Victoria is our turkey!

Even though Thanksgiving means turkey eating to so so may people, and that makes us really sad in this house, I still really love the holiday.  All the hoopla and pomp, autumnal foods, flavors, and smells, family, kitchen hanging, squash, brussel sprouts, pumpkin pie, the whole nine.

That said, the whole dead turkey thing on the table really makes us sad!  So in order to try our best to offset the imbalance, every year we adopt a turkey from Farm Sanctuary's Adopt-A-Turkey Project.

It's only $30 to save a life and support a fabulous organization!

We adopted Victoria this year.  She seemed the most Puritan looking...almost regal even.  Plus she's pink and for those of you who know Avi, you know she loves everything pink, even her turkeys I guess!

Check her out:

Adopt-a-turkey this Thanksgiving!

Stone Barns

Love Life and Lollipops- Stone Barns

A few weeks ago on a Sunday afternoon we took a trip up to Stone Barns with my parents to get Avi some face time with animals and a good amount of fresh air for all of us.

It was my first time there and I was thoroughly impressed.  While the farm and restaurant are far from vegan, the whole grounds are run responsibly and sustainably.  From the free roaming of the animals to the compost toilet to the multiple recycling areas to the uh-mazing food, I was in heaven and can't wait to go back when the weather is a bit warmer.

Avi had an amazing time visiting the animals, she didn't want to leave.  And the guy tending to the chickens and sheep took so much time answering all of our questions about the animals and how they live that we felt really special.

We got some food from the cafe (there is a restaurant too, but it's a much fancier ordeal) and sat outside at a table in the square where a bunch of people were hanging.  We ate cabbage toast and a cauliflower pureed soup that was perfect for the sunny, yet brisk afternoon!

Steer Clear of: Factory Farmed Eggs

Love Life and Lollipops- Crated Eggs from the Camp Farm

These eggs are about as farm fresh as you can get. As I'm sure you have all heard, there is a ridiculous recall on some 550 million eggs in the United States.  Now while I could spend this entire post giving you all reasons to cut eggs out of your diet and your life completely, I won't (I'll save that for another day).  Today my aim is to shed a little light on the situation at hand and maybe stray you from your regular eating/shopping habits and enlighten you on the common practices of egg farmers.

To start, if you are going to continue to eat eggs, you should undoubtedly, for the time being at bare minimum, but my suggestion is forever, stop buying eggs produced in factory farms and solely buy from local and organic farmers.  The best way to know what you are eating is to know the farmer who sold it to you (and that goes for everything from meat to dairy to eggs to veggies).  Shopping at a farmer's market is not only an amazing way to spend an hour (or an afternoon if you're like me), but it is a pretty solid way of quality controlling the food you bring into your home.  Farmer's markets are becoming increasingly popular in the United States (thank goodness) and I can pretty much guarantee you that your food will be cheaper and oh so much more delicious if you choose to shop locally!

Here's a picture from the camp farm I mentioned yesterday here (along w my niece Ashley...this pic is entitled Ash and the Hens and it sounds like it could be a punk rock band or something, ha!):

Here is my niece Ashley checking out the hens.

This is what a coop should look like.  There is no more than one hen to a pen and they have free range to move about the entire coop and even head outside for some fresh air whenever they like!  Here they are hangin out:

Now back to the issue at hand: factory farmed eggs.  There are so so sooooooo many reasons why they should be avoided, but let me list my top few:

1. Chickens have feelings too.  They are beings with emotions and souls and are treated without an ounce of decency or respect.  The levels or cortisol (stress hormone) in factory farmed animals are sooooooooo high because of the filth and space of their living conditions.  What effect do you think that cortisol you're eating has on your body?!?

2. A large majority of our bodies are not meant to digest eggs.  I actually started my veganism when eggs started making me feel badly.  I was constantly bloated and stomach aching after eating eggs and I knew it was my body telling me: NOOOOO Thank You.

3. Due to the cramped living spaces and waste they live in, factory farmed animals are shot up with antibiotics to avoid disease.  Now two things occur: one is that you're eating all those antibiotics and your immunity to them is increasing (which creates superbugs, but more importantly means that when you get sick, the antibiotics the doctor gives you won't work!) and two the antibiotics don't kill all the potential diseases caused by rotting waste and the dead animals who wouldn't survive (hence a salmonella outbreak).

