Friday, June 08, 2007

Honeymoon Review

The wedding has come and gone and we're back from our honeymoon. I'll be posting a review of our vendors for our day but I just finished our very looong honeymoon review.

We spent our honeymoon at Couples Swept Away in Negril, Jamaica from May 28 – June 6, 2007. It was as close to a perfect honeymoon as it could get.

We arrived at Sangster International Airport (MBJ) by Air Canada on time but after a big Virgin Atlantic jumbo jet landed. This created a long wait to immigration in a long and windy corridor. We thought we were smart in completing our forms (one per person, front and back) but we forgot to complete the departure information on the bottom of the front so had to fill that in quickly before getting into the immigration queue. We got through immigration, picked up our luggage (already waiting for us off the carrousel) and breezed through customs (no line there).

After customs, we saw the Couples Lounge and checked in. We were relieved of our luggage and advised we’d be leaving within 25 minutes. Shaun went for a smoke and I went to the washroom. As I came out, they were announcing departures so I quickly grabbed two Red Stripes from the bartender, found Shaun and we got on the shuttle bus.

It started pouring after we landed and it looked like we were in the middle of a monsoon. Water levels on the streets were close to sidewalk height which made for gigantic puddles for buses and cars to navigate through. We were stuck in a traffic jam for most of the journey out of Montego Bay as cars were moving like turtles in the torrential rain. The usual ride that would take 1:20 or 1:30 took close to two hours (we were actually the lucky ones, the next day, other guests’ trips took close to four hours as it was even worst road conditions). We had one stop for a washroom break and a Red Stripe refill.

We arrived at the resort to cold towels and champagne. We checked in and were immediately taken to our room with our luggage right behind us. Oceanview Verandah Suite room #3312 was our home for the whole ten days and it was perfect. Located near the central hot tub, we had a third floor corner suite with a view of the beach and water.

The first thing we did was go on an orientation tour that took us around the property. We found out where everything was and when we should book things (e.g. dinner reservations, water sports, etc).

After the tour, we attended the Managers Cocktail reception, which happens every Monday, where we got to meet some of the managers and staff and other guests. After this, we went for dinner at The Palms as it was International Night buffet. The food selection was not extensive and just above average in taste. The dessert selection was okay. We had our first cups of Blue Mountain coffee and were hooked. Overall, the meal was nothing to write home about. We were exhausted from traveling and were in bed by 10 that night.

Day 2, we started the day with breakfast at The Palms. Breakfast was good and included standards like omelet stations, bacon, sausage, juices and fruit but also more local specialties like ackee and codfish, callaloo (Jamaican spinach), and smoked marlin. After breakfast, we went to the beach and easily found loungers and floats. We spent the better part of the morning floating around in the water. Shaun went wakeboarding and enjoyed the run. We also took part in the tie dye t-shirt class and we got to take home some souvenir tees. Its $6 if you don’t bring your own but otherwise, it’s free (I brought my own tank top to dye). A couple brought baby onesies and they tuned out really cute.

We had lunch at Sea grapes and this was our daily lunch spot. They had the best sweet potato chips and spicy pumpkin jalapeno dip. They also had great chilled gazpacho and tomato and avocado soup, depending in the day, and quiche. I wasn’t too impressed with the snapper that everyone raved about but perhaps mine was overcooked that day. Sea grapes was actually a twice a day affair as we would stop off in the afternoon for some chips and take with us to the Swim up bar.

Our afternoon was spent on the Catamaran Cruise to Pirates Cave. It was drizzling when we left and rained the entire trip. It was fun but probably not as enjoyable if the sun was out. Shaun jumped off the cliff for $2 and we swam around the cliffs for an hour or so before taken back to CSA.

We had a snack at the Cabana Grill (also a daily stop). Their chicken patties with homemade jerk sauce were to die for! Their hot dogs were pretty good too. I found everything else too deep fried (e.g. snapper sandwich and calamari).

That night, we had a late dinner at Feathers and it was very good. I wasn’t feeling so hot (first day of sun and too many drinks) but the chilled cucumber and watermelon soup make me feel better. I had the shrimp and scallop kebab and it was okay but Shaun’s rack of lamb with coconut mashed potatoes was delicious. His main course sealed the deal – we decided to make reservations again for Feathers. The dessert was good but not memorable (given I have no recollection of it).

Day 3, we decided to try the room service continental breakfast and it was good. Nothing like having coffee, fruit, juice and breads delivered to your room for breakfast on your verandah. We went on our first of two snorkeling trips that morning. There are five spots where they take you snorkeling and we ended up at “Cuba” which is a coral reef half a mile from the beach.

