Archive for the 'Signs From the Universe' Category

End of An Era


May 5th, 2015

chef bio
Hello out there! It’s been way too long. I’m wondering if anyone even still reads this thing. Well, I’m still here. Though not online as much as I’ve been at other points of my life. A lot has CHANGED. It’s kind of cool for me to come back to this now. Who knew this blog was going to lead me on such an incredible journey. I mean, I was just trying to get healthier. And boy did I.

fuzzy guitar
When I started this blog, I was just your average girl. I had developed a lot of HEALTH PROBLEMS from a toxic exposure. It’s kind of a LONG STORY. I had worked in restaurants forever. I was in a band. I wasn’t feeling well. I just wanted to feel better. So I started a blog of figuring out how to eat so I could feel better. Little did I know that this was the beginning of a crazy adventure.


I started feeling better. And changing my diet was a really key component of that. I was inspired to learn more. I wanted to get better at it. I wanted to be proficient. I was spending all my free time making food. And I wanted time for other things in my life again. So I went to CULINARY SCHOOL (YOU CAN FOLLOW MY JOURNEY). It wasn’t so much a career move. I was just thinking I could maybe do some freelance catering gigs afterwards. And keep my day job. But the universe had another plan for me.


Shortly after I returned, I was in a serious CAR CRASH. I was in physical therapy for about eighteen months. A while anyway. I was pretty knocked out. It took a while for me to get it together. I wasn’t moving very fast. During that time, I started making products. It was mostly a physical therapy project at first. Something to work on while I was getting it together. I started making kale chips first. And those went well. But it was painful for me to make them. Because I had nerve damage in my shoulder. So I started making these cheeses. Dairy free cashew and macadamia cheeses. Cheeses that I could eat. For me. At the time, there weren’t really a lot of options out there. There was one company making them. DR. COW. And that was it.

cheeses
These little guys CHANGED MY LIFE. I am not kidding. It was like a movie. The cheeses took off. They started selling all over the country. I did a launch on KICKSTARTER when I finished physical therapy. And donations poured in from all over the world. I was in over my head pretty quickly.

julie and me
That’s when my partner JULIE came on the scene. She had been right under my nose the whole time. She had just sold her record store and had some free time. She can’t eat dairy either. So she was passionate about the cheeses and had been helping me make them. It was clear that things had evolved beyond me. I needed help. And the universe had put the perfect person in front of me. We found some investors, and BUILT OUT OUR OWN SHOP just for the cheeses in 2012. It’s been a whirlwind ever since. We’ve just been trying to keep up.

Julie and Sonny
Then, Julie became a mom. To the fabulous Sonny! We definitely had our hands full. But the cheeses never slowed down. They just kept growing. And we had to keep up.

heidi and me
That’s when HEIDI came into the picture. Heidi is a nutritionist/registered dietitian based in Seattle. We used to be roomates. Back in the day. She also happens to be the one who helped me get my diet on track. When I first got sick. She led the way for me. So the two ladies who helped me get back on my feet when I was down and out became my business partners. I can’t really think of a better foundation for greatness. Things have evolved a lot. In a very grass roots way. It’s funny. People often have the impression that we are a big business. And are surprised when I tell them how big our space is. And how much cheese we pump out. It’s been a labor of love. To be sure. My health has evolved a lot too. I’ve definitely had some ROUGH PATCHES.


Adjusting to the stress of running a business was a difficult puzzle to figure out. Luckily, I had some little CRITTERS TO SHOW ME THE WAY. It seemed like the more I adapted my lifestyle to work for me, the better I got. Despite all the stress and trauma. The way revealed itself to me.

cheese
Meanwhile, the cheeses just kept growing and growing. They did so well that since we started, a bunch of other companies with a lot more money have jumped in the scene. Now there are tons of products out there like us. We have been like the little engine that could. Just chugging along. While bigger companies have flooded the marketplace. A whole new CATEGORY OF PRODUCTS has emerged. There have even been articles in the press claiming that we have been following their footsteps. You can rewrite history in the press. And people will believe it. But I’m here to tell you that we are the REAL DEAL over here. We are the ones that sprang from a truly divine inspiration. We did the work ourselves. From the ground up. We’ve been here from the beginning. We may not be the biggest. But we have heart and soul. It’s frustrating sometimes. That not everyone sees that. But honestly, I’m just happy to have graduated to normal people problems. I am happy to be functioning in society again. Actually, I’ve gone way beyond that. I’m thriving now!

karyn's
Here I am now. I was getting ready to do a cooking demo at one of my very favorite restaurants. KARYN’S in Chicago. KARYN CALABRESE is an inspiration and an icon. And I was honored to do a demo at her holiday event last year.

