Monday, November 30, 2009

Keen Madrid Ballerina Shoes, the Ultimate Travel Shoe

Going somewhere warm this winter? Keen's Madrid Ballerina shoes are the perfect shoe for traveling. You can slip them right off to go through security at the airport and they're lightweight enough for the suitcase. Most importantly--they are very comfortable. I am not one for flats with thin soles--I like a lot of shock absorption in my shoes and want the option of being on my feet all day comfortably, especially while traveling. This cute little shoe fits the bill while still looking feminine. You can wear them sightseeing all day and go right into night with a dress or skirt.

Keen shoes last forever--I have a pair of six year old Keen boots that are still my winter staple. Sizing can be tricky, I always size up a half size with Keen from an 8.5 and it's a perfect fit for me, but I have heard others say they are true to size. If possible, it might be a good idea to try them on first or order from an online store like Zappos which makes exchange super easy and fast.

They would look adorable with a pair of yoga pants and would work well in a business casual office environment...the options are endless. Cluttered closets are no fun, so I really appreciate a multifunctional shoe. They are vegan friendly, come in several different colors, and are cuter in person than in the photo. I can't say enough good things about this shoe, whether you are traveling or reside in a warmer climate, check them out. They are the shoe equivalent to the little black dress.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Whole World Botanicals Royal Maca

Maca is a cruciferous root vegetable which grows in the high altitudes and harsh conditions of the Peruvian Andes. It's enjoyed by the locals as a food and is prized as a nutrient dense botanical beneficial to reproductive health among other things. I personally like Maca root for its butterscotchy flavor and energy boosting qualities and have used it successfully to quit coffee.

You can use Maca in a variety of ways such as adding it to baked goods, sprinkling on oatmeal, or putting it in smoothies. If you don't care for the taste but want the health benefits, you can take it in capsule form (always check with your doctor first).

Whole World Botanicals is an environmentally and socially responsible company with a fascinating backstory. Created by American anthropologist Dr. Viana Muller and Peruvian Elena Rojas-Martinez to "to serve people who have been disconnected from the land and its healing plants by making available the purest, most potent, organic and wildcrafted herbs, grown and used by people with strong roots in their native soil and culture," they offer a line of noteworthy Peruvian botanicals.

Whole World Botanicals' Royal Maca differs from another Maca I've tried in that it is cooked. I can't really tell the difference, I like them both, but it might interest some to know that this is the traditional form in which it's used. Dr. Muller explains that this is how the locals use Maca, noting that she has never seen a peruvian use raw Maca.

Dr. Muller is a true pioneer. How many women do you know that go into the Amazon region to help out with the harvesting of herbs for their own botanical company? It all started during a research trip twenty years ago, when Muller discovered Cat's Claw in the Peruvian rain forest. That was the beginning of her journey into Peruvian botanicals. In 1994 she discovered Maca, and spent the following two years researching it.

Eventually, she teamed up with Rojas-Martinez, a Peruvian midwife with a family history of herbal knowledge and healing, and the two created Whole World Botanicals. I have great admiration for what these women have been able to accomplish and love to support companies that are a positive force in the world. You can check them out HERE.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Buy Nothing Day and Conscious Consumerism

I love a good deal as much as the next person, but there is nothing that could convince me to go out for any Black Weekend deals. Nothing. Just the thought of going to a mall ignites my fight or flight reflexes. Particularly during potential stampedes.

The Adbusters Buy Nothing Day campaign, though not for everyone, is a refreshing antidote to that frenzy known as Black Friday. You can participate by not participating, they say, through November 28.

Hopefully, the campaign will encourage us to think about how we are spending. We are going to consume, but what if we get as green and mindful as we can about it? There are more and more eco friendly options out there now and the less-is-more sentiment seems to be gaining ground.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

And a piece of Vegan Pumpkin Cheesecake...

We have been feasting big time today on steamed broccoli, brussels sprouts, acorn squash, whole grain stuffing with miso gravy and salad. It was soooo good. Too good! For dessert I made this double layer pumpkin cheesecake, modified from THIS recipe. Vegan food is so yummy, it's hard to believe people eat otherwise.

