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Livin la Vida Vegan Day 6 (15 tips and an oil volcano)

September 22, 2017

Nothing moves me like people coming around people to offer genuine support. When there’s nothing in it for them, no motive other than kindness. That just gets me where it counts, right in the ticker. I’ll get to the vegan food stuff, but first, something to make you feel good. On Tuesday, I wrote about how this dietary adventure had me feeling sluggish. I thought nothing of it at the time I posted it, but, beginning that night, the universe responded in such a loving, supportive way. The feedback and advice was overwhelming!

I’m sharing all of this, because there are some great tips here for anyone looking to ease up on the meat or dairy …

  • Tuesday night, I got a message from a former coworker and friend (and vegetarian) suggesting I follow Ellen Fisher on YouTube. Her how-to and recipe videos, filmed at her home in Hawaii, are beautiful, as is she. Check!
  • Next, a text from a coordinator at work listing resources I should take advantage of, many of which I didn’t know existed or felt guilty tapping into. A vegetarian dietitian I should connect with and Check!
  • Then I woke up to three text messages from my nurse/running partner/BFF Jackie telling me I needed to remember why I made the decision to try this in the first place, hold onto that and carry a banana with me for a quick carb boost. Check!
  • Next, an email from a great gal I worked with on a charity event last year. Her daughter is a vegan and dietitian and she’d love to connect us. Yes, please. (Her incredibly helpful email is featured below.) Check!
  • And then this message:

She’d reached out to a friend to triage my sloth-like symptoms. Our convo transcribed:

Elizabeth: you need more protein
like she was so tired all the time

Me: Yeah, I just feel sluggish
Like, yesterday I got 53g protein, which wasn’t enough
I’m definitely learning a lot

[20 minute lapse]

Elizabeth: ok, I have more
the main thing she said was protein was key and it was hard for her at first to navigate the veggie based protein

Me: Right, b/c I don’t want a ton of soy/sodium

Elizabeth: Right!
she said she ate a lot of black beans and hummus

Me: I hate beans
I love hummus

Elizabeth: and I told her you don’t like beans

Me: lol, right, right …

Elizabeth: what if you made “hummus” out of other beans?
or pureed them to thicken soup?

Me: That’s what my friend Jackie said … puree the beans
I also think I’m going to get some spirulina
It has a ton of protein

Elizabeth: I have no desire to do this myself but I am enjoying your dairy free product recommendations
I want those quinoa patties

Then, later that afternoon, this email from the dietitian daughter I mentioned earlier. Mind you, I have never met this young lady before. She took the time to share her insights which, again, could be helpful to anyone looking to make alterations:

Hi Courtney,
I saw that you are worried about proteins & don’t like beans! Luckily there are many others ways to get protein. You could try lentils which are high in protein and fiber; there are many different colors. Green is most similar to rice when cooking. Red changes texture after cooked and becomes like Indian Dhal (which is really good).
Tempeh is just fermented soybeans. These can be marinated and grilled, baked or pan fried. You can find it at Kroger next to the tofu. It can be added to salads, tacos, or stuffed peppers.

Tofu is another good protein source that you can do a lot with. My favorite is tofu scramble. Nuts, Seeds and Legumes can also be a good source of protein.

Nutritional yeast gives dishes a cheesy flavor and is high in B-12.

For the prepackaged burgers and other items marked vegan, they are highly processed so you’ll want to look at the label to make sure it’s not too high in saturated fats, trans fats, sodium and sugar.

I like to Pinterest ideas and try the out. Most dishes can be made vegan! If I have an ingredient like lentils I usually just look up “what to do with lentils” or “lentil recipes”. I also follow a lot of vegan bloggers who cook and make new recipes which helps me come up with ideas too! My go-to-meals are ethnic foods like Indian, Thai or Mexican.

If you ever have any questions feel free to reach out. I don’t mind at all! I hope that was helpful there’s a lot of information that I’ve collected over the years and this is only a little piece! Don’t worry if it’s a little tough now. When I first started I only ate salad and potatoes until I got that hang of it. Also- I love vegan friendly brands. I know the good ones pretty well. If you ever need a product review 😉

With healthy vibes,
The kindest stranger ever (I added this part)

It turns out that all I needed to do to have my faith in humanity restored in its entirety, and then some, was try going vegan for 14 days. If this is vegan, I’ve thought many times in the last couple of days, then count me in.

The good news is, everybody can relax a bit because yesterday I hit my protein goal, with a gram to spare. (I don’t think Hank fared quite as well. He was flying around the house looking at labels while I made dinner last night, doing the math. It didn’t sound good.) Actually, I was over on everything but carbs. The sugar is a result of too much dried and fresh fruit, and the sodium isn’t that bad, so I’m happy with those numbers. A few adjustments to make. Every day I learn something new about my food.

7:30 a.m.
Nothing much to report here, except I added an extra scoop of hemp seeds (5.3g protein/tablespoon) to my smoothie this morning. I ordered some spirulina, and I’ll start playing around with that in my smoothie when it arrives. I don’t know why, but I fear the algae might night have the pleasing chocolatey flavor of my current go-to protein powder, so there will be some trial and error on that front.

11 a.m.
The snackies strike. I added some shelled pistachios (6g protein/1/4 cup) to my typical trail mix and it’s like butter, baby.

You know how I like to get down on that vegan salad. I sprinkled about a tablespoon of hemp seeds on that bad boy, too. I’m just throwing that stuff around like Uncle Bart’s ashes over here! I’m so into that Primal Kitchen Greek dressing, too. Thank goodness for delicious tubs of hummus and the comfort of routine to get me through this 12 p.m. conference call.

3:45 p.m.
A treat for my tummy. This is delicious, not like the super vinegar-y kombuchas of my past attempts. I had half a bottle today, and I’ll enjoy the second half tomorrow. Again, found these gems at Costco.

When I picked the girls up today they informed me there is a pumpkin decorating contest at school. But there’s a catch … there’s always a catch. Entries are due tomorrow, before the Fall Festival. I swung into the grocery store, told the 19-year-old who couldn’t understand my problems that I needed two of her finest pumpkins, and gathered the booty, knowing it meant a night of hell ahead. JoJo is doing Captain Underpants, and Spike is undecided at this point.

4:45 p.m.
I have a work event this evening, which happens from time to time when social media is your business. I need to be back to the office by 6 p.m. and I promised I’d get dinner around if Hank picked up the chicks at the Kay’s. I chose Warm Cabbage Salad with Crispy Tofu from The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook by America’s Test Kitchen for tonight’s dining experiment. It came together beautifully, and quickly. The longest part was waiting for the water to run off the tofu, a task to which the book allotted 20 minutes.

After I prepared the slaw salad and dressing, I sliced the soybean hunk into four separate strips and transferred them over to the cornmeal-cornstarch breading mixture. The oil was already heating on the stovetop. This looks like it needs … something, I thought. In a last-minute attempt to add flavor, I poured some rice wine vinegar on the tofu pieces. Then I dropped the first one in.

Let me ask you, dear friend, have you ever dropped vinegar into a boiling-hot pan of oil? Neither had I! Step into science class with me for a sec … First, the substance burped a bit. Nothing too noteworthy. Then an aggressive pop; enough that I turned my head. Then two more impressive bubbles. Then more popping … and splattering … and crackling … and before I could hatch a plan, there was a scorching volcano erupting in my kitchen.

As no-win situations go, this one was pretty brutal. If I tried to get close, I would get stung by a splat of oil. But if I didn’t turn the burner off, the lava would just continue raining down on my tile until the pan was empty. I threw a dishtowel over my arm and came at the dragon like a tentative knight. With every lunge, I managed to turn the dial on the burner back just a tad, of course, that meant the blue flames underneath got higher before I was able to extinguish them entirely.

When the raging eruption subsided, I surveyed the damage.

Everything on the east side of the kitchen was coated in the slime of my mistake. I looked at the clock; 10 minutes until I had to pull out of the driveway. I frantically started mopping up the worst of it with old burp clothes. Then shrugged. He knew what he was getting when he married me. I assembled a bowl of the slaw, threw a handful of mango in a container and darted away from the scene of the crime.

