Thursday, October 12, 2017

Switzerland vs. Austria

So we had the time of our life on our honeymoon. It was beautiful and was nice to have two weeks of bonding time with just us. Of course we missed Mira, and skyped with her as often as we could.

I wanted to write a fun travel post on the differences I noticed between Switzerland and Austria. The only disclaimer is that we traveled all around rural Switzerland and only went to urban Austria. So some things might be just a difference of big city vs countryside.


1. Switzerland is more English friendly. And also had more American tourists. When we sat at restaurants, it wasn't weird to sit next to a family or couple who also spoke English with an American accent. Everywhere we went we would come in contact with Americans in some way. There were also a ton of people from the UK and Australia. It was common for waiters to automatically speak English to you before you even spoke a word.

Austria; we didn't come in contact with any Americans until our very last day. It was a man in an elevator and he seemed excited to talk us too. I don't think I ever heard anyone from the UK or Australia there either. A lot more waiters and store workers seemed to struggle with English once we tried to speak with them. Luckily, my brother was with us there and helped SO much by speaking on our behalf. I did notice the locals who could speak English thought it was "cool" that we spoke English. Austrians love a chance at speaking English with someone...they would eavesdrop on our conversations and make an excuse to talk to us :)



2. Switzerland's German is different than Austria. It sounds more French, which makes sense because in part of Switzerland, their first language is French. You're greeted with "Gruezi" instead of "Hallo" and thank you was always "Merci" instead of "Danke".

3. Things are more expensive in Switzerland. It wasn't as bad as a lot of people make it out to be. In fact, we came out way under budget because I accounted for it to cost a lot more. If you're smart you can get by with eating pretty cheap. Hotels are mainly the expensive part. We also didn't explore around Zurich or Geneva, the two biggest and most expensive cities; we just traveled around the alps.

Austria was surprisingly affordable. It was comparable to what things would cost in the U.S. Except the food there is better! They have a lot of variation in their cuisine, I was surprised; we had Vietnamese, Italian, traditional Austrian, French, and who knows what else. It was always delicious, unlike Switzerland, in which there were a few meals that were very plain. But the cheese was always good!

4. You can't go in a Swiss town without seeing watch shops. So. Many. Watch. Stores. And Swiss knives stores too. And cuckoo clocks.

Austria's version of this is their famous artist, Gustav Klimt. His work is everywhere! There are stores dedicated to him and there are miscellaneous gift shops with his work featured in the front.

5. In Switzerland, is common for people to pay for small purchases using a hundred dollar note. I bought something for 3 francs and handed a cashier a hundred and they barely even looked at it, and gracefully handed me the change. Cards are also widely accepted everywhere, even when you're in a tiny village in the mountains.

Vienna, surprisingly, had a lot of cash only restaurants. It's such a big city I thought it was weird. Luckily ATMs are on every corner. They use Euros (unlike CH which is Swiss Francs) so we had to exchange all our notes from CH by the time we got to AT.


6. Wifi in places in Switzerland and Austria was always locked with passwords, but if you asked an employee they would give you a piece of paper with the password. In Switzerland, their wifi was on lockdown in public places like airports and train stations and I was never able to connect.

7. Tipping. We weren't sure of the tipping rules in Switzerland, but we knew it wasn't 20% like America is commonly. So we left 10-15% pretty much the whole time. Then I skyped with my brother and he said they mostly just round up. So if your meal costs $77, you give them $80. Whoops. My brother laughed and said Europeans love Americans because they always over-tip. I don't feel so bad though, because the waiters were usually super nice, like a scary amount of nice. It was like something out of the movies. But, we did it the right way in Austria; just rounding up, and they seemed to be a lot more gracious there actually.

It's also awkward to tip with a card, because you have to be deliberate about what you're going to tip before you pay. They don't have that little line on their credit card receipts for you to write it down, and by the time you notice that, the transaction is already done. So you're supposed to tell them the amount you want them to enter in the credit card ahead of time.

Oh and you also have to flag them down when you're ready to pay your bill. They will never ask you "are you ready for your bill". They must think that it's rude of them or something.

8. In Switzerland, as long as you have your own reusable water bottle, you will have no problem getting an endless supply of free water. There are gorgeous water fountains everywhere. And the water is delicious. This is coming from a water snob! And they don't have to add a thing to it. The one time we went to a restaurant and didn't bring our water bottles, it costed $6 for one water. We didn't make that mistake again. Hey, I guess they're really proud of their water, as they should be.

In Austria, there weren't as many water fountains around, but also if you went to a restaurant and ordered tap water, it didn't cost extra. In fact, if you ordered a coffee drink or wine, they automatically gave you a water with it. Their water is also top notch.

