Sunday, November 30, 2008

More than Thankful... Hopeful

This has been a year of great changes for us.

But the biggest change has been adopting a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle. We are still figuring out what all that means to us, since it varies from person to person, but as I've said before, it has been great.

And when I talk about this "change" I don't mean just the way that we cook or the foods we choose, but really a whole mentality. We've learned a lot about the health benefits of cutting out animal-based food, the disgusting facts of factory farming and really just made a lot more connections that should have been obvious to us before.

Even though I've worked with and cared for animals all my life, it took the traumatic incident of the attack on Napoleon to really open our eyes and spur us to action. Thank goodness he has had a 100% recovery but how could we care so much for this one and then contribute to the torture and slaughter of thousands of others? Oh, and by the way, since so many people have asked... I didn't pressure the hubby into this change. He actually was the main driving force, for which I will be forever glad and thankful.

So yes, we had trauma and, yes, we have learned some sad things that reinforce our feelings but this holiday should be about joy and Thanksgiving. And this year we, I feel, finally celebrated in a way that supported that. While a few turkey's are "pardoned" (like other innocents who are spared from execution in the nick of time), 72 million for this day alone are not.

We got a few questions, which we were happy to answer, including "But what will you eat on Thanksgiving if you aren't having a turkey?" Well, I never really liked to eat turkey or ham. And I got an upset stomach from all the butter and fat every year, so I wasn't going to miss that. What we were having were all of the other amazing traditional foods with only a few ingredient changes and one substitution.

We had a Celebration Roast from Field Roast for our main. These (and their sausages) are so delicious I wish we had started eating them in general years ago. We also had an Apple Sage Mushroom stuffing, asparagus, a fresh field green salad with pecans, sweet potato biscuits, gravy and the hubby's famous roasted root vegetable mash.

This is one of the best things he makes. You chop up and roast any mix of veggies but we used: butternut squash, turnips, sweet potatoes, onions, garlic, russet potatoes, parsnips, carrots and rutabagas.

Prep the veggies by seeding and peeling as needed.

Then we chop them up into equal size, sprinkle with some olive oil, salt and pepper and any herbs you may want. Then they pop in the oven to roast at 400 for about an hour or 1.5 hours until they are crispy yet tender. You then can food process them or hand mash them. We add some broth and EarthBalance and you are done!

I also made a (vegan) pumpkin pie with a pecan crust which may have been the best pumpkin pie I've ever made. I could not stop eating it.

We added a bunch more photos onto Flickr, so check them out.

Unlike previous years, I came away from our dinner with a feeling of actual thanksgiving and a lot of hope. It really confirmed that you could eat amazingly (which we kind of already knew) and traditionally but still in line with our goals. We could have people over for a holiday meal and know that no one would leave missing anything from a taste or emotional level. I think food speaks to us on both planes so knowing that we could still fulfill that meant a lot to me.

Many people may have seen this video of Palin and thought it was pretty bad but I'm not sure it really opened any eyes. The whole "pardon a turkey" thing is sort of a joke.

But the true cruelty of what happens to the turkeys before they come to your table is far far worse.

There are so many people out there who care about animals and the environment. The Prop 2 victory is evidence of that and a great start to what I hope is a wave of change. In this new world, this paradigm shift, I hope that awareness will continue to grow and an openness will find new paths.

I hope our experience will inspire you to think beyond what has been taught to you in the past and to seek new information and try new things. I'd love to help answer any questions or talk through your thoughts.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Invisible Kindnesses

Photo by landre via flickr

I wrote about the peacefulness of our little microcosm here in my backyard and today I had one more of those moments.

When I go to let the chickens out in the morning it is usually just after dawn. The sun is up but it's still early and quiet. Except for the birds and the squirrels. They've been running around, chasing each other in the trees, looking for food and water and ready to warm up in the sun after a long cold night.

Before my guys come out I rake out the coop, put down the "fresh" and their feed. I get fresh water for their bowl and dump out the old. When we had the early snow this past week, we've made sure to fill up the bird feeders and put out a pan of water for the songbirds too. Lately it's been so cold at night that both water pans have a thick layer of ice on top in the morning.

Having fresh water is so important to the local birds and wildlife, especially in the cold. And it's such an easy thing to provide. All you need is a basic container, any shape, but about 6 inches deep is good. Then fill it up and set it out. Simple. Even if you don't have seed or food, water will be appreciated by the locals. And a good bush or shrub to hide in, so let those grow out a bit too if you can.

But back to today.

