"If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, will answer you: I am here to live out loud." ~ Emile Zola

31 July 2009

Yay for Treasuries!

Hooray- I've been featured in an Etsy treasury by Carmen of CaramelDiezel, a fellow EtsyVeg member! Thanks so much, Carmen! :)

Baking Out Loud- The Best Vegan Oatmeal Raisin Cookies Ever

These are the best vegan oatmeal cookies I have tried! I have tried a lot of recipes, but this one yielded, hands down, the tastiest one with the best texture. So yummy! :) I came across it on VegWeb, but as I can no longer seem to find it there, I can't credit the author (so sorry). I have a tendency to add variations or make changes while I am writing a recipe down, so who knows what it looked like before that. ;)

I suggest making them the first time exactly like the recipe if you can, then next time trying any variations. A number of times I have substituted applesauce for half of the butter, but the cookies end up not spreading correctly and have turned out very crumbly, breaking apart easily. Using just a little less butter has turned out well, though. There are probably other fat replacements that would lead to better results (banana or tofu?)

Cinnamon is one thing I would add to this recipe- I have put in up to a full teaspoon and ended up with excellent flavor. Adding some semi-sweet chocolate chips or a small handful of nuts is a tasty variation, too! Enjoy!

Vegan Oatmeal Raisin Cookies (makes 2 dozen)

Oven to 350 F

1/2c non-dairy margarine (NOT melted)
1/2c firmly-packed brown sugar
1/4c granulated sugar
1 1/2 t Egg Replacer mixed with 2 T water
1/2 t vanilla
3/4c whole wheat flour
1/2 t baking soda
1/8 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
1 1/2c rolled oats
1/2c raisins

1) Cream butter with both sugars in a mixing bowl.

2) Add vanilla and Egg Replacer mixture.

3) Add rest of ingredients slowly to avoid overload in mixer.

4) Add a dash of non-dairy milk, if necessary. Batter will be very thick and sticky, but not dry.

5) Bake 10-12 minutes, and allow to cool a few minutes on cookie sheet.

6) Transfer cookies to wire rack to finish cooling.

Kitty Love- Helping

My Sophie-cat loves often comes to "help" when I am working. She comes to sit right in front of me on top of the keyboard or a painting or whatever else, her large baby blues staring languidly, unflinchingly into my eyes until I look at her and pet and talk to and kiss her. lol Then she usually plops down, preferably into my lap, but usually somewhere more difficult. :) Today I took a few (blurry for some reason) snapshots!

30 July 2009

Quote of the Week

"We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection."

"What can I do with my happiness... I want to kneel as it falls over me like rain, gather it up with lace and silk, and press it over myself again. "

~Anais Nin

A Global Movement for Weekly Meat-Free Days

Recently, the Meat-Free Mondays campaign and the city of Ghent, Belgium's meat-free Thursdays started an important effort to promote vegetarianism and reduce the consumption of meat to help the environment. Going meat-free even just one day per week will have a huge impact in helping to curb climate change, reduce world hunger, and improve animal welfare (guardian.co.uk). Participating is a way any one of us can help the environment. According to Veg News, there is a global movement happening to encourage cities and countries around the world to skip meat one day per week on an ongoing basis, which would save enormous amounts of land and water and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The people at meatfreepetition.com would like everyone to sign their online petition to make this happen in the US and Canada, EU and UK, Australia and New Zealand, Israel, Indonesia, and Taiwan and Hong Kong. A cool thing is that anybody anywhere can vote for a meat-free day in any other city or country, not just their own.

Sign here now, and help the planet, people, and all beings!

29 July 2009

Backyard Friends- Squirrel

This may be the squirrel who eats my porch! I spied her the other day in my backyard digging up nuts stored last year for winter and munching on fallen crab apples.

There are so many squirrels in my tree-filled neighborhood. I enjoy watching them travel from tree to tree without ever touching the ground or getting languid and cozy to take a snooze on a branch. Squirrels are so cute and silly when they roll around playing together and chasing one another- I love that. Some also get very angry at my kitty when we let her in our fenced yard to wander a bit- lol! They often climb onto a very low branch and squeak and chirp at her until she comes inside. She's oblivious to all of it. We call them "squirrelies" when we try to tell her about them. Haha!

One thing I wonder about... do the squirrels with the biggest, bushiest tails have higher status in the squirrel community? Hmmmm... ;)

Nature Out Loud- A Trip to PA Grand Canyon!

