I’m back home from Portland, and it’s time for a fourth and final recap post about the ’13 Vida Vegan Con.

My first post had me hopped up on sugar and caffeine, thanks to Voodoo Doughnut and Stumptown Coffee Roasters.  My second post was all about the swag.  My third post was food porn from Saturday’s Portland Vegan Breakfast Showcase.  This one will be a little mix of my favorite things from the whole weekend experience.

THURSDAY, MAY 23rd…

Before I got to Oregon, I first stopped in the Lynnwood REI to look at the Vibram FiveFingers shoes.  The shoes fit and they were on sale…Score!  Later during the weekend, I took my first short walk in them– about 3/4 mile– over the Morrison Bridge.

Then, I met my parents for a quick rendezvous in Centralia, WA, before checking into my hotel room at Hotel Fifty.

Vibram 5 Finger - photo-19

I’m not sure if I’ll run or just walk in these Vibram FiveFingers, but I’m intrigued with the concept of barefoot gait.

It was raining, but I was in the mood to walk, instead of drive, to the White Owl Social Club for a “meet and greet” pre-conference party.

Downtown Portland from Morrison Bridge - photo-11

Downtown Portland from the Morrison Bridge

Literally the first people I recognized at the meet and greet were none other than Jasmin Singer and Mariann Sullivan, from Our Hen House.  Vegan celebrities!  I am HUGE podcast fans of the hens.

I stopped to chat with Jasmin.  She was standing next to Carrie from Carrie On Vegan.  What a funny coincidence that Jasmin was just at that moment telling Carrie about the vegan restaurant inside Portland’s Adventist Medical Center.

(I had suggested to Jasmin and Mariann via email last year that they dine at the Living Well Bistro while staying in Portland last Fall.  They did!  Here is the post about the bistro that I sent to the hens.)

Jasmin and Mariann speaking on Friday, May 24 - "Why & How to Expand Your Message to Include Animal Rights"

Jasmin and Mariann speaking on Friday, May 24 -
“Why & How to Expand Your Message to Include Animal Rights”

For dinner that evening, the Thai Salad at Veggie Grill really hit the spot.

Veggie Grill's Thai Salad with Tempeh

Veggie Grill’s Thai Salad with Tempeh

When I turned on the T.V. in my hotel room, I learned that the Skagit River bridge collapsed.  I drove over that bridge every work day.  Yikes!

FRIDAY, MAY 24th…

I slept like shit and woke up way too early.  I remedied that situation with a vegan cream-filled donut and a soy latte.  After a shower, I was off to the Portland Art Museum to pick up my official Vida Vegan Con badge and the immense Swag Bag of Wonder.  (Good thing I’ve been lifting weights ’cause that sucker was heavy!)

Before the 11:30 a.m. kick-off to the conference, I ate lunch a few blocks away, at Loving Hut.  I always love trying out new vegan restaurants.  I had the Spicy Cha-Cha.

Spicy Cha-Cha is "yam-based protein, green bell peppers, red bell peppers, onions, celery, spicy seasonings, placed on shred vegetables."

Spicy Cha-Cha is “yam-based protein, green bell peppers, red bell peppers, onions, celery, spicy seasonings, placed on shred vegetables.”

Inside the window of Loving Hut

Inside the window of Loving Hut

Once I got inside the Exhibitor Hall, I started to wonder why I ate lunch!  I was confronted with booth after booth of vegan food samples.  I tried Tofurky pot pie, Nasoya potato salad and Teese nachos.  I spooned WayFare (oat-based) ice creams and puddings, and I went back for the Coconut Bliss over and over.  I sipped cups of KeVita.  I nibbled on Missionary Chocolates truffles.  Those are just a few examples!

I tried every flavor they set out.

I tried every flavor they set out.

Truffle samples from Missionary Chocolates

Truffle samples from Missionary Chocolates

The first class I attended was a class on Compassionate Parenting, even though I’m not a parent and don’t plan to be.  Sayward Rebhal, author of Vegan Pregnancy Survival Guide, was the class moderator.

The reason I went to that class was to see one of my vegan heroes, Dreena Burton.  She is a mother of 3 vegan kiddos and author of more than 3 healthy vegan cookbooks.  (She’s also much taller than I’d imagined!)  Dreena’s blog is an excellent resource for vegan parenting.  Be sure to check it out!

(Click here to see Dreena’s Chickpea Pumpkin Seed Burgers.)

Dreena Burton (in red), sitting next to Joanna Vaught during the class, "Privacy Lines & Oversharing"

Dreena Burton (in red), sitting next to Joanna Vaught during the class,
“Privacy Lines & Oversharing”

Another highlight from Day 1 was Ginny Messina’s class, “Vegan Nutrition: Keeping Your Blog Current & Reliable.”  Ginny is The Vegan R.D.

