But Wait, There’s More!

In case you were as bored by the Oscars as I was last night (really dreadful), I offer you another really great show from the beautiful birds in my yard.  My awards to go…

Goldfinch, for the best feeder dancing:


Taking a well-deserved bow:


Hummingbird for most dainty drinking.  Down…


And up!


And down…


And up!


Oh, and the hummingbird also gets a nod for best-dressed (those are REAL feathers!)

And finally the award for best “park and bark” offering…


Keep singing, my friend.

Happy Monday all!







Best Show in Town

Spring has sprung here in Tucson.  We had plenty of winter rain so our canyon is green, the water is still rushing and the flowers are popping.  It’s a breathtaking time of year.  I’ve been hiking almost every day not wanting to miss a moment.  It’s quite a show.

The other day, when I was visiting my neighbor, I was mesmerized by the birds in her yard.  She had multiple feeders scattered about, and the activity and energy of the finches, cardinals, hummingbirds and quail was really something.  Good old- fashioned tweets!!  I left determined to create something similar in my yard, and I headed off to the wild bird store in town (yes, there is one) and got outfitted with feeders and seed designed to attract a wonderful array of birds in our area.

So I took a seat on my back deck and waited for word to get out.  Well, it didn’t take long.  Within the hour we had lots of visitors:



This guy was so happy with his meal that he tweeted the good news out to some of his friends:


In case you don’t think that birds (or other animals) have distinct personalities, check out the attitude of that little guy staring me down!  Watching these birds and listening to them communicate with each other is another reminder that ALL species have the same desire to survive and thrive as we do.  I feel very grateful that I live in an environment where I can watch these lovely birds live freely.  And I feel even more grateful that I will no longer turn right around and eat other animals for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

I believe that it is the right of all animals to be free to survive and thrive.  If you believe this too, please consider going vegan.  A cruelty-free life is really something to tweet tweet about 🙂

Huff Post, Vegas and Dal Dip

There’s a mishmash of a title!  What do these things have in common?  Well…nothing really, but I have a few things on my mind today and no one topic warranted a full post.  So this will be a post of “mini-posts”.  Which leads me to this “Post”…

Huffington Post

I’m a regular reader of the Huffington Post.  It’s where I get a quick peek at top news stories and lose myself browsing the “Healthy Living”, “Green”, and “Post-50” news and features.

Did you know that the Huffington Post has a “Veganism” section?  Neither did I!  You can take a look for yourself here.  I happened upon this today when I did a general Google search of “vegan news”, and I was surprised that I never noticed this section before.  I went back to the Huffingtonpost.com main page and started perusing all the sections trying to find the link to this page, but I couldn’t find it.  I was not surprised that Veganism didn’t have it’s own section like “Green” or “Black Voices” or “Taste” so I dug a bit further to see if it was a sub-section of one of these main sections.   I checked, “Green”, “Taste”, “Healthy Living” and even “GPS for the Soul” where a section on Veganism would be appropriate. But it was nowhere to be found.  Finally I just typed in “Veganism” in the “search the site” box, and I was connected to a listing of vegan-related articles from Huff Post, but not this page.  I found this all pretty odd.  Why have a section if nobody can find it?

In light of this, I was thinking about the current blog on Victoria Moran’s “Main Street Vegan” website. Victoria wrote an open letter to former President Clinton, a one-time vegan who recently “came out” as non-vegan on the Rachael Ray show. She also submitted her letter to Huffington Post and provided them with the documentation they needed to substantiate some of her claims. After many days, Huff Post finally decided not to run the piece.  According to Victoria, this was unusual as her articles are typically accepted.  This letter was a kind and respectful response to some of President Clinton’s comments (e.g. he might not have been getting enough “high quality protein” on the vegan diet) on the show.  You can read Victoria’s letter/submission here.

I’m not overly surprised that Huff Post would nix an article that challenges a former president in this way.  Unfortunately, Bill Clinton is a powerful voice, and in this case perhaps not the most accurate voice.  While he is certainly entitled to make his own food choices, his appearance on Rachael Ray was undoubtedly harmful to the vegan cause.  Sadly, ex-vegans, who originally went vegan for health rather than ethical reasons oftentimes bash veganism on the way out.  I don’t think they do themselves any favors by going back to any version of the SAD (Standard American Diet) but their rhetoric can be impactful.  Printing articles like Victoria’s allows for a direct response to these claims.

Ironically, during my same “vegan news” search that yielded the HP Veganism page I also read about a study published in the Journal of Pediatrics that compared a vegan diet to the American Heart Association’s recommended diet (probably not unlike President Clinton’s) in reducing obesity and heart disease risk factors in children.  The children on the vegan diet had significantly greater improvement in only one month on the plan. You can read this article here.

