Monday, March 30, 2009

Let's! Go! Bowling! But only if the bowling alley has tofudogs.

So one of the fun things about being on the Vegan Etsy team is that you end up finding about all of these events that benefit animals. Unsurprisingly, many of them depend on outside contributions for greater success, and they frequently involve fun stuff like raffles and silent auctions. And, yes, that's usually where the team comes in. We donate... stuff! And then worthwhile organizations turn that stuff into cold hard cash, with which to help stray dogs and cats, feed the goats in their animal sanctuaries, et cetera.

This morning I sent off packages of donations for two such events. The first was for SASHA Farm, a sanctuary which will be having a fundraising event featuring a silent auction in I believe mid-April. I sent one of my odd little paperweights, and also a necklace that I made over the weekend. The necklace was beaded with red heart shaped Czech glass beads, and in the middle there's a turtle charm! I think it's way cute, but unfortunately I totally forgot to take a picture of it. (That's OK though; I'm gonna do another one for my shop so we can all revel in the cuteness.) I also didn't think to take a picture of the awesome gift boxes that I sent both items off in.. but oh well, so it goes. I hope they bring in a little something for SASHA.

The second was for Bowling for Animals! Best name ever. It's a fundraising project of SNAP - the Spay and Neuter Action Project in San Diego. And hey, my sister's in San Diego, and she's got at least one cat, so there ya go. Apparently this is their eleventh annual bowling event, so if you're in the area you should stop by - who doesn't love bowling? To them I sent six pairs of earrings, hot from the presses - that is, made in my studio over the weekend - and a journal, all to be used as raffle prizes. I hope the people enjoy. I have no idea how they're planning on breaking up the raffle prizes, so whether it will be helpful or detrimental to them for me to have put all the earrings on one pretty card and put that inside a pretty gift box, I don't know. Meh. Any way about it, I think/hope the items will prove useful, popular, whatever.

There's a certain kind of satisfaction that comes from taking a more active role in these kinds of events than just sending a check. Of course I'd encourage everyone to do that as well! And ideally I'd like to be even more hands-on, and taking part in events of this kind for animals in New York and in New Orleans. (Or tabling at events to promote food education, dream of dreams.) But it's all got to start somewhere. And really, I'm just excited that the team has given me this new avenue. So many of us are full of this feeling, I think, of "I wanna help!", but we have no idea what we can do with it. This kind of opportunity fits the bill perfectly, matching the people who want to help with the people who can take that help and make it really productive.

Alright, enough of that kind of musing. Here's the awesome Bowling for Animals logo pic for your enjoyment - it competes with the event title for Most Coolest Thing Ever.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Me and my triumphant (?) return - the whole food and juice plan.

As promised, I'm back. Not that I ever went away; I've been here and ranting at you. But I'm back to talk about my sugar/general food addiction, the fact that I've gained back a couple of the pounds that I managed to lose in February, and my new approach.

You may have some theories, based on the title of this post, as to what direction I'm heading in. Yes, that's right, I'm going on an all coconut ice cream and Newman's O's diet! Wait, no. Sorry, the sugar addict got hold of the keyboard for a minute. What I'm *actually* doing is shifting toward how I would like to be eating all the time forever, with one major difference at lunchtime because I do need to lose somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 to 20 pounds.

It breaks down like so.

*I will concentrate on real, whole foods: fruits and vegetables, unprocessed whole grains (the grains themselves here - brown rice, quinoa, oats, barley, etc.), raw nuts, and legumes. Fresh, local, in season, and organic are of course always better, but I can do some frozen and canned because many things retain the vast majority of their nutritional value with these treatments - beans are a good example.

*I will eat limited amounts of tofu, miso, and seitan, whole grain products (like bread and pasta), potato foods (like perogi and gnocci - and of course potatoes themselves), processed foods (only those with ingredients I recognize), and less refined sugars such as turbinado sugar and agave nectar. My goal is to only have one meal a day that really features any of these foods.

*I will, for the time being, completely eliminate deep-fried foods (sorry veg tempura!), refined sugars, and processed foods with ingredients I don't recognize or with overly long ingredient lists comprised of things other than vegetables or spices. You know what I'm talking about. So, no more Tofurkey deli meat and sausages, no more ground meat for my fake sloppy joes, and so on. It's mainly fake meat that's out the door, which is OK because I don't eat much of it anyway. Once I've got myself under control, in a couple of months maybe, these might move from "never" foods to "once every month or two" foods. Maybe. I have a real problem with self control, so I have to be careful. If I give the addict an inch, she takes a mile. (Four servings in a pint of ice cream? Are they serious???)

