"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

30 March 2011

Budgie Breakfast

These are my sweet little budgies, Otis (green and yellow) and Lily (blue).

They love a breakfast of fresh fruit and veggies.

Their favorites are...


and Spinach:

28 March 2011

DIY: OOAK Fabrics!

I love fabrics, especially in original patterns and artful designs. If I could sew, I can see myself collecting fabrics obsessively like I do other supplies! :)

A friend from EtsyVeg, Karina of Maple Ash and Oak on Etsy, recently shared this tutorial on how to hand-print your own textiles she wrote for Poppytalk Handmade. She writes, "Beautiful prints can be created with simple methods and materials... found at your local art or craft store [or around the house]."

Another spin on DIY fabrics is creating a design on your own and having OOAK fabric printed for you by Spoonflower. This allows you to take a hand-drawn image or an image from an original painting or other work of art to make a completely original fabric for use in your own handcrafted clothing, accessories, or toys or to sell by the yard. I adore this idea! Spoonflower offers eco-friendly printing on natural fabrics, and allows you to upload your own image, arrange a pattern, and preview what the fabric will look like.

Hope you find some inspiration in these resources!

14 March 2011

Animal Rights- Divisiveness or Unity?

I've been witnessing quite a lot of infighting among vegans in the animal rights movement between those who call themselves "animal welfarists" and those who call themselves "animal abolitionists".

"Welfarists" put forth that first and foremost animals should be treated with compassion and in ways that prevent their mistreatment and suffering. They assert that even small improvements in animals' lives are important steps in moving toward alleviating suffering, such as passing laws to improve conditions on factory farms. On the other hand, "Abolitionists" vehemently support the immediate and total liberation of animals from being used by humans. They assert that no intermediary steps are acceptable in working to achieve this goal, and actually perpetuate animal suffering by allowing people to feel that subjecting animals to use for humanity's purposes is "okay" as long as they aren't hurting as much or have access to more fresh air.

Some would try to label me a "welfarist" over an "abolitionist", but I reject both labels. They add to the divisiveness in our community and ignore that each vegan or vegetarian falls along a spectrum of beliefs and ethics and choices. In my opinion, there's room for everyone. We all ultimately share the same goal: free animals from suffering. The essence of the disagreement is the most effective path to make this happen.

The truth is, the welfarist and abolitionist stances are not mutually exclusive. Making inroads toward lessening suffering, as welfarists express, is better than maintaining the status quo of treating animals without love, respect, and kindness. But only as long as the end goal of eliminating suffering altogether is not forgotten. And in terms of the abolitionist approach, if it were up to me or anyone with an ounce of compassion, of COURSE the optimal solution is to abolish suffering of any kind- people included- immediately and completely. I think all vegans believe that to the core. And indeed, there are those in society who might feel better about eating eggs if they know that the chickens have grass to run around in. However, smaller steps are preferable to no action, and the reality is that in the world today most of the population will not or are unable to commit 100% immediately to liberating all animals from suffering at the hands of humans. That probably won't happen for a very, very long time. The all or nothing approach is unrealistic and allows for no forward movement- in fact, it obstructs it. So what to do until the day when freeing animals totally from the bonds of slavery, abuse, and suffering?

Horrible suffering by animals at the hands of humans exists. The eradication of all suffering will not happen for a terribly tragic length of time. Subsequently, reducing suffering until this is possible is the ONLY solution. Looking into the faces of those being neglected and brutalized and subjected to painful deaths and denying them some relief of that suffering because some activists claim it doesn't go far enough is so not acceptable! If suffering must exist, we must minimize it by advocating for better living conditions and more humane treatment until that suffering can be ended. It's not about what activists believe is the most viable solution, but about doing all we can to reduce the suffering of the exploited. Taking no action because "ideal" action can't be achieved does not benefit the beings who are hurting and struggling NOW! Acting together does! Divisiveness and judgement accomplish exactly nothing.

WE in animal rights, no matter what our stance on how to liberate animals, are aware and see the truth and are willing to open our hearts and minds to commit to end suffering, but WE are a very small minority (sadly). In today's world, animal exploitation and consumption continues to grow. Society will not hear a message that makes veganism and/or ending animal suffering seem extreme and judgemental, an unattainable goal they must to put into action in their everyday lives or else it's pointless. Setting people up for failure is not the way to get their attention and gain their support. That's like walking up to someone and telling them that if they don't accept such and such a religion they will go directly to hell. Most people will not *hear that*.

In making the message more universal, more openness is created in those who hear it. An attitude of embracing intention and small action vs. no action welcomes involvement and fosters a feeling of relation. People who hear "your action doesn't matter if you don't commit 100% and do it *this* way will react to the hostility and turn a deaf ear. Effective action must consider the environment in which it will be taken. And that means accepting and reinforcing the steps everyone makes toward compassionate living, looking for common ground as we work towards a day when all beings will live as equals. This is how we and our movement will grow.

Here's a very similar article, much better expressed. :)

09 March 2011

Vegan Pancakes & The Best Vegan Brunch in Pittsburgh

So, I love pancakes. Actually, I hated them as a kid because the only ones I ever had were made of Bisquick, which is gross. But I rediscovered them in the past few years, trying recipe after recipe until I hit the jackpot on VegWeb- "The Best Pancakes Ever! Vegan or Otherwise". The title speaks the truth. Pancakes, flapjacks, hotcakes, or whatever you want to call them, this recipe produces light, slightly sweet discs that are heaven for your mouth.

Anyway, last week I happened to 'hear' about an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast with vegan options this past weekend to raise money for Tree Pittsburgh. Me + pancakes + trees = LOVE, so I was all about it. So on snowy Sunday morning, we headed to a favorite eating destination that was hosting the event, Double Wide Grill. Now... if you see an event advertising a pancake breakfast with vegan options, wouldn't you assume that meant VEGAN PANCAKES were offered? Well, not according to Double Wide. They handed me a menu with some other options, claiming there was "a mistake" and that no vegan hotcakes were being served. DUH. *sigh* Lesson: Call first. No matter what vegan claims are made. Sucks.

I wasn't about to leave my pancake cravings unsatisfied, and neither were other people I saw leaving for the same reason. Luckily, just down the street from Double Wide is my favorite veg restaurant in Pittsburgh, Zenith, which happens to have a famously amazing vegan brunch on Sunday mornings.

The thing about Zenith is that it's not only an all-vegan restaurant, but a veritable museum of awesome antiques and vintage coolness for your coveting pleasure. When you enter the building, you do so into a mini warehouse space filled floor to ceiling with anything vintage or antique you could think of. Clothes, furniture, jewelry, dishes, collectibles, stained glass windows from old buildings, weird salt and pepper shakers, and art. The inventory is always changing, and it's all for sale.

Once you pass through this area, you enter the restaurant, which is two more rooms of old treasures and art from local artisans. The walls of the first room are completely covered with paintings, sculpture, and display shelves filled with gorgeous antique collectible glassware in a kaleidoscope of colors. The second room's walls are adorned with art for sale from area artists, and one wall has huge lead windows that let in loads of natural light. The coolest thing is that all of the tables, chairs, and dinnerware used at the restaurant are also vintage or antique. And the ceilings are hanging with all sorts of unexpected odds and ends suspended above diners.

Zenith's menu changes from time to time, but is all vegan all of the time (they do occasionally offer eggs at brunch and an option for dairy cheese for some dishes). They have a super long list of loose teas available- more than I've seen in any one place. On any given day, there are 2-3 options available to choose from for each course: appetizer, soup or salad, entrees, desserts, etc. Our favorite Zenith dish is the divine Tofishy Sandwich, breaded tofu on a thick, soft bun served with vegan tartar sauce or cocktail sauce. We lick our hands and plates afterwards, no kidding.

Each guest, for just $10, gets a coffee or tea, choice of one made-to-order breakfast entree like almond french toast, banana pancakes, or a burrito AND an all-you-can-eat buffet of delicious fresh salads of all kinds, breads, and like 10 different homemade vegan pies and cakes. We always leave full and happy. :)

A tip: If you plan on dining at Zenith for brunch, which is offered from 11 am - 3 pm on Sundays only, plan to get there early or expect a wait (which isn't hard given the exploring and shopping you can do in the meantime). There are a lot of tables, but they fill quickly. A line forms at the door well before 11 and wraps around the building, so when the doors open most tables are called for.

07 March 2011

Vegan Polenta Lasagna

After watching Nigella Lawson make a Venetian Lasagna on the NBC Today Show, I was inspired to come up with my own variation, vegan (easily made vegetarian) of course. ;) I greatly simplified the recipe, using primarily the idea of using layers of polenta to make a fantastic, creamy-tasting lasagna!

(inspired by Nigella Lawson's
Venetian Lasagna)


2-4 c tomato sauce(depending on how much sauce you prefer), jarred or homemade, any flavor

1/2 c water

1 vegetable bouillon cube, or enough vegetable broth or water to make up the polenta following the instructions on the package

2 c unprepared polenta

1 T vegan butter

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 T dried parsley

1 t each of dried basil and oregano

2 t kosher salt or 1 t table salt, or to taste

1 c vegan Parmesan cheese

2 medium-large carrots, peeled and cut into thin discs (any veggies would work)

1c shredded vegan mozzarella cheese (I suggest Follow Your Heart brand or Daiya)

*You will also need parchment paper and a 9x11" or 8x8" glass baking dish, lightly oiled.


If making your own sauce, do so first and set aside.

Prepare for making lasagna layers by tearing off 2 pieces of parchment paper a little larger than the size of the lightly-oiled pan you are using. Set aside.

If using a bouillon cube, dissolve in the specified amount of water, or measure out veggie broth or water. Follow the preparation instructions for the polenta you have on hand, using a medium-large saucepan.

Stir as instructed with wooden spoon, and when the polenta has thickened, add, stirring well as you go, the tablespoon of butter, garlic & herbs, salt, and 1 cup of Parmesan. Taste to see if you want any more seasoning. The polenta is finished once thick and coming away from the sides of the saucepan.

When polenta is ready, immediately and quickly pour a thin layer evenly into the bottom of your baking dish. Divide the rest quickly into more thin layers, all the same size, on the sheets of parchment paper. Obviously, the layer depth will be thinner if you have chosen a larger pan. As you drop each layer, use a silicone spatula run under cold water to spread it evenly to the same size as your pan. The polenta will set almost instantly, so you have to work quickly. Allow to set further and cool.

When you are ready to assemble the lasagna, preheat the oven to 400°F. In your polenta-lined baking pan, spoon 2/3c (or other preferred amount) of sauce over bottom. Add one layer of carrot slices and a light sprinkle of vegan mozzarella.

Carefully hold the parchment paper with the next layer of polenta over the pan. Peel back paper as you set the polenta on top.
Carefully peel next polenta layer off of paper with fingers or spatula and move to pan.
If any breaks into pieces, simply reassemble in pan.

Add another layer of 2/3c sauce, carrots, and sprinkle of mozzarella.

Top with the final layer of polenta from the third pan, then remaining sauce and rest of mozzarella.

Bake for 1 hour until bubbling and melty, even in middle. Allow to set for 10-15 minutes, then serve. So Good! :)