Tips for throwing a Kentucky Derby viewing party with 14 Hands Winery

Thursday, April 26, 2018
One of my favorite events throughout the year is the Kentucky Derby. Going to the Derby has been on my bucket list for as far back as I can recall. The southern charm, the hats, and of course the booze has always intrigued me. This years Derby falls on Cinco de Mayo. It will also be the weekend prior to us leaving for Thailand. I have a feeling we will have a big party on Derby day!

To get me ready for the Kentucky Derby, My friends at 14 Hands Winery sent me a few bottles of wine along with some tips from Sarah Tracey of The Lush Life. These tips are perfect for anyone looking to host a Kentucky Derby viewing party.  Sarah came up with a fresh approach to the mint julep, using 14 Hands brut instead of Bourbon, and friends this is right up my alley.
Photo Credit: Sarah Tracey from The Lush Life
The Lush Life Sparkling Pineapple Julep Recipe
Combine one tablespoon of pineapple preserves and 7 mint leaves in a cocktail shaker and muddle. Add 1.5 oz gin, fill shaker with ice, and shake vigorously. Pour into a glass and top with 5 oz 14 Hands Brut. Garnish generously with mint sprigs and a slice of fresh pineapple.

A Kentucky Derby viewing party wouldn't be possible without proper dress and Decor. Along with the amazing recipe above, Sarah also came up with some staples, including a DIY Derby Hat decorating station (LOVE).
Photo Credit: Sarah Tracey from The Lush Life
Encourage a Festive Dress Code
On your invites, encourage your guests to get into the Derby spirit with their style! Seersucker and pastel bowties are fun for the fellas, for the ladies fabulous hats are mandatory. Vintage and thrift stores are fun places to hunt for creative party attire that looks like you stepped straight off of Millionaire’s Row.

Set the Scene with Country-Chic D├ęcor
Create a country-chic rustic tablescape with burlap runners, antique lace, vintage photos in charming silver frames, mason jars and of course lots of bright florals. Equestrian touches like horseshoes or horse cutouts are a playful and whimsical detail. And don’t forget the perfect touch to a table setting is the wine! Add in a couple bottles of 14 Hands Limited Release Kentucky Derby® Red Blend to top off the ambiance.

Don’t Forget About Party Favors
Create a DIY hat decorating station and invite guests to bring a plain hat to deck out. Source ribbon, silk flowers, feathers and other fun items from your local craft store; set out some glue guns, and let guests create their own designs.

Raise the Stakes & Place Your Bets
The race is a little more fun if you have some money down on the winner! Let your guests fill out wager cards, have everyone throw a dollar or five in the pot, and the winner takes all.

14 Hands Winery sent me a few bottles of wine to sample, along with these tips. This was not a paid post, nor was I asked to write this post. 
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Waitress the Musical at the Straz Center

Wednesday, April 25, 2018
I am going to take you on a trip down memory lane. In 2007, I had the opportunity to attend the Sundance Film Festival with my (then) job. We sponsored one of the booths at a VIP party and it was one of the coolest experiences I had while working. That year, the movie Waitress premiered with Kerry Russell as the main actress (who I was a fan of from the Felicity days). Waitress was all the hype of the festival.

Fast Forward 11 years later (ouch). I saw a promo for Waitress in NYC featuring songs written by Sarah Bareilles. I have a work playlist that I listen to daily, which includes Sara, Norah Jones, Dido and a few others. To say I'm a huge fan of everything Sarah Bareilles touches is an understatement. She's a constant at my parents dinner party and I know every one of her songs by heart. Waitress AND Sarah Bareilles - major fan girl moment for me.
I'm fortunate to live in an area that has a fantastic traveling Broadway lineup. This week, from April 24th - April 29th, Waitress the Musical will be at Straz Center Tampa. I had a chance to check it out last night and was very impressed. I was curious to see how they would bring Waitress to Broadway, given it's storyline. It was very well written and the stage set was super impressive. I felt at times I was watching a movie, not at a live production. The talent was absolutely incredible and left me jaw dropped at many times throughout the show.
Brought to life by a groundbreaking all-female creative team, this irresistible new hit features original music and lyrics by five-time Grammy® nominee Sara Bareilles ("Brave," "Love Song"), a book by acclaimed screenwriter Jessie Nelson (I Am Sam) and direction by Tony Award® winner Diane Paulus (Pippin, Finding Neverland). "It's an empowering musical of the highest order!" raves the Chicago Tribune.
This is a story inspired by Adrienne Shelly's beloved film, Waitress. This show tells the story of Jenna (played by Desi Oakley) who is a waitress and expert pie maker. She is in a loveless, abusive relationship and ends up pregnant. The story is based around her wanting to enter a baking contest which would give her a chance at winning $20k and start a new life. Plus there is a new doctor in town who shows her what being happy looks like. It's a darker story (abuse, affairs, etc) but on stage, it was hilarious and engaging. It was a very good show and I would suggest seeing it!
"WAITRESS is a little slice of heaven!" says Entertainment Weekly and "a monumental contribution to Broadway!" according to Marie Claire. Don't miss this uplifting musical celebrating friendship, motherhood and the magic of a well-made pie.

Waitress Tampa showtimes
Click here for tickets
April 24th 7:30
April 25th 7:30
April 26th 7:30
April 27th 8:00
April 28th 2:00, 8:00
April 29th 2:00, 7:30
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Planning a trip first time trip to Thailand

Tuesday, April 10, 2018
I cannot remember the last time I was this excited (also nervous) about going on a trip. In 4 weeks, my husband Gabe and I, along with another couple, will be on a 27 hour flight (god help me) to Thailand! Thailand has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember. This goes back to when Leonardo DiCaprio starred in The Beach, circa early 2000. Last fall, when our friends asked us if we wanted to go to Thailand, it was the quickest I said yes aside from the night I was proposed to.

When that conversation happened back in September, the trip felt like a lifetime away. We limited our travel leading up to the trip, reduced spending wherever possible, eating home more often than not and I've been selling stuff on Poshmark, all so we could take this trip without putting anything on a credit card. It's working out pretty well! To date, we've paid for all the hotels and our flights in cash, plus we have money to for daily activities. I've sold over $300 this month on Poshmark, selling things that have been sitting in my closet (easiest money I've ever made and I've become rather obsessed with selling stuff).

Today I want to share an overview of this trip and some of the amazing sites we will see. When we get back from the US, expect a ton of blog posts on Thailand :)
Big Buddah, Phuket
Usually we don't have this much time to plan a trip so I have been going a little OCD with the travel planning.  Below is a brief overview of our itinerary. We are open to any and all suggestions from friends who have visited Thailand before (however, our destinations are set in stone as everything has been paid ahead of time with no cancellation....so please don't tell me to go to Chiang Mai - we dropped the ball there).

Day 1-3 Bangkok
Temples: Grand Palace, Wat Pho, Wat Arun, maybe Wat Traimit
Markets: Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, Chatuchak Weekend MarketJJ Night Market
Bangkok Royal Palace
I have no idea how we will feel landing in Bangkok at 5:30am after being on a 27 hour flight. I'd rather not think about it actually. If we get out of customs and into Bangkok by 8am, we will do a day trip to Damnoen Saduak Floating Market. We will dedicate one day to see the temples seems really packed, but from what I've read, very doable if we start early.
Damnoen Saduak Floating Market
I'm very excited about visiting Wat Pho - it is the home of Thai Massage school. Guess what an hour Thai Massage costs there....$13. Also while in town, we are excited to check out the Chatuchak Weekend Market which is the worlds largest weekend market. Basically, we will be spending time in Bangkok doing a lot of shopping, visiting a lot of temples and a lot of eating & drinking!

Day 4-6 Sai Yok / Kanchanaburi 
Erawan Falls, Hellfire Pass, Lawa Cave
image from www.thefloathouseriverkwai.com
I can't tell you how excited we are about staying at The Float House River Kwai in Sai Yok. We "splurged" on this stay....splurging in Thailand means spending over $100 a night. The Floathouse River Kwai has villas on the lake, surrounded by tropical forests and mountains of Saiyoke. The floors lead right into the river with a floating deck. I can see our 2 nights here spent drinking wine and relaxing. Of everything we are doing on this trip, this is the one place my husband keeps bringing up. He's very excited about staying in a villa on the river!
Erawan Falls
We are going to visit Erawan Falls which is an hour away from The Lake House River Kwai. There are a few other "must see's" in proximity to the resort that we will check out but we are really looking forward to a few quiet days before heading into the chaos of Phuket.

Day 7-11 Phuket
James Bond Island Phangnga Treasures Sunsrise Trip, Elephant Jungle Sanctuary, The Real Phuket City Tour, Surfing in Kata
James Bond Island
I've had a lot of people ask why we're spending so much time in Phuket. Easy answer, the ease of being able to Island hop. We also like to party and Patong is known as a huge party town but the location we chose to stay here isn't the rum buckets, it is the ease of island hopping. In Phuket we will visit James Bond Island on an sunrise trip and see where The Man with the Golden Gun was filmed. We are spending half a day at an Ethical Elephant Sanctuary, bathing and swimming with Elephants! Gabe will get to go surfing, which was the one thing requested for the trip. Thailand will mark the 4th country he has surfed in!
Kata Beach
We will also make sure to check out the other side of Phuket in a city tour (it's more than parties and beaches!). I am looking forward to seeing the colorful buildings of Old Phuket Town and we may fit in a cooking class. I'm sure there will be late nights and too many drinks in our future while in Phuket as well. We will be bringing The Morning Recovery Drink!

Day 12-16 Krabi / Railay
Phi Phi Islands Early Bird Speedboat Tour, 4 Island self-guided tour, Hiking Railay Viewpoint, Emerald Pool & Krabi Hot Springs (maybe)
Railay Phutawan Resort, photo booking.com
We decided to book a hotel in Railay without researching much into it. Now it's paid in full and we found out we are on an island with no cars, only accessible by boat! I am the research queen, not sure what happened there. However, Railay is said to be one of the most beautiful beaches in Krabi. It's also low key, which is probably what we will need after 5 nights in Phuket. Plus the infiniti pool at our hotel is ridiculous, and we got an deluxe ocean view room for less than $60 a night.
Phi Phi Islands
While here, we will visit Phi Phi Islands, including Maya Bay (the location The Beach was filmed). We are booking an early bird tour so we avoid the crowds, which I've heard are quite horrendous mid-day. Maya Bay is actually closing down on June 1st for the first time to tourists so they can recover and regrow. I would have been heart broken if we went to Thailand and weren't able to visit Maya Bay.
Chicken Island
We also found out we can do a very popular tour in Krabi on our own. The 4 Island Krabi Tour usually costs $50 a person, but we can rent a 1/2 day self-guided tour for $50 total and can bring our own drinks (we'll be visiting Chicken Island, Koh Mawr, Tup Island, Poda Island). We will have the flexibility of going at our own time and not being with a mass of people. Plus as I mentioned, BYOB! I am not 100% sold on going to the Emerald Pool & Krabi Hot Springs, that is something we will decide when we arrive. I think I've read up too much on those destinations, and when I learned people bathe there on the weekends, the magic was lost on me.

Day 17-19 Bangkok
Historic City of Ayutthaya
Historic City of Ayutthaya
Our friends will remain in Asia after we head home, so we have a few days to ourselves in Bangkok prior to returning to the US. We are going to attempt a half day trip to the Historic City of Ayutthaya. Our last 2 days in Bangkok will be a whirlwind as we don't arrive in town until 2:00pm Thursday and fly out at 8pm Friday. However, we will try everything to visit Ayutthaya as I've heard great things from other travel bloggers!

Hard to believe this trip is almost here!
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