Breaking news! Pegasus has left Paradise!

I regret to inform you that due to challenging immigration conditions, Pegasus has had to fly back to one of her home countries to seek her fortune!

I landed in October back in my hometown, Halifax, Nova Scotia with my new trusty sidekick, Meg the SuperDog. Therefore this blog, which admittedly has been rather quiet since I haven’t been receiving class credit for completing weekly posts, is now being retired permanently!

Grateful thanks to United Airlines for taking excellent care of us on a long journey from San Francisco to Halifax that ended up requiring two hotel stays (I can heartily recommend the Crown Plaza SFO) and many meal vouchers before we made it through to the other side…!

Here we are visiting a local landmark called Peggy’s Cove (seemed like a suitable place for Pegasus to grace with a visit) last weekend, which is about an hour’s drive from Halifax. Apparently during the summer it is rammed with tourists, so it is lucky we went on the off season or you might not have been able to pick us out in the photos!

Meg the SuperDog and Pegasus in Paradise at Peggy's Cove

We probably could have picked a nicer day to visit! Doesn’t Meg look adorbs in her red vest though?

Pegasus in Paradise and Meg the SuperDog at Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia

I have no idea why I was holding Meg’s paw out like we were dancing – I am sure she doesn’t either!

Pegasus in Paradise and Meg the SuperDog at Peggy's Cove

Meg being stoic in the face of adversity, as only she can!

Pegasus in Paradise and Meg the SuperDog at Peggy's Cove reading the lighthouse plaque

Apparently we should count ourselves lucky, some tourists get swept into the water by rogue waves and aren’t just cold!

Pegasus in Paradise and Meg the SuperDog at Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia

I love how Meg’s tail blows in the wind and her ears are blown up instead of their customary down position 😀

Thank you to everyone who read, commented on and shared my posts! I will likely begin a new vegan oriented blog once the dust settles from this move, but in the meantime, I will be working on a new Instagram account I created for Meg – which you can find under the handle @megdogstar! Please, like, follow and share my her posts!

So, in the peerless words of Rodgers and Hammerstein, there is nothing left to say but:

So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, goodbye
Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye
Goodbye!
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Working out at the Plantz St. Culinary Gym!

I was pleased to get a chance this evening to try out a plant based cooking class at a cool new business in Santa Rosa, Plantz St. Culinary Gym.  The gym is located in downtown Santa Rosa in an adorable little mews development off B street near Mendocino complete with iron gates, cobbles, a bike rack and a couple of benches. The owner / operator of Plantz St. is Katie Mae, who holds a Master of Science in Nutrition and is a core cooking instructor for the TrueNorth Health Center and the McDougall program. Mae just launched the brick and mortar cooking school side of the business last month, after spending the last year working on her online business. The goal of Plantz St. is to transform people’s quality of life through plant foods, kitchen fitness, and mindfulness. This is the world’s first culinary gym, a hub for locals to build their kitchen skills and learn how to cook with fresh, whole foods.

Plantz St. teaches a type of plant based eating often known as SOS  – so no or low in Salt, Oil and Sugar. Yes, I know what you’re thinking – it sounds terrible, but there are plenty of ways to season your food without salt, and you can add fat using natural fats like avocado and add sweet tastes via dried fruit, and so on. This class was part of a six week group class called Plant-based Cooking 101. It was the second class, which was titled “Delicious Simplicity with Grains, Legumes & the Instant Pot”. There are four weeks left of this class on Monday evenings and another series running in August. But if you don’t live in the North Bay, fear not – you can also improve your kitchen fitness and get support in your plant-based adventures online! There are also some reasonably price e-cookbooks available as well as plenty of free recipes on her website!

So without further ado…the pictures!

Plantz Street Culinary Gym - Exterior

The store front, complete with Katie’s eco friendly transportation!

Plantz Street Culinary Gym

Pretty information table…

Plantz Street Culinary Gym - Beans, legumes and other pantry staples

There were two nicely organized shelves with all the pantry staples for the classes. This side had the beans and legumes amongst other things.

Plantz Street Culinary Gym - Ingredients ready to go

Some of the veggies ready to be chopped with our new and improved knife skills !

Katie Mae of Plantz Street Culinary Gym

Katie Mae explained a lot about nutrition and digestion throughout the class. I really liked her spice rack, too!

Plantz Street Culinary Gym - Lo with broccoli

Lo practices her knife skills while our chickpeas are simmering happily in the Instapot behind her. The Instapot is an electric pressure cooker.

