The perfect guide to being vegan

During our family's path through veganism, we've read our fair share of cookbooks, recipes, magazines and blogs. Heck, we've even sat through several documentaries and cooking shows.

When I was pregnant with Braeburn, Chubby Vegan Dad got me the Vegan Pregnancy Survival Guide. It was one of the first non cookbooks we purchased that was designed for vegans. And while it was wonderful, it doesn't really appeal to the non-pregnant, vegan me.

Slowly, but surely, our bookshelves and tablets are being stocked with more and more options at our disposal. Gone are the days of perusing barren bookshelves looking for a good tofu scramble recipe, now, we've got piles of books to choose from. Thanks to vegan pioneers like Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero, our shelves are now decorated with a variety of culinary tastes and treats.

But there has always been a large hole when it comes to vegan living. Because veganism isn't just a diet, it's a lifestyle, there are so many gray areas it can be hard to field it alone when you're vegan. And although veganism and cruelty-free living are up and coming, a lot of vegans probably only have a handful of friends (if even that many) who adhere to the same lifestyle.

It can be a lonely, confusing path to trek sometimes.

But now, thanks to Elizabeth Castoria, we don't have to go it alone any longer. Her book, How to Be Vegan, tackles any and all matters when it comes to vegan living.

And not only does it tackle them, it takes them head-on, turns them upside down, puts them out to dry and then does a few more cycles just to be certain all the bases are covered.

This is literally, like everything you could ever want, need or dream of in a vegan guide.

The best part? It's compact, precise, humorous and easy to drag with you wherever you want! I found it particularly helpful to bring it along during a work trip, as it helped me navigate not-so-vegan-friendly airports and any sticky dinner situations I might run into along the way.

Sure, I'm more than a few years deep into my veganism, but that doesn't mean I've got it all figured out, especially when it comes to taking me out of my comfy, well-mapped-out city element and throwing me into a new city, a business experience and awkward menu situations.

In addition to fielding the basic "why go vegan" and where our food and all that cruel jazz comes from, there are a few really awesome sections in this book that help approach hard-to-talk-about subjects: mainly, relationships.

From a rundown on how to handle overly protective (and at times, critical) parents and their concerns about your protein intake, to figuring out whether or not your blind date spells romance for your lifestyle, this book has not only an awesome amount of information, but it's presented in a conversational tone that makes you want to keep reading. It doesn't feel like Castoria is nagging or lecturing you, it feels like she's hanging out in the room with you dishing the vegan lowdown.

My favorite section, by far, is the "Manners" chapter, where Castoria discusses how to handle loaded questions, pesky coworkers and how to spread the vegan message without biting people's heads off OR compromising your beliefs.

Take for example this excerpt: "When we are nice, decent humans who happen to forgo animal products, people think vegans are nice, decent humans. It's nutty how that works, right?"

I found myself thinking "Oh my gosh, she took the words right out of my mouth" so often that I'm basically convinced Castoria is my sister from another mister or something.

Additionally, there's a section of straight-forward vegan recipes, not to mention a listing of products that make clean and cruelty-free living easier.

With mini profiles on other vegans around the globe, this book has something for everyone. I really cannot rave about it enough. If you buy one book related to veganism or cruelty-free living this year, make it this one!

All and all this is a no-frills, kickass, simple guide to getting through the day-to-day scenarios and situations. Treat yourself to this eccentric guide, because trust me, you're not only going to love it, you're going to wonder how you functioned without it!

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A pretty pink princess party for Pearyn

A little over a week ago we threw our daughter her fourth birthday party.

It's absolutely mind blowing, amazing, heart breaking, tear-inducing and an entire assortment of feelings I can't even begin to put into words. 

How is my baby girl already four?

There are days I'm ready to pull my hair out because my brain is so fried from answering the constant stream of questions my inquisitive daughter. There are moments that I find myself teetering on the brink of a breakdown, because the mental and physical demands of motherhood are all encompassing and never ending. 

