Saturday, December 17, 2011


As freaky and melodramatic as Dickens could get (it was the Victorian era, after all), I love his tale of redemption in A Christmas Carol. The idea that it is never too late to be your best self and to change the world is one that reinvigorates me every year.

There is quite an array of interpretations of Scrooge's night on the town, but my all-time favorite is the aptly-named Scrooge, starring Albert Finney, who, despite being a young man at the time of filming (1970), does a phenomenal job of portraying an old man. Alec Guinness (Obi-Wan Kenobi) also makes a showing as an amusing and refined Jacob Marley.

First off, it's a musical. But even if you're not a musical fan, you very well might enjoy this. They did not choose Albert Finney for his operatic voice, but I like that. He sings like the broken-down old man Scrooge was, so his voice comes out refreshingly "off," in the way us laypeople sing in the shower.  The tunes are so fun and (for me anyway) tear-inducing at times. And if you don't find yourself tapping your toes to "Thank You Very Much," then you may want to check your pulse.

The film, in fact, was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Original Song (Thank You Very Much), Best Score, Costume Design, and Best Art Direction. 

My favorite part, of course, is the end when he realizes he is still flesh-and-blood and, while he can't undo many of his past wrongs, he has the opportunity to move forward in the kindest manner possible, leaving the earth a better place for having been there. (Sound familiar?) Here is that scene I'm referring to. I love how giddy he gets, releasing all that pent-up energy of a small child. :)

This is the scene I want to join in! It looks like such fun!! (Years ago,  I worked at a wonderful music camp where we did Saturday night folk dancing which thrilled me to the bone.)

And I think this one is the favorite of anyone who's seen the movie. Scrooge happens upon a future vision of Christmas, seeing all the people who owed him money celebrating some mysteriously wonderful thing he did.

And what would a musical be without a big finale? Love it!


So I encourage you to get this on your Netflix list right away! But if you can't wait, the whole thing is on Youtube in 11 parts. :)

I hope the message rings with you too! Our actions may have hurt animals in the past, but for most of us, it was done in total ignorance. So think about following in Scrooge's dancing footsteps, and just use the new knowledge you have to make the world a better place for all beings. As the Ghost of Christmas Present says below (5:39), "There is never enough time to do or say all the things that we would wish. The thing to try to do is as much as you can in the time that you have ... Remember Scrooge, time is short! And suddenly you're not there any more!"

Monday, December 12, 2011

John Denver, Freddy Mercury, and Peace on Earth!

I love Christmas. Love it.

I love the twinkly lights, the yummy tastes and smells, the tree, and the pretty wrapping. But more than anything, I LOVE the music. And not the new-fangled stuff you hear on the radio. Lordy -- they really should have stopped recording Christmas music after the 70's because it's mostly been an embarrassing mix of blah since then. (With the exception of James Taylor's recent album. Well done, James.)

When I was in third grade or so (1979!), John Denver and the Muppets released a Christmas special/album called A Christmas Together that became iconic in my little world. Some of the pieces weren't even traditional carols, but spirituals, and one in particular captured my heart. It's titled "It's in every one of us," and the words follow.
It's in every one of us
To be wise
Find your heart
Open up both your eyes
We can all know everything
Without ever knowing why
It's in every one of us
By and by

To me, it speaks of being true to your heart and ideals. Trusting that inner voice. And lately, of course, it speaks to how we should be brave and pay attention to the plight of others, be they human or non-human, despite the plight's feeling too big and unfixable. It's simply astounding the difference one person can make. Find your heart. Open up both your eyes. Such simple, powerful words!

So here is the song as was originally aired in the aforementioned Muppet special. There's a reference to Christian beliefs here that I take with a grain of salt. (I don't believe or disbelieve...I just take it in as I do the beliefs of other religions and let it sit there in my brain. Whatever makes sense to my little neurons hovers around in there, and whatever feels silly seeps out of my ears in an ethereal kind of way.)

"Say a prayer for the wind, and the water and the wood. And those who live there too." I mean, how great is that?  I have always had a smidgin' of a crush on John Denver, which my husband is very accepting of, among my other crushes. (Paul Newman and Robert Redford) I remember so clearly the day I heard John Denver died. I was traveling sola on a bus headed for southern Chile and saw the papers there covered with the headlines. It was a very sad bus ride. :(

Here's another version of the same tune with Freddie Mercury! No video here, but a great rendition of the song! Some songs just make you want to be a better person and this is one of them.

So I hope this song has inspired you as well. And you know what is just as inspiring? According to the Harris Interactive Poll, the number of vegans in the United States has doubled in the last two years. DOUBLED! Approximately 7.5 million people in the U.S. have said a resounding "Yes!" to following the Golden Rule and it continues to grow. The wall the meat industry put up is rapidly disintegrating and people are starting to see the reality of what is behind it.

And to leave you with a happy chuckle, lest I get too deep, here is another great moment from the Muppet special! Ah, Fozzie...

Do you have any favorite tunes (Christmas or otherwise) that fill you with similar hope and contentment?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Cowboys who are cool to cows

First off, I am a sap. Mix in the sensory overload of a seasonal change and I get extra wistful. Which is why so many of these posts harken back to earlier days. It can't be helped.

