windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (harm none cows)

Let's go out to eat! All vegans, at the very least, need to make a journey to these five places before they die. :) Their cruelty-free offerings, I think, would win over even the most skeptical omnivore.

1) Green Zebra (Chicago, Illinois)
2) 3 Sisters Cafe (Indianapolis, Indiana)
3) Darbster (West Palm Beach, Florida)
4) Fleur (Las Vegas, Nevada)
5) Inn Season Cafe (Royal Oak, Michigan)
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (scarab)
For the next year, I'm working with The Temple of the Twelve as part of the initiatory group [ profile] sacred12novices. This month, as the first month, is dedicated to exploring the color Black and the many Mysteries and Truths she keeps. About a year ago, I had my first Black month and it was empowering and transformative. I'd expected a harsh reality check from Lady Black and instead got an emotionally restorative affirmation of my own divine nature. This time, though, it has been more of a tough love session.

At the new moon this month, I was challenged to see more Truth in my life and to learn greater discernment in my judgments and choices. I've been fielding all sorts of lessons and musings on the topic ever since and in them, I've realized just how prevalent self-deception is in our society. I live shrouded in the darkness of my self-created worlds without ever waking up to the reality of my impact and decisions. Once in awhile I've woken up with a start, mentally, with a flash of insight about what exists beyond the box of modern consumerism. Once in a long while I realize just how programmed I am. The awareness surfaces for a moment and then is swept away under the weight of the not-Me voices to come. I don't think I'm alone in that.

There is the voice of Truth, of Black, and then there is the (constant, chattering) voice of scripts. The scripts have come from my experiences, from the society around me, from friends and family, from strangers and critics, from overheard conversations, advertisements and the plots of books and television shows. The Truth, when it comes, upsets the balance of my life and so is frequently overruled with more scripts. (No, scratch that, always overruled as I never stay in those awake moments very long.)

So here's a couple of examples I've been thinking a lot about this month.

The Disease of Consumerism
Truth tells me that the Earth is overburdened by consumerism. There is a finite number of resources and everything on this earth that is created or manufactured or dreamed up in material form consumes some of those resources. For every one finished product, say a wooden chair or a marble chess set or a plastic ring of measuring spoons, ten times more resources are consumed then ever end up evident in the end product. I, as an American, am part of a society with no limits. I use too much water. I use too much electricity. I own too many things, made with too many precious pieces of the Earth's living body. I am personally responsible for too much pollution. If every human inhabitant on this planet aspired to the lifestyle that I feel is my right, our planet would die and everything upon it with Her. I am living an unsustainably indulgent lifestyle while others are dying, daily, from simple deprivation of food, water, warmth, and medical attention. That is Truth and it is ugly and shocking and upsetting. I know it. And yet, I cannot tell you how strong and frenzied and persistent the scripts are in my head that say, "I deserve to be happy. I deserve to treat myself. I deserve to have nice things. In fact, I *need* them." If I'm being honest, unflinchingly standing with Black, I don't. I am fortunate, blessed beyond measure, that I have all of my basic needs met. I am awash in abundance, not only within the world, but even within the high-life of modern American life. Someone, in fact a lot of someones, somewhere is paying or will eventually pay for the extravagance of my own choices. The resources of our planet are finite and when I take more than my share, I am costing someone else. The responsibility upon me, as one of the fortunate, is to share my abundances and to limit my consumption. The trouble is, with the scripts running, I forget these basic Black truths in favor of the advertisements for the latest sparkly eye shadow, another pair of shoes I don't need, or a crystal mined from god-knows-where with god-knows-what-destruction for my Earth-centered spiritual (material) lifestyle. I forget because it is radically inconvenient and makes me feel guilty and horrid to remember. That is my own self-deception...that this is okay.

The Monster of Overeating
I think the monster of overeating is really just a symptom of my own disease of consumerism--my 'affluenza'. I have access to every kind of high-fat, high-sugar, highly-processed food that trips all sorts of internal human body sensors that say, "Ahhh. That feels great. That kinda caloric boom will keep us alive for some time. Great job, provider!" Things that didn't even exist 50 years ago and the sort of food-high that humans encountered rarely, if ever, in their history are now so common-place that they've become a disaster for health and wellness. The statistics here in the United States are appalling and though I don't register officially as obese, I'm affected by the monster, too.

