Sunday, January 31, 2010

Rice Flour Pancakes

I realized when I was posting yesterday that I have never actually put up my recipe for Rice Flour Pancakes. The link I had there was the inspiration for what I make, but not the way I actually make them. So here it is:

Amazing, tasty, who-even-cares-about-wheat-flour-anymore, gluten-free, banana pancakes

1 c rice flour (I use brown, it has a fuller flavor)
2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1-2 T sugar (if you have maple syrup that's even tastier. I use raw sugar because refined sugar is... gross.)
1 t vanilla(or almond) extract
1 T veg oil
3/4 c alternative milk of choice (obviously you should not DEFILE my recipes with cow milk)
1 medium overripe banana

Mix all the dry ingredients. Mash the banana really well in a separate bowl, you want it to be about the consistency of beaten eggs. Then add in the milk, vanilla and oil. Add wet to dry. Stir well. A banana is an inexact measurement, so you may need to add more milk or flour. Make sure your cooking surface is adequately greased, because these puppies will stick like crazy and then crumble apart, though if this does happen, don't fret they still taste just as good. Cook as you would any other inferior pancake, dropping about 1/3 c at a time.

I put a little lemon oil into The Logger's pancakes yesterday morning and he LOVED them. I also once made these with a bit of jam swirled into the batter, which was amazing. Basically, it's a flexible recipe and a yummy one.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

A mid-winter check in

I recently posted about the mid-winter warmth we've been having in Vermont. All over town and even in my backyard I can see actually grass. Real grass. Not covered in snow. Or at least I could until two days ago. It was as though the sky finally looked at the ground and realized it was looking a little too much like spring and promptly dumped a few inches of snow on us. I really enjoyed the use of the word squall that happened on several occasions at work. At one point we looked outside and saw nothing but white. NOTHING BUT WHITE. OK, OK, I know this is Vermont, but it's not the arctic, this kind of stuff doesn't happen very often.

And now is as good a time as any to check in with those changes I told myself I'd be making in my life.

1. Step up my commitment to the environment. I'm doing a pretty good job of this. I've made a few changes recently that are small, but significant. One of those changes does not include driving less. It's endlessly annoying that I have two jobs and usually work at two locations everyday. This kind of kills any chance of carpooling, because I would need to orchestrate something between three different people who don't share my schedule. However, come spring I plan to bike more. Right now it's not feasible. Not because of the cold, but due to the danger of ice and snow banks in what would be the shoulder of a highway. No thanks.

But here's something fun! I'm going to try and include a fun environmental... something (who knows) at the bottom of my non-book review posts. Starting today.

2. Become a for real Vermont resident. I am officially a Vermont voter! And I have a PO Box! And I applied for health insurance. I don't have a Vermont ID yet, but that's because I don't have time to even think about driving to Bennington for such a trivial thing.

3. Get even more organized. Yeah... about that. I haven't done this.

4. Check!

5. Read more. There isn't enough time to read all of the books on my book list!!! But I'm trying.

6. Make new friends. Um. Well. I think I'm kind of trying. I mean, I've gone out to social events I would normally skip out on, but I also go to the movies alone every week and never even try to have company. Socializing is so much work! I just want to have friends without having to go through the stress of making them. (yes, I said stress. This might explain why change is so difficult for me)

7. Continue my efforts to eat whole, home-made, unprocessed food. I haven't had a single Soy Chai Latte since I wrote that change! I have had several bagels though. Clearly I need to go out and get me some rice cakes, because I'm all out and I'm substituting bagels. Still no blender. Gonna go make a new freecycle post about this.

So... yeah! I'd say I'm chugging along. But I'm gonna go chug along down to the kitchen and make me some rice flour pancakes.

A green idea: I get paid weekly at my internet job. Gordon leaves our paychecks in an envelope by our time sheets. There are 52 weeks in a year. That's 52 envelopes a year! I buy a box of 50 envelopes and it lasts me forever. I don't want my paychecks costing the earth a box of paper envelopes a year. So on Fridays I put my packcheck into my backpack and hand the envelope back to Gordon. He reuses it next week. My little envelope change inspired one of my coworkers as well, so that's a little over two boxes of envelopes a year we're saving for pretty much no effort whatsoever. Woo!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Lemon Amazing!

One of the perks of working at a bookstore is that I can borrow books. If I'm really interested in reading a book, but I don't really want to commit to buying it, I can simply allocate a copy to myself and take it home for a few days. Of course I need to be insanely careful with it and not spill anything on it, or accidentally bend the cover. I NEVER dog ear pages, so that's no problem.

