Monday, October 20, 2014

Honeymoon in Venice Italy with a side of temper tantrum

If you spoke to be prior to our honeymoon and were to ask "What are you most looking forward to", my response would have been Venice. I have always wanted to go to Venice, the magical city in the water. Ride in a gondola and stroll the romantic streets. I can sadly tell you first hand, while it is beautiful, the city did not live up to my expectations.
Our trip started out rough with a 6am flight out of ORLY, Paris. We were told we needed to be there 2 hours ahead of time. Wrong. We got up at 3am, after only going to bed at 12:30am following our fabulous Eiffel Tower dinner. I figured we could sleep on the plane. Wrong.  After landing and being extremely tired at 8am, we waited in line for an hour to get our travel figured out into Venice. Finally learning the correct bus number and taxi boat number, we were on our way.
We finally arrived in Venice and headed towards our bed and breakfast, to learn VERY quickly that there are not street names in Venice. It was a maze trying to find our location and Siri was very confused. We got lost with multiple pieces of luggage. Guess what Venice has - bridges with stairs....a lot of them, everywhere you go. 
We had to ask for directions, realizing we were exactly where we needed to be - our B&B was unmarked. We threw our bags in the room and headed off. While this photo from Ritalo Bridge is stunning, what you don't see is the thousands of people standing in my exact location, taking photos. It was a zoo and I was losing patience fast.

Here's a tip if you are traveling abroad, while connected to WIFI, put your location in your GPS. Then go back into airplane mode. The GPS will still pick up where you are without using your data. However, this didn't work well in a city with no street names. 
I read on trip advisor of this place called Dal Moro's Pasta to Go. It's ranked #1 on TA, was cheap and fresh homemade pasta. We spent an hour looking for the place since we got lost again but finally found it hidden in an alley. Luckily I recalled what the outside looked like thanks to Trip Advisor. We each ordered the Spicy Red Sauce with Chicken Sausage and Basil. This was honestly the freshest pasta I have ever tried. Our lunch cost 19 Euro (a little less than $25 USD) for two orders of pasta with meat, prosecco, a soda, and a bottle of water. We joked at the time that this would be the cheapest meal of our trip. Little did we know that eating and drinking in Italy would be so affordable.
Following lunch, we headed out to St. Marks Square. We also learned there were 2 cruise ships in port, which meant thousands upon thousands of people everywhere you turned. Plus, everywhere you walked, a street vendor was trying to push their product on you. It was like a giant Italian Flea Market and I did not like this experience whatsoever.

We had pre-paid timed reservations to go into St. Marks Basilica but couldn't figure out where to use them at. So we waited in line like everyone else, to learn we couldn't bring any large bags in. Off we went to find a storage locker. Guess what was inside our bag? Our Euro's.....so after we got back into the Basilica, we were unable to climb up since there was a 5 Euro fee per person. At that point, we were both over it but snagged a few photos of the church itself and headed out.


We were both exhausted at this point and it was only 2:00. Our pre-paid gondola ride was scheduled at 4:00.  I instantly regretted buying the gondola ride in advance. There were gondoliers everywhere yet we had to wait around for hours, instead of being able to go take a much needed nap. Neither of us wanted to venture out this way again (which would have led to us getting lost). So we found a precious garden bar on the water and drank some wine (me) and mojitos (Gabe). It was perfect.
After we relaxed a bit at the bar, we headed in the general direction of the gondola, only to get lost!!! If you are keeping track, this is now the 4th time we got lost and the day wasn't halfway over. On our way to the gondola which we thought didn't exist after not finding it for over an hour, we were hassled by about 25 times by people asking if we wanted to buy everything from selfie sticks, to fake Louis Vuittons. Things started going downhill fast and I knew my temper was not long for this world.
We finally found the area where we needed to be, only to find ourselves with close to 100 other people. It was a zoo. We sat down and waited for our gondola to start. Our 4:00 reservations turned to 4:15, Finally our name was called and within a few minutes, I launched into a full blown temper tantrum. We were placed in a gondola with 2 other couples and Gabe and I got separated. We knew going in that we would share the gondola with others....but they literally had us sitting in different areas of the boat. THIS WAS NOT OK. I said way too loudly, "THIS is BS, we are on our honeymoon and you are separating us?!" I caused a scene.....and because of this, Gabe didn't want to go in a different boat since he was already embarrassed. The photo below is from another Gondola. See the person in green? That was my seat. See the person he is talking to? That was Gabe's seat.
What I should've done was kindly ask if we could sit together because it was our honeymoon. However, the stress from the day and lack of sleep got to me. $100 USD later, my new husband and I didn't get to sit together on a Gondola ride I bought 3+ months ago. Not to mention, our gondola driver was awful. He rode side by side with another gondolier, where they talked to each other the whole time.  The only good thing that came out of this experience is that I crossed something off my bucket list.
We had to walk back through the square on the way home and I took the opportunity to get a picture with a ton of pigeons. Gabe and I were both very exhausted at this point. We headed back to the hotel so we could take a nap and then go out for a nice dinner. EXCEPT we got lost.....for THREE HOURS. When we finally got back to the hotel, I passed out at 8pm and slept for 12 hours. So much for a romantic night out in Venice.
Just to be funny, I put a photo of us in the real Venice (left) and Epcot's Venice (right).

