Thursday, 14 June 2007

3 Months

Dear Lily

Today you are 3 months old. I know that I am becoming a broken record on this point, but I simply cannot believe how quickly the time has passed.

This last month you have started to do a few wonderful new things. You have worked out that your hands and feet belong to you and that they are quite useful little appendages. You have started to grab things with both your hands and to explore them thoroughly with both your eyes and your mouth. Your bunny has been very thoroughly examined - as have papa's face and mine. Your favourite thing to do with your feet is to stand on them. For this you need a little support, but I am not sure that you are entirely aware of this minor fact yet. You stand up so straight and tall (well, all two foot of you) and it seems to fill you with pride.

You are also quite keen to talk. Currently we don't have a clear handle on what you are saying, but we do carry on lovely long conversations with you and love the sound of your voice. You also speak a lot to Tigger - holding his face to yours so as to ensure that he is listening. After a while you seem to get a little frustrated that he isn't speaking back and give him a good bashing, but you are a forgiving little soul and always seem ready to try again.

Possibly the most wonderful new thing, however, has been your new laugh. It is loud and simply filled with delight. After watching you laugh I get a rush of adrenaline and a desperate desire to hear it again. Papa and I have become addicts. We plot and scheme for new ways of making you laugh so that we can get our fix. So far aeroplanes and bouncing on the Swiss ball with you standing on our laps are the most reliable methods. Blowing raspberries on your belly also seems to work quite well.

The weekend before last we went up to Sydney to visit your grandpa and grandma and your uncle and aunty. The car ride up was a bit of a nightmare. You decided early in that it was not where you wanted to be and it all went downhill from there. We arrived exhausted, after several hours of screaming, determined never to drive anywhere with you again. Luckily, you recovered very quickly and even decided that Grandpa could see some of your smiles this time and so the two of you got along very well.

On the Saturday, we took the ferry to the Writers Festival, but you slept for the whole trip and didn't get to see the beauty of the harbour on our way there or back. You did wake up for a brief period while we were there (probably because the broadcast of Frank Brennan's session was particularly loud and we were sitting very close to the loud speaker), which gave you the chance to have a good chat with uncle Jono and my supervisor, who declared you to be "heavenly". We never made it inside to any of the sessions, as the lines were ridiculously long, but Andy regaled us with stories about her trip to South Africa for the production of the film of her own book and so we ended up having our own private writers festival over coffee (well, you had breastmilk, but you get the idea).

The Sunday morning was Papa's birthday and so we went to Bodhi for brunch with uncle Jono, aunty Nat and a few other friends, who all got the chance to chat with you as you were once again awake and alert. From there we nervously got into the car for the long trip home, only to find that you were perfectly content to be there. You played with Tigger, slept and got to eat the moment you were hungry (since I was sensible enough to express some milk for you in advance this time), and so we arrived home happy and well rested.

Tomorrow morning we will be driving back up to Sydney in order to take a plane to Darwin to visit two more of your grandmas. One day you will find out how lucky you are to have four grandmas and four great-grandmas, but for now I guess it must just seem normal. Grandma Meg and Anne-Marie have a pool, and so you might get to try out swimming for the first time, which will hopefully be fun. We are also going to go to Kakadu National Park and see the wildlife, including the crocodiles. I am very excited about seeing my Mum again and I can't wait for her to see how much you have grown. Every time you laugh I wish that she was here, so I am hoping that we have many laughs from you while we are in Darwin.

mama xo

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

I'm bad at NYE

Seeing this post reminded me of just how bad I am at NYE.

My finest example of NYE's laziness was in 2000-2001 when I flew out of LA on 30 December and arrived in Australia on New Year's Day. NYE disappeared somewhere over the date line. This, however, was not actually my worst NYE.

My least enjoyable NYE ever was in 1998-1999 . That year I spent NYE on a Greyhound Bus somewhere between Calgary and Fernie (Canada) with my boyfriend of the time. Along the way I looked up and asked him the time. "Midnight," he grunted, exhausted and bored. "Oh," I said. No one else on the bus moved.

Aside from these low points, I also have a history of simply piking out and deciding to go to bed before midnight. The worst example of this was in 1993-1994 when I was in New York with my father and brother. Jono wanted to go to Times Square for the count down. I refused, declaring that it was already New Year's Day in Australia and so the count down was meaningless. This was the set the tone really...

In 1994-1995 I was in Orlando, once again with my father and brother. Disney World was doing something special for NYE, but we all decided that we would rather get a good night's sleep and went to bed around 9:30pm.

In 2003-2004 P and I watched 9pm 'family fireworks' from Cremorne Point with family before walking back to Dad's place and going to bed. We then watched the midnight fireworks out the spare room window from bed. (To be fair, we were both exhausted from having arrived home that day from China still recovering from food poisoning).

To continue with this pattern, in 2005-2006 P and I went to a funky bar called 'Elsewhere' in Phnom Penh with my brother, Nat and their friends, only to pike around 11:35pm rather than waiting for the midnight countdown. Once again we were exhausted from a nasty bout of food poisoning (and we also had to get up early for a flight to Bangkok).

In 2004-2005 I had no such excuse, but after having friends over early for drinks and sushi, P and I (well me really) sent everyone packing to another party around 11pm and after walking them to Taylor's Square went home to bed just after midnight.

Finally last year (2006-2007) P and I stayed in Canberra, watched the 9pm 'family fireworks' in the rain and then had a hot chocolate in Garema Place before going home to bed. This time my excuse was the fact that I was 7 months pregnant.

My three best NYEs were all between 1999 and 2003.

In 2002-2003 I danced the night away on Lonely Beach, Koh Chang during my post-Uni, post-big-break-up backpacking trip. However, although this was a fun night, I did pay for it the next day...

In 1999-2000 I went out to a few bars in Vancouver with my boyfriend of the time and a small group of friends. We then counted down to the new millennium on the freezing streets of the city that was to become my temporary new home.

And then there was my favourite NYE so far: 2001-2002. That year I spent NYE drinking fruit cocktails around a camp fire at Kangaroo Valley with my brother and a group of friends. I then counted down to midnight by being sent flying into the trees on a huge swing. Not only was it a great night, but I still felt great the next day.

So, the question is: how should I celebrate this coming NYE?

I realise that is over 6 months away, but given my history I think that this is something that I should put a bit of thought into.

[Of course, I may just bow to the reality of having a baby and my general laziness and go to bed early...]

Monday, 11 June 2007

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Death by Ignorance

Yesterday was World Environment Day, but I am not going to write about that. Instead I am going to vent about this ridiculous, deceitful op-ed in the New York Times by Nina Planck - "Death by Veganism".

Ms Planck's central claim is that "Children fed only plants will not get the precious things they need to live and grow." She chooses to prove this point by linking a vegan diet to the case of two vegan parents who were convicted of murder in the States because they fed their 6 week old infant a diet of only soy milk and apple juice.

I hope that you are beginning to see a problem with this argument. Clearly veganism has absolutely nothing to do with neglect - a child fed on apple juice and cow's milk would also suffer from malnutrition.

After starting with the outrageous, Ms Planck settles down somewhat into the more familiar myths about vegan diets. She claims that only animal proteins "contain all the essential amino acids needed for life in the right ratio" and that plant proteins "are inferior in quantity and quality." This concept was what gave rise to the idea that vegetarians needed to combine their foods (grains with pulses, etc) in order to create a "whole protein" because only animal proteins contain the full range of amino acids (an idea made popular through the book 'Diet for a Small Planet').

Ms Planck acknowledges that this nutritional 'wisdom' is out of date:
Nutritionists used to speak of proteins as “first class” (from meat, fish, eggs and milk) and “second class” (from plants), but today this is considered denigrating to vegetarians.
However, she doesn't acknowledge that the reason that this is no longer the case is because more up-to-date research has shown that the human body (like the body of so many other animals who eat a plant-based diet) is perfectly capable of converting all plant-based proteins into whole proteins. You see, the original research was done on rats, and we are not rats.

She goes on to claim
A vegan diet may lack vitamin B12, found only in animal foods; usable vitamins A and D, found in meat, fish, eggs and butter; and necessary minerals like calcium and zinc.
OK, let's start with the ridiculous claims first.

Vitamin D comes from the sun. In the USA they tend to add Vitamin D to meat and dairy products. This does not make them an essential source of Vitamin D.

Vitamin A
is produced in the human body when you consume any foods containing beta carotene - this would include carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, mango, kale, apricots, oatmeal, tomatoes, capsicum, peas, peaches and papaya.

Calcium is contained in abundance in many plant-based foods, including sesame seeds, tofu, tahini, soybeans, almonds, white beans, flax seed, kidney beans, french beans, seaweed, collards, figs, and soy milk (particularly when fortified). Animal sources of calcium may be more easily absorbed by the body, but they have a particularly nasty side-effect - they actually leach calcium from your bones. You see the vast majority of calcium in your bones is not sourced from your diet and osteoporosis tends to be caused by the leaching of calcium from your bones (caused by an excess of animal protein in your diet), rather than a shortage of calcium in your diet. This is why osteoporosis rates are so much higher in Western countries and why they rise when other countries start to adopt a Western diet that is high in animal protein.

While it is not as easily absorbed as animal-based zinc, zinc is also found in a wide variety of plant-based foods such as beans, chickpeas, wholegrains, cashews, pecans, peanuts, walnuts, almonds, peas, and oatmeal.

