Fun in AC for Everyone!

Never in a million years would I have believed that I’d be anxious to go to Atlantic City. Not even once, much less twice in one year! What do they have to offer little, innocent me? Aside from parties, great food, a beautiful beach, amazing hotels and casinos, gorgeous people, and an indescribable energy….

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This time I was in Atlantic for two days and a night with the fella to whom I introduced you last time, and his son. They really made the experience even better. We drove the two hours from Jersey City to Atlantic City in their family Lexus with Top 100 Hits playing in the background as we discussed life, death, and everything in between. Let me tell you, these two are quite a pair; the laughs and fun are endless!

A great soundtrack for your adventure:

You Want It Darker

My one concern was that his 19 year old son would be bored! However, we discussed the plan and made sure everyone would be entertained and content. After all, drinking, gambling, and partying are not the only things to do in Atlantic City. Not to mention, there was plenty of food! What does a teenage boy love more than food?

When we got to AC, we were tired, but not ready to stop just yet. We ate at the Asian restaurant in Harrah’s Resort and Casino- where we were staying for the night. They didn’t have too many vegan options, but I had edamame and they each had sushi and sashimi.
After some wandering and window shopping, the young guy was exhausted and went to hang out with my dog in the room. Meanwhile, the two big kids went to Harrah’s ‘Pool After Dark’! Considering how many cars were in the self-park garage, the crowd seemed slim. Still, we grabbed a drink and partied with Ja Rule; he was the guest host that night.
Now, that’s a name I haven’t heard in awhile!

The funny thing about the ‘Pool After Dark’ is that no one ever seems to be in the pool. Everyone creeps around it, trying not to fall in. Though, two brave men were chilling out on pool floats in their swimming trunks this time. They looked comfortable. Everyone else just congregated in cliques and danced like only people from New Jersey can dance. new_jersey_pumps_fists_classic_round_sticker-re4aea560380e431e9890426d396bd2a9_v9waf_8byvr_324We did what we came to do: pump our arms and lose money! Well, he lost money. I did my usual one-game-only: one roll in roulette– black. Doubled my money and walked away. Like a champ. Once hunger struck, we went to the 24 hour hotel cafe. He got a fruit tart that looked a bit frigid and sad, and I got an apple. A green Granny Smith apple. Will I never learn to carry snacks with me everywhere I go? We ate our late night snack, and went off to bed just in time for the sun to rise.

Next time, I’m bringing these:

KIND Bars, Dark Chocolate

The next day was no less fun or eventful. After a long, satisfying meal in the Borgata’s buffet, we did a little more window shopping. This time we made a huge purchase- a black and grey hoodie with the name ‘Borgata’ on it. For me, of course!

Unfortunately, we once again did not plan ahead well enough and missed out on seeing a show. The shows were later in the evening and nothing that we were too interested in seeing. Eyeing the rain outside, and knowing how anxious his son was to see the movie Jack Reacher, we went to a movie theatre not far from Tropicana . It looked like a shabby theatre from the outside, but the inside was large, clean, very buttery smelling, and, once the movie started, the darkness was impenetrable. The movie itself wasn’t my cup of popcorn, but it was lively and fun to watch it together. The group who fights bad guys together, stays together.

After this, just as we thought we we were ready to pack up and go, there was a realization that everyone was tired and hungry again. Hungry and tired. Driving two hours in a car together when everyone is hungry and tired is just asking for trouble. We couldn’t do much for the sleepiness, aside from some energy drinks, but the hunger could be solved with no difficulty at all. When we discovered there was a Buddakan in Caesar’s Palace, we knew where to go.

The Buddakan in New York City is absolutely awe-inspiring, but I’ll admit, I think Caesar’s version may have it trumped. Starting with the hotel’s recreation of Ancient Greece, and then a major scenery change into a faux boardwalk, we were under the Greek spell. We walked down the “boards”, looked out at the real beach with its setting sun, and entered a darkened hallway. Once you start down this pathway, you can’t help but turn your attention to the long, amber glass table leading to Buddha himself. Sitting with legs closed and heart open, he entices you to come forth, be seated, and eat!

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We did eat. Although the waitress tried to convince us that a salad and two entrees would not be enough, we restrained our grumbling tummies, and decided to only order more as necessary. We’re very responsible… and stubborn. Nonetheless, the waitress and all the wait staff were extraordinarily friendly, patient, and concerned with our comfort.

I was surprised at the limited number of vegan options, but some of the dishes could be adjusted to fit vegan needs. In the end, I went with the tofu and cashew dish and requested a side of spicy sauces. Can’t skimp on the spice!
Considering that 2/3 of the members of our table were staunch animal eaters, the salad really did get nabbed up quickly. Between the voracious hunger and the amazing ginger dressing, that salad didn’t have a chance.

As far as the main meals, I can’t speak for the shrimp lo mein, but the cashew and tofu was a delight! Being slightly less starved and deprived at this point, we had an opportunity to appreciate all aspects of this dish and its elements. Cashew and tofu protein aside, there was mint and pineapple and eggplant, too! Truly a little of everything, and all the parts of the puzzles added their own unique touch.

When it came time for the end of the meal, we were all completely satisfied and ready for the drive back. Stuffed to the gills and all! Good thing we had mentioned it was my birthday! Not that it was my birthday, but it “was” my birthday. Y’know? It was quite a surprise when along came a little cardboard box wrapped in a red bow. There was no birthday song, but the single lit candle was perfect. I unwrapped my gift and smelled the most amazing chocolate stank of my life. It was glorious.

Unfortunately, upon asking, we learned that the waitress had forgotten I was vegan. Goodbye, my sweet sweet! Fortunately, I was with two men who truly cared about me and were willing to eat my brownie for me. Plus, the embarrassed and guilty waitress brought over a strawberry sorbet that I could eat! Not my ideal dessert, but I ate it without a care or fret in the world.

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No hard feelings, Buddakan, this was my punishment for lying, I suppose.

Once fed, packed up, and filled with a heart full of joy from a marvelous day, we headed to the car with feet dragging and a little whisper in our ears to “stay… staaayyyy!”

Finally, having forgotten my phone in the hotel earlier in the day, I asked for photos that my younger comrade collected throughout the day. With all we had done and seen and all the unforgettable memories and moments between the three of us, I was anxious to have images to hold onto and share. He forwarded me the three photos he took:

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Pictures of advertisements for chocolate from the hotel wall

That says it all, folks. That’s everything.

Click the ‘Follow’ button on the left to keep up with my adventure!

If you would like to work with me or submit your own post, contact me at:

sweettoothnothings@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SweetToothVegan

https://www.instagram.com/sweettoothtravels/

In the meantime, get satisfied!

‘Things to Try’ (click the link)


Asher’s Gourmet Pretzels, 1Lb


Vegan Street Food

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Reasons to dust off your bicycle

For my last birthday- it was 3 months ago. You forgot my birthday. Let’s not discuss it.- I received a bicycle from my parents!

Initially, I was skeptical. Will I ride this thing? Do I remember how? Will the urbanites run me over with their cars? But, I got on that metal pony, nonetheless. And, let me tell you, I had such a good time! I could get from my apartment to the train station in 5 minutes rather than having to walk the distance. I am lazy, after all. Also, I could ride right past all the people who want to stop and chat. Peace out, big mouths! It’s so nice to be anti-social again….

Neighbourhoods are becoming more and more bike-friendly. With public bikes showing up all over the place now, there’s increasingly less reasons to drive. Everyone should learn how to ride a bike, even if you don’t do it all the time. It’s true what they say, learning to ride a bike is as easy as learning to tweeze a chin hair. You stare down what you want and you grab it! Once you’ve figured out the art, it never leaves. You may have to adjust to the feeling of a bicycle “saddle (that’s what the pros call it) on your buns, but once you’re up there, you just peddle and go! If this paragraph hasn’t convinced you yet, here are more reasons to get your bike chain revving….

Top Reasons to Bike

You bought a bike. Maybe it was an impulse buy, maybe your drug dealer stole a bike and has nowhere to store it. Whatever the reason, you now have a 40 lb. hunk of metal and wheels in your home, so you may as well give it a spin.

Cheaper than a car. This may seem obvious, but yeah, bicycles cost a lot less than cars. Unless you’re buying a bike made for an Olympian and a car made for an infant, the two don’t even compare. No insurance, oil, tire rotations, cup holder tune-ups… I don’t know what cars cost, I don’t own one. I do know they cost a bunch. With a bike, aside from air in the tires and a little check up now and then, there’s not much upkeep.