I'm so thankful to live in a place where fresh organic food is readily available, and that I have a sweet little munchkin to cook for. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

eeBoo's I Never Forget a Face Travel Game

Doing any traveling with the kids over the holidays? Eeboo's I Never Forget a Face Travel Memory Game is perfect for plane rides or time in a hotel room or train. It's about 4"x 4" and would tuck nicely into a backpack for those moments when things can get hairy. I heard a great travel tip once--pack a few small new toys your kids have never seen and pull them out sporadically throughout the trip. Brilliant.

I Never Forget a Face is a Concentration-style memory game that embraces different cultures. The tiles are depictions of children dressed in traditional clothing from various countries. Kids love to look at pictures of other children and it's a great way to begin conversations about various cultures and travel adventures. It's well made and durable and the artwork is colorful and appealing. Great for the budding world traveler.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


I've been looking forward to this book since I realized it was coming out. Moskowitz and Romero are the authors of two of my favorite cookbooks, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World, and Veganomicon, and I've come to rely on them for sure-thing recipes. Cookies are my choice indulgence so I'm thrilled to have Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar.

I just got it, so I haven't had time to try all of the recipes yet but I can vouch big time for the Peanut Butter Chocolate Pillows--dramatic presentation and yummy! I can't wait to try the Key Lime Cookies, Lazy Samoas, and Chocolate Chip Biscotti. This is perfect timing for the holidays! There's nothing like a nice assortment of cookies on the table for parties and desserts.

The recipes are straightforward and the tone is entertaining. There is a warmth and sense of humor that pervades. I love the way they understand their readers and can anticipate little tidbits we need to know like how and when to make substitutions and cookie troubleshooting. They have a gluten free flour mix for those who need that option and a primer on ingredients.

This book has lots of fab photos and is the sister book to their cupcake book--same format. It's funky and fun and would make an awesome holiday gift for vegans and non-vegans alike. Highly recommended for every kitchen!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Help Put an End to BPA--sign Petition

Mom's Rising and CREDO Action have teamed up to get BPA out of our lives once and for all. The FDA is reviewing BPA restrictions as I speak. Next week they will announce their new recommendations, so it's important we speak out now.

BPA is heavily linked to infertilty and a host of other health issues including cancer. It has no business in our food supply and we are swimming in it! Let's get it banned! It takes about two seconds to sign the petition, you can do that HERE.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Affordable Crate and Barrel RECLAIM recycled glass tumblers

Check out these inexpensive recycled glass tumblers from Crate and Barrel. Sleek and big (20 oz.) and only 8.95 for a box of four. Great if you need those extra glasses for the holidays or for every day. They come in a gift worthy recycled cardboard box and are available in a smaller size as well.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Cozy Vegan Faux Shearling Boots by Nino Puccioni

I have wanted a pair of UGG-type boots for a long time. But I don't want to support the leather industry so I've held off. When I came across these fab faux shearling boots, I thought, finally! I'm very pleased to see some vegan options out there.

These Nino Puccioni boots look like just like Uggs, but are man made and vegan friendly. They are much lighter weight and not as warm--I would not choose these for really cold (or wet) weather. But for more moderate Fall-Winter weather, I think they're great. They'd also work well for travel because they're so light, think slip-off boots for the airport or something lightweight to pack. Having said that, the sole is thin, so probably not the best for walking all day and keeping the tootsies comfortable unless you're used to that.

As for the fit, they are cozy and comfy, but tend to slip in the heel on me, so I've now tried wearing them with thicker socks and that helps. I think one of those insert things might work too. Sizing runs slightly small--if you plan to wear socks, you're supposed to size up a half size, but if you are wearing them without socks, you get your true size or size down a half size. Check them out HERE.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thai Inspired Butternut Squash Soup

Thai food is my go-to comfort food, and this time of year, so is soup. Enter this improvised Thai inspired butternut squash soup. It's warming, satisfying, and filled with immune boosting ingredients to help you fight or avoid a winter cold. Serve it up with some brown Jasmine or Basmati rice and garnish with cilantro.

Here's a very loose recipe--adjust amounts according to taste:
--butternut squash (baked for about 1.5 hrs first, then take meat out)
--garlic clove, minced
--vegetable stock
--coconut milk
--finely chopped lemongrass
--Thai basil
--lime leaf finely chopped(optional--sometimes very hard to find)
--galangal root (like the lime leaf, easy to find at Asian markets. Ginger works okay too)
--spoonful red curry paste (I like a brand called Maes which is vegan. Again, at the Asian market)

Place ingredients in pot, blend with hand blender (or you can do it in your regular blender, but be careful not to fill it too full or you'll get really hot splatters!) and let cook on low heat 20-30 minutes. You can add tofu, vegetables, whatever you want!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Bubble and Bee Fabulous Organic Coconut Lime Lotion Stick

Anyone who reads this blog knows I have a thing for coconut. Bubble and Bee's Organic Coconut Lime Lotion Stick is the jackpot for me as it works wonderfully on my face and lips as well as hands. You know how winter winds can make your lips and face dry? Keep this stick in your coat pocket and just pull it out for a quick soothing touch up on the go.

The flavor is fabulous and it stays on for a long time. I've tried the coconut lime lip balm which I would also recommend, but I actually find myself reaching for this lotion stick more. I love a multifunctional product that is safe, affordable and portable. The logo is fun and cheeky--great for gift giving (think stockings at Christmas). Check out Bubble and Bee for something refreshing in body care!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Plan Toys Terrace Dollhouse

Did you have a dollhouse as a kid? I remember mine. It was all I wanted for my third year Christmas and it was one of those Fisher Price houses with the little peg people. I loved it. They didn't have Plan Toys back then, but I would have gone crazy for the Terrace Dollhouse.

First off, Plan Toys is an environmentally responsible company that practices the reduce-reuse-recycle principle. Their toys are completely non-toxic and made to last. Well made of eco friendly rubber wood, this house can be passed down through your family for generations. Heirloom toys are a way to feel connected and also keep the waste down. The few times I got toys passed on to me they became my favorites.

It comes unassembled but is easy to put together. The terrace is a nice place to put a little garden or patio while the attic might make a fun playroom. Kids love to rearrange furniture (sold separately) which helps them build their decision making faculties. What I love about a toy like this is it propels the child into the world of imagination. There's no corporate undertone--the house, matching people and furniture are simple enough for children to elaborate on their own.

Traditionally, we might think of a dollhouse as a toy for girls. However, boys love them too. My son incorporates his jeep and fire truck into the dollhouse scenario and it works really well. Also, this house is very gender neutral in both color and style. If your son has a dollhouse, when he has play dates with girls, they will be thrilled to see it and it makes a nice activity for two children to play with together. My son has little wooden animals that have become members of the household as well.

I can't say enough good things about Plan Toys. Check out their variety of houses, furniture, and people at Maukilo where you can find more classic toys and eco friendly brands like HaBa and Green Toys.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Health Benefits of BROCCOLI

Broccoli is my favorite vegetable, and one of my favorite foods. I can't go more than a couple days without it actually. Steamed with Earth Balance, lemon and salt & pepper is my favorite way to enjoy broccoli, that, and in red curries. I like to eat the florets and juice the stalks. Broccoli is Queen of our fridge (black Kale is King). It's a member of the cabbage family, originated in Italy, and the name derives from it's Italian name, broccolo, meaning cabbage sprout.

If broccoli was junk food I would still eat it. Luckily, it's considered a superfood because it's loaded with good stuff. Folate, Vitamin C, potassium and cancer preventing phytonutrients. It's great for detoxifying cells, helps repair sundamaged skin, promotes cardiovascular health, eye health and boosts the immune system. Broccoli sprouts are even more beneficial than the vegetable.

Though it's available year round, broccoli is in season from October through April. Right now the broccoli I've been getting is delicious. Look for firm, dark green organic bunches.

Friday, November 13, 2009

I Am Grateful

With Thanksgiving around the corner, I couldn't resist this apt title. I AM GRATEFUL: Recipes and Lifestyle of Cafe Gratitude is a collection of recipes (and philosophy) from San Fransisco's raw foods restaurant, Cafe Gratitude.

Author Terces Engelhart takes you through her journey to a healthier lifestyle and ultimately into the world of raw foods and opening her own restaurant with her partner Matthew. She is very open about her struggles with disordered eating, and it's inspiring to hear about her transformation.

The recipes require the basic equipment; food processor blender, and dehydrator, and the only food I'm not familiar with is Irish Moss, which is a seaweed used for thickening and texture. I'm not put off by unusual ingredients at all, but it might be hard to find for some. There are color photos throughout the book and positive affirmations are the titles of each recipe, such as I Am Energetic, I Am Grateful, etc.

I'm particularly excited to try the flat bread and cracker recipes, and the Strawberry Shortcake looks amazing--as soon as strawberries are in season again, I'm all over it. There is also a pumpkin pie recipe that might find its way into my Thanksgiving feast. I love the inclusion of juice pulp on many of the recipes--what a great way to minimize waste while maximizing nutrition.

I think this would make a refreshing hostess gift if you are going to someone's house for the Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Jonathan's Wild Cherry Wood Lazy Spoon

Here's a twist on the traditional wooden spoon. Jonathan Wild Cherry Spoons are hand crafted of eco friendly FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified cherry wood and are completely non toxic. They have a little notch to rest the spoon on the side of your pot, keeping drips off the stovetop. The spoon is velvety smooth and lends itself beautifully to the wood's natural grain.

The spoons evolved from a happy accident one day at work when Jonathan forgot his lunch utensils and carved a spoon on the spot. One thing led to another, and today Rachel Ray uses his spoons on her show. With cooking season upon us, maybe you'd like to treat yourself or someone you love to one of these hand made spoons. You can find them HERE.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Laughing Giraffe Yummy Raw Granola for the Holidays

Laughing Giraffe is a small family run business with a mission to provide healthy food that is "nutrient dense and minimally processed." Their snacks are raw, vegan, organic, and gluten free. I love their concept to scale down food production and create a more mom and pop vibe in a world of mass production and corporations.

They have a variety of options on their website, but my pick (and the only one I've tried so far) is the Cranberry Orange Cacao Granola for the holidays. Put a bowl of this out for your guests and you have a healthy gluten free vegan option. I kept this in my backpack for over a week and both myself and my four year old had high quality fuel on the go. As for the taste--it's great! I love the flavor combination and would never guess it's raw--I did a double take with the package after my first bite.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Why make your Holiday meals Vegan? Author Jonathan Safran Foer discusses veganism on the Ellen show.

Why go vegan for the holidays? Or at all? Author Jonathan Safran Foer makes a great argument for veganism on the Ellen show. Jonathan poses an interesting question about tradition and gratitude--what does turkey have to do with it?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Emile Henry Braiser: Eco Friendly Holiday Cookware

Thanksgiving is coming--and Christmas--and New Years--and big dinners are part of the festivities. Eco friendly cookware that can go from the oven to the table and look great is invaluable, especially if, like me, you have limited storage space. Enter the Emile Henry Braiser.

This brasier is perfect for braising greens, roasting vegetables, baking casseroles, and desserts like cobbler or apple crisps. You can saute onions right in the pan, then add the rest of your ingredients, pop it in the oven, and look beautiful on the table. When you go to clean it, baked on food comes right off--no need for noxious non-stick. If you need to take a dish to a family member or friend's house, this would be a handy thing to have as you can prep your food, store it, and make a nice presentation at your destination.

My standard (extremely easy) crowd pleaser: vertically sliced red potatoes and sweet potatoes, carrots also sliced vertically, sliced onions, olive oil, salt and pepper roasted for about 45 minutes. So simple and so delicious! You can use any combination of root vegetables including beets and parsnips.

Raised dots on the inside of the lid evenly distribute evaporated juices back down into the food so that it is cooked more evenly and infused with flavor. It is made to go from freezer to oven to table to dishwasher. I love the big handles on the lid and sides. This is my first experience with this kind of cookware, and I am very impressed. The ceramic is way easier to clean than stainless--I have a great Cuisinart braiser that I don't want to use anymore now that I have this. Find it HERE.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Wicked Plants by Amy Stewart

Wicked Plants, by Amy Stewart, is an informative, sexy book with a wicked sense of humor. Tales of espionage, murder, and the unexpected dangers of house plants are found inside this mysterious book. In fact, it's pretty amazing just how many nefarious plants are within close range. "I confess that I am enchanted by the plant kingdom's criminal element," says Stewart, "I love a good villain... There is something beguiling about sharing their dark little secrets. And these secrets don't just lurk in a remote jungle. They're in our own backyards."

Indeed, Stewart keeps her own poison garden! She understands the macabre allure of plants like Hemlock, and Opium, and reveals the dark side of common plants like Castor Bean and Philodendron. Did you know that lilies are lethal to cats? That the cashew tree contains oils which induce a poison ivy-like reaction?

Copper plate etchings grace the aged-looking pages giving it an eerily elegant look. I actually can't believe this book isn't much more expensive based on its artful presentation alone. You just don't see books like this at all--maybe antiques, but nothing current.

I highly recommend Wicked Plants for yourself and for gifts. Christmas is coming and I think this would be awesome not just for the garden geeks on your list, but history lovers and anyone who appreciates good writing, good humor, and a little danger.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Blu Dot's Real Good Experiment celebrates Curb Mining

This is great. Soho's Blu Dot is doing an artful experiment called the Real Good Experiment. Having noticed a strong curb mining culture in their neighborhood, they decided to take it a step further and deposit Real Good chairs throughout the city. The idea is to follow the chairs and see who gets them, what their new homes are like, etc. This makes for an interesting adventure, beautiful photos and brilliant marketing--got my attention!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Take a Chill Pill.

Are the fast approaching holidays causing your stress levels to rise? I love love Love holidays, but sometimes feel overwhelmed. Chill Pill, from Aura Cacia, is a great antidote to those stressful moments like dealing with difficult family members or thinking you'll never get everything done. I've been putting a few drops in this plug-in diffuser and it fills the room with the soothing, comforting smell of an herbal blend meant to take the edge off. I like it right before bedtime--it just helps to calm things down.

I'm not a fan of fragrance At All--unless it comes from the plant. Synthetic perfumes and fragrances contain phlalates and chemicals that trigger migraines, asthma attacks, nausea, and all sorts of symptoms in people. Essential oils are extracted from the plant--they smell good and are tolerated by most people who can't handle the fakey stuff. I've tried several Aura Cacia oils and really like their products--it's an inexpensive, healthy way to change your mood and create a tranquil atmosphere. Find it at a discount HERE.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Day of the Dead Spread

Here's our Day of the Dead spread--most of it. A lot more was added as more people arrived and you can't see the full ofrenda (there's an arch that goes around the table with lights and ornaments) but this gives you an idea.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Happy Dia De Los Muertos!

Happy Day of the Dead! This is Papel Picado, and it's all over our house. It's a beautiful and inexpensive way to create a festive atmosphere for holidays. Today we will remember and celebrate those we love who have passed on. At the same time, we take this as a time to appreciate our lives in this moment. I find this holiday to be immensely comforting and exciting--hope you enjoy yours.

image credit:

Sunday, November 1, 2009

How to make Dia De Los Muertos Ofrenda

Today we are building our ofrenda (Mexican altar) for Dia De Los Muertos. Day of the Dead is celebrated today and tomorrow and is one of my favorite holidays. We build an altar using our table covered with a bold floral tablecloth, window sills (great for candles), and branches we found outside covered with lights and mexican ornaments. You can use boxes with tablecloths to create depth and dimension. Marigolds are used traditionally, as the smell is said to attract the dead and show them the way.

Once you get your altar up, you can add candles to help light the way for the dead. Then you place foods and items your loved ones enjoyed before they passed on. I like lots of color and candlelight. Place photographs of loved ones on the altar and anything else you think is appropriate.

We do a small vegan Mexican inspired feast consisting of black beans, guacamole, salsa, and chips. I have ambitions to veganize Bread of the Dead (Pan de Muerto) but haven't carried them through yet, same thing for the sugar skulls. This year the plan is to add Mexican wedding cookies to our feast where there will be fruit for my grandmother and oreos for my dad.

I am not a religious person, but I love Dia de los Muertos. I love the idea of celebrating those that we miss and embracing life in this moment. My son gets a big kick out of hearing stories about his relatives he never got to meet and it just makes me feel better about life to have this holiday to look forward to every year.

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