I will acknowledge that there is a small amount of truth in Ms Planck's claim that it is difficult to obtain enough B12 on a vegan diet. This might well be true if it was not for the wide variety of vegan foods that are fortified with B12 - such as breakfast cereals, soy milks and other soy products. However, as Stephen Walsh, PhD perfectly sums up:
Our need for B12 has nothing to do with a need for meat but is shared by most other primates who get B12 from dirt, insects and faeces containing B12 from bacteria. In our modern sanitised but polluted world B12 extracted from bacteria provides the most convenient and reliable source.

Finally, Ms Planck claims that a vegan diet is deficient in "docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, the omega-3 fat found in fatty fish." Once again she fails to mention that Omega-3 can also be found in plant-based foods, including vegetable oils (canola, soybean, flaxseed/linseed & olive), walnuts, green leafy vegetables, and sesame seeds. These foods contain ALA’s (alpha-linolenic acid) which is converted by the body into DHA. Once again, Ms Planck is either ignorant of the capacity of the human body, or is willfully misleading her readers. She also conveniently ignores the fact that fish contains such high levels of mercury (from pollution) (not to mention all the hormones that are pumped into farmed salmon) that it would be extremely irresponsible to feed it to young children or to eat it while pregnant or breastfeeding.

In summary, Ms Planck's article is an outrageous attack on veganism that is not only packed with false information, but presents that information in a deliberately misleading manner.

If anyone wants to question me about the way that I choose to raise my child, they better bloody well have their facts straight AND they better have already gone and harassed all of those parents who are raising their children to a life of obesity, diabetes and heart disease when they feed them food that is heavily processed, and full of saturated fat, salt, sugar and chemicals.

For more justified ranting, see these other posts:
I'd say I have a bone to pick, but I'm a vegetarian...
Spicy Grapefruit Coleslaw
John McDougall, MD - Letter to the Editor - NY Times
A Response to "Death By Veganism"
Nina Planck Stirs the Pot; Vegans Get Steamed: Film At Eleven
Op-Ed in the NYT - Death by Ignorance
Response to The New York Times' trashing of vegans

Friday, 1 June 2007


It was my friend Elissa's 30th birthday last week, and so I decided to bake her cupcakes. I poured over my new book for days beforehand and felt so confused about which recipe to try out first, but in the end I decided to go for "Vegan Brownie Cupcakes" - which I made with organic fair trade chocolate, cocoa and sugar and organic flour.

I must say: they were a success - dense, chocolatey and rich, mmm...

Elissa had her birthday celebrations at an Indian restaurant and so I thought it might be a good time to see how Lily's tummy was going. P and I ordered the dahl and I ate a tiny bit of it with lots of rice (I even picked out the pieces of onion). The following day Lily vomited - lots - and I realised that I was going to have to embrace a life without onions, garlic or spicy foods for some time to come (the osteopath has since suggested that I don't even try to reintroduce them until she is at least six months old).

Since then, I have started to get more creative in the kitchen again.

I made this yummy tofu and spinach pie with lots of nutritional yeast, lemon juice and herbs, and I have also been making lots of soups.

This one was a lentil and barley soup.

1 tablespoon of olive oil
*1 small onion (finely diced)
*2 cloves of garlic (finely diced)
a handful of button mushrooms (quartered)
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
1 teaspoon of ground coriander
1 teaspoon of garam masala
1/2 teaspoon of tumeric
3 carrots (diced)
1/2 celery (diced)
3 zucchinis (diced)
2/3 cup of red lentils
1/2 cup pearled barley
the juice of two fresh lemons
water (or *vegetable stock if you can eat it)
salt & pepper to taste

[*Obviously I didn't add these, but I think that it would have been even yummier if I had.]

Heat the olive oil in a heavy-based pot over a medium heat for a few minutes. Add the onion (if you are lucky enough to be able to eat it) and fry for about 5 minutes (until it becomes translucent). Add the garlic and spices and stir thoroughly. Add the mushroom and stir so that it becomes coated in the spices (if you cannot eat onion - like me - then cook the mushroom first and then add the spices to it).

Once the mushroom has browned slightly, add the other vegetables and stir together. Leave the vegetables to sweat over the heat for about five minutes.

Add the lentils and barley and stir through. Then add about a cup of water (or vegetable stock) and stir for a couple of minutes. Add the lemon juice and more water (the amount can vary depending on how liquidy you would like your soup to be). Raise the heat in order to bring to a boil, and then cover and let it simmer over a medium-low heat for about 20 minutes.

It is ready when the lentils are mushy and the barley is soft to chew. Add salt & pepper to taste and serve with some yummy crusty bread.


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