Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Did I really just say that?

A moment ago I uttered words that I would think are sure fire DEATH to a Foodie's tastebud needs. I actually said, "I love my Steamer!"


I love food. I mean LOVE it! If I knew I could feel attractive at 400 lbs, I'd give in to all abandon and eat my way through the day every day. An entire bag of Doritos would be devoured at least once per day as well as I'd indulge in fried goodness daily. Mmmm, and Ice Cream...

But since I do Not have the metabolism of a mouse, I try my best to eat as rediculously healthy as possible for lunch at work so I can then have more of a cushion for what I eat for dinner. And one of the ways I eat healthy at work is to steam a variety of things for lunch each day.

Currently, my steaming repatoire consists of salmon, frozen veggies and brown rice. There's not much diversity there. But I have to say that it's rather good and oddly satisfying. And CHEAP!

I buy my spices at the 99 cent store in my neighborhood. And I buy my rice in bulk. And veggies are only about $2 per bag of mixed veggies, so $4 gets me through two weeks. Salmon can also be pretty cheap as well depending on what time of year it is. I buy the packaged large filat and then cut it down to little 2oz pieces per day and freeze it to take to work as needed. Chicken would be even cheaper than salmon. The steamer itself was only about $25. Since I've had it for over a year now I'd say it's paid for itself many times over by now.

And the best part? I don't have to prepare my lunch every day before I come to work. My supplies are already here in the freezer or in my personal cabinet. I only have to remember to put the ingredients in the steamer an hour (for the brown rice then put the fish and veggies in at 30 min) ahead of lunch. And that's not so hard.

So as much as I hate to say that I am in love with my steamer, it is a fact that I have to admit to. Not only does it provide me with healthful low calorie meals, but it also allows me to eat pretty cheaply. Plus the clean up is a Snap as long as you are simply steaming items as opposed to cooking meals in it.

Here's a list of steamers from to get a person started:

Oster 5712 Electronic 2-Tier 6.1-Quart Food Steamer

Black & Decker Divided Food Steamer
This is the one I have

Rival RC61 6-Cup Rice Cooker with Steaming Basket
And you can also always steam in your rice cooker

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Jenny the Elephant

All of Dallas's animal folk are abuzz with the latest drama unfolding around the Dallas Zoo. Jenny the Elephant is being transferred to a safari park in Mexico. There are blogs everywhere promoting letters to be sent to the Mayor and City Hall as well as petitions and a big rally is scheduled for Sunday.

At first, I didn't even want to get involved because Concerned Citizens for Jenny looked to be getting involved with PETA. If there's any one organization that will make me second guess an animal rights movement, it's PETA. I find their extreme tactics to be far over reaching what is called for and they often are far too aggressive. But I was invited to the rally on Sunday by a neighbor and before I declined, I decided I ought to actually start reading what people were saying about the facility she was destined for in Mexico.

There seems to be three points in the "No, Not Mexico" argument.

1. Mexico is not governed by the US Dept of Agriculture and thus their animals are not protected by the Animal Welfare Act.

2. Where she will be housed is only 4.9 acres and will possibly be subdivided into a smaller area to keep her and her African Elephant companion separated from the Asian Elephants because there are concerns that the two kinds of Elephants do not get along and they can also have issues with diseases. The sanctuary in Tennessee which has offered a space for Jenny has much more in free-roaming acreage which is closer to a natural habitat.

3. Africam Safari is a zoo which is navigated by cars to get from one exhibit to another. Where this may not be such a big issue for some animals, Jenny is said to be sensitive to noises and has exhibited aggressive behavior in the past as well as self-destructive behavior leading to the Dallas Zoo medicating her to alter her behavior.

The Dallas Zoo is taking up for Africam Safari and are not only saying that the facility is experienced in handling problem elephants like Jenny, but they're saying that they chose the facility because it was accredited with the Association of Zoos & Aquariums and the sanctuaries they considered were not. They stand by the assertion that they will not ever send an animal to a facility which is not AZA accredited. They also state that The Elephant Sanctuary does not have a 24 hour veterinary staff as Africam does and that lack of 24 hour vet care is an issue for them. And finally, they say that The Elephant Sanctuary did not offer Jenny a place until After they had committed to sending her to Africam. And they've posted a letter of support from renowned former Zoo Director and TV personality Jack Hannah.

So what do I think? Well, honestly, without making a trip to both facilities myself to check them out, I can't say without a shadow of a doubt that Africam is a terrible choice. But I can say that the third point I listed above "against" Africam is pretty much THE reason I've finally decided to go ahead and attend the protest rally. I worry most about the noise being a factor in Jenny's unhappiness. And I wonder why on earth The Dallas Zoo has insisted on digging their heels in on this one without even acting like they are considering a better option.

I don't know for sure if Margaret Morin's assertions against the Dallas Zoo are on point or if she's letting emotions on the issue get the best of the whole picture, but if I am to believe the assertions she has made, it sounds to me like what is more important to the Dallas Zoo is politics, power, and dollar signs. What should be important to them is where Jenny will have the most space to roam. That also has contributed to my decision to attend the rally.

And lastly, as much as I Really Hate to say it, something that a spokesperson for PETA said caught my eye too. Jennifer O'Conner said to the Observer , "I wanted to point out The Elephant Sanctuary is not a zoo, and AZA accreditation does not apply. The Elephant Sanctuary is accredited by The Association of Sanctuaries (TAOS)." Honestly, that little tidbit of information right there equals if not trumps the AZA accreditation argument as a sanctuary is geared more towards making the animal's stay there as comfortable and happy as humanly and monetarily possible whereas a Zoo's primary focus is to draw people into the park for an exhibit. The GOOD Zoos then participate in endangered species work helping to stabilize shrinking numbers of at risk species, but those are special zoos and certainly not the norm.

But Jack Hanna says it's a Good Idea!

Yeah, well, Jack Hanna's also a TV personality, not a zoologist, or even a biologist. His behavior with animals on TV has always made me cringe. He is sometimes careless with animals in the name of entertainment. Just because he brought a dilapidated zoo back from the brink doesn't mean he's the end all be all of animal welfare. He's a Business student. Good business students figure out how to do stuff like that.

I don't think this is a case where there will be deliberate mistreatment of Jenny should she actually go to Africam Safari. I think this is a case where the Dallas Zoo failed to think out of the box and got angry and hard headed when someone called them on the issue. That's not fair to the Elephant. If you are a person who is inclined to feel Jenny should go to The Elephant Sanctuary instead of Africam Safari, the rally for her is on Sunday, July 27th from 1pm - 2pm on the lawn at the front entrance of the Dallas Zoo. And it doesn't end there. Diplomatic letters need to be sent to Mayor Tom Leppert.

Now this is just Cool!

I have several friends now that have become biking enthusiasts. I'm not referring to motorcycles or dirt bikes, I'm talking plain old peddle your self down the street bikes. This excitement amongst my friends started about 2 years ago, right as gas started getting crazy, but just before people started Needing to ride their bikes to cut down on expenses.

One of these friends of mine was determined to talk me into the bike enthusiasm bandwagon. I resisted whole heartedly for a while. Until gas started Really cutting into my living expenses to a point where I was refusing to go anywhere lest I waste gas. And then I wrecked my car two months ago. That was the clincher.

I now have a little bike. It's nothing special. I bought it at Target. And now I find myself riding instead of driving to my friends' houses just down the way. I much prefer to ride if the weather is nice, I've noticed. The only thing I'm missing is the ability to take my dog with me. I have a 70 lb elderly catahoula leopard dog. she's arthritic and out of shape. She needs a ride.

In my looking around for a way to involve my sweet girl in the new outdoor fun, I came across a neat little gadget. As someone who Loves gadgets, I think I Need one of these.

It's a little bike trailer called a DoggyRide. I mean, how cool is that?

And just to increase the Cool factor, it can take a pretty good beating as well. There's a guy who is trekking across America right now with his dog using one of those things! You should check out his blog, Tour de Dog, it's really interesting to see where he's been via the photos he posts. And his dog, Chiva, is So excited to be there with him on his adventure! He's doing the whole tour for a good cause too. He's raising awareness for the needs of animal shelters. That's something else I can get behind!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Silly things people buy

Last week on Good Morning America a teaser was shown for some piece they were doing on shopping smart. And in the teaser, they showed a person walking out of a grocery store with a flat full of bottled water.

My first gut reaction to the image as presented along with the "saving money" strategy was, "water is free." I actually stood there brushing my teeth thinking about how silly it was to be complaining about the price of providing oneself with the basic needs of life and yet to be Purchasing something that is readily available out of the tap with no extra charge other than a person's regular water bill.

And then I remembered one of the places where I went to college. I have never tasted water so nasty in my life. It was absolutely unpalatable. But I couldn't always afford to buy gallon jugs of water all the time because I was a college student with no job. What I did instead was purchase a luxury item that was the smartest buy of my college career. I bought a Brita filtration pitcher. Upfront, the purchase hurt my teeny budget, but once I made that initial purchase, I was able to utilize the free water that was available to me from my dorm kitchen sink. And I only had to change the $7 filter once per semester. Buying water jugs was a $2-$3 per week expense.

