Thursday, December 27, 2007

Year in review

I started this blog one year ago today. At that time, I had just quit my job and was exploring the joys of free time, yoga, and art. I had no idea where my life was headed but I was pretty sure it would go in an exciting positive direction. I was totally right.

Since December 27, 2006, a lot has changed in my life. I ditched a new unhealthy relationship and reestablished an old one that has become even more amazing than it was before. I finally left Seattle and moved to a city that seems to have welcomed me whole heartedly. I've improved my diet and physical health almost without even trying. I found a way to use my technology skills on my own terms and for a purpose that matters to me - helping people live healthier lives ( will be coming soon).

On the downside, I am more disgusted with the United States government than ever before. I have an internet habit that is really quite out of control and crowding out other activities that I could be engaging in, like art or dancing. I am no longer rolling in money like I used to be when I had a "real job" and so I now find myself paying attention to the price of red bell peppers and bing cherries.

A new year is about to begin. I will be starting it off in New Hampshire, surrounded by strangers, all committed to creating a more honest, kind, respectful America. I hope this year brings me more dancing, more drawing, better posture, and better habits with regard to walking my dog (I don't aim for the stars - it's the day-to-day things that make the biggest impact). I hope to have a flourishing vegetable garden this spring. I hope to find more ways to become a positive force in my local community.

Most importantly, I hope that when I reflect on my life at the end of 2008, I will be stunned by how much better it was then I ever could have imagined. Just like 2007.

Raw food dish of the week - Banana Coconut Ice Cream

I had some left over almond milk that I'd made so I decided to take a second stab at an ice cream recipe. I found this recipe online that looked pretty good. I left out the coffee, added an extra banana, and poured in about a cup of shredded coconut to make it a little thicker. It was definitely better than my first ice cream attempt, but it could still be a little creamier, and a little more flavorful.

Ice cream: Almond milk, bananas, shredded coconut, vanilla, maca powder, well blended, chilled in the freezer for 1 hour, and processed in the ice cream maker.

Topping: "Jungle chocolate" that Aunt Kathie sent for Christmas.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Addicted to Greens+ chocolate energy bars

They remind me of 3 Muskateers bars. Except rather than consisting of pure crap, each Greens+ energy bar contains 5 grams of fiber, 8 grams of protein, and lots of other vitamins and minerals. They are free from sugar, genetically modified ingredients, partially hydrogenated oils, and they are alkaline-forming (rather than acid-forming, which encourages disease). This is a very healthy snack by most standards. But it's still a candy bar, and I cannot stop eating them. I've been inhaling them for several weeks now.

I ate 3 just today. The only reason I didn't eat more is that I only bought 3. I usually get 3 at a time, thinking that I'll eat 2 and save the last one for the next day. I don't think that 3rd bar has ever lasted for more than 2 hours. Earlier this week, I made a special trip out just to pick some up. I bought an extra one to send to my sister with her Christmas gifts, but then I ate it. So I had to make another trip the next day to get her another one. I picked up 2 more for myself as well.

Against my better judgment, I eat them close to bedtime, when I know the chocolate will keep me up. I eat them when I am already full. I eat them even after the first two seem to have given me a headache.

Over the last few years, my diet has become increasingly healthy. In fact, I don't even crave most of the comfort foods that used to suck me in. Just today, I looked at a tofu pot pie and some vegan cheesecake, and it didn't appeal to me at all. But I ate 2 Greens+ bars before I even made it home, and ate the 3rd one shortly after. I am totally out of control.

Greens+ is not paying me to write this post. Maybe they should though.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Handwritten letters to Iowa

Every day, I receive multiple credit card offers, a catalog or two, and maybe a bill. Actual letters are so rare they are like gold. When I first moved into my house in July, I got a little card with perfect handwriting from the church down the street. I don't expect that I'll ever find Jesus (but you never know) but I was so excited to see real mail that I read it twice, marveled at the perfect penmanship, and displayed it on my mantle for a week.

When a Ron Paul meetup group in California had the idea to send handwritten letters to 700,000 "no party" Iowa voters before their presidential caucus on January 3rd, I immediately recognized the potential impact. Imagine, that while every voter in the state is being inundated with campaign fliers and commercials, these Iowa residents will receive that long lost relic from the past - the handwritten letter. I signed up to help.

Like many people, I've now spent more of my life communicating via computer than with a pen and paper. Not only had my handwriting become atrocious, but my arm would hurt if I hand wrote more than a paragraph. But for Ron Paul, I was willing to suffer a little. And apparently, so were many other people, because nearly 500,000 letters have been sent to Iowa.

48 letters later, I can now write a couple of pages before I have to take a break. I think my penmanship is improving a little too. Just 12 more to go and I'll consider my job done for now.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Freezing my butt off for Ron Paul

Hundreds of volunteers from all over the country will descend upon New Hampshire in the days and weeks before their January 8th primary to make sure that all NH voters know about Ron Paul. Many are already there. I'm going to join them on December 31st! Freezing my butt off and talking to strangers about anything, even Ron Paul, is not terribly appealing to me. But if Vijay was willing to quit his cushy job at Google to organize this thing, I figure I can endure a week of mental and physical discomfort and do my part.

I'm actually very excited. For one thing, I've never been to New Hampshire and I hear it's beautiful. I love to travel to new places. I'll also be surrounded by hundreds of people with which I have at least one thing in common.

Rumor has it that the Ron Paul Blimp will be making appearances in New Hampshire throughout the week.

The beautiful picture above was taken a few days ago by one of the Ron Paul volunteers.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Everyone needs to stop talking

I've spent the last few months watching political "experts" predicting the future, and trying to explain to us, the simple-minded masses, the meaning of every move a candidate makes. They repeat the same phrases, such as "It remains to be seen whether Ron Paul can translate [fill in the blank] into votes at the polls." Common phrases that have been inserted into that sentence are "popularity on the internet" and "$4.3 million dollars raised in one day." They seem to enjoy taking every opportunity to insist that Ron Paul, while kooky and fun in his Constitution-loving ways, has no chance of winning. And they know this how? What secret information do they have access to that the rest of us are too stupid to grasp? Call me an optimist, but I think he can win. At the very least, there is no way these political fortune tellers can possibly know that he can't win.

I spent a few days with family over Thanksgiving. That always means watching CNBC, which is a financial news channel, with my Dad. He can watch that stuff all day long. I realized that it's really no different from the political news. All these people talk and talk and talk all day about where the dollar is going, what are the shoppers doing this year, what's really happening with our economy. "More consumers went shopping today but they spent less on average." They talked about that all damn day. There's one "expert" who yells a lot about which stocks are going up, and a group of "experts" who talk about the economy while interjecting lame jokes. This goes on day after day for 24 hours straight.

Maybe the days of the newspaper were better - before TV, before the internet. Sure, there wasn't as much information available, but at least when we were done reading the morning paper, we were done for the day. Nothing left to do but live life.

The real kicker for me came yesterday, when I took my cat, Simon, to the vet. He was peeing blood again after having been supposedly cured of a urinary tract infection less than two weeks ago. The vet took an x-ray and tested his urine. She showed me the x-ray while she talked and talked and talked. So many words flew out of her mouth that I had to sum up the results to make sure I was understanding her. "So, you're saying there's nothing wrong with him?" Wow, us common folk really do understand things. That was indeed what she was saying. But, maybe to justify the $300 I was about to pay her for her services, she suggested I buy him special food. "Isn't that food designed to change his pH? And didn't you say his pH is normal?" All that talking, for so little information.

We should have a national day of silence. Everyone, including me (maybe especially me), needs to shut up. No, seriously, just stop. 250 million egos are rattling on at once. It's no wonder our country is so hopelessly confused.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

When resolutions no longer serve me

My good friend and yoga instructor Jill in Seattle once announced to our yoga class that if anyone ever needed help sticking to a commitment, like a New Year's resolution, they should talk to me. I love any excuse to make resolutions because it's a good way to assess what my goals are and it's a good exercise in personal discipline.

I don't always stick to my commitments, as evidenced by my failed attempt to give up my compulsive web statistics checking. But I normally stick to about half of the resolutions I make.

This year, I made 5 New Years resolutions:
1. Make one new raw food recipe every week
2. Fast for at least 24 hours once per month
3. Travel to two new places this year
4. If SideCar (a small vegan grocery in Seattle) sells it, buy it there
5. Stop eating when I'm full

I've already completed #3 with a trip to Peru and a weekend road trip to South Carolina. I stuck to #4, even when it meant I didn't have toilet paper because SideCar was closed for the night, but had to give it up when I moved to Asheville. And I'll admit that I actually forgot entirely about #5 until just now, although I think I've naturally moved away from that bad habit over the last few months.

But the first two resolutions have opened my eyes to a new way of thinking. I made a conscious choice to give these up because they were no longer serving me.

I fasted once per month through September. Then October came and went, and I just didn't see the point. It's not that there is no benefit to fasting. It's just that deciding to not eat for 24 hours seemed arbitrary to me since I don't actually know much about how to fast. More importantly, I feel like I am doing a whole lot of amazing things for my health that I do know about and that I know are benefiting me. So I stopped fasting.

The weekly raw recipes have been a lot of fun. But as I get healthier, I find myself craving simpler foods. The fancy recipes stopped being fun at some point, and started to feel like a time-consuming burden. So that's it. No more weekly raw recipes unless I happen to feel like trying something new.

The purpose of my resolutions is to improve my life in some way. So if a resolution is holding me back, then out it goes. Hopefully, that will allow room for something new and useful.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Brazil nut overdose

For the past several weeks, I have been doing research for a website about different natural foods and their nutritional values. In the course of this research, I discovered Brazil nuts as an abundant source of the mineral selenium. So few fruits or vegetables have significant levels of selenium, which is an important mineral for heart and joint health. Brazil nuts are chock full of it. Just 6 nuts have almost 800% of the recommended daily allowance of selenium.

So naturally, I went out and bought myself a bag of Brazil nuts and decided to eat a few every day. I've been eating 3 or 4 (sometimes 5) Brazil nuts each day for over a week now. I didn't want to eat too many because I had also read that, like most vitamins and minerals, eating too much can be toxic. When I was pulling today's 3 nuts out of the bag, I thought to myself, "I wonder if I will be able to tell if I've consumed toxic levels of selenium."

Not 20 minutes had passed after that thought and I was leaning over the toilet waiting to throw up. My stomach felt like it was full of rocks and was making some rather angry noises. In between extreme bouts of nausea, I looked up selenium toxicity to see what the symptoms were. confirmed my suspicion:
Nausea, vomiting, hair loss, skin lesions, abnormalities in the beds of the fingernails, and fingernail loss can all be symptomatic of selenium toxicity. Levels of selenium necessary to trigger these toxicity symptoms aren't usually obtained from food, since selenium-rich foods contain about 30-50 micrograms of selenium per serving. (Brazil nuts would be an exception here, since they average about 70-90 micrograms per nut).

When I told my ever-loving, ever-supportive partner about my Brazil nut overdose, he determined that my conclusion was absurd and it must be something else that made me sick. I don't want to compare him to the jackass doctors who told me I couldn't possibly be allergic to gluten, despite the incontrovertible evidence supporting my diagnosis, but if the shoe fits...

As it turns out, according to his boss, selenium poisoning via Brazil nuts just happened to be the topic on the show House last week and the patient suffered some of the same symptoms. So now he thinks I'm a genius. I guess if it's on TV, it must be true.

It took about 3-1/2 hours for the nausea to pass, but I think I'm finally in the clear. The lesson here is, Brazil nuts good. Many Brazil nuts very very bad.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Leaves fall in Asheville

I haven't experience a real fall since I left New York state to go to college in Texas almost 15 years ago (yes, it really has been that long). In Texas, people joked, we had two seasons: green season and brown season.

