Thursday, November 28, 2013

Gobble Gobble.

1983

1959

1970 (Snoop has made more parade
appearances than any other balloon!)
From my family to yours, wishing you a very 
Happy Thanksgiving. 
May all the things you're thankful for continue to bring you love and joy. 
(Click HERE for more awesome Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade pics from the past)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Hump Day Distractions

Discussing their preferred hair product?
Because no day creeps by as slowly as the day before vacation, here are some delightful distractions from around the web to get you through the end of this half week and straight on to the turkey!! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving my merry friends!

* THIS dog is hysterical, awesome, disciplined and just damn cool.
* A little Thanksgiving drinking game for those looking to make their turkey day extra "interesting".
* Adorable Thanksgiving Printables for those looking to cute-n up their table.
* Who knew there were enough songs out there to create an entire Channuka playlist?
* Want to see Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling fall in love for the first time!?
* Have you heard about the invisible bike helmet? Would you trust it?
*I've already got a Peter Pan collar dress, but someone has got to buy THIS dress!! (via exPress-o)
* NFL football another way... Graphic designers are oh so crafty! 
* A fantastic answer to the age old question "are silent farts really more deadly?"

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

That voodoo that you do...

Pick an acupoint, any acupoint
Have you ever tried acupuncture? I confess, I was a long time skeptic of the traditional Chinese medicine, assuming that any relief it provided could be matched by a healthy does of Advil, but thanks to Dr. H (a long time user and believer in acupuncture for his back issues) last winter I decided to give it a try to combat my knee pain (THIS never quite fixed the problem). Well thank goodness for having an open mind because, I was quickly hooked on monthly visits which keep my knee from aching. And then there was my own back, which inexplicably tightened up into muscle-relaxer worthy spasms last week (when did I get so old!?) I paid a visit to my acupuncturist last night and not only did her magical needles instantly relieve some of my pain, but I woke up this morning feeling remarkably close to "all better". Praise ancient medicine!! 

Acupuncture involves placing hair-thin needles in various pressure points (acupoints) throughout the body. Though this sounds a little creepy/kooky, I assure you, the needles are nothing more than a slight prick before they are manipulated to create an incredible feeling of release (that will have you mentally scheduling your next appt before you even get off the table!) So what's the deal with this voo doo-like magical sensation!? According to Chinese philosophy, the body's 2 opposing forces, yin and yang must stay in balance for our bodies to feel good. Our energy, called qi ("chee"), flows along pathways throughout the body and that flow is what keeps the yin and yang balanced. If the flow becomes blocked, acupuncture can stimulate these points with needles, relieving obstructions in the flow of energy and enabling your body to heal. And if you aren't into that earthy/crunchy explanation of why acupuncture works, western thinking is that acupuncture works by stimulating the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord) to release chemicals (neurotransmitters and hormones) which dull pain, boost the immune system and regulate various body functions.

A believer and now a preacher, I know others who love acupuncture for everything from pain relief to assistance quitting smoking (you go girl!) So next time you have an ache or pain that you just can't kick, I urge you to give acupuncture a try. Even if yins and yangs and qi aren't your thing, I promise the relief that a few pricks of the needle provides will be!

PS- If you're in NYC, my girl Bianca is the bees knees (and she schedules appts via email and text message which is about as convenient as you can get:)

Monday, November 25, 2013

Healthy Habit of the Month XI.

You CAN. I know you can.
This post is the 11th installment of SeektobeMerry's "Healthy Habit of the Month" series. Sourced from my bff's at Weight Watchers, online articles and my own efforts to keep fit and trim, throughout 2013, I will attempt to integrate one new healthy habit into my life each month. Join me!

Can you believe that it's been 11 months!? With 10 new healthy habits behind us, how would you rate your progress? While I'd love to brag and say that I'm a fitter, trimmer, healthier me through and through, I'm gonna be honest with you all and say, "I'm getting there". Like so many other "life changes" I try to implement (shop less, clean up more, etc) I have bouts of success as well as periods of struggle (not failure, no one here fails!) Sometimes I'm nailing 7 or 8 of our habits feelin like a boss, and other times sweatpants Meri takes over and I'm a sedentary, veggie-less mess. These things take time... and persistence... commitment. Which is why this month's healthy habit isn't about adding more, but instead...

Healthy Habit of the Month #11: Double Down
This month we're going to get serious about our success by doubling down. Take a look at all of the healthy habits we've tried to implement this year (full recap below). Where were you the most successful? For me, I have stuck to a scheduled workout every week since setting that goal, so I'm going to double down and try to schedule TWO (whoa!) Maybe you were great at the monthly challenge? Go back for another, but this time include two activities like squats and crunches. If packing a snack is now part of your daily routine, maybe you bump it up a notch and also pack lunch? You get the idea. During this hectic time of year, it's easy to let healthy habits slide, so instead of trying to add another new thing to your routine, take your strong suit and make it even stronger!

Be sure to check out past "Healthy Habit of the Month" posts here: 
Month 1: Adding a fruit or vegetable to every meal
Month 2: Schedule a workout
Month 3: Find an accountability buddy
Month 4: Keep track (of your movement)
Month 5: Challenge yourself
Month 6: 1 Perfect Week
Month 7: Sleep on it
Month 8: Pack a Snack
Month 9: Drink up!
- Month 10: Rise & Shine with lemon

Friday, November 22, 2013

Frenchie

Hey there little buddy..!
I have never been a fan of French Bulldogs in particular (I've always been more of an English Bulldog gal) but lately I've come across some Frenchie photos which make me wonder if these guys are in fact just as awesome as their British counterparts...

Good day sir.

Just clowning around.
As I continue to contemplate which breed of dog I'm going to force Dr. H to let into my life, the French Bulldog's apparent willingness to be posed in any sort of costume or location certainly peaks my interest...

Need a push?

Pup after my own heart...

I can't even...
For a little more Frenchie fabulousness to bring a smile to your face, click HERE
Cheers to a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thanksgiving + Hanukkah =

This post brought to you by the fabulous 

Thanksgivukkah. Are you familiar? Ok good, glad that’s taken care of (but please please please do not brine your turkey in Manischewitz, it would be much more fitting, and tasty, to deep-fry it). To me, Thanksgivukkah is like when two of your fav movies are on 2 different channels instead of back-to-back, or if the Golden Globes and Oscars were on the same night, or like a traffic jam when you’re already late (oops, nope, sorry, lost it there for a minute). Spread the joy around a little, wouldja? I know Merry Meri and I agree that, at first, we were not so merry about these holidays overlapping.

I like my Thanksgiving - time with family, in a warm house, eating warm, yummy food and feeling blessed to have all of those things, and more, in my life. And then roughly three weeks later (give or take) our houses fill with warmth once more, this time, from the light of the Menorah at sundown. We eat fried potato latkes with sour cream (so so so good) or applesauce (also delish) and fried dough (sufganiyot). We fry, ok? It’s alllll about the oil (but isn’t everything, really?). Oh, and I watch this video multiple times daily. I love these holidays. So while the overlapping is fun, and a chance to change things up, I’m a wee bit disappointed that within a week, both holidays will be over.

But it IS once-in-a-lifetime, and next year the holiday season will be back to normal (and it’s not in my nature to be a scrooge). So, let’s celebrate! Buy the Menurkey  (g-e-n-i-u-s!) Wear the shirts! Or if you’re me and my family…

* put colorful dreidels in glass vases and DIY a mini pumpkin menorah for centerpieces
* Pop a super cute printable into an 8x10 frame for instant d├ęcor. Oh wait…I couldn’t really find one that worked…
Soooo…I made one!1 And I’m sharing it with you! Click the image above to open it, save it to your computer and print as an 8x10. Use it to jazz up the dessert table, or add to a mantle display, or don’t, because you’re either A. not Jewish or B. don’t believe in Pilgrims or sweet potato pie. Enjoy!

1 I ‘designed’ this in Photoshop Elements. While this is an original, with the prevalence of Pinterest, and Etsy, and general interwebs, I’m sure that the inspiration sunk into my subconscious at some point. I also used a few fairly ubiquitous phrases that have popped up along with Thanksgivukkah.

For previous posts from (parent)thetically speaking, click HERE.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Hump Day Distractions

They say it's chocolate swirl ice cream...
but I think we all know what this emoji is about
How are we holding up today my friends? It seemed like yesterday was a rough one across the board, with at least a dozen different people I encountered (and I don't think that's an exaggeration!) bemoaning that it was just a "tough day". Preach. I've been recovering from some sort of "when-did-I-get-so-old!?" lower back injury since Sunday night, popping Aleve like candy and using a heating pad at my desk #oldballs. Here to help you survive today, and get one step closer to the glorious shortened holiday week that's just around the corner, are some fun goodies from around the web. Enjoy!!

* Have family coming to visit you in NYC this holiday season (I do!)? Just want to get out and get into the spirit?! Click HERE for some excellent ideas and events going on around the city!
* 10 things to stop doing so you can get happy.
* This mom seems pretty bad ass.
* These are an excellent blend of hysterical, creative and occasionally quite creepy...
* Aca-scuse me!? You need more a cappella Beyonce in your life?
* Have you met these two best buddies yet? Prepare to say awwww (x, 1,000,000)
* Well THAT is an inventive and delicious looking combination of foods I love!
* Mom always said she was the most evil Disney villain... now she's got her own movie to prove it!
* This girl cracks me up (last one is my favorite)!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Oops!


Also, all the blog posts I want to write. Sorry folks, we'll try again tomorrow.

ps. for all my fellow history geeks, Happy 150th Anniversary Gettysburg Address. 
Click HERE for some pretty nifty (perfect word) facts about Honest Abe's famous speech.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Counting Down...

Perfect for the kids' table!
Hello hello and happy Monday my merry friends! I am officially in "it's almost the holidays" mode, thanks to Thanksgivukkah being just 10 days away. Even more exciting though is that I will be departing for the land of loving Grandparents and sun (aka, Florida) in one week from tomorrow. Tick tock is it time to go yet!?

Here to get us into the holiday spirit are some standout Thanksgiving suggestions - everything from tablescape to a hostess gift and dessert, it's time to get our turkey on people!!

Gold & Burlap elegance.
This table decor is so easy to execute and so elegant to look at that I'm actually disappointed to not be hosting a feast of my own to set it up at. Simply pick up some pine cones, gourds, berry branches, leaves and any other seasonal items your yard (or nearest Michaels crafts store) has to offer and head outside with a can of gold spray paint. Lay across the center of your table on a burlap (or other solid color) runner, add some votive candles and voila! The classiest Turkey Day table you ever did see!

Bite sized YUM
I love this idea! Since everyone loves the crispy outer edges of the stuffing casserole dish, why not make every bite an edge!? Using a muffin tin to bake your stuffing (whatever recipe you prefer) creates adorable individual portions with lots of crispy edges for everyone to enjoy.

Put a bow(tie) on it!
Looking to one-up all those guests who arrive with a bottle of wine and say "thanks for having me?" How about this idea from Real Simple? Pick up some fresh "Italian for dinner" supplies (pasta, sauce, herbs, olive oil) then box and wrap them with string and (pasta) bows. Adorable, inexpensive and perfect for the Saturday night after when the idea of more leftovers just isn't cutting it!

Candy Corn "bark"
Helllllo lover. Time to put all that leftover candy corn to use before it's out of "season"!! 
Click HERE for the full recipe or HERE to pin it. YUM.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Eat, Sleep, etc.

I'm with ya kid.
When I found that picture, I couldn't believe how perfectly it embodied how I'm feeling on this sunny fall Friday. Really hungry and pretty darn tired... I'm ready for a tasty meal and a serious nap. Way to get things done kid.

Also, want to hear something kinda nuts? In two weeks from today, Thanksgiving will be over and Channuka will already be underway. Holy holiday season how quickly you've snuck up on me!! (And don't even get me started on the turkey/dreidel overlap, more on that next week...) This will be my last weekend hanging at home for a bit, so I'm hoping for a solid combination of productive (I need to get gift shopping!) and relaxing (family Sunday brunch reservations made.) And since we've still got plenty of football to be watching:

"Feed Your Football Face" Recipe of the Week: 
Cranberry, Butternut and Brussels Sprout Brie Skillet Nachos
* brought to you by Half Baked Harvest
These my friends, are not you're average nachos. These are a high brow, brie-tastic, fancy feasting treat perfect for your "it's too damn cold outside, this game will be better from the comfort of my couch" viewing party.

Since this recipe has a whole lot of ingredients (and some pretty drool-inducing photos) on the Half Baked Harvest site, why don't you just click HERE to learn how to cranberry, butternut, brussel sprout brie nacho your weekend or click HERE to Pin it for later.

And for all of the "Feed Your Football Face" recipes of the week, click HERE.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Have you heard about Dinovember?

Every so often, I stumble upon something so amazeballs on the internet that I decide it is worthy of its own post here on SeektobeMerry. Dinovember is just such an amazeballs discovery...


Dinovember is the brainchild of two amazing parents who worried that our technology-centric world would lead to a loss of their kids' sense of wonder and imagination. To keep the magic alive, at night after the kids go to bed, their dinosaurs "come to life" and create mischief throughout the house.


Or sometimes they hang out and have fun...

I just love imagining these two adults, sitting around after their kids go to bed, setting up these amazing scenes, essentially playing with the toys themselves (because isn't that kinda what they're doing!?) 

 And just when you thought it couldn't get any better, Dinovember is becoming something of a craze, with dinosaurs coming alive at night in homes across the country!! Click HERE to see more pictures and read the original story about Dinovember (the photo captions are really funny and the short blurb from the father/author is super sweet) then click HERE to check out the Facebook page they've created which is filled with more hysterical pictures from the founders of Dinovember as well as submissions from other dinosaur-filled homes! And if you want to get in on the action yourself... #dinovember is all you need to do!!!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Hump Day Distractions

Peel it girl!
Hello and Happy Hump Day from feels like freakin February NYC!!! It is bleepin chilly round these parts today, but despite the cold, I knew it was gonna be a good one when my Soul instructor Charlee (beast in the best possible way!) started our ride with a ridonky remix of the opening song from the Lion King. "Naaaaa-simbey-ahhh!!!" I mean, how do you not smile when that happens!? Just in case you didn't kick off your day with the Lion King, here are some delightful distractions to get your through.

* Do I need this iPhone case? I think I need this iPhone case. (85% chance I order it after I post this...)
* Well THAT is a brilliant idea!
* Remember my obsession with the PenguinCam at the San Diego Sea World?! Well move over pengies, there's a new polar star in town! (via exPress-o)
* Because everyone loves a new way to prepare quinoa. Yum.
* Finally a reason to move to Russia - I would have been riding free during my 30 day squat challenge!!
* How to make sure your purchases are always worth purchasing.
* HEY DR. H ARE YOU LISTENING!?!?! 20 more reasons why I'm right and it's gonna happen (soon:) 
* Who out there knits and when are you making THESE for Stella and Ferdinand? (thanks (parent)thetically speaking!)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The most important thing to prep for the holidays...

Well hello there!
With the holidays fast approaching, everyone is buzzing about appetizers, desserts, gifts and hosting, so I thought I would take a few steps back from the chaos and talk about something really important: your hair. Specifically, how you my friend, can be the envy of all at the table with a simple, sassy hairdo. Now before you go "but I can't!" I'm here to say "oh yes you can!" Many updos are far easier than you would expect and just require a bit of patience, good product and maybe a test run the day before, to achieve perfection.

This style from The Beauty Department is great "for shorties" like myself. Can't really use a curling iron? No problem, sleep with your hair slightly damp and in a bun the night before for gentle, natural body. Can't do fancy french braids? (Me neither!) Try these knots (like tying your shoe) for a way simpler way to achieve the same texture. Full post HERE. Pinterest HERE.

Another simple to execute but totally adorable style from The Beauty Department. This look is great for girlies with bangs, side bangs or just one who rocks a bun. The final result is charming and fresh with very little fuss. Full post HERE. Pinterest HERE.

Well, it doesn't get much easier than this! The "Tuck and Cover" from My Soul is the Sky requires only shoulder-ish length hair and 2 elastic hairbands to give you this classic-meets-bohemian look. Full post HERE. Pinterest HERE.

Bed head has never looked so good! This sexy braided look from A Little Bit Of... is casual "hippie-chic" and in my opinion perfect for a hearty Thanksgiving meal followed by backyard football and couch lounging. Absolutely one of those styles that tricks people into thinking you have crazy hair stylin skills! Full post HERE. Pinterest HERE

Merry Meri Hair Tricks of the Trade:
* Try a style out for the first time when your hair is wet. Even though this may not deliver a lot of body, wet hair has great hold for styling and it lets you practice the moves required to get the style right.
* Never use clean hair!! Wash the night (or ideally day) before for optimal oily/non-silky hair. If you have bangs or front angle pieces and are worried about looking greasy, pull those out and wash/blowdry just that front section before starting to style. If your hair is unavoidably freshly washed and dried, try spraying with a light hold spray first to make it less soft.
* Accessorize to hide imperfection!! (A personal favorite.) This past weekend I successfully copied a style I had done by a pro by using black hair flowers (approx $3 at Forever 21) to hide my whispy-stick-outs and sloppy bobby pin job. H&M and Forever 21 have an awesome inexpensive collection of pins, clips, scarves and flowers to add some sass to your style (while secretly hiding its flaws!)
* Have the right tools on hand. Tiny clear elastics, lots of bobby pins, light hold spray and heavy hold spray (for 1 final spritz at the end if it's a tighter style).
* Don't wait until the day-of to try a new style for the first time, especially if you aren't used to styling your own hair. Take some time on a quiet Saturday or Sunday morning to sit in front of the mirror and play around. Improvise based on your own hair's length and texture and don't be afraid to pull it all out and start over (I usually do at least twice!)
* Click HERE, HERE and HERE for a few other styles that I turn to on a regular basis for hair wow'ing!

PS- In case you were wondering how the plans from THIS post were coming, I was on an un-avoiding ROLL last night! Closet, sheets, laundry, dinner... I even scrubbed the stove top. Game on Fall Funk.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Fall Funk.

Are you ready to un-funk with me!?
Lately I have been in a bit of a fall funk. Not the sad, mopey or grumpy type of funk (yes, there are various iterations of funk) more the lazy, unmotivated, can't force myself to do the things I'm usually able to get done, sort of funk. Each night it's the same thing - I could work out, but I could also put on sweatpants.... I could cook dinner, but I could also just order takeout... I could clean, organize, wash _______, but I could also NOT. Lately I've been opting for a whole lot of NOT.

And the crazy thing is that the more I roll around in my cozy little funk of non-productivity, the more willing I am to stay there. I mean, if I can't remember the last time I washed my sheets, what difference will 1 more night make? I can always go back to cooking and exercising tomorrow... So what's an obsessed-with-being-productive-girl to do? How are we going to de-funk from this epic episode of laziness? Lists and Moderation my friends. I believe any overwhelming task can be solved with a neat little list and manageable goals so this week I'm going to select 2 tasks per night that I've been avoiding and un-avoid them. Tonight I'm going to wash those damn sheets and tidy my closet (which underwent an emergency pipe fix last week that led to everything having to come out. BUMMER.) If I'm feeling wild and crazy I might even cook Dr. H dinner (but let's not get too carried away). With an organizing list and taking it 2 things at a time, I'm hoping that like most good-for-you activities, getting over the hump of starting will lead to the smug satisfaction of accomplishment that keeps the ball rolling. I mean it's Monday and the week is my oyster. Who's with me!?

Friday, November 8, 2013

Is it over yet!?

word.
Even though this week went by relatively quickly, I am so ready for the weekend. So. Ready. So let's all check out these goodies meant to entertain, amuse, feed and inform, then power down our computers and get the hell outta here! Have a great weekend :)

watch out for the yellow ones Buddy!
So I think it's a bit early to be pushing Christmas (though Radio City Music Hall obviously disagrees, their tree has been up for 2 weeks now!) but when I stumbled upon THIS list of secrets from my most favorite Christmas movie Elf, I simply had to share.

awwww
Those are some pretty darn cute rats. (<-- and that is something I never imagined I would say.)


Those are pictures of the Lower East Side of Manhattan... YESTERDAY!!! Apparently Steven Soderbergh is filming a Cinemax miniseries called The Knick right now and transformed Broome and Orchard streets to look like something straight out of the early 1900s. Can you imagine accidentally stumbling upon that while out and about? What a mind trip! So freaking cool.
I like it.

And lastly, because it's Friday and someone has to bring the sweet treat to the tailgate...
"Feed Your Football Face" Recipe of the Week: Sprinkle Nutella Rolls*
*brought to you by Inside BruCrew Life
Ok, so these guys look epic-bananas levels of delicious and I was thrilled to discover that they are epic-bananas levels of easy to make: 
Ingredients
1 package crescent rolls (Pillsbury)
1/2 cup Nutella spread
sprinkles

Instructions
Unroll the crescent rolls and press together the seams. Spread with Nutella. Make sure to not go all the way to the edge. Top with sprinkles. Gently roll up. Cut into 9 even slices. Place in a glass baking dish with room around each one.
Bake at 375* for 14 minutes. Let cool slightly before eating. Top with more sprinkles if desired.

Click HERE to Pin it, click HERE for the full recipe (and super helpful step-by-step images) and click HERE for all of the Feed Your Football Face Recipes of the week!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Au Naturale.

Makeup free and still stunning
Yesterday I was naked all day. Not naked as in "get some clothes on woman!" but naked as in 100% makeup free. You see, I start every Wednesday with a workout (at least once per week, as promised!) and I shower and head straight to work afterwards. Occasionally,  I forget to pack all the essentials in my gym bag and yesterday it was my makeup (for the record, the time I forgot a bra was way worse!) 

Now, I have a far from comprehensive daily makeup routine. Some under eye concealer and brightener, followed by a quick swipe of bronzer, blush and eyeliner are pretty much it, but without those few products, I felt exposed and certainly less put together. Nevertheless, as the day wore on and my un-lined, grey circled eyes seemed even more noticeable, there was something kind of refreshing about going au naturale. My skin looked like my skin and I felt less oily and day-old-makeupy. Sure my "flaws" were hanging out for all to see (and I would have made an emergency trip to Sephora for a face of tester makeup if I'd had plans to go out after work!), but for "just another Wednesday" I think I sported "natural beauty" fairly well (I wonder what my co-workers thought!!) 

Next time you have a chance, consider giving your face a day off from painted on perfection - you may not have the flawless look you're accustomed to, but I'm guessing that fresh faced natural you is pretty beautiful too!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Hump Day Distractions

Awwww yeah.
Is it Friday yet? No seriously... IS IT FRIDAY YET!?! Man oh man... at least the temperatures warmed up? Here for your humping pleasure is a big 'ol list of goodies from around the web. Enjoy!

* Lose 10 lbs like Beyonce. 
* An interesting study on the impact of tv on littlest kiddos. I see where they're coming from, but I dunno... Sesame Street and Dora don't really seem to be hurting anybody...
* Yes please.
* If only I had a dresser drawer to spare, this organizational DIY looks fabulous!
* I want to go to there... all of theres.
* Since I suffer from self-diagnosed seasonal affective disorder, I will definitely be trying some of THESE tips.
* These cracked me up big time.
* Six foods that will help keep you healthy this flu season.
* The secret of the mystery flavor revealed!!
* A beautiful video that every mom should see.
* These are absolutely more important than work right now (prepare to smile!)

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Our Tour de France

As you may remember, last month Dr. H and I celebrated our 2nd wedding anniversary by treating ourselves to a vacation in France (I'm a very lucky girl). Our trip was beyond wonderful and admittedly a bit unique, so I thought I'd share some pics, tips and inspiration for your own adventure in the Loire!

I first got the idea to go bike riding in France from an article I read (somewhere, I've had no luck re-finding that first inspiration!) and given our shared love of the outdoors, biking and wine, Dr. H was on board immediately. The Loire is also home to some of the worlds most gorgeous chateaux (castles) so this fairy tale loving lady was ready to go!

From my mystery article, I knew that there are tour companies which specialize in travel-by-bicycle itineraries.  I found Inntravel, a UK based company, through Google (how did we live without Google?!) and LOVED all of their location options, highly organized itineraries and price points (though not inexpensive, the pricing is, in my opinion, very fair for the level of services, accommodations and meals). After doing lots of research, reading a ton of reviews and being impressed by their email responsiveness, Dr. H and I took the plunge on Inntravel's "Chateaux of the Loire" 6-night holiday which we felt was the perfect length of time, distance traveled and site-seeing trip for us. And it was:

Azay-le-Rideau
Villandry
Usse
Saumur
Fromage (mmm fromage)
Somewhere between Montsoreau & Fontevraud
               
This forest....
Chinon
Just outside Azay
I could go on for days about the rich history and culture of each location that we visited, the deliciousness of the fresh cheeses and breads and the friendliness of the local people, but to be brief, I cannot recommend highly enough a visit this area of the world. It is the definition of charming, quaint, relaxing, rich and beautiful. And if you're brave enough, I cannot think of a better way to see it than by bicycle. 

Merry Meri & Dr. H adventure abroad tips:
* Don't be afraid to be different. 
Though we didn't know anyone who had taken a trip like this before, the online reviews were excellent and we really felt that the idea suited us. Don't be afraid to try something totally new!
* Know what you're looking for.
Dr. H and I love foreign cultures, being outdoors, eating well, and a combination of adventuring and relaxing. We hate crowded or overly toursity areas. This trip allowed us to be completely on our own, but with plenty of the frills (bag transports, detailed directions, pre-arranged accommodations) that made us comfortable and confident.
* Be realistic about what you can plan; if needed, work with a vendor you trust.
It was a leap to use InnTravel based purely on internet research, but we could not have executed our itinerary without professional experience and assistance. We didn't know the area intimately enough and even my OCD planning skills would have fallen short. Find an agent or company that makes you feel confident that no matter what, everything will be ok. (ps- we LOVED Inntravel and plan to use them again for other bike adventures in the future!)
* Just relax and enjoy.
We got lost. We missed meal times and had to improvise... our vacation was far from "perfect" but that's what made it PERFECT. Whatever trip you plan, roll with it and make the best of each day, even if it doesn't go exactly as planned.