Friday, December 30, 2011

Cool Vegan Graphic

Well, V-day is coming and my co-habitant is trying to get as much meat in as possible before I cut him off.  Let me be specific, HE can eat anything he wants but I am not going to be cooking it.  However, since I do the majority of cooking here, that means chances are he'll be eating fairly vegan at home too.  I HAVE stocked up on some sausages that he likes (pre-cooked, full of preservatives, just like he likes) so that he (or more likely I) can just cut it up and throw it into his portions at the end.

Over the past few months my diet has become more and more meat and dairy free.  He has shared in many of these meals and has liked almost everything I have made.  He has added his season salt to all of it but when you are used to eating packaged food, you tend to like things a bit more salty.  Personally, I am a salt addict but I know that is a habit that will catch up with me.  As I have taken all of the processed and fast foods out of my diet, I am finding how much more I actually taste.  I have been backing off on the salt and trying to add more spices.  But, again, it you are eating out and out of packages for all of your meals but one, I can understand why he is salting.  I believe MY reasons for craving salt are hormones and chronic dehydration (I NEVER drink enough water!).  If it is hormones, I will indulge (typically with a large McDonald's fries :( !!) If it isn't, I have found though that more often than not, drinking a full glass of water shuts the craving down immediately.

Earlier today I received this cool graphic in one of the daily newsletters I read and I thought I would share.  I found it very interesting that 48% of vegans make under 30K annually yet non-vegans tend to claim that eating that way is too expensive.  I believe MY biggest challenge is going to be having to make SO MUCH from scratch.  Well, that and fighting the urge to order Chinese food every night while watching Big Bang Theory!  DAMN THEM!

~Reduce, ReUse, Recycle and Rejoice!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Secret Lives of our Clothes

This past week I found a very informative video on the REAL cost of our clothing.  It really focuses on jeans which are so widely used here in The States and are really one of the worst offenders of being hard of the environment.  Those of us living in the US are living in a "buy cheap, everything is disposable" world whether we mean to or not.  Sometimes it is just culture that has persuaded us to go for the convenient, sometimes price governs our decisions.  Jeans, in particular, can be an expensive purchase, but they can also be a purchase that can last for a very long time.  A good quality pair of jeans can last decades if your weight doesn't fluctuate and you care for them properly (as me how I know this!).

Although this video doesn't talk about other types of cotton clothing, or other fabrics with negative environmental impact. Leather, at its best,  is even worse.  It DOES recommend The Good Guide - a website and app for a better understanding of the impact of each item we use everyday.
My first thought was, "Yeah, like I am going to scan EVERY ITEM I use every day!" but then I realized how AMERICAN that thought was!  Why am I using THAT MANY products to begin with??!  It just goes to show that even those of us with the best of intentions may not be doing all we can to live with less impact.  I suspect you will hear more on this site as I learn about it.

The video also barely touches on it, but they recommend a video that originally aired on PBS called China Blue. It follows a 16 year old girl, leaving her home to work in a factory to help support her family.  The factory owner allowed the cameras in and was very candid. He didn't seem to have a problem (he seemed proud even) with the way the factory is running.

The problem is not only the attitude and treatment of the workers though.  The documentary also shows the negotiation between buyers and the owner.  The per pair price is almost nothing despite how much we pay in the store.  It just makes me dislike shopping even more.  It is the rich getting richer, just as it has always been.

Perhaps I am particularly sensitive to this specific subject given that I am manufacturing clothing for a loving right now.  While my per piece if very fair (despite my slow speed) and I know that my employer is not getting rich, there are companies out there making a lot more than she is just for carrying the items we make.  I can't help thinking that there has to be a way to spread the wealth more evenly.

I will leave you with those thoughts.
~Reduce, ReUse, Recycle and Rejoice!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A little more on wrapping...

One of my FAVORITE blogs is Elegant Musings.  I originally found her blog thru a sewing related article.  She writes a lot about vintage clothing, makeup and hair and is quite an accomplished seamstress making mostly vintage patterns.
Casey has just recently moved and unfortunately has not had much time to the into the holiday but did have some very interesting wrapping ideas for her Christmas gifts.  After yesterday's post, I thought that you might enjoy her ideas as well.
~Reduce, ReUse, Recycle and Rejoice!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A holiday without the waste?

As Christmas and other holidays approach, I am just baffled by the quantity of waste that goes into it.  Christmas, more than any other holiday, seems to be, more and more, about the "Stuff".  Everyone we associate with needs to receive something and that something needs to be wrapped in something else. We then put half of these into yet ANOTHER box which we mail all over the country and the world, using unmentionable amounts of fuel to deliver.  We also send countless cards and "'What the family was up to' updates" via snail mail. We make massive amounts of sugary and fat laden treats that we eat while we make and then eat when traded with others and still more are thrown away. And all of this is BEFORE the big day.

On the Big Day, we take all of the boxes and wrappings and put them in the trash (the recycling bin is never big enough - especially if you have kids.  Then, one by one the actual presents are opened and THEIR packaging is thrown out in the already full trash.  Despite eating a meal equivalent to a week's worth of calories, we throw even more away because too much was made. (Gee, why are we the fattest country in the world??)   A few days later we drink way too much, throw away recyclable bottles because a. the bin is still full from Christmas and b. half the people at the party were either too drunk to know where the recycle bin was or worse, b. didn't care.  There is confetti and decorations and balloons that will all go in a landfill at the end of the night.  A few more days later, the Christmas decorations come down and the landfills will fill even more with discarded Christmas trees of those who were at least responsible enough to not discard them on the side of the road.

When did the word "holiday" become synonymous with "buy and waste as much crap as possible day" ?  Why can't we celebrate and give to one another without filling a landfill?

A few thoughts to save some space in the landfill...

One word - E-card.  Make sure you put a personal note on there - not just Love, Jane.  For those who do the family updates, EMAIL it.  If they want a hard copy, they can print it.  You will probably still need to print a few for those that don't have email, but if my 78 year old mother has it, chances are most of your family does too.

Buy a service.  A friend and I spent an evening recently going thru old pictures.  I have another friend that does photo scanning.  I am going to give friend A. a gift certificate to have friend B. scan her pictures.  Her pictures will be safe and she will be able to share them more easily.  No waste will be created (except the one slip of paper (which was probably a scrap that had something printed on the back further down the sheet)) and not only have I given a fabulous gift but I have also created work for another friend.  You could put together a coupon booklet for a local babysitter (after arranging with the babysitter first, of course) when they use the coupons, the babysitter comes to you for payment.

Get tickets to do something together later in the year.  This can be anything from a movie to a cruise - get creative and spend some time with them.  Take a class together or buy a college student's class.

If they don't need it, don't buy it.  If you don't know, give them a gift card - everyone has a favorite store.  If you have friends that are short on cash but INSIST on exchanging gifts, give a Walmart card.  Most Walmarts now have pharmacies and groceries.  I know, personally, they carry just about anything I need.  This is also a great idea to keep on hand for people you didn't plan on exchanging with and if you end up with an extra, you can use it yourself.  This could also be a nice anonymous surprise for someone needy.

I, a VERY long time ago stopped using wrapping paper.  If I HAVE to wrap, I use reusable wrapping (i.e. gift bags or pre-wrapped boxes).  If you don't want to spend the money on these, you could make them yourself or use funny papers or scarves to wrap - the Internet is FULL of ideas.  And, if the kids ask, Santa reads the funnies too - why do you think he is so jolly??!

Don't underestimate the stocking as wrapping!!  My FAVORITE part of Christmas growing up was my stocking.  My mother would spend months picking up stuff I asked for in the store that she said "no" to and saved them for my stocking.  (She also put all the batteries I would need for wrapped toys in there.)  During the past few years I have knitted mini stockings (out of a sweater I thrifted and unraveled) and put presents in there.  Even if you can't knit, you CAN find mini stockings everywhere these days.  Use those as wrapping and they can be reused next year or used as a decoration.

If you are ordering online, have it shipped directly.  Most companies not only offer this but will enclose a gift receipt (no price) instead of a packing slip.  DON'T have them wrap it. It costs more and they are already opening a box.  I usually just call and say, "you will be getting a box from_________ don't open it until Christmas".

Trees.  The bane of my existence!  IF YOU MUST have a live tree, get one with the roots and plant it after the holiday.  There are also horticulture volunteers everywhere that will find a place to plant it if you don't have a place or don't want to do it yourself.  A lot of times the place you bought it will suggest a group or the packaging will list one.  Some groups will offer them as a fund raiser and will take them back when you are done.

NO TINSEL!!!!!  It is dangerous, messy and a complete waste as you cannot use it again.  And, don't get me started on what it is made out of!!

No more decorations that can't be used next year!

And, just a few words on food.  Make half of what you normally do.  I don't need to know how much you made last year.  Trust me, it was TOO MUCH.  Make half and have everyone bring containers to take some home.

~Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rejoice

Friday, December 16, 2011

30 Vegan Challenge


 For a long time I have felt that the food we eat is killing us.  Statistically, nationalities differ in life expectancy and health issues, thus  telling us that what we eat, what we do and what we are exposed to affect us.  I live in the “Fattest Country in the World” * (and am personally in the obese category myself).  I also live in the world’s leader in oil consumption (#2 uses 10,4900,000 barrels LESS than us PER DAY*) which tells me that we are driving EVERYWHERE, thus not getting an exercise either. (Despite my notable lack of driving, I am definitely not moving of my own volition often enough.)  Much research has shown that the hormones that we put into the animals we eventually eat are causing premature puberty in children.  These are just a few points but I am sure you get where I am going with this.

Several years ago I started reducing the packaged food I eat.  The packaging alone is an issue for me despite my recycling habits.  The ingredients are what scare me though; chemicals I can’t pronounce, chemicals I can pronounce that come with carcinogenic warnings, fillers, preservatives, the list goes on.  Flavor enhancers kill me – they make cardboard food and then spray the flavor on.  I recently read that there are several sodas on the market (most of which were my preferred choice on the rare occasion I partake) that have a flame retardant in them that "prevent the citrus flavoring oils from floating to the surface in beverages."  I try to make as much as I can from scratch and what I can’t I either avoid all together or I try to limit the ingredients. 

I have never been much of a meat eater, I DO love bacon and pork and seafood but even the cost of these has impacted the frequency in which I eat them.  I also am not a big dairy eater with the exception of butter and occasionally ice cream.  I don’t like eggs in general; however, baking (what little I do) without them is difficult. 

Veganism has been gaining popularity over the past few years and with it there has been a plethora of information via internet and books on the subject.   Many pro-vegans are all about saving the animals and while this is a noble thing, I really don’t think it will be the attitude that will bring that majority over to their side.  Humans by nature are self-serving and if you want to sell vegan I believe that it will be to sell the reasons why it benefits HUMANS to be vegan.  THESE are the reasons why I aspire to make the leap.  Yes, I feel bad about the animals that we eat and exploit, but if I was a lion, I would still eat the antelope – health and self-preservation is priority #1.  100 years ago, I probably wouldn’t mind eating pork as much as I do now.  Today, Porky is getting the last laugh, all the toxins that we inject into him are going directly back into us – if THAT isn’t karma, I don’t know what is.  Dairy is even worse.  Not only do you get all the injectable toxins but the dairy business AT ITS BEST lacks what most people would call hygiene.  One trip to a dairy facility will shy the best milk and cheese lover away. 

Eggs are a hard one for me.  Chickens will lay eggs without any human interaction.  Males are not necessary for this process so you are not eating an embryo that might turn into an animal someday.  As a matter of fact, if there is no male present, that egg is just going to rot and make compost.  I have found little information in the way of what is transferred from hen to egg in regard to toxins.  Since I have found no vegan equivalent that is not chemical in nature, I will continue eating the few that I eat  (less than a dozen a year)  with the caveat that they be “certified humane, cage-free, 100% vegetarian feed and  no growth promotants” and, whenever possible, from a  chicken that I can visit (i.e. a local farm)

I am also VERY against “Faux Foods”.  These are prevalent in vegan diets and are usually so bad for you, you might as just eat the real thing.    These foods are meant to impersonate an animal product via the use of technology and chemicals.  If you are in it to save the animals, ask yourself this – what by-products went into the environment during the process of or the excrement of this product?  As you read my blog, you will notice (and I am sure many will have a problem with) if I am to eat cheese, I will eat cheese and not faux cheese and no apology will be given.  I will also, at this point, mention that many of these faux foods have animal products in them.  MANY faux cheeses  have casein  or whey in them.  Most protein powders, boxed cereals, processed sandwich breads, bread crumbs and crackers contain these cow’s milk derivatives.**

For the past few months I have been attempting to eat vegan as much as possible.  I began with the following goals:

No meat, No dairy, eggs for baking only, packaged food should be few and far between at home only.  Outside the house – at restaurants and friend’s homes I would eat as I liked or as given to me. 
Unfortunately many things have played a role in deterring me from my goals.  I live with a 350 lb. “Meatasaurus” (defined as a human that has an antique way of thinking about food and eats without regard to what he is putting into his mouth) and there are always temptations around the house.  It is also right between Thanksgiving and Christmas and I am eating quite a bit outside my own home.  I am finding that the more “no-no” food I eat, the more I want.  I also noticed that as soon as the temperature dropped, my appetite became insatiable.  Now, I KNOW that I have PLENTY of fat on my body to keep me warm, but I suspect that some sub-conscience caveman response is responsible for that and I just try to counteract it by eating a bit more of the healthy stuff than normal.

To answer my struggle I picked up a couple of books to help my endeavor and feel I need to mention them here as over the next few weeks, I am sure that things with come up that will directly correspond to something I have read.

