Pet Holiday Safety

By Hannah RhombergMike's iphone 012913 168

With Christmas rapidly approaching, it’s not too late to do some last minute shopping for your furry family members! However, for the same reason you buy age-appropriate toys for children due to choking hazards and toxic material, you need to be cautious and buy animal-friendly toys and treats for your fuzzy friends. And while you’re busy stuffing stockings and your face with vegan fruit cake, it’s never a bad idea to take a look around your house for hazardous Christmas decorations.  It’s also an opportunity to support some great companies that make animal friendly toys.  You may even try to make some toys or treats yourself.

Toys, to dogs and cats, are not just for fun but a necessity in their lives. Dogs, for example, innately need to chew. It’s how they explore their world. While there are ways to curb this behavior, when it becomes destructive, one simple approach is to supply them with an appropriate chew toy. When selecting a chew toy for your friend, remember to select an appropriate size. Kong toys for example run from XS to XXL and with varying degrees of durability to match your pup’s need.

When it comes to chewing, some pet owners pick up a rawhide for their pet’s stocking to tackle that chewing urge. However, rawhide is a byproduct of fur and leather trade. Not to mention, in order to achieve the white coloring or holiday Christmas colors, these rawhides are coated with chemicals that your pets are ultimately ingesting.  Read here for further details on rawhide.  There are several safer chewy alternatives for rawhide. Two examples are Antos Farm Rolls and Sweet Potato Treats which you can buy or make yourself.

Got a dog that loves to play fetch? A new tennis ball for Christmas is the perfect gift! However, one danger of tennis balls, especially to larger breeds, is the possibility of the ball becoming lodged in their throats. In fact, balls made it onto this list of the top 10 items ingested by pets by accident. Number six on the above list is chew toys, which as mentioned previously, should be purchased with your dogs size and chewing capabilities in mind to avoid this mishap.

Another thing to consider when buying pet toys, especially plastic or rubber toys that are brightly colored is where the material and dye is sourced from. A little known fact about pet toys is that the FDA does not regulate any of these products. So we as consumers are to rely on the honesty of a company.

Some good companies with materials sourced here in the United States are:


Planet Dog

West Paw Design

The Humane Society of the United States offers some tips and recommendations for toy purchases for dogs and cats.

For dogs they recommend meeting your animals needs for being active, being distracted, and being comforted.  A few items they recommend are hard rubber toys (like Nylabone® and Kong®), rope toys,  “Busy-Box” toys, and even items that simply smell like you, such as an old t-shirt or pillow case.

For cats they give some tips on toys and also some warnings about other household items your cats might like to play with that are dangerous. Some household items your cats may safely enjoy are plastic curtain rings, paper bags (with the handles removed), and cardboard tubes and boxes.  You can make your own toys like felt animals stuffed with catnip.  When purchasing toys you might be able to make simple alterations, like removing any pieces that might come loose and could be swallowed, to make them safer.

It may seem “cheap” to give your cat a cardboard box  or your dog an old t-shirt for the holidays, but they don’t care about price!  One of Sara’s cat’s beloved items is a big basket she got for the holidays several years ago that was originally filled with grapefruit.  She lined it with a blanket and now it’s the cat’s favorite spot to snooze.

If you want to try making your own animal friendly treats for your dog(s) or for a friend’s canine companion(s), there are many recipes online. Simply search for “dog treat recipes” or “vegetarian/vegan dog treat recipes”. The recipes can vary in complexity from simple mix and bake, to decorated fancy cupcakes – though humans will usually appreciate decorations more than the dog will.  This website  has just a few example recipes for making treats.  Scroll to the bottom of the page for the recipes.

