Thursday, May 29, 2008

Random Fridays: Shopping at Etsy, Strolling Through Philly, & Portable Babies

Although I’ve been using totes to carry my groceries for years, I still used plastic bags to bring home fruits and veggies until I ordered these reusable drawstring bags from etsy. They come in 3 different sizes and are machine washable. I love them! Hopefully these will become as ubiquitous as cute grocery totes.

"Etsy Goes Vegan," posted by Jen on Vegan Soapbox (who also blogs at That Vegan Girl), is all about the vegan items available on the crafty site. The How I Get My Protein/Calcium/Iron books are designed for vegetarians and vegans to pass along to inquiring minds

One day I will order plates and mugs from Vegan Dish.

I just finished reading Certain Girls by Jennifer Weiner. The plot got a little too busy for my liking but I enjoyed it overall. The surprising tragic wallop in the end made me cry. Jennifer Weiner's publishing company has compiled a list called "Cannie's Philadelphia," which includes some of my Philly favorites, like 30th Street Station (kicks NYC's Penn Station's ass but not quite Grand Central, which is just ridiculously gorgeous), Rittenhouse Square Park, Reading Terminal Market, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Kelly Drive, and Chef's Market.

I just found the informative and adorably designed blog, DeliciousBaby: Living the Good Life with Kids through Get Rich Slowly. It's full of tips for traveling with children and includes city guides and budgeting advice. Although Brian and I won't be visiting Portland and San Francisco this summer with any children in tow, since Brian can attest to the fact that I sure do act like a baby when I get too hungry, the site will come in handy.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Wedding

There was no better way to usher in the unofficial start of summer than by attending a wedding. The Sunday of Memorial Day weekend could not have been more perfect--pure sunshine, blue and cloudless skies, warm weather. Our friends got married in West Orange, NJ, in the backyard of the groom's parents' home. From there we could clearly see the New York City skyline. We saw chipmunks scurrying around the yard, probably picking up dropped appetizers. Birds chirped and flew overhead. Planes flew in and out of Newark Airport in the distance and, at night, they looked like moving stars.

The food at the wedding was fresh and delicious. You know what they say about wedding food (it sucks). Well, this maxim did not apply. The appetizers included many meat options, including shrimp cocktail and a huge platter of fresh strawberries, melon, grapes, and dried apricots with a half-dozen cheeses. I was somehow able to resist the wedges of Brie and veiny blue cheeses. Brian and I instead munched on the fruit and vegetables, the mini samosas and water crackers. I also drank a flute of champagne and a glass of lemon soda and vodka, which pretty much tided me over until dinner, which was a fabulous and inadvertently vegetarian feast. There was beef and chicken but otherwise, the dozens of other dishes were ours for the taking: falaffel; tabbouleh that bursted with mint and lemon; four kinds of hummus and baba ganoush; farfalle with garlicky tomato sauce; olive bread; tomato foccacia; grilled asparagus, peppers, eggplant, and zucchini; french fries; salad with sun dried tomatoes and olives. I was stuffed after my first plate but I couldn't resist sharing a second one with Brian. I hadn't eat much before the wedding so, by the time dinner was served, I was ravenous and that is why there are no pictures of the food!

Our friends eschewed the traditional wedding cake for an ice cream sundae station. Brian and I skipped the ice cream but gorged on many of the toppings like Oreos (yuh huh--they're vegan!), walnuts, maraschino cherries, pineapple and strawberries dipped in chocolate, mini chocolate covered apples on cinnamon sticks.

I danced with Brian. Danced with the bride. Walked barefoot on the lawn. The newlyweds gave baby spruces and lily bulbs as wedding favors, both of which I planted the next day. Watching them get married made me so happy. I cried through the whole ceremony. And then ate my weight in joy.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Random Fridays: Vegan Fashion Booty & Some Links

Alloy A great place to find cheap and often leather-free bags and shoes. I just purchased the metallic, copper Birkenstock-like sandals and madras print flip flops as well as a great tie dye dress for the beach and a raspberry pink blouse.

Kiyonna My “wedding” dress. And by wedding dress, I mean the one I’ll be wearing to other people’s weddings this summer. I myself am not getting hitched. And if I were, I think I’d wear red.

