Monday, December 23, 2013

The Most Notorious Question You Get Asked Post-Wedding

With the holidays right around the corner, I wanted to discuss a question that you as a newlywed, will get asked over and over again (especially at family gatherings).  Other than "How's married life?" the most notorious question is......"So, when are you guys having kids?"  While I understand the intent behind the question (family members are generally excited at the prospect of having the family expand), it can get pretty frustrating hearing this question all the time, particularly because it hasn't even been a year since we've been married.  Can we have a little bit of time to enjoy newlywed life please?!?! 

The most famous baby born this year / Photo via US Weekly
I also have a few things I want to do/accomplish first before bringing kids into this world.  I'm in the midst of starting a new business (more on that next month!)  I want to take a trip to Argentina (I've never been to South America).  I want to go to Coachella, which will complete my U.S. music festival trifecta (we've been to Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits).  And for the first time in my life, I want to get a real pet (I grew up with fish and plants, so Mr. M and I would like to get a dog next year).  And to put it frankly, I just don't have baby fever at this time.  This in no way implies that I never will, this just means that at this moment in time, I'm just not in the baby-making mindset.

And that should be okay.  I shouldn't have to apologize for it.  I shouldn't be made to feel awkward when some people then say "But you're going to be 30 next year!  Your biological clock is ticking!  You better start making babies now!".  I shouldn't have people scrutinizing my Facebook pictures to see if I have a drink in my hand or not.  Oh yes, it's gotten that awkward.

This question also frustrates me for married couples in general for a number of reasons.  First of all, in this day and age it's extremely presumptuous to assume that 1) a couple even has the ability to have children 2) a couple plans to have kids at all and 3) you will just announce to the world exactly when your bedroom activities will include pro-creation.

I could go on and on about this topic but I'd really like to know what those of you out there have experienced.  Are you tired of hearing this question as well?  How do you respond?  Do you give people an actual timeline or do you have a funny/witty response that will make people stop asking you?
Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Inevitable Newlywed "15"

So remember all that hard work I put into ensuring I a) fit into my wedding dress with room to spare and b) had killer arms for the wedding photos?  After 9 months of meticulous calorie counting (portion control was key since there was no way I was giving up carbs, sweets and wine) and a few months of P90X, I had the wedding body I always dreamed of having.

And then, leftover wedding cake and cupcakes happened.  And the summertime happened.  With the wedding over and my goal achieved, I totally fell off the "staying fit" wagon.

That about sums it up / Photo via Some E-Cards
It's the curse of the inevitable Newlywed 15!  Okay, not so much a curse but in my case, it was more so about not having a specific goal after the wedding and therefore losing the motivation to maintain a healthy lifestyle.  And the honeymoon didn't help--I probably gained about 5 pounds just on that trip alone (granted, we were gone for almost four weeks, but still!)

While I kept trying to keep some semblance of a workout schedule afterwards (I must have started and stopped P90X three times this summer), it was very difficult to have the motivation to do such a killer workout 6 times a week.  And in terms of food, I would say the first two months after the wedding is when I gained the most weight as I was sooo over counting calories at that point.  BIG mistake.

When I started having difficulty comfortably fitting into my favorite pair of jeans, I knew that I had to once again make a change.  The thing is, we've been eating much healthier again these past few months--which is actually not that difficult anymore since I've really become passionate about cooking over the past year.  Plus, we are living on a budget these days after the momentous (and hella expensive) year we've had, which means less eating out.

So with the healthy meals under control but the weight still not coming off, I know that I've got to retrain my brain to not overeat, control my portions, and get into some kind of workout routine again.  Since Mr. M and I have pretty busy schedules these days, we're trying a new Beachbody workout called T25 (by the same guy who created Insanity).  It's a super intense 5x/week program but each workout is only 25 minutes.  We just started yesterday and while it's really tough, it felt good to finally get moving again.  Plus in the past, I usually preferred to workout solo, but it was actually fun working out with the Mr.  Now there is NO excuse for not being able to find a mere 25 minutes a few days a week to workout.  It's a 10 week program so we'll try to stick with it!

