Monthly Archives: August 2013

The Top 5 Reasons I Went Vegan

Since I made the transition from a vegetarian diet to a full-fledged vegan lifestyle, I often get a lot of questions (and criticism) about why.   In all honesty, there’s countless reasons I could offer friends, family, and even strangers about why I made this life changing decision.   There are a lot of myths to veganism which I will eventually address in a future post, but today I want to share the top 5 reasons why I went vegan.

1. HEALTH

When I was around 23-years old, my health began to take a turn for the worse.   I began a heavy regimen of medications, visits to specialists, countless tests and medical procedures, etc.  At 25-years old my pulse jumped one evening to 220+ bpm as my heart went into Supraventricular tachycardia (SVT).  Paramedics were called on my behalf and I was defibrillated three times while conscious.  Amazingly, that still didn’t correct the problem.   I would go through over two-dozen more episodes of SVT before I underwent a cardiac ablation surgery.   Still, my health worsened.   By 28-years old I was diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure and began taking over 18 prescription medications multiple times a day.   All of this, many other conditions including my chronic back pain left me in a mess.   I was passionately and stubbornly in love with every type of meat, dairy, and seafood…yet veganism was not something that ever crossed my mind.

Finally in 2012, broken and desperate, I decided to try a vegetarian diet.   My world and health began to change almost immediately.   More fascinated on how something so simple could offer so much resolution to my health crisis, I decided to make a major life decision.  I decided to become a vegan.  Since 2012 I have been taken off all cardiac medications, now only taking two blood pressure medications.   I went from injecting two different types of insulin, to only taking an oral diabetes medication, to being taken off ALL diabetes medications.  On September 1, 2013 I will mark 9-months free of any diabetes medications.  I no longer take cholesterol medications.   In fact, my LDL and HDL cholesterol levels, as well as my triglycerides levels couldn’t be more perfect!  SInce going vegetarian (then vegan), I have nearly lost 70 lbs.!   I no longer need to use medicated shampoo for my irritated and often times, painful psoriasis on the back of my scalp.  My concentration and attention to detail is more clear than it has ever been, I didn’t even realize that my brain was living in a fog…I thought that was normal.  This list could literally go on and on, but these are some of the highlights.

2. COMPASSION

I’m an animal lover…always have been and always will be!  Far beyond I can even remember, I was absolutely awestruck, in love, and fascinated by animals.   As I was growing up, my passion, love, and respect for animals only grew…even though I was an omnivore.  I remember coming into contacts with vegetarians (and vegans, as rare as they were) in my high school years and always found their points of view very convincing and eye opening, yet not enough to tear me away from my beloved carne asada, chorizo, beef hamburgers…let alone sushi, lobster, or fresh caught trout (yes, I used to be quite the angler).  But the more I grew, the more I learned.

I began to look into the source of my meats, dairy, seafood, and even my clothing.   What I discovered was horrifying.  Yet I was somehow convinced that going vegetarian (or vegan for that matter) would not change the industry, so I went on with life with a “blind eye”.   Eventually my conscience (and health) started to catch up with me.  As a compulsive seeker of truth, turning a blind eye was becoming more and more difficult to carry out.  Eventually I would have to practically inhale anything that was meat and make sure that I didn’t think about the source while doing so.   This became exhausting, and my conscience started to catch up with me.   As a victim of gun violence and an advocate for gun-control legislation, I have often spoke about how it doesn’t matter how many thousands of innocent children die by gunshots in our country , but the fact that a single child dies by a gunshot….for one is far too many.  I began to equate the same reasoning to the horrors in the inhumane and ungodly treatment of animals we raise for food, milk, and products.

Enough was enough.  I couldn’t deny the truth any longer.   How can I profess my love for animals and my opposition to their abuse, neglect, and murder…yet scarf down a steak?  I was invalidating and contradicting my own personal convictions for ease and convenience.  I was an accessory to mass murder.  Many documentaries such as Food, Inc. and Vegucated helped change my life!

3. ENVIRONMENT

Climate change is no longer a myth.   It’s a fact.   And the data is scary.  Each and every one of us has a moral obligation and responsibility to discuss the global crisis.  The studies and data are bone-chilling and scary.

A recent United Nations report concluded that a global shift toward a vegan diet is necessary to combat the worst effects of climate change.  And the U.N. is not alone in its analysis.  A staggering 51 percent or more of global greenhouse-gas emissions are caused by animal agriculture, according to a report published by the Worldwatch Institute.  Researchers at the University of Chicago concluded that switching from a standard American diet to a vegan diet is more effective in the fight against climate change than switching from a standard American car to a hybrid. And a German study conducted in 2008 concluded that a meat-eater’s diet is responsible for more than seven times as much greenhouse-gas emissions as a vegan’s diet is.  What most people don’t think about is the resources and energy (as well as pollution) it takes to manufacture meat…from growing feed for the animals, to processing their waste, consumption of water for the animals and growth of their food, pesticides, processing plants, rendering plants, rendering waste…the list goes on.   This is something the meat and dairy industry don’t want you to know.

And for the seafood so many love?   Meet overfishing:

  • 52% of fish stocks are fully exploited
  • 20% are moderately exploited
  • 17% are overexploited
  • 7% are depleted
  • 1% is recovering from depletion

One does not need to be a scientist to comprehend how this affects oceans and ocean life.  And like meat, there is the alarming environmental repercussions which come from seafood manufacturing and processing.

4. NATURAL

There’s no denying that vegan lifestyle is au naturel…if you take the natural way.   I’ll be the first to admit that natural veganism is something you strive for.  As with anything in life, there are a lot of unnatural and unhealthy ways to go about things, and veganism is not an exception.   However, with the right motives and drive, veganism offers a simplicity in being more natural as well as a burning desire to perfect the goal in becoming more natural and whole.   You begin to read every label…and for myself and many vegans, we put the products back on the shelf when we come across ingredients which contain ingredients we can’t pronounce…and of course, anything that is made from animal products (or has been tested on animals) goes back as well.

Learning to go natural is an organic and fresh experience.  It simply makes your soul feel good.   I shy away from overpriced and unhealthy “fake meats.”  Plus, meat just freaks me out, so why would I buy something that looks and tastes like meat.   I have fallen in love with growing our own food and buying from local farmers, makers, and manufacturers who believe and practice the same ethics as I do (or strive to), from people who embrace what this compassionate lifestyle provides us.

One of the many myths is this “diet” is expensive.   This lifestyle is remarkably inexpensive.  To my last calculation, our grocery bill has been cut by close to 65%.  This percentage doesn’t include the endless medication and medical appointment copays.  But it’s not really about the money.   It’s all about the feeling of fulfilment which is nothing less than an incredibly spiritual bond.   It may sound so cliché to spout that I’m a vegan for life, but so be it if it is.  I could never go back.  I would never go back.

IMG_76795. YUMMY

Do you know how many varieties and species of fruits and vegetables grow in the world?   What if I told you there we’re over 7,500 different types of apples alone which grow throughout the world?   And that’s just apples!  The selection of other fruits and vegetables is unthinkable.

Vegan cooking is fun, challenging, and delicious!  Another big myth about being a vegan is that our food is boring, bland, or lacking vital nutrients.   That’s just not true!  And as delicious as fresh fruits & vegetables, the food we eat does go far beyond that!

Vegan chefs took home the trophy at the 10th Annual Grilled Cheese Invitational with a nondairy cheese winner, and vegan bakers have dominated the butter-and-egg fest that is Cupcake Wars…twice!  Chloe Coscarelli and Doron Petersan both earned top honors with nondairy creations.   In fact the best Macaroni & Cheese I’ve ever had is made fresh at Washington, DC’s Everlasting Life Cafe, an all vegan and 100% gluten-free soul food restaurant!   Yes…vegan soul food!  Since going vegan, I have been exposed to so many new and different vegetables, fruits, nuts, and other foods.   Your creativity and imagination are the only limit when it comes to preparing incredibly delicious vegan dishes!

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Fig Galette – #TastyThursday

A very simple vegan Fig Galette

A very simple vegan Fig Galette

It’s fig season!

Get figgy with it!

Tis the season to be figgy!

British cookery writer Elizabeth David once said, ““To eat figs off the tree in the very early morning, when they have been barely touched by the sun, is one of the exquisite pleasures of the Mediterranean.” 

I love figs!   I love eating fig off the tree!!  I love fig preserves, seared figs, fig pastries, figs in salads, poached figs, and so on.  Here’s one of my favorite and very simple fig recipes!   Bon Appétit!

For the Crust:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening
  • 4 Tablespoons ice water
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

For the Filling:

  • 1 1/2 lbs mission figs (tips cut off and discarded quartered)
  • 1/4 cup orange marmalade
  • 2 Tbsp sugar

For the crust:  Combine the sugar, flour, and salt in a bowl. Using a pastry cutter (or your clean hands) cut in the shortening to the mixture until coarse crumbly dough is formed.

In another small bowl, combine the ice water with the vinegar.  Drizzle 1/3 over the water over the flour mixture and stir.  Drizzle another 1/3 over the mixture and stir again.  Drizzle the rest of the water over the dough and form a soft dough ball.   If the mixture hasn’t come together, add another tablespoon of ice water. If it’s too wet, add a tablespoon of flour.  Pat dough into  disc shape.  Wrap the dough in plastic wrap or parchment paper. Let sit in the fridge for an hour.

Preheat oven to 375 F.  Roll out dough to a 14-inch diameter round of even thickness. Place on a parchment or lined, rimmed baking dish.

Spread marmalade on the rolled out dough, leaving a 2-inch border along the edges. Arrange the quartered figs in a circular pattern, again leaving a 2-inch border.  Sprinkle sugar over the figs.

Fold the 2-inch bordered edge of the crust over the figs, pleating the crust.

Place in the middle rack of the oven. Bake at 375°F for 45-50 minutes, until the crust is lightly browned and the fruit is bubbly.

Remove from the oven and let cool for 30 minutes.  Enjoy!

We Still Have a Dream

IMG_7666

Fifty years ago today over 250,000 Americans set foot in The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in Washington, DC.   On this day, history was forever changed in the largest political rally for human rights and equality.   On this day, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.  That speech would eventually be ranked as the top American speech of the 20th century.  It was this very historic day which has been credited in passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the ongoing pursuit for equality.  Tragically, it was a little more than four years later that Dr. King would be martyred by a racist sniper on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, TN.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom – August 28, 1963

Today, the life, wisdom, and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. resonates throughout the world.  There are few places in the world where this non-violent, peaceful visionary is not known.   Young children can recite various parts of his speeches as well as memorable quotes with pride and ease.   What is most amazing is how Dr. King has become embraced over all these years by many Americans, especially those who are minorities, ostracized, and discriminated against.  And though great strides have been made in the last 50-years, a lot remains to be done.  We have a long way to go before the visions of Dr. King for unity, equality, and peace are a true reality for all Americans.  In a recent poll; few think all of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s goals have been met.

Today I joined my fiancé, friends, and over 150,000 Americans on the National Mall to remember and celebrate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.   I spent the entire day surrounded by a sea of diversity – a beautiful rainbow of ethnicities, ages, faiths, backgrounds…documented and undocumented Americans, male and female, gay, straight, and transgender.  There are no words to describe the spirit of universal love and solidarity which was very much present this afternoon.  We listened to a vast array of speakers, some of whom included: Rev. Al Sharpton, Benjamin Todd Jealous, Dr. Eliza Byard, Congresswoman Donna Edwards, Congresswoman Marcia Fudge, Oprah Winfrey, Caroline Kennedy, Rev. Dr. Bernice King, Martin L. King III, Presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and so many others.

We were reminded of the progress which has been made, but the realities of what remains…a growing gap between the rich and poor, voter suppression, race driven murder victims such as Trayvon Martin, anti-equality legislation and homophobic hate crimes, and more.   As the Voting Rights Act continues to be attacked, former President Bill Clinton remarked, “A great democracy does not make it harder to vote than to buy an assault weapon.”

We were continually reminded by so many leaders this afternoon, “we’ve come too far to turn back now.”   We are Americans and we still have a dream and we have an obligation to keep that dream alive, one day passing the threshold from dream to reality.  President Obama hit the nail on the head when he said,

“Those are the victories they won, with iron wills and hope in their hearts. That is the transformation that they wrought, with each step of their well-worn shoes. That’s the debt that I and millions of Americans owe those maids, those laborers, those porters, those secretaries; folks who could have run a company maybe if they had ever had a chance; those white students who put themselves in harm’s way, even though they didn’t have to; those Japanese Americans who recalled their own internment; those Jewish Americans who had survived the Holocaust; people who could have given up and given in, but kept on keeping on, knowing that “weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”

On the battlefield of justice, men and women without rank or wealth or title or fame would liberate us all in ways that our children now take for granted, as people of all colors and creeds live together and learn together and walk together, and fight alongside one another, and love one another, and judge one another by the content of our character in this greatest nation on Earth.

To dismiss the magnitude of this progress — to suggest, as some sometimes do, that little has changed — that dishonors the courage and the sacrifice of those who paid the price to march in those years. Medgar Evers, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, Martin Luther King Jr. — they did not die in vain. Their victory was great.”

Think about where we’ve all come from and how far we’ve come.   The dream continues with the wisdom of our past heroines of freedom and elders.   The dream continues with you and I.  We are all called to be pavers in the road to equality, justice, and freedom.  We truly have a moral obligation and duty to stay steadfast, not only for the children of today, but for all future generations.   The dream continues with our commitment to love, service, and stewardship.

“If any of you are around when I have to meet my day, I don’t want a long funeral.  And if you get somebody to deliver the eulogy, tell them not to talk too long.  Every now and then I wonder what I want them to say…I’d like somebody to mention that day, that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to give his life serving others.  I’d like for somebody to say that day, that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to love somebody.  I want you to say that day, that I tried to be right on the war question.  I want you to be able to say that day that I did try to feed the hungry.  I want you to be able to say that day that I did try in my life to clothe those who were naked.  I want you to say, on that day, that I did try, in my life, to visit those who were in prison.  I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity.”  

– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  The Drum Major Instinct (1968)

Lions, and Tigers, and Bears…and Elephants too

The life of a Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey baby elephant.

For many, the idea of a family trip to the circus may be described as fun, adventurous, and entertaining.   For many, a family trip to the circus is a tradition of sorts…something that one grew up doing and has carried on the tradition within their own family.   Fortunately for me, the closest thing I ever saw to a circus when I was growing up was the trapeze acrobats performing at the Las Vegas Circus Circus hotel.  My dad was not fond of the circus, and it wasn’t until I grew up that I finally realized why.  In 2006 a friend of mine had free tickets to Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus at the Anaheim Pond in Southern California.   Little did I know this would be my first and last circus that involved animals.   Amidst all the fancy costumes, high-tech lighting, and special effects…were the quite clearly depressed, neglected, and miserable animals being forced to perform for the massive and very loud audience.  We wound up leaving about 40 minutes before the circus ended, as we I just couldn’t sit there and watch what I was witnessing.

After years of abuse, Tyke escaped from a circus, killing her ‘trainer’ before running out the door to get outside, then she was shot to death by police. She was shot nearly 100 times and it took two hours for her to die on the street.

How is this still allowed in the 21st century?   Money.   Money has everything to do with it.  circuses such as Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus (the largest and most profitable show of its kind in history) have a bulk of cash to fight allegations and charges, manipulate the law, and buy their way out of trouble.   They also try to deceive their consumers with such programs as the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Center for Elephant Conservation in hopes that it will take the pressure and eyes off their ongoing abuse toward elephants and other animals used and exploited in their shows.   Fortunately, countless animal rights advocacy groups as well as local & federal law enforcement agencies are cracking down on this ongoing problem, but it will remain a problem until we ban circuses from using and exploiting animals in their revenue making productions.

Here are 15 Reasons to Boycott the Circus provided by Florida Voices for Animals:

1. Government inspection reports reveal ongoing mistreatment of animals in circuses.  Because of continued abuse of circus elephants, there is a pending lawsuit against Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus.

2. Many people claim that circuses are conservation programs for endangered species (such as the Asian elephant).  However no circus animal has ever been released to the wild and the conservation claim is merely a way to justify the exploitation of animals for profit.

3. Sweden, Austria, Costa Rica, India, Finland and Singapore have all banned or restricted the use of animals in entertainment. However, the US lags behind.

4. Elephants are trained to perform unnatural acts by the use of a “bullhook”, which is a 2-3 foot long club or stick with a sharp metal hook attached to the top.  It is repeatedly used to beat, hit and poke the animals, often leaving permanent scars.  There are numerous undercover videos and testimony from past circus employees corroborating this information.


5. Heavy, metal, and short chains are used to confine circus elephants.  The elephants are chained by one front leg and one back leg, preventing them from laying down.  The chaining of elephants also prevents them from interacting with other elephants, which is a natural behavior for elephants as they are very social creatures.

6. Ringling Brothers typically transport the elephants from city to city by train, chained by one front foot and one back foot and unable to lay down.  They are also kept in cramped conditions for over eight hours without stopping for water.  They are trained for 11 months and the one month they are not being trained, they are still confined in horrid conditions.

7. Elephant transportation vehicles lack climate control and are forced to stand for hours in their own waste.  The are compacted into small spaces for days on end.

8. In the wild, elephants live in large, sociable herds and walk up to 25 miles every day.  In addition to the physical abuse of circus elephants, they are also deprived of their freedom to roam and engage in their instinctual behavior, which includes socializing with other elephants.

 9. Although minimum legal protections are provided in the Animal Welfare Act, the law does not provide adequate protection for circus animals.  Often a veterinarian isn’t even on site and local vets are not knowledgeable about the unique medical needs of exotic animals.  Circuses are frequently cited by the USDA, the agency responsible for enforcing the Animal Welfare Act, for failure to keep veterinary records, for providing moldy or rancid food and no water, for storing chemicals near the animals’ food supply, and for stocking expired medications.

10. Every major circus that uses animals has been cited for violating the Animal Welfare Act.  These circuses are almost always given a slap on the wrist and forced to pay a minimal fine.

11. Enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act is very difficult because the USDA, the agency responsible for enforcement, only has 100 inspectors to monitor conditions at approximately 12,000 facilities.

12. Although poaching is a problem in Africa, there are wildlife conservation parks that are constantly patrolled to ensure the safety of animals.  Elephant poaching has decreased since the highly enforced ban on the possession and sale of ivory.  In recent years, the elephant population has significantly increased due to conservation efforts.

13. Although circuses claim that they are a form of educating the public about elephants, there is no education in watching the exploitation of elephants that are cruelly trained to perform unnatural acts.  Circuses teach children that it is acceptable to exploit animals.  No research has been shown that attending circuses increases public concern about the status of an endangered species.

14. Elephants in the circus, regardless of how much they are “trained”, are still wild animals capable of and have a history of lashing out, escaping, and thus posing a risk to public safety.

15. Elephants in the circus often carry diseases such as tuberculosis (aka “TB”) and can infect humans with this disease.  Note that there is no cure for this disease in either elephants or humans.

The fact is, animals do not naturally ride bicycles, stand on their heads, balance on balls, jump through rings of fire, or piggy-back each other.  To force them to perform these confusing and physically uncomfortable tricks, trainers use whips, tight collars, muzzles, electric prods, bullhooks, and other painful tools of the trade.

Please do NOT support any animal circus.  Animal abuse is not entertainment.   Together we can make a difference.   Please visit the following links below for a list if animal-free circuses as well as a petition to demanding action to help ailing elephants.

List of Animal-Free Circuses (PETA) 

Take Action to Help Ailing Elephants (PETA)

Piele Style Mashed Sweet Potatoes – #TastyThursday

The word is a wonderful place, partly due to delicious sweet potatoes!   There’s a gazillion and one ways to prepare them, and mashing them up into thick, creamy goodness is never a bad thing.   The key to good mashed sweet potatoes is remembering we’re not making a sugar loaded, Thanksgiving style sweet potato casserole or soufflé.   With this dish, it’s all about simple…concentrating solely on the tastiness and natural sweetness of the sweet potato.  This three-ingredient dish, known as piele in Hawaii, is fabulously simple. Coconut milk—an occasional indulgence because of the saturated fat—contributes rich flavor.   Be sure to try this simple recipe for your next dinner, picnic, or potluck!   Have a “sweet” Tasty Thursday!

  • 1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, (about 3 medium)
  • 3/4 cup “lite” coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon fresh minced ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Prick sweet potatoes with a fork in several places.  Microwave on high until tender all the way to the center, about 10 to 15 minutes.  Alternatively, place in a baking dish and bake at 425 F until tender all the way to the center, about 1 hour.

When cool enough to handle, peel off and discard skin.  Transfer the sweet potatoes to a medium microwaveable bowl and mash thoroughly with a potato masher.  Add coconut milk, ginger and salt; stir well.  Reheat in the microwave for 1 to 2 minutes, or in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes.  Garnish with green onion or basil.  Serve warm.

You can also cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.  Reheat in the microwave or oven just before serving.

When Pets Speak to Psychics

Gracie & Luna get a psychic pet reading on FOX 5's Morning News on August 19, 2013.

Gracie & Luna get a psychic pet reading on FOX 5’s Morning News on August 19, 2013.

Last week Gracie (our labrador retriever mix) and I got an invitation from WTTG FOX 5’s Annie Yu to join her live on the set of the FOX 5’s Morning News for a special “Pet Project” segment with animal communicator and psychic, Diane Roadcap.   Gracie is an avid lover of everything water related…except baths!   She loves swimming and playing in the ocean, rivers, and creeks…but will do whatever it takes to avoid a bath.   Paul and I have always wondered why this is the case, so we gladly accepted the invitation in hopes that Diane could give us some insight as to Gracie’s thoughts and feelings.   Amanda Marie Bowen and her 2-year old deaf Great Dane, Luna were also invited on the show.   Of course some are probably skeptical about a pet psychic or any psychic for that matter…but I believe Diane had an amazing connection with Gracie, and I bet the same could be said by Amanda (the other segment guest) who brought Luna to have a reading as well.

Diane Roadcap’s website says, As a child, Diane recognized that she had a deep spiritual connection with animals.  Playing with a variety of animals in the wooded areas around her home outside of Washington, DC, she discovered that she could connect with them at a soul level.  This connection was confirmed at age five when her dog Blackie telepathically warned her that a poisonous snake was dangerously close to biting her.  She heeded his warning and slowly backed away before it could attack her.  She continued to receive communications from animals and discovered that she could  easily read their needs and wants, humor and insights, aches and ailments.”

While we were still in the green room, Diane already began reading our pets as well as Amanda and her family.   She knew that Gracie had a smaller, older K9 companion at home which would describe our 11-year-old Miniature Schnauzer, Tabatha.  She also mentioned another light-colored labrador which had passed away…of course I knew this was Heidi, a beautiful labrador who passed away when I was around 3-years old.   “She wants you to know she’s standing next to you”, Diane exclaimed.   I could have fallen out of my chair!   She went very into depth reading Amanda, her family, Luna, and their pets at home which I won’t go into detail, as it’s not my place to tell about that very special moment.

Do you believe in psychics?  As far back as I can remember, I have had ongoing contact and communication with human spirits who have passed away…family and strangers alike.   To my knowledge, there’s nobody in my family who has this “gift.”   Though the information given to me is often vague, it is something I’ve gotten used to and experience daily.   So it makes perfect sense to me that people have an ability and “gift” to fully communicate with pets, both passed and living.   But at the end of the day, we will believe what we know as truth and dismiss that which we don’t.   For me, I believe!

Besides learning that Gracie doesn’t like to be in a confined areas…she’s a very happy dog.   “She wouldn’t change a thing.   She loves people…the more people she’s around, the more she loves life”, Diane affirmed.

Below is a video from the segment.   Check it out!

Essentially Lavender

As a massage therapist, I’ve used a variety of essential oils over the years with my clients as well as for myself.  Essential oils, also called “essences”, are botanical extracts of various plant materials, and do not only originate from flowers, but from herbs, trees and various other plant material.  Essential oils are used in a variety of ways, including the more common aromatherapy method (where the oil is absorbed through the skin) or vaporization (where the essential oil molecules enter the bloodstream via the lungs).  However, essential oils are also used  medicinally by treating a problematic are (topically) or even taken internally.  I use essential oils in all of my massage oil mixtures, formulating the perfect combination for each individual client.

Lavender herb and essential oil

Essential lavender oil can be used in countless ways.

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) has a fresh, sweet, floral, herbaceous aroma that is soothing and refreshing.  It is by far my favorite essential oil to use.  Because it is the most versatile of all essential oils, no home should be without it.  Lavender is an adaptogen, and can help the body when adapting to stress or imbalances.  It is a great aid for relaxing and winding down before bedtime, yet has balancing properties that can also boost stamina and energy.  Therapeutic-grade lavender is highly regarded for skin and beauty.  It may also be used to soothe and cleanse common cuts, bruises, and skin irritations.  The French scientist René Gattefossé was among the first to discover these properties when he was severely burned in a laboratory explosion.  Lavender may also be used to enhance the flavor of foods.

Here’s 15 ways to use lavender essential oil to make your life more calm, balanced, and healthy!

  1. Aching Muscles
    If you’ve spent a back-breaking afternoon in the garden, jump into a lavender bath to soothe aches & pains away.  Apply Epsom salts & a few drops of lavender oil to the bath and soak away the tension.
  2. Acne
    Lavender is one of the most valuable oils for the treatment of acne, according to aromatherapists.  “It inhibits the bacteria that cause the skin infection, helps to rebalance the over-secretion of sebum, which the bacteria thrive on, and reduce scarring”.  Add a few drops of lavender oil to a plain cream sold by chemists and use as a moisturizer or cleanser.
  3. Bugs & Bacteria
    French laboratory studies in the early 20th century showed that lavender is a powerful antibacterial in dilutions of 5 per cent or less it is lethal to bacteria that cause typhoid, TB & diphtheria.  Combined with Lemon Balm, for its clinically tested anti-viral properties.
  4. Burns (minor)
    After you have cooled the area by immersing it in running cold water for 5 minutes, gently stroke on neat lavender oil.  Pain relief is almost immediate, and burn usually heals without scarring.
  5. Cuts & Wounds
    Apply lavender oil to sooth pain, prevent bacterial infection and aid scar-free healing.  Apply neat.
  6. Earache
    Warm a bottle of lavender oil in hot water for a minute or two, then gently massage a few drops into the skin around the ears and throat.  For babies & small children, add 2-3 drops of the warmed oil to a little olive oil and massage in the same way.
  7. Eczema
    Stroke infused lavender oil (a few drops of lavender oil & carrier oil) into dry, itchy skin – small children will find this especially comforting or add a few drops of lavender oil to calamine lotion, just remember to shake before use.
  8. Fatigue
    Add 5 drops of lavender oil to a hot foot bath and relax while your feet soak in it.  The soles of the feet are particularly porous, so lavender reaches your bloodstream very quickly, exerting its stimulating and soothing effects on various systems of your body.
  9. Fevers
    For babies or small children, sponge them down very gently with tepid water to which you have added a drop of lavender oil.  Take care not to let them get chilled.  This works for adults too.
  10. Giddy Spells, Faintness or Palpitations
    Make your own smelling salts – sea salt , lavender oil, peppermint oil & basil oil.
  11. Headache
    Spray lavender mist (lavender oil and distilled water) around your head.  It is highly refreshing and soothing.  Alternatively, make a compress of a piece of cause or muslin soaked in icy cold water then sprinkled with a few drops of lavender oil and apply to the forehead, or massage a few drops into the forehead, temples and nape of the neck.
  12. Insomnia
    In a number of small studies, elderly psychiatric patients have been shown to sleep better and be more alert during the day when their sleep medication is replaced with lavender oil either dropped on their pillows, or placed in a diffuser on the ward. To help to induce sleep, put 3 or 4 drops of lavender oil on your pillow.  For babies, add 1 drop of lavender oil & geranium oil in carrier oil and massage into a babies back or a few drops in their bedtime bath.
  13. Long-Haul Travel
    Combine lavender, rosemary, frankincense & sage oils and rub into into your hand luggage.  Also, be sure to roll it over your pulse points to help you keep a clear head during those endless hours in the air.
  14. Menstrual & Tummy Cramps
    Massage a few drops of lavender oil into your lower abdomen or apply a hot compress onto the area, which a little lavender oil has been sprinkled.
  15. Moths & Mosquitoes
    These annoying little insects all hate the smell of lavender.  To prevent bites, splash yourself with lavender mist (lavender oil and distilled water) before you go out at sunset or to bed, put 3-4 drops of oil on your pillow or soak cotton ball in the oil and leave it on a saucer in front of the window.  Lavender oil is also a terrific remedy for insect bites, soothing itching & inflammation: dab it on to them neat as soon as possible.  To keep moths off your clothes, hand lavender bags on you coat hangers or keep them among your sweaters and refresh them with a drop or two of lavender oil from time to time.
  16. Scabie
    This infestation by a tiny mite burrowing into your skin causes intense itching. Rub the whole body with neat lavender oil, then following every day until better with a mixture of lavender oil and alcohol.  Change and wash bedding and clothes and sprinkle lavender oil on the mattress.
  17. Shingles
    Combine a mix of lavender oil with, analgesic, antiviral & scar preventing essential oils neat or on compresses on the agonizing lesions of shingles.  It usually produces a cure within 5-8 days.
  18. Sinusitis
    Lavender is one of several essential oils that aromatherapists recommend for inhalations to relieve sinusitis, add two drops of lavender & thyme oil to a bowl of near-steaming water and inhale slowly and deeply, with a towel over your head & bowl.
  19. Stress & Anxiety
    Keep a small spray bottle of lavender mist (lavender oil and distilled water) – handy to spray on your face during the day, or apply lavender oil neat to your temples.
  20. Sunburn
    Spray lavender mist (lavender oil and distilled water) directly onto the skin or Add 8 drops of lavender oil and 4 drops of peppermint oil to a teaspoon of jojoba oil.  Pour it into a cool-to-lukewarm bath and soak for 10 minutes.

Otterly Amazing Sea Otters

A police officer sees a man driving around with a pickup truck full of sea otters.  He turns on his lights and pulls the guy over saying, “you can’t drive around with sea otters in this town!  Take them to the zoo immediately.”  The guy says “OK”… and drives away.  The next day, the officer sees the guy still driving around with the truck full of sea otters, and they’re all wearing sun glasses.  He pulls the guy over and with anger asks, “I thought I told you to take these otters to the zoo yesterday?”  The guy replies., “I did . . . today I’m taking them to the beach!”

*insert rimshot here*

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California Sea Otter

Last night I came home from my book club and watched an amazingly interesting documentary with Paul, National Geographic: Big Sur – Wild California.  For those of you who have been to Big Sur will know that this part of California’s Central Coast is home to one of the most incredibly diverse ecosystems on Earth.  Here, nature and wildlife have evolved in drastic ways to survive.   Big Sur is home to many unique species of wildlife including the highly endangered California Condors, San Joaquin Kit Fox, California Sea Lions, California Tiger Salamanders, and of course the California Sea Otters.

Sea Otters (Enhydra lutris) are an aquatic member of the weasel family.  They spend most of their time in the water, which is easy to do when you have webbed feet, nostrils and ears that close in the water, and water-repellent fur to keep them dry and warm.    Sea Otters are meticulously clean!  After eating, they wash themselves in the ocean, cleaning their coat with their teeth and paws.  They have good reason to take care of their coats, as it helps them to stay waterproof and insulated against the cold.  Unlike seals, sea otters don’t have insulating fat (blubber) to keep them warm in frigid 35 -60 degree ocean waters.  They have air-bubble-trapping fur – the densest fur of any animal on Earth.  Each square inch of their bodies are covered with 600,000 to 1,000,000 hairs.  An entire human head has only about 100,000 hairs!  

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Sea otters often float at the water’s surface, lying on their backs in a posture of serene repose. They sleep this way, often gathered in groups.

Sea otters often float at the water’s surface, lying on their backs in a posture of serene repose. They sleep this way, often gathered in groups. Otters sometimes float in forests of kelp, or giant seaweed, where they entangle themselves to provide anchorage in the swirling sea.

These aquatic otters do more than sleep while floating on their backs. They are often seen with a clam or mussel and a rock that has been deftly snared from the ocean floor. Otters will place the rock on their chests, and repeatedly smash the shellfish against it until it breaks open to reveal the tasty meal inside. They also dine on aquatic creatures, such as sea urchins, crabs, squid, octopuses, and fish.

Sea Otters are the only otters to give birth in the water. Mothers nurture their young while floating on their backs. They hold infants on their chests to nurse them, and quickly teach them to swim and hunt.

The California Sea Otter survived a close brush with extinction early in the 20th century, but today, under protection of the Endangered Species Act, they’re expanding their range and increasing their numbers.  By the 1930’s, most people believed that this subspecies of sea otter had vanished, wiped out by fur traders who coveted its rich pelt.  In 1938, however, a small group of otters were discovered living near the mouth of Bixby Creek along California’s Big Sur coast.  From those few survivors, the otter has increased its numbers to more than 2,000 today.  Growth has been particularly impressive during the past decade, when otter numbers increased by nearly 50%!

Conservation works!   If we can see such a population increase with such an enchanting species, Sea Otters should inspire us to be advocates for other Ocean dwelling and dependent species which remain gravely endangered.   Change begins with us!

Have an “otterly” wonderful Friday!

Simple, Sweet & Tangy Broccoli Salad – #TastyThursday

This delicious broccoli salad takes under 10 minutes to make and goes great as a lunch salad or served with a grilled vegan dinner.

This delicious broccoli salad takes under 10 minutes to make and goes great as a lunch salad or served with a grilled vegan dinner.

Sometimes deciding what to make for dinner after a long day at work can be as task in itself…not to forget the side dishes which will accompany that meal!   Perhaps you have an invitation to a dinner party or a potluck and need a quick and simple dish to whip up at the last-minute.

Nothing says “yummy” like a fresh and unique salad, especially during the summertime!   As wonderful as a salad made with fresh greens is, I sometimes like to use a fresh vegetable as a salad base.   Not only does it offer a more crisp texture, but it’s more filling as well.   My fiancé and I had an abundance of broccoli that we bought from the farmer’s market that we needed to use up.   So he came up with this simple and delicious salad which we ate as a side dish with grilled veggie burgers.

  • 12 ounces fresh broccoli crowns
  • 3/4 cup Vegenaise®
  • 1/8 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/8 cup red wine
  • 2 Tablespoons organic coconut palm sugar
  • 1 cup slivered almonds
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • salt and pepper to taste

Break apart 8 ounces of the broccoli crowns.   Finely chop 4 ounces of the broccoli crowns using a food processor.

In a bowl, whisk together Vegenaise®, red wine vinegar, red wine, and organic coconut palm sugar.   Combine the finely chopped broccoli crowns to the dressing mixture.   Fold mixture into the remaining broccoli with the slivered almonds and dried cranberries.   Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve immediately or chill for more flavor.

Aquarium Therapy

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Our four reef fish! Six Line Wrasse (top left), Azure Damselfish (top right), Yellow Watchman Goby (bottom left), and Ocellaris Clownfish (bottom right).

For most of us, a trip to the beach can best be described as relaxing and therapeutic.   According to Trip Advisor’s 2013 Top 25 Destinations in the World, 14 locations are seaside and 20 locations are seaside or along a major waterway.    There is no denying that we are balanced by water, whether that be an ocean, bay, river, or lake.   But for many of us, when we think of the greatest relaxing vacation, we think of a tropical beach oasis.   Destinations like Maui, Bora Bora, St. Lucia, Belize, and the Fiji Islands are just some of those popular names that come to mind when you think of aqua blue waters, reef life, warm sands, and tropical air.

Have you noticed an increase of saltwater marine aquariums in public locations?   Perhaps you’ve seen them at a clinic, restaurant, hotel, spa, or maybe even a classroom?   Aquarium Therapy is not new concept, but it is constantly studied and growing with high popularity!

Most people who watch a tank with fish will feel a calming effect, therefore reducing stress.  At Purdue University, researchers discovered that displaying tanks with brightly colored fish helped to curtail disruptive behaviors and improve eating habits of people with Alzheimer’s Disease.  It helps to boost physical and mental health.  It was shown to help create bonding and a positive attitude.   Studies have shown that seniors who were given the opportunity to view aquariums with fish had significant blood pressure reduction as well as  cholesterol.  Children, when visiting a doctor’s office, were found to be much calmer, especially children who suffered from hyperactivity disorders.  Dental patients watching a fish tank required less pain medication.  It also helps in reducing insomnia and persons coping with obesity.   How awesome is this?

Our 29 gallon Coralife BioCube nano reef aquarium with a healthy diversity of fish, corals, and invertebrates.

Our 29 gallon Coralife BioCube nano reef aquarium with a healthy diversity of fish, corals, and invertebrates.

My fiancé and I have two saltwater marine aquariums filled with various fish, invertebrates, and corals.   Contrary to popular belief, we find saltwater aquariums to be be more easy to maintain than freshwater…and not to mention more stunning, beautiful, and therapeutic.   What I find so awesome about a saltwater marine aquarium (particularly a reef tank) is how organic the system is.   When properly maintained; your aquarium becomes its own ecosystem.   This is maintained through bacterias, diversity of species, live rock, live sand, etc.   No unnatural chemicals are needed!

Another added benefit to aquariums are their incorporation into feng shui design.  It is believed that moving water brings prosperity and good luck to a home or office. Aquariums are great feng shui enhancements because they are at the same time soothing and energizing.  The sound and motion of gurgling water activates chi and adds humidity to a dry room, helping to balance chi. Moving water gets things going when the chi has been stagnant for a while (think of ice melting in the spring). Use moving water cures anywhere you want to enhance water or wood energy.

As amazing as this all is, any aquarium still requires learned knowledge, experience, time, money, and patience.   After all, your marine life are all pets and should be treated with the proper respect and care that every pet has the right to.   It is also very important to purchase and trade your marine life with reputable dealers and passionate and ethically driven marine enthusiasts.   Marine life should never be harvested from the oceans!

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