Live More Own Less

Just writing I have set myself a new challenge this year - Live More, Own Less.

Simply, by the end of this year I want, at least, 1/3 fewer physical possessions than I have right now.

Why?

I want more freedom and mobility.  I want to be able to pick up and move at a moments notice.   I want to focus more on accomplishments and less on possessions.

Sometimes, (particularly if I’m looking through tabloids in the grocery checkout line) I think I may be one of the only people in the world who thinks walk-in closets, McMansions, and multi-car garages are grossly excessive. Bigger does not mean better.

Benefit of cleaning out stuff - finding a pic like this.

In the name of environmental activism and rational thought, I have declared a war on stuff. I am kicking materialism squarely in the nutz. I would rather be out in the world, experiencing it than trying to own it.

To meet my stripped down life goal I am giving away, or recycling one box of former belongings every week.  So far I’ve given away an estimated ¼ of my possessions - well ahead of target!  Goodwill has received most of the items because they also recycle textiles if they can't use them.

And here’s the really cool side effect– it feels great!

The more I’ve given away.  The better I’ve felt.  More liberated.  It’s become almost addictive. My tiny apartment looks better too.

That beautiful dress has a new home

I’m also consuming less because a) I loath shopping b) I’m thinking about every single item I bring into my apartment. I only buy what I absolutely need and concentrate on quality. If it won’t last forever, then I don’t want it.

If you’d like to try the same experience I recommend starting with formal attire.  Purge your life of formality. All of mine is gone! I don’t care how sentimental  it seemed – I have pictures.

I found a group called Working Wardrobes, which provides clothing for people seeking jobs, but also helps girls in need find dresses for formal occasions like prom and homecoming.  Working Wardrobes got all my dresses. Including the one and only pageant dress I ever owned. Some of the dresses were great, some I would rather forget (pageant dress), but now all will find new homes.

What have I done with my extra freedom?

IMG_0655

I have some incredible plans before the end of the year, but for right now I’ve: written a full length play, gone to museums to see the Endeavor Spacecraft and an exhibit of original photography from Queen Victoria’s reign, found Monarch butterflies and snakes in my neighborhood, seen the desert bloom after the rain, played with new baby niece while teaching other niece archery, etc.. All fun.

Can you name the museum?

Next Live More Own Less Project:

I have to find a new home for my old mountain bike, perhaps with a kids non-profit, but it needs to be refurbished.

 

Volunteer Journal #93 - Shoes For The Homeless

Shoes for the Homeless! This one was super easy!

Mission - Help get 1000 pairs of shoes to LA's homeless population.

Time commitment - 1 hour on Saturday.

Using my new LAWorks membership and their awesome events calendar (which I highly recommend every charity adopt) I found Shoes for the Homeless, Inc. in my area.  They needed volunteers to sort new or gently used shoes for the homeless on a Saturday.

Shoes for the Homeless was founded by Ira Goldbery, a Los Angeles podiatrist who has been in practice for 30 years. Ira works with the homeless regularly, and has seen many injuries caused by the lack of proper footwear.

My Shoes!

Ira is extremely organized. I got two emails confirming my involvement with the shoe sorting. When I showed up to sort shoes he gave me a quick 1 minute briefing.  That was it.  Then the 15 other volunteers, and I matched shoes, rubber banded matching pairs, and then sorted them by type.

In truth a bit of a ruckus did break out over whether certain types of ladies shoes were work appropriate or more suited to evening wear. I tried to stay out of it because I'm known to be inappropriate often.

It was over in a flash, and the shoes ready to be distributed to the estimated 58,000 homeless in LA via shelters like the Midnight Mission.

Side note - The number of homeless Veterans in LA surged by 23% last year.  I need to work with a homeless veterans group.  If anyone knows one please send suggestions through my Facebook page.

Volunteer Journal #90 - Surfrider Bans Polystyrene

City Council Agenda - (Snore) I was sitting in a Manhattan Beach City Council meeting listening to a bunch of politicians gripe at Cal Edison, a utility, for shoddy service (Duh).  I’d rather be grocery shopping, doing laundry, lifting weights, cleaning the litter box, calling family members back, editing, any of the other 1 million tasks on my list that had to be done that day. It was quickly approaching 9pm. Not one of my chores were done. I had to work tomorrow.

But I kept my bottom in the seat because I was there in support of Surfrider, who in conjunction with a number of other environmental welfare groups, presented a case to the MB City Council to ban polystyrene containers within city limits.  In this case, numbers matter, volunteers in support of the ban were needed.

Polystyrene (often referred to as “Styrofoam”) is a know carcinogen, and as anyone who has done a beach or waterways cleanup can tell you – it’s everywhere. It’s a pain to clean up.  Polystyrene actually beats out cigarette butts in both quantity and annoying ridiculousness, which is hard to do. (FOR THE UPTEENTH TIME I HAAATTTEEE CIGARETTE BUTTS!!!!) But I digress.

At 9pm I was ready to bounce, but then things got exciting.

The Manhattan Beach City Council considers damning evidence against polystyrene.

The city appointed scientist finally stood to present their case – damning polystyrene toxic evidence followed damming evidence.  Supporters of the ban got excited.  Then a call for the community speakers. Surfrider representatives as well as community members got up and speak.  All in favor of the ban. Hurray!

But then a man in a blue shirt storms in...  Whispers circulate.  This is Michael Zislis of the Zislis Group - owner of several high profile restaurants in the Manhattan Beach area and the luxury boutique hotel Shade. Is he about to shut this meeting down, and say that the new regulations will hurt local business?

Actually... the opposite.  Michael prides himself on his green restaurants, hotels, his Tesla, and the fact that he's a free market guy. As he clearly states for the MB City Council all restaurants should support the ban on polystyrene.  He believes polystyrene is toxic and the cost difference between polystyrene containers and more eco friendly packaging is nominal – maybe one cent cost per unit.  All of his properties have made the shift.  The City Council members, clearly impressed, nod their heads in agreement.  One of their most prominent business owners has spoken.  Zislis, putting the nail in the coffin for Styrofoam, turns and quickly exits the hall.

 

I love LA! Congrats Manhattan Beach!

The ban passed with no problem.  Surfrider, Heal the Bay, the city scientists, the City Council of Manhattan Beach, citizens of MB,  volunteers, and Zislis should be proud.

I challenge people who live in smaller metropolitan areas to take up this kind of activism.  You live close to your local politicians, your kids might even play little league with the mayor's kid.  Why not take up a polystyrene ban?  Do you really want to get cancer from a cooler or bad take out food?

No! You Do Not!  And as Michael Zilsiz pointed out the cost difference is nominal.  So why would you continue to use something that pollutes and could poison you or grandkids?

Now if only I could ban cigarettes. Everywhere.

 

 

 

 

 

Volunteering Journal #89 - Tree Musketeers

Climbing Trees next to LAX. I had the pleasure of volunteering for an organization founded by kids for kids called Tree Muskeeters.

The young Musketeers plant trees, care for them, and hopefully pass on the lessons they learn to adults.

I always tell people that one of the best things about volunteering is how much you learn in the process - you can even get job training by volunteering.  My educational focus on this particular day was tree care (because some day I’m going to have fruit trees).  Since we were doing tree maintenance I didn’t think the arborist would mind being harassed.

The Tree Musketeers Arborist James was very accommodating as I peppered him with tons of annoying questions like “What is the tree that looks like it’s catching fire?”

One should never mention fire around a California Arborist.

When the panic subsided he said, “Oh the bottlebrush tree.  Yes, hummingbirds love that tree.”

She really likes trees

And I love hummingbirds so this is good.

He told me that he was in the park so often to care for the trees that the hummingbirds had gotten to know him.  They would give him an elevator greeting.

“What’s an elevator greeting?”

He said that they will swoop in and hover, considering him for a second, and then shoot straight up.

I then had far too many questions about hummingbirds.

I continued my question barrage at him and our teenage team leader Sammy as we pulled up weeds and grass in a two-foot radius around each tree and then put down a berm of mulch.  The mulch keeps the tree well hydrated, and also prevents weeds growing which zaps trees of needed nutrients.

Sammy and I put down mulch

It was fun.  I got dirty.  I climbed some trees.

Organizations founded with child volunteers in mind are few and far between.  Most groups will allow children so long as they are accompanied by an adult.  Never assume - always call ahead before bringing your children – for their safety as well as yours.

The Los Angeles War Against Public Gardens

Los Angeles Garden

One of the most touching projects I’ve done in the last 89 volunteer missions was the day I worked with LA Green Grounds. In April we planted a garden in the food dessert that is South Central Los Angeles.  Angel Teger and her family allowed LAGG to plant the garden in her yard and the parkways (area in between the sidewalk and street) lining the property. 

In late July the 8th District of LA slapped Teger with a notice to pull up the garden in parkways in 48 hours or else. I contacted Angel for her side of the story.

Tell me about the moment you got the notice from the city…

It was a very upsetting experience.  It was Monday, July 22nd and my son and I had just gotten into my car to run some errands.  I started my car and was about to pull out into the street when I heard excessive and aggressive honking right behind me.  I looked out my driver’s side window and there was a man standing there, with no badge or uniform to identify him as a city employee. He said “I need to talk to you about your garden.”

 I wasn’t sure what was going on.  He said that his supervisor had called him over the weekend, specifically about my garden.  He even made a point of identifying other planting violations within eyesight of our corner, but said that it was our garden that was a problem.  He told me I had 48 hours to pull everything out of the parkways.  When I told him that was impossible – my husband works during the day and it’s just me at home, there’s no way I could do all of that in 48 hours, he said he didn’t care who did it, that it had to be done, and if I didn’t take care of it he would come back and take care of it himself.

What were you growing in this problematic garden?

We’ve harvested chard, kale, eggplant, yellow squash, zucchini, mustard greens, string beans, honeydew melon, chili pepper, banana pepper, bell pepper, cucumber, tomatoes, bok choy¸ nectarines and strawberries.  The cantaloupe will be ready any day now.

Tiny ones plant Angel Teger's Garden

So the city wanted you to pull up a food-producing garden. What was the condition of your yard before the LA Green Grounds event in April?

Our property sat vacant for over a year before we bought it.  The land hadn’t been cared for in so long, it was hard as rock and overgrown with weeds. People would leave their trash on the parkways – fast food containers, beer bottles, dog poop.  It was awful.

What did your neighbors think of this rouge garden and city violation?

The response from the neighborhood has been overwhelmingly positive.  It started on our dig-in day, with neighbors coming by to show their support – donating food to our volunteers, dropping off bottled water, and even grabbing shovels and digging in right there with us. 

Since we planted it (almost four months ago), we’ve met so many of our neighbors.  Some make a point of taking their daily walks past our house so they can see how things are growing.  A lot of the neighborhood kids come by and pick strawberries or take zucchini, squash, cucumbers or tomatoes back home for their families. 

Every day that we are out in the garden – without exception – someone stops to tell us how much they love the garden, or how they want to do the same.  It’s been a wonderful way to connect with people.  After all, it’s food we’re growing out there – the most basic of human needs.  It makes sense that an edible garden would bring us together and grow community.

A fast growing protest started on Facebook when Angel reported her community created garden was being threatened. 

The LA City Council, without explanation, backed down from its demand that the garden be pulled up. Why do you think they really backed down from pulling up the parkway?

I’m not really sure.  I don’t know why they had such a problem with it to begin with and I don’t know why they backed off.  But, I think that support for parkway gardens like ours and the urban agriculture movement in general has grown tremendously. (A shout out here for Ron Finley and his TED talk which is what inspired me to get involved with LA Green Grounds and made this garden a reality.) 

After we received the violation, Ron started a Facebook campaign urging supporters to contact Bernard Parks, the Councilman for my neighborhood, and ask him to save our garden.  I know that made an impact because Councilman Parks’ office immediately came out to my home and got involved.  Then Steve Lopez’s article came out in the LA Times, drawing attention to the fact that the Herb Wesson, City Council President, had vowed to change the laws to allow for parkway gardens TWO YEARS AGO and nothing had changed.

Ron Finley

What can we do now to bring food justice to LA and the rest of the country?

A simple step is for the [Los Angeles] City Council to update the parkway planting guidelines to allow for fruits and vegetables.  But, after two years, they’ve been unable to follow through. 

The City of LA has a really wonderful opportunity here to promote better health and nutrition for its residents by allowing us to grow food and build community in areas that really don’t have access to good food options.  South LA doesn’t have to be a food desert.  We can change that. 

Our little garden has come to symbolize a movement that the City of LA should embrace – growing your own food to take control of your diet and health; building strong communities in which neighbors look out for one another and share resources; reconnecting with nature and taking care of our own little piece of the planet while we’re lucky enough to be on it.  These are all good things that are worth fighting for, but we shouldn’t need to fight.

What happened to Angel is not unusual. 

But just like in Angel’s case, city and governments can always be pushed by the people. 

Food Justice For Everyone

My Wish List for the 100

Me & My Buds In Alaska! I’ve only got a few projects left on my way to 100. As I’ve suggested before I have no idea right now what I’m going to be able to do or how I’m going to finish this list.  It will get done though.

These non-profits are on my wish list both national and international. I’d love to work with them someday:

Green Bronx Machine - - Stephen Ritz is an inspiration. Teaching kids how to grow their own vegetables in school and helping them become entrepreneurs in the process.

Living Lands and Waters – This Illinois group travels up and down the Mississippi cleaning up the river.  It reminds me of Huck Finn.

Surfrider – I’ve worked with Heal the Bay lots (technical term), but haven’t gotten to this national ocean saving organization yet.

Always Vote TheGoodMuse

Best Friends Animal Society – the Utah Sanctuary – They originated the Puppy Mill Protests I participated in years ago.  They rehabbed the Michael Vick Dogs.

Gleaners Community Food Bank in Southeast Michigan – I’ve worked with Food Forward in LA, but this group feeds the needed of Detroit with really innovative programs.

The Taos Land Trust http://www.taoslandtrust.org/pages/volunteer_info.html - Because much of my family has settled around this haunting beautiful section of New Mexico.

I’d love to work with Veterans in Murray Ky – Serving meals, telling stories, whatever they need.  This is where my grandfather hung out before he passed on.

Be the Match – Marrow/Stem Cell Donation – After 3 years on the donor list I’m a possible match for a 57 year old woman.  Will find out in a few months.

And the international groups:

Goonj – The ULTIMATE REUSE REDUCE RECYCLE ALIEVIATE POVERTY group in India – they are doing brilliant

Hi!

Mercy Ships -  These ships are all over the world.  They bring medical relief to remote villages who might not otherwise see a doctor.

Royal Canal Cleanup – In Dublin, Ireland. I was suppose to work with them while I was there last May, but got one of my notorious May sinus infections.  They still send me emails.  I still want to help.

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society - Because what little girl doesn't want to be a pirate?

Volunteer Journal #87 –LA Green Grounds & Ron Finley

TED 2013 superstar, Our new crush. Last year when LA Green Grounds sent out a call for volunteer gardeners 5 people responded.

Then in early March 2013 a founding member of LAGG, Ron Finley, gave what is arguably one of the best inspirational speeches ever delivered on the famed TED Long Beach stage.

He spoke about planting gardens in South Central LA - making gardens, local food, and growing your own sexy and gangsta.  Ron’s TEDTalk went viral.

In early April LA Green Grounds sent out a notice for volunteers – in less than 4 hours they had 300 responses. And inconceivably enough, for any group of do-gooders, had to turn people away.

The before digging picture

Sensing this would be the case after I watched the speech 20 times I:

a) Contacted Ron Finley directly.

b) Set the LA Green Ground email as a special alarm on my phone so I could jump as soon as I got the volunteer request. I did jump – unfortunately while I was baking rosemary crackers, which burned.  I responded within 5 minutes and got into the April 21st LAGG Earth Day “Dig In.”

It’s a great world we live in when planting a garden in South LA is a harder ticket to obtain than a red carpet event.

For the April 21st Dig In LA Green Grounds renovated a yard and 3 sections of parkway – turning them into an edible garden.

http://youtu.be/4PO9CvnmZTQ

I dragged my friend Sara along – reminding her we had committed to 7/8 hours of work.  And work we did – we shoveled, and pick axed (in truth I’m not great with a pick ax), moved brinks, shoveled more, picked out weeds, put in baby plants, and shoveled some more. We had a fantastic time, though both of us had trouble lifting our arms that night.

Not to disappoint Ron Finley showed up and so did cameras. Lots of cameras.  A virtual paparazzi followed his every move whether demonstrating the proper use of said pick ax or pulling baby beet plants apart.

All the ladies with shovels say hey!!

While catching his breath near the mulch pile he told me the biggest difference in the last two months is that he slept before the TEDTalk.

The cameras, and all the attention are a bit odd to him. They are a bit odd to the entire tight knit group of LA Green Grounds founding members.  They were a renegade-grassroots-group-of-garden-graffiti-artists, and friends, that challenged the LA City Council. Now they’re rock stars. Almost overnight.

They’re learning. They’re growing. They all get they’re hands dirty. They’re trying to not let it get to their heads.  They’re still going to need you guys so don’t stop requesting to volunteer, find a renegade garden group in your town, or better yet – start your own.

To contact LA Green Grounds go to their website, be patient, and set an alert on your email. It's worth it!

 

Volunteer Journal #86 - Los Angeles Rabbit Foundation

IMG_1061 An actual conversation with my brother:

Me: I'm going to help bunnies.

Brother: Playboy bunnies.

Me: No, bunny bunnies.

Brother: They're an invasive species.

Me: No, house bunnies.

Brother: Again, it sounds like we're talking about Playboy bunnies.

Me: [long sigh]

Brother: I'll come help. [pause] If it's Playboy bunnies. [pause] Maybe a halfway house for Playboy bunnies. [pause] Please.

They love each other.

As that conversation with my brother the humanitarian would suggest I volunteered with the Los Angeles Rabbits Foundation and the above was one of the nicer conversations I had about the experience.

Would you believe that telling someone your going to volunteer with rabbits it can lead to all out hostility? Well, it can and does.  People want to know "Why?" you would do such a thing, and "What good?" helping rabbits could possibly do. Many went so far as to suggest that perhaps I should spend my time doing something that would "Make a difference."

How does practicing kindness in any shape, size, style, or task not help or make a difference?

As far as the rabbits, first I would like to point out the obvious - there are domestic and wild rabbits.  Domestic rabbits, which humans historically bred for food, clothing, and pets are not exactly built for survival outdoors. LArabbits.org works with domestic rabbits.

Second, rabbits make excellent companion animals - especially for someone who spends time at home and needs a serious chill pill a la graduate students.

Third, how dare we breed rabbits or any animal (cats, dogs, etc.) then turn our back on them and say not our responsibility.  It is our business now.  We bred them for us, and guess what, they're either sitting ducks without us or can really wreck havoc on an environment.  Built in our image it would seem.

