Monday, October 30, 2017

89 as beta fish, Tompkins Square Park Halloween Dog Parade, and more

Even though 89 had a superb, VM-original costume last year, we wound up missing the Tompkins Square Park Halloween Dog Parade. It was a scheduling issue, but it ultimately wound up being a not-ideal weather day, which assuaged our disappointment a bit. Also, it was good to take a year off from the crowded, sometimes discombobulated event within the dusty (by design) dog park where it all began as a fundraiser to keep the popular dog run open. I was a bit jaded that the winners are almost guaranteed to be those that spent the most money on their costume- generally in the form of an enormous float, with little attention paid to those with heart (i.e. everyone). But, lest I be labeled a spoilsport, I digress.

This year, we commandeered VM's services once again- this time for a beta fish costume. The idea was my coworker's when, through a series of unusual events, our office wound up fostering two temporarily abandoned beta fish for a short time and she noticed that 89's tail had the natural movement of a fish fin.


I was all about this costume and I immediately taped photos of inspiring beta fish to my office wall so I'd see them every time I looked up. Betas are unique creatures- both unto themselves and also in their relationships with humans. I rarely go into pet stores because the confined animals of all kinds make my heart ache, but betas are some of the worst cases: dishonored in their tiny, solitary bowls and being marketed as little more than decoration. In the midst of the costume execution, this article came out about depressed fish, and the friends not food aspect was not lost on me either. It seemed like a win-win.

VM was dubious from the start, even though we found the perfect fabric to begin construction.

"We'd" gotten off to a late start, so many design decisions had to be made via text. For instance, how many layers of netting best resemble fish scales? Answer: 1.
Then, VM had a tough time fitting the unforgiving fabric to 89's long, slender (ironically fish-shaped) bod, let alone doing so with 100-ply of delicate fabric in order to obtain the optimal shimmer.

But, per usual, 89 was a trooper throughout.

The construction of the fins brought it's own set of issues because 89's enormous ears blocked the neckline during fittings. This was my solution.

In the end, while VM put her best work into the endeavor, I couldn't help feeling like it wasn't reading BETAFISH. I was definitely to blame for what I saw as the non-ideal finished inference. It was beautifully made and VM had executed exactly what I'd requested; I'd just somehow missed an element along the way and I couldn't figure out the solution that would bridge the gap between my vision and the finished product. My biggest complaint was that it unintentionally had some 80s prom dress vibes, which perhaps says more about 80s fashion than it does about 89 pulling off a betafish costume.

In any event, we all- me, 89, OD, and VM, decided to head to the parade together. We stopped off at The Bean for breakfast... 

...before heading off to the event.

To my surprise, the parade had been delightfully relocated from the dog run to the basketball court. Since it was a sunny and warm day, this not only meant it wouldn't be dusty, but it also wouldn't be stinky (sorry, pooches; it's a fact of life). There was also a ton more room for pooches, humans, and spectators who I heard, much to my innate disappointment, referring to 89 as a princess and, more insultingly, Rainbow Brite. OD claimed to have heard a couple of "fish!" proclamations and friends graciously insisted that they saw a fish right away, but overall it wasn't a slam dunk in my opinion. I'd hoped the fish would be easier than explaining Adele Bloch Bauer, but it just seemed to bring its own set of issues. WAH!

I'd brought 89's stroller with us because I figured she'd get tired and I knew my weak arms couldn't hold her for hours. In my disappointment over what I perceived to be a non-perfect costume, I did a less than ideal job "decorating" the stroller- using only what I considered to be a water-colored sheet.


Total fail on my part and I own it. Perhaps if I'd taken the time (there wasn't any) to have transformed the stroller into an underwater-theme, what would have been helpful. But, I hadn't and it wasn't. In my defense, I was also worried that such a theme would dilute her costume, but surely there was an ideal, middle ground solution. Thankfully, 89 immediately showed herself to be having a great time, so that made me slightly less grumpy.

These front fins were particularly fabulous.

In case you're wondering, the dogs are all really well-behaved at this event- even 89!
Some of our faves:

You can see some of the dogs she visited with here.

