The Good News
Hello All! I’m here to announce the winners of last week’s Taste Of Nature giveaway, yay! I used a random number generator to pick the three winners, who were:
Shannon who loves Almonds Almonds Almonds!, Emily who loves mac nuts (and this blog! – which I agree is pretty nutty), and Kendra who loves pecans. Congratulations guys! I’ll be emailing you to put you in touch with Taste Of Nature later this afternoon.
Thanks to everyone who entered!
The Bad News
We skipped Expo West. Sad trombone. Saddest trombone.
Yup. It sucks, but we did it. Late last week, Jeremy and I made the very difficult, very depressing, very responsible-grown-up decision to stay home from Expo and spend that extra time working. My first quarter of grad school is wrapping up this week, with major assignments due and a final next Monday. I had thought I could do it all, but apparently I cannot. So as much as I wanted to go to Expo (and OMG, I wanted to go to Expo!), instead I was all adult-y and stayed home, hunched over my desk for 3 days straight, researching and writing, while Jeremy labored away in the bedroom next door, building Waits this incredible fire truck bunk bed thing that’s going to be amazing, but that’s been taking much more time and energy than he had originally anticipated (and of course, he had anticipated quite a bit of time and energy . . . )
So yeah, we both had major projects to do and and we both spent our “freebie” Expo days hard at work. And it was worth it. At 10 pm on Saturday, I hit “save” on the final draft of the first 25-page paper of my graduate career. And on Sunday night, Jeremy finished the construction of that dang bunk bed.
Every time I checked social media this weekend, my feeds were flooded with pics from Expo. All my friends and colleagues, having a blast and hanging out and checking out all the new foods, and oh the deliciousness of it all! Yes, I was envious. No use trying to pretend I wasn’t.
However, as I was driving to drop Waits off at preschool this morning, I realized that I felt relaxed, and ready to tackle another crazy week. I felt on TOP of things – a feeling I haven’t felt in a long time. And I thought about how I would feel if I hadn’t put in all those extra hours. Ohmigod, I would be a stress mess! And so behind, most likely irreparably behind, and my sanity would be suffering because of it.
So all that’s to say, I’m sorry that I missed Expo and I won’t be able to bring you all the recaps and all the awesome new products and all the greenwashing (though I do still plan to write that article, oh yes I do). I hate when I say I’m going to do something and then I’m not able to do it. But for me and Jeremy, this time, it was definitely what we needed.
I hope you understand. And I hope you had a great weekend!
This time of year, the pink Jasmine is blooming all over my yard and all over the city, and so I bring sprigs inside every few days, sprinkled around the house so we can live jasmine-scented lives . . .
The other night I went reading back through the archives here on this blog, which is something I like to do from time to time. Life changes so much and quickly. I’m grateful to have many years of mine recorded here, just a click or two away at any given time. It’s one of my favorite things about having a blog, actually.
And man o man, my life has changed a lot over the years! These days are overflowing, bursting at the seams, rushing and stretching and never quite managing to fit it all in. But it’s good. So good.
This is what it looks like, on a typical Wednesday:
We wake up. I put on a kettle to boil for tea, and fix Waits a bowl of chia pudding – almost always chia pudding these days. That up there is the chia, beginning its soak.
While the kettle heats and the chia gels, I fix the kid his lunch. A large “share snack” for all his classmates to partake in, plus one or two grounding foods just for him. On this day I packed a homemade trail mix for the kiddos to share, and for him a small bowl of leftover pasta and a small bowl of kidney beans + olive oil + nutritional yeast.
The chia, post soak.
Waits eats his breakfast – chia pudding and a glass of oat milk – while Jeremy reads to him. He’s super into The Magic School Bus series right now, which I love because they’re all about science! His favorites are the ones where they go inside the human body. Ask him where food goes when you eat it, he’ll tell you the entire progression, teeth to poop. And oh boy, don’t even get him started on the white blood cells!
While they do that I’m continuing my kitchen work: making my lunch, and Jeremy’s too. And drinking black tea, oh yes. Lots and lots of black tea.
Left: my lunch, an enormous simple salad with shredded romaine, lentils, quinoa, grated carrot, and red onion. With my famous homemade tahini dressing on the side. The giant (that’s a 30 ouncer) mason jar is full of iced nettle infusion tea, which I’ll have with lunch.
Jeremy’s lunch is leftovers from the night before: lentils, quinoa, and steamed broccoli, topped with my godfather’s homemade purple sauerkraut. Accompanied by the same amazing tahini sauce on the side.
And finally, my morning kitchen mission ends with a big blenderfull of green smoothie, which we share. Getting us back on green smoothies is one of the best things I’ve done for our diet recently! It’s funny how the smoothie cycle ebbs and flows.