Another aspect of the holidays to consider when it comes to your pets, are your household Christmas decorations:

  • Lilies – Just one or two bites can result in acute kidney failure
  • Mistletoe – While usually placed high enough out of a pet’s reach, if ingested in large amounts, can result in seizures and death.Plastic plants can look very realistic if you need to get the feel of these holiday plants without the danger.  Non-toxic garland might also be a good choice.
  • Imitation snow on trees – If ingested, can be very hazardous to pet health
  • Edible ornaments – Everyone has made mom a macaroni ornament! However, the glue and paint on these can be very harmful to pets. Hang with caution and/or keep out of pets reach.
  • Christmas lights – Keep away from a chewing pet as this can result in electrical shock.
  • Tinsel – one of the most harmful due to its likelihood to cause a potentially deadly intestinal blockage.

When decorating there are some precautions you can take. Several tips for safety proofing your tree can be found here.  They include ideas for keeping the light cords hidden and taped , keeping fragile and glass ornaments hung higher on your tree, and securing your tree with fishing wire so it is less likely to tip over.  Some ways to discourage your pet from climbing a tree or knocking down ornaments are using scented repellents, paw repellents under the trees (like aluminum foil or spiky mats), climb blockers, and training.

The winter holidays are a time for family gatherings, whether your family is all-human or you have companion animal family members as well. Safety around the holiday season is important for everyone and everything, so with these few tips I hope your holiday season is full of joy and merriment.

Happy “Howlidays” from my family to yours!!


How to Keep Pets Safe at Christmas

Dog Toys:  How to Pick the Best and Safest

Cat Toys

Choosing Safe Dog Toys

Tennis Ball Danger

Best and Safest Dog Toys

Top 10 Holiday Decorations to Avoid

Are Poinsettias Poisonous to Cats & Dogs?


Caramel Sauce for Apples (and More!)

by Sara Andrews

Author and Source: Unknown

I got this recipe off of the internet many moons ago but the original source is long gone. Credit to the unknown author wherever you are now – a tip of my vegan hat to you.

As a sauce on Walnut Fudge

Caramel sauce on Walnut Fudge

My absolute favorite use of this recipe is as a dip for apples, but you can use it as a sauce on desserts, on toast, or you can drizzle it over popcorn, or even eat it with a spoon >:)

Helpful side note: Organic sugar is always vegan – even if it’s not good for you. Shhhhh.


  • 1 (14 ounce) can of coconut milk
    • Full Fat – NOT the beverage kind in a carton, it’s too watered down – you will get a super runny sauce or it will not work at all!
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • pinch of salt to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. In a sauce pan, stir coconut milk, sugars, and salt over medium heat until sugar is dissolved.
  2. Raise heat to medium high and boil sauce, stirring occasionally (a whisk works very well if you have one) until sauce thickens – about twenty minutes.
  3. Remove the sauce from heat – allow to cool for a couple of minutes and add vanilla.

caramal sauceIt may be very runny right after you finish making it. It thickens over time (starts right away but can take days to really start solidifying depending on how much fat was in your coconut milk) and as it cools – so if you want a thicker sauce – just let it sit for a few days or longer in your refrigerator. Refrigerate for up to one month.

Quick Hit: U Mad, Bro? Federal Nutritionists Include Sustainability in Diet Recommendations, Meat Industry Pouts.

h/t Our Hen House

A couple of days ago, The Hill published an article called “Vegan diet best for planet.”

A federal panel that helps set federal dietary guidelines is recommending Americans eat less meat because it’s better for the environment, sparking outrage from industry groups representing the nation’s purveyors of beef, pork and poultry.

The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, a federally appointed panel of nutritionists created in 1983, decided for the first time this year to factor in environmental sustainability in its recommendations. They include a finding that a diet lower in animal-based foods is not only healthier, but has less of an environmental impact.

The meat industry is lashing back, contending the panel has neither the authority nor the expertise to make such a judgment.

Hard to say whether this one will have a happy ending. The article does say:

The Agriculture Department and Department of Health and Human Services will use the committee’s report and recommendations to draft the final guidelines for 2015, due out later this year.

