Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Unless That Cup Holds Change, I Don't Want to Hear About It

     My world is being taken over by FIFA and their soccer games. For nearly a month I’ve been told how the World Cup is about national pride, about unity, about world leaders coming together—the same crap I’m given during Olympics season. As of the past few days, it has surpassed by level of tolerance. An NPR report yesterday included an interview with a man who stated that watching the World Cup is more important than his job. This man was a firefighter. His reasoning? It’s an opportunity for all these leaders to hold hands and come together. That’s all well and good, but to what end?  I’m all about unity and world peace and every wonderful, happy, positive adjective you can come up with, but not when it is being used as a hypocritical veil for the horrors and crimes against humanity in their home countries. Let’s take a look at the countries left as of now: Ghana, Uruguay, Paraguay, Spain, Netherlands, and Germany.
     Jason Mraz recently visited Ghana. Why? To aid efforts in returning trafficked children to their families. The majority of trafficked children, and women in Ghana are forced into dangerous slave labor on fishing boats, and those who are not forced into labor are often sexually exploited. source
     Uruguay is a source and transit country for men, women and children trafficked for sexual exploitation, and “occasionally, parents facilitate the exploitation of their children in prostitution, and impoverished parents in rural areas have turned over their children for forced domestic and agricultural labor.” source
     Paraguay is not only a source and transit country for sexual exploitation, but child prostitution is also increasing at an alarming rate. Read Mabelia’s story. Child labor in general is alarming, many of these children expected to be the breadwinners of the family by the time they are ten years old. source
     Spain is not free of these atrocities. While we often think of Spain as a civilized, democratic country, Spain is a destination country for many individuals forced into the sex and slave trades. Groups from China, Bulgaria, and Romania are herded in for forced labor, and there have been increased numbers of minors brought in for forced begging. There are at least 50,000 victims of human trafficking currently in Spain. source
     Children prostitution in the Netherlands has grown at an alarming rate. The children forced into prostitution are often boys and asylum-seeking Nigerian girls, but numbers of Dutch girls being forced into the sex trade have been rising significantly. And it's not just children. “The Netherlands is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor…most female victims were exploited in forced prostitution, and the majority of identified sex trafficking victims were from the Netherlands.” source
     I am happy to report that Germany has child labor laws. That being said, it is a source, transit and destination country for human trafficking for sexual exploitation. Many cases of victims were identified in bars and brothels throughout Germany. While claims that immense numbers of women were trafficked into Germany specifically for World Cup fans in 2006 were proven false, forced prostitution still exists in Germany without sports-related motivation. source
     Added to the economic recession that many countries in the world are facing right now, fans of our final World Cup teams and more specifically, the leaders of their countries, seem to have more important things to be focusing on than sweaty men kicking a ball around and holding hands. When one of these leaders takes a stand against human trafficking and the exploitation of child labor, perhaps I will relax and let you tell me useless details and facts and scores of a sport that, for me, is quite possibly the most boring sport to watch next to golf. Until then, the next score or recap you give me will be met with a reminder of the terrible things happening in these countries.
     Why doesn’t this anger anyone else? Why aren’t we working together to stop this? The U.S. isn’t free from blame. We to are a transit and destination country for forced labor and sexually exploited human trafficking victims. We can stop it here, by cracking down on companies that hire illegal immigrants rather than on the workers that are often here against their will, by writing letters to Congress, to the White House, to anyone willing to listen. Educate yourselves. Love the planet and those in it. Let’s take care of one another.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Wish I Was Being the Change...

