Being Cognizant: Celebrating the 5-Year Veggiversary!

A series about the ways I work towards being cognizant through decisions that make me more mentally engaged with various facets of my day-to-day life.

Cognizance (noun): Awareness, realization, notice, knowledge, perception.

On March 1st, I celebrated five years since I started following a veg*an lifestyle!

I am not perfectly inside one dietary box, in that I do not exclusively eat vegan but I do not eat meat and I try to purchase items that are friendly to animals in addition to not eating meat or consuming many animal by-products. It has been a journey for the mind and body as I try to find balance of protein, exercise, iron, vitamins, and satiation. I haven’t been the best at finding this balance, but I have really enjoyed the journey and the way it has caused me to reflect on what I eat more often (and the food blogs I have discovered for vegan baking along the way).

Each year, I celebrate by going to a beloved vegetarian restaurant. For three years, I did this with my vegetarian partner-in-crime before he returned to the omnivorous side, but he joined me each year to celebrate my personal continued commitment to keep vegging out. This year, a different partner-in-crime joined me for a new celebratory location – C.C. and I went to Meet on Main for a late-night vegan dinner!

We shared a plate of Hot Chiggin’ Things before moving on to a bowl of goodies for C.C. and a BLT Croissantwich for myself, followed by a chocolate raspberry crumble (tears of joy).

We Be Jammin’ ("Preserving by the Pint")

For my birthday this year, I requested a book on how to jam/pickle/jelly foods so that I could explore a new hobby that would be mostly inspired by my aunt’s amazing grape jelly (family fights almost break out each time she makes a batch). Answering my call for preservation guidance, I received this book:

Preserving by the Pint” by Marisa McClellen,
author of “Food In Jars” blog and cookbook.
Not only does this book have the basic guidelines for at-home jamming, but it is specifically tailored to individuals who do not want/have the space to make big batches of jam or preserved items! For me – sharing a flat with five other individuals while at school – is ideal.

The book contains many recipes with unique twists to them, rather than simple and basic recipes (which I had expected). While this did throw me for a bit of a loop, I think it will be a good opportunity to try some new herbs and flavours and explore my creative side a bit.

For my first attempt, I chose the most simple recipe I could to cater to my personal tastes: Honey-Sweetened Strawberry Jam. I replaced the honey with agave nectar, and off we went! 



P.S. It tastes as good as it looks.

Big Valley Jamboree 2014

Two weeks after my inaugural music festival experience, I found myself making another 3-hour road trip towards another weekend filled with musical entertainment; this time, it was from Calgary to Camrose, and it was all about the country music.
It was also a lot flatter than B.C.’s Pemberton.

After 45 minutes of futile pumping of an air mattress, discovering the unplugged hole, then successfully inflating it in about 10 minutes, we made the 2-kilometre trek to the music grounds where we listened and danced to the band playing on stage before finally returning to bed around 1:30AM. It was around this time we began to realize what our weekend would look like:

Very loud music. A lot of alcohol. A lot of people consuming alcohol. Alcohol being consumed by people at every hour of the day (and night). Temperature fluctuations in our small tent. High-energy crowds to pump up the atmosphere and get everyone psyched for exciting evenings.
It seemed that all of those things occurred in cycles throughout the first night we spent in Camrose, listening to the incessantly loud music of our nearest neighbours and watched the lightening flashes illuminate our tent; these events went on until around 7AM. 
The morning finally hit us, after repeatedly waking and sleeping, and we decided to get to know our campgrounds and festival grounds a little better – the day was sunny, hot, and full of partyers continuing from the night before!

While few artists played through the first day that we knew, we spent a lot of time making the trek back and forth from our campsite – a solid exercise after three times in one day (about 12 kilometres total, not counting the dancing in between). The Marketplace was a favourite stop of ours to get out of the heat – we took in many sales pitches and came so very close to purchasing two app-controlled bartending packages – “The Perfect Drink” – because they are COOL, man.  That is really the only word that seems to capture it, and I do not use that word to describe almost anything.

Our first big show to take in was Hunter Hayes, who jumped and ran and sang and guitar’d for an impressively long time during his 1:15 hour set. His very pop-country style was livened by his enthusiasm for what he was doing, and it made you want to join him!

The next two days went a lot like the first: Wake up, eat our hummus and tarts and fruit for breakfast, avoid the food vendors (who did not cater well to anyone hoping to eat healthy, let alone following a veg*n diet), take in a couple of songs from unfamiliar artists, and walk back and forth from the campsite while dodging tipsy festival-goers. We took some time off to go drive into town and re-stock a couple of grocery items and explore the town of Camrose during the middle of the days where we found we had little to do if our desires did not include drinking from sunrise.