First I picked up “The 30-Day Vegan Challenge: The UltimateGuide to Eating Cleaner, Getting Leaner, and Living Compassionately by ColleenPatrick-Goudreau.  I suspect that as I eliminate some foods that I will start to crave them as they detox out of my body.  I was also having a heck of a time avoiding the “hidden animal products” and insuring I was getting all the nutrients I need.  This book comes at you assuming that you don’t know much (without being condescending) and that is what I am looking for.  I am still reading this and am the type that reads the whole plan before starting it (despite the fact that the book was written so that you don’t need to do that). 
The second book I picked up was "Eat Vegan on $4 a Day" byEllen Jaffe Jones.  I think the title explains it all.  I want to eat healthy without going broke doing it.

I will start my 30-day Challenge on Jan 1, 2012.  I figure that gives me enough time to read, purge (eat the bad stuff) and shop.  The aforementioned co-habitant has been forewarned that I will not be cooking ANY animal products and that if he wants them, he can fend for himself (preferably elsewhere).

I would LOVE any comments or advice you can share about this topic!
~Reduce, ReUse, Recycle and Rejoice!

*Statistics come from NationMaster.com
** from The 30-Day Vegan Challenge: The Ultimate Guide to Eating Cleaner, Getting Leaner, and Living Compassionately by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

What a neglected blog! Let's start new!

I started this blog in May of '09! I have done just about nothing with it! I have been off and on with my Neurotic Needles page mostly because a. I forget to take pictures and b. so much of what I want to share is NOT sewing related and I really want to keep it subject specific. My NN readers already have to sit thru the constant bombardment of "cute cat" photos, I don't want to bore them with more that they are not really interested in. As an avid blog reader, I understand the frustration of enjoying a blog and then the content changes and I am no longer interested.

SO, all that said, I am going to allocate THIS blog to ALL the other stuff that I want to share. Although there may be a few subjects that overlap, most of what I do and want to share is concerning living a cleaner and less obtrusive life. I feel I have a lot to share on this and sincerely HOPE that as my reader base expands, that it will be a source of learning as well.

In an effort to explain my position to those that don't know me already, here is a bit about me and what I will be sharing and why......

I am a 40-something that has been living in San Diego since Jan. '95. I came here for 6 months to watch a friend's house and dog while he went of to sea with the US Navy and never went "home". I say it like that because I have never really called anywhere I have resided "home". I stayed here in San Diego because for the first time in my life I felt like I was home and since then I have made it such.

You will find that the ONE complaint I have about it here is the weather - or lack thereof. I HATE that there is no foliage change (or deciduous trees). My complaints usually start in July and last thru December - my apologies in advance. Since it has finally started getting cold here and snowing in Julian (the closest high altitude to me and only about 45 min. away), you will be spared the whining for a few months. Hopefully I can catch your attention and beholden myself to you before that starts up again.

Because of the weather, I do not go outside as often as I really should - or to be honest as often as I would like. I am hoping that having my readers to "answer to" will make me venture out more often. I will say that the "winter" months DO find me outside more often since I am so sensitive to the heat. You can ALWAYS put on more clothing on, there is a limit to how much you can take off without getting arrested.

Another reason I don't go outside often is that since I work from home and my friends are few and scattered I tend to have to do things alone or travel across county (which can be up to an hour - San Diego is BIG) and I am uncomfortable doing this. I love hiking and San Diego has more acres allotted to parks and recreation than any other county in the continental US. HOWEVER, I don't go outside a cell area without a buddy. If I fall and break an ankle or get a little too acquainted with a rattle snake, safety dictates having a buddy to go for help.

As I said, I work from home. I am a fiber artist. I am the owner of Neurotic Needles, at this time I have an online store and I do production work for Urban Sunday and M.O.M. My true love and passion is knitting and while you will see a bit of that in my Etsy store, I don't do as much as I would like. I have found that sewing is more profitable and my pocketbook dictates that that is where my endeavors should take me for now if I am to continue this as a career.

I have been fortunate to have doing this for the past year as my sole profession. For years I have been frustrated by working jobs that brought no joy (for me or my co-workers) and were so against my beliefs. I believe that we should be striving to have less of an impact on the environment and that we should be creating as little waste as possible. I am finding it harder and harder to keep a closed lip to the constant disregard to the world around us. It was high time to put an end to my involvement with that and those that endorse it. I feel blessed EVERY DAY that I can work from home and not be involved in that anymore.

This blog, started so long ago, was intended as a outlet for my frustration but now I hope that it provides motivation and ideas to move toward a more environmentally cooperative life. I aspire to provide creative ways to reduce waste and reduce consumption while enriching life. This is my goal for myself and my wish for my readers. I pray that together we help each other down that road. I ask only an open mind and an honest constructive opinion. (If I get hateful, unproductive comments, they will not be published. There is a difference between disagreeing and being ugly, please know the difference.)

~Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rejoice!