Adorable bell, basket, and tassels. What? Not planning on putting tassels on your bike handles? You’re missing out. There’s still hope yet, though. Accessories are key when it comes to bike ownership. Sure, you can decorate a car, but ain’t no one putting a baby blue basket on the front of their car or a horn shaped like a rubber ducky. With a bicycle, you can wave your flag, any flag, high and with pride!unnamed-2

Anyone can do it. If I can somewhat successfully ride a bike, then anyone can do it. Whether you’re smart, ugly, stupid, wearing glasses, holding a pound of spaghetti, or just got back from having an arm amputated, you can ride a bike! I can’t speak for those without legs, to be honest. I am sure there is some sort of bike add-on that allows for legless bikers, but it’s just not a path I’ve taken yet.

Excuse me while I go on Google, please.

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You’ll be very glad to know that this exists:

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Anyone can bike.

Exercise. Love exercise?! …hate it? Love/hate relationship with exercise? Biking gives you a nice little compromise. You’re exercising, but not really consciously. Unless you’re going up a steep hill, you probably won’t even realize that you’re doing something that’s healthy for you! The blood is flowing, the heart is pumping…. I mean, hopefully, these things are always happening, but biking increases these things. That’s good for you! According to bike salespeople all over the world. An average-sized human being burns 400-600 calories an hour biking at a normal pace. A freaky-sized mongoose burns less, but a foot-sized cockroach burns more! g1391368766970713661.png
No parking. As long as there’s a pole where you’re going, you have a parking spot. You can settle for a thin tree or a small child. Those public parking garages give me nausea, so I am very happy that parking a bike does not require driving in circles and never knowing what will be around the corner. Suspenseful horror never appealed to me.

Hitting someone is less serious. You will probably hit someone at some point. Or is that just me? It happens! Stop judging my abilities. I was distracted, she was slow… things are hard. Point being, IF you do hit someone, you’ll get a mean glare and maybe hear an expletive or two. Seriously, no matter how nice the person looks, people really get a potty mouth when your bike tire runs over their heel. Sidewalk rage is even worse than road rage!

 Don’t have to drive people. People are always complaining about being a “chauffeur”, right? Well, no one has ever asked me for a ride! Maybe that’s because I get distracted and run people over. While this is possible, it is also uncommon for two people to share one bike. Unless it’s one of those tandem bikes. I saw a guy on one of those the other day. He was alone.

Oh, and here, I made something. It’s a Channing Tandem Bike.
Don’t ask me why he doesn’t have eyes.

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Less provocation to misbehave. What is it about cars that makes people want to do stupid things? Some people eat while driving, or text, and some people STILL drink and then drive. Other people weight lift, give birth, and study the food pyramid while driving. Seriously, just stop. Whatever it is you’re doing, wait until you get to the hospital.

Bikers aren’t as likely to do these things. Probably because you’re more open and vulnerable. If you’re doing something stupid, someone will see it and put the kibosh on it. Not gonna lie, I’ve been looking for an excuse to use the word “kibosh” for weeks now.

Discovering new/old hood. You know what’s pretty cool about biking? Aside from the fact that cool people like me do it…. That you don’t have to go that far in order to feel like you’re really exploring. You can bike around new places, old places… and get to know the area in which you live and see everything you may not have noticed before. You’ve got the wind blowing your hair around and a camera to capture pretty sights, then you can stop at an unfamiliar tea or coffee spot for a snack (after your healthy ride) and feel like a tourist taking in your neighbourhood as you never have before.

It’s true, the benefit of living outside New York is that you get to LOOK at New York.
And there’s a lighthouse in Jersey City, apparently. I don’t know. 

A little danger and mystery. If you’ve been looking for a new way to spice up your life, biking may be the answer. You never know what bumpy roads, weird classmates from high school, and shady parts of town you might encounter. These aren’t always desirable, and very avoidable, but when you need a kick of life and reality, why not do something real daring? Like me.

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Feeling inspired yet? I hope so! I know I am. Put on your cool helmet, hop on your tricked out bike, and get going!!

Click the ‘Follow’ button on the left to keep up with my adventure!

If you would like to work with me or submit your own post, contact me at:

sweettoothnothings@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SweetToothVegan

https://www.instagram.com/sweettoothtravels/

In the meantime, get satisfied!

Eating fancy, not hangry

“Food is a thing with feathers.” Emily Dickinson wrote that once…. I think.

If there is one romantic relationship that I have witnessed across the universe- in every city, state, country, and planet I’ve visited, it’s the love between (hu)man and food. People love sustenance. We gobble, devour, scarf, chow down, and nosh any chance we get. That includes photos, fortunately. This ensures that the rest of us can look on and feel deep shame upon noting that our cabinets and refrigerators are empty, or worse, full of regret for what we have chosen to keep stocked in there. Sorry, but no number of openings and closings of that door will erase the angst and self-hatred you’re experiencing. Foodie’s Regret. We’ve all been there.

This poor judgement of one’s gastrointestinal needs can be remedied, however, by a a reservation at a restaurant. Make that, a fancy pantsy restaurant, because- why not?

If you’re like me and you typically travel alone, eating at a fine dining establishment may not be as appealing, or even terrifying. Stop fearing and start living! Richard Simmons probably said that. I recommend detaching from the trough and using a fork and knife. Not everyday, mind you! Just… once in awhile.

You don’t have to abandon ‘Hot Harold’s Hot Dogs’ or wherever you like to frequent in your tee and boxers, and you certainly don’t have to live on soup served on a baby fork. As they say, it all ends up in the same place (we’re talking potty talk now. Keeping it classy.) But. What say you about suits and dresses? How do you feel about redwood chopsticks with hand carved elephants? Fancy restaurants love chopsticks!  A respectable joint full of respectable people doing… semi-respectable things. I can’t speak for everyone, some of those well-to-do business folk are as greasy as Hot Harold’s Ham and Hummus Humongo Hot Dog! (Two for one deal if you eat both in less than a minute!)

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You go to a nice restaurant and you get yourself a menu that tells you what the farmer named every vegetable you are eating and the hobbies of the cow whose manure was used to grow them!

Of course, eating snazzy means being snazzy for the night. No reason to go in there and look like a deranged boar who got lost whilst looking for White Castle. As they do. Whether it be for a special occasion, a work event, or because you’re gosh darn fabulous and deserve a sexy meal, let’s try to figure out how to deal with this delicious and gorgeous trauma of yours.

Before the Food Consumption 

Dress like you mean it. First of all, some restaurants on the “wow” caliber require a certain level of dressage. Imagine you’re a proud stallion riding your way gloriously into a battle of beauty. If you’re doing the suit thing, do the suit thing. Match your socks and shoes and shirt and cufflinks and pocket square, and… um… everything else. Make it match. Learn how to tie a tie! Maybe you can pull off a fake, but I feel good about myself when I successfully get my Windsor knot going. If you’re going the dress or gown route, own that sunuva! Make it glamorous and seasonally appropriate, and hey, maybe wear shoes that won’t leave your feet looking like they’ve been left out in a hot car for too long.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but dress down and get the cold shoulder.
I just made that up, you like it? I’m proud.

Tonight is the night when you can look in the mirror and not think, “Why do you even exist?” You’re gonna like the way you look. I guarantee it. Unless you royally mess up. Then don’t blame me.

Arrive early and check-in. If you really can’t handle this, at least be on time. If you made a reservation (you did make a reservation, didn’t you!?) then you should be there and be put together at that time. Preferable 15-20 minutes beforehand, so you don’t have to wonder why you’re on time but those sons of a gun are not seating you immediately and precisely on the dot. Unfortunately, reservations don’t always ensure immediate placement. That’s why there’s a bar. Or, maybe there’s a wait because there’s a bar? Conspiracy! Either way, avoid frustration and anxiety, and just be there. When you realize your sock is slipping down into your shoe, you’ll be glad you have extra time to reach down, leisurely fix it, maybe massage your toes and scratch your arch a bit. It’ll be totally worth it. Oh- and straighten whatever it is that’s not straight. Trust me- something is crooked and everyone will notice. Just kidding. No one cares.

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When you walk in, you’ll also want to take a moment to take in the prettyful surroundings and breathe in the air. Remember, most restaurants with cloth napkins in the bathroom also use 24K gold to filter the air. Get your money’s worth. Also check your coat if this is an option. If you’re splurging, don’t skimp just so you can pick it up every 10 minutes and drag it around with you. If you love something, let it go to the coat room. They’ll keep it warm for you by sitting on it with their butts. That’s how they do it in my imagination.

