I’m Mercedes and I’m a twenty something, veggie loving, two time cat mom happily married to my soulmate of a husband.

I work as an engineer in Pittsburgh, pretending to be an adult and spending a solid 20% of my time trying to remember to not reply all.

I wanted a platform to share my wealth of equally positive and negative experiences as I attempt to navigate my twenties, and maybe get a little preachy here and there about veganism, mental health and LGBTQ+ rights.

At the very least, I hope to make you laugh.

Traveling as a Vegan Part II

Traveling as a Vegan Part II

My first post about my vegan vacation in San Francisco left off on Friday, when we Ubered home from the city in our food comas after indulging in an amazing Thai dinner at OSHA Thai. I never really used Uber much before visiting my brother in San Fran; during our trip, we used it at least twice every single day. In NYC, I typically take a yellow cab because there's a million of them on every block. But omg Uber is way cheaper and so much simpler. It's so hard to find a yellow cab sometimes because 99% of the ones that drive past you are full. Uber is now my fav <3 I know, I know.. I'm a little late jumping on this bandwagon.

We decided to spend Saturday closer to home and visit San Jose. My mom and I started the morning off right with breakfast on the patio. My brother's apartment complex is so beautiful. I would love to walk out onto my balcony to a clear blue sunny sky every day! But I truly think I would miss the business of Manhattan. For breakfast, I made a wrap with black beans, fresh tomato salsa, avocado, cilantro, and Gardein crispy chick'n. I had ice cold water in my new amazing Swell water bottle and a side of cantaloupe. Such a beautiful morning!

After breakfast, we laid out on the patio lounge chairs and soaked up some California sun. 15 vitamins to get our vitamin D - very important for everyone, especially all my fellow vegans!

After several cups of always necessary coffee, we jumped in the car and headed over to San Jose. First stop: The Tech Museum of Innovation. My brother is in film/gaming production, my mother is a college math instructor, and I am an engineer. We are all rather nerdy. So naturally, we loved this museum! A lot of the exhibits were geared toward children, but the information was still really interested. They even had a healthcare exhibit, which was right up my alley!

After the Tech Museum, we debated a little on where we wanted to go for lunch. My brother actually recommended a place with a ton of vegan options called LYFE Kitchen. Of course I was up for it, so we walked a few blocks over to the restaurant. San Jose is a really neat place and the only place that it reminded me of was San Antonio, Texas. I went there for a conference last fall and it was definitely totally new scenery for me. I grew up in northern Michigan, lived in South Carolina for a little bit, moved to Pennsylvania, lived in Minnesota for a year, and am now in New York. I have a little bit of Bohemian in me; I must be a gypsy at heart! Anyway... not one of the places was anything like San Antonio. That's kind of how I feel about San Jose. The two cities are a bit similar to me, but are also very unique. I loved some of the older looking signage and beautiful architecture around this town.

We got to LYFE Kitchen, put our orders in, and grabbed a seat outside. It was such a beautiful day outside (as usual in CA), and we all love to eat out on a patio when it's that nice. Not too hot, but plenty of sun. I order the Quinoa Crunch Bowl salad minus the hot sauce. Not a fan of spicy. I like to taste my food, not desperately try to drown it by guzzling water. This salad. WAS. AMAZING. I looooove me some snap peas so I was immediately obsessed with this salad at first bite. The broccoli was cooked just perfectly, not too soft or too crunchy. The edamame hummus was so good, I have never even thought to use edamame for hummus before. The tabbouleh was incredible and inspired me to try to make my own when I get back home! Altogether, it was definitely a delicious combo that I would love to have again. I looked up LYFE Kitchen locations and unfortunately, there are none in New York yet :( However, there is one in Chicago, which I'll be going to for training next month... :) :) Stay tuned!

My mom got a chicken wrap and told me at the end of our trip that it was her favorite meal of the whole vacation! My brother got a burger and said it was probably the best burger he has ever had. I'm telling you guys, this place is incredible. Highly recommended!! They have locations in Chicago (IL), Evanston (IL), Memphis (TN), Plano (TX), Lone Tree (CO), Henderson (NV), Santa Clara (CA), Los Angeles (CA), Cupertino (CA) and Palo Alto (CA). If you are lucky enough to live in any of these places, please grab a bite for me.