I text Hank: “Dinner’s all ready. Be careful on the floor. I don’t want to talk about it.”

I shoved a few bites of the tofu salad into my mouth as I whirled through the roundabouts on my way to work. Well, shit … at least it tastes good, I thought. I left the bowl in my front seat while I handled my work business and then slammed some more on my way to Earth Fare after, taking the final bites around 9 p.m., after I mopped up the last of my oil spill. This was a fave, i think. It was easy to make, had just enough crunch and salt, and felt like something I’d eat even if I wasn’t trying the vegan thing on for size. Score: B

Man, some days you kick ass and some days kick yours. This one felt like the latter.

Publishing note:
We’re going to push pause on the daily posts so the crew can go camping for the weekend. I’ll be back Sunday night with an update on how we took this vegan show on the road. So far, we’re looking at a lot of cereal and quinoa burgers to get through, but I’m trying to get creative. I’ve been to Earth Fare like 500 times in 4 days. I think they think I’m addicted to things made from nuts. Anyway … catch you guys on the flip side and thanks again for the love this week.


Turtle Talk (and other stops on my road to being a writer)

August 31, 2016

How the hell did you become a writer?” an acquaintance inquired during a stalled start to the morning meeting.
“I mean, how does anyone choose their profession?” I thought, but instead replied, “I just always liked it.”
“Yeah, but like, no one really becomes a writer. Like, unless you write books, right?”

You never think something about yourself is odd until someone else flags it as odd. That’s what makes it official. You mean everyone doesn’t leave the last tissue because they like the design on the box so, so much? I don’t think the way I earn a living is particularly noteworthy, but I’ll entertain almost any question for the sake of content. I can trace the roots of this one all the way back to a little majestic dot on an elementary school map, called Turtle Town.


While others were known to dabble, I made a career out of having an awkward phase. The beginning of my climb to peak unpolished adolescence arrived at age 10. In the fourth grade, I had spacey, jagged teeth and mousy blonde hair with bangs that easily flipped and frizzed at the slightest breeze or rush of activity. My lips were always chapped. I wore a rotation of sweatshirts with assorted appliqués over turtlenecks in contrasting shades (they never matched exactly because I liked to embrace my rebellious whims). My boyfriend, who wore hammer pants, was 2 inches shorter than me, and I was a meager 3 feet in stature. Things ended abruptly when he placed my Pound Puppy, which I had gifted to him against my mom’s wishes, in a sad, semi-rain-soaked brown grocery bag on top of my desk with a note that read simply, “Itz over. – Jon”. I knew nothing of myself. I was a sheep. A follower. The full extent of my ambitions for the foreseeable future consisted of marrying Dylan McKay, having a smile like Julia Roberts and moving like Penny from Dirty Dancing. (The fact that my parents allowed me to watch sex-tinged programming with prostitutes and “knocked up” resort performers is not for any of us to judge.)

What I didn’t realize was I had something going for me; A hand to gently guide me toward fate. I had Mr. Johnson for fourth grade and Mr. Johnson was the shit. In the midst of sleepovers where we made girls pee their pants and call their parents at 1 a.m. and clammy, sweat-soaked hand-holding, and the arrival of Gushers, Mr. Johnson went and turned our classroom into a microcosm and just waited to infiltrate our tiny, ignorant little brain saplings.

Every year, the students in room 23 would decide the name, mascot, and basic government and judiciary system of their pretend city. In 1993, the name was Turtle Town, the mascot was a fox – just kidding – it was a turtle, and the government was comprised of a collection of pinheads who liked to show off their turdy friends and make fart noises in the middle of films about migrating birds and what have you. But it was cool. We had elections and town meetings and learned all kinds of important life stuff without realizing we were being taught (such suckers). I can’t remember if it was my idea, or the teacher’s, but at some point, it was decided that Turtle Town needed a newspaper. It would be called Turtle Talk and I would be the editor.