I was holding off on today's Cowboy post because it related to a birthday surprise for my Dad, which he received last night! (Happy Birthday Dad!) :) A very simple surprise, granted, but a fun one for the taste buds! My Dad's mother, my delightful Gramma, regularly made Cowboy Cookies -- the most cheerful and addictive cookies in the land. My Dad was quite fond of them! Gramma always kept them in a tall glass jar and the rattling of the jar top made us all salivate like Pavlov.

So of course, I had to see if I could pull off a vegan version and have the result be just as splendid as the original. I'll cut to the chase -- it worked and they were scrumptious. The only two substitutions were flax seeds for eggs and Earth Balance buttery spread for butter/shortening. And of course I made sure the semisweet chocolate chips had no milk in them.

I will warn you, though, that you should make sure you are not alone when these come out of the oven. Very dangerous.

Also, for those who are unfamiliar with flax seed substitutions: flax seeds can be bought whole in bags. Once you get home, put the bag in the fridge and keep it there. I use a coffee grinder to grind them up in small batches. (If there are coffee grounds in there, just throw in some uncooked rice, grind that, empty the grinder of the rice/coffee bits, and then clean out quickly with a paper towel. Very simple.)  Every Sunday, I'll grind up a several tablespoons, throw them in a small glass canister in the fridge, and use them throughout the week, mostly in my morning smoothies. These babies are LOADED with omega-3s.

To match the equivalent of 1 egg, you just use one Tablespoon of ground flaxseeds with 3 Tablespoons of water. I throw the flax seeds and and water in the small bowl of my food processer and let it whir for a couple of minutes until it gets a very egg-y consistency. Should you have no food processor, you can whisk them instead, though it takes a little longer.

Here a little excerpt from Wikipedia on the nutritional benefits of flaxseed (SO superior to eggs in nutrition and in kindness.)

Flax seeds contain high levels of dietary fiber as well as lignans, an abundance of micronutrients and omega-3 fatty acids (table). Flax seeds may lower cholesterol levels, especially in women.[10] Initial studies suggest that flax seeds taken in the diet may benefit individuals with certain types of breast[11][12] and prostate cancers.[13] A study done at Duke university suggests that flaxseed may stunt the growth of prostate tumors,[13] although a meta-analysis found the evidence on this point to be inconclusive.[14] Flax may also lessen the severity of diabetes by stabilizing blood-sugar levels.[15] d]

Gramma's recipe called for 2 eggs, so I used 2 T flax seed with 6 T of water, whirred them up and put them to the side until I was ready for them.

So here is the new and improved recipe for Cowboy Cookies that is completely cool with the cows.

Gramma's Cowboy Cookies

Sift together and set aside the following:
2 C sifted flour (I used regular white)
1 ts baking soda
1/2 ts salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

In s separate bowl, blend together the following:
1 C Earth Balance buttery spread
1 C granulated sugar (Whole Foods sells vegan sugar*)
1 C brown sugar, firmly packed (I used light brown)

To the butter/sugar mix, add the 2 T flaxseed / 6 T water combination that you already whisked up.

Add Flour mixture and mix well.

2 C rolled oats (not minute)
1 ts vanilla
1 package semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used Guittard)

Dough is crumbly and oh-so-tempting.
Drop by teaspoon on greased cookie sheet (I used parchment paper on a cookie sheet.)
Bake 15 minutes @ 350 degrees.
Set to cool on cooling rack.

Makes about 60-80 small cookies. Prepare to be very popular.

So back to the cowboys. Gene Autry starred in the record above, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. I danced my little behind to that record throughout my childhood. I choreographed the whole damned thing and made my very bored family sit through the entire record one fateful Christmas Day while I strutted my stuff. It's a kids' album, no doubt.

There was one song in there, though, that will remain forever a part of my Christmas experience. Sleigh Bells. You may not have heard of it, but here is the actual tune itself.

Now, the part where he sings, "All the kiddies are sleeping, as he rides through the sky. But there must be no peeping, or he might pass you by!" This is the part that completely messed me up for several years. My relatively small ears did not hear "peeping" but "peepeeing." So -- I took it as gospel that if you wet the bed, you were toast. No presents, no stockings filled. He'd pass you by!!

I knew that I couldn't take any chances. And so, every Christmas Eve as bedtime approached, I would obsessively run to the bathroom to make sure my bladder was completely empty. Because you could not be too careful when it came to Santa. He knew if you were good or bad and if you wet the bed. He was omniscient in a jolly but confusing way. I wonder now if my parents thought I had a UTI every Christmas Eve.

Speaking of Autry, I never noticed this as a child, but those reindeer are flying pretty close to him, if you follow my drift. I wonder if he worried about antlers?

Do you have any favorite Christmas goodies that you've veganized or are planning to veganize? Or similar crazy stories? (And let me know if you try Gramma's Cowboy Cookies!)

*vegan sugar: Long before I became vegan, I saw vegan sugar alongside the other sugars and was very confused. What could possibly be in sugar to make it vegan or non-vegan? Well, as it turns out, they used charred animal bones from slaughterhouses to whiten/refine white sugar. Who'd a thought? I'm not too obsessive about this, though. If vegan sugar is available -- which it always seems to be -- I'll use it. If not, I'll use regular sugar.