Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Desert Getaway: Indian Wells

Last month, we took our annual road trip down to Palm Springs for the BNP Paribas Tennis Tournament. I'm not a tennis player, but thanks for Mr. VE&T, I am a pretty knowledgable tennis fan. Mr. VE&T is a life-long player and fan, and it's super fun to watch tennis together with him. During the normal course of our usual lives, we are quite busy and generally involved in many different pursuits. I always really look forward to this trip, and just enjoying so much time together. Even though I'm not always a road trip fan, I love this beautiful (and long!) drive down through California together. 

Road Trip! 

This year we stayed with a yoga student of mine, which was lovely. I prepared lots and lots of food ahead of time so that I wouldn't have to worry about wasting time looking for proper vegan food.

I made a big batch of Banana Chia Pudding with Caramelized Bananas and Coconut from Vegan Richa. I'd had my eye on this recipe for a long time and was happy for an "excuse" to finally make it! I think I doubled it - and ended up with about 6 servings: including one for the morning we left home, and I even got to leave one for our beloved housesitter. I topped each bowl with cashews, red walnuts, and shredded coconut. It was great to have such a healthy, filling and special breakfast all lined up and ready to go every morning. 

Miles and miles of almond trees in bloom.

Our drive down south was just so beautiful... from the sea, through rolling green hills, and into the rich agricultural land of California's Central Valley. We drove past miles and miles of almond trees in various stages of bloom - so gorgeous. 

OMG. Grapefruit Trees Galore!

Even though I have lime trees and orange trees in my own yard, grapefruit trees require a warmer climate and still feel very exotic to me. The neighborhood where we stayed with my student was filled with grapefruits. Amaze! While we were off watching tennis, our sweet host scampered around and picked about 6-7 grapefruits for me to bring home. You guys. They were SO GOOD - beautifully red inside, so sweet they were barely tart, just absolutely perfect. What a great gift to bring home after our trip! 

lunch fixin's

I also brought along lots of supplies to make lunch every day. There are actually several vegan food options inside the BNP Paripas Indian Wells grounds, but in previous years we've noticed that the lines can long, and the food can be expensive. I'd rather pack my own lunch, and the security at the grounds seems to have no objection to bringing in your own food. 

I love my special "tennis sandwich": whole wheat bread, mustard, avocado, tomato slices, baked tofu, and even some special Violife spicey Provolone that I had picked up at an all-vegan grocery store in Berkeley recently. Simple and satisfying! 

ready for a long day of tennis appreciation! 

Here's a day's worth of lunch and snacks - a sandwich, a primal strip, some veggies, some popcorn, an orange, and a Larabar. We often arrive early and spend the whole day watching tennis before setting out for a late dinner... you gotta be a real tennis fan to keep up with us! ha ha. And you need a lot of snacks to maintain a proper energetic fan appreciation level! 

two dorks

We are super careful about not getting too much sun when we're there. One year Mr. VE&T actually got sunstroke from too much sun, and that was no fun at all. So we wear sunscreen and cover our legs with light towels, and we even have these special wet towels that stay wet for a long time and slowly provide cooling effect as they dry off. They are really great! 

I am very chic.

My delicious tennis sandwich, with a Denis Shapovalov match. What a great afternoon! 
We really had a great time and tried to watch as many young up-and-comers as possible. What fun.


Joshua Tree National Park

On our very last afternoon we decided "enough tennis!" and we scooted out for a late afternoon hike at Joshua Tree National Park. We went in the south entrance (Cottonwood) and took a 2-mile loop hike. Oh my goodness, it was sooooo beautiful. The sky was dark and stormy and it just made the whole thing so dramatic and amazing. 


A Return Trip to Sam Cobb Date Farm! 

You may recall a post from two years ago when we first went to the Sam Cobb Date Farm. This year we stopped by again, on our way out of town, and stocked up on lots more dates! Mr. Cobb wasn't working that day, but we got to meet his wife Maxine, who was also wonderful. There are a lot of very fancy date farms in this area, with huge gift shops and major tourist infrastructure. But where's the fun in that? I'd rather support a small-scale family-farm operation like this. They have some cute signs along the road, helping you find your way. Once you get there, you can sample the varieties of dates that they have available... which you should definitely do! 

it's a date date!

Dates Dates Dates! 

As always, I stocked up on my very favorite date - the Black Gold Date, which is a variety that only Sam Cobb Farms grows. I love them so much - they're rich and chewy, smaller and not as moist as a medjool, but not too dry either and dense with chocolately rich flavor. Man, they are good! We also got a container of Mr VE&T's favorite - the Sahara date, which is much more dry with a lovely nutty flavor. And of course we also got a carton of Medjool dates, because they are a true classic and I just couldn't stop myself. 


