Farewell 2012

Monday, December 31, 2012

It seems like only yesterday I was reflecting on 2011. This year has gone super fast. It was a busy one, that's for sure.

I've lost another 27 kilograms (60 pounds) this year, a total of 40kg (88p) since my surgery. It feels amazing. I still have a belly I need to lose which will take exercise. Exercise is still my nemesis, and a psychological block exists there that needs to be broken down. Still, I've lost an entire Finn, so to give him a piggy back and realise I used to carry that all day everyday is a pretty awesome comparison. My body is under so much less stress now and there is no question I have prolonged my life by doing this. It makes it easier when food gives me grief or I am having a rough eating day.

This time 12 months ago I had long hair, 1 tattoo, no piercings other than my ears, and I weighed 27kg more. Now I have shorter hair, 2 tattoos and a nose piercing, and am lighter. I feel every day I become truer to who I am and how I express that. It's an amazing feeling.

In 2012 I worked bloody hard at self esteem and self worth. Damn hard. SO hard. I came a very long way. So many things rattled me as I was vulnerable to them but I forged ahead. Again I have a way to go but comparing now to 12 months ago I have come so far it blows my mind. I no longer have a deep seated self hatred and disgust at who I am. I like me - inside and out. And that's a massive change. Next comes self love?

I made and lost friends in 2012 and while each loss shook me (and said esteem) and rattled me and caused me to question myself, each one also cemented who I am and the reflection and self doubt led to more certainty and awareness of myself, and can only be a good thing. The friends I have are not just friends. They are ones I'd trust my life to. They are the real deal. They are more like family. I am so incredibly lucky to have them and it's something I try never to take for granted.

Speaking of family, it went a bit pear shaped this year. My brother and I, who have had a fairly rocky relationship, are no longer in any contact and haven't been since July. I miss my niece and nephew but this is a far better choice for me.

I guess my blog highlights the most impacting change I made this year in my eventual - slow but sure - progress to adopting a cruelty free lifestyle and a vegan diet. It was an on and off road, I struggled and took my time to understand some of the new food options but I was determined. It meant too much to me not to keep trying and exploring it. I am now firmly entrenched in vegan living and nothing has made me happier. It feels wonderful, and it's who I am, inside. In my day to day life, I don't know or interact with any other vegans, except online. It can be isolating at times, and can feel like no one really understands me, although they all try and are considerate of my decision. Attending events like World Vegan Day and the Carols by Barnlight at Edgars Mission were profound and exciting. Being amongst like minds felt like a relief. I could just be me, no justifications, no defensiveness, just accepted and understood. Pretty powerful stuff. I need to expose myself to more of that. The supports I have online are amazing. In fact, I suspect in 2013, things are going to expand and take off again in this area as my good friend Vik and I have so many ideas for our 2 Vegan Girls venture. I am so inspired and excited about it!

My gorgeous Great Dane Gertie came to live with me, and we had a rough year. Poor love was diagnosed with dodgy kidneys and her life span went from 8y to 2y in an instant. It hit hard. She also had 2 incidents of poisoning which scared the hell out of me, but several thousand dollars later, she's still here, and still a giant, beautiful, sook. How I adore her!

We moved house in May, and have a huge block now for kids and animals to run wild. We added rabbits to our menagerie and aside from adjusting to the dreadful cold of winter in a house with high ceilings and a wood fire, it's pretty cool. My children continue to delight me. Finn is smart and wise and hitting preteen stuff at a rapid rate, scaring the bejeesus out of me at how quickly he is growing. RJ is a wicked delight, constantly making me laugh and cringe all at once. Preparing to have both of my children out of the home for a significant portion of the week with school and kinder terrifies me. I have been a stay at home full time mum for 9 years now and this is it. No more. It's scary and makes my heart hurt a bit. I know I will adapt, but it's going to be a rough ride.

I can't close out the rehash of 2012 without mentioning the major highlight. Something happened this year that I never imagined would, that is a dream come true, quite literally. I met the most inspiring and influential musicians - my absolute hands down all time favourite band: The Tea Party. Their music changed my life, changed how I view music and what it can be in life. That they reunited was major enough, but that they came to Australia and I saw them twice, and met them - was able to shake their hands and thank them... Fuck me. That blows my mind, still. What beautiful guys they are, I am so excited to see what 2013 brings for them and for me by extension in listening to what they create. Nothing topped that moment. It was amazing! Telling the guy on the door "no, not a competition winner, JB put my name down..." Nothing cooler. Nothing.

So, what of 2013? I feel like the critical thing to work on next year the same way I tackled esteem this year is laziness. No more having ideas but avoiding actioning them. Write. Create. Move. I know I can do this! No more getting in my own way. Exploring more veganism issues, studying again, and continuing to blossom into the truest Kelly I can be feels exciting. Let's go!

Happy 2013 to you and yours xx

I invented a fooding!

Friday, December 21, 2012

I am such a recipe rules girl. I can't veer from a recipe unless I have to and even then it pains me. I just can't do it. For the first time ever today, I put together my own recipe. So pleased with myself because it turned out SO nommy and would happily be nommed by carnis, omnis and vegans alike. TASTY! Would be the BEST comfort food!

I don't have a clever name for it, just going with Mash and Mushy Pie for now. Here tis!

5 potatoes, peeled and cubed
Soy milk
Dairy free butter (I use nuttelex).
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tbsp (ish) porcini mushrooms, rehydrated in boiling water and chopped
1 portobello mushroom, chopped
4 button mushrooms, chopped
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp paprika
1 tsp fresh parsley, chopped
1 tsp fresh chives, chopped
1/2c vegetable stock
1 tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)
1 sheet shortcrust pastry (vegan)
1 sheet puff pastry (vegan)
sesame seeds to sprinkle.

Boil spuds, drain, mash, mix with soy milk, dairy free butter and salt to taste. While they are boiling, saute onion, garlic and mushrooms til mushrooms have released their juices and all are starting to brown. Add herbs and stock and cook until liquid evaporates. While this is happening, blind bake your shortcrust by putting it in a dish, with baking paper on top and rice to weigh it down. About 10 mins.
Add your mash to your onion and mushroom mix and combine. Spoon into pastry shell. Sprinkle with nutritional yeast. Top with sheet of puff, trim to fit. Brush with soy milk and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Cook until brown and nommy!

Happy heart, happy body!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Yesterday I finally got around to visiting Edgar's Mission. It's a farm sanctuary here in Victoria and I have been meaning to visit for a good year now but had never gotten around to it. I decided to take the kids to their carols by barn light event. As it turned out my poor fair children were wilting in the extreme heat after barely 2 hours and we ended up leaving before the carols even began! A shame, but we filled the time we did have there so well. There was loads of vegan food (kids devoured vegan brownies and vegan ice cream), hundreds of likeminded people (several with the 269 tattoo), and happy, trusting, secure animals. I dont think I've ever enjoyed something more. So wonderful!!! The kids enjoyed it, petting the animals and there was an education room where they had a pretend sow in a sow stall and pretend chickens in a crammed cage and I was able to explain it to the kids. I hope it gets them thinking. I said to them when they were petting a turkey, THIS, THIS is why we are not having turkey for Xmas this year kiddos.
There were a few stalls set up too with merchandise and whatnot. I grabbed a great book from the store there as well called The Pig Who Sang to the Moon by Jeffrey Masson. I've heard a lot about this book so I am looking forward to reading it now. I feel inspired after this visit. There's something incredibly special about seeing the animals you've been wanting to save by going vegan up close and personal. It reaffirms your beliefs, and strengthens your commitment. Makes me want to do more and be more, and has me writing again. Blessings! Below is the article I wrote after interviewing Pam for World Vegan Day.

Edgar’s Mission is a not-for-profit farm sanctuary for rescued farm animals. Located in country Victoria, Pam Ahern and Edgar’s Mission are continually saving lives, conducting public outreach and offering a humane education program to the public.

In an ideal world, Pam hopes to see herself out of business, with no need for a place like Edgar’s Mission to exist. A world where the need for a farm sanctuary is no longer, where humans have moved into a deeper awareness of animal rights and cruelty free lifestyles. Pam works flat out, trying to meet the demands not only of the animals, but also in making rescues, campaigning and spreading the word, not to mention administrative tasks.

Pam suggests that a growing vegan market and awareness of a cruelty free lifestyle is much attributed to technology and the ease with which people can access information about vegan lifestyle choices. Additionally, “the threat of global warming has started a shift in people’s attitudes.  People are beginning to be open to the idea that the status quo isn’t appropriate anymore.  They understand that it is imperative to consider the environmental and ethical impact of the choices they make.”

The Edgar’s Mission website http://www.edgarsmission.org.au/ offers many ideas for the public to help the animals at Edgar’s Mission, from adoption, to donation, to volunteering for a day of hands on farming. There is also an online store offering everything from clothing to books and bags. 100% of the store’s proceeds go back into the farm and it’s animal residents.

Edgar’s Mission offers a unique visiting experience for volunteers and for vegans, it’s exciting to see first hand exactly what they dream of – a kind, happy, animal farm. By stopping by their stall at World Vegan Day, you can meet for yourself one of Edgar’s Mission’s joyful, content, animal ambassadors! 

Vegan FAQ!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

What exactly IS a vegan?
Okay so a vegetarian does not eat animal flesh. This includes beef, pork, chicken, veal, lamb, duck, fish... Anything that once lived and breathed or had a pulse etc. A vegan is someone that in addition to this, also does not eat, wear or use any animal derived products so dairy, eggs, honey and so on, leather, animal tested products... Anything that uses an animal for profit or human gain is out. We believe that animals are not ours to use, simply because they are voiceless and unable to defend themselves against us. People ask me what about squishing bugs or eating plants since they are alive too. Let me try to make it simple - firstly, I try not to squish bugs and relocate them instead, but if I slap a mozzie and it dies, I don't beat myself up. It's self defence! Seriously though, killing bacteria is also self defence. Additionally, whilst plants live, they are not sentient beings that can think and feel, and as such, there is not a valid reason not to eat them.

Aren't you guys all hardcore, militant, omni bashing, guilt trippers?
Ha! Well, some can be sure. But so can some omnivores. Or some religious people, or anyone with a cause they believe in. I've certainly seen some around, but I was lucky enough to be unofficially mentored by two vegan friends who never judged me, always gave me ideas and alternatives and encouragement, but never forced their beliefs or reasons and only offered when I asked for them. There are some great videos and information on the web. Take the good with the bad and don't let it put you off. Everyone is on their own path and pace.

So I have to give up cheese altogether? I don't think I can...
You know why? Because cheese is literally addictive. Those naughty casomorphins! They have an opioid effect. Yes that's right. Cheese is opiate like, morphins. Morphine. In your cheese. No wonder you love that stuff, right? So once you can break that addiction, you won't miss cheese. The vegan cheeses available commercially are continually improving. There is parmazano, a vegan parmesan, and my current favorite is Vegusto. That stuff is awesome and soy free (soy cheeses can sometimes leave an aftertaste). I am also very partial to tofutti and kingland cream cheeses! As for your cheese sauces for pasta and so on, never fear, nutritional yeast (read further down) is a vegans bestie.

Some of my best comfort foods are vegan, won't I miss them?
Okay so we are talking what here? Chocolate, ice cream, pizza... all that crap that firstly isn't good for you but we all want anyway. Let me let you in on a secret - you can still have all of that as a vegan. ALL. Of. It. Vegan chocolate includes most dark chocolates, and there are brands such as sweet william that have milk and white varieties and can be found in Coles. Venture further afield to a specialist vegan store and you'll be inundated with vegan chocolate varieties in every flavour imaginable. Including tasties such as champagne truffles. To die for.
Ice cream is another one we can sort you out on easily. Coconut based ice cream is delish. I've even made my own in the ice cream maker (with a salted caramel sauce over the top - decadence!) but its available to buy as well. And if you want to go a healthier route, there's always (egg free) gelati!
Let me talk about pizza. I've been working on a good vegan pizza over time. How can you do pizza without cheese man?! Easy!!! I've used a cashew cheese that I home made, and I've used vegusto. Both were yum. I am hanging to get my hands on some Notzarella which I have heard amazing things about, but also Cheezly do a vegan mozzarella and a vegan nacho melty cheese. Drooooool.
There are a huge range of vegan burgers and bacons and so on if you know where to look. You don't miss out, and it's worth hunting for it for the lives you are saving.

Doesn't vegan mean all healthy and raw and grainy?
Well, it can. Unless you are like me and love your creamy, cheesey, carby, 'bad for you' food too much... I've made or bought vegan schnitzels with mash and gravy, cheesy potato bakes, lasagnes, pizzas, chocolate peanut butter pies, cupcakes, yum cha... All 100% vegan. I have always loved food, too much mostly. But I am not someone who could easily go without. I am a foodie, I love to cook, I love to eat, I love to taste. Being vegan doesn't cost me any of that, and indeed with it the satisfaction and kick I get from eating cruelty free and knowing no animal was hurt for the sake of my taste buds, it just gives me a pretty cool high. As a bit of a teaser, check out these vegan cookie dough truffles from my favorite vegan chef... drool!

What are all these things that are new to me? Agave? Nutritional yeast? Gluten flour?
This was a minefield for me when I first started eating vegan. I'd say it took me a good year to get my head around all the substitutes and their uses. When I first got nutritional yeast, I used it as a sprinkle on chips. Which is great, but it's nothing on using it to make a cheese sauce for a lasagna or alfredo. It's not yeast like baking or brewers yeast. A friend told me it looks like fish food. lol. It kinda does! But it really emulates a cheese flavour perfectly.
Agave syrup is a great alternative to honey. It's sweeter than honey and has a kind of toffee taste to it. Brilliant sweetener.
Gluten flour can make a product called seitan, that's kind of a wheat meat thing. It also makes killer schnitzels.
There are various egg replacers, a ton of milks and techniques for baking that make cupcakes nicer than any dairy based cake I have ever had in my life. Vegan baking always comes out lighter and fluffier for me!

What is the hardest part?
For me, it was cheese. Once I got rid of cheese, I was fine. I find meat and eggs kinda gross anyway, they're all veiny or mucousy and just... ew. lol. So I didn't find it hard to dump those. Milk was also easy to switch (my favourite alternatives are bonsoy, almond and hazelnut milks). But cheese was tough. I tried I guess 4 or 5 different cheese alternatives but none were as good as dairy cheese until I found mild vegusto. I'd not know the difference between it and a dairy gouda. Whilst it doesn't melt well, it still tastes good on pizza, and they also do a more piquant flavour that I am told is sharp and bitey like a parmesan though I am yet to try that one myself. That and just learning what substitutes are out there and getting familiar with them took time. Oh, and reading labels on things I assume are vegan but turn out not to be is frustrating at times (eg lime and pepper crisps, you'd think oh vegan easy. Hello milk solids. FOILED AGAIN!)

What is the best part?
I said it earlier, I really get a kick out of eating cruelty free. I think that before I always ate with a subconscious feeling of unease and guilt without ever really being aware of it. now that I avoid all those products, I just feel so happy and amazing. So true to myself. I've never experienced anything quite like that before! Knowing my health is better, and losing weight more easily are added bonuses.

Got any other questions? Ask away. I'm here to help!