Sunday, December 22, 2013

Made in Jamaica! Naniki Naturals

My first night here in Jamaica, I was bitten by mosquitos 20+ times (yes, I counted) on my legs and ankles!  And those bites were ITCHY, so I scratched them, so they became red and swollen welts that drove me crazy almost whole trip.

On Tuesday my husband and I were checking out the spa (we ended up getting a great couples massage!) at our third hotel, the Jamiaca Inn.  As the receptionist was giving us a tour of the facilities, she noticed my bites because I had been scratching at them like crazy that morning and she recommended an ointment that they sell.  I was so desperate, I said, "Yes! I'll take one of those ointments!" before I even knew what it was or how much it cost.  (Earlier in the day, the hotel's General Manager introduced himself and said, "Let me know if there is anything I can do for you." and I thought about asking him for something for my bug bites but instead I just smiled and said, "Thank you.")  Anyway, I bought the ointment that they had, Naniki Naturals Hemp Herbal Healing Ointment, and it REALLY WORKED!  My bites went from large, inflamed bites into small pinpoints right away! (The soothing effect of the massage may have helped as well.)  Anyway, I really love the ointment so I ended up dabbing it on my scrapes, my cuticles, and some mild sunburn, and it's been great everywhere I put it.  I considered buying a second jar to hoard in the fridge at home, but the receptionist mentioned that a jar lasts a really long time (it's true, a little goes a long way, I barely made a dent in it and I was putting it all over my body).

So I was in love with this ointment, even carrying it in my purse so I could dab it on any new bites as they appeared.  Later on, I noticed that the hotel amenities are also made by Naniki Naturals!  I love that they call out that there are no animal ingredients and it is not animal testing right on the label, even on the tiny 2 oz hotel size bottles!  I love the Natural Hand and Body Lotion, It has a wonderful light feel which was perfect for the Jamaican climate, and it has a faint ginger aroma that makes me think of Jamaica every time I use it.

I haven't used the Conditioning Shampoo yet because I really wasn't washing my hair that often (I love the way my hair looks air-dried with saltwater on it!) but now that I'm home I will give it a try.  Actually, let's be honest, I don't wash my hair that often even when I'm home.  I probably wash it ~2X a week, maybe 3X a week in the summer.  So it might be a while before you get a review on that, especially since I have a ton of shampoos at home already.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Massive Cruelty-Free Promo Code HAUL!!!

I'm back in NY! I have one more Jamaica-themed post coming up, but I wanted to post this ASAP because it features something I get really excited about - PROMO CODES!

I inherited a strange gene from my mother where I feel uncomfortable paying full retail price for anything - I have to have a coupon, promo code, free shipping, or loyalty card, or it has to be on sale, clearance, buy-one-get-one-something or otherwise discounted, or best of all a combination of as many as possible. I've tried resisting this strange family compulsion for many years, but at this point I just embrace it.

So can you imagine my excitement when I found a whole webpage full of promo codes for cruelty-free products (Leaping Bunny certified!)!!  So many of my favorite brands are listed:

  • ALBA BOTANICA: enter BUNNY15 at checkout for a 15% discount on your total order
  • AVALON ORGANICS: 15% discount on your total order when you enter BUNNY15 at checkout. 
  • DR. BRONNER'S 15% discount on Bar Soaps, Lip Balms, Hand Sanitizers & 2 oz. Liquid Soaps, 10% of proceeds will be donated back to Leaping Bunny
  • LATHER: 10% off at when you enter code BUNNY at checkout
  • MEYER'S CLEAN DAY: 10% off your order with code BUNNY through 12/31/13.
And now I want to try some of the other brands listed as well, but I just ordered a ton of stuff from Alba and Yes To Carrots on Black Friday (reviews for both hauls coming up!).  I missed Aubrey Organic's deal (they make my fave sunscreen) because I was on vacation and didn't find out about this web page in time. If you want to get on the newsletter where I found out this link, sign up for the American Anti-Vivisection Society (AAVS)'s newsletter: go to and sign up to "Stay Informed).

