Dear Jack: You Subliminally Taught Your Sister to Ask for Chips at Starbucks

7 years, 8 months.

Dear Jack,

There has been an unspoken rule in our family for years now:

When we go out as a family to run errands in the car, Mommy is always going to ask me, “Coffee?”

That’s her way of saying she wants to go to Starbucks. I always say yes; knowing that I might as well enjoy a cold brew.

And if Mommy and I are getting coffee, you know that you can ask for a snack:

“Can I get a croissant?”

And the answer is always yes:

“Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf of bread, will give him a stone? -Matthew 7:9

So after quietly watching that scenario play out weekend after weekend, your sister decided it was her time to join in on the action.

As our family made our way to the Nashville Sounds baseball game a couple of weeks ago, as we pulled up to the drive-through at Starbucks, you said the magic words:

“Can I get a croissant?”

Without missing a beat, your sister immediately jumped in:

“Chips?…”

It was equally amazing and hilarious how she already had a prepared request. She knew the place, she knew the cue, and she even knew the specific yet seemingly random food she wanted while the gettin’ was good.

However, you suggested to her that she get a croissant instead. In your experience and wisdom, you knew she might want some of yours once she saw it.

That was a good call. Both of you ended up with your own personal croissant.

I couldn’t help but notice though, she completely downloaded hers by the time you had taken the third bite of yours.

Well, I guess now it will be no surprise what will happen the time next our family ends up at Starbucks:

There will be two simultaneous requests:

“Croissant?…”

Love,

Daddy

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3 Awesome Kid-Friendly Vegan Restaurants in New York 

By guest blogger Eathen Smith, as part of the sponsored Hotel Planner campaign.

The environmental, health, and social benefits of vegan food have never been more obvious to a new generation of health-conscious parents and restaurateurs. Both are on different sides of the restaurant counter but are equally determined in their efforts to promote healthy food choices for children.

Vegan menus for kids are still difficult to find, but there are numerous kid-friendly vegan restaurants in New York City. The number of hotels and transportation near some of the restaurants makes the city perfect for time restricted parents. Here are a few vegan-friendly restaurants found throughout the city;

Experience Convenience and Vegan Delights in Queens

Vegan-friendly, homemade, fresh, delicious, convenient, and attentive staff are all words that have been used to describe Bruno’s Restaurant. It is located near Howard’s Beach in Queens and is close to JFK Airport.

Large portions of food are the norm at Bruno’s Restaurant. The vegan-friendly menu includes fresh salads, pizza, pasta, and Italian desserts. Friendly staff also go above and beyond to provide a wonderfully warm and inviting atmosphere. There are plenty of transport options nearby, and taxis are recommended for late evenings.

Looking to stay nearby? Hotels are conveniently located all over Queens and can be reached within minutes.

Convenient Mexican Vegan on the Lower East Side  

JaJaJa Plantas Mexicana is a walk-in restaurant located on the Lower East Side of New York. The vegan menu rates highly among locals and visitors. There is a park across the road for distracting the kids while the family waits to be seated. The wait is worth it when the menu arrives. It is made up of unique Mexican food such as vegan chorizo, black bean burgers, and cauliflower rice. JaJaJa is located above a train station and car parking is plentiful making it perfect for a quick exit. The modern decor of JaJaJa is complemented by fun music, convenience, and an excellent location.

Upper East Side Vegan Experience  

Le Botaniste is for families with slightly higher budgets but provides delicious vegan food on the Upper East Side of New York. The restaurant offers a fast and convenient restaurant experience. There are lots of vegan food options at this restaurant, and a family with children can be in and out of Le Botaniste in minutes. The Tibetan Rice Bowl is a favorite choice for vegans. It contains coconut curry, brown rice, and veggies. Bowls of green vegetables, quinoa cookies, and assorted bowls of food are just a few of the other menu items.

Exceptional and tasty vegan food in New York City will continue to convert carnivores. The choices for kid-friendly vegan food is phenomenal, and there is something for every budget. The convenient restaurant locations near hotels and public transport make for an easy meal and decreased waiting times. Creative vegan delights from some of New York’s best have the potential to change a new generation of eaters and bring joy to conscious parents.

Image via Flickr by WoodleyWonderworks

Dear Jack: You Taught Your Sister How “Make Juice” From Leftover Halloween Candy

7 years, 5 months.

Dear Jack,

I admit: I don’t exactly know what you and your sister are up to all the time.

Fortunately for me, she is now old enough to where you are able to entertain her while I get stuff done. So while I’m hurrying to sneak in unloading the dishwasher, or taking a shower, I just trust that whatever you’re “helping” Holly do is something I would approve of.

For example, one morning last week, I learned after that fact, that you had taught your sister how to “make juice” by mixing together old Halloween candy (yes, from nearly 6 months ago) with water and ice.

I showed up right as your lifted the mixing bowl and asked me, “Daddy, can you help me carry this over to the fridge? The juice that Holly and I just made needs to settle in the fridge while I’m at school today.”

That’s been several days ago now. I never heard how that project ended. I had speculated that you were going to want me, or your sister, to try the juice once it was ready.

However, I think what really happened was that Mommy discovered the bowl of “juice” while she was preparing dinner that evening, and the juice mysteriously disappeared… down the kitchen sink drain.

We may never know for sure.

But what I do know is, your sister definitely enjoyed the adventure in the kitchen. It takes the creativity of a 7 year-old brother sometimes for her to have fun like she should.

She took your activity seriously. In her mind, she learned a new skill.

In her mind, she learned that if you are in the mood to drink some juice but can’t find any, you can just make it yourself.

I have a feeling that had she had the chance to try the juice the two of you made, she wouldn’t have thought it was half bad.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Holly: The $2.99 Chocolate Puppy Cake from Kroger

1 year, 11 months.

Dear Holly,

Last week, our family managed to make it through all of the 1st season of Nailed It! on Netflix. I had suggested your brother check out the show, after I had spent the week before watching both seasons of Master of None, where the main character who is an aspiring actor, has to settle for being the host of a show called Clash of the Cupcakes.

And yes, Nailed It! was every bit as silly as I imagined it to be, based on the fictional concept of Clash of the Cupcakes and the Internet meme. And yes, your brother genuinely loved the cake competition show as much as I knew he would.

Last weekend, your brother announced to me in the car, as I was taking him hiking while you were home with Mommy:

“Hey Daddy… Mommy said we could look at cakes at Kroger and maybe get one.”

So after our hike, I let Jack look at cakes. To my amazement, there was a chocolate puppy cake for only $2.99. I had no issues paying so little money for a cake so cool; a cake I knew that both you and your brother would enjoy.

As we walked in the door, Jack and I both announced to you,

“Holly, we brought home a puppy cake!”

Your response: “Puppy? Puppy. Puppy!

So after we ate our veggie soup that Mommy had cooking on the crock pot, Mommy cut the puppy cake for dessert for you and your brother.

Jack immediately dived in, as if it were his birthday. (In reality, it’s your birthday and mine that are coming up.)

To my surprise though, you didn’t really care about eating the cake. You just wanted to play with the plastic cover the cake came in.

You had a great time walking around the kitchen and living room with it on your face like a mask. Then you enjoyed stomping on it in the likeness of Justin Timberlake smashing the disco ball on one of his album covers.

Your brother loved the cake. You loved the container it came in. Classic.

Love,

Daddy

SEO Spotlight Series: Legacy Coffee Co. in Spring Hill, Tennessee Uses Locally Roasted Beans (Featuring a Video Making an Iced Caramel Macchiato)

If you happen to be passing through Spring Hill, Tennessee, a must-stop place is Legacy Coffee Co. As a resident for 3 years now, I am well aware of the buzz about Legacy. It’s quite typical when I am getting coffee there, that I have heard the same reoccurring message from fellow customers:

“I would rather support local business. I want to contribute to our own community. Not to mention, I like the coffee here better anyway!”

I met the owner, Joshua Merrill, a couple of years ago when his coffee joint consisted of a pick-up truck pulling a tiny house that he built himself.

Fortunately, his business saw enough success that last fall, he was able to move in to some extra space at everyone’s favorite pizza place in Spring Hill: Viking Pizza Co.

Something that has become apparent to me when I visit Legacy Coffee Co. is that Joshua apparently knows every single person in town by name. He’s like the modern day equivalent of the owner of the General Store in town.

Except he runs a coffee shop instead.

It is obviously very important to the identity of Legacy Coffee Co. that they locally roast the beans themselves. This is something I quickly learned when I was shooting the 2 minute video promo of Josh explaining how he makes an Iced Caramel Macchiato. Check it out, and you’ll be able to catch a glimpse of Joshua’s passion for the art of making exceptional coffee.

And if you did just watch that video, you’re probably drooling right now for his hand-crafted Iced Caramel Macchiato. That’s what happened to my wife when she saw the video.

It’s no surprise that she actually just informed me we are making our way to Legacy Coffee Co. in the morning. So maybe we’ll see you there.

Want to see your business featured in my SEO Spotlight Series?

I am confident I can help boost your business’s presence online, thanks to hosting a special customized article (like this one) here on my website; which notably has great SEO. Plus, I also will shoot a special video promo for you, to host and share on my YouTube channel.

On top of all this, I am also convinced I can do this at a much cheaper price than any other media company could do for you. As of April 7th, 2018, I am starting out at the introductory price of $350.

Interested? Curious? Email me with the subject line, “SEO Spotlight Series”:

nickshell1983@hotmail

A “Work Date”with My Wife at ENAR 2018 in Atlanta (Featuring the 2018 Mazda CX-5)

Last week during Spring Break, our family opted not to go somewhere slightly exotic, like Destin, Florida; as usual. Instead, I dropped my wife off at the Nashville International Airport for her flight to Atlanta, then I drove our kids to my parents’ house, in Fort Payne, Alabama; where I grew up.

My wife went to work immediately, as she was there to help represent Vanderbilt University’s Biostatistics Graduate Program in at the ENAR 2018 Spring Meeting. (In case you happen to be out of the loop, ENAR stands for Eastern North American Region of International Biometric Society.)

I spent the first day of Spring Break at Ruby Falls with our son (more on that in the near future, so stay tuned…). But the very next morning, I left early for Atlanta; in the 2018 Mazda CX-5.

This SUV was the perfect size for my 3 hour scenic drive down Lookout Mountain into the Rome, Georgia; and eventually Atlanta. I appreciated not only the great gas mileage it got (25 city, 31 highway), but also how well it handled all those sneaky curves on my route.

As a stay-at-home dad who works from home as a Social Media Specialist and Influencer, I haven’t commuted to an office since last October. So I do admit, it was nice being able go back and forth between The Beatles and Tom Petty for a few hours. There’s a part of me that misses that 2 hour round trip everyday to work, where I could sort of just think about my life as I listened to good music.

Thanks to the trusty GPS, I had arrived at lunch time at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Atlanta. My wife met me right away at front doors, where I introduced her to our new ride for the week, and from there we drove just about 5 miles away to our favorite vegan restaurant in Atlanta: Cafe Sunflower in Buckhead.

Our lunch every bit as magnificent as we expected; so much so, that we went back again the next day for lunch! Though my wife is an amazing plant-based chef, I love being able to take her somewhere nice where she not only doesn’t have to cook, but a place that is also as committed to our lifestyle as we are. (My wife has been a vegetarian and I have been a vegan, for well over 5 years now.)

Afterwards, we headed back to ENAR 2018, where I took photographs of Vanderbilt’s booth; as I will be writing an article for Vanderbilt’s website to promote their presence at the event. I was proud to see my video series on display on the monitor, as one of my many roles working as a freelance Social Media Specialist is to create promotional videos for companies.

Over the course the past few weeks, I had interviewed several current students and professors from Vanderbilt’s Biostastics Graduate Program, then made a series of short promo videos. Not only were these playing on a loop during the whole event, but I will eventually upload them to a YouTube channel that I will be creating and managing for the department.

I also also very proud to see my wife there in her role, as well; serving as a beautiful model and spokesperson for prospective students. More importantly though, she had helped coordinate the booth for the department, including all the logistics in getting it there, along with other Vanderbilt employees.

After a hard day’s work, we took advantage of a special attraction there at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta: They have a restaurant called Polaris, on top of the hotel. You have to take a special, exclusive, elevator there. And the over the course of an hour, the entire restaurant spins; so you get to see a 360 degree view of Atlanta. We will definitely go there again!

The next day after ENAR came to an end, we headed back to Cafe Sunflower for lunch again, then took a different route back to my parents’ house in Alabama. Our adventures were far from over, as we would be taking a family trip to Rock City the next morning.

I was very grateful to be able to have a “work date” with my wife. Sometimes, or maybe I should say usually, it requires some creativity in being able to plan fun dates when both parents work and have young children.

Perhaps at some point, our lives will be a little less crazy. As for now, we are truly making the most of what we have!

To check out the entire trilogy of blog posts about the cool trips my family took in the 2018 Mazda CX-5, just click the related link below:

A “Work Date”with My Wife at ENAR 2018 in Atlanta (Featuring the 2018 Mazda CX-5)

My Family’s Road Trip to Rock City in Chattanooga in the 2018 Mazda CX-5 (Featuring the Original New Theme Song I Wrote)

My Road Trip with My Son to Ruby Falls in Chattanooga in the 2018 Mazda CX-5 (Featuring the Original New Theme Song I Wrote)

Watch Me on TV! Tuesday, February 27th on The Lifetime Network on the Show, This Time Next Year, Episode 6: “Dudes from Different Latitudes”

It’s now officially showing up on The Lifetime Network’s TV schedule on their website: My episode, “Dudes from Different Latitudes” is premiering in just a few days, on Tuesday February 27th: 10pm Eastern, 9pm Central.

In case you don’t know, a year of my life was documented for this reality TV show, in which my journey was to find and meet my doppelganger; who can promptly be seen on the package of Campbell’s Go Southwest Style Chicken soup.

Are you as excited as I am?! I have been secretly involved with this going back to June 2016. Now finally, I get to see my own episode, and share it with all of you.

Please do not think it was as easy as calling the phone number on the back of the package! No way…

Why would Campbell’s be totally cool with some random crazy guy from the Internet asking for the name and contact info of a model who posed for their product?

Let me assure you… my journey was way more challenging than that.

So please, mark your calendar and plan your night around this. I have so much more to say about my experience, but am forbidden to, until the show airs. I can’t wait for you to see the show, and then hear the behind-the-scenes details that I will have for you afterwards.

I was especially excited to see that, technically, they named the episode thanks to one of my ideas. While there are other people whose stories are featured alongside mine in Episode 6, the title was something I specifically coined.

After you watch, then you’ll understand what I mean; and why I have a beard and I’m wearing this really cool t-shirt with a bear on it.

Tuesday February 27th, 2018: 10pm Eastern, 9pm Central

This Time Next Year, Episode 6, “Dudes from Different Latitudes”

The Lifetime Network