So anyway, I’ve been thinking…That since this blog was about my journey back to wellness…And since I feel like I can say now that I’ve arrived…It might be time for a new era. So I’ve started a new blog. With my business partners, HEIDI and JULIE. A PUNK RAWK LABS blog. I’ve been posting over there lately. I might show up here again. Sometime down the road. But I think this is gonna turn into my personal blog now. And since I’ve become part of something larger than me, I’m embracing a NEW ERA to reflect that. Come by sometime and check it out!

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Minnesota Cup


June 12th, 2014

mn cup logo
I’m very excited to announce that we have been selected as a SemiFinalist in this year’s MINNESOTA CUP! The Minnesota Cup is a mentoring program/grant competition for up and coming businesses that are developing new and innovative concepts. We are up against some stiff competition! As a semi-finalist, we automatically qualify for the mentoring and the opportunity to present our business plan to investors and community business leaders. We are so honored to be included with this esteemed bunch. Looking forward to meeting all the other contestants and learning from them as well!

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Face Down Your Fears


February 20th, 2014

cult
Well, it finally happened. The one thing I feared most…I lost my health insurance. The last several years has been filled with trials and tribulations. Anyone with health issues can tell you…it’s not for the faint of heart. There are many frustrations…financial hardships, dysfunctional bureaucracy, doctors who don’t understand you, unsympathetic billing departments, a situation that really doesn’t add up in a financial sense. For anyone. A person can get lost in the morass. In fact, I had been on a bit of a hiatus from the doctor. Partly because it didn’t make FINANCIAL SENSE. And partly because it didn’t make EMOTIONAL SENSE. I intended to go back at some point. Once I got my life more stable. Once I started making money again. Once I was emotionally available enough to tolerate the dysfunction again. I mean through all of this, one mantra I’ve hung on to has been, ‘No matter what happens, don’t lose your insurance.’

But something happened along the way. It didn’t help much that my premiums went up. A lot. I think this is happening for a lot of people. But at some point you have to face the facts. The facts are that I am a struggling new business owner that just survived two pretty devastating health setbacks. I really don’t have any money. I mean, who does? But I really don’t. I can’t afford these crazy premiums. For the last several years, I’ve been going way into debt to pay premiums that I can’t afford. And to be honest, I’m not even really sure why. Because the reality is that my insurance doesn’t really cover anything anyway.

I’m not really sure what the answer to this quandary is. I’m not even sure if there is one. I think a lot of people are wrestling with this issue these days. But they say that once the one thing you fear most happens, you have nothing to fear. So I like to think that this is a positive development. If I’ve learned anything from the last few years, it’s that sometimes what looks like the end is really just a new beginning. You have to break down what’s not working for you to make room for what is. Stay positive. Keep pushing. Things will look different on the other side. So I am keeping the faith…

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New Year, New Attitude


January 30th, 2014

pettles
Hello out there! It’s been so long since I posted. Does anyone even read this thing anymore? I mean…it’s kinda fun for me to look back sometimes and see what I was thinking way back when. So that’s mostly what it is for me. I feel like my attitude about things has shifted so much since I started this blog. Your inner life changes. And then your outer life changes too. It’s pretty fun to watch how things unfold. Well, it’s a lot more fun looking back. When you see the accomplishment. Instead of the obstacles. But I’m feeling pretty optimistic about 2014.

