Kitty Watch: Our First Attempt to Trap a Feral Kitten

ImageLast night we trapped our first feral kitten and felt empowered. We’ve been eyeballing a litter of kittens across our fence for months now, feeling powerless to catch them with their quick, wild ways. 3 scratches and 10 hours later, this kitten (I’ll name her Sweet Pea) scurried back to her kitten family, under the dark abandoned home across from us.

Eager to do something to stop the overpopulation of feral cats in our neighborhood, we agreed to try the whole trap and release process. We don’t like the idea of cats breeding more cats and eventually getting run over, spreading disease, or taken to overburdened animal shelters. So we consulted a few friends and found out about the Austin Humane Society (AHS) (right in our neighborhood!) Feral Cat Program where they lend you a cat trap (pictured above) to bait a cat into the cage, so that you take them back to AHS to be spayed/neutered and vaccinated for free! You don’t have to pay for the trap unless you don’t return it, in which case they’ll charge your credit card.

It was fairly easy to trap Sweet Pea. We lined the trap with cardboard, put in some stinky wet cat food and strategically placed it by where the kittens come out. About 2 hours later, we had a kitten.  This relatively easy process involves being on “kitty watch” for a few hours, and housing the cat overnight so that you can wake up early to take them to the AHS (their intake hours are from 7-8:30am every Wednesday and Thursday). It feels like an act of service where the reward is less cats.

The kittens have to weigh at least 3 pounds to be spayed/neutered. Sweet Pea didn’t weigh enough so we had to take her back home. I entertained the idea, briefly, that we could “tame” her in our garage, but Miranda was pretty firm that we could not care for another animal, especially a feral one. Before the release I thought I’d hold her for a bit. In less than a minute, she jumped out of my hand, ran out the garage into the misty yard, leaving a few scratches for me to wash and disinfect. We’ll try trapping her again when she’s older. I hope we can be of help in the near future!

Special thanks to Sandy for telling me about the Austin Humane Society feral cat program! Check out Sandy’s 2012 awesome photography piece for an inside look at cat trapping, neutering, and release!


The Road to Fitness

North Austin YMCA, 1000 W. Rundberg

North Austin YMCA, 1000 W. Rundberg

Working out doesn’t come naturally to me. When I was a kid, instead of running around playing sports, I preferred to stay in my room and draw or read. Sometimes my mom and I would walk around Town Lake or the St. Ed’s track, which I enjoyed, but exercising on a regular basis never stuck. Even in college, when I had access to two on-campus gyms, I rarely went.

I thought working out was for “athletic type” people. In my head I distanced myself from people who prioritized physical fitness. I associated it with people who had positive self-esteem, which I’ve struggled with. All those years of thinking fitness was not for me really set me back. Now I’m trying to play catch up and experience the benefits.

In short, working out is great. It’s necessary! I thank Miranda for introducing that mindset to me. The idea that we should work out regularly, and stop making excuses for not working out. The idea that it’s a way of life, just as important as every other daily activity. I’m late to this revelation, but I’m glad to start the workout habit now, so that when I’m 50, or 70, that I don’t sit back and think, why didn’t I try harder when I was younger?

Let’s face it: I don’t like being fat. My goals are weight-loss and improving my health so that I live longer. Studies show that working out reduces your risk of getting heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even cancer. And it’s an effective stress reliever. You might think, I’m not at risk for these things because I’m vegan. The truth is, just because you’re vegan doesn’t mean you’re healthy. What I consider healthy is a diet consisting of mostly veggies, fruits, whole grains, proteins like beans and greens, water, and limited salt, sugar and oil. The biggest challenge is reducing my booze intake to only a few times a week (and only a few drinks max). It’s tough. I love beer and wine and celebrating! I think every day is a celebration and nothing hits the spot like a local IPA. But not only is booze unnecessary, it’s costly and plays with your emotions. It’s bad for your liver and increases the risk for breast cancer. Realizing what things do to your body is the first step in knowing what you need and what you don’t need.