Rabbit Petting Guide. Serious stuff.

I was thrilled to be able to work with The Los Angeles Rabbit Foundation, which helps abandoned domestic rabbits by promoting spay and neuter, providing education on their care, volunteering in shelters and humane societies, and by fostering and rehabilitating rescued rabbits until such time as suitable permanent homes can be found.  The listings on their website are pretty cute/hilarious - it include bunnies with "bunnitude" and areas for single male and female rabbits looking to date.

From my day spent sitting in pens (see pic) and socializing (petting) the rabbits I learned that bunnies are very sensitive creatures. They mate for life, get depressed if their mate disappears, have tiny panic attacks if lifted off the ground (think hawks and eagles), they overheat quickly, generally do not like their underside rubbed, and can have a heart attack if they see a dog. That last point is important - owners of dogs and cats should be aware that one bark or snarl from your pet can startle a bunny out of it's senses - please be extra cautious if you see bunnies and outdoor events.

For all their sensitivities rabbits are also sweet pets who like to be loved on as this clip of "Pat" the bunny demonstrates. They are individuals who display, like cats and dogs, unique personalities.  They are calming creatures, and when you sit with one for awhile you feel a little sense of peace and gratefulness that this small animal let you hang for awhile.

If you would like to volunteer or learn more about domestic rabbits go to LArabbits.org.

Try to be kind to animals okay - "You can judge the morality of a nation by the way the society treats its animals" - Mahatma Gandhi 

 

Blue Fin Demand Increases & Supply Fades to Black

tunaIn a recent article “complacent” media was blamed for the lack of concern in Japan over the disappearing blue fin tuna. Apparently the Japanese public does not know that their consumption of blue fin is a major contributor to the species decline. Thus, in an effort to reach the people of Japan, one of the most educated and enduring cultures on the planet, I, a member of the media, am writing to say: Japan currently consumes about 80% of the worlds blue fin tuna, known as “The King of Sushi,” “Toro” or "hon-maguro." It is estimated that... Read Full Article on Celsias

Proud to be Cruelty Free

Cruelty FreeI would venture a guess that the majority of human beings want to use cruelty free cosmetic/beauty products. I don’t think people walk around saying, “I would like my perfume to be worn by a rat first please.” Or “I’m a smart sentient being who would never shove lipstick into my eye, but if you could please put lipstick into a monkey’s eye to be double sure it’s safe, I’d appreciate it. Thanks.” So why does animal testing on beauty products exist?

Animal testing on cosmetics began when the U.S. Congress passed the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938 in response to manufacturers selling unsafe... Read Full Article on Celsias

Horses to be Slaughtered in the US for Meat

Lorie's HorsesThe U.S.D.A. (United States Department of Agriculture) is moving toward approving a horsemeat slaughterhouse in New Mexico within the next two months. This will be the first time equine meat slaughtered in the US will be offered for human consumption since 2007. Horses can be consumed in the US, but not slaughtered here so they have been shipped to Canada and Mexico. If you’re like me you might be shocked, and appalled that people could eat horsemeat in the US. And then, like me, maybe you’re also harkening back to those elementary school years (before I gladly became a vegetarian) thinking, “What was in those school hamburgers?!...Read Full Article on Celsias

Volunteer Journal #82 - Cleaning up Ballona Creek

January 19th, 2013

Yay!  National Day of Service!

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr.

LA organized a citywide cleanup. I picked an event hosted by Friends of Ballona Wetlands. I helped clean up my local bike path, which runs next to Ballona Creek.

A little editorialized history for those not local - Ballona Creek use to be part of the Los Angeles River's drainage area.  Then someone got the bright idea to wrap it in concrete. To "prevent flooding" and create a massive eye sore - something like that. Today it is a pathetic little stream of water that runs through barren concrete on it’s way to Marina del Rey.  I privately cheer everytime I see a little bush or tree that has pushed up through the concrete.

I showed up at 10am and had to leave at 12pm.  The Friends of Ballona Creek provided me with gloves and trash bags.  Beyond that these BEFORE and AFTER pictures speak for themselves:

[slideshow id=5]

Trash picked up...

Cigarette Butts. Stop smoking! It's so nasty! Throw your cigarette butts in the trash - it's not hard.

Plastic Bags (grocery, newspaper, dog poop bags)

Styrofoam – why is this stuff still around?

Take out containers, coffee stirrers, Starbucks containers - just... stop... buying stuff.

Bait and Switch: The Harmful Mislabeling of Fish

If the environmental consequences weren’t enough reason to swear off fish a newly released study by OCEANA found that seafood fraud (the mislabeling of fish) is wide spread.  Of particular concern are fish species the FDA advises against eating, either because of high mercury content or unpleasant digestive side effects.

What kinds of fish were mislabeled? We’re not talking about already questionable fish sticks, which everyone knows are chicken. No, we are talking about over 13 different kinds of fish, from some of the finest dining establishments in New York City. Of the 142 samples taken 56 were mislabeled (39%).  Previous tests in other cities revealed similar numbers: Los Angeles (55%), Boston (48%), Miami (31%).  Samples were taken at random from groceries (both small independents and large chains), restaurants, and sushi bars.

Two of the more disturbing factoids in the study:

“100 percent of the 16 sushi bars tested sold mislabeled fish.”

Read Full Article on Celsias

The Joy of Raw Cuisine with Chef Gum

Recently, I had the distinct pleasure of seeing raw/vegan chef Kirsten Gum work her magic at the Gourmandise School of Sweet’s and Savories in Santa Monica, CA.

She made a chocolate pudding using avocado as the base, which I swear on my favorite French recipes, was better than any chocolate pudding I’ve ever had.

And so I began to think that adding more raw and vegan options to my own diet might not be such a bad idea. In fact, it might be enjoyable.  So I quizzed Kirsten a bit about the raw/vegan diet, it’s relationship to the environment, and tips on yummy food choices.

She was kind enough to humor me:

Raegan: The terms "vegan" and "raw" are really scary, even for me and I've been a vegetarian for 16 years. I picture lettuce eating rabbits when I think raw and vegan.  What do you tell people about the diet so that they are willing to try it?

Kirsten: HA, HA!! YES, THE TWO WORDS USUALLY BRING TERROR TO THOSE WHO EAT "S.A.D"raw foods - THE STANDARD AMERICAN DIET, WHICH IS FILLED WITH MEAT AND CHEESE AND LOTS OF PROCESSED FOOD.

I CALL MYSELF A PLANT-BASED CHEF BECAUSE MY GOAL IS NOT TO CONVERT EVERYONE TO RAW, BUT TO RECONNECT PEOPLE TO THEIR FOOD, TO EAT MORE VEGETABLES BY INTRODUCING THEM TO NEW PRODUCE, NEW SKILLS, NEW RECIPES AND VERY WISE AND VALID NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION.

IT'S STARTS WITH GETTING REAL WITH YOURSELF - DO YOU DRINK ENOUGH WATER? DO YOU REALLY ONLY EAT MEAT ONCE A DAY? MOST PEOPLE ARE SO "FUZZY" IN THEIR THINKING - I TRY TO GET THEM TO FOCUS AND CONSCIOUSLY EAT.

MY COMPANY EXPERIENCE RAW IS ABOUT ENRICHING LIVES THROUGH CONSCIOUS CUISINE... NOT ABOUT CONVERTING ANYONE. SUPPORT IS THE BEST WAY OF HELPING, AND GIVING THEM THE INFORMATION THEY NEED TO MAKE HEALTHY CHOICES.

R: What's your favorite raw ingredient?

K: THIS QUESTION IS EASY FOR ME - MACA!!!!  I DISCOVERED MACA WHILE LIVING DOWN IN ECUADOR AND PERU A COUPLE YEARS AGO.  IN THE STATES YOU GET MACA IN POWDERED FORM, BUT I HAD IT GROWING ON MY LAND IN ECUADOR.

IT IS A PERUVIAN ROOT, WHICH LOOKS LIKE A TURNIP OR WHITE CARROT. MANY NATIVE AMERICAN TRIBES INCLUDING THE MAYANS AND THE INCANS USED THIS ROOT AS A SOURCE OF ENERGY AND ENDURANCE IN TIMES OF WAR BECAUSE IT GIVES YOU STEADY ENERGY.

raw foodsHERE'S THE KICKER... IT GIVES BOTH MEN AND WOMEN A BOOST IN THEIR LIBIDO. NO JOKE, JUST A COUPLE TABLESPOONS OF MACA IN YOUR MORNING SHAKE WILL KICK-START YOU SEX LIFE. YOU'LL NOTICE THE DIFFERENCE IN JUST A WEEKS TIME. IT HAS THE AMAZING ABILITY TO HELP BALANCE OUT HORMONES. ANYONE SUFFERING FROM PMS, CRAMPS, MENOPAUSE ALL CAN BENEFIT.

ONE OF MY FAVORITE AFTERNOON SNACKS IS A MACA-CHACA SHAKE. 1 FROZEN BANANA, 2 CUPS ALMOND MILK, 2 TBS. MACA, 1/2 RAW CACAO POWDER,AND JUST BLEND!

R: I'm going to ask you the most frequently asked question I get as a vegetarian and one I know you get bombarded with. Maybe people will read this and then we don't have to answer it anymore:  How do you get your protein?

K: PROTEIN EXISTS IN EVERYTHING IN NATURE.  PLANT PROTEIN IS EASILY RECOGNIZABLE TO OUR BODIES. UNLIKE ANIMAL PROTEIN, WHICH IS HARD TO DIGEST AND MAKES THE BODY WORK OVERTIME.

ITS MOSTLY FOUND IN DARK LEAFY GREENS LIKE KALE, NUTS AND SEEDS.  IN THE RAW/VEGAN WORLD THERE'S ONLY 3 SECTIONS TO THE FOOD PYRAMID - FRUITS AT THE TOP, VEGGIES IN THE MIDDLE AND NATURAL FATS AT THE BOTTOM, WHICH INCLUDE NUTS, SEEDS, COCONUTS, AVOCADOS. I ALSO EAT LOTS AND LOTS OF QUINOA, A PERUVIAN GRAIN, WHICH HAS ONE OF THE HIGHEST PROTEIN LEVELS PER GRAM.

R: Why no to GMO's?

K: PLAIN AND SIMPLE...  CORPORATIONS ARE MESSING WITH OUR FOOD AND WITH MOTHER NATURE. GENETICALLY MODIFIED ORGANISMS MEAN THEY ARE ALTERING THE DNA OF CERTAIN PLANTS AND ANIMALS.

I AM FIGHTING WITH MILLIONS OF OTHERS TO MAKE SURE THE GOVERNMENT MAKESraw food IT MADATORY FOR GROCERS TO LABEL WHAT IS GMO. WE SHOULD HAVE THE CHOICE TO EAT A SCIENCE EXPERIMENT, OR SOMETHING IN ITS PURE FORM. THAT'S WHY PROPOSITION 37 [in CA] IS SO IMPORTANT!

R: You said your Kale salad is better than my favorite Kale salad at The Misfit in Santa Monica, CA (which made me start eating Kale in the first place).  Care to share the recipe?  Or tips on making the best Kale salad.

K: HA, HA.. I DON'T REMEMBER SAYING THAT. I MUST GO TRY THE KALE SALAD AT THE MISFIT!

KALE IS A VERY BITTER GREEN AND NEEDS TO BE MASSAGED IN ORDER FOR IT TO RELEASE ITS NATURAL JUICES. MANY PEOPLE FORGET TO MASSAGE THEIR KALE, WHICH LEAVES SOMEONE CHEWING FOR 5-10 MINUTES JUST TO GET IT DOWN.

STRIP THE KALE OFF THE STEM, MASSAGE IT TILL IT TAKES ON A COOKED APPEARANCE, ADD SALT AND LEMON JUICE (THIS HELPS BREAKDOWN CELL WALLS AND MAKES IT SOFTER), ADD A DASH OR TWO OF OLIVE OIL AND YOU HAVE THE PERFECT BASE SALAD. WHAT YOU PUT ON IT AFTER IS UP YOU!

R: Why is a raw diet or at least dedicating part of your diet to raw foods important for the environment?

K: I LOOK AT THE RAW DIET AS THE KINDER/GENTLER WAY OF LIVING.

raw foodsWE MUST GET BACK IN TOUCH WITH OUR PLANTS AND ECO SYSTEM, WHICH THRIVES ON BALANCE. WE ARE SO CLOSELY RELATED TO PLANTS. WE NEED OXYGEN, WHICH THEY GIVE OFF. THEY NEED CARBON DIOXIDE, WHICH WE GIVE OFF.

I COULD GET INTO ALL THE STATISTICS OF THE GASES THESE BIG SLAUTERHOUSES GIVE OFF AND HOW EXPENSIVE IT IS TO COMMERCIALLY FARM ANIMALS FOR US TO EAT, BUT I CHOOSE TO STAY ON THE SHINY SIDE OF LIFE.

R: What's next for you?

K: LOTS  GOING ON. I FEEL MORE PEOPLE ARE READY TO CHANGE UP THEIR EATING STYLES AND START TAKING THEIR HEALTH INTO THEIR OWN HANDS.

I LOVE TRAVELING AND WANT TO BRING RAW/VEGAN KNOWLEDGE TO THOSE AREAS THAT DON'T HAVE EASY ACCESS TO IT. I'LL GO TO ANY TOWN OR CITY IF THERE ARE ENOUGH PEOPLE WHO WANT TO LEARN.

I'M HEADING TO MICHIGAN TO TEACH SOME RAW FOOD CLASSES AND CATER AN ALL RAW DINNER. I ALSO AM CATERING A RETREAT IN ARIZONA IN A FEW WEEKS FOR HEALTH EDUCATOR DAVID WOLFE AND VISIONARY DAVID WILCOCK.

I'M DEVELOPING SOME PRODUCTS TO PACKAGE SO THAT MORE PEOPLE HAVE ACCESS TO YUMMY PLANT BASED FOOD. I'M ALSO IN THE PROCESS OF FILMING SOME ONLINE COURSES, SO AGAIN, I CAN REACH PEOPLE IN THE FAR CORNERS OF THE WORLD AND HELP THEM, ONE BITE AT A TIME.

I highly recommend visiting Kirsten’s website for tips on Raw/Vegan tips and that yummy chocolate pudding recipe .

Volunteer Journal #78 –Farmers Market Gleaning

Americans throw away 165 billion dollars worth of food a year! What if we could re-route that food to the hungry, or starving.

Food Forward – a Southern California charity that needs to become national and international is doing just that.  They started by picking un-harvested fruit trees and donating the fruit in 2008.  Today they’ve donated over a million pounds of fresh produce to local food banks

Now they’ve moved onto gleaning (collecting) unsold food from 3 farmers markets in the Los Angeles area.

In less than two months Food Forward Farmers Market Recovery Program (started Aug. 15th) has collected and donated 15,000 lbs of fruits & vegetables to those in need.

I loved the sound of this program, so  I had to see how it worked.  Last Wednesday I joined the projects coordinator Mary Baldwin and her group of intrepid and beautiful volunteers at the Santa Monica Farmers Market.

We braved humidity, 50 lbs boxes of produce, baby strollers, and what I can only call food pirates to collect over 1000 lbs. of fruits & veg.

How does it work? First, Mary and her team pass out Food Forward boxes to farmers, who believe they will have leftovers, towards the end of the market.  Mary keeps track of the names and just over an hour later the team runs back through the market to collect the boxes.  The produce is weighed, recorded, and then distributed to the food banks.  In Santa Monica 300 lbs. of food was sent to local charity Step Up on Second and then the rest was taken by van to St. Joseph Center which provides help to the working poor.

This isn’t my first foray into the Food Forward world.  I volunteered on a couple of fruit picks when they were a baby group of volunteers.  I’m thrilled they’re now humongous.  Their programs have helped up the nutrition level of those in need, kept food local, saved over a million of pounds of food from landfills and improved the health of the trees.

If you are interested in joining the FMR Progam Glean Team, which I highly recommend, say hello to mary at fmrecovery@foodforward.org.

So many farmers decide to donate and things are not easy for small family farms, so I'd like to take a minute to mention some of the regulars who feed so many.  If you’re lucky enough to go to a Southern California farmers market look for:

flora bella: http://florabellafarm.com/

fairview gardens: http://www.fairviewgardens.org/

windrose: http://windrosefarm.org/

see canyon: http://www.seecanyonwedding.com/

weiser family farms: http://www.weiserfamilyfarms.com/

yasutomi: http://www.realtimefarms.com/farm/5214035/yasutomi-farms

mud creek ranch: https://www.facebook.com/mudcreeksp

jimenz family farms: http://www.jimenezfamilyfarm.com/

gloria's: http://www.realtimefarms.com/farm/5069057/glorias-fruits-veggies

Fair Hills Apple Farms: http://www.fairhillsapplefarm.com/

And Dave Eakin Citrus Farmer Extraordinaire!

Now, in the spirit of this post, and using local produce, may I recommend my favorite virgin cocktail recipe that involves freshly squeezed juice-

Lavender/Grapefruit Yummy Drink

1 cup fresh grapefruit juice

1/3 cup sparkling water like Pellegrino

1-2 tablespoons (to taste) lavender simple syrup – homemade or Monin.

Pour together – stir or shake - enjoy

Bringing the Farm Out of Retirement

The University of the South, a tiny liberal arts university tucked on a 13,000 acres campus in the mountains of Tennessee, is turning their environmental record around - in part thanks to the 100 year old farm they are bringing out of retirement.

In 2007, the University of the South, commonly referred to as Sewanee, became a signatory to the Presidents Climate Commitment. A “D” rating in sustainability forced the University to evaluate it’s environmental commitments and come up with some inventive new plans.

Sewanee made a... Read Full Article at Celsias

Green Bronx Machine: Fighting Poverty

Stephen Ritz noticed the kids in his class were getting heavier and heavier. Three generations had pass through his Bronx classroom; obesity and diabetes were on the rise.

He needed to engage his students, to make them responsible for their health and education.

He started with a simple class project – they would build an edible wall. The kids sorted seeds, planted the wall and it grew. They named themselves the Green Bronx Machine, and adopted the slogan “We are Amer-i-CANS.” They got support from Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., and people noticed.

The kids were invited to Boston to install an edible wall on the George Hancock building. They were invited to South Hampton to install green roofs. They came back to the Bronx, installed more living walls and began earning real green.

The students got licensed and bonded in trade, they now build affordable housing, and their gardens easily produce 25,000 pounds of vegetables a year. They donate some of their fresh vegetables to seniors. “Brook Park feeds hundreds of people without a food stamp or a fingerprint,” says Ritz.

When Mr. Ritz’s kids became the first in their family to... Read the Rest on Celsias and watch the video.