Screen Shot 2017-05-28 at 6.28.00 PM.png

After lunch, my brother was dying for my mom to try some local Horchata ice cream. We walked a few blocks to Market Street and my mom and brother both got some ice cream. This place is just a ton of restaurants kind of put together - a little hard to explain but basically like a giant market. While they got their ice cream, I wandered around a little checking out the other places and looking for a little vegan treat. There were some INCREDIBLE looking macaroons that I deeply considered breaking my veganism for (jk).

I kept searching and eventually found a cute little smoothie place. I asked the two ladies behind the counter if one of their smoothies had yogurt in it. They said it usually does, but they could customize it for me however I like. My lucky day! They were so sweet and careful about avoiding any dairy products for me. My smoothie had pineapple, banana, strawberries, mango, agave, soy milk and orange juice. It was delicious! Exactly what I needed after lunch.


We finished up our treats and headed over to a local mall. We (window) shopped for a couple of hours and then decided to grab dinner and call it a night. All of the restaurants in the mall were either outrageously priced or already packed with lines out the door. So my brother recommended a Mongolian barbecue place near his apartment. This was my mom's first time trying Mongolian barbecue! I was really excited for it because I've always loved Mongolian barbecue, but it was a little hesitant trying it again now as a vegan. I love that you can fill up your own bowls and choose every ingredient that goes inside. But I didn't know if they used butter or oil, and I also realized that all of the veggies and raw meat are probably cooked on the same parts of the grill. All of this was a little unsettling, considered it registered in my mind the second we were walking into the restaurant...

When I walked up to the grill with my food, I asked the chefs if they cook the food in oil or butter. To my (happy) surprise, they said they actually only use water! The best news I had received all day. And even better, when I walked up there with two bowls of veggies instead of one with veggies and one with meat, he asked me if I was vegetarian. I told him that I was actually vegan. He smiled, grabbed a huge scrapper from the kitchen, and started scraping off all of the remnants from the meat previously placed on the grill. He cleaned up the entire thing before cooking up my veggies and tofu. I was so shocked and really appreciative. I couldn't believe how accommodating he was! Not to mention, the food was absolutely delicious. We finished our meals and headed home for the night. The next day was our Alcatraz tour so we needed to rest up!

On Sunday morning, we spent breakfast out on the patio again. I had the usual oatmeal and fruit - cheap, easy and convenient! I also broke into my Chameleon cold brew and oh my gosh, it was delicious! I fill my cup about 2/3 of the way with ice, add cold brew, top it off with about 1/3 cup of cashew or almond milk, and 1 packet stevia. I love these swirl shorts.

We didn't have to leave to San Francisco for our tour until the late afternoon, so we decided to just have lunch at home too. We wanted to save money since we knew we would be buying a ton of souvenirs at Alcatraz. I wanted something light because we had been eating so much food, so I opted for a salad. It had iceberg lettuce, strawberries, pineapple, Gardein chick'n, fresh tomato salsa, and Annie's Goddess dressing. It was perfectly light and exactly what I was craving.

Around 4pm, we ordered an Uber and made our way into San Francisco. We left extra early just in case so we got there with about an hour to spare. We decided to walk down to Pier 39 for a drink before our cruise departed. As I mentioned in Traveling as a Vegan Part I, it is super easy to find alcoholic drinks as a vegan. Beer, wine, liquor, there are tons of vegan options for all of them. I decided to order Tito's and lemonade, definitely one of my new favorites.

We sipped our delicious drinks and headed back to the pier to board our night cruise to Alcatraz! There were hundreds of people on this boat and everyone was so excited. It was freezing and the wind was picking up but it was still an awesome experience. We were all snapping tons of pictures on the ride over to the island. It was such an incredible view - from both ends! The island on one side was eerie and mysterious, and the San Francisco skyline on the other side was such a beautiful silhouette. 

The tour began by walking the same path that that inmates walked when they first arrived at Alcatraz. We toured around the outside briefly, then we were given a guided audio tour throughout the full interior of the prison. We saw the typical rows of cells, the isolation cells, the library, the kitchen, and heard several accounts of violence, attempted escapes, and the infamous escape that went unsolved. The tour was creepy and fascinating all at once. If you ever get the chance to visit San Francisco, this if for sure a must see.

Once the tour was over, we stopped by the gift shop, purchased WAY too many Alcatraz themed mugs, t-shirts, bags and pens, and then rushed back to the boat in a frantic attempt to beat the harsh San Francisco winds. One the boat ride back to the city, my mom and my brother decided to split some nachos and cheese. I waited in our seats with our bags; when they returned from the food line, my mom surprised me with a vegan bar! I was amazed that the boat offered this as one of their five available snacks! It was an Awesome Bar and the flavor was coconut pecan. And I can confirm, it was absolutely delicious! I could have eaten ten. If I was at home in by bathtub with a bottle of wine, I would have.

By the time we finally got back to my brother's apartment, it was super late and we were all beat. I grabbed a Honeycrsip apple (my FAV) and some peanut butter for a quick snack; five minutes later, I was out the second my head hit the pillow.

Our Monday agenda included all of Silicon Valley – the Google store, the Apple store, the Stanford campus.. so much nerding out. We started the morning slow since everything was pretty close to my brother’s apartment and we didn’t have to leave super early. For breakfast, I was getting a little tired of my oatmeal and fruit cup so I tried to be slightly creative with the few vegan ingredients in my brother’s apartment. But it turned out delicious! I went with a plain flour tortilla, peanut butter, 1 banana, and a drizzle of honey. Now there are definitely people out there who will say that eating honey makes you not a vegan. However, there are also many people who argue that honey does not come from an animal that is tortured in any way and eating it does not negate you being vegan. It's really a choice each vegan makes on their own and I do not believe that eating honey makes you ‘less vegan’. But I do completely respect those who avoid it. We’re all still doing great things for the planet!

Another note – I know that some people are really freaked out by flour tortillas… this is something I will never personally understand, but I have heard it from many people. Flour tortillas are honestly one of my favorite foods… I know they aren’t the most healthy, but there are also far worse choices! I eat them as a snack dipped in guacamole alllllll the time! In fact, I had that as a snack probably every day on this vacation. Hey, I said I was working on my nutrition, not that I was nailing it…

Once we finished up breakfast, we headed out to Silicon Valley. All three of these places were incredible. I of course loved the Google store because of the Android figures outside, each one representing a new operation system upgrade. I obviously bought souvenirs everywhere… I got Jesse a shirt and myself a sweatshirt here. We went to the Stanford campus next and it was so beautiful. We got lost driving through it a few times, tried to find the engineering building, failed, and eventually just decided to move on. But it was a wonderful sight while it lasted! Kinda made me miss college and consider a masters degree in the near future.... :)

The Apple store… I feel like I can’t even talk about this because I am in still in disbelief of myself. We got to the Apple campus, took some pictures outside, and found the store. We walked in, ONLY with the intention of buying some t-shirts and maybe a pen or a coffee mug. Well I got a shirt. And 15 minutes later… I bought a computer. HOW DID THIS HAPPEN? Your guess is as good as mine. I have been saving a little bit here and there for a new computer ever since mine died about two years ago. I know, two years feels like a lifetime without a computer. But with every job I’ve had, I’ve been given a laptop to use. So I haven’t really been in a rush to buy a new one of my own. I started playing with a MacBook Air, waiting for my mom to finish up her shopping. All of the sudden, my brother (a HUGE Apple fan) and a salesperson start talking about how amazing the MacBook Air is. I keep challenging them with more questions and they keep rapid fire answering me, shooting down every doubt I could come up with. I kid you not, 20 minutes later, I’m walking out with a new laptop. Big impulse purchases are NOT me, but I have to say, I am in love with this laptop. My brother and my mom (also a giant Apple fan) were so excited and we’ve all been chatting about Apple how tos, tips and tricks ever since. We are now a full Apple family! Just gotta get my stepdad on this bandwagon now…

After all of the sightseeing and impulse buying, we made our way back home and picked around at leftovers for lunch. We lounged around for the remainder of the afternoon; me blogging, my mom grading homework, and my brother working. We finished up the night by ordering in - falafel and wine! We ordered from a mediterranean restaurant that really had quite a large variety of food. I got falafel with a side of hummus and pita. I haven't had falafel in awhile and it was delicious! Another one of my vegan faves. I have always been kind of intimidated by the idea of making homemade falafel, but I think I might finally give it a shot soon.

Tuesday morning came at we were all pretty sad about it being our last day. Our flight wasn't until 10:30 pm so we decided to take full advantage of our final day in paradise! On the list: Haight and Ashbury, Castro Street, Blue Bottle Coffee, and Burmese for dinner. We wanted to leave pretty quickly to get to San Francisco, so I tried to grab a quick and easy breakfast. I opted for a plate of fruit and a handful of pistachios.

