Special Edition: Vegans on Valentine’s Day – Episode IV

Like a grumpy husband in an outdated romantic comedy – I find myself in the same position every year – scrambling at St. Valentine’s Day. Not to make or buy something special for my Dan but to get the annual Vegans on Valentine’s Day post up. There is always a delay here and there and other boring excuses and then at the last moment Ta-Da! 

This is weird to me because honestly it’s one of my favorite posts and holidays. This year V-day is on a Friday which means that even though we got reservations at John’s – one of our favorite vegan spots in NYC- it’s going to be packed! But we’re still planning a V-day-Palooza (like last year) with a fancy breakfast on Saturday and I’m sending Dan to work with a special lunch that day and who knows maybe I’ll make one of Dan’s favorite’s for dinner Saturday night and then a big ol’ Fakesgiving on Sunday plus there might be some surprise presents and ya know romantic stuff.

But you guys hear about us all the time… this post is all about getting some hints, tips and ideas from some of the coolest vegans around like Vaute Couture‘s Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart, Girlie Girl’s Army‘s Chloe Jo Davis, Rescue Chocolate‘s Sarah Gross, Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary‘s Jenny Brown and Save the Kales‘ Jaime Karpovich! And there’s A LOT so let’s do this!

Leanne at Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary

Leanne at Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary

Most people know Leanne Mai-Ly Hilgart for her perfectly tailored vegan coats, dresses and compassionate fashion sense but what they might not now is that she is a very romantic lady. When we first started trading emails about her St.Valentine’s Day plans, she had so many wonderful ideas for how to show your special one how truly special you think they are – I couldn’t help but share them all! I mean I love you folks… how could I not? Leanne has also done something really wonderful this week – a sort of Valentine’s for the animals – Today (Feb. 11) you can get 35% off her entire site and a portion of the sales goes to support Mercy For Animals – you just have to use the code MFALOVE as check out.

So, I may have *just* met someone special (I hope I’m not jinxing this by writing that!) I’m also speaking at Yale on Valentine’s Day, so I’m going to tell you instead of my VDay plans, my recommendations…
To me, nothing says #IADOREYOU like getting out of the city together, whether for Valentine’s Day or better, for another weekend for no reason at all. Add a taste of nature, an unplug from technology, and spending time with some animal friends, and you’ve got yourself a weekend of more you two less other stuff, away from schedules, computers, and high rises. Some of my friends have the most magical spots not far from NYC like Woodstock Sanctuary (a bus from Port Authority will drop you off 5 minutes walk from it, no joke!) with its own beautiful Bed & Breakfast right on the Sanctuary grounds, which I still haven’t gotten to check out but can’t wait to. You can also head to the beautiful all vegan Red Robin Song Guesthouse for Lisa’s famous vegan omlettes, and after hiking in the snow during the day, cuddle up to watch movies in her huge great room with an amazing fireplace. If you’re up for a longer drive, of course the all vegan Ginger Cat B&B near Farm Sanctuary (who also has their own cabins to rent) completes a weekend of cuddles with rescued sheep, antiquing, sleeping in, and watching the snow fall- you won’t even remember you have a cell phone.
Besides nature & rescued animals, I also have a very strong appreciation for SWEETS. If you’re driving to any of these, be sure to stop at Lagusta’s Luscious’s chocolate shop- this girl knows how to make chocolate, and makes the most inspired combinations (I should know, I get her chocolates of the month, which have included such taste surprises like Riesling Rose Caramel with Pinot Noir Salt, and Mint Matcha Creams.)  My ultimate favorite of hers are always the sweet salty combos, like her Matzo Toffee, and in fall her caramel apple truffles.
And while we’re on the topic- my girl Danielle of Vegan Treats spoils the hell out of me!  She treats every week like Valentine’s Day for her friends. She also makes the most beautiful desserts themed for each holiday that you can order online, with gluten free options too! They sell out so fast, but you can find the special holiday ones here, and keep an eye on her instagram here. At our New Years party, my friend Devin said her cookies looked like someone brought them who didn’t realize it was a vegan party… they were just the most perfect collection of all the adorable classic holiday cookies your mom would get at the bakery (well, not my mom. We ate hot pot, and got red envelopes.)
Okay what else? I’d say surprises are so much more fun, because nothing’s more romantic than a good listener. So if you want to show someone you appreciate them, forget expensive, just listen instead. And if he/she has expensive taste, then, uh, go out with someone else? (I didn’t say that! ;))
Chloe Jo and her handsome boys! (PS - I stole this photo off her Facebook page because I loved it SO much)

