Tag Archives: review

Own Grown Life – Personal Vegan Chef

So on a grey, Sunday morning we went to check out Vancouver’s mini Veg Fest – a collection of 23 plant-based vendors in an urban park just off Main Street. We showed up at 11, when it officially started and found lineups 50 people long for most of the vendors that only got longer as we debated what was worth waiting for.

When did Vancouver get so many vegans? Maybe I should have paid attention to the Facebook invite that said 1.1K people were attending and another 4.9K were interested. Yikes! We managed to get some delicious croissants from Yellow Basket Baking and some butchered beans from The Very Good Butchers. I really wanted to try some of the cheeze shops but the lineups were just too crazy.

But who needs fancy vegan cheeses when you have your own personal vegan chef. For the past 3 months we’ve been having homemade, vegan meals cooked in our house by Sarah from Own Grown Life.

Own Grown Life offers a popular lunch program, but for Emily and I lunches are the easiest meal of the day, with plenty of vegan options downtown. Dinner is the real challenge. Daycare pickup with an energetic toddler who’s usually hungry, are not conducive to making nutritious meals from scratch. We were getting by with slow-cooker and Instant Pot meals prepped the night before (and by we, I mean Emily as she was doing 90% of the cooking), but it was exhausting.

Now Sarah comes over once a week to cook us three meals in our own kitchen and we have our evenings free again. On Tuesday evenings there’s a fresh meal waiting on the stove plus two more meals in the fridge that just need to be warmed up. It’s a pretty sweet deal and well worth the cost. We get to work with her on the menu every week and she follows our dietary constraints (vegan, no soy, and at least one nut-free meal every week so we have leftovers we can send to daycare).

Here’s a sampling of some of the meals she’s made us:

  • BBQ Lentil Walnut Burgers
  • Yam and Black Bean Enchiladas
  • Maple & Orange Glazed Tempeh with Bok Choy and Soba Noodles
  • Braised Eggplant with Chickpeas
  • Gazpacho (awesome when it was super hot back in August)
  • Sweet Moroccan Glazed Tempeh with Couscous and Carrot Date Salad
  • Bengali Curry of Cauliflower and Kidney Bean
  • Spiced Indian Barley Stir-fry with chickpeas and spinach
Own Grown Life Meals
Own Grown Life Meals
Own Grown Life Meals
Own Grown Life Meals
Own Grown Life Meals
Own Grown Life Meals

If you’re looking for a vegan lunch service, or a personal chef who will cook to your dietary needs, I highly recommend checking out Own Grown Cooking. The convenience is awesome and we all love the food. Astrid gives it a hearty “num num” and “yummy”.

Nada – Early Sneak Peek Review

Nada Grocery Soft Launch
Vancouver’s zero waste grocery store, Nada, officially opens on Wednesday June 20. As an early supporter and crowd-funder, I got to do some shopping and help test out their systems at a soft launch yesterday.

The store is roomy with a clean, modern aesthetic. It speaks a lot to the philosophy of the company that they were conscious during construction to minimize their footprint, which you can read all about in their blog series Building A Low-Impact Grocery Store.

I’m really impressed and can’t wait to do more shopping at Nada.

How does it work?

Nada is a packaging-free grocery store. You bring your own containers and pay for everything by weight. When you enter the store, you go to a self-serve weigh station to tag your jars and containers. It’s really simple. They have these fancy NFC stickers (dishwasher safe) that you stick to the bottom of your containers and it remembers the empty weight of the container. You then wander around the store, filling your containers with food, and pay at the front. When you pay, they scan the NFC stickers, weigh your stuff, and automatically subtract the weight of the empty container so you only pay for what you bought. The bins all have numbers on them, but you don’t have to write them down. They figure that out on checkout. Read more here.

Nada

Seconds after paying for your order, you’ll get an email with the receipt. A lot of stores do this now, which I appreciate. But I was really amused to read the product descriptions that Nada has included in theirs, like: “Hummus is where the heart is, but these versatile beans are good for a falafel lot more” and “Don’t like legumes? You’ve now bean blacklisted.”

Nada Receipt

I recommend bringing a bunch of wide mouthed jars (Adams peanut butter and Vega protein powder are my favourites) plus some bags (cloth or plastic) to do your shopping with. The jars can be tagged with NFC stickers the first time you buy something and then reused on future shopping trips. With the bags you can weigh them if you want, but the weight is often so negligible it doesn’t make a difference.

Seeds

What do they carry?

They didn’t have everything setup on Saturday, but they already had a good selection of nuts, beans, grains, dried fruit, baking supplies, loose-leaf teas, and granola available. Brianne showed me a stack of labels 6 inches thick of products that still need to be put out, so expect a lot more. They also had liquid containers with oils and vinegars, plus liquid soaps. The fridges will have produce and the freezers will have frozen fruit, perogies, and other frozen products they can source without packaging.

Loose Leaf Teas

It’s worth noting that although there are a lot of gluten-free products in the store, nothing is labelled as such because they can’t guarantee a customer hasn’t contaminated it, even though every bin has its own scoop.

This sounds like the Soap Dispensary

Nada is a lot like the Soap Dispensary, one of my favourite shops on Main Street. While the Soap Dispensary focuses on cleaning and beauty products, but also has food in their recently expanded store, Nada will focus on food with some cleaning products. The other big difference is the Soap Dispensary does all the filling for you where Nada is self-serve. Hopefully this will eliminate the long waits that seem to plague the Soap Dispensary every time I visit. There also seems to be a some slight difference in philosophy between the two stores. Both stores do a great job reducing waste by helping consumers refill containers, but it seems like Nada is taking a harder line against plastic with nothing plastic for sale in the store.

Hours and Location

Nada is located on Broadway at Fraser Street, right next to a B-line stop. There aren’t any bike racks in front of the store, but there are two big racks just around the corner on Fraser Street.

Starting on Wednesday June 20, they’ll be open 7-days a week from 10am – 7pm.

Happy zero-waste shopping everyone.

New Parent Adventures: Baby Tracking App

Today's Timeline

I’m a proud data nerd, so it probably comes as no surprise that I’m a huge fan of our baby tracking app. It’s the great aid to my sleep deprived brain and the keeper of our daughters history so far – at least all the important statistics like weight (4.9 kg), height (57 cm), and dirty diaper count (445).

We use the Feed Baby app. We paid $4.99 for the Pro version so we could sync data between our phones faster and not have ads but the free version is pretty good. The main competitor, Baby Daybook, looks very similar and I’m not sure there is much that separates them.

Sleep By Day

The app’s main day-to-day feature is helping mothers keep track of what side they’ve most recently breastfed the baby on. It’s also a great aid to help decipher the baby’s moods and answer the some key questions. When was the last time she fed? Is she constipated, when did she last poop? Maybe she’s over-tired, how much has she slept today?

The charts and statistics have been handy for seeing the patterns in her habits. For example, Astrid’s steadily been getting better at sleeping at night, with longer sleeps and less time awake for feedings and diaper changes. Of course we can feel that, but the data really shows that although there has been a few hiccups, her sleep patterns have been steadily improving.

Sleeps Heatmap

It’s also useful for tracking her weight, height, and head circumference and comparing them against standard growth curves. Astrid started off small and lost 10% of her weight in the first 3 days, but has rapidly growing since then.

Growth Chart

There are a bunch of features we haven’t used yet, but will as Astrid gets older – like new teeth and vaccine tracking.

So if you have a newborn, I highly recommend getting a baby tracking app. It will make your as sleep-deprived life much easier.

Eating Vegan in San Francisco

Before we even booked our flights to San Francisco we were planning where to eat. Our vegetarian friends have raved about the deliciousness the city has to offer. By the time we arrived we had 4 reservations booked for our 4 days in San Francisco. Three of the restaurants were totally vegan and one was vegetarian.

Here are our favourites:

Millennium Oakland – 5/5
Millenium Oakland
We were really impressed by the inventive vegan food in this nice, cozy restaurant. It was easy to get to on the BART with an interesting looking neighbourhood around it (which we didn’t have time to explore). Everything was good, although the main courses outshone the appetizer and desserts.
Millennium Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Greens – 5/5
Greens San Francisco
The first thing you notice about Greens is the beautiful dining room with giant wood sculptures and a stunning view of the Golden Gate Bridge. But the food alone makes it worth the visit. Everything has so many elements to it and yet somehow it was simple and delicious. We had to trudge through the rain and dark to get there. I’d recommend trying to go when it’s lighter out and you can see the bridge better.
Greens Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Citizen Fox – 4.5/5
Citizen Fox Brunch
Currently only in a temporary location in the Mission with limited hours, it seemed like a fully-formed restaurant with great food, nice decor, and professional staff. We went for brunch and got to enjoy many breakfast classics that vegans usually don’t get to eat like eggs benedict, a reuben sandwich, and waffles with fried ‘chicken’. They even had a live band playing quietly in the corner.
Citizen Fox Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Vik’s Chaat Corner – 4/5

This one wasn’t planned. Our Berkeley friend brought us here knowing we were nostalgic for our time in India. It was the most authentic Indian chaat house we’ve been to since being back. There was a simple menu with all the classic Indian snack options (like cholle bhature, bhel puri, and dosas) cooked up at different stations where you picked up your food. It’s located off-the-beaten path in an industrial part of Berkeley, but worth the visit at lunch if you’re nearby.
Viks Chaat Corner Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Gracias Madre – 3.5/5
Gracias Madre
We cook a lot of vegan Mexican food at home, so we were excited to try somewhere that actually served up cashew cream and vegan tamales. The food was good, but none of the flavours or dishes really stood out. It was the only place we went where none of us finished our meals (because of the quantity not the quality).
Gracias Madre Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Backpacking India: Christmas at Karuna Farm (Kodaikanal)

Karuna Farm - Christmas
It is hard to feel festive when travelling through a hot, predominantly Hindu nation in December. So it is fitting we spent our Indian Christmas in one of the coldest spots in the south. We spent 4 days at Karuna Farm, a working farm with guest cabins perched above a terraced hillside near Kodaikanal, a hill station in the Western Ghat mountains. It was a unique Christmas experience and unlike anything else we’ve experienced in India.