PS I love the Leaping Bunny program because when I'm at the store, I can just see it and be like, "This one's good to go!" instead of trying to Google the company's position an animal testing on my phone, or doing tons of research online and trying to remember what's what before I go shopping. Yes, I know that there are are cruelty-free apps and pocket guides, but sometimes when you're shopping you just want to pick something off the shelf and have the leaping bunny folks do all the homework in advance so you can just check for a logo then put it in your basket!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Wannabegan Chocoholic

We interrupt this Jamaican vacation to bring you this very special announcement!  Chef John from Food Wishes just uploaded a vegan chocolate fudge recipe!

I don't cook AT ALL but this looks like I could handle it.  I can definitely handle coconut oil melting and maybe the walnut toasting.  I'll have to go buy a silicone mold and and all the ingredients when I get back to NY.  My husband is a total chocaholic, so this just might be my special holiday gift to him.  I haven't eaten anything like this before, but once I had a raw vegan chocolate mousse that was made with avocado, and it was AMAZING.  Like, while-you-are-still-eating-it-go-back-and-hoard-some-more amazing, and I still reminisce about it today.  I don't remember what was in the one I had, but this looks close enough.

Even if you don't cook, I've found that Chef John's videos are super entertaining!  He has this wonderful voice that makes me feel like he's here to feed me and take care of me.  He also inserts little funnies in the voice over on all his videos.  Full recipe over at Food Wishes!

New Fruits

Since my husband and I have been in Jamaica, we've had the opportunity to try lots of fantastic new foods!  Here's a list fruits we were introduced to on this trip:
  • Ackee
  • Sour Sop (as juice)
  • June Plum (as juice)
  • Breadfruit
  • Coconut water with jelly (the coconuts here are different than the kind we get in NY, I think those are imported from Thailand) 
  • Sorrel (in a drink)
I've already written about Ackee, which tastes like cheese or egg (my husband thought our Ackee dish was was egg and cheese).

The Sour Sop Juice was from a grocery store, and it was so highly sweetened it was hard to tell what the fruit flavor alone was (there was also lime juice added).  It was a bit like lemonade with a slightly different tang. If I go into town again, I might try to buy a fresh sour sop just to try it fresh and unadulterated.  (And yes, that is a rainbow in the background of the photo above.)

I had June Plum juice at breakfast one day, which slightly reminded me of lemonade, but with a vague shiso-leaf-esque flavor that made it more refreshing. 

Breadfruit was served sliced into a cube, and it tasted like a slightly dry, more dense, and highly refined cube of Wonder (white) bread.

The Coconut Water and Jelly is similar to the Thai coconut, except it is not as sweet, and the meat (the jelly) is much lighter.

Sorrel is delicious in a drink, I had it as a sort of iced tea (it looks and tastes similar to hibiscus, which it is related to).  It is a bright red tangy drink, sweetened with sugar.  My husband has had a Sorrel cocktail every night we've been at this hotel!  Here's the hotel's recipe (in case you can't see the photo above):
Sorrel Daiquiri
2 oz Light Rum
1/2 oz lime juice
3 oz Sorrel Juice  
You can add ginger to make it taste even more Jamaican!


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Wannabegan in the Sun

Hello from the verandah of my hotel in Jamaica!  The weather here has been so beautiful! I've been swimming in the ocean every day, letting my hair dry naturally in the sun, napping in hammocks and chaise lounges, and generally feeing incredibly grateful for my wonderful life!  

The sun can get intense here, even though it's December.  Being an observant and card-carrying Asian woman, I eschew the sun for fear of inviting wrinkles and sun spots. My favorite sunscreen (and I've tried so many!) is Aubrey Organics SPF 30 Unscented Sensitive Skin Sunscren.  I'm super picky about sunscreen and this is my favorite because it is:
IN ADDITION to wearing lots of sunscreen, I supplement with:
  • SPF 50 extra-long sleeve hoodie (with thumbholes, so it covers the back of your hands) from Uniqlo
  • Wide brimmed hat (gift from my aunt, but I've also gotten nice ones in the summer at Uniqlo)
  • Solar Shield over-your-glasses sunglasses (polarized lenses make the sky and water look even more beautiful!)
  • SPF 50 mini sun parasol by Totes
PS I tried a sample of Yes To Cucumbers Natural Sunscreen SPF 30, which isn't fragrance-free, but  it is:
  • 97% Natural
  • SPF 30, Broad Spectrum
  • Water resistant (40 minutes)
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Petroleum, SLS, & Paraben Free
  • Cruelty-free

