Never one to turn down an animal adoption education opportunity since, well, I'm a huge advocate of and volunteer for animal adoption, I had to pass the one along given its seasonal timeliness.
This year, as you dream of the upcoming Thanksgiving spread of incredible food and juicy turkey (or Tofurky) roasting in the oven, you can also save a turkey by giving a one-time $30 donation to adopt a turkey through Farm Sanctuary.
This program, which has been around since 1986, encourages people to save a turkey at Thanksgiving through a sponsorship that helps rescue the animals and provide care for them in the organization's sanctuaries. Most of the turkeys that are brought to the sanctuary are rescued from abusive farms, fell off the trucks taking them to slaughter or are simply dumped at the sanctuary.
As a turkey sponsor, you receive a certificate plus a photo and fun facts about your adopted turkey. How cute is that?
Not into adopting a turkey? You can adopt other farm animals that call the sanctuary home including pigs, cows, goats, sheep, chickens, ducks and geese.
I'll be totally honest in saying that the concept is targeted primarily toward vegans, but even for us meat-eating folk, I don't see any harm in helping other animals that don't make it to our table as food. At the end of the day, whether or not we eat meat, we must all take responsibility for abused and neglected animals, even if they're not the cuddly, furry ones we keep in our homes.
For more information about how you can adopt a turkey, check out the website:
Monday, October 28, 2013
Friday, October 25, 2013
As I began flipping through the September issue, I was initially intrigued by all of the latest fashion trends and beautiful models showing off the looks. But as I continued on, I couldn’t help but have a sinking feeling. Pages and pages of people essentially screaming the message of consumerism at the top of their lungs. Buy this! Wear this! You need this! Ew, don’t wear that! Instead of feeling inspired, I felt sad. Are these really the values that I adhere to? Do I really give a crap what some designer thinks I should wear this season?
The answer was that yes, I sort of do. At least, that’s what my buying behavior would suggest. I love clothes and I love to look cute. And while I’m certainly not a trendy dresser, I love to look fashionable and current, which means buying the latest stuff and buying it as affordably as possible. It’s one of the parts of my life that sadly doesn’t align with my other values of health, helping the environment and living cleanly and simply. Unfortunately, this is true for most Americans. And, upon doing a quick Google search, I found that our obsession with disposable fashion is not only damaging our wallets and our self-esteem, it’s doing major global damage in ways that you wouldn’t even believe, including our massive donations of clothing.
This is just one of hundreds of articles detailing the issue: http://www.slate.com/articles/life/fashion/2012/06/the_salvation_army_and_goodwill_inside_the_places_your_clothes_go_when_you_donate_them_.html
So, it’s my new quest to work on this incongruent part of my life. I want to reduce my global impact, live more simply, and stop buying in to these messages that lead me down a path I don’t want to go. Here are some of the steps I’m already taking:
Re-imagine your wardrobe
One of the ways I get sucked into buying more clothes is because I lose creativity with what I already have. We all get stuck in that rut of wearing something the same way over and over and completely lose sight of the item’s versatility. Recently, while poking around on a clothing store website, I saw an outfit that I just loved – flared black leather skirt, black and white striped tee, charcoal gray blazer and chunky silver necklace. I was tempted to buy the $200+ outfit until I realized that I had some version of every single one of those items, except the tee, already in my closet. So, I pulled out what I already had, snagged a black and white striped tee from TJMaxx for $12, and had a whole new outfit I never had even thought of (and that I now get tons of compliments on). I’ll admit that it’s a fine line to walk – using a clothing store’s tempting website to come up with new ideas for your wardrobe – but it can really help provide a new perspective on how to combine pieces you already have into something that looks fresh and current.
Stick to the basics
It’s amazing what a little white or black tee can do in a wardrobe. It goes with denim, pants, skirts, jackets, jewelry and, well, basically everything. Instead of buying trendy pieces, I’m sticking with good quality basic tees that I can mix and match with everything to create new looks without buying more clothes.
Use consignment stores to sell
In the past few months, I’ve started taking my gently used, brand name clothes to a local consignment store. It requires a little extra effort for me as the clothes must be in-season, washed, pressed and on a hanger, but the results have been fabulous. Most of my items have sold and I get to split the profits 50/50 with the shop, so I’ve been getting some nice little monthly checks to put toward items that I truly need. Plus, my clothing is going to a new home where it will continue to be in someone’s wardrobe circulation in my community instead of being shipped overseas or taking up more space in an already-stuffed Goodwill.
Use consignment stores to buy
Consignment and thrift stores are great spots to find new additions to your wardrobe or your home. I highly recommend consignment stores for clothing. You can often snag handbags, special occasion pieces, suits and more for a fraction of the price. I recently picked up a skirt suit for a mere $15. It cost me an additional $15 to have the skirt tailored, but I still managed to walk out the door with a complete suit for just $30. Plus, I helped keep great clothing in circulation longer.
Thrift stores are great spots for finding home décor items or for repurposing old items into new. One of my favorite home décor blogs shows how to make throw pillows for winter using old cable knit sweaters found at Goodwill. Use Pinterest, design blogs like Centsational Girl, and more for ideas on how to be creative with consignment and thrift store finds.
Get things repaired
I’ve been getting my high heels repaired for years to extend their life. When the taps go bad, the local shoe repair shop replaces them and cleans up the shoes for a mere $6. The shoes look completely new and I get years more of wear out of them. Some of my favorite high heels have been repaired several times, but I’m still wearing them after 7+ years.
Consider other charitable organizations
Have a suit that didn’t sell at consignment? Donate it to Dress For Success, which provides job interview suits to low-income women to help them land a job and better their situation. Each woman gets outfitted with a suit for the job interview, then once the job is acquired, she receives a full week of suiting for the job. Have a special occasion dress? Check out the many organizations that help low-income teens look beautiful for homecoming or the prom. Think outside the thrift store box when giving away your clothes to ensure it truly has a second life.
Stop f-ing buying stuff
Ok, this is way easier said than done, but I’m working on it.
What are you going to combat the obsession with disposable fashion and consumerism?
Monday, October 21, 2013
It might be a group trying to start a community garden in an economically poor part of town or a school trying to start an after school organics farming program for kids. The groups present their needs and proposals for meeting that need, and then the attendees vote for their favorite cause which then receives the "seed money" raised that night (usually about $500). It's a pretty awesome organization and way of bringing people together in the name of good quality food for all in the community.
I give you the back story because what we're planning for this next Seed Money Supper really gave me pause - contemplative pause - about how we all view food and its apparent abundance.
This month, instead of having our typical meal and our typical speakers get up and talk, we're dedicating the dinner and the entire week to SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program also known as food stamps) because on November 1, the government will cut SNAP benefits significantly. For the average family in need of the program, benefits will be cut about $26 per month, which means they will now have just $4.20 per person per day for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, seasonings and drinks.
That's right, $4.20 per person per day. Could you eat on $4.20 per day?
When I really started to think about my lifestyle, which I consider relatively thrifty, I realized I had absolutely no clue what it would be like to feed myself on so little, and certainly what it would be like to try to eat healthfully on so little. In fact, I wracked my brain to think of even one possible recipe that could feed four for that little. I'm still trying to think of one.
My cohorts at Community Food Advocates figured about the same, so on October 28 they are issuing the SNAP Challenge to the community to challenge people to experience what it would be like to eat on so little. Here's the challenge:
- It will last for 5 straight days October 28th to November 1st.
- Spend no more than $4.20 per day, including beverages.
- Only buy and eat/drink items that are allowed to be purchased with SNAP.
- Don’t use food already on hand unless you deduct the value from your daily amount. Salt and pepper do not count against the daily cost allowance, but all other seasoning, cooking oils, condiments, snacks and drinks do.
- Try to include fresh produce and a healthy protein each day.
- Don’t accept food from family, friends, co-workers and others. Avoid free food anywhere. No outside food or dining out is permitted since you cannot use SNAP benefits on hot meals.
- You many need to cut coupons or search grocery paper ads on days that items are discounted.
- Keep a log of what was bought and eaten for each meal, as well as grocery receipts.
- Keep a daily journal of the experience. Did you feel deprived or restricted? Did you eat differently than usual? Were you hungry?
As part of the kickoff, we are having our monthly dinner, but this time it's a potluck in which attendees are encouraged to make a healthy dish that would be something a family on SNAP could make with their food budget. The recipes for each of the dishes will be compiled and given to families in the community who receive SNAP assistance to help them create affordable meals in their homes.
So, I need your help: Do you have any recipes that could fit this bill? We're talking a meal for four that costs about $5 to make. That $5 must include all costs for oils and spices too except salt and pepper. Please send any recipes my way!
And, I encourage you to take the challenge, even if it's just for one or two days. In our country of abundance, indulgence and enjoyment, it's always good to be reminded of how difficult it is for some folks. That being able to afford anything to eat, let alone fresh produce, farm-raised meats and organics, is a struggle.
To learn more about the SNAP Action Week, visit http://seedmoneysuppers.wordpress.com/2013/10/16/october-event/
Monday, October 14, 2013
After holding out for about two months while my friends in the northern regions of the country waxed poetic about the crisp fall weather, scarves and crunch of leaves on the sidewalk, I finally started pulling out my soup recipes for the cooler months ahead this past week.
Last year, I let my soup obsession start way too early and my poor husband got a bit burnt out by about the eighth month of liquid dinners. This year, I waited until the temperature at least dropped into the upper seventies before I started dreaming about broth.
In flipping through some of my favorite soup and chili recipes, I started to realize that very few are meatless. Granted, the amount of meat needed in most of my soups is rather minimal (I can usually get by with a half pound of just about anything and still feel like the flavors and the heartiness is there), but in a quest for new meatless recipes, my search came up a bit short.
So, I decided to create my own. Minestrone soup seemed the most logical solution. I reviewed a few recipes, found the common themes between most, then just pulled together what was in my pantry and fridge and threw it all together with delicious results. Even my sweet husband commented how good it was and that he didn’t even miss the meat. Success!
2 tbsp. olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, chopped
6 cups vegetable stock
1 cup thinly sliced cabbage
1 6-oz. can tomato paste
¼ cup chopped parsley
1 tbsp. chopped fresh basil
2 stalks celery, sliced
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 dried bay leaf
1-2 15-oz. cans fire-roasted or plain diced tomatoes, with their juice
1 cup elbow pasta
1 15-oz. can white beans, drained
1 zucchini, chopped
2 cups spinach (can also sub chopped kale or collard greens)
Salt and pepper, to taste
¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese
In a large pot, heat oil over medium high heat. Add garlic and onion and cook for about 5 minutes or until onion is translucent. Add broth, cabbage, tomato paste, parsley, basil, celery, carrots, bay leaf and tomatoes. If using heavier greens like kale or collards, add those during this stage as well. Bring to a quick boil, then simmer for 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
Add beans, pasta, zucchini and spinach and simmer for another 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Ladle soup into bowls and service with Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.
Monday, September 23, 2013
|Market in Rovinj, Croatia|
The last time we did a big trip like this, my knowledge of food, organics and agriculture practices were still very much in their infancy. Now that it's such a huge part of my life, however, it was amazing to observe the food practices of other countries.
Not surprisingly, it was another reminder of just how much we've got it all wrong in the U.S.
Yes, grocery stores exist. But instead of one on every corner, there's maybe one per town. And it's generally not the spot where you shop for everything. It's where you fill in the blanks on the things you can't get at the market. And, even at the grocery store, most of the produce is local or regional. If you want tropical fruits (bananas, pineapples, mangoes) in a non-tropical climate, you're going to pay dearly for it.
|Bottle-your-own raw milk in Ljubljana, Slovenia|
So, right in the market, you can bottle your own milk, directly from the farmer, for just 1 Euro per liter. And, because it is directly from the farmer, this is raw, unpasteurized milk basically straight from the cow.
Not only is this not available in the U.S., it is actually illegal in most states! Dairy farmers cannot sell their products directly to consumers, and they certainly can't sell raw, unpasteurized milk. As a result, there is actually a raw milk black market of sorts because, shocker, people want to buy it. Our government says it's unsafe. Apparently, Slovenia doesn't care about the safety of their people.
Of course, I had to try the milk - I've never had raw milk in my life! And, let me tell you, it was the best milk I've probably ever tasted.
Needless to say, the trip was an eye-opener. Not because any of Croatia's and Slovenia's food lifestyles were particularly surprising, but because it was a stark reminder of just how progressive other parts of the world are when it comes to food, and just how far behind we are in the U.S.
It was also a reminder to keep pursuing the things that are good in the U.S. To keep supporting my local farmers market in the hopes that it will get bigger and better as more people use it, to focus more on eating locally and seasonally like the rest of the world does, and to keep advocating for change in our country.
For more info on the milk machine in Slovenia, visit http://hartkeisonline.com/2009/11/05/milk-o-matic-a-big-hit-in-slovenian-farmers-markets/
Thursday, August 29, 2013
You may recognize Barbara Kingsolver's name from some of her other award-winning works, like The Poisonwood Bible, which was a high school read for me and arguably one of my most favorite books in my formative years of schooling. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is markedly different, serving as an autobiography of her family's year of eating almost entirely locally by sourcing a year's worth of food from their own garden and animals, and buying from local farmers and farmers markets.
What makes this book so profoundly fascinating is not only the story of her family's journey through the year of eating locally, but the sheer practicality of it for the rest of us. It's a reminder that we all have the ability to reduce our food costs while still eating deliciously, locally and humanely if we simply do what has been done for millenia, which is to grow our own food.
Using the grocery store for every food purchase and buying things that are out of season or non-native to our region is a novelty we can largely live without. Growing some of our own food, supporting local farmers who grow what we can't, and going without exotic fruits, processed foods and other environmental degradations should be the norm. And, in an era of increasing focus on oil and energy independence, we rarely talk about food independence which would drastically reduce our need for fossil fuels if we weren't trucking and shipping food thousands of miles.
I love this book because it's a real family sharing a real story that is un-preachy and totally relatable. And along with the great story, she and her family share recipes for each month of seasonal eating, sample menus of their weekly meals, and what it was really like to forego exotic bananas and do without crisp lettuce for most of the year.
Even if you are the most staunch supporter of grocery stores and imported produce or simply hate books about food, I truly encourage you to read this one. I dare you not to be inspired.
Monday, August 26, 2013
A few months ago on this blog, I implored readers to grow something, ANYTHING, for the sake of appreciating where food comes from. Whether a simple pot of a favorite herb on the kitchen windowsill or a monstrous garden overflowing with fruits and veggies, there's nothing quite like getting your hands a little dirty and enjoying the freshness, quality and connection to the earth that only gardening can offer.
Since writing that post in the spring, I have spent the last few months puttering in my very modest garden, delighting in the bounty that simple soil, water and sun have produced for us. I love that I've spent summer peeking out my window to see if the prior day's sun or rain has resulted in new blooms where veggies will soon grow in. I love that spiders, while a nuisance in the house, are a joy to see in the garden where their delicate webs protect my veggies from hungry bugs. And I love the feeling of accomplishment that comes with picking something in the yard to prepare for the evening meal.
After attempting my first garden last year with some successes and some failures, this year was much the same. Some things came in splendidly (tomatoes, bell peppers and rosemary did exceptionally well), while others didn't quite work out so great (summer squash, leeks and onions didn't turn out the way I anticipated or, in the case of the squash, failed miserably despite great success last year).
But it's this game of great seasons and poor seasons, big successes and total failures, and constant learning and growing that spurs me on to try again next year. Not to mention the amazing flavors you simply can't buy in the grocery store.
Now that the summer growing season is nearing its end, and I'm square in the middle of reading Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, a book about her family's year of living off the bounty of their farm, their animals and the produce and meats of their corner in Appalachia, I'm already getting excited for next year.
I have big dreams for next year's garden. Thanks to the need for a full fence replacement on our 1/2 acre yard next spring, we're planning to expand my tiny little side-of-the-house plots into one large plot where I can garden to my little heart's content. I dream of all the amazing veggies and fruits we will get to enjoy through the season and beyond. And I dream of getting to share our bounty with coworkers who have so generously shared theirs with us, and of sharing with our neighbors as a way of getting to know them a bit better.
All of this is to say that if you did garden this year, I hope you were impacted as profoundly as I have been by it. That you've not only savored the amazing flavors of truly fresh food, but that your soul has perhaps grown a bit too in appreciation for some of the simplest things in life. And, if you weren't able to garden this year, start planning now for next year. It can be as easy as growing potted herbs over the fall and winter near a window in your home, or reading a gardening book to gain inspiration. Either way, I implore you once again to grow something - you'll be amazed at the bounty you experience both physically and spiritually.