Coping with Chronic Migraine

Coping with Chronic Migraine: Tips & Tools I Use to Manage Migraine Pain & Side Effects

For as long as I can remember, I’ve dealt with debilitating migraines. They’ve always been horrible, with pain, nausea, speech difficulties, and sensory sensitivities galore. More recently, they began fighting with my eyes, too, leaving me with blurred sight (at best) for a day or two, too. Coping with chronic migraine is easier said than done, but I’ve accumulated a few tools that make life with migraines a bit more possible.

Obligatory disclaimer: Talk to your doctor before changing your treatment plan. I’m not a medical professional myself, and this post does not constitute medical advice. These tips and tools are simply examples of my own experience with chronic migraines and are not guaranteed to work for everyone. 

It’s worth noting that I try to keep my lifestyle cruelty-free/vegan, not just my diet. However, healthcare & medical needs are the one area where I’m less diligent. If nothing else, how can I make a difference if I’m not well enough to function? We’re shooting for progress here, not perfection.

Cove

Cove Migraine Relief

First and foremost, I have to give a shoutout to one of the newest tools in my migraine crisis kit. A few months back, I signed up for Cove after a short-term trial of an abortive medication through K Health. My Cove physician was able to set me up with that prescription and ondansetron for nausea accompanying both migraines & meds (if you watch shows like Chicago Med, that may be a familiar one!) and a preventive medication I take daily, too. I could even have the prescriptions transferred to my typical pharmacy, which is even cheaper than Cove’s already excellent prices through their partner, Eagle Pharmacy.

If you use our referral link to give Cove a try, you’ll even get 60% off your first month’s prescription!

Migraine Buddy

Migraine Buddy

Migraine Buddy is a lifesaver for several reasons. First and foremost, it’s essential to keep track of migraines. I feel like I have them constantly, so I’m gathering this crucial data even when I’m not logging as perfectly as I’d like to be. However, there’s even more to Migraine Buddy than tracking alone.

The Migraine Buddy app offers plenty of insights, activities, and information to help you understand your migraines. But, just as importantly, it guides you through a few specific screens as you log a migraine. My personal favourite details are two pages, in particular. Firstly, there’s a page that asks which medications (if any) you’ve taken. You can personalize this list so, even in the depths of migraine misery, you’ll know what to use or take. The same is true of the page for non-medication remedies, like resting in a dark room or drinking water. I’m sure I’m not the only migraineur who can never remember what actually helps while in the trenches!

Sign up for Migraine Buddy.

OTC Medications

Migraine OTC

Of course, prescription medications aren’t the end-all, be-all. I still depend on over-the-counter pain relievers and other OTC methods to ease my migraines. Advil is almost always my go-to, whether it’s straight ibuprofen, Advil Dual Action, or Advil Migraine. I also depend on a severe allergy pill (diphenhydramine [Benadryl] with acetaminophen [Tylenol]) for those headaches that seem to be sinus-induced—though it can be hard to distinguish between the two. In terms of supplements, I typically take Deva’s calcium-magnesium combo and recently started trying feverfew capsules, too.

Muscle RubMuscle Rub Migraine

With popular brands like Bengay, Tiger Balm, and Icy Hot, there are plenty of options for pain relief, whatever your preference. Your go-to store may even have a generic brand that’s similar or even better than your brand-name options (I’ve had luck with Walmart’s Equate equivalent to Icy Hot myself). The back of my neck, in particular, tends to be my go-to application spot, though my forehead, temples, cheekbones, and jaw have all had their fair share. If you use any of these topical products on your face, be sure to avoid getting any in your eyes!

CBD

Wink CBD marble

I first tried CBD several years ago, as it was starting to become more popular. A friend of mine was working with an MLM that specialised in CBD oils and offered me a small sample to try. I loved the results (not just for migraine relief but also for easing my chronic joint pain, anxiety, and other symptoms) but avoided the hefty cost until I could make space in my budget more recently.

After a ridiculous amount of research, I came across Wink CBD and gave their cruelty-free GSC (a minty flavour reminiscent of a certain popular seasonal cookie) and Cupcake oils a try. These are some of the most valuable items in my migraine crisis kit, and I can hardly recommend them enough. In fact, I’ve recently added a few new flavours to my collection, which I can hardly wait to taste test. I’m excited to try their other products, too, eventually.

Use code ANIDEALLIFEBLOG for 10% off your first Wink order!

Water

Water Bottle marble

In a lifetime of chronic migraines, I’ve heard many times that dehydration can be a trigger, so a simple glass of water can make a big difference. At the very least, there are few instances where a glass of water will hurt!

Looking to drink more water? We’ve got a post for that! 

Electrolytes

Liquid IV water marble

Like water, I’ve long since heard that electrolytes may benefit migraine symptoms. I only started trying this trick for myself this past year or so, though—and I’m so disappointed I didn’t explore it sooner! I adore Everyday Hydration and LiquidIV for this, but there are other versions, too, of course. Electrolytes aren’t a magic cure-all for migraines, but they help pretty often!

Coca-Cola

McDonalds Coke app

In particular, McDonald’s Coke is some sort of magic—and I’m not alone in this strange migraine remedy! I’ve heard people attribute this to the particular syrup-water-ice ratio the chain uses, but I don’t need to know the details. If it makes coping with chronic migraine easier (and usually offers that relief for just $1), I’ll take it! Now, to get McD’s on board with plant-based food options….

Ginger Candies

Thrive Market Ginger Candies

If your migraines are anything like mine, they come with an awful lot of symptoms aside from pain, including plenty of nausea. I learnt long ago that ginger could take the edge off this nausea—and candied ginger is a tasty way to consume it. Ginger tea is also an excellent choice—lemon ginger is one of my personal favourites! Not a fan of ginger’s flavour? These candies crafted for morning sickness can do wonders for migraine nausea, too.

Looking for these in particular? Sign up for Thrive Market for organic candied ginger and so much more! 

Peppermint Gum

Peppermint Gum marble

In a similar vein as ginger candies, peppermint gum is a must in my migraine survival kit. The flavour and scent help ease the tension, while the chewing motion keeps me from clenching my jaw. Alternatively, Tic Tacs work, too!

Essential Oils

Peppermint Lavender Roll Ons Essential Oils

Similarly to the scent of peppermint gum, peppermint essential oil is one of my top must-haves for coping with chronic migraine. I also have a lavender roll-on that promotes relaxation—a difficult feeling to come by when dealing with a migraine attack.

WeatherX

WeatherX app earplugs

I first saw WeatherX earplugs (previously MigraineX) mentioned in a Facebook group, and I eventually invested in a pair of my own. Since, I’ve added a few to my collection, including a pair of the smaller children’s size, which fit my ears much better. Even without the earplugs themselves, though, the WeatherX app could come in handy by warning you of upcoming pressure fluctuations if you suspect that to be a migraine trigger.

YouTube

YouTube Chronic Pain Migraine Sound

YouTube might not seem like a typical tool for coping with chronic migraine, but it’s one I turn to time and again. In particular, the audio from this video seems to help tremendously! Unfortunately, it seemed to disappear from the site for a short time, and I was devastated. I have no idea just how this works, but it’s a lifesaver!

Insight Timer

Insight Timer AfterShokz marble

I dove into Insight Timer when the YouTube video linked above was unavailable for a time. Of course, this is good for all sorts of meditations, sleep audio, and other moments of self-care. But it’s excellent for coping with chronic migraines, too!

Apple Watch

Apple Watch Screen marble

I hope rather desperately that Migraine Buddy and Bearable (two of my favourite apps for iOS) release Apple Watch editions of their respective apps. For now, though, I find that the heart rate monitor built into my Apple Watch Series 6 is quite beneficial. When you’re struggling with pain like a severe migraine, your heart rate tends to increase. I deal with an abnormally high heart rate typically, so I know that when the pain raises it even higher, it’s time to take a break and implement some of my tools for coping with chronic migraine.

