Make it Earth Day, every day!

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I celebrate Earth Day every day in some way, and it feels great. The more people join forces together, will make it even easier. From saving water to battling climate change, making your diet “greener” is something everyone can do! Click on the graphic below to learn 7 ways your food choices can help the planet for people and animals.

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How can I make a difference?

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I want to be a friendly resource for those who may not have considered a plant-based lifestyle.

There are so many logical and strong arguments to change; from huge environmental impact, to animal cruelty, to health reasons, that we simply cannot continue our current path as our population grows and lifestyles of Western consumption spread. It is not illogical, just unpopular. I believe we just need to make it as easy as possible for people to adopt.

The frustrating part is that although I believe in my message and passion, I haven’t grown my readership past my own personal friends- or just slightly beyond that. I am extremely grateful to these people, but those who know me, probably won’t tell me the hard truth. I want to talk to non-vegans, from “carnivore” to vegetarians, so that is pretty much 99% of the people out there- I need to know what will make them interested in this subject. I’m not here to preach to the choir of those who already agree!

At first I hoped to simply raise awareness in a fun way by using art: illustrating veg food on instagram and the blog, making info graphics that would make the data easier to visualize.

Then I tried posting about articles that I felt consumers would want to know– like how some chicken is shipped to China. Or, environmental issues.

I added resources on HOW to make changes, to make small steps, or have a trial period.

Still not gaining more interest, I just posted my own personal lifestyle posts about our family, hoping to just be somewhat interesting enough to engage.

And now, I am feeling that the bigger obstacle is just the newness of people learning how to eat and cook without animal products.  To that end, I think recipes and meal planning are the most important hurdles.

I want to use my time wisely… how can I best help you?


I’m proud of trying to change the status quo

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Four years ago I started down a path that has changed my life. It has given me a way to align my heart and my actions. It opened my eyes to another way of viewing the world and our relationship to other species that I had previously ignored. It made a huge impact to our family.

I stopped eating meat, fish, dairy and eggs or buying any products made from animals. In February 2012, I took a one month vegan challenge.

More than just the physical act of eating a different diet, it was very difficult for me to go against the flow of how I grew up, traditions, social gatherings. In fact for many years I tread a line where I was mostly vegan, but would not necessarily call myself one.

Because many people get a very negative association from the word “vegan”. There are some stereotypes of radical, judgmental and angry vegans that have turned many people away from the word, including myself.

Then, I realized that I have to stand for what I believe in. I am proud of being compassionate, peaceful, and not wanting to cause harm. I’m okay with extending the acceptable love of animals to include ALL animals.

I vote proudly with how I spend my money.

I’m proud that I have never written anything on the internet that I am ashamed of, that I regret. I do not criticize, mock or am rude to others who do not share my beliefs. I hope to be a positive example, and a friendly and pragmatic vegan.

If I don’t stand up as a positive, non-radical, business owner, designer, mother, it won’t help the word vegan to become more mainstream and accepted.

The more you open your heart and your mind to the health, environmental, and animal issues… it really just makes a lot of sense.

I want to change the world to be kinder, less violent, and sustainable for all. I am very proud to no longer contribute to the horrific factory farms, and on that point I definitely feel there is common ground we can all find. The cruelty, pollution, disease, and destruction does not make sense. Let’s start there and move forward together. We have strength in numbers. Even if you would not call yourself a vegan… vote with your money and your choices. You can make a difference in the world, and for the future.

 

This post is part of the Live Your Legend blogging challenge.

 


What do people thank me for?

Or, what would I be happy and excited to do even if I weren’t paid?

Funny enough, I have had almost a year to experience this. Although I have retained my design firm, I am also doing a lot of work that only pays in feeling good.

I’m not sure I can answer this question completely at this point. I have always thought design, art and illustration are what I love and where my skills lie. Sometimes I wonder if this is just the default thought pattern, and where I have spent my 10,000+ hours. It is definitely what people thank me for, but I don’t know if it what makes me happy and excited. The creative process has always been stressful, but I think that is a common issue with artists, writers, and others.

