If you’re apt to feel garden envy, this may not be the tour for you; but if you enjoy gathering ideas for beautifying your own slice of heaven then this is the place to be on a gorgeous Colorado morning!
The Loveland Garden Tour is an annual event which allows folks to visit a handful of impressive private-residence gardens that have been dotted with local artists’ work. You may not be able to bottle up the gorgeous gardens and take them home, but you are welcomed to purchase any of the artist pieces you fancy. In fact, I couldn’t help myself and bought a beautiful antique brass porch light in which the glass covers have been replaced by works of art, curated and assembled by Loveland artist Olivia Lowe. When the lantern is off, you see delicate, French seed packet designs and when the lantern is on you can see comical vintage American seed packets (Mr. Cabbage Head and other hand-drawn veggie characters) superimposed underneath. I am mad about it! I’ll have to post a photo once I have it in my hot little hands.
Silent auction of beautifully painted garden chairs.
A garden piece by Sharon Shuster Anhorn
Wonderful Loveland artists David Young and Kim Leszczynski, and my sweet hubby, Jason!
Another piece by Sharon Shuster Anhorn.
Garden markers by Loveland artist Dixie Straight
I so wish I could bring this badboy home. It’s so cheerful! I wish I’d have made note of the artist’s name.
I apologize, I didn’t catch this artist’s name. Beautiful piece though!
I’ve returned home from Iceland with an even stronger commitment to shrink my carbon footprint as well as our household’s overall consumption in general. I’ve been lucky enough to see some of the most stunning environments this globe has to offer and I was impressed by how the folks of Iceland are such amazing caretakers of their environment. I’ve decided the least I can do is take a few steps, albeit some will probably be uncomfortable steps, in my neck of the woods to lessen my impact on the world.
Last summer when we first moved into Brake Manor – which we jokingly named our little downtown brick cottage on a half acre of land – I had to work hard to learn which plants in the yard were weeds and which were keepers. During my research I learned that a good portion of the weeds we are plagued with are edible and considered highly nutritious. We run a no-nasty-chemicals household so I felt safe taste-testing the different kinds of weeds in the yard, to the chagrin of some of my surprisingly conformist friends.
Today, after working our arses off in the yard, I realized our fridge was pretty empty and found myself wishing I had planted a garden I could go pull from. That’s when I remembered the edible weeds in the yard and decided to try to use what we have before going to the store to buy food. So, I managed to prepare a lunch for my hubby and myself made up of about 70% yard goodies (not from a planted garden, mind you, but just wild weeds that had sprung up in the yard while we were out of the country). We dined on grape hyacinth bulbs flavored with lime, poppy seeds and chive; and on purslane greens with a tahini, Sriracha and balsamic dressing. It was all quite delicious, though I don’t know if I’ll ever go through the preparation process of cleaning and boiling the hyacinth bulbs ever again since they weren’t nearly as tasty as the prep was long.
To compliment our yard grub we each enjoyed a thick buttered slice of rosemary bread from a local bakery and a small glass of Saison microbrew from Loveland Aleworks. I love when I can make a simple weekend meal feel like we’ve been to a fancy fine-dining restaurant. After lunch we gluttonously gobbled up power naps in the shade of the patio for dessert. It felt satisfying to be a little more self-sufficient than normal (and for it to actually taste yummy too!).
Grape Hyacinth bulbs. Boiled to remove bitterness and seasoned with lime, chives from the yard and poppy seeds. Zesty!
Purslane is a succulent-type weed that grows prolifically in our yard. It’s high in Omega 3 fatty acid, has six times more vitamin E than spinach and seven times more beta carotene than carrots. It’s also rich in vitamin C, magnesium, riboflavin, potassium and phosphorus. The flavor is a pleasant salty-citrus.
I used stirfry oil, Tahini, Sriracha hot sauce and a fig balsamic for the Purslane sauce. It was scrumptious!
I was in such a hurry to taste my creation that I didn’t even check to see if my photos were in proper focus. ooops… and I call myself a photographer?! Tsk, tsk. 😉 (PS – the roses are from the yard too. I love it!)
I have spent my last two alone-days in Reykjavik blissfully writing and dining in coffeehouses and replaying the last 6 weeks of my lucky life here in Iceland. I have seen more amazing things than I expected, met wonderful new friends and I still cannot believe that I was able to take this adventure in the first place, let alone that it’s already coming to an end.
