Rennet. A complex of enzymes produced in any mammal’s stomach. Extracted from slaughtered, young, unweaned calves. (Thanks wikipedia.)

I think I had heard about this before, or at least I was familiar with the word, but apparently I hadn’t done my research enough.

I have a vegetarian for three and a half years and counting. I became a vegetarian because I no longer loved the taste of meat. I stopped eating red meat long before I came a (lacto-ovo) vegetarian. And I’ve just never gone back. I don’t see myself going back anytime soon, if at all. Meat just doesn’t taste good. So I don’t eat it.

For a while I tried to go vegan, and then I tried to just be a weekday vegan and allow dairy on the weekends. I tried to cut out eggs altogether. All of these pursuits failed, but still have the positive outcome of me eating less dairy, particularly a SUBSTANTIALLY less amount of cheese. I eat an egg almost every morning for breakfast again, as I used to before my vegan pursuits began. I still enjoy veganism and still try to have a day or two a week that I eat only vegan foods.

When it comes to cheese, I enjoy it too much. Also when it comes to cheese, apparently I have not done my research as I should have. Rennet is a main ingredient in many different cheeses. I know I’ve seen it listed on cheese that I have shamelessly enjoyed. I didn’t necessarily know what it was. Unfortunately (or fortunately), my eyes were opened up to the world of animal rennet very recently. And now I have a lot more research to do.

While I became vegetarian because I don’t enjoy meat, it’s now a conscious choice that I don’t want to eat anything with animal rennet in it. The animals were killed and the rennet was extracted. Moreso than “the animals were killed,” is that rennet comes from inside the animal and I really don’t like that. This is a weak argument. I’m not trying to argue anyway. There’s just something in my mind that finds the idea of rennet a bit disgusting. So I, in my newly enlightened mind, am now choosing to be exceptionally careful about the cheese that I eat. Perhaps this is a natural step pushing me closer towards veganism again. Who knows.

Thankfully, I found this website¬†that has two fairly comprehensive lists of cheese that I “can” and “can’t” eat, based on the type of rennet or enzymes used (if one is used at all). I’m committing to stay away from all cheese that contains animal rennet or enzymes that do not specifically say whether or not they come from an animal source. It will be harder to find cheap cheese now, but that is also a good thing. There are too many processed foods in the market, and if my self-imposed diet limitations are going to help me even further to stay away from processed food, it’s all for the better. Quality is always better than cheapness. I just happen to have a weak spot for cheese.

Thankfully, one of my favorite cheeses- vintage reserve from Trader Joe’s- is made from non-animal enzymes or rennet. And the huge block of feta cheese that is sitting in saltwater in my refrigerator specifically says “vegetarian” on the front of the container. Two saves! Take-out pizza, however, is going to be difficult to find now, I imagine ūüė¶

Who of you eat vegetarian or vegan? What have you learned about rennet? Did you know about it when you started your chosen way of eating? What steps do you take to avoid it? I’d love some help as I foray into this new idea!

the (almost) redemption of Fitzcarraldo (part 2)

(If you’d like to catch up, find part 1 here.)

So, I saw Glen Hansard play at The Wiltern on Wednesday night. It was definitely an evening of mixed emotions.

I had never been to a show at The Wiltern, and was very pleased with the venue. It is a beautiful older building, the architecture in the interior is quite lovely- the ceilings and all the intricacies on them made it a great setting for a show. It is a smaller venue with a standing room floor and a balcony with assigned seats. The floor has a few different levels and that made it nice and easy to find a good place to view the stage. We were basically as close as we could get for the standing room priced tickets.

I went into this show with much anticipation. I knew I would be seeing quality, regardless of the form it took. I was so hopeful to hear my favorite song, due to my conversation with Mr. Hansard on Monday.

There were a few setbacks, mainly due to the people around me- three girls in front of us with terrible, pessimistic attitudes, and a guy behind us who was too drunk (or stoned? Or both?) to act with courtesy. He sang loudly and terribly out of tune, he yelled out to the stage at the most inappropriate times, and he had no care for those of us standing around him. Luckily, he settled down about halfway through the show.

Kelly Hogan opened the show with a 40 minute set. The girl has a killer set of vocal chords and she positively swooned me with her choice of songs. She didn’t appear to have written any of them herself, but she sang them with soul, and passion … and a bit of cockiness that I had to ignore after a while so that I could continue to enjoy her set. That’s all I have to say about her.

