livin' vegan in sunny atlanta

Marvellous Macaroons

Today is the Bake Sale Benefit for Atlanta Veg Fest at Dough Bakery! It’s happenin’ at 100 Hurt Street from 10am – 2pm, but I recommend getting there ASAP for the best selection.

I contributed some marvellous chocolate drop-studded macaroons that just happen to be gluten-free. They’re a buck each and all proceeds benefit the 2014 Veg Fest in November. We are part of the annual week of Worldwide Vegan Bake Sales coordinated by the very cool Gary Loewenthal.

A pile of cookies, hastily wrapped.

Mmmm… don’t you want me?

Above, a selection of the ones I saved for myself model on a cupcake stand made by my favorite potter, Jeanette Zeis. She and her partner Kenn recently-ish moved to Portland and oh, how I miss their presence in this city! Even now I can look across the room from where I’m typing this and see their work — one of Kenn’s early shadowboxes, a full-size cake plate by Jeanette. Sigh.

I digress! Back to cookies.

In case you made it here to Crack the Plates from the bake sale event — perhaps because you were thinking, WOW! these macaroons are good! how did she do that? — I want to share the recipe. It is inspired by the one in Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, adapted for gluten-free tastes. Here’s what you’ll need:

Sorry for the blurry picture in bad lighting. It’s morning, I haven’t had any caffeine, what can ya do?

Ingredients (makes 2 dozen good-sized macaroons, perfect for a party or a benefit bake sale):

  • half block  (about six ounces) of asceptic-packaged extra firm or firm silken tofu (Mori-Nu)
  • 2/3 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup almond milk
  • 1 cup organic vegan sugar
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free All Purpose Baking Flour
  • 1/2 tsp xantham gum powder
  • 2 tsp baking power
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/2 pound organic mini chocolate chips (use fewer if using full-size chispas)

Preheat oven to 350. Use an oven thermometer to check the temperature; adjust if necessary. If you don’t have a oven thermometer, put it on your shopping list. They’re inexpensive (sub $10) and important.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Sift the dry ingredients — the baking flour mix, xantham gum, salt, baking powder. Set aside.

In a blender, puree the tofu, oil, and almond milk until smooth. Transfer this mixture to a mixing bowl or a stand mixer. Thoroughly whisk in the sugar and extracts. I like to do this in my stand mixer, but if you don’t have a stand mixer, you can use a hand mixer. The strong among us will just do it with a bowl and a whisk!

Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until thoroughly combined with a spatula. Dump in the chocolate chips, mix. Dump in all the coconut, mix. The dough will be stiff, but you and your spatula are strong!

Grab up about 1/3 cup of dough and drop it on the cookie sheet. Do not worry whatsoever about forming them. Just drop. Leave about an inch and a half of space between each cookie pile. I can fit twelve of these cookies per sheet (that’s three rows of four). They really don’t need a lot of space at all.

Place baking sheets in oven. If using two different racks (one above, one below), set a timer for 6 minutes. At six minutes, switch the sheets. The one that was on the top rack should go to the middle, and the one that was on the middle should go to the top. Bake another 8 minutes. Remove from oven, let cool on the sheets a couple of minutes, and then transfer to wire racks to thoroughly cool.

And there you have it!! Gluten-free macaroons that are really, truly marvellous! Serve them at your next party.

BIG THANKS to Leigh S., founder/director of Atlanta Veg Fest, and Kevin of Dough Bakery for making the sale happen! Y’all are the greatest!

 

Early birthday celebration with my bestie

Yesterday my oldest, bestest friend Jessica drove down to celebrate our birthdays a week early. She and I are three days apart, and this year we are turning thirty! We went out for lunch, thrift shopping, and a visit to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. Here are some images from our afternoon:

The fragrant paperbush plants were my favorite. The blooms look like little glowing lanterns hanging from the branches. Magical.

My beautiful friend was excited to see the orchids as part of the “Orchid Daze” program.

In the running for most Lovecraftian orchid.

Creatures? Or orchids? Like strange birds peeking from their shells.

A redbird for my grandmother.

Interesting frogs. Have I mentioned that I am very afraid of frogs? Taking these pictures was a big step. But they were so neat looking, I couldn’t resist. I just hope they are not unhappy in their habitats.

Saying goodbye at the end of the day! Note: I had already changed into my colorful owl pajamas. There they are, blog friends – my favorite! Perhaps I wouldn’t usually share a picture of me in my PJs, but this is the only one Jessica and I got of each other. I’m so glad we got to spend the day together. We both lead busy lives, but we have maintained our friendship for over twenty years, and she is so precious to me.

I love free software!

