Thursday, August 30, 2007

Everything's gone green

Hot Slice and I decided my dowry was finally big enough* to get engaged. We officially became engaged a few weeks ago. I try to keep my personal life out of this blog, but suffice to say that I've been accused of being radiantly happy more than once lately.

It was a priority for us to wear rings that had a low impact on the environment. Mining is incredibly destructive environmentally, not to mention the questionable labor practices for the workers. We found three companies that use recycled gold and either fair-trade or synthetic gems:

Leber Jeweler
Brilliant Earth

We decided to purchase our rings from Brilliant Earth. Shown above are my sapphire engagement ring and HS' engagement/wedding band (he is already wearing it). We were very happy with Brilliant Earth's service and the quality of the rings. My sapphire is more sparkly in real life than in the picture. I knew I didn't want a diamond and so I was happy to see the wide variety of non-diamond engagement rings available.

I hope that the "green" jewelry industry grows, because researching mining has been a real eye-opener for me.

*Just kidding, of course. I still need to add 5 cattle to it.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


My dinner is pictured above. It has probably been my dinner on 50% of the nights I've been home: vegetables and tempeh or tofu stir-fried with low-sodium tamari sauce and a few squirts of Ginger Jerk sauce. I'd like to serve it over rice but I'm trying hard to limit starches to lunch only. I make a large portion of the stirfry (it's pictured in a bowl that you'd serve a large salad in, or chips...mmm, chips...) and it's definitely filling.

I don't really get tired of the endless procession of stirfrys. They don't take long to prepare, they're hot and fresh tasting, and they are obviously packed with nutrients and fiber.

I feel like since I've started going semi-vegan and overhauling my diet, my attitude towards non-food things has changed as well. I've been thinking about all the stuff in my condo and the amount of time I spend shopping for stuff, carting it home, and returning it when it isn't right. Apart from the money, I resent stuff taking up my time. I've definitely made some major purchases in the past months, like a new bed, but I haven't been making as many minor purchases or shopping recreationally as much.

I do buy into the idea of voluntary simplicity, and consider myself very lucky that I can choose not to buy things; in other words, that I have the means to buy them if I wanted. I realize that I cherish one or two special objects more than if I buy the same object several times. For example, I really love the three antique map prints that I have. If my condo was bedecked with them, each one wouldn't be as special to me. In practice, I'm finding that buying a new shirt or pair of shoes doesn't perk me up as much as it used to. I consider this a good thing.

I've been doing some reading on materialism & spending, and the following have been good resources:

The Overspent American
Your Money or Your Life
Nickel and Dimed (not about simplicity but it made me realize how ridiculously much I have)

I'm curious to know if other vegans have found themselves rejecting stuff while changing their diets. Non-vegans, please also chime in about any voluntary simplicity changes you may have made.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Out of my element

I spent last week in Oklahoma City taking a training course. I don't think I generally move in rarefied circles, but OKC posed a challenge to stay vegan, let alone vegetarian.
--I could see several steakhouses from my hotel window. The best-named was the Rib Crib.
--As I walked into the training room after a break, the instructor asked me, "You ever hunt rabbit?"
--The only vegetarian meal you could get in the airport was...salad and french fries. Is that a meal? No? Well, how about a cinnamon bun, then? That's as close as you are going to get. Luckily I had packed several Larabars.
--The local Wendy's had a sign out front that said "Order the Baconator before it orders you." (Hot Slice's response: "Orders you a triple bypass!") And no, there was no vegan alternative called the BaconNOTer or the Fakin'ator.

I even checked for inspiration on where to eat. There are 4 listings: 3 Indian restaurants and a coffeehouse.

I ended up eating at a good Mexican restaurant, Panera, and an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet. The last was the most vegan-friendly, though Panera makes some good vegan soups. I ended up eating cheese more than I wanted to, which always seems to happen when I'm travelling.

I'm happy to be back in my Baconator-free kitchen.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The company you keep

Many of you have probably read the results of the study that found people tend to have similar weight ranges(fat, thin) as their friends and family. This is not a big surprise and I've witnessed it in many circumstances myself. For example, one branch of my family is all overweight and food is the center of any social activity. The fact is, it is really hard to resist junk food or too much food when you are hanging out with unhealthy eaters or overeaters. That is one of the more minor reason why I am happy to be with Hot Slice. He is very dedicated to a healthy diet and lifestyle and I know it's good for my health to be around him.

When I was growing up, my parents were pretty alternative in food choices. They weren't vegetarians--I'm still the only one in my family who is. However, they joined a food co-op, only let me drink the aforementioned 100% juice, and even made my teething biscuits from scratch because the commercial brand had too much sugar.

Here's a list of the good and bad food habits my parents instilled in me.

--taught me to cook at a very early age
--almost never had processed foods around
--limited my sweet consumption
--got me in the habit of bringing my lunch (much cheaper, and almost always lower in calories and fat)
--never had soda around, so I never developed a taste for it
--not directly a food habit, but taught me the joys of exercising, even if it was just a walk

--as I got older, I noticed that Mom saw junk food as a reward. I still see it as a "treat" and that has been a very hard habit to break. Our special nights when Dad was travelling always involved a bag of cheese puffs or other unhealthy food
--encouraged me to drink milk, a habit I only recently broke
--that is really all the bad stuff. I am lucky!

I'm curious to hear the good and bad food habits that were a part of your upbringing.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Not so juicy

Sorry my blogging has been sparse recently. Hot Slice and I went to the beach for a few days, and I'm off on a business trip all next week. In between, I have a good friend coming to visit on her way to Central America for 2 years!

