Irish Vegetable Soup

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Irish Vegetable Soup

St. Patrick’s Day is coming.
It’s the one day a year when all of us Americans show our Irish pride, claim to be Irish, and drink ourselves stupid. We all also eat a boat load of corned beef & cabbage, because you know that’s all they eat over there really.

 

Or not.

Ireland has long been known for their bland and simple food, but the truth is their food these days is anything but bland. They have some of the best dairy, in the world (in my opinion) and being and island their seafood is pretty amazing as well.

 

I was lucky enough to visit back in 2012 and loved it. One of my fondest memories from the trip was this simple soup. It was one of the best soups I have ever had, and I spent the next few years trying to find/create/ develop the recipe for it. The thing was that this soup was available around the country, nearly ever stop we made as we traveled from Dublin to the west coast then down to the southern shores and back up offered this soup, so I know that it is an unnoticed Irish tradition.

 

The soup is leaves a little to look at, but the flavor is amazing. It is smooth, creamy, and incredibly comforting; the type of thing that warms you heart and soul.

 

IRISH VEGETABLE SOUP

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 parsnips, peeled & cut into chunks

1 turnip, peeled & cut into chunks

1 carrot, peeled & cut into chunks

1 tbsp butter

1 onion, chopped fine

1 celery stalk, chopped

1 russet potato, peeled & cut into chunks

Pinch of curry

4 cups vegetable stock

½ cup cream

Salt & Pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Drizzle the parsnips, turnip, and carrot with oil and place in the oven for 25-30 minutes, until they have become soft, and caramelized. Remove from heat and set aside. In a large thick bottomed sauce pan melt the butter over medium high heat. Sauté the onions and celery until they have softened (3-4 minutes). Add the potato, curry and roasted veggies to the pan. Add the stock and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover. Let it simmer for about 30 minutes, until the potatoes are soft, stirring occasionally. Using an immersion blender (or a stand blender in batches) puree the contents until smooth, then return to the pan and stir in the cream over low heat. Adjust seasonings and serve immediately.

The Charming Nursery

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Welcome to our baby girl’s nursery.  She hasn’t been inside of it too much, but it’s her room nonetheless and we love it for her.

We had already painted the room (which was originally the guest room) in this silver so we kept it and rolled with it.  Unfortunately, white, silver, and pink are popular for little girls’ rooms, but oh well!

A lot of things were repurposed and purchased from Ikea.  Quite a few things were gifts, and I’m quite sentimental so I hope I don’t start hoarding…

Anyways, enjoy the little sneak peak into her room and I’ll share with you the details along the way.

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THE CHANGING TABLE & WALL

This bureau was actually used in my room when I was a baby.  I thought it’d be appropriate to use in my daughters’ room.  My dad touched up the paint on it because it was quite old and it holds her clothes inside, the changing pad, and her diaper cake from our shower.  I can’t help it, my good friend did such a great job that I couldn’t bare to tear it apart.  So, it’s going to be decoration for as long as possible!

We got that shelf from Ikea, the basket from HomeGoods, the assorted stuffed animals were gifts (except the white seal on the left was actually a gift from my dad to me when I was a baby), and those two pink votives/cans are also from Ikea.  On the far left, there is a little porcelain art hanging that was a gift from my husband’s cousin in Italy.  He painted a rocking horse on it and her name, Kate.

The “Katherine” clothesline was actually a DIY project the husband and I worked on.  He 3D-printed her name with plastic and I spray-painted the letters pink.  I then superglued them on clothespins and used jewelry wire as the clothesline.

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THE CRIB

Her crib was a gift from my husband’s parents.  It’s called a Delta Tribeca 4-in-1 crib from Babies ‘R’ Us.  I originally wanted a mini-crib because I was worried about space, but my husband and his parents really liked this crib.  It ended up working out perfectly.  It’s a full size crib but takes up a lot less room because it doesn’t have all the fancy details.  It’s quite low-profile and ended up working with our color scheme!  My husband, his sister, and her husband put it together one Sunday.

The quilt on the crib was a gift from family in Africa and a blanket that my mother-in-law knitted.

On the crib, you can see a little white piece attached on top of one of the sides.  That was designed and 3D-printed my Mr. Charming to fit our video monitor, a Drop Cam, when she moves to the room for sleeping.

The rug in front of the crib is from HomeGoods.

THE DAY BED

This day bed, from Ikea, was our guest bed originally.  It pulls out into a nice king size bed.  I wanted a mini-crib so we could still be able to use the pull out king bed, but can’t do that now that we have a full crib.  I wanted to still keep it though so it could be like a couch or a twin bed in her room.  In fact, my husband has actually had to sleep on it a few nights.  Eventually it will be her bed when she is old enough.  Until then, I’m sure I will use it plenty when she moves out of our bedroom.  I can nurse her on it and I can nap or sit on it while she’s napping or playing.  Plus, the pull out drawers underneath are extra storage for diapers, bedding, and toys.

The two big pink pillows were a fancy buy but I really wanted them for her room.  They are from Target and were about $35 a piece, but I love them so.

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STORAGE

In the above picture you can see a pink and white side table with silver handles.  This was an Ikea buy a few years ago for less than $100.  I painted it white with pink drawer fronts since it was originally like a sand colored faux wood.  They are just junk drawers for now storing things we don’t currently use, like her audio monitors and headbands.

Next to the crib there is another side table that I’ve had since I was in high school.  It just kept moving around because it is a great little piece of furniture.

WALL ART

To the left of the daybed, you can see a 16×20 black and white print from when I was pregnant.  My husband really wanted a “The Family Stone” picture of me and our daughter — you know the one where Diane Keaton’s character’s maternity picture that was gifted to everyone in the family by Sarah Jessica Parker’s character.  We actually took this picture the last Friday night we had before she arrived.  This picture is in an Ikea frame.

To the right of the daybed, we have a letter “K” from HomeGoods and four picture frames.  I typed up and printed the following sentimental quotes on each of them:

  1. “I have died every day waiting for you / darlin’ don’t be afraid I have loved you for a thousand years / I’ll love you for a thousand more” – Christina Perri
  2. “Real isn’t how you are made. It happens to you. It doesn’t happen all at once. You become. Once you are real you can’t be ugly… you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.” – The Velveteen Rabbit
  3. “If there’s a tomorrow when we are not together… there’s something you must remember: you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think… even if we’re apart… I’ll always be with you.” – Winnie the Pooh
  4. “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” – St Catherine of Siena

On the wall next to the crib (see the images below), we got those two picture frame or book shelves from Ikea and the 20×20 frame from Ikea.  On the shelves are 5×7 picture frames painted in pink with formal pictures from our baby shower of each side of the family.  The Velveteen Rabbit is my favorite children’s book so I ordered a copy for her and found a rabbit that looks quite like the Velveteen Rabbit from Ikea and put that on one shelf.  The 16×16 picture in the Ikea frame was taken by me in Scotland of some pink carnations that were at my husband’s grandparents’ house.  I love this picture and thought it was very fitting.

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OTHER DECOR

The hanging lanterns were from our baby shower and I just hung them as a cheap mobile.  I think they turned out pretty good if I say so myself!

Also, my mom and dad made a measuring yard stick for her.  I wanted to use the one I had when I was little, but him and my mom made this so we could use a fresh new one for her and any future children we have.

No-Sew St. Patrick’s Day Banner

No-Sew St. Patrick’s Day Banner
A DIY guest article by The Lolly Project.
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 I’ve always loved  flag banners. They’re so easy to make, and can add so much personality to any room you decorate. With Valentine’s day checked off the calendar, St. Patrick’s day is the next big holiday to generate excitement within society. So,  wouldn’t the reasonable thing be to combine my love for banners with St. Pat’s day to make a super cute, no-sew, easy-to-make decoration? The answer is yes. So that’s what I did.