seward demo
Business has been nothing short of crazy this year. I mean really. Who woulda thought that dairy free cheese would take off so well. It’s really hard to believe most of the time. I keep thinking I’m gonna wake up and it’s all gonna disappear. But it doesn’t. It just keeps getting crazier. I’ve been managing to keep up. But there have DEFINITELY BEEN MOMENTS when I’ve wondered to myself WHAT THE HELL WAS I THINKING?

karyns
But mostly, I’ve been too busy to really spend very much time second guessing myself.

cheese
These little cheeses keep me in line. They have really made me stay focused. Just because I know that this is my destiny on this little planet. I know that this is what I’m supposed to put back. People have always thought I was a bit of an aimless soul. I’m not gonna lie. But I’ve always felt like I stayed true to my path. Not one that was already out there. Not the one I was supposed to stay on. But my path. And this is it.

ms market
So when I feel like giving up. These little tins of goodness make me remember what it’s all about. I mean after all, we are all just visitors here. Passing through. No matter how burned out I get. Or how discouraged. Or how inadequate I feel. Or how overwhelmed by my health. Or whatever obstacle is in my way. I have learned. Stay focused. Breathe. Keep pushing ahead. Stay positive. This is what change looks like. Don’t give up!

valley
I have been meeting so many amazing people on this journey. Like Katy here. Find her at MN VEG. Passionate folks. Who want to make a difference in the world. It is so inspiring to be around that. It can change your world. A little attitude adjustment can change everything.

mike demark
So many magical things have been happening. This is a little pic I snapped when THE CURRENT (our local radio station) came to the shop and FILMED THIS AWESOME VIDEO featuring CAROLINE SMITH.

oyasumi
I just want to say, it’s always hardest right before something magical happens. When you feel like giving up. When you can’t see a path forward. When you are completely anxietal because you can’t understand how in the hell you are gonna get to the other side of whatever is in your way. That’s when it’s really important to keep the faith. It’s always darkest before the dawn. I’ve been working through a bunch of darkness lately. Which is hard to see past. But I feel like I’m on the verge of something. Not sure what yet. But something big is shifting. I can’t wait to see how it manifests…

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Blue Moon


August 20th, 2013

caprese
Hello again. I am starting to get better at these updates. I just had the most amazing lunch. A little caprese salad I whipped up in about five minutes using some of our PLAIN CASHEW CHEESE. Pretty yum.

Well, I have some big news. I kind of alluded to this in my LAST POST. Things have been growing quickly over at headquarters. But not quickly enough, apparently. We need a little more help. And since tonight is going to be a blue moon, it seems a pro po to announce our new plans today.

heidiIntroducing Punk Rawk Labs newest partner, Heidi Ochsner! If you have been following this blog for a while, you might remember her from some past adventures. Like this recipe video we did on how to make a NETTLE LATTE. Or remember the time we foraged TEN POUNDS OF CHERRIES out of a perfectly ripe Seattle neighborhood tree? We made some good jam out of that bounty. When I got sick, Heidi was the one who HELPED ME FIGURE OUT HOW TO CHANGE MY DIET. She’s a nutritionist/registered dietician in the Seattle area.

It’s interesting.  The two ladies that helped bring me back into the fold after my illnesses are now my partners! Heidi helped me figure out how to change my diet to get functional again after my TOXIC EXPOSURE. And Julie helped me keep up with cheese orders while I was in physical therapy after my CAR CRASH. How cosmic is that? This company is destined for great things. I tell ya!

heidi jeff and me
Heidi also happens to be my former roomate. Here we are with our other former roomate, Jeff. Heidi and I shared a room. And Jeff had the other room. Kind of like THREE’S COMPANY. Except NSFW. :) We were also all part of an elite band of superheroes called Team Millennium Moon. Every blue moon, we would get together and unleash our superpowers on the world. And guess what today is? You guessed it!

wedding
This is a pic from Heid’s wedding (where I was a bridesmaid). Heidi, as I mentioned, is based in Seattle (my former hometown). Our cheese lab is based in Minneapolis, of course. But we have quite a few stores out Heidi’s way. One of them being the amazing CENTRAL COOP in Seattle.

central coop

A few weeks ago, we sent them our first order. And it did quite well (as evidenced by this photo sent  by my friend, Andrea, who is vacationing in Seattle right now). Anyway, we just sent them some more cheese yesterday. They should be getting it shortly. And if you’re in Seattle next Monday (26th August 2013), Heidi will be demoing the cheeses there from 3-6 in the afternoon. You should drop by and say hello. And tell her I sent you!

