29 June 2009

Finger's Crossed ....

So, tomorrow is THE day. It's been 8 weeks since I finished my two week course of IL-2 and tomorrow we find out if it's working. Have I mentioned that I can actually feel most of the tumors in my body? Mmm hmmm. Think of sitting at your desk, having an itch, not really thinking about it and scratching it but woops .... there's that pesky cancer. They're like little kidney beans just hanging out. It's a blessing and a curse. It seems that the melanoma nodes keep moving and shifting closer to my skin, which is great because it would make them fairly simple to remove and it makes me think that my body is trying to push this out of my system somehow. Of course it also makes me slowly lose my mind. I spent a sizable amount of time this morning feeling myself up and going back and forth ... "I think it really does seem much smaller than it was 4 weeks ago." "Wait, maybe it's just shifted position and now I can't feel the whole thing." This goes on for a few minutes and then I realize I'm driving myself completely, certifiably nuts. In 24 hours we'll know, and until then no matter how much groping I do I just won't be able to figure it all out.

So.... we're hoping for "shrinkage" or at least stability again. Let's be honest, I'm looking for results! I'm hoping that they tell me it's clear that the IL-2 is working, and I sign up to start another round next week. I can't tell you how badly I want to do it all over again! I've never looked forward to feeling like crap so much in my life. So tomorrow, keep your fingers crossed for us. Say a prayer to whichever God you pray to. I don't turn down any kind of faith. I had a friend bribe a priest in Brazil apparently on my behalf a few years ago when she found out I'd been diagnosed. They had a quick ceremony, lit some candles, some money passed hands and she told me I'd be fine ... that we should just samba. All positive thoughts are welcome! Hopefully my next update will have dates that we'll be closed so that we can finally kick the crap out of this once and for all and move on.

Oh... here's my favorite new t-shirt:

25 June 2009

Inspired by "The Butt Dance"

Anyone else out there addicted to "So You Think You Can Dance?" I've never missed an episode. I danced when I was younger, and will literally watch anything (no matter how bad or cliche the plot is) that involves great choreography. This week I found myself hitting rewind on the Tivo for yet another Mia Michaels routine .... the "butt dance." Yes, she used the butt as inspiration. It wasn't really the butt that got me inspired, it was the music and costuming. I love that vintage, 1940's lingerie, French kind of charm. This lead me to a inspiration board:

1st row: Bleu garters, vintage French mirror, Elie Saab dress, image from The Paris Apartment
2nd row: Reem Acra gown, vintage Vogue pattern, Vogue images
3rd row: Vogue, The Paris Apartment

... and this lead me to a new invite design
which I'd love to mail out with a thin lace beaded ribbon wrapped around it...

Planning For Africa

So I finally did it... we pulled the trigger this morning and have booked our trip to Africa this Fall. Late-September cannot come soon enough! We haven't taken a vacation in a couple of years, and after all of the medical drama this is truly needed. For anyone thinking of going to Africa for their honeymoon, I have a few planning secrets to share!

Our trip is going to be 4 full weeks (Sept. 20-Oct. 17) which also just so happens to coincide with our slow time of year. I wanted to start in Cape Town as it's an easy city to get to, and from everything I've read, it's a great way to ease yourself into Africa. We'll be flying via Amsterdam or Dubai depending on pricing (I'm trying to finagle a business class flight for the longest leg on Emirates Airline.) I've been using http://www.kayak.com/ to compare rates over the last couple of months. They're a great resource, and you can then book your flights directly with the airlines. From Boston, the trip should take about 20 hours. Not too bad ... our last trip to Asia wound up taking 43 hours each way. I just keep reminding myself of that.

I started mapping out the route we're going to take about 4 months ago (6+ months before the trip.) Safaris book up early at the best camps even in a slow economy, and there are many people who book more than a year in advance. I decided the best route for us would be:

Cape Town, South Africa
Franschhoek, South Africa (wine country)
Kruger National Park, South Africa (safari)
Livingstone, Zambia (Victoria Falls)
Day trip to the Zimbabwe side of the Falls
Johannesburg, South Africa (transiting for one night)
Nairobi, Kenya
Masai Mara, Kenya (to see the great migration)
Zanzibar, Tanzania

This route allows us to fly directly back home from Zanzibar rather than having to head back to Cape Town first. It also limits the amount of days we'll spend traveling from place to place, and it allowed us to wind up at Victoria Falls for the full moon. You're supposed to be able to see a lunar rainbow at night.

The other reason for the route is that it allowed us to take advantage of package deals. How do you find the deals? I subscribe to Travel and Leisure and Conde Naste Traveler. I started by sitting down one day and tearing out every single article I could find on South or Eastern Africa, as well as every "top 100" or "top 50" list for the last couple of years. I wrote down the hotels, resorts and tour companies that made multiple appearances. Never assume that just because a property is in one of those magazines that it's out of your budget. For instance, I found that the Westin Hotel in Cape Town is on multiple top 10 lists, but is $144 a night for a deluxe room. Le Grande Roche (right outside of Cape Town) is ranked the 2nd best hotel in the world! It's $245 a night. Not bad!

