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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

To The Curb!

2014 that is.... kicking it to the curb in just a few hours. No looking back, like it or not, another year done, with a bright shiny new year barreling through.

My year in review isn't worth reviewing really. I won't bore you with a long jazzy post. Things here were pretty good, the animals are pretty healthy (more to come on that in a few days), and our family grew by 1 this year with the arrival of Princess Glitter FancyPants back in March. I think of all things that happened this year, that was probably in the top 2 of life changing events. It's not just because of her circumstances (someone threw her away, just threw her away like garbage out here on Long Beach), but more because of how her arrival has stirred in me the "no holds barred" feeling I have more than ever when it comes to advocating for animals. We open our home to people, that's our business sure it is, but animals come before even ourselves here.

Princess Glitter FancyPants is not a throwaway. No animal is a throwaway. Every animal is precious, every animal feels pain, joy, grief, and love. When I look at Princess I see in her everything that is wrong with humanity, in general in our callous nature, our disregard for others, and our casual outlook on animals being nothing. But, when I look at Princess I see in her everything that is right with humanity by considering that she has now has a home that probably is among the best for her in the Universe....she has love, shelter, medical care and joy in her life. She has created so much love within others as they follow her on line, and so much unity in so many people as well.

It's the give and take I have such trouble with in the world, that push/pull. Why push, why pull. How about just living with compassion, no more push/pull. No more arguing, no more violence, no more stupid bacon jokes, no more ego.

I have no idea what the upcoming year has in store for me or anyone else. Regardless, I have hope. I have hope for a good year, a hope for a compassionate future for the world, and finally a hope that all animals will get the justice and life they truly deserve in this world.

Happy Vegan New Year.

Princess, before she was Princess.
Photographed when I found her, before she rescued me.



Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas, if that's your thing

I haven't been around the blog much lately, apologies for that. The business went back into our busy season, I launched my vegan baking on line and you know just life in general.

Today is Christmas Day, although as I write the day is almost over. This is not a holiday I celebrate any more, although in the past I certainly did, and at various times in my life I embraced this day wholeheartedly.

Things change.

Last night I spent a while setting up my circle and altar for a little ceremony I like to do every Christmas Eve. This is a time of year when I have suffered great loss. When you lose someone you love around any holiday, it seems to amplify that loss. The passage of time doesn't do much to ease any losses for me. I've taken to doing a remembrance ceremony on the Eve of Christmas because it's a night that used to be filled with fun and laughter. I have great memories, and I want to honor those memories. So now I spend my day gathering herbs, rocks, flags, incense, crystals, candles and other objects, along with a list of names. Last night I set up on the enclosed porch because the forecast was not good. Indeed we got heavy rains last night.

Peri parked himself in the middle of things last night.
He is a masterpiece.
I did my best not to end up in a constant pity party of sadness this season. Three times we went into town (Key West and Marathon) with our best holiday spirit put forward and did random acts of kindness of various degrees. The first effort didn't go so well, we were both disheartened, but thank goodness we got back on the effort and took 2 more cracks at that... well worth the effort. The cure for any personal sadness I tend to have is to do something nice for others.

Mission accomplished.

On the food front, I baked thousands of cookies this season. My website went live a couple weeks before Christmas, and it's still a work in progress. I did it myself, things didn't go as planned with the host I planned to design the site, so for now it will do. I did a holiday fair as well, and that went great, but not as planned either. My display was designed for outside, but it was too warm. I was moved inside, which meant my positivity buoy display didn't get set up, and unfortunately my entire display case bit the dust when my table collapsed during set up. Yes I was upset, but no use crying over spilled soy milk. I was lucky I hadn't yet filled the case with my products, so I'll take that as the silver lining. No plans to do any more off site vendor events for a while, I learned my lesson. I did, however, sell lots of products, and raised a decent amount of money for charities with my art. I got back into my art, just a little bit. You might remember that I collect buoys and other trash off the beach during my beach cleaning seasons and recycle what I can into art. The buoys are a scourge on the planet. They are Styrofoam, which never really goes away. It just breaks apart into small pieces which means even more animals can eat that crap, suffer and die. To take them off the beach is a relief, although I cannot tell you how many pieces of foam I pick up on any given day ranging from larger chunks to the teensiest tiniest pieces you can imagine.

Our poor planet.

Some of my positivity buoys.
Buoys wash in as litter.
They're horrible. They're made of foam.
They break down into smaller pieces.
Animals eat them, get sick, suffer & die.
I retrieve them as I find them, clean them, and paint them
with positive sayings.
Then I sell them and give the money to animal charities.
I baked a lot this season, and there certainly is a learning curve in testing my limits. Typically if there's something I want, I get it by working for it, there are simply no limits to what I am capable of, basically I'm not doing brain surgery so I don't accept defeat. The baking tested my limits in more ways than one. It was a marathon not a sprint. I have no idea what the future will hold longer term for that part of my life, but at least for now I have a much better understanding of what I am capable of. I learned yes, I do have limits.

I speak with Pop relatively regularly. It's hard to talk on the phone with him, he has some difficulty hearing on the phone, but we get by. He is happy to be with family and so well cared for. He does, however, miss the Keys terribly. He tells me almost every time we speak that when he looks out the window from his new digs (it overlooks a courtyard) that what he sees is his fountain, Key deer, the ibis, and the Bight. One day he called the other happy vegan and asked him to blast the air horn on his golf cart. The other happy vegan was actually at his house at that moment, so he ran out to the cart, held up the phone and blasted a super long air horn "hello you rascal" on Pop's cart. Pop loved that so much.

We miss him.

I feel that 2015 will be a year of more change. Every year more and more things change, and I have to adapt. Change is not my thing, instead I'm a creature of habit. Oddly enough, I absolutely am at my best under pressure, but that's not to say I enjoy being under pressure. Just as I can say I am quite capable of adapting to circumstances, I don't particularly enjoy having to constantly shift gears and adapt.

It is what it is though.

The other happy vegan shot some video of the cats with their toys this morning. Unfortunately he's notorious for shooting videos for me, and not uploading them. Such is the case with the cats and their toys. You'll have to settle for a photo......

That's Lemon in the front, Luciana in the middle, and way back there
that's Princess Glitter FancyPants.

