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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Summer Vacation 2010

This has been my virgin vacation as a vegan. We've been coming to the quaint island of Chincoteague, which is located on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, for more than twenty years. Aside from the beautiful beaches, nature paths, and lovely vistas, over the years, it has mostly been earmarked with "places where I have eaten."

As we began our journey on a rainy Sunday, I made certain that I was well stocked in the "vegan food set." I was prepared for this journey, and staying vegan was my primary goal. No fish, meat, artificial sweetener or piece of candy was going to get in my way. Simple as that.

For those of you who have never been to CI, it is almost lost in time. I've always found it very relaxing, but it was also a haven for eating crap and not treating myself well.

I survived a full week as a plant-strong diva. And it was easy. This is not a matter of being "90% vegan," or "I will veganize during the week," this is a strong choice to treat myself as best I can, and making wise choices about the food at the end of my fork. I am plant-strong to prevent lifestyle diseases in myself. But, also, strange things happen to you when you do become vegan...like, I cannot for the life of me wear leather made shoes or purses!! A year ago, I would have only worn leather! The other thing? Seeing animal parts at a butcher almost makes me feel as though I want to yak.

So, here's how I survived my week away from home:

1. Make a menu of the meals you will eat. You might not follow it 100%, but you have a strong scaffold for how the week will go.

2. After you make your menu, create a shopping list and head to your favorite market to get everything you need. I stocked up on almond milk, because I was sure that the one small grocery store on the Island would not carry it. I was right, too. I was sure glad that I had enough Ezekiel bread, be/c that saved me several times. Remember that ever store in the world has fresh fruits and veggies (not organic, though).

3. Take your favorite utensils/appliances. We always rent a nice house, but I was sure that they wouldn't have a Vita-Mix--and I was right. If you like your smoothies a certain way...take the Vita-Mix.

4. Prepare a list of snacks. My family likes to snack, so I didn't want to feel excluded from their snacking. My snacks consisted of fresh fruit, veggies, baked potatoes, etc.

5. My "Vegan Steven" application saved me and I was able to find ONE vegan restaurant on the Island. I treated myself to a "Santa Cruz" sandwich, which was a whole wheat roll with fat free hummus and fresh veggies! Their iced tea was made without sugar and caffeine, so I was in heaven. My family, "The Carniverous Connellys' also enjoyed the restaurant!

6. Eating out with carnivores is rough. In my family, they do not at all criticize my vegan ways, and I do not roll my eyes at their omnivore eating ways. Anyway, check the menus out on line before heading out...everyone has a salad bar and everyone makes a baked potato. That was my dinner when we ate out. I ate slowly and enjoyed the people I was with. A long time ago, I learned that you remember eating out not by what you ate, but by the company and conversation.

7. This sounds crazy, but when I eat out, I look for someone who is the "old me." This woman is eating everything in site, walking with a pained and shameful look, and wearing baggy clothing. I have this intense urge to go up to them and say, "Hey, listen, you do not have to live your life this way, let me tell you about the Engine 2 Diet and how it can save your life." One day I will get the courage to do that, and when I do, you will hear about it.

8. Eating Italian? Carry in a serving of uncooked whole wheat pasta. Ask them to cook it al dente. You'll have a great dinner, and won't feel as though you are excluded in any way, shape, or form. I do not use dressings on salads, but you could use your own salad dressing, too. You want to make this a comfortable experience for yourself, you want to fit in, but you also want to remain plant-strong and true to thine ownself.

9. Let your fellow diners that you would prefer their not ordering dessert. After wards, my family would head out to a famous Island dessert hole, and I would ask to be dropped off at our home. A nice cup of tea suited me fine. When I would look at them eating their desserts, I wanted to vomit, because in my head, all I could see was fat.

10. Do something physical everyday! I joined the "Y" for a week and went there everyday for a two hour workout. Aside from the "Y," I also exercised everyday, took kayaking lessons, rode my bike, etc. The only place I didn't see the old me was at the "Y." Oh, wait, getting into that kayak was for the newer me, too.

In a handful of words...eat plant-strong, move everyday and you will have a perfect vacation. If you struggle with your food, or know someone who does, please pass these tips along. And, always love your family even if they can't be plant-strong.

I am leaving you with this quote...and I leave you with a full heart in letting you know that you can achieve a calm and serenity in allowing yourself to be plant-strong. Getting ready to head back to Philly. Happy as can be, too!

Let me tell you the secret that has led me to my goal. My strength lies solely in my tenacity.
Louis Pasteur

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Peacefoods Cafe

The Megabus is my new best friend. I love getting an early bus bound for Manhattan. So much to do and see. But lately, I am on a quest to find great vegan restaurants. Eating out is always fun, but eating at a vegan restaurant allows a certain freedom. No need to filter out the menu of the "can haves and can't." Generally, there are just two questions to ask: Can you make this without oil? Can you please omit the salt? Once that is cleared, it is smooth menu sailing.

