An Introduction To Understanding + Book Giveaway

One of my closest friends in the entire universe is probably the most talented and intelligent person that I know. I’m not speaking out of bias – I’m merely speaking the truth about him. To continue with the truth theme, I could go on and on and on about what a rad guy he is – but I’m going to let you all discover that on your own terms. Also, remember when I mentioned some guest posting a few entries back? He’s someone to look out for – I plan on convincing him to write guest post here from time to time.

Justin Sirois and his friend and colleague Haneen Alshujairy have started a remarkable movement – the Understanding Campaign. The goal of this campaign is to break down stereotypes by teaching everybody to read just one word in Arabic because they (and I) believe that understanding starts with just one word.

Pronouced Fihm

ف = F
هـ = H
م = M

I really encourage you all to not only visit the Understanding Campaign’s Web site, but join the group on Facebook and add the link to your site or blogroll. I believe in this so much that I’m offering a little incentive to do so.

As I mentioned before, Justin is extremely talented and his writing is both intelligent and beautiful – the things that he is able to do with language are astounding. He and Haneen collaborated on a chapbook, Mlkng Sckls about two young Iraqi’s fleeing Fallujah.

So, here’s the deal – I’m going to send a copy of Mlkng Sckls to a commenter selected at random (Hey, J – wanna sign a copy for the winner? Let me know. If you say no now, you’ll look like a douche). There are rules though – to be entered – you have to either join the facebook group or add the link to your blogroll.

So, please check it out. Tell your friends. This campaign has the potential to be huge and amazing – so please, please, please contribute.

EDIT – Winner will be chosen on Tuesday morning. So you have until then to add and comment. YES.

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37 Days

It’s been 37 days since I officially committed to a vegan diet. I think the thing that has shocked me the most is not how great I feel, not how much better my skin looks (it looks more glowy – it’s my blog, it’s ok that I just made glowy a word) and it’s not how much weight I’ve lost (only like a pound, you guys. Damn).

It’s how easy it is. I really expected this to be so hard. I’ve attempted before and I caved. I made loopholes before like ‘well, I’ll only eat fish and dairy at people’s homes, you know to be polite and I’ll only eat dairy at restaurants when there is nothing else for me to order.’ All that loopholing (yup, made that a word too) turned into my year long pescatarian status.

It took me a year to come back to a vegan diet. This time, I did more research. I really took the time to think about why I was shifting to a completely plant based diet. The first time, it was strictly for health reasons after reading The China Study. Yeah, animal rights were there too – but those reasons actually fell far behind environmental reasons and even further behind health reasons. Personally, I think this was why it was so easy for me to cave – just like cheating on a diet and “starting again tomorrow” it was so easy for me to justify eating just a little bit of fish or cheese at a dinner party because this was really just about me and my health – nothing really greater.

This time, my focus has completely shifted. While all three beliefs are intertwined (health, environment, animals) – now my main focus is the animals. By realizing that the reason that I am going vegan is less about me and more about others (animals and the environment) – it’s made it about 10 billion times easier to not even consider cheating. Health is still a huge concern of mine as well, I’m always striving to be healthier and be kinder to my body – but it’s really invigorating to take a stand and do something that is bigger than myself.

I have to say that I haven’t even been tempted by animal foods. Not even slightly. I had a friend come over the other day to spend the afternoon with me – he’s one of my favorite people and I spending time with him is really special since we don’t get to do it nearly often enough. I know that his favorite ice cream is Ben & Jerry’s Cinnamon Buns. I know this because we have spent countless hours talking about ice cream (ice cream is probably my favorite dessert) and Ben & Jerry’s Cinnamon Buns used to be one of my favorites too (despite not liking actual cinnamon rolls, weird, I know). So, knowing that he was coming over and knowing that while he fully supports my lifestyle choices – he wasn’t embracing veganism himself and really has very little interest in trying soy or rice based ice cream (although, he did express some interest in coconut ice cream) – I ran to the store down the street and picked up Cinnamon Buns ice cream for him (I’m seriously the greatest friend ever, I know). He ate some (not much) and it’s been sitting in my freezer ever since. I haven’t even thought about it, much less wanted to eat it. 37 days and it doesn’t appeal to me anymore. Not even slightly. I thought I would have to toss it so I wouldn’t be tempted to dive into it one night, but really, it’s ok being there – he can have more next time we get together.

The smell of meat is starting to make me want to vomit a little. I think this has surprised me the most. I’ve never had a problem with anybody eating meat in front of me and I did not give up eating meat because I didn’t like the taste. I loooooooved meat. LOVED. I was a steak and potatoes girl since birth. I walked into my parents house this morning to get ready for work after my workout (their house is close to my workout group and office – super convenient) and the smell totally hit me the second I walked in. It reeked. Which is odd because my parents house totally smells awesome all of the time. I honestly thought one of my parents dogs had gotten sick. I found out that my mom was making chicken stock (sorry mom!) for matzoh ball soup. The fact that the smell really got to me completely floored me. I love my mom’s cooking – she’s probably the greatest cook in the world and matzoh ball soup is amazing and I look forward to it every year (I found a vegan version that I will be trying asap). But, guys I couldn’t handle the smell.

It’s been easy. Really.

So The Exciting Stuff…

I promised you guys some news about this little blog. And there is news. It is all still in the works. Most of you know that I want to be a writer and do this stuff full time, please don’t judge my writing skills by this blog (at least not yet).

So the news.

It’s all still in the works but I promise this blog will be getting a facelift. It will look nicer. And include photos. And all sorts of fun bells and whistles that make people want to read blogs. And not just boring words on a screen. I promise. Seriously.

I’m hoping to start doing restaurant reviews again for the local paper. I used to them frequently before I went vegan and I’m requesting to do them again as a vegan. I mean, that should be welcome, right? I’ll keep you posted. If they say no, we can all protest together!

There will be guest bloggers here. Yup. I want my brilliant friends to post here as well.

There will be more here than vegan stuff. I promise. I will be more open about myself and I will let you guys get to know me a bit better than you do.

I’m hoping if I get enough readers and support, there will be a newsletter of sorts. Vegan food finds, clothing, music. Fun stuff. Newsletters, I can make 🙂

Basically, this blog is going to take on a life of it’s own and I would like to turn into a thriving, fun community of smart people.

So, please continue reading. Tell your friends. And I promise, PROMISE to make this a really rad blog (and hopefully full time gig) for you to read.

Pretty Ugly

Speaking of body image – I stumbled on this post on feministing. YES! I am SO glad that somebody wrote about these so-called “ugly” women.

Pretty Ugly via Feministing

After months of nudging from Jos and from my sister, I finally watched an episode of Glee. And then, because I loved it so much, I tried to watch every episode ever made so that I wouldn’t be distracted from my work by the temptation of unseen plot twists and musical numbers. It was Glee binge, and it wasn’t pretty.
Speaking of not pretty, isn’t Rachel totally ugly? I mean, just look at her:
rachel.jpg
Hideous, right? One of the running themes of Glee is that Rachel, played by Lea Michele, is talented, but annoying, badly dressed and physically unattractive. In other words, they Liz Lemon her. Yeah, I just made that a verb – and it needs to be one, because there’s a lot of Liz Lemoning going on these days.

For those of you who don’t spend an embarrassing amount of your time watching sitcoms on Hulu, Liz Lemon originates with NBC’s 30 Rock. The most frustrating thing about 30 Rock, an otherwise excellent show, are the constant references to the fact that Tina Fey’s character Liz Lemon is ugly. The thing is, Tina Fey fits conventional standards of female beauty almost to a T. Liz Lemon, like Rachel, is a flawed character, but the constant references to her ugliness are just absurd. And while beauty is of course subjective, these two women absolutely meet our culture’s standard of female beauty: they’re young, white, slim, cis-gendered, well-proportioned and able-bodied, with long shiny hair and smooth skin. They may not be Victoria’s Secret models, and they may have brown hair and glasses, but they certainly still meet society’s standards of female beauty.

Writing about this very problem, the Washington Post‘s Ezra Klein writes that 30 Rock “didn’t have the nerve to cast an actually frumpy actress in Liz Lemon’s role. About half the jokes focus on Lemon’s looks, and they’re all undercut when the camera focuses on the slim, beautiful Tina Fey.” Klein believes that the lack of nerve reflects “American television’s terror of putting normal-looking people on screen.” And he has a point: The closest we’ve gotten to an actually frumpy actress in a lead role lately is America Ferrera in Ugly Betty.

I personally think that Ferrera is gorgeous, but she’s clearly a departure from the depictions of female beauty that we’re used to seeing on TV. And that departure didn’t last for long. In the first few seasons of the show, Ugly Betty‘s creative team was clearly taking some big risks: they had cast a lead actress who defied the standards of female beauty, and then they went out of their way to defy those standards even further, giving her heavy bangs, glasses, braces and dressing her in unflattering, unfashionable clothes. Betty was ugly, as ugly as any leading woman has been allowed to be in popular culture in some time. It was exciting to see a major network taking such a big risk, and to see viewers responding positively to a heroine who didn’t look like every other heroine on the screen. But in more recent seasons, references to Betty’s ugliness have started to feel like Liz Lemoning, because visually, a lot of that original ugliness has been done away with. Her hair has been pulled back off her face, and it’s longer, straighter and shinier than in earlier seasons. Her clothes are no longer unflattering, and while she still dresses in garish colors and flashy prints, the garishness and flashiness are now far more fashionable, perhaps because they’re designed by the same costume designer who masterminded Sarah Jessica Parker’s wardrobe on Sex and the City.
ub1.jpgub2.jpg

So, what does it mean when even the “ugly” women on our screens are conventionally beautiful? Firstly, it means that the bar for female beauty is being set higher than ever: if Tina Fey, Lea Michele and America Ferrera are “ugly,” what hope is there for the rest of us? It also means that we’re being told one thing and sold another. We’re being told that there is a space on television and in popular culture more broadly for women who defy conventional beauty norms, women who are “ugly.” Hell, there’s a whole show about a woman who’s ugly! It’s right there in the title! But in reality, those “ugly” women look an awful lot like the beautiful ones.

With progressive shows like 30 Rock (which was conceived and is written by a woman, and which has a fair bit of feminism to go along with its funny), Glee (which tackles a host of issues from sexuality to disability, with varying levels of success) and Ugly Betty (which is one of the first primetime shows about a Latino family, and which also tackles sexism, homophobia and the many faults of the fashion industry), this is particularly frustrating. These shows are meant to represent progress in a TV landscape that’s dominated by male writers and super-hot actresses, in which minorities and minority issues are sorely underrepresented. And in many ways, they do signal progress. But when it comes to female beauty on television, it seems that standards are becoming stricter, the range of permissible shapes and sizes smaller. Sadly, these otherwise progressive shows are part of that problem.

The Post I Really Didn’t Want To Write…

I started counting calories again. Well, I started this morning. So, I’ve been counting calories for about 7 hours now – but still – I started and I am going to continue counting calories for awhile.

I really didn’t want to turn this blog into a diet blog and it will absolutely not be a diet blog. But, I do feel like I should share that yes, I would like to lose a little weight – nothing extreme – but around 30 pounds. The reason for the want to lose weight is all the obvious ones, but mostly because I want to be fit and healthy. I actually hate that things that used to be easy (and based on my age should still be easy) are suddenly extremely difficult. Why am I so winded when I run a mile all out? Why is playing tennis suddenly making my entire body ache and beg for mercy? These things shouldn’t be happening. And getting some pounds off is key to make sure these things don’t happen.

This leads to a much broader conversation about body image and how ridiculous society’s standards are on women. Let me assure you, I don’t play into wanting to be a size 0 or weigh a certain weight or look the way that a magazine tells me that I should look. In fact, I think these things are bullshit and disgusting and I could dedicate a lot of time to ranting against them – but for today I will acknowledge that I want to be healthier and doing that means I need to get some weight off.  I want to be able to run without feeling winded, feel like my clothes are fitting me a little better and focus on fueling my body with healthy foods.

The way that I have to do this is counting calories, unfortunately. I hate feeling like a slave to my little calorie counter – but I know that I do eat too much. Too much of anything is too much. But, I plan on eating and continuing to eat healthy, vegan food (and some unhealthier vegan food too!) I plan on cooking a ton and making really delicious healthy vegan recipes that I will absolutely share here.

I promise to not make this blog really weight focused – but I will share how it’s going and things that I am doing while seeking a healthier lifestyle.

Expo West Part One

I am exhausted. Utterly and completely exhausted. If I could magically fall asleep at my desk on this yoga ball I would.

On Thursday, I showed up at the Anaheim Convention Center at 6:30 a.m. (I only live 15 minutes away) so it wasn’t too terrible. I got there picked up my entire companies badges, picked our booth space for next year and then ran around for 15 hours. Carting things to and from my car. Setting up our booth display. Setting up our fresh ideas table top. Working our fresh ideas table top.

Repeat this scenario for the next four days. Literally. On my feet. From 5:30 am until 9 pm. No breaks. Nobody else lifting a finger to help me. It was completely draining and exhausting and I am so fucking glad it is over.