India - Karuna Farm

The most memorable visitor on Christmas morning was not Santa Claus (who did leave us socks stuffed with fruit and chocolate) but a cheeky monkey who stole a bag of flour while I cooked Christmas breakfast (fresh chapatis) in the outdoor kitchen. The monkeys here are cute but terribly mischievous.
India- Karuna farm Karuna Farm - Christmas Karuna Farm - Christmas Karuna Farm - Christmas

The farm is set in a tropical paradise, with buildings spread out in the dense vegetation. When we arrived the valley was cloaked in a dense cloud and it was impossible to tell how high we were and how big the farm was. Occasionally the clouds would dissipate giving a fabulous view of the peaks above or the valley below.

India - Boxing Day hike

India - Boxing Day hike

Karuna Farm is an interesting mix of permanent residents (some expats and some Nepalese farmers), volunteers, and guests. Every morning at 8:30 we had a yoga class lead by one of the residents. She is an excellent yoga instructor and every class focused on something new. The yoga studio is a gorgeous building with a stunning view of the valley bellow. Our yoga classes were the perfect start to each day.

Karuna Yoga Centre

We didn’t have much to do each day but relax. Our days consisted of yoga, cooking, eating, hiking the winding trails, talking to other guests, and sitting around. The mornings were usually clear and then the clouds would roll into the valley bellow, making it look like we were floating in the clouds. We found a great 2-hour hike up to a peak above the farm with views of the surrounding area.

India - Boxing Day hike

There were a few nice places to sit and reflect. The Rock – outcropping near a terraced farm; and The Pool – a waterfall with a shady spot to sit.

India - Karuna Farm kodaikanal

In December it was cold, at least by Indian standards, especially when the sun went down. We had to wear all of the warm clothing we brought (fleeces, jackets, and socks). In some ways it was a welcome change from the heat of the coast, but we froze our butts off at night. Our little hut was very basic, a roof and 4 walls without any source of heat. A few warm blankets is all we had.

Information for other travellers:
– the restaurant serves good, cheap food (menu). Dinner is free but the timing of the food is erratic. We brought groceries with us and cooked breakfast and lunch, but there is no need.
– there is a big difference in quality of the cabins. We stayed in Shanti (not recommended) which was tiny and had a rudimentary outdoor kitchen and no source of heat. Jamune and Ganga are much nicer with indoor kitchens and fireplaces. All cabins have pit toilets. There is cold running water.
India - Karuna Farm India - Karuna Farm kodaikanal
– the cabins are very spread out. Some are next to the restaurant and some are a 10 minute hike. See map with some cabins labelled.
– filtered drinking water is available in the restaurant.
– food is all vegetarian and alcohol and drugs are prohibited.
– there is basic electricity from solar panels, enough to charge a mobile phone. That said, cellular reception is sketchy. You can get a weak signal sometimes at the restaurant, or a stronger one if you hike up to the viewpoint.
– to get to the farm, we took an overnight bus into Kodaikanal and then called for a jeep to drive us to the farm (400 rupees). You can get to the farm by local bus and a 30 minute hike, but the bus only runs twice a day.

Dark Table Restaurant Review

DarkTable
Eating at Dark Table was probably the most unique dining experience I’ve ever had. The food was really good but it was the setting that made dinner special – complete darkness. It’s amazing how lack of sight changes how you experience food. My sense of taste wasn’t super-enhanced, but it made exploring what was on my plate more of an adventure.

Our server, Albert, was awesome – ensuring we had everything and talking us through the meal. He’s blind, as are most of the wait staff. The Dark Table menu doesn’t specifically mention it, but you can order a vegan or vegetarian surprise. If you order a drink, I recommend something in a bottom-heavy glass. I knocked my glass of wine over midway through the meal – and I have no idea what kind of mess it created.

I highly recommended Dark Table. I don’t want to spoil the experience with too many details. Go check it out for yourself.
Dark Table on Urbanspoon

Legally Blonde – The Sexiest TUTS Musical

Legally Blonde
Every year Theatre Under the Stars (TUTS) puts on two musicals at the Malkin Bowl – an amazing outdoor theatre in Stanley Park. We’re regulars, having seen every show for the past 5 years. Last night we got to watch the opening night performance of Legally Blonde – the Musical.

I’ve never seen the movie, but I wasn’t expecting much from the musical. Well, I was blown away. It was funny, sexy, and clever. Easily the best TUTS musical I’ve seen in the past 3 years (probably since Joseph in 2010) and by far the sexiest. The “Gay or European” song was hilarious and “Whipped Into Shape” showed off some impressive jumping rope choreography while singing.

It is well worth checking out. There’s no better place to be on a warm summer evening. And it’s some of the most affordable entertainment in Vancouver – tickets are between $29 and $44. We’ll be back to see TUTS other show, “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” in a few weeks.