Annemarie Maitri grew up in a family that loved food. During breakfast, they were already discussing what they’d eat for lunch and dinner. “While growing up, I thought James Beard was a relative because my dad talked about him so much,” Maitri told me as we sat in Bloom Bakeshop, her adorable bakery in Middleton, Wisconsin earlier this month.
Bloom Bakeshop is a must-visit for vegans with a sweet tooth living in or traveling through the Madison area. The store is painted a cheerful turquoise inside, and decorated with the sort of vintage knickknacks your grandmother might have had around her house, if she had really good taste. And you’d be hard-pressed to find a bakery anywhere with more vegan and gluten-free choices. Plus, the pastries are really, really pretty. And Maitri is totally sweet and charming, with lots of energy and sparkly eyes despite raising three kids and probably getting up before the crack of dawn to run her bakery. I don’t know how she does it!
Following her Bakery Dream
Bloom will celebrate its fifth anniversary in February. But Maitri’s route to baking success was not a straight shot. She has a BA in psychology and a masters in nursing home administration – not exactly what you’d expect from the person making your wedding cake. In her previous life, she worked in marketing for the American Cancer Society.
But always she heard the call of the cupcakes. “I’ve always been obsessed with dessert,” she said. In her family of cooks, “I was the dessert girl.”
Maitri was especially interested in good quality food that didn’t strain the planet or exploit the people who grew it. “I read every Michael Pollard book,” she said. She knew she wanted to open a sustainable organic bakery. But with three small kids at home, was that possible?
She found a company called Vocation Vacations – now PivotPlanet – that helps people test drive their dream jobs. She apprenticed at a bakery in Ohio during the wedding cake season. “I saw everything,” she said. “I saw the real deal of what can happen.”
Afterwards, the owners sat her down and said, “We have no doubt you can do this. But you really like your kids.” She realized she didn’t want to work all day every day. So she started out opening on only Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 11 to 7, and slowly grew from there.
Vegan and Gluten-free
Maitri isn’t vegan or gluten-free herself, but she loves a baking challenge. And there was definitely a demand. For the sake of efficiency and display space, all her gluten-free pastries are vegan and vice-versa. “My first vegan, gluten-free experiment was a pumpkin cupcake,” she said. “It turned out horrible. But my customers believed in me. I experimented. My customers helped me shape my recipes.”
In the early days of Bloom, she only offered a few choices every day. Now her staff of five makes 10 different traditional pastries, and 10 vegan and gluten-free, on weekdays. On Saturday, Bloom’s busiest day, customers can choose from 15 different treats. Some of Bloom’s most popular baked goods are raspberry buckles, mint chocolate ganache cupcakes and salted caramel cupcakes.
The pastries are ever-evolving as Maitri experiments with different ingredients. Right now she likes sorghum flour, coconut flour and chia seeds. “I’m pulling back from xanthan gum [frequently used in gluten-free baking] because it gives some people digestive problems,” she said.
Weddings have become a big part of Bloom’s business. This year, they baked cakes and pies for 95 weddings. Without a freezer. Everything is done fresh. Sometimes her small staff does five weddings in a single weekend.
Doing it Her Way
As Maitri’s business develops, she stays true to her ideals. Which is not always easy. When she initially opened for only three days a week, reviewers criticized her. She felt hurt, but stuck by her determination to acclimatize her family to the bakery before expanding its hours. “We live in a society where people want things to be open seven days per week,” she said. “But if we want small businesses to live, we have to change our expectations.” So with Bloom, Maitri models taking care of herself, her family and her employees.
Making everything from scratch, with top quality ingredients, is another of her inconvenient ideals. Bloom makes its own lemon curd, ganache and caramel. In fall, they roast all the pumpkins and sweet potatoes used in the bakery. Maitri carefully sources ingredients. Her locally grown, organic eggs cost $4 per dozen. Her organic butter costs $5 per pound. This results in excellent pastries but low profit margins.
The response from nearby businesses and their owners has been very satisfying. “The other restaurant owners are supportive and cooperative rather than competitive,” she said. Fortunately, Madison’s townspeople keep its best eateries afloat. “There’s a lot of dessert to go around and a lot of mouths to feed.”
