The cow in the room: why we keep ignoring her

The cow takes the place of the “Elephant in the room” an English metaphorical idiom for an obvious truth that is either being ignored or going unaddressed. The idiomatic expression also applies to an obvious problem or risk no one wants to discuss.

I’m not the first to point out that animal agriculture is definitely not highlighted as a major contributor to climate change. The movie Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret does an excellent job of making that point.

There are multiple reasons we don’t hear diet choices as the number one change you can make to help climate change. One of the main ones being that the dairy, beef, egg industries do NOT want us to know the impact because they profit from our ignorance. They influence the government and large environmental organizations. To speak up against them is serious. Ag gag laws specifically target this and try to prevent activists from filming how they actually produce the source of our food!

We allow this to happen because it is easier to just ignore the consequences… ignorance is bliss. Who wants to think about how calves are born and immediately taken away from their mothers so we can use their milk, or how all the male baby chicks are ground up. And those aren’t even the environmental reasons. These factory farms are contaminating our water without commiserate penalties, they are allowed to use natural resources for free or a fraction of the cost. We are destroying everything for the sake of chicken, bacon, hot dogs, and hamburgers.

Besides animal cruelty and environmental impact, even for health reasons people would rather make other other choices than change their diets. Doctors know this, and in many cases will prescribe drugs and surgery instead of trying to have the patient stick to a plant-based diet. Watch Forks over Knives to learn more about how diabetes, heart disease and other issues can be reversed by eating plant-based.


I’m writing this article today since I finally saw the National Geographic Magazine Climate Change issue (November 2015). I was excited to see what it would say. The first section: How YOU can affect climate change.


This section highlights building a tiny house to live in. Small icons have other ideas like composting, not driving two days a week or washing clothes in cold water.


The next page, very small at the bottom. “If meat were dropped from diets globally, the reduction in CO2 emissions would almost equal total U.S. annual emissions.”

So, basically, this enormous environmental change we can make without changing homes is treated as a caption.

Smaller homes is a great idea, but practically speaking, here is a bigger impact each of us can make every day, three times a day that gets very little publicity. It has been gaining awareness, and I really hope to see that continue. On a practical level every restaurant should vegan options, and delicious plant-based cheeses and meats need to become more available and less expensive in grocery stores. The cow in the room isn’t going away.


Veg Vacation: Hawai’i


I have a LOT of photos of these crashing waves, and a video. Powerful forces.

Hawai’i is our family’s favorite vacation destination. Since we live on the West Coast, it is not too far away and we get to enjoy some warm, sunny weather as a nice break from our often rainy climate. But, the best part of Hawai’i in my mind is the relaxation factor. There is a laid-back vibe and we skip the stress that inherently is part of big cities. We have been to Maui twice (once with kids), and Kaui’i twice (once with kids). This was our first trip to the Big Island, and the first trip in December. It worked out great this year as December hit record rainfalls in Portland, and Hawai’i delivered consistent 82 degree sunny weather (except for Volcano area).

Walking through the crater- we got very wet, but no crowds!

I planned this trip in June and made all travel arrangements then, so it was kind of fun to rediscover my plans 6 months later. We flew into Kona and spent 3 nights there. Then, went to Hilo side and stayed right at the Volcano for 3 nights, and finally back to Kona the day before we flew home. Except for the last night, we stayed in condos (VRBO) and only ate in restaurants a handful of times. We had 2 tickets free thanks to using credit card points, and one very reduced ticket ($200), so flights were very affordable, as was the lodging booked so far in advance.

Amazingly affordable cottage in Volcano.

The most expensive part of Hawai’i was buying food!

We used Yelp and Happy Cow to find vegetarian and vegan options. I don’t think any of them were particularly Hawaii’an foods. I tend to think of those as pork and seafood. Pineapple, papayas, avocados, and my new favorite fruit: apple bananas were the best local finds. Overall, I saw some very positive steps towards vegan options that I don’t remember seeing on our last trips. Kailua-Kona had many great options, and there were some Whole Foods-type grocery stores on both sides that had tofu and vegan products.

