Soap Box

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2013 Turkey Trot

Posted by eemilla on October 6, 2014

On a freezing cold morning, I joined tons of other runners to earn our gluttony later in the day at the 2013 Turkey Trot.  It was a nice route with some downtown and neighborhood streets, and none of the hills were killer.  It was my first road running experience so I didn’t appreciate the lack of cars on the route (granted it was Thanksgiving morning).  It was awesome to see the firefighters running in their gear, and it’s also pretty insane how fast some runners completed the race.  As I’m such a slow runner, I typically finish behind the pack so maybe I’m missing the lines, but the lines for post race snacks were incredibly long and slow moving.  I’ve registered for the upcoming race, and my honey and LB are going to do the Gobble Wobble.

2013 Turkey Trot

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Another local chain for South Asheville

Posted by eemilla on October 5, 2014

Since I live in South Asheville/Arden, I’m used to the only new restaurants being chains.  Our latest addition is Rocky’s Hot Chicken Shack, and it comes just as my friend who has been begging someone to put a pub within walking distance is moving away.  Maybe if I move we’ll get greenways and better bus service.  We have been a few times to check it out, and we love that we can pretend we live in West Asheville by walking our dog to the park and stopping by with him to eat and drink on the patio.  The staff has been great to him, bringing him water when we forgot and giving him some kind words.  I love being able to order a pitcher and share it without a bit of worry about getting behind the wheel.  Being a vegetarian, there are a couple of things I can eat.  While they may have tons of sides that qualify, it’s all stuff I don’t prefer.  I do love french fries, and I was not pleased with the almost soggy ones I had.  They do make a fried green tomato appetizer special which has been on the menu the few times we’ve dined there; it runs $6.95 which isn’t expensive for an appetizer, but Tupelo Honey right down the road serves a superior fried green tomato appetizer with grits for $7.95 (and a delicious, complimentary biscuit).

Since we’ve brought the dog every time we’ve been, we have not eaten inside.  From our trips to the counter and the restroom, I was surprised at how large the interior is.  They’ve got a big TV for sports along with a great beer selection and a full liquor bar.  We’ve had at least one pitcher with each visit, and even taking out the alcohol the food tab is pretty high for a chicken shack.  The beer menu is good enough and fairly priced which is enough for us to keep stopping by.
Rockys Hot Chicken Shack on Urbanspoon

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Gatlinburg and Dollywood

Posted by eemilla on October 4, 2014

Visiting Gatlinburg is not on my list of things to do; I’ve been a few times (twice at someone else’s expense), and none of them have been very much fun.  I’d also visited Dollywood as a pre-teen or maybe teenager, and I would have rather gone to Carowinds any day.  Dollywood with a pre-schooler made me more receptive combined with their much improved rides since my earlier visit.  Our first visit as a family confirmed the food is still the horribly overpriced junk that one expects when attending an amusement park or other captive consumer situation so we do pack a cooler and return to the car for lunch.  We also pack a snack to consume at the end of the trip before we return home.

We regretted not upgrading at least one of the season passes to the Gold Pass to avoid paying the $10 parking fee, but otherwise we’ve gotten enough good use to justify renewing our passes .  Unlike other parks Dollywood is open most of the year (including plenty of weekdays) which makes it really easy to come out ahead while still avoiding peak times and maddeningly long lines.

I don’t like Gatlinburg even though I tried on the last trip.  Everything is so bright and loud and tacky.  Both of our dining experiences were ridiculously overpriced with amateur service.  After looking online at menus Mellow Mushroom and Smokey Mountain Brewery seemed like the best vegetarian options (I believe I had tried Best Italian on my prior visit with disappointing results) along with best beer selection.  The Mellow Mushroom delivered its standard greasy mess of a pizza, and I was able to order a relatively local beer (out of Knoxville).  I don’t want a hot glass straight from the dishwasher, but the glass shouldn’t be so cold that ice forms in the beer either.  Our service was the normal slow Mellow Mushroom service.  Our wait at Smokey Mountain was about 40 minutes, and our service was better than at Mellow Mushroom.  However two adults and one pre-schooler somehow managed to spend too close to $100 on food that tasted like it could have come directly off the Sysco truck.  On the bright side my flight of beer wasn’t served with ice.  We wrapped the night up with a trip to the Donut Friar because I loved the stupid pun, and I’d had some really delicious doughnuts at a few apple orchards.  The guy behind the counter was not happy to see another customer walking through the door, and I should have saved my cash rather than bother him for a few stale doughnuts.
Mellow Mushroom on Urbanspoon

Smoky Mountain Brewery on Urbanspoon

Donut Friar on Urbanspoon

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Lego Sculptures

Posted by eemilla on September 24, 2014

Last fall until about January 2014 the NC Arboretum had an awesome exhibit of Lego sculptures by Sean Kinney; it was great to see them up close with the thousands of blocks forming a hummingbird, a rose, a bee, and a gardener among other sculptures.  Check out Sean Kenney’s website to find out where you can see the sculptures.