Except, one day, they will end.

Sure, I'll always be the mother to these darling kiddos, but one day, they won't need me anymore. That's not to say when they're full-fledged adults they won't still need a hug from their mom time to time, but they won't need it as much. And that's fine, that's the way it should be.

But I have a feeling when that time comes, I'll yearn for these days back. I'll long for my daughter to follow me from room to room, asking what the tiny fuzzies floating in the air are and why she can't have a stink bug collection. I'll wish my son was climbing all over me and squishing every body part just so he can nuzzle his little head into my neck and bury his body into mine.

I know that these days will come to an end sooner than later, which is probably why I find myself grasping for straws every time a birthday rolls around. 

So we go all out. We buy ridiculous decorations, spend too much on food, invite too many people, buy too many gifts and bake way, way too many cupcakes. Just kidding, there's no such thing as too many cupcakes! There's going to come a birthday when my beautiful little girl won't want me to make her a princess cake with pink sprinkles and a castle, a day when she won't care that her two great aunts and second cousins have attended nearly every milestone in her life, from her first birthday party to her first dance recital. 

So while I have the power to be everything and do everything for my little girl, then that's exactly what we're going to do. 

Pearyn decided for her fourth birthday party that she wanted princess anything and everything! From balloons, streamers and door signs, to magic fruit wands and a queens confections stand, we threw one heck of a pink, princess-palooza for our little gal. 

In terms of food, we had chips, pretzels, magic fruit wands (a personal favorite of mine), meat(less) balls, roasted veggie and hummus flatbread pinwheels, pasta salad, princess peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (for the kiddos!), plus strawberry and white cupcakes for dessert! There was also a side stand loaded with sugary goodies the kids could scoop out themselves! 

It rained and poured all day, so our backyard plan was quickly moved into the basement. It wasn't ideal, but it was sufficient, and the kiddos were able to run around with each other. We were blessed to have a large amount of family in attendance, friends that have become family and a handful of kids from Pearyn's preschool class. 

It was stressful party planning, but at the end of the day, it was more than worth it for our little girl. The smile on her face when her friends arrived and she got to instantly capture photos with her new camera (an AWESOME gift, I can recommend the Fuijifilm Instant Mini enough) made all those fruit wands and flatbread rolls ups MORE than worth it. 

After all, there's going to come a time when she won't believe in magic wands and princesses anymore. 

At least not for a while. If we have anything to do with it.

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My boobs can be whatever I want them to be

I'm going to go ahead and come out of the closet on this issue here.

As a woman, I have boobs. I know, I know, let me wait a minute and let that sink in with y'all.

Something you should probably know about my boobs - because there is something I think strangers should know about my boobs - they're one of the few body parts I don't worry about. For the most part, I'm happy with them.

So, I have boobs. And I like my boobs. I like the way they look in my swimsuit, in my bra, in a tank top, in a shirt. Hell, I even like them in a sweatshirt.

But in addition to boosting my body esteem, they also perform tricks!

I fed my babies with them.

Multi-functional, for the win!

Ok, you might be wondering ... why all the boob talk? I mean you probably have boobs or like people who have boobs, but why am I blogging about them?

Yesterday one of my friends posted something on her Facebook. She's about a jillion weeks pregnant and plans on breastfeeding, so she shared this picture from a breastfeeding page. It was a meme with two ladies (who are either teenagers or adults who look like them), talking about where their boobs belonged. (I know, I was flabbergasted too, because I'm pretty sure I know where my boobs belong).

On my chest.

Where they're currently located.

But according to this Facebook audience, there are apparently a number of things people think I should and shouldn't be doing with MY boobs. Above is just a small sampling of what was being said, but it basically left me saying, WTF?

Who knew for 29 years I'd been doing the wrong things with my boobs!

