We always seem to travel on long car trips when our children are only a couple months old. On top of this, all of our children have gone through a pretty long period of hating their car seat. We are insane. This picture is one of the few times Josie was in her car seat and not extremely unhappy about it. We drove to North Carolina to see Rob's family, especially his grandmother (she is 95 years old and has cancer...more on her in another post). Usually, we like to spend Thanksgiving at home and my family comes over for a big vegan feast. Thanksgiving is one of those holidays which is pretty vegan unfriendly so it is nice to have it on our turf. Before my mother died, she would do a wonderful vegan friendly Thanksgivings at her house, but other than this exception it was just easier to host Thanksgiving at our place wherever we lived. This year, it was more important for us to be at his grandmother's house with all the relatives. It was one of our most pleasurable trips down south.
When we travel to Charlotte, NC (where Rob's father, brother, sister-in-law, niece live) we try to time our stop so we can eat in Asheville, NC or even spent the night there. We like Asheville. It is easy to get a good vegan meal, shopping or just window shopping is nice (we have a couple toy stores we like to go to with nice wooden toys and two outside gear stores plus all the interesting shops downtown), there is an Earth Fare if we need to buy organic produce, soy milk, snacks, etc.
Per usual we stopped and ate at the Laughing Seed for brunch on Sunday. Rob and I had the Eggless Benedict (could have been called something else, but I didn't write it down). I've never had Eggs Benedict so I can't compare it to that, but it was very yummy. The boys had pancakes and a breakfast burrito. It was way too much food, but we had our to-go containers and we ate all the leftovers eventually.
We were hit both times we were in Asheville this trip how friendly everyone was. We had a two separate woman at the Laughing Seed come up and chat for quite a while about Josie and the boys. It was nice, but Rob feels like Asheville is too "artsy" now. He was little down on Boulder hen we ere there a couple months ago. I think he is getting old and crumudgeony.
Rob's brother, Marc, and his family kept us for three days. It was so nice to stay in one place for a little while and not have to drive anywhere. Marc made sure we had some food in the refrigerator and Stephanie (his wife) had gifts for all of us. The kids were so happy to play with their cousin Lillian and their new toys. I loved the clothes for Josie (some of them organic cotton, yeah!) and a gift card for a bookstore so that gave us a great reason to head out to one of our favorite bookstores near their house. They boys had a great time swimming with Lillian at the YMCA. They have a very nice facility with indoor pools (even in North Carolina it would have been too cold to swim outside). Rob swam with the three kids while Stephanie, Mike (Rob's dad), Josie, and I watched.
Marc and Stephanie met in the restaurant business so we never worry about food when we go visit with them. Marc made some vegan chili one night (Parker te two bowls), Rob and Marc made a stir fry one night, and Stephanie made grits for breakfast. The also took us out to Thai one night so no one would have to do dishes. Staying with them is always nice and feels like home. Rob never gets enough sleep because he stays up watching movies with his brother and Parker took full advantage of the TV in our room (it is a treat for him since we don't have one at home...he did learn some stuff from the history channel). I can't believe how big our niece Lillian is getting. She seems so grown up!
We drove a few hours to Clayton to have lunch with Rob's grandmother on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. It is always nice to have a few hours with her before everyone is there. It was hard to see MaMa (that is what everyone calls her). I have to take a second to explain this because people always ask and it is confusing. Dema (who has only seen MaMa a few times) was very confused this visit and kept asking if MaMa was his "real" mom and I kept explaining that I really am his "real" mom and yes, he came out of my uterus. MaMa is really Rob's grandmother. Dema has never known any other grandmother since both Rob's and my mother died before Dema was born. Anyway, it is not pronounced "mama", but "MaMa". I can't even do it justice. It seems to come naturally to the family so it may be a southern accent thing (Rob doesn't really have an accent, but it does come out a bit when he talks about or to his grandmother). So when Rob's cousins talk about their mother and their grandmother it is hard to tell the difference to my Midwestern ear, but I figure it out from the context. Whew, now that is over, I will just call her Joyce.
Joyce is a fiercely independent, strong woman and the picture of her is from a previous visit. You hear people say things like "They don't make them like her anymore." and it is true. She is a hard worker, strong in her religious conviction, and loves being surrounded by family (although they better stay out of her way, especially in her kitchen). She is 95, I believe, and a year ago she was as strong as ever, living on her own (her husband died when Parker was young), "putting up" (canning to you city folk) bushels of whatever she grew her self, taking care of others, cooking, running things, etc. My understanding is that they found skin cancer and it had already spread...fast forward to this year and she has most of one arm gone, she was sitting in a chair napping with oxygen, she is not eating much, and she has become hard to understand when she talks. They have hospice care coming in daily now and someone from the family (usually Rob's uncle and sometimes his aunts) has to stay with her round the clock. She is still an amazingly strong person, but it was sort of a shock just to see her sitting down during the day sleeping. I am so glad we were all able to see her.
Dwight, Rob's uncle, cooked us lunch and his cousin Casey and her beautiful daughters were there to visit with us. The boys had a great time playing with her girls and it really makes me wish we lived closer to cousins for them. Dwight made a bunch of vegetables, just like Joyce would have. Parker loves eating at MaMa's. It is so funny because it is usually just a bunch of vegetables; corn, turnips, butter beans, black eyed peas, green beens, sweet potatoes, etc., but you would think it was a gourmet meal the way he eats a plate full and then a second plate full. Maybe it is because most of it is grown right and "put up" right there on her land or maybe he just likes the whole experience. It does remind me that children like simplicity at times and sometimes it is best to just heat up some vegetables and beans and let them at it. This is what we ate the next day there for Thanksgiving (just sub in some collards for the turnips...yum, collards!) and it was just as good and the boys were just as happy to eat it all. I thought we might cook something special for them to take, but we just bought a vegan pumpkin pie and vegan carrot cake in Charlotte Earth Fare before we left and they were super happy to eat all the veggies and then have the special dessert. Dema, as usual, put more emphasis on dessert than Parker, but it was a very nice Thanksgiving.
The best part of Thanksgiving was staying Wednesday night at Rob's cousin Camille's house with her four beautiful children. She has three girls (one a month older than Josie) and one boy (he is a twin and was pretty happy to have other boys to play with for a change). It was so nice to visit with them in their brand new house (just moved in a couple weeks before). Casey and Camille are sisters (Rob's youngest aunt's daughters) and Rob didn't know them quite as well growing up because they are so much younger (my age and a little younger, thank you very much) and it is so nice getting to know them better. On Thanksgiving day almost all the relatives were at MaMa's and it was great fun for the boys to play in the field with the other kids. Dwight gave the kids a tractor ride both days and it just doesn't get better than that for my boys.
Thursday and Friday night we were back at Marc and Stephanie's in Charlotte. Friday night we went out to eat at Shanghai in Charlotte with Rob's family and a couple who've been friends of the family since Rob was little. It was a very nice dinner and almost anything on the menu could be made vegan. I didn't get a picture of it, but the best thing we ordered was the General Tso's. The picture is of Vegetarian Duck Shanghai Style and the Vegetarian Chicken with Vegetables. The food took a while, but we did have a ten people. The owner was very personable and funny.
We were eager to get home and had a long drive ahead of us, but sad to leave everyone. The weather was beautiful and I was not in a big hurry to get back to Illinois for that reason alone. We stopped in Asheville again at the Laughing Seed on Saturday. I had the Indian Thali (without the yogurt sauce) and Parker ate some of mine. It was good and healthier than the Indian we ate Sunday in Indianapolis at Udupi. The boys shared the Hempburger with fries and it was very good. Rob had the old standby the Harmony Bowl which I didn't take a picture of. A woman asked me as we were leaving the restaurant what the boys ate because she felt the Indian Thali was too spicy. I said they shared some of mine and had the hemp burger and she was surprised by what they ate and chatted for a while. It is very friendly in Asheville. I wish the Laughing Seed was closer.
Overall, it was a very nice trip and although it is sad because we may never see Rob's grandmother or possibly even visit the farm again, it was nice to see her and all of his relatives.