Tonight I will drive to Kevflavik to camp before picking up my hubby in the morning. I am more excited to see him than I ever thought was possible. Before I left for Iceland back in April we had a long conversation about change. We were in a very happy place with our relationship – happier than we’ve ever been – but we were both concerned that this extended trip would change us and we discussed the possibility that we could grow apart during my time away. I tend to get overly independent when I travel, and this would be Jason’s first time living as a bachelor. These fears weren’t truly concerning, they were just something floating around in the air, gnat-like, around us. I was afraid he’d like it better without a naggy wife taking up all his free time, and he was afraid I wouldn’t want to come home and would feel like our domesticated life was holding me back from more adventuring.
I’m pleased to report that I solidly believe having someone so wonderful and supportive at home makes traveling easier and more fulfilling – and makes you all the more excited to come home to them and share your stories. And it sounds like Jason has missed me like crazy too. Whew, what a relief, haha! So, the lesson here, kiddies, is don’t put off traveling for fear that you may mess up a good thing. If it is good through and through it will be there, and maybe be better, when you return. ❤
So! Here are the 3 most important lessons I’ve gleaned (disclaimer: the top 3 lessons are subject to a change in opinion by the time I return home):
#1 – Traveling is incredible (this is a given). You will experience things you never imagined. You will grow and change and become wiser from each experience – but if you don’t have a travel companion to share the journey with, in my humble opinion, it lessens the deepness of the experience. When you sit in the shadow of a massive moss-covered volcanic mountain near sunset, listening to the roar of the waterfall cascading off of it, laughing at the screaming birds fighting and falling out of their nests, smelling the rich earth and a hint of diesel on the breeze… and then have no one to share that moment with… it isolates you in a sense. You’ve experienced a moment so precious and inexplicable but you will never fully be able to share it with anyone else. When you have a travel companion you can say to them 10 years down the road, without even a preface, “remember that time at (name the location)?” and they can just as easily remember that incredible moment and be transported back with you.
#2 – never be embarrassed you don’t speak the local language. For some reason I feel like a jerk-American when I can’t speak the local language – but that’s a silly way to think. Always be kind, smile, and be courteous. Good behavior is a universal language and anyone who doesn’t appreciate friendly gestures when you meet them would still probably be a big ol’ jerkface even if you spoke their language perfectly. 😉 Most people are so happy to meet another smiling face that you can easily fuddle through and get your point across without ever saying a single word… besides, English is the global business/travel language so it’s the most useful one to know wherever you go. No need for feeling bad if it’s the only one you know.
#3 – take opportunities as they come, and don’t fret when something doesn’t work out. I was supposed to spend a week traveling around the Westfjords and got rained out. Yes, that kind of sucked and it made me sad, but because of the crappy weather I instead got to meet the President of Iceland and a whole slew of talented, forward-moving people who will inevitably make this world a more kickass place. I got to pretend I live in one of the most incredible cities in the world, and made new like-minded happy-go-lucky friends to hang out with who have taught me so many fascinating things about the world that I never would have known. Take life as it comes – you never know how doing something boring, such as laundry, will lead to meeting the president.
I’m signing off for now with an expectation that I will be having too much fun with my sweetie in the land of fire & ice to even think about anything else… but if something unbelievable happens I’ll be sure to find time to share it. 😉
Big hugs to you, my virtual friends, and thank you for following this zany journey with me. It’s been a helluva good time. I’ll be sure to keep blogging, photographing and adventuring when I return home to Colorado. ❤
There are 3 more days until I get to pick up my darling hubby from Kevflavik airport and we can run away together across the island. I will continue to write if I find time, but I’m assuming it will be a frenzied week of me dragging my poor sweet love all over the island so I can share with him all my favorite Icelandic things.
So much has been said, so many memories made… I’d never be able to put them all into words if I tried… so many new friends, new music and food I’ve been introduced to… My heart, soul and mind are spilling over with awe and gratitude – though there’s a tiny helping of sadness blended in because this adventure is coming to a close. The time to be less verbose and let it all sink in is quickly approaching, me thinks.
The sun came out again today and so I walked slowly and aimlessly through the city, visiting the old neighborhoods and trying deliberately to get lost in them. You find the best things that way.