Brunch with Dan and Mike! 

Wonderful Dan! ~ look at those beautiful dishes!

I first met Dan (of the wonderful, thoughtful blog thegayvegans.com) at Vida Vegan Con and as soon as you meet Dan, you love Dan because Dan is the best. Dan and his also-wonderful husband Mike live in LA, and so we planned a morning friend date together. Their house is just right there on our way home! And their house is so beautiful and adorable. Dan made a big special breakfast - puffy pancakes, vegan sausages, hashbrowns (special treat!), OJ, coffee... what a wonderful time together. 

It was an absolute treat to see Dan, finally meet Mike in person (although I felt like I already knew him after reading Dan's blog for so many years), see their beautiful home, and meet all their fuzzy pals. I'm already looking forward to another (and hopefully longer) visit next year! 

Lily urgently needs all the snuggles in the whole world right NOW
and little Agnes (in the back) wants to get scritches while she chews on your hand. 
Such sweet softies!! 

Little Ludwig was still recovering from a dog attack (scary!), but he was absolutely sweet and adorable - such a good patient. Just a few days later, he was given the clean bill of health to get his cone off, so you can feel happy knowing that he is doing better now! What a sweetie pie! 

Dan & Mike & Lily & Agnes & Ludwig!

ha ha. my excellent photography skillz
too busy eating popcorn to be bothered! 

Dan has been doing some really interesting work interviewing different vegan and vegan-friendly companies about their policies on hiring trans people and has found some companies that he feels really great about supporting. One of the companies that he was telling us about is Angie's Boom Chicka Pop Popcorn - and then he generously procured a bag of it and gave it to us as a gift! That's because Dan and Mike really are the sweetest people ever. As we carried on with the next 6 hours of our drive (8 hours in total!), that poor bag of popcorn didn't stand a chance. Ha ha. Thanks again guys! When we got home, we noticed that our neighborhood grocery store has a huge display of Angie's popcorn... so I have already enjoyed another giant bag of tastiness!!


I also really want to thank all of you for the beautiful and heartfelt comments you left on my memorial post about Yummers Potatoes - both here and on Facebook. I read every single one, and they helped so much. I really miss Yummers, especially when it's sunny out and he's not there to enjoy the backyard with me, or when I eat asparagus and he doesn't materialize out of nowhere to demand some for himself. But his place in my heart is there forever. Thanks again, friends. It really meant a lot to me that so many of you took the time to read that post and leave comments for our heavy hearts. 

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Nelly Wedge Shoes by JBU: A Shoe Review!

Whoa Nelly! I love my new Nelly Shoes from JBU by Jambu Footwear. The Nellys are the newest pair of springtime shoes I've received from Jambu as a brand ambassador, and they are so fabulous. They're as comfortable as can be, chic, and fun - they've got it all! We've been having classic springtime weather here in Santa Cruz -- rain, followed by sun, followed by wind, followed by sun... Every time the sun comes out, I jump at the opportunity to get out of my rainboots and cozy socks, and put on some fancy fun shoes instead.

I went out to pick some limes from our tree to share with my yoga students, and then all the pets came out for driveway time. We often do doggie training in the driveway, so everyone was very excited. Especially for everyone's all-time favorite trick: high fives! 

Jambu has a lot of great vegan shoes for women, including a bunch of super cute wedge shoes that are great for spring and summer time. (note: Jambu also makes a lot of shoes that aren't vegan, so be sure to check out their vegan shoes page, or double-check that the style you're grooving on is vegan. On their Jambu.com website, they have a vegan logo clearly indicated for the vegan styles).

Jambu makes so many different excellent wedge shoes and I always love their styling. Over the years I have had many different pairs of Jambu wedges and they have always been very comfortable for my feet. Since I teach yoga, I spent a lot of time barefoot, and I am also constantly taking my shoes on and off - before and after teaching. For years I pretty much only ever wore flip-flops! As a result, I really enjoy the opportunity to wear clothes and shoes that aren't for yoga! ha ha. 

"nice to meet you" is another favorite trick.
Mostly they are just manically trying to get more treats from me. ha ha.