This was the most organized Tompkins Square Park Halloween Dog Parade we've attended. We had a great time and saw some great costumes- full of heart and happiness and the love between humans and pets. Naturally, we didn't win. In fact, as we exited the stage we were once again guided past the large, expensive floats and were told that they would be "sticking around" because they were under "consideration." Sigh. There were so many funny, punny, original, and heartfelt costumes that weren't "considered," but I think that's okay since we had appreciated them and so did countless others.


The fact of the matter is that we don't do it to win; we do it to have fun. So, mission accomplished!


Who knows? Maybe next year we'll consider a huge float if we find an idea that we fall in love with. But, there's a lot to consider. I learn lessons every year about what 89 likes, what she'll put up with, and what is just not feasible over the course of the event. 

In the end, we accomplished together a great more than I could have alone (I can't sew and I am always amazed the tricks VM has up her sleeve). But, most importantly, just look at how resplendent 89's tail looked! Mission accomplished indeed.


PS: I shamelessly plugged 89 at the event.


The fun didn't end there. Thankfully, once we escaped the throngs of people attending the parade (it goes on for hours; we didn't stay for the whole event), we were mere blocks from Confectionery! . So, we all essentially trick-or-treated; cookies and shortbread for the humans, Sweet Maresa's cookies for 89. Here she is showing off those fins again.

Some street art showcasing 89's daily nemeses.

And then we scored outdoor seating at Double Zero for lunch.

This turned out to be a lucky break, because soon after the outdoor dining area was full- of pooches!

89 was super pooped.


But she did manage to perk up when the food started arriving.

Vegans...always with the salad...

One final rendezvous with a spider before departing.

THEN we went to MooShoes! Well, 89 went to MooShoes while I went to Orchard Grocer.

 First I shared my pumpkin/vanilla soft serve with this dog.

THEN I shared it with this dog.


And then we headed home. 89 slept the whole ride.

She woke up when we got home so she could eat all of her trick-or-treats from Confectionery and MooShoes.

The next day we went to the Red Bank Farmer's Market for some Cinnamon Snail!

This is 89's "feed me" face.

This is our obligatory don't-be-ridiculous-it's-an-outdoor-farmer's-market photo.

 As such, we finally completed our pumpkin/gourd collection at home.


So, now we're just waiting for tomorrow, actual Halloween, to complete the festive season. Hope you get a lot of trick-or-treaters!

PS I heard that some towns do Halloween on the Friday before Halloween. WHAT IN THE ACTUAL HELL? Do we have to over-schedule everything? Halloween is Halloween, which means it's October 31, regardless of what day that is. That is some BS, that's what it is.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Positivitea Reboot

Positivitea was closed for renovation for a while, but they're back and the food is better than ever.


The rebooted interior, however, is- and I hate to say it, a little less inviting than it had been previously. The seating is newer, more modern: slicker overall. But, gone are the large scale menus on the walls and the bright colored ceiling. Now, even on a sunny day, the interior seems a little dark- particularly in the kitchen area, which is not especially inviting for a fast casual dining establishment- specifically if you wander in out of curiosity rather than destination.

Thankfully, we already know the food is delicious and lovingly prepared- not to mention award-winning. There were minor changes to the menu too, though- gone were the pretzels buns, which were replaced by equally delicious sesame and oat-studded buns. The fryer wasn't working on the day we visited, so we were unable to try the cauli buffalo wings that sounded fantastic.

Blue Sky seems to be the requisite soda at establishments of a certain tenor; from Red Bank's Down to Earth, to Lula's Sweet Apothecary. Eep! I hope that's not an omen.

We shared a Bean, Jr., because- obviously.  The black bean patty is the perfect base for the gooey trifecta of cheese, miso mayo, and special sauce. With the addition of grilled onions and pickles, you have a hearty and decadent burger.

For our less traditional choice, we also shared the the Mexicali. This burger boasts the same patty, but swaps cucumber for the pickles and adds creamy, ripe avocado.

And if you think I didn't bring home the VEGAN toothpicks to stick in my own bun, you'd be wrong.

But, we'd really come for the vegan softserve. I'm pretty positivitea this is Chicago Soy Dairy vanilla; the topping options aren't listed anywhere, so you have to ask.

VM got hers with chocolate sauce (kind of between syrup and fudge), walnuts, and marshmallows.

Mine had chocolate sauce and vanilla & chocolate cookie pieces.

The menu isn't all burgers and ice cream; there are salads, bowls, smoothies, sides, etc. IMO, all they're missing is a little pizzazz so that the atmosphere matches the menu.

Definitely go out of your way for a Positivitea experience; you won't regret it.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Hudson Valley Vegfest was a BLAST

First of all, let me apologize for not talking more about the Hudson Valley Vegfest in advance. I had this event on my calendar from the early planning stages, but it kind of fell off my radar for a while.

Then, about a week prior, I finally visited the website and I was immediately impressed. It was, by far, the most organized, comprehensive, event site I've ever seen for this type of event. There wasn't one question that wasn't easily answered within a click. In fact, most answers were so ideally and prominently placed, that I knew the answer before the question had yet to form in my mind. All information was clear, aesthetically pleasing, consistently branded, and a breeze to navigate; astounding credit goes to the designer, for sure. Case in point: on the question of whether or not dogs could attend, there it was in plain sight, along with a sweet explanation and recommendation on how to assuage your guilt: by bringing home treats! More on that later.

Important note about dogs:

*We LOVE LOVE LOVE Henry and all dogs - they are family! But our venue which is otherwise fabulous has a no-dog policy which we must abide by. Kindly leave your beautiful canine family members comfortably at home or with trusted friends. Come enjoy the day, and bring them home some extra treats- such as fantastic V-DOG Biscuits** (**Free take-home samples, first come, first served until supplies run out!) -  or check out the great vegan dog treats by COAST TO COAST, available at their booth! Thank you for your cooperation and understanding.

If a website could be this impressive, surely the event would be worth the 4-hour round trip. Plus, I love to support vegans doing good work. I've known one of the organizers for some time and, now, am very glad to know the other!

I enlisted none other than VM to join me on the journey. It was a scenic drive and we arrived at the event space with no issues. The parking lot was clearly marked, and there were people directing traffic. Yes, actual people with flags and wholly pleasant demeanors helping to point you in the direction of the event entrance; what a sight!


There were also nice people greeting you at the door whether you'd purchased your ticket in advance, or needed to buy a ticket on the spot. We were quickly braceleted and on our way, HVvf program in hand. The space was enormous and the floor was covered in AstroTurf- which was both kitschy and comfy.


The vendors and exhibitors were all spread out so that there was plenty of room; it was glorious. I don't go to many vegfests anymore because the crowds (yay!) can be oppressively claustrophobic (boo!). This space was huge- allowing for a ton of vendors, table/chair seating for eating/regrouping (as well as "lawn" seating), and even bleachers near a stage used for music and demonstrations. The open space and atmosphere lent itself to enjoying yourself with no real urgency, which was a really nice change of pace from other, more frenetic events I've attended. Because the fest wasn't a mobscene, it was also really nice to have the opportunity to chat with vendors we're friends with, as well as to learn more from vendors who were new to us.

The first thing we came across was an adorable photo "booth." I've been seeing these a lot lately, and I love them. This booth was especially inviting because of the vibrant and festive HVvf branding design (are you noticing a theme of them going above and beyond?). The photos were directly uploaded to the HVvf instagram, so their page was immediately a sea of happy vegfest attendees (and some exhausted organizers).

Next up was a table showcasing all the cool prizes for their raffle. It was really nice because there was someone manning the table to explain all of the prizes as well as to sell tickets. Spoiler alert: we won a prize! Stay tuned. Next up was a generous table of samples that we loaded up on. If you can believe it, I forgot to bring a tote bag: major fail. I took a quick trip to the car to unload and then we got back into the fest game.


Because we're professionals, we bee-lined over to the Peaceful Provisions table. PP is at almost every Vegan Shop-Up, but between 11:00am and noon, the line forms down the block. Once they are open for business, the special flavors sell out quickly; then there's only a few hours until they're sold out completely. I'm consistently impressed by the dedication of most of their fans, but- as amazing as their donuts are (and let me stress that they are amazing), one doesn't always feel like waiting on an hour + line (ahem, lazy me).


