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Thursday, September 30, 2010

May I Be Frank

All summer long, I kept catching mention of a documentary called "May I Be Frank." Every mention of it said the same thing: Inspiring! Motivating! You'll laugh! You'll cry! There were several showings of the film around the Kansas City area, but I never got around to catching one of them, until it came to the Wynbrick Center in Liberty last Thursday. By then, I felt like I needed to see what all the hype was about.

Let me start by saying that I had never been to the Wynbrick Center before, but it is a lovely space for special events (namely, weddings) and wellness events (they host cooking classes, yoga and Pilates, and more). It's a beautiful, cozy building, so if you live near Liberty and are planning to get hitched and/or go on a detox and/or want to take up Pilates, you should check them out.

Before the showing of the documentary, there was a "healthy happy hour" going on. Unfortunately, I didn't get to check out all of the booths because I was volunteering at the check-in table, but there were juice and tea mocktails being served, samples of dark chocolate and non-dairy truffles, and booths from area businesses, including a yoga center, a health food store, and other local holistic businesses.

After the ~100 attendees filed in, mixed and mingled, and found their seats, it was showtime.

And you know what? It lives up to the hype. I don't really know what my expectations were for the film before it started. The opening credits are a little hokey, and I admit that the cheesy acting in the opening sequence gave me my doubts that I was in for a poorly made film, but it gets better. It's all about the raw footage, it's all about the actual events, it's all about Frank.

Frank is quite a character. He's straight outta Brooklyn, says what he thinks, has no filter, but yet is so open-minded. In some ways, specifically the lack of mouth filter and his physical appearance, Frank reminds me of my own father. (But my father would NEVER go on this raw food, spiritual cleanse like Frank did, unfortunately.) Frank is very likable and I found myself rooting for him almost from the start. His sharp sense of humor makes the movie that much more interesting, but his weaker moments caught me off guard and, I admit, those moments tugged at those proverbial heart strings.

If you can catch a screening of this movie in your neck of the woods, I highly recommend watching it. It's really a feel-good movie in a literal sense -- I felt so good and warm and happy after watching it!

After this night's showing in Liberty, Frank appeared for a Q & A after the film. WOW. He really went through quite a transformation! It was nice to get a little more info about what happened after the movie ended (and really, I feel like they should have just kept filming), but I won't reveal too much here, in case any of you get a chance to catch a screening and meet Frank. After most of the guests had left, I made sure to tell Frank how much I enjoyed the film and ask for a picture for my blog. Before I could even complete my sentence, he hooked me into the biggest, most genuine hug I may have ever received.

You can't quite tell in the picture, but he's wearing a Cafe Gratitude t-shirt that reads, "I love my life." I think most people would have been able to guess that about Frank, with or without that t-shirt.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Linky-Dinks & Some Videos

Here are some links I've stumbled upon recently about veg*nism, health, nutrition, and travel in the news.

BED BUGS -- Just hearing that makes my skin crawl. Here's a link from the Travel Channel about how to find them, how to protect yourself, and how to handle them, if you're unfortunate enough to come into contact with them.

Get a FREE dairy-free e-cookbook HERE. It's full of "school time" recipes, good for children AND adults.

Have you heard? Denny's restaurants will now be carrying VEGAN veggie burgers.

Attention Kansas City-area readers: Trader Joe's is coming! (To the Kansas side.) I wish they were coming closer North, but I'll take whatever I can get. Welcome, TJ's!

There's a Pure Bar Giveaway going on over at the Almost Vegan blog.

Looking for more reading material? Here's the Guide to Culinary Schools' Top 50 Vegan and Vegetarian Blogs list.

I posted this video on facebook, but I'm posting it here, also, because it's worth watching. I am amazed at where this 11-year-old boy's priorities are, AND with his kick-ass public speaking skills!

I was 11 years old when I first well fully vegetarian (when I was 10, the only meat I would eat was chicken. Somehow my mom convinced me that was okay). I was also a junk-food vegetarian for many years, but that's another story for another blog post. When I was 11, I was all "Meat is murder! Save the animals! Rahhh!" This stuff that Birke Baehr is talking about wasn't even on my RADAR (but honestly, back then, I don't think it was on anyone's radar, at least not in my neck of the world). I'm just so impressed with this little boy. His parents must be so proud.

And here is Mark Bittman, talking about what's wrong with how we eat.

Have you heard? High-fructose corn syrup may be changing its name in the hopes of a better image to "corn sugar."

And, to end on an, ahem, uplifting note, here are some pictures of naturally naughty vegetables.

What articles and videos have caught your eye lately?

Friday, September 24, 2010

PNW Trip: Day 13 - W-W-W-Wall Drug!

Here we are. The last of the recaps.

And because I have such an affinity for cheesy roadside attractions, what better way to end my recaps than with our trip to Wall Drug in Wall, South Dakota!

(Not to be confused with Butt Drugs.)

Anyway, L took more of the sillier photos on his camera, so here are just a few that I snapped.

L partakes in some of the free ice water in rear. (I sort of made another Butt Drugs reference. I can't help myself.)

Aged, rough-around-the-edges dummies were quite a sight.

Some of them even sing! (I was more amused by the non-singing prairie dog.)

Wall Drug has everything! Why, you can even go diggin' for gold! Hu-hyuck!

Just watch out for the T-Rex.

While L had a *moment* with his malt, I sipped an old fashioned black berry soda and wrote out some postcards.

Wall Drug was a nice break from the doldrums of the highway. It was especially entertaining to watch all the elderly visitors posing for silly (and sometimes, SASSY) pictures!

I spent the rest of our daylight hours with my nose in this book.

I had seen the movie a couple of times and always wanted to know more. When I got a copy of the book, I was surprised at how thin it is and worried that it wouldn't tell me much more than the movie did. Well, it's never quite the WHOLE picture (but when is it?), but the extra details were really interesting and made the story that much more mysterious and amazing.

And really, that's it for the day. We stopped at a crappy restaurant in Sioux Falls, then stopped in Council Bluffs so L could indulge in more cheap Mexican food, and then we headed straight home. We were so ready to be out of the car, and while I wasn't ecstatic to be back home (post-vacation blues are so real for me), it did feel kind of nice to collapse onto my own bed.

Thank you for reading my vacation recaps. I hope you enjoyed reading them as much as I enjoyed doing the traveling. Now, it's back to reality!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

PNW Trip: Day 11 & 12 - A 2-for-1 Entry featuring Washington, Montana (barely), and South Dakota

We were up before 7 and on the road just before 8 for a long day of driving east. We stopped at Trader Joe's for a few items for the next couple days, then a gas station for ice for the cooler, then off on the road in the rain, along the Cascades Scenic Byway. We stopped at many overlooks for views and pictures. The rain let up as the day progressed.

We made some really beautiful stops along the way.

We had difficulty finding a good place to stop for lunch, so we parked at a Shell station and ate a very light meal. (I love this Trader Joe's hummus.)

We also gave this black bean dip a try, but unfortunately, it's just not as good as the Publix version. (Dear Florida friends, please send me a case for my birthday. XOXO) It was the sweetness of the TJ's version that I disliked the most.

More driving. The further east we go, the less interesting it gets. I did get a dam picture, though.


L got another Taco Time fix in Spokane and I ran into Huckleberry Natural Foods Store to pick up my own dinner. Their vegan options were slim: 1 wrap, 2 salads (one lentil, the other fruit). I was enticed by all the colors in the wrap and it seemed to be the most satisfying of the 3 choices, so I went with that. (I can never have too many veggies in a day, anyway.)

This thing was ENORMOUS. Eventually I resorted to knife and fork for this wrap. All the fresh veggies were nice, but more than anything else, it was loaded with red onion, which is not good eats in my book. It felt like my lips had actually caught on fire. I pulled out as many of the raw red onions as I could.

Whew! The good stuff in there were the fresh veggies, the black bean spread, and the tofu spread. They were a stingy on the spreads; I think more of both, plus some avocado/guacamole would have made the whole wrap less dry.

We finally made it to Butte, Montana, pretty late (11:30pm Mountain time). We were pretty darn tired.

PNW Trip - Day 12

We came to the conclusion that there was NOTHING to do in Montana. The hotel didn't have any enticing brochures, and even stopping at a tourism office didn't result in much. We had hoped we'd find something interesting along the interstate, but no such luck through Montana. I finished a book and entertained myself with cookies.

These Trader Joe's vegan chocolate chip cookies contain walnuts, which meant L couldn't eat any. (Mwa ha ha ha!) Actually, that ended up being a very bad thing because it meant this whole package was mine mine mine.

And the chocolate + stir-craziness from being cooped up in the car on a boring stretch of highway made me a little crazy.

a little humor at a rest area

Another snack from TJ's

We rolled into Mount Rushmore fashionably late at 9:30pm. (They close at 10pm.) The "lighting ceremony" had already begun, according to the woman at the entrance. Considering it was a weeknight after Labor Day, we were AMAZED at how many people were there! They were mostly older people and just a couple of families with very small children.

The "lighting ceremony" was really cheesy. They showed this low-quality, overly-patriotic documentary thing, then triumphant music kicked on, and the lights slooowly came up on Mt. Rushmore.

Honestly? It was kind of underwhelming. It looks bigger on the internet. *shrug*

Jogged over to Rapid City, where we crashed for the night. We watched an episode of Man v. Food (that show is a train wreck) before turning the lights out.

PNW Trip: Day 10 - Bellingham

Our day started at Bloom Organic Cafe in Bellingham, which offers all-vegan fare, plus some raw options.

It's such an adorable restaurant! And it's much bigger than I expected; they have a big stage in the back and they often have musicians and dancers.

Okay, let's bring on the food. L ordered a cup of the tortilla soup.

Neither of us were too crazy about it. I thought it was just too brown, too mushy, and the tortilla chips at the bottom were pure mush.

I ordered the Bloom Burrito.

This was great! It was positively BURSTING with curry-dill quinoa (!!!), their Supergreens mix (kale, collards, cabbage), tomato, carrot, and avocado, served with cucumber-dill "yogurt" sauce. I loved it!

