Archive for April, 2011

April 29, 2011

Voting With Head Or Heart

What To Do?

I have never been a big fan of politics; it’s just too…political for my liking. It is however a necessary evil, and if I want my country to be run in a way that matches my values, I need to do everything I can to help put the right person, or party really, at the helm. This is where things get muddy though for me.

It’s no secret that I support the Green Party. Once you are done giggling we can get back to the point. I have no interest in debating which party should run our country with you; I just told you I don’t like politics. The real question I am trying to answer prior to voting is do I vote for the party I support or do I vote with a strategy that will impact who what party will actually be in power. This is a real dilemma for me.

What I really want is both. I want to be able to walk into the voting booth and put an X beside who I want to win, and another X beside who I am voting for.  Let’s face it, putting an X beside my Green Party candidate is a waste of my time. I know I can support my party in many other ways when not at times of election, donation, canvassing, and even sharing ideals and values like I do through MEfurbish. Now that it is actually time to vote, I can’t think of a good reason to vote for my party. I am sure some political genius could explain to me the pros and cons of each, but I am not sure that is really what I am looking for in the end.

If you had this same dilemma and have come to some sort of resolution, I would love to hear from you!

Peace,

Leslie

April 28, 2011

How Hard Can It Really Be?

How hard can it really be? Yes I’m talking to you. I want to know how hard it can really be to just open your eyes and look at what is in front of you. . I spent one hour today sitting in a local Bridgehead coffee shop and witnessed a microcosm of what I expect is a global outbreak. I am absolutely astonished at the number of recyclable items that are thrown into the trash in one hour.

Bridgehead should be one of the better scenarios out there. It is a company that puts a great deal of effort into environmental and social responsibility and is a business that has taken care to have recycling and composting options available in addition to traditional waste. Every village, town and city has a cross section of options, some cities are worse than others, but in this case we are talking about a business that is taking extra care to provide solutions.

 

I sat and sipped on my Organic Fair Trade Ethiopian blend coffee, out of my mug and watched as customer after customer, with a few exceptions, scraped the entire contents of their lunch waste into the garbage bin. Six inches away from the garbage can is a big hole labeled “compost”, and six inches to the right of that was another opening labeled “glass and plastic.”

What is the problem here? The problem is consumer apathy; there is just no other excuse. It’s bad enough that when someone has had their food and beverage “for here” they still choose to get it in a paper cup or bag, but then to just pitch it all in the garbage can is a complete disrespect for the planet and its inhabitants.

According to all-recycling-facts.com “nearly 60 to 70 percent of waste found in dust bins can be recycled and reused and close to 50 percent of the same waste can be composted.” The same site reports that “almost every hour, nearly 250,000 plastic bottles are dumped. It is not surprising that plastic bottles constitute close to 50 percent of recyclable waste in the dumps.” These statistics are alarming, but not surprising based on what I saw in person.

We need to wake up, give our heads a shake, and make an effort. Those of us who are already doing our part have to try and have an impact on a few people that don’t seem to care. Those of us who are blindly contributing to the problem need to snap out of our lethargy.

What are you going to about it?

Peace,

Leslie

Article first published as How Hard Can It Really Be? on Technorati.

April 26, 2011

Right Back At It

Four Day Week!

It was a busy Easter weekend, and while it was great, and it was nice to spend some extra time with family and friends, I am glad that it’s over. In my journey of MEfurbishment, one of the most important things I have going for me are my routines. Much has been said and written about the routines of children over the years. I have come to believe that routines are equally important to adults too but certainly they are to me.

My level of awareness, regarding what contributes to stress and what alleviates it in me, has grown considerably over the past year. While I absolutely love holidays and special events, they also add more stress in my life because of their impact on my routines. Routine becomes a stress reducer in many ways because of its familiarity but also because it ensures that I am getting what I need to be happy and healthy. As long as my routine is set up with my MEbucket’s in mind, there is a dramatically positive impact on my happiness and well-being.

Our routines ensure that we have a balance of all of the buckets that we want to work on in our lives. Changes to these routines can sometimes swing a pendulum too far in the direction of one particular area. For example, I can very easily put all of my focus on family and friends and take time away from things like health, finances and creative endeavours. Coming out of a holiday weekend I can often feel like I have spent too much money and really need time to myself. In recent months I am also discovering that when I don’t prioritize my creative endeavours I really notice a difference in my energy and contentedness.

Going into this long weekend, I took a look at each of my buckets and decided how I would ensure I maintained the balance that I need in my life. Let’s have a look at how I did:

Health

Going into Easter weekend I wanted to focus on two major things to ensure that I was prioritizing my health bucket.  I wanted to make certain that I kept up my meditation practice during the weekend. This is something that I can easily let slip on a long weekend and I really notice the difference in my level of grounded-ness when I meditate. The other key ingredient was healthful food choices. I managed to make both of these happen despite a visit from the Easter Bunny.

Finances

My tendency is to spend too much money at holiday times and I wanted to make sure this was not the case this Easter. Perhaps surprisingly, it’s not the holiday event itself where I regret my spending but in the other things I write off in holiday weekend cash dumps. Going out for meals, additional un-needed shopping sprees, and a desire to fill up my long weekend with additional events like, movies, concerts, museums and the like are all things that have derailed me in the past. This Easter weekend I was able to keep my spending in check which is a great feeling coming into the start of the week.

Creativity

Normally the first thing to go during a busy holiday weekend, creativity was something that I was really focused on making sure it still had its place. A couple of things helped me out in that area. I wanted to make a new and exciting Vegan Easter feast, this being my first Vegan Easter. Cooking is always a creative experience for me because I rarely use a recipe as it is written. I will often use a recipe as a base and experiment with it until it is perfect for the MEkitchen.  I ended up with a delicious Carrot Coconut Bisque and a hearty Mushroom Quinoa Loaf. Next was time spent writing and taking pictures of my gastronomic fun to share on MEfurbish. The photography aspect of the recipe posts really got my creative juices flowing. I have missed photography and while I would not call the quick point and shoot stuff I did this weekend very creative, it really got me thinking about what I could do with recipes and photography in the future. I am really looking forward to working on this more in the months ahead.

Environment

There were a few ways that I made the environment a focus this weekend. With all its busyness it would have been easy to just pick up something like Tofurky instead of spending the time preparing my own meal, especially with the fact that I am the only vegan in my home. Taking the time to pick up bulk, and mostly local ingredients, saved on packaging and travel and making a large batch of food will save on energy costs in the upcoming few weeks as I enjoy leftovers. Another way in which I expanded on the environment bucket was to attend a local EcoExpo here in my home town of Ottawa. Any time I can educate myself and make new contacts I am making progress here.

Community

Community is something that was fostered by the EcoExpo I was at as well. The ‘Green”  community as well the Vegan community both had a presence at the Expo and networking with these individuals and gaining awareness about the industry as a whole is helpful.  I also made a decision to attend a function of another community organization I belong too instead of one of the family events that I have taken part in every year since my childhood. The event I let go of  does not feed me in the same way as the function I chose. It was a hard decision to make, but one that I am glad I made in the end for my own peace of mind.

Fun

This was an easy one for me to work on. Spending time with family and friends, buying treats and gifts for my daughter, cooking, listening to tons of music, and spending lots of time writing are all things that I find fun. I was able to easily work these and more into the four days of the weekend.

Relationships

Like fun, relationships are easy one for me to focus on within a holiday weekend. Spending time with family and friends works on these relationships by default. In looking for opportunities to take special action in working on key relationships I made a concerted effort to spend time with some of them that have taken a back seat lately. One area that may seem trivial but that was important to me was taking the time to send a few emails that I haven’t made the time to do recently. Out of all of the steps I took this weekend, this simple one, may have had the greatest impact on my mood, and serenity. Clearly, it was something that was taking up too much space in my head.

Even with all the work on keeping things balanced, things just seem to go smoother when the day to day routines kick back in. Spontaneity and routine used to seem like polar opposites to me, but what I have found is that my routines allow me to be spontaneous without feeling like I am taking away from something else. This is a big shift and an enjoyable one.

Peace,

Leslie

April 25, 2011

Mushroom Quinoa Loaf

Vegan Easter Main Course

The main course of this year’s Vegan Easter was a Mushroom Quinoa Loaf with gravy that turned out great.  As was the case with the Carrot and Coconut Bisque that I made for the appetizer, I had a couple of inspirations for this recipe. Last week a wonderful friend made a delicious Quinoa loaf with onion chutney and it was just absolutely delicious. I decided to do some exploring online and found that Joel at vegangoodeats.com had posted a recipe for another take on Quinoa loaf. I used this recipe as a base, my friend’s recipe as inspiration, and a little MEfurbish modification to make it my own. Please try this, it is very easy to prepare. There are some great tips for cooking quinoa on vegangoodeats.com as well if you are not familiar with this very versatile superfood.  I also made Joel’s mouth-watering super healthy Cashew Mushroom Gravy to serve with the loaf. Coupled with fresh veggies and roasted potatoes, this made a fantastic Vegan Easter meal. I will make it again, long before next Easter!

Have a look at some photos of the preparation in action!

Enjoy!

Leslie

April 24, 2011

Carrot and Coconut Bisque

Vegan Easter Feast

In preparation for my first Vegan Easter I spent some time today preparing for the festivities tomorrow. As a Vegan living in a house full of omnivores it’s great when I can prepare food that the whole gang will eat. My family has been great at making a few simple changes to allow me to partake in much of the fare. Using Earth Balance and egg-replacer and almond milk are a few of the simple tweaks that family members have done to help out with the Easter dinner menu.  I offered to make a delicious Carrot and Coconut Bisque for an appetizer that I know everyone will love. The recipe I have posted here was inspired by a recipe I found on vegangoodeats.com one of the many awesome Vegan food sites out there. I really loved his idea of using baby carrots for two reasons. First, they are already peeled and small enough not to have to chop. Second you buy them by weight so it’s really easy to buy the right amount! I changed it up a bit for my own tastes, and the recipe you see below is my updated version.

Carrot and Coconut Bisque Recipe

Ingredients:

3 pounds baby carrots

1 ½ large onions chopped

4 garlic cloves minced

½ teaspoon of fresh ginger minced

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon curry powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon of ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon of white pepper [I]

4 cups (1 quart) low sodium vegetable broth

1 14oz can coconut milk

Juice of 2 blood oranges [II]

2 Tablespoons Maple Syrup

1 bunch of chives or green onions (optional)

Method: (see photos below)

  1. Heat oil in a stock pot over medium heat. Add onions and cook for approximately 10 minutes until golden and caramelized.
  2. Add the carrots and cook until slightly brown, then add in the garlic and ginger. Cook for about 2-3 more minutes stirring frequently.
  3. Add the curry, cumin, salt, pepper and cinnamon, stir.
  4. Add broth and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer, covered for 20 minutes or until carrots pierce easily with a fork.
  5. Add coconut milk, blood orange juice and maple syrup and stir to combine. Let cool slightly and use an immersion blender to puree or transfer to a standing blender in small batches to blend. [IV]
  6. Sprinkle with chives or green onions before serving.
  7. This recipe is best done a day ahead of time for full flavour effect, and what could be better than checking one thing off the to do list before the big day!

Notes:

I.  Black pepper is fine as well, it will just be visible in the brightly coloured bisque

II.  Blood oranges are perfect because of their intense flavour and color, if they are not available, you can use any type of orange.

III.  A few ingredients are not show in the photos as I was tweaked as I went along. The written recipe should be followed vs. the photos.