Peri, Agatha Rain and Pink Moon were busy destroying their toys
in a different spot.

Angel got a giant new toy. She hates new things, but she'll get used to it...
eventually.
Then she'll have fun with it.

Today I took things pretty easy. I made ravioli with arribiata sauce. I used the recipes out of Chloe's Italian Kitchen. Truth be told the dough recipe from the Vegg is the BEST pasta dough I've had, and I prefer working with that recipe. I am out of Vegg right now, so I went with Chloe's. Her cookbooks are really good, I think they're wonderful for people crossing over as new vegans. They typically require no special skill sets and no special ingredients. So, we had the ravioli, and I made her tiramisu. That was tasty as well, and the biggest bonus is the time to prepare is about 30 minutes compared to my own recipe which takes 3 days (yes THREE DAYS) to prepare from start to finish. I ate dough, sugar, and drank caffeine today, but all those leftovers go out the door to others tomorrow, this was a 1 day thing for both of us here.

I managed to keep a fairly routine workout schedule during the December madness, consider that a Christmas miracle perhaps. It's about prioritizing what really matters, and there's no putting off anymore that health and fitness comes first, thank goodness I've had a few decades of putting health and fitness first. The other happy vegan has come over to the health and fitness side of things over the last few months, and just as it was when he finally went vegan, this too has brought much more harmony into our lives. He is much more appreciative of my cooking efforts now, and I am much more thankful I no longer have to dodge the junk food in the pantry or freezer anymore. Being vegan is great, but be careful not to go down the slippery slope of a junk food vegan. 

It's also the time of year when I take stock of my accomplishments, my failures, and reformulate the next "to do" list for my life. I'm not alone in being contemplative at this time of year, I realize that. So, for those of you who ARE thinking "what comes next" how about this.... take it vegan. Yup, take it vegan!

Ok, this post isn't as prophetic as maybe some of my others, but the job is done, and I've filled the page for you. The month of December was fast and furious in my world, and this blog post is me at the end of my rope, without a knot at the end.

See you next time. Eventually!

Merry Merry if that's your thing.

xo

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy ThanksLiving

Organic raw vegan pumpkin pie
Organic raw vegan thick sweet cashew cream
NOM!
Happy ThanksLiving to each and every one of you observing this magnificent day! Here in the Keys we had a cool day full of blazing sunshine, and VERY brisk winds to clear the cobwebs from even the most hidden nook and cranny. The bay side was exceptionally windy and cool (right where I run), while the oceanside was calm and warm (perfect place to sit in a chair and have a beverage).

I had today "off" for the first time in ten years. I've been told that I'm "lucky," that I have the "most perfect" life, that I'm living the life some people want to live, and more. It startles me that people say those things, or think those things. Trust me, sacrifices have been made, there has been a price to pay, and it is not perfect. Despite the trade off  I'm right where I belong, doing what I should be doing. For now.

I thought about a lot of things today, but didn't do too much. I slept until 8am, caught up on newspapers from when I was gone, spent some time with the cats, and did some cleaning. I went for a run, made a couple phone calls, and took inventory of my kitchen to submit a bulk order to one of our suppliers later tonight.

Dinner was not quite an afterthought, but here it's just not a super decorated, big huge solid week of cooking, no not at all. I made an organic vegan (of course) raw pumpkin pie (from the Present Moment Cafe Cookbook, woot!) with my organic vegan sweet thick vanilla cashew cream. I tossed together a massaged kale salad, roasted some veggies, and plopped bagged organic vegan "dressing" into a pan with some olive oil and poof, instant dressing. I stirred up some organic vegan brown gravy, unwrapped a Field Roast en croute, roasted that, and then looked up a recipe for cranberry sauce. The magical PPK site again saved the day with their perfect 3-ingredient cranberry sauce.

Our table was simple, with a couple candles, and a beautiful piece of fossilized coral that Pop gave to me quite a while ago. I wanted something representing him on our table. When all was said and done, we two happy vegans sat down together, toasted with some (vegan) wine, and ate. Princess paced across the floor trying to figure out how to get onto the table, while Peri snoozed nearby.

My Facebook feed was littered with photos of carcasses and dead throughout the day, but on a bright spot, I know for a fact that there was more than 1 friend who specifically did not post photos of their dead things as a nod to my anguish. I have gratitude for that, although I'd be more thankful if they'd simply take it vegan, you know?

Essentially this was a perfect day here, whatever perfect is anymore. I had a pretty long list of things "to do," which did not get accomplished. Ask me if I care. No, I don't.

I have great abundance in my life, and yes it has come at a price. I have very few, if any, regrets, and for now that's a good place to be in. I hope that you had a blessed day no matter where you are, and whether you celebrate this American holiday. In this country, tomorrow is "Black Friday" which I do my best to avoid, and consider almost obscene. For me, tomorrow I work, I run, and I will again give thanks for the abundance in my life.

I hope you had a compassionate plate, and peace in your heart.




Wednesday, November 26, 2014

ROAD TRIP! POP!

So many of us are still adjusting to Pop having moved, including Pop himself. It seems like yesterday he was here, yet forever that he's moved. How's that all possible I have no idea, but it is what it is.

On relatively short notice, we had personal reasons to go up to mainland Florida. As long as we were headed up, we sort of figured, why not make a road trip to see Pop….. what's a few extra hundred miles between friends?

On a recent morning, I got up extra early and made a couple batches of muffins and some cookies for Pop, wrapped them individually (of course in my biodegradable compostable bags) for Pop's freezer, piled them into a large bakery box, then hastily tossed some mismatched semi-warm clothing into a case. Immediately after checkouts we headed up to the mainland for our personal business. After that was all said and done, Part B of the road trip began, off to see Pop.

Note: NO food was packed or prepared for ourselves on the road due to severe time constraints. This was unfortunate, and a VERY bad move.

After completing said personal business on the mainland, we got driving from Point A on the way to see Pop about 8:45pm that evening. Food was on our minds, as there had been VERY little of that for us the entire day. Being that it was so late, we could find nothing…. until we saw a Panera sign, YAY, or so we thought. Driving up to Panera at 9:06pm, the lock clicked on the door from the inside as they closed at 9pm. 

*#%@#(*

The road trip continued. Still no food.

