Thursday, December 13, 2012

Holiday togetherness tips - with a difference

It's the time of year for families to get together - like it or not.

Usually I hang around with a bunch of people who share my interests and values. It's comfy.

Family holiday gatherings are a lot more random, with folks from all backgrounds, generations, and views. And this lasts for hours. Or days.

Even two-party political differences can be explosive. As an activist with an armload of causes, I'm an accident waiting to happen. What to do?

1. Expect the expected

Somebody is going to say something. Or do something. Whether it's Uncle Joe's (or Aunt Mary's) casually sexist comments, or the hilarious jokes aimed at the vegans over the dead animals, or the weird way you're raising your kids, or the shock and disgust when someone finds out you're still breastfeeding that big girl...

And most somebodies will be drinking.

If you have any buttons, assume they are going to get pushed. So plan for it. What are you gonna do?

Oooh, Christmas colours!
2. Attack 

Tempting, isn't it? Maybe if you get all your ammunition ready and turn the place into Ground Zero, nobody will bother you for the rest of the holidays in case they set you off again. Curl up with the vegan chocolate (that you bought) and your new book.

I don't really recommend this, as it will probably scare the kids. But most families will have survived bigger holiday dramas and you had to watch, so...? 

Fa la la la la, la la la la!
3. Ignore

This isn't wimping out. It's the real life equivalent of "Don't feed the trolls."

Family members know you pretty well, and some people enjoy starting a fight. Hey, sometimes I enjoy starting a fight.

Noncommittal grunts and pleasant smiles are a winning strategy that will bring Peace on Earth...and frustration where it will do the most good.

4. Educate

Don't expect to convert anyone in the silly season. Nobody's going to listen to the necessary lengthy background info - you'll be wasting breath you could be using to sing carols or something. If you trip and fall into a deep discussion, save your strength with this:
These are complex issues. I've done a lot of reading on this over the years - I'll send some stuff to you and we can talk about it later.
They may or may not read anything you send, but you're off the hook either way. You'll still have the energy to go back for that last bit of cranberry sauce before someone else does.

5. Hang around with the kids

Christmas magic is all about the kids anyway, right? They know how to have fun.

And you might get some ideas into their developing minds while their parents are away at the eggnog.

And More?

How do you plan for a Happy Holiday?

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Weeding and eating

"You have some lovely dandelions," said my mother. "Yes," I thought, "the yard is full of them." "So, do you mind if I pick some for lunch?"

"Ummm, sure..." Have all the weeds you want. Weirdo.

But I think Mom would be proud of me now. I've discovered the joys of harvesting wild greens in my own backyard.

Chewing it over

Since I got braces, I can't indulge in my usual crunchy carrots, apples, or even a basic lettuce salad. I believe that food is best eaten in its natural state, but I've had to compromise on this one.

I got apple back on the menu in the mornings by processing a couple with a soft banana and eating the result like a lumpy pudding. That way, I still get the fiber as well as the juice. And then I remembered green smoothies.

I can eat so much bitter raw nutritious green stuff, with pleasure, combined with sweet fruit like apples, bananas, and oranges. I used storebought cabbage and garden kale and parsley. And when those started to run out, I looked outside the garden box and saw those lovely dandelions. Thanks Mom!

I can harvest a couple of cups full of dandelion greens any morning I choose - easily equal to a package of greens from the store. And I finally remembered I have mint growing wild in the backyard. It's not just good for free tea, it's a nutritious yummy green leaf.

As our local vegan nutrition expert said in our last Vegan 101 class, the biggest problem with greens in your eating them.

More wild greens

Resources for learning about gathering wild greens are as common as weeds - there's even one for New Zealand. Hey, we've got puwha growing in the shady spots!

Would you ever gather your backyard bounty?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The REAL reason not to eat animals is...

First, there was How the Health Argument Fails Veganism. Then, How the Ethical Argument Fails Veganism.

In honour of World Vegan Day (and Month), we are going to sort it out once and for all. The real reason not to eat animals is definitely:

The animals

Obviously, it's the animals!

Veganism means man has no right to exploit the creatures for his own ends. That was Donald Watson's whole point.

Every year, tens of billions of animals exist in hopeless conditions, are literally tortured by their keepers, and die horribly, simply to feed humans.When animals are bulk commodities, animal abuse for money will be the rule, not the exception.

How can you be an animal lover and eat animals?

Human beings

OK, we sure don't want to hurt animals, but not all farm animals are treated so badly - some farms are very kind. The human beings you know and love are more important. When your family and friends eat animals, they are much more prone to heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, food-borne infection, and a host of other chronic and deadly diseases.

Photo: Kevin Carter
This is not only horribly sad for us, but impossibly expensive. In the US alone, healthcare costs are upwards of a trillion dollars and rising fast. We never seem to have enough money to do the important things. Let's save lives and money.

And what about the humans we don't know? 60% of humans in other countries (or even our own) do not have enough to eat. We're not helpless. From a Cornell ecologist...

"More than half the U.S. grain and nearly 40 percent of world grain is being fed to livestock rather than being consumed directly by humans..."

Plant foods simply cost less to produce, which means more people fed. Please, don't feed the animals, feed hungry humans instead. It's the least you can do, and the best.

The whole world

Actually, the big picture is paramount. We all have to have somewhere to live, or all these arguments about ethics and health just end up as details.

Intense animal agriculture is the number one reason for deforestation and soil runoff, and excess animal waste is polluting natural waterways and land alike. Farmed animals are crowding out native wildlife, upsetting the entire natural balance of the world.

There is no Planet B. Eating animals like this is unsustainable. That's what's important.

Arguments fail veganism

One of these viewpoints may well seem strongest to you - it may have been what changed your mind. But to turn the tide on animal consumption, we must stop competing for the right reason.

We are a tiny and underfunded minority, and can't afford to fight vegan wars. When we cleverly undermine other vegan points of view, we mostly provide ammunition for the mainstream to dismiss us entirely.

They're all good reasons. Each one appeals to different people with different values. Together, they're compelling. We need that wide appeal...if we want a vegan world (and not just World Vegan Day)

Monday, November 12, 2012

Bill and Lou

Vegans, make the most of the media frenzy over Bill and Lou, the Green Mountain College mascots. Rarely have animals been so featured as individuals, esteemed and named, yet destined for slaughter under the public eye.

Here's a picture worth a thousand words for your friends and family...

Share widely and well...

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer - Review

As far as I know, the only people I have inspired to be vegan are those I've given birth to. So I give full credit to any book which can "turn someone vegan" - as (most famously) Natalie Portman says Eating Animals did for her. Even more because this is not exactly a vegan book.

Unusually, the author, Jonathan Safran Foer, was a successful popular author before applying his talents to the discussion of our entrenched animal-eating culture. He reports being an off-and-on vegetarian and sometimes vegan (but probably not now).

He introduces the book with a touch of his family history - a personal demonstration of the habits and psychology of eating, and eating animals, which the rest of the book then takes global. The birth of his son focused his desire to understand food: for himself and his family.

Us and them

The first major chapter discusses the hypocrisy of our relationship with animals. He illustrates this with a very ecologically sound argument in support of eating dogs (and cats), including a Filipino dog recipe.

He also points out the acceptance of the torture inflicted on fish even during the ever-popular sport of recreational fishing - damage that would draw outrage and charges if a dog were the victim. Why the difference?

Then, industrial fishing. The companies involved advertise attractive images of traditional fishing while profiting via modern war technologies like radar, echo sounders, and satellite GPS. These methods kill many more sea animals for sale than ever possible before, but also many times their number in other sea animals (bycatch).

The state of our endangered seahorses is presented as one example of the shame Foer felt when facing the usually-hidden impact of our food choices.

Words, words

Foer next presents a glossary of terms used in the animal industry and in our everyday life. Starting with Animal, he uses this glossary to examine how our words and assumptions guide our choices.
"Language is never fully trustworthy, but when it comes to eating animals, words are as often used to misdirect and camouflage as they are to communicate. Some words, like veal, help us forget what we are actually talking about. Some, like free-range, can mislead those whose consciences seek clarification. Some, like happy, mean the opposite of what they would seem. And some, like natural, mean next to nothing."
You can check out my own musings on the language topic. Foer does a great job of inserting facts into the word definitions, educating in palatable bite-sized chunks.

Down on the farm

Next is a thrilling tale of Foer's visit to a factory turkey farm - accompanying an ex-poultry employee turned activist. This is punctuated by a "rescue" (killing a bird that was dying slowly), and some personal thoughts from that activist.

This is followed by an essay from a factory farmer. To keep it short, I can only say it contains no surprises given its source. At the end, the farmer recommends education before seeing, trusting your head and not your eyes, and starting from the beginning to learn about animals and farming.

Foer uses this as a transition to a very brief history of animals, humans, and the beginning of farming. We discover the genesis of factory farming and the animals they have created. And the last word about life and death comes from a very proud small turkey farmer.


Foer next leads us down the causative path of factory farming and foodborne human infections. If our overdue pandemic doesn't scare you, then the details of the (lack of) regulation of these concentrated farms should.

Then we learn about the correlation between eating even uninfected animal products and our top killers: heart disease, cancer and stroke. While the evidence is overwhelming, this crucial information is constantly distorted by the animal industry, even into the scientific and government groups who are tasked with caring for our health.
"...we are constantly lied to about nutrition...When I say we are being lied to, I'm not impugning the scientific literature, but relying upon it. What the public learns of the scientific data on nutrition and health (especially from the government's nutritional guidelines) comes to us by way of many hands."
He discusses Marion Nestle's insider exposes of the USDA, and her comparison of the food industry with the cigarette industry.

Can it get worse?

Yes - let's talk about slaughter and manure.

We learn about the slaughter procedure at an independent slaughterhouse, and about the pigs facing their deaths. Foer's own contradictory feelings are a story in themselves - as he meets nice pleasant people at the slaughterhouse, his personal connection with his hosts conflicts with his feelings about what they are doing to the intelligent pigs.

Then we visit a small traditional pig farm, and hear the impassioned pleas of this now-niche farmer against the rise of the factory farms - remember that your food choices and purchases are "farming by proxy." Ironically, that story closes with the news that a factory farm was starting up right next to the small farmer's retirement property.