Plantz Street Culinary Gym - Savory oatmeal

Katie Mae advised us not to eat sweet foods in the morning as they will set you up for sweets cravings during the rest of the day. Solution: savory oatmeal containing oats, mushrooms, onions, broccoli and seasoning! We chose Indian spices for ours. Yum!

Plantz Street Culinary Gym

Action shot!

Plantz Street Culinary Gym - Quinoa in Instapot

The quinoa is ready! (5 minutes cooking in the Instapot once it was up to pressure)

Plantz Street Culinary Gym - Mexican themed Buddha bowl

Ta-da! The main course for this evening, a mexican style Buddha bowl with quinoa, brown rice, chickpeas, salsa, mixed veggies, avocado and salsa! Did you know Quinoa is actually a seed which is why it might be easier for some people to digest than grains.

Plantz St. Culinary Gym - handouts

We were given two recipes and a helpful double sided sheet with info on how to cook legumes on one side and grains on the other.

Santa Rosa Junior College in bloom!

I’m back! Did you miss me? 😀 I have to confess that I took these pictures in May, during spring, my favorite time of year here in Santa Rosa. I was enjoying all the beautiful landscaping at Santa Rosa Junior College (SRJC) which is where I work and attend college, that I felt I should share some of the bounty with you, my dear readers!

This is just a small sampling of the beautiful flowers on campus – there are many more! thank you to the wonderful gardeners who work in the Facilities department for their hard work that we all enjoy so much!

Let me know if you know what the flowers are called that I didn’t label in the comments, and I will update the post! Thank you for stopping by, my friends!

A glimpse of Armstrong Redwoods and an even tinier glimpse of Jenner by the Sea

Recently I had the pleasure of visiting Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve, which is located a short drive north of Guerneville, about halfway between Santa Rosa and the Pacific Ocean. It is truly a magical place. In Santa Rosa it was hot and sunny, and the air was dry and somewhat polluted due to the lack of rain. In the redwood grove, the air is moist and fresh, and the atmosphere is so still and peaceful that you really feel like you are entering into another dimension. It is such a great place to go to shift your perspective and clear your head. You feel like a babe in the woods because the trees are so big. The best part is, it’s free (most state parks charge about $8 to park as a sort of entrance fee, which is well worth it considering what you get in return). You can leave a donation at the visitor’s centre before going in though.

The trees in this reserve are commonly known as coast redwoods but they are actually Sequoia sempervirens trees. Most of the area was covered in these trees before logging operations began in the 1800s. The ancient coast redwood is the tallest living thing on our planet – most of them live to be 500-1,000 years old, grow to a diameter of 12-16 feet, and stand from 200-250 feet tall. Some trees survive to over 2,000 years and are over 350 feet tall!

There is a short 1.7 mile trail that loops around the park and passes all of its main features including an outdoor amphitheater, self-guided nature trails, and different picnic facilities. There are also longer and more strenuous trails with elevation of up to 3.3 miles within the Armstrong Reserve, or for the more ambitious, you can start here and then hike into the rolling hills, forests, and grasslands of the adjacent Austin Creek State Recreation Area.

The foot of the Parson Jones tree, Armstrong Woods, CA

The Parson Jones tree is the tallest tree in the grove.

At the foot of the Parson Jones tree, Armstrong Woods, CA

Pegasus in Paradise felt she should provide a sense of scale for this tree!

Armstrong Woods, CA

I have no idea why I took this picture!

Shadow picture, Armstrong Woods, CA

Waving at myself in the long shadows!!!

Armstrong Woods, CA

I liked the high arbor that this drooping tree made over the path!

Armstrong Woods, CA

The way this vine is growing on top of that tree stump makes it look a little bit like a giant mushroom with a long skinny stalk 🙂

After relaxing in the stillness of the reserve for a while, my friend and I kept driving towards the coast as I wanted to go to a scenic overlook over the Pacific that we had been to before and really loved, but it was SOOOOOOOO windy and cold there we had to beat a hasty retreat (sorry I forgot to take some photos – my fingers might have had early stage hypothermia by then too and I wouldn’t have been able to operate my camera anyhow!!!)! It continually amazes me how different the temperature and winds are when I leave the area around Santa Rosa and head to the coast!

Instead we stopped in Jenner by the Sea, which feels like it is on the coast, but technically it overlooks a river, so it is a lot less cold and windy (yay!!!). Jenner is a sweet little town very close to where the Russian River meets the Pacific.

We sat on a picnic table and enjoyed these views while dining on a selection of the best vegan food Trader Joe’s had to offer that evening – crusty sourdough baguettes with California Estate extra virgin olive oil, raw sauerkraut with pickles, an avocado, and curried kale and cauliflower salad – yum!!!

View from Jenner at sunset, Sonoma County, CA

Looking out on to the Russian River from Jenner at sunset

View from Jenner at sunset, Sonoma County, CA

Nice view to dine by!

What a lovely excursion that was! Thank you for stopping by, dear reader!

Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery – A peaceful oasis in the middle of the city

This week I would like to talk about one of my new favourite hangouts in town. I first became intrigued by the Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery when I passed it in a car – it looked very mysterious and inviting from the outside, like a forest in the middle of the city, and the name was interesting to me. When I read on the excellent birding website Sonoma County Birdwatching Spots that it was a great birdwatching location, I was even more keen to visit as soon as possible.

Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery, Santa Rosa, California

The main entrance to the cemetery at the end of McDonald Avenue. Doesn’t that windy path look enticing?

My new friend from Malaysia who I took with me to visit the cemetery thought it was decidedly odd that a cemetery would also be a park, but I spent a few happy years of my childhood living next to the Camp Hill Cemetery in Halifax, Nova Scotia (she is obviously not a Smiths fan, either!). As we lived in an apartment building it doubled as a bit of a backyard, I was even taught to ride a bike there! What do you think, my friends? Let me know in the comments if you think it is weird to enjoy wandering about in cemeteries? I love it!

Back to this cemetery…the Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery is a 17-acre historical site, which was founded in 1854 and most of the graves are from the 1850s to the 1930s. The cemetery suffered from neglect and vandalism during the mid century, until the city took it over in 1979. Things really improved in 1994 with the formation of the Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery Restoration Committee, which made great progress in clearing overgrowth, repairing damage and planning for future maintenance. Today the only new burials are those of the descendants of families who held deeds to the existing burial plots. There are over 5,200 graves in the four cemeteries which are collectively known as the Rural Cemetery. Docent-led tours are held during the summer and lamplight tours with historical reenactments are held each September as fund-raising events (source: City of Santa Rosa).

Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery, Santa Rosa, California

The central path, not far from the entrance.

Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery, Santa Rosa, California

My favourite part of the cemetery by far (and the place with the best birdwatching opportunities) is the mature eucalyptus grove which is off to the right of the cemetery from the main entrance. The trees are HUGE, and the atmosphere is so serene and peaceful. There are bee colonies inside the trunks of the trees as well, which is nice to see.

Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery, Santa Rosa, California

Here are a few photos of some of the graves I found interesting (click on any photo to see a larger version):

Once you walk through the eucalyptus grove, you can continue on to a more open area where there are several more traditional “golf course” style cemeteries (i.e. they cut all the trees down and maintain grass everywhere):

Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery, Santa Rosa, California

Check out the moon! 🙂

Coming back out to the main entrance, I discovered McDonald Avenue, part of a historical district I had not been to before. This is a wide boulevard with huge houses where some of Santa Rosa’s wealthiest residents have lived since the city’s early expansion in the 1870s. Notable buildings include the Mableton mansion built by the McDonald family in 1879, and a house that was used by Alfred Hitchcock as the principal location for his 1943 thriller Shadow of a Doubt. Many houses on that street were used as filming locations, for other films as diverse as Scream (1996) and All My Sons (1948) (source: Dear Old Hollywood blog). I didn’t know this when I visited, so the only photo I got there was of me enjoying some beautiful roses on a street corner!

Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery, Santa Rosa, California

The Details

Location: The Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery is located on Franklin Avenue. There are entrances at Monroe Street and at MacDonald Avenue. Parking is on neighboring streets or near the Town & Country shopping center.

Hours: Daily from  6am-9pm (PDT) and 6am-6pm (PST)

Further information

City of Santa Rosa’s Rural Cemetery website

Colin Talcroft’s birder’s information on the cemetery

Robby Cress’ excellent guide to McDonald Avenue filming locations

Thank you for stopping by! I look forward to our next virtual encounter, my friends – in the meantime you might find me happily locking my bike at the Cemetry Gates (sic) for another visit!

Muir’s Tea Room – a slice of vegan heaven in Sebastopol!

Oh my gosh oh my gosh oh my gosh my friends….I can’t BELIEVE it has taken me so long to find this place, it has been open since shortly before I got here at the end of 2014! I had heard about Muir’s Tea Room on Facebook, but thought it was just a regular old tea house with some vegan options. Imagine my extreme excitement and urgent need to get there asap when I found out it was ALL PLANT-BASED!!!!! Woo-hoo!!! That makes it the only vegan restaurant in Sonoma county, which is a travesty that needs to be addressed asap by anyone other than me, hee hee….

Muir's Tea Room, Sebastopol, California

Muir’s Tea Room, Sebastopol, California

Muir’s Tea Room was opened in December 2014 and is inspired by John Muir, a Scottish-American naturalist, author, and early advocate of preservation of wilderness in the United States. Owner Christine Dzilvelis and chef Tika Moon serve a traditional Scottish/English tea service with tiered racks, as well as lunch items such as sandwiches, soups, salads with home-made dressings, and traditional Scottish pasties. It is located in one of my favourite towns in the area, Sebastopol, right on Main Street, in a gorgeous restored 1892 Victorian house surrounded by lush gardens. The decorations are all nature themed and cute as a button, and there is also a gift shop filled with all manner of fascinating curios. And….more importantly – there are UNICORNS and MY LITTLE PONY items as well!!!! I felt like I was in a much more tastefully decorated and spacious version of my own lair!!!!

The decision to name a vegan tea shop after a noted conservationist is extremely timely given the drought that California is facing right now. Animal agriculture is responsible for 47% of California’s water footprint, versus only 4% for domestic water use (Pacific Institute). The adoption of a vegan diet can save on average 600 gallons of water a day compared to eating a standard American diet (National Geographic). Because of how much food is cycled through animals to produce animal products, a vegan diet requires 18 times less land to produce than a meat-eater’s diet, and 3 times less land than a vegetarian’s diet (a vegan diet only requires 1/6 of an acre of land per year to feed one person) (Earthsave, PNAS, NSRL, Johnny Seeds). Animal agriculture is the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution, and habitat destruction (full sources available at the website for the excellent documentary Cowspiracy, which I recommend you watch at your earliest opportunity if you care about the earth. Also please check out the excellent work Truth or Drought are doing to raise awareness on this issue, and add them to your Facebook feed).

So! Without further ado…I present….Muir’s Tea Room…a story in pictures!!!

Outside patio, Muir's Tea Room, Sebastopol, California

The outside tables are extremely pleasant, and look out over Main Street in Sebastopol and the beautiful gardens at the front of the house.

indoor dining area, Muir's Tea Room, Sebastopol, California

Part of the indoor dining area

Vegan baked goods, Muir's Tea Room, Sebastopol, California

The dessert case

Genuto vegan gelato, Muir's Tea Room, Sebastopol, California

Genuto vegan gelato! Didn’t get a chance to try, sadly as too full from all the other exciting things I had!!!!

Nature themed gift shop, Muir's Tea Room, Sebastopol, California

Nature themed gift shop on one end of the dining room

Gorgeous china table settings, Muir's Tea Room, Sebastopol, California

Elegant and unique place settings – adore the deer napkin rings!

Here is the Close to Nature’s Heart tea rack, $21.95. Includes an endless pot of tea from a vast selection of tea flavours, 2 flavors of finger sandwiches (2 of each flavor), choice of cup of soup or house salad, scone w/jam AND assortment of petit desserts!!! Yeah, baby!!!! (click on any photo to see more details and a larger version).

And the soup, sandwich and salad combo with a pasty instead of a sandwich:

Here a few more pictures of the fanciful, creative and relaxing decor and some of the food:

Before leaving, I signed the guestbook which was being lovingly watched over by an awesome unicorn:

Guestbook, Muir's Tea Room, Sebastopol, California

A beautiful unicorn watches over the guest book

Christine, the owner of Muir's Tea Room, Sebastopol, California

Christine, the mysterious, benevolent genius behind Muir’s.

And managed to get a photo with Christine, the creatress of this magical place! Thank you to Christine and her friendly and welcoming staff for an amazing, enchanted visit to vegan paradise!!!

Muir’s Tea Room
Address: 330 South Main Street, Sebastopol
Telephone: 707 634 6143
Hours (watch for expanded hours including dinner opening coming soon! Yay!)
Tuesday- Friday 11:00 AM- 4 :00 PM
Saturday 9:00 AM- 5:00 PM
Sunday 11:00 AM- 4:00 PM
Monday- closed

Reservations are recommended for holidays and weekends. Also check their website for special events throughout the year.

Muir’s is also a Blue Ribbon Sponsor of this year’s Sonoma County Vegfest on August 15, 2015 in Santa Rosa! Yay!

Vegan comfort food restaurant reviews: Nature’s Express and Veggie Grill

Welcome back my friends! Today I am very excited to write about two visits I made to two awesome vegan restaurants a few weeks back: Nature’s Express, in Berkeley (East Bay) and Veggie Grill, In Corte Madera (North Bay). As regular readers of PiP know, I am car-challenged, so when the opportunity arose to accompany a friend catsitting in the East Bay, I jumped at it!

Nature’s Express

For dinner on the first night, we opted for Nature’s Express, which was a real surprise for me in Berkeley. It’s in the north part of town, on Solano Avenue, which is a really cute shopping street right at the bottom of the beautiful Berkeley Hills, an area which I had been fortunate enough to spend some time in back in 2013. I hadn’t had time to do much research about the place, so based on the name, I thought it would be one of those Cali-fresh smoothies and healthy salads and wraps type places, but – oh no! It is definitely more in my favourite food realm – comfort food! Yippee!!!! The atmosphere is very casual and laid back too, also a favourite of mine.

Here are my pictures and some detail about the place in the captions!!! Click on any photo to read the full caption.

Their tagline is  “Kick-ass vegan food since 2010” and their website is really fun, with even more pictures, so I encourage you to check it out. Interestingly the restaurant is staffed by hipstery-looking dudes and dudettes, but it was started by a cancer doctor and a nutritionist, both vegans, so there is some serious science and nutrition behind the tasty grub they are dishing up! Their philosophy is as follows:

Nature’s Express is committed to helping people find delicious, convenient, affordable food that is also nutritious. Keeping everything plant based dramatically decreases the toxic organic pollutants, hormones, and antibiotics that are consistently found in our dairy and meat products.

Our philosophy on our food is pretty simple:

1) Fresh ingredients cooked daily

2) Delicious

3) Nutritious and unprocessed

4) Affordable

Sounds good to me! Definitely wanna go back and try some more dishes! Two thumbs up from Pegasus in Paradise!

Veggie Grill

After this, we managed to fit in even more comfort food wonderfulness by stopping at the Veggie Grill in Corte Madera (in ritzy Marin County) on the way home (boo-hoo! didn’t want to go back to land of no vegan restaurants!!!). Veggie Grill is a chain, with 25 stores on the West Coast and their tagline is ‘celebrate the vegetable!’ – yeah!!! Respect!!!

On their menus and website it says this:

Veggie Grill, Corte Madera

I was so excited as I approached since I had been wanting to come here for months!!!

VEGGIE GRILL + YOU.
at our place, vegetables are the rockstars.
shining brightly at the center.
of every plate we make for you.

WE SEE EVERY SEASON.
as an opportunity to
celebrate the vegetable!
the fruit. the grain. and, the nut.

WE SEE YOU.
with eyes wide open. as one of us.
not as a diet, but as a person.
as someone seeking out the vegetable.
we think of you as veggie positive.

Love love love!!!! As my friend Muggs would say! 🙂

You order and pay when you go in and then a server brings your food to your table. The atmosphere and the decor is bright, light and casual. The staff were really nice. I NEED to go back to try more things on the menu, everything sounds sooooo good and there is a lot of variety – appetizers, salads, sandwiches, entrees, all vegan!!! My only small criticism is that they could do with expanding their dessert section, which only has two items (although I do adore vegan carrot cake with vegan cream cheeze frosting!!!).

Here is a slideshow of photos from my visit! Enjoy!

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simon the cat

Simon the cat-dog with his favourite toy, a stuffed rooster!

Whew! What an exciting trip! Here is one bonus picture of the cute cat my friend was catsitting. 🙂 The cat thought he was a dog!

Nature’s Express, Berkeley, CA
Address: 1823 Solano Ave., Berkeley, CA 94707
Phone: 510.527.5331
Hours: Everyday : 10:30am – 8:00pm (except for holidays)

Veggie Grill, Corte Madera and 24 other locations on the West Coast
Address: 147 Corte Madera Town Center, Corte Madera, CA 94925
Phone: 415.945.8954
Hours: Sun – Thur 11am to 9pm, Fri – Sat 11am to 10pm