Alternative Outfitters Is where I bought wedges to match my dress. I love this store. They have a wide selection of stylish and very affordable shoes, bags, and beauty items.

My favorite just stumbled upon links this week are:

Vegan Yum Yum How did I miss this one? The pictures alone are worth a visit. They are so luscious and textured, you can see how good the food must taste. This will definitely be a new regular read for me.

Vegan Eats and Treats Another site full of excellent and colorful photographs.

Pistachio Crusted Tofu from Fat Free Vegan.

Oprah’s 21-Day Cleanse You may have heard that Oprah Winfrey is giving a vegan diet a shot for the next three weeks. What’s exciting about this experiment she’s embarking on is the fact that this is not a fast just for personal health reasons. The treatment of animals is a part of the discussion Oprah and author and cleanse advisor, Kathy Freston are sharing with others. Oprah wrote in her blog:

“How can you say you're trying to spiritually evolve, without even a thought about what happens to the animals whose lives are sacrificed in the name of gluttony?
"So this 21-day cleanse gives me a chance to think about it differently and see what my attachments are to certain kinds of foods—and what I'm willing to do to change.”

No matter the outcome for Oprah, I think it’s wonderful that a vegan diet is being discussed with millions of viewers and web site users. I’m sure more than a few people who give the cleanse a try will end up staying vegan. I also love that Kathy Freston discusses animal treatment in her book, Quantum Wellness and cites resources on animal rights.

There are some great vegan recipes on Oprah’s site, such as Scampi Style Tofu Wrap and Black Bean Cakes with Lime-Peppered Mayo by chef Tal Ronnen, a graduate of New York City’s Natural Gourmet Institute, which is where I took a really fun and delicious class with vegan chef and author, Myra Kornfeld.

On the nonfood front, Putting Things Off is the anti-productivity web site. It posits the revolutionary idea that we cast aside our PDA addictions in favor of paper and pencil. I love the sarcastic humor and simple, practical tips.


Have a good, and hopefully long, weekend. Off to a wedding in my wedges.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Would You Like Fries With That?

The second Brian and I turned the corner of Trenton Avenue just before noon on Saturday, we knew the festival was already well on its way to being a huge success. And by huge, I mean so much huger than it was last year. The number of food and art vendors seemed to be double the amount from 2007. I immediately began eyeing the cute purses, aprons, and jewelry I wanted to buy. Dozens of tables were lined along several blocks and the entire length of the festival was sandwiched by two stages starring local musicians and performances by the Walking Fish Theatre.

Our first official stop, though, was to Viva Las Vegans. The truck was parked off to a side street and I was a bit worried about festival-goers missing the sidelined truck. I met Blythe and Derek, the wife and husband duo behind the operation and the first thing I noticed is, OK, Blythe is gorgeous. She and I talked about the inspiration behind Viva Las Vegans—she just wanted some simple and quick vegan comfort food that literally didn’t cost an arm and a leg. We talked about how we ended up in Philly (or really, how I will eventually end up in Philly) and our job experiences. Our first conversation went so well, I almost forgot to step aside from the window when the first customer came along. I left to help Brian place some recycling bins along the avenue. We were both pleased and surprised by both the picture perfect early summer sunshine and the huge crowd.

Pretty soon, we wanted to eat and we, of course, were going to hit up the vegan food truck. We did eyeball other food vendors and that’s when we were even happier to have Viva Las Vegans. There wasn’t much vegetarian-friendly fare, let alone vegan options. One vendor had vegan stew, to which Brian remarked, “Who wants to eat stew at a street fair in the sun?” By the time Brian and I returned to the truck, the line was bustling. I ordered the crispy soy chicken sandwich with jalapenos and Brian got a fish filet. Derek was generous enough to give us both for free. As we waited for our food, Brian offered up my services to Blythe and Derek and they both quickly took him up on his offer. I was admittedly nervous about the possibility of being more of a hindrance than a help to them since I still use my fingers to solve even the simplest of calculations. Blythe assured me that she’d yell out the prices for me and also, there was a calculator. I ate my delicious sandwich and went into the truck.