We Ubered into the city as usual and went straight to Haight and Ashbury. I have to be quite honest... I had no idea what this street corner was until my mom explained it to me. But once we got there, it was the coolest sight! Everything was so color and funky, I loved it. Definitely made me wish that I could have experienced these vibes firsthand in the 60s.

We went to Castro Street next, which was really exciting and important to me. Castro Street was one of the first gay neighborhoods in the entire country. It became one of the leading cities for LGBT activism and events in the world. It felt like an honor to visit, and it made me feel proud of who I am and thankful for the individuals who put in an incredible amount of effort and activism to get me the rights that I am luck enough to have today.

We were starving after all of the walking we did throughout the morning so we decided to stop for lunch. We went to a restaurant and bar nearby called Harvey's (of course named after the famous Harvey Milk!). We read in their online reviews that they are known for having the best Bloody Marys in San Francisco so I obviously had to try one. It was pretty good, but I also learned that Bloody Marys were definitely not my drink of choice. I drank a good amount and let my mom finish up the rest. Boy, was it a beautiful drink though!

I also ordered an appetizer for my meal because I just knew by looking at the menu that the apps were going to be large enough for sure. I have been on a MAJOR guacamole kick lately, so I went with tortilla chips with guac and salsa. This guac was TOP NOTCH. Plus the chips were in an adorable cone so that was obviously a plus.

We finished up at Harvey's and headed to stop #3 of the day: the painted ladies! In case you are not familiar, the painted ladies are a beautiful row of Victorian and Edwardian houses in San Francisco, each painted in three or more colors to enhance their architecture. That is the complete extent of my knowledge on these houses, but they were definitely enjoyable to look at :) My favorite part of this creepy (yet oddly super intriguing) door on one of the houses.

Can't tell if it's a butterfly or some grotesque creature, but I am going to continue telling myself that it is a beautiful butterfly.

At this point, it was about 2pm and we were in desperate need of a pick me up. We headed over to Blue Bottle Coffee. It was about a 15-20 minute walk and the scenery on the way there was breath taking. I cannot even tell you how much pictures I took on our way there.

After walking all of that chips and guac off, we finally got to Blue Bottle Coffee. It was this cute little hole in the wall (quite literally) with coffee, homemade granola, cookies, bread, and more. I got a blend called Three Africas; it was described as fruity, radiant and creamy. It was pretty good, even though I've been on my cold brew kick lately. My mom even got a bag or ground coffee and a bag of granola to go. I asked if any of their baked goods were vegan, but alas... they were not. Oh well!

Our flight was soon approaching and we knew that we still wanted to try a Burmese place near the airport that my brother recently went to and loved, so we decided to head back to his apartment. We packed up our bags (literally had to get two extra bags to check because of how many things we bought there) and caught an Uber over to the Burmese place. The restaurant was called Mingalaba and had mostly traditional flavors of Burma, with some Chinese dishes as well. We started off with a couple of appetizers; I ordered the avocado vegetarian spring rolls and my mom and brother tried the potstickers and the Burmese vegetarian samosas.

These spring rolls were delicious, but they were MASSIVE! I have never eaten a spring roll so large. I'm not kidding, they were at least three inches in diameter.

I stuck with water again become of the all the walking and because I was secretly hoping to be able to sleep on our red eye flight back to the east coast. SPOILER: I did not sleep at all. For my entree, I went with a vegetable curry and it was DELICIOUS. I was so filled up with spring rolls so I didn't eat as much as I wanted to, but it was still very very good.

We finished stuffing our face, said out tearful goodbyes, and boarded our plane back home. Overall, I have to tell you guys... sticking to my vegan diet while on this vacation was was truly super simple. I won't lie, there were probably two or three times where we struggled for a few minutes to decide on a place for lunch or dinner, but we always found something that everyone liked. I stuck with my quick and easy breakfasts on most days to make it simpler for myself, and because I knew we would be going out to try new things for lunch and dinner most days. I think that's a good tip for anyone trying to travel while staying vegan. Keep one meal simple and consistent to save yourself time and some unnecessary stress!

I didn't feel like I was depriving myself OR anyone else either. Everyone was able to go to restaurants they wanted to and order the dishes they did, and I never had to ask anyone to prepare anything special for me. I was able to order right off of the menu every time; no boring plan salads without dressing. Now I don't know if traveling as a vegan will be this easy for every vacation I take... but it was a great start :) We will be honeymooning in New Zealand next year, so here's to hoping my eats there are as successful as this trip was!

The First Time Another Woman Called Me A Dyke

The First Time Another Woman Called Me A Dyke