Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Spring Rolls or Marine Mammals?

I am not a cookbook writing kind of person….but when I find a great, easy recipe, I am going to share it here.

This week we made spring rolls. I am including the rolling instructions. If you try to wing it, you may end up with the equivalent of small baby beluga’s with stuff oozing out each end.

Vegan Spring Rolls

Everybody knows that when you find a place that makes good spring rolls, you go back again and again. What most people don’t know is that they are one of the easiest and most fun dishes to prepare at home!

(You could use basil or mint or just about any fresh herb that you like instead of cilantro…shredded lettuce is great in them too)


  • 1/2 container firm or extra firm tofu, well pressed
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 1 cup cooked bean thread noodles or rice vermicelli
  • one bunch fresh cilantro leaves
  • spring roll wrappers
  • water


Slice the pressed tofu into thin strips. Heat the soy sauce, olive oil, sesame oil and ginger in a skillet and saute the tofu for 5-7 minutes, until crispy.

In a large bowl, toss together the carrots and noodles.

Submerge 2-3 wrappers at a time in hot (not boiling) water until completely pliable, about 15 seconds. Wrappers will become fragile, so I recommend using your hands for this. Remove from water and lay one wrapper on a flat surface, setting others aside. If your wet wrappers have small holes in them, place the holes closest towards yourself on your flat surface. For larger holes, use a double layer of wrappers.

Place 2 to 3 tablespoons of the veggie mixture in wrappers just below the middle. Place cilantro leaves and a strip of crispy tofu along the top of the filling.

Fold the bottom of the wrapper up over the filling and gently press down. Fold in both of the sides of the wrapper and gently press to seal. Continue rolling the spring roll up towards the top of the wrapper. If your wrapper won’t seal closed, sprinkle the top with a bit of water or make a roux of one part water and one part arrowroot to use as a sealant.

Serve with a dipping sauce.

Easy Thai Peanut Dipping Sauce


  • 1/3 cup organic peanut butter, softened
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • juice from 2 limes
  • 1 tbsp fresh minced ginger
  • 1/2 tsp maple syrup
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • salt to taste


Whisk together all ingredients in a small bowl.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

I believe in synchronicity. It happens all the time in my life. I probably notice it about 1% of the time…if that.

We left Ann Arbor with the camper and the dogs yesterday to find a little wild space to hang out in for a few days. Less than an hour from Adena’s place in Ann Arbor we found a state recreation area that is pretty much deserted because it is not a weekend. When we arrived, no one was camping here. We saw signs of the holiday weekend that just ended…beer bottles and other trash tossed on the ground at some sites. We found our sweet quiet place near the lake and JC leaped over the hand rails on the long pier to swim in the lake that had a NO SWIMMING sign. I love watching a 58 year old vegan guy run along the pier and shoot his whole body over the 3 foot railing.

Within an hour of being here, I could feel my mind clear and the stress I have been feeling melt away. Instead of our usual movie, we read books to the sound of crickets and geese or soft classical music on the stereo. The dogs hung out in the mud outside the door, happy for the freedom of no fence and all the possibilities out there.

In this kind of slow quiet, I can notice synchronicity.

In the evening a Westfalia van came driving through. The guy waived as he passed and camped on the far end of the loop where we cant hear or see each other.

After a quiet long night of sleep, the dogs and I walked to the outhouse and pump and met the Westfalia guy there. The only other person in the whole place and within 5 minutes we figured out we have mutual friends and familiar spots in Wisconsin, Minnesota and New Mexico. Byron is a potter in Detroit and seems to be “our tribe”…our kind of people.

He started talking about a place for sale near Silver City in the Gila. Faywood Hotsprings. Hundreds of acres and a hot springs in the one area of New Mexico that both JC and I can get excited about. Here is where synchronicity enters. The chances of us being here: slim. There were lots of camping places we could have gone. The chances of Byron coming to the water pump right when I was going by it: slim. I had to have my morning poo at just the right time and it had to end at just the right time and Bean had to scratch on the door of the outhouse and delay me a bit because she wanted me to open the door so she could sit at my feet in the stinky outhouse. Byron had to sleep just the right amount of time and then decide to get water at just the right time.

