Self Improvement / Healthy Living, Self Improvement / Healthy Living, Uncategorized

4 Ways to Spice Up Vegan Date Night

vegan date nightAre you vegan/vegetarian?

Could your date night use some spicing up?

Then keep reading…

“How come we never go out anymore?” My girlfriend, Emily, asked, for the third week in a row. It was a rhetorical question, something not to be answered immediately, if at all. But she was right, we never went out anymore.

When we had started dating years ago, the question of “What do we you want to do tonight?” seemed like one that needn’t be asked; because we were always on some type of adventure: hiking, sailing, cooking classes, ghost tours, etc. But as the weeks, months and years of our relationship carried on, our dates began to dwindle. Before we knew it, routine engulfed us and weeks and months would pass without even the casual dinner and a movie. Eventually, we had decided to try the all too typical approach of weekly “date night,” but even that, after years, came to a standstill. Television became our life and each night was a rerun: we made dinner, watched repeats of Seinfeld, and then slept. We were on the precipice of the worst thing that could happen in any relationship: boredom.

Time and time again we tried to implement the infamous “date night,” but it never seemed to stick, things had always felt too forced, too contrived. And both of us being vegan certainly didn’t help. In fact, as we finally talked it through one night, we realized that it was only after we had become vegans that we had started to have trouble with our weekly “date night.”

After we had both become vegan suddenly even dinner and a movie seemed like a chore:

“Did you check out that restaurant, are they vegan friendly?” “Yes. I checked online, everything looked fine.” “Well, call ahead anyways to double check.” “Ok. I called. They’ve got a special vegan menu: we can get either pasta or salad.” “That’s it? Oh God. Let’s just stay home…”

“There’s this new great Vegan restaurant opening…but its ninety minutes away. Do you still want to go?”

“Do you want to go see a movie?” “I hate that movie theatre all I can smell is butter when we’re there.”

For a long time we tried to consolidate the idea of being vegans and being able to have a fun, easy date night. We fought, we laughed, we cried and then finally, after days and weeks and months of bad date nights, we came up with an unbeatable plan for unforgettable vegan date nights.

What we’ve learned:

1) Save up. Instead of forcing ourselves to go out once a week for “date night,” we realized that it can be better to plan just one really special date night per month, something that we could really look forward to. No one looks forward to dinner and a movie every week—especially if you’re vegan and your restaurants are severely limited.   And since dinner and a movie once a week can certainly add up. Instead, save up that money and use it all on one special date night. Do something out of the ordinary. Something a little more expensive—since you saved all your date night money for one night instead of four. Go to a spa together. Go to the theatre. Or mine and Emily’s favorite: Drive to that really great vegan restaurant that’s two hours away and stay at a nice bed and breakfast for the night. It’s better to have one unforgettable date night per month than four forgettable ones.

2) Stay in. We all know that cooking can be a chore, especially the cleanup afterwards; but we often forget how much fun it can be; there’s a reason why every cheesy romantic movie has a scene in a kitchen with one person playfully putting frosting or flour on someone else’s nose. It’s because cooking is fun and can be a very sexual, sensual thing. Put some soft jazz on and by the time the kitchen fills with the scents of seasoning and fresh foods all your stresses will have washed away. Surprise each other with different meals. Try the new recipe that you read in The Vegan Villager. Make a sampling of foods for each other and wear blindfolds—the blindfolds could be used for after dinner fun, too. For dessert have some strawberries covered in dark chocolate. Additional option: Make the food and take it to a drive in movie theatre.

3) Start something. The fact of the matter is, most vegans aren’t activists—although that’s how it’s often portrayed—but most vegans DO want to be more active in the community. Join that vegan society or go to that vegan Meetup group together. Grab a cup of coffee and leaflet your local college campus. It might not seem like a fun date night, but a crisp fall evening, with a warm cup of tea, on a beautiful college campus, talking to people about issues near and dear to your heart, it can be a life changing night. Kill two birds with one stone: have a fun, unusual vegan date night, and change your community.

4) Shelters. Go to an animal shelter. Although the idea might seem like a depressing date night it can also be really fun and memorable. An old brother of mine has volunteered for years at a shelter and when single he would take his dates to the shelter with him. Animal shelters often have large grassy areas near them and my brother and his date would take several dogs for a walk, play with them in the grass, and then have a picnic with the dogs. We can’t save all animals, and you might not be able to save all the animals in the shelter, but an afternoon spent playing catch with a half dozen friendly dogs, and then a picnic in the grass—bringing treats for your furry friends, too—it’s a vegan date night that will leave a lasting impact. And, of course, you could always take one, or two, or three of the puppies’ home with you afterwards…

Bonus tip: If you want to surprise your loved one with a fun vegan date night, tell them that you’ve got an amazing surprise date night planned for them in one month. Then ask them to guess what it is. In reality, you won’t have anything planned…yet. But as they tell you all their idea of what would make an “amazing surprise date night,” you’ve already got a head start on what you should do.

