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Jared and I have a lot of cookbooks.  In fact, we’ve acquired so many in the past year or so, we had to buy a new piece of Ikea furniture to hold them all.  Recently, our new favorite is Nigella Express, a cookbook Jared’s step-sister gave us at my bridal shower.  We had seen this cookbook at her apartment earlier that year, and were very excited to get it for ourselves.  After looking through it, we were even more excited to add it to the collection.

I’d really never heard of Nigella Lawson before, but she is a British food writer and journalist who has been featured on the Food Network.  The versatility of Nigella Express is what leads us to pull it off the shelf as often as possible.  We love to prepare meals during the week, but sometimes it’s hard to get a full meal prepared when you don’t get home until after 6.  This cookbook has so many great meals that can be prepared on the quick without too many complicated ingredients. In fact, many times, we’re able to whip something together using ingredients we already have.  Even better!

Our favorite recipe from the book is the linguine with lemon, garlic and thyme mushrooms.  We do leave the mushrooms out, since I’m not a huge fan, and the lemon “sauce” makes for a great light addition to any pasta dish we make.  Super flavorful!

Nigella Express makes a great addition to any kitchen, whether you have lots of time to experiment in the kitchen or just want a hearty meal on the fly, there’s really something for all tastes here.  Happy cooking!

I’ll admit it.  I love photos, but I hate printing them out at kiosks at places like Wal Mart and Shop Rite.  There’s usually always a line, so once it’s your turn, you feel rushed or frazzled, plus I never do it often enough, so I always have tons I want to print, and it takes forever.  Not to mention there’s usually not a soul around when you need an associate to punch in the password.  Moral of that story is, I’m interested in ANY method that allows me to not have to deal with that.

I had heard of Snapfish before a million times, but never used it.  Sometimes I don’t trust Web sites that promise high quality photos for your uploads.  But, this time, I was desperate to have some photos people had taken at the wedding without having to ask them to print them for me.  Snapfish allows you to create an account, upload photos, edit them, and have them sent directly to your home (or you can pick them up-if you like that sort of thing).

No more picture printing confusion!

I was in heaven.  The first thing I did was ask my sister for access to her account so I could print all the great pictures she took at my bachelorette party as well as during the wedding.  Once I submitted that order, I started my own account and saved some pictures from Facebook to it and had Jared save our honeymoon pictures there.  In about 10 minutes time, I had ordered over 60 pictures that were going to be delivered in a few days’ time.  And the price?  Only about $13, which included printing and shipping!!

The quality of the pictures was a mixed bag.  For the ones that were uploaded to the site directly from our cameras, these came out beautifully.  For the ones I took from Facebook, their quality was only ok.  I did have the option to choose to have them resized for better quality, but I didn’t choose that.  Maybe I should have.  However, for my purposes, everything was just fine for what I needed!

I’ve used other sites like Kodak before, and I know WalMart allows you to upload photos to their Web site that you can pick up in store, but I have to say I think Snapfish has the best prices for photos of all the sites I’ve used, without slapping you with a huge shipping charge to make up for it.  Gone are my frustrating days of waiting in line! Yay!!

What are you doing this weekend?  If your answer was nothing, then you’re missing out!  On Saturday, my friends and I will be hitting up the 2010 Manayunk Arts Festival.  It’s our fourth year in attendance at the Manayunk, PA festival, but the festival has been running for 21 years.

The festival takes place along Main Street in Manayunk.  Manayunk is just a really cool town, with Main Street being a primo location for great shopping and dining.  Manayunk was named a National Historic District in 1983 and its adorable Main Street borders the Manayunk Canal and Schuylkill River.  It’s also offers very convenient access right into Philadelphia from the R6, which stops right in Manayunk in walking distance from Main Street.

I think the best part about the festival is that it offers something for everyone.  For the past 3 years, we’ve made it a girls trip, but this year, Jared’s going to join us.  Even though a lot of the vendors are local artists and jewelry makers, there are still a lot of great things that men can enjoy too. Like great food and free drink samples!  Not to mention the fact that the Manayunk Brewery is right along Main Street, making it a great option for lunch along the way.

Another great year at the Manayunk Arts Festival!

The festival runs on Saturday and Sunday from 11 am to 8 pm Saturday and 11 am to 6 pm Sunday.  We’ve always gone on Saturdays, and while it’s certainly crowded, I still feel like there is enough room to see what you want to see-and to buy it too!  Parking has never been an issue, and we’ve never paid more than $10 to park and walk a short distance to Main Street, however, the train is super convenient as well.  While eating establishments do fill up quickly and there’s often a long wait, we’ve never had too many problems finding a great place to grab a drink or some food.

