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seeing #Blackfish

photo source: blackfishmovie.com

photo source: blackfishmovie.com

I wrote a few months back about anticipating the release of Blackfish, the documentary about Tilikum, a killer whale captured, then raised in captivity. I must admit, though I’d committed to myself to see it, I let it come and go through the local theaters, thinking of excuses as solid as the ones I use when I skip my workout. It was when I saw it advertised on television that CNN would be premiering the film that I realized if I wasn’t going to the film, it was coming to me. I set the DVR.

It sat in my feed for a couple of days, then yesterday I mustered up the courage and pushed aside denial.

I expected the film to be centered only around the treatment of killer whales and their lives in captivity–why they shouldn’t be in captivity. It was about that, but it was equally about the cover-up by Sea World, mainly, of, not only known concerns about the animals, but about the safety of their trainers. The trainers who universally loved the animals and who built close emotional relationships with them were often kept in the dark and lied to about the reality of the situation they were central to. This was news to me.

I grew up going to Sea World, San Diego at least a couple of times a year. As I mentioned in my previous post about Blackfish, it wasn’t until I was halfway through college that I changed the course of my career from that of a killer whale trainer. What the Blackfish interviews captured from the trainers about how they got started was exactly how I felt. There is just this magnificent wonder. There is a burning desire to be near these animals.

But even if one doesn’t go so far as to become a killer whale trainer, there is still the magic of being in their presence that can’t be denied. Few of us have the means to go to the native waters of these pods of killer whales, so, instead, we go to Sea World, where we can view them close-up in a seemingly controlled environment and score ourselves a hot dog and a stuffed toy in the process. Good ol’ family fun. But at what cost?

If you want to know the answer to that question, see Blackfish, which, here in the U.S. is currently being shown on CNN and is available for order on DVD. I’m not one to cry out boldly about politics and sensitive issues, as I have friends, family, and colleagues on both extremes of the political spectrum. I have close friends who frequent Sea World with their families. I see their treasured photos with Shamu on Facebook. If you’re one of those people, I’m not going to turn on you. I believe you don’t know. Because if you did, you wouldn’t be so proud of those photos. See Blackfish.

It’s akin to my philosophy about eating meat. I’m not going go shun you for doing it. Heck, I’m an almost-vegan who enjoys a beef burger every so often. I get it. But know where your meat comes from. Make an educated choice, not one in denial. See Blackfish before you go back to Sea World.

I practically grew up at Sea World. Though I haven’t been back since my college days, I could still probably navigate the park with a blindfold on. It was like a second home. If I can say good-bye to it, so can you.

My kids (age six and four) watched Blackfish with me. Yes, it upset them, but that’s okay. I want them to know the truth and be able to make their own decisions. I paused the film (thank goodness for the DVR) in several spots to help them understand. A few minutes into the film, they asked, “so we can never go to Sea World?” At the end of the film, my four-year-old daughter declared, “we’ll never go to Sea World because it’s not okay to treat the killer whales like that. It’s wrong.” My six-year-old son sat there in silence with his head down.

And that sums it up. It’s okay for them to know the truth. And it’s okay for you to know it, too. See Blackfish.

You can check out the trailer, here:


the lesson in Chipotle’s “The Scarecrow”

Chipotle‘s newest thought-provoking film is every bit as good as the last, in my biased opinion, and this time, there’s an app to go with it. I declare myself biased because my husband works for Chipotle, so some may discount my opinion based on that. Thought I’d better throw that tidbit out there right away.

“The Scarecrow,” with it’s simple, clear visuals and haunting remake by Fiona Apple of the song “Pure Imagination” from the movie “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” challenges how we think about fast food. I won’t spoil it for you, but I will challenge you to throw off a bit of the denial the next time you take your family to the restaurant with the golden arches. By all means, what you eat is your choice, but no matter your choice (and I’ve been known to make some pretty poor choices), at least understand what you are putting into your body and what the industries you are supporting do to the animals you are eating. There ARE better choices out there. Chipotle is one of them.

Please check out “The Scarecrow.”

The littles and I have watched “The Scarecrow” a couple of times. The first time, I let them just watch it to see what they would pull from it on their own. They understood that it was sad, and they felt bad for the animals.

Porter (6) asked “Why are these Chipotle things always so sad?”

It’s hard to explain it to a six-year-old. You can’t really go into the politics of it all, so I did my best: “They are supposed to make you feel sad, because they want you to feel so strongly that it changes the way you think.”

The second time we watched, I did some commentary and paused it if they asked questions. Porter seemed to understand as I explained that the people are just eating the food, and they don’t know about all of the chemicals in it, and they don’t know how badly the animals are treated. All they see is the cute little store front and the yummy-looking food, so they buy it, and they eat it. What “The Scarecrow” is showing us is what goes on in reality. “Oh, so that’s why you won’t take us to McDonald’s and fast food very often,” he concluded, then asked “but why can’t we just eat the good kind of animals, and why can’t the fast food places use those?…Chipotle does.”

So he got the message perfectly. “Exactly, Porter.” I said. “They don’t because it’s cheaper to buy the yucky stuff, so that means they make more money.”

“That’s just wrong,” he declared. Bingo.

Campbell (4), my little self-proclaimed vegetarian, had a few more questions and had some very strong feelings: “The poor cows need us. And the pigs. And the chickens.” Yes. “Mommy, I want to save a cow.”

I asked her how we could do that.

“We could make a home for it at the farm.”

“That’s a great idea. But we don’t have a farm,” I reminded her.

“So what can we do?” she asked.

“Well, how about we don’t buy the animals from the factories. If we don’t eat many animals, and the ones we do eat come from little farms that treat them right–rather than factories–we’ll be helping the farmers who are doing the right thing. If everyone does that, then the guys that are doing the wrong thing will go out of business and they won’t be able to hurt us or the animals any more.”

She thought for a minute and then spoke again. “But how do we get everyone to do that? Mommy, can we change the world?”

And that’s just the question. Can we?


my Zero Waste Week

ZeroWasteOur family is on the home stretch of Zero Waste Week (based in the UK, but is spreading, hopefully), and I’m coming to realize that it’s not that much different than how we typically live. WHEW! ‘Cause I was stressin’ just a bit when I signed the contract. The theme of this year’s week-long event is “Use it up!” The focus is on eliminating food waste.

Like all good rebels, I’m not following it exactly, but I’m coming close, and I’m learning a lot about how I can make changes to improve, which is valuable. We’re in the research stage of composting, so that’s out, for now, but I can say that we haven’t wasted one bit of food in very many days. I’m more conscious of it this week, but it’s not that hard. We’re not food wasters…anymore. Ask me a couple of years ago, and it was downright shameful, the leftovers that went down the tubes. And I didn’t even think it was shameful. But I’m not going to beat myself up about it. I am far from the best I can be, but I learn and work to do more every day! Anything that sticks is a long, slow, process, in my opinion.

I digress.

Zero Waste Week is about truly having no waste. Don’t you know there are children starving in Africa? Rachel is at the helm, and she’s awesome, yet extreme. When she says zero, she means zero. Thank goodness she’s, like, nine hours ahead, so it gives me time to catch up. Rachel means for us to cut the mold off of our bread and cheese, and possibly cure our expired meat or find use for that curdled milk. That is super admirable, and I’d like to say I’d be willing to do it, but, thanks to my two strapping, growing, piggish boys, nothing lasts that long. And since I’m borderline vegan, I don’t have to worry about eating rotten meat. So I guess I’m getting off easy. What I am doing differently is paying attention to every scrap, however not moldy or rotten.

So what have I done this week to make extra sure we’re not wasting? Check it out:

• I’m ultra-conscious of what our tortoise, Fluffy, can eat. If I asked him, he’d eat us out of house and home. But since I’m not asking him, he’s getting the greens off the top of our strawberries and the stems from our lettuce, which he enjoys. I actually made Big dig a strawberry stem out of the sink that he flippantly tossed aside. Doin’ my part.

• Using all of my “ingredients” for lunch. Rachel wants us to eliminate the word “leftovers” from our vocabulary and replace it with the “ingredients.” Since I work from home, I almost always make myself something to eat for my mid-day meal. Only I don’t have time to make a complicated feast, so preparation has to be simple. I enjoy salads, and they are great for using up small bits of leftovers ingredients. I toss in beans, soyrizo from breakfast, roasted veggies, a scoop of quinoa or farro–whatever is around! I never have the same salad twice. This week I made extra sure to use every ingredient in the fridge. And when I ran out of lettuce and couldn’t have a salad (boo!), I made pasta instead. I didn’t have any sauce and didn’t have time to make any, so I tossed in some Earth Balance (vegan butter substitute), some natural garlic salt, and some veggies. It was actually pretty good!

• I packed the kids “snackin’ lunches.” In a special effort to use up everything we had in the fridge before purchasing more, the kids got a couple of “snackin’ lunches,” which meant that instead of a main dish and some sides, they got a bunch of sides and small amounts of things. They found it to be a fun adventure and, though they have this lunch about once a week regularly, the haphazard, not-exactly-balanced odd combination of things that appeared in their bento boxes this week added an extra element of excitement and surprise. Pickles and sunflower seed butter go nicely together, don’t they?

• I consumed “ingredients” left behind by the littles. We all know that the calories we consume by nibbling on the kid fare that is left behind don’t count, so I took full advantage this week. It worked out okay. I like bread crusts and cracker crumbs…yeah. It only backfired on me once when I drank the nutrition shake they didn’t like. I forgot that I put some dairy milk in it, and it didn’t agree with me so well. Sigh. Live and learn. Nothing was wasted!

• I made croutons! I always keep our heels of bread in the fridge with the best intentions to make croutons. Sometimes I actually get around to it, but sometimes not. This week, I made them! I just cut the bread into squares, tossed them in olive oil and a seasoning blend that sounded good, and popped them in the oven until they turned golden and crunchy. Delish. I have enjoyed them in my salads, and the littles have taken them to school for snacks.

I was introduced to Zero Waste Week by Small Footprints when she spotted my post on the day I purged the fridge. My recipe was subsequently adored (goodie) and posted by Rachel on the Zero Waste Week recipe section of the Web site. In my quest to eliminate food waste in our home, I’ve accidentally discovered some real recipe gems…now if only I can remember them. The only disadvantage to using up all the bits of food is that when you make something worthy of being a featured special at The French Laundry, it’s tough to re-create. First world problems.

Even if you missed this year’s Zero Waste Week, you can still check out the Web site for some fantastic tips that will help you make lifestyle changes toward becoming less wasteful. And be sure to sign up for next year’s Zero Waste Week!

In the meantime, I’d love to hear the tricks you employ to be less wasteful.


are animals food? last night’s dinner conversation

We eat meat very rarely in our house. I’m borderline vegan, but I do make meat for the kids a couple of times a week. They can make their own choices when they are older and understand all of the information before them. I let them know why I don’t eat meat, and I tell them why people do. I never criticize them for eating it or tell them it’s bad, but I don’t serve it frequently, either.

Last night for dinner, I made the kids some cod and veggies. They had the greatest conversation with no intervention on my part. (In case you’re new to my family, my son, B, is sixteen. My son, Porter, is six, and my daughter, Campbell, is four.)

Campbell: So, this is fish, but not the kind that swims. That would be hilarious!

Porter: Um. Yes it is, Cam. What kind of fish did you think? Fake fish?

Campbell: So, am I actually eating an animal right now?

The boys: Yup.

Campbell: And they squeeeeeeeeze the eyeballs out so it tastes good?

B: Well, that’s one way to put it.

Campbell: One time, I want to try eating fake animals, because I don’t like eating real animals.

B: You kind-of have. Didn’t you eat at McDonald’s?

Campbell: Oh, yeah! That’s not real food!

Exactly.

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natural pet care: keep your eyes peeled on Hybrid Rasta Mama!

HRMWhen I heard that Hybrid Rasta Mama was looking for a writer to contribute posts about natural pet care, I had a feeling it would be right up my alley. So while I acted all cool on the outside, on the inside, I was stretching my hand in the air screaming “pick me! Pick me!” Well, guess what?

She picked me!

I’m super excited and honored to be starting as a contributor on Hybrid Rasta Mama. Our ideas align in so many ways. She’s a wealth of knowledge that I know I will benefit from (and of course pass along to you). The Hybrid Rasta Mama blog is all about “conscious parenting, natural living, holistic health, real foods, and more.”

I’m just tickled to be helping her add a natural pet care facet to her amazing body of work. Please check out her site, especially on the second Wednesday of each month when I’ll be featured. Come visit me there!


the day I purged the fridge: mixed bean and quinoa hodgepodge

I’ll throw a disclaimer out right away: I’m not a chef. I’m not a food photographer. This is not turning into a food blog.

What this is is a yummy recipe-ish concoction that I threw together one day with stuff left over in the fridge, and it has become a staple in our house. It’s animal-friendly (vegan) in the way that it doesn’t use them, and it’s a complete meal. Plus, it’s flexible and easy, so if you’re a not-chef, like me, you can swing it. Here goes…

mixedbeanmixed bean and quinoa hodgepodge

serves any number of people over any number of days, depending on how much you want to eat

stuff you need (all approximate)

• 1 cup quinoa

• 2 cups vegetable broth

• 1 lb organic green beans

• 1 lb/1 can dark kidney beans

• 1 lb/1 can garbanzo beans

• 1/2 pound cooked lentils

• 3/4 cup Italian-ish dressing of your choice (You can make your own, or I like Trader Joe’s or Annie’s Naturals Tuscan Italian varieties.)

what you do with that stuff

Cook the quinoa in the vegetable broth (you can also use water, but vegetable broth will provide more flavor, plus, it’s easy to make), covered, until the liquid is absorbed (15-20 minutes), then cool.

Discard the ends of the green beans and snap each bean into thirds. Steam slightly in a steamer basket or blanch (you still want them to be crunchy), then cool.

Cook the beans, unless you’re using cans (I usually use organic canned beans for convenience). Feel free to substitute any type of bean you like.

Cook the lentils, if necessary (I LOVE the packaged lentils at Trader Joe’s…you can find them in the veggie section. Much easier.)

Once everything has cooled, stir all ingredients together in large mixing bowl.

Feel free to play with the proportions to suit your dietary, taste, or texture preferences.  It keeps nicely in the fridge, so I make this big batch so I can have something to easily grab for lunches over several days. It’s quite filling! The rest of my family loves this as a side dish. I sometimes eat it as-is, but I often use it as my base and add different combinations of things I have around. Some of my favorite additions:

• avocado and beets

• pecans and raisins

• almonds and apples

• over a bed of your favorite cooked greens

• over your favorite lettuce

• with a side of roasted fennel (another of my staples)

I probably would have fallen of the vegan wagon a lot more often had I not been able to reach for this nutritionally-balanced quick meal, so I’m sure to have some on hand about every-other week so that I can just grab a scoop when I’m ravenous.


my new bible: The Kind Diet

thekinddietJPGA few months ago, I borrowed Alicia Silverstone’s The Kind Diet from the library, and once I hit the maximum number of renewals allowed, I hung onto the book and paid the overdue fees until a purchased copy was delivered to my doorstep. I couldn’t be without it.

As an aspiring vegan for reasons of health, animal protection, environmental preservation, and, well, hell, the love of a good challenge, I find myself turning to The Kind Diet on a daily basis. Silverstone’s book provides coaching, inspiration, and damn good recipes, all free of judgement.

The first half of the book shares Silverstone’s opinions and research about why being vegan is a good choice and how it makes her feel. It is often funny. It’s thought-provoking and approachable, as if you’re chatting on the couch with a girlfriend. I mean, she talks about farts. Good stuff. She discusses the benefits of particular foods and coaches the why and how of making a transition to a vegan lifestyle. I’ve called myself a flexitarian because I’m making mostly vegan choices but still can’t tear myself away from an occasional juicy burger. Since being a vegan can seem extreme and the lifestyle has it’s share of critics, it’s helpful that Silverstone outlines three levels of vegans, and how to qualify: “flirting,” “going vegan,” and “becoming a superhero.” There’s something for everyone!

The second half of the book is full of delicious recipes. Silverstone has introduced me to some new ingredients I never knew existed, which is really exciting. Some of the recipes are quick and simple and have become staples for my family, such as “Christopher’s Cauliflower Steaks.” Some are definitely more time-consuming and labor-intensive, but since Silverstone talks a lot about experiencing the joy and sensuality of cooking, this makes sense. I have to plan ahead a bit more for these recipes, but they are worth it.

I’ve implemented many of the basic tips from The Kind Diet and am working my way through the recipes in the book as a huge part of my journey toward becoming vegan. Plus, it’s a fun read. Everything about it is kind. To learn more about The Kind Diet and the vegan way of life, check out Silverstone’s Web site, The Kind Life.