Friday, July 31, 2009

Making Baby A, Week 7: Our Little Jelly Bean

I had my very first doctor's appointment the other day.

To be completely honest, I was SO nervous the days leading up to the appointment. Will everything be okay? Will we see the baby? Will we see the heartbeat? I was convinced that it would be a tubal baby.

The appointment went wonderfully well. As soon the doctor said, "I see one baby, in the uterus", all my anxieties melted away. She made my day even better when she showed me the flickering heartbeat on the monitor.

According to the scan, the baby is exactly 7 weeks, measuring 11mm.

Due date: St. Patty's Day, 2010.

My next appointment is in 4 weeks. At that time, they will do a full exam - hope all goes well!

{written on 7/31/09, published on 9/23/09}

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Quiet Times

by Guest
I just had to chime in here after Joyce's previous post with the little video. Seeing that our trip to Ireland was one of the bestest adventures we've ever had together, I wanted to thank her for taking me there with this little video/slideshow. She tends to sanitize her photos before upping them here on Sugarlens, so I decided to include shots that I liked, regardless of how unflattering they may be. While Joyce did an excellent job summarizing the trip, I wanted this to capture the moments behind all those posts.

As has been mentioned before, Ireland was my pick. I wanted a nice quiet getaway from cities and people. I've long wanted to visit that place, even before the whole economic turnaround of the island. Needless to say, I wasn't disappointed and am glad I got to experience it with my favorite girl. So if you have 12 minutes to spare and don't despise Dido, enjoy.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Time-Lapse Video

On our big camera, whenever we set the timer to take pictures, it only has the option to take 10 at once. So instead of having 10 pictures of the same pose, we try to make it a bit more fun.

Inspired by a couple of time-lapse videos I have seen around the 'net lately, I created my own. I am not sure if mine can be considered as a time-lapse, though, because it is just a group of photos.

Either way, it was super easy to make. I did mine in Windows Movie Maker - you probably already have it installed on your computer. I imported the pictures and set the "picture duration" (options>advanced) to 0.125 seconds.

This is what I got:

Very fun! Next time I will try with a real video.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Ireland: Sharing Our Budget

Previously: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6, Day 7, Day 8 and 9, and places we stayed.

Hubs and I love to travel, but we also hate to part with our money. To find a happy medium, we are budget travelers. I still can't believe we managed to have a comfortable 9 nights/10 days vacation to Ireland for less than $3000.

Here is the breakdown:

Airfare: If we had bought the tickets a day or two earlier, we could have gotten them cheaper, but in the grand scheme of things, $1,096.62 for two people was a steal. We flew direct on Aer Lingus from IAD to DUB. No delays whatsoever! It took merely 6 or 7 hours to get there.

Food: I was surprised to learn that Ireland doesn't really have its own cuisine! So instead of spending twice as much on something that we could easily find back home, we visited the local markets often and made our own sandwiches. Not to mention economical, we enjoyed snacking throughout the day and eating in the comfort of our own room. We did dine at a couple of pubs to get the experience, though.

I was really good at keeping track at how much we were spending on food until we got to Dublin. So this is not exact, but I think we spent roughly $180 on food. Not much at all.

The daily breakfast provided by B&Bs really helped us save money on food.

Visiting local markets was just as fun as seeing the sights.

I craved for fish n' chips one night. Hubs and I got two orders and it was 24 euros! For some battered-fried fish and fries! Crazy.

Car Rental: We rented a small Kia for 8 days and it was $427.44, with most basic insurance included. We could've gotten a manual transmission for less, but I am glad we didn't. Driving in the constant rain and the "wrong" side of the road were challenging enough!

Gas (including parking & tolls): We drove all over Ireland, so you can imagine our gas bill was high. On average, we had to fill up every 1.5 days. We spent about $140 in this category.

Lodging: As mentioned, we spent nearly all our nights at homey B&Bs. They really made our trip that much more authentic, not to mention budget-friendly. We saved money on lunches because the hearty Irish breakfast usually held us over until dinner time! We spent $885 in total, which averaged roughly to $100 a night.

Etc etc etc: $122.72. I know we spent 29 euros ($39.23) on the heritage cards, 3,75 euros ($5.25) on an adapter, and bought some (food) souvenirs but I am unsure where we spent the rest.

Grand Total: $2851.75*.

We are super happy with that number! I had planned a $3,200 budget for this trip and we came under by more than $300! With all that "extra" money left over, it's time to plan our next European destination! :)

This is it everyone! The end of my Ireland trip series!