Once I let the chickens out of the coop the girls usually walk around the yard, check out the fresh food, scratch in the feed and flap their wings a bit (these are such basic things I'm happy to provide for my chickens when so many others don't even get that minimum). Napoleon, however, chooses to follow me around while I clean up the inside of the coop. I shake out his bucket and the hay the girls snuggle down into at night and he watches me while alternating between the inside with me and outside with the girls. His favorite thing lately, though, is to jump up on my knee while I'm in the doorway of the coop. He snuggles there for a bit while I watch the girls walk around and usually get their morning drink.

Today we had a little visitor during this routine.

While I was standing there a little bird, I'm not even sure what kind, came and landed on the coop yard fence. He/she saw me in the doorway and peered at me with curiosity rather than fear. He jumped from the branch to the fence and wasn't sure if it was safe but really wasn't sure it wasn't either. After a few minutes, and because I was standing still and quiet, he decided all was well and landed on the rim of the water pan. For several minutes he dipped his beak and drank his fill of the fresh water. The chickens were still roaming around and I was about 4 feet from him but we all were calm and in harmony.

It was a brief interlude but a nice one. Our little friend flew away, probably to get some seed. I let Napoleon jump down and headed into the house. It was a nice reminder of all the other animals who depend on us and our kindness even if we don't think about it intentionally or even see the recipients. How much more good could we do if we intentionally thought about sharing with them and bringing more of this peace into our hearts, minds and lives?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Chickens Immortalized

I think it's safe to say that I am a huge Paraphernalia fan. I mean, I think I have a good 10 pieces now and I just love each one of them. In fact, I'm wearing my Anatomica skull necklace today!

I have a love of vintage illustrations and now I get to wear them. Miss Vanda has done a great job of sourcing and working with such unique images that I want almost everything.

But I have to say some of my particular favorites are, not surprisingly, chicken related.

In my original purchase, I bought the Fauna Claw necklace. I often look at my birds' feet and admire them for how perfectly designed they are.

And now, Vanda has just launched a new shopping site and continues to tempt me further!

Of course I had to have this Fauna Chickens bracelet. Doesn't it look just made for me! It even looks like my girls.

And I can't wait for this (because of course I placed an order right away) - the Menagerie Cpt. Poulet, Cultural AttachĂȘ Necklace. I mean, it is Napoleon! Right down to his military-inspired coat. And, even better, it's a locket! I may never take this off.

As always, I continue to be amazed and awed by Vanda's work. To celebrate her new site she is providing a 10% discount with the promotional code: YAYNEWSHOP.

So go! Shop!!!!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Chicken Fun

I just love when some of my favorite sites give me even more opportunities to show them some love. Here's some fun adorable and funny wallpapers and icons for ya!

You do know Savage Chickens, right? You have to read this everyday, it's hilarious. There is also a mind-bending, eye-crossing wallpaper to download - get it here!

And where would we be without Cute Overload! ??? A fan designed a bunch of chick icons inpired by everyone from Karl Lagerfeld to Batman.

But my favorites are the Cute Overload! mosaic wallpapers. This one includes a fuzzy little chick as well as some classic like that bunny next to bottom row.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Morning Meditations

I was recently asked in an interview to describe my ideal Saturday. I think I said something like: "Waking up early, going to the farmer's market for local produce and then letting my chickens out to free range in the yard."

When a friend read it, he said, "But that is what you do pretty much every Saturday!" I replied, "Well, yeah, it is. I guess I'm living the dream."

I didn't occur to me until later that they were probably looking for a response that was something along the lines of: Waking up in a 5 star hotel to breakfast in bed, then strolling the streets of Paris while shopping for designer clothes, etc. Or something equally grand. But, while that would be totally great and I wouldn't turn it down, I feel happy and at peace and joyful when I am sitting quietly in my yard, watching the sun come up. The birds are chirping, the squirrels are running around finding pecans and chasing each other in the trees and the chickens are scratching up the ground and eating some fresh greens.

It's so lovely to just sit still and silent for an hour or two. The other animals in the yard forget you are there and run near you or peer at you with curiosity rather than fear. We don't live in a very rural (or urban) area but we do get a bunch of different animals. We get all manner of birds, including songbirds, woodpeckers, crow, hawks and geese. We have bunnies, squirrels, chipmunks and groundhogs. In the evening we get deer who come up and nibble on the spilled birdseed.

This time is so addicting. Even though I know there are chores to begin and work to do, when I see the excitement of Napoleon, Meg and Gertie as they watch me open the door from their coop, I can't help but smile and feel happy.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Vote with Your Heart

Don't forget to vote. And when you do, vote with your head and your heart.

If you are in California - Vote YES on Prop 2