Making kind choices in your everyday life.

Be a kind Christmas soul

Posted by on Nov 30, 2013 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

“For it is in giving that we receive” – St. Francis of Assisi

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An example of a dog helped by PETA’s “be an angel for a cold dog campaign” – the winner of our family’s Christmas Charity Kris Kringle in 2012.

 

With Christmas just on the horizon, I thought it timely to share some ideas about how my  family have wrangled around the whole stressful present giving issue. It is no secret that Christmas is becoming more about frenzied consumerism and less about the nicer parts about it (good food, wine and company).

As an atheist, the meaning of Christmas to me is nothing about religion and all about being generous to those who are not quite as lucky as most of us in Australia are (and, of course the good food, wine and company part !).

So, a few years ago, we came up with the idea of a Charity Kris Kringle in lieu of gifts (aside from the cherished children in our family – we only have a couple of them and they still get presents).

Each adult contributes a nominal figure (for us, $50 each) and writes down their charity of choice and puts it in a bowl. Child member of family picks charity name out and that charity scores the lot – usually around $350.

I have been accused of rigging this process or bribing my niece (the charity hat puller) as my chosen charity has won the last 2 years (weeehoooooo!).

Two years ago, the very worthy Brightside Farm Sanctuary in Tasmania won the spoils and last year it went to PETA’s “be an angel for a cold outside dog” campaign. ($265 buys a kennel and bedding for a dog in the US who has nil or inappropriate shelter from the elements – see pic above).

As for gift giving between me and my fella….we reserve this for birthdays and do the charity thing too for Christmas, Valentine’s Day etc. Our house is filled with so much STUFF that we have come to the conclusion that a donation to each others  favourite charity is money so better spent (and far less angst inducing…..after many years together, it becomes harder to come up with that perfect gift!).  My favourite charity is, as it has been for about the last decade, the glorious Animals Asia and my fella’s is Medecins Sans Frontieres. Both do incredible, life changing work for animals and people.

If you are part of a family who wants to do the physical gift thing, have a read of my previous kind gifts post for some ideas. I have added a few new ones which have recently caught my eye so please re-visit this post for some ideas.

Also……Checking It Twice is a fabulous ethical gift guide (Thanks Al, I can’t stop stalking it since you put me onto it….here I am trying to be all anti-consumerist – and lists galore of beautiful ethical things stare tauntingly back at me !!) 

As for christmas cards and calenders, here are some links to my favourites. They are beautiful and creative and, best of all, a large part of the proceeds goes back to help an animal and/or person in need.

Cards

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Animals Asia cards

Edgars Mission cards

Unicef cards

Calenders

Monika’s Doggie Rescue (original home of our little black patch eyed hound so we are forever grateful to this great rescue group).

Animals Asia 

Ask Alice’s Wish You Were Here Charity Calenders – 100% of profits go to the Melbourne Asylum Seeker Resource Centre. (PS Their gorgeous stationary is well worth a look too – lovely, artistic, ethical company).

Until next time, stay calm during this silliest of  seasons. Would love to hear about any kind Christmas festivities planned. Stay tuned for my next post……kind eating suggestions for Christmas day ! 

 

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Sleeping dogs and bircher museli

Posted by on Nov 15, 2013 in Recipes - breakfast | 2 comments

I wanted to swindle in a photo of our kooky dog sleeping but couldn’t think of a suitably relevant blog topic…..so I have made the very loose connection between our sleeping hound (in the crook of his daddy’s arm, on the lounge…spoilt much ??) and my most favourite new breakfast concoction………delicious coconut bircher museli. Until a couple of months ago, I thought that bircher museli was reserved for trendy cafe menus and the whole over night soaking thing put me off. But no, this bircher museli is so delicious, nutritious and easy to make that I habitually make up a batch on Sunday night and have it every morning for breakfast at work. I have tried a few other varieties but keeping coming back to this one….

