Sunday, December 13, 2015

Count down to Europe

On December 18, 2015 we will head to Europe for 4 weeks and experience 4 more countries we have never visited; Netherlands, Czech Republic, Hungary and Austria. A few have asked about whether we would still travel with the recent acts of terrorism. The reality is that terrible things and wonderful things happen everyday in every corner of the world. A real tragedy is the actions of a few are being used to vilify entire groups of people and to prevent people from knowing their global neighbours.

"We think that by protecting ourselves from suffering we are being kind to ourselves. The truth is, we only become more fearful, more hardened, and more alienated. We experience ourselves as being separate from the whole. This separateness becomes like a prison for us, a prison that restricts us to our personal hopes and fears and to caring only for the people nearest to us. Curiously enough, if we primarily try to shield ourselves from discomfort, we suffer. Yet when we don’t close off and we let our hearts break, we discover our kinship with all beings. His Holiness the Dalai Lama describes two kinds of selfish people: the unwise and the wise. Unwise selfish people think only of themselves, and the result is confusion and pain. Wise people know that the best thing they can do for themselves is to be there for others. As a result, they experience joy.

When we see a woman and her child begging on the street, when we see a man mercilessly beating his terrified dog, when we see a teenager who has been badly beaten or see fear in the eyes of a child, do we turn away because we can’t bear it? Most of us probably do. Someone needs to encourage us not to brush aside what we feel, not to be ashamed of the love and grief it arouses in us, not to be afraid of the pain. Someone needs to encourage us that this soft spot in us could be awakened and that to do this would change our lives." [Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart, p. 87-88]

So we will continue to travel; meeting new neighbours, savouring wonderful vegan food, wandering down streets that have seen a million feet, taking photos, soaking up art and architecture, getting lost and found again, and exploring new favourite places.

"We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate. We travel to bring what little we can, in our ignorance and knowledge, to those parts of the globe whose riches are differently dispersed. And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again-to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more." Pico Iyer

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Canadian Online Vegan-Friendly Shopping

It used to be that all the online shopping options were USA based such as Vegan Essentials and Food Fight. (I've successfully ordered from both shops). It is great to have these options but with shipping costs, shipping times and customs fees it can be expensive and difficult, especially when dealing with perishable items. Canadians now have a few more options for online shopping to get those hard to find vegan friendly items. I have been a long time customer of Nice Shoes; Canada's Vegan Shoe Store. Nice Shoes has a fantastic selection of men's and women's shoes for all occasions. Plus they have belts, bags, purses, wallets, shoe care, socks and even some chocolates. Their shipping is fast, service friendly and a wonderful selection of items. Another place I frequently shop is, which is not a vegan store but has a large selection of vegan friendly food, personal care and household items, plus free shipping if you send $29.00.

Now onto my latest online shopping crush: Vegan Supply, which opened in May 2015 and is located in Vancouver, BC. (There is also an Eastern vegan online store, based in Toronto, that I have not shopped at: The V Word Market). Vegan Supply stocks all sort of items not normally available in Canada. My first experience dealing with the force behind Vegan Supply was ordering vegan items from Antony and Sons in December 2014, before they had their dedicated vegan company Vegan Supply. You can read more about it in my Calgary Vegan Cheese post. Fast forward to present day; I made a large and varied purchase of items in August 2015, pictured below.

Let's start with dessert first! I have long loved Cocomels; the original coconut milk caramels. I ordered an old favourite, 2 boxes of the sea salt naked Cocomels. I also tried the chocolate covered Cocomel with sea salt; divine! The caramels have a real buttery taste with a pleasant, but not over powering, coconut flavour. Dipping them in chocolate takes the taste up to another level.

Vegan Supply has a good selection of vegan meats and I opted for; Louisville Jerky, Viana Picknicker, and the Beyond Meat Beast Burger. The maple bacon flavoured jerky was the best I've had and it boasts 12 grams of protein per bag, gluten free and most important delicious! I've had the Viana Picknicker before while traveling in Europe, and itt is a great on the go snack similar to salami. Last but definitely not least, I finally tried the much praised Beast Burger. Outside Magazine recently wrote an article on this product titled "The Top-Secret Food that Will Change the Way You Eat" A quote fro the article; More protein than beef. More omegas than salmon. Tons of calcium, antioxidants, and vitamin B. In their secret R&D lab, the scientists at Beyond Meat concocted a plant-protein-based performance burger that delivers the juicy flavor and texture of the real thing with none of the dietary and environmental downsides. The burger was truly the best store bought vegan burger I have ever tried. It had a great favour, texture and no odd after taste that I sometimes find with veggie burgers. For those concerned about gluten (not me I love gluten!) the burger is also gluten free. It grilled up well on the BBQ and my only regret is that I did not order more!

