Saturday, December 26, 2009

Boxing Day shopping

We hit the electronic stores (yawn) today, and the mall. Nothing. Well, I did pick up one last-minute gift for my mum. But the sales were pretty pathetic. Lots of people, lots of chaos, but deals... not so much.

I did do a little online shopping, though - Forever 21 has free shipping, no minimum purchase, until the 28th with code BOXINGDAY09. So I scooped a cute little tank and skirt from the sale section:

I love the shape and the random zipper detail on the skirt. I'm just hoping it's long enough that I'll feel comfortable wearing it. I figure I could always add in a strip of fabric at the bottom (with the new sewing machine!! :) ).

The top was only $3.99, and the skirt's $19.99 (Boxing Day sale prices).

Did you brave the malls, or stay at home and shop online? Did you get any good deals today?

Thursday, December 24, 2009


It's me. I'm the slacker. I've totally been slacking off on the giveaway lists. But not to worry, I have a whole pile of them saved up and I will tell you about them!

Plus, I have four (!) giveaways lined up here, coming soon. I'm hoping all the companies come through. Right now I'm waiting on a few products to review - and of course they're taking forever with the Christmas rush in the postal system. I'm really looking forward to this! It should be fun.

Today I think I need to get to the grocery store (ugh! it's going to be a zoo! Why am I putting it off! It will only get worse!), and maybe I'll drop by HomeSense while I'm out... I know it makes no sense to go shopping two days before Boxing Day, and all my Christmas shopping is done. And it's crazy to go shopping anywhere on Christmas Eve. I guess I'm crazy like that!

I'm still not feeling Christmas. Despite the awesome early Christmas present, the baking (nearly 300 cookies), the wrapping, the tree, the get-togethers with friends and family, the Christmas cards sent and received... I don't feel it. One day soon I hope that I will get rid of the other feeling that I've got instead. The feeling of loss, frustration, grief, and, to my shame, jealousy, that I've been carrying around. I don't want to be that person. I was expecting a January baby, before the miscarriage. Then a June baby, when I was told I had an ectopic pregnancy - didn't have one - did have one (way to get my hopes up). Now I'm hoping, fearfully, tentatively, with all my heart - for a November baby. Maybe we will be lucky. More likely, it won't happen right away.

All I want for Christmas is for next Christmas to be a totally different experience.

Hmmm, enough about that already.

Thanks for your comments yesterday on my post (rant?) about food. I'm still reading the book I mentioned and it's really making me question my own diet. As you know, I'm vegetarian, but not vegan. I've been buying free-range eggs (and there's a difference between free-run and free-range - check out the wording and question what 'access' means, exactly), but after the kind of articles I've been reading, I am not convinced that makes any difference. I wonder if I can find any farmers around here who sell eggs from un-genetically engineered chickens that enjoy the privilege of an actual outdoor space, natural light, nesting and roosting areas, the use of their beaks, fresh water, food that's appropriate and not filled with supplements or 'preventative' antibiotics, with more than 8/10 of a square foot of indoor caged & stacked space per bird. We're in the country, so, maybe. Or - maybe I need to just stop with the egg eating. They're kind of gross, anyway.

When Meghan mentioned about cutting chicken making her gag, it reminded me of how the smell of ground beef used to make me gag, back in the day when I ate meat. At the time I thought to myself, why eat something that makes you gag? Isn't that one of our most basic reactions to things that aren't good to eat? Like, you know, things that have spoiled or are inappropriate, or carry disease?

And reading this book has led to some internet research, and honestly, I am learning a lot more about livestock farming than I ever wanted to know - and that's kind of the point. I didn't want to know because I already know it's horrible and wrong. Kind of like you don't want to know the details of child abuse. But the difference in your moral response is that your actions don't condone child abuse... yet by eating meat (or eggs, or dairy), how can you say you're not complicit in the abuse of animals? When the evidence is there, if you would only look? Anyway. I don't want to get all accusatory or preachy, at ALL, it's just something I've been thinking about a lot. To inform my own decisions. (And I'm not comparing child abuse to livestock farming, it's just a very clear example of a moral situation that's not a quandary at all.)

My point was (and I got really sidetracked there!) that eggs make me gag. So why the heck have I been eating them? Ugh. I think I'm done with that. I need to do some kitchen experiments with egg substitutes.

