Monday, April 27, 2020

Vegan Shoe Review: Jambu Caymen Sandals

Hello Friends!

Gentle Readers, I had big plans for monthly posts full of good stuff - food and fun and adventures... and then You Know What happened. Right after my last post, I received a lovely pair of spring sandals from Jambu Footwear to review and share on my blog. We were planning our annual trip down to Palm Springs to watch the tennis... and I thought - "I will save them and get some cute pictures in the desert with my sandals on!" But then the tournament got cancelled, and our trip got cancelled, and life was turned upside down. Honestly, it just didn't feel right to write about shoes. 

But we are all adapting and life goes on and yesterday was Mr. VE&T's birthday. So, I decided to put on my cute jumper and my cute blue Caymen Sandals and have a day of it! Two of our friends came over and we had a long-distance "stay apart" (opposite of a "get together"). We sat far apart in the driveway and had Aperol Spritzes in carefully-sanitized glasses. It was SO fun to be together and feel safe, to see their faces, to laugh and connect. Instead of pictures of me feeling stylish in Palm Springs, you get pictures of me feeling stylish in the driveway. Ha ha. 


Caymen Sandals, in Indigo

Jambu has a lot of cute spring vegan shoes for women this year, but I chose the Caymen Sandals to review because I didn't have any shoes like this in my life! They have an ankle strap, but actually it's a really an easy velcro that just looks like a buckle. I'm definitely a fan of easy on-off. I also I really like the coir styling around the base of the shoe... so summery and reminiscent of espadrilles. They come in indigo (blue), blush (a pale pink/ivory), and black. I ordered size 9 and found them to be true to size. 

They have a memory foam sole that is smooshy and comfy, but they aren't designed with massive arch support in mind. 


Our Front Yard... can you see Footie in the Window? 


I'm definitely looking forward to wearing these sandals all summer long. These are fashion, fun, kickin' around and feelin'-styley shoes... not hiking sandals! That's actually what I really love about them. So many of the sandals I have are extremely functional and not extremely cute. They're great for long walks or day hikes... but feel too clunky when I want to wear a skirt or just feel a little less sporty. These Caymen sandals feel simple and feminine and will go great with skirts and summery dresses - even if Mr. VE&T and Footie are the only ones who see me!


After our friends took off, I went to check on my veggie garden. Mr VE&T got this cute picture when one of our neighbors called out and said hello. I'm grateful for these little interactions! It was fun to go my garden chores in my pretty sandals - added a little emotional perk. Maybe I should dress up a little more often during all this shelter in place! (except that my cute jumpsuit was quickly covered in white footie furs after he cuddled with me --> less fancy. ha ha) 



COUPON CODE! 
Just for a couple more days!

Maybe you need some summer sandals to spice up your driveway time this summer? 

Use the coupon code VEGANEATS to get 20% off any shoes at Jambu.com - good through Thursday April 30th. Just a reminder that Jambu has lots of cute vegan shoes and vegan sandals, but not all their shoes are vegan. So many sure you're in the vegan section of the site before you start shopping! 

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Stevie Wonder: A Very Good Dog

STEVIE WONDER 
World's Best Dog

This week we said goodbye to one of our most special friends, Miss Stevie Wonder. We had Stevie in our lives for 15 years... almost to the day. She was about 16 years old and died of the effects of cancer and old age. 

It's hard to put into words just how wonderful and special our Stevie was... She was a gentle and pensive spirit, she thrived on connection, and was a true friend. 

Most of all, Stevie was PERFECT. She was a perfect spirit. She had perfect little button ears, perfect black paws, a perfectly shaped dome head, perfect and sturdy little legs, perfect athletic agility, a perfect hairless little "pig belly," a beautiful and elegant perfect tail, perfect brown eyes, her perfect feathery Farrah Fawcett hair, perfect lady-like proportions, and a perfect heart full of all the complexities of a living being - love, fear, oddities, confidence, and mystery. Somehow, she was a surprisingly complex being, and knowing her felt rich and layered and meaningful. 

There is a yoga teaching that says "You're perfect the way you are. And also there is always work to be done." Whenever I would hear this teaching I would think "I am obviously not perfect, this doesn't apply to me." But when I really learned to love Stevie, I saw that she WAS perfect - even if she growled at other dogs and was an absolute weirdo... maybe even BECAUSE she of those things? It helped me think about myself and my quirks/"flaws" in a new way.