We drove looking for anything open, anything at all, with no luck. Finally, we found a Winn Dixie. With 5 minutes to spare before they closed at 10pm we burst into the store like mad demons. We managed to grab some peanut butter, jelly, pitas and a bag of rice chips before they closed. As I sat in the back seat of the car hastily slathering peanut butter on a pita, doing my best not to drop jelly onto the carpeting, I actually considered shooting a video for you. Hunger won out, you got no video, but I got a PBJ pita.

We drove until 3am, crashed for a few hours at a hotel and then hit the road again.

We drove straight through for about another 8 hours (rain, rain, rain and more rain) with nothing but PJB pitas to sustain us. All we had on our minds was getting to Pop at a decent hour.

We arrived at his new location just before 5pm. We parked, grabbed the muffins and a couple other items we had brought for him from his house to surprise him, and made a beeline for his apartment. The door was open….. just like the Keys! I heard some laughter drifting out into the hallway, and then the familiar "come oooooooooo in!"

Poof, there he was!

Surrounded by his son, a grandson and his grandson's wife, we entered the apartment. I honestly thought I could hold my composure. I was wrong. Huge hugs were exchanged, and I just held him so tight. He did the same to me. Kisses. Kind words. Hug. Hug. Hug. Tears. Happy HAPPY tears.

He showed us around his new apartment. He has a nice full kitchen where his food is stashed, and his food is prepared. He has a huge closet, with his clothing labeled by day, and a couple warm sweaters tucked in. He has a full living room with a big TV so he can watch his usual programs despite his failing eyesight. He has a cute little alcove off his bedroom which he has set up just like his space in the Keys…. table, chairs, pencil cup & note pad, pictures of family, his little "golf man" all of which is next to 3 large windows overlooking a garden courtyard.

Tears, tears, happy tears.

His grandson has found the local library for him, and is bringing him his large print western books. His Bible is tucked by his bedside, and he has photos of the family through the space.

Tears, tears, happy tears.

We sat and talked. Then talked more, and more and more. We talked about the Keys, we talked about life up there. We talked about family, we talked about sports. We talked about food. We talked about his recipes, and he was tickled I'm veganized his baking recipes one by one (starting with his famous shoo fly pie, as you already know!) He wanted to know how his house was ("perfect Pop, it's just perfect" and yes, it really is). We talked about the ocean. We talked about the water, we talked about the sky. We talked about clothing, we talked about music. We talked about next year's birthday stickers (yes, he's doing them!), and talked about the chocolate cake I will make for his 106th birthday and promised to deliver.

Tears, tears, happy tears. I couldn't stop.

I asked if we were overstaying our welcome (he IS 105, and it was NOT early morning!) and he replied "NO WAY, are you KIDDING me?! All the way from BIG PINE KEY?!!!" 

We made a little list of things we want to send him to make it more like it was in the Keys for him (he likes a calendar on his table…. he is very religious so I asked about a particular cross on his wall "oh yes! I'd love that!"…) and I announced I'm putting him on a "baking schedule" so he will get a small box of my baked goods at least once a month that he can have as snacks, just like it was here ("oh, THANK YOU!")

He kept saying how thankful he was for us coming up to see him. Tears, tears, happy tears.

When I think about what feeds my soul, moments like that visit are what does it for me. 100% pure feeding of the soul.

I didn't take a single picture, not one. Honestly the visit was so full of raw emotion it wasn't really meant for photos, instead it was meant for memories. Memories accomplished.

We all knew we had to go. The time we spent with him were some VERY great hours. He was talkative, engaged fully, and happy. He misses the Keys, we talked about that too. I honestly think that it was hugely important for him to hear about the SO very many people who are asking about him, who miss him, and care dearly for him even though he's far away. That's a really long list, and we didn't miss anyone (hopefully) all the way to the cashier at Publix who asked me a couple weeks ago why I didn't have the "special order" I usually do for "the sweet man you shop for." We promised we'd be back to visit, and we mean it.

Part of me thinks that when I saw him getting on to the airplane in Key West it would be the last time I'd ever see him. He's 105, and hundreds of miles away… we run a business that doesn't really stop, and have no employees to speak of. There's not many opportunities to "run away from home" and do a spur of the moment road trip, no matter how badly we want to.

Universe brings what we need. Universe feeds our soul.

We kissed goodbye. We hugged mad crazy. I cried and told him how I didn't want to leave, but promised we'll be back. He knows its true, but he needed to hear it anyway.

Pop has a message for all of you out there who love him…. "thank you, I love you." His exact words.

The other happy vegan's parting words were "see you soon you rascal!" which Pop shot right back "I love you, you rascal!" and my parting words were simply "I love you."

Close your eyes. Can you see Pop in a vivid color golf shirt, with his trademark smile? Can you hear his voice "you rascal!!!!!" "keep on keeping on!" "I love you SO much!" I hear him. I see him. I hope you can too.

He's still adjusting, and needs more things to fill his days. Remember… here in the Keys, he had golf matches twice weekly, laundry day, his golf cart where he'd sit outside for hours every morning waving to passersby and talking with anyone who'd stop, and more. It's all still new for him, and 105 is a remarkable age to consider reinventing yourself, no?

Whatever the future holds, he knows we're still connected, and we know we're still connected. We're drained emotionally, sad, and strangely satisfied.

Mission accomplished, you rascal.









Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Nommy Nom Nom! JB Master Grill - Medford, NJ

Scroll down for video.

A month or so ago, while we were roaming around the not-yet frozen tundra up north, we cruised through Jersey a couple times. I think New Jersey gets far too bad a rap on what it's like. Jersey bashers fall into 2 categories in my opinion… 1) those who have never been there, and just make the jokes to fit in with others, and 2) people who actually do live there, but are unhappy for any reason other than living in Jersey. I cannot vouch for either, yet I can say I have lived there, and for a long time loved it. New Jersey has the shore (ahhhhhhhhh), mountains, lakes, farms (yup, they still exist), shopping (too much for me these days), rural towns, big cities and urban areas, theatre, galleries, vegan food trucks (Cinnamon Snail!), I could go on and on. I've got very few negative things to say about Jersey besides my opinion that it's just too crowded for me (where I used to live) and it gets too cold (same can be said about Northern Florida, don't take it personally Jersey peeps).  So, Viva New Jersey!