Ok, if you read this far... way to bear with me in my philosophical struggles! It's funny how writing things out makes the inevitable conclusion jump into focus.

That's hardly all. But I've got to get out and do that shopping, stat!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Reinforcement, and a challenge

This New Year's Day marks my 9-year anniversary of becoming vegetarian.

I don't talk about it that much. I don't mind that my husband isn't - although he now eats a vegetarian diet at home. I don't want to be one of those preachy people who tells people what to do. But I do think that if you're making choices about what you eat, you are responsible for knowing what those choices mean, beyond what's for supper.

I changed my diet on a whim, really. I have a deep empathy for other creatures, and a deep concern about the environment. I didn't like the idea of eating hormone- and antibiotic-laden, genetically engineered meat. And in January of 2001, I just decided that my feelings about those things made it impossible to continue eating meat.

Don't get me wrong. I really enjoyed eating meat. I can look at someone else's dinner and remember exactly how good it tastes. I ate fish, beef, crab, shrimp, scallops, chicken, pork, even goat one time. I've had my share of calamari and escargot.

I didn't really research it. It feels like common sense that killing animals hurts them - and I don't want to hurt them. It seems wasteful that the input (grain and water) is so high compared to the output (meat) - especially in light of the diminishing supply of global freshwater and the fact that global hunger numbers are rising. For me it was primarily an ethical decision, both for people (hello, global warming) and for animals.

I think what took me so long to make the change (nearly 25 years!) was that I didn't want to think about it. I looked at my chicken dinner, roast beef, salmon steak or bacon and thought - yum. And pushed out of my mind where it came from. We've all seen the images of factory farms, chickens in cages smaller than the area of my two hands spread out, cows in terror being led to the slaughterhouse, etcetera... but it's easier to push those images away, to click to the next website, to willfully forget that that's where your dinner comes from.

It's easier to pretend that pigs, for example - that we know are social and intelligent - have not been genetically engineered to grow at a rate 400% higher than is natural, are not kept in filthy, confined, indoor, high-temperature (to increase body weight) intensive farm stalls, to not think about how their teeth are clipped, tails chopped, and ears notched without pain killers.

It's easier to just ignore that for every pound of shrimp, there's up to 20 pounds of by-catch. What's by-catch? All the other species that are caught and killed in the trawling nets used to scoop along the ocean floor to collect the shrimp. These fine nets, as you can imagine, leave a swath of destruction in the coral reefs where shrimp live. Recent sampling in the South Atlantic rock shrimp fishery found 166 species of finfish, 37 crustacean species, and 29 other species of invertebrate among the bycatch in the trawls, according to the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council. All so that people can eat their shrimp rings.

For every animal or fish that is eaten, many more die. "Downers" in the livestock industry - those that simply collapse from lack of water, overheating, exhaustion - are dumped and left to die. Animals that become infected with diseases transmitted in the crowded, unnatural living conditions of today's farms are put down (often in a most inhumane manner - the farming industry is exempt from cruelty laws). By-catch includes 'cute' species like dolphins, sea birds, turtles and whales, as well as sharks, other fish, and other sea creatures - that form an important part of the ocean's ecosystem.

I could go on and on. And you can read about this, if you have any interest, in all sorts of places, from google to the library.

I feel compelled to know. It breaks my heart - I was weeping as I read Jonathan Safran Foer's new book, Eating Animals. I feel physically sick to think of the practices and destructive nature of industrialized livestock farming - and it's all industrialized these days. There may be a small farm down the road where you see chickens, pigs or cows out in pasture, but that isn't a money-maker. The money's in mass production, and that means the most animals in the smallest area. That's where your packaged meat at the grocery store comes from. Shoppers want the best prices, and the best prices mean mass production.

Terms like organic, free-range, cage-free are not always strictly regulated - and if they are, the regulation may state that 'free-range' animals have 'access' to the outdoors (this could be a window or a door that's rarely or never opened), animals that are packed onto the floor of a barn are 'cage-free', 'organic' animals may be fed 'organic' grains that may or may not have had non-organic fertilizers. Nevermind that rendered carcasses, animal waste (yeah, feces), and other icky stuff like blood, hooves, feathers, even plastics are often fed to the animals in factory farms.