I guess the lesson here is that it’s imperative that we do our own research and not depend on ex-presidents , online news companies or anyone to do our research for us.  After all everyone’s got their own agenda.  Next up…

 Vegan in Vegas

David and I spent a few days in Las Vegas last week because he was attending a continuing education course that happened to be at Caesar’s Palace.  I am not a fan of Las Vegas (shocking, I know) but I decided to tag along with the idea of blogging about being vegan in Vegas.  Well, really there was not much to tell.  Vegas  (the strip anyway) is really not vegan-friendly.  With the notable exception of the Wynn properties (owner Steve Wynn is vegan) where you can find ridiculously expensive vegan options (maybe two or three) in the Wynn restaurants,  it was pretty much a vegan desert.

So how did I handle it?  I pretended I wasn’t in Vegas, ignored the strip and looked for the items that I would seek out in Chicago or New Jersey or anywhere I might visit.  So that included:

Breakfast-  Starbucks Soy Latte and Lara Bars ($15.00 for two lattes= insane!)

Snack- Freebie fresh fruit from the Caesar’s fitness center (which was gorgeous and predictably not crowded)

Lunch- Veggie burger at Whole Foods (took the bus off the strip) and Sofritas salad from Chipotle in a nearby food court

Dinner-  Overpriced but serviceable eggplant stir fry and cellophane noodle tofu bowl (Chinese place in Caesar’s) and chips and salsa and vegan tacos at Jose Cuervo’s in the LV airport (who knew?).

Considering that Las Vegas is all about excess, it’s not surprising that healthy eating is not what most visitors have in mind.  But I was surprised by just how few options there were.  I suppose that if you are comped for some of the big buffets there would be plenty to eat, but since I am a committed non-gambler, I was on my own.  I did okay but I was way glad to get home and get back to my own life which admittedly runs a bit minimalist, much like this plate of deliciousness…

Curried Dal Dip


Our favorite vegan eatery in Tucson is the Food for Ascension cafe (website here).  Lately they’ve been offering small plates for free before the main meal arrives.  These bites are usually dips or hummus type things.  In fact I learned to love hummus at Food for Ascension.  The last time we ate there, we had red lentil dal that was so delicious I had to try making it myself.  I looked at a bunch of recipes and settled on a curried dal (recipe here) that looked similar to the dish we had at the restaurant.

This recipe calls for a handful of ingredients and spices, most of which I already had on hand-red lentils, coconut milk, tomato paste, onion, garlic, cumin, chili powder and garam masala.  After cooking the lentils, everything gets sautéed together until the paste forms. I pulsed the whole mixture in the food processor just to get a smoother consistency.  Here’s a look at the processed dal:


Admittedly it looks a bit more appealing scooped out (I had fun with my ice cream scoop!) and arranged on the plate with the veggies and pita (naan would be great too).  This dip is incredibly flavorful and very very healthy.  It’s full of protein and only a tiny bit of oil is used for sautéing.  I’m kind of hooked on dips now so I’m pretty sure I’ll be trying and sharing some other varieties very soon.  Thinking a cashew mushroom pate might be next.

Enjoy, and don’t forget the ice cream scoop!

One problem, one solution

This important post so articulately states how I feel about veganism. I wanted to do my part to share its message. It seems it’s not uncommon to “get it” in our 50’s…

There's an Elephant in the Room blog


One problem or many?

It is not surprising that there is so much confusion in the ‘animal rights’ movement. It is all too easy to be misled into thinking that there are lots of different problems, and a range of different courses of action that an individual can take.  It is also all too easy to consider that these different actions are optional and vary in how ‘extreme’ they are.

Well surely there are lots of different problems…? After all, there’s anti fur campaigns, anti down and feather campaigns, anti hunting protests, a wide range of ‘welfare’ campaigns against factory farming practices, campaigns in favour of organic, free range animal farming, campaigns promoting CCTV in slaughterhouses, saving dolphins, anti bullfighting, anti eating dogs and cats, anti circus, anti zoo, anti poaching campaigns in support of elephants, rhinos, snow leopards… You name it – there’s a campaign and / or a protest. So…

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To Die For Wild Mushroom White Pizza


And it’s VEGAN!!!!

I never made a homemade, from-scratch pizza in my life.  Pizza has always been that food that was easier to go out for than cook myself.  Well, obviously that’s not the case anymore.  Making this divine pizza was a Saturday afternoon labor of love.  David and I found ourselves with a wide open day so we finally decided to tackle the “pizza project”.   Using a recipe from this book seemed like the way to go:


I found the recipe online as well over here.

Let me preface this by saying that what makes this dish so amazing is the layers and layers of flavor.  I did take lots of pictures of this process.  Here’s how we did it…

First we made the pizza dough.  Yeast dissolved in warm water (took me two tries to get it right!), regular and whole wheat flours, salt, sugar and a bit of olive oil all come together in a sticky, yet stiff ball:


The dough needed to sit covered for about 1 1/2 hours to rise, so while that was going on we got busy sautéing the mushrooms,  shallots, white wine, parsley and thyme:


Yum!  We moved that mixture to the processor for a few pulses and moved on to sautéing these:


This is a mix of exotic mushrooms we found at Whole Foods.  While I was sautéing these, David got busy rolling out our lovely ball of pizza dough:


Once it was rolled out, we moved the dough onto an oiled baking pan sprinkled with corn meal.  We brushed the dough with more olive oil, sprinkled it with minced garlic and added the processed mushrooms and wild mushrooms:


We popped this in the oven to cook.  Here’s how it looked when it came out:


I had a great time peeking into the oven to watch the dough puff up.  I was kind of surprised that it actually worked!