These days our smoothie recipe is pretty standard: 2+ cups plant milk, a few handfuls spinach, kale, collards, or some combo of these, 2 large scoops protein powder, 1 ripe banana, about a cup of some other frozen fruit, a tablet of zinc, a capsule of K2, and a capsule of probiotics. Sometimes I’ll add a scoop of peanut putter . . . because peanut butter.
(If you want to read about why I supplement the way I do, see here)
Once the smoothie is portioned and poured, my kitchen work is done. I’m chasing Waits around, wrestling as we get dressed, trying to make a game out of getting ready. Scrambling. And finally, somehow, we’re out the door – draped in book bags and lunch bags and tea-to-go and a kiddo in my arms, kissing Jeremy goodbye and heading out to school, the both of us.
I drop Waits off at preschool, and then head out to UCSB for my first class. Parasites!
After class, I haul my books, computer, and food over to the UCEN, where there’s comfy seating and blessed wifi. That’s where I’ll park for the next few hours, working on my computer and at some point in there, eating lunch.
This is a Wednesday, and on Wednesday’s we have a small Farmer’s Market that comes to campus. So before my 1 o’clock class, I make my way to the far end of UCSB, to bask in the sun and the pretty winter produce:
On this particular day, I splurged and grabbed some locally-made nut butter and some artisan local jelly, both of which were adorably packaged and completely delicious.
I have classes all afternoon, but managed to fit an iced black tea in there:
My last class ends around 3:30, and I’m off to pick Waits up from school. On the way I snack – today it was one of the Taste Of Nature bars that the company had sent me for review:
This is a newish Canadian company that makes all-organic, vegan, gluten-free whole foods snack bars (and as an aside, their website is gorgeous. Like, seriously gorgeous!). What really caught my attention with the Taste Of Nature bars is that they’re made exclusively from fruit, nuts, seeds, and natural sweeteners. That’s it. They’re a lot like Lara Bars, but unlike Lara Bars, they’re completely organic! Which is ace in my book. They’re also made in Canada and the company uses green manufacturing, packing, and shipping practices. Basically they’re all-around awesome and they get two big thumbs up from me.
Which is why, at the end of this post, I’ll be giving away 3 boxes of them! So keep reading . . .
On Wednesdays I pick up Waits just before dusk. And on this Wednesday, we met with some friends down by the beach, for a sunset cruise – the boys both tooling around on their little vehicles, the mamas walking and talking a few paces behind them. It was a gorgeous evening, rolling and strolling past the harbor, the breakwater, the pier, and finally down to the skate park.
We hung out a bit by the skate park, watching in awe as the big kids flipped and flew through the air. Some day, kiddo. Some day.
At sundown the temperature plummeted, and it was time to head home. Earlier that day Jeremy had mentioned he was craving a TLT, so that’s exactly what I made for dinner. Baked “bacon”-style tofu, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches with plenty of Vegenaise, plus a side of baked sweet potato with nutritional yeast and coconut oil.
Waits had a vegan cheese and olive pizza on whole wheat crust, with a side of kidney beans and carrot sticks, but I totally forgot to take a picture of that. Whoops!
After bath time and getting-ready-for-bed time, all it took was a single book and a single song and he was asleep, allowing me to work until Jeremy got home around 10:00. Late nights are for my man, chatting about our days while he eats – this time on his much-desired TLT and baked sweet potato.
It was a long day. Another crazy day in Cali, in this crazy crazy life. But undoubtedly, a very good day.
Giveaway time! Alright friends, Taste Of Nature is generously offering a 6-bar variety pack full of wholesome, organic, vegan and gluten-free snack bars to THREE lucky blog readers. Yay!
And here’s the deal. I think “like-gating” / “fan-gating” is weird and insincere and it squicks me out and I’m just not down for it. So I’m not going to make you do it.
That said, the truth is that social media stats are pretty important these days, in blogging as well as in business. So no, I’m not going to require you to “like” me all over the Internet just to enter this giveaway. But, if you do like my blog and enjoy the work I do here – and this goes for any blog really – then liking my Facebook page, or following me on Instagram or on Twitter is a great, easy way to help me out. Those numbers actually really do count.
And the same goes for Taste Of Nature. No, I won’t manipulate you into following them as a way to get more entries in this contest. But if you’d like to support an awesome organic vegan gluten-free company, a great way would be to like them on Facebook, or follow them on Instagram or on Twitter.
But you don’t have to! No coercion. Fair?
Now, if you want to enter, what you DO have to do is just to leave a comment here, on this post. And let’s see, how about . . . tell me your favorite nut!
Okay, go. Good luck y’all!
Edited to add: giveaway will end Thursday 6 March at midnight PST, and winners will be announced Monday!