If you've read this far, you're one of the few who cares. It's not easy to admit that the cruelty and abuses of modern farming practices are directly connected to our own habits.

So I'm issuing a challenge. A challenge to my readers to do a little reading on the subject. A challenge to make a change in your own life that will impact many lives - whether it be adding one or two meatless dinners a week, or going the whole hog (!) and trying out a vegetarian diet for a while - or for a lifetime. See how it goes.

I thought I'd try it in 2001. I didn't know how long it would last. I didn't know if I could do it. I am one of the least self-disciplined people I know (I had cookies for breakfast today, if that gives you any indication). Nine years later, I am firmly entrenched and have never regretted my decision.

If you can't think of what to eat (the biggest difficulty for beginner vegetarians), I can recommend a few great cookbooks (like Evelyn Raab's The Clueless Vegetarian, and Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian), share my own recipes, send you over to the Vegetarian Times website, where they have a huge recipe database.

I'd LOVE to help if you decide to take up the challenge. I'd love to hear about it, too.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Rice Cooker "Stir-fried Rice" recipe

We had some leftover Chinese spring rolls that my friend made and sent home with us the other night (yum!), and I wanted stir-fried rice as a side dish to go with them... but I didn't have cooked rice on hand, and didn't really want to do all the stirring and stuff (lazy!).

So I just made this up and it was easy and yummy. And I like to share easy and yummy recipes.

Here's my brand new recipe for -

Chinese-style Stir-Fried Rice in the Rice Cooker!
  • 3/4 cup long grain white rice (or use your rice cooker measuring cup, if it came with one)
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 Tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tsp oil
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1/4 cup frozen peas
Add all that into the rice cooker bowl, give it a stir, and turn it on. Watch it towards the end of the cooking time - you may need to add a bit more water. After the rice cooker turns to 'warm' give it a fluff with a paddle and you can serve it right away or let it sit for a bit if you're not finished cooking your other dishes. For us as a side for one main dish, it made three servings, but if you had two other dishes as well I would say it would make four servings.

If you want crunchier vegetables, add them about 10 minutes into the cooking time instead of in the beginning.

I am sure you could modify this all sorts of ways, for example by adding steamed vegetables or diced firm tofu or cooked chicken (for the carnivores) at the end.

With less than 5 minutes prep and 20 minutes of no-fuss cooking time, this recipe's a keeper in our house!

The Emperor's New Paintings

It seems like a waiting kind of time. I've got paintings that are just NOT drying, which I'd wanted to send out to one of the galleries before Christmas. They were supposed to go Friday, then today - but this morning I checked, and the paint is still not dry. ARGH! So annoying. One of them is dry, I guess I'll send that off alone and wait on the rest.

By the way, have you seen the latest winners of the RBC Canadian Painting competition? I read through my latest issue of Canadian Art and saw the winning paintings. I have watched this competition for a number of years, and have been consistently disappointed by the winners. This isn't bitterness speaking - I'm ineligible to enter, given that it's for emerging artists. I keep waiting for a really wonderful painting to win. To be inspired and awed. (And I definitely don't have a problem with non-representational work, btw.)

I'm just a painter, not an art critic. Perhaps my background (BA in Fine Art and 12 years professional experience) is not enough to give me a good perspective on what makes great art, worthy of a rather large cash prize... but I just can't see it. The last three years, the grand prize winner ($25,000) paintings have all been very simple imagery on a white ground. Let's take a look:

The 2009 winner, Brenda Draney's painting Aim is Important.
The 2008 winning painting, Jeremy Hof's Layer Painting Red.
2007's winner: Arabella Campbell's Physical Facts Series #6

Hmm, see a trend there?

I am thrilled that there's such a large and career-boosting award for young Canadian painters. But I'm not convinced that, based on the past winners, it is giving young Canadian painters much to strive for.

To me, painting is about technique, beauty, and colour, with 'making a statement' present, but firmly in the last place. And while I am perfectly aware that much of the art world thrives on theory and artspeak, the greasy language of the art world 'elite', I find that aspect of art to be eye-rollingly pretentious. It's as if the talk has superseded the actual art.


Okay, art rant over.
Some giveaways for today -

For baby:
For the ladies:
For anyone: