May 3

Berkeley Vegan Earth Day!

In San Francisco 47 years ago, peace activist John McConnell proposed a day to honor our planet and the concept of peace. March 21st, 1970, the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere, was planned for the first celebration. A month later, on April 22nd, Senator Gaylord Nelson founded a separate Earth Day focused on providing the U.S. with a day focused on protecting our environment from the ever increasing rate of industrialization & our careless attitudes toward Mother Earth. By 1990, Earth Day had gone global with organized events planned in 141 different nations. Today, more than 190 countries and one billion people demonstrate their support for our shared planet’s environment on Earth Day!

With terrifying statistics like this one: Livestock is responsible for 65% of all human-related emissions of nitrous oxide – a greenhouse gas with 296 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide which stays in our atmosphere for 150 years! Or gems like this one: Livestock and their byproducts account for at least 32,000 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) annually which accounts for 51% of all greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. I had no doubt that I’d be able to easily find an Earth Day celebration that not only taught us the importance of shorter showers, recycling, using public transportation and alternate energy sources but also focused on making a plant based diet a priority! When I reached out to the Earth Night celebration hosted by Connelly Ranch, here in Napa, only 2 of the 5 food trucks even responded when I asked if vegan food would be available. So, instead of staying local to enjoy my celebration, I headed down to Vallejo and hopped on the ferry to check out the San Francisco Earth Day event! Their website and Facebook page both mentioned the organic, vegan food court that would be available! However, after joining the march and wandering through the entire Earth Day street fair, I did not find a single food truck that served vegan food. Thank goodness I had several free Kombucha samples and a Clif bar to get me through the afternoon!

I’m sure you can only imagine how psyched I was to attend the 7th annual Berkeley Vegan Earth Day the following week! Finally, an event that brought the vegan and environmental communities together to celebrate a shared vision for our sustainable future. This non-profit event was hosted by Compassionate Living who reduced the vendor cost and ticket price so more of the local community could join in on the fun. Presentations ran from 11 a.m to 3:45 p.m. and included veganic farming, the environmental impact of animal agriculture and the devastating effects that the chicken and fishing industry have on our planet.

The David Brower Center was full of animal sanctuaries like FlipSide Sanctuary in Sonoma, Goatlandia Sanctuary in Santa Rosa and Harvest Home Animal Sanctuary in Stockton. Safe havens who were there to educate the attendees on what these sentient beings endure through the victimization of factory farming. Every time I visit farm animal sanctuaries and have the opportunity to rug piggies’ bellies and visit with the cows, turkeys and bunnies, I am reminded of why I made this incredible life change 10 years ago!

I got to nibble on delicious almond dips from la onda; sweet refreshing frozen ice pops from Fairyella; hand-crafted, small-batch kombucha from Health-ade and amazing raw, organic chocolate from Lulu’s Chocolate! My favorite find was the Handsome Carver’s organic nut butters. I’ve been adding the coconut cashew butter to everything I eat! While chatting with the staff, I learned that they also have a tent at the Napa Farmers Market so now I never have to worry about running out!

Some of my favorite eco-friendly vendors included the Clean Living Collection who offers organic, non-GMO tooth powders made with bentonite clay to detoxify and remineralize, turmeric to strengthen and whiten and cinnamon & cloves to aid in cleaning and healing. My teeth feel clean and healthy after using it. The founders of Klean Kanteen – the original steel water bottle company – were also there with their new California designed and made canteens & coffee cups. With concerns about continuing to manufacture their steel canteens in China, they founded Earth-in-USA. Using clay from right here in Northern California and working with local artisan designers, they’ve created lead-free, non toxic, totally sustainable alternatives to the steel bottles. I’ve been a member of Farm Fresh to You since the Sonoma Veg Fest last year. They offer home delivered locally grown organic produce and other unique hand-crafted farm products. They have got me completely hooked on fruit shrubs! Imperfect Produce was also there! They do an amazing job of gathering the “ugly” produce that usually go to waste on farms. Supermarkets and produce distributors reject these fruits and vegetables because they aren’t picture perfect (though they taste exactly the same). They will soon be delivering here in Napa Valley!

One of my readers, Valentina, also recognized me and we got to finally meet in person! I’m always so excited to meet my blog and Facebook followers! Good luck on your vegan journey Valentina!

It was a small but incredible event; I’ve already got it in my calendar for next year! With our typical Earth Day celebrations not making animal agriculture a priority in our climate change education, it is vital we support this event! So, always remember…take care of Mother Earth and eat, drink and be vegan!

***Upcoming blog posts: Napa Farmers Market and vegan tasting with five-course food pairing at Signorello Estate!

December 17

Luminance Skincare – Organic, Vegan, Handmade…Perfect!

