Vegan ‘Likes’ – Clothing & Shoes, Part I

As design geeks and art lovers Jacob and I value clean lines and simple but well-made items. This carries over into our aesthetic tastes for the items we produce for .retool. and also into our personal tastes for vegan items.

Below are some of my current favorite items from vegan-run clothiers & shoe designers. (I wish I could say haberdashers will be included, but I don’t often wear hats.) I’ve marked vegan-owned companies with a (V). There are some honorable mention slots for environmentally/eco focused companies and one or two from major companies that have a particular item that’s vegan. ‘Wish list’ level fare and more budget conscious ones will be interspersed throughout this multi-part roundup. Have fun looking at pretty things!


Vaute Couture – Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY (V)

Wax cotton pea coat

T-shirt (bonus cute puppy in pic)

T-shirt (puppyless pic) but still a nice shirt

Nau – Portland, OR (Sustainable & Philanthropy)

Oooh, selvage denim. (Ooh hoping for a sale at some point)

Denim jacket

A good wind shirt can go a long way in the land of fog (a.k.a. San Francisco)

Courier wind shirt


Good Guys – Paris, France (V)

I have a crush on their derby style shoes.

‘Aponi’ in navy

My current favorite – Black vegan suede & leather

‘Dean’ in vegan suede & leather

Brave Gentleman – New York, NY (V)

I own a pair of ‘Defender’ boots and love them. When I bought them two years ago Joshua Catcher was in MooShoes (man, I miss MooShoes) but I didn’t want to harrass him by saying hello. If you like patent ‘leather’ you’ll like the upcoming 2014-2015 line.

‘Worker’ in tan


Only two of their lines are absolutely vegan. The Bullet, below and the Jazz Low Pro. I’ve been fooled before! These are clearly labeled on their website as vegan though and have been verified by a number of folks on the interwebs by talking to sales reps.


To be continued…


Strength Training for Runners: Exercises 2,3 – Lunge Variations

And by video on Monday, I should’ve said Tuesday. The following things have not quite come together today – free time, good lighting, availability of properly weighted dumbbells, and a person to film or a functioning tripod. So, in lieu of video, here are the other two exercises at the top of my favorites list. Videos for all three tomorrow!

Hinge Forward Lunge (Alternating)- with Dumbbells

The hinge forward lunge and other lateral lunge versions will challenge your body in unique ways compared to the traditional versions mentioned above. As with any new exercise, use caution when performing the first few repetitions. And take a quick peak at my ‘Remember’ notice from Saturday’s (8/16) post.

Hold a dumbbell in each hand relaxed & at your sides. Stand with your feet hip width apart and parallel. ‘Simon’ says take a small step forward – approximately your normal stride length or a tad longer. Transfer most of your weight to the front leg as you hinge forward at the hips. Keep your shoulders back, and core tight (pull your navel toward your spine & keep it there at beginning of each rep) and refrain from rounding your lower back. Your front knee will bend as you do the hinge motion. Lower your torso toward your front knee as far as is comfortable. 

Tension should occur your forward hamstring. Depending upon the flexibility of your achilles and tightness of your calf, the heel of your back foot may raise slightly from the floor. Go with what’s comfortable for you. Reverse the bent over position while pushing back through the ball of the front foot in order to more easily return to standing, feet together. Repeat on the opposite leg. Alternate sides 8-10 repetitions per side. Rest 30 sec to 1 min. If you are comfortable with the motion perform 1-2 additional sets.

If you fatigue or your form, especially keeping your core tight/protecting your lower back starts to falter. Take a longer break, reduce the number of sets, lower your weight, or all of the above. 

Single DB Stepping Lateral Goblet Lunge

Hold a single dumbbell lengthwise in front of your chest with your elbows pointing down. This is known in the kettlebell and strength training world as goblet position. For the beginner set, begin with your feet wide, think twice shoulder width, with your feet pointing straight ahead. Hinge at the hip by pushing your hips back and squat to one side. Both feet should be flat on the floor and the leg that you’re leaning away from should be straight. In order to keep your weight over your heels where it should be, lean your upper body forward as you bend your ‘working’ knee.