When the sun comes out, this city glows!
The photography shop next to Babalu’s
Found amongst some boring apartment buildings.
I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve overheard at these parking meters. “I don’t understand how to do this! It can’t be that hard, are we just idiots??”
Outside of City Hall. This old fellah was stealing bits of bread from the duck, honey badger style.
Oldest tree in Reykjavik.
Accurate 3D map at City Hall. So cool to look at it and know what it really looks like in person as you round each corner or cross each bridge. ❤
During my wandering I eventually wound up at City Hall and ran into my gentle friend I’d met at Mokka a few days ago. He quietly held up a hand in greeting and smiled so I went over to say hi. I asked if I could take his photo this time and he obliged. I asked his name. He explained to me that his name is Ketill and how it means ‘kettle’ in Icelandic. He talked about how the pagans used to use a kettle to collect horse blood and drink it for ceremonial purposes. He asked me again what the name of the indian heritage I had a trace of in my blood was and I pulled out one of my cards and wrote “Comanche indian” above my name for him. He seems fascinated by ancestry and knows so much about European history and his heritage. I’m determined to see if I can learn more about my family tree when I get home. It’s something I’ve never put much thought into and now realize is a pretty amazing thing to know.
I bid Ketill goodbye and he told me “good luck,” so I returned with “goda ferd, right?,” which I was told means good luck, but I think actually means have a good trip. He smiled warmly and bowed his head at me.
I walked over to the Stofan coffeehouse located in a beautiful old house near the city square and wrote for a few hours. Sigrun FB messaged me and said she and Freddie wanted to go to Harpa for happy-hour cocktails at 5:00. That sounded so fun! I headed back to the house and showered. I cleaned up my car a bit and wrote until she arrived.
When Sigrun got home she said Freddie couldn’t make it now so she and I went alone. We walked to Harpa and chatted excitedly about all the fun things she had planned for this summer and in the near future. She wants to go to India and learn how to teach yoga; and then to start a food cart; and to paint… she has so many ideas! She talked about how she knows of a group of people that are basically pizza gypsies. They travel around and go to small towns all over the EU, usually in sync with local festivals, and they make and sell this amazingly good pizza and then they disappear. There’s no way to get a hold of them or know where they’ll be next.
The bar was on the top floor of Harpa, overlooking the harbor and city through those amazing honeycomb windows (the reoccurring elements of this trip have been luck and bees. Maybe I picked the wrong bug to use on my Lucky Brake logo?) I ordered a Chili Rhubarb Mojito – yes, it was even better than it sounds – and Sigrun ordered a lemongrass daiquiri.
As we drank our delicious treats we had a long and exhilarating talk about all the possibilities of what we can do in life, and how she’s currently stuck in the place I was in a couple years ago where I just didn’t know what direction I wanted to take in life. I shared a few inspiring websites and methods of introspection I used to find what I’m passionate about, and it made me semi-fondly remember my struggle. It was so discouraging while I was in the midst of it, but now I see it was all a learning process and I’m grateful now for the post-struggle clarity.
Sigrun went to the restroom and I sat thinking about how far I’ve come in the last 2 years and how many supportive, wonderful people have helped me along the way. I thought about the wonderful folks who took a chance by hiring me when I decided I wanted to be a photographer full time, and the people who repeatedly hire me now and allow me to continue to be a part of their incredible events and projects… and then I thought about the unexpected and overwhelming support I received when I decided to take this crazy adventure. I am one lucky son-of-a-gun!… Eureka! Time to pay it forward!, I decided.
When Sigrun returned I told her I wanted to pay forward the incredible support I’d received back home by investing in whichever project she wanted to start working on first. I couldn’t have gotten where I am without the encouragement of others who believed in me so I want to be someone who supports her on her path. I see a lot of potential in Sigrun. She has passion and drive and enthusiasm for everything but can’t quite pin down a starting point (yet!). Once she finds something to dig into I think she’ll be unstoppable. She bashfully accepted and immediately promised she’d use it towards something amazing. I told her I didn’t care if she spent it on supplies for a new business or on a weekend retreat to clear her head. Sometimes stepping away from life is also a step towards clarity. Taking that rejuvenating (and bank draining) adventure to Italy with Jason in 2011 was actually a huge catalyst towards quitting my job to follow my passion.