We went to the Honeymooners Party that afternoon where we got to meet a couple other honeymooners (I would say 80% of the couples at the resort were on their honeymoon). We played some trivia to win some prizes and my research on the resort won Shaun a Jamaican bead necklace. It was little cheesy but we did win a prize.

Dinner that night was at Lemongrass. Being from Toronto and having Thai food often, it was actually pretty good. It wasn’t spicy enough to my liking but some Sambal chili added the kick I needed. I had the lamb rack with red curry and Shaun had the beef stir fry. Dessert was banana fritter with ice cream and a trio of desserts. The trio wasn’t that great except for the coconut delight which was caramelized coconut and that was delicious.

We rarely stayed up for any night events as we were often too tired but we stayed out for a bit for the Bonfire on the beach. It was quite romantic but too hot near the bonfire.

Day 4, we went on an excursion to Black River to see the crocodiles, Appleton Estate for a rum tour, and YS Falls. It was a long day traveling but it was great to see the different towns. We had what you would either call the most efficient driver on the island or the craziest. We hiked up the falls, swung on a rope swing, jumped from the falls (a small jump) and just relaxed.

Dinner that night was at Patois Patio (no reservations needed). I had heard that service was a little slow there and that was definitely true. Appetizers came quickly but our mains took a while. Perhaps their oven isn’t equipped for so many pizzas that need to be made? It was a good dinner with delicious appetizers.

Day 5, we each had a private tennis lesson (the first of four this trip) that morning and had lunch at Sea Grapes but also grabbed some salad and stuff from The Palms.

We upgraded our free his and hers half hour honeymoon massages to a 50 minute couple massages and we had our appointment that afternoon. It was very relaxing.

Friday night was supposed to be the beach party with dinner on the beach but because of strong winds (red flag on the beach for a couple of days), they decided to have it at The Palms even though there was no rain. The Jamaican buffet and the entertainment were good.

Day 6 and Day 7 were spent mostly on the beach with another snorkeling trip to “Mexico”. We also walked to Times Square shopping mall with Rob and Gena, a couple we met on the Black River/YS Falls excursion in the afternoon. Not as many vendors approach us on the beach along the way and we got a good price on souvenirs there.

Instead of a private dinner on the beach (too many bugs to my liking – did I mention the 30 bites all over my body as a souvenir?), we opted for a dinner at The Rockhouse. We saw a beautiful sunset and it was a romantic dinner overlooking the cliffs. We got a complimentary shuttle to The Rockhouse and it was $10 on the way back.

When we got back to the resort, we took a nap then headed to Casino & Auction night in the Aura Lounge. Shaun hit it big on the roulette and we got a bottle of rum to take home with us.

The last three days went by in a flash. Monday morning was spent making a beaded bracelet with Jimmy and a palm leaves hat with Dennis. The hat making hat is highly recommended. Everyone was asking where we got Shaun’s hat and wanted their own.

Our last night’s dinner was at Lemongrass and my dish was way too spicy. Of course, I asked for extra spicy squid red curry and that’s what I got. Not advisable in the hot weather. It was a great way to end our trip, having dinner under the stars.

We left Wednesday morning and were sad to leave such a wonderful place. Our bus back to the airport was fast (1:20) and we got through security and immigration quickly. Our flight home was on time and pleasantly uneventful.

All the staff were great but we have special mentions for Edwardo (Bamboo Bar and then Swim Up), Romaine, Janel, Andre (who we’ve renamed Smooth Chubbz), Richard, and Maximo.

It was wonderful to meet all the couples vacationing at CSA and some we even recognized each other by message board screen names.

While CSA was the best place for a honeymoon that we can think of and we’ll be back one day, we’re not sure if we’ll be avid repeaters as there are so many other places to see and unfortunately limited funds. We’ll definitely be back for an anniversary trip at some point as there will always be a special place in our heart for Couples Swept Away.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Melanoma - A cancer that we should be more aware of

With the wedding only a day away, I'm excited but restless. Woke up super early, checked my messageboards and found a very sad story on this blog:

Not a very long blog and definitely worth reading. Start reading from May 2006.

I know this is somber from a bride-to-be but this is something that we should be all aware of. Sarah is 30 years old and dying from a preventable cancer. This really hits home as she's the same age and just got married two years ago.

With summer upon, we need to take more care applying sunblock and not going to the tanning beds!

