Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Wielding an Ice Axe

(def) Self-Arrest is a maneuver in which a climber who has fallen and is sliding down a snow or ice slope arrests (stops) the slide by himself or herself without recourse to a rope or other belay system.
Self-arrest can be performed by using an ice axe or by using the climber's hands, feet, knees and elbows. Self-arrest with an ice axe is a difficult maneuver, but without it the probability of effectively arresting a fall is greatly diminished.
Ever since I read Wild by Cheryl Strayed, the term Self-Arrest has been rolling around my brain.  Then I looked up the definition and POP - the lightbulb not only turned on, it shattered!
Self-Arrest your LIFE when you start to slide.  Only YOU can stop a sliding YOU.  
For my clients who fall into the trap of food/family traditions over Christmas, claiming their powerlessness against the tide of hams, sweet potatoes, chocolates and cocktails - SELF ARREST.
For friends that get a good running streak going and then slowly slide back into bed, showing up less and less, and then lament their failed running program - SELF ARREST.

Use any and all means to stop the slide - claw at the ice, wrap your legs around any available tree branch...

When you are surrounded by people who do not share your interest in a healthy body and clear mind, remember the adage "show me your friends and I'll show you your future" and then SELF ARREST.
If you've opened that bag of chocolate chips in your fridge and you keep making excuses to go into the kitchen and grab a "few"... throw the bag in the trash and SELF ARREST.

When you feel the most desperate and the edge of the cliff is rushing toward you, take out that ice axe, raise it in a high arc and with all your strength, jam it into the ice.

The first time you notice your pants are tighter - SELF ARREST

When you've let a vacation derail your workout routine and the weeks and months since vacation are slipping away into inactivity - SELF ARREST

When it's time to go in for a medical check-up and you put it off regardless of that nagging feeling - SELF ARREST

When you're on the town with friends and it's time to switch to water in order to make the following day a good one - for God sakes... SELF ARREST

This is the reality:  Your life will be less if you do not take control of your health. Less productive, less happy, lessened in length and mobility. Only you can do the work. There is no friend, spouse, diet program, trainer or nutrition coach that can do it for you. We are only tools in your backpack - your Coleman stove, a lighter for your fire - but we are not your ice axe.  Anyone who claims to be is a liar.


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Simplify - Ditch the Armoire

It's no secret that I'm obsessed with the deserts of the southwest.  My dad has the same obsession so I like to think it's genetic.  I'm reading a book called Salt to Summit about a guy who hiked from the salt flats of Death Valley to the summit of Mount Whitney, the tallest peak in America.  He incorporates many historical accounts of the first 49ers who made the treacherous crossing.  In one account, a single man who was a skilled outdoorsman came upon a group of families trying to cross the Sierra Nevada mountains with their oxen and carts.  They were emaciated, lost and hopeless in the 100+ degree heat.  It was known that the journey would take one third of the time on footpaths too narrow for the carts. The single man looked at their dying oxen and starving children and mused, "And for what?  To reach California with your grandma's armoire and your father's tools?  Why not sell the furniture and make the crossing unencumbered but for a little gold in your saddlebags?"

Well, duh.

As we stare down the last 12 months in paradise, our lives are headed for a drastic s-curve in the road.  I'm not making the turn with an armoire strapped to my back!  My New Year's Goal of simplification is under way and I am lovin' it!

Phase 1 -   Ditch the armoire.  

I'm selling it all.  Piece by piece in my work newsletter and through group yard sales.  Everything must go.  There is a 50/50 chance we'll be living in a motor home when we move back (more on that later - don't lose focus!) and things get painfully simple when you ask the question "Will this item be in the motor home?"  I have yet to find an item, except for the dog, that has received a "yes" to that simple question.

Next questions - in order...

"Have I used this item in the past six months?"  If no, sale pile.  Examples: two chicken roasting pans, a floor lamp I haven't turned on in five years, an extra set of martini glasses, the entire pod of dust- collecting "cool canisters" in my kitchen and my awesome (yet never used) all-in-one printer/scanner/fax machine. 

"Is this item necessary for the remainder of our time here?"  Examples: the futon in the guest room, our flat screen televisions, my office furniture, the rest of our lamps and bookcases.  All of this will go in a yard sale at the end of the year.  

