My first vegan holiday feast

Funny thing, when I started this blog I was really planning on it being a food and recipe blog. I do sometimes mention food and restaurants, and I wrote one post Eating Vegan in the East Bay early on. But this is the first time I am writing a post about cooking. A sign of how busy my life has become! This year will be the first time I have planned and prepared a completely vegan holiday meal for family and friends. Non-vegan family and friends, at that. It’s going to be an amazing meal (fingers crossed)!

Screen Shot 2015-12-23 at 1.17.45 PM
Sounds good to me.

The menu is planned and the shopping list is made.

The shopping list isn’t too bad.

I was getting frustrated searching for vegan appetizers: it seems like all any non-vegans can think of for us is hummus. Don’t get me wrong, I love hummus. But it’s become so ubiquitous that it’s not got that special holiday something about it. But then I found The Full Helping blog

The Full Helping

The Full Helping

You know that hot, gooey, bad for you, but delicious artichoke/spinach dip that became popular in the 1980s? There’s a vegan version! And I’m making it.

Vegan artichoke and spinach dip

Comfort food, mmm.

To balance out the gooey, cashew-cheesiness, of course there should be a salad. One thing I miss as a vegan is a good Caesar salad. And I found a recipe for a vegan one on another plant-based food blog, Oh She Glows, by Angela Liddon.

Oh She Glows

oh she glows

I could just eat a whole big bowl of this and be happy.


Crowd-Pleasing Vegan Caesar Salad

The main event: I wanted to do something special, not a lasagna or a something-over-rice dish. I love to watch food competition television, and on Hell’s Kitchen the contestants are always tripped up by Gordon Ramsay’s Beef Wellington recipe. I was wondering if anyone had ever made a vegan mushroom version, and of course they have. And who knew that Pepperidge Farm puff pastry is vegan?!

Gordon Ramsay is probably about to drop an f-bomb on one of the poor “cheftestants”.
This is bad news for my waistline: it’s vegan.

Enter The Vegan Version blog. Yes, a recipe for Mushroom Wellington! And it sounds a lot easier than anything Gordon Ramsay would throw at me (literally throw, I mean).

The Vegan Version

Holiday plate worthy.

Mushroom Wellington

Gotta have some vegetables on the side, especially at a vegan feast, and after the artichoke dip I didn’t want anything heavy like green bean casserole, but green beans, yes. So it will be a simple green bean sauté with pearl onions and sliced almonds. No recipe required.

green beans

I’m always looking for a reason to get out my Jim Lahey cookbook My Bread. Its the source of the no-knead bread recipe that went viral after Mark Bittman published it in the NY Times a few years ago. Jim Lahey  is the pastry chef at Sullivan Street Bakery (2 locations, 533 W 47th Street and 236 Ninth Avenue, New York) and pizza maker supreme at pizzeria Co. (230 9th Ave., New York), which I have been to once on a pilgrimage a few years ago (pre-vegan days).

bread book


One of the guests is bringing a dessert, but I can’t make a feast without making a dessert, and no meal is complete for me without chocolate anymore, so I figure I’ll make one too. Moosewood Cooks, from the legendary Moosewood restaurant in Ithaca, NY to the rescue!

Moosewood Cooks

I googled “easy vegan chocolate cake” and this is what I got: Moosewood’s Six-Minute Vegan Chocolate Cake.

Moosewood Six-Minute Vegan Chocolate Cake

And now, I have to actually go to a store, my least favorite part of the adventure that is cooking. Going to get my groceries home, put on some Christmas music (James Taylor at Christmas and Tuck Andress Hymns, Carols, and Songs About Snow are the 2 most-played at our house), and get cooking!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Happy Holidays!

Love and Peace to All!





I Survived the First Semester! Or, I’ve Been Really Busy


When I applied to a Ph.D. program on an impulse last summer, I knew my life would be busy, but I didn’t realize just how busy. Call me a cock-eyed optimist, but I thought, sure, I can go to school full time while working full time. It hasn’t been the easiest thing I ever decided to do, and I have many more semesters to go. But having now submitted my last paper for the first semester (YAY), I can look back and reflect on just how crazy the last few months have been.

Before–the cockeyed optimist, ready to study!
Insane Asylum Entrance
This way madness lies…
after 1
Got my last paper in. Semester one done. Can I brush my hair now?

One of my first moves was to get a big dry-erase calendar to organize my life. I hung it, planned out the semester, and then pretty much ignored it until today, when I am wiping it clean for next semester.

calendar 2
I’ll pay more attention next semester.

