A VegWeek Post About Orcas

Today’s post for VegWeek doesn’t have to do with food, which may seem strange.  However, since many people choose to go veg because they love animals (myself very much included), I thought that a post about animals would make sense as we celebrate this week.

Last night, I had the pleasure of attending “Kiss The Sky:  The Orca Freedom Concert,” a benefit to raise money for various organizations that help orcas.  Held at EMP in Seattle, the concert was a lot of fun, featuring Country Joe McDonald, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, Heart with Graham Nash as their special guest, and several other performers.  

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For me, though, the highlight of the evening was hearing the stories of people who have dedicated their lives to helping whales and dolphins.  Since many of these organizations were new to me, I wanted to share them here with you to make sure as many people as possible are familiar with their work.  Please check out their sites and learn more about the important work they are doing, and if you are able to support them in some way, that would be wonderful.

The first speaker was Dr. Paul Spong of OrcaLab.  I found his talk extremely moving.  He is a gentle soul whose life has been devoted to understanding and trying to protect these wonderful creatures, and his story of knowing Corky (an orca who has been in captivity longer than any other) and her mother prior to Corky’s capture had me in tears.  Please check out their site and the “Free Corky” campaign:  http://orcalab.org/

The other passionate speakers were Dave Phillips from Earth Island Institute and Ken Balcomb from the Center for Whale Research, both wonderful organizations doing important work:

http://www.earthisland.org/

http://www.whaleresearch.com/

I am grateful that there are people who devote their lives to making the world better for all of its inhabitants, including these magnificent residents of the sea.

 

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Pints for Pigs Peace!

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I just bought tickets to an event that sounds really fun, and I wanted to spread the word for those who live in the general area.  It’s called Pints for Pigs Peace, and it’s a fundraiser to support the wonderful Pigs Peace Sanctuary.  The event is going to be held at Central Cinema (1411 21st Avenue in Seattle) from 2:00 to 5:00pm on Saturday, January 11, 2014.  There is going to be a screening of the film, Babe, which I’m excited about as I’ve never seen it on the big screen.  There is also going to be a documentary about the beautiful work being done by Judy Woods at her sanctuary, Pigs Peace, in Stanwood, Washington.  On top of all that, there’s going to be beer and wine, vegan “pigs-in-a-blanket” and vegan pizza.  Something for everyone, to be sure!

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When we first moved to the area, Queenie and I visited Pigs Peace, and it was a glorious afternoon.  These lucky pigs have landed in an extraordinary place, 39 acres of piggie heaven!  They have options galore as to where they hang out, wander and sleep.  The sanctuary is gorgeous, a mix of meadows and forest, and it did our souls good to spend time out there.  We also had fun giving belly rubs to those who wanted it!

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The founder of Pigs Peace, Judy Woods, is doing incredible work, shouldering the vast majority of the sanctuary’s to-do list herself.  She has volunteers who help, and she relies on donations, fundraisers and the profits from the vegan grocery store, Vegan Haven (one of my favorite places on earth!) to keep the place running.  This fun event is a great way to help support this work and connect with kindred spirits.

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Here is some more information about the event, including info on purchasing tickets:  http://pintsforpigspeace.bpt.me/

And here is the Pigs Peace Sanctuary website.  I cannot recommend a visit highly enough!  http://www.pigspeace.org/main/index.html  

Hope to see you there!

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Enjoy!  xo

Thanksgiving Feast!

My friend and fellow blogger, Sundry, asked me to share my tips for holiday cooking, which I am happy to do.  (Quick aside:  Sundry writes a very fun blog called Any Given Sundry on wordpress – check it out!)  With Thanksgiving right around the corner, I want to assure you that you can enjoy a vegan feast that is hearty and satisfying with all of the flavors that you’re used to.  No problem!  First, the visual proof:

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And yes, it is every bit as delicious as it looks.  How is this possible, you ask?  In 2009, I had the good fortune of attending a series of cooking classes offered by Jessica Porter, a macrobiotic chef and cookbook author, at the home of the wonderful Sanae Suzuki and Eric Lechasseur, macro chefs extraordinaire and proprietors of Seed Kitchen in Venice, California.  One of those classes was a holiday feast menu, and it has become our annual tradition (and the culinary highlight of Queenie’s life each year – she adores it).  There are many options for vegan Thanksgiving meals, and I’ve tried quite a few of them, such as mushrooms in puff pastry, stuffed acorn squash, store-bought holiday loafs, etc., but if you’re like us, once you taste this one, you’re going to be hooked!

The menu:  home-made tofu centerpiece dish with stuffing (I’m not calling it a tofu turkey because it’s not a turkey, it doesn’t look like a turkey, I don’t want to focus on the fact that most people eat turkey… but it does stand in for that place on your plate quite nicely); yam casserole with pecan topping; mashed potatoes and gravy; steamed green beans with lemon zest; cranberry relish; and pumpkin pie.  It’s all the great flavors you’re used to, but entirely cruelty-free.  It’s also super healthy, devoid of both animal ingredients and also processed sugar, something that macrobiotic cooking eschews.  When I started making this feast, Mr. Man and I marveled at how light and happy we felt, even after stuffing ourselves!  No food comas for us.