Before we left the bar I asked the bartender if she’d divulge the recipe for my delicious drink and she generously wrote it down for me. I’m so excited to try to make it at home and share it with friends!
We headed back home and Andy made us a delicious veggie and noodle dinner. There is nothing like a hot, satisfying dinner after so much walking. I talked to Jason for a bit after dinner and then nodded off early, exhausted after such a fulfilling day.
I was wide awake by 6am, too excited about my first “gig” in Iceland. Yesterday morning I had met a nice gentleman named Thubten Comerford at the laundromat who would be speaking at the Startup Iceland 2014 conference and was kind enough to arrange that I be allowed to photograph it. This trip is reaffirming the theory that being receptive to opportunities increases the chances of good things falling into your lap when you least expect it. The fact that he and I met at all is serendipitous; I had forgotten my wallet when trying to do laundry and had to walk all the way back to the flat, which made me an hour later than expected.
I slowly got dressed and cleaned up my car to pass the time until I had to leave the house at 8:20. I donned my jeans, hiking shoes and my one semi-professional-looking top I had thankfully packed. I checked and rechecked my equipment bag before walking towards the Harpa concert and event center near the harbor.
I arrived early and I waited by the front doors but didn’t see Thubten. I started to get antsy as I watched all the young professionals walk to the check-in point on the upper floor. Just before 9:00 I went ahead and followed the last stragglers up and asked at the check-in counter if Thubten had arrived yet and he had. Oops! I quickly ducked into the auditorium which was nearly full already and I eventually found him just as the event was starting. He gave me a big friendly hug and said “take lots and lots of photos! And start with this one,” as he pointed to the President of Iceland, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, who was sitting in the front row right next to us. I’ll admit it, that caught me off guard and blew my mind a little bit.
I asked Thubten if I was allowed to move around as I photographed and he said I had an all-access media pass today so to just go for it. Groovy! By the time I found a spot to unpack my bag and assemble my gear the event was underway.
I’m not sure how interested folks following a travel blog would be about the details of the Startup Iceland event, so I’ll try to keep it short. But I will just say this: I am so excited about what Iceland is doing to encourage and foster creativity, ingenuity and economic resilience. I was absolutely moved by the President’s speech about keeping the discussion open and honest about the direction of our advancements in technology. Technology is an amazing tool and we become hindered instead of empowered by it if we are wary and hesitant that someone is misusing the incredible amounts of data being transmitted daily. Here’s a quick video, I wish I’d have taken more:
The day went well, sans my inability to be calm and sane in a socializing and networking environment. During the lunch break I basically took a few photos of the food and serving line and then hid in the auditorium while everyone was out in the hall eating and talking. I finally convinced myself that I was being a damn child and that I needed to conquer my social anxiety – and besides, what’s the worst that could happen?? So I headed out to be with the other humans and saw Thubten talking to a very chic hipster gal with a punk rock haircut and big black glasses. I joined them and tried to overcome my nerves which should have been easy – the nice gal’s name was Ally and she was from Colorado Springs and had just moved to Iceland a few months ago. Awesome, we have Colorado in common! Instead of enjoying the conversation my brain completely short-circuited and I made an ass of myself by babbling, then stuttering, then mocking myself for stuttering, and completely derailing the conversation and making everyone uncomfortable. Welp, back into solitary confinement in the auditorium with you, ya goddamned nut job!
I retreated. My confidence was pretty shaken but I was grateful I had my cameras in hand. They do tend to make me feel like I belong and give me a renewed sense of confidence. Some people have security-blankets, I have 22 pounds of glass and plastic strapped to my shoulders that I hide behind.
I was hiding in the back of the auditorium as lunch was ending when one of the other photographers came up to me and introduced himself as Roman. He was very nice and said was hired by Icelandic Air, one of the main sponsors of the event, to shoot the event for them. I met his lovely wife and learned she was from the UK and he from Croatia. He also told me about how he knows the man and wife team that built the amazing marine-themed children’s park by the harbor that I’ve photographed multiple times already. We traded cards and chatted a bit more until the conference was back in session.
The rest of the event was wonderful, and Thubten did a great job on his talk. He’s from Portland, Oregon and drew many parallels between his beloved city and Reykjavik, and had words of encouragement about how to embrace your city’s uniqueness, and to also to be sure you bring your innovative ideas back home to grow your city’s economy instead of draining it of talent and passion by moving your startup elsewhere. This one seems important for Icelanders since it’d be so much easier to create a company in New York or London. Wise words.
I found it interesting how so many of the talks about entrepreneurship resonated so strongly with me. The statements were all things I had felt were important to live by when I quit my day job and dove headfirst into photography. Here are my favorite bits:
– From Sherwood, a capital advisor: Leverage your assets. It doesn’t matter how much or little you start with. As long as you fully utilize the assets you do you have, there’s a better chance others will notice and be encouraged to offer their time/money/expertise to see you succeed. Asset sharing will be one of the keys in rebuilding a stronger, better economy.
– From Jennifer, MakerBot President of People: Never think you can’t do something. Be scrappy. If a system is broken, leverage it to your advnatage(referring to the broken economy). Live by your motto, whatever you decide it to be so you never lose your way. i.e. the MakerBot Way (another good motto for doing business is GyShiDo)
– From John, a journalist : If you’re taking on the challenge such as making hardware, software or art – which are all extremely challenging to begin with – you have to step up to the plate and make it happen – no one is going to hand you anything. You have to prove yourself tirelessly before people can start believing something will come of your passion, and then they will invest in you.
– From Liad, an incredible serial entrepreneur and lucky guy: luck is a matter of increasing your opportunities to get the outcome you want. Roll a dice once while hoping for a 6, and you get a 1/6 chance of getting a 6. Roll that dice 20 more times and your chances of getting at least one 6 just skyrocketed to nearly 100%.
What an unexpected and awesome experience!
Check out the full day’s gallery if you’re interested:
It poured a heavy rain all night and into the morning. I started the morning graced by the company of Sigrun, Stu and a hot cup of Earl Grey. I found an amazing Indiegogo project on Facebook. It’s goal is to create solar roadways to lower emissions, create sustainable energy, create jobs in the US among other coolness… it’s a silly but informative video, check it out!
Heh, you thought I was already obnoxiously gung-ho about being eco friendly before I came to Iceland – but now I’m even more committed after being reminded how amazing this Earth is and how we’re freakin’ ruining it at break-neck speed. I already have a list of changes I’d like to make as soon as I get home. I’m actually pretty excited to see how quickly I can drop off the fossil-fuel grid and live a more sustainable lifestyle.
I gathered my laundry in my sleeping bag’s stuff-sack and walked across town to the Laundromat Cafe. The Laundromat Cafe is exactly what it sounds like: it’s a bustling, yummy cafe where you can do your laundry in the basement for about $7. The place is notoriously packed with people so when I walked in and saw it was only 1/3 full I was so excited! I knew I’d be able to find a good seat and to get on the wifi without a problem. When I walked in, dripping wet from the rain, I stood there with a dumb look on my face for a while, unsure what to do. A young woman helped me and gave me a shot of detergent and seven 100ISK coins for the laundry but when I went to pay for it I realized I had left my wallet all the way back at the house. Oh god dammit!
I sulkily walked back to the house in the pouring rain. An hour later I made it back to the cafe and by then the gloomy sky aptly fit my mood. The place was packed now. I waited in a long line and finally got my detergent and coins and headed down the stairs.
Downstairs the vibe was much different than the hip cafe upstairs; there were herds of loud children in a kid-friendly play area, and several mothers at the cafe tables along the wall. In the center of the area was a small laundry room with three washers and three dryers. I’m going to be overly descriptive of the laundromat portion because it’s a little intimidating and I couldn’t find any information on it before visiting so hopefully this will help someone out!
I must have had that dumb look on my face again when I was staring at the washing machines because a nice man started to help me. He tried to show me everything he had just learned but we still couldn’t get my machine working and neither could a second fellow. We all joked about what an interesting adventure using these machines was turning out to be, and then I ran upstairs to ask for help. The waiter of course got everything working right away which made me feel pretty dumb, but when you’re socially inept and you’re intimidated by a situation it’s a bit harder to think straight.
For anyone interested, here’s what it all looks like and how it works:
The Laundromat Cafe in Reykjavik. A hip place to wash your underwear with strangers.
The laundry room at Laundromat Cafe in Reykjavik. This kind woman is who I passed on my washing knowledge to before I left the cafe. She and her hubby were a pleasure to talk to!