So, as often as possible, I work out for 30-45 minutes on an elliptical at the North Austin YMCA. I sweat a little. My heart rate goes way up. I take in the late afternoon sun. I stare at the cars moving by down below. I overhear some people moan while they work out and it makes me laugh inside. I watch the minutes and seconds pass by on the screen. I clear my mind of work stress and life stress and tune out to home renovations on HGTV or get tired of it and switch to CNN so I get another dose of the world’s problems. I think how 45 minutes goes by so slow compared to same amount of time at work that flies by. I think about how I’ll feel when those extra pounds drop and I can feel better about my appearance. One day. Some day. Soon, please.

Working out. I’m starting to get the hang of it. It’s taking a while to see the change (i.e. lose 3 pant sizes) but it will be worth it to gain a healthier lifestyle.

Weekend Vegan Holiday: Food is for friends!

Counter Culture soul food burrito

Counter Culture soul food burrito

We spent most of the weekend eating and showing off our city to some sweet vegan friends in town from Berkeley, who coincidently happened to be in Austin the same weekend of Texas VegFest. We kicked off our weekend eating a delicious dinner out on the patio at Counter Culture, Austin’s all-vegan comfort food restaurant, and my second home. I’ll write an entire post about how much I love Counter Culture soon.

After our scrumptious meal, we went to ATX Vegan Drinks Texas VegFest Edition at Cheer Up Charlies, where the theme of the night was vegan trivia. Trivia is not really my thing but we were intrigued by the idea of “vegan trivia” and then we were nudged by our friend Lazy Smurf, who named our team “the after smurf.” Most of the questions seemed to be about vegan celebrities, including actors and cook book writers. As a team we did okay, but I give Smurf most of the credit. She is an encyclopedia of vegan culture. We left before the final round to save up energy for the following day at Texas VegFest.

Good Karma Kitchen Spicy Asian Tacos

Good Karma Kitchen Spicy Asian Tacos

We spent most of our Saturday at Texas VegFest eating over and over and over again. The weather was perfect for spending the day outdoors, walking around vendor tents and running into friends. We normally don’t eat 5 times in a day (thankfully!) but the festival was an excuse to try out different foods and support Texas businesses that serve vegans. We had: 1) black bean tamales and chips and vegan queso from Vegeria, San Antonio’s only gluten-free and vegan restaurant; 2) sweet potato salad from Counter Culture; 3) double chocolate chip cookie from Houston’s Sinfull Bakery; 4) Spicy Asian tacos from Good Karma Kitchen in Houston; and finally, 5) a taste of vegan lasagna and canoli from Unity Vegan Kitchen. Needless to say, we were stuffed! But we were happy to try lots of things out. We also were happy to see the talented and downright sweethearts of Herbivore Clothing Company. We heard they designed the logo for the Texas VegFest t-shirts, which were rather adorable. Miranda and I purchased a few unisexual t-shirts from Herbivore. My shirt has a badass koala on the back which I plan to sport at least once a week.

Technicolor Hearts

Technicolor Hearts

We stayed at the festival till the very end, catching our friends in Technicolor Hearts perform mythical, dream-like songs that felt like popsicles floating through the pavilion, probably from too much sugar and food on my brain.

You would think we had enough food, but we took our Berkeley friends to The Vegan Nom for tasty tacos followed by Sweet Ritual for ice cream dessert later that night. It was awesome to show our out-of-town friends a delightful representation of vegan eating in Austin. We can’t wait to visit them in Berkeley!

sunday brunchWe wanted to end off our weekend with a bang, so today we invited our friend Sloan over for brunch at our home. Miranda made scrambled tofu tacos with refried beans and avocado. And mimosas. Several of them. It’s great to share food with our friends. I recently read a quote from Cesar Chavez that was posted by Food For Lovers:  “If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him… the people who give you their food give you their heart.” Food is for friends!

