Category Archives: General

Thankful & Thoughtful

Boots, Helmet, Ski Poles

What made him tick.

The things alive do not know the secret… Of late years, however, I have come to suspect that the mystery may just as well be solved in a carved and intricate seed case out of which life has flown, as in the seed itself.  – Loren Eiseley, The Immense Journey

My brother died at 3:25 am July 5.  The pop and sizzle of neighbors’ firecrackers kept him company that night, gray skies and a gentle rain in the morning broke the spell of heat and drought and sun; more soothing than melancholy.  Determined and independent in his dying days as he was as a vibrant, healthy man, I have no doubt his plan was to make it through July 4; July was his favorite month and Independence Day his favorite holiday.

In the hours and days after his death, little things took on weighted importance: the memory of the last meal together at a restaurant; the image of a sweet smile when at last voice and words, but not comprehension, were taken from him; the half-full glass of water by his bed; the backpack on the kitchen table containing bottles of aspirin, ear plugs and a bathing suit from the last trip he took (to California); the tube of toothpaste, indented in the middle by the squeeze of his hand; his beat-up work boots looking as if he’d stepped out of them mere moments before.  It is those things more than the profound and sobering permanence of passing that make me break down.  What is more poignant than the little, seemingly insignificant objects and moments that make up a human life?

Anyone who has suffered through an illness or has helped a family member or friend knows that it is not a solo project.  It is a team effort requiring tens of supporting and supportive roles.  And so I have many people to thank.  First and foremost among them, my family.  My mom and dad dug deep and called on reserves that any 20-year old would envy.  Their strength and dignity through that lonesome night of loss is an example I will carry with me.  My other brother whose advise and care steadied during moments of stress and uncertainty.  My sister was a rock, holding firm during times when I melted like a candle.  Love to my partner, Kel, for keeping the home fires stoked and for caring for our little (furry) one, Ike.  His support has never wavered.  He loved my brother.  The caring embrace of extended family was felt over the long miles.

It is impossible to imagine what this process would have been like without the guidance, knowledge and compassion of our hospice team.  There were many late night visits and phone calls – moments of doubt and fear made manageable by a comforting voice on the other end of the line.  Stacey, Robyn and Carolyn guided us down that very difficult road.  Special gratitude goes to John, the gentle aide who helped my brother maintain his pride and dignity up to that very last day of life.  We were also fortunate to meet Riley, a young man who made our nights easier by his patient presence and his willingness to be touched by a family’s saddest hours.

Thanks and love go to the many friends – old and new, near and far – who sent emails and called.  The comments both here and on Facebook were deeply appreciated.  In challenging times, the true and the false are shown in stark relief: some of my brother’s friends reached lovingly out to us, shared aspects of him we never knew and offered to help in any way that they could.  Fate or coincidence sent Somer into my life at just the right moment.  She shared her huge, loving, nurturing heart with my brother, but also loaded the back of her vehicle – several times – with plant-based deliciousness and made the trek to Bountiful to spend time with me and open her arms for much-needed hugs.  Her beautiful kids never failed to cheer me with their exuberance and their life and energy.  Along with her friends Amanda and Erika (who have never met me, by the way) she provided heart, soul and stomach nourishment.  Thank you ladies of the Good Clean Food Relief Society.

In a strange twist, Faye came into my life on the very day my brother died and at the very coffee shop where he and I would go after his appointments at the clinic.  Over mutual admiration for short haircuts, I learned that Faye has the same type of brain cancer as my brother.  I’m not one to linger long on the oddities the universe occasionally throws across my path, but one would have to be devoid of imagination not to think something rather huge was up.  I hope to spend a lot more time with Faye and to share with her the thin threads of knowledge gathered over the past couple of years.

Merck and Genentech earned my gratitude for providing their prohibitively costly chemo drugs gratis through their assistance programs; big pharmaceuticals aren’t all bad.  Novocure not only requires thanks for pursuing interesting cancer treatment options, I’m indebted to them for giving my brother – free – their Novocure TTF helmet, a recently FDA-approved alternative treatment using electric fields to disrupt cancer cell growth.  Dr. Santosh Kesari at his lab at UCSD prescribed the device and he also, up until the last weeks of my brother’s life, suggested other treatment options.