"Does this item mean enough to ship it back for storage in the States?"  The hardest category.  Examples: a beautiful water pitcher I bought while traveling in Italy, a tea set handed down from my husband's grandmother,  a large ceramic bowl-hand painted by a dear girlfriend, boxes and boxes and boxes of photos.

I share all of this because I am very surprised at the number of things in my house that I don't use.  The floor lamp is a great example. It's been sitting in the corner of my bedroom collecting dust for five years and my eye just skims right over it.  I've participated in 5 yard sales in the past 4 years and never even considered the lamp until I started asking The RV Question

I'm also surprised by how good it feels!  Almost every one of my friends has lamented at some point that they need to clean out, simplify, pare down, etc. There's nothing to be afraid of - you can live with only two Pyrex baking dishes.  I am the proof!

Twenty years ago, I began my life in the Virgin Islands with some clothes in one bag and a rice cooker and VCR in another (a story for another day) and that's about as unencumbered as a girl can get.  I think it's fitting to end my Caribbean life the same way I started... sans rice cooker and useless VCR :)

Don't worry!  I'm sure the horror of selling everything we own will set in at some point.  I'll be sure to update this post when it does. 

Monday, January 21, 2013


Sometimes haste makes good food.  After a long day of running the pup at the beach, we came home sandy and starving with 30 minutes before the football game. In times like these, I have to whip up something quick and substantial.  No time to make two meals - one for veggie me and one for omnivore husband.

Luckily, I had made brown rice the day before so it served as a bed for my WOK creation.

A)  In my haste and hunger, a blog post was the last thing on my mind.
B)  It's all gone and good brussel sprouts are a rarity.  I can't recreate on a whim down here.

So please trust that this is beautiful in your wok and roll with me...

15 fresh brussel sprouts - stem trimmed and then halved
1 large head of broccoli - cut into chunky florets
1/2 yellow onion, diced fine
1 clove of garlic, sliced into thin shavings
1 tablespoon of sesame oil
1 package of extra firm tofu, drained and pressed*
2 tablespoons of light sodium teriyaki sauce
2 tablespoons of sesame seeds
1/4 cup unsalted peanuts or cashews

Garnish to taste -
red pepper flakes
sweet chili sauce
Sriracha sauce

First, dice the tofu and place it on a plate or in a plastic bag and cover with teriyaki sauce.  Make sure all surfaces are coated well and let sit.

Heat up the wok and add sesame oil.  Toss in the brussel sprouts, broccoli, onions and garlic shavings and turn to coat.  I like to let the veggies just sit in the pan and brown up a bit before I start stirring them around.  I'm a sucker for brown edges!

The sprouts and the broccoli will love your wok and will turn a gorgeous bright green to thank you.  Cook the veggies to desired softness and then place them into a bowl to the side.

Next, unleash the teriyaki coated tofu into the wok and do the same - let the tofu start to brown in the heat of the wok.  Teriyaki is sweet so it can burn.  Keep an eye on your tofu.  When the tofu has some brown edges, toss in the sesame seeds to coat the tofu.  Count to ten and then pour the veggies back into the wok, add the peanuts and give it all a good stir.  Remove from heat.

My Favorite Part:  I warmed up a little brown rice in two bowls and then just lugged the wok into the living room and set in on a serving tray on our ottoman, surrounded by red pepper flakes, chili sauce and Sriracha.  The huz and I ate our way to the bottom of the wok.  Let the game begin!

How about those Harbaugh brothers?!  Great sports story in the making...

* I've come a long way with tofu.  In the beginning, I had to let it sit under a pile of dictionaries for hours to get all the water out.  Now I barely do any pressing.  I just rinse it off, cut it into quarters and wrap it in a dishtowel while I'm doing the dishes or whatever.  It doesn't soak up as much marinade flavor as fully pressed tofu but when I'm in a jam, pressing is the first thing I eliminate. 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Well Goshalla!

Why is cheese so darned delicious?   I bet that giving up cheese is the number one reason why vegetarians (or anyone for that matter) don't make the step to vegan.  I can't tell you the number of times I've heard "I could never give up cheese!".  Countless.  Including from my own lips!

