Monday, August 31, 2009

attention deficit disorder?

perhaps the "professionals" are mistaken.
i like what Osho wrote in his book Joy: The Happiness That Comes From Within -

The teacher goes on telling small children, "Pay attention to me! Be attentive!" They are attentive, but they are attentive to something else. A bird is singing with all its heart outside the school building - and the child is attentive to the bird. Nobody can say he is not attentive, nobody can say he is not meditative, nobody can say he is not in deep concentration - he is! In fact, he has completely forgotten the teacher and the arithmetic that the teacher is doing on the board. The child is completely oblivious to all that, he is utterly possessed by the bird singing its song. But the teacher says, "Be attentive! What are you doing? Don't be distracted!"

In fact, the teacher is distracting the child! The child is attentive - it is happening naturally. Listening to the bird, he is happy. The teacher is distracting him, the teacher says, "You are not being attentive" - the teacher is simply lying! The child was attentive. The bird was more attractive to him, so what can he do? The teacher was not so attractive, the arithmetic had no appeal.

We have been distracted into unnatural preoccupations: money, prestige, power. Listening to the birds is not going to give you money. Listening to the birds is not going to give you power, prestige. Watching a butterfly is not going to help you economically, politically, socially. These things are not profitable - but these things make you happy.

A real human being takes the courage to move with things that make him happy. If he remains poor, he remains poor; he has no complaint about it, he has no grudge. He says: "I have chosen my way - I have chosen the birds and the butterflies and the flowers. I cannot be rich, that's okay! I am rich because I am happy."

first image source

second image source

Friday, August 28, 2009

dearest fam...

dear mommy,
i'm glad the lightning missed you but i'm still sorry it caused some damage. i always knew there were angels protecting us. ps i'm sorry i can be a little b-word sometimes but i know you love all your little b-words. =)

dear daddy,
i am excited to walk the boards with you. i hope you have an extra special birthday weekend. i have to call you and see what you are doing sunday.

dear freggy,
keep up the great work raising my favorite little person in the world. (you have the best, most important job out of the three of us.) she's a genius, you know.

dear kelly,
^-you too. i had fun with you at the concert. i'm happy alaina has such a fun mommy.
can you believe she's going to be two?!

dear krista,
i had a great time last night, and thank you again for buying our tickets. (did i tell you how great your hair looked?) i can't wait for you to teach me how to sew.

dear grandmom,
i know that you just want the best for all of us but i wish you didn't worry so much. ask john, i eat all day! i hope you know how special you always were and always will be to me. there was nothing in the world i loved more than sleepovers at your house growing up. you made me feel like the most important little girl in the world, and i really needed that.

dear don,
thank you for trying and even liking the meals i make us. it means a lot to me.

dear jo ann,
i wish i got to see you more. can't wait to see you on the 6th (maybe sooner!)

dear luke and mackenzie,
i wish i saw you more, too. luke, i wonder if you are taller than the last time i saw you. mackenzie, remember how much fun we had planning your mom's party?! we need to do something like that again soon. you are so creative and i like to surround myself with creative people in hopes their creativity rubs off on me! =)

dear mrs. bigglesworth,
it was great spending time with you last week, just you and i. i really do miss being with you everyday. daddy says you are getting old but to me you're still the same cat i brought home 11 years ago. missy is trying to get us to adopt a kitten, i'm sure we will eventually, but why does cat poo have to smell SO bad?! maybe i can potty train my kitty like bonnie did.

