4 star reviews, Book reviews, Cookbooks, Health, plant based

The China Study Cookbook: Revised and Expanded by LeAnne Campbell

4/5 stars

I have been a vegetarian for more than 30 years.  In the last few years, the emphasis on healthy whole foods, plant based diets and organic foods have really made being a vegetarian so much easier.  About a year ago, my daughter introduced me to a vegan vlogger Ellen Fisher and her sister Hannah McNeely, who is also an ethical vegan.  I love their videos and they have inspired me to eat less dairy and less eggs and less fish (I am not quite there yet as far as finding enough dinner recipes that my whole family likes, but I am completely vegan 3-4 days a week and vegan until dinner the rest of the week).

A few weeks ago, Ellen mentioned The China Study in her video and when I saw this cookbook pop up on Netgalley, I knew I wanted to check it out and hopefully find more dinner recipes!

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Eating a whole food, plant based diet greatly reduces risks for cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

One of my concerns about going completely plant based is protein.  As a vegetarian, I rely on eggs and fish for some of my protein (legumes, seeds and nuts provide some as well).  What I learned from this book and others, however, is that Americans consume too much protein and that actually increases risk of cancers.

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The first recipe I made from this book was Dominican Rice and Beans with Fresh Salad, which the author says is her sons’ favorite meal.  We liked it a lot, although this style of cooking greatly reduces oil and salt and that was a big hit for us in terms of flavor.  We added some hot sauce, but we really wanted to add salt.  So that is something we need to think about in terms of how we want to adjust – do we want to add salt or get used to using less salt?  I have gone salt-free before and it takes a while but eventually I did get used to it and found the food flavorful enough.

The second recipe I made was the Baked Tofu which used coconut aminos and we found to be perfectly flavorful and one of the best recipes we have ever used for baked tofu.

I was eager to try some of the baking recipes, because I always want baked goods but am always trying to eat healthy.  I made the Blackberry Lemon Tea Cakes (I subbed raspberries because our raspberry bushes were thick with fruit).  We also tried the Almond Topped Blueberry Coffee Cake.  We found both to be very good, but to taste a little healthy, which we actually appreciated because it gave us the sweetness we craved without feeling overly decadent.

I have also tried some of the salad dressings, as I am trying to get away from my kale massaged with oil and salt and garlic.  I liked the Lemon Tahini dressing and the Asian Ginger dressing.  I have to get the ingredients for the Mango Azteca Dressing so I can try that one.

If you are interested in reducing your risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes and are open to eating less salt and oil and more whole food plants, then you should check this book out.  Yes, some of the food is slightly less flavorful than what you may be used to, but you will undoubtedly feel better eating it.

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Book reviews, Personal

On Empty Nesting: Time for My Interests

A year ago, I was really struggling with the idea of my girls growing up and having lives of their own, separate from me.  I’ve talked to several of my friends about it and they felt the same way.  For so long, so much of my time and energy – both physical and emotional – was invested in my kids and it was sad to know that was coming to an end as my girls are now 16 and 18.  They will both be taking college classes starting next month!

In the last year, however, I have realized that now is actually my time.  My time to pursue things that I am interested in – it’s not about what the kids want or giving them a particular experience – it’s about what I want.  I love to read and I love being part of the bookstagram and book review community–I get so many great recommendations and I love talking about the books I love with people who also love them!

I have also realized that now is the time for my husband and I.  It’s our time to do things together that we want to do.  We’ve always sort of done that, but now we can do it on a larger scale and more often because we don’t need babysitters!  It’s kind of like dating all over again!  We went away from Wednesday, July 4 through Friday, July 6, just the two of us.  We rented a tiny house in the Catskill Mountains.  We had no wi-fi and decided to make it an internet free time (we did check texts and text our kids).  We cooked at the tiny house, went on long walks and hikes, read books, sat by a fire and my husband played guitar.  It was wonderful and romantic.  We have another getaway scheduled for Labor Day weekend.

IMG-2297My husband and I also took on a challenge this year to go on 9 hikes.  We have had so much fun with this!  We have discovered some local trails that we never knew existed.  My husband has been talking to people and scouring the internet for new hikes to go on.  We walk and talk and sometimes just walk in silence.  My blood pressure just literally drops when I get into the woods.  I physically feel different, better, more calm and at peace.  Last weekend, we went out for an amazing vegan brunch at Seed to Sprout in Avon-by-the-Sea, NJ and then went to Cheesequake State Park.  My husband planned the whole thing and it was a beautiful, perfect day!!  The weather was perfect, the trails were quiet, the smell of sassafras was strong, we sat in a grove of cypress trees for a half hour, just taking it all in.