But it follows up with this:

But even Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has said sustainability is an issue that falls outside the scope of the guidelines.

Still, how cool is it to read this line in an article about federal dietary recommendations?

In its review of scientific studies, the committee highlighted research concluding that a vegan diet had the most potential health benefits.


Read This, Not That: News Fails and Successes on the California Drought

Read this:

1. Watch/read the Democracy Now interview with creators of Cowspiracy. This is the best overall analysis of the role animal ag plays in California’s water shortage.

On fracking:

Fracking gets a lot of attention because of water use. Fracking uses about 100 billion gallons of water every year in the U.S., which is a tremendous amount of water, but animal agriculture uses in excess of 34 trillion gallons. So it’s magnitudes greater. And then again the emissions that come from animal agriculture are about equal to natural gas and petroleum production. So it’s an issue that is vastly more destructive when it comes to water consumption, water pollution, and even emissions.

On almonds:

Ten percent of all water in California is used for almonds, which is a tremendous amount of water. But again, just alfalfa alone, a crop that is not consumed by human beings, that is fed for livestock, consumes 15 percent. California produces 82 percent of the world’s entire almonds. This is — again 10 percent of California’s water is feeding the 82 percent of the world’s almond demands. And the other important fact is that Americans aren’t consuming, and Californians in particular, aren’t consuming nine ounces of almonds per day, which is not the case for animal agriculture. Animal products we’re consuming nine ounces per person per day in the United States.

Lots and lots of statistics. I encourage you to check out the whole thing!

2. LA times has a great infographic showing the amount of water used to produce different foods.

AND, what’s even cooler, they have an interactive graphic where you can create a virtual plate and see how much your water footprint is!

3. A Mother Jones article from last year shows the amount of water that goes into producing different dairy products.

4. A Cowspiracy blog post from February highlights a New Republic article called Big Cattle, Big Gulp: Cowboys and cows are sucking the American West dry.

  • Humans drink about a gallon of water a day; cows, upwards of 23 gallons.
  • The alfalfa, hay, and pasturage raised to feed livestock in California account for approximately 1/2 of the water used in the state, with alfalfa representing the highest-acreage crop.
  • In parts of Montana, as much as 90 percent of irrigated land is operated solely for the production of livestock feed
  • 90 percent of Nevada’s cropland is dedicated to raising hay.
  • 1/2 of Idaho’s three million acres of irrigated farmland grows forage and feed exclusively for cattle; livestock production represents 60 percent of the state’s water use.
  • In Utah, cows are the top agricultural product, and three-fifths of the state’s cropland is planted with hay.
  • Alfalfa and hay production in the West requires more than ten timesthe water used by the region’s cities and industries combined, according to some estimates.
  • Producing one kilogram of animal protein requires about 100 timesmore water than producing one kilogram of grain protein.

5. Truth or Drought has a petition to Save Our Water to include animal agriculture. Another great summary of facts, including the following:

Making a meal with lentils instead of beef can save a family of four the equivalent of 17 bathtubs full of water, per Oxfam International.

Skipping one single hamburger saves 660 gallons of water (LA Times). (Comparatively, the popular tip of shaving a minute off your shower saves about 2 gallons of water.) This means that 6 hamburgers equal an entire year of showers! 

Not that.

Skip the New York Times article that only gives glancing attention to agriculture, and no mention of animal agriculture specifically:

But even a significant drop in residential water use will not move the consumption needle nearly as much as even a small reduction by farmers. Of all the surface water consumed in the state, roughly 80 percent is earmarked for the agricultural sector.

“The big question is agriculture, and there are difficult trade-offs that need to be made,” said Katrina Jessoe, assistant professor of agricultural and resource economics at the University of California, Davis.

Quick Hit: Aziz Ansari on Eggs

(h/t Mercy for Animals) All my Parks and Rec fans, have you seen Aziz’s new standup special streaming on Netflix? After seeing this clip, I’m definitely going to check it out.