Prices for the various vendors obviously vary from the very expensive to the reasonable.  I’ve bought something almost every year, whether it’s a piece of small art or decorative wine glasses-good stuff that has lasted through a few moves!  So, bring your wallets and get ready to experience the best in arts that the Philly area has to offer!  See you there!

If it wasn’t for New Jersey Monthly, I’m not sure if Jared and I would ever be able to find some of the great restaurants we’ve found in NJ.  I decided to sign up for “Side Dish“, which is an email newsletter from NJ Monthly that provides restaurant reviews and a general wrap up of dining in the state.  A few weeks ago, the newsletter featured Bell’s Tavern in Lambertville. Since the description mentioned that the tavern had some great beers on tap, we decided to go that night!

We’ve been to some great restaurants in Lambertville, a super cute town situated near the PA border on the Delaware.  Bell’s Tavern can be found a few miles from the more popular downtown area.  Although the tavern does not have it’s own parking lot, street parking was available, although a bit out of the way.

We went on a Friday night, so the tavern was a little crowded and noisy.  However, once we were in the main dining room, things quieted down a bit, although all of the tables were full.  The wait staff was very friendly and attentive, coming over almost immediately to take our beer orders.  Jared was able to find a beer on tap he had never heard of before, which is quite the feat!

For dinner, I was really in the mood for a cheeseburger with fries, since I’ve spent most of the past year denying myself these indulgences for a wedding dress.  Jared also went with a non-exciting meal, the cheesesteak, so I can’t speak too much about some of the more fun options.  The special’s menu was pretty robust for a small kitchen, and the options looked pretty decent.  The fries were fantastic and the burger, although not quite done the way I like, was also pretty good.

Although we skipped dessert, the dessert menu looked pretty great, although very traditional.  Maybe next time!

Overall, we had a pretty good experience with the food and staff at Bell’s Tavern. One thing to note:  they only accept cash, which we weren’t prepared for, however, they have an ATM on site to handle people like us, which I consider to be a great service!  Although I’m not sure we’ll go back again for dinner,the bar seemed pretty popular with a really great selection.

My rating:  7/10

Bell’s Tavern
183 North Union Street
Lambertville, NJ 08630
609-397-2226

I had one goal for our honeymoon:  to not schedule ourselves to death each day to the point of forgetting we’re actually on vacation.  Both Jared and I had talked about taking a cruise as our next big trip, so after we got engaged, that was an easy item to check off the list.  Jared had cruised with Celebrity before, and the ship left from NJ the day after our wedding.  Super easy choice.

There are a lot of elements to review about our trip on the Celebrity Summit, so  I’m going to break this into sections.  First, let’s start with the most important element of all:  service.

Celebrity Summit Docked in Bermuda

Jared handled the booking through a travel agent, so we can’t really speak too much about the service of the reservations department.  We didn’t have any trouble, so I’m guessing they were great.

Overall, we had an outstanding experience with the crew of the Celebrity.  From our statehouse attendant to the sommeliers to the activities personnel, everyone made us feel as if we were the most important couple on the ship.

Our statehouse attendant was a fabulous man.  He remembered us and ensured that we received two gift packages that had been purchased to help us celebrate our honeymoon.  He was easy to find when we needed something and super accommodating.  When we couldn’t finish our first bottle of champagne, he made room in the fridge to ensure it wouldn’t go to waste.  The room was always immaculate, and it was very easy to have our questions answered.

Our favorite part of the trip was probably the Celebrity Life wine tasting events.  The sommeliers on board were knowledgeable without being stuck up and so personable, we felt like they had been our friends forever.  Whenever we would be at dinner, they’d remember us, and even remembered our room number to retrieve our bottles of wine.  The atmosphere they created was just fantastic for those of us that love wine, but may not know all there is to know about it.  Can’t say enough great things about them!

Although we did not interact much with the cruise ship activities director, we always felt very welcome at any events we went to, including a special party for honeymooners.  The activities crew was engaging without being over the top annoying, which made us feel very comfortable wherever we were.

While Celebrity may not be the best choice for people our age, I can probably guarantee that you’re not going to find service like this on any other cruise ship!  I’ve got more reviews to come, so stay tuned!

My brother and sister are very important to me.  Out of everyone in my life, they’ve been my strongest supporters.  For that reason, I wanted to get them something special to thank them at my wedding for everything they’ve done.

My favorites 🙂

I have to admit, it was not easy choosing something that would express to them how much they meant to me.  I wanted something deeply personal, that could reflect what the three of us have shared. In my mind, I had a vision of a special frame with a quote that demonstrates how much we mean to each other.  I searched for a long time online, but was severely disappointed with the options.  A lot of places didn’t leave enough space for personalization, or added hokey messages that meant nothing to us.

I finally found Personalization Mall, and I’m so happy I did!  The options on the site were a bit overwhelming, but I was just glad to have choices!  I chose the Personalized 5 Photo Collage Canvas with Frame. This allowed 4 rows of personalization up to 20 characters each, along with another inscription that could have our names.  It was really exactly what I was looking for, already packaged in a frame so I didn’t have to spend extra money to find the perfect one.

Sample of the frame I bought

I do have to admit, uploading photos to the site was difficult.  I wanted to use some baby pictures, and scanning them in and altering them to be the right fit for the site took forever.  I chose the black and white option, because I honestly was afraid of how the pictures would look. I had nightmares that it would be low quality.  Once all the pictures were uploading, the online tool walks you through cropping them and arranging them in pre-determined spots. Also a bit of a difficult task, making the images I wanted fit.  However, with Jared’s help, I finished it up and was able to submit the order.

I was truly impressed with how beautiful these were.  Delivery was timely and they were packaged very securely, ensuring they wouldn’t get roughed up before I had the chance to present them.  Kelly and Mark seemed to like them a lot!

I had such a positive experience with this site!  If you’re looking for something truly personal and special, this is really the best place to get the job done.

Here’s a confession:  I’ve never had my hair or makeup done before.  Yes, it’s true.  At the tender age of 26, I’d never gone to a salon to have hair or makeup done for an event.  So, needless to say, choosing someone to take care of this on one of the most photographed days of my life was a big deal.  However, I’m happy to say I chose the best two ladies in the business!

I found My Cinderella’s Dream where else but TheKnot.com.  I got in touch with Mari who I liked right off the bat.  She provided all the information I needed in a timely fashion to make the best decision possible.  At the time, I wasn’t sure about makeup, and Mari never pressured me to add this as a service, which I appreciated.  Her prices were fair, and she wasn’t going to charge me a fee to come to The Madison Hotel to help us out!  Furthermore, her son went to Susquehanna, so it was pretty much a match made in heaven!

Getting my hair done and my makeup touched up!

I had my bridal trial with Mari in December.  She was so wonderful and patient with me.  I had just switched jobs, so I ended up having to reschedule my trial and had to leave early the day she came to get back to work, but Mari got the job done quickly, efficiently, and exactly how I imagined it!  By this time, I had decided to go with makeup, so I scheduled a makeup trial with her partner, Rita.  Rita did a great job listening to my fears that my makeup would look too heavy.  We had a great trial, and even later when I emailed Mari to ask if the eyes could be a bit lighter day of, Mari and Rita understood and were very accommodating.

The day of the wedding, we had a blast getting hair and makeup done!  I had booked a conference room at the hotel so we’d have lots of room.  Mari and Rita went right to work at 6:30 and we were all camera ready by around 9:15!  There were 8 of us that needed hair done, and I was the only one that had makeup.  I couldn’t believe how quick they worked!  All of my girls were very pleased with how things came out.  My mom even remarked that she’d never seen someone take a picture of a hairstyle and replicate it on someone’s hair.  All of my bridesmaids got compliments on how great their hair looked-even from the guys, who hardly notice that stuff!  Finally, everyone kept remarking on how natural my makeup looked, which was exactly what I had wanted!

Some great handiwork!

Mari and Rita and truly a dream to work with.  From the trial to the wedding day, I couldn’t have asked for a better group of ladies to help me and my girls look fantastic on my wedding day.  Thanks so much, Mari and Rita!

Just ask my sister:  I’m a stickler when it comes to safe sun practices.  Don’t get me wrong:  I know that being tan makes people feel beaufiul, and I myself still get burned every now and then if I’m not careful (case in point:  falling asleep on the beach in Bermuda).  But, with all the research out there these days about skin cancer and how tanning can contribute to that, you’re being foolish NOT to put sunscreen on just because you’re afraid of being pale.

Pretty on the outside, but can wreak havoc on your insides!

About 90% of nonmelanoma cancers and 65% of melanoma cancers stem from the sun.  The sun’s UV rays wreak havoc on your DNA, even through getting a tan.  Those are staggering statistics to me, and scare me much more than not having a tan.

But how do you protect yourself?  Sometimes even when I slather on sunscreen, I still get burned.  WebMD has a helpful video regarding some simple sunscreen tips.  Some additional tips:

1.)  Pick the right SPF. Here’s a no-brainer:  the higher the SPF, the more protection against UVB rays.  However, just as dangerous, if not more dangerous are UVA rays, which do not cause reddening or pain like UVB rays cause.  A sunblock with titanium dioxide and zinc oxide can provide the most effective coverage.  Look for a solution that indicates it is for broad-spectrum coverage, which will protect against both harmful rays.

2.)  Reapply! Don’t be fooled-just because you put suncscreen on in the morning doesn’t mean you’re safe for the rest of the day.  I’ve read differing things about this, but I typically try to put sunscreen on 15-30 minutes before exposure and then again every 1-2 hours in the sun.  I feel paranoid doing it so often, but it’s been those times that I’ve diligently reapplied that I have not gotten burned.

3.)  Plan accordingly. The suns rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.  Yes, I know, that’s half your beach day.  If you’re planning on being outside for the whole day, try to seek shade when you notice your shadow is shorter than you are.

4.)  Visit your Dermatologist regularly. Skin cancer is very treatable when caught early.  Examine yourself regularly for any unusual spots. Regardless, make sure you book a yearly appointment with your dermatologist so he/she can check you thoroughly for any skin issues.

You can still have fun in the summer months, just make sure you’re careful!  Enjoy!

There are a lot of things people tell you about weddings.  Anyone who has been a bride or groom can back me up on that.  In fact, that was probably the most annoying part about planning a wedding-everyone who had already been there, done that always thought they knew the best way to do things.  When you’re dealing with someone like me who doesn’t ever leave the house without her trusty planners and binders, the advice thing got a bit annoying after awhile.  After all, every wedding is different.  For that reason, I’m not really too keen on dishing out advice unless someone specifically asks for it.

So, this is not my post-wedding advice write-up.  This is a summary of the things I liked most about our day.  Yes, they do have to do with details we had planned and it’s possible other people could use this as advice, but everyone is different!

1.)  Just Say No to Bridal Isolation: I don’t really believe in the old fashioned way of running the wedding day.  Well, I shouldn’t say that.  I knew I didn’t want Jared to see me until I walked down the aisle.  But, that didn’t mean I didn’t want anyone else but the bridal party and the moms to see me either.  We booked a room at the hotel downstairs for hair and makeup, and I wanted as many of my close friends and family in and out as possible.  Not only did it keep me calm, but it also allowed me to spend some wonderful time with the people I love most before the day got too crazy.  I truly cherish everyone who stopped by to see me that morning and made the day peaceful through their presence.

2.)  Non-Bridal Party Helpers: Where would we be without Sharon and Owen??  I’m a control freak.  For that reason, I needed to know that someone other than my girls and Jared’s guys could be out there helping us in the event I needed something and couldn’t leave the room.  Sharon and Owen were invaluable in that regard.  They had a strong pulse on what was going on for the wedding, but were far enough removed that they could see things we might be missing.  Without them behind the scenes organizing things that I couldn’t do that day, I don’t think I would have gotten compliments like “you were the calmest bride I’ve ever seen.”  Appointing people to help you out on the day of the wedding that are outside the direct bridal party was probably the best decision I made!

3.)  Bride and Groom Quiet Time: As everyone knows the wedding day is a whirlwind.  Jared and I were so crazy busy the night before that we didn’t even get to say goodbye to each other after the rehearsal dinner!  Since I wasn’t seeing him until we stood together at the front of the ceremony room, we obviously had a lot to catch up on.  I don’t know who orchestrated this, but someone put us in a meeting room in the hotel alone while the bridal party and parents attended the end of the cocktail hour and just let us catch up.  It was very refreshing to have that time alone to catch our breaths and share our thoughts on how beautiful everything was.

I have a lot of catching up to do with reviewing vendors and our honeymoon experience, so you haven’t seen the end of the wedding posts from me quite yet!

Well, the wedding is over.  No longer will I need to spend my weeks pouring through bridal sites trying to uncover the secrets for a successful wedding.  I am working on a series of posts to wrap up our wedding journey, but we can’t forget about the long-neglected Features Friday, can we???  So, without further ado, Features Friday will now just focus on great sites around the Web, whether they’re related to weddings, marriage or just cool stuff in general.

I can’t think of a better transitionary site than The Nest.  Run by our friends at The Knot.com, The Nest helps those of us brides going through The Knot withdrawal by providing us with resources we can use for our new married lives.  After all, what will I do now that I don’t have a checklist or budget sheet to fill out obsessively?

From Home Buying Help to Money Management to fun sex tips, The Nest continues the Knot.com’s mission to provide useful and fun content.  Although I haven’t spent too much time looking around yet, I’m sure The Nest will provide plenty of content to amuse me on those slow days.  Since the real estate search is our next fish to fry, I expect to be turning to The Nest for a quick read on what we should and shouldn’t be doing!

What am I Tweeting?