 Picture: Flickr/Alex Proimos   


Best Of, Blogishness, Self Improvement / Healthy Living, Self Improvement / Healthy Living

How to Be a Stand up Comedian

how to be a standup comedianIt starts with an awkward silence.  All eyes are glued to you as you walk to the stage; the littlest misstep and you’ll never live it down.  The second that your foot hits the stage, you take a deep breath, sweat drips down your brow and your palms freeze.  Stepping up the microphone you exhale and tell yourself that you’ve been here before, that you’ve only got five minutes and you can handle it.  You look out over the audience; finally its time to ease the tension, theirs and yours.

The most important part of being a stand up comedian is knowing your story: where you’re from, your background, how you were brought up, and what makes you unique.  Every detail helps the audience to identify with you and lets them get a better feel for your right to tell certain jokes.  To be a comedian you’ve got to know yourself, and you’ve got to then be able to laugh at yourself.  As one struggling comedian put it: “You don’t want to hear a rich guy talking about being poor, so why would you listen to a comic say jokes about something he never went through…stick with what you know.”

The first thing after stepping on stage is adjusting the microphone.  Is it too tall, too small, do you prefer to hold it in your hand and walk around?  I don’t.  I stand still and speak. “So…I was in the Army, and I just got back from Iraq a little while ago.” A few people usually applaud.  I’ve got their admiration and respect but not their laughter.   “And before I go on…I know there’s one question on everyone’s mind…and NO…I did not vote for Scott Brown.”  There’s a few laughs in the back of the club, it’s an inside joke and it usually only gets a laugh from the military people, but nothing too serious.  That’s ok though, you’re not supposed to start off with your strongest material.

[The comedian format goes like this:  Introduction: let them know who you are.   Feelers: toss a few jokes out there and get a feel for the audience and what you can get away with.  Builders: you begin to really get into your routine, you start with a few low-key jokes that you’ve used before and that you know will work.  New Material: if there’s any new jokes you want to try out, you try it out right after or during your builder jokes.  Main Material: these are the jokes that you’ve used dozens of times and always get laughs.  End: leave them on a high-note, your funniest joke.]

“Everyone thinks that because I’m a vet, that I voted for Scott Brown because he was in the Army National Guard for thirty years…but let me tell you about Scott Brown…”  Comedy is like writing, you need to know your audience.  Jokes about a senator from Massachusetts aren’t as funny in Rhode Island, as they are in Massachusetts.  A good tell for your joke is whether or not you have to explain any part of it to the audience.

“Scott Brown was in the Military for thirty years, during three wars, and a dozen major military operations, and he’s never gotten deployed once.  The only time he’s been overseas is when he got sent to Paraguay for two weeks.   Yeah, I know some vets that have been to Paraguay for two weeks….it’s called vacation.”  There’s the joke build up.  Every joke needs a beginning, middle, and end.  A joke should start off with a little bit of story, then a small joke, and then BAM the main joke.  The audience should never see it coming.  It’s the amateurs who go out there and pound out one-liner after one-liner.

“Scott Brown tried to get a Purple Heart for getting sunburn while at the beach in Paraguay.  I mean seriously, the only PTSD flashbacks that Scott Brown has is from when he watched the movie Saving Private Ryan in high def.”

The audience is silent.  No laughter.  Luckily the Army taught me the axiom “Improvise.  Adapt.  Overcome.”  Political jokes and military jokes can either be hit or miss; most people haven’t been in the military and even fewer have actually fought in a war.   In this situation, most comics revert back to the universal routine, the routine that fits every audience: relationship humor.   Most relationship jokes, no-matter-what, will get laughter.  No matter how bad or ridiculous they are, someone in the audience always knows what you’re talking about.  And after a stock joke or two about relationships, it’s time to bring out some of the new material and test it out.

“I’ll tell you though, before I went to Iraq I was dating this girl and, like, have any guys here dated a woman with a really strong personality?”  A few men raise their hands and then look at their dates and laugh, “my last girl friend had this really strong personality and I loved it, you know, she knew what she wanted and I always knew what I was getting with her.  But anyways, we eventually broke up and now I’m dating a new girl, and she doesn’t really have a strong personality…but she makes up for it by having three or four different ones…”  Since it’s a new joke, this is where you pause and take note of the audience’s reaction:  How long did it take them to laugh after the punch line?  How hard did they laugh?  Are more men or women laughing?

The MC from the back waves his hand which usually indicates only two minutes left.  The problem with a routine is finding the right spot between saying too much and saying too little.  You don’t want to go on stage and say ten minutes of relationship jokes, or ten minutes of jokes about politics.  You want to change it up and give a variety, but also, you don’t want to be jumping around and saying ten jokes about ten different subjects and have none of them tie together.

“Have you guys ever heard the saying that, ‘if there were a million monkey’s randomly typing on a million different typewriters, that they’d eventually type the completed works of William Shakespeare?’”  Pauses are a fine key to comedy.  It’s like the silence in-between musical beats, and the punctuation in writing.  You need to give the audience a brief moment of reflection before you hit them with the next beat, sentence, or joke.  “Well, I had a math teacher tell me this once, and I decided to start an experiment to see if it were really true, that a million monkey’s typing on computers would end up typing Shakespeare…so a few years ago, I start the experiment by inventing blogs…”

Not everything in comedy always works.  But it’s like writing.  You’ve got to know your audience, you’ve got to know your material, and most importantly, you’ve got to revise, revise, revise, and revise.