Now for the area in which Vegan Supply really excels; a robust variety of vegan cheese! I ordered cheese from; VtopianChao slices from Field RoastMiyoko's Kitchen and mac and cheese from Daiya. I have had Vtopian cheese on numerous occasions and it is always delicious  This time we got the Camembert which is a heavy creamy consistency with a slightly sweet cheese flavour. It spreads well and was used on bread and on top of perogies. I also purchased a Vtopian seitan cheese ball which is my favourite. It is a deletable hazelnut cheese wrapped in maple seitan. Perfect for parties or eating straight up on fresh bread. Up next is Chao slices, which are now my favourite vegan cheese slices! They have that more processed cheese slice taste, vs gourmet aged cheese, but that is not a bad thing. They worked very well in cheese sandwiches and grilled cheese. My favourite flavour was the Tomato Cayenne, but all were terrific. My overall favourite cheese pick was Miyoko's in Winter Truffle and Smoked Farmhouse. The winter truffle was the softest and had deep mushroom flavour. The smoked farmhouse was out of this world with a smoky, deep umami flavour and firmer texture. I love pairing good vegan cheese with an organic baguette or ciabatta bun from Ace Bakery, found locally at Superstore or Co-op.

Now the Daiya mac and cheese is not straight up cheese but the noodles come with a soft cheese pouch similar to velveeta.  Out of the two I ordered, I've only tried the Deluxe White Cheddar Style Veggie, and it was pretty good, although I've heard the Deluxe Cheddar Style is better so I will be ordering that kind next time. The noodles cooked up nicely (which surprised me a bit as they are gluten free) and the cheese pouch mixed in well. 

Vegan Supply is a terrific addition to the Canadian vegan community. My order was processed quickly, with great communication. When shipping perishables you need to purchase ice packs and choose the two day shipping options. This of course adds to the price but it is certainly much cheaper than a trip to the United States! I opted for UPS and the box arrived well packaged and still cool even in a heat wave. I recommend shipping to a location where you will be present to collect it. I shipped it to work and kept it in the fridge until the end of the day. Next time I will try out the cheaper expedited shipping option via Canada Post. 

Happy shopping!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Tel Aviv Vegan Food Tour

A big part of our love of travel is exploring the local vegan cuisine and Tel Aviv did not disappoint! There has been a lot of press on the vegan friendliness of Israel such as; Although we had a kitchen in our fabulous Airbnb rental we opted to enjoy the local vegan offerings at the many vegan and vegan friendly establishments.

Our favourite breakfast stop was Seeds, an all vegan bakery. We enjoyed assorted pastries, my favourite being the danishes, along side espresso and even iced coffee.

Our favourite overall restaurant was Buddha Burgers, offering an extensive all vegan menu, complete with amazing desserts. Featured below is a Schnitzel plate and a dreamy slice of strawberry pie.

Other spots we enjoyed included vegan sushi from The Green Roll, frequent meals at the Vegan Shawarma (including vegan Mr Donuts), and The Green Cat vegan pizza joint. We also stopped by a health food store and picked up some vegan cheese slices and snacks. 

We mostly opted to visit all vegetarian/vegan spots while in Tel Aviv but we were told that many average restaurants also have great vegan options. Check out HappyCow Restaurant Guide for the extensive vegan options in Tel Aviv!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Travelling the Holy Land

I think it is clear that I could not make a career out of travel writing, as I am too busy enjoying the experience to take time to write it down! This post on Israel comes a few weeks late. After spending nine wonderful days enjoying Jordan, we flew from Amman to Tel Aviv, Israel. It is possible to cross by land but it looked more complicated so we opted to fly. We rented a fabulous Airbnb apartment centrally located in the heart of the city and short walk to the Frishman Beach. The apartment building was modest which hid the amazing flat, well equipped for any traveller! The first thing we did was tackle the mountain of laundry that accumulated during our adventures in Jordan. We love staying in Airbnb apartments as it gives a chance to live in a local neighbourhood, has convenient amenities and is generally far cheaper than a hotel.

On our first day out we headed to Dizengoff Centre, a large mall, in search of a local SIM card for my phone, in order to have affordable internet and cellular access with out any roaming fees. All of the signage is generally in Hebrew but we found everyone we encountered also spoke English and were happy to assist us in finding our way. We found a mobile shop in the centre and purchased a Orange brand SIM card, which the clerk cheerfully installed and set up. The SIM card was a valuable asset on our trip and allowed us to use GPS maps to navigate, find vegan friendly spots on the HappyCow app, look up attractions, post photos etc. 

We spent a lot of time walking the streets of Tel Aviv taking in the local scene. I was pleasantly surprised by the urban design including, public squares, gathering places, parks, benches, green space, public art etc. Two very interesting streets are Chen and Rothschild Boulevards, which both have a large green space median down the centre for walking, cycling and Flâneuring. We spent a great deal of time up and down these boulevards, and similar ones, in our wandering. Tel Aviv could teach many other cities about the importance of space to rest, visit, and watch the world go by. Tel Avi had terrific benches in wonderful configurations, including beach loungers set up in some parks. Oh and many many wonderful cats, some of them taking over the benches.

We stumbled upon a weekly outdoor antique market near Dizengoff Square, which is built around a large artwork; "Fire and Water Fountain", a fountain and kinetic sculpture that plays music, by the artist Yaakov Agam.  We purchased a small antique metal art tile and collection of vintage, woodcut, prints by the Israeli artist; Jacob Pins. We explored many diverse areas of Tel Aviv including the crowded streets of Carmel Market, filled with fruits, vegetables, and assorted wares, and the cobblestone streets, surrounded by stone old buildings in Old Jaffa. "Jaffa has been one of the major port cities of the Mediterranean Sea for eons. Most archeologists believe that some kind of town existed on these parts ever since 7,000 years ago, and that this town had an active port since the Bronze Age." (source: 

Carmel Market

We also spent a great deal of time exploring fabulous museums including: Ilana Goor MuseumTel Aviv Museum of Art, Helena Rubinstein Pavilion for Contemporary Art, and the Design Museum Holon. The Ilana Goor museum was very unique as it is also the residence of the artist Ilana Goor and is filled with her own art work plus her extensive collection of other artists' work. The house had a very passionate and eccentric feeling to it. All areas, except her private bedroom, were open for visitors to explore. We purposefully sought out this museum as we learned that she had sculpture from Galya Tarmu, who painted a painting we were fortunate to have purchased in a Las Vegas antique shop. When we arrived at the museum we were pleasantly surprised to find four art works by Galya! The Tel Aviv Museum of Art had a diverse permanent collection of contemporary art with pieces from Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollack, Max Ernst, Vincent Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, to name just a few. There was also a fascinating special installation by Tom Friedman called "Up in the Air." You can see a video below:

Tel Aviv is also home to the "White City of Tel Aviv" a UNESCO Heritage Site filled with unique Bauhaus style buildings. "Tel Aviv has the largest concentration in the world of buildings built in the "International Style". This style was brought to Tel Aviv in the beginning of the 1930's by European graduates of European architecture schools. Their source of inspiration was the modern architecture movement dominant in Europe in the 1920's. The main principles of the modern movement are – architecture is an expression of volume and not mass, asymmetrical composition and regular repetition instead of classic symmetry, avoidance of all decorations that do not have a useful purpose." (Source: We enjoyed an informative walking tour of some of the area via the Bauhaus Centre

No trip to the region is complete without exploring some of the religious sites. Even as Atheists we appreciate the history and religious importance of the region. We booked a private tour with Rent a Guide Israel Tours to see Jerusalem and Bethlehem. The private tour was in a comfortable van and allowed us to go at our own pace. Our guide Ofer was very knowledgeable about the history, cultures and religions in the region. We started the tour in the Jerusalem Old City which is divided into four quadrants; Christian, Armenian, Jewish and Muslim. We spent the hours visiting many ornate churches, wandering side roads and browsing market stalls. 

We saw the Church of the Holy Sepulchre built on the site of Jesus's crucification and the tomb where he was said to have been buried. We toured the Cenacle which is where the Last Supper was said to have occurred. We also visited the Western Wall (also called the Wailing Wall); "It is a relatively small western segment of the walls surrounding the area called the Temple Mount (or Har Habayit) by Jews, Christians and most Western sources, and known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary (Al-Haram ash-Sharīf)" (source: It is an important site for Jewish prayer and pilgrimage. Temple Mount is an important religious site within Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The Dome of the Rock "is a shrine located on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem. It was initially completed in 691 CE at the order of Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik during the Second Fitna. The Dome of the Rock is now one of the oldest works of Islamic architecture.[1] It has been called 'Jerusalem's most recognizable landmark'.[2] The octagonal plan of the structure may have been influenced by the Byzantine Chapel of St Mary (also known as Kathisma and al-Qadismu) built between 451 and 458 on the road between Jerusalem and Bethlehem.[3] The site's significance stems from religious traditions regarding the rock, known as the Foundation Stone, at its heart, which bears great significance for Jews, Christians and Muslims" (source 

Western Wall

After Jerusalem we headed to Bethlehem. When we arrived we changed to a Palestinian tour guide who took us through the Israeli West Bank barrier separating the State of Palestine from Israel. On the other side we took a car past the wall, covered in graffiti and political slogans to Manger Square, which sits in front of the Church of Nativity. "The Church of the Nativity is a basilica located in Bethlehem, Palestine. The church was originally commissioned in 327 AD by Constantine and his mother Helena over the site that is still traditionally considered to be located over the cave that marks the birthplace of Jesus of Nazareth" (source: We explored the church and viewed the site where Jesus was born, which is marked with a silver star on the floor (seen in the photo below). The church is very ornate inside and was undergoing painstaking restorations in some portions. We toured some of the surrounding buildings and ended our tour at a very nice gift shop filled with religious items, souvenirs and local olive wood handicrafts. After shopping we went back through the security gates in the wall and re-united with our original guide. All of the people we met on our tours of both cities were friendly and welcoming. 

Church of Nativity

Israeli West Bank Barrier

We loved the week we spent in this ancient region and I dearly wish for peace and prosperity for all. 

Monday, March 2, 2015

Jordan Vegan Eats

When travelling we check out the traditional foods for items that are naturally vegan. Luckily Jordanian Cuisine has many vegan options. In Jordan we enjoyed hummus, falafel, foul (a mix of fava beans and spices), pita bread, Fattoush salad, tabouleh salad, baba ghanoush, olives, and diverse fruits!

In Amman we found a vegetarian restaurant on HappyCow; Hashem. It is a busy spot with outside seating. There is no menu but they come by and take your order which can be a combination of the following; hummus, foul, falafel, pita. It is served with a side of onions, mint and tomatoes. I have never tried hummus with mint before and it was delicious! It was extremely cheap and some of the best hummus and falafel I've ever had!

However, there is also a lot of dishes with meat or dairy so we often found ourselves eating a combination of the hummus, salads, falafel, assorted dips and pita for three meals a day. I had never considered falafel as a breakfast food before!

While in the region we also enjoyed Turkish Delight, a sweet fruit jelly, and Turkish coffee infused with cardamon.
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Dead Sea

We began our time in the Dead Sea area by relaxing at the tranquil Evason Hotsprings Hotel. We spent our time relaxing in the thermal pool fed by the natural hot springs.

The next portion we enjoyed checking out the Dead Sea while staying at the adjacent Kempinski Hotel. The pool was great and overlooked the Sea. Floating in the Dead Sea was like nothing I've ever experienced! It was like being suspended in pudding. We were rubbed with Dead Sea mud which reportedly has healing properties. Sadly the Dead Sea is under threat of drying up.

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Sunday, February 22, 2015


We took a taxi from our Amman hotel to the airport to pick up our rental car. We decided it would be easiest to rent from the airport which is outside of the city. We had reserved a Mazda 3 but ended up with a type we've never heard of; Ssangyong! The trip to Petra was easy, with easy to access gas stations (but always keep a full tank as stations are harder to find in smaller areas), well maintained highways, good signage and GPS on my phone. It's surreal to drive down the highway and just see camels hanging out. We had a few dogs try to chase us but happily we didn't run any over!

Once we arrived in Petra we found our hotel, Movenpick, right near the gates to Petra. Our room was nice with a large patio. The lobby reminded me of a luxurious hotel of a bygone era. Because it is off season there is a lot less tourists, and the cooler temperatures are perfect for hiking.

