Thursday, September 6, 2012

Good-Bye to My Long Time Friend...Penelope

A few days ago, I had to say good-bye to my long time feline companion, Penelope.  Penelope and I had been together for the last seventeen years…long before there were any children or husband, there was me and Penelope.  She was given to me as a kitten by a family member and back then, I had no idea just how long she was going to be with me or how much I would grow to love her!

Penelope was full of personality and a little bit of attitude.  She loved to be near me, but never wanted to be touched.  You could pet her on the head, but anywhere else would get you a nip on the hand.   And if I called her name in a way to let her know she was doing something wrong, she would whip her tail back and forth–her way of flicking me off!  It wasn't long before I knew she was her own cat and I had to respect the way she was and not invade her space, so I would just let her approach me whenever she was ready then give her the attention she loved.  She was definitely a strong willed kitty with lots of persistence and will.  Even when she was ill, she kept trying to get up and walk around.  I knew she would not give in and let herself go…so I had to make that decision for her, because it was the best thing for her.

In my life I have lost loved ones and each time it was painful and difficult to accept.  Losing my kitty was no different.  For anyone who thinks the loss of a pet cannot be as painful as the loss of a human, has never truly loved a pet.  For two days I wept, feeling depressed and guilty.  The absence was the same, maybe even more.  Every day for the last seventeen years we have been together…I can’t say that about any human.  Every morning I have seen her face, many times I would wake up with her in my bed.  And each day as she came to me for food and water, she would give me a little rub on the leg, as if to say “thank you.” And now, she is gone. 

In some ways it’s like Penelope is still here.  My other kitty, Ginger, who has always been a very sweet and a reserved kitty has all of a sudden become assertive and is doing many of the things that Penelope used to do.  It’s really kind of strange and unbelievable at the same time.  Even more, my 5 year old came into my room the other night saying that she couldn’t sleep because Penelope was sitting on her desk and making noise.  We are not sure if that was a dream or if she truly saw her, but in either case, I think Penelope spirit is still with us.

I am so grateful that I got to share Penelope’s life with her and I hope that I helped to make her life happy and full of joy.   I will focus my attention now to our other furry family members…my kitty Ginger, my Chihuahua Lola, and my newest family member, a terrier mix we named Einstein.   Einstein is so full of energy and is just the sweetest puppy ever!  I got him from my vet as I was there with Penelope.  He had been dropped off and needed a home.  I was prepared to say no when they asked me, but when they brought him out I just melted.  The last thing I needed was a new puppy as I was taking care of my very sick kitty, but now he has become exactly what I needed… to help me move on.  It’s like “the circle of life” around here.  Last month I had two cats and a dog, and now I have two dogs and a cat. I truly feel that our pets do not belong to us, they only share their life with us–and we should feel fortunate to be able to do so!

Meet my furry family members:



Thursday, August 23, 2012

Time for Hurricane Shopping {Vegan Style}

It is hurricane season once again here in Florida and it’s looking like it may be that time again where we all go out and do hurricane shopping.  It has been seven years since we have had a hurricane scare here.  In 2005 we had two storms, hurricanes Rita and Katrina, one after the other.  Back then I was a single mom (dating my now husband) living in an apartment with my daughter and it was long before I was vegan or vegetarian or even thinking about it.  So hurricane shopping at that time was a lot of meat products, such as tuna and other canned meats, canned pastas with meat, mac and cheese, dry dairy products and any other food items that were non-perishable––meaning anything not fresh, healthy or nutritious because it could last on the shelf forever. 

Now we are in the threat of another storm, tropical storm Isaac that may very well become hurricane Isaac and is currently on track to make impact or come very close to Florida, or more importantly for me, Miami!  I realize that I need to go out and do my hurricane shopping that I have done dozens of times before.  But now things are different because I cannot buy all those canned meat products that I relied on for so long.  With the possibility of being without power or access to a grocery store for a few days, what kinds of things can I buy that will stay fresh and keep me faithful to my new vegan life? 

I’m starting to feel like I did a few years ago, like a vegan newbie not knowing where to begin.  Now if I was shopping just for me I could have peanut butter sandwiches every day, but I also have my hubby and four children to feed.  And my little one has not taken to peanut butter yet (I’m trying).  It would be great if I could find a canned food for her that is vegan, but I know from my normal shopping that it is very difficult to find canned foods that don’t have meat or dairy.  Well I guess this will be another learning experience and just another hurdle to jump in my journey to becoming vegan. 

My hurricane shopping list (so far):

·         Peanut butter
·         Bread
·         Crackers
·         Rice cakes
·         Soy chips
·         Sweet potato chips (love these!)
·         Water
·         Lots of Fruitables juice boxes
·         Veggie Stix (her favorite snack)
·         Canned beans
·         Canned veggies
·         Food dehydrator

 I have been meaning to get a food dehydrator and I think now is the perfect time.  During my research on dehydrating foods, I learned that dehydrated food has a very long shelf life.  So then I can make a bunch of different kinds of veggie chips or fruit that will last for weeks. 

Here are a few links I found while searching for ideas for vegan hurricane shopping:

I will update after my shopping trip…any ideas or suggestions from others will be greatly appreciated! J

Friday, July 27, 2012

Dealing With Ignorance

I knew that not everyone would understand or agree with our decision to go vegan, but I am getting so tired of dealing with ignorance from other people and having to explain or even defend our food choices. The other day, my teenage daughter comes home from volleyball practice and advices me that her coach is not happy that we do not eat meat. She goes on to tell me that her coach told her that she needs to have protein, even if just a little. The funny thing is my daughter is not vegan. She eats meat at school and at her father’s house. So her coach is upset because one of the three places she eats at she does not get meat!! Being used to hearing this ignorant comment from people, I just blew it off and continued with what I was doing. But as the night went on, I began to get more and more upset and eventually I was angry!

Who is she to tell my daughter how we should be eating? Each year around this time when the volleyball team is conditioning for the season, the coach advices them to eliminate fast foods and soda and other things that will hinder their performance. I appreciate that. But that is where it should end. I am the parent and I have made a well-researched and educated decision to better the health of my family; so I do not appreciate her telling my daughter that she should be eating something that I have removed from our diet. Here I am trying to get her to stop eating meat outside of my home, and I have this lady telling her different. She should respect my decision and if she has concerns, she should have addressed them with me.

Now I am conflicted with whether or not to confront the coach about this. My first thought was to write her an email expressing my unhappiness and offer her some insight as to why we are vegan. But then I thought why do I have to explain myself and defend my choices? I shouldn’t have to. But maybe if I can show her the reasoning and show her some of the many successful vegan athletes, she will never bring it up to my daughter again. I’m not sure what I will do. I just wish people would do some research and educate themselves before offering ignorant advice.

When I was a meat eater no one ever asked me if I was getting enough fruits and vegetables, or was I getting enough calcium and minerals, and no one cared if I had enough fiber to pass all the meat I ate. And no one EVER asked about, or was concerned with, the nutrition of my children! But when we become vegan, everyone is suddenly concerned if my kids get enough protein. The ironic thing is I now pay more attention to what we eat and the amount of nutrients we get than I ever did when we ate meat. I make sure to incorporate all important nutrients in my children’s diet, not just protein. But yet I still find that I have to explain and defend my choices. Does any parent ever have to explain why they feed McDonalds to their kids! No, but they should. I hope one day plant-based diets will be the norm and my children will not have to explain to others why they feed good food to their children.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Happy Vegan Pizza Day!

In honor of Vegan Pizza Day, I thought I would share my family's favorite pizza recipies.  Pizza night in my house has now become an anticipated event.  Although at first, I wasn't sure how my family was going to accept home made pizza instead of take-out or delivery.  But it has become a wonderful thing.  Not only does my whole family enjoy our homemade vegan pizzas, but they now request it!

Making our own pizza has got to be the easiest, most cost effective, and best change we have made so far.  The process takes less than 20 minutes from fridge to table and costs about $10 to make two. It is a great meal for nights when you don't have much time or energy for cooking.   I use an already made pizza crust (vegan of course), which makes the process so much easier.  I know many people enjoy making thier crust and I have read that it is not that difficult.  Maybe one day I will attempt it, but for now I am enjoying the pre-made.  I like to use a thin and crispy pizza crust and the family seems to agree. 

For pizza sauce, I use the grocery store brand.  One jar is enough for both pizzas.  For the cheese, the one I like the best is  Daiya Mozzarella Shredds. It melts well and has a good flavor.   My hubby acctually likes it better than regular cheese, and so do I.

Tofu & Veggie Pizza
Vegan Pizza with Kale Chips

For the hubby and I, I usually top our pizza with sauted mushrooms, green peppers, onions and tofu. I saute the veggies and small cubes of tofu in a little oil for a few minutes with some salt & peper, oregano and garlic and then top the pizza and bake for 10 minutes.  But you can use whatever you have around.  I have also topped ours with kale, spinach and red peppers.  The possibilities are endless.  We love to add a side of kale chips and this make for a great movie night dinner!

For the kids, I have found that they prefer a yellow or mixed cheese. I also top theirs with meat-free pepperoni.  I just happened to find it one day at Whole Foods and it does taste great.  They didn't even know at first that it wasn't regular pepperoni.  The kids just love this pizza and I am happy that I can make something that is not bad for them that they love.  They have even told me that they like this pizza better than the one's that we used to order. 

I love when my family asks what's for dinner and the smiles I get when I say pizza.  It's a great feeling that they are embracing the changes I'm making.  Now vegan pizza night has become a happy occation at my house!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Good-Bye Preschool Lunch

Well the time has finally come…my little one has graduated from preschool! Although this in itself is a joyous occasion and is reason to celebrate, I am also celebrating for another reason—that she will no longer be subjected to the preschool lunch that I have had to let her eat for the past two years. You see her preschool does not allow the children to bring their own food, unless for some medical reason.

I am so excited that I have already gone out and purchased her new lunch box for kindergarten, as well as a new Disney Princess hot food thermos. And I am already making up lunch ideas that I think she will love. I’m thinking of main dish things like black beans and rice (her favorite), veggie nuggets, spinach nuggets, vegan mac & cheese, whole wheat spaghetti. For snack or sides I want to put things like veggie sticks, sweet potato chips, or kale chips instead of regular potato chips, and of course Fruitables for her drink.