While we generally avoided the food vendors, I did decide that it is part of the experience to indulge at least once – so we shared a fried-bannock vegan hot dog. It was more bannock with a side of hot dog than the other way around, but it inspired us to avoid indulging again! I should note that it was good – but it would have been better if it was smaller.

The bannock bun vegan hot dog.

With no pictures to capture any degree of their magic, I can only describe the Saturday performance by Zac Brown Band (the second time I’ve seen them live!) as magical and unifying for the crowd. Their music, in my opinion, can be appreciated by a wide variety of individuals with a variety of tastes in music.

Additionally, by Saturday, I was really feeling the momentum my cold had been gaining – my evening coughing had become a more constant event, and my voice was becoming lost to the world as I sang along to Zac Brown Band. When my voice was only half-functioning on Sunday, I began to rest it in preparation for Kip Moore – our final show to take in before hitting the road back to YYC.

Kip Moore was great! He addressed the glaringly obvious issue with the set-up of the stage at the festival: Half of the audience was sitting down, maybe more, while the rest who wanted to dance were in the general admission 3/4 of the way back in the field from the stage. He came all the way over to us and sang just feet away from J and I! It was glorious and exciting and a perfect end to a fun weekend!

Since we skipped the final act (sorry, Miranda Lambert), we were able to quietly take in the scenery of the campground on our way back to the truck…

 The ride home began with a red sun, setting along the prairie horizon that had been painted with light hues of reds and purples and oranges. Once it fell beyond the land, and the sky grew dark, we witnessed a lightening storm come and go over top of Calgary from over 100 kilometres away – it was awesome!

Now I am back home, and it turns out that my cold was a bit more of a chest infection sort of dealio, so I have time to blog! Hopefully I’ll be back on the health wagon soon, because I only have two weeks left until I begin my contract as a Residence Advisor – summer is speeding by me, and I must ensure I grab on to the rest of it while I can! Some final relaxation probably would do me some good, anyhow.

#PembyFest: The Ressurrection

Two weekends ago, I had the exciting experience of being an attendee at the comeback-year for the Pemberton Music Festival! My first music festival experience.


While I missed almost the entire opening night’s lineup of artists (including Nine Inch Nails and Cage the Elephant), I was able to catch some serious bass at Bass Camp stage, and get my groove on into the wee hours of the morning within an hour of arriving to the festival grounds.


Come the next morning, the cycle of…

Find food > Walk around > Listen to a new artist > Find an already-loved artist > Find lunch > Nap > Prepare for evening festivities > Find dinner > Dance dance dance dance > Sleep

… began! The weather also had a cycle of rain, heat, silly wind and clouds going on that kept things cool and interesting. 


 We explored vendors (selling a variety of goods from fair-wage Thai-made clothing to bannock) and took in the beautiful scenery that exists in that part of the world.

I think what made this particular event extra-special was that I was able to enjoy it with a large part of my family being there – swinging around a corner every couple of hours to find a friend or relative made it fun and comfortable to take everything in.





Delta Rae performing for a crowd of new (and loving) fans!


The Pemberton balloons that seem to become
lunar come nightfall.


The daisy that I would like to grace my future
home’s yard.
I was able to see a multitude of artists,
some notable ones included…
Delta Rae
Snoop Dogg (oh boy)
Modest Mouse
Deadmau5
Chance the Rapper (fun!)
Hey Rosetta!
Randy Newman
Matthew Good
Outkast
Frank Ocean (ahh)

There was, of course, food to be explored – I think that my favourite item to be found was the deep-fried-avocado taco (referred to as “The Green Bastard”). Holy guacamole, was that texture and taste soooooooo good.


Besides the scenery, the people speckled throughout the grounds always served for fun entertainment or friendly company (or impressive athletic feat inspiration).

I should note that she was doing leg presses with
him balanced like that – no support!


A mini Snoop Dog fan enjoying the show with Dad!




The last night was fun – the atmosphere seemed to have a tangible feeling of building momentum, as it was very quiet and calm leading up to 6PM. Slowly, though, crowds began to gather as a few notable names (Modest Mouse, for example) hit the stages – then darkness descended…

… and with it came Outkast (with, which them, came topless women, clouds of smoke, and a lot of jumping)…

These people seemed to come out of nowhere!










Animated faces decorated the trees, while a light show
was displayed on the mountains behind us.

 … and then Frank Ocean! What a sweet-seeming fellow with a wonderful voice.


By Monday, we vouched for leaving early and finding breakfast along the way – and we found a lovely road-side diner through Whistler! Many vegetarian options to be chosen from, and it was good.




All-in-all, a very enjoyable weekend with good people, music, and memories made.

10 Days of West-Coast Moseying – Complete (Trip 2)

One trip down, one to go: With one and a half days of rest following a delayed flight home from God’s Country, G and I set out on the road for Seattle!

