Category Archives: Travel

Twenty Days of Happiness Part 16: That Time I Was On Wheel of Fortune

There’s a scene in A Muppet Family Christmas where Ernie and Burt (from Sesame Street) have a conversation with Doc (from Fraggles) and Ernie and Burt can’t help pointing out what letter every word begins with.  “Bunk beds: B words!” they say as Ernie chortles.  When Doc looks at them askance they explain, “Where we come from, this is small talk.”  My sister once said that the scene reminded her of our family — except that complaining, not letters, are our family’s small talk.  It’s not that we are unhappy people.  We just like to air our grievances.  But sometimes it’s good to air positive feelings too and that’s just what I plan to do.  In this 20-part series, I focus on the many reasons I have to be happy.

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Look Mom, We’re On TV!

At this time two years ago, I was working long hours at the Los Angeles office of a law firm that was in a downward spiral.  Objectively, I knew I was lucky to have a “good” job where I had many friends.  But the constant undercurrent of negativity that existed because of the firm’s precarious financial situation was still taking a toll.  In the evenings, I would put my son to bed and switch on the TV just as Wheel of Fortune came on.  I would call out letters and puzzle solutions and think to myself, “I could totally do this.”  I imagined winning big in the Bonus Round and using my winnings to fund a move back to the East Coast.

Finally, I visited the Wheel of Fortune website and filled in the contestant application.  A few months later, I got an email inviting me to an audition.  In small print, the email said that I was welcome to bring a friend along and audition as a team.  I invited my husband.  We called out letters, jumped up and down and clapped, then held our breath as the names of those who made it to the final round of auditions were announced.  We made the cut and had the chance to play a simulated game.  Again, we enunciated and smiled, but we failed to solve a single puzzle. Surely a bad sign?

Months passed.  One day as I was sitting in my office, I came to the decision that it was time to give notice and move back to the East Coast — with or without the benefit of game show winnings (and without my next job lined up). A few weeks later, the movers came and packed up our apartment.  My son and I took a cross-country flight while my husband and the dog made the long drive in our car.

We took time off.  We traveled.  We spent time with family. Eventually, I found a job in Boston and we moved again.  We found a great apartment.  My job was interesting.  My son and husband were happy. Life was good.

Then, just before Christmas, I checked my voice-mail and heard the familiar click, click, click of the big wheel.  “Hi, this is Gary from Wheel of Fortune.  Please give me a call back.” For the next hour, I debated whether the message was an elaborate scam to obtain my personal information.  Surely, it couldn’t actually be a legitimate call from The Wheel of Fortune after all this time. But, in the end, my curiosity won out.

And that is how – last month – my husband and I found ourselves on a plane headed back to L.A. for the first time in more than a year.

Our episode airs this Monday, February 15.

To Be Continued . . .

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Vegan Mofo 4: All Aboard the Mickey Ship – Part 2 of 2

I’m somehow not on the official blog roll for this year’s Vegan MoFo.  I suppose I should have confirmed my registration was successful sooner than 9 days into MoFo.  Live and learn, it seems.  Though I’m disappointed not to be an official participant, I’m going ahead with blogging this month anyway. 

We’re in a transition period here in the Veggie Lawyer household following my decision to quit my job and move 3,000 miles to be closer to family.  In keeping with our life situation, the theme I have chosen for the month is “Try Something New.”  I’ll be trying new foods, doing new things and making recipes for the first time.  Then, I’ll blog them here.

Vegan Eats on the Disney Wonder

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(Glacier Cocktail)

This is the final installment in my 2 part review of our Alaskan Cruise aboard the Disney Wonder.  In part 1, I reviewed the trip from a parent-with-toddler perspective.  In part 2, I’ll focus on what we ate.

Our decision to sail with DCL was a last-minute one.  After completing our cross-country move, we planned to travel abroad (which fortunately meant that we had acquired a passport for my son).  About 3 weeks before the September 1 sail date for the last Alaska Cruise of the season, we decided to book a Disney Cruise instead.  We were lucky enough to book the last available cabin on the ship.

At the time of booking, the customer service agent asked about special dietary needs.   I was offered the option of discussing our diet with someone at DCL before our embarkation date.  I elected not to do so.  (I understand that vegan desserts, vegan pancakes, etc., can be arranged if you choose to request them ahead of time.  There isn’t any extra cost for this service).  The reservation agent did make a note about our diet.

Information about DCL’s rotational dining system is readily available all over the internet, so I won’t get into it here.  I will note that we were originally assigned to second seating, which begins at 8:15.  However, we requested to be wait-listed for main seating and then called every few days to check on our “position” on the wait-list. About 2 weeks before the cruise, we received an updated travel confirmation showing the earlier dining time.  I’m so glad that we were squeaky wheels, because I cannot imagine trying to sit through a late dinner with an exhausted toddler.

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(Special Kids Veggie Burger for my son.  That’s dairy cheese, in case you were wondering. Sorry if anyone is offended.)

From the first minutes aboard the Wonder, DCL’s dining team did a great job of accommodating us.  Although our dining team offered to arrange for special meals for us (which need to be ordered the night before), we only used this option once to order a veggie burger for my son.  We found that there were generally no issues with ordering from the regular menu.  The dinner menu generally had at least 1 vegan soup or salad and 1 vegan entree.  There was also at least one additional vegetarian main dish and appetizer.  I found that it helped to ask questions about the menu because sometimes items that were vegetarian or vegan were not marked that way.  Our server did a great job of letting us know if we accidentally ordered something we couldn’t eat or if there were menu items that could easily be modified by leaving something off.  I was very happy with the food quality and, in particular, with the wide-variety of meatless dishes available.  I wasn’t stuck with pasta every night like I would have been on some cruise lines.

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(Teriyaki Tofu)

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 (Poached Pear Salad)

 A Few Food Tips:

  • Soy milk is available by request in all dining locations and from room service.  Non-dairy ice cream is also sometimes available.
  • There are little packets of peanut butter available on the breakfast buffet if you’d like to add a little protein to your breakfast.  The buffet also had oatmeal, cream of wheat and cold cereal in boxes (so you can check the labels).  There was plenty of fruit, of course.
  • Salads generally come undressed, so it’s easy to substitute a vinaigrette for a cream-based dressing.
  • The honey topping on the dining room oatmeal is also added at the table.  Brown sugar and maple syrup are available as alternatives.
  • Pluto’s Dog House, on Deck 9, serves veggie burgers.  This location is open pretty much all the time, so there’s always a decent vegan meal available.
  • Sometimes it helps to be a little creative.  For example, at Tex Mex day at the buffet, there weren’t any veggie filling options at the taco station. However, I ordered tacos with guac, salsa and jalapenos and then added beans and veggies from the salad bar.

 

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(Black Bean Chipotle Cakes)

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Vegan Mofo 3: All Aboard the Mickey Ship – Part 1 of 2

I’m somehow not on the official blog roll for this year’s Vegan MoFo.  I suppose I should have confirmed my registration was successful sooner than 9 days into MoFo.  Live and learn, it seems.  Though I’m disappointed not to be an official participant, I’m going ahead with blogging this month anyway. 

We’re in a transition period here in the Veggie Lawyer household following my decision to quit my job and move 3,000 miles to be closer to family.  In keeping with our life situation, the theme I have chosen for the month is “Try Something New.”  I’ll be trying new foods, doing new things and making recipes for the first time.  Then, I’ll blog them here.

Alaska With a Toddler

If you’ve been following my MoFo posts, you know that my husband and I recently wimped out on taking an Eastern European trip with our toddler and decided instead to take a Disney Cruise to Alaska.  Since this is the Vegan Month of Food, I intend to do an entire post about eating vegan on Disney Cruise Line.  (As a spoiler, it’s easily doable and the food exceeded my expectations).  But first, I’d like to talk a little bit about taking a toddler on a Disney Cruise and, in particular, an Alaskan Disney Cruise.

There are some people who believe you shouldn’t take kids on vacation until their old enough to “remember the experience,”  whatever that means.  I do not belong to that camp.  I went on family vacations every year from the time I was a newborn until I was about 16.  At best, I remember bits and pieces of each trip — and that includes trips I took as a teen.  In lieu of detailed memories, I have general happy feelings about the opportunities I had to experience new places and I believe that travel was one of the things that shaped me into a person who is curious about the world.  The litmus test that we use for deciding whether to take a trip with our son is not, “what will he remember,” but rather, “what will we all enjoy.”  I think that DCL and the Alaska itinerary pass this test, provided that you travel with the understanding that a toddler cannot do many of the more adventurous activities Alaska has to offer.

A few tips about life on the ship

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  • Kid’s Club: The kids club does not accept children unless they are potty-trained.  However, there are Open House hours offered every day where parents can take their kids to play in the club.  My son loved the kids club and enjoyed playing there for a few hours over the course of the trip.
  • Pool:  The Disney Wonder does not have a pool for children in swim diapers.  However, there is a water play area reserved solely for the swim diaper crowd.  It had fountains and sprinklers, but no place to submerge yourself and swim.  In the Caribbean, my son would have loved this area.  In Alaska, he still enjoyed it, but he was blue in the face after about a 10 minute splash session.
  • Entertainment: There were plenty of entertainment options open to the whole family including live music, parties, stage shows and movies.  My son enjoyed dancing to live music after dinner every night, the character parties and some of the shows.  We made sure to get aisle seats whenever we went to the theater, because he would often ask to leave about 30 minutes into the show.  (The fact that the Cruise Director gave a long speech before each show certainly didn’t help since it ate up precious minutes of our son’s brief attention span).  Be warned that kids who don’t like the dark or loud noises may not enjoy the shows.
  • Supplies:  Diapers, wipes and other baby essentials are on sale in the gift shops on the ship.  We stocked up in Vancouver, so I did not have occasion to check out the variety or price of items offered on board.
  • Sleeping:  You can call ahead to request bed rails for the pull-out couch.  We did and the rails were waiting for us in our room the first day.  Our cabin attendant set them up each night and our son was able to sleep in his own bed without fear of falling.  (Pack and plays are available for smaller kids).
  • The “Disney” Aspect:  My son is generally pretty shy, but he warmed up to Mickey and friends right away.  The ship offered both organized times to interact with the characters and the chance to bump into them here and there.  Being able to give Mickey a hug after dinner and then go to bed watching a Mickey cartoon was a real trip highlight for our son.  I’m pleasantly surprised that he doesn’t demand Mickey cartoons at bedtime now that we are home.

A few thoughts on activities in port

We mostly avoided organized tours because moving at our son’s pace was key to keeping him happy.  Instead, I bought a book on Inside Passage walking tours and we explored on our own, sometimes with the aid of local shuttles to get us to far flung destinations.  (The exception was Skagway, where we did a gold panning trip in the morning and then toured on our own in the afternoon).  We brought along his stroller for napping on the go, which allowed my husband and I to keep exploring even after my son passed out from too much fun.

We hope to make it back to Alaska when my son is older so that we can experience more sights and meet more locals, like this guy we met at the Mendenhall Glacier:

 

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Or these guys and gals who stopped to say hi while on their way upstream to spawn in Ketchikan:

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Even a vegan can enjoy (watching) Wild Alaskan Salmon!

 

 

 

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Vegan Mofo 1: Vegan Eats in Vancouver

I’m somehow not on the official blog roll for this year’s Vegan MoFo.  I suppose I should have confirmed my registration was successful sooner than 9 days into MoFo.  Live and learn, it seems.  Though I’m disappointed not to be an official participant, I’m going ahead with blogging this month anyway. 

We’re in a transition period here in the Veggie Lawyer household following my decision to quit my job and move 3,000 miles to be closer to family.  In keeping with our life situation, the theme I have chosen for the month is “Try Something New.”  I’ll be trying new foods, doing new things and making recipes for the first time.  Then, I’ll blog them here.

2 Days in Vancouver

At 2 a.m. this morning, my husband, son and I returned from a 9 day trip to Canada and Alaska.  Our original plan had been to travel in Eastern Europe, but my husband wimped out due to the current instability in Ukraine (which was not on the list of countries we planned to visit).  To placate me, he agreed to go on a Disney Cruise to Alaska. Since the ship departed from Vancouver, we arrived 2 days early to explore the town.

This was my first visit to Vancouver and I loved it.  It has the beautiful scenery and laid-back vibe that encapsulate what I love about the Pacific Northwest.  As a bonus, I found it relatively easy to find things to eat.

On our first night in town, we had dinner at Chill Winston in Gastown.  Chill Winston is not vegan, but they do have a few vegan items on the menu.  We enjoyed a relaxing time sipping cocktails and people watching on the patio while my son snoozed in his stroller.   (We attempted to wake him for dinner, but he loudly demanded to be returned to the stroller).  Because I’m  a lover of gin, I started with the War in Heaven, which featured cucumber-infused gin.  I like the flavor of the drink, but didn’t love the cucumber seeds floating in it.

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For dinner, I had a lovely coconut curry.  Based upon the menu description, I was expecting a Thai-style curry, but the flavors of the dish were definitely more Indian.

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On our second day in town, we explored Stanley Park.

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For dinner, we headed to Graze, an all vegan joint.  I had mixed feelings about our experience.  I thought the appetizer (the Antipasti Board) was a little lacking in the flavor department. (The antipasti spread included 2 types of cheese, pickles, pears, not-very-smokey smoked tofu and bruschetta topping).

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I did enjoy my main (the Paella) .

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The cocktail I ordered (I think it was the Spectrum) was the highlight for me – so yummy.  Unfortunately, the portions were huge and I didn’t have room to try dessert.  My husband pronounced the meal “just okay.”  I think we are spoiled having enjoyed so many great vegan restaurants in L.A. because the local Vancouver diners seemed to be loving this place.

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