Flee Market

Today’s Lesson: One man’s trash is another man’s… trash. Junk is junk.

*****

We visited the Oldsmar Flea Market… 20 acres of arts, crafts, antiques, guns, books, pet supplies, plants, toys, and much, much, much more. 20 acres of mostly used, dirty cups, clothes, broken action figures, useless video tapes (Tom Hanks and Jackie Gleason in the 80’s comedy, “Nothing In Common”, on VHS–what a find! Or what a find?), rusty car parts, and cameras you will never find film for.

Some people love flea markets… the joy of finding the diamond in the rough or the sentimental value of childhood toys. I get it. I guess I am just not one of those people. I was happy to get my 10,000 steps goal walking up and down the aisles of garbage even Walmart won’t sell, but I guess flea markets are not for me.

Also, they did not have a single flea for sale.

The place was packed, though, and there were many happy faces lost in their hunt for hidden treasures. For me, the treasure was not hidden in the endless aisles of junk. It was in the nice walk with interesting things to look at.

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What Would You Pay For It?

Today’s Lesson:  Value is in the moment, not in the price.

*****

Yesterday was expensive. Typically, a day at the beach costs Nicole and me around $30. That’s $10 for parking and $20 for lunch. Yesterday was a beach day and we breezed through $160.

Because there was a festival at the beach we thought it would be fun to participate (and it was). Parking was at a premium, $25, plus $20 for tickets to the festival, $20 for lunch, $12 for drinks, $7 locker rental, and a rather bland $76 dinner at a fancy restaurant that made a fairly sad attempt to cater to vegans.

Overall, we had fun. It was worth every penny, even counting the bland, expensive dinner. However, if someone told us before we left our apartment that our trip to the beach was going to cost $160 (not counting fuel…this beach was an hour away from home), then we would definitely have stayed at the apartment and watched Netflix or something.

$160, honestly, turned out to be a bargain for the privilege and joy of spending the day playing in the ocean, enjoying amazing art, walking the shore, and watching fireworks on the beach.

It almost was not a magical day and it almost was a cheaper one. We almost headed for another beach when we found parking was more than double the normal rate but that would have meant another half hour of driving and more time spent looking for parking plus time lost when we could already be in the ocean. We paid it and we were glad to have a parking spot considering the festival’s turnout.

What something is worth, I realize, is whatever you are willing to pay in the moment. Don’t bother regretting it later. You spent exactly what you were willing to, and the best way to get your money’s worth is to be certain you enjoy parting with it.

No Pressure

Today’s Lesson: Stress is relative but my life is not relative to yours.

*****

Over the last few months Nicole and I have uprooted our lives, leaving everything behind in Grand Rapids, MI and moving to Tampa, FL.

It has been an amazing adventure so far but not without obstacles and remarkable stress. In some ways, we are not even the same people who started the journey. We have a new home with new furniture and new surroundings, new jobs with new work commutes, new cities to navigate, new weather, new sleep patterns, even new clothes. Everything is different and presents new challenges.

The funny thing is, when I feel the pressure mounting I am also reminded we are living with much less stress than many, if not most, other couples. Many of our stresses are temporary and will subside over time (we will grow used to the city, our new work teams, our clothes, etc.). Not to mention we basically live on Vacation (meaning we live where most people go to get away from it all), with sunny weather almost every day, palm trees, and beaches at hand. We don’t have kids, or a mortgage, or even car payments to worry about (yet… we will probably upgrade our cars this year).

The point is, from the outside looking in, I suspect it looks like we moved to Paradise but we still find ways to stress out. There are people with much better social position under much greater stress.

I have learned stress is part of life, every life, and it is relative to the life being led. The trick, I think, is to remember it is all temporary, including the life being led.

Recognizing all things must pass, including both the moments on the beach and the moments wishing for the beach, means recognizing it is all part of the adventure and we should cherish the challenges as much as the beaches.

5 Fast Food Meals for Vegans

Today’s Lesson: There is always an option.

*****

Sometimes I have to travel for work or I am in an unfamiliar city with friends or just in a hurry and do not have time to make or buy a great, healthy, delicious vegan meal. I never suffer for food, though, even on the go. Here are 5 fast food restaurants that have saved me in a pinch (many times), and exactly what I order from each to find vegan goodness when fast food is the only option.

1. Subway.

Six-inch Veggie on Italian, not toasted, no cheese. All the veggies and peppers. Instead of dressing, I ask for Salt, Pepper, and Oregano. I grab a bag of Fritos chips and a drink, too. It’s filling and I promise that sub is as tasty as anything else on the menu but twice as healthy. Remember, not all their breads are vegan. 

2. Chipotle/ Qdoba/ Moe’s Southwest Grille.

I am counting these as one restaurant because they all offer basically the same thing: burritos. Chipotle is a step above, though, because their Sofritas are amazing. Non-vegans would never know they were eating “fake” meat. Moe’s also offers tofu, which makes them legitimately vegan friendly in my book. Qdoba has no meat replacement option but they offer tortilla soup that is vegan, making them one of the only fast food soup providers I can think of.

