where do you get your protein from?’  Sometimes I sit in restaurants and ask myself the same question.

On a recent visit to Champneys one of the evening meal options was teryaki braised tofu.  I thought this sounded wonderful as I love tofu. So I ordered it. The portion of tofu that turned up was miniscule.  There was one small two inch strip of tofu on the top of some noodles. By contrast those that ordered the meat equivalent had 4-5 similar sized pieces of meat.  They looked at my meal and all commented on the lack of main ingredient.

This isn’t the first time I have noticed this.  Wagamama has done the same in the past. The tofu portion size has always been small in comparison to the meat equivalent.    I am glad to report that this has improved with the latest menu.


More tofu in the latest portions from Wagamama

A local Michelin starred restaurant I went to served up one duck egg in a jus with a baby leek as a vegetarian main. The meat eaters had two slices of meat, plus veg and potato.

But it isn’t necessarily about protein.  Eating out one Sunday at a local gastro pub I ordered a main of pasta.  My other half ordered their famous roast dinner, which cost £15 – only £3 more than pasta dish.  The extra £3 made all the difference – the roast dinner had 3 times the amount of food. My pasta dish consisted literally of a plate of pasta.  No side salad, or bread. And it wasn’t a big plate. I finished my dish quite quickly and watched my other half continue to wade through his pile of food.  My pasta dish was about the size of the side of veg he had. And, apart from feeling hungry, I was left feeling slightly ripped off. £12 for a plate of pasta that probably cost £5 to make.

I don’t know why some restaurants seem to think that vegetarians have smaller appetites. I have not met one yet. Vegetarian food is much cheaper to buy so why charge the same for smaller portions size, and often less complex dishes.   Is it a lack of understanding and thought or is it greed – of the money kind?

Monthly Loves – April

April – a month of holidays, warmer weather and a special party

  • Seville – My partner and I managed to escape the cooler weather and spent 6 nights in Seville.  It is a lovely city, easily discoverable on foot (and lot of trams to get around on) plus great train links to other cities.  We also managed a day trip to Cadiz by train. Eating out as a vegetarian was interesting but not overly difficult. The restaurants in the centre generally had a better vegetarian choice.  The restaurants used by the locals were more limited, but did have better atmosphere. Our hotel also had an excellent environmental policy……

  • Dance In The Hurricane – I am a  big fan of Toyah and have been since 1980.  Her latest album, In The Court Of the Crimson Queen, is a great re-working of a previous album with some great new tracks added.  Dance In The Hurricane is probably my favourite new track. It is deeply personal and poignant and brings back memories to me of my own family.  
  • We celebrated my Aunt Meg’s 90th birthday, and I was put in charge of organising the cake for the party.  To be honest I was a bit daunted by this. I love cake and am great at eating it, but cooking or ordering one was a whole new world for me. I also had to please both my sister and my aunt.  No pressure then. Making it myself was an immediate no go. Time constraints and my inability to cook any cake that doesn’t come our brick-like were my biggest issues. But trying to find a cake maker who could do produce one was much more of a struggle than i expected.  Apparently they get fully booked up months in advance. Luckily for me I found Putty Cakes, who produced the most amazing cake, beautifully decorated and conveniently located on the way to the party venue.

Long Service Award

I recently had the humbling experience of being given a long service award. This was in relation to me completing ten years in a voluntary role as a Community First Responder.

 

Community First Responders are volunteers with the Ambulance service who attend 999 medical emergencies in their local communities.  The idea is that we can often get to patients, and start giving medical attention, before the Ambulance service arrives.

 

On one hand I was really grateful to be recognised for my service.  On the other hand I had difficulty receiving my award from the Chief Executive, who had only been in post for a little over a year and was about to leave for a new job.

 

As I looked round the room I came to the realisation that all the people at the top of the organisation were relatively new in post.  The majority of people receiving long service awards were all frontline staff. Some of these staff I too had had the privilege of working with over the years.  Some I could remember from my first year responding.

 

When I first started volunteering the Ambulance trust had a relatively stable management structure.  I got to know those in senior roles – meeting them at training sessions and out on jobs. As a volunteer I felt included and that I was really making a difference.

 

Over the last seven years I have lost count of the number of manager we have had.  The average length in post for them is 6 months. Very few of them have had experience of dealing with volunteers.  It feels that some see it as tick box exercise to add value to their CV. For some it is an internal HR issue as they are seconded into the role and them moved on elsewhere  – even when they want to stay in post.

 

This lack of stability has led to a real disconnect between the volunteers and the organisation.  We know changes need to be made on the way our role is delivered and to our knowledge base and training.  However the way this is being rolled out feels as though it is assuming we have nothing else to do and have all the time in the world to attend training sessions.  The understanding of how volunteers work is severely lacking.

 

So receiving a long service award, from someone who had been with  the organisation for such a short time, and was about to leave, just felt really strange, as well as really good. 

 

But then this is a reflection of the world we work in now where long careers with the same organsiation is becoming a thing of the past.  Long Service Awards may also become obsolete one day, so I am thankful to get one.

 


Photo by Courtney Hedger on Unsplash

Task Overload

Ever had one of those days where, in your head, the number of tasks to complete appears to outweigh the time available?  We all go through this at some point, but how can you deal with it?

One option is ‘head in the sand’ and jut plough on its what your memory says needs doing first.

Another option is to take some time to review your tasks and review agains priority and ongoing tasks.

I recently went through this process and  ended up limiting all my clients and the amount of time I spend on them monthly.  I then added time for my own company admin and even time for lunch breaks.

This showed that, even allowing for travel time, I have enough time each week to do everything I need to.

This was good news for my panicked, overloaded mind.

My next step was to create a quick visual to show what work I can do and when.  This was only an high level view as, apart from a couple of clients who I visit on specific days, no week is the same.  

This has helped me come up with a strategy for planning my weeks.

In addition to this I use Asana to track all my tasks.  It is a great tool to use to help track projects, one off and repeating tasks.  It is also free to use or up to 10 members.

Having completed this review, and put a task tracker in place, I now feel that I can handle my current or load.  I also now have a way of identifying when the work load is becoming too much, and I need to get some help, before it becomes too stressful.

How do you plan and manage your time? Would love to know your top tips and apps that you use.

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