I got online in search of luxury safari companies running sales. http://www.luxurylink.com/ gave me a lot of clues. If you hit their site (they also have travel packages and info for other regions of the world,) you'll see which hotels and companies are offering specials. My thought was, you don't offer up packages for auction on a website unless you're a little flexible on price! That's how I decided our best bet was a company called AndBeyond.

A little time spent searching http://www.andbeyond.com/ surfaced all kinds of discount offers, but the key is the time of year. For instance, they are running a Stay for 3 nights / pay for 2 nights special in their South African lodges, but the special ends Oct. 1. I planned the trip so that we would be checking into their Ngala Lodge Sept 29 and out Oct 2 so that we would qualify. I can't imagine the game viewing is that much better Oct 1st than it is Sept 30th. We also signed on for a package in Masai Mara, Kenya at Kichwa Tembo where they were able to throw in free flights to and from the safari camp, and they were able to give us off season rates on 2 nights at their higher-end camp because they did not have availability at the camp we'd originally requested. These little discounts added up to saving us thousands of dollars in the end. Safaris are all priced per person, so costs rise very, very fast. However, we did say when we decided to do this that it's probably a once in a lifetime opportunity and a place to splurge. Doesn't everyone want to have the Out of Africa experience at some point in life.

The other place we saved money was in all the little extras. By using the forums of Trip Advisor and Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree I was able to find the best way to rent cars, book airport transfers, and find low cost airlines that the sites like Expedia don't search for our shorter flights between countries. I was also able to find little gems like where to book a Malay cooking class in Cape Town, or where to book a "Jazz Safari" where you go to the townships at night, have dinner at a local musicians home and then go out on the town to dance till 2AM. Those are the experiences I can't wait to have! I'm in search of the local medicine man!

Where are you going on your next trip? Any suggestions for finding deals? Any South African or Kenyan brides out there with "must do" ideas for us? We're game for anything!

22 June 2009

Silver for Your Registry

When Dade and I got married, we didn't register for silverware. We opted instead for a reasonably priced set of stainless steel everyday flatware from Crate and Barrel. I'd been warned by friends that if you register for pricey silver items, you'll end up with 3 spoons and a fork, and have to either return it or buy the rest yourself. Now... I guess that depends on how large a wedding your having, but I tend to think it would have been true for us.

Yesterday, I found the happy medium! Fairly inexpensive silver that is completely up my alley. I have the stainless steel version of this, but now I wish I'd gone silver!

Napastyle's antique silverware by the pound:
From their website: "So, you’re hosting 20 people for a special dinner and you don’t have enough place settings to go around? Buy your silverware by the pound! This is the greatest idea in silverware we’ve seen in a long time! These authentic vintage utensils date back to the ’ 20s and ’30s—all fine-quality, silver-plated, and newly polished to perfection. They’re gathered from estate sales, vintage markets and antique stores all over the US and Europe. And so what if the pieces don’t match? That’s half the fun! It’s a true celebration of life—the second time around—and a most meaningful form of sustainability. Hand wash for better preservation. Patterns and dimensions will vary. US/Imported. "

$29.99 for a 5 piece setting / $99.99 for a 20 piece set.

Scott's Flowers

We've had the privilege of working with Scott's Flowers, (Chelsea, NYC) for a few years now and can tell you that they're a joy. I woke up this morning to an email from them offering a free bridal bouquet when you book your event with them by the end of the summer. I figured it might be worth investigating for some of our readers...

16 June 2009

Knocking Off Early...

That's right, I'm out of here! Tonight I am taking my husband out for a very sentimental date. We're going to see Fleetwood Mac (7th row center baby!) Here comes the moment you find out I'm a little nuts. I'm a bit of a Stevie Nicks fanatic. I grew up listening to her music and fell in love with the way she writes songs. I sported leg warmers and boots as an 8 year old. I think she's the one celebrity who I'd start hysterically shaking like a 13 year old and pass out if I ever met her.

Now here is yet another reason I knew Dade was the guy for me. 8 years ago, he popped the question in the pouring rain at a Stevie Nicks concert. I realize that for some people this might seem a little odd. It wasn't on a gondola ride in Venice, or over a 12 course dinner at The French Laundry ... but it was exactly what I wanted. It was proof positive that he really got me. It was that or holding a boom box over his head blaring Peter Gabriel ala Loyd Dobler which really would have been a close second. So tonight we get to go see Stevie again with a few close friends, and I am declaring work done for the day! However, seeing as printing wedding invites as posters seems to be the new trend, I leave you with some inspiration...

For Our UK Brides

We all love cheap accessories right? Well, if you like in the U.K. you have access to Monsoon, one of my favorite chain stores for finding sparky things. I picked up a couple of fun scarves the last time I was in London (deep sigh ... I miss London.) Well, I found their website recently, and while they don't currently ship to the U.S., I had to share some inexpensive and fun finds that I think could work perfectly for a wedding.

I'm in love with these flower girl dresses. They're like little fairy outfits...

Some of these would make really fun bridesmaid dresses:

This would work for an afternoon garden wedding:

... and doesn't someone feel like mailing this to me? Pretty please? I can work out a trade...