Be mindful of keeping your shoulders back (aka proud chest) to keep your lower back flat. Also centering your bodyweight over your heels should help keep your shin on the working leg vertical. In all squatting and lunging motions it’s butt back, not knees forward.

Return to the starting position keeping your feet wide and lunge to the opposite side.

If you’d like to try your hand at increasing difficulty of the motion, begin with your feet together on each rep and step wide laterally. Sequence is – step, lower yourself to the bottom of the lunge (working in a range comfortable for you). Push through the heel to return to the starting position. Perform 8-10 repetitions per side for a total of 2-3 sets.


Strength Training for Runners: Exercise 1 – Lunges

Consider this post a teaser! Videos are forthcoming on Monday or Tuesday; today I’m sharing a thoughts on the lunge and one exercise that I consider a staple of this movement category. If you’re a newbie and you want to try these out, hopefully you can wait until after your long run today or Sunday to try this out. In Monday’s post I’ll also provide two variations that I mix into my own training.

Running primarily takes place in the sagittal plane – front to back – (unless one is doing sideways skips for plyometrics or crossover step, or something). However, the frontal plane – side to side – is the locus of control and stability when we run. There is more happening than one might think as we hurl or shuffle ourselves forward. I contend that improving strength, stability, and ease of mobility in the frontal plane can be a tool to help stave off injury by increasing the strength of hip stabilizers (gluteus medius) and lengthening and loosening parts of the hip that can be tight in runners (psoas & groin, etc.)

Why the Lunge?
I recommend lunge variations first and foremost because the basic motion should feel reminiscent of what occurs during running. A more technical matter – asymmetrical standing movements, of which lunges are an example, can challenge a runner’s overall balance, the body’s ability to transmit information regarding position of limbs and adjust with proper position (proprioception). In some cases dynamic flexibility can be positively affected. The emphasis of one leg over two is right in a runner’s “wheel-house” as well, since running is the act of ‘falling’ forward one leg at a time. Don’t get me wrong, there is a place for bilateral leg exercises, and I’ll be detailing squats and at least one two-legged deadlift I subsequent posts. Last, but not least, lunge variations can help runners ‘zip up’ and mobilize the torso and lower body – the muscles of the core including the hips to improve stability and possibly improve your posture toward the end of a race.

Split Squat with Dumbbells

This is one of the staples of classic lunge options. You may have seen someone making their rounds across the gym floor doing walking lunges. For you Python fans out there picture ‘The Ministry of Silly Walks” with DBs. Most typical lunge variations capitalize on motion in the sagittal plane, like running does. These can be your pita and hummus or your gluten-free cracker and spicy white bean dip… choose your vegan analogy. Suffice it to say, this is where one starts.

Tip for breathing rhythm – breathe in as you descend and out on the way up.

Remember: use a manageable weight and never dismiss the idea of doing exercises with bodyweight; we can often be our best barbell.

Good, safe technique is most important. Particularly in the options that will be presented later the groin and other smaller hip muscles are more directly under pressure. Lower your body slowly, contract your glutes at the bottom of the motion to help begin the ascent, and come up out of all lunges in a controlled, smooth fashion. Also keep in mind that a lower lunge can mean more force on the knee, so consider your injury history, the tightness of your hamstrings, and current level/experience with regard to weight bearing exercise. In short, use discretion and listen to your body when considering the depth of your lunges.

Begin with your feet hip width apart and side-by-side. Take a big step forward. The front leg will be primary in doing the work of this lunge. With the dumbbells at your side, begin descending by bending your front knee and hip to lower yourself. If it’s comfortable for you, aim to get your front thigh parallel to the floor. Form tip: your body and your front shin should remain perpendicular to the ground throughout. If you find that your knee if moving forward past your toes then reset and take a slightly larger step forward. Keep your front knee in line with your foot side-to-side as well. Proper alignment maintains the knee directly over the ankle from every angle.