Stevie preferred quiet little pets, "tiny pets" as we called them: cheek scritches, ear rubs, and especially tiny armpit rubs. Her little armpits didn't have any hair, and she loved to roll over on her back and lift up her arm "PET MY PITS." You couldn't be rough or sudden with her, so she taught us to find a quiet place in ourselves. 


The very first night we brought Stevie home. 
Her eye was shaved because of a small surgery she had on her eyelid.

We adopted our Stevie from the ARF group in Walnut Creek. We drove up that day, determined to come home with a dog, ANY DOG, but we had no idea just how lucky we were.

The Stevie we met was extremely fearful. She was panting a lot, but mostly it was because she was anxious and unsure. She was afraid of the car, afraid of leashes, afraid of lots of men, afraid of people with hats, afraid of being hit...

But over the months and years, Stevie grew into herself. She became the quiet and undisputed alphadog of our pack. She knew what she liked, and what she didn't like and she wasn't afraid to stand up for herself. She didn't particularly like other dogs, and was sure to let them know immediately, with a sharp growl and snarl of the teeth. Ha ha. We were always having to apologize to other dog owners "Sorry! It doesn't get any worse than that! Shes's just a grump!"

Young Stevie

- Stevie's fuzzy, reddish puppy undercoat. She looked so different back then. I think she must have been 11-12 months old when we got her.

- When we adopted Dottie, Dottie showed Stevie how to shred up stuffed toys. Before that, Stevie didn't really understand how to be a rowdy young pup. But, she embraced this new idea with great joy, and there was a long phase wherein we lived with polyester stuffing all over the house. Ha ha.

- Can you see Stevie's beautiful perfect tongue, and the two black half-moon shapes on her tongue? She used to love to run and run and run and run and run and run and then lie down in the cool grass and unfurl her huge tongue to catch her breath. She looks so happy in this picture. 


Stevie at the Beach

Stevie was such an agile and elegant athlete. She was a creature of the natural world and nothing brought her more to life than her off-leash time in nature. Around the house, she would sometimes just look sorta glum and mopey... like an existentialist contemplating the meaninglessness of it all... But as soon as she hit the trail, or the beach, or the forest - her whole spirit would transform. She would run and chase and dig and sniff and wade and explore with confidence and vitality. It was so beautiful. 

Our Stevie always loved to be reassured that she was very good and very loved... she kinda had low self-esteem. She LOVED her own name, she loved being told what a good girl she was, she loved rousing affirmative good-girl snuggles, and even when she went deaf, we had a special hand sign for "Good Girl" - which made her wag her tail EVERY TIME until the day she died. We called this "puffing her up." Sometimes, on a walk, she'd check in for a sec, just to get "puffed up" and we'd razzle her fur and douse her in lots of praise and she'd start to rev up and get all overjoyed and then she'd run off again - all puffed up and recharged for more fun. 


"Go Swimming!"

Stevie loved a good wading session... not much a fan of the full-body swim, she loved to get her naked tummy and her naked armpits wet, just enough to cool down. On our many, many, many walks through the forest, we would reach a spot with good access to the creek and say "Gooooooo Swimming!" and she and Dottie would tear down the hillside and into the water. Dottie usually just gingerly stood there and drank and little water, but Stevie would leap in and have a soak.

It makes me so happy to remember the joy and energy she experienced on these walks. Of all the wonderful adventures and walks we shared every day for 15 years, the forest was her absolute favorite. 

A Head-Out-The-Window Dog

Stevie always loved to feel the breeze in her hair. She never enjoyed long drives, but she LOVED a short drive to the park or the woods...  her head would pop out the window almost immediately. It was so fun to sit in the passenger seat, look in the side mirror, and see her contented little face, squinting into the air. 



She valued calm and peace and safety, and was a natural protector. She almost always slept by the front door, by the back gate, by the door to my yoga room - taking her self-appointed job as our guardian very seriously. One time the FedEx man came in our back gate with a package (WTF?!), and I heard all this barking... I went to the backyard, only to find little 28-pound Stevie had him pinned up against the gate with terror. I apologized to him, but afterwards I praised her effusively. 

All that said, although she preferred calm, she was also a joyful part of the absolute chaos whenever someone rang the doorbell ( FREAK OUT!), when we left for a walk, when we were doing tricks and training time, or when all the dogs would start to howl and sing together. I love about her that she had a distinct comfort zone, but also found ways to enjoy an emotional range outside of that. 

