Alive! Expo

Another weekend, another expo! I’m super stoked to be a blogger for the Alive! Expo in Atlanta next weekend. Can we talk about how amazing this expo is going to be? Allow me a moment to tell you all about the expo straight from the expo’s mouth:

“Alive Expo is a one weekend, two day event that is packed with interactive demos, live health lectures from industry leaders, workshops, and kids activities that the whole family can enjoy! Each year thousands of consumers attend Alive! Expo events to learn how to integrate health and wellness into environmentally responsible, green living and to create a positive impact on the world as a whole. Attendees get a chance to experience all the newest and best natural, organic, green and eco products for your home and their entire family, even the pets!

Each year Alive! Expo events draw over 200 national and local companies representing many industries including: Natural & Organic Foods; Natural & Organic Personal Care/Natural Beauty; Vitamins & Supplements; Alternative & Herbal Medicines; Natural & Eco Pet Products; Green Home & Eco Household Products; Eco Fashion & Accessories; Books/Videos; Sportswear; Health/Fitness/Gyms and Yoga/Pilates Studios; Natural Spa Products & Services; Recycled Products & Environmentally Friendly Products; Hybrid & Electric Cars; and much, much more!!!”

WHAT THE WHAT! I can hardly stand this. How lucky are we in this city to have such great expos and festivals coming our way? I will be there on Saturday and Sunday to explore all that the expo has to offer. I may eat all of the Upton’s samples.

If you’d like to join me, please do! You can get your tickets using this link and the code VEGABIDES for $5 off your ticket prices. Who’s ready?

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This Vegan Really Ties The Room Together: 10 Questions With Kristin Lajeunesse of “Will Travel For Vegan Food”

I have gone way beyond excited and into a parallel universe of starry eyes and sweaty palms because, as the inaugural post in my new interview series, I had the honor and pleasure to interview my new friend Kristin Lajeunesse. Kristin is the brains and beauty behind the widely popular website Will Travel For Vegan Food. And yes, before you even ask, you will want to head out on a road trip after you visit her site. What makes Kristin a vegan goddess? In 2011, she quit her full time job to head out on the open road in search of vegan food in Gerty, her loyal yet quirky van. She found more than the best vegan food these 50 states have to offer. Kristin developed an insatiable need for the nomadic lifestyle, in addition to becoming an awe-inspiring entrepreneur. Yesterday, her brand spanking new book “Will Travel For Vegan Food: A Woman’s Solo Van-Dwelling Mission to Break Free, Find Food & Make Love” was released to the world. I was lucky enough to receive an advanced copy and almost went blind as I read it at break-neck speed. Inspiring, honest, and raw, Kristin’s shares her heart with us and brings us along on her journey. But what does Kristin have to say about it all? Take it away, Kristin!
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What inspires you to travel? What drives your wanderlust?
It’s driven by something I can’t necessarily describe. Initiated by this deep sense of knowing that this project was something I *needed* to do, leading to a lifestyle I feel in love with unexpectedly; the drive comes from a passion within. Perhaps some people are just wired that way. 🙂
What led you to entrepreneurship?
I always knew I wanted to work for myself but had never taken action on it until deciding to go on the Will Travel for Vegan Food journey. I was initially planning to work from the road, so I knew I had to redefine how I’d work and what I’d work on. The trip turned out to be too big a project to do while also working, so I ended up living off of donations the full two years of the trip. After the trip ended I was delighted to be offered some freelance opportunities. I was also getting quite a few inquiries about the lifestyle I had created for myself and some of those turned into paid coaching or mentorships opportunities. Turns out, I *LOVE* love love helping others learn how they too can turn their passions into profitable careers. Today, I offer mentorship programs, online business training courses, and give talks around the country about vegan business marketing and management. In truth, I’m still ironing out the details of that business model for myself. But what I do know is how much I love working one-on-one with people who are passionate about what they want to do with their lives. It’s incredibly invigorating and rewarding.
Being the Yoda in female entrepreneurship, what advice would you give for females striving for self-employment? 
Oh my! That’s quite the compliment. 🙂 ::blush:: For other women who seek something different, something more, something in the realm of self-employment, my advice is this: start where you are. Start with what you have. Start now. Do not let potential confines of what other people or society have placed on what you “should” be doing with your life. You define the rules and you are allowed to make and break the ones that govern your life. Even if you’re not totally clear on what your first move should be, or what your career will be, the most important thing is to take action. Any action: journal it out, meditate, buy the domain of yourfirstnamelastname.com; whatever feels right, just start moving. As my dear friend and fellow female entrepreneur Kelly Bennett would say, action equals clarity.
Who is your book written for? What do you want your audience to take away?
My book is written for people who want more out of life; it’s for travelers, nomads, lifestyle designers, entrepreneurs, vegans, non-vegans, go-getters, and those seeking inspiration about a life-changing journey.
If nothing else I’d like my audience to be left with feelings of empowerment, joy, and inspiration. To know that anything is possible; thoughts become things; and that if you want something badly enough, you’ll find a way to make it happen.
How was the writing experience for your book? Organic, forced, hectic, exciting?
All of the above. Haha! If I had to sum it up, it would be: one of the most challenging experiences of my life. Parts of it came naturally. I felt blessed to find ways in which to express myself that I didn’t know I was capable of. And folks who would review the chapters as I went along would point out tie ins or neat connections made that I didn’t even realize I had incorporated. Things that I suppose you could say came about organically. The looming deadline made it feel forced and hectic at times, naturally. And the elation I felt when the first draft was done, was nothing short of exciting. As is the journey ahead. I love marketing and promotion, so I’m very much looking forward to those aspects of launching the book out into the world. 🙂
What advice would you give for newbie vegans and those curious about veganism?
Start where you are. Do your research and find a support group (or even one other person who is vegan or who wants to be). Once you have clarity around WHY you’re choosing to learn more and possibly go vegan, the easier the journey will be.
What do you think of veganism as a trend (i.e. celebrities trying veganism)? 
Although I’ve never considered it a trend personally, or among my fellow vegan friends and activists, I have noticed the wave of celebrity mentions of veganism that you speak of. If anything I often find myself disappointed in the criticisms that fellow vegans place on celebrities for trying it out. Often times the person in the spotlight is “not vegan enough.” Yet at the same time we elevate celebrities to ungodly levels when they do claim veganism; and then tear them a part again if they choose to forgo that way of living.
What is your favorite cruelty free/vegan brand (clothing/makeup/household products/shoes)?
Hmm… this is a tough one. There are so many I adore. Since, as I’m writing to you in the moment, I’m wearing a Herbivore Clothing Co. zip-up sweater—and considering I wear this one almost everyday, often times with another of their shirts underneath it—I’ll go with the Herbivore Clothing Co. Another point *for* Herbivore Clothing is that I actually have a tattoo on my right forearm of one of their designs. It’s the elephant that once appeared on their “I’m vegan and I love you” t-shirts.
What would be your last meal on Earth? No limitations on quantities or locations! 
Vegan Treat’s Peanut Butter Bomb!
Imagine I’m a meat-eater who thinks vegans are weak salad eaters and I’m coming to dinner. What would you cook for me? 
I wouldn’t! Instead I’d find out what your favorite food is, and order a vegan version of it from my favorite nearby vegan restaurant. I’d much rather get something I know tastes amazing rather than risk making it myself (I’m only occasionally a good cook). 😉
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Many thanks to you, Kristin! Check her book out (it’s sitting pretty at #1 in Solo Travel Guides) and be sure to leave a review.
NOT SO FINE PRINT DISCLOSURE: I was given an advanced copy of Kristin’s book but all opinions are my own.

The Gluten Free & Allergen Friendly Expo!

I was just tickled pink on Saturday to be an official blogger at the Gluten Free & Allergen Friendly Expo! I had no idea what to expect and for some reason I was really nervous, which inevitably made me sweat too much for being in a climate controlled building. Good thing I had my ride-or-die with me all day long, Beevy. Not only is she an omnivore with no allergies and basically had no real need to be there, but she came to support me and get free goodies like she was trick-or-treating. I’m not joking, folks…they were giving away SO MUCH FOOD that Beevy and I had to make a trip to my car to unload at one point because my shoulder hurt. MY SHOULDER HURT FROM CARRYING AROUND ALL OF THE FREE FOOD. Do you hear me, universe? Can every day be the GF&AF Expo? Please? I promise not to go crazy at the Sprouts booth again (Maybe. Actually, I can’t promise that. I have no self control when there’s free popcorn around).

First and foremost, Massel was the blogger sponsor and gave all of us a giant box filled with Massel goodies. I had never heard of this brand before but now I am in love. In the gift box was a huge assortment of vegan bouillon and stock in chicken, beef or vegetable flavors. I cooked a tofu scramble on Sunday morning with the liquid chicken stock and it tasted like scrambled gold. An amazing product. Isn’t it great how far vegan products have come?