Now people don't even bother with the gallon jugs anymore. Everyone much prefers the convenience of an individual bottle to carry around. But whereas a gallon was around $1, those little bottles which hold a fraction of the same liquid are also $1. People are spending probably 3-4 times as much on convenience.

Now that our society is focused on "going green" I hope that the bottled water fashion will lull to a stand still. Not only is it an unnecessary expense when times are lean, but it's also bad for the environment to throw all of those bottles in the landfills.

So if you need good tasting water combined with the convenience of an individual travel bottle, here's a few links that will not only help you out with taste, but will also keep your drink looking fashion forward.

Kleen Kanteen - Made of the same stainless steel as is used in food, dairy, and brewery preparation, it is purported to be Toxin-Free and won't leech Anything into your beverage. They've just upgraded their line to include some cute colors so your Kleen Kanteen can be a personal statement.

SIGG - Aluminum bottles with a ton of design options to satisfy your quirky style. Although this product is made of aluminum, they guarantee that the liner will NOT leech anything into your drink. The ingredients are not available for the lining, so be aware that you have no way of seeing exactly what is in that lining. Use your judgment on how careful you want to be about what you store your water in. They do promise that they are BPA-free.

CamelBak - This product comes from the company who originated the water hydration systems you see many bikers and various other athletes using. They changed the make-up to their plastic bottles to be BPA Free.

Brita - This was my first water filtration pitcher. I still keep one in my office.

Pur - Another filtration system. I actually prefer the taste from this version, but I think that's just a personal thing and not anything scientific.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

When I was a little girl...

I wanted to live in the jungles and live with the animals. As I grew up I decided that I should catalogue and photograph these animals. Dian Fossey was my heroine. She wasn't a perfect person by any means, but she touched my heart.

I chose my college based on a few things, but one of them was their biology program. I knew I needed to have a strong background in biology to land a job as an Ethologist. Unfortunately, I wasn't cut out to stay on that path, or even in school. I am happy with the path my life has taken, but occasionally I reminisce and wish I had buckled down and stayed with my original dream.

National Geographic is one of those publications that often pulls me back into my old dream. Mostly because it was my Absolute dream to have my work documented by its renowned photographers. Incidentally, when I left biology for photography study, National Geographic was still my ultimate goal. And I guess I can even say that as an aspiring writer plublication in National Geographic continues to be my ultimate goal.

This week there are two stories which have touched my dreaming heart. First, the images of the newly born white lions were an incredible sight to behold. I mean, Look at those Faces!!! Who wouldn't want to spend their entire life studying those!!!

Then this story from National Geographic caught a hold of me. I have a hard time coming to terms with much of China's politics as well as their lack of animal welfare policies. However, this one bright light in the face of the tragic earthquake touches me. It gives me hope to know that there is Someone out there who is trying to save these animals. She can't save them all, that's for sure, but she's still trying.

I've often said that my work volunteering in cat rescue is bound to be preparation for something great. The great thing is that I recently realized that it has prepared me to teach myself many things about animal behavior. These are the very things that I dreamed to do in more exotic locations. In my career as a foster I have watched, waited, and problem solved my way into making various cats ready for adoption. And soon I will be undertaking a project with my neighborhood feral cats that isn't too unlike the work that Dian Fossey did when she began cataloguing those silverback gorillas.

Isn't it strange when you actually do realize your dreams in such round-about ways that you didn't notice?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Horse Slaughter news

Today a blogverse friend posted some news on her personal blog about Horse Slaughter. I grew up with horses and still have one in my hometown on my dad's land, but unfortunately I can't afford to have him here with me in the big city. I am a little ashamed to say that I've not been keeping up with this issue as much as I should. I need to change that. In the meantime, here's a plea for help and the links that were rovided today for your information as well as mine.

Suffolk Downs Race Track has implemented a zero-tolerance policy on horse slaughter!

BLM intends to euthanize Mustangs.

Congressmen Rahall and Grijalva, at least, have questioned the BLM.

Remember, everyone, we STILL do not have The Horse Protection Act through and we need it. Horses are still going to Canada and Mexico, which is especially horrific in cruelty, every day. Until we get not only slaughter stopped in the US for good but also transportation for slaughter outlawed our horses are in danger. And, yes, that means EVERY horse because most stolen horses end up in slaughter! Please talk to your Senators and Representatives again!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Rescuers - not all of the same mold.