My relationship with Luminance Skincare began in April of this year. I noticed one of their ads on Facebook and thought to myself…hmmm, that sounds promising but I really want to make more of an effort to buy locally. A week or two went by and while I was tweeting, I noticed them once again. Whether it was a sign or just the fact that the internet knows everything I have ever looked at and done online, I decided it was time to learn more. What I found out is that not only does Luminance Skincare offer vegan, organic, (mostly) raw and always toxin free products but it IS local! Kim Emanuel, the founder and formulator of Luminance Skincare, handcrafts all of his products from his studio in Benicia. It all began when they found that his wife Priscilla’s migraines were triggered by synthetic and toxic ingredients in her skincare products. Specifically, it was the synthetic petrochemical fragrances that precipitated these severe, debilitating headaches for Priscilla. Their search for “clean”, toxin-free products was made nearly impossible by the fact that almost everything being manufactured these days is loaded with harmful ingredients ranging from those synthetic fragrances to petrochemical oils, nano-particle metals and gums made of animal products. Scary stuff! All of this resonated so loudly with me. I have always had sensitive skin and the longer I consume a diet free of animal products and processed ingredients, the more sensitive I am when some of these nasties touch my skin! And though I don’t get migraines like Priscilla, when I am exposed to the sometimes as many as 200+ ingredients used to create one artificial fragrance, I begin to cough, sneeze and am sometimes congested for days. In their search, they found out the same thing that most of us have. That no matter how “natural” these products claim to be…they aren’t! And not that I trust much the FDA has to say anyway but though many of the most commonly used ingredients are known carcinogens they remain completely unregulated because we do not consume them. I guess the FDA is the only one who didn’t know that what we put on our skin ends up in our blood stream and our baby’s umbilical cord too! So, instead of giving up and accepting the sad state of our skincare products, Kim left Silicon Valley and his pilgrimage to help his wife turned into his passion to create the finest, cleanest skincare products on the planet!

My opinion is that one of the biggest downfalls of using a product based on someone else’s review is the fact that the product is never used for long. The person doing the review may use the product for three days or a week but as far as I am concerned, even with skin as sensitive as mine, I can typically use anything for a couple days without seeing any reaction or outbreak. It is really the long-term affect and benefits that I want to know about. So I set out to really learn what these products would do for me and if they were something I could commit to for the long-term and finally end my search for perfect skincare! I placed my first order in April and began my research. After having great success for several months, Kim invited me out to visit his studio. It was really cool to meet him and to stand right at the table where my moisturizer was made! Kim gave me a bag full of more of his products to try. And then earlier this fall I ordered a few more products to try. This allowed me to not only try many of Kim’s products but also to see how my skin would react (or better yet, NOT react) over an extended period of time and from Spring to Summer through Fall and Winter. Here is what I found…

My three favorites are also the three I have been using the longest – about 8 months – the Deep Hydration Facial Moisturizer, the Organic Sunscreen and the Organic Eye Cream with German Blue Chamomile. These are all a part of the Mature collection which is proven to be most effective for those of us over 35 years old.

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My anti-aging trifecta!

The moisturizer was a success right away. It is not only light and penetrates quickly but I did not have any breakouts which is typically how my skin reacts when it isn’t happy. And having used it for the last 8 months, I have noticed the it is helping improve the elasticity of my skin. This nourishing moisturizer has become my own special anti-aging potion!

The eye cream is hands down the best I have EVER used. In the past, the creams I tried always dried the skin out under my eyes and made the fine lines look even worse. But not this time. Using this once in the morning and once at bedtime, has not only added more hydration to the sensitive skin around my eyes but also has been very therapeutic and has actually improved the fine lines under my eyes! My upper eyelids also look more smooth and youthful.

As important as it is to limit my exposure to the sun, I have been unable to use sunscreen for years. Whether it is the toxic chemical sunscreen or the heavy metal sunscreen, they both made my skin erupt in blemishes. It has been a real challenge to protect myself especially because I love convertibles and exercising outside. When I get ready now in the morning, I add a squirt or two of the organic sunscreen to my moisturizer and give it 5 or 10 minutes to soak in before applying my makeup. Not only does the sunscreen protect my face, neck and chest but the fatty acids in the red raspberry seed oil are also making my skin look younger!

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The facial cream cleanser and delicate facial cleanser.

When it comes to cleansing my skin, I typically have two issues – first, the cleansers often make my skin breakout and second, they tend to cause excessive dryness. For years, I gave up and just used water and a wash cloth to cleanse my face. But after reading Kim’s website and spending 3 fascinating hours with him, I decided it was time to give facial cleanser another try!