 

 SUPPLIES FOR THE FLAGS

  • Canvas Fabric
  • Printed Letters
  • Scissors
  • Sponge Brush
  • Xacto Knife
  • Green Paint
  • Tape
  • Flag  Template
  • A Saying, Word, or Phrase (I chose “Lucky”)

 

 ​Take your template, which you can print and cut out, and trace with a pencil, the flags for your banner. I decided to use a ratio of one letter to one flag. Cut out the flags once all have been traced. To add the letters/words/phrases onto your flags, take the printed letters and xacto knife and cut out the letters to create an outline.
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When the letter outlines are created, tape them down, and with the sponge brush, dab the paint on top of the outline onto the banner. (Note: you will want to test your paper to check for bleed resistance.) I also found that an up-and-down blotting motion works best to deliver the paint to the canvas flags.
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Remove the outline, and let the painted letter dry completely before continuing on to the next steps.
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SUPPLIES FOR CREATING THE BANNER

  • Painted Flags
  • Green String/Ribbon
  • Hot Glue Gun
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Take your ribbon, and hot glue the flags on, about one inch apart.
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And that’s it! A super easy, cute, and festive St. Patrick’s Day flag banner to hang in any room!
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Winter Blues + Life Lately

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Scarf: gift from a local boutique • Jacket: Amazon
Pants: JCrew • Flats: Express (no longer available online)

How are all of you doing?  Well, I hope.  Ignore the nude socks in the above picture.  How else am I supposed to keep my feet warm when I wear flats in the winter?  Maybe it’s a fashion no-no, but I love these flats and my husband approved this outfit so I’m okay with it! (PS, I totally borrowed his work socks to wear these flats).

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It’s definitely been awhile, but not because I haven’t been thinking about you all!  Motherhood is going really well.  I started back at work a day a week just to get back in the swing of things.  I love my job and I certainly missed it.  Husband has been figuring out how to be the only babysitter and I feel for him because it’s not as easy for him (I mean, he can’t just pop her on his boob if she’s hungry… as he so eloquently puts it.  She has to wait for milk and then she gets even fussier.)  Poor guy, he’ll get the hang of it, right?

A few other personal things has been going on.  My dad hasn’t been doing too well health wise so we’re in the process of figuring out the next steps.  It looks like we have surgery on the horizon very soon (like within a week or two), and for now that’s all we know.  Positive thoughts would be very much appreciated.  As expected, this has thrown us all for a bit of a loop.

Baby girl is growing and so lovely.  We all are very smitten with her and we’re enjoying the routine we have now while it lasts!  Make sure to follow along on Instagram to get a little more of our family updates.

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A Cozy Great Date Night In

Content and/or other value provided by our partner, Target. All opinions are my own.

Cozy Date Night In-1Date nights nowadays are located in the comfort of our home.  Fireplace running, homecooked meal, and something on TV.  Though, honestly, this is how most date nights are even without adding a baby to the picture.  After long work weeks, sometimes it’s nice just to be lazy cozy on the couch.

It’s why my husband and I work so well together: in spite of whatever obstacles we face, we always can come home together at the end of the day and plop on the couch with some good food, a bottle of wine, and a movie.  Sometimes we have a fun little debate or talk about our dreams and hopes for the future.

OUR FORMULA TO A GREAT DATE NIGHT IN:

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Bar Cart • Chromecast • Cozy Throw • Cheese Dome • “The Giver” movie • Woodbridge Pinot Noir

Everything on this list kind of revolves around a good drink, delicious food, and the Google Chromecast, a USB drive-like device that you can plug in to your television and it will allow you to make your phone/tablet/computer a remote control using the applications you have on those devices.  For $35 it’s an entertainment must-have and it is the key to any date night – or social gathering – we spend at home.  We will cast our favorite music playlist from Songza to the TV and speakers during dinner, then put on a movie from HBO Go, Netflix, or Google Play Store.

If we’re doing wine and cheese night (a favorite of ours and we use that exact cheese board above that we got from our own Wedding Registry!), we are probably on the couch watching something or listening to music while talking about what we want to do next in our life (big or small).  If it’s been a long week and we just want to cuddle up on the couch with a beer (his) or vodka soda (her), we probably turn to a new movie — a recent favorite of both of ours is “The Giver.”

What are your go-to items for your date night in?

CHOOSING EACH OTHER WITH TARGET

For those of you who are getting married, consider adding some of these products to your registry to make sure you can have a date night every night!

There are many benefits to choosing Target for your wedding registry:

  • Easy and engaging registry experience with inspirational starter lists
  • 15% off completion offer – the week of your event, you’ll receive a coupon for saving 15% on remaining registry items in store and online.
  • Easy returns

Look for more inspiration for your wedding registry with the Target catalog and start your Target Wedding Registry today!

Creating a Gallery Wall

Disclosure: This post is financially sponsored by Adorama Pix.  All opinions are my own.Gallery Wall-1

For the longest time, this wall was called our “wedding wall.”  You can actually view our wedding wall here.  I really wanted to get rid of it.  I mean it’s been almost three years and I’m a little sick of looking at the same pictures over and over (I get bored easily).  Mr. Charming was not so ready to get rid of it, though, but I finally was able to convince him when our daughter was born.  I wanted a gallery wall to display our favorite pictures, both of people (our daughter!) and of meaningful places.  I put the above gallery wall together to do just that and I think we love it.

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OUR GALLERY WALL

I wanted a gallery wall where I can interchange some pictures as the months go on.  Some of the pictures of the two of us, the baptism pictures, and one of Miss K’s pictures will be replaced with newer pictures as she ages, we visit somewhere new, and as other life events occur.  But, for now, these are the most important pictures to us so they are what I have started with and will probably be up for a good time.  The canvas, the center image, the acrylics, and Miss K’s first picture will most likely be permanent parts of the display, though.

A. Zimbabwean sunset on acrylic.  Many of you probably don’t know my husband was actually born and raised in Africa.  He immigrated here when he was about 14 and I know they still hold a big place in their heart for Zimbabwe, in fact family still resides there today and they had a family reunion in Zimbabwe last year.  So, when I saw this picture they was taken last year I knew it would be a great way to incorporate where he came from into the wall.  After all, they always talk about the incredible beauty of the African sunsets.

B. Extended family picture.  This was taken at Miss K’s baptism and includes our best of friends as well because they are family, too.

C. Canvas family illustration.  I purchased this last year of the two of us plus our animals.  I wanted to have a little portrait of our family before we had kids, you know the first two and a half years of our marriage.

D. One year anniversary portrait.  I wanted to take annual pictures regardless if we have kids are not just to see how we change through the years.  Our second annual pictures included the baby bump, but for our first annual pictures I kind of did a “cherish the dress” session because I was a little disappointed with how little pictures we got from our wedding day of just us two.  You can see more from that session, taken by Elizabeth Buergler Photography, here.

E. Hanauma Bay in Hawaii panorama on acrylic.  We honeymooned in Hawaii and I don’t have many pictures from our honeymoon hanging in our house.  I took this opportunity to get this panorama on an acrylic to mirror the acrylic sunset.  We snorkeled in this bay and I’ll never forget we found a giant sea turtle and started just swimming behind him/her for several minutes.  Such a glorious little creature.  Ever since then, I’ve kind of had a thing for sea turtles.

F. Miss K at 3 weeks.  I took this picture along with a few others of her in a pink tutu.  This is my husband’s favorite picture from the session and I promised my husband we would include it in the gallery wall.  You can see another picture from the session here.

G. Second annual family picture.  This was taken by Elizabeth Buergler Photography in November, in which we also did a few maternity pictures that you might have seen on Instagram.  I wanted my husband and I to be in the center because, well, I love my marriage to him.

H. Miss K’s first formal picture.  Taken at the hospital by the hospital photographer around 12 hours of age.  I believe this will be a permanent picture in the gallery.

I. Two more pictures from our second annual family portrait session.

J. Family group pictures from Miss K’s baptism.  We did smaller group sessions of our families: my husband’s immediate family, my immediate family, our “second” family, and our closest group of friends.

K. Wedding flowers.  I include a mention of these because the tall pink flowers and the gold candles were on our sweetheart table at our wedding.  I have help them unaltered since then as decoration.  The middle flowers are just there, possibly temporarily until I find a better replacement, to kind of fill in the gap.

HOW TO DO THE GALLERY WALL

The key to the gallery wall, like many gallery walls, is mixing and matching.  I wanted to mix and match frames and media on this wall.  Adorama Pix is so great because they offer so many different size options for paper, acrylic, canvas, and metal prints – this was something I felt was lacking from some competitors.  For my Hanauma Bay panorama, they printed it 8×17.7 inches because that was the size of my panorama!

