FRESH PERSPECTIVES with Jaime K: Lehigh Valley Style November 2014 Issue

Snag your print copy of Lehigh Valley Style magazine for my latest column with some unique gift ideas and back stories on three of the most creative locals I know:

LVSTYLEnov14

Wendy Landiak of Shankara Vegan Restaurant, patron saint of LV vegan food since as long as I can remember! Learn about how she got started in cooking (she catered for Deepak Chopra!), the many incarnations of her eateries, and how to get hands-down the best brunch on earth right here in South Bethlehem;

Andy V. of Andy Vasquez Furniture, local skater/nice guy who makes the most jaw-dropping gorgeous handcrafted furniture and home accessories from wood. If you like midcentury modern, rustic chic, or kitchen cutting boards shaped like the state of Pennsylvania, he’s your guy;

Marissa Wetzel of Everlasting Image, miracle worker who uses photoshop to create beautiful portraits of babies who passed away before photos of them without medical tubes and wires were ever taken. I was in awe the first time I saw her work

PLUS! A vegan recipe created just for LV Style readers.

My column “Fresh Perspectives with Jaime K” is a bi-monthly column where I get to personally choose to shine the spotlight on creatives, small business owners, unique shops, community builders, and the best vegan eats in the Lehigh Valley, PA. If you know someone who would make a great fit, I’d love to hear about them.

 

 

Vegans & Valentine’s Day, Like Peas and Carrots (GET IT!?)

One of the most comforting things about being in the vegan community is that, when you’re lucky, it really is a community. Sure, we have the occasional naysayer, the “mean angry neighbor” type, yelling loudly that everyone is doing everything wrong, but most of us know that guy has just been through some hard things, so we embrace him with a knowing nod and continue to live in a way that expresses the infinite benefits of being vegan – especially the part of showing love.

JaimeKSaveTheKales-V-day

When I was asked to spill my Valentine’s Day plans as part of Meet the Shannons’ annual “Vegans on Valentine’s Day” post,  oooh girl (in RuPaul voice), I was thrilled. Besides the fact that this year, for me, is a week-long romantic/celebratory extravaganza, and aside from having an admiration-crush on The Shannons (individually and collectively), this round-up includes vegan ladies who are Compassion Powerhouses, woman I admire and respect so much, and to be included among them is humbling and, frankly, made me squeal.

Pop on over to the Vegans on Valentine’s Day post, and get romantic holiday plans from:

And because we’re sharing the love, allow me a moment to gush about my oodles of respect for Annie Shannon. She is someone I had been following online forever, and when I finally got to meet her and husband Dan at an event in New Jersey (hosted by Montclair Vegans) a year or two ago, I was nervous and excited.

It can be hard to remember that the people you look up to are REAL people. Not only do they live and breathe among us, they are humble and smart and witty, and work damn hard to make their personal dreams happen. True activists at heart, Annie and Dan found their way into homes across the world with The Betty Crocker Project, in which they veganized nearly every recipe in the classic Betty Crocker Cookbook.

meettheshannonsbooksigning

Me, Dianne of VeggieGirl.com, Dan and Annie Shannon at their book signing at Watchung Booksellers in NJ

I am forever and always inspired by people who feel compelled to do work that helps others, human or animal, a selfless drive to make the world a little better, and you can’t help but admire someone even more for when their intentions are pure.  Annie is hilarious and wonderful, and I saved and still revisit a conversation we had about plowing past negative online commenters and doing the hard work.

Love love love, it’s in the air.

Reviews and follow-up posts will be made about each of my plans. How lucky that so many things are happening in and around the Lehigh Valley! Mwah. xo

 

Thoughtful (Last-Minute) Gifts in the Lehigh Valley and Bethlehem

In a place that bursts with artistic creativity, small boutique retail shops and is literally, hello!, “The Christmas City” (check out the locally-viral Buzzfeed post) with seasonal holiday pop-up markets, I can’t begin to write a comprehensive gift guide. There’s too much. A good problem, no?

But if you’re looking for last-minute gift ideas that are special and unique to Bethlehem/The Lehigh Valley area while supporting small businesses, these are the gifts and shops that immediately come to my mind.

Share some of your favorites in the comments!

giftguidecollage

.    .   .

Best Budget-friendly Holiday and Local: Moravian Star Ornament and/or Pickle Ornament from Moravian Book Shop

moravian ornaments

A Moravian star is classic Bethlehem tradition in a small, affordable package. You can learn about the significance of the Moravian Star and then choose a beauty from a variety of sizes, materials, and price points. From this site,

The stars were used as craft projects to help demonstrate geometry lessons to young boys attending Moravian school. The stars were quickly adopted by the Moravian Church as a symbol of the birth of Jesus and represented the star of Bethlehem.

A small elegant, handmade glass ornament will set you back about $20 (give or take), but you may also find them in paper, plastic, and sizes that could fit in your palm to elegant lighting fixtures priced in the hundreds.

As for the pickle ornament(!), this is a little more kitsch but just as traditional. The German tradition says that parents hung a pickle in the Christmas tree after all the other ornaments were in place. In the morning, the first child to see the pickle on the tree would get an extra gift from St. Nicholas.  This is one of my favorite go-to gifts when you want to give a little something to someone who lives out of the area, as a cute reminder that someone in Bethlehem loves them.

Moravian Book and Gift Shop: website | facebook

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Best Shop for Unique Gifts (Upscale): Artfully Elegant

artfully elegant

If you’re not quite sure what to get someone but want a very special gift and you have a little more wiggle-room in your budget, this is the store to browse. They specialize in jewelry that is unique, interesting and handmade, and one-of-a-kind artwork from photography to ceramics. Always classy but with a chic, bohemian twist, you can’t go wrong with anything from this shop. Take a peek at their Pinterest page.

Artfully Elegant: website | pinterest | facebook

.   .   .

Best Shop For Unique Gifts (Budget-Friendly): Mercantile Home

merchaus collage

Nearly everything in MercHaus in handmade in-haus. *wink* This is where you can find my absolute favorite scented candles, neon-colored ceramic animals, fabric products like scarves, bags, aprons, and about a trillion other things you never knew you loved until you walked in. This store is a treasure of the Lehigh Valley (located about 10 minutes outside Bethlehem in beloved Easton), and it’s all the better that owners Ken and Ron are the sweetest peas and you’ll leave with hugs and perfect gifts in tow. Is it weird to want to live in a store?

Mercantile Home:  website| twitter| facebook 

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Best for Someone Who Loves His/Her iPhone: Homebase Skateshop Bethlehem iPhone Cases

homebase610division

Listen, put a picture of the steel mills on anything and you’ve found a way to my heart. But Homebase does it again by turning their popular 610 Division design into cases for iPhones 4 and 5. Brilliant. BRILLIANT.

In case you haven’t seen it, Homebase Skateshop sells t-shirts with one of the greatest outcomes of graphic design history: a mash-up of Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures album cover art, and the Bethlehem Steel mills. They’ve turned that genius design into a portable and practical phone cover, and if you love Bethlehem as much as I do, you’ll get one immediately. Quantities limited.

Homebase Skateshop: website | twitter | facebook 

.   .   .

Best Non-Wine Gifts: Seasons Olive Oil and Vinegar Taproom

seasonsoilandvinegar

If you’re looking for the sophistication (and, um, practicality) of a bottle of wine but want something a little more out-of-the-box, consider a bottle of one of the many flavored oils or vinegars from Seasons. If oil and vinegar don’t sound special, get yourself to this shop, start at one end, and sample everything in the place. They really let you do this!

For more details, take a peek at this article I wrote about Seasons a few years ago.  A full bottle will set you back an average of $12-15, but can go higher as you look to truffle oils and such.

Seasons Olive Oil and Vinegar Taproom: website | facebook 

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Best Coffee Gifts: Wise Bean Cafe Gift Coins

wisebeancafe

My favorite local coffee shop, and longest running indie coffee shop in Bethlehem’s Northside, has unique ceramic gift coins that function like gift cards – but they’re cuter! They come in a tiny mesh bag, perfect for gifting, and while you’re at it pick up a pound or two of one of the Bean’s excellent coffees to brew at home.

The Wise Bean: website | facebook

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Best Gifts for Babies, Kids, New Parents: Ju-ju Monkey

jujumonkey collage

What began as a handmade cloth diaper company is now a full brick-and-mortar retail space in Allentown. Here you can find anything a baby or toddler would need or want, and best of all, products are eco-friendly! Clothes, toys, personal care products, and more can be found at the store. And if you want to give an experience, check out the classes offered by Ju-ju Monkey, from Baby Sign Language to Mommy and Baby Yoga.

Ju-ju Monkey: website | twitter | facebook

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Best “Little Something”: Jolene’s Jar Pickled Foods

jolenesjar collage

Made in small batches in Easton, PA and sold at locations around the Valley (including The Wise Bean, see above), these jars of pickled goodies would be perfect when you want to give a little token of appreciation to someone and that candy cane taped to a card just won’t do. Who doesn’t like pickles!? With flavors like Pickled Za’atar Cauliflower and Spicy Bloody Mary Garnish, stock up on a few for yourself, too. Bonus: toss your own veggies in the leftover brine after you’ve devoured the jar. The gift that keeps giving! Buy them at these locations.

Jolene’s Jar: website | where to buy | facebook

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And if you’re looking for a vegan + organic Christmas dinner but want someone else to do all the work, call on Chef Wendy! She’s taking orders for Christmas dinner through this Saturday, Dec. 21st.

balasiaxmasdinner

Chef Wendy of Balasia/The Honey Underground: facebook

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Note: I debated writing this list because, as mentioned at the top, there are so many wonderful businesses in the Lehigh Valley and I’d never want anyone to feel snubbed! A huge part of my work is advocating community involvement and small business support.  

I started to feel like I was four years old again, in bed and anxious to say goodnight to my stuffed platypus, because then I’d have to get out of bed and kiss + say goodnight to every other stuffed animal (there were a LOT) so none would feel left out.  Then you grow up and become an adult with mild OCD!

Lists can sometimes feel like that. 

My column in Lehigh Valley Style (coming in 2014!) will include not only recipes, but a deeper exploration of the people and places that create the vibrancy + community of the Valley.  Love and respect to small businesses and their owners, working hard every day to make me proud to call this place my home. xo

Thankfulness, the Blues, and Links I Love

I’ve lived in this space about ten months now, but continue nesting. (I love and hate the word “nesting”.)  Two weeks ago a friend came over and we painted the dining room this vibrant blue, the sort of color that makes you feel something, makes everything else look better and more dignified somehow. Chubby dog wagged his tail against the still-wet wall and looked like a rebellious teen for an afternoon.

blue walls

The living room needs to be painted as well, but last weekend we brought the holiday decorations out of the basement and began to set up the tree. I absolutely LOVE the ambience of a home decorated with white lights at Christmas. Everything feels special – playing board games with friends, catching up after a long day, indulging in a Drag Race marathon, all of it. Better with lights.

It’s our first Christmas in this home and I feel like we’ve always been here.

christmas in bethlehem

Thanksgiving (both of them – one with my parents, one with Ryan’s) ended the way most do: ate to the point of gluttony, shared stories with family, took a long, if accidental, nap on the sofa. I am always so humbled by the efforts made to ensure there is vegan food at the table (and how they say, “it’s so easy! you just get vegan butter and everything is the same!”). I never expect anyone to go out of their way for me in any situation, but when effort and foresight is put into it, it means the world. That’s thoughtfulness.

While the days ended much the same, Thanksgiving began with waking up early to go to a special benefit bootcamp for a woman with cancer. She’s the mother of one of the athletes Barry trains at his academy where I take fitness bootcamps three times a week.

We were planking and push-upping and squatting (“think of all the pie!”) and she was right there with us, doing what she could, and it was the perfect way to start a day meant for a focus on gratitude. Perspective + clarity don’t always come at 9am with sweat running down your face. They did that day.

thanksgiving2013bootcamp

Posted to the Save the Kales! facebook page:

 For fluffy dogs/cats & fluffy slippers, for families we are born into and families we create, for second (third & fourth) chances, for books & avocados & real love & connecting to others who leave the world a bit better than they found it – thank you. ❤

On to things to read around the web…

LINKS I LOVE

Strong Really Isn’t the New Sexy/Skinny”  Perhaps the best piece I’ve read on fitness replacing being skinny as a body ideal. (thanks Olivia!) Full of gems like: Strong, sexy, skinny. These things can exist together in every combination, or completely independently from one another. There is no one right answer, and we don’t have to disparage one body type to celebrate another. When we recognize and internalize that, we will be free.”

Best twitter account discovery: Faces in Things

surprised coffee

Vegan recipes: cream of mushroom soup / the best damn vegan biscuits 

Lisa Congdon reminds us to mind our own business

“It’s just that it drives me completely insane if I can’t see what you’re reading.” Confessions of a public book snoop.

The Vegan Police are everywhere and nowhere. “My fear of the vegan police arises from my own criticisms of myself, even though I fully acknowledge that I am an imperfect vegan and will most certainly continue to make mistakes on occasion.”

Little kids wearing glasses is one of my favorite things ever. So is what these parents did for their newly bespectacled boy.

Oh, hello handsome. Bearded Men in Knitted Things (in the words of my boyfriend, “So, basically you’re looking at porn.”)

Books I’m Reading: This Book Will Save Your Life / 168 Hours / Food Over Medicine

“Why does everyone in America pretend to be blind? They practice not seeing.They get into the car and they call someone on the cell phone. They are afraid to be alone but they don’t see the people around them.”

  – A. M. Homes, This Book Will Save Your Life

“Belated Valentine: A Work in Progress” — a poem by Steve Marsh

The past several weeks have been the longest I’ve gone without blogging since the birth of this site. Now, the month of it’s third Birthday, I find myself in a new home with a new four-legged family member.

(When we first viewed this place, I found myself thinking, “I can write here.” A few weeks later we’re all moved in and I can’t seem to find enough notebooks and pens. Our environments can affect our creativity so deeply, yes?)

The moving process always feels so vulnerable. Your hands touch every. single. thing. you own, and that moment determining it’s value can feel equally oppressive and insignificant.

The best parts have been purging so much to make room for only what I really love and what supports my ideas of beauty and inspiration (I can’t even remember what I’ve gotten rid of), the paint samples and furniture arranging and lazy nights giddy to just stare at the walls and all the other joys of nesting, and uncovering so many beautiful things I forgot meant something to me once.

belated valentine by steve marsh

I can’t remember where I first found this poem, but I’m so happy I scribbled it down years ago, and happier to have found it just in time to share with you today. It’s a long one, but worth the read for those lines that punch you in the gut with their beauty. Happy Valentine’s Day. xo

Belated Valentine: A Work in Progress by Steve Marsh

I woke this morning with that shadow feeling I’d
been dreaming
significant dreams
strong and powerful,
richly full of meaning.
But I was unable to recall them no matter how
hard I tried.
Chasing them only makes it worse,
like groping for the other tennis shoe
lost under the bed
just beyond reach
closing my hand on something
to discover it is only
so much dust and dog hair.
.
I closed my eyes,
breathed deeply,
and reached for that familiar place.
.
But the Universe asked me a question:
Why do I continue to love you?
.
And I began to answer immediately because
confidence is the feeling we have before we
understand the situation.
.
Why in the face of all we have seen
and failed to see in each other
do we persevere?
.
I begin to understand it is a matter of pride
and pride is, after all, what we have.
Vanity is what others have.
.
So, in pride or vanity I offer:
I love you because I have
always loved you.
.
And the Universe knows this is not the whole truth.
It knows it like it knows we can’t pray a lie.
.
I try again.
I love you because of all we have been through together.
And the Universe does not like this cliche any better.
It asks, with all the Aristotelian logic it can muster:
Do you not manifest “all that you have been through together”?
The Universe knows and will not let me get away with half a truth.
We have been through “all that”
because we have put each other through “all that”.
.
It asks another question:
How can you assert love after all you have seen?
.
The helplessness after surgeries;
The weakness in the face of adversity;
The cowardice in the face of confrontation;
weight gain,
hair loss,
reduced libido,
nakedness at forty,
nakedness at fifty?
The knowledge that the final solution does not involve Bean-o.
.
And I begin, in answer, to list the qualities I admire in you:
Tolerance,
Patience,
Trust,
Faithfulness,
Forgiveness.
But the Universe will not allow this equivocation either.
And because the Universe is a big believer in the Socratic Method,
it asks,
Why do I love my dog?
.
I confess to perceiving a similar list.
.
The Universe sends me the Spring songbirds
early
who sing, and feed,
who show me community in bright red colors
and high energy.
The birds know nothing of our sorrow.
.
And the Universe asks again:
In the face of this sorrow, why do I continue to love you?
.
It is not because Mothers are better than Fathers.
It is not because women are better than men.
It is not because teaching is better than poetry.
It is not because daughters are better than husbands.
.
And slowly, the answer,
or rather the understanding that there is no
answer,
begins to reveal itself to me.
.
There is no aetiology for love.
.
I do not love you because
I do not love you in spite of
I do not love you since
I do not love you in so much as
I do not love you for the reason that
.
There is no reason.
No logic,
no syllogistic proof.
It simply is.
I love you.
It comes about without cause.
And with luck it is returned
without cause.
.
That is why love fits more aptly into poetry than paint.
It is not revealed to the mind through the eye.
It comes to the heart, through the nose and the fingertips.
.
The old poet had it right.
“Do not go gentle…”
Even here in this moment of doubt
I do not give up,
I do not go gentle,
Down by two in the bottom of the ninth,
two out,
two on,
two strikes.
I will take one more goddamned pitch!
And even if I fail
we will play again tomorrow.
.
The story of my life is told between parenthesis
which you open and you close.
And inside those parenthesis is one word.
It is (Hope).
.
vday1
vday2
.
… Whether you’re in romantic love or in love with life or in love with your own heart, recognize how very special that is. Love is hard work (worth it). It’s there every moment, a small vibrational hum, the ambient sound of day-to-day life: we notice it when it’s gone. Don’t take it for granted.
With Love, on Valentine’s Day,
 Jaime K

“Our Truthfulness Can Change Lives” – On Writing, Blogging, Sharing and the Year Ahead

On the evening of the Winter Solstice, I took a pen and scribbled tiny, torn scraps of paper with the words and ideas I wanted to let go in the year ahead. I was at the home of a friend with a handful of other folks, some I knew better than others, and we shared the very sincere and open experience of acknowledging what we no longer want (writing it down) and symbolically releasing it (burning it to ash). Passing paper and pens around and each of us, silently, taking our turns saying

g o o d b y e

to any negative untruths, what has held us back, or prevented growth.

solstice

If it sounds a little eye-rolling and new-agey, it was. In the best possible way. There’s nothing like seeing your weakness literally turn to dust to give you a new frame of mind.

. . . . .

Last night, I got an email from a sweet girl who wants to start a blog. She asked, “How do you handle putting so much of yourself out there?”, impeccable timing because I have been wondering the same thing.

2012 was the year I put less out there. Moments and experiences and opportunities, and even some of the beauty of the minutiae of day-to-day life, were kept to myself or those I shared them with. It can be so exciting to have these magical tools that you tell anyone and everyone about anything and everything… but before long your life doesn’t feel valid if not enough people “like” it, and you’ve created a weird reality-show version of yourself (albiet unintentionally).

There’s another part, too. While hate-mail and comments are inevitable for anyone with a blog (or anyone doing just about anything, thanks to the internet) and I’ve learned so much about how to handle them when they come, there’s one that continues to stick out and I’ve let it prevent me from blogging some of my most important experiences.

Without glorifying The Meanest Email I’ve Ever Received, one small part of it suggested that Save the Kales! had become what so many other “lifestyle” blogs can become: A perfectly curated illusion of a perfect life with a perfect home and perfect food and a perfect relationship along with perfect clothes, friends, social life and material goods.

Wow.

It shook me, mainly because 1) I know those blogs, I have felt that way looking at them, the way you slink around your house after reading them, feeling ho-hum and wondering how you pulled the short straw in life and 2) I didn’t want to be a part of anything that made people feel bad about themselves. Because life is beautiful, but not perfect.

oasis of health food in Maryland

So I never wrote or shared photos of the biggest experiences of the last year. (Some are too precious, even now, and I like the feeling of keeping the best secrets just between me and the stars.) But in omitting experiences, I omitted the best part of blogging: reflection and appreciation, figuring-things-out and seeing life outside your own mind.

In her book This I Know, Susannah Conway writes on blogging:

“My blog began as a simple space to share my passions and talk about my days. There was no great plan… But as I became more comfortable sharing my feelings online, the healing path wasn’t far behind.

Blogging gave me back my voice after a year of feeling mute, the daily writing as a way to measure progress, the support from my readers such a boon on the days I crumbled, a collective cheer on the days I soared. I felt seen again, that I had a purpose, that my story was helping others, while they in turn helped me.”

Looking forward, I’ll continue to mind the gap between over-sharing and shamefully hiding. Save the Kales! began as an outlet in a time of crippling anxiety and depression, and to look back on how life has changed in almost three years since it began… that really is something. And it wasn’t because anyone handed me an answer — it happened because I worked my ass off to get better and actually got out and did things. I changed my perspective, I changed my life. Easy? Nope. Essential? Oh, yes yes yes.

While this blog will always be a “vegan blog” by default, I’m thrilled to get back to the roots of why I love to write (which are not unlike why I love to read): because through shared experiences we find purpose and connection.

I hope you’ll be a part of it.

Cheers to writing and dreaming and scheming and full-heart-believing.

Happy New year!

xo Jaime K

.     .      .     .     .

in 2012:

ballerinas

For a few months, I worked for an Arts Organization/Festival and have a whole new respect for these types of nonprofits, especially with a small staff (of two) and the faint hint of a budget. The behind-the-scenes work is more than I could have thought possible if I hadn’t seen it first hand. Keep fighting the good fight.

cafe santosha

I had some truly spectacular food.

h20kitchen

Including the fanciest, prettiest, 14-course dinner of my life, with special vegan dishes made just for me. This was edible art from a dear artist/chef who I’m happy to call a friend.

somuchcoffee

… and so much coffee. So. Much. Coffee.

jaimeandryan4ever

I began the fourth year of the dearest relationship to my heart, and along the way learned so much about expectations, commitment, remaining an individual while being one-half of a partnership, and deep, soul-brightening love.

trees

I found my way back to nature, to running, and learning more about what my body (and mind) are capable of.

masonjarlightsinNYC

I embraced concepts of minimalism, and continue to get rid of what doesn’t support my vision of the most beautiful life, tossing everything from spark-dimming ideas to material possessions. Stripped down, there’s a whole lot of beauty.

veria

I found myself in places I’ve only dreamed of, for reasons I still can’t believe are… real. (Sometimes photographs serve as the pinch on the arm, the you-aren’t-dreaming reminder that life is so weird and crazy and good.)

purplehouse

I found my way to new towns.

eastonpa

And rediscovered my own town.

cavetour

And traveled through underground caves.

nycskyline

And navigated the biggest cities.

beach

And went to the ends of the earth.

Thank(ful)sgiving Day

I’m thankful for paring down excess and embracing joy in simplicity. For my books (paper-souls), for human interaction and cat hugs, for generous + deep love. The future looks blindly bright and staying grounded in gratitude is where I’ve built my foundation.

Thanksgiving 2012.

It’s time to bring out the twinkle lights and peppermint candles, to watch It’s a Wonderful Life several times and never let the impact of it’s message become overshadowed or less meaningful. We effect those around us, we can make a difference, we matter.