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Get a drink and relax. I knew you’d like this one. Whether it’s a seltzer with lime or a seltzerini with olives and the blood of a unicorn, having a beverage to sip, a glass to fidget with, and (hopefully) a little umbrella to open and close will really help you settle in and feel like you’re living well. You can use this time as an opportunity to check out what everyone else is doing and eating. Maybe someone will think you’re already drunk and be willing to talk to you… if that’s what you’re into. If nothing else, you’ll feel super classy holding a crystal martini glass and repeating in your head, “Shaken not stirred. Shaken… not stirred. Steak ‘n’ not slurred. hah. Oh, me. So clever and dashing and charismatic.”
Not that I’ve ever had this conversation with myself on a daily basis.

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Don’t let them rush you and don’t feel rushed! Some of these places have a bazillion people coming and going constantly, so you can feel the polite urge to get in, eat, and get out as quickly as possible. Don’t let this happen to you. Don’t be a polite statistic! It’s your time, money, and experience. You do it at any pace you like. If you want to take 30 minutes to order, 2 hours to eat, and 3 hours of chill time, you go and you do that. I mean, that might be pushing it a bit, but there’s no law against it. Unless there is a law against it; consult your attorney.
Actually, don’t linger. I take that back. Stop being a jerk. Do things at your pace, but don’t hold up everyone else.  All good things must come to an end.

When it’s Time to Order

Figure out the menu. While there’s no shame in asking staff to help when you’re lost in a sea of weird food items and ancient foreign symbol, there’s something to be said for knowing what is what on the menu. Basically, you want to bring your thermos and compass to your camping weekend. This menu will not look the one at Waffle House, I assure you. Those aren’t stains from red wine, they’re stains carefully placed by a famous Italian menu designer. Email him any compliments or complaints you may have.

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We all know what “appetizers” are! Yum! Hollywood, FL 2016

We will now cover some of the most common fancy pants menu tools:

  • À la carte (noun) meaning “According to the menu” in French. According to the Google, this is a listing of food items that are served as separate entities, as opposed to parts of a complete meal. This will give you the ability to pick and choose what you want and how much of it you want. Think tapas or dim sum. Bits and pieces of a meal that you piece together to satisfy your hunger, cravings, and budget. Many people really go all out on these suckers. Try one of everything, if you like, no one’s gonna complain. You’re the one in the outfit that smells vaguely like moth balls trying to be disguised by cologne, and that means you’re an adult who gets to make adult choices… and who also just spilled some wine on their lap. But, hey, you drink wine, because you’re over 21. Boom.
  • Prix fixe (noun) French people are smart, they invented this “fixed-price” thingy for everyone’s benefit. You get to pick one of 3 or 4 options for each course (typically 4-5 courses, but there may be even more!) and the price remains the same. You order everything at once and then the food just rolls in when you’re ready for the next one. It’s not all at once, so you don’t look like the Georgie Peorgie that you know yourself to be. You have one or two plates and maintain your dainty dignity while growing increasingly satiated.
    *There are some items that come with an additional fee if they’re even fancierer. Be sure to look out for footnotes noting this.
  • Chef’s tasting menu (noun) This one is English, I think you know those words. If you’ve visited Ihop and ended up rocking in a corner because the menu was too extensive, this may be the way to go. The chef does all the hard work of choosing each course and you just sit back and see what Chef Boyardee has planned for you. It’s like having a private chef at home! Except, this one doesn’t contemplate undercooking the fugu… if you know what I mean. Puffer fish humour, anyone?

Bother the waiter. There’s no reason to be a total pain in the butt, but if you want to know what’s recommended or what something is or means or if that thing is supposed to smell like that, be sure to ask. Even fancy people and places are still just people and places, which means they need to do their job and give you a good experience. Plus, you deserve a full experience in which you’re not walking out $200 down and still hungry or sick or dissatisfied. If you don’t want that sauce on your food or you want to know if something is salty or sweet or whatever YOU want to know or you think could make or break your meal, ask and ask and avoid any problems.

Everyone had to go to a fancy restaurant for the first time at some point, and the waiters are aware that not everyone is aware of the going ons. This is why they’re trained to treat you well and not be overly snobby. If they are, the place is stupid, anyway. Don’t let them boss you around, you’re their boss tonight! You pay their rent, so allow yourself to be curious and learn as much as you can.

Try something new. Burgers are nice and fancy, this is true. But that thing with lily bulb in it or that dumpling shaped like a carrot… that might be your new favourite food. If you’re debating whether you should eat something you’ve eaten your entire life or get something entirely new, there’s always compromise! Ask your waiter or neighbour or dial a friend and ask what they suggest. Something like, “I love ____, do you have something similar that isn’t ____?” or “I once had a ____ that tasted like ____ and I hit my ____ in the ______ with it. What would you recommend that might also be _____?”
Basically, ask about suggestions that are familiar to some extent, but also new to your tastebuds. And, also, don’t hit people. Stop doing that.

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Quality chefs are taught to combine the familiar and beloved with the new and exotic. Flavour blending keeps their job interesting, and satisfying you is their job, so make sure they know what you like and don’t like, and take time finding a happy solution for everyone (mostly you!)

Wine?? Of course, wine is super optional. Some people hate it, some people don’t understand it, and some people just want to avoid any possibility of spilling it. If it’s not your thing, don’t feel like you have to fit in or that it’s expected of you. Perrier water or even just tap water is totally cool, and it’s hydrating and stuff, unlike wine. However, if you like wine, but know nothing about pairing and airing and how to pronounce stuff, do what I keep telling you- ask the waiter or, even better, the sommelier (wine steward). They actually go to school to tell you what a cabernet is. We’ve all heard the word, but what it means… only the sommelier knows. Let the fella or lass show off some knowledge and impress you with how smoothly he/she says, “sauvignon” or how gorgeous “noir” can really be. *Vegans- just remember, not all wine is vegan. Red is more often acceptable, but still ask. If they don’t know, stick with something safer.

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Fortunately, I found vegan-friendly wine and baguette in Paris! (2012)

They’ll also often give you a mini-taste beforehand, especially if you order the bottle, in which case you don’t even have to ask, they’ll just provide it. If you are served a drop of wine and you and the sommelier are eyeing each other like, “Well?” that means you should do the sniff, swirl, and sip like in the movies. If you like it, which you probably will, you just nod and the person will pour you more. If it’s not for you, try again or get a cocktail. Or go with the house/recommended wine. Easy sneezy.

When the Food Arrives

Don’t look with terror. It’s possible you ordered something that sounded simple, but now what you’re getting looks like it just got into a fight with Freddy Kreuger. Don’t panic. It really is whatever you ordered, they just want to impress you. That’s the job of the restaurant, to offer you a unique experience. Thus, you may be confused, scared, and fighting the urge to cringe sometimes. Try not to give in. Just say, “Thank you” and poke it a bit when no one’s looking. And despite what many naysayers nay say about these days, I’m totally into the idea of taking photos of your food. It’s pretty and you paid for it, your friends should have to look in envy, and you have the right to look back and sigh with happiness that that food was in your life and passed through your digestion system at one point. Snap away, but be subtle and quick. Not too quick, or you’ll end up with the thousands of blurry photos like me, but quick enough so people don’t start sneering and acting holier than thou. “Ugh. Just eat your food and stop taking photos!” Oh, yeah, fancy pants? Well, stop using your fork tongs to remove dirt from your nails! Yeah, I saw you.

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Back to my point, if something looks truly odd or different from what you expected, double check, but don’t immediately assume it’s “like ohmygod, not what I expected. I can’t eat this.” Eat it. Even if you do end up having to send it back, that was like a free bite of more fancy food. They will possibly and likely charge you for the meal, though, so… try NOT to do this. Just suck it up unless it’s really made poorly. And, if you LIKE what you ordered, don’t forget to pay your compliments to the chef. Yep, they don’t just do that in movies. The chef probably won’t come out, get on one knee, and thank you with tears in eyes, but it is appreciated, nonetheless.

Dessert: do or don’t? Your call, bromie. I always feel like I *should* get a dessert, but I usually pass. If I ate enough… and trust me, I ate enough, I don’t need it and it will just leave me feeling overstuffed and full of sadness. I’m not really a sweets person, though. If you enjoyed your dinner, but dessert is REALLY your jam, maybe this is where you should splurge. Smaller meal, bigger dessert? Big meal, huge dessert? Huge everything? Really, it’s up to you and how you’re feeling. When the dessert arrives, everyone will be super jealous and eye-eating your food, so don’t think you’ll look like a monster. They want it and they want it bad. But it’s all yours. Enjoy!

