Unpopular Opinions – USA Travel Edition

As I mentioned in my Remembering The Summer Of 2018 post, I visited the USA for the first time ever this summer. It was a bit of a whirlwind experience which jet lag made all the more surreal as well as the crazy humidity which lingered around me everywhere I went. Along the way, I developed my own opinions about some American quirks and confectionary choices so, without further ado, here are some of my unpopular opinions which I gathered during my travels!

1. Dunkin’ Donuts coffee is disgusting

People talked at length to me about their passion for Dunkin’ Donuts and their coffee in particular (shoutout to the bus driver who raved about the place for a solid five minutes). So, I got myself a coffee from the buffet car on the eight hour train journey I took from Washington D.C. to Boston… I literally could not finish it because I hated it that much. This is saying something for me because usually I will be so desperate for caffeine that, no matter how grim a coffee tastes, I will chug it down anyway. There was also no other coffee choice available on the train, so I suffered the eight hour journey without my caffeine-fix (first world problems!). Honestly, I would see a Dunkin’ Donuts what felt like every five steps whilst I was in Boston because they are a Massachusetts-based chain, so it almost felt like the company was taunting me with memories of their horrendous coffee as I walked around the city.

2. Too many tasty things are displayed in grocery shop queues

My goodness, I had to develop an iron will whilst I was standing in the queue to buy groceries! It’s like they saved all of the most delicious, sugary items of temptation for the layout before the tills just so that I would have to stare at them in all their glory whilst I waited in line to be served. Really, it is an unfair tactic, I felt pulled in every direction whilst every flavour of Oreo was laid out there before me, ripe for my taking. You’ll be happy to know though that my lack of many dollars meant that I had to force myself to resist these sweet treats, otherwise I would inevitably have come back from my travels with rotted teeth!

3. America has way too many Starbucks

Sorry to continue the criticism of the biggest American chains but I felt like I was the places I visited were overflowing in a superfluous number of Starbucks chains. I feel like the little, independent coffee shops stood no chance against the power of a big corporation like that which dominated every street in every town. I like to support small businesses but that was hard since they seemed to have been mostly forced to relocate elsewhere because the cities I visited was so chain-reliant.

4. The idea of cream being put in my coffee is like sacrilege to me

Every time I had a coffee, which let’s be honest was very regularly, the person serving me would ask if I wanted cream in my coffee which is something you are never offered in the UK. Each time I would protectively cling to my coffee before they could get the cream in and plead for some soya milk whilst people looked at me as if I was abnormal for looking at the cream as if it were poison. There were even little cartons of coffee creamers in the rooms I stayed in. To be honest, I know I must be a very sad person but I just could not get over how millions of people were ruining their perfectly good coffees everyday by putting cream in there. Horrifying.

5. American airports are really confusing

I properly struggled with this one. I found American airports to be like highly distressing mazes which offered you directions in the form of very unhelpful signs for every mile you walked further into the trap. I’m glad I got to the Boston Logan International Airport about three hours in advance otherwise I would have had heart palpitations just trying to find my gate. I don’t know if other airports in the country would redeem my opinion of them overall but the two airports I went through over there were some of the most bizarrely laid-out places you could possibly come across!

 

CONTACT ME:

Twitter – @RyanBInNature

Instagram – @awalkwithnature00

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Remembering The Summer Of 2018

Sometimes we let moments pass before us without thinking much of them then, before we know it, a whole season has passed and it’s easy to forget what was achieved during that time. Summer always seems to be chock-full of events, experiences and memories, probably by virtue of it being a long period of freedom from University, for me at least. In retrospect, things that happened have taken on a different perspective in my mind and I have come to realise that a lot of things which occurred this summer were either things that I should be proud of or memories I should treasure. So, I thought I would record some of the highlights of summer 2018 on here!

1. I saw my brother graduate from University

My brother is now officially making his way in the ‘real’ world. It was surreal hearing his name called-out and watching walk along the stage in his swishy gown that he was so embarrassed to wear. I thought of how much he had changed over the four years of his degree, the new passions he had taken-up whilst at University and all of the future opportunities waiting for him in the big wide world.

2. I visited America for the first time

I’ve grown-up watching American films and TV shows, listening to American music, reading American books and studying American literature and history, yet I had never been to the United States. So, this summer I went to the US for a whirlwind week of sightseeing and walking for miles and miles. I started off with two days in Washington DC, then I took an 8 hour train journey all the way up to Boston where I spent the rest of my week. Then, after flight delays, I started my flight back to the UK at just after midnight, arriving at 10 am UK time. Then I had half a day to pack my life into boxes and suitcases before moving into a new place for Uni to start again. So, when I say it was a whirlwind, it really was a whirlwind!

3. I prioritised my writing

Throughout the summer, I made sure that I valued the time I had to write. For once, it wasn’t just a few scrawled sentences at the end of the day. Instead, I set apart actual chunks of time for me to invest in my writing. From poetry to fiction to opinion pieces, I made my way through many pieces of paper and developed my craft along the way. Taking writing seriously rather than discarding it as frivolous past time was definitely something I now feel vindicated in doing.

4. I came out online as trans

This was the most nerve-wracking blog post I have ever written to date but it was also so worth it. The reaction and feelings of validation I got from publishing The Gender Tag  is still having an impact on my daily life to this day. Taking the step to come out online has given me the confidence I needed to return to University using my real name, Ryan, rather than my birth name. Now, when I assert my identity, I feel proud of myself rather than ashamed which was a process of emotional development started by that blog post.

5. I started learning to drive

My goodness, this was an experience! Every time I got behind that wheel I felt either like I was going to die or be physically sick (or both)! A year or even six months before I would not have believed anyone who would have told me that I would be cruising along a busy A roads at 60mph but I did it. Every moment of feeling scared out of my wits and like I just wanted to give-up was worth it for the pride I feel now knowing that I felt the fear but did it anyway. I proved to myself that I could be brave and that perseverance is the key to learning any new skill.

6. I began baking

An overarching theme of the summer was learning how to come to terms with my body. As a trans guy, my body is most often associated with self-loathing for me, so the process of starting to nourish it was both a trial and a milestone in my life. Baking myself healthy snacks and allowing myself the time to consider the different nutritional components my body needed went some way to shifting the relationship I have with my body even though this shift was only limited. Progress is progress.

 

CONTACT ME:

Twitter – @RyanBInNature

Instagram – @awalkwithnature00

Toxic Expectations People Have For Vegans

To preface this post and put it into context; I am a vegan. Also, I’m not going to judge you and start screaming at you in caps-locked letters if you tell me that you aren’t vegan. You do you and I’ll do me, okay?

The ‘vegan’ label can sometimes feel very weighty and like it has a lot of expectations that come attached to it. I say I’m a vegan and people expect me to be whizzing-up smoothies at 6 in the morning ready for a day full of leafy greens. In reality when I say that I am vegan, I’m not saying that I am perfect or that I particularly subscribe to ‘clean eating’. I love eating natural foods and nourishing my body in that way because that is one way I practice self-care and promote body-positivity within myself when, as a trans man, feeling any level of good about my body can be a struggle. However, just because I love natural foods (think grains, seeds, fruit, veggies, nuts, lentils etc) that doesn’t mean that I don’t also want a cookie or some chocolate every once in a while! There is no shame in this either, I just try to give my body what it wants rather than deny myself something due to pressure to be perfect. Perfect is not attainable, so why not just try to strike a balance between healthy and happy instead?

Whenever, I pull-out a vegan cookie to eat, people inevitably start to chorus ‘ooh, look at the vegan eating something bad’, as if veganism equates to perfection or purity. It’s not bad to give yourself treats in moderation. Also, the expectation of vegans to all subscribe to ‘clean eating’ is frankly toxic. Being painfully strict and analysing every single morsel you eat is, in my opinion and for my own wellbeing, more harmful than letting yourself eat a cookie every once in a while. The expectations people have of vegans to eat solely salads for every meal is toxic as well, as it promotes a sort of shame, at least for me, if I want to eat something which isn’t ‘perfect’ in nutritious value.

Really, let people eat what they want and figure out a diet which best suits their mental and physical needs. As long as people are happy and healthy, who cares if they tuck into a dessert with enthusiasm? Just let them be. Equally, if you enjoy focusing on plant-based nutrition as part of your lifestyle then more power to you. It’s time we shifted our perspective on the topic of food; we should be able to enjoy eating rather than stressing out about it. A good relationship with nutrition can have such a positive impact on our mental wellbeing when we think of it as fulfilling, nourishing and a doorway to becoming happy and healthy rather than something to feel intimidated of.

 

CONTACT ME:

Twitter – @RyanBInNature

Instagram – @awalkwithnature00

Cacao & Banana Overnight Oats Recipe

Overnight oats are great for when you are short of time in the morning or if you just want something to eat waiting for you to just grab when you get-up in the morning. It takes a couple of minutes to mix all of the ingredients together in the evening, then you just pop the mixture into an airtight container and store it in the fridge ready for the next morning.

Here is my recipe for cacao and banana overnight oats:

Ingredients:

1. Two small ripe bananas

2. Three tablespoons of cacao powder

3. Three tablespoons of rice protein powder

4. A splash of soya milk

5. One cup of rolled oats

6. One tablespoon of plain soya yoghurt 

Recipe:

1. Mash the two bananas thoroughly

2. Add the rest of the ingredients into the mixture and mix them all together. 

3. Pour the mixture into an airtight container and put in the fridge, ready to enjoy the next morning!

Benefits:

– Vegan

– Oats can lower cholesterol 

– Bananas are a great source of potassium and give you energy throughout the day

– High protein

– Cacao is a brilliant source of magnesium (and it’s delicious!)

 

 

Life Update

Sometimes my blog feels a bit distanced from my present life which is a strange dynamic to work with and negotiate a lot of the time. I have talked so much about my past experiences on here that I have sort of left my current state fall by the wayside. It feels like there are many, many things going on in my life at the moment, so I am resorting to what I always do when there are too many subjects and thoughts and worries bouncing around off the walls of my mind…I’m going to write it all down. So, without further ado, here is a little life update of mine:

1. I got into my second year of Uni

I sort of glossed over this a bit on here to be honest but, yes, I will be going back to University in September. I averaged around the 70% mark for my end of year exams which really surprised me considering the mess I was when I entered the summer assessment period. However, the grades do not mean as much to me as the mental strength and progress it took for me to get through my first year and resolve to go back for my second. My mind went to some really scary and dark places throughout my time as a fresher at Uni and I pleaded with myself and others to just let me walk away from the stress of the whole situation. In the end, I got myself through a whole lot more than I ever thought I could do when I arrived as a terrified newbie in September 2017.

2. I have been rejected for more jobs than I can count

Being a student is expensive…well, to be honest, life in general is just expensive! So, I’ve been attempting to find a part-time job for ages. I have sent off my CV and completed questionnaires for jobs ranging from retail to copywriting to admin, none of which have been successful. It’s pretty disheartening to think that I do not fulfil the needs and wants of any employer I have applied to so far but I just have to remind myself that the amount of competition for each and every job is huge as thousands of potential employees are all trying to get the same job. Rather than think of myself as not good enough for any job, I’m trying to maintain the perspective that there are just other people better suited to those positions and there is another job out there which will be more appropriate for me.

3. I visited the Warner Bros Studio Tour

I went to the tour for the second time, however this visit was even more special as I got to see the Goblet of Fire feature which will finish in a couple of weeks. Props, costumes and sets which were used in the 4th Potter film were on display and I even saw the Goblet spit out Cedric Diggory’s name on a piece of parchment! The Studios are one of my favourite places in the world; it is breathtaking and surreal to step inside the Wizarding World.

4. I had a neck x-ray

I had a bit of a health scare in August after a went for a check-up at the opticians and they thought that they saw something irregular at the back of my eye. Many people don’t know that opticians can identify a whole host of health issues which seemingly have nothing to do with your eyes, so of course I was worried when I got this news and I was told that had to go for an urgent referral to an ophthalmic specialist. In addition, there was a worry that I might have had fluid pressing on my spine, so I was sent for a neck x-ray. Thankfully, the x-ray was all-clear and the ophthalmic surgeon discharged me as having only a minor issue which posed no health-threat to me.

5. I have started to make more healthy choices again

I started off the summer with a positive outlook on my health, as I was actively choosing to exercise, eat healthily and give myself a good routine. These things all started to decline and, as I got more frustrated and annoyed with my unhealthy habits, I just spiralled into worse ways. However, I have now got into the schedule of pre-preparing many of my meals and snacks which has allowed me to feel both organised and accomplished whilst also ensuring that I make more healthy choices. I have re-started going for long walks in nature which are beneficial to my mental and physical health by giving me a sense of peace and getting me into fresh-air.

CONTACT ME:

Twitter – @RyanBInNature

Instagram – @awalkwithnature00

My Vegan Lunchbox

Having started a part-time job recently, which I will be continuing throughout the summer break, I have had to think of portable and easy to eat vegan lunchbox ideas that I can eat whilst I am at work. I pre-prepare my lunch the night before so I can just grab my bag in the morning and go. Also, I have been making things which I do not have to heat-up at work because there are renovations going on at the office, so the kitchen is out of bounds!

Without further ado, here is what I pack in my vegan lunchbox:

1. Spicy roasted chickpeas

Cheap, easy and nutritious, roasted chickpeas are a great snack to nibble on when the working day just seems to keep dragging on. I buy tins of chickpeas in water, then de-shell them and give them at least 30 minutes to sit in a sieve and dry out. Then, I lay them out in an oiled baking tray, sprinkle some cayenne pepper, paprika and ground black pepper over the top of them and let them cook in the oven for 40 minutes at 180 C. After the 40 minutes are over, I take them out of the oven, let them cool down, then put the chickpeas in a tupperware ready for me to pack into my workbag for the next day.

lunchbox 2

2. Ginger and almond energy balls

I cannot get enough of these, they are delicious and ridiculously addictive! I use pitted dates, chopped almonds, raw grated ginger and desiccated coconut in these energy balls which make them a healthy, sweet snack. To make 6-7 balls, I use 9 pitted dates, a handful of almonds (which I chop myself), a tablespoon of desiccated coconut and a lot of raw ginger but, seeing as many people are not keen on a strong ginger taste, you can add however much ginger you are happy with. I simply just pop all of these ingredients in a food processor, whizz them around for a minute, then roll the contents in my hands to make little balls.

lunchbox 3

3. Roasted red pepper hummus

I prefer making my own hummus because many shop-bought ones add unnecessary sweeteners and oils that I’m personally not keen on. I cut three red peppers into halves and roast them in the oven at 220C for 25-30 minutes (however long it takes for the peppers’ skins to blacken and wrinkle). Then, I peel the skins off of the peppers, pop the now skin-less peppers into the food processor along with a clove of garlic, a tin of chickpeas (with their shells taken off) and a tablespoon of tahini. Pulse the mixture in the food processor until the hummus reaches your preferred consistency and then decant it into a airtight tupperware to be stored overnight in the fridge. This hummus recipe is perfect to go with crisp breads or ryvitas which you can eat during your lunch break.

lunchbox image 1

 

So there’s a small selection of easily transportable vegan snacks which you can pop in your bag to keep you content throughout your workday. If you’re interested, I will leave a few links below to other vegan recipes which are good for lunch boxes that you can check-out as well.

Other vegan lunchbox ideas:

Toasted cinnamon and maple almonds – Deliciously Ella

5 ingredient spelt flatbread – Oh She Glows

Sweet potato & herb savoury muffins – Feasting On Fruit

Vegan Mushroom Risotto Recipe

After my post ‘My New Therapy’ in which I wrote about how cooking and looking after my nutrition has benefited my mental health, I thought that I would share one of the recipes which I have been using quite frequently over the past few weeks.

I firmly believe in making cooking a personal experience and allowing yourself a lot of freedom in the process, so feel free to go off script so to speak and make things fit your preferences and taste. Hence why my measurements are quite rough and unpriced, often I change little parts of the recipe day to day depending on whether I want my risotto more creamy or more veggie-heavy. Cooking is a very individual activity, everyone likes things slightly different, so try things out and don’t beat yourself up if things don’t work out the way you want them to – it’s all a learning process.

INGREDIENTS:

1)One shallot
2) Four open mushrooms
3) One clove of garlic
4) Vegetable oil
5) Three basil leaves
6) Vegetable stock (I use Knorr veggie stock pods to make the process quicker)
7) Boiling water
8) Brown rice
9) Salt
10) Pepper
11) Dash of soy sauce
12) 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
13) 1/4 a cup canned unsweetened coconut milk
14) 1 and 1/2 tablespoons all purpose flour
15) A handful of black olives (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Pour a coin sized amount of vegetable oil into your deep frying pan or skillet and wait for the oil to heat-up.
  2. Whilst the oil is heating, dice the shallot, crush the garlic and chop the mushrooms.
  3. Add the vegetables to the pan, stir occasionally and wait until the veggies brown slightly.
  4. Add the vegetable stock and continue stirring for a few minutes.
  5. Add the amount of rice you desire according to your preferences and, at the same time, add double the amount of boiling water in relation to the amount of rice you used.
  6. Cover and let simmer for 10 minutes.
  7. After the 10 minutes the basil leaves, a dash of soy sauce and a quarter of a cup of coconut milk to the mixture. Also, according to your taste add a dash of salt and pepper, then re-cover and let simmer again for 10 minutes.
  8. Add one and a half tablespoons of all-purpose flour, then stir thoroughly for a couple of minutes.
  9. Add a tablespoon of nutritional yeast and a handful of black olives, then stir for one minutes.
  10. Cover and leave to simmer for 10 minutes.
  11. Stir and ensure that the risotto is no longer runny or watery, ensuring that the consistency is to your preference.