Although we got lost and I became very frustrated with multiple portions of Venice, I will say it is a must see. I wouldn't want our experience to deter anyone else from going.  If we were to do Venice again, here is what we would do different:

  • Not stay in Venice. Take a 2 hour train in from Florence instead and spend a day in the city vs. overnight. Getting lost with luggage in Venice is something I will never forget and never experience again.
  • Find a way to get a navigation system off of wifi, this way you wont get lost for hours
  • Do not pre-pay for your Gondola. Or if you do, pay the extra money to be solo
  • Check the cruise schedules and plan your day in Venice according to days multiple ships are not in town
  • Get more than 2 1/2 hours of sleep the night before. You will need your patience

Chicken and Waffles Three Ways with Aunt Jemima #4MoreWaffles

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #4MoreWaffles #CollectiveBias

A few months ago, my Mom and I hosted a small brunch party. We had different ideas of what we wanted to serve and I was adamant about chicken and waffle sandwiches. They're easy to make and lets be honest, a chicken and waffles is very trendy at the present time. My sandwiches flew off the plate and we will always make a variation of this in the future. To make life simple, we used frozen waffles and frozen chicken tenders. It's much easier than having to slave over your waffle iron and your fryer.
Having multiple options for guests to build their Chicken and Waffles is the way to go. I prefer to do a mix of savory and sweet options. I used Aunt Jemima frozen waffles which now come in a 14 pack for the same price as their previous 10 pack. They only take 8 minutes to cook in the oven at 400, which is the same temperature it takes for frozen chicken tenders. I prefer this method so all of your waffles come out at the same temperature vs. using your toaster a few at a time. Put the chicken tenders in, flip them over after 10 minutes and place the waffles in the oven at this time. 20 minutes later, you will have the perfect foundation for Chicken and Waffles.

Chicken and Waffles Eggs Benedict
I took two brunch staples and combined them into one. Using chicken as your protein and a waffle vs. a traditional English Muffin. Poach your egg while your chicken and waffles are cooking. If you need help poaching eggs (lord knows I did), here are a few methods. I used packaged hollandaise sauce for the topping.

Classic Chicken and Waffles
By far the easiest method - a waffle, chicken tender and syrup! After your chicken and waffles are finished cooking, pour maple syrup over the tender. Can't go wrong.

Chicken and Waffles BLT
This is a great brunch sandwich. Adding the Chicken to the classic BLT is the perfect addition. I usually use arugula for this recipe, however my local store was sold out (?!?!) and I was stuck with Romaine. While your chicken and waffles are cooking, cook your bacon and slice your tomatoes. If you want to take this sandwich to the next level, roast your tomatoes like I did - WOW. My husband preferred having mayonnaise on the waffle whereas I used Sriracha. To each their own!


I found the new Aunt Jemima Frozen Waffles 14 pack at my local Publix (and they were BOGO, score!). Here is a coupon for Aunt Jemima Frozen Waffles and be sure to check them out on Facebook for other recipe ideas! Follow SoFabConnect's board Aunt Jemima Frozen Waffles on Pinterest.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Hiking in Cinque Terre, Italy

Warning - this is a very photo heavy post! One of the gifts we received for our honeymoon was to hike the gorgeous Cinque Terre. I have seen photos of Cinque Terre many times and couldn't wait to see the spectacular views in person. We got up bright and early on Monday morning to meet our tour guide at 7am.