 

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 Ingredients

2 & 1/2 cups of rolled oats

500 ml coconut water

100g flaked coconut

4 tbsp honey (or agave syrup)

4 large pinches cinnamon

3 tbsp sesame seeds

Julienned granny smith apple and sliced banana

Optional : 4 tbsp Greek yogurt (sourced from a kind dairy)

What to do

Make up batch by mixing first 5 ingredients above together and refrigerate overnight. Serve topped with apple and / or banana or any other fruit you desire along with yogurt if you want and top with more sesame seeds and flaked coconut.

I find it makes 3-4 generous serves. 

 

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Melbourne Cup alternatives

Posted by on Nov 3, 2013 in horse racing | 0 comments

“We love booze and hats, but not at the expense of the 7 in 10 thoroughbred horses that get “discarded” as “wastage” or the multitude of injuries and shameful conditions that many racehorses are subjected to. And just in case you think we’re tiresome, humourless, do-gooder bleeding hearts, we challenge each and every one of you to a drinking-champagne-in-the-sun competition” – The Low Road Cafe, Brisbane Queensland.

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Photo from Animal Quotes, Animal Rights & Religion facebook page

A round of applause for The Low Road Cafe. Not only are they donating 50 cents for every coffee sold on Melbourne Cup day to The Coalition For the Protection of Racehorses but their quote is so spot on.

If the glitz and enthusiasm surrounding the  “race that stops a nation” leaves you feeling a bit flat, it does not mean that you are an “un-Austrayan” bleeding heart kill joy.

It may mean that you are disturbed by the fact that :

* over 10,000 racehorses end up at the abattoir each year (some who have been found to have won hundreds of thousands of dollars in prize money for their owners) as a result of not making it to the track in the first place, not performing well enough as a racehorse or having retired from horse racing. Over breeding of the animals is rife as only an estimated one third of the 17,500 thoroughbreds bred for racing each year actually make it to the track. Some are re-homed as pleasure horses, police horses etc but these instances are in the minority as there simply are not enough homes for these animals to go to.

* Injuries are common in all racehorses but particularly in undeveloped 2 year old horses. 

* 22 hour a day confinement in a stable is akin to keeping a bird in a cage but this is the way most racehorses live.

* Humane slaughter of these animals is impossible. Horses are highly sensitive, skittish animals who get spooked by the likes of a rustling plastic bag. Their slaughter involves being shot in the head with a rifle just a couple of meters away from those horses waiting behind them to be shot. A hard to watch but informative video shows what happens here  – wastage. There are only 2 horse abattoirs in Australia – one in South Australia and one in Queensland which means massive travelling distances for many horses prior to being killed.

* The sight of little men whipping a beautiful creature who is obviously already trying their hardest in front of a roaring crowd is sad.

* Or you may simply find the egalitarian aspect of the racing world where the rich get richer and the poorly paid stable hands earn a pittance, to be a bit of a wank.

Treating these majestic animals as disposable pieces of garbage because they cannot bring an economic return is plainly unacceptable.

The racing industry is a massively lucrative industry and the Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses is trying to convince The Australian Racing Industry to allocate 1 % of the $15 billion collected  from the betting ring to giving retired or unsuccessful race horses a good home rather than being sent to the “doggers”.

What you can do to help

* Attend one of the alternative Melbourne Cup day festivities being held around the country (Nup to the Cup in Melbourne, Not the Melbourne Cup in Adelaide and Escape the Race in Canberra). I am donning a frock and going to drink some champers at Sydney University’s “Not the Melbourne Cup“.

* “Like” The Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses on Facebook to receive regular feeds of interesting information.

* Consider a donation to a re-homing organisation such as Quest Equine Welfare or Amanda Vella’s S.A.H.A Horse Rescue and Sanctuary or awareness / policy fighting groups such as The Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses.

* Write a letter to the CEO of the Australian Racing Board expressing your concern about the thousands of horses being sent to the abattoir each year . Things can be done through the Animals Australia’s page here.

