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!

May 20

Glowing Skin Provided by The Clean Living Collection

My journey that eventually led me to my awesome vegan life began about 15 years ago when I learned that most (possibly all) of the cosmetics and personal care products I used were tested on animals. And not just any animals…bunny rabbits. I had not grown up with pets but had always dreamed of having a bunny rabbit to hug him and pet him and squeeze him and name him George! Those of you that are too young to have seen Bugs Bunny in the 70s, here is what I’m talking about! So when I got my first apartment, I got a bunny and I named him George. I loved George! And years later as I was learning about this tragic thing called animal testing, I had to look my bun-buns Cadbury & Chloe in the eye after I found out what I had been supporting with my purchases. Transitioning to cruelty-free products became my life’s mission. And through that time of change I learned of the appalling treatment of farmed animals and raccoon dogs and my animal loving, plant based life began!

Vegan tooth powder samples

I love attending events like Berkeley Vegan Earth Day to discover new, vegan, cruelty-free products. At this event, I was introduced to the Clean Living Collection for the first time. Ariel handcrafts her products here in the Bay Area using ingredients that are 100% organic, non-GMO and free of synthetic fragrances. All oils are raw, unrefined and cold pressed so they offer the most benefit to our skin and bodies. Less than a year ago I started using EarthPaste and really love the product. It is made of Redmond clay, salt & essential oils. So I was definitely ready to try Ariel’s 3 clay tooth powder. I went with the Sweet Citrus with sweet orange & grapefruit essential oils based purely on how good it smelled. The powder is made up of two clays – bentonite and French green which work to remineralize my teeth. My powder also contains turmeric and activated charcoal which have done an amazing job of brightening & whitening. And the cinnamon & cloves not only taste great but help keep my mouth clean & healthy. By the second time I used the tooth powder, I was hooked! Every time I brush, my mouth and teeth feel detoxed and clean. The first time I used it, it looked like I was spitting mud into the bathroom sink but don’t worry…your teeth will look and feel so good you won’t even care!

Loving the tooth powder as much as I did, I wanted to learn more about Ariel’s products. So I reached out to her to find out more about Clean Living Collection. Like many of us, she began to realize how toxic conventional body care products are. She set about researching ingredients and realized that if she wanted it done right, she would have to do it herself. The first two products she created were tooth powder and deodorant since those were items she used every day. Folks started asking her how they could purchase her products but it was when her dentist asked to buy her tooth powder that she decided it was time to turn this passion into a business! In fact it is going so well, that in just two years, she has now committed full time to the Clean Living Collection. Ariel generously sent me several more of her vegan-friendly products to try out and here is what I experienced!

The Organic Deodorant Spray, is a new favorite in our household. While I have sensitive skin on my face and neck, my husband Steve’s sensitive spot is his armpits. So when the box came in the mail I knew he was going to be the perfect person to try this out on. Witch hazel has been used for hundreds of years because of how beneficial it is to our skin. And the colloidal silver is perfect at eliminating body odor. We both love the refreshing aroma that comes from the sandalwood, neroli & Turkish rose otto essential oils. After using it every day for over a week, Steve’s pits are healthy and rash-free! And it has kept me odor-free through my Pilates, power Yoga and BodyCombat classes! Impressive!

I have used several different facial serums off and on over the last decade or so as I began to see signs of aging. The Hemp &
Green Tea rejuvenating facial serum is definitely a keeper. Daily, I add about 5 drops of serum to my face and neck after cleansing. I let it soak in for about five minutes, apply my raspberry seed oil sunscreen, moisturize next and I’m prepped for make-up. What I’ve noticed the most about this serum is how soft my skin felt right away. Applying it once a day, my skin is already looking smoother & more youthful. I’m excited to see what the long-term improvements will be.

My Clean Living Collection samples!

There are so many things to love about the Flowers & Mud Mask. It is loaded with clays that detoxify by attracting and drawing heavy metals out of my body. The high amount of silica in the Moroccan clay is already smoothing out my wrinkles and my skin. I immediately noticed a reduction in my pore size after just one use. The increased circulation was obvious right away too. It made my skin glow by wiping away the dead skin cells which helps with cell turnover. My skin tends toward dry so I use the mask just once a week and moisturize after. It is also supposed to improve dark under eye circles by increasing the blood flow. I’m looking forward to seeing some improvements after dealing with the circles for over a decade.

I admit that when I learned Ariel’s products are organic, non-GMO, raw, free of toxic fragrances and made right here in the Bay Area, I was immediately impressed. But now that I’ve had the opportunity to use them, I’m really blown away by the improvements to my skin in such a short amount of time. Besides vegan doughnuts, there isn’t much I love more than finding vegan, handcrafted, holistic skincare that is inspired by nature. Her products can be purchased at Clean Living Collection and you may run into her at vegan events throughout the Bay Area and around the country (and even in the U.K.). Knowing that what we put on our skin is as important as the food we put into our bodies makes me very happy to have found her products! So go holistic and as always…eat, drink and be vegan!