When Glen Hansard takes the stage, he positively controls the audience and everything around. He started his set with The Storm, It’s Coming, off of his new solo album (Rhythm and Repose). (Playlist embedded at the end of this post.) To just stride onto stage and sit behind a piano and play a slow, beautiful song as an opener was a great way to get us all hooked into the rest of the evening. He continued with You Will Become, also from the new album.

Let me pause for a moment and comment on how, alongside Colm Mac Con Iomaire, there were two string players (perhaps a violist and a violinist) in the background adding depth to a lot of the music. I would like to know how they got that job, and how I can get that job next time. Every time they came on stage, all I could think about was how awesome it would be if it were me. I would probably do anything to be able to play violin on stage alongside Glen Hansard and Colm Mac Con Iomaire. Next time, it will be me. I will figure this out.

Ok, on to the rest now.

I already mentioned in part one how difficult it is for me to enjoy shows when I am unfamiliar with the music that is being played. While enjoying this show, I started to wonder how it affects the artist who is singing. I thoroughly enjoyed the first two songs Mr. Hansard played, and I attribute this to the face that I was already incredibly familiar with them. The majority of the audience didn’t seem to connect much to those songs, at least in juxtaposition to the third song played-¬†When Your Mind’s Made Up, from the movie Once and from the Swell Season’s 2006 self-titled CD. The feel of the room changed once this very familiar song started, and the audience collectively got involved with the song and enjoyed it together. How does it affect an artist when he is playing a song he so very much enjoys and wants to share but the audience isn’t connecting to?

After this song he played a few more from Rhythm and Repose, including Bird of Sorrow, which is my favorite from the new CD. He prefaced this one with the thought that it is about his Mum, or about Ireland. In the middle he stopped strumming his guitar and wiped tears out his eyes. A truly beautiful moment- the hearts of artists are something to be reckoned with.

After eight songs with a full band backing him up (including the two extra string players and three brass players), Mr. Hansard took the stage to himself for a few songs. This man is a master at pulling you in, particularly when it is just him and his guitar. (His guitar, by the way, had apparently broken right before the show. We got to hear the story of how special it has become to him after filming Once with it, and how a friend from Long Beach drove up to fix it right before the show started.) The passion that Mr. Hansard is able to evoke while playing music (because it is real, unadulterated passion) is something that he passes on to the audience. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t shed a few tears- and not as a crazed fan, just purely as someone who is being moved by the musician and his music. He ended the solo set with a Van Morrison cover, and got more sound out of his acoustic guitar than I’ve heard some full bands make. Epic.

It was halfway through the show at this point, and not at one moment did it yet seem like the right time for Fitzcarraldo to be played. I started getting worried, but tried not to think about it. I really wanted to just enjoy the show for how it was.

With the full band there were quite a few more Swell Season songs played. It was nice to hear the familiar, but I found myself really hoping at every song change to hear something new, or something from the far-off past in the Frames’ discography. It really would have been great to hear a Frames song, particularly since they were all on stage together. As I’ve experienced with all the other Glen Hansard shows I’ve been too, there were a fair amount of “sing-along” songs to participate in. That is always a nice way to be able to connect with the music. The initial set ended with¬†High Horses from the Swell Season’s second album¬†Strict Joy, and they left the stage for a few minutes while we all did our clapping and cheering in anticipation for the encore.

One more song from¬†Rhythm and Repose was played during the encore, and then Lisa Hannigan joined Mr. Hansard on stage and played one of her songs,¬†Little Bird. The rest of her band was brought up and the whole crowd of everyone on stage sang some songs in tribute of Levon Helm. It was at this point I realized Fitcarraldo was nowhere to be found in the evening’s set list, and I did what I could to let that go and enjoy the rest of the evening.

Lisa Hannigan and many of her friends/vocalists, along with Glen Hansard and the entirety of The Frames

The show ultimately ended with The Auld Triangle, performed by Mr. Hansard and the Frames. I am familiar with this song only from this video of Mr. Hansard and Bono recently singing it together. As it seems to have a lot of meaning in Ireland, it was naturally the right way for Mr. Hansard to end his show.

It was a great show. It really was. Glen Hansard knows how to take the stage and he has all the talent he needs to back it up. It is great to see him playing with The Frames because they are all so familiar with playing with each other. They’ve been together for over 20 years at this point. Oh, what I would do to have friends who I could play music with for that long!

Naturally, due to Monday’s events, I left the show feeling a bit saddened. Frustrated, maybe, but ultimately just a bit sad. There’s no one to blame for not hearing “my” song. I just got really excited that I was told I could expect to hear it. I assume it was simply and easily forgotten about. I was, however, surprised to not hear a single Frames song during the entirety of the show- that was more unexpected than just not hearing Fitzcarraldo.

And now I’ll admit this: on Thursday morning while I was eating breakfast, I made a Twitter account for basically the sole purpose of tweeting Mr. Hansard and Mr. Mac Con Iomaire to complement them on the show and slyly “ask” about Fitzcarraldo. Find me @iamRebekahRae. I can’t promise much tweeting activity, but it is nice to be able to directly converse with these musicians who I so strongly respect. (Mr. Mac Con Iomaire did actually respond to me.) I’ll be waiting in anticipation for the next tour, which I can only assume will be at least two years from now. With all that time to wait, I hope that next time this mounting anticipation amounts to something other than a third let down.

Until then, I’ll continue to enjoy my massive collection of Frames, Swell Season, and Glen Hansard discography, and try to convince everyone I know to give them a try as well.

You can start here! Listen to this playlist and it will be like you were at the show! ¬†And the playlist isn’t live. And you can’t see the musicians. But hey, it’s the exact set list of the show on Wednesday at The Wiltern. Enjoy!


The end of … something

I don’t know much about hummingbirds, but I do know that every time I see one, a sense of calm falls over me and life stands still for a few moments as I watch it delicately drink nectar from a flower. Call me a sap, but the beauty in those moments almost always catches me off guard.

There is an orange tree in the backyard of the house I work in. The kids and I go out there often to play in the sandbox or run around in the sunshine or draw on ourselves the ground with chalk.

Very often around the orange tree for the past few weeks I’ve seen a hummingbird drinking from flowers, flitting in and out of branches, and disappearing from sight. Just last week I realized that the hummingbird never actually leaves when it disappears, instead it sits in its tiny little nest perched on one of the lower branches of the tree.

It has been my enjoyment over the past week to take the kids outside and then check on what became “my” hummingbird. The nest appeared as innocent and delicate as the tiny bird itself- bits of fluff and the thinnest twigs made up a soft resting place just large enough for the bird to sit in. I admired both the nest and the bird from a distance for one glorious week, knowing every time I saw the fluttering wings that it was the same bird I saw the day before. Watching the bird sit in its nest was comforting and beautiful.

Today the kids and I travelled to the backyard for some morning sunshine, and I found myself habitually wandering over to the orange tree. Today I did not find my hummingbird. I did not see its long beak reaching into the depths of a flower, nor did I hear its wings as it skirted through the branches. Today I found the tiny nest half fallen off of a branch on the orange tree, not quite decimated, but in no shape for a tiny bird to fix. Today marks the first day I will no longer know where my hummingbird is. Today the bird that brought me calmness and comfort brought me a peculiar sadness. Today is the end of something.


It is comforting to know that in the midst of living in a new city, watching my bank account dwindle down, being rejected by potential employers, and sleeping each night on an acquaintance’s couch, that I am not the one in charge.

I could look at that as all negative.

But it’s really not.

“There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.” Proverbs 23:18

We are all put where we are for a good purpose. Life doesn’t seem to make sense most of the time, but if we’re seeking WHO we’re supposed to be seeking, we’re each on a path to lead us to something great and fulfilling.

As much as I feel like I have no purpose right now, I am wrong.

I can’t understand living any differently than clinging to that hope. I’d have ran away from Los Angeles the day after I got here if I didn’t have it.

I’m here for a purpose. And I know that relying on GOD will lead me to fulfill that purpose.

“how-to” part two

6. Find friends and family to visit and take a very roundabout trip west. (Leave more of your things at your boyfriend’s parent’s house, due to lack of space in your car.)

Our trip took us from Bucks County, Pennsylvania to Lexington, Kentucky on the first day. A trip that we had made before in 9.5 hours took us 11 (a little rain, a little traffic) this time, but I was fine with it. We spent a day and a half in Lexington, enjoying time with the family I nannied for while living in Lexington, a gathering of friends into the later hours of the night, and plenty of Catan and Canasta with Jeremy’s family. (We also stopped by the local “John’s Run and Walk Shop” to buy shoes for our marathon training, see the link to the right to sponsor my running in the LA Marathon in March by donating to Love Without Boundaries.)

