Going Away, Coming Home

Well, well, it’s been ten days since my last post!  I took a vacation from life and blogging while we were away in lovely Cancun enjoying  sunny weather, pool lounging, meditation, reading and lots of great vegan food.  Here’s a look at the view from our balcony:

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Sigh.  Oh man, you really can’t have too much of that.

We had been to this same boutique resort last year (pre-vegan) and loved it.  We expected that the resort (Zoetry Paraiso de la Bonita) would provide us with vegan meals because it is also a wellness spa. Plus, we let them know in advance that we are vegan. They assured us they would make it work.  And they really did!  In fact, each night we were treated by the excellent chef to a four-course gourmet vegan dinner.  We let the chef do his thing, and results were wonderful.  Soups, unique salads, risotto, pasta and more.  We were reminded on this vacation that accomplished chefs enjoy cooking great food (vegan or otherwise) for appreciative diners.  And we were so grateful that we could enjoy a tropical vacation and amazing vegan food at the same time.  A win-win.

Cold, cold temperatures greeted us when we arrived back home on Friday night.  Since a hard frost was expected, David ran out to the garden to grab the veggies that were ready to be picked before the freeze.  In the dark he cut piles of kale, arugula and romaine, a handful of tomatoes and peppers and this baby:

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Oh my.  We planted several cauliflower plants and some were starting to bear fruit but I was completely unprepared for the size of this guy.  Must have liked those cooler temps.  Actually, David brought in two big heads of cauliflower, but one of them quickly ended up in this:

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This is a simple, luscious cauliflower soup with a dollop of pesto on top.  The recipe actually comes from this book:

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David and I picked this up on impulse while we were shopping for Hanukkah gifts, and this was the first dish we tried.  It was a winner.  I’m really not much of a cauliflower fan (memories of steamed cauliflower at some holiday dinner or other) but this soup was quite wonderful.  The ingredients are super simple- onion, garlic, veggie broth, cauliflower, lemon juice (this was key) and water.  The cauliflower gets cooked in the broth with the onions and garlic and then the whole thing is pureed.  The water and lemon juice are added last and the pesto gets spooned in before serving.

The “classic pesto” is also from this book, and it’s a typical recipe minus the cheese.  It was a wee bit salty (which I will adjust next time), but it added a lovely burst of flavor as well as color to the soup.  Very good.  I’m not sure what we will do with our other head of cauliflower…maybe try some of the “buffalo wings” I’ve been reading about.

While it was wonderful to go on vacation and have someone else prepare my vegan meals for a while, I’m glad to be back in my own kitchen messing around with new ingredients and recipes.

It also feels good to get back to my blog 🙂

 

 

 

 

For Anne

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My daughter, Anne, is 27 today.  She is beautiful inside and out, talented, kind and very loving.   Thinking about her makes me smile.

When Anne was very young, she received a Fisher Price video game as a gift.  I remember nothing about that game except the words that flashed on the screen before the game began.  They read, “Anne, Do Your Best”.  Well Anne has been “doing her best” ever since.   And her best is really, really something.

Anne was headstrong as a toddler.  She knew her mind and was not easily coerced or distracted.  While other little ones could be pacified with crayons or snacks, she would have none of it, loudly making her displeasure known.  While I wouldn’t have minded a little less drama (as a first-time mother I got pretty rattled!),  I sensed that my hyper-intelligent and spirited daughter would one day bring her unique perspective and original voice to the world.  And she certainly has.

Anne has so many gifts, and she chose to pursue a career in opera.  While her voice is truly something special, and listening to her has brought me many hours of pleasure and pride, I am most impressed by the way she has conducted herself in this ultra competitive, “no guarantees” world.  She has lived every experience, from a challenging and often lonely year on a grant in Paris to initiation by fire in her first young artists’ program to the ever-present chorus of “no thank you” with grit and grace.  She has demonstrated great resilience and courage.  At the same time, Anne has always wished the best for her friends and generously celebrated their successes with them.  I am continually inspired by her.

Happily, all of Anne’s hard work is starting to pay off and she will be appearing this winter in a lead role in The Lyric Opera  Unlimited production of “The Property”.  This is a brand new opera, and you can read more about it here.    This is so exciting for Anne, and I’m looking forward to taking my front row seat.  I know she will shine.

Thank you Anne, for being such a bright light and bringing such joy to my life.  I wish you a wonderful birthday and a year filled with love, success, joy and peace.

(Oh, and I hope you don’t mind that I swiped one of your lovely head shots for this post.  My photos all pale in comparison)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Gifts We Give Our Children

In the last 24 hours I did a bunch of different things.  At first glance these things may seem unrelated but for me they were not.

