Saturday, April 27, 2013

My chaotic journey with Vegetarianism.

As I child I was always interested in being a Vegetarian. The idea of eating living animals was just appalling to me. I loved animals. I was always rescuing them. Possums, rabbits, baby birds pushed out of their nest, injured birds, and so on. I lived out in the country and enjoyed laying on haystacks as the cows below me ate from them. I couldn't understand how some animals were chosen to be pets and some were chosen to be food.

Trying to become a vegetarian was no easy feat as a child. My mother being a single mother wasn't against it, but her philosophy was I eat what the family eats or I buy it and make it myself. As a young child of course this wasn't possible. By the time I was an adult and had a son of my own. I had adapted. I wasn't a vegetarian however I did limit the intake of certain foods such as pork; that was the first meat to go followed by beef. I started cutting out GMOs, nitrates, preservatives,  food coloring, and most anything else that was "all natural" or "organic". We started eating more fish and doing "vegetarian Friday" to help cut back on our meat intake. This was going well and steady and I had planned on slowly weeding out the meat in our diet. 

Then I met my now husband, an absolute chicken lover. He would come over for dinner on my "vegetarian" nights and pout about there being no chicken. He would complain that he wasn't "full" or he didn't feel like he had eaten a meal. 
Slowly Vegetarian nights went back to Vegetarian Friday and then faded into the background as a distant memory. Then it got worse, he hated fish, so my salmon and river trout faded into obscurity and we began eating only Tilapia. Then slowly fish too faded into "Fish Friday" and on into the background of distant memory. Beef slowly reentered into our house, as did more pre-made meals. The nitrates were back, much to my dismay. Finally I made my now husband sit down and watch Food Inc. with me. It helped, kind of. I was able to bring back more vegetarian meals. 
Becoming a vegetarian was by no means as easy as I thought it would be even as an adult. Sure I had all the control over what was bought now, but still being raised with eating meat it just didn't really seem such a big deal if I ate chicken here or there, or stopped in at the local drive-thru for that hamburger. It's all to easy now days to make excuses to not become one. Who wants to eat salad every day? Not to many restaurants in my area offer Vegan choices, what am I suppose to do when I'm away from home?

Well it's not so hard. Now days a lot of restaurants do offer Vegan options, just maybe not the local Drive-Thru. Now days there are lots of resources out there for people wishing to live a more economical and moral life style. 

TOP 3 Reasons why I am going Vegetarian:

  1. Saving the Planet: Regardless of if you believe in Global Warming consider this: "A human population expected to grow by 3 billion, a shift in developing countries to eating more meat, and global consumption on track to double in 40 years point to the mother of all food crises down the road. How much food we grow is not just limited by the amount of available land but meat-eaters need far more space than vegetarians. A Bangladeshi family living off rice, beans, vegetables and fruit may live on an acre of land or less, while the average American, who consumes around 270 pounds of meat a year, needs 20 times that." also we must consider "Farming, which uses 70% of water available to humans, is already in direct competition for water with cities. But as demand for meat increases, so there will be less available for both crops and drinking. Rich but water-stressed countries such as Saudi Arabia, Libya, the Gulf states and South Africa say it makes sense to grow food in poorer countries to conserve their water resources, and are now buying or leasing millions of hectares of Ethiopia and elsewhere to provide their food. Every cow fattened in Gambella state in southern Ethiopia and exported to Abu Dhabi or Britain is taking the pressure off water supplies back home but increasing it elsewhere."
  2. World Hunger: "60% of the world's usable farmland is being stripped and destroyed by live stock. An acre of prime land can produce 40,000 pounds of potatoes, 30,000 pounds of carrots, 50,000 pounds of tomatoes; but only 250 pounds of beef. It takes 23 gallons of water to produce a pound of lettuce, 33 gallons for carrots, 4 gallons for apples. To produce of pound of Chicken it takes 815 gallons, for pork 1,630 gallons, and for a pound beef 2,500 gallons."
  3.  Disease: "According to Dr. Frank Hu, co-author of a new Harvard study on the topic, what is new “is the magnitude of risk associated with very moderate red meat consumption.” Predictably, the magnitude is greater. And the magnitude for processed meat is even greater than that.
    The Harvard study concluded that one serving of red meat a day increases the risk of early death by 13 percent. The same single daily serving of processed meat (like bacon or hot dog) increases that risk by 20 percent. And “one serving” means that little deck-of-cards sized lump that doesn’t satisfy anyone over the age of 10."

I can not tell you the reason why my husband came to me the other day and proclaimed that he wanted to be vegetarian. I can tell you I have been giddy and thrilled ever since he said it.  I'm making up menus and researching recipes.  Plus breaking out my old recipes and cook books that have long since been collecting dust in these recent years.

For more information about Vegetarianism and reasons why or why not to become one, please feel free to visit the links below.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Paper me please!

Paper towels have become so convenient to use they almost seem like a necessity in our homes now days. So much easier when little ones spill their drinks or to wipe down the bathroom sink. Just wipe and throw away. I'll admit it. I got sucked in too. Even now when I walk down that isle in the store I glance at the paper towels longingly. However, when it came to needing to cut costs in the house, they just had to go.

I'd buy the big jumbo packs that lasted about two months for $9.97 + 07% sales tax I was paying nearly $6 a month just for paper towels. Not a lot up front I know, but it adds up over time. That was $72 a year.

Then we'd factor in the paper plates and bowls for those "easy to grab" moments. You know being a single mom, I didn't want to always do the dishes. With school, work, and a kid some nights it was just easier to use items that you just throw away. Then when I got married, my husband (coming from a family that used paper plates all the time.) fell right into routine. I didn't like certain brands, they just ended up being to flimsy and easy to cut through. So I had my favorite brand. Plates $6 for 80ct, and bowls $5 for 70ct. That lasted us about two months before I had to buy more since I did use actual plates for dinner most of the time. Bowls seemed to go faster with my son. So you're adding in another $66 a year just on these items.

That's a $138 a year! I mean that's a Zoo family membership + Membership to the local science museum here for the whole year. Which is so much more awesome than "easy to use" items around the house.

Well that's one way to shave down money. Then I got to thinking about it. I'd like to think of myself as an advocate for healthier living, but in all my "Go Green" thoughts, you know recycling and buying healthier local foods. For some reason my paper towels and paper plates just didn't factor in to the whole "Go Green" idea. I mean, my favorite brand did happen to be from recycled materials. It was a "green" product, biodegradable and all. In reality though how green was it?

I hate waste even long before the "Go Green" movement. Growing up on a farm, waste really wasn't an option. We didn't even waste our potato skins! Hello potato skin chips! I'm sure all of you are with me when I say we also teach our kids waste is bad: "Turn off the lights." "Don't leave the water running.". So how did I slip into this? I mean, I have a dishwasher, it's noisy and dirty work, but very manageable. I have no reason's why this should be a problem even on the most stressful of days. Unloading it is very tedious, but again, very manageable and not hard at all, plates with plates, bowls with bowls. Just stack, Cups up, pots down. Dish rags and towels work just as well as cleaning up spills, all you have to do is rinse. Hello, my name is Jessica and I am addicted to paper products.
So how did I get hooked? With a very inconvenient truth: Paper products make life easier.
 Getting back on track has been no easy feat. While we've finally cut out the paper towels at least, it took a lot of hard work. So keeping rags on hand to wipe down the bathroom and remembering to use the dish cloth for spills wasn't so hard, but I'm southern and I like my occasional fried foods. So how do I drain the grease? It was so much easier with paper towels.

My contraption. Pasta colander with a bowl underneath.
So we were having fried fish, with fried okra, french fries, and green beans. Hey it's got two veggies, it's healthy I say! Okay so the way I justify this dinner is the veggies are organic and from local farms. I know, I know, it's my indulgence.

One thing that I've always done. Is just 1 pot of grease, first comes the french fries because they are mild in taste, second come the okra, third is the fish because we all know you can't reuse grease after meat/poultry/fish have been cooked in it. Contamination.
Also, not gonna lie here, I use the 1 pot method because I really do just hate doing dishes.

 First the fries are drained and salted here. I let them "drip dry" while frying the next batch, occasionally shaking the colander gently and tossing the fries.

Second of course, the okra. After removing the fries to individual plate. I remove the okra and do the same process.

Yes, I even did this with this with the fish.

 All the grease dripped into the bowl. Saving the world's trees 1 drop at a time.

Okay so this hasn't solved all our problems. The addiction and ease of paper products is still there. But I can say happily, through perseverance, we have been paper towel free for 1 month now.

And how do I clean my sliding glass doors?

Newspaper of course!

Of course the paper plates and bowls were a lot easier to stop using. That just took a little bit of will power and resignation that washing dishes just isn't so bad.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Youth Needing Direction.

I look around now days and I'm shocked at what I see. I grew up mostly in a small town. Summer's where spent down by the creek fishing and swimming.
Round Lick Creek TN.(This was the creek I grew up playing in.)

Fall time was spent harvesting crops between school days. Winter was spent canning and packing tobacco leaves. It was also spent with family and friends, warm kitchens and lots of foods (mostly fried in some sort of grease.) Don't get me wrong, as a teenager my friends and I tested the boundaries and stumbled around the meaning of adulthood. Some of us went on to college and careers, while others of us picked up a trade, married, settled down (Not necessarily in that order.).

Watertown, TN. Downtown Square
I always use to roll my eyes when I heard adults call the days they grew up in "simple times". Now I get it, life seemed so much simpler before I moved to Florida as a teenager. I didn't have to worry about the latest fashions, or cell phones, or music videos, or Facebook feeds. There's just so much now days, people are so connected, however we all become so disconnected on the personal level of things. We've come to become so media focused that we're losing true values. I don't know when it began to happen, all I do know is my friends call me old-fashioned.

Now day's we allow our kids to dress like adults, we do their hair and put their make-up on them. We expose them to adult humor content on TV and in the movies they watch. We're allowing them to watch music video's featuring over the top music artists who are showing so much skin it makes you wonder what the point the clothes are. Back up dancers dancing so sexually, that it really should come with rated-R viewer ratings. With lyrics such as "I got a dirty mind. I got filthy ways. I'm tryna bathe my ape, In your milky way" playing on our radio. We wonder why America is leading the way for first world nations in early teen pregnancy. More than 365,000 teens, ages 15–19, gave birth in 2010(this is not including miscarriages and abortions) which was actually a historical low showing a declining by 9% from 2009 and 44% since 1991.[1] But shockingly out of 12.2 million single parent families in 2012, more than 80% were headed by single mothers. Today, 1 in 3 children – a total of 15 million – are being raised without a father. Of that group, nearly half live below the poverty line. Around 45% of single mothers have never married, around 55% are either divorced, separated or widowed. Half have one child, 30% have two. About two thirds are White, one third Black, one quarter Hispanic. One quarter have a college degree, one sixth have not completed high school.[2]
This was me. A single mom at the age of 19. No college education, working a full-time job at our local McDonald's. Trying to balance school, work, and a bouncing baby boy by myself. I don't blame anything for this fact, but I do know a few things. I got caught up in what my friends where saying, I got caught up in what they were doing. I didn't have low self-esteem, but it wasn't the best. I had to much free time on my hands and nothing outside of school and a social life to fill it. My friends here didn't camp. They didn't go fishing. There was no canning and harvesting of crops. There was hanging out at the mall, and going to the movies. Hanging at this friends house or that friends house. There was just to much focus on media and to much opportunity to get into trouble. And nothing really productive to fill up my time. I was in school programs. Tennis team, Art Club, Drama Club, Student Theater Director, Crime Watch. But that didn't really give me a lot of extra skills. It wasn't me stepping outside of the School/Home ratio. Yeah I did volunteer work, with the school. 

Trust building exercise at one of the youth groups.
What can we do about it? We're busy, times are tight, money is slow to come in and fast to go out, and it's not like the old days of letting your kids head down to the creek camping and fishing with just themselves or their friends.
If you're not a church goer like myself. Options may seem expensive and limited, but they're not! Churches are a great way to go if you're willing though. They offer a lot of single sex camps, and co-ed ones. They really get the kids involved and working while teaching moral values. A good site that really exemplifies this would be Life Teen which is a Catholic Organization.

If the churches really aren't the way you're wanting to go then there's still plenty of options moms!

A VISIONS teen volunteer.
One of my favorite programs may seem expensive, but not if you get your teen to work for it by doing summer jobs, or if you have a preteen and you want to get them into it when they are in high school; planning ahead is a great way to go. The Organization is VISIONS.While yes, it's a huge chunk of change up front, this program is really good. Though it's not as long as the Mormon's Missions that they do for their young adults, it provides a similar background allowing your children experiences beyond normal scope of your community. It allows them to travel, see the world, and experience new cultures all the while they're building leadership skills and gaining confidence that helps support self-esteem. All without the religious aspect.
If this really isn't up your alley and your thinking that you have a more "at risk" teen who just seems to be that fast maturing rebel, who really wants to test their boundaries in anyway possible (much like I was for a few years till I got into a program that got my head on straight...ish.) then maybe something more like Outward Bound and their Struggling Youth program just might be the way to go. This program really works with both your teen and you in learning successful tools and communications skills. There are many programs and youth camps much like this one. Just look up a directory in your area. Most organizations such as YMCA and Salvation Army also have Youth Camps that cater to a more tight forming budget, and really really work on the parents jobs and income to get their kid(s) into any program. I used YMCA for my son.

Mom's if none of this is up your alley cause it just doesn't seem to fit your life style. Get your kid volunteering at local organizations such as Habitat for Humanity. Getting your kids a first hand eye opening experience to the economical issues and struggles in their own community can also strengthen their self-esteem and social awareness.

Some programs such as the Youth Volunteer Corps start at the age of 11years old for their programs.

Even better Volunteer as a family with programs such as United Way.

We may be the age of instant gratification, technology, and media. But we can still place the old time values of hard work, morals, and appreciation for what we have with or without the guidance of religious organizations. We can still teach our boys that it's polite to open the door for women, and we can still teach our girls that sexy bikini's and make-up isn't what makes them beautiful.

1.^ "Birth Rates for U.S. Teenagers Reach Historic Lows for All Age and Ethnic Groups". Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved April 08, 2013.
2.^ "Single Mother Statistics" Retrieved April 08, 2013.