Today is the Free Software Foundation‘s “I love free software” day, and guess what? I love free and open source software. I’ve been using FOSS since grad school, when I started writing papers on the seminary computer lab’s Ubuntu machines. My personal laptop is a System 76. When I started my new job (where I have to use Windows), I insisted on being allowed to have the GIMP, or the GNU Image Manipulation Program, on my machine. It was a little victory, but a meaningful one.

#ilovefs day 2014 is an online campaign that raises awareness of Free Software and passionate, hard-working people behind it. (from the website) I use it because it is written by people who care deeply about what they do, and who want to keep improving. It reminds me of the Hebrew phrase tikkun olam, which means repairing (or healing) the world. Free Software means you can read the code, which means you can improve it — and then pass it on for the better. Free Software repairs the world by advancing projects made with integrity to people who need them, free of charge. One day, I hope to contribute code to projects that people use every day.

My FOSS Valentine is my partner, Nathaniel:

I picked this picture because it looks like he is explaining something here, and his mom’s beautiful painting is in the background. (This was taken by our friend Seth Pajak of VeganESP at our Halloween Party, and chances are he was teaching us how to play Arkham Horror — not explaining FOSS — but no matter.) He’s a great teacher and advocate for FOSS; check out his active Github and his blog. He inspires me to continue with my Python study so that I can build my dreams.

I enjoyed reading about why folks love Free Software at #ilovefs HQ, but I didn’t see anyone who looks like me among these nice people. I hopefully searched #ilovefs on Twitter, and only found a handful of women discussing it:

There is a well-known gender gap in the world of FOSS contributions, but thankfully, there are organizations working to amend this. Last year I was tempted to apply to the Gnome Foundation’s Outreach Program for Women, where participating FOSS organizations (like Debian, Fedora, Mozilla, and Wikimedia) offer internships to women who want to start contributing. Different winds took me different ways, but there’s a chance I might still try in the future.

I’m grateful to the Free Software Foundation for inspiring me to share just a little bit about my journey with FOSS today. It’s an important part of my life, but something I don’t talk about too often. Perhaps I should change that!

Happy Chinese New Year!

I like holidays, and as special occasions go, I particularly enjoy Chinese (Lunar) New Year. It began this year on Friday, January 31, and ends in about two weeks with the Lantern Festival. Each day offers a special way to celebrate or commemorate. For instance, on the fifth day, folks may eat dumplings in the morning and set off firecrackers  later in the day to ensure prosperity in the new year. Naturally, I appreciate the emphasis on vegetarian (vegan) food — it is considered cleansing and spiritually edifying.

Friday Nate and I had dinner at our favorite Atlanta-area Chinese vegan restaurant, Harmony Vegetarian. It was packed. Just as we ate black-eyed peas and collard greens for good luck and fat bank accounts on Jan 1, we auspiciously shared three plates of dumplings. I like Harmony’s pan-fried leek dumplings; Nate went for the steamed Shanghai-style. We also shared an order of fluffy taro dumplings, handmade each morning in small batches and available til sold out. We were lucky to get the last order of the night.

Wonton soup, no water chestnuts, extra peppery

Steamed shanghai dumplings

taro treasure!

steamed bean curd skin roll with veggie ham and gai lan

When I was a kid, my parents used to take my brother and me to a Chinese restaurant that had glass table-tops with information about the Chinese zodiac tucked underneath. We enjoyed reading the descriptions and talking about how fair or accurate they seemed. My hyper-intellectual, hard-working, artist dad: the fire monkey. My authoritarian, self-confident, money-minded mom: the metal rat. Tree loving, sensitive, careful: me, the wood rat. And my brother? A fire tiger! Restless, well-informed, a natural leader. I still get a kick out of reading them.

2014 is the year of the horse. If you were born in one of the ranges below, you are a horse! What does it mean to be a horse? Horses are said to be great communicators, kind-hearted, and focused on self-improvement. They have a tendency towards talkativeness and are marked by cheerfulness.  Horses tend to be the “popular” one in the group — but not Mean Girls-style. They’re well-liked because they’re kind and hard-working, and give others someone to look up to. The downsides? Like actual horses, they may seem stubborn, and they resist constraint. They can be impatient and quick to anger, offend, disappoint, or give up. I found this description particularly charming: “Flamboyant by nature, they are wasteful since they are not good with matters of finance due to a lack of budgetary efficiency.” Your “horse” characteristics are further informed by your element, i.e., earth horses are different from wood horses, and so on.

Believe it or not, the food — while terrific — is not my favorite part of Chinese Lunar New Year. I love the dances best! And yet, until this year, I had only ever seen a lion or dragon dance in pictures or videos online. It seems like every year Chinese New Year sneaks up on me, and I end up missing out. The fact that I got to see one this year is thanks due to my friend Jenny, who posted pictures on Facebook yesterday and led me to the info about today’s festivities. Thank you Jenny!! You made one of my dearest wishes come true!

And wouldn’t you know it? Just mere days after Atlanta’s snow shutdown, it was a glorious 63 degrees – perfect for an afternoon outside. We joined a crowd at the Culture Center of Taipei Economic & Cultural Office in Atlanta.

Stretching

(Pssst! Click any image to see a larger version)

Preparing

Arranging

the lion dance begins!

The lion threw candy or gifts and the children scrambled.

Feeding the lions red envelopes

We loved our first lion dance!

Time for the Dragon Dance. The dragon emerges!

Feeding the dragon red envelopes!

There goes my envelope!

With the dignitaries

10/10, would dragon dance again!

Pure vegetarian by the women and men of the Tzu Chi Foundation

Vegan eats at the fest!

The noodles with two kinds of mushrooms (Chinese shiitake, wood ear) and veggie ham was so good we needed a second plate. Auspicious, too — when Nate went to retrieve it, he ran into our friend Lauren and her beau. It was so nice to see friends at the event!

With my favorite

cotton candy kisses

Purchase: cat cards from one of the vendors in the market area. I think they’re meant to hold money; I intend to cut out the cats carefully and turn them into stickers with double-sided tape. I also got a couple of cards for my penpals and a nice red papercut of two rats.

We made it home by mid-afternoon and spent the rest of the day on our bikes exploring the city; we logged at least twelve miles. Once home, I made a dinner of hazelnut-crusted seitan and roasted brussels sprouts with whole toasted hazelnuts — to be featured in a future post — and then caught up with my Grandma Lowe on the phone. Nate did the dishes and ran some errands, and now we’re settled in drinking tea. It was a pretty perfect day. Happy Chinese Lunar New Year!

GoodBelly 12 Day Challenge

Today I started something unusual – the GoodBelly 12 Day Challenge. For the next twelve days, I am going to be drinking a GoodBelly + probiotic juice drink “shot” once a day. Thanks to Diedre and the folks at GoodBelly, I picked up the 12 Day supply yesterday at my local Whole Foods on the house. (The products may have been offered free of charge, but the opinions to follow will reflect my honest experience with the product.) Whole Foods only had the strawberry and pomegranate blackberry in stock, so I opted for those. I spotted them while scoping out So Delicious’ new(-ish) Greek-style coconut yogurts in the non-dairy/yogurt chilled section.

If you have a history with this site, you know that I don’t typically review products or do sponsorships. I also have no doubts about my “gut health”, to put it politely. But when this one popped in my inbox, I was intrigued – perhaps because of the “challenge” nature. I had a lot of fun with my transformative May Challenge from 2012, and perhaps I felt like it was time for another. New year and all.

I was also impressed with their ingredients list; for strawberry: filtered water, organic pear juice, organic strawberry puree, organic sugar, organic oat flour, 2% or less: citric acid, organic barley malt, organic flavor, fruit and vegetable juice (color), lactobacillus plantarum 299v, calcium, vitamin C, pantothenic acid, vitamin E, vitamin B6, Vitamin b12, thiamin, D-biotin, vitamin A, vitamin B12. I only buy organic fruits and vegetables, so it makes sense that I’d only agree to drink an organic juice.

(Typically I don’t drink juice at all. Too sweet. Rather eat a fruit! There is one place in the world — Prasad, in Portland — where I’ll drink my green juice and love it, but that’s it. [As an aside within an aside, I recently tried to drink a juice while waiting for a delayed airplane, and it was soooo sweet that I drank two ounces and threw it out.] Like my pal Lagusta, I’m pretty skeptical of the health benefits of juices — why not just eat a piece of fruit?! — but the fact is, I rarely have fresh fruit sitting around my desk at work. I’m making an exception, temporarily, for these teensy juice “shots”.)

Today I decided to drink the a strawberry GoodBelly when I started to feel my energy drooping. Even though I had a cup of tea an hour or so prior, around 3pm I started to feel tired, grumpy, and intensely headachey. I don’t know about you, but this is about the time of day I reach (unhealthily) for something “sweet” — a (vegan) cookie or piece of cake, if we’re being totally honest here — to keep me going. I crave it because I want that boost. Knowing I had the GoodBellys in our work fridge, I went and grabbed one.

Taste test: interesting! It kind of  tasted like drinking one of those kid’s chewable multivitamins, but in a tasty way — if you can believe that. More than the taste, though, I liked the way it made me feel. Within minutes, my headache disappeared and my energy and focus returned.

My only concern with this challenge is the fact that I’m not used to doing added sugar in my beverages. These little shots contain 9 grams of sugar per serving. One teaspoon of sugar is about four grams, which means the Goodbelly shot comes in at about two and 1/2 teaspoons of sugar! That’s about how much someone might put into a cup of black tea, but I don’t use sugar to sweeten my beverages or tea, so this is new to me. I would love it if GoodBelly reformulated their products to be made with stevia, particularly a whole-foodsy one like my favorite SweetLeaf brand. All this pure sugar means I might have a similar “crash” later — it’s wait and see at this point.

Nevertheless, GoodBelly is a healthier choice than what I’d usually be tempted by. It may not be as ideal as piece of whole fruit, but at least for the next twelve days, I’ll take it. I’ll check in at the conclusion of the challenge and let you know if I’d keep it up. Til then… consider me yours in bacteria!

PS: You can do the Challenge too, if you’d like! Go here to learn more.

Badger Bat

Today I was reminded of the adorableness of the pied / badger bat, Niumbaha superba. Please enjoy:

Love love love love love love love.

Give to Bats:

Bat Conservation International

Organization for Bat Conservation

Bat Conservation Trust (UK)

Bat World Sanctuary, Inc.

Devil’s Sinkhole Society

Follow Bats on Twitter:

BatConIntl

BatWorld

Start helping bats, bees, and biodiversity today by buying local, organically grown produce. Farmers who grow fruits and vegetables without harmful pesticides and chemical herbicides provide a healthy environment for the critters who live in the soil and pollinate flowers. If you shop in conventional grocery stores and markets (Kroger, Trader Joe’s, A&P), at a minimum, buy organic. If  you want to do even more to help the birds, bees, and bats, find your local farmer’s market at Local Harvest and select farmers who grow Certified Naturally Grown or USDA Organic. Please note that organic is not a marketing term. To be able to call one’s produce organic, farmers must grow without the use of chemical herbicides and pesticides. Words like “healthy”, “homegrown”, and “natural”, on the other hand, are unregulated. Get to know your farmer, eat better, and start helping our flying friends today!

Major life updates

Wow, let’s see.

What’s been happening lately?

So much.

(Hopefully you’ll forgive me for having been out of touch once you read this!)

I started a new job at Emory! 

It is awesome. Wait, did you know I had an old job at Emory? Or did you still think I delivered the best produce in the city for Vegetable Husband? Oh my, let’s back up.

In July I got an outstanding offer to join the Development and Alumni Relations team at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School as a temporary Program Coordinator. My main man John referred me to a position that filled in for someone on maternity leave. I enjoyed working with a lovable group on all things alumni for a few months, but when maternity leave came to an end, so did my tenure in that office. I really grew to care about those folks, and totally teared up on my last day.

Thankfully, having built up a pretty decent work reputation, I was able to score another amazing job with yet another fantastic group of people. Seriously: Emory just keeps on giving. Now I find myself in the Office of Annual Giving (OAG) alongside a bunch of interesting, hard-working folks committed to furthering Emory’s wide-ranging philanthropic work. These are my people. ( <— Incidentally, I also maintain that website, and totally chose my own picture. Cuz of course!)

So what have I been doing? A hallmark of the Goizueta office was its strong alumni engagement, and so appropriately, I spent a lot of time doing alumni-facing tasks: creating and managing online event registration pages, providing day-of event support, crafting mass e-mails, working on the website, and managing our database of record. At OAG, I still do e-mail and website support, but I’m a lot more behind the scenes. If you don’t count the folks I work with, I haven’t seen an alum in months!

Securing this job is a pretty big deal for me, because it marks the first time in my adult life that I have some things a lot of folks my age take for granted, like: a desk. A place to come to every day. Predictable work. A predictable paycheck. Benefits. A sense of purpose. It’s really nice. I’m able to pay down student loans and start saving for next steps as I approach my thirties. Since I’ve never been here before, I’m extra thankful for the opportunity, and aim to do my best to keep people pleased.

So that’s the work front. What else?!

Nate and I just celebrated five years together!

Yep, November 30 marked our five year anniversary. Since we’ve already been on so many cool trips together this year, we decided to take it easy and keep it simple by heading down to Pensacola, Florida for a few days. Nate was inspired to suggest since the city houses the first of the Sluggo’s Vegetarian empire, and we’re huuuuge fans of the Chattanooga location. I owe you a blog post all about that soon, but just in case it isn’t forthcoming, here are a few of my favorite photos from our outdoor adventures (bog/swamp, forest, cemetery tour, beach, lagoon):

We’re also moving!

After two years in a beautiful house in East Atlanta – owned by a couple of the nicest folks you’d ever want to meet, and featuring the most well-equipped kitchen I’ve ever cooked in – we are moving to a slightly smaller place outside Decatur. (Send me an e-mail if you want my new address for letter writing or house-warming cards/gifts/love letters.) Our new place is also owned by sweet people, and it’s in great condition. (Think new flooring, custom lighting, and ceiling fans!) We are going to throw a gigantic house-warming in January, so stay tuned. I’m excited because it is proximate to an awesome bike trail that I’ll be able to take part of the way into work every day.

On that note, holy cow! Did you know?

I swapped my car for a bike!

Yep, as of this month, I am an official bike commuter. As soon as the bike gets out of a shop (part drama – story for another time), I’ll be swapping my daily 14 mile commute by car for bike. I am thrilled! I have been saving for nearly two years for this beauty. (You’ll see why when you visit this link for more info.) The new bike is an electric assist model with five modes: bike only, assist only, and three levels of assist (low, medium, high). When in leveled assist mode, the bike automatically responds with varying degrees of assistance based on the current terrain and resistance.

I’m using the bike to get started commuting seven miles one-way from East Atlanta. I have long yearned to be a bike commuter, but at my current level of fitness, I am not able to bike very far at all with Atlanta’s frequent and often steep hills. I’m using the electric bike to build strength and train to a point where I don’t have to use the assist very much. I’ve already gone on several long, hilly rides and they’ve been great.

If you’re someone who has a relatively short commute to work each day (under ten miles) and would like to chat about swapping your commute-by-car for one on a bike, please get in touch. This electric bicycle is a game-changer. Hills that used to seem completely insurmountable are now a breeze with just a little help from me. My first few rides were astonishing. I didn’t want to go home!

It’s also a great investment from a financial standpoint, at least for my partner and me. We were paying at least $40 a week for my commute in gas. A monthly parking permit is an additional $60. Combine gas every week ($2080) with parking for a year ($720) = $2800. $2800 for one year of driving, with nothing to show for it, except a somewhat  more worn-out car and loads of emissions in the atmosphere. No fitness. No enjoying the birds singing in the morning. Yeah, I’ll probably get rained on some, but I’ll totally take it in exchange for the joy that biking gives me!

Atlanta Veg Fest was a great success!

For those who are wondering, Atlanta Veg Fest II was awesome. Much bigger than last year, we attracted around 3,000 folks from all of the world. Seriously: the first guests in the door had visited from Japan! From our humble beginnings last year at around a thousand, we feel confident that Atlanta is not only ready but happy to support a giant fully-vegan festival.

Like last year, I was in charge of our speaker rooms and all of their set-ups. Last year we had two food demos: this year we doubled to four. I really enjoyed running logistics and managing volunteers for our varied and fascinating line-up of internationally-known and loved speakers: Isa Moskowitz, Annie and Dan Shannon, Afya Ibomu, Victoria Moran, Fran Costigan, Bianca Phillips, Dr. Joe Esposito, and Christine Gurnik. I probably owe you a blog post about this, too, but these’ll have to do:

Bianca getting ready

Simply Seoul! Simply the best Korean buns and kimchi around.

Sweet friends Laura and Sean

Looking very tired with the fabulous Victoria Moran

Isa at her demo

Highlights of the fest: being told onstage, in front of a sea of people, what amazing stage presence I have – by the queen of stage presence herself, Ms. Victoria Moran! Also, being told I have incredible knife skills by the one and only Fran Costigan! I was very flattered/honored. I regret not getting a picture of myself with Fran, but the lighting was just too dark in her speaker room.

For more about Atlanta Veg Fest, you should check out Vic’s blog post: Vegfest 2013! and Bianca’s. Bianca’s Atlanta posts are also quite nice: one, two, and three.

Thanksgiving was delicious, too!

Nate and I celebrated a quiet Thanksgiving with our friends Amy, her partner Patch, and friend Datagrok. I made way too much food just the right amount of food: tofurkey with roasted organic vegetables, creamed onions for Nate, green bean casserole in homemade mushroom-bechamel, fordhook lima beans, cashew macaroni and cheese, cornbread sage stuffing with freshly-made cornbread, coconut corn souffle, sweet potato-pecan casserole, … what else?

The raw ingredients for a vegan feast… not too weird or unfamiliar, right?

Amy also brought at least five casseroles, so we were set.

The only thing I didn’t make was dessert, because my sweet penpal Danielle surprised me with a giant box of pumpkin snickerdoodles from Gonepie! From the website: Pumpkin snickerdoodles are a perfect blend of pumpkin and spices in a rich, grainfree cookie. They are tasty and satisfying without being over the top decadent. These cookies are truly addictive. You have been warned! Go here to get some. Thank you so much, Danielle. I have wanted to try Gonepie’s delights for a while now, and they were fantastic.

Amy is special to me because she is the director of the Georgia Rat Rescue!! The GRR is my favorite Georgia-based animal charity and one I contribute to frequently, both financially and as a short-term foster. Without Amy, there would be no GRR – so I try to do nice things for her as often as possible.

With Amy, Georgia Rat Rescue Director

Eleanor checking out her feast!

The GRR is run exclusively by passionate volunteers and we receive no state or foundation funding. If you have any spare change this December, it is my deepest wish that you’ll consider making a donation to GRR by visiting the main page and clicking the tiny Donate button on the right-hand side. We don’t waste a cent! Everything goes to the care and rehabilitation of these tiny furry friends. Please, please, please donate. If you’re thinking of giving me a Christmas present: donate. If you like me: donate. If you don’t like me but you love rats: donate. Donate, donate, donate. We need you. And thanks!!

Travel updates

Apart from our November Florida adventure, Nate and I also spent a week each in Portland and New York in October. Again, I owe you a real blog post, but just in case that isn’t forthcoming anytime soon, here’s a handful of photographic delights:

Portland: October 6 – October 12

Cat postcard purchased at Crafty Wonderland

Breakfast every morning at Prasad. Thanks, per diem!

At Bitch Media’s HQ! I am a loyal subscriber.

At Vita Cafe, a favorite.

Portland has some pretty amazing toy stores. I wanted this entire shelf of golden dragons, but I did not purchase a single one!

Max and Abigail

Adrienne and Max

Writing letters at Barista

Nate’s birthday fell the week were in Portland, so his pal Meg picked up a cake for him and delivered it to work!

Whiffies Pies: Best in the universe, hands down, no joke.

The scrumptiousness abounds: banana tempura, cherry compote, miso butterscotch, peanut brittle ice cream at Departure Restaurant & Lounge

Picnic of Veggie Grill at Hoyt Arboretum

Final meal at Sweetpea Baking Co

New York: October 20 – 26

The most magical place in the world.

Lagusta’s Luscious

Nate and tree ear fungus at Palace Dumplings in Wappingers Falls, NY

This is how close you can get to deer in Nate’s neighborhood.

But not for long.

RuStitchin‘ on the Metro North train bound for NYC

Lunch at HanGawi

At the Morgan

Nate treated John and me to a celebratory dinner at Kajitsu. As I mentioned above, sweet JP is the reason I got into Emory!

Waitin’ on the train in the depths of the city

Grand Central’s got my sign

French fries at the diner

Tea and lunch at Youko’s restaurant, Gomen Kudasai

Exploring historic Huguenot Street, New Paltz, NY

the beautiful wedding that brought us to New York in the first place

Pigging out with Mark and Maresa at the Rutherford Pancake House!

I mean, wouldja lookit this (totally vegan, of course) spread?!

This is the point in the blog post where I tell you that I spent an afternoon at Palisades Park’s King Spa. Yep, King is a traditional Korean spa, which means I spent much of my afternoon completely naked among mostly Korean (but quite a few Russian) ladies of all ages, shapes, and sizes. It was my first visit to a Korean spa and it was, as so many who have gone before me have said, completely transformative and body-positive in every way. Even if you feel consumed with anxiety in the locker room, it only takes a few moments to become aware of the obvious: nobody. cares. what you look like. Nobody. No one is looking at you, judging you, wondering about you. Especially recommended for anyone who has ever cursed her body for being too much or not enough of one thing or another. It’s liberating, it’s lovely, and best of all: it’s remarkably relaxing.

It will not be my last time at a Korean Spa. Thank you Maresa for being my guide!

Aba’s Falafel at the Rhinebeck Farmers’ Market. Best falafel in the world!

I could not resist grabbing a shot of this adorable Japanese couple leaving the farmers’ market.

Nate had a birthday!!

Wow, this was a minute ago, but it totally bears mentioning in this mega life update post. Nate celebrated his birthday with a fun D&D themed party and a glorious cake hand-made by co-owners Idalys and Howell at Atlanta’s amazing Dulce Vegan Bakery and Cafe. Our favorite person Vic DMed and did an outstanding job – seriously, could not have asked for a better storyteller. It’s definitely worth taking a moment to check out his re-cap of the day over at the blog: D&D B-Day for Nate!

Here are some of Vic’s pictures: 

the food

the cake

Us!

On the Horizon for Crack the Plates (the blog)

In the new year, I would like to make a renewed commitment to blogging here. Every week I get e-mails or meet people in person who tell me how much CrackthePlates.com and AtlantaVeganGuide.com have meant to them as they consider, investigate, transition into, or stay strong as vegans. I would like to honor that commitment by posting more consistently. Perhaps as I get moved into a new place and nail down my work routine, I will be able to carve out dedicate time to connect with my community here. You mean so much to me, and I deeply appreciate your support!