9. Shops in both Switzerland and Austria close early. Like 6 PM. And they are closed Sundays. It was worse in Switzerland, because we were in such small mountain towns. Some shops were only open from like 8AM-noon 3 days a week. It's insane how people can stay in business.


10. Lodging. Switzerland is expensive. I was a major planner and booked all our lodging ahead of time, and since hotels were so expensive in CH, we stayed in a hostel part of the time there. The hostel was still nice because it was a private room, we got fresh towels daily, had a double bed, our own sink and mirror area, and a-mazing views. I would definitely stay there again. The hotel we stayed at was really nice, just so expensive if we were to do all 5 nights.

Austria's pricing for hotels was so much better. Granted, my brother's girlfriend got us a really good deal, but we did shop around beforehand and things were a lot more affordable.

11. Tourist traps. So the definite tourist trap in the Swiss Alps were the Jungfraujoch (top of Europe) and the Schilthorn (James Bond movie). It was super expensive to take a cable car up and on a clear day, yeah it's cool I guess. But it wasn't clear when we were there, so it would've been cloudy. So then you're paying a crap ton of money to take a cable car up to play around in snow.


In Austria, it was probably the Schonbrunn Palace. The line to get in was just ridiculous, even mid-day on a weekday. We opted for the Belvedere Mansion instead, which checked off pretty much the same items; 16th century palace, beautiful architecture, chandeliers, paintings, gardens, sculptures, history, yada yada.


Both countries also, of course, had many similarities. People don't like small talk. They both had similar train systems. It costs an arm and a leg to take a cab anywhere. People apparently are comfortable in hot, stuffy temperatures and seem to never run A/C. Both like their beer watered down, but both have good crisp wine. You can find delicious espresso and pastries on every single corner in both places. And garbages are everywhere in public; you do not litter. You just don't.

We had a great time and everything went absolutely perfect. ...Except for when we first arrived in Vienna and couldn't figure out the right train to get on, and realized we watched two of them leave the station right in front of our eyes. There was lots of running up and down stairs to go look at the schedule, trying to figure out where our stop was supposed to be in such a big city. It took us a bit but we figured it out.

If you couldn't tell by this post, Switzerland was my favorite. And I can't wait to get back and see the southern part of the country as well! Glad we can have such a keepsake memory together :)

Monday, August 28, 2017

11 Wedding Tips for a Logistical Dream Day

Having both of our sets of parents be 4+ hours away, and lets be real; men don't plan weddings, I did most of the wedding planning myself. Calling my mom for advice only made things worse, because her experience was so different than mine and had a different vision than me. She was able to help financially, but not physically. I don't get how other brides plan weddings when their mom is long distance?! But I took the bull by the horns and did it all, and I did it all while remaining Type A about everything. I will say being Type A worked out in my favor, because everything when off without a hitch on our wedding day.





Some of these are solely money saving tips, some of them time saving, and some of them just to simply make yourself and everyone around you happy. 1-6 are things that worked well for us and I'm SO glad I did them. 7-10 are lessons learned and the best I can do now is just pass along the knowledge to others :)

1. Do. Online. RSVPs.
This is a fool proof way to avoid the awkward write in +1s on the response cards. We did ours through theknot.com and it worked really slick. I purchased a personalized domain for $12 so it was easier to share (otherwise it's a long url with dashes). This also saves you $$ on the response cards and extra postage. I put our phone numbers on our website for the less "tech-savvy" people so they could call instead of internet. Seriously I couldn't say this enough. DO. ONLINE. RSVPs.

2. Skip save the dates
We are in the age of internet and texting. Save the dates are NOT essential. Especially if you send your invites out 3 months in advance. Make yourself a website through the Knot or Wedding Wire early on and start sharing the url with those who will be invited. I was lucky to have Adam's family on one large email chain and just shared it there. You can even password protect so the website can't get in the wrong hands. Save the dates are not only more $, but it's hard to know 6 months in advance who exactly you want to invite to your wedding?! How do people do it, I don't know!

3. Do your own makeup
This doesn't work for the ladies who have never done their makeup in their life. But if you do your makeup daily, chances are you can do it for your wedding. You don't want to go too heavy, anyway! Make sure to splurge on a high end foundation (I used a mixture of Dior Diorskin Nude and this airbrush foundation you can buy at Sephora), flirty lashes, and a pretty lip color.

4. Skip over the top vehicles
Limousines and party buses are cool and all, but not really necessary. If you've had anything to drink at your wedding, you shouldn't be driving a getaway car either. Use that time after your ceremony to sneak away with your husband and soak in the moment. SO GLAD WE DID THIS. Our photographer initiated this and I'm really glad.

5. Don't do passed apps, do late night pizzas
We opted out of the fancy bacon wrapped scallops and assorted aged cheeses. All I saw were dollar signs. Instead we had our venue bring out pizza at around 10 PM. Pizza was a hit!

6. Work with your DJ
Talk to your DJs a month a head of time and go over your ideal song list. Go over Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C. Like, if people seem bored, bring out a fun game (we didn't need to do this :)), if too many young people are on the dance floor, bring out an oldies song. Just have options in place and don't be afraid to tell them exactly how you want things. I loved our DJs and that was seriously the most fun dance party I've been to in a LONG time!!

7. Plan out your "thank you" speech
This is probably the only thing in my entire wedding planning process that I didn't plan. Adam mentioned earlier on that he didn't want to be the one to stand up in front of people. Sure, I didn't mind doing it. I'm normally a "wing it" type of person, but my mind was going a million miles an hour that day and when I grabbed the mic, my mind just kind of went blank. I still spoke well and thanked everyone, but I wish I would've said more.

8. Ask someone to take your gifts to your house the night of
I wasn't that on the ball with this and asked people just a few days before the wedding. No one really committed to it because they didn't know if they'd be able to or if they could stay that late, so the gifts actually ended up being left at the venue over night. Now, nothing happened to them, but it didn't feel good waking up the next morning knowing that they weren't with me.

9. Ask someone to be your personal attendant
I forgot a couple minor things at home, and we also ran out of votive candles. Everyone at the venue, including family, already had their hands full, so it was a little more chaotic than it should've been to run an errand or two. An extra set of hands solely devoted to this kind of stuff would've been handy.

10. Be efficient when going around the room and talking to everyone
We were essentially right on schedule our whole wedding day. At dinner, we maybe took a little longer to eat our food than we should've. But we also unexpectedly had champagne bottle service and were soaking in the novelty of that. When we started going around the room and talking to everyone, we started with our friends (which in hindsight, I'm glad, because we enjoyed drinks with most of our relatives the night before). We ended up talking to about 5 tables and then we were already being summoned to cut the cake. After cake cutting was first dance time and then we lost our chance to resume talking to everyone. Later on in the night we did get the chance to talk to everyone else, luckily. The only people we missed were those that had to cut out early.

11. love your husband and remember this day is about you two!



Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Empty Feeling After Your Wedding



I am coming off the wedding high and it feels weird. Bittersweet doesn't quite describe it. There's a lot more layers to it than that.

There's that "cup runneth over" feeling. I got to see family I haven't seen in YEARS. Some I haven't seen since I was like 10. The reunion was amazing. Our dearest friends and family were there. We had a blast. Everything went perfectly. The abundance of music, the scenery, and elegant garden decor; it was all beautiful. I had little girls literally thinking I was the prettiest princess they've ever seen, and following me everywhere. And most of all, I now have a husband! The only thing really different about that is actually saying "husband". Because come on, we were basically already married. Now we know that it's officially forever, though. It was all amazing and surreal.

Then there's the feeling of "it came and went too fast". I have been spending all of my free time, and then some, on planning this wedding. It has been my life the last year (more so the last 3 months it really started to consume me). The day felt rushed for the first half, but it luckily slowed down. I did my best to stop and enjoy it, to take some time alone with Adam. It still seemed to end so soon. Now all I have is leftover cake. But there's also the residual effect of the gifts we were given :) The beautiful bouquets of flowers have all died, everyone is back home and back to work, Adam's suit and my dress are hanging there waiting to be stored. I haven't cleaned our house; there's still piles of laundry everywhere and leftover wedding decor waiting to be sold. Everything is still stagnant. I haven't quite moved forward yet.

There's the feeling of initiation... into the adult society. I have hit all the basic young adult milestones. There's always new ventures, I know; next baby, next house, next career move. But it won't ever be a"first" anymore. I have to come to peace with that.

I feel full but empty. Excited but distracted. Energetic but tired. Too many contradictions are just leaving me confused. How am I supposed to feel? I'm happy to be married, but the wedding hangover has left me drained.

I KNOW it will wear off. And best of all, we get to go to Europe in about TWO WEEKS! I think this will cure so many things. I need to press reset, recharge, and best of all, connect with Adam.

Here's to everyone enduring the weird wedding hangover; may you all have a chance to reset and connect with your new husbands!


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Managing a Three-year-old's Hair

Luckily for Mira, her mom has naturally curly hair and knows how to manage it. Her hair is JUST like mine - naturally bouncy, spirally, tight curls from the root to the end. As I've gotten older mine have tamed wayyyy down, but all my pictures from childhood tell otherwise.



A lot of people ask me my routine and which hair products I use on her. After washing I make sure to use conditioner, rinse and towel dry, spray with a leave in conditioner/detangler, brush brush brush (even though she hates it), and use either a gel or styling cream to hold the curls in. Once it's dry I just don't brush it anymore. Nope. Not even a little bit.

My favorite product line for Mira is SoCozy. It's a salon haircare line made for kids and they have it at Target. I've used just about every single one of their products and just received their new line, "Boing", made for curls. Perfect. They make detangling spray, gel, and styling cream too.


Before even looking at the flavor, I noticed it smelled like delicious ice cream, and not too overpowering either. Then I noticed it was called "sweet cream". Touché. Mmmm though. 




Now if she would just let me braid her hair or put in barrettes..... At least the curls are shiny and beautiful!

ALSO, SoCozy is hosting an awesome sweepstakes. You could win an all-expense paid trip to Hollywood, Florida (worth $10,000) for 4 people! All you have to do is purchase any SoCozy product from Target, CVS, or Walgreens during the month of January and save your receipt, you'll then upload it to the sweepstakes page. <-- Check out the other deets! Super awesome giveaway!!


Does anyone else have a specific routine for their kids' hair?



This post has been sponsored by SoCozy
Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Allowing Tomorrow to be a Good Day


There are far too many everyday things that I turn into something bigger, more special, than what they have to be. Why? Because I have this fear of time slipping by too quickly. I fear a life not lived enough or feeling too short. I fear that all these moments will be forgotten and not enough of them will be remembered as fun and special. I want to turn the mundane and ordinary into something more magical, something that's "us".

It's why I make a big deal out of holidays and birthdays and stretch out the entertainment for a month, rather than a few days. It's why I plan little weekend getaways and have an unrealistically loaded bucket list of stops to make in a new city. It's why I make rituals of all three of us cooking breakfast and dinner together and need to make a dance party out of it. It's why it drives me crazy if we don't take Mira to the aquarium or children's museum one week and why I feel like the worst parent ever if I don't take her to the library when I have free time.

Is it a bad thing to just want to try and make everything memorable? No. I'm trying to make moments and holidays stretch out longer, trying to add more pizzaz to daunting tasks like cooking and cleaning. I'm just doing what I think is to make life rich and full. It's not bad, but it is setting a precedent; a bar that I will have to always keep up and will feel like a huge let down if not reached.

One thing I have had a hard time realizing is it's okay to have a series of normal, quaint, boring days. It's okay when there isn't anything specific to look forward to when I lie down at night. Sometimes it's okay to just look forward to tomorrow just because it's tomorrow. What am I teaching my daughter and what am I setting her up for if I constantly have to have something special lined up? I haven't taught her that tomorrow is going to be a good day just because it is; because we will make it good; we will allow it.

I still like to make things special, but "Tomorrow will be a good day", is the only affirmation we need. 
Monday, January 9, 2017

My 2017 Bucket List


Hey guys and happy January! Whether you do resolutions or not, I think making a bucket list is a helpful thing to do. You can make it for the year, or just a month or season, but regardless it's something to keep you accountable in achieving goals and making things happen. Think of it as one giant to-do list for the year :)


2017 Bucket List:

Spruce up space
Buy new rug for living room
Buy large piece of art
Buy TV console
Buy new felt drawer set for bedroom

Mira
Take Mira to first movie
Take Mira to Nickelodeon Universe + Sea Life Aquarium for birthday
Take Mira swimming and skating more often
Donate some of her old clothes
Plan fun, memorable birthday party
Volunteer to walk dogs at Animal Allies

Health
Have a spa day - full body massage
Keep track of miles ran
Meditate for 5 minutes every day
Have one week where you consciously don't complain about anything
Work in flex dieting/iifym more frequently
Work on daily affirmations
POSTURE

Adventure
Go tent camping
Take a roadtrip to a new place
Stay in a B&B
Go to a concert
Do a tarot card reading
See a broadway show at state theatre
Do a wine and canvas class
Attend Japanese tea ceremony at Como Zoo & the Lantern Lighting Festival
Have more picnics
Travel through Switzerland and Austria

Hobbies
Knock out books on book list - 1 per month
Go to yoga once a month
Blog/write more frequently
Explore making new dishes from other countries
Drink wine with dinner & try new ones every time
Play piano more
Take more photos
Rent Nikon D750 or D810 to try out for a week
Write an ebook & self publish
Read from more news sources daily
Take a free online coding class

Invest
Buy genealogy spit kit
Put away more into savings monthly
Put more into Mira's savings monthly
Buy new car
Buy new luggage (already done last week!)
Get bikes (recover our old ones from home?) for the family

Give
Get rid of clothes you don't wear
Donate said clothes
Start own charity foundation
Advocate more for charities/orgs you care about


What does your bucket list look like? 
Do you have any similar goals?

I'd love to hear your ideas!
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