To begin, you’re going to turn a lot of tofu into something to house your delicious stuffing.

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Using an immersion blender is the easiest way to do this.  Whir and whip that tofu into a smooth, creamy puree.  Here is Queenie blending in 2010.  She is in charge of the tofu every year.

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Next you will press all of that tofu into a colander that has been lined with cheesecloth.  Weigh that down and let the excess liquid drain out in the refrigerator for a day, making sure to have something to catch said liquid underneath.  You are creating a tofu dome, that you will then hollow out and stuff with the yumminess of your choice.  The stuffed dome is then basted with a mixture of soy sauce and sesame oil and slow baked to heavenly perfection.  Here are the complete instructions from Jessica Porter’s site:  http://www.hipchicksmacrobiotics.com/blog/its-that-time-again/

Be sure to invite your loved ones over to enjoy the deliciousness.

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And, naturally, you must have pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving.  Or, at least, I must.  Vegan pumpkin pie?  Of course!

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There are a million vegan pumpkin pie recipes out there, both searchable on the internet and in cookbooks.  I’m not yet sure which one I’ll be making this year.  I will let you know!

Two added bonuses to this wonderful feast, one that’s typical and one that’s not:

1.  Leftovers!!!  This food tastes great for days, if it lasts that long.

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2.  You’re saving lives when you eat this way.  That’s something to be thankful for, to be sure.  This photo was taken at the Celebration for the Turkeys at Farm Sanctuary’s Animal Acres in Acton, California.

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I encourage you to host a compassionate Thanksgiving celebration.  With food this tasty, your friends and family should be won over and you’ll have tons of fun, amazing their taste buds.  And your home will smell SO good while everything’s cooking!  If, however, you are going to someone else’s house for the holiday meal, I suggest offering to bring some dishes that work for you.  I have, upon occasion, brought this stuffed tofu dome, but an easier solution is to bring a variety of sides that will form a complete meal for you and complement the things being served by your host.

However you end up celebrating, may it nourish your body and your soul.

Enjoy!  xo

Vegan MoFo 29: Vegan Bliss in Seattle

Queenie, Mr. Man and I have been looking forward to today because it promised to be pretty blissful for a bunch of vegans.  Indeed it was!

Vegan Haven, the wonderful vegan grocery shop that is a fundraising source for the also wonderful Pigs Peace Sanctuary, was hosting a vegan bake sale all day.  Hip, hip, hooray!! Tons of kind, generous bakers donated home-made treats to raise money for the sanctuary.  And, of course, all of the usual tasty offerings were available at Vegan Haven.   Queenie left quite happy, with her pockets stuffed with various candies.  

I figured if we were going to be there anyway, we had to have lunch at Pizza Pi, the delicious vegan pizzeria in the next block.  So to the University District we headed, and feast we did.  My plan was to document this outing for blogging purposes, but I was having so much fun that I completely forgot to reach for my camera.  Hence, some general pics will have to do.

Here’s the adorable Vegan Haven:

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Here’s one of the many piggies whom they support at their sanctuary (that’s Queenie, giving a belly rub):

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And here’s the fabulous Pizza Pi:

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It wasn’t part of the original plan, but once we were in the vicinity, we found that we could not stay away from Violet Sweet Shoppe, so off we went.  A visit to Violet Sweet Shoppe is always, always a good idea.

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A very happy day!  xo

Bees, Part 2

A few people contacted me about my first blog post with a common refrain, which went something along the lines of:  “but you’re an animal lover, so it’s easy for you to show compassion toward invading bees.  Not everyone can do that.”  While I am an unabashed friend of the animals, in light of these comments I thought I should share an event in my background that I wasn’t going to mention.  Here it is: 

When I was a little girl of about 5 or 6, my family was vacationing one summer with relatives up in the Oregon countryside.  It was a beautiful day, and I was happily running around bare-footed in the gardens.  At one point, I trampled across the nest of some kind of ground-dwelling stinging creature (hornet?  yellow jacket?) and they attacked my foot with a vengeance.  It was shockingly painful and quite frightening as they chased me around while I screamed.  My foot swelled to the size of a grapefruit and my whole body felt inflamed and disoriented.  It was awful.

From that moment, I had a deep fear of any and all bees, including honey bees.  When any kind of bee came anywhere near me, I’d panic, running around, flapping my hands and making small shrieking noises.  It was embarrassing but I couldn’t stop myself.

Until I did.  After 30 years of bee-related terror, I made peace with them.  I still have a healthy respect for the yellow jacket variety, but I absolutely love honey bees and am happy to see them, very much enjoying their company.  They have become a very significant animal in my life – a positive force.

