Thursday, June 30, 2011

Cat Behavior Expert

A few minutes before the seminar began.
Early this week, area cat lovers attended a sold out seminar hosted by the Charlottesville Albemarle SPCAJoan Miller, Vice President of the Cat Fanciers Association, came to the UVA Caplin Auditorium to share her cat behavior expertise.  Joan has 30+ years of experience in handling cats to determine and often adjust their behavior to make them adoptable.

Joan had been at the SPCA for several days accessing cats and training staff.  For her presentation, she selected a group of ten hissy shelter cats to illustrate proper handling and care to get positive behavior from a cat.  Animal control facilities often only keep cats for 72 hours, and Joan's years of experience has verified that that is often too short of a holding period.  It can take weeks of slowly and gradually adding challenges to the cat before it comes around allowing human interaction.

Joan illustrating scent glands.
One of the cats that she brought to the seminar was residing in the SPCA "barn cat" room at the shelter.  Found free roaming and thought to probably be semi-feral, she had the cat out in front of a packed room that was as comfortable and friendly as any other cat she handled.  Obviously, the cat had been acting unsocial at the shelter but with her careful handling she brought it out of its shell and it can now be adopted into a home!

  • The number one thing cats want is PLEASURE FOR THEMSELVES! 
  • A Safe, clean, and comfortable environment.
  • Cats are cautious observers.
  • Gradual change and predictability.
  • Some adversity and challenge each day.
  • Cats are much more smell, than visually oriented.
  • There are 400+ colors and patters in Pedigreed cats.
  • All cats are black and tabby (genes will mask the tabby marking making it a solid or the black color making it yellow for example).  Genes can also affect the eye coloring.
  • A cat is not called a Calico (orange, white, black) UNLESS the black is solid colored.  It is a tabby mix.
  • Often blue eyed white cats are deaf, often if one eye is green, that side will be hearing but the blue side will be deaf!
  • If your cat has copper eyes then you can almost be certain it has pedigree in its background. 
SPCA kitten calmly sitting in room full of cat lovers.
Another interesting fact from Joan was that when you raise a 4 - 8 week old kitten you should NEVER put anything in the cage or area that will allow the kitten to scratch (for the exception of the litter box).  It has been studied and proven that this will prevent them from developing that bad behavior of scratching your furniture and other valuable items.  Proper kitten behavior is learned during this time period and it is so important for a kitten to learn from its mother or another kitten "proper behavior".  It's best to raise a kitten w/another friendly cat.

My obviously relaxed cat Gus.
Joan is was amazing and I know that each person in the room learned something new about our special felines during the presentation.


Friday, June 24, 2011

Grocery Rap

If you have tried to park in our new Charlottesville Whole Foods, you will get a big laugh out of this video from fog and smog.

A MUST SEE.  I love the ending -- still laughing.  Have a great weekend.

Picked up some San-J Gluten Free Soy Sauce at Whole Foods, used a manufacturers and a Whole Foods coupon - ended saving $1.10!  Check out their printable coupons before you head out.


Thursday, June 23, 2011

Food Kills

Diet related disease is the biggest killer in the United States.

A few weeks ago it was announced in our local paper, The Daily Progress, that during the Charlottesville City School Board meeting they received a petition of 700 signatures calling for a "restriction of sugar in our schools".  One in three local students in the 4th grade and over are overweight or obese!  I encourage you to click the link and sign the petition by the School Health Advisory Board.  One speaker at the meeting stated that sugar is more addictive than cocaine.  My personal experience is that of ALL the items that I removed from my diet while on the plant based diet (Engine 2 DietSUGAR was the worst to kick!  This diet removes dairy, meat, sugar, packaged foods, and oils.

The School Board discussed if the overhaul should focus on restricting food options or simply educating students.  The Administrative Coordinator for Nutrition Services agrees with the latter, saying "if you take away choice from a student you're going to get a rebellion and they're going to get it regardless of whether it's here at school or outside the street". 

When did schools veer away from feeling responsible for feeding NUTRITION to our children?  No one said to take away choices, just to remove the unhealthy ones!  Yes, children can bring to school a bag of nutritionally deficient food but that doesn't mean that the school system intentionally serves calories, sugar, and fat just because it's the diet kids adopt after they leave the property.  What ever happened to serving by example?  Maybe if they tasted healthy options at school it would carry over into the home.

I don't have kids in the school system so I was pretty clueless as to what products were available on school property.  At one time Coke machines were allowed and I don't know if you can still purchase soda in the Charlottesville City School System.  Juices are all sugar and are available in all schools.  Per the Charlottesville City High School menu options, every day you can get Pizza or a Deli Sandwich and also available are hot Nachos and Cheese, Cheesy Bread sticks, assorted bagged snacks, cookies, Ice Cream, and bottled beverages.  When I see Chicken Nuggets offered, even just one day a week, I shudder.  I remember when I was a student living in Roanoke, Virginia, I would reach for the thing within a bun nearly every time with a side of fries.  The Pizza tasted like cardboard, and the Macaroni like chalky paste.  It wasn't that I didn't want to eat healthy, it was just that they didn't know how to cook healthy!

The Charlottesville City Elementary School menus have Low fat Chocolate Milk as a choice (ALL SUGAR) and no non-dairy options.  Hey, what kid would not select the Chocolate Milk!  It should not be a choice, period.  I see that one day a week you can get Chicken Nuggets (ground up fat coated with fat).  Other days you can get something on a bun or pizza.  Sides include baked beans, potato wedges and a few healthy choices such as green beans, salad, and fruit.  All those things are good but paired with cheeses, buns, chicken mash, and chocolate milk, I'm not impressed.

Even worse appears to be the Albemarle County School System menus.  French fries and Burgers every day for high schoolers, Corn Dogs, Chicken Nuggets, Cheese Burgers, Nachos, and more Pizza for Elementary schoolers.  Another term for this is FAST FOOD.

There is much room for improvement in the Charlottesville School System cafeteria offerings.  A fantastic show that details healthy eating in the school system and the problems encountered when challenging the "status quo" is Jamie Olivers Food Revolution.  His school menu revamp program began 7 years ago in Huntington, West Virginia and he is now in Los Angeles.  It is truly an eye opening program and the crap that is allowed in our schools "based on the USDA food pyramid" and other "esteemed documents" is mind boggling.  NOTE: The new food pyramid is much improved.

The first items Jamie targets are juices and flavored milks, then he swaps out buns for wraps and hey, you can have hand chopped baked potato wedges, just not prefabbed coated and fried or a baked potato.  Bean Tortillas instead of meat on a bun are another favorite swap he makes.  He is a chef first which makes his meals much better than what is currently being offered in ANY school and students LOVE his food!

Schools should listen to him and adopt his protocols to provide healthy options to our students while away from home.  It's been way too long that parents have not been directly involved with what their kids are being fed.  Remove the blinders, toss the expert literature in the can and begin again.

Corporate America controls our food supply.  Buy local food when you can!


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Read that Label

Hum, I'm pondering.
Did you ever think about where your toothpaste was made?  I certainly gave it little thought until a friend emailed me that Colgate is made in Mexico and Crest in the U.S.A.  Wow.  Why would you even think it was necessary to manufacture toothpaste outside of the U.S. ?  I just never gave it any thought.  When your talking jobs and the economy, well it actually does matter.  I just looked on my Tom's of Maine (just to be certain) and it it in fact made in Maine (thank goodness).

We each can make a difference by smart shopping.  Here are a few products that you might want to check the label -

I'm loving the sketchy language --- "Packed in the USA", "Distributed in PA", "Registered Trademark of Growers in the USA and other Countries" - all indicating to me that the product was grown or prepared outside of the USA. 

"Product of USA", and "Made in the USA" (or a specific location in the USA) - seem to be the only valid labels that indicate the product was picked or manufactured in the USA.

  • Pasta - Barilla, "Product of USA" in IL.  Muellers, "Distributed by... MO".
  • Raisins/Apricots - Sun Maid, "Growers of CA"  Sunsweet, "Registered Trademark of Growers in the USA and other Countries".
  • Toothpaste/Deodorant - Tom's of Maine - "Made in USA", Colgate - "Made in Mexico", Arm and Hammer - "Made in USA".
  • Canned Fruit - Dole Mandarin Oranges - "Product of China", Pineapple - Kroger, "Product of Thailand", Libby's, "Product of Indonesia" (so much for CA and FL).
  • Packaged Soups - V8, "Product of Canada" (I didn't know they had a big growing season up there - I'm confused), Campbells - "Cooked with care in the USA" (nothing about where ingredients originate).
  • Cheerios - Distributed by General Mills... MN", Mom's Best Naturals - "Made in the USA"
  • Yogurt - Stonyfield - "Made in NH".
  • Toilet paper - IS IT RECYCLED - come on people - it's for the end that is gross anyway.  My personal "boycott" is toilet paper that is NOT FROM RECYCLED PAPER.  Virgin trees are being destroyed probably in some far away rain forest just so you can wipe your bum.  How gross is that.  Am I off topic ?
Buy it local if you can - a tomato grown in your county saves the gas to ship it, the packaging, and brings tax revenue directly into your district.
Just something else for you to ponder when you make that purchase. We can't always be perfect but small changes can make a difference.

NOTE: Tomorrow TEETER DOUBLES begin!


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Can the Fat

My "power salad" and food log journal.
Fifteen days ago I halfway began a modified diet of The Engine 2 Diet.  I say halfway because I've had several interruptions, a wedding and a few slip ups.  Due to a suspected wheat intolerance, I have modified the diet to also remove wheat and am trying to remove "my best friend" corn.  Many studies have shown that a diet low in saturated fats helps reduce inflammation that can aggravate or cause disease.  My hope is to slowly add back "suspected offenders" separately to see if one or the other causes problems.

The Engine 2 Diet authored by Rip Esselstyn is a plant based diet, different from a vegan diet in that no prepared "boxed" vegan concoctions are allowed or any oils.  Last week, I attended a free seminar by Rip Esselstyn, promoting his healthy eating book, hosted by Whole Foods Grocery.  It was very informative and eyeopening.  Yesterday, a group of 65 motivated people attended the first weekly meeting for those that have signed up for the 28-day challenge to follow the Engine 2 Diet. 

There are 2 ways to start the diet, hog wild or step by step.  It is recommended for most to go step by step.  It's very hard to eliminate EVERYTHING from your diet, rearrange your entire pantry, and stick with it all in one day. 

Rip at book signing after his seminar (wearing KALE shirt).
The book is very entertaining and informative, and was brought about after firefighter Rip challenged his firehouse to eat a plant based for 28 days and remarkable results soon followed.  Tasty meals were prepared (recipes are in the book and on the website) in order to get the guys to stick with it.  My favorite recipe is a dessert of course, and is in the book - a date, nut, and fruit dish.

Exercise is part of his diet and seminar!
Rip is now retired from firefighting but remarked he is saving lives now in another way.  He is a triathlete entering into over 1,000 competitions and was a #2 ranked swimmer at one time.  He has been eating a plant based diet since 1987, due to his fathers influence.  His father is a doctor that studied Heart Disease more than any other doctor on the planet and concluded it is totally preventable with plant based eating.

Some statistics that were presented during Rips seminar:

1) #1 source of calories for kids is POP and FRUIT JUICE.
2) The standard American Diet is 12% plants and of that, 6% is FRENCH FRIES.
3) #1 killer is Heart Disease (which is totally preventable by changing what you eat).
4) #2 killer is Cancer (The China Study directly relates this to western diets of saturated fats).
5) There are 54,000 mammals on earth and humans are the only mammal that drink another mammals milk.
6) Dairy products are basically congealed or liquid meat.  Calcium comes from the earth not a cow.
7) Green leafy vegetables are the best protein calorie for calorie.
8) All oils have the most concentrated calories of any food.  120 from oil, more than white sugar or flour.
9) Oils are "empty" calories containing no nutrition, vitamins, or minerals.
10)  Plants have all the fat you need.
11) Chicken has just as much animal protein as Red Meat which clogs your arteries.
12) Fish is a muscle and has animal cholesterol, animal protein, and waters are sadly polluted.
13) 95% of Diabetes is Type 2 which is PREVENTABLE.

What I have discovered in beginning this journey is that entire rows in the grocery store can be forgotten forever.  If you eat plant based you go down the produce isle, canned isle, and health food section.  Gone are the soda, cracker, chip, dairy, meat, and frozen food isles.  I am shocked at the rows and rows of packaged foods that contain all sorts of additives.  I found a jar of "natural" peanut butter that had the most unnatural list of junk.  If it's processed it's out - no white bread or white rice.

When SUGAR is the first ingredient this is a bad thing!
Open your kitchen cabinet and start label reading.  It is even hard to find a can of beans without salt, pork, or sugar (not to mention other horrors) as ingredients.  If you don't understand the word, something like methodestrose sucrantanse, then it can't be good!  The most shocking item I ever purchased and actually felt kinda sick while eating it, was a frozen Valentine decorated Ice Cream Cake.  There must have been 200 ingredients listed!

To get started with the Engine 2 Diet,
swap out one category of food for something more healthy - like Milk - many choices exist - Soy, Almond (my favorite), Coconut, and Rice. You may not be drinking a big old full glass of any of the substitutes but I cook exclusively using Almond milk and use on cereal with complete success.   Another option would be to STOP eating fried everything, just STOP.  Each week you can make a change for your health!

I would love to hear your favorite substitute or if you are participating in the E 2 Diet.  Please leave a comment!


Monday, June 13, 2011

Small Town Loss

I believe many people were surprised to read Sunday in The Daily Progress that the small community south of Charlottesville was losing its General Store and hangout, The Batesville Store.

Apparently there was a licensing issue and the store was operating as a store and not a restaurant.  The business blossomed over the years, opening in 2007, growing to be able to seat 60 people.  This is a very small country store in "blink your eye" Batesville but bikers all know this territory.  It is rural and off the beaten path to allow fairly safe and scenic bike riding only 20 miles from Charlottesville.

Yesterday, we went to the first day of the sell off of goods at the Batesville Store.  It was advertised as Everything Must Go but after standing in line for 30 minutes, once inside we found out that only food was for sale.  Being very disappointed and on crazy diets, we left buying nothing. 

We didn't quite leave empty handed because we did discover that locals are in LOVE with this store and were sad to the point of tears that it was closing.  The Batesville Store continues to be a rustic old store from the 1800's where locals and travelers meet for music, sweets, dinner, coffee, and even internet surfing. 

Stocking up on Batesville Store goods.
The store owners make everyone feel welcome and have many friends that stop in regularly.  Those that turned out for the closing sale wanted memories, a t-shirt or chair that was their favorite roosting spot when listening to bands.  The closing of the Batesville Store was not a joyous occasion.  Children were eating their last ice creams and adults were grabbing their last packs of beer.

We owned our own restaurant and coffee shop in a small community and when we closed our customers were so saddened.  For us it was like the loss of a pet, leaving an empty hole in your gut.  Small towns need a place to gather and commune.  It is horrible to lose a business that contributes to the economy and breathes life into a nearly defunct town.  Apparently the owners want it to stay open but the state requirements are too tough to meet.

Where am I to get my Ice Cream?
As we departed, several locals were hopeful that an agreement could possibly be met with the state and the store would reopen.  We have a fingers crossed for Batesvillians and bikers - it's a sad trip through Batesville without the store open.


Monday, June 6, 2011

A Culinary Candy Store

A few finishing touches.
Tonight we attended a store opening preview tour at Whole Foods Grocery in Charlottesville, Virginia. 

The Grand Opening for the NEW store is TOMORROW at 10 am and the first 200 shoppers get a free cookbook!

Charlottesville is so lucky to have such a wonderful store. 

Sandy, our tour guide.
Approaching the storefront you are welcomed by seasonal products such as lovely fresh herbs, bird seed, and their quality natural hardwood briquettes (that I exclusively use).  Entering the store for the first time felt like entering into Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory.  The artfully piled colorful fresh vegetable section draws me in and to the right is the huge bulk item section where you can even grind your own flour!  

Sandy, the Marketing Manager and employee for 13 years took us on our informative tour while along the way, exuberant store employees shared their knowledge about specific products.  The main thrust was local, local, local, and customer, customer, customer.  They really do want you to enjoy your shopping experience, and are more than happy to help you find what you need and educate you to broaden your foodie knowledge.

Grab a scented bar of soap.
Specialty "bars" are dotted around the parameter of the store featuring culinary cooking instruction, coffees, mixed grains and granola, wine and beer, pasta making, organic to go, hot to go, soap, and desserts.  Item prices range from their reasonibly priced 365 brand products to a top of the line coffee at $59.99 a pound!  Delicate pasta is made to order and they even grind and craft their own sausage onsite and also have a smoker and rotisserie. 

Resident Coffee Expert
Whole Foods definately is customer oriented, offering cooking guidance at the cooking station and health information from the vitamin section.  The prepared foods manager told us that you only need to ask if you want to see an item (may be a little more vegan or gluten free) and that you can eat the prepared food for 60 days without eating the same thing!  There is a wine and beer tasting bar offering 8 beer and 16 wines to sample and plenty of seating inside and out for drinking from their portable espresso bar or huge prepared food section.  They have a bulk tea section featuring my all time favorite teas from Rishi.

It's a great change over the old store and I know tomorrow Cvillians will explode upon the new store.  It's definately an exciting day to go, checking it out and snagging a few samples and treats.  We celebrated tomorrows opening with a small sampling of a delicious white wine.  I had a ginger dessert that was D E L I C I O U S!  

Bizillion Bulk Bins and Cooking Assistance Bar.
I'll be going back tomorrow on opening day for more around 5 pm.  Go check it out, some people have worked really, really hard to make this happen - kudos to Whole Foods employees.  Please leave a comment when you go and tell me what you think!


Sunday, June 5, 2011

Going Going GONE

A Hardcore Shopper.
Dressed for battle in my comfy Quarks and plaid madres shorts I ventured out at 7:30 am to the Whole Foods grocery 50% off LAST DAY sale.  Grabbing the largest gym bag I could find, my camera, VISA card, coupon book and sharpening my elbows I headed out.  I felt like I was preparing for my favorite game show, "Super Market Sweep".  EVERYTHING MUST GO-- and from the looks of it, everything would GO! 
A shopper happy to get all those deals!

A swirling blur of environmental carry bags, grocery carts, earthie flip flops, cell phones, cups of coffee, and a few dogs and idol husbands. 

I knew the turnout would be good but this was down right insane.  We're talking 500 - 1,000 people in line by 7:40 am! 

Line AFTER I had finished shopping!
I was in line way around the corner standing in front of Staples and there was another line that wrapped around the other side of the store back beyond the recycle bin.  The Fire Marshall was counting as people entered and after I had made my purchases and photographed for my blog, there were lines just as long as when I originally entered the store!  Hundreds more patiently awaiting to be let inside to see what remained of the carnage.

Long lines forming, AFTER I had checked out (whew).
Long lines - worth the wait.
Given I was so far back in line, I really expected to find nothing that I wanted left but was pleasantly surprised.  I snagged 2 Grande Banilla Stonyfield Yogurts for my cat Cesar, some Jason Shampoo (my very favorite shampoo), a big jug of pure Maple Syrup (my best deal at $10.00), and a few other items.  I actually used 2 coupons before they blasted over the intercom - NO COUPONS or CHECKS - whew.  I grabbed as much as I could fit into my gym bag until my shoulder could take no more.  My strategy was to blast in, grab what I could, and check out FAST to avoid the super long lines.  It worked, I only had two people in front of me checking out!

The Dairy and Cereal isle - can u say CRAZY.
It was all so exciting, seeing people grab and stash items ranging from nuts to vitamins.  Some had come for the wine but it was long gone, one of the few items relocated to the new store.  The produce was also very sparse, only a few coconuts and some turnips!  I fled to the bakery isle hoping to get some coconut flour.  It was long gone but I remembered to snag the Maple Syrup.  I had a list somewhere but in the PANIC that was totally forgotten. 

A child carefully positioned to help steady the load.
The horribly narrow isles were jammed, one rude person pushing a Staples cart and dragging another.  I'm not sure she left the store without a black eye (and she deserved one).  Children helping by grabbing a few choice items or stuffed into the cart unable to move because of the pile of groceries (good way to keep the kid put).  A few walkers and motorized scooters clearing the way in the isles.  One woman and her husband piling their cart with Bulk Bin flours and nuts.  The frozen food section was hard hit as were the environmental cleaning products and cereals.

Gladys I think we have enough NUTS.
I was debating on going because we came in late from my cousin Drew's wedding up in Northern Virginia but I really am glad I dragged myself out of bed to see the mayhem.  It truly was fun!

I would love to go back for one more strike but I pretty much know there is nothing left but hanging store fixtures and empty shelves.  I really want to thank the Whole Food employees for keeping their cool and the vast majority being so pleasant given the tense situation.

Almost empty at 9 am!
 As an onlooker, when not power shopping, it was quite an amusing scene.

I'll be attending an invite only pre-opening Monday - oh boy, oh boy - so check back Monday night to get a sneak preview.


Thursday, June 2, 2011

Whole Foods Mania

Tuesday, June 7th at 10 am, the Charlottesville, Virginia Whole Foods Grocery is moving into a brand new building, expanding its footprint.  The old store was not too shabby so the new store is guaranteed to be super, super WONDERFUL. 

Bare shelves in the "old" Whole Foods.
Being that I have made grocery shopping a sport, I am really excited about the new store and all it potentially can offer.  A larger communal meeting and dining area, outside dining, and of course more space for a greater variety of specialty grocery items.  I'm personally hoping for an upgrade in the coffee arena and an expansive area in which one can enjoy lunch without elbowing the person sitting next to you.  It will also be nice to not get smacked by a cart in a too narrow of an isle.  Let's face it, the current Whole Foods was so beloved that people were climbing over each other to get to the merchandise. 

Produce can still be found at the "old" store.
I remember the grand opening of Harris Teeter and Ukrops in Roanoke, Virginia.  It was a lot of fun.  Tons of freebies and fanfare.  If you have never been to a grand opening, it usually involves a lot of rolls of red carpet, sample tastings, a celebratory cake, and happy, happy employees.  Fortunately, most members of the Whole Foods staff are pretty chipper on most days, so hopefully the good time high will continue for some time.

Ok, so the DEAL NEWS is that on Sunday, June 5th beginning at 8 am, at the "old" Whole Foods store, they will sell everything that remains for 50% off.  Everything must go... it's gonna be fun.  Expect most items to be gone early, early... the early bird does get the worm in this case I'm afraid.  I plan on staking it out the night prior to see if it's worth getting up bright and early, altering my "Pancake and Paper" Sunday.

On Wednesday, June 8 at the Omni Hotel Whole Foods is sponsoring a presention by Rip Esselstyn (click here to sign up).  He will talk about his book and program The Engine 2 DietLearn to lower cholesterol, significantly reduce the risk of Western disease, lose weight and become physically fit. 

I actually started the diet yesterday - I'm hoping I can last until next Wednesday, I'll need a pep talk for sure to make it.

See ya at Whole Foods!

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