Mouth Guard

Mouthguard

I recently noticed I’ve had a lot of jaw pain with my migraines as of late. I’m not sure whether TMJ is triggering migraines or vice versa, but I know that a mouth guard seems to help!

Cervical Traction Device

Cervical Traction Amazon Listing

When I came across this cervical traction device, I was intrigued by the idea of reducing dowager’s hump and potentially easing migraine pain. Unfortunately, I don’t always take the time to do this daily, but the relief is noticeable when I do.

Massager

Migraine Massagers

This tool is actually in two parts! I get terrible neck and shoulder pain when dealing with a migraine flare, so a massage gun or percussion massager is ideal. As a bonus, it helps with my other forms of chronic pain, too! I also use a heated neck massager, which feels heavenly at the base of my skull, where so much of my pain tends to centralize. I’ve also got a fantastic little TENS unit that helps with migraines and other types of pain, too!

Sunglasses

Quay flatlay

Am I that jerk who wears sunglasses indoors? If I have a migraine, you betcha. Light can be absolutely debilitating mid-flare, but dark shades can take off the edge a bit. I even suffered through a few college classes with them! I have an oversized pair from Miss A (currently unavailable, but they have a wide array of other sunglasses!) that live in my bedside migraine kit (a pouch that’s also from Miss A!). On the go, I turn to my pairs from Quay Australia or Tiffany & Co.

Cool Patches

Cooling Patch

Another Miss A must-have! These cooling patches are specially made for pain, fevers, and similar sorts of discomfort, and they’re lovely additions to my migraine toolkit. They’re also excellent when the summer heat is a little too unbearable!

Warming Eye Mask

Warming Eye Mask

Cool temperatures aren’t offering relief? How about heat? These warming eye masks—yes, another Miss A find—are incredible. Right now, they’re available in rose or lavender scents. I use the lavender for migraine relief since it’s one of the few aromas that doesn’t typically worsen a flare.

Eye Pillow

Cats aromatherapy eye pillow

On a similar note, a friend sent me an aromatherapy eye pillow (covered in cats!) that’s become a staple for coping with chronic migraines. I’ve even added a few more to my collection! PeaceLoveRelaxation is my go-to resource. I may very well have to add to my stock soon, too!

Warmies

Warmies Grey Cat Closeup

I cannot explain just how much I adore these cuddly yet practical critters. While the idea of putting a stuffed animal in the microwave is somewhat disconcerting, the effects are well worth it. Warmies are perfect for comfort during a migraine flare or simply staying warm come winter!

Sleep Mask

Sleep Eye Mask

Sometimes it’s just a bit of darkness you need—more than your favourite shades have to offer. In that case, a handy dandy sleep mask is ideal! I use one most nights anyway, so I have quite the collection around already.

Eye Patch

Eye Patch

This is by far the item my family most judges me for, but it’s a valuable tool nevertheless. Because I deal with chronic migraines, I can’t always retreat into the darkness as I’d like. So when I have to keep being a semi-functional adult, I’ve found that a cheap eye patch (mine’s from Walmart) can save the stabbing pain of light or screens in my eye. I typically have just one affected so severely at a time, so this is perfect for offering a bit of relief.

Rest

iOS Sleep

When it’s possible, sleep is by far the best tool for coping with chronic migraine. However, if the pain’s too much to sleep, even just lying down and resting can make a world of difference!

Regular Breaks

Apple Watch Pomodoro

Similarly to rest, taking regular breaks is crucial to coping with chronic migraines. I work on the computer (well, iPad, LATELY) and know that too much screen time will inevitably trigger a flare. By taking regular screen-free breaks, I can usually mitigate these effects! A Pomodoro timer is perfect for this. 

Even with this lengthy list of tools and tips, coping with chronic migraine is easier said than done. Still, even a little bit of relief is better than none at all!

Do you have a fantastic migraine-fighting tool I didn’t mention? Let us know in the comments or on social media @anideallifeblog!

Mini - An Ideal Life
Mini - An Ideal Life
Mini - An Ideal Life
Mini - An Ideal Life

LookHUMAN Mug Haul

LookHUMAN Mug Haul and Wish List

I’ve been a fan of LookHUMAN for ages, but it took me until just a few months ago to start my own LookHUMAN mug collection. Once I started, though, I dove in head first! Naturally, a LookHUMAN mug haul was necessary—as well as a wish list showcasing those I’d still like to add to my collection.

It’s worth noting that there’s more than just mugs on the LookHUMAN website. In fact, you’ll find designs like these on just about everything! Journals, t-shirts, face masks, and pins stand out as a few other fantastic products.

Cute Mothman Mug

Cute Mothman Mug

You might not know this about me, but I’m a big fan of Mothman. Is it normal to have a favourite cryptid? Regardless, between my go-to episode of Paranormal Witness and the wonderful Twitter bot, in-real-life friends and family know that cute Mothman merch is a quick and easy way to my heart. This mug was the first LookHUMAN piece in my collection and for good reason—how cute are these little mothmen? There’s a pastel version, too, that I’m hoping to get my hands on sometime soon.

Cute Mothman 15-ounce mug

Mothman Believes in You Mug

Mothman Believes in You Mug

Speaking of Mothman—how cute is this? Some days need a little extra motivation and Mothman is ready to offer just that. Unfortunately, this mug took a nose dive within days of getting it, leading to a nasty chip along the rim. I’m hoping to replace this inspirational mug soon for coffee/tea-drinking purposes, delegating the chipped version to holding some pens or pencils!

Mothman Believes In You 15-ounce mug

College Educated Evil Feminist Slut Mug

College Educated Evil Feminist Slut Mug

Full disclosure, I’ve actually got this mug packed away—while I’m stay at my parents’ house, it’s not quite the drinkware they’d want to see me using! Once I’ve moved away once more, though, I’m excited to pull this out and spread the word. Certainly, there’s nothing more evil than a feminist!

College Educated Evil Feminist Slut 15-ounce mug

Legally Blonde Harvard Mug

Legally Blonde Harvard Mug

Legally Blonde is one of my favourite movies of all time. Not only do I adore Reese Witherspoon, but I’m also a natural blonde with a small dog who nearly tried to become a lawyer (I talked myself out of that one for health reasons). This mug is the perfect confidence boost when adulting feels a little extra challenging!

Harvard Law What Like It’s Hard 15-ounce mug

Buy Me Books and Tell Me I’m Pretty Mug

Buy Me Books & Tell Me I’m Pretty Mug

I mean, this sounds like a pretty good plan to me! This mug always reminds me of an exchange between Firefly’s Wash and Kaylee (or, depending on the day, Kaylee and Simon—“pretty pretty” gets me every time!). Paired with my love for books, this mug just couldn’t be better. And who knows…maybe it’ll encourage the perfect bookstore date someday!

Buy Me Books and Tell Me I’m Pretty 15-ounce mug

Fueled By Crystals & Coffee MugFueled by Crystals & Coffee Mug

 

Even if you only know me through the blog and social media, this should be pretty self-explanatory. This combo gets me through more days than I could count!

Fueled by Crystals & Coffee 15-ounce mug

Need some more crystals in your life? Check out the Witchy One subscription box or my witchy Etsy haul!

I’m a Witch, I’m a Lover Mug

I’m a Witch I’m a Lover Mug

Who doesn’t love this oh-so-catchy Meredith Brooks song? The subtle word-swap for “witch” is perfect—I don’t curse much (especially around family), and I’m pretty darn witchy as a rule.

I’m a Witch, I’m a Lover 15-ounce mug

Spooks and Books Mug

Spooks & Books Mug

Former paranormal investigator, empath, and resident of a haunted house…who just so happens to be a bibliophile, too? What could be a better fit than an adorable mug that combines these interests?

