'The Imperfect Environmentalist' - a perfect find

There are some serious, serious perks about being a blogger, my friends. 

Aside from the whole getting to vent my feelings, frustrations and rants all over the world wide web (what the heck is the INTERNET??), every now and then I receive a super exciting email from someone or some company doing someTHING amazing, asking me to try out their awesome THING. 

The most recent item I was lucky to get my hands on was Sara Gilbert's book, "The Imperfect Environmentalist." Look, I'm going to let ya'll in on a little secret here. When it comes to environmentalism and all those sorts of things, I usually take the approach of, "well, being vegan is super green, so that's enough." 

Oh, and we cloth diaper. So take that, landfill!

I know, I know, it's not the right attitude to have and I don't ALWAYS have it. Sometimes, however; it's easy to get swallowed up in all these different "movements." You can be vegetarian, vegan, \'green,' an environmentalist, eco-friendly; seriously, there's a lot of things to be and it's not always simple to know where to start. 

Enter Gilbert's book. 

"The Imperfect Environmentalist" provides seriously poignant, but easy-to-follow advice for a reader with any sort of education level, skill set or economical background. Are you a vegan living on your friends couch? OK, cool, Gilbert provides you with tips, such as buying only organic must-haves, like the dirty dozen to save costs or by riding your bike more to save money and gas! Perhaps your a humane, meat-eating, farmer market loving billionaire? No problem, Gilbert provides you with tips on how to go organic past your refrigerator, from the toys your children are playing with, right down to the organic cotton pajamas they should be wearing. 

"The Imperfect Environmentalist" is the perfect mix of informative, but cheeky; practical, but fun. Gilbert tackles the topics of environmentalism and going organic with a grace and down-to-earthness that makes this transition seem more like a reality and less overwhelming. 

Trust me. Coming from someone who has employed the "I'm doing enough for the world!" sentiment more than one person should, "The Imperfect Environmentalist" is a must-have for your bookshelf; or hell, for your friend's coffee table if you're crashing on their couch! 

No, but really, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of this book (made on recycled paper!) for yourself, your friends and anyone else in your life who should care a little more about the footprint we're leaving on the world. 

Oh, or anyone who has ever watched Roseanne. (Or still watches the reruns over, and over again. Longing for the caustic, biting wit of Darlene Connor. Sorry, Sara, I had to). 

For those of you living under a rock: Sara Gilbert is widely known for her roll as the angsty daughter on the show Roseanne, but can now be seen rocking the television show The Talk, and spreading her kick-ass vegan, environmental ideals to the world. 

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Why we'll be microwaving our Thanksgiving feast

The Chubby Vegan Clan has got some super exciting news.

For the last three months we've seen at least 30 properties, checked out six different communities and walked through everything from a ranch to a two-and-a-half story. We made an offer and it didn't work out. 

The truth is, it wasn't our dream home. 

But the one we found just under a month ago, was. Is. We found our dream home. 

The funny thing is, it's not at all what we pictured we'd end up with. After drooling over gallant two story homes and walking through giant split levels that left us winded, our perfect Chubby Vegan family home ended up being a quaint ranch with the most awesome, super updated, ultra-finished basement. 

So while our humble abode appears to be on the smaller side above ground, we've got twice the space once you head downstairs.

The best part about the house we ended up with? With all that finished space on the lower level (and a second fireplace!), we'll actually have a presentable looking home. People will be able to walk into our home and have no idea that we've got two kids and an overflowing, surplus of toys. (Because they'll all be hidden away in the fabulous basement)!

Honestly, before even seeing the basement, I knew our house was "our house." The second we stepped into the "formal" living room, with it's wood floors and the fireplace with the wooden mantle, I pictured our family's stockings hanging. And I could already see the Christmas tree illuminating out the big bay window. It didn't just make sense for our family, it felt like our family. 

So after a lot of contracts, inspections, forms, more inspections, all that hubub, we're finally closing in on our closing date. (Fingers crossed) If all goes according to plan, the Chubby Vegan Clan will be homeowners THE DAY BEFORE THANKSGIVING. 

I know, right, we've got to be crazy! Not only will we be in a new home with less than a month until Christmas, we're not closing until the day before Thanksgiving and we hired movers for BLACK FRIDAY.

Guess who will be doing all her shopping on Cyber Monday? This Chubby Vegan Mom right here! 

So pardon us for being so busy lately, buying a home really requires a lot of effort. I mean like so much. Do you even know how many papers you have to sign just to ATTEMPT to get to the closing table? Like 70 bajillion. And well, we haven't made it to the closing table just yet, so I don't have the slightest idea what we're going to be dealing with there. 

Nevertheless, I think it's safe to assume we're going to have our hands full over the next few days. (You know, with boxes, packing peanuts, tape, all that essential stuff for moving). 

Hence the title of this blog and why we'll be skimping for our Thanksgiving feast this year. Seriously, we have a tradition every year of doing something completely different, completely homemade and way over top. From peeling a trillion baby pearl onions to making our own roast, we've tackled a lot over the last few years. 

This year, well, it'll certainly be unique, but it'll be a lot less than homemade. 

We're going the 100-percent sell out route. We've bought a turkey-less turkey and stuffing kit from Trader Joes, we'll be throwing together a run-of-the-mill stuffing (because they never give you enough in those kits) and just because it's already way too carb heavy, we're going to make a cauliflower mash. 

I haven't considered what we'll be doing for dessert yet, part of me really wants to tackle a pecan pie because I have yet to make one successfully (plus if I botch it I'll just blame it on the move!), but the other part of me knows I'll be a total stressball headcase already. 

What is your family doing for Thanksgiving this year?

And more importantly, what dessert will you be making!!?

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Need a dinner idea? Try something tasty and timely!

I have a confession.

Before going vegan, there were a lot of foods I had never, ever in my life tried, let alone wanted to.

After a few years of veganism, I found my taste buds broadening and I was really into trying new foods.

And by new foods, I basically mean several, several new cuisines. By switching to a diet which most people consider incredibly "restrictive," I actually opened my kitchen up to so many different parts of the world, from Thai food, Vietmanese and my now favorite, Indian.

Seriously, I never had yellow curry or aloo gobi until I went full-on vegan.

There's only one problem with all of these amazing cuisines. While I absolutely adore the flavors, spices, breads and entrees, I am utterly clueless when it comes to preparing these myself. I've tackled a curry dish and some vegan naan, but outside of those two dishes, I'm basically a foreigner when it comes to cooking with faraway spices.

So what's a girl to do when she doesn't have the moolah to pay for all that takeout, but she also has no idea how to make the stuff herself?

She goes to the grocery store, that's what.

My husband and I have been in constant search of readily-available Thai, Chinese and Indian foods at our store; but it's imperative they don't TASTE like they came off the grocery store shelf.

Enter Tasty Bite.

Because the food Gods most have known I was in search of some tasty vittles, I was lucky enough to receive a sampler pack of Tasty Bite popular vegan items from the company; which included: channa masala, punjab eggplant, ginger lentil rice, Thai lime rice, kung pao noodles and pad thai noodles. While Tasty Bite isn't an all vegan company, they do offer 27 different ready-to-heat entrees, rices and noodles that are.

Now I may have received these first six pouches for free in exchange for this review, I'm telling you right now I've actually spent our own Chubby Vegan money on these as well. We were lucky enough to find them at our regular grocery stores, in addition to the more unique flavors at our health food store. And no joke, I have yet to find one I don't like. Chubby Vegan Dad is a bigger fan of the Asian noodle pouches than me, but that's probably because I've been too busy stuffing my face with ginger lentil rice and Indian food. These heat up in no time (either on the stove or in the microwave) and they pair so well with a veggie as a side dish.

And they're totally within budget. In my grocery stores, the noodles run you anywere from $2.99-3.99, while the rice and Indian dishes I've seen for $2.49-3.99 and are available in the world food aisle.

I'm telling you, we've tried a lot of premade ethnic food pouches and so far, these have become our go-to brand.

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Quit scaring parents into submission and start thinking

So this is going to be a touchy spot for a lot of people. It doesn't matter if you're a vegan mother, an omnivore father or a who-knows-what-you-eat pediatrician; when it comes to children, we all want ultimately the same thing - for them to be safe, healthy, happy and a little better off than we are.

We don't want them to experience pain or sickness, so we do whatever we think it takes to keep those things from them. Sometimes this means monitoring how many fruits and veggies they're eating, sometimes it means giving them medicine.

Before I delve into this topic, let me reiterate this statement one more time: at the end of the day, we all want our children to be safe, healthy, happy and a little better off than we are.

As a parent who tends to take the road less traveled, I've gotten used to defending my stance on situations. Most times, I have a defense prepared before (and sometimes when) one is even needed. As much as our world wants to "embrace" different schools of thoughts, there are certain one's we're just not ready to accept.

Vaccinations are an incredibly hot topic right now. From fears that too many shots will lead to autism, to the idea that not vaccinating a child will result in them being afflicted with the black plague, polio and meningitis all at once, these shots are putting parents in a seriously stick-y (hey, I had to have a little fun) situation.

What's a parent to do in such a dangerous world? It seems sometimes like we're damned if we do, damned if we don't.

Do your research.

Get educated.

Ask questions.

And make an informed decision.

This is probably the best thing any parent can do for themselves, their sanity and most importantly, their children.

I'm not a doctor, nor is my husband, so we're not going to sit here and pretend we are. What I can do is tell you what we decided was best for our family and why. After hearing in a birthing class that in the last 30 years children have gone from receiving an average of 18 vaccines to almost 40 now, my husband and I decided to start asking questions.

We read as many sources as we could on vaccinations, from information provided by the Centers for Disease Control to off-beat books and materials written by pediatricians like Dr. Sears. And then, after we came to our own conclusion, we took that to our children's physician. With the help of our information and his education, we were able to agree upon a vaccination schedule for our children that addressed all of our concerns. Our children do not receive every vaccine, however; they do receive some.

The flu vaccination, is one we do not give to our children. It's not that I want Pearyn and Braeburn to contract influenza and be sick for weeks, it's just that we've weighed the pros and cons and we don't think it's necessary. Our doctor has provided us with the possible side effects from the vaccination, in addition to the complications they could face if they do get the flu this young, and as their parents we decided against it.

This bothers a lot of people we tell. They don't understand why we won't just give our children the flu vaccine, I mean, it's safe, right? Look how many people get it. Look how few people get reactions. Look at all the doctors telling us to get them, all the magazines saying we need them and all the news programs informing us of the deadly consequences if we don't.

Here's the thing. I'm not saying you shouldn't get your child vaccinated. What we chose to do for our family may not be the right thing for every other family. But I am saying it's what I believe is best for our family. An alternative, lighter vaccination schedule is what we believe will help our children be safe, healthy, happy and better off than us.

What I am saying, however; is that people need to stop scaring parents into submission. Take this month's Parents magazine for example. They have an article with common questions regarding the flu vaccination. While I appreciate the information this article provides (responses to things like 'will my kid get the flu FROM the vaccination?'), I don't appreciate the fact that it basically scares parents into getting the vaccination. I understand it's what the CDC wants from us, but my Parents magazine is going to start pressuring me too?

You might think I'm a cuckoo for launching into this debate. It's one vaccine, who cares! I guess it's the way the information is presented, WHO it's being presented by. I'm used to being bullied into the "norm" by large, government-run organizations, but once my magazines start scaring me I take it personally. Take for example Parents' response to the concern "my baby already gets too many shots." While doctors hear this from lots of parents, we need to know what "serious" risks we're creating for our children (ages 6 months to five) if we don't vaccinate. According to Parents' source, 20,000 kids ages five and younger are hospitalized with the flu every year, because of things like dehydration and pneumonia.

That's kind of serious. Who knew the flu bug could cause such a commotion?

If that's the case and we're going to start "protecting" our young children from things that could potentially lead to dire consequences, I propose we should stop eating, manufacturing and allowing the sale of chickens, cows, and reptiles such as turtles, lizards, and iguanas in the United States. According to the CDC, actually, verbatim:
" Every year, approximately 40,000 cases of salmonellosis are reported in the United States. Because many milder cases are not diagnosed or reported, the actual number of infections may be thirty or more times greater. Salmonellosis is more common in the summer than winter. 
Children are the most likely to get salmonellosis. The rate of diagnosed infections in children less than five years old is about five times higher than the rate in all other persons. Young children, the elderly, and the immunocompromised are the most likely to have severe infections. It is estimated that approximately 400 persons die each year with acute salmonellosis."
Too bad there's not a salmonella vaccine we can start pushing too. Unfortunately, as we learned from our own nearly two-month ordeal with salmonella poisoning and our two-year-old (at the time) daughter, it may start in chickens, cows and reptiles, but it's easily transferred to other foods and surfaces, like cantaloupe, for example. Did you know the contaminated cantaloupe outbreak of 2011 is the second deadliest food-borne illness in the U.S.?

After hearing those facts, are you going to suddenly stop buying cantaloupe? Probably not. If your doctor told you those facts would you? I don't know, you tell me.

I'm not saying you should live your life in fear that your child will get salmonella, but I'm also saying maybe we shouldn't be scared into giving them a vaccination if we're not really, on our own, 100-percent comfortable with it.

In fact, I'm not asking you to think like I do. I'm just asking you to THINK.

For yourselves.

And for your children.

Make decisions based on research, education and consultation, not FEAR.

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How our vegan family handles Halloween

Last week was one of my daughter's favorite 'holidays' - Halloween.

This was her fourth one and the first year she realized what was going on when the great candy swap happened.

You may not be familiar with the great candy swap I'm referring to. Two things happen when we discuss how our vegan family partakes in Trick-or-Treat; either people forget completely that we don't consume ANY animal products, including dairy-ridden things like chocolate and gelatin-based gummies, or they think we don't let our kids go out at all because we're completely against the collecting of candy.

The thing is, just because we're vegan and riding the cruelty-free train, doesn't mean we don't like dressing up and an excuse to eat too much candy!

For the last few years after our daughter finished trick-or-treating, we simply swapped out the candy she collected for the vegan treats we had purchased (before you go assuming it's crap like apples and bananas, think again, our daughter got full-sized vegan candy bars from Go Max Go Foods, the company behind vegan versions of your favorite candy bars, like Milky Ways and Butterfingers).

She was never privy to the exchange we made, until this year.

Since our daughter has started preschool, where classroom and birthday parties abound, bringing along homemade cupcakes and ice cream, we've started talking to her about why our family eats differently than everyone else.

She proudly proclaims to anyone that sees her eating that she doesn't have stuff with cows milk, eggs, gelatin or fish. She doesn't understand fully why we eat the way we do yet, but she's starting to grasp it and we've opened the communication lines.

Right now, she's satisfied with the response that we respect all living beings, so we choose not to eat things from them. We also stress to her that just because someone does eat animal products doesn't mean they're bad, they're just different from us.

So far, she's satisfied with those explanations, but it doesn't mean she'll always be. This little girl is constantly keeping us on our toes.

This year, however, our little Strawberry Shortcake proudly handed over her candy basket and asked us to get rid of the "icky" stuff and then to show her all the awesome loot she DID get to eat instead.

She was over-the-moon excited for her pumpkin cookies, vegan candy bars and vegan gummy bears. It also helps that we take her trick-or-treating in my parents' neighborhood, where her memaw and papaw spoil her with too many vegan chocolates and her great aunt Elaine that lives next door gives out pretzels, oreos and other vegan-approved junk food.

I realize things are easier right now, because she's so little. I know there will come a time when she's probably going to want to sneak a bite of real chocolate. But instead of spending our time worrying about how we're going to handle hypothetical situations, we're just going to take each issue as it comes.

And while our Batmanned-out Braeburn didn't get to partake in much actual trick-or-treating (he got pushed around in a stroller), he did get to enjoy a cookie the size of his head.

Because what's Halloween without a few giant cookies?

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