In Seattle, I suppose a few trees actually turned red and yellow and were kind of pretty. It was very similar to autumn. People there certainly insisted that they had a "real fall."

Yesterday, I looked out my front door at the always beautiful tree-lined street, and it was raining leaves! Beautiful gold, orange, and red leaves, fluttering to the street below. So amazing!

I know, it's no New Hampshire or even New York. But it was definitely an honest to God fall.

Raw food recipe of the week - Turkey Loaf

I made this for an early Thanksgiving raw food potluck. People were bringing the stuffing, the mashed potatoes, the pumpkin pie, but no one was brining the turkey! This is a very simple recipe from Living on Live Food, by Alissa Cohen. The recipe didn't call for dehydrating it but I thought it would be better with a hint of crispiness on the outside.

Turkey loaf: Pumpkin seeds, cashews, Brazil nuts, celery, scallions, and dried sage, blended well in a food processor, formed into a loaf, and dehydrated at 105 degrees for 6 hours.

Cranberry sauce: Fresh cranberries, agave nectar, blended in the food processor. Excess liquid drained.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Mardi Gras for kids

I took a break from my usual evening of watching online clips of The Daily Show and other online time wasters, to participate in everyone's favorite holiday, Halloween. No, that's not a picture of my front yard. That would be a neighbor's fine handy work.

As it turns out, my neighborhood of West Asheville is a very popular spot for trick-or-treaters. "It's like Marti Gras," a neighbor told me. Well, I don't think that neighbor has ever been to Marti Gras because it certainly wasn't anything like that. I didn't see a single kid who was falling down drunk or flashing people to get candy. But it was pretty busy. There were hundreds of kids all along the main street that runs down my neighborhood just in the 5 minutes that I spent over there. Apparently, the people who live on that street spend as much as $300 on candy to hand out. (I know it's hard to see, but that picture is a line of children at a neighbor's door. Click it for a bigger version.)

I live just 1 block west of that street, and most of the kids don't bother walking that far out of their way. So I got about 40 trick-or-treaters and didn't even go through all of my first bag of candy - gum that looks like eyeballs. They were a big hit with the kids.

Raw recipe of the week - BBQ Chicken Fingers

These were quite delicious! We had our very first house guest yesterday, and she was mighty impressed with them too. The recipe is from Alissa Cohen's Living On Live Food.

Ingredients: Sprouted lentils, carrots, orange juice, onion, olive oil, agave nectar, curry, vegetable seasoning, Celtic sea salt. Blended in the food processor and dehydrated at 105 degrees for about 16 hours.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Blogging is a full time job

When I was writing my post about the updates last week, I was privately referring to that post as the "Vegan Girl Launch Party". I was excited about making it look so nice, but I had not planned on doing much with the site beyond that. I'm busy with another project right now and didn't have any interest in maintaining another website.

But I did plan to eventually start posting some articles to see what kind of traffic I could get. I thought I'd start with some small goals - maybe 100 unique visitors a day and $1/day in ad revenue. Previously, I was getting maybe 10-15 visitors per day. So last week, I pressed the "post" button, and didn't give it much more thought.

When I checked my stats the next morning, I was absolutely shocked to find that I'd had 153 unique visitors! Thank you, High Tech Survivor readers, for taking the time to follow the link to new site! Yeah right!!! Exactly 4 people came from this blog last week on "opening day". So how on Earth did all of my visitors find my site?

I'm not pointing any fingers, but someone (Aunt Kathie) posted a link to my site on something called StumbleUpon. I've been a member for a few days now and I can't figure out what the hell the site does or how to use it. But apparently, it is very popular.

So, I figured, what the hell. I guess I may as well throw a new post out there and see if I can keep this momentum up. I wrote an article about Ron Paul, which "The Ron Paul Girl" promptly posted on her site. Blamo! 179 visitors. And the traffic kept coming for a few days from that one. I posted another article that got on - 202 unique visitors.

So on the one hand, my goal of 100 visitors/day turned out to be way too easy. On the other hand, this damn vegangirl blog is taking over my life! Now I feel obliged to write a new post every couple of days so that people will come back and not forget about me. And that promise I made to you all a few weeks ago about not checking statistics more than 2 times per day? Forget that. I now check my stats more often than I blink.

So far this past week, I've been getting an average of 50 cents a day from AdSense on vegangirl. Not too shabby. I'm spending an absurd amount of time learning about all of this new-fangled technology that I should probably have already know about. And of course I am still tweaking the WordPress layout and features. So, all-in-all, I'm getting paid about $.04/hour.

I truly hope that my daily life is focused around something else by next week.

Raw recipe of the week - Yeah Right

Oh, who knows when I will get around to making food again. I'm very busy!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

WordPress brings VeganGirl back to life

old vegangirl site
Way, way back in 1999, I registered my very first domain name, This was back in the days when everyone used tables for page layouts. Back when everyone decorated their pages with spinning orbs, gaudy backgrounds, and blinking text. There were no blogs and no cascading style sheets. Just a bunch of amateurs throwing crap up on a website and waiting for the world to find them. was never really a site about veganism. It was just a personal website, intented to keep my family and friends updated about my life. It ended up being about 90% photos of dogs and cats. Despite my fondness for it's tagline, "A terrible waste of a great domain name," I always did want to fix up the site and do something interesting with it. But I am no web designer, and the task always seemed rather daunting. Sucked in by blogger's pre-made templates and easy content management, I abandoned vegangirl completely in favor of chronicling my life on hightechsurvivor.

A few weeks ago, I decided to try out some search engine optimization tricks on vegangirl, and put up a few pages with actual useful content about veganism, but it still looked like crap. From Google Analytics, I could see that plenty of people were now finding the site via search engines, but abandoning it immediately, probably because it looked so amateurish.

Ever on the forefront of modern technology, I finally decided this past weekend to check out WordPress, a four-year-old personal publishing platform. It was a one-click install with my hosting service, then about an hour of slogging through some truly horrible WordPress templates, a little cutting and pasting of content into the WordPress content management system, and just like that, VeganGirl had a major face lift. My entire website was literally transformed in a day.

WordPress is written in PHP, which I've spent the last several months learning, so fortunately (or unfortunately), I've been able to do a lot of custom work to get the layout and functionality just how I want it. Who knows what it will look like tomorrow or next week.

But don't worry, I still have a link on there to all the old content, for those of you who just can't live without all those old pictures of the dogs and cats. You know who you are (Aunt Kathie). OK, I'll admit it, I can't bear to get rid of those old pages either.

Raw food dish of the week - Donuts

Oh my goodness, these taste like donuts! OK, maybe it's just been a while since I've had donuts. But these are delicious! I will definitely be making these again.

I strayed from the recipe just a bit. I couldn't find banana squash, but the produce guy at Green Life Groceries said butternut squash is pretty similar. So I took his word for it. The recipe also says to put these in the freezer, but I chose to dehydrate them instead, for a drier, more crumbly texture.

Ingredients: raw almonds, dates, shredded butternut squash, shredded coconut, olive oil, vanilla, nutmeg, Celtic sea salt.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

I'm a quitter!

Sure, who hasn't quit a job? But I've quit two jobs within less than a year of each other. This last one only lasted 4 1/2 months. That's called a pattern. The shorter time between hating my job and leaving it has shrunk significantly, which means my quitting skills are improving.

Of course, considering the fact that this job pays about 30% of what my last job paid, with no vacation time or other benefits, some might say it is easier to give up. On the other hand, my last job didn't have random adorable dogs running around the "office" (it's actually just a shit load of computers crammed into the owner's house). On the other other hand, my last job also didn't have random adorable dogs peeing on the furniture. I guess every job has it's pluses and minuses.

When I took this job, I thought it would be different. Somehow, working for chump change seemed synonymous with meaningful job. And I thought the flexible schedule, easy-going atmosphere, and hourly pay, meant that I could spend less time working and more time living. But with such a low pay rate, I can't afford to work fewer hours or do anything fun, and all I do is obsess about money.

As it turns out, there is a reason the job doesn't pay well: the company pours all of its money into projects that have no value. There is no market research, no project management, no product planning, and no forward-thinking technical vision. What takes a "real company" 4 months to build, takes this place over 2 years, and when it's "done", half the features don't work and the other half are stupid.

People in this company generally fall into two basic camps - the believers and the freeloaders.

The believers have tremendous enthusiasm for the noble mission of the company - to create a MySpace-facebook-Rhapsody-
[insert-already-existing-and-wildly-popular-website-here] online network on a Googlesque scale that will save the world and make billions of dollars. The believers also have a very naive view of the company's current place in this space. They believe they are competitive. They believe that their competitors know or care that this company exists. They believe that all they need to do is fix a few little things, and they will take the internet by storm. Their understanding of the internet is stuck in about 1999. This group accounts for approximately 10% of the company.

The other 90%, the freeloaders, are not bad people. They moved to Asheville, were excited to get a job - any job, as Asheville has so few of them - and genuinely thought this would be a pretty cool place to work. When they realized that the company was more of a summer camp for wayward souls than an actual company, they either started searching for better jobs (some have been looking for months), or they settled in for the free ride. They show up well after noon and leave before 4 PM. They "work from home" an awful lot. They sometimes skip Mondays entirely - sometimes sending an email to let others know, sometimes not.

The owner of the company finds this "frustrating". Phrases commonly uttered are "Does anyone know if [-----] is coming in today?" and "It's really hard to get everyone into a meeting when you're never all here at the same time." Does he not understand that he is in charge? Actually, he's terrified that these freeloading good-for-nothings will quit if he lays down the law. And then how will his dreams come true?

I went through a few phases in my time here that I think are fairly common:
  1. Enthusiasm - I came on board, found all kinds of ways that the development process was broken, and endeavored to fix it. I even made some improvements, like putting together internal code documentation, and engaging in some actual project management.

  2. Frustration - I worked hard to get a good project completed while other team members didn't show up or do any work and others were constantly moved around from my "critically important" project to some other "critically important" project. I finished the project almost entirely on my own and was reasonably proud of how it turned out.

  3. Acceptance - Once I no longer had that initial project to focus on, I had time to look around and really assess the situation. I had LOTS of time because there was no one to tell me what I should be doing. It didn't take long to see that this was not a real company (don't tell the believers, they really hate that phrase). It is, in fact, a tragic waste of money, time, and human potential. So when asked to do some work, I did it, but I stopped wasting any time taking initiative to try to polish this turd.

  4. Annoyance - It was fine when little was being asked of me. Having some money coming in was nice. And while it was boring as hell to be here, it was easy and fairly stress-free. But when the boss suddenly started to demand that progress be made on his latest boondoggle, I knew it was time for me to go. Any progress that gets made here is guaranteed to be progress in the wrong direction. Not a good use of my energy. So I gave my notice. Today is my last day.

Lesson learned: If I work for someone else, I work for money - as much money as possible for as little work as possible. Meaning can be found in other areas of my life.

So what will I do now? I'm lucky enough to have 2 things going for me; 1) a savings account and 2) a very supportive and loving partner who doesn't mind paying most of the bills for a few weeks.

In the meantime, I'm going to be finishing up some personal web projects that I think will make money and be useful and meaningful to people. Because one thing I now know for sure: it just isn't that hard to keep a company afloat.

Raw food dish of the week - Sea Vegetable Crackers

I seem to have a hankering for seaweed lately. These crackers are soooo good.

Ingredients: Sunflower seeds, flax seeds, sun-dried tomatoes, Celtic sea salt, and fresh ginger, blended in the food processor. Herbamare seasoning and dulse flakes sprinkled on top. Dehydrated at 105 degrees for about 15 hours.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Statistics Addiction

Some people get up and grab a cup of coffee first thing. I grab my laptop. In fact, I grab my laptop before I even get up, as I keep it next to my bed. It's the last thing I look at before I turn my lights off at night, and it's waiting for me first thing in the morning.

