Monday, February 18, 2013

South East Asia - Singapore

Singapore is a very pretty and very clean country, it's very open to tourism and is very accommodating to English speaking guests. One thing that I found very surprising was that shopping malls lined every. Single. Street. Not really a problem for someone who loves to shop, but on vacation I generally don't do a ton a mall shopping because I'm after the culture and history, or local arts of the place I'm visiting. We found it very difficult to find any type of historical center (other than the famous Raffles hotel) and one block near city center that contained the government centers.

One huge mistake that I made was not having a street map available, I feel like I would have really enjoyed some of the other areas of the city like Arab street and little India. Alas, we did take a duck tour and saw some great attractions, including the world famous Singapore flyer!

We did get a chance to visit the Singapore public gardens pictured below. This is a massive public space with gardens, sky-high metal tree structures which have observation decks and one has a restaurant on top. The gardens are completely free to wander through, the observation path is $5 to go up, and the domes which house some pretty interesting plant life are about $28. Overall this was a great stop for us!

Adjacent to the gardens is Marina Bay Sands, a complex of 3 buildings with a deck stretched across the top of them. There is a pool, restaurant and bar, and sun deck up there. It's a very interesting structure to say the least....

We also visited Raffles hotel to taste test the Singapore sling, but I don't really think anyone that tried it actually enjoyed it.

A few things we did learn about Singapore include that the perception of Singapore as a very strict country where you will get caned for chewing gum is very much false! Rules have been relaxing for years, gum is not confiscated at customs, and lots of people have just started looking the other way when it comes to those hard line "rules" being broken.

Final impressions of Singapore - glad we visited, enjoyed our time here, may consider coming back for a stop over for a few nights if we found ourselves back in the area (and we WILL be back in the area!). But we probably wouldn't go out of our way to make this a vacation destination in the future.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

South East Asia

As some of you know we visited south east Asia this January for 2 1/2 weeks and it was absolutely amazing. We elected to do this trip on a Celebrity cruise, we have cruised with them five times and really like the product and the opportunity this particular itinerary gave us to see 4 different countries (Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand) in a relatively short time frame. Planning this ourselves would have been a logistical nightmare and we would have missed out on some really beautiful islands, cultures, and sights.

Because we saw so much and I tend to be a sucker for details, I'm going to write about the countries in separate posts so this doesn't get to long and so readers can reference countries of interest separately. This is an overview of getting there, the ship, and general impressions.

Getting to Asia was long, no surprise and nothing you can really do. We left Boston at 8am on January 3 and landed in Singapore at 12 noon on January 5. For anyone keeping score at home thats 52 hours, or what feels like 90 bagillion hours. Our actual time in the sky was 25 hours, but time zone changes made it ridiculous. We did have a little time in San Francisco before taking off for Hong Kong, then about 2 hours there before making our final flight to Singapore.

We choose Singapore Air from San Fran to Singapore, the plane was nice, the flight attendants very polished and well dressed, the food was decent and the wine was free. If I were to do this trip again, I would use miles and fly business class for free. (I learned a lot of tricks about frequent flyer miles on this vacation!)

Being in a plane that long didn't actually bother either of us to much, the entertainment system was fantastic, and we each had tons of books. Plus I can pretty much sleep anywhere so I was covered. They did wake us up for meal service a few times and found it very strange to be eating dumplings at 2:30 in the morning, but this was a new experience so we just went with it.

After landing in Singapore we went right to our hotel to shower. We choose the Mandarin Oriental for our stay. Words cannot describe how great this hotel was! We arrived too early to check in so up to a bar we went for drinks and a snack. The drinks were divine, my satay out of this world, and the service impeccable. Our waiter brought us newspapers and magazines, brought me a rose, and when we finished he went down to the front desk, checked us in to our room, had our luggage brought to the room, and delivered our keys to us in the restaurant. Bravo Mandarin!! Our next stop was the spa for massages, I'm happy to say i was completely impressed with the service here as well! They had tea, water, relaxation rooms, saunas, and a crazy shower you could indulge in after your massage. Perfection.
After that we both fell asleep around 6pm. Hey, adjusting to that time change is a huge challenge! Plus after all that spa pampering.... Zzzzzzzzz.

Here is a look at the Mandarin and the Bay in Singapore:


After waking up bright and early, we headed out to explore before heading to our ship. There is always something about the morning you are boarding, it's so exciting!! Once we got to the pier we checked in, got on board, got our welcome glass of champagne (well sparkling wine if we are being technical), then spent some time exploring our home for the next two weeks. We sailed on the Celebrity Millenium, a smaller, older ship which was recently refurbished. Overall I was very happy with the ship and the changes made, restaurants were added, bars were updated, and she was cosmetically prettied up with new carpets and shades. The crew, as always, was absolutely fantastic. Everyone on board was friendly, fun, and attentive.

We always book a suite when we cruise and this was no exception, we wanted space, a nice balcony, and a butler for our two week adventure! The best part of the suite we booked was definitely the bathroom, which, anyone who has been on a ship will tell you, is NOT usually the best part of any cabin. To illustrate why it's an amazing bathroom:

Boom. There ya go.

Here is a shot of the cabin (this photo cuts off about 1/2 of the room, it's huge):

Monday, February 11, 2013

How I Wore It: Loft sweater dress

Today I busted out the Loft sweater dress I have been trying to wear since this fall! 

Dress - Loft, Boots - Via Spiga

Friday, February 8, 2013

Italian Chopped Salad

Every now and then we love to make a huge amazing, filling salad for dinner.  A classic for us has been a traditional tossed salad with turkey, BUT I had a moment with my pinterest boards and here we are. 

Honestly, I have no idea why I don't consult the amazing dishes I've pinned more often!!  For anyone who has no idea what pinterest is go here: Pinterest  I have my page linked on the blog as well, feel free to browse, I have awesome taste ;-)

Here's the salad

So good!!!!!!!!!  AND I made the dressing for it, absolutely delicious. 

Recipe  - I left out the olives and included the pepporoncini.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Super Bowl Festivities!

For anyone who has ever met me, you know I am a HUGE football fan, you know I MUST be a real fan because my favorite team is the Buffalo Bills.  For anyone to 1) keep being loyal to them, and 2) admit they like the team, well you know my passion runs deep.

Sunday's for me are general, joyous occassions, with the Superbowl being the culmination of all things wonderful about the glorious football season.  And because I love throwing a party, I do it up right at my house.  If you are invited for a party, you are in for a real treat!  Below is a little sampling of just why everone is so damn lucky to be at my house for the SuperBowl. 

Buffalo Chicken Bites

These things are phenomenal, like blow your mind good and so easy to make!!  The original receipe (on my pinterest page) calls for making your own dough, but I pick up a few cans of phillsbury cresent rolls and voila, dough. 


I freakin love this stuff, I add a few tomatoes to mine and presto, a fabulous tasting dip.

Pineapple and Turkey Bacon Pizza

Mine has BBQ sauce base, a can of pineapples, and about 1/2 pound of turkey bacon.  I use a healthy mix of fresh mozzerella and fresh Gruyere cheese. 

Veggie Pizza

BBQ sauce base, and 1 can each of Black beans and corn, and a chopped tomato.  I also sprinkle a little fresh pressed garlic on there too SO GOOD.  I usually use only mozzerella for this one, but added Gruyere last time and it was delicious.

Dessert this year is where we knocked it out of the park:

Chocolate covered oreos

I melted dark chocolate (found at Micheals) then smothered my oreos, let them cool in the frige for a few hours and served 'em up

Chocolate blueberry clusters

OHMYGOD these are AMAZING.  Same idea as the oreos, melt the chocolate, put in a handful of blueberries at a time into the chocolate, place on parchment paper and pop in the fridge to cool for a few hours. 

Friday, February 1, 2013

How I Wore it - Jeans Friday!

During our busy seasons at work, we are generally rewarded with "Jeans Day" Friday's, so I'm taking advantage today!!

I love this outfit, mostly because of all the textures that are at play with the tops.  The photo doesn't do it nearly enough justice, but I've layered a sriped tank, a linen button down, and a knit cardigan together.  I think the textures and colors play nicely together (so does my super amazing hair stylist Heather - you out there love I need a haircut!!)

And I found boot socks I love so I'm pretty much thrilled with this getup today!!

Tank - Old Navy, Button Down & Cardi & Boot Socks - Nordstrom, Jeans - Paige Skyline straights; Boots - Tory Burch