Getting ready for a show! – Urban Air Market, Dogpatch (Aug. 17)

Urban Air Market is in Dogpatch (Esprit Park) on Sunday in SF and that means that there’s been an additional buzz of excitement chez .retool. We’re excited to present a few new items, some of which are pictured here to whet your appetite! UAM focuses on sustainable design, which we really appreciate. We’ll be participating in their Lower Haight show on October 11!

As much as we love creating and presenting new items that we hope you’d like to make your very own, we are equally engaged in an evergreen process of making our booth and tables an inviting and visually appealing place for you to peruse our wares. 

So come by and check us out! (Booth #37, on 19th St, near Indiana) Sunday Aug 17,  Minnesota Free to attend.

P.S. You can find UAM here: Urban Air Market, Twitter: @urbanairmarket

Eating whole foods – all or nothing?

Today is the day!

Two weeks ago a dear, dear woman loaded down her carryon luggage to bring me two mangos from her front yard. I know, you’re thinking – go to the store and buy a mango, you cheapskate! Trust me when I tell you that even the most amazing mango that one can buy in the San Francisco Bay Area pales in comparison to the ones that I grew up with… hence the smuggling.

And today one of them was finally ripe enough to eat. I could barely cut it open fast enough. Okay enough about mangos – you don’t have to feign excitement over my gustatory happiness.





For new vegans and some not-so-new vegans it can be a challenge to consistently integrate enough unprocessed whole foods into what we eat on a daily basis. For that matter it can be challenging for vegetarians, pescatarians, and people with omnivorous diets of various types. Convenience foods are becoming a huge market. There are myriad other reasons that one might have a limited daily relationship with fresh fruits and veggies but I won’t go into it at length here. (Incidentally, food access issues unfortunately exist all over the place. I won’t be taking up this particular barrier & social justice issue here.)

If revamping your dietary habits to include more whole food based stuff (technical term) is a goal, there’s an app that I’ve been trying out that may be of interest to you. It’s been available for a couple of years and is called Pact (formerly GymPact); it is based on an economic idea that individuals are more motivated by retaining money than by earning money.

One of the new ‘pacts’ that’s available is a nutritional one. If, say, you’d like to try to eat an additional  fruit/vegetable a day or five more per week you can make a two-part commitment for 7 days.

1. Set a target number of fruits/veggies to eat (incidentally the system won’t track more than 5/day).

2. Agree to a fine if you don’t reach the goal you’ve set (you can set a range is $5-50, and $5 is the default) for every fruit/veggie of the goal that is missed.

In order to get credit & track what you’ve eaten, launch the app and take a pic of what you’re eating (tough break if you finished it already); it gets approved or voted down by other Pact users based on whether you took a pic of your companion animal and tried to pass them off as kimchi or an apple.

At the end of the week, those who reach their goal are paid out by the users who didn’t do so. Don’t expect a monetary windfall. Last week by meeting my veggie pact, I made $.63. (Payout occurs once you accrue $10 or more. It can be withdrawn using Paypal.) However, I stood to pay out $10 for each missed veggie or fruit. There are additional pacts that you can take part in if so inclined – a gym pact and a food log pact. Each wee one can choose to set a new pact or or set your account to take a break.

If you like the idea of an accountability partner when trying to change habits but don’t want to go it on your own or involve your friends and/or you’re a bit of an app-o-phile like me, you may like Pact. What I enjoy about this option is that it’s possible to make gradual changes in eating habits. As a trainer, a more stepwise approach is what I tend to suggest particuarly when folks are already trying to build new habit with regard to being active. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing and though we may wish it were otherwise, sometimes the ‘best new thing in the world’ doesn’t happen overnight.

For anyone who has used Pact or starts to use it, I’d love to hear about your experience with it.


Running a Fall Marathon? Strength Training May Make You Faster!

Twin Cities, Bank of America, and Marine Corps. If you’re a distance runner, like me, you probably recognize these as a well-known trio among a pantheon of fall marathon offerings. Perhaps some of you are gearing up for a fall race and you’re getting into the high-mileage heart of your training schedule.

A great many runners whom I’ve met and some for whom I’ve provided training advice share something in common. They overlook or eschew lower body strength training because they want to save their legs and not fatigue them with activities other than running. I have been there.

“I’m gonna run a 4-miler today, that’s all the leg work that I need.” Or “I don’t wanna max out my legs, I have a long run on Sunday!”

Sound familiar?

The most important line that I’ll share with you today: Strength training helps you run more efficiently. (So do mobility exercises and core work, but I’ll save these topics for a later date.)

I can sense the furrowed brows and skeptical looks directed at the screen. Stay with me. I’m not going to suggest that you take up high volume, heavily weighted training and then go out and do a fartlek workout or tempo run. You needn’t know what a squat rack is or where to find one in your local gym. What I am suggesting is a reasonable, balance between your paramour, cardio, and strength work. My reasoning goes a little something like this:

The gluteus maximus commonly, your butt or glutes in regular people speak, is part of the biggest single muscle group and a prime mover in the body. We demand a lot of this muscle. We demand that though we sit for hours during work, school, or Netflix marathons and then be ready to immediately “switch on” automatically for a quick 3-miler or an 18 miler on a weekend. The glutes as a whole (the maximus, medius, minimus, & the TFL) move the hips forward, bring your foot down to the ground, and propel the body forward after each footstrike. Of course the hamstrings, calves, and hopefully the core musculature support this motion but the more efficiently the glutes do their job, the more seamlessly the rest follows.

Three key exercises (in my professional opinion) for glute strengthening:
1. Lunges
2. Deadlifts
3. Squats

Over the next week, I’ll be discussing each of these exercises in turn including technique & ways of approaching them as well as presenting i variations. The idea is not to have you spend hours in a gym. It’s even possible that you needn’t go to a gym at all… More on this later.

Happy running, and may the “bonk monster” stay at bay.


A Vegan Feast

On Thursday, the .retool. extended family (Jacob, Jamye, and Will) got together for a vegan feast.  Jamye and I planned a rather eclectic menu:

  • toasted bread with avocado and cilantro jalapeno cashew cream;
  • spring rolls with Jamaican Jerk tofu, rice stick noodles, carrots, and lettuce;
  • collard green rolls with black eyed peas and barbecue sauce;
  • pumpkin curry; and
  • cranberry muffins.

Given the wide ranging influences of the menu, we were pleasantly surprised that all of the flavors worked really well together.

Much of the prep work was done in advance, including marinating and baking the tofu, preparing the black eyed peas, and making the muffin batter.  I was in charge of the bread and spring rolls, Jamye tackled the collard greens, pumpkin curry, and muffins, while Will handled a bunch of the prep work.

Here are some photos and yes, everything did taste as good as it looks!  🙂

East Bay Love

Six Places We Like – East Bay Food Edition

Ok, so we have been a little obsessed with food lately. We do have some non-food related blog posts coming up soon, so stay tuned. Until then, why not grab a bite to eat at one of these .retool.-approved establishments? A few of them (Souley Vegan,  Cinnaholic, and Shangri-La) are 100% vegan. The rest have multiple mouth-watering vegan options.

  • Souley Vegan
    One of our all time favorite vegan restaurants. We especially love the everything plate. It’s great for sharing. Or not.
    301 Broadway, Oakland
  • Cinnaholic
    Tasty sweet treats. Vegans like cinnamon rolls (at least these vegans do). Our fave – Classic cinnamon roll with coffee frosting. You can also get frosting shots. Dangerous.
    2132 Oxford St, Berkeley
  • Shangri-la
    Your choice of the daily special in Large or Small.  Always tasty. Always organic. Yum.
    4001 Linden St, Oakland
  • Vik’s Chaat Corner
    Awesome Indian food. Street food prices. You can’t go wrong with the Sev Puri or Mix Veg Pakoras.
    2390 4th St, Berkeley
  • Cafe Tibet
    Savory, comforting Tibetan/Nepalese food near campus. Fun fact: the Tibetan owner will tell you stories about the pictures on the walls (mostly taken in India).
    2020 University Ave, Berkeley
  • Razan’s Organic Kitchen
    Middle Eastern fare including several tasty vegan options like the Mediterranean Plate and Hummus Plate (with Sumac).
    2119 Kittredge, Berkeley

Vegan Restaurant Review!