Cinque Terre takes its name from the five picturesque fishing villages of Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso.
I couldn't tell you which town we went to first, although they each had their distinct character. However, they reminded me a great deal of one another.
The water was inexpiable blue. With the pastel buildings contrasting the waters, it was truly a jaw-dropping experience.
We stopped at a local restaurant for lunch - a plate of 5 different fish and homemade pesto. I am quite adventurous in my eating but the fish freaked me out a little.


After lunch, we set out on the big trail, 2.5 miles long and very high. I couldn't take pictures fast enough.

There were many beaches to lay out at or take a quick swim, which was encouraged in our tour. We didn't bring our bathing suits but did check out the water - it was warm!

We went into one of the villages and tried some gelato. I also took this opportunity to sit down. My legs were on fire from the last portion of the hike. It wasn't so much the hike that got to me - it was 5 consecutive days of walking, hiking, climbing, etc. Marathon training!!!!! With all the walking, climbing, etc., I was beyond grateful to have my ASICS Gel Nimbus 16's on.
We made our way into another town where I found a wine tasting! Of course I did...... 
I got to try 5 different wines from the 5 different towns. I have no idea what I drank, they all kinda tasted alike and it was the most money I spent on wine that entire trip on one sitting (15 Euros) but it was worth it!
We then took a boat ride where we got to see all of the towns from the water. That was spectacular.



The total walking route on this tour covers a distance of approximately 3.4 miles. We bought the tour from Viator.com and it was around $120 a person, which included transportation, a semi-guided hike and your lunch. I loved having this as our introduction to Cinque Terre. Next time, we will likely do the towns on our own, possibly staying a few nights. We loved the experience, however, wished that they didn't go to each town and spent more time in each location. We both also wish we wore something other than jeans for this hike!!!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Asics Gel Kayano 21 Giveaway, Limited Edition NYC Marathon

ASICS America provided me a code for one reader to win a complimentary pair of  limited shoes for the giveaway.

Hello friends! I have an amazing giveaway for you thanks to my ASICS NYC Marathon blogger challenge partnership! . Up for grabs, a pair of limited edition ASICS Gel Kayano® 21 NYC Marathon shoes!

The beautiful ASICS Gel Kayano® 21 are valued at $160 and were made specifically for the 2014 TCS New York City Marathon. The 2013 NYC Marathon was my first ever full and I am honored to be part of #teamasics for the 2014 race. I remember going to the expo last year and seeing the ASICS NYC shoes and regret not buying a pair to commemorate my first full marathon.
The shoe was updated with nothing but the best in ASICS technical innovation, featuring the next generation of FluidRide™ and an Ortholite X-40 sockliner for the lightest and most luxuriously stable ride yet. Mild to moderate overpronators will run in secure comfort, thanks to the new uniquely designed FluidFit™ upper and Heel Clutching System™.
So you want to win a pair of these shoes? Not only was the 2013 NYC Marathon my first full marathon, it was also my favorite race to date. Let me know in a comment below what your favorite race was. Be sure to log your entries in the rafflecopter widget (and for a chance for a few more entries).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Be sure to check out my fellow #teamasics friends for another chance to win a pair of Asics Gel Nimbus 21!

Chris from runrunlive.comBoston, MA
Megan L. from runlikeagrl.comBrooklyn, NY
Gregg from nycsweat.comNew York, NY
Grace from leangirlsclub.comNew York, NY


Exaltria #30Days2BetterSkin Challenge Results

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #CollectiveBias #30Days2BetterSkin