I made that shift almost 10 years ago.  I’m not going to go into how I went from there to here.  The point of this post isn’t to delve into my process, as it may not be yours.  I just want you to know that you CAN make that leap.  You CAN release the terror or anger or whatever it is that clinches your insides up.  You CAN throw your arms wide open to all that is around us.  You can.  And there’s always an opportunity to do so.  My current opportunity:  opening my heart to the neighbors that killed the bees.  Now there’s some hard work. 

Hello world!

I wasn’t sure I’d even write a blog.  It seems that there are already a zillion blogs out there, surely covering everything I might think of to write.  Maybe.  Maybe not.  What pushed me over the decision ledge was a bunch of bees and what happened to them a few doors down from me.

One recent day, a swarm of bees apparently decided to rest in one of my neighbor’s trees en route to a new hive location.  If you know anything about bees, you know that from time to time, they need to move hives, which is a major undertaking for them.  They have to figure out where to go next, which involves scouting locations and getting consensus among the bee decision-makers.  Once this occurs, the entire hive’s occupants travel en masse toward the hive-to-be.  They do this in a highly organized way designed to protect the queen.  After a lengthy journey, they land in a big swarm on a temporary resting spot, where they recuperate for a couple of days before embarking on the next leg of their journey.  They do this until they arrive at their new permanent hive spot, where they set up housekeeping.

I know this because a couple of years ago, I was in my home office with the door open when I heard a sound I couldn’t quite place.  It reminded me of a toy airplane, maybe a bunch of toy airplanes, but not quite.  A loud buzzing.  I went to the door and the sky was dark.  It took me a moment to realize that it was dark with bees.  It looked like a wild, dancing cloud.  I’ll admit to being a bit nervous at first.  I closed the door and watched through the glass.  Over the next few minutes, the cloud of bees began to thin as they started landing in the corner of one of our bougainvillea trees.  Eventually, they formed a huge, writhing ball of bees, with just a few stragglers flying here and there.

I promptly hopped on the internet to see what was going on, where I learned of the phenomenon of swarming traveling bee tribes (not the scientific term).  The articles all confirmed that they were resting, would likely do so for one to three days and would then move on.  They also promised that the bees had no interest in me – if I left them alone, they’d leave me alone.

I opened the door.  I could hear them, but it was a calmer buzzing now, a restful murmur as they settled in for their nap.  I got closer until I was just a few feet away from them, with my jaw hanging open.  They were amazing.  First, the sheer number of them and the size of the bundle they formed when piled on top of one another was stunning.  Second, the fact that this bundle never seemed to completely stop moving made it seem to be a breathing, living organism comprised of the individual bees.  I was honored that they’d chosen our cozy space as a resting spot and vowed to leave them in peace and keep them safe.  When Queenie got home from school that day, she was thrilled to meet them, too.  Each day, Queenie and I checked on them and admired them.  Then, on the third day, I started hearing that toy airplane sound again and I rushed out to the back.  They were on their way, darkening my patch of sky one last time and then fading away.

Fast-forward to a few weeks ago…  Knowing that I’m an animal lover, one of my neighbors emailed one night to ask if I happened to know anything about bees.  A big swarm had landed in another neighbor’s front tree and they were freaked out and needed advice.  I was thrilled to be able to offer assurance and promptly emailed information about this phenomenon, including helpful links with lots of details, and I went to bed happy knowing that I’d helped another little bee tribe.

The next morning, I awoke to a shock… the neighbor with the bee visitors hadn’t waited to hear if anyone had any suggestions.  They hadn’t even bothered to check the internet, where they would have learned the same things I found out.  No, instead they called an exterminator and had the swarm eliminated.  Not relocated (another possibility that existed), but killed.  And lest you think they had some kind of pressing reason to do so, no one in the neighbor family has a bee allergy.

I find this hard to fathom and incredibly sad.  First, in this specific instance, these bees were not causing any trouble.  This was in no way an act of self-defense.  The planet, very much including its human inhabitants, needs bees.  They are a vital part of the ecosystem and they are facing Colony Collapse Disorder, a serious situation to say the least.  As stewards of this planet, we humans should do everything we can to assist our fellow earthlings to thrive, including leaving bees alone.

But what propelled me to launch this blog isn’t “just” the bees in this story.  It’s the underlying motivation behind their demise:  FEAR.  Specifically, in this case, fear of the unknown.  These neighbors didn’t know what would happen, they feared the worst (what if they sting us) and they reacted from that place of fear and needlessly killed a huge number of benevolent beings.

I share this story as a cautionary tale… when you have a new, possibly disconcerting encounter with a new situation, whether it be a swarm of bees, a human or anything else, please try not to react from a place of fear.  Take the time to try to understand the situation.  Get your mind around it.  And then, try to get your heart around it, too.  Is there a way to help?  or at least to do no harm?  Every time you respond from this perspective of compassion, the world will be a better place.