I found it a little stickier feeling than the Aubrey sunscreen, so that's why I didn't list it as my favorite, BUT I have a promo code!  It's "YESTOSUN" and it's good for buy one get one 50% off on their website.  The sample came with a big order of Yes to Carrots products that I will review once I am home and start using them!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Jamiacan Me Wannabegan!

Hello from beautiful Jamaica! 

We got in on Tuesday, that day was a bit of a wash with all the travel, but Wednesday and today have been non stop fun!   

The first night we were super tired, so for dinner I ordered "Rasta Pasta" from the hotel restaurant, which seemed like a pretty standard dish: pasta and some vegetables. But there was something totally unfamiliar in the pasta, it looked like small dumplings, but tasted a bit like cheese and had almost the same consistency.  I thought it was mysterious, but great!  I ate every last bit and made a note to take a closer look at the menu the next day to see what it was.

The next morning at breakfast, my husband and I sat with a Jamaican native and he ordered a dish that looked like scrambled eggs and vegetables.  My husband ordered the same thing, and it turns out the dish had no eggs whatsoever, is actually a fruit called ackee.  And that's exactly the same thing that was in my pasta the previous night! 

I had never heard heard of this fruit before, and I asked some locals why.  It turns out, if ackee is harvested too early, it can be poisonous, so it was banned in the United States for a while.  If harvested properly, it is DELICIOUS!!  I am amazed that there isn't a huge ackee vegan cheese/egg replacement industry in the United States, because it would be a huge success! 

(photo: UNRIPE ackee growing on a tree in our villa grounds.  Don't eat it in this state, you have to wait for it to open like a flower before harvesting the edible part.)

Monday, December 9, 2013

She's a Wanna Wannabegan

Guess who has totally been copying me?

Hint: I started this blog on December 2, 2013.  On December THIRD, this person announced going vegan (for 22 days)

Hint: I booked a flight to Jamaica MONTHS ago (September) and I fly out tomorrow morning.   Guess who just showed up in Jamaica this week?  Classic "I'm not stalking you" move by anticipating my whereabouts and then casually appearing there before I arrive.

It's Beyonce!  OK, I fully realize that Beyonce is not emulating a blogger with only 8 posts. But it's nice to imagine.  I'm the wannabegan, not her (especially since I'm not actually vegan).  Here are some celebs who are actually vegan for real.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

This makes me FEEL ALIVE

The Kale Kolada is one of the few things that gives me a giddy, optimisitc, and energetic feeling after I have it.   (I don't do drugs, smoke cigarettes, or drink alcohol, caffeine, or soda... not that I have anything against those things, I just have no desire to consume them).  The first few times I had it, I wondered if there was some vital nutrient in it that I've been missing my whole life.  I try to have one every weekend, and  I wonder what my life would be like if I had one every day.  The ingredients are:
  • kale
  • spinach
  • banana
  • young coconut
  • Served in the coconut shell
I think it is the fresh, young coconut that must give it that extra "oomph!" because I eat kale, spinach, and banana all the time.  Oh, I also love drinking it out of the coconut shell because I feel so glamorous for having an exotic drink.  There is usually a little extra that doesn't fit back in the shell after they blend everything together, so they put it aside in a small paper cup for you to drink separately, and if you want they will pour the whole thing into a normal looking plastic to-go cup.  Here's the guy today making my Kale Kolada:

They have all kinds of other prepared raw, vegan foods and juices as well- here's a shot of their cooler:

Definitely a place to check out if you are in one of their many neighborhoods!

Juice Generation 
Multiple locations in NY

Friday, December 6, 2013

Super Sad on a Rainy Day

This weather this morning was cold, dark, windy, and wet.  Cars were driving erratically (I was almost hit by a cab running a red light) and it was tough walking to work even with my boots, coat, and umbrella.  Then I see this poor horse clomping through puddles and getting rained on.  The driver had his nice big umbrella for himself, but there was no umbrella for the horse (although I do see some kind of inadequate plastic sheet thrown over the horse's back).  Can you image walking around outside wearing wet clothes all day long?

If you are ever in New York, DO NOT ride in a horse drawn carriage!  I've seen those poor horses out on the street with no blanket during 15° F weather, in 90°+ F weather, and in rain/snow/sun.  They breathe car exhaust, walking on hard pavement all day, pulling heavy heavy loads.  Did you know they live in old tenement apartments and have to walk up staircases to get to their stalls?  I've seen carriage drivers run red lights, and I've seen them text and phone while "driving." The horses die prematurely and are involved in tons of accidents, which cause injury to people, horses, and property.

Fortunately, those horses should be off the street soon. NYCLASS did a ton of work this year to help promote compassionate mayoral candidates, and the winner Bill De Blasio will hopefully end allowing them on city streets.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Late NIght Snack

After dinner last night, I was still feeling munchy, and I wanted something a little sweet but not too sugary (I don't like the way I feel after eating sugar).

My home is practically empty of food because we usually eat out (again, living in NY!) but I scoured the cabinets and the fridge and found two items that go together REALLY well! First, Biscoff Spread is amazing, because it's basically cookie butter. It tastes like Delta cookies in spreadable form!  I don't know how they do it, but it is vegan (it specifically says so on the label).

So I'll admit, even though I've eaten it straight out of the jar with a spoon (and I've even double dipped! Whatever, my husband are grown ups we can do whatever we want in our own home), it is EVEN BETTER when spread on Trader Joe's Crunchy Peanut Butter Granola Bars! The granola bars contain honey, so they aren't vegan by everyone's standards, but folks who are OK with honey should try them out!

The two together are really great, my husband ate one and I ate the other and we both agreed they are brilliant together.

Those granola bars are super cheap - I think they are $1.99 for 6 packs, and each pack has 2 granola bars in it.  Best deal I've ever seen for granola bars!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

"Morning" Smoothie

OK, it might have been past noon when I made this, so you can also call it afternoon snack smoothie.
  • Peel one one small banana and place it in the cup you'll be drinking out of (I used a 12 oz cup)
  • Fill the rest of the cup with Silk - Pure Almond Unsweetened "Original" Almond Milk
  • Empty your cup with the Almond Milk and banana into your blender
  • Add 4 heaping teaspoons of TJ's Organic Help Protein Powder to the blender
  • Cover and blend for a few seconds.
My friend who is very skeptical about health food tasted it and said it was better than he expected!  The shake was thick, sweet, and chocolate! There was some slight grittiness from the hemp seed powder at the bottom, but I think blending it on high a little more would have reduced the grittines.

Delicious and really filling! I found that I have a lot of energy on days I drink this.  Crazy things I learned by reading the almond milk carton:  it has only 30 calories per serving(!) and has 50% more calcium than dairy milk.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Organic Grill Review

Last night my husband and I went to Organic Grill in the E Village for dinner.  They're not quite vegan or even vegetarian (they serve fish) but they have mostly vegatarian/vegan options.  We ordered (menu):

  • OG Quesadilla (with daiya vegan cheese, dairy cheese was also available)
  • Tofu Masala
  • Vegan Perogies 
  • Mu 16 tea

I really enjoyed the OG Quesadilla, which was filled with grilled mushrooms, and I really liked the cashew sour cream it was served with.  I would order a side of the cashew sour cream next time and put it on anything I order!  The quesadilla had a nice smoky/grilled flavor (but not burnt, I hate that), and I didn't notice anything noteworthy about the vegan cheese, which I had never (knowingly) had before.  I'm used to just plain cheese quesadillas, and this one had a lot more going on in it beyond cheese, so it wasn't a really a good test of vegan cheese.