Truth: I eat too much and move too little. I am sabotaging my body, the quality and length of my life every single day. I'm throwing away the best and only gift the Universe has ever intended for me alone. My lifespan. My body to live it out in. I know it, it is plain fact, and yet I bury that inconvenient knowledge under insulating scripts.

The scripts say, "I'm hungry. I want it. I deserve it. It'll make me feel better. I need it to cope."

And the worst of it, for me, is knowing that my actions are not only affecting me and my family but also are rippling out with all sorts of (on my part) unintended consequences through the world. I went vegan for a reason, a whole host of reasons, but as a natural end-point of my spiritual belief system. It is a way for me to lessen, directly, the suffering that my consuming unleashes on the world. One way in hundreds, perhaps, but a very concrete way for me to live mindfully. I made that decision almost seven years ago and in that time I've fallen off the wagon, more than once, and started consuming dairy and egg products. I cannot envision a day that I'd ever eat animal flesh again but it is easy for my scripts to overwhelm the opposition and encourage me to forget all the reasons I steered away from cheese pizzas and ice cream and traditional dessert products to begin with. I've driven by veal calves chained in their little plastic doghouses and could almost hear the fever-pitched LA LA LA LA LA! I'm NOT LISTENING!! LA LA LA LA! ear in finger tactics that the scripts combated the sight with.

It is pretty horrifying to me to realize that I'm compromising what I believe to be morally right because the monster, that overconsuming monster, wants the fat and grease and calories and fullness and convenience and NOW!ness of non-vegan foods. I'm tempted and then the voices weigh in with all the reasons it is not only a good idea but a downright necessary indulgence. The voice of Truth gets buried in the chatter of the scripts.

So Instead of Giving Up, I Can....
Lady Black sees right through me, my self-deceptions, and shakes her head. I have justifications, I have excuses, I have many forms of defense but really--I'm sleepwalking through most of my life. I do things for reasons that aren't Truthful or mindful and then come up with scripts that support an image of me where that's okay. And this month, more than any, I've had the sobering and painful and embarrassing experience of being more keenly aware of these personal self-deceptions. It is enough to make me want to give up, go back to my self-made fantasy life, and find new ways to tune out the voice of Truth. But, this time, I'm trying not to. I'm trying to sit with the perfect Truth that I'm a divine light and precious beyond measure, yes, but that so is everyone and everything around me. I'm so big and I'm so small--a human body standing under the canopy of the night sky. I am nothing but I am part of everything and I have choices every day that I make that effect the world around me. I am flawed, yes, of course, but that means I can always do better.

1) I've been inspired to check out and read a few books (from my local library, though my knee-jerk reaction is *always* to buy things). Anyways, they've all crossed my path this month and tied into my thoughts on Black. They are:

The Power of Half: One Family's Decision to Stop Taking and Start Giving Back by Hannah and Kevin Salwen

Lost and Found: Unexpected Revelations about Food and Money by Geneen Roth

2) I've also been working on making small, mindful steps each day. We came home to a near-empty kitchen and will leave for Florida in only two days. Normally, I would have gone to the grocery store and stocked up. I'm suspicious of food that's sat in our fridge over the completely-arbitrary-time-frames I make up. I tend to toss leftovers and produce that looks even a tad bit imperfect. It is wasteful and silly. Also, I will let perfectly wonderful food rot in my fridge because I choose, instead of making it a priority to eat it, to buy more food that I like better or to go out to dinner or to just forget about it until it reaches that state of not-brand-new that triggers my urge to throw away.

Today, I pulled my crockpot out for the first time in six years in order to make something out of the bits and pieces we had laying around. I'm not sure what sort of soup we're in for tonight but it includes the half-a-jar of tomato sauce I'd left behind last week and would have ordinarily thrown away, half an onion, chickpeas, celery (which I'm no fan of), a handful of wrinkly grape tomatoes, two cloves of sprouting garlic, leftover steamed broccoli, veggie stock and some pasta odds and ends. It smells delightful and was surprisingly fun to scavenge together. It feels productive and ingenious and most importantly, mindful. A small victory but one in which I stayed AWAKE--not zooming along on my comfy scripted autopilot mode.

