Blog Inspiration: Corinne Bowen (Okay, also Human Being Inspiration)

Corinne first contacted me what must be over a year ago to tell me I won an online contest via Crazy Sexy Life for some UliMana raw cacao truffles. Hey, online contests are fun, and it’s really fun to get an email from a women who writes for one of your favorite websites (CrazySexyLife.com) and print publications (VegNews and Vegetarian Times magazines).

I’ve enjoyed seeing her work pop up in media outlets I frequently explore, and I’ve poked around on her website now and again. Corinne is also in-house-editor of Crazy Sexy Kitchen, by Kris Carr, a new book due out later this year.

Hanging out/working with Kris Carr in Woodstock, NY.

It’s not an exaggeration to say to women has her hands in some of my favorite things, truly dream projects.

In the last two weeks we’ve reconnected via the internet, and I have been endlessly pouring through her blog. Literally reading every entry whenever I have the time. I have been making the time, in fact, because her posts make me so excited about writing, cooking, carving my own career path, and the entirety of life in general.

http://www.CorinneBowen.com

Her blog has everything I truly find pertinent and personally satisfying in a blog at this point in my life: she’s   soon turning 30 so I’m finding moments of her life quite relatable from an age-perspective (I’m 28); I love reading about her beautiful, creative family and her extremely healthy vegan pregnancy; she has been focusing on the simple pleasures we can often forget – how refreshing it is to clear up some clutter which creates better mental space as well as physical, or that chopping vegetables can be meditative; but especially the posts she writes about following your bliss and how she gave up a “safe” career path (a salary, a 401K) to pursue freelance writing.

When I read about her projects, I almost (almost) feel intimidated because she has worked on/is working on what are some of my personal dream projects. A quick glance at her resume of work makes me feel like I’m talking to a person living the dream life.

Her beautiful family enjoying the sunshine.

And that’s whats so special about her blog. She illustrates that a dream life is possible. It’s not always glitzy and glamorous, it may still require a grocery budget, and it’s certainly not always easy or without self-doubt or hard work. But that’s what makes it great: it’s tangible, and it may be simpler to come by than we imagine.

There are far too many wonderful posts to try and pull from my favorite parts, but this one sums it up fairly well:

“I showed Audrey (daughter) her reflection in the mirror and couldn’t help but snap our photo. I thought: This is my life, on my terms, doing what I love with my baby girl beside me. I remembered: The doubt of changing careers, the anxiety of taking leaps of faith (over and over again), and the difficulties that came with ignoring advice. And I confirmed: Every single sleepless night, every what-if mind game, every hymn sung by my imaginary choir of critics (all of which still exist on very low volume) were so clearly worth the grief.

When I feel afraid to listen to my gut, I reflect on tiny yet tremendous moments like the one at Ma Petite Shoe. These quieter times are loud in perspective. They give me a little space to relish the fact that I’ve yet to discover a moment that following my bliss didn’t eventually lead to just that. And I’d urge anyone who has something daring or dreamy tugging at their heart to take a step forward, even if it seems scary.”

– Corinne Bowen.com

Corinne and baby Audrey

EXCITING THINGS!

Cookbook Giveaway/Birthday Wish (Support a Sanctuary)

1. Corinne is giving away a copy of the wonderful Blissful Bites cookbook! I’ve talked about Christy and her book before – it’s really lovely, tons of color photos, and the recipes are healthy and easy to make. This is one of my favorite cookbooks and Corinne feels the same way. She’s giving away one copy! 

2. For her 30th birthday, Corinne has asked folks to donate to the Maple Farm Sanctuary. She was introduced to this sanctuary after writing about them for a VegNews article, and it inspired her to selflessly ask that her birthday gifts come in the form of donations. You can sponsor a chicken for as little as $10 (yup, just ten dollars) and greater donations help larger animals. Instead of going out for lunch one day next week, consider donating to a wonderful cause and make a birthday wish come true at the same time.

She ended our most recent email exchage, a few hours ago, with this:

“It’s funny how easy it is to think that when we achieve a certain milestone, everything else will make sense. I’ve found that that never really happens. It’s just about being happy where you are. Things are always getting easier and more difficult at the same time! I think that’s the beauty of life when you guide your path by your heart. xo”

Go to her site. Start reading. Continue reading. Bookmark then read some more. Repeat.

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ILLUMINATE EVERYTHING: Thoughts on Veg*n Parenting from Jonathan Safran Foer

I’ve worked around books for nearly half my life, and they’ve been important to me for all of it.

I still remember that trip to New Hope, PA (doesn’t that just sound like a place where magical things happen?). It was 2002 or 2003, walking through the new/used book shop on Main Street, making my way to the “Our Staff Recommends” shelves, the most sought-after part of any bookstore. This is where you exchange ideas with the living, breathing employees of a store, where a few sentences on a rectangle card could give you insight about the story and the person who read it.