I know everyone laughed at me when I said I've been wearing SPF55 on my face when I run but please make sure you take care of your skin. We have our SPF45 packed for our honeymoon.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Free Dog food offer from IAMS

Iams Promise and Free Food Offer

No need to sign up for anything. They'll mail you a coupon.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Bridal Bootcamp in the Toronto Star

I made it in the paper today... Working out at 6:30 am on a Monday looks like this:

Original story online here:

Bridal Bootcamp turns pain into gain for women preparing to walk down the aisle
Apr 30, 2007 04:30 AM

Life Writer

The sun is barely up over Lake Ontario, but trainer Sandra O'Brien is already busy whipping her brides-to-be into shape.

"Faster. Faster there, sister. Go. Go. Go," hollers O'Brien, decked in shades and a green camouflage shirt, whistle dangling from her neck.

O'Brien's target is Melanie Stone, who is huffing and puffing down a trail at Mississauga's Jack Darling Park, determined to lose a dress size before her June wedding.

"I really needed to do something for myself," says Stone. "Everything has been crazy with the wedding. I am also a student doing my masters part-time. You just lose yourself in the planning, the school and working full-time."

That is why two weeks ago, Stone joined Bridal Bootcamp – hyped on its website as "a major-league s.o.b. kick @$$ workout."

"After my first day, I could barely walk," says Stone, who attends bootcamp five times a week and hits the gym three times a week. "Sandra doesn't let you slack off, not for one second."

Started by Toronto personal trainer Mark Vendramini, the high-intensity program aims to get women in shape for their big day. Since it began in 2003 in a Bayview Ave. studio, the course – and business – has rapidly expanded. Franchises for the trademarked program can now be found in Toronto, Mississauga, Calgary, Winnipeg and London. A new location is expected to open in Regina this summer .

Circuit training is key in the workout, which tones your entire body. Participants spend 30 seconds or more at various stations and do as many repetitions as they can of a particular exercise. This can range from equalizer chin-ups, to military press squats, to the J. Lo hip thrust, to the wheel of pain (an ab exercise), to the Sherpa stair climb.

"Bootcamp kicks your ass over and over because it always changes and I never lay off," says Vendramini, who is known by his brides for demanding impromptu squats and man-style push-ups.

(Despite frequent and regular workouts, this reporter found the Bridal Bootcamp completely kicked her butt.)

For Irene Vilchez, who gets married on Aug. 5, it's the draw of an involved taskmaster like Vendramini that brought her to the camp.

"I needed someone to kick me into getting into shape," says Vilchez, who has lost eight pounds since she started last November. "Mark provides that with all his shouting and all that stuff – it was something I felt I needed."

Though she is the middle of preparing for her wedding and moving into a new home, she says she can't stay away from the camp.

"I want to be able to walk the aisle and have every one say, `Wow, she looks like she worked out.'"

In Ontario, more than 60,000 couples marry every year, with the average cost of a Canadian wedding ranging from $20,000 to $30,000. For many brides, the big day is as much about the vows they will take as it is about fitting into a classic, sleeveless white dress, with arms and shoulders exposed for all to see.

Though particularly concerned about their upper body, trainer O'Brien always tells the brides who come to bootcamp that at some point the dress is going to come off – so it's important to focus on the quads, butt and, essentially, the whole body.

For Cathy Ferguson, Bridal Bootcamp is not just about losing weight for her July 8 wedding. Her goal is to eventually drop 100 pounds.

That's why Ferguson, whose time is consumed with the details of her wedding, has been hitting the bridal bootcamp three times a week and the gym three more times.

So far, she has lost more than 35 pounds since she joined last October.

At her last fitting, the dressmaker had to take her wedding gown in a bit. Her fiancé, she says, is thrilled.

"He is very encouraging. He notices my measurements are definitely getting smaller," she says.

Brides, however, are not the only recruits who sign up for Bridal Bootcamp. Vendramini says the list includes single and married women.

Valerie Tih is one. She started training with Vendramini before she married and now, almost a year and a half later, she stays on.

And, from time to time, suggests her husband join her.

"Mine is too scared," she jokes. "He's like, `I don't want to humiliate myself.'"

For those who crave results, trainers say proper eating habits are a must.

That was a problem for Mariela Lopez for many years. "I have a hectic schedule. My eating habits were out of whack," she says. Now, on the advice of her bootcamp instructor, she eats every three hours so that she no longer overdoes it when she gets hungry. So far, she's lost five pounds.

"You can exercise like a dog five days a week, but if you're scarfing down fries, pop, saturated fats and little vegetables and fruits on a daily basis, don't expect to see long-term change," says O'Brien. "You will never see your newly sculpted muscles if they're hiding under a layer of fat."

Additionally, she cautions beginners to remember the importance of consistency.

