Vegan red wine – yes, wine can contain animal products

 

Vegan-Wine

Vegan Red Wine

 

Last Sunday, I was wandering through the maze of bottles at Dan Murphy feeling totally lost. Bottle shops can be intimidating when you are not a connoisseur—let alone a drinker. Eventually, I spotted a shop assistant stacking beer bottles on the shelf. I asked him where I could find vegan red wine. His lips parted and he gave me a stare like I was an apparition from another planet. “Never heard of vegan wine,” he replied, perhaps thinking that I was joking, everyone knows that wine comes from grapes not animals, right?

Yes, that’s right but as I enter the third week in my plant-based food reformation, a lesson learnt: people don’t really know what goes on into their food (and drinks). Even if you are diligent and read the labels in the packaged food you buy, sometimes the manufacturer does not list all ingredients used, even though this is required by law. In the case of wine, maybe knowing that the drink has been clarified with casein (milk protein), albumin (egg white), gelatine (animal protein) or isinglass (fish bladder protein) would put many customers off.

I read the labels of most food I buy but it never occurred to me to check the label of a wine bottle. I always assumed that certain foods are just in their packs on their own. I only learned about wine ingredients because I bought a vegan cooking book that covered this topic. Now I’m taking a closer look at the foods I buy and getting really surprised with what I’m finding. Fresh grapes contain sulfur dioxide and lightly dried organic herbs contain oil and ascorbic acid. These are just two examples of foods I thought I was eating without any added ingredients. Unfortunately, when we dig deeper we are likely to find hidden ingredients certain to raise an eyebrow. Think of ‘extra virgin’ olive oil mixed with seed oil. Knowledge can sometimes be difficult to digest.

Back to the bottle shop, the shop assistant directed me to the organic section, saying that I might find something I liked there. Indeed, the organic section was stacked with many vegan friendly options, which now I know, are clarified with clay based fining agents (bentonite) and activated charcoal. Although this information was not listed in the wine labels (at least I couldn’t in my recent bottle shop visit) there were words like “suitable for vegans.” Another lesson learned, if you are looking for a wine that has not been made with animal products you should ensure the label contains the words to that effect.

Disclosure: I don’t drink, this wine was purchased to cook a delicious lentil dish.

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Bye bye burger

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This was my post-marathon meal two weeks ago. I cannot say it wasn’t delicious but I’m entering a new phase now, toward a more ethical, less cruel eating habits. Looking at that cholesterol charged plate now it does not look as appetising.  I think when you let your moral principals guide you, your taste buds change.

This morning I went out for breakfast at a new cafe. The menu was challenging. There were no plant-based meal options. I ended up having a vegan cookie (‘vegan warrior’ it was called, I get the gist it will be a battle to find vegan food at restaurants) and a soy cappuccino. Luckily I wasn’t too hungry-or I would have had eggs.

The inconvenience that comes with not following a mainstream diet is what put me off from sticking to a vegetarian diet in the past. I’m now recommitting and trying again. This time I feel more mentally prepared after reading and listening to podcasts about the philosophy or ethics and morality and the truth behind factory farming. I believe that most people have good intentions and want to do good but like me, they don’t always question the status quo and need a push to move outside of their comfort zones. Thankfully, knowledge and facts can be a force that propels us to change.

It’s worked for me. The plant-based lifestyle I aspire to has moved the goal post far beyond known borders but I’m feeling energised to pursue it. It just feels like it’s the right thing to do.

Logic can stop cruelty

 

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We all think we are fair beings, that we can logically justify our actions. We can easily put two and two together but it feels like that once we enter the supermarket and head to the meat department, we are no longer logical creatures. As we put the neatly packed pieces of dead animals in our shopping cart, we shut our minds and our hearts to the voiceless creatures – we ignore the blatant fact that we are sponsoring the barbaric norms of the livestock industry with our actions and our money.

I’m guilty as charged. Although I don’t eat large amounts and I buy free-range, still, I do contribute. Or used to, until last week. I’ve been reading about animal farming and cruelty and I cannot ignore the reality anymore. I tried to become a vegetarian a couple of times in the past and I failed. It wasn’t hard but there were some inconveniences that made me give up. But I can no longer brush off the fact that there is no moral justification for eating meat, full stop.

When we grow up in a meat-eating society, this is just the normal thing to do. Meat and animal products are everywhere, everyone’s been doing it since the caveman, it tastes good, that’s what animals are for. But just because it’s an accepted practice, it does not mean it is right. Slavery was once accepted, women until a recent past could not vote, etc. Besides, the caveman ate wild animals or scavenged meat, fat and organs from dead animals left behind by their predators. They were not eating animals raised in overcrowded farm factories as are most cattle, chicken and pigs today. For those unfamiliar to what happens in those factories, please don’t turn the blind eye. Do your research. It’s “hell on earth”.

Humans have evolved since the stone age. Our large brains tell us that it’s wrong to inflict suffering and death on 56 billion animals a year because they taste good or for the convenience of having animal products readily available. I truly believe that most people think this way but find it hard to resist the temptation, break away from the norm and live up to their own moral beliefs.

But I also believe that the more individuals talk about these ethical issues, the more people will be confronted with their own personal beliefs about how animals should be treated and act accordingly. Collectively we can pressure governments to reform legislation and corporations to change practices to reduce the suffering of animals.

My journey toward an animal free diet began this week, I’m not turning vegan overnight but I’m removing as much animal products from my diet as possible because cruelty is wrong and eating a plant-based diet is the logical thing to do.

Learn more and make a difference:
http://www.animalsaustralia.org/
https://www.voiceless.org.au/

The crescendo of pain and joy

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On a sunny Sunday morning, thousands of people crowded the space underneath the Sydney harbour bridge—the starting point of the Sydney marathon. Last time I had run this event I was right at the back of the pack, hoping to finish the race in under five hours. This time I was a bit more daring and started moving through the crowd, chin up, looking for the pacesetter with the 4:15m flag. I didn’t think I had trained as much as did for my first marathon three years ago but considering that I had finished that event in 4:04, my goal seemed realistic.

I found a spot near the pacemaker and started to remove the layers of warm clothing to throw away—I was wearing an old thermal shirt and a worn out jumper over my running shirt. The forecast was for a warm day but at 5AM when I left home it was only eight degrees. But in the crowd, body heat emissions kept me warm. In my position facing the start line, I took a deep breath to focus on the 42.2Km road ahead in the company of energised strangers and yet, solitude. It was going to be just me, my GPS tracker and my thoughts. There was nothing else. No Facebook, emails or SMSs from friends and family. I enjoy the silence, that’s why I don’t listen to music when I run, it’s a break from the chaos of modern life. It makes me feel much more in tune with my body. I pay attention to the sound of my feet hitting the pavement, my breathing, my surroundings.

The countdown began and my heart started to beat faster, I thought of my training and how I should have trained more and harder. I feared I wasn’t carrying enough food, maybe I had not drunk enough water, maybe my insomnia would make me hit the wall. Then I heard the gun and snapped back into reality. Enough, I was ready enough.

So, the race began, it’s always an amazing feeling, the realisation that you signed up to endure hours of discomfort, that months of preparation have come down to this moment. The vibe is energising, people of all walks of life, shapes and sizes trying to do their best. I passed interesting individuals dressed in superhero costumes, business suits, rhinoceros – I don’t know how they can endure 42km of running covered in so many layers, it’s amazing what one does for a cause.

The first two hours were easy, the third not too bad. At the next water station, I stopped to eat a banana and I saw when the 3:45 pacesetter passed me by. I could not believe I had been ahead of him—the GPS watch is never that reliable on race day—but would I be able to catch up? I kept going, my legs were starting to hurt, thankfully, lining the sidewalks, strangers were screaming, cheering the runners on. There was also live music at some points and people holding encouraging signs. I recall one that read, “If Trump can run, so can you.” All that was somehow re-energising.

At the 38Km mark my legs were burning, every step now was an escalating crescendo of pain. I had just finished the Barangaroo section and was running towards Circular Quay. The view of the harbour was a welcome distraction. I could now see the Opera House, there was hope, I was going to make it, I sped up a bit, my mind was telling me to do it. My body didn’t want to obey but somehow, it kept going. Almost there, I could see the finishing line, tears streamed down my face, I made it, I made it, in 3:48:49s.

Marathon and the long road to sleep

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After three months of training, four bottles of shampoo and conditioner, and, for my standards, an exaggerated amount of animal protein, I’m ready for the marathon. Today I began my taper week so, when I woke up this morning, instead of my running shoes, I reached out for my laptop—I finally have a bit of time to write and reflect on my training. I’m still in bed, the early morning sun is shining through the spaces of the Venetian on this glorious Sunday, I hear the birds chirping and feel itchy to join them outside like I did every Sunday for almost 12 weeks. The birds have been my companions throughout this training season as I attempted to incorporate some meditation during my runs—I’ve tried to attend to their sounds instead of the unwavering thoughts that keep buzzing around seeking my attention.

Most of the time, I failed, the voices in my head spoke louder than the birds—my endless to do list, work stresses, kids’ homework battles, an upcoming small surgery, mum and her dementia—a symphony of anxiety was constantly brewing in my head. But still, the training for this marathon made me reconnect with my meditation practice. You see, I did the mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) program four years ago and felt, first hand, the benefits of meditation. During that time, my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer and I started to suffer from insomnia but thanks to meditation, I was still able to look at life with equanimity during those difficult times. Mindfulness meditation taught me how to pay attention to my thoughts, feelings, and emotions as if I was watching a movie. There I was, lying awake at night thinking about my sister, knowing that I could not change her diagnosis, the unfairness of it all, feeling helpless. Prior to the MBSR, I would have felt panicky and anxious but with the help of meditation, I was feeling more compassion than fear. And although many times my mind would not let me go back to sleep, I was able to accept my states on consciousness, both the good and the not so good, and soldier on.

That was four years ago. Unfortunately, little by little I started slacking off on the practice of meditation. Life got in the way, thoughts got in the way and eventually, I went back to being more on auto-pilot, highjacked by my mind. Since then, my practice has swung back and forth and prior to start training for this marathon, it was not really top of mind.

Until, and, much to my surprise, I started to have bouts of insomnia again. Even though my body is exhausted from training for the marathon and wants to rest, my mind isn’t. I haven’t had insomnia everyday but a couple of nights per week is enough to cause havoc to your life and there is the odd week in which I battle with this dragon almost every night.

So, I took a reinvigorated interest in meditation. I’ve practiced it formally almost everyday, even if only for 10 minutes. It hasn’t fixed my insomnia yet, and maybe it never will, but it is helping manage the rumination as I lie awake at night. When I’m not meditating, I can easily have this type of dialogue with myself: “Rosana, if you don’t fall asleep, you will be feeling crap tomorrow and will be struggling at work and short fused with the boys.” Or “If you don’t sleep you may get sick and won’t be able to run the marathon.”

Of course, those thoughts normally put me in a state of anxiety, I would get out of bed in the morning with a bad feeling that something was going to go wrong. But at present, the nights that I have insomnia and am able to pay attention to my thoughts without getting caught in the emotions, I can see the other side of the coin. Instead of seeing an anxious person laying there, I see myself as someone who wants the best for her family, wants to do well at work and look after her wellbeing. This makes me feel calmer even if I cannot go back to sleep.

At present, I’m doing guided meditations from various sources (Tarah Brach, Dan Harris, Sam Harris, Headspace and others) and when I go out for a run, I try to bring mindfulness to my workout by listening to the birds, my feet pounding the pavement or paying attention to the landscape. I keep getting distracted but I’m getting better.

Preparing for the Sydney Marathon has been an amazing physical feat and this time I feel like I’ve added a new dimension to it by trying to train my brain. I’m looking forward to crossing the finishing line—I’m not going for a gold medal but hopefully, will be rewarded with a good night of sleep. If not, I’ll get up to accept the gift of a new morning even if the night was not what I signed up for.

Not ready, set, go: A lesson learned from writing my first book

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Two years ago, had anyone told me I was going to write a book, I would have laughed. But here I am, with two stories published in the anthology, Pieces of North Shore. The book is a collection of stories from seven writers and it was a great way to tip my toes into the world of publishing. I had always written a bit of marketing copy but I never dared to call myself a writer, let alone a writer of fiction. For me, to be able to write a story that anyone would pay to read was something reserved for a few endowed individuals born with endless creativity and that had found solace in books as children. How would I ever catch up? But this experience changed my view of what it takes for you to do something that you are passionate about but never tried because you don’t think that you will ever be ready to get started.

Pieces of North Shore isn’t a best-selling book but we are getting closer to our target each day and it has propelled my writer’s group to start working on a second book.

Life lesson learned: You don’t have to be ready to get started

As the saying goes, everyone has a book waiting to be written, yet, we keep postponing it. For a lot of people, it’s on their bucket list of things they want to do before they die but statistics show that 60% of them, will never even get started. We have a tendency to procrastinate our dreams. Maybe we think it’s too hard or we don’t feel prepared, knowledgeable, financially capable, don’t have the time or insert your excuse here.

As a rookie, I neither had the confidence nor felt ready to put my ideas in writing to get a story published for the world to see. I had many fears and the ‘what ifs’ plagued me with uncertainty. What if I fail, get criticised, don’t find my voice or no one likes what I write? My biggest fear was the language barrier. English is not my first language and I feared that this would show in my writing.

