Grazing

You are what you eat and then some.

Live Life One Bite at a Time

One bowl at a time

15 July 2014

Pain but no gain. I look in the mirror, sideways of course, to reveal stomach protrusion, and despite hard physical labor, there is more than an inch to pinch. The past three weeks I have harvested in the fields, swam in a lake, played softball, stand up paddleboard-ed, dug a fish pond, moved tons of rock, walked miles, treaded water in the spa daily, and danced every weekend. I should look great. In other words, I should be sleek and streamlined as a greyhound, not ponderous in any place like a bulldog. The mirror tells me the hips need replacement, not because they don’t work, but because they are a fat depository. I am worn out and stiff from the exertion, but not skinnier. Dang it!

This means I am eating too much. At the dance break last night I declare my resolve to stop eating so much. Michael says, “That means I can eat this chocolate macaroon, then.” Heck, no. That’s mine.

But this morning, I wake with the certainty that this is the time to truly eat the way I know I need to eat, by grazing.

The grazing way of life I learned from my turtle. Kobe is an African spurred tortoise. He is the descendant of the great tortoises of the African savannah, those vast grasslands full of wildebeest, zebras, antelopes, cheetahs and lions. If you look at the savannah from its inhabitant’s viewpoint, they are living on a huge tabletop full of food.

If you set Kobe down in the great outdoors, he starts walking. When he comes across an item of interest, he examines it. He might keep moving, or if he thinks it might be tasty, he takes a bite out of it. One bite. Then he moves on. If he is in an enclosed space, he will ramble by the food, sometimes taking a bite, sometimes moving on. He will always do this when encountering new food or when he is in unfamiliar surroundings. Only when he is in a known place with a known favorite food will he chomp down and consume many mouthfuls. He can eat an entire dandelion in one sitting in his outdoor enclosure, but he will eat new foods there one bite at a time over the course of the day.

Why is this fussy eating style built in to his turtle brain? My conjecture is that if your home is edible, eating a hole in it is not structurally sound. Sulcana tortoises live in the grasslands and their primary food is grass. So one bite at a time works for them. Take a bite, move on. Oh, look! More grass! It’s everywhere. Keep traveling on. You won’t starve. The lions have a harder time finding you if you keep moving. Don’t know what this bush is, but it looks like it might be good to eat? Just take a little bite. Keep going. If you don’t keel over with cardiac arrest or you don’t get sick, you know you can take another bite of the stuff if you find it again.

African spurred tortoises grow to be 100 pounds or more, and can live to 100 years. Is grazing healthy? Ya!

No way I’m going to take one bite of food with long intervals in between. But I can go One Bowl. I have tried to do this before, and then forgot to keep doing it, but it was a great way to eat and I’m going to stick to it this time.  I have small bowls to choose from. The bowl should be small enough to hold in the palm of your hand, feel good when you hold it, look good, give off you are a worthy person vibes. You fill your bowl, eat what’s in it. If you are still hungry, fill it again.

I have just done this with baby bok choy, sliced carrots, green onions and ginger and homemade egg noodles in broth. Normally I would fill a big bowl and eat everything and maybe have seconds. With a small bowl that fits in my hand I ate two bowls and stopped. Not hungry anymore.

Moderation and being selective are the keys to grazing. Living my life one bite at a time.

A Red-headed Headache

14 July 2014

I hear the pitter pat of bird feet across the kitchen floor, then silence.  Dang! The parrot is out on the deck. She has climbed off her perch, bored at watching me at the computer, and taken a little foraging journey.

The budgies used to hang out on the back porch and I would spill their uneaten seed on the railing for wild birds. The birds wouldn’t eat any leftover seed, until Michael realized his hand painted black duck decoy on the railing was scaring them off. Remove scary duck decoy, birds come and eat.

The flax seeds in the budgie mix stick to the wood. Evidently when they get wet they self-adhere to surfaces. I wonder if they make some kind of glue inside the digestive tract. At any rate, there are hundreds of little flax seeds glued onto the back porch, and that is where the parrot has gone for a snack.

Who knows what kind of fungus or bacteria is proliferating in those seeds? But Leili won’t be deterred from munching on them. She even tries to bite Michael when he offers her Cheerios to step up on his finger. The need for seed is mighty if you have eaten this from infancy, and she has only been on her new anti-aggression diet for 3 days. To reduce her ninja attacks she has been given just fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains, and a little fresh egg noodle. The diet has helped, because she didn’t lunge at me when I tried to pick her up, she just opened her razor sharp beak in warning. She didn’t actually bite Michael, but she touched his hand with her open beak. Michael understands what she’s saying quite clearly and backs off.

Ok, I sympathize with her completely. Can I stop eating dairy? Do I eat only whole grains? Are fresh vegetables and fruits the mainstay of my diet? There’s no way I can live like that.  I fill her food cup with fresh roasted flax seeds and she steps up happily so we can close the door on this outdoor adventure and put her safely on a perch. She’s craving seeds, the foods that are bad for her. I make a cup of French press coffee and commiserate with her.

“Ok,” I say to her. “I know how tough it is, but the vet says you are too chunky, and that is from eating seeds.” This she will understand. Any bird that thinks she is the most gorgeous creature on the planet would want a slim figure. She nibbles on her cluster of grapes and considers how much more glorious the world would be if she was trim and slim.

Her reward treat has always been sunflower seeds. I had no idea this is what was turning her into a screaming banshee warrior woman. A lot of fat and the hormones turn on. Wild eclectus parrots do not eat seeds in their island jungles. They eat leaves, flowers, fruit and vegetation. They do not carry the proper digestive tract for seed ingestion. It blows out their liver. It makes the people who feed them seeds fearful of attack parrots with open jaws. I told you, it’s Jurassic Park.

So we all like the non-seed, low fat diet, except for Leili.  She searches for forbidden foods that have fallen on the floor and haven’t been swept up, the tiny parakeet seeds that the vacuum didn’t get. She still tries to crawl into a cubby hole space to claim it for a nest. She will still scream if she thinks Michael or I are leaving. But on the whole, she is much quieter, more fun, and doesn’t come speeding across the room to sink her beak into your foot. Eating the right foods helps.

I should learn from this and eat the way I know I should eat. Why do I persist in eating badly?

**************

This afternoon, Leili climbed into a shelf and found the big jar with parrot treats, full of sunflower seeds, peanuts, seeds, and dried fruits, all the foods she should avoid. She opened the lid and plunged in.

I’m not quite that bad about going off my healthy diet.  Although a mound of whipped cream on my berry pie last night could be construed as plunging headfirst into forbidden foods. Is this why I have a raging headache today?

Fresh Noodles

13 July 2013

Michael thinks I’m down at the panaderia looking at the cream puffs shaped like swans, but I am actually with my nose pressed to the window of the thrift store, looking at the noodle machine for $10. Michael thinks that’s a good deal, better than paying $2.50 for a cream puff swan, so he buys it for me.

It is in the original ancient box, not wrapped in plastic any longer, but with all the parts. You can tell it has never been used. One big clue is the wedding card still tucked inside the box, in the original envelope addressed to the newlyweds. Another wedding gift that wound up in the thrift store. Michael secures the machine to the countertop with the clamp that is in the box, thinking that all pieces included are necessary. Ai yuh! What guy thinking. Noodle making is an art form, and a clamped down machine doesn’t work for me. I like moving the machine around as the noodles form. As Michael stands over my shoulder watching me prepare the dough and run it through the machine the first time, he comments, “Now I get why they never used it.”

But the work involved is so worth it. Fresh noodles! This is one of the divine foods, unsurpassed in food satisfaction. As we dine on freshly made egg noodles with homemade spinach basil pesto, I thank Michael for buying me the noodle machine. “Well,” he says, “it looks like I gave myself a present.”

Egg Noodles

1.5 to 2 cups white flour

extra virgin olive oil

2 eggs

My measuring cup is a coffee mug that I fill to the brim with flour. It is somewhere around 1 cup, more or less. So to begin, fill the coffee mug with flour and dump it onto a large cutting board or other durable flat surface.

Make the mound of flour into a volcano with a large crater in the center. Crack one egg into the crater, save the shell for your tortoise, mix the egg and flour together with one hand.

Mound the mixture into another volcano and make another crater in the center. Pour extra virgin olive oil into half of this crater, crack the other egg on top of the olive oil. Mix everything together, one handed if you can, although both hands are often needed to keep everything together.

Knead the dough, sprinkling with flour to keep it from sticking. It should be firmer than kneaded bread dough in order to go through the machine.

Set the noodle machine to number 1 and run the dough through the slot. Dust the sheet with flour as it comes out so it won’t stick together. If the dough is bumpy it needs more flour. Knead some in and run it through the machine on 1 until the sheet is as smooth as a flour tortilla. On my first try it took 5 times on setting 1 before I could go on to setting 2. Don’t despair. Consider this a time for you and your noodle machine to bond. You are getting to know each other, and soon everything will flow.

Run the dough through settings 2, 3, 4 and 5. Keep the sheets well floured so they don’t stick together. Unless you want noodles that are several meters long, cut the dough sheets as they get longer. If you want thinner noodles, go through 6, and for paper thin noodles run it through 7.

Run the sheets through the other slots in the noodle machine to make long noodles. These are the parts that look like the feed in a paper shredder. The wide cutter is for fat noodles and the small cutter for skinny noodles.  Or cut your own noodles with a knife or scissors. Triangles are the quick and simple way to make soup noodles. Small cookie cutters make interesting non-traditional noodles.

Fresh noodles cook up almost instantly in boiling water or soup. Salt the water to flavor the noodles, then rinse and drain. Egg noodles are terrific with any kind of sauce, or stir fried or oven fried, and they are especially good in broth. Aaah! A little green onion and grated ginger on top. Good anytime of day or night.

Way Too Much Pie

13 July 2014

Our refrigerator is full of pie. It starts like this: Wah! What a bargain! Ripe peaches, for $1.99 for a huge bag. The produce store often has these great deals, bagging battered produce and selling it cheap. These are all peaches that are bruised or overripe. They must be used now. Solution? Get flour, Crisco, and butter to make pie crust.

We have not bought Crisco in a very long time, as in, this is the stuff our mothers used to cook with. Then it came in big tin cans that were useful for collecting bacon grease in the good old days when bacon used to be a normal way of life. I can’t even find Crisco in the store until I realize that itty-bitty plastic thing on the bottom shelf, almost hiding as if the store were ashamed to sell it, is the new revised Crisco. It comes in foiled paper wrappers like a large cube of butter in its own plastic box, as if it is so toxic it needs to be triple wrapped for your protection. Michael discovers there is a warning label on it. He has never before picked up a food that has a warning. He imagines it says something like; do not ingest, immediate danger of coronary arrest. But it is actually a fire hazard warning. Lighting one of those cubes of Crisco is probably like igniting a torch. It would keep the eternal flame going, for sure.

Crisco and butter, unbleached white flour, and a little salt and cream of tartar, make the best pie crust. I don’t measure. So of course I have enough pie crust for four or five pies. That would be peach, apple, veggie pot pie, chicken pot pie for Michael, and berry tart. We love pie, but with two in the freezer and three half eaten ones in the fridge, that’s way too much pie.

Way Too Much Pie Crust

A 5 lb sack of unbleached white flour, you won’t use it all, but it’s nice to have on hand in case something goes wrong

2 cubes of butter

A stick of Crisco

A little sea salt

A little cream of tartar

Cold water

 

I don’t measure. This recipe is how I got 5 pies out of the above ingredients. I suppose if you don’t want enough pie crust for 5 pies, you can cut the recipe in half. You could even use a quarter of the ingredients I did, but one homemade pie is a tease, making you long for more. It’s up to you.

Put the butter in a huge mixing bowl. Use table knives to cut the cubes into small chunks. Pour enough flour in to cover the butter chunks. Keep cutting the butter into the flour so that butter and flour come together, conjoined in buttery bliss.

Dump in the Crisco. Make sure not to light it on fire, as per the warning label. Do not lose your home or life to pie crust. That would be tragic. Cut the Crisco into the flour and butter with the table knives, then add enough flour to cut the Crisco into, so that you get a granulated-like mixture. How much is enough? If you squeeze a handful of the mixture and it clumps yet falls apart easily, that’s enough. If you squeeze and it stays in a clump when you prod it, that’s not enough flour. If you squeeze but it doesn’t stay together, that’s too much flour. Don’t start over. Add more butter, and if it gets out of hand, get another mixing bowl for the overflow.

During the incorporating flour process, toss in some sea salt and cream of tartar, about a teaspoon each, so that these filter into the dough along with the flour in seemingly osmatic diffusion.

Get ready to roll out the crust. Liberally flour the rolling pin and the rolling out surface. Dig a small crater in the flour mixture and pour cold water into it. Mix the water with enough flour mixture to form a ball. When it is the size you need to roll out a pie crust for the pan you are going to put it in, start rolling.

The keys to rolling out dough. Start with more or less the shape you need it to be to fit into the pan. Roll in a radial pattern for round pies, in a rectangular fashion for square and rectangular pans. What I mean by this is, for a radial pattern, imagine a sand dollar and how the star goes out from the center in all directions. Roll across the dough in the same direction as the sand dollar pattern so you are rolling an even circle all around the circumference. For rectangular pans roll width and length with smooth even pressure all across the dough. Dust the underside of the dough and the topside with flour so there is always that separating layer of fine flour to keep the dough from sticking. If you like flipping the dough to make sure it is even and uniform, like me, or if you just like flipping the dough, like me, fold it loosely in half when it gets large so it won’t tear.

Folding it over loosely is also how you get the crust into the pan. Fold it like a taco and lift it into the pan, using the fold as your center guide. Lay the crust out gently and fit it to the pan.  Poke the crust with a fork to make steam escape holes so your crust does not puff out in unexpected places. Bake the bottom part of the pie crust for 10 minutes in a hot oven, about 400 degrees.

When you are ready to put the pie filling in, you have all manner of creative ways to put on a top. I love pie crust, so I usually just make a pie crust lid with slits to let steam escape while baking. The more pie crust the better. Make decorations cut from pie crust to place on top, glue down with water.

Crimping the edge seals the top and bottom crusts, but as I generally bake the bottom before I put on the top, I just kind of tuck the two crusts together. There are more attractive ways to crimp using fingertips and thumbs or utensils, everyone has a favorite way of doing it, but I find if I just let the overlap hang, there’s more crust to eat later, and the pie has a ripped look like tattered t-shirts, very punk.

That’s the One!

12 July 2014

I love dogs so why wouldn’t a parrot love a dog, too? I’m looking at dog photos online from the local shelters and rescue groups. There are some wonderful dogs out there. Hey, they would get along fine with a parrot.  Such sweet dogs would not put her on the dinner menu. “Sure they won’t,” says Michael. Michael likes dogs, as long as they are somebody else’s dogs.

I’m on craigslist looking at dogs, so I take a peek at birds, too. Having a bird myself, I can read between the lines. “Must find home for yellow-headed amazon. I’m at work all day and wife does not like to clean up.” This means the bird has been trying to get their attention by being loud, annoying, and destructive, besides the usual pooping, food scattering, and turning the furniture into mulch, putting a severe strain on their marriage and household harmony. This is what happens when a parrot is not getting needed attention. It will give cause for giving it attention, creating chaos if need be. A parrot is not a decoration that can be ignored once it is dusted. A parrot is not a cat that can be relied on not to make a mess wherever it goes. A parrot is not a dog that can be told to stop that bad behavior and comply obediently. So many times, a parrot is often just temporary in a home, the conversation piece that goes, “We used to have a parrot…”

People willing to bring the social network of the jungle treetops into their house are well-suited for being with a parrot. It is not about control or dominion. Parrot people make the bird comfortable, safe, and satisfied. The other way around is usually the “we used to have a parrot” sad story. Living with a parrot is a collaborative relationship. A lot of compromise, a lot of cooperation, and a whole lot of communication between you and the one wearing the feathers.  Coexistence with a parrot requires give and take.

When a parrot problem, or problems is more like it, comes up, many people do the bandaid approach. One little quick fix, and if that doesn’t solve the problem, toss it out. Parrot problems are not resolved with bandaids. Parrots are excellent pets for problem solvers and critical thinkers. Parrots keep you on your toes and on traveling the path of persistence. The parrot problem persists until you get to the root of the cause. If you find the cause, you find the solution. If you give up, you eventually lose the bird.

I’m on craigslist looking at birds, and pretty soon I’m on other sites looking at birds for adoption. Every bird I read about has a problem that the owner couldn’t solve. Many more are not being revealed in the ad. My parrot has two major problems. One is age related, raging bird hormones and therefore aggressive behavior. This will pass with time. In the meantime, I’m going to try changing her diet to cut out seeds and human foods. She loves multigrain chips and peach pie, but if it causes her to charge out with her beak ready to attack, fresh veggies and fruit it will be from now on. The other is a problem picked up from a previous owner and is a misery, screaming as only parrots can scream. Leili only had one owner before me. A parrot with many owners will have compounded problems, all of them requiring attention and copious effort to deal with. A previously owned parrot in our household, with perhaps a multitude of problems to fix? I do not have the time or ability to handle that.

So I end up looking at eclectus breeders. Other parrots have traits I don’t like, such as screeching, making senseless cacophony all day, and biting off fingers. I like eclectus parrots. Like myself, eclectus are calm, intuitive, intelligent, and into food. Leili would probably prefer being with a guy eclectus over other birds. Two female eclectus parrots in the same household is asking for reality show drama. So I’m not into having baby birds, but a guy would be best for Leili.

There are not that many eclectus parrots available. They are not well known birds, and they only have a clutch of one or two eggs, so breeders are not pumping out eclectus babies in quantities. Also, I suspect, since eclectus parrots are generally well-behaved, quiet, and of excellent dispositions, they are kept rather than being placed up for adoption.

So Leili and I look at photos and video clips of prospective male partners for her. It is like Match.com for birds. Although she really isn’t much interested in any bird she sees online, I am very interested in one young male. He is a Solomon Island eclectus, the subspecies that is the smallest eclectus. Leili is even smaller than the average Solomon Island, measuring only 11 inches head to tail instead of 12 to 14 inches, so she really is a Shorty, as Michael calls her.

Surfing the net for eclectus for sale, we also come across great information about the species and especially, what to do about problems particular to this type of parrot. We have done everything we possibly could about the hormonal aggression except modify her diet, which I will get on right away. No more field goals punting parrots. No more sunflower seeds.

I am really intrigued by this handsome little Solomon Island on a breeder’s website. There are many subspecies of eclectus parrot, all slightly different because of island habitation in the South Pacific. This baby’s beak is still yellow tinged with black, a sign he is not an adult. Eclectus parrots are so named because the species is dimorphic. In most parrots, males and females have the same coloration and characteristics.  The eclectus was once thought to be two different species, because the male is bright green overall with blue secondaries and red tertiary feathers under its outstretched wings. The male has a yellow beak with a dark black marking that changes as it matures to a big candy corn pattern of bright yellow and orange. You would think the male of the species is the brightly colored one, just looking at the eclectus male with his almost florescent colors. But no. In this species, the bright plumage goes to the female, who is strikingly different in brilliant red feathers, with blue violet on her chest and abdomen and a solid black beak. She is a Hollywood starlet parrot, the covergirl of Cosmopolitan.

This species is not only different in coloration from other parrots, but also in temperament. They are thinkers. You can tell when they are processing information. My bird is 3 years old and has the concrete thinking of a 3-year old human. She thinks that sight unseen means you are not there if you step behind a door, until you open the door so she can see through the space between the door and the door jamb. Then she understands that you can disappear but still be nearby. You are just behind something.  Her eyes widen with understanding. Ahh! I get it now.

She never had a concrete operational understanding of mirrors, however. When she looks in a mirror, she knows she is looking at her own gorgeous self, not some other bird in the glass. Maybe because she has seen people in mirrors, and knows there can’t be two of the same kind of people doing exactly the same actions. She sees herself in a mirror, and lets you know she regards herself very highly.

Female eclectus are divine beings among mortals. That is their personality, and some of them are benevolent and some of them are deities to be feared. The males are mild mannered Mr. Nice Guys. In eclectus households, the women wear the pants.

Leili doesn’t show much interest in the eclectus guys on the computer. This doesn’t mean she doesn’t get what is going on. She learned how to fly from YouTube. After watching videos of parrots flying on the laptop, she would practice everyday until she got it down. The vet is amazed that even with clipped wings, she can bank, soar, and travel a very long distance outdoors. This is because, when motivated, much learning takes place in her little red head. So she knows what she’s looking at, she’s just not turned on by any parrot photos we’ve seen so far.

But I like the looks of this little Solomon Island eclectus. He looks like a male version of Leili, bright eyed and alert and a little feisty. I call the breeders, and all the Solomon island males are taken. Only a male grand eclectus is available. I only looked at Solomon Island males, but the breeder reassures me, or gives the sales pitch, that a bigger male is better with a smaller female eclectus. It is a better situation for the male, to be exact. She won’t be as able to brow beat him into submission.

I click on the video clip of the male grand, and Leili turns around, and looks at him. I play the video 3 times. Each time she turns her head to follow him. She tracks him stepping up, flapping his wings, and stepping down on his perch. She leans in closer to the screen. Ohmigod! That’s the guy! I have the deposit for him in the mail today.

Punting Parrots

11 July 2014

This morning my muscles have the good ache of working hard for a good cause. Yesterday was my first glean with Ag Against Hunger, gleaning fields for the Food Bank and other food donation organizations. We harvested baby bok choy for Lakeside Organic Gardens, one of my favorite local organic growers, who supply fresh organic produce for Whole Foods, Staff of Life, and many other produce retailers and wholesalers. I used to drive past this farm on the way to work every day, and you can tell when someone is taking good care of the land and the crops on it. There is a fresh, serene feeling when you pass by. Kneeling on the soil and touching the plants growing there, the feeling of well-being is intensified. Caring people work this land. The growers worked side by side with us, harvesting for Ag Against Hunger. I came away with a confirmation that many people are contributing to a positive and productive life for the greater good.

Thank you, all of you out there who live your lives making positive contributions to the planet.

Three nights ago, Leili, my eclectus parrot, charged at me while I was doing the dishes and bit my big toe. My foot reacted by drop kicking her across the kitchen. Needless to say, the next morning she was grumpy.

Eclectus parrots, I learned while Google-ing eclectus parrots, are one of the few parrot species who have a hormonal stage, in which aggression is a part of the standard behavior from around 1.5 years to 8 years old. Leili is 3 years old. Lovely. 5 more years of hormones to deal with. It is like perpetual parrot PMS. Females especially will defend and attack transgressors to their territory, which in our animal-centric house, where parrots are free to walk wherever they please, is the entire house.  I had no idea the kitchen sink was the exclusive domain of one short, bow-legged, red-headed parrot.

Eclectus parrots are one of the quieter, calmer species of parrot. They are introspective and reflective. Leili had a lot of time overnight to mull over being kicked like a football across the room. She has an excellent memory and can hold a grudge for months, if not years. Unless they have lived with other parrots, they are not screamers. Leili lived with an arch-enemy African grey parrot for almost a year. She screams. I hate the screaming. Her previous owners couldn’t take it. Big unsolvable problems are why parrots are so frequently given up by their owners.

In a few weeks, I will be back at work, and the parrot will be all by herself. Parrots are highly social and can’t stand being alone. Especially a prima-donna parrot who knows the world revolves around her. Boredom, loneliness, or unhappiness drives these birds to self-destruction by plucking out their feathers. When Leili went to the vet for the first time, they were so surprised to see a female eclectus with all her feathers. Last year, budgies to terrorize and the iPod on a continuous loop kept Leili company. What to do about the girl this school year while I am teaching?

So I am imaging a life without a parrot. One third of my time at home would no longer be spent cleaning up bird mess.  I could place household objects wherever they actually can be placed without being destroyed. People could come visit and I wouldn’t have to apologize for the menagerie-like state of the house. And most of all, the super sonic screech would disappear. Imagine a life without ear damage.

But I can’t do that to her. I can’t bounce her from owner to owner. She’s difficult now in the hormonal era of her life cycle. In 5 years she will be a dream parrot, attentive, intelligent, sensitive, and funny. She’ll be a great friend and companion. And I will be retired and able to spend all day with her. I recall with horror that scene in House of Cards where the billionaire snaps the neck of a parrot that wouldn’t be quiet. What would happen to an insistent screamer in the hands of an impatient owner?

Heck, I just kicked her a half meter across the floor. What about me not being able to deal with a difficult bird? Leaving the door open for a parrot to “escape” and fly away forever is very tempting at times. I am totally at that point where I’m thinking about how much I could get for a “parrot with cages” on craigslist.

Living in Jurassic Park

7 July 2014

There has been so much dietary fiasco during the family reunion I can’t bear to write about it now. Maybe later, when I am brave enough to confess the unrestricted consumption of foods I say I should avoid.  I can barely walk from so much physical activity, but no slim figure to say it was worth the agony, due to a lawless pleasure food binge. But OMG! it tasted divine, and I am so glad I ate those things I said I would never eat again. Of course there are consequences, and that’s the moral dilemma to being a conscious eater, living with the aftermath of what I do and do not eat. In this case, plenty of foods to hang my head in shame were consumed, not enough foods for vegan pride.

There are other challenges to deal with currently. Most importantly, training the bird to stop screaming.

Living with a parrot is like living in Jurassic Park. You share your home with a dinosaur, and in the case of large parrots, not a lumbering, peaceable, miniature version of an apatosaurus or maiasaur, but a direct descendant of some species of raptor. They are extremely intelligent, processing ideas constantly. They can open doors, lids, anything you don’t want them to get into. They are persistent in getting their way and can figure out multiple tactics for accomplishing this. Their bone crushing beaks and dexterous talons are the tools (or weapons) they have at the ready at all times. They are driven by their biological programming and not by some arbitrary agenda we make up for them. They are not like dogs, who can be coerced by reward and punishment. Parrots think reward is their due, and punishment only pisses them off. They have excellent memories, and can remember that time you were all nice one minute, and then wrapped the poor bird in a towel and cut off its wing feathers. They hate treachery. An eye for an eye is a proper code of conduct by them, if that’s the way you’re gonna be.

My eclectus parrot, Leili, born in a breeder’s home in California, went first to live with a family of 3 teenage boys, 5 rescue dogs, several cockatiels and budgies, and an African grey parrot. Leili is very sociable, so a full household was fine by her. Except that the grey hated her. Every night, when both parrots had to be put indoors, there was a screeching match between the two parrots. Eclectus parrots are normally quiet birds who are not much into parrot squawking. But they have one eardrum splitting call that is meant to soar out over the rain forest for miles. This is what the family endured for many months, battle cries. Imagine the intensity of parrot squabbling in which no dinner could go uninterrupted, no conversation could be had, no television could be watched, no family activity could be enjoyed because there was a battle of parrot screams being hurtled across the length of the house.

Thus the posting on craigslist for a young female parrot. I had been scanning pet adoption sites for several weeks, looking for the right parrot to share a life with. I know. Insanity.

But I couldn’t have a dog. Watch my YouTube video for the reason why. I didn’t want a cat. Read my book, The Shining Light in My Cat’s Eye, about my last cat, who was irreplaceable. I have a tortoise, who I love and adore, but in the companion department, he pretty much sucks. Sorry, Kobe, but how much company is someone who hides in a box most of the day?

If you are thinking about being a parrot owner, think about whether or not you fit this description: eccentric, independent, single woman. We crazy single women seem to make the best parrot people. Good natured, patient, animal loving, eccentric men also are good people for parrots. Notice that kind, caring, patient and eccentric are the key characteristics for living with parrots. You have to be able to put up with a lot, and you have to have the ability to live outside the box of conformity. As in, when your parrot comes to settle in with you, your life will be turned upside down, sideways, and reversed.

Leili has one big fault, which she picked up in self-defense from an African grey. She has a scream that causes people nearby to cover their ears and people blocks away wondering what the heck was that? A pterodactyl? This screaming must cease.

Infidel Food

2 July 2014

Third day of condensed milk in the coffee and I eat whipped cream, too. What next?  Once an addict, always an addict?

