Dear Holly: Our Walk in the Park at Aspen Grove

10 months.

Dear Holly,

Last Saturday was such a beautiful day so we made good use of it. We met up with our friends Mohamad and Lena, and their daughter Hanna who is just a month older than you. We stopped for lunch at Noodles & Co., the same vegan-vegetarian-kosher friendly place that your brother Jack and I dined at after we saw Rogue One back in January at the Green Hills Mall in Nashville.

We all took a moment to appreciate Hanna’s awesome new shirt that her parents found for her in downtown Nashville. Jack said, “Daddy, I keep thinking that’s really her arms and legs. It looks like she’s really playing the guitar!”

After lunch, I suggested we drive right across the other side of I-65 and take a walk in Aspen Grove Park; which is right behind my office, where I take my mountain bike, skateboard, or just go running during my lunch breaks.

Fortunately, we took our double stroller to push you and Jack. However, he let you have it all to yourself since he wanted to check out the creek that followed the trail.

For me, there’s nothing like being able to take a leisurely stroll through the park on a nice day. There’s a reason the saying goes, “Well, it’s no walk in the park…” when referencing a tough situation.

That’s because a walk in the park is a standard measurement of happiness and inner peace. It’s a universally enjoyed occurrence.

And hey, if you can share that experience with people you care about… even better.

I watched the wind blow through your blonde hair, as you took the whole experience in. Ultimately, you were ready for a nap. But you just couldn’t bring yourself to the point of falling asleep.

You saved that for two minutes into the car ride home.

Love,

Daddy

FACT: I Am the Manliest Vegan on the Internet

There is no dispute. No one is even looking into it. Instead, the entire world simply unanimously accepts and agrees that I, Nick Shell, am the manliest vegan on the Internet.

What makes me such a manly vegan?…

First off, I am emotionally intelligent regarding my vegan lifestyle. Because I am fully secure in my beliefs, I have zero desire to try to convince others to become vegans. In fact, I would rather other people didn’t become vegans, especially not other men, because it keeps me more unique in my identity. (Approximately less than 0.5% of the American population are male vegans).

Second, I am a committed husband (been in love with the same woman for 10 years now; 8 and a half of which we’ve been married) and an involved father (hence, the daddy blog).

Plus, I am healthy and active. I am not a slave to my body; my body is a slave to me. I get plenty of protein (from vegetables, fruit, beans, grains, nuts, and seeds) and I am always on the move:

I run and I go mountain biking regularly, plus I go hiking and exploring with my son.

Next, I am a decisive leader and a good communicator. I don’t fear change, I embrace it. I always have a few back-up plans.

I am undeniably confident, yet aware of my weaknesses, which I am always working to improve.

Granted, I am very aware of my skills and talents, making sure I utilize them as part of my identity.

Most people have a hard time thinking of just one other male vegan they know. Even if they can think of a male vegan other than me, then the question becomes: Is he manly?

That question quickly evolves: But is he manlier than Nick Shell?

So far, history shows that the answer has always been… no.

As a blogger and YouTuber, I figured I might as well make it official in this announcement today:

I am the manliest vegan on the Internet.

FACT: I Am the Manliest Vegan on the Internet

Dear Holly: The Nonna Pick-Up Point at The Goat Restaurant in Murfreesboro, Tennessee (Vegetarian/Vegan-Friendly)

9 months.

Dear Holly: The Nonna Pick-Up Point at The Goat Restaurant in Murfreesboro, Tennessee (Vegetarian/Vegan-Friendly)

Dear Holly,

Just a day after we took Grandma (Mommy’s Mommy) back to the airport after she graciously spent the past two weeks watching you, we then picked up Nonna (my Mommy), who is watching you this week.

Mommy and I saw the need to give you a break from daycare for a while, as you had remained consistently sick for months.