If I truly could name one thing that makes me happy and excited- it is travel, new experiences, exploring foreign countries. I love it.

What I have learned is that integrating my life with what I care about is great.

I’ve learned that I don’t have a community.

I’ve learned that now that I have space and time, I have to let go of excuses that running on the work treadmill gave me. If I don’t cook, clean, exercise or parent well, I no longer can think it is because I am just too busy and working too hard.

I’m most happy and excited when I am productive creating things. I’m excited when I am not just making promises, but actually delivering them. When people appreciate and thank me for helping with a worthwhile project, that feels really good.

This post is part of the Live Your Legend blogging challenge.


What really makes you angry about the world?

This post is part of the Live Your Legend blog challenge. I want to be more involved in the LYL community (and hopefully win a ticket to WDS).

What really makes me angry in the world is that wealth and “wants” are the priority. I’ve spent a lot of time in the last four years researching climate change, factory farm cruelty, droughts, health issues, environmental devastation and more. I’m surrounded by good people with families who I’m sure care about the future… yet, they are not fully informed or motivated to make any changes.

Are we just hearing “blah, blah, blah” when climate scientists talk about rising ocean levels destroying large coastal cities? Or, do we think these events all over the world are not connected? Although 97% of climate scientists agree that we are headed for calamity… we ignore these signs for the most part, maybe thinking there is nothing we can do.

We know population growth is on the rise, and that now China and India are now using more fossil fuels and resources than ever before, but we continue to do things the same way we have done in the past, and expect that everything will just work out. We are going into uncharted territory here with the amount of resources available for more people than ever, within my kids’ lifetimes.

For those just meeting me, I write and draw about eating for the future. Eating is something we do at least 3 times a day, and we vote for our future with every choice and purchase. It is estimated that our dependence on livestock, and their grain and water requirements constitutes more than all transportation combined. It is connected and affects all the major issues I mentioned.

Pretty big deal. So why are Americans eating an average of 200 lbs of meat/year over twice the 75 lb/year world average?  Look to who is profiting from the sale of meat, dairy and eggs. 99% of our meat comes from Factory Farms. Factory Farms were designed to squeeze every bit of productivity from animals by making them grow faster, have less space, and die sooner for as much profit as possible. Over 80% of the meat production in the US are owned by just a few giant agribusinesses who buy up smaller brands to look more organic…. Tyson, Foster Farms and Perdue. They will do everything in their power to protect their own interests.

Until we start caring about what these billion-dollar companies are doing, they will continue to hide the truth from us with politics, ag-gag laws, pollute our water without penalties, send chicken to China for processing and back to sell without even labeling it, subsidize their products with our money, and waste water, rain forests and land. We will have to eat less meat to change the world.

I’m not touching on the antibiotics being overused to keep these animals alive in close, unhealthy conditions or the known health and safety issues to people. I’m also not talking about the over-fishing, destroying the oceans. So many reasons to avoid an inefficient and cruel system.

I’m angry because we can make a difference, yet we choose our desire to eat bacon, or convenience of using cow’s milk, over the most important issues which will affect ALL people and animals. The worst consequences you can imagine.

In order to be effective in making change, I have to keep this anger in control. I choose not to rant about these issues or put people in such a defensive position they won’t listen. The anger does keep me motivated, but I direct that towards the factory farms, not those who have not yet understood. We can find a common ground there. I will use the skills and talents I have been developing over the last 20+ years, and use design, art and illustration to catch the attention of people numbed to the graphic photos and bored or immune to statistics, articles and numbers. I will help people and organizations who are making a difference in the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Finding a community and balance

This is a personal post about my perspective. I’ll be back to my normally-scheduled news, recipes and illustrations shortly…

The more I have been involved in vegan advocacy and activism, the less connected I have felt with my “community” of friends. It could be several things… I tend to be introverted so I really need to make more of an effort just to invite people over. I am sometimes concerned that I am putting myself in a place where friends or family might feel my veganism is an issue. I really worry about making things difficult in social situations by asking for food without animal products, while at the same time realizing that making a big social change is pretty much impossible to do easily.

