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Mineral Fusion Nail Polish: A Review

MF_Nail_Color_Galaxy

I’m not usually a fan of blue nail polish or glittery nail polish.

To me, blue and glitter just scream “I’m a tween!” or, maybe more accurately, based on some of the more interesting folks I’ve seen sporting blue glitter polish, “I’m forty but I think I’m a tween!,”  but when I saw “Galaxy” by Mineral Fusion in Whole Foods, something came over me and I had to have it!

I’ve known about Mineral Fusion for some time and have a few of their body washes and lotions. I’d been wanting to try their nail polishes, specifically, because they’re vegan, cruelty-free and are formulated without formaldehyde, toulene, camphor, dibutyl pthalate and some other hard-to-pronouce nasties. That’s hard to find in a nail polish, and especially hard to find in mainstream store offerings.

That particular day, bottles of Mineral Fusion nail polish were on sale for $5.99 at Whole Foods — a decent price, I thought — and I was debating between “Galaxy” and”Royal Rubble,” a dark plum. Then, I spotted a three piece mini set in the holiday gifts section for $9.99 and screamed a little silent scream, out of excitement. The mini set made up my mind for me. It included both “Galaxy” and “Royal Rubble” as well as a third cranberry color, “Berried Gem.”

polish kit

As soon as I got home (after unpacking groceries, actually), I busted open that baby and treated myself to a DIY mani with the “Galaxy” shade. It’s a dark blue base, with fine blue shimmer and chunks of iridescent glitter. The name is definitely fitting — it’s reminiscent of a bright, starry night sky, but the green and silvery iridescence in the glitter also reminds me a bit of a mermaid’s tail, as well. It’s really beautiful and surprisingly subtle. Anyone can wear this polish with sophistication without the risk of coming off as “tweeny.” Photographs really don’t do it justice. You have to see it in person to appreciate it, but here’s a shot of my hand after application of two coats:

fresh nails

I skipped top coat but quickly realized that that was a mistake. Although the polish claims to be chip-resistant, it started chipping the next day. I wasn’t surprised, though — I’m tough on my nails. I’ve had salon manicures chip the very next day. On day two, I applied top coat to just one thumb to see if made a difference, and it definitely did. After a week, this is how my nails looked:

7 days nails

So, obviously, top coat is a very smart idea (Mineral Fusion makes one, as well as a base coat and a cuticle treatment)!

After about a week, I said goodbye to my “Galaxy” nails and decided to try out the other shades. They’re pretty, but “Galaxy” is definitely my fave of the bunch.

nails

If you’re looking for a stocking stuffer, a gift for a beauty product junkie or a little something for yourself this holiday, pick up a bottle of this polish or try out a few shades with a mini kit. “Galaxy” would be stunning for a New Year’s Eve celebration, but there are 60 other color choices, so I’m sure you’ll be able to find something for all the nail polish lovers on your list!

So… Get shopping! There are only 11 more shopping days ’til Christmas! :)

Have any of you tried out Mineral Fusion’s products? What’s your favorite cruelty-free nail polish brand?


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Escarole Soup aka Ball Soup

escarole soup

It goes by many names.

In my family, we call it “escarole soup.” It’s “ball soup” to my husband and his family. I’ve also heard it referred to as “Italian wedding soup.” Whatever you call it, if you’re of Italian descent, a version of this soup is probably floating around somewhere in your family’s recipe books. Traditionally, my family eats escarole soup on Thanksgiving and my husband’s grandmother prepared it on holidays and by special request, on birthdays.

My grandmother’s version features escarole and tiny meatballs in a savory broth and it’s topped with small bread cubes. Anthony’s grandmother’s was similar, but instead of bread cubes, included acini di pepe pasta — the ‘balls’ in ball soup.

This past Thanksgiving, we celebrated with my side of the family and since we’re the only two veg heads of the bunch, decided to bring along some special holiday take-out from Wildflower to ensure we’d have plenty to eat.

And plenty we had.

Look at this plate of goodness!:

wildflower thanksgiving

If you’re in South Jersey and haven’t been to Wildflower in Millville yet, what are you waiting for?! Get. There. Now!

Anyway… back to the soup…

In addition, my grandmom made us a special batch of escarole soup, sans meatballs and prepared with veggie broth instead of meat broth. It was delicious and brought back fond childhood memories for both of us.

