Archive for the ‘Alternative Lifestyle’ Category

The holidays are upon us, which means family, friends, and dishes that we look forward to all year long. However, with some delicacies, there are reasons why they are only revealed and recreated for special occasions.  Some take massive amounts of effort, others are definitely acquired tastes, and some are only available at specific times of the season. Here are a couple of creations that are gracing the tables of celebrations across the world!

Panettone Bread- Tired of the traditional fruitcake?  Want to avoid the awkward smile and forced “thank you” when you unwrap the sugary brick from its paper at a family gathering? Then panettone might be for you! This Italian Christmas bread originates from Milan and is enjoyed primarily in Europe and areas of South America. Each large, circular loaf stands about 12 to 15 inches high, and can weigh up to 1kg. The dough is made through a process similar to sourdough where it is cured for a long period of time before baking. Proofing can take several days, making the texture light and fluffy instead of the dense doorstops we are used to in the United States. Commonly found folded into the body are fruits such as raisins, citron, candied orange, and lemon zest, but you can find variations that are plain or paired with chocolate. Eaten in slices with sweet hot beverages or wine, many choose to eat panettone with marscapone cream.

Lutefisk- Norwegians are not known for their sense of humor, and lutefisk may be the reason why. Made from white fish or cod, the perfectly good animal is dried and prepared in a series of lye treatments, turning the flesh into an extremely pungent jelly. When cured, lutefish has a pH of 11-12, meaning that it is caustic and has to be soaked in water for several days in order to be edible. Afterwards, the delicacy is ready to be carefully cooked, so not as to fall apart. There are several ways to cook lutefisk, none of them particularly appetizing. It can be steamed, baked, parboiled, and even microwaved.  Once consumed, it is very important to wash the residue from dishware and surfaces immediately as it can become impossible to remove and permanently destroy silver.

To quote Garrison Keillor: “Lutefisk is cod that has been dried in a lye solution. It looks like the desiccated cadavers of squirrels run over by trucks, but after it is soaked and reconstituted and the lye is washed out and it’s cooked, it looks more fish-related, though with lutefisk, the window of success is small. It can be tasty, but the statistics aren’t on your side. It is the hereditary delicacy of Swedes and Norwegians who serve it around the holidays, in memory of their ancestors, who ate it because they were poor. Most lutefisk is not edible by normal people. It is reminiscent of the afterbirth of a dog or the world’s largest chunk of phlegm.”

Veggiedukken- Not enough of a carnivore/glutton for the Turdukken? Good, you may have saved yourself a fortune on medical bills.  As a more healthy alternative, set your forks to stun and take a bite of Dan Pashman’s the Veggiedukken.  Instead of animals forced inside each other like some sort of culinary Spanish Inquisition, the Veggiedukken features yams inside leeks inside a banana squash. Each layer is separated by vegetarian stuffing, making a filling and surprisingly easy-to-prepare centerpiece that looks and tastes impressive.

Cherpumple- Another a variation on the Turducken, the Cherpumple is a diabetic coma-inducing delicacy that consists of a triple layered pie embedded in a cake. The original version of this decadent dessert was made from a cherry, pumpkin, and apple pie wrapped in a layer of cake. If you decide to create and ingest one of these-I guess the proper term is “monstrosity”- then make sure you have a healthy helping of vegetables beforehand.  May I suggest a Veggiedukken?

Living here in the first world, if often feels as though we are so far removed from the problems of developing nations. How can we help communities in need when they are thousands of miles away? How can we make sure that the money we donate goes directly to the people who can use the funds? Kiva is an organization that connects donors to borrowers across the globe to help alleviate poverty through microfinance loans. Each loan starts at $25, and each borrower or project is chosen directly by the lender. After contributing the capital, the patron can follow the progress of the plan online and receive updates. All of the repayments are the lender’s to keep, but Kiva hopes that the fulfillment that comes from making a positive difference for those in need will encourage people to donate again.