From Lexington we drove 6.5 hours to Springfield, Illinois to visit my roommate Laura from college and her husband Jeremy. It is always so great to spend time with the very friends who helped you become who you are today. The evening included an Irish pub, where the only thing I could order off the menu was a double-decker grilled cheese sandwich (no worries there, I love me some grilled cheese), watching their dog, Connor, fall asleep with excitement about carrots (have YOU ever met a narcoleptic dog?), seeing Jeremy’s (clearly Laura’s Jeremy, not mine) live sports broadcast on TV, and making some ridiculously fattening and ridiculously delicious apple tarts while “Failure to Launch” was on in the background (at least Zooey Deschanel’s character is fun to watch). I was sad to say goodbye (early) the next day, but a 16-hour day of driving ahead of us meant not enough time with some of those who we love.

Springfield, IL to Laramie, WY was our longest driving day of the trip. Luckily, it was on a Sunday, so traffic was not a problem. Driving through the states of Illinois, Iowa, and Nebraska did not prove to be entirely exciting, but there’s always one of those days. We were still fresh and happy and not worn out yet, so it was a good day for those 16 hours on the road. And as we were on the way to see my best friend from college, driving 16 hours was the least I was willing to do. (And Jeremy was behind the wheel for 13 of them anyway …)

Wyoming is my “most favorite place in the world.” (Quotations due to bad grammar and a¬†clich√©d¬†but true statement.) We got in around midnight and so were not able to enjoy its beauty until morning time. There’s something about the sky there. The reality of the world is so apparent. I love being able to see storms from miles away- storms that you may never even feel. To see an entire cloud in the distance light up with a stark lightning strike. Blue skies with white clouds for as far as you are able to see. The effect of a sky so large that you can see the shadows of the clouds rolling over the mountains. The wide-openness of everything around you. That is Wyoming and that is what I love.

A Monday spent with the lovely Becki in beautiful Wyoming was better than I could have asked for. Some hiking in the mountains, homemade ice cream in Centennial, WY (population 100), lunch at a vegetarian restaurant (in Wyoming, really?!), Farkle and Bananagrams. The hours passed by too quickly and the reality of a goodbye was not fun. However, I left my heart there, which can only mean that I will return.

Early morning goodbyes in Illinois

Wyoming storms

Wyoming sky

See, no lies.

Friends in Wyoming

how to move across the country, part one

Jeremy and I (and most of my belongings) spent August 25th through September 1st on the road from eastern Pennsylvania to Los Angeles. We spent time with beautiful friends and family and saw jaw-dropping sights as we made our way from one coast to the next. Here’s the beginning of a simple “how to” guide, Bekah style, if you’ve ever the notion to make the trek:

1. Buy a new car.I chose the 2011 Ford Fiesta Hatchback SE. 3340+ miles and only $315 worth of gas later, I was still very happy with my purchase.

2. Leave lots of your belonging at your parent’s house.Though I chose the hatchback car, I originally owned a Ford Ranger with an extended bed. There’s no way around the fact that there was more storage space in my truck.

3. Pick up your boyfriend at the Philadelphia airport two days before the road trip begins.While we thought harder about this after the plane tickets were already bought, we realized he should have came earlier. Such is life.

4. The night before you leave, have a get together with all of your family who can make it. Spend the night laughing with/at each other. (Pack the car before this.)

5. Leave Pennsylvania at 7:30am for Lexington, Kentucky. Take the stereotypical (but entirely necessary) “We’re going on a road trip! We’re moving away!” picture.

someone to learn from

Leslie KnopeIf you don’t recognize the picture, you haven’t been watching what I deem the best television show out there right now.¬†I may not follow all things media as much as certain others I know, but I can share my opinion. This post is not, however, going to turn into a review on the show. I would like to bring to focus to its main character, the wonderful Leslie Knope.

Leslie Knope: kind, hardworking, innocent, caring, passionate.

She is an icon of who we’ve strayed away from, in reality and in fiction. She has no cynical bone in her body, she is assertive in her own friendly manner, she has goals and achieves them. She is a loyal friend and she sticks by those she loves. She enjoys her job and is always looking for ways to improve.

Thank you, Amy Poehler, for creating a comedic character worth looking up to in the world of mostly mindless and stupid comedy.

(September 22 starts the fourth season of Parks and Recreation on NBC. Catch up now so you don’t miss the upcoming season!)