Take Heart

February 17, 2012

What follows below is an opinion piece I wrote for my specialty writing class that I then cut down to half and submitted to the Georgia Straight as a letter, and they published it! (Yay!)

Though they won’t likely tell you this, you can “Make death wait” – like the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s latest commercials encourage – with a vegan diet.

In her January 18 article, “Risk of cardiovascular disease in women is higher than you think,” Gail Johnson explores the myth that men are the primary sufferers of heart attacks.

Johnson goes on to note that the new UBC Heart and Stroke Foundation professorship in women’s cardiovascular health recently established at St. Paul’s Hospital is intent on researching how psychological and social factors contribute to women developing heart disease.

Arguably, the funds being wasted on such research could best be directed towards campaigning for prevention, which is most effective through diet and exercise.

While it is true that a history of heart disease in a family can put a person (man or woman) at greater risk for developing the disease themselves or suffering a heart attack, there is an often overlooked factor in this scenario.

Generally speaking, family members will all share the same basic eating patterns and exercise habits.

That shouldn’t be surprising, nor should the idea that eating foods such as bacon, burgers, dairy or cholesterol-filled, high blood pressure-inducing eggs – none of which contain any fibre – on a regular basis are major contributing factors to heart disease, since such foods cause a build-up of atherosclerosis (a build-up of fat, according to the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s website) in your arteries.

All too often diet is overlooked in favour of pharmaceuticals and surgery, with a dietary shift viewed as a “drastic” and unpopular measure for heart disease patients.

The truth of the matter is that eating a whole foods, plant-based diet can not only reduce one’s risk of heart disease, but could play a part in reversing heart attack-inducing atherosclerosis, according to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine’s website.

The health benefits don’t stop there– PCRM asserts that such a diet can also prevent or reverse diabetes, lower blood pressure, lessen the effects of asthma, reduce the risk of developing kidney stones, gall stones, and osteoporosis, and even help prevent cancer.

PCRM also notes that, “Scientific research shows that health benefits increase as the amount of food from animal sources in the diet decreases, so vegan diets are the healthiest overall.”

Those looking to learn more can read such tomes as Diet for a New America by John Robbins (heir to Baskin-Robbins who turned down the opportunity to join the family business in favour of following his own dairy-free life path), The China Study by T. Colin Campbell (a 20-year study on the effects of diet on health), Plant Roots: 101 Reasons Why the Human Diet is Rooted Exclusively in Plants by Rex Bowlby or check out the films Forks Over Knives, Vegucated, and the gripping Earthlings, which can be streamed free online at Earthlings.com.

It’s time every man, woman, and yes, even child wakes up to the reality that making death wait is best accomplished by what they put on their plates.

(Written January 23rd for Specialty Writing)


Liberation BC has announced that Lesley Fox of Fur-Bearer Defenders and self-proclaimed Vegan Superstar Sarah Kramer will both speak at the group’s upcoming Animal Advocacy Camp.

Vancouver animal rights activists from all walks of life and theories of activism are set to converge at the camp February 25 and 26, following the model of an ‘unconference’ wherein participants determine and lead the agenda and discussions.

The unconference model is a great way for participants to get the most out of a conference or series of workshops, as attendees themselves tailor the event in the direction best suited for everyone’s needs or ideal purposes.

First held in 2010, this year’s event marks the second camp produced by the animal rights group (though Liberation BC previously held a series of dialogue events along the same vein), and will be held at The Hive located at 128 W Hastings Street.

Lesley Fox is the Executive Director of the Vancouver-based Fur-Bearer Defenders, and will open the conference on Saturday, with Sarah Kramer closing on Sunday afternoon.

Sarah Kramer is best known for her ground-breaking vegan cookbooks, including “How It All Vegan” and “The Garden of Vegan” which were co-authored with Tanya Barnard, and her solo efforts “La Dolce Vegan” and “Vegan-A-Go-Go.”

Kramer opened a storefront vegan curio shop in Victoria called Sarah’s Place last July, where she and her ever-present furry sidekick Fergus can be found Tuesday through Sunday at 533 Pandora Avenue.

Sarah also recently released the Go Vegan! App for the iPhone and iPad loaded with recipes, videos, a shopping list and more, just in time for New Year’s Resolutions – so be sure to let your veg-curious or health-conscious friends, family, coworkers and acquaintances know.

Anyone interested in learning more about animal rights and issues and how best to affect change in favour of animals’ rights as sentient beings is encouraged to attend Liberation BC’s Animal Advocacy Camp.

for the event is required in advance for just $15 for access both days, and is payable via PayPal.

For more information, visit AnimalAdvocacyCamp.ca.

Thank you, Universe!

December 22, 2011

This has been a pretty good week, let me tell you.

I’ve been busy taking orders – baking orders, that is!

Today I woke up to a friend asking if she could order a birthday cake from me, and I told her I was already making Pumpkin Cheesecake for another order, so she went for that as well.

Then I called the person who ordered the first cheesecake to check on what else it was he wanted to order, and he wanted his entire Holiday Basket order to be just Pumpkin Banana Loaves and Pumpkin Cheesecake – 10 loaves, and 2 extra cheesecakes, for a total of 3!