Fortunately, Papa was willing to drive most of the way to drop off Nonna. He drove 2 hours; we only drove 30 minutes, which was about as much as you were able to handle that day in the car. We met Nonna and Papa at an amazing vegan/vegetarian-friendly restaurant called The Goat.

Though it’s been around for 2 years now, we had never heard of it. If only we had known how well it suits our family’s dietary restrictions and needs, we would have been going there regularly. Well, now we know.

Dear Holly: The Nonna Pick-Up Point at The Goat Restaurant in Murfreesboro, Tennessee (Vegetarian/Vegan-Friendly)

Not to mention, the lighting at The Goat helps the place serve as a great place to take pictures. I was able to capture some really shots of you and your brother catching up with Nonna and Papa.

Granted, you’re not quite old enough to appreciate the food they serve there yet, but it’s definitely something to look forward to.

Your brother Jack had a great time with his mini cheese pizza slices and gourmet tater tots. He even lucked out and got to have dessert: donut holes, which were a first for him.

So here’s to a week of you being spoiled by Nonna at our house. Here’s to you sleeping hours at a time in your arms as she just stares at your precious face the whole time.

And here’s to us making The Goat a regular stopping point anytime we’re passing through Murfreesboro.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Holly: The Nonna Pick-Up Point at The Goat Restaurant in Murfreesboro, Tennessee (Vegetarian/Vegan-Friendly)

Dear Jack: Weekend of Manliness 2: ArenaCross at Bridgestone Arena/Monster Trucks Movie/Jaws on Netflix

6 years, 3 months.

Dear Jack: Weekend of Manliness 2: ArenaCross at Bridgestone Arena/Monster Trucks Movie/Jaws on Netflix

Dear Jack,

Just a few weeks ago, you and I had our first official Weekend of Manliness when we ventured to Monster Jam, saw Rogue One, and went sledding in the snow. Fortunately, with your Grandma visiting from California to help watch your baby sister, you and I got to spend plenty of time together again; aside from spending last weekend together at the Children’s Hospital for your near-bout with surgery.

Dear Jack: Weekend of Manliness 2: ArenaCross at Bridgestone Arena/Monster Trucks Movie/Jaws on Netflix

We started out our 2nd Weekend of Manliness on Saturday morning by putting on our special father and son socks by Pair of Thieves, which included a matching pair for both the kid and the dad. Mommy got them for us at Christmas, and I figured this event one be the best event to try them out.

You and I both agreed they are the most comfortable socks we have ever worn! In fact, this morning when I was getting you dressed for school, you insisted on wearing them for the 3rd day in a row. (Shhh… we won’t let Mommy know about that.)

Dear Jack: Weekend of Manliness 2: ArenaCross at Bridgestone Arena/Monster Trucks Movie/Jaws on Netflix

Our journey began when we took off in own beast-on-wheels (my 2004 Honda Element, which I’ve now officially owned for 11 years!) to go see the Monster Trucks movie. You have been wanting to see it ever since last summer when we saw the first trailer for it while watching the newest Star Trek movie.

Dear Jack: Weekend of Manliness 2: ArenaCross at Bridgestone Arena/Monster Trucks Movie/Jaws on Netflix

We enjoyed it so much we both agreed that we already want to see it again!

I left it up to you where we we’d go for lunch. I shouldn’t have been surprised- you decided on your favorite: Moe’s. You admitted to me that you chose it because you knew you’d get a juice box and a cookie with your meal. I’m always happy to go there because, as a manly vegan, I can get plenty of healthy veggies and protein when I order their “Earmuffs with tofu.”

Dear Jack: Weekend of Manliness 2: ArenaCross at Bridgestone Arena/Monster Trucks Movie/Jaws on Netflix

Afterwards, we headed home for a Netflix movie of your choice: To my surprise, you choose an old American classic from 1975: Steven Spielberg’s Jaws. I feared it would be too slow of a pace for you, but you loved every minute of it; just like you loved Jurassic Park.

I was amazed when they caught the shark they thought was the culprit, and you immediately blurted out, “Hey Daddy, that’s a tiger shark! I can tell because of the stripes!”

Dear Jack: Weekend of Manliness 2: ArenaCross at Bridgestone Arena/Monster Trucks Movie/Jaws on Netflix

Just moments later, Richard Dreyfuss’s character (Hooper) confirmed you were right; when he explained to the other characters in the movie that a tiger shark could not be responsible for the attacks because its bite radius wasn’t big enough.

Seriously, you are such a smart kid! I understand that perhaps Jaws wouldn’t be most 6 year-old kids’ first choice for a movie to watch with their dad on a lazy Saturday afternoon, but it’s clear that your fascination with science (and animals, in particular) led you to be glued to this movie. You loved watching the 3 main characters hunt for the killer shark.

Dear Jack: Weekend of Manliness 2: ArenaCross at Bridgestone Arena/Monster Trucks Movie/Jaws on Netflix

On a related note, your glow-in-the-dark dinosaur fossil decals arrived: Your bedroom has a new, relevant look to match what you’re into these days.

It had been a few hours since our manly meal on Moe’s, soo I made an executive decision for us to swing by Jamba Juice, which was about half-way (and right off the Interstate) to downtown Nashville, where we would be experiencing ArenaCross for the first time.

Dear Jack: Weekend of Manliness 2: ArenaCross at Bridgestone Arena/Monster Trucks Movie/Jaws on Netflix

When we arrived, I realized our seats were indeed right next to my co-worker Stephanie’s family; who won the giveaway tickets on my blog a couple of weeks ago. Even though her daughter is a 4th grader and you are a Kindergartner, the two of you quickly became buddies!

Dear Jack: Weekend of Manliness 2: ArenaCross at Bridgestone Arena/Monster Trucks Movie/Jaws on Netflix

We watched the motorcycles fly high into the air as they raced around the track. I learned over and asked you, “Jack, do you ever want to ride one of those bikes?”

Dear Jack: Weekend of Manliness 2: ArenaCross at Bridgestone Arena/Monster Trucks Movie/Jaws on Netflix

You shook your head “no” but I’m not convinced. I could tell you thought it was really cool.

Dear Jack: Weekend of Manliness 2: ArenaCross at Bridgestone Arena/Monster Trucks Movie/Jaws on Netflix

Our 2nd Weekend of Manliness was a success, as we knew it would be. We shall be ever ready for our next special father and son weekend!

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: Weekend of Manliness 2: ArenaCross at Bridgestone Arena/Monster Trucks Movie/Jaws on Netflix

The Manly Vegan Vs. 48 Ounce GT’s Synergy Trilogy Kombucha

The Manly Vegan Vs. 48 Ounce GT’s Synergy Trilogy Kombucha

Kombucha has been an important part of my manly vegan diet, going on 4 years now. On average, I drink at least three 16 ounce bottles of Kombucha each week. It’s full of probiotics.

I personally don’t believe in taking supplements, as I believe that would make me a hypocrite: If my whole diet is based on only eating healthy food, I figure I must be doing something wrong if I have to depend on some processed form of nutrition.

But Kombucha is a live and active culture. I always feel great after drinking it- and I believe it further strengthens my immune system, after a previous lifetime of process foods filled with an overkill of protein and cholesterol.

Kombucha is my consumable vice. And I’m proud of that.

The Manly Vegan Vs. 48 Ounce GT’s Synergy Trilogy Kombucha

Last month at Whole Foods, I noticed they started carrying 48 ounce bottles (1.4 liters) of GT’s Synergy Trilogy Kombucha. I thought about how fun it would be to see how much of it I could drink in one setting.

Last Thursday, my wife ended up having to buy her lunch, which cost $11. Our rule is that if one of us has to spend money on food for lunch, the other person gets the same amount as an allowance.