And that’s when I first saw that striking cover, graphic black and white, jarring in it’s contrast, and the text in swooping handwritten cursive. This, before handwritten font became the norm (not that I’m complaining; I think a good handwritten font is one of the most intimate forms of design).

It’s easy for me to say that Jonathan Safran Foer is one of my favorite authors. Usually “What/Who is your favorite?” questions conjure anxiety, followed by the complete wiping out of any thoughts or ideas on the topic, and I’m left to stare blankly and shrug in response. But with Jonathan Safran Foer, it’s easy.

I think part of why I respect him as a writer is not not only his use of metaphor, or the way he uses the actual placement of text on a page to help tell the story, but because he as a human being seems like a good person. Those are small words for a big idea. But it is evident in his writing, the subjects he writes about, and the sincerity with which he writes. I’d love if he could be my real-life friend, but I’m still pleased to call him a favorite author.

If you’re not familiar with his work, you’ve at least heard about the film currently in theaters based on Jonathan’s book Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Last year when I heard this book would be a) turned into a movie and b) a movie starring Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock (!), I was slightly heartbroken and very skeptical. (And, to be shamefully honest, I had a pang of “But I liked it first and now everyone’s going to like it, and what if they don’t get it, and I don’t want to share.”)

Except the thing with that book is that I have started and re-started to read it nearly ten times in the last six or seven years, and I can’t get through it. It feels too real, perhaps especially so for anyone who lost their father at a (relatively) young age. For the same reason, and those mentioned above, I’m not sure I can see the movie either (yet). But I am getting over the fact that “the masses” will now become familiar with Jonathan’s work.

Now, when I go to work at the bookstore and I see a sixteen year old girl with Twilight under one arm and Extremely Loud under the other, I hope that Jonathan’s book will mean something special to her. I truly believe the ideas put forth in the books that mean the most to us create our values, help us to see the world through different lenses, and can impact our lives and who we are more than we can measure. I’m happy that someone as talented and thoughtful as Jonathan Safran Foer is getting the chance to effect more people with his beautiful work.

HOW DOES THIS RELATE TO SAVE THE KALES?

This is how: In 2009, Jonathan wrote a nonfiction book called Eating Animals. It is, as you can imagine, about his journey to vegetarianism. What prompted him to take a look at his food choices and the environmental impact of them was for the same reason many people decide to make life improvements: he was going to have his first child.

What’s remarkable about this book is that, unlike most books on the topic, it is very narrative in style. And it also comes from the point of a view of a regular person learning about this stuff for the first time. He isn’t a vegan, he hasn’t ever been involved with an animal rights organizations and doesn’t have years of information and hard-formed opinions. He is a guy who cares about the world in which his child will grow up, and what he will use to nourish his child, and finds that modern food politics are pretty messed up.

A few times in my life I’ve been asked about how I will raise my own children. I remember meeting the conservative Christian Italian family of my boyfriend in freshman year of college, piling spaghetti with marinara sauce on my plate, and his mother slamming down the bowl of meatballs right in front of me and saying, “Well if you ever have kids, you better not make them eat this way, I don’t want my grandkids to be malnourished“. Friends and family have asked in inquisitive, non-confrontational ways if I would raise my child, a baby, on a vegan diet.

There is a part in Eating Animals addressing this topic that so perfectly sums up my own thoughts and feelings – especially feelings, food and how we raise our children are both very emotional things. While I recommend the whole book, and any of his work, this part in particular does just the thing good books are made for: they help us to understand ourselves better.

[From “Eating Animals” by Jonathan Safran Foer]

“Children confront us with our paradoxes and dishonesty, and we are exposed. You need to find an answer for every why — Why do we do this? Why don’t we do that? — and often there isn’t a good one. So you say, simply, because. Or you tell a story that you know isn’t true. And whether or not your face reddens, you blush. The shame of parenthood — which is a good shame — is that we want our children to be more whole than we are, to have satisfactory answers. My children not only inspired me to reconsider what kind of eating animal I would be, but also shamed me into reconsideration.

And then, one day, they will choose for themselves. I don’t know what my reaction will be if they decide to eat meat. (I don’t know what my reaction will be if they decide to renounce their Judaism, root for the Red Sox or register Republican.) I’m not as worried about what they will choose as much as my ability to make them conscious of the choices before them. I won’t measure my success as a parent by whether my children share my values, but by whether they act according to their own.”

…. You can read a longer excerpt of the book, including these paragraphs in context, on the NY Times website here

My little sweet pea.

