Happy New Year! Well, almost…

I always wonder how to write my New Year’s post. Because my blog’s anniversary falls so near January 1, the new year has always provoked the kind of introspection that I happened to do a little early this year, when Veganland turned 3. I had such a blast writing last year’s post, 2013, and choosing blog posts from each month to reflect on the 12 months that comprised the year. To say adieu to 2012, I had a shorter, post and geez, how much has changed since then!

How much has changed in a year, come to think of it. And how much hasn’t. I still have some of the same tattoos (though I’ve added quite a few), the same fussy tuxedo demon cat, still vegan, still active, still wondering what health and a healthy lifestyle means to me and how it fits into my crazy little life. I really feel that I conveyed a lot of my feelings about the blog and its various changes in the 3 year birthday post, which is really what the new year posts have been about in past years: introspection and reflection, acknowledging the past forms of change and the iterations of change that are sure to come as the future unfolds.


This year’s new year post, like its predecessors, is going to be a little bit different. I’ve struggled with the format and structure of these posts and how I’d like to go about conveying them, if there should be some sort of cohesiveness to the way I present them or even what is presented. Should there be? I’ve decided: both yes and no. Collecting last year’s series of posts was the most appropriate way for me to commemorate 2013, but commemorating 2014 needs to be just as different as this year has been. In some ways, I’m writing today’s post to preface what’s coming tomorrow. Tomorrow’s post is by far the most personal one I’ve ever shared here on the blog. I finally feel that I’m at a point where I’m able to do that —  balance the public and private aspects of my life in my blog’s content. I finally also have the time to reflect and craft wordier posts that have a lot more thought behind them. I am, at the core being of myself, a writer after all.

So tomorrow: I’m sharing the story about finding true health. This is something I’ve struggled with for most of my adult life. Taking these few weeks off and having no academic work to do has allowed me to look back on how vastly different things are now than they were a year ago. I’m so happy with this snug little life of mine and I’m just over the moon about my health and how well I feel that it’s positively impacting other parts of my life. A lot of the big transformations that it’s taken for me to get to where I am right now, in this very moment, occurred over the past year, so I feel that relaying the entire story covering several years of my life makes a lot of sense as it all culminates during 2014. I’m very excited to share this story with all of you. As I mentioned, it’s been in the making for most of this year and I’m finally glad that the words finally came to me and I was able to write it this week. So, coming up tomorrow: “On Losing and (Re)gaining my Health.” Enjoy, and may you have a happy new year!


Goals for 2015

Create a sustainable kombucha brewing practice in my own kitchen

Maintain lasting health

Travel some place I’ve never been before

Brew the perfect cup of coffee

Read, as much as possible

holiday week


Just after we decorated the tree, with the gifts I brought for my parents underneath in their eco friendly recycled wrappings.

Sooooo many holiday photos from this year! Get ready for a mega post. We had such a lovely little restorative week together–just my parents, their various creatures and I. Separated from my beloved Leonor, I set my mind to reading, visiting with friends, and crafting up all sorts of goodies in my parents’ amazing HUGE new kitchen. It was seven days filled with delicious vegan and (mostly) gluten free eats, lots of reading, weight lifting, and talking tenderly to a now elderly ginger cat who kept me company as a child. Could anything be more perfect? I think not.


It’s so funny how easily I fall into some form of a routine, even when I’m away from home. I’m a creature of habit, what can I say? Nearly every afternoon, an hour or two before dinner, I’d make a cup of nettle tea and settle down in front of the fire with my book. On this particular day I made myself a little antipasti plate of marinated olives, sundried tomatoes, Daiya jalepeno jack wedge, pecans, and brown rice crackers.


On my first day in North Carolina, I got what I’ve been dreaming of ever since moving to Florida in August: SNOW! Just a light flurry, but enough to be so, so beautiful for just a few minutes.


It was also a beautiful drive back up to Boone to pick up this little booger. Her name is currently Clancy I think. (My mother keeps changing it.) She’s a little (not for long) Great Pyrenees who guards my parents’ alpacas, goats, miniature donkeys, and rabbits (including Beans the Wonder Rabbit, who happily lives with her siblings now) that my parents have adopted. Never have I seen more serene happy creatures in a beautiful home.


Emma, the other puppy snoozing at lunch. I’m not a dog person but hey! These little fluff balls are ADORABLE!


Lots of working out. My dad now uses the weight set he bought me during highschool. So cute.


I found the perfect Santa Paws gifts for someone special. He loves them, especially the crinkly catnip snail. Since returning to my little oasis (apartment) I’ve been finding toys he stashed everywhere while I was gone. I think s/he missed me.


Nettles! I’ve read a lot about nettle leaf and I finally got my hands on a box. I really like the flavor of the tea, and its high iron content and astringent qualities make it a perfect winter beverage.


This guy. What a cranky little old fart he’s become. At 14, he’s the ancient grump I always hoped he would be. And apparently loves to sit in the tub, just like Fini does.


Speaking of evil, this monster sure is fussy. But pretty, and apparently loves sneaking into the guest room where I stayed to sit on my bed.


More mischief! Honey suckle (left) and Bronson (right). That Bronson is filled with playful demonic joy. I had to help corral him into another barn while I was there and got to hold him. I was thrilled, he was not. I’ve never seen a happier pair of goats who love licorice goat treats more than these two.


More puppies! I just couldn’t help it!


“I picked you a flower.” My mother said. That lady knows me too well. Turns out this is Jemson Weed, and is highly, highly toxic but I think it’s just so cool to look at.


Look closely! Yes, there are 2 dogs there.


Romping marshmallows.


I returned from a day trip to Carboro to see friends and get tattooed to find more presents under the tree!


My dad and I made paella together. Hands down, probably my favorite meal of the trip.


Dear Santa, thank you for supporting my crazy cat lady lifestyle. Ever since moving to grad school (as I call it) I’ve had mixed feelings about TV ownership, but what a gift! I decided when I was visiting for Thanksgiving that I would in fact like one. Santa was happy to oblige.


My dad was in charge of the Tofurky preparation. We had an all vegan holiday meal! Lots of herbs, garlic olive oil, potatoes, carrots, zucchini, mushrooms, and tomatillos. Yes, tomatillos. So good.


It is Fesperman family tradition to have mimosas on Christmas. We start after presents for brunch and sip on them (slowly!) for most of the afternoon. Having one in hand certainly took the sting out of standing over the hot stove getting ALL THE LUMPS out of my home made chocolate frosting.


The finished product. I was pretty proud of this.


Served with a glass of local port. What a perfect ending to a beautiful, relaxing holiday. The next day after lunch I hauled myself and my new TV back to Tallahassee for the rest of my holiday. I’m so happy and filled with gratitude for this month free of papers, articles, and presentations but I’ll be honest I can only stay away from all of the above for so long. Never have I ever felt more alive or happier. That, my friends, truly is the greatest gift of all.

Hope your holiday was lovely and everything you needed/wanted it to be. These few days at the tail end of December to early January are so personal–they are yours and they are what you make them. Enjoy!

3 years of blogging

Happy holidays! I hope everyone had a bright, brilliant holiday that was whatever you wanted or needed it to be. This year, I trekked up to North Carolina to see my parents and a few friends. It was a great trip, and our holiday was peaceful, simple, and relaxing–just what I was hoping for. We exchanged a few heartfelt gifts and had delicious food, complete with watching the forever timeless A Christmas Story. It was a day filled with mimosas, vegan chocolate cake and my family’s first ever Tofurky roast. While I was up in my home state, Veganland’s third birthday kind of just crept up on me. I always acknowledge its impending presence far enough in advance, but it never really hits me until well, ya know…


And damn. Wow. Three years.

I always wonder how to commemorate this anniversary publicly, right here on the blog. And I’ve always felt that in some ways any sort of commemoration has fallen a bit short. Inevitably, my blog’s birthday is inherently personal. Each year, without fail, I think about the day I conceived this blog: I had a super short pixie cut and only 3 (small, ha!) tattoos, I was sitting in my sunny Carrboro apartment, drinking coffee and watching my room mate’s 2 cats frolic in the winter sunlight. I remember what I was wearing, exactly where I was sitting. The coolness of the house sliced by that sunlight. I remember the relationship I was in, and looking back how things in my world were about to change forever because of the choices I was soon to make. Fini, unbeknownst to me, was alone in a tiny metal pen at the pound, waiting for me to come and rescue him/her. With the founding of this blog, so much changed so quickly. And so much has changed SINCE then.

In some ways, it’s an entire world of difference. I’ve grown up, and Veganland has both grown and changed with me. In so many ways, this blog has been the facilitator of much of that growth.

I’ve gone through several other relationships and numerous passerbys, foraged new friendships and said goodbye to many, I’ve battled with gluten, lost and regained my health (more on this to come), fallen away from things I’ve truly loved (like taking copious amounts of photos, long baths, and watching crime shows on Netflix) only to fall more deeply in love with the simple acts of self-care that keep me going. I’ve moved 500 miles away from the place I always knew, that fostered my intellectual growth and personal knowledge for over a decade. I worked in a kitchen for over a year, I learned what sweat and hard work really, and truly mean all while simultaneously witnessing both the best and worst of humanity. I learned what it means to truly feel alive. I stood up for myself. I learned what my own agency meant and how to assert it strategically and without abandon when treated unfairly, how to crank it down a notch and reach out to others. One fuzzy tuxedoed demon taught me what true love is, and what true companionship looks like. I learned that I’m a cat person, even if I do also like dogs.

All of this, while dutifully writing, crafting, and creating blog posts to share here, wide in the open, where anyone can read and see them. In so many ways, this blog has helped me keep my sanity and make sense of a world that often confuses and bewilders this tattooed little introvert. It’s been my quiet in the storm, even though a lot of the time Veganland has been a storm within itself.

So, thanks for jumping into the eye of the tempest with me. Thanks for reading, watching, and supporting. I know I say this often, but I really and truly do mean it: stay tuned. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for this blustering chunk of cyberspace.

I again return to my internal struggle over the best way to commemorate a dually personal and public mile marker. When I got that notification this past week (Dec. 23 to be exact) I decided: What better way to mark this anniversary, this moment in time than with one of my favorite types of posts? So I give you a Through the Looking Glass of Veganland’s 3rd Birthday!


Morning blog reading with coffee, Citizen Radio‘s newest podcast, the decision to make this post.


My mom always has her fridge super well stocked with amazing preserves and I LOVE being able to indulge in them while visiting. I made myself tofu scramble with lots of kale, sun dried tomatoes, herbed artichokes, Spanish red peppers, mushrooms, onions, and garlic. A-MAZ-ing.


Leslie’s (my mother’s) yearly choice in holiday wrappings.


A time honored tradition: the gift of beautiful, plump, juicy pears I receive from my parents each winter season.


Roasting butternut squash for dinner.


Nettle tea, more reading.


Fog thickly coating my parent’s farm. We had several days of cool, quiet rain which suited me just fine.


My newest jam, Criminal Minds, and a solid work out in my dad’s cave–er uh, the basement. After this, I ate some leftovers from lunch the previous day. Food from the restaurant I worked at for nearly 2 years. You have no idea how much I miss this stuff. There are no words. NONE. And no photo because it was a personal, quasi-religious culinary experience.


But I did pester this goofball, or rather he pestered me. If he’s not getting a satisfactory amount of attention, Arlo likes to paw at you until you pet him.


I grabbed said paw. Shame ensued.

Then I read Game of Thrones and we went to a local winery for a wine tasting.


DINNER! TACOS! Fresh, soft corn tortillas pilled high with roasted butternut squash purée, black beans, fresh marinated cabbage, onions, avocados, tomatoes, fresh cilantro and salsa. Oh, and there were a few chunks of Daiya thrown in there too.


Post dinner holiday film watching and my (second or third) daily dose of Game of Thrones reading. I think on this particular night we watched Elf. 


I spiked my Silk Nog with spiced moonshine.


Aaannnnddd my mother put a pomegranate popsicle into her gin and tonic.

IMG_5143Roaring fire, vintage mid-century tree, a cranky old ginger cat who’s been part of my life for most of it.

The perfect end to a quiet, pre-holiday blog-iversary.


Holiday Gift Guide 2014


Making up a little gift list has become one of my favorite end of the year traditions here on the blog. I often recommend things I’d personally like for the holidays, or things I have/need. I always hope to keep the holidays simple and sweet–good food, good people, and a few thoughtful gifts. On my list this year: books, pajamas, slippers, and secretly hoping for a little TV for my apartment to augment my Netflix watching joy. The perfect recipe for a crazy cat lady graduate student who loves time alone and stays indoors out of the Florida sunshine.

To check out the 2013 Gift Guide, click here. What a little throw back.


Kindle Fire

I was anti kindle for a while, then I bought one for grad school and I love love LOVE IT. Perfect for travel, stores a TON of data, and easy to read and watch films/TV on. This is often what I take when I travel instead of my laptop as I’ve got several of my favorite movies saved as well as books and PDFs of articles for school. Hands down one of my favorite things I own and a super affordable way to satisfy the book-loving person in your life.


Speaking of books…


Miyoko Shinner’s Artisan Vegan Cheeses 

I’ve had my eye on this one for a while. For more on the recipes check out this great review (with incredible photos) from my buddy Hannah Kaminsky over at Bittersweet Blog.



I’m on the home brewing trek again and am always looking for more information about one my absolute favorite beverages. Kombucha has long been my soda equivalent–fizzy, fruity, and a little sweet it packs a powerful punch of probiotics that makes me feel great about drinking it.

A few more suggestions for the vegan/eco friendly/rad person in your life (or yourself): Palladium boots- the “Pampa Tactical,” tattoos always make a GREAT gift and most shops offer gift cards, fancy hot sauces, any vegan goodies from LUSH Cosmetics (check out this review!)

Have a GREAT holiday season! Enjoy the time, the rest, the food, the company. Keep it simple, and keep it bright. I’ll be back next week with a few reflections on the past year and of course my annual New Year’s post. Stay tuned!