|Even with the drought and the wildfires in the southeast, it was still quite beautiful.|
We drove through several states with wildfires. We only saw a few fires ourselves and they appeared to be intentionally set to "back burn" and the smoke was only an issue for a short time, but we know several people who live in these states who have been dealing with the drought and fire issues for weeks.
|Josie's wii bowling looks a lot like yoga poses.|
I wish I had taken a picture of the kids playing wii bowling with Rob's dad. It was pretty cool. Their paternal grandfather can't get around very well these days, but he can still play a mean game of bowling with help from the wii. They played for hours and it was great bonding time for all of them.
|Gracie absolutely loves North Carolina in the fall and she makes herself right at home.|
We've had a really mild fall so far, but the day before we left the weather turned more seasonably chilly. Autumn in NC is perfect weather for Gracie and she enjoyed so many walks in my in-laws neighborhood. I love the rolling hills since our part of the world is the definition of flat. I wish they had sidewalks where they live and it made me sad to see people wasting water on their lawns during a drought in late November, but it is still pretty walking.
|Cousin Charley in his holiday sweater.|
Charley was a crazy puppy on our last visit and now he's a relaxed young man and a huge snuggle bug.
|Charley likes to sit on one step and put his front paws on another and take in the goings on in the house.|
Charley is such a cutie!
|Parker and Gracie chilling.|
Parker hasn't been to his cousin's house for a couple years, but now she's 15 and he's 16 which means they hardly spoke two words to each other, but spent most of the week on their phones. Sigh.
|Josie and Rob playing some combo of ping pong minus the table and gymnastics.|
My in-laws have a fun sun room with a ping pong table that folds up easily and gymnastics mats. This is Josie's favorite place to hang out when the weather is too cold for the pool. Rob worked more of the week, but he would take short breaks to play a little pong.
|Josie showing Dema how to do some acro-yoga.|
Josie took a homeschool acro-yoga class last fall and she loved it. Rob's much better at being a base than I am.
|Dema trying out the acro-yoga moves.|
Dema missed out on the class since he went to private school last school year so Josie tries to teach him everything she learned.
|Dema and Josie with their cousin, Lillian, playing "death pong".|
Years ago the kids and cousin, Lillian, came up with a game they named "death pong" because ping pong was too boring and had too many rules. It gets totally crazy in there and a lot of balls get smashed in the process. I'm just glad the sun room has doors to keep the rest of the house insulated from the noise and crazy.
Parker hardly ever just sits in a chair, it has to be somewhat challenging.
|Parker and Josie playing "death pong".|
The death pong never ends.
|Josie excited to try Fern's Peanut Glazed Brussels.|
Rob's family had a clam bake to attend so we took advantage of our smaller numbers to check out Fern. I can't believe we had never eaten there before! It is a smallish restaurant, especially in the cooler months when the outside patio is closed, so it would have been a little harder for us to seat nine quickly. Five was quite doable and the wait staff was amazing. We never waited for water and they seemed to perfectly time all the food and taking away dishes. The feel of the restaurant is homey, but also a bit upscale, but not so much so that we felt bad about wearing jeans. You see the kitchen as it is open to the rest of the restaurant, just behind a partial wall. We were there on a Wednesday evening and we were amazed to see so many families dining. It is an all vegetarian restaurant and almost every menu item has a vegan option.
The brussel sprouts were divine. They were perfectly cooked, not tough, but not soft. The peanut glaze complimented the natural taste of the brussels instead of overpowering them. Brussel sprouts are one of Josie's favorite vegetables. I can't wait to try this at home!
|The Pimiento Cheese before it was completely inhaled by the kids.|
Vegan pimiento cheese is not something we see on menus often so we knew we had to try this appetizer. Rob's favorite cheese growing up was pimiento and he quite enjoyed this dish, but the kids didn't leave us much. The slices apples with time and agave went perfectly with the slightly spicy cheese.
|Josie tempting me with her Butternut Squash Bisque and her Pesto Panini.|
Josie loves pesto pasta and was excited to see what we normally put in pesto pasta in a panini form. It was a satisfying sandwich filled with roasted veggies and Chao vegan cheese. The Butternut Bisque side was perfectly spices and was Josie's favorite part of her meal. She was sweet enough to share. I love the pumpkin seed garnish on the soup since this is something I do at home. As the soup cooled, it was not quite as delicious so eat it hot.
|Dema was super happy with his Seitan Steak.|
Dema ordered the seitan steak and I was a skeptical. A big slab of seitan sounded heavy and chewy. I was so incredibly wrong. I wish I had a picture of the seitan steak after he cut it open because it was so meat like that I had to double check that everything was vegetarian. Somehow they know some seitan magic at Fern that makes seitan juicy and tender. Crazy good! I only enjoyed a small last because Dema ate this quite quickly, but it was enough to know I should order this dish in the future.
|Rob's Laughing Buddha Bowl.|
I would say Rob's Buddha bowl was the only meal that looked ho hum. He enjoyed it and I was impressed with the black rice, but a Buddha bowl is a pretty standard menu item these days. He said it was goo and not too heavy, but I wasn't paying much attention because I was eating...
|Parker and I both ordered the Coconut Tofu.|
Coconut encrusted tofu over fried rice with roasted broccolini topped with a red curry sauce. Otherwise known as heaven. Parker and I loved everything about this dish. At first I thought it could use more curry sauce, but it was just the right amount. The tofu was firm and perfectly breaded with coconut and the broccolini was roasted just to the point of bringing out the full flavor of this lovely vegetable. The fried rice reminded me of my mom's rice pilaf. The red curry sauce was understated spice-wise, but still really flavorful. If I had any complaint about this dish, it would be the lack of a sharp knife to cut the broccolini.
Although we all had eaten our fill, we had to try the desserts. We ordered one of all three dessert options; chocolate pots de creme, carrot cake, and apple bread pudding. I, sadly, did not take a picture, but we split all three desserts five ways. We unanimously voted the apple bread pudding as our favorite. That was a huge surprise because none of us are bread pudding fans, but this was special. It was almost cobbler like with vanilla vegan ice cream on top. Rob and I didn't get any of the ice cream, but even without it was a treat. The carrot cake with chai frosting was my second favorite.
The cake was dense, but still very moist and the chai frosting did not disappoint. Rob and I used to make carrot cake for dessert for every occasion and I have now vowed to revive that tradition. The chocolate pots de creme is made with cashews which made it have a bit of a grainy texture. The taste was wonderful, but the texture just threw me off a bit, but we still enjoyed every bite.
I will not go back to Charlotte, NC without dining at Fern. It is now my must go-to restaurant. I would put it up there with Karyn's Cooked in Chicago and Plant in Asheville, NC as my favorite restaurants.
|Parker and Josie on Thanksgiving Day.|
I didn't get many picture of Thanksgiving day since we were busy preparing for guests, socializing with my sister-in-laws family, and then cleaning up or napping. All in all it was a great visit and relaxing vacation.
|The dining areas ready for guests to arrive.|