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When you entered the expo, everyone was given a goodie bag that had some great stuff in it (all of which I have dutifully tried just for you, dear reader).

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These Snapea Crips were soooooo good. Like, really really good. I was sad that I had the trial size, to be honest. My mom has said that she found these at Publix but I can neither confirm nor deny this as I never shop at Publix.

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This is the first time I have had any of the “squeeze” products (like a “Go-gurt” or whatever it’s called) and I’m going to be completely honest with you all (please sit down and stop eating if you are): the texture made me think of diarrhea. I’m sorry! It was seriously my immediate thought. Highly disturbing and I sort of felt like I was lied to.

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Oh, Go Picnic. You have made a fan out of me. I’ve seen these products before and have quickly passed them by. They also had a booth set up at the expo and they are amazing enough to have not one but two vegan meals. These are non-GMO, gluten free little powerhouse portable snack/meals. I was not prepared for how much I like these. They package everything separately (which can create more waste, as Beevy pointed out, but maybe you can recycle it?) in these super cute and playful bags and they even give you a game inside the carton. They had me at dark chocolate and tangerine orbites. Oh, and the package with the edamame/pepita/sunflower seeds? Why haven’t I had roasted edamame before? It is a complete revelation in my life.

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We had SO many other foods at the expo and I will feature some in future posts. Here are some honorable mentions:

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Freedom cereals: quite delicious. We’re talking about a vegan chocolate rice crispie type cereal, people. Also I saw these at Kroger last night so that made me very happy.

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Perfect Bar: so yummy. A delicious alternative to other bars you’ve tried, this is a family-run company that makes balanced nutritious fuel. The almond coconut one is the only one that’s vegan but I am proud to say that it was indeed super lovely.

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Raw Noble vanilla bean mousse pie: a cashew based mouthful of wonder. They even have a chocolate flavor, and a key lime flavor, and a coconut flavor, and why aren’t I currently eating this?

Here’s the deal: I have never felt more like a hoarder than I did when I left the expo. BAGS of food littered my car with only my shame to keep it company.

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I’m not joking. I would feel bad except that I don’t. Overall, the expo was amazing. I met so many super nice people, I tried way too many new products, and my pals Holly, Daniel, and Mercedes came to hang with Beevy and I!

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Beevy is missing from these pictures because she is allergic to something she ate (at the Gluten Free & Allergen Friendly expo) and the irony is not lost on me.

PlantPure Nation & Meeting My Hero.

It was supposed to be a normal night of seeing a new and exciting documentary. It was supposed to be just another get together with my pals Daniel and Adriano. And it certainly was only supposed to be a night where I let lose and had a beer because it was Daniel’s birthday. But then I saw him, this small in stature man who has changed so many lives, including my own. His shock of white hair sent me into a tizzy, as I leaned into Daniel and whispered, “THERE HE IS!” My heart pounded, my hands started to sweat, and like a teenage girl reacts in the presence of One Direction, I was in a full panic. How do you tell your hero that they’re your hero? How do you even relay what they mean to you?

But let me back up. Why is an octogenarian my hero? T. Colin Campbell wrote “The China Study” in 2005. I read it last year in a fury of disbelief. Why hadn’t I heard before about this study and its effect before? I feel like I’m an educated and intelligent person, yet somehow these facts where new to me. Based on this, the largest and most comprehensive nutrition study EVER done, animal protein can turn cancer genes on while plants can reverse diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and cholesterol, etc. This isn’t something that someone dreamed up; this is scientific fact. The more you eat of animal protein/dairy, the higher your chance that you will develop a disease. The connection between nutrition and overall health is so tightly and intrinsically bound, yet instead of doctors giving us prescriptions for farmers markets, we get prescriptions for medicine. Sigh. I could go on and on and on, but I’ll let you, dear reader, have your own opinions about “The China Study”. Incidentally you can buy a used one on Amazon for a few dollars.

This book, amongst two other books, inspired me to become vegan. This book changed my life. I wanted to travel to Texas to see Campbell at the Health Fest this Spring, but it was not to be. I was giddy when I learned that he would be at the screening of PlantPure Nation last night. GIDDY. Sweating profusely. Even as I walked past him as I went to the restroom mid-movie I could barely breathe. I had to meet him.

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The movie itself was amazing. I am so excited about this grass roots movement that is happening right now. The writer/director (Campbell’s son, Nelson), Nelson’s wife, the producer John Corry (also the producer for “Forks Over Knives”), and Colin all participated in an amazing Question and Answer segment after the film aired. They were so open, so welcoming; they made me feel empowered to be a part of this movement. I met several local people in the Atlanta plant based scene last night and am very excited for the future.