***

Ok, I think that probably covers everything from the last two months or so! Hope you have enjoyed catching up with me, and just in case we don’t see each other again here soon, I hope you have a very happy buncha holidays. See you in January at the housewarming!

RuPaul Cross Stitch Animation Workshop

I want to tell you about a project.

The “RuPaul Cross-Stitch Animation Workshop” – or, more affectionately, “RuStitch” -
is a community art project by my brilliant friend Aubrey that Nate and I joined earlier this year.

February 20, to be precise. On that chilly night we joined about thirty others to learn how to cross-stitch and work together to create an embroidered animation of RuPaul from footage of “Supermodel“, an iconic song and video that RuPaul released in 1992. Go watch the video.

Our subsequent three workshops included guest drag performances, screenings of experimental animations, and discussions of web art and GIF culture. We had a blast. At our first session, we received all of our materials and chose our colors. For the next three and onward, we were basically left to noodle our way through our frames at our own pace. Let’s just say Nate and I took a very … relaxed approach to stitching.

In fact, there was this period where the deadline got pushed back
and I didn’t really work on mine for … a few months.

Sorry, Aubrey.

But now?

It’s done!!

My contribution to the “Serving Face” RuPaul animation is DONE!

When Nate and I signed up earlier this year to be “contributing artists” to Aubrey’s “Artists Helping Artists” workshop at WonderRoot community art center, we didn’t really realize what we were getting into. We’ve always appreciated Aubrey’s work – after all, we are the proud owners of seven of his early pieces (key set, four horsemen) – but now we have a new respect and understanding borne of trying, ourselves, to do the kind of extremely intricate, patient work he sets his heart to. Good lord, folks. It is hard.

That first night

Nate behind his new project

I’m proud to have been involved in RuStitch because it taught me so much about myself. Namely, that I can draw upon a well of stick-to-it-iveness I didn’t even know I had. This project taught me discipline, perseverance, and persistence. There were so many times I wanted to quit because, when cross-stitching, evidence of progress comes achingly slow. You can seriously work for an hour on a section and not get anywhere close to filling it. This can get discouraging – and is probably why I don’t have more pictures than I do! But I’m so glad I took the handful above to show how the project comes together over time. It was hard but completely worth it. Thanks, Aubrey, for having me!

PS: Nate’s frame is pretty amazing, too – but I don’t have a good picture of it (yet). He took a risk with bold, bright colors like lime green and orange and it paid off.

Keep reading this post and see examples of Aubrey’s amazing work.

A Very Good Day

I’ve had the week off, but today was the first day when I felt like I could catch my breath. It’s been a busy, difficult week, and honestly, I needed a break. One of my favorte ways to relax is to cook something complicated. Today I chose an old favorite: seitan pot roast.

This is a long recipe because it comes together in many parts. If you don’t already have seitan made, you must make it. You must also prep all the vegetables, and cook them. Finally, there’s the matter of a sauce. An experienced cook can pull this together in about two hours, with plenty of down-time to check e-mail or write a letter. First go-round, though, might take a morning.

Start by making the seitan. I used Julie Hasson’s recipe from Vegan Diner, but did stovetop steaming instead of using a slow-cooker. Two fascinating notes about Julie’s recipe: she uses porcini powder and Marmite to give the seitan the perfect color and savory depth. I made porcini powder almost instantly by grinding some dried European mushroooms in my Vitamix. The Marmite I had on hand from a long-ago trip to the Buford Highway Farmers’ Market. The only thing I would change about the recipe is to add less salt – half a teaspoon will do.

For the roast, I consulted Robin Robertson’s recipe from The Vegetarian Meat and Potatoes Cookbook. It’s the first recipe in her “from the oven” section, and I love it. The prepared seitan gets rubbed with an olive oil-garlic-thyme mix and then soaked in red wine for at least an hour before getting browned in a skillet. Pot-roasted vegetables and seitan are combined and covered in a reduced red wine sauce. So amazing. Here it is, still in the roasting pot:

On the plate, with a salad by Nate:

It was so relaxing to get to spend a few hours putting this together. I love to cook and I miss having nearly unlimited free time to do it. One of my goals as I start my new full-time permanent job is to find a way to be able to cook elaborate, from-scratch meals on a regular basis. Even once a week would be better than nothing!

As if this amazing meal wasn’t enough, the mail arrived and it was stuffed with goodies:

Click the image to see a large version. A letter from my penpal Danielle! Bat stamps!! And my official Letter Writers Alliance membership documentation!!! Probably the best mail day I’ve had all year. Danielle is an extraordinary mail artist, and this is one of the finer specimens she’s shared with me. There’s a haiku on the back of the envelope (not pictured). Just perfect.