First, last night David and I went over to Jeff’s to celebrate Hanukkah with him and Sky.  We were a day early, but that worked out for all of our schedules.  First thing this morning I wrapped gifts, wrote out cards, enclosed the “gelt” and shipped it all out via UPS.  Next I spent some time reviewing some estate planning documents that updated my “if something happens to me” instructions.  Finally I listened to a Main Street Vegan podcast about the newly released documentary, “Cowspiracy”while I was eating lunch.

Before I go on, I want to let my readers know that I love this time of year.  I love buying holiday cards.  See, here they are:

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I love buying and wrapping gifts, like these:

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Such pretty paper.

I happily do my share for the economy at this time of year.

But this year, my first post-vegan-transition holiday season, I also have other things on my mind about parenting and gift giving.  I guess these things can be best summed up by the following question:

“Why is it that the overwhelming generosity of parents and grandparents everywhere does not include doing everything that can be done to provide future generations with a sustainable planet on which to live?”

As I was reworking the estate plan I referenced before, I was thinking about the degree to which we, as parents and grandparents, responsibly tend to our “affairs” both to minimize confusion (at least around financial matters) and continue to provide generously long after we are gone.  Even those with modest means usually have life insurance.  This is about caring deeply about what happens to those we love if something happens to us.   As parents raising children we sacrifice routinely so that our children can have what they need, and often what they want.  We willingly sacrifice our time, our money and very often our own dreams so our kids can realize theirs.

What we will not sacrifice, however, is the familiarity and enjoyment of our animal-based diet in order to leave our children a   healthy planet.  The lack of sustainability implicit in meeting the world demand for meat and dairy is well-documented and undeniable.   And that brings me to this:

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This documentary is about just this issue, and I would suggest that anyone interested in giving “gifts” to their children (that’s all of us, right?) watch it.

Since I became vegan I’ve experienced many different reactions to my choice, but the one I find the most difficult to understand is the “I believe that this goes on, but…” response.  I have not spoken to many people (although I’m sure they are out there) who would deny that cruelty to animals is a given in factory farming and that these industries are overwhelmingly damaging to our air, land and water.  My assumption had been that people would want to know that they or the people they love might be in danger and that there was a way out.  Most definitely not the case.

So this brings me back to the gifts.  Those shiny packages and envelopes filled with cash are great, but I believe we owe our children even more.  We owe them a model of another way of being in the world.  We owe them honesty about the messes that we helped create.  We owe them our commitment to leading the way toward a healthy, cleaner and more humane way of living.  We owe them our wisdom.

Last night, after Sky gleefully opened his presents, and he and his Grandpa David read “Herschel and the Hanukkah Goblins” (with all the voices) he asked us if we wanted to share some of his chocolate coins.  David answered “no” and gently said that he did not want to eat the coins because he did not want to eat milk from cows.  He explained that he believed that milk from mother cows should be used to feed baby cows, not people.

There are gifts and there are gifts.

A very Happy Hanukkah to those of you who celebrate!

 

 

 

One Step At A Time

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We’re having some wonderful winter rain showers here in Tucson.  While I hate driving around and doing errands in the rain, on some level the rain is always a welcome sight.  Not only do we need it here in the desert, but good soakings in the winter usually means spring flowers.  All good.

So David and I got home this morning, unpacked groceries, got the holiday goodies out of the car trunk and plopped down on our kitchen chairs to chill.  That’s when I snapped this photo of our “vegan” feet (I’m the boots; he’s the Crocs!).

Shopping for animal-friendly footwear has been an interesting experience.  Since Tucson is hardly the fashion capital of the world, we are more or less limited to finding “unintentional” vegan shoes, or those that are wholly man-made for reasons that have nothing to do with animal welfare.  The “intentional” brands come from manufacturers who are promoting animal-friendly products. The more stylish and higher quality ones are around, but they are pricey and (for us) only available online.  Moo Shoes (website here) is one such retailer in New York and Los Angeles.  In general, selection is limited, and never mind trying to buy shoes without trying them on first.  Not likely to be too successful for me.

So back to the unintentional vegan shoes.  I figured I’d check out DSW because I found my Big Buddha bag there, and the selection is crazy.  My rule of thumb is that the cheaper the shoe, the less likely it is to contain leather.  So off I went to peruse the least expensive options at DSW.  In order to not drive myself completely crazy I decided to focus on just boots and/or clogs to replace my ancient (and leather) pair of Borns.