And the big lunch plan? Juice! That's right, Sam the juice cart man is gonna get a whole boatload of my business this month. My favorite juices are all vegetable with just a little fruit - Carrot orange celery is a good example. There are all veg juices that are great too, like carrot celery beet. I like to base things in carrot, since it's creamy and sweet while having very little actual sugar. And every now and then I like to throw in a bit of cleansing parsley or lemon. Really, it's fun coming up with juice combos. The only real downside is that, it being April, I'll more than likely be going out in the rain a few times to get my juice fix.

If you're thinking I'm going to starve to death just having juice for lunch, fear not. I have a plan, and it goes like so:

Breakfast
-whole grains (not a whole grain cereal, mind you) like oats or a muesli
-hot tea - I'm on a chai kick lately, real chai - black tea with all kinds of wonderful spices, yeah.

11am Snack
-likely yogurt or nuts, or possibly some fruit - around 150 to 200 calories

Lunch
-24 ounces of wonderful fresh juice! It actually fills the stomach rather nicely.

5pm snack
-a little something to hold me until real dinner - again probably nuts or fruit

Dinner
-whatever Jonathan or I whip up that match the above-stated parameters. Hopefully salads pretty often - I got some good stuff last night at the grocery.

In the proper framework, I think I can avoid being unbearably hungry. I've found that at work I can stave off hunger pains with tea - not that I'm skipping meals or anything, but when you get in the habit of eating too much, your stomach expects you to keep doing it and complains if you don't. I have good tea at work - loose leaf oolong. It's my afternoon ritual. Not only does it keep me from getting hungry, but it's also a nice stress reliever and gets me away from my damn computer for a minute.

My breakfast this morning? Bob's red mill oatmeal with cinnamon and agave nectar (just a smidge) and my trusty cup of chai.

My weight this morning? 176.8.

So, that's my story. Wish me luck. And as always, keep your fingers crossed for me.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I'll have the filet mignon, with a side of penicillin, please.

I've been trying to do some research on allergic reactions to residual antibiotics in meat and dairy products. I know for a fact that it happens, but for some reason I can't find any real scientific studies on it. Or, maybe correct that - any that I don't have to pay over $30 to get. (Side rant - why does a certain segment of the scientific community keep its research on monetary lockdown? There are so, SO many papers I want to get that I'd have to pay an arm and a leg for. Aarg.)

Anyway, I'm having to collect the info in bits and pieces - as is the status quo when it comes to food industry practices. I'm planning to put together a full blown article on it for my next issue of Vegetable Vegetable Mineral. But I just wanted to share this little tidbit, and discuss it for a minute.

The following is a quote from a page of PBS's excellent Frontline series. Read, and be terrified with me:
The meat industry doesn't publicize its use of antibiotics, so accurate information on the amount of antibiotics given to food animals is hard to come by. Stuart B. Levy, M.D., who has studied the subject for years, estimates that there are 15-17 million pounds of antibiotics used sub-therapeutically in the United States each year. Antibiotics are given to animals for therapeutic reasons, but that use isn't as controversial because few argue that sick animals should not be treated.
This echoes a statement I've found all over: namely, that we don't actually have any idea of the actual quantity of antibiotics being given to livestock animals. Uh... does that strike anyone else as a problem? See, cuz I'm thinking that we have, like, regulatory agencies that are supposed to be tracking what's in our food supply. We've been knowing for at least eight years or so that this kind of administration of drugs to "food animals" is enabling the evolution of some really frighteningly resistant bacterial strains.

It's beyond question that nothing even approaching one out of even every thousand animals slaughtered for food is tested for such things - and when they are tested, it's done by the people selling them, not by a regulatory agency. Couldn't the factory farms at least be forced to keep records of the drugs they administer? (Because people, the small family farmer is not the issue here. That scale of farm doesn't need this kind of antibiotic dumping.) Of course such record wouldn't be accurate, but it would be a start... or something...

Oh, and um, did I forget to mention that there are many, many people in this world with deadly antibiotic allergies? Because what is also without question is that these drugs are still in the meat when it gets to the grocery. Umyeah.

I'm gonna go out on a limb and call this whole thing a problem.

Of course what I keep coming upon is articles about how without the antibiotics, herds would be "decimated" by infection. Sure they would. But only because they're being kept in deplorable conditions, way too close together, nowhere near the grassy hillside portrayed on the truck that will later ship their slabbed carcases to the grocery store on nice neat white styrofoam platters... People seem to have forgotten that this kind of antibiotic dosage has only been "necessary" for about fifty years.

We have awfully short memories.

