Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Ten Race Day Tips from a Daytona 500 Newbie

This weekend, Mike finally got his Christmas present!  In December, I surprised him with Daytona 500 tickets, which was our first race ever.  We loved the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, so I figured it'd be fun to check another major sporting event off our bucket list.  We drove down to Ponte Vedra Beach on Friday night and played golf with friends on Saturday.  Sidenote: if you are in the Ponte Vedra/Jax Beach area, we found THE BEST Mexican street food spot: Cantina Louie - check it out!  We decided to stay over in Ponte Vedra on Saturday night instead of a way over priced Daytona motel and drive to Daytona Beach first thing Sunday morning.  We spent the whole day there and got back to Charleston around midnight.  It was awesome experience, and before we went down, we got tons ideas for when to go/where to park/what to do from everyone we knew, so I thought I'd shared the best ones and what I learned with y'all today.
Tip 1 - Get your tickets early: I bought my tickets in September, and some of the best seats were already sold out.  Contrary to other sporting events, you want to sit as far away from the action as possible at Daytona.  From the top of the stands, you get a view of the whole track, whereas, right in front, you only get a view of the cars right in front of you.  We sat even with the entrance to pit road, and it was a great spot to see all the garages, too.

Tip 2 - Splurge for Fanzone wristbands: When I bought the tickets for Mike, I just bought our seats, and he made some add-ons later, including in-field UNOH Fanzone wristbands.  I was so impressed with how fan-friendly the whole day was.  We signed the start/finish line, watched the cars get ready in the garage, and even walked up and down pit road.
We had fun chatting it up with Kyle Larson's pit crew - thanks for the souvenirs, guys!
Tip 3 - What to wear: Dress comfortable, bring layers (it can be colder than you think under the stands), and wear closed-toed shoes.  Click here to check out a full post on what I wore.
Tip 4 - Pack your cooler: Public service announcement: NASCAR races are BYOB.  You're welcome.  They let you bring in a soft-sided 14x14x14 cooler, so we carried in a 12-pack, a few bottles of water, and a bunch of snacks.
Tip 5 - Bring a backpack: In addition to a cooler, each person can bring in a backpack that's no more than 17 inches long.  Stuff it with binoculars, sharpies (to sign the start/finish line), ear plugs, ponchos (umbrellas aren't allowed).
Tip 6 - Get there early and pay to park: Now you've packed and you're ready to get to the raceway!  Morning of the 500, the gates opened at 8am.  Everyone told us that it gets packed, so we arrived at 7:30.  We were shocked to be one of very few people there.  We got off 95 at the raceway, drove past it with no traffic, and parked at a restaurant just after it.  I've heard that the free parking can be chaotic, plus you need a bus to get back to the stadium, so we opted to spend $40 and walk right in.  We were so glad we chose this option afterwards when we zipped right out when the race was over.

Tip 7 - Rent a scanner and headset: Mike pre-purchased our rentals (each scanner comes with a noise-cancelling headset, and we rented one additional headset) and saved $20.  There are rentals spots set up all over to present your voucher, and it was really cool to listen to the drivers and their spotters throughout the race.
Tip 8 - It's not just about the race: Like I said, we got there early.  Like, we went right up to our seats at 8am and were the only people in our section.  We dropped our cooler and headed right to the Fanzone.  I would highly suggest getting there early like we did.  We had the best viewing of the mechanics working on the cars, the pre-race events with Gronk, LT, and Owen Wilson and sat right on the track for the Lady Antebellum show and drivers' parade.  There's also a ton of do outside the stadium, in the Midway area, and you can even exit and re-enter the stadium as much as you want to take advantage of everything.  My favorite "extra" was definitely the Thunderbirds flyover right before the start!
Pole winner, Chase Elliott and Mario Andretti
Tip 9 - Reapply Sunscreen: The race began at 2pm, and by that time, we had been in the sun for 8 hours.  I brought two bottles of sunscreen in my backpack, and we probably used a whole one throughout the race.  You get extra sun from all the metal reflecting in the stands, so don't forget the 'screen!

Tip 10 - Stay until the end: Traffic might stink - it's a sporting event with 101,500 people, but please, please don't think about skipping the last few laps!!  If you take advantage of tip 6, it won't be that difficult to leave.  Drive East on International Speedway Boulevard to Route One, and you can easily connect back with 95.
Well, that's it!  Like I said, we had the best time.  I knew that I was going to have fun, but I couldn't believe how into it I was.  Those cars rushing by are exciting, and especially listening to the drivers and their spotters on the scanner, you can see how much goes into one race.  While the Daytona 500 was probably a once-in-a-lifetime, we look forward to another NASCAR race, hopefully in Charlotte or Darlington, in the future.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Life Lately: Coffee Talk

It's time for some coffee talk: a little peek at what's been going on with life over the last few weeks.  The months just seem to be flying by so far this year.  How are we already close to March?  Mike's birthday is next weekend - I have to start planning!

Since Valentine's Day last week was on a Tuesday, we obviously had to play kickball.  Mike sent flowers to my office (on Monday) and we went to happy hour at one of our favorite spots on King Street: Basil.  We were never really fans of Thai food before moving to Charleston, but this place is amazing!
I love using my recipes tab when we're looking for something to cook or bake.   The only downside is that many of the recipes are on the older side 3+ years ago, and my photography skills weren't exactly the best.  Now, when I use any of those recipes, I like to go back and take a few new photos to add to the post.  Last week, Mike made orange swirl cake to bring to a neighbors' dinner, and I was glad to add in a few, less yellow, photos.

There has been so much blogger fun going on in Charleston.  Last month, I had my first attempt at sewing at Five Eighth Seams, and Liz gave a fantastic Instagram talk.  Thanks to Ashley for the great shots!  This month's event took place at Vestique (this was actually our second event there).  We learned about creating flat lays, and I worked with Cambron to create our own with items found around the store.  I also had the best time last week at a blogger kickoff party for SEWE.  Lionel the Hedgehog was there, and the Restoration Hotel had a couple of fantastic pop-ups to check out for the weekend.
Speaking of SEWE (Southeastern Wildlife Exposition), it is one of my favorite weekends all year.  We love watching the Birds of Prey show in Marion Square and all of the cooking demonstrations downtown!
Walking around town, we made sure to stop at my new favorite coffee spot - Revelator.  I'm working on a post of my favorite places for coffee in the city, and I can't wait to share more about this place soon.  Their espresso + milk is delicious and all of the pastries come from another local place, Butcher and Bee.

Last, but not least, because the weather has just been too good, here are a couple photos of the city in bloom.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Weekending in the Kitchen

This post has been sponsored by Marmara Imports. All thoughts, opinions, and photos are my own. 
I've always been a morning person.  Growing up, I woke up before the sun to play golf with my dad, and I was that kid at sleepovers who was awake hours before everyone else.  Now, I love having a little time to myself before my husband wakes up every Saturday and Sunday morning to watch the Food Network and make breakfast.  A couple weeks ago, it was these delicious chocolate chip scones.  They are one of my favorite things to make, and this base is perfect for any fruit or delicious add-in you want (blueberries, raspberries, even cinnamon or butterscotch chips).  Though I have to admit, scones are one of the messiest things I bake.  I always make them first thing in the morning so that I have time to clean up all the flour that ends up in every corner of the kitchen before Mike wakes up - haha!  To help keep my weekend morning moving and tidy I'm so excited to share my newest partner: Marmara Imports.
Their mission at Marmara Imports is to offer exceptional, eco-friendly, fair-trade textiles to the United States market and beyond.  They support global artisans in their endeavor to sustain not only themselves and their families but also the ancient ways of weaving.  They are the exclusive American partner for a boutique-style production company, Lalay.  Lalay focuses on social responsibility by creating jobs and sharing this beautiful craft with villagers in Babadagh.
I absolutely love Turkish towels for their versatility in today's lifestyle.  Marmara Imports sent me a variety of kitchen essentials: South Beach hand towel (navy/white), Aegean White hand towel (white/gray), Aegean Ecru hand towel (green/white). and a set of four Sea Green napkins, all of which I used during my scone-making.  I also love that they offer pillow covers, beach towels, and picnic blankets for every adventure you take. 
Now back to those scones; like I said, holy mess!  But my, oh my, are they worth it.

All you need to make them are:
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup cold unsalted butter
- 1 cup cold heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup mini chocolate chips
- 3/4 cup chocolate chips

And for the glaze:
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon milk
- 1/2 - 3/4 confectioner's sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together into a large bowl.
3. Using a pastry cutter, cut in the cold butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
4. Mix together the vanilla extract and heavy cream and pour into crumb mixture.
5. With a wooden spoon, begin to mix the dough gently, until it is just combined.
6. Add in all the chocolate chips and continue to mix until the dough forms one ball.  If needed, knead the dough lightly to help it all form together.
7. Separate the dough into two even pieces, and form each piece in to a one inch thick circle.
8. Using a pizza cutter, cut the dough into six even triangles.
9. Grease a baking pan and place each triangle on the pan.
10. Bake for 20 minutes, until edges just begin to turn light brown.
11. Allow to cool fully before drizzling with vanilla glaze (made by whisking together all 3 ingredients).
These wonderful kitchen towels from Marmara Imports helped me stay sane during my baking morning but also are perfect and beautiful for serving.  I love the stripes and tassels on this South Beach towel, and the napkins are the perfect size for one of these delicious scones.  Pair with a fresh cup of coffee, and you have my ideal weekend morning!
I hope you'll visit Marmara Imports's website to buy one of these beautiful towels for yourself or check out their store list to see if you can shop for them near you!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Roadtripping The North Shore

Thanks to so many of you for stopping by this week to read my Hawaii recaps.  It's been so much fun to share the adventures of our trip.  If you missed any of them, here are the links to: Ko Olina resort area, Pearl Harbor & the USS Arizona, and Waikiki Beach.  Today, my last recap will be all about one of my favorite days (that turned into two with a follow-up to golf at Turtle Bay) along the North Shore.  I would first like to thank Carolann for so many of these suggestions.  When we originally thought about visiting Oahu, we made plans to see Pearl Harbor, Waikiki, a couple golf courses, and maybe some waves on the North Shore.  She sent me the most amazing, comprehensive list of where to eat, drink, hike, sightsee, and so much more.  The blogging community is awesome, and if you are ever traveling, I highly suggest consulting a fellow blogger!
The day after we took our trip to Waikiki, we decided to set off on another morning adventure, this time to the North Shore.  After riding up the Kamehameha Highway, we stopped in the little town of Wahiawa to fill up at Surfers Coffee Bar before our first hike of the day.  I had a delicious macadamia nut latte and acai bowl.  What I absolutely loved about this place is that all of the people working there are volunteers; the bar is non-profit with proceeds going to local and global charities.
After our delicious breakfast, we headed another 20 minutes to the Northwest corner of the island: Ka‘ena Point Trail.  What used to be a railroad track is now a great, scenic hike to the remote Ka‘ena Point Natural Area Reserve.  For this hike, we parked at the end of the road on the Mokule‘ia side and ventured along the sand dunes and limestone reefs.
We loved it so much that on the last full day of our trip, we drove the half hour up the western coast of Oahu from Ko Olina to hike Ka‘ena from the Wai‘anae side.  We loved that heading towards the same point from both sides were drastically different trails.  On the Wai‘anae side were higher cliffs and blowholes along the much narrower path.
Both sides of this hike can be very hot and sunny, so don't forget to bring water and wear sunscreen if you go!
After a couple of hours spent hiking, we decided to backtrack to Dole Plantation to grab a snack before continuing along the Kamehameha Highway.  We didn't do any of the tours while we were there but instead just walked around the grounds.  They have a great little area where you can see tons of different varieties of pineapples growing, learn about the history of the plantation and the Dole company, and even feed the ducks and fish.  Inside their gift shop,  you can buy anything under the sun that's pineapple, macadamia nut, or coffee-flavored.  We went shopping crazy, and watched a fun demonstration and sample all about the correct way to cut a pineapple.  We finished our trip to Dole (obviously) with a DoleWhip and a Dole float, and I didn't think it was possible, but they tasted even better than at Disney!
Sidenote: oh my gosh, the wild kitties!! There were a few adorable fluffers at Dole and tons at Seven Brothers later in the day!  I wanted to bring them all home ;) but they were definitely loving their tropical lives!
Leaving the plantation, we took a left and headed back up the Kamehameha Highway.  I could not wait to see the waves!  I have seriously dreamed about this my whole life, and I was so excited to learn that there is so much to do along the North Shore.  Welcoming you to the area is Haleiwa, the cutest little tourist town.  We even made a trip back there the following day to grab the famous Matsumoto Shave Ice on our way to play Turtle Bay.
Along the way around the northern tip of the island, we made stops at Papailoa Beach to see the beautiful shoreline, Laniakea Beach to look for sea turtles (which we did see swimming!!), Waimea Falls, and the world famous Banzai Pipeline.  Around this point, it was getting overcast and misty, but the weather brought in some amazing waves!  We were mesmerized by the skill of those surfers.
Watching them was obviously super draining (lol), so we kept driving to Kahuku for a late lunch.  There are tons of shrimp trucks up and down the road.  We settled on Seven Brothers at the Mill.  This was another place we went back to on our golf day at Turtle Bay because the coconut macadamia nut shrimp was some of the best shrimp I've ever had.  It was served on a bed of rice with this deliciously sweet sauce and a side salad.  We also split a Paniolo (Cowboy) burger that had barbecue sauce, onion rings, grilled pineapple, and bacon on it.  And what is a meal without dessert?  We checked out Carolann's favorite shave ice place, Angel's, just down the road in Laie, and it was our favorite shave ice of the trip.
Seriously, could we have done more in one day?  We just kept driving, finding more things to do, and at this point, figured why not just drive the whole island?  I know this post is a bit of a photo overload, but there's so much to share!  Obviously eating all that food meant that we had to go for another hike.  On the way down the windward side of the island, we made one stop near Kualoa Ranch, where Jurassic Park was filmed!
By late afternoon, we were at the the Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail.  We had gone from hiking at the Northwestern point of the island to the Southeasten point in one day.  This steep, paved path was a vastly different hike than our first one of the day, which was much less inclined but much more rocky.  The lighthouse at the top of the one mile trail was closed, but it was still more than worth the walk.  There are informational and historical markers all the way up, and before you know it, you've gained 500 feet in elevation.  The very first photo in this point was one of my favorite views from all of Oahu, looking North from lower of two lookout points at the summit.
As you can see: best day ever.  We absolutely loved the North Shore and Windward side of Oahu!  Thanks again for following along with my Hawaii posts - I'm looking  

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