Hi guys! So I meant to include this video on the blog last Friday, but I wasn’t able to get the editing done in time . . .
So now it gets a post of its very own, on this beautiful Monday morning!
This is our unboxing video for the February Vegan Cuts Snack Box, and I don’t know why but it’s my favorite video we’ve made so far. That kid, he just slays me. Also today is his birthday and he is FOUR and I am nostalgic and all mixed up with big feelings. So that probably has something to do with it. Anyway, the video is pretty dang cute, so I hope you enjoy it! And promise me you’ll ignore my wrinkly shirt, okay? Lord knows I do . . .
As always, if you’d like to learn more about Vegan Cuts, and especially if you’d like to support the work I do here on this blog, please follow these little linkies:
–> Browse the Vegan Cuts Marketplace
–> Learn about the Vegan Cuts Snack Box
–> Learn about the Vegan Cuts Beauty Box
Aright my dears, I’ll be back mid-week with a What I Ate Wednesday post, plus a giveaway!
See you then!
PS – I love doing these videos and I’d love to do more in the future. Any ideas of what you’d like to see? I’d love your input!
Mi vida loca, lately . . .
1. Teaching him how to drink jasmine nectar. // 2. Designing my first PowerPoint in like, 8 years, for my “how to be a TA” class. // 3. A quick lunch on the go with my two very most favorite guys. // 4. A bedroom makeover for his upcoming FOURTH birthday. (!!!) // 5. Beachside skate park.
Hello hello! Hi guys! Somehow another week is already gone, and to tell you the truth, I’d actually planned not to post at all this week. Busy busy in this crazy life. But, now I’ve gone and changed my mind and decided to squeeze one weird little mash-up blog in here. Because it’s raining and raining is for writing and also because, well why not?
A few bits of business I wanted to run by all of you:
Next weekend Jeremy and I will be heading off to Expo West, the ginormous annual Natural Products Expo down in Anaheim. I’m so excited! And of course, I’ll share all my highlights and my favorite new discoveries with you guys. Lots of companies take advantage of Expo West as the moment to unveil their new products, so there should be tons of fun stuff to share.
But I had another idea as well. I was chatting recently with a friend, about food and parenting and natural living. And we started talking about “greenwashing” – when companies use eco-friendly-sounding language/packaging/branding to try and sell their faux eco-friendly products. So basically, a greenwashed product looks like it should be eco-friendly, but it’s actually still a big ol’ pile of crap.
Nowhere is this more prevalent than in the food industry. And so I started thinking, what if I kept an eye out for examples of greenwashing at Expo West? And then showcased them on the blog? Would that be something you would be interested in?
Or would it be too negative/mean? I might feel bad for calling out products by name . . . but then again, I’m also really really opposed to greenwashing! So I’d love your input on this.
Our second item of business: Earlier in this week I got an email from a reader, who wrote:
Hi Sayward! I just have a quick question that maybe you could address on your blog: Do you know/read/follow any vegan blogs like your own? I’ve tried looking up vegan lifestyle blogs but all I find is recipe or news blogs, which are fine, but I want to read about personal day to day life that happens to be vegan. And look at pretty pictures. I find your blog so inspirational, yet attainable. You keep it real and I think all your readers really appreciate that.
So the thing is, I’ve actually had the same problem as this person. I find lots of pretty recipe blogs and lots of interesting news/”info” blogs, and lots and lots of gorgeous lifestyle blogs that are *not* vegan . . .
But I haven’t found many blogs that strike a real balance, and that have pretty pictures, and that also keep things down to earth and authentic. So, I put the question to you guys! Please share your favorite veg-friendly lifestyle blogs!
And now, a Friday post just wouldn’t be complete without at least a little bit of gratitude-y goodness. Let’s do this Le Love List thang!
Have I mentioned that grad school is hard? Harder than I imagined? The hardest thing I’ve done in a very long time? Well it is, and the reason that fact belongs on this list is because hard = challenge, which leads to growth. Right now I’m really stretching. I am so sore. And it feels good. // Sitting down last night with a good friend who’s also an amazing artist, and brainstorming ideas for a new header for this site. Big changes are coming . . . // Working with Jeremy, late into these nights, to give Waits a major bedroom makeover. We make such a great team. // Pulling up the carpet in Waits’s room and finding hardwood floors underneath. Busted, beat-up, painted hardwood floors, but hardwood floors nonetheless! Which means . . . someday soon my WHOLE house will be rid of that awful carpet, and I will be enjoying fabulous painted wood floors. I can’t waaaaaait!!! // Getting back out in the garden. We’ve been working the yard and I’m so excited for another growing season. We’re doing lots of herbs in pots, leafy greens in wooden wine boxes, and tons of flowers in the ground. Plus a few other secret projects of course . . . // Waits’s new little hand-me-down wooden house! So sweet! // When I curl myself into Jeremy’s arms, the way that we fit together is so precisely right, so jigsaw puzzle-perfect, that I just can’t help but believe that Aristophanes had it right. And we really are two halves of an ancient whole, cut loose from one another so long ago. It has to be. There’s just no other way to explain that feeling . . . (if you don’t feel like reading the Aristophanes story from Plato’s Symposium, there’s a really lovely video here, featuring a song from the movie Hedwig and the Angry Inch, which tells the tale. It’s a beautiful story either way, and worth knowing.)
Alright, now it’s your turn! I hope you’ll leave your own little Love List in the comments below. I’d love to hear what’s making you smile these days!
Grad school really is sucking my life away, and I’ve had to cut back on blogging big time. But! I’m actually managing to stay pretty active on social media, especially Instagram, where I share food tips and recipes, mini product reviews, and of course lots of pretty pics from our normal (and sometimes not-so-normal) day to day adventures. I’m also finally really getting into Twitter, where I share the random weirdness that happens inside my head, and of course there’s always Facebook, where I talk about health, nutrition, and current events-y type stuff.
If you want to keep in touch, I’d love to see you in any of those places!
One of the interesting side effects of dating someone in the wine business is that there’s lots of wine. Everywhere. Always. During business hours, wine gets opened for professional tastings, for client sampling, for . . . curiosities sake. It seems like there’s always extra wine lying around, these days.
Which is new for me! I had always wanted to brew my own red wine vinegar at home (you all know how I do so love my DIY ferments), but, well, wine was something that was always scarce and sacred ’round these parts! So when Jeremy came into my life, and I found myself swimming in more wine than I could possibly ever put to use, I knew the time had finally come. Vinegar time!
I am delighted to report that making red wine vinegar at home is just about as easy as it gets. And the results? Oh my goodness, this vinegar! I’ve been using it daily on my salads, and it’s the best red wine vinegar I’ve ever had – pungent and robust, yet silky smooth and surprisingly refined.
Red wine vinegar has always been my favorite salad vinegar, but it’s also excellent in marinades, sauces, pickled dishes, and even some desserts! And like I said, it’s just a snap to make at home.
It does require a bit of upfront investment, but the payoff is huge (and perpetual – you can continue brewing ad infinitum). To start, you’ll need to purchase a mother of vinegar, which is sort of like a kombucha SCOBY but obviously, you know, for vinegar.
You’ll also need a goodly portion of wine, somewhere between a half gallon and a gallon. The better quality wine you use, the better your vinegar will be. But you don’t have to use all of the same kind! Feel free to mix and match. We used exclusively Pinot Noir because, well because we could so why not? But most commercial red wine vinegars draw from a variety of grapes. My suggestion is to wait until you have a party or an event or something – something that will leave you with a few opened, partially-full bottles. Maybe a work function, or a dinner party. Or, worse comes to worst, you can save your own leftovers in the fridge for a couple of months, until you’ve accumulated enough. That would work too.
To make your vinegar, dump all of your wine (about 1/2 – 3/4 gallons) into a clean glass jar (I use 1-gallon jars that I bought for a song when my neighborhood bulk herb shop went under (so sad, long live Limbo!), but you can find the exact same thing here).
Add 1/4 – 3/4 cup filtered water. These measurements are imprecise, and that’s sort of the point. It’s not baking. It’s okay to be loosey goosey with the amounts, I promise! Just make sure that everything is clean, and you’ll be fine.
Add the mother of vinegar. Cover the opening with a rag or cheesecloth, held in place by a rubber band. Store out of direct sunlight, in a warm (not hot) dry place. I like to keep my ferments on top of my refrigerator, shaded behind the plants.
We began tasting our vinegar at around 5 weeks. The full conversion might take a few months, and yes, the more age on the vinegar, the better it will taste. But we couldn’t wait!
After 5 weeks, our homemade red wine vinegar was already delicious.
When the taste of the vinegar is to your liking, filter it through a sieve (to catch the mother threads) and into storage bottles. I keep one bottle in the pantry and the rest in the fridge (refrigeration is not required). Remember to leave a few inches in the bottom of the gallon jar!
Now, you can just continue to add all your leftover wines as you collect them. A few dregs here, a forgotten half bottle there. As you add to the culture, remember to include a splash of water every now and again. The mother will continue to convert the wine into vinegar, and you’ll be able to draw off of it forevermore. As long as you keep adding wine, you’ll keep getting vinegar.
So what do you think? Is homemade red wine vinegar in your future? Also, I’d love to hear from anyone who’s already done this!
Next up in my fermentation laboratory: apple cider vinegar! I’ll make sure to report back as soon as I get some results . . .