Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Tasty Traveling Treats and a Warm Start to Winter

We set out for North Carolina in the rental car after the solstice. Rob's family lives in Charlotte, NC and we brave the unending car ride to see them at least a couple times a year. It is technically only twelves hours, but with the child who hates cars it feels much, much longer. We've been car-free since Josie was a little over one so she is kind of anti-car. She doesn't like to sleep and she dictates what is playing on the radio or if we listen to an audio book, etc. She is basically the worst car trip companion ever. Awesome neighbors, Vicky and Greg, gave the kids some Christmas presents before we left.
One of the presents was this doohickey (don't know what it is called, but it is a magnet that works kind of like a yo-yo) which saved us hours of complaining. It was great until Josie tired of playing with it and then it became a projectile. We will have to seriously look into flying or taking the train in the future. We didn't have to stop for food the first day because we made baked tofu and hummus at home before setting out. The kids ate their weight in both with some apples and oranges thrown in so we made pretty good progress the first day.
Taking the scenic route through Tennessee was not the most exciting part of our journey. After a day and a half in the car, the kids (and Rob) needed a break to stretch their legs.
 Ready, set...

Now back to the car, we are almost in North Carolina!
One of the bright points of our drive is always Asheville, NC. What would we do without Asheville? The mountains,
the funky over-priced art scene,
the veg restaurants,

the reggae musicians singing in the cafes (Ras Berhane was doing a solo gig at Green Light Cafe while we were there on the way home),
the purple tour buses with friendly tourists waving to us,
the friendly reminder to eat right and exercise (we eat more and move smart when we're in Asheville - oops!), the gray haired cyclists showing their stuff on the hilly downtown streets, the hard to find cooperatively owned coffee houses/bookstores with plenty of dreads and tattoos,
the hip coffee shops
serving vegan baked goods
 with cargo bike decor
and solar powered hot water. The Portland of the Southeast.

We often stop at Laughing Seed Cafe when passing through Asheville, but this trip I wanted to try something new.
The Green Light Cafe caught my eye when I searched for veg eats in Asheville. I called ahead to make sure they were open since we arrived around lunch on Christmas Eve. They are located not to far from Laughing Seed and in a great area for walking around and taking in the city.
The staff was very nice and the feel is much more hippy/hipster than fine dining which suits us, especially after so much time in the car.
The green (spiked with chlorophyll) water was a hit with the kids. As was all the food.

The nachos were so popular, Dema talked about them all week so we promised to eat at Green Light Cafe on the way home as well. I don't know if the kids have eaten nachos before, but they now have a new favorite food. Beans, greens, and an awesome sauce is always number one with the kids so we might have to try this at home. The eating out during this trip was very Daiya heavy and full of new foods (like fried pickles) that caused me to let go and remind myself that we were on vacation.

The boys each ordered the Margherita Pizza (with Daiya), but Josie begged a slice from both of them so when we hit up Green Light again on the trip home she ate her own pizza.
I had the Tempeh BLT with added avocado which hit the spot. It was just the right temperature with the flavors melding harmoniously with each bite. It had the taste of something naughty, but was actually pretty healthy.
Rob ordered a Indian inspired special which is not on the menu. He said it was quite good, but I was too full to try it even with Josie eating my chips.
As you can see above, we grabbed a cup of coffee for Rob and some dessert for the kids at The Green Sage which is just around the corner from Green Light. Then back in the car for another two hours of driving before our destination of Charlotte, NC. We stayed at Rob's dad's condo so we were able to do some cooking. We made a quick pasta with red sauce and mixed greens salad with carrots and more of the baked tofu we brought from home. A nice relaxed Christmas Eve.
The kids spent a good portion of their time in Charlotte with their beautiful cousin, Lillian. She just turned ten in November and they all adore her. She was so sweet to share all her new birthday and Christmas presents with the kids.

Josie especially enjoyed the microphone and balance beam. I think she was singing to Lillian's barbie dolls. Yes, she really wants a microphone now.

The boys had a great time with Lillian's new skateboard. We don't really have any hills to speak of in our part of Illinois so it was thrilling to ride down the cul-de-sac.

Lillian's steep driveway was also lots of fun. The boys loved her new rollerblades and her helpful hand.

Going up is sometimes more challenging than going down.

One of the fun treats of spending Christmas day at Lillian's is riding in her grandfather's antique car.

Josie had enough of cars on the drive down. She stuck with the scooter which was sporting one almost square wheel after being used at full speed by Parker down the driveway which sent him all the way across the street up the neighbor's driveway and back to the street even with pushing on the brakes (I'm surprised we didn't see smoke).