I am so excited to finally be in control of her entire diet (well, except for when she’s at grandma’s house, but that’s another blog post) and to expose her to new and exciting things each day for lunch. I work as a substitute teacher and I see the kinds of things parents send for their kids to eat and it just amazes me how little effort is often put into their lunch. Good nutrition is one of the most important things you can do for your child and it is crucial to start from the beginning. I am eager to get started! I will also be home with her for the summer, so this is a good test run to see what things she will eat, so it doesn’t end up in the school trash. I will start posting about her lunches when the school year begins to share with others what things work and what things went wrong. 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Why I Will Not "Like" a Post for Cancer

Lately I have seen many FB posts saying to like the post if you want to cure cancer or put a post as your status for the day to help stop cancer. I will never do this and I would like to explain why. I don't want anyone to think that I just do not care, because I do. You see cancer has touched my family and had a very strong effect on me. In my lifetime, I have seen six family members suffer from cancer and have lost four of them. Two of them, I had to watch die before me, an experience that stays will you always. So why am I not willing to promote and spread the hate for cancer on facebook? Because the way to end cancer is not by sharing that you want to stop it and definitely not by raising money to find a cure. The way to end cancer is to start with yourself!

Cancer is too often a result of what we have done to ourselves throughout our lifetime, mostly without even knowing it. Yes there are those that are born with cancer or get it in childhood. But so much of it is a result of our decisions and lifestyle.  You end cancer not by writing a check for research or by waiting for a cure. You end it with personal responsibility...yes I said personal! The problem is in fact the "by stander effect" That everyone is waiting for someone else to take the responsibility, but the responsibility must start with you. You fight cancer with everything you eat, with everything you put on your body, with everything you put in your environment. I heard the other day that they are expecting cancer rates to increase by 75%! Why, as a result of countries adopting a western diet.  That alone should tell us that we are doing something wrong.

We have been raising money for breast cancer for many years, and are still no closer to finding a cure. Why are we so quick to spend the effort to raise money, and then go home and eat something that will contribute to our own cancer?? This must be a personal mission for all of us, to say to ourselves that we are not going to be a victim. It pains me to see places like KFC with pink buckets of chicken in October help cure breast cancer. If they really wanted to help, they would just tell you to not eat their chicken! But they dont' care, it is only a marketing tool to make you feel better for buying your family that bucket of chicken.

What we all need is information and education, that's the best tool for fighting this. I am turning 40 this year and I wish I knew at 5 what I know now. We need to teach our young how cancer grows and what things contribute (like dairy) to the growth of cancer cells so they may make a lifetime of good decisions to ensure a healthy life. You see it is not death that I fear, it is life...a life filled with pain and suffering and living with cancer. I watched this happen to my dear aunt and for 8 weeks I watched her go from being the wonderful loving person she had always been to someone I didn't know and I had to watch her die a little everyday. I became her caregiver and had to take over her life, because she could not live it anymore. Only two years before, I watched her husband die in the ER, after battling with his cancer.

So I may not have cancer, but I do live with it. I will take all the knowledge I have gained and give to my children so they can make good choices. And I now think about cancer with every healthy meal I make and I know why I choose the life I live. Not mostly for me, but for those that would have to live my life for me if I can't. So remember, cancer is not just about you, but for all those that will be forced to suffer with you that you will leave behind. So the next time you get a post asking you to "like" it to stop cancer, think about the things you are doing for yourself, the food you eat, the toxins you spray, the products you put on your body and ask yourself, are you really going to hope they find a cure?

Monday, April 2, 2012

PB & Banana Smoothie

This morning, while out doing my morning run, I suddenly had the craving for peanut butter and banana.  I often like to have a breakfast of whole wheat toast with peanut butter and bananas and sprinkled with ground flax seed and with a glass of soy milk.  But today, I craved something different. I don't know where it came from, but I thought "what if I put them in the blender and make a smoothie?"  Maybe it was because it was hot and a cold smoothie seemed refreshing, but as soon as I got home, I went to work making my smoothie.

So went I got home, I put in the blender:

1/2 banana
1 tbsp of peanut butter
1 tbsp ground flax seed
8 oz of soy milk
1/2 cup crushed ice

I wasn't sure how this was going to taste, but my mind had this set that this is what I wanted.  All I can say is wow! This was so good.  I need to listen to my mind more often.  This was yummy and I'm sure that anyone who likes PB & B, will like this.  This also seems like a great smoothie for kids, I am going to try with mine.  My little one does not like to eat peanut butter, but maybe she'll drink it!  I can also see this a a great after meal dessert for kids instead of a not so healthy (or vegan) milk shake. 

I didn't make a big glass (as you can see above).  I  did not want to pack on all the calories I had just worked so hard to use.  But, I needed a little something to replenish energy and this just hit the spot.  Now I'm sure that I did not invent something new, but it is new to me! So the next time your mind suggests something, go with it, you just might be pleasantly surprised.