* Read this great article, “They Shoot Horses Don’t They?” which featured in the Good Weekend in September 2013.

Although the focus of this posting has been on thoroughbred race horses, it applies to Standardbreds used in harness racing too (except these animals are harder to re-home due to their unusual gait).

 

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Spit to Manly walk and salty sweet balls

Posted by on Nov 1, 2013 in Recipes - Sweet | 6 comments

“Someday you will miss today” (author unknown)

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Just around the corner from Manly – out of this world view.

I did the beautiful 10km Spit to Manly walk a couple of days ago with a treasured friend. In the rush and humdrum of day to day life, it is so easy to forget the gorgeous-ness which exists just over the bridge (or wherever you are for that matter). It was a gentle nudge of a reminder to me to get out and do the things TODAY that I am always planning to get to “one day”.

 

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Pretty Flannel flowers

 

I had intended to take some whimsical photos of our picnic to include in this posting. Alas, my lentil pie turned out to be a big, odd tasting fail and the natterings over wine, baguettes and olives proved too distracting and I forgot. We even forgot to eat the highly acclaimed salty sweet balls until the ferry ride home.

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 So, there is my at home photo of the best ever salty sweet ball that you will ever eat. At the risk of sounding creepy, I adore little sweet balls and have made a few variations. But this one is the stand out.  Not only are they divine and healthy and taste of caramel but they are the perfect sized car, movie or picnic snack which you can chow down on guilt free (healthy and zero animal products). Plus, they only take about 15 minutes to whip up.

This recipe is tweeked a tad  from MindBodyGreen.com

Ingredients

20 big, soft pitted Medjool dates

3/4 cup of pecans

1/2 cup shredded coconut

1/2 cup chia seeds

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Place the coconut on baking paper in a baking tray in the oven at 200 degrees Celsius. It should brown in about 5 minutes. Remove and then, similarly toast the pecans in the oven – this will take about 10 minutes.

Process the pecans in a food processor. Remove and then put the dates, vanilla and sea salt into a food processor and process until it forms a paste. Remove and place into a mixing bowl with the chia seeds, pecans and coconut. Mix together with hands and form into golf sized balls. You could roll in some surplus pecan bits or dessicated coconut if you wish – I chose not to.

Makes about 8 balls (lasting 2 days in my house, eek !).

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October Bushfires

Posted by on Oct 20, 2013 in Topical | 0 comments

“The predictions on climate change are for worse bushfires with greater intensity as we go down this century. That means that if we are looking to minimising these tragedies in the future we very much have to turn around this catastrophic potential of climate change and take action now in our own time.” Bob Brown

cockies

Photo from Blue Mountains Australia facebook page – taken in Winmalee.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 I am finding the current bushfires burning around NSW to be so upsetting. The loss that people and animals in the affected areas have suffered is heartbreaking and I can’t stop thinking about some of the personal stories I have read about and seen on the news. I am so worried that this is a sign of what is going to be “normal” in our future.

If you are feeling as helpless as I do right now, there are some good ways to help out. The NARGA Disaster Response Team is a fantastic facebook page to “like”. It has so many suggestions on ways to help out – from volunteering to drop items to places in need, how to prepare for a bushfire, ways to donate money and how to sign up to offer your services as an animal minder for people needing temporary homes for their animals.

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Another wonderful organisation is WIRES who are obviously inundated at the moment and would benefit greatly from donations.

Woolworths are generously matching any public donations for the next 2 weeks to the Salvation Army too for the bushfire appeal. This can be done at the check out.

 

Please, weather gods, bring some rain.

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Animal Testing – Sun Screen

Posted by on Oct 13, 2013 in Animal Testing | 4 comments

“I am not interested to know whether vivisection * produces results that are profitable to the human race or doesn’t…The pain which it inflicts upon unconsenting animals is the basis of my enmity towards it, and it is to me sufficient justification of the enmity without looking further” – Mark Twain

* Vivisection means “experimentation on live animals”.

 

Unfortunately, cruel animal testing is still wide spread throughout the world on everything from cosmetics to household cleaning products to weed killer to pet foods. I don’t think that anyone reading this page would knowingly use any product which has been tested on animals but, as with so many animal welfare issues, it can sometimes be hard to do the right thing. Companies can be misleading and duplicitous, there is a distinct lack of truth in labeling and information can be hard to source if you don’t know where to look.

I am intending to do a few posts on this very important topic of animal testing to break it down into easily digestible topics. So, what better product to start my anti animal testing vent on yet another unseasonal 30 degree  October day in Sydney but….SUNSCREEN. Something my heat fearing,  freckled skin needs a constant coating of.

Luckily, the world of the internet makes it easy for us all to find kindly sourced products, once we know where to look.

However,  it is not always as simple as seeing the “not tested on animals” logo on the packaging of a product.  The product itself may not be tested on animals but it’s ingredients may be. Companies do not always tell the truth and are aware that being “not tested on animals” is desirable among most consumers. And then, there is China (and Brazil to some extent) – who’s government requires all cosmetics to be tested on animals prior to being them sold there.

These are the universally respected lists to use when you want to find a product which has not been tested on animals. These lists remove any ambiguity when searching for an ethical sunscreen and they are regularly updated and companies are booted off if they waiver in their ethics. I have targeted sun screens in the links but they are useful for most products.

The Australian independent and not for profit Choose Cruelty Free.

The internationally recognised Leaping Bunny.

Peta’s Beauty Without Bunnies

Each of these sites has useful information about animal testing, the alternatives etc.

Not necessarily concentrating on sun products but interesting all the same, Animal’s Australia provide a good guide on companies to avoid as they DO test on animals (or advertise as being cruelty free but sell to countries where animal testing on products is mandatory – ie: China). Quite a few surprises (like Clinique and L’Occitane) appear on the list.

We have a stash of sunscreens in our cupboard which has formed the initial part of my research for this topic.  There are mixed results in terms of their virtuousness in respect of animal testing.

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* Banana Boat, Le Tan and Sothys are iffy. They do not appear on any of the credible lists as being tested or not tested on animals. Sothys has the “Not tested on animals” claim on it’s packaging but this is open to ambiguity as discussed above.

* UV Natural and Natio get a big tick of approval from Choose Cruelty Free so they will remain on my shopping list.

* Nivea – the Ethical Consumer Guide have criticised them for selling to China (despite being marketed as being cruelty free) so they are off my list big time for putting profit over ethics.

* Wotnot – appear to be a highly ethical company but do not appear on the Choose Cruelty Free list. I have written to them to find out why not (which is a good idea if you are unsure…..by contacting a company, you are reinforcing to them the importance of this issue to the consumer).

I have yet to purchase sun screen products from Moogoo and Dermalogica but intend to in the future. They should be rewarded for their refreshing display of integrity by refusing to sell to the lucrative Chinese market (in the case of Dermalogica, they pulled out of the Chinese market when learning of the animal testing requirement). Jurilique, Avon and Estee Lauder are on my “never again” list for doing the exact opposite and selling their soul – paying for animal experimentation to allow their products to be sold in China (despite being marketed as being “cruelty free” in Australia).

As of this year, the EU have banned the sale of cosmetics which have been tested on animals. Israel’s ban came into effect on the 1st January 2013. Animal testing for cosmetics has recently been banned in India (and they are looking towards a sales ban, such as is present in the EU and Israel, on products which have been tested on animals in other countries). Once again, Australia is lagging behind. Although Australia does not conduct animal testing for cosmetics (although it does for many other things), products from overseas which have been tested on animals can be sold here. Similarly, Australian companies can still market their products as being “not tested on animals” but use ingredients that HAVE been tested overseas to create a loop hole. Labour’s Tanya Plibersek was pledging to end the sale of cosmetics in Australia that had been tested on animals to keep up with the tide of sensibility around the world but, unfortunately, Tony Abbott came into power and I can’t see this issue being close to his heart.

On a final note, remember not to wear any sun cream near coral reefs as, no matter how kindly sourced your sunscreen is as it can be damaging to reefs.

Would love to hear your feedback on how your sunscreens at home stack up !

PS : Have had some feedback from a few companies :

Le Tan – “Thank you for your recent email and for taking the time to write to us. Le Tan is currently in the process of becoming reaccredited to rejoin the Choose Animal Cruelty Free list. The process is proving to be more lengthy than expected as a result of external information required from our suppliers and manufacturers.  At Le Tan we do not believe in the testing of products on animals, nor do our manufacturers and we are currently in the process of collecting the external information required.”

As positive as this response sounds, I note from my internet research that this exact response was given to somebody else back in May 2012, nearly a year and a half ago. Hmmmmm ! I cannot imagine the re-accreditation process being so arduous and have written back to them advising them of this and the fact that Le Tan is off my list until they are back on the Choose Cruelty Free list.

Cancer Council “I have spoken with our National Licensing Manager and he has confirmed that our sunscreens do not have animal products in them, nor are they tested on animals – only humans. However, he informed me that we cannot categorically speak for the individual componentry that comprises a tube of sunscreen – e.g., whether or not the glue that is used to stick the label on the tube of sunscreen was ever tested on animals or contains an animal product.”

Again, sounds promising but they successfully dodged my question about why they do not appear on any of the cruelty free lists so….I have my suspicions about the transparency of their claims.

Banana Boat – “Banana Boat do not test on animals.”

No further explanation about why they are not on any lists etc so I remain dubious.

 

 

 

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“Sausage Rolls”

Posted by on Oct 6, 2013 in Recipes - Savoury | 3 comments

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My good friend Kylie has been asking for suggestions on what easy meal she can whip up for her vegetarian friend for dinner. Kyles, even your meat loving taste buds will find this one hard to distinguish from the real thing. There are two versions for you here – one vegetarian and one vegan (as seen above in the photo). Both equally as delectable. My vegan version has been tweeked from that supplied by “Where’s The Beef”.

The vegetarian one is thanks to Ange who tricked a group of meat loving men into guessing what kind of meat was in them. Lo and behold, there was indeed none and the men were none the wiser  !

My Animal Product Free Version 

125 g pecans

1 brown onion

1/2 cup of bread crumbs

300g silken tofu

1 cup rolled oats

1 Massel beef-style stock cube

1-2 teaspoons garlic powder

4 tablespoons soy sauce

Vegan milk to brush top (I used Bonsoy)

1 cup of baked, mashed up pumpkin

Sesame seeds

Frozen puff pastry 

 

What to do :

Process pecans in food processor until well chopped. Tip into mixing bowl. Put breadcrumbs in with pecans.

Chop onion and further chop in food processor. Add to mixing bowl.

Whiz tofu in food processor. Add to mixing bowl along with rolled oats, baked pumpkin, crumbled stock cube, garlic powder, soy sauce and pepper. Mix together well.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius and lightly grease a baking tray. Take out one square of pastry and cut as required (I made 2 from one square). Place ingredients down centre and roll into sausage roll shape. Tuck in ends. Brush with soy milk or water and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Bake for about 30 mins.

Makes about 6 greedy sized rolls.

 

Ange’s Version

1 onion

1 Tbsp freshly chopped herbs

100g pecans

95g rolled oats

Chop above in food processor before adding the following :

3 eggs (organic free range of course)

150 g feta cheese (using a kind dairy type like Barrambah)

1 Tbsp soy sauce

45 g breadcrumbs

Frozen pastry

Assemble in same manner as vegan version and pop into oven for 30-ish minutes. Should make about the same number of rolls as vegan version.

 

Serve with a simple salad. (Chopped tomatoes, artichokes, Lebanese cucumber, red onion, rocket, capsicum, avocado drizzled with balsamic vinegar is my usual caper) and lashings of BBQ or tomato sauce on the side.

 

 

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