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

Halloumi Burgers – Just a Posh Grilled Cheese Sandwich?

Readers of my previous blogs will know that I am not a massive fan of cheese and halloumi and feta are at the bottom of my list of cheeses I do like.  I simply don’t like the taste of them. Sorry.  

Strong flavoured cheese can also trigger my migraines and I know that if I avoid it, I don’t get them.

My problem with cheese is that,  having been a vegetarian for so long, and knowing that there is a vast array of foods I can eat, when you eat out every veggie meal seems to have cheese with it. 

And yes I have been offered the halloumi burger without the halloumi in it by a new waitress who had very little understanding of the menu.

If you look through The Vegetarian Society Magazine the majority of recipes contain cheese of some sort.  And if you are vegan well vegan cheese is rife.

One of my other bugbears is the price of vegetarian food when eating out.  Last week I paid £12 for a bowl of pasta with a mushroom sauce. No salad. No bread.  Just a bowl of pasta. It was delicious, but when it comes to portion size I wasn’t that impressed.  It didn’t feel like £12 of food and skill to cook it. Especially when compared to the meat and fish main courses which were £2 more but had a third more food on the plate.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

So imagine my joy at the halloumi Burger.  A frequent menu item where restaurants want to cater for vegetarians, and dished out at a pound or two below the price of a meat burger.  There is not much that goes into a halloumi burger. It is a bit of grilled cheese in a bun with some dressing and salad.. Meat burgers can have a much more complicated preparation, especially if they are made on site.  They can contain different flavourings and different types of meat (which we know is expensive). 

It is a glorified grilled cheese sandwich.

And why charge so much for a slab of cheese in a bun?  I can go to my local cafe and have a toasted cheese sandwich with garnish and chips for less than half the price of a halloumi burger (in fact their halloumi burger is generally half the price you pay elsewhere).

I like eating out with friends and realise that it is difficult to put together a menu to please everyone.  I am just hopeful that the current trend for halloumi and feta (all those salads!), changes soon. Or that the people compiling the menus step back and look at their menu and go ‘is that value for money, and is there enough variety?’

Monthly Loves – July

July brought us incredibly warm weather, which I always enjoy – even the very hot weather made me feel slightly more alive than usual!  The month left me on a negative note as my Aunt passed away (hence no post last week). She was a lovely lady who led an interesting life.

Journaling – I attended a bullet journaling course at The Britih Library.  I quickly fell for this way of organising your life and being creative at the same time.  I will spending August looking for new pencils, pens and stickers!

Friends – It’s been a difficult month but I have been so well supported by my partner and friends.  They all know exactly the right type and amount of support I need, and were there when I needed some support

Line of Duty – I know I’m late to the party but I really enjoyed the latest series of Line of Duty!

Measure for Measure – Another excellent RSC Live performance and a chance for me to expand my knowledge of Shakespeare’s plays.

Baked Avocado – First time I have ever eaten avocado baked and it was delicious

Reducing Travel

My job involves meeting people and therefore travelling.  Where I live and work is well connected to London, but not so much to the South Coast or the surrounding towns and villages.

I go to a lot networking events, plus I like to meet clients in person.  This means I spend a lot of time in the car travelling between appointments and events. Although I have a hybrid car and try to drive efficiently, I am still concerned about the impact of my travel on the environment.

I’d like to take public transport more, but the journey times and the cost start to make it look more prohibitive.  A thirty minute drive to Brighton equates to just under two hours by either bus or train. The bus is the cheapest option but the WiFi is not stable so precludes much working on the way. The train costs twice as much as driving and is generally unreliable.  

Of course I am looking at this cost in terms of time and money and not the impact on the environment.  

But I need to have a mindset change.  A lot of my client conversations can be quite personal  and detailed. I like to meet face to face as I can see their full reaction to questions and suggestions.  In my previous corporate life I used to use video conferencing a lot. The picture quality was ok, but time lag could make conversations difficult.  I have tried Skype over the years but always found that the system drops out after about 15 minutes.

Recently I was introduced to Zoom.  I joined a group call and was amazed by the quality and stability of the system.  So I have started to book Zoom calls with existing and potential clients. This has so far been met with enthusiasm.

Using video conference to reduce travel
Photo by Alejandro Escamilla on Unsplash

Looking at my diary this is freeing up much more time in the office and means I can walk to work more.

There will still be days where using the car will be the only practical option, however I am committed to making these days the exception rather than the norm.


I tend to see lots of eyes roll in my office if anyone mentions recycling.  Many years ago I was a volunteer for Greenpeace. I would spend my weekends standing in town centres across Sussex speaking to people about how they make less of an impact on the environment, highlighting the  issues around nuclear power, GMO food, melting ice caps, BP drilling for oil in the arctic and the dangers of drinking water from plastic bottles.

So you could say I have an interest in working out what can be recycled and where.

To this end I am able frequently to enlighten my colleagues on where you can recycle things they thought couldn’t be recycled – pens, crisp packets, cat food pouches etc.  The reason they think they can’t be recycled is that they get all their information from what the local council can recycle on the doorstep.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

In this climate of increasing calls for everyone to do more, I find this lack of wanting to find more solutions quite depressing.  From a selection of people who don’t want to be over controlled by the state, they are looking to the council to provide the information they need to make changes that could help the planet.

Ask them about buying a new car, then they are all over it.  But ask them to do something to look after the environment then there is a severe lack of motivation.  Why is that? When asked they say it won’t affect them. But they are not thinking of their children and grandchildren.  I am the only one in my office without children, but I still care about the future of the planet.

Their lack of care for the world around them leaves me feeling frustrated, despondent and thinking I should not bother myself.  Luckily this doesn’t last very long, but I still don’t understand why they are not motivated to do more.

Monthly Loves – June

June was a busy month at work, but I also managed a cheeky weekend away.  It was good to get some warm, dry weather at last, and so I managed some time out in the garden.  I can definitely feel my energy returning with the warmer weather. In June I loved the following:

  • Earth Kind – In my effort to cut down my plastic use I am always on the look out for hints and tips.  Earth Kind provide a consultancy service to help you reduce your plastic use.  Definitely worth getting in touch if you would like a helping hand in moving towards a zero waste lifestyle.
Jason Leung – Unsplash
  • We managed a few days away in Cornwall and were taken to The Coddy Shack in Looe.  This is a fish and chip shop which also has a fully licensed restaurant.  It sells more than just fish and chips and has a really good vegetarian menu.  The cakes are good too!
  • Brewers Fayre – On our few days away we ended up staying at a Premier Inn with very little food choices nearby.  However I was pleasantly surprised by the Veggie/Vegan offering from Brewers Fayre. The price and portion size were good, and there were even starters I could eat (one for Beefeater to take note of!)
  • Greggs Vegan Sausage Roll – another reflection on time spent out and about!  I finally succumbed at a motorway service station and tried the vegan sausage roll.  I have to say I was not expecting to like it, but now if I am hungry, and in a hurry, it will probably be my go to ‘on the run’ snack.  The first time ever I have liked something in Greggs!

Would You Hide From A Client?

Have you ever hidden from your client – even when they are coming into your office or a meeting?

This occurred recently at work.  Following a particularly difficult meeting with a client and their adviser my colleague decided to stay away from the office completely when they can back to resolve the issues.  This left our member of staff, who had been quite upset at the previous meeting, to deal with the client on her own.  

I was quite shocked at this.  The adviser had been quite rude and are to the meeting gunning for a fight.  But to avoid the situation after and leave a member of staff to pick up the pieces astounded me.  I do not know what my colleague is hiding from, or what the full issues are, but to me this is not leadership.

The previous meeting had been intense. Our client had not stood up for us in front of her adviser. I wonder if she had enough knowledge to do so, or if she just kept quiet –  bemused by the whole episode.

It turns out that following this episode my colleague has decided not to take on any more clients for this specific service. They are also avoiding talking about what happened.

hiding from the client
Photo by John T on Unsplash

One thing strikes me though – you can’t garner, or mend, good client relations by hiding.  Things go wrong. Mistakes get made. But keeping away so you don’t have to face them is wrong.  I have never been given this option since starting this company, and even if I had I don’t think I would have shied away.

Facing up to mistakes and client problems help you grow as a person, improves your skills and shows leadership.  If you want to hide then you may as well not have the client. If my colleague had faced the issues head on perhaps they would have learned how to change the offering going forward, and how to avoid this mistake in the future.

Would you hide from a client?

Day Off

So I have a day to myself.  A rare day off with nothing planned.  One of those days I dream of.

But what should I do with the day?  I have a list of mundane housework items that need doing.  Part of me knows they need to be done. The other part of me goes “no, relax, do something for yourself.  Take some time out”

I also have a long list of things I’d like to do.  Sitting in the garden and reading is always top of this list.  Now the day has come I can’t remember anything else on this wish list.

I’d like to do some gardening, but this is beginning to feel like a chore, rather than a joy now I have the time.    My front garden tends towards the more wild side and I suffer from gardeners embarrassment. I grew up in a garden that was completely surrounded by hedges.  No one could see you working. My front garden has none of this. The neighbours and anyone going past can see exactly what I am doing. I can hear them thinking “Oh at last she is doing something!  You don’t want to weed like that !”.

Photo by Sandy Millar on Unsplash

This gardening anxiety puts me off doing anything.

I know that I fancy driving to a lovely spot on the South Downs, taking a stroll and sitting down in the sun with a good book and some tea and cake.  But I spend so much of my time during the week driving between meetings, that I can’t face getting into the car.

I resolve to clean the bathroom and then move into the garden.  I may end up sitting and reading if the weather is good enough. I may attempt to tame some borders (but not in the front garden!) .

Photo by Tina Dawson on Unsplash

But whatever I do I will give myself permission to do what i want and not feel guilty for not achieving anything.

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.

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