Thursday, January 15, 2009

A Squirrel's Advice On What To Do When It's Cold Outside
You may have noticed that I'm rather fond of squirrels! I always have been but four and half years ago, I became particularly fond of them when H. and I found an orphaned baby squirrel on the sidewalk outside our house. Long story short (I'll blog about it another day), after finding only one shelter to take her and finding out that they would euthanize her because she had a broken leg AND after many unreturned calls to local wildlife rehabilitators, we realized we were on our own. So our squirrel family began. The bond between us and Squirrelly is amazingly intact after these 4 1/2 years. She recognizes us from afar and will sprint down the sidewalk to greet us. She answers to her name and will come running when she hears my voice or H's. We were always clear from the get-go that she was not a pet and she was never confined or caged. As a result, she is truly a wild animal..who just happens to think that her mom and dad are sort of non-grey big overgrown squirrels who don't look anything like her friends in the backyard. I was always cringe when people say she's tame or that she's a pet. This animal has a mind of her own! And smarts that put us humans to shame. For example: Here's some squirrel advice on how to make the most of your winter!

Stay inside!
This house is home to three squirrel kids and their mom, Squirrelly. We like to toss almonds in their doorway and hear them squeak and squawk as they all try to claim their gifts! It gets so loud that more than one passer-by has asked us what on earth is going on in that tree. Stay warm, conserve energy and stay inside!

Better yet, stay in bed...
This is Squirrelly as a baby under my pillow taking a nap. I'd put her in the little nest that we made for her but she'd always wiggle her way out. She'd make a beeline for our bed because she figured it was the family nest and that's where she should be. I can't describe how it broke our hearts to have to put her back in her nest for fear that we'd roll over and squish her in our sleep. But she'd come right back. We would repeat this exercise several times before she got tired of it. And usually by 2am or so, H. would be woken up by Squirrelly climbing under the sheets, nibbling on his toes. There was no arguing with that squirrel! Nowadays, when it's really cold out, our squirrels can't even be bothered to get out of bed. If we can get them to pop their heads out of the door, it's a big thing on a cold, snowy day.

Snuggle with your buddies...
Another Squirrelly baby picture. Since we don't know what happened to her siblings, we needed something to help socialize her to other animals her size. So that led to the introduction of "Purple Squirrel" who was actually just a Beanie Baby purple moose that we used as a puppet. She didn't mind. She had tons of fun wrestling with it. We brought it out several months after she moved outside and she still recognized it! In the winter, squirrels who may or may not be related will nest together to keep warm. They, like us, get a little irritated with such close contact with each other and it's not unusual to hear them bicker! Right now, Squirrelly has her summer babies with her who are now about six months old. Her spring babies from last year who were born mid to late March, live on the other side of our parking lot and the three of them are nesting together. By end of March, if Squirrelly is pregnant again, she'll send her summer babies packing to make room for her pending newborns.

Eat lots of yummy vegan snacks..
Is Squirrelly vegan? Well, she hated anything with dairy in it when she lived with yeah, besides some possibility that she's eating something that I don't know about, Squirrelly is pretty much vegan. This one was what we called a "monkey biscuit"..special ordered from a zoo supply catalog. They are typically made for chimps but squirrels do quite well on them!

Build a snowfort!
Then when you're really bored, put on your snowsuit, build a snowfort and play til your toes get numb. This is an actual snowfort built by Squirrelly and/or her friends. She was proud as punch to show us the tunnels! I was told that rats also build tunnels in the snow. We couldn't really see the purpose to these tunnels except for the squirrels to have fun and they certainly did, sliding and popping in and out several sunny afternoons.

Now, don't you feel like snuggling into your nest?!
Processed People the Movie

Wow! Look what just came out: a new documentary featuring Drs. McDougall and Fuhrman as well as many other promoting a healthy vegan diet.

Main trailer:

Other trailer:

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Winter Dreams And His & Her Quinoa
Today is very brrrr cold in Boston today..we are expecting to drop to zero degrees Fahrenheit tonight (is the Snowy Vegan giggling at our "warm weather"? She should!). That along with a silly little cold that I got last week and can't seem to shake, I'm feeling a little urge for a change of scenery, preferably something warmer. I don't know if that will happen soon but as it often does in the winter, this train of thought, led to a little travel dreaming! Two spots I'd really love to hit this spring/summer are:

Bleu Lavande (Blue Lavender) in the Eastern Townships of Québec in Canada is a lavender farm and production facility. H. and I passed through the Eastern Townships on our way to and from Toronto via Montreal via Ottawa two years ago and were delighted by what we saw. Unfortunately, we were on a tight schedule and had no time to stop at Bleu Lavande but vowed we'd save it for another year. I'd like this year to be that year. Driving around Québec is really a treat. Each region is so interesting and different from another. The Eastern Townships reminded me quite a bit of the small glimpse I got of Provence a few years back. It wasn't just the lavender, honest! Just a really beautiful farming area with nice, nice people. The Québécois, some who speak only French or very little English, have always been so patient with my high school/college French. I really appreciate it. Of course, being French Canadian on both sides of the family (Trombley/St. Jean with a little Irish/English/Native American mixed in there somewhere, somehow) and looking very much the part unintentionally, they literally thought I was one of theirs which undoubtedly helped. H. told me that the first time he met me he knew without asking that I was of French descent. That floored me because I've never really thought that my family looked anything more than, well, American! Funny, the things we discover when we travel. The people really do make the place, don't you think? Among our favorite places that we've traveled, Canada and Iceland are tops and coincidentally (or not!), the people we met there were so nice and welcoming.

Also most likely on our travel this year is a return to Germany, H's home country. I think H enjoys traveling with me because I get so excited about the smallest little things! Case in point: a visit to Wala's gardens. If you're not familiar with Wala, it is a large cosmetics and bodycare product company, all natural and herbal. They produce Wala products as well as the Dr. Hauschka line. I've loved them for years and always stock up when we visit (although lately I've switched most of my cosmetics/skincare over to two companies that sell certified vegan/animal products (not sure if all are vegan but quite a few): Lavera which is also German--order three free samples/postage costs $5-- and Mychelle, a company out of California). It's been a dream of mine for a while to visit the Wala gardens and today I received a newsletter from them telling us about a new web page that allows you to book a tour online. Yay!! I don't know exactly when the daydreaming started but for a few minutes this morning, my body was at work but my mind certainly wasn't!

When I travel, it is often the culinary specialities of that area and/or the botanical items that we encounter that really make the memories for me. Traveling in Italy and coming upon a field of artichokes, is one of my top memories. I don't think I'll ever stop thinking how cool that was to see them growing! Or bouncing around Iceland when we stopped for lunch at a vegan restaurant and got to chat with the owner. And then discovering that she had worked in the US for an Icelandic bakery cafe just two blocks from our apartment. Geez--you can't make this stuff up and I'm positive that you have your own stories like this too!

Okay, enough of my daydreaming..let's get to the food! First, a nice way to warm up my apartment in the winter when it's cold is to bake. I had tried Mihl's apple cranberry sheetcake but with plums before the New Year's. This time I made it straight to the recipe and it was delicious. There is something about the smell of cardamon baking! I learned something new when realizing that I am out of ground cardamon: you can grind the pods whole in your spice grinder (or in my case, a coffee grinder repurposed for this kind of thing). The shells will dissolve while baking. Cool!

Now on to the His & Hers Quinoa:

His: hot quinoa w/scallions, toasted almonds AND walnuts, dried cranberries

Hers: hot quinoa w/scallions, toasted almond slivers, and pomegranate seeds

Easy easy easy comfort food. I think we modified a recipe we found in a magazine two years ago and this is how it all started. The original called for pomegranate seeds. I thought, cool, I've never made anything with pomegranate, this should be fun. And it was. We both loved the dish but H. wanted to take it a bit further, "I bet it would taste great with cranberries," he said so I agree to try. I admit, it does taste great with the cranberries but I am so sold on the pomegranate seeds that we now do two version of this dish because H. liked the cranberry version better! Hence our His & Hers Quinoa!

  • 1 cup of quinoa, rinsed a bit under the sink to remove the bitter sap on the outside of the grain
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 vegan bouillon cube (I like Rapunzel brand)
  • 1/2 cup almond slivers and/or chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries plumped up in hot water for 10-15 min. OR 1 cup pomegranate seeds (I don't mind a lot of pomegranate seeds but find more than 1/2 cup of cranberries to be overwhelming in this dish..feel free to adjust to your tastes!)
  • 2 scallions cut up with scissors into small pieces

Toast your nuts in the oven, toaster or dry roast in a pan to slightly brown them. Set aside.

Put the water, quinoa and bouillon into a pot, bring to a boil. Cook at medium heat for 10-15 minutes until all the water is absorbed.

Toss the remaining ingredients into the pot. Mix with a fork to fluff up the quinoa. Serve hot!

Friday, January 09, 2009

Coconut Water Doesn't Cramp My Style, Man

It seems lately that whenever I mention a specific product it is related to coconut! Today is the same. I noticed this past year that a few brands of coconut water were appearing in local market as well as the smaller market I visit near my house. So after recovering from a nasty flu before the holidays, I picked one up hoping that it lived up to its promise of being a natural rehydrant. Am I the only person who thinks Gatorade looks disgusting? Yuck! And Mountain Dew? What's up with that?? Anyways, here's the brand I tried:
I was so surprised at how well it worked. I was rehydrated in no time and now H. is trying it out because he has trouble remembering to drink enough water and gets dehydrated frequently.

I did a little googling and found that wow, this stuff is quite miraculous! It can be used intravenously (not that I tried but how cool is that?) in a pinch/emergency. What interested me most though was that it is often used to combat muscle cramps. I've always gotten horrible leg cramps since I was a little kid (like three years old honestly!) especially when the weather is cold or I wear shorts in the summer and my legs get chilled. And of course, the random cramp that might come up during yoga class. So I started trying out the coconut water for that too. I'm so impressed with the result (no cramps!) that I am hooked on the stuff. It also can help alleviate menstrual cramps as well as calm down your gut if you have colitis, chrohn's or other intestinal problems. This stuff is miraculous.

The news keeps getting better: it's fat-free too! I don't know if I'd drink it for the flavor. It's not bad at all but just really mild. You can also buy it mixed with various juices. I prefer to think of this as a supplement and get mine straight w/o juice. Woo hoo!! I'm cramp-free to do as I please.


Okay, sorry about that..I seem to be stuck in a "song lyrics of the 80s" revival today and not doing it well..he he he! It will pass. Maybe the coconut water will cure that too.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

PIF Winners and Have You Seen My Sweet Tooth?

Hello and Happy 2009! I am a bit behind in announcing my PIF winners but I'll explain why in a minute. Without anymore delay, here they are!

Jenn from "Vegan Dance If You Want To"
Tara from "The Snowy Vegan"
Guava from "For the Love of Guava"

I'm super excited because I follow these three bloggers and love to hear about Jenn's cooking adventures (plus she's a libra like me so I just know we'd hit it off!), Tara's blogging about her family/cats and her work in the shelter plus learning about life in Alaska is so fascinating, and the adorable Guava who I can't stop admiring, especially now that she's worm composting (oh Guava, you are SO brave!)

I'll be emailing my three winners soon and sometime in 2009 they will be receiving a homemade gifty surprise from me! And because I LOVE Seitan is My Motor, I will be dropping a vegan surprise in the mail to Mihl via Deutsche Post (isn't the German mail logo so cute? Geez, beats our Baldie the Eagle anyday!) whenever I find myself in Germany next. Understandably it's a strain on the ole budget for bloggers who want to PIF outside of North America to North America: $30-40 for a small package (um, tried so I know from experience unfortunately!) and I wanted Mihl to be able to join in the fun without burning a whole in the vegan wallet!

Now onto my holiday recap. Well, things didn't quite go as expected. I baked Veganomicon's chocolate chocolate chip walnut cookies for a potluck on Thursday the 18th of December. The cookies were a HIT! Seriously, one person sitting next to me, not knowing that I baked the cookies, said "these are just amazing." I was tickled pink! And the cider that I pre-mulled the night before (so it had time to cool to be transported yet would have all the yummy spiced flavor) was ALL gone. The entire gallon. And it gave the party the most delicious scent. Peeps were happy. My friends helped me pack up my crockpot and various items I had brought and we headed home, me being the car-pooler. I was feelin' fine!

One hour later, not so fine. Fast-forward to spare you the gorey details which included a 102 degree fever and the entire first season of Dead Like Me (it's really good!) that H. set me up with, finally by Christmas, a whole seven days later, I was back to eating normal food but very bland food. I couldn't even begin to look at my blogger friends' blogs because just the thought of food, especially sweet food, turned my poor tummy. So today, on January 7th, I am pretty much back to normal..except, still the aversion to sweet stuff. What the heck is this all about? I mean, I LOVE sweet stuff so this is surprising but I suppose it will return in time, right? I hope I haven't lost my sweet tooth forever. Has this ever happened to you?

Anyway, I am grateful to have had a wonderful holiday with my family, especially my dear Grandpa who hasn't had a Christmas north since 1977. And then New Year's eve in Boston with my favorite guy, H., who schlepped around in the 4 degree night for First Night without a complaint. I hope your holidays were good, everyone and now, back to blogging for me!