Snow over it

From beautiful distraction to the bane of existence, the winter weather of the last two weeks has taken us – literally – by storm.

11000604_10103668719169272_3682778691255327476_nSo pretty. So…much…snow.

The last storm that rolled through Wednesday night was the doozie. Our walk through the neighborhood on Thursday morning was eerie. It had a post-apocalyptic feel [minus zombie sightings]. We also learned (and were quickly grateful) that our section of the neighborhood was on a different power grid as we passed by many dark, quiet homes (minus the two likely Yankee homes that had generators on full blast).

Even better (or worse?): our Internet was out for the entire day Thursday. Work from home? Not so easily. We made the best of it with our neighbors: impromptu sledding down the back hill. Sadly, zero kids were out playing. ZERO! Get off your iPads, generation jelly. Build a snowperson, an ice fort, throw a snowball or two.

11012754_10103668722612372_1992479225457152388_nYes, that is a beer snowman

11001781_10103668715466692_8965242498668517207_nTree struggles.

10998253_10103668722013572_4171058845840179764_oSnowfie!

Outside of throwing off daily routines left and right, this weather has made marathon training even more taxing. Last Sunday was the first of two scheduled 20 mile runs. The last time I ran 20 miles was during the Rock N’ Roll Marathon back in January 2012. I elected to hit the American Tobacco Trail for this endeavor…

only to find it a sheet of ice. Literally – it was a solid block of ice and snow for the vast majority of the trail despite the almost 50F outside. Treading lightly with my NPR friends, I traversed the landscape, knocking the training out of the park with zero falls or injuries:

run2015It will be warmer in March. It will be warmer in March. It will be over in March.

We’re just shy of 30 days out from the Knoxville Marathon, and I’m still feeling great, which is a relief from the battles I faced in 2011. On the schedule for this weekend: 8 mile pace run today with a 15 mile long run tomorrow. I will force myself to run in a hillier section of the Triangle to prepare myself for the rolling landscape of Knoxville. I did give into some treadmill running the previous weekend, and boy – that was rough. I tip my hat to those who can spend quality time on those machines. It could also have been the fact that the Y was blasting the heat, so my own cooling system was unable to perform its own cleansing duty. Suffocating.

But, today is the LAST day of February! Is it time for spring? I sure hope so. Looking forward to getting away to some warmer climate next week. All I have to say to the snow that remains: it’s you, not me. Come back at Christmas, but that’s about it. Thanks.

Runners, how do you train during the winter months?

#ResolveToGrow

ynpntrianglencBackground: I have the privilege of serving on the Young Nonprofit Professional Network (YNPN) Triangle NC Board of Directors. You may try saying that three times fast, if you so desire. We’re an affiliate of our national chapter (YNPN), and our mission is:

“To cultivate and support young nonprofit professionals in the Triangle by fostering networking, skill-building, and resource-sharing.”

Fancy, right? Essentially, our purpose is to help bring nonprofit professionals together in various spaces – whether physical, online, etc. – and bridge connections to other people and knowledge. I “joined” in 2012 (we charge $0 for membership currently) and fell into this amazing group of individuals who had the same passion, commitment, and goofiness that somehow nonprofit professionals either are born with or develop over time.

Amazing “When You Work at a Nonprofit” Tumblr

Alright, enough background. We started a campaign for 2015 called #ResolveToGrow. Yes, it’s a sly way of asking folks to make resolutions for the new year, but we would offer some accountability support along the way.

The problem is: it required me to think of how I wanted to #ResolveToGrow this year – what would future Katie be like? Or, should be like, both in my professional and personal identifies.

Initially, I targeted a professional (and arguably super nerdy goal) of how I wanted to grow: to become much more knowledgeable and skilled in the art of Google Analytics. GA is gold, and I had skimmed just the surface of this data dashboard to help inform work at my previous and current job.

Taking this #ResolveToGrow challenge by the horns, I have already completed the Digital Analytics Fundamentals course through Google’s Analytics Academy. Step one of many, for sure. I have even put into practice some of the infrastructure recommendations for tracking our three websites along with testing out some “Goal” conversions and other nebulous Google-terminology meaning “bring people to website and keep them engaged longer.”