Yet, I wanted to write. So, I decided to take action and joined a writer’s group. Although people say that there is safety in numbers, joining a group didn’t make my fears go away. But by taking the first step I felt motivated to give it a go. The group offered courage and inspiration for me to keep honing in my craft, and as the group had a deadline, I had three months to produce my stories. Despite all my fears, I made it happen. Instead of focusing on my concerns I focused on the stories that were waiting to be told.

I had to do my writing at night after the kids went to bed. I spent hours revising and rewriting my work until it gleamed. I lost sleep over it. I cast doubt on my capacity to write and at the end, I still had the feeling I could have done better if only I could work on it a bit more. Eventually, I had to accept that I got to tell my stories the best way I could.

Most of us to don’t get started or don’t complete that special project because our ego gets in the way. We get stuck in the quicksand of perfection. This experience taught me that you don’t need to be ready, and in reality, we rarely are, there is always room to improve and to get readier. My stories aren’t perfect and now I see lots of ways I could have told them differently. But I made them come to life. Next time, I will have more experience and more resources to draw on, just because I got started.

If you are itching to have a go at that special project, don’t wait for all stars to align. It’s unlikely they ever will and you may end up like the 60% who will leave this life without the comfort of knowing that they tried.

Changed my mind, I’m running a marathon again

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Hill repetitions – out of breath

 

It’s been three years since I ran my first marathon and I told myself that was it, crossed from my bucket list, no plans of doing another one. It was an amazing experience – I can still see myself crossing the finishing line with tears running down my cheeks in disbelief that I had completed the race in 4:04m. I was expecting to finish in 4:45m. It’s hard to describe how it feels to push the limit of human endurance on our own merit. I worked so hard to prepare my body and mind for this achievement. And that’s exactly why I had no intention of doing it again. The marathon is not just 42km of endurance. It’s months of painstaking preparation. It means to wake up at the crack of dawn to train, experience discomfort, get injured, monitor your diet, and have less time for everything else.

So why on earth am I doing it again?

It’s not only you, I’m also questioning my sanity. But I’m drawn to setting goals and following through. As a working mother, I’m always putting my energy towards accomplishing other people’s goals. Tackling a long-distance race, conquering the mythical 42km is my own private ambition.

Of course, I didn’t have to pick a goal that requires so much dedication but I find endurance sports appealing because I get a lot of satisfaction from having a long-term goal and celebrating the milestones you achieve along the way. Perhaps because we live in an age of instance gratification and we are rewarded all the time for very small efforts, setting my mind on something that requires planning, training, commitment and persistence give me a sense of boldness.

So, here I go again. Last week I started my training – I was a bit greedy and instead of the ‘beginners’ program I downloaded the ‘intermediate’ which requires approximately six hours of running per week. I could barely squeeze in four. I’ll have to make some adjustments to my plan, time is always my main issue and there are only 13 weeks to go. Wish me luck.

If you are looking for inspiration or reasons to run, check here.

No icing on the cake. And no cake either.

Do you have days in which you just want to have one thing accomplished, without asking too much, just a few hours for yourself to get something done, and then, it just does not happen? Well, I have lots of days like this and today was one such day.

All I wanted was a few hours alone to work on a story I’m writing. Actually, no, that’s not all I wanted. I also wanted to bake a sweet potato brownie, roast some vegetable and make a pumpkin soup. I had planned to have breakfast and then sit down with my laptop and a notepad and write for a few hours. The later in the day, I had hoped I would do some cooking.

But then the kids woke me up at 6:30am asking to go to Bicentennial Park. “Only if you finish your homework,” I said from under the blanket. I didn’t think they would finish their assignments. But they did, with parental help. And they reminded me that they have been asking (or shall I say, nagging) to go to that park for a month and I keep putting it off – the traffic, the traffic!

I did not really want to go – the story kept popping up into my head – but it was such a beautiful day and I felt that mother guilt for saying “no” once again. I know many women would have stood their ground but the day before had been my son’s birthday party, he turned 12. How much longer will he be asking to go to the park? So, I obliged, and I told myself we would be back by 3pm. Of course, we didn’t.

So, there I was, driving to the park, feeling like I’m never going to finish the story and wondering why it’s so hard to make time for myself. I was feeling increasingly frustrated. I raised my voice at the boys at the petrol station when they asked me to buy Doritos. “You are going to eat the homemade brownies, stop asking for junk.” They hate the healthy stuff I bake.