Now, let's establish this first:  I'm SO completely in favor of breastfeeding. Anywhere, anytime, on your head, in a plane, with eight boobs or just one. Whatev. If a lady wants to feed her child with her boobs, rock on sista, go for it.

Consequently, here, my boobs were hot AND food! 
Next, let me say this: I'm SO completely in favor of cleavage. Perhaps not anywhere, anytime (I think I'll keep these bad boys in my shirt when I'm coaching my daughter's t-ball team), but when the occasion arises, like a date night out with my husband and friends, I'm going to dress in the way that makes me feel good about myself, happy, pretty, hot, whatever the heck I want. And as a lady with an ample bosom, that often includes cleavage.

So why do I feel the need to talk about my stance on boobs? Mainly because I'm scared by the comments I read on Facebook. We seem to be utterly divided when it comes to what boobs are for: are they hot, hot, sex objects or do they feed our babies?

I love that breastfeeding is making a comeback. This generation of mommies is ALL about figuring out what works best for THEIR family. And if breastfeeding is what works best for you, then power to you. Let your boobs fly high and feed your babies wherever you want, you have that right. I really, really support that.

But I don't like the mentality that it's ALL they're for. It's awesome that we can provide nutrition for our kiddos, but by allowing them to ONLY be viewed as food objects is disrespectful in its own rights.

Look, I get it. I understand "sexualizing" them makes it seem like an uphill battle if we want to breastfeed in public without causing a stir. But how little do we think of our society that we can't possibly wrap our brains around the idea that boobs can be hot sexy cleavage AND food? Instead of changing what we do, why can't we better sculpt people's minds.

And guess what? I was a teenager once. I had boobs then. I saw people breastfeed. I looked for a minute. I wasn't grossed out, wasn't turned on, I was simply curious.

And know what else? Once I was a mother who actually breastfed her babies herself, I saw people breastfeed. I looked for a minute. I wasn't grossed out, wasn't turned on, I was simply curious. Were they doing a different hold that was better than mine? Any tips I could pick up on?

I mean, seriously, to think keeping our boobies in our shirts is going to stop people from being uncomfortable with breastfeeding is wishful thinking. It might help, sure. But is it worth squashing a woman's right to choose what she wears on her body to MAYBE change a few minds? Isn't that dangerous territory we're lurking in?

And what about the people who don't want to breastfeed? What if my daughter doesn't want to? Isn't teaching people that the female body is solely a vessel to birth children and feed them just as damaging as training girls to think it's only how BEAUTIFUL their body is that makes them worthwhile?

I'm proud of my boobs. I'm proud that they were able to feed babies, but in turn, also help me feel sexier as well. I understand not everyone feels that way about boobs.

Perhaps you don't like my cleavage, don't want to see it. That's fine. Don't look at it. Don't look at me.

Or perhaps, you don't like my breastfeeding, don't want to see it. That's fine. Don't look at it. Don't look at me.

Funny, isn't it? How that sentence works perfectly for both issues.

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Cake balls are for masochists

Our darling little lady turned four on Saturday! It was utterly fantastic, exciting, devastating and gut wrenching ALL at once. I really thought I would get used to my kids growing up eventually, but so far it just reminds me how fleeting these sweet little moments really are.

I mean seriously, seriously fleeting.

We had an incredibly busy weekend. I took the day off Friday from work to make sure I could finish collecting everything I needed. Because of my creative nature and strange 1950s desire to be the perfect hostess, when we throw birthday parties we like to step up our game.

And because I already had a bazillion cupcake to tackle for the party, I got the idea in my head on Thursday that I'd just make cake balls for Pearyn to take in for her class on Friday.

You know, because they're quick and less meticulous than piping frosting and sprinkles onto a bunch of cupcakes, right?

WRONG. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

I've only made these little bad boys maybe four times in my life, and every time I forget how damn frustrating those little cake spheres of deliciousness are.