On the advice of a Land Lopers article we decided against going to the Petra at night event. Instead, We purchased a 2 day pass at a cost of 55 Jordan Dinar per person. After the first night we were up early before the crowds to explore Petra. This turned out to be a great plan, we enjoyed the hike and sights with hardly any other tourists. The hike begins immediately with many ancient carvings, cave dwellings and tombs. As you pass through the Siq you begin to glimpse the magnificent Treasury Building, which is actually a mausoleum. We opted to hike up to The Monastery, actually a tomb, as well. The hike is worth it! At the top we rested with fresh fruit juice, friendly cats and enjoyed the view. Food, drinks and trinkets are available in spots scattered through out Petra. The second day we hiked up to another mountain top and took in the view of the amphitheatre.

After three nights in Petra we jumped in the rental car to head to our next destination near the Dead Sea. The trip should have been about three hours but took us five thanks to getting lost in the town of Tafila. After trying to find the turn off four times, going down a one way the wrong way, and traversing across the centre of town three times we had to concede that google maps was as confused as us. The alleged turn off existed only in GPS. Of course all this heavy GPS use left us with an almost depleted iPhone battery and still a long way to go to our destination. We stopped in town and after possibly illegal parking in a bus terminal, a lot of sign language, and two purchases we found a car charging adapter for the cigarette lighter. (The cars built in USB charger is apparently just for show). A local pointed us in the general direction to get back on the right route. We drove out of town and took the turn off he had described. We figured at least it seemed to be heading towards the Dead Sea, in all honesty we were driving more by "feel" at this point. We started to traverse an extremely winding road, carved into the side of a mountain, that dropped alarmingly in elevation as we drove. As we got to the bottom GPS caught up and we found ourselves headed in the right direction on the highway adjacent to the Dead Sea. From there we easily found out next stop; Evason Ma'an Hotsprings.

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Sunday, February 15, 2015

Adventures in Amman

We are in Amman for two nights. We started our first morning with a walk to downtown Amman. On the way we found a cellular dealer and picked up a SIM card so we can easily stay connected and most importantly use GPS.

We walked over 12kms and thanks to the hilly landscape the equivalent of 34 flights of stairs. We checked out the impressive Roman ruins amphitheatre built in 138-161 AD.

We also toured the fantastic Jordan Automobile Museum. The collection was amazing containing cars we've never seen elsewhere.

Now we are off to Petra in our rental car!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

More Calgary Vegan Delights!

Heart's Choices recently opened up their new Vegan Thai Cafe and grocery. They have fantastic meals, including my favourite dish; satay skewers with a peanut sauce. As well they have vegan cakes and desserts from Purple Pastry Chef and vegan chocolate bars from Sjaak's and Go Max Go Foods. In addition they sell hand crafted, local made, cultured cashew based vegan cheese.

My regular go to restaurant is the very tasty all vegetarian (and mostly vegan) Tamarind Vietnamese Grill & Noodle House. Favourite dishes include: Deep fried wonton, Crispy spring rolls, Tamarind house special noodle soup (Pho Dac Biet), and Pad thai. Generous portions, affordable prices and lovely staff!

My favourite coffee shop, Phil and Sebastian, often have a vegan muffin or cake donut at the Mission and Marda Loop locations I frequent. Speaking of donuts, did you know you can also advance order vegan doughnuts from Jelly Modern Doughnuts? Make a great birthday surprise sure to delight the vegan in your life!

Fresh pressed juices have exploded on the scene in Calgary with many different purveyors. I've enjoyed Well Juicery (also found at Phil and Sebastian) and my all time favourite Cru Juice. (Cru also has an amazing nut based milk with vanilla bean.) Cru Juice is available from their store front and various spots around town including the little neighbourhood bodega and caterer Our Daily Brett. Our Daily Brett does a great job remembering the vegans and often has a section of vegan friendly salads, dips, soups and Sidewalk Citizen Bakery breads. They make a new daily meal to go, which is sometimes a vegan friendly offering. Sign up on their website to get their weekly menu.

And you are looking for gluten free and vegan baking look no further than Baked From the Heart! I admit I rarely like GF baking but their moist, tasty mini cupcakes topped with piles of rich icing have swayed me! I'm glad I had some GF guests coming over to have an excuse to check out their wares.

Oh and a little bonus Justin's Dark Peanut Butter Cups are now available at Starbucks!