(and last but certainly not least)
dear bunson,
the soup made me feel 100 times better, thank you. i like when you pamper me. i also like that you do the dishes a lot and get us all ready for trips. i'm grateful we're on this journey together. ps we need some coconut ice cream in our lives, asap. we can drizzle it with the cherry chocolate sauce i brought home yesterday. mmm! want to go food shopping with me soon?

dear little lainie loo loo,
watching you on the train with that little cutie was the highlight of my summer. singing with you by your baby pool while you insisted on drinking your "coffee" (pool water out of a round over-sized lego thing) was a close second. your voice is the sweetest sound in the world. i hope you never lose your passion for animals and all things beautiful. i look forward to sleepovers and craft sessions with you, but for now i'll try and savor every last minute of "baby alaina". see you tuesday!

dear uncle george and aunt patti,
thank you for reading my blog and saying nice things about it. your kind words really mean a lot to me!

i hope the weather clears up and you all have a wonderful weekend!
i love you.


♫ we're jammin' ♫

and i hope you like jammin' too...
this is missy, my bestest friend since middle school. we make an excellent jammin'/canning duo. (well, when wendi is there guiding us). first we cut slits on top of the peaches, boiled them for about a minute, then put them in a cold water bath so we could easily peel the skin.

missy was a very motivated chopper. she got the peaches nice and small for a smooth batch of jam. i was a bit more impatient so my batch was on the chunkier side.
we followed the packet directions and added a pack of pectin, FIVE AND A HALF CUPS of sugar!, and 2 tbsp lemon juice to 4 cups of peaches. (i am researching to see if less sugar can be used or if agave nectar can be substituted when canning.) we had to stir the mixture constantly as it boiled rapidly for 10 minutes. we filled the jars, wiped the tops clean, added the lids and rings, and put them in a pot of boiling water for 10 minutes to kill the germies and to get the jars to seal. (forgot to take pictures of those steps.)

you can learn more from Wendi, our awesome expert canning instructor, on her blog at
also visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation for more info.

and here is the finished product

and for your listening/viewing pleasure

Thursday, August 27, 2009

today i can...

peach jam!!!

missy's friend is teaching us how to make peach jam AND how to can it. i am oh so excited!

i'll take notes and pictures to share.

(bon, wish you could come too, but don't worry, i will come teach you!)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

how did i not see this!?

so here i am, checking my little cucumber babies, wondering if i will ever grow an edible cucumber this season when i see THIS amidst the tomato plants

i was shocked! how could i not have seen this?! (i'm sure some of my friends and family could think of a few reasons. :p) in my defense, i've been wearing the same disposable contacts for a few months now and the cucumber really blended in so well with the other plants... =)

so here's my weekend harvest. i found another cucumber right above the gargantuan one. (somehow missed that one too. :/) i'm using these tomatoes and a bag my mom gave me to make stewed tomatoes for my vegan mac and cheez. if all goes well i'll be posting some pics and the recipes soon. edit: all didn't go well!=)

got any ideas for the cucumbers?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

cooking for peace

john and i were seeking guidance on how to meditate effectively when we came upon the Meditation Center of Cinnaminson, New Jersey's main center for the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University.

while at the center we were given a brochure for spiritual retreats at Peace Village in Haines Falls, NY. one particular retreat caught my eye-

Food and Spirituality
THE YOGA OF FOOD A Vegetarian Approach to Eating
From: Friday, August 14, 2009
To: Sunday, August 16, 2009

This is a weekend of education, inspiration, exploration, and entertainment.

Throughout history, our food choices, including the way food is prepared, what and how we eat, and our relationship to food have had a definite influence on individual well-being mentally, spiritually and physically, as well as on the societies we live in, and indeed they will have a definite influence on the future of us all.

Come and learn how food choices and food preparation affect our emotions, integrity, decisions, stress tolerance, contentment and health.

Learn simple and tasty vegetarian recipes that you will be able to take home and cook easily.

-hands on demonstrations
-classes on benefits of vegetarian diet
-fun activities

"I am in favor of animal rights as well as human rights. That is the way of a whole human being." Abraham Lincoln, 16th U.S. President

Facilitators: Brad Arkin, Donna Serpe, Dorothy Steinfeld

i remembered that Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary (the farm where Elvis the steer resides) was in the Catskills so i thought, 'i'm going to make a trip out of this', and i did! here's how it went:

we left for Peace Village on friday around 12pm (check in started at 5). the drive on the turnpike was a snore but once we got off the views were amazing.

we arrived around 5:30 and checked into a spacious room with views of a pond.

our room was behind the tallest tree in the pic.
we had some time to stroll around and take in the scenery before meditation at 7, then had dinner at 7:30 (every meal was vegetarian and so so good!). our facilitators led an introduction at 8:45 and we were in our rooms by 9:30.

this is the center that houses the class/meditation, dining, and other various rooms.

our saturday morning started with a meditation at 7:15 that focused on feeding the soul. Sister Dorothy, one of the retreat facilitators, explained how our thoughts are food for the soul. just as it's important to feed our body healthy food, we need to feed our soul healthy, positive thoughts.

every hour Peace Village has what they call "traffic control". soft music plays on the P.A. system for a minute as a reminder for all to relax and calm the mind. some said they have the program set on their computer at work and it has done wonders for them and others in their office. the website is

we had a hearty breakfast followed by a morning chock full of exciting cooking demos and enlightening seminars.

grains topped with sprouts - for breakfast. yum!

the cooking demos were led by Brad and Donna (click for her blog), two outstanding cooks and members of Brahma Kumaris. they created and allowed us to sample plates full of scrumptious animal-friendly food while we got to ooh and ahh and ask questions - needless to say it was a blast!

i came home with tons of new ideas and recipes, my favorites including lemon quinoa pasta, black bean burger, broccoli stir fry, amazing grain pancakes, lentil soup, miso soup, kale chips, various salad dressings, raw noodle salad, and my new favorite - zucchini pasta (for those who don't know what that is, don't worry, i'll go into it more later.) i also learned new ways to prepare quinoa, buckwheat and other healthy grains.

i was too engaged to take many pictures but here is one with Brad and the zucchini pasta.

some cooking tips i got from the demos:

*make dressings in a blender.
*mash pine nuts (and chick peas) so they don't sink to the bottom of your salad (don't you just hate when that happens?! =)
*use coconut oil, especially with indian food.
*miso is a healing soup, and be careful not to boil it or you'll destroy its healing properties.
*scrape ginger with a spoon instead of grating.
*do a "grain a day" (quinoa, buckwheat, millet, amaranth, barley, wheatberry, etc.) cook it in the morning or night before and have it for breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner.
*add a "zing of hing" - asafoetida for added flavor if not using onion or garlic. (the BK feel both are harmful to the body.)

lunch was out of this world! by far the best soup i've ever had (besides my mom's homemade soups/stews - or stewps, as she likes to call them). it's called dahl/dal and it's an indian soup made with lentils.

after lunch we had a few hours of free time. we walked around, looked at flowers and took lots of photos...
yup, there's my angel on the bench! =)at 2:30 we went on a guided group hike along the beautiful "blue trail".

four o'clock was tea/coffee time with yummy homemade pecan cookies.

our evening was packed with more delicious demos and intriguing seminars. we had meditation at 7 and dinner at 7:30 (but i was way too stuffed too eat!) so john and i spent time relaxing in our room.

at 8:30 we watched the documentary Peaceable Kingdom. the story of former farmers and Lorri and Gene Bauston (founders of Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, NY) had me in tears, but it also gave me hope. if i can give up eating meat, if brave farmers can give up their careers, if the folks at Farm Sanctuary and others like them keep rescuing animals, providing them a safe place to live, and we all continue to speak out, there is much hope for our animal friends. you can see excerpts here of farmer ranchers speaking of their experiences (caution - it's disturbing, but don't you feel that if you are going to eat animals you owe it to them to eat least see what they have to go through?)

after the movie i was comforted as we walked back to our room by a full clear sky of the brightest stars i have ever seen. i was in awe thinking that each star is like our sun...just light years away...

image from

sunday was another gorgeous day (we were so grateful to have perfect weather throughout the entire trip). at 7:15 we had a guided meditation on how to relax the body for meditation, a hearty breakfast at 8:15, then the grand finale demos from Brad and Donna at 9:15. after, i was able to purchase my very own spiralizer! i'd been wanting one of these babies for a long time!

image from

here are the main points i took away from the demos and seminars.

on food-

- remember, your stomach does not have teeth! it is important to chew your food thoroughly as enzymes in your mouth aid your body in digesting the food. also, you should not drink liquids while you eat or the enzymes will be washed away. it's best to wait 20 minutes after your meal to have a beverage. (i found more info on this here and here.)

- GM (genetically modified) or GE (genetically enginereed) foods should be avoided. in other countries GM foods must be labeled - unfortunately that is not so in the states. you can read more about genetically engineered food here and how to avoid them here. (foods labeled organic have no or very little GM ingredients and i've been finding more and more packages labeling their foods non-GM.)

- soy should be consumed in limited amounts. if you do buy packaged soy products be sure to look for packages labeled non-GM.

- those with thyroid issues should be careful with goitrogens. read more here and talk to a trusted dietician/nutritionist.

- for a live body eat more "live" foods (foods that are not cooked above 115 degrees). read more here.

on spirituality-

- our thoughts create our reality. we choose how we perceive experiences. we can view experiences through body consciousness or ego and feel emotions like attachment, lust, greed, or anger, which lead to sorrow. or, we could choose to view experiences through soul consciousness (remembering we are not a body with a soul, we are a soul in a body having a physical experience) and feel emotions like peace, love, purity, and bliss, which lead to happiness. it is our choice.

- thoughts are energy. if you send out positive thoughts, you will give out and attract positive energy (same with negative thoughts). if you are interested, click here for a great explanation. (i know it is not always easy to think positive thoughts - that's where positive thinking meditation comes in handy.)

- Masaru Emoto, a Japanese researcher has found that thoughts effect the molecular structure of water.

here's a photo of water from a vile labeled "thank you".
this is a photo of water from a vile labeled "you make me sick. i will kill you."
amazing, isn't it? his experiments with water prove just how powerful our thoughts and prayer are. if you are interested you can click here and here to read more, or view a nice video of pictures of his results here.

- as thoughts are energy which can effect the molecular structure of matter, it is important to be mindful of the thoughts and energy that go into your food. was your food grown, harvested, and prepared with loving care? was it slaughtered in fear, grown in mass for greed, packaged in a factory by a disgruntled worker? all of these factors play into the effectiveness of our food.

- prepare your meals with love. (ever wonder why your mom's cooking makes you feel so good? because she cooks it for her family with love!) try to be present and take time to appreciate your ingredients. play soothing music and create a relaxing environment in your kitchen. remember to be grateful for your food and send it positive blessings before you serve or eat it. (don't save grace for special occasions - every day is special!)


the retreat concluded with a 'panel & questions' time, and guess who was asked to be on the panel...johnny boy! he made me so proud. =) those on the panel were asked general questions on why they became vegetarian and what advice they had for those interested in a meat-free diet, those who weren't yet vegetarian or vegan had a chance to ask the panel questions, then everyone had an opportunity to share their thoughts on the whole experience. it was evident everyone there had a great time. thank you again Sister Dorothy, Donna, Brad, and everyone else who made our stay such a joy!!!

we had another fantastic lunch at 12:30, said our goodbyes, packed and cleaned our room, and headed out around 2:30.

here's a map of our ventures. A is at the top right marking Haines Falls, home of Peace Village.

we arrived around 3 but check in at Phoenicia Village wasn't until 4, so we walked around the little town and browsed through some shops. we were really disappointed we didn't bring our swim suits because we could have gone tubing - next time!

when booking our one night stay john and i couldn't decide which cottage to choose (i liked 2 and he liked 3 - of course) but when we get there cottage 3 was ready for us, and i loved it. (isn't it so annoying when they're right?) but i 'm sure cottage 2 is just as cute ;)
we took a nice nap on that hammock as soon as we got there!

after a minute drive we were back in town for a tex-mex dinner on the cute patio of The Sportsman's Alamo Cantina. john and i shared guacamole and chips, a huge veggie burrito, and a veggie mexican pizza.

keeping with the mexican food theme, we went back to our room and watched Nacho Libre on tv (the perfect movie for a weekend of food and spirituality =).

the next morning we talked to the mother of the young motel owners who showed us where to take a beautiful walk along the Esopus River. it was gorgeous. i want to live here.

in that house. (see it back there, in the middle of the pic?)

we left around 10:30 for Woodstock Farm which was about a 35 minute drive southeast. when we got to the farm we found out they were closed to visitors on weekdays! luckily, they were super nice and let us walk around and visit the animals on our own. (thank god for that!)

this is the tiny space veal calves typically live in.

this is part of the great big space elvis and his friends live in!

are you aware of the veal and dairy connection?

there's Elvis on the left. he was happy in the shade and wasn't up for having his picture taken...

but these two beauties had no problem posing for a pic
the one above actually got up and came over to greet us as soon as we walked up

i was truly amazed at how much personality farm animals have. some of the shy goats hid their eyes from me behind the gates, but when i told them in my koochie-koo voice i could see them they excitedly wagged their tails and came towards me. they were too cute!
check out these pudgers, snoozin' while keeping cool in the mud.
though watching Peaceable Kingdom was hearth-wrenching, it was a great pre-cursor for our trip to the farm. our visit with the animals was so much more meaningful, and it felt so good to know that our food choices are helping to save precious animals like the ones we met. i'm so happy for the rescued animals who get to live here, and i have a deep respect for those who dedicate their lives and volunteer their time to tending to these special animals.

we wanted to head into town to eat at the vegan restaurant Garden Cafe, but we kind of lost our bearings and started to head towards Bearsville (ha - bearings, bearsville...nevermind). off the road i spotted a house with an amazing row garden being tended to by a gentle old man wearing a smiley face 'have a nice day' tee. i went up to compliment his garden, take a closer look, and ask for directions to the cafe. he was super friendly and told me about everything he grew. he let me pick a zucchini and a brussel sprout, then taught me the name of all his flowers while he cut one from each plant to make me a bouquet. how sweet was that?!
sunrise dahlia. one of the prettiest flowers i've seen.

although the kind man gave us directions, we still weren't sure where to find the cafe, so we headed back to Bearsville and had lunch at a little health store called Cub Market we passed along the way.

there's my meal. grilled veggies and a salad. johnny opted for pb and j.

i also bought super tasty vegan cookies...

and fantastically fragranted geranium Meyer's Clean Day dish soap. (for a girl who likes to cook but has no dishwasher, it makes dishwashing much more enjoyable.)

after a four hour drive we were home-sweet-home. my plants were in great shape despite the hot, dry weather (thank you, carol!), and i just couldn't wait to try out my new spiralizer.

we used the zucchini from the sweet gardener
and our new gadget
to create a light, healthy pasta dish (which was being made with loving thoughts until i realized i added way too much water to my tomato sauce! good thing johnny was there to remind me. baby steps, right?! =)

i used my new toy the next day to make "pasta" with chopped tomato, avocado, nori wrap, and olive oil...
then again to top my salad with zucchini ribbons.
and that's that! we will definitely try to make the trip again next year for the "food and spirituality" retreat, and maybe even sooner for another retreat in the fall. if you are interested, the retreats are open to all, and they only ask for a donation of what you can give.

thank you for taking the time to read all about my trip. i couldn't wait to share it with you! (i know this post is ridiculously long and detailed but i didn't want to leave anything out!)

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