I'm also finding the articles that talk about how discontinuing the antibiotic use would drive up the cost of meat. Funny how other things that are difficult to produce and completely unnecessary to have are also somewhat expensive, and yet no one questions why. Bottom line? Maybe meat should be a lot more expensive, and maybe we should be "producing" a lot less of it...

Yes, I am the frustration.

Friday, March 20, 2009

I heart you... with leather?

So, I used to be a myspace addict. I have four (4) myspace profiles, and for a time there I was on all four, all day long, checking obsessively. Did I get any messages? Any comments? Any friend requests!? It was a temporary incarnation of what seems to be a permanent condition.

See, there's always something that I'm checking obsessively. Lately it's bead shopping. Immediately before that it was cross stitch shopping, and before that seeing how many views each of my Etsy items had gotten, and whether or not any of them had been "hearted". The Etsy thing, really, is a fairly constant check, one that doesn't go away. A few times a week at least I need to see who just "hearts" my whole shop in general.

I engaged in such a check this morning, and found that I had three new hearters. For joy! It makes a girl feel loved, or at least appreciated for her craft. When I get these hearts, I generally go check out the profile, or shop if there is one, of the person leaving it. This morning's selection... held some surprises.

The first was just a user, not a seller. As is typical, there wasn't much of a profile. Cool, she digs me, moving on. The second was a fellow Vegan Etsy team member with a very cute shop - always fun to find each other. Awesome. And then I came to the third. It was immediately obvious how she'd found me - her location is also listed as Long Island City. And I thought, is there another team member within spitting distance of my studio? Because really, how cool would that be?

Well, taking a look at her shop it became evident very quickly that this person was NOT a member of any vegan group. Leather items were featured prominently throughout the shop, most of which took the shape of animal bookmarks. Refusing to give up hope entirely, I clicked on the monkey - because maybe, just maybe, it was fake leather?

Ummyeah, no such luck. Not did it only boast of being crafted from genuine natural-tanned leather, but the listing also stated that these were "Bookmarks for the Animal-lovers of the world!" And what really cracked me up - she made a point of clarifying that vegetable based dyes had been used.

My gut reaction was to click the link at the bottom of the page to "contact the seller about this item", and write the following:
Why would animal lovers want to purchase the DEAD FLESH OF ANIMALS? Please un-heart me immediately.
Now, fortunately I quickly thought better of this. Because while it's true that the adoration of a leather peddler baffles me, and while she probably just did it to put one more link to her shop out there, I nevertheless don't want to come off as that girl. You know, the self-righteous vegan jerk. If I do contact her, I want to state my case a bit more eloquently.

And state my case I may because this does irk me. Her shop is cute on the surface I guess, but I don't want to be associated with someone who so proudly sells leather. OK, so her uncle in Japan is the "master leather craftsman" making the stuff. Does that make it any less the parts of dead animals? No. I also doubt that he's the person killing the cows and stripping them of their skin either.

And while her association with me is vague, it now exists, and as far as I can tell there's nothing I can directly do about it. The only way to eradicate it is to ask her to undo it. (I do know for a fact that she can; I have un-hearted people - bead sellers, for instance, upon realizing that they carried a large selection of bone that I'd somehow missed upon the first visit to their shop, etc.)

But if I ask, will she? What will be the long term ramifications of that?

The fact is that plenty of people have hearted me that are definitely not vegan. Many are my friends. Many are shops that are not vegan-run. But none are people who abhor or disrespect the vegan lifestyle or ethic (to my knowledge), and none of the shops feature non-vegetarian wares. Because when it comes down to it, why would people who sell non-vegetarian items want to be associated with a proudly all-vegan shop? It's a bit nonsensical.

Basically I'm just not sure how to handle this situation. How to keep my associations within my ethical boundaries, yet avoid coming off like a total bitch? I'm taking suggestions, so if you've got any please offer them up.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

It's my third... :)

Yup, that's right, today is my third veganniversary. La de da, isn't it glorious to be a vegan? It took a while for me to get good at it, but at this point I consider myself a pro. As I'm sure you've gathered by now I've lately become active on the Vegan Etsy team - so active, in fact, that I was chosen as last week's member of the week. Yes, there's one chosen every week... but still, I was honored. And in case you didn't get to catch the interview there, I thought I'd post it here for your enjoyment. So... here ya go.

* * *
Interview with Melissa Bastian of Bright - BrightDesign.etsy.com

How did you choose the name of your shop and how long have you been a member of Etsy?
I became intrigued with the word "bright" one day when I was shopping for paintbrushes. I'm very particular about my brushes; not only do I have to I have to avoid those made with "natural bristles" (read: from animals!), but I'm also quite picky about shape. Outside of the odd round or filbert, almost all of my brushes are bright - almost square. I saw the word that day and it just struck me - it has so many positive connotations. Plus, it sticks with my B theme.

I've been a member of Etsy since the spring of 2008; I had taken a sabbatical from my day job (as a legal assistant, believe it or not) and was throwing all of my energies into my creative pursuits. It was a short-lived but worthwhile phase.

What kinds of items do you sell in your shop and what inspired you to start creating them?
I make a somewhat wide range of objects in my shop, and each has had a bit of a different evolution. Many of them spring from my desire to make something interesting and useful out of what was previously 'left for dead', as it were. I think people are now calling this upcycling. (I live in a hole - I just heard this word for the first time like last week.)

A good example is my envelopes: I take the pages from magazines that no one wants to read anymore and turn them into an extra-special package for your written correspondence. There are others: I use paper that would be thrown away from my utterly wasteful office (they refuse to institute a recycling program, and my efforts at starting one have been squashed) to make journals. I also like to rehabilitate old t-shirts and other clothing items with new stencil designs.

I have always made things, and at some point in my twenties I realized I'm not truly happy unless I'm actively engaged in some sort of creation.

Do you donate to any charities or do any volunteer work?
My fiance and I donate to Farm Sanctuary in upstate New York. I am also giving 25% of any proceeds from sales of my New Orleans-related items, including one zine and a series of paintings, to a group called the Common Ground Collective. I, along with many friends and family members, lost my home in Hurricane Katrina, and Common Ground is providing incredible support on a grassroots level to people in less affluent neighborhoods that are still trying to rebuild and prevent their homes and land from being claimed by the government.

Lately I've been donating craft items to various events: six envelope sample packs went to a meatout event with which Vegan Etsy team member ShopDeviant is involved, I'm donating a paperweight to the SASHA Farm Sanctuary silent auction, and I'll be sending a raffle prize (or prizes) to an upcoming Bowling for the Animals event - I just have to figure out what yet!

I have a strong desire to start volunteering with one of the groups that does food education work here in the city, such as Sustainable Table or Just Food. It's something I hope to pursue in the near future.

What are some of your favorite things about etsy?
I could talk for days about how great Etsy is, but I'll try to focus on the very best things. I love having a place to shop for goods where I know I'm supporting people rather than corporations. And the variety that can be found is astounding! I know that I can just search the "VeganEtsy Team" tag and find every kind of product under the sun, all vegan, and all made by vegans! It's made birthday shopping a lot easier and a lot more fun. I've also found a great community on Etsy, both within and apart from the Vegan Etsy Team.

Do you sell your items outside of etsy, either online or in retail shops?
Right now physical and electronic copies of my very short book / very long zine "The Plague Project" are for sale on Lulu.com, a self-publishing website; physical copies are available in my Etsy shop as well. The zine addresses challenges I've faced and things I've learned in dealing with a chronic illness since my late teen years. I am working on having a few items sold at shops in and around New York City. And I'm also excited to be a part of Vegan Craft Samples, a project of VeganEtsy's Holistically Heather.

Have you been featured anywhere?
I think that depends on the definition of "featured". :) I had a "one woman show" last summer, kicking off with a zine release event for "Anywhere I Lay My Head", which chronicles my experiences with Katrina, and extending into a two month long show of my paintings and photography of New Orleans in the months and years following the storm. It took place at Think Coffee at the corner of Bleecker and Bowery, a great little shop.

Do you have any future plans for your shop?
So, so, so many things to post... for that matter, so many things to make!

What kinds of hobbies and interests do you have?
Most of them are apparent in my Etsy shop - even the fact that I'm addicted to reading leaks through. I love to take long walks and visit the Brooklyn Botanic Garden when my body and schedule will allow it. I'm also a chronic blogger, and write a decent number of short stories and nonfiction articles. Most recently I've taken up cross stitching - it's actually something I did when I was a child but not for long and not well. Now that I'm an adult who (theoretically) has patience, I want to learn for real! And, of course, I started a blog about it...

In truth I spend all of my "free time" doing one of five things: crafting, doing research on nutrition and the food industry, blogging or otherwise internetting, reading, and hanging out with my man. These frequently overlap!

Do you have any animal companions?
Not any longer, though I do maintain "Mom" status and full visitation rights with my cat Monkey who still lives with two good friends in New Orleans. Long story short, he's happier where he is than he would be with me, and it would be cruel to take him away from the people he's with now who love him. But I miss him terribly!