Remember a month ago when I announced I was starting the #30Days2BetterSkin skin care Challenge with Exaltria? The results are in. The challenge itself was quite simple:
Exaltria #30Days2BetterSkin Challenge requirements:
  • Wash your face twice daily
  • Wear sunblock daily
  • Be active for at least 30 minutes a day
  • Drink at least 8 glasses of water daily
  • Take Exaltria daily
Other than the last bullet, those are all things I already do on a daily basis. I am a natural redhead and if I don't wear sunblock daily, I will look turn into a human beet. I'm marathon training so the active task is a given. Plus I make sure to drink my 8 glasses of water each day. If you didn't see my last post on the challenge, Exaltria is an all natural dietary supplement which gives you beauty from the inside out. Things start turning when you get older and at the young age of 25 (when you don't care about wrinkles) your body can stop producing molecular acid, which slows down or even stops your skin's ability to restore elasticity. Exaltria helps solve that problem and helps you maintain young healthy looking skin, among other benefits. 
end of week 1. Dark circles under eyes were still prominent
My skin is naturally very dry, which makes me prone to wrinkles. The first week of the challenge was rough for me. My skin was flaking like crazy - which was the dead dry skin falling off. My wedding was a little less than 2 weeks after I started the challenge and I nearly quit due to fear of looking like a lizard on our big day.Luckily, towards end of week one / beginning of week two, the peeling subsided but I still had bags and dark circles under my eyes.
Week 2, my rehearsal dinner
Week 2: Although I was naturally glowing because this was my wedding week, I was super excited to see the change in my skin in such a short time. My circles were not all the way gone, but much better. I had a glow going on (also could have been associated to getting married). I was very happy I didn't quit the challenge.
Harvesting Grapes in Chianti, Italy
Week 3: Remembering to take the pill daily was hard on the honeymoon but I succeeded. Most of my photos have my sunglasses on (boo to me) but you can see that my forehead is smooth, my skin is fuller and overall appearance is much better than when I started. All of the pictures from the top photo collage were taken during the two week long honeymoon.
Towards the end of week 4 with no makeup on in London, England
Week 4: This photo was taken after being in London for 12 hours with no makeup on and not retouched whatsoever. A month ago, I would not have allowed this photo to be taken (I admit, I'm vain). The bags under my eyes are gone and my skin is much fuller and brighter - with NO makeup!

So Exaltria was a success for me and I plan on ordering another box from Amazon!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Try the Delicious Convenience of Plated with a great deal for my readers


Right before we left for the wedding, I received an opportunity to check out Plated, a pre-portioned meal delivery service with fresh ingredients which arrive at your doorstep. The timing couldn't be any better since I knew we had to throw away pretty much everything in our fridge before we left for the trip. The last thing I wanted to do was come home after 3 weeks and go grocery shopping.

The process was simple, I chose my Plated delivery date for the Saturday we returned home, selected which two dishes we wanted to try out! We were able to choose from seafood, meat and vegetarian dishes. The two we selected were Cajun Shrimp and Grits with Braised Kale; Steak au Poivre with Spinach Potato Gratin. Both dishes paid honor to our recent life events, the Shrimp and Grits for the wedding in New Orleans and the Steak au Poivre for our Europe honeymoon.

We arrived back from the honeymoon with the box waiting for us. I was too jet lagged to think about cooking that night so I saved the items for Sunday and Monday night. I truly enjoyed cooking both dishes and loved that everything from the fresh spices to liquid ingredients were clearly labeled. The only items I had to use of my own were salt, pepper and olive oil.

Cajun Shrimp and Grits with Braised Kale

This dish was super easy to execute and full of flavor. I LOVED the addition of Kale and while it took a little bit of encouragement for Gabe to try it, he ended up liking Kale. The dish took 30 total minutes to make and the instructions were super easy to follow.

This recipe had 6 steps
Prepare Ingredients
Saute Kale
Braise Kale
Cook Grits
Cook Shrimp
Plate Shrimp

Cooking Tip - Stirring grits constantly prevents them from cooking too quickly or clumping up.



Steak au Poivre with Spinach Potato Gratin


This dish took a little more time to prepare since I had to thinly slice 6 small white potatoes and blanch them. My sauce also split, which didn't affect the taste but didn't look too pretty on the presentation. The dish itself was delicious. I loved the gratin and that it hid spinach (although Gabe called it the green stuff).

This recipe had 6 steps and took 45 minutes to prepare
Blanch Potatoes
Assemble Gratin
Bake Gratin
Cook Steak
Make Sauce
Plate Steak

Cooking Tip Don't have a baking dish handy? Bake the gratin divided in ramekins or even in a muffin tin.


I would absolutely use Plated again in the future. It was so convenient coming home to fresh groceries ready for me to cook. I see many Plated meals in our future, especially on those weeks we come home from Travel.

Right now, Plated is extending a great deal to my readers! As of publication date, they are offering 4 free dishes for new members. All you do is pay the $20 shipping. This is a limited time offer so make sure you Click here to sign up today. The deal may change based on demand so make sure you take advantage of this and let me know what meals you select!