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. :)

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.)

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!

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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Eating vegan in Amsterdam // how to find vegan food in Amsterdam // govegga.com Eating vegan in Amsterdam // how to find vegan food in Amsterdam // govegga.com

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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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Deer Run B&B Review: A Vegan Bed and Breakfast in the Florida Keys

I turned 30 in March. In August, my mom will turn 60. Two momentous birthdays in a single year required a special celebration: a mom-daughter vacation!

I asked my mom where she wanted to go, and after throwing around a few ideas, she was pretty decisive: the Florida Keys. She hadn’t been since her honeymoon 37 years ago, and I’d never been at all. I didn’t know much about the Keys beyond what I’d heard about Key West, but I was excited to explore both it and the less popular keys. And when we discovered that there was an all-vegan bed and breakfast on Big Pine Key, well, that sealed the deal. To the Keys!

Mom and me in Key West

Blurry Facebook photo of mom and me in Key West!

Deer Run Vegan B&B on Big Pine Key

Big Pine Key is 33 miles north of Key West, more than halfway down the stretch of 43 connected islands that make up the Keys. Besides hosting the only population of the diminutive Key Deer in the entire world (!), it also hosts a fabulous vegan B&B. Mom and I spent five nights at Deer Run Bed and Breakfast, enjoying the B&B’s private beach, astonishingly large and delicious breakfasts, and the occasional game of Scrabble when the weather didn’t cooperate.

Nothing like some RBG on the beach. 👌🏼👑 🌴

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Proprietors Jen and Harry have created a true vegan oasis in the Keys. Mom and I shared the Eden room, which might not be oceanfront but does have a private, secluded garden. The entire beach and yard is a wildlife-friendly habitat, and I loved having surprisingly good wildlife-watching right outside our screened-in porch. The redwing blackbird who was making a home for his family greeted us loudly every morning, the tiny lizards scurried through the trees, and I caught a glimpse of a shy resident iguana high-tailing it away from me when I walked around the corner one afternoon. The aforementioned endangered Key Deer (which grow only to about waist-height) roamed freely over the beach, and I couldn’t get enough of their tiny selves.

I'm pretty curious about you too, little one.

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Not only are Jen and Harry true-blue animal advocates (they’re both involved in all sorts of vegan and animal-friendly causes in the Keys), but they’re also environmentalists. To that end, Deer Run is kitted out to be super eco-friendly, with composting toilets, water-recycling systems, and compost bins for guests’ plant refuse. They also supply bulk shampoo, conditioner, soap, and body wash — no tiny plastic bottles here.

Out on the beach, Harry and Jen are working to restore and replant mangrove trees. They form a natural barrier against erosion but have typically been ripped out to make way for development and long stretches of sandy beaches.

View for the next five days.

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It’s good for the soul to stay in a place where the owners share your values and don’t compromise on them. Deer Run is that place.

Delicious vegan breakfasts at Deer Run

Deer Run is also the place to go if you want massive vegan breakfasts that feature multiple courses and take you at least an hour to eat. This is not an exaggeration, and I have to admit that I didn’t finish my breakfast even once during the five days we were there. (Don’t worry, plates and aluminum foil are at the ready so you can save your leftovers for later.)

At first, I wasn’t thrilled when I realized that the 8:30 breakfast call meant I’d have to get up early during my vacation. But it was totally worth it. It meant that Mom and I made the most of our days, and we started with super hearty breakfasts that kept us going. Plus, there’s copious coffee and tea if you need a caffeine kick!

Breakfasts typically included a baked good to start, followed by an incredible fruit smoothie, and then a ginormous main dish with fruit and another side. For example, one day we had almond scones, tropical smoothies, toasted oat waffles, and slices of cantaloupe. Another breakfast featured a to-die-for mocha muffin, a southwestern frittata, roasted potatoes, and a pineapple spear. And we had the absolute best vegan bacon I’ve ever tasted on our last day — I’m salivating just thinking about it!

Words not good enough? Check out the visuals.

 

 

 

 

See? I wasn’t joking about the ginormous breakfasts. You will leave full!

I can’t recommend this place highly enough. If you want a relaxing vacation where you’re immersed in gorgeous nature with wildlife all around, go. It’s pricy, but it’s worth it.

IF YOU GO…

  • Be sure to visit nearby Bahia Honda Beach, located just a five-minute drive away. After driving past the entrance kiosk, turn left to hang out on a world-famous beach, or turn right for a chance to walk out on a portion of the old Key Highway system, which extends over the absurdly blue water and offers great views (photo below!).
  • Borrow a bike from Deer Run and take a ride to one of the nature trails on the island, or just cruise around enjoying the sun.
  • Order a custom-made key lime pie from Jen. It’s the only (!) vegan key lime pie in the Keys, and she’ll deliver it to you in a picnic basket with silverware, plates, and coconut whipped cream for your dining pleasure. Mom and I split one and finished it in two days. #noregrets
  • Be aware that the B&B attracts plenty of non-vegan guests, so you might have to field the standard “curious omnivore” questions. Think of it as an opportunity to educate and inspire!
  • Ask to meet the cats (if you’re not allergic, of course)! They’re sweet and super friendly but don’t interact with guests unless their presence is requested.

View from Bahia Honda

Pretty sure that’s a photo of paradise right there. ;)

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Deer Run Vegan Bed and Breakfast // govegga.com  Deer Run Vegan Bed and Breakfast // govegga.com

Deer Run Vegan Bed and Breakfast // govegga.comDeer Run Vegan Bed and Breakfast // govegga.comDeer Run Vegan Bed and Breakfast // govegga.comDeer Run Vegan Bed and Breakfast // govegga.com Deer Run Vegan Bed and Breakfast // govegga.comSave

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The Open-Faced Sandwich I Didn’t Know I Was Missing

I’ve never been a fan of mayonnaise. I’ve never been one to slather it thickly on a sandwich or sneak a spoonful of it or use it, heaven forbid, as a dip. Blech! Even recipes that rely on large amounts of it for creaminess (potato salad; slaw) make me nervous. I don’t want to taste it, I just want to use it as a glue on a sandwich or as the otherwise unnoticeable base of a salad or slaw.

But then I discovered the tomato-mayo open-faced sandwich. I could ask where it’s been all my life, but I already have the answer: in the American South, served up on a hot day, probably alongside a pitcher of sweet tea.

That’s why I — Yankee by birth, Midwesterner by college/first-job choice, Mid-Atlantic…er… by current situation — was unfamiliar with it. But man, I was missing out. Because when you take delicious, quality bread, toast it gently, spread it with mayo, heap on freshly sliced tomatoes, and sprinkle a little salt on top, you get a transcendent summer sandwich.

The return of warm-weather lunches. 🌱🍅😍 #whatveganseat

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Now, tomato-mayo sandwich purists might balk at my usage of anything but grocery store white bread, but come on, that’s not my style. I used a white sourdough here and it was perfection. I recommend something neutral in flavor; this isn’t the place for your seven-grain swirled rye masterpiece.

In case you’ve never made one before, here is my take on this summer delight. I can’t wait till I have my own garden-fresh tomatoes to use in it. Come on, summer!

Vegan Tomato-Mayo Sandwich

Serves 1

  • 2 pieces neutral-flavored bread
  • 1-2 TB vegan mayonnaise (I like Just Mayo)
  • 1 tomato, thickly sliced
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Pepper flakes (optional; I like piment d’espelette)
  • Sprouts (optional)

Method

Lightly toast bread. You want it just a bit crispy, but not at all blackened. Spread mayo on one side of each slice to taste, then layer on the tomato slices and sprouts (if using). Sprinkle sea salt and pepper flakes (if using) on top. Eat and enjoy.

PIN ME!

Vegan open-faced tomato-mayo sandwich // govegga.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through my links, 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. :)

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Ethical Clothing Companies with Cruelty-Free Vegan Options, and Why You Should Care About Your Clothes

Original photo by Roberto Trombetta on Flickr // vegan ethical fashion

Original photo by
Roberto Trombetta on Flickr

One of the most infuriating “questions” lobbied at vegans sounds something like this: “Why do you care about animals when there are HUMAN BEINGS suffering all over the world?!” This is infuriating for many reasons, of course: It assumes that one cannot care about and work to help both human and non-human animals; it assumes a near-speciesist distinction between humans and animals; it is often “asked” by speakers who they themselves are not doing much for humans or other animals. Plus, it’s never really a question; it’s a goading comment designed to rile up the vegan target.

But despite all this, there’s actually a kernel of relevance to the question. If your veganism is founded on ethics, on a desire to reduce suffering and not take part in suffering as far as is possible and practicable, then caring about your fellow humans and striving to reduce their suffering should also be important to you. It’s not that you have to do it all, but that you should be conscious of suffering and work against it and the systems that encourage it when possible.

Which all leads me to my point: that we as vegans should probably be a little more ethically conscious in stores other than the grocery store. Specifically, when we’re buying clothing.

It’s no secret that the clothing industry—especially the fast-fashion industry—is notoriously horrendous in terms of human rights and worker safety. The horrific 2012 garment factory fire in Dhaka, Bangladesh, which killed 117 people, is a particularly poignant example of what can happen when safety isn’t a priority, but the day-to-day injustices and inhumane working conditions in the garment industry are no less important.

On top of this high human cost, fast fashion hurts the environment. Getting rid of textile waste is a real problem, and even so-called “recycling programs” (where fast-fashion retailers like H&M will take back their unwanted garments, ostensibly to turn them into recycled fibers) might actually encourage consumerism. Plus, the products use to dye that brightly colored T-shirt or make that non-biodegradable polyester sweater are terrifically harmful to the environment, so much so that the textile industry ranks as one of the worst industries in terms of pollutants.

All these facts, when taken together, form a pretty strong case for caring a little more deeply about—and putting a little more thought into—one’s clothing purchases. Buying fewer pieces of clothing and keeping them for longer is a great place to start.

The good news is that there’s a new crop of ethical designers and retailers, mostly online, dedicated to producing ethically made clothing that’s friendly to the environment, to people, and frequently to animals. Below I’ll share with you my favorite brands doing great work in this space, but first, a quick list of points to look for when you’re trying to determine whether a given retailer is “ethical.”

How to tell whether a clothing or apparel manufacturer/retailer is ethical

These are just a few things you can ask and look for as you find brands that you think might produce their wares ethically. In a nutshell, transparency counts! And don’t be afraid to email companies and ask questions—it’s good to keep them accountable and let them know that people want more ethical clothing options.

  • Do they mention sustainability or ethics on their website? (Scroll down to the bottom of their homepage and check for a link to a dedicated page or read through the FAQ to start.) If there’s no mention at all, there’s a good chance that this retailer produces their garments in sweatshops and/or has not even signed on to any labor/working condition agreements. Retailers that are actually committed to ethics, fair trade, and/or sustainability almost always explain why they hold these values and how they put these values into practice. On the other hand, beware of statements so vague as to be essentially meaningless. Greenwashing is real, and if a brand can’t give concrete examples of its commitment to ethics and/or sustainability, it’s probably just paying lip service to those ideals.
  • Do they list sources for any materials? For example, some sustainable producers use recycled polyester, and they’ll always call that out. Other ethical brands use “waste” products or use only environmentally-friendly dyes. if a brand doesn’t give any information, the information they do have is likely not going to meet your ethical standards.
  • Do they include the exact country in which the product was made? Many retailers will just list “imported” next to a product, which can indicate a lack of transparency. On the other hand, most ethical companies will tell you exactly where each product was made. And although you might see something like China and immediately assume the worst, note that some factories do follow higher welfare standards and pay a living wage. A truly transparent and ethical company will explain how they choose their factories and will often perform in-person checks.
Original photo by Joel Kramer on Flickr // ethical and vegan clothing

Original photo by Joel Kramer on Flickr

My favorite ethical clothing brands with vegan options

Alternative Apparel

Why I love it: I practically lived in Alternative Apparel’s super-soft athleisure-focused pieces last summer: I’d get home from work and immediately change into a sports bra, tank top, and shorts or yoga pants and head outside, either to work in the garden or sit with a beer and a book in the backyard, soaking up the sun. They have an impressive range of mostly casual pieces for men and women, mixed in with a few slightly dressier pieces that could fit into a business-casual wardrobe.

Why it’s ethical: Alternative Apparel’s statement of social responsibility ticks all the boxes: Eco-friendly fabrics? Check. Recycled materials? Low-impact dyes? Fair labor conditions? Check, check, and check again. Their base in LA is even certified green, meaning they encourage and promote small-scale environmentally friendly practices, like ride-sharing and using green cleaning products. And they use almost exclusively non-animal fabrics; you’ll find the occasional woolly garment, but it’ll be labeled clearly.

What it’ll cost you: At full price, AA’s clothing tends to hit the middle of the spectrum, with a few items skewing pricier. $28 organic cotton T-shirts are pretty comparable to similar brands, but the $112 flannel shirt-dress seems a bit much. Note that many of the more expensive items are the private-label brands AA carries. Look for their own house brand for more affordable options.

Want a discount? AA is great for discounts! I’ve never paid full price for anything. First check out the sale section for discounts that hover around 50%, then head over to the last-chance section for truly bargain-bin prices. Sizes and colors tend to be limited, so hop on a sale whenever it’s offered. Be sure to sign up for the mailing list to be the first to know about their (frequent) sales, and note that shipping and returns are always free in the 48 contiguous states. New customers can use my referral link for 20% off a purchase of $30 or more.

American Giant

Why I love it: For whatever reason, many ethical clothing companies seem to shy away from color. (I think it’s because many of these companies want to offer eminently neutral—and therefore versatile—basics.) Not American Giant. This brand embraces color, from vibrant red to jewel-toned emerald to dusty purple. It also offers an impressive range of mostly casual basics: Think waffled henleys, simple T-shirts, and an oft-praised hoodie. I have a simple grey sweatshirt from AG that’s both warm and comfy, but I’d love to try their ponte pant/legging—it looks like the epitome of comfort and perfect for traveling.

Why it’s ethical: The name should be a dead giveaway: everything is made in the USA with American-grown and crafted cotton. Plus, the company offers free returns on any item at any point in time for any reason, a quality guarantee that demonstrates how strongly they stand behind their products. And because all products are cotton (along with some new nylon offerings), you don’t need to worry about wool or silk sneaking in!

What it’ll cost you: Although not the cheapest brand on this list, American Giant offers a relatively low price for fully made-in-the-USA goods. Women’s T-shirts will run you anywhere from $25 to $40, while their much-lauded hoodie is about $90. Sales are rare but not unknown, so keep an eye out.

Want a discount? Like I said, sales are infrequent, but new customers can score 15% off with my referral link.

Photo credit: Brass Clothing

Photo credit: Brass Clothing

Brass Clothing

Why I love it: This woman-owned, Boston-based company focuses on basic, foundational pieces. Although it’s designed with a capsule wardrobe in mind, these basic pieces will fit into anyone’s closet. I particularly appreciate the muted tones and fairly timeless shapes. The company will also reimburse you up to $15 if you need to get a piece tailored to fit, which is a nice gesture. Plus, Brass uses “real models” to demonstrate how their clothing fits on a variety of body shapes. Sizes run from XXS-XXL at present.

Why it’s ethical: The women who run Brass ensure that their fabrics are high-quality and their garments are well-constructed so that they’ll last—these are not items you’ll throw out in a year because they’ve developed holes. They design their clothing here in the USA and manufacture it in Hangzhou, China, at two factories that they visit fairly regularly. Most fabrics are vegan, though they do use silk occasionally.

What it’ll cost you: These are not inexpensive clothing items; expect to pay $20-$30 for a T-shirt and ~$90-$125 for a dress. That’s because they’re truly built to last. Check out the last-chance room for occasional deals: I bought the grey sweater dress on sale last year and it’s absolutely a winter staple for me.

Want a discount? New customers get $10 off by signing up for the Brass mailing list—just scroll down on the home page and enter your email address at the prompt.

PACT Apparel

Why I love it: Similar to American Giant, PACT focuses on cotton basics. Unlike AG, whose wares are eminently casual, PACT offers a broader range of goods, from undies to cute dresses. It’s a particularly great choice if you want simple basics (socks, undies, tights) that are fairly made and don’t cost a fortune. I particularly love their tights, which are thicker than regular tights without venturing into legging territory—perfect for winter! I’ve also been eyeing this cute pocket dress for a while, and at $29.99, it’s really a steal.

Ed. note: I purchased the pocket dress when it went on sale recently, and I LOVE IT. It’s soft, super comfy, and a great length (I’m 5’5″ and an XS hits just above the knees). Plus, the pockets fit even the largest smartphones!

I also appreciate the breadth of PACT’s line; they provide clothes for women, men, and babies (a rarity), and they offer lots of fun colors (just check out all the legging patterns!).

Why it’s ethical: The PACT motto is “Change you can wear,” and a good-for-people, good-for-the-planet ethos drives their work. Everything is sweatshop-free, ethically produced, and features certified organic cotton (which uses less water to manufacture than conventional cotton).

What it’ll cost you: One of the most affordable brands on this list, PACT won’t break the bank. Yes, you’ll pay more for a pair of socks or underwear here than you would buying a six-pack at Target, but that’s the trade-off of purchasing fairly made goods. And honestly, PACT’s prices are pretty much as low as you’ll find for ethical basics. T-shirts run an extremely affordable $15.99, while a four-pack of basic crew socks is $22.99.

Want a discount? Sign up for PACT’s mailing list for frequent discounts (they recently offered 30% off winter favorites). And watch out for their Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales—you’ll get some amazing deals! I scored an $8 T-shirt last year.

prAna

Why I love it: Yes, this is a bigger company than most others on my list, but I had to include it for its commitment to fair-trade and sustainability. You can read their full sustainability statement here, but here’s the short version: PrAna is committed to using sustainable materials (think hemp and recycled polyester), reducing waste (no plastic-wrapped clothing when you place an online order!), offering fair-trade certified clothing (since 2010!), ensuring that they know where their materials come from (thanks to traceability projects), and avoiding harmful pollutants (by partnering with bluesign to meet high environmental standards). I own a few prAna pieces (yoga pants, everyday pants, swimsuits, and a winter jacket) and they’re all high-quality, investment pieces that I think will last me years.

On top of all that, prAna has an amazing commitment to customer service—they want you to love your clothing and wear it till it wears out. I purchased a pair of pants and wasn’t 100% happy with them (they were just a little big) and found I wasn’t wearing them that often. Six months after my purchase, they were willing to exchange them for a smaller size at no cost to me!

Why it’s ethical: Well, see above! PrAna walks the walk when it comes to ethics. Note that they do use some animal products in cool-weather clothing, mostly down (ugh, though it’s allegedly responsibly sourced), wool (usually recycled), and the occasional suede elbow patch (why?!?). Luckily, everything is clearly labeled online so you won’t get any unwelcome surprises when your order arrives.

What it’ll cost you: PrAna is not cheap, but they do have a robust sale section with seasonal discounts up to 50% off. That’s my preferred way to shop!

Want a discount? Check out the aforementioned sale section and sign up for emails—you’ll be the first to know about shipping offers or new discounts!

Photo credit: SmartGlamour

Photo credit: SmartGlamour

SmartGlamour

Why I love it: When it comes to body-positive style, SmartGlamour stands alone. This brand is amazing in so many ways. It’s a woman-run, New York-based company; in fact, owner, designer, and general powerhouse Mallorie Dunn makes all clothing items to order. So while the company offers straight sizes in a truly amazing range (XXS-6XL+), you can customize any aspect of your garment (including the fabric!) to fit your body and sense of style. And Dunn is 100% committed to body positivity; the SmartGlamour Instagram account features real women of all shapes and sizes. (Check out the photo above for proof.) This inclusivity doesn’t end at size and shape; Dunn features women of color, women of all ages, and women all over the LGBTQ+ spectrum, including trans women. Reading her Instagram captions fills me with joy because of how overwhelmingly positive and inclusive they are—this is what America looks like, and I’m so happy to find a brand that’s committed to outfitting every single woman!

Why it’s ethical: Because everything is handmade in NYC, no shady labor conditions are contributing to your cute new dress! Aside from the occasional well-labeled wool, all fabrics are vegan—in fact, I first found SmartGlamour while perusing the #veganfashion hashtag on Instagram!

What it’ll cost you: For handmade (and often customized) clothing, SmartGlamour is surprisingly inexpensive (probably because Dunn keeps overhead low too). A classic (and classy) fitted sheath-style dress will run you $65, while a drape-y cardigan costs $40.

Want a discount? Check the sample sale section and follow SmartGlamour on Instagram to see additional sample materials as soon as they’re available.

Sotela

Why I love it: The driving idea behind Sotela is disarmingly simple: women should have a few pieces of clothing that will always fit, regardless of weight fluctuations or shape changes. Founder Hanna Baror-Padilla  wanted to address this issue after severe digestive issues left her so bloated and uncomfortable that most of her existing clothing didn’t fit. She decided to design a line of simple, basic dresses with a decent amount of give to allow for changes in size and shape. In practice, that means that Sotela’s dresses don’t match up with typical sizing. Instead, you’ll find just three sizes, each of which corresponds with a set of straight sizes. The largest size (3) fits traditional sizes 14-18.

Why it’s ethical: Baror-Padilla is committed to using environmentally friendly fabrics, such as modal, which can be made from the pulp of renewable beech trees. All items are produced in Costa Mesa, California. If you’re looking for ethical clothing that’s also made in the USA, this is a great start.

What it’ll cost you: Dresses start at $100, although a sample sale running right now offers a $65 swing dress.

Want a discount? Enter your email address in the popup window for free shipping.

Photo by Anthony TwoMoons for Vaute Couture; Belden coat

Photo by Anthony TwoMoons for Vaute Couture

Vaute Couture

Why I love it: It’s the OG high-fashion, all-vegan, cruelty-free brand! Founder Leanne Mai-Ly Hilgart started the company in 2008 as a way to unite her fierce belief in animal welfare with a product that would appeal to a fashion-forward crowd. And it most certainly does. Although Vaute Couture is perhaps best known for its uber-warm winter coats, Hilgart has expanded her line to include dresses, sweaters, shirts, and even swimsuits—all vegan and all super stylish. Back in 2011, I split the cost of the original Belden coat (similar to this one, but with a slightly different fabric) with my mom as an early Christmas present when it went on sale—and I’ve been wearing it ever since. It’s a beautiful, well-fitting coat that got me through a few killer Wisconsin winters!

Why it’s ethical: Let me count the ways! For one, Vaute Couture is a 100% vegan brand, so you can always trust that the materials are cruelty-free. Vaute Couture uses sustainable materials (recycled, organic, or even waste-free) and makes its coats ethically in New York City by teams paid a living wage.

What it’ll cost you: This is easily the most expensive brand on this list: at full price, expect to spend about $400 to $600 for a snow- and weather-proof coat that will keep you toasty. Sweaters and skirts will run you upwards of $150, in line with similar high-fashion brands.

Want a discount? The good news: Vaute Couture frequently offers end-of-season (and even pre-season) sales, with discounts of up to 50% off. (That’s how I could afford my jacket; in those days, Vaute Couture funded its winter runs by pre-selling coats.) Yes, you will still pay a pretty penny, but you’re purchasing an investment piece that will last. Six years later and my coat is going strong!

A few more brands for your consideration

  • Everlane: The darling of ethical fashion bloggers everywhere, Everlane was one of the first web brands to focus on transparency. They share the cost breakdown of each item so you can see exactly what their profit margin is, and they forge relationships with their factories to ensure working conditions are fair and safe.
    So why didn’t I include them in my list of favorites? Well, they do use a LOT of animal products, from silk to cashmere to wool to leather. They also don’t have anything that’s certified fair-trade, as far as I can tell. And finally, I find many of their styles to be puzzling: a recent email hawked a pair of bizarre wide-legged cropped pants as “the most flattering pant you’ll ever try,” which is just absurd. Their boxy shapes seem unfriendly to many body types (nor are their models inclusive of all body shapes and sizes), and their persistently drab shades just feel bland (and that’s coming from someone who loves neutrals). That said, I have one plain black v-neck T-shirt I really like, and it was well-priced. Note that the clothes run big—I had to order an XXS!
  • Good Apparel: A newcomer to the world of ethical/sustainable women’s fashion, Good Apparel is the brand-new house line of Good Clothing Company. The latter is a Massachusetts-based production partner that works with designers who want an ethical, made-in-the-USA option for producing their designs. Good Apparel creates small-batch collections, releasing new ones every 2-3 months to buck the traditional fashion calendar. They focus on sustainable, locally sourced fibers, avoid waste by producing small batches, and pay their staff living wages.
    So why didn’t I include them in my list of favorites? The company is brand-spanking new, and there’s not much press on the quality of their clothing (though it should be top-notch). I also find their designs a bit puzzling and perhaps too fashion-forward for the average consumer ($138 split-leg pants?). I appreciate what they’re doing and imagine they’ll be a great fit for a very specific audience. I am not that audience, however.
  • Seamly: Founder Kristin Glenn wanted to create clothing that’s made to last, that doesn’t support unethical labor practice (it’s all made in the USA), and that supports the environment by using primarily “waste” products.
    So why didn’t I include them in my list of favorites? Here’s the catch: Seamly is currently not offering new products, but is relaunching in spring of this year with a new line of “modern staples.” However, this means that their existing inventory is on sale for 50% off! Pickings are somewhat slim, but take a look. I’ll update this list when Seamly officially relaunches.

Notes and thoughts on buying ethical clothing

  • Cost: I won’t deny that ethically made clothing costs more than fast fashion. But if you’re already paying more for your vegan almond milk than you’d pay for cow milk, you’re familiar with the trade-off: truly ethical products don’t come cheap. As you switch to a more ethical wardrobe, you might need to rethink your shopping strategy: Gone are the days when you can hit up the mall for two-for-$15 T-shirts; instead, you’ll typically spend more on a single shirt! Personally, I’ve enjoyed paring down my wardrobe to find what I really need and to find pieces I love, pieces that are versatile and that will last. I fully acknowledge that this practice might not be as attainable for anyone who is truly struggling with money or poverty. That’s OK. Just do the best you can.
  • Thrifting: Much of my wardrobe right now is secondhand. I don’t feel bad about purchasing so-called fast fashion when it’s used and it fits a specific gap in my closet. (For example, I have a few cotton sweaters from cheap brands that I bought at thrift stores. They’re lasting quite a while, and they were way more affordable than purchasing a $75+ organic cotton fair-trade sweater.) There’s an argument that buying items like this, even secondhand, feeds into the market for those items existing in the first place, but for many people, thrifting is an affordable way to fill your closet without directly supporting unethical companies.
  • Sizing: I tried to note which brands on this list offer a wide range of sizes, but the unfortunate reality is that many ethical brands don’t cater to my larger sisters. I am 100% on board with the health at any size movement and with fighting the gross fat-shaming culture that exists in the vegan movement, and I’ll update this list if I find great ethical brands that also want to clothe bigger women.
  • On chasing perfection: Once you learn about the horrors of the fast-fashion industry, it can be tempting to throw everything out and start anew. Slow down; that’s not sustainable! Don’t worry about perfection, about making sure that every single item in your closet is immediately sustainable and ethical and fair-trade and and and and everything else. Do what you can. The perfect is the enemy of the good.
  • Women-centric? It’s entirely possible that my inherent bias as a ciswoman who wears mostly clothing designed for women means I’m just missing out on ethical male fashion, but I do think that there’s a whole lot more going on in this space for women than for men (especially when it comes to vegan fashion). And that’s a shame. So yes, my list is very female-focused, but I’m writing what I know. ;)

Further reading

  • From AlterNet, details on the sustainability and and environmental issues inherent in modern clothing production. Also linked above.
  • From Huffington Post, an extremely comprehensive long read on the history of the ethical fashion movement, why it’s hit a wall, and how we need to pursue policies and regulations that make sweatshops and unsustainable practices untenable. A good reminder that “[w]e are not going to shop ourselves into a better world.”
  • From NPR,  a look at the problems inherent in fast fashion and how corporate-driven “recycling” efforts could be problematic. Also linked above.

Like this post? Let me know and I’ll work on guides to more specific types of ethical, vegan apparel (undies, shoes, etc.). And please share your other favorite brands!

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Ethical clothing brands with vegan, cruelty-free options // govegga.com
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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Five Vegan Pancake Recipes for Shrove Tuesday

Although my pancake recipes are predictably and unimaginatively housed on my breakfast recipes page, I am a firm believer in the occasional pancake dinner. Pancakes are quick, they’re relatively filling, and they’re practically dessert! And I am all for the occasional dessert-y dinner.

If you’re feeling lazy and in need of a carbolicious meal tonight, might I suggest you make pancakes and say it’s all in the name of celebrating Shrove Tuesday? Here are a few recipes to get you started, both from me and from some of my fellow bloggers. (For more vegan breakfast recipes, check out my Pinterest board!)

Vegan pancake recipes for any time of day (or night)!

Vegan Apple-Cinnamon Pancakes with Apple Pie Sauce // govegga.com

Apple-Cinnamon Pancakes with Apple Pie Sauce (pictured above)

Spicy pillows of puffy goodness topped with a buttery apple pie-inspired sauce—what’s not to love? Check out my recipe here.

Cinnamon Roll Pancakes with Cinnamon Swirls

This recipe from Minimalist Baker is the stuff of my breakfast-for-dinner dreams! Note that it’s a yeasted batter, so you’ll need to allow an hour for the batter to rise.

Puffy Pillow Pancakes

For classic melt-in-your mouth straightforward pancake goodness, look no further than the queen of all things vegan brunch-y, Isa Chandra.

Bright blue cloth with a white plate and a stack of seven thin, orange pumpkin pancakes. Scattered around them are a few mini chocolate chips.

Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Pancakes (pictured above)

This recipe is an oldie, but definitely a goodie! If you’re into towering stacks of wafer-thin pancakes studded with little chocolate bites, this is the recipe for you.

A stack of five pancakes, covered in maple syrup, sit on a blue plate. To the left are three slices of apples. In the background is a bowl of chocolate chia pudding and a bottle of ginger syrup.

Whole-Wheat Ginger-Apple Pancakes (pictured above)

Another one of my older recipes, go for this recipe if you’d like to convince yourself you’re eating a healthy dinner: It uses whole wheat (pastry) flour, after all!

What’s your favorite vegan pancake recipe?

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Five vegan pancake recipes for Shrove Tuesday -- or any day!

Vegan Spaghetti Carbonara

Though I have no clue why, a few days ago I was seized with the idea of cooking a vegan carbonara—despite never having eaten carbonara in my life, vegan or otherwise. Perhaps I saw a recipe while perusing Pinterest and it lodged in my unconscious? Or maybe I’m just nostalgic for the Sims 2 and preparing a Goopy Carbonara for my hapless Sims? Who knows. But I had to try it.

I fully intended to follow an existing recipe for this pasta dish. I had no frame of reference for how it should taste, and I only vaguely understood the premise: add uncooked eggs (and maybe cheese?) to hot pasta; wait for eggs to cook through (but not scramble!) and create a rich “sauce” that clings to the pasta. Top with bacon? So I began researching how to make vegan carbonara.

But as I opened up tab after tab of vegan carbonara recipes, nothing seemed quite right. One recipe relied solely on silken tofu, which seemed like it would give a decent texture but would risk the end result tasting overpoweringly of soy. Another recipe used an entire half cup of Follow Your Heart’s VeganEgg—a product I appreciate in theory but am frequently disappointed with in practice—to get that clingy, eggy texture, which made sense, but I didn’t have a whole package of the product on hand. And a third recipe employed that ubiquitous vegan favorite, cashews, to add a nice rich mouthfeel, but that method seemed like it would create a more generic cream sauce, not carbonara. All these elements seemed useful in the end goal of creating a true carbonara, but not by themselves. I had to mix them.

Vegan pasta carbonara
And thus, my very own vegan carbonara. A small addition of the VeganEgg provides that clingy texture, cashews offer a creamy and slightly cheesy flavor, and a small amount of silken tofu adds bulk. I included black salt to approximate eggy flavor and threw in a few scoops of nutritional yeast for cheesiness. Topped with crispy bacon, my carbonara was a surprising and delicious success. It’s quite filling, too—I had leftovers for lunch the next day. Now that’s the measure of a true winner.

Vegan Carbonara

Serves 3-4

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, diced
  • 1/3 cup cashews, soaked for as long as your blender requires it
  • 2 T VeganEgg + 1/2 cup cold water
  • 7 oz soft silken tofu (half a vacuum-sealed block)
  • 1/4 cup almond milk (or other nondairy milk)
  • 2 T lemon juice
  • 1 T nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1 tsp kala namak (black salt; if you don’t have it, just use regular salt)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 pieces your favorite vegan bacon, chopped into small pieces (1/2″ or so)
  • 12 oz pasta
  • Parsley for serving (optional)

Method

Set your cashews soaking. If you have a high-powered blender, you can soak them briefly (I soaked mine while prepping the rest of the sauce); if not, be sure to start ahead of time as required by your blender.

In a small bowl, add the VeganEgg and the cold water and whisk forcefully until the powder is incorporated. Set aside.

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil on medium. Add the onions and sauté for about 5 minutes, then add the garlic. Cook for another 3 minutes or until the onions are translucent. Turn off the heat and set aside, but keep the pan on the stove for later.

At this point, start boiling a pot of water for your pasta.

Drain the cashews and add them to your blender, along with the VeganEgg mixture, silken tofu, cooked onions and garlic, almond milk, lemon juice, black salt, nooch, and a few grinds of pepper. Blend on high until all ingredients are thoroughly incorporated. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust seasonings as necessary. Set sauce aside.

Heat a small amount of oil in the pan you used for the onion and garlic and add the chopped bacon.

By now, the pasta water should be boiling. Add pasta and set a timer for al dente pasta, following the package’s instructions. As the pasta cooks, monitor the bacon. It should heat through and become somewhat crispy. When the bacon is done (about 7 minutes), you can either leave it in the pan (so that it mixes in with the pasta and sauce) or scoop it into a small bowl (so you can top the pasta with it). Either way, turn the heat off but leave the pan on the burner.

When the pasta is finished cooking, drain it and immediately add it to the hot pan. Pour the sauce over it and cook for about 4-5 minutes on low heat, using a spatula to coat all the pasta. When the sauce starts clinging to the pasta and darkening a bit in color, it’s ready. Serve topped with bacon and parsley (if using) and a few more grinds of fresh pepper. Enjoy!

Notes

  • I used Sweet Earth Natural Foods‘ Benevolent Bacon, but you can go with any brand you prefer. You could also make your own crumbles from tofu or tempeh, although a fattier product works best here—the fat released in cooking helps everything cling together at the end.
  • If you don’t have the VeganEgg on hand, I think you can forgo it. You’ll just lose some of that clingy, eggy texture. Feel free to experiment with other ingredients in its place!
  • I used linguine for my pasta, but spaghetti and rigatoni are also common choices.
  • A quality vegan parmesan would be a perfect addition here. If you have it, swap it for the nooch and use as much as you need to get a nice cheesy flavor.
  • Timing is important here; you want the spaghetti to be nice and hot when you add the sauce. For that reason, make sure to follow the steps as written.

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Vegan pasta carbonara // govegga.com

Note: This post contains an affiliate link. If you purchase something through my link, it costs nothing extra for you, but I get a few pennies to help cover hosting costs.

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Weekend Trip: Watkins Glen + Corning, New York, and the Ginger Cat B+B

Last March, Steven and I headed to New York State for a little getaway in advance of my 29th birthday — and I never shared the details. Shame! It was a fantastic weekend trip loaded with some of my favorite things, thanks to Steven’s careful planning.

I knew the general gist of our trip (a vegan B&B in New York State’s Finger Lakes region; a trip to the Pyrex exhibit at the Corning Museum of Glass) in advance, but not the details. And the details made this trip amazing.

Vegan Treats Bakery in Bethlehem, PA

We headed up to New York on a Friday evening, leaving after work and breaking up the six-ish hour drive with a stop at a store that’s been on my vegan bucket list for years: Vegan Treats. I think of it as the vegan baked goods mecca: if you’re a sugar-loving vegan, you need to visit at some point. (Or at the very least, try out its wares at select restaurants and VegFests on the east coast.)

Vegan Treats bakery in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

If you visit, don’t let the unassuming location on a residential street fool you; this place is well worth a visit. Vegan Treats smells like an old-timey ice cream shop, and it’s chock-full of beautifully decorated delights. I could barely contain my excitement as I ogled the dozens of impeccably decorated sweeties.

I thought we were stopping to stock up on a few snacks for the weekend, but no: Steven had a surprise waiting for me. Check out my birthday cake:

Yes, that is a reproduction of my favorite Pyrex pattern (Butterprint) in cake form! The amazing artists at VT hand-painted this beauty at Steven’s request. It was almost too pretty to eat! (Rest assured, eat it we did — later.)

Cake (and additional treats) in hand, we set off for our final destination.

The Ginger Cat B&B in Watkins Glen, NY

The Ginger Cat is an all-vegan B&B, and it’s a gem of a place. It even won a VegNews award a few years ago, and rightfully so. Owner Gita has created a cozy, homey vegan sanctuary for visitors to the Empire State. She’s the perfect host, willing to take guests’ leads on whether they prefer solitude or camaraderie. We arrived late at night and let ourselves in, grateful for a warm bed in a quiet house.

Pig and pamphlets at the Ginger Cat B&B in Watkins Glen, NY

During our two-night stay, we enjoyed chatting with Gita, a dedicated vegan who seems to be a go-to source in Watkins Glen for establishments looking to provide vegan offerings. If you need a recommendation for food, wine, or anything, she’s got you covered. On Saturday night, we cut into the Pyrex cake and made sure to share a piece with Gita, who thoughtfully offered up some locally made vegan ice cream (!) for topping. The mint chocolate chip was amazing and paired beautifully with my vanilla amandine cake.  I’ll admit that I was a little skeptical when I realized that it wasn’t chocolate, but the vanilla amandine won me over at first bite. It’s a mature flavor, not overly sweet, but nuanced, and the cake had a layer of vanilla frosting to set it off. The texture was really special, too — almost like a sponge or an Angel food cake, with a little bit of a crust at the edges The whole cake was covered with vanilla fondant, and although I know some folks can’t stand the stuff, I personally love its chewy sweetness.

Back to the Ginger Cat! Of course, the second B in B&B stands for breakfast, and we breakfasted like royalty. I’ve never been to a B&B; it was SO nice to wake up and smell breakfast cooking! Gita cooked up a feast each morning. From soy-sauce braised kale with cashews to tender scones to a savory quiche to waffles with lots of maple syrup, we had lots to choose from each day, all washed down by freshly made coffee (her tea collection was also impressive).

Note that although Gita has a few friendly kitties living in the house, they stay in the residential area, not in the B&B section. Steven has a fairly sensitive cat allergy, but he wasn’t bothered by them. If you do want to meet the kitties, just ask — Gita will be happy to introduce you.

Corning Museum of Glass + Pyrex Exhibit

Steven chose this particular weekend for a reason: it was the last chance we’d get to see a Pyrex retrospective at the Corning Museum of Glass. My love of vintage Pyrex is undying and well-documented, and I loved this opportunity to learn more about the brand’s history and to see its evolution throughout the past century.

Although not particularly expansive, the Pyrex exhibit was exhaustive: it included examples of just about every Pyrex pattern available at any time in the brand’s history, along with a comprehensive history of the brand’s founding and evolution. We had the exhibit to ourselves when we visited, and it was fantastic to take in the beautiful patterns in peace.

Even though this particular exhibit was temporary, the Corning Museum of Glass is well-worth a visit regardless. I didn’t quite know what to expect, and I was blown away by the sheer size of the museum: multiple levels house a breathtaking display of glasswork throughout the ages, from ancient Rome to the Islamic world and right up to contemporary designers. Honestly, you could spend an entire day here learning about how glass has been made throughout the centuries and ogling the gorgeous work.

But CMOG really won a place in my heart as one of my favorite American museums because of the demonstrations. You can watch firsthand as a master glassworker creates a one-of-a-kind piece of artwork from start to finish. (And, if you’re lucky, you might be the lucky audience member who gets to take it home!) The museum offers four different demo sessions (hot glass, flameworking, optical fiber, and glassbreaking) and runs each one a few times a day. Attendance is included in the price of your admission ticket. We attended a hot glass and a flameworking demo, and I was super thrilled that both featured bad-ass lady glassworkers! The museum also offers classes in glassmaking, but those cost extra and probably need to be scheduled in advance.

City of Corning, NY

After your visit to the Museum of Glass, take a little time to wander around Corning! This sweet small town is perfect for walking — make sure you stop at the Corningware, Corelle & More Factory Outlet store for discounts on kitchen goods! You can also goofily pose with this absurd giant Pyrex measuring cup. Because why not.

Pyrex measuring cup in Corning, New York

Veraisons Restaurant

Trust me on this one: If you are in the area and want a nice evening out, make reservations at Veraisons Restaurant. The Finger Lakes are home to a robust wine scene, and Veraisons is the eatery attached to Glenora Cellars. You’ll have a gorgeous view of the vineyard as you sip locally made wine and nosh on — wait for it — a gourmet vegan cheese board.

Remember when I said that the purveyor of the Ginger Cat has some kind of uncanny influence on businesses in the area? Well, she’s made her mark here too, and the chef(s) at Veraisons offer a rotating selection of house-made vegan cheeses. The board comes with three cheeses (the menu currently lists brie, a rarebit-style soft white cheddar, and a mozzarella, although it was slightly different when we were there), along with grapes, bread, and a few other nibbles. We were blown away with how delicious and unique these cheeses were, and how wonderful it was to see “vegan cheese board” on a menu alongside a local (dairy) cheese sampler. I’m clearly the worst blogger in the world, because I neglected to photograph it, but TRUST ME ON THIS: it is worth your while (and your dollars).

This surprising creativity carried over into the rest of the menu too. Vegan options are clearly marked and abundant, from “fish” tacos to eggplant parm to braised chickpeas. Prices are on par with similar upscale-ish restaurants, and you’ll be voting with your dollar to encourage more vegan options at Veraisons.

Farm Sanctuary

Our single regret on this short visit to Watkins Glen was that we couldn’t visit Farm Sanctuary — it was too early in the season! But don’t worry, we’ll return — and we’ll make sure we can visit this beautiful place while we’re there.

BONUS STOP IN SCRANTON!

Steven had one last birthday surprise in store for me during our drive back to Maryland from Watkins Glen: a stop in Scranton, PA. Why? Here you go:

Scranton sign from The Office

To see the original Scranton sign from The Office, duh! The sign has a permanent home in the Mall at Scranton, which you might know as the Steamtown Mall if you’re a fan of the show. Frankly, it’s a depressing place — one of those malls that’s failing to thrive, with more stores shuttered than open. A metaphor for dying industrial towns over the country, perhaps? Anyway, if you’re driving through and want a photo with a sign, it’s not a big detour. But don’t expect much entertainment at the mall!

IF YOU GO…

  • …to the Ginger Cat B&B, ask owner Gita for recommendations for vegan eats in the area. Lots of veg-friendly visitors come to Watkins Glen to visit Farm Sanctuary, and local businesses seem more than willing to accommodate them. Gita will be in the know about the most up-to-date options!
  • …to the Corning Museum of Glass, check out the scheduled demos as soon as you arrive and plan your visit around them. I highly recommend attending at least one, if not more!
  • …to the general Watkins Glen/Finger Lakes region, check that Farm Sanctuary is open so you can schedule a visit. Going in the late spring will also be better if you intend to visit any of the local parks. (We didn’t have time for this, but these hikes look gorgeous!)

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Vegan options for a weekend trip to Watkins Glen and Corning, New York

 

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