When hubs and I talked about the one place we each wanted to go in Europe, his had always been Ireland. I am so glad we found the time to take this trip before his summer classes started. Ireland isn't your typical European destination, but perhaps that's why this trip was so unique, so different, so eye-opening.

Thanks again for reading our stories - I hope my posts will help YOU in planning your own Irish adventure!

* We did all the currency exchange back home, simply because we didn't want to deal with the hassle of exchanging money in a foreign country or wasting valuable time. We probably could've gotten a better rate in Ireland, though. The exchange rate we got back home - on 5/4/09 - was 1 euro to 1.401 usd.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Friday, July 24, 2009

christmas shopping in july

Once again, we beat the holiday rush and we got our shopping done early this year.

(Hi friends & family, please do not click further if you wish to be surprised!)

That's right, we will be giving away packs of noodles this holiday season. ;) Either that or we will be eating them for the next 5 years. Come to think of it, that suits us just fine because we love these spicy udon type noodles! Can never, ever get enough.

I know when it comes to food, instant noodles isn't your healthiest variety, but I think eating it occasionally can't hurt too much. Plus you can always balance it out with lots of veggies.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Yum-O! Bob's Noodles 66!

Last Sunday, after touring Brookside Gardens, we went to Bob's Noodle 66 for lunch. Bob's Noodles, in Rockville, serves authentic Taiwanese cuisine, at very reasonable prices!

We ordered several dishes to share: crispy smelled bean curd (deep-fried stinky bean curd w/ pickled cabbage - it was STINKY), rice sausage (steamed pig intestine w/ sweet rice), Taiwanese hamburger (braised pork, peanut powder, and mustard greens in a steamed bun), oyster pancake (sweet potato powder, pan-fried w/ eggs, oysters, and vegetables), and a couple of seafood noodle dishes.

Except for the noodle dishes, the rest were your typical Taiwanese street foods.

I wasn't too fond of the noodles, but loved all the street foods, especially the Taiwanese hamburger (it had the perfect fat to lean meat ratio) and oyster pancake (the soft dough was heavenly). So delicious!

Those two things alone are enough for me to go back again! Soon, hopefully.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Discovered: Brookside Gardens

I love visiting gardens!

In just two years, I've visited several, including the Japanese Tea Garden, Missouri Botanical Garden, Longwood Gardens, Meadowlark Botanical Gardens (where we were married!), and Green Spring Gardens. After this weekend, I can add one more to my growing list - we visited Brookside Gardens in Maryland this past Sunday.

I've always known about Brookside Gardens, but never found a chance to visit. Last Friday, after reading in the Weekend section that the gardens was celebrating its 40th anniversary and the butterfly exhibit, usually $6 to enter, was free, I decided that it was the perfect time to go.

There were seven of us - hubs, me, my parents, a family friend, Ken, and Yi-Hsin.

With hubs leading the way, I think we saw every inch of Brookside Gardens. We saw the aquatic garden, azalea garden, butterfly garden, children's garden, rose garden, Japanese style garden, trial garden, and gragrance garden. The gardens also included a Japanese Tea House and several gazebos. Everything was just lovely! Flowers flowers everywhere!

Brookside Gardens is so well-maintained, with plenty of benches to relax your feet. It's calm, serene, and shady. Perfect place to walk around.

Perhaps my most favorite part of the gardens is the butterfly exhibit. Inside a small greenhouse, we saw a variety of butterflies. Hundreds and hundreds of these flying critters. So colorful and pretty!

The butterflies were landing all over the place - on hats, pants, and bags. I really hoped to have one land on my nose, but it didn't happen. Nevertheless, hubs and I had a field day taking pictures.

They even put out fresh fruits to attract the butterflies.

What a great (and beautiful) trip!

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Monday, July 20, 2009

a battlefield trip

Taking advantage of the fee-free weekend, hubs and I took the puppies to Manassas National Battlefield Park on Saturday.

I can't say we, along with the puppies, enjoyed the park all that much - there is virtually no shade on the grassy battlefield - and for two non-Civil War history buffs, the place didn't really spark any interests. We took a quick jaunt around the one-mile Henry Hill Loop Trail, saw the Stonewall Jackson Monument, a couple of canons, and called it a day.

However, my whole purpose was to get out of the house - as it was a nice, breezy day. Mission accomplished. Hmmm, hubs wasn't too pleased with the trip though, but he will be happy to hear that I have no plans of dragging him back there again.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

a fender bender story

Saturday, July 11

@ 12:30pm, I got into a fender bender. The other driver (a teenage girl) just popped out in front of me! I tried to brake, but it was too late. The collision was light and my car was damaged slightly - mainly on the front bumper. The damage on her beemer was minor, too. We exchanged insurance information and went our separate ways.

@ 1:30 pm, I called both insurance companies to report the accident. I repeated over and over again, "I was driving straight and the other driver didn't look before turning left." When I got off the phone with her insurance company, they said an adjuster would be calling me on Monday once they have a chance to talk to the other driver, and let me know what the next steps are.

Monday, July 13

@ 3:30pm, I received a call from the adjuster. She confirmed that the other driver agreed that it was her fault. We then talked about getting my car fixed - I could either go to a preferred auto body shop or pick one on my own (but it must be looked at by a claims rep first). I picked the latter and made an appointment.

Saturday, July 18

@ 9:00am, hubs and I showed up for the appointment. The claims rep lady was nice and friendly. She took pictures of the car, checked under the hood, and paid special attention to the bumper. After a short 10-minute wait, she handed me a check. She explained that I can take this money to any body shop to get my car fixed. If the cost ends up being higher, the insurance company will work out the difference directly with the body shop.

@ 10am, I deposited the check and became instantly $943 richer.

@ 10:01am, pleasantly surprised at the hassle-free process! Getting into minor accidents (as long as it's not my fault) is pretty sweet! ;)

Hubs and I decided that we are not going to fix my 2001 Honda Civic for several reasons:

:: It's an 8 year old car with 63,000 miles.
:: Because I never took care of the exterior, the car no longer shines, even after hours of washing and polishing. A brand new shiny bumper would actually look pretty awkward.
:: According to Kelley Blue Book, the car is worth roughly $5,000. It doesn't make sense to me to spend $1,000 to fix something that's only worth $5,000, even if I don't have to pay a dime.
:: As far as we can tell, there is no damage to the car other than the bumper - the light still works and nothing is leaking - so I am not too concerned. It will still pass inspection.
:: $943 is almost exactly how much our annual trip to Disney World will cost us this September.

PS. I am happy to report that my neck is just fine. Not bothering me at all.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Friday, July 17, 2009

currently blooming in the living room...

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

thursday night dinner out

Oh, I have been so busy at work lately!

I think we can all be honest and say that we take time during our workday for personal stuff - whether it is talking on the phone, surfing the web, or planning a trip. (Wha? It's just me? In that case, lets keep this on the DL.) Well, this week has just been crazy. It's one task after the other and more in the queue. Forget browsing for deals, I don't even have time for bathroom! I hope my client takes a chill pill soon.

Anyway, after a couple of hectic days, when hubs suggested that we eat out tonight, I was more than happy to agree. Now, I am a tight-wad and hate spending money, especially on dining out, but the buy-one-and-get-one-free coupon sealed the deal.

We went to Ruby Tuesday. Hubs ordered classic barbecue half-rack, served with broccoli and white cheddar mashed potatoes. I ordered a combination of Ruby minis (basically miniature burgers) and turkey minis with fries. We also had unlimited access to the "salad" bar. I use the term salad loosely, because what we really had was pasta covered in mayo. So good, though.

We had salad first, and by the time the entrees came, we were already full. Hubs went ahead and ate his half-rack regardless. He said everything was delish. I wasn't a fan of the ribs, really. They were too sauce-y. Since I was already more or less stuffed, I only had one mini burger. It was goooooood!

I am glad we got out for a bit. I had fun chatting with the hubs! He's very entertaining - made me forget all about the fact that weekend isn't quite here yet.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

boys without makeup

The hubs works from home and he likes to take pictures - so whenever I go through the camera flash card, I can always find random photos of the boys' days at home.

I like to post pictures of the puppies on my blog, but only the ones where they are properly primped, where they are strategically positioned, and where they look oh so adorable.

I came across these two pictures tonight while cleaning the flash card - and they made me laugh and laugh. Haha, they are so not in the caliber of the photos I usually post, but I find them endearing. It's just my boys being themselves!

Ah, dogs. They have such a hard life.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Making Baby A: Hey Guess What?

Jump for joy? Or sad that our carefree days are near extinction?

Right now, I will settle for somewhere in between.

{written on 7/13/09, published on 9/23/09}

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Ireland: Oh, the places we stayed!

Previously: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6, Day 7, and Day 8 and 9

When it came to places to stay in Ireland, we knew we wanted to stick with homey B&Bs. I came up with a list of potential B&Bs through a combination of Google search + Trip Advisor and started shooting off emails. I mentioned it before that we didn't give ourselves a lot of time to plan this trip, but fortunately, all the B&Bs I contacted were all responsive. The whole booking process was a snap.

Dunromin Bed and Breakfast in Kilkenny is my favorite. Prior to this trip, I had never stayed at a B&B, but Dunromin is everything I imagined a B&B would be - a place covered in wallpaper, filled with books, and decorated with family pictures. Dunromin is about a 10-minute walk to town. Very convenient. We paid 35 euros pp per night.

The lounge area has lots of books + maps and this is where we had tea and cookies upon arrival.

Although we booked a room for 2 people, we were given a 3-person room. The room is clean, spacious, and has a TV.

I really enjoyed our stay at Dunromin. Val and Tom were great hosts and as it was our first few days in Ireland, they gave us a lot of good tips!

We stayed at Abbey Court Bed and Breakfast in Kenmare. Our hosts - Brendan and Geraldine - were friendly and warm. Whenever we had questions, they were always there to answer. After hubs left his adapter at Duromin, we asked to borrow one from Brendan and he gave us several to test out.

The best thing about Abbey Court is the location (a 7-minute walk to town), breakfast (they are super generous!), and the afternoon tea (we love the cookies so much that we bought some from the local market to take home). We paid 37 euros pp per night.

Our room is nice with a view of the lake and has a comfortable double bed.

This is the lounge area, picture taken from the dining room. Fresh fruits and cereals are always available for people to grab.

We stayed at Duinin House Bed and Breakfast in Dingle. When we arrived, we were the only guests there so we got to pick any room that we wanted. We picked one in the back - from our window we saw herds of sheep. It was definitely very country and quiet.

Pat and Ann were friendly hosts. The breakfast portion was not as plentiful as the previous two B&Bs we stayed at, but delicious nonetheless.

Although the location is good - near town center and right on Conor Pass - Duinin is not walkable to town. The one road that leads to town is high traffic and without sidewalk. We booked a two-night stay here, but changed to one. Pat and Ann had no problems with that. We paid 31 euros pp for one night.

My favorite room at Duinin! From the sun room, we saw gorgeous rolling hills.

Since we left Duinin early, we stayed at Shanville Bed and Breakfast (no website) in Limerick for one night. We found it simply by following the sign by the road and grabbed the last room. One guy arrived steps behind us and was turned away. We paid 30 euros pp for one night.

We arrived to Shanville late and left early the next morning. We really didn't get a chance to talk to our host, Mary, but she seemed very approachable and cooked us a delicious breakfast. For this particular B&B, we basically "lived" with our host and her family as guest rooms and their private rooms are all next to one another. This is a clean and simple B&B, no bells and whistles.

The lounge/dining area, where we had breakfast.

We stayed at Atlantic View Bed and Breakfast in Liscannor. Our host - another Mary - was extremely accomodating and offered us a ride to the Cliffs Of Moher. She was super friendly and chatted with us - about nothing and everything. :) The room we stayed at was clean, comfortable, and offered a great view of the countryside. We paid 32 euros pp for one night.

There are two local pubs within walking distance to the B&B, but other than that, you have to drive everywhere. Cliffs Of Moher is a 2-minute drive or a 20-minute walk.

The lounge area.

Whenever we go on vacation, we always come back with tons of pictures similar to this one.

Lastly, we stayed at Pembroke Townhouse in Dublin. Pembroke is located in Ballsridge, which is a 15-20 minute walk from city center. Not a bad location really, especially since there are plenty to see along the way. There are lots of lodging options in Dublin, but I picked this one because the price was right, the location was quiet + convenient, and it was near an AirCoach (our transportation method to the airport) stop. We paid 44.5 euros pp per night. Breakfast not included.

There are several markets and restaurants near the townhouse. Basically Pembroke is just like a typical hotel, but the staff was very friendly and helpful. Our room was clean with two comfy twin beds.

The bathroom looks so posh, I like the rich color.

Overall, I was really pleased with all the places we stayed. No complaints whatsoever!

In Ireland, B&Bs are everywhere and they are perfect for budget travelers. The US is the exact opposite, they are more readily available in small vacationing towns and are considered luxurious. I wish that wasn't the case. I find B&Bs much better than large hotel chains!

The warm Irish hospitality we received just made our trip that much better!

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Weekend Summary July 10-12

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Ireland: Dublin in 1.5 Days

Previously: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6, and Day 7

Day 8: Drove from Liscannor to Dublin. Half day in Dublin. Stayed in Dublin.
Day 9: Full day in Dublin. Stayed in Dublin.

Dublin. Hmm. To be completely honest, it wasn't our cup of tea. This young city was crowded and overwhelming. So different from the calm and scenic countryside. We only stayed a day and a half, plenty for us. Dublin is a small city, very pedestrian friendly, and if you rush, you can see it in half a day. We took our time and stretched it out a bit. We arrived in Dublin in the afternoon of Day 8 and stayed there until leaving for home on Day 10.

First, orientation. The center of tourist interest is a triangle between O'Connell Bridge, St. Stephen's Green, and Christ Church Cathedral. Within this triangle you will find Trinity College, Grafton Street, Temple Bar, and Dublin Castle.

The O'Connell Bridge...

St. Stephen's Green - a relaxing park surrounded by Georgian buildings. We came here on two separate occasions. The first time was packed with people - we couldn't even find an inch of space to park ourselves! The second time we enjoyed some hash browns and people-watched under a shady tree.

Grafton Street - the city's liveliest pedestrian shopping mall. Again, jam-packed with people. We saw flower vendors and human statues - it reminded me of Barcelona's La Rambla, but not nearly as romantic and pretty. Hubs and I couldn't get out of here fast enough - in fact, we avoided taking this street during our time in Dublin.

Trinity College - Ireland's most famous school and perhaps my favorite place in Dublin! There is a 30-minute tour, which includes seeing the Book Of Kells, but hubs and I passed. Instead, we relaxed on this bench and took a bunch of pictures.

Temple Bar - Dublin's trendiest neighborhood, with shops, cafes, theaters, galleries, pubs, and restaurants. I like the cobbled streets and colorful storefronts, but other than that, there is nothing here for hubs and me. We actually walked it in the morning, without many people around. We probably didn't see the "real" Temple Bar, which is said to be an absolute spectacle in the evening. We were okay with that, though.

The River Liffey cuts the city in two. The southern half is where we spent more of our time, where all the attractions mentioned above are located. The northern half isn't as popular, but worth a visit.

We across the Ha'penny Pedestrian Bridge to reach the northern half.

O'Connell Street is the main street of the city, located in the northern part. This main thoroughfare has everything from fast-food joints to expensive restaurants and from small boutiques to big department stores. It is home to the "Spire", the world's tallest piece of sculpture and a couple of important monuments.

Hubs and I agreed that we like this part of Dublin the least. It wasn't too long before we skipped on back over to the south side.

I enjoyed taking pictures of all the doors - a Dublin trademark - near and at Merrion Square. Hubs and I have about 50 photos of doors and our heads - maybe one day I will make a collage.

There is a public park at Merrion Square, the tour book said it is more inviting than St. Stephen's Green. I disagree. The tree branches were overgrown and I saw trash laying around. It was a bit dodgy, actually.

Our last meal in Ireland was also the best. Just some good ol' yummy burgers and fries.

Not pictured, but we also saw: Dublin Castle, Dublin City Hall, Number Twenty-Nine Georgian House, and Christ Church Cathedral.

While I think visitors can easily spend 3 or 4 days in Dublin without getting bored -with all its music, theater, after-hour tours, and lively pub scene - it just wasn't us. I am glad we spent the majority of our vacation driving in the countryside and finishing the trip with a bit of time in the city.

Wow, and this concludes my trip recaps! Thanks to those who have been following along and thank you for your kind comments. :) I am going to do two more posts - one on all the fantastic B&Bs we stayed at and another miscellaneous post.

Stick with me just a bit longer!

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Binder Clips....Prettified!

This is what happens when I have a jar of decoupage and free time:

The process of making these is easy and really doesn't require too much explanation.

Supplies you need are: binder clips, scrapbook paper, scissors, decoupage, and a brush. 1) Trim the paper carefully to size. 2) Remove the wire handles of the clips. 3) Apply decoupage to the binder clips with a brush and cover with paper. 4) Let it dry before reattaching the wire handles.

So so simple. You can easily find these selling on Etsy for $4.99 for two clips!

Love 'em. I already gave one to hubs to hold all the business cards he collects (they were scattered all over the dining table and driving me crazy). You can also stand the clips upright to hold photos, recipe cards, or notes at your computer.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!