Eating Vegan in San Fran!

During our one-week trip to California, we only spent two beautiful, glorious days in the big city of San Francisco. San Fran has always been known for its activism, openness, and emphasis on love and equality, coupled with its stunning natural beauty and penchant for the unique. From block-to-block, there’s no city in the world quite like it.

We knew we’d be spending a few short days in the city, so Terry had been amping me up about the gourmet vegan food world captivated within many of San Fran’s distinctive districts. We walked around the gorgeously forested Golden Gate Park, dotted with wild buffalo, museums, ice cream stands and winding storybook creeks and rivers.

Our first food stop was La Méditeranée in the Fillmore District, a family-owned Mediterranean restaurant that served up old-school Turkish coffee, homemade Baklava, and a full vegan menu. Open since the 70’s, the place was small, quaint and warm, with a flurry of friendly waitresses guiding us through the menu and to our table.

The waitress steered me toward the veganized Mediterrean plate, a standard hodgepodge of plant-based mid-east dishes. It featured grape-leaf Dolmas, baba gounesh, hummus, olives, mixed greens, and homemade falafel. The food was just as incredible as the atmosphere and service – straight-up perfect.

The next day we drove around the bright, rainbow-adorned Castro Dstrict and stepped through an alley of wall art, one of my favorite things to discover in a new city. Gigantic faces boldly declaring equality, unity, peace and love decorated every wall as we wound our way down the street and stepped out into the Mission District.

My friend was ecstatic to take us to Gracias Madre, an artsy tavern serving up organic, locally-sourced vegan Mexican dishes (say whaaaaat!). I was stoked to discover that they served a HORCHATA LATTE, two of my favorite things combined in one.

I was so in love with my mole enchiladas stuffed with potato and zucchini, black beans and kale that I could barely contain myself in public. My boyfriend also got cashew cheese nachos, which we’re definitely made and fried in-house. It’s been a few days and I am still super obsessed with this place!

I also grabbed some vegan ginger snap cookies from Hot Cookies, a quaint little cookie shop in the Castro District. We stopped there after a few drinks and a lot of dancing, and sadly, I forgot to take a picture.

I ate a quick, healthy breakfast at the hotel. After adventuring around the city, we drove through the Pacheco Pass, a long and windy northern California road that cuts through the region’s abundant farmlands. We stopped at a fruit stand to grab avocados, oranges, pickled garlic, eggplant and asparagus to grill at T’s mom’s house in Merced, our final destination. The prices were rock-bottom, and the fresh fruit was top-notch.

We spent the night in the quaint town of Merced, and woke up to an impressive spread of fresh fruit and locally baked bread laid out by T’s mom. I filled up on freshness and grabbed some snacks for the road back to Santa Cruz.

The last meal of our adventure was on the plane to Hawaii, after a long day of traveling. We took a bus from Santa Cruz to San Jose, then the BART to San Fran, an air train to SFO Airport, sprinted to our gate to catch a flight to LAX, then sprinted from our arrival in LAX to our plane departing to Honolulu.

It broke all my traveling rules – we didn’t stock up on enough snacks, we didn’t eat before getting on the plane, we didn’t drink enough water. We were starving, grumpy and lethargic on the plane, and decided to cave in and purchase food. I was stoked to find an all-vegan, non-GMO Tapas box from Delta. It was packed with gluten-free seeded crackers, quinoa and red pepper dip, hummus, almonds, organic dark chocolate, a lemon fig bar, and more. It was surprisingly cheap, filling and satisfying, and I was happy to vote with my dollars to keep the option around.

All in all, it was a busy and fulfilling trip that totally re-stoked my love for vegan food and rekindled my dedication to living a life of kindness. Thanks much, San Fran!

5 Keys to Happy, Healthy Travel

Whether your flight is early, late, short or long, it takes a lot out of us. Every time i see a plane land at the airport, it unleashes a hoard of tired, hungry, cranky, and dehydrated zombie-like humans that look effing miserable. If you’re trying to sustain a healthy lifestyle, flying can be even more daunting.

I’ve done my fair share of travel, and standby travel at that – so I’ve learned a lot of lessons the hard way. These 5 steps are easy, cheap, and help you stay happy and healthy no matter where you’re headed to.

1. BYOB

I know this one seems obvious, but it’s sooo easy to forget to byob when it’s 5am and you’re headed to the airport. Plus, airlines seem to barely even hand out water these days. I bring a full water and chug it on the way through security, then fill it back up and sip on that sizzard throughout the flight.

2. Bring Electrolytes

Not only do I bring a water bottle, I also bring an empty shaker bottle with an electrolyte packet to drink. Depending on how long the flight is, you might want to bring more than one. My personal rule is one packet per 5 hours of flight.

3. Snacks on SNACKS

Back in the good ole days, the airlines used to feed you. While they’re forced to feed you on international flights, you’re lucky if you get more than a packet of five mini-pretzels and 4 oz of water flying domestic. So, I keep myself stacked with items that won’t get taken away at security. My faves are fruits, veggies, hummus packs, Lara bars, protein packets, and nuts. I would not recommend bringing any nut butter – mine always gets taken away. Sad.

4. Melatonin is LIFE

I used to have the hardest time sleeping on planes, but was scared to take any sleep aid because most of them give me terrifying nightmares. Which, naturally, I don’t want to experience in the air.

However, personally, melatonin is my bestie during times of travel. On a 12-hour flight to china, I spaced them out so nicely that I slept for eight beautiful hours straight. For long flights, I like to take two 3-5mg tablets at first, and then take 1 every 4 or 5 hours as the flight goes on.

5. Bring a Book/Journal/Planner

I’m not sure why, but traveling – even en route – brings about a lot of clarity. There’s been many, many times when my electronics die or I’ve exhausted my playlists or the movie selection is lame (or not free) and I’ve wished I brought a damn book. Flights are a great place to plan out your day/week/trip/life, or catch up on a great book. BRING IT ALL.

Travel Tuesday: Munich, Germany


I know I fall in love easily – but in Munich, Germany, I fell hard. By the end of my first day in this sprawling, clean-cut, surprisingly green city, I was googling jobs and housing prices because I was about 80% ready to move there. It really was that damn cool.

As a German myself, I felt like Munich captured all of my favorite things and activities in one beautiful, well-planned city. Here’s a few of my favorite Munich things….

The Trails

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I loved Munich’s spider-web system of forested parks, tucked into every available nook, cranny and corner throughout the European/art/industrial-style city.

I went on a 7 mile run through the Oktoberfest grounds and found path upon path that crossed a city street and led me into a suspiciously forest-like trail to yet another city street and yet another forested trail and felt like I could just run to my heart’s content.

 

 

The Bikes


It was wonderful that a big and busy city like Munich had, on every single street, lanes for cars, a lane for bikes, and a lane for walkers and joggers. That’s the other thing I loved – the bikes. People rode bikes everywhere and to seemingly every type of thing. I saw people lugging groceries home from the farmer’s market, in heels and crisp office attire and suits casually riding home with friends. I saw baskets packed with baguettes and wine, stopped in the park for an impromptu picnic.

The Beer Gardens 

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These very magical things called Beer Gardens are so cool, and so, so German. They’re outdoor bars with big, wooden tables and benches tucked into large, gorgeous parks. Some serve gigantic portions of beer and homemade pretzels (yes, please!) while others offer German ice cream, donuts, or a full dinner spread. The gardens were packed with tourists and locals alike, and everyone seemed so settled and relaxed. It’s been a dream of mine to down a glass of beer bigger than my face in the middle of a beautiful park, and alas, it has come true. Thank you, München!

The Surfing

YES, you read that right.

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People surf – yes, with a surfboard and wetsuit and everything – on the river that winds its way through the city. It seemed that the river mouth at this particular nook of the park created an artificial wave, which could be hopped on and ridden with a surfboard. We walked past it without realizing what it was, and were drawn by the crowds of onlookers and very out-of-place gang of barefoot teenage boys, surfboards in hand, that flocked off the bus.

When I saw the surfing, I totally freaked out. This is when the google research for my future relocated to Munich began. Biking, running, surfing, garden-beer-drinking – what more could a girl want? I mean, really?


The food was equally amazing, but will have to wait for another post, because I have too much excitement and way too many pictures.

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Travel Tuesday: Kohalpur, Nepal


A short month ago, I embarked on my first faith-based mission trip to rural Nepal. I flew from Honolulu, Hawaii to Los Angeles, California, to spend a half-day with my family and meet the rest of the crew I’d be working with. A lot of my team I already knew, though – my aunt and two cousins, whom I adore and keep in touch with anyways. I’d met everyone else briefly through our zoom trainings and was thrilled to match the online personas to the people in real life.


Since I had only about 10 hours to visit with my mom, brother and sister, my dad, an airline pilot, breezed through international security and hung out with us at the gate before we boarded a brutal 14-hour flight to Guangzhou, China. After Guangzhou, we’d hop on a five-hour flight to Khatmandu, Nepal’s bustling capital, and take a short and rickety flight to Kohalpur, where we’d be staying throughout our trip.


Flights are pretty brutal, and 14 hours is even tougher. Thankfully, I packed plenty of melatonin, vegan protein bars and protein shakes, along with some small kine snacks. I downed some melatonin and magically slept almost the entire flight.


As you can imagine, we were all jetlagged, grumpy, groggy and gross by the time we finally made it to our quaint little hotel in Kohalpur’s busy center. Kohalpur is a small, third world city, nestled amongst a jigsaw of smaller towns and farmlands. I’d already fallen in love with Nepali food thanks to the wonderful Himalayan Kitchen in Honolulu, and I got to rekindle and deepen that love with our first beautiful meal at the hotel. I knew that I’d be spoiled rotten with gorgeous breads, curries and rice throughout our trip, which I loved.


Each day, we launched from the hotel and ventured out into our various villages, which I’ll get into on the next post 🙂 This was such an overwhelming, humbling, healing, and once-in-a-lifetime experience that I’m thrilled to share 🙂

Happy travels,

Nicole

Finding My Path & Purpose

 

Life has been a blur these days. If you haven’t noticed, my posts have been few and far between, yet so much life has happened between the cracks. I’ve quit my dream job as a Development Coordinator at a non-profit, and started my own business with my boyfriend. I went to Germany with my family, embarked on my first faith-based mission trip to Nepal, and have gone vegan. I’ve changed up my life, and every step has been for the better.

Going to Nepal absolutely deserves its own post – if not several – but I will say this: it was incredibly humbling and healing. My faith and relationship with God have deepened and strengthened, and I felt my head clear and my heart open to the path and purpose God intends for me. Part of that includes having confidence in my business endeavors and the abilities I’ve been gifted, and cultivated in the professional sphere.


Another part of my deepened faith is a recommitment to veganism. In working to make a positive impact in Nepal, I had a difficult time coming back to normal life in Hawaii and working for myself. I wanted to keep working for good and for God, and reducing the harm I contribute to is one way to do so.


My goal in this life is to do as much good and as little harm as a I can, to people, the planet, and other creatures alike. That includes treating others with kindness and patience, and understating where their hurt comes from. This love for other people – even strangers, far away, and very different from myself – is what’s continued to drive me to recommit to a plant-based diet. For the animals, yes, but also for the people living in communities polluted by animal agriculture, those working under harsh conditions in factory farms, etc. We all spend our time and thoughts searching for our purpose. While mine isn’t completely crystal clear, I know I’m meant to do good in any way I can. Right now, and through the rest of my days.

To more posts and positivity,

Nicole ❤


It’s been a few years since I’ve set foot in Europe, after a few beautiful trips to Belgium, France, Italy & Prague. I absolutely adore everything about Europe. The cobblestone streets, the crisp air, brick and mortar bridges, towering castles and bustling cities. On some lucky nights I drift off and dream im wandering down a century old street sipping an espresso and immersing myself in the rich and wide ranging language sand cultures.


This week, my family and I hopped on a cramped flight to Detroit and flew standby to Munich, Germany. By some magical trick of luck, we not only made it there on our first attempt, but my mom, sister and I landed the last three seats on the aircraft. Which, even luckier, happened to be in first class.


My life has changed so much since my last European adventure, and it was incredible to venture that way again in such over the top luck and luxury. 


What was also awesome was the breadth of vegan options in first class. Along with my champagne, I dined on a fresh greens salad, a mix of warm nuts, and summer squash, tomato and vidalia onion tart. For dessert, they didn’t have much, but they did have fresh fruit and fig compote – sans the selection of fine cheeses – and poof! Vegan dessert, y’all.


ALSO, breakfast. BREAKFAST! 
I was a vegetarian on my previous rendezvous across the continent, so I’m excited to see what Germany and Prague have in store for me as a vegan. 
I’m blessed, thankful and beyond lucky to be on this magical trip. Travel brings out the best in all of us, and so much truth, peace and clarity.
Happy travels!

Nikki

Mission to Nepal!

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There are the years that ask questions, and the years that answer.

For me, this past year has been comprised of tremendous growth and realization. A year where the struggles and challenges I’ve worked through in the past revealed themselves as hard-earned lessons I needed to learn. Blessings, even.

You know how you get on a health kick and workout and eat well for weeks, but never see the results? And just when you’re about to give up, you wake up one morning and your clothes are looser, you look fabulous and feel amazing? That day when you look in the mirror and tell yourself, I am so glad I kept at it and never gave up.

THAT exact feeling is what this last year has been for me. I’ve grown so  much in faith, courage, confidence and strength. I have the courage to love fully and the humility to forgive. I have the faith to chase after my dreams and the resilience to fight through the challenges that come my way.

It’s crazy how being broken down is the only way to build yourself stronger, wiser, and greater. It’s necessary, it’s normal nd it’s healthy; so much that I’m grateful and thankful for everything I’ve gone through.

My faith and passion for helping others has encouraged me to go farther. Give deeper. Go beyond just kindness and do something real to help others a world away.

I’ve decided to go to rural, southern Nepal in late July 2017 to help do important service work and spread God’s word and love. It’s something I’ve always wanted, but never thought I’d actually go for. I firmly believe so much in sharing the power of faith and belief to everyone I know, and helping them reach their fullest potential as individuals, a people, and as a community.

I’m reaching out to my blogging family to help fund my mission to Nepal! It’s my first-ever mission and I’m eternally grateful and excited for the opportunity to do this with my cousins and godparents. Even the smallest gift is truly appreciated and will go towards making a difference. Thanks much!

https://www.gofundme.com/at-mission-trip-to-rural-nepal

Marine Corps Marathon – Part 2!


I woke up the morning of my second Marine Corps Marathon well rested, hungry, and a teensy bit nervous. I had only gotten about two-thirds of the way through my training plan, I hadn’t gotten over 16 miles on my long runs, and I hadn’t ran much in the past few months. Soccer games and hikes? Yes, ma’am! Running, though? Not so much.


I was so antsy and anxious at the start line the previous year, but this time around it was more like, meh – hopefully I finish without a major injury. My no-effs given mentality was totally freeing and, as it turned out, effective 🙂


I hung out with my dad in the VIP runner tent for about an hour. The tent had a glorious buffet of energy gels, Clif Bars, bagels, cream cheese, bananas, apples and coffee. As in normal life, I stuck to banana, half a bagel, and some coffee to hold me over till the start.

I made a friend at the bar the night before (pro tip: beer has electrolytes!) and we met up at the start line. We expected to be around the same pace, so we linked up and took off together. We stuck for the hilly first eight miles, but I wanted to go slower and he wanted to speed up. This wasn’t my first rodeo, and I’ve made the mistake of starting out too fast – no Bueno.


Despite my lack of training, the miles flew by quickly. The crowd was awesome as always, with especially riveting signs rooted in the craziness of the current election. There were rock and jazz bands, spectators in full costumes, and – best of ALL – a female firefighter running the entire marathon in her full gear. GIRL POWER, YEA!

I kept seeing my dad with his awesome sign at regular intervals, cheering me on and telling me I was getting close to the bridge. The bridge is the cutoff at mile 19, which you have to reach in four hours or else get kicked off the course and ride home on the loser bus with a drill sergeant. I’m not sure if that’s actually true, but my dad swears that’s the case 🙂


Finally, I got to the bridge. I was so excited that I ran up and hugged my dad and almost cried. I was DOING IT. Without fancy gear or trackers, without anyone to run with, and despite the fact that I had every excuse in the book to opt out or quit – here I was. Proudly pushing through.


The rest of the race I ran simply because I wanted to be DONE. I let myself walk for 30 seconds at every mile marker, and found myself weaving through a sea of walkers for the last 5 miles. I hit the wall – the biggest, baddest, meanest wall I’ve ever encountered – right at mile 25. Shit.

I’ve gotten lucky in that I’ve never really bonked. I’ve gotten tired, or bored, or was in pain, but I never got to the point where I felt like I couldn’t continue. That last mile felt like hell on earth. It was the longest and worst part of the entire thing.
By the time I rolled around to the VERY UPHILL finish line (who did that???) I was totally gassed. It was an immense accomplishment and relief to finish. Plus, I found out that I hit a PR – 5:15:05. HELL YEA!


I am so happy and blessed to participate in this kickass event for a great, wonderful cause that I wholeheartedly believe in.

I can’t wait till next year 🙂

OORAH!

Travel Tuesday: Mt. Olympus Hike


I expected to be writing a super cool post about my awesome travels around Europe with my family, which I would be getting back from just about now. Instead, I didn’t go anywhere – the Europe trip I’d been looking forward to all year became the Europe trip that wasn’t. My mom tore her Achilles tendon, my sister had knee surgery, and my dad injured his kneecap – all within a week. Apparently, this trip just was NOT meant to be.


Seriously, that really did happen. Don’t believe me? My sister sent me this of all of their boots chilling at home together in collective injured non-travelness.


Since I can’t travel, I decided to cram some extra adventure into my life on the island – in the form of beach time, hikes, and  a spontaneous trip up to North Shore. My favorite adventure, though, was a wet, cold, slippery hike up Waahila Ridge Trail to Oahu’s Mt. Olympus peak.


It was one of those hikes were everything went wrong; we left too late, picked the worst possible weather, and struggled to slip and slide up muddy slopes. Mt. Olympus usually offers stunning, panoramic views of Oahu’s south and east shorelines, but it was so cloudy we couldn’t see a damn thing. In fact, it felt as if we were walking on mist itself, the ridge breaking out just above the crown of the clouds.


It was freezing cold and we drudged through mud and sideways, slightly torrential rain. We got to almost the top and the rain picked up so much that we were climbing up a river and were forced to turn back. It was nearly impossible to grab onto the ropes, since they were slick with rain and wet and mud.


We left so late in the day that we walked back the last third of the ridge in the dark. I slipped and fell on my ass half a dozen times on slick tree roots that I couldn’t see because the sun had set and were out of light and luck.


Yet, somehow, it was insanely fun and memorable. How is it that the worst times are often remembered as the best?
  

Travel Tuesday: Stratford-Upon-Avon, England

Although I love writing and literature, I was wary about traveling to Shakespear’s iconic birthplace, Stratford-Upon-Avon. I pictured a cheesy tourist trap in the American sense, with tacky gift shops and crowded photo op’s. What we discovered after a gorgeous, idyllic drive from London to the (DIRECTION) was something entirely different.

Despite millions of visitors, Stratford-Upon-Avon hasn’t lost it’s unique, small-town charm. There’s cobble stone streets crammed with tea houses and shops, their awnings giving way to traditional apartments above. There’s rivers running through the heart of town, adorned with swans, wooden riverboats and framed by cobblestone bridges and riverside restaurants with water wheels.

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