Eating out with kids and a couple of our favorite restaurants

Happy Friday everyone!!  I’ve had a busy week with work, parent-teacher conferences, appointments, etc. – I’m sure you all have been busy as well.  Its just that time of year when it seems like everything gets a little crazy and we are certainly ready for the weekend!

Last weekend, we went to two of our favorite restaurants for dinner Friday and Saturday night.  We don’t normally go out to eat both nights of a weekend, but our boys’ school was offering “Parents’ Night Out” one of the nights as a fundraiser so we were able to justify it 🙂

When we had our oldest son, my husband and I decided that we would start taking our kids out to eat early on in their lives so that they would {hopefully} not be out of control in restaurants when they are older.  We also didn’t want to let having kids hold us back from trying new restaurants (or going out in public in general ha) because, as I’ve mentioned in prior posts, we don’t have family in town for free babysitting and paying for sitters can sometimes cost as much as the date itself (especially with more than one child)! That might sound crazy, but ask any parent of toddlers where going to a restaurant with his/her kids ranks on his/her list of fun activities 😆 It can be very stressful with the tantrums and loud voices and food “displacement”.  I’m not saying my kids are angels in restaurants (because they are not), but the mix of them recognizing that they are out to eat where other people are trying to enjoy a meal and us having practiced good manners and respect at restaurants from as early as they can remember makes the experience much more enjoyable. That being said, we don’t typically take them to white tablecloth establishments (but will as soon as we feel like we won’t be buying lots of replacement china ha). Another added benefit is that eating out exposing our kids to different foods all the time so I think it helps them be more adventurous eaters (see my comment on oysters below).  My 3 year old will also order for himself at some restaurants and I love seeing the pride in his face when he does these independent “big boy” things.

If you are wondering how to start eating out with kids, I’d recommend starting off slow with fast food restaurants where you can make a quick escape if needed and work your way up to more casual sit-down restaurants if/when you are more comfortable. For new parents – take that baby out (unless your pediatrician has said not to – please don’t ever take medical advice from me)! He/she will likely sleep most of the time you are out. If you need to feed or diaper the baby you can bring a bottle to feed them and change them in the bathroom if they have changing stations. We’ve changed diapers in the car, in the booth at the restaurant and in one of our laps when space is really limited (trying to cover up as much as possible for other diners’ sakes). Same with nursing. I’m the most modest person, however with each child I have that modesty level drops dramatically haha. I used to nurse in the car, but now, with a good nursing cover (or not, if that’s how you roll, more power to you!) you can nurse at the table or find a quiet corner somewhere. We didn’t take our oldest out as much as a baby, but baby #2 was out to eat with us within a week! They aren’t getting any restaurant “training”, but it’s so important for the parents to get out of the house and I didn’t realize the first time around how easy it was with a baby (bc everything is scary with a new baby I totally get it!)  With a toddler, set your expectations realistically and give yourselves and your toddler some grace and patience. Explain where you are going and how you expect them to behave and make it fun! We don’t pull out an iPad or iphone to let him watch something, but instead I keep a couple small, non-noisy toys in our diaper bag to entertain while we wait for food.  They will not be perfect and if they are, call me and give me all your secrets please!

So back to our nights out- Friday night, we took the boys to one of our favorite restaurants, Bowens Island. Bowens Island is a super laid back seafood restaurant with a view that is unmatched by any other restaurant in Charleston (see pictures below).  They are known for their oysters (in the months that it is appropriate of course), but I also love their fried fish, shrimp and crab cakes.  Our 3 year old was introduced to oysters early on and will eat them faster than my hubby can shuck them for him!  It is very family friendly and casual and serves up some delicious seafood.

Older pic, but one of my favorite family pictures at Bowens Island

 

Saturday night was “Parents Night Out” at school so Derek and I went to another one of our favorite restaurants, Xiao Bao Biscuit (Pronounced: See Ou! / Baow / Biskit).  They describe themselves as “Asian Soul Food” serving up dishes from China, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam in a family style.  If you don’t like spicy food, this might not be the restaurant for you.  There are dishes that aren’t as spicy, but for the most part, everything has a “kick” to it (in a great way!).  The mix of flavors you get in each and every one of XBB’s dishes is phenomenal.  We ordered almost everything on the menu this time and like to try new things each time we go.  We started with Chao Shou which was pork dumplings in toasted chili broth.  We get these almost every time we go, and it seems they get better each time we get them!  We want to lick the sauce out of the bowl when the dumplings are gone.

