Off to the Races

Believe it or not, I am a huge fan of cars and especially cars that go really fast.  This weekend is the fall race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, one of my favorite tracks without a doubt!  CMS is located in Concord, NC, just outside of Charlotte.

Bank of America 500 at CMS

Bank of America 500 at CMS

Racing at Charlotte Motor Speedway

Racing at Charlotte Motor Speedway

As I’m getting things together to head out for the weekend I thought that it would be fun to share a few Do’s & Don’ts of attending a race just in case you ever want to see what the exciting world of NASCAR is all about…

Do plan for a long day…. And get there early!  Parking can be a freaking nightmare challenge at almost all tracks, so you’ll want to arrive early for a decent location.  Otherwise you will be walking miles to arrive and leave.  I’d rather be close and sit in traffic than walk forever after an already long day.  Whether you are walking through the vendors and other off track activities, touring  Pit Road or sitting in the Grandstands, you will have a long day.  Walk around and catch some of the driver interviews around the track, indulge in a few of the corny games, check out the really awesome cars on display, and hang out by the broadcast area… you might see one of your favorite drivers or find yourself on TV.  It’s all a part of the NASCAR experience!

Bradley doing a Pit Road challenge

Bradley doing a Pit Road challenge

Do stay hydrated.  NASCAR may begin in February and run through early November, but long days, often extreme temps and the fact that you might drink (I do not) add up so keep your body refreshed and hydrated with plenty of water.  I can assure you, water will set better in your gut than soda and booze which will make your day much more enjoyable.

Do bring your camera.  There will be a lot of photo opportunities at the track for both you and your family.  If you like to be adventurous with you photos, try shooting the cars as they pass at 175+ mph.  That is a challenge I take EVERY time we are at the track.

Charlotte Motor Speedway

Do take a large tote bag with you.  This makes it easy for carrying around extra water, a camera, light snacks, and other track “goodies”.  Oh yeah!  You can’t forget the sunscreen.  Apply when you arrive and throughout the day or you will have some crazy  lines and a painful burn!  Check the weather before you go; you may need to bring a rain jacket or poncho with you.  Most tracks don’t allow umbrellas inside so you want to be prepared.  My track bag is a Calvin Klein tote that I picked up at TJ Maxx three years ago, just for race weekends.  It’s light, has a couple of pockets, and plenty of room to stash necessities that I might need throughout the day.

Do dress appropriately. I’m amazed and often embarrassed by what people (especially women) will leave home in.  Seriously, dress appropriately.  Cowboy boots and shorts so short you cheeks hang out are NOT appropriate.  Trashy?  Absolutely.  Crop tops with your fat hanging over the sides of your shorts or pants?  Please have a little dignity!  Short little dresses with stilettos in the grandstands are NOT appropriate.  The men may like you wearing it as everyone gets a full view of your derrière as you climb the stairs…. just don’t.

And men…. Your shirtless, tattooed pot belly is not attractive.  I understand you want to buy your driver’s favorite shirt once you arrive at the track, but wear something into the track that you can throw away.  Please don’t come in half-dressed, showcasing a body that hasn’t seen the gym since middle high school PE.

Last year when Audley met Samantha Busch, wife of the #18 Kyle Busch

Last year when Audley met Samantha Busch, wife of the #18 Kyle Busch

The wives and girlfriends of NASCAR’s elite are often dressed as if they walked off the stage of fashion week; chic sundresses, heels, large framed sunglasses, hair styled perfectly so that they are camera ready with their men. It looks out-of-place for a racetrack, but I do appreciate women who dress up. With cameras in their faces all day it’s only appropriate.  While a more upscale look is acceptable for these ladies, it’s not as practical for the gal who is attending the race as a spectator (unless you are leaving your vehicle and headed straight to the air-conditioned suites for the race). So what do you wear for a long day at the track?

In the spring and fall, jeans and cute top are always appropriate. Add a pair of comfortable walking shoes, and even some cute accessories & fashionable sunglasses to finish your look. You can also layer your look as many races run into the evening. It may be warm as you tailgate and shop, but once the sun goes down (especially in late October), it can become extremely chilly. Leggings with a denim top and boots (that are made for walking) also make for comfortable fall race attire.  In the warmer months I’m all about a long sundress (If I will be on Pit Road) or a great pair of capri pants and comfortable sandals.

Shorts are acceptable, but at  40-something I just don’t wear them except to the gym or beach.  If you choose to go with shorts, be sure to bring along a beach towel to sit on as the bleachers or seats can really absorb some heat and burn your legs.  Hats are good; not a big, floppy derby style hat, but a cute monogrammed cap.  If there is a chance of rain, you will actually want a hat because your hair is going to fall flat, like it or not.

Madeline repine' Dale Jr. for race day

Madeline reppin’ Dale Jr. for race day

While there are fans who like to take things to the extreme, don’t be ashamed to rep your favorite driver.   Since Mark Martin fully retired from racing a couple of years ago I haven’t just one favorite driver anymore, but occasionally your might find me wearing a ladies-cut Kyle Busch or Kevin Harvick shirt with a cute pair of capris as we are hanging at the track.  I like to dress-up a little more though when we are on Pit Road or in a suite.

Dressing up to be on Pit Road during the race.... My friend Yvonne was a NASCAR official so we've enjoyed our share of perks.

Dressing up to be on Pit Road during the race…. My friend Yvonne was a NASCAR official so we’ve enjoyed our share of perks.

Don’t drink too much.  Seriously, save yourself and those around you the embarrassment and put down the alcohol.  NASCAR can be fun for the whole family and personally I would rather my teenagers not reek of the beer you have tripped and split on them or hear your potty mouth.  Now, if you want to be made fun of, feel free to act the fool because my husband and kids will have plenty of jokes to make at your expense.

Don’t be rude.  It’s simple; everyone who is at the race is there to enjoy themselves. Don’t be that person who holds up the line at security with bags/coolers and extras that you probably should be bringing to the track.  Each track website has rules of what is and what isn’t allowed.  It takes five minutes to pull it up and read.  Take the time to do it.

Also, if you do have the opportunity to meet a driver or grab a few autographs, don’t take up all the time so no one else gets a chance and for sure let the driver move on!  With team meetings, driver meetings, media interviews, sponsor obligations and of course Driver Intos, race day is crazy busy for these guys and gals!

And have respect for those around you.  It’s that simple.  Just have fun without being uncivilized!

A few must-haves for race day:

Camera with a zoom lens

Binoculars (for an up close view of Pit Road action)

Scanner for listening to the crews communicate (Can rent at the track)

Earplugs, it gets LOUD




Snacks, although concessions are available

Tote Bag/Backpack

Lot’s of energy!

Using a scanner lets you hear the different teams communicate with the drivers and spotter; you really get a feel for the teamwork required in auto racing

Using a scanner lets you hear the different teams communicate with the drivers and spotter; you really get a feel for the teamwork required in auto racing

If you want to check out some of the ladies of NASCAR meet Samantha Busch and Whitney Kay Scott; bloggers as well as living the hectic and glamorous life of a NASCAR wife.

I love watching the teams celebrate post race ... So awesome to see the emotion!

I love watching the teams celebrate post race … So awesome to see the emotion!

Have fun and LET’S GO RACING!


The CowFish

Charlotte is not all race cars and super stars.  In fact over the last couple of months Audley & I have discovered some really great eats in our couple of ventures into Charlotte!
The latest of our culinary adventures was to a great “sushi” bar called the CowFish.
Can you imagine the meal we enjoyed here?
Trying to describe this restaurant is more difficult than you would imagine.
If you don’t like loud music, crowds, sushi, crashing your diet or adventure, this IS NOT the place for you.
On the other hand, if you are brave and daring with you culinary tastes, don’t mind a wait, enjoy a lively atmosphere and want to step out of your comfort zone, make a reservation now!
You won’t regret it!
The CowFish is a fusion restaurant. If you want a hamburger or BBQ sandwich, order one.  If you want sushi, indulge and enjoy.  If you want both, you can have it all neatly and artistically rolled up!
You just have to keep an open mind here.
We stumbled upon this interesting restaurant quite by accident.  We were around SouthPark mall and looking for something to eat that was a little different, when we saw a group dining on their patio.  The name “CowFish” totally intrigued me, so I went to Urbanspoon (if you have an iPhone, download the Urbanspoon app to use when you are out and about looking for somewhere delicious to dine!) to check this place out; we were sold!
The menu can be intimidating.  There are literally hundreds of flavors to fit any mood you might be in!  Audley and I spent about 25 minutes studying the menu to make sure we were getting what we wanted.
We weren’t deprived during that 25 minutes though as the first thing that caught my eye on the menu was the Crab Rangoon dip.  Now I love a Crab Rangoon, so this sounded delicious!
It was basically a deconstructed rangoon: cream cheese, crab meat, with a parmesan panko topping, baked and served with crispy wonton strips with a sweet and spicy chili sauce.
Oh I want some of that now!!
After puzzling over the menu for what seemed like a lifetime, Audley & I finally settled on what we wanted to try for lunch.
Audley is a huge sushi fan, so he went with a traditional sushi roll;
 Tropical Storm Roll
A California roll topped with 3 layers of fresh sashimi (tuna, salmon & yellowtail), then topped with Japanese cream sauce, sweet brown sauce & sriracha.  Each piece is then covered with multi-covered tobiko (flying fish egg) for fantastic presentation.  Served with a side of wasabi yuzu dipping sauce.
It was a pretty sushi roll.
That man-of-mine was one happy diner!
For my lunch I decided to go more of the fusion route and tried the Burgushi.

“The Cowfish introduces a unique fusion of burgers and sushi! Burgushi items are served in various formats, including sushi rolls created utilizing beef & burger components and non-traditional ingredients, and sandwiches created using sushi components.”

The description just appealed to me.

I know, I am a little off….

But, I tried it and I liked it.
The Deliverance Roll – Southern Style Bar-B-Q-shi

Tender pulled pork, tangy BBQ sauce and tempura onion straws rolled with seaweed and rice, tempura battered and flash fried to golden brown.  Each piece is topped with homemade bacon coleslaw to finish.

{I told you it wasn’t good for a diet.}

Looks interesting, doesn’t it?!

And I liked it!

My Deliverance roll was totally different than anything I have ever had, and it was most enjoyable.

It was also a lot of food.

My son thoroughly enjoyed the leftover’s I brought home with me.

While the Cow Fish is not a national chain, they do have two locations; Charlotte and just recently opened in Raleigh, North Carolina.

And if you are a fan of restaurants that uses fresh ingredients from local sources this is a good one to add to you list!

When you plan your next adventure in the beautiful South, you need to add this culinary delight to your agenda!

Let’s Go Racin"!

I have a confession to make.
As much as I adore pretty, frilly, totally girly things, I love to dress up in a pair of worn blue jeans, a tee-shirt and even a baseball cap, and watch NASCAR racing.
{It still shocks my mother, even after 20 years of watching the sport.}
What can I say?  I like cars.
Fast cars.
As you can imagine, when Audley presented me with my birthday present way back in April, I had a difficult time keeping my mouth shut to what a grand and exciting gift it was!
You see, prior to the green flag, for a fee, you can visit the garage area where the cars and drivers stay pre-race and catch all of the behind the scenes action.  If you are lucky, you might actually meet a driver or two.
BUT, if you are REALLY lucky, you actually know a NASCAR official who is more than happy to help you get up close and personal with the world of NASCAR!
Our friend, Yvonne!
THAT is what Audley arranged for my 41st birthday a couple of weekends ago; a weekend at the races!
Not only did Audley and I get to watch the race from the Pits (up close & personal with the entire event), but our kiddos were able to meet several drivers for pictures and autographs, tour one of the car haulers, and watch qualifying runs before attending a Camping Series truck race on Friday night!
It was a super exciting weekend for all of us!
Arriving at Charlotte Motor Speedway


Driver, Kevin Harvick getting ready to qualify for his starting position


Bradley meeting Kasey Kahne


Getting ready to tour Carl Edwards car hauler & trailer


Madeline with driver Carl Edwards … he was super great with my kiddos


Madeline & Bradley meeting Dale Earnhardt Jr….. this was such a big deal to them!


Excited to be at their first race!


We were this close to the press and all the action!


We were so close to the action during the truck series race on Friday night that I felt like I should jump over the wall & help change tires …..
I didn’t want to break a nail though.
Saturday was NASCAR’s All-Star Race.
While the kids swam at the hotel and caught a movie at a local theater, Audley & I enjoyed some time with a couple of friends early in the day, then ventured into the garage area again for all of the pre-race excitement of watching the cars being prepped, drivers suiting up and a first hand glimpse of all the behind the scenes action.
Audley & I with our friends Brandon and Crystal


Hanging out in the garage watching car inspections


This garage was cleaner than many homes I’ve been in!  It was unbelievable how organized & spotless it was!
I know racing isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but once you’ve seen it live, you may totally change your mind!
It’s so exhilarating!


Up close to all the action!


Audley with legendary car owner Richard Childress


Jimmy Johnson celebrating a huge All-Star Race win


Audley & I with the Sprint Cup trophy 
We had so much fun at the races for my birthday, that we returned the following weekend for the Coco-Cola 600 Memorial day race.
I’m serious.
This is some really fun stuff!
Happy Monday y’all!

Picture Perfect Framing {& A Gallery Wall Update}

A couple of weeks ago I took a break from cleaning house and playing taxi driver (leaving Audley to handle things for a day) and drove up to the Biltmore House as they were bringing in the grand 35 ft Christmas tree to the banquet hall.

via Biltmore/Facebook

I had mentioned on Facebook that I was going to ride up there, so one of my girlfriends from Atlanta mentioned that her company Larson-Juhl framing was hosting a presentation on art and framing and asked if I would liked to attend.  The presentation was to be done by the art curator at the Biltmore house, Leslie Klingner, and lifestyle blogger, Eddie Ross.  Since I had nothing pressing to do, and knew Audley had the kiddos taken care of, I decided it would be an enjoyable presentation and told her I would love to attend.

via Larson-Juhl (Facebook)  Eddie & Leslie are on the left


{And I am so glad that I did!}
Leslie Klingner, Biltmore’s art curator  did a fantastic job of sharing stories and facts about some of the more prominent paintings and artwork collected by George Vanderbilt and displayed at Biltmore house.

George Vanderbilt was a well traveled and educated man who loved his artwork.  He used such artists as Sergant and Whistler for his own personal paintings.  Leslie shared some of the stories behind the paintings as well as personal correspondence between Vanderbilt and the artists.  One letter was even talking about choosing the perfect frame for a portrait which was important even 125 years ago! I really enjoyed listening to her speak and as Audley and I toured the ouse with friends last weekend, I found myself paying more attention to the artwork displayed throughout the house.

Eddie Ross’ talk focused more on artwork and pictures in our own homes.  As we are trying to put our own house together, I found this so informative.

Here are a few things I picked up from Eddie as he spoke:

** Use artwork as a focal point to complete the look of a room.  Art is personal and should reflect our personal style.

**Frame the unexpected: vintage scarves, buttons baby clothes, even silverware in shadowboxes to use in a kitchen or dining room.

**Monograms are beautiful when framed and make an heirloom keepsake.

**There are so many ways to hang or display  pictures:  a salon style gallery, in a chain or ladder style, up a wall in a stairway, down the hallway in gallery style, floor to ceiling displays, leaned on shelves, or even on a bookcase.

**There is no right or wrong in the height you use for hanging art.  It all depends on what you want to see.

**Mix and match frames, or go with a unified look.  Go bold, using matting and frame edging as a means of emphasizing the picture. Another great idea was to use unified mats, but different frames.

I left the lecture feeling quite inspired, which is always a good thing.  It also gave me a little confidence about my own gallery wall that I put together back in the spring after we moved in (Creating an Entryway).  In the last four weeks Audley and I have finally gotten around to doing a little painting and making this house ours.  Color is always the most inexpensive way to update a room, and I am quite excited about what it has done in our dining room and kitchen.

As we finished painting the dining room, which runs right into our entryway, I updated my gallery wall just a little by taking it on up to the ceiling.  The black frames (while slightly different from one another) really go well together as they all are matted the same and hold black and white photos.

Here is the space as it was when we moved in.

Here is what I put together back in the spring.

And here is my gallery wall (as narrow as it is) updated with our new wall color….. “sparrow” by Behr from Home Depot.

yes, I have started decorating for Christmas …. don’t judge.
Each photograph represents a special place in our lives, including all six states we have lived in during our 17 year marriage.

I may eventually carry the gallery on around the closet door, onto the wall that runs into our kitchen, but I want to put the final touches on the dining room first to make sure it will fit into the entire space.

I hope Audley and I can put the finishing touches on the dining room this weekend, as I am very excited about the changes.  They may not be drastic, but they certainly make the space so much more enjoyable and personal.

Have you done anything special with your photos in your home?