Saturday, November 3, 2012

Day 3: Wrapping Up Those Initial Thoughts

Ugh, so I've caught a cold.  Or at least I think so.  It may be some kind of respiratory infection due to the pollution here, which it turns out is at an all time high here in Delhi RIGHT NOW:

So, this will be brief since all I want to do is take the Mucinex that Katja (who finally made it here, yay!) gave me and go to sleep.

Just wanted to post a couple pics of my hotel and the yummy breakfast buffets here.  I have to leave for the airport at 4:45am, so thought I better wrap up this hotel before I leave it!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Day 2 in India: Out & About

Today was the first day of international student recruiting in India!  I arranged for my hotel to have a private driver take me to the school, which is only about 10-15 minutes away, but since I'm not sure if it's safe & didn't know where I was going the first day, I didn't feel comfortable walking.

Note the little tuk tuk driving toward us on the other side of the road!
There were about 25 representatives from various US universities who all met at USIEF in New Delhi this morning.  We were only half the crowd we were supposed to be because many were delayed by hurricane Sandy :(  

We took two buses to go visit a the Modern High School and then split into two groups, one went to visit Amity High School, and I took the one to visit a prestigious Engineering College, NSIT.

Our buses waiting for us outside of USIEF

Interacting with students at the Modern School after our presentations

Back on the buses, taking an hour long ride to NSIT

During this drive we got to see more of the "real" Delhi

My view from the stage in front of an auditorium full of undergraduate engineering students who are all much smarter than I will ever be.
On the drive back to our hotels, we were really able to see the stark reality of luxury living next door to poverty here.  These encampments were all along the highway.

Apparently today is a special holiday here for women, in which they dress up in red like brides and honor their husbands by fasting w/o food our water all day.  They call it Indian Valentine's Day.  Wonder if these poor women wearing red are also celebrating this day just like all the educated women we saw at the schools?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Day 1: First Impressions of India

I arrived safely in New Delhi last night and feel like I've already had such an adventure just getting here!  I travelled for nearly 20 hours getting here, with two 7+ hour flights in the mix.  Fortunately, I didn't incur any problems whatsoever though, and had a very pleasant experience with all my flights.

New Delhi Airport Arrival:

I arrived in New Delhi after midnight, and didn't get through customs and get my baggage until after 1am.  

As soon as I got through customs, I changed about $100 into Indian Rupees at a currency exchange.  I couldn't buy bottled water in the vending machines until after I got my luggage though, because the smallest bills they gave me were 100's, and the vending machines only took up to 50.  Not to worry though, there was a little shop on the way out, after the luggage pick up, where you can buy water or a snack if you need to, and pay a real person & get change back.

Getting to the hotel:

My hotel had a car transfer driver waiting for me holding a sign with my name.  That was so fun, I've always wanted to be picked up by a driver like that!  He had an ice cold water, ice cold pepsi, and cold towel waiting for me in the car, how nice!

The car steering wheel is on the right side here, like in the UK, which makes sense but I hadn't really thought about in advance.  The roads/drivers here really are as crazy as they say and as you see in the movies.  I just trusted my driver, but if you are nervous, I recommend closing your eyes!  

Stoplights appear to be more of a suggestion then a rule, as my driver just honked on his way right through all the red lights!  They also honk when passing large trucks, and flash their lights as sort of a heads up.  Driving lanes also seem to be more of a suggestion then a my driver didn't seem to feel like following!  He drove down the middle of two lanes the whole way from the airport to my hotel.  Guess he thought we were too important to only need one lane :)


Sorry, you can see the reflection of my hand taking the picture through the window in this one :)

The air here is so thick, you can smell it as soon as you get off the plane.  Even inside the airport the air is hazy, which I really doubt is fog. Pretty sure it's the pollution I've been reading about.  Those with asthema or lung issues (B?) might have problems here.  Not sure what can help with that, though I've heard to drink plenty of water, and perhaps allergy pills or an inhaler would be good to pack?