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The Check Shows Up

Once again, don’t look with terror. It’s usually more than you expected. Head math is complicated when you’re excited and hungry, so you might have underestimated your spending. Play it cool. Unless the drunk guy at the table next to yours has a clever quip, in which case, go along with it and release your dismay and disbelief. Don’t overplay it, but meeting and bonding with other fake rich people, or real rich people is never bad. In general, though, don’t nickel and dime tonight. Of course, if something is wrong, get it corrected! Even wealthy people don’t tolerate that, but if something cost more than you hoped or expected, well, that’s the name of the game. You gotta be prepared for little surprises in there. So you’ll go a week without hand soap and toilet paper… no one will know!

Tip, tip, tip. Remember how hard we made the waiter work? We asked all those questions and requested more water over and over again. They were in the hot kitchen and in the freezing restaurant and running up and down… it was quite a job. Their feet and arms and back and shoulders and neck HURT. Help them pay for their chiropractor. No matter how fancy the restaurant, waiters are still waiters. They work hard and live mainly off tips. That’s America for ya. Maybe they got a little confused or moved a little slow for your liking, but that probably wasn’t to spite you. It was a long and busy day, exhaustion will have those effects on any person. Be generous because you had an awesome time and you’re just one heckuva nice person!

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Eating out is a wonderful experience! While I still enjoy going out to casual dining in my jeans and tee, there’s something about the attention to detail and being given good care when in a high-end restaurant that really makes it feel so darn good! It’s an experience like climbing a mountain or living with monks: worth trying it to tell the tale and feeling how it makes you feel.

Not all food is created equally, just like well-made clothing will typically leave you feeling well-made. The rest is fine and dandy for everyday, but the moment you try the good stuff, you really get what the craze is all about.

Mock me and my dining experiences all you like, but that one is checked off my to-do list… can you say the same?

Click the ‘Follow’ button on the left to keep up with my adventure!

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In the meantime, get satisfied!


The Mere Mortal’s Guide to Fine Dining: From Salad Forks to Sommeliers, How to Eat and Drink in Style Without Fear of Faux Pas

Florida: is it worth it?


Totally Bamboo State Cutting & Serving Board, Florida, 100% Bamboo Board for Cooking and Entertaining

This weekend I am heading to Florida! woo! SPRING BREAK… in October…. I don’t know, my life is backwards. Point is, I’m going down Sowf of dem dere Unitered States. Yeehaw? I don’t know what they say in Florida aside from lots of “Yes, ma’am!”

However, I suppose Florida has bit of a bad reputation in the media. It seems like they invent new ways to die every few weeks. There’s even a category on a website of ‘Unusual Deaths’ dedicated entirely to Florida. In case you’re curious.

Still, Florida is not entirely about murdering people because they farted in your face. Seriously, I could just write an entire post about weird things that happen in Florida. There’s more to it, though. HEY, TOURISTS! I’m looking you in the eye and swearing that that’s not all that goes on in our beautiful Southern state.

Did you know that Florida is the largest producer of watermelons in the
country. It also produces the most tomatoes, strawberries and sugar? Yeah, I didn’t know that, either. Things are starting to look up! Mechanical refrigeration was invented in Florida, too! So, you know, your food is cold because of Florida. Am I selling it well?

For real, though, Florida is totally cool in its own very special way. For one, we can’t forget the beaches. Key West, Daytona, Clearwater… just a few of the country’s most impressive sandy spots. Which, fortunately, is also accompanied by lots of lovely weather. Sure, it rains a lot, but that just keeps things from getting dull. Can’t be 80 and 90 degrees all year long! Most of your visit will be full o’ sunshine, flip flops, and sunscreen. Which also means seafood (if you’re into that), boating, and pretty photos. Everyone loves pretty photos for social media!

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This could be ANY beach in the world. I have no idea. Let’s say it’s Key West.

If you’re not really a beach bum, there’s always the incomparable Disney World, as well as Universal Studios, Busch Gardens, and Lego Land! I mean, you’ve got a park for every childhood fantasy. Or, just simplify and stick to one of the many hiking trails and parks. When I used to go to Florida, I would (and still do) run around the palm trees and chase the little lizards. They’re so cute and offer parents an opportunity to teach their kids stuff. Whatever it is parents teach their kids. If you or your kids or the mailman you brought on vacation with you love animals and nature, there’s a big variety of water, land, and sky creatures that you may never see at home.

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This rat with wings is pretty in slow-motion!

If it’s all about the adult action for you, well, forget everything I just said and just know that there are plenty of clubs, bars, fancy restaurants, snazzy tours, and spas. They’ve got you covered. Click those links to find lists of the best in Florida.

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If you fall asleep at 9PM, you can tell everyone you took this picture.

BUUUUT… since I’m not sponsored by Disney or Florida vacations dot blah blah, I will tell you the negatives. It’s FLORIDA! Mosquitoes, crazy people, and alligators everywhere, tourists wearing Mickey ears, old people dying all over the place, humidity ruining everything you once loved about yourself, and the real life possibility of Sharknado. It could happen, and if it does, Florida is getting it first and worst. Plus, hey, don’t forget that George Zimmerman lives there. You could get shot.

If you’re into hurricanes and sinkholes, maybe Florida is in fact that adventure you’ve been looking for all your life! Maybe uncertain death and the sound of unidentified people or creatures crawling around your home at night appeal to you. I don’t know. Whatever happens, if you visit Florida, remember, you’re the one who was jumping up and down, singing, “It’s a small world AFTER ALL!!!!”

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Click the ‘Follow’ button on the left to keep up with my adventure!

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In the meantime, get satisfied!

One Year Till the World

Sitting here in my little home office, I look to my left at my bookshelf. On four of the shelves sit book after book on the topic of happiness, suicide, helping others, ethics, and how to “properly” give someone therapy. All topics which intrigue me, yet every book has a bookmark in it. Turning to my Netflix account, I search for a movie to watch…. Only to notice that I’ve paused nearly every movie and never gone back to them. Frustrated with myself, I go to read something that I find fascinating, an article about the connection between humour and the human denial of death. I make it through 4 pages, sigh, and put down the paper.

What is wrong with me?

I am not bored by any means, but I am impatient. Thrill and adventure and life isn’t coming at me fast enough, and that makes me restless. It is then that I realize what I’m missing- thrill and adventure and life. These are words I often use when describing my travel experiences, as well as what I am seeking in the world. Yet, it took me all this time to really own up to my one wish! Being too old to ask my parents to help, being too timid to ask my school advisor to help, and being too Sacrilege to ask a religious deity or leader to help, it occurs to me that I have to help myself.

That is where it began. 

The time to decide my future is now. I can’t assume that what I seek will simply fall in my lap, or that something I say or think or feel will put my life puzzle together. My horoscope and the alignment of the stars won’t guide me anywhere but to space and back; a never-ending cycle of dreams and fantasies all leading to nothing but being in the very same place I started out.

People often tell me I am destine for great things; that I will accomplish a lot because of my out-of-the-box thinking and adventurous spirit. Those alone do not a success make, however. I don’t know who J.M. Power is, but a quote of his is plastered on a motivational poster. It says,

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There it is, my friends, therein lies the problem. I have been sleeping when I have so much work to do! Not that my time was wasted, but it certainly wasn’t being spent on my goal. Reading about happiness and success doesn’t lead to anything but knowledge. Knowledge is power, but it’s not the key. The key is action. Exhaustion, devotion, and urgency with a touch of patience.

No longer is traveling an end goal or a far off “one day” passive inactivity. Traveling is what I am working towards. Traveling is what I am doing with my life, every single day of my life. I am converted. No longer do I dislike social media, I embrace it. I recognize how it will be one of my greatest companions and mentors along my way. Money is not to be squandered on more half-read books and unworn fashion. Money is another tool that I can use as an ice pick as I climb this steep, snowy mountain.  I am climbing my way to the top, where I will not just place my flag and return back to steady ground, but I will build a home up there. As tiny and empty and lonely as it may be at times, my core desires and passions in life will not be sidestepped for the implanted wishes of others. My goal is set.

Another clever quote from another gentleman of whom you’ve probably never heard:

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*George C Marshall –
15th Unites States Army Chief of Staff
50th United States Secretary of State
10th President of the American Red Cross
3rd United States Secretary of Defense*

I didn’t like this, not one bit. Rather than find Mr. Marshall and throw a shoe at him, I decided to do one better. I decided to do my thing. 

With less than a year until I get my Master’s from graduate school, this gives me one year to prepare. To prepare mentally, physically, professionally, and monetarily for the adventure of a lifetime. To make sure I know exactly what it is I am looking for and leaving behind. In a year, give or take, I put everything into action. All the Twittering and Instabooking and rambling online and netplaying (and sometimes working) will be put into play, and everything I’ve decided I want in life will be put the test. Terror and uncertainty aside, self-doubt will no longer have any place in my personal bubble.

This is why I call this year (2016-2017) ‘One Year Till the World’

My everyday existence and survival will become part of the bigger picture. Not in the name of fame or money or bragging rights, but with hopes of achieving what’s important to me. There is no destination of “happiness” or a sense of achievement and accomplishment, but an ongoing journey to find what it is that I was avoiding at the end of all the books, or why it is I could never make it to the end of a movie. Maybe it was the cliffhanger that I loved. Maybe I simply didn’t want to know. I want the tragedy and comedy to never end. And so, here I am. Here we are. Welcoming all the drama of the universe to come get me. I am bait. Once something bites, I’m not letting go.

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List of things I will need to physically prepare:

I used LifeEvolver to help me make this list

 

Passport or Visa –
A U.S. passport will get me far, but not everywhere. Some countries will allow me to get the visa when I arrive in the country and some jobs will assist in this process, but others will take a month or so. 

Immunizations – 
Some of these require a series of shots over a period of 1-6 months. Some can be accelerated to 21 days. Recommended vaccinations at: Center for Disease Control 

Backup Important Documents –
E-mail self (or use of a service like Legacy Locker) to store important documents and copies of passport, credit cards, and immunization records. Bonus: If I were to pass away while traveling, Legacy Locker would hand over online assets to a beneficiary. I realize this is morbid, but HEY! People die! 

Get an international-friendly debit card and credit card –
Check out Which credit and debit cards are best overseas article for details.
In a credit card look for: no international surcharge, and ideally, cash back with every purchase (flyer miles?)
For a debit card look for: no ATM fee (or a payback if there is one), best exchange rates, and no low-balance fee. 

Travel Insurance –
At the very minimum, I’ll need some kind of medical and evacuation insurance. It’s cheap and very useful if required. (Recommended: World Nomads.) 

Funding –
Aside from the job I will have prepared prior to leaving, ideally, at this point I will have some sort of sponsorship helping me pay the way. Donations, paid advertising, or other ways to bring in spending cash would be amazing. This will pay for transportation, food, housing, emergencies, and various technical aspects.

Housing –
This will change a lot, but an initial place to stay or a “home base” will be important. As in, somewhere within an hour or so of where I am jumping around with people, places, and things with which I have become familiar. In case things get confusing, plans get changed, or I simply get lonely, I need somewhere that feels safe. Aside from this, each place I go, I will need to utilize Couchsurfing, sponsored housing, camping, or jobs that will provide accommodations (hostels, au pair, teaching English….) What I can arrange beforehand may differ from the reality, so I have to prepare multiple options. 

Technology/Communication –
Not only do I have to research what products are best for long term travel (a camera, specifically), I will also need to find out about services abroad. Although I do love sending letters and postcards, these don’t work when time is of the essence. Internet and phone service may be limited in some regions, but if I can’t archive my experiences, they’re not going to be very useful for travel writing! Not to mention, work-related emails, travel information, and calls to my family will make contact with the rest of the world extremely important! 

Am I forgetting anything? That is, aside from packing, the pain of “goodbye”, and mentally preparing for the most exciting and terrifying life of my… life…..?

For my own use, and yours, here are a few more blogs on the whats, wheres, whens, whys, and hows of traveling for a living:

Medium.com – How to prepare for a long-term work and travel trip.
My Procedure, Best Picks, and Data Roaming Package Advice

Just One Way Ticket – Travel for the rest of my life: 15 travel bloggers tell how to do it

UBC – Preparing for Travel: Before, During, and After Your Trip

Nomadtopia – 7 Steps to a Life of Travel

And there are many, many more blogs and websites just like these! Google is your friend. Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram will help, too! If you’re planning/beginning/ending/in the middle of your own world travel for pleasure or business, tell me about it!

Click the ‘Follow’ button on the left to keep up with my adventure!

If you would like to work with me or submit your own post, contact me at:

sweettoothnothings@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SweetToothVegan

https://www.instagram.com/sweettoothtravels/

In the meantime, get satisfied!

My Top 10 Cities!

There is SO, SO much of the world left for me to see…. However, there is also a whole lot that I’ve already seen! I am SO LUCKY! All the countries I’ve visited have impacted me in some deep way, and the memories will always stay with me. Still, I know what I like and what I don’t like, and I take both seriously. With all the time and money that goes into travel, it’s helpful to have someone to point you in the right direction!

Four continents, over 30 countries, and 34  U.S. states in, my experience is both limited but also informed. People will often ask me, “Did you like ____?” or “Should I go to….?”

My answer is usually, “Yes. Do it.”

My attempt to make a list of “10 Worst Cities” was futile, as I couldn’t name a single place where I didn’t find something I loved! Call me easily amused, but I have had a ball around the world and in my very own little country of America. Sorry, kids, there will be no smack talk here today. However, there are definitely cities that stood out to me and hold a special place in my heart.

Now, without further ado, I shall attempt the near-impossible. I will take on the task that so many have tried and failed at (though, many have succeeded….)

Here is my list of ‘Top 10 Cities I’ve Visited and Loved’:

10. Bridgetown, Barbados. Not really one for beaches and palm trees, my expectations were low coming into Barbados. I was then extremely surprised to discover how special this Caribbean island is! The views, the people, and the laws were all… super chill. I got really excited when my tour guide informed me that people were allowed to pick fruit or catch fish and eat it without a permit or anything. It was a nature buffet! Plus, there were monkeys everywhere! Sign me up!

Sure, it’s full of big shot wealthy people going off for golf in the sunshine, but the everyday folk were just as happy, and probably happier- I know I was!

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9. Tallinn, Estonia. Most people don’t think twice about Estonia. When my cruise ship set forth for this tiny country in Europe, no one was particularly thrilled…. Certainly not me, being as naive as I was.

When we arrived, my mind was quickly changed. I am not sure what it was exactly, but something about Tallinn warmed my heart. Maybe it’s this fact that got me thinking twice:

“Over the past two decades, this former Soviet-controlled nation — home to just 1.3 million people, or under one-sixth the size of New York City — has quietly become one of the most tech-savvy countries on earth. Estonia is the 79th smallest country in the world by population but holds the world record in startups per person. It has among the world’s fastest broadband speeds. The country teaches every kid how to code. Nearly all government services are conducted online. Citizens can access their health records in the cloud and pay for parking with their mobile phones.” (mic.com – https://goo.gl/Czn3pm)

Everyone loves cheering on the little guy, right? This was my chance. Go, Estonia, go!!

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8. Cleveland, Ohio. When I tell people I loved visiting Cleveland, I get some looks. The response is usually, “You’ve been all over the world, why OHIO!?”

Ohio because the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Ohio because of schoolchildren talking with me on their way home. Ohio because cotton candy in the casino, beautiful architecture, and really cool murals on buildings. That’s why.

I was surprised too, don’t get me wrong. But my curiosity for the unappreciated and unknown was enough reason to set out on the 12 hour bus ride to Ohio by myself. Not a day went by when I couldn’t find something new to do, somewhere new to go, or someone new with whom I could chat. Don’t listen to your enemies, Cleveland, you’re special to me!

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7. Crete, Greece. All of the cities I’ve seen in Greece were gorgeous and quaint. Crete stood out for its exceedingly serene and delightful atmosphere. There’s the historical Knossos to admire, sweet alcohol to sample, and houses full of women making noodles by hand…. Plus, it’s incredible standing on a hill and overlooking olive trees as far as the eye can see! It’s a simple and expansive city with lots of work to do, but lots to offer, as well. One mustn’t forget to greet the goats and scraggly mutts wandering about, either.

P.S. If you enjoy traditions and silly walks, you’re in for a treat! You’ll have to catch the Change of the Guards in Athens… or just watch this video:

Oh! And don’t let me forget to mention the fantastic vegan leek pie I had with my refreshing Mythos beer!

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6. Amsterdam, Netherlands. I know what you’re thinking, you rascal. When most people think of Amsterdam, they think of the very liberal marijuana laws. Maybe you can’t help but swoon at the thought of it. And, honestly? It was nearly impossible to avoid weed in your face as you walk along. People don’t get “used to it”, it doesn’t become “the norm”. Everyone seems to use it a lot. Cafes and shops line the streets. Don’t even get me started on the Red Light District….

