Monday, 30 November 2015

Recipe: Lemony Lentil Soup

Since changing up my diet, reading cookery books and food blogs has become part of my daily routine.  Some of my favourite blogs of the moment are The Full Helping, Oh My Veggies and Cookie and Kate.  One of my favourite books which I've pulled many of my favourite recipes from is A Modern Way to Eat by Anna Jones.

A Modern Way to Eat is a vegetarian recipe book with many of the recipes naturally being vegan or can be easily adapted to being vegan friendly.  If you are looking for an amazingly easy to make but really tasty dinner, I recommend trying Anna's Tomato and Coconut Cassoulet *drool*.  

One of the first recipes that caught my eye was the Lemony Lentil Soup with Crispy Kale.  Coming from a small town in Ayrshire, Scotland, I was raised on lentil soup.  I'm sure most Scots will proclaim that either their mum or grannies lentil soup is the best...but honestly Alison Carr's lentil soup beats all others ;).  I was interested to see how adding lemon to red lentil soup would work so eagerly tried it. I've shared the recipe from Anna's website below.


A splash of olive of rapeseed oil
1 leek washed, trimmed and finely sliced
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons of ground cumin
2 teaspoons of mustard seeds
2-3 lemons
250g red split lentils
1 veg stock cube
4 handfuls of kale, washed, trimmed and shredded

To Serve
Yoghurt stirred with a little sea salt

Get a large pan on the heat.  Add a little oil and turn the heat to medium.  Add the leek and fry for a couple of minutes until it has softened and smells sweet then add the spices and fry for another couple of minutes.  Squeeze in the juice of one lemon and stir around to lift the spices from the bottom of the pan.

Next, add the lentils, 1.5 litres of water and the stock cube and allow to bubble away for 25-30 minutes until the lentils have cooked and the soup has thickened.

Turn of the heat and if you like, blitz the whole lot to a thin dhal consistency, then squeeze in the juice of the other two lemons, tasting as you go to make sure it doesn't get too lemony.  It may seem like a lot, but you really want the lemony tang to come through.

Just before you're about to serve, saute the kale in a little olive oil until it slightly softens but begins to crisp at the edges.

Ladle into bowls and top with the salted yoghurt and crispy kale.

This soup is delicious.  The lemon juice makes it taste fresh and light which is helped by blitzing the soup in a blender making it quite thin in consistency.  As you can see in the photographs above, I haven't made the crispy kale.  I make this soup to take to work for lunch and it's easier to just take the soup in a flask without bringing along a bag of crispy kale.  However, if you're eating this at home...MAKE THE KALE. It's beautiful.

I have recently became addicted to Food Matters TV and love finding out more about what is in my food and what health benefits particular ingredients promote and this soup is packed with health promoting ingredients:

Turmeric - I've been introducing more and more turmeric into my diet.  It has a high amount of beautiful anti-inflammatory properties and has a powerful antioxidant effect along with a whole host of other health benefits (google it, you'll be amazed).  Basically, include more turmeric in your diet.

Red Lentils - I love lentils and probably eat them in some form every day.  Red lentils are low in calories but high in nutrition.  They are a good source of protein and iron, help lower cholesterol, promote heart and digestive health and are an excellent source of slow-releasing energy.

Kale - It's the most nutrient dense food on the planet! Kale is full of vitamins and minerals like Vitamin C + K, magnesium, calcium, beta-carotene and antioxidants.  

If you're looking for a new soup to try for lunch, I highly recommend trying this! I would love to know what some of your favourite lunch ideas are - I always struggle to think of creative lunches!

Love Nicola

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Yoga & I: A Lesson in Cultivating Compassion, Gratitude and Empowerment

If you had told me a year ago I was heading towards becoming a cruelty free, non-meat eating, yoga practicing person I would probably of laughed in your face.  What a difference a year makes.  This summer, while on holiday with my family I got a message from a friend asking if I wanted to go to a free yoga class at a studio that had recently opened in Glasgow. The class was only 30 minutes long and so I agreed, having done very little yoga previously (mainly via You Tube in the comfort of my own home).

