Dispatches from Lockdown

Well, hi there. Long time no write, right? Like most (all?) of you, my life during the past four months has been lived almost exclusively from the confines of my home.

It all happened rather suddenly: One weekend I was in Rhode Island with Steven, attending a baby shower for my brother-in-law and sister, the party guests laughingly trying to avoid hugs because we’d heard that the new coronavirus was making its way toward us. The next weekend, I was back in Maryland; on Sunday night (my 33rd birthday!), I received a work email telling everyone to stay home for the next two weeks.

You know how that story played out: Two weeks became a month, a month became two months, and here we are in July with no plans for the vast majority of our staff to return to the office. Looking back, my family feels so grateful nobody got sick at our little baby shower gathering. We were so naive! Given what we know now, it seems shocking we got together. Steven and I FLEW to Rhode Island, for crying out loud! In a PLANE! Via the AIRPORT! With all those PEOPLE! Phew.

The end of a raised garden bed, with a few green plants poking up. On the side of the wooden bed is a stainless steel colander; inside are freshly picked lettuce leaves and two bright pink radishes.

Freshly picked lettuce and salad rose radishes a few months back. My garden is much wilder now!

And here we are in lockdown. I’m lucky: I have a house and a partner and a garden and pets. My job is stable. Unlike many of my friends, I’m not stuck in an apartment with almost no outdoor access. My garden has never been so well-tended as it has been this year. My home office (previously used as a craft room/repository for random things with no other home) has never been such an official office-y office space. My pups have never received so much nonstop attention. Steven works from home normally, so having me here has been a bit of an adjustment for him. And me? I’m actually loving working from home. I can take breaks and go putter outside if my creative juices aren’t flowing (and, early on, they flowed like molasses, let me tell you). I can start dinner at 2:00 p.m. to save myself time later. I can wear ACTUAL SUMMER CLOTHES because I’m not sitting in a freezing icebox of an office building. In that regard, lockdown has had its silver linings. (Which is not to minimize the deadly gravity of the pandemic, of course, but I’ve got to take the good where I find it.)

A triangular desk wedged into the corner of a room between two windows. There's a laptop on it, along with some plants. Outside the windows are lots of flowering native plants!

My current office! Steven custom-built this desk so it fits right between the two living room windows.

Steven and I recently switched office spaces (he moved into the office room; I moved into his living room desk space) and now I have a great view of some of our wildlife garden. In the last week alone, I saw:

  • A rambunctious chipmunk chasing a very perturbed dove. 
  • A pair of American goldfinches chowing down on the seedheads of some bee balm, while a chipping sparrow waited her turn.
  • A hunched-over raccoon sloping through my front yard and into the back, perhaps in search of a cooling drink on a 90-degree day.
  • Multiple hummingbirds sipping nectar from the bee balm, flitting from one tubular petal to the other. Just this morning, a female ruby-throated hummingbird hovered by my window, seeming to stare at me as I looked back at her just as curiously. <3
  • Countless birds, bees, squirrels, and other wild friends just living their lives.

It’s distracting! But also lovely. 

Socially, my introverted self has been… just fine, to be honest. Weekly video chats with my college friends have sustained and cheered me; it’s been so nice to reconnect with them all as a group and to just be silly together. I connect with home-friends and here-friends; I talk with my family; I’m doing OK. I’m enjoying backyard picnics and getting into cocktails and supporting my local businesses by getting takeout every so often. 

I’m taking the bright sides and the silver linings wherever I find them, basically. 

A vine twines around a wooden fence; its leaves are covered in raindrops and one little mouth-like flower bud pokes up at the center.

Lonicera sempervirens (coral honeysuckle) in early spring after a rainstorm.

Of course, lockdown has also been stressful AF. There were times (early on, especially) where everything felt so dark and hopeless, especially as our ignorant turd of a president seemed determined to get us all killed. To see and hear scientists and epidemiologists provide recommendations, only to have them laughingly ignored by the president/various state officials/”BUT MUH FREEDOM!” people, is just… beyond infuriating. As a perhaps overly empathetic individual, I’ve had my heart broken over and over again during the past four months. And that was even before the latest spate of racist police violence spewed into our collective consciousness.

I protested. I broke our fairly strict quarantine to go to a nearby small city and join a BLM protest because I couldn’t not do it. I donated, because my stimulus check could be put to better use elsewhere. And when Steven and I drove to Rhode Island last month to meet our new nephew, born in May, I had heartfelt and scary and hopeful (socially distanced) conversations with resistant and confused family members.

The tenor and intensity of these conversations felt different. I felt empowered to speak with more passion, and I felt my family members listening with more open ears than they might’ve in the past. It was good. 

A top-down long-arm selfie of two young women, one middle-aged woman, two young kids, and a baby in a front pack.

My sister, me, my mom, and my nephews on an easy little hike in Rhode Island.

And about that trip home: That was good, too. Steven and I quarantined carefully beforehand and then drove up to RI with minimal stops, only pausing to get gas and let the dogs potty. With careful avoidance of liquids, we didn’t even need bio breaks for ourselves! One week of expanding our little quaranbubble to include my immediate family was just what we needed. Paddling in my parents’ pool with my nephews, drinking my dad’s home-brewed beer, playing games… it felt so normal. We even saw extended family, from a distance. The return back to real life was a bit rough, but so it goes.

So here we are, approaching the middle of July, as our national ability to exercise self-sacrifice and self-restraint has apparently reached its limits and we’ve just accepted a second wave of infections, worse than before, as the price of… well, what, exactly, I’m not sure. I, for one, am staying the eff home. I will confine myself to my books and my garden and my backyard and my video calls. I will wear my mask. I will indulge in our twice-monthly grocery store trips, and maybe an occasional visit to my beloved Saturday morning farmers market (but probably not, because people were crowding each other the last time I was there and it made me a little panicky). 

I hope you’re all as well as can be, under the circumstances. I’ve been reading, even if I haven’t been commenting, and I appreciate those of you who’ve been able to keep up with normal posts as the world disintegrates around us. I hope to be back soon, to share some of the meals Steven and I have made recently. We shall see. :) 


Lunch on the Go: Pizza Strips!

VeganMoFo 2015 banner

Day 19: Lunch on the go.

Today’s prompt couldn’t be more appropriate! I’m in Rhode Island this weekend, here to celebrate my dad’s 60th birthday and my nephew Charlie’s 1st birthday. Two days of big gatherings, bookended by days of chilling out with my immediate family. There will be lots of party foods and snacks, but I guarantee we’ll make time for one of the best on-the-go lunches: pizza strips!

Pizza strips; image from RIMonthly
Image from RIMonthly.com

Pizza strips (also called party pizza or bakery pizza) are a Rhode Island specialty. They’re incredibly simple — a focaccia-like dough topped with a thick tomato sauce — but they’re definitely more than the sum of their parts. They’re baked on sheets and cut into strips, which you can then slice into squares for smaller portions. I think they’re very similar to an Italian tomato pie, which makes sense — RI has a big Italian-American population, and you can find pizza strips at nearly any Italian bakery. My family has always served them at parties; they’re relatively inexpensive and are a great supplement to the typical chips and veggie trays served at these kinds of gatherings. And — bonus! — they’re typically vegan, although some bakeries add parmesan cheese. I’ve always preferred the corner pieces, since I love thick, crusty bread. When I was a kid, I didn’t like the tomato sauce topping — it was too thick for me, so I’d wipe some of it off. These days, I’m far less particular, and I’m always happy to grab a piece with a healthy amount of sauce!

My mom used to buy pizza strips at a bakery called the Italian Breadbox, which was just down the street from my family’s house. Sadly, they closed down years ago, so she now patronizes DePetrillo’s Bakery. She’s confirmed with the chefs that the recipe is indeed 100% vegan, so that’s my bakery of choice when Steven and I need to pick up a tray for the ride back to Maryland. Since they have no melty cheese and never have any toppings, they’re super easy to eat on the go!

Mmm… I can’t wait until my dad’s party starts later today. There will, in fact, be pizza strips. ;)

Rhode Island Recap

Hello! I returned from Rhode Island bright and early this morning… early enough to head into work just an hour and a half later than usual. Yay for not needing to take an extra vacation day; boo for getting up so early! But my visit home was lovely in nearly every way, and I have to admit that I appreciated the brief break from posting, since I’d prescheduled the last three posts.

Last night, though, my mom asked about my post for today. When I told her that I would just post about my weekend and the food I ate, we had this exchange:

MOM: Are you sure? You could make something for us tonight.
KELLY: No, Mom! I don’t want to cook on my last night!
MOM: You don’t want to make something for breakfast tomorrow? Some of your oats?
KELLY: No! My flight’s at 7:00 in the morning!
MOM: Okay, fine… I just wanted someone to cook for me!

Ha! Sorry, Mom!

Anyway, some of my eats this weekend just happened to include some seasonal food… mostly of the dessert variety. ;) Other than a bunch of regular ol’ apples and blueberry muffins my mama made (and I forgot to photograph), here’s what I had.

First, delicious desserts from Wildflour Bakery! A friend and I spent Sunday morning at another friend’s gorgeous apartment (it’s in a converted mill with exposed brick, high ceilings, and huuuge windows… drool!), and friend #2’s girlfriend came home in the early afternoon with a whole box of treats from Wildflour! She’s lactose-intolerant and is apparently quite the Wildflour connoisseur. Because friend #1 is also allergic to nuts, we had a nut-free, vegan feast of scones (chocolate chip, ginger, and blueberry-lemon) and pumpkin whoopee pies. Everything was scrumptious, as always!

Top-down view of a bakery box filled with scones.


(A disclaimer, though: I also went to Wildflour with my family right after I arrived Saturday morning. I had a tasty piece of strawberry strudel bread and an almond milk latte, which were both fine, but I noticed that they offer dairy milk in their coffees—despite the fact that they call themselves a vegan bakery. Not cool.)

That night, we celebrated my dad’s birthday at The Grange, a new veg restaurant in Providence that happens to be owned by the same folks as Wildflour (and Garden Grille). The place has an upscale hipster vibe (all the waiters seemed to wear plaid flannel shirts…) that seemed to work, but the menu is a bit perplexing: it’s all vegetarian, but nowhere does it indicate what’s vegan. When I asked the waitress for guidance, she told me their policy: They can do everything vegan *except* cheese. Okay! I ordered an oyster mushroom po’boy that blew my mind. It was a thick, soft, chewy pretzel sub roll filled with oyster mushrooms fried in a crunchy, panko-esque batter and topped with a remoulade and gently pickled cucumbers. On the side was a small helping of perfectly crunchy, slightly pickled cabbage slaw. Oh, it was so good, and just the right amount of food for me! My nectarine sour (the cocktail special of the night) was a refreshing accompaniment.

Three-quarter view of a rectangular white plate with a sandwich and cabbage slaw.

It seems like The Grange’s owners have finally perfected their restauranting with this newest establishment—everyone in our party loved their meals. My brother-in-law raved about his kimchi noodles (served with crispy tofu, pea greens, and pickled veggies); I might have to get them the next time I’m there.

Afterwards, we headed home for dessert. My auntie, who’s always been the #1 baker in our family, has finally ventured into vegan cooking and whipped up a huge tray of apple crisp and a whole batch of chocolate cupcakes with vanilla frosting and toasted coconut. (There were also non-vegan brownies.) They were all phenomenal! I had a cupcake and a giant helping of apple crisp and was so full I felt almost sick afterwards. Oops. :) I hope my aunt’s baking success will convince her to explore more vegan baking at family gatherings in the future!

Three-quarter shot of a big metal pan of apple crisp with cupcakes in the background.

There’s a lot of un-pictured yumminess, too—those blueberry muffins I already mentioned… some delicious BBQ cabbage sandwiches my dad whipped up… yummy salad with tahini-lemon dressing… a packaged vegan coconut-oat bar and a fantastic soy latte at Dave’s Coffee… hmm. I eat well when I’m home! And I didn’t have to do any cooking this time! (Sorry, Mom!)

But even better than the food was all the time I spent with my family and friends. It was really one of the nicest trips home I’ve had in a while–no rushing around, and lots of time to make spur-of-the-moment plans. I had a relaxed tea with one of my best friends, that snack-and-chat time with the friends I already mentioned, a birthday party for my 16-year-old cousin, and lots of QT with my immediate family. I visited my grandma in her nursing home, went out to the birthday dinner with my other grandma and her boyfriend and my aunt and my immediate family… and yet I didn’t feel rushed or overly busy! And of course, I got to cuddle with my ridiculously quick-growing nephew. The kid’s practically an adult now—he has FOUR TEETH!

Anyway, that’s all I’ve got for ya. Please excuse my indulgent ramblings. :)

How was YOUR weekend?

Foodie Finds in Rhode Island

Oh, dear. I spent so long rhapsodizing about my little Teddybear that I never told you about all the delicious things I ate on my trip to Rhode Island. And I call this a vegan food blog! For shame. Let’s get right to it, then!

My first full day in RI was a Saturday, and in the morning I accompanied my mom to the Wintertime Farmers Market in Pawtucket. Color me impressed! This was not some piddly little affair with a couple folding tables stocked with the anemic, sparse produce of winter. No, this was a bustling, busy affair with dozens of vendors, lots of happy shoppers, and a kick-ass locale.


The market is snugly housed at Hope Artiste Village, a fantastic space that’s actually a renovated mill. Check out the gorgeous brick walls and exposed ceiling work – isn’t it cool? Beyond the main drag where most of the produce vendors sell their goods is whole other room with mostly prepared goods. My mom and I sampled a delicious Middle Eastern chickpea spread before moving on to a vendor that looked promising – EvaRuth’s Specialty Bakery, makers of wheat- and gluten-free goods.

Now, I don’t do the gluten-free thing, but I do know that many GF bakeries also offer vegan goods. My hunch proved correct – they had vegan brownies, cookies, and… doughnuts! I’ve been craving a vegan doughnut for three years, y’all. This was a baked cinnamon sugar doughnut, and it was good.


Just cake-y enough and not too sweet, this doughnut pleased my tastebuds. I slowly nibbled it as we perused the rest of the vendors, listened to some live music, smiled at some adorable children dancing to the live music, and then poked around in one of the art shops that also lives in the building. On our way out, we purchased some fresh almond milk from a local vendor that’s hoping to buy a food truck to deliver fresh produce to food deserts. Impressive, right? I really enjoyed the almond milk – pure, unadulterated almond milk is nothing like its creamier, shelf-stable cousin, but it’s hard to beat with a glass of cake.

And I definitely enjoyed it with cake – my dad made his famous German chocolate-inspired vegan cake one night, and it was super delicious. And then, a few days before I left, we celebrated my birthday a little early with some yummy blondies.


But I’m getting ahead of myself! One of the other culinary highlights took place at Julians, which I’ve blogged about a couple of times in the past. This time, I was meeting my friend Nicole (and some of her other friends) to celebrate her birthday with a late-morning brunch. And by late-morning, I really mean early afternoon, because the Julians staff clearly doesn’t know how to deal with brunch crowds, and we were waiting for well over an hour. It was not pleasant. At least my meal didn’t disappoint! I got the Tofu Benedict, an amazing concoction of thick sourdough bread; big, soft cubes of tofu; vegan Hollandaise sauce; sauteed spinach; and a side of delicious home fries.

Most of my fellow diners also loved their meals, although the birthday girl herself wasn’t too impressed with her French toast. I was just happy that I had leftovers – nothing like making a tasty meal last for two days, right?

And that, friends, about wraps up the highlights! Apart from these special treats, I (of course) had lots of healthy, hearty vegan meals cooked up by my parents (and myself). I always eat well when I’m home. :)

Restaurant Review: Julians Restaurant

I think I broke my mom’s heart a little tiny bit when I visited last week. On our first night in RI, my parents wanted to go out to eat – but not to our veg-friendly standard, the Garden Grille. Instead they wanted to hit up a local establishment that offers a variety of Asian cuisines. Our conversation went something like this:

Mom: So I was thinking we could meet at Seven Moons for dinner.

Me: I’m not sure Seven Moons has vegan options…

Mom: Yes, it does! They have pad thai! I get that all the time!

Me: Really? They don’t use fish sauce?

Mom: …fish sauce?

Needless to say, it was all downhill from there. Mom called the restaurant, they confirmed that fish sauce is everywhere, and my poor mother suffered a severe case of disillusionment. I might have spied a tear on her cheek when she hung up the phone.

Luckily, though, a quick Google search advised me of a promising but yet-untried (by me!) veg-friendly joint in Providence – Julians Restaurant. (And yes, there is a lack of apostrophe in their name. I know.) So, that evening, we all met up there to see what Julian had to offer.

While Julians isn’t a vegetarian restaurant (the menu includes various meats), it does offer more than a few meat-free options. And we’re not talking about your token Boca burger, either – these are creative, thoughtful dishes worth ordering. All of my family members chose something meat-free (if not vegan), and I passed the camera around the table and had them photograph what they ate. We’ll start with the Vegan Steak & Cheese Wrap, which both S and I ordered because neither of us was terribly hungry.


Our wraps included house-made seitan, onions, mushrooms, peppers, and vegan cheese, and they were the perfect size for our less robust appetites. The house-made seitan was juicy and tender and they included just the right amount of soy cheese. My only complaint was that the seitan was just a bit too salty for my tastes.

After being foiled in her earlier craving for pad thai, Mom decided to go with a different flavor palette entirely. She ordered the Mediterranean Spice Fried Seitan Skewers.

Two skewers of seitan resting atop a bed of bulgar wheat, with green pea shoots in the background and cauliflower puree to the right.

Definitely not pad thai.

Fancy, right? These featured more house-made seitan alongside saffron-olive-portobella bulgar, pea tendrils, preserved lemon, and paprika roasted cauliflower purée. See what I mean about the creative dishes here? Mom enjoyed these, although she agreed that the seitan was a bit salty.

Finally, here is the last dish that got photographed. I’m not sure if it was dad’s or my brother’s – I thought both of them had snapped a shot, but apparently not!

A rather nondescript dish of seitan and noodles and broccoli.

Moar seitan!

I think this is my brother’s dish. He chose a special of the day, which was a seitan-based dish in a spicy peanut sauce. He liked it but commented that it wasn’t really all that peanutty – the spiciness overpowered the peanuttiness. Alas.

I’m not totally sure, but I believe my dad ordered the  House Corned Beef Seitan, which is served with roasted fingerling potatoes, maple glazed carrots and caraway stout braised cabbage. He gave me a taste, and I can vouch that it was quite tasty. My sister ordered the only non-vegan meal, another special of the day. Hers was some sort of tofu-based sandwich; I think it included cheese.

Beyond pleasing my taste buds with its yummy food, Julians pleased my eyes as well. The restaurant is decorated with all sorts of art and knick-knacks in its the cozy interior. The bathroom features a collection of action figures alongside an art installation – a TV showing images and sounds of trains. I’m not quite sold on that one. ;)

If my praise doesn’t convince you that Julians is worth a visit, let me also add that S is 95% sure he saw Ted Leo (of Ted Leo and the Pharmacists) enjoying dinner on Julians’ patio. He was slightly starstruck but decided not to say hello so as not to make an unwelcome dinnertime intrusion. :) I didn’t need the star sighting, though – the food was good enough to bring me back! In fact, the weekend after I left, my mom and aunt headed there for brunch. And Julians has some amazing-sounding vegan brunch options – Carrot Cake Pancakes with Cashew Cream Cheese?! Holy smokes! I know where I’m eating breakfast next time I’m in RI! :)

Have you spotted famous folks out and about in the wild? What’s your favorite local veg-friendly eatery?

This is a pre-scheduled post because I’m currently on vacation. If anything looks funky, blame the scheduling feature in WordPress. ;)

Vegan Madness in RI, and Pasta con Broc-occoli

GUYS. Get this – according to Go Dairy Free, the world’s first vegan ice cream truck is based out of – wait for it – Rhode Island. For serious! I’m swelling with Rhody pride for my little Ocean State. Why wasn’t I aware of this when I actually lived in RI?! Not only can RI vegans get their ice cream fix from a bangin’ purple truck, but they can also satisfy sugar cravings at a vegan bakery and juice bar that opened recently. When my mom visited me in February, she brought a bag of their cookies for us to share, and they were yummy! Admittedly, they needed a turn in the microwave to restore them to optimal softness, but they’d traveled 1200 miles across the country, so can you really blame them? I’ll ask Mom to buy me a fresher cookie when I go back home in May for my little brother’s college graduation (eek).

Speaking of my mom, she has a weird little habit of saying “broc-occoli” instead of “broccoli.” Not all the time (that would be annoying), but fairly frequently. So sometimes, when I cook with broccoli (more than fairly frequently), I call it broc-occoli in my head. I definitely did that a couple night’s ago when I tried one of the recipes from Appetite for Reduction recipes that’s garnered the most attention – Pasta con Broccoli.

Now, lemme just clarify something here. I do not actually have an appetite for reduction. I am not trying to lose weight. Being a bit on the skinny side, I’m a bit hypersensitive about those sorts of misunderstandings; I don’t want anyone to think I’m unhappy with myself and am on a diet. I was even a little hesitant about buying AfR because I felt like people would see it on my cookbook shelf and make silent assumptions. :( But a good cookbook is a good cookbook, and I am not going to deprive myself of delicious recipes just because someone might silently assume things. Pshaw.

Anyway, Pasta con Broccoli. It’s gotten rave reviews from many of my bloggy friends, so I decided to give it a whirl a couple nights ago. I’ll admit that I had my misgivings; it seemed a little… boring. And, honestly, it doesn’t look extremely exciting.


It’s pretty, sure, but it doesn’t look like a dish that’d send you into throes of culinary ecstasy or make you starry-eyed with gastronomical pleasure. And honestly, I was a little underwhelmed at first. Now, I’ll admit that I omitted the balsamic vinegar because that shit is nasty (sorry, 99% of the world), so probably I lost some flavor there. It was tasty, sure, and the broc-occoli itself was excellent, but overall I didn’t quite get what everyone had raved about. But I had extra, and despite my distaste for leftover pasta, I ate it for lunch the next day. And you know what? Because the pasta had soaked up the leftover sauce, it was so much more flavorful! I can totally see why people add this to their regular dinner rotation; it’s easy and yummy. If I made it again, I’d let it sit in the pan for longer to let the flavors really get it on. Rawr. Nothin’ like hot broccoli-on-pasta action to spice up your night. ;)

Do you have AfR? Have you tried the Pasta con Broccoli? What do you think? And more importantly… how awesome is RI for sporting a vegan ice cream truck!?