Month: November 2015

Team Quoll: Supporting Quoll-ity Research in the Illawarra

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A crowdfunding campaign is being launched by Team Quoll’s Elira Reynolds in order to determine the situation, and ensure the survival of the endangered spotted-tailed quoll in the Illawarra and Southern Highlands region. The University of Wollongong honours student hopes to raise $4000 in order to purchase necessary equipment, and access remote areas.

Since last year, Ms Reynolds and other members of Team Quoll have set up 109 camera sites around the Illawarra. Only three quolls have been detected, which is a success rate of 2.8%.

“It’s a lot less to expect than if the quolls were doing well in the area,” Ms Reynolds said.

The spotted-tailed quoll is the largest remaining carnivorous marsupial on Australian mainland. Very little is known about the species—particularly in the Illawarra region.

“It’s been estimated their range has contracted about 50% since European settlement,” Ms Reynolds said.

Ms Reynolds intends to use odour treatments and additional camera sites to study the quolls, as well as the impact of the red fox—no quolls were found in areas where foxes were detected.

“We don’t know if the population is stable, increasing or decreasing, and we don’t know how the species needs to be managed to ensure its survival in the region,” she said.

The spotted-tailed quoll is the only quoll species found on the east coast since the extinction of the mainland eastern quoll in 1963.

Team Quoll citizen scientist Craig Murrell said more studies are needed to determine how the situation can be improved.

“If we don’t do something very quickly, very soon, then we’ll also lose the tiger quoll, along with the eastern quoll,” Mr Murrell said.

“If you care about quolls, and if you want to see quolls return . . . the way they used to be here, then giving a donation is . . . a really good way to do that,” Ms Reynolds said.

You can donate to the crowdfunding campaign here.

Team Quoll are an animal activist group concerned with the sparse population of the endangered spotted-tailed quoll in the Illawarra and Southern Highlands.

QUOLL INFOGRAPH

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Vegan lasagna recipe

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Note: this image isn’t actually my cooking. I always eat my cooking before taking photos. That’s how delicious it is. Mmmmmmmm…

I was vegetarian for seven years before becoming a vegan about six months ago—and I’ve never felt better. But after seven years of perfecting an amazing vegetarian lasagna recipe, I pretty much have to start all over again as a vegan! And there’s a couple of ways to do it—this is just my personal favourite. And it’s loaded with veggie goodness! Warning: reading this will probably make you really, really hungry!

Ingredients:

Use whatever veggies you have in the fridge. But in case you want some guidance, this is what I normally use:

  • Zucchini
  • Onion
  • Carrot
  • Broccoli
  • Mushroom
  • Capsicum
  • Spinach
  • Sweet potato
  • Tomato
  • Vegan butter (I use Nuttlex).
  • Wraps (I use Mountain Bread so it’s not as heavy as pasta sheets—use whatever you like, though!)
  • Garlic
  • Soy milk—or some other kind of non-dairy milk
  • Flour
  • Tomato pasta sauce (or you can make your own—just blend tomatoes and herbs together. Delicious.)
  • Vegan cream cheese (I use Tofutti).
  • Optional: vegan mince.

Method:

  • Chop up/grate all your veggies; you choose what you do to what. For the sweet potato, you’ll want to chop them into the smallest pieces you possibly can. I cook these before the lasagna so it doesn’t take as long. Simply put the chopped sweet potato into a microwave-safe container for steaming, fill with a little hot/boiling water, and cook for about 10 minutes or until soft. Do this first, and then chop the rest of your veggies.
  • Use a medium-to-large sized pot (depending on how much you’re making!) and begin by sautéing the onions with some garlic, pepper, and whatever herbs you feel like adding (BASIL IS AMAZING, JUST SAYING). You can also add mushrooms and zucchini here if you wish.
  • Add your vegan mince (if you’re using it), and most of your other veggies (except for the sweet potato) into the pot. I like to leave some carrot and tomato slices for the creamy layers of the lasagne, but do whatever you like. Add the tomato pasta sauce and adjust to taste.
  • Pre-heat the oven to 220 degrees.
  • Make your creamy sauce: add butter, and slowly stir in the flour to make a nice consistency. Remember: this will thicken as time goes on. Add some garlic, Tofutti, and a little bit of soy milk if you don’t want to use butter. You could also use nutritional yeast flakes here. Alter to taste, and make sure to stir: this mixture burns easily. Take it off the heat when done.
  • The sweet potato should now be cooked. I like to mash it up with a fork, some vegan butter, Tofutti, garlic, salt and pepper at this point to make mashed sweet potato.
  • Spray a large oven-safe dish with canola oil (or something similar). Line the base with your first layer of Mountain Bread (or whatever you’re using. Note: I’ve never cooked with pasta sheets before, so if you’re using those, read the instructions).
  • Spoon tomato mix onto this first layer, enough to nicely cover the wrap.
  • Add another layer of wraps on top of the mince mixture. Then spread your sweet potato mix on this layer, before adding about half of the creamy sauce.
  • Repeat steps 8 and 9 until all mixture has been used. The final layer will be the creamy sauce. Feel free to add some vegan cheese or basil here—depending on what you’ve got, and what you like.
  • Place lasagna in the oven and cook until the top layer is crispy. Since we’re vegan (yay) we don’t have to worry about under-cooking meat, and since I’ve used wraps, you don’t have to worry about the pasta sheets being under cooked.

And there you have it, folks! Delicious vegan lasagne. If anyone has any tips, feel free to leave them in the comments!

Love, the poor and lazy uni student vegan.

THE BEST vegan chocolate ball recipe ever!

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My partner and I tried this recipe out of an experimentation that turned into—seriously—the BEST vegan chocolate thing I’ve ever eaten. And it wasn’t even that difficult! If I can do it, I figure anyone can do it—assuming you have some kind of blender available (we use one of those Magic Bullets or whatever).

So, all you chocolate lovers rejoice! Here’s a delicious and simple recipe you’ll love!

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Ingredients:

  • Dates
  • Orange juice
  • Peanut butter (a few table spoons)
  • Coco powder (or some form of chocolate powder that’s vegan.)
  • Fried noodles (or some kind of dried noodles—just to add some crunch! It’s delicious, trust me.)
  • Dark chocolate
  • Skewers (can be used without, though)
  • A blender

Note: use as much of these ingredients as you wish. The dates are the basis for the recipe, so that will essentially be the amount of mixture you end up with. I’d recommend using more peanut butter than you’d think.

Method:

  • First, you’ll want to soak your dates in some orange juice. This will soften them and add some sweetness. If you want to soak them overnight, that’s great—but I’m impatient, so I let them soak for a few minutes before microwaving them (but not for too long!). You want them to be soft enough to blend.
  • Combine the soft dates (drain the orange juice—though you can use a little of this for a bit of extra moisture if you wish) with the peanut butter, coco powder, and blend.
  • Put mixture into a bowl, and add the fried dry noodle bits, which should be broken apart. Mix.
  • If the consistency is right, you should be able to roll the mixture into small, bite-sized balls using your hands. Place these on a tray (use foil or baking paper if you’re lazy like me and don’t want to wash it up later).
  • Melt some dark chocolate—enough to cover the pieces. You can do this on the stove at a low heat (make sure to stir thoroughly so you don’t burn it) or the microwave.
  • Use the skewers (or whatever you think) to pick up the chocolate pieces, and dip them into the dark chocolate. Cover as much as you can. If you have left-over chocolate, simply use a spoon to pour on top of the chocolate balls.
  • Place tray in fridge—serve when the chocolate has set.

This process actually doesn’t take too long, and my god: they’re delicious, and very worth it! And there you have it folks—enjoy!

The Mockingjay: Part 2 review

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WARNING SPOILER ALERT:

“Welcome to the 76th Hunger Games.”

If you’re a fan of the books, you were probably aware that The Mockingjay: Part 2 was going to absolutely break our hearts. After all, it’s a series where beloved characters rarely die (rest in peace Rue and Cinna). So it’s a complete shock to have anyone die—let alone people we’ve grown to adore—and see them meet quite violent and gruesome ends. But I guess death is the price you have to pay for war. This film causes us to ask ourselves: is it really worth it? Katniss Everdeen would say no.

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Come back to us, Peta! We love you.

The Mockingjay: Part 2 picks up where Part 1 left off: Katniss is in recovering after her fiancé Peeta, who was brainwashed and tortured by the Capitol, tried to kill her. Peeta is convinced that Katniss has been sent from the Capitol to destroy all of the rebels; he truly believes the woman he once loved is a monster, and no amount of talking from the brave and increasingly mature Primrose Everdeen can convince him otherwise. Prim is truly no longer the scared little girl of the first Hunger Games film—she’s brave and selfless. Cue tears.

Like the other films in the popular franchise, Katniss seeks retribution: she wants snow dead. She wants to be there to see the light fade from his eyes. And as the rebels arm themselves for an onslaught on the Capitol, Katniss, Gale, and Finnick, along with a team of skilled fighters and because we wouldn’t want to miss a good photo opportunity (Coin’s orders), Katniss’s trusty camera crew (featuring Natalie Dormer from Game of Thrones) infiltrate the Capitol on a stealthy attack to assassinate Snow. But the Capital is armed and ready to make yet another game of their gruesome demises. With the help of game makers, Snow has equipped every inch of the once-opulent city with deadly traps known as pods—including infernos, machine guns, deadly liquid, as well as terrifying zombie-like fuckers. To make their “top secret” plan (disclaimer: it’s not really tip secret because Katniss is recognised by pretty much everyone; the woes of being the mockingjay, the symbol of a rebellion) more difficult, District 13’s President Coin sends the psychotic and recovering Peeta to join the party. And this would be great, if it weren’t for Peta’s annoying little tendency to forget what’s real, and try to kill Katniss. Awkward. Lucky we have the trusty Gale, who gallantly volunteers to kill Peeta if the time comes. Thanks Gale, we can always count on you. Except for when you devise a war strategy where morals go out the door, and thousands of innocents die. FYI, this is how one of our favourite characters die. Thanks again, Gale, you thoughtless jerk.

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Katniss and her band of merry men (and women).

Thankfully, we have the alluring and fabulous Jennifer Lawrence, who portrays Katniss perfectly. A lot of the film focusses on Katniss’s inner turmoil and emotional stress, including themes of revenge, love, passion, and most harrowingly, loss. Katniss is thrown into a world where everything she knew has crumbled—are the good guys even the good guys anymore?

Passionate speeches seem to really be her thing—in particular, one that convinces loyalists from the weaponised District 2 to cease fighting.

 “You blew up our district. We blew up your mine. We both have reasons to kill each other . . . It goes around and around, and who wins? Snow. These people are not your enemy. It’s snow. Stop killing for him! Turn your weapons to the Capitol, turn your weapons to Snow!”

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I mean, at this point, she gets shot: but good speech, right?

All we’ve ever thought about District 13, and it’s mysterious, hard-hitting leader Alma Coin is a lie, something which I think the film executes brilliantly. Of course, the whole good-guy-turns-bad thing is a tad cliche, but it’s done well, so we can forgive them. In fact, it’s probably one of the more horrific and unsettling things that could happen in war–the death of children, and the sacrifice of your own medic team.

Katniss must decide who is really her ally? Gale? Coin? Peeta? Or is it Snow? Well, my dear readers, you’ll have to watch this great film to find out.

One downfall of the film would have to be how everything seems to go so smoothly. Yes, they are caught in traps. Yes, people die. Yes, Katniss is almost found by the Capitol; but everything still seems to quickly work itself out. I would have liked to see a bit more tension in the film, to have the hardships emphasised a little more. But maybe that’s something only a book  with in-depth descriptions can do. Some things were changed, but overall, everything was executed well, and the acting was A-class.

I do feel like this film had less of an impact than the first Hunger Games film, which I think can be attributed to the fact that one medium-sized book was made into two quite large movies. It’s great that we get extra descriptions, but it has the result of not being as fast-paced and heart-stopping.

Mockingjay: Part 2 has everything we loved about the series’s beginning. Chillingly evil games, ploys, deception, violence and even love. Only this one has a lot more emotionally-damaging events. For instance, remember from the flashback from the first film, where Peeta burns the loaf of bread to feed the starving Katniss, though he was supposed to give it to the pig? Peeta copped a massive beating for that. In Mockingjay: Part 2, Peeta remembers. Only, it’s twisted: psycho-Peeta stabs a knife right into all of our hearts with this winner: “Seems like I could have saved myself a lot of trouble if I’d just fed the bread to the pig.”

 

 

Oh, ouch. Right in the feels.

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“Stay with me?” she asks. “Always.”

Also, don’t go into tunnels. Ever. Don’t do it.

But by far, the most important lesson we gain from The Hunger Games series becomes especially poignant in the last few minutes of the film, where we flash forward a few years into the future. I won’t tell you exactly what happens, but it’s hauntingly beautiful.

“Are you having a nightmare?” Katniss asks. “I sometimes have nightmares too.”

It’s true, some nightmares never go away. Some nightmares we never forget. But we can survive them. If Katniss can survive the horrors of the Hunger Games, war, poverty, death and heartache, you can too, reader.  After so much horror and so much pain, I’m so glad to inform you that the film ends on a lighter note. It ended in the perfect way to the perfect series—and even gives us the tools to survive the horrors of our own lives.

“I make a list of everything good. I make a game out of it,” Katniss says.

“It sometimes gets a little tedious. But there are far worse games to be played.”

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May the odds be ever in your favour.

This article was originally posted on Re:Views magazine (by me) and has been republished with full permission.

DELICIOUS vegan egg salad mix

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Are you drooling yet? Image via PETA.

Time: 5-10 minutes.

I don’t know about other vegans, but something I find myself often craving is an egg salad sandwich. Obviously, being vegan, I’m not about to break my morals to eat one; so I’ve been on the hunt for a great recipe that doesn’t involve animal abuse.

There’s lots of recipes on the internet; this is just my particular one I’ve found (and god, it’s DELICIOUS!). I’m giving you the poor uni student version of vegan cooking—also, the lazy version. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • Tofu (I don’t think it matters what kind).
  • Nutritional yeast flakes (you can find these at your local health food store; filled with all kinds of good things vegans need! The bag is around $10, but it lasts a fair while and can be used in so many other things).
  • (Some recipes call for some kind of sulfuric egg-tasting salt, but I’m too poor for that; normal salt works fine.)
  • Vegan mayonnaise. (A lot of the 99% fat free mayonnaise are actually vegan! Yay! I use Praise.)
  • Vegan butter. I use Nuttlex which can be found in most supermarkets. If not, some kind of oil would also work. A teaspoon should be enough.
  • Instant mash potato (or actual mashed potato, it doesn’t really matter.)

Method:

I don’t really measure anything—I go by consistency and flavour. You be the judge! About a teaspoon of most ingredients, but a fair bit of mayonnaise (depending what you like) and a larger amount of tofu.

  • Crumble up your desired amount of tofu into an average-sized bowl (depending on how much you’re making!).
  • If you’re using leftover mashed potato, combine this with the tofu. If you’re using instant, you’d probably want to do that first, mixing the powder with hot water (but not too much, as we have other liquids to go in!).
  • Heat your vegan butter in the microwave for 10-20 seconds, depending on your microwave; just enough to melt. If you’re using oil (which may change the flavour), you can skip this step.
  • Combine potato, tofu, butter and all the other ingredients in the bowl; mix. From here on, it’s about adjusting: add more of the flavours and things you like more. I personally like to add a fair bit of nutritional yeast flakes, mayo and the turmeric; I just prefer the flavour. See what you like!

Optional: If you want to make curried eggs, add a bit of curry powder!

Serve this deliciousness however you like! Enjoy!

 

Do the choices you make support animal abuse?

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Six million animals will be tested on each year in Australia and New Zealand alone. In many cases, these animals are subject to a degree of pain and/or stress. Of these 6 million, nearly 26,000 will die, and a further 124,000 will experience major trauma—this includes being artificially induced with cancer, made to experience major infections, isolation as well as deprivation. More than a million will also experience a degree of stress and discomfort.

And the animals used would surprise you—of course, over a million of these are mice, but a whopping 765,000 are native mammals, including koalas, wallabies, possums and wombats. Cats and dogs are also commonly used.

But the problem is that most of us don’t even know we’re supporting animal cruelty. By purchasing and using these products, we are unknowingly supporting a culture that believes animal lives are less important than human lives—it’s supporting a culture that claims to love animals, yet has no problem with subjecting them to harm and abuse.

We know this is so utterly wrong—so what can we do about it?

As with any kind of advocacy, education is key. Educate yourselves on the products you’re using—and what products test on animals. Cleaning products that test on animals include Ajax, Glen 20, Finish, Windex, Raid, Duck, Dettol, Oral B, Gillette and impulse.  Cosmetic offenders include Max Factor, Maybeline, MAC, L’Oreal, Estee Lauder, Cover Girl, Clinique, Mary Kay, Avon, Clearasil, Napoleon and Elizabeth Arden.

Most of these things live either under my sink or in my make-up bag. But since becoming aware of the issue, I’ve sought out cruelty-free alternatives that are AWESOME. The Choose Cruelty Free app is a great place to start, as is good old Google. Fear not about compromising on quality; I’ve made myself a Guinea pig so you don’t have to.

Here are my top cruelty-free cosmetics you should DEFINITELY try:

Lush:

Lush are an Australian company which makes hand-made cosmetics and body care products—and they are ABSOLUTELY AMAZING! I’m currently using their skin care products, soaps, bath bombs and some cosmetics. Everything leaves me feeling clean, relaxed, soft and fragrant. Their facial cleanser, spot treatment and moisturiser has done amazing things for my oily, acne-prone skin; and I especially love their bottled lip colours. Surprisingly, they do have a fair bit of staying power—though beware: they tend to smudge easy!

Kat Von D:

I cannot rave about these products enough! Her studded kiss lipsticks and everlasting liquid lipsticks last all day, with oodles of awesome colours–including one rather lovely light purple. The foundation is absolutely mind-blowing. It will stay on all day, and it won’t leave those awful marks on your face when you wear sunglasses with your make up! The eye shadow colours are phenomenal, and the liquid eye liner pens come in all sorts of colours, and are delicate enough to make wings sharp enough to cut the haters.  Most of her products are vegan, too! Kat Von D products make up most of my makeup bag. You can buy them online or instore at Sephora.

Australis:

One of the cheaper brands out there, Australis may pleasantly surprise you. In fact, I think their eye shadows and pressed powders are on par with products you may end up spending hundreds on. If you can find it, try it—products are normally around $10: fantastic value for money.

Nude by Nature:

I’ve used their CC cream and liquid foundation—both of which are available in a variety of shades, and are quite nice and light on your skin (sometimes the liquid foundation can flake if it’s caked on—but lasts super well in our hot Australian weather). My favourite product is a liquid illuminator, which somehow seems to perfect your face and minimise your pores. I’ve also heard good things about their mineral powder. These products are roughly around $20-40, but I think it’s worth it.

Arbornne:

I love these products. While they are a bit pricey, I think quality is worth it. Their primer is brilliant! And it’s great they have so many different foundation colours—score for us super pale ladies! I am eager to try more of their products, though—as a poor uni student—I definitely can’t afford to any time soon. Sigh—the woes of cosmetics!

Young Blood:

These products are the most expensive on the list, but they are quite lovely. Personally, I’m not the biggest fan of mineral cosmetics. I’d prefer products with a bit more coverage—but if minerals are your thing, give them a try.

Natio:

Natio’s eyeshadows are pretty great—though I wish they had a bigger range! I have tried their mineral foundation and primer, but wasn’t too pleased: there wasn’t enough coverage for me. On the plus side, Natio are pretty cheap, and have colours for us pale ladies! And aside from lip products, Natio is vegan!

Other products I’ve heard good things about are Ere Perez and Inika—but I’m yet to try them.

You make the choice dear readers. Because whether you like it or not, if you purchase products which test on animals, you’re promoting animal abuse, and prolonging the outdated idea that animals are ours to do with as we wish. Don’t be silent! Sign the RSPCA campaign against animal testing here.

Have you tried any great vegan/cruelty-free products? Let me know in the comments