I’m as Free as a Bird Now

For I must be traveling on, now
‘Cause there’s too many places I’ve got to see

I’m leaving America.
You want to know why I’m leaving America – the land of the free and the home of the brave?
New York City, where, if you can make it, you can make it anywhere?

Because I am not making it here! It’s time to see where I am meant to be. Which is not to say that America or New York have done me wrong. I’ll be back, because I simply can’t leave it behind forever. However, how can I judge and know that THIS is where I want to be, unless I see what else is out there? Just because songs and movies tell me so, doesn’t mean that this is where I’m meant to be forever. After all, what do I care about expensive cars and throwing around billions of dollars? I don’t. But when everyone around you either has or wants or needs this lifestyle, that’s what becomes the norm. I’ve seen myself turning into that ‘money-focused, self-involved, kick ’em down unless you need ’em’ sort.
No. The buck stops here!

To be honest, I’ve played it safe and comfortable all these years. I’ve been kind and generous. I’ve given and seldom taken. My head’s on good shoulders and my heart’s in the right place. Yet, I’m still relying entirely on others financially. Of course, I realize finances aren’t everything. They aren’t the be all, end all. They don’t determine my worth or success. However, being a burden unto others, whether they don’t mind or don’t see it that way, I experience that as a burden unto myself. Long story short, I just can’t do it anymore.

Seeing how the job offers are simply not coming along and I have no roots here, I see no reason to stay. As my peers settle down into homes and jobs and families, I am still uprooted with no one but the family nature gave to me. While they are  wonderful and I am fortunate to have them,  it’s a constant reminder that I have nothing of my own for which I worked, nothing I’ve earned, nothing to give me depth and purpose. This results in feelings of defeat and emptiness. With all I have been given, how have I achieved so little? How can this be so!? I can’t bear the reality.

BEARS!

Maybe blaming my location is of no use, but how am I to find out the length of my reach if I never stretch? Maybe, no matter how far I travel, how long I trek, I will always feel this sense of urgency to change and have something different. Some people are just never content with what they have and they always want something more or different. That could be. But if I just need a break from the bustle and the chaos and a reminder of what matters to me and where I can get it, maybe then I’ll find that inner peace… or something that resembles it. In the meantime, I’ll be living the nomadic life for a bit. Hostels and volunteer work and seeking a career, a home, a place to belong.

“Terror” does not even begin to describe the feelings I have regarding this decision. My heart races, head hurts, and my breaths increase just at the thought. That’s what excites me about it, though. To do those scary things, make those leaps, and never let fear and self-doubt prevent me from trying. To slow down and remind myself that I am not meant to chase billowing, green bills.

I can’t say what my life’s purpose is, but I know that my everyday goal is to make life as beautiful for others as it is for me. To share my vision of a less awful existence and finding success in a cause for people, other animals, nature, and whatever else is out there. I guess I’ll find out and I hope you’ll all be with me during this scary and exciting journey!

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In the meantime, get satisfied!

 

¿¿Borscht Pastelón??

What happens when a Jewish woman of Eastern European descent attempts to make a beloved Spanish dish? Something delicious? Or disgusting?
Tonight I may be dining on a delicious fusion cuisine for my Saturday night Cheat Meal or I may be wasting an entire, precious plantain. Find out right now on…

Sweet Tooth Travels Presents:

The ingredients in the ring:
1 plantain
1/2 can garbanzo beans (low sodium)
1/2 can black beans (low sodium)
1/4 can sliced beets
1 handful raw kale
A splash of milk alternative of choice – I LOVE the new SILK Protein Nut Milk
Hot sauce or chili pepper flakes – I used both!
Spices and herbs of choice – I threw in jerk seasoning and grounded pepper

Recipe:
Oven at 350 F degrees
Start the plantain cut in half in boiling water. It will take about 45 minutes for the skin to practically be falling off the banana. Once it’s nice and soft and yellow, you can remove them. Peel and mash! Just remember, these are coming out of a pot of boiling water… thus, they are hot. FOOD IS HOT! Hand burning is not part of the recipe, so I am not liable. Just saying.


In a bowl, mix beans and veggies (I splashed in even more hot sauce!) Blend this all together in a processor. Add a little of the juices from the cans, but not too much or it won’t be thick. You can also add veggie meat crumbles to this mixture.

 

 

If you suddenly realize that there is a crack on the bottom of your mixing bowl, don’t be dismayed, leaky nut milk and beet juice are beautiful!
Once everything is mashed, squish the plantains around the bottom of your oven-friendly pan. It’ll be like the crust of this pie. Then layer the bean mixture on top. You can also sprinkle your cheese alternative on top. If you’re me, you’ll add more hot pepper and sauce on top. But… I’m a little insane. Cilantro or parsley on top would be nice, too.

Finally,  throw it in the oven for ~10/15 minutes (longer if you upped the ingredients, obviously!)

AND, BAM! Spanish VOILA!
Alternative options would be adding more liquid and making this into a dip with non-dairy sour cream, avocado, salsa, and chips. Throw it in a tortilla. Add tomato sauce on top. Mix it in with your pasta, rice, or steamed veggies… whatever makes you smile! All I know is, this healthy and super delicious dish is ALWAYS best when made with heart and soul!
With Spanish food like this at home, who needs restaurants?
Not this girl!

Nutrition Facts:

1 Plantain
218 calories – 2.3 g Protein – 893 g Potassium –
57 g carbohydrates – 7 mg sodium – 27 g Sugar

1/4 cup black beans – 55
55 calories – 2 g Protein – 88 mg Potassium –
10 g carbohydrates – 110 mg sodium – 0 g Sugar

1/4 cup garbanzo beans – 71 calories
71 calories – 2.97 g Protein – 103 mg Potassium –
13.57 g carbohydrates – 179 mg sodium – 0 g Sugar

1/4 cup beets – 15 calories
15 calories – .55 g Protein – 110 mg Potassium –
3.25 g carbohydrates – 27 mg sodium – 2.3 g Sugar

Total: 359 calories, 7.82 g Protein… and you can do the rest of the math!

Take into account that a big portion of this will be shared with your dog. This is a super nutritious and satisfying meal that everyone will enjoy!
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In the meantime, get satisfied!

 

My Week in Zurich

It all started when I decided to book a flight to Portland. Portland, Oregon. A city in the United States of America. Maybe a 5-hour flight… no biggie. So, how did I end up spending Easter in Zürich’s red light district? Simple: the flight was $3 cheaper! How could I pass that up?

Next thing I know, I’m flying an hour to the Montreal airport for a 4-hour layover. I sat down for a mid-travel hydration break and met a wonderful bartender from Israel. We chatted. Well, she chatted. Israelis like to talk. She told me about immigrating to Canada and how she desperately wants to return to her homeland. She told me everything! Of course, I gave her a nice tip and moved on. This is after she told me I should go outside for a bit because I could use a little tan. Yep.

Then I was back on the plane (I was NOT missing any flights this trip!) Another few hours, and I landed in Zürich Airport!

I was a little concerned because I had heard that there was no vegan food in Zürich and that it was a very expensive city/country. With this in mind, I was still determined to live off of $150 USD/$127.20 Francs for the entire week. This was helped by two factors: free accommodations I found on Couchsurfing and some help from Zuerich.com. I really would not have survived this trip without the help of the city guide, definitely check it out! A representative from the site, Julia told me about the ZurichCARD and told me about a great 2-hour tour of the Old Town, which I also really recommend.

What really amazed me about Zürich was that everyone has a completely different experience of this small city! I was staying in the infamous ‘Red Light District’ on Langstrasse (Long Street). Here you’ll find all the trouble you are seeking. 24-hour snacks and booze, sinful pleasures, entertainment, and easy access to nearly anywhere you want to go! However, this street isn’t one of shame and secrecy, it’s really a tourist favourite. You can grab a beer with some buddies, check out the club and music scene, or discover a special little space by Rolandstrasse. My host owns a community and culture space that you can’t miss! On the front, you’ll notice a huge painting of an old man wrinkled with joyful memories and a truly inspiring ram.
You see these two characters, and you know you’re in the right place. Check out if it’s open, which it normally is. You might find actors or music or food… or all the above if you’re lucky!
If you’re into partying all night, you will love this bustling neighbourhood. Seriously, I was in bed at 5 AM each night and when I went out in the morning, the clubs were still booming and there were still people sitting outside bars drinking a cold one. Swiss people know how to party.

