Vegan Mofo Part Two

So I suck at this Vegan Mofo thing, but I’ve only been eating vegan for about a week, ok? Anyway, last night I made something simple and delicious. Here it is:

Cook some brown rice (yes, brown! White rice is devoid of nutrition)

Sautee some onions in olive oil. YUM. Add some chopped bell pepper (I used a red one since they were on sale and I heart them). Add some chopped squash (I used yellow, use whatever you want). Let that get all tender and delicious, add some chili powder and sea salt, and whatever else you have, I used paprika too.

Add the cooked rice to the cooked vegetables and mix it all up, letting it cook a little longer all together. Seriously the result was so good I would feed it to non-veg friends (who would probably say, you should put some chicken in this, but what do they know?).

I ate this for lunch today too. Cooking is good for you! Eating vegan is good for you! Yippee skippee. One of these days I will buy an actual vegan cookbook and make actual things but I find that they are too complicated/expensive/time-consuming. Just buy good stuff and cook it in good stuff and it will be good, that’s my philosophy on food. But tonight I might to go Chipotle and enjoy a vegan dinner made by someone else (I am sure I will survive the lack of sour cream).

Hooray vegans!

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October 14, 2009 at 8:05 pm Leave a comment

Veganism Here I Come

It’s official. After eight years of vegetarianism, knowing the whole time that if I said I was doing it for animal rights I was being hypocritical, I have finally decided to take the plunge.  It will be a process, but so far I’m doing great. My first step is to stop buying non-vegan foods for my house. So far I went on two shopping excursions, one to Whole Foods (love it a little too much there…) where as usual I spent more money on my dogs than myself, but did walk away with some good stuff (a can of cajun rice and beans made by Eden Organics being one). Then today I went to Safeway and picked up stuff for vegan chili, and some snackfoods to take on my trip to Rapid City this weekend (dog show). The vegan chili is simmering away, and in honor of Vegan Mofo I decided to post what I did with it here.

Brown half an onion and one green bell pepper in a touch of olive oil, add some fresh ground black pepper to that mix, along with some chili powder. Then toss in a big can of tomatoes (organic if you please) and let that get a little simmery. Drain a can of sweet corn and toss that in, then add three cans of beans (your choice, I picked black, kidney, and great northern) liquid included, and stir it all up.  Let this get all hot and steamy and add spices to your taste, I personally tossed in a ton of chili powder since I like it spicy, a good amount of black pepper since I’m addicted to it, some sea salt, some ground dry garlic, and some Lawry’s. Then Heat up some tortillas (I like soft corn) and enjoy. The longer it simmers the yummier it will be, and it gets better with each re-heat, I swear. YUM. Plus, it makes a ton, so if you’re me you can eat off of it all week, very quickly, which is a huge plus with my schedule. Of course, you could add vegan cheese or sour cream to top it off, but I haven’t had the chance to find out what I like in that arena just yet and to be honest, I like it without. 

It’s funny, whenever I considered veganism in the past I felt overwhelmed–like I could not possibly achieve such a thing.  But looking back, that is how I felt about vegetarianism (I come from a family of meat eaters) in the beginning and I overcame all of that with time. But when I decided to be a vegan, I suddenly felt ethically and spiritually right. I felt as though I had made a choice that would lead me to only good things, and though I know at times it will be difficult, there really is no question in my mind as to whether or not this is the absolute right thing to do. I will be a vegan to reduce animal suffering, to reduce my negative impact on the environment, and to take the best care of my body that I can (since it is, after all, the only one I get). 

If it ever gets really tough (like today when I wanted my normal veggie benedict…) all I have to do is watch a clip, or even just the preview for Earthlings (www.earthlings.com) and I will be able to draw strength from what I have seen, since knowledge and empowerment are one and the same.