Knife & fork required.

L ordered the nachos.

Wow -- this was a MOUNTAIN of tortilla chips piled high with spicy-rice-and-lentil "taco meat," spicy red sauce, avocado, and drizzled in nacho cashew-cheese sauce. I tasted (of course) and it is GOOD.

L's sister ordered the grilled "cheese" (cashew-based) with tomato.

She said she liked it, but wished it was bigger or more substantial in some way.

This was a lovely dining experience, overall. As we were getting ready to leave, I couldn't help but order a raw orange cinnamon roll to go when I saw it mentioned on the board.

Wow! There was a whole lotta orange going on in this little roll!

In fact, it was a little too orangey for me. I let L's sister finish it.

Next, we took my first ferry ride.

It was a small ferry, but still fun and strange. (You know, being in a car ON WATER.)

Then we were introduced to some geoducks (pronounced: GOOEY-duck). They're big in Washington, and they are STRANGE.

Gross, right? They look like nasty wieners. (And I don't mean hot dogs, obviously.)

I poked one, and they feel ALMOST as weird as they look.

We cruised around the island a bit, stopped at a grocery store for some last minute dinner ingredients, then headed back to the cabin to just lounge around. L's sister cooked dinner for us: a delicious coconut curry with brown rice.

Made mostly with local veggies from the nearby farmers market.

We stayed in for the evening, watched a movie, played with the dogs, chatted, ate peach sorbet, and played with the iReverse app on L's iphone. A good way to end our time out here.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

PNW Trip: Day 9 - Last Taste of Seattle

We slept kind of late (10, I think), but not late enough to recover from our late night in downtown Bellevue. I felt pretty groggy for my last chance to experience Seattle on this trip.

We went to the University District, which is a very cool, veg-friendly neighborhood, as you'd imagine. It's also dog-friendly, which was great because L's sister's dogs had been cooped up in the car all night. We strolled around for awhile, and then stumbled upon Flower's, an all-vegan Indian buffet that I had read mixed reviews about online. L and his sister were really excited about the offerings, and heck, I can't turn down a 100% vegan buffet.

Check out the spread!

My first plate:

Favorites of the plate: the yellow noodly dish, roasted cauliflower, roasted broccoli, and the spinach-tofu "paneer". I pretty much liked everything on this plate. I want to try and recreate some of this, especially the yellow noodly dish. The sauce tasted like it was made with Vegenaise, turmeric, mustard, and curry. Hmm...

My second plate, which wasn't as good. I wanted to taste all the other options, and I didn't like most of them, especially the cold eggplant dishes.

I hear the selection at Flowers changes often, so there's always an element of surprise when you hit up the lunch buffet. I'd say the offerings are pretty equal with hits and misses, but for $8, you can't go wrong.

We walked around some more. L & his sister stopped for ice cream at Full Tilt, but I didn't like their vegan flavors. I peeked inside Chaco Canyon, just to see what kind of things they carry there.

I was really impressed with their atmosphere, their dedication to sustainability, and their menu, of course. They have many raw food offerings that all looked so good, but I was plenty full after the Flowers buffet. Since Chaco Canyon offers vegan ice cream, I went ahead and got a taste. The flavor on tap that day was cookie dough. It's as if they knew I was coming. (Cookie dough is my favorite flavor.)

As you'll see in this picture, I forgot more than halfway through to take a picture, but I did remember eventually, so this is what you get.

Creamy vanilla ice cream with chunks of their "Cowboy Cookie," which is made with oats, nuts, coconut, chocolate chips, and banana. Good stuff!

L's sister got a smoothie and I loved the "cup" it was served in.

Chaco Canyon is the kind of restaurant I'd love to open someday. Charming and cozy, sustainable and delicious.

I also poked my head in Sidecar Pigs for Peace, an all-vegan store in the U District, but I have to say, Food Fight! in Portland is way better.

Then we all loaded ourselves (puppies, too, of course) back into the car and made the 2 hour trek back to L's sister's cabin. The dogs ran around for awhile, then the three of us headed out to a showing of "Inception." (I recommend seeing this movie more than once. It's amazing how much I missed the first time I watched it.)

After the movie, we went to Nimbus in Bellingham, a classy little restaurant on the top floor of the Bellingham Towers building, which is the tallest building in B-ham. We were lucky to get a seat right in the bay window, so we had a lovely view of B-ham at night.

I ordered a drink ("Spring Fever") and a half-portion of their "housemade fried tofu." Quite possibly the best tofu I've ever eaten, and I love tofu, folks.

It was very dark inside Nimbus, so pardon the bright photo.
The tofu had a crispy, flaky tempura crust. It reminded me a little of the Tofu Filet at Local Burger in Lawrence, Kansas, but thicker and heartier. It was served with arugula, chantrelle mushrooms, and stuffed zucchini wheels. SO AMAZING. I'll be dreaming of this tofu.

We headed back to the cabin, still wiped out from the long weekend. The dogs were ready for bed, too.

Up next: a full day in Bellingham.