I went to my parent’s office and took a giant accordion-style file folder and labeled the slots with sections – sports, front page, government, etc. I carried around a small spiral-bound notepad and pen and pleaded with my classmates to write fake pieces of news. “So, like maybe you left the town hall meeting with a stomachache because you ate bad porridge at the Turtle Top Tavern. Huh? Whatdaya say?” In the end, I discovered a truth that followed me for the next 23 years and counting: If you have the vision, and you want something written, it’s best to just ask the right questions and write the damn thing yourself. And so, I did. I slapped on my Bonne Bell Dr. Pepper chapstick and got to business writing horrific headlines and cheesy photo captions and exposés on Turtle Town’s public officials (the majority of which never made the cut). I fashioned that fabricated content into a true, tangible newspaper, piece by piece. Of course no one really gave a crap. How do you compete with an unstoppable TGIF lineup and Beanie Babies for Pete’s sake?

Followers be damned, the seed had been planted. I loved to write. I loved coming up with ways to tell stories and talking to people who’d done things I hadn’t and working with words until they formed the perfect linguistic cadence. (This last sentence may be a bit overkill for the work I was turning out at this time.)


Where Mr. Johnson left off, my high school journalism and English teacher (one in the same) picked up. This woman was a dead ringer for Miss Geist from Clueless. She had a sarcastic wit Amy Schumer would envy, sobering honesty when you really needed it and a hands-off style that just made kids thrive. She didn’t reach all of the kids in the school, but the ones she did, she changed. We were like a gang comprised of rejected members of the Breakfast Club. There were intellectuals, athletes and “outcasts”, but when we entered that corner classroom, tucked away from the social hierarchy, the subtitles dissolved entirely. We ate boxes of Lemonheads and troughs of Cheetos while we brainstormed story ideas and layouts. We made McDonald’s runs to clear writer’s block. It was an editorial-induced euphoria that kept me high for four solid years.

I wrote sappy editorials about saying goodbye to upperclassmen and being single on Valentine’s Day. I spent a solid week sipping sugary gas station mochas and pouring my emotions out for the intro page copy in our yearbook my senior year. My Miss Geist doppleganger, who by then was like a second mother, encouraged me to make a last-minute change of college for a better Journalism program and a leg up down the road. I followed her advice.

In 2002, Sex and the City was a female institution. You knew if you were a Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte or, God forbid, Miranda. I was studying Magazine Journalism in the Midwest and, culturally, could not be farther from the Big City storylines I relished so intently. My then-boyfriend (now-husband) was a student at a small all-male college a little shy of 2 hours away and they were looking for a female columnist for their newspaper. One sample article later, I was committed to pen a biweekly editorial on life through a woman’s lens. From the Hip ran for 3 glorious years. It was the closest to Carrie I would ever get. And while most of the questions submitted came from lonely independents who just couldn’t understand why the weekend lady visitors weren’t feelin’ their flavor, we did venture into some heavy early adult topics. If nothing else, writing that column made going to the bars super fun. “Hey, aren’t you From the Hip girl? Whoa! Wussup?” “Hey, you know what you should write about? Why girls don’t make any sense.” “Hey, you were wrong. That girl totally called the next day.” “Hey, you know what you should write about? [Insert late night radio show topic].” “Hey, your article cut into the football feature. I’m not mad though. I’m just sayin’ it was long.” Those were good times. I sincerely loved those times.

And those were the articles, with heavy sexual undertones and ridiculous subject matter, that I took with me to apply for my first job out of school; an editorial assistant at a food magazine. The publisher must have been on heavy pain meds when he hired me. My portfolio was sad, but my rate was cheap and I was eager to work like a typing mule. The magazine had zero money. Paychecks would bounce at least once a month and we were our own cleaning service. But the education I got in the five years I worked there was immeasurable. I went into immaculate kitchens with freshly butchered meats and cheeses I couldn’t pronounce. I learned about wine varietals and molecular gastronomy and organic farming. I was 22 when I started that job. It was a champagne experience on a penny pitcher beer budget. I adored my editor. I still adore my editor and I still call her my editor even though we haven’t worked together in seven years. She had her priorities right and was a sharp wordsmith. She shaped my writing and she showed me how to balance my work and personal life without sacrificing myself. She ran on her lunch hour, knew the best places to grab a beer and believed in the value of a Friday Coke. Every young writer needs an editor like that.

Eventually my writing turned into more of a job than a joy. I made some career turns and strayed from the rich editorial path a bit in exchange for a more realistic salary. It worked for a few years. But I know myself and I knew that I was missing the art of writing. Not just the piecing together of words with alliteration and spot-on syntax to reel consumers in, but the actual soul sharing and storytelling part of it. I started this blog, privately at first, as a way to quench that desire to express myself in that way. I needed an outlet to complement my occupation. And, 3 years later, here we are.


A man that I admire a whole heck of a lot said, “We write so that we can taste life twice.” He was referring to journaling. I think that is what this blog – and truly, many parts of my professional career – are for me. I’ve seen natural springs and traversed the steep hills of a maple syrup farm and flown in helicopters and hiked the AT and survived 7 years of motherhood, and I can relive those days any time I want. I can pull out a magazine or pull up an article and recall those sights and sounds and characters because I’ve shared them and they live somewhere outside of my forgetful mind. That is the gift that writing gives you.

You might love cleaning people’s teeth or educating young children or giving quotes on various goods and services. I love the sound of the keys when my fingers can’t keep up with my mind and the satisfaction of submitting a finished article. For me, it isn’t about showing up in your newsfeed or standing from the tallest podium in a room of screaming grownups. I just want to make people feel something. I want to elicit empathy and contemplation and exploration. I want to write things that inspire and engage people and make us hop off the hamster wheel for a few minutes. Not everything I write is going to do that, but I respect the process, and I respect rare gem you get when the words come together just so and set something off for someone.

From Turtle Town to this Desperate search for Superwoman, there’s just something about writing for me. I’m so blessed to have found it. I’m so thankful you read it. It’s so delicious tasting this life twice. Period.


243 minutes

August 7, 2015


On my run last night, which took 47:51, I got to thinking about time; Specifically, where I spend it and who I spend it with. Dissecting an average work day, I see my chicks from 5pm – 9pm. If you count the glimpse I steal of them sleeping in the morning on my way downstairs and the brief encounter I sometimes get with Spike, you can add three extra minutes to that. So, that’s it. A lousy 4 hours and 3 minutes in a 24-hour day. But it gets worse.

More often than not, that’s a high estimate. If it’s a jogging night, we’re talking at least 45 minutes deducted from the already slim pot. A class at the gym? That’s 60 minutes. Girls night out? I’m lucky to get 40 minutes of face time with them. Then I start tallying the cooking, cleaning and shopping, and my soul shatters. How freaking sad is that to think about? And, if I want to further butcher those sweet seconds, I could go crazy analyzing which minutes are actually considered quality time. Time where I am doing my job as a mom rather than assuming the role of the moron multitasking bystander as their childhood playfully roars by without me.

Screen Shot 2015-08-07 at 6.12.29 PM

An unfortunate series of events has granted Hank a little extra time at home during the past 7 months. As much as we joke about his temporary turn as a “househusband,” the time has truly been a gift to me. Sharing the daily chores and tasks it takes to keep this place running has given me so many more opportunities to get down and wrestle with our girls. I can chew on Sloppy Joan’s neck and listen to giggles hiss out of her four-toothed mouth, because the laundry was already started. I can do airplane until my legs give out with JoJo, because dinner’s in the works. And I can sit in awe and listen to another imaginative Spike story, because the floors got swept this morning. I’m not saying it’s fun being on the other end of the broomstick, but it has been a huge blessing for the lady of the house.

But it’s ending. In a blink we’ll be back to two full-time working parents, with a child in kindergarten and, again, the hourglass is going to drain like a bottle of Moscato at a Mary Kay party.

I don’t know that there’s an answer or a solve for fleeting time. I’ve long yearned for the chance to go back in history, find the fool who implemented the 5-day work week, and beat him until he cries crocodile tears of regret and begs for my forgiveness, but alas, the gentleman (you know it was a man) eludes me. I’m also quite certain that the grass is greener concept is at play here. If I stayed home with my girls, truth be told, I’d probably end up hunkered down in my closet with an iPad full of Sex and the City seasons, a tapped Bota Box and a can of Reddi-wip, crying while the children beat each other into submission and the basic laws of human decency toppled one by one outside by bunker. I once asked my mother what she liked most about staying home with us kids and she said, “You know, I didn’t. Some people are meant to stay home and some people aren’t. And I wasn’t.” I respect her honesty and, while I think my kids are the most awesome specimens ever grown, I think I might not be one of those people either. Sometimes, you just can’t win.

I always try to make it matter. I want their memories with me to be full of belly laughs, muddy knees and wild adventures. I want to listen and I want to lift them up. I want them to know my eyes, rather than the top of my head or my back. I want more time, but since I can’t have that, I want more of the times you take with you; in your heart, in your dreams, in the stories you tell. Every moment spent is a moment you can’t get back and they’re fleeting at an obnoxious pace. All I can do is breathe it all in, let it fill me up with joy and let my soul’s compass point back to that feeling, that purpose, often and always.

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Being the new guy at work

July 28, 2015


It’s been a month. Four weeks. Thirty-ish days. I am reporting to my new post for a fifth Monday, and I gotta be honest here, change is really, stinkin’ tough. It’s not the people; the people are great. They’re welcoming and thoughtful and many of them actually feel very familiar for some reason. It’s all the other things. The 8 trillion tiny nuances of your work life that are just a tad  off center.

New technology.
I never thought I would be that girl. The one who desires that distinguishing fruit on her laptop and operates by a handful of apps. But I am all the same. Earning my paycheck in the digital sphere has me married to luxuries like a sizable monitor, Evernote and mobile machines that sync and allow me to set up shop wherever I land. The way your devices speak to each other is a language you learn to live by, and changing that setup is like finding yourself at a dinner party in … say … New Orleans. You can follow the conversation but every now and again, you feel completely disconnected.

New secrets.
Offices have secrets. They all do. One of the most charming things about finding yourself on the veteran end of a corporate position is being one of the keepers of the secrets. Who stocks ibuprofen and StaticGuard. Who lets you “borrow” stamps. Which bathrooms smell like lavender and which ones smell like lavender mixed with unpleasant things. Where to find boxes. How to ship things. Where to score a cup of the best coffee and who is kind enough to serve up a splash of their creamer. Who comes in early. Who stays late. Who has the best candy bowl; You know, the one with the stuff that really makes it worth the calories. All of these secrets make your work day just a little easier to swallow, but I’m still drinking the crap coffee and couldn’t ship my pants if I had to.

New digs.
Office space, and cubicles in particular, are very tricky. You have to strike a balance between color and conservative. Inspirational and efficient. Cute and corporate. No one wants to stare at vanilla corkboard 40 hours a week, but you don’t want a mammoth shrine to your posse at home, either. I find it best in a situation like this to introduce my obsession with my children in small, digestible doses. First, a few Stickgrams, followed by some of their finest artwork and then a few quotes for good measure. It’s like planting mint in the garden. It starts as a few sprigs and sprouts into a sweet, overgrown garden.

New paperwork.
I just can’t. I’m pretty sure that everyone with dealings in insurance, retirement funds and your assorted additional benefits got together in a large room and decided to throw a smattering of complicated, indecipherable jargon on a binder of papers and then tell you to make copies of all of it to store in a file folder for, like, forever, until referenced in some obscure way 18 months from now.  Stupid. Just so stupid.

New crew.
There are folks who have a masters in networking. They’ve studied the art of small talk and flattery. Put them in a room of bees and they’ll leave with barrels of honey. I am somewhere a step below those people. I love a good conversation, particularly when it involves something I know about, or want to know about, but going in cold usually just leaves me feeling frozen. Typically, one familiar, friendly face can thaw and save any social situation, but when every face is a new face, I tend to resign myself to an awkward smile and excessive coffee drinking. I miss the days of a stranger being the exception and water cooler conversations about more than the weather. We’ll get there. Rome wasn’t built in a day.