This morning I finally opened my hotel room window and the air is so dirty you can't even see half a mile, though I am on the 16th floor!  Yuck :(

My Hotel:

I think I'll post separately about how nice my hotel is, including some pictures from breakfast today!  But I just wanted to mention the security here.  When my driver drove up to the driveway entrance, two security guards checked the trunk AND under the hood.  Keep in mind this was a 5 star hotel-owned car with a 5 star hotel-employee driving!  Wow, never experienced anything like this before.

Then, when we had the "all clear" and drove up the driveway, I stepped out of the car and walked up the stairs to be greeted by a man holding his hand out to me.  I thought he was "offering me a hand" but no, he wanted my purse and backpack (a doorman had grabbed my suitcases for me).  He had to put all my luggage/bags through a security scanning machine.  I had to walk through a metal detector just to get in the front door!  Scary, but at least I can feel safe & secure in my hotel now..... I guess.

Trying to not get sick:

I've read a lot about the dreaded "Delhi Belly" and I really want to try to avoid it.  I only ate hot food/bottled water for breakfast (and hot coffee), but it made me soooo sad because the cheeses, fresh fruits, and fresh juices looked SOOOOO AMAZING! I really wanted to try the watermelon juice.  However, I really don't want to introduce new bacteria to my body in these first couple days here as I got a long trip ahead of me.

Speaking of bacteria, I'm so worried!  I made the mistake of forgetting that you are supposed to use bottled water to brush your teeth here (even in as a beautiful and elegant as a bathroom as this), and now I'm very afraid that I will get sick after accidentally using sink water to brush my teeth when I got in so late last night!  B & I had gone to the travel clinic before the trip, and they prescribed some traveler's diarrhea pills, and I have some pepto and immodium packed, but I really didn't want to have to deal with that.  I hope, I hope, I hope it will be ok, but I suppose I'll know one way or another very soon!

Replacing things I forgot to pack:

Even though I purchased some travel sized ones before my trip, I forgot to pack my contact cleaning solution.  At first when I realized this, I panicked!  I had a small amount I'd brought in my carry-on in case I'd wanted to switch from contacts to glasses on the plane (never needed to), but that was hardly enough for more than a day or two, let alone nearly 3 weeks!  I went to my hotel front desk to ask if they had a little gift shop for items guests forgot to pack.  They did not, but directed me to a sort of concierge/luggage assistance person.  

I was all prepared to have to figure out shopping at an Indian pharmacy of some sort, but when I explained what I needed, the concierge asked how much I needed, called some place to confirm they had it, how much it was, and what the cost was.  He then told me the cost, and said it would be an additional 150 rupees for the cab ride, a total of 460 rupees.  That's less than $10 total, for the cab and the contact solution!  

He said he would have it purchased for me and delivered to my room when it was ready.  Within 30 minutes I had it in my hands!!!!  Wow, this is what it must feel like to be rich.  Or royalty.  At least a VIP :)

Electric Currency:

I read in my travel guide (downloaded on my iPad of course!) that the currency here is 220-240V AC.  Whatever that means.  I brought with an adapter/converter universal plug-thing that I'd purchased this past summer for my trip to Finland & Russia... only it isn't labeled for India, and I didn't know if India would be the same as the middle east, Asia, the UK, or what.  I tried googling the situation so I could charge up my laptop before going to bed (I'd actually gotten a lot of work done offline during the last leg of my flight last night, but it of course drained the battery).

Well, of course I had a hard time figuring out which adapter to use and I didn't want to fry my MacBook Air!  I need to stay connected for work for the next 3 weeks, let alone staying in touch with friends and family back home.  I thought about unplugging some things in the room to see if any of them looked like the plugs on my universal adapter, but the only two I could find were connected to clocks, and I didn't want to mess with having to reset the time on them, so instead I called the front desk.