It gets worse today.  Much, much worse.  It is my father’s 80th birthday reunion, and at his birthday brunch the restaurant gives him a complimentary Hula pie, which is ice cream, macadamia nuts, whipped cream, and hot fudge. He shares this with everyone gathered at the table, and the double dairy plate is passed from hand to hand. Michael tries to bypass the plate around me, but I have good reflexes and swing that plate right in front of me. I park it there, and manage a spoonful of ice cream, a spoonful of whipped cream, and a generous spoon of hot fudge merged with melted cream, before Michael sweeps it away. It was so good!

“It’s about her dairy obsession,” Michael explains to the family. Just when I think I have it under control, and think that a little bit of cream in my coffee won’t hurt me, I drink three cups of coffee with condensed milk one day, and hula pie the next.

My mother is lactose intolerant. Half of my family cannot eat dairy. Chinese people do not have the enzyme to metabolize dairy, and I have inherited this biological inability to deal with dairy foods. So there is a biological basis for avoiding milk, cheese, ice cream, yogurt, all that infidel food.  I have been shrugging off my heritage. Me! Who advocated for Chinese-American civil rights in the 70s and got all into Chinese-American history. It is my birthright to avoid dairy in my diet because it is a part of my cultural heritage. Just tells me how quickly allegiances can be broken in the face of ice cream pie.

Parrot Remorse

1 July 2014

Leili, the eclectus parrot, is quiet this morning, almost subdued. Part of it must be the early morning coastal fog that marks summer by the Pacific Ocean. I am also subdued, as in, I would like to sleep in this morning. But I pull myself out of bed, literally reaching down, grabbing my ankles and stretching them over the side to slide out of the covers, before she can start yelling at me to get up. She’s got me trained.

But it is so upsettingly quiet in the morning, and afternoon, and evening, without budgies chirping merrily throughout the house. Those guys would burst into budgie song for any tune or tone, anything melodic, the radio, outdoor birds, the door chimes, me chanting, and for no reason at all except that they were cute little buggers. It’s so quiet without them. Leili sits in front of the red microwave, a machine the same brilliant red as herself, and makes microwave sounds at it, waiting expectantly for it to beep back. It doesn’t, and she is glum.

We have many oops! events in our lives, and for Leili, this is one of them. Is she feeling remorse for setting the budgies free?

The Delusions of Addicts

30 June 2014

Driving home, the flash of little birds in the corner of my eye makes me wonder if any of those small flying birds are escaped parakeets. They’re too quick to identify. First here, then there, then gone. This is a good neighborhood for budgie survival. Lots of food in backyards and the surrounding oak scrub hills. Plenty of trees for small birds to hang out safely and in the nooks and crannies of roof eaves. But it is also fraught with dangers. The neighborhood cats are having spats in the morning. Leili, the parrot, watches them from the window, wide-eyed at their violence. Crows, ravens, and hawks soar in the day, owls by night. Little birds need a flock. I hope the budgies are still together, or at least have joined some songbirds.

It is very weird coming home to a house without parakeets.

Michael and I discuss the missing budgie situation. “Now you don’t have to clean up after them,” Michael says for consolation, because I complain mucho about this aspect of bird ownership. Birds are messy and require copious time and energy to clean up after. Leili starts laughing. “Ha, ha, ha!” she chuckles. “Did you get rid of the budgies so that Mom doesn’t have to clean up so much?” Michael asks her. “Hah, ha, ha!” she answers. “The biggest mess maker in the house is the parrot,” I say. Leili is absolutely quiet. Well, that’s a confirmation she knows it, too.

This is day two back on dairy. The sweet potato fries must be eaten with coffee afterwards, and the coffee must have cream in it. But, condensed milk from that open can in the refrigerator is the only dairy I expect to have, so moderation, once more, is always the key to balance. My nose is not just runny in the morning, there’s a wad of substantial snot to blow into the kleenix, so dairy is not good for me, proven time and time again, yes, but as long as it’s just blowing my nose to get rid of mucus generated by one teaspoon of condensed milk, my body can handle it.

The delusions we addicts have.

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