Vida Vegan Con: Days 3 & 4

Saturday, August 27 was the first official day of the conference. First things first, and one of the things I was looking forward to the most: the full, vegan breakfast buffet! This is my favorite meal of the day, and most breakfast buffets make me sad, but this one was filled with gf biscuits and gravy, chia pudding (yum), lots of fruit, potatoes, scramble and more! I thought I’d get seconds after this plate, but that did not happen. The idea crossed my mind simply because I could, and how many more all-vegan buffets do you think I’ll be seeing in the near future? Not many, friends.

After breakfast we all headed off to the panels, the first of which I went to was the Travel panel with Laura of Vegansaurus (!!), Webly of Stumptown Vegans, Samantha Cohen and Jason Das of SuperVegan and Carolyn Scott-Hamilton of The Healthy Voyager. The panel covered a range of topics, from how they plan their vegan vacations, to which city they deemed Vegan Mecca (answer was overwhelmingly/not surprisingly Portland), tips for reviewing restaurants and choosing whether to support only all vegan or omnivorous, mainstream restaurants.

The second panel I attended was the Nutrition panel, and I was super pumped for it, as I may have mentioned prior to leaving for the con. On the panel were (left to right in the photo): Gena of Choosing Raw, Wendy of Veg Food & Fit, esteemed cookbook writer Bryanna and Ginny of The Vegan RD. I took a ton of notes on this panel and particularly enjoyed the discussions about raw food vs. cooked, sugar, supplements and the panelists’ current food obsessions.

Panel three of day one was the one and only panel that I was speaking on: The Accidental Journalist. I was plenty nervous before it started, but Michele and Gabrielle calmed me down some, and I think it’s because I could tell they were nervous, too, (sorry to call you out, guys). Prior to the day, we’d been working on our presentation collectively online and I think that we each brought something constructive and helpful to the talk. The consensus after was that people definitely got something out of it and one noted they “were taken back to their high school English classes.” Success.  A few topics covered were: grammar, plagiarism, our biggest pet peeves, spelling and voice and we took a few great questions from the audience. Thanks for being part of the nerdy writer dream team, Gabrielle and Michele!

Photo of me talking with my hands, courtesy of the lovely Jess Scone, (with Michele to the left and Gabrielle on my right).

After the talk was lunch. After reading others’ posts on this day, my photo makes me feel slightly gluttonous, but no matter. It was delicious and I cleared my plate, which was composed of: BBQ tempeh on the bottom, asparagus and an array veggies, kale (duh), orzo salad/raw golden beet salad and pesto potato salad. Goodness gracious.

And of course, first dessert. Luna and Larry’s was a con sponsor, so we all had our choice of original naked coconut or dark chocolate Coconut Bliss bars. I chose chocolate and it was phenomenal – rich, with a smooth texture and the perfect melding of coconut and decadent chocolate. Wow. Great ice cream bar for a hot day.

The next panel was Small Towns, Represent!, with Bianca of Vegan Crunk, John of Laziest Vegans in the World, Lauren from Whoa Wren, Ryan from T.O.F.U. Magazine and Elizabeth from VegNews. I knew I wanted to attend this panel because Tacoma, while getting better, is still challenging at times for vegans and it also seems as though there aren’t many of us. That is until we throw a vegan bake sale, and people start coming out of the wood works! It was great to hear the individuals behind the successful Vegan Omaha group discuss how to start a successful vegan community in an area that poses challenges. I loved this panel because of how interactive it was, due in part to the audience and their helpful questions/answers. I wrote down many ideas that I plan to work on in the near future.

The last talk for day one was Planting Seeds of Compassion: Communication as Activism by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. I was only familiar with her cookbooks prior to this talk, and wasn’t very aware of her speaking career, but I know one thing after listening to her speak: the woman is truly inspiring. She’s as passionate as she is intelligent as she is thought-provoking, and I’m so thankful I chose to sit in on her talk about how we can affect change daily simply by living the vegan lifestyle. Here are two quotes I found particularly stirring:

“There is inherent violence in taking the life of an animal. We compartmentalize our compassion.”