For me, it's not about being super skinny but it's really about staying healthy.  I'm no where near being overweight so I don't want to obsess or be too hard on myself.  But now that I'm getting older and my once speedy metabolism feels like it's sputtered to a halt, I want to instill good eating and exercise habits for myself now, so I can continue to live a long, happy and healthy life.  I know it's cliche to say, but it really should be a lifestyle change at this point.  Plus, I want to always look damn good in a bathing suit :)

Anyone else dealing with the newlywed 15?  Any tips on how to stay motivated and continue to maintain healthy habits?
Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Post-Wedding Dress Cleaning

After the wedding, I started to get concerned about what to do with my dress.  More specifically, would I keep it or sell it?  I'm a very sentimental person, so I always thought I would keep it.  But for practical reasons I wasn't sure if that would be the best option, especially considering I could probably make a decent amount of money if I sell the dress.  But regardless of what I decided to do, the dress needed a serious cleaning.  I specifically remembered dropping poutine somewhere on the skirt and the bottom was pretty dirty since we had trekked around outside in the rain to take photos.

I know Mrs. Funnel Cake has an excellent tutorial on how to clean your wedding dress yourself, however being the non-DIY person that I am, I didn't want to take on such a massive project and potentially ruin my dress.  At first, I was just going to bring my dress to the dry cleaners but after doing some research, I wanted to make sure I put my beautiful dress in the hands of someone who was an expert specifically in wedding dress cleaning (as I've heard and read horror stories about bringing it to a regular dry cleaner).

My Pronovias Benicarlo--the second love of my life / Photo by Sarelle Photos
So after a quick search on Google, I came across Orange Restoration Labs, a company that specializes in wedding dress cleaning.  And better yet, it was just about 20 minutes south of where I live in Connecticut.  So I set up an appointment and brought my dress to Sally, the owner of the company.

She was wonderful when we met, thoroughly explaining to me the "green" process (which included using carbon-neutral products) in which they use to clean all types of wedding gowns and specifically what they would do for my dress.  Once the dress is cleaned, they use acid-free tissue paper to carefully package the dress in a high quality box and a guarantee that the dress will never yellow if handled properly.  When it was time for an estimate, I thought it was going to cost a fortune, but it was actually very reasonably priced for the amount of work and the quality guarantee for the dress.  I didn't have a specific due date that I needed the dress by, so I let her know it was totally fine to take their time with it. 

When I went to go pick up my dress about a month and a half later, I was stunned by the results.  It looked like it had the day I picked it up from Pronovias!

All photos personal.
The dress looked brand new
I wish I had taken a "before" picture of the bottom of the dress--it was now spotless!
She then took out the box that the dress would be stored in.

And then began to carefully pack the dress into the box--I opted for the larger one that was about 3 feet tall since my dress is huge.

After the dress was in the box, she made a few last adjustments. 

My favorite part of the box is the see-through window--I can open the top flap and look at the dress whenever I'm feeling nostalgic!

I absolutely adore my dress and I'm happy I decided to spend the money to get this cleaned--it deserved to be cared for in a professional way.  For those of you interested in getting your gown cleaned in this way, Sally belongs to the Association of Wedding Gown Specialists which includes hundreds of cleaners who utilize this method of cleaning and storing the gowns.  They are not just located all across the U.S. but there are also international members as well (like Canada and now even Australia).

And another great feature is the guarantee seal that they include on the backside of the box.  Not only is the dress 100% guaranteed to never yellow (if stored and handled properly), but if I ever move to a different state or country, I can go to any other local cleaner within the association who will press the gown for free.

The Association of Wedding Gown Specialists logo on the top flap of the box

Would you consider getting your dress cleaned by a professional or will you DIY?
Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Honeymoon Adventures: Australia Part II

Blogger's Note: So the order of this post is a tad misleading--we were in Melbourne before heading to New Zealand, but for the sake of keeping my posts organized by country, I'm including Melbourne here.

After spending an adventurous 5 days up at the reef and rainforest, we took a three hour flight down to Victoria to spend some time in Melbourne.  To us, this was one of the coolest and hippest cities we've ever been to (Montreal and Austin are also on that list).  If we ever moved to Australia, we would totally live in Melbourne.

All photos personal.

Melbourne at night, from 55 stories up at the restaurant Vue de Monde
What We Did
  • Lanes & Arcades Tour
This was a fascinating tour that took us through all the little alleys (known as arcades) throughout the city of Melbourne.  Not only are there tons of cool little shops and restaurants in some of these alleys, but there is an INCREDIBLE amount of street art that changes every month.  Here is some of the amazing artwork that we were lucky enough to see.

