Wednesday, September 30, 2015

My Vacation Planning Tips

Sometimes I like to channel my inner Travel Agent and plan future/dream vacations.
I enjoy organizing logistics and costs, so it's a fun hobby for me.
I'm no world traveler, but I feel like sharing my point of view anyway...
Oh!  And before I get started I wanted to mention that one of my favorite places to research weekend getaways is the Southern Living Travel website.  
This is such a great resource for southerners looking for smaller scale trips.  It is where I found the City Loft Hotel in Beaufort AND Lakeview at Fontana in Bryson City, both excellent stays for us as a couple and ones that we would whole-heartedly recommend.

So, once we have decided where it is that we would like to vacation, these are my next steps.
I create a Pinterest Board for our vacation right away.
I search for any recommended spots, either through friends, family, or even blogs.  I do some initial blind searches for restaurants, boutique hotels, etc.
I start pinning away.
I pin anything and everything that looks good, I will curate it later.

Google Maps
I first use Google Maps to search hotels.  I always use “Street View” to explore the area before booking.  Once confirmed, I use the “Search Nearby” tool to find restaurants, bars, live music, happy hours, comedy clubs, etc.  At this point I have a second tab with Pinterest pulled up, and I’m searching for my Google findings as I go.  I will pin them and make a note for myself.
The Roger NYC Street View
Trip Advisor
From everything that I’ve pinned so far, I search for all of our options on Trip Advisor.  I eliminate anything that doesn’t look good from traveler photos/reviews.
Philly planning
At this point, our Hotel is booked and my Pinterest Board is organized with Dining/Entertainment/Etc options with good reviews and photos.  
From here we will start working on our Agenda!
We search menus, Facebook pages for weekly specials, you name it.
Next come the reservations and then,
None of these tips are revolutionary but I feel like it's an organized method to planning an awesome vacation, without falling into tourist traps or becoming overwhelmed.
Do you have any planning tips that help you vacation better?

Note: You can click on the "vacation" label at the bottom of this post for some actual vacations we've taken.
Also, this is an awesome tutorial on creating a custom Google map for your trip, especially helpful to those who use smartphones to navigate, aka, not us.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Life Lately

Here are a few scenes from life lately:
Last Wednesday I made bbq shrimp and grits.  It was one of our favorite dinners from the week.
So this is an every night scene at our house.  
After dinner Alfie starts buttering K up so he can go on his night walk.
After work on Friday I was running all over town taking care of some errands.  We decided to do an early dinner at Al di La. 
It ended up being Avondale Restaurant week!
Saturday morning I was up early to get over to Shem Creek for Carrie’s Bach.
We started out Stand Up Paddleboarding at Nature Adventure Outfitters.  This was my first time trying SUP, I’m so bummed I didn’t get a picture but didn’t want to risk dropping the camera.
After that we had lunch at Red’s and then went downtown to check into the house for the night.
The house was very comfy/cozy.  We lounged around playing shower games and Carrie opened gifts. 
I feel like I look like a character from Flash Dance in this pic, but it's the only one of me on my camera from the party so here you go: Bachelorette Essentials: 
And then it was time for the big night out.
We went to Taco Boy and then several places that I don't feel like listing.
I am seriously too old for King Street after 10 pm.
Some fun shots from a selfie stick:
On Sunday I was completely useless.
Annnnd that's a wrap.
What's been happening lately with you?

Friday, September 25, 2015

TGIF: Ready for Carrie's Bachelorette!

I'm so excited to be celebrating my Bride-To-Be Bestie...
It's Carrie's Bachelorette Weekend!
Carrie and I met as freshmen at JIHS.  
We were roommates for Junior and Senior year at CofC.
She stood by my side last November,
 and I can't wait to do the same for her February wedding.
Let the fun begin!