Shooting the sh*t...
This leads seamlessly into the factory farms' waste problem. In short, thousands of animals, no toilets, poisoned earth, slaps on the corporate wrist, people keep voting with their dollars for cheap meat. And of course, we hear about the "lives" these factory animal products lead - and these horrors are not exceptions, but representative.

At the end of this chapter, Foer makes a few strong statements against all factory farming, and concludes firmly that he would not choose conventional meat - even, that it is indefensible. But he admits confusion when considering more traditional animal producers.

Could it be OK?

In this book, Foer overrepresents the views of the smaller operators (in their tiny minority) from the industry, presumably to resolve his confusion on whether animal production is acceptable on the smaller scale.

A visit  to a cattle ranch that is owned in part by a vegetarian produces much longwinded discussion peppered with inconsistencies: boiling down to the conflict between promoting animal rights (not using animals) and animal welfare (treating them really well while using/killing animals).

Next, Foer shows us the cows' trip to the slaughterhouse based on documentary evidence. Again, the horrors are such that they must either be ignored or rejected at some level.

He then asks whether there is a likely path for the success of the animal welfare side and those in the animal industry who work to promote it. His conclusion? No, a vegetarian diet is the only practical way to avoid animal cruelty (although he respects their efforts). As final punctuation, the owner of the cattle ranch featured in this chapter was forced to leave his own company due to differences over profit vs ethics.

"To accept the factory farm feels inhuman."

Foer wraps it all up with some more personal history, national traditions plus some realities of the global table, and a hope for new animal-friendly stories in his own family.

My Recommendation

Eating Animals is highly recommended for nonvegetarians. Vegans probably don't need to read it, but give it to your nonveg friends and family for Thanksgiving or Christmas.

For me, as a longtime involved vegan, Eating Animals presented nothing new and wandered about the topics too much. I also found the many interviews with the animal producers annoying because of their self-justifying illogic. And of course, Foer is still not quite on the side of ethical vegetarianism, much less veganism.

However, for anyone just learning about how our society treats animals, the information is presented perfectly. Telling interesting stories about real people interspersed with the factual horrors means it might just get read to the end by the unconvinced. The long winding explanations of the animal producers expose that faulty reasoning to a reader who may be supporting their own habits with similar arguments.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Biodegradable "Plastic" Wrap from FriendlyPak

I got really excited when FriendlyPak first gave away a roll of BioBag - a biodegradable "plastic" wrap. I didn't win, but I still wanted it.

We were almost at the end of our roll of supermarket plastic wrap. Plastic pollution is a serious problem, and this flexible, nonrecyclable stuff kills animals every day and isn't great for human health either. I'm thrilled to see an earth-friendly choice.

As a new product, it seemed to take forever to find out how I could buy it. The product was announced in April, but didn't seem to be orderable from the advertised outlet. So when I saw one big catering roll in  Wise Cicada, I impulse-bought it for $50. (It is now available through ecostore.)
We didn't use plastic wrap for much anyway - sealing the ends of cucumbers, mostly. We use wax paper for the kids' lunches. With a catering-size roll, I'm using it for everything!


The wrap performs well as a wrap, sticking to the end of the cucumber and protecting it.

It worked well on the kids' sandwiches too at yesterday's picnic - held two together very nicely.

I wrapped the end of a frozen Cheezly (vegan cheese) in it. (It's still fine, but I think I should have wrapped the whole Cheezly because it didn't stick on when left in a freezer drawer jumble. My bad.)

And I can see when I empty the compost that the wrap shows signs of breaking down as promised.


The biodegradable wrap is more fragile than regular plastic wrap, which is not too surprising for an organic product that is going to break down soon. I can't use the tug and unroll method with the large heavy catering roll - the wrap stretches so much from the weight. So I use scissors to cut off the pieces I need. It doesn't have a tear strip on the box anyway, but that's fine because a plastic or metal tear strip is just more to go on a landfill.

After a few days of protecting a cucumber end in the crisper, the wrap is already showing a hint of its biodegradability compared to the plastic wrap, which I could often reuse. This is only a small problem because we usually have to slice off the end of the cut cucumber anyway, and I can toss the used wrap with the old slice (and a clear conscience) and get a new piece.

Also unfortunately, our roll has been gouged by something about 5cm in from the edge.  This hasn't impacted us much as we haven't needed large pieces yet, but I wish I'd saved my receipt.

Update: the cool people at FriendlyPak are sending me a complimentary roll!


Absolutely! It works, and it's biodegradable. While I have to treat this wrap a bit differently to ordinary plastic, it is worth it. And when more people buy these choices, the price will come down, so...

What earth-friendly products do you invest in?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Eying up the Bates Method

Our son says he can't always see words on the board at school, and from my informal checks, he seems indeed to have lost clear vision at a distance.

As some of my family are very nearsighted, and I am the blindest of the lot, this is perhaps not surprising. But I can't help wondering: is this nature, or nurture? Or both?

Is our son doomed inevitably to progress (as I did) from eye test to stronger and stronger glasses or lenses for the rest of his life?