 

 

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Thirsty Monk Biltmore Park

Posted by eemilla on September 22, 2014

I didn’t know what to think about another Thirsty Monk on the south end of the county, and I was glad to hear that both locations were staying open (although Gerber Village has since closed).  I like Gerber Village for its enclosed outdoor patio, but I like Biltmore Village for having a bigger menu and its long benches. Additionally Biltmore Park seems to have better tap takeovers and pint nights (buy the beer keep the glass) along with liquor.  I haven’t been back to Biltmore Park since the Gerber Village location closed so I don’t know if the pretzels that I so loved have moved to Biltmore Village; I appreciate that Biltmore Park has a kid menu, but I wish the options were less junky (the mac and cheese is so greasy and over-cheesed that I would be surprised if there were less than a pound of cheese in the small ramekin it is served in).   My grandmother holds a standing Sunday lunch date with her children and grandchildren which is great except when it coincides with Mother’s Day, and Thirsty Monk Biltmore Park was the perfect place for us to dine without a wait on Mother’s Day.  Even if I don’t love the kid menu, I do love that the ambience is family friendly enough to make me feel comfortable to bring my child and teetotaling grandmother and mother.

 

The Thirsty Monk on Urbanspoon

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Farewell diapers

Posted by eemilla on September 21, 2014

We’ve been diaper free for about eleven months, and it has been great not having to wash diapers every other day.  The trade off of wanting to explore all of the options for using the potty while in public has been irksome (it is better now that she doesn’t like porta potties), but it still beats rinsing poop diapers by a long shot.  LB expressed interest in using the potty around 18 months, and she pooped and peed in a training potty twice then decided that she’d rather not give up diapers for about seven months, and it took an additional two months for her to completely stop using diapers.

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The Local Joint

Posted by eemilla on September 3, 2014

A few months back I ventured to try The Local Joint as we’d begun to tire of our normal rotation of lunch spots.  After hearing lots of good noise about The Local Joint and Little Bee Thai (both of which are attached to gas stations), I decided we should have check it out.  We were disappointed to have to wait about thirty minutes for our table, but we were thankful for the nice weather as the waiting area consists of the parking lot.  Once we were seated we were greeted by our server and gave our drank orders, and we had all had time to decide on our orders during the wait so we were ready.  The restaurant is not very large and it was quite busy so there should have been enough noise to cover up the complaints of the wait staff, but it with our seats so close to the kitchen door we got to hear plenty of unpleasantness.

Overall the service was okay aside from drinks needing refills and a long wait to pay, but the food was enjoyable.  With the lack of a waiting area and the lack of staff privacy we haven’t been back, but I like to stick with a three strikes so I’ll give it another shot in hopes of a better experience.

 

The Local Joint on Urbanspoon

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Return to running (and blogging)

Posted by eemilla on July 20, 2014

The only sport I participated in while in high school was cross-country, and I really enjoyed it once I got in shape and moved from the back of pack to the middle. However, I got distracted in the off-season, and I lost all the progress I had made so I didn’t return for a second season. Years later, a friend talked me into running the Runway 5k. I had ample time to complete a couch to 5k program (running my first 5k distance in Central Park), and I let the summer heat keep me from training. I still ran (or jogged or almost walked) the race. At the end I was so flushed with endorphins I suggested running a race a month, and my friend agreed. We skipped October, and I skipped December; we’ve done at least one race a month since January. Even though she’s moving across the country we’re still planning on running at least one race a month  for all of 2014. I did not particularly enjoy the Runway 5k due to the exhaust from idling vehicles on the course, but for my first 5k since high school I could not have asked for a flatter course in Asheville.  The race will not happen this year which gives me mixed feelings; fortunately there are plenty of other races to choose.

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Charleston Fun

Posted by eemilla on October 20, 2013

For every vacation (aside from oblications) we work out an itinerary which is often overly ambitious, and for Charleston I continued the tradition.  I scaled it back to allow for nap-times (which didn’t occur for the most part), but I still failed to get down to the Battery to spend more time than our trip a few years back.  We did, however, enjoy a quick stroll through Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art along with a stroll around King and Meeting Sts.

The Children’s Museum of the Low Country was the best value with all of the great things for LB to do; admission is $10 per person, and if your little one isn’t walking or is toddling I would wait as there is a huge castle exhibit and a boat that are difficult to navigate as an adult.  However, there is a huge water table and an area with blocks that a could be fun for a less mobile baby.