According to a related article,

Being selfish, and the shame of the carnivore, are big themes in Ansari’s new stand-up comedy special “Aziz Ansari: Live at Madison Square Garden” which premiered on Netflix this month.

Image from above article

Great American Meat Out: April 11th

Great American Meat Out 4-11-15

The Great American Meat Out is coming up and Alliance is proud to once again be a sponsor.

Help us out! Print out the poster (Great American Meat Out 4-11-15) and hang it up in your neighborhood.

See the Madison event here or go to to find an event near you!

All our thanks to Pearl for being an organizer extraordinaire!

Vegan New York

March 3, 2015

I spent the past weekend in New York eating incredible food. I mean, the vacation included other things, but all you really want to hear about is the restaurants, right?

A warning to your pocketbook: most of the meals listed below are not cheap. We split tabs with friends and family and we splurged. (The ethical issues with the financial inaccessibility of vegan restaurants is a conversation for another time.)


Lunch: everything-from-the-fridge meal with a substantial portion of black lentils, quinoa, and zucchini that carried me through both plane flights.

Dinner: our first New York vegan restaurant – Angelica Kitchen!


Special warm appetizer: The People’s Polenta Rounds of polenta studded with diced vegetable confetti baked with a parsley-almond pesto center; topped with chile de arbol – guajillo chili tofu cream, garnished with avocado and piquant marinated kale. (Description from the menu:

DELICIOUS. But the reason we got it was because of this:

A portion of the proceeds from People’s Polenta goes to THE MUSEUM OF RECLAIMED URBAN SPACES (MORUS) to support their preservation of grassroots activist history and promotion of environmentally sound community-based urban ecologies. Visit

Polenta is not normally my favorite, but the combination of polenta, chili tofu cream, and avocado made this dish so homey and so creamy.


One of their daily specials with apricot-cranberry tofu and a grain mix of teff, millet, and something else I can’t remember.

I only took pictures of mine, but Mark got the vegan reuben and Cynthia got another special that had some name like oregaNO cities. My tofu was just so subtly sweet and flavored and the grain combination set it off perfectly. The entire atmosphere of the restaurant was super comfortable, the tables were large and the lighting was gentle, the staff were great, and the rotating daily specials make it a great option for future visits.

Other stuff: plane flight(s);


Neat La Guardia Airport billboard that was located in a corner of the lower floor that had basically no people

three hours of internet research planning our vegan eating excursions while the other members of our party were working (not pictured);

visit with the incredible conservation biologist and intersectional animal rights activist Cynthia Malone, and fascinating conversation about her research in Cameroon with local farmers and the tensions between economy and conservation.


Two of my favorite vegans meet each other: my boyfriend, Mark, and the famous Cynthia!

Cynthia is also an expert on palm oil, and her equal compassion for the people and non-human animals affected by current business practices makes her the perfect teacher for this complicated issue. I always learn so much when I see her!


Brunch: okay, so we went to Rockin Raw because what even is Peruvian Creole raw food?, but it was closed until 4 pm. Then we walked the block to Sacred Chow, because WAFFLES, but they only serve their brunch menu on weekends. We had their lunch menu of tapas, but I missed the waffles.


Mark’s menu of Indonesian Tempeh, Root Vegetable Latkes, and Thai Ginger BBQ Seitan.


Some overlap in our choices…a special with artichokes on the right.

All I have to say about the above is that Madison Vegan restaurant Bandung has the superior tempeh, even without the sauce. Everybody else was happy with their meal, though, so I could just have been bitter about the lack of waffles.


Mama’s Soy-Meatballs, Nama Gori Tofu, and a daily special of Corn Cakes.

My mom and I split the bottom two plates, and they were fine. The gluten free corn cakes had baked apple in them, which was unexpected and made them basically dessert. (not complaining.) The nama gori tofu had a squashy texture that didn’t appeal to me. The only thing I really got excited about was my dessert, which was an upside down cheesecake, also with baked apple.