The Vegan Perogies were also very good, standard perogies on a plate of steamed kale (note to self, bring dental floss for afterward!).  This one was also served with the cashew sour cream, which really made it delish.  

The Tofu Masala was the weak point for me, I'm a huge fan of Indian food compared to other Indian food this was really, really SWEET, almost the way that in Americanized Chinese food sesame chicken is really sweet.   I expected this to be thick and curry-ish like tikka masala, but it was more liked sauteed tofu and vegatables in a curry broth, served with brown rice.  Oh, I just looked at the menu and it actually says tofu sauteed with curry spices, so maybe it was just my expectations that were off.

I love Mu 16 tea and it's really hard to find in stores for some reason!  I meant to buy some loose Mu 16 here so I could make more at home but I forgot to ask. If you're not familiar with this tea, there are 16 ingredients (hence the name) and it has a naturally sweet and a little spicy flavor.  Organic Grill served this in these nice French-press style pots, and the waiter was really good about hot water refills (I drink a lot of tea!) and the tea continued to make strong tea after several refills. At the end of the meal, I even asked for a to-go cup and drained the remaining tea into it so I could finish it off on my way out (I told you I was thrifty).

And speaking of thrifty, I didn't have a coupon or anything, but I signed up for their Frequent Diner Program, which means you get a free entree on your birthday, and you get a $25 voucher once you've spent $250 (so 10% off).  

Organic Grill

123 First Ave (btwn 7st. & St.Marks Place) 
New York, NY 10003 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Just Purchased...

I just couldn't resist having a white rug in the living room.  I found a very affordable 6' x 8' white cotton rug from Ikea (discontinued or else I would have bought another one!), and it was great for a while, but eventually my parents came over and decided that the whole family should eat pomegranate in the living room, out of a bowl balanced on a chair placed in the middle of the rug, while everyone sat in chairs/the couch around the bowl and dipped into the bowl with their hands.  Guess what happened?  Purple stains on the rug (and the dog's head).

So I went on a search for something new to put in the living room.  A lot of the really big rugs I wanted (8' x10' or larger) were made of wool, which I feel weird about.

So I did a ton of research (online shopping), and after going to every website that sells rugs on the internet, I just purchased Flor carpet design squares in Fedora Oatmeal, which are:

-Cruelty free (duh)
-Easier to maintain (can pull out an individual tile and wash/replace it)
-Made of recycled material
-Way, way cheaper than a rug of that size
-Exactly what I wanted - a simple, solid rug in an almost-white color

Of course they were on sale too! It was 25% off (or, "buy three, get one free") with promo code: "squaredeal" only good till tomorrow.

So worth it

So one thing you should know about me right off the bat is that I love sales, coupons, promo codes, deals, offers, etc, etc.  Anything that saves me a little $$!

One thing I did earlier this year that has totally paid off big time was getting a Woodstock Animal Farm Sanctuary membership!  There is a vegan fast food restaurant (gotta love living in NY) near my apartment, and regardless of it being vegan or not, I eat there all the time because the food is tasty and super convenient! In addition to food, they also have fresh juices and smoothies etc etc (don't worry, I'll write up a list of all my favorite neighborhood places and dishes in another post).  Anyway, the point is, I eat there all the time and I get a discount when I show my membership card!  Membership gets you a discount at all sorts of other vegany places as well!  From their website:
A basic membership is $30, and a family membership is $50.
Membership benefits include:

You do the math.  I donated way beyond the family membership level and still came out ahead PLUS I get a tax deduction because Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

I Want to be Vegan!

... and I'm not even vegetarian! I've found that it's easier to shop vegan (clothing, accessories, personal care products) so I should start there and I can share my great discoveries.

Some ideas for upcoming posts:

  • Staying warm
  • Skin care
  • Hair care
  • Snacks
  • Gifts
  • Supplements
  • Recipes
  • Street style photos and interviews
  • Wannabegan's NY (other cities to come!)

The plan is to include lots and lots of links! Also, I want each post to be written in less that 15 minutes (I have a tendency to dwell, save as draft, second guess, etc etc.  This is the internet! I can always go back and update later).