Josie and I took a walk and ended up at a nearby playground. It was almost surreal to be playing outside in late December with no jacket.
It rained a lot after Christmas, but luckily the sun came out for lunch. We had some money to spend at REI and we don't have one close to where we live so we did my least favorite thing and went shopping at the mall. The only thing that got me psyched up for shopping was checking out an Indian place I found online close to REI. When we finally found Bollywood Bites, we all had a sinking feeling. It was a couple tiers behind a strip mall, no tables inside, and it smelled more like a dry cleaners than an Indian restaurant.

We made the most of it and ordered some food and wiped off a nearby plastic table for an impromptu picnic. Verdict? Josie said it was the "best picnic ever". The food was Indian fast food, but we love Indian fast food. It was surprisingly good and not as greasy as one would expect.
Bhindi Masala is always a favorite in our family.
As is Chole with samosas. We will call it a messy success and all the food was packed away in full happy bellies before we headed back to Lillian's.

Aunt Stephanie is extremely sweet and let Josie play in the veil from her wedding. Josie loved it! Sammy took the opportunity to give the pretend bride a kiss.

Josie enjoying Lillian's backyard for the last time.
Rob's brother and sister-in-law are selling selling their house and his dad is moving in with them so we enjoyed the condo and the house for the last time. The kids are sorry to see both go, but we hope for a pleasant peaceful transition for all of them and can't wait to see where they all call home next.

Josie tried the skateboard at Freedom Park, the kids kicked the soccer ball around, we walked and rollerbladed. I have to admit, winter is pretty sweet in the south.

We weren't outside the entire time. One day we checked out the Sports Connection. Where the older kids climbed the walls,
Josie showed off her basketball skills (nothin' but net),
and the boys displayed why they may never get a driver's license.

We also met up with our friends Buzz and Dave who were in town from Cali. We all ate at our normal go-to Thai place, Deejai, just a short walk from the condo. It was so nice to catch up with them and we all stayed up past our bedtime chatting. Edamame and veg sushi was the best part of the meal for me. Rob and I shared a curry, but their curry is good, but a tad sweet for my taste. The service is always good and the very friendly and the food is pretty fast. They seem to easily accommodate larger parties which is a big plus for us.

The last evening we had to eat at the Mellow Mushroom which is also close to my father-in-law's condo. The kids love being able to order vegan pizza, but this time I suggested Parker try a calzone. None of the kids have every had one before. It was a big hit with Parker. It was HUGE! The pictures only show half of the calzone stuffed with Daiya, portobello mushrooms, spinach, and tomatoes. Food comes slowly at Mellow Mushroom so the kids ate TWO hummus plates before eating their pizza/calzone. The waitress was amazed. We did take a little bit home, but even that was eaten as a snack before going to bed.

Parker was so impressed with the calzone that he ordered another the next day for lunch when we stopped in Asheville on our way back to Illinois. The Green Light Cafe calzone wasn't quite as big, but large enough after Parker had his fill of nachos. This calzone was also stuffed with Daiya, portobello mushrooms, spinach, and tomatoes, but with a spelt crust. Parker said he liked both the Mellow Mushroom version and the one at Green Light so we'll have to try to make them at home sometime.
Rob was done with Daiya for a while so he went healthier with the Macro Bowl.
I had the daily special tempeh dish with roasted sweet potatoes. The sandwich was just barely warm, which was disappointing. It would have tasted much better if it had been hot, but the sweet potatoes were the star and I could have eaten an entire plate of them. They were roasted not fried with just a bit of seasoning. Dema and Josie stuck with the Margherita Pizza, which Josie ate all by herself (they are personal sized pizzas, but still) after enjoying her share of the nachos. We stopped by Firestorm Cafe and Books after lunch at Green Light Cafe because I read online that they have vegan donuts. We didn't find donuts, but after finally finding Firestorm not far from Green Light, but definitely off the beaten path, we did find some vegan truffles and other sweet treats so the kids were happy. If we had more time, I would have loved to spend more time checking out the books, but we were all in a hurry to get farther down the path toward home.

That night we found ourselves in Lexington, Kentucky. We tried several restaurants on the list, but none of them seemed to be open so we found ourselves at the Mellow Mushroom again. This was fine for the kids and Josie went with her first Daiya calzone and the rest of us had veggie packed pizzas. I ordered root beer for the kids since it was our last dining out of the trip. Parker refused to drink it since it has "beer" in the name (the bottle probably didn't help) and the younger kids weren't big fans probably due to the carbonation (we don't drink soda at home). So I drank my yearly root beer and I'm quite satisfied to go another year or two before drinking another one. I was also happy to fill my house with kale when we finally arrived home. It was great to see Rob's family, our friends living in San Francisco, and the weather was nice, but as Josie said for the last couple hours of our drive it was nice to be "home sweet home".

No comments: