September 15

The Sonoma County VegFest – A Celebration of Ethical Eating!

It has been about a month since my last blog post. I recently returned from spending two weeks up in Northern Michigan visiting friends and family. I planned on doing so much writing and publishing so many amazing posts and instead…nothing. I don’t know who I was kidding. With friends and family abound, my days were full of fun and there was just no time to sit down and be creative. I’m not complaining; it was an awesome vacation.  I can’t wait to tell you about it! But, finally, here is my post on the incredible and delicious Sonoma County VegFest

I am always so excited when the SoCo VegFest comes along in August. It has become my favorite Bay Area veg fest! To see its growth in just four short years is a real thrill. I get to run into old friends & make new ones, meet vendors, learn about animal rights groups and listen to local and national speakers. Oh…and EAT!!!!

Sweet treats from Muir’s Tea Room!

Because of the rapid growth of the Fest, last year it was moved into the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts in Santa Rosa. The Center is much larger and provides plenty of indoor and outdoor space for the event. Though we had to share the parking lot with a local Farmers Market, the spaces opened up quickly and there were no real parking issues. It was really a breeze to get into the event. The entrance was lined with many food vendors offering delicious options along with some picnic tables nestled in under shade trees. There was so much amazing food that day that I cannot possibly list everyone who was there. So, I’ll do the next best thing and tell you about my favorites! Always first on my list is Sebastopol’s famous Muir’s Tea Room. In fact, my first conversation with Christine, Muir’s owner, happened four years ago at the first annual SoCo VegFest. She hadn’t opened her restaurant yet but had big plans and was selling her delicious baked goods. Outside they offered several of their savory sandwich options. The grilled cheese with jam is my favorite. While just inside the door was their sweet’s table. So began my sugar buzz. Cupcakes, homemade chocolates, pecan tortes, cake and more. Everything was as delicious as usual! If I had to choose a favorite, their luscious chocolate peanut butter cupcake is at the top of my list. Gaia’s Garden – one of my favorite veg spots in Santa Rosa offered deep fried deliciousness. Hush puppies, tofu, samosas, oh my! Steve just loves samosas and I tried their deep fried tofu with sweet & sour sauce. It hit the spot and helped level out my sugar high a bit. Later I saw someone walk by with potato salad from Goatlandia Sanctuary. It had a dill flavor and was as good as it looked! Of course, Miyoko’s Kitchen was there offering tasty little bites of their amazing cheeses. I really appreciate that they offer a discount off the retail price when we purchase products at the Fest. Several of the Fresh Loire Valley in a Fig Leaf went home with me!

On a side note, I was thrilled to find Miyoko’s High Sierra Rustic Alpine & a couple other flavors on my recent trip to Michigan. I came across it while wandering through the very heath conscious Creation Farm Market shop in the tiny village of Beulah. The shop offers locally grown, organic produce; vegan options galore; holistic skincare made with essential oils and aromatherapy products. After my VERY omnivorous mother tasted the Rustic Alpine (and lost 3 pounds in the week I was there), she announced that she was going vegan for three weeks and has been texting me her successes ever since!

I had my first taste of Health-ade Kombucha earlier this year at the vegan Earth Day festival in Berkeley. They offer about a dozen unique flavor combinations but I keep going back to the Blood Orange-Ginger-Carrot. The flavors meld to create a mouthful of bliss. In addition to being certified organic, non-GMO, gluten-free, raw, vegan AND kosher, their kombucha is fermented in glass in small 2.5 gallon batches. The glass prevents any leaching from plastic or metal. So, it really is as good for you as you think. My next stop was to enjoy some Subzero nice cream. I had my first bowl of Subzero at the very first annual SoCo VegFest. This seems to really be a trend. They are unique in the fact that they are an ice cream shop with no freezers! When they pour and hand mix the vegan milk into the nitrogen it freezes in 15 seconds (regular ice cream shops take at least 20 minutes). At this speed ice crystals do not have time to form. Creating some of the smoothest, most delicious nice cream available. And I’d know because my husband is an ice cream lover! The peanut butter flavor is my all time favorite!

When I was able to tear myself away from the food, I found my two favorite Festival retail vendors – the Clean Living Collection and Pinta Libre. A couple months ago I published a post about the Clean Living Collection after meeting founder Ariel Welch at the vegan Berkeley Earth Day event. I fell in love with her products. Her 3-clay tooth powder has become my only “toothpaste”. It cleans, whitens and mineralizes my teeth using certified organic ingredients without the use of fluoride, sodium lauryl sulfate or preservatives. I purchased the Sage MInt and it is my new favorite! Her deodorant spray is equally as awesome. Once again, it contains vegan, organic ingredients that include colloidal silver and essential oils. My husband has incredibly sensitive under arms and almost everything makes him break out into a rash. But not Ariel’s spray. He loves it! In fact, I am always stealing it from his drawer to use. I really need to purchase my own bottle next time!

Pinta Libre offers a beautiful collection of animals sketched and painted by Valentina Arenas. Valentina and I have communicated for the last couple years through my Napa Valley Vegan Facebook page and finally had the opportunity to meet this spring at the Berkeley Earth Day event. Clearly, that was the place to be in April! Valentina is a lovely woman and a very talented artist. I took home 3 small framed paintings of a bunny, a lamb and a cow. And since my most favorite animal in the world (besides by adorable doggie Violet) is piggies, I purchased a precious piglet charm for my necklace. I wear it everywhere and always get compliments!

Then came time to check out all of the animal sanctuaries that are working so hard to save lives! They are all doing incredible jobs but I did find myself gravitating to a few favorites. I’m not going to lie that I’m a big supporter of Jameson Animal Rescue Ranch (JARR). Not only is JARR the first animal protection non-profit in Napa County to address the needs of farmed animals as well as our beloved cats and dogs but it was founded by a fellow vegan who serves only plant based foods at their fundraisers. This may seem like a no brainer but this is the first animal non-profit in Napa Valley who has made the connection between animals we rescue and animals that are used for food. In just 3 short years, Monica Stevens has grown this grassroots rescue group from one staff member (her) and one volunteer to a full time staff of 6 and hundreds of dedicated volunteers. My next stop was to learn more about the rescued pigeons of Palomacy Pigeon and Dove Rescue. I have met their knowledgable & friendly staff and volunteers many times since my move to California. They are doing an incredible job rescuing birds that are released at weddings or are injured. If I wasn’t moving to Berlin in 10 months, I would love to adopt! Maybe I will find a Berliner pigeon who needs my help! I never grew up with cats and we had very few dogs. Sadly, they were never with us for long. So when I moved into my first apartment, I wasn’t sure what type of animal to welcome into my life. I’d always loved bunny rabbits, at least from afar, One day I was walking through a feed store and came upon these white bun-buns with pink eyes. It took me a while to understand that these poor rabbits were not available as pets. Once I realized it, I bought a little boy bunny, named him Cadbury and took him home to be safe and loved. This then led to a companion for Caddie. Chloe was tiny but fierce. She didn’t much like me but she loved her Cadbury. Save a Bunny (SAB) was featuring one of their rescues and I had to head over and say hi. The sad fact is that while rabbits from feed stores, flea markets and laboratories do end up in local shelters, the majority of rabbits that are euthanized were once family pets and classroom projects. SaveABunny is often the only resource for abused, neglected and homeless rabbits. SaveABunny works hard to rescue the rabbits who have “run out of time” in our shelter system. They may be highly adoptable buns who just didn’t find a home in time or they may have health or behavioral issues or special needs. Once they have a home with SAB, they will never run out of time!

With a touch of sadness, this was my last opportunity to support and enjoy the amazing SoCo VegFest. This time next year, I will be settling into my new home 9,000 miles away. And while you are offering your support to the VegFest, I will be celebrating my first annual Veganes Sommerfest in Berlin!

Whether I am a Napan or a Berliner, I will celebrate these festivals, love & support the animals and have you in my heart! And, of course, we will all continue to eat, drink & be vegan!

December 24

Taking Care of our Whole Body

 

wholefoodsMy journey to becoming vegan did not start out with the food I put into my body but with the products that I put onto my body. Like many, I bought skincare products based on commercials, word of mouth and often what was on sale. I never spent any time considering what ingredients were in the products I used and had no idea that a sentient being might be harmed so that my mascara didn’t make my eyes sting. I was unconsciously incompetent. When I was about 31, my boyfriend (now husband) Steve and I bought our first home and moved into a new neighborhood near Denver. While getting to know my neighborhood, I began to shop at a new (new to me anyway!) grocery store called Wild Oats. Wild Oats was what friends called a “health food store”. I had heard of these mystical places before but this was my first experience actually shopping in one. While wandering through their health and beauty section, I began to notice phrases printed on the bottles and containers that I had never seen before. Things like “cruelty-free”, “not tested on animals” and “animal-product free”. What??!!! What in the world could have been cruel about my lotion and tested on what? I was in shock! I had just become consciously incompetent. And that is when my life changed forever! Over the next several years of my life, I learned everything I could about the products I used on my body and slowly became consciously competent of anything that I bought from my shampoo to my body wash to my make-up. And then one day I woke up and realized that for all I was doing to help myself and the precious bunnies and rats and mice that had been suffering because of my choices, I still ate meat! And that was the day that I finally reached unconscious competence. That day I made the most profound decision ever. I became a vegan and ended my role in all animals’ suffering! That was 14 years ago and I haven’t looked back since!

logoWhat has helped me throughout this journey has been the Whole Body section of the grocery store chain Whole Foods. They have applied the same high standards for the food they sell to their personal care products. Over the course of two years, they examined every personal care ingredient that is sold in Whole Body and created a set of Premium Body Care Standards. First and foremost, they do not allow any animal testing for any of the personal care products…EVER! Additionally, they encourage their vendor partners to use plant-based and naturally derived ingredients, pure essential oil fragrances, gentle preservatives and non-petroleum based ingredients. To be labelled as a Premium Body Care product there are several steps that must be met. First, the products need to offer results – and only contain ingredients that are necessary for the product to do what it says it will do. Next, where the ingredients are sourced must be as close to nature and as minimally processed as possible. Followed by the environmental impact they cause. Every product we use eventually makes its way down the drain and into our environment so these products must not only have minimal impact when they are manufactured but also when they are used. The next stage is safety. Since what goes on the body goes into the body and there is no governmental regulation, Whole Body has done the research for us. All Premium Body Care product ingredients are labeled accurately, have established safety data or are less likely to cause skin irritation or allergies. To be specific, they have identified over 400 ingredients that are unacceptable. A short list includes parabens, polypropylene, sodium lauryl and laureth sulfates. Though preservatives are necessary in body care products, they only allow milder versions that have a lower likelihood of causing allergic reactions and sensitivities. Chemical based fragrances (that are now becoming linked with not only exacerbating asthma but also causing it), are replaced by fragrances made using natural essential oils or components of the essential oils. Whole Body sells over 2500 skincare products that fit within the guidelines I just listed with more being added every day. When making your decision on what products will be the safest for you and our planet, look for the Premium Body Care Standards logo. With the fact that the U.S. government does not EVER require health studies or pre-market testing for our health, beauty, skincare and cosmetic products, I will forever be grateful to Whole Body for doing much of the research for me!

Though every Whole Foods has a Whole Body section, I had the pleasure of visiting my first stand-alone Whole Body Lifestyle store recently in Sebastopol! This is only the second Whole Body store to open EVER! And it is right here in beautiful western Sonoma County. Now, of course, all of the things that I mentioned are important to me. I only want to use products that are good for me and for the planet. But what is most important to me is if the product is vegan! Along with a couple other local bloggers – Dale with savvy spice and Adrienne with The Rich Life On A Budget – I had the wonderful opportunity to spend some time with each of the vendors at the event. And here is what I found!

IMG_1342Gabriel De Santino, Founder and CEO of Gabriel Cosmetics and ZuZu Luxe watched as his grandmother made homeopathic cosmetics from seaweed, kelp and herbs that he helped gather by the ocean in Mexico. As a naturopath and herbalist, his grandmother knew of the healing and revitalizing properties of ocean plant life. As he grew up and entered the field of beauty, he used these healthy alternatives to create clean cosmetics. The cosmetics are 100% vegan and cruelty-free; certified gluten-free and are free of coal tar derivatives, FD&C coloring, parabens, mineral oil, lanolin, talc, propylene glycol, hydrogenated oils, carmine, lead and nano-sized particles! I have been using ZuZu cosmetics for years and love them. And now I can add Gabriel Cosmetics and try some new colors in lipstick, gloss and eye shadow!

IMG_1335 (1)I have always been a huge fan of Evan Healy products. In fact, I found them for the first time in the Whole Body section of my store in Raleigh, NC about seven years ago. I had always had oily skin so the concept of using oil and water to care for my skin seemed very counterintuitive to me! But there was an Evan Healy representative there that day and I was really searching for a product that I could trust and would help my skin look its best. She explained that our skin uses a protective layer of sweat glands and sebaceous glands that work together to produce a thin layer of lipids (oil) and perspiration (water). This is called our acid mantle. This acid mantle is our skin’s protective barrier from disease. When this delicate balance between acidity and alkalinity is disrupted, our skin’s ability to protect itself is weakened. And her products help restore that natural balance by using oils and waters from the plant kingdom! And I love the intimate connection they have with the product. From the fields and forests where they gather the plants to the lighting of the stills and the pressing of the nuts into oil, every formula is hand blended, hand labelled and hand packaged. Such a beautiful connection! All Evan Healy products are certified organic, non-GMO and vegan!

Shikai was formed in 1970 by Dr. Dennis Sepp, an organic and medicinal IMG_1373chemist. He began exploring the unique properties of certain plants and how they could benefit our hair and skin. One of his first studies was done with shikakai – a plant grown in India that was well known for its ability to clean hair, leave it soft and shiny but not dry it or the scalp. He created his first shampoo and the rest is history. Shikai now makes over 50 products from start to finish in their Santa Rosa facilities. And Dr. Sepp continues to oversee the formulation and manufacture of all of the products. All 50 products are cruelty free and free of all animal products. In fact, they have a Master Ingredient List right on their website that was most recently updated in August 2015. Bravo Shikai!

IMG_1337Three Sisters Apothecary makes hand crafted artisan soaps in small batches using high quality, cruelty free ingredients. This adventure started when the founders’ daughter came into this world at 3 lbs, 1 ounce! She began growing and making organic baby food, questioning every immunization and even making her own soap for her daughter! Now they make this soap together! They even make a soap for our dogs. All the ingredients are listed on the website and they all appear to be vegan-friendly!

IMG_1333My husband and I have both been using ACURE facial cleansing products for a couple years. In addition to skincare, they offer facial oils, beneficial oils for hair, skin and scalp, body wash, body lotion, bath soap, dry oil body spray, physical sunscreen (vs. toxic chemical), lip care, hair care and baby products. I have to admit that I had no idea they offered so many products! Their products are made with organic ingredients, no petro chemicals, sulfate-free, paraben free, cruelty free, no synthetic fragrances, gluten free and no mineral oil. Kristy Guerra founded ACURE to honor her grandmother who battled breast cancer for a decade in hopes of bringing awareness to the importance of healthy skin care made without toxins. Part of their “green’ culture includes planting a tree through Trees for the Future for every lotion that is sold and ten cents from every hair care unit sold goes to Water.org. They us 100% plant and food based ingredients. This does include beeswax in a limited number of their products.

IMG_1378My husband has been a huge fan of Dr. Hauschka products for years. They are a German organic, biodynamic skin care company founded in 1967 that offers skin care for our face and body, cosmetics, deodorants, body oils, foot creams, nail & cuticle oils and bath & shower products. But it all began when Dr. Hauschka began making natural, alcohol free homeopathic medicines in 1935. Though it was a huge success, it was banned by the Nazis and he and his future wife were both imprisoned before finally settling in Bad Boll/Eckwalden in the 1950s. They have an area of just over 11 acres where they grow 150 different nurturing plants using biodynamic methods. Most of the seeds for the next year’s cultivation come from their own plants. And they tend to more than 25 compost heaps that are then converted into high-quality soil! When they can’t grow it themselves, they find renewable resources all over the world to use. This provides them with abundant quantities of the ingredients they need while also benefitting the earth and providing work for local communities. Whenever possible, they source ingredients from biodynamic or organic farms and when that is not available they initiate the organic farming project themselves. Again, making jobs and supporting local communities. They literally have partners around the world and are currently working with the World Health Organization to offer about 700 farmers the opportunity to work and earn an income using organic rose cultivation methods rather than becoming opium producers. Along with their own bee colonies, they are always thrilled when other animals make a home in their gardens! They offer 48 vegan products that include face care, body care, bath & shower and cosmetics!

IMG_1381Aura Cacia offers high quality essential oils and aromatherapy products. Using their own ethical and sustainable sourcing program, their goal is to always guarantee high-quality oils from source to shelf. Unlike many companies, they believe in full ingredient disclosure – you will see every ingredient listed in order of quantity used. You will know exactly what is in the bottle you purchase! Aura Cacia products are never tested on animals and they contain no animal by-products with the exception of beeswax in some of their products.

I had such a wonderful time learning more about products that I already trusted and those that were new to me. I really enjoyed the stand-alone concept of the Whole Body Lifestyle store. It has the feel of a cosmetics and skincare boutique and is much calmer and relaxing then being featured in the middle of a bustling grocery store. I hope that we see more of these open up. And a big thanks to Amy Pellegrini, Whole Foods’ Marketing and Communication Lead – North Bay and her wonderful team for inviting me and sharing this new concept.

If you are looking for clean, toxin free, cruelty-free, vegan products, be sure to check out your local Whole Foods. And the next time you are up in Sebastopol be sure to stop by the new Whole Body Lifestyle store. I hope you love it as much as I did! I look forward to seeing you there and as always…eat, drink and be vegan!

And to learn some tips on improving your eating habits, visit this link from Health Ambition. Though not all suggestions are vegan, they offer some great common sense tips like minimizing processed foods & caffeine, eliminating soda (especially diet!) and as we vegans already know…eat lots of organic, real whole plant-based foods! To read the entire article, follow the link HERE!