Ketchup. (ie. Catch Up.)

I did it. I went through an entire 36 hours without even turning on my computer. I felt equal parts free and unattached but also, frankly, out of the loop. I have so many ideas for posts, but I’m going to dive back in slowly today with a completely random list of things I like right now. And if you haven’t given yourself a break in a little while, take it from me: please do. And enjoy some of these things while you do it.

1. WINK ‘zine. Those wonderful ladies on South Side Bethlehem have done it again. WINK Pinup has branched off to make a completely original, female-positive ‘zine. Articles include the significance of DIY culture, why dressing for YOU (wearing what you like despite trends and such) is an empowering, personal choice and a stroll through Home & Planet, an eco-friendly, modern homewares store in town. Oh, and I was the cover girl and centerfold! (NEVER thought I’d say that in my lifetime!) There’s a brief interview with me inside, talking about food and cooking and my attempt at makes vegetables sexy.

If you’d like a copy of WINK zine, they are floating all over South Side, or email me at savethekales@gmail.com and ask for one and I’ll mail one to you. These are FREE, and this is the first of many issues. I love you WINK. I’m winking at you right now.

2.  *EDIT: Earlier, I posted Chocolate Cheerios as a tasty, albeit unhealthy snack. It has been brought to my attention that the ingredient “D3” is made from SHEEPS WOOL (!? why is that in cereal!?). So, woopsies! And thanks to those of you who helped me out with that one. Learning is fun.

*NOTE: As I was writing the above paragraph, I meant to write “huge candy bar” but instead first wrote “hug candy bear”. The best slip-up typo ever. I feel like it perfectly illustrates the inner workings of my brain, which is 90% full of thoughts of hugging animals, all day at any given time.

3. Endangered Species Lego exhibit. I need to preface my like of this by saying at the moment it’s at the Philadelphia Zoo. And faithful readers, we know all about the unfortunate badness of zoos. But the exhibit itself is a really unique and fun, unpretentious way to bring light to the severity of animals in danger of extinction. Lego Artist Sean Kenney has made 34 endangered species made completely of legos (over 250,000 of them). The lego animals are life-size and planted around the zoo in cages (boo). But the idea is fantastic and I hope this moves to a museum!

4. The Vegan Girl’s Guide to Life: Cruelty-free Crafts, Recipes, Beauty Secrets and More by Melisser Elliot. OH MY GOODNESS. This book is not set to come out until November, but please join me in anticipation! Melisser is the Urban Housewife, more than just a fancy title she gave herself as it’s also the name of her award-winning blog. She also runs a San-Francisco vegan bakery called Sugar Beat Sweets. Since this book’s release is still far off, I can’t give a detailed review BUT based on Melisser’s general awesomeness, I know we can expect good things. Plus, she’s a cute vegan girl with a sassy haircut and tattoos. What’s not to love?

5. Animal Rights checks. Thanks to electronic billing, using paper checks has become a rarity for most people, but if you’re looking for a way to send your bill collectors a message, check out the many checks that benefit various animal- and earth-friendly organizations. Some include Farm Sanctuary, PETA, the  National Audubon Society and Greenpeace. You can see an extensive list of checks here.

6. What I Eat poster. What a great idea! I’m sure most of you know that when people find out you eat vegan, they become exasperated and baffled, followed by “What DO you eat?!” This stunning poster was made to answer that question. This is a nice sized poster, 18″x24″, and would look gorgeous hanging in your kitchen. Also, check out the budget friendly price of only $12.o0!!!   This item is for sale on Herbivore Clothing, and while you’re there check out all of the other fantastic items including t-shirts, stickers, and a wonderful book selection.

7. VegetarianStar.com. It’s a guilty pleasure to read about Hollywood gossip (Though I admit, I mostly thumb through US Weekly specifically to look at the fashion). But this is a site I feel less-guilty about. Vegetarian Star is a celebrity blog with the specific goal of highlighting veg*n celebrities and issues. It’s also inspiring to read about super rich people that are passionate about something so important! The site has recipes, videos, and all the veggie-themed celeb gossip you can handle. Read it at VegetarianStar.com

What are you really loving right now?

Stuff yourself with stuffed (toy) food.

Over the weekend I was conducting ridiculous ebay searches, and found something truly incredible: stuffed animal tofu dolls in various colors! They are even marketed as “collectibles”. Holy gosh! They are so cute! Today, I bring you some of the cutest vegan-related food and animal toys.  Is there anyone that doesn’t like chubby little plush versions of regular everyday things? These should feed the kid in you.

These are the items that kicked off my newfound obsession with plush food. I went on ebay and searched “tofu” and found these silly, ridiculous but unabashedly awesome tofu stuffed-animals (stuffed NON-animals?). I am completely in love. The next time I have very dispensable income, you will all be mine!  And lest we forget about this HUGE TOFU that can sit on a chair in your kitchen and watch you cook! I KNOW, RIGHT!?

Friends, my birthday is in September. Hint hint.

Onward to other cute stuffed foods:

Here is an adorable set of felt veggies! I love the speckled zucchini and brown underside of the mushroom cap. Is it weird that I want to put these in a bowl in my kitchen? I bet they are soft enough that even Pierogi would crawl in and snuggle up with the green beans. More awesome felt fruits and vegetables are found in the Etsy shop, like watermelons and slicable (!) kiwis, and spaghetti with veggie-meatballs. Set from Felt Playground, $22.50 for 5 vegetables.

If you’re crafty and wield a mean crochet hook, consider buying this pattern for a vegetable garden! For a few dollars, you can make your very own window planter box and “grow” crocheted potatoes, carrots, turnips and onions. A simple change of yarn color and you can make even more vegetables, like radishes and beets! I LOVE the idea of making this for a new baby. So much more hip than the usual crochet baby blanket. Pattern from Crafty Anna, only $5.oo!

Why should humans all the fun? For some of the most truly unique cat toys you’ve ever seen, you have to check out the shop of OhBoy CatToy. All toys are made with organic catnip inside. For $10, you get a set of 2 tacos. Some of the other toys include: VanGogh’s ear, a beer mug with eyes, a camera, a roll of toilet paper, and I’m hesitant to say a... bearded clam. I wonder if they’ll ever make a pierogi, and then I could say “Pierogi is chewing on a pierogi!”. That’s kind of weird. Nonetheless, these are cute and weird and totally original. If cat toys have to be sprawled all over the living room floor, they may as well be conversation-starters. Check out OhBoy CatToy, toys starting at $3.00.

 

Video 6! (Or 5+1… I hate that other number) Mexican Pie!

I’m happy to kick off the weekend with a new video! I was craving refried beans and hot peppers (what else is new?) so came up with this visually-awesome twist on a burrito. Enjoy!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 vegan pie shell (homemade or store bought; I used Mrs. Smiths frozen crust)
  • 1 can refried beans (make sure they do NOT have gross LARD in them!)
  • 1/2 small red onion
  • 1/2 green bell pepper
  • 1/2 can black beans, rinsed
  • handful chopped fresh cilantro
  • salsa or chopped tomatoes
  • chopped green onion (scallions)
  • avocado slices
  • fresh lime juice

HOW TO: Bake the pie shell first! Spread the refried beans evenly in the shell. Add onions, peppers, and black beanns, cilantro, tomatoes or salsa, and green onions. IF BAKING: Now is the time to put it in the oven. You just want to “heat it up”, so try baking for about 15 minutes at about 375, and cover with tin foil. BAKING OR NOT: Arrange avodaco slices in apretty design on the top, garnish with any other ingredients. Squeeze lime juice on top, being sure to get it on the avocado. Serve immediately!

* After making this video, I took this on a picnic and ate it cold. It was really delicious that way! The avocado kept fairly well thanks to the lime juice.