However, I’m not much of a party animal, despite my poor sleep habits. After some fun, I was ready to see the more serious side of Zürich. I took my  ZurichCARD, which gave me access to all the trains, buses, and museums, and I went to explore!

The one place you’ll likely to get to know very well is the Zürich Main Station, also known as Zürich Hauptbahnhof– but you can just call it Zürich HB. This spot is the largest railway station in Zürich and it has everything and anything you could need during your trip. The Main Station is where you’ll find pretty much any transportation you need, as well as ticket booths, an information hub, a supermarket, a million shops, a restroom (for 2 francs), restaurants and food stands, fairs and fests, and the Landesmuseum is right next door! I had a great time checking out this museum. Experiencing a city is great, but it’s even better when you can learn all about its history, as well. And yep, entry to the museum was FREE with the ZurichCARD!
I also made sure to get cultured at very accessible and nearby Kunsthaus. They had a permanent collection that was free to view with my Pass but seeing the temporary exhibit would have cost a little extra. However, on a snowy April day, I was more than happy to spend 4 hours checking out some art! Admittedly, I was only admiring the art for 3.5 hours, but then I got lost for half an hour. I’m not ashamed to admit that, it happens every time I go to a museum alone. Every. Single. Time. But I was in good company!

                      This family also got lost. The poor man is dying.

I also had a really great time walking along the water, even when the weather was chilly. Cold weather in Zürich was surprisingly pleasant, too! Maybe it was the energy of being in a foreign country, but although I am typically completely opposed to the existence of cold, I didn’t mind throwing on a couple of layers of sweaters and wandering around for hours. Through the ritzy streets of Bahnhofstrasse, I went. This street is known as one of the most exclusive and expensive shopping areas in the world, so maybe just window shop…. Then I followed along and came across a blacksmith. Really. Which was right next to a place called DYNAMO! I didn’t know what this place was, but the door told me that there was a reggae concert with free entry, so, duh. I spent the next 4 hours dancing and jammin’ with the local Jamaican Swiss people. They do exist and they’re super talented! The concert was followed by a jam session, so I picked up a djembe that was floating around and got “airite” with these cool kids. I also made friends with a Croatian fella whom I made plans with the next day.

This is not him. This is a Jamaican Rasta mon!

 

 

The next day we met up at The Sacred. This is a vegan buffet where you pay by weight. We didn’t eat real food, though! I got myself some vegan gelato. The options were incredible! At least 15-20 types to choose from, all given a 1, 2, or 3. 1 meant it was made with soymilk, 2 meant it was made with almond or rice milk, and 3 meant it was raw. How exciting! After the ice cream man coerced me into trying nearly every flavour, I simply couldn’t choose between a level 2 sesame or level 3 currant, so I got both! I wasn’t the only one, I noticed that the gelato was very popular. Everyone had at least two scoops! Looking around the shop, I was really impressed with just how many food items The Sacred offered! Tofu, seitan, veggies, nuts, alternative meats, and of course, lots of yummy sweets and treats from which one could choose. Overall, Zürich was very vegan-friendly, actually! I’ll write more about that in my next post, but let me just say, nearly everywhere I went had multiple vegan options, there were several entirely vegan restaurants, and the grocery stores had spaces dedicated to vegan foods, and everything was clearly labeled as being vegan. I was overjoyed!

After we indulged in some sugary goods, my new friend took me somewhere I could not describe as anything less than MAGICAL! If you’re in Zürich on a Tuesday or Thursday evening, please find your way to Shanti Jay. You won’t regret it – unless you hate music, chai, and beautiful people. This little community of people was completely diverse, non-judgmental, and full of love, love, love. Before entering, we all took off our shoes and then proceeded to walk into the little fairy land. The walls are entirely covered in instruments, they won’t ever have to worry about wallpaper! We all sat on the ground and shared chai. There was a milk version as well as an almond milk one, both smelled equally delicious, and the almond milk chai was a little taste of heaven.

    I stole this picture from the site, as it was too dark inside for decent photos

We then moved to the “performance space”. In here there were more instruments, more people, and a microphone. Whether you are into string instruments, percussion, singing, stomping, or just sitting and contemplating the universe, there is a place for you in the drum circle. Maybe leave the trumpet at home, though.
I grabbed a drum and played some xylophone. Meanwhile, an Israeli man played guitar, a Swiss man played piano, a Polish couple meditated, my Croatian friend played a little of everything, a little girl who spoke 4 languages sang and danced and giggled, and an older man with crutches sat down and did some throat-singing. A truly remarkable sight.
As for the Old Town Tour, that was a super worthwhile experience. One this 2-hour tour, I learned all about Zürich’s history and culture, and I met the wonderful tour guide, Maria. This brave woman did the tour both in German and in English! This was also a great way to meet new people. I met a man from Bristol, England who was staying in Geneva for work and visiting Zürich for the day. After the tour, we went for a drink and found a local fair, where he won me a stuffed duck whom we named Albert. After all, we were right in front of the university Albert Einstein attended, so what better way to offer Einstein some respect than name a toy duck after him? We also came across some hooligans by the water, fortunately, they didn’t hassle us.
Zürich was a memorable and inspiring city. The people, the places, and even the swans I will always remember fondly. In the end, I stayed in my budget, ate some tasty food, saw some fascinating sights, and best of all, I met people I hope to maintain contact with for many years to come. They all hold a special place in my heart, and I am so grateful for their kindness, generosity, and welcoming arms. Oh, and there was chocolate. Lots and LOTS of chocolate! We’ll discuss that more in my next post about vegan eats in Zürich!
Thank you again, Zürich Tourism for helping make this trip so special. Of course, despite their guidance, all opinions in this post are my own!

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No Need to Passover on Easter! Make it VEGAN!

Holidays can be a daunting task for vegans. Whether you’re making the holiday dinner, eating the holiday dinner, or shoveling chocolate into your mouth in a dark corner, there are so many things that make holidays tough.

First of all, your family will always call you “weird” or “crazy” and joke about feeding you meat… because that’s what families do. Second, you have to maintain some appearance of caring about the holiday (which, maybe you do, but I sure don’t!) And you have to wear clothing. Like, pants, bra, your dentures… whatever dressing up entails in your life. How awful! So, today I’m going to teach you how to be a nudist at family din- oh, wait, no. That’s not about what I’m writing. Sorry to disappoint you, but I’m just collecting a bunch of holiday-friendly vegan alternative options for Passover and Easter. That’s pretty good, too, no?

Let’s start with Easter, because I know NOTHING about Easter. I am excited to learn what people do on this holiday. As I hear it, there aren’t bunnies and baby chickens. Which is good! People, if you’re buying children bunnies and chicks, you’re a dummy. Did I just write that? Yes, and you are. These are living creatures. They require care and time and they’re messy and have pungent odors, and they grow up! Yes, they GROW.UP. at which point, your kid may very likely throw that frickin’ full-grown chicken at you and say, “But, like, you bought it.”

Next thing you know, your digging through the poop of little Shmuffin Wigglebuttons looking for the diamond ring he swallowed.
Shmuffin Wigglebuttons is what I named your chicken, by the way. And he eats diamond rings. So….

I’m getting to the food stuff now, I really am! Easter. Food. Let’s do this.

Alternatively, you can do whatever this is:Food. Right! Okay, stop yelling at me! I’m doing my best!

According to the interwebs, the average American family has these items for Easter dinner: ham, scalloped potatoes, boiled eggs, hot cross buns, Simnel cake, and a whole bunch of jellybeans and chocolate!

Fear not, vegans can still partake in the festivities! Although, this is where I admit that I don’t know what Easter is celebrating. Something with Jesus, I’m assuming? Since Christian people cannot get enough of that guy, am I right?? Ha… ha… oh, boy.

HAM! So, Tofurky does sell a ham sort of thing, as well as ham slices. That’s the easy way of doing that. However, it looks like this, so you may want to reconsider:
A few vegan alternative meat companies make turkey options. Find the full list HERE.  If rubbery, processed alt-meat doesn’t get you salivating, Chubby Vegan Mom has another option, you can make your own! Let’s just accept that vegan ham will never look delicious. But it very well may be delicious! Check it out HERE.

I’m not sure what scalloped potatoes are, but potatoes are good! And this recipe by Vegan in the Freezer sounds easy and looks yummy! Check it out HERE.