There are many people in this world who have big hearts and want to do the right thing by abandoned and neglected animals. Many of them volunteer for rescues, a few start rescues, and several just go it alone in the pursuit of finding a good home for a wayward animal. Each has their heart in the right place. Each is attempting to do the right thing.

Unfortunately, it is a fact of life that millions of animals end up in shelters and rescues every year. Some are given up because their families no longer care. Some are Rescued from their horrible living situations. And some families feel as though they have no recourse for whatever reason. It is not my place to judge on those reasons. I do not wish to write a handbook on how to give up your companion animal, but in my years of working with rescue, I have seen a few cases where giving up an animal was absolutely the Best course of action and I do feel for those involved. It is because of this that I am going to give a little insight on what to look for if you find yourself in a situation where you can no longer care for your companion. Because unfortunately, not all rescuers are made the same and just as I have witnessed successful surrenders and happy endings, I have also witnessed surrenders to people who should never be involved with rescue and I feel a responsibility to people who truely have legitimate reasons to part with their companions to throw some insight on the sea of options.

The most important thing in finding someone to take your animal is to do some research. Not every rescue or shelter is a no-kill shelter. The rule of thumb is that many rescues are no-kill, but not many shelters are. So know where you are sending your animal before you take them there.

The second thing is to look at the facility. If you are truely forced to give an animal up and you are concerned about its wellbeing afterwards, make sure the facility of the shelter/rescue is to your liking. A dirty facility can be a sign of laziness, which can lead to illness in the animals housed there. Neither of those is a good trait for a rescue/shelter. Also, watch how the employees and volunteers are interacting with the animals in the facility. Not all of them are there because they want to help animals. Some are there because it's a paycheck. And some are even there because they have community service to do. Shelters and rescues are not always the most glamourous of job opportunities, so we often have to rely on low wage employees as well as whatever volunteer help we can get. Supervision of volunteers is essential, but keep in mind that low revenue equals low staffing and makes constant supervision nearly impossible. In the rescue I've participated in, I've seen both good and bad community service volunteers. I've also seen both good and bad paid employees. So look around and pay attention. If your gut says no, listen and go somewhere else.

If you happen to be advertising your animal on a classified page for adoption yourself, please, Please be aware of who is taking possession of your animal. This goes for both adopters and rescuers. If you find someone to adopt your animal, Always interview them extensively about how they will care for the animal. And if it is possible, grab a friend to go with you for a home visit to make sure it is going to be a safe, well-prepared home. Just speaking with someone on the phone isn't always a good indicator of a good pet owner. I would also advise the same thing for any rescuer who contacts you. In fact, I would go further to say that you should ask for references from any rescuer that contacts you. The reason being is that there are big hearted people out there who say they are "rescuers", but are in fact Animal Hoarders. Your animal is Not Safe with an Animal Hoarder. If you find any signs of a rescuer being an animal hoarder, not only should you decline thier help, but you should remember who they are and mention their name to whatever other rescue you finally settle with. In some cases, rescues keep tabs on hoarders if they are well known and are not supposed to be collecting anymore due to legal issues.

There are also kind hearted rescuers who aren't necessarily Hoarders, but they lack the financial capacity to care for the animals they rescue. Many rescuers live from penny to penny, but the good ones always know how the next vet bill can get paid. Or they have an agreement with a vet to pay as they can if they are short. Your animal is equally as unsafe in this situation as they would be with a hoarder. Not because the rescuer is mentally ill, but because the animal will surely not receive the medical care it needs should it become sick or injured. You may even receive a phone call from the rescuer to take the animal back should this happen. At that point, you could end up with an animal in horrible shape and in serious need of rather expensive medical attention. Since the point of sending an animal to a rescue is to find a better home than you, yourself, can provide, this kind of behavior from a rescuer is completely unacceptable.

You can easily find out if a rescuer is a Hoarder or financially able by asking for references, especially if one of those references is a Vet. Other rescuers can sometimes be good references and other times may not be. Not all rescuers network very well and sometimes the rescuers who network together are as bad as the one you are asking references for. It is difficult to tell just from a fellow rescue reference. Adopters are excellent references as they are often willing to be honest if they received an animal from the rescuer who wasn't cared for properly. They are also often more than willing to tell you all about the fantastic experience they had if the rescuer is a good one.

When you find yourself needing to re-home your companion, it is a hard decision. I can only hope that anyone would think and re-think and then maybe even re-think again 10 times over before they come to this conclusion. Animals are our companions. They bond to us and are most secure when things seem well and stable. Putting an animal out of your home and into a rescue or a shelter is traumatizing. Please do not take their feelings and well being lightly. Please make sure you do everything that is in your power to provide a safe haven for them while they are waiting for their new Forever Home.