Lastly, thanks to my brother’s medical team at The Huntsman Cancer Institute, especially to sweet Crelley who has become a friend, and Sean, who spent hours with me on the phone over the past two years explaining complex issues and trying to figure out what made my brother tick.  From the beginning of this journey they provided hope and knowledge and gave my brother another year of life when all seemed lost on bleak November days in 2010.  I often wonder how they can work day after day knowing that many of their patients will live only a short time post-diagnosis.  I am grateful there are people willing to devote their lives to treating such a formidable disease.  May a cure be found soon.

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Down the Road Alone

Utah HighwayI’m lucky. I’m surrounded by beauty and cradled in love. At night the only sound is…nothing. Maybe a whippoorwill or the soft hooting of an owl. The air I breathe smells of warmth and earth and on certain days an indefinable “green.” I have a partner who supports me, makes me laugh and forgives my irritable moments, indulges my silliness and my crazy, roving need to create Something. My time is my own. Our animal companion brims with joy and energy and I can feel his love for us in every wiggle and every wet slurp. I am healthy and strong. I think, “Life is beautiful.”

But then I remember that I am heading down an unfamiliar road. A road which we will all one day take. If we can, we take the journey for as long as possible with someone at our side, but at a certain point, we go on alone. And then I think, “Life is hard.”

I’m traveling that road with my beloved brother. My friend. This time, I am the companion and he will continue on alone. I will walk beside him for as long as I can, for as long as it takes. I don’t want him to go, but I can do nothing to keep him here.

During this time I will be mostly absent from this blog and from the connections I’ve made here. Undoubtedly, I will from time to time come around to my blogging friends to feel the warmth and companionship that has been a bright spot in the past hard, heartbreaking year.

There is a road, no simple highway,
Between the dawn and the dark of night,
And if you go no one may follow,
That path is for your steps alone.
- “Ripple,” The Grateful Dead

(The photograph above was taken during a road trip I took with my brother in September 2011. A lonely highway that crosses Utah, through a salt flat. Our trip followed a 10k race we’ve done together for the past three years. For a long time I have clung to the hope that somehow we will run our fourth race through the canyon this September. I will run anyway – with him as my invisible companion on the road.)

My brother & Me

My brother, Charles, and me after our second 10k; 2 months before his brain surgery.

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A Midwife’s Tale & The Concept of “Me Time”

A Midwife's Tale CollageReading is at its best when it is not only entertaining, but enlightening, instructional and thought-provoking.  When it takes one outside of one’s self and one’s small circle of thinking.  I just finished a book like that, A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, by Laural Thatcher Ulrich.  The book uses excerpts from Martha Ballard’s diary, fills out her story with rich detail culled from meticulous research and adds in information about the politics, social norms and mores of the time period in which she kept her diary (1785-1812 – what a time period in which to live, no?).

Martha Ballard was a wife and mother, but also a very successful midwife in a small Maine town.  Her diary is terse, with that interesting and moving target of spelling so peculiar to that time period and is a record book that keeps track of the births and deaths to which she’s attended, epidemics that swept through her town as well as notes on her daily activities as wife and mother.  She keeps track of when she was paid and how much and tallies the number of babies she helped bring into the world.  She was a woman who, to use 21st Century terminology, had it all.  She literally brought home the bacon.

It’s exhausting just reading about her days.  Her diary is filled with activities: tending to sheep, pigs and turkeys;  making candles and spinning wool and sewing clothes; brewing beer and making “flower” (flour) bread; cleaning her pantry, hauling wood, weeding, planting and harvesting her productive garden; raising her children and tending grandchildren and seeing that her husband had what he needed to go off on his long surveying trips.  She regularly bartered for both services and XXX, sold seeds, shared her oven and loom with neighbors and acted as mistress to a myriad of young, female apprentices.  She did all of these things along with her duties as midwife.  Called at all hours of the day and night and in good weather and bad she crossed frozen rivers, climbed steep hills, fell off of horses and got stuck in mud – but she reached her patients and tended to them with skill, confidence and tender care.  Except for the few moments when she could scribble brief notes in her diary, Martha had no Me Time.  Undoubtedly the concept of Me Time would have puzzled her.  It probably would have seemed to her the ultimate of selfishness and pride.  Martha’s whole existence was about being in service to others.  To bring comfort and healing and to raise the next generation.

Which makes those occasions when I slip into self-pity at not having enough time to read, write, workout, practice yoga, putter in the kitchen or just gaze vacantly into space all the more ridiculous and embarrassing.  Yes, I cook and clean and tend (barely) to a garden and have 10,000 little tasks that need attention every day – but – is not most of my time really Me Time?  Hasn’t life become so convenient that all of the things I need to do can be done quickly and efficiently?  In addition to deciding what goes on our plates three times each day, do I have to worry about typhoid fever, measles and intestinal worms?  About not having enough food because the year’s harvest was poor?  About a lack of fuel to warm my home or cook my meal?  Or how about having to make my own clothes – from animal/plant to weaving the fabric?  Looking at it that way, I’m lousy with Me Time.

Martha’s diary makes me grateful for many things.  I’m grateful that I was not born in the 18th Century, for one.  I’m grateful for antibiotics and vaccines; bandages that stay on when wet, sutures that dissolve and for doctors who no longer bleed our bodies when our bodies can least afford to be bled.  I’m grateful for 24-hour grocery stores, telephones and daily showers; fresh and abundant food, lights by which to read at night; furnaces and A/Cs, a house absent of fleas; indoor toilets and a stove I don’t need to stoke each morning.  What would Martha think of all of these riches?  Unnecessary luxuries, probably.

I now try to keep Martha in mind as I go about my day.  When I find myself slipping into self-pity, I think about her being woken at 2 in the morning in deepest, coldest winter to attend to a birth, how tired and sore she must’ve been after her full days or about how time-consuming the preparation of one meal for houseful of people had to be.  A little mental slap in the face.  A reminder about how good I have it, how easy my life really is.

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The Evolution of Eating

Part rogue’s gallery, part dean’s list, this is a quick, condensed sketch of what I’ve eaten over the past twenty-eight years of my life – from the time that I was more or less responsible for feeding myself.  Most of it isn’t pretty, but the story has a happy middle.  Getting curious about the food I was putting into my body caused me to make small tweaks over time.  The more I learned, the more my diet evolved.  And it’s still changing – for the better.

(Oxford, OH-Cleveland, OH)
Cafeteria food (need any more be said?)
Cream cheese bagels
Cheese Fries
Cheese pizza
Ramen noodle soup
Pepperoni rolls
Chocolate milk shakes

(Cincinnati, OH-Oakland, CA-Boulder, CO)
Buttered popcorn (a full bag of Orville Redenbacher’s butter variety at one sitting)
Haagen-Das Chocolate Chocolate Chip ice cream (sometimes a pint in one sitting)
5-way chili or coney dogs from Skyline Chili
Double chocolate chip muffins (a daily morning thing)
Matzo ball soup
Peanut butter crackers

(Boulder, CO-Moscow, Russia-Santa Monica, CA)
Pot roast
Roast chicken
Progresso Lentil Soup
Baked salmon
Tuna- and egg-salad sandwiches
Hot dogs
Fish tacos
Khatchapuri (cheese bread)

(Cambridge, MA-Washington, DC-Baghdad, Iraq)
Jello Chocolate Pudding (one daily)
Krispy Kreme doughnuts
Fried clams
Pepperoni pizza
Vanilla cake with frosting
Iceberg lettuce salads

(Washington, DC-Oklahoma; Vegetarian)
Whole wheat home-baked breads
Baked goods made with unrefined sugars
Vegetarian chili
Veggie & bean soups and stews
Salads with tuna (my daily lunch)
Cheese, yogurt, sour cream

(Oklahoma; Vegan)
Whole grain home-baked breads & baked goods (unrefined)
Green smoothies
Raw fruits, veggies and more raw fruits and veggies
Home made nut cheez
Overnight grains for breakfast
Brown rice, quinoa, hemp, chia
Spinach, kale, collards, mustard greens, romaine

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Hunting Hornworm

Hornworm HangingIt’s hunting season here in Oklahoma; no license needed and weaponry is just a matter of personal taste.  Some of us on the ranch kill with our bare hands, but me, I don’t have the stomach for the “wet work.”  I prefer the bottom of my shoe.  Here on the 160 we’ve instituted a Zero Tolerance Program (ZTP) for this particular varmint.  The prey: the crafty, conniving and voracious hornworm.

Where do hornworms come from?  Large (and really quite beautiful) Sphinx moths deposit eggs on the undersides of tomato leaves and the larvae eventually chew their way out of the eggs and into the green Eden of healthy, succulent tomato plants.  The tiny caterpillars become fat, juicy and quite large (3″-4″) as they feast on the tender leaves.  They seem to love to dangle from the very tops of the plants, but it takes patience to spot these critters.  They are the color of the plants on which they feed, but the tiny spike at the ends of their bodies gives them away.