This week, we decided to try our hand at a batch of our own escarole/ball soup, tweaked to be vegan, of course, and by Anthony’s request, with acini di pepe, and it turned out just as yummy as we’d hoped. It’s simple and delicious and is perfect for a filling, warm supper on a cold, winter day.

Here’s what you’ll need to make it:

  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 a medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 2 heads escarole (green and white parts), washed and chopped
  • 8 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 cups hot water
  • 1 vegetarian bullion cube
  • 1 16-oz. box acini di pepe pasta
  • salt and pepper, to taste

To prepare:

  1. In a large soup pot, sautee onions and garlic in olive oil over low heat, until onions are translucent.
  2. Add escarole and continue to cook over low heat until escarole wilts down.
  3. Add vegetable broth.
  4. Dissolve bullion in hot water and add to pot.
  5. Continue to cook over low heat for about 3o minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. Prepare acini di pepe pasta to “al dente,” according to package directions.
  7. Add drained pasta to soup, mix and add salt and pepper, to taste.

 

Yields about 8-10 servings

I topped my soup with a sprinkle of grated vegan parm and some crushed red pepper flakes. And I made sure I had a big hunk of crusty bread, for dipping!

Do you have a recipe for escarole soup/ball soup/Italian wedding soup in your family? What’s yours like?

Have you ever veganized a favorite family recipe?


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Three Things: December

mirror 3

Oopsies… It’s the third of December and I just realized I’m late with posting my Three Things!

Life’s been a little hectic around here lately — job stuff, prepping to move, getting ready for the holidays… — so I’m going to take it easy on myself this month and try to just enjoy this time of year. It’s my very favorite and always seems to slip by so quickly. I don’t want that to happen this year.

Here are my goals for this month:

  • go to a Christmas parade
  • use the spa gift card I’ve been holding on to for more than a year
  • start planning my 30th birthday volunteer trip (it’s only a year away!!)

Happy December, everyone! What are your goals for this month?

PS — Here are some adorable dogs singing “The Christmas Song.” Just because…


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You’re A Hypocrite, Thanksgiving

turkey hypocrisy

I just don’t get Thanksgiving.

It just seems like a big, fat hypocrisy to me.

Let me explain…

On this day, Thanksgiving, we gather with the ones we love to celebrate and give thanks for all the blessings we’ve received. And on this day, the star of the show, the creme de la creme, is the tortured and mutilated, yet perfectly basted, stuffed and roasted turkey.

The turkey, which, ironically, was not even a part of the very first Thanksgiving way back in 1621.

The turkey, which Ben Franklin argued would make for a much more appropriate national symbol than the eagle.

The turkey, of which one or two of its species are “pardoned” by the President each year. For what crime? Being born?

The turkey, which is genetically modified to grow so quickly and so unnaturally large that their bodies become too huge for them to move, leaving them with heart problems and painful deformities.

The turkey, which is crudely de-beaked and de-toed (without anesthesia) to prevent injuries to other birds while forced to live in filthy, cramped spaces.

The turkey, which is slaughtered at only 5 months of age — just a baby, and under no protection by any humane slaughter laws — for the sake of a damn tradition.

I just can’t wrap my head around that.

What is a tradition, anyway? Dictionary.com defines a tradition as “the handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, information, etc., from generation to generation, especially by word of mouth or by practice,” but, put more simply, isn’t it something you do just for the simple reason that you’ve always done it and those around you always have?

Think about that. How much sense does it really make?

I think this meme sums up the notion of “tradition” perfectly:

tradition

And you can replace “stupid” with another adjective, like, “cruel” or “wrong” and the point still sings very clearly. Just because something — a tradition — has been a certain way for so long, that doesn’t make it right. And it doesn’t mean it has to continue.

Why can’t Thanksgiving traditions change and evolve to include showing thanks for all blessings and all life, instead of just some? During this time of year, we’re keen to the suffering of others and offer to help in the ways we can — we donate food to the hungry, we buy toys to give to kids who wouldn’t get Christmas gifts, otherwise, we gladly donate our outgrown coats to make sure the homeless stay warm through the winter — but we’re absolutely oblivious to the suffering that’s right in front of us, on our plates.

If we only stopped for a moment and really thought about our food — what it is and where it comes from — maybe things would be different.

This poem, written by my favorite poet — the brilliant Shel Silverstein — will do that for you, if you don’t want to do it yourself:

point of view poem

 

If only we sent our kids to animal sanctuaries for their field trips, instead of zoos, maybe things could be different.

If only we weren’t so reluctant to question the status quo, maybe things could be different.

If only we could look past our blind ignorance to the fact that every action we take — including the foods we choose to eat — affect so much more than just ourselves.

But instead, tradition continues. People go on eating turkey on Thanksgiving because, that’s just what you’re supposed to do. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve heard say that they don’t really even like turkey, but they eat it on Thanksgiving, anyway, because it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving if they didn’t.

Really? Really?! Is that really what Thanskgiving is about? The food?

Would Thanksgiving be any less special if it didn’t include a turkey? If you said that yes, it would, I think it may be time to reexamine your priorities. Any maybe consider getting a new group to celebrate with. Thanksgiving is about the memories, the conversation, the laughter, the moments shared with loved ones. Not about the food. And certainly, not about the turkey.

For me, Thanksgiving has never quite been the same since becoming vegan. Although a day full of time well-spent making memories with my loved ones, it’s incredibly difficult to look at the world through compassion-colored glasses and not have a different viewpoint on Thanksgiving. Truthfully, it makes me sad. My sadness is, first and foremost, for the turkeys, but also for those who just can’t see or who refuse to see how the choices we make affect each other, other species and our planet.

That’s why I’m incredibly grateful for the small glimmers of hope that show that things can and are beginning to change. Pieces such as this, on mainstream media, highlight the wonderful programs that animal sanctuaries around the country have been holding for years. Celebrations where guests feed the turkeys, instead of the other way around offer guests a chance to hang out with these incredibly social and friendly birds up-close. I haven’t attended one such celebration yet, but having spent time with turkeys during visits to sanctuaries over the last few years, I can assure you that if you got the opportunity to get to know a turkey, you would definitely think twice about digging into his/her cousin lying in front of you on the Thanksgiving table. Many sanctuaries are offering turkey sponsorships (we “adopted” Lennon, who lives at Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary. We met him during our visit last month and he is awesome!) and a collective art project called 46millionturkeys is raising awareness of the plight of turkeys in this country. Some awesome and compassionate people even open up their hearts and homes, adopting turkeys and allowing them to live out their lives, ensuring that they’ll never become someone’s Thanksgiving dinner.

So maybe, just maybe, things are slowly beginning to change. That will lessen the sadness just a bit on Thursday.

Lennon selfie

Someone close to me told me I shouldn’t post this piece. That I shouldn’t push my views on anyone else and that, frankly, no one wants to hear about this stuff. At first, I was taken back, but then I came to the realization that that is exactly the reason why I needed to post it. Because it’s true. People don’t want to hear about it and they’ll do everything possible to make sure that they don’t. They’re not going to stumble upon this information on their own, so if things are going to change, I’m going to have to put it out there for them to see. Present some facts. Spark some change. Change has never happened because someone stayed quiet. And that’s why I won’t.

So, if I come off as a zealot, maybe I am. If this sounds like a rant, I agree. It does. If it seems like I’m condemning all turkey-eaters, though, that was not my purpose with this piece. I’m not forcing anything on anyone. All I am trying to do is open a few eyes.

I make no apologies, though. I started typing this post and my heart just kind of burst open and spilled out into it. I can’t remain silent about the things I am most passionate about and sometimes I can come off a little intense. It’s how I deal with the feelings that I have that are so incredibly strong that sometimes they make me want to just curl up and cry and at other times, make me want to shake everyone I meet, bombard them with the truth and demand to know why they don’t seem to care at all. Compassion is a double-edged sword, both a blessing and a curse. I can’t find the words to describe it, accurately, but remarkably, stumbled upon them this morning in a post from the incredible Jenny Lawson, better known as The Bloggess, as she quoted social activist, Andrew Boyd:

compassion hurts

I’m working on it.

 

Consider making a new tradition this year. Try leaving turkey off your plate. I think you will find that dinner tastes a whole lot better without all that suffering, misery and hypocrisy.

May all beings know peace.

Happy Thanksgiving.


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I Talk To Animals

Quinn windy

I talk to animals.

As a dog-walker/pet-sitter, it’s part of my job, actually.

Most of the time, it’s senseless banter — oohing and aahing over their cuteness, venting about this or that, or just talking to break the silence a bit. Sometimes, but not too often, the animals actually listen to me and once in a while, they even talk back.

. . .

I’ve always been drawn to animals. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been able to relate to animals better than I can relate to humans. People often comment on how good I am with animals and how they can really feel my passion when I’m around animals or speak of them. Some even joke that I’m a bit of an “animal whisperer.” I always tend to laugh off those remarks, though. I’m passionate about animals, yes, but an animal communicator? I don’t think so.

But not long ago, something happened that changed my thoughts about animals and how the lines of communication between us and them work.

I’d been working for a client, walking their three dogs, for almost three years when one of their dogs was diagnosed with cancer. He had surgery and was taking chemotherapy pills, but his prognosis was not good. I was saddened by the news, of course, but knowing dogs’ resilience, I hoped for much more time with my buddy. The months passed and his health seemed steady — you really couldn’t tell there was anything wrong with him. Then one day, about six months after his diagnosis, things started to change. He became slower and he seemed winded after even short walks. We modified his care needs to lessen the strain on his body, but his health continued to decline. He still seemed to have some zest for life left, though, and would use every bit of energy he had to get outside for a bit when I came for his walk. Eventually, his legs became so week, he had trouble standing and needed help getting up from the floor. A few days later, his breathing seemed different and I knew my time with him was growing short. Each time I visited with him, I wondered if it would be my last.

Then one day, I knew it was.

He couldn’t support himself at all anymore and was feeble and struggling. He’d lost the spark in his eye and looked uncomfortable and defeated. I sobbed as I carried him outside and laid him down in the grass. He couldn’t even stand to urinate, but I didn’t care. I just wanted him to be able to enjoy some time outside as he always had. He laid his head down in the grass and as a bright beam of sunlight hit his face, his eyes closed and a peaceful look washed over him. I actually thought he was passing away right then and there and quickly made sure he was still breathing.

He was.

After a few minutes like that, he seemed ready to go back inside, so I carried him in and sat with him for a while. Stroking his beautiful, long fur and telling him, through sobs, that I loved him and that it was okay for him to leave. I told him that I knew he didn’t feel well and that he was worried about his owners and the two other dogs in the house, but that it was okay. I told him everyone would miss him, but that no one wanted to see him suffering any longer. I asked him to go on his own so that his owners didn’t have to make the decision to let him go. I told him all these things, kissed him, pulled myself together and headed out. I knew that would be the last time I’d see him.

Sure enough, later that night, I received word that he had passed on his own, at home.

Was it just coincidence that he passed that night, after I had had that long one-on-one with him? Maybe. “Probably”, I tell myself. But a part of me thinks that maybe it wasn’t. I can’t seem to erase from my mind the signs that he gave me that day. They struck me as so profound and I think that was his way of acknowledging all I had done for him and thanking me for all the fun memories we’d made during our three years together. It was like his final farewell to me.

I used to think that animals listened, to an extent, to the words we speak, but after this incident, I realize that the connections we have with them and the ability for them to send and receive messages is greater than I could imagine. I picked up a book recently at a thrift shop, Learning Their Language, by renowned intuitive communicator, author and teacher, Marta Williams, in which Williams instructs readers on how to get in touch with the intuitive side that lives within each of us to connect with animals and nature in ways we never imagined we could. I don’t think it’s something you really understand, or even believe in, though, until you experience it for yourself. After my experience, I am definitely a believer and I now approach each interaction I have with animals with new appreciation and receptiveness. Maybe I really am an animal whisperer, after all.

Do you believe animals communicate with us? Have you ever received or sent messages from or to an animal? 


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Bombay Seasoned Cobra Corn: A Review

You’re welcome in advance, guys…

cobra corn bombay

Ridiculous.

That’s the only word I can think of to describe Cobra Corn‘s Bombay Seasoned popcorn. And when I say ridiculous, I mean it in a great way. Like, “Cobra Corn is so damn good, it’s ridiculous!,” ridiculous.

I’m not a huge popcorn fan. Don’t get me wrong — I’ll eat it — but it’s just not something I am likely to seek out as a snack for myself. So, had I not received a bag of Cobra Corn in a food swap box program I participate in on Facebook, I may have missed out on this tasty little snack. And that would have been a minor tragedy, in my opinion. But let’s not dwell on what could have been…

My husband — definitely a bigger popcorn lover than I am — spied the Cobra Corn as soon as we opened up our box of goodies and plucked the bag for himself to take as a snack at work one night. I asked him to save me a few pieces so I could have a taste. One taste was all it took to win me over.

This popcorn isn’t anything at all like your movie-theatre-style stuff. It’s bold, spicy and exotic. All three flavors that the manufacturer offers (Bombay Seasoning, Chai Caramel and Himalayan Mountain Salt) are made from natural, non-GMO ingredients and are vegan and gluten-free.

The concept’s not incredibly complicated: popcorn, a little oil and some common spices. I’m sure it could be attempted in any home kitchen, but I doubt it would turn out nearly as good. Sort of like when you get a new haircut. You can never get it to look quite as good as the stylist did. Or is that just me?… 

Crumbs. Delicious crumbs. All that were left before I realized I should snap a pic.

Crumbs. Delicious crumbs. All that were left before I realized I should snap a pic.

The food swapper that introduced me to my newest snacking obsession (I’m deeming her my new BFF), lives in Texas. I’ve never seen it in stores around me, so I’m not sure where to buy it but you can bet that I’m on a mission to find it! The website’s store locator didn’t produce any results near me, but the free shipping offered through the manufacturer is really tempting me, although I’m not so sure I can wait that long for some more of this stuff!

Do yourself a favor: get your hands on a bag of Cobra Corn, stuff your face with it, then thank me for telling you about it! I accept virtual hugs, signatures on my chicken petition and cute pictures of animals. Preferably cows.

Who’s tried Cobra Corn? Do you love it?


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Live Chickens In Casino Games: Just Because It’s Legal Doesn’t Mean It’s Right!

Two weekends ago, Anthony and I spent a glorious long weekend in upstate NY, with visits to Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary and Catskill Animal Sanctuary, to celebrate our fourth wedding anniversary (a recap to come, soon!), where we cozied up to cows, frolicked with goats and hugged chickens.

The chickens were friendly and curious and funny. It was my first time interacting with them on such an intimate level and I must say, I was blown away by their sweet dispositions and happy-go-lucky approach to life. If you’ve never hugged a chicken, I suggest you do so at least once in your lifetime.

ant chicken

 

jena and chicken

This past weekend, though, those memories of happy chickens were quickly marred by reality after I received a text from a friend with a photo similar to this one:

tic tac chicken

If you’re wondering what the hell this is, I’ll tell you what the hell it is. It’s a live chicken being exploited by humans (we humans are so good at that) in a “Man vs. Chicken” tic-tac-toe game at the Tropicana Casino in Atlantic City, NJ.

Yeah.

I’m serious.

If you don’t get it, don’t worry — neither did I.

Apparently, it’s a throwback to casino games of old. The gist: you play against the chicken to see who is smarter. The chicken pecks to choose her spaces and if she wins, she gets food. If you win, which you are not likely to do — these games are notorious for being rigged — you win money.

If this sounds pretty innocent to you, you must not know a whole lot about chickens. Chickens are social, smart and curious beings with specific environmental and dietary needs. They have the same complex emotions as our beloved dogs and cats do. They feel pain. They get scared. They experience loneliness.  Placing them in a glass box inside a casino for the sole purpose of generating money from a few saps who want to test their smarts against a chicken is inherently cruel and goes against everything chicken-like in a chicken’s life.

If that’s not bad enough, how about this fact? According to everyone I’ve spoken to and what I’ve been able to garner from online research, this is a perfectly legal practice. The chickens receive food, shelter and are rotated throughout the day, so there is no case for animal cruelty.

Okay, so it’s legal. But that doesn’t mean it’s right! In this day in age, when technology rules the world, this kind of stuff just isn’t necessary and it certainly isn’t cool. Maybe it was back in the sixties and seventies, but it’s 2014, people!! 

If you’re sensing a tone in this post, you’re not mistaken. I am infuriated that this is happening and that no one is doing anything about it. I plan to follow up on some reports I made regarding this situation and if time allows, to set up some protests to bring about an end to this “game” quickly and completely. In the meantime, I’ve started a petition on change.org. If you feel that using live animals in casino games is wrong, please visit the petition, sign it, write to Tropicana and share, share, share!

The chickens are counting on us to be their voice!!!

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