Margaret Chapman’s blog, The Plant Strong Vegan, is one of my favorite sites to visit for plant based recipes to cook during the week. Her food photos always leave my mouth watering, and I can’t get enough of the Instagram snapshots of her adorable rescue cats, Hunter and Noodles. A self-proclaimed gaming nerd, Margaret describes herself as somewhat of an introvert who likes to be at home in the comfort of her pjs, and is very passionate about photography and veganism. I’m excited to feature Margaret this month for the What’s In Her Bag series; I know you will really enjoy our interview!
MK: Describe your beauty style and what sorts of items you carry in your bag:
MC: My style overall is incredibly minimalistic. So when it comes to my makeup, I like to keep it really simple. Most of the time, I’m not wearing makeup. I typically follow the same style when it comes to my bag, but I recently started using bags that are fun colors because I only ever had a black handbag since I was a teenager. Just keeping the essentials on hand, I like to keep my wallet, keys, sunglasses (if I haven’t lost them), lip balm, essential oil, cell phone and my Diva cup (swear by it). I also keep a couple of bars or snacks in my bag if I’m out and need something to eat.
MK: What are your three favorite cruelty free brands and what do you love about them?
MC: Pixie Mood – their handbags are incredible! I have about 5 of them and I have to say the quality you get for the price is amazing. I highly recommend their Steph Bag (I have it in a few different colors/materials; the Aztec version pictured above is my current bag).
E.L.F. Cosmetics – I have been wearing makeup from them since I was about 15, and the vast majority of their products are vegan and cruelty-free plus very affordable. I really like their Studio line golden bronzer, HD powder, light eyebrow kit and synthetic brushes.
V Apparel – I like to stay comfy, so finding a company that produces fair trade, high-quality, organic and local to me clothing was huge. The owner and sole creator, Katie is such a sweet person. I even collaborated with her to release a “Plant Strong Vegan” tee!
MK: Are there any other cruelty-free beauty products you use in your daily beauty routine that you consider must haves?
MC: Well Scent – I use their entire line of dental products and essentials oils for almost everything. I adore the founder, Stacy. She is such a kind soul and I can’t recommend their products enough.
Meow Meow Tweet – The only brand of deodorant I’ve ever used successfully. I can’t live without it!
Zabana Essentials – From bath bombs to lip balms, I love it all. I’ve been using everything they create and it’s all wonderful quality. Their line of scents is incredible and I highly recommend the tangerine calendula bath bomb and green tea lip balm!
MK: When and why did you go vegan?
MC: I decided to transition to the vegan lifestyle in January of 2013. Originally I was attracted to the diet because I was having health problems and I felt like it was my best solution. After a couple of weeks I realized being vegan was a lifestyle, once I educated myself on the reality of factory farming, animal testing and everything in-between, I was so disgusted and upset that I had lived my life without knowing the truth for so long. I’m thankful for each day I have to educate and spread awareness for all of the animals. I live this lifestyle for them.
MK: How has it changed your life?
MC: Going vegan was incredibly eye-opening for me. I was upset for a long time, and still am from time to time, but now I’m so thankful for everything I subjected myself to because it’s nothing compared to the actual pain animals experience everywhere. I’m humbled that I can challenge myself to live as cleanly as possible, reducing my carbon footprint and be an example to those interested in living a cruelty-free lifestyle.
MK: I read recently that you didn’t transition to cruelty-free beauty products until about a year after going vegan. What made you go cruelty-free in all aspects?
MC: That’s true, I was so overwhelmed transitioning to a vegan diet that it didn’t cross my mind to read the labels on my cosmetics. Or even clothes and handbags for that matter. After I learned more about massive companies profiting off of animal torture, I had to cut everything. I was using foundation from Revlon and body products from Unilever. It took me time to finally find what works for me and is still cruelty-free/vegan, but I’m so happy for the adjustments I have made. Everything I use is so much cleaner and nothing is tested on animals. I find that I’m much more of a minimalist now, so I splurge on things that I really enjoy because I’m not buying tons of products I won’t ever use.
MK: What has been the most difficult part of being cruelty-free/vegan and how do you get past that?
MC: I think the hardest part about being a cruelty-free, vegan is that the people who don’t live a similar lifestyle have a hard time understanding and respecting what it is you stand for. It bothers me when I come across people that are very resistant and rude over my choices. I think it’s a common misconception that vegans are “annoying” and “picky”. In reality, I have no issue with anyone that doesn’t want to be vegan, but many people are often typically quick to assume I do and constantly back up their choices with excuses, which upsets me a lot. I try to ground myself by remembering exactly the life I lived before going vegan and remember it’s not an overnight lifestyle. Some people need to transition slowly and I need to be respectful of that and be helpful if they choose to ask for guidance.
MK: What is your occupation and what is a typical day like for you?
MC: Currently I am self-employed, which means I work from home. I’m trying to create my own business centered around my blog ThePlantStrongVegan.com. A typical day for me consists of waking up, pouring ice water into a quart mason jar + cuppow lid, sitting down at my workspace/computer and creating my “to-do” list for the day. I usually spend about 20 minutes brainstorming what I’d like to accomplish and then another hour or two replying to emails. After all of that I make breakfast or an early lunch, usually a smoothie or leftovers from the day before. After I’m recharged I work on writing, shooting photos for the next blog post or I answer more emails. Sometimes I take a day off and just watch shows on Netflix. I probably stick to this routine 5-6 days a week. When my husband is off, we sleep in and spend our mornings in bed with our two kitty boys, Noodle and Hunter.
MK: When did you start The Plant Strong Vegan and what was your goal when you first started?
MC: I originally had a personal blog and when I would freelance photography, I would sneak peek photos from my sessions and then share personal entries about my life. After I changed my lifestyle I felt the site needed to be changed as well. So I came up with The Plant Strong Vegan in February of 2013. I wanted a place where I could still be personal, but also show others that vegans aren’t some stereotype. I wasn’t by any means the “typical” vegan, so sharing that and my love of cooking was why I ventured into the site.
MK: How has your vision for your blog changed?
MC: I first wanted more of a safe haven for fellow vegans to connect at. After a couple of years I’ve transitioned a bit more and it’s mainly recipes. This year I wanted to finally branch out and share more lifestyle content for those wanting to learn beyond the “diet” and then share reviews on products I highly recommend.
MK: You have such original recipes that not only look delicious but are fun too! Where do you get your inspiration?
MC: Thank you so much! I think a lot of my inspiration comes from what I’m craving, what’s popular, what I grew up on, and all of the influential foodie bloggers I follow. I really try to keep my recipes simple but as creative and delicious as possible.
MK: Have you considered publishing a book?
MC: Becoming an author is something I’ve dreamt about for a couple of years now. Cooking is my passion and sharing that on my site brings me so much happiness. I think it would be such a monumental goal to actually publish my work though. It’s something I want to do for sure but I’m not positive on if/when I ever will. Once the demand is there I’ll look into it further.
MK: What are some exciting things The Plant Strong Vegan followers can look forward to in 2015?
MC: 2015 is the year I really step up my game and introduce a lot more than just recipes to my readers. I have been wanting to talk more about the vegan lifestyle as a whole and branch out into lifestyle posts, interviews with influential vegans, as well as more personal content like sharing more about myself, my struggles and everything in-between. I’m very excited for this expansion and I hope my readers will enjoy it too!
MK: You have a few adorable cats that appear in a lot of your Instagram photos. What are their and how did you come about rescuing them?
MC: I have two rescue cats that are the light of my life! My first boy is Hunter, he was rescued as a kitten outside a restaurant my family owns. He had been coming around for a few days and one evening he got trapped in a wood pile and my sister-in-law actually caught him and brought him to me. I’ve loved him since then. Noodle, my second boy, was a stray kitten that my husband found in the parking lot at his work. He was very badly injured and we didn’t think he would make it. But after a lot of help from our local vet and tons of love, this boy is as healthy as ever! Both are just under 3 years old now. We got them about a year apart from each other and they are the best of friends!
MK: Do you have any favorite charities?
MC: I personally adore FARM and a local farm sanctuary I support called Project 44. I donate when I can and this year I intend on doing more. I have volunteered at my local farm, a completely non-profit organization, because their mission is to give all crops to less fortunate community members. Hopefully I can share more about it later this year. I want to start volunteering again in my free time as it’s gratifying to pick fruits and vegetables from the Earth. Project 44 is officially launching a box program so you can get a box of food for yourself and then they give you a second box to donate to a community member in need. It’s a beautiful place with a huge heart.
MK: Do you have a favorite quote that keeps you focused and/or inspired?
MC: “Veganism is so much more than how pure you eat, rather the intent you have when you buy products” -Essena Oneill
MK: If you could tell more people to go cruelty-free and make kinder choices, what would you say?
MC: I would say, “Please dig deeper, grab the bottle/package of your most used/consumed item and research that company. Are they a massive corporation that tests on animals and/or uses animal products? Watch Cowspiracy & Earthlings. Learn where your food comes from, it’s impact on the earth and reevaluate its place in your life. If you have interest in sparing the lives of animals, make a conscious effort to reduce your meat intake. An overwhelming amount of water goes into producing that hamburger, as well as pain, suffering and useless fat and calories that only lead you down a path of medical illnesses. Reach for more fruits and vegetables instead!”.