Countdown to Texas VegFest!

Texas VegFest 2013 flyerWe’re really excited to go to Texas VegFest this year! This vegan extravaganza takes place on Saturday, April 6 at Fiesta Gardens in east Austin. Texas VegFest Director, Adrienne Lusk, says the event will draw in around 5,000 attendees for a host of activities, vendors, speakers, cooking demos, and of course, great food and live music. What’s a vegan not to love?

One important thing to note about this event is that it’s been a grassroots, volunteer-driven effort by very dedicated activists. The Austin vegan community has helped improve and support vegan dining options around town, which has made Austin one of the top veg-friendly cities in the country. We applaud them for their many hours of hard work to organize Texas VegFest for the second year in a row!

While I expect to see lots of my vegan friends there, this welcoming event will attract veg-curious and omnivore folks as well. It’s a perfect event for anyone considering going vegan or reducing their consumption of meat and/or dairy because of the impressive list of local businesses that will be there selling their vegan fare. I know the major question people have when they go vegan is, what the heck will I eat? Texas VegFest will give you lots of yummy options and food for thought to help people think through their dietary choices. I suggest inviting a friend of yours who is not vegan to this event — it could really have an impact!

We started with party plants

As new homeowners, Miranda and I have a goal of making our yard look nice. We realize it will take years of work, money, and patience to have a luscious yard but we’re ok with taking things slow. You learn to appreciate it more when the change doesn’t happen overnight. My appreciation of plants has been influenced by a couple of important people in my life: My dad, who has an amazing yard to fulfill his love of plants. He’s known as the “green thumb” of the family. Also, my best friend since 7th grade, James (“Jim”) who’s a plant scientist and gives me a plant lesson every time we hang out. Hanging out with him is like hearing a podcast on horticulture — he’s that passionate and knowledgeable about it. Since I feel like there’s such expertise I lack — everything from shopping for plants to choosing the plants to planting the plants — it feels like a lot of work. But I’m a big fan of bright colors, especially magenta. I could never get tired of magenta. So it was easy for me to pick the plants we wanted to start with: Cordyline, aka the party plant.

Gardening wouldn’t be complete without these silly hipster gloves!
hipster gloves

Here’s how the cactus bed looked before we started:

before garden pic

And here’s what it looked like after planting the Cordylines!

after garden pic

That awkward first post

Annie Clark...better known as St. Vincent

Annie Clark…better known as St. Vincent

It’s a little awkward to begin a blog. I’ve been in this situation before, when I had the blog Cats and Cows several years ago. It’s intimidating to embark on something where the expectation is that you’ll keep up the blogging and have something important to say. The truth is, a lot of things seem commonplace to me but I still find them interesting. Something as simple as hearing an amazing song, or seeing a plant grow can make your whole day better. I often find myself reading a page in a book or magazine and feel so pumped up by it that I want to text my girlfriend about it, post on Facebook, or tweet about it. That instant feeling of gratification that you shared some knowledge that may make someone think differently about something. Clearly, a lot of people feel this way. Many of us are obsessive compulsive users of social media. We want to know what our friends are doing and we want to share our experiences with them. The blog is a way for me to get away from some of that online traffic and focus on putting some thoughts together without seeing countless streams of social feed. We’ll see how it works out!

My former blog no longer exists because the pressure I put on myself to research and fact-check stressed me out and made me feel like I had 2 jobs. My new type of blogging will be more about sitting on the couch and having a coffee, beer, or more importantly, WATER! Water is what keeps us healthy. I want you to be healthy. Both mentally and physically. Writing shouldn’t feel like a drag. If it does, I’ll spare you the boredom of reading it and not blog that day. It’s important for bloggers to go out and do stuff so that we can bring back some good stories.

So now that that awkward introduction is out of the way, hello! Thanks for coming to North Austin Vegans. You can read more about me and Miranda on the About page. And if you don’t know who St. Vincent is, Google her!