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Greetings From the Cheese Cave


August 18th, 2013

cheese
Hello out there! How are you? It’s been so long since I’ve seen you.

I’ve actually been having this conversation a lot lately. Just where exactly have I been? Unless you’ve been at the lab, you probably haven’t seen me lately. Not many people have. I’ve been in a cave. I’m not even lying when I tell you that I’ve gotten letters in the mail from two of my doctors wondering where I’ve been. I haven’t had time to keep appointments, be social, fix my hair, do my taxes, or even go to the doctor. This last year has been FULL ON CRAZY.

shopThings have been going well at the shop. It’s running pretty smooth. But I have to say…It’s taken it’s toll. I’m pretty wiped out right now. A week ago, I took a week off from running cheeses because I was so exhausted. I pretty much slept for three days. It was kind of a sign, I think. I’ve been SUBLIMATING a lot of my personal needs to keep this thing going. And I feel like I’ve been doing a good job. But I’ve been going above and beyond for a while now. It’s really starting to make me feel taken for granted. My boyfriend keeps telling me I need to make a change. That this has been eating away at me for months and months. But change is always a tricky proposition.

hrae at shop
The truth is that this is real life. Sure. There are challenges. But there’s a lot more right than wrong. We have such a beautiful collective consciousness brewing at the shop. Everyone who works there is so cool. I just love being there. I love what I am doing. I love the people I am doing it with. And I’m really proud of what we’ve been putting out. But I will admit, it’s a lot. Starting a business is hard, hard work. I’m not gonna lie. And you know what else is really hard work?

sonny and mama
Motherhood! My partner, Julie, just gave birth about five months ago to the apple of everyone’s eye, Sonny. He is quite the thinker. He spends a lot of time deep in thought. And he has a lot to say. Plus, he’s pretty cute.

As you might imagine, we’re a little overwhelmed at the moment. A good problem to have. Business is booming. And although theoretically we’d like to be growing faster. The reality is that we’re going about as fast as we can go.

Some people might call this a difficult situation. And to be sure, it is. But this company was born out of DIFFICULT SITUATIONS. That’s kind of what we’re GOOD AT. The one thing I’ve figured out from all of this is that difficult situations are blessings in disguise. They are spiritual journeys to a better you. We just have to honor them for the lessons they are bestowing on us. And move through them. We have to be honest with ourselves about where we are falling short. And we have to be open to possibilities. When you hit the wall and think you can go no further, remember to stay open! That’s where all the magic is.

Right now, I am learning a couple things. Most importantly, I’m learning that despite the amazing miracle that I’ve been experiencing for the last year, I am only human. I have limits. And I reached mine a ways back. And number two, I am learning to be humble and ask for help when I need it. Ask and you shall receive. A creative solution to my current conundrum coming up! Stay tuned…

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Chicago VeganMania


August 4th, 2013

veganmania
OMG. I have so much to tell you. But I haven’t had any time. This has been the CRAZIEST YEAR EVER! I wouldn’t even know WHERE TO START. Well, I would. But it would take me all day. Though if you happen to be in Chicago on September 21st, I’ll be there all day. It’s VEGANMANIA! It’s all day vegan extravaganza. And it’s Free! We’ll be sampling and selling cheese. But there will be a food court and all kinds of vegan businesses and food demos and speakers. Should be pretty interesting.

katy
I’ll be bringing KATY with me. If you follow us on INSTAGRAM, chances are you’ve run across her before. She’s one of our cheesemakers. But she has a food blog of her own…MN VEG. You should check it out.