Synchronicity works like this: I am going to research the possibility of Faywood Hot Springs being purchased by a group of people wanting to start Vegan Village. I may find out that it is not perfect for our needs, but in the process I may come across something else that is perfect for that or I may come across a place that would just be great for backpacking or who knows what else.

It is a bit like the “hint hunts” I used to have with the girls (Sanna and Saga) in Sweden when I lived there. I would write out clues on little slips of paper. One paper slip might say: “A place where they call a friend a mate”. They would then think of Australia and hopefully think to go to the next clue taped to the Australia drawing on the glass globe of the world.

That is how this synchronicity thing works. I trust that Byron has just given me a clue that will take me to the next clue. The trick is to trust and be present. In everyday life, a major clue can pass by unnoticed. I trust that I am supposed to research Faywood Hot Springs. It may be that the minute I sit down to research it, the next clue appears. Or I may have to wait until we go research New Mexico spots and then the next clue will appear as we head toward Faywood Hot Springs. It may be that we discover something on that outing that makes us both want to take Silver City off of our HOME radar or leads us to an even better option than Faywood. That is where the trust comes in. You cannot tell how the dots connect until you look back at a bunch of them. I think this is why I love movies like Sliding Doors or Happenstance or Run Lola Run. I love how life can take turns based on the smallest details and our noticing or not noticing them.

I also love how things that seem like negatives are part of the puzzle and end up being positives. The places or situations or people we want to get away from, take us to the next place. I thought that my feeling stressed in Ann Arbor the last few days was a negative. My wrists were hurting from too much computer work for Vegfund and I was tired of highway noise and endless tasks. Ideally, I would have just been happy to be there and accept it all, right? Like the book I am reading now “How to Want What You Have” (found at a garage sale in Ann Arbor)….I should just want things as they are, right? Well, yes and no. Things as they were a few days ago also included my body and mind yelling at me to get to a slower quieter place for a few days. Part of what I had was the situation I was in and part of what I had was the choice to be somewhere else….so why not go with the choice to be in quiet wild space. That is not the same as longing for what I don’t have when it was in fact an easy choice in front of me..

Maybe a year from now I will be living in a place and be able to look back to the day in Ann Arbor when I was stressed and wanted out of there and feel grateful for it because it pushed me here which opened up the possibility of talking with Byron, which led me to research a place which led me to another place and on and on for an entire year, until I ended up standing in Utah (who knows) wondering how a bad day in Michigan got me there.

It is this kind of synchronicity that got me to visit New Mexico for the first time in the early seventies. Years earlier I was in an international dance group and would drive to the weekly dances with the same couple every time. I cannot even tell you their names right now. On one of those short drives to the dance, the woman turned to me and said, “You would love Taos New Mexico.” I had never heard of Taos and had never thought of visiting New Mexico. Years later, when a relationship ended in disaster and I wanted to leave town, I could not think of where to go. Then I remembered what that woman had said to me. I packed my little rucksack and hitchhiked to Taos with my cat. When I got there it was 2 am. I slept in a field outside town. In the morning I woke up and walked into town and noticed a flier stuck on a utility pole for a dance class that morning at 10 am. I found the community center, set my rucksack in the corner, pulled out my sleeping bag and let the cat settle in there. After the dance class people made local announcements. The class had about 15 people. Two of the people made announcements that got me a place to live and a place to work within one hour of landing in town. Years earlier, one women turning around and telling me I would like a town led me to a place I will always call home.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Otherwise Caring and Intelligent People....The Two Gap Theory

Can someone help me figure out the logic in why otherwise caring and intelligent people would buy purebred dogs from petshops or breeders when there are millions of homeless dogs languishing in shelters and waiting in rescue foster homes? And while you are at it can you also help me understand why people refuse to spay and neuter their companion animals?

I can understand why billions of people care about dogs and cats, but do not care about other beings when they are labeled as food. This is an agreed upon cultural violence norm that people can feel good about because it goes mostly unquestioned. But, dogs and cats and other companion animals? We LIVE with them. How can we not make the best choices for those we live with?

This photo is dogs waiting to be slaughtered for human consumption in Asia.

Many people find this difficult to see. (This is one of the easier photos to look at of this industry)

But, why is it not equally disturbing to see other species kept like this for eggs or other foods? Chickens, sheep, cows, pigs and other species feel pain, have relationships and can also connect with humans given the chance.

And why is it not equally disturbing to think of dogs and cats right here in North America being kept in cages for their entire lives so they can be breeding machines for a greedy industry?

I really do want to understand it. I am welcoming any feedback about this from my blog readers.

I have a two gap theory. There is one gap between what the reality of an industry is and what people know. There is a second gap between what people know and what they act on.
I don't know anyone who acts on what they know 100%. I sure don't. The gap between what we know and what we act on may be the one that is at the core of the purebred/overpopulation/breeder problem in the world.

I have been thinking about this issue more lately because I have been walking in a forest everyday here in Ann Arbor Michigan that is full of highly educated university people walking their dogs. There are lots of people walking rescue dogs, but there are also many people walking purebred dogs they got at breeders or pet stores and male dogs with intact balls and unspayed female dogs in heat.

So, here is what I want to know: Do people not know the horrors of the breeding facilites (even after Oprah highlighted it)? or Do people know about the suffering that goes on in these places but choose to ignore it?

I know that denial can run deep. I have been stubborn to act on some things that I know. (I act immediately on those things that are very little effort on my part. If something requires a major change in the way I do things, I can be a bit slower. But, adopting a companion animal from a shelter or rescue does NOT require a huge leap in daily lifestyle. It is one choice. A very easy choice. 9 out of 10 of these shelter animals is killed because of lack of homes. Many people choose to only support no-kill shelters, but these are just the feel good places. When those shelters are full, people are forced to take their animals to the shelters that euthanize or they dump them on the side of the road. All shelters will be no kill shelters when we stop supporting breeding of any kind. (I am talking about companion animal breeding here, we can talk about human breeding in another cheery blog).

I have a friend who is a graduate of Harvard Business school. He is not a stupid person. But all logic seems to escape him on the issue of spaying and neutering. He thinks that it is "unnatural" to spay and neuter. He thinks that we should just release all companion animals into the wild and let nature have her way with them. Hmmm, imagine the world with all companion animals released. If it were a movie, the title would be "War on Wildlife". Not to mention the billions who would simply starve or freeze. The current situation with companion animals is not "natural" and the solution is not going to be "natural". We created a situation that we need to take responsibility for.

There are times, like now, when I can feel no hope for the human race to wake up and take care of who and what is around us. Here I am, in my work, asking the humans to please consider that other species have feelings and deserve to live their lives fully. I am asking this of a species (humans) who are still unable to even accept that all people are deserving of this. We are still abusing children, other races, other cultures and ourselves. We knowingly make choices that destroy our own health and the planet. So, how do I expect a species who cannot even care for its own kind or its own home (earth) to see beyond the differences to embrace all other life? We assume we are the most intelligent species, when in fact, most other species are far beyond us in their ability to care for self and others. Take rats, for instance. They will always choose the healthiest foods when given a choice. They will pick fruits and veggies over junk "food" everytime. We have not even got those basics figured out.

OK, back to the dog and cat issue. I am asking people to be logical about this choice. Even if you are set on a particular "must have" breed, find a rescue group on line. Or, visit a local shelter where you will often find purebreds who, like their mutt shelter mates, are surrendered because the "intelligent" human who originally adopted them did not realize that this living being actually requires some attention.

Aside from all that, I am still hoping that someone can enlighten me on why this basic companion animal choice is so difficult for people. In terms of our awareness of other species and how our lifestyle choices affect them, the companion animal issues should be a no brainer. This is kindergarten in the school of animal welfare/rights. As I sit in this room at Adena's with four rescued dogs, I look around at their individual faces and the personalities that each one has. One of them was rescued from a facility that was about to sell him to a lab to be experimented on. He is looking at me right now. Those same eyes could have been pleading with a vivisector to please not do anymore painful experiments or to please give him something to ease the pain of the previous experiment. I do not want to put difficult images here on the blog. But for those willing to witness what we are doing to dogs in labs, go to this link:
I have been working on these issues for so long. Sometimes I just want to quit it all and go be in a beautiful place and do nothing but notice the stars or the sunrise or the wind on my face. And then I remember all I have seen and heard and smelled in the world of these voiceless beings who live in hellish conditions everyday of their lives. I have no choice but to speak up for them when I can.....
This is not such a cheery blog posting. Life's not always so cheery.