one year



avery (aka “bluedawg”), march 22 1999 – july 27 2013

i never wrote about this at the time, because it was too painful, and now an entire year has gone by and i just can’t believe it. a year ago tonight, we held avery for the last time, and said goodbye.

just a week prior, he’d been to the vet for his usual checkup and everything looked fine — his kidney values (which we’d always kept tabs on) were great. and then suddenly, exactly seven days after that checkup, he didn’t want to eat and got lethargic and barfy, so we took him back in. we got the bad news: his kidney values looked bad, and our vet wanted him to go to the emergency vet right away to be monitored. it was a friday afternoon, and we drove him out to the same emergency vet who had treated him 15 months prior when he had a kidney emergency. they did an ultrasound (as they had the first time) and things looked very similar to his earlier visit, so they decided to try the same treatment, because he’d responded so well previously. we had to leave him overnight, and they’d call us in the morning with an update.

unfortunately, in the morning things didn’t look better at all; he wasn’t responding this time, and his kidneys were shutting down. we drove out to visit him, and he seemed pretty sad. it was heartbreaking. we asked to try new/different meds/fluids for another few hours, just in case, and they indulged us. we took a walk and went to a coffee shop and basically just tried desperately to distract ourselves while waiting for the phone call. when they called, it was bad news again: no change whatsoever, and basically out of options. we weren’t ready for this at all, and we felt so terrible for him, and we were just lost.

we went back to the emergency vet and talked about euthanasia, and i talked to our regular vet on the phone to get her input as well, and the whole thing was kind of a blur. we couldn’t believe we had to make this decision and we couldn’t believe we had to say goodbye and we just Didn’t Want This At All. they brought avery in to see us, and we snuggled with him and told him we loved him about a million times, and eventually we had to decide when we were “ready,” which was excruciating. when they administered the shot we held him close and whispered “i love you” into his ears over and over, and i don’t know if i’ve ever cried so much or so long. even writing this, i’m crying all over again and it feels like it was last week, instead of last year.

we adopted avery from a rural shelter outside of austin, texas. we were “just looking” and absolutely not planning to adopt a kitty that day, but avery stole our hearts almost immediately. he was one year old, and had been captured by animal control (with his brother) a week prior. he had been an outside cat his whole life (we always figured he lived near a restaurant parking lot, because he was ultra friendly and liked to beg for food, heh), but he was extremely outgoing and the most mellow cat we’d ever met. it was like holding a ferret; he was just lounging in our arms five minutes after meeting us. we left to check out other shelters in the area, but we kept talking about avery, and decided to go right back and adopt him that evening.

because he was so outgoing and silly, we thought he seemed more like a dog than a cat, and because he was grey (or “blue” in animal colors), we started calling him our “little blue dog.” and then, because he was from texas, we added a little southern drawl, and “bluedawg” was born. those of you who have known me for a long time and from other places will recognize that name, i imagine.

avery lived with us in austin for about five months, and then moved with us to milwaukee when we graduated. he lived in three different houses with us here, and he was the kind of cat who took everything in stride. we adopted finley when avery was four years old, and after making it clear that he was head honcho, he “adopted” finley and gave him baths and snuggled with him and play-fought with him, and just basically became best buddies for the ten years they lived together. we adopted maia when avery was nine years old, and again, he made it clear that he was in charge, and she absolutely fell in line. he wasn’t afraid of anything, and he was hilariously noisy. one of the biggest things we realized after he was gone was how quiet finley and maia are on a day-to-day basis. avery was forever yelling and making himself known, and you could carry on entire conversations with him.

i feel like i could write forever and never do him justice, and i already feel like i’m being self-indulgent. i just really needed an outlet today, because i’m missing him in a really heart-hurting way. thanks for listening. avery, you are loved, and you are missed. <3

it’s adopt-a-turkey time again!

woo hoo, get excited! if you’re new to veganism and/or new to farm sanctuary, you might also be new to adopt-a-turkey time. if you’ve never heard of it before, you can read all about it here. farm sanctuary does this every november, and they have a new crop of adorable turkeys up for sponsorship every year. i am sponsoring a turkey for what seems like my umpteenth year (i picked clove!), and i’m planning to have her picture at our thanksgiving meal. we’re hosting a vegan thanksgiving for our non-vegan family members (who are all good sports), and i think maybe having clove’s picture there will be a nice touch.