Yesterday, my supersmart and savvy friend Madeleine sent me the following article by Francis Lam: here it is.  It's worth reading.  Lam covers most of the bases and gives some good advice if you are going to keep eating eggs (which you shouldn't).

I'd like to leave you with this: for those of you who aren't vegan, maybe this is a good time to experiment.  Start with cutting eggs and meat out of your diet.  In a week cut out dairy.  See how you feel.  I promise within the span of a month you will feel energetic and fresh.  Like an entirely new person!  Remember that the immediate reaction may be tough to push through (some people experience acne and an overly active bowel...) but that is just your body expelling the bad stuff out of you and cleaning out your insides to suit the new you!

Good luck to any of you who decide to take the challenge and remember I am here to help with any questions you may have.  Know that whatever level of commitment you are ready for is extremely valuable and something to be proud of.  Every step in the right direction is a big one!

A Day In Livingston Manor

Love Life and Lollipops- Some of the Boys

So basically, my father-in-law has had a bit of a dream for a long time now to start a camp for underprivileged kids.  Long story short (check out the site here for the long version): Steve grew up in the Bronx with not too much opportunity when a Dartmouth grad got into his father's cab one day that started a sequence of events that lead to a scholarship to Dartmouth at 16.  He feels strongly that kids should have the chance to get out of the city and learn about how to live a healthier and in turn more successful life. I've been relatively involved in getting the organization organized and this first summer up and running.  Much of what the camp will be is still to be determined, but this summer, in conjunction with an organization called Community of Unity, we've put together a program for 10 kids between the ages of 18-22.  The goal was for them to come up for a 2 week leadership session in hopes that these kids will be the counsellors for next summer's younger group.

Though much of what will aspire with all this is still up in the air, I am really motivated to make this a reality and was so unbelievably impressed with what I saw last week.  Josh Borkin, the man in charge of all programing and organization of the session, put together an amazing program.

I got up to the camp around lunch time to find some of Richie's family there and the rest somewhere en route.  The kids prepared an amazing vegan, latin lunch for us that knocked me off my seat.  See for yourself:

These guys contributed to the totally awesome vegan lunch the kids made us!

I know, YUM!

After the meal, I pitched in doing dishes with the kids (they've adapted this amazing working shifts situation where they all do a bit and everything always gets done).

Then we all went on a tour of the camp to meet the animals, see the fire pit they built, visit the garden they tilled and have been cooking and eating from, and finish it all off with a game of volleyball (I obviously sat on the deck with some of the kids and chatted instead, ha!).

Dinner was equally delicious and wildly impressive.  It consisted of roasted veggies, more corn, rice, and beans, bbq corn on the cob, garlic bread, and salad from the garden!

Here was my amazingly fresh and delicious plate of vegan lunch at the farm.

The whole day was perfect and I was so blessed to get the chance to get to know these amazing kids for a bit.  I'm hoping they stay in touch!

They impressed me with their motivation, organization, energy, and initiative!  Here's a board they made of things they accomplished in their first week:

The kids kept a board up with everything they did while at the camp.  This was week one.

Here's JC who happens to be the fantabulous cook that doctored up the lunch for us Kessners:

JC took over a lot of responsibility in the kitchen and really knew what he was doing.

Here's my new friend Ahlem helping herd some freshly sheered sheep:

The kids totally learned so much about animals and outdoor life and farming.

Here are some pigs that posed for me:

And some ducklings I fell in love with:

Pigs on the farm...

These ducklings were so happy and so cute!

And lastly, here are some beautiful string beans straight from the garden:

You can't get string beans fresher or purer than this!

Sad Cows

Image courtesy of http://www.thekindlife.com/post/stop-the-abuse-in-conklin-dairy-farm I'm always torn on whether to share information like the following.  I have no interest in being preachy or pushy, but sometimes, I hear or read or see something that is so beyond common knowledge that I feel a responsibility to share it in an effort to prevent it from happening again in the future.

So, if this is too harsh or offensive for any of you, please excuse me, but for those of you who it moves, please please spread the word as violence towards animals is violence all the same.  How far away from hurting people are those who hurt animals?  The lines can be easily blurred as to what we find acceptable as a society and as individuals.

I read about this issue yesterday on The Kind Life and was literally dumbfounded.

This video was captured by Mercy for Animals at Conklin Dairy Farm in Ohio:

Ok, maybe you need a minute.  If so, take it.  Take a deep breath.  And remember, there are things we can do.

First: Click here to sign a petition to shut down Conklin Dairy Farm

Next: (For those of you who don't) consider cutting down on your dairy consumption (or cutting it out entirely).  This systematic way of processing cows for milk is what creates the perspective that they are just machines, not animals with feelings and families.

Then: If  you are going to continue eating dairy, do your best to know your dairy farmer.  Try to source your dairy locally from a farmer who treats his animals with love and respect (that is what is honestly going to get you the purest dairy anyhow).  Try to buy as much as you can at your local farmer's market, introduce yourself to your dairy supplier, and save a little bit of money!

Haiti and Beyond

Susan Nichole makes great vegan bags.

In the wake of the oil spill, many of us have been overlooking tragedies in other parts of our world.  I believe we live in a global society these days and it's important to do our best to remain aware of the world outside of our borders.  We are very fortunate here in America to be sheltered from the harsh realities of life in most of this world, but it is irresponsible of us to ignore what's going on or worse to acknowledge it and provide no help.

Though I understand how overwhelming it can be just to comprehend what's happening in some of these places, let along to figure out what we can do, we are also fortunate here in America to have many many organizations and businesses that take initiative.  Many of them provide us with easy ways to help.

Susan Nichole is a vegan handbag line that aims to produce elegant and animal friendly bags.  Susan is a mother and a vegetarian who believes in living a conscientious lifestyle.  I stumbled upon her site today and though I wasn't in the market for a handbag, I did purchase one of her Haiti Care Packages.  For $15 you can purchase a care package which will be delivered mid-August to a Haiti earthquake survivor who's still living in a tent city.  It's part of their Handbags for Hope Campaign and each tote will be filled with necessities like shampoo, soap, towels, and other toiletries.  Plus, for every package purchased, Susan Nichole will match the donation!

It's certainly no huge contribution, but something small we can do to help someone in need, someone to whom a clean towel and a toothbrush would make their day and change their week.

And while you're at it...peruse her bags...they're supercute (I'm loving the LOVE bag, see below)

Image courtesy of http://susannichole.com/

Rita's Stables

Love Life and Lollipops- Rita's Stables

I won't claim to be any kind of "animal lover" from the time I was a kid or anything of the sort.  But, as I read more and more about our environment, vegan lifestyle, and animal rights I grow a deeper and deeper respect for the lives and capabilities of animals which so many don't see as any more than food. In the city, it's rare to come face-to-face with any animals aside from your average house pet (dog, cat, bird, whathaveyou) or a lobster or fish in a tank before it's cooked up  in chinatown or your local seafood spot.

So between my growing interest in learning what these animals are really all about and Avital's obsession with any animal who's sound she can replicate (a nay, moo, quack, you get it), I figured we should find a farm to visit.

Luckily there are a handful out on the eastern end of Long Island and we were out there for the long weekend.  Thursday's weather was not so beachy, so we took a ride out to Montauk to visit Rita's Stables.

As we drove up to the barn we really weren't sure what to make of it (or even if we were welcome).  There was no one in site (visitors or barn hands alike) and goats, sheep, horses, chickens, and some roosters roaming the property without any pens or gates to keep them in (I'm talking total access to the road!).  We pulled up and I got out to see if I could find anyone.  Could we pay to roam?  Feed the animals?  Pet the sheep?

No one was in the office, so I peeked into the barn.  In the way back there was a lady tending to one of the horses (later we found out he had a broken neck and was rescued by Rita).  She said we were free to walk around, so I went to get everyone out of the car.  Avi was ecstatic.  The woman was named Jodi and she was supersweet and gave us a mini tour of the barn and stables and introduced us to her animals which she kept on the farm.  They were pretty amazing.

Captain Walker is her horse who answers yes by nodding his head when she asks: "Are you a good boy?!?"  I couldn't stop laughing when I saw that.  She had him answer a few questions and I was stunned by his enthusiasm.  Lulu and Lilly are her sheep who come when she offers them "cookies" (I think it was corn she gave them as a treat) and follow her around most of the time (they even ride in the back seat of her car).  When Lulu was born she was separated from her mother by accident and put in the wrong pen to sleep.  The next morning the mother rejected her, so Jodi took her home and raised her in her house (diapers, bottles, the whole shabang).  When she got too big to stay in the house, Jodi got Lilly from a farm upstate to keep Lulu company outside.  Now they both live on the farm and Jodi is there most of the day to hang with them and her two horses.