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Once I found the frames and received all the artwork, I used the Command Picture Strips in size large to put up most of the pictures because they are a little more stable and required a lot less hassle than nails: all I did was rip off the stand on the frames, put the strips on the frames, and then put the frames on the wall.  This requires two people so that one person can stand from afar and make sure it all lines up.

** A side note: some of the heights and widths didn’t match up on purpose because I wanted to mix and match both frames and media, however there is a small discrepancy between this template and my actual wall gallery: where the asterisk (*) is on the template I say 11×14, however I used an 8×10 on my wall because that is the largest size I was able to get for that newborn shot of my daughter so I ran with it anyways using a frame for an 8×10 instead of a frame for an 11×14 which would have matched up in symmetry better.  I do recommend using an 11×14 picture instead of an 8×10, though.

Homemade Bone Broth Made Easy

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Bone broth is the thing right now, which is great because it’s great for you. The problem is that most store bought broths have very little of the nutritional value that homemade versions do. Getting good quality broth in a specialty store can get expensive, so if you want good quality broth at a low cost the easiest thing to do is make it at home.

It’s true that bone broth takes hours up on hours of simmering, but all of that can be done in the crock pot. The bonus of this method is that you will come home to a delicious smelling house. The recipe below is a simple and basic recipe for homemade bone broth, however you can change it up based on your own tastes.

Ginger root and lemon grass make a very interesting addition to the broth that is a great base for any Asian dish. Personally my favorite combination includes a few sprigs of thyme and a lemon cut in half. It makes a great base to toss with pasta.

Crock Pot Bone Broth

1 medium onion, quartered

2 carrots, chopped large

2 celery stalks, chopped large

6 garlic cloves, smashed
(papers included)

3.5 lb of bones
(from leftover chicken, or beef soup bones)

2 bay leaves

2 tsp salt

1 tablespoons of apple
cider vinegar

water

Place all ingredients in the crock pot and fill with water until covered. Turn the crock pot on low for 12-24 hours. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer and let cool. Scrap the opaque fat from the top. Heat as desired and serve.

What Baby Stroller System Should I Choose?

A Guest article on behalf of Tesco.

These days, there are numerous different models of baby strollers/pushchairs/prams available, which can make choosing the right one quite tricky. First time parents can find this a particularly daunting task. There are several factors that you need to keep in mind during the selection process. Here is a guide to get you started.

via The Charming’s Instagram

THE TYPES OF BABY STROLLERS/PRAMS

There are three main types to choose from, namely three in one pram systems, two in one pram systems and strollers/pushchairs. The first option features a stroller, a carrycot and a car seat, with modern combinations involving a removable pushchair seat. Two in one systems are suitable for very young children and feature a compact design, while strollers/pushchairs are smaller and lighter, making them more easily maneuverable.

CONSIDER YOUR ENVIRONMENT

When choosing the model of stroller or pram, it is important to think about where you will be mainly using it. If the area features smooth, paved surfaces, then two in one systems are ideal. However, if you are in a rural area with no paved areas or areas of broken paving, opting for a three in one system might be the best option; especially if you have a very young child. This will allow you to remove the carrycot from the system and carry your child as and when you need to. The age of your child is also an important consideration, as you will want to make sure that they are the right size for the model you choose and will be able to sit or lay comfortably at all times.

SIZE MATTERS

It can be tempting to opt for a top of the range model that offers plenty of room to store everything you need for your baby as well as your shopping and anything else you need. However, larger models can be bulky and difficult to maneuver, which is an important consideration if you plan on using public transportation or shopping in crowded places. Many small models still come complete with special clips that you can attach bags to, while they may also have the advantages of being light and able to fit in tight spaces.

VALUE FOR MONEY

This cost of various models varies widely and the best model is not necessarily the most expensive. Make a budget first so that you know exactly how much money you have to spend and prioritise the things that the model should have to help making choosing simpler. Also take the time to shop around and compare prices between models and in different retail outlets, so that you get the best deal possible. Take advantage of sales and special discounts to help you get more for your money.