Wow, that got in the weeds quickly. In the spirit of always striving forward, I’ve come up with a few other ways I #ResolveToGrow in 2015:

  • Make homemade seitan. It’s been on my vegan cooking bucket list for a few months now. I plan on trying Post Punk Kitchen’s recipe, unless you have a “MUST MAKE” one!
  • Return to the lap pool. I’m not sure sure why I use “return” to imply that I was once there because I never participated in organized swim ever. I learned how to swim, thankfully, as was practically state law in Arizona. And, I spent 90% of my childhood summers in the water. But, to actually move my body up and down in formalized motions is not something I have undertaken outside of a few half-hearted attempts a couple of years ago when I learned that swimming laps is really hard. With enough friends who either are aficionados or taking on the similar challenge, I plan on incorporating this back into my workout routine post-marathon.
  • Plant a garden. So, I literally #ResolveToGrow my own herbs and a few vegetables (peppers, squash, tomatoes) in 2015.

Three might be the best, more reasonable start to this life campaign. We’ll see if others make it to the list (Chicago marathon? Brewing my own kombucha? Getting more involved in local government happenings?)

How do you #ResolveToGrow in 2015 and beyond? If you’re on Twitter, you should tweet at YNPN Triangle NC (@YNPNTriangleNC) with your response. Made sure to include #ResolveToGrow!

Walt Disney World and vegan eats

Besides evenings chocked full of activities for other organizations, my failure to fully complete the 31+ days of Veganuary recipes can also be partly blamed on a mouse.

10384281_10102839061509865_7266861494672786741_n
Yes, that’s evidence of Mickey Mouse and me breaking it down on the dance floor. The impetus for all of this happening was to celebrate the marriage of my good friend and Teach For America trenchmate Kacie (and her now husband Preston!). Kacie’s fondness for WDW, and Preston’s fondness for Kacie, led to this magical occasion in Orlando.

Not only was this my first time at Walt Disney World – this was my first time in the state of Florida. (thus knocking another unvisited state of the list!) In this post, I’m going to focus mainly on the food. The sights, sounds, and rides of the four parks will be featured in subsequent narratives.

Bottom line: eating vegan isn’t easy at Walt Disney World, but it’s possible and likely some of the best service you’ll receive.

Before we left, Aaron and I did our homework, thanks to other bloggers for jotting down their plant-based eating journeys of the various resorts, parks, and surrounding restaurants. Overall, there were two shining gems among the rougher choices, and both of them happen to be at the Animal Kingdom Lodge.

1) Sanaa, Animal Kingdom Lodge

1545650_10103610981496032_1957454378097818254_n

Touted as “African cooking with Indian flavors,” this restaurant was on the must-hit list. In fact, it was the first eatery we dined at post-arriving to the grounds (reservations recommended).

On the basic menu, Sanaa offers a vegetarian sampler featuring Lentil Dal, Chickpea Wat, and more. Unfortunately, the naan here is made with ghee, but there are lentil chips as substitutes. Even better: there is a full vegan menu. I let our server know, and boom: it appeared.

1475981_10103610981580862_1821168239077581302_n

Major decision time. I ended up opted for the three-salad sampler (chickpeas with cucumber and tomato; watermelon, cucumber and fennel; and Bhel Puri) and an order of the Chana Tiki appetizer.

10409063_10103610981940142_1747961141888205549_n

1488028_10103610981855312_3693418119125673723_n

Everything was delicious. We’re talking poppin’ flavors in fresh-high quality food. It didn’t hurt to also have Cigar City available:

10861017_10103610982234552_1887291448517431040_o

Sanaa set a high bar for the rest of our Disney experience. Needless to say, expectations fell short along the way. However, this first day continued strong as we ended up having dinner in EPCOT.

2) Tangerine Cafe, EPCOT

Another suggestion that came from both our bride-to-be and several other online resources. Located in the Morocco section, Tangerine Cafe provided some of the best falafel and couscous salad that we both have ever tasted. I went with the vegetarian platter, which came with falafel, lentils, tabouleh, hummus, bread, olives, and this crazy good Tangerine couscous salad.