Acai bowl in Kona

This trip was all about experiences rather than food-focused. We did a lot of activities! Some highlights were: a snorkel boat ride (holiday gift from my mother-in-law) where we saw tropical fish and dolphins, submarine ride for the guys, sunset horseback ride for the girls, star-watching on Mauna Kea, walking through volcano craters in the tropical rain, seeing sea turtles up-close on a black sand beach, and touching a seahorse.

Horseback ride at sunset in Kohalo

Things we didn’t do that we hopefully can return for: swimming with Manta Rays, seeing whales, seeing lava up close, more beaches!

After our speed boat ride: new hairdo!

It was a very special trip, and despite one bad teenager day, we all got along great and had fun together (it is feeling like as kids get older this will be more rare). When we were picking what we liked best, my husband likes the nature/wilderness hikes, my daughter likes horses, my son likes submarines and I like seeing animals in nature.

Saw a lot of turtles at black sand beach, this one was very close.

From an artistic sense, it was inspiring to see the different forms in which the lava cooled. I loved the ruggedness of this landscape even more than I appreciated the gorgeous lushness of Kauai. I can’t explain why, it was just wild and powerful.


Climate change seemed very real there with the oceans all around us. The coral was mostly blanched white near shorelines, with a lot less fish than I remembered from 15 years ago on our first trip to Kauai. Black lava covered much of this newer island with persistent flowers and plants poking through every crack, reminding me that Earth will regain it’s balance with or without us. On the Big Island nature is prominent, and buildings and roads move based on the direction the lava flows. Tourism is vital to their economy with the fish being both the main attraction and served up as dinner.

Bottlenose dolphins swimming near our boat

For our last full day there, we went to a seahorse center and learned how this organization is trying to save these wondrous, endangered creatures by breeding them specifically for pet stores so people will stop taking wild seahorses from the ocean to pet stores where 99% will die. I think this is a good thing overall. Arguably, it would be best if they could just live in the ocean and not in an aquarium. But keeping them from complete extinction is a good thing too and gives the wild seahorses a chance.

Sunset at Mauna Kea
Sunset at Mauna Kea- very cool to be above clouds before star-viewing.

I was reminded that these oceans are the home to so many magnificent creatures. It is THEIR home and they have no control over what we are doing to them. There is a lack of understanding all the connection we humans have to our environment. The islands are a very special place with so many climates and species of flowers and wildlife. I feel very fortunate to have been able to experience nature’s amazing diversity and beauty and once more witness what our Earth provides us without man’s influence. I had an overwhelming feeling of gratitude and humility on this vacation. Humbled that we were fortunate enough to be able to take this vacation, and how we truly owe it to the other humans and animals on this planet to do what we can to have a positive impact. Simply because we are able to do so.



My new signature fudge recipe


So, I haven’t posted for awhile since we were in Hawaii for about a week, and then the holidays. A lot to catch up on.

But first, I need to post a recipe. We went to an after-holiday party tonight (such a great concept), and I needed to bring something to share. We haven’t done a lot of grocery shopping since our trip, and family was in town, so there wasn’t time to plan and cook anything elaborate. Pinterest to the rescue. I found this delicious recipe that only needed a few ingredients and was very easy.

I got more compliments on this dessert than I ever have before. A few people asked for the recipe, so here it is:

Perfect Raw Vegan Fudge Recipe


  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup cacao powder
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

You do need to freeze it, so don’t eat it straight out of the Vitamix like you will think about doing. I wasn’t sure about just freezing it on a plate, but it worked out pretty well on parchment paper. My fudge looked a lot different than the photo- a very dark black color (and I left out the nuts). I used Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa which is the change that makes it my signature recipe. (-;

The recipe mentions adding dried fruit, peppermint extract, or coconut so you can play around with this and make it your own.

Hope you enjoy it!


Climate Change Deniers: I wish I were wrong


This week in Paris, world leaders are working out an agreement for how to deal with climate change at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP21). The fact that this exists, and this is such an enormous effort might cause most of us to believe that this is a serious issue.

However, there are still many who doubt that climate change is real. Mostly in the United States. Despite the fact that 97% of actively publishing climate scientists agree that global warming is real and greatly contributed to by man-made causes. I chose NASA as the source for this, and they have a comprehensive website to pursue.