Recently there was a situation where a very nice invitation came into my inbox about a special dinner for my son’s school extended beyond an initial paid group to include auction volunteers and sponsors. I played a very small role in even my volunteer efforts, just helping for one day. It was not a dinner that I would have signed up for as I knew it would probably not be vegetarian, definitely not vegan. There were at least a couple of options- don’t say anything and don’t go, or ask if there will be a vegan option available and go. Since I knew that there was at least one other vegan volunteer, I thought I would just ask. Just not showing up to things does not help make veganism more mainstream.

The person in charge of food kindly offered to look into it, but since egg is a major ingredient, wasn’t sure what to do. Being a pain in the ass is just not something I enjoy. I used to be the person that when asked by hosts if there were any food requirements, would say, “I eat anything” and felt good about being so easy.

There is a line between concern for others’ comfort, or the greater concern of the planet, the animals, and the future population. I can’t/won’t apologize for wanting a more peaceful, compassionate and healthy world especially as the stakes are raised. I think most people would want that, it is just hidden from easy view behind those who profit, traditions, habits and status quo.

I have tended to stay involved but on the outskirts of our wonderful vegan community in town,  just because I felt that it was more important for me to socialize and be part of my non-vegan circle. While it is comforting to go to parties and groups where the food is all vegan and everyone is more or less on the same page about the same animal issues, I don’t need to preach to the choir. I’m also a little concerned about being even more immersed in vegan culture than I already am. I am at a point, 4 years into this journey, that I remember clearly what it was like not to notice or care about the things I am aware and care about now. I understand and have compassion about how it is not an easy transition to make. I don’t want to forget these things by surrounding myself only with like-minded people. I honestly want to have open conversations with people, meet where we can, not to make judgments.

Lately, I have felt like I really need the Vegan communities support. That I don’t want to feel alone all the time. I’ll make an effort to balance the two groups moving forward. And also, to try to not be overly sensitive (something which I have struggled with all my life). I want to have deep friendships with a variety of people, but I can’t ignore what has been uncovered, which is at the core of my being.

I’m excited to seeing changes happening in the world which will draw everyone closer together. Research and studies proving that eating less meat is beneficial for everyone. In the next 5-10 years I hope that having a vegan option for the many people who would pick that, will be something that is just accepted and part of life. It will no longer be the difficult guest situation, or even radical. Our future is moving towards that in any case. You know we’re mainstream when even Fox news is saying it!

 

 

 

 


Girls’ veg weekend at the coast!

I’m finally writing about a reunion last month with my two best friends from University. I have known these women since we were about 19 years old (more or less), and well- we’re gaining on our 3rd decade of friendship. But we all look exactly the same (at least that is what we think). I am now older than my PARENTS were when I graduated from college, that is so bizarre. I feel lucky to have these forever friends, and even if we all live in different states, our states are adjoining ones. Since moving to Portland in 1999, there aren’t a lot of people in my daily life who knew me before I was married with kids, and all my “old” friends have a special place in my heart.

We’ve made it a point to get together at least once a year. Sometimes with families, sometimes just us. I found photos of the three of us in shoulder pads, stone-washed denim and big permed hair from the late 80s, and photos of all of us at each others weddings. Through marriage, kids, deaths, job changes, and other life changes, I know we all support each other. We had a lot of laughs trying to take a decent selfie for this trip, we just don’t practice enough I guess!

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Yep, seriously, this was one of our better attempts.

For this February weekend, we took over my parent’s home on the Oregon coast. And they were kind enough to leave town so that we could have it all to ourselves to talk freely (and without my mom seeing how many wine bottles we went through). Since my two friends both had some travel costs, I offered to plan and pay for the food and of course be the driver.

My friends are not vegan, and when we were planning the trip, they were really kind about saying I could make whatever I wanted.

I challenged myself to come up with food that they would hopefully enjoy, always trying to present an easy and delicious view of vegan food using whole foods. Making things that are supposed to emulate meat doesn’t really measure up to those who eat meat regularly (I’ve found). They are more satisfying for those of us who haven’t had the real thing for awhile!

My menu plan for the weekend was…

General Tso’s Cauliflower  A Chinese dish using breaded cauliflower that is baked. So good! I have written about this before.