We are realizing that we can pursue our interests now – garden tours, vegan brunches, hiking.  As much as I miss when my girls were little and we did everything as a family, I am enjoying this time that I get to pursue things that I am interested in.

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Book reviews, fostering dogs, Personal

Fostering Dogs: Our Experience

I was nervous about fostering dogs.  Let’s face it, when you are bringing an animal into your home, you never know what can happen.  Would they bite us?  Would they be wild and unruly?  Would they get out of control?  Were they housebroken?  Would they try to run away?

But, there are a lot of dogs in shelters who are euthanized every year because no one adopts them, and that breaks my heart and I knew I wanted to be part of a solution.  So, we took the risk.  And, I must say, our mentor from Colonel Potter did a great job or reassuring us that she would be there for us and help us through any situation.

We got the call on a Monday that there were two dogs in a veterinarian’s office about 40 minutes away, they had been rescued from a shelter and brought to the vet and Colonel Potter Cairn Terrier Rescue needed someone to pick them up.  They were calling us for one, but we agreed to pick up both dogs.  Two male cairn terrier mixes.  We didn’t know if they would be housebroken or not, but the vet said they were sweet.

By Thursday of that week, Colonel Potter had sent us food from Chewy; collars, harnesses and leashes from Amazon and they had arranged for us to pick up two dog carriers at Petsmart.  We spent Thursday getting ready.  We bought treats, toys and water bowls for the dogs.

On Friday morning, my daughter and I made the trek (which should take 40 minutes but summer in NJ on a road that lead to the beach…and it took much longer getting there).  We went into the vet’s office and the vet tech came out and went over both dogs’ care with us.  Then she brought us around and introduced to each and helped us get them in their crate and we were on our way.

I drove and my daughter was in the passenger seat.  One of the dogs cried quite a bit and my daughter did her best to comfort him while keeping him in his carrier.

When we got to our house, my daughter carried the crying pup, in the carrier to our backyard and I stayed by the car with the other dog.  My daughter walked the first little guy around the yard on a leash as Colonel Potter stipulated and he did his business, then she brought him inside and into her bedroom.  My other daughter came out at that point and helped me carry the carrier for the other dog to the backyard, where we walked the other dog on his leash around so he could do his business.  The Rescue wanted them kept separate for a few days.

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Each of the dogs hung out in each of my daughters’ (they are 16 and 18) bedrooms for the first few days.  They sat on the girls’ laps and got A LOT OF LOVE.  They ate in there and slept in their crates in the girls’ rooms.

After a few days, we introduced them in the backyard and they did great!  So the next day we let them hang out together and they were fine, so they were allowed to roam the house (this is just what worked for us).

Both of the dogs we got were housebroken, although one had one accident even though he had just been brought outside.

Feeding was difficult.  They didn’t eat well the first few days and we were concerned and added a bit of wet food to their food and eventually they did both eat their food.

They were not interested in toys and did seem a little unsettled, even though they laid down and cuddled with us.  I don’t think they were completely relaxed.  My mother, who has been involved with New Life Boxer Rescue, said in her experience it takes months for a dog to relax in a new home.

We got to know both so we could make recommendations to the Rescue.

We did get attached and I think they did as well.  But we knew they were going to good homes.  We did cry, we did worry about them.  But the new “moms” messaged me and sent me photos and told me how the boys were doing.

It was hard saying good bye, but our family has discussed it and we are all looking forward to our next foster.  We want to help save dogs from euthanasia and the more people willing to foster, the more dogs can be saved.  We found the experience fun and rewarding. Even though these boys only lived with us for a little while, we will talk about them for years to come.

There is something so rewarding about changing this:

to this:

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The first is the dogs’ shelter pics, the second is the one on the right a few days after he got to our home.

I felt like these guys had had it rough and were able to relax a little with us, like we were a spa vacation and they knew it.