Mr. M got a panorama of this incredible mural
This huge mural was created by a husband/wife team who go around the world painting different chapters of a storybook in each city.  How cool is that??  When we got there, her bottom half was already painted over, so our tour guide sent us this original.
Beautiful and intricate street art
More cool street art
We found an Ankh!  This symbol has been special to us ever since the day we met.  I also got Mr. M ankh cufflinks as a wedding present

  • Wine Tour in Yarra Valley
The next day, we booked a tour with Epicurean Food and Wine Tours and were lucky enough to be the only people on the tour.  Our guide Fiona took us to some amazing wineries in Yarra Valley where we drank and bought some fantastic wines.  We also stopped for lunch at the fabulous Chandon winery.
Fabulous weather for a day in wine country
This was the last winery we visited and we ordered a case of their Pinot Noir to be shipped back home
Where We Stayed & Ate

We stayed at the Hotel Lindrum, a really nice, modern hotel.  There are a ton of amazing restaurants in Melbourne, so we went on a food frenzy while in town.  And luckily for us, we were within walking distance to quite a few of them!  Our most elaborate, indulgent and most expensive meal of our lives was at Vue de Monde.  We had to make the reservation a month in advance and decided to do the Degustation menu, which consisted of 14 courses of (very) small plates.  The chocolate souffle we had for dessert was to DIE for.  The cost of this meal was insanely expensive--about half of what we pay for a month's rent.  But if there is one time to indulge in the finer things in life, it's on your honeymoon ;)  Needless to say, we have been on a strict budget since returning from our honeymoon  and have been cooking MANY meals at home.

But hands down, the best meal we had in Melbourne and quite possibly on our entire trip was at the Asian fusion restaurant called Chin Chin.  For only $66 a person, you ask for the "Feed Me" menu, where they continue to bring dish after dish of special items from the large menu.  At around the seventh course, we threw in the towel and said no more--so of course they brought us one last dish of dessert (I can't even remember what it was, we were so full!)

Chin Chin, the best restaurant in Melbourne!
After Melbourne, we headed to New Zealand then came back to Sydney for the final week of our trip.

View of the Sydney Opera House from our hotel room
 It was bittersweet coming back to where we started, knowing that we only had 4 days until we had to head home, so we didn't waste anytime.  We cracked open a bottle of delicious sparkling pinot shiraz from Chandon in Yarra Valley and toasted to our trip so far.

A drink with a view!
What We Did
  • Sydney Pub Tour
This tour was a blast!  We booked through Sydney Pub Tours and once again lucked out as the only people on the tour.  We got to learn more about the history of Australia through the city's oldest pubs and subsequently through drinking some great beers (for Mr. M) and hard ciders (for me).  I tried to keep up drinking-wise with the guys but got pretty tipsy only 3 ciders in and had to slow my roll.

I was still getting over my cold from New Zealand so the tour guide was kind enough to introduce me to a whisky hot toddy, claiming that it would kill the germs.  It must have worked because I finally felt normal again the next day (and slightly hungover lol).

Checking out some awesome pubs and having kangaroo pizza for the first time
Showing us where unfortunate soldiers used to get "Shanghai'ed" back in the day.  So of course we had to pose in one of the cells.  Scary!
  •  Wildlife Tour
We explored the wild yet again, this time about 2 hours outside of Sydney and instead of a wildlife park, this was out in the wild on 1,000 acres of privately owned land.  This tour was really cool because we got to see kangaroos, wombats and koalas in their natural environments.  And our guide Steve was awesome!  We booked this through Boutique Tours Australia.

After searching for hours, we finally got to see two koalas.  It was truly amazing to see them eating and traveling in their natural environment
This is a gigantic wombat hole--these animals basically look like huge hamsters and dig these massive holes.  Underground, they have an intricate network of holes where they can hide from predators

  •  Sydney Bike Tour
The next day, we did a bike tour of Sydney and got to see various city sights up close and personal.  We booked this tour through Bonza Bike Tour

Riding over the Harbour Bridge; upper right, across the water with the bridge and Opera House in the background
The upper images are from our ride through Hyde Park; lower photos are from the Botanical Gardens

  • Surf Lessons at Bondi Beach
On our last full day in Sydney, we booked surf lessons at the world famous Bondi Beach.  We took the city bus about 45 minutes east to get to the beach and it was a brutally hot day (almost 95 degrees!)  Lucky for us, the water was ice cold.  Unfortunately we don't have any photos of us actually surfing (I'm still a little peeved that the surf school we booked through didn't have their photographer on hand that day).

But after a grueling two hour lesson, I finally managed to stand up on my board and road the wave all the way to the shore.  I had NO idea surfing was so incredibly hard and such a crazy workout--definitely have a newfound respect for surfers!

We snapped this photo while having lunch at the Icebergs Sports Club, right before our lesson

  • Watching a show at the Sydney Opera House
We got tickets to the show South Pacific, which felt like an appropriate way to end our trip. 

This is what's up on the stage before the show starts
Mr. M enjoying a glass of champagne during intermission
 Where We Stayed & Ate

We stayed at the incredibly gorgeous and luxurious Shangri-La hotel in The Rocks (a really cool part of Sydney).  I'm just realizing now that I didn't take any pictures of our room :(  But here's an idea of what it looked like.

Similar room to ours at the Shangri-La / Image via Agoda
We also ate at some fantastic restaurants while in Sydney, most notably the Glenmore Hotel (with a rooftop deck that has sick views of the harbor and awesome bar food), Din Tai Fung (AMAZING soup dumplings), Robocog (delicious brunch), Malaya (yummy Malaysian food), and a pre-theatre dinner at Guillaume et Bennelong, a gorgeous French restaurant inside the Sydney Opera House.

Inside Guillaume et Bennelong
View of the sunset at dinner
And with that, our incredible journey down under came to an end.  We were actually pretty sad to leave but it was time to get back to reality.  Luckily, the plane ride home was just as fabulous as our way there, so it made the transition a bit easier, though it took me about a week to get back on East Coast time.  The night we got home, we went to bed at 9pm, woke up at 4am and Mr. M was so wired that he went to a deli to get us breakfast sandwiches.  I fell back asleep at 8am and didn't wake up again until 2pm. Needless to say, it was ROUGH getting over the jetlag...but totally worth it!
Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Honeymoon Adventures: New Zealand

Blogger's Note: After our experiences in Queensland, Australia we actually headed south to Melbourne for a few days before heading over to New Zealand.  But for the sake of keeping my honeymoon posts organized by country, I'll talk about Melbourne in the next post.

After a short 3 hour trip, we were in Queenstown, New Zealand where the weather was drastically different from what we experienced in Australia.  While it was in the 80s and 90s in Port Douglas and the Daintree Rainforest in Australia, it was barely 40 degrees when we got to Queenstown.  But despite the frigid weather (and me having a cold during this part of the trip), we were awed by the majestic beauty of Queenstown.

All photos personal unless otherwise noted.

View from in front of our hotel
The Remarkables--famous mountain range in Queenstown
We only had 3 days in Queenstown and like the majority of our trip, every day was jam packed with an excursion.

What We Did
  • Scenic Cruise of the Milford Sound  
Entering the fjords; huge waterfalls
Clearly it was cold!
We took a 5 hour ride in a glass roofed coach bus to get to the Milford Sound, but luckily not only was the drive very scenic, but we made quite a few stops along the way, including one at a stream with water so pure, we were able to fill our water bottle and drink from it.

Mr. M filling our water bottle with delicious stream water
Unfortunately it was a super cloudy day that eventually turned into light rain on the Sound, but nonetheless, the fjords, waterfalls and wildlife we saw on the 2 hour cruise were majestic and almost otherworldly.
Mr. M is king of the world; I kept holding cups of hot water to warm my hands
More sights from the Sound, including some seals
  • Lord of the Rings Safari of the Scenes Tour  
While we are not rabid fans of the LOTR trilogy, there was no way we could go to New Zealand and not take a tour of where Peter Jackson filmed his famous movies.  So the day after the Milford Sound tour, we did a tour with Nomad Safaris and saw more of the beautiful areas surrounding Queenstown--this time with much better weather!  We were picked up by our tour guide and drove about an hour out of Queenstown.  We made a few stops along the way to take some photos of Lake Wakatipu.

Beautiful forest where several battles scenes from LOTR were filmed
Where We Stayed & Ate

Hotel lobby / Image via New Zealand
We stayed at the Hotel St. Moritz in the heart of Queenstown, on Lake Wakatipu.  It's a beautiful hotel which feels like an upscale ski lodge.  The breakfast buffet offered there was actually pretty good and helpful when we had a 6:45am pickup time for our Milford Sound excursion.