Climate change is the term used normally instead of global warming, despite the overall warming trend, because there will be more extreme and unpredictable weather. Scientists use data and their extensive education to come to their proof, not individual days or personal thoughts.

Let’s say despite these facts and statistics, you are not believing it. You think it is a big hoax. I get it. It is hard to look 10, 20 or 30 years down the road. We seem to focus on whatever the immediate threat may be, ignoring the biggest one. Sadly, if we don’t heed the alarm now, there will be nothing that can be done as these effects take time and stay in our atmosphere. Also, politics have played into this and turned it into a partisan issue. What could be less partisan and more unifying to us than protecting our children’s futures and our planet?

Still not buying it? Think this is just part of nature? We are going to need to switch from using fossil fuels and use clean energy anyway at some point because WE ARE GOING TO RUN OUT. This is a finite resource built up over millions of years that we are burning through at a record pace. We absolutely need to mitigate climate change to survive, and we need to do it as quickly as possible. There is no going back, we can only slow down the forces happening. We may be fated to extinction, but most of us would like that to happen later rather than sooner. Many of the older people who don’t believe in this change will not be around to deal with the outcome regardless.

Possibly you do actually believe this is happening, but you don’t want to think about it. It would be much more pleasant to just enjoy life without a thought for the future. Also, you may think there isn’t anything to even be done about it.

The reason this blog focuses so much on environmental reasons to eat less meat is because while we don’t individually have the power to make policy changes, we do have the power to lighten our carbon footprint and affect one of the major issues in climate change: animal agriculture.

Every day, three times a day, we regular citizens vote for our future. What we eat affects the rain forests and the oceans. It seems so easy to think of these faraway places as unconnected, but the truth is that we are absolutely linked. When glaciers melt in Antarctica, cities in the US will be flooded. Bee populations are dying, which are critical to pollination of our food supply.

Cowspiracy is a very compelling film to learn about the impact animal agriculture (especially beef) has on our planet, and why this truth is hidden from us.

In the end, it is always about money and power. If we continue our way of life, the only ones who profit are the huge corporations who are using our land and our oceans without consequences, dictate our government and use billions of dollars to influence consumers.


What do I have to gain, what do we individuals have to gain? If Deniers are right and there is no such thing as climate change, and animal agriculture is not destroying the planet. Great! No harm done, except those of us who were concerned feel silly. And I would LOVE to be wrong.

If Deniers are wrong, climate change will cause more droughts, more floods, more wars, devastation to the economy, and huge costs to us all. Worst of all, we will all become extinct. It is happening with the animals, and we share their world. We will also be extinct. The earth will adjust as it always does, but it doesn’t need us. And all the money in the world will not help, unless you can find another life-sustaining planet.

Here is a quick way to put the debate to rest. Deniers, show me proof that increasing population and their demands on the planet won’t be an issue.

It may be unpopular to bring awareness to this issue, however not only animals, but my own children are the ones who will be dealing with this, so I am not going to stop.

Deniers, if you can’t be part of a solution, at least get out of the way.






Give veg a try for 2016!


We’re already into the first week of December, and in just a few weeks, 2015 will be over. Even if you don’t agree with the idea of making resolutions, January 1, 2016 is a great time to start some new habits or just have a clean slate to start the next half of this decade.

I would like to propose doing a 22 or 30 day veg challenge to kick off the new year!

After being open to the ideas of changing my diet from my daughter and watching Forks over Knives, I decided to try eating a plant-based diet for 30 days in February 2012. I went back and looked to see if I could find a blog post about it, but it happened while I was focusing on doing daily food sketches. Beginning February 1, my sketches show that I stopped eating meat.

After my 30 day trial period, I just kept going. And the reason I kept going was because it wasn’t that hard, and I felt really good. I did this without any support from having vegan friends or being in a vegan community (although I was fortunate that my husband and kids were open to this). For the longest time, I worried that I would just slip off the wagon as so many do. However, I now consider myself vegan since February 2012, despite some small vegetarian slips, since my definition is having intention, philosophy and doing one’s best.

The reason I think it worked for me are these things:

1) I educated myself about how to eat plant-based. Watching Forks over Knives helped, and then I followed it up with a trip to Herbivore and chose the 30 day Vegan Challenge by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. This became my guide. It is too easy to get lost without having information about nutrition, recipe ideas, and suggestions for eating out, etc. Being vegan isn’t easy, and it isn’t hard… it is a change and requires some thought. When we first got our electric car I felt the same way about having to think about it differently to make sure it stayed charged. I am so used to gas cars and how that works. Now, I don’t have to think about it, I’m used to it. I take an iron and B12 supplement, and am thriving.

2) I had more than one reason to keep going. If I had only been following the diet for health reasons, it would have been easy to slip in animal products here and there, or worry I wasn’t getting enough nutrients. I finally allowed myself to see the cruelty animals have long-suffered once I stopped eating them. From there, it was easy to see the effect animal agriculture has on our planet, and my children’s future. That is not something I am going to forget.

3) I didn’t focus on perfection. If I had worried that I had eaten one cookie that may have had some egg in it, the challenge would have been too daunting. Do your best, always, to make good choices and have the least impact. I haven’t always even been comfortable calling myself vegan because I am not perfect and also wanted to avoid being stereotyped. Don’t get hung up on labels.

4) My palate changed. Taste buds change after 2 weeks, you have to try it to see. Vegetables and fruits taste even more amazing! I use less salt, sugar and fat and have found so many new foods I had never tried such as tempeh and seitan. Animal meat and eggs no longer look or taste appealing, and I have found some “clean protein” plant meats that I enjoy. I never thought I could give up cheese or milk (luckily dark chocolate is vegan). I now love my soy milk. As for cheese… that may be the hardest one for some people, but the new nut cheeses are amazing. Don’t think of the plant-based foods as needing to be exactly the same as animal-based foods and they can be delicious in their own right- try a coconut milk shake and you will see what I mean.

5) I tried to keep things in perspective. I didn’t come to these ideas overnight or by someone preaching to me. Although people know where I stand, I don’t create controversy with my friends and family. I want people to feel comfortable coming to me if they have questions and not feel judged. I stay vegan because it was my decision, and it resonates with what I believe in. That has been the best part of changing what I eat. Feeling in alignment with what I have always valued: peace and compassion.

It has been an interesting and life-changing experience over the last few years. I have had some strange Matrix-like moments, where it felt like I was seeing the world with new eyes. There have been centuries of cultural and historical meaning woven into what we eat, let alone billions of advertising dollars. It sometimes felt like swimming against a school of fish, which is not a role I relish. We don’t live in a world of around 3.7 billion people as we did when I was born, population has already doubled in my lifetime! Doesn’t it only make sense that we can’t continue to live as if our resources are unlimited? I absolutely believe that we can have a better future for our children, cleaner air, fight against wildlife extinction, less drought, less wars, less starvation (as we use our land and water more efficiently to feed people instead of farm animals), less cruelty to animals and better health if we make some changes. We can’t afford to look away any longer.

I hope you will give veg a try. And, I would be happy to help in whatever way that I can if you need a veg buddy. There are so many resources online, and great local communities with support like our Portland-based NW Veg. We all have the power to make this change three times every day, and honestly it has never been easier to find delicious plant-based food.

Instead of resolutions, try a New Year’s Revolution!

Old McDonald’s Farm—a very special place


If you’ve been following our blog at all, you’ll see we love animals. I’ve been wanting to write a post for awhile talking about Old McDonald’s Farm. We’ve been going there a while! I found some photos from over 7 years ago in September 2008, when our family spent the night at the farm for my daughter’s 6th birthday. The farm itself has been operating since about 1995.


ClioOMF   ClioOMFPony

I love going out there on the weekends. It is located in a very scenic location in Corbett, about 30 minutes from downtown Portland, towards Multnomah Falls. Their website states: “Old McDonald’s Farm is the only nonprofit organization in Oregon that effectively combines animals, agriculture, gardens and natural resources to provide an educational enrichment program for all children and including at-risk children and youth in a safe and secure farm setting.”

Through the years, our animal-loving daughter has attended numerous summer camps. The director, Stephanie Rickert instructs the children with a strict but caring method to ensure safety for both the animals and the children. I’m personally quite amazed at the care and detail shown in every aspect of the farm. There are horses, a cow, a donkey, a pig, sheep, goats, ducks, rabbits, chickens, cats and dogs. Each animal has signs with information about them, their breed, and other facts. The children learn about the animals, and are involved in interacting and actually working on the farm. There is a bus option which makes it more convenient, and at the end of each week the parents watch the kids present what they have learned. You can see the pride the children have in showing their family and friends around the farm and showing them the animals.


Last year, my daughter was able to graduate from being a camper to a “grey shirt” (student summer helper). This promotion gave her the responsibility and confidence that she needed. The training for the beginning helpers is a lot of work for Stephanie and her senior helpers. I really appreciated that she was allowed to become a helper, even though she had a lot of work to do before she could actually be helpful.


As parents, we can see that her love of animals may be her career path and have encouraged her involvement at OMF. We couldn’t wait until next summer to continue working at the farm, and have been volunteering a couple times a month to feed all the animals. We’ve helped at the Pumpkin Pick in October, and next weekend will help at their annual Christmas Tea, December 5th and 6th.

Xmas-teaWe’re also looking at ways we can spread the word about this amazing farm so that other children can experience it. Last year, our daughter’s 6th grade class really enjoyed their day visit. Stephanie has so much experience with children, and can tailor the visit to suit each age group. She works with a wide variety of children with varying needs.


The reason I volunteer my time there are because I believe it is very important that children can have a place like this to learn and interact with animals, and because Stephanie cares about every child. She doesn’t seem to mind if it will take her more time and effort to help the kids with special needs, in fact she opens her arms willingly to them.

I have learned quite a few things through my experiences feeding the 30+ animals. Some may be fairly obvious—running a farm is hard work! All I have to do is feed the animals (and even that part is still quite difficult for me since each animal has specific requirements and responsibilities). Stephanie does so much more including tending to all the buildings, making sure the animals’ medical needs are met, keeping her bus running, making sure she has all their food and various supplies, taking care of all the administration, planning events, coordinating her helpers, and so many more details I can’t even imagine. It is expensive, yet she charges much less than most summer programs because she wants it to be as affordable as possible.


I’m happy to do what I can so Stephanie can keep Old McDonald’s Farm going, and get kids to come visit. The Pumpkin Pick and Holiday Tea would be a great time to come see the farm during their slower season, but look at their website to see the opportunities for school field trips, horse riding, camps and more.

This special farm that fosters education and a connection to animals is important, therapeutic, and is a rare and unique opportunity that needs to have support.




Plant-based meats and milks are the future!

Every day gets us better vegan options to replace animal products. I mean, if we can put a man on the moon it seems like we could make a plant-based product that tastes like animal meat!


There are so many positives that can happen. We end all the suffering the animals endure- not just shortened and miserable lives, but also the need for all the environmental resources to breed these animals (land and water used), the methane and carbon dioxide they emit, the pollution to our water and land from their waste. We can eliminate giving animals 80% of all antibiotics because of their conditions, which is in turn causing superbugs that can’t be treated for humans. And on top of all of that, we can reduce the artery-hardening cholesterol and other negative health aspects.

If you could replace your eggs, butter, milk, cheese and meat with options that tasted just as good and weren’t more expensive, would you do it? There is now a burger that even “bleeds” like real meat, but skips the cruel treatment for those who enjoy that type of thing. The prices will come down. We’ve all heard of lab-grown meat. If that seems disgusting to you, please watch a video of how the meat industry operates.


New jobs will be created to replace old jobs. Large companies will get behind it if that is what consumers want, or more importantly, if they can make more profits.

Just in the last few years I’ve seen a huge increase in vegan options- especially in the variety of milks. From hemp to cashew to soy to almond, there are so many choices in pretty much every store. Some of that is from vegans/vegetarians, some from meat-reducers, and I believe even some from the popularity of paleo diet. Although paleo diets increase the amount of animals eaten, they also don’t eat dairy and eat a lot of produce. I think it also has raised awareness of factory farming vs grass fed or wild-caught. I’m definitely not agreeing with this diet, but pointing out that the balance is tipping.


I’m sure that people will have hesitations about moving away from their traditional foods. But, things have changed and we need to change. There are now too many people eating too much meat and animal products for a sustainable world. And that is not fear-mongering, it is just science. I have another post about why I am erring on the side of caution, rather than just continue as if our population and our resources are not intrinsically linked.

Amazon rain forest, Brazil
Amazon rain forest, Brazil

Some people prefer to just skip anything that resembles animal products. However, most people want to transition to similar types of foods at first, or maybe just enjoy them. When you consider the alternatives: drought, fish-less oceans, deforestation, carbon levels… plant-based meat starts to sound a whole lot better.

Portland Veg Fest 2015 highlights

Last weekend I attended Portland VegFest for the 3rd time. This time, as an exhibitor. We were promoting our design business, as we would love to work with the types of businesses there. In fact, it turned out that we met a lot more people from the general public who were interested in talking to us.


We’ve worked with NW Veg for years. Our design firm created their logo, ads, posters and different logos for their other events. I was so impressed once again with the quality of the speakers, and how organized they are.

I popped out of our booth several times to try some samplings and there were a lot of new products, as well as some favorites from last year. So many people who attend aren’t vegan or vegetarian, and this event gives them the chance to see how delicious vegan food is, and feel confident buying it at stores.


Since we were going to be there two days, we had the kids there for part of the days. I asked them to volunteer on Sunday, and they did really well! They do much better with helping when they are not with me. The rest of the time, they read “Persimmon takes on Humanity” the new young adult fiction book I bought there, and played on the phone, and ate samples.



My highlights were meeting Colleen Patrick Goudreau and Sid Garza-Hillman. Sometimes you think you know quite a bit about a topic, but I learned a lot and had very interesting insights that will affect my activism and advocacy. Enjoyed Free from Harm’s Robert Grillo’s talk as well.

It was gratifying to see how well the different vegan businesses were doing- Herbivore Clothing always had a crowd of people around them, Christoper Locke (the book author) sold out of his copies, and I saw a lot of people sporting the NW Veg membership bags as new members. I went back to Miyoko’s cheese table on Sunday afternoon and they had sold out completely. That made me both happy and sad.

We bought a lot of food from the vendors, nut butter, renewed our membership and had a great time. I wish I had taken more photos!

At the end of Sunday, I couldn’t resist popping up for a bit to see Dan Pirraro give his comedic talk “Food is Funny”. Then, ended up being late to return to our booth where my teenager was playing on my phone to discover the freight doors were open letting in cold air. Besides that moment of feeling like the worst parent ever, it was very good. We ended the evening across the street at Pixie Project where we volunteer and gave love to the kittens there.


Whether it brings in new business or not, it was well-worth it! Thank you NW Veg for creating this great event! We’ll be back next year.


Our Veg Kids

When my daughter was fairly young, she started our family down a path towards being vegetarian. By responding to her strong feelings not to eat animals, I was forced to re-evaluate my own rationalizations.

Clio, Age 6

Since March 2012, I have moved to eating a strict vegetarian diet, which is at least 95% vegan. I know that I care deeply about animals, the earth, and other people. I know that I am doing what I feel is the most effective activism to create more awareness and education about the issues created by animal agriculture. It has become a passion that has transformed our lives and our business.

My son followed his big sister’s example and is now possibly even more committed and consistent than her. My husband eats very little meat for his own reasons and has become very involved in environmental and climate change issues.


Although we weren’t vegetarian when the kids were very young, I look back at the photos now and can see how they made strong connections with animals besides our own pets.


Their childhood will be interesting to look back on. When I am making my easy tofu salad and my son tells me how much he loves it, I find it funny to think that will be part of his fond memories of my cooking: Mom’s tofu salad. At this point, they don’t really know any different, and they don’t seem to miss meat at all. They love things I never tried at their age like tempeh, and they go crazy for naturally vegetarian ethnic foods found in cuisines from India, Thailand, and the Middle East.


Here are a few of our guidelines that have naturally evolved:

1. They are free to make their own decisions about what they eat. I let their host know that they are vegetarian in advance if they are at someone’s house. So far everyone has been very gracious and made sure there was a veggie option.

2. We don’t try to indoctrinate their friends in any way. That would make me crazy if someone tried to force their beliefs on my kids, so I wouldn’t do that. However, we only have veg food at our house which I try to make sure is something especially good when friends come over so it is a positive experience.

3. I teach them to be as non-judgmental as possible when others eat meat, and give them enough information that they can handle comments about “how do they get their protein”. If we want to have any influence towards others at all, it has to come from being a good example and respectful rather than force and anger.

4. I haven’t pushed veganism on the kids. They prefer to keep some cheese in their diet, and sometimes eggs. We compromise and for awhile I would get special eggs from a neighbor’s chickens and use them so sparingly it took 2 weeks to go through a dozen. I stopped buying cow’s milk and just made sure I had soy and almond options- no one complained because it didn’t make a difference to them. They mostly have soy milk in their cereal. If I make delicious vegan meals, everyone is happy and no one misses anything. I know they would go vegan in a minute if I showed them footage from factory farms of chicks being ground up alive or baby calves taken from their mothers. It is so hard for me to watch, I don’t want them to see that cruelty. I am honest about the situation when we do discuss it.

5. I make a lot of smoothies with spinach, make sure they eat a lot of fresh fruit, veg, beans and tofu, and give them a daily multivitamin.

6. We visit farms and animal sanctuaries and they get a chance to see these farm animals in real life, and not just as “bacon”.

I hope, and think, my kids are good ambassadors and role models for other kids who would like to be vegetarian. They are healthy and growing well. We’ll see if they stay vegetarians or become vegans for the rest of their lives. In any case, I am glad that if they do stay on this path, they don’t have to have regrets that they ate meat for decades of their life as I now do. I was never prevented, I honestly just never thought about it earlier on a deep level.


We’re planning on starting a Portland Veg Kids group of some sort to promote friendly activism, and the kids are volunteering at veg events we attend. They love the food, and Portland is a great city for choices. We’re incredibly lucky that they can even have vegan fast food items for special treats.

If I could give any advice, I would say please don’t stifle your child’s natural inclination towards compassion. If they do want to try vegetarianism, it really will be okay, just do some research.




It’s never “Happy Turkey Day”

TurkeysWe hear this expression used instead of Happy Thanksgiving often. The unfortunate turkey has been cast as the star of this annual feast of giving thanks, and gathering with friends and family.

Although I have only been eating a plant-based diet since March 2012, I have never made my own turkey, and now it looks like I never will. It always seemed like a scary thing involving frozen items thawing, innards, and long baking times. While it may seem impossible to imagine a holiday table without a big turkey carcass as the centerpiece, my favorite part of the meal has always been the side dishes, especially my mom’s stuffing that has nuts and dried fruit!

The main variety of turkey eaten in the US is a domesticated breed called the broad-breasted white. The average live weight of federally inspected turkeys has nearly doubled in the past 50 years, and the time it takes for a turkey to reach market weight has halved.

46 million birds will die just for Thanksgiving dinner. They are killed at only 18 weeks old, and are overly huge since the breast meat is preferred. In personality, turkeys are intelligent and sensitive animals that are highly social. They create lasting social bonds with each other and are very affectionate; rather similar to dogs.


Many of these animals suffer needlessly as a result of being super-sized by factory farming methods, as we buy excessively large animals to impress our guests. Americans throw away about 35 percent of edible turkey meat each year. So most people are buying turkeys 1/3 larger than they will even eat.

Considering this, you have several options besides just blindly following tradition.


1. My favorite: Make a true harvest dinner, like this delicious spread. Most of the traditional side dishes can be made without animal products, use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth for example.

2. Buy a turkey substitute like a Tofurky or make your own!

3. Keep in mind the treatment of the animal by understanding labels. It is more expensive to worry about these things because the animal has been allowed to grow naturally, and it is cheaper to raise animals with unhealthy food and space.

For some reason, with turkeys, a single bird is eaten per family (rather than just sliced off portions of a whole animal), which makes it seem more personal. I vote for keeping guilt off the plate entirely.

Plan ahead for a happy and compassionate Thanksgiving for all!