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Galileo’s Freckles (and birthday cupcakes!)
Mar29

Galileo’s Freckles (and birthday cupcakes!)

Happy 7th Birthday, Galileo! Our darling “fluffer nutter” Galileo has peanut butter-colored freckles as plentiful as the stars of the constellations, but early on I decided on this story: Once upon a time, in heaven, a bunch of angels were huddled together. The angel Galileo approached them to find out what all the buzz was about. Someone explained: “There’s a family down there for one of us. One of us is going to show up for them as a puppy.” Of course, this meant that whatever angel took on the job would have to leave behind his wings for a while. Galileo thought about it. He took a look at this family of four: he’d have a mom, dad, and two canine brothers. Galileo volunteered. He was so excited, he started flying around in circles over and over again, just as he runs around and around today (always to the right). With great ceremony, Galileo’s angel friends helped him remove his shimmery wings and hang them in the closet, where they wait for him. Then he became a puppy, covered in marshmallow-soft white fur; there’s an iridescence to the fur — in the sunlight, you can see a rainbow of colors — that’s a lot like his glorious wings. Then, to say “farewell for now” and wish Galileo well, all the angels gathered around him and showered him with kisses. And they each left their mark – each of the hundreds of freckles, the kiss of an angel. As we say in our home: another day, another gift. Today — every day — we celebrate Galileo and what a blessing it is to have him as part of our family. Thank you to Tucson’s Foundation for Animals in Risk (FAIR), the foster/adoption organization that brought us together. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * “Fluffer Nutter” Birthday Cupcakes We nicknamed Galileo after the combination of marshmallow and peanut butter. So, today my six year-old nephew Nicky and I made vegan “Fluffer Nutter” cupcakes in honor of our birthday boy: Yellow Cake Mix by Cherrybrook Kitchen (I use Earth Balance vegan sticks instead of butter) Suzanne’s Ricemellow Creme (“fluff” frosting) Earth Balance Peanut Butter Large Baking Cups by If You Care I wanted to use peanut-butter chips to more closely resemble his freckles, but there aren’t any vegan ones available on the market yet. I found a simple recipe that combines peanut butter and vegan white chocolate chips (melt, pour into tray, cool, and cut). Maybe next year I’ll give it a try. As for tonight’s birthday...

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Forty-Seven Letters?
Mar15

Forty-Seven Letters?

“What’s your book about?” I’m not surprised when I often see the friendly curiosity in a stranger’s face change to puzzlement. Although many people have opened up to me about their own losses – and not just over companion animals, but humans, too – I realize that a collection of forty-seven letters to a beagle may seem, at best, a bit maudlin and, at worst, rather obsessive. True, when I was writing the a daily letter to Pushkin during the season of Lent, which began just a few weeks after his passing, I didn’t intend to share them – there was no intention for a “story” to emerge as the days went by. I read somewhere recently that people who are grieving naturally will lean on ritual to help them through it. Especially in the beginning, when the grief is at its greatest intensity. Writing a letter each day was just one of several routines that I instantly set up to give myself structure, to buttress myself against the quicksand of grief that could so easily swallow up a person. I was willing to let myself have the feelings, but I also was determined not to get stuck in them. Again, a person may ask, “Over a beagle?” First, I will unapologetically answer that a companion animal is a family member, just like a human member. Even though we know the lifespan of a beagle is 12-15 years — that he will not outlive us as a human child would — the heart cannot be constrained by what the mind knows to be true. Anyone with a companion animal knows that, in exchange for the incredible bond we will have with our four-legged friends and fur children for as long as we are entrusted with them, we are setting ourselves up for a devastating loss. The ever-growing collection of letters that others have written to their own companion animals on the Letters To Pushkin web site is a testament to the role companion animals play in our families and their lasting presence in our lives. Beyond expressing this connection with animals, however, my own collection of letters became something else. As my first experience ever with the loss of a loved one, the loss of Pushkin became the impetus for a deeply personal story that does, in fact, emerge from the handwritten pages. I was well-educated and well-traveled by the time Pushkin became seriously ill. I’d lived my life up to that point in such a way that I’d been exposed to many different approaches to life and diverse belief systems. I had my own ideas about life and...

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Here Comes the Sun
Apr21

Here Comes the Sun

Here in Tucson, it’s been feeling like summer for a while already. Now, with the end of the school year around the corner for everyone across the nation, it’s time for us all to start making summer plans and stocking up on some summer essentials. I can tell you that this city girl has developed a whole new appreciation for sunscreen since moving out here to the desert. I still like to be active outdoors in the summertime — whether it’s rollerblading, biking, or just walking the pups; and I’m all about pool-time with family and friends. Without sunscreen, I’d be crispy in about a half-hour! So sunscreen keeps me healthy, active, and social throughout the season. Here are some sunscreen products by companies that do not test on animals: Alba Botanica Sun: Mineral Sunscreen (Fragrance Free) Badger Sunscreen for Face and Body, Unscented Desert Essence Age Reversal Mineral Sunscreen All Terrain (comes in Terrasport and Aquasport ) Nature’s Gate Sportblock Kiss My Face Sunscreen with Oat Protein Mychelle Sunshield Best value! Trader Joe’s Sunscreen Lotion for kids: Alba Botanica Sun: Mineral Sunscreen for Kids All Terrain Kids All-Weather Skin Protectant (SPF 30) Avalon Organics Baby Natural Mineral Sunscreen (SPF 18) California Baby Moisturizing Sunscreen, No Fragrance (SPF 18) How does your favorite brand measure up? I recommend you have a look at the Sun Protection section on The Environmental Working Group’s site, Skin Deep.  Their cosmetics database is extensive — you can look up any one of your favorite products to get the scoop on that company’s animal testing policy.  While you’re at it, check out cruelty-free alternatives for sun protection lip balm and make-up,...

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Vino: vegan-friendly wines
Jan05

Vino: vegan-friendly wines

When I think of wines, I think of the rolling hills of Tuscany. I envision the grapes on the vines, and then I imagine my Italian ancestors pouring generously and laughing heartily as they drink in the aroma as well as the tastes of the trebbiano, grechetto, and nebbiolo. What I don’t think about are the ingredients that might find their way into the process of making the wine, ingredients that come and go before the wine makes it into the bottle and into my glass. Often, vintners use animal-derived products as clarifying agents: egg whites, casein, gelatin, isinglass and — in some countries other than the US and France — even blood from large mammals (gasp!). The good news is that, with the increased focus on organic options, many vintners are choosing to use bentonite (clay) in place of the animal-based agents. Many kosher wines also are animal-friendly, but not all — using egg whites or gelatin is acceptable because the agent is removed from the final product. Unfortunately, it’s precisely because the agents are removed from the final product that they are not listed on the label. So I’ve found some resources where you can look up your favorites to find out their status… and perhaps explore some wines and spirits that are new to you. Barnivore: Look up wines by brand names; also lists beers and liquors. Vegan Wine Guide: This site allows you to search by Type and Country. Online Retailers: Frey Vineyards Wrights Wines The Organic Wine Company (“vegan” selection) The Organic Wineworks/Hallcrest Vegan Sommelier This site rocks. So much to choose from, and all vegan-friendly. A great place to browse to learn about all the alternatives… and to stock up for your next party or special occasion. Update for 2013: Check out The Vegan Vine and also Benefit Wines, which is offering vegan-friendly wines to benefit Grey2KUSA — one of my favorite organizations, working tirelessly to end greyhound...

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