The bat stamps are special to me because I collected them when they were issued in 2002. I remember buying sheets of them and putting them on ALL of my mail. Nevermind the fact that virtually no one else found them as precious as I did – I was determined to share them with the world. I was reminded of these wonderful little stamps when I saw a picture of Donovan’s Halloween-themed stamps on her Instagram feed:

Photo source.

As soon as I saw this picture, I went on eBay and snagged a few sheets at only a dollar or so more than the original purchase price, and with free shipping – not bad! I am planning on sharing some with my favorite penpal and using most of the rest to mark my mail in October. They require nine more cents to be in date. Another fun fact: I also collected the carnivorous plants stamps, and used them nearly as avidly as the bats. What can I say? I have a heart for the eldritch.

I’m excited to join the Letter Writers Alliance for one obvious reason – I love mail and all things mail-related. Whenever I move someplace new, I always learn my post-person’s name within the first two weeks. I believe in the art of handwriting and enjoy sharing it with others. I’ve been collecting stamps for over a decade. I’ve been collecting stationery since I was about ten years old. Same goes with stickers. And I always send a thank-you note.

But one other reason I’m excited to be an official member is because I’ve always been fascinated with secret societies and niche interest groups. LWA doesn’t have that much mystery around it, but it’s enough to keep me intrigued. When I was in elementary school I formed exclusive clubs with ridiculous names for my besties, and when I was a bit older I published hand-drawn gossip zines that my middle school classmates just ate up. I like being part of a group that appreciates and promotes an art that most find obsolete.

And the day just got better. Nate and I spent the evening at Oakland Cemetery for the annual Capturing the Spirit of Oakland Halloween Tour. From the website: Historic Oakland Cemetery receives many visitors each day, but only at Halloween do the gates stay open after dark. Witness the magnificent final resting place of Atlanta’s sons and daughters during the Capturing the Spirit of Oakland 2013 Halloween Tours. Join us this year and hear first-hand accounts about our city’s past, narrated by a host of Oakland’s eternal “residents.” You’ll also see gorgeous candlelit mausoleums in this one-of-a-kind annual tradition.

Have you ever done a city ghost tour? You know, local person takes you around to supposedly haunted spots and delves into the connection to the macabre? Similar thing at Oakland. Walk through the cemetery in the evening and learn about city history from actors in period dress. Only these performers were so spot-on that Nate and I actually felt like we were listening to dead people. Sounds crazy, but true! They did a great job. And the accents – oh, the accents!

Another thing: at first Nate I were bummed to have one of the earliest time slots – 5:45 – but it turned out to beperfect. The tour didn’t get started til around 6ish and we walked the entire thing at dusk. Whereas later tours explored the cemetery in the dark, we actually got to enjoy the grounds in the warm pink bath of the setting sun. It also made for better pictures! Here’s a selection of my favorites:

Keep reading this post to see more pictures from Oakland Cemetery

Two weeks in Sweden

It’s been two weeks since I returned from Sweden and I’m just getting to the point where I don’t feel behind in most of my life. The intensity of my first-ever bout of transatlantic jetlag was more severe than I could have imagined. Nate and I spent the first week walking around in a kind of haze — readjusting to hearing English spoken everywhere, fumbling for words, and growing impossibly weary every day around 6pm (midnight Sweden time). Sweden was so amazing in so many ways that it made certain blemishes of life here starker than usual, like the inability to safely walk or ride one’s bike anywhere, the undrinkable tap water, the not-so-fresh-air, the… for lack of a better description, noise. In Sweden, we slept with the doors and windows open, for goodness’ sake. But sleeping in one’s own bed, hugging one’s cats, reuniting with pet foster rats, and a cast-iron skillet on a gas range: these things make home.

Like a lot travellers who blog, I’m way behind on sharing our adventures. Maybe I’ll be able to carve out some time to work on those (individual, daily, picture-packed) posts this week. I dearly hope I’m able – after all,all of the photos are already edited and uploaded into WordPress – I just need to provide the text! But just in case those posts aren’t forthcoming, permit me to share some of my favorite memories from the journey.

Or, in other words, let’s visit Sweden for two weeks in one post!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013: Our first night in Sweden. Susanna prepares a traditional Swedish meal of pancakes and pea soup.

Our first dinner in Sweden.

Thursday, August 15, 2013: Lunch at Kafe Agnez

A bike ride through Malmö led us past this windmill.

A candle-lit plate of Swedish sweets from Kafe Agnez.

Keep reading one of my all-time favorite picture-filled posts.