October 12, 2009 at 4:51 am Leave a comment

Earthlings

I recently watched the film “Earthlings” (www.earthlings.com) which is an award-winning documentary about animal suffering.  I watched it for two reasons; the first is that I try to watch at least one documentary for every two or three feature films I watch, just to be sure I’m learning something, and the second is that I really feel that anyone who calls themselves an advocate for animals (which I do) should keep their hands in the truth about animal suffering.  Though I did not learn much from the film, since I am already well-versed in how much animals are made to suffer for human means, I can’t get it out of my head.  I have seen PeTA’s DVD “Meet Your Meat.” I have see horrific things happen to dogs in the name of training (most recently on National Geographic!). I have visted animal shelters and been present for euthanasia. I have seen undercover footage of circuses, not to mention first-hand accounts of animal suffering in that environment.  I have even stood within the four walls of a puppy mill, smelled the stench, touched the filthy dogs, looked into their cloudy, hopeless eyes.  So none of the footage on the film was brand new for me, but it was expertly filmed (most undercover footage fails to capture the expressions of fear, pain, and utter sorrow in the eyes of the suffering–not so of “Earthlings”), the narration (by Joaquin Phoenix) was superb, and the information was spot-on, not biased and emotional as one might expect. 

The film begins with the 3 stages of truth; 1. ridicule 2. violent opposition and 3. acceptance.  How fitting, since vegetarians and vegans are mocked shamelessly in our society (have you seen the stickers? PeTA: People Eating Tasty Animals, and Vegetarian: Ancient Indian word for “lousy hunter”) by those who know little of the truth, and if you try to show such people something like “Earthlings,” you will indeed meet a brick wall of violent opposition.  Our society has yet to come to the third stage.  “Earthlings” then goes on to explore all of the ways in which humankind exploits animals: as pets, as food, as clothing, for entertainment, and for research. 

Pets

I am a professional dog trainer. I am certainly not opposed to keeping dogs as well-loved, well-cared-for companion animals.  It is my work to spread humane and kind training techniques to the general public, teaching people how to live harmoniously with their dogs without the use of coercive, cruel “training” methods.  But I recognize what a serious problem we have in the dog world, and that is overpopulation.  I know dogs are killed by the millions every year in this country alone, and not just by humane euthanasia, but by horrific gas chambers (there is a scene of this in the film, as well as a scene of dogs being euthanized the more generally accepted way–by lethal injection) and even guns.  The film documents superbly the horror that is puppy mills.  What people do not understand is that these operations are LEGAL and DISGUSTING at the SAME TIME.  They have a fantasty in their head that the footage and stories of puppy mills are about small, illegal, unusual operations. This is not the case.  ALL puppies in pet stores come from these facilities, ALL online/newspaper commercial breeders (yep you can get your puppy via Paypal) are puppy mills, and unless the laws change they always will. People need to know what they are contributing to when they swipe their credit card for the squirmy adorable bundle in the mall shop window.

Food

The use of animals for food is in no way a new concept.  It has been said that if slaughterhouses had glass walls we’d all be vegetarians, and I believe the saying should change to “if everyone watched ‘Earthlings’ we’d all be vegans.”  Like the puppy mill images, the images of slaughter and factory farming are not isolated cases.  This is how it is, the majority of the time.  People like to believe their meat was humanely raised and slaughtered, but that is simply not the case.  The makers of this film managed to capture the slaughter of a cow in a the biggest Kosher slaughterhouse in America–and by doing so illustrated the blatant violation of Kosher laws in meat slaughter that is commonplace.  This scene is one in the film that will stay with me, as it is more violent and disturbing than anything I have seen before.  The film does what no animal rights film I have ever seen has done, it explains, step-by-step the slaughter process for all major sources of meat–cows, pigs, and chickens.  It captures all of the brutal husbandry practices, right up to the animals’ excruciating final minutes.  It is purely factual. No emotional rants or raves from the narration occur, and they are not necessary.  The cries of pain and obvious suffering are plenty.  I wish all people who wish to eat meat were required to watch “Earthlings.”

Clothing

A lot of people who wear leather are opposed to fur, and a lot of people who eat meat are opposed to fur, etc. etc. Fur farms are shown in the film, as is the slaughter and skinning of these helpless animals, produced only for fashion’s sake.  Leather is the industry fewer people are opposed to, and even I was shocked to learn that most leather comes from cows purchased in India (where cow slaughter is illegal, and the people who purchase the cows ensure the cow’s former owners of their intentions of giving the cow a long and fruitful life).  The treatment of these animals is, of course, brutal and violent, up till the bitter end.  And for what? For clothing? Clothing can be equally functional when made of synthetic materials, and let’s face it, fur’s been out of fashion for anyone with a soul for a long time.

Entertainment

I have long been opposed to circuses and rodeos, and only stand stronger in my convictions after watching “Earthlings.” Humankind is a special kind, since they are the only ones who cause pain for sport, knowing it is pain. Rodeos are the prime example of this, and are nothing but savage displays of man’s egotistical need to cause suffering to other animals for “fun.”  Other bloodsports like bull fighting are documented in the film, with narration that goes deeper into the facts behind this sport (like how the bulls are given severe doses of laxitives prior to fighting to weaken them).  The lies circus animal trainers feed the public are almost humorously displayed, as everyone knows if elephant handlers were using positive reinforcement they’d have clickers and bags of treats, not long metal hooks and prods.  A disturbing scene in which a new elephant handler is being trained (and the more experienced handler tells him “if you’re afraid to hurt them, get the hell out of this room”) will stay with me for a long time, as a positive animal trainer myself.

Research

One of the most brutal ways in which humankind exploits animals is through research, be it medical, cosmetic, or for other scientific ventures (even NASA does brutal things to apes in the name of space travel–like sending them to space and seeing how long they live).  “Earthlings” does an exquisite job of documenting the savage nature of the scientist who chooses to experiment on animals.  A scene in which a baboon’s head is cemented into a steel helmet that is then violently snapped at an unnatural and severe angle (all in the name of head injury research) is one of the most troubling in the film.  The narration goes into the reasons this research is unnecessary and can even retard helpful research, making it tough to argue that such cruelty is for a greater cause.

I urge anyone, whether determined animal rights activist, animal welfare lobbyist, blissfully unaware, on the fence, or skeptic, to watch “Earthlings.” I guarantee no one will walk away from this film unchanged. As Woody Harrelson said, “A must see for anyone who cares enough to know.”

October 5, 2009 at 10:33 pm 2 comments

Vegan Soups and Dog Biscuits

Ok, so this is the non-dog blog (don’t you love how they keep showing up anyway?) so I will skim over the dog biscuits part. But this is my latest (greatest?) idea for making more money so that I might be free to train only my own dogs and wander around all day by a lake if I so choose.  And here it is: a shop where one can purchase vegan soups, dog cookies, and perhaps ice cold or steaming hot teas for drinking.  All made by yours truly, of course. 

This idea came about when I was making some delicious veggie soup for myself last night (because I work a normal-person shift of 9-6 on Tuesdays, I am free to walk my dogs and cook actual food).  My brain was suddenly filled with delightful visions of a small shop with hardwood floors, big patchy easy chairs, and adorable staff with hand-sewn aprons.  The good people of San Francisco (pretty sure that’s where a shop like this would fly highest) would come in and order one of 25 different vegan/vegetarian soups, a nice beverage to accompany it, and a bag of healthy yet delicious dog cookies for their four-legged companions who would, of course, be ever-so-welcome to eat on our patio with their human friends.  The patio dining area would have cute umbrella tables decorated with sunflowers, adirondack chairs facing the bay, and a salty ocean breeze.  Heaven? I think so.

Anyway, until then, here’s the soup I made last night:

Combine vegetarian stock with chopped onions and celery, bring this to a boil.  Add some pasta of your choice, this can be vegan or not, check the label.  When pasta is still al dente, toss in some canned kidney beans, drained.  Let all of this simmer together a minute or so longer and serve.  I recommend an ice-cold beer, or a tall iced tea with some lemon as a beverage.  Enjoy!

Until next time, I’m off for my non-normal-person shift of at least 12 hours, after which I will most likely consume beer and Velveeta shells and cheese.

September 9, 2009 at 10:03 pm Leave a comment

Crazy Rat Lady

No, folks, that’s not a misprint. RAT lady, not cat lady.  I decided recently I should train something that’s not a dog to improve my planning, record keeping, and clicking skills.  I considered getting a cat but I am a little bit of a commitment-phobe so I decided to go smaller, shorter lifspan, etc. and convinced Kassey we should get rats.  Dumbo rats, to be precise because they’re frickin’ cute.  I had rats throughout high school, starting with Templetina Petrie the hairless girl rattie a boy gave me, followed by Pinkerton Bigbalz who I got a garage sale, and then the last of my rat clan was Mercucio Wormtail, a giant sewer rat-looking fellow I got from Petsmart.  None of them were trained, but they were all great pets and Templetina even went to school with me (until I was caught).  But I digress.

Kassey found an ad for free dumbo rat babies on Craigslist, in Boulder.  So we went.  The woman who answered the door had a seriously Dolly Partonish blonde hairdo(don’t) and her bright red lipstick was drawn on much bigger than her lips, giving her the distinct look of a drag queen–except no queen I ever met would be caught dead in the sweats and flannel she was wearing, nosiree.  She led us to the back of her little arpartment where there was a kitchen/rat paradise.  She had several cages of rats, some hairless, some fuzzy, all dumbo.  She had one cage set aside with babies in it for us to see–there were about 15 of them in there.  Overall she probably had 20 adult rats–easily.  They were everywhere, no joke.  She opened the cage and they came scampering out, running up her arms, chittering and sniffing and shitting.  She found some tinier babies, recently weaned in the back of the “girl cage” as she called it.  We picked our rats from these tiny babies, mine–Weetsie Bat Rat–is almost all grey with a white belly and white front legs, and Kassey’s–Rhino–is grey and almost mottled with white. 

We put our chosen ratties into the small dog crate we brought for them and the drag queen rat lady pulled out her homemade rat trailmix and gave us some.  She said it was parrot food, dog food, chex cereal, and you know, some other things.  She also gave us some frozen vegetables.  Apparently rats dig frozen veggies.  Silly us, we just bought rat food. 

We got in the car and Kassey says, “Sarah, we just got our rats from a puppy mill.” She might have been right, had there been puppies, and had there been outrageous price tags.  But as it was, the ratties were free and there were no dogs. 

Our rats are now home in their Taj Mahal of ratitats, a large bird cage complete with a wooden ladder, two little houses, good food, and a leopard print hammock.  Let the training adventures begin.

September 2, 2009 at 5:02 am Leave a comment

Spider Nightmare

Sometimes when it rains, it pours.  And somtimes when you think it’s raining it’s actually a fucking meteor shower that will destroy the universe.  As was the case when I saw one of the dogs at work playing with a crawly thing and went to investigate.  It was a spider, of course.  A huge spider.  It appeared at first to be a garden-variety wolf spider (sick) but its abdomen looked huge and deformed.  In horror, I told my fellow doggie daycare slave that I thought it had its babies on its back.  She responded calmly that that was a myth, that spiders have nests, and that I should hurry up and step on it.  So I did.  That is when the horror truly began.  As I lifted my foot expecting a flat spider, not only did the beast spring up on its eight awful legs and continue crawling, but it’s millions of baby spiders fled from the safety of their mother’s back, skittering out in all directions like dandelion seeds (but not so pleasant, of course).  I screamed, as did the former non-believer, and frantically went to squash the beast again.  When I lifted my foot, MORE baby spiders fled the scene.  I now had a dead mama spider, but her pissed off orphans were racing every which-way, with sure-intentions of revenge.  I quickly raced for the disinfectant and frantically sprayed it down upon all arachnids, only to find the infantile evil bastards swimming through it, as my screams shot out of my mouth expressing my utter horror.  Daycare slave number 3 soon entered and performed a Mexican-Hat-Dance-Turned-Spider-Killer-Jig atop the arachnid invasion, and all was soon OK again.  Except for my mental state.  Which will never return to normal. Would yours?

August 15, 2009 at 6:00 am Leave a comment

Bees in a Car

Much worse than snakes on a plane, I assure you.  I swear, anytime I am having a good day a bee winds up in my fucking car.  Three recent incidents come to mind.

Driving Down Overland Trail

I was innocently cruising down Overland on my way to the park with the dogs on a warm, sunny, delightful day.  I was listening to bluegrass of some kind, and the wind was whipping my hair in the most pleasant way.  Suddenly something made a thunk! sound as it hit my doorframe, then smacked me painfully in the forehead.  It felt sharp, I swear, like a shard of glass flew into my face.  Disoriented, I flinched and rubbed my head, then glanced around in my car to see what had just violated my dreamy afternoon.  That’s when I spotted it.  I glanced down and saw between my legs on the seat there was a FUCKING WASP.  The little shit was writhing in stupidity, no doubt wondering how it could be such an imbocile as to wind up in my car, and whom it could exact revenge upon.  I violently swerved my car to the side of the road and threw my door open, only to slam it shut as quickly as possible when a SEMI TRUCK flew past me.  Almost took my fucking door and my arm with it.  Fucking bee, you will pay for this! I thought to myself as I hovered as close to the ceiling of my Subaru as possible, watching the little bastard slowly come back to consciousness.  Finally, after what seemed like days of hovering, the road was clear and I hopped out of my car (without touching the seat, stealth I am) and swiped the bastard out of my car with an index card I had jotted some directions down on.  The fucker found his flight once more as I swiped him out and he buzzed off, as I jumped back into my car and rolled up the window.  Crisis narrowly averted.

On the Way to An Agility Trial

6 something in the morning is never a good time for me, but I force myself to face this hour on a regular basis because Agility people seem to think this is necessary.    So I was on my way to Castle Rock for a 3 glorious days of dog agility, and I saw something yellowish out of the corner of my eye.  My reflexes are rather slow at this ungodly hour, so I looked around briefly before being satisfied that it was my tired imagination.  No such luck.  I was going at least 75 mph down the interstate at this point, and I saw it.  The yellow striped bastard from hell flew right across my line of vision, causing me to swerve my car, panic, hit the buttons of all four windows at once, and–hyperventilating–cruised with all four windows down (and it is cold at that hour, mind you) for a good few minutes.  I had not seen the evil flying beast for the past mile or so, and I stupidly rolled the windows back up, silly me to think I was safe.  Suddenly, out of fucking nowhere, it was back, and with a vengeance.  It did not appreciate my attempt to suck it out into oblivion.  It flew at me this time, and I, being the sly person I am, hit the auto button on my window while pinning my head back to the headrest, and it flashed past my face and out into the morning air.  Crisis, once again, narrowly averted. 

Today, Driving to Work from Lunch

Just when I was beginning to enjoy my life I stopped at a traffic light on my way home and caught the glimmer of something sinister and yellow out of the corner of my eye.  There it was, perched like a waiting alligator in the watering hole, ready to chomp Bambi at any second (in this scenario I am Bambi).  I glance frantically around, NOTHING to swat it with, and I am reminded of Queen Latifah’s voice telling Dakota Fanning “Don’t swat. Whatever you do, don’t ever swat,” anyway, so all I can do is wait, frozen, for it to leave.  If I flick it with my fingers (shudder, the closeness) it will probably fly straight at me and sting my Bambi face.  Rolling up my window is no use, it is strategically placed so that it would land on the inside of the glass.  YEARS pass as I wait for this light, just hoping that when I do put my foot on the gas it will fly OUTSIDE and not in, as the stupid creatures are inclined to do.  Finally, after that agonizing 30 seconds or so, a truck flies past me and seemingly sweeps the yellow devil off with it, never to be seen again.  I immediately roll my window up as the light turns green and I begin to breathe again.  Crisis oh-so-narrowly averted. 

The common theme here is the close proximity to bee-related disaster.  I am certain I can’t remain so lucky for long.

July 31, 2009 at 8:10 pm Leave a comment

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