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After months of waiting for the perfect weekend, I finally got my ass down to the Hackney Downs Vegan Market. It is situated in the courtyard of Hackney Downs Studios surrounded by Vintage record shops, clothing pop ups and contemporary ceramic stores. There were a variety of vendors fulfilling the desires…

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Cruelty-Free Vegan Secret Santa Gifts

As a gift lover, this year I took part in Sarah Kirby’s Cruelty-Free Vegan Secret Santa. After sending off my gift in the post it sure wasn’t long until mine arrived on my doorstep. Here I share with you my Cruelty-Free Vegan Secret Santa gifts that were thoughtful, fantastic and beautifully wrapped as well as two more Vegan Secret Santa gifts I acquired along the way!

Travel Journal 

The first gift I opened was a beautiful travel journal from Paperchase with a rose gold pen to accompany. My Secret Santa must have scoured my social media channels as well as my blog to see that I love to travel and am keen to document my ideas and notes on the way. This faux leather blue book has sections for my itinerary (a must), photographs, places of interest along with a space to track travel spending. This will definitely appear in my hold luggage on my next trip abroad!


Wax Melts, Lip Balm & Hand Soap

The next few items I unwrapped smelt incredible! The first almost edible item was the The Wright Gift Chocolate Orange Lip Balm which tastes exactly like a Terry’s Chocolate Orange – festive indeed. The Wright Gift company are organic, vegan and handmade which makes the gifts unique and thoughtful. Another product from The Wright Gift was a Passionfruit & Pink Grapefruit Hand Soap which is made from she butter, cocoa butter & mango butter to nourish and cleanse my skin. This will be great to have alongside the bathroom sink when guests come over making me appear more adult than ever!

Alongside this was a small drawstring bag of Elixir Apothecary All Natural Wax Melts in the flavours Sweet Cinnamon, Sandalwood, Patchouli, Vanilla & Sage, Eucalyptus and a Mandarin, Lime & Grapefruit. I cannot wait to use these in my burner and make the house smell fresh, fruity and homely.

Dark Chocolate Drops & Vegan Truffles

The final gift from my#cfvsecretsanta was a Hotel Chocolat Dark Chocolate Santa Tiddly Pot full of dark chocolate drops made from 70% cocoa. I cannot wait to dig into these on Christmas day and share with friends and family. From another Secret Santa I took part in at work, I was gifted a box of the Booja Booja Almond & Sea Salt Caramel Truffles. It was as if they had read my mind having only tried these truffles for the first time last week and fell in love with them. They are so dark, salty and creamy with a rich fondant texture. My final gift is pictured below, my Reindeer Stripey Socks which are festive and will keep my little feet warm!

See more of the cruelty-free vegan Secret Santa gift exchange by searching the hashtag #cfvsecretsanta on Twitter and Instagram.

Did you take part in a Secret Santa gift exchange this year? What did you get?





Accidentally Vegan Christmas Products You Must Try

Christmas is less than a month away and the accidentally Vegan Christmas foods* are slowly appearing. Here I share with you 10 vegan-friendly products that just so happen to be suitable for us plant-based foodies to eat and share with our friends and family.

Mince Pies

It wouldn’t be Christmas without mince pies would it? Every year it is a struggle to find milk-free mince pies thankfully Waitrose Essential 6 Shortcrust Mince Pies are accidentally vegan! Alongside Waitrose, Co-op’s Puff Pastry Mince Pies in the bakery section and ASDA Mince Pies are too.



Christmas Pudding 

If you love Christmas pudding, Waitrose offer two accidentally vegan options for you to try. The first being from the Essentials range flavoured with Cider & Sherry and the second a Duchy Originals Organic variety made with Cognac and vine fruits.


If you love the cake-like fruity bread get your fix with Kuchenmeister luxury Marzipan Stollen. This is available in Iceland, some Tesco stores as well as online.

Bubble And Squeak Bites

You no longer have to miss out on the leftover fry up on Boxing day with these Bubble & Squeak Bites from Tesco. Carrot, onion, cabbage and potato all mushed into little patties and ready to lightly fry. These are devoid of the goose fat and meat juices the traditional variety may contain.

Chocolate And Hazelnut Churros

Churros may not be the most festive party treat, but they sure are delicious. Tesco have launched a pack of 12, filled with a nutty chocolate sauce and coated in cinnamon sugar. Accidentally vegan means they must be heavenly!

Gingerbread Men 

Munch on or decorate these little Gingerbread men that are milk and egg free. Tesco offer 30 mini gingerbread biscuits that are crunchy and moorish and Asda stock a Gingerbread House ready to decorate.


Candy Cane Crisps

If you love candy canes are addicted to crisps, then Tesco have the answer to your prayers. These limited edition candy cane hand cooked potato crisps are minty, sugary and crunchy – a bizarre combo yet very festive.

Maple Bacon Tortilla Rolls

Satisfy your Maple Bacon cravings with Marks & Spencer’s rolled tortilla crisps. They would work as a great replacement to the pigs in blanket shaped hole in your life yet with added sweetness and crunch.

Mint Chocolate Collection

No longer will you have to miss out on the After Eight after dinner feeling with this alternative from Bendicks. Their Bittermint biscuits and mint crisps will leave your breath smelling fresh and tummy satisifed after Christmas dinner and can also make a great gift!

Jus Rol Croissants

Although these have always been Vegan and are available all year round, they can often be overlooked! Join in with the freshly baked pastries on Christmas morning and share with the family. Also Vegan from Jus Rol are the Cinnamon Swirls and Pan Au Chocolat.

What accidentally vegan foods are your favourite?

*Accidentally vegan products may contain traces of animal derived ingredients however do not contain them in the product itself. Be sure to check ingredients before buying as this may differ outside of the UK.



5 Reasons Why You Should Visit Dubai

 Let’s be real, Dubai was never on my bucket list, not even close. I love old cities, cobbled streets, indulging in the local cuisine and immersing myself in culture. But, as stubborn as I can be and may never like to admit it, I did like the city and was surprised by what it offered. There is something for everyone and it can suit whatever lifestyle you lead.

Here I share with you 5 reasons why you should visit Dubai and what it may offer for you.

Dubai Is Safe

When most people think of the Middle East, the word safe hardly springs to mind. As the city of Dubai is ultramodern, the skyline tall and the businesses booming, they take pride in investing money into travel and tourism. Despite being situated in the middle of the desert, it is very westernised and therefore citizens are used to expats and visitors enjoying what the city offers. Whether we walked alone in the day, in pairs in the evening or as a small group of women, we never felt unsafe. This may be due to the streets being packed at all times and the buzz of the motorway never ceasing. A top tip though, you may feel a little unsafe in a taxi due to their inadequacy to indicate or drive within the speed limits. Take it from me, hold your breath, look out the window and count to 10!

People Are Kind

Since experiencing the kindness of strangers in Dubai, I dread to think how people feel when visiting London. Everywhere we went we were greeted with a smile, unlimited kindness and never felt unwelcome or different. The love and respect they show for their elders never went unnoticed too, in particular towards my grandmother. As she was in a wheelchair we were initially apprehensive of how disabled friendly Dubai would be and how others would perceive her. Nevertheless, people always offered a helping hand, gave us VIP access when available and took extra care to ensure she was looked after. The kindness of people in Dubai still amazes me and something I will treasure.

Dubai Never Sleeps

The city of Dubai never sleeps, and I don’t mean due to boozing and partying, I mean shopping! Everything is open late; restaurants until 11pm, Malls until midnight and supermarkets open 24 hours a day. You can get your American fix from fast food chains and make up stores like Sephora, feel at home with a Waitrose and New Look as well as get a taste of middle Eastern cuisine with impeccible Arabian restaurants. If shopping isn’t your jam (it wasn’t mine) head to Jumeriah beach at night, take in the views over the palm and sip on a fruity mocktail – it works a treat!

There Is Some Culture In Dubai

Despite Dubai being new and lacking in century old ruins, they have created culture through their attractions. Global Village is a great way for locals to get a feel for places around the world and enjoy delicious cuisines, traditional clothing and entertainment all in one place. We watched stunt shows, tried traditional Iranian spices and indulged in the wonderful smells of Oud. It can be related to the likes of theme parks in Florida yet on a gentler and more cultured note with less screaming children. For only 15 AED entry (around £3) it sure is an experience not to miss.

Dubai Is Hard To Describe

Dubai is such a difficult place to describe to those who have not visited. One minute it can feel like central London with the hustle and bustle of the cars, the tall buildings and incessant beeping horns yet in another it can feel like America with a Wendy’s and Starbuck’s on every corner. The desert haze and vast horizons contrast with the modern buildings and pristeen litter-free streets making it feel a little surreal. But that is what makes it so unique, is like no other place on Earth. In how many cities can you sunbathe on a roof and simultaneously hide amidst the shade of a 40 story skyscraper?

Even if Dubai isn’t on your bucket list, if the chance arises I’d say hop on that plane  – you won’t regret it.


Eating Vegan In Dubai

Here I share with you how it was eating vegan in Dubai and whether it was an easy feat or not. From disappointing airline meals to delicious Lebanese cuisine, I cover it all. The question is, was it easy to Eat Vegan In Dubai?

This holiday differed from nearly every other I have written about on Simply Living Vegan particularly when writing about what I ate on my travels. This was the first holiday in 3 years where I have gone away without Chris or my girls and where food hasn’t been at the forefront of everybody’s minds. Let’s be real here, being vegan when in a foreign country is daunting and can bring about anxiety therefore most days are planned around where we can eat and where I want to review. Sounds riveting right? For me it’s heaven, but, for my family that isn’t how this holiday was going to go and I was okay with that. It meant I had to adapt a lot and revert back to the days of making do with what I got. After reading many blogs about Vegan food in Dubai, I was ready for the challenge.

Emirates Airline In Flight Vegan Food

Let me share with you a top tip before flying, always bring food with you. Sounds like a no brainer right, well you’d assume not when flying with an airline that provides Vegan food as an option. I had pre-empted an issue and luckily packed enough healthy snacks as well as a Pret Christmas sandwich. Much to my surprise, the Vegan option hadn’t been allocated to my seat as it has to be re-stated online 24 hours before flying. Firstly, what sort of system is that for customers with dietary requirements and secondly, how is anybody supposed to know! It was a blessing in disguise as I find aeroplane food rather disgusting all together. Having your own food with you is much more of a healthy choice and guaranteed to taste delicious.

On the flight back we took the initiative to select my meal before flying. Much to my dismay there was no longer a Vegan option but rather a Raw Vegetable meal or vegetarian selection. I opted for the Raw Vegetable meal which unfortunately only contained one or two vegan-friendly dishes. The fruit was laden in a chocolate sauce and crudites accompanied by a yoghurt dip. Thankfully I had made a peanut butter sandwich before flying and stocked up on my favourite snacks. Nevertheless, I am glad there are Vegan and dietary specific options on some long haul flights however the ‘no guarantee’ of receiving the food is something I will always be sceptical of.

Middle Eastern Cuisine

When in doubt, always rely on Middle Eastern cuisine. Dubai was in no short supply of Lebanese restaurants and I was very thankful for that. Here you can sample their delicious and creamy houmous, baba ganoush, toasted pita, fresh falafel and the incredible Fattoush salad made from romaine lettuce, pomegranate, mint, tomatoes, crispy bread and a balsamic dressing. It’s safe to say I cannot look at another bowl of hummus for a month or so due to consuming my weight in the stuff! We ate Lebanese food multiple times throughout the week as it catered for all dietary types and was simple yet flavoursome.

Our firm favourites

Al Nafoorah restaurant at the Zabeel Saray 5* Hotel

TurQwaz Blue

Bazerkan Lebanese Restaurant

The Cheesecake Factory

Despite the dairy laden name, this American joint catered pretty well for vegans. The dish I ordered was the Vegan Cobb salad; quinoa, chickpeas and seeds on a bed of delicious greens with the ripest avocado I’ve ever eaten. The portion was so huge I had leftovers the following day. They offered more such as the Super Antioxident salad as well as others which could easily be veganised; a Kale and Quinoa Salad without the cheese, Guacamole Salad without the cheese and even Veggie Burger without cheese and mayo! Unfortunately they didn’t offer a vegan cheesecake which I was gutted about however I doubt I would have been able to fit in another mouthful!

Projeto Acai

I am unsure on how I had never tried a fresh Acai bowl up until this holiday. Pronounced Ah-say-ee not Ac-ky, this tiny cafe sells small, medium or large bowls of the stuff with your choice of toppings. I chose a medium Acai bowl with mango and blueberries; a fruitarian’s heaven packed full of nutritious and delicious ingredients. Alongside Acai bowls they offer Smashed Avocado & Tomato on toast, a Quinoa Tabbouleh Salad as well as dairy-free smoothies and juices.


In any hot country, I am always on the look out for vegan ice cream or sorbet. The ice cream hunt did not prove successful however an Island Mango Sorbet from Menchies on Jumeriah beach hit the spot! It was self-serve therefore you choose your sorbet flavour and add toppings of fresh fruit and other vegan friendly options like granola and desiccated coconut – delicious!

Juices & Mocktails

On Jumeriah beach lay Retro Feasts, a quirky beach bar and cafe that sold delicious drinks and desserts. As alcohol wasn’t on the menu and desserts weren’t vegan-friendly, I opted for a Coco Loco Mocktail; coconut water, pineapple juice, date syrup and passionfruit puree served in a fresh coconut itself. Sweet, refreshing and moorish!

Not far from the beach and marina was Dollies Coffee, a small cafe that served food and beverages. We all chose to try the mango juice and wow, it was incredible. From the sweetness of the mango and the thickness, we believe there were 3 or 4 whole mangos blended in the juice into this magical and creamy drink. It was the best fruit juice I have ever tried!


Our local 24 hour supermarket was great for vegan food. Despite being rather pricey they had a fantastic array of dairy-free milks, raw snacks, soya yoghurts, gluten-free cereals and even my all time favourite hummus crisps. The fresh hummus and tinned beans were the staple on holiday in a wrap with fresh salad leaves. The Carre Four at the marina had more to offer with a selection of fresh vegan food such as vegan cheese, quinoa burgers as well as dairy-free desserts. I sourced the Cocoa Libre vegan chocolate set as an evening treat alongside small cartons of chocolate and ordinary rice milk – delicious.

Was Dubai A Vegan Friendly City?

I would give Dubai a 6/10 for being vegan friendly. Despite there being a multitude of options in supermarkets, I only ate at one restaurant that served dishes which were clearly labelled Vegan. Prior to embarking on the trip, from researching and reading blogs, I did feel as though there would be vegan and clean eating places on every corner. But, as Dubai is so vast and the malls and restaurant are scattered all over the city, they were difficult to locate and therefore felt non-existent. Nonetheless, if like me you love Middle Eastern cuisine, fruit juices and sorbets, you’ll have a blast!

Have you been to Dubai? If so, what was your experience like?