Happy Week to You All!

October arrived, spreading a damp chill over the grounds and into the castle. Madam Pomfrey, the nurse, was kept busy by a sudden spate of colds among the staff and students. Raindrops the size of bullets thundered on the castle windows for days on end; the lake rose, the flower beds turned into muddy streams, and Hagrid’s pumpkins swelled to the size of garden sheds.

— J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets


P.S. Who else wants to re-read the whole series after reading that quote?!? :) Photo of my drying hydrangeas. Although they're not the vibrant beauties they once were, I sort of love them even more now. 

Are You Sick of Mushrooms Yet? Because I'm Not!

It's ok. I totally get it if you are. Especially if you follow me on Instagram as well. But the season is almost over and mushroom hunting is something I've wanted to do for as long as I can remember. For the past few nights I've found myself dreaming of finding these precious babies — almost like when you play too many video or computer games. We're going to hunt a bit more next week and then call it a season. We already have 3 jars of dried porcinis (the mushroom above), which should be enough for any sane person, but I can't help myself and I want to find more! It's just so fun. Odin is loving it of course because it means lots of extra off-leash forest time, and seeing him that happy feels pretty great. 

This weekend we're off to Germany for a night to visit Damir's sister. We've got a 6 hour drive ahead of us but it's always fun to road trip through Europe. The gas stations have the best goodies! And I use it as an excuse to treat myself.

I'm making an extra effort in the coming days/weeks/months to bring out my real camera and snap pictures because truly, the quality makes a huge difference on this somewhat neglected blog (when am I going to get it together here???). But for now, here are some pictures of our most recent mushroom-venture!

That face above — can you even handle it? I can't. Side note/rant: I've been getting increasing pressure recently to start popping out kids and to stop thinking of my animals as my babies, but like, that's just never going to happen. The way I see it is my creatures are very much members of our family and deserve as much of my maternal love as I've got. Babies will come when they come and I'm sure I'll explode with love for them. But this guy and Loki are here now. You know?

*** Also I want to add something sort of important — it's really, really, really, important that you know what you're doing when you go mushroom hunting. Different areas have different varieties, some of which can easily be confused with one another. Damir has been picking chanterelles, porcinis, and the big parasol mushroom seen above for his whole life so I feel confident going with him. And when we're not 110% sure about a specific fungus, we don't pick it, or we check with local mushroom experts. It can be a risky hobby, but if you stick to what you know, you'll probably be ok. And one more thing, I think a great birthday or holiday gift would be a mushroom foraging course in whatever area you live in. It really is a lot of fun and worth learning to do it the right way. ***

Today is Tuesday

Today is Tuesday. Not that it matters. But I couldn't come up with a more interesting title for what I want to write about this evening.

For many months I've been questioning and contemplating a lot of things, specifically my faith and my consumption of meat. These two things are very related but I still have a lot of things to figure out regarding my faith and spirituality — boy am I in a weird place when it comes to that. The meat thing, I feel pretty clear about. So I'll start there for today. 

Since my days at Berkeley, when I learned about the American food system, I've been careful and thoughtful about where my meat (and food in general) comes from. And I truly felt like I was doing my part until a little over 2 years ago when I got 6 baby chicks and raised them in my living room. A few months after I raised those girls, I got the fluffiest, cutest puppy who I am certain is one of my soulmates in this world. And then I got the chance to learn about training animals, specifically dogs, and I started realizing how brilliant and good and innocent animals were. And then I moved to the Slovenian countryside next door to cows who essentially hangout in our backyard. And then we found the most wonderful kitten who fought so hard to survive all alone at just 4-weeks-old and he has just stolen my heart. Throughout all of this time, it's become increasingly harder and more unpleasant for me to eat meat.

Obviously this shift is directly related to my increasing respect, love and appreciation for God's creatures, but it's something that I've felt developing for a while. Every religious text that I've come across seems to stress a wholesome plant and grain based diet with minimal meat consumption, encouraging days without meat, or requiring a certain quality of life and death for the animals. And that makes a lot of sense to me because killing and eating animals isn't something that should be taken lightly or glossed over. It's very hard to consume meat without any kind of suffering occurring (of course eggs and other animal products can cause suffering), and that suffering is something that I don't want to contribute to. Especially on the level that it occurs with conventional factory farms and slaughterhouses.

Ethically, I am clear that I believe in vegetarianism in this day and age, possibly with the occasional holiday meat feast (assuming that the animal has lead a good life, the death is humane and that its consumed in small quantities, bla bla bla, though it still feels a bit hypocritical to me). But practically, being a full-time vegetarian is a big challenge on a number of levels. Meat is something my family has enjoyed together my whole life — steak and french fries, roast chicken and sweet potatoes, lamb couscous (ok, really, almost every Algerian meal), and the list goes on and on. Eliminating that part of my diet completely actually sort of alienates me at our beloved mealtime a lot from my family, and from my in-laws, and from pretty much anybody who serves me a meat dish and might be offended if I refuse it. And then there's fish! I'm not sure I ever want to live a life without sushi and wild salmon. I actually still don't know how I feel about eating fish in general. 

So where I am now is here: during the weekdays I don't eat meat. On the weekends, if someone serves me meat, like we're at dinner or if we go for a special meal and I just don't want to pass it up, I'll indulge. Fish is still on the menu all the time for me right now, but since there's not a lot of wild salmon and sushi here, I don't really eat much. Eggs are now a large part of my diet. And I want to be clear that I am in no way asking Damir to do this with me — he's a hardcore athlete who needs his animal protein and he can decide these things for himself. It's not the best or purest form of vegetarianism and I'm sure PETA would not approve, but it's a start. It's a real start that will significantly reduce my own consumption and participation and that works for me for now.

It's been about 2.5 weeks since I made this decision and it feels great. It doesn't hurt that our meals these days consist of a lot of produce from our garden and the most beautiful porcini mushrooms that I hunt for daily in the forest. But in general I feel really good about this choice and this beginning. My life is more in line with my beliefs and values and that is so much more fulfilling and satisfying than even the best steak.