1513767_10103610995682602_1302143863817442839_n

10978672_10103610994654662_4404068227628360663_n

Aaron – not a surprise – went for the vegetarian Falafel wrap, which he loved (not vegan).

Editor’s note: I just read that the lentil salad is actually not vegan. Well darnit. Who puts mayo in lentil salad?! Also, if you abstain from honey, you can request honey-free pita bread.

3) Boma – Animal Kingdom Lodge

On the final day of our magical experience, we landed at Boma for the last possible breakfast seating (10:50am) before our flight. Boma was the first restaurant that came out of most people’s mouths for vegan-friendly recommendations. During both breakfast and dinner service (no lunch, folks!), the restaurants offers an enormous range of options on a buffet.

Thanks to some sleuthing that morning, I knew that the chefs here went above and beyond for guests with food allergies or dietary restrictions. Our server, Dilly, brought out Chris (who apparently is Internet famous) from Detroit, MI. He kindly walked us through the various buffet options, which were plentiful – from fresh fruit to tater tots (with the most amazing spices!) to steamed veggies and much more.

But – then he threw out the offer I was hoping for (I have little shame since hot breakfast is such a rare treat out). He offered to make us vegan Mickey waffles AND a tofu scramble. While we waited, I made a small plate to at least sample some of the buffet offerings (the copious amount of tomatoes made me so happy):

10978720_10103610985308392_7741084607346229087_n

And then, these arrived:

10955798_10103610984659692_8395477499621154745_nOh Mickey, you’re so fine. You’re so fine you blow my mind. Hey Mickey!

10947259_10103610985023962_8687163987092169712_nShadow scramble of fresh jalapeno, red & green bell peppers, tomatoes.

I credit the blur to the sheer ravage hunger I was feeling on the inside. Everything was outstanding. I can’t even tell you the last time I ate waffles. These had a nice crunch on the exterior (the ears in particular) and a soft, warm doughy quality underneath. The scramble had a tinge of spice and was quickly inhaled.

Continuing to exceed my expectations, chef Chris brought us some chocolate chip cookies that accommodated the eight major food allergies. They may have been from Enjoy Life, and as you can see, there are no photos of them because they were gobbled up. They were a nice blend of both crunchy and soft cookies. I would never – ever – have known they were egg/soy/treenut/dairy/gluten/etc. free.

These were the highlights of our food tour – which is a bit disappointing. Unfortunately, my phone died during the wedding or I would have captured the incredible quinoa loaf served for the vegetarian/vegan crowd at the reception. Accompanied with sauteed mushrooms, steamed veggies, and topped with a sun-dried tomato-balsamic reduction, it was one of the best wedding dishes I have ever tasted.

I will note that despite not having photos, I was able to secure a vegan burger at the Magic Kingdom (on a gluten free roll as the regular rolls are not vegan) with plain corn on the cob. It was easier to be labeled as having a food allergy than trying to explain the ins and outs of veganism.

Our own resort – Coronado Springs – was not a grand haven for non-meat eating as well. I had two meals here: a roasted-veggie pita with a balsamic reduction (which I learned recently may contain various fish oils, so this might be something one should ask about), and the one-two breakfast punch of oatmeal with sliced almonds and fruit. Nothing out of this world exciting or overwhelming. These meals served more as “filling” than “fulfilling.”

Here’s something I didn’t know: you can actually bring food into the parks. I kept snacks in my purse at all times, which saved us some extra $ and allowed us to typically eat only two meals out a day.

Also, one last plug: from the research files, I learned the popcorn at the parks is vegan. I really hope this is still true because it was finger-licking good. I almost requested a second souvenir bucket. Almost.

There are tons of additional resources out there on eating vegan at Disneyworld, including:

At some point you’ll say: “Oh, these are all naming the same places.” Undoubtedly, as Downtown Disney undergoes revamping, there will be more options on the grounds. Until then: Animal Kingdom Lodge – no mater which places you visit – is a must see. Plus, there are savannahs on the grounds where you can watch cranes, zebras, antelope, and giraffes from your dining room window (or your room if you are super fancy).

Have you visited the Mouse and have a favorite place to dine or snack at? Please share!