Now, about our time roaming around Jersey. I staked the Cinnamon Snail like crazy on line, but their schedule was always in NYC, and we weren't going that way. So, another trip ended with me saying "I've still never eating at Cinnamon Snail." Sigh. We found ourselves a little more Southern, and of course out popped the other happy vegan's fancy phone and the Happy Cow app. Up came JB Master Grill in Medford. This little restaurant is in a strip mall tucked in a town called Medford Lakes. I don't know much history about the area, I know there IS some history, I think it used to be a vacation town for people to escape the city of Philadelphia in the summertime. Not completely sure about that, but there's lakes, trees, and some really cute streets. Exceptionally close by are shopping areas galore, including food. We heading right over to JB Master Grill and checked them out. Happily, this is what we found!!!! Oh hell yeah, after feeding our faces, we made a take-out purchase large enough to get us all the way to South of the Border!



And, then there was the stop at South of the Border……



xo til next time!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Brace Yourself

I've started this post a thousand times in my head, there's no happy or easy way to do this.

Our dear friend Pop has moved far away.

He has made a video for you, scroll to end of post to watch.

The details don't really matter, do they? Know that Pop is ok and the decision was his. At 105 and completely lucid, it's amazing to think that he is still making sacrifices for the people he loves. Sure he'd rather stay in his beautiful Florida Keys, but the reality isn't romantic. Health care down here is lacking. People are spread out, and many people work 2-3 jobs so finding help isn't always easy. Although he does have family down here, he has even more numbers of immediate and extended family to the area he has gone. And much better health care. He will be embraced wholly in this next chapter of his.

I haven't had much time to adjust to this, it was very sudden. Surrounded by "my people" and the bliss of farm animals in upstate New York, we got the news. I don't want to be selfish, this is about Pop, but he was a huge part of both of us happy vegans lives for the past 10 years. I saw that man practically every day for 10 years, sometimes several times a day. Everyone loved him, and loved hearing stories about him. Remember the post about how I met him? Hil-freaking-arious!

It took a lot of planning in a very short time for all the preparations to be made. We were asked to drive him to the airport in the predawn hours on departure day. We were very honored. On the last night Pop was in his house, I drove by, parked outside and looked at his house under the star splashed sky. Pop's sky. I saw the ocean shimmering, the water was so calm. Pop's bed was as close as it possibly could be to the his giant bedroom window, which looks out over a giant panorama of ocean. I knew he was in there safely tucked in bed under that sky, next to the ocean. The last time, for the last night. I sat there for a while, feeling numb and overwhelmed.

The next morning I walked down to his house alone in the pitch dark with a flashlight to guide me. The sky was still completely covered with stars. It was so beautiful. I walked up, knocked and heard his familiar "come onnnnnnnnn in!" for the last time.

We went to the airport, they let us be with him up to the moment he had to be taken on the tarmac. In one pocket a vegan vanilla blueberry muffin was tucked safely inside, in the other pocket, a boarding pass.

Famous smile for everyone at the airport!
We watched as he was helped onto the plane until we could no longer see him. Then we left, heading for the beach in Key West to wait for his plane to take off. As we waited, the sun rose. How is it possible for the sun to rise every single time there has been such grief in my life I have no idea, but it's true, the sun has always risen. Even on that very sad morning.

The sun did rise.
At the beach, we heard the engines and knew it was the one. First plane out. It went right over our heads, precious cargo and all. We sat and watched until it was out of sight, and then drove home. We passed his house. He wasn't there.

Precious cargo within.
On the day before he left, we had a talk. In that talk he gave me his recipe box. It's sitting on one of my counters.  There's little notes written on some of the recipes, mostly from his departed beloved wife… notes like "George likes this with chocolate chips!" really got me smiling. Chocolate. Pop loves chocolate. At different times, Pop gifted me with a vegan version of his famous shoo fly pie, as well as a vegan version of his tomato soup cake. Can you imagine? He was over 100 at the time. Pop and I had very different thoughts on many topics including sports, religion and politics. Despite this, he accepted me for who I am and loved me anyway. In a society where skin deep beauty and mediocrity is the order of the day, where chaos and violence rules freely, where people who disagree can't allow each other to disagree…. Pop accepted me for the very flawed person that I am, and loved me. He's from the greatest generation. Could there be any better, or more humbling, compliment?

I could write forever about Pop, our experiences together, our talks, just everything. Pop was my touchstone for many things, but especially when it comes to balance. He often counseled me on finding balance in my life, and sometimes was pensive when it came to both of us happy vegans… Pop is nobody's fool, and he realized how hard we work, and how much both of us happy vegans take on. That would give him pause for concern, the subject that we weren't having enough fun. That seems so trivial, those words, what I'm trying to say.  Everything I write seems to fall far short of what I feel, what I want to convey to you.

While I think the human experience is at the same time very simple and very complicated, I also feel it is very cruel. Anyone can realize this is the right thing, as well as being a bold and brave decision by Pop to empower himself. But spare me the platitudes, for now I just need to sit with my own sadness.

I'm not the only one sitting with sadness today, this I know. I'm also aware I'm not the only one who is wishing away platitudes either.

I am a better person for having him in my life such as it was. I will miss him terribly.

Video:


Pop, you rascal. xo forever.



Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Vegan MoFo 2014: Deer Run B&B (vegan, organic nirvana), Liebster Award Nomination, and Farewell MoFo til next year

Here's my last video for Vegan MoFo 2014. This was shot tonight after sunset, the ocean was like glass. Look at the reflection of the sky in the ocean! The beauty in our world moves me to tears at times



Here, we strive to nurture and protect the gift that is called Earth, as well as all that depends upon it. We believe being vegan is integral to the survival of humanity as a species, and to be blunt, we see no reason for the cruelty that humans inflict on animals in this world. As usual, there's so much I could say, and my video tonight just scratches the surface of what we are at Deer Run, what we stand for, and what our goals are. If I were to die tomorrow, I would be very ok with Deer Run as my legacy. I've never wanted anything as badly in my life as I did when I initially had my vision of what we would be creating here. To look back and study what we've done, I feel immense pride. This is my "happy place," this is where I live, where I love, where I belong. It is the culmination of a lot of sacrifice, hard work, time, money, and sometimes even blood (so far I still haven't lost a digit in the kitchen, although there was one REALLY close call!) Not everyone who comes through here is vegan, but for those who are not, it's often an eye-opening food-for-thought experience.  For those who ARE vegan, it's a safe haven where you don't have to ask if anything is vegan, because EVERYTHING is vegan. Our linens are organic and vegan, we don't have feather pillows, we don't use products that have been tested on animals. We do support organic food, we do immerse ourselves in the community, we do our best to put ourselves "out there" to the world by teaching, mentoring, and not sitting back doing nothing in the face of violence. If that's not your thing, then don't come here.

I am grateful to be here, and both of us will continue to strive very hard to always do our best. As a point of fact, we work harder now than we did when we started, how is that possible I don't know, but my point is, we continue to strive to do more, and do better.

Hey there…. LIEBSTER NOMINATION!

Thank you Tiffany of the blog AJourneywithTiffany.com for nominating me for a Liebster Award! I am honored, and also grateful for the opportunity you have given me for more people to find my blog. You can find Tiffany's blog at www.ajourneywithtiffany.com. I read quite a few posts from her… good recipes, Southern-style. Also, she's juicing right now, which I'm doing way more of, and I'll be experimenting with her combos. Here's the Rules on the Liebster nominations:

Once nominated, you receive a list of 10 questions from she/he who has placed the nomination, which the nominee must answer. Then, the nominee must nominate 8 other blogs, let them know you have nominated them, and put a link to their blog in your post (no tag backs). Nominees must have under 200 followers. You must tell the blogs that you nominate them.

These are the 10 questions I received, with my answers:

Q: What is your all-time favorite meal that you could eat every day without fail?
A: Tempeh Reuben!

Q: What is your favorite holiday?
A: Summer Solstice.

Q: Since going vegan, is there a dish that you would love to make vegan?
A: Angel food cake.

Q: Why did you decide to become vegan?
A: Ethical reasons. I opened my eyes to the reality of animal suffering.

Q: Do you like coffee or tea?
A: I drink coffee, but I am MAD for tea!

Q: What do you like to do for fun?
A: Nothing gives me peace and comfort like spending time with my companion animals, or in nature with wild animals.

Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you travel and why?
A: Thailand. I've seen so many beautiful photos, and met so many people who have been there who shared their experiences with me. The beaches look gorgeous, vegan food seems abundant, and as a licensed massage therapist (you didn't know that about me, did you?) I want to experience authentic Thai massage where it originated.

Q: What do you like to do on rainy days?
A: Retreat to my bed, pile in with all the kitties, worship them and watch TV.

Q: Do you have a speciality dish? If so, what is it?
A: I own a vegan bed and breakfast, and honestly we have become known for our vegan organic flax pancakes. A really close runner up is my organic vegan frittata.

I'm not as tech savvy as so many bloggers, this you know. I have provided accurate links to all the blogs, these are the ones I nominate. For some reason, they won't highlight as I type in, so PLEASE cut and paste them, these are great bloggers! I nominate:

www.madhatterspantry.co.uk
www.thesilverthreadsofaliceb.blogspot.com
www.downrightvegan.blogspot.com
www.good-good-things.com
www.ayearofgoingvegan.com
www.afruitylife.com
www.brandnewvegan.com
www.detroit-made.blogspot.com

I spent a lot of time looking at blogs for this, and I made every effort not to be duplicitous with a nomination. Also, I made great efforts to see that followers were under 200, why is it so hard to find this information on so many blogs I don't know, but it is and I do hope I got that part right too. On the above blogs, I read posts from you new and older, thank you for the great content, and your hard work.

Now, bloggers above, here's your questions:

1. How long have you been vegan?
2. Have you ever "fallen off the vegan" wagon, why, and what brought you back to being vegan?
3. Do you have many vegan family/friends?
4. What kind of music do you like to cook and bake to?
5. Have you ever been to a VegFest, and if so, which one… did you have a favorite?
6. What one piece of advice would you give to someone who wants to go vegan, but cannot find their way?
7. Do you share your life with any companion animals, if so, who are they?
8. Where you live, is it relatively easy to get a nutritious, creative vegan meal while eating out?
9. Sweet or savory?
10. What would your "dream job" be?

I'd like to have a fancy gadget here, showing Liebster Award graphics, but heck, you know better than that from me…. I still haven't even gotten my MoFo gadgets up yet, um…. oops.

Thank you for reading my blog, for watching my videos, and for doing your part to bring compassion into your life and the lives of others. Big love from me here at Deer Run. Vegan MoFo 2015 countdown is on! xo

Monday, September 29, 2014

Vegan MoFo 2014: VEGAN BLACK METAL CHEF EVENT!

Scroll down for video.

Vegan. Black. Metal. Chef. HERE AT DEER RUN!

This video is the first we're announcing this for March 2015. It's on, it is SO on.


xo

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Vegan MoFo 2014: The Floridian, St. Augustine & a Quick Update

Scroll down for video.

First allow me to say Vegan MoFo 2014 is going so fast my head is spinning. I have about five products I've yet to review, a few videos from vacation I've yet to post, and I've already got an important video planned that will be the finale for the event. There's no way I'm going to get this all in, considering there's 3 days left. The only days I missed were 2, maybe 3, in the beginning when all the hospital stuff was starting. On top of all that, while we were away, a couple of the videos got messed up, and I mean messed up BIG. The biggest "oops" is the night we ate at Sublime, and the video got deleted. I have no idea how that happened, but it vanished. I'm still upset about that. I'll do a post about Sublime after MoFo, you will still be my friend after this is all over, won't you?

While we were in St. Augustine, we ate dinner at a place called The Floridian. It was exceptionally casual, and exceptionally busy. When we called to see if we needed a reservation, we were told no because they weren't busy. By the time we got there, we waited 40 minutes for a table. We didn't know where else to go, I believe this was just an hour or 2 after we'd rolled into town. We were both tired and didn't really feel like driving. This place was within walking distance to where we were staying, and I found through the wonder of the internet that they had tempeh and tofu on the menu, hooray.

As we sat by the door waiting, I watched the kitchen and waitstaff work. They worked their butts off, and really seemed to be working very well together. There was laughter in the kitchen, and they all seemed to be helping each other out, as I said this place was BUSY. I actually didn't video the dinners. It was really dark because we were sitting outside (it was truly a glorious late summer evening), and it was late by the time we got there. Actually, we closed the place out, being last, or second to last, to leave for the night, yikes. I had a summer salad which was absolutely huge, with quinoa, veggies, lettuce, I think it also had chick peas, maybe lentils, and blackened tempeh (which was absolutely excellent, and made by a local tempeh shop!) The other happy vegan had a house made vegan black bean burger, he loved it.

I have very few suggestions for a place like this, beyond first and foremost always saying please take it ALL vegan. Beyond that, I'd simply have liked a little more salad dressing (only because the salad I ordered was HUGE and what they supplied was so tiny for all those veggies and tempeh), and I would have liked to see a non-dairy milk choice available so I could've had coffee or tea. Beyond that, this place seems to be a neighborhood place with pretty decent food, modest prices, very attentive service, kind people working through the place, and also happens to be vegan friendly.  All that, and it was a beautiful night for a walk through the city of St. Augustine. I'm in love with the city, I really am.

Enjoy the video, see you tomorrow!


xo

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Vegan MoFo 2014: Roadside Happenings

Scroll down for video.

More road trip fun. Video #1:


There's always a downside to a road trip at some point, no? At one destination, we ended up in an area which had virtually no vegan food. We found a small market where we were able to purchase some organic carrots, organic strawberries, and some hummus. We tried 3 times to get into the local health food store/juice bar, but it was closed every time we were there. EVERY TIME! That includes 10:30am one morning. Seriously?!! At one of the lunch places in town we stopped (the worst food of the trip), we were given an option of a wrap with lettuce, tomatoes, and cider vinegar, which I was so desperate I actually would have gone for, but…. the wrap was flavored, and when I asked if the wraps themselves were vegan, our waitperson responded with "I have no idea" and then walked away. So much for customer service.

We were lucky to find this teensy pizza place which had a decent selection of veggie toppings so we ordered a pizza without cheese, just sauce and veggies. Also, the fact they had soy milk carried the moment so I could get a cup of coffee. We'd just come in from a super long day at the beach. I was covered in sand and salt, and exhausted. Why does the sun drain us so much after beautiful days like that I have no idea. Regardless, it did, so pizza would have to suffice, which it did. We tried to get smoothies there too (pretty progressive, the pizza place said they had smoothies…) but when I asked about that, the gal pulled out these horrible mixes they use, which she allowed me to read the labels before mixing… and I swear I read propylene glycol as an ingredient. I thought I must be reading that wrong, so I simply returned the bottles to her and declined. Odd, I thought smoothies were made with things like fruit, juices, non-dairy milks and such. No one told me I'm supposed to put anti-freeze in them, hm, I must've missed the memo. We had some leftovers in the room to carry us through breakfast and lunch the next day. As beautiful as that place was, it's unlikely we'd go back. Such a pity.

Video #2:


See ya next time!

xo

Friday, September 26, 2014

Vegan MoFo 2014: Rhapsodic Bakery, Orlando

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Forgive me dear hearts but Orlando is not for me. Too much "mouse" (no we didn't go there), too many Sea World signs (the air felt so heavy, sad and tragic as we passed the general area for that atrocity), and it rained rained rained RAINED the whole time there. Roads were ridiculously flooded, traffic was making people angry, and I was missing my animals something fierce. One of the few bright spots was stumbling upon this sweet vegan bakery. In fact, this was one of the only moments while we were in town that it was not raining, so this was definitely meant to be. There was no way we weren't gonna visit this place... Before rolling into town, we had never heard of them. Sweet people in there who really care about animals, planet and people (first thing that happened when we walked in was get props for our Sea Shepherd garb, as one of the gals behind the counter pushed aside her apron to reveal her own Sea Shepherd attire, yay!)

Thanks Rhapsodic Bakery. Activism through food is one of the most powerful ways to reach the masses. Stop by for coffee and a scone, you won't be sorry!



See you soon! xo




Thursday, September 25, 2014

Vegan MoFo 2014: Robert Is Here, Vegan Wine & A Song

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Road trips rules for vegans... Always pack food. Stay flexible. It's a vacation, don't take things too serious, ok?

The road trip continues as follows:

Robert was not there, sadness.

I find a vegan fruit winery, happiness.

I sing, look out world.

Good thing I packed snacks.



See you tomorrow! xo


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Vegan MoFo 2014: Present Moment Cafe, St. Augustine

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As I said in my last post, I loved St. Augustine so very much. We walked everywhere. I learned so much about Florida history during our short time there, it was far too short a visit. We are going back again in the future, no doubt. As far as food, there were great choices, and even many mainstream places have non dairy milks on their menus, and will make a nice, healthy vegan meal. We had heard about Present Moment Cafe, and it was on the "must visit" list. It is almost entirely raw, but has a couple of cooked items. It's a small restaurant, with community and planet in mind. Both of us happy vegans LOVED this place, and would have gone back many more times if we were in town longer. They get exceptionally high marks from us both, the food was so well prepared, beautiful, and for both of us totally out of the ordinary in a wonderful way. Here's the video, I hope you enjoy it.





xo til next time.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Vegan MoFo 2014: Manatee Cafe, St. Augustine, Parts 1 & 2

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So, as you see, we got around. I loved St. Augustine so much. It's steeped in history, has ocean, beautiful architecture, parks, tons of trees, ancient cemeteries, and was pretty vegan friendly. I got all happy when I saw a squirrel running around in a park. The people were so friendly. It's an area that I could imagine myself living if it didn't get as cold in the winter. I'm already making plans to go back, and stay longer too.

One of the hidden gems we found was a small cafe called The Manatee Cafe. It is exceptionally vegan friendly. We ate breakfast there twice(!!!) and also got a "to go" order for lunch one day as we knew we were driving to a non veg friendly area of the State. Here's my videos, I hope you enjoy them!





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See you tomorrow! xo




Monday, September 22, 2014

Vegan MoFo 2014: Darbster! I Looooooooooove You!

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Finally we made it to Darbster. If there was such a thing as food Heaven, it is here. Not only is it 100% vegan but they run this place as a non-profit, for animals. This place is wonderful, the food is delicious... Did someone say QUICHE?!!! Yeah baby, now THAT'S a quiche!

Darbster, I love you!

