Staycationing

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staycationI’m having a little staycation this week. The weather is perfect and I’ve definitely been in need of some sleep and relaxation. So far, I’ve come to realize that there’s a certain pattern to my days off. It’s a mixture of mundane and lazy, wherein I do a lot of typical, regular activities in grander scale. What’s missing is those bigger ticket items, those museums and cultural activities and beach days that take advantage of where I am and treat the week like a real vacation.

But I’ll cut myself a little slack, since I have taken a lot of trips this year already, and have a weekend in Seattle planned for the fall. Maybe I really just need to recharge my batteries? Plus I’m going to a concert tonight — that’s certainly out of the norm!

So what I have I been doing?

Cleaning. I use days off to tackle both those overwhelming tasks that aren’t part of the regular chore rotation, like washing windows and scrubbing the oven, as well as sneaking in a couple loads of laundry.

Baking. I also spend a lot more time in the kitchen. This week I’ve made banana muffins, a blueberry pie and pulled pork. An entire day can go by with me in the kitchen, and at some point I suddenly realize it’s time to turn the lights on because it’s gotten very dark.

Making appointments. Today I went to the dentist. My mouth is very clean but ouch is it sore (no cavities though!). Some people take the approach that they’ll sneak appointments in during the work day, no problem. I certainly do my fair share of that when needed, but when I have a day off I like to load up on check-ups. I happen to enjoy go to the doctor, and it’s so much better without the stress of trying to get back to work.

Reading, TV, blogs, repeat. I love to read, and have an ever-growing stack of both books and magazines on the coffee table. There’s also all sorts of important Bravo and HGTV to catch up on. I feel like I have to take advantage of every spare minute of my days off doing these things, which I don’t get much time for on work days. Sometimes I get caught in a frantic little pattern of doing each of these activities for 45 minutes then feeling like I need to move on to the next.

Perpetual To-Dos. The downside: I spent four hours uploading pictures for printing. The upside: I have five years’ worth of photos on their way to me to organize into albums! There is something so nice about having tangible photos. I should start making this a yearly project, then maybe it won’t take so long.

How do you spend days off?

Busy Month

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Is it just me, or has July felt about three months long? I can’t believe we still have a full week left to go! So since we last spoke, a lot of wonderful things have happened, like:

1. An afternoon at the Yankees game. First one of the year. The Yankees lost, but we were sitting in the shade and had huge beers and found it it be a very pleasant way to spend a heat wave.

2. Visiting far-away family. D’s sister and her family traveled from out west to come visit in Boston, so we spent a weekend playing with babies. We were exhausted after just the two days, but man are they cute.

3. A new job. Yes, I am moving on and up from my current job, where I’ve been for a few years now. I am ::so:: excited for something new. But job searching et al really ate up my blogging time.

4. D turned 27. And I made what is becoming a yearly tradition – a Guinness Cake with Bailey’s frosting. It was pretty close to divine. We ate it for a week straight.

5. Swimming! We spent a Saturday at a backyard pool and it was amazing. My wish for this summer was to swim somehow – in an ocean or a pool or, during those 100+ degree days, even a bathtub. Since Paris was our summer vacay this year we don’t have plans to hit up any beaches. So a couple hours in the pool was just what I needed.

And with that, is July almost over now?!?

What’s the best thing that’s happened to you this month?

Sunscreen Recommendation?

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I’m *really* making an effort to wear sunscreen regularly this year (at least on weekends, and at least on my face/neck). Best way to prevent wrinkles, right? Plus I have about 20x more freckles than average, so I try to keep to my natural ghostly white hue as much as possible.

My problem is that I can’t find a brand I really love. I’m currently using Neutrogena Ultra Sheer and while it’s the best I’ve found, it is still a little too thick and the scent isn’t ideal — perfect for a day at the beach, but not so much for a day at work. I also think it’s making my chest break out (though that could just be the heat). Maybe the problem is that I bought it in SPF 45?

So I thought I’d ask you: do you have a brand you recommend? Have you tried Neutrogena Ultra Sheer, but maybe in a lower SPF and found it to be great for the average day? So many products have sunscreen in them that smell nothing like a day at the beach — moisturizers, eye cream, bb cream — so there must be an actual sunscreen that is light and fresh, right?

I’d be so thankful if you can point me in the right direction. And then I’ll promise try even harder to wear it everyday.

Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen, SPF 45 Value Pack

Let me know – what’s your favorite face sunscreen?

Page Turner: The Newlyweds

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Hope everyone is refreshed from a long weekend (and hope you all had long weekends?). I’ve been a little remiss on the blogging front, but it’s 98% because I spent every spare minute reading The Newlyweds. I think I started it on Wednesday and finished it yesterday afternoon. I had seen it recommended, and okay, I’m maybe still a little obsessed with things having to do with marriage. Verdict: HIGHLY recommend.

So, brief synopsis: Amina and George meet online, and Amina moves from her native Bangladesh to Rochester, NY to marry him. Her plan is to bring her parents over after she becomes a citizen and make a new life for them all. The novel traces the relationships between husband and wife, in-laws and neighbors. It also explores the juxtaposition of two worlds, and belonging to both and neither at the same time.

It had the potential to be trite. I was prepared for half-drawn characters and rote old-world-meets-new-world plot points. But it was none of that. Amina and George were developed and three-dimensional, holding taught the ropes of love and responsibility. Their attitudes and motivations were believable, and while I expected George to be the bitter and demanding man looking for a foreign bride, I actually liked him quite a bit.

My only complaint is that the book ended too soon. I wanted to continue to follow these characters, peeking into their lives on the rest of their journey.

Let’s hope my next two books on hold at the library get here quickly!

What’s the best book you’ve read lately?

Pins of the Week

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Like everyone (right?), I spend a decent amount of time on Pinterest. It just has the best ideas! Here are some of my favorite pins lately:

DIY table – paint a table on the wall and add a shelf

Make a table by painting legs onto the wall and placing a shelf on top!

Recycle old Christmas cards by turning them into gift tags

Don't know what to do with all those Christmas cards? Turn them into gift tags for next year

City pillows to remind you of where you’ve been

Boston Pillow

Monster cups for a kid’s party (or a fun adult party…)

Monster Cups. Cute for a kid's party.

Bridal shower gift idea – each bottle of wine commemorates a “first” for the couple (my sister actually received one of these and it was adorable! Wine for first anniversary, first fight, first baby, etc…)

the bride received a wine basket like this one from her sister. Each wine is for a different "first" in the couple's marriage. This is a great idea! Click on this pin and go to the website to find the tags to attach to the bottles.

It’s safe to say that this long weekend I’ll be spending at least a little time perusing Pinterest and satisfying my inner Martha Stewart.

What’s your favorite idea you’ve seen on Pinterest?

Google Reader Goodbye + Link Love

https://i0.wp.com/www.thatssewamy.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/google-reader.jpgIt’s a very sad day. It is the end of the last week of Google Reader. I still can’t understand why the powers that be chose to discontinue the much-beloved feed aggregator, but am moving slowly toward acceptance. I have BlogLovin’ set up and ready to go, so we’ll see what Monday brings.

On the other hand, luckily, it is Friday. So, I guess I’m a little bit happy :) Plans for tonight include an outdoor concert and happy hour with friends, pizza (because what else do you eat on a Friday?) and a good night’s sleep to hopefully quash the end of this jet lag. Also a little bit of reading of book three on my summer list. Sidenote: Is there anything better than walking out of the library with a stack of books?!

Links I love this week…

Scrap that last NYC to-do list and focus on this one instead

Ingenious way to store cut up vegetables

I’ll be making this salmon for dinner this weekend

I’ve been seeing these shirts advertised all over — think they work?

Tangerine champagne float

Have a great weekend!

(p.s. With the end of Google Reader, you can follow me on BlogLovin’ or any other reader – the buttons are right up there ^ )

Mint Pants

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I have been seeing mint colored pants everywhere on the street this season, and I want them. Like, a lot. The color makes me so happy, light and airy yet still so put together.

I have a pair of minty shorts that I love, but they are super casual. I’d really like some mint pants that I could wear to work — even some classy jeans would do. Somehow my pants wardrobe is a little too brown and gray to feel right for summer.

Mint pants Collage

The problem is, I can’t seem to find them in any store! I hope I haven’t missed them. Any suggestions?

(I like the ones above, but not sure if they’re exactly what I’m looking for – I’d want a little more straight-leg and a little less skinny. The polka dot ones come closest.)

What’s been your favorite thing to wear this summer?

sources 1, 2, 3

Paris Vacation 2013, Part II

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Okay, the jet lag is setting in now. But luckily my first day back to work was smooth! I felt like I’d been gone a very long time.

So, the rest of our vacation….

On Wednesday we packed up and left our perfect little hotel room (I still miss it) and rented a car to drive north to Normandy. The driving-a-car-in-a-foreign-country experience was interesting; luckily they still drive on the righthand side over there. In our attempt to take the non-toll road, we ended up adding about an hour to our trip and exchanged some tense words, but after that jag the rest of the trip went much better! (And yes, we took the highway with tolls on the way back).

We’re both history buffs, and really wanted to visit the D-Day beaches — and it may have been the best day of our whole week. The different sites are spread along a ~20 mile or so span, from the port used to deliver supplies, to German bunkers sprinkled throughout the hills, to the bomb-scarred cliffs that the rangers scaled, the American and German military cemeteries, and of course the landing beaches. The experience was surreal, overpowering. It almost felt like being in a life-size version of Risk. I still can’t fathom the planning and coordination it took, and the perseverance to march on to Paris and win the war.

While in Normandy we stayed in a cute little town and feasted on the local delicacies of Camembert and cider. Then Friday we headed back to Paris (if you’re keeping count, this would be hotel #3), where it just so happened to be the day of the summer music festival! DJs and bands were set up every few blocks (or closer) throughout the city, and everyone was out in the streets. We had dinner up in Montmartre, and the next day we did some souvenir shopping to round out the trip.

Then came the bonus cherry-on-top to our vacation…a pint in Dublin! We had a 12-hour 10pm-to-10am layover in Dublin on our way home, and after checking in to hotel #4 we hopped on a city bus into Dublin and staked out a couple barstools. D studied abroad in Ireland, and he had such a ridiculous grin on his face the whole time.

Then it was time to go home. And as much as I loved getting to sleep late and lounge around and eat fabulous food, it’s good to be back. And reintroduce vegetables, whole grains and non-alcoholic beverages back into my diet.

IMG_0913On our way

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Town of Bayeux

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Outside a bunker

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A moment of beauty – wildflowers everywhere!

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Omaha Beach

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Back in Paris. NYC love.

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View from Montmartre

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Classic Dublin

A great way to start out the summer! Our next trip(s) are for back-to-back-to-back weddings in September, but first to enjoy July and August :)

Paris Vacation 2013, Part I

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Hello everyone, I’ve missed you! We are home and settling back into American life. There is something nice about not having to live out of a suitcase, but I’m sure tomorrow, when the travel fatigue wears off, we’ll really be missing all those Parisian picnics.

We had a wonderful week, with warm, sunny, perfect weather. The first half of the trip we were in Paris and stayed at such a quaint Victorian hotel — exactly what you think of and hope for when you visit Paris. I highly recommend it if anyone is planning a trip to the city. We had hit up most of the key tourist spots last time we were there six years ago, so there was nothing we felt like we had to do, and it was quite nice to take the city at a leisurely, lived-in pace. We went back to the Louvre and Musée D’Orsay; had a picnic at the foot of the Eiffel Tour, though skipped the long climb up this time; walked the quai along the Seine many times; and stopped by Notre Dame Cathedral (for Sunday Mass, conveniently combining an activity we were going to do anyway with a morning of site-seeings) and Sacre Coeur Basilica in Montmartre. We had lots of café and baked goods and dinners so succulent and tender the meat nearly oozed off the bone. I even managed to finish the first two books off my summer reading list! Oh, it was great to be back.

Some observations this time around:

  • The sun sets REALLY LATE in Paris in June – not until practically 11 p.m.! It was wonderful to have all that daylight.
  • The city feels a little smaller and much more walkable. We basically walked everywhere we could, until the fourth day when maybe we were a little tired and took the metro instead of walking clear across town to the Eiffel Tour.
  • Speaking of the metro, it is not air conditioned. I remember it as being the best, most convenient system, since all I’d had experience with was Boston’s small little T. I think my new verdict may be that the A/C’ed, 24-hr New York system would win in a content. Still, the trains came much more frequently than those in NYC — we never waited more than 3 minutes.
  • Nothing is better than a real French baguette in France. In case anyone was wondering.

Now for some pictures:

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Notre Dame – We were there on the 850th anniversary of its dedication

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Paris, with the Lovers’ Bridge in the foreground

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The Louvre on a sunny day

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We had many afternoon breaks for these^^

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Just another picturesque windowscape

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I thought this was the funniest thing back when I lived here — the milk is kept on non-refrigerated shelves in the grocery stores!

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Open air markets with cheap and delicious fruit…We may have had more than a few strawberries and cherries

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Nothing wrong with lunch at the foot of the Eiffel Tower

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I finally got my Nutella crepe!

Part II – Normandy + more Paris – to come…