Do you have any websites besides your shop that you would like to tell us about?
There's my "combined" blog, called Ok, all together now! I have many blogs that I update, but I copy most posts to this one so that people don't have to work too hard to keep up. I also have a blog that revolves around the experiences of living my vegan life in New York City, called I like New York in green, how about you? Not all of the posts from this one make it to the combined blog. And, of course, there's the new one for my cross stitching! I'm calling it crosseyed.

How long have you been vegan and what made you go vegan?
Becoming vegan was really the inevitable culmination of a long and multifaceted discovery process. I, like so many others, had become interested in vegetarianism and animal rights in my early teen years. Unfortunately, I (also like so many others) at that time lacked the dedication and follow-through to stick with a vegetarian diet or to properly educate myself. But a seed had been planted in my head, and thankfully it never ceased to grow.

In my twenties, due to failing health and a medical system with a poor understanding of what I was going through, I began to research nutrition. It didn't take long for that to become a study of our current food industry. And after a few years of research, I sort of reached a point of no return. I could no longer be part of a system that would create and profit (greatly) from such tainted foods, and do so by torturing animals, abusing workers, destroying ecosystems... I've done a fair amount of writing on this subject.

I'm excited to say that March 17th will mark my third veganiversary. I'm planning to celebrate it by releasing a new vegan zine!

Do you have any favorite vegan things, like books, websites, stores, etc.?
My favorite writers on the food industry in general are Marion Nestle and Michael Pollan, although Pollan does get on my nerves a bit. I also think that "Diet for a Dead Planet" by Christopher Cook is an amazing piece of work; highly recommended for anyone who's interested in learning about the current state of our food supply. I could actually suggest books all day long. (I'll refrain, but if anyone's interested please feel free to contact me!)

As far as other things, outside of the Vegan Etsy team items I love Pangea Vegan Products. The website is a really great resource for people who don't live in big and/or vegan friendly cities but still want access to awesome vegan stuff - I imagine that if and when I leave New York I will rely on it heavily. And for those of us in New York, we have SuperVegan - the most awesomest website ever.

What are your favorite foods?
I love love love smoked tofu - hot or cold, in entrees, salads, sandwiches, whatever. Try this: sliced smoked tofu (bbq flavor is best) with slices of a good sweet crisp apple, on any good bread with any good mustard: best sandwich ever.

I'm a big fan of various "ethnic" cuisines: Japanese, Indian, Vietnamese, and Thai mainly. Oh, and Ethiopian is awesome! There are also a couple of restaurants here in NYC that have various pate-like substances made of things like nuts and sunflower seeds - amazing. (New York City is sort of a candyland for vegans - if you're ever coming through town and want to know what's the best lunch spot, drop a line!)

And of course I can't fail to mention that I'm a complete ice cream whore. Among my favorites are Rice Dream's ice cream bar covered with chocolate and peanuts and their chocolate mint pie, and any of the Purely Decadent ice creams made with coconut milk. The truth is that I'm really quite the sweets addict. I love good dark chocolate, which is why I'm thrilled that we have several team members making chocolate and chocolate covered treats! I also get a real kick out of Japanese treats like mochi and daifuku.

Who am I kidding? I just love food!

Is there anything else you would like to add or share?
For any non-vegan readers who are interested in vegetarianism or veganism, I'd be happy to answer any questions you might have - whether it's about how to achieve a proper balance with nutrition while eating a vegan diet, what daily life as a vegan is like, or what the best brands of ice cream are! Becoming vegan can seem like a huge step, but it's really not as difficult as some people (your mom?) can make it out to be.

And to my fellow vegan readers, I'm always up for a good chat about vegan nutrition, the food industry, sustainable agriculture - whatever! I'd love to hear from any of you. I'd also be interested in working with others who make zines - anyone want to start a new vegan zine project? Not just a cook zine - there are so many topics to be covered!

To sum up, I'm always happy to provide whatever support I can in helping anyone and everyone in moving toward a more healthy, ethical, and environmentally conscious diet.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Two things.


One: I wrote and released a new zine! It's called Vegetable Vegetable Mineral, and it's about the food industry. Don't worry, no gore. Just facts, and things to ponder. It is of course written from an undoubtedly vegan perspective, but I've attempted to make it a zine for anyone and everyone who cares about the food that they eat and the things that are being done to it behind closed doors, unbenounced to innocent consumers. You can take a better look at it here.

Two: I made some awesome cookies! Or, cookie brittle that is. And it's all thanks to Molly of the Vegan Etsy team's Emma's K9 Kitchen. She posted this interesting recipe, and I just had to try it out. You should too! (Oh, and that awesome picture of them? Totally Molly's picture.)

This is a recipe that my mom gave me which I veganized. It's great with tea or coffee!

1 cup margarine (I use Earth Balance)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
2 cups flour
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Cream the margarine, vanilla and salt together. Beat in the sugar. Add the flour, chocolate chips and 3/4 cup nuts. Mix together well then press into a 15x10 jelly roll pan.
Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and press the remaining 1/4 cup of nuts into the top.
Cool completely, then break it into pieces.


Yes, it's supposed to be way thin. Yes, it's supposed to come out super crunchy. Yes, it's completely awesome! Thanks Molly!

Yay for cookies, yay for zines, and yay for Saturdays. Woot.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Et tu, cross stitch?

This is a little number that I wrote for my cross stitch blog. But I thought it was pretty apt for this blog too... so here ya go!

* * *

So, we know there are animal products in, like, everything. Marshmallows, shampoo, car tires - nothing is safe from animal additives. But somehow I thought that cross stitching would be clean. Alas, no.

I've been looking at the advanced pretty kits - I figure I'll never be able to design really complex charts without first delving into one that's provided to me, floss and all, to get a feel for how things get put together. And one thing I've noticed is that a lot of them come with wool thread.

It's not just in the advanced kits either. I've seen in in the crappy little kits for children - the ones that come with 6 point plastic aida and what is essentially yarn. (Side topic - why do they make those things so damn ugly?) Looking into it, I found that DMC, the most popular manufacturer of stitching floss, makes 180 colors of wool floss.

Wool? Really? I mean, why? Sure, wool can be really useful for making coats, because it is good at keeping people warm. (Of course, in this modern age we have plenty of modern substitutes.) Wool yarn, while I certainly don't like it, at least makes some sense - people make wearable garments out of yarn. But we're talking about decorative needlepoint here - objects that, when finished, will be framed and hung on a wall or maybe be put on a pillow. Wool? Completely unnecessary. Unless of course you're afraid that your pillow and/or wall is going to get really cold? Um... yeah.

Wool is one of those animal items that doesn't need to be nearly as brutal as it is. It's much in the same category as eggs or milk; we can get these products with little or no harm to the animals that produce them... theoretically. But for some reason we choose not to. For some reason? Who am I kidding, we all know the reason: profit. How can we make more? How can we make it faster? Do whatever it takes! And who cares that these "products" come from living things.

*Sigh.*

Suffice it to say that if your kit incorporates wool floss, I won't be purchasing it - no matter how gorgeous it may be.

P.S. - Just noticed - of course there's silk stuff too...

Monday, March 09, 2009

A little more proof that fast "food" isn't.

I know, I know, I've been on a video kick. But you'll like this one, I promise.



Reminiscent of the experiment that Morgan Spurlock did, letting real burgers and fries age in glass jars beside fast food versions... and guess what? The food that was made of food actually rotted and got covered in mold when left out. The McDonald's stuff? Well, it sure did sit in a glass jar. Aw hell, why not make this a twofer?

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Me and my ass... just need a break.

Obviously I need to be doing something differently. Yes, I've dropped my calorie intake. But as the fates would have it, my activity level took a hit at the same time. Bodies being the dynamic and adaptable machines that they are, mine seems to have burned off about ten of its extra pounds and then found a point of stasis.

For the last four weeks, my weight has fluctuated between just over 174 pounds to just over 176 pounds, back and forth, back and forth. Frustrating to say the least, but that is the way of bodies. Especially when temperatures are below freezing, they want to stay insulated and keep stores of energy, just in case. And hell, sitting at a damn desk all day and not able to walk much, I might as well be in some kind of hibernation.

Now, about that physical activity level. The foot thing is still not resolved. I have found a brace/pull on ace bandage type thing that does help, and I've now cut out the circulation-obstructing parts so I can actually wear the thing all day. But given that the foot still hurts pretty good every morning, and that my sciatica is acting up like crazy, I still don't know that it's a good idea to try my real long walks. I've at least been able to resume my normal walking: the three blocks from my apartment to the subway (don't laugh - that was pretty difficult for a minute there), and more importantly the ten blocks from the N train to my office.

So what to do from here? I have a few ideas.

First and foremost, I need to get back to the chiropractor. My back is goddamn killing me. Not being able to move normally, and not moving as much, is definitely throwing things out of whack and exacerbating every problem.

