August 2010

Although I greatly admire vegetarians and vegans for their commitment to meat/dairy/fish-free lifestyles, the truth is that my family is more omnivore that not–thus, prompting me to find grass-fed, grass-finished beef.  I’m a stickler when it comes to eating meat that is sourced humanely and sustainably whenever possible, and I’m lucky to have two Whole Foods Markets near my home.

Whole Foods has a blog on which is an article recently posted concerning their grass-fed, grass-finished beef. Although some detractors are disappointed that not all of the beef sold in Whole Foods is local, the Whole Foods standards for beef are up to my standards. The information that you can find on the Whole Foods site concerning their business practices, philosophies, and products is plentiful–and plainly stated. The blog article “The Scoop on Grass Fed Beef” by Paige Brady is definitely worth checking out, if you want to learn more about grass-fed beef.


And here we are again, follks, with another food recall due to agribusiness and its foul ways. The recent nationwide deli meat recall has prompted Walmart to pull it’s prepared sandwiches off of the shelves due to a possible contamination (on the deli meat) of Listeria monocytogenes. Not exactly a condiment.

Honestly, the polluted food that is making its way through our nationwide food system isn’t going away. While it is commendable that Walmart pulled all of the tainted deli meat products swiftly off of the shelves, it doesn’t explain WHY the meat is tainted in the first place. That would involve actually investigating the filthy, factory-farming that produces most of our meat and dairy products in this country. Note to self–consumers may actually want to know how this happened, how the deli meat became unsafe to eat, but news articles are skirting around the issue. We wouldn’t want to aggravate agribusiness by once again pointing out that factory farming, inhumane treatment of animals and workers, and unsanitary conditions are the current backbone in the food industry.  Let’s instead watch a puppet show while we eat our convenience foods and wonder why we are experiencing “high fever, severe headache, neck stiffness and nausea” (from CNN article).

How about this gem: ‘ “Listeriosis can also cause miscarriages and stillbirths, as well as serious and sometimes fatal infections in those with weakened immune systems, such as infants, the elderly and persons with HIV infection or undergoing chemotherapy,” the USDA said.’

Mass-produced food sold today to consumers is absolutely different than the food that was manufactured and sold during my childhood. The nation is at risk because of poor practices, and our health is suffering. When does it end?

Note that the recall affects wrapped sandwiches and not individually-packaged cold cuts. Just and FYI–although it’s not like I feel like running out to buy myself some deli meat right about now.

I heard about the recent egg recall due to salmonella and immediately checked the eggs I purchased. I was glad to see that my eggs were from Sauder’s Eggs  which has such stringent testing for their eggs quality/ safety. I found these eggs for sale at Fairway Market and immediately, I noticed the “CERTIFIED HUMANE” stamp on the carton. I’m always on the lookout for food that comes from organic, sustainable, and humanely-produced sources. Sauder’s Eggs is a company in Lancaster, Pennsylvania–a place that I love to visit!–with a genuine, honest approach to fair treatment of animals and the employees who work there. I wish that there were more businesses like this one who sold their wares in supermarkets. After watching Food Inc. and doing a bevy of research, I’ve been bypassing “traditional” factory farmed food as much as possible. I can’t imagine serving my family eggs that were produced by chickens living in such unsanitary, inhumane conditions (as most of the “agribusiness” eggs are). Now that there is more demand for healthy, organic, humane food, prices are becoming more competitive and are falling within my price range. The Sauder’s Eggs dozen that I bought cost less than $2.00 at Fairway. Not bad!

It disturbs me that so many people are sick from the salmonella–instead of spreading illness to hundreds or thousands, agribusiness should be working to improve working conditions and living conditions–lose the overcrowded cages, sheds, and fecal-encrusted enclosures in which millions of animals “live” and thousands “work.” It’s so far beyond the time for change.

In the meantime, I will continue to buy meat and eggs from Fairway Market, Whole Foods, and local businesses. 

Keep informed on these pressing issues at

I managed to take some pictures of the kids’ work near the end of my “Altered Book Anthologies” class–some of the kids really put a lot of creative effort into creating their books. It was definitely a challenge to get all of the kids on board, but after the first week, I’d say over 90% of them were invested in creating art and writing creatively. It was hard to work with little kids (4th grade-8th grade) and inspire them to be creative in a non-judgmental arena. They aren’t used to that sort of environment, and some of them took suggestions as criticism. But that’s what you get when you are working with gifted kids who feel the need to be “perfect” or have other learning issues. I do feel that they learned to trust me, and in turn, trust their own creative eyes.

While I thought it was much harder than my high school English teaching  job, I think that it was an important learning experience for me. I taught an art class! I got the kids to investigate nature and write about it. VERY COOL. Sometimes the most rewarding journeys are the most difficult and painful–and yes, I complained a ton about working because  I was uncomfortable doing it. But I proved to myself that I can do it, and that is what it’s about.

One girl, Emma, came up to me on the last day and told me that I was “her favorite teacher” and Altered Book Anthologies was “her favorite class.” She gave me a hug, and at that moment, it was all worth it. She also made my favorite book of the whole program–it was as if she was able to totally manifest what I wanted the class to be able to do–draw, paint, write, and create complementary art/ writing entries. She totally nailed it, and I was so proud of her.

So here are some photos from the kids’ anthologies…

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There is something about cutting paper that is so relaxing. I could spend a huge chunk of time just sitting and cutting out paper detailing for collage work. It’s so funny how I’ve moved into a visual art/ more tactile artistic direction than my writing, which I never expected. It’s just that I’m really enjoying the immediate sense of creating something without worrying about a lot of rules. Working with the altered books I started is so freeing and it’s helping me see things differently around me, like dragonflies and tiny shards of rocks, and my toddler’s bright smile. I get so mired down in the day-to-day @ my teaching job that I forget how to live an artistic, creative life. And that’s what I really want–an “artful” life, oh–and a house at the beach. I want to live there all summer. That’s my total dream–just living near the water, wandering around in the sun, and making art all summer with my family. That would be total and complete sanity and happiness for me. Until then, I want to keep up this momentum & stop putting my art and writing aside. My husband is inspiring me with his blogging–  He’s an amazing artist but he’s embracing the writer part of himself. I want to work with that and embrace myself as a “mixed-media” artist. Who cares if I can’t draw? LOL. My new goals are to learn how to sew, and to learn better Photoshop skills. I am itching to make digital collage, too.

So here are some pics of my book(s) in progress…the splatter page was painted by a student of mine in the art/ writing class I finished teaching last week.

...tempura and acrylic paints.

Fiddling with acrylics and festive images.

I put a little folklore rhyme about gypsies in there...