The moral of the story is don’t listen to me describe food once I’ve just been deprived of waffles.

Dinner: BLOSSOM. Blossom is like a vegan monopoly in New York. They have four restaurants. I have visited three, and two of them were on this trip. This evening we went to the main Blossom restaurant on 9th. I recommend taking the virtual tour to really get a sense of the atmosphere because the restaurant is just beautiful.

I’m including pictures of the menu so you can experience for yourself the joy and anticipation we felt on entering the restaurant:

20150227_175020 20150227_175026


Family friend’s appetizer: BABY BEET SALAD mâche & pea shoots, walnuts, cashew “ricotta”, spicy mustard vinaigrette (GF) (


My meal: CHARMOULA TEMPEH KEBAB summer squash, bell peppers, tomatoes, North African “pesto” marinade, orange scented millet & mixed green salad (GF, NF) (


My mother’s college roommate’s meal: RIGATONI IN PORCINI CREAM shallots, leeks, broccoli rabe, pistachio gremolata, truffle oil, caramelized fennel & onion jam crostini (SF) (


Mom’s meal (which I promptly stole): SPAGHETTI SQUASH CAKE WITH WILD MUSHROOM RISOTTO sautéed spinach, saffron cream sauce, pine nut garnish (GF, SF) (


Dad’s meal: Daily special, can’t remember exactly.


Family friend’s meal: LASAGNA tapioca cheese, ground seitan & tofu marinara, roasted eggplant, sautéed broccolini (NF) (


Mark’s meal: SALMON TOFU (NF,GF) trumpet mushrooms, leek-fennel compote, forbidden rice, sautéed broccolini, dill crème (

This was all amazing. Totally recommend all the above entrees. The desserts (below) got mixed reviews. Mark was obsessed with his tiramisu, the rest of us were lukewarm about our ice cream. The three scoops are a mix of homemade icecream: one scoop homemade apple cinnamon, one pistachio, and one pumpkin spice. The one scoop is vanilla.

20150227_185705 20150227_185709 20150227_185701

Other stuff: saw On the 20th Century with Kristen Chenoweth, who is a goddess.


Brunch: Blossom on Columbus. We were looking for a lunch place near the cathedral we had just toured. The plan was originally to go to Seasoned Vegan, but our entire party wasn’t thrilled about that plan. So, we googled nearby restaurants, and Blossom saved the day once again!


Mark’s meal: Seitan Scallopini (nf) pan-seared seitan cutlets, white wine, lemon, and caper sauce, truffle mashed potato, sautéed kale (

Mark had been considering the dish last night, but I convinced him to try the salmon tofu because it sounded fascinating. Both ended up being excellent choices, but he was full of adulation for this particular dish.


Mom’s meal: Vegetable Lasagna (gf, nf) layers of grilled eggplant, zucchini, sweet potato, red quinoa, and tofu ricotta, marinara sauce, soy mozzarella, rocket salad (

I ate like half of this. It was really a convincing lasagna, texture wise, and the rocket salad added the perfect amount of green and another layer of flavors.


My meal: Quinoa Pancakes (gf) whipped coconut mascarpone, maple syrup (

I will never NOT choose gluten free vegan pancakes when given the option. These were everything, and the coconut mascarpone was glorious.

Dinner: Franchia, also known as “that one vegan restaurant that’s kind of in midtown so it’s the only place we reliably go.” That said, though, I LOVE Franchia. It introduced me to bibimbap, and for that, I shall be eternally grateful.

The lighting was too low to get any pictures, but we had bibimbaps almost around thetable and they were delicious.

Other stuff: 

The Xu Bing exhibit at the Cathedral of St John the Divine. Gorgeous phoenixes made out of building detritus. A powerful message in a celestial space.

