Cat Editors: ACP author Julie Christine Johnson and her feline muse

By Midge Raymond,

So many of us writers depend on our Cat Editors to keep us in the chair. Today, we’re delighted to feature author Julie Christine Johnson , whose new novel is The Crows of Beara, out this month. Julie writes of her feline muse:

True to her calico nature, Camille is a one-person cat. When I write at my standing desk, she’s draped over my feet; if the Mac is propped up in my lap, Camille competes for space on my legs or wends herself around my shoulders to chew on my hair. My 13-pound muse.

Julie's cat

Julie Christine Johnson is the author of The Crows of Beara, out this month from Ashland Creek Press, as well as In Another Life (Sourcebooks, 2016). Learn more about Julie & The Crows of Beara here.

Vegan dining in Las Vegas, part 3

By Midge Raymond,

It was by accident that we discovered Nacho Daddy, located a block off the strip (at S. Las Vegas Boulevard and E. Harmon Avenue), and we’re thrilled that we did.

First, for those looking to escape the chaos of the Strip, Nacho Daddy is festive but a bit lower-key than anyplace on the strip. It was busy but not overly crowded; it was nice to have a bit of elbow room and to be able to hold a conversation, which we did over the restaurant’s blood-orange and signature margaritas.

Nacho Daddy has a long and wonderful vegan menu, and the only challenge was trying to decide what to eat. We opted for the chick’n tacos and the vegan loaded nachos.

I can’t say enough about the chick’n tacos: two crispy, lightly fried flour tortillas stuffed with marinated chick’n, caramelized onions and a spicy tomato salsa. Absolutely beyond delicious, the tacos were served with black beans and wild rice.

We also loved the loaded nachos, a gigantic pile of tortilla chips covered with black beans, salsa, guacamole, and vegan cheese and sour cream. Adding spice is avocado lime salsa and pickled jalapeños.

The vegan menu at Nacho Daddy also includes fajitas, quesadillas, fajita bowls, chick’n nachos, and salads. If we’d had the time, we’d have tried every one of them. For a wonderful vegan meal (and tasty margaritas), this is a must-visit for plant-based Vegas travelers.

  Category: On travel, Vegan
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Vegan dining in Las Vegas, part 2

By Midge Raymond,

Continuing our vegan dining coverage in Las Vegas, we had a couple meals at the Wynn and Encore hotels. While both places have vegan-friendly restaurants — a few items on each menu — the online menus have more items listed than the restaurants do. We hope this is a temporary oversight.

We began with brunch at Jardin, which is in the Encore. The only vegan item on the menu, other than oats, was a kale scramble, with a note that it could be made vegan. When I mentioned to our server that the pancakes were listed on the online menu as vegan, she checked with the kitchen to confirm that they are indeed vegan. So, ordering our vegan brunch was a bit less seamless than we’d hoped (always remember to ask! we were very glad we did).

Still, it was worth it. The kale tofu scramble, which came with potatoes and red peppers, along with toast, was sublime.

And the whole wheat pancakes, topped with berries and powdered sugar, were thick, sweet, and about twice as much as a person can eat in one sitting (though I did my best).

We loved that the toast came with vegan butter, a joy to find in any omnivorous restaurant. Because we were there for work, we sadly weren’t able sample the brunch cocktails, but all looked incredible and well worth ordering.

Jardin is also a lovely place to dine. Wynn and Encore are among the mellower hotels on the Strip (if such a thing is possible).

For a lovely vegan dinner in the Wynn, try the Italian restaurant Allegro, located near the casino; accordingly, the restaurant keeps casino hours and is open from 5 p.m. until 6 a.m.

Allegro is an inviting place with a lovely atmosphere and wonderful service; however, there were only three vegan options on the menu during our visit: vegan pizza, chicken parmigiana, and pasta.

We did not have a chance to try the pizza, but the organic ancient grain penne was amazing, gorgeously flavored with garlic and basil, with fresh zucchini, asparagus, and cherry tomatoes.


We also tried the chick’n parmigiana, which was made with Gardein and covered with vegan mozzarella and tomato sauce and served over linguine. It was slightly less inspired and flavorful than the pasta but was still very good.

It would be nice if Allegro offered a couple more vegan choices (and we were told that, unlike Jardin, they did not have vegan butter), but the offerings are delicious and maybe one day these two restaurants will offer even more.

  Category: On travel, Vegan
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Vegan dining in Las Vegas, part 1

By Midge Raymond,

When in Las Vegas recently for a conference, we were delighted to have found Vege-Way, an amazing vegan fast-food restaurant that made it easy to stop for food both in and out of town.

Located well off the Strip, Vege-Way is nonetheless well worth a visit; there’s also a drive-thru for those in a hurry. 

The food at Vege-Way ranges from fast food fare (burgers, fries, milkshakes) to more healthful options like chick’n wraps and salads. Check out the full menu here … best of all, it’s entirely plant-based.

We tried the chick’n burger (which comes in blackened or ranch style — we went for the recommended ranch style), which was okay — the patty was a little mushy, and the ranch dressing was a bit bland.

We also sampled the regular vegan burger, which was delicious, in a junk-food sort of way (which is, in our view, high praise). We also got the curly fries, which are spicy, salty, and fried to absolute perfection.

On our next visit, we tried the chick’n wrap, which was gigantic and incredibly flavorful; it was a mix of chick’n and rice in a wonderful, tangy sauce, along with diced cucumbers and tomatoes and romaine lettuce. We’d also recommend the chocolate shake, which was a bit more icy than creamy but a treat nevertheless.

We loved seeing how crowded and busy Vege-Way was; there was a steady stream of customers, both eating in and going through the drive-thru. Inside the restaurant are vegan brochures and stickers; we also appreciated this touch on the entrance door, letting customers know they’re entering an animal-product-free zone.

Don’t miss Vege-Way on your next visit to (or past) Las Vegas … we can only hope to see more of these on future road trips!

  Category: On travel, Vegan
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An inspiring visit to Farm Sanctuary

By Midge Raymond,

I was so glad to be able to join Love Rhymes with Everything authors Dana Feagin (a Sanctuary One board member) and Kat von Cupcake (a Sanctuary One former board member and adopter) for a visit to Farm Sanctuary in Orland, California, for the sanctuary’s Twilight Tour (followed by the best vegan happy hour ever).

It was a wonderful opportunity to visit with the sanctuary animals (who loved the additional affection from visitors) and to learn more about how their lives have turned around thanks to those who do the important work of rescue and providing a safe home.

It was a broiling-hot day in Orland, but all of the animals were cool and happy; the barns had misting fans, and staff and volunteers made sure to keep the animals comfortable…such a contrast to their former lives on factory farms. The Orland sanctuary is on 300 acres, with more than 300 rescued farm animals, including pigs, sheep, goats, cows, chickens, turkeys, chickens, and waterfowl.

Because this was a Twilight Tour, one of the topics was bedtime for the animals, most of whom are only able to sleep for the very first time once they arrive at the sanctuary. Due to the horrible conditions at factory farms, animals from pigs to chickens don’t ever get to fall sleep (to lower one’s guard even for a moment means getting trampled or suffocated), which means they live their entire short lives under unbearable stress.

National Shelter Director Susie Coston talked about how the animals’ lives change so much when they arrive at the sanctuary; they can finally sleep in peace, for the first time in their lives, in addition to being able to enjoy other natural behaviors, like snuggling with others and being able to stay with their families. The animals also tend to sleep very deeply; Susie says that the sanctuary staff often receive concerned calls and emails from people watching the Farm Sanctuary Live Cam: the animals sleep so soundly that viewers worry they may be sick or injured. (Visit explore.org to virtually visit the sheep and turkey barns, the pig and cow pastures, the cattle pond, and more. And don’t panic if the animals don’t move for a while! When we visited the pig barns in person, the pigs were so happy and relaxed they didn’t even look up; they enjoyed belly rubs and ear scritches with their eyes closed.)

During our visit we also got a chance to chat with President and Co-Founder Gene Baur, who gave an inspiring talk about reaching out with kindness to educate those who don’t realize how much these animals suffer, and how making compassionate choices leads to a better world for animals, humans, and the planet.