 

When I first began using the Delicate Facial Cleaner this spring, I did feel that it had a bit of a drying effect on my skin. Though my skin  felt cleansed and moisturized in the shower, I always needed to moisturize with my deep hydrating moisturizer afterward. I tend to use the cleanser every other day so as not to dry my skin too much. When I was a teenager and in my early 20s, I had excessively oily skin. But over the years it has become more and more dry. Now I am in the midst of menopause and my facial skin is the driest it has ever been. So, keeping that in mind, this issue could have more to do with my hormones than the product! This fall I decided to try Kim’s facial Cream Cleanser to see if it worked with my skin type a bit better. What I found was that it is an excellent cleanser for removing makeup and I have never seen the pores in my skin any cleaner! I alternate using the two cleansers and have found that they are not as drying as when I first began using them. If you have oily or combination skin (or your hormones aren’t doing crazy things to you!), you will probably love both cleansers!
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Organic Antioxidant Spray, Facial Mask and Foot Cream!

I alternate using the Organic Rosewater Toner and the Organic Antioxidant Spray.  The rosewater is pure organic rosewater and is perfect for spritzing on after I’ve washed my face to level out the PH balance. The Antioxidant Spray gives me all those wonderful antioxidants that my aging skin no longer produces on its own! I use it primarily in the morning and evening but sometimes I just give myself a spritz to protect and refresh my skin.

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Skin Butter, Body Lotion and Organic deodorant!

For my body, my three favorite products are the Organic Lotion, Skin Butter and Organic Deodorant. Because of all of the toxic fragrances that I find in most body lotions, I got to the point that I gave up on lotion and only used pure coconut oil as a moisturizer. It smells great and kept my skin moisturized but it was so greasy that I had to wait 10 or 15 minutes for it to soak in before I could get dressed. Not especially convenient on a busy day. Since I was having such good luck with the rest of Kim’s products, I ordered the lotion and skin butter.  The lotion is  very similar to the Deep Hydration Facial Cream so it should be no surprise that I love it too. It absorbs quickly and keeps my hands and legs creamy and moisturized.

And though my husband loves the Organic Foot Cream – it smells wonderful – an energizing combination of peppermint and spearmint and is anti-bacterial and anti-fungal, I prefer to use the Skin Butter on my feet before bedtime. I exercise a lot and abuse my feet so this butter is exactly what my tired feet need to keep them moisturized and feeling good!
No breast cancer causing heavy metals in Kim’s deodorant either. Instead, it is a combination of rose water and essential oils and keeps me fresh and smelling good all day!
Just like me, you have probably really struggled to find a vegan lip balm. They typically contain beeswax or paraffin. Kim’s balm not only smells like tangerines but is vegan and is made of candilla wax which is made from the leaves of a small shrub, essential oils and extracts. It is like a lotion for my lips and keeps them supple and smooth.
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Sweet little handwritten notes that come with my orders!

And though I know that the improvement to my skin has been a combination of these wonderful products over the last 3 to 8 months, I have to finish with the Facial Serum. I use the serum every night after cleansing. It not only has helped me get back a bit of that glow we all took for granted when we were in our 20s but I feel like I am smearing collagen on my face every time I use it. I have watched my skin become smoother and those lines along my neck (those things will always give your age away no matter how good you look!) have almost disappeared. In the past I was never good at sticking with a skincare regiment for long but after seeing the results from Kim’s products, I am committed to Luminance Skincare! It has been a wonderful 8 months and I look forward to many years to come.

I hope this review is helpful in choosing the skincare products that work best for you. Kim and his team have a wonderful return policy. If you don’t like it, return it for a full refund. His mobile phone number is also on each page of his website. I found him to be genuine and passionate with nothing to hide. They also have two introductory gift boxes that range from $35 to $97 so you can give the products a try and shipping is free for orders over $75. I get a little handwritten note with my order and they have sent me a free gift every time I’ve ordered something. They offer the type of personal service that I have never received from a skincare company before! I am thrilled that I found Luminance Skincare. I hope you enjoy the products as much as I do and as always…eat, drink and be vegan!
October 9

Brigitte’s Naturally Alive Smoothies!

If you live in or have visited Napa Valley, you know that it is challenging to find vegan wineries and vegan-friendly restaurants. Of course, that is why I founded this blog. Not only to share these finds with all of you but to help me fall back in love with my city. For too long, instead of enjoying where I live and spending my money here to boost Napa’s local economy, I was spending my play dates with my husband in different parts of the Bay Area.  As I began my research to find vegan-friendly wineries and restaurants, it opened my eyes and I began to see the many vegan goodies that were right under my nose all along!

Brigitte's Naturally Alive smoothie ingredients
Brigitte’s Naturally Alive smoothie ingredients

In July, after being a member for 2 years I left a large big “box” type health club in search of an experience that offered a more intimate one-on-one type experience. Though I had been exposed to many different types of classes from Spin, to Turbo Kick to Power Yoga to mat Pilates, I began to feel like a number vs. a valued client. And, quite frankly, after working out for the last 25 years I was at the point in my life that I needed to focus on what gave my body the most benefit in the least amount of time. That class is Reformer Pilates and I found a wonderful studio in Napa – Pilates Napa Valley. A full class includes me and 7 others and I finally got that personal attention that I feel is so vital to me as I age. I don’t recover from workout injuries at 44 like I did at 24!

After I had been visiting Pilates Napa Valley for about a month, I finally started to really look at what they had to offer in the lobby area. I had browsed through the retail section but never really paid any attention to the drinks and snacks they had to offer. Well, after this particular class I was wiped out and thought it was time to find out what type of sustenance was available. What caught my attention was Brigitte’s Naturally Alive Green Power Smoothie – a delicious looking kale and fruit smoothie. From the ingredients list it looked vegan but I just had to be sure. Heidi, the co-owner of Pilates Napa Valley, was kind enough to provide me with an email address and I was off and running to find out the details on this tasty treat. I reached out to Brigitte Center, Founder of Brigitte’s Naturally Alive, and was delighted to find out that her smoothies are raw AND vegan and packed full of nutrients. So, after my next Pilates class, I enjoyed a delicious and satisfying smoothie to help with my post workout recovery!

Delicious and protein filled Kale & Fruit Smoothie
Delicious and protein filled Kale & Fruit Smoothie

Brigitte’s journey began in 2009 when she embarked on a 3-day raw food cleanse. This cleanse made her feel great and led her to explore a raw, vegan lifestyle for the next 9 months. These changes to her lifestyle not only helped her lose 27 pounds but she began to feel more alive with a deep spiritual connection to all of life. Not to mention that amazing mental clarity that so often comes as a result of clean, healthy eating. Brigitte was just fascinated by the fact that such a simple change could create so many positive changes. This motivated her to begin researching this phenomenon which then led to her certification in plant-based nutrition from Cornell University. This, in turn, led her to participate in David Wolfe’s Raw Nutrition certification program through the Bodymind Institute. She is also an instructor of ‘Raw Food For Real Life’ un-cooking classes and teaches on the organic farm she calls home here in Napa. She has made it her mission to nourish people with plants and to ignite a passion for living foods!

Brigitte connecting with life!
Brigitte connecting with life!

Following her passion, certainly has not been easy! Brigitte founded Brigitte’s Naturally Alive in 2010 and has accomplished this in just 4 short, busy years. What started as making a delicious smoothie in a commercial kitchen for a few dozen clients for home-delivery has led to her becoming licensed by the FDA to sell to the masses! And in addition to all of these exciting changes, she is currently studying for her MBA in business, food science and finance…all at the same time!

Brigitte creating smoothies in a commercial kitchen.
Brigitte creating smoothies in a commercial kitchen.

I am happy to say she has had some invaluable help along the way. She met Marnie Northrop in 2009 through a mutual friend and found that their missions aligned. Marnie encouraged Brigitte to teach raw food uncooking classes, brought her own clients to Brigitte’s classes and even helped connect her with her first commercial kitchen in San Francisco. This commercial kitchen is what allowed Brigitte to start Brigitte’s Naturally Alive which included raw snacks and the smoothie. They still collaborate and are currently launching a 2 week cleanse called GET THE GLOW.

Marnie Northrop - collaborator and friend.
Marnie Northrop – collaborator and friend.

Another important member of Brigitte’s team is Erica Nichols aka “Captain Awesome”! Erica was introduced to the amazing health benefits of green smoothies in 2007 which sparked her passion for organic sustainable food and healthful eating. She recently made the transition from the corporate life which created the perfect opportunity to join Brigitte. You will see Erica at market demos sharing her love for smoothies and green power with everyone!

Erica Nichols
Erica Nichols

I know you are probably salivating now! Brigitte’s smoothies are just amazing. There are several options for getting your hands on her smoothies – she offers free home delivery, local pick-up in Napa and you can also find her smoothies throughout Napa Valley. You will find them at Studio Phyzz, Brown’s Valley Market, Pilates Napa Valley and Vallergas Market right here in Napa, Sunshine Foods in St. Helena and Oakville Grocery in Oakville!

Ahhh to fill our belly full of life!
Ahhh to fill our belly full of life!

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I know you will enjoy these delicious and nutrient dense smoothies as much as I and her other clients do! And as always, let’s support Brigitte for bringing delicious vegan options to Napa Valley!! If you order through Brigitte’s website, please mention that you heard about her amazing smoothies through my blog! I would love to know that this little passion of mine is helping to fuel the vegan movement where I call home!