Good morning, and happy Sunday! We're back from a week of Spring Break road-tripping through North Carolina and Tennessee! I’m sharing all of the highlights, along with our easy dinners, in today’s roundup of Our Week in Meals!
For those of you who are new to the blog, Our Week in Meals is where I share a little bit about what we’ve been up to over the past week — as it relates to our dinners each night. This series gives you a glimpse “behind the scenes” at some highlights from our life, shows you how I balance a busy schedule with feeding my family, and offers a few new ideas for your own weekly meal plan. Now let’s back up to last weekend…
Sunday started bright and early as we headed south on vacation. We traveled from Central Virginia to North Carolina, but our first stop was in Charlottesville for a Cinnamon Dolce Iced Latte and a Morning Glory Muffin!
After dropping the dog off at my parents' house, we made our way through small mountain towns in Virginia and North Carolina, pulling over for frequent breaks along the way.
We had lunch at the Draper Mercantile & Trading Company in Draper, Virginia. LOVED this place!
Veggie wrap with pesto and feta cheese plus a side of sweet potato fries!
The boys had energy to burn after sitting for a couple of hours, so we took a beautiful walk in nearby New River Trail State Park.
While walking, we stumbled upon the oldest shot house in America, which dates back to the start of the 19th century. We had a quick tour from a kind park ranger, and the boys were very impressed with the views from the top!
We made a brief stop at a car museum in Galax, Virginia (which was underwhelming, but served as a nice way for the kids to stretch their legs), and then proceeded on to our Air B&B for the night.
We stayed in a beautiful log cabin in the mountains of North Carolina, not far from Boone.
The house was situated on the banks of the New River, but the boys were way more excited about the big bathtub inside!
Keith was happy as a clam grilling burgers and barbecue chicken for dinner on the patio overlooking the water.
And s'mores by the fire pit for dessert...
Such a cozy end to our first day of travel!
After breakfast and a load of laundry, we got the boys outside for a short, cold walk in the mountains on Monday morning.
Then we loaded up the car and made our way to Asheville. We arrived at lunchtime, so our first stop was at Roman's Deli to refuel!
I had the chicken salad panini, a spinach salad and fruit -- hit the spot!
Listen to this sandwich combo: grilled chicken tossed with sun-dried tomato, basil, red onion and mayo, topped with sharp provolone, organic baby spinach and balsamic glaze on sourdough. YESSSSS.
I've been to Asheville many times, and it still remains one of my favorite cities. We wandered around,
did some shopping for candy, chocolate and toys at the Mast General Store,
and enjoyed fudge and ice cream from Kilwin's for dessert.
This was a heavenly "cake batter" ice cream cone, which had chunks of actual cake swirled in!
Then we drove about 5 minutes out of the city and checked into our rooms at The Grove Park Inn. What a beautiful resort!
Keith took the boys swimming at the indoor pool,
while I enjoyed some fresh air on the Sunset Trail. This hike around the property dates back to 1913!
The kids wanted pizza for dinner, so we went back into town and enjoyed an early meal at Mellow Mushroom.
A slice of pizza and a chef salad for me!
Shortly after we returned to the inn to put some very exhausted children to bed, housekeeping delivered milk and chocolate chip cookies for dessert. Sweet!
As usual, our family was up early on Tuesday morning. We grabbed breakfast in the hotel: the world's tallest muffin (which reminded me of a popover) + fruit + cafe au lait!
Spence was ready to get outside before the sunrise, so we wandered around the back of the inn and checked out the waterfalls and mountain views. Brrr...I think it was about 30 degrees at that point (not exactly spring weather)!
We spent the rest of the morning at the Botanical Gardens and wandered around the UNC Asheville campus.
We have to keep these 3 moving!
We made a quick pitstop at Wendy's for lunch because it was right next to the gem mine that the boys wanted to visit.
Unfortunately, we didn't realize that the mine was closed on Tuesdays! Instead, we finished our mediocre chicken avocado salads and returned to the hotel for some playtime outside.
Casey and I walked to the spa cafe at the inn for some mid-afternoon pick-me-ups: a strawberry-banana-orange smoothie for him...
and the "Cleanser" juice for me: carrot-celery-apple-ginger-lemon! So refreshing!
Late afternoon, we all wandered around downtown Asheville again, made a stop at the Burial Beer Brewery, and then headed to the River Arts District for an early dinner at 12 Bones Smokehouse. Holy cow, this was some of the best barbecue we've ever had!
Between the 5 of us, we tried the ribs, the brisket, and the chicken. This is my pulled chicken platter with cornbread and collard greens, plus a wedge salad on the side. Everything was amazing!
Wednesday was our last morning in Asheville, so we packed up our car, checked out of the hotel, and made a stop at Vortex Doughnuts downtown for a quick breakfast on the way out of town.
We tried a variety of yeast and cake doughnuts, including chocolate frosted, strawberry frosted, and blueberry cream cheese frosted. Personally, I thought that my vanilla glazed cake doughnut was the absolute best!
I was also a big fan of my Vanilla-Cardamom Cappuccino!
Once properly fueled, we jumped back in the car and hit the road for Gatlinburg, Tennessee. What a beautiful drive through the Smoky Mountains!
On the way, I finished my latest novel, Pachinko, which I absolutely loved. If you're looking for a good family saga to get sucked into, this is it!
Once in Gatlinburg, we bee-lined it to Cooter's Garage for mini golf and mini go-karts.
My Dukes of Hazzard-loving husband was in heaven with all of the memorabilia, and the kids were absolutely obsessed with the indoor race track.
We crossed the street for lunch at the LandShark Bar & Grill, which was average (at best), but it got the job done!
This was the Caribbean Chicken Salad, which included "chopped greens tossed with English cucumbers, diced Roma tomatoes, candied pecans, grilled chicken, wonton strips and house-made mango ranch dressing."
At that point, my boys were pretty overwhelmed by the crowds in Gatlinburg. When Spencer had a meltdown on the sidewalk and started crying and complaining that he couldn't walk because he was "just sooooooo tired," we decided to get back in the car and leave the craziness of town. Next stop? Our rental house up high in the Smokies!
We stayed just outside of Pigeon Forge, with some truly spectacular mountain views.
The boys played pool, enjoyed the hot tub, and rested for the remainder of the evening.
We stopped at Publix on the way so that we could pick up groceries for the next couple of days. We had all grown tired of restaurant meals and we were ready for a quiet dinner at the house.
Publix subs, chips and salad were on the menu! I had the Jerk Turkey Sub, which included chipotle Gouda cheese, bacon, honey mustard and loads of toppings.
Thursday was our last full day of vacation, and we spent it at Dollywood!
We all had a blast on the bumper cars, (smaller) roller coasters, train, flume ride, and more. Such a fun day!
We made a brief stop for a pizza lunch in the park -- largely because it was nearby and the line wasn't long.
And by the time we left mid-afternoon, we were all ready for a snack. Keith stopped in a moonshine store, so the kids and I headed across the street to get frozen yogurt at Sweet Frog -- including all of the chocolate, peanut and caramel toppings!
We didn't have a pantry or stocked kitchen in our rental house, so dinner was a simple meal that we could pull together with minimal ingredients. I used this Mediterranean Herb and White Wine marinade for our grilled salmon,
which we served with a Mediterranean Crunch salad kit, a head of steamed broccoli, and a loaf of French bread from the Publix bakery.
Not bad for a throw-together meal that required almost zero prep!
Friday was a travel day, as we made our way back to Virginia from Tennessee. Highlights included the cutest Easter bunny donuts,
a pit stop for lunch at a McDonald's in southwest Virginia (I'm a big fan of their ice cream cones!),
and reuniting with our furry baby (who was royally spoiled by my parents all week)!
After unpacking the car and starting the laundry, we needed dinner and we definitely didn't have the time or energy to shop for groceries that evening. Instead, we pulled together "breakfast for dinner" with the food that we could scrounge together in our kitchen: eggs, toast and fruit!
We were back to our normal routine on Saturday morning, starting with a foggy dog walk to say "hi" to the cows.
Both of the older boys had soccer games at 11:00 in the same complex, so Keith and I stood in between fields and watched them simultaneously. That stroke of luck may never happen again, so we appreciated the convenience while it lasted!
My in-laws joined us at the soccer fields, so we all picked up subs to bring home for lunch afterwards (I still hadn't made it to the grocery store at that point)!
This was the Italian BMT with salami, pepperoni, ham and all of the fixin's!
Keith's parents brought rich brownies from Great Harvest Bakery for dessert!
The rest of our afternoon included yard work and house work at home, plus that much-needed food shopping to restock our kitchen.
Keith suggested grilled pork chops for dinner, so I made my Country Pride Pork Chop Marinade and he took care of the rest.
On the side, we had corn muffins and Southern Pea Salad -- a dish that always reminds me of spring!
And last but not least, I baked my Easy Glazed Lemon Poppy Seed Bread for dessert. Perfect!
Finally, I'll share this little sign with you, which I found hanging in one of the bathrooms in our rental house in Tennessee. This saying struck me, because it's exactly how I feel every day.
Life isn't always perfect, and we certainly had our fair share of bickering, stressful moments, and kiddo meltdowns while we were traveling. That's reality. BUT...I'm choosing to share the highlights here, because that's what I choose to focus on each and every day!
Have a wonderful week, friends!
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