Quilted Boots & Dotted Babes

24jan2015Button Up Shirt: unknown // Jeans: H&M Maternity // Boots: HauteLook

Those boots just arrived last week and I am obsessed.  I’ve been looking to replace my old pair of black boots that I’m not going to lie I got at Walmart on a whim for $20.  I got some compliments on them, though, but I wanted something different in terms of style and I’m so happy I got these!

Anyways, a few thoughts on motherhood:

Being a mom is wonderful.  It’s a path I always knew I wanted but never believed I was ready for — does anyone ever feel completely ready?  Today, I have a six week old.  Though the shock has worn off (you know the “can you believe we have one of these?!”), the love lust continues.  As Valentine’s Day approaches, I’m seeing a lot of posts about date night ideas and such.  I recently read an inquiry about what we do as couples for fun date night ins… well, I certainly recommend adding a newborn.  I swear we can be pretty entertained just looking at her and we just love seeing one another as parents.

My husband recently commented I’m different than how he expected I would be.  He says I’m more patient and more calm than he predicted.  Well, I was a type A, over-analytic, always “on” person before.  Now, I definitely would say I’m a wee more go with the flow.  He also comments how it comes so naturally to me considering I never read any books (he does that for me).  To my credit, I went to nursing school, did two semesters of pediatrics, and then was a nanny/frequent babysitter for two infants.  Believe me, before all that I was definitely freaking out about just touching them, similar to how my husband is now.

But six weeks.  My goodness.  Time sure flies.  I can remember that first week so well and I hope to carry those memories with me for a long time.

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I dressed her in a Carter’s top, some jean leggings from Gap, and Zutano booties.

Husband thinks she’s just adorable in this outfit.  Ignore the fact that her face says she’s fussy.  I think she just didn’t want to be in that position but I wanted her face in the picture!

Now that she is finally out of the newborn size and into 0-3 month sizing, I have so much adorableness to dress her in!  I’m so excited.  Ah, I love having a girl to dress.

Our Puerto Rican Babymoon

Content and/or other value provided by our partner, Target. All opinions are my own.

PR snaps

At the end of June, Mr. Charming and I went to Puerto Rico.  It was a vacation we desperately needed to take together and it most likely will be the only one we get together until well after the baby is born.  I had a gap of five days from work and we went for it.  Could we afford it?  Technically yes, though we weren’t planning on it so we did take a wee hit in July making up for it. But, hey, we have to live sometimes, right?!

I still feel regenerated after that trip.  I was desperate for a relaxing vacation and we got one together.  We relayed on the beach all day one day, we had a few adventures, experienced some Puerto Rican culture, had some delicious food, and have wonderful memories.  Now, I can check spontaneous weekend getaway off my list of things to do (does it still count as spontaneous if you booked it ten days prior?).

Why Puerto Rico?

We chose Puerto Rico for three reasons: the flight was under 4 hours from Atlanta, there was a rainforest (El Yunque) there for us to trek through, and they have something called Bioluminescent Bay where we went night kayaking and experienced these little microorganisms that lit up the water and made it shine like diamonds.

Packing Lightly

I’m a believer in packing lightly anyways, but it isn’t as easy as you think to pack lightly for a five day beach trip.  We had a range of activities planned (yes, I know, we were supposed to relax, but we aren’t going to pay to go to the Caribbean just to lay around – we can do that at home!): kayaking, trekking, swimming, snorkeling, and a nice dinner out on the town one day.  Not too mention, I’m a photographer, I definitely brought my DSLR and two of my favorite lenses!  Personally, I’m a Nikon girl and I recently recommend this beauty to a friend as a starter DSLR.

Husband and I each had a carry on suitcase and a backpack.  His was similar to this SwissGear City Pack where it could double as anything we needed it double as and hold some of the non clothing items during the flight, like our snorkeling gear and electronics.  We always bring heavier duty backpacks like this when we travel.  Yeah, it may shout “tourist!”, but when you travel like us (I always plan perfect itineraries in my opinion) and like packing and traveling lightly and economically, it really is so helpful.  Plus, you want to protect your valuables, right?  Like my aforementioned DLSR and any tablets, e-Readers, phones, headsets, etc.

Why We Loved Puerto Rico for Our Babymoon

Day One: we got in late and just chilled at the resort and in the pool.  It was a one hour drive from the airport in San Juan to Fajardo.  We stopped at a spot for some lunch and tried some local cuisine that was definitely delicious.

Day Two: we went to the beach and just set up shop for the day.  It was also my husband’s birthday.  We did a little picture taking, read, did some snorkling (with our own equipment to save money – we dive/snorkel), had some drinks (mine were virgin), and just enjoyed the beautiful scenery.  Then we went back because we had reservations to kayak Bioluminescent Bay.  I do not have pictures from that because it isn’t wise to really bring electronics when you go kayaking, much less at night.  Friends, I tell you that was such an incredible experience!  I honestly think it’s a main reason people go to Puerto Rico and a must-do if you are ever on the island.

Day Three: we drove to the El Yunque rainforest and just walked around, doing some very light hiking because it was very crowded.  Giving up trying to find a parking space, we started to leave when we just happened to find a little beaten path at the very edge of the rainforest we thought we should explore.  This is where we set up shop along the river with the rainforest all around us.  It really was like a scene out of the movies.  The picture above with just me is where we were.  We spent the next few ours there where we chatted about our dreams and our hopes for the baby (not knowing the gender at the time).  That night we tried another restaurant around our resort that had the best piña colada I’ve had in my life.  Did you know piña coladas were invented in Puerto Rico?

Day Four: we had a lazy day, just wanting to spend another day in paradise on the beach.  Had an easy dinner at the resort and then retired early (because we were tired bums).

We left on day five relatively early (an hour to airport with a flight around noon).  We didn’t want to get in too late to Atlanta and home so that we could be well rested to return to work the next day.

So we created a lot of great memories and we didn’t even need our passports!  We had passed through San Juan together on a cruise a few years ago and though we enjoyed it briefly, we weren’t expecting to ever visit Puerto Rico again.  However, we both are so glad that we did.  This trip was perfect!

Quick Tips on Saving Money

  1. Definitely buy your airline tickets on a Tuesday morning.
    Never do it on a weekend.  There was a $150 price difference between Friday night and Tuesday morning.  Obviously, it’s cheaper to buy in advance, but we did it only ten days in advance so we did what we could.  What helped was that we use Delta 98% of the time (honestly, people, Delta is actually very competitive in pricing and is rarely more expensive than other airlines — at least for where we fly).  We used our SkyMiles for husband’s flight and I was able to book my ticket using something I have making it interest-free credit for six months, same as cash.  Maybe that’s ill-advised, but we always pay our credit off quickly, expect with these special offers in which case it’s just nice to not pay everything right away.
  2. Grab yourself a great, heavy duty backpack like this SwissGear City Pack, and bring what you can to save money while traveling.  
    Eg, we bring our own snorkeling gear (saved $20 per person), we bring our own sunscreen (you know sunscreen is incredibly expensive at tourist spots!), and we bring our own nonperishable food items for the plane/car ride/etc.
  3. Grocery shop.
    We always find a local grocery store and stock up on some food items and drinks to hold us over and lower the cost of spending money out.  And even just stocking up on water and bring your own snacks and drinks to the beach is so much cheaper than buying from the waiters in that tiki hut.
  4. Make your pictures your souvenirs.
    I used to buy things when I traveled, but it quickly became excess crap.  Then I just fell in love with taking pictures and stopped buying things.  I create photo books of each vacation and even blow up prints of my favorite photos from that to hang around the house.  It really does bring me back to that memory.  I refuse to put up pictures that weren’t personally taken by husband and I (unless it’s of loved ones or ourselves) because any other artwork just doesn’t have the same effect as a picture from the time we found a picturesque little spot nestled in the Puerto Rican rainforest.  Invest in a great camera, like this Nikon, and you’ll never really need to waste money on hoarding souvenirs again.

Now, friends, spoil yourself with a $25 giftcard to Target so you can go invest in your next trip by picking up a great camera, grabbing a heavy duty backpack, or even just getting some camping gear to really save money and just camp the island of Puerto Rico yourself! (I know someone who just camped throughout Hawaii for a few weeks and I’m totally jealous!)  There really is just so many ways that Target can help you on your next adventure!  Take a look for yourself on their registry here.