I used to be hooked on email, but now that I've moved to a new town and don't get so many emails anymore, my compulsion has expanded into other, more statistical areas. I check stock prices, how much campaign money Ron Paul has raised, whether anyone has clicked on my AdSense ads, which search engines have crawled my websites and when, how my search engine optimizations have affected my google rankings, etc etc etc. And I do this many many times a day. OK, I'll be honest: many times an hour. Sometimes, if I run out of things to check, I even check the statistics of other people's websites. I can't seem to stop myself.

What's worse is that there are so many free online tools that help feed my addiction to statistics. Tools to see not just how many people visited my site, but how long they stayed, how many pages they visited, what countries and cities they are from, how they found my site, whether they've ever visited before, and probably data I have yet to discover.

While my addiction to statistics checking might make me an excellent candidate for geeky internet work, it makes for a pretty dull daily life. This is not why I moved to Asheville. I was supposed to be divorcing myself from chronic computer use. I was supposed to be working less and living more. I was supposed to be making the most of every single day.

So here is my promise, to myself and to all 16 of you who visit my blog (spending an average of 30 seconds, viewing an average of 1.5 pages, 56% coming from referring sites, 5 returning visitors, and hello to you guys in Belgium and New Zealand!): from now on, I will only check online statistics 2X per day: once in the morning and once at night. about 10 minutes from now.

Raw food dish of the week - Sea Vegetable Soup
I've finally, after several disastrous tries, succeeded at making a tasty raw soup! This recipe is from Eating Without Heating, by the Boutenko family. If you have the book and want to try the recipe, cut it in half first. I have enough to feed an army.

Ingredients: Almonds, water, olive oil, lemon juice, agave nectar, bay leaves, Celtic sea salt, cayenne pepper, blended well. Arame, wakame, and dulse flakes stirred in.

Friday, September 28, 2007

That yowling cat is divine music

Early every morning I wake up to the incessant yowling of my hungry cat, Gregory. His appetite is insatiable. As soon as he's done eating, he's yowling for more food. I am pretty sure he naps all day while I'm at work just so he'll be well-rested for another long evening of more yowling.

Last Saturday, I slept in late. My sweet Gregory had lost his voice. He was coughing and laying around a lot. Sunday night, he didn't even feel up to eating.

I don't know how old Gregory is but he's been with me for over 12 years. 12 years of cuddling with me on the couch. 12 years of purring like a motor in my ear. 12 years of the most annoying persistent affectionate floppiness you could ever find in a cat. He's awesome. And I can't imagine not having him around.

I was not looking forward to his vet appointment on Monday. For one thing, I was half sure that Gregory was going to die. For another, I believe veterinarians are about as useful as MDs - not very. It's always the same. They look the cat over, order a couple of expensive tests, tell you it was all inconclusive - well, it's either kennel cough or cancer - and then send you home with a bottle of antibiotics.

$320 worth of inconclusive lab tests and about 6 doses of antibiotics later, Gregory's melodious yowling has resumed. I can hardly describe the joy I feel as he wakes me up before dawn, begging for food.

Today, the vet called with his lab results. Everything looks normal except for one anomaly that might be nothing. She said I need to buy a home urine kit to collect a sample for further testing. Not that the test will necessarily tell us anything. The price? $390. That's just to collect the urine, not to test it. Up yours, Dr! We'll take our chances.

Raw food dish of the week - Creamy Fudge Squares
It's not that this dessert (recipe adapted from Eating Without Heating) didn't taste good, but it was pretty much just sweet chocolaty cashew butter. What exactly qualifies something as a recipe worthy of being in a published book? My sister and I used to mix peanut butter and jelly in a bowl and eat it with a spoon when we were kids. Should I put out my own book?

Ingredients: Cashew butter, water, agave nectar, cacao powder, Celtic sea salt.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Gardening for procrastinators

I love growing my own food. Especially those foods that only come in wasteful little packages, like mint. Or those that come in giant bags when I only need a small amount, like basil. Or those that I can't find organic, like aloe vera. Without my own garden, I constantly struggle with the choice between buying something I don't quite want, or doing without.

Having my own house means that I have the freedom to tear up the yard any way I please and plant vegetables to my heart's delight. It also means that I am so constantly busy with endless house-related projects that a garden never makes it to the top of my priority list.

When I do have free time, planting a garden seems like such a huge overwhelming project that I can never even get started. It's more than just throwing a seed in the ground and watering it. I've got to decide which part of the yard gets the right amount of sun, truck in quality dirt, put up some kind of little fence to keep the dog from watering my vegetables.

But I really want to have fresh mint for my green smoothies and fresh basil for raw pesto without having to throw away most of the bag. What's a girl to do?

Just go buy the plants. The rest will follow out of necessity. I saw a lovely little aloe plant at the co-op the other day that I couldn't resist. I took it home and let it suffer in it's tiny plastic container with crappy dirt for a good week. But it started to look weak so had no choice other than to hunt around for an appropriate planter and some high quality soil.

During my recent trip to the grocery store, I happened upon some beautiful basil and a lovely little mint plant. I couldn't see for myself, but I'm pretty sure my face lit up like a kid on Christmas day. I've been thinking of planting an herb garden along the front of the house, but hadn't looked into how much sun shines there, how much sun the plants would need, etc etc etc. Maybe I should wait, I thought for a few moments. Screw it! I'm getting those plants!

I'd better figure it out quick. Those herbs won't last forever in their tiny plastic cages.

Raw food dish of the week - Vanilla Ice Cream

I scored a brand new ice cream maker for $25 at my favorite neighborhood thrift store last week. My first ice cream attempt didn't go as well as I'd hoped. I think I need a recipe with more creamy fattiness in it - maybe some cashews or something. This was more like ice milk. The other problem was that I didn't realize I was supposed to fully freeze the ice cream maker before using it. I put it in the freezer for a few hours but then got impatient and used it anyway. So the ice cream was a bit runny. Tasted good though. Ice cream for procrastinators.

You can bet there will be many more ice cream experiments in my future. I'll definitely be picking up a copy of Vice Cream, written by my friend Jeff. I've tried his ice cream and it's the best ever.

Ingredients: Almond milk (almonds, water, dates, blended and strained through a nut-milk bag), vanilla bean, agave nectar, Celtic sea salt.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Male or female?


It's not just you. Computer programs also think I'm not as girly as I should be.

The Gender Genie is a great online tool that takes a piece of writing and analyzes keywords to determine if the author is most likely male or female.

The conclusion? Gender Genie has no idea what I am. Some posts came out more female, others more male. All of them were borderline. Not shocking news.

Coworkers have always treated me like "one of the guys", which, in the software industry, means they feel comfortable saying disgusting things about women when I'm in the room. I have baffled many-a-boyfriend by not fitting into the role they've tried to shove me into. A clairvoyant in Peru even told me that I'd been a man in most of my past lives.

I'm not sure what I am supposed to be like. Should I spend more time on my hair? Should I stop tracking the stock market? Should I support Hillary rather than Ron Paul? I make potato chips from scratch, for God's sake. Isn't that enough?

Not according to Gender Genie - this post was definitely written by a man.

Raw food dish of the week - Potato Chips

I cut the sweet potatoes into thin slices with a mandolin, which is a device used to cut chips, french fries, and other fun food shapes. Then tried out three different varieties of chips.

Plain: Just sweet potatoes, with nothing on them, dehydrated for 15 hours.

Cheesy chips: Sweet potatoes, marinated in Braggs Liquid Aminos, water, and nutritional yeast, dehydrated for 15 hours.

Chips a la John: Sweet potatoes, marinated in Braggs, pressed garlic, and pressed olives (pressed through a garlic press), dehydrated for 15 hours.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Google is my master

Last night, I came to the realization that I spend way too much time and energy frantically (and unconsciously) protecting myself from financial ruin, in the form of a job I find intolerable, obsessive tracking of my financial assets, and a compulsion toward to-do lists and other organization techniques.

For some reason, the take-away from that realization was to sign up for Google AdSense, in yet another frantic attempt to ensure my financial security. A good friend of mine recently told me that he had an ad on his blog, which he didn't think anyone ever read, for only one day and it earned him $8.85.

Wait a minute, I thought to myself, I too have a blog that no one reads. Maybe I can make money by putting an ad on my blog! So there it is, in all of it's Googly splendor, in the top right corner of the page.

I have officially sold out. I now await the throngs of fans who are angry and disappointed with my fall from grace.

Raw food dish of the week - Pancakes with blackberry sauce

These were remarkably pancake-flavored for such a simple recipe. Must be the brazil nuts. And they were simple as can be to make. The recipe can be found here (scroll down to the second recipe).

Pancakes: Brazil nuts, bananas, water, cinnamon, blackberries.

Sauce: Blackberries, agave nectar.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Fun is just around the corner

I am blessed to live just a couple of beautiful tree-lined blocks from our community food co-op, the best video store ever, and an award-winning hair salon that I have yet to check out, despite my desperate need for a haircut.

The Balloon FairyThis past weekend was the co-op's 5th Birthday. They celebrated in typical Asheville style with face-painting, balloon animals, and a fantastic bluegrass band. A great highlight of the evening was when the President of the co-op joined in with her harmonica. The sense of community is so strong here.

I've noticed myself falling into my regular reclusive tendencies of staying in my comfy home instead of making the effort to join friends in whatever they've invited me to. But when the fun is just around the corner, count me in.

Raw food recipe of the week - Apple Pie

Not too shabby. The cool thing about this recipe is that I didn't actually follow a recipe. I morphed ideas from two different recipes in order to use ingredients I already had on hand. And it actually tasted pretty good!

Crust: Almond meal, dates, agave nectar.

Filling: Apples, figs, dates, cinnamon, and vanilla.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Feng Shui

We had a feng shui expert come to the house. She said we needed a "water feature" in the back yard to help with our prosperity and prevent money from flying out of our life. So far she seems to be right because before we had that fountain hooked up, $99 flew out to pay for the feng shui expert and another $300 went for the water trough and solar pump.

Other feng shui rememedies the house needed: tons of metal in various rooms, some furniture rearranging, and a "mountain feature" in the front yard to protect us from the onslaught of "chi" coming from an oncoming street.

I actually love the changes so far. The living room looks cozier, the bedroom is much more bright and open, and the fountain fills me with glee every time I catch a glimpse of it. I'm not sure what to do for the mountain feature. Right now, we've just got the car parked out front to block all that darned chi.

Raw recipe of the week - Whipped sweet potatoes

This is one of those recipes that seems great when you take the first bite and then you're totally done. It might make a decent side dish at a raw Thanksgiving, but it's definitely not so great as a main entree.

Ingredients: Sweet potatoes, cauliflower, pine nuts, leeks, onion powder, flax oil, filtered water, Celtic sea salt, and parsley.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Maybe I don't hate building software, per se

I think I've made it pretty clear that I hate working with computers, I hate spending 30-40 hours a week chained to a computer, staring into monitors, creating technical solutions that only matter to some executive jackass who doesn't even use the internet. It's so mind-numbing that I actually tried to find a job doing anything else - dog groomer, waitress, receptionist - but no one would have me.

I'm now surprised to find that not only am I still spending 30-40 hours a week at a software job, but that I am also spending almost all of my personal time building a web application at home. Even more shocking is the fact that I am having so much fun doing it.

My work day is infinitely more painful now because I can't stop thinking about how much I could be getting done on my own project if I weren't stuck wasting so much time on some executive brain fart.

Raw food dish of the week - Dill cream cheese dip

My recipes lately have been pretty simple and unexciting. The house and work and whatnot have kept me busy, but I'm not one to abandon my New Years resolutions, so I've been finding easy recipes to try. Hopefully they will start getting more interesting again soon.

Ingredients: Cashews, water, dill, herbamare.

Saturday, August 11, 2007


Asheville doesn't have yard waste and food scrap pick-up like Seattle does. Ever since I moved here in June, I've been having to throw away all of my perfectly good compostable food waste, sending it to a landfill where it will never have a chance to break down and return to the earth. I make all my food from scratch, so this makes up the vast majority of my trash.

I was about to break down and spend the $190 plus shipping to get one of those rotating barrel composters. Being the ever vigilant Craigslist shopper, I found the exact one I was going to buy for only $25! I am the luckiest girl ever.

I've been happily putting about a 1/2 gallon of food scraps in there every day. At the rate I'm filling it up, I probably ought to keep my eyes open for a second one.

Raw food recipe of the week - Creamy Avocado Dressing

I really should learn by now that when I look at a recipe and say to myself, "It will probably be just fine without that ingredient", that it isn't going to be that good. Truthfully though, this was still quite tasty, but it was clearly missing the apple cider vinegar.

Salad: One of whatever vegetables were in my fridge (corn, cucumber, red onion, tomato, red bell pepper, clover sprouts).

Dressing: Avocado, cucumber, olive oil, agave nectar, and Celtic sea salt.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

I'm a registered Republican

If you are very very quiet and listen very very closely, you will hear the sound of my Aunt Kathie's heart breaking at this shocking news. But yes, this tree-hugging, raw food vegan, hippie girl did just register as a Republican in order to vote for Ron Paul in the presidential primary.

I hate politics. I am so tired of the string of lies and bullshit that comes from Washington on a daily basis. I don't even watch or read the news anymore, but all their garbage still manages to reach me somehow.

Then along comes Ron Paul. He's remarkably honest and principled. His platform is simple - follow the constitution and keep the federal government out of the people's business and out of the world's business. Even more remarkable is that his 20 year congressional voting record actually supports his positions 100%. He voted against the war and against the Patriot Act.

This country doesn't just need to leave Iraq, or fix the health care system. This country needs a MAJOR overhaul. To be honest, I'm uncomfortable with some of Ron Paul's positions, such as on abortion and global warming. But he truly stands up for the freedom that we are supposed to enjoy, and I believe that is what this country needs right now more than anything else.

Please, Aunt Kathie, you know that in my heart, I will never be a Republican. I just want my constitution back.

Raw food dish of the week - Cinnamon Rolls

This was so much fun to make! And not nearly as complicated as you might expect. You can find the full recipe here. They were said to be "awesome!" and "f***ing delicious!".

Dough: Almond meal, ground flax seeds, olive oil, dates, water, Celtic sea salt, and cayenne pepper

Filling: Dates, apricots, cinnamon, water, walnuts

Frosting: Cashews, water, agave nectar, orange, and vanilla bean

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

How to furnish your home for free

When I moved here to Asheville from Seattle, I sold everything except my cats, dog, and a few boxes of random belongings. Now that I'm settling into my own home, I have to buy all that stuff I ditched just a couple of short months ago. That could be awfully expensive, but I've discovered a method, quite accidentally, for furnishing my entire home for little or no money.

My expenses for furniture and household items are already pretty low because I buy almost everything off of and at yard sales. If you're patient, you can get some really nice stuff for cheap. But I also have a bad habit of buying things I don't need in the yard sale frenzy just because "it seemed like such a good deal", or "you never know when one of these will show up again".

For instance, I ended up with one too many coffee tables, food processor blades that don't work with my food processor, a small vacuum, an unusable antique desk, and an extra dresser. I put these items up for sale on Craigslist to get them out of my house. For kicks, I tried listing them for at least twice as much as I paid. Here's the break-down:
coffee table$10$20
food processor blades$1.50$5
antique deskFREE$40

So far, I've spent just over $300, but since I discovered this new trick, I've made back almost $100. My house is about half-way furnished and there isn't a single thing in there that I don't like.

Raw food dish of the week - Eggplant Parmesan

This recipe is awesome. I can't believe how amazingly delicious this is. When I eat meals like this, I don't miss cooked food at all.

Base: Eggplant, sliced and soaked in salted water for 1 hour

Breading: Pine nuts, Celtic sea salt, blended in the food processor

Cheese: Cashews, macadamia nuts, Braggs Liquid Aminos, lemon juice, water

Sauce: Tomatoes, sundried tomatoes, dates, olive oil, garlic, parsley, Celtic sea salt

Friday, July 20, 2007

The privileges of home ownership

After just one week of proud home ownership, our plumbing backed up into the basement. Yikes. My first inclination, as always, was to go to work, not think about it, and hope that it would heal itself by the time I got home. But reality prevailed and I called a plumber instead.

He said he would roto rooter the sewer line that goes out to the street and that should clear up the problem. That's assuming that we weren't facing the worst-case scenario - a damaged pipe that needs to be ripped up through the driveway and replaced.

So....the plumber will be coming back early next week with a backhoe, some lovely new sewer pipes, and a bill for about $2400. I'm not sure how I'll pay for it, but maybe I'll just not think about it and hope that there is a pile of money waiting for me when the bill comes due.

Raw food dish of the week - Chili Rellenos

Maybe I messed up the recipe somehow, but these were not very good. Edible, but not much flavor. This recipe was taken from Living on Live Foods, which is normally fantastic.

Ingredients: Macadamia nuts, orange, red bell pepper, lemon juice, garlic, and Braggs Liquid Aminos, blended in a food processor, stuffed into red bell peppers, and dehydrated at 105 degrees for 3 hours.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Home at long long last

This last month, waiting for this house to be my home, has seemed like an eternity. But even before I got to Asheville, I've been moving from one temporary home to another for well over a year. My last tiny little apartment was temporary - I knew I'd be leaving Seattle, but had to stay for several months because of other commitments. Before then, I was renting a small room in my friend's attic for just the summer, because at the time, I wasn't sure what my plans were.

But even before then, my entire 4 years in Seattle felt so temporary. It was too expensive to buy a house, and Seattle never really felt like home anyway. I always knew I would leave within a few years, I just didn't know where I'd end up.

Asheville is home. And more importantly, my little, beautiful, bright, perfect house is home. I didn't realize how exhausted I was from all this drifting, until I finally stopped.

Raw food dish of the week - Truffles

Yes, they are delicious. This recipe was adapted from Eating Without Heating by the Boutenko kids.

Truffles: Walnuts, figs, young coconut water, cacao powder, and Celtic sea salt.

Topping: Strawberry sauce (strawberries and agave nectar), shredded coconut, cacao powder, or cacao nibs.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Social Butterfly

One of the goals I set for myself before moving to Asheville, was to become a social butterfly. My tendency has always been to stay at home, even if something fun is going on elsewhere. The Seattle freeze encourages this behavior. But here in Asheville, I seem to be making great progress toward my goal, despite myself.

The people here are so dang friendly that you really have to go out of your way to not make friends. People sit on their porches and wave 'hello' as you walk by. They tell you to have a nice day and they really mean it. On at least three different occassions, I have witnessed someone giving a dollar to a total stranger who didn't have enough money for bus fare. I went to a raw food lecture and the organizer, who recognized me from my picture, gave me a hug - she was so happy to see me. I have a genuine conversation with a stranger almost every day.

On my way to the bus stop the other day, I saw a fellow bus rider leaving her home. Naturally, I sped up my pace so that she would not feel obligated to talk to me. But in standard Asheville style, she yelled across the street to me, "hey, are you walking to the bus?" We talked the whole way downtown. She gave me lots of good information about Asheville. Then she gave me her number and told me that she and her husband would help me move next weekend.

It's nice to know that after only one month in Asheville, I might already know enough people to invite to a housewarming party.

Raw food dish of the week - Strawberry Cheesecake

This recipe was so incredibly simple, and made a very nice after-dinner snack.

Ingredients: Almond meal (left over from making almond milk), strawberries, and agave nectar, packed together in alternating layers.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Everything is a cat bed

I spent the better part of last weekend "yard saling", as people call it. And a significant amount of time over the last two weeks obsessively searching craigslist for cheap furniture. It would make much more sense to wait until I close on the house to buy furniture, but I just can't stop myself.

I haven't gone too crazy - I found a coffee table, dresser, floor lamp, wooden inbox, and some tools, and couldn't resist picking up a very nice wooden toy airplane, all for about $50. The cats have wasted no time sitting, bathing, and sleeping on all of it. Gregory even found my toy plane to be a lovely chin scratcher, so I have to keep it in a drawer for now.

None of this is as easy as it sounds, by the way. Here in Asheville, no one posts their garage sales on craigslist - you actually have to drive around and follow the poorly written, poorly placed signs. You can find plenty of furniture on craigslist, but no one responds to email and they don't post their phone numbers.

Raw food dish of the week - Tropical spirulina smoothie

I made this out of desperation and now I can't get enough.

Ingredients: Almond milk (almonds, water, and dates, blended and strained through a nut-milk bag), bananas, cacao powder, and spirulina powder, blended in a vita-mix. It was also good with a little coconut butter thrown in.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Living out of boxes

I've been in Asheville for 3 weeks, in my temporary rental house. In another 3 weeks, I'll be moving into my very own home. What I'm looking forward to most is unpacking these damn boxes.

If I had any strategy at all to packing, it was to fit as much as possible into each box - fitting random items from different areas of my apartment into little nooks and crannies like a jigsaw puzzle. What I failed to keep in mind, was that I would have to live out of these randomly packed boxes for several weeks.

I didn't label anything. I would have had to list nearly every item individually on each box in order to do so, since nothing is packed according to any category. It's more like, "things that are soft and squishy are on the edges of that big box, while things that are fragile are in the middle of it." Or, "whatever I was still using the day I left is in one of these 3 boxes.

In order to find anything, I have to unstack and dig through several boxes and then put them all back as they were. There's not enough space to spread them out, and it seems like a total waste of effort to unpack them all, when I know I'll have to turn around and repack them.

At least I know that I did a great job of getting rid of everything non-essential before I left. Because I have dug through these boxes for just about every damn thing in them.

Raw food dish of the week - Breakfast Cereal

Pretty darn good. Next time, I'll spread the batter out thinner on the dehydrator trays so that it makes crispier flakes.

Cereal: Sprouted buckwheat, walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, dried apricots, vanilla, agave nectar, chopped, mixed, and dehydrated at 105 degrees for 24 hours.

Milk: Almonds, water, dates, and vanilla, blended in a Vitamix and strained through a nut-milk bag.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Better than no bus at all

For such a small city, Asheville seems to offer most of the best stuff you would find in the big urban centers: art, music, festivals, restaurants, museums, architecture, etc. But there are certain things you give up when you move up into a little mountain town.

Like great public transit, for instance. Don't get me wrong - the bus system here is usable, and I plan to keep using it to get to work. But Seattle's complex and convenient transit system spoiled me.

Unless you live or work right downtown (which I don't), it takes two buses to get anywhere in this city. Many routes only run every hour. And they all seem to meet downtown at the same exact time, so if your first bus is a little late, you are totally screwed.

As far as I can tell, the bus seems to be filled with people who are too broke, high, or batshit crazy to drive a car, with a few hard-core yuppie environmentalists sprinkled in.

I never understood why some people complained about the Seattle bus system, until today, when a guy from Charlotte was raving about how convenient the Asheville busses are. Apparently, in Charlotte, in took him 3 busses and 2 hours to get to work every day, and they only ran through his particular neighborhood at 7AM and 5PM. I suppose it's all relative.

Raw food dish of the week - Chocolate Pudding

This was completely inedible. I dumped it in the bushes.

Ingredients: Almonds, water, cacao powder, agave nectar, black tahini, blended in a Vita-Mix blender.