Thai Idea

Anyone who knows us at all is aware that we love pumpkin curry. We are a discriminating duo, certainly, but have encountered a few pumpkin curries along the away that strike our fancy. The problem – either they are in a different city… we’re looking at you NYC and Seattle, or they were in San Francisco but are now defunct à la Suriya Thai in the Mission. Yes, I know what you’re thinking – ‘we’re awash in Thai restaurants, fool!’ To you, I say, not vegan ones…

Which brings me to… fanfare please… Thai Idea. Okay, okay I know it’s not a new joint. No one told me about it though, I had to stumble across it in the Tenderloin myself. Jacob was immediately on board for the .retool. field trip. We had Pumpkin Curry, Volcanic Beef, and Firecracker Balls. (The last one was ordered because we’re immature sometimes. Don’t think it’s funny? Go back and read the name again… yeah, we thought so.)

If I tried to describe the firecracker balls to you it wouldn’t make sense. Just order them and be happy. They are salty, a little spicy, and a little bit sweet. I could be all culinary and call them umami but I’m not gonna. They are tasty. Though, in our excitement we neglected to order the pumpkin curry “medium spicy” it had a decent amount of heat and the kabocha was spot on.  The tofu in it was a bit crunchy in a good way and a little bit tart and the veggies weren’t an afterthought, for once. The volcanic beef, as one could probably tell from the name, is more assertive in spice-factor. It’s quite a good sized portion even when splitting it – somehow we persevered.

If we’d had more room, we would have kept eating. No more pining away for Pukk in NYC for me! Wish I’d known about this place sooner.

A distinct bonus was that despite the Sturm und Drang of the immediate area it was quiet and tranquil inside. Eat there, now (or soon) but save us some curry.

Thai Idea

710 Polk Street ( near Eddy & probably under some scaffolding) on the east side of the street.

Lunch at Cha-Ya

Agadashi tofu in the foreground; Sea vegetable salad in the background. Both were delicious!

Agadashi tofu in the foreground; Sea vegetable salad in the background. Both were delicious!


One of the things we love about living in San Francisco is the vast array of tasty vegan food options. Even restaurants that aren’t specifically vegetarian generally have a few interesting looking items or are happy to modify their non-vegan offerings.

That said, it’s  still nice to go to a restaurant and know that you can order absolutely anything on the entire menu.

One of our go-to vegan restaurants in San Francisco is Cha-Ya.  We stopped by for lunch recently after our weekly .retool. business meeting.

Here’s what we ordered:

Agedashi Tofu – deep-fried tofu in a special sauce, garnished with kaiware, green onion, grated daikon, ginger, and nori.

Sea Vegetable Salad – a variety of marine vegetables including seasoned hijiki served with a creamy sesame dressing.

Cha-Ya Delight – brown rice bowl. seasoned organic brown rice topped with carrots, kabocha, broccoli, cauliflower, shiitake, lotus root, zucchini, snap peas, snow peas, atsuage tofu, hijiki, pickled burdock and daikon, broccolini, and kaiware.

Their menu is huge, so we like to get one or two dishes we know and love and then experiment with a new option.  The new option this time around was the Agedashi Tofu. It quickly became one of our favorites – the special sauce is quite tasty and the mix of seaweed, onion, ginger, and daikon was just about perfect.  We’ll definitely be ordering this one again.

The Cha-Ya Delight was awesome, too. The vegetables were super-fresh as always and the seasoned brown rice was nice and savory without overpowering the vegetables. There are two of most vegetables in the bowl, so if you’re sharing and you want some of everything, you have to be a little careful when dividing the servings.

The Sea Vegetable Salad was refreshing and complemented the other dishes quite nicely.

We’ll be back soon!