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

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: 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

Manly Vegan: Today I’ve Been a Vegetarian for 5 Years (and Clearly, I’m Getting Enough Protein)

Manly Vegan: Today I’ve Been a Vegetarian for 5 Years (and Clearly, I’m Getting Enough Protein)

Thanksgiving 2008 was the last time I ate ham, bacon, or any kind of pork; or shellfish of any kind- like shrimp, lobster, crab, or scallops. In other words, since the day after Thanksgiving 2008, I became and have remained kosher. That’s been 8 years now.

Since then, I only further slid down the slippery slope; eventually becoming and remaining a vegetarian in December 2011 and a vegan in April 2013.

Manly Vegan: Today I’ve Been a Vegetarian for 5 Years (and Clearly, I’m Getting Enough Protein)

What makes this particularly interesting is that I am a male. Our American culture teaches and accepts that eating bacon and beef is a particularly masculine thing to do. Most American vegetarians and vegans are females. So therefore, my being a male vegan is especially counter-cultural.

Granted, I feel no less masculine despite what I (don’t) eat.

It was exactly five years ago today I decided to adopt an American alternative lifestyle: I stopped eating meat. Somewhat to my surprise, my wife immediately joined me in my crazy decision. And our 1 year-old son got thrown into it as well.

Now he’s 6 years-old and has no interest in eating meat. I should also point out my wife and I also have a 7 month-old daughter now, who currently is a vegetarian by default.

Manly Vegan: Today I’ve Been a Vegetarian for 5 Years (and Clearly, I’m Getting Enough Protein)

I have to say this, though: Becoming a vegetarian is not a choice I want you to make- nor do I need you to become a vegetarian either. I want to be very clear about that.

Instead, I beg you to keep eating sausage, bacon, burgers, and fried chicken. In fact, I cordially invite you to stop reading this immediately and eat a big juicy McRib right now. Yes, I endorse that…

Manly Vegan: Today I’ve Been a Vegetarian for 5 Years (and Clearly, I’m Getting Enough Protein)

Why wouldn’t I? What other families eat has nothing to do with me- just like I could care less which candidate anybody else voted for in the recent election. My emotional state of being wouldn’t change no matter the outcome.

I’m like Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive: “I don’t care!”

Proving that being a vegetarian is the better way of life is no agenda of mine. In fact, I envy eat meaters. I seriously do.

If you’re part of the majority of America, meaning that you are not a vegetarian, then you get to eat meat. Whenever you want. As much as you want. You have much more freedom than I do- and you have a certain kind of happiness in your life that I’ll never again enjoy: the scandalous feeling of devouring a cheeseburger.

As for me, I have learned I can’t be trusted with such responsibility.

I have learned that when it comes to eating meat, I have never nor would I ever just simply eat the maximum 4 to 7 ounces serving per day that nutritionists recommend. I always ate least double that; each meal, every meal.

Mentally, I’m not strong enough to overcome the desire to keep eating meat. I was never truly satisfied with meat… there was never enough no matter how much I ate.

The irony is that by restricting myself to no meat at all, I can be in control of my desires and my appetite. Because that way, there’s not room for gray. There’s no possibility of eating too much meat if I can’t have meat at all.

My protein comes from 6 main sources: vegetables, fruits, beans, grains, nuts, and seeds.

I will openly admit to having very selfish motives to becoming a vegetarian: It’s an easy way to manage my weight, I never have indigestion issues anymore, and it led to me becoming a vegan; which ultimately wiped out my ongoing eczema, sinus issues, and pet allergies.

Those personal issues have nothing to do with the rest of the world. Instead, my reasons are self-centered. So there is no need to try convert anyone. I’m simply selfish in my reasons for being a vegetarian.

Perhaps I would be a better human being if I did care more; if I did spend some efforts in trying to convince people to be healthier by cutting out meat from their diets.

But I’m simply uninspired. I learned early on that most people are still convinced that by becoming a vegetarian, they will not get enough protein in their diet.

Manly Vegan: Today I’ve Been a Vegetarian for 5 Years (and Clearly, I’m Getting Enough Protein)

Clearly, I’ve proved that theory to be false in my own life. After all, I’ve lived this for 5 solid years. I would know!

Sure, I lost weight when I became a vegetarian. But look at me now. I’m not a skeleton. I look healthy. And I am healthy- my doctor confirmed this.

Even it means I am selfish, I would rather other people keep believing they need to eat meat to be healthy; even though I know it’s not true in my own life. By me trying to convince them against what they’ve been taught their whole lives, it endangers me of reinforcing the stereotype that vegetarians are judgmental and overzealous.

So now at the risk of sounding jaded instead, I invite absolutely no one else in the world to join me by becoming a vegetarian.

(Of course, it’s a whole different story if you approach me about becoming a vegetarian or vegan. In that case, I will be honored to guide you!)

Now, please- go to the McDonald’s drive-thru and order a McRib. It’s not too late. They’re still open. Actually, I hear you can get 2 for $5 right now…

Our Very Vegan (and Mexican) Thanksgiving Feast

Our Very Vegan (and Mexican) Thanksgiving Feast

You’re likely reading this because you fall into one of two categories: Either you’re a fellow vegan like me… or you’re simply curious to see what a Thanksgiving looks like without the traditional turkey and dressing.

Well, I can’t speak for most plant-based families out there, but I can definitely tell you what our family did for Thanksgiving this year.

We had a very vegan, and Mexican, feast.

Why Mexican? The main reason is because it was the easiest menu for my wife to plan and prepare; not to mention, we were travelling with the food for 3 hours from Tennessee to Alabama.

The other reason, though it could arguable be a coincidence, is that my side of the family is part Mexican; so it simply seemed natural to do so.

Our Very Vegan (and Mexican) Thanksgiving Feast

When we drove in the night before Thanksgiving, my mom made some homemade Michoacán style “tacos” for my wife and me to try. The recipe was one that my Grandma (who was full Mexican) passed on to my mom.

Plus, we made vegan pancakes. Not to mention, avocado toast. And some breakfast muffins, using chia seeds as part of the recipe.

Our Very Vegan (and Mexican) Thanksgiving Feast

The next day for our actual Thanksgiving Day feast, we had a taco bar. My wife cooked up 3 pounds of Beyond Meat (made from pea protein) for the main filling. Plus, my mom prepared black beans, pinto beans, and refried beans. We of course had veggies to dress the tacos, as well as avocado, which serves as a high-fat cheese substitute. There was also some really healthy black rice with almonds; so hearty!

My mom also made some bean salads for sides and pumpkin pie for dessert.

Our Very Vegan (and Mexican) Thanksgiving Feast

There was so much food that we still had enough left over to have the meal again the next day. Both times we had the meal, we had guests over. We didn’t tell them it was vegan, but they seemed to enjoy it just the same.

So, there you go. That’s what we had for our Thanksgiving feast. And it worked so well, we plan to repeat our menu again for Christmas!

Whatever brings you to this blog post today, please know that you are welcome here. No pressure at all for you to adopt the wildly strange and counter-cultural lifestyle I have lived for many years now.

Just enjoy the scenery and scratch your head in wonder. It’s okay. This is a safe place.

Our Very Vegan (and Mexican) Thanksgiving Feast

My Family’s Plant-Based Road Trip across San Diego in a 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander

Dear Holly: Your Uncle Jake’s Wedding at Tom Ham’s Lighthouse (San Diego Vacation/2016 Mitsubishi Outlander)

Exactly a month ago, we traveled across San Diego as we enjoyed a week-long family vacation for my wife’s youngest brother’s wedding. Something that made our road-trip in the 2016 Mitsibishi Outlander a bit unique was that we’re a vegan/vegetarian family.

I am a vegan; my wife and kids are vegetarians.

So when it comes to traveling, especially on the other side of the country, since we live in the Nashville area, it is vital that we plan out our stops accordingly to where we can eat.

We have to make sure that wherever we dine, there are options for those who don’t eat meat (vegetarian), as well as those who additionally also don’t eat eggs or dairy (vegan).

My Family’s Plant-Based Road Trip across San Diego in a 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander

My wife did about half our research online before we left. Then once we arrived at our hotel, I sat inside the Mitsibushi Outlander in the parking lot for a solid 30 minutes, searching “plant-based” options in the San Diego area and plugging them into the GPS.

Fortunately, we were staying only a few miles from a glorious place called Jimbo’s… Naturally! It served as our base. We drove there each morning, stocking up on our snacks for the day- we even had a few meals there as well.

My Family’s Plant-Based Road Trip across San Diego in a 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander

I loved how they had a made-to-order sandwich/wrap/veggie burger bar!

Our San Diego Vacation in the 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander (Table of Contents)

They even carried vegan marshmallows, Dandies, which we used for the family bonfire on the beach.

http://www.sammyspizza.com/ b4

The first actual restaurant we stopped at was Oggi’s, which was where the family first reunited. (My wife is one of 9 siblings.)

My Family’s Plant-Based Road Trip across San Diego in a 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander

I discreetly and privately told my waiter that I was a vegan. He went back to the cooks and reported back to me that they could do a veggie pasta dish for me. I was also “feeling like being bad,” as my wife would say, so I ordered a big plate of fries too.

My Family’s Plant-Based Road Trip across San Diego in a 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander a6

They were so good. And because I’m a nice dad, I even shared them with my son.

Next up was Wahoo’s Fish Taco, which despite the name, was extremely prepared for vegans like me. I had a dish with tofu, veggies, and beans. It was good- like an Asian/Mexican fusion.

My Family’s Plant-Based Road Trip across San Diego in a 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander

The next restaurant on our trip was Fig Tree Café, which served up a great looking, and great tasting, vegan burger. I even was able to get Kombucha on tap!

My Family’s Plant-Based Road Trip across San Diego in a 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander a8

My wife loved her French Toast. It was a fun place to dine.

In the same shopping center, there is also a convenient Trader Joe’s, as well as Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza & Grill, where we enjoyed the ambiance and food so much, we went back at 2nd time, taking one of my sisters-in-law’s family with us.

My Family’s Plant-Based Road Trip across San Diego in a 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander a15

They accommodated my dietary needs by actually having Daiya cheese as a substitute for dairy cheese for our pizza. And my wife and I really enjoyed their Asian salad as well.

So there you go. If your family is also vegan/vegetarian and is planning a road trip through San Diego, feel free to use all this is a guide for your trip.

Thanks for reading!

-Nick Shell of Family Friendly Daddy Blog

My Family’s Plant-Based Road Trip across San Diego in a 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander

Vegan Confession: I Have Nightmares I Eat Meat

Vegan Confession: I Have Nightmares that I Eat Meat

I realize that for 97% of the population, a dream about eating meat would not be deemed as a nightmare. But for me, it is every time. I have these kinds of dreams about once every couple of months, at least.

It’s funny how that’s how my brain subconsciously creates a “bad” dream. But imagine if you were me:

No pork or shellfish (kosher) since November 2008, no meat at all since December 2011, no animal products at all (including eggs, cheese, milk, or any dairy) since April 2013.

Imagine that’s your life. Then consider what it was like last night for me to dream this:

I was on my way to see a movie with my son. But in a hurry and in need of a quick meal, I stopped by McDonald’s and bought a Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese.

Sure, it tasted great. But immediately, I was racked with guilt, knowing that eating this cheeseburger not only disqualified me from being a vegan and a vegetarian after all these years, but also from being kosher; since a kosher-abiding person cannot consume dairy product along the meat in the same meal.

Then, in the dream, I began trying to figure out how I would explain this to my wife. Before she or I even became vegetarians, she was never okay with me going to McDonald’s.

As expected, it wasn’t too long before the undigested meat began racing through my digestive track. Oh yes- you guessed it- a race to the restroom…

And I’m sure that’s exactly what would happen if I did suddenly did eat meat and cheese.

The most interesting part of this nightmare was that I began questioning whether it may just be a dream. So I began saying out loud, “Wake up… this probably isn’t real!”

I guess it worked. I woke up. But I’ve been having flashbacks all day long.

So if you eat meat, be glad you don’t have to deal with these kinds of nightmares.

Below is the video version of this blog post, where I go into a mysterious tunnel…