Fast forward to the day of our class and my friend had to cancel last minute (Don't feel bad if you're reading this Helen!).  It's important to note that at this point, anxiety and panic attacks ruled my life alongside a daily battle with serious body confidence issues.  I instantly spiralled into a pit of self doubt: there was no way I could walk into a room where I didn't know anyone and take a class that was completely foreign to me.  I spent the whole day in a state of panic.  It would of been the easiest thing to just hit the cancel button however I couldn't escape a feeling in the pit of my stomach that I needed to go this class. I somehow forced myself to listen to my gut  and found myself outside of the studio with my boyfriend practically pushing me out of the car.   Once inside I couldn't even bring myself to speak to anyone, my voice just disappeared.  I hid at the back of the class and I practically ran out of the room as soon as the class was over however...I FREAKING WENT AND FINISHED!

Almost five months on, I am now a member of the most beautiful yoga studio The Kali Collective  and I'm practicing yoga almost daily.  I've attended a six week mindfulness course which has introduced me to meditation, taken various workshops that have really expanded my mind and completed a 30 day yoga challenge.  It hasn't been easy and I've cried on my mat more than times that I can count but the differences I've felt both in my body and my mind have made it all worth it.  Here are the three main things I've learned through my practice:

Compassion: I've changed a huge amount in the last year and this can be contributed greatly towards my decision to live a more compassionate lifestyle.  However, I would often forget to practice compassion towards myself.  Being mindful of how I talk to and about myself has really opened my eyes to how destructive I could be towards my own self worth.  This in turn has huge implications towards my panic and anxiety.  Think about how you speak to yourself - would you talk that way to  or about other people?  I know I never would.  Replace thoughts like 'I can't do this' (which I'm the queen of) with the acknowledgment that trying something new can be scary or difficult and think 'I'm going give this my best try' and if you don't succeed at first, that's ok, you tried your hardest.

Yoga has given me the time and space to start peeling away the layers of self doubt and anxiety that prevented me from discovering my true potential; practicing self compassion has been key to this.

Gratitude: In the first week of my mindfulness class, we focussed on gratitude.  I started writing a gratitude journal which has really helped begin to change my mind set.  It can be the tiniest of things, (like today I am grateful for my huge Vego bar) however learning to appreciate the gifts that life has given me has allowed me to open my mind towards the possibilities that I may have previously let slip by due to fear.  Practicing gratitude has equipped me to better deal with the shitty situations life throws up. An example is how I deal with panic attacks.  With each panic attack (which are getting fewer and fewer) I get better equipped at dealing with them.  I'm given the opportunity to put what I've learned into practice.

Leading on from this, yoga has taught me to be grateful for my body.  I've struggled greatly with body confidence issues.  I was diagnosed with PCOS this year and for a long time felt like my body was working against me, I'm a serial yo-yo dieter, my weight fluctuates up and down, dragging my self confidence along with it.  I've found that with each new pose I learn, each time I twist a little deeper or stretch a little further, my focus shifts from how my body looks to what it can do.  The more consistent I am with my practice, the more my body craves movement.  

Empowerment: This has come from practicing at The Kali Collective whose ethos is 'empowered movement'.  Yoga has empowered me to explore my mind/body connection.  It still amazes me that I can twist my body into a particular pose which in turn invokes an emotional response (I cry practically every time I'm in pigeon pose for example).  Yoga has given me the chance to take back control of my body and thoughts.  My practice gives me the time to take a moment to work on myself which can be scary, exciting and empowering all at the same time.  I vividly remember the first time I  was taught camel pose. I had the most intense thumping in my chest which for the longest time was the first signal of a panic attack.  However, I had created this feeling through movement and it felt amazing. I finally felt like I was regaining control of my body again and for that, I will be forever grateful.

So here I am, five months later crying while I write this for the girl at her first yoga class, who felt  completely lost and overwhelmed by a ball of panic. If only she could see herself as I do now, one of the bravest people I know.    

Lots of Love

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Smellin' Sweet: Current Perfume Favourites

I love perfume.  It's probably the one question I ask the most: 'What perfume are you wearing?' Imagine my horror when I discovered that out of all of my favourite perfumes, none were cruelty free.  I took to  google to research cruelty free perfume and two names consistently came up: Pacifica and Lush. Both were inexpensive compared to what I was used to paying with lots of scents to choose from and available close by.  This cruelty free perfume business didn't have to be as hard as I first thought!

Mediterranean Fig

Pacifica isn't a brand I was familiar with until I started to research cruelty free companies however they always seemed to get good reviews whenever I read about them online.  I found a good range of Pacifica perfumes in Whole Foods, coming in both a roller ball (above), a spray and a solid perfume form.  As a rule, all Pacifica products are 100% Vegan and cruelty free.  As a brand they are extremely environmentally aware which I love and are passionate about producing natural products that perform well. All of their liquid perfumes are made from a natural grain alcohol while their solid perfumes are coconut and soy wax based.

Fig scents are one of my favourites so I was naturally drawn to 'Mediterranean Fig'.  The scent is fresh yet earthy with notes of fig, palm, cyclamen, moss and clove with a base of sandalwood.  It's the perfect everyday scent.  The one let down of this perfume is it's longevity, I definitely need to reapply if I want to smell it throughout the day.  I have wondered if this is because it's a roller ball.  I'm used to a spray bottle which allows a more generous application.  I've found Pacifica's spray perfumes on Feel Unique for £19 for 28 ml.  Once I've used this roller ball up I think I'll definitely purchase a spray bottle!


Despite being a huge Lush fan, I had never really paid any attention to their perfumes.  My sister bought me 'Karma' as a birthday present and I love it although it really seems to be a scent that divides people.  It layers orange, patchouli, lavender, lemongrass, elemi and cassie.  I've found that I need to let 'Karma' settle as it can be a little overpowering when first sprayed (I think on account of the patchouli).  However, when it settles it's a bright citrus scent that I've described as sunshine in a bottle. 'Karma' is a far more herbal scent than I'm used to but I really love it.  One or two sprays at the most is all that is needed for the whole day (honestly more is less with 'Karma').  You can buy 'Karma' from Lush stores and online, retailing at £24 for 30 ml.

I have a couple of perfumes on my list that I want to try.  I have recently discovered a company called  Eden Perfumes that create organic, vegan versions of high end perfumes.  From Tom Ford to Chanel Eden have it, for a much more purse friendly £15 for 30 ml.  I'll be sure to update you all!

Lots of Love

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Travellin' in Thailand: The City

If you follow me on Instagram (which y'all should), you will know that I've just came back from holiday in Thailand.  To help fight the Thailand blues, I decided to do a mini series on MITMU all about my time in Thailand.  I've split it into three parts: The City, The Jungle and The Beach.

We spent three days in Bangkok and if I'm honest, I approached my time there with a little trepidation.  I had the impression that Bangkok would be intimidating, overcrowded and dirty.  Within a couple of hours I realised that I shouldn't have worried...I loved Bangkok.  While it was a little overwhelming at times, I have never been in a city where people have been as friendly.  As soon as people saw us with a map, they offered to help with directions.

We must of looked a little lost one day while trying to find somewhere to eat.  A woman approached us and gave us directions to the shopping centre she thought we were looking for.  When she found out we were looking for somewhere to eat, she ushered us into a tuk tuk, haggled the local thai rate and directed us to apparently one of the best restaurants in Bangkok.  The fact that we were two veggies in a seafood restaurant was beside the point, it was the thought that counts.  I guess some things get a little lost in translation!

Accommodation - There are so many hotels in Bangkok to choose from which really works in your favour as you can get amazing room rates (I really recommend using Travel Pony).  We stayed in two different hotels while we were in Bangkok - Anantara Bangkok Sathorn and the U Sukhumvit Bangkok.  I would recommend either to anyone visiting Bangkok.

Rooftop bars are popular in Bangkok.  The U Sukhumvit has a rooftop pool with bar which was an amazing place to chill out in the evening (and the cocktails were amazing).  The sun sets around half 6 in Thailand and you get amazing views of this from the rooftop bars.

