Yes, I know, what a late post-er I am. Well, being back in the swing of things with work, classes, and apartment-care, I've had little time to dedicate to blogging. Also, honestly, there's some finality to posting about the final events of VVC... Nonetheless, here's a quick recap of the last two days of the event!
Saturday, the first official day of the event, began with a beautiful buffet of vegan foods. I piled my plate high BECAUSE I FREAKING COULD. And I ate every last bite BECAUSE I FREAKING COULD. Here we see pancakes (om nom), tofu scramble, biscuits & gravy, potatoes, watermelon, chia pudding, and some strawberries. I could have eaten three more plates of the pancakes and potatoes, yet the scramble was really saved by the gravy. Amber of Almost Vegan posted about the spread in much more detail!
My morning began with the Build-A-Blog panel. I had caused myself a great deal of stress regarding whether or not I wanted to sign up to attend the photography workshop or not, yet I thought that, as an amateur blogger, I would have a lot to learn from attending the former. And I do not regret my decision! It was very informative (I have a stats page?!??!) and the panelists were just fantastic - Bianca of Vegan Crunk, Amey of Vegan Eats & Treats, and Sherri of Vegan Nosh.
Then was the nutrition panel, moderated by Grant Butler of The Oregonian (who did a spectacular job), which was quite fascinating. There was more knowledge and resources shared than I had expected and I am glad I attended.
I hurried down to the Vegan Battle Royale and, I must say, this was one of my favorite moments of the entire weekend. Hosted by Mo of Mo Betta Vegan, Amey, and Kittie of Cake Maker to the Stars, the event was fast-paced and jam-packed with all sorts of goodies. Almost immediately I was selected for "audience trivia" and won a copy of Becoming Vegan! As the teams were subsequently selected I thought for sure I would be an observer... but no, I was the very last name called and joined Team Vegan with a Shotgun. We went head to head with our opponents, answering blog and food trivia, taste testing and naming ingredients, and accepting dares. Our challenge was interspersed with more audience trivia and inadvertent moderation by Miss Isa herself. When it came down to it, our team was the runner-up, but we still walked away with a swag bag full of Newman's Own goodies, Tribe hummus coupons, and more! (If you're FB friends with the PPK, check out their photos of the event online!)
All that concentration and badassery of the Battle had me work up an appetite, despite my monstrous breakfast. The buffet featured an American picnic style spread with BBQ tempeh, massaged kale salad, squash noodle salad, orzo salad, raw purple cauliflower hummus with raw veggies, and some bomb potato salad. I don't think I was able to finish my plate this time...
After lunch I headed to the Small Town, Represent! panel. Living in Akron, Ohio, it was the place for me to be! The Omaha vegans were featured on the panel, providing insight and tales of the beginnings of the vegan community in their town. This panel was very well attended and could have easily went way over the scheduled time; the audience had some excellent questions and suggestions.
Closing out the workshops for the day was Planting Seeds of Compassion: Communication as Activism with speaker Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. I don't even know where to begin to summarize my experience hearing her speech. Her passion and intensity is only matched by her wit. I teared up, I became hopeful, and I reflected on the realization of my own role in representing the vegan cause. If someone has a link to a video of her speech, please let me know! I want to share it with the world.
Everyone headed on back to the dorms/hotel rooms to get fancy for the Galarama held across town. There was a line to check-in, a line to get drinks, a line to get food - but I didn't mind! We immediately jumped in the food line out of worry that they would run out... and they did. Pizza, spring rolles, and lettuce wraps were out by the time we got up there. I loaded my tiny plate with Gardein chik'n tenders (FAVE), spinach-artichoke dip, and zen sliders. We hopped back in line once Sizzle Pie delivered about 25 more pizzas (yum!) and I ate even more chik'n tenders.
We boogied and watched over our bids at the silent auction (I walked away with a beautiful brown purse and almost everyone in my crew took with them their favorite bids), sipping on cocktails and jumping in line for...
The Coconut Bliss sundae bar! Total heaven. After posing for our flipbooks and rubbing our food baby bellies we walked over to Food Fight! for the Upton Natural's pop-up sammy shop! Having already ingested a great deal of awesome, a group of us split two sammies. We sat on the curb outside and passed around a BLT and a delightful eggplant focaccia and mustered up some energy to head over to Hungry Tiger Too for some super-late-night drinks... and more food! I shared bites of corndog, tots, and their butternut wontons.
Not wanting to wait around another 40 minutes for the bus and not wanting to fork over the dough for a cab, we decided to walk the 3 or 4 miles back to the dorms in our dresses, hauling our goodies. The night was perfect... it was clear and the temperature was just right. As we passed over the river, I had to capture the glass quality of the water and peacefulness of the city at night. These are the moments I'll remember most fondly.
After crashing around 2am, I somehow was able to drag my ass out of bed to get ready for Day 2. Since my roomie and I were going to check back into the hotel that night, we had to pack up our things. This is my haul, folks... swag, purchases, and winnings! I can't even go into great detail about what I brought home because it will make my head explode, but I can guarantee that I walked away with some seriously awesome shit!
Breakfast for Day 2, same as Day 1, except I was able to control myself. Kind of.
Budgeting and Meal Planning was the first workshop of the day, with Mo and The Spicy Vegan hosted - and it was the most informative experience yet! I scribbled madly all of their tips and shortcuts, reviving my commitment to stop wasting food and to put forth more effort into planning what I buy at the grocery store.
Isa's Writer's Block workshop was next. We gathered in a circle and left our hang-ups at the door as we were prompted to write and then fine-tune short paragraphs on the spot. The experience was wonderful, yet the time flew by too quickly. Luckily, we decided to gather e-mail addresses and Isa ended up creating a FB group for the attendees of the workshop to grow connections with each other and maximize our skills as writers.
Mexican themed lunch! Soy curls, raw walnut taco meat (B-O-M-B), rice, salsa, pepperjack Daiya, guac, and the best vegan queso ever... I had a happy tummy. This was followed by the leftover Coconut Bliss ice cream from the Gala - I had two servings.
This nearly caused a food coma in the middle of the Publishing Panel and Opinionated Bloggers workshops, although I pulled through! The closing address was gut-wrenching and satisfying at the same time... I was so eager to fast forward to the next event and for time to sloooooow down so I could relish in the rest of my trip.
The crew gathered at the all-vegan bar Bye and Bye for our farewell dinner and camaraderie.
We couldn't even fit at one table! The Bye and Bye is a very comfortable and laid-back establishment with an open space inside the bar and two patios for enjoying the modest weather.
I ordered their signature drink... and cannot find the exact description online, but remember there being citrus and ginger beer with cranberry juice. Very different and very tasty!
I was in the mood for creamy comfort food, and man, did they deliver. This is the Eastern Bowl: brown rice, steamed broccoli, baked tofu covered in nooch, with a spicy peanut sauce. So simple, yet astounding! I have already replicated this at home and will post the recipe soon. P.S. Yes, I ate this entire god damned thing.
Saying good bye to spectacular new friends... Taylor and Becca.
Look at this group of gorgeous vegans... :)
Couldn't leave without capturing this epic shot of Bianca's and my vegan wrist ink! Represent! She has a fantastic recap of the night on her blog.
The next morning I meandered over to Vita Cafe for breakfast on my way to the airport. After a night of heavy drinking and fun I needed some serious fuel. French toast, tempeh bacon, and tatoes!
Ran into Amey as I waited for my cab! Vegans, vegans, everywhere!
As I reflected on my trip and felt grateful that the rain waited until the day I left... I couldn't help but to feel an overwhelming sense of longing to continue this journey with new friends and those I did not have the privilege of meeting at the conference. The entire weekend was filled with great fun, AMAZING food, and this indescribable sense of community which I have never felt before. How can people from all over the country (and the globe!) who have mostly never met one another become so connected so quickly? It was like meeting someone new but starting as if we were already years into our friendship. I cannot wait for 2013 and intend on keeping up with the beautiful people I met.