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Friday, November 30, 2007

'Year of the Dog' Review & Quote of the Day

Matt and I watched Year of the Dog last night and I must say, if I had to choose any movie character throughout history who I think most resembles me (personality-wise, not appearance-wise), it would be Peggy, the protagonist of this story (Peggy is played by Molly Shannon). Consider the following similarities:
  • Stuck working in boring administrative jobs (fortunately for me, I escaped a couple of years ago);
  • Unusually attached to her dog(s);
  • Journey towards animal rights activism and veganism launched by premature loss of beloved dog;
  • Veganism inspired by fellow dog rescuing volunteer;
  • Suffers alienation from friends and family due to increasing commitment to animal rights causes and veganism;
  • Struggles to find balance between hope/action and despair.
Fortunately for me, the similarities are not universal... I have friends and family who love and accept me (most of them, at least!), plus a great husband and son. Peggy is a bit of a social outcast who relates better to dogs than to people.

The movie was a comedy/drama, so there were wonderful little bits of Molly-Shannon-ness sprinkled throughout the sometimes dark and sad parts of the movie.

{If you don't want to have the plot spoiled for you, stop reading here.}

A quick overview - after her beloved beagle, Pencil, dies before his time, Peggy becomes involved in dog rescue, which soon leads her to veganism and farm animal activism. Her friends and family are alternately bewildered, amused, and irritated by her newfound passions. (Laura Dern is especially wonderful as Peggy's saccharin sweet, neurotic, controlling, hilarious sister-in-law.)

Peggy suffers numerous losses, and eventually goes a little nutso and makes some, shall we say, bad decisions. She loses her job and puts her relationships in jeopardy. Ultimately though, she pulls through, gets her job back, and seems to achieve some semblance of balance in her life.

So, why am I telling you all this? Basically just to set up my quote of the day. At the close of the movie, Peggy sends the following in an email to her friends and family as she embarks on a bus full of fellow animal activists to go to an animal rights demonstration.

If you all didn’t think I was crazy, I’m sure you will now. How do I explain the things I’ve said and done? How do I explain the person I’ve become? I know I’ve disappointed everyone and I’m sorry for that. I wish I was a more articulate person.

I believe life is magical. It is so precious. And there are so many kinds of life in this life; so many things to love. The love for a husband or a wife, a boyfriend or girlfriend, the love for children, the love for yourself, and even material things. This is my love. It is mine. And it fills me, and it defines me, and it compels me on.

Something about this passage really touched me. Because really, what is animal activism, if not love? It feels powerful to claim it as my love. And it feels wonderful to admit that, like Peggy, it fills me, and defines me, and compels me on.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Updated Tattoo Pic

A few people said they wanted to see a picture of my tattoo once it healed, so I thought I'd post one here... it's still just a bit pink, but much better than before. It also needs some touch-up, but I've been procrastinating going back in because I know it will look and feel icky again when I do, at least for a while.

A couple of rings

Despite numerous setbacks in my workshop lately, I did manage to churn out two rings, after much swearing and moaning and eye rolling (it's been that kind of week)... The first is a special order labradorite ring, and the second is a dainty little rustic garnet ring which I will go list in my Etsy shop momentarily. Thanks for looking!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

New Stuff

Here are a few more clear quartz cabochons with interesting mineral inclusions, which I bought yesterday...

Aren't they cool? I'm going to make more rings like this one:

I haven't made any earrings in a while so last night I cranked out a few new pairs while sitting on the couch watching TV.

Bali silver earrings

Bali silver and prehnite earrings

Aquamarine and Swarovski simulated pearl earrings

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Catching up a bit

Well, I survived my little craft show. It was fairly busy on Friday but totally dead today, which sucked. Still, it was fun to hang out with my fellow crafter friends and have girl talk and cookies. Here's a picture of my booth setup; the house where we had the show is so cute... everything looked really nice.