Will post more updates soon. Hope to see you around…

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Chronic Urticaria


April 10th, 2013

love fest
We interrupt this love fest to bring you another dose of reality. If you’ve been reading my ramblings lately, you will know that i just ADOPTED SOME AMAZING AND LOVEABLE PETS! Part of this was an attempt on my part to bring my life back into balance after noticing some ALARMING SYMPTOMS THAT I’VE BEEN ATTEMPTING TO IGNORE OUT OF FRUSTRATION WITH THE CURRENT STATE OF OUR MEDICAL SYSTEM. Well I finally got over myself and my ‘I’m never going to the doctor again’ drama long enough to go get it checked out.

urticaria
Turns out I have chronic urticaria. Basically this means I have chronic hives. A pretty frustrating place to be. The doctor said that basically it’s a complication that is often associated with LUPUS (a drumbeat that’s been beating in my world for a while). But just because I have it doesn’t mean that I have lupus. She also said that the hives are triggered by stress. Which is also not surprising considering that I became the CEO OF A MULTI-NATIONAL CORPORATION this year and my business partner is on maternity leave. The hives won’t be under control until the stress is. So basically, I’m on the right track. I think I instinctively knew what I needed to do. But I need to step it up a bit.

Needless to say, I am doing a lot of processing right now. I have a lot to say about all this. But as with most emotional processing, it will probably be happening in fits and spurts coming up. I’ll keep you posted…

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No Sleep ‘Til Brooklyn


March 28th, 2013

nooch
Woah nelly! Things have been crazy around here. So crazy that I haven’t had much time for posting lately. I have really been keeping my head down and my nose to the grindstone. In a way, I think being sick is really good preparation for starting a business. Looking forward, it looks kind of hopeless most days. Making the impossible happen. Looking back, it looks like a miracle. The hard part is keeping focused when you’re the only one who can see it. I think that learning to be zen in situations that are well, unpleasant, is what being sick is all about. Same with starting a business. You just have to keep busting through barriers despite how it looks on the outside. Keep pushing. No matter what. Until one day you look up. And you realize that you’re whole environment has changed. So anyway, our environment has sure changed alright. We are really starting to carve some marks out on the map of the US of A. We’ve been consistently selling out at NOOCH (an awesome vegan boutique in Denver).

park and vineI am continually amazed that the cheese has developed a following in places where I didn’t even know there was an audience for vegan products. PARK AND VINE is another new store in Cincinnati that has started carrying us. Who knew that Cincinnati was such a hotspot for vegans! I admit that in the beginning, I thought nut cheeses would be too weird to fly in the midwest. Man, was I ever wrong. (My boyfriend who incidentally is from the Midwest is quick to remind me of this).

brainer
The cheeses are even selling in Brainerd, MN at the CROW WING FOOD CO-OP! Brainerd is a fairly small town in central MN. Not exactly where I’d expect to find a hotspot for vegan fare. But that just goes to show how much I know. Thanks for schooling me, Brainerd!

wheatsville
WHEATSVILLE in Austin, TX is another store that has been selling a ton of cheese. I actually went to college in Austin. So it feels pretty satisfying to reconnect with the city.

vegan haven
I used to live in Seattle too. Home of VEGAN HAVEN. Another hotspot for our cheese.

mckinleyville
We even made it out to Humboldt County, CA! We’re at McKinleyville Central Market there.

malt and mold
And of course, New York City! That’s where it all started for us. And it’s kind of an epicentre for us. We have several new stores there. MALT AND MOLD is an amazing beer and cheese store on the Lower East Side.

high vibe
HIGH VIBE is an amazing raw and vegan boutique in the East Village. I think it’s in the East Village anyway. I’ve been corrected on my NYC geography a few times.

perelandra
Last but not least is our newest store. PERELANDRA in Brooklyn. This is a really new development. Like, today new. We’re really excited about this. In fact, if you go there now, they should have some free samples of the cheese to try. I think they might also have the best deal in town on the cheeses. Definitely check it out.