But, with all of that said – what an experience. The show floor was incredible. The companies there were incredible. The new products – amazing. Particular standouts were Daiya cheese was making little pizzas – I probably had 10 tiny sample sized slices every day. So good. Plus, they have new packaging – it’s going to be shredded and in a bag (like Kraft does) – should be in all Whole Foods starting end of this month. So, keep an eye out for that. Lara Bar has four new flavors – all super delicious. Cookie Dough, Peanut Butter Cup, Carrot Cake and Chocolate Brownie – YUM. They will all be available in July. Lots of coconut products, tofu products, tempeh products – luckily for me the show floor was an organic, vegan paradise of processed food. However, eating mostly processed foods for four days straight has left my stomach a bit of a mess and I can’t wait to go home tonight and cook some vegetables (if my eyes can stay open that long).

I met a lot of people. Made a lot of really amazing connections. And despite all the hard work and manual labor (in a pencil skirt, tights and heels) – it was a great time. I may kill our events guy for purposely scheduling his vacation so he didn’t have to deal with Expo West leaving me (a PR person, NOT an events person) in charge with absolutely no clue what I was doing – but I am so glad I got to be there. Hopefully, next year I can just attend and not be running the entire damn thing for my company.

I definitely have a new respect for event and tradeshow people. Now, back to my sleeping sitting up.

Work Update + Tomato Soup Recipe

This entry is going to be extra scattered and all over the place today.

Work has gotten CRAZY. To the point where I couldn’t post at work (like I normally do). I got rid of the internet at my apartment – I was spending way too much time working at home, so I decided that if I was going to be working at home – work should pay for my internet. So, until they do, no more internet connection for me. So, I’m typing this in Word and I’m going to post it first thing in the morning – which is pretty much what I will be doing from now on. Just in case you cared.

My entries this week may be light, I’m off to Natural Products Expo for most of the week. I’m crossed between dreading it (it’s going to be EXHAUSTING) and being super excited about it – I get to meet the founders of some of my favorite products (Manitoba Harvest, Guayaki, Daiya…to name a few). It’s a crazy show and there will be over 60,000 people there. My hours are insane – 8 a.m. to 3 a.m. every morning and I didn’t even get a hotel room (I live 30 minutes from the show and decided that I would much rather sleep in my bed). So, entries will definitely be light, but look for some fun posts after the show.

So, I’m trying to do tons of laundry and get my apartment spotless – the last thing I want to come home to when I am exhausted is a messy apartment. My apartment currently looks like a bomb went off inside of it – so I have quite a bit of work ahead of me.

The veganism is going awesome. I haven’t even been tempted to eat non-vegan food. I have been overeating and overindulging on some foods recently (lots of bread, tortilla chips, oven French fries, baked goods, coconut ice cream) all vegan, all delicious – but not so good for my waist. The last thing I want is to turn this into a weight loss blog – but I do need to keep my eating in check – I’m going to start focusing more on lower calorie, lower fat vegan foods and eating more fruits and vegetables (as opposed to breads, crackers, chips, etc.)

I made the chickpea tomato soup in VeganYumYum tonight to take for lunches this week. I made a few slight changes based on not having all the ingredients on hand and I used less oil than the recipe called for – I had a couple bites this morning and it’s delicious. Plus since it’s pureed with chickpeas – it should keep me really full throughout the day. Another bonus – it took me all of 20 minutes to make.

Tomato Chickpea Soup (adapted from VeganYumYum)

1 TB canola oil

1 yellow onion, roughly chopped

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1.5 cups cooked chickpeas or one 15 oz. can (I used cooked chickpeas)

1 TB chili powder

½ TB Tumeric

Pinch red chili flakes

1 28 oz. can of tomatoes (I used Muir Valley Roasted Tomatoes with Chipotle Peppers)

1 cup of hot water

2 TB of nutritional yeast

Fresh Ground Pepper

Heat oil in a pan with high sides (any soup pan will work). Add onion. Cook for for two minutes. Add garlic, chickpeas, chili powder, tumeric, chili flakes. Cook for another two minutes.  Add tomatoes and simmer for 10 minutes. Add hot water and nutritional yeast. Transfer to a blender in batches (or use an immersion blender) and blend until completely smooth. Top with fresh ground pepper.

So, the exciting blog news?

Well, I promise that within the month, I will actually take the time to learn how to wordpress and there will be pictures and links and all sorts of good stuff on here to make it look less boring.

There is more exciting news – but that’s it for the time being.