I have been thinking a lot about the role veganism plays in my life and how I can better integrate it into the other aspects of my personality, my family, social networks, etc., so I decided to try a few things at the craft show. First, I made a ton of yummy vegan cookies to serve to our customers, and printed out the recipes (clearly marked 'vegan' - gasp!) to set out next to the plates of cookies. And second, I put out a couple of stacks of 'Try Vegetarian' brochures with my jewelry, like so:

The results were fantastic! Without being pushy about it (I hope), I was able to help spread the word about the benefits of a vegan diet, and hopefully made the word VEGAN itself, and the concept, a little less foreign and scary to at least a few dozen people. I saw a lot of people take the recipe cards, and many thanked me for them and complimented me on how tasty the cookies were. And better yet, a fair number of people took a brochure, and a couple of them even struck up conversations with me about veganism.

My cookies and brochures (as well as the fact that I brought 'Slaughterhouse' to read during the slow times) even sparked some lively conversation with my friends who were doing the show with me. They may never decide to go vegan themselves, but it was cool to at least talk to them more about it than I probably ever have before, and to introduce some facts and ideas that they clearly hadn't considered in the past. Hopefully I didn't overwhelm them with my, um, enthusiasm for the subject matter.

Oh, and I probably should post about Thanksgiving! Carlos and I had a lovely vegan meal with my dear friend Kristina and my mom and step dad (Matt had to work). I neglected to photograph dessert (such a shame), which was chocolate peanut butter pie and pumpkin cream cheese pie (all vegan, of course). I'll try to remember to find links or post those recipes soon.

My dinner plate - clockwise from top: mashed potatoes with gravy, homemade white whole wheat rolls, neat loaf from 'The Peaceful Palate', yams with apples, cider, and ginger cookie crumbles, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and green bean casserole (center). And to think some people out there still think of veganism as deprivation!

A tragically blurry picture of Carlos chowing down on a roll...

...then working off said roll...

...then relaxing with a good book and a belly laugh with Grandpa Joe.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The best of the best

Of all the stones I bought in my recent excursion, these are the most amazing. In fact, they might just be the most incredible stones I've ever owned (they are definitely the most expensive!)... so I thought they deserved their own post.

I have never before seen tourmaline beads this flawless. They are very uniform in size (one strand's beads measures 7.5-8mm and the other is 8.5-9mm), with gorgeous faceting and stunning color. I'm definitely going to use some myself; we'll see if I can part with any for my shop...

New Cabs

I also got a few nice cabochons for making rings yesterday... pretty, pretty!!!

Cloudy aquamarine cushion cabochons

More labradorite... I just can't resist the stuff!

These are all available for custom ring orders, just email me!

Shopping Spree!

I went shopping yesterday and really went overboard! I got some awesome new stones for my bead shop, and miraculously managed to get them photographed and uploaded to give you a sneak peek today. I have a craft show this Friday and Saturday so I won't get a chance to list these on Etsy for a while, so I guess this is just a teaser...

Huge ruby rondelles, 5-9mm

Sapphire rondelles, 3-4mm

Faceted sunstone rectangles, 10-14mm

Tourmaline marquis briolettes, 14-21mm

Barrel faceted tourmaline ovals, 10-13mm

Labradorite briolette drops, 9-11mm

Lemon quartz marquis briolettes, 19-23mm

Lemon quartz barrel faceted twisters, 15-17mm

Pink opal marquis briolettes, 16-18mm

Prehnite marquis briolettes, 13-18mm

Smooth golden opal rondelles, 11mm

Gigantic green garnet faceted nuggets, 14-18mm

Smooth graduated fancy jasper rondelles, 8-14mm

Kyanite heishi beads, 5mm

Smooth kyanite rondelles, 7mm

Amethyst pear briolettes, 11-14mm

Large faceted aquamarine rondelles, 9-10mm

Peruvian blue opal flat oval-ish beads, 9-14mm

Faceted chrysoprase rondelles, 3-4mm

Citrine marquis briolettes, 12-16mm

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

For all of you wire wrapping fanatics out there...

I found this gorgeous tutorial on Etsy recently and felt the need to share it with you. Iza is an incredibly gifted artist, and I'm excited to see her selling this awesome looking tutorial!

...and another variation from the same tutorial.

I can't vouch for the instructions themselves, since I haven't bought it yet (but plan to do so after the holiday madness has passed), but based on Iza's obvious talent, I'm sure it's great. I love the versatility of the design - be sure to click on the link to see even more possibilities. If any of you try it out, let me know how it goes!