We also had some truly excellent meals in Queenstown, particularly at Botswana Butchery (excellent steakhouse), the infamous Fergburger (amazing burgers), Fergbaker (AMAZING meat pies--we had the venison & mushom pie which was to die for) and dessert at Patagonia chocolates (where we had the famous hokey pokey ice cream). 

At Patagonia Chocolates for a Hokey Pokey ice cream
 After our short stay in Queenstown, it was time to head to the north island to Hawke's Bay where we would be spending the next 4 days.  We decided on Hawke's Bay because we wanted to spend part of our trip in wine country.  And while Hawke's Bay is less popular (in terms of tourism) than New Zealand's other wine country, Malborough, the wineries there are excellent and rival anything that Malborough has to offer, with less crowds.  Luckily the weather was gorgeous up here--sunny and in the 60s, a nice change from Queenstown.

For this portion of our trip, we had a car and it was very interesting trying to get used to driving on the right side of the road.  Luckily Mr. M is a driving pro and despite it being his first time driving on the right, he mastered it and got us safely to each stop along the way from Hawke's Bay to Auckland, driving nearly 350 miles in total (spread out over 3 days).

Mr. M driving like a pro on the other side of the road
What We Did
  • Self-Guided Bike Tour
Beautiful day for a bike ride through wine country
We rented bikes through Bike Devine and the owner Zoe equipped us with water, maps and a pickup location and time (so that we wouldn't have to bike all the way back).  At first I was a bit skeptical on doing a self-guided bike tour, but the coutryside of Hawke's Bay was super easy to navigate (along with miles of beautiful bike trails).  During our ride, we stopped at some wineries along the way, including Black Barn, Te Mata and Elephant Hill (where Fiona picked us up).  Despite being tipsy from all the free wine tastings, we managed to bike about 12 miles in total :)

Where We Stayed & Ate

Beautiful sunset sky from our living room at Millar Road
We stayed at the incredible Millar Road, comprised of 3 different villas nestled in a vineyard.  This was easily the best accommodation on our entire trip.  We lucked out and got the 2 bedroom villa so had plenty of space.  The villas came equipped with a full kitchen (stocked with breakfast foods for the first day), a living room with TV, a pool (although it wasn't warm enough out to enjoy this) and on-site laundry facilities.  Being able to do laundry after carrying around 2 weeks' worth of dirty laundry was a godsend!

We had some pretty amazing meals while we were here, most notably at Craggy Range winery for dinner, Black Barn Bistro for lunch, Vidal winery, Pipi's (yummy pizza), Indigo (Indian) and Rush Monro's for more hokey pokey ice cream.  After days of lazing around, having incredible wine, and a few spa treatments, it was time to move on.

We drove east to spend a night in Taupo, then drove further east to get to our last excursion in New Zealand--the Waitomo (aka Glowworms) Caves.

What We Did
  • Black Water Rafting in the Waitomo Caves
This was by far the most adventurous, crazy activity we have ever done.  It was a 5 hour excursion that we did with the Black Water Rafting Co. that involved abseiling 100 feet into a cave, zip lining in the dark, jumping 10 feet into icy cold water, and climbing two waterfalls, but it was all worth it because in between these crazy activities, we got to see thousands of glowworms lighting up the ceiling of the caves.  It was like looking up at the night sky, 100 feet underground.  It was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen in my life and photos don't do it any justice.

Just to give you an idea of what the glowworms look like / Image via New Zealand
 We weren't able to bring our own cameras into the caves, so our guide ended up taking all these pictures.

We were taught how to abseil right outside the cave entrance
You can't tell by my face, but I was absolutely terrified to abseil 100 feet into this cave!
Jumping about 10 feet into freezing water; taking a ride down a mini water slide
This adventure was definitely not for anyone who was claustrophobic
We attempted to spell "Waitomo" with our headlights and colored cups, but it didn't quite work out lol
Everyone in our group looking shell-shocked when we were finally done.  Talk about an adrenaline rush!!
Immediately after this excursion, we had to drive about 3 hours north to get to Auckland, where we would only be spending one night so that we could hop a plane back to Sydney.  I had never traveled so much in a 3 week period in my entire life!