Monthly Archives: March 2012

Out and About – and Afloat

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Happy Monday everyone! (Well, it was Monday when I wrote this…)

It’s been a long morning – I’ve been up since 5 am! I stopped by Trader Joe’s this morning to pick up some protein items, swiped my card at the check-out, and almost left before actually signing for it! I sarcastically excused myself with, “Well, I’m awake this morning” – to which the wonderful cashier boy replied, “Yeah, me neither.” ๐Ÿ˜‰

So why I have I been up since five this morning? To see my mom off to the airport! She flew all the way from Missouri last week to visit me out here in LA! Of course, Mom time also meant adventure time. ๐Ÿ™‚

Our hop around L.A. had us drinking tea, sampling Thai banana rolls, and checking out the eco-book selection at the vegan Green Earth Cafe in Old Pas,

sipping on the best (and prettiest) soy vanilla latte that, honestly, I’ve ever had,

spending some quality play time with my mom’s “grandcat” Silky,

and enjoying some much-needed exploration at Long Beach’s Aquarium of the Pacific!

Of course, I had to visit the pinnipeds ๐Ÿ™‚

Look at those teeth!

And we went whale-watching! While we didn’t spot any whales on our trip aboard the Christopher, we did see a harem of sea lions hanging out on a buoy, a pod of traveling bottlenose dolphins (!!!), andย LOTS of sea birds (Luke, our tour guide, was able to figure out I had spotted some Grebes based on my description of them as “those black and white birds with the long necks and the beaks and who dive whenever we go by.” I was impressed).

It was fantastic – and FREEZING! Cool day + 25 mph speed + shorts = brrrr!!!

So for all of you boating hopefuls out there, I’ve got some advice ๐Ÿ™‚

Miceala’s Whale-Watching Guidelines

1. Know your tour company.

Whale-watching, sea lion spotting, really any sort of nature observation or eco-tourism needs to be done through a reputable company. Animals and ecologies need to be respected, and companies should foster education and conservation. Make sure your tour company looks past the financial gain of human entertainment to consider the footprint their groups will be leaving behind.

2. Know your climate.

When you have an impulse to buy a windbreaker from the aquarium gift shop, apparently you should listen to it! Long pants and layers come in handy for high speeds on the seas. So do sunglasses (less squinting is really more pleasant) and sunscreen. Because, you know, otherwise you might, um, end up with a brilliant sunburn you’re grateful your mother didn’t take pictures of you with…

3. Know your time.

How long do you want to observe for? If you’ve got ’em, how long are your kids’ attention spans? How long is your attention span? Do you want a guaranteed 30 minute tour of sea lions chillin’ in the harbor, or are you willing to spend a less predictable 2 hours out on the water appreciating whatever animals you do come across?

4. Know – well, actually, just don’t know.

Ask questions! Learn stuff! I got to hear about an ongoing research project correlating species sightings from the whale-watching cruises to data about animal migration patterns and human shipping lanes, all because I asked the education intern on the boat what she was writing on her clipboard ๐Ÿ™‚

Wishing y’all smooth sailing! ๐Ÿ™‚

St. Patrick’s Day Adventures

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This year was my first time celebrating St. Patrick’s day “for real” – as in doing more than having a passing thought halfway through the day of “oh yeah, today is St. Patrick’s day. I guess I should wear something green. What’s clean…”

This was also my first year celebrating St. Patrick’s day as a vegan. And on a day hallmarked by corned beef and cabbage, this can be quite a feat!

But hey, as my freckles, curly red hair, and unfortunate propensity to sunburn can testify, I’ve got the luck o’ the Irish ๐Ÿ˜‰

My adventures started with piling some friends into my car for a lunch run to Dog Haus. I know, press the pause button – Dog Haus? As inย hot dogs? With a slogan like “best of the wรผrst,” you wouldn’t exactly expect it to be the most vegan-friendly of places.

Ah, but my friends, this isย California. And they had aย veggie dog.

Probably the closest thing to corned beef and cabbage that I’ve ever gotten, the veggie dog with caramelized onions, ketchup, and mustard was AMAZING! Gotta remember that my veggie dogs won’t end up being the consistency of rubber if I boil instead of microwave them. ๐Ÿ˜‰

The adventures continued with a road trip to San Juan Capistrano with my friend Joanna to see her boyfriend’s Celtic rock band, the Poxy Boggards, perform at the Coach House. Due to the unexpected lack of traffic or torrential rain, we ย ended up arriving about an hour and a half early. We decided to head over to a Starbucks to hang out for a while. And – oh, how serendipitous! – the Starbucks was RIGHT NEXT DOOR to a pet shop!

Yes, yes our trajectory did instantaneously switch to a beeline for the animals. ๐Ÿ™‚

If you’re like me, right about now some of you probably have an uncomfortable grumble protesting in the back of your head that sounds something like, “puppy mills puppy mills puppy mills puppy mills…”

As much as I love the chance to be around animals, I hate puppy mills. And unfortunately, that’s where most of the dogs in pet stores come from. I can’t walk by a pet store window display without tensing up.

However, thankfully, I discovered that Pets Plus is doing puppy sales right.

Because they’re just not doing it.

It turns out that “Pets Plus” is more about selling the “plus” than the “pets.” The store is a shop full of pet care items. Besides one small area of the store with non-exotic birds, animals were not among the store’s merchandise. No cages of dogs, no cats in closet-sized displays, not even aquariums of hamsters.

view of the shelter adoption van through the neighboring Starbucks window

That’s not to say there were no animals in the store whatsoever. There were a few dog pens at the front of the store – but the dogs were part of a local shelter’s adoption event. Pets Plus gave the shelter their store space as a forum for finding forever homes for the dogs. When Joanna and I arrived, the shelter was packing up and a store employee was bustling about compiling some goodies to send back to the shelter for the dogs.

Frankly, I was impressed.

The night wrapped up with an AWESOME performance by the Poxy Boggards and their openers, the Merry Wives of Windsor. The Coach House was a great venue where artists like Norah Jones and The Young Dubliners have performed – and where Hugh Laurie will be performing in May! Definitely going back for that one. The wait staff was ridiculously hard working and were even willing to accomodate my vegan requirements by cooking my dish differently from all the other dishes (oil instead of butter, balsamic vinaigrette instead of ranch) even though the show was sold out and the house was COMPLETELY FULL. Talk about a spot o’ Irish luck.

The three and half hours of rocking Celtic folk music, toasts, and an occasional bawdy joke or two or three or dozen definitely capped my St. Patrick’s day in true Irish fashion too ๐Ÿ™‚

What’s New (and Random)

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Good morning everyone! This vegan’s been up since 6 am. Yay finals. But it’s okay, my dorm’s having blared the Ride of the Valkyries at 7 am probably would have woken me up anyway. And if that failed, I’m the sure the fire alarm and my cat’s ensuing panic at 8 am would have done the job.

Yup. It’s been one of those mornings.

(And one of those days – this post is going up twelve hours later than intended because of a computer glitch. Yikes!)

I'm worth the splurge ๐Ÿ™‚

Good thing Swork has almond milk lattes. (Or soy or hemp or rice milk lattes. Love Swork.) The people here are pretty cool too. So far I’ve overhead two writers discussing a work in progress (the word “superpowers” was used) and seen at least three people with dreadlocks. ๐Ÿ™‚

Speaking of cool things, I was walking out of whole foods the other day when I came across this:

Day instantly made better ๐Ÿ™‚

And get this! My toothbrush is recyclable!

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I’ve also added Yes to Carrot’s acne scrub to my morning routine. (In place of the, uh, hand soap *cough cough* that I was using before…) It’s made mostly from plant-based ingredients, isn’t tested on animals, and targets acne without smelling like it. Honestly, the first thing my nose thought was “honeysuckle!” ๐Ÿ™‚

What’s new (or old) and exciting in your life?

… and the Big Bad Wolf

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Ever notice that wolves get a severely bad rap in popular culture?

The Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf, Little Red Riding Hood, even the recently debued movie The Grey – all portray wolves as vicious, raging creatures that want nothing more than to eat your children and are just plain bad news to have around.

Bullshit. Utter and complete bullshit.

Just as American culture has stripped pigs down to dead hunks on a plate that are hard to imagine were ever alive, our culture has also shoved a picture of wolves into the American imagination that’s draped in a heavy, dangerous costume of flat out lies.

Vilifying propaganda much?

But instead of going on and on and ranting about this myself, you all get to hear from Dana Stangel, a woman who’s worked alongside wolves like Aisha for years – and who’s one of my personal role models ๐Ÿ™‚

My time with Aisha….

It’s still hard for me to think about her, let alone write about her. She’s been gone for over a year now…. but one thing I can tell you for sure – no living being will ever affect me the way she did.

I met her just before I was 20. I had found [Wildlife Waystation] after a bad break-up. I needed something that was mine in my life. I love animals so it seemed logical, and this place was amazing. I started with reptiles, something I already knew. I also enjoyed working in the baby animal trailer rehabbing baby animals. One evening, the wolf hybrid team helped us in the baby trailer. They liked me and asked me to observe with them soon. I was never a dog lover, but I agreed anyway. Any animal is great, right? After some observation I was invited on to the team. I learned a lot there and after a year I was moved onto a wolf team. That would be Ms. Aisha’s wolf team…

She was young, and always testing. I learned from her and her humans how to be around a wolf. She was certainly different than the hybrids I’d learned from. With her it was much more mental and much less physical. She’d plot her adventures. We learned to watch her instead of the environment to know what was going on. She was an excellent communicator and if you were paying attention, you could always tell what she was thinking. (Or you thought you could!) It’s hard to say exactly what was so amazing about her. It was a quiet thing. It was a thing that grew over a decade. There were times when she was my first born. There were times she was my sister. Times she was my mother, and times she was my best friend. She brought me from my 20’s to my 30’s and taught me patience and grace. She also taught me about the value of love and how nothing can stand in the way of it, especially not anger. There was an incident towards the end of her life, where I wanted to fight for her. I needed to fight for her, but it was a fight I could never win. So I stood down. Because I had to. I learned from that. I learned about wallowing in anger and I learned that is not a place I want to be in. I’m not sure anything in my life could have made me feel so helpless and angry. I needed it. She taught me not to run from my feelings and those that make me angry. I grew from it, possibly more than I’ve grown from anything else I can think of.

During those years, Aisha was the steady. The thing that never changed. The one I would see (sometimes 3 times a week) and all was okay with the world. I’m sure this is similar to an experience you may have had with your favorite dog. But keep this in mind, the wolf brain is one third larger…. this is an animal capable of a lot of thought and emotion.

People say wolves are psychic. I don’t believe that. I think they are in tune with what’s going on around them for sure. They are really observant and good at demonstrating and reading body language. To feel even a little bit โ€œin tuneโ€ with that is an amazing thing. I can’t even put it into words.

The final lesson Aisha taught me is the one about death. I have never dealt with death well. When Aisha died, a part of me died with her. I still cry when I think about her and I miss her daily. But there is this feeling I carry with me – all the time – and it’s like she is here with me. I know it sounds corny, but I do feel like now that she is free of her body she CAN be with me always…. and it’s a beautiful feeling. There are so many energies we don’t understand yet and are unable to measure.

Wolves are incredible. They take the weak and the old out of the ecosystem so it can flourish. Where there are no wolves, there are more coyotes and more hoofstock. It can get out of control. When wolves were returned to Yellowstone, the beaver – a keystone species – came back. The deer were decimating the grasses that sustain the river beds; when that population was in check, the beavers could come back because the grasses they needed were there. And this is one example that we KNOW of…. I know there are many we don’t know about yet. Recently I read the Mexican wolves affect the songbird population. Something about keeping the deer on the move…. and for the first time in my life – they are off the endangered species list and we are shooting them again like we did in the 20’s. We are killing off an icon, a piece of the planet. A piece that the planet cannot live without. When we kill the wolf, we are killing ourselves.

Aisha the Wolf

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These creatures are not the big bad wolf.

Let’s make some noise for them. Click on the link below for ways to take action for wolves.

Howl for the Wolves