Founded in 2005 and based in San Francisco, Kiva works with over 168 “Field Partners” or projects in need of finance. With the help of 450 volunteers across 66 different countries, the non-profit has raised $369,959,950 to date. With repayment rate of 99%, Kiva is a safe and powerful way to assist entrepreneurs.  Interest gathered through the loans cover the non-profits operating costs along with personal and corporate donations. The group has been particularly effective in helping women enter the workforce, with 82% of their borrowers being female. This holiday season, consider helping those help themselves by financing a business, school, or non-profit through

Join the Central Coast Bioneers for their annual conference this October 19-21 at their headquarters at the Monday Club in downtown SLO (1815 Monterey St).  Speakers will deliver lectures that focus on real-world, practical solutions to the political, economic, and environmental challenges facing our society.  Hoping to leave a rich ecological and cultural legacy to future generations, the Bioneers seek to showcase the innovations and progressive ideas of thinkers from across the globe that honor the web of life on which all humans depend.  The conference will feature a number of talks and activities throughout the weekend including workshops, field trips to local libraries, organic farms, and nature preserves, and a keynote address by Dr. Richard Joseph Jackson.  Food, music, movies, art and yoga fill the schedule with enlightened fun.

Pre-Conference Field Trip – Thursday, October 18 – 7:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (approx.) To Wind Wolves Preserve near Maricopa.

Live Satellite Feed from the Main Bioneers Stage in San Rafael – Friday, Saturday, Sunday, October 19-21, 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Hear from the great thinkers of our age, including Bill McKibben, Paul Hawken, Marina Silva, Mike Brune and Sandra Steingraber.

Six Major Topic Areas of Interest to our Central Coast Communities – Friday, October 19, 2:00 to 8:30 p.m., Saturday, October 20, 2:00 to 10:00 p.m., Sunday, October 21, 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Renewable Energy Track: Community Choice Aggregation, Solar Roadways, Changing the Story-Building a School’s Renewable Energy Infrastructure. Ecopreneurship/Locanomics Track: Corporations with a Conscience, Slow Money Alliance-Catalyzing Investment in Local Food Systems, Earth-Our Local Conversation: Tapping the Collective Genius of Our Community including introduction to the Central Coast Hour Exchange. Food and Farming Celebration/Track: Screenings of “Truck Farm” and “Nothing Like Chocolate,” Green Chef Cook-off dinner and dance, and Organic Farm Tour. Health/Nature/Spirit Track: The Work that Reconnects, The Importance of Rights of Passage for Men and Boys, Empowering Ourselves Through Ceremony. Activism/Social Justice: Unacceptable-Living in a Nuclear Evacuation Zone, Youth Activism Panel, Standing on their Shoulders-Field Trip to Environmental Archives of Cal Poly’s Kennedy Library. Green Design: Keynote Lecture by Dr. Richard Jackson on designing healthy communities, Green Home Tour and Green Schools.

Dreaming the Salinas Update: Two workshops on efforts to restore the Salinas River, including the Hind River Ranch project.

For a more detailed schedule, speaker biographies, or to register for tickets, visit the Central Coast Bioneers website!



Kale for Marriage Equality

What do leafy green vegetables have to do with gay marriage? That’s what people are asking when they hear that Bambu Batu is sending $5 to a pro-marriage-equality organization every time they sell a bamboo t-shirt emblazoned with the parody slogan “KALE: It’s what’s for dinner.”

The connection can be traced back to the Baptist-owned fast-food chain Chick-fil-A, based in Atlanta, Georgia. Last fall, Chick-fil-A went after independent shirt maker Bo Muller-Moore and charged him with copyright infringement for selling hand-printed t-shirts that say “Eat More Kale.” The junk food juggernaut claims that this slogan is a direct violation of its own motto, “Eat mor chikin” (scrawled by cows). Muller-Moore refused to comply with their order to cease and desist, and a legal drama has ensued.

As an avid kale enthusiast himself, Bambu Batu owner Fred Hornaday was disappointed to learn of Muller-Moore’s harassment by corporate bullies. But when it recently came to light that Chick-fil-A had also been donating millions of dollars to organizations fighting same-sex marriage, Hornaday, a self-described human rights enthusiast, had no choice but to cry “fowl!”

Bambu Batu, an all-bamboo store based in San Luis Obispo, CA, specializes in ethically produced goods and natural fiber clothing and holds social responsibility as a top priority in its business model. The family-owned eco-boutique already has a series of original shirt designs addressing issues from clean energy to spiritual awakening, and this month Bambu Batu is releasing its own pro-kale message, hand-printed locally on 70% bamboo and 30% organic cotton.

Moved by Chick-fil-A’s saga of unapologetic tastelessness, Hornaday has decided that with this product it’s not enough to simply send a mindful message on a natural fiber t-shirt. So with every shirt sold, Bambu Batu is sending five dollars to the pro-marriage equality organization of the customer’s choice, or to MEUSA if no preference is expressed.

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.  So it goes for antiques, and now so too for human waste.  Why let a good source of energy go literally down the toilet?  Aside from recycling possible sources of electricity, new  technology saves sewage from contaminating waterways and breeding illness and helps conserve water. With 860 billion gallons of of sewage and contaminated rainwater making its way into our waterways every year, the innovations from these forward-thinking engineers, green-builders, and scientists, are becoming more and more valuable contributions to issues of global health and infrastructure.

Poop and Paddle-  Adam Katzman, a former New Jersey suburban dweller, now calls a houseboat home.  The off-the-grid floating residence sails down the Gowanus Canal in New York.  Located in Brooklyn, the canal is known one of the most polluted waterways in the United States.  Thankfully, Katzman can sail true knowing that his waste processing system makes sure that he is not sullying his watery neighborhood.  By creating a “constructed wetlands” aboard a separate structure, his floating toilet uses bioremediation to clean the water that runs through the contraption.  It uses rainwater catchments to flush,a holding tank that utilizes anaerobic digestion , wetland plants and gravel to filter urine and fecal matter.  Water eventually irrigates a group of planter boxes and is evaporated back into the clouds as clean H20, ready to fall again onto the roof of the “Poo and Paddle” as precipitation.  Each flush makes its way through the whole setup every 30 days.

Reinvent the Toilet- The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has long been interested in making a positive difference in the developing world.  Among major concern is the lack of access for adequate sanitation that nearly 2.6 billion of the world’s population cannot afford to install.  In an effort to encourage collaboration, the Foundation awarded eight universities with grants to design toilets that use minimal amounts of water, use waste as a form of potential energy, and could be distributed within the next 2-4 years.  The top prize of $100,000 was awarded to a team from Caltech for their solar-powered apparatus.  Electrical power is produced from solar cells atop an outdoor stall and from the hydrogen gas produced by decomposing waste collected in an electrochemical reactor.  Hydrogen can be stored in fuel cells and saved for low light conditions.  Recovered water is treated through the operation of the toilet, and is used to flush.

Do you own a composting toilet?  How do you let your poo work for you?


For students and starving artists, it is difficult to find quality materials without breaking the bank.  Not only can hunting for the perfect component for a project be an exercise in frustration, purchasing new items can also put a strain on both the planet and the wallet.

Established in 1976 to provide materials for art teachers in the San Francisco Public School system, SCRAP (Scrounger’s Center for Reusable Art Parts) is the Bay Area’s oldest creative reuse center.  For over 30 years, the non-profit has supplied artists, educators, and scroungers with items rescued from their fate as landfill clutter.  Currently residing in a warehouse provided by the SFUSD, SCRAP houses over 5,000 square feet of wood, metal, glass, fabric, images, plastic, beads, buttons, toys, and nearly anything you could possibly need to complete a masterpiece.  In exchange for a place to store their “art parts” and hold workshops, the program donates its services to the community organizations, teachers, and parents working within the school district.  Sustained by the money raised from selling materials, SCRAP is able to offer free item pickup, low-cost classes, and school field trips.

Aside from their work promoting arts and culture, SCRAP has also had a positive impact on the environment.  By turning trash into treasure, the organization diverts over 200 tons of waste from the dump each year.  Through “creative reuse”, artists transform the worthless into the wonderful, adding value and meaning to what was formerly seen as junk.

Start a SCRAP where you live, and take back your trash!

As the Republicans and Democrats fight it out during the Presidential race, you may not be aware that amongst all the blustering, canvassing, and fundraising, there is a third party contending for the highest office in the land.  This election cycle, the Green Party ticket is being represented by Presidential nominee Jill Stein and Vice Presidential candidate Cheri Honkala.

So, what does the Green Party stand for? 

GP legislation and principles have their roots in the commitment to social justice, non-violence, environmentalism, and grassroots organization.  Formed in 2001 from the Association of State Green Parties, members hope to renew the idea of democracy without the contributions of corporate donors.  Their primary goal is to assist state Green Parties in growth and policy debate.  They emphasize transparency and the democratic process and in building consensus.

The core of their political activity can be summarized through 10 Key Values: Grassroots Democracy, Social Justice and Equal Opportunity, Ecological Wisdom, Non-Violence, Decentralization, Community Based Economics, Feminism and Gender Equality, Respect for Diversity, Personal and Global Responsibility, and Future Focus and Sustainability.

Who is running?

Dr. Jill Stein: A Harvard-educated doctor, author, and environmental advocate, Dr. Jill Stein has been nominated as the GP presidential candidate for 2012. She has co-authored widely-used reports on environmental health, including In Harm’s Way: Toxic Threats to Child Development and Environmental Threats to Aging.  Her “Healthy People, Healthy Planet” teaching program draws connections between human well-being, climate security, and economic stimulation.  She began her work as an environmental advocate in 1998, and has since used her expertise to testify before legislative panels, appear on nationally televised news programs, and sit on the board of such organizations as the Massachusetts Physicians for Social Responsibility.  Stein’s activism has earned her many awards including the Clean Water Action’s “Not in Anyone’s Backyard” Award and the Toxic Action Center’s Citizen Award.

Stein was approached in 2002 by the Massachusetts Green-Rainbow Party to run for governor of the state, and her acceptance marked her entry into the political sphere.  She has represented the party in two additional races, totaling some of the largest numbers of votes ever for a GP candidate. In 2003, she co-founded the Massachusetts Coalition for Healthy Communities, and in 2008 helped create the “Secure Green Ballot” initiative that asked lawmakers to make the establishment of a green economy a top priority.  Her “Green New Deal for America”, an idea rooted in Depression Era politics, is a four-part strategy designed to guide the economy out of crisis and establish a sustainable financial sector.

Cheri Honkala: Standing as one of the foremost leading advocates for the poor, Cheri Honkala is currently the National Coordinator for the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign.  Influenced by her personal experience as a homeless, single mother, she has dedicated nearly thirty years to build a movement to end poverty.  In 2011, she became the first woman to run for sheriff in Philadelphia and the only candidate to run on a “no evictions” platform. Honkala has received a number of awards for her social activism, and endorsed by Green Party and National Organization for Women.

To proponents of permaculture, farming is not just about the production of food, but a means through which humans care for their communities, restore the land, and display the most enlightened of agricultural techniques.  Modeled after natural systems, permaculture aims to work in harmony with the earth, provide nourishment for people, and place limits on growth and consumption.  The discipline draws upon elements of organic farming, population dynamics, bioethics, and ecology.  Through these practices, permaculture allows for more self-reliance and maximum  efficiency.  Crucial to the understanding of permaculture systems is the comprehension of the relationships between each design element, from landscape topography to species interaction.  Practitioners become adept in the 12 principles that guide each new undertaking and at utilizing the guidelines to create dynamic farms.

Where better to get back in touch with your literal and metaphorical roots than on the Central Coast’s very own Four Elements Organics Farm? Join the teaching team led by Larry Santoyo this September 2nd-15th for the Earthflow Permaculture Design Certificate Course.  Tuition covers in-depth talks and hands-on training in the patterns and principles of EcoVillage Design and Economic Development.  The program is located at the beautiful Four Elements Organics Farm, nestled in the coastal mountain range of San Luis Obispo.  Four Elements showcases examples of permaculture and biodynamics, including such features as cob ovens, composting toilets, biodiesel production station, straw-bale greenhouse, rare herb garden, and orchards.

For more information or to reserve your place, contact farm manager Matt Finkelstein at!

SLO Cash Mob

As a relatively small, anxious human, I am normally very uncomfortable with the word “mob”.  I immediately picture villagers with pitchforks, trashcans on fire, and bloated, greasy-haired wiseguys in pinstripe suits.  But what if there was something that could transform the negative connotation of “mob” into something far more optimistic, and perhaps even beneficial?

Help save your cherished local businesses by creating a “cash mob“!  These happenings are commerce-oriented versions of flash mobs, where participants use social media to arrive at an agreed upon small businesses at a specific time and make a minimum $10 purchase.  By spending money at a local establishment, cash mobs hope to provide a little economic stimulus and generate some publicity around the kind of independently owned shops that make our downtown so unique.

San Luis Obispo’s resident cash mob committee has chosen Phoenix Bookstore (990, Monterey St.) as the site for their next event.  On Monday, May 7, at 6pm, come browse the shelves for a favorite gently-used read and show your love for a town institution.

Any ideas for the next cash mob?  Who would you like to see pleasantly surprised?

(Photo Source: Joe Johnston, The Tribune, Tuesday, May 8, 2012 )


Across the nation, as male farmers age and “buy the farm” as it were, their female counterparts are inheriting acres of valuable cropland.  Many ladies are returning from careers away from the vegetable patch, adjusting their livelihoods to keep property in the family.

Growing food is a tricky business, and managing a large plot of soil can be a challenging endeavor.  Traditionally, farm bureaus and other resources where women could go for information and advice have been male-dominated.  Being a novice at anything can be intimidating, and asking questions in a room where you are an outsider both in experience and gender can make for  awkward interactions.  Understanding these situations, many female biologists, ecologists, and veteran farmers have initiated all-women collectives and groups for their fellow sisters to come and glean information.  As of 2007, a full 14 per cent of the country’s farms were owned by women, and the numbers are growing.

Here in San Luis Obispo county, there are a number of resources for women in agriculture.

San Luis Obispo Farm County Bureau Women: Officially founded in 1923, the San Luis Obispo Farm County Bureau Women organization is open to female members of the Farm Bureau, friends, and invited members.  Scholarships are available for landholders and their dependents are available and awarded based on academic achievement, educational goals, and financial necessity.

California Women for Agriculture: Located in Templeton, the San Luis Obispo chapter of California Women for Agriculture promotes the education and economic success of female farmers in the county through sales and agricultural tourism.  They support outreach community programs that enhance consumer understanding of food production, speak on behalf of legislative initiatives, and provide information on food safety, trade,  climate change, endangered species, labor policies, and biotechnology, and environmental health.

The San Luis Obispo County Cattle Women: With over 200 members, the San Luis Obispo County CattleWomen chapter is the largest in the United States.  A small yearly membership fee keeps these representatives of the beef industry up to date on legislation as well as funding field trips for children, rodeos, and awards.  Many open their property to schools and trail riders looking to learn about and enjoy the agricultural spaces along the Central Coast.

Women of the Vine: Founded by a computer tech and marketing entrepreneur with a passion for food and drink, Women of the Vine seeks to connect and assist women across the wine producing areas across California.