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   


Self Improvement / Healthy Living, Self Improvement / Healthy Living

5 Rules for Vegan Camping

vegan campingThe five things you need to keep in mind while camping as a vegan.

As the days finally grow cooler, and the trees begin to change, there’s no better time to go camping then in late August or September. And there’s no better place to go camping then right here in New England. From the Berkshires of Massachusetts and the campgrounds of Rhode Island to the mountains of New Hampshire, boundless woods of Maine, and tranquil ponds of Vermont. Finding a place to go camping in New England isn’t the hard part, the hard part is being able to have that authentic camping experience, while still keeping it vegan.

Through all my years of camping and going from carnivore to vegan, my hunting knife has now been replace by a tofu press, my fishing pole by a portable blender, and my reserve of hotdogs—for when I didn’t catch any fish, which I usually didn’t—replaced by Seitan beef. When I went camping this year, though, I knew that I wanted to go back to just the basics. I didn’t want to worry about bringing extra batteries for the blender or that special grill and tinfoil for the tofu; I want just man, nature, and food. And luckily, for just a couple of bills, I was able to reserve a campsite for a long weekend. With two fellow vegans, I headed into the wilderness of New Hampshire.

The following tips—learned from experiences, and fellow vegan campers—will not only help you preserve your veganess while having an authentic camping experience, but will also help preserve the campgrounds so that you can return year after year.

1. Bugs: It’s debatable, but most vegans are against killing bugs; especially for no reason, other than they’re annoying. During one camping trip last fall, a friend had brought with him one of those two hundred foot area bug bombs. The thing was crazy. The mushroom cloud it created reminded me of the bombs I’d seen exploding in Iraq. Not only was this thing killing every mosquito within a two hundred foot radius, but it was killing every bug in the area, and it certainly wasn’t helping the birds, or any other animals who breathed it in—namely, me.

Bug bombs, if you don’t already know, are not the best option. Any type of spray, whether it’s a bug bomb, or typical repellant spray, is not good for the environment or the animals in that environment. If you’re going to use a bug repellant, then the best option is a lotion rather than a spray, as fewer toxins are released into the air for birds and animals to breathe in. However, if you’ve got something against even lotion bug repellants, chemicals and all; you could always use the army method and just break the tops off a pack of matches and swallow those to keep the bugs away—it’s not recommended. The best option, though, besides bug repellant lotions, and swallowing matches, is to start a campfire.

2. Building a fire: It’s not camping without a campfire, plain and simple. There needs to be a place to tell ghost stories, sip beer, and listen to your friend play the same song on his guitar—over, and over, and over, again. When building a campfire, though, there’s more to it than meets the eye. A good campfire should have as minimal impact on the environment as possible, and it should leave no trace after you’re gone. To do this, you need to follow three simple rules:

  • Most campers tend to make their fires too large. A campfire should only be large enough to cook your food on and gather around. A two foot by two foot campfire is more than large enough to cook food for three to four people and the smoke from it covers a large enough area to repel the bugs. When making a campfire, err on the side of too small rather than too large.
  • Only gather sticks and twigs that have already fallen, they should be no thicker than a baseball bat. Do not break branches off and do not saw through fallen logs—fallen logs are a crucial key to the habitat of a forest.
  • After you’ve made sure the fire is out, take the ash and scatter it over a large area.

3. Food: It’s not camping unless you’re cooking something over a fire, and vegans have more camp-worthy foods than most would think. My favorites are Field Roast Mexican Chipotle sausages and corn on the cob. The corn on the cob and sausages also allow for those, all too necessary, male induced camping jokes that are not possible when eating a block of tofu or drinking celery smoothies, “Good sausage, man,” “Mine’s a little bit bigger than yours,” “I like to nibble on just the tip…” Anyways, a thin stick found in the woods can easily be whittled down to a point to hold your sausage and corn over the fire.

And then let’s not forget the s’mores! I was vegan for a full YEAR before I discovered there was such a thing as vegan marshmallows. Before camping this year, I bought a big bag of them, along with several dozen dark chocolate candy bars, and a box of cinnamon graham crackers. Along with our fire-cooked sausages, corn on the cob and s’mores, all three of us felt as though it was as close to an authentic experience as possible. We didn’t miss our blenders, Vitamix’s, tofu presses or stoves, at all.

4. Hiking: Keep to the trails that are clearly marked. I know that it seems lame, and like the ‘square thing’ to do. But parks often have suggested routes and closed off areas for a reason. Whether it’s the rare birds that are nesting in the area, the turtles who’ve just laid their eggs and which you’re likely to step on, or simply that the area is damaged, the rocks could be loose and the slightest nudge by an uninformed hiker could send the whole place into a disarray killing hundreds of animals and creating a landslide. And please, if you’re vegan, do not go hiking or camping when its hunting season, it just feels too much like the set up for some crude joke to have a vegan get shot by a hunter.

5. Trash: Do not leave your trash behind! Even if you think it’s organic, “But it’s compostable, man.” Screw what you do at home; the forest isn’t the same as that crappy compost heap you keep behind the shed at your mom’s house. The forest is a self-sustaining environment and our job as good vegan campers is to leave as little impact on the landscape as possible. Take everything home!

Follow these simple rules and your next vegan camping trip will be all the more fun, and better for the environment!


Picture: Flickr/Stelluccia