Small-Bite Sundays: July 16, 2017

Small-Bite Sundays

Just popping in briefly tonight. I’ve been in Rhode Island visiting family for two days, and I’m heading out on a six-day work trip tomorrow. It’s a busy summer. And a busy past week — I haven’t spent too much time  on the ol’ interwebs, so I have just a few bites to share today.

Small bites: to read

From rock-star feminist Lindy West, this piece about how men can truly be there for women. It’s not exactly groundbreaking advice; in short, she’s telling men to stand up for us and use your voice to fight against sexism. But West also candidly acknowledges the risks men take when they do so: that they’ll be considered “a dorky, try-hard male feminist stereotype;” that they’ll “lose their spot in the club.” I think it’s always helpful to honestly acknowledge what’s at stake when you ask someone to use their privilege for you, and I appreciate West doing so. I’m also excited that this is just the first installment of West’s new weekly column on the New York Times’ Opinion Pages. Get it, Lindy.

(P.S. Her piece introduced me to the new (?) concept of the “dirtbag left,” which makes me sigh loudly and want to go to sleep for a million years.)

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Amey’s wrap-up of her time in Tallinn, Estonia, has me itching to book a flight! I’ve been reading great things about Estonia, and Amey’s post about the incredible vegan options in Tallinn just helped this country rocket up my travel bucket list.

Small bites: to watch

This clip has been making the rounds, but it’s too good not to share. The inimitable Andy Serkis brings back his Gollum voice to… read a few classic Trump tweets. He’s a great sport about it, too.

Small bites: to eat

Vaishali’s cauliflower makhani dosa crepes are going on my to-make shortlist. Creamy makhani gravy and a quick dosa recipe? I’m there.

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Colorful rainbow saladSalad days. I’m finally becoming a master of the kitchen-sink salad. Salads don’t need a theme; who knew? This one features mixed baby greens, tomatoes, roasted Turkish eggplant slices, sautéed paprika chickpeas, and a zesty lemon-turmeric-tahini dressing. I also added a crumbled veggie burger and hemp seeds for extra protein. Side note: those Turkish eggplants (also called scarlet or Ethiopian eggplants) are a new favorite. I spotted them at the farmer’s market and had to try them. They look like persimmons but taste like  a slightly milder version of the regular ol’ eggplants we all know and love (or tolerate).

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Right! Now to sleep. Expect some radio silence for the next week or so; I’ll be off the grid. :) Happy Sunday!

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Vegan in The Hague

I had grand plans for my trip to Amsterdam: I was going to take SO MANY DAY TRIPS to the little cities and towns dotted around Amsterdam proper. Delft, Utrecht, Leiden, Haarlem, The Hague… they’re all just a quick and inexpensive train ride away! I could be there and back in an afternoon! I would see it all!

…yeah, no. Sure, I technically had the time to fit in all (well, most) of those little jaunts, but I would have had to travel every single day. And I would have missed out on the absolute best parts of this trip: wandering around Amsterdam, savoring meals slowly, and leisurely strolling through museums. I’m glad I lifted the burden of trying to see it all from my shoulders and opted instead to do what I wanted to do in the moment. I ended up taking just one day trip and decided on the destination with pure pragmatism: I was going on a Sunday, and many of the museums in my potential destination cities would be closed.

View from the Mauritshuis in Den Haag, the Netherlands

View from the Mauritshuis in The Hague

The Mauritshuis in The Hague, however, was open for business. Considering that the Mauritshuis is home to Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring, two special Rembrandts (The Nightwatch and The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp), and a particularly charming Jan Steen (As the Old Sing, So Pipe the Young), The Hague (or Den Haag, if you prefer the Dutch name) seemed like a fine choice.

And it was. The Sunday crowds were sparse, the sun was out to counteract a chill in the air, and I thoroughly enjoyed my time in this internationally important city. My only real disappointment? The Den Haag location of De Vegetarische Slager (the Vegetarian Butcher) was closed! This purveyor of vegetarian and vegan meats runs a “concept store” in The Hague, with a fully vegan menu of deli sandwiches and other lunch specialties. Sigh.

De Vegetarische Snackbar

De Vegetarische Snackbar, Den HaagMany of the other vegan places on my list were also closed, so I meandered through the city to De Vegetarische Snackbar instead. The walk took me through some more residential neighborhoods, which I always enjoy, and led me to an unassuming storefront in a little row of restaurants.

In my experience, old-school veg joints go one of two ways: There are the hippie-inspired, sprouts-n-tofu, peace and love joints (see: De Bolhoed in Amsterdam), but there are also the more hardcore, punk-inspired, surly-tattooed-server joints as well. De Vegetarische Snackbar falls into that latter category (minus the surliness).

The massive menu is all vegetarian and heavy on the junk food, with lots of burgers and fake meats. Clearly-labeled vegan options make ordering relatively simple, although it took a few tries for me to communicate my order (the lupine burger) to the server. Whereas almost all vegan-friendly restaurants in Amsterdam had staffers who spoke very good English, there was a little language barrier in The Hague. (Not, of course, that that’s a bad thing; just something to be aware of. I tried learning some Dutch before I went but found it bizarrely tricky. I usually have a knack for foreign languages, so that was a bit of a surprise.)

My lupine burger, though impressive to the eye and just fine to the palate, was nearly impossible to eat as assembled. I am developing something of an aversion to these massive buns. Honestly, can anyone actually fit that whole thing in their mouth?! It’s impossible and painful, like you’re going to either dislocate your jaw or rough up the sides of your mouth. So instead you have to deconstruct it and either shovel bits and pieces into your maw or weirdly eat it with a fork and knife, which is somehow nearly as inelegant as using your hands! I think menus should come with a warning if a given burger features a massive bun. Then you could ask for a smaller, softer one instead.

Anyway, my experience at De Vegetarische Snackbar was clearly marred by my discomfort and irritation at trying to eat a giant burger without looking like a total fool. I should have gotten the bitterballen instead.

Other options

I truly wish I’d had more time to try some of the other vegan joints in The Hague, because this seemingly buttoned-up city has plenty to offer.

  • De Vegetarische Slager: The aforementioned vegetarian butcher. Closed Sundays and Mondays, alas.
  • FOAM: The name stands for “Fresh Organic And Meat-free.” All-vegan restaurant open for breakfast and lunch only… maybe dinner if you eat on grandparent time. :)
  • Quinta Verde: Vegan “lunchroom” open from 9 am to 6 pm, serving breakfast, lunch, and even a prix-fixe brunch.
  • Veggies on Fire: Vegan restaurant serving dinner nice and late, from 5 pm to 11 pm, Wednesdays through Saturdays. Great reviews and lots of creative raw options.

Along with De Vegetarische Snackbar, these four eateries were the ones that caught my eyes and made it on to my shortlist. But check out the HappyCow listing for The Hague: This city has tons of veg-friendly establishments! It’s really quite impressive.

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Vegan in The Hague // govegga.com

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Small-Bite Sundays: July 9, 2017

Small-Bite Sundays

One thing I particularly enjoy about putting together these weekly posts is that they give me the chance to stop and reflect on what I’m reading, rather than finishing an article and moving on.

I say “reading” purposefully — I’ve noticed that I really don’t watch many videos and clips online. I prefer reading partially because I’m a pretty fast reader, whereas sometimes videos aren’t paced to my liking. It seems like more of an investment to stop and watch a video. When I’m reading, I can scan ahead and decide whether a story or article seems worth my time; it’s much harder to do that with a video. So if my posts tend to include videos only sparingly, that’s why!