I was also getting annoyed because I was getting annoyed. There are bigger problems in the world, I was telling myself, why get grumpy because I can’t find time to write unless I cut back on sleep? I know it sucks but it’s not the end of the world.

Maybe it’s just a question of getting my priorities right. Do I really need to exercise? Lately, I’ve been waking up at 5am to go to the gym twice a week, I could get up at 5am to write my stories instead. But I already wake up at 5:30am two to three times per week when I work in the city. There is not much I can cut there. But wait, this morning I spent an hour in the kitchen making sweet potato brownies. I also spent 30 minutes on Skype with my mum and an hour on homework. I also read a section of the weekend paper. How about the day before? I had a haircut (had not had one since January) and went for a run. I guess if I really wanted, some of these things could go.

But it’s so hard, everything seems to be a necessity. So, I practice mindfulness– not so much the sitting down to meditate, although I do that from time to time. I believe in living in the moment, in dealing with one thing at a time. So when I notice that I’m getting grumpy, I take a few deep breaths and try to focus and accept the present moment as it is. The problem is that accepting does not change my reality. No amount of mindfulness, praying, or yoga can put more hours on a day. I can’t defy the laws of physics, the day only has 24 hours. I wonder how you real people out there do it. Be it a sport or hobby, do you have to cut back on sleep to follow your passion?

I’m going to have to cut back on something. Maybe it’s going to be the cooking. Bring on the Thai takeaway. It’s impossible to do it all. I can’t have the icing on the cake and sometimes, not even the cake. Sorry for the whining dear readers. At the end of the day, I didn’t get the cake but I still got to eat the sweet potato brownie. There are lots to be grateful for. It’s just a bit of frustration when you think you can embrace the world.

21KM – WHY??

 

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Half-marathon today, running with a great friend.

 
I’ve been running half-marathons for years and I still keep being asked the same question: why? For those not used to endurance sport, it’s hard to fathom why one would get up at 4:30am on cold winter Sunday to go run a 21KM race.

So today, as I sit up in bed with a pillow under my legs, I decided to write a poem to try to explain why I’m out pounding the pavement when people are still cocooning under their blankets.

Poem: 21KM – Why?

The blinking stars remind me I should be in bed

The gusty Autumn wind leaks through my jumper

I want to bring my broken body home

Because it’s hard and it hurts, and it’s too early and it sucks

But I strive for a goal, for an experience

 

It’s not for a throne, for wealth or even health

The steady repetitive strides

Along the endless roads, tracks and trials

Lift my mind beyond my limits and denials

And yield a sense of completion and joy

 

In a leafy road that goes uphill

I pound the pavement until my mind is still

And silence the little voice that doesn’t believe

So, I keep going accumulating miles and blisters

Because I’d rather run battles than sit and watch

 

Call it endurance, stubbornness, stupidity

But when I look past the finish line

I see that the way has been paved

For a world of great achievements

Because the mind can take you there

– Rosana Wayand
Copywrite 2017

From comics to poetry with creativity

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Poem and picture: Car Crash

What a pleasant surprise today when my 9-year-old opened the door of my office and handed me a handwritten note. He said he felt inspired to write a poem. So adorable, totally out of the blue. This is what he wrote:

Car Crash
Flames burning the rusty old metal
Scraps of chaos flying through the air
Tiny glass shards continuously falling
Soon, metal turns into ashes
KABOOM

I encourage my children to read and write and at present, this child is always reading and creating comics. The problem is that I question the value of comics as the only source of reading, I tend to think that these books are little more than glorified picture books.

I understand that stories are stories. I know that regardless of the format in which they are delivered, they make us think and form options. But comics are easier to read than other types of books and they require less attention. And graphics replace the intricacies of plot and emotion that words alone can convey. If the pictures are telling the story for you, what work is left to the imagination?

The benefits of reading in developing imagination and creativity are well documented and every parent I know starts reading to their children as soon as they are born. But experts say that creativity has been on the decline since 1990. Although the loss in imagination has nothing to do with comic books, it makes me think that preference for comic books is a reflection of shorter attention spams of kids today.  Scientists don’t know what is the main culprit in the decline in creativity but they suspect that the number of hours kids now spend in front of the screen rather than engaging in creative activities plays a part. And we know that technology and information overload is reducing our ability to pay attention.

When I see my children restricting their reading to comics I wonder if their brains are just getting lazy. But then, they constantly surprise me with bursts of creativity. Whenever this happens I think that doesn’t matter what they read, as long as they read, the children are all right.