“My hope is we all embrace our unconditional compassion and inspire others to do the same.”

Post-panels, we all headed back to our respective rooms to get dolled up for the Galarama at the Ambridge Event Center. The event offered up a great variety of appetizers by The Vegan Caterer, including Gardein chic’n tenders, seitan sliders, salad rolls and bruschetta with spinach artichoke dip. Also: there were slices of Sizzle Pies that went really fast, but we managed to grab some, and I was in heaven. Must go there on a future visit soon!

The event was also a fundraiser for Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary, and I think almost every person in our group came out with a great basket and prize, (mine was a gluten-free baked goodies basket from the lovely Back to Eden Bakery, which I love!).

Here’s a group of us in our vegan party attire, (Me, Katie, Becca, Taylor and Brit).

We also got in line for a really awesome twist on photobooth pictures: Fliptography flipbooks! Anika, Brit and I wanted to do a metro Seattle/Tacoma book, and here’s a snap of us, pre-Anika jumping in:

Photo by the lovely Megan. Every time I look through this book now, I just start cracking up. What a great, sweet little souvenir!

Post-dinner, pre-flipbooking, there was some definite Luna and Larry’s Coconut Bliss sundae bar action going on. Vanilla ice cream topped with chocolate and peanut butter sauces, chopped walnuts, chocolate chips and marshmallow creme. I didn’t think I could handle more food, but I was wrong.

After the event we walked to the Vegan Mini-Mall to Food Fight! where the Upton’s Natural’s pop-up sandwich shop was taking place. Though we were all filled with food, a group of 5 of us ladies split two sandwiches – the BLT and the seitan eggplant on focaccia. Damn they were delicious. After roaming the stores, we walked to nearby Hungry Tiger Too for drinks, more convos and so Brit and Kyle could split a corndog and tots. I had some bites, I won’t lie.

Some of us decided we’d rather not wait for the bus and thus hit the streets to walk back to our hotel/dorms, despite fancy garb, baskets of winnings and inappropriate shoes (on Taylor and my parts, at least). Despite that, the walk was beautiful, as evidenced by my blurry shot of downtown Portland at night. It was a lovely eve and I honestly haven’t walked around Portland much in my visits to the city, so I was happy we took up this opportunity. This moment was one of my favorites of the weekend, walking with fellow vegans after a great night, taking in Portland for all the beauty and stillness it had to offer.

On Sunday morning, we all headed back to breakfast, despite our 2-ish a.m. bedtimes, (bad partying bloggers!). Breakfast was the same as before, except this time around I got less of everything except added another biscuit and gravy and tried one of the plain So Delicious Greek style coconut yogurts. Loved the consistency and taste. Need to track some down and integrate it in recipes.

My first Sunday panel was Activism, pictured above, with Jasmin of Our Hen House, Leigh-Chantelle of Viva La Vegan, Ryan, Chelsea of Flavor Vegan, Sunny of Peta2 and Isa. As I’ve been learning more and getting more involved in activism, I definitely knew that this was a panel I needed to attend, and I’m so glad I did. The panel focused on ways in which bloggers can integrate activism in their blogs, food as activism, how to get more people to attend events and tips for avoiding “activist” burnout. They also fielded some great audience questions.

Second session of Sunday was Extreme Food Writing Makeover with Dynise of Urban Vegan. As an avid fan of Dynise’s blog and book, I wanted to see how she could help me fine-tune my blog posts and make them tighter, something I definitely struggle with. Dynise gave us all some doable goals, and even had us taste a pistachio and almond and write down what we thought of them immediately as an exercise. After this class ended I had so much to think about in terms of my own food writing, but that all has to wait, as this post is already breaking so many of those rules, (due to length, mostly!). Brevity, no more cliches, choosing better words, etc. are new goals.

Next up, another writing class, (I loved all the writing classes!): Story-making and Food Blogging with Terry of Vegan Latina.

Isn’t she gorgeous? Just as smart, sassy and adorable as I imagined.

I’d read that Romero was a nerd, but I really had no idea until I sat through her presentation, (D&D and cat references abounded). What I found so helpful about her presentation was that she reverted to the basics in regards to writing, such as: what is a story? What’s your story? Who’s your audience and how to battle “monsters” that may come up as you’re writing. I left this talk with, again, lots on my mind, and some great tactics to use when I get stuck thinking “what on Earth should I post next?” Terry’s was easily one of my favorite presentations of Vida Vegan Con.

Lunch followed, and I was too hungry/forgetful and spaced on taking a photo. Thankfully, Katie got a great shot that looks very similar to what I ate.

Imagine this without the rice and black olives, and you’ll have my lunch. I’ll never, ever tire of Mexican food. The buffet included soy curls, Daiya pepperjack, Food For Lovers queso and raw walnut “meat,” (cue our junior high laughter).

Next up was the Publishing panel, with Isa, Terry, cookbook writer and Native Bowl owner Julie, Bryanna, Joni of Just the Food and Ryan. They discussed the many mediums and ways in which one can go about publishing the cookbooks of their dreams. This panel wasn’t of particular relevance to me, but listening to some personal heroes speak on the topic was enlightening.

The last panel I attended for the con was Your Blog Sucks: Opinionated Bloggers. Panelists for this included: Jasmin Singer, Ben Grossblatt, Jordan Pattern and Laura Beck and discussed how to find your voice, letting comments fall as they may, consistency and quality. As Jasmin so eloquently summed up in the beginning, “if you can’t take the heat, stay out of your opinionated kitchen!”

After the last panels, we all headed back to the hotel ballroom one last time for the closing address – the last official element of the conference.

The closing address by Isa and Terry nearly brought my sappy self to tears.

This image inspires me, and serves as proof for anyone who doubted the fact that 250+ passionate, thoughtful and unique vegans can fill up a conference.

My post-con dinner at the Bye & Bye with a core group of attendees: the Eastern bowl with nooch-covered tofu, brown rice, broccoli and peanut sauce, and my gin-based cocktail (spaced on the name).

The crew, all together for one last round of invigorating conversation, laughs and bonding with those like ourselves, (Clockwise, left to right, Jared, Brit, Taylor, Samantha, Me, Becca, Katie and Bianca down in front).

Just writing this made me feel super nostalgic. I said it in my first VVC wrap post and I’ll say it again: I feel so grateful to have been a part of this amazing event, to have gotten the chance to meet many of my vegan blogging heroes and to have learned and partied with them all in a great city. Vida Vegan Con was one of the greatest weekends of my life, and I can’t wait to do it all over again in 2013. See you then, friends!

Vida Vegan Con: Days 1 & 2

It’s been a little over a week since the first ever Vida Vegan Conference for vegan bloggers took place in Portland, Ore., and I’m still taking it all in. Attendees have gone back to their respective homes in other cities, states and countries, but the effects of converging together over a weekend to share ideas, tips and experiences are still with and affecting each of us, as the event’s Facebook and Twitter, and attendees’ blogs (that’s a link to an RSS feed of all of ’em) affirm.

Before I begin the recap, I have to say that I was completely honored and thrilled to have been a part of this conference as an attendee and a speaker. Jess, Janessa and Michele each put so much of themselves into this conference, and it truly showed. I’m in awe of their individual/collective abilities to plan and put on such a grand event all while working day jobs and maintaining their own lives (and sanity). It just goes to show that when projects start out of passion and heart, something amazing surfaces.

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Surreal. That’s the one word that I feel best sums up getting to meet bloggers I’ve read for years who have unknowingly helped me in my transition to veganism, and also those I’d just heard of recently due to the conference. It was invigorating to know that though some of us are fledgeling bloggers, we were all in Portland for the same reasons: we eat the same foods, strive to live cruelty-free lifestyles and want to tell the world about it.

As soon as I arrived to the University Place Hotel Thursday afternoon (where the event was held), I ran into Brittany, aka Brit_on_Twit to you. She lives north of Seattle and we’d previously met, but it was too funny that she was the first person I saw. From there, we headed to the first pre-Vida Vegan Con event: the Meet and Greet at Vendetta.

We each ordered one of Vendetta’s few, but tasty-sounding vegan items: Brit the Sloppy Joes and I the Tofu Sandwich. It consisted of slices of plain tofu (which I’ve come to like recently, I’ve realized!) with a cilantro-lime seasoning, garlic-habenero sauce and a side of pickled veggies. Appropriately sized and well-flavored, this hit the spot.

Next, it was time for the meeting and greeting!

– I practically grabbed Gabrielle Pope when she walked by and introduced myself, as we were speaking on a panel together but had only met online at that point! And I did the same with Janessa, as we’d emailed back and forth and missed each other at Vegan Iron Chef, but it was so wonderful to see her smile in person.

– Jess introduced us to Bryanna Clark Grogan right away, and I was nearly starstruck. Bryanna’s blog and recipes have been staples in my kitchen for the holidays for years, yet her pleasant demeanor immediately made me feel at ease.

– I saw Australian activist Leigh-Chantelle Koch walk by and said her name, and then she sat down next to me and we chatted about her summer travels and the con for some time. She’s adorable, has impeccable taste in dresses and has an accent I could listen to for hours.

– And on the way to the event via bus I met Bianca of Vegan Crunk, Allison of Allison’s Gourmet and Katie of Vegan Noms, and I’d run into these sweet ladies throughout the rest of the event.

After drinks and chatter, we all mosied on over to the Curious Comedy Theater to see a sneak preview of the documentary “Vegucated.” I’d been eager to see this film and it did not disappoint. What I loved about “Vegucated” was that it not only discussed the health benefits of veganism, but it also covered the environmental and animal rights aspects of it, too. It did so by following around three volunteers who went vegan for six weeks and documenting how they reacted to the changes in their bodies as well as the new information they learned.

As someone who’s been vegan nearly six years I didn’t learn a ton from the film, but I was still moved by it and reacted in all the ways filmmakers want you to: laughed, was angered, and cried. The film was entertaining while still remaining informative, and I urge everyone to see it when it makes its way to your city. I spoke with Demetrius (the film’s PR superstar) and he informed me that the Grand Cinema was the first theater to request the film on its own merit, so dear Tacomans, please look out for it in the near future. For those outside of Tacoma, you can sign up to host a screening and learn more about it sharing it with your community here.

After the film, many of us made our way to the Bye and Bye’s new sister (also all vegan, amazing) bar, the Sweet Hereafter. Here’s my Gin Julep, which was fresh, tart and a taste of summer in a glass, (not pictured, a generous Bahn Mi):

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On Friday, we all had some downtime before the first official con event took place in the afternoon, so many of us gathered to tour the Bob’s Red Mill HQ in Milwaukie, Ore. Our car got a tad lost, but we eventually made it and joined the rest of the group.

I’m a sucker (read: nerd) for these types of tours where you get to see the way that a business is run and how its products are produced, but it’s even better when it’s a company you patronize. Bob’s Red Mill makes 450 whole grain products including gluten-free, pre-made baking mixes, soups and more.

Where the magic happens.

After using many of our senses to experience the products in the factory, we drove to the place where we could procure some: the Whole Grain Store & Cafe.

Though it was lunch time, my breakfast consisted of a very lunch-like, huge burrito, so these monster whole grain pancakes were calling my name. Out of these three, I could only consume one. I took leftovers back, don’t you worry.

Next we headed back to our respective rooms/dorms to get dolled up for the first Vida Vegan event: the VegNews Champagne and Cupcake reception in the hotel’s ballroom.

We sampled Chipotle Cheddar, Smoked Gouda and Monterey Jack hazelnut cheeses and crackers from Portland-based Heido Ho Organics, (each were delicious and I hope they make them widely available soon!) and three different types of cupcakes from local Sweetpea Bakery.

It’s a rough life, being a vegan food blogger.

As we enjoyed our fare, we took the time to relax and get to know our fellow bloggers better.

Though I met her the previous evening, I snapped a pic with the lovely Joni of Just the Food,

Photo credit: Bianca Phillips, Vegan Crunk

Gena of  Choosing Raw, (a personal blog favorite) and Danielle of A Vegan Food Snob. I’d just started reading Danielle’s blog before the event so it was lovely to meet her early on in the weekend.

After we mixed and chatted and drank our fair share of champagne, the posse headed over to a bar I’d been meaning to visit for too long: Tube.

The bar isn’t totally vegan but offers some nice vegan menu items and drinks, so I ordered a Session and the The Original Vegan Ham and Cheese plus a salad, to green up this meal slightly.

Our group was not one to call it a night early, and thus we made our way to karaoke at Suki’s! There was a large group of con goers here, and we represented ourselves well. Many got up and sang, including myself and Brit for Michelle Branch’s “Everywhere.” Yes, this is one of my standards. There was also some Bowie, Lou Reed, Britney, but Jess’ vocal stylings blew me away the most, (I had no idea you were such a talented karaoke star, girl, no idea!). I don’t think there’s anything she can’t do well.

After we all karaoked our hearts out and realized the rest of our other songs weren’t coming up, we decided to call it a night.

Days 3 and 4 coming soon!


Vida Vegan Con, I’m comin’

When you read this, I’ll be getting ready to drive down to Portland to attend the first ever Vida Vegan Conference for vegan bloggers. In recent weeks my excitement for the con has mounted to previously inconceivable levels. This week, VVC has swallowed up all my thoughts, much to the chagrin of my job, I’m sure.

The event takes place Aug. 26-28 at Portland State University and will combine workshops, panels, cooking demos and a sprinkling of other events all celebrating and focusing on vegan blogging and spreading the word about the vegan lifestyle in old and new/emerging mediums.

I am so excited to take part in this event not only by attending as many of the amazing agenda elements as humanly possible, but also by presenting for  “The Accidental Journalist” class with two fellow vegan journalist writers: Gabrielle Pope of Vegans on the Move and Michele Truty, co-planner of the conference and Vegan Iron Chef and writer of Vegtastic Voyage.  I read Gabrielle’s work when she was an editorial assistant at VegNews and know that she knows her vegan stuff and is an excellent writer. Michele has so much journalism experience, it kind of blows my mind. Knowing that I’ll be sharing a space with these women while chatting about writing posts that are engaging, meaningful, honest and unique is such an honor. I can’t wait to help to share my experiences both as a journalist and blogger and answer any questions that attendees throw our way.

There will be a lot going on throughout the weekend, (and even a little more as I get into town this afternoon for some conference pre-funking), but here are a few things that I’m most looking forward to:

– As someone who has played with the idea of becoming a nutritionist, I can’t wait to hear the nutrition panel

– The Small Towns, Represent! panel, (for obvious reasons) and publishing panel

– The Galarama and Silent Auction happening Saturday night for a great cause, the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary

– All of the amazing MEALS, but most importantly, the Luna and Larry’s ice cream bar at the Galarama. Holy peanut butter sauce and crushed Joe Joes!

– The in-between con event and after shenanigans

– Seeing the adorable Terry Hope Romero in person

– POSSIBLY getting my first ever and totally vegan tattoo at Skeleton Key Tattoo (!!)

– And lastly, meeting so many bloggers, writers and people that I’ve come to respect and admire over the years through the glory that is the Internet, and just getting the chance to hang out with them in the city that loves vegans the most.

If you will be there, drop me a line or just tap me on the shoulder if you see me and and say “hi.” I’ll be the girl with super short dark hair and round glasses. Oh wait, who are we kidding. This event is in Portland, so I guess I could be anyone. Um. Just say hi anyway!

I plan on tweeting often and I just downloaded the WordPress app for my phone, so woo! Technology! Expect to see a few very short posts while I’m on the road. Maybe even some live-tweets, too, if I’m feeling wild. Stay tuned, friends.