*If you are going to wait a day to serve, it will store well in the fridge (and the flavors will meld together well!). Just be sure not to add the avocado until right before serving.

AND: If you’re in the Valley, tonight (Friday April 23) from 5-7pm Marie Rodale of thee Rodale Press (Runner’s World, Women’s Health, Alicia Silvertone’s vegan wonder-book The Kind Diet) will be signing her new book, “Organic Manifesto: How Organic Farming can Heal the World, Feed our Planet and Keep us Safe” at Moravian Bookshop on Main St. Bethlehem.

You can find more information ABOUT THE BOOK HERE.

I’d go the whole wide world…

Happy 40th Earth Day! (Or if you’re me, Happy 26th Earth Day plus 14 more!)

It seems safe to say that being in nature makes most people feel good, whether it’s a hike on a footpath through a forest or lounging on the sand in front of a vast ocean. Nature is not only around us daily (if you’re in a big city, it may be harder to come by), but it’s something that inspires us. That’s why so many people seek vacations in exotic places – to see white sands, natural waterfalls or native plants.

I would also bet that most people felt a deep connection with the earth at a young age. Remember how fun it was to plant your first seeds inside an old egg carton, lining your carton along the windowsill with the rest of class, checking every day for the first tiny green sprout?

Most children also have a natural inclination to love animals. They sleep with stuffed animals, they wear animals on their clothing, their favorite story and movie characters are animals, etc… If a child intends to hurt an animal (a pet or otherwise), it throws up a red flag to guardians.

So, at what point in the growing and aging process do these things no longer become important? Why is it when a child loves an animal, it’s sweet and precious and kind, but an adult veg(etari)an is a “hippie, liberal tree-hugger” which is always said with negative intent?

For Earth Day, I ask this of you: Take a moment to think about your values. And then consider what you are doing in your life to work toward living those values with dignity and purpose. When everything is stripped from you (relationships, homes, our stuff, our jobs), and you are left with only yourself and your actions, are you living in a way that makes you proud?

I think it’s a really incredible realization, to find that your actions need a tune-up. It’s not about feeling guilty or bad, it’s about recognizing that sometimes we get so caught up with the image we want of ourselves, who we actually ARE and what we actually DO becomes disconnected.

This is going to sound somewhat hokey and eye roll-inducing, but bear with me when I say: Every day is an opportunity to reassess who we think we are, who we want to be, and plan how to make it all happen. Every single day! That is so forgiving! Your job, your friends, your school or the people in your life won’t give you that many chances. (If they do, keep ’em around.)  Only you can give and then take these endless opportunities. I urge you to do so.

Earth Day is a day that reminds us to consider the health of the planet and all of it’s living creatures. And we are encouraged to change our habits that will help preserve and heal the earth. So I ask you to think about restoring and healing yourself. To look at what habits you can change so they align with what is important to you.

(“Seek Truth” print from Raw Art Letterpress, via ETSY)

If you care about the environment and animals, consider eating more whole-foods, plant-based meals as one of the most direct and monumental ways to help the environment. It’s not about being “perfect” – it’s about doing what’s best for you.

Save the Earth and Save the Kales!

Cages are for batting, not animals.

I really struggle with the fact that zoos and aquariums can be (usually are) negative places for animals.

Many zoos claim that they are positive for animals, as without them some species would be hunted or killed in the wild, thus leading to extinction. They also attempt to breed among the captive animals and say this will help aid in growing population of the species.

While I do NOT, in any capacity, think that the zoologists and animal caretakers intend to do anything but keeping the animals safe, fed, and cared for, zoos pose a number of issues for anyone concerned about animals and the claims made above.

The most obvious problem is the the cage. Animals that roam free in their native habitat with infinite miles to roam or fly are now given a limited, comparatively tiny space to live. A  lion in the wild runs through grasses, hunts for food, travels with it’s family and on average walks about five miles a day. A lion in a zoo has a small, simulated habitat with a few other lions and some rocks to climb on.

It’s like putting a butterfly in a jar with a twig, some leaves and a few holes poked in the top and expecting it to not only live, but thrive.

And in terms of breeding, just as with people, if you breed animals from a small selection of the species, it nearly becomes inbreeding. Just as a small group of related people COULD breed and thus, make more people, we can all agree that they SHOULDN’T. And when animals are bred, the babies usually stay in the zoo to be used as money making attraction.

Just like circuses, zoos use animals as entertainment. They also indirectly promotes the disconnect between the food people eat, and the cute, cuddly animals in a zoo. Meat is animal flesh. That statement is a fact, and stands alone without any animal-rights intent. It’s strange to see parents taking photos of their kids petting and feeding an animal, wearing clothes with animals on them, carrying animal stuffed animals, and then go to the cafeteria to eat hot dogs and hamburgers.

Here is my personal dilemma:

I love animals! I love petting them, learning about them and watching them. When I have gone to zoos and aquariums in the past, I have loved every second of it. My heart fills with joy and I usually walk around with my mouth agape when I’m not saying “Wow!”.

These places always reinstate why I don’t want to EAT animals – they are too beautiful in so many ways. Seeing them reinforces my choice for a compassionate lifestyle. After seeing them, I always feel inspired to donate to a sanctuary, read more about the animals or fish, or just cook a really great meal.

Yesterday, I was fortunate enough to catch a few Episodes of LIFE, a new Discovery Channel series narrated by Oprah. I was stunned, amazed and in disbelief and not only the incredible shots of animals I’ve never seen or heard of, but to learn about their various behaviors. It is no exaggeration to say it is INCREDIBLE, and I urge you to check your local listings to tune in.

This got me thinking about all the great animal-friendly alternatives to zoos. Here are just a few:

Watch a movie/documentary: The aforementioned LIFE series is easily one of the best, if not THE best example. Movies show animals in their natural state, and can teach a lot more about how an animal actually lives than just waving to him from the other side of a barred cage. Not only do you get incredible visuals, but the commentary is full of information.

Visit an animal sanctuary: These are much different than zoos, as the intent behind them is actually about preserving life for animals, not making money on entertainment disguised as concern. Sanctuaries are often non-profits, meaning the money you spend to visit one is going right back to the animals you get to visit.

Live compassionately: When you don’t eat animals and refrain from buying animal products and contributing to things like circuses, you save almost 100 animals a year. And by “saving them”, you are are keeping demand for them low, and ideally they won’t even be bred in the first place.

This video is a kid-friendly animation of zoo animals explaining why they’d rather live elsewhere:

If you are interested in learning more about the harmful impacts of zoos, THIS WEBSITE is full of information.

CLICK HERE to learn more about the LIFE: Discovery Channel series, and watch selected videos free online!

DO YOU REMEMBER? Guest Post

I had the pleasure of writing the 300th post on Andrew’s blog REMEMBER, which got featured today. It’s a small essay about opening your eyes to inspiration when you have told yourself there is none. I talk about my new blog project and it’s meaning to myself and the community.

READ THE POST HERE.

Thanks, Andrew. I raise a glass to 300 more!

SAVE THE… PARKS! Event Announced!

Friends, I am so happy to tell you that I have joined forces with Andrew Kleiner, author of REMEMBER, a blog about preserving the natural dignity and beauty of the parks and waterways in the Lehigh Valley. What’s great about Andrew is that while so many of us talk about “saving the planet” in terms of buying recycled-paper products and saving up for a new hybrid car, Andrew spends most of his time in and out of class actually in the environment, outdoors, getting his hands and feet dirty. His efforts just got him unanimously elected to the EAC – Environmental Advisory Council.

We with our powers combined, we are hosting a SAVE THE PARKS & KALES public event! If you’re in the Lehigh Valley, you will certainly want to come out for fun, friends and FOOD (and meet some other veg-folks). Here is a description, as per Andrew’s blog.:

“In the midst of continued controversy, and what is slowly becoming a very active summer season of volunteer stewardship, I imagine it is incredibly easy to forget that our parks are places of refuge, relaxation, community, connection and true spirit.

After yesterday’s storm of comments and seeming concern, I am looking forward to large turnouts at :

Save The Parks: Litter Pick Up at Bucky Boyle
Save The Parks: Old Fairgrounds Clean Up and Restoration

It is with this in mind that I am incredibly excited to announce that Remember will be joining forces with Save The Kales to present an afternoon of food, fun, sunlight (fingers crossed) and connection.

Save The Kales is a blog written by a foodie, citizen-advocate, and all around awesome lady by the name of Jaime K. Jaime also writes a blog focusing on the strength of community in Bethlehem, calledHEART OF STEELcity.

I have rented Pavilion number three and I ask that you please RSVP so Jaime and I know how much food to prepare.

Bring a Frisbee.

Bring a lawn chair.

Most importantly, bring yourself, eat great food, sit back and Remember:

”Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.” Muir

I will be sharing many particular details in the coming weeks, but also consider this a great day to kick back after what I am hoping are two great clean ups and restorations.

There will be a lot fun that afternoon. Get excited, spread the word and also, Save The Kales.

More details to come…. MARK YOUR CALENDAR NOW!”

This event will be FREE, donations accepted for cost of food (catered by me!) and pavilion rental. Family-friendly.

MORE DETAILS TO COME! WHO’S WITH ME!?

Please check out Andrew’s blog “Remember”, here: http://rememberkleiner.blogspot.com/

What smells so good?

I have been the busiest bee! I’m mostly feeling excitement, but some exhaustion and feelings of being overwhelmed creep in. I’m curious to try some aromatherapy as a way to relax, slow down a little, and recharge my mind.

There are various aromatherapy products on the market, but the most basic form of use is to dip cotton in some of the scented oil and inhale through the nose, allowing the scent to take over your senses and calm you. Some of the most frequently used scents for stress and stress-related problems are:

Anger, Anxiety: Basil, bergamot, chamomile, clary sage, cypress, frankincense, geranium, hyssop, jasmine, juniper, lavender, marjoram, melissa, neroli, ylang-ylang

Depression: Basil, clary sage, grapefruit, jasmine, lavender, melissa, neroli, rose, sandalwood, vetiver, ylang-ylang

Insomnia: Basil, chamomile, lavender, mandarin, marjoram, melissa, neroli, petitgrain, rose, sandalwood, thyme, ylang-ylang

Nervous Exhaustion: Basil, cinnamon, citronella, coriander, ginger, grapefruit, hyssop, jasmine, lavender, lemon grass, peppermint, nutmeg, rosemary, ylang-ylang

Nervous Tension: Basil, bergamot, cedarwood, chamomile, cinnamon, frankincense, geranium, jasmine, lavender, marjoram, melissa, neroli, palmarosa, rosemary, vetiver, ylang-ylang

Remember that scents are also great memory-triggers, so you can find one that brings up nice memories or that smell of a calming place to help you visualize something positive. And if you’re really lucky, you may be able to convince someone to give you a nice back massage with oil or oil-scented lotion!

Diffusers are also available, which are like small clay pots with a bottom half that holds a tea candle, and a top half above the candle where you can pour the oil of your choice, and let the scent fill a room, similar to a scented candle.

They won’t get all of your emails answered, and using scented oils may calm you down. If not, using aromatherapy certainly won’t have a negative effect! Scents can be found in some specialty grocery stores, health food stores, and online.

Check out Auroma’s website for everything you could ever want to buy or know about aromatherapy: www.auroma.com

What are your favorite calming scents?


I NEED TO EAT!