"Your body didn't get in its current state overnight, it's unrealistic to expect long-term healthy changes in a very short period of time," she says.

"Getting lean and strong is not an event, it's a ongoing, ever changing process."

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Monday, April 02, 2007

Wedding Crafting Begins Again...

While I've got a ton of non-wedding stuff to do (including class assignments, job interviews, etc.), I've started my DIY wedding crafts again.

I'm working on my ceremony program but just finished our favour tag:

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

We'll see how well I blog with the impending time crunch. Only 54 days to go!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Test the Nation

Test the Nation was on CBC on Sunday. Miss it? I did but you can take the test online here:

I got 111. I'm apparently smarter than the average Canadian but not by much! I did very poorly on visual memory and math. The later is embarrassing as I was an accountant but in my defense, we don't use our brain for math - that's what calculators are for! The former, I'll use my old age as an excuse. :P

If you're on Facebook, you can post your results on the wall.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Bridal Shower

My Bridal Shower was on Sunday and here is a review that I posted on a couple of boards - pardon my laziness!

My girls planned the whole thing and while it wasn't a surprise, there were some surprise elements and it was planned well.

We had about 30 of my close family and friends in attendance and it was a tropical-themed potluck shower held at my MOH's party room.

My girls had a scrapbook table where everyone got to do a page and if they wished, include the recipe of the dish that they brought.

We played the traditional games but one with a twist. For the trivia game, instead of chewing gum or another penalty, I had to drink a shot of raspberry vodka for every wrong answer! They had some tricky questions too like FH's first school and of course I got them wrong. Thank goodness I got to sip the vodka instead or I would have had to take about 5 shots and be completely wasted at my own shower.

We also played the purse game as well as a game where the guests had to guess what 24 items I would bring on my honeymoon. I tried to keep it PG but my aunts and friends came up with some raunchy answers.

My MOH knew that we had a honeymoon registry and instead of online contributions subject to a service charge, she put together a honeymoon registry package (similar to the setup online) and spread the word to the guests. This worked amazingly well and we can pay off about a third of the honeymoon! I also got some gifts off our registry.

My BM got the cutest shower favours for everyone off - fortune cookie shaped soaps with a "fortune" in it with "Lisa & Shaun" and our wedding date. Overall, it was wonderful and great to have all (if not most of) the ladies I care about in one room.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Watch what's in your chocolate...

A gross story forwarded by my cousin, originally posted here:

Pregnant woman finds maggots in chocolate

Mar 10, 2007

Chris Traber, Staff Writer

(Markham) - How sweet it isn't.

Brian Diamond's pregnant daughter, Nicola, received a couple of boxes of Ferrero Rocher chocolates for Christmas.

After opening her third treat, she noticed the confectionery was covered in an odd web. Closer inspection revealed a live maggot-like grub.

She checked the previous two wrappers and found a similar web-like substance.

She experienced stomach upset and diarrhea and was afraid it could have harmed her baby.

A doctor advised she could have E. coli, possibly botulism or could develop intestinal parasites. Lab tests were ordered and later confirmed she had no long-term health problems.

On Jan. 2, Mr. Diamond spoke to a representative of the candy manufacturer and asked how to determine the product's expiry date.

A complex code indicated both boxes were manufactured in Brazil and had expired in the summer of 2005, almost a year and a half before they were purchased in downtown Toronto.

The Markham computer executive wanted to know how a product so far past its expiry date entered the country and was sold.

In the ensuing weeks, Mr. Diamond engaged in a telephone and e-mail campaign with Ferrero Rocher, Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

To his dismay, he discovered the manufacturer wasn't obligated by law to recommend a "sell-by" date. Health Canada's jurisdiction is focused on food manufactured in Canada.

Both Ferrero Rocher and the federal agency picked up samples of the candy by mid-January.

Tests conducted at Guelph University by the manufacturer confirmed the presence of an Indian meal moth, "a common pantry pest found worldwide".

Agency lab results concluded the product contained moth larvae and feces, web cocoons and both live and dead chrysalis, the pupal stage of the moth.

Ferrero Rocher offered Mr. Diamond coupons for more chocolate. He refused. The company offered him $500, which he also refused.

"I told them the decimal point was in the wrong place," Mr. Diamond said. "I would have settled for $5,000 and to know what checks and balances are in place so that I will know it's safe to buy their candies again.

"It boggles the mind. I've been in consumer products all my life. If a customer complains, you listen and fix it. They were so blasÈ and cavalier. They just don't care."

Several telephone calls to Ferrero Rocher were not returned to the Economist & Sun.

"I want to create public awareness about your exposure to contaminated products like this," he said.

He has kept the product samples at his Unionville home.

If he doesn't get satisfaction, Mr. Diamond said he will create a personal website linked to consumer web bases to share his experience.

"I might put the product on eBay and sell it as a personal maggot farm," he said.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Friday, February 23, 2007

Another layout:

(click on the image for a larger view).

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Casual China picked out!

So we (hopefully) went for our last visit to Home Outfitters for registering. We're really tired of registering and every time we pick something out, like towels, we find out they're discontinued. Of course, this time it was no exception. We don't care! We're sticking with it and if they're gone, we'll pick something out after the wedding. We had picked out some casual china a previous visit but only saw it in the box. This time, seeing it in person, we didn't like it and picked something new. We went with Portmeirion by Sophie Conran. While we originally wanted some square casual china, nothing jumped out at us but the Sophie Conran stuff is beautiful. This is a salad bowl we registered for:

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day!

Hope everyone is enjoying the day with loved ones. In Toronto, it's a Snow Day! Shaun and I started the day by shoveling. Nothing says love like clearing your driveway. ;) Shaun has dinner plans (not with me) and I'm supposed to run tonight. We're poor with the wedding planning and decidedly unromantic.

I did do some digital scrapbooking today. I'm procrastinating with basically everything and decided to get to know Photoshop a little more.

Here is the page I put together:

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Tuxes are ordered!

Haven't been too productive with wedding stuff lately but we did go in to pick the guys' tuxes yesterday.

We got the tux deal at the National Bridal Show in the fall so all the guys get their tuxes fo $75 + insurance and tax (total $91ish).

We went with the Alfred Sung notch lapel three button jackets, with flat front pants and matrix patterned vests and ties. Shaun will be wearing a silver tie and vest while the other guys are wearing solid black ties and matrix vests.

One more thing checked off the list!

Monday, January 29, 2007


So I'm not a regular gym goer. I'm trying but its not working very well. :(

I did some weights Friday night and I feel like the weakest person. My upper body is in pain and I had the machines mostly on the first (lowest) weight. I know, wimpy.

After a late Saturday night out with the girls (thanks for a good evening!), I woke up at 7:30 for some brekkie and then running at 8:30. I think I morphed into a tortoise as that was absolutely one of my worst runs ever! 13K felt like a lifetime, especially in the snow. Now my left ankle is sore. :( Can someone please remind me again why I choose to run?

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Makeup and Hair Trial

I had my trial Saturday with Marie from Beauty on the Go and I really liked it!

Love the hair and the makeup is nice. I was looking more for blushing bride pink but that didn't go with my colouring so let's go with what works and still looks good.

Monday, January 15, 2007

No free honeymoon! :(

The contest ended yesterday and we didn't win. We didn't even make it to the top three couples. I guess we're not that perfect after all. Lol.

Oh well, in a way, I'm glad we didn't win. They never announced the destination and Shaun and I really wanted to go to Negril, Jamaica. I saved my points to fly us there business class too and likely, the free trip would have been economy/coach. Not that that's bad just not what we wanted for our honeymoon. I'm also such a foodie that if we got a trip to Cuba or something, I would have starved and been grumpy. Anyway, congrats to the winning couple and thanks to everyone who voted for us.

I'm just glad that's over with! I like to know things and planning can now continue. My bridesmaids are planning a shower for me early March and the theme is Honeymoon so hopefully we'll have some gifts off the honeymoon registry.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Flatware is picked out!

Why is registering so hard? Everytime we go to the Bay or Home Outfitters or even going online at Canadian Tire, we only register for ONE thing. This time, we picked out our flatware and it took about an hour!

Here it is:
It's Oneida Couplet.

Now we have to decide on crystal. Yikes!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Happy New Year Everyone!

I took a Christmas/New Year's break from blogging but I'm now back...

What did I do during the break?
  • I got my eyes lasered! Yes, I now have perfect vision in my right eye and close to perfect vision in my left
  • I started knitting a new tank top (I just finished Shaun's scarf and that took me 3 years!) - let's see when I can get that done
  • Ate and drank wayyy to much (let's say yesterday was big time recovery day).
What do I have to get done this month?
  • Get my hair cut and coloured
  • Have my bridal hair and makeup tria on the 20th
  • Start a new HR course (HR planning and development)
  • Start a new running clinic - doing the Marathon clinic but not running a marathon - got three races planned before the wedding!
  • Do some recruiting - the second round of busy season is starting. :( Hopefully, not as much travelling as the fall.
  • Do more wedding planning! Only five and a half months away!