It was quite obvious what I would be spending my money on: The 48 ounce bottle of GT’s Synergy Trilogy Kombucha cost $8.99.

In the event there is no world record for the amount of Kombucha consumed in one setting, I decided to clumsily document the event.

I made it over half-way, yet not quite 2/3’s. I could have done more, but it was starting to turn into too much of a good thing; as I began feeling a bit disoriented.

Buy hey, if anyone beats my record, I’d definitely be up for drinking the entire bottle, or more, if necessary.

 The Manly Vegan Vs. 48 Ounce GT’s Synergy Trilogy Kombucha

Dear Jack: Rogue One Star Wars (Weekend of Manliness! in a 2004 Honda Element, Part 3/3) *No Spoilers*

6 years, 1 month.

Dear Jack: Rogue One Star Wars (Weekend of Manliness! in a 2004 Honda Element, Part 3/3) *No Spoilers*

Dear Jack,

Our Weekend of Manliness! concluded as we left Monster Jam and made our way towards The Mall at Green Hills; a place you had never been to before.

Dear Jack: 1st Snow of 2017 (Weekend of Manliness! in a 2004 Honda Element, Part 1/3)

On the way there though, we made a quick stop to Army & Navy War Surplus; as I am currently interested in replacing my current overnight backpack with a military version; since we travel to California at least once a year and I want something more durable as a carry-on.

Thanks to one of your aunts giving you Regal Cinemas gift cards for Christmas, everything was free!

Dear Jack: Rogue One Star Wars (Weekend of Manliness! in a 2004 Honda Element, Part 3/3) *No Spoilers*

The time had finally come… the time for us to see Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. I had only heard great things about it. Nothing prepared me for how amazing of a movie it is!

Just about 20 minutes into it, I was already ready to see it a 2nd time!

It made me so proud to be able to take you to see it. The Star Wars franchise is such an undeniable part of American boyhood. I feel it’s a responsibility as your dad to introduce you to all thing Star Wars.

What a convenient decade for you to be a boy! At 6 years old, you are old enough to be able to appreciate these new Star Wars movies. Your 1st introduction was a year ago, when I took you to see The Force Awakens.

Dear Jack: Rogue One Star Wars (Weekend of Manliness! in a 2004 Honda Element, Part 3/3) *No Spoilers*

And as much as I loved that one, this new one is even better. Ah, what an amazing, must-see movie!

After the final credits rolled, I looked over to you and asked, “Well, how many of your Sour Punch Rainbow Straws did you eat?” I always assuming you took care of at least half the package.

You explained, “Just four; one of every flavor.” Apparently your agenda is to savor the rest over the next couple of weeks, as Mommy and I rarely let you eat candy. It’s such a commodity to you.

At that point though, it was time for us to find some dinner- as it was nearly 7 PM. Earlier in the week, I had proactively reached out to a really nice restaurant there at The Mall at Green Hills called Table 3. I offered to feature them on my blog in an exchange for a free meal for us.

I never heard back from them. I take that to mean they’re doing well without any additional positive publicity. Oh well, it was worth a shot. Never hurts to ask. The law of averages, you know…

Dear Jack: Rogue One Star Wars (Weekend of Manliness! in a 2004 Honda Element, Part 3/3) *No Spoilers*

So instead, we landed at Noodles & Company, and boy am I glad we did. We were so pleased with their selections!

They very easily catered to our manly dietary restrictions; with you being a vegetarian and me being a vegan. You got their kids’ meal: Mac and Cheese, Go Go Squeeze, and a fun Rice Krispie Treat. Granted, I made you eat some of my broccoli from my Thai Curry Bowl with tofu.

Dear Jack: Rogue One Star Wars (Weekend of Manliness! in a 2004 Honda Element, Part 3/3) *No Spoilers*

It was the perfect ending to our Weekend of Manliness! Unsurprisingly, after such a busy day, you quickly fell asleep in the back seat.

And, I’m already planning our next Weekend of Manliness! for just a few weeks from now…

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: Rogue One Star Wars (Weekend of Manliness! in a 2004 Honda Element, Part 3/3) *No Spoilers*

Weekend of Manliness! January 2017 Series:

1st Snow of 2017

Monster Jam 2017

Rogue One Star Wars

Dear Jack: Always Tell Mommy and Me What You Tell Santa What You Want for Christmas… (Featuring Red 7 Pizza in Columbia, TN)

6 years, 1 month.

Dear Jack: Always Tell Mommy and Me What You Tell Santa What You Want for Christmas… (Featuring Red 7 Pizza in Columbia, TN)

Dear Jack,

On Saturday we drove to the neighboring town of Columbia so that you and your sister could get your picture taken with Santa. Despite having lived in our new house in Spring Hill for almost two years now, I had never driven past the Target and movie theater on the edge of town.

It was as if I had always subconsciously assumed that civilization just ended on the other side of the Spring Hill city limits sign. Turns out, on the other side is a slightly larger city with a charming culture of its own.

Before we had left the house, you had specifically asked Mommy and me, “Is this going to be the real Santa, or just one of his helpers?”

We replied that we wanted you to decide for yourself after you met him…

You then submitted the idea of pulling his beard to see if it was real. We didn’t advise against doing so- because, you know- we’re cool parents.

I really enjoyed our visit to Columbia. Our family arrived at the health food store in downtown: It was in the very back of the store where Santa was. I know that sounds random- and it was.

Dear Jack: Always Tell Mommy and Me What You Tell Santa What You Want for Christmas… (Featuring Red 7 Pizza in Columbia, TN)

For $7, Mommy and I got our very first picture of you and your sister with Santa. As we were paying for the photo, I noticed you remained on Santa’s lap… with a sort of sneaky look on your face as he was talking to you.

I interpreted it as you thinking, “This isn’t really Santa and I know it- but I’m just going to go along with it.” After all, he was a young-looking Santa.

The thought ran through my head: “I wonder if Jack is about to try to pull Santa’s beard…”

But I didn’t get a chance at that point to ask you what that conversation was about. Instead, I got distracted as we took a family walk: It was just 3 blocks to Red Seven Pizza Co. for dinner.

(Featuring Red 7 Pizza in Columbia, TN)

Mommy found out about the place while Googling “vegan restaurants in Columbia” before we left the house. She told me that even had vegan cheese available. I am so glad she found it! In fact, we were all so glad she found it!

(Featuring Red 7 Pizza in Columbia, TN)

We will definitely be going back- and in the near future. Each of us got to choose exactly what we wanted on our pizzas, out of dozens of ingredients… same thing with our salads. I took advantage of the fact they had pineapples and artichokes.

(Featuring Red 7 Pizza in Columbia, TN)

I was the only one in our family to be able to finish my pizza, but I was perfectly full by the time we left. You and Mommy got to enjoy your leftovers the next day for lunch.

A few hours later as I was putting you to bed, you suddenly revealed to me, “Daddy, I asked Santa for a Rudolph stuffed animal.”

I instantly reminded you that you already bought a reindeer stuffed animal last month during your $100 shopping spree at Opry Mills Mall.

r1

But then you explained to me that was just a reindeer, but not Rudolph, like from the classic claymation Christmas movie…

That’s when I made sure to tell you it’s important to always also tell Mommy and me what you told Santa you want for Christmas.

Because, well- for some families, Santa’s gifts were taken care of back in September and Santa wasn’t expecting to rush to Target, Toys “R” Us, or Walmart just a few days before Christmas…

Something tells me though, Rudolph and his red nose will find his way underneath the Christmas tree.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: Always Tell Mommy and Me What You Tell Santa What You Want for Christmas… (Featuring Red 7 Pizza in Columbia, TN)