I had a traumatic experience last week, when I was trapped on a jam-packed elevator for 20 minutes. I am somewhat claustrophobic, and it took all my yoga training to stay calm. Anyway, that brought to mind another bad experience which falls under the category of Packaged Food Horror Stories.

Perhaps it's a mistake to share this, and I will lose my 2 or 3 regular readers. You have been warned.

My parents only bought me real (100%) fruit juices when I was growing up. One of the easiest to find was Juicy Juice. I remember being at my grandmother's house and drinking a glass of grape Juicy Juice. I felt something strange in my mouth, which I spit out. It was...a dead cockroach. Of course I'll never go near Juicy Juice again, and I was surprised to find it's still available.

I'll bet you have some Packaged Food Horror Stories. Care to share them?

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Some days I feel like Sisyphus

struggling under a huge boulder of nutrition misinformation.

Our free daily, the Express, published an article today on how men can stay healthy. It's excerpted from Men's Health. HS subscribes to Men's Health and has taught me many things from it, but this article is dismaying, to say the least.

Two of its tips are to eat meat and to eat more dairy!

It says that substituting lean red meat for white starchy carbs can lead to a small drop in blood pressure. Details of the study are not given, but since study after study has shown that a diet high in animal fat and animal products raises heart disease risk (of which blood pressure is one indicator), I have my suspicions about this study. I think it can be explained by the fact that high-carb diets lead to high blood pressure, and the body is reacting to the subtraction of unhealthy white-flour carbs, which contain no fiber and which the body digests as sugar. To suggest that white carbs be replaced with meat is going from worse to bad. I mean, you could probably substitute a venti mocha for white carbs and see the same small drop in blood pressure.

With regards to dairy, the article says that consuming 3 or more servings of dairy a day can decrease the risk of heart disease. Since blood pressure is related to heart disease, many of the things above apply here. But I'd like to give a bit of detail from a study conducted by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn in 1985. Eighteen volunteers with severe heart disease agreed to follow a diet that was very low-fat and which omitted almost all animal products. (Five years into the study, Dr. Esselstyn cut out animal products entirely.)

Before the study, the 18 volunteers had had 49 "coronary events" among them. In the first eleven years of the study, only one coronary event occurred--and that happened to someone who went off the diet for two years! Also, 70% of the subjects experienced their arteries un-clogging and re-opening.

I don't know if there's much more to say here, except that
--the false claims of the dairy industry are really pissing me off,
--people don't want to hear the simple truth, which is: stop eating sugar, refined carbs, and animal products, and start eating more fruits, veggies, and whole grains!

Friday, August 3, 2007


I've had the book Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen for a few months, but I just cracked it open this week. (I think the name looks better with an umlaut, don't you? Groo-ooob.)

This book relates closely to thoughts I've had recently. Since I've embarked on my semi-vegan adventure, I've been trying to stay away from super-processed vegan (or any other) foods. In other words, instead of using soy cheese that has 20 ingredients listed, I'm trying to lose my cheese habit altogether. And instead of bingeing on vegan sweets, I'm trying to eat just dark chocolate and one dessert on the weekend. Progress on this is very slow sometimes, with lots of relapses. But generally 75% of the things in my grocery cart are produce or unprocessed foods like beans.

The picture shows the current state of my fruit bowl, which is packed with peaches, tomatoes, garlic, and lemons. This is one of the reasons that I love summer. Peaches this year are fantastic and I've been eating at least one a day.

The authors define Grub as "real food" that is organically and sustainably raised, and which is good for the body, the community, and the environment.

The foreword to Grub is written by Eric Schlosser, who expressed some of my ideas better than I can:

"[People] may worry about calories and carbs, and yet miss the real point. What we eat has changed more during the past thirty years than in the previous thirty thousand. Trans fats, genetically engineered soybeans, livestock pumped with growth hormones and fed slaughterhouse waste, Chicken McNuggets--nobody's ever eaten this stuff before. We've become a nation of guinea pigs, the subjects in a vast scientific experiment, waiting to see what happens when human beings eat too much industrialized food."

More about "grub" as I progress further in the book. What do you think about the value of processed foods?

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Living it up in Guatemala

It's a little late, but I'm finally getting around to posting about my vegan adventures in Guatemala. As I've said below, I loved the place and hope to return. The picture above shows one of the most charming places in Antigua, Guatemala. It's an old-fashioned dolce shop. (I think it's called Dona Maria.) Gorgeous little cookies and pastries are sold by women in immaculate white costumes. The sweets in the display cases are the only things for sale; the rest is just bric-a-brac.

I didn't follow a completely vegan diet there, but it was quite easy to find vegan food almost everywhere. Our hotel in Antigua had a yummy breakfast consisting of a fruit plate and a basket of warm bread:

We went on a hike up the Pacaya volcano. After several hours of somewhat difficult hiking, our guide produced from his backpack a whole pineapple and supplies for pita sandwiches with beans, avocado, tomatoes, onions, red peppers, and cucumbers. Here are members of our group enjoying lunch in the rain:

The afternoon we arrived at our second destination, Lake Atitlan, I was felled by a bad sandwich. The next day, when my appetite had returned, we went to the Bombay cafe. The food was tasty but the service was pretty slow. However, their homemade ginger ale was just what the doctor ordered:

I followed it with another pita sandwich, this one stuffed with marinated tofu, spinach, and peanut sauce.

One day, we went to a huge market day in Solola, a small-ish town in the hills above Lake Atitlan. Among the thousands of items for sale were these roosters. Let's hope they were purchased by a vegan (yeah, right!).