Within minutes the front desk had delivered not just an adapter, but an entire power strip adapter so I could plug in my computer, ipad, ipod, and iphone all at once!  Guess I could have brought my hair straightener after all!

Last "tip"

Last "tip" I learned so far was about tipping itself.  It's very wise to keep a lot of small bills on you at all times in India as everyone expects tips, especially in a nice hotel like this.  I suppose many of their livelihoods depend on it.  A one hundred bill is only about $2, but since it's the smallest bill I have been able to get my hands on, they are going fast, especially with all the extra "help" I've been needing since I arrived!

Monday, October 1, 2012

1 Year & 1 Month Later: What am I?

Labor Day weekend this year marked my one year anniversary of adopting a plant-based lifestyle.  I decided to celebrate this life-change by challenging myself to eat strictly vegan for 30 days.... just to see if I could really do it.

My ideals had been from the beginning to eat vegan whenever possible, but that can be really hard to do when dining out, as a guest in someone else's whom, or at catered work events.  So when I could not eat vegan, I always just ate vegetarian.

Well, I found that more often that not, this rule was allowing me to get pretty relaxed at home too.  It would be easier to get my husband to eat meals with me if they included cheese or eggs, than if they were vegan, so rather than making two meals, we'd compromise with one vegetarian meal that made us both happy.

So, I took the 30-day vegan challenge, which ended last night.  How did it go? I had one cheat the morning of my birthday to combat a hangover with some egg & cheese grease.  And there were a few pastry items here and there that I couldn't prove were vegan, but didn't have the will-power to say no too since I also couldn't prove there were egg or cheese products in them (and a couple I could prove weren't vegan but it was my birthday so I made exceptions there too).  There were also those two Indian meals with cheese that I allowed myself for cultural familiarization purposes before my big trip to India next month.  

All in all, not exactly the super "strict" vegan diet I was committing too, but not bad either.  I hat A LOT of temptations and made a lot of sacrifices on things like butter, mayonnaise, yogurt, and deserts etc.

So where am I now?

While I absolutely believe in and enjoy the health benefits and environmental responsibility of eating a plant-based lifestyle, my personal primary reason for adopting this diet was to take a stand against animal cruelty.  Therefore, anything that was wild-caught or hunted, or from a Farmer whom I could talk to and knew how/where his animal were slaughtered, then I would eat meat too.

So what does all this make me?

Vegan?  Certainly not.

Vegetarian? Mostly, but not always.

Locovore? Often yes, but not soley because I enjoy fruits from far away places too much.

Omnivore?  It's looking like it.... but I feel like I'm not completely in this camp either.

Conscientious Eater!  This sounds like me.  Read on to learn more about what this means:

Conscientious eating means thinking about where your food comes from, what impact it has environmentally, socially, economically, and personally (in terms of health, culture, and enjoyment). It means that if you choose to eat meat that you consider how the livestock were raised, and how far they traveled to reach your dinner plate.

"Local," "grass-fed," "sustainably produced," "humanely raised" and "free-range" are just a few of the phrases that greet conscientious shoppers in the meat department these days. Animal-rights activists jokingly call these products "happy meat."  You have to be careful with these labels, knowing that cage-free might not mean what you assume it does, or that organic might not be as animal-cruelty-free as it sounds.  I still believe it is always best to talk with your local farmers and even visit their farm before you buy.

Now, I do understand that eating this way won't solve the world's problems.  It's true that we probably can't feed the world with small, local, organic, family farms.  And the cost to the consumer is prohibitively expensive to most.  I still believe that if everyone ate as a vegetarian, we could solve most of the worlds problems.  But because of the culture & society that I live in, I still think that using my consumer dollars to buy less meat, and only the kind described above, is the best way for me to take a stand, make a statement, and eat in a way I find convenient and moral.