Viva Las Vegans has devised a complex and sometimes fragile ordering shorthand. For instance, when someone orders a crispy chicken, you write down “CC” and hand that off to the cooks. When someone orders a soy burger, you write down “SB.” OK, so that was easy. Yeah, but what the hell do you write when someone orders a fish filet and French fries? FF and FF? Derek insisted that “FF” would signify French fries and writing out “fish” would be the filet. It only took one or two ambiguous FF’s before I caught on.

As far as I know, everyone’s change was correct and we only lost one order, which we quickly fixed. Vegan customers are about the friendliest bunch you could ever hope to serve. One customer loved the idea of the truck so much that he asked that the generous remainder of his change go toward buying the next customer’s order. How often does that happen at Burger King?

During my truck time, I also met the owner of the Northport Fishington Cookie Factory, who supplies Viva Las Vegans with their cookies. Brian and I split the oatmeal cranberry cashew concoction and, oh my god, was it good.

In addition to that cookie, I ate a chocolate nut vanilla cupcake from Baked, a local microbakery that provides baking lessons and vegan and nonvegan baked goods for special order and Philly bakeries and cafes. When I bought the cupcake, I planned to share it with Brian. After one bite, I asked him if I could buy him another one because I no longer wanted to share mine with him. The cake was so moist and not too sweet while the frosting was creamy with the perfect balance of sugary and savory flavors.

A member of Philadelphia Tree People made vegan chocolate chip cookies. This cookie was out of this world delicious—soft, buttery, and, since this is still a compliment, one that did not taste vegan at all. I reluctantly gave my last cookie to Brian but don’t think that didn’t hurt.

Derek and Blythe assured me that my help at the window was indeed very helpful. What little I did for one afternoon, however, was nothing compared to what they do everyday. Standing and working in tight quarters to deliver delicious, high-quality, vegan comfort food takes a tremendous amount of hard work and elbow grease. I admire the risk and bravery it takes to launch a small business and especially the dedication it takes to provide much needed vegan grub in the food world.

If you’re ever in Philly, please do yourself a favor and visit Viva Las Vegans at 33rd and Market. Order a Big D with extra cheese, bacon, and ask for some fries to be sandwiched in between (Blythe’s second creation for Brian on Saturday). Then leave a generous tip.

Pictures by Brian.

The Big Secret Behind the 10 Healthiest and Cheapest Foods

According to WebMD's "10 Healthy Foods Under $1," the following choices are your best bets:

1. Apples

2. Bananas

3. Bagged Baby Carrots

4. Canned Beans

5. Canned Tomatoes

6. Oranges

7. Pears

8. Dried Lentils

9. Pearl Barley (dry)

10. Yogurt

The article states, "many foods that are good for you are also cheap." What they neglect to mention is that, with the exception of number 10, which could either be cow's milk or soy milk-based or both, all of these foods just happen to be vegan.

All of the most nutrient-dense, healthful, and cheap foods are plant-based, whole foods. None contain animal products. The list represents foods full of fiber, vitamins, minerals, complex carbohydrates, and yes, calcium and protein.

Contrary to the popular myth, vegan foods are not more expensive and they aren't lacking in protein. Your wallet can never go wrong when you choose whole, plant-based foods.

For more information on the health and financial benefits of a whole foods, vegan diet:

Mutual Menu post, "Everyone Is A Little Vegan"

Vegetarian Food for Thought podcast episodes on:

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine's resource on the New Four Food Groups: whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and legumes.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Trenton Avenue Arts Festival this Saturday, May 17

The East Kensington Neighbors Association (EKNA)--of which Brian is the secretary--will be holding its third annual Trenton Avenue Arts Festival (TAAF) this Saturday, May 17 from noon until 5 pm. The TAAF celebrates East Kensington's local artists, musicians, and restaurants. The festival helps EKNA raise funds for community art projects, which stimulate neighborhood revitalization efforts. The TAAF is held on Trenton Avenue between East Norris Street and Frankford Avenue at York Street.

There will be lots of food, beer from East Kensington's own Philadelphia Brewing Company, many wonderful vendors (I always get compliments on the earrings and bags I purchased at last year's festival), music, and, of course, the 2nd Annual Kensington Kinetic Sculpture Derby (KKSD), which is hilariously fun. This event is great for children and grown-ups alike.

One of the food vendors will be Viva Las Vegans, the University City-based, all-vegan food truck that Brian visits on a nearly daily basis. I'll finally get to meet the fine folks behind Viva Las Vegans and, if I'm lucky, will be able to help them out during the festival. So, if you come out and visit the truck, I may even be the one to hand you your veggie burger or chocolate soy milk shake.

Please come out and support the festival in general and the vegan truck in particular. If you can't attend but know anyone in the Philadelphia-area (especially hungry vegans and vegetarians!), please pass the word. Feel free to reprint this entire post on your blog or site word for word.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

And the Winner Is...

Noemi at hermana resist! Noemi has won a copy of Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. Thank you to everyone who entered the giveaway and has visited Mutual Menu. There will be another contest in the future. I'm thinking of giving away another vegan cookbook or vegan nonedibles like soap. What do you think?

Friday, May 9, 2008

Random Friday: Kristin Hersh, Satya, eggs, moms and more

* Please listen to Kristin Hersh's latest offering on CASH Music, "Krait." I've been listening to it all morning long. It's haunting and gorgeous. It sounds like the ocean. Like being under an ocean wave. Like drowning in an ocean wave. Kristin Hersh is pretty much the only singer, musician, and songwriter who can blow my mind these days.

* I started eating an egg for breakfast one morning after several weeks without them and it totally grossed me out and filled me with guilt. So I gave the rest to the dog. That's just what happened to me when I stopped eating meat.
* Ecco Bella mascara is vegan and it doesn't have a lot of funkyass chemicals that flake into your eyeballs either. It's just as good--if not better--than some of the other mascaras I've used. I ordered some from Pangea The Vegan Store and it arrived the very next day with only standard shipping. That's crazy!

* Sky of Eats Well with Others drinks a green smoothie everyday. My grandmother was an avid juicer and my mom loves her Vita Mix so I figured it was time to follow in my matriarchs' footsteps. I made a smoothie of chard; coconut water; frozen mango, bananas, and berries; almonds; flax meal; and agave nectar and it was delicious. Later on in the week, I made a smoothie of romaine lettuce, kale, sprouts, coconut water, banana, frozen mango and berries, agave nectar, flax meal, and trail mix. This one tasted a bit more green because of the sprouts and wasn't so much a green smoothie as it was a brown-dark purple one but it was yummy nonetheless. I've had a smoothie for breakfast everyday this week.

* It was around Mother's Day last year that I decided to be a pescetarian. What kept me from going completely vegetarian was the fact that I took my mother out to lunch to Origin Thai in Somerville, NJ and got the Pla Rad Prik--crispy fried whole fish seasoned with tamarind, chili, garlic and sweet shallot sauce --and, well, that dish is admittedly really amazing. So, I decided I'd just give up eating land animals and keep eating fish, which I only ever really enjoyed if it didn't taste like fish. Well, this year I'm taking my mom there again, this time with Brian and this time as a near-vegan (that whole egg thing and popping a mini muffin that probably had dairy in it into my mouth are reasons for the near part). Origin Thai is a great spot for a mutual menu because, while they don't have many dedicated vegetarian or vegan dishes, they will happily accommodate you and say so on their web site and menu. Happy Mother's Day!
Mutual Menu is giving away one copy of Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. To enter to win and for more details, please leave one comment here.
Picture courtesy of CASH Music.

Last Chance to Enter Cupcake Cookbook Giveaway

Entries for our first giveaway of a brand new copy of Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World: 75 Dairy-Free Recipes for Cupcakes that Rule by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero will close on May 12, 2008 .

If you'd like to own a copy of this award-winning book full of delicious recipes and helpful baking hints, all you have to do is leave a comment in response to this post. That's it. We will pick one winner at random. For more details, please go here.

Saturday, May 3, 2008


Luckie with his sling.
A blurry Luckie eating lying down after spraining his back leg. He is much better now. He'll be 14 on May 29.

Friday, May 2, 2008

37 Wolves and Counting Murdered

From the NRDC Action Fund:

A mere 30 days after the Bush Administration stripped Yellowstone's wolves of their Endangered Species protection, the Northern Rockies have been turned into a killing field.

Thirty-seven wolves are already dead. Hundreds more are being targeted by Wyoming, Idaho and Montana, which have waited years for this chance to put their plans for extermination into action...

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) -- and 11 other groups -- filed suit this week in federal court to stop the killing and restore the wolf's desperately needed Endangered Species protection.The court action comes not a moment too soon. Eyewitness reports of the latest wolf-killing rampage have been heartbreaking to people all over the world who care about wildlife.

On the very day that these wolves lost their Endangered Species protection, a crippled wolf named "Limpy," one of the most photographed wolves in Yellowstone's famous Druid Peak pack, was shot to death when he ventured outside the park.

Another wolf was stalked for over 35 miles by snowmobile before being overtaken and shot.

Another was found dead on the side of the highway, his still-warm body torn apart by bullets. And, tragically, at least four female wolves have been killed just prior to the denning season, which could doom some of the region's wolf pups...

You can help by telling Congress to ban the poisoning of gray wolves and other wildlife.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Random Fridays: This Week's Link Love

* Gary Francione on how just sitting next to someone and talking to them can change lives.

* I've been checking out some bloggers' Amazon stores. Here are my favorites so far:

The Urban Vegan's Corner Store features a plethora of cookbooks I've yet to check out, like Vegan Bites and You Won't Believe Its Vegan.
Elaine Vigneault In addition to vegan books, there is a list of books on writing, blogging, feminism, and fiction.
Compassionate Cooks' is incredibly extensive, with cookbooks, doggie treats, a Kitchen Aid Mixer, and much more.

* Listening to Ani Phyo on's VegTalk podcast makes me want to create and eat up some raw treats. Especially her Fresh Mango Cobbler, which also is one of's Top 10 Recipes.

* This weekend, Brian and I are meeting my friend, TJ (check out his band, Todd Carlstrom and the Clamor) for the Rittenhouse Row Spring Festival. Being Cinco de Mayo weekend, I best be eating some Mexican food and drinking a margarita at some point, too.

Mutual Menu is giving away one copy of Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. To enter to win and for more details, please leave one comment here.

Inspiring Change

I really needed to read the post, "You Can Do It. Really, You Can," on Elaine Vigneault's awesome blog that acknowledges how challenging it can be for many people to stop consuming animal products:

Every now and then I have one of those moments where I realize what it must be like for meat-eaters to go vegetarian or vegan. The most recent moment was when I read Mary Martin’s suggestion a week ago:

Stop buying products made with corn. You may have already done that. I’d also add rice to the list of products not to buy. Even wheat."

My first reaction was: WHAT!? I CAN’T DO THAT!

I felt like she was telling me to cut out half my diet. What the hell would I eat...

And then I realized that’s what it feels like to meat-eaters when someone suggests they go vegetarian or vegan...

You can do it. Really, you can. It will get easier the longer you do it. There are just two ways to transform your diet: quickly or slowly. It’s your choice. Do whichever feels comfortable to you.

As I said in the comments to this post, I've come along way. I've gone from eating meat every day of my life--sometimes several times a day--to not touching the stuff and I've maintained that way of life for over a year. I've gone from saying, "I'll never be vegan. Need cheese too much," to saying, "OK, I really want to do this because it's right for me," and envisioning what I'd be like as a vegan. From saying, "Well, maybe I'll buy leather shoes because I don't live near Moo Shoes," to returning a pair of unworn, just purchased leather flats because, on second thought, the idea of wearing newly bought dead animal just out of convenience seemed unthinkable.

Lately I've really been struggling with whether or not I could be vegan, feeling like I'm missing some chromosome other vegans seem to have. Brian and I went into a fancy food shop in Princeton this past weekend and, though I didn't even glance at the meat counter and found its contents tragic, I looked longingly at all the pastries full of butter, eggs, and cheese. I felt self-pity at the thought of never being able to eat a grilled cheese sandwich or putting cow's milk in my Earl Grey tea again. But I know that there's an abundance of food for me to eat that doesn't involve animals suffering. I know that almost all the great changes in my life have taken time, dedication, and focus. I know that I usually get what I want and do what I feel is right in my heart. I may meander in getting to where I know I want to be. But I know I'll do it and look back and remember when I was scared and just smile, knowing there wasn't much to fear after all.

Mutual Menu is giving away one copy of Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. To enter to win and for more details, please leave one comment here.