That being said, we were happy that we'd arrived to the event early so that we had our choice of donut flavors; we chose chocolate coffee, a rainbow for VM (her fave), and two banditos (chocolate donut filled with chocolate peanut butter cookies).


Of course, we then had to carry the donut box around for the rest of the day (it was too hot to leave them in the car), but we were hedging our bets that PP would sell out shortly and we didn't want to be left empty-handed. Surprisingly, we received many offers from friendly vendors willing to "hold" our donuts for us, but we opted to carry them- thus eliciting squeals of envy from other event attendees- particularly once PP had indeed sold out with hours left in the event.


VM joked about selling our donuts to the highest bidder, but she's the same person who wouldn't have dreamed of re-selling our Adele concert tickets for 6X the purchase price. Also, she'd already dug in.

You might not know this about me, but one of my pet peeves is the lack of beverages at events- particularly Vegfests...specifically Vegfests with lots of food (yay!) but minimal hydration (boo!). Thank goodness that one of the first booths we spied was Brewing Good Coffee Company, who I remembered from the HVvf event page because there was a gloriously toe-feathered dog advertising their "Drink Coffee. Save Animals" shirts. THEN, I was further enamored by the sight of their cascara iced tea; I just recently learned what that is and I've been addicted ever since. As we approached, VM noticed their totally adorable branding of a squirrel holding a "Save the Animals" sign. When Karla turned to help me, I was struck by her narwhal necklace. I would have known that narwhal anywhere! It was a Dana Young original design that I'd been admiring. It turned out that Karla was not only a fan, like me, but a friend of Dana, who I "know" through another friend, Dominic. She'd also designed the squirrel! It was such a happy small world moment and the exact reason I love the vegan community at these vegan events.


We then headed over to our buddies at Freakin Vegan and were thrilled to see that they had a chickpea tuna sammie on the menu them. It's always so nice to see them! They also had a chickpea tuna sammie on the menu! ;-)


VM and I are giant fans of chickpea tuna sammies; we got one to share because it was so early in the day. This may look unassuming, but I assure you that it was the creamiest, most flavorful, overall yummiest chickpea tuna we'd ever tasted. Chock full of celery & onions and topped with pickle slices, we really enjoyed- so much so, that we shared another before the day was over, dubbing it The Sammie So Nice, We Ate it Twice. In addition to all of my other accolades, what made this sandwich the most awesome was that the soft bun and lettuce shreds helped prevent all the sammie guts from squeezing out when you took a bite. That's some impressive sammie architecture right there.

In the interest of full disclosure, we also got empanadas to go, as well as a generous order of mac & cheese for a certain numbered dog that missed out at our last event- due entirely to my miscalculation and in spite of the abject generosity and forethought of the Freakin Vegans. It's a sore subject.

One thing I love is when vegfests are communal tables; you never know who you're going to sit with and strike up a conversation. On this day, we were lucky enough to sit with Vegan Evan and his grandmother.

We'd heard Evan perform just prior to getting our food, so it was nice to sit and talk with this well-spoken, dedicated vegan, who told us he felt foolish for having spent so much of his life (7 years) not being vegan (5 years). Evan was kind of like the unofficial mascot of the event.


We were slightly disappointed that Screamers was not at the fest; it turned out that they had vended on Saturday, then Champs vended on Sunday. Our sadness turned to delight once we saw the cheese fries!!! Perfectly crisp potato wedges smothered in creamy cheese, drizzled with sour cream and dotted with bacon. So, so, sooooooo delicious and perfect proportion of topping to fries. Running out of cheese with dry fries left over is not cool; Champs is totally pro.

Our Vegan Shop-Up friends from fil-fil were on hand with their exquisite garlicky hot sauce. It was nice to see them at another event even though I'm already well-stocked at home.


I wasn't previously familiar with the organization, Horseracing Wrongs, so we eagerly received an education from this passionate and intelligent representative.


Right next door was Chocolate Calling, whose mixed bag of chocolate-covered pretzels and potato chips from the Asbury Park vegfest had been a big hit with VM. She quickly chose another bag for our take-home booty. They are REALLY delicious. VM likes the chips a little bit more and I like the pretzels a little bit more, so we're the perfect sharing partners. It was also really sweet that the proprietor, Grace, let us know that it was my note in the post from the AP vegfest about vendors needing taller signs that made her bring one to this event. Her table is always beautiful and appealing, so it's nice that she'll be even more visible in the future too!


Lundberg Family Farms had a booth at the event and were generously sharing bushels of samples every time you passed. This was our haul of snacks and staples, supplemented with the samples we'd received at the welcome table. As you may have surmised, these required another trip to the car to unload. *note: I haven't tried everything yet, but the ancho chile chips are terrific!


It is really nice to have take-home goodies after a fest. To that end, we also picked up these gluten-free cookie sammies from Sweet Megan in three different flavors: chocolate chip, brownie chocolate chip, and lemon (?- I don't know; that one was VM's).

Sweet Megan is dedicated to the health and wellbeing of our children, our friends, and our world. May we all eat safely-- together. Sweet Megan is a testimony of going beyond the call to do the right thing. To preserve a legacy of eating cleaner. To keep consumers safer. To make life just a tiny bit sweeter.

I brought one to work for breakfast the next day (don't judge me) and it was really yummy.


When we'd first arrived at the fest, we'd been offered an ice cream sample from FoMu; they were also selling cookie sandwiches. We didn't buy anything on our first pass because I really liked the ice cream and wanted that instead of cookies. I'm picky like that.


Thankfully, sometime later I started noticing people eating the ice cream and realized that they were selling cups. I'm not sure how I made the mistake, but immediately decided to rectify it. VM informed me that she didn't want any. "Sometimes I don't feel like ice cream," she said. After a double take of incredulity, I went to procure my cup of smoky s'mores. Upon my return to the table we were sitting at, she took in the creamy cup of chocolate ice cream brimming with marshmallows, chocolate chunks, and graham crackers and her look of interest quickly transformed to longing. I offered her a taste; she took it, and then immediately said she was going to go get her own. This after sharing everything all day, Mrs. I-don't-always-like-ice-cream did not want to share dessert! Because I'm the nicest, I gave her mine and went back for another.


We were really disappointed that Gunas wasn't at the fest on Sunday (they'd been there on Saturday) because I've been ogling their bags online for some time now and was anxious to finally see them in person. In turned out, unfortunately, that the person expected to man the booth was ill that day, but they advised me on IG of their current pop-up shop at Jivamukti.

To my delight, I was FINALLY able to meet the founder of west coast's dreamy bean- to-bar Charm School Chocolate! We bonded over the excitement I feel when I receive a box of 20 jars of toffee almond bites in the mail (for gifts!), as well as that time I gifted Senator Cory Booker one of their maple pecan bars simply because he's my Vegan Pal. I also picked up a new-to-me flavor bar: caramel malt. I'll keep you posted on that one via IG.

This t-shirt vendor (and entrepreneur/self-help guru?), FOUNDationYOU, has some really hilarious tees; I got the one that says, "I only came here for the vegan cake." Natch.


In addition to the music and demos in the main area of the fest, the organizers also arranged for speakers and presentations in an upstairs space. I'm sorry to report that we had so much fun in the thick of things that we never made it there, but it was not for lack of posted information and signage, which was truly superb.

Another impressive thing to note about the fest was the "garbage," which was managed by Zero to Go, an "education waste management company focused on composting and recycling". Read a bit more about how the 2-day fest managed to produce only a handful of bags' worth of garbage.

This is just a funny card I saw posted in the restroom.

And, finally, you'll recall that while dogs weren't allowed to attend the HVvf, they recommended that you bring something home for your furry friend. As such, we visited the  Coast to Coast dog treats booth and chose the butternut squash/blueberry, heart-shaped treats for 89, who was at home- eagerly anticipating our return.

As you can see, she was barely interested.

She didn't want anything to do with them, really.

Of course I'm kidding! She gobbled up 4 of them within minutes of us returning home, including the individually- wrapped sample of the pumpkin flavor they'd given us so she could try that one too. It was really great to have a special treat for her to enjoy after having enjoyed so many ourselves over the course of the day.

What more can I say? Thank you so very much for an amazing event, Hudson Valley vegfest crew; it was a phenomenal day and we can't wait for the next one.