Heifer Schmeifer

I wrote a letter to the editor of BUST Magazine yesterday and I decided to post it here on my blog as well. This is an issue I was planning on posting about in a few months but I decided to bump it up in priority since it may (hopefully) influence some of your holiday shopping plans...

November 20, 2007

Dear BUST,

I just discovered your awesome magazine a few months ago and am totally hooked. It’s so refreshing to find a magazine that is fun to read and reflects my values and beliefs. Given my obviously high opinion of your publication, I was surprised and sorely disappointed to see Heifer International listed in your ‘guide to giving gifts that give a damn’ [No Time Like the Present, Dec/Jan ‘08].

Despite its carefully crafted image, Heifer International is not the warm, fuzzy entity that it might seem at first glance. While I imagine the group has good intentions, and I’m certain we all can agree that ending hunger and caring for the earth are worthwhile pursuits, the fact is that logic and compassion are not on Heifer's side.

Not only are Heifer’s programs a horror story for the animals destined to become food, it also does no favors to the families it purports to help. There’s something fundamentally wrong with encouraging people to move away from a healthful, plant-based diet, and to instead embrace meat and dairy products, which contain artery-clogging saturated fat and cholesterol, and have been definitively linked to heart disease, diabetes, and many types of cancer.

Furthermore, it is estimated that two-thirds of non-Caucasians on the planet are lactose intolerant. Why encourage these people to consume animal flesh and excretions, which are so clearly detrimental to their health, when plant-based foods offer equal, or often superior, nutrients?

Besides being terrible for the animals and people in the program, Heifer’s assertion that animal-based agriculture is a viable solution to the world’s hunger problem is just plain wrong. In fact, the over consumption of meat, dairy, and eggs is one of the primary causes of world hunger. It takes 2,500 gallons of water to produce one pound of meat from a cow.

Of course, I’m not saying we should sit idly by and do nothing while every year 15 million children die of hunger. But programs that encourage plant based solutions are far better positioned to truly address the problem of hungry children and families on this planet. Fortunately, there are numerous groups that we can choose to support instead of Heifer International. These groups are seeking sustainable solutions that truly get at the root of the problem in ways that empowers people without harming animals or the environment.

  • Plenty International ( promotes appropriate and sustainable technologies in 15 countries on four continents focused on support of the world's native peoples and other disenfranchised people and our common environment.
  • Sustainable Harvest International ( helps farmers in Central America reverse rainforest destruction with sustainable land-use practices that allow them to take control of their environmental and economic destinies.
  • The Women’s Bean Project ( teaches job readiness and life skills for entry-level jobs through employment in their gourmet food production business.
  • The Fruit Tree Planting Foundation ( is dedicated to planting edible, fruitful trees and plants to benefit needy populations and improve the surrounding air, soil, and water.
  • Trees for Life ( helps people plant fruit trees in developing countries. Each tree protects the environment and provides a low-cost, self-renewing source of food for a large number of people.

For a comprehensive discussion of this issue, you can download the ‘Don’t Buy a Cow’ episode of the ‘Vegetarian Food for Thought’ podcast.


Tamara McFarland

I'm planning to revisit this topic at a later date (early 2008 sometime), when I will feature one of the above listed charities as my monthly Jewelry for Charity beneficiary. In the meantime, if any of you would like to express your dismay to BUST regarding their endorsement of Heifer's irresponsible programs, you can send your letters to

And for those of you who are interested in listening to the podcast I mentioned, you can find it at the Compassionate Cooks website, along with tons of other extremely informative and articulate podcast episodes on veganism and animal rights.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Quote of the Day

"The thinking [person] must oppose all cruel customs no matter how deeply rooted in tradition and surrounded by a halo. When we have a choice, we must avoid bringing torment and injury into the life of another..."

--Albert Schweitzer

Rings, Endless Rings...

I finally found time to make a ring out of one of these new oval faceted labradorite stones I received a while back, and I love the result!!! (Labradorite & sterling silver ring, size 7)

It looks pretty good on me, don't you think? And it fits perfectly... it might be a keeper. (Let me know if you need one though; I can always make more!)

Pietersite 'Picasso' Ring, size 8

This stone is pretty enormous for a ring; too big for my tiny little paws, but I know it will be perfect for someone better able to pull off some serious bling. And the stone... {sigh} it's beyond perfect. I'm calling it the 'Picasso' ring, not because I am actually so full of myself as to compare my work to Picasso's, but because I am so in love with this amazing stone, courtesy of Mother Nature, that I think it deserves to be recognized as a true work of art and a masterpiece in its own right.

Monday, November 19, 2007

On Turkeys and Thanksgiving, Part 2

The ever present references, both visual (television, print media) and audio (constant ads on the radio), to turkey corpses, is getting me down a little bit. When I think of the zillions of turkeys who have suffered unimaginable pain and horrible existences just to please our taste buds, it truly sickens me.

After so many years as a vegan (and vegetarian prior to that), it is totally incomprehensible to me that people can look at a blackened carcass sitting in the middle of their table and find it festive or appetizing.

According to Farm Sanctuary, "Between 250 and 300 million turkeys are raised for slaughter every year in the U.S.—46 million alone for Thanksgiving in 2006. U.S. turkey consumption, which has increased by 108 percent since 1970, averaged at 16.9 pounds per person last year." That's hundreds of millions of souls - living, breathing, feeling, sentient beings - raised in filth and consumed with pain for all of their tragically short lives, then slaughtered cruelly and without remorse just for a few moments of pleasure in someone's mouth.

Turkeys are pretty cool...
  • Benjamin Franklin thought so highly of the turkey that he referred to the animal as "a bird of courage" and suggested that the turkey—rather than the eagle—be the United States' national symbol. *
  • Turkeys can live up to 12 years. *
  • Wild turkeys can run up to 25 miles per hour and can fly short distances at speeds up to 55 miles per hour. *
  • Unlike some birds, turkeys do not fly south for the winter. Instead, they continue to roam for food and choose a diet based on what is available at that time of year. *
  • Within just a few days of hatching, poults (young turkeys) instinctively tag along behind their mother for protection and food. During their first few weeks of life, poults will panic when separated from their mother. The poult emits a loud "peep peep" to which the mother responds by yelping and running towards her child. Mother turkeys defend their young against predators, including raccoons, foxes, snakes, owls, and hawks. *
  • Turkeys have a zest for living and enjoying the day. Treated with respect, they become very friendly. **
But the way we treat them is not cool at all...
  • In comparison with the physical prowess of their wild relatives, turkeys genetically selected to be raised for meat weigh twice as much, making them unable to fly or even copulate naturally since their breasts are so enlarged. *
  • Commercial turkey operations force hundreds, or even thousands of birds to sit and stand in a crowded yard or in filthy litter (wood shavings and excrement) breathing burning ammonia fumes and lung-destroying dust, which causes them to develop respiratory diseases, ulcerated feet, blistered breasts, and ammonia-burned eyes. **
  • Most turkeys are fed antibiotics to promote artificial growth and to control Salmonella, Listeria, Campylobacter and other diseases transmittable to humans. Poultry Science reports that 72% to 100% of chickens, turkeys, and ducks have Campylobacter at the slaughterhouse – despite all the drugs. **
  • Turkeys have been bred to grow so fast and heavy that their bones are too weak to carry the weight. Turkeys frequently suffer from painful lameness so severe they try to walk on their wings to reach food and water. **
  • If a 7-pound human baby grew as fast as baby turkeys are forced to grow, the human baby would weight 1500 pounds at 18 weeks old. **
  • Forced to grow too large too fast, turkeys raised for food develop congestive heart and lung disease accompanied by engorged coronary blood vessels, distended fluid-filled heart sacs, abdominal fluid, and gelatin-covered enlarged congested livers. **
  • Turkeys are painfully debeaked and detoed without anesthetic to offset the destructive effects of overcrowding and lack of environmental stimulation. Beaks are amputated with a hot machine blade. The blade cuts through the sensitive beak tissue causing severe pain and suffering in the mutilated birds. Debeaked birds cannot eat or preen properly, and detoed birds have trouble walking. **
  • Turkeys used for breeding cannot mate naturally due to artificial growth rates. Male and female turkeys used for breeding are masturbated and artificially inseminated in order to obtain semen, which is driven into the female bird’s body. **
  • Between 12 and 26 weeks old turkeys are grabbed by catchers and carried upside down by their legs to the transport truck. Jammed in crates they travel without food, water or weather protection to the slaughterhouse. No U.S. welfare laws regulate the treatment of turkeys, chickens, ducks or other birds during catching, transport, or slaughter. **
  • At the slaughterhouse, turkeys are torn from the crates and hung by their feet upside down on a movable belt – torture for a heavy bird especially. They may or may not be “stunned” – paralyzed while fully conscious – by a hand held electrical stunner, or by having their faces dragged through an electrified water bath. The purpose of electrical "stunning" is to paralyze the muscles of the feather follicles "allowing the feathers to come out easily" and has nothing to do with humane slaughter. The electricity shoots through the birds' eyes, eardrums, and hearts, causing intolerable pain," according to researchers. Nor does throat-cutting, with or without prior electric "stunning," produce a humane death. **

Here's a Farm Sanctuary documentary about the turkey industry:

So, to sum up, turkeys are naturally curious, friendly birds. They form intense bonds with their babies and will fight like crazy to protect them. Without a doubt, they experience joy and sorrow, and can feel physical pain just as intensely as we humans can. Turkeys raised for human consumption endure hellish conditions throughout their unnaturally short lives, and are murdered without remorse just so we can all enjoy a 'Happy Thanksgiving.' Is it just me, or is this just plain wrong???

I'll attempt to end on a somewhat more upbeat note with this video of some rescued turkeys at Farm Sanctuary enjoying their 'Thanksgiving FOR the Turkeys' in New York state last weekend.

* Source: Humane Society of the United States
** Source: United Poultry Concerns

On Turkeys and Thanksgiving, Part 1

Thanksgiving is a holiday that brings up a lot of conflicting emotions for me. On one hand, I love the concept of a holiday that is about giving thanks and showing gratitude, but on the other hand, I'm not so sure that aspect of the day gets enough emphasis.

To focus my own thoughts and energy on what should be the true focus of this holiday, I've put together a short list of what I'm thankful for.
  • I'm beyond grateful to have Carlos home this Thanksgiving. When I think back to this time last year and how miserable I was waiting to go get him and compare it to my life now, the contrast is unbelievable. He's so funny and sweet, and I can't imagine life without him.
  • I consider myself very blessed with my husband and my marriage, which is now in its eleventh year! Wow.
  • I have a wonderful family who accepts and loves me for who I am. My mom and step dad are even going to have vegan Thanksgiving with me and Carlos this year (Matt's working), even though they are not vegetarian. That means a lot to me.
  • I have encountered a lot of amazing non-human creatures during my life, including my own dogs over the years (Farley, Hazel, Otis, Paco, Rowdy, and numerous foster dogs), plus the animals I met doing volunteer work. I am confident that the rest of my life will continue to be enriched by many more connections with animals, and I am grateful both for the animals in my past and those I look forward to meeting in the future.
  • My professional life is going well; I'm actually starting to make a little bit of money doing something I enjoy very much, which has been a goal for about the last seven or eight years that I have struggled to reach for what felt like an eternity.
  • Finally, I am thankful for my veganism and the many ways it has exposed me to joys I never would have experienced otherwise, and to the deep, deep sorrow that comes with the awareness of the endless ways animals are exploited for human enjoyment. Sometimes this sadness feels like a heavy burden, but I'm working to channel the sad feelings into direct action to help animals and people, and that's a blessing. So is the fact that I am alive and able to feel sadness.
Care to join me? Post your own list of what you're thankful for in a comment here, or leave a link to your own blog post on the subject.

Kucinich 2008 Weekly Update

Several of you who played the Candidate Match Game I posted about recently found out that your beliefs were closely aligned with Dennis Kucinich's and expressed interest in learning more about him, so I thought I'd start posting these weekly campaign updates here on my blog.

More of the same

I hesitated before posting these because they are so similar to what I posted last time, but ultimately decided I had to share these with you simply because the stones are so amazing. Look at the gorgeous colors! Ooooooooh.....

Labradorite & sterling silver ring (custom order)

Labradorite & sterling silver ring (custom order)

Victorian inspired labradorite and sterling silver ring, size 8
(I love the way this one changes colors from different angles...)