I’ve been contemplating my life path more than usual lately, and one thing that keeps coming to mind are children and parenthood. While I’m in no place to seriously consider it any time soon, I think generally speaking, I would like to be a mom someday.

This raises the question (that everyone, strangers and peers alike, seem to want to know): Will you raise your kids with a veg*n diet?

Short answer: Absolutely, yes. Without question. There is no stammering, no “I’m thinking about it…”. Unequivocally, absolutely YES.  This is not to say I am placing any judgement on other parents, or that I would go around preaching songs of righteousness and superiority or “conversion” or any of that nonsense.

As a parent, you want to raise your kids in the best possible way, and that means whatever values and lessons you have for yourself will be passed on to them. This could be said for religion, family values and traditions, a focus on interests like sports, dance, math, the arts, etc…

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has been cornered by others asking this question. I recall a very intimidating meet-the-parents dinner with one of my ex’s, where they kindly accommodated my diet and made a wonderful Italian spaghetti dinner. But early in the meal, as the bowl of meatballs was heavy-handedly dropped in front of my plate, they asked in a scrutinizing tone, “You want to raise your kids like this? You want to make them sick?”

WHOA! Now, I understand that what they probably meant was “I am not very knowledgeable in vegetarian nutrition, and I just want to make sure your kids will happy and healthy!”  But it can be very hurtful when doing what you believe to be the best (and healthiest) for your children is put under attack, as though a diet full of whole foods is somehow equivalent to malnutrition.

Let’s talk about something else for a moment, shall we? Childhood obesity. Among all of the other health problems that I hope children won’t have, childhood obesity is ever-growing, and rapidly. The number of obese children has tripled since 1980. In the US, 20% of children are obese. One in five. And one third have fast food once every day. 1 out of 3 children have fast food once a day.

A year ago, I went to a chinese buffet with my Mom and Grandmother. And as I was piling my plate with green beans and rice noodles, I saw a young boy with a face so full and round his eyes almost looked permanently closed. He had two plates, and filling them with fried foods, all meat and carbs. And he went back for more food multiple times.  It broke my heart.

But where are the food police to begin the barrage of questions to this child’s parents? (*Note: I do not advocate putting people on the spot, but let’s imagine for a moment what we could ask.) “How does your child get his fiber? What about his B-vitamins, calcium, zinc, folate, antioxidants? Do you want to make him sick?”

Let’s just take “meat eating” and “vegetarianism” out of the equation for a moment. The focus here should be on healthy children, learning to make responsible food choices. And a well-balanced diet of any kind can do that.  A proper veg*n diet can be the antithesis of malnutrition.

As I learn more about nutrition and foster my maternal instincts, it is important to me to learn to raise healthy veg*n kids to tie in great eating habits, as well as personal values of compassion. How can anyone claim thats wrong or bad? My ultimate goal as mom is to teach my children to speak, and live, their truth.

Here are a few great sites to inspire veg*n diets and ideas for kids:

Certainly one of the most popular sites for vegans and parents, The Vegan Lunchbox is a blog that highlights the packed lunches of vegan kids, with mouthwatering photos and recipes. You will not believe how CUTE food can be! Jennifer McCann is beyond creative, and is also now a twice-published author, with two vegan lunchbox books that can be found at your local bookstore. Her site can inspire anyone stuck in a tofurkey sandwich rut. http://veganlunchbox.blogspot.com/

A great source for tons of information for vegan families, VegFamily Magazine is an online magazine with information on pregnancy, children, teens, and general health and recipes. Also features book review (my favorite!), product reviews, FAQ’s, shopping guides, and discussion forums.  http://www.vegfamily.com/

Want to see something adorable? Check out VeganKids, a website and blog written and run by, you guessed it, vegan kids. Read about their experiences helping their parents cook (with photos!), playing with family pets, and everyday observations. Here’s an excerpt from an entry about reading: But There is one thing a hate. HATE. HATE! Adds. Okay, your reading a magizine and you see a add for meat. It shows a huge chunk of meat. A huge chunk of dead animal. Animal flesh. But the adds get worse. I see one that says “We love vegitairians. More meat for us”. Do those guys have any respect for people?! It’s just so annoying. There hasn’t been a new entry in about a year, but it’s still so cute to see a kid get so excited about this!  http://www.vegankids.org/blog/

Vegan Parenting is a beautiful blog that is generally self-explanatory via the title, but has so much more! You can get recipes, links to videos, and insight from a vegan mom who writes about vegan-specific parenting issues. So insightful and encouraging! I am going to spend a lot more time here. Every minute I read more my biological clock begins to tick louder.  http://www.veganparenting.com/

I would love to hear from anyone that has insight on this topic! Please share your thoughts and information with us.