Dinner and Bikes Event (Vegan+GF)

June 22nd, 2014

Dinner and BikesFrom the Bike-Ready.com website:

The Bikenomics East Coast Tour makes a stop in Asheville on Thursday, June 26! Please join us at West End Bakery (757 Haywood Rd in West Asheville) from 7pm to 10pm for a traveling road show of vegan food and bicycle inspiration.

Tickets $12-$20, sliding scale (includes dinner). More event information at dinnerandbikes.com.

Choose “Local Pickup” as your shipping option during checkout. Your order confirmation page is your ticket—please print a copy and bring with you to the event. Tickets are nonrefundable.

Purchase tickets, and read more details on the Bike-Ready website.

I’m told by one of the organizers that the food will be vegan and gluten-free!

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Vegan Twinkie alternative exists!

March 10th, 2014
Vanilla Canoe Boats

Vanilla Canoe Boats

In junior high school, I was so known for loving Twinkies, that my friends used to buy them for me by the box for my birthday. There have been vegan versions of just about every childhood treat, except for Twinkies. Until now, that is.

X’s To O’s Vegan Bakery has “Vanilla Canoe Boats” available for sale. They aren’t allowed to call them Twinkies, but that’s sure what they look like to me. They’ve got a whole category of canoe products.

Loaded with gluten and sugar, I am completely opposed to eating these for health reasons. Oh, but I AM going to eat these.

Thank goodness they aren’t easy to get (unless you live in NYC) because my health would go out the window.

Special thanks to Noelle of Republic of V in Berkeley, CA for alerting me to the existence of these.

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Bean Salad – favorite recipe for 2013

November 3rd, 2013
bean salad

bean salad with black-eyed peas and aduki

I’ve eaten this meal probably 50 times this year and I still love it. It’s easy, healthy, and filling.

Bean Salad

2 Cans beans – recommend black beans, aduki beans, and/or black-eyed peas

1 Cucumber, diced

1 Tomato, diced

4 Green onions, chopped small

1 Tbsp flax oil

1Tbsp ume plum vinegar

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Drain the liquid from the beans, rinse thoroughly with water, and drain well again. Add in the rest of the ingredients and mix well. That’s it!

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Arbonne, vegan and gluten-free personal care products

October 20th, 2013

arbonne_logoFirst, let me say that I do not gain, financially or otherwise, from the sale of Arbonne products. A local Arbonne consultant, Sarah Jukes, asked me if I’d like to try some of their products and write about my experience with them on my blog. I’m not a great person to review personal care products because I don’t use very many of them. But I’m always happy to plug new vegan products, especially if they are gluten-free, and only if they are actually any good. All Arbonne products are vegan and gluten-free.

So with that, here’s what I think of the Arbonne products I tried, in order of my enthusiasm for them.

Hair products: No joke, after using either the Nourishing Daily Conditioner or the SeaSource Hair Mask, my hair never looked so healthy in all my life. They both work great as detanglers on my super fine, tangly hair as well. I also tried the tea tree oil shampoo. The smell is great and it works well, although I wish it lathered up a bit more than it does.

Deodorant: I’ve often wondered if different people’s chemistry responds differently to the various deodorants on the market because so many of them don’t seem to work at all. Some even make things worse.  Arbonne’s Pure Mint Deodorant is the first aluminum-free deodorant that seems to actually do its job, even when I’m breaking a sweat. Thumbs up.

Facial products: I’ve been washing my face with my regular soap for years, which means that just about any facial cleanser is going to be a vast improvement, so I don’t think my opinion carries a lot of weight here. But I did like the one I tried – the RE9 Advanced Smoothing Facial Cleanser – it didn’t dry out my skin and it feels like it washes off completely. I tried some other samples of moisturizers, masks, serums, and others, but I so hate putting lots of stuff on my skin that I was never  able to truly give it a chance, so I can’t offer an opinion on those.

Nutrition bars: I don’t delude myself into thinking the various nutrition bars on the market are really that good for me, but sometimes I want a treat and I do think they are far better than what’s in the candy aisle. The Arbonne chocolate nutrition bars taste good and are not overly sweet, which is hard to find these days. But they contain oats, which don’t happen to agree with me, even though they are gluten-free. They also contain a small amount of sugar, which I’m willing to eat on rare occasion, but I am strict about not making a part of my regular diet. If those issues don’t apply to you, you might want to give them a try.

Fit chews: These are little treats that are supposed to stop you from giving in to food cravings. They do that well. Both the chocolate and the lemon taste pretty good too. The chocolate tastes just like tootsie rolls to me. But again, they contain a small amount of sugar, and I’m personally quite strict about that. If you find yourself unable to resist the call of tootsie rolls or some other unhealthy candy, these are a good alternative. Keep them in a cool place so they don’t stick to the wrapper.

Anti-aging stuff: Arbonne specializes in anti-aging products. I’m at a point where I’m starting to notice my age, but perhaps not old enough where these kinds of products show a big enough difference for me to notice in a short period of time. So I can’t really offer an opinion.

In conclusion, Arbonne seems like a high quality product line to me. They are pricier than what you’ll find in the grocery store, but I’ve gotten used to the idea of paying more to get better products. They also have a lot of ways to get discounts. Again, I have nothing to do with Arbonne and make nothing whether you buy their stuff or not.

If you’re interested in this sort of thing, contact Sarah. She’s not pushy in the slightest. Just a nice and interesting woman who’s on her own health journey as well.

Sarah Jukes
Arbonne Independent Consultant
ID # 13155218
Tel: 828.707.1610

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Vegan Violin Bow Hair

September 28th, 2013
violin and bow

Violin with my custom-made vegan bow

Years before this site became a blog, perhaps even before blogs were a thing, I wrote about my vegan violin bow that I had specially made for me. Since that post is buried in the pages of the old non-WordPress site, and since I recently received a question about it, I’ll repost information about that now.

Violin bows are normally made with horse hair. There are a couple of different options for synthetic bow hair. One is the cheap plastic-type hair that is commonly used on children’s bows. You don’t want that. The other is a synthetic hair that outdoor musicians often use because it doesn’t stretch and contract with variations in humidity. It’s called Hervex. Here is the description of Hervex on Columbia River Music’s website:

A synthetic fiber that is superior to horsehair in every way. Stronger, more resilient, withstands greater stress without breaking. Holds all rosin with a better bite. 31 inches in length-all useable. Professional quality. Made in U.S.A.

I was very happy with the quality of the Hervex and recommend it, but it didn’t seem to me to hold rosin as well as I thought it should. It wasn’t a problem – I just had to rosin my bow well once before playing and it sounded great.

I also needed to get an entirely new bow made at that time. Aside from the horse hair, violin bows typically contain small pieces of bone and leather. I found a woman in Austin (where I lived at the time) who made violin bows and agreed to make me a vegan one. Her name is Margaret Adie and it looks like she still makes bows. She used pieces of silver in place of where bone and shell pieces normally would be and a special rubber piece in place of the leather grip. It’s a top quality bow.

If you’re wondering why anyone would object to using a little bit of horse hair, you’re probably imagining a field of frolicking horses having a lock of hair cut by a gentle barber each time a bow needs to be rehaired, without the horse ever noticing. In fact, most horse hair comes from horse meat farms in China.

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Vegan Organic Mattress

June 1st, 2013
organic vegan latex mattress

organic vegan latex mattress

Finding a chemical-free mattress without any wool is not as easy as one might hope. It turns out that state laws dictate mattresses be fire retardant, and that means they either have chemicals or they have a layer of wool, which is supposedly a natural flame retardant. If you want to buy an organic mattress without any wool, you have to have a doctor’s note. I’m told that it doesn’t necessarily need to be a prescription and you can get the note from a naturopath.

Organic mattresses are pretty darn expensive – I’m talking over $2000 – so having to make an appointment with a doctor adds to the already steep price. And it’s a hassle.

We were looking for a twin extra-long mattress for our new guest bed and thought we’d try out these latex mattresses everyone is raving about. The one we picked was going to be around $2500 before tax or shipping. Hmm. That’s quite a lot. So we considered an organic spring mattress instead, but that was still going to cost $1600 or so. This seemed awfully excessive just for a guest bed that would hardly be used, but still, we really didn’t want a mattress with chemicals. And I really didn’t want to have to go see a doctor in order to buy a vegan mattress.

Then I came across a loop-hole. You can legally buy chemical-free wool-free mattress parts without a doctor’s note, and assemble them into a mattress yourself. Not only that, but it’s far cheaper. Our order for 3 layers of latex plus a vegan mattress cover came to $960, including shipping.

A few words of caution though. In the how-to video, Joe makes this all look very easy. A little too easy, if you ask me. The latex cores are heavy and hard to move around, although we did get better at it. The hardest part is knowing what to buy. We bought 3 layers, 3″ firm, 3″ medium, and 3″ soft, after having tried one out elsewhere that had that configuration. Turns out all latex isn’t made the same and our mattress was way too soft. The other problem was that the 3″ layers were actually only 2.75″ thick, while the mattress cover was a full 9″ tall, meaning there was 3/4 of an inch of empty space making the cover baggy.

Despite the fact that Nest Bedding’s website clearly states that the DIY components were non-refundable and non-exchangeable, Joe was completely cool about letting me exchange the soft layer for a firm. I also bought an additional layer of 2″ firm to fill up the empty space and add a little extra compression to the latex. Mailing a latex mattress core is really expensive though (just over $100) so do your best to get it right the first time, even if you are lucky enough to encounter awesome customer service.

Another warning about latex mattresses in general: they are extremely heavy and difficult to move around. It’s doable with a twin size, but I’m not sure how we’d ever be able to move a queen or king. Also, they are more floppy than a standard mattress, so they work best on a bed frame that has a solid bottom for it to rest on. They also feel a lot different than a regular mattress, so give yourself a few days to get used to it.

In the end we wound up paying around $1350 to get it right, with shipping (both ways) and everything. Still about half the cost of a similar preassembled mattress. Even though I’m quite happy with the latex mattress now, we’ll likely stick with organic futons going forward. But if you already know you want a latex mattress, buying DIY components is definitely worth considering.

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Dobra Tea: Secret veg, gluten-free restauant

May 6th, 2013
Dobra Tea

Dobra Tea

Going out for tea has never appealed to me, so when Dobra Tea opened in Asheville a few years ago, I never bothered checking it out. I finally went there this evening at the invitation of a friend and was surprised – no, shocked – to find out that (1) they have food, (2) a lot of it is vegan, and (3) all their food is vegetarian and gluten-free.

Their gluten-free pita bread is delicious on its own. Their hummus is amazing. Yeah, I know, who cares about hummus? But seriously, this is the best hummus I’ve ever had. They have a number of sweet treats as well, and of course lots and lots of wonderful teas. Not all of their vegan options are labeled on their online menu, so go to Dobra and check it out in person.

If you walk on by, like I’ve been doing for a couple of years, you’re really missing out.

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Matching funds for Goat Mountain Sanctuary through March

March 11th, 2013

Goats at the sanctuary

For the entire month of March, all donations to Goat Mountain Ranch Sanctuary, near Asheville, NC, regardless of dollar amount, will be matched by an anonymous donor. The sanctuary is one of the few that takes in farm animals and others not typically kept as pets, although they do take some dogs and cats as well.

With the money raised from this fundraiser, Goat Mountain will be able to expand it’s fenced pastures and shelters in order to take in even more goats, sheep, pigs, large birds, ponies, donkeys, and other animals in need. They already have many acres of land going to waste, which can be converted to living and grazing land with your help.

Donate this month and let this generous donor double your money!

Donate to the sanctuary here

Read more about this fundraiser here

Visit the Goat Mountain Ranch Sanctuary website here

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Losing my dog, losing my guilt

January 29th, 2013
My dog, Emmet

Emmet, age 13

One week ago, my 14-year-old dog, Emmet, who’d spent nearly his whole life with me, was euthanized. Since then, I’ve been plagued with regret and guilt over all the many ways in which I deprived him of a happier life. I didn’t take him for enough walks, I got frustrated with him too often, I didn’t recognize soon enough that he was getting tired with age (rather than just being stubborn), and I spent a good chunk of his life resenting the fact that I had a dog at all, especially a terrified, fear-biting dog like Emmet. Every thought, every memory, was of my betrayal of this sweet dog who loved and trusted me completely.

This morning at 2am, I woke up with a sudden thought, “I’m making a choice to think this way. This isn’t the only narrative.” Much like any historical account, you can string events together in vastly differing narratives, putting emphasis on different events, and assigning cause and effect to help support your claims. After I had this thought, I told myself another version of Emmet’s life, and it sounded just as true, if not more true.

Emmet was a dog in need with behavioral challenges that made him unadoptable through common methods. I took him in and gave him the best home I could. I made mistakes, I was sometimes selfish and lazy, but I always, always kept him safe and healthy, no matter what. I loved him more with every passing year, and gave him a better and better life with every passing year. In the end he was a much better and happier dog, I was a better and happier person, and at least in part we owed that to each other.

Now I can think fondly of little Emmet and I can miss him. And it’s no longer unthinkable for me to some day open up my heart and home to another dog in need.

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Smarties – Vegan Halloween Candy

October 8th, 2012


I’m sure it isn’t news that Smarties candies are vegan. They are just little pills of sugar, after all. But when I happened upon their website, I couldn’t help but notice that they have a page entitled “Vegan Candy”. When major companies make special mention of the vegan nature of their products, that makes me think at least some of what we do actually makes a difference. Here is the text of their site (I was going to just grab an excerpt but every paragraph was interesting to me):

Vegan? Fabulous! There is no need to worry about your dietary and ethical choices coming in conflict with satisfying a sweet tooth. Smarties® candy is the perfect solution to this potential dilemma!

Smarties® ingredients contain no animal products, making them a tasty and cruelty-free choice for anyone looking for delicious vegan candy. Our Smarties® products are entirely free of meat, fish, dairy and eggs.  You can rest assured that the calcium stearate is plant derived. 

There are many reasons people choose a vegan or vegetarian diet including for their health, for the environment and for the animals. Although Smarties® started out as an “accidentally vegan” product, we are now well aware of the importance of these issues. We are delighted to offer a compassionate candy to satisfy the vegan sweet tooth!

So, whether it’s a vegan Halloween, Valentine or Easter you’re after, you can rely on Smarties® to provide the vegan sweets you love.

If the UPC number on the packaging begins with “0 11206”, you can be assured that the product is manufactured in a facility that does not manufacture with animal products and is completely vegan.

Note: Smarties Gummies ingredients are free of animal products and vegan, but because they are made in a facility that processes other ingredients, they may contain traces of peanut, milk, wheat and soy.

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