 However, Zoom sky bar and restaurant in Anantara stole the show.  37 floors up you get the best view of the Bangkok skyline, amazing music and even better food.

Things to do.  We spent one day in Bangkok visiting Wat Arun and the Grand Palace. Unfortunately, Wat Arun was being refurbished at the time so there was quite a lot of scaffolding. However it was still amazing to see. We were humbled by getting blessed by a Monk with Sacred Thread, which symbolises luck and fortune.

The Grand Palace was absolutely breathtaking to see.  It is split up into several different buildings and gardens.  Although it has been partially opened up to the public, it is still an operating palace.

My one tip for visiting the temples in Thailand is to ensure you behave and dress respectfully.  The dress code for the grand palace is stricter than others, a scarf covering your shoulders won't do, you need to be wearing sleeves that cover your shoulders.  You can rent cover ups within the Grand Palace  however the queues can get quite long.  Also, when you are within the temple, make sure you take off your shoes and under no circumstances take any photographs!

Another must see in Bangkok is the MBK Centre.  It's a huge shopping centre with seven floors and believe me, if you want it, you can find it in the MBK Centre.  Each floor has a 'theme' - electronics, clothes, beauty etc.  My one big tip for the MBK Centre...HAGGLE!

MBK is in the same district as Siam square which was amazing to wander around with lots of amazing independent shops and stalls.  We also spent some time in Khao San Road, a huge road home to lots of backpackers.  Here you can get cheap drinks, food, clothes and beauty treatments.  We got a manicure and pedicure for less than £20!

Getting Around.  Getting around Bangkok is incredibly easy.  There's the sky train, which is the cleanest, and best air conditioned train I've ever been on.  It's quick, cheap and easy to use.

Getting a tuk tuk is probably the most fun way to travel in Thailand, though at times it can be a little scary;  I don't think lanes are a big thing on Bangkok roads! It's best to agree a price before you get in and again don't be scared to haggle!  There are also taxis everywhere in Bangkok which are quite cheap, but always ask to use the meter or you could end up paying a lot more than you need to (we found this out the hard way!)

I can't wait to write my next post on the jungle - elephants, tents and sustainable tourism!

Love Nic

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Cruelty Free Hair Care

When I decided to go cruelty free, hair care was one of the first areas in my beauty routine I changed up.  I instantly turned to one of my favourite brands, Lush and haven't looked back.  I love how easy it is for me to shop in Lush, all I have to do is look for the Vegan symbol on the front of the packaging and I'm good to go!

Rehab Shampoo has to be my favourite product I've discovered since going cruelty free.  It combines a number of different fruit juices (pineapple, papaya, kiwi and mango) with olive oil, jojoba oil, sea salt, seaweed and peppermint.  My hair seems to love this combination: the fruit juices have a gentle clarifying effect, the oils add some much needed moisture and shine and the sea salt gives volume.  My hair has been so shiny since using Rehab, without leaving my hair feeling 'slippery'.  What I love about Rehab is while giving my hair shine, it is also volumising.  Importantly, it leaves my hair smelling delicious - the perfect balance of citrus and peppermint.

I have previously tried a couple of hair conditioners from Lush; if you're a long time reader of MITMU you might remember my obsession with American Cream a couple of years ago; one of the best smelling hair products on the planet but sadly not Vegan. I was recommended Veganese by a member of staff and have since repurchased it three times.  

Veganese is not the most heavy duty of conditioners, but is perfect for everyday use.  If you have a coarser hair type, it may be a little too light for you .  Veganese combines agar agar gel (derived from Seaweed) with rosemary, lavender and lemon juice and oil.  Perfect for my fine hair type, Veganese doesn't weigh hair down and works well with Rehab as it doesn't compromise the volume created by the shampoo.

That being said, once a week I like to give my hair a deep conditioning treatment and for the last couple of months I've been using Coconut Oil as an overnight treatment. I heat a couple of tablespoons of coconut oil in the microwave and apply it to the ends of my hair before popping on a shower cap (I never said you were going to look glamorous).  I have quite oily hair which is why I avoid my roots, however if you have a drier hair type definitely apply it to the full length of your hair.  Coconut oil has been an amazing addition to my hair care, my hair feels stronger, softer and shinier.

Love, Nic

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Illamasqua's Matte Veil and Skin Base Foundation

When people find out I blog about beauty in my spare time, the number one question I get asked is 'can you recommend a good foundation?'.  I feel ya sisters, finding the right foundation can feel like an impossible task.  I wanted to share a base product combination that has really been working for me: Illamasqua's 'Matte Veil' and 'Skin Base' foundation.

Matte Veil (£30) - On their website, Illamasqua say to use 'Matte Veil' before primer and foundation to achieve a long lasting, matte base.  However, I've been using 'Matte Veil' as my primer and it works amazingly well on its own.

'Matte Veil' is unlike anything I've used before. It's very thin in consistency and feels very cool when applied to the skin.  I need the tiniest amount of product to cover my whole face and the miniature spatula really helps dispense the right amount of product as well as helping keep pesky germs at bay. 

What I love most about 'Matte Veil' is how quickly it sinks into the skin.  Unlike other primers I've tried, it feels undetectable on the skin on account of how thin it is.  However, this has no adverse affect on how the primer works.  My foundation lasts a full work day (10hrs+) without needing to touch up which is pretty much unheard of for me! I love how sleek and sturdy the packaging feels - I've chucked into my make up bag when travelling and the product hasn't leaked.

Skin Base Foundation (£32). I've blogged about 'Skin Base' before, however I was previously matched to the wrong colour which really affected how I felt about it. Now, 'Skin Base' is back in my life with the right colour and I love it.  'Skin Base' is a buildable foundation with a satin finish.  It lasts all day on my skin, particularly when I use 'Matte Veil'.  To get the best from 'Skin Base' I apply in very thin layers which helps it sit beautifully on my combination skin without ever looking heavy or cakey.  The one big drawback I've found is the products tendency to cling to any dry patches.  Using   a primer definitely helps with this but should be taken into consideration if you have a drier skin type.

As someone who comes from a history of full coverage foundation, 'Skin Base' is a nice break from the norm.  It provides just enough long lasting, natural looking coverage to make me feel comfortable

Have you tried either of these products? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Love Nic

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Magic's in the Make Up Goes Cruelty Free!

Woah! It's been a long time since I've sat down and written anything blog related; five months to be exact.  There's a big reason for this, 2014 was year full of changes and to put it simply, my attention has been diverted elsewhere...

Have you ever fallen into a You Tube black hole? It's a regular occurrence for me: one minute I'll be watching compilation videos of baby animals to hours later, through a complex web of  related video clicking, I find myself watching a demonstration of the most natural way to glue a toupe onto your head (spoiler - there isn't).  Little did I know that one such You Tube black hole would change my life.  I stumbled onto a video narrated by Paul McCartney called 'If Slaughterhouses had Glass Walls'.  You can imagine the content of this video and immediately afterwards, I vowed to never eat meat again.

In the last ten months, I have done a huge amount of research, research that has made me question how I want to live my life. I had already cut meat from my diet but what about the uneasiness I felt about the dairy and egg industries?  As a beauty product lover, could I live with the fact that 90% of the products I used daily had at some point been tested on animals?  It wasn't only animal welfare on my mind - the benefits of a vegan lifestyle on the environment and human health quickly became indisputable to me.

This January I took part in Veganuary, a campaign that encourages people to go vegan for the month of January.  In this last month, I've given away the majority of my make up collection (and  managed not to cry!) replacing what I needed with cruelty free alternatives.  I got excited by cooking again and in the process lost 12lbs.  I have been motivated to start exercising again and have generally felt lighter in body and mind.  

So, where does this leave me?  Now Veganuary is over, I am going to continue transitioning into a more compassionate lifestyle, with Magic's in the Make Up forming a big part of this. I will still be blogging about beauty however from now on, everything I feature will be cruelty free. You'll also start to see more lifestyle posts popping up which I'm really excited about.

Welcome to the new Magic's in the Make Up.

Lots of love