Indian Vegetarian Korma Substituted coconut milk for the heavy cream to make it vegan. I also made some chickpea cutlets for the first time from Veganomicon, but those weren’t my favorite. However, people love those, and so I might try again and see if there was something that went awry. My friends said they liked them, but they are kind people, so what else would they say?

Korma

Vegetable Thai Red Curry I make this at least once a month, everyone loves it.

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I ended up talking to them more about my vegan ideas and philosophy than I usually do. Later, I thought about that. I try to be careful with all my friends not to cause any alarm… or maybe to appear “normal enough” so they will continue to invite me over for dinner. (-; With these friends, I am not worried that they will abandon me, even if they don’t agree with me. Because it has become a very important part of my life, it was nice to be able to share that side.

We ended up eating out only a few times over those three days. On the way to the coast, we ate at Laughing Planet. Lazy Susan at the coast, where I was personally disappointed about the lack of even a non-dairy creamer for the coffee. It is charming, but not vegan-friendly… but the other options were Pig n’ Pancake or Scoop n’ Grill which definitely weren’t better. Sweet Basil’s Cafe is the most vegan-friendly option in Cannon Beach, but they open at lunch. For dinner back in Portland, we went to Pizzeria Otto, and tried their vegan pizza- cashew “ricotta”, lemon and pumpkin seed pesto. It was really good!

Pizza

We had a pretty rainy weekend, but honestly, it didn’t matter that much. What a gift to be able to catch up on all the new developments in each others’ lives, talk about anything and everything, and reminisce. We may not talk often, but when we see each other it is like no time has passed.

I love you girls! Thank you for your friendship as we change through the years, but always remain the same at heart.

P.S. How did we forget to discuss TIM?

 


Lessons from a little bird

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This may sound silly, but I wanted to share this story.

Yesterday, I was driving slowly near my house and heard a “thunk” against the car. I was talking on speaker phone at the time, and didn’t think I was distracted, but I honestly didn’t see what it was or where it came from.

I parked and walked back to the spot hoping it was a pine cone that had flipped up, and not what I was fearing.

But, there he was, a tiny little brown bird, eyes closed, feet straight out, not moving. Mercifully, I suppose he died immediately. I took a pine branch to sweep him off the road so he wouldn’t be squashed by cars, and he was still so soft that each rotation of his small body made my stomach lurch in connection to how recently he had been living. Such a beautiful day, Spring just beginning, and it was all over for him.

I made an internal vow that I would not use speaker phone any more (which I don’t do with kids in the car anyway). Not sure if it would have made a difference, but more attention on the road is always good, and made me feel like his life did mean something.

Each life does matter, and you may think I am over-dramatic, but I don’t want to be responsible for death. Yes, I know these things happen, even in harvesting vegetables, but we can do what we can to prevent as many as possible. It made the connection for me again that I don’t like to see small birds die, so I also don’t want to be responsible for killing the birds that I can’t see. If I eat eggs or chicken, someone else is killing that bird for me.

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Later, I walked back to where I left him, near the curb, and he was gone. I would like to believe (and hope) that he had just been stunned, and woke up later. In any case, I learned something from that bird, and he strengthened my compassion.

 

 

 


The happiest place on Earth- really?

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The least hot, least crowded day in Knotts.

Usually I keep my posts not too personal. However, I am ready to share the other side of our wonderful vacation last October. Also, most of my readers at this point are my family and friends, so this is for them.

I think there must be two types of people (generally). Those who enjoy the theme park experience, and those who find it a form of torture.

I thought possibly that I enjoyed it, but now that it has been 6 months since our Disney experience I realize we fall into the other category. I was pretty traumatized by it, and I don’t think I can ever visit one again, EVER, although Star Wars and Harry Potter tempt me. If I could go on an uncrowded, not extremely hot day, for free… well, that probably won’t happen. The kids were pretty unenthusiastic by the end, and didn’t even want to buy any souvenirs.

Their favorite part was having their own room and TV in the hotel, and when we went to a friend’s house for dinner and video games.