IV.  Never fill a blender to top with hot liquid and blend, the steam can cause explosions.


  • Ingredients all ready to go!

  • Olive oil in the pan is ready to go when a few sprinkles of water from your fingers sizzle and pop.

  • Onions caramelized and ready for next step.

  • Add carrots and cook until they start to lightly brown

  • Add broth, boil and simmer, covered.

  • Just after coconut milk, orange juice and maple syrup are added.

  • All blended up!

  • The Final Product.

Enjoy!

Leslie

April 21, 2011

What The Bleep Am I Eating? Part II

Natural vs. Synthetic

In What The Bleep Am I Eating? Part 1 I shared my surprise at the list of ingredients that are found in a box of Kellogg’s All-Bran. Not knowing what some of these ingredients even are, and where others are typically sourced I decided to do some research in order to make an informed decision about what I am eating.

A few things are worth noting before we delve into the ingredients themselves.

  •  When a vitamin or mineral is added as an ingredient it can be added in its natural form or created synthetically. Just determining that the ingredient is vitamin or mineral does not mean it is “natural” or “healthy”. It is not a requirement in Canada or the US to label the source or call out genetic modifications.
  • Being a Vegan, I will call attention to the fact that labels do not show if a source ingredient is vegan or not, we vegans have to do some digging to determine that fact.
  • As a general rule, it is accepted (by everyone except large corporations and their proponents) that the less processing that takes place on foods the better.
  • When vitamins and minerals are added to products, it is often because these nutritional components were removed during processing.

The Low Down

MALT FLAVORING

I was surprised to find in my research that “Malt Flavouring” is often a form of hidden MSG used in consumer foods. It is called a flavour “enhancer” but many of the articles I read on its creation and use referred also to its addictive behaviours, a variety of health concerns, and the ability to make lesser quality food taste “better.”  If you would like to read more about the research I did, you can read here, here, and here.  In the end I have decided that I would be on the lookout for malt flavouring ion products and choose not to partake in eating them as much as possible.

CALCIUM PHOSPHATE, and CALCIUM CARBONATE

These minerals are used as additives in many foods. I spent a fair amount of time researching both of these types of Calcium and was unable to determine any real concerns with either. I was also pleased to see that both are vegan.  You can see some additional information about their uses and sources at The Vegetarian Resource Group here.

ASCORBATE AND ASCORBIC ACID

This is Vitamin C and as is the case with any of the vitamin and mineral ingredients are of no concern and are in fact helpful to the body. One point that has become clear to me through some of this research is that there is no way to know with certainty that they are not sourced from genetically modified plants is to buy organic. For example if I was to purchase Natures Path Organic Smart Bran, I would know that the source ingredients were also organic unless otherwise labeled on the box.

REDUCED IRON

The term “reduced” is not in reference to the amount of iron in the product but the process by which the iron was refined. As with the other mineral and vitamin ingredients, other considerations would be if the product is organic how much processing or refining takes place. For example, a cereal that has four whole grains and a resulting percentage of iron is quite different than a product where the grain is processed, manipulated, removed of nutrients and supplementary synthetic vitamins and minerals are added. In my world, the simpler, the more whole, and the less processed the ingredients are the better.

NIACINAMIDE

This is another name for Niacin which is a type of Vitamin B. In looking for natural sources of Niacin I can look to legumes and whole grains. Because only the “Bran” of the wheat is used in All-Bran it is higher in fibre but not whole grain and therefore processed.

PYRIDOXINE HYDROCHLORIDE

Another synthetic B vitamin like Niacin. In this case, I could look to whole grain rice as a natural source, as well as the brain itself.

RIBOFLAVIN

For the purposes of food production this B vitamin is sourced from fungus and/or bacteria. A more palatable alternative would be leafy green vegetables.

FOLIC ACID

Folic Acid comes in both vegan and non-vegan forms typically in food production. I have heard through the Vegan Grapevine that the only way to know for sure if a producer uses a vegan (synthetic or fungal) source is to contact the company directly. Thankfully, others have gone before me and the accidentally vegan website by PETA has already established that All-Bran is in fact Vegan. They have done the legwork for me on this one.  Looking for a natural source? Look to mushrooms and green leafy veggies to get your fill.

THIAMIN HYDROCHLORIDE

Similar to others we have discussed above, this is a synthetic B Vitamin that occurs naturally in whole grains legumes, nuts, fruits, and vegetables

VITAMIN A PALMITATE

One of several names for Vitamin A, this can be both vegan and non-vegan in processed foods, in this case being vegan. It can be found in its natural form in milk, eggs, some fish oil but for vegans, “many orange and yellow vegetables contain a substance which is transformed in the body into the vitamin” as per The Vegetarian Resource Group.

VITAMIN B12

Occurs naturally only in Animal Foods, but in this case is created synthetically.

VITAMIN D

This can be vegan or non but is often sourced from animal products for food production, it can also be created through fungus or synthetically.

So What Do I Do Now?

So what does this all tell us? Well I think it each of us something different as well all have different priorities and values. For me personally, it is clear to me that I would prefer other products to this one even though it is Vegan. I try to avoid making absolute statements, this just sets me up to fail later and creates an unhealthy feeling of restriction, so I am instead making a decision to avoid this product moving forward, where possible. If circumstances arise that make choosing All-Bran the best choice for me in that given moment, I am going to allow for that possibility. I think this is a balanced and grayer step in my health MEbucket.

Peace,

Leslie

April 19, 2011

What The Bleep Am I Eating? Part I

It’s Killing Me

I watched a very interesting documentary last night called The Beautiful Truth. It explores the power of food and its ability to heal, through the eyes of a 15 year old boy. He researches the findings of Dr. Max Gerson who wrote about the ability of our food choices to prevent and cure disease. When watching a film of this type my modus operandi is to take everything with a grain of salt since it is clearly just one perspective. At the same time it is important for me to have an open mind.

A large part of the reason I became Vegan is because of the fact that many of the foods I had been eating my whole life were slowly killing me.  I hesitate to say the foods we eat; I realize we all make the best choices we can for ourselves. There is a great deal of research proving that processed foods are bad for me. This is the nugget that I took out of The Beautiful Truth – a reminder really.

I have taken great strides in the health MEbucket over the last year but this is a work in progress. When it comes to my health, I can’t afford to rest on my laurels. The commitment that I will make today is that I will no longer make a food choice that has ingredients that I am not educated on. I am not saying that I will not eat any particular foods; what I am saying is that I need to know what it is before I put it in my mouth. If I read a label and there is an ingredient that I have not heard of, I do not eat the product. I can make a note of the ingredient, do some research, and then decide from an informed perspective what I will do moving forward. Let me give you an example.

I will no longer make a food choice that has ingredients that I am not educated on.

Occasionally, I like to sprinkle Kellogg’s All-Bran on some other breakfast item I am having, just to top of the fibre content. I actually prefer Fibre 1 but for the purposes of this example I will use All-Bran. The ingredients listed on the box read as follows:

WHEAT BRAN, SUGAR, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, MALT FLAVORING, CALCIUM PHOSPHATE, CALCIUM CARBONATE, SALT, SODIUM ASCORBATE AND ASCORBIC ACID (VITAMIN C), REDUCED IRON, NIACINAMIDE, PYRIDOXINE HYDROCHLORIDE (VITAMIN B6), RIBOFLAVIN (VITAMIN B2), FOLIC ACID, THIAMIN HYDROCHLORIDE (VITAMIN B1), VITAMIN A PALMITATE, VITAMIN B12 AND VITAMIN D.

