Thursday, September 10, 2009

Beach Vacay Part 1...Atlanta

Our family has returned from a fabulous week in North Carolina. The five of us met up with my parents and my sister and brother-in-law plus their two kids and stayed in a condo on Wrightsville Beach. Since, for some reason, it's about impossible for me to summarize (although my sister did a great job of doing that on her blog if you want to take a look), I'm going to have to break it down...We drove as far as Birmingham the first night, which was a real accomplishment since we didn't leave town until after 7. The next morning, we stopped in Atlanta. We ate lunch at Cafe Sunflower, a great-looking place. When we walked in, we were a little like - oh, no - are we dressed nice enough? are our kids going to behave? (Ryan always worries about those things more than I do, though.) We ordered a bunch of food and all kind of shared it, which is always my favorite thing to do. This was the tofu and seaweed appetizer. The seaweed tasted like pasta; it was pretty plain but good!The only reason I wouldn't give this restaurant perfect marks is I didn't feel totally confident when the waiter would tell me if something was vegan or not. I always feel a bit nervous when they hedge a little. (And I'm not a fan of menus that aren't clearly marked.) I questioned him further about the fried green tomatoes after he told me they use no eggs, and he went back to check; indeed there was eggs in the batter. This spinach artichoke dip was labeled vegan, though, so I was able to enjoy it wholeheartedly (and isn't it so pretty, too?). When the waiter started to take away the plate with a few olives left, I said, "Oh, wait! They wanted those," and I plucked them right off the plate. And when I said "they," I really meant "I."
Dash picked the soy nuggets. This was one of things I felt skeptical about whether they were vegan or just vegetarian. If there is any question in my mind, I won't be able to enjoy something.
I wish you could have seen Tornado's face light up when they set this plate in front of him. He was very sure he wanted to order the orzo eggplant lasagna (he always wants eggplant anything). It was probably one of the "prettiest" (and largest) meals he's ever had at a restaurant (the lasagna had no noodles; it was layers of vegetables), and he was so excited. I helped him eat some of it, but he did really well putting it down. He kept holding his stomach and uncomfortably moaning, and I reminded him to stop eating if he was full. But he did NOT want to leave any of this delectable dish.
Ryan ordered the BBQ seitan sandwich, green bean fries, and gazpacho. Sissy got the kids' pasta with broccoli.
We got a little carried away when ordering desserts, especially since they were $6 apiece. (Ryan and I were reminded how much it costs to feed the whole family at a restaurant like this - when we'd rather the kids order the healthier entrees than the so-so kids' meals and desserts are a must.) We should have just ordered 3 pieces because we were struggling at the end. Poor little skinny Tornado loved that strawberry shortcake so much (it WAS delish) he gave it all he had. My favorite was the key-lime pie. When we were finishing up, a man who had been sitting with other people nearby came up to our table and complimented us on how well-behaved our children were. Ryan and I felt so proud. That hasn't happened too often!! :)

We spent a lot of time at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta. We all really enjoyed it and got a lot out of the experience (wish we would have had time for the Imax shows). Ryan and Dash were the biggest fans, though. They would have stayed all day, I'm sure. Ryan used to have a really cool saltwater tank (and, truth be told, would love to have one again). Dash was super cute - he kept trying to run ahead, and then he'd come back to us and proclaim (these exact words), "Look, Daddy! I'm going to show you the most amazing thing ever!" and "Look! You can't believe this!" It really was spectacular, and the pictures do not do it justice.
Tornado, looking at the Beluga Whales

So...I definitely have mixed feelings about the whole "aquarium" thing - much like how I feel about zoos. On one hand, most - if not all - of the exhibits look very well done. I think a sea animal might kind of LIKE living there...maybe I'd rather be a whale shark in the Georgia Aquarium than be one vulnerable to overfishing and exploitation in certain parts of the world. They're safe in one way (although I know a lot of creatures die in captivity for other reasons, like chemicals in the water or stress...sigh) and cared for and have a lot of room to swim (but obviously nothing like they're used to - I read this example: it's like having your whole house in which to live, then suddenly having to spend all of your time in your bedroom).
amazing, right?
This is the world's largest aquarium, and there has clearly been a lot of money invested. I know the people involved clearly know and understand the situations better than I do, and I am sure that in a place like this, every attempt is made to be the most ethical and humane possible. I'd probably feel okay about aquariums...but then I saw their video that showed how they flew a whale shark from Taiwan to the aquarium...and it makes me feel pretty sad about the whole thing. (However, the aquarium's first four whale sharks were purchased/saved from being used for human consumption in Taiwan. And I think two of the original beluga whales were rescued from a amusement park in Mexico.) I wish, at this point, they could only use captive-bred sea life, instead of continuing to hunt/obtain them from their natural habitats (don't even get me started about dolphins who live together in groups in the wild - capturing one disrupts the entire family)...but I know there are definitely factors with that (Ryan said not all fish can reproduce in a tank because of issues with filters/size/space, etc. Man only knows a fraction of the details of an ocean ecosystem. God is great, eh?), as well, and I generally look at things with (too) idealistic eyes. And if you are grimacing thinking, WHAT is she even talking about?...I know...just a little glimpse into the brain of Jenny....please don't get annoyed about how I feel regarding food and animals, etc., especially if you got on here to just look at cute pictures of my kids (hi, Mom!). I can't help from thinking, considering, and worrying about these kinds of's how I've always been. Another positive side note, though...(here is Dash, getting to pet the horseshoe crabs; there were a few different interactive spots, including little sharks and sting rays to pet) I'm grateful that we (the world) are becoming more and more educated about animals and protecting them, etc. I know that the Georgia Aquarium does a lot with rescuing and rehabilitating marine life, and a lot of their animals were rescued or born there (thought obviously many were bought or captured). Relating it back to Dash...We always assumed that Dash was going to be our "kill bugs! yum - where's the meat?" kid because he is so stubborn and just...such a boy. And there is really no way to be sure what decisions he will make for himself one day (which I will support regardless), but he has really surprised us. He loves animals and insects of all kinds. He catches flies on the window and carries them outside. He says he wants to be a marine biologist, zookeeper, or animal doctor one day. And he got mad at Googie the other day for not telling him that the cookies he ate had "rotten eggs" in them. (For the record, I have never referred to eggs as rotten, whether I've thought it in my head or not.) I know that having the opportunity to become face to face with these creatures only fuels his love for them. Places like this, right or wrong, generally cause more people to become aware of the problems contributing to threatened or endangered animals. I hope that with every step, the methods and means will vastly improve...I sure said a lot to say "I have mixed feelings about the whole aquarium thing," and if we're in error, we'd like to err on the side of ensuring our kids have compassion for all of God's creatures.
outside the aquarium, by Centennial Park...this is a really nice little area, with other attractions in the vicinity...we enjoyed our little stop-off, but then we got back in the car for the rest of our drive to the East Coast.
The next morning, these two were the first to wake up (Sissy still had sleepy/cranky eyes.), and they were very anxious for their first glimpse of the beach (since it was dark/bedtime when we arrived). Although Dash was at the beach in California when he was about 20 months old, this was really the first beach trip for either of them, and needless to say, they were READY! For the past month, at random times throughout the day, one of them would say, "I'm so excited about the beach!" or "Wanna go beach (that one was Sissy, of course)." To be continued...


Cary said...

The reason I'm able to condense and blog so quickly is that I don't include pictures of each of our plates at restaurants. I do like seeing yours, though.

Lori at The Davidson Den said...

How is it y'all are able to take all these vacations all of a sudden?! Gracious!! Makes me exhausted just reading about it! :) No, really, it looks like y'all had a great usual.

Jenny said...

Posting pictures of food is just something we vegans do. I googled Cafe Sunflower and found other people who had posted pics from what they ate there, too. :) Lori, I get really squirmy when I don't travel.