Hornworms can quickly and efficiently strip bare the branches.  The caterpillars – if my shoe doesn’t find them first – will molt four times before going walkabout.  They find some nice, comfy soil, dig in and during the final molt a green skin forms which eventually – buried – will turn hard and brown.  After about three weeks, the skin splits and an adult moth emerges – to begin the cycle of destruction all over again.

Hornworm Close Up

Hornworm on High

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Someone Else Should Make Dinner

CandlesEvery year since we moved to Oklahoma, in the weeks coming up to my birthday, Kel asks, “What would you like to do for your birthday?”  And every year I reply, “Let’s go into the city!”  Just in case you think the Sooner state is all Dust Bowl and whipping-winds-plains, Oklahoma boasts two cities: Oklahoma City and Tulsa.  But when I say “the city,” I mean Oklahoma City.  We tried Tulsa one year for my birthday, and it was great, but – we just like OKC better.  I could give you the reasons why, but I don’t want to bruise Tulsa’s feelings.  Suffice to say the reasons have to do with coffee, food and ambiance.  It doesn’t hurt that a big, beautiful Whole Foods recently opened its doors there.

One of the main reasons I like to go into the city for my birthday is because of my philosophy that on my birthday, Someone Else Should Make Dinner (as well as the other meals, if possible) – and our tiny, shadow of a town just can’t offer the kind of eating opportunities that we prefer.  But OKC does.  This year my birthday wish was no exception.  May 18 was the day and we hopped into the Subaru and headed west.  Here’s what we did:

Lunch, Mocha, Bookstore

Lunch.  Mocha.  Old Books.  Dinner.
No journey to Oklahoma City is complete unless we’ve stopped at Whole Foods at least once.  Not only is it a reliable place to pick up a vegan meal and load up on staples for the pantry, it’s in a really fun area with unique shops and great walking space for Ike (and us).  After a quick shopping trip in WF and lunch on their patio we headed into downtown proper for our caffeine fix at a local roasters.  OKC has become a real gourmet coffee town, which works for Kel and me quite nicely.

Matthew Kenney

After coffee, we gave Ike a good walk and relaxed a while before dinner at Matthew Kenney.  I’ve written about this place before and it still amazes me that OKC is home to a raw restaurant and raw culinary institute.  How did that happen?  The restaurant staff is made up for the most part by students and the food is inventive, fresh and flavorful.  Both the food and the restaurant itself are beautiful.  The real stand-outs on the menu are always the desserts.

One thing that strikes me about this restaurant is how different the kitchen is.  And I don’t mean because everything is raw and instead of ovens and flat-tops, there are rows of Vitamix blenders and dehydrators.  Have you ever noticed the frenetic buzz of activity in the open kitchens in conventional restaurants?  The staff is constantly moving, dodging each other, smoke and steam rising, plates and hot pans flying everywhere.  At Matthew Kenney, there is a much slower vibe.  Staff pad back and forth behind the large work areas carrying big bowls of fresh greens, chunks of fruit and trays of dehydrated produce.  There’s no need to worry about flipping that steak before it goes from medium-rare to well-done.  It’s almost Zen-like in the spotless kitchen at Matthew Kenney and that peacefulness translates into one’s dining experience.  (Icing on my birthday “cake” was a gift certificate waiting for me at the restaurant – thank you, dear!  You know who you are .)

Better Block OKC

Build A Feet-happy City.
I love that Oklahoma City is growing in positive ways.  Rundown areas are being revitalized, new buildings are going up and shops and restaurants are coming in and the young population is eating it all up.  A small pop-up street fair of sorts happened to take place during our visit, so I knew we had to go check it out.  The Better Block OKC project was all about demonstrating how to make cities more pedestrian- and people-friendly with the focus on quick and inexpensive (think re-purposed and recycled) solutions for maximum effect.  There were temporary store fronts, food trucks (no vegan ones, sadly), graffiti artists, live music, crafts and fresh, local produce for sale.

Boathouse District Collage

Down By The River (The Boathouse District).
Ever since living in Cambridge, MA and then in Washington, DC, I’ve nursed a secret desire to row.  There’s just something about it – the early mornings, the glide over the water, the athleticism – that appeals to me.  I planned on taking a rowing class in DC, but we moved before I could turn that plan into action.  Being rather land-locked on a ranch, the only rowing I can do is atop my beautiful Indorow machine.  I love it, but it’s a far cry from being on the water.  Little did I know that rowing had – well – followed me to OKC.  The premier training site for Olympic and Paralympic rowers is right there – on the Oklahoma River.  And I just found this out about a week ago.  I’m so tickled by this, you cannot imagine!  Tops on my list of things to do in OKC was visit this site and I wasn’t disappointed.

There’s a wonderful walking and bike path that follows the river with plenty of trees and good views of the city skyline.  The boathouses are architecturally stunning and being able to watch the elegant boats skimming over the water is a real treat.  I felt the itch to climb into a sleek, tapered scull and take off – with Ike as the coxswain, of course.

We wrapped up our OKC visit with a trip to Second Chance Books (Kel and I can’t resist used book stores) followed by lunch at Coolgreens (a local chain offering fresh salads and flatbreads) and one last mocha for the road.  Now I’ve got a whole year to plan our next birthday adventures…

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How The Garden Grows

Green Tomato

Green tomatoes.

It’s really full-on summer here – though the calendar disagrees with me – in Oklahoma and besides having tomatoes, peppers and basil in the greenhouse, Kel has things humming along in the outside garden as well.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, he’s really been a one man show this year as far as the gardening goes.  I putter out to help here and there – and to help myself with whatever is ripe – but he’s done 99% of the work, and he’s done beautifully.

The garden space has slowly expanded since we moved here in 2007.  It took us a full year to realize that we cannot plant produce straight in the ground.  The soil just isn’t that good, but more than that, the Bermuda grass ate our lunch, so to speak.  It creeps, crawls and invades anything that it can.  So, we covered the garden plot with black plastic and let it cook for nearly a full year.  And we raised the beds to boot.  This year we’ve added a couple of new spots that will be ready next year, after the black plastic, the sun and the worms do their work.  Here’s how things look:

Full Garden

The full garden with areas under black plastic.

Basil Plants

Beautiful basil. Our honeybees will go crazy when these are in full bloom.

Strawberry Plant

A strawberry plant, new this year.

Grape Vine

So many grapes this year!

Green Peppers

Bell peppers from the greenhouse.

Potato Plant

Potato plants; imagine all of those happy, little spuds underground!

Straw Bale

Close-up of a straw bale. My artist’s eye loved the tangles of dry grass.

Blueberry Plant

Young blueberry plant, covered in unripe berries.

Row of Onions

Sturdy row of onions.


One of my contributions: lavender.

Red Hot Pokers

Red Hot Poker, for the hummingbirds.

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Virtual Vegan Potluck: The Post-Game Wrap-Up

Pile of Dirty DishesIsn’t it nice not to have to clean up after a big party?

Ahh, my head is now swimming with vegan recipes – all of your delicious creations from drinks to desserts.  Now I just need to find the time to try them all out!  (Honey, I’m gonna be busy for a while…)  A lot of heart and soul went into each of your posts; it really showed.  The support among participants for all of the blogs in the circle was a beautiful thing and I was very gratified to read several comments along the lines of: Hey!  How did I miss this and how do I get involved in the next one?!

We had a few glitches, which was to be expected.  A lot of issues had to do with the trickiness of scheduling a post.  I myself sat staring at the time on the screen, wondering if I’d entered it right.  We also had some funky links (I made one of those errors) and some dead ends.  I expect as we all understand how and why the links work (and why they’re so important) those problems will be a thing of the past.  Other bloggers had technology malfunctions of one kind or another.  I was really bummed to have to bypass two blogs.  I did not want to have to do that, but I also wanted each blog in the circle to get the attention it deserved.

Sunday morning I went back through the Potluck and overall it moves really well.  However, there are still a few breaks in the chain.  If you are mentioned here (I’ve contacted each of you either by email or via comment already), please make these fixes as I’d like the Potluck to run seamlessly for anyone who comes through later.

1) Along Comes Mary did not participate.  Turning VEGANese, please update your link to go directly to Anne Sture Tucker’s VVP blog post.
2) Foodie McBooty, I still need you to add links directly to Christine Robyn’s blog post and to The Adventures of Vegan Charlie’s blog post.
3) Naughty Vegan and Hearty Herbivore, no need to change your links as I directed in my comments to you.  Please keep your links active to Rachel in Veganland – she’ll stay in her original spot in the Potluck.
4) If you haven’t already done so, please update your links so that they lead to the VVP posts rather than to the home pages.


5) I noticed that on some blogs, comments I wrote did not get published.  This has been a problem with my blog, too – some comments go directly into the Spam folder.  FYI, keep an eye on your Spam folder for genuine comments – you may have some good stuff in there!  Don’t want anyone to think I did not visit and comment on their blog.
6) I’m slowly adding photos of your VVP recipes to my Pinterest board, Virtual Vegan Potluck.  Haven’t made it all the way through, but I’ll get there.

So now on to the most important thing: when are we doing this again??  How do you feel about doing this two times per year?  I’d love to keep the momentum going.  I’m thinking perhaps a mid-November date so we can share cold-weather and holiday-related fare.  Share your thoughts, please!

Which leads me to the next thing.  If (and when?) this Potluck gets bigger, I’m going to need help.  I’ve got a few ideas about that, but be thinking about how we can make this event easier, more efficient, smoother.  I’ve already identified some areas where we can improve and some ways we can make things (like posting times) less muddy.  Also, how do we maximize interest in it?  There are plenty of vegan resources on which we can call – it just means that we need to cultivate some of those relationships.  But, I have mixed feelings about the Potluck getting really big; too many participants means it loses some of the intimate community feel, yet I love the idea of having anyone interested involved.  Please let me know how the rest of you feel about the size of the Potluck.

Finally, as I mentioned earlier, Jason had the brilliant idea of putting all of the recipes together in an e-book, available possibly at Amazon or another vendor.  I know I’d like to have a copy.  We’ll share more on that as we find out what that entails.

Please email me your thoughts and ideas or leave a comment on this post.  You are a creative, outspoken, energetic bunch and you made our very first Virtual Vegan Potluck a huge success!  Here’s to the next one!

P.S. Wishing the best to one of our participants, Veggie V’s Vegan Adventures, who is hosting Plants 2 Plate tomorrow in my home state of Ohio.  Best of luck, girl!  Proud of you for spreading the plant-based word.

P.P.S. Saturday night, after I’d settled down from all of the excitement, I decided I deserved (yes, I believe in positive reinforcement) to treat myself to these cute vegan sandals (the soles are made from yoga mat material!):

Sanuk Sandals

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Virtual Vegan Potluck: Final Update!


Two days away…Are you ready?

I’ve heard from most of you and the answer to that question has been a resounding yes!  Below is the final list of participants.  Is that list a thing of beauty, or what?!

Please check this list and confirm that you’ve got the correct links in your text or on your “Go Back” and “Go Forward” buttons.  If you haven’t copied and inserted these buttons into your blog post, please visit the VVP Page to get them.  Detailed instructions are available there as well.  If you’d like to add a Virtual Vegan Potluck button to your blog, you can find that on the VVP Page, too.

Couple of reminders (can you tell I love lists?):

1) For those of us in North America: please publish your posts as soon as possible on May 12.  As I mentioned earlier, I will be scheduling mine to publish automatically at midnight on May 11.  For those wonderful bloggers joining us from the U.K., the Continent or Australia, maybe hold back a bit before publishing your posts.  Give the rest of time to wake up, stretch and down a slurp of coffee before we hit the Publish button.

2) Please double check your links to the blog that comes before you in the circle and the blog that comes after you in the circle.  A broken circle means lost readers.  I will be eating my way through the Potluck and will try and check the links, but if you come across one that doesn’t work or if the blogger has not published their Potluck post, please let me know or contact the blogger directly.

3) Update your links either the day of the Potluck or the day after.  The links should reflect the actual URL to the post, not the URL to the blog in general.  For further explanation, visit the VVP Page.

4) Jason over at Watch Me Lose 150 Pounds had a couple of great ideas (good thing we added him to the list, no?).  He’s planning on having an easy-to-print pdf file available in his post so readers can print out his appetizer recipe.  If I knew how to do this, I’d offer one, too!  His other fantastic idea is to create an e-book of all of our recipes and make it available for purchase on at a very reasonable price.  What do you think?  I think we should give it a go.  This is something we can put together – as Jason says – after the dust settles.

5) Another great idea came from Shira at In Pursuit of More – a Twitter hash tag.  I am mostly clueless when it comes to Twitter, but this is a really great way to spread the word.  Please use #virtualvegpotluck when Tweeting about the event.

6) I want to thank you all once again for being a part of this world-wide plant-based blogging event.  I’ve been continually amazed and cheered by your enthusiasm and support.  Let’s hope we have a very successful Potluck and that it is the first of many!

Potluck Participants

Host Site
Vegan Bloggers Unite!

Air Eater
In Fine Balance
That Was Vegan?
Things My Belly Likes
Watch Me Lose 150 Pounds

40 Fit in the Mitt
Former Fish Taco Fanatic
Bacon Is Not An Herb
Good Clean Food
Tearoom Delights
Turning VEGANese

Along Comes Mary
Anne Sture Tucker
Dudette Here!
Keepin’ It Kind
Rubber Cowgirl/Vegans Do It Better
Vegan Sparkles
Veggie What Now

An Unrefined Vegan (savory)
Cocina de Nihacc (savory)
In Pursuit of More (savory)
My Plant-based Family (sweet)
Sensual Appeal (sweet)

Cauldrons & Cupcakes
Emmy Cooks
Jenmi Jenmi
Joyness Sparkles
Luminous Vegans
Meizac’s Blog
The Not Starving Novelist
The Twenties Project
The Vegan Kat
Tiny Kitchen Stories
Toxic Vegan
Unsweetened Cocoa
V is for Vegetables
Veggie Witch

A Life Vegetarian
Bringing Europe Home
Everyday Vegan Girl
I Ate Lunch
Karma Chef
Terra, Not Terror
Veg Hot Pot
Vegan Fling

Christine Robyn
Foodie McBooty
The Adventures of Vegan Charlie

Blissful Britt
Cruelty Free Review
Eat Pray Bake
Fridge Scrapings
Go Bake Yourself
Lindsay is Vegan
Live Learn Love Eat
Naughty Vegan
Rachel in Veganland
The Hearty Herbivore
The Misfit Baker
The Savvy Sister
The Veg Bar
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A Virtual Vegan Potluck Update: The Links Edition

Go!That time is upon us, Potluck participants!  Just as in a real, in-person potluck, there is some preparation that needs to be done before the guests arrive.  Thankfully none of us has to tidy the house, lock the dog in the guest room, improvise when the dish we prepared tastes like fireplace ash or decide what to wear.  Below are some thoughts and suggestions and the info on where to learn how to connect us all on May 12.  My hope is that these instructions are clear enough that any pre-potluck jitters are eliminated!  I’m looking forward to finding out what you’ve all come up with and to “breaking bread” with the wonderful folks I’ve met through blogging!

There’s a lot of info here and I appreciate your patience in slogging through it.  First of all, I just have to say I luv you – there is a nice distribution of dishes, no orphans – but the obvious favorite is the dessert category!  Perhaps the next Potluck should be all vegan sweets??  (Yes, I’m already talking a second Potluck…)

A Gentle Reminder:
I’m really pleased to have quite a few non-vegan bloggers participating in this event.  It just might be the answer to the age old question: Can’t we all just get along??  I do want to mention here that all recipes should be animal-free.  If you are a vegetarian or an omnivore and have prepared your dishes with eggs or dairy, please also include the non-vegan equivalent (i.e., nut milk for dairy, egg replacer of some kind for eggs, vegan cheese for dairy cheese, etc.).  I would caution anyone against preparing a dish that relies heavily on eggs, such as a custard, souffle or frittata, as this makes a translation into a plant-based dish a might tricky to say the least.  If you have any questions about this, please shoot me an email.

One other reminder.  In case there is any confusion, you will be posting your photos and recipes on your blog on the day of the event (May 12), not submitting the recipe to me.  Probably you all understood that, but I just wanted to clarify.

Meet Your Hostess:
Lidia at Vegan Bloggers Unite! has graciously agreed to have VBU! be the launching site for the Potluck.  Chances are, readers will land on a blog within the circle and move backwards or forwards from there, but I thought it would be a great idea to have a starting off point and her blog is the perfect place.  VBU! readers can begin their Potluck journey from the very first appetizer.  Lidia has been a wonderful support as I’ve fumbled about with this idea, so thank you, Lidia!

This might seem like a firm grasp of the obvious here, but it would be a good idea in our posts to briefly mention that we are taking part in a virtual potluck that connects like-minded foodies and bloggers for a worldwide eating and drinking celebration.  I will also most likely put the words Vegan Virtual Potluck in my post title.

Since bloggers from around the globe are participating in this event, timing our postings will be a bit funky.  My plan is to set my post to automatically publish at midnight on May 11.  There will be some lag time between published and unpublished posts – it would be too complicated to try and coordinate everyone.  My feeling is the earlier I have the post up, the better.