I mean seriously, who the hell actually enjoys making those things? They either end up too soft and slide off the sticks or they end up with an awkward flat side from laying them out on a sheet pan and then putting the sticks in. Obviously some people out there are successful in making them considering every bakery and their mother sells them, they've just somehow escaped my ability.

Lucky for me, four-year-old children don't seem to care what smashed up cake and icing dipped in vegan chocolate look like, they just want to shove them in their mouths! So while you won't see a recipe for these on my blog anytime soon, just be comforted in knowing it is possible to make vegan cake balls, I just don't have the capable hands!

And because last week was also Teacher Appreciation Week, we put together a quick little "thank you" for the teachers at Pear's preschool in addition to all that birthday preparation. We didn't do anything over the top, just a little note for being awesome and some hand sanitizer. It may not seem like much, but at least it lets them know how thankful we are for taking on the task of hanging out with a bunch of other people's kiddos all day.

Seriously, teachers deserve support and praise - and preschool teachers deserve support and praise and cupcakes. And hugs. And bags of money.

And while I've got oodles of fun stuff to report on the princess Pearyn bash, now is not the time or place. Mainly because I'm still getting over my epic cake ball failure and because I've got a fabulous announcement to make!

Lots of you shared, liked, tweeted and commented on the blog post to win Fillet of the Soul: Afro Vegan by Wheeler del Torro, and it's time to congratulate our winner! Courtesy of a random selection generator, Lydia G. was the very lucky winner!

But don't despair friends, I've still got a couple awesome products up my sleeve to giveaway, so check back soon when I announce the next awesome product!

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Who wants to win a kickass cookbook?

You'll have to excuse me. I haven't been nearly as attentive to my blog lately as I should be. What can I say? April and May seem to be super busy months for our household. Between my work trip (which was awesome), my birthday (last one in the 20s) and then preparing for Pearyn's party (she'll be four on Saturday), I usually spend my free time chasing the kiddos around and then the kid-free time sleeping.

I like my sleep.

But I've got some coffee in me and I'm ready to hop back on the blog-a-heck-of-a-lot-more train! And because I've got such super duper fans, I'm going to give you something free!

While there are a lot of staples in the Chubby Vegan kitchen, there is one thing that I'm always adding to: my stack of ever-growing cookbooks. I've got everything from the 1980s Book of Tofu to some of my modern personal favorites, Betty Goes Vegan and Skinny Bitch in the Kitch. And I am always looking for my next faves.

When I got an email asking if I'd like to look through and give my awesome audience a copy of Wheeler del Torro's recently-released Fillet of Soul: AfroVegan, I was super pumped. If there's one area my cookbook collection is lacking in it's most definitely International flair and flavor.

So far, this cookbook is right on the money. It's got unique dishes with easy-to-find ingredients, like my favorite, golden beet tartare. And unlike some cookbooks, this one is loaded with pictures and a reader-friendly layout. You've got the straight-forward recipe, easy-to-follow instructions, bright photos and pull outs with different tips and facts spruced throughout.

This cookbook not only standouts from my others, but compliments them in a different way too. I can see many of these recipes being used for parties with friends. The dishes are grown up, but fun, and don't just give you a taste of the Caribbean, but some education about the area and cool facts.

So are you ready to win?

I thought so!

It's pretty simple and there are THREE ways to do it! Follow Chubby Vegan Mom on Twitter and share this message "I want to win a copy of Afro Vegan and you can too! http://ow.ly/wCurw @chubbyveganmom"

For another chance to win, leave a comment on the blog telling me your favorite international dish to make! Cause, I could use some more ideas! Make sure to leave an email if this is how you enter, so I can reach you if you're the lucky winner!

And because third time is a charm, head on over to Chubby Vegan Mom on Facebook (yeah, we've got a Facebook!), like us and share out the post about this contest!

A winner will be announced on Monday morning, because we all need a pick me up at the beginning of the week, right!?

So, what are you waiting for, win this book!

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