She loved learning tricks, loved treats, loved being praised, and was easy to train. When we first got her, we had a really exceptional trainer, whom Stevie immediately loved. We learned so many good tricks from that trainer, which held us in good stead for all those years. Doing tricks together always made Stevie so happy - she loved the attention, and she loved the routine of it all. Her favorite tricks were probably good ol "sit, down, shake"... but she was a very cute and proficient high-fiver too. 


More than anything, Stevie was a sweet and loving being. To be loved by her felt like an achievement - like you had been awarded a valued status. She was wary, until she loved you, and then she was a loyal and lifelong friend. She remembered people she loved, even if she had not seen them for a very long time. She was deep like a river, and it felt good to shower her in love. She just soaked it up. She loved being in bed with the whole pack...  in the mornings she loved to sleep in all the way until breakfast time, and she loved a soft pillow under her beautiful head. 

Life will be different for us without this special beauty, but boy do we feel lucky that we accidentally brought home a dog who turned out to be such a marvelous and special friend. Onward, sweet perfect Stevie Weevie... 

Saturday, February 15, 2020

January Round-Up: Simple Home Cookin

January was a quiet month around here, which was really wonderful. I started the month with a big and special teaching commitment... and then I had a relatively light load for the rest of the month. It was so nice after all the hub-bub of the holidays, and especially after Dottie's sudden death, to finally have a chance to lay low, cook lots of healthy meals, and watch some extra Netflix. Y'know. 

POWER PLATES

Lately, my very favorite cookbook is Power Plates, by Gena Hamshaw 

I have been cooking from it so often, and we've had so many great meals from it. All her recipes are balanced, nutritious, and well-seasoned... satisfying both emotionally and physically. They almost all have protein, veggies, grains, greens... all the good stuff you want in a perfect meal. I already have a long list of favorites, but I've been challenging myself to make more recipes that I haven't tried yet.
Here are a few we tried recently:
Roasted Cauliflower Salad with Lentils
Tofu Migas (with greens on the side)
Stuffed Bell Peppers

That Roasted Cauliflower Salad sounds like the kind of thing where you'd be hungry 20 minutes later, but with the lentils and the dressing, it's heartier than you'd think. I had a huge cauliflower, so I doubled the dressing - No Regerts! 

Also the Stuffed Peppers were great! I have another recipe from Vegan Diner that I usually use, but I loved this variation. Even Mr. VE&T who doesn't like tempeh (sad face) really loved these. They were easy to make, packed with nutrition, and then we had them for dinner two nights in a row, plus a couple lunches. Yes! 


Roasted Veggies with Spiced Tahini Sauce with Yogurt and Sumac
from Whole Food Cooking Every Day by Amy Chaplin

Whole Food Cooking Every Day by Amy Chaplin is the other book I've been loving and using a lot lately. It was an xmas gift from Mr VE&T and it's full of innovative ideas, interesting flavor combinations, and daring spices. It's not 100% vegan, but mostly vegan, and it's just so fun to have a book that feels really creative and new to me. It's not the easiest book for beginners, but is a really fun book for a confident and creative home cook. I really love having a recipe to follow and just being "told what to do," and this book challenges me a bit by giving me direction (like a great sauce recipe, and some ideas - but not specific recipes - on how to use it). 

We've had several great meals from this book and I look forward to using it more!


Fruit Tree Care!

One of the great xmas prezzies that I got from my auntie this year was the gift of her knowledgable time to help me take care of our fruit trees! First we spent a long time pruning our beloved apple tree (a big project) and then we moved on to my insanely overgrown lime tree. My aunt is a properly skilled and educated gardener (I am not!) so her help really means a lot to me. We pruned the lime tree WAY back and collected SO MANY LIMES in the process. I gave two huge boxes of limes to one of my students who owns a restaurant, and brought some to my trainer, and brought the last box to my class. Plus, the tree is still full of more limes! 

While we were at it, we did some nice gentle pruning on the orange trees and I picked lot of oranges. We've been having fresh OJ with breakfast, and have lots more oranges that are still ripening on the trees. 

I love my fruit trees so much and I appreciate all the deliciousness they share with us, so it felt really good to give them some TLC.


lovin' up the cozy crew

And of course there's been lots of love and cuddles and quiet times with our sweet little fur gang! 
As you would expect! 