3) I came across a quote this month that has been fueling me and led to quite ambitious goals to declutter, thin out, and donate vast amounts of our clothes, toys, books, and other extraneous household items. It has been the voice of Black this month--compassionate, honest, and challenging.

"The bread which you do not use is the bread of the hungry;
the garment hanging in your wardrobe is the garment of him who is naked;
the shoes that you do not wear are the shoes of the one who is barefoot;
the money that you keep locked away is the money of the poor;
the acts of charity that you do not perform are so many injustices that you commit.”
~St. Basil the Great
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (book magick)
I owe Daniel $825. Repaying that without a job takes some creativity. I should be repaying it by turning a profit on the My Little Ponies I've bought this month. I'd like to try and keep some of them, though, which means earning money through other outlets. I thought it might help me get started to sell off some of my vegan/vegetarian cookbooks and pagan/magick themed books that I don't do much referencing of these days. I'm posting them here first before I tried to sell the leftovers elsewhere. :) Maybe one of my veg or pagan friends will find what they have been looking for! :)

Prices do not include shipping. I will use Media Mail for U.S. addresses to keep the costs as low as possible. If you'd like a shipping estimate before you commit to buy, let me know and I'll package and weigh the books you're interested in for an exact shipping amount. I'm going the quick route here in listing them because I imagine the people most interested in these types of books will know what they are. If you're not sure which one it is, let me know and I'll get you more information, an Amazon link, etc. All of the books are in excellent condition unless noted.

Vegan/Vegatarian Cookbooks
$8 Vegan with a Vengeance
$8 The Garden of Vegan
$5 Vegetarian Times Complete Cookbook
$5 The Essential Vegetarian Cookbook
$5 The Vegetarian Cookbook
$5 Sinfully Vegan
$5 Vegan Planet (on hold for [ profile] mermaiden)
$5 The Vegan Gourmet
$5 The Voluptuous Vegan
$3 Skinny Bitch in the Kitch
$3 Easy Vegetarian Dinners (sold to [ profile] mermaiden)
$3 The New Vegetarian Cookbook
$3 The Accidental Vegan (beat up)
$3 Williams-Sonoma Vegetarian
$2 American Harvest: Regional Recipes for the Vegetarian Kitchen (a little musty but a very cool book) (sold to [ profile] mermaiden)

Pagan/New Age/Magic Books
$25 Power of the Bear (Boulet artwork)
$10 Crystal Ally Set--Divination Cards, Booklet, and Box
$8 RitualCraft (on hold for [ profile] morrigane)
$5 Wicca for Life (Buckland)
$3 Spell-a-Day: Lead A Charmed Life All Year Round (bought by [ profile] kehleyr)
$3 Wicca for One (Buckland)
$3 Witchcraft from the Inside
$3 Future Lives (Chadwick)
$3 Candlelight Spells (Dunwich) (bought by [ profile] kehleyr)
$3 Charms, Spells, & Formulas (Malbrough)
$3 Spellworking for Covens (McCoy)
$3 The Craft (Morrison) (bought by [ profile] kehleyr)
$3 Transformation Soup (SARK)
$3 A Glimpse of Heaven (Brandon)

So, if you have an interest in any of the above, let me know your zip code and the book choices and I'll figure out what the actual shipping cost would be. :)


windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (veggie love)
Today is day six of my renewed diet. As of today, I've lost six pounds. I can't possibly tell you what that six pounds consisted of but I suspect bloating, sickness, toxins, and fatigue. I started dieting in May and continued with that through July and that is also, I've realized, the time this year when my spiritual, magickal, and intuitive faculties were firing on all cylinders. I dulled down the pain of my kidney stone surgery with a return to mindless eating and that carried on throughout the fall and holiday season. Now that I've had a few clear-headed days of conscious eating and calorie counting and processed food avoidance, it is like I can think and breath and hear again. I'm not as heavily bound into my body without all the over-eating and digestive troubles and sugar roller-coastering.

I feel, energetically, lighter.

I'm perceiving flavor differently. I had some popcorn yesterday, air-popped without any salt or butter or seasoning, and I could taste the corn. I could taste the heat of the cooking process. Without all the overwhelming flavors of oils and fats and sugar, I'm reintroduced to simpler flavors like the mineral tang of carrots and the sublime crystalline sweetness of a ripe pear. I'm eating salads without dressing and really surprising myself with the reality that greens have flavor, unique and varied flavors, all by themselves.

I feel healthier, more alive, more present, and strangely--more like a witch. I'm not sleep-walking my way through meals anymore and that has changed so much about my days and my energy and my intentions.

I am feeling lighter.
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (harm none cows)
Rescued Turkeys--Farm Sanctuary 2009

Farm Sanctuary's Adopt-a-Turkey Program

I hope you'll consider not eating a turkey this year.

windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (veggie love)
Two weeks ago, Daniel and I committed to losing weight and eating better together. We are using a calorie-counting food logging app called Lose It! on our iPhones. Dieting together means that nothing high-calorie even comes into the house and we encourage each other to keep going, even if we fall face first off the wagon and into a 500 calorie plate of pasta. :D Mostly, though, it has translated into us both living our food values. At night, we are shoulder-to-shoulder, companionably chopping and rinsing the ingredients for colorful salad plates and scouring the produce stands and farmer markets for new, fabulous crops. :)

In that time, I've felt healthier than I've *ever* felt. I've lost 7.6 pounds so far, but that in no way accounts for the drastic changes in the way my body looks and feels to be in. I didn't know it until I was eating better, but I was bloated like crazy and now I'm slimming down and feeling more "me" than I've felt since I first met Daniel eight years ago. It is visibly reversing the signs of aging I'd been so bummed about.

So yeah, fruits and veggies for the win! :D

Today, for brunch, I had a slice of handmade sourdough bread with thin slices of organic apple and a hearty pile of clipped pea sprouts. It tasted like heaven. :)
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (witch's circle)
Graeme and I spent the last two days up at Disney World, exhausting the last bit of my annual pass and enjoying a few days of Mother and Baby bonding and adventure. I'm in the midst of a series of epiphanies about the nature of Earth (as an Element, as a planet, and as Gaia Herself) and my time there has only furthered my thoughts about it. Like all epiphanies, I find it almost impossible to articulate and yet, I must. It'll have to come through piecemeal and patchwork and I hope it makes some sense.

I am an acquisitive person by nature. Maybe it was because I was born with the Moon in Taurus or perhaps it was my mother's influence as I was raised in shopping malls around the country or maybe something else entirely, but I seek comfort and stability and peace in material items. I have a collector's mindset. I love the good humor and humanitarian spirit of The Muppets, for example, and have held decades-long the desire to dedicate an entire room in my home to Muppets memorabilia. I can't help but want and when I get, I want more. It is an insatiable hunger, my desire to accumulate. I love crystals and when I'm in a crystal store or that mining museum in Arizona, I don't want one or two. Ideally, I want them all. I could buy a crystal every day of my life and never reach a point of satiation. Same too with vinyl art toys in blind boxes or sparkly stationary or art materials or seashells. It is never enough. I collect shells when I visit beaches around the world and those shells have poured above and out of every container I designate for them. I can't stop myself from scanning for more to take. I want sky-high alphabetized libraries of my own and endless color-coordinated closets, whole museums of stuff immortalizing my existence on earth. I could have scrapbooks and photographs and statues and picnic tables and gold-plated athames and the entire collection of Fraggle Rock DVDs and I would *still* never reach a point where I said. "I have bought all that I want." That point will never be reached on this path I'm on, because the stuff doesn't actually bring me fulfillment. I'm searching for contentment, an end to the yearning, and accumulating a lot of stuff I don't need in the process.

The Earth suffers because I take more than I need. I've read the works of Thomas L. Friedman and I'm aware that our American standard of consumption is unsustainable for our planet. I know that the undeveloped population of the world cannot aspire to the dizzying lifestyle we demand for ourselves in the Western World. Something has to give in this resource-exploitation arms race and I'd really rather it not be our planet's viability. I want our government to step in and start acting like this was a life and death matter, for all of us, and yet what am I doing myself? I acquire reusable shopping bags the way I seem to collect everything else...I have more than I'd ever need. I was raised this way, in a society where advertising executives revolutionized the way we live and convinced everyone that Kleenex were superior to the handy, reuseable, buy once hankerchief and that what we need for our own lasting happiness lies in the next product release or upgrade. I'm being tricked into taking more than my share, more than I need.

(You can probably begin to identify my epiphany as, well, pretty much Buddhism.)

So I'm living in this dream state where I'm completely insulated from the damage of my choices. If I choose to eat a slice of cheese pizza, I'm protected from having to witness the trauma of a dairy cow's existence. I don't have to explain my actions to the veal calf awaiting slaughter in his tiny plastic crate. If I buy a piece of jewelry, to join the collection of jewelry I already own, I don't have to see the laborers gouging into the heart of my Mother Earth to extract the metal to make it. I am so divorced from the reality of my resource consumption, I couldn't possibly tally what impact I make on the world with all my purchases. The pollution, the underpaid laborers, the environmental degradation, the resource competition, there are too many factors to figure out. What I am beginning to sense, though, is that I am part of the whole making this world so troubled. I am sitting at the communal table and taking more than my share. Though I cannot see all the other diners, there is no doubt that some/many/countless will be/are forced to do without because of my greed.

If it can't be grown, it must be mined. That's the mining industry slogan but it also pulls into sharp relief the reality that everything on this earth is natural. Everything I buy or accumulate or collect was grown upon or extracted from the earth. The sad thing is that once it is taken, it can almost never be returned. So I bought that stupid, useless metal pin at Disney World. I can't put that metal back, smooth over a disrupted ecosystem, and apologize for my mindless materialism. I can't restore hides to slaughtered animals, I can't rebuild the secret crystal cathedrals that were shattered apart by machinery for my tumbled rock collection. I cannot mold my junk mail back into living trees on an Alaskan hillside. I cannot return the resources that I have demanded for my sole use. It is too late for that.

At Disney World, I overheard a conversation between a father and his child. The child said, "This is boring." The father, with a tone of disbelief and fatigue, said, "We're spending five days at Disney World. I sold a kidney for this! You can't be bored." I'm that child. I turn to my mother, who has literally opened a vein (of petroleum, water, silver, gold, copper, platinum, quartz, etc) for me time and time and time and time again and I still take my purchases home and say, "I wish I had the pink one, too. Maybe tomorrow I can get that." It is a wonder how much She loves me, that I haven't been smited yet. My ever-suffering Mother.

I'm addicted to shopping. When I had not one cent to spare, I searched the ground under vending machines for overlooked coins. When I couldn't buy, I went browsing in dumpsters and gleefully dragging home what I claimed for myself and our household. I always wanted more. Now, I am blessed with abundance. I don't have as many natural restrictions on my ability to gather more and more material possessions. I can go to the thrift store with no needs and haul home bags and bags of things I didn't need. I can haul home books from the bookstore and ignore the library altogether. It is messed up. Okay, and admittedly I'm not actually addicted to shopping anymore than the rest of our society, but that's messed up enough. I am entertained by material items and I have the wealth to seek them out. I'd rather browse a thrift store aimlessly than do just about anything else. It is unnatural, it creates a chaos of clutter, and more than that--it is disrespectful. I do not value that everything I buy, everything I take into my home, is part of Gaia. Part of Her blood, Her body, Her very essence. If I owned one jacket, it would have importance. Instead, I have half a dozen and all of them treated as if they were unimportant, replaceable, devalued.

I both long for, and fear, the Little House life. Remember in Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House book series, how she recounted tales from her childhood? Oh, the Christmas that a neighbor surprised them with a precious piece of candy when they were going to have to do without gifts. The one precious, tattered rag doll she called her toy. I can't tell you the number of holidays where I've had so much to open that none of it, ultimately, made any impact upon me. I've been asking my mother for years to write me a letter in lieu of a gift. I've yearned for that meaning, that message, that immaterial, precious sentiment. I tend to get makeup or a sweater, instead.

I own an old New England home-cooked style cookbook solely because of its Tasha Tudor illustrations. The "receipts" are organized into meals for all sorts of special occasions. For birthdays, there are special cakes for the children and the author's memory of her son's favorite meal. Wouldn't it be liberating to request a favorite food on my birthday, enjoy it with my family, and happily do without any unnecessary gifts?

All these romanticized visions share one siren call--the lure of 'less is more'. It sounds wonderful, it sounds healthy and necessary and yet to do that would be to fly in the face of all that our modern society is, all that I am. I'd have to become the weirdo that didn't give gifts at the holidays and I'd have to, even scarier, cut my ties to material goods. I'd have to learn to say, "I have all I need."

What would happen to the world if I did that?! My entire lifestyle, my day-to-day motivations are rooted in materialism. What would it take to shut down that programming and what would be left of life as I knew it?

It is terrifying. I'm contemplating giving my security blanket away. I don't want to.

Sarah asked, in passing, what the work of this past esbat was for me. Truthfully, it is this. I'm thinking of it as Mindful March. I have started to hear the voice and rock with the intense emotions of Gaia. I am catching glimpses of myself outside of the dream and awakening to find that I've been mindlessly consuming Her resources. I'm living out-of-balance and taking more than I need. I must learn to feel the sensation of "enough". I must make my decisions consciously. I've gotta get awake and stay awake and act accordingly. I certainly cannot serve Her living as I have been, a zombie shuffling ever-forward for more.
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (veggie love)
8020 South Dixie Highway
West Palm Beach, FL 33405
(561) 586-2622

Open Weds-Fri 5pm-10pm
Sat-Sun 1pm-10pm

This past weekend, we tried out Darbster, a new open-air restaurant perched on the banks of one of West Palm Beach's mini waterways. The entire menu is vegan and reflects the restaurant's vibe of casual elegance. We fit right in with our sand-dusted feet, straight from the beach, and yet had one of the best, most enjoyable meals of our lives. The staff were kind and professional, welcoming of our two year-old son as well as some furry dog diners at nearby tables on the patio. What a comfortable environment!

We, as a party, ordered:

Palm Cakes (pan fried hearts of palm with a lemon pine nut sauce)
Sliders ("steak" tips, onions, lettuce with alan's sauce on sesame seed bun)

Chille Relleno (roasted pepper stuffed with veggies, cheeze w/ sauce, rice and beans)

Chik'n Apple Wrap (chik’n, apples & veggies in a peanut sauce)
Fried Chik'n Sandwich (chik'n, garlic basil aioli, lettuce, fried onion rings)

Mashed Potatoes
Mac and Cheez
Veggie Medley

Seasonal Fruit Cobbler (in our case, berry)
Ice Cream Sundae

The verdict? Everything was good. Some items were more over-the-top craveworthy than others. The palm cakes were light and flaky. The sliders were so outstanding, so perfectly constructed that I wanted to order two more plates to eat all by myself. The Chille Relleno was beautifully made. My husband was especially in love with the hand-roasted corn kernals packed inside. My Chik'n Apple Wrap was light and yummy with a cool peanut buttery sauce. The Fried Chik'n Sandwich looked divinely decadent--there were breaded onion rings *in* the sandwich! The sides were all well-executed, though the mac and cheez tasted strangely sweet with hints of maple syrup. The fruit cobbler was absurdly good, the ice cream sundae kinda uninspired with its combination of coconut milk ice cream, chocolate chips, and nuts. No sauce? No whipped cream? Hardly a sundae to me. :D

Our (very hungry) party of five, with appetizers and add-ons, desserts and drinks, taxes and tip, came out to about $100. We cannot wait to become regulars. :) Our choices were so spectacular, though, it'll be hard to try something new from the menu next time. I'm already craving the sliders like mad.

Some Food Photos Here )
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (harm none cows)
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, along with Alicia Silverstone and other vegan celebrities, is hosting a three-week "vegan kickstart". They'll have daily tips and recipes, motivational stuff, and an online forum. It sounds very positive, supportive, and if some of the sample recipes I've seen are an indicator--delicious.

Click here to sign up before the January 1st launch!