For more information on:

Why we decided to foster dogs

Why We Chose Colonel Potter Cairn Terrier Rescue

Our Experience Applying to Foster Dogs

fostering dogs, Personal

Colonel Potter Cairn Rescue: Fostering Dogs Part III

When we decided that we wanted to get involved with a dog rescue, initially I wanted to get involved with a rescue that works with mixed breeds.  My friend’s sister is very involved with Rawhide Rescue.  I have heard so many great things about them from her and had strongly considered fostering for them, but because of my allergies, my husband and I decided that we should work with a cairn terrier rescue.

There are several cairn terrier rescues and we ultimately decided on Colonel Potter Cairn Terrier Rescue because I emailed the different groups and the woman from Colonel Potter responded and answered all my questions, whereas the other groups never responded (I am not saying this as a slight to them, they might have gotten busy or the email may have landed in a SPAM folder).

Colonel Potter Cairn Terrier Rescue is extremely well-organized and well-run.  I did not understand the amount of work that goes into a dog rescue until we got involved.

There are people who spend hours every week looking through animal shelter websites for cairn terriers and cairn terrier mixes.  There are people who spend hours every week reaching out to municipal shelters and reminding them if they get a cairn terrier in, please call Colonel Potter.  There are people who work to develop a relationship with puppy mill owners so that if they have dogs to surrender, they will call the rescue.  There are people who coordinate picking up the dogs and bringing them to a VCA Animal Hospital (almost every dog spends several days at an animal hospital before entering the foster program; the vet evaluates them for any issues, grooms them and makes sure they are up to date on shots, heartworm and flea and tick meds).  There are people who find fosters who will be willing to house the dogs and people who arrange transportation – sometimes several hundred miles of transportation is needed.  There are people who volunteer to drive 100 miles one way to get these dogs to their foster home.  There are people who go through the applicants of foster homes and adoptive homes and make phone calls and do home visits to make sure the people would be good pet owners.  And, of course, there are the people who open their homes and hearts to the dogs until they can find their furever home.

Applying to Foster a Dog

Colonel Potter does a wonderful job of outlining the expectations and policies of fostering on their website.  I read them and went over them with my husband and daughters to make sure that everyone understood the policies.

Then I filled out an application online that asked things like if we owned our home, if we had a fenced in yard, if we had other pets and asked for veterinary and personal references as well as what kind of experience we had with other pets and how many hours a day someone is home.  It was actually quite similar to an application to adopt a pet.

I submitted the application and while it was being reviewed, I was asked to join two yahoo groups – one for policies and one where other people involved in fostering cairn terriers share information, etc.

I was kept informed as to what was going on with my application.  I was told when references were being checked.  I was told when I passed each phase of application review.  They emailed me a question, I can’t remember what it was.

Then I was told that we would have a home visit.  There is a sheet on the website to help you ready your house for a dog–making sure cleaning products are out of reach, electrical cords are out of reach, poisonous houseplants, etc.

A very nice gentleman contacted us and said he would be doing our home visit and asked when would be a good time.  We set it up for a Sunday morning.  He arrived on time and gave us some more paperwork on dog-proofing your home and Colonel Potter’s policies.  Then we sat down and chatted about our dogs and his dogs and our family’s life and when we are home, when we are not home, what our lifestyle is like.  Then he and my husband took a walk around our backyard – we have a fenced in yard and he wanted to make sure the fence was secure and there were no hazards.  Then we showed him around inside and he took some photos of each room to put in our file.  As he was leaving, he told us that he did not see any issues and would be putting in a good word.  I got an email that evening that he had done just that and we were awaiting final approval, which may take a while.

I think the entire approval process took between 2-3 weeks and then we got the news that we were approved!  They told us that fortunately there was not a lot of need at that point, that all of the public service messages to spay and neuter dogs and not to give dogs as gifts, etc. had worked and right then there was not a lot of unwanted homeless dogs.

A few months later, we got a call to foster a dog who was in another foster home but was not getting along with some of the other animals in the home.  We asked a few questions – was the dog housebroken? what was their temperament like? etc. and during that time, someone became interested in adopting the dog.

Another month or so went by and we were called to foster two dogs.  It was an unusual circumstance as both dogs were coming from Brooklyn were there had been an outbreak of canine influenza, and even though neither dog showed outward signs of canine influenza, the rescue felt it best to keep them both quarantined for the requisite 21 days.  Since we did not have any other pets to possibly be affected by the canine influenza, they asked us if we would take one of these dogs and we decided to take both.

In case you don’t know what a cairn terrier looks like, this is our Oliver.  Cairn terriers are sweet, spunky, sassy.  Typical terriers, they pack a lot of personality into a sturdy little body.  They have the spunkiest little walk with their tail raised, they kind of strut.  They are fun and playful.  They are a small but sturdy dog.  We adore the breed.

fostering dogs, Personal

Fostering Dogs, Part II: Rescue Groups

Sometimes I think that as our society evolves, we complicate things that should be simple.  One area of our evolution, however, that I think is absolutely wonderful is animal rescue.  The ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) was founded in 1866 and the Humane Society was founded in 1877.  In the 1960s and 1970s, non-profit private animal shelters began cropping up in addition to the municipal shelters.  Municipal shelters have to take every animal the “dog catcher” or people bring in, because of this there is overcrowding, causing the need for a euthanasia policy.  The private shelters can be more selective, they can elect not to take more animals in until there is room and they can adopt a no-kill policy.

It was until the 1980s that people began to foster dogs in their own homes.  Some dogs don’t do well in shelters – they are anxious, nervous, scared, they don’t eat or guard their food, their anxiety makes them more prone to attack so shelters started looking for volunteers to bring the dogs into their homes temporarily until a permanent or “fur-ever” home could be found for them.

Around the same time, groups were formed that would take a certain breed of dog from the shelter.  Before long there was a rescue group for almost every breed and now when a shelter gets a certain breed in, they can call the rescue group for that breed to come and get the dog out of the shelter.

If you are looking to adopt a particular breed, look for their rescue group on-line.  

These rescue groups will often take mixed breeds that have some or most of the characteristics of the breed (for instance, the two dogs that we are fostering- one looks like a cairn terrier, the other looks like a cairn terrier/yorkie mix, but has enough cairn terrier to qualify for this group).  Every single person in these rescue groups is a volunteer and they volunteer a lot of time and money.  Adoption fees don’t cover all the bills, so they work tirelessly with fundraisers to raise more funds to pay for medical care and veterinary bills.  Many animals are brought to shelters every year because their owners can not afford their veterinary care.  Some of these dogs need expensive surgery or have conditions that will require them to be on medication for life.

I did not really understand all that went into running a dog rescue, until we got involved with one.

Book reviews, fostering dogs, Personal

Fostering Dogs, Part I

When I started this blog, I didn’t want it to just be about books.  I wanted to share a little bit about myself as well.  I love connecting over books, but I think sharing about our personal lives is where the real friendships are formed, even in the blogging and social media world.

Animal rights has always been a huge passion of mine.  I love animals.  In high school and college – this was in the 1980s and 1990s, before email – I wrote countless letters on behalf of animal rights.  For over 30 years, I have tried my very best not to buy any products that were tested on animals (thankfully, this is getting easier and easier as more and more people are interested in the ethical treatment of animals) and I have raised two girls who are very conscious shoppers. I have been a vegetarian for 30 years for ethical reasons, and more recently I have been trying to be vegan–I have vegan days, usually 3-4 days a week I am completely vegan and the other 3 or 4, I am vegan until dinner – I just have not found enough purely vegan recipes that my whole family will eat.

I grew up with dogs.  My parents had a mutt and Black lab when I was born.  Later, we had more mutts and a very sweet German shepherd.  When I first got married, in 1996, we were living in an apartment that was the top floor of a house.  Our landlords had said no pets, but we took great care of the place, their kids were in our wedding, the wife was a dog groomer, they knew we loved dogs and they relented and said we could get a puppy.  My husband told me to get something tough.  I came home with a purebred cairn terrier who had been dropped off at the shelter with papers.  Our Sydney Bean.  Two years later, when we bought our first house, we tried adopting a greyhound and an Airedale and I was allergic to both.  We finally got her a purebred cairn terrier brother, Oliver.

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Christmas 2009

Since I was able to have two cairn terriers, I didn’t think much about the allergies.  Until 16 years later when both Sydney and Ollie had passed on and we wanted to adopt a cairn terrier puppy and I was allergic to it.

I am of the belief that a home is not a home unless it has a dog.  I could not, would not accept that I was allergic and so I have had so many allergy treatments over the last few years…from sublingual drops to shots to NAET treatment to eating actual dog hair.

We decided this past winter to sign up to foster dogs.  I could commit to living with a dog and dealing with allergies for a period of time and we would all go into it emotionally knowing that it would not be long term.  We decided that since I had been fine with two cairn terriers for 16 years, we would look into cairn terrier rescues.