Thursday, September 24, 2015

King Street Strollin': O-ku Lunch

Last weekend we had errands to run and decided to make a day of it on King Street.
We wanted to have a lunch date, but nothing too heavy, to keep us light on our feet.
The answer: O-ku is now serving lunch!
We have been on several date nights to O-ku...the most memorable being either our 3rd or 4th date where I, a sushi novice, tried to bite a piece of sushi in half (don't try it, it crumbles) and took a big bite of wasabi (don't try that, either).  
Anyway!  O-ku Lunch.
We popped in around 12:30 and decided to enjoy a cocktail, because yay Saturday!
I ordered the 'Sugar and Spice' Martini and K had the 'Fig'get About It'.  
Both were delicious.
We ordered the edamame, which I think you can actually see the steam in this picture.  
Perfectly warm and salty.
And the O-ku Spring Roll.  How pretty is this dish?!  I love the orchid petal garnish.
The sesame dipping sauce in the center was so so good.
I almost asked for a spoon.  Almost.
We enjoyed the people watching almost as much as the food. 
Considering how busy it was out on the street, O-ku's peaceful ambiance was the perfect escape!
For lunch K ordered Salmon nigiri...
the Surf and Turf roll, and the Tuna Tataki roll.
I had the Bento Box with panko fried shrimp.  Each bento box comes with Spring Mix Salad , Crab and Avocado Sushi Roll, and Steamed Glass Noodles with veggies.  Considering the price and the size of the Bento box, you really can not beat it.  Plus, there is something about the tray that is reminiscent of childhood lunches and they're kinda cute.  Bento for the win!
From the picture above, I don't think that you can really see the scale of this lunch.  See below, and for reference I am not a tiny little woman.  This is a large box! 
 If it hadn't been so gorgeous out, I think we would have enjoyed sitting at the sushi bar in the back of the restaurant.  It's free entertainment!
After lunch, we hit the pavement and didn't feel stuffed or fatigued.
So, when you find yourself on King Street and you're looking for a delicious lunch that won't bog you down or require a nap, head to O-ku.  
And tell them Hominy Girl sent you!
Thank you to O-ku for inviting us to lunch!
We loved it and will definitely be back.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Autumn Wind

 Did y'all know that today is the first day of Fall?!
The best time of year is here!
This October, November, and December are shaping up to be full and fun.
Here are a few things that the Autumn wind is rolling in:
  • We received a gift certificate for a 90 Minute Sunset Harbor Cruise for Christmas.  We've been waiting for the weather to break to use it.  October will be the perfect month!
  • I won a pass to Wild Blue Ropes Course at the gym a while back.  I am thinking that this will be a fun activity for K and I to do, almost like a Couple's Teambuilding type thing. 
  • College of Charleston Basketball Games- We have season tickets and would like to attend at least 4 games.  I'm creating a group on Facebook to give away the tickets when we aren't going to use them.
  • Hallowine Party-  Last year my mom and I skipped our Annual Hallowine party due to wedding activities.  This year, It's On!
  • New Belgium Clips of Faith- One of our favorite Fall traditions.  This year's event falls on October 15th and is held in Marion Square.
  •  One Year Anniversary!  It's hard to believe that nearly a year has passed since we said our vows.  It's been such a fabulous year and I feel lucky every day.  We plan on celebrating with a picnic of our wedding menu from our caterer, the top layer of our cake, and champagne!
  • St Barths! We are going the first week in December!
  • Jump Little Children Reunion Show at the Music Farm- December 30th!
What's on your Fall To-Do List?

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Our Weekend

Good Morning! 
It was a beautiful weekend in Charleston, I hope it was good for you.
On Friday night, we enjoyed a few beers out before ordering pizza at Paisano's.
I watched the Babysitter's Club movie before falling asleep pretty early.
However cheesy, I looooved these books.  
Stacey was my favorite, Mary Anne second.
 Saturday we went down to King Street...
K had to bring his Costas to Jackson Davenport, we windowshopped and had lunch.
St Matthew's has reopened after a 2 year long restoration.  This is K's family church and was sadly closed for our wedding.  It looked so beautiful on Saturday.
It was a very busy day on King Street.
We got black bottom cupcakes to go. These are my favorite sweet tailgate treat.
I baked wings and we had the leftover pizza for dinner.
The cupcakes were a much needed pick me up after the horrendous Carolina game.  
Also, snuggles from our baby:
 Sunday was pretty dull, we went around Mattress shopping.  I think Mattress Firms are taking over the world.  I swear to you, there are TWO Mattress Firms in the SAME Shopping Center in West Ashley.   I think it's called West Ashley Shoppes, right across from Citadel Mall. 
There are 4 within a 1/2 mile radius off Sam Ritt.  Say what?!
We also did our grocery shopping and I picked up a Cinnamon Broom.  I buy one every Fall.
That's a wrap on our weekend, how was yours?

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Humpity Hump

Hellooooo Wednesday!
What is going on out there?
It's my first full week at my new job and things are going well.  I haven't ever gone from one job to another with no break or segue in between, and my head is spinning a bit from the drastic, overnight switch! 
This is my view right now:
So, after years of growing and coloring my hair, I have decided that in 2016 I'm making the switch back to my brown bob with bangs.  I know I will immediately regret the decision (Heck, just typing it and I'm already missing my long blonde hair), but it's time for more low-maintenance look.
Coming soon...
What are you having for lunch today?   
I don't usually bring lunch that I have to heat but today I decided to give these a try:
And here's our dinner menu this week.
I need ideas for tomorrow night...
Tomato Pie?  Turkey Chili?
Two cheapo, Fall-ish wardrobe additions:
This top sold out from Forever21 before I could order it, I'm seriously hoping they restock this (only $22)!
And these wedges are perfect transitional shoes, or at least I think so.
They are comfortable and a steal at $17 from Sears.

I went and looked at a house with a mid-century modern dining room setup and since then I've been obsessed.
Too bad my husband isn't on the same page:
 That's all for today!  Hope you are having a good one.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Weekend Update

Here's a quick look at our weekend.
With my new job, Fridays are half-days (!!!!), so after work I ran down to Crosby's to get a couple pounds of Local shrimp.  I bought 2 pounds, we had shrimp kebabs for dinner and I froze a pound for later.  We usually go out to eat on Fridays so it was a nice change to enjoy sipping wine on the porch and grilling out.
Saturday I ran a few errands and shopped around for a bday gift for my Little T.
I met her and a group of her friends at Taco Boy for dinner and then a nightcap at Stars Rooftop.  Here we are outside the parking garage... I'm wearing this dress that I bought for our vacation, but couldn't wait to wear!  
On Sunday morning we took our pooch to the James Island County Park and walked our usual path around the marsh.
We always hope that this swing is available for us to stop and take a rest...and it was!
After dropping a dirty Alfie at home, K and I went out and bought our new camera.  I've been relying on my phone for photos lately and really want to get back in the habit of snapping more pics.  We decided on a point and shoot, the Canon Powershot SX610 HS.

After leaving Best Buy we went to lunch at the Charleston Crab House.
We sat outside and enjoyed the breeze off the Wappoo.  The weather was so crisp and gorgeous, hints of Fall in the air! 
I often forget about the Crab House but we really enjoy it!  We like to sit on the porch that's through the bar area.  There never seems to be a crowd out there and there is always a table in the shade. 
I love the bbq shrimp and grits from their appetizer menu.  It's a perfect portion and costs $10, which is a steal when you look at the cost of their dinner menu shrimp and grits.  Plus, I actually prefer the bbq version to the more traditional tasso gravy.  I love this dish so much you may remember my attempt at recreating it here.
We finished up our Sunday with watching the recorded Redskins game and a late dinner of sloppy joes.
Sloppies and Skinnies...that's a Sunday Funday at the Nielson house!
How was your weekend? 

Friday, September 11, 2015

New Job

I am so happy to share the announcement of my new job here on the ole' blog!
I have taken a position at a historic church in downtown Charleston and I couldn't be feeling any more blessed.  It has been my goal to secure full time work at a Church or Nonprofit since graduating from college...These sorts of positions are harder to find than you might think!
Working in this environment is my passion, my calling, and my comfort zone. 
And it is finally a reality!
Yesterday was my last day at Lexus.  (Take a look at this post from my first day!)
I learned a lot in my time there, but I know the choice to leave is a good decision.
I know I'm exactly where I'm meant to be...
I'm calling it a match made in heaven! 
xoxo, Laura