Then, regarding food. I'll continue to eat the same number of times a day - about five. It breaks down as follows:

1) cereal and tea when I wake up (about 150 calories)

2) a yogurt or other small snack around 11am (about 150 calories)

3) lunch between 12:30 and 2pm (300 - 400 calories)

4) another small meal between 5:30 and 6:30, when I get home from work (300 - 400 calories)

5) a final small meal around 8pm (300 - 400 calories)

This is what I've been trying to do since my "diet" began, with varying levels of success each day. Challenges come on Thursdays, when I have an evening appointment (which I ALWAYS forget to plan for food wise) that throws things off, and leaves me starving and tempted to eat whatever crap I can buy from a bodega or drugstore or the nuts-for-nuts guy. Weekends are just one long challenge, because they lack the schedule that is imposed on weekdays by the office job, which comes with its pre-ordained lunchtime and, by its very nature, demands that I pack pre-measured appropriately portioned lunches for myself. I could of course do this for weekends too. I, um, don't. Would you? No, didn't think so.

So what am I going to do differently, if I'm doing all of that the same?

Well, for starters I'm going to stop counting calories for a while. It gets really tedious, like homework for a class you hate. And one universal truth about any diet is that if it really aggravates you, you'll never keep following it. So I'll keep packing appropriate portions for my lunch and such, and trying to mentally calculate the ballpark of what the calories might be, but no more calculating. Not for a while at least. And I'm going to take a break from the weekly weighs, because it's becoming disheartening, and that's not productive.

I also need to take a good look at the actual food I'm eating. In this long, hard, mentally and physically challenging winter, I've strayed far from the whole grains and raw fruits and vegetables that I should be focused on. I've been incorporating much, much more processed food into my diet in the past two months than I'd really like to, and that has to stop. It is likely another factor in why my weight has ceased to drop.

So through the month of March, I'll be working on shifting my focus back to raw and lightly cooked vegetables, complimented with fruits of all kinds and a multitude of whole grains - which I really do quite enjoy. There's brown rice, which awesomely enough I can get perfectly cooked from the takeout Chinese place around the corner from my apartment. There's quinoa, which I have more success at cooking than I do with rice, and which is so versatile a grain that I could easily be eating it twice a week without getting tired of it. There's wheat, which I try not to eat a lot of because it is so omnipresent that we tend not to notice how much of it creeps in - but some truly whole grain wheat is a very nutritious substance indeed. And in reality there are dozens of others - barley, oats, and a bunch of stuff that I don't know the name of... but could!

And of course we can't forget our legumes. beans are wonderful, full of protein, available in an endless variety, and tasty on top of it all. Soy of course falls into this category. I'll continue to eat tofu; I'm not cutting out all processed foods, just the majority, and as far as processing goes at least it's a fairly low level. As to what processed foods I will eat, maybe that good old rule of thumb: only the ones whose ingredients I can actually recognize?

As I mentioned, I really do need to kick the sugar. This is a battle I've been trying to fight, and actively losing, for literally at least a decade. I know I can't quit it entirely; every time I've tried I've ended up in a binge that's made me ill. I'm a serious addict, with no less a chemical problem than a chain smoker. And of course it's also an emotional crutch. So I'm going to try to take an emotional, bribe-type approach to it: I believe I'll allow myself one really terrible treat just once a week. It'll be on a set day, probably Sunday, when I'm always a bit down in the mouth (because I have to go to work the next day) and therefore having serious cravings. Then, when cravings strike during the week, I'll just have to tell myself, "But on Sunday the giant peanut butter cup is waiting for you. You can hold out. And if you have that ice cream now, no peanut butter cup..." We'll see if that works.

Long term, I have a bigger plan. April will be my month to get serious. The plan is to go... on a pseudo juice fast!

What does that mean? Well I'll tell you. Four of my five meals will stay the same. But the one in the middle, that 12:30-ish one, that lunchtime one, will be replaced with fresh juice! I'll be hitting up my juice cart man for a large carrot-orange-celery, or maybe carrot-beet-spinach, or perhaps even orange-beet-kale! Sky's the limit over there. The plan is to do that throughout the month of April.

Then, on May first, I'll get on the scale and see where I'm at, and begin with the calorie counting again. And with any luck, the weather will have calmed and be warming a bit by then, and perhaps my body will have settled down enough that I can actually start walking again! That would be real progress.

So until May, no more weigh-ins. I'll of course still be talking about the trials and tribulations though - it's not as if I'm going to magically become a person who can keep quiet.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

She's Francis Moore Lappe's daughter...

...and she's awesome.



See?

I especially like the part about, "and I don't know about you, but I don't plan on buying any new appliances any time soon..." Ha! Totally.

Change your light bulbs. Yeah, OK. Because it's individual households, and not, say, corporations, that are using up the vast majority of our coal-generated energy. Ummyeah. Shur. Oh, and the real troubles with water supplies? It's not because rich jerks who live in desert environments want real grass golf courses, or because we raise hundreds of thousands of cows and other "food animals" that need hundreds of thousands of pounds of corn (which they shouldn't be eating) to feed them all - no. It's actually because YOU left the WATER RUNNING while you were BRUSHING YOUR TEETH!

How do you sleep at night?

Friday, March 06, 2009

The Food, Inc. Trailer!

Of COURSE all I had to do was go in google to find an embedable version of the trailer. Here you go. Sadly not the best quality, but you'll sure get the picture.



"The industry doesn't want you to know the truth about what you're eating - because if you knew, you might not want to eat it."

Umm... yeah.

And the website again.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Actually chicken nuggets *are* an emergency...

WPBF-TV
updated 7:49 p.m. ET, Wed., March. 4, 2009

FORT PIERCE, Fla. - A Fort Pierce woman called 911 three times to report an emergency after McDonald's had run out of McNuggets, according to a police report obtained Tuesday. Latreasa Goodman, 27, was issued a written notice to appear in court for misusing the 911 emergency communications system.

According to the report, Goodman called 911 three times Saturday to report that a McDonald's employee wasn't giving her a refund for the chicken nuggets she wanted.

When police arrived, Goodman said she purchased a 10-piece chicken McNuggets meal, received her change and then was told McDonald's had run out of McNuggets. Goodman said she tried to get a refund, but the cashier told her it was against store policy and that all sales are final.

"The manager just took my money and won't give me my money back, trying to make me get something off the menu that I don't want," Goodman said in one of the 911 calls. "I ordered chicken nuggets. They don't have chicken nuggets, and so I told her, 'Just give me my money back,' and she tells me I have to pick something else off the menu. She is not going to give me my money back, and she don't have the right to take my money."

According to the report, after police told Goodman the incident was not an emergency, Goodman replied, "This is an emergency. If I would have known they didn't have McNuggets, I wouldn't have given my money, and now she wants to give me a McDouble, but I don't want one. This is an emergency."


... except the emergency is that McDonald's is allowed to make them, call them food, and sell them to people. People who then EAT THEM. *Chilling.*

Just a (visual) note on how many chickens are slaughtered, largely for such quality fast "food" items:

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Food, Inc.

If I hadn't recently figured out that Marion Nestle, my semi-hero, keeps a blog about the goings on in the food industry, I wouldn't have heard about this. I am now extremely excited and full of anticipation for a documentary called Food, Inc. According to Nestle it's everything it should be, and I'm inclined to trust her opinion.

And it's not just her opinion I'm going on - according to the website the movie includes interviews of several of my favorite people, including Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation. Schlosser is an awesome speaker; in his interview in the extras on the DVD of Supersize Me he succinctly addresses so many of the food industry issues that confound me.

The website in and of itself is a great resource to have stumbled upon; it's stuffed full of information and links to old favorites like The Meatrix, and to new things that I've never even heard of. Ah, my food education, it never ceases.

Go ahead, watch the trailer. Just be prepared - because oh, my, god.

I CANNOT WAIT for this to be in an actual theater, or otherwise available. If you hear anything, lemme know; I'll do likewise.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Me and my pouting ass: week seven.

I don't per se want to talk about it, so I'll just give it to you straight. Somehow or other I've gained over two pounds since last week's weigh in. I in fact weighed just a smidge over what I did two weeks ago. I find this upsetting.

For starters, I've crossed back over that all-important ten pound threshold, back into single digit land. Not cool. But what's really bothering me is that I don't really know why.

I'm just gonna give you the numbers, keep my head down, and hope that next week looks a bit better.

1/11/9: 185 (starting weight)
1/18/9: 183.2 (less 1.8 pounds)
1/25/9: 181.8 (less 1.4 pounds)
2/1/9: 177.8 (less 4 pounds!!!)
2/8/9: 177.0 (less 0.8 pounds)
2/15/9: 176.2 (less 0.8 pounds)
2/22/9: 174.2 (less 2 pounds)
3/1/9: 176.4 (MORE 2.2 pounds)

I'm not in it, but that's cuz I made it.

I made my very own treasury! It was terrifying. See, Etsy only allows a certain number to be up at once (333), but then when it drops to 332 about 400 people try to get a treasury at once. And usually at least 100 of them do. So the number gets really high... the nervewracking part is when it gets close, watching it drop from the high 33o's...

Anyway. I assembled a treasury is the point of this ramble. And it looks like this.



Hee, aminals. It'll only be up until Monday afternoon, so you'd better go take a gander.