I cannot recall the last time I visited Seattle, and I had never been to Portland before; so with a taste for new adventures we began the first leg of our journey.

The Space Needle.

After two to three hours of traveling, we recognized our need for some food (no dinner is not okay) – so we wandered around the somewhat quiet streets of Seattle in search of something that “spoke to us.” It took some devotion to the concept, but eventually we heard the restaurant speaking to us – it kept trying to pronounce its name, and we couldn’t quite understand it..

“Manmoon… Mammoon… Mannoon?… Maw-m-noon… Mah-m-noon…” it whispered.



Mamnoon turned out to be an unassuming-yet-elegant Lebanese-Turkish-Iranian fusion restaurant; “a modern union of Eastern cuisines.”

We looked at the menu listed on the street, were inspired, and went to sit down inside what turned out to be a very upscale-looking restaurant! Dimly lit, dark interior, candles… However, the menu was not the same as that on the street, and we somewhat awkwardly requested to go eat off of the ‘to go’ menu instead – a great decision!

Appetizer, or “mezze”:
Baba ghanoush – Charred eggplant, tahini, lemon


Our shared meal, or “kulage”:
Falafel – Tarrator, tomato, mint, pickles

After our eventual meal, we went to explore the neighbourhoods a little bit before heading back to meet the pets and go to sleep.



The next day was our day to explore Seattle! We made our way to the Theo Chocolates factory for our first stop, and signed up for an hour-long tour of the factory – and sampled a great deal of delicious chocolate. Theo Chocolates was the first fair-trade, organic producer of chocolate products in the U.S.! And its owner brought organic, fair-trade cocoa beans to the U.S. for the first time before beginning his chocolate-making business.





After consuming and purchasing delicious chocolate goodies, G and I moseyed over to Pike Place Market to sample more food, take some pictures, stick some chewed gum to the infamous wall, and stand within the first-ever Starbucks Coffee store!

Hugging my giganto pig friend at the market.
My contribution to the wall!





To satisfy the lyrics of Tim McGraw’s “Southern Girl” where he says: I’ve had some Seattle coffee, some Chicago wind… I tried some coffee from “Seattle Coffee”! G’s favourite spot to go. I had a rice milk sweet chai tea latte, and it was pretty superb (sorry that it spilled in your bag, amiga). 

After that, we walked for a long while uphill to find the vegetarian noodle bistro In The Bowl, which, sadly, was not open during their stated hours of operation! So back down the hill and across the streets we went in search of an excessively late lunch – and we found the Veggie Grill. Boy oh boy oh boy! The choices on the menu were all available to us veggie folks, and it was overwhelming! All of my favourite pretend-meat products were being placed in healthy and delicious home-style meals…

The Crispy Chickin’ Plate with kale salad
and mushroom gravy.



G and her Grillin’ Chickin’ burger.

The search for lunch took us basically until the end of the day, at which time we finally wandered back to the vehicle and started to make our way home – not before stopping to grab some bubble tea from G’s family’s favourite bubble tea shoppe! Then we relaxed around the house, drank tea, watched Wallace and Grommit, and slept for a while in preparation for the next leg of the journey – Portland.

Chaco Canyon Organic Cafe – our juice stop
before hitting the road down to Oregon!
After a great deal of indecisiveness with a great menu,
I decided upon the Zen Calm juice:
A blend of orange, apple, spinach, and mint.

With copious amounts of coffee and cocoa in hand, G took the wheel and I took the camera as we neared our final destination for the next few days. First stop: The Stash Tea outlet. The hype that G built around this magnificent shop was not a let-down as we entered to find walls on walls of teas to smell and choose from, as well as accessories and mugs to go with them. I decided upon a gift for him and a Portland Oregon blend for me! G and I split a root beer tea package that I am excited to rip into and put over ice soon.


At Savor Soup House food truck!
Me: Vegan grilled cheese ‘wich with sweet potato,
kale, & coconut soup.
G: Daily special featuring the Veggie Baguette!



Our first day consisted of establishing ourselves in our residence for our time in Portland, exploring the neighbourhood surrounding the tea store, and grabbing some food to snack on throughout our time there.

The next day, we went walking around downtown and went in search of cafes, well-known stores, boutiques, and of course – food. The food cart district of Portland consists of what looks to be 70-80 carts parked all within a block of one another, and it is AMAZING! I had a difficult time deciding between so many delicious-looking options, but – as pictured above – we finally did decide on lunch.

Portland is known as “The City of Roses.”




On our second-to-last day, we explored the Hawthorne District, which was a wide street lined with endless food stops, boutiques full of jewellery or books or kitchen accessories, vintage clothing stores, and everything else you could hope to find in a 10-block radius. It was hot and beautiful outside that day and I would certainly enjoy going back to that particular area!


Food Fight!: The vegan grocery store!






















It was agreed that we would indulge in some salads for dinner that night from a location recommended by a local newspaper author. Of the three possible salad stops, we decided upon the one right next door to our residence: The Garden Bar. While I did not strategize my salad creation very effectively, I was certainly impressed by the quantity of salad I received for $7.00 and enjoyed my fruity seltzer drink to go with it (so many interesting and non-pop drink options in this city!).



Before consuming our salads, we stopped by Powell’s Books to find some new summer reading – I decided upon a philosophy book that complements my psychology studies and a book about the history of sexuality in Canada! The options in this multi-level bookstore were very impressive, and I think anyone could find a book in here that they would enjoy.

Salads and literature – what more does one need?!
Evening snacks: Whole Foods vegan chick’n and falafel
with some superb tea from the Stash Tea house.
For dessert, we went to Henry’s Tavern to have some amazing bread pudding and fruit crumble between the three of us! It was a nice way to end our last full day in Portland, and gave us lots of fuel to head out for our drive the next day. 

Making our way out of Seattle – Space Needle

On our final day, we drove back to Seattle to change vehicles, and we made excellent time getting back to the land of beavers and maple leafs! The trip was a great getaway and I developed a great fondness for Portland and a desire to spend more time there – certainly Seattle as well, as I did not get to explore it very much in our journey!

10 Days of West-Coast Moseying – Complete (Trip 1)

Ah, what a nice couple of weeks it has been!

My trip to God’s Country was greatly desired and extremely uplifting – but far too short to leave me with anything less than a feeling of having been teased with my favourite fella’s company. However, I filled up on hugs and food and photos and filled the crew with baking from Vegan Vices! I had a lovely time, and experienced some prairie land weather “May”hem.

One thing I had wanted to cross off my list of things to do was go to the farmer’s market! So off we went, partially in search (at least for me) of the magical veg*n ‘meat’ products that we knew were sold there (and consumed often by us at home).

 

I bought some vegan
shrimp. WOO.
(Then forgot to bring
it home with me.)

We were also made aware of a street festival happening that weekend – the Lilac Festival! So we went and walked down about ten blocks of vendors and through endless seas of slow-moving people, finally finding a roasted corn cart that tickled our fancies and made us feel satisfied with calling it a day.

The rest of the weekend consisted of cookie- and muffin-eating good times, a great deal of trampoline activities, touring about the city during down time, and watching Suits episodes that we are way too behind on (season 4 is starting soon!!).

On my last night, we had dinner at a lovely Italian restaurant called Bonterra, and I had this really interesting and delicious pasta dish in the photo below! Everything about it was just about right, from the size of the whole dish to the size of the noodles to the amount of non-pasta items.


The next post will cover the second trip down to Seattle and Portland!

Spring: The First Few Weeks

The last week has been fun!

And full of food adventures.

Since my first day at work, just over a week ago, I have declined two job interviews on account of being unable to commit to the hours of the position if it were offered to me, I attended a day of rodeo fun, and I got my ‘Wack fix!

Before I continue, I will provide some photographic updates of my food adventures in the first week or so of being off school…

Strawberry-infused H2O.


A delicious salad from Town Hall.


Mom’s vegan casserole!


Mom’s eggy breakfast with Daiya
cheese and veggies for me!


Vegetarian “chicken” fillet with
mushroom gravy and yummyness.



This is Abby Cadabby, she has been my amiga through most mornings and evenings at home! She carries my tea.
Cyrina’s first experience at The Naam –
Thai Dragon Bowl-style.
Mother’s Day – SUSHI!





Making copious amounts of juice with MZ and G!


The weeks have progressed with some much-needed friend visits (more are needed, though), a great deal of catching up on TV shows, missing my fella’, going on a few adventures and touring friends around my home turf…








The uncertainty of the future with my current job is somewhat exciting, despite the fact that it is a bit unnerving. I think it will involve many learning curves and a lot of delicious baking – that sounds like a good deal to me either way…

The flexibility also gives the the chance to explore my summer opportunities a bit more! I can go on little trips, get in my friend and family time, and establish my incoming-residence-advisor presence at school over the summer (at go to Summer Community Eats). 

All-in-all, things are going well and while I’ve turned away from a couple of different opportunities, I am also going into one that is very interesting and full of nice company and yummy treats! I am also content with my decision to stay at home, as it has been very rejuvenating to be here.




More photo updates will come (along with some stories, I hope!) following a trip to see m’boy and to explore Seattle and Portland with G! This hasn’t been a very in-depth update, but it has been more of a time to be laid-back and to take it easy than to do too much in-depth exploration and thinking.