Monday, January 20, 2020

December Round-Up! Vegan Wedding, Holidays, Cookies!

Hello Beloved Blog Readers! Last month was quite a time... so much happened, joys and sorrows... and also lots of delicious vegan food. I kept thinking "I should blog about this!" - but then I would either be too busy or too tired. So, in keeping with the eternal school of "better late than never," I present you with a proper account of many delicious events from last month!


A Vegan Wedding! 

December started with lots of joyful hustle and bustle as one of my very favorite besties got married! It was a perfect wedding - filled with love and joy. And also nothing but amazing vegan food. For appetizers they had great bread from a local bakery, gluten-free crackers, and a big vegan cheese plate (top left). The dinner was absolutely great - something I would love to eat every night if I could! - green salad with special goodies, seared broccolini, PERFECT roasted baby potatoes, a white bean dish, ratatouille, and more delicious bread (lower left). It was so fun to be at a wedding and to have a full plate full of delicious and nourishing food! We all know, that doesn't happen often. 

One of my friend's and my favorite things to do together is go to the farmers market, so for their wedding gift I painted them a big serving platter with some of their very favorite produce goodies, along with real samples of their favorites. Her faves are parsnips and delicata squash. His are artichokes and pomegrantes. It was a fun project!


Dessert!

OH YEAH. A vegan wedding with vegan desserts? I am here for that! The groom's sister made a VERY delicious chocolate cake with cherry compote. Oh man it was good. And my friend herself also made many batches of two different excellent gluten-free cookies. Of course I had cookies AND cake because I am no dummy. 


Our Beloved Dottie Bonkers

The hardest part of December, without a doubt, was the sudden and totally unexpected loss of our sweet and wild Dottie Bonkers. She died the same day as the wedding, which definitely made for quite an emotionally intense weekend. Dottie was a truly vivacious spirit - so full of inquiry and curiosity and relentless levels of energy. She was ALWAYS up for just about anything. If you were gonna get up and walk into the other room, she was right there with you. If you called her name, her head would swivel around at a hundred miles an hour - with her giant ears radio-dialed for total attention. She didn't ever want to miss ANYTHING. She kept a vigilant eye on everyone's activity and especially loved to police all feline antics. Whenever we would get out Footie's toys to start playing kitty games, Dottie would jump up and run to Footie's play zone, and start whimpering with overwhelming enthusiasm and excitement. She was slightly aloof, and didn't love snuggles, but was also wildly jealous if you tried to snuggle anyone else. Most of all, she loved attention - she could learn any trick in 15 minutes and loved to learn and do tricks and play, and make eye contact and know that she was doing just what she was supposed to do. That said, the second you turned away, she was also very skilled at being naughty - and was especially good at taking entire loaves of bread off the counter top. She had a docked tail that we called "Stumpy" and she could wiggle that little stump like nothing else - she was exuberant and goofy and earnest. Our house is so different, and so quiet without her and our hearts have been heavy. 


cooking up xmas gifts

I kinda threw myself into xmas this year - I always like the holiday season but this year I think it was an especially welcome distraction from grieving for Dottie. I try to focus on giving homemade gifts and this year I made lots of things:
Fruitcakes
Dried Persimmons
 Prune and Armagnac Truffles
Lime Marmalade
Biscotti for my dad
and 3 kinds of Homemade Hot Sauces for my brother! 

It definitely kept me busy in the kitchen, and it felt so good to settle into the quiet joys of culinary projects. Especially with my sad heart, it was so nice to follow the instructions, slice the persimmons, roll the truffles... tangible tasks with a beginning and an end. 

Also, my mom gave me those very sweet little utensils in the top left - they were my dad's baby spoon and baby fork!! Isn't that extremely special? They even have his little monogram on them. My dad was raised in a middle class home, but apparently he did have a silver spoon! 


COOKIES

You all already know that I love cookies. Every year I pick one week of December and I made cookies for each of my yoga classes. I made a different kind of cookie for each day of the week, so that if people came multiple times, they could have some variety! And I also bring gluten-free options so that no one needs to leave without a cookie. 

I also made a big batch of my favorite gingerbread cookies for some special friend dates. I always use the "Lower Fat Gingerbread Men" from the Joy of Cooking. It's SUCH a delicious recipe and really easy to veganize. 


Friend Date!

My long-time BFF and I have a history of doing fun holiday crafts and antics with her daughter and this year they were going to be travelling for the holidays. SO! I headed over (on a school night!) and we had a great night of xmas crafting, a delicious vegan dinner (my pal made the Tofu, Beans and Rice from Power Plates by Gena Hamshaw - it was a delicious and hearty dinner!), and then after dinner we decorated cookies together. It was such a sweet night with people I love. 


Xmas Dinner! 

This year our family decided to do Italian Christmas again... in our own little way. My mom made some beautiful and delicious antipasti platters - full of marinated and roasted veggies. She also made a big bowl of her signature hummus. ha ha. I know it is definitely not Italian, but I guess we are Californians who are addicted to hummus and we were all on board with hummus. Ha ha ha. My mom also made a huge green salad, and you may not know this, but my mom makes THE BEST SALAD. I love her salad so much. I ate a lot of it!! 

My sister in law made a non-vegan lasagna, and I made two vegan lasagnas! The littler one is salt-free and oil-free, for my aunt and her partner. We had a fun afternoon, because my aunt came over and helped me in the kitchen we made the lasagnas together, which felt special and festive. 

This year's holiday was extra special because we had several beloved family members in town who haven't been here for the holidays for many years. It felt so good and sweet to all be together. Back in the day, when my grandparents were still alive, we used to have big holiday dinners almost every year, and this year felt like that and I appreciated it a lot. 


Christmas cookies!

For Italian Christmas, I made cuccidati, for only the second time ever. Holy MAJOLEY these cookies are SO amazing. I use a recipe that my Italian friend Sara sent me, and the recipe call for baking ammonia. Have you ever baked with ammonia? It certainly smells terrible in the batter, but when you cook them, the ammonia evaporates and leaves a very light and flaky crust. I use two different fillings - one has chocolate and the other doesn't - but both are variations of dried fruits and dates and nuts and warming spices all blended together, and these cookies are MAGIC. I need to tidy up my recipe and put it all into English and put it up on the blog - for myself and for all of you! 

For Christmas Day dinner, my sister in law asked if I would make some chocolate chip cookies. Why, yes, I'd be happy to! Her mom was in town for the holidays and her mom happens to love my vegan chocolate chip cookies. What an honor! I use Somer's recipe  which is sheer perfection. 


Lisa's Birthday! 

My cousin Lisa, and her husband, and their little boy were here for the holidays this year, which was REALLY great... and - bonus! - Lisa's birthday is just a few days after xmas, so we also got to celebrate her birthday together for the first time in eons. Lisa and I consulted about all sorts of cake flavor options... and finally she settled on a Lemon Cake. I love lemon cake too, so I was excited. 

The day before, I made a lemon cake and I could tell it just hadn't worked. The layers were dense and heavy and hadn't risen at all. I actually just threw it away. Damn! SO, I busted out a SECOND lemon cake - this time I used a recipe for a bundt cake - but when it came out, it started to sink and collapse a little. It looked okay, but not good enough for a special birthday cake. * SO I MADE A THIRD CAKE. ha ha ha. It's funny now, but I was actually pretty annoyed. I was busting out before rushing off to teach yoga and even had to rely on Mr. VE&T to take the cakes out of the oven at the right time (he did!) Thank goodness I tried again, because this third attempt was absolutely amazing. I used "The Best Lemon Cake" from Lovin it Vegan, and it was absolutely fantastic and now I officially have a preferred lemon cake recipe. 100% I recommend. Will make again!! 

* Happy news on cake #2, I was able to give it to a vegan friend who shared it with her class, where it was appreciated and didn't go to waste. Phew! 


Furbies!

Our remaining fur crew are doing pretty well. Stevie and Dottie never got along... so funny enough, Stevie has been enjoying her absence. She's soaking up the extra attention we've been giving her. She's so old now, and she has cancer, so she appreciates the new sense of quiet and calm. 

Snoopy really misses his friend Dottie... she was his fearless leader and he was her loyal follower. Since she died, he's been extra clingy and cuddly and a little weird. He needs so much snuggling and reassuring.

Footie is more on Stevie's team. He doesn't seem to miss Dottie at all. He's free to tear around the house at top speed, attack his peacock feathers with abandon, and jump up on the counter (illegal!) without Dottie narcing him out. ha ha Footie is just such a snuggle bug and I'm so grateful for his relatively youthful vigor in this house full of senior citizens!