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But if this is all you do during your visit to Amsterdam, you’re missing out!

Every night of my stay, I went to the local square to talk with unexpected new friends. I befriended a bunch of local and foreign musicians. We jammed and busked and had a great time, without so much as a single puff of “the weed”. I found it very easy to socialize in Amsterdam! There are hostels where one can stay or hang out, and I even befriended two Iranian men who were down for a late night party! Something about the peaceful walk along the water and the energy of the city put everyone in a bright and cheery mood.

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Plus, there’s a great tour of the Heineken brewery which includes a boat ride. It turns out, taking a boat tour with a group of drunk people is one of the most fun (and least educational) activities in which a person can partake.

5- New Orleans, Louisiana. No one will disagree with me if I say that NOLA is an amazing city to visit. With a nickname like “The Big Easy”, you know it’s gotta be good. The music, the food, the accent… it’s a groovin’ time.

This place is a big jam just waiting for someone to start the tune, which happens every minute on the minute. There’s no time for silence and stillness because the locals are just as anxious to start the party as the tourists. The bar is set pretty high, people expect a great time when they visit New Orleans, so the musicians have to deliver! If you’re not good enough, you’re going to be good enough, or you’re gonna have to go! Not that they’d tell you that, since everyone was so friendly. From day one I was part of the gang, I was family. They took care of me… as long as I slipped them a dollar or two.

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Feeling blue in the town of jazz and dixieland is simply impossible. If you’re down, you better be picking up your brass and getting right back up to play.

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4- Agra, India. With the Taj Mahal being in Agra, what more of a reason do you need to visit? Yeah, it really is that awe-inspiring. One might even say it’s “awesome”. You think you’ve seen a million photos and get it; you get the appeal and the beauty… but you don’t. Not until you can feel the flawless walls and the smooth stone under your feet. Amazingly, however, it’s not the only appeal of the city!

Have you heard of Sheesh Mahal? No, you haven’t. The name means ‘Crystal Palace’. Why? Because the walls are covered in thousands of tiny mirrors! The twinkle is like nothing you’ve ever seen before. There are a bunch of other forts and palaces and museums, as well. All with their own unique designs and features that will temporarily leave you forgetting to breathe. It’s breathtaking. And, hey, the super delicious Indian food doesn’t hurt one bit!

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3- Negev Desert, Israel. With so much focus on Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, most people who visit Israel never get to see the “outer boroughs” (so to speak.) Fortunately, I had the right mind while in the country to find people who lived outside these major cities and knew them well. This means I went North and South, but I also went to the desert! Actually, I went to a 3-day music festival in the Negev Desert. I did this while staying with a friend/a tour guide I met on my first visit to Israel. He lives on a kibbutz with his family. This is an experience I super highly recommend. You will never experience anything like this again! It’s a commune for Jewish hippy families… how can you go wrong? With baby cows and organic fruits and veggies, it’s Heaven for anyone who loves nature and life.

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Although one would assume a desert is a place for cacti, camels, and people who are lost, there was a surprising abundance of LIFE in the Negev! You could just pick bright pink fruit off the cacti and bite into the sweet innards! No one has to starve in this land soy milk and agave nectar (get it? Like “milk and honey”?)

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If you like hiking, photogenic horizons, and communities of people full of nothing but compassion and generosity- the desert might be calling your name.

2- Rome, Italy. Is it wrong that my first thought about Rome is in French? I don’t care! Je t’aime! Je t’aime, Rome! The history, the beauty, the smells, the shopping, the people…. I just want to bottle it all up and wear it as a perfume. I would call it ‘Sublime’.

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If I could, I’d go back in time and marry Michelangelo. We’d live on the streets of Rome, create beautiful things, and drink wine all day.

With all the incredible architecture everywhere you go, fresh veggies in the market, and endless music in the streets, it’s crazy that they have even more to offer! Most importantly: the most passionate people I have ever met! The Romans bleed hearts and roses! They are so proud of their home and want to share it with any person who comes to visit. I was blown away by the warmth and enthusiasm I felt radiating from each and every Roman I met. They knew so much about their city and were so excited to share stories, history, and fun facts with me. A city so vegan-friendly, tourist-friendly, and love-obsessed is the town for me!

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1- New York City, USA. Guilty. I am guilty as charged. I am a New York loving, urbanized, city snob. I make no excuses, I offer no denial… I simply love New York City. No matter where I go, returning to The Big Apple gives me palpitations. The skyline is unbeatable, that’s a simple fact. Buildings come and go, but the beauty remains. Throw in any type of food you can imagine, a million and one fairs, festivals, and feasts, bars, cafes, parties, and protests, and you have yourself an amazing experience. Whatever ye seek, ye shall find.

No, not everyone is loving and kind, but everyone has a purpose, a place, and a role. It’s like the entire city is one apartment and every New Yorker is a roommate. We all play our part- love or hate, give or take. There’s an urgency to move and live. Room for hopes and dreams like no other place in the world. I may not have been everywhere yet, but I’ve been around enough to know that New York is special. It’s the class clown who disrupts the other kids, but everyone knows this kid will make something of himself. This kid is going places. He lives on his own terms, and that’ll get him everything he wants in life. Through the ups and downs… New York City is THE ONE.

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As time goes on, I am sure my Top 10 will change or adjust. That is because there is always more to see and do, and I can’t wait to see and do! What does your Top 10 look like? Did I heinously forget your favourite city/state/country? Let me know!

Click the ‘Follow’ button on the left to tune in for my next adventure!

If you would like to work with me or submit your own post, contact me at:

sweettoothnothings@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SweetToothVegan

https://www.instagram.com/sweettoothtravels/

In the meantime, get satisfied!

 

America: The Beautiful

America, the beautiful!

America- the beautiful.

America… the beautiful….

We’ve all heard this little jingle before, right? Right, Canada? I know you have.

Americans talk big about our country. We act like we are the Godfather of the Earth and every other nation bows to us and kisses our Floridian pinky finger.

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If that reference confuses you, notice how Florida at the bottom sticks out…. Yeah.

             36% of people in the US have passports, according to the State Department.

That leads me to believe at least 34% of Americans have traveled internationally… at least once. That’s not a huge amount, especially considering that it’s estimated that 76% of UK citizens have a passport, and this seems to be the standard number amongst citizens of other countries.

However, traveling abroad is a commitment. It’s a big step for many people. It can be a financial burden, it puts some people at risk for losing their jobs, and many people just can’t tolerate flying. So, as unfortunate as it is to know that at least 64% of Americans have never been outside the U.S., I would be a tad pretentious to claim or act as though this is shameful.

What I do find more shocking is that the average American has only been to 12 states. While it is true that some of the factors that keep people from flying abroad apply here, as well, I think there’s more to it. I’ve never met anyone who hasn’t wanted to travel abroad. As in, not everyone cares about traveling everywhere in the world, but everyone has a dream destination in Europe or Asia or just wants to check out Antarctica. If asked where they want to see in the States, it seems people become less enthusiastic. Why is this?

Are mountains in Malaysia more beautiful than those in Montana? Is the trolley in Turkey more exciting than the one in Tennessee? I think we’ve convinced ourselves that something is more worthwhile if we have to travel 12 hours to see it. The more we can dream and invent a place, the more magical it must be. We romanticize.

I would like to erase this way of thinking! Traveling within the States can be just as

Exciting

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Can’t miss the fireworks in Disney, FL!

Surprising

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A must-have for every library in Boston, MA

and Beautiful

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A sunset in Ann Arbor, MI

as anywhere else you’re considering visiting.

You can find amazing eats in the most unexpected places! Vegan food isn’t always the easiest cuisine to find, but ask around enough, and you’ll usually find something. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to bring some backup food or snacks… just in case.

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Veggie Planet in Boston, Mass. was delicious!

I prefer the simpleton’s way of travel- through Couchsurfing, Megabus, and camping. It’s usually cheaper than hotels and airplanes. Unless, of course, you’re like me and disaster and chaos always find you. In which case, it can become pricey (i.e. phone smashing, bad housing, etc….) Never underestimate cost! Better to be prepared for an emergency or a personal freakout than not.

Money aside, you get to feel the culture and life when you stay with a resident and live like a local. Maybe you’ll have the luck I had in Chicago and find a host who KNOWS how to have a good time!

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A drink made for my by my host in Chicago, IL

There’s also camping! Although I’m by no means an expert at camping, this was a great option while doing a road trip through upstate, New York. Maybe do a test run with your tent if you’ve never used one before. They’re not difficult, but can be confusing.

Note in my photo below the tiny fire. Thanks to my travel buddy, we didn’t have to suffer in the cold. We had an inch of fire to heat us and light the way. If not for that darn rain….

Tip: Sweaters and rainy day amusement. Both, very important. 

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Those ‘scout’ skills came in handy in Upstate, NY

Be sure to bring your curiosity and enthusiasm for new things! Completely unexpectedly, on another trip with the same buddy, we came across a great music venue. We decided to go in and check out the music scene in Atlanta. That’s when we heard Yacht Rock Revue for the first time. Super fun show! We made this into a habit; discovering a Led Zeppelin tribute band, a heavy metal show, and several punk rock venues. Complete with dirt, disease, and lots of booze!

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Discovered Yacht Rock Revue in Atlanta, GA

You never know what you’ll come across….

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Dinosaur attack at the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, AK

What I discovered was that many people are more kind, generous, and patient than I ever expected strangers to be. There were certainly times of exhaustion, fear, and homesickness, but it’s true that you never get the chance to live if you don’t go through the good and the bad! Not every experience was perfect or ideal, but with an open-mind and adventurous spirit, I have seen and done SO much!

Not only have the people been amazing, but I’ve also been to some fascinating and fun museums, discovered great music along the way, and met some really adorable animals!

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I met Roo in Knoxville, TN

You might come across an enthusiastic and stylish protester at a Martin Luther King Jr. Rally in Atlanta.

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I tried to read all his buttons, but the march must go on….

Plenty of cities in the United States are empty and ugly and uninteresting. That’s a fact… anywhere you go in the world. Taking the risk and seeing what satisfaction, beauty, and thrills you can find may awaken and enliven you, though.

Come check out America, Americans. America IS beautiful, and it’s waiting to be seen!

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In the meantime, get satisfied!

Just a Letter

Some letters are personal and meaningful, others are empty and cold. Some change lives, others change little. One way or the other, letters are important. They have the ability to connect us with anyone! Whether it be a complete stranger in another country or a loved one in another county. The conversation between man, paper, and pen is irreplaceable and is not something that should be forgotten or left behind in the Dark Ages.

Last year I went on social media and asked that anyone who wanted a letter from me send me their home address or P.O. box. The response was incredible! So many people responded! Some I’ve known for years, some I’d only just met. They all were so excited to receive a personalized letter from me. I’m not a celebrity or a rising star. I’m not even an influential local figure! I am just a person with a paper and a pen. I doodled, I rambled…. I had a ball creating my little pieces of art and literature!

The idea originated when I received a letter from my grandmother. It was just a simple envelope with a simple note alongside a few dollars. The money was certainly nice, but that letter was by far the most incredible thing that I had found in my mailbox in years, if not ever. It was real. Touched by human hands and done with care and love. It carried a message that could be repeated as many times as I was willing to read it over and over and over again, even when she could not say them herself. In those few words, everything I needed from my grandmother was expressed and felt and given. She gave me a gift, and I cherish it.

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I wish my handwriting was as beautiful as hers

Not only did I receive my grandmother’s letter, but around this time I also started getting invitations regarding my brothers’ engagement parties, their fiancée’s bachelorette parties, their wedding invitations, the baby shower… not to mention ALL the ‘Thank You’ cards! Some of these were printed, some handwritten, but the gratitude and thoughtfulness expressed in them was felt and appreciated just the same. I held onto every single one because they had all touched me in different ways at different times in my life and their lives. They are a collection of special, beautiful moments.

Processed with Snapseed.

Don’t forget the holiday and birthday cards!

Once my little project kicked off and I began writing my 50+ handwritten cards, I was so excited to see what I would come up with next. What memories were brought back to me, and if I had no specific memories with this person, what would come to mind? It was an experiment and an experience! How could I make each letter different and unique? How could I keep myself excited about this? How could I get my wrist used to writing so much!? Admittedly, I did find myself with writer’s block and an aching wrist by the time I got to 15 letters. I kept going, though! I had made a promise to them and to myself that I would reach out. Even if they had forgotten or blown off my promise, knowing that it meant something to them, that they would be excited to see that letter kept me pushing on.

I also forgave myself for days when I was less motivated. If all I could manage was a few sentences and a smiley face, that was fine. It’s not necessarily about the message, but the effort and thought. It wasn’t that I cared less over time, I simply found myself stuck. For some, my handwriting was very sloppy, but that’s normal.

Unfortunately, not everyone wrote me back or let me know how they felt about the letter. I like to think they were all received with joy. I know I did my part, and I felt good about it. On the other hand, many people did write back, and a couple continued to write back. Not to the point of being pen pals, but once every few months or on holidays I might receive a greeting. It’s not about reciprocation, though. Like everything in life, it’s about the joy of the experience; the good and the bad. In the end, it was worth it for the positive feedback and some photos I was sent on the holidays or invitations. It made me feel like part of their family, or at least a friend worth considering a friend, and not just a figure online or in someone’s cellular phonebook.

Processed with Snapseed.

Processed with Snapseed.

Even just a postcard from some far off country or state was really a thrill. It brought me into their life and their home, and I hope my letters gave them the same journey. Brief but bold. Short but stunning.

I think it’s time to start writing letters again!

If you’d like me to send you a personalized, handwritten letter, contact me with your address at:

SWEETTOOTHNOTHINGS@GMAIL.COM

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In the meantime, get satisfied!

A Bar for the People by the People

How to Open a Successful Bar

A month or so ago, a bar opened up in Jersey City, NJ called Pet Shop. It was popular immediately, everyone was talking about it. To be fair, there’s quite a commotion anytime a new spot opens up in sweet, little Jersey City…. Still, there was a strategy to the creation that has helped it make a splash upon opening. Here are the top 10 reasons I think it’s succeeding and going to continue to do so.

  1. Great location. The group of people involved in this project had the funding to grab up a great spot. It’s a couple blocks from the really HOT area of Grove Street, but not too close, as to not get lost in the sea of bars. Pet Shop stands out and holds its own. It’s also on a corner where no one can miss it. You immediately see its black exterior and contrasting string lights. unnamed
  2. Smart design. Speaking of the exterior, this is a great example of less is more. Black is seemingly simple, but it automatically leaves one curious. This look could be a dive bar or a high-end lounge. You have no way of knowing what’s inside, but you know you really want to take a peek in. Everyone wants to look inside the black abyss. Once you’re inside, you can enjoy the interior design!
  3. Welcoming atmosphere. This where they excel, as well. The place is not intimidating, but it’s not dirty. There are stickers on the “jukebox” bragging for local vandals, but they don’t have graffiti everywhere giving the place the feel of a drug den. You have the option to sit at the bar with some friendly tenders, in the sit-down area with tables and a couch, or outside on the benches. This means any number of people can be comfortable, whether you’re on a first date, a business meeting, or bringing the kids for a meal.
  4. Outdoor space. Not everyone has the privilege of finding a space with a backyard, of course. Keep in mind, though, that this is something to aim towards. A yard space, even a tiny one, has become more and more common. People really love it. It means they can get some fresh air but still be part of the event. Or the entire event can be outdoors on a nice day. This one is nicely surrounded by brick walls, so noise to the outside is kept to a minimum. unnamed-6
  5. More than a bar. A jukebox is a cool touch for that vintage, nostalgic vibe. It also brings in a few bucks and allows patrons to choose their favourite tunes. However, stepping it up is always good. For example, Pet Shop also offers a pinball table and a functioning photo booth. You take your photo and get the print out in moments with the bar’s name on it. Marketing and fun all combined into one! If there’s room for even more, even better. As long as everything is looked after and keeps working.
  6. Not your average food menu. What really excited and intrigued people about the opening of Pet Shop was that it was to be vegetarian/vegan-friendly bar. This was a unique and uncertain twist. Would the people want a healthy, veggie snack after drinking? The good news is, it doesn’t have to be healthy, but it can be. With options like Bombay fries and “Pulled Pork” sandwiches, most people don’t really miss their fried chicken and beef ramen. Those are just a couple of options from the Summer menu, anyway. We all anxiously await the Fall and Winter menu!unnamed-2

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    The Tres Pates. 3 bean-based spread on toast. 

  7. Interesting drink options. Getting rid of the old, reliable drinks is not an option, always have those handy. However, also throwing in something new that everyone wants to try is a must. Not Your Father’s Root Beer or Hell or High Watermelon are the drinks people are looking to try without committing to an entire 6-pack. Why not be the bar that offers those super hip drinks alongside an easy choice like Corona Light?unnamed-3
  8. No more sports bars. I like sports bars. I like the energy and excitement it creates. When people get together to eat nachos and scream at the television. However, we’ve got those. So, so many of those. What about a bar where people can sit and just look at each other and chat? Although, I do kind of like the idea of having one television in the corner for the lone drinkers, bored drinkers, and the drinkers who need somewhere to look during a bathroom break or pause in the conversation. Nothing wrong with a television, just use it in a unique way. Pet Shop always plays movies on their screen. No captions, no sound, just something to peek at now and then and maybe stir up a fun conversation.
  9. Know your audience. Jersey City is where the young professionals go after work in Manhattan. They’re trying to escape the high prices and the extremeness of everything. Being that escape is hard business, but it will pay off. If you’re looking to attract the classier or older crowd, know if that’s in your best interest, then know how you can do that. Maybe electronic music and sticky bar tops aren’t the way to go. On the other hand, if you’re looking to pull in the college kids, free chips and a dance space are probably good attributes, as long as local laws will allow dancing at your establishment. Yeah, there are laws about that.
  10. Research, network, and research some more. Laws and permits and ordinances are just the tip of the iceberg. If we’re talking about general attractiveness and desirability of your bar in order to maintain interest and keep people talking, you need to know what everyone else is doing right… or wrong. Get to know other bar owners; they’re better as allies than enemies. Support them and let them help support you. They’ll send people your way and do you good, as long as you return the deed. Speak kindly and generously of them. Get to know local companies, also. Get involved in the community, be willing (and excited) to go to fairs and give out merchandise and give out business cards. Have special deals, events, and themed nights. Have fun so your customers can have fun, and just maybe things will be a lot easier than you expect!
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    If you would like me to attend your event, review your product, or if you want to submit your food/travel review, contact me at:

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    In the meantime, get satisfied!

Fantastic Atlantic

When it came to my trip to Atlantic City, I had no idea what to expect. Extravagance and sleaziness? A bunch of old people in scooters and cargo shorts? Maybe all the college students of New Jersey gambling away their college savings?

What I got was everything and then some. Atlantic City has no particular type or crowd, it was everyone in one place! You definitely had your dirty and crooked folks, but they were alongside the young and naive and the old and debilitated. It was a free-for-all, and everyone was welcome! Some people even brought their kids and babies. That seemed a odd to me. What do the kids do all day? Aside from planning how to get alcohol, I guess….

Oh, and for the record, it’s true, there were no clocks and the alcohol was free. Yet, I didn’t see a single person passed out on the floor. Either AC has class, or is really good at sweeping up its deadbeats.

My friend and I had a room reserved at Harrah’s Resort and Casino for 2 days. We only planned to stay 2 days and a night, but we kept the room to avoid early checkout. Very much worth the extra cost.

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Harrah’s was a beautiful hotel! The room wasn’t overly ornate, but I am sure they are trying to keep people out of their rooms! Fair enough. The room was functional, either way. Plenty of space and lights, comfortable accommodations. That’s all I ask for in a room.

The rest of the space was quite shiny and exciting, so I definitely was ready to walk around. People were friendly and cheerful…. Though, I didn’t feel the excitement and thrill that I was expecting. There was no champagne flowing and glitzy cocktail dresses and screams of joy/dismay. Everyone at the tables looked quite serious.

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Note all the button-up checkered shirts. Looks like a bunch of computer guys took off for the weekend. They’re so used to sitting and staring at a computer screen that they don’t know what to do with themselves.

This trip made me rethink my camera choice. Using my iPhone 5c camera wasn’t really doing anything any favours. Most of the pictures are grainy, dark, and blurry. Sorry about that.

After some initial gambling and a couple free drinks, (I had me some champagne) we went to find food. The earliest reservation that we could get at the hotel’s Italian restaurant was for 10 PM. I guess that’s the Atlantic City life for ya! No problem, though, we had more casinos to see and wristbands to purchase. They were offering bracelets for $20 that would allow us into Harrah’sBorgata, and Golden Nugget. In just 4 hours we did a complete tour of these three, along with Trump’s Taj Mahal, (which is closing in October!) Caesar’s Palace, and Bally’s.

My friend and I agree that Golden Nugget sounded the most unpleasant. Neither of us liked that name, but their music was the best by far. Harrah’s Pool After Dark was the coolest, I think. It was beautiful and felt ritzy. The atmosphere and energy really pulled us in and got us excited. Not to mention, Mr. Belding from Saved by the Bell made an appearance. After running into him and chatting with him throughout the day, I had no idea who he was until we went to the club and saw him signing autographs and all. Talk about big name celebrities!

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Upping my quality of life

We bounced around a bunch and felt out which spots we liked the most. We agreed to hang out at Golden Nugget and Harrah’s… after dinner, though. We were hungry by 10!

The Italian Cafe Martorano was not your typical, nor traditional Italian dinner experience. It was modern with a touch of the 20s. There were disco balls and the floor was checkered with shiny black and white. The waitstaff all wore newsboy caps with suspenders. Don’t ask me what this look was, but it was gorgeous!

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I cut off my friend’s head for the sake of privacy!

Even after waiting 4 hours for our reservation, we still were asked to wait at the bar. Now, that’s how you sell a drink! While my friend ordered a Moscow Mule, or a Sicilian Mule, as they called it, I tried something a little sweeter, a Sicilian Kiss.

Sicilian Kiss – Imperia vodka, monin mango syrup, monin blood orange syrup, fresh blood orange juice, lime juice, garnished with a blood orange wheel

They made and sold those real fast! These were both very tasty drinks. Although the prices weren’t insane, I still don’t recommend looking at numbers. Just enjoy.

When we were finally seated, we looked upon the menu and drooled a little bit. Having only eaten a few bites of a huge apple that afternoon, I was ready to mangiare!

Guess what? Atlantic City doesn’t do vegan. It’s not in their vocabulary and they don’t care if it’s your thing. They don’t.

We went with antipasti dishes:

Eggplant Stacked

lightly breaded fried eggplant, homemade mozzarella, marinated tomato topped with arugula finished with balsamic and DOC Parmigiano Reggiano cheese $22.00

Antipasto

Homemade mozzarella, prosciutto San Danielle and marinated cherry tomatoes $24.00

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Mozzie and tomat

He ate the cheese, I ate the tomato, and we shared the eggplant. We were fed. Kind of. We distracted ourselves on the dance floor. There was a DJ and a small area for dancing, so we boogied. The music was a remix of old party songs turned into electronic house music. It was really cool! The older and the younger people could appreciate their jams. Jam… boy, I could have gone for jam on toast at that point. Not to say our food wasn’t yummy, but neither of us were really full.

 

Fortunately, there was a little food spot on our way back to the room. We grabbed some buffalo wing pretzels and a cup of grapes. That hit the spot.

After feeding ourselves, I walked my pup. Oh, yeah! Dogs. They’re allowed. And mine happened to behave super well during this trip. I think she was so confused that she forgot how to bark. I can’t say all resorts in AC are dog-friendly, but I can definitely tell you that Harrah’s loves your dog as much as you do!

Once she was happy, we went to the boardwalk and then explored the clubs more.

In spite of some grey and cloudy weather with some drizzling, we walked and had fun. The boardwalk was very low-key and the lights were pretty. Reminded me of Coney Island back home, but quieter.

Finally, around 4 AM we decided it was time to stop bouncing. Enough bouncing, said we! We went back to the room and pretty much fell asleep in the doorway. It was amazing. I woke up around 8 AM and put myself together. My buddy waited until 11 AM to get up and figure out what planet we were on. Surprisingly, though, I was the most well-rested and energized I have been in a long, long time. I felt super clear-headed and fantastic! Still starving, though. That feeling wouldn’t go away. The good news is, we had a breakfast/lunch buffet right downstairs! We bolted in that direction.

The buffet was perfect… for non-vegans. Plenty of meat and eggs and all those things. There was a little fruit and veggie salad available, though. Some mini-bagels which were adorable. I wasn’t complaining. However, we probably would have done just as well having bought bagels and peanut butter and passing on the $20 buffet. But it was extremely meditative and added to the fancy feeling of the trip. Those are very important things to take advantage of while living the luxury life!

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Breakfast with a view

After breakfast, there was a little more depositing of money at the casino bank, and we headed home. Happy, relaxed, and really anxious for our next trip! Peace out, AC, don’t spend all your money in one place, now….

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If you would like me to attend your event, review your product, or if you want to submit your food/travel review, contact me at:

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https://twitter.com/SweetToothVegan

https://www.instagram.com/sweettoothtravels/

In the meantime, get satisfied!