Sunday, September 1, 2013

Labor Day Adventures

Hello three-day weekend!  Look who came to visit.  That's Bailey the destroyer - a new nickname I'm giving her after she mutilated the poor innocent moose in an attempt to rid him of his stuffing.  She does it with such an innocent face though, so you can't help but laugh at her.

She brought Dad and Mom with her for a holiday weekend trip to Charlotte.  We kicked off the long weekend with dinner at the newly opened Chuy's Restaurant in South Park.  I've heard great feedback about the casual Mexican eatery and was particular intrigued by the "free" nacho bar served on weekdays from 4-7pm.  We arrived just before 7pm and munched for a bit on the nachos (chips, refried beans, salsa, queso) while sipping on drinks (a mojito for me!).

The weather was warm, yet very comfortable with a light breeze and we enjoyed lounging on their patio with our appetizers.  Eventually, we proceeded to share two main dishes - an appetizer sampler plate and vegetarian enchiladas.  The sampler plate featured nachos, quesadillas, flautas, a chile relleno, and guacamole.  The veggie enchiladas were filled with grilled squash, zucchini, onions, and mushrooms, topped with ranchero sauce, and served with beans and rice.  It was traditional Mexican cuisine, but both dishes were well seasoned and full of flavor.  Between our excessive chip-eating and large portions, we had enough left over for another full meal.  As evidenced by the empty plates, my appetite was in full force.

Saturday morning started with sleeping in and then proceeded to include a 6 mile run with my favorite puppy.  I arrived home to a house full of delicious breakfast smells - stove top oatmeal topped with a coconut fig reduction.  Great job Mom!  In honor of the start to college football, I couldn't help but break out my FL gator cup filled with OJ.

Summertime Saturday mornings are nothing short of perfect.  We set out for a morning of all of my favorite things - caramel lattes at Not Just Coffee, Atherton Market, and the regional farmer's market.

For dinner that night, I had made reservations at 5Church.  I've heard wonderful buzz about this uptown restaurant since it originally opened more than a year ago, and decided I had to witness all of the hype for myself.  The meal was nothing short of epic perfection!  More details and pictures coming soon . . .

We cheered for Florida in their victory over Toledo that afternoon, and then later in the evening relished our food coma while rooting for Georgia.  Obviously Bailey is far from a night-owl, and instead opted for sleep while wrapped up in a Florida Gator blanket.

I'm always planning outdoor excursions in the Charlotte area, and as the summer draws to a close, I chose to take advantage of the warm weather for a kayak down the Catawba River.  We rented kayaks from Catawba River Expeditions and set forth on a paddle from the Lake Wylie Dam.

I love the fact that my parents are always up for an adventure!  We had to modify our usual long hikes due to dad's hamstring injury and mom's bum achilles, but still managed to have a great time.

Mom and I had a tandem kayak and led the way down the six mile stretch of the Catawba River.  There were a few areas of shallow water and rocks which generated a bit of white water and added excitement, but otherwise it was a peaceful morning on the water.

Dad was in a solo kayak and opted to follow behind the ladies.  He claims he took up the rear to rescue us if needed, but I secretly think he was just using us to lead the way through the rough patches.

 We saw lots of wildlife, including waterbirds, osprey (diving and catching their lunch), turtles, and jumping fish.

After a 2.5 hour hike we had worked up quite an appetite.  I packed a picnic lunch for us to feast on at a nearby park.  We enjoyed a vegetable lentil salad (a recipe from Veganomicon), chicken salad on rosemary toasts, clementines, a Great Harvest savannah bar, and ice cold drinks.

What a fantastic weekend!  Great eats, fun adventures, and always enjoyable time with family!

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