Small bites: to read

When I think of media outlets that excel at investigative reporting, USA Today isn’t exactly top of mind. But maybe I’ve been doing them an injustice, because this piece on labor abuses in the trucking industry was really eye-opening. It’s a sadly familiar story: Large corporations exploit their employees — in this case, mostly immigrants — by taking advantage of the language barrier and their workers’ desperation for a job. In this case, the truckers sign on to purchase a truck through their companies, with installment payments coming out of their weekly paychecks. At the end of the week, one of the men interviewed for this piece took home just 67 cents. And if they get fired or quit, the workers’ stake in the truck — no matter how many tens of thousands of dollars they’ve contributed — is forfeited. On top of that, managers routinely coerce the drivers into working far more hours than the mandated maximum, after which drivers are required by law to rest. If the drivers say no, they’ll likely be fired… and lose that investment in the truck.

What’s extra disturbing is how many mainstream retailers rely on these companies to transport their goods from the port of Los Angeles to warehouses for further distribution. But because these retailers (Target, Walmart, Home Depot, various clothing brands, and even the usually-ethical Costco) don’t directly employ the shipping companies, instead outsourcing that work to logistics companies, they don’t feel responsible for these labor violations. It’s a grim read, but worth it. (There’s a second installment in the series, but I haven’t read that one yet.)

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From one of the few fashion bloggers I follow (thanks to her focus on ethical and sustainable fashion), this piece about why she doesn’t cover ethical men’s fashion. In a nutshell, it’s because her husband simply can’t find ethical options that fit him. He’s larger than an XL, and ethical men’s fashion companies just don’t stock those sizes. (Plus, ethical men’s fashion is less common than ethical women’s fashion in general.)

I completely understand why Leah takes this tack; she has no personal frame of reference to review men’s fashion because her husband literally can’t try on or evaluate the existing options. I appreciate that she mentions her own thin privilege in being able to fit into nearly every brand she finds, but I think there’s more to be said about women who can’t find ethical fashion that fits. At the end of the day, most ethical women’s clothing retailers are doing the exact same thing that she’s deriding the men’s brands for doing. We need to push companies to do better.

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For something lighter, this tongue-in-cheek interpretation of Wisconsin governor Scott Walker’s Instagram feed. I lived in Wisconsin for three and a half years and developed a healthy dislike for this union-busting governor, so I found this piece particularly amusing.

Small bites: to watch

Season two of Aziz Ansari’s Master of None! We’re only three episodes in and so far, so good. This show is consistently enjoyable in so many ways. I loooved the episodes set in Italy in particular. Those shots of the Tuscan countryside made me want to book a flight!

Small bites: to eat

These chimichurri chickpeas from Food52. What a creative way to dress up chickpeas! And the salad recipe would be super easy to veganize — just sub your favorite tofu feta or use a cashew cheese spread. Mmm.

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Vegan burgersALL THE VEGGIE BURGERS! We’ve been digging the Amy’s quarter pounders lately. With 20 grams of protein and 6 grams of fiber in each burger, they’re super filling. (They do have 600 milligrams of sodium each, but you probably won’t need or want more than one!) We made these with the Daiya cheddar slices, but they don’t do much for me. I much prefer Chao. We’ve also been on a sparkling water kick. Spindrift’s grapefruit flavor is my personal favorite. No added sugar, no artificial flavors, just fizzy, fruity, deliciousness.

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I haven’t made them yet, but Mihl’s vegan brownies look absolutely killer. I’m always there for Mihl’s approach to desserts: Unlike many vegan bloggers, she’s not into healthifying treats that should be, well, treats. So she uses plenty of sugar and regular white flour in most of her dessert recipes. I mean, I like black bean brownies just fine, but sometimes I want to some regular ol’ sugar-laden brownies too, y’know?

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And that’s a wrap. Tonight Steven and I are going to see Neil Gaiman at Wolf Trap, a local indoor/outdoor venue. We bought the tickets today, pretty spontaneously, but I’m excited! I saw him once seven years ago (!) at an incredible weekend event at Wisconsin’s House on the Rock, a tourist attraction that defies description. You should visit, if you ever get the chance.

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Vegan on Etsy: Ethical women’s clothing!

vegan on etsy cruelty free etsyToday, I’m sharing some great options for purchasing handmade (women’s) clothing on Etsy! In my last Vegan on Etsy installment, I offered up a bevy of bags and a… sackful of satchels? Sure. I’ve also got a post on lip balms, which are plentiful on Etsy.

The pursuit of ethically made clothing is near and dear to my heart. (See: this post about ethical fashion and a few mainstream purveyors of ethical vegan clothes.) I’m on a constant quest to whittle my wardrobe and populate it with clothing that’s made to last and that fills multiple purposes. Yes, this often means spending more than you would if you went bargain-hunting at the mall, but it also means you’re (typically) investing in businesses who value treating their workers right. That’s worth it to me, especially since I put a premium on well-made clothing that will last and not need replacing in just a few years.

And the good news is that Etsy is chock full of independent makers who are doing great things with fabric. Here are a few standouts, with the important caveat that — just like I mentioned in my previous post on ethical fashion — there is a long way to go in terms of accommodating all body shapes and sizes. Sigh.

Blue Ridge Stitches

With its affordable cotton basics handmade in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, Blue Ridge Stitches is a gem. I love this open jersey-knit cardigan; those giant pockets are extremely appealing.

Image copyright Blue Ridge Stitches

Image copyright Blue Ridge Stitches

Prices are fair for handmade clothing, and there’s even a sale section with quite a few ready-to-ship options.

Ellaina Boutique

Image copyright Ellaina Boutique

Image copyright Ellaina Boutique

SaveThe cotton dresses, shirts, leggings, and other apparel at Ellaina Boutique are all simple, sweet, and versatile. Shop owner and seamstress Sue chooses fabrics in rich tones and vibrant patterns and creates timeless pieces that should fit in just about anyone’s wardrobe. I took advantage of a sale last summer to purchase a sweetheart crossover dress in a gorgeous blue floral pattern (not currently available). It’s incredibly comfortable (yay, cotton jersey!) but looks dressy because of the pattern.

This day dress (above/left) is another cute style that would look great on quite a few body types. Note that while you can choose from straight sizes, you can also provide your own measurements. Sizes only go up to XL in the drop-down menu, but it does seem like she’s able to customize these garments.

Loft 415

Don’t let Loft 415’s “minimalist bohemian” descriptor deter you: This California-based shop offers plenty of basics that should appeal to folks with a variety of styles. For example, this simple black pencil skirt is a wardrobe staple, whereas fans of a more boho aesthetic might like this dolman-sleeved shirt. There’s even a maternity section!

I particularly appreciate Loft 415’s ethics. They source the raw fabrics from a company in LA, use eco-friendly inks on their screen-printed tees, and are committed to paying workers a fair wage.

PlatForma

For slightly pricier — but more design-forward — options, check out PlatForma. These carefully designed and crafted clothing items run the gamut from crisp cotton frocks to summery linen blouses.

Image copyright PlatForma

Image copyright PlatForma

This linen shirt with a tie-neck collar intrigues me! It’s such a wholly unique design, and I love the look of that linen.

Everything at PlatForma is made to order and ships from Bulgaria — a boon for you Europe-based readers!

Yana Dee

Whereas most of the other shops on this list rely solely on cotton for their ethical vegan clothing, Yana Dee also uses hemp, cotton, and soy fabrics. They also offer a wider range of styles than many competitors, with pants, scarves, jackets, and even casual wedding dresses alongside the usual suspects (skirts and dresses, mostly).

Note that Yana Dee has a few leather headbands on sale, but at least they’re using salvaged leather and not the brand-new stuff. There are also a few wool and silk items, unfortunately. But on the bright side, Yana Dee includes sizes up to 3XL as part of the standard offerings, and you can also request a custom size.

Other options

Never fear if none of these styles appeal — Etsy is a treasure trove for vintage clothing! Of course, you’ll pay more than you would if you hit up some Goodwills yourself, but if you’re not into the thrill of the thrift store hunt, you might appreciate someone else doing the hard work for you. Here are a few of my favorites, but there are hundreds of other shops out there. Don’t forget to check out the sale sections, too!

If you happen to be handy with a sewing machine, Etsy has quite a few makers who sell original patterns. I really love Hey June Handmade‘s clean, modern styles, though I have yet to try one myself, while OhMeOhMySewing has some pretty vintage-inspired dresses and shirts. You can also search for knit or crochet patterns if that’s more up your crafty alley.

Have any other favorites? Let me know what I missed!

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Finding vegan clothing on Etsy // govegga.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Editor’s note: This post includes affiliate links. If you purchase something through my link, it costs nothing extra for you, but I get a few pennies. I’m not looking to make a fortune, just to cover hosting costs. And my primary purpose here is to connect vegans with quality, handmade goods that help support small businesses and indie designers. :)

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Small-Bite Sundays: July 2, 2017

Small-Bite Sundays

Ugh. That’s all I can say about this week. I was beset by a mystery stomach ailment that manifested Wednesday night with terrible pain — I could barely walk straight! Since then it’s returned without warning a few times, although less acutely. I wasn’t exactly nauseated, but I didn’t feel much like eating. (Don’t worry, I forced myself to do so.) It was time for my physical anyway, so I scheduled a doctor’s appointment for later this month.

Neil the dogBoring illnesses aside, it’s been a relaxing Fourth of July weekend. Note that I didn’t say long weekend… I don’t have Monday (the third) off, alas. Kind of odd to have a Tuesday off for a holiday, but I’ll take it. We’re dogsitting sweet and spirited Neil (see left) till Wednesday — which we do every year while his parents hit the beach for the Fourth — and it’s nice to have two puppers in the house again. :) Mostly I’ve been spending the past few days embroidering fresh feminist and vegan-friendly designs for my Etsy shop and re(rererere)reading Harry Potter.  Not a bad way to spend a weekend, right? Anyway! On to the bites.

Small bites: to read

This long read on the comparisons between the Nixon and Trump presidencies, and why — in this writer’s view — the Trump administration will follow a similar path of self-destruction. As horrifying as this administration’s slide towards authoritarianism is, it’s also morbidly fascinating. In this New York Magazine story, Frank Rich draws parallels between both the two presidents’ White Houses and their actions, and suggests that Trump’s failure to learn (or care about) U.S. history means he’s doomed to repeat it. Rich also draws a parallel between the two presidents’ characters. The similarities are a bit uncanny:

“No matter what success he achieved, as Drew wrote, Nixon “never lost his resentments” or “his desire for revenge.” Success also failed to tame his kleptomaniacal tendencies; he was caught using government funds to pay for luxurious improvements to his private residences in Key Biscayne, Florida, and San Clemente, California, and manipulating his tax bill to near zero even as he became a millionaire in office. (Like Trump, he gave virtually nothing to charity.)”

This reminded me that not everything that’s happening now is quite as new and unprecedented as we think it is. So many of the tactics in Trump’s playbook (as much as he has one; I’m not convinced he’s strategic enough to plan all this in advance) seem taken directly from the Nixon era, from discrediting the “eastern media conspiracy,” as Nixon called it in the 70s, to his ridicule of public servants, to his updated (yet equally disgusting) Islam-centric version of the despicable southern strategy. Here’s hoping this administration implodes before it can do any (more) real and lasting damage, both in the States and abroad.

Small bites: to watch

Steven and I watched It Follows a few days ago, and we enjoyed this smart horror film with an indie aesthetic. I won’t give away the creep-o-riffic premise, but you’ll find yourself thinking up ways to outsmart the monster as you watch.

Small bites: to eat

Meh! My appetite is finally back after my mystery mid-week ailment, but I haven’t been eating too creatively. Trying to gorge myself on fresh summer veggies to temper the increased amounts of ice cream I’m also consuming. Speaking of which — did you see that Häagen-Dazs is now offering vegan ice cream?! I’m so fascinated by how quickly all these mainstream dairy brands (Ben & Jerry’s, Breyers) are jumping on the dairy-free train. I know that some vegans don’t want to buy anything from these companies, based on the argument that they’re still lining the pockets of an industry that is immensely cruel, and I respect that position. But we live in a capitalist society, and demand drives supply. So I’m going to buy these non-dairy options to show that the market is there, and to encourage these companies to reduce their dairy-based products in favor of more humane ones. (Don’t worry, I still support (and usually prefer) 100% vegan companies too!)

Watermelon basilTonight we hit up Paladar Latin Kitchen to grab drinks (plus chips and guac!) with a few friends. This watermelon-basil margarita hit the spot on a hot day, especially after my “I don’t want to eat or drink anything!” week. (The fact that we accidentally arrived during happy hour certainly didn’t hurt.) I followed it up with a white sangria, which featured lots of fresh mango. Summery perfection. Plus, we sat outdoors and got to see lots of adorable doggos hanging on the patio with their parents.

 

Well. Not the most exciting Sunday. :) Have you read, watched, or ate anything great lately?

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Vegan in Bruges

Kelly in Bruges

Bruges: the sleeper hit of my recent trip to Holland and Belgium. I booked two nights in this small city on a bit of a whim: I knew it was deliciously quaint and charming, but not much more than that. As a consummate planner and preparer, even this tiny dipping of the toe into semi-spontaneous travel was exhilarating. But then, the night before I arrived, I started to regret my choice.

It was a Wednesday night in Rotterdam. I was bored. I was cold. I was heading to Belgium the following morning and I was wondering whether I’d made a mistake. I’d been enjoying Amsterdam so much that by comparison, Rotterdam couldn’t help but disappoint me. (More on that later.) What if Bruges was the same? What if I found myself in a boring, tiny city with nothing to do, nothing to see, and only the relative comfort of a few vegan restaurants to sustain me? Why had I booked two whole nights there without doing more research?!

Bruges, Belgium // copyright Kelly WilliamsWell. Those fears were, of course, unfounded. My arrival in Bruges felt charmed. The sun was out, the day was warm, and I was riding high after a brief stop in Antwerp to change trains. I’d found Antwerp absolutely breathtaking, to my surprise and delight, and my expectations for Bruges were raised in kind.

The whole walk into Bruges from the central train station had me grabbing my phone to snap photo after photo, mouth agog in sheer delight and surprise at the city’s charm. It’s impossibly quaint, like something out of a Disney movie. And it’s a bit like Amsterdam writ small, with slightly shorter buildings, fewer canals, and a more compact city center. I’m sure the fact that I was staying in a incredible 500-year-old canal-side hotel didn’t hurt my impression of the place! (See below. Shout out to travel hacking!)

Hotel Ter Brughe, Bruges, Belgium

Even the crowd is different. Whereas Amsterdam plays host to droves of hen parties, stag parties, and college students on break, Bruges’ visitors seemed of a more — ahem — mature inclination. I’m guessing it’s a popular stop on European bus tours that cater to older travelers, because I saw quite a few groups of pensioners following a tour guide’s bobbing umbrella around the city. To my partying-averse self, that was a good thing (even if I did have to endure the slow-moving groups clogging up the sidewalks more than a few times). I’ll take a dozen retirees dawdling through a guided tour over a dozen liquored-up frat boys any day of the week.

Bruges, BelgiumAnd about that fear of boredom: Bruges may be small, but there’s lots to see and do. Even though I took it easy on the touristing front, I was never bored. I visited just a few hotspot locations and instead spent my time enjoying the sunshine, meandering through the blissfully bike-free streets (well, relatively bike-free), and eating. Always eating.

It’s surprisingly easy to find vegan food in Bruges, especially considering that this is a relatively small city. I spent two nights and barely two days there, so I didn’t get to sample everything, but I was so impressed with the places I did visit. Read on for details and a list of the eateries I didn’t get to try.

#food

If you are in Bruges, go to #food (pronounce it “hashtag food”) for dinner. If it’s sunny, ask to sit outside — there’s a hidden patio out back, so you can enjoy the sun while you enjoy some fantastically creative food. This relatively new restaurant does serve meat, but it’s also incredibly vegan-friendly. Everything is clearly labeled, and the servers get it when you say you’re vegan: after ordering my vegan entree, my server brought me a bowl of spicy popcorn and reassured me that it was vegan even before I had a chance to ask.

#food is definitely trying hard to project an image of quirky eccentricity, which generally irks me. (Everything is very colorful, and the restaurant eschews place mats, opting for records instead.) However, the menu is so genuinely creative and playful that it justifies all that quirky decor. I ordered the Coconut Oil, which is described as “lasagna with coconut, sweet ’n sour sauce, pineapple and lots of veggies, with fruity salad.”

Now, calling this dish “lasagna” is a bit of a stretch… but who cares when it tastes so good? Thinly sliced zucchini, pineapple chunks, and coconut made up the bulk of this souffle-esque casserole-y dish. (It really defied description.) I wasn’t sure whether I’d like the sweet ‘n sour flavor profile, but it was absolutely perfect alongside the tropical ingredients. And thanks to a generous topping of pomegranate seeds, toasted coconut, edible flowers (!), and passionfruit, there were plenty of textures to set off the more souffle-like main dish. The fruity salad on the side was also a masterpiece, featuring a very light vinaigrette over salad greens, tomatoes, grated carrots, golden raisins, strawberries, grapes, orange slices, and a gorgeous Rainier cherry on top. The fact that I thoroughly enjoyed this salad must be a testament to my more refined palate, right? Because this combination of fruit and veggies in the same dish would not have met with my approval just a few years ago!

#food is a bit on the pricey side, especially for Bruges, but I considered it well worth my money for the attentive service and the thoughtfully prepared dishes. I was seated by a large British family who ordered quite a few different dishes, and to a person they all raved about their meals. My only regret: not ordering dessert. But! On the way out, the server (who I believe is the owner) handed me a raspberry aquafaba meringue. “For our vegan guests,” he said. What a treat.

Royal Frituur

In Belgium, a “frituur” is an eatery that serves quick, fried foods, including the famous Belgian fries. Royal Frituur takes that concept and expands it to include a bevy of vegan and gluten-free options. No, it’s not healthy — again, this place is literally designed to serve deep-fried foods — but it’s a fantastic option for vegans who are sad they can’t enjoy the fries from Bruges’ ubiquitous fry stalls. (They’re cooked in animal fat, typically lard or ox fat. Gross.)

royalfrituur

This is a small place, a little outside the city center, but still an easy walk given Bruges’ relatively small size. It was not very busy when I arrived around 7:00 pm on a Friday. Staffed by a single woman, most likely the owner, it’s a small, relatively unassuming joint, with all the various vegan and non-vegan patties, burgers, balls, and other fryables on display in a front case. What makes Royal Frituur so remarkable is the sheer variety it offers, from your average soy-based patty to the hazelnut one I chose. I believe the proprietor carries a few items from De Vegetarische Slager (aka The Vegetarian Butcher), a meat substitute specialist that supplies much of Europe with all sorts of meat-free goodies. (They have a great backstory, too.)

Anyway, my hazelnut burger was crunchy and filling, if not particularly exciting. I also got a small order of fries, which turned out to be too large for my small tummy. But the dip — a horseradish mayo — was really tasty. (Royal Frituur has six vegan fry sauces.)

bruges5

A few quirks of Royal Frituur: To sit at the small lunch counter, you’ll need to buy a drink (hence my sparkling water in the photo above). It’s also cash-only. Everything is relatively inexpensive, however, so it’s a great place to use up those euro coins burning a hole in your pocket. If the weather’s nice, forego the lunch counter and head to the park just around the corner. You can find an empty bench and take a gander at the Sint-Janshuis windmill, which is still used to grind flour today.

Other options

Given my short stay in Bruges, I didn’t get to try too many veg-friendly joints. The city happened to be hosting a food truck festival starting the Friday I was there, and all the flyers advertised vegan food. So I visited the festival and grabbed a couple of vegan momos for lunch on Friday. They were tasty, but they also meant I missed out on another restaurant visit. Oh well. Here are a few other places that never made it off my list and onto my itinerary.

  • Books and Brunch: Used book store and tea room with vegetarian and veganizable options. Only open 9 to 5, so best for breakfast or a light lunch.
  • De Bron Vegetarian: Small vegetarian eatery offering a single main dish each day. Cash only.
  • De Plaats: I tried to hit up this centrally located vegetarian restaurant on my first night, but it was unexpectedly closed (according to the hand-written sign out front). HappyCow reviews are mixed, but I thought it looked cute.

General tips + recommendations

  • If the weather is nice, you could certainly do worse than grabbing a few to-go items at the many Carrefour Express spots around the city center and enjoying them in the middle of Markt square. I did just that one morning, with a super-tasty Alpro mango quark yogurt and an accidentally vegan apple pastry. (Side note: Why is quark (regular or vegan) not a thing in the States?! The Alpro version was a thick, pudding-like yogurt, and I loved it!)
  • For beer enthusiasts, a visit to the family-run Brouwerij De Halve Maan is a must. The beer you’ll sample on the tour (Brugse Zot) is vegan, and they even serve a tasty unfiltered version you can’t get elsewhere. I’ve been on plenty of brewery tours, but this was one was especially fun and informative. Plus, you get a great rooftop view of the city at one point! There’s also a pleasant beer garden if you want to extend your post-tour drinking beyond the one free sample. (And they have a crowdfunded BEER PIPELINE that transports the beer underground across the city to the bottling plant. How neat is that?!)

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Small-Bite Sundays: June 25, 2017

Small-Bite Sundays

June in Maryland: hot, humid, and heavenly. Does anyone else actually enjoy humidity? As someone who is nearly always cold, I view humidity as a promise of warmth, a muggy blanket enveloping me in comfort. Alas, Steven disagrees, and we have to turn on the air conditioning occasionally to dry out the house and cool it down a bit. But he was in Denver for three days this week, and I took full advantage of the solitude — just me and Moria in my swampy house. Perfection!

Anyway. This week’s post features a mixed bag of small bites, some light, some heavy, some to sink your teeth into and chew on. Enjoy, and let me know what you’ve been reading, watching, and eating this week!

Small bites: to read

An intriguing — if surface-level — look at the “social aspects” of veganism, based on Harvard sociology grad student Nina Gheihman’s ongoing research. Gheihman (herself an ethical vegan) wants to explore how veganism has become a so-called lifestyle movement and is focusing on that evolution in both France and Israel. I’m of two minds on this trend. I’m glad when anybody reduces their animal product intake, because at a basic level, that means that fewer animals will be harmed. But I also rankle at the description of veganism as a trend, a lifestyle to be adopted for a certain amount of time before being set aside as it becomes passe. That’s why I find the term “plant-based” helpful as a differentiator… but at the same time, I know it can be confusing to have two terms for what mainstream culture views as the same thing. Basically, it’s complicated. :)

This raw, personal account of what it’s like to fly while fat broke my heart — and strengthened my commitment to love and support my fat sisters. The anonymous author (writing under the poignant pseudonym of “Your Fat Friend”) makes it impossible not to empathize with her, and I felt nervous and on edge the whole time. It reminded me, yet again, of the crucial importance of empathy in breaking down the walls that keep us from caring about one another.

Small bites: to watch

The Keepers, Netflix’s new(ish) documentary series that delves into a particularly grim sexual abuse scandal at a Catholic high school in Baltimore and the unsolved murder of a nun who worked there. I’m only two episodes in and I’m both fascinated and horrified. This is true crime told through the perspectives of the women who experienced the abuse and through two other women who are investigating the cold case murder. Keep in mind that it’s not exactly a breezy, binge-y, summery series before  you settle in with the popcorn for a night of Netflix. (I found the second episode so disturbing that I needed to distract myself while I watched.)

On a lighter note, a video of five toy poodles jumping rope. It’s exactly what it sounds like and is exactly as wonderful as you’re imagining.

Small bites: to eat

Panzanella! This bread salad is the epitome of fresh summer eating. I made mine with cherry tomatoes from the farmer’s market, basil and parsley from the garden, and a gorgeous herby sourdough bread from a friend. I can’t find the exact recipe that inspired me, but for this particular panzanella I tossed the bread cubes with melted butter and sauteed garlic before toasting them. Super indulgent and, of course, super delicious… especially when served alongside a jalapeño-lime margarita.

Summery panzanella

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Vegan in Amsterdam

Tell someone you’re going to Amsterdam and you’ll likely receive a knowing smirk in return. “Oh, Amsterdam, eh? I hear the coffeeshops are great…” Wink wink, smirk smirk. As if permissive pot laws are the only reason you might visit this stunning, unique, and culturally significant city.

Amsterdam houses with reflections in the canal; copyright Kelly Williams

As a matter of fact, said laws didn’t play much of a role in my decision to book a nine-day trip to the city.* My travel bucket list includes pretty much the entire world, so when I saw a $381 round-trip flight to Amsterdam pop up back in February, I jumped on it. Amsterdam would be my first solo trip. I couldn’t wait to spend hours meandering through some of the best museums in the world, all on my own, and eating amazing vegan food, all on my own. I booked accommodations for Amsterdam and Rotterdam in Holland, and then two nights in Bruges, Belgium. I’d get to knock two new countries off my list, and I’d see them all on my own time.

And then Luna died, just two days before I was set to leave. And all my excitement — for seeing a new city, for traveling alone — vanished. I considered canceling. I still wanted to go, but I didn’t know whether I could — or would — enjoy myself. I asked for guidance in one of my favorite female travel groups on Facebook, and nearly everyone said the same thing: If you at all think you’ll regret staying home, just go instead. But be kind to yourself and don’t force yourself to sightsee more than you want. Just do what makes you happy.

Amsterdam flowers and bridge

Steven — amazing, supportive Steven — agreed. He said he’d be OK staying home alone with Moria while I was gone. So I went. And as I said on Sunday, I’m so glad I did. So, so glad. Yes, there were semi-public tears and moments when grief hit me unexpectedly. (Being away on the one-week anniversary of her death was particularly hard.) But that was OK. I let it happen.

One unexpected side effect of my sadness was a lack of hunger. Anxiety hits me in the stomach, and in the first five or so days after Luna died, I could barely eat. I did, somewhat, because I knew I needed sustenance. But I didn’t really have an appetite. So during my first couple days in Amsterdam, I was walking 10+ miles a day and barely able to eat — yikes! (I also couldn’t sleep. I really don’t know how I walked so much on so little.)

With time, though, my appetite returned, and I’m happy to say that I finally got to enjoy some pretty amazing vegan food in Amsterdam. Read on for those, and for some additional tips on finding vegan options in Amsterdam. Enjoy!

Beter & Leuk

Located a bit off the beaten path in Amsterdam Oost (East), Beter & Leuk is a sweet little cafe with plenty of vegan options. It was a bit of a hike from my hotel, and of course I chose to make the trek on a drizzly, grey morning, but it made my visit all the better: I waited out the rain, enjoying a matcha almond milk latte and a scone while people-watching and reading. #bliss.

Beter and Leuk Amsterdam

The scone was served with little pots of coconut yogurt and fruity jam, which seems to be common in the region. Both made great accompaniments to the dense, oaty scone, and all in all it was a surprisingly filling little breakfast. The matcha latte… well, I won’t say too much about that except that it wasn’t the best I’ve had. Oh well. Can’t win ’em all. Note that Beter & Leuk does offer light lunch options, and according to the menu, it also serves a veganizable high tea — something I have yet to experience but really need to try. High tea for one, however, didn’t seem very inviting! Next time I’ll have to bring Steven with me. :)

 

CT Coffee & Coconuts

I loved CT Coffee & Coconuts the minute I stepped inside. Housed in an old theater in the cute de Pijp neighborhood, the cafe is bright, light, and surprisingly spacious — there are three levels, with all sorts of seating options and arrangements. The vibe is pretty unique: hipster trendy (think exposed brick and white accents) meets laid-back tropical island style. And it works, somehow. I enjoyed this place so much I came back for breakfast on my very last morning, just before heading to the airport.

 

 

Although CT Coffee & Coconuts is actually open all day from 8 am to 11 pm, I only ate breakfasts there — but I have no regrets. Both of my choices were phenomenal. I opted for the overnight buckwheat porridge on my first visit, which features buckwheat blended with coconut water and banana and topped with fresh fruit, almonds, and an incredible mango-basil coulis. I need to recreate this meal; the flavors were perfection and I loved the toasty, nutty blended buckwheat.

On my second visit, I chose the green coconut bowl, which incorporates buckwheat in another form: the cafe’s signature “buckini,” a lightly sweetened buckwheat-based granola. Fresh fruit and a generous helping of buckini top off a fabulous mango, passion fruit, spinach, avocado, and coconut milk smoothie — a perfect mix of textures and flavors that also just looks really darn pretty.

I also tried two coffee drinks. The first, an oat milk latte, was fine, but the second, the “coconut coffee,” was quite honestly the best cold coffee beverage I’ve had in recent memory — and it’s disarmingly simple! Just a double espresso shot blended with coconut milk, agave, and ice. The proportions must be magic or something, because this was heavenly. Another one to recreate!

De Bolhoed

One of Amsterdam’s very first vegetarian restaurants, De Bolhoed definitely has that signature old-school veg vibe. From the physical menus (printed in Papyrus on paper gone soft with age) to the menu items (somewhat uninspired, but also exactly what you’d expect to find in an old-school vegetarian restaurant) to the decor (lots of color and local art), this place reminds me of so many other similar vegetarian joints around the world. It also has a very minimal online presence and is cash-only, so be prepared for that.

De Bolhoed, Amsterdam

I ate here one night and found the experience fine. Not great, not terrible, but fine. I ordered the vegan plate of the day, which was a sampling of six vegan options on a single plate, from a simple side salad to a warm seitan stew. Most components tasted fresh and healthy, although the pile of bulgur grains was a bit boring and the house white wine was too sweet for my taste. I didn’t have a reservation, so I sat at a communal table and chatted with an Aussie couple on holiday in Europe. I didn’t mind that, although I did feel a bit conspicuous when I pulled out my book to read — I did that at pretty much every other place I ate and never felt out of place, but for whatever reason, I didn’t actually want to linger at De Bolhoed. It just didn’t feel very cozy or welcoming. That said, this restaurant does feature an elusive resident kitty, so it’s got that going for it! (I saw her just once, briefly, before she slunk out of sight.)

Meatless District

This trendy, hipster-friendly all-vegan eatery in Oud-West (named after and visually inspired by New York City’s meatpacking district) receives rave reviews from eaters of all persuasions, and for good reason. Meatless District offers both innovative, exciting takes on veg-centric dishes alongside more familiar options.

 

 

Case in point: The meals I enjoyed on my two dinner visits to MD. The first — a cauliflower steak — falls squarely in the “innovative takes” category. This was a massive piece of cauliflower with a spicy marinade and glaze, served with roasted baby potatoes, roasted red onion, coconut bacon, and a little salad of cherry tomatoes and basil. I was glad my appetite had returned by this point, because it was a LOT of food! But so, so good. The cauliflower was tender and juicy, marinated to perfection and perfectly complemented by the crunchy coconut bacon bits. That little side salad of tomatoes and basil was a lovely fresh accompaniment, too. Mmm. I enjoyed this alongside a glass of a white wine and finished up with a steaming mug of fresh mint tea. So, so good.

My second meal at MD was their signature cheeseburger: a tempeh, tofu, and tomato patty topped with cheese, veggies, and pickles. This came with a huge side of fries and their “MDnaise” dip, a flavored mayo. This one was tasty, but not really a standout. You won’t regret ordering it, but you’d be better served by choosing one of their more plant-forward dishes. That said, if you’re craving a filling veggie burger, this will do the trick. (I followed mine up with another mug of mint tea. The perfect stomach-settler!)

SLA

It’s always helpful look up a few vegan-friendly chain restaurants when you’re heading to a new city, and SLA fits perfectly into this category with 10 locations sprinkled around Amsterdam. SLA offers a plant-forward take on quick, healthy, filling salads, although they do serve a few meaty options. You can either build your own massive salad or choose from the menu, which changes seasonally. And because everything is clearly labeled as vegan or not, you don’t have to worry about potential minefields (salad dressing, I’m looking at you!).

 

 

SLA was actually my first stop for food on the Saturday I arrived in Amsterdam. I wasn’t particularly hungry (see above), but I’d been traveling for 14 or so hours without a real meal, and I knew I should eat. Nothing heavy or complex appealed, so I opted for the relatively simple green bowl (shown above right). With lentils, quinoa, broccoli, zucchini, edamame, avocado, parsley, pepitas, and sunflower seeds, this is a bowl that’s jam-packed with healthy (and tonally matching!) ingredients. The dressing — a blend of apple cider vinegar, olive oil, spirulina, basil, and lemon — sounded promising, but unfortunately it was rather bland. I actually wanted more, and I’m usually a light-dressing-only gal. Still, this was a perfect meal for a stomach that wanted to refuel itself with minimal fuss. My only other complaint was that the avocado felt a bit under-ripe, but avocados are notoriously difficult to evaluate!

I hit up SLA again on my second to last day in Amsterdam, grateful for its convenient locations and friendly opening hours. By this point, my stomach troubles had dissipated, so I opted for the more flavorful vegan sushi bowl, which features raw spinach, red rice, edamame, tamari tempeh, pickled kohlrabi, nori, and sesame seeds. This dressing — allegedly a blend of tamari, raspberries, soy yogurt, ginger, sesame oil, and red pepper — was certainly more present than the green bowl’s dressing, but it tasted more vinegary than it had a right to be based on its ingredients. Still, this was another tasty bowl, and so filling that I almost couldn’t finish it!

One downfall of SLA’s massively filling mains is that they leave no room for dessert! I’m now kicking myself for not grabbing a slice of raw strawberry and vanilla vegan cheesecake to go, but the storing-and-eating-later logistics were tricky. Next time!

Vegabond

Places like Vegabond make my heart happy. This tiny all-vegan shop and cafe packs quite a punch into its small space: You can pick up all sorts of vegan food products (including imports!), household objects, and even clothing while you wait for a delicious vegan snack, coffee beverage, or dessert to be prepared. It’s also super close to the Anne Frank House and Westerkerk — a convenient stopping point in the middle of a busy day of sightseeing.

 

 

On my first foray to Vegabond, I picked up a quick to-go lunch and munched it while sitting on a sunny bench by one of the canals. Bliss! I’d ordered an open-faced sandwich, which featured arugula, cherry tomatoes, cashew cheese, and olive oil on a gorgeous thick slice of spelt bread. Simple, but perfect for savoring while sitting in the sun. I returned to Vegabond the very next day for another snack. This, however, was a less sunny day (darn you, fickle weather of Holland), and I opted to enjoy my tofu sausage roll and espresso (odd combo, I know) while sitting on one of Vegabond’s cozy couches, safely protected from the drizzle and the cold. That tofu roll was heavenly: spicy chunks of “sausage” ensconced in a flaky pastry. I almost went back for a second roll!

If you’re in Amsterdam, consider Vegabond a can’t-miss destination. You can stock up on snacks (I bought a bag of tofu jerky, the perfect sustenance option while traveling), buy a cruelty-free toiletry you might’ve forgotten, and get a tasty dessert or lunch in the same convenient location. Do note the hours, however: 11 am to 6 pm on most days, but noon to 5 on Sundays. Those Sunday hours tripped me up: I fully intended to swing by Vegabond en route to the train station on my last morning in the city to pick up some treats for Steven, but alas — it wouldn’t have opened in time. A crushing blow! (I had to settle for some accidentally vegan packaged stroopwafels I found at a little organic grocery store on my walk to the train station, but that was OK — they turned out to be extremely delicious.)

Amsterdam canal

Other options

There are plenty of places to eat vegan in Amsterdam, and of course I didn’t try them all. Here are a few that were on my list but never made the final cut.

  • Betty’s Restaurant: High-end vegetarian restaurant with a different three-course meal every day. Requires reservations; let them know you’re vegan ahead of time.
  • Deshima Lunchroom: Macrobiotic, vegan, and organic lunch counter.
  • DopHert: Vegan restaurant with breakfast, lunch, dinner, and lots of pastries. (I kept intending to make it here, but somehow never did!)
  • Koffee ende Koeck: All-vegan coffee and pastry shop that also offers a vegan high tea if booked in advance. (Now that I think about it, I really didn’t indulge in dessert in Amsterdam — I got so full from my meals that I never had room! I should have gone here and indulged in a sweets-only meal. Regrets!)
  • Restaurant Golden Temple: Vegetarian restaurant specializing in Indian food, but with lots of other influences on its cuisine. Many vegan options marked on the menu.
  • Vegan Junk Food Bar: Vegan restaurant specializing in fried food, including Dutch specialties such as bitterballen.

General tips

  • Like many European countries, Holland relies heavily on chip+PIN credit cards. Most eateries accepted my chip-only card; I just had to sign when using it. Some places don’t accept cash at all, including SLA (although I did see the cashier make an exception for an older man who didn’t seem to speak Dutch or English and couldn’t quite understand). Always check before you go!
  • There are a few Le Pain Quotidien locations around Amsterdam, including a few on the way to Amsterdam Centraal. I stopped on the way to the station one morning and picked up their vegan blueberry muffin (most locations always have the muffin in stock, and vegan options are marked with a little carrot icon). It was uninspired but sufficient for its purpose: a super-quick, reliably vegan option I could grab on the go.
  • EU law requires the labeling of 14 common allergens on both commercially packaged foods and restaurant menus. Since milk and eggs are included in that list, vegans can use those labels as a clue to whether a given item is vegan-friendly. It’s not a perfect system (honey could easily slip by unmarked), but it’s a good way to identify potentially vegan items and rule out options that are clearly unsuitable. (Note that I didn’t find this labeling particularly common on restaurant menus, although packaged food items did adhere to it.)

Amsterdam canal

* If I hadn’t been traveling alone, I  would have been more excited about the coffeeshops. But as a solo traveler who’s heard a few too many stories about unprepared tourists getting knocked on their butts by the strong strains of, ahem, coffee in Amsterdam, I didn’t want to risk it!

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Small-Bite Sundays: June 18, 2017

Small-Bite Sundays

Hello, all — I hope you’re well. Today I’m introducing a new feature on the blog, one that will let me share things that don’t merit a full blog post, but that I’d like to pass along anyway. (And, #realtalk, one that will hopefully encourage me to post a little more often.) I’m calling them “small bites” — small bites to read, to watch, to eat. Some of my favorite bloggers have a similar sort of weekly link-sharing post, and I always enjoy seeing what caught their eyes that week. Let me know what you think and whether there’s anything else you’d like to see.

But first, thank you all from the bottom of my sore heart for your kind words about Luna. It’s been two and a half weeks and, while we’ve certainly had time to take it in and grow a little more accustomed to her absence, I still have not-uncommon unthinking moments when I expect to see or hear her. When I pull into the driveway after work and head indoors to greet Steven, sometimes I briefly wonder, “Is she on the couch, or will she be waiting for me at the sliding door? Will I find any mukes on the floor?” before reality hits again. Reality has gotten a little less crushing, but still painful, and still a bit teary.

Luna lying in her cousin's bed

How could you not love this tiny face?

That said, we’ve been so touched by the memories shared by friends and family. One of the (major) perks of working at an animal-welfare organization is that nearly everybody understands the deep bond that exists between us and our beloved pets. On my first day back in the office (I worked from home for three days after Luna died and then was on vacation), I walked in to find three condolence cards jam-packed with messages from coworkers, a photo book with dozens of shots of sweet Tunie, and a note saying that they’d donated $250 to our local shelter’s senior dog fund in Luna’s honor. More tears.

Phew. Not all my Sunday posts will be quite so heavy, I promise. :) On to the small bites. I hope you enjoy.

Small bites: to read

This list of tips for solo travel, from one of my favorite travel bloggers. Have you ever traveled 100% alone? I just got back from my first wholly solo trip: nine days in Holland and Belgium (more on that soon). I took off for the trip just two days after losing Luna, and I was nervous that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy myself. But the chance to grieve in private, on my own terms and in my own way, was so worthwhile, and I loved being accountable to nobody but myself for how I spent my time. If you’re considering solo travel, I really recommend it. Amanda’s article is a great introduction to the concept, with some practical suggestions for how to plan your first solo jaunt.

This article about the tension between what tourists want when they visit Cuba and what actual Cubans want in their home country is a poignant reminder that enjoying a place because it’s rustic or gritty often comes at the expense of those who live there. Although tourists might lament the loss of classic cars and other markers of “authenticity” in Havana, actual Habaneros welcome and want change.

Small bites: to watch

This Daily Show interview with author Roxane Gay about her just-released memoir, Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body. Trevor Noah approaches the writer (and the book’s loaded and painful subject matter) with compassion, thoughtfulness, and not a trace of condescension. That’s a far cry from other outlets, including one that thought it was OK to reveal behind-the-scenes requests Gay made for her appearance on their podcast, and to talk about them in oddly precise detail. Anyway, I’m so looking forward to this book.

Small bites: to eat

This flavor-packed creamy garlic pasta with roasted cauliflower from Vegan Richa. I haven’t been very inspired to cook lately, but this recipe actually tempted me into the kitchen — and I’m so glad it did. The creamy, garlicky sauce sets off the spicy cauliflower to perfection. I didn’t have time to roast a whole head of garlic, so I just sautéed a few extra cloves and threw in a few shakes of Penzeys Roasted Garlic. I also used a pre-made Creole spice blend. Don’t neglect the lemon and parsley at the end, though! This recipe is going on my regular rotation for sure. I didn’t even mind blasting the oven on a 90˚ day for this one.

This blueprint for a killer bean salad from Hannah Kaminsky is just the thing to help you avoid a limp, watery, bland salad during your next cookout or picnic. Although Hannah also includes a few themed mixes (Mideast Feast; Spicy Southwestern), her basic version sounds like a no-fail option to please any palate.

This tofu fried egg sandwich (see photo below) served on carbolicious buttery Texas toast from Glory Doughnuts, a wonderful vegan doughnut and all-day-breakfast shop in quaint Frederick, Maryland. This small business often sells out of doughnuts by 11:00 AM on weekends, so when I woke up early this morning and felt like getting out of the house, we high-tailed it up to Frederick for brekkie. We also snagged three doughnuts (see below, again!) to munch later today: maple bourbon, the coconutty Chewbacca, and key lime pie.

Finally, happy Father’s Day to my wonderful and supportive dad — I know you’re reading! Love you.

Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through my links, it costs nothing extra for you. I’m not looking to make a fortune, just to cover hosting costs. :)

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Loving Luna

Steven and I said goodbye to our sweet Luna dog yesterday and our world is shattered. It happened so unexpectedly and quickly that we barely had time to digest the fact that we had to let her go before we were with her in the emergency vet’s comfort room, cradling her tiny, blanket-wrapped self, kissing her head, and telling her we loved her.

You'd never imagine that such a sweet, tiny dog could have such stinky, stinky butt juice.

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Today, right now, I’m lying on the couch with Moria snuggled against me, but the house feels wrong. Luna should be behind me, lying on her towel-covered perch on the couch arm, her head resting on her favorite poop emoji pillow or the neck hug pillow I made her a few years ago. We should hear her frequent noises: her lip smacks, her little clicks and swallows, her coughs, the odd goose-like honking sound that sometimes (but not always) came before she muked. It’s odd how you can take away those quiet little infrequent noises and the entire soundscape changes. It feels wrong. These sounds have been a part of our lives for the past three years; we have become accustomed to them.

We adopted Luna in August 2014 from our wonderful local shelter. We’d been visiting on and off for weeks, hoping to add a second dog to our family. When I spotted Luna, it was all over. She looked just like a skinnier, shaved, more pitiful version of our big healthy Moria, and I wanted to take her home immediately and fatten her up and make her healthy.

Luna a few days after we brought her home.

Things didn’t shake out exactly like that. The suspected case of kennel cough she brought home was actually something more serious, and the mucus-pukes (“mukes”) she dropped all day, every day, were actually regurgitations caused by what we finally decided must be megaesophagus. Luna went through a battery of tests, but it was never officially diagnosed — we couldn’t put her through any of the more invasive procedures to definitively diagnose it. It wouldn’t have solved anything, anyway; there is no cure.

So we managed it. We elevated her food and water bowls. After she ate, we held her upright (either in a front pouch or wrapped like a burrito and nestled into the couch) to encourage gravity to pull her food down. We ensured that she had pillows available to elevate her head when she rested — eventually, she would raise her head to accept a pillow as we brought it closer.  We kept spray bottles of cleaner and boxes of rags around the house to quickly wipe up her messes. We had a separate laundry basket, just for her rags. It became second nature.

Ready for action #lunabug #megaesophagus

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Despite trying to tempt Luna with the most calorie-laden, filling foods we could find, she never could keep on weight. She had a brief period when her fur came in (after being shaved at the shelter) and she was just the fuzziest little monster with the longest legs, but underneath she was still so thin. (We named her Luna because she reminded us of the thestrals from Harry Potter, and Luna Lovegood has an affinity for them.)

Road trip Tunie! #lunabug

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And then she began losing her fur. Even after she was diagnosed with Cushing’s disease last year and started treatment for that, she lost more and more fur. The doctor thought it was unrelated to the Cushing’s, more of a genetic issue. Her knobbly knees began poking us when we cuddled and her little hip bones jutted out almost scarily. But she was eating OK and she was happy, so we expanded her doggie sweater wardrobe and tried to ignore how pitiful she looked.

Tiny Tune, big world.

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My brave girl. We never knew how old she was; the shelter guessed 5 years, but her teeth were so broken and in such bad shape that it was just an estimate. (We once caught her chewing on a Christmas light. No wonder her teeth were wrecked.) She was brought to the shelter as a stray after roaming one of the DC suburbs by herself.  A little five-pound dog with broken teeth and a broken digestive system against the world. She was so matted that they had to shave her all the way down. We have no idea how long she was stray or how she got there. Did her previous family get fed up with her muking and let her loose? Did she escape? Was the long matted fur all from her time on the streets, or was she neglected when (if) she did have a home?

Courtesy of @philipsanerd

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We had so few clues about her past. One day a few months ago, while Luna was in our bedroom, I accidentally slammed a door down the hall. Luna jumped a bit and crawled under the bed. Did she come from a home where fighting happened regularly? Was she the object of those yells?

Our sweet enigmatic girl took a good year and a half to truly warm up to us. For a while, she slept on top of my pillow, jammed in between my head and the headboard or another pillow I’d prop up. And then, suddenly, she started cuddling. At night she’d push her increasingly bony body up against us, her elbows and knees poking into our sides. If we moved or turned over, she’d jam herself in closer. On the couch, she’d come sit on my lap, resting her head on my laptop or my book. She began to greet us with enthusiastic jumps onto our legs when we returned, with a forceful push of her head into our hands for a pet and with enthusiastic wagging of her fur-less, rat-like tail. She followed it up with one of her lusty rolls all over the carpet, getting her back good and scratched. She must be part cat, we thought.

My beautiful beasts. 😍 #moriathedog #lunabug #adoptdontshop

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Nearly everyone who met Luna fell in love with her. Most people assumed she and Moria were sisters; they looked so alike, especially when Luna had her curly fur. I had to tell them that, no, they were adopted years apart, and 1,000+ miles apart. They only became sisters once we added them both to our family.

But there was something about Luna’s big bug-like eyes, her diminutive size, and her resigned fearlessness that captured people’s hearts. (Or maybe it was the way she looked just like an AT-AT. So many people, separately, commented on that. It was uncanny.)

Ready for battle! @geekypet

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She was a star when we brought her in to work. Everyone wanted to pet her. As she got older, she became more selective — she began nipping occasionally, to tell you she wasn’t into you reaching down and grabbing her. In the past few months she’d started getting crotchety if we tried to pick her up off the couch or the bed while she was curled in a ball. You’d reach over to her and her little lip would start to curl. Pull your hand away, and the curl subsided. Reach further, and it would turn into a tiny, chihuahua-like snarl. Go too far and you might get a snap and a tiny warning yelp. (But without all her teeth, she was pretty harmless.)

Ah, shit, I put her back together wrong.

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Luna had the most unexpected give-no-fucks approach to life. She would walk all over your chest and shoulders to get up to the couch arm. She regularly climbed on top of Moria in search of a resting spot. And she did everything on her own time. After we moved into our house last summer, we began letting her hang out in the backyard. But she was so tiny that she would get “lost.” We would be out there, calling her name, getting more and more frantic by the second, sure she’d been snatched up by a bird of prey or had run off for a second stint on the streets, when we’d spot her tiny head emerging from a bed of ivy or between two bushes. She’d heard us calling, but didn’t deign to show herself. But she loved the outdoors, just lounging in the sun. I’m glad she had the chance to do that.

Spring chicken legs.

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It’s been just 24 hours and I miss her so much already. She was so sick so suddenly. Yesterday morning we woke up and Steven noticed that something was wrong. He put her down on the hall carpet and I watched her stand there, head bowed, before she tried to take a few steps and swayed from side to side before stopping. She had been through so much in the three years we had with her — the chronic megaesophagus, an abscess behind her eye, the Cushing’s disease — but I could tell this was something different and more serious.

Sister's butt is the best pillow. 🐶🐶💤

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We brought her to the emergency vet. They took her back for tests and we sat in a cold exam room and waited in silence. The vet came in and told us her blood sugar and blood pressure were both very low, and they were trying to stabilize her, but she wasn’t responding. She was going into sepsis, they thought. More blood tests showed that her kidneys were barely functioning. Even if they could bring her around from the sepsis (unlikely, and involving days of incredibly invasive treatment), they’d still need to figure out what was causing the kidney failure. Her poor little kidneys were so far gone already.

As an ethical vegan, I struggle with the concept of euthanasia, with the fact that I am literally deciding between life and death for another sentient being. But that is the terrible, awful, wonderful burden you carry when you adopt an animal. You must make the decisions for them. Luna had suffered through so much. We couldn’t keep her in pain for longer, when she wasn’t responding to the most basic treatments, and her kidneys were going. We loved her so much. We couldn’t bring her home to die slowly and painfully over the course of a day or two. So we held her and we cried but we tried to stay calm as we told her we loved her, that she was our sweet Tune, that she was a good girl.

And she was. She was such a good girl. We loved her so much.

I've got a Lunabug neckwarmer. #dogsofinstagram #adoptdontshop

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Thank you for reading this, if you were able. And thank you to all my friends and family who reached out with words of comfort. It is such an honor to know how much she meant to so many of you.

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