Getting to the point: Monday is The Loggers birthday. And if you are a devoted blog reader (AKA my mother), you'll remember the ridiculous lemon cake I made him last year. This year he said he wanted to be a little more low key and that he wanted cupcakes. Lemon cupcakes. There's been a major change in our lives since last year's cake, and that is veganism. The Logger isn't actually vegan (though he gets closer and closer every day), but since I am, and I do most of the cooking and all of the baking, that means vegan baked goods for birthdays.

I knew I would need to get the recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World, but I didn't want to buy a copy. I was just going to email a recipe to myself while I was at work, but I completely forgot until about 5 seconds before we were shutting down the computers. Shit. So I quickly allocated a copy to myself. It was the last copy. So I'm sorry bookstore, I know I'm not supposed to take books home when there isn't another copy in the store, but I think I'm pretty much 100% of the Manchester vegan market, so I'm not too worried anyone is going to run into the store and demand a copy of the vegan cupcake book. Anyway there's a copy of the vegan cookie book, so whatever.

In order to be as careful as possible (and because I generally make a mess when baking) I copied the recipe onto another piece of paper before attempting to make anything. I transformed the basic vanilla cupcake into a lemon delight. The Logger loved them, and so did I, though I don't especially love lemons. Win.

Maybe I do need a vegan cupcake book after all...

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Bees!!! and a canker sore

I have this stupid canker sore. Not as bad as the one I had at the end of last winter though. At least I can eat and talk and be alive without thinking about this one. It really only annoys me when I brush my teeth. I feel like I'm making it worse. I'm not though. These things are all the same; they show up suddenly, stick around without changing for whatever period of time they seem fit, and they they disappear just as quickly as they came. They don't get worse or better, they are either there, or gone. This one is not gone. Maybe a few more days.

Whatever, that's not what I wanted to talk about. I wanted to talk about the weather I think. There's a January thaw happening right now and it feels nice. The weather has been above freezing for most of the day and then everything gets icy again at night. The news man on the radio said that bees need a warm day or two every month to leave their hives and take a dump. I feel like my brain might need sunny days like that as well to take a spiritual dump. Whatever that means. I clearly need more sun.

I'm reading a book called Generation A (yeah, I put the plant book on hold and didn't update my website. Oh hush, you don't even care). It's all about the not-distant future where bees are extinct. No bees. None of those pollinators we've come to rely so heavily on. An exotic species in this country, but so are most of the crops we grow, so it makes sense. We've changed our eco system and it's working out. Except bees really aren't doing so well, so this book isn't so unbelievable. It's fiction by the way, not some kind of apocalyptic sustainability book.

Anyway this brings me to my next point: honey. I know, I know, honey is not vegan. I got it. But put the whining on hold for a second and let me point out my thoughts on my own personal honey consumption. I eat honey. I eat it rather frequently. I realize the issues with large-scale commercial honey farms (if you don't, then you might want to check this out). I agree with honey being an animal product that is collected in ways which I would consider cruel. I won't buy silk because I think silk production is cruel, so why include honey in my diet?

The reasons, which I have thought very hard about, are simple. I have terrible allergies in the spring. I can not function as a normal human being without medication. Medication is tested on animals in the cruelest ways possible. However! eating local honey in the winter can help your body become immune to pollen in the spring. It's like a delicious and sweet allergy shot to go with my morning oatmeal. If eating some honey in the winter, which I get from a beekeeping friend (who does not kill his bees, or clip their wings, or burn their hives) will mean that I won't need to purchase allergy medication, then I'm going to eat honey. I'm not buying honey from anyone else. I don't buy pre-packaged food which might contain honey and I pretty much cook all of my meals, so the honey thing doesn't come up often in my life. It would be awesome if, in a few seasons, I didn't need allergy medication or immune system building honey, but right now I'm certainly choosing the lesser of two evils.

I realize I'm probably going get a huge lecture on this at some point. The honey debate is a huge one in vegan communities and I would say that I agree with the non-honey eating vegans. I do agree with them. I also think that bees are important pollinators and if they do disappear (which they have been doing, though we don't really know why), we are pretty much fucked. So if my local friend (who worships his bees by the way), can raise a happy, healthy colony, then more power to him. He's an incredibly irresponsible guy and his hives will probably end up swarming and creating wild hives anyway.


Monday, January 18, 2010

Book Review - Vegan Freak by Bob and Jenna Torres

This book is a must have for any vegans, vegetarians, or people somewhere in between. It's kind of a how-to guide to surviving in a very non-vegan world, where you will probably be looked at as a freak.

It deals with the obvious question of "why vegan?" and also the less obvious question of "why vegan and NOT vegetarian?" It also deals with the parts of veganism that involve non-food items. I especially like the chapters about how to handle non-vegans, specifically family and friends.

I really identify with and needed something like this book. It explains the importance of having vegans friends and a vegan community. I live in a small town and I'm lucky to know even one other vegan. I spend a lot of time reading vegan blogs and I communicate with my vegan friends in NY whenever I feel like I need a vegan ally. Part of the reason I have this blog is for and outlet for my life and my veganism is part of that. It's frustrating to feel like you're the only person around who sees the very serious cruelty involved in the non-vegan ways of the people around us, especially the people we love.

The only major criticism I have about this book is the editing. In this case, it seems like the major part of the editing process was done by a spell checker and not much more. I found so many major grammatical errors in this book it drove me mad. Simply sending the book to anyone else and having them read it cover to cover would have solved so many of the editing issues. Oh my god I have never read a book with so many typos. Even my college papers had less problems than this book. Bob and Jenna, if you're reading this, I adore you guys, but please fix this stuff before the next printing. (For all you people out there who would argue that my own blog is full of errors, I'll remind you that I openly admit to not proofreading mot of this, it's not a published book, and I make absolutely no money from it. It's a hobby, not a job and is in no way professional.)

I don't want to make the book sound amateur, it's not. It's so clear that a lot of thought and research went into it. They include many other books to refer to for more information and help on any of the many topics they touch on in the book. It's a starting point, and an important one. So, if you're vegan, or thinking about it: go buy this book! Or borrow it, whatever.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

No 'poo

After reading Sleeping Naked Is Green, I felt inspired to start making my own small changes. I already do a lot of what was talked about in the book, but something I had been curious about and even managed some failed attempts at, was giving up shampoo. In truth, I don't think the author ever really did it, but I wanted to.

For as long as I can remember I've always had dandruff and buildup. Actually, I've had dandruff caused by buildup. No matter what shampoo I used or what kind of water I washed it with, I always had buildup. And my hair is super-italian-greasy and heavy. It gets pretty gross after a few days of not washing.

I figured I'd give this no shampoo thing a try, so I read up about it on the internet first. Turns out it's not just as simple as, stop washing your hair. Your hair gets stripped of it's natural oils when you use shampoo, so it over-compensates and starts producing massive amounts of oil to recuperate. When you initially stop using shampoo your hair will be extra-ultra greasy. It takes a while for your hair to balance out and stop over-producing oil.

I avoided this period pretty easily (or at least shortened it drastically) by only shampooing once a week for a long time. My hair was at least half way to balanced. I also mixed up a solution of 1 tablespoon baking soda and one cup of water. I keep it in an old Dr. Bronner's bottle in the shower. I massage it into my scalp when I "wash" my hair. The baking soda helps to break up excess dirt and grease in your hair. Another thing I did to help with the transition was to use shampoo only on the bottom part of my hair, where it didn't touch my head.

Baking soda will feel strange at first, mostly because it feels like almost nothing. It won't lather, it won't smell fruity, and it won't make your hair slippery and silky int he shower. Actually my hair feels kind of weird and stiff when it's still wet after I've scrubbed with baking soda. However, once it's dry it feels AMAZING. It's so light and soft. It's almost annoying how much lighter it is (in terms of weight), because before all of the grease was keeping my hair weighed down and out of my face, now it just kind of flows and moves easily, it falls in my face a lot more.

I also don't have gross buildup and my dandruff has gotten much much better. Better than it was when I was using shampoos made especially for dandruff. I still have a little bit of it and my scalp stills gets a bit itchy. I think that has to do with genetics (thanks dad for the oily hair and dry scalp you passed on to your only daughter) and a little do to with the baking soda itself.

One thing I read online is that the baking soda can cause a little irritation or dandruff because it is so basic. If that happens you can rinse with a solution of 1 tablespoon vinegar and a cup of water to neutralize the base. I used to use vinegar to wash my hair when I was swimming a lot. Yes, it smells bad in the shower (use apple cider vinegar for less of a smell), but it will not leave your hair smelling like vinegar. The smell is gone as soon as the vinegar dries.

As soon as the Logger finishes his current bottle of Dr. Bronners, I'm going to mix up a batch of vinegar solution and let you know how that goes. Yay for no more 'poo!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Book Review - The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

I can't review this book. How could I review this book? I feel like a fraud. What right do I have to write anything about this amazing story? It's a classic for a reason! It's so perfect and meticulous. Dumas created the most amazing and perfect characters and had no trouble whatsoever bringing them to life. There's not a speck of laziness in his writing. He takes no shortcuts, creates no miracles without explanation, and he runs the reader through every possible emotion throughout the story.

Edmond Dantes is wonderful. He's an honest and good person and he's perfect in so many ways. If he's slightly conceited, it is only because he is too young to know any better. When he becomes the Count of Monte Cristo he is conceited because he has learned to know better. He is the ultimate instrument of revenge and wrath. He is so perfect and adept at his revenge that at times it gets away from him, it takes on it's own life. He forgets that he is human and I found myself forgetting as well. However, Dumas reminds his readers before he reminds The Count. We see what is about to unfold just before Dantes and just after it is too late to stop any of it. The revenge is so perfectly plotted, no detail is left out. However, it is impossible to know the full extent of it, only because it impossible to know any person to the fullest extent. Who knows just how far any one character will go? No one but Dumas it seems.

The ending. Oh the ending. Of course I would never reveal the ending. But, oh is it perfect. Amazing. A believable fantasy, just like the rest of the book, but somehow even more so. And just like the rest of the book it is impossible to say just what happens after the last page. The story will never rest, because, like life, there are no tidy endings. Like life, you can never really know what path people will choose, or what tomorrow will bring.

Monday, January 4, 2010

This is a post in which I rant a little

So some cattle rancher decided to follow me on twitter. How on earth did that guy even find me and why would he think it was a good idea? Was it the fact that my profile states that I'm vegan? This cattle rancher is an "animal welfare specialist" according to his profile. Right. What part of breeding and raising animals specifically to kill them for human pleasure is to be considered humane? Just because animals weren't raised on factory farms doesn't make it ok to kill and eat them. Listen, you don't NEED meat to live, and you don't need it to be healthy. Therefore, when you do eat meat, it is only for pleasure, and nothing more. That means that you raise and kill animals for pleasure. End of story. There's no animal welfare in that.

So I checked out his tweets and he put up this article about vegetarians who eat meat. Um... what? Sorry, vegetarians don't eat meat. Not to mention that the word flexitarian means absolutely zero to me. It means about the same thing as an animal welfare specialist cattle farmer. I'm so fucking sick of hearing about "happy meat" and how it's morally ok to eat it. How about I come over to your house and kill your dog and eat it. I mean, you gave it a happy life, so it's ok right? That makes it ok!


Also, I read Michael Pollan's new book, Food Rules. Awful. It's just a (really)watered down version of In Defense of Food. Don't waste your time or your money on that one, especially if you already read his other books. It was kind of a sell-out thing to do; publish a book that takes exact passages from the last book he published, increase the font size, add a ton of blank pages and big pictures and then sell the thing for $11. Um... why? He should have just published an article in the NY Times magazine instead of a whole book. Why waste all that paper?

OK, I'm don't ranting now. On a lighter note, we may have found some roommates who want to rent the other rooms in our house but not actually live here. That is so awesome! What more could you possibly want in a roommate?

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Book Review - Sleeping Naked is Green by Vanessa Farquharson

Vanessa Farquharson is a movie critic for the Canadian newspaper National Post and doesn't care too much about the environment, until she sees "An Inconvenient Truth," and finally feels that she needs to do something. But what? She decides to take on a challenge of making one green change in her life every day for a year.

The book is divided into chapters by month and each month starts with a list of the changes she made each day. It starts out simply: Changing to recycled paper towels. But she soon starts to become desperate and shuts off her freezer, then her fridge. The order in which she makes her changes is... well, odd to say the least. For example, she turns off her fridge before putting a brick into her toilet tank. She gives up toilet paper before she gives up her vacuum. She also waits until day 198 to sign up for CSA.

She soon finds that being just a little green suddenly makes her want to be as green as possible. She wants to be the greenest in the green movement and often finds herself jealous and competitive of other environmentalists. At the same time she struggles with frustration over making certain changes and exhaustion from having to think new ones up. Some might be seen as a cop-out (writing only haiku poetry, signing up and then promptly taking down her profile on but you have to give her credit and cut her some slack, she's making 366 (leap year) changes.

She whines endlessly about how hard it is to be an environmentalist, but when it comes time for her challenge to end, she keeps almost all of her green changes. This book is just further proof that anyone who is educated about the changes they can make and why they should make them (not to mention how easy it can often be), will make them. And they will start to care about it too. It's easy to claim ignorance about the environment and do nothing, but once you do know, it's harder to forget. She even manages to green her family a little, even though they were adamantly against environmentalism at the start.

This book is inspiring. And funny. And down to earth. Plus it's a great read. It's good information for environmentalists or just people curious at where to start. The green movement is often seen as either too extreme or just not enough, but Farquharson struggles to find a middle ground. Reading this book made it more apparent to me just how easy it could be to step up my own greening. It's nice to see all of her changes in a list in each chapter, because although she doesn't talk about each one, you still know what kinds of changes she is making.

Because Farquharson is a journalist, her writing is interesting and engaging. She talks about the changes and why she made them, but also what the result is on her life as a a whole. Not to mention she's hilarious. The book isn't just a list of changes that you can make, it's a story about making a difference. At the end Farquharson isn't a preachy environmentalist. She sticks with her own changes, because she sees no point in going back. But there's no denying that the story is an inspiration to those who read it. It's a story about how little changes can make a big difference, not just to the Earth, but to your entire life.

Friday, January 1, 2010

2010 - Happy New Year

I don't make New Year's resolutions. It is my belief that if I really wanted to change something about myself I would start right away. If I put it off for days, weeks, months, waiting for the new year as an excuse to start, it probably isn't important enough for me to actually stick with it. I think this is true with most people which is why new year's resolutions seem to fail so often.

That being said, there are plans and decisions I have made recently, which I'll pass off as new years resolutions simply because it is that time of year.

1. Step up my commitment to the environment. I finished "Sleeping Naked is Green" and I really loved it. I was inspired by Farquharson's commitment to being more eco-friendly and the great lengths she went to. I won't elaborate on the book at this time because my review is forthcoming, but I will say that reading about her efforts made me realize just how minimal mine are, even if they are greater than most people (who don't seem to give a hoot about the planet they live on).

2. Become a for real Vermont resident. This has been in the works for a while now. I finally registered to vote yesterday and I'll be getting a PO box next week. Then I'll work on getting health insurance. I'll probably even schlep myself over to the DMV and get a state ID, though I'm resistant to give up my AZ driver's license for the mere fact that it doesn't expire until I am 60. SIXTY!

3. Get even more organized. Is it possible? Sadly it is. I keep all of my tax, employment, health, and criminal records in clearly labeled envelopes by year. I keep all of these in a cardboard box piled with who knows what kinds of other crap. What I really need is an accordion file thing of some kind or a really nice big binder with dividers. This seems like an easy task and I should have gotten it done by now, but alas! this is a small town and options are few. Anyway I'm going to get it together. Maybe I'll even go crazy and get myself a safety deposit box at a real bank and put my birth certificate in there as well. (note to my mother: Don't worry, the criminal record thing was a joke. I don't organize those by year.)

4. Learn to drive stick. This has been on my list forever and I'm glad to cross it off. Well now I've got this stick thing down, and though I still hate it, I can at least do it without a problem. I don't even stall on big hills anymore, or drive way out of my way to avoid them. Last night I drove an automatic for the first time in months and though I rejoiced in not having to hassle over shifting and hitting the clutch, I still felt like I was forgetting something when my left foot and right hand took a well-earned break from driving.

5. Read more. Gone are the times when I would sometimes be reading the same book for months. It's my job to read now and form an opinion on it. I'm being paid to have those opinions. In addition to just reading more, I need to remember what I've read and why I did or didn't like it. This is why I'm writing full-fledged, longer-than-you-have-patience-for, and more-than-anyone-cared-to-know book reviews. You can skip them if you like. Or, you can specifically look for them in brand new link section on the left. Bookworms unite!

6. Make new friends. I know a good deal of people around here just from dealing with the theatre and living on the farm, however most of them are not close friends, but rather people I say hi to in passing. I have a lack of people in my life that I can go out to movies with, or lunch, or invite over for a lazy evening of dinner and board games. This was a regular occurrence in my life in NY and it's the thing I miss most. The fact that I am a social moron makes this increasingly difficult, but I have been and will continue to make efforts.

7. Continue my efforts to eat whole, home-made, unprocessed food. My biggest battle being bagels, the cafe next to the bookstore where I get a discount, vegan butter, and my obsession with potato chips. I'm willing to keep potato chips if I can quit soy chai lattes and everything bagels with Earth Balance spread. Also, I need a blender and/or food processor to make my own vegan cheeses and spreads.

Of course there are other things to be done and changed, but a life is ever-evolving. We all have endless lists. Those are the big ones, which are most on my mind because they should have been done already. Who knows, maybe I'll check in with myself in another month and I'll be wonderfully on track. Maybe I'll really get serious and draw up a little five year plan for myself. Ugh.

Secondary note: The Logger has started to make his own changes and has created a youtube page. Though I detest youtube, I love The Logger, so check out his site here and listen to some awesome music.