I recently spent a few days hiking in the PA Grand Canyon (didya know there was one?) in the Tioga State Forest, and had an idyllic visit! T had been wanting to visit for some time, so off we went in late May from Pittsburgh toward the town of Wellsboro in Tioga County.

We decided to forego camping this time, and opted for roadside motel we'd found online called the Colton Point Motel. We were a bit nervous about what we'd find when we arrived, but were so pleased to discover a charming, rustic little place with super-friendly owners/manager who obviously put a great deal of care into it. Best of all was the nature that had made the motel grounds their home (or the motel had made nature's grounds its home- lol). The owners had built a darling little pond in back, just a few hundred feet from our room, and it was teeming with wildlife like tadpoles and frogs, beautiful birds we'd never seen that dipped into the water over and over to catch fish and bugs. It was surrounded by an unbelievable amount of honeysuckle, which made the damp mountain air sweet smelling. And right above our room's door was the nest of a pair of Barn Swallows, a pretty little blue bird with a reddish throat, a dramatically forked tail, and a sweet song. The parents were very anxious and did not hold back their upset at us being near their cheeping babies!

The time we spent in the forest hiking was blissful and rejuvenating. We hiked trails in both Colton Point State Park on the west rim of the canyon, called Pine Creek Gorge, and Leonard Harrison State Park on the opposite rim. May is still within the wet season at the Canyon, making the waterfalls and streams active and flowing strongly, which was wonderful despite the mud. Yet the vegetation and air sometimes seemed remarkably dry, and the temperature was actually quite hot.

Probably the best decision we made about the trip was choosing to go during the week rather than on a weekend- during all of our hiking hours we didn't see a soul! So we had the trails to ourselves, our own private woodlands. A clear view of the gorge and the rapids below. The breeze. The rush of water of the waterfalls and streams we crossed. The sound of our footsteps and breath. Amazing!

The thing that was not amazing was the bazillion caterpillars dangling from webs from the trees! So practically our whole time in the forest was spent either dodging dropping caterpillars or pulling them off of each other. *sigh*

We also had a run-in with a cute and very cautious groundhog on our first hike. On the way down the extremely steep trail to Pine Creek, we came across the den of a groundhog just under a large tree that had fallen and started to decay. The groundhog was peeking out at us as we passed, both she and us curious (there isn't a huge amount of human traffic there). She ended up darting away as we got closer. On our way out of the canyon we approached the den from the other side, and just as I came upon the den opening, I knelt and peeked my head down quickly to see if the groudhog was in there. Well she was, and was not expecting me! We completely surprised and scared the heck out of one another! I gasped and jumped, as did T on the path slightly ahead, and totally freaked the groundhog out so that she jumped and let out the loudest, shrillest squeak I have ever heard. It echoed through the forest, the stark contrast next to the previous near total silence making the noise seem even more dramatic. I almost peed my pants I was so surprised, so much so that I stood frozen on the trail as she ran off, leaving us to wonder and laugh. lol Haha! Awwww... I'm sorry groundhog!

There was a great little outdoors shop, Pine Creek Outfitters, between our motel and the canyon that we stopped by after a hike one day. I bought a book about birds there so I could identify the amazing ones we were seeing- along with the Barn Swallow, a Northern Oriole and a Scarlet Tanager! The shop offers guided trips down the river by raft, kayak, or canoe, as well as bike rides, and sells all of the basic necessities you could need for outdoor recreation. The rapids on the river are supposedly an awesome ride, so next time we'll prob go for doing that (despite my fear- yikes!). Definitely a trip worth making. :)

28 July 2009

Laughing Out Loud- Love this Kitty Video

Haha! A Facebook friend shared this video- it's sooo cute and silly! Love it! :D

24 July 2009

Shout Out to a Cool Blogger!

Just wanted to say a little thank you to the Cheap Thrills blog, "Handmade crafts and believable bargains by do-it-yourselfer Corris Little." Corris used a photo of my "Dancing Blue" painting (left) in a post about a Chinese brush painting class, and gave me a lovely credit (including a mention of my charity of the month)! Check out her fun and very artisan/crafter/DIY-friendly blogging! Thanks again, Corris!

Quote of the Week

“Non-violence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man.”

~Mahatma Gandhi

Handmade Out Loud: Pittsburgh Crafter Vintage Hotcakes

I met Dawn, known via her Etsy shop and at craft shows in the Pittsburgh area as Vintage Hotcakes, a couple of years ago through our local Etsy street team, Etsy Pittsburgh. I immediately adored Dawn and fell in love with her darling bags! She makes more than bags though, crafting quirky, one-of-a-kind handsewn potholders, decorative pillow covers, and baby bibs in addition to uber sweet wallets, wristlets, and purses. What makes Dawn's eco-friendly designs stand out, besides quality workwomanship and hip styles, is that all of them are made from awesome vintage and repurposed fabrics!

Some of my favorite sources of upcycled material that she uses are these nifty vintage linen tea towels with calendars or wild birds printed on them. She has quite an eye for other fabrics, too, many of which she finds at estate sales. The coolest are these fun, loud fabrics from the 1960s and 70s in crazy huge patterns and colors. Dawn also upcycles vintage accessories like handkerchiefs and men's ties, incorporating them into things like wristlet straps and decorative patches (see pics of my bags below).

I have been lucky enough to pair up side-by-side or share a table with Dawn to vend our wares in the local crafty scene, which means I often get to see her freshest new products. As a result, I own three of Dawn's bags, one each of a wallet, wristlet, and shoulder bag (thanks for trading, Dawn)! lol They never fail to stand out in a crowd and garner compliments and curiosity. Check out Vintage Hotcakes on Etsy to get your own- she does custom work, too!

My own Vintage Hotcakes collection:

23 July 2009

Pigs Have Feelings, Too, and Other Reasons Not to Eat Them

In this powerful article, GoVeg.com reminds us that there are plenty of reasons not to eat pigs! Please note that some of the videos linked to here may show graphic images of animal cruelty.

1. Porking You Up
It’s a fact—ham, sausage, and bacon strips will go right to your hips. Eating pork products, which are loaded with artery-clogging cholesterol and saturated fat, is a good way to increase your waistline and increase your chances of developing deadly diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s, asthma, and impotence. Research has shown that vegetarians are 50 percent less likely to develop heart disease, and they have 40 percent of the cancer rate of meat-eaters. Plus, meat-eaters are nine times more likely to be obese than pure vegetarians are. Every time you eat animal products, you’re also ingesting bacteria, antibiotics, dioxins, hormones, and a host of other toxins that can accumulate in your body and remain there for years.
Learn more about animal products and your health.

2. Pigs Have Feelings Too
Ninety-seven percent of pigs in the United States today are raised in factory farms, where they will never run across sprawling pastures, bask in the sun, breathe fresh air, or do anything else that comes naturally to them. Crowded into warehouses with nothing to do and nowhere to go, they are kept on a steady diet of drugs to keep them alive and make them grow faster, but the drugs cause many of the animals to become crippled under their own bulk.
Learn more about cruelty to pigs. Check out these videos from pig farms in Oklahoma, North Carolina, Nebraska, and South Dakota.

3. Pigs and Playstations
Think that you can outplay a pig on your Playstation? You may be surprised. According to research, pigs are much smarter than dogs, and they even do better at video games than some primates. In fact, pigs are extremely clever animals who form complex social networks and have excellent memories. Eating a pig is like eating your dog! As actor Cameron Diaz put it after hearing that pigs have the mental capacities of a 3-year-old human: "[Eating bacon is] like eating my niece!"
Learn more about [the hidden lives of] pigs.

4. Pigs Prefer Mud, Not Crud
Pigs are actually very clean animals. If they are given sufficient space, pigs are careful not to soil the areas where they sleep or eat. And forget the silly saying “sweating like a pig”—pigs can’t even sweat! That’s why they bathe in water or mud to cool off. But in factory farms, they’re forced to live in their own feces and vomit and even amid the corpses of other pigs. Conditions are so filthy that at any given time, more than one-quarter of pigs suffer from mange—think of your worst case of poison ivy, and imagine having to suffer from it for the rest of your life.
Learn more about what happens to pigs in factory farms. Check out the mange-ridden pigs on these South Dakota and Nebraska pig farms.

5. Farming Family Values
Factory farms are pure hell for pigs and their babies. Mother pigs spend most of their lives in tiny “gestation” crates, which are so small that the animals are unable to turn around or even lie down comfortably. They are repeatedly impregnated until they are slaughtered. Piglets, who are taken away from their distraught mothers after just a few weeks, have their tails chopped off, their teeth are clipped off with pliers, and the males are castrated—all without painkillers. Learn more about cruelty to pigs.

6. The Manure Is Blowing in the Wind …
A pig farm with 5,000 animals produces as much fecal waste as a city of 50,000 people. In 1995, 25 million gallons of putrid hog urine and feces spilled into a North Carolina river, immediately killing between 10 and 14 million fish. To get around water pollution limits, factory farms will frequently take the tons of urine and feces that are stored in cesspools and turn them into liquid waste that they spray into the air. This manure-filled mist is carried away by the wind and inhaled by the people who live nearby.
Learn more about how factory farming damages the environment.

7. Bacteria-Laden Bacon and Harmful Ham
Extremely crowded conditions, poor ventilation, and filth in factory farms cause such rampant disease in pigs that 70 percent of them have pneumonia by the time they’re sent to the slaughterhouse. In order to keep pigs alive in conditions that would otherwise kill them and to promote unnaturally fast growth, the industry keeps pigs on a steady diet of the antibiotics that we depend on to treat human illnesses. This overuse of antibiotics has led to the development of “superbacteria,” or antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains. The ham, bacon, and sausage that you’re eating may make the drugs that your doctor prescribes the next time you get sick completely ineffective.
Learn more about the effect of eating meat from sick, diseased, and drugged animals.

8. Hell on Wheels
More than 170,000 pigs die in transport each year, and more than 420,000 are crippled by the time they arrive at the slaughterhouse. Transport trucks, which carry pigs hundreds of miles through all weather extremes with no food or water, regularly flip over, throwing injured and dying animals onto the road. These terrified and injured animals are rarely offered veterinary care, and most languish in pain for hours; some even bleed to death on the side of the road. After an accident in April 2005, Smithfield spokesperson Jerry Hostetter told one reporter, “I hate to admit it, but it happens all the time.”
Learn more about cruelty to pigs during transport.

9. Killing Them Without Kindness
A typical slaughterhouse kills up to 1,100 pigs every hour, which makes it impossible for them to be given humane, painless deaths. The U.S. Department of Agriculture documented 14 humane slaughter violations at one processing plant, where inspectors found hogs who “were walking and squealing after being stunned [with a stun gun] as many as four times.” Because of improper stunning methods and extremely fast line speeds, many pigs are still alive when they are dumped into scalding-hot hair-removal tanks—they literally drown in scalding-hot water.
Learn more about what happens to pigs at slaughter.

10. Ditch the Bacon and Get Fakin’
Save pigs from hell and yourself from bad health by feasting on faux pork products instead. Stuff a sandwich full of Yves brand veggie ham slices, or throw some Lightlife Smart Bacon into a sizzling skillet—the freezer and “health food” sections of your local grocery or health food stores are packed full of these and other
tasty substitutes. Check out VegCooking.com for hundreds of recipes, product recommendations, vegan meal plans, and a shopping guide. Think before you eat another sausage link—order a free vegetarian starter kit full of delicious recipes and celebrity features today!

22 July 2009

CRAFTIVISM: Updates in the Fight for Arts Funding: The Time to Act is Still Now!

To catch you up on arts funding happenings since my initial article about the need for Craftivism in saving The Arts, a recent timeline:

July 7: NEA Stimulus Grants Announced Today
Grassroots action through Americans for the Arts efforts led to a federal economic stimulus recovery package for the The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)! As part of the $50 million federal, the NEA announced

July 9: SB 850 Rears Its Ugly Head
A huge blow as Senate Bill 850 came up again for back in consideration- the bill includes zero funding for the arts and total elimination of the PA Council on the Arts (PCA) plus another $1.7 billion in cuts to other remaining appropriations. Its passage would mean no grants to the arts for FY2009-2010. Immediate and significant action to support state funding for Pennsylvania's arts! Programs, jobs and services are at stake.

July 14:
Save the Arts Rally in Harrisburg, PA

July 20: HB 1416 now zeros out PCA funding
Tthe PA Senate approved HB 1416 as amended, which included ZERO funding for the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. HB 1416 as amended will be sent back to the House of Representatives tomorrow morning where one of three options can take place:
* They concur with the changes made by the Senate and send the bill to Governor Rendell for his signature;
* They vote to nonconcur with the changes and send the bill to a conference committee for further diliberation and compromise, or;
* They take no action on the bill

PA ARTS NEEDS YOUR HELP NOW! There is seriously no time to waste... :/

What you can do:
1.Sign the on-line state petition to Save the Arts in Pennsylvania (it will take you only about three to four minutes).
2.Sign up for action alerts from Citizens for the Arts in Pennsylvania.
3.Contact your state legislators today through the Legislative Action Center.
Facebook Members: Sign up for the “Save the Arts in Pennsylvania” Cause and become a friend of Citizens for the Arts in Pennsylvania.

Vegan Etsy Treasury

Some cruelty-free, handmade fabulosity from my teamies on Vegan Etsy!

To see more fabulous handmade and vintage creations and supplies from our vegan and vegetarian artisans, check out our teams's Crafty Veggie Marketplace!