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
2000-2018

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! 


#crossedpaws


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! 


derp! 


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

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Nowruz Mobarak! Happy Persian New Year!

One of my most favorite holidays of the whole year! 
Persian New Year! Happy New Year! 


This year, Nowruz was officially at 9:15 am on Tuesday... but Tuesday is just not a very festive night. Plus, I was out of town over the weekend for a very special memorial service and wanted a few more days to prepare for our festivities. So we celebrated on Friday night - much more fun! 

For the last many years my beloved friend Sophia has come over and spent all day cooking with me for Nowruz. Sophia and I are a great team in the kitchen, and so over the years, my Nowruz visions have become more and more ambitious. But last fall Sophia got a great job in NYC (yay for her!) and so this year I was alone in the kitchen. So, I made a plan that wasn't too over-the-top, and got started organizing my plan.




One thing about this beautiful holiday: there is a lot of chopping involved. Two days before my party, I used my food processor to mince about 3 bunches of parsley, 3 bunches of cilantro, 3 bunches of scallions, 1 leek, and 2 bunches of dill. Holy chopping, Batman! On Friday morning, the first thing I did was get to work with slicing the onions. I love the look of all these finely sliced onions on the cutting board. 



I made a batch of the Cashew Chevre from Artisan Vegan Cheese and made two cheese logs. I absolutely love this recipe so much. It's so delicious and tangy and perfect. I rolled them each in minced fresh mint, parsley, and chopped walnuts. 

I wasn't quite ready when my guests arrived (oops!), so my friends helped me arrange two cheese platters - with cheese, fresh herbs, dates, radishes, and olives. That's what friends are for! 


Stevie kept me company all day while I was cooking. What a sweet girl.

The day before the party, I got started with some Barbari Bread (Nan-e Barbari) ... mixed it and let it do the first rise. Then I tucked it away in the fridge so that I could bake it fresh on the day of the party. After years of trying different recipes, last year I found this recipe from King Arthur, and it is really fantastic! Highly recommended! I topped the bread with nigella seeds, sesame seeds, and a tiny bit of coarse salt. 



I sliced the bread up to go along with the cheese plate - you can see what a nice crumb I got! I was so happy with how well it turned out... and it was a big hit at the party. Now that I have a whole bag of bread flour in my pantry, I may as well make it again! 


Shirazi Salad

Every year I make a huge bowl of Shirazi Salad - Persian cucumbers (I love the organic ones from Trader Joe's!), cherry tomatoes, red onion, olives, and a handful of fresh herbs (mint, parsley, and dill). I made a quick dressing with olive oil, pomegranate paste, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper. I always love to have a big fresh salad with a festive dinner.



Aash e Reshteh - This wonderful soup is a Nowruz essential. It's authentically vegan (as long as you use veggie broth) and absolutely delicious: onions, garlic, three kinds of beans, lentils, beets, turmeric, mint, piles of fresh herbs, and noodles. It is rich and fresh all at once, bursting with an array of flavors and textures. I used gluten-free noodles so that my beloved gf guest could have some too. They worked perfectly, of course! 

Last year I went to Marshall's and bought a selection of small bowls just for my annual Nowruz party. The rest of the year I just keep them in a drawer in my kitchen, because I don't generally need 15 small bowls sitting around! But they are so great for serving small bowls of Aash to everyone and I was glad that I remembered them! ha ha. 


Kuku Sabzi

Traditionally Kuku Sabzi is an omelette full of fresh herbs, walnuts, and barberries - but I've veganized it with a vegan omelette recipe from Isa Does It and then Persianized that recipe! ha ha. You can find my vegan recipe here in last year's NoRooz post. Oh my gosh, you guys. This recipe is so good. You really should make it now. I always make a double batch and this is pretty much always the most popular dish at the party.

For several years I've made Kuku Sabzi as mini muffin omelettes, which makes great little serving sizes... but also means you have to carefully coerce each one out of the muffin tin. Traditionally, this dish is served more like a giant frittata, and Sophia encouraged me to try it like this. So I poured a bunch of batter into my cast iron pan and popped it in the oven. It took FOREVER to cook, which wasn't ideal, and my cast iron is not as non-stick as I wish it were, so it was also really hard to get out. So, I made the second batch in the muffin tins. I'm going to play around with this though, because I like the idea of figuring out how to serve it as a beautiful fritatta. Challenge accepted! Also, maybe some of you have a tip for me? 


Sabzi Polow

Sabzi Polow is an important part of the Nowruz feast. Preparing Persian rice is unlike any other rice-making process. The rice is thoroughly rinsed (to remove starch), briefly parboiled (to soften the rice), and then pressed into a pan and cooked on a low temperature for about 35-45 minutes (with no water!). You can find my recipe for Sabzi Polow in last year's Nowruz post. 

This year I sliced up a leek (the white part) and sauteed it until it was nicely softened and browned and added it to the herbs in the rice. Since the rice isn't cooked with water, beyond the brief parboiling, the result is so beautiful - the rice is moist, but never sticky or mushy, and with the help of some oil in the base of the pan, a wonderful crispy golden crust is formed on the rice. This crust is very special and even has its own name - tahdig. 

For several years I had a reliable and beloved pot just for my annual sabzi polow... it had a non-stick interior, which was great for getting a golden crust, but last year the coating started to peel a bit. Which is no good! So this year I had to run out and find a new pot - after much searching for just the right pot, I found a good one with a ceramic coating on the inside. I was so happy to get a beautiful golden tahdig on my first run with this new pot. A new friend! 



Khorest Fesenjan with Soy Curls

Khorest Fesenjan is a traditional Persian dish that is made with meat... but I veganized it with soy curls! It's a special recipe and so unlike any other dish I know of - "meat," onions, garlic, pomegranate juice, and walnuts. Such an interesting combination of sweet and savory! I hadn't made Fesenjan for years (eleven years ago, according to my blog posts!). I used my own old recipe (find it here), but instead of using seitan, I used soy curls. I rehydrated the soy curls in some broth, and then squeezed them out, and browned them for a while in my cast iron pot. I love soy curls, but I especially like them when they are well-browned and have a bit of chew to them. Then I put them aside for a bit, browned the onions, and added the soy curls back in... and proceeded with the recipe. I also reduced the sugar, and reduced the walnuts to 1/2 lb. Even my Persian friend who isn't usually a fesenjan fan loved it! 


fun and special drinks! 

I made two easy and special drinks: Pomegranate Limeade and Mint Lemonade. The Lemonade is a recipe from Madhur Jaffrey's wonderful World Vegetarian cookbook - hot simple syrup is poured over minced fresh mint and left to steep... before being added to fizzy water. I made it more mellow, because I don't like it when fruity drinks are super sugary or over bearing... but you can obviously make it anyway you like. And for the pomegranate fizzy, I added simple syrup, fresh pomegranate juice from the farmers market, and lime juice from our garden with a bunch of fizzy water. 


Tut

Toot Toot! Who loves tut? I do! Tuts are rosewater marzipan candies, rolled in sugar. They are so easy to make and they're super delicious. "Tut" means "mulberries" because they are supposed to look like little white mulberries, complete with a little pistachio sliver for a stem. They are so cute! 

I use this recipe from My Persian Kitchen - but I had to add extra almond flour and powdered sugar to get the mixture to become cohesive enough and not to be sticky. I used the picture of what the mixture should look like as a guide and then it worked perfectly. This is such a special treat, such elegant and sophisticated flavors. I really recommend this recipe! 


cutting out chickpea cookies ...
such a pretty pattern!


My Persian Dessert Platter!

I accidentally made a boatload of desserts - I ended up with two huge dessert platters and lots of leftover treats too. Ha ha ha. I sure do know how to overdo it! 

I made four Persian treats this year:
Chickpea Cookies / Nan-e Nokhodchi (recipe from Zozo Baking) - these cookies are a Nowruz classic! I love the flavor of them so much. I feel like mine always spread a bit, but when you see them in the store they haven't spread at all! Maybe because I'm using margarine instead of butter? Maybe I will try freezing the batter &/or reducing the butter a bit next time. Either way, the flavor is on point! 

Sohan As-Ali (find my recipe here) - my family and I all love love love these amazing Persian almond brittles made with saffron and rosewater and sprinkled with pistachios on top. THEY ARE SO GOOD. As you may know, candy making can be a little nerve-wracking, and this year my sohan came together without too much drama, which was much appreciated! 

Masghati / Persian Rose Water, Cardamom Pudding with Almonds and Pistachios (recipe from Turmeric & Saffron) - oh man, I love this recipe so much. I made these a few years ago, and remembered them so fondly. It's a lot like turkish delight - with a nice chew, and it's full of nuts and rosewater, and not at all too sweet. It's mostly cornstarch and water! So crazy! The only thing is, this recipe made SO MUCH. Note to self: next time make a quarter batch! 

Tut - see above! You already read all about these! 



Longtime readers will know that my dad's birthday is the day after Nowruz, so I always like to make my dad a special bday treat and we all sing him "happy birthday". So fun. This year I decided to make my dad a daffodil-inspired cake because daffodils are his very favorite flower. So, I used the recipe for Meyer Lemon Bundt Cakes from The Millenium Cookbook and made a small 2-layer lemon cake with lemon buttercream in daffodil colors. It was really delicious! Of course I decorated it with a shooting star just for my astro-dad! (my dad is an astronomer).  Happy birthday Dad! 

We had such a wonderful evening together with my family and with many special friends. Even though I didn't grow up celebrating Nowruz, this holiday is so near to my heart and I really love that it has become such a tradition with my family and with a special group of friends. Sometimes it feels a little lonely to have a special holiday that most of society isn't aware of and doesn't celebrate - but once the doorbell rings and people start streaming in the front door, it's just amazing! How great to have a group of loving enthusiasts who are excited to celebrate with me! 


Happy Nowruz to all of you! 
Here's to the return of Spring, a spirit of renewal, and fresh energy and growth!