Archive for April, 2010

New Link — Gardein Foods

Posted in New Links, Vegan and Vegetarian Lifestyle with tags , on April 30, 2010 by Verge

We love to shop at wholesale clubs, but it can be frustrating as well.  We cook almost every meal for ourselves, so it’s quite cost effective to buy raw ingredients in bulk.  Sometimes it’s difficult to find vegetarian, much less vegan foods at the wholesale clubs.  Don’t even ask about low sodium in there, either.  It doesn’t exist.

We know BJ’s  so well that we no longer need to read the labels.  We’ve read every label in the store, and they rarely change up the variety of their stock very much.  I was very surprised to see Monika had brought home a vegan chicken nugget pouch after visiting BJ’s yesterday.  As with other vegetarian products they’ve stocked in the past, this one may be short lived as well.  But I hope not.

The brand is Gardein.  It’s supposed to be a clever combination of “garden” and “protein.”  The actual name of the food they now stock at BJ’s is “seven grain crispy tenders.”  We baked them in the oven frozen last night with some sweet potato fries for about half an hour.  The directions said less, but I wanted them to actually be “crispy.”

nom nom nom

Well, needless to say, they were delicious.  I’m sending Monika back today to pick up four more pouches.  They were awesome.  We just had them as chicken nuggets with some organic ketchup to dip, but you could really use these things for all kinds of recipes.  Definitely could make a burger with them.  Could crumble them up in a big salad.  Even make them up in any baked chicken dish with perhaps a mushroom wine sauce, which is what I may try next.

I don’t expect to see any of their other all vegan foods in BJ’s, but I’ll be sure to look for them at my next health store or Whole Foods visit.  It looks like most of their products are made with wheat gluten, which is honestly delicious.  If you try any of their foods, please comment and let me know how you liked them.


Weekend Review #1 — Samantha’s Week

Posted in Good Times with tags , , , , , , on April 29, 2010 by Verge

Sam was in town for the weekend.  She arrived Friday evening; That’s when the debauchery began.

Friday evening I wasn’t sure if and when Sam would show up.  We played it low key and hung out  at Plunge, a swanky little joint located two doors down and run by my best friend.  Shorty later, Lorie and Sam showed up with Clint, and libations were plentiful.  All three ended up spending the night and Clint was gone when I woke up.


As promised, I phoned my friend Mike in the morning and planned to meet up with him at Atsion for an excursion in the Pine Barrens.  I wasn’t sure if he was going to show up with his daughter or not.  We planned to meet in at noon, and we met at the old Mansion there, among other hikers.  We set off on the abandoned rail line that once ran from Atco to Atsion, along what is now Raritan Ave in Atco, and a simple dirt road called Railroad Ave in the middle of the woods nearest Atsion.

Mike showed up with John, one of his good friends, but also, one of our work peers.  He is also a seasoned outdoorsman and knows the area well.  The six of us found the trailhead easily.  I was looking specifically for some concrete evidence that this was the path of the old rail line.  Mike and I had also loaded around 25 goecache locations into his GPS the day before over lunch.

The planned path was ambitious — around 8 miles.  If you know the area, the hike was this:  Atsion on Railroad/Raritan Ave. to the first intersection, which is Railroad Ave and Sandy Causeway, then left onto Sandy Causeway until meeting the abandoned rail lines which run nearly parallel with Fleming Pike back towards Atsion.

We had a beautiful day for a hike.   We tracked down a handful of goecaches.  Best of all, the hike was not carefree.  We had to navigate huge puddles, thorns and thickets and a seriouss lack of bourbon after the first half.

Here are some Geocache finds….

and another one…

crossing the washed away bridge…


Sam’s friend is about to move to Germany and she was having a sort of going away party at some of her favorite spots in Center City.  We met with her and some of our friends after taking the Speedline.

First stop was the Rum Bar.  I had only been here once before for Dave’s bachelor party.  It was pretty crowded but the music was good and we got to the drinkin’ pretty quick.  The bartender was kind of a freak and I think it may have been his first time at a real bar or something.

Perhaps it was my tips, or his inexperience, or my sharp suit, but he was making ’em strong and I got pretty tore up there. So much so that the bouncer at the bar next door nearly didn’t let me in the place.

I wasn’t surprised that our friend Don and his crew were in the city, but I was definitely drunkenly confused when they showed up at the bar unexpectedly.  But, the bar had gotten crowded and it wasn’t our scene so much.  We poured into the busy streets and hailed a cab to Ulana’s near South Street, a bar I know well and like well enough.