Chloe Jo and her handsome boys! (PS – I stole this photo off her Facebook page because I loved it SO much – hope Chloe doesn’t kill me)

Ever since we launched this blog, I’ve found a loyal, helpful and enthusiastic friend in Chloé Jo Davis, the beautiful lady behind compassionate living’s most popular fashion site: GirlyGirl Army - Your Glamazon Guide to Green Living. Not only is this gorgeous woman a talented writer, amazing mom, dedicated activist for the animals, environment and children and a cruelty-free fashion icon BUT she’s also lucked out in love! These days Chloé Jo and her husband Jeremy are raising two small boys, 2 dogs and 3 cats while balancing their activism and media work and that means they’ve transitioned into a very real form of romance I thought many of you might relate to and appreciate… that kind where intimacy, devotion and love aren’t just buzzwords on a greeting card – they’re very real.

My Husband and I have been together 8 years,  which means we’ve done (vegan) Valentines’ Days in the best restaurants, with the most beautiful array of presents and flowery cards. We’ve flown to exotic locales and sat on rooftops drinking delicious red wine talking, or otherwise, all night.  We’ve laughed so hard our eyes could pop out, and cried from the joy of finding each other.
And then we had babies. Babies that we attachment parent.  Two little boys in the span of three years.  Before you insert monster music here, these are little delicious people we are so obsessed with, that for us every single day is the day of love. How could no sleep, sore nips, teething babies, trantrum-ing three year olds, and 5 pets in an NYC apartment equate Valentine’s Day? Because we are living love 24 hours a day.
On actual Valentine’s Day (since we don’t leave our kids at night – I’m still breastfeeding) we will put our little boys to sleep in bed with us, marvel at their beauty and giggle when they snore or kick around. We will talk about the hilarious things they said that day and what needs to get done the following day. We may order sushi, since it’s the only type of food I don’t make myself, or one of us will cook something special.  We’ll pry our eyes open long enough to watch a tv show we both like, or to read each other something inspirational, make a few jokes, Jeremy will walk the dogs in the icy cold, then we’ll pass out drooling. Yes, kids, this is Valentine’s Day for parents of young kids. Life is not about caviart and champagne right now, but we know one day it will be again.  At my root, I’m still a glamazon who loves wearing red lipstick, but for now, we relish in the moments of watching our angels sprout and know there is no greater gift than of these real life cupids.
Sarah and her sweetie!

Sarah and her sweetie!

Sarah Gross is one of the busiest and kindest ladies I know. Not only is she one of the organizers of the annual New York Veg Food Fest  but she’s also the founder of Rescue Chocolate – a vegan chocolate company that donates 100% of their profits to animal rescue organizations all over the US! Rescue Chocolate is produced in Brooklyn, but you can also order some online if you love chocolate and animals as much as I do. I recommend the Peanut Butter Pit Bull bar but if cats are more your thing they have partnered with Teal Cat Project to make a special bar to benefit feral cats. You can click here to read more about it.

For Valentine’s Day I’ll be enjoying my first box of Rescue Chocolate’s Wild at Heart. (I get superstitious about eating any of our holiday items until the actual holiday so that if they sell out, I won’t be to blame for having eaten the profits before they’ve been made!)
After my chocolate fix, I’ll actually spend some time with my Valentine when he gets out of work doing something very un-commercial. He can’t stand the commercialization and cultural expectation to-make-men-buy things, of the holiday. We’ll probably go out the following night to a cozy restaurant with good wine and vegan eats.

 

Jenny & Doug sharing the love...

Doug Abel, Stanley and Jenny Brown – Photo by Derek Goodwin Photography

Words cannot describe how much I adore Jenny Brown! Not only is she half the duo behind one of our favorite places on Earth: The Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary but she’s also a true ray of sunshine and force for positivity in the animal rights movement. We first became friends this past summer at when were presenters at The Baltimore Vegfest and we were honored to be part of their July Jamboree this year. If you haven’t been – I recommend you take a look at this post we did about our first visit there. You’ll fall in love with it too! WARNING: There are lots of pictures of cutie pie animals!