Out of this list there are a few items that would fall into my list of unknowns:

  • MALT FLAVORING
  • CALCIUM PHOSPHATE
  • CALCIUM CARBONATE
  • ASCORBATE AND ASCORBIC ACID
  • REDUCED IRON
  • NIACINAMIDE
  • PYRIDOXINE HYDROCHLORIDE
  • RIBOFLAVIN
  • FOLIC ACID
  • THIAMIN HYDROCHLORIDE
  • VITAMIN A PALMITATE
  • VITAMIN B12
  • VITAMIN D

This list was surprising to me for two reasons. First is that I don’t remember the list of ingredients in All-Bran being that long! I think I am not alone when I say I have a secret pastime of reading cereal boxes while I am eating its contents. The other thing that was surprising to me about this list is that while I recognize a few of the items on this list as vitamins and minerals, I have no idea whatsoever how they are sourced or from what they are derived. I am not aware of any organic B-12 farms with rows and rows of bountiful B-12 plants, being harvested by smiling well cared for employees.

What is it? Where does it come from? What the bleep am I eating? In the days ahead I will explore the answers to these questions through the pages of MEfurbish. You can read What The Bleep Am I Eating? Part II here.

Peace,

Leslie

April 17, 2011

Rococo

Even Better Live

I spent part of the morning watching Arcade Fire live at Coachella. What a great show!! I just had to share my fave song from the concert with you here today. This video isn’t from the same show, but it will give you a taste. This is a band that I have to believe is best seen live. I am on a personal mission to make that happen.

 Listen And Watch

You can also listen to the studio version of Rococo off of The Suburbs, here at MEmusic.

Enjoy!

Peace, Leslie

April 14, 2011

Just Because

You Rock!

Taking stock of the status of each of the MEbucket’s today it’s clear to me that there is a bucket that I am not putting as much work into as others, that being relationships. I am going to keep this post today simple. As simple as it is to honour an important relationship.

Today, I am going to go out of my way to show someone how much I appreciate them.  I am going to do this selflessly. The funny thing about these things is that they always have a bigger impact on the giver.

Peace,

Leslie

April 13, 2011

Happy Happy Joy Joy

I Digress

Music rarely lets me down when it comes to the fun MEbucket.  I woke up this morning a little ache-y from a strain to my scalene muscles during my workout yesterday. No I don’t walk around saying things like “ I strained my scalene muscles today, ” but I was discussing the injury with a good friend who is a Registered Massage Therapist and she educated me on the name as well as some possible remedies. It is better today, so thanks friend!! Anyway, I digress.

In addition to my shoulder and neck pain, it is also kind of gloomy out today. Add to the mix that I have a very full agenda and it was very easy to get off and running into the future planning and even ‘living in’ my day ahead.

La La Land

After dropping off my daughter at school this AM my mind was racing with lists and places, anywhere really other than there in the moment. I grabbed my iPod and meant to select something kind of background for the drive, a soundtrack to my thoughts so to speak, and I selected the wrong item.

A moment later I was very present, just there in the car, a big smile on my face, tapping my feet and my fingers to the beat and a lot more perspective on the day ahead.  I had hit The Resistance, by Muse by mistake and had let go of mine in the process. My resistance to the day ahead that is. Check out this splendiferous track on MEmusic and try not to tap your foot or watch the video below!

I Dare You

In order to make my point I have concocted a little experiment for you, the MEfurbish community. Don’t just read this and laugh or say, oh yeah, good point Leslie, actually DO IT.

1. Grab your favourite track on your iPod or CD, or 8-track for all I care. If you don’t have a favourite track grab anything upbeat, something that speaks to you.

2. Slide it into the CD player, the docking station, or the cassette deck and press PLAY.

3. Turn it up until you start to feel like the neighbors might be hearing it. Then turn it up a bit more.

4. Stand up.

5. If you have a great big smile on your face, perfect – if not, put a big FAKE smile on your face. Show teeth.

6. Take a deep breath and lift your chest – keep smiling!!

7. Now be mad, sad or stressed. No! Don’t stop smiling or listening.

You can’t do it can you? Be honest. If you can do it, then you missed a step, start over. It’s virtually impossible. If I haven’t said this before, man I love great music.

Peace,

Leslie