Monday, October 30, 2017

Vegan in Columbus Ohio

We went to Columbus Ohio over the weekend and found some great vegan meals. We'd already been to The Northstar Cafe, Portia's Cafe, and Loving Hut in the past, so this time we tried some new places.

We arrived Saturday, and went to the Indian vegetarian restaurant The Banana Leaf. There was an amazing lunch buffet, everything clearly labeled either vegetarian or vegan and gluten-free. There was mango juice (vegan) and mango lassi (vegetarian, yogurt drink), many main dishes, they brought poori bread to the table, as well as a tray of appetizers for each of us. And dosas!

tray of vegan appetizers

main dishes

so much food! 

delicious dosas!!

That evening we went to Mellow Mushroom, and had a vegan cheese pizza with Buffalo (spicy) tofu as a topping. Unfortunately I did not take a picture, but the waitress said they are using a new vegan cheese - I didn't ask what it was but it was very good!

The next day for lunch we went to 6-1-Pho (a play on Columbus's 614 area code) for amazing vegan Pho and spring rolls (again, no pictures!) This was a place where you order at the counter: choice of Pho, rice bowl, noodle bowl or Vietnamese Sub. All was available veggie: you simply specify veggie broth for the soup and tofu as the protein. You could also specify which veggies you want in your soup or bowl, so Dave was able to leave out the cilantro while I was happy to have them pile it on!

After our delicious lunch I found a place offering vegan donuts: Destination Donuts, which turned out to be in North Market: an amazing public market with tons of restaurants offering great vegan food! According to Wikipedia, North Market was actually North Graveyard for most of the 1800s, but in 1872 the graveyard began to be relocated to make way for the public market, which opened in 1876. We were there the Sunday before Halloween and some of the old spirits may have been haunting the place.

Too bad we had just eaten, though I would have had a difficult time choosing where to eat. Here's a shot from the seating upstairs, looking down on the market. 

And the vegan donuts:

If you have a favorite vegan place to eat in Columbus, please let me know!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Day 3: 10-4 Good Buddy! (October 4)

It’s nearly 6 am. I'm in the lodge, but soon will head back to my cabin.

I am working on the essay for the application to a Hotel Room of One’s Own, a humor writing contest. The winners get to go to the writing conference in Daytona next April, which I may do even if I don't win, then they get two weeks in a hotel to write, with room service and spending money to continue to ride the wave of momentum from the conference. Gosh I hope I win.

Oops, I took a big side track working on my application essay and now it’s 7:03 am and though it’s still pretty dark I’m itching to head back to my cabin. But should I do yoga and shower here first?? Maybe. Just in case, snake.

 Maybe I should go out and watch the sunrise. I might just do that.

I’m back in my cabin. So far I haven’t spotted any snakes. I have a cup of tea and a bowl of oats and fruit. I ate the rest of the delicious fries with the delicious tahini dip.

I think I might write a zine about my experience here and call it Snake In The Owl's Nest.

Recipe: Most Delicious Tahini Sauce

  • Tahini
  • Soy sauce
  • Garlic, clove, chopped
  • Squeeze 1/4 lemon
  • Water
  • Cumin

Mix mix mix, it thins, then thickens again. Enjoy…it is sooooo good. It makes an excellent salad dressing, also an excellent French fry dip. Also a good topping for baked potatoes. Also, good to mix into tofu salad or chickpea salad. I am going to need to go out and get more tahini before my two weeks are up, that is for sure. I cannot get enough of this sauce.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Wildacres, 2017, Day 2

Day 2: October 3, 2017

The sunrise here on the main campus is beautiful, looking out from the porch outside the library (my picture doesn't nearly capture it) but I was anxious to get back to the cabin. I read that snakes don't "hear", but they feel vibrations on the ground with their body, so when I got back to the cabin I stomped around, letting the snake know I was there. I read that ring necked snakes are non aggressive and shy, so maybe knowing I was back would keep it away.

Also, Allen, head of maintenance, had come over early that morning and patched the cracks in the stone fireplace with concrete. He also sealed some holes under the kitchen sink and in the bathroom: he knew where this snake was getting in. In fact, I read in the log book that the person before me had seen three snakes: one small one under the writing desk, another small on in the bathroom while exiting the shower, and the big one I saw in the fireplace. Eek.

To try to make myself feel more at home in the cabin, I decided to cook. I roasted some potatoes and made a tahini dipping sauce (tahini, garlic, lemon juice, soy sauce) which was so delicious. I also planned out some possible meals for the rest of the week, even though meals are provided at Wildacres. These were ones I planned:

  • Taco salad (beans, greens, salsa)
  • Tacos: kale, cashew cheese, salsa, beans or tofu salad
  • Peanut butter tempeh
  • Red lentil berbere
  • French fries…that tempeh sauce was amazing
  • Stuffed sweet potatoes
  • Baked potato with cashew cheese and salsa
  • Mashed potatoes with onion, mushrooms, greens and salsa
  • Chickpea salad

For breakfast: Oats with nutmilk and fruit, which I am eating right now. Snacks are rice cakes, tofu and other salads, fruit, tacos, steamed kale.

I'm having trouble figuring out what I want to work on while here. I applied with the idea that I would work on my memoir, which I began here last year, but I haven't felt like pulling that out. So far, I've been working on "I remember" essays, then taking a memory and expanding it.

Currently I am working on two essays: one about training for and running the Cleveland Marathon in 2007, one about getting to my first day of second grade at a new school, and having to admit I didn't notice my bus number. I am trying to make them super funny, because I am applying for The Humorist In Residence at the Erma Bombeck's Writer's Workshop: A Hotel Room of One's Own. The application is due in three days and I have to send in a funny essay. 

I am sleeping in the lodge again tonight. I can't bring myself to overcome my fears and stay in this cabin, though during the day I really love it here, especially sitting out on the porch and watching the gray squirrels leap from tree to tree with acorns in their mouths.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Wildacres 2017, Day 1: A Snake In the Owl's Nest

October 2, 2017

The drive to North Carolina from Pittsburgh was uneventful. I listened in full to the Heidi Chronicles, and almost all of Someday, Someday Maybe by Lauren Graham. I tried Yes, Please by Amy Poehler, which I have read before, and Restaurant At the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams, but only got an hour into each. Tried Aziz and Colbert and didn’t last 5 minutes. I can't listen to Colbert from the Colbert Report anymore: it's not funny now with our current administration. I'm really looking forward to the next two weeks in the woods, for my writing residency at Wildacres Retreat in the blue Ridge Mountains.

I arrived at 3pm, but the other cabin dwellers had somehow already checked in (though the time they gave us was 3pm). I received my cabin assignment: Owl’s Nest, the much older, more rustic cabin. Stone fireplace (no longer working), Lincoln Log style cabin, built at least in the 1950s, if not earlier. It looks like a pioneer type cabin. It was musty inside (I learned later no one was in this cabin last week). I opened some windows.

Hungry, I made some toast and steamed kale for tacos, but soon realized I’d forgotten the guacamole, which was disappointing. Still: (homemade vegan cashew) cheese, salsa, black beans and kale made good tacos. I read the cabin's log book and my heart began beating wildly when I read about the snake that resides IN this cabin. A ring necked snake.

Then I saw the snake, slithering in the fireplace.

Why didn’t Slitherin, in Harry Potter, have actual snakes slithering around their common room? Maybe they did, we never really got to hang out in there. Now I know what it would feel like sitting in their common room: terrifying. I watched the snake disappear in a crack in the stones. Hands shaking, I made some calming tea. I honestly don’t know if I can make it thorough this residency.

Sitting at the writing desk, as I am now, I have my back to the slithering fireplace, which is deeply unsettling. Maybe I am a city girl after all.

I told the staff about the snake, and one after another they looked at me blankly, gaslighting me a bit, until I started to feel: Am I being crazy here? Finally the manager, Dave, offered to give me a room in the lodge for the night, so I wouldn't have to sleep in the cabin. The snake, I learned, was nocturnal, and as I saw, was adept at slithering up walls; I couldn't stop thinking about it crawling up the wall behind my bed, or even in my bed.

When I mentioned this to Dave he said, "No, it probably won't, but it could. Why don't you sleep in the lodge tonight." I agreed and his wife, Sherry, asked if I wanted anyone to go with me to get my stuff. At least these people were taking it seriously! I declined, went back to the cabin and grabbed some things: tooth stuff, nightgown, tomorrow's clothes, my notebook and computer, some art supplies and paper, and Bird By Bird, by Anne Lamotte, which I've read before but which was great to re-read during this residency. 

I slept well that night, falling easily to sleep while listening to the songwriters - who were also there that week - jam in the living room down the hall.


List of audiobooks I downloaded from the library onto Overdrive, and listened to over my two weeks, mostly while driving:

  • Someday, Someday Maybe by Lauren Graham
  • Talking As Fast As I Can by Lauren Graham
  • Princess Diarist, Carrie Fisher
  • Restaurant At The End Of The Universe, Douglas Adams
  • Still Foolin Em, Billy Crystal
  • The Heidi Chronicles, Wendy Wasserstein
  • The Sisters Rosenweig, Wendy Wasserstein
  • Yes, Please, Amy Poehler

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Game Night and Song List

Dave and I had a game night last night (which I called "Vegan Game Night" because we got a vegan pizza from Spak Brothers).

We played Scrabble without keeping score (or else the game takes soooooo long, everyone (me) trying to find the very best possible word with the most possible points...) and made up a new game, in which I played a song from youtube, and then Dave would choose the "next logical song" and I would choose the next, and so on.

After a bit of a rocky start where Dave couldn't quite get into it (because I started with Adam Ant, and then chose the next song, and then came back to Adam And based on a word he played in Scrabble: Qua ... I mean, there is one prominent song featuring that word - Da Diddly Qua Qua, how could I NOT go there!) it went very well.

Here is our playlist:

  • Rancheros, Adam And The Ants
  • Medicine Show, Big Audio Dynamite
  • Stand and Deliver, Adam And The Ants (after Dave played "Qua" in Scrabble, see above)
  • Oo De Lally from Robin Hood (??? He was not into the game yet and just wanted "a Robin Hood song" to go next.)
  • Dirty Old Town, The Pogues (Dave's pick)
  • Our Town, Iris Dement
  • Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me, George Michael and Elton John
  • I Won't Let The Sun Go Down On Me, Nik Kershaw
  • Safety Dance, Men Without Hats (there was a MayPole in the Kershaw video)
  • Blister In The Sun, Violent Femmes (which Dave madly disagreed with, but I chose because it was a song one might slam dance to...and Safety Dance was sort of an anti-slam dance anthem, I think.)
  • Walk Like an Egyptian, The Bengles
  • I Know What Boys Like, The Waitresses
  • I Want Candy, Bow Wow Wow
  • Candy Everybody Wants, 10,000 Maniacs
  • Give A Little Bit, Supertramp
  • I Honestly Love You, Olivia Newton John
  • Love is All We Need, The Beatles
  • Turn Turn Turn, The Byrds
  • Heaven Is A Place On Earth, Belinda Carlisle
  • Shadow Dancing, Andy Gibb
  • Dancing With Myself, Billy Idol
  • Gonna Make You Sweat, C and C Music Factory
  • Rhythm of the Night, DeBarge
  • Conga, Miami Sound Machine
Not every song I chose was a song I particularly love (though most were), but what can I say? We are children of the 80s! 

Da Diddly Qua Qua,

~ Melissa

Friday, September 1, 2017

Vegan In Frederick, MD: Glory Doughnuts!

In August for my birthday we camped on Chincoteague Island, VA. We saw the wild horses on Assateague Island (in the distance, we were in the VA side...the MD side is where they come up to you on the beach begging for food), got eaten by mosquitoes, got locked out of our car when the alarm went off and I panicked, enjoyed delicious food and gorgeous birds like great blue herons and egrets, but sadly, we did not see any Perseid Meteors, as the sky was full of clouds and rain.

On the way to the Island, we stopped for breakfast at Glory Doughnuts in Frederick, MD. It was FANTASTIC! Luckily it was a weekday so we were able to get a seat inside the small restaurant (we swung by on our way home but on a Sunday the line was intimidating!)

Dave got the "Baker's Breakfast": fried "egg" (tofu), home fries and toast, and Ella and I enjoyed the Huevos Rancheros, which was similar with the tofu and potatoes, but ours was on a tortilla with guacamole. Very delicious.

We also got four glorious donuts, which we ate in celebration of my birthday that evening and the next morning.

We are so happy we stumbled on this place! We met a couple from the South (I can't remember where!!) on their way home who also happened upon it, and they were so glad as well. The wife had gone plant-based (vegan) after watching What The Health (a great movie! can watch on Netflix.)

So if you find yourself in or passing by Frederick, MD and you need a great place to eat, we definitely recommend Glory Doughnuts!

~ Melissa

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Spiritual Art of Memoir

I just returned from a workshop at Yogaville, an ashram in Virginia called The Spiritual Art of Memoir, led by Joan Borysenko.

We discussed the invisible thread of grace that runs through memoirs. For example, spiritual awakening was the invisible thread running through Mark Matousek's memoir Sex, Death, and Enlightenment, while search for love and transformation of self was the invisible thread running through Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love. (Someone also mentioned resilience and the kindness of strangers for that book.)

Joan urged us all to take the VIA Character Strengths Test, (which is free to take) and my top five qualities were:
  • Fairness (which I take to mean seeing the inherent worth of every person no matter their race, religion, ability, economic status, etc.)
  • Curiosity
  • Social Intelligence (Empathy)
  • Kindness 
  • Love of Learning
She then urged us to think about how those characteristics were either inherent in is or perhaps they developed due to life circumstances.

 The crux of the class was an exercise where we pictured our life as a river in which there are:

  • rapids: places where we move forward
  • rich deltas: the soil is rich, slow waters, things are growing and healing
  • whirlpools: trauma, getting stuck
  • crystal pools: rest a while, sweet time, rest and renewal
  • narrow places: where life feels squeezed
  • marooned - thrown out of the river completely
She also asked us to split our lives up into 7 year increments and think of/write down:
  1. the most important stories of the time
  2. what strengths did we use or develop, what insights or wisdom
  3.  emotions
  4.  main characters: angels, mentors, sacred enemies
  5. choice points: path changes: when we made a decision which changed the path

 They handed out paper, crayons and colored pencils for us to work on our rivers. I was not able to get into it too much in class, where we only had small chunks of time to write, but talking to and seeing what others had done inspired me, and I've been working on mine since getting home.

Then we briefly discussed ways to organize our memoirs: around whirlpools, characters, etc, and broke up into groups again to share any "aha" moments, which again was inspiring and helpful.

In addition to this wonderful workshop, I participated in ashram activities over the weekend: meditation, yoga, simple vegetarian meals, Satsang, ashram tour, everything was amazing. I can't wait to go back.

I need to thank Pittsburgh Greater Arts Council for the grant which gave me the opportunity to experience this amazing place and take this enriching workshop, which will definitely help me move out of the whirlpool I was stuck in with my memoir back into the rapids.

I will try to write another post about the Satchidananda Ashram. But for now, I will leave you with a picture of the LOTUS Shrine (Light of Truth Universal Shrine), where I meditated on Saturday: