Sunday, June 16, 2013

Are Veggies BIGGER in Texas?

Hey ya'll!  I just got back from a 5-day trip to San Antonio, TX.  Why?  Because the Miami Heat are in the Finals playing against the San Antonio Spurs, hoping to win the NBA Championship!  Last time I traveled for work to cover sports was in 2006 when the Heat played against the Dallas Mavericks -- & that was in Texas too!  So when you travel with 4 crews & a bunch of photographers & all their equipment... this is what your checked luggage looks like:

First stop for our liveshots on Local 10 was at the AT&T Center.  We may be on Spurs Turf but I got my Heat Pride in Sunny San Antonio!  Don't be fooled... we really did bring the Miami Heat with us... Highs in the upper 90's all week... scorcher!

In Texas, Trash-Talking is a Must!  I go head-to-head with a T-shirt vendor, supporting my man LeBron while he bleeds black & grey.  Obviously, we did not come to an agreement but we did make some good TV... AND I got to keep that LeBron head!  My photographer, Marcel SanPedro, is the best guy to be out-of-town on a work trip with, he knows how to handle the crazy... and me too!

Ok... let me provide full disclosure when I tell you that I grew up owning a horse, riding all the time & I spent summer vacations on a farm in Alabama with pigs, chicken, goats, turkeys, horses... and so on.  So I have been exposed to a bit of southern/country flavor... However I have never owned a genuine cowboy hat.  I still don't own this one, but I sure liked trying it on!  You think I could pull off this look in Miami?!  As long as I thrown in some feather & fringe boots right?!  Yee-Haw!

Ever since I saw the old cowboy movies and of course, Pee Wee's Big Adventure, I wanted to go see the Alamo.  But San Antonio was never very high on the vacation list, so it was perfect that I had to go there for work, because now I get to cross it off my bucket list!  Here's what you need to know:

1.  It's super small
2.  The inside is mostly empty
3.  There's a koi pond in the backyard
4.  #1 tourist site in all of Texas
5.  There is NOT a basement

Everybody told me I had to go to "Mi Tierra" to eat because of the celebration ambience and the true Tex-Mex cuisine.  The restaurant started with just 4 tables... today it seats 750 & it is probably the most popular & historical restaurant in all of San Antonio.

My favorite part about the place?  There's a vegetarian & gluten-free menu!  Ordering & eating Vegan was a breeze!  Veggie enchiladas (minus the cheese) & chips with refried beans.  No cow necessary when you can eat like this in a Mexican restaurant!

PiƱatas are everywhere along with Christmas Decorations!  I was working so I couldn't partake in the partying... but just soak in this fiesta flair... & you'll want to start downing margaritas & shooting tequila!
This place is open 24-7, 365 days a year.  In 80 years, they only closed once for 2 hours... to go to the owner's funeral... can you believe that?!

The next day we went to the historical Mercado & Market Square that has been in the exact same location since 1820.  After doing a San Antonio Spurs story, chatting with locals & doing some window shopping, it was time for lunch & the Texas menus did NOT disappoint!  I think these veggie enchiladas may have even beat the last order!  Check out the grilled vegetables... YUM!!!

One day we had to skip the authentic cuisine & visit the local Palm Restaurant, only because of time limitations & vegan necessities.  Now, normally I am not a fan of chain restaurants, but you can't ever go wrong with the Palm & they are always so accommodating with special diets!  This lunch was no different, as I feasted on fresh, diverse grilled vegetables & I even treated myself to some linguine :)  
No butter!  Only olive oil.

It took a bit of binging & googling... but I found a fully vegan/vegetarian restaurant called "The Cove" about a mile from our hotel.  Very granola & very strict with the healthy options - I loved it!  I got my order to go:
1.  Veggie Lentil Soup
2.  Portobello "Burger" with Cashew "Cheese"
3.  Sweet Potato Baked "Fries"

I think I have mentioned here before that I am not a sweets person & I definitely do not have a sweet tooth.  Having said that, when I saw "Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Vegan Cookie" in the dessert case... I felt the need to splurge!  I ate that cookie over the next 2 days & savored every scrumptious crumble... it was special!  But I still say Whole Foods has the BEST Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Vegan Cookie in the WORLD!

Now, while I was working my TV-tushy off, by running all over the Lone-star State & coming up with fresh, feature stories for all the different newscasts, my wonderful Mom & Dad were taking care of my 2 munchkins.  So, like any good dog-sitters, they would frequently send me photo updates & this one has to be my favorite by far!  My man Jagger is nestled in & cuddled up into my parent's dog, Bijou's leg!  Does it get any cuter than this?  Don't you just wish you could be that cute & just cuddle up like that!?  Doggy Heaven!

Even though it felt like forever... after 4 long days... we said goodbye to San Antonio & hello to South Florida.  It always feels sooooo good to come home & get back into your normal routine.  So I was quite happy to sleep for about 10 hours, wake up & juice some fresh, hydroponic, home-grown wheatgrass & then go hit up one of my favorite Orange Theory workout classes!

My lunch was easy-peasy!  Fresh steamed kale piled on top of veggie stew!  As my photog said, it's much easier to find vegan options in my fridge than on the streets of San Antonio!  True - can't argue with that - but somehow I always manage to squeeze out some sort of healthy option without having to settle for something fried or starchy or carb-overload!  What can I say?  It's a gift! ;)

So I went to lay outside & get some sun & work on my non-existent tan & I was reading my favorite Vegan magazine & I came across the statistic below!  Can you believe that 40% of ALL the food in the US ends up in the garbage??!!  We need to change that asap!  Make an effort this week to eat left-overs!  Try not to toss them, but instead incorporate any extra food into your next meal!  If we all do our part, we can make a difference!  I mean, how else are we going to keep feeding 7 billion people on this planet?  Come on Americans, we can do better than trashing nearly half of our food!  :(

On a lighter note... does life get any better than this?  Taking a deep breath of fresh ocean air while soaking up the sun on my friend's rooftop, overlooking the inter-coastal waterways in Fort Lauderdale may be the absolute best way to end a work trip!  Always good to recharge the batteries before you gotta set the alarm & get back to the grind.  But for now... let's all just breathe... eat more of our left-overs and always Remember the Alamo!  Bye Ya'll!!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Life Changes but Veggies stay the Same

What's better than a Sunday-Funday Brunch with your favorite girls?!  Not much, in my book!  My friends, Jenny & Dana, dropped into Miami this past weekend, visiting from NYC.  So my other BFF, Giselle, joined the group & we went to a cool new place in the Design District called, "Egg & Dart."  I was the only Vegan in this crowd so the other girls ordered fish & steak & chicken... but not ME!

This was my brunch menu choice - watermelon salad with strawberries, mixed greens & sunflower seeds.  Yummy & light - this was the perfect choice for me - & further proof that I can ALWAYS find something to eat on ANY Menu!  And I definitely was happiest with my order choice in the group :)

So then it was back to the grind & back to work on Monday :(
And I want to debunk the mysterious myths & answer the questions I am constantly asked:

1.  Is being on TV Glamorous? 
Sometimes... but on a daily basis... No.  See pic below of me trying to style my own hair on the ground outside a hospital in 90 degree weather & 90% humidity.

2.  Do you have people to do your hair & makeup?
Really?  That pic below didn't answer that clearly enough?!  Ha Ha I wish!  We are absolutely in charge of our own makeup & hair... so whether it's good, bad, or ugly... yours truly styled it!

3.  Is being on TV fun?
Yes!  I would always pick my office below (Live Truck) over a cubicle with fluorescent lighting & carpal tunnel.  And I especially love my job when I get to show my 3 year old nephew how cool it is!  What kid isn't dazzled by TV's, technology & electronics.  My little Kenji is still amazed that I am on his TV one minute & then at his house later.  I may have a little mini-me reporter in the works... Hmmmm... maybe this little munchkin can support me one day! $$$  I gotta get him started early... he's already bilingual!  One day this kid is going to take over the world... Watch out ;)

4.  Do you have a teleprompter all the time?  Do you just read what someone else writes?
Yes & No.  Traffic, Weather & Sports Anchors & News Reporters ad-lib EVERYTHING.  News Anchors have prompters, but they are responsible for every single script.  In other words, no matter who wrote it, (writer, reporter, producer, etc.) the anchor has final say & approval since they are the ones reading it.  Also, if there is breaking news, all bets are off & everyone is ad-libbing ALL the info.

5.  Do you get to cover cool stories?
Definitely!  This is me doing a story on teenage cheetahs growing up at Zoo Miami... does it get ANY cooler than this??  I am lucky enough to be the Animal Advocate at WPLG Local 10 in Miami, so I actually get to report on A LOT of awesome animal stories ALL the time!

But after a wild day at work, it's time to make dinner at home.  I usually eat-in on work days & eat-out on my days off.  I like doing that because it's easier to control what  goes in my body when I prepare food fresh at home.  I have no problem eating out & I love to be social but my kitchen definitely has healthier options!  This is a vegan stew my friend helped me make by just throwing in every vegetable possible and lots of tomatoes too!  It's sooooo easy to make (just simmer on the stove) & it's very filling so you won't be tempted to eat bread or chips or pasta with it! 

Ok so while I fend for myself... my younger brother (read: my dad's dog) is so ridiculously spoiled that he is served breakfast in bed!  That's right... this little stinker named Bijou... is served snacks and even his meals in his doggy bowl on my parent's bed!  I don't remember that kind of service from Dear Old Dad when I was growing up!  But to be fair, Dad did bring my Mom green tea in bed & he made me my coffee with almond milk as part of my "room service."  I love visiting my parents in Vero for two reasons:
1.  There are the best hosts in the world - with my Dad providing the room service/breakfast in bed & my Mom doing everything in her power to prepare Vegan options.
2.  Dogs rule the world in their house... as they should everywhere!

But this trip to Vero was bittersweet.  Remember when I cleaned out my Nanny's apartment & helped her pack up?  Well this was the trip we said goodbye :(
50 of her closest friends threw her a little goodbye party at her apartment complex at the Club in Vero. It was nice to see how popular & loved my Nanny was among all her friends but it was really sad to see her have to move on to a chapter of her life that she really wasn't ready for.  I don't think I was ready for it either.

Nanny is 80 years old & after a long life lived pretty much everywhere in the US - with travels spanning across every continent on this planet... it was time for this wild child to settle down & let someone take care of her.  My Angel Aunt Lori moved Nanny in with her, in her home in Covington, Virginia.  Nanny could not have a better friend & loving caretaker but it's hard for everyone when a loved one's time on earth begins to dwindle.  I could write a book on my love & respect for Nanny but this is a blog so let me leave it at this...

Joanne Brown was more than a Grandmother to me.  She helped raise me when I was a little girl & she took me along with my brother every summer on cross-country trips across the US.  She taught me about:

God: by taking me to church & teaching me how to pray & thank The Lord for my blessings.
History: when we visited all the Washington Monuments in DC & most states on the East Coast.
Following my Dreams: when she showed me (numerous times) the beauty & hope that is NYC.
Being a Daredevil: when we took my Poppy hang-gliding in Georgia & her skydiving!
Adventure: my love of travel came directly from her & all the hundreds of trips we went on & still go on!
Family & the importance of it: when she took me to meet all her extended family - Nanny never passes up a family reunion!  To this day, I try to hold our family together like she always did.
Respect: when I saw how she treated & idolized her mother in Massachusetts.
To act like a lady: around boys even though I was young & stupid & I didn't want to!
Making mistakes, owning up to them & learning from them: she was always very open about her choices in life, how they shaped who she was & how she looked at the positive in them.
How to write & tell stories: Nanny is the BEST storyteller in the WORLD & I definitely inherited that skill from her!
Bravery, Survival & being a Fighter: Nanny had a hard life with some really rough situations but she came out on the other side.  She always put family first.  Her children & grandchildren are what make her life colorful & she would not be the same without all of us.
Generosity: Nanny was always the first to offer to be the driver on a road-trip or raise her hand first to volunteer for a missions trip or skip sleep to stand in line to get us kids disney tickets or a cabbage patch kid!
Living Life to the Fullest: Nanny always took chances & she taught me to take risks too.
Love: My Grandmother showed me unconditional love every day of my life.  There was NEVER a doubt in my mind & I hope she feels my love for her as well.

Nanny may not be close to me in Florida anymore but she is ALWAYS as close to me as my heart.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Livin' La Vegan Loca

LOVE & LUCK... at least that's what all my friends tell me this means.  
Here's the story:  I come home from work at midnight one night & I open the back door to let the dogs out and this gorgeous monarch butterfly flies into my house!  No joke!  This happened at midnight & I've never even seen a butterfly at night, only during the day.  And this butterfly was so AMAZING, she just sat there while my curious chihuahua checked her out.  

She didn't flap her wings & fly away, which she obviously could! And why am I calling her a girl?  Because she's so beautiful of course!  Anyway, I continued with my plan to take the dogs outside and our beautiful butterfly fluttered off into the night, but not before providing the Birch family with one of the coolest experiences, that I will never forget.  I felt very special... like maybe God sent me a little pick-me-up straight from Heaven!!!

Speaking of Heaven...
What do you get when you put four Hot girls together working on a Hot Memorial Day weekend with Hot Pink Lipstick?!?

Yep that's exactly what you get!  These are my favorite girls in the world!  I love my Tory, my Giselle & my Aiyanna!  They are all so cool & I am ALWAYS making them try my Vegan Food & Green Smoothies & they are ALWAYS good sports about it and soooo supportive of my new lifestyle.  In fact, my work weekends are my happiest days of the week because I get to spend long days with my BFF's... everybody should be so lucky to love their work family!  (Awwwww luck & love - just like the butterfly!)  

PS: Here's an example of the food I make my girls eat!  It's a Vegan smorgasbord!!!

Popping tags with 20 dollars in my pocket!!!  You know that rap song by Macklemore, titled Thrift Shop?  Yeah... well I lived it!

Ok who knew that when I swung by the Salvation Army to drop off a bag of old shoes & clothes, that I would end up going on a shopping spree?!  I had NO IDEA how cool the whole thrifting thing still is!  I mean I used to do it in High School & College but it's been years since I went hunting for cool funky finds.  But it's right up my alley because being a tree hugger, I totally believe in the 3 R's: 
Reduce - Reuse - Recycle
I saved a trip to the mall & for $36 I got a jacket, pair of jeans, skirt, shorts, sweater, 3 ties for my co-workers (Yeah I know, I'm a big spender!)  Soooooo... the question is... you think I can pull off these pants?!?

Enough of the Thrifting... Let's get to some REAL FASHION!

I hosted a Doggy Fashion Show for Friends Forever Rescue and my boys, Jagger & Simba, stole the show... I mean runway!

They didn't actually walk but they modeled puppy couture in a myriad of different doggy purses.  I know I'm biased, but I think they are born to shine!  I mean, come on, the camera loves these two cutie-pies!

But as cute & sweet & innocent those faces look... don't be fooled!  They both have a little evil-streak! And when they get together... you never know what trouble they are going to bring!  As in, look at the trouble they brought me the other night:

Yep... it's official... my dogs are NOT VEGAN!  Mean little munchkins!!  But I fooled them reall good!  After I paid respect to the lizard with a proper burial outside in the backyard... I switched the doggy treats on those carnivores with yummy peanut butter vegan munchies.  Meat-Eater Jagger didn't seem to notice the difference: