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To wrap up my series on our Cape May trip via Living Social, it’s time to talk about what to do in a shore town when half the town is still shut down and it’s way too cold to sunbathe.  Cape May is still full of activities in the off-season, so here are some highlights from our own trip.

Physick Estate
Jared loves touring old mansions.  In fact, whenever we travel, I think it’s safe to say we visit at least one.  We even made a special trip to Rhode Island to do the mansion tours one 4th of July weekend.  This trip was no exception, and with an abundance of Victorian-style homes, Cape May offered a lot of options when it came to tours.

The Emlen Physick Estate is the only Victorian house museum in Cape May.  It’s a neat story.  This house was in disrepair, and then the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts was formed in 1970 to bring it back to its historic state.  I won’t bore you with the historical details, but for $10, you get a 45 minute tour of the estate that concludes with a visit to the Carraige House, which typically has a separate historical display towards the back.  For $18, you can do a combination trolley tour of historic Cape May plus the mansion tour.  Our hotel gave us a voucher for the tours, however, we visited the mansion before we visited the hotel.  Darn.  Check with your hotel to see if they offer any deals for the tour.

Cape May Winery
I’m about to make a huge claim here and say that the Cape May Winery is one of the best wineries we’ve ever been to from an atmosphere perspective.  The tasting room is a gorgeous, expansive room with tables, couches, a bar and barrels lining the whole side wall.  Large enough to accommodate large groups without making other people feel like they are waiting around forever, the tasting room is really just a fantastic room.

Given how awesome the room was and how much it made us want to linger, we chose to do a tasting for $6 that included tasting 6 wines plus a souvenir glass.  Both Jared and I chose a mix of reds and whites to try, along with a dessert wine for me and a port for him, which I usually don’t find too much of at local wineries.  The wines we liked the most, like the Victorian White were very sweet.  That happens to be our preference, however, I also enjoyed some of the other more dry whites as well.

After our tasting, we decided to purchase a full glass of our favorites and sit in the tasting room for awhile, something I’ve never seen at other wineries.  Typically you go straight from tour (if there is one) to tasting, and then to the gift shop.  The Cape May Winery really encourages people to linger, with a balcony upstairs that looks over into the vineyard.  If it hadn’t been so windy and cold that day, this is something I definitely would have loved to do.  In fact, we saw one couple up there splitting a bottle and just hanging out.  Such a great, restful and fun activity, and we can’t wait to open the bottles we ended up buying.  Definitely worth a long afternoon stop on your trip to Cape May!

Cape May County Zoo
Another thing we’re huge fans of are gardens and zoos.  I’ll admit I was spoiled in DC, visiting the National Zoo sometimes every month without having to pay.  The Cape May County Zoo was a fabulous find.  With free admission year round, I was kind of expecting just a few animals set up in a dinky little park, but was pleasantly surprised to find it is so much more than that.

From lions and tigers and bears to simple geese, ducks and wandering peacocks, the zoo layout is one of the best I’ve seen in awhile.  I think we spent about 2 hours wandering around, enjoying the weather and all of the diverse animal populations.  Although the zoo was packed the day we were there, the expansive nature of the set-up allowed us to see everything we wanted to see without crowding around with other people.  Perfect for children and adults alike, the zoo is located a few miles outside of downtown Cape May in Cape May Courthouse.  Worth the drive, particularly since it’s free.  Just remember to support organizations like this with your donations to keep them up and running!

For all those that think of a certain show when they think of New Jersey, try visiting us first.  You’ll see there’s much more here than bumps and fist pumps.

Thanks to Living Social, Jared and I recently had the opportunity to check out Cape May, New Jersey for the first time (well, my first time-Jared was there as a kid).  As we walked around, I started thinking about all the great places we’ve been to in New Jersey that might get overlooked for those of us that live in-state.  Hence my new mission to tell you about them as we go along.  🙂

We covered a lot of ground while we were in Cape May, so I’ll start today by reviewing the lodging that we used.  The next set of installments will cover dining and area attractions.  We don’t want a super long post, after all!

The Carroll Villa Bed and Breakfast
The deal we purchased included a one night stay at the Carol Villa Bed and Breakfast, located less than a block from the beach.  Upon arrival, we received our complimentary bottle of champagne, as well as some coupons to area attractions (all part of our deal).  The check-in attendant was very friendly and made us feel welcome.

While the room we stayed in was certainly a bit small, it worked fine for us since we didn’t spend too much time in it anyway.  The shower had great pressure, and the bathroom was very clean and well kept.  Our room was right above The Mad Batter, the restaurant at The Carroll Villa, and during the live music, it was a bit noisy.  As in we could hear the specific songs the singer was performing.  However, we got back to our room around 9:45 p.m., and it all seemed to stop by 10.  If you’re sensitive to noise, though, as I know many are, this may not be the place for you!  I believe there are rooms on the other side of the hotel, so I would ask about those just to make sure.

Given that it was off-season, we were able to find parking about a block away.  In the summer, I can definitely imagine that parking is a challenge for guests at The Carroll Villa.  If you’re planning to stay in the summer, I would recommend calling ahead to find out what is recommended.

As mentioned, The Caroll Villa does have a restaurant, The Mad Batter, which is a great restaurant with a modest bar as well.  I’ll talk about this more in dining, but our deal did included a breakfast voucher, and we liked the convenience of having something right there.

Overall, The Caroll Villa was a beautiful place to stay, with an at-home feel that made even our short stay relaxing and comfortable.  If you’re thinking of vacationing somewhere this summer, I’d call early-I’m sure they book up pretty fast!  Thanks to Living Social and The Carroll Villa for helping us find out what Cape May has to offer!

With all the discount sites available out there these days, who ever wants to pay full price for anything?  Certainly not me.  My latest obsession in the land of online discount shopping revolves around Rue La La.

My sister sent me an invitation to Rue La La before I got married, and to be honest, I kind of ignored it.  Designer clothes?  Who needed those anyway.  More recently, my cousin sent me an invitation, and out of sheer boredom one afternoon, I signed up.  After all, people have signed up for all sorts of things for me, I might as well give this another try, right?

Obsessed.  I’m not a label freak, by any means.  I just like nice things.  Rue La La is like an emporium of nice things at prices that normal people can afford.

Here’s how it works:  once you join, you receive access to premier brand, private sale boutiques that are open for a limited amount of time.  Rue La La seeks to provide members with a “well-edited collection of sought-after offerings from the best brand names in the world.”  The best way to make sure you take advantage of the great sales right away is to receive the daily email that lists the featured “Boutiques” of the day.  Recent boutiques have included Elie Tahari, L.A.M.B, Calvin Klein and La Perla.

So are you really getting a discount?  In my opinion, yes.  For instance, today there is an L.A.M.B crossboy originally priced at $158 marked down to $79.90.  I’m sure if I knew more about designers and brands, I’d have more to say about the discounts, but in my opinion, it’s a great way to shop luxury on a mid-career budget.

But, to my surprise and delight, Rue La La is not just for clothes.  They are expanding their local deals section, which so far has included restaurant deals and spa services.  Additionally, I’ve seen some great deals on gourmet treats and wines, as well as vacations and home decor items.  So, even if you’re not a label hog, there’s still something for everyone!

While I haven’t bought anything yet and can’t speak to the service element of Rue La La, I have heard great things about it so far.  Why haven’t I bought yet?  Well, I’m on a budget, for sure, so I’ve been waiting for the perfect thing.  Also, I have to admit, I’m always leery of buying clothes online, due to my figure.  But, one of these days, maybe I’ll find that perfect thing!

Wanna get in?  You can!  Visit http://www.ruelala.com/invite/vberger06 and let the “Ohh la la” begin!

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!

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!

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!

Clearasil cleansers

StayClear Daily Face wash

I am a product junkie.  There, I’ve admitted it.  Ever since I was little, nothing has made me more happy than filling my medicine cabinets and makeup bags with products galore.

Ok, slight exaggeration.  But I do like products.  So, when Glamour asked me to participate in a trial for Clearasil StayClear Daily Face Wash, how could I turn it down?

Glamour and Clearasil sent me 2 bottles of the face wash: one for normal skin and one for sensitive skin.  Major points right there-money is tight, any free face washes I can get will certainly get me over the hump.  The terms of the trial were that I use the product twice daily for 2 weeks beginning on October 26.

The start day of the trial happened to occur when I was in Dublin for a week.  I brought the facewash for sensitive skin with me, and I was extremely glad I did!  Typically, all hell breaks loose on my face whenever I go away.  My skin is extremely prone to breakouts, and when I’m traveling and not in my usual routine, it’s even worse.  However, within days of using the facewash on vacation, the breakouts I was working at the time dissapeared, leaving my skin clearer than usual.

Over the course of the trial, I was very pleased with how clean and smooth my face looked and felt.  I’ve tried a lot of different facewashes, and haven’t had too much success clearing up acne with some of the harsher ones or the ones for sensitive skin.  The sensitive formula from Clearasil really got the job done without irritating my skin and making matters worse!  Other sensitive skin formulas I’ve tried in the past haven’t seemed effective, however, this one really seemed to work well without the harsher ingredients.  I even feel as if a lot of the redness I usually experience has subsided.

My only complaints about the product are that it started to burn my face when I got a cold recently.  However, my skin around my nose was pretty raw, so I don’t think that had anything to do with the product.  Also, sometimes my face felt sticky after using it, but that was few and far between.

Thanks so much to Glamour and Clearasil for including me in this trial!  Keep the products coming!

My recent trip to Ireland has once again inspired in me a hatred for that person we all become at least once or twice in our lives:  the tourist.  Now, I write this with full knowledge of the fact that I have been a tourist many, many times in my life.  However, after living in one of the most visited cities in the US as well as having traveled abroad a few times in the past few years, I have noticed that there are certain qualities that people possess that just scream, “I’m a tourist, why don’t you rob/pickpocket me, because I’ve made myself very stupidly visible.”

Jared and I always hope that wherever we go, people will think we are local.  And, I am proud to say that on more than one occasion in our travels, we have been asked for directions or recommendations that only locals could make.  Why?  Because we have a certain air about us that doesn’t scream DisneyWorld tourist.  Here, however, are my top pet peeves for the quintessential tourist:

1.)  Let’s Walk, People. There should be a section of the street for people like this….the people that feel it is appropriate to just stop in the middle of a sidewalk because they are lost or too caught up in looking at things around them.  Haven’t you ever heard of moving off to the side to do whatever it is you need to do?  Stop being so oblivious and get the heck out of everyone elses way.

This goes for the airport too, where there should be a line for stupid, amateur travelers.  I’m not as seasoned as some, but how hard is it to follow the million signs posted around security and other areas and do what you’re told??  Take off your freaking shoes, and move along once you are finished.  Do NOT stop in the middle of the pathways with your big, giant, never going to fit in overhead storage suitcase to find whatever it is you seem to have misplaced.  Once again, act like you’re driving and PULL OVER.

2.)  The Camera Necklace. Nothing screams “I’m here on holiday” than the guy with sixteen cameras around his neck.  Save it for Disney, my friend.  In populated cities, it only makes you a prime target for pickpockets and my blogging rants.  Oh, and you need to keep moving as well.  Quit stopping in the middle of my path to take a picture of the top of a building.

3.)  The Flash Happy. I take a lot of pictures, I will admit that.  However, when traveling abroad, or anywhere for that matter, I try to do so in a fashion that is discreet.  Last week, when I was having tea at Bewley’s, I saw a couple I identified as tourists right away (see #4) taking pictures of their food.  Because a bagel really looks different in the EU than anywhere else??  I’ve also witnessed people taking pictures of gas stations and random houses.  I guess there is a “certain charm” in Esso, but really?  What are you going to do with these pictures?  Save that flash for the historic landmarks and things that are actually relevant.

4.)  I ❤ Whatever City I’m In. That couple taking pictures of their food?  I knew immediately they were tourists because they were decked out in “I Love Ireland” gear.  Now, I have my fair share of Jersey Girl clothing, but I actually live there.  I know getting clothing emblazoned with your country of choice is fairly common, but I think it’s weird to wear it while you’re still there.  And to be all matchy matchy about it….

5.)  Tour Book Wielding Traveler. I understand the need to have a map on you when you’re traveling around a foreign city.  In fact, I’ve referred to my small one in the privacy of a street corner at a few points this week.  But really, don’t carry it around, flipping through pages, looking aimlessly around trying to figure out where you are going.  Not only do you set yourself up to be robbed by being so oblivious, but also, you’re in everyone else’s way.  Once again, pull over and consult that guide book.  Don’t do it right in the middle of a busy city sidewalk.

I could go on, but I’ll stop for now….

Some might find this harsh, but for those of us that have ever lived in a city populated by tour book wielding, camera necklace, flash happy, oblivious tourists, we know that all of this is true.  Not only is it unsafe to be this oblivious when you’re traveling, it’s also annoying to those around you :).  So please, get your wits about you before you begin your day, and remember:  that bagel looks the same wherever you’re from as it does here.

Cheers!

I ate a lot in Dublin.  I shouldn’t admit that, but it’s true.  Between a crossaint or bagel for breakfast and a piece of cake or other dessert at lunch or dinner, I ate WAY MORE than I do when I’m at the office or at home.  Because calories consumed on vacation don’t count, right?  😉  I really expected to come home and find out that I had gained at least 5 pounds.  So, when it was time for me to face the scale like I always do on Monday morning, I squinted between half closed eyes and saw:

That I hadn’t gained a single pound.

How is that possible?  I was over there for 7 days and I didn’t work out a single day.  I ate foods that probably contained my calorie allotment of the day for breakfast.  Not to mention my good friends Stella and Bulmers…

The only thing I can attribute to not gaining any weight at all:  walking.  I walked every day, whether it was the 10 minutes to the LUAS, or the 20 to St. Patrick’s Cathedral, I was on my feet for at least 6 hours a day, every day.

It’s not a secret to anyone that walking is one of the best ways to manage your weight.  In fact, my mom has always instilled that in us that brisk walking is a great way to lose weight-it certainly works for her!  I guess it never occurred to me that living in a city without a car can really help you keep your weight in check if you’re constantly using your own two feet to get where you need to go.

Seems like a great reason to move back to Washington, huh?  😉  Have other people noticed this as well?

What am I Tweeting?