I made the mozzarella “cheese sauce” in advance (oops, no pics of that!).  To make the sauce, I blended raw cashews, lemon juice, salt, onion powder, garlic and corn starch in the Vitamix until it was super smooth.  Once the pizza was cooked I drizzled the mozzarella sauce on top, baked the pizza for one more minute and voila!


The final touch was a drizzle of chili oil which I also made in advance.  This is simply an infused olive oil (one cup oil, one tbsp red pepper flakes).  Here it is simmering on the stove:


This pizza was perfect, and everything a good pizza should be.  Crispy and chewy crust and tons of flavor.  This was easily the best “white pizza” I have ever tasted.  The sweet shallots and earthy mushrooms and bite of heat from the chili oil combine to make each bite a real taste sensation.

I’m not going to claim that this pizza was easy to make, but now that I’ve done it once, the next time will be a breeze.  I  have leftover chili oil and mozzarella sauce and both will keep in the refrigerator.  And making the dough is really very simple and I always have those ingredients on hand.   While it does take a bit of time I can say definitively that the result is well worth the trouble. You will be shocked at just how authentic and delicious a vegan pizza can be.


Thoughts on Groundhog Day



It’s Groundhog Day today.   So if the little critter sees his shadow there’s more winter?  Less winter?  Oh, I don’t know.  I live in Tucson where we are happily into sunny spring.

But I did love the movie, “Groundhog Day”.  In case you haven’t seen it (is there anyone who hasn’t seen it?) it’s about a cranky and cynical weather man (Bill Murray) who is on assignment in Punxsutawney, PA to cover the yearly groundhog shadow-spotting event and related festivities.  He ends up getting snowed in and wakes up to learn that he is reliving the same day as the previous one. Essentially he gets to have a perpetual do-over.  And little by little he adjusts and changes until he becomes the person he wants to be–obviously a better version than the cranky and cynical version.

Well if you’re a regular reader of this blog you can probably guess where this one is going.  While I have often heard myself utter the words, “I want a do-over” what I know for sure (thank you Oprah) is that I didn’t need a do-over, but I did need a do-differently or do-better.    What is so compelling about Groundhog Day is that Phil, (Murray’s character) is the only one who is doing anything differently.  The only thing that is changing is him.  And that starts a progression of positive change in his relationships and how he sees himself.

I read a wonderful book recently called “Gratitude and Trust” by Paul Williams (the composer and performer) and Tracey Jackson  (author and Hollywood screenwriter).  This book is a slightly different take on the principles of 12-step recovery programs that can work for anyone.  It’s essentially a series of affirmations that serve as a guide to change.  The first of these affirmations is:

“Something has to change, and it’s probably me”

I’ve made huge changes in my life over time.  I homeschooled one of my children.  I moved across the country.  I got into therapy. I got divorced.  I relocated again.  I got into therapy again. I got remarried.   I became vegan.   These changes were fueled by a fervent belief that my life could be better, that I could be happier and more fulfilled.  But even as I gritted my teeth and pressed on I still hadn’t fully groked:

Something has to change, and it’s probably me”

This is about commando accountability and honesty.  We don’t find ourselves in situations we put ourselves in situations.  No matter what’s going on we are full participants.  The choices we make are ours.  The good, the bad and the ugly.  Bad marriage?   Unfulfilling career?  Sedentary and overweight?   Estranged from our kids?  We are full participants.  Resentful?  Fatigued?  Lonely?  We are full participants.  Once we own that, we can begin to change it.

That being said we don’t need to go it alone.  We need to own our stuff, but we can find support from others- trustworthy partners, friends, therapists  or relatives who can handle and support the changes we are trying to make.  On the other hand we may need to distance ourselves from those who are threatened by our desire to change.

At times, the process of taking full responsibility for all that is in our lives may be painful and sad (hence wishing for do-overs) but letting go of the desire to blame or control others is at the same time wildly relieving, and it paves the way for real joy and serenity.   Focusing on ourselves in this way is not arrogant or selfish (although I’ve been accused of being both).  This is a humble place, and it doesn’t mean we don’t care.  Rather we care enough to let the people we love experience their own journeys and be accountable for their own choices.

Being accountable may impact outcomes and it may not.  Relationships may deepen or they may not.  Jobs may become more satisfying or they may not.  We’re not in the movies after all. And as long as we can only control ourselves this will be true. But I believe that everything feels better when we clean up our side of the street.  With a sense of greater clarity and integrity we can gradually (or not so gradually!) move toward situations that sustain and nurture us.

So if you are someone who watches Groundhog Day with nary a wish for a do-over I’m very very glad for you.  Please get out there and share your sense of joy and fulfillment with the world.  But if you yearn for something better, you can make it so.

It all starts with you.

Oh and it seems that Punxsutawney Phil did see his shadow, and I guess that means six more weeks of winter.  Sorry folks.