The Peacefoods Cafe is located on Amsterdam Avenue on the Upper West Side. Charming and adorable, it sits nestled on the corner of W. 82nd Street. It is simply stated, clean, adorable and did I mention the wonderful aromas? You seat yourself. You're greeted by your food server who doesn't tell you her name, but has the courtesy to ask, "How are you today?" I was too embarassed to tell her that I had tripped on 6th Avenue and fell to the asphalt, but I was so happy to be at Peacefoods.

Thanks to Vegan Steven, my iPhone application, The Peacefoods Cafe popped up. That's how I found the place. I kept hearing the Cat Stevens song in my head, "Peace Train," but I interchanged the words.

Menu: Trifold, nice paper. Easy to read. Everything laid out nicely.

Comfort: Nice comfy chairs. Very clean restaurant. Lighting nice, windows let in lots of fresh sunlight.

Service: Great. Not in your face food servers, all very sweet and sincere. Fast turnover from each course.

Food: Fresh. Local. Delicious. Not overly seasoned. I requested mine without oils and salt. My salad of fresh veggies and quinoa was so good. I had a tamale stuffed with cilantro and fresh veggies. Very yummy. No gooey cheeses to get in your way. For dessert my friend and I shared a mango tart, which was made from dry mangoes into a puree. The portions were nicely sized. No gimmicks here, just great food.

On my vegan scale of tomatoes, I would give this four (4) tomatoes.

460 Amsterdam Ave
(between 82nd St & 83rd St)
New York, NY 10024
Neighborhood: Upper West Side
(212) 362-2266

Friday, August 6, 2010

The New Friday

Used to be that Friday night dinner required a call to the local pizza place. To be safe, I would order grilled chicken salad, with dressing on the side,etc. It would be my "show dinner." But somehow as the night wore on, I would also have some pizza and something else. Then, something else.

My family isn't totally on board with the way I eat. I cook loads of food, but they do not always partake in my beautiful vegan fare. Tonight was no exception. I made a lovely vegetable melange of summer vegetables while "they" ate Chinese food. Just the smell of it almost made me yak.

Dinner time used to be a time of unity, and now I feel as though we are at a restaurant, each eating something different. The centerpiece bowl of our table used to be a focal point for discussion. Instead, today, I am feeling that my plant strong life is creating a wedge between me and my family,but there is no going back. They are fully supportive of what I do and what I eat, but the dinner table has a different vibe.

I think it is time for a discussion. For me to outline the importance of my journey on the vegan highway. Every one in my house is thin and uber healthy. I will figure this out, but will remain plant strong to thine own self.

Time to clean up the kitchen.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Engine 2 Comes to Bryn Mawr

I have a job that I really love. Most days, I am amazed that I get paid to even show up. Since April, I'd been working on a program to bring the brilliant documentary, Forks Over Knives, to the Philadelphia area. It began with a simple Skyping session with Rip Esselstyn. And when those plans from that one phone call all came to fruition (some three months later), I wasn't sure what to expect.

I've been plant-strong for ten months, and I wondered how differently my embrace would have been around this event had I not been that way. But, with all the calmness in my heart and the plant-strong strength of a gorilla, I was ready for this special event. In my mind, I thought that perhaps 150 people would have shown up. I would have been very happy with that. But, when 400 people kept on coming, and coming, and then when many had to be turned away, I knew that the message of the film was what people wanted to see. Plus, hearing Rip E. speak beholds the power of plant-strength. He has the true ability to hold people in the palm of his hand. He gets people to think about the food direction of their lives. He is a zealot in the best form of the word, and I think I figured out that he just wants you to have what he has...he is giving it away.

At the event, we had great food, lovely music, a private party for 70 patrons of the Bryn Mawr Film Institute, firefighters on a big yellow and brown truck, the hum of the group of 400 created a din that I can still hear. It was one of the best experiences of my life. All of the Healthy Eating Specialists from area WFM stores came together to share food, knowledge and humor; a very impressive group.

The movie will be out on March 11th, but I am hoping to help preview it on a smaller scale to some other outlets in the area. We cannot wait for the message of this movie, we need it now. All week long, my phone has been ringing off the hook. The question is always about the movie. This movie will change the way people view food and their lives.

This is the third time I have seen this movie. The first time I saw it, I was so moved by its message, that I knew I wanted to share it with people. Simple as that. This movie will change your life. I am in a state of repair from years of not being plant strong. Everyday gives me a new vista and more hope for the best life I can build.

Here are a few pictures from earlier this week. Thanks to my co-workers for such a great job, and to Rip for being the centerpiece of the event.

Be plant-strong to thine own self. Oh, and by the way, to date, I have lost 67 pounds. Just from eating plants, imagine that.