So there you have it.  I won't call myself a vegetarian anymore, even though I will usually still eat that way.  If people ask me why I'll say I'm a conscientiousness eater and prefer not to eat meat if I don't know where it came from.  It was a year long experiment that I think I can take valuable lessons from and use for the rest of my life.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Trying to like Indian Food

Thanks go my job, I feel very lucky to have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit a part of the world I have never seen before this November: India.  I am beyond excited to be shocked, surprised, inspired, and frustrated by what I will see, learn, and experience there.  

There is only one small problem... as adventurous as I always try to be with food, I have never enjoyed Indian cuisine.

I've tried to like it, especially when I chose a plant-based lifestyle a year ago.  Indian cuisine is a vegetarian's dream come true.  But the Scandinavian-American girl with midwestern small town roots inside of me just couldn't ever get used to the spices, especially curry.

So I've decided to spend the next couple months actively exploring various Indian dishes until I can discover what it is I don't like, what I can tolerate, and hopefully find some things that I really like!  The goal is to have a few "go-to" dishes in mind by the time I get there so I know what to safely order on restaurant menus when I need a break from being adventurous & trying new things.

Over this past weekend, I made a homemade meal of Daal, Naan (this I bought pre-made), and  Samosas with a Cilantro/Onion/Olive Oil Sauce.  It turned out amazing!  I got the recipe from a friend who made it for me earlier this summer and accidentally cut the spices in half because she doubled the lentils in the daal, but forgot to double the spices.  I loved it!  I'll post on my re-creation efforts of this meal later.

Today for lunch I'm eating a pre-packaged frozen meal from the Amy's brand.  It's their Mattar Paneer and cost well over $5, but I'm probably still saving money over what I would spend if I went out for lunch or bought something from the little Restore convenience store downstairs.

It's very good.  The Amy's brand is all organic & vegetarian, which would explain the price.  This particular meal includes peas and an unnamed Indian cheese in a spiced sauce (I'm willing to give up my vegan efforts for a new cultural experience); basmati rice with carrots, onions, and cumin; and a curried chana masala with garbanzo beans and tomatoes.

It tastes very good!  I really like the cheese, go figure.  None of it is too spicy or has a bad after taste.  I tried mixing different bites of the 3 items together and it was all good together or on its own.  I would definitely eat this Amy's meal again, and would be excited to try it in a restaurant to see if I like it just as much.

Since I had no idea what Mattar paneer is, I googled it and decided that Wikipedia would be safe enough for some general reference as to what this dish is all about:

Turns out it is a North Indian dish (so yay! hopefully I can try it close to the source as I'll be spending a great deal of my time in the northern part of the country) consisting of paneer (a fresh cheese common in South Asian cuisine - an unaged, acid-set, non-melting farmer cheese or curd cheese [like a cottage cheese] made by curdling heated milk with lemon juice, vinegar, or any other food acids) and peas in a slightly sweet and spicy sauce.

Mattar Paneer Masala is probably the most popular curry found in all over India.  First, the paneer is prepared in the traditional method. The base is prepared with cumin seeds, garam masala, vine ripened tomatoes and the green peas and Paneer cheese cubes are added for stir frying on high heat.

So far, my first to steps into this new adventure have been successes!  Can't wait to keep trying new ones & discover lots of yummy new things along the way!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

If I ever kids, this will be the first item I want.

Too bad I can't justify spending this much right now for kids I don't even have yet when there is such a good deal going! 

By feeding children homemade, organic, locally grown baby food, parents are not only giving them the most delicious and nutritious food—they are laying a strong foundation for a lifetime of healthy food choices. By spending just 1 hour every 2 weeks, parents could have a freezer stocked with healthy and delicious baby food, made from safe, natural ingredients.

What do you feed your dog? - FDA recalls on pet food

DateBrand NameProduct DescriptionReason/ ProblemCompanyDetails/ Photo
05/08/2012Solid Gold WolfKing, Solid Gold WolfCub  Dog Food  SalmonellaSolid Gold Health Products for Pets, Inc.Select to View Firm Press Release Select to View Image of Product Label
05/07/2012Complete Health Super5Mix  Dog Food  SalmonellaWellPet LLCSelect to View Firm Press Release
05/05/2012Canidae Dog  Dog Food  SalmonellaCanidae Pet FoodsSelect to View Firm Press Release
05/05/2012Diamond, Country Value, Diamond Naturals, more  Dog Food  SalmonellaDiamond Pet FoodsSelect to View Firm Press Release
05/04/2012Natural Balance  Dog Food  SalmonellaNatural Balance Pet FoodsSelect to View Firm Press Release
05/04/2012Apex  Dog Food  SalmonellaApex Pet FoodsSelect to View Firm Press Release
04/30/2012Kaytee Forti-Diet  Rat and Hamster Feed  SalmonellaKaytee Pet ProductsSelect to View Firm Press Release Select to View Image of Product Label
04/30/2012Diamond  Dog Food  SalmonellaDiamond Pet FoodsSelect to View Firm Press Release
04/26/2012DuMOR  Poultry Feed  Incorrect packagingFeed SolutionsSelect to View Firm Press Release Select to View Image of Product Label
04/26/2012Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover's Soul  Dog Food  SalmonellaDiamond Pet FoodsSelect to View Firm Press Release Select to View Image of Product Label

Glad we feed the Sheebs Fromms, made locally here in Mequon!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Shocking Animal Cruelty at Tyson Foods Supplier

Earlier today, a powerful and extremely graphic new undercover video inside a Wyoming pig breeding factory farm was released by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).
The footage, which was filmed by an investigator employed at Wyoming Premium Farms, a company that supplies Tyson Foods, reveals incredibly violent and downright sadistic scenes of animal abuse including mother pigs repeatedly punched and kicked in the face, piglets swung around by their back legs or kicked like soccer balls, and injured pigs with broken legs or prolapses unable to walk who were left without access to food, water, or veterinary care.
In addition to enduring egregiously abusive conditions and spending months on end nearly immobilized inside narrow gestation crates, these pigs are also forced to live in filthy conditions with mummified corpses of piglets and aisles littered with feces as well as the cut-off tails and testicles of piglets.  Read the full investigative report from HSUS.

This hard-to-watch video comes on the heels of other investigative videos exposing cruelty in the pork industry, including COK's recent exposé of a massive pig breeding facility in Iowa revealing that animal cruelty is standard industry practice. 
While other industry giants, including Smithfield Foods, Hormel, and Cargill, are at least starting to phase out the use of gestation crates for mother pigs, Tyson continues to drag its feet and has failed to take any steps towards reforming its cruel practices. Even major retailers such as Burger KingMcDonald's, and Safeway have agreed to remove gestation crates from their supply chains.  
Better yet, you can stand up for pigs every time you sit down to eat simply by choosing vegetarian foods. Visit Try today -- and be sure to also check out this vegan recipe that takes the oink out of pulled BBQ pork.

See original article here:

Thanks to Sara Andrews for posting on Facebook and bringing this news to my attention!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Calf's Horns Burned Off by Farm Worker: Caught on Video!

Ok, I admit it.  This time I couldn't even watch the whole thing.  I just can't differentiate in my mind the difference between these innocent dairy cows and my beloved pet dogs.  Watching these farm workers hit, poke with rods, and otherwise abuse these defenseless enslaved animals was too much for me today.

I do watch these sorts of videos regularly though.  Especially if I've been sliding from vegan to vegetarian too often for my own comfort level for a while.  I force myself to watch one of these videos and in so doing find new motivation too not support the dairy, egg, and honey industries.  

It's easy to equate dead meat on your plate with the animal that was probably abused and brutally killed to provide it for you, it's harder to remember why the milk, cheese, yogurt or eggs on dinner table come from the exact same kind of conditions.