In the store I only found one really cute line, Bernie Mev, that looked “vegan” to me.  Have you ever seen these?

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These Bernie Mevs are actually made of elasticized material and memory foam, and a quick check on my phone indicated (through bloggers) that they are “vegan”, although there’s no indication on the shoes or box that they are.  I couldn’t help but wonder if manufacturers of non-leather shoes specifically avoid labeling them as “vegan” even if they contain no animal products. Stranger things have happened in the marketing world, and I imagine that a company’s market research would indicate how specific labels would positively or negatively impact sales.  In the end, I was left feeling unsure about this brand, but it was a moot point because they didn’t fit me anyway.  I didn’t do any better with the boots.  Leather, leather everywhere.  While I didn’t buy anything at DSW, I did become adept at finding and reading labels.

David had better luck, and happily left DSW with his Crocs and another pair of canvas sneakers.  Is shopping ever not simpler for the guys?

I decided that I had to downgrade some to find a selection of boots and shoes without any leather, so I went to Payless, and that’s where I found the boots from the photo.  They are neutral, comfortable and no leather:DSCN2279

Since I live in a warm weather climate I don’t worry about warmth or durability so these will work.

But these shoes are not without their problems for me, ethically.  I really don’t like “fast fashion” and I’ve tried to minimize my support of this industry both by making my own clothes and scaling way back on my trips to the mall.  I doubt I’d be too happy to know about the working conditions of the people in China who made these shoes.  Nor am I happy about the manufacturing that is outsourced so that I can wear really inexpensive boots.  I’d rather pay up for an intentionally-made pair of vegan boots manufactured in the USA.  For now though, I have few options, so I will live with the fast fashion boots.  I just couldn’t get comfortable with being a walking advertisement (literally!) for the leather industry.

In my vegan life I’m lucky that I haven’t been forced to compromise diet-wise, and I would not willingly do so at this point.  I take some comfort in knowing that it is the demand for meat and dairy that drives the factory farming production.  Companies will likely stop using the animal by-products if and when the supply of such by-products goes down and the prices correspondingly go up.

One step at a time.

 

 

 

Sunday Night Scramble and Perfect Cupcakes

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I have to admit that when I first heard about “tofu scrambles” I thought it sounded downright odd.  I like tofu prepared all kinds of ways, but I just couldn’t envision it “scrambled”.  I’m glad I finally gave it a try because this tofu scramble has quickly become a regular dish on the weekend rotation.   It’s fast to prepare with ingredients I usually have on hand (today I didn’t, but my sous-chef extraordinaire ran out to the supermarket to buy them), and after weekends that usually involve some mix of hiking, socializing, eating out and hours of football on TV (yay Cardinals!),  I’m ready to keep it simple on Sunday night.

These recipes are all over the internet, but I chose a “southwest” version from The Minimalist Baker.  You can check out the recipe here.  This is a one skillet dish.  Sauté the veggies, sauté the tofu and drizzle on a liquid spice blend (cumin, chili powder, salt, garlic powder, turmeric and water).  Toss it all together, heat it through and you’re done!  Since we’re dealing with tofu here, you can’t really over or undercook it– much more forgiving than eggs.  And the flavors that make a great traditional scramble work equally well here.  We served it up with some grainy toast and salad but it would also make a great “breakfast for dinner” burrito.  The possibilities are endless.

For dessert we dug into this:

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Oh yeah.

Our grandson, Sky, turned five this week, and today we celebrated his birthday with him.  He requested cupcakes so, of course, I obliged.  The chocolate cake/vanilla icing was his choice.  I’m not a huge cupcake baker but I can say with certainty that this is a killer recipe.  We were all licking our fingers.  I used a recipe from Oh She Glows (you can find it here).  No eggs but a whole lot of chocolate flavor and perfect moist texture.

For the frosting I went back to The Minimalist Baker.  This is a classic “buttercream” using a stick of Earth Balance instead of the butter.  The recipe is here.  It whipped up beautifully and was just the right amount of (super) sweet.  I always did prefer the classics at birthday time.  We sent the leftovers home with Jeff and Sky but we saved one cupcake to share (enough sugar already!):

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So so good.  These cupcakes are not gluten-free.  I recently discovered that my beloved “Cup for Cup” gluten-free flour contains milk protein so I’m on the hunt for another reliable gluten-free flour.  I’ve read that Bob’s Red Mill now makes a cup-for-cup flour but it hasn’t made it to our Whole Foods yet.  I do plan to try it.  For now, though, I’m okay using regular organic all-purpose.

A recipe like this comes in handy this time of year.  Show up with a platter of these cupcakes to your holiday celebration or office party and everyone (vegan and non-) will thank you.  I promise.

 

“Veganuary”-Calling All Volunteers!

One of my favorite blogs these days is called “The Friendly Fig”.  It’s a veg-friendly site written by two young women who blog about vegan and vegetarian lifestyle issues.  While I get my recipes from other trusty “foodie” resources I enjoy their blog because they research and provide good information about cosmetics, travel and other “being in the world as a vegan” topics.  You can check out their site here.

Today, The Friendly Fig gals are promoting a new Vegan Magazine called Vegan Life and they will be on the magazine’s blogging team.  I will, of course, be subscribing.  What specifically caught my eye though was this:img_8268

Of course I was drawn in by this wonderful photo montage, but more to the point, “Veganuary” is an initiative that involves asking others to be vegan for the month of January.  Clearly there’s an attempt here to get on the “resolutions” bandwagon and why not?  Veganism dovetails beautifully with other common resolutions such as eating more healthfully, dropping some weight, helping others, being more compassionate and living more ethically and authentically.

I initially became a vegan for ethical reasons.  I simply couldn’t bear to contribute to the unnecessary pain and suffering of animals or turn away from the horrible environmental impact of my food choices. That doesn’t mean that there wasn’t a learning curve (how to cook, shop, eat out, etc) as well as a physical transition (oh yes, all that fiber) for me in that first month.  And really, one month was pretty much all it took to start to experience the benefits of the vegan lifestyle.  I feel lighter, I feel healthier and my taste buds have woken up.  But mostly I cannot overstate the peaceful feeling that I experience because my food choices are fully in line with my sense of myself as a compassionate human being.  I have cleaned up “my side of the street” and that feels amazing.

So, back to the Veganuary challenge.  While I have hardly taken the blogging world by storm, according to my WordPress “stats” I currently have 84 followers, and I know that many people in my world read this blog who are not followers.  So let’s say there are 100 people who will read about this challenge.  If you sign on,  I will provide practical support, recipes, cheerleading and a place to write about your experience (if you care to share it).

Any takers?

 

 

Book Group Challenge

I don’t personally know any vegans, and I’m taking steps to remedy that.  Nearly all the women I do know, however, belong to or have belonged to a book group.  I belonged to a book group in New Jersey for years.  We read some good stuff, some great stuff and some inane stuff.  But I can say that we never read much important stuff.  No judgment, that’s just how it was. I’m just trying out a Meet-Up group here in Tucson that reads current, interesting trade fiction.  Again, this is fun, just not very important.

And this is why I am challenging all of my book group sisters (and maybe some brothers) to step it up and read this:

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The World Peace Diet by Will Tuttle, Ph.D. is one of several books I am required to read before I attend Victoria Moran’s Main Street Vegan Academy in June.  The academy reading list is a compilation of some of the most influential and important books on the subject of veganism, covering topics that include health, animal rights and the environment.  The scholarship and brilliance of authors such as Melanie Joy, T. Colin Campbell and others has been eye-opening and inspiring.

The title of this book is a bit of a misnomer, if only because the word “diet” conjures the old tired quick fix weight loss thing.  The subtitle, “Eating for Spiritual Health and Social Harmony” gets closer to the crux of the subject matter.  Rather than try to sum it up myself, here is the description of the book from Amazon:

Food is our most intimate and telling connection both with the living natural order and with our living cultural heritage. By eating the plants and animals of our earth, we literally incorporate them. It is also through this act of eating that we partake of our culture’s values and paradigms at the most primal levels. It is becoming increasingly obvious, however, that the choices we make about our food are leading to environmental degradation, enormous human health problems, and unimaginable cruelty toward our fellow creatures.

The World Peace Diet suggests how we as a species might move our consciousness forward so that we can be more free, more intelligent, more loving, and happier in the choices we make.

Because this book was a number one Amazon bestseller in 2010, I was interested in reading comments and reviews by the Amazon customers.  Predictably this book resonated powerfully with, well, the “choir”.  Those readers who were interested in the subject matter were already highly conscious about the need for a global change in our diets.  This is my and David’s lens as well, and still the book and its message have stimulated hour after hour of discussion about history, society, philosophy and spirituality. Is this not the stuff of a great book group read?

So what do you think folks?  Are you ready to step it up and tackle some new subject matter?  Are you willing to expose yourselves to disturbing truths about ourselves and our society?  I can’t promise that you will be comfortable.  I can promise that if you can tolerate your discomfort you (and your book group) will have an experience you will never forget.