I, for sure, need a vegan reboot, if not a vegan kickstart, to eliminate the dairy that's creeped back into my diet due to laziness, willful self-destruction, and depression. I know that not only do I feel better, morally in tune with my wishes, when I'm on a vegan diet but my body feels a hundred times more energetic, clear, and balanced. It is, frankly, an ugly, secret, deadly addiction of mine that I'm determined to kick for good (and for good!).

Will any of you be joining me for three weeks of vegan rah-rah-rah and awesome food photos? :D

I've also found, since Daniel gifted me with the iPod he doesn't use now that he's upgraded to an iPhone, that Whole Foods has a recipe app (with vegan options and shopping checklists!) and there is also at least one app that keeps track of what is (usually) vegan to eat in chain restaurants. That's way better than the paper print out. :D
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (veggie love)
Whatcha having for Thankgiving? I was inspired by a trip to a different grocery store than I usually shop at and their very well-stocked produce department. We're having:

*Gardein Santa Fe Good Stuffs--a marinated meat-free chicken-like protein stuffed with black beans and corn

*fingerling potatoes in like four or five different colors

*Road's End Organics Savory Herb Vegan Gravy

*cranberry sauce (the real kind, made from organic cranberries)

*steamed baby yellow and green summer squash

*sweet peas

*spring mix salad with candied walnuts and dried cranberries

and, for dessert,

* Talenti Sorbetto's "Hill Country Peach Champagne" and "Roman Raspberry" gelati topped with fresh raspberries.

Here it was! :D

Vegan Thanksgiving

We found an awesome thing at the store--a bread-basket filled with bread rolls! Mmm. So that, along with all our autumn dishware, leaf-shaped placemats, and porcelain pumpkins (along with some hand-made gratitude mobiles from Mabon) made for a very festive spread. :)

Vegan Thanksgiving
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (windysmile)
We had a surprisingly great weekend in New Jersey. One of our friends, a naval aviator named Trey, had surprised us all when he showed signs of settling down and sent us invitations to his Jersey shore wedding at Point Pleasant Beach. Daniel and I were both feeling iffy about things--not too wild about going to New Jersey and unhappy to find Graeme barred from the festivities. Things turned out, like New Jersey, to be much better than advertised. :D

Friday morning, we flew into Newark and immediately most of the things I'd heard about New Jersey proved true. (And this is really saying something given the city that *I* live in. ;) ) The baggage claim was full of signs warning travelers of thieves and shysters. The bathroom stalls had warning signs, too, which I jokingly translated to Daniel as "Watch your ass!". Across the water from the New York City skyline, Newark looks like an industrialized wasteland pouring all its resources, paying outrageous tribute, across high power lines to the City and into which NYC exports all its pollution and filth. It was the single most depressing drive we've ever made. At some point, when we were no longer traveling parallel to New York City, the scenary made a drastic change from industrial wasteland to autumn wonderland. Maybe New Jersey isn't the armpit that I'd been led to believe. Maybe, just maybe, there is still something natural and spectacular to it. We felt relief and a glimmer of hope.

Photos and text about our weekend, including the best vegan food of my life, under the cut. )
The reception at the nearby Yacht Club was where things felt celebratory. It was a lavish event. We spent about an hour and a half at a cocktail hour with a full bar and dozens and dozens and dozens of appetizers available. They rang a little chime at 6:30pm and we all processed up a flight of stairs to the dining room where the five course meal was served between rounds of dancing on the dance floor.

Frank Sinatra was cued up first. Daniel and I went out to show off our Fox Trot skills (we haz them!) and smiled and laughed and flirted like we'd been the ones just married. There were club hits and old classics and it was unlike most every wedding I've been to in that everyone danced between every course. Grandmas jumped to Black Eyed Peas and the flower fairy waltzed. A ring of Navy pilots kept things going with silly breakdancing and grandstanding when things threatened to quiet down. It was really, really fun.

We got back to the hotel around 10:00pm in a downpour, racing through the parking lot in my heels and laughing heartily. Graeme was in the room, happily playing with Raquel's son. We packed, went to bed early, and headed back home early, early in the morning on Sunday.