When I learned that cows have to be pregnant and have a calf to produce milk - everything changed for me.  I guess I always thought that cows just "had milk" and we were somehow performing a benevolent act of kindness in extracting it from them.  Not so.  They have to be pregnant for nine months (just like us) and you don't have to look far to see what happens next - separating the calf from mother so we can suck her dry, shoving the males into a tight veal crate so that they don't develop a lot of muscles (apparently we like them tender) and the female babies become dairy cows... the cycle goes on and on.  The grief of the dairy cows over separation from their calves and their forced impregnation is well documented and heartbreaking.  

All of this is insane because we do it under the guise of "calcium" which is a mineral from the earth which is now added to cow's milk because dairy cows rarely eat grass anymore. The overwhelming number of those cows you see out in rural pastures are for meat, not dairy.  Interestingly, 80% of ground beef in the U.S. is actually made from used up mama dairy cows.  The steaks and "cuts" are made of the pasture cows.

Which leads me back to cheese. 

I think cheese casts a spell over us because it's 70% fat.  Humans love fat.

It takes 10 lbs (or 5 quarts) of milk to make 1 lb of cheese.  It takes 12 lbs of milk to make one gallon of ice cream.  That's a lot of milk.

I recently listened to a talk by Dr. Neal Barnard of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and he pointed out that research shows a morphine-like hormone in milk that is produced by the mother to keep her calf interested in her milk.  When you condense so much milk to make cheese, the morphine compound is intensified and we eat it like candy.   Blissful comatose after cheese pizza...sound familiar?

Isn't there some way around all this?

How about a "no-kill" dairy farm where cows have sex when they want and get to stay with their calves while still producing milk for sale AND they die of old age while being cared for by humans?

Yes, it exists and it's called a Goshalla.  

I found the following excerpt on a blog months ago in the comments section and copied it to my iPad.  I apologize for not being able to give credit where it's deserved but I think the conversation is worthy of sharing!  Here is a Flicker album of a visit to a Goshalla in India - amazing, loving and kind.

Food for thought...
As Sevenseas said, I work at a dairy farm sanctuary that meets my definition of "humane". It still can be seen as an inherently parasitic relationship but I am personally satisfied that the cows are happy and that the people who work there, and most of the people who drink their milk, are not seeing them as commodities or walking vending machines. They are sacred, revered, respected and loved. From an AR perspective there are of course still things 'wrong' with the practice and relationship but for me, my conscience is clear.

Anyway I can answer your questions with regards to our goshalla (Sanskrit for 'place where cows are protected):

Q: I'm just wondering if humane dairy farming is possible in order to meet demand.
A:  No, it isn't. If ahimsa milk was made standard, people would have to drastically reduce their dairy consumption and treat milk and dairy products as precious commodities. People would have to pay the true price of milk, not the price of misery and slaughter that they currently pay for a litre of blood milk. This would be better for the cows, human health, and the whole human race IMO.

Q:  Wouldn't the cows still need to be impregnated? Would the farmer have to wait for each cow to become pregnant on her own or would they still be forcibly impregnated?
A:  Yes, cows need to have a calf before giving milk in the vast majority of cases. It's not unheard of for a cow to spontaneously lactate, which can also happen in humans, but no farming system can rely on that freak occurrence. Artificial insemination is not sanctioned in the scriptures so we don't use it. We have a bull, Kamadeva (means Cupid) and every year he gets some new girlfriends to do it with the natural way. Sometimes he escapes and we get unexpected pregnancies, and sometimes our girls jump the fence and meet an amorous neighbouring bull. Whilst it's not their choice whether they're put with Kamadeva or not, it's certainly nothing like the rape racks you get farmers 'joking' about. I can testify that the girls really adore Kamadeva, when it's time to leave him and have their calves they really don't want to say goodbye. Unfortunately it's too risky to let them calve with him around.

Q:  The calf would drink a portion of the milk and may also be allowed to grow up. Would it be profitable enough for them to want to pursue humane dairy farming?
A:  This is what we do. The calves and mothers stay together until the calf starts chewing the cud and doesn't rely on milk as a sole source of nutrition. Then they are put in adjacent pens so they can always see each other, touch noses, groom each other and so forth. The cow is milked and then put in with her baby. They're very clever and know to keep back enough milk to feed the baby. The calf usually needs about 25% of what she produces - we all know cows make much more milk than is necessary for their babies - and she give us the other 75%. Interestingly, cows will also hold back their milk if they don't like the milker or if the milker is nervous or angry or feeling some other unsettling emotion. I've experienced this myself, the girls wouldn't give me as much milk as they usually give until I bonded with them and got to know them.
As for profitiability, the economics are something of a problem. To account for keeping the cows in old age as well as the bulls, we need to factor in that cost in the price of the milk. At any one time about 1/3 - 1/4 of the herd is producing milk, and these girls have to pay for everybody as well as for themselves when they dry up. This is why we charge £3.50 for a litre compared to the £0.70 people pay for blood milk. A surprising number of people are fine with that, but convincing the meat-eating masses that this is what they SHOULD be paying is not easy. I spend quite a large amount of my time preaching about cow protection and really, it isn't easy.

Q:  Would they end up with too many bulls?
A:  We have 18 oxen, 1 bull and 32 heifers/cows. For those who don't know, a heifer is a female who hasn't had a calf yet. We don't sell, slaughter or euthanise any of our cows but there are a few reasons we end up with a much higher ratio of girls: firstly, bull calves are much more likely to be stillborn, die at birth, or die in young infancy. I'm not sure why but this is common to all herds and not just our farm. Secondly, bulls tend to not live as long, much like human women have a longer life expectancy than men. When they are big enough our boys work, things like ploughing and hay-making. It stops them getting bored, exercises them, helps the ox drivers bond with them and also cuts down on our fossil fuel emissions and makes us more self-sufficient.

Q:  What would the farmers do to ensure each cow's health and avoid common problems like mastitis or milk fever? Would cows be kept alive until they die naturally even after milk production decreases with age rather than being turned into cheap ground beef?
A:  We have two cow nurses who do a daily herd check. They will look at each cow's posture, behaviour, general condition, eyes, smell, etc. every day to catch any problems early. We have one girl, Ana, with eye cancer. She has been getting chemotherapy but it doesn't seem to be working so she might be taking a trip to Liverpool to get radiotherapy soon. The most common problems are general cuts and scrapes, which you will get in a place where their horns aren't burnt off at birth. Mastitis is a very rare problem for us because we hand milk instead of using machines, and we don't demand high yields. Our highest producer gives about 13 litres a day compared to the 20 - 30 that is common in most farms. Even our oldest girls who might have had 4 calves, the bottom of their teats never falls below the knees. Most of our cows have udders so small that you can barely see them without bending down. I have never heard of any cow having milk fever in the 30 year history of the goshalla.

None of our cows will ever go for beef, or to market, or be sold, or slaughtered, or euthanised. One cow, Haribolananda, lived until she was 28 after about 15 years of unproductive retirement. Oxen work from the ages of 4 - 15ish, the girls will generally lactate for about 6-8 years over their lifetime. The average lifespan is 18 years for our herd. We don't value them based on what they give us, they are each individual and beautiful souls who deserve the most respect and the best care we can give them. The only privileges the productive cows get is more intensively nutritious food, i.e. grains, because the demands on their body (to produce milk or work the land) are higher than the retired ones.

Q:  I imagine people would still need to limit their dairy consumption quite a bit in order for it to be sustainable and not have an overabundance of demand that they couldn't handle.
A:  You're absolutely right, and I think that would be a very good thing for all involved.

I couldn't agree more!  Lauren

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Great TRAINing!

In approximately five weeks, I'll take a shot at one of my 2013 New Years Goals!  I'll attempt to complete The Great Train Race across Barbados.  Technically, not a race but a run.  Yes, it's a small island but running 25 miles on muddy old cart roads and rocky beach erosion is no easy feat.  And then there's the final stage - 5k of pavement without an ounce of shade at 10:00 a.m. - can you say heat?

The run is broken into 8 stages, which approximate the locations of the old train stops.  The train ran from the late 1800's to the mid 1930s and transported people and sugar cane from the capital city of Bridgetown, across the fertile plantations of the St. George valley, through the "country" of St. Philip, to the rugged east coast & up to the town of Belleplaine.  You can read more about the history of the train here if you're interested.  Quite cool.

The Route
This year, the Barbados National Trust hikers have teamed up with the Ufukuzo running group to provide aid stations at all 8 station locations.  Lord knows I love a good crew but at least my friends don't have to drive across country with my DeltaE, bean burritos and granola bars.   I'm still going to beg for a little support toward the last stages but for the most part, they get to sleep in!

We started training runs last Sunday so that the runners can have a chance to see all 8 legs of the run ahead of the big day.  At the 2012 race, I ran sections 3,4 and 5 but pooped out when we hit the east coast and the trail disintegrated into a beach full of huge rocks.  I just stood there and watched the other runners go...  My ankles were not conditioned for that kind of running.  They still aren't!

Where I crapped out last year...
And that's why this is a New Years Goal.  I'm not conditioned for this.  I can absolutely run 25 miles and I believe trail runners when they tell me that the miles don't hurt as much on a trail BUT if you listen hard enough, you can hear my ankles laughing at me.  Muuwwahahahaha.

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to run the majority of the coastal portion of the trail.  My friend who was visiting from California came out with the group.  He has over 170 ultra-marathons under his belt.  Yes, 170.  When we completed the measley 8K from Bath to Cattlewash, I looked at him expectantly "Well, what do you think?"  He said, "Lauren, I'm used to trail running.  Don't fool yourself - this was bushwhacking!"  Apparently, it's not considered a "trail" if you're enveloped in bushes up to your armpits a mere 12 inches away from a 20 foot drop into the ocean?  Hmmm.  Good to note.

This Sunday we'll cover terrain I ran last year but I believe that every km of trail I can get under my ankles is GOOD.  Of course, I've ordered trail shoes.  New shoes rank right below a good crew!

Honestly, if they told me there were specially made shoes to get to the bathroom in the morning, I'd buy them.  I'm a shoe suckah!
Here they are!  New Balance 1110
If you have any interest in running, jogging, walking or strolling all or part of The Great Train Race, check out the 2013 Facebook page here.  It's a beautiful day in a beautiful country.  I guarantee you'll see things you've never seen before!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Roasted Tomato & Basil Soup *Spicy*

One of my precious girlfriends is pregnant (yippee!) and only wants soup, soup & soup.  We're all dashing around with tupperware containers trying to win favor with The Queen - presenting our soup creations on bended knee.  Kidding, of course.  She's doesn't make us kneel.

I brought soup to her doorstep and I think I nailed it!  If you find this too spicy, just eliminate the pepper flakes, completely seed the red pepper OR blend through another can of diced tomatoes to "cut" the heat.

Here goes!

Preheat your oven to 350.  Halve at least 6 medium tomatoes and drizzle the cut side with olive oil, kosher salt and pepper.  Flip cut side down on a cookie sheet and place in the oven for 40 minutes or until the skins come off at the touch.



2 tbsp canola oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tbps red pepper flakes
1 can of Diced Fire Roasted Tomatoes (do not drain)
6 leaves of fresh basil
2 cups of vegetable broth

After pushing the onions, garlic and pepper flakes around the pot in a little olive oil, add in the canned tomatoes, fresh basil and the veg broth.  Cover and let simmer on low. When the tomatoes are out of the oven, roll them into the pot.  Make sure to use a rubber spatula to get ALL of the liquid (yumminess!) off of the cookie sheet and into the pot.  SO good.

Place a whole red pepper on your open gas flame and char it on all sides - BLACK.  Then quickly place it in a sealed tupperware container.  Or get really creative and put it in a bowl, with a plastic plate on top, then stack a trivet on the plate that has a painting of your dog's face on it, then top it off with a gallon of vodka.  The steam needs to be trapped with the pepper so that the charred skin will separate from the "meat" of  the pepper.  Let it sit until the pepper is cool enough to handle.  Then, peel away the charred skin.  It's a messy job but do not rinse off the pepper.  The little blackness left over is what gives the pepper that wonderful roasted taste.   After the blackened portions are removed, slice the pepper and add it to the pot.  Leave the seeds for more heat or not...

And finally...

Blend the contents of the pot in your blender in small batches.  Blending hot liquids is a tricky business.  You know your blender best.   Always leave the little top open to vent the steam or you'll have soup all over your kitchen and a serious burn!  If all goes well, it should look like this -

May it please The Queen!