How I Listed the Blogs:
Bloggers are listed in the order of courses, starting with appetizers and going through to desserts.  Sort of like progressing through a real meal.  Within each course, I’ve placed blogs in alphabetical order.

Why the Links are Important (The Links are ALL):
Imagine that you are riding a bicycle on a silky smooth path.  As you easily pedal along, you take in the beautiful scenery and glide with ease over the gentle hills and valleys.  Suddenly, however, someone thrusts a stick in between the spokes and you come to a complete and unpleasant halt.  This is what would happen if one of us has a broken or bad link.  Our readers will come to a screeching stop and will be unable to move forward or backward.  Blog readers, for all of their wonderful traits, are fickle creatures.  They will leave the site and miss out on the remaining Potluck contributions.

It is imperative that the links be valid and it is imperative that everyone who participates publishes their post on the day of the event.  If something occurs and you wish/need to back out of the Potluck, please let me know a day or two ahead of time so that I can make the necessary adjustments.  If you have questions or problems with adding links, email me – or – Tweet me @AnOlive so I can help you.  Please, please, please check the list of participating bloggers one last time before the event (i.e., on May 11).  If there is any shifting about, you will need to change your links.

It is also imperative that all of us update the links the day after the Potluck.  Why?  Because you want readers who are visiting for the Potluck to land on the specific posts about the Potluck – not the blog/site in general.  Just update the links the same way that you entered the first links (see instructions).

The Not So Good News for WordPress Users:
The fancy-schmancy HTML I wrote was summarily rejected by WordPress, perhaps due to an HTML vs. XHTML issue, or more likely because I have a freebie WP account and only so much tinkering with the coding is allowed.  Who knows.  After freaking out about this for a while, I decided to come up with a different solution and not turn any more of my hairs gray.  I’m working with WP Support (Chris, you are so very nice!) on coding, but don’t want to hold anyone up.  Perhaps we’ll have the kinks ironed out for the next Potluck.  In the meantime, Blogger users CAN use the HTML code.  You can find out how to do that on the VVP Page.

The Good News:
The upside to the Not So Good News is that I think the solution (two solutions, actually) will be much easier for everyone and the process much more familiar.  Not as good-looking, but they’ll get the job done.  Rather than outline them here, instructions for both methods are available on the VVP Page.  Briefly, Method 1 involves inserting graphics and linking those graphics to sites.  Method 2 is simply inserting links into your text, the same as you do when you mention another blog, website or article.  Probably all of you have inserted links directly into your text before.  Both methods are very easy, but I encourage you to use the one with which you feel most comfortable.  I don’t want this to be a stressful occasion, I want it to be fun and social and rewarding.

Here are the two graphics (Method 1):

go back

go forward

Go ahead, click on them (but come back here when you’re done).  They’ll take you to two different sites.  (Yeah, there’s a shameless plug in one of them.)  Which is exactly what your graphics will do once you insert them and link them.  Instructions on how to do this are on the VVP Page.  You can either copy and save the graphics from here, or from the VVP Page.  Size the graphics to whatever works best with your blog.  The last person in the Potluck will get a different graphic which I will email separately.

So…the sooner you insert the links and/or graphics (which are available on the VVP Page) and test them the more time I have to straighten out any problems that may arise.  I don’t anticipate any issues, but never say never.  Please email me if you have questions or if you need help.

Ways to Connect:
I’ve added all of your blogs both to the FB Event page as well as onto my Pinterest board called Virtual Vegan Potluck May 2012.  It’s been great seeing some of you on An Unrefined Vegan’s FB page as well.  Thanks to the many of you who have Liked it – and please – if you have an FB page (many of you do) put your link on my FB Page so that I’m sure to Like you back!  I’ve gotten most of you, I think, but there are always a few that slip through the cracks.

Get Social!:
Speaking of connecting…Once you’ve put the final touches on your special dishes, have taken the photos and written the post and published it for all the world to see – invite the guests!  What good is a potluck without people to snarf down the gorgeous goodies??  Tweet, post on FB and contact your friends.  Let’s drive some serious traffic through this thang!

Please come back to this post if you have questions.  If you don’t find the answer, email me.  Once again, instructions on how to link are available on the VVP Page.  The sooner you write your draft and insert your links, the more time I have to help you if you encounter problems.  I hope everyone enjoys the Potluck and once again – thank you all so much for your enthusiasm, creativity and your love of GOOD FOOD!

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