At Chipotle, I order the Sofritas bowl with brown rice and black beans. I add hot salsa, pico, corn, guacamole (it’s extra), and lettuce. I add an additional side of guacamole and chips and I use the chips to turn the bowl into super nachos! Sometimes I change it up and have Sofritas tacos (corn tortillas).

Qdoba has two options for me. I might order a veggie burrito on whole wheat, with white rice (the white rice has cilantro-lime flavoring so this is one meal where I will choose white rice over brown) and black beans (add hot salsa, pico, lettuce, and guacamole). If I am really hungry, I will add a side of tortilla soup with tortilla strips on top. Or, I will go for the Mexican Vegetarian Gumbo with brown rice (it will be smothered in other stuff so the white rice offers no benefit here), hot salsa, pico, corn, guacamole, tortilla strips, and lettuce. This is a super filling meal.

At Moe’s, I order a “Joey Bag of Donuts” (which means “build-your-own”) burrito with a flour tortilla (I prefer whole wheat but theirs tears too easily), black beans, tofu, hot salsa, pico, black olives, fresh jalapenos, fresh cilantro, and guacamole. Sometimes I order a side of guacamole as well. Their burrito comes with chips and will fill me up for hours.

3. Panera

I like Panera because they offer Pepsi products, and Coke sucks, so sometimes I will go to Panera only for a good caffeinated sugar drink.

If I do eat, though, this is what I usually order: You Pick Two with Black Bean Soup and a Mediterranean Sandwich, no cheese or pesto on the sandwich, with chips… and a Pepsi.

 

4. Pizza Hut
It is possible to order a vegan pizza at Pizza Hut but it’s too complicated and they do not have vegan cheese anyway, so I just order Spaghetti Marinara and add mushrooms. Just set the garlic bread aside and enjoy your Pepsi (because although Pizza Hut sucks at vegan pizza, they at least have good taste in soda).

5. Taco Bell
In case of emergency, you can make a run for the border (before you make a run for the bathroom) with dinner at the Bell. I order a Bean Burrito “fresco style” (that means minus cheese, plus pico de gallo-they know that), a 7-Layer burrito minus cheese and sour cream, and Cinnamon Sticks.

It is tough to balance being vegan with having a convenient social life. You don’t want to be the pariah of your office or friends, forcing everyone to cater to your needs (or simply to avoid you). Fast food is not necessarily great food but knowing you can always find good (or at least good-ish) vegan food when you need can help.

 

 

5 Surprising Foods Vegans Don’t Have to Give Up!

Today’s Lesson: “Vegan” does not mean “never eating anything I know and love again”.

*****

PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), if you have not heard of them, is a vegan organization that is an embarrassment to many vegans because of their borderline insane views and extraordinarily misleading and outrageous marketing campaigns.

Nonetheless, PETA remains the biggest and one of the best resources for vegan information, including a surprisingly comprehensive list of accidentally vegan items like the five I am about to list. They have many more than I have listed and their list is worth checking out (just ignore any crazy or sensational stuff they happen to be pushing on the sidebars). Check it out here.

Here is a list of 5 of my favorite foods I was surprised to learn are vegan when I began my journey into dead or tortured animal-free living:

 

1. Oreos and Nutter Butters!
I loved Oreos before going vegan but they are even better when dipped in a big glass of Coconut Milk. Nutter Butters make one of the best pie crusts you could ever want. Just blend or crush half a package, then mix with olive oil (about half a cup) to create a mixture you can press into a pie pan (I like to use my fingers) and cook it with the pie!

 

2. Cinnamon Life and Cap’n Crunch Peanut Butter Crunch!
I love cereal and I am just crazy enough to mix both of these for Cinnamon Peanut Butter Crunch Life! Best with Almond-Coconut blend milk.

 

3. Laffy Taffy and Junior Mints!
Most taffy is not vegan but good old Laffy Taffy is, even in the non-banana flavors! I am not a fan of Junior Mints, personally, but in most theaters, they are one of the few vegan choices (along with original red Twizzlers and Swedish Fish).
4. Bagels and English Muffins!
Be sure to double-check the ingredients but almost every plain, blueberry, and cinnamon raisin bagel should be vegan (no eggs or butter are needed to make bagels but, obviously, an Asiago cheese covered bagel probably has… well, cheese). Thomas’ original English muffins (the original and best if you ask me) have always happened to be vegan. Great toasted and topped with a little olive oil, cinnamon, and sugar!
5. Manwich Sauce!
Hunt’s Sloppy Joe and Manwich sauces are vegan. That’s right. Vegans can enjoy gross, messy, strangely colored orange brown saucy burgers, too! Heat with either Tempeh or ground tofu. If you can’t find vegan hamburger buns, use English muffins!

Being vegan does not mean never enjoying many foods you already know and love. A lot of heavily processed foods are “accidentally” vegan, meaning it is simply cheaper to produce them without animal ingredients. It is a wholly different conversation around morality and your personal commitment and reasons for being vegan to decide if you should be supporting these companies and accidentally vegan products. Still, it is good to know (especially when you first adopt a vegan lifestyle) that when you need your cookie or Sloppy Joe fix, you’re covered.