Ginny Messina, R.D. (in black), sitting next to Gena Hamshaw during, "How Hot Topics in Nutrition Influence Vegan Advocacy"

Ginny Messina, R.D. (in brown), sitting next to Gena Hamshaw during,
“How Hot Topics in Nutrition Influence Vegan Advocacy”

After classes, we were treated to more food samples from Veggie Grill.  At the end of the day, I was plenty full so I didn’t need to go out for any dinner.  I went back to the hotel room to…what else?…blog!

SATURDAY, MAY 25th…

I slept like a rock on friday night and woke up refreshed.  Awesome!  I avoided the 4+ Starbucks’ that I saw on the way to the conference venue.  Instead, I got my soy latte fix at Public Domain (hint:  it’s way better tasting and the barista makes a pretty design with the foam) before diving into the Portland Vegan Breakfast Showcase.

After breakfast, I attended a class by Fran Costigan–the queen of vegan desserts.  Interesting tidbit:  Fran was once hired by the Esselstyn family to make a wedding cake.  No, it wasn’t oil free…it’s cake!  Fran said that each Esselstyn is “more good looking than the next”!

The “Build-a-Bowl” lunch buffet featured plenty of protein:  greens, beans, “raw walnut meat” (taco flavored), tempeh, tofu, and more.

"Build-a-Bowl" lunch buffet

“Build-a-Bowl” lunch buffet

Following the afternoon classes, I must have been feeling lucky, because I found a 20 dollar bill (!) in the middle of the sidewalk.  I later donated it to Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest.  It was the obvious thing to do!

On Saturday evening, I went back to Veggie Grill for an All Hail Kale Salad.  There are only 2 things I need daily:  coffee and kale.

After dinner, I enjoyed a walk over the Morrison Bridge, along the riverfront trail, over the Hawthorne Bridge (right before the drawbridge went up), and back to my hotel.

Downtown Portland from the Hawthorne Bridge

Downtown Portland from the Hawthorne Bridge

SUNDAY, MAY 26th…

I did a lot of walking during the weekend.  It was my goal to not use my car once I got to the hotel.  I fulfilled that goal.  I enjoyed walking downtown.  I enjoyed walking over the Willamette River.  And I enjoyed walking in the park on Sunday morning near the Portland Art Museum.  I was quite content being alone with my thoughts.

Portland State University grounds

Portland State University grounds

I don't go to church, but I like this.

I don’t go to church, but I like this.

The last day of the conference started with a breakfast buffet.  I tried some soaked chia seeds for the first time (bottom of picture).  Delicious!

Even better than eating breakfast was chatting with Dreena Burton while eating breakfast.  I love her.

Breakfast Buffet

Breakfast Buffet

Elisa & Dreena

Elisa & Dreena

Before I go right into lunch (what can I say, I’m obsessed with food), I’ll mention how cool it was to attend a class by Terry Hope Romero.  If you don’t know who that is, then I assume you don’t like Vegan Cupcakes.  That’s okay.  You’ll find something you like in Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook.

Lunch was a sandwich buffet.  I passed by the breads and opted for green leaves.  The Upton’s Naturals Bacon Seitan was scrumptious.  Upton makes some damn fine food!  (I also had more of that yummy walnut meat.)

Lunch in the Ballroom:  The Sandwich Board

Lunch in the Ballroom: The Sandwich Board

Ice cream:  My favorite food IN THE WHOLE WORLD, period.

This was a gluten free cookie dough flavor that won't be launched until Fall '13.  We got a sneak peek (lick!).

This was a gluten free cookie dough flavor that won’t be launched until Fall ’13.
We got a sneak peek (lick!).

While trying to resist eating all the vegan ice cream in the place, I stopped by the booth for All Things Vegan Radio and VegNet Bend.  I have a special tie to Bend, Oregon, so of course I had to stop and introduce myself to Judy and Barb.  Some day I’ll coordinate a trip to Bend so I can join one of their monthly potlucks.

I attended one afternoon class before driving 3 hours to get back home.  I had one final opportunity to snap a picture of Jasmin, from Our Hen House.

Jasmin Singer from Our Hen House "How Hot Topics in Nutrition Influence Vegan Advocacy"

Jasmin Singer from Our Hen House
“How Hot Topics in Nutrition Influence Vegan Advocacy”

My first Vida Vegan Con experience was fantastic.  As much as I loved all the vegan food, I do know for sure that the best part for me was just being in the presence of so many fellow vegans.

Put a bunch of vegans in the same room, and you can clearly see the impact we make in the lives of animals.

If you get a whole lot of vegans together, you can clearly see that veganism DOES make a difference. No one in this picture is eating animals!

We’re ALL changing the world for animals.  :-)