Then it was time to meet and take pictures with everyone. I began to freak out, of course, but kept it all inside like a mature person does. An exact replica of my conversation with T. Colin Campbell is as follows:

“Hi, I’m Sarah…I know you’re really busy so this won’t take long. You’re my hero. Your book made me go vegan a year ago and changed my life.”

I look calm, but inside I'm dying.

I look calm, but inside I’m dying.

Sigh. I’ve realized that life is one crazy roller coaster full of extremely high highs and super low lows, and amazing times in between. Last night was a high. I met my hero.

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I saw these signs as I walked into the movie theater (excuse the glare); they read: “today is your lucky day” and “you are beauty full”. The universe gives you all kinds of signs if you look for them.

To Climb A Mountain.

I’m not sure if you know this about me or not, but I love a goal. I used to float along aimlessly, go wherever the wind took me, and be all “ehhhhh plans are for the olds.” But then I became old and realized that without plans and goals I would be a hot mess. I like to aim for something, even things WAY off in the distance. I feel that it keeps me centered and balanced, always in preparation and excited for challenges. My goals for this year include (but are not limited to) completing two half marathons, quitting my current job, and getting a teaching job for the fall. As of today, all goals are in action. I’m training for my first half marathon but am sad to learn that I probably have plantar fasciitis, though I remain undeterred. I bought some shoe inserts that will hopefully help and momma didn’t raise a quitter, so while I may be the last person to cross the finish line in June, I WILL CROSS THAT FINISH LINE. Walking a half marathon is still doing a half marathon, amiright?

The goals for next year are already in place (read: planner!) because my homie Holly and I are planning a summer Europe trip! I’m beginning to learn that one of the perks to working the job you are meant to work can also mean summers off. We’re thinking of a month-long European hop from country to country to see the sights and backpack and meet people and eat tons of food. How exciting! I even would like to spend a week at Farm Sanctuary in New York or California after my European jaunt. I figure that until I meet someone or have children, I should travel while I can! Which leads me to my most recent goal (that is the most far off).

In the summer of 2017 (PLANNER) I am planning on climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. Pause for reaction. You may have some very logical questions that just popped into your head as you read that, so allow me to explain:

HUH?

Kilimanjaro is the tallest peak in Africa. It is in Tanzania, which is in eastern Africa. It is the highest free-standing mountain in the world. It is part of the “Seven Summits”, which is are the seven highest mountains in each of the seven continents. I have been in the presence of Mount McKinley (that’s the tallest mountain in North America, kids!), which is the third tallest mountain in the world. Mount Kilimanjaro is the fourth tallest mountain.

I mean, will you die?

Good question! No, I won’t. I mean, yes, one day we all will die. But no, I will not die during my climb. This is not Everest, people. I won’t need oxygen to get to the top and my body will not freeze and my fingers will not turn black. To put it another way, Everest’s elevation is a whopping 8,848 meters (29,029 feet) while Kilimanjaro is 5,895 meters (19,341 feet). Will climbing Kilimanjaro be difficult? Of course. I will start training for it 6 months before I go. There will absolutely be an acclimatization factor because of the elevation. I have chosen the Marangu route which is, some would say, the easiest. It will take 6 days to summit which includes one day to acclimatize.

Why? Like, for real though…why?

The real (vegan) meat of the matter! Why do this? Why do anything? Why climb mountains or visit Europe or do half marathons or have goals at all? The short answer is because Kilimanjaro is there. Period. The longer answer is because it’s been on my mind for a while. It started after I read Allison Wright’s “Learning to Breathe: One Woman’s Journey of Spirit and Survival.” An amazing book filled with inspiration and strength, Allison suffers a horrible accident and almost dies. When she fully recovers, she climbs Kilimanjaro to prove to herself and the world that nothing can break her. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. That book has stayed in the back of my mind for years, and Kilimanjaro has stayed with it. This past week, I was browsing the Huffington Post online and saw this article by Kara Richardson Whitely entitled “At 300 Pounds, I Decided to Conquer Kilimanjaro.” It all came rushing back. This desire, this want, this need to climb a mountain; this dream of Kilimanjaro. Kara’s post really resonated with me, as I’ve have weight and body image struggles and the garden variety self esteem issues in my life. It’s a tale as old as time. I immediately ordered Kara’s book and proceeded to begin researching how exactly one does this. It wasn’t long before I decided on the route, found three reputable companies that would help me to the top, and was watching videos of people climbing and summiting. If you believe in signs, here’s a big one: the day all of this happened (last Wednesday), Toto’s song “Africa” came on at the restaurant I was eating at with friends. Yes, the song mentions Kilimanjaro.

What does it all mean?

I have no clue. The only thing I do know is that I can do this and that this will not break me. It will only make me strong at the broken places. Now you have to ask yourself: what is your Mount Kilimanjaro, and will you climb it?

 

My Year as a Vegan.

It’s been a whirlwind, friends! A tornado, a hurricane, a twister, a tsunami, a typhoon…what I’m trying to convey is that this year has felt crazy bananas coo coo wack-a-doo. Last night I celebrated my year of being a vegan at my all time favorite restaurant (Harmony) with one of my favorite peeps, Adrienne. We actually got together coincidentally on my one year veganiversary; I did not seek out a celebration for this because I’m not a crazy person. Nor did I get a smash cake (though I totally should have…amiright?). We ordered a ton of food and ate and laughed and talked and caught up and all was right with the world (especially that extra peppery wonton soup).

This year has not been without its hiccups (i’m looking at you, delicious and creamy non-vegan cheesecake that I ate when I had two wisdom teeth removed last April and could not eat solid foods and hated my life and was on pain pills) but overall, it has been amazing. I have met SO many new, amazing, and welcoming people in the Atlanta vegan world. I have had unfaltering support (with a few laughs thrown in about protein) from my friends and family when I announced “the change”. I have joined up with PlantBasedATL which lead to monthly meet ups and a book club. I helped bring Cowspiracy to Atlanta. I’ve eaten SO MUCH DELICIOUS FOOD. I have traveled and experienced other cities. I have volunteered at a farm sanctuary. I am one of the official bloggers for the Gluten Free & Allergen Friendly Expo. I’ve watched far too much Netflix. I have purged leather goods and questionable nail polish to good homes.

I wouldn’t change any of it. The highs and lows have lead me here, to this moment. I finally feel that my insides match my outsides: my love for animals/the environment/health is finally represented in my everyday life. I am not perfect, nor would I want to be. That sounds super duper boring! I will forever be learning and changing and growing, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I try my hardest not to judge others, but again, I’m only human. My way is just one of the paths. And I’ll be damned if it hasn’t been one of the best decisions of my life thus far (the best decision obviously being to adopt my cat #crazycatlady4life).

On to the food! Adrienne told me to try two new dishes last night and I am so glad that I did because I now have a new favorite: chicken and string beans. Sounds boring, right? Sounds like a normal blah blah blah dish. I hate to break it to you all, but your lives will never be complete until you eat this effing chicken and string beans. With one bite, I silently closed my eyes and drifted to a beach far far away with a cool breeze blowing and sand in between my toes, for this plain ol’ chicken and string beans brought me to my happy place. It was that good. My mouth just now watered as I thought of this dish. I’m pretty sure I heard the wisssssshhhhhh sound of angel’s wings as they flew by. The other dish was steamed chicken with ham: an amazing mixture of mushrooms, Chinese broccoli (gai lan), bean curd (yuba), and ham on a giant platter and covered with Chinese bechamel (white sauce). Usually I am not one for the ham at Harmony, but for some reason the ham and the bean curd were totally on point last night. I gave Adrienne all of the mushrooms because they are the spawn of Satan.

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Steamed Chicken with Ham

Chicken with String Beans.

Chicken with String Beans.

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We also had wonton soup and it was delicious as always, super peppery and wonderful. We each got a spring roll and Adrienne showed me that she wraps hers in a napkin to take off the extra grease which I found ingenious, and promised myself to steal and pretend like I had been the one to think of it.

Wonton!

Wonton!

Spring roll in time out.

Spring roll in time out.

We finished the meal with fortune cookies (don’t eat them, they have eggs) and oranges and a lovely drawing on my to-go box by Miss Adrienne herself. Can we talk about how freakishly cute these hand drawn kitties are? They kill me.

My fortune.

My fortune. Seems odd.

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Adrienne’s fortune. Isn’t it odd that both of our fortunes are about the water and/or boating?

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The cat on the right is clearly my favorite because she has vampire teeth and eyelashes.

It’s been an amazing year. In some ways I still feel like “the newbie in town” for only being a vegan for one year, but everyone starts somewhere. Here’s to many many many MANY more amazing meals with amazing people!