The South Carolina Aquarium was less enjoyable as it pretty small, but it charges the same admission as much larger and much better aquariums (Vancouver Aquarium, California Academy of Sciences).  The touch tanks were fun albeit crowded, and the boat play area was a crowd pleaser for the toddlers.

We also took the drive down to John’s Island for the Angel Oak Park.  It was a bit sad to see the beams supporting the tree (although it was more sad to see people ignoring the signs about not climbing on the tree), but I was quite happy to be able to get so close to such an awesome living thing.

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Of course we loved being so close to the beach.   I took a morning run, and we had multiple beach days with sand castles and boogie boarding.

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Charleston Area Dining

Posted by eemilla on September 29, 2013

Much to my delight I had better dining options in the Charleston area than I had anticipated.  After Savannah, my expectations were pretty low, and I had some meals that were truly memorable.  Below I’ve given my quick thoughts.

Wasabai came into our sites after wondering around the College of Charleston’s Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art and some of the King Street and East Bay Street shops.  The basil rolls were tasty as were the standard veg sushi offerings of cuke and avocado makis, and all of the portions were fine.  My vegetarian pad thai tasted less than vegetarian, and our service was a bit slow.  The restaurant overall is a bit dingy, and it just doesn’t look like it belongs in a busy downtown area (more like a strip mall that has lost its anchor store).  However, it does have a good selection of draft beer.
Wasabi Sushi & Asian Fusion on Urbanspoon

One night my honey joined a large contingent of my family to eat at The Wreck, LB and I decided to try Mustard Seed (which my honey and I had failed to check out last time we were in Mt Pleasant).  The service was exceedingly fast in all regards, but the food was not anything to write home about.  Both of our pasta dishes were super cheesy with generous portions and low cost.  The pecan pie in the dessert case looked as if it might be a science experiment, and the key lime pie was not to my liking with its sweetness.  However, the price was very reasonable if you are looking for vegetarian pasta dishes with lots of cheese.
Mustard Seed on Urbanspoon

For a weekday lunch LB and I found Lana Restaurant & Bar in the cute Radcliffeborough area; it reminded me of the Virginia Highlands of Atlanta and Montford of Asheville.  We shared some french fries and a wonderfully delicious puttanesca pasta, and our service was fine.  The portions and prices were in line with each other, and the atmosphere is upscale casual.
Lana Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

Puree Organic is right beside Mustard Seed in Mount Pleasant, and it was a much better food experience.  The service was considerably slower (from taking the order to bringing the check) than Mustard Seed even though there are far fewer seats in Puree.  However, the food was leaps and bounds better.  The prices are overall higher, but they are in line with the quality increase.  The portions were generous, and they have kid sized smoothies on their kids menu in addition to the usual kids menu suspects of quesadillas, nut butter and fruit, and fried protein strips.  I loved my seitan chimichurry  wrap, and my honey’s veggie bahn mi was also delicious.

Puree Chimichurry wrap Puree bahn mi Puree kid black bean quesadilla

Puree Organic Cafe on Urbanspoon

My favorite drink deal was at Bacco; I enjoyed a huge $6 Tanqueray up with a twist, and I was rather tempted to have another.  The mixed olive appetizer was a hit with LB even though my husband and I grew tired of pitting olives.  My eggplant dish was just a bit less than both LB’s pizza and my honey’s sandwich combined, and it did not warrant the cost in either quality or quantity.  The pre-meal bread and the pizza crust were great.  Our service was fine, and overall the food was okay.

Bacco $6 Tanqueray Bacco Eggplant Bacco Margherita Bacco Salumi Panino

Bacco on Urbanspoon

Triangle Char and Bar was selected for proximity to our current location and a decent number of vegetarian selections.  Our food was fine even if the menu descriptions oversold it; the hummus beat the caprese salad by a mile.  The table was sticky and the open windows allowed flies unfettered access to one’s food.  Our service was prompt and attentive.  It is a bar, but one of the family friendly sort.

Triangle Char & Bar kid grilled cheese & fries Triangle Char & Bar side salad Triangle Char & Bar fish tacos Triangle Char & Bar hummus Triangle Char & Bar caprese

Triangle Char and Bar on Urbanspoon

My mom wanted to visit Fort Moultrie, and Taco Mamacita was right on the way.  Some other members of our party had recommended it although they seemed to favor another place at Folly Beach.  The service was slow, and the drinks were expensive and weak.  The food was fine, with the best value being the guacamole and salsa bowl appetizers.

Taco Mamacita Veg Jerk Taco Mamacita margarita

Taco Mamacita on Urbanspoon

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