Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Jambu Spirit: A Shoe Review!

Livin' the Good Life with my Jambu Spirit Vegan Shoes

This summer I had two main goals: redesign my yoga website, and buy some comfy patio furniture for our backyard. Can you guess which of these lofty goals I actually accomplished? ha ha. Yes, you're looking at our new patio furniture! In all my life, I've never had comfy patio furniture with pillows, and it always seemed so luxe. For years I've just been lying out on the stone when I want to enjoy the back yard (full disclosure: I still like lying on the stones). But this summer, every time I have a little chunk of downtime, you can find me lounging on my new cooshy patio furniture. Reading, resting, catching up on emails, eating lunch... or having "backyard kibble time." Kibble time" is when we give Footie extra kitty kibbles, and we usually give the dogs some too, as you can see from their expectant posture! 

Now it's almost fall, and luckily we also got a cute little fire pit so that we will be able to enjoy the backyard even when the weather cools down a bit. 

This fall I also have four super-cute styles of vegan shoes from Jambu to review, from their new line up of autumn styles. The first pair I'm reviewing are these sporty Spirit Vegan Slip-ons. As you may recall, I am a brand ambassador for Jambu, particularly for their vegan line of shoes. Jambu (and its two sub-brands JSport and JBU) make lots of cute vegan shoes for women in an array of styles. I really appreciate being able to find a selection sporty, classy, casual, and fancy vegan shoes! 

Be mindful that not all Jambu styles are vegan however, so make sure you are checking out the vegan section of their website.

The Spirit Vegan slip-ons are a mid-weight shoe: they aren't heavy, but they do feel warm and substantial. The material is a combination of a really nice faux leather and a stretchy neoprene. They are slip-ons, but you can see that there is also a little velcro tab on the outer ankle that you can undo to make it a bit easier to slip on or off. The neoprene makes these shoes warm to wear... so I think they would be too hot on a hot summer day (but you should be wearing sandals in the summer anyway! or be skipping around barefoot!), but they'll be great for the coming chill of autumn... and even for mild days in the winter if it's not rainy (they aren't waterproof). 

The laces aren't adjustable, so the shoe relies on the overall fit to be comfortably snug. I found these true to size. I don't have exceptionally wide or narrow feet, and I feel like these fit me well, especially with a light sock. 

I really tried to get Footie to come up with me! 

The soles of the Spirit Vegans have great tread and traction - it's even made partly with recycled materials. I had no problem climbing up our tree with my shoes on (I was actually getting ready to prune some shoots off of our magnolia tree). Footie was so curious about my antics, but I just couldn't quite compel him to join me up there! 

These shoes have moderate arch support, and they also have Jambu's super-comfy memory foam insoles. They practically feel like little slippers on my feet! It's so fun to scamper around and do errands and walk the dogs and do my chores, and have my feet feel so cozy and cooshy the whole time. 

At the park where we usually walk our dogs

The Spirit Vegan shoes come in six different colors and they're all super cute and quite different. I had a hard time picking which color to review. The colors are: black with blue laces, blue on blue (so hard for me to resist!), a nice wine/maroon color, white with pale green laces, a "hiker brown" with red laces, and these grey with pink laces. I'm trying to be a grown-up and not get blue shoes in every single style that I review for Jambu (ha ha), and I'm glad I broadened my horizons. I really love these and I have found them quite versatile for my wardrobe. They also look cute with my yoga tights or my jeans, which is great since I spent the vast majority of my life in yoga tights! Since we always take our shoes off for yoga, I love having shoes that I can easily slip in and out of several times a day.  I look forward to wearing these shoes a lot this fall! 

If you'd like to try these Spirit Vegan Slip-ons (or any other vegan shoes from Jambu), they have generously given me a code to share with you for 20% off any shoes purchased from (good until December 31st):

Let me know if you have any questions about these shoes, and I'll do my best to answer them. 
And I have three more reviews coming your way soon, of really different styles!

Monday, August 27, 2018

A Family Affair!

Do you have any family members who live far away, but are also super fun? And then when they come to visit, it is extra super great? A while back, my mom's cousin Bruce came to visit, and he and his sister are both special like that to our family. 

Bruce lives in Portland, so it's not like we never see him... but it's usually just for a quick dinner or a little hello. But this time was super special because he came to Santa Cruz to speak at a 3-day symposium on Iranian performing arts up at the university here. So we had him in town for several days, and we got to attend the symposium (so cool!!) and hear his talk, AND I got to host a family dinner with Brucie as our special guest. I have been wanting to write this blog post forever, and then I thought "maybe I'll just forget about it..." but I didn't want to give up on it!

Bruce is an enthusiastic foodie, so it was an extra special treat to get to cook a meal for him. Of course I wanted to impress him! 

This was at the end of asparagus season (I told you it was a while ago!), and so I knew for sure that I wanted to make my favorite Asparagus and Cilantro Soup from The Real Food Daily Cookbook. This soup is so beautiful and so delicious. I just love it, and so did everyone at our dinner party! I guess I was so busy enjoying the soup that I forgot to take a picture of it... so instead I have a picture of these beautiful asparagus tips, delicately sliced in half, and ready to be blanched. The asparagus tips are used a garnish in the finished soup and they are so beautiful and bright green after being blanched. 

happy memories of asparagus days

Open-Faced Grilled Herb Tofu Sandwiches

I also made some open-faced Grilled Herb Tofu Sandwiches - also from The Real Food Daily Cookbook. This recipe is one of my old favorites, and is absolutely spectacular. The tofus are marinated in a fantastic mixture with fresh herbs and then grilled ( I used my panino press for perfect grilled tofuz! ). Then there are caramelized onions, a homemade sundried tomato pesto, and fresh greens. Doing these sandwiches open-faced was great because the bread wasn't overly dominant and all the fresh flavors really got to shine. It was also a good balance with the soup - protein, carbs, and a bit more hearty. 


I feel strongly about offering a good dessert at special dinner parties... And our special party was right around the same time as Mr. VE&T's birthday! So I asked him what he wanted for a bday dessert - he asked for Blueberry Pie! SO fun! I hadn't made a pie in quite a while... and I don't know if I've ever actually made a blueberry pie before. It was so much fun. I even used fresh blueberries. I used this recipe for my inspiration, and it turned out so well! I felt ambitious and wanted to try a lattice crust. It was a little nerve wracking, but it looked so pretty when it was all done and baked. And it was super delicious!
anxiously working on my lattice crust

Beautiful Bowl of Summer Fruit

My aunt's partner has his birthday the day before Mr. VE&T... but he doesn't eat sweets or sugar. I still wanted to do something special for him - so I just filled a large serving dish full of blueberries and strawberries. It was so beautiful and perfect and bountiful! I love pie, but it really is hard to beat a perfect piece of fruit all on its own. 

It was a really great dinner party - we all had so much fun together and loved sharing some special personal time with our beloved cousin Bruce! 

our sweet little fur crew. 
They are great.

Friday, August 17, 2018

High Sierra Yosemite Eats!

Ahhh. The joys of Tuolumne Meadows

A couple weeks ago, my mom and I took our annual trip to Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park. We arrived the same day that most of the park was closed due to smoke from a blazing forest fire. Tuolumne is at the Northeast side of the park, and much higher elevation than Yosemite Valley, and so it is far from the fire and has stayed open throughout. We did have some smokey skies in the afternoon, but as you can see, we had some pretty clear and beautiful skies too. This trip is something we look forward to every year, and we were both so glad that we got to go! 

Baked Tofu Sandwiches In The Wild!
(Lyell Fork, Tuolumne River, Dana Fork)

We have a whole routine when it comes to lunches at Yosemite... we make baked tofu sandwiches for our hikes everyday with baked tofuz, avocado, lettuce, tomatoes, red onion, mustard, mayo (for mom only!) and we even had some grilled zucchini that I brought from home as well. It's a good hearty meal, and after a hike it feels like the best thing in the whole world. We also always bring along some sort of little bar, some fruits and veggies to snack on, trail mix... I made a loaf of zucchini bread so we brought little pieces of zucchini bread along too. 

Truth be told, we took one pretty long hike (+/- 10 miles), but mostly we just take little day hikes... so, we had plenty of food! ha ha. 

hiking and dreaming!

My friend and her daughter were supposed to come with us this year, but because of the fires they decided not to come. Since we were expecting to have a kiddo with us, I was sure to pack supplies for vegan smores! But there we were, kidless, with a box of graham crackers, dark chocolate, and a huge bag of Dandies. So we just headed over the to huge communal campfire and offered to share our supplies with all the other campers. It was so lovely! We met so many wonderful people and had a great time eating smores and making friends. 

"Children's Hour"

It's our family tradition to have some post-hike, pre-dinner evening snacks and drinks ... The traditional drink of choice is Gin and Tonic. I'm not much of an alcohol fan, so I stuck with fruity fizz water. We both had some good books that we brought along, and we also spent lots of time working away at our big book of NYT Monday crossword puzzles - such fun! 

Dinner at Lembert Dome 

This year I bought a propane stove of my own so that I could cook dinner for us! There is a "Lodge" at Tuolumne (it's a giant canvas tent turned into a restaurant) and we ate there one night. Happily they had a pretty great vegan option this year - curried veggies with tofu and rice, plus a ginormous bowl of all you can eat salad. But, no one wants to eat the same thing 4 nights in a row! So we took our propane stove over to the base of Lembert Dome, where you are allowed to prepare food. It's such a beautiful spot! We made veggie burgers and fresh corn and had extra veggies and hummus to snack on while we prepared our dinner. It was so fun to use my brand new propane stove for the first time! 

Can you see that cute little frog???  He was tiny and perfect. 

other animals we saw this year

A stop in Groveland on the way home!

Because of the fires, our most beloved route was closed.... and so we took a route to Yosemite that we almost never take. On our way there, we passed through a cute little town on Groveland... and decided we would stop there on our way home. We had prepared our usual tofu sandwiches, but we were on the search for some nice cold drinks. We found a very cute and freshly-remodeled spot called "Provisions" - they have a menu, but they also have a little shop full of deli goodies and snacks. Y'all, they had SO many vegan options! They even had vegan chickpea pesto sandwiches! And even though all we needed was cold drinks, they let us sit in their beautiful garden to enjoy our lunch. They were so friendly and welcoming. So if you're ever  in Groveland, you know where to go! 

We had such a great trip - we saw so many wonderful beautiful High Sierra critters, I even saw a black bear one morning when I was practicing yoga! Wowsers! It's just such a special place to be, and I'm so glad Yosemite exists for us and for the animals and for all the people who want to be there. 

Monday, July 30, 2018

A Vegan Turkish Feast!

Have you ever heard of Burek?? I first learned about burek many years ago, when Mr. VE&T and I were traveling in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Because parts of that region were historically part of the Ottoman Empire, there are many connections between Bosnian and Turkish cultures. The first city we visited in Bosnia was Mostar, which is a very special place. I remember vividly my first burek sighting... It was at a spot in Mostar with a huge wood oven (like a pizza oven) and inside was a huge cast iron pan with a huge THING on it. This "THING" was clearly amazing - it was rolls of very thin dough, filled with something definitely not vegan, and arranged in concentric circles... like a giant, target shaped savory pastry. I was mesmerized. I asked Mr. VE&T (who is not vegan) to please order a piece and tell me all about it.  

I've had the mystical vision of that decidedly non vegan burek in my head for years... and I mentioned it at some point to my excellent friend Kenan, who is Turkish... and he promised to someday make me a vegan burek...

This weekend, Kenan did just that!!! Because he is amazing, he made the most beautiful spread of TWO KINDS of burek, Turkish tea, and treats. It was such a wonderful afternoon. Here he is, with his beautiful piece-de-resistance! 

Spiral Burek

The picture above gives you a sense of how big this was. Kenan made this burek using the "official" Turkish dough - which he explained to me is a lot like phyllo dough, but a bit thicker so that it is easier to work with and has a bit more chew to it. It was SO good. Kenan was fancy and made the two inner spirals with one type of filling and the outer two layers with another filling. The middle filling used some amazing vegan Feta cheese that he had found at The Butcher's Son in Berkeley. Oh man it was so good, especially with that burek dough. The outer two rolls had a hearty filling of spinach and onions that was extremely delicious - perfectly savory and seasoned. He must have used SO MUCH spinach! This whole creation was just incredible and it sounded like he had done more pretty advanced level veganizing for some parts of the traditional recipe that called for egg. Whatever he did worked, because it was all fantastic.

"Cigar Burek" 

Kenan taught me that there is another kind of burek called Cigar Burek - for obvious reasons... they are rolled up like little cigars! These were stuffed with a potato mixture that was UHMAZING. And they were deep fried, which was a special treat - so crispy on the outside and smooth and delicious on the inside. These ones had a bit more dough, and were a little more bready, which was different but equally delicious.

Kenan and Kendra also made some special lemonades - lemon and rose, and lemon and mint. So good and summery! Plus there were big beautiful tomato slices and cucumber spears... and most especially, Kenan made Turkish tea in his beautiful special tea pot. It was such a beautiful color and was so good. It went so perfectly well with the burek... like you could just tell that these two flavors have been side by side for centuries.

Kenan told us that he read in his Turkish cookbook that people have been eating some version of burek since the 11th century!!! WOW. 

My tea, my VEGAN BUREKS (plural!!!), lemonade... my heart! 
This is definitely one of the very most special vegan treats anyone has ever prepared for me and I was just overwhelmed with the deliciousness, the gesture, and how lucky I am to have such awesome friends in my life!!! And, as if that wasn't enough, I was also sent home with an equally huge and glorious portion, which I devoured for lunch the next day. Ahhhh. HEAVEN. 

We really just had the most lovely afternoon, in the sun, catching up, laughing, munching away, sipping our tea, eating cucumber slices, surrounded by flowers, and it was great.