Okay, so after two weeks I’m thinking it’s time for an update. Tons of stuff has happened. Camp started, got screwed over on a pay check, Max’s veganism has started (follow his journey here) and we’ve cut out (almost entirely) high fructose corn syrup from our diet.
I have a few new recipes to share with you. I was thinking of things to bring for lunch and to have around for dinner and saw my can of chickpeas. So, I drained/rinsed them and then mushed them up in a bowl with some steamed veggies, some Ener*G egg replacer, and some coconut flour. After that I formed them into patties and pan fried them. Quite yummy with a few squirts of mustard, though I think some brown rice would have made them a bit more substantial.
Next I suppose is less of a recipe and more of a good find. To my disdain (though not necessarily surprise) the majority of boxed baking mixes contain HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP on top of most of them already not being vegan friendly. Well, we were at Target poking around the other day and what do we stumble on but $0.79 Target-brand brownie mix. I made it with Ener*G prepared with soy milk rather than water (it gives it a more eggy consistency), halved the oil and added unsweetened applesauce for the amount I took away. As they were baking I noticed they puffed up SUBSTANTIALLY. I’m talking, inch-thick brownies in a 13x9 pan. My first thought was that they would turn out cakey and that made me sad. When all was said and done, however, I am happy to report that THESE ARE THE BEST FREAKING BROWNIES WE HAVE EVER EATEN. No joke. Max even thought so. Now these things were huge, but at the same time still chewy and moist and, well, perfect brownies.
Finally, I’ve been making my own French fries for a while but last night’s batch was surely the best so I thought I’d share my process. First, pick bigger potatoes and depending on the size of your cookie sheet (mine’s pretty freaking big) only bake 2-3 at a time. I peel them and then attempt to make roughly the same size fry with my knife. It’s not an exact science, but I cut them in quarters, and then quarters or thirds again. The resulting size is smaller than steak-fries but bigger than fast food style. Next I put my fries in a bowl, shake some salt on them and let them rest. This helps remove some of the excess water and will make them crispier. I blot up the water with a towel, toss them in some olive oil and spread them out on my baking sheet. Next I shake some seasoned salt, pepper and chili powder and bake in the oven at 375. I’m not entirely sure for how long, but once the bottom seems to be brown (and likely sticking to your cookie sheet) I flip them and then brown the other side. The result is crispy, flavorful, guilt free French fries perfect to serve alongside a veggie burger or dog.
Okay, time for the activist in me to come out, or rather, be lacking in coming out. I feel like I want to do more in my time on this earth…more for kids, for the environment, for fighting disease…anything to show others that there is more to life than just yourself. And yet, I had to miss Hands Across the Sand to work (read about it here), I can’t afford to travel to other countries like Haiti as some of my friends just did…I don’t even have time to train to volunteer at the Miami-Dade animal shelter because of working. My need for money for school has consumed me. Every day I wake up this summer is only to ensure that when I wake up every day the rest of the year I can go to classes I am paying too much money for. That is why if I find I can’t afford to go to school this next year for whatever reason, I’m going to join the Peace Corp for a year before moving to LA. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do and I know once I try to get my career started it probably won’t happen, so if the money for school doesn’t come through, I’ll take it as a sign. In the meantime, if anyone has any short-term projects they need help on the Miami area, or the NH area starting the end of July, please let me know. I would love to help out.
“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Epic Fail

So I totally suck at keeping up with this blog, but to be perfectly honest, I haven't had much to update about. I made a cake, with the same buttercream frosting, so of course that was delicious. Been working out a lot strength training wise (found Gwyneth Paltrow's workout and it's pretty intense) but still haven't been for a run.
Camp stuff started this week so craziness is in the air. I'm not gonna lie: I'm pretty terrified for this whole teaching thing. I still have to make copies of handouts and re-do my lesson plan.

Saw Shutter Island finally and I have to say, I was quite underwhelmed. The "twist" was so obvious from the get go that it would have been more surprising if *SPOILER* he wasn't actually crazy and it really was a conspiracy. Also, I don't see how there can a debate over the ending. If he weren't cured, the line "this place makes me wonder if it's better to live as a monster or die a good man" would make NO sense. What in the world would prompt that and why would he then just get up and walk straight toward the orderlies who are quite obviously coming to get him with surgery tools? I'm convinced that whoever was blown away/shocked by this movie had never seen a thriller before, because, really people.
Also, the soundtrack was terrible. I loved the soundtrack for Gangs of New York to the degree that I searched for it for two years before my wonderful boy tracked it down for me. That is the extent to which I hated the score to this movie. It was completely inappropriate or over the top for the majority of the movie and came in and out at the most ineffectual times. I think Scorsese might be losing his touch.

That's all I have to say for now. Perhaps inspiration will strike between today and tomorrow.

Until next time.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The A-Team

No, not the movie. I'm talking about a delicious dessert substitute I created last night. We were at TGI Fridays and our friend, Drew, got a delicious looking peanut butter/chocolate pie. Clearly, not vegan. Did this stop me from taking a bite? Absolutely not, I am nowhere near strict enough yet...AND I felt horrible after, mostly due to my lack of willpower, but somewhat due to the fact that in reality: it wasn't that good. I mean, the taste screamed artificial everything and left a gross coating on my mouth. Food should taste good people! And so, I went home and searched my kitchen for proper, guilt-free substitutes. What I concocted?
My A-Team:

You see correctly. High fiber flax cereal, natural peanut butter, unsweetened Almond Breeze and Hershey's syrup. I also used a banana, but i'm not sure I loved it in there.

Now, I will say I would have much rather used sugar-free syrup, but we didn't have any. Anyway, in a bowl I mixed these things together (way more than I should have) and microwaved it for about a minute and a half. The result was a crunchy, creamy, salty, chocolate-y bowl of heaven. The measurements below are recommended. Clearly futzing would work too, but I will say I had WAY too much cereal in my bowl.

3/4 to 1 c. high fiber cereal
1/8 c. unsweetened almond breeze (or more if you don't want it crunchy on top)
2 T natural peanut butter
drizzle (about 1 T) chocolate syrup
optional: 1 banana, chunked

Layer in bowl and microwave. Let cool (or not) mush together, and ENJOY!