After some extensive, in-depth research, I found out that Simnel cake is fruit cake with marzipan on top. I’ve offended enough people already, I’ll just say maybe Simnel cake isn’t my piece of cake. However, if you LOVE Simnel cake, try this recipe from Doves Farm in the UK! They make the best food, don’t they!? …don’t they? Well, hey, maybe you’ll like the cake, give it a try! Check it out HERE.
The hardboiled egg thing is a bit tricky since it’s… an egg. That’s like telling someone to make a fake carrot. People do that stuff, though. People are weird. People are SO weird that there actually is a hardboiled egg that is vegan. The Elated Vegan didn’t just make an egg, they made a “Proper” vegan egg. I’m gonna pass on this one, too, but you go for it. Tell me how that works out for ya. Check it out HERE.
Now, what are hot cross buns, aside from an amazing song everyone learns to play on the recorder? Also, when did I become so ignorant?? These are just some questions I have.
If I’ve sufficiently entertained you with my GREAT jokes, we can move on. If you’ve gotten this far, you deserve a recipe for vegan hot cross buns. It’s HERE on Vegan Dad‘s website. They look pretty darn tasty! It’s just a shame I’m so lazy. Otherwise, I might have tried them….

There are about a million vegan Easter dessert options on the interwebs, so I’ll just pick a few of my favourites. This first one is kind of genius if you want a chocolate Easter egg, but you’re unique and trendy and prefer guacamole. Kinda. Dudes- avocados are shaped like eggs! Check THIS out. Also totally feeling these chocolate peanut butter snacks HERE. If you’re super ambitious and want to make everyone else look bad, you can just make this insanely gorgeous carrot cake found HERE. Or stick to something easier and just as good with a no-bake strawberry shortcake. It’s adorable, you can check that out HERE.
And, like that, Easter is VEGANIZED! What about Passover, though? What goes on a Seder plate? Well, let me tell you! After all, I went to Hebrew School for 10 years, so I know a thing or two about searching Goog- um, let me just tell you, shall I?

Maror: an herb, so it’s safe. However, it’s a super bitter herb which I would not wish on anyone. No one uses maror! Just the meshugana Jewish people use maror. You can replace it with cilantro. Some Rabbis say it’s the correct herb, actually! While it’s still bitter, it’s not quite as unpleasant… and you can make salsa afterward.

Z’roa: This is a roasted lamb shank bone. Just a bone… on a plate… like, what? I mean, it represents the lamb who was sacrificed by some guy, but come on! Admittedly, I loved eating lamb when I was a kid, but then I learned about a little something called compassion, at which point I stopped eating lambs and starting eating small children. You can replace the lamb shank bone with the shank bone of a child… or a midget… or just put a beet there.

By the way, this is how I discovered how hard it is to find an image of a midget Rabbi. Do they even exist? This baby dressed as a Rabbi will have to suffice. Ha- look at him!
Note to self: Write theme song for Rabbi Baby television show.
Charoset: This one we’re gonna keep. It’s yummy. Even though charoset is intended to resemble the brick and mortar used by Jewish slaves back in the day, it does not taste like brick and mortar. Unless they made pyramids with apples, walnuts, and wine (figs and dates, if you like). Some people put honey in their recipe, so just keep that out or use agave nectar instead. Of course, make sure the wine is vegan, too. You can see the recipe HERE. Chazaret: Another thing you’ll quickly learn about Jewish people is that we love to torture ourselves. Whether it’s taking the difficult route, obsessing over death, or visiting our parents WAY too often, we are masochists. Thus, charazet is yet another bitter piece of the Seder plate puzzle. It’s lettuce, though, so it’s not too painful. Like lettuce, the journey in Egypt was soft at first and then turned bitter at the end. Clever, isn’t it? Ehh….

Karpas: This one is a little here, a little there, but either way, it’s vegan. Karpas is usually either parsley or boiled potatoes. They represent Spring and new beginnings. Hey, not bad, right? WRONG! You are absolutely WRONG! We don’t get to just eat some potatoes and smile, like we’re Irish or something. No! We have to take that happy veggie and dip it in salt water! Because we had something cheerful and lovely and then we covered it in TEARS! That’s what Jewish people do, we take the positive and we make it into something dreary and morbid! Jesus would never do that to his people, I bet. He gives them wine and crackers when he wants to guilt them. So, yeah, dip your fluffy, warm potato or parsley into some nasty salt water. Yay for the freakin’ holidays!

Alright, let’s get this over. Your last ingredient is Beitzah. An egg. Preferably a disgusting one that has been sitting on a plate in the synagogue all morning. You can make the vegan “PROPER” egg as mentioned above, you don’t have to deal with the farty smell, and everyone says, “Baruch Hashem!” (Thank God!)
Amen, Hallelujah, let’s eat some matzo and store-bought cookies!
I’m not entirely sure how coconut macaroons fit in here, but I know those are popular. Just keep in mind, Passover is the holiday without leavened bread, so don’t leaven the bread. Don’t touch, smell, or think about the stuff. Make THESE and everyone will be pleased.

Serve them with tea, coffee, or almond milk. No meat, no dairy, everything is parve, everyone is happy. You can also pick up Tofutti ice cream thingies, they make me think of Jewish holidays and they’re SO. SO. GOOD.

By the way, it’s considered a Mitzvah (good deed) to drink wine on Passover, so… it’s not ALL bad. Here are some other VEGANIZED recipes that may come in handy for the holiday:
Matzo
Matzo Ball Soup
White Horseradish
Red Horseradish
Gefilte Fish
Noodle Kugel
Matzo Brei
Potato and Mushroom Croquettes
Kishka

The only thing I can’t find is vegan sweetbread…. I used to love eating this. Don’t ask me what it is. Just don’t. But if anyone has a vegan recipe, please send it over.
And, now I’m sufficiently hungry and nostalgic. Who’s cooking for Pesach and inviting me over??

Enjoy the holidays!

If you enjoyed reading this, please be sure to like, comment, and share.

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In the meantime, get satisfied!

 

I LOVE New York

Living in New York City (and surrounding territories) for 100% of my life, I’ve seen a New York thing or two. The rats, the fights, the “SHOWTIME! SHOWTIME!”…
It’s old news to me.

So, why the heck am I still obsessed with this city?
Why is the WORLD obsessed with New York City!?

I wonder if it’s because of the gorgeous view of the sunset in Coney Island, Brooklyn. That could be it. It’s rumoured that Doctor Sigmund Freud once said, “The only thing in America that interests me in America is Coney Island.”
I mean, he was a pretty smart guy, maybe he had a point.

Or maybe there’s something romantic about it that draws us in. After all, in 1948 a Greek immigrant promised to purchase his beloved the 150-foot high ferris wheel in the heart of Coney Island as soon as he could if she would wed him. Starting his career as a hot dog vendor, he eventually worked his way up in the ranks and bought it for her! Their son still owns it, and it’s a real hot spot for proposals….

“Marry Me”

On the other hand,

There’s something to be said for the incomparable beauty of a sunset over Manhattan. Not only are there gorgeous buildings in Manhattan, but the 55-story tower at One Bryant Park was the first skyscraper in the United States to achieve LEED Platinum Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. This building has it all! Water conservation technology, green roofs with compost from waste generated by tenants, and even an urban garden. Nothing goes to waste; rain and snow that falls on the building is captured and reused to flush toilets. According to the architects, the design of the building draws on “concepts of biophilia,” which they describe as “people’s innate need for connection to the natural environment.”

To this day, the building is considered one of the most environmentally friendly in the world.                          

It doesn’t matter where you are, this city is full of surprises.
I mean, everyone knows Central Park is where celebrities take their kids to feed the ducks caviar and bruschetta… but just look at this sweet, little bridge. I feel like any goblin living under there would be the cleanest and most handsome goblin ever!

With 843 acres in total in this lush park, it’s easy to get lost in a good book, a good conversation, or a really great daydream!
By the way, if you were wondering, no, the park isn’t natural. It was entirely designed and adorned as per precise orders. But, with 7 bodies of water, 29 sculptures, 36 bridges and arches, 58 miles of walking paths, 136 acres of woodlands 250 acres of lawns, 25,000 trees, and about 37.5 million visitors every year, I guess someone had to take charge of the situation. And heck, they sure did a fine job!

If you’re like me and plan to make Central Park your home one day, it’s sorta possible. According to the 2010 census, 25 people consider this park their home! Though, Central Park officials really seem to disagree, so don’t pack your bags just yet. Rather, why not keep busy by looking for a new species? In 2002, scientists discovered a new species of centipede in Central Park. At a little less than half an inch long, the species (called Nannarrup hoffmani) is one of the smallest centipedes in the world. We should all be so lucky.

After that, you can escape the wilds of nature for a bit and check out good ol’ midtown. Believe it or not, there’s more to 42nd street than Times Square. Though, I’m not sure where else you can get any M&M colour you’ve ever wanted.

Alas, even in the year 2017, there are still no vegan-friendly chocolate buttons inscribed with the letter ‘M’. Unfortunate, but that’s okay. There’s still plenty more to explore. The vegan options are truly endless in New York. If you’re craving something a little caliente, try these yummy seitan empanadas (VSpot)
My review HERE

Or find a blast from the past with Daiya mozzarella sticks and an egg cream from Champs Diner
My review HERE.

and then you can walk off some calories for a few blocks and grab a super sweet treat from Dunwell Doughnuts.
My review HERE.

And if you just want a freakin’ simple veggie burger and “chicken” burger slider,  if you’re into that… VBurger has that for you!
My review HERE.
Yeah.

Now, there are some things New York City doesn’t offer. I mean, what if you want to look at various french fries in glass cases without eating any? WHAT IF?

Just kidding. New York has that, too.

Why is this a thing that happened? I don’t know. I do not know. But it did, and it was spectacular. THE Sir Kensington of Sir Kensington’s “Fabanaise”– vegan mayonnaise – presented an art gallery of french fries that were being served around New York. They sell condiments, so it just makes sense.

But you’re sick of hearing about food, aren’t you? I get it, I totally get it. You want to get away from nature, get away from food, and you want to see more cool architecture, am I right? Something with a touching story. A building that represents America’s strength and pride and badassery. I present to you WTC version 3.0: The Freedom Tower! And it’s sidekick: THE OCULUS!!

With over 50 sharks, 250 laser beams, and Mr. T on standby at ALL times, these two can destroy any building that gets in their way. That’s why the Freedom Tower is the tallest building in the Western hemisphere and the sixth tallest in the world- because all other buildings cower when it comes near. Costing around $3 billion to build, you can’t afford this building. Freedom comes at a price!

Seriously, it’s pretty nice walking around the Oculus. I recommend it. Plus, it’s a hub, so you can catch a bunch of subways here, including the PATH train!

What else is downtown? More parks, more shopping, the punks, hippies, bums, and young and elite. Everyone finds their way downtown at some point. Either for a protest, a hot DJ, falafel from a food cart, or to buy some drugs (they make the free hugs feel better, I hear!)

But if you just want to relax and meet some new people, that’s easy enough, too. Everyone seems to want to talk! Coincidentally, it’s particularly common at the bar on a Friday night. Whether you prefer rooftop bars, underground speakeasies, or somewhere in-between, all the bars and pubs, anytime at all, the doors are always open somewhere.

Identities concealed to protect the drunk.

Heck, maybe you’ll run into someone you recognize. It could happen.

Psst! That’s Hugh Jackman. We’re enemies, though. Don’t worry about it.

Anything you think is missing from New York City or missing from my list about New York City? Please let me know! Or if you’re planning a visit, I’d love to give you some suggestions!

If you enjoyed reading this, please be sure to like, comment, and share.

Stay updated on my journey! Subscribe by email on the left.
Your support makes this adventure possible!

If you would like to work with me or submit your own post, contact me at:

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In the meantime, get satisfied!

Eating in Taiwan for Under $4 a Day

EATING TAIWAN and eating and eating… and eating some more! Because Taiwan has so much to offer, whether you’re a nibbler or a feaster.

As you probably gathered by now, I was clueless about Taiwan prior to my arrival. Even upon arrival, the country was a little island of mystery to me. The interwebs wasn’t really helping much in unveiling any deep secrets about this darling, either. What do Taiwanese people eat? Food. You know, like, edible stuff with nutrients. Whatever. Clearly, if I wanted to learn about Taiwanese cuisine, I was going to have to take a deep breath and dive into WHATEVER this country had to offer. Let me tell you, sometimes taking a deep breath was a mistake.

Much of my first foods involved dumplings, bread, and bao buns. This phase of my trip didn’t last long, but there were a few adjustment days in which I was nervous to explore outside the safe confines of the bakery and steam baskets. Bakeries were on nearly every corner with free bread samples and a stench of butter like Alabama came over and brought the mashed potaters. Everyone enjoys a little sweet perfume, but let’s just say, if butter was a cologne, this one would be Axe body spray. Know what I mean?
Thus, if you have any sense of smell, you’re likely to get sick of this pungent scent. Still, their bread is oftentimes dairy and egg-free, and super yummy. Like this matcha bread I got for less than 50 cents. Simple, fresh, and as soft as the filter on your SnapChat. The first question every foreigner and traveler and tourist had concerning food was, “All these people eat is fried carbs, how are they so small?” And although the Taiwanese people deny these eating habits, they couldn’t deny two truths. One being that due to space, time, and money constraints, they hardly ever cook at home. The other being that because there’s “not much to do in Taiwan”, they eat all day. The latter seems like an excuse to me, but for some reason or another, the Taiwanese body hardly seems to hold onto its fried carbs for long. Who am I to fight their culture? I was craving carbs!

                     

When it came to dumplings, there was an endless number of shops, stores, stands, and cafés where one could buy a snack or meal. Some were big and fried, others were small and steamed. They were filled with pork, chicken, beef, cabbage, or anything else you may like. Sticky rice and noodles were also popular items. You could go to a stand nearly anywhere, select what you’d like in your broth (including the option of packaged ramen noodles) and they’d cook it all up for you. Alternatively, you could just go to a 7-11 where they had an entire aisle   devoted to noodle bowls. You could throw other foods in the bowl or just add hot water and eat up.
I also loved the huge selection of teas and soy milk available! Some were dairy, so keep and eye out! For 20 NT, I could grab a carton of no sugar added, high fiber soy milk, and happily sip away. Or just go to a corner cafe and get a warm soy milk for only 10 NT! Both options were delicious.

Speaking of 7-11, although this is a familiar stop to the Westerner, these were a unique brand of convenience. They did offer nuts, gums, ear buds, and soda, but they also had yams cooking alongside eggs in tea, and various other things floating around in hot water.

By the way, $10 NT (New Taiwan Dollar) is equal to 32 cents. Most things in the store, and many stores and stands along the way cost between 32 cents and 2 dollars. If you want to eat cheap, you can easily do this. I am not sure how much a yam costs, as I did not feel any dire need to eat a 7-11 sweet potato, but I believe they charge by weight, as is the case with the unpackaged corn. So, now you know.

Buffet meals also tend to go by weight in many restaurants. This is not to say there aren’t any all-you-can-eat vegetarian buffets, of course! As much as Buddhist monks talk about letting go of desire, they too like to eat as much as they can. Right before restaurants close they sometimes will switch from “by weight” to open buffet. The rice and yummy hot soup are always free. There are also some spots that have an all-you-can-eat for 2 hours. This means, “Stop chatting and start chewing!” but it also gives it the feeling of a game show, so there’s that appeal. And if you’re not into buffet meals, you can also get a box to go!

At these buffets, I had some of the most incredible faux meats of my life. Though, the stinky tofu and seaweed knots weren’t bad, either.
Sadly, I learned that I’m not good at “by weight” food. I immediately started worrying if I was packing on too much. P.S. I was not.

According to a thing with stats and facts online, the average meal at an inexpensive restaurant in Taiwan runs a little under $4. Even a mid-range to pricey meal will go for about $11, so it might actually be a challenge if you’re trying to splurge…. That is, unless you go for the $300 bowl of beef noodle soup. But that’s definitely not vegan, and it’s definitely too much money for a bowl of soup. That’s your call, though. If you’re going with that journey, just buy a whole freakin’ cow, why don’t ya? Actually, I did see baby goats for sale somewhere. Almost bought one. As a FRIEND, NOT a MEAL!

My experience in Taiwanese restaurants was quite limited. With all the unique and delicious street foods, it was not necessary to stop into a restaurant, and also boring. Plus, with the language barrier, it was risky ordering food from a menu entirely in Chinese. Some places did have an English menu, but even this was vague and the waiters never knew what it said. If I did this, I’d stick with the vegetable option, or would only order  if I had a local with me to help. It was neat, you’d get a coloured pencil and mark off your order. This made it nearly impossible for them to get your order wrong!

Ma Po Tofu is listed as a veggie dish, but it is traditionally made with meat. Your handy-dandy Taiwanese friend will have to request meat-free!

Soybean paste noodles with tofu may look meaty, but this dish was all veggie!Now, let’s talk street food. There are food carts everywhere, but you probably won’t know what you’re getting into unless you’re lucky and the worker speaks English, or if you have your translator with you. If you’re a devoted vegan or vegetarian, it’s not worth the risk of relying on gut feelings. However, for the more free-flowing folks, carts, and markets (particularly night markets) will be a super fun experience! The vendors practically throw samples of squid, pork, nuts, cakes, and congee at you. Samples of tea come at you every few feet, so you’re never parched. The most common tea involved ginger and some sort of sweet orange fruit mixed with brown sugar.
Once you sample something, the seller will assume you’re interested in buying. If you’re like me and are just curious, try to stay strong, smile, offer a “xie xie” (thank you) and walk away. Most often, I’d just grab some veggies. Some of them were too gorgeous to be real!

Are we in a cartoon?

This is not to say I didn’t purchase plenty of foods I tried, as well. Some of it was too yummy to walk away from! Rice cakes, tofu, ling nuts (shown below, shaped like mustaches), horse beans, and various other protein-packed snacks were my favourite options for morning breakfast. 

If you’re as cheap as me, you can even get by on a big stalk of broccoli. I snuck out some ketchup packets from 7-11 and went to town. Only got a few confused stares.
The morning market, while absolutely stuffed with people fighting for their lives (and the freshest foods) were a great place to find all sorts of odd fruits, veggies, and snacks to get me through the day. Jujube fruit quickly became a safe snack when my tummy was grumbling after a day of exploring. Jujubes were like small apples mixed with pears with a pit instead of a core. There were also bitter melons, star fruit, sugar fruit, wax apples, dragonfruit, guava, and various other fruits like nothing you’ve ever tasted before! If you pass by a stand selling candied tomatoes or strawberries (Tanghulu), I strongly recommend trying one bamboo skewer… or two! They really grow on you, and stick to ya.

If fruits and veggies won’t do the job, you can also try mochi! Not for the gluten-haters, but for the rest of us, these little sticky balls of glutinous rice are so much fun to eat, and the peanut one really takes me to a good place! The best ones I tried were a gift from a fellow traveler I met while exploring a mountain. Kindness is contagious and gelatinous! But there’s no gelatin in these bad boys! Quite messy, though.

Another option is living off the land! I don’t recommend it, but it’s not impossible. Sometimes you win… like when I came across a tree growing star fruits. Yum!

And sometimes you lose. Such as that time I was Couchsurfing on a farm and came across a stack of these unidentified brown things. Mushrooms? Poo? We’ll never know. But they were chewy and extremely salty. No, thanks.
As for dessert, I tried a few things. There were a few cakes made of sugar, flour, and water, I tried them. They were okay. I tried bubble teas and soybean cakes and whatever these lovely people could hand me with sugar. Nothing really won me over like these two heaping bowls of various matcha-flavoured things. 

They were both as delicious as they were gorgeous. On top, we have matcha rice ball with red bean barley and matcha ice cream over barley at a place in Tainan called Chun Barley. You can read about how I got from Taipei to Tainan through hitchhiking HERE.

First of all, I like anything that’s do-it-yourself. So, having the honour of pouring the matcha liquid with the delightful little jellies into the barley was so much fun! But the unique mix and surprising flavours and textures really got me excited. This meal/dessert was my zen moment in life. It was Nirvana. While I couldn’t find anything exactly like this elsewhere, I was quite pleased with the matcha shaved ice with red bean on top. The ice mixed with matcha created something mind-blowingly creamy and the savoury beans really kicked this up to something amazing.
Taro root is another option for turning into any form of sweet, meat, or treat. I saw taro being used in cakes and shakes, as well as seasoned as a perfect meat substitute. It’s a very versatile and healthy option, and I love the texture it can provide when used properly. No doubt, the Taiwanese did this. Whether fried up into balls or juiced for all its worth, the taro root is a magical friend.

Finally, I present to you a parade of beverages. Bubble tea is a given delight of Asia. Without question, you can and will get bubble tea everywhere you go. Just don’t puncture the seal and take it out of its bag until you’ve left the MRT subway station. Otherwise, people will glare at you or giggle. Scandalous.
I was surprised how difficult it was to find bubble tea made with soy milk, but once communicated, store owners were kind enough to inform me that they didn’t have this option. When I did find soy milk or settled for plain tea with jelly, the bubble tea was a real source of joy!

I also did try the local coffee and beer, but tea is my preference. There are Starbucks’ around, but it’s always more fun to check out the local cafe. The first one I went into, they told my friend and me we had to whisper. Not because we were so loud, but because it was a “quiet cafe”. Apparently, that’s something that exists. A great idea if you know what you’re getting into. Then, when we learned that pretty much all cafes have a minimum per guest, I guess we weren’t too happy with the place. We did our research after this experience and were much more comfortable and prepared in the future. The local beers were fine, quite like your typical Heineken or Budweiser but less watered down and so very cheap. The most common beer option was simply called ‘Taiwan Beer’, so that was easy to remember. There was also ‘Bar Beer’, but the yellow label just didn’t appeal to me, so I can’t speak for that one. Of course, you can also get imported beers, but those aren’t as cheap and I’ve had those before, so… why? If you just want to get water, bottles of water are always available, and there are water dispensers all over. As far as I know, the water is very clean and safe. At least, I didn’t get sick or die!

While food and drink were not my focus during my trip to Taiwan, the food and drink certainly found me. I was really happily surprised by all the delicious and special foods I tried! One thing is for sure in Taiwan, you never have to starve. Since I ate so much on the streets, I don’t really have restaurants to recommend! However, when you visit Taiwan, TRY everything you can! Talk to people, drink in the culture, and don’t miss all these really special experiences.

This is my Taiwan food post, but if you’re interested in knowing more about my experience in Taiwan as a whole and how I made my way from the Northern tip of Taiwan (Taipei) to the most Southern tip (Kenting) through the help and kindness of strangers, definitely check out this BLOG post.

If you enjoyed reading this, please be sure to like, comment, and share.

Stay updated on my journey! Subscribe by email on the left.
Your support makes this adventure possible!

If you would like to work with me or submit your own post, contact me at:

sweettoothnothings@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SweetToothVegan

https://www.instagram.com/sweettoothtravels/

In the meantime, get satisfied!

 

 

How to Fall in Love with Taiwan

When I booked my flight to Taiwan, I knew nothing about the country. I didn’t know that they spoke Mandarin or that they liked to eat eggs soaked in Oolong tea. I didn’t know that they had night markets or delicious bubble tea around every corner. So, when I landed in Taoyuan Airport in Taipei over two weeks ago and I found myself surrounded by smiling faces with dumpling noses, I was a bit out of my comfort zone.

My first mistake upon flying to Taiwan was not flying. Not at first, at least. My ticket stated that my flight left at 0:45, so I arrived at the airport around 10 PM on the day it stated… rather than the day earlier, which it was supposed to be. You see, that’s how clocks works. Midnight is the NEXT day.

Yes, my friends, I had a flight to Asia and I was 24 hours late for it.

Therein comes the panic. The tears building in my eyes, the anger at myself, the airline, and the world – which had clearly had it out for me.
Fortunately, it only took about 40 minutes of dismay to then arrange a ticket for the same flight to Shanghai and then Taiwan that very night. Boy, was I in luck! I said “deuces!” to JFK airport and I was on my way…. $400 out and emotionally drained, but I was still back on track and ecstatic. Don’t worry, this wasn’t my only airport mishap.

Once I finally made it to Taiwan, I didn’t care if they threw squids at me, I was just so relieved to have made my connecting flight and survived the 13 hour journey! No one threw squids at me.
Admittedly, I didn’t really have any solid plans for my trip. I had 18 days to see, do, and try everything this little Island had to offer. That should be easy, right? It’s not like it’s China or Japan or anything. How much could there be?

My first CouchSurfing host was named Red. He was a little slow to respond to my WhatsApp message, so I was getting a little nervous. I had a bunch of housing offers, so I started contacting all of them. I didn’t know these people, nor where they were located, but I really did not want to live in the airport for 2.5 weeks. However, I quickly learned that Taiwanese people don’t really rush things. They take their time, enjoy themselves, and take it pretty easy. I am speaking generally, of course, but most of the people I met were quite laid back despite being engineers and computer geniuses for some of the world’s biggest tech companies. No biggie, I thought. I’m studying mental health, I’ll fit right in… or something.

When I heard from Red, he apologized because his car broke down, so I’d have to take the bus to his stop and then meet him there. This wasn’t ideal, especially considering no one spoke English and I hadn’t brought much cash. Just about $1200 NT (which is about $40 USD) and my credit card. Note to travelers: unless you plan on only eating at restaurants and shopping at malls, be sure to bring cash. You don’t need a ton, but have at least $400-$600 USD. Somehow or another, I made it to Red’s home. He lived sort of in the middle of nowhere. It was about a 30 minute walk to get to his home. If you have a decent sense of direction, it would take much less. For me, it took a long, long time to find it. But then he brought me to my first Taiwanese meal and insisted on paying for it. He also bought me oranges and peanuts, so I was a happy little monkey.

First we stopped off at his quaint and adorable little apartment, then we got some vegan food at a local spot! He figured I would be hungry, so he really didn’t go easy on me. Noodles with macadamia nuts and veggies, tofu, rice bowl… the works. This tofu was stinky, but it wasn’t the infamous “Stinky Tofu”. You’ll know it when you smell it. Now I like to say, “The stinkier, the better” and it’s true!

Now I will begin telling you about Taiwan. Things you should know, things I wish I had known, and so much more! There is a lot I want to talk about, so I will probably do this in four installations covering different topics. If I get lazy, I’ll try to do it in two. I’m aiming for four, though, to make sure you get ALL the important details.

In this post, I’d like to focus on people and traveling around the country. Specifically, my experience with hitchhiking/Couchsurfing the entire country of Taiwan. Hopefully, this will help you if you would like to experience free travel, as well, and you’re a little nervous. Let me start by saying, you’ll be fine!

The first person I met in Taipei was Sir Han. That’s his real name. How cool is he? He was a traveler from Singapore and was utilizing Couchsurfing, as well. Everyone kept assuming he knew the language and the country, but he was just as much a tourist as me. His English was better than his Mandarin. As you can see here, just because he is Asian doesn’t mean he didn’t get lost. And when we came across a Couchsurfer named Ching-Chang Cheng, he pointed him out to me and laughed. It wasn’t me, I swear!

 We got along immediately. Mostly because we were both lost and not ashamed of it. But we had a great couple days just wandering and trying all the free samples that Taipei has to offer… and they have a LOT of free samples. Come hungry!

When I booked my flight to Taiwan, I didn’t plan on hitch hiking. When I got to Taipei, I didn’t plan on hitch hiking. It was when I met Martina, an Italian girl without a country that it all came together. Martina has been calling Australia home for the last year, but that won’t last long. She’s a nomad looking for something. I don’t think she’ll know what it is until she finds it, or it finds her. Martina was staying at a hostel in Taipei called TaipeiTaipei – or Tipsy Taipei Cafe & Bar . A hostel and bar where you can store your luggage, drink, or stay the night for super cheap. A great alternative option if Couchsurfing isn’t your thing.

Martina didn’t waste any time meeting the local Italians. Most of whom, like other Westerners, had moved to Taiwan to teach English. As you can see, it didn’t take long for us to hit it off. We all went for a night-cap at Café Dalida. It’s a gay bar in Taipei with the most fabulous waitresses. I had some tea, like the classy gal I am. Unfortunately, the MRT (subway) stops running at midnight, so if you plan to go out every night until 6 AM, be sure to have a new Italian friend with an extra couch you can sleep on for the night. He doesn’t have to be Italian, but he should live in the country. This is because Taiwanese people (either by birth or visa) are the most polite and trustworthy people I have ever met. They won’t harass or disturb you, nor expect anything in return for their good deeds!

That night, it may have been the tea talking, but Martina and I decided we were going to hitch hike our way around the entire Southern portion of Taiwan. Neither of us had done it before, but the interwebs said it was common, acceptable, and completely safe. Two out of three of these claims were true- everyone thought we were crazy!

Before we left Taipei I met a few other wonderful people who really made my experience memorable. After a couple of nights in Red’s home, I realized that I’d never get around the city if I was living so far from it. That’s when I was lucky enough to find Oz on Couchsurfing.

Oz is an Israeli who lived in Los Angeles and then moved to Taipei to teach young children English. He also rents a tattoo parlour in the magnificent Ximen city. The best way to describe Ximen is East Village meets West Village and becomes a busy, confusing, brightly lit area with street food, shops, and whatever else for which you may be seeking. Oz has hosted over 200 travelers! While I was there, there was an Israeli girl named Nitsan staying and a friend of Oz’s from Los Angeles named Kai.
Nitsan and I went to Tamsui together. It’s a bit of a long ride on the subway, but the views of the mountains make it really nice. When we got there, we enjoyed looking out at the ocean and exploring the area’s stores and busy markets. She is also vegan, so together we found what vegan options we could. Although there are vegetarian buffets all around, specifically for the Buddhist monks, vegan food was a bit more of a challenge. Most of my meals consisted of a bag of peanuts and an apple from 7-11. You can find a 7-11 or Family Mart nearly anywhere you go. Apparently, they’re really cheap to open in Taiwan.

Meeting Oz was practically a tourist attraction in itself. He is an amazing friend to have in this bustling city. For a couple of beers he’s willing to let you stay in his cozy home for a night or two. Don’t let this “cool guy” fool you, though, he has a huge soft spot for the children he teaches, he’s extremely passionate about his job, and is a complete sweetheart towards his guests.

I left Ximen with a little sadness, but also excitement for the adventure to come! The next 7 days were a blur of amazing people, places, sights, sounds, and smells. There is very little I can teach anyone about hitchhiking Taiwan, though. It just happens! The thing is, people will help you. Pedestrians will guide you, offer you free food and water, make sure that your sign is correct, and that you’re in the best spot to pick up a ride. Of course, just make sure you are near a major highway and heading in the right direction. People will smile at you and give you thumbs up, they will think you’re super cool. Next thing you know, you’ll be in a car with someone who you can trust implicitly. I say this with certainty, but do take precautions, because the exceptions do exist. Nearly everyone we met told us a story about themselves, took us somewhere interesting, and insisted on feeding us!

Along with the politeness, don’t be surprised to find that Taiwanese men are NOT huggers. They’ll do it, and they know what’s up, but it’s going to be a short and very light hug. If you’re a squeezer, please do take heed. You’re not getting a heart-to-heart bear snuggle. Despite the lack of hug, they will give and give until they can’t give anymore. Everyone in these photos either housed us or drove us voluntarily. Special shout out to Cafe Teller in Tainan. Our arrival was unexpected, but our host was extremely kind and took us to a party and a night market where he bought us all the delicious treats they had to offer! If you’re ever in Tainan, definitely check this place out!

The final destination for our trip was Kenting, Taiwan. A town for the beach folk, a food and drink stop for the tourist, and a beautiful beach for all! Although most of our trip was a little chilly (it was January, after all) the beach was no less incredible. Martina and I walked along the rocks and pathways admiring weird little crabs, hermit crabs, starfish, squishy things, and gorgeous shells…. It was paradise for a nature lover!

As much as we loved the beach, we ended up staying the night in Hengchun, a city about 30 minutes away. Most people would think it’s not worth a second glance, but this city is the one that really stole my heart. Since this area is known for its beauty in the summer, things were pretty slow, I won’t lie. Most of the shops were closed for the season; not much surfing or partying.
What we found instead were real people living their lives. We met Ming here, and two different girls named Grace. Ming made tea with ginger, goji berries, and some other root that tasted nice and healthy! If he likes you, he’ll also give you a gift of a sage cigarette. He claims it’ll give you weird dreams. I don’t smoke, but if you’re into that, it could be a weird night.

We went to the eternal flames at night and saw the pigs being butchered at 5 AM. Hengchun is the kind of town where you can open a cafe business and not know how to make coffee. You can wake up at 10 AM and no one else will be awake. You can go to a restaurant at noon and find out that the owner is still sleeping, so you have to call them to pick a time to meet. It’s the city that officially gets the title of “Dude”.

We were having trouble finding a host in Hengchun, though! It seemed like people here were too chill to even bother with Couchsurfing. We did find Rainbow Wave Hostel. A super fun place with wonderful hosts, including the soft-spoken and gorgeous little person named Lido. We ended up falling asleep in the lobby, though. Sorry, guys! We’ll pay you for that next time we’re in town! To go back to my statement earlier about having trouble finding food, that could have also just been me! There were veggie buffets, but I was having so much fun eating all the small snacks at the food carts, that I didn’t eat many full meals. My new rule quickly became “If it’s vegan and in a bowl, I’ll eat it.”

This is because all the most delicious things I ate were in bowls! Their sticky rice with pretty much anything poured on top, shaved ice, noodles, barley, matcha ice cream…. It was all so yummy! Though, I also used a plate and chopsticks now and then, too! I used so much chili sauce that I think I turned into a chili pepper. Yum!

I will end this first posting with one more fun Taiwan tip:
You may have heard of the Betel Nut, yes? The thing all the blue-collar workers chew in the morning…. They turn their teeth, tongues, and lips red, then spit it out all over the place. They claim it gives you a little high and energy to get through the day. It’s the little, naughty secret that’s not all that secret.
First of all, yes, it’s everywhere. However, it won’t make you “high”, it’s not seen as bad, and no one will know what you mean if you call it a betel nut. They won’t get it unless you put the word into a translator, then someone will point it out to you, and you will notice them everywhere. Of course, we had to try it! 

We chewed. We spat. We chewed. We spat. Worth a try just to say we did it, but we weren’t impressed. As for the effect? We didn’t experience anything aside from red drool staining our chins. I think we’ll pass on this one next time.

All in all, Taiwan has won me over. I left the country feeling a renewed sense of enthusiasm for people and the world. Hope, lightness, joy, and a love for a country that I previously barely knew existed. Sometimes the world will surprise you, you just have to be open to experiencing it!

If you enjoyed reading this, please be sure to like, comment, and share.

Plus, stay updated on my journey! Subscribe by email on the left side.
Your support makes this adventure possible!

If you would like to work with me or submit your own post, contact me at:

sweettoothnothings@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SweetToothVegan

https://www.instagram.com/sweettoothtravels/

In the meantime, get satisfied!

 

A Very Vegan Holiday

Being Vegan for the Cholidays

When you’re staying in, ordering in, and enjoying the holidays at home.

Remember that amazing vegan Thanksgiving celebration I told you about in November? If you don’t recall, you can jog your memory here. There was a lot of fun, joy, and hard work put into that delicious and thank-filled meal. However, not every person wants to go through all that cleaning and chopping and cooking and serving. Not every holiday warrants it, and not all guests want it, either.

When my family came together to celebrate Christmas and Chanukah on New Year’s Eve, we went with simple and tradition with a twist. If your Jewish family goes to Chinese food for dinner every Christmas, you’ll know what I mean. Except, our holiday was a week late and a different cuisine!

My family had Japanese food brought in from Koo in Marlboro, NJ.
P.S. Don’t misspell the name and type “Ku” into your Google search. The NSA will judge you and your pastime hobbies.

‘Twas the night after Chanukah, and all through the abode
Not a pot was stirring, not even for sufganiyot;  
The candles were lit and blessed with care,  
Hoping that God would forgive all the treif food there.

With two new babies in the family, lots of gossip, wining, and dining, I actually forgot to take photos of the dinner table once it was filled with food and beverage! But here’s a plate of latkes, instead.

First lessons of new years:

1- Latkes: not just for omnivores! My father fried some up for everyone and we dug in. We all liked the potato pureed rather than grated, but both are acceptable. With potatoes, flour, oil, and love, anything is possible. These latkes had the latkeys to my heart.

Fun fact: This was our first Christmukah with my two nephews celebrating their first Christmas and Chanukah! In honour of that, here’s a bad joke…

It was Chanukah and a tiny village was in fear of not having any latkes because they had run out of flour. Rudi the Rabbi was called upon to help solve the problem. He said, “Don’t worry. You can substitute matzo meal for the flour and the latkes will be just as delicious!”
Sheila looks to her husband and says, “Morty… you think it’ll work?”
“Of course! As everybody knows… Rudolph, the Reb, knows grain, dear!””
source: http://www.jokebuddha.com/Latkes#ixzz4UXFWWXYT

Usually I don’t like anything on my latkes, but my parents put out some delicious strawberry applesauce and cranberry fig sauce. Both were served room temperature, so as to not overpower the warmth of the pancakes. Trying something different really modernized the whole shindig and ensured that everyone felt welcome!

2- Even the most boring salad can be brought to life with the right ingredients. With the two options of balsamic vinaigrette on the table, I was conflicted. Both were so unique! They were risky options, but the chocolate raspberry and currant dressings were so yummy and made the salad really fun to eat. There were also olives in the mix, but you can go with cranberries, nuts, or even mandarin oranges, if you prefer.

Now, how does a Jewish family take a beloved tradition like Chinese food for the holidays and make it Japanese and vegan? The secret is chili eggplant. Also seaweed salad, spring rolls, pad Thai, edamame, and veggie sushi…. Those will do. Throw in some rice and chopsticks, and you have a vegan Japanese holiday that even the Pope would bless! You’ll have the goyim saying, “Hey, ma, forget the ham! Can you make ma po tofu for Christmas next year?”

I just want to throw out another reminder that not all wines are created equally. If you haven’t read my past mentions, such as this quick one: Eating Fancy, you may not know that not all wine is vegan!
But don’t worry, if you don’t know if your host will provide vegan wine, you can just bring one as a gift and be all like, “Ooh, I’ve heard great things about this wine! Open it up!”
Because no one should have to go through the holidays without a slight buzz.

Or, just make things easy and skip the wine! Besides, vodka, whiskey, and rum are always vegan!

If you really want to do the wine thing, there’s always Barnivore where you can look up any type of alcohol and see if it’s listed as vegan or non-vegan.
Also, at Trader Joe’s you can request a list of vegan wines and they’ll hook you up.

After getting all that “real” food out of the way, it’s time to forget everything you just ate, readjust your belt, and prepare for dessert. People like making, buying, bringing, and eating dessert, so usually there are plenty of options. For this combo holiday, however, we didn’t go overboard. My parents bought a beautiful chocolate cake from Whole Foods, my middle brother and his family brought (non-vegan) tahini cookies, and I made some red and blue cookies, myself. The red ones are coconut Mexican chocolate and the blue ones are berry rosemary with a splash of peppermint.

For the first time in a long time, I bought a cookie mix, so I was nervous. Their proportions were confusing and the ingredients were wacky. So, I added toasted coconut, tempered dark chocolate, and cayenne peppers with red food colouring to one batch and I added blueberries, dried cranberries, rosemary, and peppermint to the other batch. The result was pretty psychedelic!

I don’t know what kind of drugs my cookies were on, but I will take two, please!

This was just the right amount of dessert for everyone to bite, nibble, and gorge on everything they wanted!

After handing out gifts, laughing at embarrassing baby noises, and even playing a board game without anyone flipping the board, we took a breather.

To end the evening, my brother and I took out voice and video recordings of two beloved family members who passed in 2016. We cried and remembered them on this very special holiday. Christmukah ended and we all went home with full bellies and an entire treasure trove of memories.

Last new year’s eve we all got on a rollercoaster together, not knowing what to expect. Would we slowly work our way up, or hastily speed our way down? Would we flip and bounce and twist until we were sick? Over the past 365 days we lost so much and so many people, yet we healed and new opportunities came into our lives. Jobs were lost, jobs were gained. Money was spent, and it was also received. Health declined rapidly for some, but most of us made it through. There were days that felt unbearable, and then there were others full of immense joy and pride. It wasn’t a perfect year, but we got through it with the perfect people. Whether your journey involved tears of laughter or pain, here we are starting all over again. Let’s make this year even better. Full of hope, laughter, health, and positivity. If that isn’t the perfect way to celebrate the vegan cholidays, then I don’t know what is!

Happy New Years, my friends!

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A Journey to Be Heard while Experiencing the World

Socially Anxious to Anxiously Social

The journey to conquer my fears and be heard.

At my mother’s 50th birthday party, I sang her a Leonard Cohen song with which we are all familiar: ‘Hallelujah’. It is a beautiful and emotional song. It was not easy to sing, much less to get up there in the first place. A room full of people whom had barely heard me speak in my 15 years of life were astonished. After applause and kind words, I sat down. This is where my journey began.

The moment I took my seat, I realized that my voice was not being heard. It wasn’t a bad voice, it actually had a lot to offer! But all those years, I had been keeping it to myself. Holding in all the feelings and thoughts and sounds of which I was capable. At that point, I wasn’t sure where to begin learning how to open my mouth and speak up. There was no way of knowing when or where I’d find my voice, but I was determined to do it.

Having performed my entire life; doing talent shows and poetry slams and speeches all throughout high school and college, I had convinced myself that I was reaching my full potential. However, when it came to speaking to a group of people; family or friends or anyone at all, my range of expression was extremely limited. I simply was not being heard. It was time.

Fast forward a few years, I came across an alternative to college in 2010. It was something of a “vocational” school in Manhattan called the “American Comedy Institute”. I was excited! I had always loved comedy and felt a great attraction to it, but I never knew what to do with my passion. I could have contemplated and debated, but that was not and is not how I lead my life. Action is necessary when something good comes along. So, without much hesitation, but definitely much argument with my family, I took the year off of undergrad. Instead, registering for a year of comedy school, also known to some as “clown school”.

Not quite Mount Airy Lodge
These people thought I was funny!

Little did I know, this period of taking risks and having incredible new experiences would lead to a changed self and open many new doors. Following this year, I became someone who was open to nearly any new challenge. Ready to take on new obstacles and some truly terrifying things. After having stood in front of 40 people announcing that I peed my bed until I was 13 years old, and then having them all laugh at me, I knew I could conquer any fear.

A couple of years after I completed comedy school, after I had my graduation in a bar and spilled beer on my graduation certificate, I was faced with another risky opportunity. Having only been to Israel once in my life, the option to finish up my Bachelor’s degree abroad came flying at me. This meant 4 months away from home. Away from my beloved Manhattan, my family, my new dog… the life I knew and had grown both to cherish and loathe. I could choose to remain the same forever, or to fly away and face some big hurdles. Call me Myrtle the Turtle, ‘cause I was ready for that hurdle!

New friends on Masada in Israel

Since comedy school and Israel and traveling to India on my own, having Couchsurfed with strangers around the world, falling asleep on a bench in Rome, being brought to a hostel by a stranger in Boston, I have grown! I’ve cried and panicked, vomited in fear. I have seen beauty and poverty, suffering and rejoice. Ridden in a gondola, hiked mountains for 6 hours at a time, fed a wild monkey, stayed in luxurious 4-star hotels, as well as a home resembling a crack den. Breathed in nature, breathed out anxiety, admired architecture, jumped in puddles, and sat in crowded, smelly buses for 16 hours at a time just to get to parts of the United States with nothing but wheat fields. All just to know I did it. To open my heart, my mind, and my vocal cords.

Fellow travelers in Agra, India

Because you can’t sit quietly when the world is practically begging you to speak; revealing to you all its deepest, darkest secrets. It’s impossible not to talk to the locals and the workers and the travelers. All while learning to network and befriend and get what you need…and want. These are all parts of traveling. These are the things that will make or break the world explorer.

The world speaks to me. Sometimes it whispers, other times is yells into my ear. It pierces into my mind and puts ideas in there to create a bigger life for myself. I am eternally grateful for the world, the inspiration, and the drive to keep going! If I had never put myself on the line, put myself center stage, I would never have collected all the memories. I’d be missing out on such a huge portion of life.

Everything is temporary, there’s no time to take things for granted or put things off. There’s little reason or excuse to value safety and comfort over living a life of uncertainty. There are bound to be mistakes and regrets along the way, but these, too will shape you and expand you until you are capable of so much more than you ever previously thought possible. You will know yourself better, and what really matters to you. Maybe find what you’re seeking, or at least know what it is you seek. Every leap will land you in another lap of undiscovered desires, as well as reassurance that you can do it. You can face any task and overcome any battle.

Was I suddenly an extrovert? The life of every party? No. I’m still a homebody who will run to pet the dog at the party, hide in the back of the classroom, and lose control of the redness of my cheeks at the least opportune moments. My essence and true self have not changed.

What changed was my willingness to break through those barriers. To fake it until everything proved to be okay in the end. These risks taught me how to allow myself to find my place in the flow and the moment. To trust my choices. For the first time, I wanted to be heard, and I wanted others to hear me.

The next time I stand up to sing,  the audience will already know my voice. They’ll be cheering for me. Sharing what they’ve seen me do, what they can do, and pondering the next part of the journey. It doesn’t end here, nor will it ever end. When my last great leap happens, the mourners won’t cry, they’ll just be happy to hear that I’m on my next trip, the most uncertain of them all.

If you enjoyed reading this, please be sure to like, comment, and share.
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I wanted to quit New Jersey, but it wouldn’t quit me

New Jersey has never really had the best reputation, ammirite? It’s been the unloved and unwanted twin brother of New York City since 1787. When I thought of New Jersey in the past, I thought of that smelly smell as you enter, I thought of Jon Bon Jovi, I thought of stupid haircuts, my three years of high school in Marlboro, NJ, and some really stupid accents.

I must admit, after living in New Jersey for a year now, I’ve noticed something shifting. This little state of ours, our little slice of the stinky armpit of the United States of America is starting to grow up! It’s becoming a real place, where people live and work and play…. Which just happens to be the catchphrase of the city in which I live, Jersey City.

18jersey1-master1050

By PATH train, Jersey City is about 10-20 minutes from downtown Manhattan. When I lived in Brooklyn, it would take me up to an hour to get to the same place! Plus, it would cost more. See, although the PATH train costs the same amount per ride as the MetroCard used on the MTA (Metropolitan Transit Authority), the PATH card costs less for a monthly card. Riddle me that!

Near me, the hot spot is on Newark Avenue. This is right where Newark intersects with Grove Street and the Grove Street PATH station (what are the chances that they’d name both Grove Street?!) This is where you’ll find the farmer’s market, all the bars and restaurants and cafes you could ever want, and more beards than you’ll know how to handle(bar).handlebar-moustache

What is rather crazy about Jersey City is that it’s not New York- duh. Yet, it acts like it is. And, for the most part, no one is really upset about it. They say Brooklyn and JC are in competition, but I don’t think they are. I think Brooklyn and JC want to be in competition, but the two never shall meet. Because the people in Brooklyn need to live in Brooklyn for the cheaper hoods, the ‘New York’ label and all that is Brooklyn. The Jersey people are looking to work in the city, have nice homes that are a touch cheaper than New York, and raise families in the safe, somewhat quieter streets of New Jersey. It’s different. Fighting is not necessary, everyone gets along. There’s enough room for all the ironic adults and their “adulting”, as the ironic adults like to say.

Jersey City is growing on me. Initially, I was skeptical. The people were too friendly, the streets were too clean, the food passed health inspection too easily… it was weird. A bit “Pleasantville” for me. As time goes on, though, I realize that eating unrecognizable food and getting yelled at in an undecipherable language which could be English doesn’t have to be the only way to live. There are other places, people, and things out there, and not just in a game of ’20 Questions’.

Today for example, I took my laptop and walked about 8 blocks to a vegan-friendly cafe. They gave me carrot cake and tea, let me use their WiFi and restroom, and I sat there doing bidnezz (aka telling everyone I know that I am so mature) for about an hour. The important thing here is, I had cake. I had vegan carrot cake less than a mile from the place where I sleep and live. That makes me very happy. cake
Admittedly, Jersey City really needs more exclusively vegan spots, but between TeaNJSubia’s, Pet Shop, and various other places that offer vegan options, my feeding needs are well met.

Aside from the food, and there is definitely plenty of food and beverage, the events and parks are impressive, too! Behind my building there’s a small park, a skate park, a basketball court, a playground, and a baseball field. There’s also Hamilton Park and Van Vorst Park which are the homes to farmer’s markets, basketball, handball, tennis courts, and tons of events throughout the summer. These events include, but are not limited to: pet parades, live music, festivals, and all sorts of unexpected pop-ups. Not to mention, the whole city is like walking through a big, beautiful dog museum. Everywhere you look, there are dogs of all breeds, sizes, colours, and religions.

Another thing I always say is nice about living outside New York City is that you can then look at New York City! The skyline from the Exchange Place waterfront is an unbeatable view of downtown Manhattan!skyline

What other positive things can I say about Jersey City? Aside from the multitude of restaurants, bars, music, events, and beautiful people, places, and things?

Ah, yes! What I always loved about living in Coney Island, Brooklyn was that a walk into any neighbourhood was like a flight across an ocean. Jersey City does not lack that appealing trait, either! You can get your fill of Spanish food, Italian options, an entire area devoted to Indian products, and anything else of which you can think! If you just want a little variety, it’s not hard at all to experience a touch of urban attitude, or step into a more glamorous upper-class scene. Maybe this is why Jersey City is considered one of the most diverse cities in America!

I guess Jersey City has swayed my opinion on New Jersey. I still won’t say it’s as good as New York City! But… it’s not bad. You should visit sometime and judge for yourself. Don’t forget to text and invite me for a slice of cake!

16766709227_a27f5e42d0_b

If you would like to work with me or submit your own post, contact me at:

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