Archive for the ‘Veganism’ Category

Vegan Violin Bow Hair

Saturday, 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

Saturday, 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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Smarties – Vegan Halloween Candy

Monday, 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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Vegan-friendly Restaurants in Charlotte

Thursday, November 24th, 2011
Cafe Luna in Charlotte

Cafe Luna in Charlotte

Maybe it’s because I had more time to spend in Charlotte on this recent trip, but the city seems significantly more vegan-friendly than ever before.

First though, the bad news. Blynk Organic, the super healthy, vegan-friendly, soup and salad restaurant at the Southpark Mall, which I wrote about in a previous post, is no longer there. It was so good that we were actually looking forward to eating there again. I’m sure many readers are thinking, “who gives a crap about mall food?” Well, I hate shopping at the mall too, but the truth is that the only reason I ever go to Charlotte in the first place is to buy clothes, because you just can’t find petite women’s clothing in Asheville. It was nice to have a place in the mall to grab a quick bite to eat.

But on to all the good stuff, some of which is new, most of which has probably been there for years but I just didn’t know about it.

Fern, Flavors from the Garden, is a new all-vegetarian restaurant, a bit on the fancy expensive side.  Plenty of gluten-free, vegan options available. The flavors were impressive. The only complaint is that the portion sizes of the entrees were very small. I think most people would be disappointed with, especially considering the price. I do highly recommend trying it.

Buckwheat Blaster at Luna's

Buckwheat Blaster at Luna's

Luna’s Living Kitchen is a raw, vegan restaurant, open only for breakfast and lunch. Many gluten-free options. They have an extensive breakfast menu, but I was hoping to order something off the lunch menu. Unfortunately it was too early, and I didn’t end up making it back there again later. I ordered the Bombin’ Buckwheat Blaster, which was tasty and full of fresh fruit. For me though, it was way too sweet, which means most people would probably love it. Even so, I could tell the quality of the food was top notch, and I hope to try their lunch menu next time I’m in Charlotte.

I’m sorry to say, I found out too late about Zizi’s Vegetarian Restaurant. It’s 100% vegan, take-out/delivery only, lots of gluten-free options and lots of comfort food. It looks fantastic. It’s #1 on my list of places to go the next time I’m in Charlotte.

Not a restaurant, but I have to mention….

The Greener Apple is a new little all-vegan store. I should really say, The Greener Apple is an all-vegan tiny corner of a large book store. Despite it’s surprisingly small size, I did walk out of there with 3 things I was genuinely excited to find – peanut butter cups, dog bisquits, and something like a sponge but much less disgusting than a sponge. Make sure to look for the “Book Buyers” sign in order to find the store.

There are also plenty of grocery stores in Charlotte that have all the vegan food you could want. Healthy Home Market, where I did my grocery shopping this time around, has 3 locations and a ton of gluten-free breads. Earthfare has 2 locations in Charlotte. Berrybrook Farm is a great little health food store in Charlotte, but it’s pretty small. They also have an excellent sandwich shop inside.

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Go vegan and save ZERO animals per year

Friday, August 19th, 2011

U.S. Government Buys $40 Million Worth of Chicken Nobody Wants from

Put simply, despite the fact that people are eating significantly less chicken, the U.S.’s chicken inventory is up more than 13 percent since last year. Any other business that ignored consumers’ desires would be forced to suffer the consequences of their negligence, but not chicken growers. The USDA, which already buys millions of dollars of meat per year for the school-lunch program, has agreed to purchase the extra $40 million worth of chicken in order to “provide support to the broiler industry,” according to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. In 2009, the government bought $60 million in surplus turkey.

Broiler hens

Broiler hens

Most vegans discover the horrors of factory farming, or have some philosophical epiphany about the suffering of non-human animals, and give up meat and other animal products. By eschewing meat, we reduce the demand for it, thereby putting economic pressure on farmers to raise fewer and fewer animals. Sure, there are plenty of other reasons to not eat it, but vegans typically don’t want their money going to support a cruel and exploitative industry.

It turns out that the federal government is negating the effect of our meat “boycott” by buying up all the dead chickens and feeding them to school children. And, of course, they are doing it with our money anyway in the form of forcibly collected tax dollars.

I add this latest insult to the pile of federal expenditures that offend my personal values: animal experiments, dairy subsidies, non-defensive wars, etc etc etc. How do you like that big government now?

On occasion, we manage to brow-beat Congress into doing something positive for animals. Since animal advocates are still a small minority, we are more often brow-beaten into sending in our tax dollars to support animal cruelty, such as buying up our “excess” meat and pumping it into schools.

This is a perfect example of why I’m now a small government voter. I’m not going to get a government that’s compassionate toward animals any time soon, but I might have a shot at getting some more people in office who oppose using tax dollars for garbage like this.

On a related note: Ron Paul for President 2012

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Bill Clinton is a full-fledged vegan

Friday, August 19th, 2011

When I read the headlines, I thought the reporters probably just didn’t know the meaning of vegan. But it appears that Bill Clinton really is a full on vegan! Check it out in the Boston Herald. He’s vegan for his health, but no doubt swayed in that direction by his daughter Chelsea, also vegan. Way to go, Bill!

The infamous junk food lover, who underwent quadruple bypass surgery in 2004, is now a full-fledged vegan. He consumes no meat, no dairy, no eggs and almost no oil.

“I like the vegetables, the fruits, the beans, the stuff I eat now,” Clinton told CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

So what motivated Bubba to change his lifestyle? After he needed another heart operation last year, he realized exercise and cutting calories wasn’t enough to battle his family history of heart disease.

“I essentially concluded that I had played Russian roulette,” Clinton said, “because even though I had changed my diet some and cut down on the caloric total of my ingestion and cut back on much of the cholesterol in the food I was eating, I still — without any scientific basis to support what I did — was taking in a lot of extra cholesterol without knowing it. So that’s when I made a decision to really change.”

Now an advocate for cardiovascular health, Bubba’s Clinton Foundation has joined the American Heart Association to promote exercise and offer better lunches in schools.

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New vegan restaurant – Plant – Now open and exceptionally good

Thursday, August 18th, 2011
Cannoli at Plant

Cannoli at Plant

We’ve been waiting for months for Asheville’s only 100% vegan restaurant, Plant, to open and it’s finally here. And wow is it ever good. The menu is full of old favorites that vegans never get anymore, like onion rings and cannoli(!!!) but with all kinds of unique creations like the black pepper tofu and peppercorn crusted seitan. Every dish looks like a work of art and every bite is a perfect blend of interesting flavors. As far as I’m concerned, the chef at Plant is a genius.

There is even a raw dish on the menu – Enchiladas with summer vegetables, annatto cashew cheese, and cacao mole. It was filling without being completely overwhelmed by nuts (which many raw dishes tend to be).

There was a raw dessert last night too, key lime pie, but I’ll have to try that another time because there was no way I was going to miss the cannoli. One of my favorite treats as a kid in NY state, I thought I’d never have one again. The filling was slightly less firm than I remember, but the taste was right on.

One of my friends, who is a regular meat-eater, ordered the “berger” and truffle fries, which he ate and enjoyed for the most part. The problem though was the texture of the burger – it was very stretchy, like pizza cheese, and freaked him out quite a bit. Seeing as how I long for the stretch of pizza cheese, I actually enjoyed that, but it did seem odd. The flavor was amazing even so, and the corn-crusted onions (aka onion rings) that came with it, were better than I remember onion rings ever being.

Berger and truffle fries at Plant

Berger and truffle fries at Plant

There are a number of gluten-free options at Plant but my biggest complaint is that they were not labeled on the menu. I hope that can be remedied soon.

I really can’t say enough good things about Plant. It was some of the best food I’ve had in a long time, the owners were welcoming and attentive, and I left there feeling perfectly full without feeling weighed down. All the food is fresh and made from scratch. It’s my new favorite.


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Asheville VegFest This Sunday!

Monday, August 1st, 2011

Sunday, August 7, 12pm – 7pm in downtown Asheville on Battery Park Ave. View details on the Asheville VegFest website.

Asheville’s first ever VegFest is a FREE street festival featuring amazing vegan food, entertainment, kids’ activities, beer, education, and more.

Here’s a nice write-up in the Mountain Xpress:

Asheville’s first all-vegetarian food festival, the Asheville Vegfest, takes over Battery Park Avenue on Sunday, Aug. 7, from noon until 7 p.m. The free festival is presented by The Asheville Vegetarians and Goat Mountain Sanctuary, two local nonprofit, volunteer-based organizations. The festival will feature vegan and vegetarian food, speakers, live entertainment and kids’ events, including The Vegetable Circus, a group that uses Big Top-style arts to teach children fun ways to grow up healthy.
Vendors will include such familiar faces as Firestorm Cafe and Books, Rosetta’s Kitchen, Laughing Seed and Chai Pani. Beer will be available from Highland Brewing Company. Avery’s Hot Dogs will be there too, vending their Tofurky veggie dogs.

Other food vendors:
Pachamama’s Meals
The Hop Ice Cream Cafe
Great Eastern Sun
Green Light Cafe
MacDaddy’s Lemonade
Swallow Soup

It seems that Asheville’s first all-vegetarian festival is a great place to debut a number of other firsts. Veggie Love, a local caterer that’s opening Asheville’s first all-vegan, entirely gluten-free food truck in September, will be there. Asheville’s first all-veggie drive-through (opened earlier this year on Merrimon), Vegheads Drive Thru, will have a booth as well. Asheville’s first vegan restaurant, Plant (to be opened on Merrimon later this year), will also be represented. And did you know that there was a local publication that advocates an all-veggie philosophy? Asheville Magazine does not promote any meat products, say publishers. Representatives from the magazine will be there as well.

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Wingbean: Asheville’s All-Vegan Meal Delivery Service

Saturday, July 23rd, 2011
Wingbean meal delivery

Wingbean meal delivery

From Wingbean’s website:

Wingbean makes tasty vegan cuisine and delivers it right to your door. We know you’re busy, that’s why we do the cooking for you.

I’m busy, and I like tasty vegan cuisine, so I figured why not check it out. They even have a non-gluten option, which I ordered. The menu for this week was:

  • Senorita Pasta – Delicious pasta dish with a creamy cheesy sauce, mixed with black beans and other veggies. Possibly the best meal of the week.
  • Mini BBQ with Coleslaw. Surprisingly good. Much more interesting and satisfying than I thought it would be.
  • Portobello Tapenade – Kind of weird. I ate it, but I’m not sure I liked it.
  • Chickpea of the Sea – A chickpea “tuna” salad, similar to what Earthfare sells but a little better. Very good.
  • Green Man Lasagna (with rice lasagna noodles) – Super delicious and fun. I don’t get to eat lasagna often.
  • Summer Kale Saute with Shitake Bacon – LOVED the bacon. The kale was OK.
  • Steamed Baby Carrots with Herbed “Cream” Sauce – Very good, but no one could be expected to eat that many carrots in a week.
  • Minestrone Soup – I haven’t tried this yet, there’s just so much food.
  • Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies – Delicious, of course. They’re cookies. But they all stuck together so it was more like a bag of cookie pieces.

The service is $70+tax. For this, you easily get enough food for 10 good-sized lunches. The food quality is on par with eating left-overs from a really good restaurant. It’s certainly far better than I would make for myself.

There are a couple things I would change, if it were up to me:

  1. I’d eliminate the cookies, or make the “tasty treat” something that is sugar-free. As it is, I will probably ask to leave out the cookies next time. It’s hard enough to avoid sugary desserts, without having them delivered to my doorstep.
  2. It sure would be nice if the food was delivered on Sunday so that I could have it for my lunches Monday-Friday. It comes on Monday, so I don’t get to use it until Tuesday, and now I still have food going into the weekend, which isn’t quite as useful.

I probably won’t sign up to order meals every week, but I will certainly order again soon. It’s a high quality service, and a good price for what you get. Check out Wingbean here.

Wingbean's lasagna

Lasagna (photo from Wingbean's website)

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So easy to find vegan stuff when you can make it yourself

Friday, July 15th, 2011
Pillow that I made

Pillow that I made

I prefer quality stuff made in America rather than cheap crap made in China. Unfortunately, the good stuff is less likely to be vegan: a throw pillow filled with down, or a nice jacket or blanket made from wool, or some accessory with leather pieces on it. It’s also getting harder to find clothes that fit thin, petite women. It seems like “small” just isn’t small anymore. Needless to say, shopping is usually a very frustrating experience for me.

Robe and PJs

Robe and PJs

I haven’t solved all of my problems yet but now that I’m learning to sew, I can see so many possibilities. It all started with a pillow that I fell in love with. Not only could I not really afford it, but it also used down, which I won’t buy. But I HAD to have it.  Once I started sewing that pillow, I just could not stop myself making all kinds of other things. (Pillow made from a kit from

I’ve made a robe, pajamas, a pin cushion, and am working on a quilt with bamboo batting. As my skills improve, I will work on more complex clothing items like blouses and jackets.


Aside from the practicality of it, I’ve found making real things myself is extremely satisfying. I almost cannot stand to be at home not making something now.

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