Honeymoon in Vegas, which was fun if you could ignore the incredibly talented Brynn O’Malley being forced into a 2-dimensional love interest kind of role. The music was great, because Jason Robert Brown is always amazing. The story was bizarre. We also saw On The Town. I’m including the highlight below. I liked Alysha Umphress a lot better onstage than I did in this clip. Still not the strongest scatter, but she and Johnson had great chemistry. Now that you’ve seen this, you can get on with your life. (Or you can see the powerhouse Lea Delaria version and then get on with your life.) On the Town was long and had a lot of dancing and a mediocre story. I wasn’t thrilled. I did fall deeply in love with the rich bass voice of Phillip Boykin, which was showcased much better here than in Porgy and Bess. As a side note, all the shows had at least two people of color in the chorus, which was exciting!


Brunch: ORGANIC GRILL. YOU MUST GO HERE. RIGHT NOW. We went before the 11:30 rush and got a chance to chat with the waitress, who was super nice and gave us all sorts of suggestions for our next food adventures.

IMPORTANT PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: Organic Grill is open at 10. They say they open at noon on their site, but that is a lie. We were looking for early vegan brunch and we could not find it anywhere, seriously, so if you are looking for the same thing, go to Organic Grill!


The sign says: Congrats! You made it out of bed! Now come and enjoy an organic, healthy, warm brunch!

Organic Grill, you understand me.

Guess what I got?…




No, really, that’s what they’re called. Gluten free and vegan slamcakes, made with fruit of your choice. I chose raspberries. Could have used some coconut marscapone, but then, what couldn’t benefit from some coconut marscapone?

20150301_111921 20150301_111935

There’s Mark enjoying his Bulletproof Coffee, which had hemp seeds and coconut oil.


Mark got Tofu Rancheros.

And while he ate his real meal, I ordered my real meal:


Peanut Butter Pie.

Oh, it is so beautiful. I can just taste it now. I should have ordered eight more of them. An entire pie. Two entire pies!

Okay, I’m getting carried away. The reason I didn’t get more than one piece is because we were going to the museum afterwards and couldn’t bring anything along.

By the way, the decor was super fun. Observe:

20150301_111159 20150301_111205 20150301_111210


BRILLIANT space saving technique. I am in awe.

Other stuff: Museum of Natural History FOR FREE (we know famous people called Cynthia Malone) while it was super snowy and gorgeous.


And then cancelled plane flight home and impromptu hotel stay while it was super snowy and gorgeous. We did also have delivery Indian food, but it wasn’t anything fancy.

Holiday Guide to Vegan Treats (for Wisconsinites)

Holiday Bake Sale in Appleton, WI, Dec 12 – 13

THIS WEEKEND, check out the Fox Valley Vegan Bake Sale‘s Holiday Bake Sale! All information and pictures are courtesy of the organizer, Anna:

Friday, Dec 12, 5 –  8 pm AND Saturday, Dec 13, 10 am – 1 pm

At The Free Market, located at 734 W. Wisconsin Ave., Appleton, WI

All proceeds go to two very deserving organizations – Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary and Sea Shepherd.

Picture credit to Fox Valley Vegan Bake Sale:

Picture credit to Fox Valley Vegan Bake Sale:

Vegan Holiday Treats Exchange in Madison, WI, Dec 21

The weekend after that, the Madison Unitarian Plant Based Eating Group is having a Vegan Holiday Treats Exchange!

Here are the details from the organizer, Sara:

Sunday, December 21 from 12:30-1:00 pm (after the 11am service) in Courtyard Room C. Bring two dozen vegan treats (24) and a container to carry your treats home – leave with a varied holiday plate of delicious treats to bring to your holiday gatherings or hoard for yourself! Questions? Please contact Sara 608-957-2392

You do not have to attend services or be a member of the Unitarian Society to participate in this event.

Directions and parking:

Thanks, Anna and Sara, for letting us know! Hope that many of you can make it to these two delicious events!