Chao Shou – Pork Dumplings

We tried the Shaking Beef (stir fried brisket, radish, chili peanuts, fried onions and pickled veggies) and Chaat (cauliflower, tamarind chutney, labneh and crispy potato) which were both delicious.  They have such unique and complimentary flavors – you can’t let the ingredients intimidate you here.  It all works together so well!

Shaking Beef

Chaat – Cauliflower

By far, our favorite dish at XBB is the Okonomiyaki, however I never attempt to say it when I order it haha.  The first time we ate at XBB we came with a friend who said we HAD to try this dish.  When you read what it is you’ll see why we hesitated, but it is AMAZING and every single person we have convinced to try it since, has loved it.  The Okonomiyaki is a cabbage pancake and you can add on top bacon, a farm egg, pork candy or katsuobushi (dried, smoked tuna).  We normally add everything but the katsuobushi – I think it is a new addition. You can see my husband’s fork in the picture below – I barely had time to snap a picture of it!

Okonomiyaki

If you live in Charleston (or are visiting) and like spicy, Asian food, you have to try Xiao Bao Biscuit.  We seriously bring all of our out of town guests here atleast once.

After XBB, we had about an hour before it was time to pick up the boys from school for “Parent’s Night Out” so we hopped over to the brand new Edmund’s Oast Brewing Company for a quick beer for Derek and a few more minutes of adult conversation!  As much as I love being around my kids, I firmly believe in date nights with my hubby for us to tak about things other than work and logistics and kids (although it’s hard to not talk about some of that!). Edmund’s Oast Brewing Company is located on King Street Extension, right beside The Workshop – which is an “exploratory food court” {More on that in a separate post.  We walked around to read the menus and I came back a different day to try food}  Edmund’s Oast Brewing Company is a 20,000 square foot brewery with a wide variety of beers in cans, bottles and kegs and will ultimately serve over a dozen of the Edmund’s Oast Brewing Company’s beers on tap.  The executive chef from Edmund’s Oast Restaurant is overseeing the kitchen at the Brewing Company so you know it is good!  We didn’t eat there since we had just eaten at XBB, but it looks like the food will be more casual (I.e. pizza) than Edmund’s Oast Restaurant.  I’m sure I’ll have a whole separate post on Edmund’s Oast Restaurant as it is another one of our favorites and one we recommend to out of town guests, especially if they like good beer/wine/food (but that’s everyone, right?!)  Edmund’s Oast Brewing Company and The Workshop share this awesome courtyard with lots of seating and space for kids to run around.  I can definitely see us bringing the boys back for some pizza and beers!

That was most of what we fit into that 48 hour weekend!  We are off this weekend for some football, friends and chaos as we will be in a house with 5 boys under the age of 4 (wish us luck!)  Hope everyone has a great weekend and if you are in town, please stop by one of the restaurants mentioned above and let me know what you think!

Erin

Intro to the Charleston Farmers Market

Nothing gives me more of a sense of community and engagement with local businesses like exploring the Charleston Farmers Market. Every Saturday morning from 8:00am to 2:00pm from early April to late November  you can find the Charleston Farmers Market set up in Marion Square downtown Charleston.  The Farmers Market supports “Lowcountry farmers, growers, prepared/packaged food, artisans, crafters, live performers and community groups of all kinds”.  You can find just about anything you need at the Charleston Farmers Market.  Read all about the history and get more details on the website here.

We try to go as often as we can for several reasons.  The boys LOVE going because there is so much there to entertain them!  From live performances to jump castles to a large field where they can just RUN (thank you Charleston Farmers Market for that!).  There are many vendors set up preparing food for you to eat there or take with you as you walk around and shop.

We like to try new ones every time we go, but one of our favorites is Roti Rolls which was established in 2010 and has won Charleston’s Best Food Truck every year since then – so you KNOW it is good.  They focus on buying local ingredients (we love supporting our locals!) which means it is fresh and good and the menu is always changing depending on what is available from local farms.  They also cater weddings, corporate events, office lunches, school events so check out their website here or better yet, go to the Farmers Market and try some of their delishiousness!  Last weekend, I got the Wakey Bakey and it was the most amazing combination of flavors I’ve ever tasted (not to be dramatic ha).  It has breakfast potatoes, thai pimento cheese, candied bacon (how could you go wrong with this!?), a poached egg and verde sauce.  The picture below does not do it justice.  Go get one for yourself.  You’ll thank me.

That refreshing drink you see in the picture above is the Grapefruit Aqua Fresca with blueberries and mint from Juice Joint.  I had to pry this from my 3 year old’s hands more than once to get a few sips in myself!  Juice Joint is a family owned and operated business and they believe in supporting other local businesses as well.  They buy local ingredients and provide delicious “whole-food juices, smoothies and food items using raw fruits and vegetables that retain their vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and enzymes” (see their website here).  They started as a farmers market stand at the downtown farmers market a few years ago and now they can be found out at their truck on Folly Beach, at the Farmers Market downtown Charleston or on James Island.

Another reason my kids love coming to the Farmer’s Market is that we usually cave and get them a cool, sweet treat (how can you say no when it is still 90 degress in October!?).  This past weekend we found the cutest Icecream Sandwich cart – Wich Cream.  They support local farmers as well and have some delicious flavors!

Another huge part of the Farmers Market is obviously the stands upon stands of fresh produce, prepackaged food for sale and the beautiful arts and crafts.  One of our new favorite stands to visit is Rio Bertolini’s Pasta!  They can be found at multiple farmer’s markets in North and South Carolina and at a few retail locations.  They sell pre-made meals that you can just pop in the oven and the most amazing variety of fresh pasta and sauces.  We have tried most of the ravioli options and are working our way through the other pastas.  Last week we got the cacio e pepe (cheese and pepper) pasta and vodka sauce.  It was a huge hit in our house and we will definitely be buying more!

Well now that I’ve made you hungry and its 4 days until the next Farmers Market downtown, look up locally sourced restaurants or weekday farmers markets and go support small businesses!  Hope you all have a great week.

Erin

What is this blog all about?

So what is this blog all about?  I am not 100% sure myself haha.  But I can tell you that I have thought about writing a blog for a while.  At first, the thought was I would write about our family and post lots and lots of pictures of our kids for other members of our family  – who live literally all over the country – so they can easily keep up with our lives (note: you will still probably see lots of pictures of our family).  Fast forward 4 years, 2 kids and 2 demanding jobs later, and now I have a different idea that I am still refining so bear with me (and feel free to leave comments or suggestions!).

My husband and I are very fortunate to have great friends and family and most of our friends/family are hard working, successful people.  They have jobs/run companies/own their own businesses and have kids/pets/hobbies/etc. that they are trying to juggle as well.  I, personally, am guilty of “burning the candle at both ends” and not taking time for myself and I know many of our friends/family members feel the same way.  I named the blog “Brushstrokes and Balance” because, initially, I was going to use this as an accountability tool to make myself take time to do things I enjoy (like painting – hence ‘brushstrokes’) and in general find more balance in life.  Now, I want to inspire others to make an effort to find “balance” in everything they do.

When I talk about “balance”, what I mean is – we cannot be everything to everyone all the time. Trust me, I tried. Its stressful and frustrating and it leads to lots of sleepless nights and tears. We cannot physically be and give everything to everyone. There just aren’t enough hours in the day. I spent the last 10 years “working my way up the corporate ladder”, the last 4 of them included being pregnant and having children (2 boys so far with a third boy on the way). Its hard to juggle working full time and being a mother. Some days I feel like everyone I encounter is getting 10% of me.  I HATE not being perfect or letting anyone down.  Some people make doing it all look easier than others, but let me be the first to say it is HARD.  We do not have family in town so it is just my husband and myself in our “village”.  If one of the boys is sick or has an appointment or my husband is travelling for work or any other little disruption, its up to my husband and me to juggle and rearrange to make sure all our metaphorical balls don’t drop.  Sometimes they do.  And its ok.  We allow ourselves grace and patience and forgiveness.  Yes, our kids go to school, but not full time. We arranged our schedules so that they are not in school all day while we clock in 8-12 hours of work each day.  I have absolutely zero judgment towards anyone whose kids are in school/daycare all day or not at all.  We all do what is best for our families at a given point in time.  Long story short, a lot of the blog will be about how I find (or attempt to find) balance in our crazy, wonderful life.

On top of all of the above, we live in the most amazing city that consistently is rated number 1 in the world for places to travel, so naturally we want to be out experiencing it.  We LOVE getting out in Charleston, especially if we can take the kids.  So part of this blog will be highlighting some fun things we like to do and places we like to go.

I own my own accounting and consulting business with a focus on small business/start up companies.  My husband and I LOVE to support local businesses however we can and I will feature a lot of our favorite local businesses on this blog.  Any businesses that I promote on here are ones that we truly love and want to see succeed (note: it will not be an exclusive list, I will try to feature as many of our favorites as I can!)  I will never name any of my clients for privacy/ethical reasons.

And lastly, there will be no (intentional) discussion of politics on this blog. I want this to be a positive site full of inspiration and motivation. If you want to discuss and argue politics I can get you in touch with my husband or father-in-law 🙂

Thanks for following along!

Erin