It was an amazing experience seeing these animals and how gentle and responsive they are.  Lulu literally treats Jodi like a mother!  It was a really special afternoon and a superspecial place!  We'll definitely be going back to visit again this summer.

Rita's stables in Montauk. Jodi, Lulu, and Lilly of Rita's Stables in Montauk, NY. Us and Lulu at Rita's Stables in Montauk, NY Jodi and Captain Walker of Rita's Stables in Montauk, NY Me and one of Rita's Horses

Glass Walls...

Love Life and Lollipops- Avi and Me in Bed

Mother's day is just around the bend and it's got me thinking about not only how special it is to be a mom, but what it really means to be a mom. There's no question that giving birth and caring for a baby changes you.  And I'm sure it changes each of us in different and profound ways.  For me, it taught me a sense of patience and compassion I had never known.  It made me slow down a bit to recognize and savor what is important in life.  Before Avital life moved so fast.  I jumped from one project to another without slowing down to meditate on any of it.  My life was in the fast lane and I loved it.

Slowing down was really difficult for me.  It was foreign and uncomfortable and it took me my whole pregnancy to get used to it (yes a full and agonizing 40 weeks).  But as soon as she arrived, it was a different ball game.  I was happy to sit and nurse and just be for the first time in my life.  I took the opportunity to relish every moment and analyze and enjoy.

Moments like these should not go unappreciated:

Avi and me in bed= precious moments

Avital taught me patience and compassion and that patience and compassion brought me to Veganism.  While I began my journey through Veganism in search of good health, I found myself more and more moved by the indelible cruelty it paints on our society.

I started with Alicia Silverstone's The Kind Diet and read and read my way through so many books and have discovered this insatiable need to learn more about what goes on in our world's food system.  It's really shocking and upsetting to learn that the foods I grew up on were "grown" and slaughtered inhumanely and irresponsibly to feed me and my family.  It's upsetting to learn that so many of the things I was taught were healthy and nutritious were in truth harmful to myself and so many innocent animals.

That said, I have to admit that I'm really torn about how far I go with sharing this information.  I feel a responsibility to "protect" my friends and family from harming their bodies and the earth, but I hate to sound preachy or righteous.

So...I thought about posting this for a long time.  I decided, in honor of Mother's day, and all mother's out there who insist on telling everyone about how to remain healthy (read: eat your vegetables, don't microwave in plastic), this is an ok time to post this video.  It is really intense and overwhelming for many, but well done by the PETA people and narrated by the superawesome Paul McCartney, so if you don't have the stomach for it, I understand, but if you do, please please watch this through and if it changes you and your diet in any way I'm proud!

Guilt Free Fashion

Love Life and Lollipops- Novella Royale Mister Bag

Often at times I find that my sense of style directly conflicts with my vegan goals.  I can’t help but want want want.  I think it’s a product of growing up in a society where it’s commonplace, even fashionable, to be materialistic.  Our royalty (celebrities) are never seen wearing the same thing and always first have what’s shiny and new.  It’s hard not to get sucked in to the desire for more everything. Being vegan is about, among other things, being compassionate and thoughtful, to animals, our planet, our bodies.  And buying new things is almost always hard on our planet (pesticides in our cottons for instance), hard on our fellow animals (cashmere, silk…you know where those come from, plus the run off of those pesticides into our waters), and hard on our bodies (ok maybe not our bodies, but certainly on our wallets).  That said, I still want new things to wear as they make me feel pretty and stylish and there’s a lot to be said for that too!

So, here are a few things I can indulge in, guilt free:

Novella Royale’s Mister Bag- the leather is sourced from vintage leather jackets so as not to create any waste.  How cool is that?!?

Novella Royale's bag made from recycled leather scraps.

Vaute Couture I Do Win Friends With Salad Tee- 100% organic cotton, fair trade, low impact dyes, water based inks.

Vaute Couture's organic cotton t shirt.

Organic by John Patrick Yogi Pants- 100% recycled cotton and made in the usa!

Organic by John Patrick yogi pants

Loomstate Rivera Dress- Limited edition, hand dyed with curry and strawberries!  I have no words…

This dress is eco-friendly and hand dyed.

Oh and this supercute vintage, navy, pants jumper I saw at Guvnor’s today (Park Slope’s newest vintage shop).  Pics of this to come post-purchase!