Needless to say, we have been really really busy. I have pushed my body to it’s limits. And beyond. I’m hoping this new development is a sign. No Sleep ‘Til Brooklyn! But now we’ve arrived. Brooklyn! We are in your hood! What happens once you get to Brooklyn? Two days of sleep? That sounds good. Maybe this is the start of a kindler, gentler era of growth. Because I am having a monster flare-up right now. But I digress. There will be a whole other post about this tomorrow. Wanna know how to start a business with no money and chronic health problems? Well, I’m still figuring that one out myself. But I’ll tell you’ve what I’ve learned tomorrow…

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California Dreaming


August 19th, 2012

chinatown
Just got back from the most amazing trip to California. It’s funny. For years, things were so UNDER THE WEATHER, that I was mostly just TREADING WATER…just kinda hanging on and waiting for things to get better. But lately, things have been CHANGING DRAMATICALLY. It’s pretty wild. It’s so surreal that I keep thinking I’m going to wake up. But I have pictures. So it must have really happened.

rainbowI actually hadn’t intended for this to be a business trip. I just went out because my boyfriend was doing sound at OUTSIDELANDS FESTIVAL which was pretty amazing in itself. But since I was in town, I figured I’d stop by RAINBOW GROCERY, the store that’s been carrying our cheese. Can I just say how much I love Rainbow? Here I am at the entrance. Rainbow is an amazing worker owned cooperative there, and this is the original collective that started it in the 70’s.

gordon edgarThis is Gordon Edgar. He’s the cheese buyer there. But he’s also a celebrity. I didn’t realize this at first.

cheesemongerI wasn’t aware of this until my neighbor, Erik, pointed it out. He was asking me if I was catching a lot of resistance and flak from dairy folks about my cheese. And I was like, ‘Actually, not so far. There’s this guy in San Francisco who’s a dairy cheese guy who’s been super supportive. And since he’s not really a vegan, people seem to be listening to him.’ And he was like, ‘Oh yeah? Who is it?’ And I said, ‘This guy, Gordon Edgar. He wrote this book called Cheesemonger.’ And Erik was like, ‘GORDON EDGAR?! That guy is famous. He’s like the Anthony Bourdain of cheese.’ One thing you should know about Erik, he’s not vegan and definitely not of the audience that my food would attract. But he’s a great drummer. Coming from Erik, this seemed pretty significant.

cheese section
And it was. Rainbow sells an amazing amount of cheese. I mean, I’ll literally ship them an order, and they’ll run out in a few days. Gordon even showed me that we have our own clipboard. Because they’ve been keeping a waiting list between orders. It’s crazy! Here I am in front of our cheese display.

veg news hqAfter we stopped at Rainbow, we decided to drop by the VEG NEWS MAGAZINE HEADQUARTERS which is actually really closeby.  I wasn’t actually thinking of stopping by.  But the night before, we were having dinner with our friend, Joslyn.  And I was talking about how great Veg News was.  And she said,’You should stop by and say hello.’  And I thought, ‘You know.  That’s actually a great idea.  I hadn’t even thought of that.’  But it’s not something I would normally do.  Being a little nervous about things like that.  Well, when we got home from dinner there was an email from Veg News.  Saying there was a new issue coming out next week that I might want to take a look at.  So that seemed like a sign.

editor's pickThe next day, we stopped by. And what an amazing moment that was. They had the new issue, and it was hot of the presses. Not even on newsstands yet. It should be coming out this week actually. There’s a taste test in there. Comparing our brand with Dr. Cow’s and Daiya cheese. These are two much bigger and more established companies. Our brand got the editor’s pick! I couldn’t believe it! What an amazing day. I’ve been on cloud nine ever since. I even came home to a letter that I was being audited. And that didn’t even bother me. It apparently looks fishy that I didn’t make any money last year. I wonder if anybody at the tax office has ever had a health crisis? Because I think it’s pretty par for the course for it to eat up one’s income. Especially when you lose your job as a result. The numbers just don’t add up. I mean, everybody seems to know that except the IRS and the insurance companies. Right? You’d think they wouldn’t add more trauma to a bad situation. But anyway, I digress. Because even the IRS can’t stop me now! They might be able to bring down the mob. But they can’t bring down a girl on fire!

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On a side note, there’s still a couple weeks left to vote for the VEGGIE AWARDS. We’ve been nominated in the ‘Best Vegan Cheese’ category. We are up against some pretty big guns that are literally available in every store. So, it’s a little like David vs. Goliath. But you never know. Stranger things have happened lately. So, please vote for us!

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