Jun 23, 2012

Kombucha Kitchen-Witchery

This week I'm embracing my inner kitchen witch.  See?  I have an apron and everything!

I'm learning to make Kombucha and this is my first batch.  Kombucha is a delicious fizzy drink made from fermented tea and is reported to 'prevent and fight cancer, arthritis, and other degenerative diseases'  amongst other wonders.

 It all starts with a SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast).  I got mine from a small class I attended on making Kombucha.  It's those little light and then darker layers at the bottom of the jar.  I have named mine Spongebob :)

 Last night I brewed my sugar tea.  The tea made such a beautiful deep red.  I used less sugar than some sources suggest.  The sugar is what the SCOBY feeds on, so I hope this batch turns out fizzy enough...

I let that cool overnight and tonight I got to work disinfecting EVERYTHING before transferring my SCOBY into the tea.  I used Apple Cider Vinegar and hot water for this very important job.

 Apparently SCOBYs are very susceptible to contamination and so one has to be extra careful so the proper bacteria is grown instead of mold.  Mmm...bacteria...delicious...

I carefully (and splash-ily) transferred the sweet tea, the SCOBY, and the little amount of kombucha that was also in the SCOBY jar into my very clean, large jar.

This SCOBY is pretty thick, and I think it might actually be two.  So I probably could have split them apart when I transferred them, but I left them together.  I hope this won't make a difference.  Look how stringy it is!  Imma drink that!

 Spongebob's new home!  Doesn't she look cozy in her very own cabinet??  I should mention, another name for the SCOBY is the 'Mother'.  So Spongebob's totally a lovely she.

Now I just have to wait about a week while little Songebob has a sugar feast and makes another SCOBY!

I really hope I cleaned everything well enough and that little SCOBY is able to grow properly. 

My hands smell like vinegar :)

Aug 17, 2011

Mary Lee Sebastian

I spend a lot of my time in skilled nursing facilities.  I love all the people I see and meet in these places.  I feel like I learn something from each of them, whether it's about love, humility, patience, humor, or so many other things.  I feel like each of them pours light into me and I do my best to reciprocate.

A friend from high school, Beth Suda, has gone the photographer route (she's super talented - you can check out her site here) and in 2009 took some absolutely stunning photos of a woman, Mary Lee Sebastian, living in a skilled nursing center in Columbia, MO. 

A short quote from Beth's post about Mary Lee:
"Sebastian drove her car down the street, got out of the car with the engine still running, and walked all the way back to her garden: the first signs of Alzheimer’s disease."

Please check out the full, beautiful post about Mary Lee.  What a cutie!

Aug 15, 2011

I love you, green foods. Really, I do.

I've been a vegetarian for a long time.  Since sophomore year of high school, I think.  So, I guess that's about...oh golly, 11 years?  Wowza...

Anyway, a number of years ago I decided to become vegan and did that (rather poorly) for two or three years.  It wasn't healthy vegan, though.  It was pb&j, pasta, and rice vegan.  Delicious?  Yes.  Nutritious?  No.  But then I really, really, REALLY missed cheese and eggs.  And readily-available and cheaper baked goods and breads.  Nummers.  I went back to my lacto-ovo ways.  Mmm...lacto-ovo...

Last year, I began reading more about veganism again, remembering how much better my stomach felt (and how much less weight I was carrying around in that area) and how much better my conscience felt when I had been a vegan.  What clenched the decision for me was the release of Kris Carr's latest sparkling creation - Crazy Sexy Diet.  This is one of my favorite books.  It's so informative (being vegan and the positive effects it can have on one's health and the environment, among other healthy practices) without feeling like absolute overload.  And it's not really a "diet" - more like a lifestyle.  A lifestyle that one can either jump right into, or gradually step into. 

For the past few months, I think, I've been allowing myself one day a week to have dairy.  I felt like I needed that one day a week to satisfy my dairy-wantings.  But the past couple? few? weeks, I've been loading on the animal products.  Major backslide.  All those foods just got to a tempting tipping-point.  And indulge, I did. 

This past weekend I caught most of the movie, Food, Inc, on channel 9.  Seeing all those poor animals being treated so badly was just the kick in the pants that I needed.  It feels much more in line with my values to avoid dairy products.  I feel like, in order to live a compassionate life, this is an essential piece of the puzzle for me. 

And then I realized today how lazy I've felt the past couple weeks.  Super lazy, super sleepy.  And frankly, more stressed and cranky.

Today, I've started up the vegan thing again.  Delicious veggie smoothie for breakfast, tofu salad and pb on brown rice cake for lunch, a LaraBar for a snack, and Northern Style Vegetables with brown rice and spring rolls for dinner.  Oh, and vegan chocolate cake for dessert.  Of course.  And I'm feeling great.  Not the most healthy, true - I gots ta have my chocolate.  But did I stick to vegan today?  Yes.  And that's a win for me!

If you're interested in learning about veganism or adopting a vegan lifestyle (yay!) Kris Carr's website, Crazy Sexy Life, is a great place to start.  Also, the book, Becoming Vegan, is a great starting point.

Some of my favorite veggie blogs:
Crazy Sexy Life  - of course!
Vegan Crunk
Vegan Thyme
Post Punk Kitchen

Delicious local veggie resources/eateries:
Saint Louis Vegetarian Society
OR Juice and Smoothie
Sweet Art
Black Bear Bakery
Local Harvest

Jun 25, 2011

Smartphone Lust

Yes.  Hand me your iPhone and walk away.

I've been lusting after a smartphone for a little less than a year now.  I know I'm behind as far as wanting/having/loving one goes, but the bug just didn't bite me until recently.  I thought they were too expensive, excessive, unnecessary, too much.  And I see how very awesome they are.  How very, very awesome.  And I want.

The phone I've had for the past year is the Samsung Convoy.  I feel like this guy when I pull it out of my purse:

So I've been researching, price comparing, provider comparing, comparing, comparing, comparing.  At first, I just wanted a phone that had a QWERTY keyboard.  That was about my only criteria.  Then I really wanted a touch screen.  Like, drooling wanting.  Next, I was determined to get an environmentally-friendly phone that had lower radiation than most others and was made of recycled materials and is more easily recycleable.  Oh, and one that isn't made with PVC or BFR.  Aaaand, there's about 2.1 of those.  I might be exaggerating (a little), but that's how it feels.

I found GoodGuide,  a pretty helpful site as a starting point.  GoodGuide rates cell phones (among other products) on how environmentally friendly they are, how much radiation they emit, and also (enter my latest new-cell-phone criteria) on how socially responsible they are.  I would really like to know that I'm purchasing a product from a company that treats their employees well, or at least, better than other manufacturers.  This, by the way, leaves Blackberry smartphones and LG phones waaaay out of the running.

It seems like Nokia phones are the front runners as far as environmental friendliness and social responsibility.  So I went to some major cell phone sites to find out who carries them.  Actually, all of the major cell phone providers I could think of, and this is what I came up with:

T-Mobile - 2 phones (Nokia 5230 Nuron and the Nokia X2, which I can't even find on GoodGuide.  I tried researching it, but I can't find anything about whether or not if it's environmentally friendly.  I suppose the fact that every other Nokia phone seems to be eco-friendly should be evidence enough...)
AT&T - 1 phone (Nokia 6350, not a smartphone, by the way.  Iiiit's a flip phone, which is what I have now)
Cricket - 0
Verizon - 0
Sprint - 0
Virgin Mobile - 0
Credo Mobile - 0
Boost Mobile - 0

So, those are awesome numbers.  I think I'll make a virtual omelet out of all those goose eggs.

I find it pretty disheartening that even the phones that got the highest ratings still got some low numbers in the sub-categories.  But hey, at least Nokia seems to be trying a bit more than the other companies.  Also disheartening is the fact that every time I think I've found another high-rated phone, it turns out they have high high high radiation emitted or something equally as worrisome.  And maybe I am being too picky?  But I want the best of the best as far as eco-friendliness and social responsibility goes.  Is that too much to ask?  Is a phone that won't tug at my conscience and has (hopefully) a lower chance of compromising my health in the future too much to ask?

I googled 'fair trade cell phones' and found that, well, there are none.  Jawsome.  I did find this site though:  FairPhone.  When they make it happen, I will buy one.  Also, this site is pretty sweet: MakeITFair

I did read on one site (I can't seem to find it now) that the greenest cell phone is "the one you already have."  Oh, how bitter is this sad, over-priced plan, flip-phone truth.

At this point, this one's lookin pretty good ------>

If you find something more, something that might give me faith in the cell phone industry, please, for the love of sweet baby jeebus, let me know.

May 19, 2011

Gerald's Journey*

"...something extraordinary filled the room. The hairs on my arms and the back of my neck stood on end and I was washed over by waves of euphoria. At one point I even found myself grinning."

So apparently the BBC will be airing a documentary about Gerald, an 84-year-old man who is terminally ill. They will be showing his final moments, his final breath. There's, obviously, mixed feelings about this from the general public.

I'm still processing this, but I feel that maybe people who are opposed to it only feel that way because our culture is such a death-denying one. We are not a culture who honors death. 

Just as birth is a sacred moment, so is death.  And while it is a very personal moment, it is also a very universal moment.

And that's why I think it's a great idea to air this journey.

I feel like this is a good time to mention the Sacred Dying Foundation:
"In Western society, many people have lost touch with the spiritual aspect of death and dying. Medicine and technology, while valiantly saving lives, treat death as a failure or an embarrassment. How can the dying reclaim grace and dignity for themselves? How do we refocus attention on the profound spiritual experience that is fundamental to the end-of-life process?"

*Update:  I should also note that I'm wary about the motivations behind the BBC airing this documentary.  While I'm aware that ratings are ratings and money is money, my hope is that it's being aired as an inspirational and educational piece, and not one of shock.