Iceland; stunning beauty & lots of people

Last week, my family and I went to Iceland for a week long adventure. We’ve been thinking about going to Iceland for a few years, and when we lived in London we never managed to make the trip.

So a trip involving an 8 hour time difference seemed like the perfect time right?

Right.

Iceland is very, very beautiful. When you arrive in the heart of winter everything is covered in snow {often including yourself as well}. There is something about the pure whiteness of snow that seems to be magical. It is pure and to me, has a quiet reverence.

{I could be feeling this way because I went to mass this morning, something I haven’t done on my own, voluntarily, without a family member or holiday involved in probably 15-16 years?? There is an ‘afterglow’ after church. I always felt that way as a kid, likening it to simply being released from sitting still, but I found it this morning as well, awkward as it was to be in a church I’d never been to before, with people I’d never met.}

Here are the things i knew about Iceland before we traveled.

It’s cold. No, really cold. (and it did not disappoint in this area, though being in 3 layers top and bottom plus coat, hat, gloves and waterproof boots, I was toasty warm.)

IMG_3546

Iceland is expensive. No. SERIOUSLY FREAKING EXPENSIVE.

We ate lunch one day at a tomato farm, and while you think okay, upticked prices for the scenery (which was cool, eating lunch right next to the tomatoes that were in the soup I was eating was cool). But a bowl of soup (unlimited) and bread was 2400 kroner, which is roughly $24. We had breakfast at a cafe around the corner from our AirBNB and bowl of porridge was 1900 kroner = $19. For oatmeal. It was fabulous but…

Be prepared if you go. I’ve lived in central London. I’ve been to Norway. They’ve got nothin’ on Icelandic prices.

IMG_3490

Iceland is crowded. I’d read that it is becoming one of the hottest (unfortunately, not literally) places to visit. I’d read there are crowds. But nothing really prepares you for the HORDES of people everywhere, even the ‘out of the way’ places our guide took us on day 2. People everywhere.

fullsizeoutput_4be

DSC00107DSC00108

These are with severe editing to try to take the people out of my pictures. Maybe it was the week we went being a holiday for most US schools, and Chinese New Year, I don’t know, but if you are looking for a remote, lonely vacation, Iceland is not the way to go.

While I am still glad we went, it did diminish the experience for me a bit.

fullsizeoutput_4bd

DSC00081fullsizeoutput_4b9fullsizeoutput_4baDSC00090

DSC00093

Shoe Crampons for the win

DSC00097DSC00100DSC00103DSC00110fullsizeoutput_4bbDSC00114DSC00116DSC00117DSC00120

The other things I learned about Iceland: In Reykjavik they do not shovel the sidewalks. No, they really don’t. Whenever we walked anywhere (which was all the time) you just slug along through the snow/slush/ice. It seems to be a regular thing. The only places that had cleared sidewalks were those in the very heart of the city who had the benefit of the underwater hot spring which they use under the sidewalks to melt the snow in certain areas. {I have pictures of sidewalks and the city etc on my Instagram. Phone shots were easier in the city than large camera shots.} So when you are out on tour, Crampons (little spikes you put on over your shoes) are your friend. Your best friend.

We spent several days at the beginning of our trip in Reykjavik and then we went on a 3 day tour with Goecco. Our guide, Gunni, was really interesting and very friendly. He previously was a movie scout in Iceland. Small little movies like Interstellar. To say he knows Iceland, is saying something. He had some great stories in the evenings at the guest house.

While the tour itself definitely was great – and I say that even though we had rain/hurricane winds most of the time, and I unfortunately learned the difference between waterproof and water resistant – I wasn’t as huge of a fan of the ‘living’ part of the tour. Me and 15 other people sharing a guest house. It is definitely a dorm situation with shared showers (welcome to college life kids!).

Food is another area to keep in mind. If you are at all a person who doesn’t eat fish (that’d be me and one of my kids), you are kind of out of luck. Fish will be the only thing on the menu, and unfortunately, our microwave macaroni cups did not come in handy. As the guest house had no microwave. Lunch one day was whatever chips/cookies you could find at the convenience store.

All I’m saying is be prepared if you don’t eat fish, or you enjoy regular meals. I ate a heck of a lot of Kind bars and fruit strips.

It was a successful trip; the husband finally saw the Northern Lights after 10 years of trying, those pictures are somewhere on another SD card, though I will say I never saw any of the green in the pictures. That is actually a product of leaving the camera shutter open. The green isn’t often visible to the naked eye. It really does require the miraculous set of perfect conditions to see them like that, or really see them at all.

Would I go back? That seems to be the ultimate judge of a vacation for me. Scotland, Ireland, Hawaii, all unequivocally YES.

Iceland gets a maybe. I’d like to see it in the summertime. Gunni says it’s a complete different world, all the colors and pearls hiding under the snow. The popularity, and expense, definitely give me pause. But if you get the chance to go, GO. It’s a beautiful place with friendly people, and a real look at how people survive in a pretty harsh climate.

fullsizeoutput_4bc

SaveSaveSaveSave

Those who inspire adventure

I love sailing. Or at least the two times I went sailing on a lake as a 11 year old have lived in my mind as the most.fun.ever. The water is like my Ultimate Dream. Living by it. Seeing it out my window. Being anywhere near it. For those who don’t know, I spent a vast majority of my childhood summers on a lake. My family was into camping, boating, being outdoors (skiing in winter). My parents always called me a little fish because you couldn’t get me out of the water unless you physically hooked me and dragged me out. Sun + sand + water = pretty much my dream.

There’s a reason I always say let’s go to Tahiti. {bucket list item by the way if you’re thinking of a Christmas gift for me}

I’ve always loved adventure. There are lots of ‘always’ in this post because that is truly the way I’ve lived my whole life. While I didn’t move my entire childhood, I spent 18 years in the same bedroom, my sense of ‘let’s explore’ has been something inside me from the beginning. At 16, as a shy, okay, really shy, teenager, I decided to spend a month in Italy as an exchange student. At 17 I went on a class trip to France. At 18 I moved from my home state of Washington to Philadelphia to go to school. I’ve lived in three countries and five states. I’ve traveled to 23 countries and would welcome living and traveling to many more.

While I can’t {currently} live in another country {kids, jobs, details I say!}, I have lived vicariously through the blogs and videos below. They inspire adventure, and in my mind are living the dream.

Gone With The Wynns – Jason and Nikki – I’ve been following them since almost the beginning of their travel days in an RV. After five years of traveling around the US, they traded in their rv for a catamaran and started sailing the world. They just completed a journey through the Panama Canal this week to start their adventures in the Pacific Ocean. They blog and do a weekly video, and as a former professional photographer, Jason’s photo’s and videos are top notch.

Adventures of a Tribe – Danny and Belinda – (plus 4 of their kids who journey with them) – I only discovered this blog a few days ago, and I’ve already read at least the last year worth of entries. This family is an inspiration. They were sailing around the world, and while down near French Polynesia they ran aground on an unchartered reef and had to be rescued at night by helicopter. That alone would make me pause. Hearing that their home, the catamaran Tanda Malaika, would have to be completely stripped and sunk as a total loss, I can’t even imagine recovering from that. But they have (and it’s only been 4 months). Go read the story (start in July 2017 for the reef/rescue but then go back and read the rest of their story). They were in living in Bali, and currently have fled to Hong Kong due to the volcano activity in Bali. Their story is definitely a look at courage, perseverance, and seeing the glass as half-full. They also have amazing pictures.

Sailing Zatara – Keith and Renee – (plus 4 kids) – This also a family I recently discovered (and how I found Adventures of a Tribe above). They decided they’d had enough of the corporate world, sold everything, and bought a {gorgeous} Beneteau Oceanis 55 foot sailboat. They do have a website which describes the boat and the crew, and how they decided to make the change, but daily life/updates are over on their YouTube channel. Their videos give a very real picture of life, and inspire me to say ‘I could do it too!’ {despite the whole kids/husband/job/I get seasick on the ocean thing}

Sailing LaVagabonde – Riley and Elayna – (plus a crew member who does videos/photos/etc for them) – An Australian couple who have been sailing the world for the last few years. They started with a monohull and earlier this year were connected with a beautiful Outremer Catamaran (somewhat a sponsored deal I think, they have a video with details). As 20 somethings adventuring around the world, it is a look at the theory that anyone can do anything if they want it bad enough. Their videos are more for an older audience (Riley likes to do things nude on occasion, butts are presented, and subject matter isn’t always for young ones), but they have fun videos and one of the things I like most is they always include some sort of history about where they are. It definitely makes me want to go visit  even more places than I already have on my list.

So, would I if I could? Sail around the world in a heartbeat on a sailboat?

YES. I am absolutely certain I’d be willing to try the Seaband, ginger tea, ear patch, etc in order to have this dream. (Doing it in this little vessel wouldn’t be so bad either – the Fountaine Pajot Lucia 40 catamaran. Dream.Life.)

photo-5-lucia-950x570

The Seattle Boat Show starts January 26. And Fountaine-Pajot will be there.

Never say never.

{unless you’re my husband, who is currently saying never}

 

 

Kitchens, Camping, and Life {oh my}

It is already November 8th and I can hardly believe there are only 6 short, itty, bitty weeks until the Christmas season. Where does the time go?? Halloween came and went, and the changing of the clocks, and all the leaves have blown away. We’ve even had snow…

IMG_2612

That in itself seems impossible here in Seattle. But snow it did over the weekend. Most of you in colder climates will laugh but several inches of snow in Seattle in November is no joke. It’s a warning to just how fun this winter season is going to be!

I’m always wishing there was more time, but it truly does seem we skipped from fall straight into winter with not a lot of fall. Maybe it’s just being back in America again, and recognizing the change without the concrete jungle of London. Maybe it’s because fall is my favorite season and I am always sad to see the leaves change and blow away within a week or two. This year has been spectacular with color, but once again I only have phone snaps because there just is never enough time go out and capture it with a proper camera. Or rather I always think there’ll be time next week, after I finish the halloween costume, after that dinner, after after after.

And there never is.

Here is a sampling of what we’ve done so far this fall:

kitchen

The kitchen is finished. Hall-leh-lujah. I haven’t taken any proper pictures (mainly because LIFE and for me proper pictures would REQUIRE me to scrub it top to bottom and then ACCESSORIZE and I just haven’t done it). While it took what felt like forever, and our contractor was definitely not our favorite person by the end {the amount of dirt/dust/everything everywhere…I’m still cleaning, let’s just put it that way}, our vision did come to life.

The living room is coming along. I bought a mirror for the fireplace yesterday and I’m still deciding if it works or not. I put some maps on the walls. Two are new but the others are ones I collected while we lived abroad or are ones we used to use when we lived in Germany before the whole smart phone era. {I rather miss those days.}

IMG_2655

Yep, still have pictures etc sitting on the floor, but overall I hope the vibe is fun and casual (just like this phone generated picture).

In October we went camping at Lake Wenatchee, and 3/4 of us admitted to having a ton of fun. {the boy resists admitting he had fun, but I’m pretty sure he did.} The main purpose of the trip was two fold: 1. we’ve only been talking about camping for 17 years now since we registered for (and received) a tent for our wedding. And while we are definitely beyond the proper age for tent camping, we did finally go camping. Albeit in a trailer. Which brings me to 2. we rented a trailer for the weekend to see if we would want to buy one in the future (answer: YES). It was so much fun just being out in nature {ala my entire childhood of camping and boating}, and I can’t get enough of it.

Neither can the majority of my family. Even though it was freezing at night, and we didn’t have a hookup, and couldn’t run the heater. {noted, don’t camp in October in Washington without a power hook-up}.

Still. Best.Weekend.Ever.

(And phone snaps again because despite owning a very nice dslr, I never really use it)

I can’t wait for the winter RV show, where we will be seriously looking at trailers. I do wish we’d done this years ago so our kids could be camping freaks like me!

Onward we go into November and both the Chick and I are starting (separate) ballet classes, there is grandma’s stuffing to make, and the traditional Chinese food for Thanksgiving. Before we know it, I’ll be recapping Christmas and New Years.

We’ll be staring down the start of 2018, and yearning for spring.

What has your fall been like? Anything exciting happening?

 

To horse? Or not horse?

As a child, I always loved horses. Nearly every birthday I would ask my parents to take me on a trail ride. It didn’t matter that the horses were programmed to go forward and follow the horse in front of them, no matter what, I really thought I was a little western cowgirl (in horse only, I’ve never been one for Wrangler jeans, cowgirl boots or ten gallon hats). Obligingly, my dad would climb aboard a horse with me and off we would go with the group for a 30-60 minute walk through the forest.

I couldn’t get enough.

As you can see from the pictures:

IMG_2476

In the picture above, it was 1983 in Lake Louise, Banff, Canada, and I was 6, so forgive my stylistic choices (and lack of helmet, we didn’t know about that kind of thing back then).

IMG_2477

This is probably a few years later. I’m sure I drove my parents crazy everytime we passed a horse. If I was anything like I am now, when I walk past the barn and a horse head is sticking out, well, they will get a rub or a pet. I literally cannot help myself.

I.Love.Horses.

Four or so years ago I started taking riding lessons, thinking that maybe now that I was older and could afford to take lessons, an hour a week on the back of a lovely horse would be a lot of fun. It’s one of those ‘yes it is and yes it isn’t’ kinds of things. The barn I rode at before, the first lesson horse wasn’t super into riding English style, but we managed and did fairly well. (I did briefly switch over to Western style.) I started riding with a new trainer during the week on a different horse and things were looking up. I had a good handle on posting and we were working on getting the correct diagonal. {here are definitions on what that means if you are not all.things.horse.obsessed}

Summer was approaching so I knew I couldn’t ride during the week with my (then young) kids out of school. Things being what they were, busy, I didn’t go back to riding again after the summer. Then we moved to London. While I did look into riding in London, riding in Hyde Park with traffic whizzing by wasn’t my idea of fun, and getting to barn outside the city wasn’t feasible without a car.

When we returned to Seattle this summer, after lots and lots of trial and error and phone calls and barn visits, I finally found a place that I really like, doesn’t require the equivalent of college tuition to ride a horse, and while certainly not close by (45-60 minutes each way), I am happy with both the instructor and the facility.

The biggest problem I have is with the school horse I’ve been assigned. Her name is Joy. And last Friday, she was anything but a joy to ride. Here’s where I start to wonder if I’m too old to be doing this.

The first horse I rode, Guinness, wasn’t a good match. Week two I started riding on Joy. She’s 11 years old and has been a school horse probably forever. This means her primary rider is a child, who is likely being led on a line. There are no signals – leg on, clucking, squeezing, steering – she is being made to follow from the students. She gets pretty much free reign to do what she wants.

Then there’s my ride with Joy. I am (trying) to give her all these signals to get her to stay on the rail (leg + rein), trot when I say (squeeze, leg, cluck, beg…) and we are just not getting these basics. Especially with staying on the rail. I did not have this issue with the horses I rode at the last barn, so I am questioning whether it is me who has unlearned this task, or the horse that simply won’t do this task I’ve asked of her.

I walked away really dejected after Friday’s lesson. The last three sessions my trainer has climbed on Joy after we’ve been in the arena struggling and forced her to comply. It is about having to be dominant over the animal, and I do get that. She has almost listened completely while I’m tacking up (and I’ve learned what to do when she is naughty and we pretty much go with me having to reinforce proper crosstie behavior every week…) The trainer has given me a whip (and several times spurs), and I am not comfortable at all having to use them. I do understand I am not hurting Joy, and according to my trainer I’m not even being forceful enough, even though I feel bad having to use the whip after everything I ask Joy to do because she refuses to do it when I ask by putting my leg on.

IMG_2026

I am not having fun. I know that getting this is hard, and isn’t going to be fun, but 6 sessions on…I am not having fun. I am paying to not enjoy riding a horse (though it feels more like fighting with a toddler and losing).

IIMG_2029

I have considered whether I should continue riding past my next session (sessions of 5 lessons, which I just paid for the next 5 taking me through to December. Christmas/New Years I am not riding because of the holidays and being with family.) I’ve wondered if I should switch to riding Western, where you still need to have the horse listen, but it is a different set of things to ask for.

My goal as I wrote it on my ‘get to know your goals’ sheet when I signed up for lessons was to learn to jump. Initially, I chose English because it has a more refined/classy look to it and so many more barns here teach/focus on English style. I have three questions to answer before Friday:

  1. Do I want to keep riding, period?
  2. Do I want to stick with Joy and English?
  3. Do I want to work towards jumping, or just learn enough to go hacking and switch to Western?

I have no idea how exactly to come up with the answers but I definitely don’t want to go to the barn on Friday and leave feeling like I did last week (and it’s ZERO reflection on my trainer; she is fabulous and gives me lots of positive feedback {though she can’t possibly be telling the truth!}, and instructions to help me).

IMG_2282

I love horses. I do not want to give them up, but I don’t won’t to pay for something that leaves me feeling defeated.

to be continued…

Falling for fall

I love fall. Every year I say it’s my favorite season as soon as the leaves start to change colors. And then in spring I say, no wait! spring is my favorite season. And so on to summer. Pretty much the only season that never gets a shout of joy is winter.

Snow is pretty but I don’t want to live in it (and we don’t often have to in Seattle, though I heard last year up here in the mountains where we live it was horrible…so that’ll be fun!)

Fall means sweaters and scarves and warm coats, and around here rain, but I won’t let a daily session with my windshield wipers distract me from the loveliest of fashions: the fall sweater. Here is a round up of some of my favorites:

This looks like something to live in all fall.

The color of this one gives me the warm fuzzies.

I love the entire outfit below, though I tried the wide leg crop, and just ended up looking ridiculous. Still, on the right person, it’s cute.

While I don’t have any cashmere, it’s hard to beat the sweater below. It is responsibly made, 100% cashmere for $100.

If we were head into the never-paying-it territory (there are some lines I will not cross no matter how much I like an item), then this sweater would be on the top of the heap.

To go with these sweaters, I would recommend the new Everlane high waist denim collection. I’d never tried high waisted jeans (I was firmly in the camp of NO) until they did a pop-up shop at my local Nordstrom and I kinda fell into semi-love with them. I won’t be forsaking my old comfy lovely jeans by any means, but high waisted jeans will be making the rotation.

Do you have anything lurking in your daydreams for fall?

The Unpopular Opinion: Why I no longer want to live in this America

It was just another morning. Coffee, school lunches, sending my family out the door. And then I sat down and started scanning the news, and once again my heart sank, and my stomach clenched, because the screen was once again telling me a senseless tragedy had taken place. There are tragedies from mother nature we can’t control – hurricanes, earthquakes, forest fires –  and then there are the ones we can control; gun violence. mass shootings. more people innocently killed.

I’ve never liked guns. I didn’t grow up ever having one in my home. Before I met my husband (who was a police officer at the time we met), I’d never even held or seen a gun up close. One of the greatest days was the day he left the police department, and his gun left our house. We do not hunt. We do not possess any weapons. That is our personal choice.

This is a link to the 2nd Amendment, the Right to Bear Arms. When this was written way back in the 18th century, it was written in a different time, in an altogether different country. What happens more and more frequently is not what I believe the founding fathers wanted. They would be horrified at the way their law has been interpreted in modern times.

I do not know this country I’m living in, the one where I was born, the one that changes day by day into a place that feels less and less safe. These are Americans getting hold of these guns that serve no purpose but death, and killing children, mothers, fathers, grandparents, friends, innocents.

chartoftheday_9688_the_world_s_most_and_least_peaceful_countries_n

There is no country in the world that is all-safe. Such a place does not exist. I know this. But there are so many countries that are peaceful. The US ranks at 114 on the Global Peace Index. I want to live in a country that does not allow citizens to own weapons that have no purpose except in war (and maybe not even then). No one should be able to have these guns in their homes. No. One.

I find myself longing to leave America, even though I only moved back here from England a few months ago. I do not want to live in a place where these things do not matter to congress, to my government. They will not outlaw these guns, and therefore they continue the cycle of violence and death. They endorse gun violence by not doing anything to stop it. The majority of Americans support laws that restrict guns. Why won’t they listen? They didn’t listen when the majority said who we wanted to be president. I know they won’t listen now. It must change.

Senseless violence will continue.

I would rather live in a country where the government takes steps to make sure gun violence doesn’t happen.

I want to live in a place that believes all its citizens lives matter. All of them.

 

Reference: Amendment 2 https://nccs.net/online-resources/us-constitution/amendments-to-the-us-constitution/the-bill-of-rights-amendments-1-10/amendment-2-the-right-to-bear-arms

Chart of most and least peaceful countries: https://www.statista.com/chart/9688/the-worlds-most-and-least-peaceful-countries/

Vision of Humanity: Risk Report http://visionofhumanity.org/app/uploads/2017/09/Risk-Report_Web_Final.pdf

Poll of Americans and guns: http://www.pollingreport.com/guns.htm

 

Alaska

DSC_0069 copy

I struggled over a title for this post because (as you will see), how on earth do you describe a trip to Alaska? There are hardly words to set the scene for the beauty and amazing display of nature every time you open your eyes. In fact, I only went through pictures up to the morning of day 3 because I had already marked 20 to share.

Of all the places I’ve traveled, and there have been MANY, a few take top marks like the incredible stark colors of the Scottish Highlands, or the lush greens of the Ireland countryside. Alaska might have top billing. Maybe because it’s fresh in my mind (even though it was already a month ago), I’ve never seen anything so pure and beautiful.

How do you describe that?? We hadn’t even gotten off the ship yet, these were all just things we went by on the our way to our first port stop in Skagway. It’s kind of mind-boggling to see glaciers and icebergs and the stunning colors.

DSC_0164 copyDSC_0184 copy

DSC_0198 copy

Chick giving her dad the helicopter front seat side-eye

DSC_0206 copyDSC_0215 copyDSC_0217 copy

Thank you Temsco Helicopter Tours for helping me conquer some fears. Helicopter: check. Done IT. Walked on a glacier: Done THAT. Seriously one of the best days ever, and 100% worth every penny. (Thanks to The Husband for making me do it.)

DSC_0122 copy

Love you Pluto, but wow was it COLD!

DSC_0229 copyDSC_0234 copyDSC_0244 copyDSC_0247 copyDSC_0250 copy

That only takes us to our first stop. Two more to come (a cute little town, big fishing vessels, and SEAPLANES!)