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“Mom, can we just stay here today?” NO! Get out of the air-conditioned bliss. We’re going to go sweat our asses off at Disneyland.

So my original post was all about the veg options. I left out the 45 minute lines for rides, accidentally becoming part of a charity walk for an hour before the park opened LATE, that our kids don’t like any exciting/fun rides. or that we spent like $50 one morning on enormous Jamba juices to try to quench our thirst.

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Awkward! The only ones not with a charity group…

The best part of Disneyland for my animal lover was their petting zoo! I heard that is going away, along with other Frontier land attractions to make room for Star Wars Land. I’m glad we can do our daughter’s favorite thing near our home, for free.

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"Mom, can I just stay here in the shade and pet the animals?"
“Mom, can I just stay here in the shade and pet the animals?”

Are you a theme park person? I think it helps if you go often so you know what to do and how to maximize the fun, minimize the wait time. I’m pretty sure if there was a way we could have done this more wrong, it would have been difficult! Check opening hours, don’t leave your glasses on the ride, don’t go during a 108 degree record-breaking heat wave or get caught up in a charity event. Anyway, first world problems. I am grateful for the trip, if only for the future vacation savings for us and the kids.


Happy Leap Year and my 4th Veganniversary!

Photograph by Bianca Lavies
Photograph by Bianca Lavies

We’re updating the blog, and as I reorganized some old posts, I realized that I missed celebrating my Veganniversary. February 1, 2012 I started this journey and have consistently stayed true to this commitment. And yes, I still count myself as vegan even if I slipped up sometimes.

I really didn’t know if I would relapse, but at this point, I feel even more strongly about the movement than before. It has made a huge impact in my life, and changed how I view the world. I’m now advocating every day for the animals, the earth and my kid’s future. Not to mention, our health. In the past 4 years I have read so much, and learned even more than when I started. I now have experience in cooking plant-based meals and there are more products even then when I started.

Besides trying a new vegan restaurant to celebrate, I have a new goal to start for March. While we feel positive about veganism from a standpoint of animals, environment and health, I think our family can make improvements to our meals and cut back on processed foods and oil. If you are just beginning, meatless chicken patties and prepackaged meals can help make the transition easier. Since I have had time to fall back on that, I want to delve deeper into making our meals to include even more whole foods and less sugar.

Mostly, I just get lazy sometimes and don’t feel like planning ahead. However, I want to help some people in my community who also struggle with meal planning, so I am going to put in the effort and make healthier meals that everyone will eat. I’m pretty sure that this is one of the major stumbling blocks for a lot of people. Once you remove cheese- how do you make quesadillas, grilled cheese, and other easy items? I’m not a fan of soy-based cheeses, so this means being more creative so the recipe doesn’t NEED the cheese. I love this easy, delicious cauliflower alfredo dish for example:

Cauliflower Alfredo

Ingredients:
  • 4 cups cauliflower florets (1 small/medium cauliflower)
  • 1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened and unflavored almond milk (or non-dairy milk of choice)
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt, or to taste
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon pepper, to taste
  • Fettuccine pasta of choice
Directions:
  1. Put cauliflower in a large pot and cover with water or steam it until fork tender, around 5-7 minutes. Drain.
  2. Meanwhile, sauté the minced garlic in oil over low heat for 4-5 minutes until softened and fragrant, but not browned.
  3. In a high speed blender, add the cooked and drained cauliflower, sauteed garlic, milk, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Blend until really smooth sauce, let it run for a minute or so. Set aside.
  4. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add your desired amount of pasta and boil for the time instructed on the package. Drain pasta.
  5. Add cauliflower sauce into the empty pot and add the drained pasta. Heat over low-medium until heated enough to your liking. Salt again to taste.
  6. Serve with fresh minced parsley and black pepper. Add in sautéed peas, spinach, or broccoli if you like.

 

or using butternut squash on pizza.

I finally joined Instagram @eat4thefuture, and will be posting my illustrations over there as well. And I have made commenting easier, so if you have any suggestions, or resources… let me know!

Thanks for the comments, I love hearing from you.

I really want to insert a corny leap joke here!