(Where we spent the day at the park near our house, at the flea market by the airport, and at our newest Whole Foods which is billed as the largest ever built.) Hello, locally made vegan pumpkin donut holes. Hello, vegan takeout cool case. I love you! :D

Great weekend. :)

Back home in time to enjoy a perfect autumn day!
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (veggie love)
This summer, Bravo debuted a new series in the Top Chef franchise. Top Chef Masters is a charitable competition where twenty-four well-known chefs and restauranteurs compete, elimination style, for a chance to win $100,000 for the charity of their choice. These pros are pitted against Top Chef's infamously devious challenges--creating delicious dishes under all sorts of creative pressures. The producers of Top Chef are little tricksters. One day, the chefs might have to cook an egg dish with one hand literally tied behind their backs, in another, producing haute cuisine for a crowd with only microwaves and toaster ovens or to make a five course meal with access to only what $10 can buy you at 7-Eleven. That's the gig they sign up for, and these chef finalists are the biggest names in their field, so it was especially surprising to see how shaken and irritated some felt when asked to cater a dinner party for Zooey Deschanel and nineteen of her friends and family. There was no underhandedness or last-minute change-ups. Chefs were told, from the beginning, that they needed to create a dish that was vegan as well as being gluten and soy-free. That's all. They had time, they had money, and they had both hands to work with.

Eating out as a vegan can be treacherous. There is a lot of trust involved, hoping that the restaurant staff is both honest and informed enough to vouch for the vegetable soup's lack of meat stock, whether the red sauce is laced with cream or cheese, whether lard is in the refried beans. Very few restaurants explicitly mark vegan items on their menu, so ordering almost always involves asking questions about ingredients and cooking procedures. It can be exhausting, especially for people like me who are shy and naturally reticent about feeling bothersome. If the staff reacts to these questions in a hostile, irritated manner, all potential joy is leached out of the dining experience. Ordering meals that are outwardly vegan, in order to avoid the eye-rolls, can lead to a lot of unadorned salads and bland steamed vegetables.

Going to Sizzler or something, where the cooks are just cooks reheating, searing, and unboxing the chain-wide fare, I can't expect to get something specially made, but at any chef-run restaurant worth its salt, a vegan meal can be cheerfully improvised on-the-spot. One of the best vegan meals of my life was an impromptu vegan tasting menu at Top Chef Master's contestant Hubert Keller's Vegas Fleur de lys restaurant. At a Wisconsin supper club, where nobody had even heard of veganism, there was willingness if not culinary talent and an off-menu pasta dish was turned out with great pride from the teenagers manning the kitchen. I'll never forget that meal, where every person in the place from the hostess to the bartender to interested diners within earshot threw themselves into a great show of compassion, adaptation, and hospitality. What I'm trying to say is this--vegans are easy to please and dying for a show of kindness from the meat and dairy-centric food world. In six seasons of Top Chef tomfoolery, this was the chance for them to show vegan cuisine at a foodie, creative level and it was clear from the beginning that the cast was divided in their reaction to these "dietary restrictions".

Cut for spoilers, annoying quotes, and me ranting a bit. )
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (stuffed!)
I don't find many pagan books during my thrift store shopping, so when I do, I tend to buy on sight. This time, for 50 cents, I got Gerina Dunwich's Candlelight Spells: The Modern Witch's Book of Spellcasting, Feasting, and Natural Healing.

There is a recipe, page 37, for the main Lammas feast centerpiece, BAKED SQUIRRELS

Baked squirrels! The first ingredient listed is "13 skinned and washed squirrels". I can't even tell you how ridiculous the directions read. (They begin, "Dredge squirrels in flour mixed with the yellow pollen of cattails collected in early or midsummer...") This is like some fucked up Mad Libs recipe where "squirrels" was the plural noun that my niece picked to be funny.

Now, obviously it is just as gross as if it said, "Baked Chickens", but really--this is feasting for "the modern witch"? The modern witches I know mostly live in urban or suburban settings, shop in grocery stores, and rarely, if ever, have access to 13 dead squirrels.

Eww. Just eww.

I'm going to have to come up with a post-modern witch's Lammas menu.

(I don't have a squirrel icon. Let this chipmunk's look of shock be admonishment enough.)


windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (Default)

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