WOW that a week! I feel like one of those high-stress people in business-casual clothes that always look annoyed about going to another meeting on television commercials. I was cleaning up my condo (for sale!) and the wifi had a glitch, so I’m making this post in a hurried flash from the Giant Grocery Store up the street. If you don’t have a Giant Grocery chain hear you, I cross my fingers and hope that you are imagining a supermarket for VERY TALL AND LARGE PEOPLE.

It’s past noon and I haven’t had any breakfast or lunch yet – not recommended! I’m going to have to grab something fast, which gave me the idea for this post. What are some standby snacks or meals you can get when you need food fast but don’t want to eat garbage? Here are my immediate ideas:

1. See if the closest grocery store has a salad bar. Most chain grocery stores, even the many of the older ones, have a salad bar. Not always the most appetizing, but you are sure to find fresh veggies and oil and vinegar for an easy (albeit not always entirely appetizing) lunch. If you’re lucky, the salad bar may have olives, grape leaves (make sure they have no meat!), hummus or cold grain salads.

2. In doubt, find a bagel. You should be able to find bagels almost anywhere, including cafes and fast food places. Unless you are able to track down a delicious whole grain-kind-with-the-little-seeds-inside bagel, a plain bagel isn’t exactly “healthy” but is likely vegan and will keep you from getting grumpy and annoying your friends. Let me note that you may still want to ASK if the bagel you are selecting is made with eggs. Most are not, but some are, and I don’t want it to be my fault if you find out the hard way!

3. Grab easy rations from a grocery store. If you don’t have luck with a salad bar, you should be able to run around the store and find a few easy foods to go, like some crackers in one aisle and hummus with the refrigerated food. Grab an apple and orange from produce and you have a little portable meal!

4. When the going gets tough, white flour may be your only choice. So if you’re taking a nice weekend road trip and end up in some wacky small town in say, I don’t know, Eastern Pennsylvania, and the gas station is the size of a closet with those questionable outside restrooms that require you to use a key with a ruler attached, you’re not going to find the most healthy and diverse vegan snack options. But try to look for these items before you give up hope and run screaming into the woods: a soft pretzel, a pack of peanuts, a bag of hard pretzels, a granola-type bar, non-cheese crackers with peanut butter.

Good luck out there!

SURPRISE PARTY, Part 2

Okay everybody. I’m so happy to share this news with you that I can’t even wait until it’s “officially” ready – though, somehow 65 of you already stumbled upon it in the past few hours, so the cat’s out of the bag… which is great, because cats don’t belong in bags.

Today is the site launch of my new blog, dedicated to the creative endeavors of the Lehigh Valley:

HEART OF STEELcity, while extremely personal to me, is about the place I live. My home. I’ve lived here for years with tentative ideas and skepticism. It seemed hard to get projects off the ground, to find supporters and like-minded people, and a move away seemed like the best option to seek inspiration.

But over the past few months, as I have worked every day to be the best version of myself and while humbly accepting my flaws and working to change them, the same transformation happened in this place, as well. Creative, positive people seemed to storm the streets at the same moment. Young entrepreneurs are taking risks and building successful businesses. Artists are finding ways to share what they do with others, outside of formal galleries, creating beauty where there was none. Musicians are collaborating, communities in the truest sense of the word are growing, and there seems to be an optimism shared by everyone.

I don’t think it was planned, but there is a revolution happening in this city, and it’s my goal to document it. I have met so many people that share the same excited outlook. Things are changing for the better. And if you live here, you are lucky enough to be a part of it.

And so, HEART OF STEELcity is born: www.heartofsteelcity.wordpress.com

The first official post will be an interview with Andy Po, Homebase Skateshop owner, about the overwhelming community response to the Bethlehem Skateplaza project, and how the grassroots movement has pushed the project into national spotlight.

I hope you, all of you, can be a part of it.

And I want to thank every reader of this blog, for helping to encourage me through your always-kind words and readership. I can say something I have always wanted to say with dignity and accomplishment: “I am a writer”.

You will never know how much all of this means. Thank you.