These Nelly wedges feel so comfortable, and they also look cute and special. It's such treat to put on a more dressy shoe and feel a bit more fancy and still have my feet feel so comfortable and happy! I have a secret affection for wearing high-heeled shoes from time to time, but darned if they aren't uncomfortable and impractical. These Nellys (and honestly, all the wedges I've owned from Jambu) are a wonderful exception to the rule. There's a little rise under the ball of the foot, so the heel is not actually very elevated. The insoles are made with memory foam, which is super cozy and very satisfying to walk on. Every time I put them on, I get a little pep in my step! 

The day these shoes arrived, I opened the box, and put them on right away and set out for an afternoon with our house guests. They were immediately perfect! Love at first sight! Love at first stroll! 

We took our guests out for a trip to the beach, and then we strolled down to the end of the Santa Cruz wharf to see the sea lions. I didn't want to get sand in my beautiful new shoes, so I took them off at the beach... but while my friends were swimming (brrr!), I did a little photo shoot with my new Nelly shoe friends. The material on these shoes is all-vegan (obviously!), and is a nice quality faux leather, with snazzy patterns die cut through it. 

There's a velcro strap at the ankle, and as you can see in the bottom left picture, there is a cute little zip down the back of the heel, which helps get the shoe on and off more easily. There's a little faux suede flap on the inside that protects your heel from the zipper, so that's not noticeable at all once you have the shoes on your feet. 

Footie also wants to get in on the cuddle action. A few years ago I bought this bench and installed this little mini-patio in the front yard, as an Xmas present for Mr. VE&T. This has become a special spot for him and Footie. They like to sit out here and be quiet together. Footie lets me sit with him too, but Mr. VE&T is obviously his favorite person.

I hope you can see from these pictures of me playing with the pets just how easy and comfortable these Nelly shoes are to move in and walk in.  They feel great and since they also look so cute, I feel doubly great when I wear them. I've never had a shoe quite like these before - a dressy sandal! - and now I can't wait for more sunshine so I wear these all summer long. I especially love how these Nellys look with my capri jeans or with a skirt, so you can see the cute ankle styling. 

Ha ha, Footie sez "These shoes are cute, now give me a kitty treat!"
I love this all-business look on his face in this picture. 

As far as sizing goes, I found the Nelly shoes to be running a half-size on the large side. I ordered them first in size 9, which is my usual size, but that pair felt too big. When I got a second pair in 8.5, the fit was absolutely perfect. If you're unsure, I'd suggest trying the smaller size, or buying both sizes and returning the one that doesn't fit right. 

High Fives, Snoopy! 

20% off any purchase at Jambu.com

The folks at Jambu have given me a coupon code to share with you:
Use the code VEGAN18 to get 20% off any purchase at Jambu.com
*good until June 30th*

Saturday, April 07, 2018

In Memoriam: Yummers Potatoes (2000-2018)

Yummers Potatoes

A couple weeks ago, our sweet boy Yummers died at the age of 18. We adopted him when he was about 1 year old, and so we shared our lives together for 17 years and 1 week. Today I am 44 years old, which means I was only 27 when we brought him home. It's amazing to think of all the changes and events in our lives since then... with little Yummers by our side the whole time.

This picture was taken in the first few days after we first got Yummers. 
We were all three little babies!

Yummers was the first pet we got together, and it was so exciting. We were absolutely obsessed with him - looking for him the second we walked in the house and nearly assaulting him with snuggles. For years, we threw a big party every year to celebrate "Yummers Day" - with activities like making catnip toys, or coloring in drawings of Yummers. We stopped doing this when we realized that Yummers wasn't actually enjoying his own party. Ha ha. Many years later though, Yummers did come to enjoy parties - especially if there were about 8 people or so. If it was a big party, he would wait until lots of people had left, and the party was the right size for him. Then he would come out and socialize like the lord of the manor!

"the long distance snuggle"

When we first got Yummers, he was not interested in snuggles. He had an injured foot and came from the shelter with a kitty cold, and he was just plain meek and very afraid. It took us such a long time to win him over and to help him emerge from his shell. We were patient with him, and played with him, and even fed him little nibbles off our plates to win his good favor (it worked!). His first official "snuggle" was when he would sit within arm's reach near us on the sofa. We named this move "The long distance snuggle."

Yummers was always food motivated! 

When we adopted Yummers, the vet told Musty that "you could just leave food out for him to eat." About a week later, Musty suggested that I buy a new bag of cat food. "Already??" I asked. It turned out Yummers had happily plowed his way through a whole bag of kitty kibble in no time at all. And Mr. VE&T had never had a cat before, so he didn't know any better! ha ha. After that, we took to giving him smaller servings twice a day. 

We kept the container of extra food up on the mantle of our fireplace... until one night when we came home from a dinner date only to find that Yummers had - against all odds! - jumped up to the mantle (we could see the claw marks in the wood!) and knocked the container down, and distributed kibbles far and wide across the land. He was most delighted with his handiwork. 

A year or so later, Yummers  actually became quite athletic! His foot injury slowly healed and soon he was jumping over fences, climbing trees, hunting bugs and gophers in the garden (not vegan! sorry!), eating grass, and jumping up and down to his super tall kitty tower. 

in our magnolia tree... looking like such a youngster! 

My yoga buddy

Yummers was my faithful yoga buddy. He loved being out in the studio with me, especially since he was the only one allowed out there with me. It was a dog-free zone, and a special place for just Yummers and me. Some mornings I wouldn't really feel excited about practicing, but Yummers would be there, meowing and heading for the back door - guiding me like Lassie! 

Yummers' most favorite pose was baddha konasana. I had to do this every single time we did yoga together - he liked to climb into the space between my heels and my legs. Then he would purr and snuggle and soak up all the snugs he wanted. Sometimes I would have to do this several times in one practice session! 

Yummers had his own private entrance to the yoga room... up the little red stairs and through the window. In the summer, I would leave the window open for him to come and go as he pleased. He loved to sit on the stairs, or often half-inside the yoga room and half-outside - soaking up the joys of the great outdoors. 

Chatty Yummers

Yummers was a real talker! And he just loved to be sweet talked. He loved his name so much - one of our favorite games was to say his name to him in a super perky way, and then he would respond immediately with a hearty chirp!
Amey: "Yummers!"
Yummers: "Mrow!"
Amey: "Yummers!"
Yummers: "Mrow!"
It could go on like this for quite a while. He also loved if you just said his name over and over and over real fast "YummersYummersYummersYummersYummersYummers..." It would make him purr so loudly!

Acutally, this is pretty amazing, but Yummers was such a good communicator that he had a distinct meow for many different circumstances. We could tell the difference between when he was meowing just to say hi, asking to be fed, bossing Dottie around, about to throw up, angry, and so on. It was really incredible. But also, it was just fun because he always had something to say.

in his life time, Yummers had over one million nick names...
here are a few favorites off the top of my head:

YumBum // Little Baby Yummers // Yummino Acid // Osama bin Sweetie
Po-tay-to // Foo D. Nose // Potentate // Yummers Bummers
Yummers Yummers Monkey Summers // Snuggy Boy
 Little Lord Yummers // YummersYummersYummersYummers

"the cutie"

We had names for many of Yummers' cute moves. In 17 years of togetherness, Yummers never sat on our laps. He was not into that. But, he did love sleeping between my feet on the bed... and after several years, he decided to drape his little paws over my leg while he slept. I know this sounds crazy, but we were so excited that we freaked out and named this new move "the cutie." ha ha. It remained a favorite of his for the rest of his days - and in fact, he spent most of the last few months of his life in his favorite little kitty bed, with his paws draped over the edge, cutie-style. 

"the cutie" in action,
with added yawn power! 

Yummers wasn't into super physical contact, he didn't sleep on our laps or "make biscuits" on our laps... but what he lacked in physical affection, he more than made up for with emotional presence. The minute you walked in the back door, Yummers would be there, amid all the barking dogs, persistently meowing hello and angling for his own affection. If I was in the front room, within a few minutes, Yummers would be there too. If we were out in the backyard, Yummers would come out the backyard. He loved to be with us. He loved to swoop around between my ankles and snugged and smooshed. He loved to be picked up and snuggled any chance he could get. He was really in the mix, really a part of the gang.

Sunshine Appreciator

Yummers was a true lover of sunshine
He was also very handsome.

Yummers and I had a very special sunshine routine in the backyard. He just loved when I would sit outside out in the back, and especially when I would put down a towel to lie on. He would materialize out of nowhere, and lie next to me in the sun, basking in the warmth and companionship. But I was *not* allowed to pet him while he was sun bathing - or he would turn on me and bite me! 

In the house, Yummers had an astute and keenly programmed routine of sun chasing: on the bed in the early morning, in the dining area in the late morning, in the back yard around noon, and then either the futon or the foot of the bed for the late afternoon sun. I'm tellin' ya, he had a pretty good life. 

sunshine on the Most Desirable green chair

Yummers had such a beautiful belly - and happily, he loved to have his belly petted, smooshed, snuggled, wiggled, and I was even allowed to smoosh my face up against it pretty much whenever I wanted.

Yummers and I had such a special thing. I just felt like I understood him. Any little move he made, any little glance or nudge, any shift in behavior and I felt like I knew what he wanted. I just understood him and I never felt like he was a weirdo or a mystery to me. Also, sweet Yummers enjoyed the snuggles I liked to give him and he happily let me pet him the way I wanted to pet him! I know it sounds a little selfish, but I really loved this about him so much. 

left: the "two-paw salute"
right: the "one paw salute"

This was one of Yummers' most favorite moves: the salute! He loved to be held over one shoulder like this, and it was best if you supported one of my back legs, but let the other one hang down. Ha ha. He was so particular! When he was happy, he would extend one arm out into the air. When he was really, really happy he would extend both arms out! The two-arm salute! 


This doodle is a stand in for 3 important snuggles:
1. "Tube Hug"
2. "The Trap"
3. "The Hobby Horse"

1. The Tube Hug: Yummers loved to be slowly petted from his head to his kitty butt, with our hands wrapped all the way around his kitty girth.

2. The Trap: at some point Mr. VE&T realized that if you placed one hand on top of his back and one hand on his belly and start smooshing your fingers, Yummers would immediately surrender and lie down for more snuggles. Hoorah! Obviously, this was immediately named "the trap," for our reluctant little snuggler.

3. The Hobby Horse: Honestly, Mr VE&T deserves full credit for discovering so many of Yummers' favorite little moves. In the last few years, he discovered just how much Yummers loved to be gently wiggled. Especially if you put him on the end of the bed. It was a special little bond they shared!

Yummers was a feisty little fella in his youth - he loved to play with his toys and he would get this little cross-eyed and wild look. Sometimes, totally out of the blue, he would jump up and attack my head for no reason! Except he was so chubby that his fuzzy little chub belly would just hit me on the head. He wanted to be fierce, but he really wasn't. He was just a sweet little bub. Ha ha ha! 


You are not my friend
ha ha ha

This picture cracks me up. Yummers was not a fan of the dogs, but he adapted reluctantly. It's safe to say that he was the patriarch / dictator of our furry pack - a position he relished and enforced with an iron paw. Although he was able to tolerate the dogs (and they were all terrified of him), he absolutely was not able to tolerate poor Footie. Bringing Footie into our family was an act of betrayal that poor Yummers just could not abide, and he protested several times a day - mostly by continuously pestering Footie. It was a non-stop array of swats, minor aggressions, antagonism, kicking Footie out of his spot in the sun... only to follow him and kick him out the next spot... and the next spot. I'm convinced that this singular focus actually gave Yummers' life meaning and purpose in his final years.

The most interesting cat on the internet

What a beautiful picture of sweet Yummers Potatoes in his prime. 

Our veggie-loving sweet heart 

Of course one of the things that we all knew and loved about Yummers was his voracious and completely self-driven love of vegetables. What a nut! He loved pretty much all vegetables but his top 4 were definitely corn, asparagus, broccoli and green beans. Beyond that, all green veggies (kale, chard, spinach, peas, etc) were also preferred. Not to mention chips, crackers, rice cakes, popcorn, tortilla chips, and on and on. None of the other pets were ever allowed to have human food, so Yummers also enjoyed his very special privilege while the others looked on longingly. Ha ha. He really was quite imperial! 

A typical lunch experience:
me, attempting to eat my lunch in the sunny back yard, Yummers aggressively angling for his share of my veggies, Stevie looking on with eternal optimism! Yummers almost always managed to get a few nibbles from me. How could I resist?

Yummers'  "FEED ME!" face!
ha ha ha. I just love this picture so much, and I will always be grateful for it.
It really captures something so essential about him! Bossy and spunky and hungry!
Our friend Kendra took this picture when she was housesitting for us. Thanks Kendra.

Last but not least, three videos of Yummers eating his veggies with zeal and vigor! 

Yummers Eats His Broccoli

Yummers Eats His Corn
(I couldn't get the video to load correctly)

Yummers Eats His Asparagus

A few days after Yummers died, I went to the farmers' market only to find that the asparagus ladies were there for the first time this season. Of course they asked about him, because I was always buying more asparagus for him. I bought asparagus that day, but it took me several days to actually eat it because it kept making me cry. I know I'll never eat asparagus again and not remember my sweet Yummers Potatoes. 

In his last two days, he ate almost nothing... two nibbles of Tofurkey slices, and two tips of steamed asparagus. I love that he got his favorite veggie in his final days... he didn't have much appetite, but he could certainly rally for some delicious asparagus.  Rest in Peace, little veggie-lover.

my sweet little guy