I can’t possibly say that I was completely sober when I took a spill in the club and banged up my arm, thumb and face, but I was soberish.  Monika had cut me off back at Rum Bar, so I was certainly in better shape than earlier.  No matter, though, I was fine and the scrape on my cheek  was gone within days.

We spent some time at Ulana’s until everyone was drunk, tired, or broke.  We found our way back to the train.  It was after 2 and the train was packed.  We didn’t even get to sit down the entire ride from 8th and Market to Lindenwold.

Sam got in an argument with two losers somewhere in Jersey and had a bit of a shouting match with them.  Sam was obviously drunk and they were obviously one of only a few people on the train who weren’t at least buzzing.  She kicked one of them as they slipped through the doors and I tried to hold her back.

This is me the next morning.  That’s a breathalzyer in my hand.  I didn’t feel right.

Monika and I had to work all week, and Sam had plenty of things she wanted to do and plenty of people she wanted to see, so we mostly didn’t see her during the week.  But on Thursday night, we all went to Manny Brown’s for


That’s my cover band.  Anyone who hadn’t gotten a chance to visit Sam while she was in town had their last opportunity Thursday night.  A lot of people showed up and most of the people in the bar were there to see her.  Some friends who had never seen me play before finally got to check out the band.  This includes some people who had never seen me play a bass even though I was their manager for years at Sam Ash.

It was also the farewell show for Faith, a girl I only knew from our shows.  She was there almost every week and was always a sweetheart.  Her husband was serving in Iraq when I met her, and is coming home to be stationed in Washington State.  Faith and Sam both got leid and received their Hawaiian names.  I hope to see her and her husband walk into one of our shows one day when they’re back visiting old friends.


Our last adventure of the week was a day trip to New Hope, PA.  Out of the four of us, I ws the only one who had been there before, and I’ve been there a lot.  I got to play tour guide for the day, which I enjoy.  Let’s face it, I like being the one in charge.  I also like leisurely roaming around with three beautiful women.

three blind mice

We wandered around pretty aimlessly for a while, checked into the kitch antique store and spent a good deal of time there.  I was looking for a good fedora, and the girls tried on numerous things.  We crossed Bridge Street into Lambertville, NJ where the annual Shad Festival was taking place.  Since it’s pretty family oriented, we bailed rather quickly and headed back to New hope for Lunch.

We headed towards Sprig and Vine, a new vegan restaurant that was very recently opened.  The head chef was a former chef at Horizon’s, one of Philly’s finest vegetarian spots.  It was a beautiful day, the sun was out, and we dined on the patio in a peaceful, outdoor setting.  We all ordered something different, and were all satisfied.  Admittedly, their menu was small, but in comparison to regular restaurants, I could eat everything, and so the menu was hugely awesome!

Since Sprig and Vine was a BYOB, and we didn’t bring any with us, immediately following lunch, we headed to Triumph Brewing Company.  A mere 200 ft away, it is  a craft brew pub that has live music, the freshest craft brew on tap, and a great, glass-walled atmosphere.  Here, we had many libations…

Okay, so craft brews are kinda’ my thing, so I (not so) reluctantly agreed to visit my favorite restaurant in New Hope, Wildflowers.  Right on the water in the center of downtown, this place is everything awesome about this town:  great people watching, super nice staff, very quaint, on the water, full service bar, and most of all, amazing home made sangria.  We ordered a nice liter carafe of half white-half red sangria, and I let myself get talked into one of their signature Margaritas.

We wound down here over light conversation and reflections of the week behind us.  Eventually we made it home.  The next night, we drove Sam to the airport so she could finally get back to the one she loves.  But, like an emotional see-saw, I know that she must have immediately missed us as much as we miss her.  On her final night here, she said something to Monika and me that assured us that for the rest of our lives, we’ll all remain together.


Obama’s Gay Rights Policies

Posted in Grinds My Gears with tags , , on April 16, 2010 by Verge

Okay, I know what you’re thinking.  That I’m going to be all over praising Obama and his initiatives on equal rights for gays.  I am a liberal, right?  Well, his recent demand that hospitals treat gay partners as family members is such a bunch of shit and I’ll tell you why.  If any of my gay friends out there have anything to add to this discussion, I highly encourage you to make comments as well.

On the surface, it sounds like a great idea.  Obama now says that gay partners should have the same rights as married spouses and family members at the hospital when critical decisions need to be made.  This means that when someone is rushed to the emergency room, their partner can see them right away, or find out their status from a doctor, or even help make life or death decisions if their partner can’t make them for themselves.

These are the kinds of things immediate family and spouses already have the right to do.  What Obama has done is mere gesturing.  He’s put a band aid on the bleeding wound instead of treating the injury.  Gays don’t want special treatment at the hospitals or anywhere else.  What they want is equal treatment.  What that means it that they want the right to marry their spouses in the first place, thereby alleviating the special exception for them at the hospitals in the first place.

Some of you may not understand the difference.  Or, some people you debate with over gay rights may not fully grasp the major difference between “marriage” and “civil union.”  Let me explain, however simplified it may be.  Have you ever filled out an application for anything?  A doctors office form?  A census?  A credit card application?  A mortgage application?  A W-4 or I-9?  A 401K or pension beneficiary form?  If so, let me know how many times the option of “civilly unionized” was a choice when you listed your spouse.  Sure, you cane be “Married, Single, Divorced, Widowed…,” but never “Partnered!”

That’s just the tip of the iceberg of the bias against gays.  Obama mandates that hospitals observe gays as valid partners.  BUT, only ones that receive federal monies for Medicare and Medicaid.  Private hospitals are still free to make their own policies.  And on top of that, the mandates put the responsibility of actually following the policy on the shoulders of staff members.  More often than not, regardless of the Federal Policy, hospital workers, among others, are told immediate family are to be admitted only.  They do not, and will not, recognize a “partner” as immediate family.  They sure as shit won’t let a “significant other” decide whether or not to keep someone on life support, donate their organs, or amputate rather than operate.

Obama should have gone further and outlawed the prevention of gays from being married.  It is sickening that we must live in an era where gays are considered “not one of us.”  He has still to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in the military, and that even gets the support of the Republican Right!!  With his latest ruling in hospitals, he is merely “allowing” homo-sexuals what should be their god-given “right.”

The Verge of Tears??

Posted in Reflections with tags , on April 16, 2010 by Verge

Okay, so I’ve changed to name of my blog for several reasons.   I originally thought that this was going to be a joint venture between me and Monika, but soon realized that I have much too large of an opinion and angle on any subject to imagine me and anyone else, including my wife, always seeing eye to eye.

The old name, Vegan Robot, was cute and all, but was really a nod to Monika, because after all, she is vegan…and a robot.  Well, she beeps a lot, and tries to reprogram me from time to time.  That’s all the evidence I need.

The truth is that as sarcastic a bastard as I usually try to be, I’m actually a pretty emotional guy.  If you’ve been reading my blog from the beginning, then I think you’ll know what I talking about.

Being on the verge of tears isn’t a bad thing at all. You can be on the verge of tears because you’re insanely happy as well as sad.  Perhaps you’re watching your loved one touch down on the tarmac after a tour in Afghanistan.  Maybe you’ve just found your kid in the basement closet after frantically calling the police because you thought he was kidnapped.  Maybe it’s just been a long week and you’re getting a massage from someone who loves you.

Of course, there’s just as many reasons to be on the verge of tears from sadness.  Not too long ago, I tried to learn a song on guitar so Monika and I could play it together.  It’s something we like to do for fun and to pass the time on our couch when we don’t feel like watching TV.  For two weeks I tried to learn all the lyrics and chords to Regina Spektor’s “Laughing With.”  I finally gave up when I couldn’t make it through the second verse without welling up.  Watch the video and listen to the lyrics and you’ll know what I mean.  Good Luck!

Letting your emotions get the best of you can be rather cathartic.  Sometimes it’s necessary to let things go and finally stop holding back.  And sometimes being on the verge of doing just that can be filled with such emotional struggle that it’s a feeling that is unmistakable.

Not every day can be filled with such importance or  such heavy meaning.  But even little things, every day, can bear deep layers of relevance when you scratch the surface.  Looking beneath and behind everyday normalness is where we can find connections we take for granted or overlook.  That can bring us closer to a more inner connected meaning in our lives.

Finding that place is what I try to do.  And, in part, is why I started this blog in the first place.  Even the smallest of things can be looked at from many different angles.  Some of them are mundane or typical.  Some of them, at the right time, in a unique light, can bring us to the verge of tears.


Posted in Creative Writing on April 10, 2010 by Verge

I wind my clock.

Today, I had to push the minute hand forward five minutes

to get the key into the center slot.

I am ahead of schedule.


Posted in Reflections with tags , , on April 10, 2010 by Verge

They held on for over a week, waiting in desperate anticipation.  Perhaps they’ll be found alive.  They’re nothing lost in hoping…waiting…crying.

Maybe there is balance.  Blame doesn’t resurrect.  Money doesn’t fill holes that are bottomless.  But someone has to pay, right?

Or, do we all collectively?  Everyone has their time.  Who are we to blame in the end?  If we choose to believe in a creator, then we cannot avoid blaming him.  Blame, then, seems like too strong a word.  Perhaps lawsuits should be settled in an afterlife.

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