I'm feeling rather guilty about the cheese sandwich I had for dinner at a work event last night.  Think I'll go strictly vegan for a few days and then go to the co-op this weekend to buy some food I feel comfortable eating (from responsible local farmers).  I should really plan some trips out to farms this summer to tour the living conditions myself too...

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Honeybee deaths linked to insecticide exposure

As a fellow vegan recently stated on FB: We need to take care of the bees, because the bees take care of our food!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

What about the sweet little honeybees?

For years there has been a debate over the use of honey by vegans, some claim its okay for vegans to use and others claim under no circumstance is it fundamentally or ethically vegan at all.  Here is some more information from PETA about why many vegans won't consume honey:
Honeybees are not native to North America
Although there were 3,500 native bee species of bees pollinating the flowers and food crops of North America when European settlers landed on its shores in the 17th century, the colonists were interested only in their Old World honeybees’ wax and honey. They imported the insects, and by the mid-1800s, both feral and domesticated colonies of honeybees were scattered all over the United States. As a result of disease, pesticides, and climate changes, the honeybee population has been nearly decimated, but since the demand for the bees’ honey and other products remains high, these tiny animals are factory-farmed, much like chickens, pigs, and cows are.

Bees Need Their Honey 
Plants produce nectar to attract pollinators (bees, butterflies, bats, and other mammals), who are necessary for successful plant reproduction. Bees collect and use nectar to make honey, which provides vital nourishment for them, especially during the winter. Since nectar contains a lot of water, bees have to work to dry it out, and they add enzymes from their own bodies to convert it into food and prevent it from going bad. A single worker bee may visit up to 10,000 flowers in one day yet and, in his or her lifetime, produce only one a teaspoonful of honey.

Honeybees Do Not Pollinate as Well as Native Bees
Approximately one out of every three mouthfuls of food or drink that humans consume is made possible by pollinators—insects, birds, and mammals pollinate about 75 percent of all food crops. Industrial beekeepers want consumers to believe that honey is just a byproduct of the necessary pollination provided by honeybees, but honeybees are not as good at pollinating as many truly wild bees, such as bumblebees and carpenter and digger bees. Native bees are active earlier in the spring, both males and females pollinate, and they are unaffected by mites and Africanized bees, which can harm honeybees. But because most species of native bees hibernate for as many as 11 months out of the year and do not live in large colonies, they do not produce massive amounts of honey, and the little that they do produce is not worth the effort required to steal it from them. So although native bees are more effective pollinators, farmers continue to rely on factory-farmed honeybees for pollination so that the honey industry can take in more than 176 million pounds of honey every year, at a value of more than $215 million.

Manipulating Nature
Profiting from honey requires the manipulation and exploitation of the insects’ desire to live and protect their hive. Like other factory-farmed animals, honeybees are victims of unnatural living conditions, genetic manipulation, and stressful transportation.

The familiar white box that serves as a beehive has been around since the mid-1850s and was created so that beekeepers could move the hives from place to place. The New York Times reported that bees have been “moved from shapes that accommodated their own geometry to flat-topped tenements, sentenced to life in file cabinets.”

Since “swarming” (the division of the hive upon the birth of a new queen) can cause a decline in honey production, beekeepers do what they can to prevent it, including clipping the wings of a new queen, killing and replacing an older queen after just one or two years, and confining a queen who is trying to begin a swarm. Queens are artificially inseminated using drones, who are killed in the process.  Commercial beekeepers also “trick” queens into laying more eggs by adding wax cells to the hive that are larger than those that worker bees would normally build.

Since late 2006, farmed honeybee populations have succumbed yearly to a disease called “colony collapse disorder.” Although scientists have yet to find a cause, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says researchers continue to focus on key possibilities that include “bee management stress,” “pesticide poisoning,” and “inadequate forage/poor nutrition.”