Maybe, but I hope not. Although you will never hear this from your eye doctor, there is some evidence that vision loss is not just mysterious, steady, and incurable.

The Bates method

The Bates method suggests that most vision loss is caused by unnatural tension due to modern vision habits more prone to staring than anything else. Bates's original works can be downloaded, so you can make your own judgements on the full information.

I have always been a bookworm and never eager to get out in the great scary real world. While our son is not as retiring, he has recently discovered the joys and addiction of computer games. So I certainly can't refute Bates' theories and success stories. I'm giving it a try.

The Plan

I downloaded the free Bates material and checked out a book from the library. I've begun the process myself, and then I hope to encourage our son to join me. The exercises are not only painless, they are relaxing. (They encourage eye mobility and exposure to natural light.)

Of course, I've already set some more sensible limits on his computer time, and I'm pushing him out the door to play.

Lens Decluttering

If I do improve my vision, how would I know if I just keep using my usual strong lenses? 

I do have glasses that are weaker than my current prescription (because stronger glasses make me dizzy).

And here is my museum of old contact lens cases. Some of these even have lenses in them.

I cleaned all the old lenses and tossed out one cracked lens. Then I rehomed the old lenses in the best cases and got rid of the rest. I had labelled my 2008 lenses on their case - all the others are blank (and lots older).

Work In Progress

Wearing the 2008 lenses, I can still see everything I need to - even outside, and even driving. But my eyes do get tired after several hours. I've also been spending some time at home without lenses so I can do some of the Bates exercises - then just putting on the glasses for computer work.

Stay tuned!

Has anyone out there tried the Bates Method? How did it go?

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Happy Vegan Hunting - 9 Frugal Secondhand Investments

I'm an avid secondhand shopper. Here are some winning vegan goodies that you can always find in the secondhand shops. For similar reasons, these are also items you might score from Freecycle - if you haven't signed up yet, what are you waiting for?!?!??

See how the jam looks like a cat?
1. Yoghurt makers

Yes, you can make your own soy yoghurt even more easily than dairy yoghurt. Soy yoghurt is so expensive to buy and so easy to make.  Since making your own is faddish for many, there are usually several varied yoghurt makers on the shelf.
I have had consistent success in my secondhand EasiYo by adding about 3 Tbsp of soy starter to 1 box of room-temperature original VitaSoy. Methods, tips, and tricks abound on the internet - search on making soy yoghurt.

2. Quality cookware

People used to cook more, and they needed great quality cookware.

Often, the younger generation doesn't know and doesn't care about those nested stacks of Corningware and cast iron, and off they go to the secondhand shop for you to find.

3. Quality storage

Lots of us frugal vegans buy and cook in bulk, and you need to keep your supplies safe.

I reuse some of the plastic containers I get from food (eg, Anathoth jam containers are BPA-free), but a quick look at the secondhand store will show you loads of great old-fashioned Tupperware at prices your Tupperware lady can't match. (Apologies to my Tupperware lady friends, mwah!)

Click-clack containers also roam wild on the secondhand shelves, as well as older-style glass or terracotta containers.

4. Popsicle moulds

Summer will arrive soon! If you didn't inherit your family's popsicle moulds like I did, it won't take long for you to find a set on the secondhand shelves.

Super cheap popsicle recipes:
  • flavoured nondairy milk (flavour your own with cocoa, vanilla, fruit, or jam)
  • fruit juice or puree (hint: tinned fruit comes in fruit juice or syrup)
  • a banana (dipped in nuts or chocolate)
  • ...or search the internet for cheap vegan popsicles

5. Chocolate moulds

We thrifty are just as gifty as the next person. But vegan gift chocolate has a hefty price tag. People love getting hand crafted chocolate and it's fun for the kids to help make! If the specialty chocolate moulds at the homewares stores are too pricey, look for secondhand flexible novelty ice-cube trays among the piles.

I just scored this cute orange-slice shaped tray - now I can make my own vegan chocolate oranges.   

6. Juicers

Want to try juicing, but don't know where to start? Don't splash out; these babies cycle through the shelves on a regular basis.

7. Pressure cookers

The best way to cook dry beans, pots of potatoes and free soup quickly. Watch your grocery totals shrink as you serve these super budget savers.

8. Sushi mats

This vegan takeaway standby is expensive to buy because it's fiddly to make compared to curry and chips, but you'll be rolling your own in style before long.

Making sushi

9. Gardening gear

Goodbye Garden World and Kings, because secondhand shops are blooming with planting pots of all sizes.

You can also find good garden tools if you keep hunting.

You could be overflowing with vegan goodness in your very own ground or container garden before you know it.

And more!

Of course you don't want to spend money and fill up your life with a lot of extra stuff you don't use. But making or growing your own is a backbone of frugality.

I want to hear about your best secondhand vegan finds...

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Taking Decluttering Public - Group Clutter

It's no surprise that 1/4 of these 8 Habits of Organised People involve decluttering. And even though I've been far too quiet lately, the decluttering has continued...and it's grown!

With the goal of decluttering professionally, I have decluttered at my sister's house (hopefully more on this later.) I am also decluttering for an entire club.

As the new president of Explorers, I have a serious job on my hands. The previous long-serving and super hard working president is also a confirmed packrat, who doesn't think we should get rid of anything if we've spent money on it.

No prizes for guessing what the club storage cupboard looks like.

Along with the overstuffed shelves of activity resources, we have three library carts of books and games. Rather, we had about five carts' worth stacked onto three carts.

Making the Decluttering Case

In home decluttering, you will encounter resistance from those attached to the stuff. At an organisation level, it will be worse. You will hear all the usual enemy whispers, this time on behalf of the organisation.

We have a treasure trove of super cool stuff in the cupboard. Here is why the club agreed to declutter:


The storage cupboard was so full that things only fit tightly packed in a few ways. Only one person really knew where to find things and where to put them away again so we could slam the door closed at the end of the day. Nobody else was sure of navigating the cupboard, and nobody wanted to.

This is a dangerous state for a club to be in!

Wasted Time and Energy

Every activity day needed a major extra commitment simply to take out materials and put them away again. Often we would still be setting up and in a rushed mess as people arrived.

Because only one person knew the right way to pack up (but often other people had to put stuff away anyway), the storage cupboard needed regular reorganisations (at least once a year) where many people stayed for hours to take everything from the cupboard and put it all away again.

People aren't too keen about this. Constantly shifting and sorting stuff is not a rewarding volunteer job.


Overstuffed storage damages the stored material.

For example, on our library carts, we had books in every crevice. Books stacked on top of each row of books plus piles on top. It was too heavy for one person to move. There were so many games that they spilled off the sides.

And when we moved them in and out of the cupboard, stuff on the edges got crushed against everything in our way. Of course, we had to pile other boxes on top of the books and games carts to get the cupboard door closed.

Access and Utility

The usual clutter complaints also apply
  • People could hardly browse the library carts for fear of starting an avalanche. Small children certainly couldn't do it. There was always a mess to clean up simply from people trying to get things out.
  • We often rebought materials because we didn't know we already owned them - or suspected we might but couldn't find them in time.
Decluttering Process

We've had two decluttering marathons already - the library carts and the general cupboard shelves.


Our librarian defined a purpose for our library. This meant when we looked at a book or game, we could see it in the context of its use for our club, not just how cool it was.

We also took into account how easy it is for Aucklanders to get books from our public library.

The games and books now fit on their carts.


I didn't know what was on the shelves, but my purpose was at least to
  • remove any damaged or outdated material
  • reduce duplication
  • consider the value of all materials for the club's future
This is still a work in progress. We only got through about half the shelves, and we took out lots and lots of stuff.

What happened to the stuff?
After library clearout, before Open Day Sale
It's at my house. Good thing I'm an expert declutterer.

We sold some for about $400 at our annual Open Day, and a few large items sold on TradeMe. We are donating the rest.

Beneficiaries have been:

After Open Day Sale and after cupboard clearout

Today, after many donations.

Someday very soon, I will post a photo of a clear floor. If this had been an easy task, someone else would have done it long ago.

The lesson?

Groups need to be even more careful than individuals with their decisions about stuff. With shared responsibility comes avoided responsibility.

Has anyone else encountered group clutter in your organisation?

The punchline?
The cupboard is still full.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Vegan Astronaut Food, or Why braces are cool when you're old


It's cool to get braces when you're old, because:
  • Your peers congratulate you or sympathise - instead of calling you names and avoiding you
  • Your kids think your new hardware is interesting, or even sparkly (my 4 year-old girl)
  • You get to hear a thousand stories from people who've done it already.
I expected teeth too sore to chew hard or sticky foods, and to look strange.

I didn't expect cheeks so scraped by the braces that it hurts to suck down soft food. Or smile. Or talk. Apparently, it should get better any day now.

Anyway, I can't chew.  So I here's my chance to experiment with vegan astronaut food! The old-fashioned kind sucked out of a foil baggie, not the new gourmet style going to Mars

So What Can I Eat?

Here's what braces-wearers can't eat.  As a vegan, I won't be chewing meat off the bone any time soon. And while I enjoy chewy candies, it doesn't cramp my style much to avoid them.

But I can't eat a crunchy juicy apple or carrot! Right now I can't even bite a soft banana, because that knocks off the wax that stops the braces from shredding my cheeks into streaming ulcers.

My vegan astronaut diet so far astronaut_porridge.jpg

  • Porridge - I processed my whole-grain oats into fine oatmeal because I can't chew.
  • Apple/berry puree - another lucky bulk purchase because my subconscious was planning better than I was.
  • Soy yoghurt
  • Banana++ smoothies
  • Refried beans and mashed potatoes - lucky I made those potatoes!
So far, pretty OK?

Well, last night we had Chinese food to celebrate my son's cross-country run. Rather, they had Chinese food. I had pumpkin and potato soup (thanks Mom!), kumara, and mashed potatoes blended with cooked broccoli, cauliflower, carrot, and cabbage. 


(The olive is food styling - but I did manage to gum it down)

I have a whole lot of this. I think I'll thin it as soup next time, for an exciting taste sensation.

And one night I blended tomato, lettuce, and carrot into mashed potatoes and refried beans for a complete nutritious astronaut meal.


The top reason braces are cool when you're old

  1. Alcohol is liquid - and legal!

Presenting... the braces!

I can't even bite my back teeth together yet, so I'm in this for the long haul. 

I wonder what blended leftover Chinese food tastes like?

Please post your favourite vegan astronaut recipes.

Final Groan

This is my 222nd post @minimum - shame it couldn't have been #230 :-)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Dr McDougall's Starch Solution - What's in it for you?


Dr McDougall's gift is that diet no longer seems controversial. You can picture ol' Doc McDougall offering you a bucket of chicken wings, saying, "Do you feel lucky?"

Well? Do you? 

If you haven't already discovered Dr McDougall, The Starch Solution is this dietary medical pioneer's most complete and compelling work yet. Dr McDougall has the medical training plus decades of comprehensive references and real-life successes to make other food choices seem just a little dangerous.

If you're already a McDougaller, look no further to find out what his latest book has for you.
In Lani Muelrath's recent Teleclass with Dr McDougall, he said this might be his last book. "If you haven't got it by now..."

Getting It

A new book? What to do? I'm in deep decluttering mode, and I already have his 12 Days to Dynamic Health and A Challenging Second Opinion.

So I performed a public service and requested that our city library order The Starch Solution for Auckland, New Zealand. As an extra bonus, I got to be the first to read it.

As another public service for all you McDougall converts wondering what's in it for you - here's:

12 Days to Dynamic Health vs Starch Solution
12 Days Starch Solution
History History
McDougall's personal medical history, with illness leading him to medical study.
When he finds he cannot make his patients better, he moves toward on dietary therapies instead of conventional drugs, and starts St Helena live-in program.
Same history with a few added extras.
The fascinating story of the years in between: why McDougall left St Helena and successfully struck out on his own.
McDougall comes out as a political activist.
Food Overview Food Overview
Nutritional building blocks and dispelling food myths - comprehensive. Starches and why we should eat them - includes reader testimonial for this simpler approach.
Poisons in animal foods
Food FAQ chapters: Protein, Calcium, Omegas (Fish)
Dietary Guidelines and Politics Dietary Guidelines and Politics
No specific section History of the USDA and what has influenced the guidelines.
Environmental concerns Environmental concerns
None "We are eating the planet to death" chapter - summary of latest consensus of livestock impact on the environment
Success Stories Success Stories
Sam and Sally Waterman - in depth look at their 12 days of success. Very personal and moving.  About 10 inspirational Star McDougaller stories - longterm achievements
Vegans/Vegetarians  Vegans/Vegetarians
McDougall eats some meat every year to avoid the negative vegetarian label. References to environmental impact of veg*nism
Fat Vegan chapter - junk food veganism, dangers of isolated soy proteins in replacement meats/milks, recommendations for healthy veganism.
Supplements Supplements
Recommends B12 to prevent rare cases of dietary deficiency Chapter discussing latest research on risks of general supplementation - still recommends B12
Sugar and Salt Sugar and Salt
 Limits quantities Chapter on history of these and current role as dietary scapegoats. Still limits quantities.
The Plan The Plan
12 Days of Sam and Sally's progress - meal plan. Tips on social and kitchen preparation, shopping, dining out. Approved brands list 7 Days - meal plan. Tips on social and kitchen preparation, shopping, dining out.
Maximum Weight Loss Maximum Weight Loss
None Summary page
Recipes Recipes
Lots of favourites - Healthy and richer listed separately Lots of favourites
Medical Reference Medical Reference
Mini Challenging Second Opinion guide None
References section References section
Fully referenced by disease Fully referenced by chapter


After reading this great new book, my only complaint is the same one I have about Dr T Colin Campbell.

Both unquestioned dietary giants have embraced the environmental cause but seem to fear entering the ethical arena, perhaps not wanting to be associated with weirdos who actually care about animals. Dr McDougall continues to distance himself from vegans and vegetarians, compared to the thorough research he invests in diet and now the environmental issues of industrial farming.

His environmental chapter is called "We are eating the planet to death." Kudos to you, doctor, for telling it like it is. How about a chapter called "We are torturing billions of animals every day"? That is another undeniable result of industrial farming.  

All the book's statements of gentle respect for vegans' sacrifices doesn't cut it. The ethical argument adds that crucial third leg of stability to the plant-based way of life. Readers deserve to hear it.

The Winner?

If you ask me which book to give to a friend you want to help, I'd say "whichever one you've got." The 12-Day book is still relevant, decades after publication.

But The Starch Solution is the book of today - it has more: more information from new research, more modern cover design, and more polish from those extra decades of Dr McDougall's writing and presentation experience. 

Get it for your local library (and your own)!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

If Education Were the Answer - 5 things that would already be true


Heard this before?
We don't need to pass laws to make things better; we just need more education. If people knew better, they would do better.
I'm a writer. I'm all for information sharing. But telling the truth isn't enough.  If it were, we'd all already:
  1. Eat more whole grains than refined grains
  2. Eat 5+ fruits and vegetables every day
  3. Exercise every day
  4. Use public transport
  5. Respect everyone, regardless of race, gender, religion, orientation, etc.
I'm accepting other entries for a list of 10, please submit in the comments section.

Education is the:
  • talk in "Walk your talk"
  • say in "Do as I say, not as I do"
  • words in "Actions speak louder than words."
Inspirational educational messages can't beat real world experience.

There you see what is really valued. Money wins over health, environment, and peace. Most people will soon recover from any new lesson and go back to doing exactly what everyone else around them is doing - a much stronger educational lesson.
While the government and large corporations work together to maximise profits, educational truths are dangerous and unacceptable counter-culture.

Not convinced? Here's a prime example: the USDA and Maybe Meatless Monday.

Until society takes strong cooperative action to make the better choice the easier choice (instead of folding under pressure), the talk about what's good for us will remain...just talk.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

4 seasons in one day...

It's the start of August - deep in our antipodean winter.

Could someone please break it to this dude?

Amazing what you can do when you don't know it's impossible...

And what can I say to these beauties?
 Thank you for brightening up winter!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Evolved to eat meat?


So I went to the local meatpacker. I didn't really want to, and I probably could have asked someone else to do it. But it was for a nonvegan children's club (traditional dissection activity), and I figured I could learn something. 

I was right.

This isn't an expose. I didn't take gruesome pictures of slaughtered animal bodies or abuse to show you.

I didn't even take a picture of the piles of organs - nothing worse really than what you can see in the stores.

I didn't visit the killing floor to witness life ended in screams of terror and blood.

But as I simply stepped out of my car into the parking lot, a wave of blood and meat smell surrounded me. And this was outside.

I challenge anyone who still eats meat to visit a meatpacker and take a deep breath. Then another. If you manage that, you've beaten me. I could manage only shallow breaths, through my mouth to minimise the smell, the whole time I was there. 

Each breath I took sent a powerful impulse through me:
Get away now.
Throughout all of evolution, it's been bad for human health to get near dead and decaying animals. If bacterial infections didn't get you, the real carnivores, omnivores, and tough scavengers would - they are evolved to be hungry when they catch that powerful scent.

When you visit that meatpacker, tell me if you felt hungry near all those piles of rich protein and iron.

Evolved to eat meat? My brain knows better. I bet yours does too.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Children of the Cult

Cults are those weird groups with those brainwashed people living by bizarre and often damaging rules. 

The saddest thing is, of course, the children. They're raised within the cult and often never know that any other way is possible.

A cult:

  • is a group whose beliefs or practices are abnormal or bizarre    
  • is a group that tends to manipulate, exploit, and control its members
  • recruits people who suffer from a some variety of deprivation.
  • promotes a belief system which is utopian/idealistic, and also dualistic and bi-polar in nature. Dualistic in that they see the world in terms of two opposite poles, such as good versus evil, the saved and the fallen, the enlightened and the ignorant, etc.
  • is at high risk of becoming abusive to members - in part due to members' adulation of charismatic leaders contributing to the leaders becoming corrupted by power.
  • is a group or movement exhibiting a devotion to some person, idea or thing and employing unethically manipulative techniques of persuasion and control designed to advance the goals of the group's leaders to the actual detriment of members, their families, or the community.
Meet the most successful cult ever

This cult's idea is the pursuit of more money - the cult of capitalism. And you're probably a child of the cult.
"Unlike other cults that are considered outside the norm, it has claimed center stage, and its propaganda appears to be unquestioned reality."

Living in the cult

Mostly, people
  • hope to live in spaces with more than one room for each person. Social skills degenerate from isolation.
  • cannot afford these large spaces - they spend their entire lives working off debt to live there.
  • spend their days at tasks unrelated to anything or anyone they love
  • do not know the people living around them
  • live near so many other people they can't make meaningful connections
  • buy objects (increasing debt) trying to replace connections with people
Power in the cult

Positions of power:
  • are held by very few people
  • cost enormous amounts of money to achieve - creating bias and corruption
  • provide the illusion of democracy while real control is held by the companies providing money
Information in the cult

Most information:
  • is controlled by a few large worldwide companies
  • is propaganda to perpetuate the beliefs of the cult
  • is presented as quickly and simply as possible, even when important meaning is lost
  • avoids any positive reference to lifestyles contradicting the cult
Communication in the cult

Mostly, people communicate
  • without even seeing each other
  • using machines for very quick and short messages with little content
  • badly, generating much confusion and ill feeling
Leisure time in the cult

Most entertainment
  •  involves buying something
  •  is enjoyed alone and is physically inactive (TV, computer games...)
  •  includes propaganda for the cult
Food in the cult

Mostly, people...
  • cannot and don't know how to provide their own food
  • never eat any truly fresh food
  • do not know where their food comes from
  • do not cook much
  • eat lots of foods which have been processed so much that very little nutrition remains
  • eat lots of foods from animals who have been horribly abused their whole lives before being killed.
The cult invests in propaganda and promotes denial about food to protect profits.

Physical health in the cult

It's risky in here...
  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death
  • At least half of all people are overweight
  • The next generation is expected to have a shorter lifespan
  • The healthcare industry is a huge financial presence. Healthcare spending is increasing faster than society can create value
Mental health in the cult

Cults foster mental disorders.
Cults promote a vision of an ideal 'new self', which members believe they can attain by following the cult teachings.
The capitalist ideal new self is a wealthy person. The reality is that few can become wealthy. Many who fail to become wealthy blame themselves or other people.

Depression, violent crime, and suicide are skyrocketing.

Families in the cult

Most mothers and fathers pay someone else to care for their young children while they spend their day earning money (and generating money for an employer).

Mothers and fathers who care for their own children instead of earning money are low status and often ridiculed.

Most mothers

  • although healthy mammals, give birth in hospitals and feed their babies with inferior artificial food they have to buy.
  • are told by experts that they should separate themselves from their babies for everyone's sake.
  • are isolated from their family and community
  • suffer guilt, confusion, and depression about caring for their babies
Most children
  • are in institutional care for most of their day instead of socialising with neighbours.
  • Are regularly entertained by electronic devices instead of people
  • Cannot concentrate on simpler entertainment
  • Are more ignorant about the world than the previous generation
(Add your own section here)

I could continue...but so can you.

Escaping a cult

I've seen movies of people rescued from cults. They look stunned and a bit scared, coming out to freedom and the bigger world around them.

They have lots to learn.

Are you ready?

More Reading

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Yo-yo day! Updates and confessions...

Finally! Here's the next installment of Yo-yo Day, all about picking up and putting down and picking up and putting down...

We found the cloth base to the baby gym from this past yo-yo. We'd wrapped a glass lamp in it when we moved, and it was hidden in a box.

We outsmarted ourselves with multipurposing, and left that box unopened for too long.  But the base has now also been donated.

The digital camera yo-yo found new life and energy at our Explorers' Technojunk day. The kids take apart any old technical junk we can find, and they loved discovering the insides of this camera.

The dragon yo-yo is now guarding an outdoor rose plant. They can both be prickly, and they don't seem to mind.

The yo-yo power is strong in this one. 

Yes, the china cup and saucer (the inaugural yo-yo) did not leave our house until last week.

I couldn't think of a use for them.

I tried several times to sell them on TradeMe.

But at last I tucked them in with a pretty collectible plate (also worth something, probably) and I sent them all to seek their fortune in my favourite charity shop.

As a memento of my grandmother, I still have two of her hair ribbons.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Gifted Families - the gift that just keeps on giving

In case my children need any more reasons to feel alienated from the mainstream, not only are they vegan, naturally weaned, and live in a house with no Barbie dolls, they are also gifted.

As I've just become the president of Explorers, our local branch of the NZ Association for Gifted Children, I welcome the opportunity to out us all for the Gifted Online's NZ Gifted Awareness Week Blog Tour.
Aucklanders, don't forget the Explorers' Open Day this Saturday!
Gifted parenting secrets?

I can read great stuff all day about parenting gifted kids. But just like many of you doing your research, as well as being a parent of gifted kids, I was a gifted kid.  Sure, I got taller and overcame my social handicaps and overthinking long enough to find a partner (also gifted) and reproduce. But be honest, how grownup do any of us really feel?

So here we are, gifted adults and also parents. Along with the genius superpowers that everybody thinks we gifted enjoy, we also get our share of some gifted traits:
  • Perfectionism
  • Impatience
  • Emotional and physical sensitivity
  • Overexcitability
  • Introversion and/or extroversion
  • Strong sense of fairness, morals, and ethics
  • Skeptical, critical, and evaluative tendencies
and just taking things too darn seriously.

Not many of these on the list of Top 10 Traits for Great Parents. Parenting is the most stressful experience I've ever known, and my worst traits come out under stress.

So I'm still dealing with my own gifted stuff while I pretend to be dealing so much more intelligently than average with our kids.

All in the family

Just for fun, both my husband and I have gifted siblings (with gifted children) and gifted parents, and they had gifted parents... Love those stats. People ask, "How did you know they were gifted?" Well, I sorta assumed they might be and went from there.

And I wonder whether I would manage an average or slower child with grace. (With my first child born in emergency conditions weighing only 1.7kgs, this was something I had to consider.) It's hard enough with the children I have, who own a similar toolbox for the world.

Reading about methods of parenting gifted children may be our first experience thinking about better and worse ways of experiencing giftedness. So our gifted children get a mixed bag of:
  • our version of today's research
  • suggestions from peers that sound good
  • avoiding what we hated about how we were raised
  • expanding on what we enjoyed as children
All of this under the razor-sharp scrutiny of gifted and opinionated relatives who know exactly what we are up to because, after all, they went through "rejection-rebellion-I can do better for my kids than my parents did" before us.

We're all too used to thinking we know better than anyone else in the room, and we're also too used to disagreeing on most topics with just about everybody we meet.  And too many of us come from families where being right wins over being happy (if happy even gets in the game).

My gift to my gifted children

With all my love and all due apologies: when you find (as I did) that you struggle to fit in with the crowd, just remember:
  1. Don't fit in. The world needs your busy crazy minds, new ideas, and boundless energy, because business as usual is not going to save us now.
  2. There are people who will value you precisely for what you are. Since you're so smart, don't give up until you find them.