Also if you’re still struggling with a last minute gift – may I suggest you consider sponsoring a farm animal in your animal-loving sweetheart’s name? It’s a great gift for your loved one but also for that animal!

I am one lucky lady in the husband department. Doug and I have been together since 2000 and still can’t get enough of each other. We live together, work together and even share an office and STILL we get along great and like to be together all the time. We’re basically joined at the hip. I know, what’s up that? Call it codependency but it’s what makes us both happy. Running a sanctuary is no small task and the stress is overwhelming (thank God for therapy!) but as long as I have Doug, I know things will turn out all right. We’re still very much in love after all these years. OK so enough with my sentimental dork-a-thon.
Although we think all the commercialism surrounding Valentines Day is just plain nonsense, I can’t help myself–I want some chocolate and romance! I’ve asked for a small selection of chocolates from the amazing, all vegan gourmet chocolatier that is Lugusta Luscious (that Doug will share with me of course) and dinner at the all-vegan Garden Cafe right here in our town of Woodstock. We like to support them whenever we can but especially in the winter months when it’s slow. Besides cramming things in our mouths, we plan to bake healthy oat cookies for all our goats, sheep, cows and pigs and turkeys at Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary while drinking mimosas. The chickens & ducks will get cut up apples and grapes so they don’t feel left out and we’ll take silly pictures of each other snuggling with our 2 and 4 legged friends. They are all our special Valentines.

 

Jaime K & Ryan Hill - SO FREAKING CUTE.

Jaime K & Ryan Hill – SO FREAKING CUTE.

Although we’d been social media friend’s for years – I first met the brilliant Jaime Karpovich at one of our book signings in New Jersey. Her infectious smile and humor won me over instantly and if you’ve ever watched her TV Show Save the Kales or read her blog – I bet you’ve been won over too! The animals are so lucky to have this lovely lady on their side! That’s why we were so excited to include her in this year’s St.Valentine’s Day post. It’s always great to see great people find other great people who make them as happy as Ryan makes Jaime. They have big ol’ Vegan Valentine’s Day Palooza planned too!

This year we are celebrating Valentine’s Day three times! It’s not that we’re excessive, but fun opportunities came up and I wanted to say “yes” to everything! On Tuesday, Feb 11th my boyfriend Ryan made secret plans for us to spend time together for the holiday, and also to celebrate a personal victory – we just made the last payment on a bill we’ve been aggressively paying down for years. Cheers to that! Our plans are unknown to me, but I suspect they involve dinner at the infamous Vedge in Philadelphia. Somehow I’ve still never been there (bad Pennsylvania vegan!) even though Philly is only an hour away from our home in Bethlehem, but I drool on myself when I read their twitter account.
On Valentine’s Day, it’s an exciting time for vegans in the Lehigh Valley area, because Bethlehem’s first all-vegan restaurant, Shankara (by owner of vegan supper club The Honey Underground) is officially opening. They are offering an eight course vegan, organic dinner. I’m going with my partner and a bunch of friends, so I’ll really be surrounded by love! After dinner, I’m going to The Stunner Ball, a drag show at Steelstacks in Bethlehem. I’m pretty sure my soul is a drag queen, and a night of friends, food, and drag is like a trifecta of glamorous Jaime K joy.
On Tuesday the 18th, Ryan and I are one of three competing couples in a “Dating Game”-style live gameshow at a local brewery, as part of a benefit fundraiser for the Allentown Public Theatre. It’ll be goofy and silly, we’ve been questioning each other for the last two weeks to prepare! It’s also the place where we met four and a half years ago, making our involvement for this love-themed event extra-adorable and special.
If you can make it to Bethlehem, be sure to pick up some desserts from Vegan Treats bakery. Not only is everything delicious, but they have the most beautifully decorated desserts I’ve ever seen. Each one is like a tiny edible work of art. Very kiss-worthy!

Happy Valentine’s Day – All you crazy vegans! 

 

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