Thursday, September 27, 2007

Tales of a beef-eating vegan

Sometimes I worry that too many of my posts center on food. Everyone must think that I live only to stock my cupboards and fill my mouth. On the other hand, humans (and only select members of our population) are probably the only members of the animal kingdom that do not spend the majority of their time in pursuit of nourishment. You can just call me the organic Rachael Ray because here comes yet another food-related post. The world would be a cleaner, healthier place if more of us spent our lives foraging for organic and local food instead of buying whatever's cheap at Super Walmart.

We have two food-related developments in the 24 hours or so since I posted last. First, a relative called and asked if I wanted to buy a quarter of a beef cow (butchered and wrapped of course) for $75. It's not USDA certified organic, but it was raised locally and allowed to graze, so it's clean and chemical-free meat. And what a price! I'll be paying less than a dollar a pound.

Second, I found two sources of vegan meal ideas to indulge my growing love of seitan and tempeh. As much as I enjoy experimenting with the new flavors and textures, I have a hard time incorporating them into meals. Life in an Organic Vegan Food Co-op is a blog with enough easy but satisfying dinners to keep me busy for months. Everything is simple (no recipes needed for most of the dishes) and frugal, with ingredients that can be found locally in almost any area. Great Change Recipes features more complicated recipes with things like canned artichokes that are yummy but definitely out-of-area for Washingtonians. In some cases you can substitute ingredients, so it's worth a read. The corn and soy bacon cakes are going to become my new comfort food!

I am very interested in TVP because I have a cheap and local source, but I'm not sure exactly what to do with it. Any ideas?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

DHMO and you

Learn about this toxic chemical here.

This is, of course, a joke. Do you know the punchline already?

The chemical formula for dihydrogen monoxide is 'H2O', also known as water. But nothing on that web page is a lie. Water indeed causes death when inhaled (also known as drowning), and severe burns when in its gaseous state (steam burns). It is a major cause of erosion, storm systems, etc.

Let's keep this in mind when evaluating dangers. We should be cautious, but not rats blindly following the latest Pied Piper.

I found the above site today when looking for information on Splenda. A web-buddy claimed that it is one molecule away from plastic. Technically, every substance in the universe is one molecule away from plastic. Take water and carbon monoxide. One is H2O and the other CO2. Completely different molecules, but still "one molecule away" from each other. This is what we call hyperbole. If someone gives you this argument, they are either high school chemistry drop-outs or trying to deceive you.

This motivated me to investigate Splenda. I don't eat it, so I've never bothered to investigate. I know only that I see the little logo on everything. Could manufacturers be injecting a plasticine poison into every prepared food on the shelf? Sure, especially if we are clamoring for it. They're in this for money, not the karma.

From what I read, the jury is still out on Splenda. I don't know if I personally would eat it. If you are avoiding it, make sure you are basing your decision on fact and not hyperbole.

Monday, September 24, 2007

How to be a Good Houseguest

This weekend a good friend of our family proved that not all houseguests are in the stressful, demanding category.

Don't get me wrong; I love my family and friends, and with two states between clans, houseguests are a necessary evil. Opening one's home is an exercise in hospitality, and I consider myself a hospitable person. If I enjoy someone's company, it only follows that an extended visit should be an extended joy.

If only.

First, there are the children. Most of our friends and family have young children, who are bound to be crabby from the disruption in their daily life. Then there is the matter of meshing schedules between them and my younger children. Invariably, their naptime coincides with my children's jumping-on-the-couch-and-screaming time. Then there is the childish bickering and parental side taking. And on and on. However long-awaited the visit, all sides are happy to see it come to a close.

Then there are the pets. Dog people just cannot leave Poochie behind, even if Poochie is chronically incontinent and has a history of biting small children. Add to this that my children are afraid of dogs.

Last, the surprises. You will not realize that your sister-in-law snores or that your best friend gargles loudly at precisely 3:34 AM until you are sharing a domicile. After 3 days, all habits become annoying habits.

My husband's best friend took a giant leap toward my good side when he arrived without children or pets. Well, okay, he was already on my good side, but now he has some serious real estate between him and my last nerve.

Then he proceeded to be funny and tolerant for the entire long weekend. He put up with my kids, who followed him like paparazzi. He praised my cooking, which the rest of the household takes for granted. He gave us a good excuse to drive around the area and just look at stuff. He raved about the food I bought from the farmer's market.

I was honestly sorry to see him go. But all good things must come to an end, and, truth be told, I think we annoyed the hell out of him.

On a side note, I stopped by the Grocery Outlet and picked up a case of Fruitabu organic snacks and lots of other healthy goodies. They aren't local, but one could argue that buying salvage and/or factory seconds is the next best thing. I spent under twenty-three dollars for five grocery bags of organic food--can't beat that! If you have a Grocery Outlet near you, check them out for organic foods that can't be bought from local suppliers.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Keeping up with the Begley's

Hollywood types are one of my biggest pet peeves, particularly how they like to talk about how wasteful we normal types are even as they consume ten or more times the resources of an average American family. At last, a few exceptions!

Most adults function on the level of junior high schoolers, with celebrities functioning as the popular group. We study them, copy them, and want to be just like them. Civilians had no interest in Humvees until Arnie started driving one--now they are commonplace, a slightly less mundane version of the Suburban. And remember when everyone had that retarded Jennifer Aniston haircut?

We are all going to be in much better shape when conserving becomes as cool as consuming. Imagine the savings in carbon emissions when Paris Hilton is at the top of Best Dressed lists for wearing the same outfit three times--without washing it! Or when Al Gore puts his money where his spokeshole is and ditches the multiple mansions for one adequate dwelling. When Ted Turner sells his private jets and travels in a bought-used electric car. Not only would they be cutting back on their own excessive lifestyles, they would be setting a very public precedent for the rest of America.

I can't name a darn thing you've starred in, but thank you Ed Begley for NOT being a giant freaking hypocrite like most of your cohort.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Confessions of a Sasquatch

Have you ever taken a quiz to calculate your carbon footprint? The last one I tried estimated my footprint at a reasonable sounding 12 acres. Sadly, even at half of the average for my country, I was still consuming almost 3 times my fair share of resources.

This was before I made several positive ecological changes this summer, so I decided to try another. I found this quiz from NPR that calculates your entire family's eco-impact. It's interactive and cartoon-y enough that you can take it with your kids and discuss how your household can change their ways to make Earth a cleaner, happier home.

Our score was 2.6, down from 2.8. I was honestly surprised it was so high because we are the most ecologically conscious family we know. The big issues were meat and dairy consumption (we're omnivores) and transportation. Our electric usage and waste production were 0!

Coincidentally, we gave up meat last week for the Frugal Habit of the Week at my website. I thought it was a healthy and economical choice, but apparently it was good for the planet as well. Maybe we'll start having one vegan week every month.

Monday, September 10, 2007

School supplies and lunches

This is probably the one place you *won't* hear about Britney. Didn't see it, don't want to. Don't care.

Anyway, while the media was following certain walking, singing, and dancing disasters, I was talking with a friend about how devastatingly expensive the back-to-school weeks are for her family. If you have no children in public schools, you might not know that most schools send home a list of necessary supplies that must be purchased in the exact brands and quantities requested. It's an exhaustively long list that often covers two pages and can add up to one hundred dollars or more per child, especially when so many schools fail to send out their list until after the sales in August.

After many years dealing with public and private school systems, this was not news. What was news, however, was that more and more schools are making expensive, restrictive, and unhealthy rules about what can be eaten on campus. Some are mandating that only commercially packaged foods can be brought in school lunches, while others make all students purchase the cafeteria lunch. I assume they provide options for students with severe allergies, but I doubt allowances are made for those who simply prefer organic, whole foods.

Unfortunately, these are only two of many ways that conventional schools are bad for families. If you're stuck in the public school mouse trap (I postulate that nobody is truly stuck, but so many seem to feel they are...), I would suggest writing your school board and requesting the following.

1. Freedom to choose school supplies independently. This would make BTS shopping cheaper, plus allow parents to purchase recycled and otherwise earth-friendly products.

2. Nontoxic cleaners. While they're at it, can they cut back on spraying herbicides, pesticides, and insecticides? If our children must spend their days inside, let's make sure the air quality is safe for growing bodies and minds.

3. Nix the packaged-only rules if they exist, and insist that the lunch program offer vegetarian and chemical free options. When eating an organic apple is a violation of school rules, we have a problem.

Friday, September 07, 2007

PETA, stop sending me letters...

Sometimes PETA pisses me off.

I am all for animal rights, but they're just a little too rigid and way too hypocritical.

For instance, they are one of the largest euthanizers of animals in the US, yet they stage protests to prevent local governments from doing the same. They are against animal research although several of their leaders are open about using medications and treatments that require ongoing contributions from our furry friends. They are quite vocally against eating meat, but I doubt they are all vegan. Plus, they keep sending me letters asking for money, which kills trees and adds to my recycling pile.

Their hearts are in the right place; if only their mouths would follow. So I am always looking for a more reasonable animal rights group to support. If you know of one, please tell me.

Until then, what can my family do? Buy cruelty free health and beauty items. Eat less meat and dairy, and make sure it's humanely raised when we must satisfy our omnivore urges. Encourage legislators to regulate, regulate, regulate. And of course, take good care of the non-human residents of our own home.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Thrift Store Find!

Yesterday I decided to check out half price day at Value Village.

I don’t know how many of you frequent special sale days at thrift stores, but in case you haven’t, they get pretty crazy. It’s like the bridal sale at Filene’s, except with toothless women in torn t-shirts who look like they were kicked out of Ultimate Fighting Championship for being too rough.

(here’s a pic of the Filene’s sale if you’ve never experienced it.)

I’ve lost a bit of weight from eating locally so I figured I’d check it out. There were so many handbags! I found a pristine gunmetal gray Kate Spade handbag and it came to $2.50 after discounts. That’s 250 cents, not 250 dollars. Insanity took over, and somehow I walked out with yet more handbags to add to my extensive collection. That’s when I had an epiphany: I can use them as gift baskets!

You see, I have been struggling to come up with impressive gifts that don’t support big business. I’ve always prided myself on conjuring up the perfect gift, but that generally entails shopping on the internet. Locally, my choices seem to be limited to fruit, beaded jewelry, homemade soap, and more fruit. No “wow” gifts there. But if I buy some of those artsy little soaps and make a toiletry gift basket (but in a like-new designer handbag), well, it’s a wow to say the least. And they will cost less than $20 each, which is a good price point for someone with a bazillion kids. So that’s my latest project. I’ll try to post a picture when I finish one.

By the way, while I was plucking chi-chi bags off the cheap plastic racks two women my age were complaining to each other that there are never good purses at thrift stores. Give your local resale shops a chance, people. Everyone thinks theirs is full of useless crap, but I’ve never left empty-handed. Sometimes you have to dig to find treasure.