Thursday, May 28, 2015

Budgeting Bloggers: April and May

In true trying-to-do-too-much-at-once fashion--aka my daily struggle--I had to blow off a few to-dos in late April and early May. One of those things was my Budgeting Bloggers post, which is a (relative) shame because I had a crazy haul in April! In comparison, I didn't technically buy clothes in May...but I did use some honeymoon spending money to pick up a couple cute souvenir-type pieces while we were in Mexico. So, better late than never, here's my April budget breakdown:

1. Adorbs t-shirt from Target. I was shopping with my sister and grandma, hungover, the day after my bachelorette party. I practically sprinted to this shirt, the last one in the store, and realized it was miraculously in my size. I've been wearing it almost nonstop ever since. (Including on my wedding morning, natch.) | $12.99 {exact}

2. Lace-trimmed t-shirt from H&M. Another totally frivolous, unnecessary impulse purchase that I don't regret in the slightest. | $9.95 {exact}

3. "Cold Shoulder" top from Express. My first non-warehouse/thrifted Express purchase. Hayley and I were shopping for a dress for her to wear to my bachelorette, and I decided I NEEDED DIS for my pre-bachelorette shindig in Athens. | $34.90 {exact}

4. Ankle-strop flats from Forever 21. Another "this is perfect for Athens" shopping spree spoil. Though walkable, Athens has a ton of brick streets and heels are a definite no. While these were a pain to break in (literally, the buckles cut my ankles wide open), they're super comfy to wear now. | $15.90 {similar}

5. Sidekicks roll-up flats from Party City. Yes, I bought shoes from Party City. But with the heels I was wearing for actual bachelorette party in Columbus (see #6), I knew pack-a-flats were a must. I regret nothing. | $15 {exact}

6. BCBGeneration Cynthia pumps via Macy's. These were exactly what I was looking for. The mesh itself is much finer IRL; it's less of a fishnet and more of a sheer black material. They were on super sale, plus I had a gift card, so my total out-of-pocket was a whopping... | $5.67 {exact, for $30.99)}

7. Tote from Target. Purchased last-minute when I realized I didn't have a beach bag to take on the honeymoon. Doubled as my "bag of emergency crap" that I made my sister lug around the day of the wedding. | $14.99 {exact}

8. Bachelorette party dress from H&M. Because no bachelorette is complete without a lacy, short, see-through-on-top, totally skimpy dress. I've never worn a dress like this and honestly? I felt like a million bucks in it. I have nowhere else to wear it but I love how it looked on me so much, I'm just gonna keep it. Maybe I can dye it black? | $29.95 {exact}

9. Calvin Klein dress from Nordstrom Rack. So I originally had planned to rewear the white Calvin Klein dress I bought secondhand for $10 (worn first at my family bridal shower) to my rehearsal dinner. Then I saw this beauty and fell in love. The hurriedly-taken photo doesn't do it justice; this is another dress I can't quite get rid of because I felt freaking fantastic in it. | $48.16 (with tax)

10. Gold necklace from Old Navy. This was a bad month for impulse buys. I blame my "spend all the money" from last-minute wedding purchases and vendor checks. This grabbed my eye as I was buying flip flops for all my bridesmaids, as you do, and I just snagged it. To be fair, I've been looking for a good, inexpensive, chunky gold necklace for like two years now. Justified? | $12

And that's April! Grand total, including tax: $201.97. Okay so technically I did spend my May budget...just a month early. Oops. The three items I bought in May were all purchased when Matt and I realized we converted way too much wedding-present cash to pesos for our trip. We figured eh, we'd written it off already, and we didn't want to pay the fees to convert it, so we did a fair amount of shopping. We bought a ridiculous amount of Mexican tchotchkies, like the obligatory shot glasses, hot sauce and the like. Matt got a dude-necklace, and I got...


1. THIS GORGEOUS DRESS. I saw it hanging in one of the vendor market stalls outside Tulum before we went in to the ruins themselves, and it sat in the back of my mind for the next hour as we walked around. Naturally, I had to have it by the time we left. I scored the dress, but not without some gentle haggling on the price, of course.

2. Mother-of-pearl and abalone necklace. Kind of cheesy, sure, but I love both of those types of shell and think they make lovely jewelry. This guy had a stall right out on the beach and had tons of shell, shark-tooth and other sea-themed jewelry. I got a few compliments on it already, so I figure it was worth it.

3. Pearl necklace. This was one of those "buy an oyster and crack it open and there's a pearl inside" deals (which came with the necklace itself), which I've always thought was really cool. The resort's gift shop had a ton of these. The packaging said the pearls ranged in color, but I lucked out with a pure white one.

4. Sun hat. Another gift shop purchase, on our second-to-last day when we started to realize how many leftover pesos we had. Ridiculously overpriced for a straw hat, but we were on our way to Tulum and I wanted some extra sun protection for my face. Gotta keep this face youthful and wrinkle-free!

Can we just take another look at that red dress again? I can't even. I have no idea where else I might wear it, what with the whole can't-wear-a-bra-and-v-neck-plunging-down-to-my-sternum, but it makes me feel sexy as hell and I love it to pieces. (Though I wasn't wearing makeup in these pictures so I just cropped my face out, haha.)



And there you have it, folks. Check yet another item off my to-do list...even if it is a month late.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Travels: Mexican scuba excursion

The scuba pictures came in!

Mad props to ScubaQuatic, the company that took us out on the dive and took the photos. They managed to dig up our shots and emailed them in batches over the course of a few days, in between dives and other administrative duties. Huzzah!

On a dive, a thumbs-up sign means that you want to surface. Instead, you give the "okay" sign to show excitement or just check in with your fellow divers.

In my head at that moment: "Where's Matt?" I had a really hard time thinking in three dimensions; when I got stuck between people and the reef, it took me a minute to realize I could just swim up.


Matt and me with the sea turtle. Mesmerized.


Somehow, I managed a shit-eating grin around my respirator. That's how excited I was.


To do a controlled surface, we all held each other's vests and the lead diver slowly guided us up. By contrast, we dove using a fixed line that was anchored to the sea floor. It had barnacles on it, which cracked me up for some reason.

My hand looks wonky because I was clutching a piece of dead coral and a shell I'd found on the seabed. I crushed the shell trying to climb back onto the boat, but the coral remained intact.

All in all, scuba diving was one of the coolest experiences I've ever had. Right up there with skydiving, only I absolutely want to do this again and have no real desire to jump out of another plane.

Sure, I was a little nervous at first; you're not supposed to dive without a doctor's clearance if you are prone to fainting, asthma or panic attacks, as I am. But I lied on my forms and dove anyway, knowing that my asthma is mild and my panic attacks are controllable. The fainting is what made me most nervous, but we were only going about 10 or 12 meters down; not far enough to get decompression sickness if I suddenly thought I might faint and had to bail. (The vest itself inflates; my contingency plan was to just inflate it and shoot up to the surface.)

But it turns out my nerves were for nothing. After I overcame the initial fear of being 40 feet underwater--which only lasted long enough for me to get a good look at my surroundings--I was completely relaxed and set to explore. Matt had some issues, unfortunately; his ear wouldn't pop and he was nervous about damaging his ear drum, which led to him using up way too much oxygen in the first third of the dive. In fact, his air supply was the reason we surfaced when we did. You're supposed to end your dive when you get down to 700 PSI of air in your tank (from the initial 3,000 or so when you start). When we surfaced, Matt was down to just 200 PSI.

But in all, Matt enjoyed it too. I'm begging to get PADI certified; there's a center near our house that offers courses, and I think I have him just about convinced that we should definitely, absolutely add scuba to our list of ridiculously expensive hobbies. (It'll be right up there with rock climbing, scuba diving and in Matt's case, cycling.)

Have you scuba dived before? Any location recommendations that I should add to my bucket list?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Travels: Mexican honeymoon

Well, here I am on the other side of the wedding! We made it! We didn't craft ourselves to death or anything like that! Married life has been pretty wonderful so far, and I will absolutely be posting photos just as soon as I get the files from my photographer. In the meantime, I thought I'd share some shots from our honeymoon in Mexico.

It was gorgeous, first of all. We stayed at an all-inclusive in Riviera Maya, about an hour and a half south of Cancún, on the Yucatán Peninsula. We rented a car to get from the airport to the resort because the whole bus/shuttle thing seemed like more trouble than it was worth, and I'm so glad we did. The weather was perfect, sunny and hot the whole time, with mild and breezy evenings. I didn't bring my DSLR camera; I get a little nervous taking it to unfamiliar places. Ultimately it was a good decision, but I definitely missed it while we were walking through the ruins of Tulum. The shots below are from my old little point-and-shoot and Matt's and my phones.

Obligatory airplane-window photo. We thought this might be a sandbar off the coast of Cuba, but we weren't positive. Saw a lot of cruise ships from the air, which was kind of cool.

The main lobby of the resort was open-air; a huge entry behind where I was standing and another on the other side of this fountain were both doorless. The roof here and in most of the other communal buildings was straw thatch, and it was so charming.

They had to close down a portion of the main buffet one morning to do repairs on the roof. It was really cool to watch the guys through the hole and see all the straw drifting down.

Of course, no resort is complete without a towel critter on your bed each morning. It was a swan when we checked in, which I promptly forgot to take a photo of. We also had a dog and something I couldn't figure out. We passed on room service one day because I was sick (Protip: When in Mexico, use hand sanitizer after washing your hands and definitely don't wash your hands and then eat a bunch of finger food. Yuck.) so we'll never know what funny towel critter we missed out on that day. Oh, the loss.

Of course there was plenty of beach time! The Caribbean Sea is just gorgeous, with the clearest water I've ever seen. (Granted, I'm comparing it to the Outer Banks, Hilton Head and Myrtle Beach...but still.

Iguanas in Mexico are like squirrels in the States--they're everywhere. We saw them (and geckos and other lizards I couldn't name) constantly, both on and off the resort. The one we're holding were outside the ruins of Tulum; we paid 50 pesos (a few dollars) each to take our photos with that guy. Cheesy, yes, but still pretty cool.

Two other animals were really common at the resort: coatis (the ones with the long tail) and those other rodent-looking things that I can't identify. The coatis were super really bold; I didn't realize that one had snuck up behind me until some random lady came up to take a picture of it.

As we were leaving Tulum, I saw a guy holding something furry and pestering tourists to hold it for pictures. Thinking it was a coati, I dragged Matt over...and then we realized it was a lion cub. It cost a bit more than 50 pesos to take our pictures with it, but it was worth every penny. I reassured my guilty conscience by imagining the little lion all grown up, enjoying a lazy day in her pen at a very nice Mexican zoo. Because honestly, when would we ever get another chance to hold a baby lion?

Jungle selfie! This was on the government road that led to the Tulum ruins. The jungle was so dense even beside the road, I could hardly believe it.

We didn't hire a guide because of time constraints, but we overheard one saying that the true name of this ancient Mayan community was unknown; it's referred to as Tulum, the Mayan word for "wall," thanks to the stone wall that surrounds it.

The main temple of Tulum. You couldn't walk up into this one like you can at Chichen Itza or some of the others, but it was cool nonetheless.

The city itself was situated on the edge of a cliff, maybe 30 or 40 feet high, that overlooked the sea. There were walkdowns and slopes to the beach, but we stuck to the high ground to strike a few Captain Morgan poses (of course).

Outside of Tulum is a bit of a tourist trap-style market. It's filled with Subway and Hägen-Dazs stands and souvenir shops (full disclosure: we bought souvenirs and I even haggled one vendor down to a great price on a gorgeous dress), but there was one redeeming booth: A real-deal taco spot. We saw several locals chowing down, so we got some delicious, authentic chicken tacos. I think Matt was more excited about them than the ruins themselves!

That same afternoon, we went scuba-diving on the reef just off the coast. We bought a CD of photos from the company, but when we got home we realized the CD is blank. We're working with the company to have all the images emailed to us, so I hope to be able to post them soon!

That night, we ate in one of the resort's "fancy" restaurants. Most of the nicer restaurants were semi-casual at best, but this one was French-themed, had an actual dress code and was on-par with any four- or five-star establishment in the U.S., I'd say.

They started us off with shrimp cocktail with mango mousse and passionfruit jelly. For the salad course, I got smoked duck and sweetbread (which is way more delicious than you'd think) drizzled in truffle oil. Soup was a seafood bisque with goat cheese--unexpected, but also really good.

We ordered a great bottle of Malbec. Presentation of everything was incredible, from the plating to the wine service to the dessert.

My main course was filet mignon with fois gras and potatoes. I'd never have fois gras before and it was so amazing! Matt had sea bass, I think--I don't remember because we were both preoccupied with his ear. It had been bugging him since the dive and still is, actually. (He's going to the doctor, rest assured.) Dessert was strawberries flambé over vanilla ice cream. It had the most gorgeous presentation of flaming liqueur cascading down a long, curly strip of orange peel...and my phone's memory filled up just as he was about to light it, ending my video prematurely. Didn't make it taste any less incredible, though.

Last-day selfie!

Leaving was definitely hard. With my accidental water consumption via hand-washing (and later, Matt's via rinsing his toothbrush in tap water on accident), we lost a full day of activities. We weren't even halfway to the airport before we made a full list of all the things we want to do on a hypothetical return trip to Riviera Maya!

Still, we're glad to be home and settling back into life. I won't say I wasn't tempted to just never leave Mexico, but Spazzy would have missed us too much, so coming home was the only option, I suppose ;)

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Stupid technology

Well, thanks to the most asinine app update I've ever seen in my life, I have inadvertently deleted a bunch of photos from Flickr. Including all the blog photos between February and my last post, as well as all my photo-a-day shots from the same time period. I know I have all the blog photos backed up, but I'm not sure about the photo-a-day ones. Bear with me while I re-upload and re-link all my blog pics from the last couple of months. Hint: It likely won't happen till after things settle down post-wedding this weekend.

UGH. Tech, you are so stupid.