As would be expected in any doctoral program, books are involved. Lots of books. Some I really enjoyed. Some I struggled with. And I faced the reality that I have to pick and choose what to read; I can’t read it all. Or I’m going to have to take a speed-reading class.

Read this book!
On Complexity
Foster cat Mouse and I struggled with this one.

My dictionary stays open to the “h” pages–I can’t remember the definitions of heuristic and hermeneutics to save my life.

I did have to change some things in my daily routine. My obsession with making the bed every morning is a thing of the past, I hate to say (sorry, Mom). As much as I like to do laundry, the laundry room is now the least visited room in the house.

unmade bed
I blame it on the cats.
I justify infrequent laundry by saying it’s because of the drought in California.
My mending and sewing pile gathers dust on top of the sewing machine.
I have become the queen of unfinished craft projects.

We might not ever eat homemade meals if not for the Purple Carrot. Similar to Blue Apron or Hello Fresh!, it’s a service that ships the ingredients and recipes for 3 meals a week. Purple Carrot happens to be vegan, and has the caché of having Mark Bittman on the team.

Purple Carrot logo

purple carrot 2
Quick, easy, tasty and healthy vegan recipes. A life saver!

Of course, we do end up eating on tv trays in front of television most of the time. But that’s not new.

tv trays


eating at desk
Eating at my desk is also not unheard of these days.
Clif bar
Yes, a Clif Bar with coffee is a balanced breakfast, really.

Have I mentioned coffee? There’s a lot of coffee in my life. Funny thing. it’s mostly decaf, but still gotta have it!

I have managed to have some fun down time. Maybe that’s why I scramble to get my papers in on time, but my idea of fun down time is going out on marches and protests, and I think of those as a part of my humane education program. As my friend and fellow future Ph.D. Suzy Fisher says, don’t just talk the talk, walk the walk.

Never Be Silent

Elephant March
Marching for Elephants with one of my favorite activists, Sara Muñiz.
Gene Baur
Farm Sanctuary Founder Gene Baur speaks at UC Berkeley.
Walk for Farm Animals
Walk for Farm Animals in San Francisco with my buddies Cláudia Santos and Heather Meyer.
I also spent a beautiful day at Preetirang Sanctuary thanks to Cláudia.
Brave the Cage
I Braved the Cage with Suzy Fisher. Animal Place was at UC Berkeley to demonstrate what the lives of hens in battery cages are like.
Fur Free Friday. The awesome Kitty Jones is behind me, holding the Animals Are Not Ours to Wear sign.

A trip to Chicago was one of the highlights of autumn for me. I got to live my Ferris Bueller moment at the Art Institute of Chicago and attend a wonderful concert by the National Brass Ensemble, thanks to the generosity of world’s best boyfriend and amazing brass player Robert Ward.

There’s always room for food in my life, maybe too much so sometimes, and cooking classes are a great way to spend the spare time I don’t have.

JL Fields
Fun holiday cooking class at the PETA Foundation offices with JL Fields.
Thanksgiving cook
Thanksgiving chef in pajamas and apron, with bed hair.

I bake for the monthly bake sales held to benefit animal sanctuaries by the Berkeley Organization for the Advocacy of Animals at UC Berkeley.

I continued to volunteer for East Bay SPCA. It’s because of my experience there with the animals that I am on this path, so I can’t give that up! And I’ve added fostering onto the list of things I do. Our guest bathroom has been turned into a foster cat habitat.

Mouse 2
Foster kitty Mouse and her babies. She did most of the work. All now adopted into loving homes!
kittens studying
The kittens were not particularly appreciative of the finer points of research methodology.
Honeysuckle preferred television to studying.
Kianna, not loving the cone, after surgery to remove her paralyzed tail (probably hit by a car).

During all of this, work was chaotic too! The University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive moved into a new building. Moving is never easy unless you have truckloads of money to pay someone else to do it while you go on vacation.

I had a wonderful time volunteering at the Western Museums Association 2015 Annual Meeting in San Jose.

And just when I got settled into a new office and a new neighborhood, I found a wonderful opportunity to work at the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art at UC Davis. Let the commuting begin! Only it didn’t begin so well. My car should be done at the MINI service center soon.

Shrem build
The Manetti Shrem Museum, under construction, planned to open in Fall 2016.

Ask me how I’m doing:

I’d like to say life is like this, but…
thumbs up
A fellow Saybrook student posted this on Facebook; all of us in the program understand!

One day it will all be worth it: I will be one of the new Doctors of Philosophy getting to wear the coveted sash.

Saybrook graduates, August 2015. I want that sash!

I couldn’t be doing any of this without the love and support of aforementioned Robert Ward. Thank you!

vegan kiss

And for any possible naysayers out there (thankfully that would not be any of my friends or family), I will leave you with the wise words of Harold. Please excuse his language.



Goodbye Berkeley, Hello Davis!

Last Friday, December 4, was my last day at the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. It all happened fairly quickly. And with no time off (except a weekend of animal shelter volunteering, school work, and laundry), I started today at the Manetti Shrem Museum of Art at the University of California, Davis.

Going away party at BAMPFA. Just when I got my work space at the new building set up!

The Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum is under construction (yes, another new museum in my life) and it’s going to be fabulous!

Opening slated for Fall 2016.
It will get more fabulous as the construction progresses.

Until construction is further along, the museum administrative offices are in Nelson Hall. The Nelson Gallery is closed as of June 2015. The building used to be the University Club for faculty and staff. I remember thinking, back in my student days, that it was a building I would never enter, but now I am working there! Life is strange. It’s a sort of funky building but it’s in a beautiful setting.

Nelson sign 1
Sorry, the gallery is closed.
Nelson Hall 4
Nelson Hall

My desk set-up is temporary, but it will do!

temp desk 1
It’s comfortable enough.
Already feeling like home!

Of course, it being the UC system, there is lots of paperwork to do before I can actually start working. I spent the morning at the Shared Services office getting my HR paperwork going. They were very welcoming.


Then I had to go get fingerprinted at the campus police department, so I took a detour around campus to see how much I remembered and how much things had changed. It felt the same but different.

Leaving Nelson Hall toward the Arboretum, there is a great section of sidewalk art, featuring underwater creatures.

I headed through the Arboretum, which looks lovely this time of year, although the water is a bit on the green side. But the recent rains should help freshen things up.

arboretum 1

Lake Spafford
Lake Spafford

bridge 2

bridge locks 1
Okay, it’s not Paris, but it is pretty cute.

Mrak Hall will probably never change. And one of the Robert Arneson Eggheads keeps faithful watch.


One of my favorite spots on campus from my day is still the same–the wisteria arbor  between Mrak Hall and Lake Spafford. Not the time of year for flowers, but come spring it will be a riot of lavender blossoms.

wisteria arbor

Ah, Everson Hall, where I spent 2 years in graduate school in the textiles department. Talk about something that hasn’t changed!


Everson 4
Gladys Everson herself

The Art Department is across the way. It seems like it should be one of the more colorful and interesting buildings, but as you can see, it’s not. When I was a workstudy student at the Nelson Gallery in the 80s, it was in the Art Department on the first floor.

art dept
Back in the 80s, the Nelson Gallery was at the far end, first floor.
music dept
The Music and Theater Department next door to Art is a bit more colorful.

These sculptures on the grounds are strong in my memory, too.

Shamash, 1982, Guy Dill
Bum Bum 2
Bum, Bum, You’ve Been Here Before, 1967, Tio Giambruni


Shields Library was newly remodeled during my student days, and I still think it’s a nice building.


And we can’t talk about UC Davis without mentioning the ubiquitous bicycles. Yes, they are everywhere.


Walker Hall was where I spent a lot of my time as an undergraduate. It was the Design Department then; I’m not sure what goes on there now but it’s a lovelier spot than I remembered.

Walker Hall

Walker tree
I spent many hours trying to draw this tree as a design undergrad. It’s harder than you’d think.

Next stop: the quad. The only thing that really looks different is the addition of the hammocks, which I am in favor of. The world needs more hammocks.

For the record, and risking an argument with the Squirrels of Berkeley fans, I think the squirrels at UC Davis are fatter, healthier, and generally more courteous.

Aggie Pride is everywhere.

Student radio is alive and well at UC Davis. Offices at Freeborn Hall.


Project Compost
Gotta love a place with a Project Compost.

But where are the students, you might ask after seeing all of these pictures. I was thinking the same thing. I finally found them at, of course, the Coffee House!

coffee house blue sign


The Coffee House now is much more sparkly and upscale than it was in my student days. But they kept some of the old touches, like the coffee cup sign and the stained glass, from when it was on the other side of the student union in a much smaller space.


old coffee house
This is where the Coffee House used to be.
coffee house
Much spiffier now.
I approve the addition of espresso machines anywhere.

That concludes today’s tour of my UC Davis. Come visit me if you are in the area! If I’m not in my office, I think you know where to find me. Hint: coffee.