Thursday, January 31, 2013

Accidental Wedding Crasher

Today I found myself in a slightly awkward position. I became a wedding crasher.

Just me and the guys, crashing weddings

Dan and I are in Southern England while he attends a business meeting. I am reaping the rewards by staying in a lovely hotel and relaxing. After a nice breakfast, I wandered into the hotel library to get a bit of work done and noticed that everyone was very dressed up. In fact, a few men had flowers pinned to their lapels...hmm...

As I continued to look around, I noticed the guitar player set up in the corner; two little children in adorable matching suits and a man with a very nice camera moving around the room. Yeah...I was in the middle of a wedding.

I had already parked myself on the sofa in the library, which was adjacent to the actual ceremony and reception. As any typical Generation Y'er would do, I posted my dilemma on Facebook. Some of the responses I got are priceless:

In case you can't read them, my favorite pieces of advice were:
  • Act like I know the bride and groom, wish them congrats and go straight to the appetizers
  • Run up to the groom and act like it's his baby I'm carrying
  • Scan the room for Vince Vaughn
  • Stand up and make a toast

In the end, I just stayed where I was and watched the happy couple mingle with their friends. Sadly, there wasn't any free food and I abstained from the champagne, but it was a lovely way to spend a morning :)

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

19 Weeks!

This was a fun week for me. I got to hang out with my good friends Dina and Ed who were visiting from the States. My friend Karen hosted an awesome girls-only sleepover on Saturday where we did nothing but eat junk food and laugh. And, Dan got to feel the baby kick for the first time!

If all goes well, we should know the sex of the baby by this time next week. Dan and I both think we're having a boy. I don't have a real reason behind my guess, but Dan said he thinks I'm having a boy because my stomach is getting so big. Ha! What do you think baby Levin is?

How far along? 19 weeks
Maternity clothes? Yup
Stretch marks? No
Sleep? Not too bad
Best moment of the week: The girls' sleepover, hosted by Karen
Miss anything? Nope
Movement: Tons! I can even feel it from the outside now!
Food cravings:  None
Anything making you queasy or sick: No
Have you started to show yet? Definitely
Gender: We find out next week!!!
Belly Button in or out? Out-ish. It's still neutral most of the time, but when I move certain muscles it pops right out
Wedding rings on or off? On
Happy or Moody most of the time? Happy
Looking forward to: Finding out the sex next week!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Cards Against Humanity

Have you ever heard of the card came Cards Against Humanity? Until very recently, neither had I. Let me tell you though, it's now one of my favorite things.

The game is very similar to Apples-to-Apples, if you've ever played that. Everyone is dealt several "answer" cards that vary from one word, to long phrases. Players take turns reading a "question" card. All other players throw down an answer to the question. For example, the question card may read:

What are my parents hiding from me?

And someone may throw down this card:

A murder most foul

The tagline for the game is "A Party Game for Horrible People." Most of the cards are very dirty, politically incorrect, or otherwise inappropriate. If you can check your tact at the door, this game is hilarious. I highly recommend it!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Dina and Ed Come to England!

Last week one of my best friends came to visit me in England! The last time I saw Dina was at her wedding in April.

In the nearly 13 years we've known each other, this is the longest time we've gone without seeing each other. It was so great to spend some quality time with her and her new hubby Ed!

We managed to squeeze a lot into their four days in North Yorkshire. Dina and Ed were treated to a gorgeous snowy England. This is definitely the most snow we've had since Dan and I have been here. We made the most of it with great outdoor hikes and lots of tea breaks :)

Harrogate in the snow

Tea break!

Some highlights included our time with Mr. George Pickles, the Ripon Hornblower, and our visit to Richmond. Everything was closed for winter, but we went on a fun hike around the castle.

The Ripon Hornblower

Waterfalls in Richmond

Richmond castle

We did tons more, but I didn't take a lot of pictures. Overall, it was a great few days! It went by way too fast, of course. Thanks for coming to visit us Dina and Ed! Come back soon!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

18 Weeks!

It was another growth week for me and the baby. It's really exciting, but at the same time I'm starting to feel those aches and pains that pregnant people talk about. It's harder to do simple things like put on my shoes and get in and out of the car.

I'm still absolutely loving being pregnant though. It's an amazing experience to watch my body change in such a dramatic way. I definitely need to buy more maternity pants though!

How far along? 18 weeks
Maternity clothes? Pretty much. I can still wear regular shirts, but I'm in stretchy pants, dresses or skirts
Stretch marks? No
Sleep? It's getting harder to get comfortable, but the Snoogle helps
Best moment of the week: Hanging out with Dina and Ed!
Miss anything? Nope
Movement: Yes! I love it!
Food cravings:  None
Anything making you queasy or sick: No
Have you started to show yet? Definitely
Gender: We don't know yet
Belly Button in or out? Still neutral. Neither in nor out 
Wedding rings on or off? On
Happy or Moody most of the time? Happy
Looking forward to: Having Dan feel the baby kick

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

More Explorations of Malta

After a great day exploring Gozo, we checked out the main island. Malta is home to some very impressive prehistoric ruins, including the world's only underground prehistoric temple called the Hypogeum. It's a UNESCO-run World Heritage site and only 80 people are allowed in per day! Unfortunately we were not allowed to take any pictures in the temple.

Malta's first settlers came via a land bridge from Sicily. It was really cool to see an intricately carved and designed temple that is more than 5,000 years old. Fortunately we were allowed to take pictures at the Tarxien Temple, which was built between 3600-2500 BC. I liked the sacrificial alter the best. It's fascinating to see goats, rams and a pig in such detail.

Animal sacrifice alter

That afternoon we headed to the capital of Malta, Valletta. We made the most of the gorgeous sunshine with a walk around the coast and a lunch by the water.

I really enjoyed Valletta. It has a wonderful medieval feel, with narrow streets and stone facades. And the views are spectacular. The old city walls were particularly impressive. Check out the cars at the bottom right corner of the picture--it gives you a sense of how massive these are.

Old city walls

Our final day in Malta was a short one since we had a plane to catch at 3pm. We started with an early-morning visit to the fish market in Marsaxlokk. I highly recommend a stop here. It's wonderful to see the local fisherman selling their fresh catches. Marsaxlokk is famous for their painted boats called luzzu. I loved seeing an entire harbor filled with them.

We had time for just one more stop before heading to the airport. Mdina is very small, but cute. We ate at Fontanella, which had great views. We could see all the way to Sliema (where our apartment was) and Valletta. This country is tiny!

It was a short, but much needed trip. I'm so lucky to have great friends to share these awesome trips with. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Exploring Gozo, Malta

I found a cheap flight to Malta and decided to see who wanted to join me. Pretty soon, eight of us were off to explore the Mediterranean island! To be honest, I didn't know much about Malta. I knew that it was south of Italy and had Mediterranean weather. My friends Dain and Heather wanted to go there for their honeymoon, so I knew it had to be good.

Group shot, courtesy Katie Bolt

Malta is definitely worth a trip. For such a small country, there is a lot to see, and of course eat! We left late on a Thursday night and came home on Sunday afternoon. That gave us enough time to explore both the main island and Gozo, which I highly recommend.

The highlight of the trip for me was the Azure window. We took the ferry over to Gozo to see the famous limestone arch. It was a VERY windy day, but we had a great time exploring.

A little windy on the ferry

Azure window

We stumbled upon a fantastic little bakery for lunch. The oven is more than 150 years old! We tried a local speciality called qassatat. It's a flaky cheese and egg pastry with a custardy filling (like a soufflĂ©). Traditionally they have raisins too, but mine was plain. It was really delicious--so much so that we bought another one for breakfast the next day. We also had a traditional Maltese pizza with cheese, onion, olives, capers, tomatoes and anchovies. It was a little fishy, but very tasty.

Qassatat, photo courtesy of Katie Bolt

Gozo is small enough to see in a day. We drove along the coasts to see the beautiful cliffs; we saw Rabbat (Victoria), the capital; and we stopped for a pint in Xlendi.

It was a great day in Gozo, but it was only the beginning of the trip. Stay tuned for more!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Winter Wonderland

Harrogate got an unusual amount of snow this weekend, leaving a beautiful winter wonderland behind. Luckily the streets near me are well-taken care of, and I don't have anywhere to be, so I can just sit back and enjoy. I hope your weekend is going as well as mine!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

New Blog Pages

With more than 230 blog posts to-date, I thought it was time I do a little organizing on the blog. I was inspired by Katie Bower's project catalog page and decided to create my own. After doing a bit of research, I found a tutorial online that used simple HTML to create a look similar to Katie's.

I created two new pages: Travel Archives and Pregnancy.

You can access these pages from any other page on my blog. Just click the Pages button on the top right side.

Have fun exploring!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

17 Weeks!

This was both an exciting week and a frustrating one. It was a huge growth week for both me and the baby, which was exciting (I literally grew 1.5 pounds overnight!). But the combination of a rush of extra hormones and the stretching of my ligaments meant that I was pretty uncomfortable all week. I just didn't really feel like myself.

On the plus side, I am definitely feeling the baby move. I feel it mostly when I am sitting or laying down, and it is usually a couple inches below my navel on the sides. It only lasts a second and happens irregularly, but it is so cool! I still can't feel anything from the outside yet though.

How far along? 17 weeks
Maternity clothes? I'm pretty much down to one pair of leggings and jeans that won't button. It might be time for maternity clothes.
Stretch marks? No
Sleep? Great
Best moment of the week: Exploring the Azure Window in Malta
Miss anything? Not really
Movement: I am definitely feeling the baby move now. It's so exciting!
Food cravings:  None
Anything making you queasy or sick: Nope
Have you started to show yet? Yes! This week I definitely popped
Gender: We don't know yet
Belly Button in or out? Neither? It's pretty level with the rest of my belly now. 
Wedding rings on or off? On
Happy or Moody most of the time? Moody :( 
Looking forward to: Seeing Dina and Ed next week!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Christmas-Time in Northern France

Over the summer we met a great couple on our Baltic cruise. Jeff and Stephanie are native Canadians who were living in Boston for years before moving to England. We immediately hit it off and made plans to stay in touch after the cruise. We had our chance to meet up over Christmas.

Jeff, Steph, me and Dan in Aug 2012

We decided to take the ferry from Dover in south England to Calais in northern France. We spent one night in Lille, which is close to the Belgian border, and another night in Boulogne-Sur-Mer. We also spent a couple of nights in Jeff and Steph's lovely home in Cambridge.

Lille, France

Lille was so much better than than I expected. It felt very "French" but with a huge Belgian influence. Almost no one spoke English, so it was great that Jeff is fluent in French. We were lucky enough to be in Lille during their Christmas market. It was delicious beautiful. The whole city was decked out for the holidays.

The Wazemmes Market was really fun too. It was filled with delicious fresh fruit, fish, cheese and baked goods. We bought a bag of fresh clementines and enjoyed it over the next few days.

Dan and I decided to be adventurous at the cheese stand. We asked the cheese monger for the most typical French cheese. She pointed us to this one, nicknamed the "Lille stinker." It tastes a whole lot better than in looks!

We spent a few more hours wandering around Lille before heading to Boulogne-Sur-Mer.

Boulogne-Sur-Mer is a small town near the English channel. We got in at night and were treated to this view.

The town was cute and it was nice walking around at night. The real highlight was in the morning when we drove along the coast on our way back to Calais to catch the ferry. The views were stunning! It was very windy, but we made the most of it.

After a very short trip France, Jeff and Steph graciously hosted us at their place in Cambridge. I really loved this town. We got to see some of Cambridge University, the Cam river, and the pedestrian-only city center.

Overall it was a great, but short, trip. It was fun catching up with Jeff and Steph and I was thrilled to eat pain au chocolat, baguettes and waffles! Check out my post on all my sweet-tooth adventures on TripWolf.