Tomorrow (or rather today, as it’s already 1:26am) is Harmless Innovation’s Holiday Basket delivery day, and I don’t think I’m going to be sleeping between now and making our little elf rounds, since I still have Pink Lemonade Cupcakes, Mint Chocolate Fudge, Peanut Butter Cookies, Gingerbread Cookies, another Pumpkin Banana Loaf, and of course icing to make.

Hooo weee! I might regret no longer being a coffee drinker by tomorrow at 7pm – which I just realized is when I’ll get my first chance to go to sleep, since I have a medical appointment at 6pm.

PLUS, I’ve been fortunate enough to not only find $20 (literally) blowing in the wind as I was walking from my car to the bank on Tuesday, but also to get a free Amy’s No Cheese Pizza tonight because it scanned at a higher price than it was supposed to (and this is actually the second time that this has happened to me, at different stores, but the same pizza).

So thank you to the Universe, and to all the little elves who have been helping the Universe help me along this week (including the person in line tonight who pointed out the store policy to me, the man at the dollar store today who let me go ahead of him, and whoever gifted me the $20 – you are all greatly appreciated!).


December 19, 2011

Well, it’s almost that time! (Cliché much?)

Christmas is just sleeps away, and it looks like I’m going to be rather busy in the lead-up.

Tonight I put up my Christmas Tree, it looks something like this:

(I lost my camera, so I have only my cell phone to rely on for photographic preservation at the moment. This is why my blog is lacking in colourful self-captured photography.)

I also made myself a youTube playlist of Christmas songs, so score one for me on my list of things to learn how to do.

This afternoon Tara and I fulfilled our first to go order for Harmless Innovations, and just a little while ago the woman we made it for emailed us to let us know she fed 7 people with what we made for 5, there were left overs, they all loved it and she said everyone wants to be vegan now if that’s how vegan food tastes! (Which is actually one of our goals – to make things taste so good that omnivores will be eager repeat customers and spread the word).

So tomorrow Tara and I will be going grocery shopping (have I ever told you how much I love grocery shopping? It’s my idea of a good time…and a good date) for ingredients to fulfill our Holiday Basket orders on Wednesday when we do all of the baking. We’re delivering on Thursday, so there’s still time to get an order in, so long as we receive it by Wednesday at Noon.

That should keep us busy through Thursday, then on Friday I think we might both be on the Animal Voices Radio Show, so clearly, the fun is just beginning! (And hopefully so is our success!)


December 15, 2011

Have I ever told you how much I love mail? Well, it’s right up there with the library (which I think everyone should start frequenting much more).

Last night a friend asked for my mailing address to send me a Christmas card, today someone else asked for it for perhaps the same reason (or maybe not, who knows), and I got a wonderful holiday postcard from the lovely Grinches (just kidding!) over at Nice Shoes.

I’m also still waiting on the reply from my third (the first two kind of crapped out of the program, strangely) vegan pen pal, who just so happens to live in one of my destination cities – Nashville, Tennessee.

The pen pal project was originally through the web-based Living Opposed to Exploitation and Violence (L.O.V.E.), but the person (volunteering! and paying for postage and a P.O. Box without accepting donations, if you can believe it!) coordinating the project is going to be on the move for the next six months or so, and has passed things along to another person who also runs a pen pal project.

The project is aimed at pairing new vegans or people who are on the verge of going vegan with someone more experienced who can provide some guidance and speak to some issues that might arise during the transition from omnivore or vegetarian to vegan.

I interviewed Jenna McDavid (who was coordinating the L.O.V.E. Vegan Pen Pals Project) about it on the Animal Voices Radio Show back in June if you’re interested in taking a listen to learn more.

And if you’d like to get yourself a vegan pen pal, you can contact Kaycee at VeganMachine.com to sign up.

(Or, if you’d like to be my pen pal, there’s a chance that could be arranged. I miss the letters I used to frequently trade with several people while I was away volunteering for nine months in Katimavik).

Too Legit to Quit

December 13, 2011

So today was an awesome day (well mostly, but I’ll leave out the non-awesome).

First I woke up to a little write up about Tara and I on the VegNews website in the VegNewsDaily section, then I went to the library (always a good time), and this afternoon I got to realize a journalistic dream by interviewing author Will Ferguson.

I’ve wanted to write for VegNews since the first day I happened upon the June 2006 issue at the Chapters in Langley, so I always thought the first time I would see my name published in the magazine or on their website would be during the internship I’ve been planning on doing at their San Francisco headquarters ever since. Obviously this was a wonderful surprise to wake up to on a Monday morning.

So far we have three orders for Holiday Baskets for Harmless (2 of which are pretty huge), and today I began a dialogue with a producer about us bringing a film screening to Vancouver.

Dreams just kept coming true today, as I got a chance to talk to Will Ferguson, who was on my list of people to interview (which now that I think of it, should probably be a blog post in and of itself).

I’ve been a fan of Will Ferguson’s for a long time now, and have most of his books, including “I Was a Teenage Katima-victim,” which is about his experience in Katimavik. It’s also what inspired the interview, as I’m profiling the organization for an assignment for my Journalism Research class.

I wanted to know how the program shaped his life after he completed it, and it turns out it shaped his life in a big way.

Having never traveled before Katimavik, Ferguson was exposed to the Canadian experience outside his small Northern Alberta town and soon developed a love for Canada that has since been channeled into several books about trekking across this vast land of ours.

Initially intent on a career in politics, which Ferguson almost laughed about today, Katimavik redirected him to instead pursue a life in the arts.

Ferguson said all of his traveling and travel writing can be traced back to Katimavik, and that he was prompted to write the 1998 memoir by his publisher asking him for more Canadiana in the wake of his breakout success with his first book, “Why I Hate Canadians.” He recalled that he had notebooks documenting his time in the program, as he said, “our first Project Leader was really adamant that we keep a journal.”

So thank you, “Joyce,” wherever you are. The book really is an hilarious account of what life is like in Katimavik that other Katima-victims can relate to.

Will said he was torn about if he should remain true to the surprising bitterness and anger he found in his journals on closer look, or write from the perspective of time lapsing and seeing it as a great experience in the big picture. He decided to stick to his 19 year-old self’s experience, and anyone who has been in Katimavik and has read the book would likely attest that he made the right decision.

A lucky Katimavik group had the chance to dine with Ferguson after a writing event in Toronto he spoke at a couple of months back, and he said he was struck by how “Kids today are much cooler and more put together than we were” when he did the program in the 1980s, and that he noticed this group was “very articulate . . . very together. They got along as adults rather than kids.”

Harmless (The Story of Us)

November 29, 2011

Check us out at the Vegan Prom. Tara's on the bottom left, I'm of course the weirdo in the top right, and we're joined by Alissa in the back and Susan in the front.

I guess I might as well announce about my latest culinary endeavor. It’s called Harmless Innovations, and I’ve started it with my friend Tara-Lee Gardiner.

Conveniently enough, Tara and I live basically on the same street (they are different streets, but they are only a couple of feet apart for some strange reason). We met through our mutual involvement with STOP UBC Animal Research, got to know each other better through working together on the Animal Voices Radio Show on 102.7fm Co-Op Radio, and solidified things over the summer with antics like staying up until 7am and getting kicked off of a rooftop and out of a pool in California.

We also danced the night away recently at the inaugural Vegan Prom (pictured above) here in Vancouver at the Wise Hall on November 5th.

I can’t remember now exactly how it happened, but sometime between the prom and the following Sunday or so Tara and I determined that we both wanted to start hosting a Secret Supper Club. Obviously we decided to join forces (that was a no brainer – oh wait…I mean, two heads are better than one. Right? That must be it).

Within the week we were sipping (soy) hot chocolate in Starbucks after singing Christmas carols as we skipped from the car and up to the counter (Walkin’ In a Winter Wonderland, to be exact), watching one of the first snowfalls of the season through the foggy windows and plotting our next move. Just kidding – but only about the skipping. The rest is all a true story.

We were trying to think of names, but weren’t coming up with anything that quite fit our idea to host Secret Suppers, attend bake sales, put on our own events (like movie screenings, parties, dinner dances, and other stuff we’re not ready to publicize just yet), as well as cater others’ events, and make jewelery and native arts like the beautiful dream catchers Tara has already produced. We were trying to think of something that was animal friendly to stand for BS in No BS, but the best I could come up with – which I’m aware was terrible – was No Boob Suckers.

Then Tara asked something along the lines of, “What’s another way to say ‘Less harm’?” We both pondered for a minute in deep thought before Tara took a bathroom break, and I continued to fumble around inside my messy head wading through all my thoughts. And that’s when it hit me: Harmless. Duh. I knew Tara would love it (since she basically suggested it).

By the end of the night we had a growing list of plans, a website ready to be purchased (which happened the next day), and had decided on Harmless Innovations as our name (since the website for Harmless Productions was taken, and Innovations sounded more like what we’re going for than Productions, anyway).

That was November 17th, and in the week and a bit since then, we’ve gotten a secret invite-only Facebook group up and running, as well as our general Facebook page with a bio, a Twitter account (HarmlessVan), and we’ve already had a table at a craft fair selling vegan baked goods and vegan dream catchers.

Tara made Chocolate Chip Cookies and Chocolate Mousse, and I made Peanut Butter Cookies, Pumpkin Banana Loaf, and three (!) Pumpkin “Cheesecakes” (one of which I ended up eating myself – whoops!).

We’re also going to be at the Aboriginal Friendship Centre (1607 E. Hastings) this coming Saturday (December 3rd) from 10am to 5pm selling more (vegan, of course!) baked goods, the aforementioned dream catchers, and jewelery.

I’m not sure what Tara has in mind for this weekend, but I’m planning on baking bags of Mini Donuts, Christmas Fudge, and Mini Apple Crisps. With the extra time to advertise all this week (versus the 6 or so hours’ notice I gave people by making the Facebook event at about 3am last Saturday morning), it’s already looking to be a good turn out.

Please feel free to like us on Facebook, and do let us know if you’d like to be added to the Secret Supper Club.