Spooks and Books 15-ounce mug

Village Witch Mug

Village Witch Mug

This design is actually the first that drew me to LookHUMAN! After seeing it on Buzzfeed, I fell in love with the quaint illustration and the implications behind using this mug in my small hometown (technically a borough, but close enough!). So, it’s no surprise that this was one of the first mugs I ordered!

Village Witch 15-ounce mug

Perfectly Splendid Mug

Perfectly Splendid Mug

Any other The Haunting of… fans? While I love Hill House (if you haven’t read the novel yet, you absolutely must! It’s not the same as the Netflix series, but it’s perfectly splendid all the same. I mean, could Shirley Jackson write anything that isn’t?) Bly Manor (inspired by the Henry James classic, The Turn of the Screw) has a special place in my heart. That end-game couple is one of my all-time favourites, and Oliver Jackson-Cohen’s accent? Swoon. Bad guy or not, it’s impossible to deny it! Fan-girling aside, this mug is a splendid way to show off your love of this series.

Perfectly Splendid 15-ounce mug

Do I have space for more mugs right now? Not at all. Do I fully intend to grow my collection regardless? You betcha. These are just a few of the mugs on my wish list as of this writing:

Cute Pastel Mothman Mug

Cute Pastel Mothman Mug

I mentioned the “normal” cute mothman mug above—I definitely have to add the pastel version to my collection!

Cute Pastel Mothman 15-ounce mug

Ghost Cat Mug

Ghost Cat Mug

Adorably spooky kitty? How could I resist?

    Ghost Cat 15-ounce mug

I’m in Love with the Shape of You Pumpkin Mug

I’m in Love with the Shape of You

Ed Sheeran meets Spooky Season? Yes, please!

Shape of You Pumpkin 15-ounce mug

Fireworks Make Me Anxious Mug

Fireworks Make Me Anxious Mug

Not only do fireworks aggravate my own PTSD, but they bother our poor pets, too. My parents’ neighbors, in particular, insist on setting off illegal blasts all summer long, so it’s an especial pet peeve! This mug illustrates my feelings pretty perfectly.

Fireworks Make Me Anxious 15-ounce mug

My Everything Hurts Mug

My Everything Hurts

This is a spoonie mug if I’ve ever seen one!

My Everything Hurts 15-ounce mug

Ruth BAder Ginsburg Justice Tarot Mug

RBG Justice Tarot Mug

I adore RBG, and this tarot card design adds a fantastically witchy touch!

RBG Justice Tarot 15-ounce mug

the Fall of the Patriarchy Mug

Fall of the Patriarchy Mug

It’s almost fall—this is a must-buy, right?

My Favorite Season is the Fall of the Patriarchy 15-ounce mug

Baby Goats Mug

Baby Goats Mug

Baby goats are adorable, satan eyes and all…and this mug is no exception!

Baby Goats 15-ounce mug

…You Know, Fall Shit Mug

You Know Fall Shit Mug

This mug made my sister and I crack up—we both adore autumn, and this couldn’t be more true for us as true crime fans!

…You Know, Fall Shit 15-ounce mug

I Like to Party Mug

I Like to Party Mug

Now that we mention true crime…how perfect is this one? Side note, drop your favourite true crime docs in the comments! I’m always looking for new titles for my to-watch list.

I Like to Party and By Party I Mean Watch True Crime Documentaries 15-ounce mug

Pride and Feminist Mug

Pride and Feminist Mug

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a Jane Austen fan in possession of feminist ideals, must be in want of this mug.

Pride and Feminist 15-ounce mug

Therapy Is Expensive, Sleep Is Free Mug

Therapy Is Expensive Sleep Is Free Mug

Therapy is a great concept (I’ve got Talkspace on my radar myself), but not always an accessible one. Sleep isn’t an actual substitute, of course, but it certainly feels good in the moment!

Therapy is Expensive, Sleep is Free 15-ounce mug

Tears of My Readers Mug

Tears of My Readers Mug

Any writer recognizes this sentiment, right?

Tears of My Readers 15-ounce mug

Witches Get StufF Done Mug

Witches Get Stuff Done Mug

This mug instantly makes me think of Hamilton’s “Immigrants—we get the job done!” Witches certainly do the same!

Witches Get Stuff Done 15-ounce mug

Of course, I’m sure there are even more LookHUMAN mugs I’d love—but I don’t want a 3,000 word wish list here either! For now, though, this wish list is plenty. In fact, getting each of these mugs would more than double my LookHUMAN collection!

I absolutely love the mugs in my LookHUMAN mug haul so far and can hardly wait to add a few more, especially as spooky season approaches. Do you have any mugs or other products from LookHUMAN? Let me know in the comments if you have any recommendations!

Mini - An Ideal Life
Mini - An Ideal Life

Working Full-Time with Chronic Illness

Working Full-Time with Chronic Illness

As our social media followers may know already, I started a full-time (albeit remote) job this summer. Before this, I worked about 60 hours per week, on average, as a freelancer in addition to blogging, writing, and running my small press. That was even less sustainable than the thought of working full-time with chronic illness! Fortunately, my role allows a lot of flexibility, rather than a strict 9 to 5 workday.

That being said, this isn’t making the process of balancing a full-time job with the unpredictability of disabilities any less of a challenge. On the contrary, it’s been nearly a full quarter since I began this role, yet I’m still struggling with the adjustment! In the past few months, though, I’ve learned a lot about working full-time with chronic pain and other conditions. In particular, I’ve been working my head around how to do so successfully, simultaneously being a successful, reliable employee while managing my health and symptoms. So, of course, this is the sort of thing I can’t help but share here, too.

Take advantage of the good days.

As a freelancer, I found myself in a never-ending cycle of burnout, leading to a severe health crisis this past spring. In particular, Arianna Huffington’s experience hits home, along with the lessons she learnt in the process: change is absolutely necessary. In my case, this means I must make more time for rest and—despite my overly ambitious instincts’ protests—recreation, as well. I’m still learning how to reach this balance, but I’ve quickly learnt that making the most of those days when symptoms are minimal is a crucial aspect.

Fewer hours doesn’t mean less effort.

This may be particular to my situation, but I’m technically working far fewer hours as a full-time employee than freelancing. Nevertheless, I’ve also been struggling over the past few months while I adjust to a 40-hour workweek (or slightly over, in most cases). Much to my surprise, working full-time with chronic illness has led to more exhaustion despite being fewer hours than my freelance efforts previously. I know that starting a full-time job can be exhausting, but I had no idea just how tiring it would be!

Having the right team is key.

Of course, you can’t always change the people you work with. But, when that is something you can control, your supervisors and colleagues must be supportive. I’ve been ridiculously lucky on this front—my supervisor and colleagues might not know the innermost details of my diagnoses, but they know that I’m disabled. They’ve been incredible in understanding the struggle and trying to make this job work for me.

Be upfront about your needs and limitations.

I’m still grappling with this point personally, but I’ve realised that it’s essential to be pretty frank about the accommodations you need and the challenges your diagnosis might present. In my case, this was part of the reason I struggled to find a remote role and even failed to get some freelance clients before this. One particular difficulty, for me, is difficulty making phone or video calls. Fortunately, there’s a lot of technology in the modern days that allow me to manage with text-based platforms, whether it’s online ordering or chat service.

Remind yourself of your strengths.

One part of my new job that I’ve especially struggled with is meeting a weekly quota. On difficult days, that struggle has been enough to leave me questioning my abilities and having this job. I’ve had others tell me that I was a perfect choice for this role, but I can’t help but question it on the hard days. When this happens, I stop and try to remember why I’m here. Then, for a few moments, I’ll look through high scores or positive feedback my previous work has received.

Listen to your body.

Arguably, this is just a crucial tip for life with chronic pain or illness more generally. Flexible hours mean that, when I can’t keep my eyes open one afternoon (thanks to what’s thought to be myalgic encephalomyelitis or chronic fatigue syndrome), I can sign off and take a nap, then return when I’m feeling a bit more functional. Likewise, when I’m feeling better than usual, I can push my limits a little more, leaving space for another day to be shorter when I’m struggling.

Take complete breaks.

Working through a bowl of chips between paragraphs doesn’t count as a lunch break. Ideally, I try to maintain a schedule with a full lunch break and two coffee breaks (morning and afternoon). At the very least, I make myself step away from the screen for a few minutes. This is vital to avoiding more significant flares, like a screen time-induced migraine, and staying productive when working.

Find Productivity Tools that work for you.

As spoonies, we can’t always thrive with conventional productivity methods and tools. However, I’ve found that a few productivity systems and productivity tools, in particular, help me get my work done with less stress. Of course, some days require different methods than others, and plenty of trial and error is involved. What matters most, though, is that you find what works for you and take advantage of your newfound productivity.

Keep notes and a to-do list.

If your chronic illness comes with brain fog, this is crucial. I keep an array of to-do lists between GoodNotes, my favourite task management apps, and my pen-and-paper lists. Not everything that comes to mind throughout the day is a task, though. So instead, I keep notes, too. Sticky notes are ideal, while the iOS Notes app or similar programs offer digital tools that do the same.

Create and utilise a flexible routine.

The benefits of routines are vast, especially when you’re dealing with conditions like autism or ADHD. At the same time, disabilities make that sort of consistency difficult. You never know when a pain flare or other symptoms will throw your routine aside! Tiimo is a great tool, particularly for neurodivergent schedulers, and Google Calendar is another fan favourite. I use these to outline my routine (there’s little chance I’d remember otherwise!), but allow myself to adjust it as needed. Leaving a few “free spaces” in my week ensures there’s room to accommodate those adjustments!

Embrace the unconventional.

I use this tip for productivity more broadly, too. Does having a stim toy or weighted lap pad make the workday easier for you? Never mind what others might think. Do what works for you! So long as your unconventional tool or method isn’t harming you or someone else, there’s no reason not to take advantage of it.

Find workarounds when needed.

Sometimes, your illness just won’t let you do the tasks at hand. For instance, when migraines affect my vision, I’ll struggle to type an article, much less edit and format it. In these cases, I turn to Otter.ai to dictate my assignments. I was surprised by just how accurate their transcriptions are! I’ll just have to make edits and format the text once my eyes are working properly once again. Think of where your symptoms cause a struggle and see if a similar workaround can help you thrive despite your illness.

Adjust your expectations.

Chances are, you’ve long since realised that you can’t accomplish things with the same speed and ease as someone healthy. This is especially true when working full-time with chronic illness. So remind yourself that sometimes good enough is plenty. As much as you want to be a reliable employee and impress your boss, you can’t expect every single task to be done perfectly—at least not if you expect to stay [relatively] healthy.

Know your limits.

Some people can’t work full-time with chronic illness or disability, despite their best efforts. If that’s the case, you might consider part-time or other alternative working hours to work with fewer complications. In some cases, you might not be able to work at all. This is undoubtedly a mental and economic challenge, but it’s essential to do what’s best for you and your health. If you need to decrease your work hours or step away from your career path, it’s worth considering whether these are compromises you can make for the sake of your well-being.

Do you work full-time with chronic illness? What helps make it easier?

Mini - An Ideal Life

How to Make a Five-Year Plan to Get Unstuck and Take Control of Your Life

A five-year plan is one of those concepts you hear about as you move through life, but no one really takes the time to explain. No one says, “Here’s how to make a five-year plan and why you’d want to. Knock yourself out!” With this post, I hope to do just that!

I’ve gone through a few iterations of my current five-year plan as my life’s changed. I recently started a full-time job I would never have imagined having—that undoubtedly changed my plans! That’s the beauty of this concept, really. When plans change, your five-year plan itself can change.

The first version of my five-year plan, though, was inspired by one of the most influential people I’ve had the chance to “know” (albeit through her blog & podcast!), Natalie BaconNatalie’s take on a five-year plan starts with envisioning your dream life amidst eight primary life categories:

  • Health
  • Relationships
  • Money
  • Career
  • Personal Development
  • Environment
  • Recreation
  • Service

Then, Natalie’s planning process takes you through the transition into becoming your dream self, then implementing massive action to reach your desired results.

My plan started similarly, with a list of life categories. In my case, there are a few more than Natalie’s—if nothing else, I work better envisioning my various businesses separately. So, in my five-year plan, I begin with these categories:

That works out to 14 categories versus Natalie’s eight, meaning mine involves a bit more work. But, in my case, this works best for me—in creating your own five-year plan, your own categories will be completely different, too! Essentially, the key is to consider your life’s main priorities.

From there, I craft the big-picture image of my ideal life (I couldn’t resist that one!). Going through each of these categories, I imagine the best possible state in five years. Typically, I write a few paragraphs per life category. You could craft a page-long imagining or turn to bullet points for a simplified version. Like your categories, your visualisation process is customisable.

Natalie’s initial guide to a five-year plan then focuses on mindset work or becoming the person you aspire to be. I won’t try to combat her expertise here—definitely check out her blog post to understand journalling as the person with your results, overcoming your fear, and consuming media that reflects your goals. I try to implement these methods myself, and I’m sure you could add your own mindset practices.

Then, both Natalie’s process and mine move to practicality—setting goals that move you toward the results you’re dreaming of, then taking action towards those goals. Typically, I try to have one main goal per category at any given time. Natalie’s a proponent of having just one main goal. The two concepts aren’t necessarily incompatible. With more than one goal, the key is to prioritise based on a hierarchy of your goals and categories.

In my experience, these hierarchies change. One week, I may be behind on a particular project and want to focus on catching up. The next, I might be more interested in caring for myself and reaching a healthier balance between work and play. Once again, you can work to figure out what works best for you! This method might mean I progress more slowly than if I were working towards one central goal at a time, but it’s what works best for me at this point in my life.

In practice, I aim to create my big main “impossible” goals, then break those down into smaller goals on shorter timeframes. I ask myself: “What needs to happen between now and then for this goal to become a reality?”

If I want to be settled in my new apartment by the five-year point, for example, I need to save for the upfront costs. I have to research my complex of choice and make sure my finances are in the best possible place before applying. And, of course, I need to figure out the logistics of my first big move! By planning a rough timeline for these milestones, I’ll have a better idea of how I’ll get from here to there.

Finally, I create task lists for the short-term goals set to be reached soonest, usually daily, weekly, or monthly projects. Armed with those to-dos, I can schedule my upcoming time blocks to best move towards my goals! 

By far, what I love most about this take on a five-year plan is its flexibility. When life changes—as it so often does—your plan can change with it. When you hit a roadblock, you can adjust accordingly. And, so long as you reevaluate your priorities and arrange your strategy accordingly, you’ll make incredible progress. 

Five years isn’t very long compared to a lifetime but, nevertheless, you can find yourself living a whole new life in that short time. I hardly consider myself the same person I was five years ago, and that was without a solid five-year plan. With one, the possibilities are pretty limitless. 

Be sure to check out Natalie’s blog and podcast, Design Your Dream Life, as well as her coaching programs, Grow You (at the top of my wish list) and The Creator Program. You just might stumble across the advice you need to skyrocket your own success in creating a five-year plan and beyond! 

Mini - An Ideal Life
Mini - An Ideal Life

East Coast Travel Destinations for your Summer Bucket List

East Coast Travel Destinations for Your Summer Bucket List

While I don’t get to enjoy it anywhere near as often as I’d like, I love to travel. The number of travel opportunities was one of my favourite things about life in Bath and, to some degree, college in Gettysburg. Here in the middle of nowhere (my current home base), the chance to travel is pretty rare. Reaching public transit to get anywhere is a trip in and of itself!

Still, the east coast offers some fantastic destinations. I’ve been lucky enough to visit quite a few, and others are on my own bucket list. So, with summer on the horizon and vacation plans being made, I thought there was no better time to share some of my top east coast summer travel spots.

Before we get into my favourite destinations, a few disclaimers are in order. A majority of these spots are in the Mid-Atlantic region since that’s my area of expertise. I even included a touch of Pennsylvania, though it’s not technically on the coast (most resources consider it a part of the region, if not literally touch the coastline).

Interested in PA travel in particular? Read about my weekend in Harrisburg!

There are a few must-see travel destinations, though, that I haven’t had the chance to visit just yet. Through my insatiable wanderlust and travel (ghost) writing experience, I’ve had the opportunity to “see” some incredible cities and points of interest across the country and beyond! Naturally, a few have piqued my interest and made their way onto my travel bucket list. Have you been to one of these places? Share your best tips in the comments or @anideallifeblog!

The Best Summer Travel Destinations on the East Coast:

Of course, be sure to follow any applicable health & safety guidelines when travelling, particularly in the wake of COVID-19.

Frederick, Md

Carroll Creek Park, Image via Visit Frederick

Frederick is quite possibly one of my favourite places anywhere, not just on the east coast. This city has all the amenities you’d expectyet somehow achieves a friendly small-town feel. I love the artsy atmosphere and see a dog nearly any which way I turn! Plus, Voila! tea is basically a dream come true.

It may very well be different for the people that live there (I know Gettysburg was like that for me), but, until proven otherwise, Frederick will remain one of my favourite spots in Maryland and beyond.

Miami, FL

Image via Miamigov.com

Beaches aren’t necessarily my forte, but the city of Miami has most definitely caught my eye.

From my writing projects and pop culture, the diversity here astounds me. If nothing else, I won’t turn down a chance to practice my Spanish listening skills!

Gettysburg, PA

Gettysburg Pennsylvania | An Ideal Life
Devil’s Den

Going to school there dampened my love for Gettysburg a bit, but I still have a soft spot for the tourist-packed summer months. Any history fan—or civil war buff, in particular—should have the National Military Park on their bucket list!

In addition to the battlefield, Downtown Gettysburg has a lot to love. Visit the Blue and Gray Bar & Grill for a veggie burger or grab a drink at the Pointe Pub (within the Federal Pointe Inn). Learn about Jennie Wade, the only reported civilian killed during the battle, or “meet” some Gettysburg ghosts at one of the town’s many paranormal tours. More spiritual visitors should be sure to visit The Crystal Wand’s new location on Baltimore Street.

Myrtle Beach, SC

Image via Visit Myrtle Beach

Technically, I have been to Myrtle Beach, but it’s been well over a decade. So, while I don’t have much in terms of specific recommendations, I do have a ton of happy memories.

It’s all too possible that my view of Myrtle Beach is clouded by nostalgia—as my disdain for sand & sun grew through the years, I think I’d still enjoy this one. But, still, that rose tint maintains my love of this South Carolina hot spot, hence its inclusion on this list of east coast summer travel ideas.

Inner Harbor, MD

Baltimore Inner Harbor | An Ideal Life

Apparently, most of my favourite destinations are in Maryland—who knew? Aside: one of my current writing projects is inspired by the town of Berlin, too!

Between family vacations as I was growing up and then school and professional trips in later years, Baltimore’s Inner Harbor is near the top of my list of favourite places. In fact, I enjoy it so much that I’ve considered moving there!

But, so far as summer travel plans are concerned, Inner Harbor is the perfect weekend or day trip destination for anyone within a reasonable driving distance. From museums to adventures on the water, you’d be hard-pressed to not find something to love.

New York, NY

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, also known as Central Park Reservoir Manhattan | An Ideal Life
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, Manhattan

Given my limited interest in beaches, it’s only natural that I’d include some cities as potential east coast destinations to visit this summer. NYC has a special place in my heart, and it’s not only because of Tiffany’s.

From Times Square to Central Park, New York City is “centre of the universe” for a good reason. But there’s more to the Big Apple than tourist attractions alone. My number one stop? VLife, the source of some of the best vegan food I’ve ever eaten!

Amherst, MA

Amherst Town Hall
Amherst Town Hall, Image via Encyclopaedia Britannica

Amherst is the newest addition to my travel bucket list, primarily due to the Emily Dickinson Museum. But any destination described as being “known for its bookishness, its artsyness, its local food obsession, its openness and tolerance, and its beauty” is the sort of place I need to visit!

Save for Salem, I’ve never had much of an urge to travel through the more northern United States. The more I learn about Amherst, though, the more that changes.

Petersburg, VA

City Point, Petersburg | An Ideal Life
City Point

My experience in Petersburg was limited to a Civil War conference half a decade ago (in my “former life” as a historian).But, from what I did get to experience the battlefield and surrounding area, I really enjoyed my stay!

If you do visit Petersburg’s National Battlefield, try to catch a program with my friend Emmanuel—he’s an incredible ranger and so passionate about his work!

City Point is especially beautiful, and its stunning views have stuck with me through the years. And, returning to my Pennsylvania roots, the 48th’s efforts had a particular impact as well.

Ocean City, MD

Ocean City, MD | An Ideal LifeAnother notable exception to my not-so-positive feelings about beaches, Ocean City, Maryland (not to be confused with its New Jersey equivalent) is anotherwonderful destination for a summer vacation. The boardwalk, in particular, has such fond memories!

As a bonus, the shore is just a few minutes away from one of my all-time favourite places, Assateague Island. They’ve basically mastered the formula for getting a place to catch my attention—they have cute animals and some literary references.

There’s much more to the east coast than these particular destinations. But these are a few of my favourites—and hopefully future favourites, too!

Mini - An Ideal Life
Mini - An Ideal Life
Mini - An Ideal Life
Mini - An Ideal Life
Mini - An Ideal Life
Mini - An Ideal Life

vegan bacon avocado toast

Vegan Bacon Avocado Toast

I love avocado toast. My basic avocado toast recipe is usually enough to satisfy the craving, but sometimes I want to craft something “fancier.” Whether it’s a relaxing Sunday brunch or a breakfast option with extra protein before a busy day, this tempeh-topped vegan bacon avocado toast is a delicious version of this millennial favourite. Admittedly, I very much fit that cliche. 

Jump to Recipe

For a low-spoon, wait-free version of this recipe, you could use Lightlife’s smoky tempeh strips as your “bacon.” I haven’t tried it in this context, but I love them on their own! I have no doubt this would be just as tasty.

Or, you could switch out this simple avocado mash with the seasoned version from our brunch-worthy avocado toast. This version is ready for brunch already, but the extra flavour would take it up a notch!

Similarly, feel free to use the tempeh bacon from this recipe as a side for your other favourite brunch dishes. It’s plenty delicious on its own, too, of course.

Add a hot sauce drizzle or make your version of a vegan BLT. Make this recipe your own! All that matters is that you love the final, tasty result.

vegan tempeh bacon avocado toast

Vegan Bacon-Topped Avocado Toast

Prep Time 1 hr
Cook Time 15 mins
Course Breakfast
Cuisine American
Servings 8 slices

Equipment

  • Skillet or griddle

Ingredients
  

  • 1 package tempeh sliced thin
  • 1 avocado
  • 1/2 tbsp lemon juice optional
  • 8 slices bread of choice

Vegan Bacon Marinade

  • 1/2 cup soy sauce or substitute
  • 3/4 tsp liquid smoke
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup sugar-free, if desired
  • 1/2 tbsp garlic powder
  • black pepper to taste
  • paprika to taste
  • nutritional yeast optional, for topping

Instructions
 

  • Combine marinade ingredients in a small bowl and mix well.
  • Coat tempeh slices in sauce, ensuring each slice is submerged. Allow them to soak for at least half an hour, but preferably an hour or longer for optimal flavor.
  • Grease skillet, if necessary and cook tempeh “bacon” over medium-high heat.
  • Toast chosen bread. While it’s toasting, mash avocado, adding lemon juice to preserve colour if desired.
  • Top toast with mashed avocado, then finish with slices of tempeh bacon.
  • Optional: Sprinkle with nutritional yeast.
  • Serve & enjoy!
Keyword Avocado, Tempeh, Vegan, Vegan Bacon

Let us know in the comments if you’ve tried this vegan bacon-topped avocado toast, or tag us @anideallifeblog on your favourite social media platform!

vegan barbecue ideas plant-based picnic

Vegan Barbecue Ideas: The Perfect Plant-Based Picnic

With Memorial Day coming up, and July 4th and Labor Day following close behind, picnic season is officially upon us. From family reunions to graduation parties and other celebrations, there’s nothing quite like firing up the grill and bbq-ing your favourite foods. Even plant-based picnickers can get in on the fun with a vegan barbecue!

Growing up, family picnics were a staple of summertime on my mom’s side and dad’s side alike. We’d gather at my great uncle and aunt’s house, reuniting the most distant cousins over the “famous” family bean soup, or meet in my parents’ home, where food would sizzle on the grill alongside coolers full of drinks on ice and bowls of chips, pretzels, and sides like pasta salad and fresh fruit.

When I went vegan nearly a decade ago, I was far more worried about missing out on moments like these than skipping bacon and cheese. Thankfully, there are plenty of vegan versions of my favourite barbecue foods, from store-bought veggie burgers to homemade sides.

If you’d prefer a plant-based picnic this season, you’re in luck—so many vegan barbecue ideas are out there! Pulling up a delicious recipe through Pinterest or keeping things simple with a ready-made option, your vegan picnic can be your most delicious BBQ yet.

On the Grill

Fire up that barbecue (or stove, griddle, etc.) and let’s get cooking!

Baked Black Bean and Sweet Potato Veggie Burgers (JoyFoodsunShine)

Baked Black Bean and Sweet Potato Veggie Burgers - JoyFoodsunShine
Photo via JoyFoodSunshine

I made a spin-off of this recipe a while back (in fact, a photo of just that went live on Instagram yesterday!). Even with the swaps I made, these black bean burgers were delicious. I have no doubt they’re just as good, if not better, with the recipe as written!

These are a softer burger (as expected!), so do be careful if you’re trying them on a literal grill. I haven’t tried it myself! The recipe itself calls for baking, which is super simple. Too hot to fathom turning on the oven? A countertop option like my Nostalgia Electrics MyMini griddle should get the job done, too!

Or, for a more low-effort black bean burger, try Aldi’s Earth Grown Black Bean Chipotle Burger! Have it delivered via Instacart, and use our referral link for $10 off your first order. 

Portobello Mushrooms (MasterClass)

Portobello Mushrooms Grill Pixabay
Image by Joshua Choate from Pixabay

I am very much not a fan of mushrooms. 99.9% of the time. But, while I was living in Bath, a roasted portobello mushroom was part of the vegan brekky at my favourite cafe. In all the times I visited the Green Rocket, I’d never met a menu item I didn’t like. So, I gave it a shot and guess what? I liked it!

I can’t say just how they prepared my brunch, but the methods above from MasterClass seem plenty effective. After all, who can we trust if not a Master?

Learn even more skills (including plenty of culinary arts) with a MasterClass subscription!

Buffalo Cauliflower Sandwich (An Ideal Life)

Closeup Buffalo Cauliflower Sandwich

This recipe is a long-time favourite. In fact, it was one of the very first I shared on my previous blog! It’s since found a new home here and is just waiting to enjoyed, whether at a picnic or an everyday lunch hour.

Grilled Cauliflower Steaks (Well Plated by Erin)

Grilled Cauliflower Steaks Well-Plated
Photo via Well-Plated

I love all things cauliflower, so it’s no surprise that this one caught my eye!

Extra cauliflower left over? Try our buffalo cauliflower wings for a similar flavour or branch out with our dijon-roasted cauliflower!

Carrot Hot Dogs (Where You Get Your Protein)

Carrot Hot Dogs
Photo via Where You Get Your Protein

Picnicking or just because, carrot dogs are one of my favourite veggie dishes! This recipe from Marlena is no exception. I’m excited to try my vegan versions of Antoni’s hot dog toppings from Queer Eye’s season one with these, but feel free to add your toppings of choice or enjoy these tasty vegan hot dogs as-is.

Skewers

Vegetable Skewers Grill Pixabay
Image by RitaE from Pixabay

You can find plenty of vegan skewer recipes on Pinterest (are you following us there?) or your favourite recipe platform, or DIY your own with some of your go-to ingredients. Gardein’s beefless tips would be a great meat substitute, as well as tofu, your favourite vegetables, and whatever marinade or spices you’d like.

Faux-Meat Burgers

Empower Burger Plant-Based Picnic

There are plenty of substitutes that make for an almost-instant option that even meat eaters might be tempted to try. Go for a Beyond Burger, Impossible Burger, or Aldi’s Earth-Grown Empower burger and enjoy a tasty option that’s perfect for a vegan barbecue, and super easy, too.

Off the Grill

The main event of your plant-based picnic doesn’t always have to be fresh off the grill. There are plenty of options on the cooler side of things!

Better Than Tuna Chickpea Salad (Full of Beans)

Photo via Full of Beans

Before I recently discovered my chickpea sensitivity, this “tuna” salad sandwich was one of my go-to recipes! It’s absolutely perfect for a picnic.

Sweet and Spicy Tempeh Sweet Potato Sandwiches (The Healthy Toast)

Photo via The Healthy Toast

I make something similar to this with my tempeh bacon-topped avocado toast, but this takes it a step further with a delicious sweet potato sandwich!

White Bean-Avocado Salad Sandwich (An Ideal Life)

White Bean Basil Avocado Salad Toast

This simple salad is delicious over toast or topping a salad—and it’s just as good in sandwich form! Try this as an alternative to the typical tuna or chicken salad, and save any leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch.

Tofurky Sandwiches

Image via Instacart

Tofurky or your faux deli meat of choice makes for a perfect, simple sandwich. I love it for simple takes on lunchbox classics!

Sides

Does your vegan barbecue even count as a cookout if you don’t have plates piled high with sides?

Mom’s Bean Soup Made Vegan (An Ideal Life)

Vegan Bean Soup

Though the original recipe is simple, bean soup was a summertime sample passed down through my family. My mom was the most recent recipient of the family “secret” until she helped me make our favourite bean soup vegan. Now, it can continue to be a picnic classic!

1-Pot BBQ Baked Beans (Minimalist Baker)

Photo via Minimalist Baker

Baked beans are a picnic staple, and this recipe from Minimalist Baker looks delicious! You could always turn to a veg-friendly canned variety for an even easier option (Heinz vegetarian baked beans are my go-to low-spoon variety), but I’m confident these will be a crowd pleaser.

Easy Vegan Potato Salad (It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken)

Vegan Potato Salad
Photo via It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken

I haven’t tried this potato salad yet myself, but I’ve never been disappointed by one of Sam’s recipes!

Vegan Macaroni Salad (This Savory Vegan)

Vegan Macaroni Salad
Photo via This Savory Vegan

Rene is another vegan blogger who simply doesn’t disappoint. How delicious does this macaroni salad look?

Vegan Caprese Pasta Salad (An Ideal Life)

Closeup Caprese Pasta

This is one of the simplest recipes in my arsenal, can be made the night before, and offers a lovely result in an aesthetic sense. That sounds like a win-win-win situation to me!

Salad Stuffed Shells (An Ideal Life)

Closeup Salad Stuffed Shells

Another ridiculously easy recipe, another one focused on pasta. Take a conventional green salad and mix it with a simple pasta salad and you’ve got these salad stuffed shells, an unconventional addition to your vegan barbecue.

Spicy Buffalo White Bean Hummus (The Vegan 8)

Photo via The Vegan 8

Hummus has been one of my favourite foods for ages, but I recently found out that a chickpea sensitivity is behind a few of my ever-growing list of health issues. Since then, I’ve been on the lookout for alternative dips, and this one seems like a perfect fit!

Homemade Baked Potato Chips (One Green Planet)

OneGreenPlanet Potato Chips
Photo via OneGreenPlanet

These homemade potato chips are a healthier version of a snack time favourite, and seem super simple.

For an even easier option, though, you can browse Thrive Market, Instacart, or your local Walmart Grocery service for vegan or “accidentally vegan” varieties!

Vegan Deviled Eggs (Forks Over Knives)

Vegan Deviled Eggs Potatoes
Photo via Forks Over Knives

There are no actual eggs in this recipe—it’s made with potatoes! Just about anything potato-based is a win in my book, and I’m dying to try these.

Stand-Alone Veggies

vegetables
Image by Zhen Li from Pixabay

Who says every item on your barbecue menu needs a recipe? Throw some veggies on the grill solo or with your favourite seasonings or marinade. Or,  keep things even simpler with some raw carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, or other vege. Add a dip like Tasty’s vegan ranch dip and enjoy!

Sweets

No vegan barbecue would be complete without dessert!

1 Bowl Vegan Flag Cake (Nora Cooks)

Photo via Nora Cooks

If I made a ranked list of Pinterest-worthy vegan desserts, this beautiful fruit-topped cake would be one of the first on it!

Vegan and Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake Balls (Oh She Glows)

Photo via Oh She Glows

Since realising that I am, in fact, sensitive to gluten, I’ve struggled to move away from my pasta-laden diet. Recipes like these make the transition a whole lot tastier—er, easier. And how gosh-darn adorable would these look decorated in red, white, and blue?

Creamy Vegan Ambrosia (The Spruce Eats)

Photo via The Spruce Eats

I loved ambrosia as a kid, long before becoming vegan. Our local Chinese buffet served it alongside the fruits and other cold items and it was always a special treat to enjoy the “food of the gods.” I can hardly wait to give this vegan version a try!

Vegan Brownies (Chocolate-Covered Katie)

Photo via Chocolate Covered Katie

Can a dessert roundup even be considered one if it doesn’t include brownies? I don’t think so. And who better to fill that slot than Chocolate-Covered Katie? Make these brownies or your go-to recipe, top it with some vegan ice cream, and end your plant-based picnic on a sweet note.

Stand-Alone Fruits

fruit berries
Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

Like vege, plain ol’ fruits can be a great addition to your vegan barbecue. Serve some watermelon slices or mixed berries, and try a dip like this dairy-free cheesecake dip to give it a little something special.

Drinks

*Content Warning: alcohol*

And, of course, you need something to wash this all down! Treat yourself to a drink, whether that’s a cocktail or your favourite non-alcoholic beverage.

Lavender-Infused Lemonade (The Nut-Free Vegan)

Photo via The Nut-Free Vegan

I love all things lavender, and that most definitely includes lavender lemonade. I haven’t tried this particular recipe (yet!) but it sounds scrumptious!

Berry Sangria (EatingWell)

Photo via EatingWell

I love a good sangria, and I turn into quite the berry fan come summertime. This is the best of both these ingredients!

Southern Sweet Iced Tea (Bless Your Vegan Heart)

Photo via Bless Your Vegan Heart

I’ve been turning to sugar-free or alternatively sweetened options more and more lately, but I still have a soft spot for southern-style sweet tea. This version from Bless Your Vegan Heart sounds delicious, and might just join my own plant-based picnic menu this summer.

Prosecco

prosecco by the pool
Image by Eschtar M. from Pixabay

Fortunately for this vegan, in particular, most prosecco is vegan-friendly! When your barbecue or picnic is celebrating a certain occasion, some bubbles are an ideal addition.

Watermelon Slushie (Real Food Real Deals)

Photo via Real Food Real Deals

It’s hard to beat the nostalgic appeal of a slushie, and even more difficult to eclipse the perfection that is watermelon come summertime. So a watermelon slushie? Yes, please!

Soda Pop

coca cola
Image by Bruno /Germany from Pixabay

When in doubt, many popular sodas are vegan-friendly, including Coca Cola (my personal go-to)!

Whatever you’re serving at your plant-based picnics this summer, these vegan barbecue ideas will help make sure you have plenty of delicious, cruelty-free dishes to enjoy!

White Bean-Avocado Salad

Like many people, I enjoy a cold sandwich option come summertime. It’s just too darn warm out to eat many hot options. And turning on the oven to cook? Ugh. For non-vegans, these are often made with simple deli meats or chicken, tuna, or egg salads. We vegans can use substitutes like Tofurky’s deli slices to replicate an omni sandwich. And, if you’ve used our referral link to order them through Instacart, you’ve saved $10 in the process! Or, we’ll use out signature creativity to come up with recipes like chickpea “tuna” or tofu “egg” salad…or this white bean-avocado salad.

Jump to Recipe

My go-to white bean-avocado salad can be eaten in a sandwich. But, really, the options are endless. This would be great atop a standard green salad, over toast, or even as a dip, especially if mashed a little extra! I’ve put guac on tortilla chips, I’ve put bean dips and hummus on tortilla chips, but not this white bean-avocado salad (yet)!

However you serve, I genuinely think you’ll enjoy this gluten-free/vegan recipe. The creamy avocado blends beautifully with the mashed beans, while the dijon and basil lend it a remarkable spice. Even the lemon juice, included primarily to keep the avocado from browning, offers a refreshing tang!

As with any of my recipes, I encourage you to add, substitute, and otherwise adjust the ingredients and methods to make a dish you’ll absolutely love. Be sure to share in the comments or @anideallifeblog if you find an especially tasty version of this or another An Ideal Life recipe!

 

White Bean-Avocado Salad

It may not be the prettiest dish on its own, but this white bean-avocado salad is a tasty, refreshing option for topping salads, making sandwiches, and more!
Cook Time 10 mins
Total Time 10 mins
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 6 sandwiches

Equipment

  • Potato masher or large fork

Ingredients
  

  • 2 15 oz. cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed or alternate white bean of choice
  • 2-3 avocados diced adjust according to size of fruits & personal preference
  • 1 tbsp dried basil or substitute 2-3 tbsp fresh basil
  • 1/4-1/2 cup dijon mustard to taste
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • salt, pepper, or preferred spices optional, to taste

Instructions
 

  • Toss diced avocado in lemon juice to coat thoroughly.
  • Mash half of the white beans thoroughly, until mostly smooth.
  • Add avocado and remaining white beans to the puree and stir lightly to combine.
  • Begin mashing the mixture, then add dijon and basil or additional herbs.
  • Continue mashing, making sure to evenly distribute spices.
  • Chill until ready to serve, then enjoy atop a green salad, on a sandwich, over toast, or as a tasty dip!
Keyword Avocado, Dijon, White Bean, White Beans

Serve this at your next summer picnic or whip up a batch for an easy lunch. However you make it, it’s sure to be delicious!


Vegan Bean Soup

Mom’s Bean Soup Made Vegan

My family has been making variations of this simple, budget-friendly bean soup for decades. It’s been passed through generations with a swap or two every few years. As I was growing up, it was an absolute staple during our family picnics! Most recently, my mom and I set out to make this family recipe vegan. Today, I’m sharing the “secret” with you!

Jump to Recipe

Getting the right ingredients

Hurst’s bean soup mix offers a batch of 15 different beans, adding plenty of dimension to this soup. Even better, Hurst writes, “Currently, none of our seasonings contain animal products. Therefore, you can use our entire line of products in vegetarian recipes with delicious results.” This means the included seasoning packet is perfect for this meal! If you purchase a different brand, any vegan ham flavoured broth base can be added to taste. Or you can even substitute the water in this recipe for vegetable broth.

Like your soups extra creamy? Use an immersion blender on a portion of the soup. Prefer a bit of bite? Skip that step and enjoy your bean soup whole. Add your vegan bean soup to a bowl or mug and top it with some freshly ground black pepper or your spice of choice.

When to serve this vegan BEAN SOUP

While I always associate this soup with summertime thanks to our family tradition, it’s also perfect for winter. Can you imagine coming home from the cold to a crockpot of this waiting and steaming? Cosy and delicious!

A snowy winter day by the fire or a breezy summer afternoon at a picnic, this vegan bean soup offers homey flavour, room for customisation, and enough bulk to fill you up on its own. Or, it can be the perfect complement to the rest of a meal!

Vegan Bean Soup

Mom’s Bean Soup Made Vegan

My family has been making a simple, budget-friendly bean soup for decades. Then, my mom and I made this family recipe vegan!
Course Soup
Cuisine American
Servings 12

Equipment

  • Immersion blender (optional)

Ingredients
  

  • one 20 oz. bag mixed beans soaked overnight
  • vegan ham seasoning to taste (if not included with beans)
  • 2-3 cans whole new potatoes, halved or quartered according to personal preference
  • black pepper to taste (sprinkle just before serving)
  • 8 cups water approximately

Instructions
 

  • Drain your soaked beans and add to the pot, along with water, potatoes, and seasonings.
  • Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for at least one hour.
  • Serve with black pepper and enjoy!
Keyword Beans, Cosy, Family, Soup


If you try this vegan bean soup, be sure to let us know in the comments or at @anideallifeblog. We’re so excited to see this family recipe move on to others!

antoni-inspired vegan hot dogs

Antoni’s Fancy Queer Eye Hot Dogs Made Vegan

I love Netflix’s Queer Eye and, while each of the Fab Five has something wonderful to offer, food and wine expert Antoni Porowski is my personal favourite. When he took the basic hot dog and made it “special” for Season 1, Episode 8’s fundraiser, I knew I’d have to try these unique topping options. Of course, hot dogs and each of these toppings are pretty far from vegan. That could only mean one thing—I would have to take Antoni’s fancy Queer Eye hot dogs and make them vegan!

antoni hot dogs queer eye

All rights belong to their respective parties—my recipe is inspired by Antoni’s but I lay no claim to the original, nor to related materials and images. 

Quick-Pickled Carrots & Sweet Dijon: Jump to Recipe

Chipotle Mayo & Potato Chips: Jump to Recipe

I’ve only tried these with Aldi’s Earth Grown veggie dogs so far (sorry, Antoni), but I’m sure the toppings would be delicious on carrot dogs or a similar substitute, too. Is topping a marinated carrot with pickled carrots an excess of said vegetable? Maybe, but, in my book, there’s no such thing as too much carrot!

Put your hot dogs on the grill for a vegan barbecue or simply heat them up indoors for a delicious lunch or dinner option.

Create your veggie dogs from scratch or buy them in a premade pack. Pick up your carrots pre-pickled, go all-out with your own pickling, or use a quick pickle like the one I use below, based on a recipe from The Minimalist Baker. Make your own aquafaba mayo or buy a jar of your favourite vegan brand and add chipotle. Make whatever accommodations you need to (especially if you’re low on spoons), but be sure to try these veggie dogs.


Inspired-by-Antoni Veggie Dogs with Quick-Pickled Carrots and Sweet Dijon

When Queer Eye’s Antoni Porowski made “fancy” hot dogs for a fundraiser in Season One, I knew I had to try a vegan version. This is an adaptation of his honey mustard/pickled carrot-topped hot dog!
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 5 mins
Total Time 20 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 4 people

Ingredients
  

  • 4 veggie dogs premade meat substitute or plant-based option of choice (like carrot dogs!)
  • 4 buns gluten-free or otherwise (optional)

Quick-Pickled Carrots

  • 1 cup carrots cut small
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt or salt substitute
  • 2 tsp sugar or sugar substitute

Sweet Dijon

  • 3 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp agave

Instructions
 

Quick-Pickled Carrots (make ahead)

  • Combine all ingredients but carrots in a saucepan and simmer until sugar and salt are dissolved.
  • Pour hot brine over carrots. Add additional water or vinegar as needed to cover them completely.
  • Seal the lid tightly and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, optimally 24 or more.

Sweet Dijon

  • Mix together dijon and agave until thoroughly combined.

Top your veggie dogs!

  • Cook veggie dogs as required/preferred, using an optional butterfly cut to help contain toppings.
  • If using bun or bread, drizzle with sweetened dijon before adding veggie dog.
  • Top cooked veggie dogs with pickled carrots, then drizzle with [more] sweet dijon to taste.
  • Serve & enjoy!

Notes

I tend to dice my carrots for a sort of pseudo-relish, while Antoni uses a julienne (“matchstick”) cut. Or, get your pickled carrots pre-made for a low-spoon option!
Extra pickled carrots? Enjoy them as a side, on their own as a snack, or in a different recipe!
Keyword Barbecue, Dijon, Vegan, Veggie

 

chipotle mayo veggie dog

Inspired-by-Antoni Veggie Dogs with Potato Chips and Chipotle Mayo

When Queer Eye’s Antoni Porowski made “fancy” hot dogs for a fundraiser in Season One, I knew I had to try a vegan version. This is an adaptation of his chipotle mayo/potato chip-topped hot dog!
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 5 mins
Total Time 15 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 4 people

Ingredients
  

  • 4 veggie dogs premade meat substitute or plant-based option of choice (like carrot dogs!)
  • 4 buns gluten-free if preferred optional
  • 1/2-1 cup potato chips, crushed make your own or use your go-to vegan-friendly brand.

Chipotle Mayo

  • 1 tbsp adobe sauce adjust to taste
  • 1/4 cup vegan mayo use a store-bought brand or make your own (like aquafaba mayo)

Instructions
 

  • Prepare vegan mayo if necessary, and stir in adobo sauce until well-combined.
  • Cook your veggie dogs as instructed/preferred, using an optional butterfly cut to help hold your toppings.
  • If using a bun, spread with a bit of chipotle mayo before placing your cooked veggie dog.
  • Add [more] chipotle mayo to taste, then top with crumbled potato chips.
  • Serve & enjoy!

Notes

Antoni uses ridged potato chips (my personal favourite), but I’m sure other varieties would be delicious, too!
Pick up a can of chipotle in adobo sauce for this recipe and save the rest for another recipe. Or, try your hand at making your own!
Keyword Barbecue, Vegan, Veggie

I hope to make these again soon, giving carrot dogs and some other veggie options a try and getting some more/higher-quality photos for this post. And, of course, I’m just plain looking forward to enjoying these Antoni-inspired veggie dogs once again!

Queer Eye Season 6 is currently filming and anticipated to premiere in fall 2021. Seasons 1-5 can be viewed on Netflix. Follow Antoni on Instagram for food, his cute pup, Neon, and plenty of the model-actor-chef himself, or pick up a copy of his cookbook, Antoni in the Kitchen.