This video was one of the best MoFo experiences for me. My advice? Go. Go now. Go often. Tell your friends. Better yet BRING your friends!

See you next time, I'm bringing the MoFo love. xo


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Vegan MoFo 2014 Day 21: A recipe and 2 product reviews (Tofurky Quiche & Organic Hot Sauce)

Scroll down for video and recipe.

I never really know what to think when other people review products. It's not often I see people doing anything other than raving about whatever it is they're reviewing.

Tofurky how I do love you. I love your vegan company, your ethics, the funny things you post and write about, that you support charity, and that you are all about veganism. To show my love, I support you by purchasing your products. But this quiche…. this quiche…. um…. no. Just no.

As far as the hot sauce goes, I think things went way better. Not spicy enough, but I'll purchase it in the future. The flavor is great, and it's organic. I can spice it up with a little cayenne on my own.

There's a little place in Key West called "Peppers of Key West." It's a hot sauce bar. Seriously, you go in there, and you can get a "shot" of anything they sell. The carry from the meekest mild sauce to the absolute hottest you'd never want to imagine. Something for everyone. I've been in there several times, and never walked out empty handed.

We love us our hot sauce here at Deer Run.

Enjoy the video, recipe below. It's a good recipe. I'm keeping it, and will make it again, absolutely.


Cauliflower Buffalo Bites
Courtesy of: The Lean Clean Eating Machine

1 head organic cauliflower, washed and and cut into bite size pieces
1/2 cup brown rice flour (I used organic spelt, I wasn't concerned whether mine was gluten free or not)
1/2 cup water
pinch sea salt
pinch of organic garlic powder (I used 1/2 tsp)
Non-stick spray (um, yeah…. use the spray, you'll see why)

Sauce:

1 tsp. organic vegan non-dairy butter of choice, melted
1/2 cup hot sauce (recipe says "Frank's" I used Organicville, but splashed a generous amount of Sriracha hot sauce over it to make it hotter)

Preheat oven to 450 (I did mine at 350). In a small bowl, combine flour, water, garlic powder and salt. Mix with whisk. Batter the cauliflower pieces, and lay them out flat on a sprayed baking sheet (or at least spray your parchment…) Bake 10 minutes, or til the batter hardens. Then flip with a spatula and bake another 5 minutes.

Whisk the hot sauce & non-dairy butter in a small bowl. When the cauliflower is finished, brush the pieces with the hot sauce. I tossed the piece a bit on the tray to cover completely both sides. Bake coated cauliflower for an additional 8-10 minutes (mine took a smidge longer probably because I roasted at a lower temp)… until crispy and sauce looks absorbed.

Remove from oven. Let stand about 20 minutes before serving.

Even though I'm late to the buffalo bites craze, I'm here now. They're great. Make 'em.

xo

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Vegan MoFo 2014: MoFo Interruptus…. International Coastal CleanUp Day

Today was the annual International Coastal Cleanup Day. If you know us, you know we participate every year. This year it was a little bit different, as the "Mule" vehicle we use to help transport trash back and forth, and more importantly we use to haul out heavy items like pallets and huge balls of rope, was unavailable. Presently it has no brakes, so it was not safe to use for the cleanup. This slowed us down a little bit because we had to manually haul the heavy bags to the curb, and also we couldn't get out some of the larger debris that we wanted to (numerous pallets, and a few other items).

This is why we clean. For the ocean. For the animals.
Look at all the beautiful teensy shorebirds hanging out on the flats!
Yay for teensy shorebirds!
Regardless, we did it. Once again, we got out there. Alone. Just us. There's clean ups all over the world, and a really big clean up at the East End of the beach. But the West End never gets any cleaning love from groups, just us and from the turtle walkers who walk every day patrolling for nests. All the more reason for us to clean this section today.

A couple weeks ago, we had really strong winds pushing onshore for days on end. Tides were extra high, and the seaweed kept coming and piling up. Areas where the seaweed packs down can be deceptive as far as stability for walking. It seems like these cleanups never occur at low tide. With a high tide, that means its always me who goes out on the flats to retrieve what I can that's floating, or trapped in deep wrack because I have boots. Those boots…. they're never high enough, and I mean it. Within minutes of getting out onto the flats on deep heavy packed seaweed I sank. And I sank bad. I was trapped, couldn't get out without sacrificing my boots and that was NOT gonna happen. The other happy vegan searched and found me a long piece of wood which he tossed my way, and with a little work, I was able to break suction and get my feet loose. This took me at least 5 minutes. You'd think I'd learn after this many years, but I never do. And, it didn't happen once today… not twice… it happened no less than half a dozen times. Admittedly after that first really bad incident I didn't put myself in quite as risky a situation, but every time I get stuck I lose time on trash collecting, which translates to adding time at the end.

Something that upset met today (other than the sight of trash on a beautiful beach) was being at a property where children had been playing. I venture an educated guess these children were with at least one of their parents. I do believe I know who they are… not yet living here, but coming to look at their place, make plans etc. Well, the kids made a makeshift checkers-type game. Quite a little haul of plastic caps and other plastic pieces. They played their game, then they left. All the trash was just left there. What are those children learning? The trash on the property was copious. Instead of coming to the beautiful oceanfront property and cleaning it, nurturing it, respecting it and protecting it, trash was played with then simply left. And that seemed to be a-ok with the parents.

Plastic caps have this horrible legacy of killing many birds and other animals. They are the perfect size to get lodged in throats of birds and other animals who think they're food, and go for them. It's heartbreaking to see, and yup I've seen it. They starve to death. Listen to me all you grownups…. teach your children and teach them well. Please leave areas better than you found them. Don't litter. Don't leave litter behind like this. There's no reason for that. Don't worry new homeowner, we picked up all the trash that was there, and quite a bit more. And we'd do it again, and we will I'm so sure.

This year for International Coastal Cleanup Day 2014, we covered about .6 of a mile, and hauled out about 600 pounds of trash. This doesn't include hazardous material we found including a car battery, fuel or oil in a container, and some other items that are of hazmat concern.

For your viewing displeasure, here's some pictures.

No idea what this is, but it was a pain to dig out.
The rope and line on it was entangled around other things.
We used our little cart to stack the trash on.
We hauled out numerous cartloads.
I really missed the "Mule" vehicle this year, big time.

That is a protected mangrove that has died.
It died because of illegal shoreline hardening.
Things like this happen down here,
 and some authorities seem to turn a blind eye,
no matter who you report things to.
Allegedly.
This is the remains of a sea plant that has really pointy stickers on the stems.
Its' "perfect" for capturing improperly disposed of monofilament line.
Can you see that line? In the water, it's virtually invisible.
It's designed to be that way so the fishes don't see it.
Monofilament is virtually impossible to break.
It causes many choke deaths in animals, as well as entanglements
resulting in loss of limbs and loss of life.
Bad. Very bad.
A fraction of the rope we collected today.
Tumbling in the ocean, rope finds rope.
The piles seem to grow and grow.
If they eventually wash ashore and we find them,
we pull them out. It's NASTY, slick, slimy covered
in goo from being buried in the wrack.
If they don't wash ashore?
Most likely a sea turtle or other innocent will
become a victim of entanglement.
They'll either lose a limb, or more often than not, die
a horrible slow painful death.
These are 2 rings I found.
On the left is a plastic ring
 on the right is aluminum (the bottom of a beer can or something).
These are disasters waiting to happen.
Animals can get them stuck around their bills,
 can't get them off, and they starve.
Mammals get them stuck on their hooves (i.e.: Key deer),
they cannot remove them, and they become embedded in their limbs.
Then infection sets in, sepsis happens often, and a slow painful
death ensues.
Bad. Very bad.

So, would anyone like to venture a guess how this is allowed to happen?
That's a protected mangrove you see in this photo.
It is entrapped in concrete.
Yes, essentially someone shot concrete into the ocean to extend their property
then the added sand on top of it, and finished the whole shebang off
with illegal shoreline hardening.
There's the little mangrove.
Where life begins in the Keys….
it's trapped in concrete.
Apparently, it's all "who ya know"…
Allegedly…

Oh, ironically when we first started PLANTING mangroves,
 someone called to report us.
Various officials came out here expecting to "catch" us doing something illegal.
Seems like people don't plant mangroves too often.
At least, based upon their surprise
 when they came to investigate it would seem that way.
Yay! Beauty! Look at all those beautiful mangrove seeds waiting
to fall and grow!!!!
This is my sea bean haul for today.
Not as many in years past.
Sea hearts, a sea purse, I think a nickerbean
and I have no idea what that flat thing on the left is.
I've yet to identify it.
I sacrifice 1 pair of socks to the flats every year on
International Coastal Cleanup Day.
It's a tradition.
These boots were made for cleaning.
They take a beating, for sure.
They've served me well over the last year.
I hope to get at least 1 more year out of them.
They look pretty good considering what happened to them today.
Look closely.
Can you see all the new mangrove trees sprouting through the wrack?
We hope they make it!
Black coral.
Hello Kevin.
We remember you.
See you next year, same Bat Time, Same Bat Channel.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Vegan MoFo 2014 Day 19: Oh Balls!

Scroll down for video, and recipe.

If you look on the internet, it seems like there's billions of recipes for vegan raw (and almost raw) energy balls. Snow balls. Bliss balls. Budda Balls. Yoga Balls. Whatever ya call 'em, they're of the same family. I have some recipes that are a little more complex which I use for people who guest here, but for my own preferences, I'm a simple gal. After the basics of organic nuts, dates, organic unsweetened flaked coconut and cocoa powder, it's free-for-all and ends up as a "what do I have in the pantry" party in my food processor. You can add cacao nibs, seeds of choice, Matcha green tea powder, vegan protein powder of choice (especially nice for people who workout if you want to amp up the protein a bit more), peanut butter, almond butter, tahini, or anything else you think might work. The recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of coconut oil, I don't typically omit that tiny bit of oil, coconut oil is a wonder food (in my opinion). Sea salt is optional, but I never use that in any of the energy ball recipes I make. Ever. Simply unnecessary.

If you're looking to keep the fat content lower, you can choose organic powdered peanut butter (here I use Just Great Stuff organic), which is just like PB2, but organic. If cocoa isn't your thing, try carob. If carob isn't your thing, make them vanilla…. no cocoa at all. Switch up the nuts (walnuts? hazelnuts? almonds?) If you're allergic to nuts, how about substituting seeds instead of nuts as the base (mmmm., pumpkin seeds and tahini sounds great about now!) Also, if you run low on dates, raisins will work as a substitute just fine, probably a few other dried fruits would be nice mix ins…. cranberries come to mind. I tried to make versions of these commercially available down here in the Keys under my own label, but it's cost prohibitive for me to do so, even buying the materials wholesale. Organic nuts are a pricey item, but they are NOT a luxury in my opinion. Pecans (conventional) are one of the most heavily sprayed crops around, ugh. You can find energy balls in almost every health food store, and yes I do buy them pre-made from time to time. I don't always have time to make every single thing around here from scratch, so I'll reach for the pre made ones in a pinch. Mostly, if I just plan ahead, I can have a stash in my freezer all year round, they freeze so well (up to a month or more) and certainly keep in the fridge for 1-2 weeks. They won't last that long, trust me.

This is a short video. Drag out your food processor and get going.


Recipe (my variations)

1 cup organic pecans
2 cups dates (unpitted!)
1 cup organic unsweetened dried coconut flakes
1 tablespoon organic coconut oil
1/4-1/3 cup raw organic cocoa powder or carob powder (raw, if you want them  "officially" raw)
1/2 tsp organic vanilla extract or some scraped organic vanilla bean (optional, but nice)--try other extracts to if you'd like
sea salt (optional, I never use)
optional spice to try: cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg (not all of them, just 1, if any)
water

Optional mix ins: tahini, powdered peanut butter, cacao nibs, vegan protein powder, Spirulina, super greens powder, Matcha green tea powder, chia, flax, hemp seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds… you are getting the drift….)

Place all ingredients into food processor (except water). Pulse or run the processor for just a moment, it will crumble very fast, add water to get the mix to bind… start with 1 tablespoon, and add more 1 tablespoon at a time, I find I usually eyeball this at about 3-4 tablespoons. Don't overdo the water, just enough to make the hold together. Form into balls, roll into topping of choice (coconut, cocoa powder, seeds, blah blah). Eat or hold in fridge til ready. These freeze nicely.

Mad vegan love til next time.

xo