At first I was skeptical of the Reykjavik Hotel Natura. During my recent trip to Iceland, I wanted to stay downtown, but wound up booked out in the boonies. However, my six nights there convinced me it was a great hotel for somebody with my interests: fitness, nature, running and vegetarian food. Here are eight attributes of the Natura that won me over.
Proximity to trails and paths. Right across the street from the Natura, a hill called Öskjuhlíð rises up. This is Reykjavik’s designated outdoor area, with paved and dirt trails crisscrossing woods planted in the ’50s. Since Iceland has a three-month growing season, the trees aren’t too tall, but there are a lot of them. You can walk, jog or rent a bike from the Natura.
Yoga room. The rooms at the Natura are on the small side, so it can be hard to fit your sun salutations between bed and chair. Not to worry. Downstairs has a spacious yoga room, complete with mats, candles and a switch for multiple lighting options. Lovely wood floor.
Fitness room. Next to the yoga room is a small gym. You’ll find two decent treadmills, jump ropes, a multi-purpose machine for doing about 40 different exercises, dumbbells and barbells. Plus, waterfall photo wallpaper to remind you that you’re in Iceland. I fell in love with the 3 kg weights, a perfect halfway point between the 5 pound and 8 pound dumbbells so prevalent in gyms back home.
Walk to cemetery and geothermal beach. I skipped the Natura’s pool and hot tub, which would have cost me an extra 12 bucks or so, opting to instead walk to the geothermal beach. This local spot features a lagoon where hot water is added to sea water to make it suitable for swimming. At least for tougher people than me. After a 30-second dip in the heated sea, I retired to the long hot tub instead. Very pleasant local hangout and only costs about $4. Also near the Natura, you can walk through a large cemetery. As a cemetery fan, I enjoyed poking around and noting local tombstone styles. A favorite was little birds perched atop stones gazing down at the names of the deceased.
Breakfast buffet. I feared I’d starve in Iceland, what with the love of eating sea creatures and sheep. But the Natura had tons of food for me. And they even stock soy milk! What bliss I felt adding it to my coffee, granola and porridge. I was also excited to find Tabasco for the potatoes and vegetarian baked beans. Choose from about 10 kinds of breads and pastries, fresh fruit, a few salad vegetables and, for dairy lovers, lots of yogurt.
Free bus tickets. You might be a 25-minute walk from town, but the Natura will loan you a bus pass during your stay. The number 19 bus stops right out front.
Stylish seating areas. Tired of inhabiting your hotel room? Come downstairs and lounge in the lounge, read in the library, people watch in the lobby. All very Nordic chic.
Elf rock. Iceland is known for its population of hidden people, elves and trolls. Some people claim they can see them, others lack that gift. Outside the Natura, you can sit on an elf rock – it’s marked with a sign – where supposedly some elves live. Unfortunately, I twice tried to commune with elves there, but seem to lack the gift.
Moss. Each room at the Natura has a theme. The basic rooms are all modeled on nature. I spent six nights in a moss-themed room, with large photos of mossy rocks on my walls. Sort of looked like my backyard. What could make a Pacific Northwesterner feel more at home than that?
While at a recent event promoting Maui tourism, I met Candy Aluli, president of Aluli Public Relations. Candy lives in Maui and promotes several hotels and resorts there. The properties looked lovely, but what really interested me was her animal advocacy work.
Candy told me about the Wings of Aloha program. This is an easy way for tourists to help with the overpopulation problem of stray dogs on Maui. I’d never really thought about it, but Maui is a small island. When dogs and cats keep breeding, where do all those puppies and kittens go?
Alaska Airlines, Air Canada, Aloha Air Cargo and Hawaiian Airlines partner with shelters on the mainland to give excess pets a chance to find a home. If you’re flying from Maui to Portland on Alaska or Hawaiian, you can add one of these strays to your reservation. The great thing about it is it’s an easy, even lazy, way to help.
Here’s how you do it:
- Contact Jamie Fitzpatrick email@example.com at the Maui Humane Society and give Jamie your name, phone number, email address, flight date and confirmation code. The MHS staff will contact their Portland rescue shelter partners – Pixie Project and Tender Care Animal Rescue across the border in Vancouver, Washington – and see if they can take the pet. If so, MHS contacts your airline and adds the pet to your reservation.
- MHS staff and the pet meet you at the airline check-in counter 2 hours before your flight. Staff checks in the pet, who will fly cargo.
- When you get to Portland, the rescue partner claims the pet in the baggage area.
Simple! And you’re a hero.
Spokane is only a one-hour plane trip from Portland, or a half-day drive, but has a way different feel. I recently took my second trip there and had a very fun weekend. Here are a few highlights for visiting this 210,000-population Eastern Washington city.
Visit the Falls
Spokane is known for having the second largest urban waterfall in the U.S. Indeed, Spokane Falls is big and pounding. I forked over $7 to take a skyride over the falls, which was well worth it if you like skyrides. You get an aerial view, and your gondola will stop and hang for a while so you can admire the falls from various angles.
Take a Bike Ride
Riding a cruiser bike by the river was a highlight of my Spokane trip. I stayed at Ruby2, a very economical motel that was recently converted from a Howard Johnson. Free bikes for visitors! You can ride all along the river paths and poke around the Gonzaga campus.
Look for Wildlife
While biking or walking by the river, you may encounter wildlife, such as these Canada geese and goslings. So fluffy! I also saw a wild-eyed orange cat with a snake hanging out of its mouth. Unfortunately, missed that photographic opportunity.
Eat at Spokane’s Best Vegan Restaurant
Boots Bakery is number one in Spokane, as far as I’m concerned. Fun, artsy place with excellent food. Enchilada pie! Curried lentils! Owner Alison Collins has been turning out delicious meals for Spokane’s vegans for two years now. And the city loves her for it. I hear there are a few other good places to get a vegan lunch or dinner in Spokane, but I mostly just ate Boots food during my stay.
See a Parade
This only works if you plan ahead, or luck out with your timing and stumble onto a parade like I did. And what a parade: the Lilac Parade, biggest of the year. This night parade goes on. And on. And on. After two or three hours, I was paraded out and retired before the end. The Lilac Parade is heavy on military, and every group of veterans got a standing ovation. Also, lots of marching bands and floats.
Ride the Old Carousel
While you’re downtown by the river, ride the 1909 carousel. Not only is it pretty and historic, it’s the fastest carousel I’ve ever been on. And even the outside animals go up and down.
Admire Old Neon
I looked up an old photographer friend I hadn’t seen for years who lives in Spokane. He took me to the Garland neighborhood at night, where we had fun photographing Spokane’s best old neon signs.
Get in Touch with Your Spiritual Side
Personally, I visited a lovely cathedral while in Spokane. But tweeting Jesus is an interesting idea.
These Dr. Scholl’s active series insoles are really nifty. The packaging claims to reduce shock by 40 %, helping folks with shin splints, runner’s knee and plantar fasciitis, and to relieve and prevent pain. Fortunately I don’t have those conditions, but I can definitely feel the difference. And while I have no reliable way to measure amount of impact, 40 % sounds reasonable.
The directions tell you to tear out your insole, then put it on top of the Dr. Scholl’s insole, trace along the toe area of your original insole and trim the excess. Well, I’m not much for reading directions so I didn’t until just now. And I would balk at tearing out the insoles of my favorite Nikes, anyway, to try out an unknown quantity. Instead, I crammed the Dr. Scholl’s insoles on top. At first my feet felt kind of cramped with the double insole. But running a few miles, a little jumping rope, a Bombay Jam and Zumba class later and the new insoles were thoroughly tamped down. I am enjoying the extra arch support and padding along the soles and have already recommended the insoles to my Bombay Jam classes several times.
They retail for around $30, but I’ve found them online for closer to $20. The box advises swapping them out every six months. I’ve only used mine for a couple of weeks now so am not yet sure how long they’ll really last.
I’ll get this out of the way first. Going to the Pomegranate Café can be confusing, because there are two of them not too far apart. But in this case, I’m talking about the Kafe Sobaka Restoran Pomegranate on Broadway in Golden Hill.
This particular cafe offers something most Russian/Georgian eateries don’t: Lots of vegan food. The restaurant opened about a year ago and is run by an American wife/Georgian husband team. Gwen Bruck has long been vegetarian. So she and husband Marko Dhagshivili offer plenty of choices for plant lovers.
The broth in the vegetarian borscht comes all the way from Israel, Gwen told me. There are at least seven vegan appetizers on the menu, including lobio, a pate of red beans, herbs, walnuts, tomatoes and onions, and pkhali, which is vegetables, herbs, lemon and garlic. I couldn’t figure out what to order, so I got a sampler of various appetizers.
My friend Kimberly, who lives in the neighborhood, always gets the same thing, a plate called Welcome to the Gulag. But she says it’s always a bit different. Basically it’s cabbage, potatoes and fake meat. Those are her blue fingernails in the photo.
If you eat dairy products, the ice cream comes highly recommended. This one is coffee with a side of rose jelly. Tastes just like roses.
People tease me about making strong coffee. But even I had to admit this coffee was really strong. It was practically chewy. In fact, I might have not even finished it.
This place is really cute, with all sorts of fun touches. The menu is funny – dishes are priced in four sizes: communist, socialist, imperialist and anarchist, this last category meaning the price and amount change daily. Russian posters and instruments hang on the wall. And when it’s time for the bill, it comes inside a communist paperback.
If you’re a vegetarian or vegan visiting San Diego, don’t miss your chance to try some Russian food.
Part of the point of traveling is staying able to adapt to different conditions. Sometimes that means posh hotels and glamorous ecolodges in the jungle. Other times it means standing in the lobby of a sketchy downtown men’s hotel and having the clerk ask, “Will you need a towel?” Well, I’m staying three nights. A towel might come in handy. So I paid my three dollar towel deposit. Alas, I failed to pay my bathmat/washcloth/cup/soap deposit. It’s the rare hotel that doesn’t even give you soap.
But it’s also a rare hotel that charges you $48 – including tax and wifi – two blocks from the Denver Art Museum, with many wonders of the city a short walk away. And the Eleventh Avenue Hotel & Hostel isn’t really an old man’s hotel. It just kind of looks like one. Or is it? It’s been a long time since I’ve stayed at a place with a big sign over the counter listing the rules, including no alcohol and no visitors in your room.
You can sleep in a dorm for $21. Or, if you’re uppity like me you can spring for a private room with private bath for $48. Women traveling alone should consider this option.
Here are the pros of my chosen lodging, besides cost and convenient location:
Friendly and helpful staff
Separate hot and cold, just like my old sink!
- Friendly and helpful staff
- Fabulous old clawfoot tub
- Wall-hung sink with separate hot and cold, just like I used to have
- Hilariously matched carpet and bedspread, both maroon with ornate golden swirls
- Tons of space for yoga
- Common room with kitchen and couches down the hall
- View from my window of colorful neon display at “Wine & Spirits,” the store across the street
- Aforementioned lack of amenities (I’d at least like soap and a cup. So dirty! So thirsty!)
- Kind of noisy between busy street and some party going on nearby
- Flimsy lock (but if you put your chair in front, at least you’ll wake up if somebody tries to get in)
- Spongy-feeling floor
Of course saving money on lodging frees up the budget for plenty of vegetarian meals out. I found downtown Denver super easy to navigate from my hotel, both as a pedestrian and a vegetarian.
I recently got a pair of Saucony AMP PRO2 running pants to try out. These high tech compression pants are made with a fabric called Celliant, which claims to increase oxygen in the body and give you more energy.
John J. Phillips is the innovator behind the use of Celliant in clothing. Phillips used to own a bedding store, and was intrigued by mattress protectors made from Celliant. He teamed up with a California-based company called Hologenix, whose founder wanted to develop fabric that improved blood circulation using Asian healing techniques. Together, they launched the use of Celliant Energy Textiles. Press materials claim that Celliant is “the first fabric that converts the body’s own energy inwards to heal itself.”
Whoa. Let me take the pants into my lab and check out these claims.
Okay, my only lab is the gym and the running track. I have no way to evaluate whether these pants are harnessing my body’s healing energy. But I do like them quite a bit.
First, they’re silky soft. Second, the compression is light and pleasant. I was worried they’d feel like a girdle, but they’re totally comfortable. Also, they’re flattering. I don’t usually wear such form-fitting pants. But judging from the hooting and whistling of my class when I wore them while demonstrating a butt exercise, they look okay. And if you’re running errands post-gym, you can pull a skirt over them and wear them like tights.
Diana Webster is on a mission: She wants the world’s stray animals to be cared for humanely. Of course, this is a huge goal. So she’s focusing on tourist areas and enlisting the help of tourists and travel professionals around the world to find a humane solution to the sad problem. She’s formed an organization called Humane Advisor to consult on stray issues, and is also the driving force behind the growing LinkedIn group Business Professionals for Animal Welfare.
Diana took some time out of her campaigning efforts to answer my questions about her work.
Teresa Bergen: Tell me just a little about the dog in Mexico that started it all.
Diana Webster: In 2006, during a vacation in Cancun, I met a female dog that was very obviously starving to death. She came up to me and nuzzled my hand. I believe she was telling me in her own way, “See how I’m suffering? Please find a way to help me and the millions of other dogs like me!” It was very frustrating being in a foreign country and not knowing how to save her. I still get teary about it. So I got involved with helping strays and telling people like me how to help strays because of her, the little white dog I call Nova.
Teresa: How did Humane Advisor come about?
Diana: I wanted to let tourists know how they can help strays because there was no information available about what to do when I met Nova. I also wanted to tell the stories of people like Ricardo Pimentel of Tierra de Animales sanctuary near Cancun, and Sue Silva of Playa Animal Rescue in Playa del Carmen, who save hundreds and hundreds of animals in the Yucatan every year. Raising awareness and educating people on the challenges and the solutions is crucial for change to happen and that’s what Humane Advisor is all about. And very importantly, I wanted to offer tourist destinations, hotels/resorts, and travel companies some ideas about what they could do to help, too. To that end, I created a Hotel and Resort Guide to Feral and Stray Management that is being referenced by several large tour operators and hotel chains in Europe and that is available for download at Humane Advisor.com.
It’s been an amazing journey from the first few blogs I wrote sharing my personal experience with Nova. I’ve had the honor of interviewing many dedicated animal advocates and business people. My website and blog has received thousands of views from visitors located in nearly 100 countries so it’s clear that there are a lot of people out there who have had experiences like mine with a stray that deeply affected them, not only just at the time of the encounter but also long after they returned home from their vacations. At Humane Advisor, we encourage anyone who has had an encounter to contact us and share their story and also share on social media. Sharing your story could inspire other people to get involved and help.
Teresa: How do you find people to connect with and promote your cause of better lives for strays?
Diana: I’m currently conducting a campaign to bring data from my 2013 Humane Research Council-funded research report and survey of tourists who encountered stray cats and dogs while vacationing, to the attention of the tourism industry. Travel businesses need to know that their customers care about animals at tourist destinations. Especially because the survey showed that 34% of tourists surveyed were upset by seeing stray cats and dogs while a whopping 41% were less likely to return to tourist destinations with strays, numbers that clearly present what could be a substantial economic impact on tourism. In my campaign, I’m asking travel companies to sign a letter to tourism offices at destinations where strays are common, asking them to partner with local animal welfare groups, and provide resources to fund sterilization campaigns, rescue and rehabilitation, and education programs for strays. Another great solution that tourist destinations could invest in would be cost-effective new technologies like Spay Food™ which is a non surgical sterilization formula being developed by 600 Million Stray Dogs Need You. The campaign asks for help for the strays not only because it is the right thing to do but also because it affects tourism’s bottom line.
Teresa: What has been the response to your campaign so far?
Diana: Non-U.S. travel companies have been surprisingly more receptive but the initial response from several tour operators in the U.S. is promising and has already led to several exciting new programs. It would be great if a tourism industry leader (or leaders) would step forward to champion this campaign. Someone high profile like Richard Branson or influential like TripAdvisor President Stephen Kaufer could get the attention of the tourism industry to get on board for helping strays. That would be awesome!
Teresa: What is your background in the tourism industry?
Diana: I worked with a major airline for twenty years where I was in sales and marketing—outside sales to travel agencies and corporations and reservation sales to passengers. Recently, I have done marketing consulting for travel industry vendors, in between going back to school to become an attorney and trying to save all the stray dogs in the world. J
Teresa: I’ve noticed an attitude like people in the developing world have bigger problems than worrying about animal suffering. Do you think this attitude is changing?
Diana: Definitely. At the spay/neuter clinics in Mexico that I’ve volunteered at, hundreds of local people in some of the poorest neighborhoods, would wait for hours in the hot sun to bring their beloved family pets or the village dog for surgery. I’ve seen pillow cases full of stray kittens that locals gathered up to be sterilized and cardboard boxes full of puppies brought in to be fixed. It’s obvious they want their animals to be cared for along with their families because not only do they love their pets but also because strays present health and safety issues for communities in developing countries. Which is why when I get the question “why don’t you work to help people instead of animals?” my answer is “helping animals helps people.”
Teresa: Any big successes you’d like to share?
Diana: Yes! Humane Advisor recently began working with tour operator AdventureWomen, to take their groups to visit animal welfare groups at destinations they travel to like Tanzania, Uganda, and Bhutan to raise awareness and encourage support. The program is also now going to be offered to tour operators at many other tourist destinations around the world.
Teresa: Anything else you’d like to say about your work?
Diana: I’d just like to say that if every tourist that cared about animals told their airline, hotel, tour operator, and favorite travel review sites that tourism needed to step up and support saving animals, it could change the world for strays. The uproar over the Sochi dogs was huge and made a lot of people take notice and take action. Keep the outrage going! There are mass killings of strays like Sochi happening at nearly every major international sporting event and routinely at your favorite tourist destination. Heck, we euthanize millions of healthy stray dogs here in the U.S. every year. Use your buying power and let any business that you patronize know that you will vote with your wallet by buying from companies that are committed to animal welfare and share your commitment with your network of family, friends, and colleagues. Get animal welfare on every business agenda. Start now because one person really can make a difference. Your voice could be the tipping point for saving strays.
Wellness books have a way of piling up in my house. While I value wellness books and often agree to review them, when I get the chance to read I’m somehow more prone to pick up a thriller or to see what’s going on in the world of tween vampires. So I’ve been a little tardy turning my attention to these four newish books. Here’s a quick look.
By Steven Jay Fogel with Bruce Rosin
This is a useful book that starts out simplistically. The author claims he lived most of his young life not realizing that feelings aren’t facts or that much of what he did was unconsciously influenced by early programming, especially of the parental kind. Duh. But if you’re either 1. entirely non self-reflective so this is news to you, too, or 2. patient enough to keep reading, better stuff awaits past the intro. The author talks about what happens chemically in the brain to keep unwanted behavioral patterns in place, such as hormones secreted when we please our parents. A scary thought, that. Much of the book focuses on how to override our programming. Fogel also likes frog in hot water stories. That is, the apocryphal idea that if you heat a pot of water very slowly, a frog will acclimate until she’s boiled alive. If you’ve spent too much time in soul-sucking, dead end relationships, this might not seem so apocryphal. Fogel and Rosin concoct an engaging, conversational tone, with lots of personal stories of Fogel’s marriage and family to illustrate his points.
By Amy Spencer
This bright little book will find at least one way to cheer up just about anybody. Spencer, a writer, felt a certain satisfaction finishing everything on her to-do list. But did that make her happy? No. She realized she wasn’t making time for all the little things that make her happy because they weren’t on her list. So she started adding them. The more she thought of small ways to be happy, the longer the list got. Her book is divided into 10 sections on subjects such as vitality, love, grace and confidence. A few examples I like:
Try a sport you’re certain you’d be terrible at.
Make up a secret handshake with someone you love.
Learn to say something positive in another language.
Be the welcoming face in the crowd.
By Michael S. Sweeney with 58 brain health boosters by Cynthia R. Green, PhD
This is a really fun book about the brain and how to improve the functioning of yours. It starts out with some basic explanation of the brain. Most of the book alternates between exercises to improve your brain power – such as memories games, activities where you race a clock, eye exercises – and anecdotes about cases of people with weird brain problems. If your brain has a short attention span, this book is great because you can pick it up in the middle and read a self-contained page. And who doesn’t like a story about weird brain-related experiences?
By Mark Mincolla, PhD
This is an in-depth book by a man who does natural healing based on Chinese medicine and EMF, which is Electromagnetic Muscle Testing. It’s full of information on Chinese medicine and energy healing. This would be a very valuable book to someone wanting to gain this knowledge. At this point in my life, having to learn these entirely new organizing principles of health makes my eyes cross, so I can’t really judge. But if this is your thing, I suspect it’s quite a good resource. The appendixes are full of interesting items, such as a long list of recommended supplements and dietary restrictions for everything from HIV to PMS to preventing your hair from turning gray.