i decided to sponsor clove because she’s at the northern california shelter, which is the one i visited a few years ago, so i have an emotional attachment to that location. while we were visiting, we met a hilarious and amazing flock of girl turkeys (one of whom stole my banana). hopefully clove has made some good friends, maybe even with someone in that flock we met. <3 take a look at the sweeties up for adoption this year, and please sponsor one if you can!

barkTHINS snacking chocolate

you guys, have you seen these barkTHINS yet?! if not, do yourself a favor and keep an eye out, because they are firmly seated at holy crap levels of delicious.

snacking chocolate

we were at our favorite little market-attached-to-a-restaurant recently, and these guys were just hanging out on a shelf. they had two varieties: these with the pretzels, and another version that had dark chocolate & almonds instead. erik picked them up (because he is a naive optimist) and we were totally stoked to learn that BOTH varieties were vegan. what WHAT?! we decided to try the pretzel version first, because it was a little more unusual, and let’s just say they were gone in a matter of a couple of days.

about a week later, we were at a co-op and i saw a totally different variety (dark chocolate mint!) that is ALSO VEGAN. you guys. i just can’t even with this stuff. first of all, it’s called snacking chocolate, which i love. i mean let’s be honest, sometimes we eat chocolate just because. i am very well known for just sitting around, brazenly eating it over a bucket. snacking chocolate: let’s call it what it is.

and second of all, they make five flavors, four of which are vegan! alongside the dark chocolate pretzel, dark chocolate almond, and dark chocolate mint, i just learned that there is dark chocolate pumpkin seed. YES PLEASE. if you want to see all of the labels so you know what you’re looking for, here you go! i don’t know about you, but i need all of these flavors in my house, pronto.

brunch at the national

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a couple of weekends ago, a friend and i were heading out for brunch, and i felt my brain being pulled toward my usual favorites. before i even had a chance to suggest one, though, she piped in and said, “how about the national?” it’s a place a mutual friend had mentioned recently, and i hadn’t been there in AGES (seriously, i’m pretty sure it’s been at least a couple of years). i’d been hearing good things about the national recently, and i’d always liked the cute vibe in their cafe, so off we went to check it out.

it probably goes without saying that i kicked off my order with a chai, yes?

national chai

they have a pretty good selection on their menu for vegans (i’m always impressed by vegan french toast as an option), and i was in a brunchy mood so i stuck to that area of the menu. i settled on the breakfast burrito, and a side of potatoes:

national breakfast burrito

the vegan breakfast burrito comes with tofu, black bean spread, avocado, peppers, and onions. it’s touted as “really big!” on the menu, but as you can see it was actually quite flat. that surprised me when it arrived, and i wouldn’t say it filled me up, but it was still tasty. the salsa was really flavorful and gave the burrito a nice punch. the side of rosemary breakfast potatoes was a great decision, too. yum.

i’d love to go back (in less than two years, ha!) and give the french toast a try — if memory serves, it was pretty good way back when. i’d also like to try their black bean sandwich or the hummus wrap. they have breakfast/lunch hours only, so that is sometimes problematic with our night owl schedule, but if we plan ahead i’m sure we can make it work.

aaand that does it for this year’s vegan mofo! thanks for reading about my grub, and thanks for piping in here and there! i’m definitely feeling more in a blogging groove, so i’m going to try to keep the momentum going and get back to my regularly scheduled programming. hope you stick around!

more tacos? why not?!

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today we were about to embark on a day of laziness-slash-working-at-home (or so i thought), when erik suddenly suggested going out to lunch and running a whole bunch of errands. by this point it was 1pm and i still hadn’t eaten breakfast, so i pounced on the idea, mostly because i was starving. we decided on mexican because duh, and we went to one of our favorite places nearby, cafe corazon. it was pretty mild out today, so we ate on the patio. i know these opportunities are going to be dwindling soon, so i try to take advantage when possible.

cafe corazon has a really vegan-friendly menu… several items are clearly labeled as vegan, and you can also veganize a bunch of other items if you want to get creative. their black beans and their rice are vegan, and they have three options for vegan fillings in tacos/burritos/enchiladas: sautéed veggies, herbed tofu, or vegan chorizo. in a nutshell: we love eating there. after perusing the menu today, i decided on tacos (again, because duh), and erik went for the wet burrito. they were out of vegan chorizo today, so we both opted for herbed tofu.

wet burrito

the burritos are ginormous, and the “wet” option comes with vegan enchilada sauce poured over the top. good stuff. i’ve never actually ordered mine this way (i’ve had a regular ol’ dry burrito a few times), but i’m going to have to pull myself away from tacos one of these days and give it a shot. erik loved it. he also had a really delicious sport tea (you can see it in the shot below), that was sort of sweet and lemony. i loved it, and i’m not really an iced tea person.

vegan taco plate

this is my taco plate, and sometimes i struggle to finish it off, but today we (sort of accidentally) skipped the chips & salsa course, so i was able to eat my lunch without feeling overstuffed. they garnish their tacos with lettuce and tomatoes and these beautiful pink radishes, and i always get a kick out of that. so festive! their black beans are my favorite in town; there’s just something about them. they have a little sweetness that makes them magical. in the background you can see their salsa selection (the green is delicious but totes spicy), and i also ordered a side of avos today, because avos make everything better. right? right.

chicago diner, an old favorite

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last weekend, we went down to chicago (my second visit in three days) to check out chicago vegan mania. this was the event’s fifth year, and my third time visiting (erik’s second). i’m going to write a separate (guest) post about vegan mania for the vegan milwaukee blog, so today i’ll just focus on the tasty dinner we had afterward, at the always-right-decision chicago diner.

chicago diner neon

because we had snacked at vegan mania over the previous few hours, we tried to behave ourselves and not go totally overboard for this meal. translation: no appetizer round. sob! anyhow, we picked some great entrees, so we weren’t too terribly disappointed in the long run. here’s one shot that captures both plates:

chicago diner dinners

in the foreground are my tinga street tacos, which were stuffed with chicken-style seitan (simmered with onions, peppers, and tomatoes). i then piled the sides (black beans, rice, and guacamole) on top, for some seriously gigantic tacos. i couldn’t believe how heavy they were when i picked the first one up! i actually had to give one of these to erik because i couldn’t finish (and i wanted to save a tiny bit of room for dessert).

in the background, you can see erik’s golden fillet sandwich, which was their take on a fish sandwich. it’s herb, panko, and cornmeal breaded tofu for the patty, and it comes complete with vegan tartar sauce and slaw. he ordered a salad on the side (with southwest spice dressing), and got a pretty generous portion. i was never into fish (or tartar sauce) so i didn’t try this one, but he was really happy with it.

after that, it was time for the diner’s famous dessert menu. i had a rather problematic overeating issue the last time we visited (heh), so i decided i’d take mine to go. erik, however, was still doing okay so he ate his selection before we hit the road:

caramel crunch torte

this is the caramel crunch torte, and it was spectacular (i stole one bite). it’s served with whipped cream and a caramel drizzle, and the chocolate ganache is the perfect foil to everything else going on. yum!

i am pretty much wedded to their shakes; i can’t remember the last time i visited the diner and left without one, and to be honest i’m not sure that has ever, ever happened. my biggest decision is always which flavor? this time i went with lucky leprechaun mint, which is sort of a minty chocolatey concoction:

mint shake

and i drank that sucker leisurely-style, over the next 90 minutes as we made our way home. this was definitely the right decision, because i got to extend my diner deliciousness all the way back to wisconsin. until next time, chicago diner!

native foods tacos

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late last week, i went to chicago with my mom for the day. we took the train down so we could check out the impressionism, fashion, and modernity exhibition at the chicago art institute, and my mom wanted to take a freakishly early train. as a night owl, i wanted to die even thinking about getting up that early, but i decided to let her have that one, and then use that leverage to get her to eat a vegan lunch. crafty!

i asked if she’d be willing to go to native foods (which is only a few blocks away from the art institute, and right on the way back to the train station), and she was super agreeable, so hooray for that. i had expected maybe a little pushback, but i always like pleasant surprises. the only hiccup was that they don’t have regular soda available at native foods, so she had to make do with lavender lemonade (YUM!).

anyhow, she had the chicken run ranch burger with a side of seasoned fries. i didn’t take a picture of her food because i didn’t want to put my Vegan Weirdness on blast, but i DID take a picture of my food:

baja blackened tacos

these are the blackened baja tacos, which is basically their spin on “fish tacos” using tempeh. the tempeh is really great, the sauce is crazydelicious, and the cabbage, salsa, and guac are fresh and flavorful. i also wanted to give their lemon-dill potato salad a spin (i’d never tried it before), and i was really happy with that choice. perfect texture, lots of flavor. this was a really really great lunch. not pictured: amazing thirst-quenching lavender lemonade, always a favorite.

my mom really liked her lunch (although she thought there was too much–she couldn’t finish) and i was pretty happy about how well it all went. then i went home and slept for a year. (not really.) (but i wish.)