The instructions for the washing machines. Read it now before you’re standing in a crowded room feeling pressured to figure everything out. 🙂 The main coin-box numbers apply to both the washers and dryers and the smaller numbers just below the timer are for deciding whether you want washer #3(press #1) or dryer #3(press #2). Put in your coins into the box with the corresponding number on your washer then press #1 to tell it you’re on a washing machine.
I apologize I forgot to take photos specifically of the machines, but here’s a decent enough zoom. In the front flip-up compartment on the top left of the machine you can add your detergent; liquid on left, powdered on right. Wash buttons from left to right: Pick your temperature and wash-type (95/60/40-normal wash, then 60/40-gentle, handwash, spin only). The extra options under the LCD: the running man is quick wash, the vertical line in a bucket is for liquid detergent, not sure what the spin-cycle-looking button is for – maybe extra spin? -, last button is for extra water. Start button is on the right, and the tiny icons in a vertical line are indicators of where the wash is in the cycle.
The dryer. Pick a temperature from the left 4 buttons and press the power button on the right. Easy enough 🙂 30 minutes of dry time was plenty for my medium sized load of travel clothes.
The cafe. Order the Clean Brunch if you have mucho coin to spend and a big appetite to quench (or the Dirty Brunch, if you’re a meat eater) it’s all quite delicious. The ginger mango juice is soooo yummy too!
I went back upstairs after successfully getting my washer to start and tried to find a seat. There was very little space left so I asked a couple sitting at a 7-top if I could squeeze into the corner with them. They of course said yes and within 5 minutes they had left and an older woman and then a French couple joined me at the table. It took quite a while to flag someone down to order and get the wifi password, and by the time my food came I had to run downstairs to move my clothes to the dryer (40 minutes).
I had no trouble, thankfully with the dryer and the same nice man who initially tried to help me was folding his laundry so we started to chat. His name is Thubten Comerford (pronounced tube-ten)and was in town as a speaker for the Startup Iceland event going on at the big Harpa concert hall. He explained that he is a Twitter guru and the event is all about how to super-charge small startups and create a sustainable economy here in Iceland. It sounded so cool! It reminded me of the TEDx FrontRange event I work with back home and I, half jokingly, asked if he needed a personal photographer tomorrow. He said he’d check and see if that was something we could do. I laughed and said it would be awesome and we traded cards.
After Thubten and I finished chatting I went up and ate my now cold though delicious “clean brunch”. It had pancakes, Skyr with maple syrup nuts and coconut flakes, fresh fruits, a big salad with hummus and oil dressing, fried tomatoes and potatoes, eggs, and a shot of ginger mango juice. The “dirty brunch” has 3 types of meat instead of fresh hummus and a big beautiful salad.
I couldn’t get connected to the wifi, which has been pretty par for the course at busy cafes here so I cut my stay short and packed up as soon as I had finished eating and my timer for the dryer went off. When I got downstairs a new American couple was standing there with the same look on their faces I’d been sporting earlier and so I decided to pass on the kindness of showing them how to use the machines since Thubten had done it for me. They were lovely folks! We chatted about what we do for a living and I gave them my card.
After the Laundromat Cafe I called Sigrun to see where she and her 10 year old cousin, Baldur, whom she was watching for the day, were. There was a huge family event going on down by the harbor because it was SeaFarer’s Day and she said they were already there. I was only 5 blocks away and when I arrived I found them in line for riding on a mock-emergency rescue setup that went over the water to the other side of the dock. It looked like fun!
This is Baldur as they sent him across the water on the rescue contraption.
After Balder’s ride we went inside the Maritime Museum and there were many people having a lovely brunch in the event room and dancing a two-step on the neighboring dance floor. Sigrun and Baldur jumped right in and started dancing.
We boarded the Icelandic Coast Guard ship next to the museum and took the tour, then looked at the displays of at least 20 different fish that are brought in at this harbor. That part was kind of disgusting because everyone (though mostly kiddos) were handling the freshly dead fish and the smell was so strong. There were Skates, Angler fish, Rockfish, and many other huge and small critters. I had no idea Angler fish were as large as they are, holy cow! Such incredible creatures.
We walked around a bit more and Baldur played with some of the neat games that were set up for kiddos at the park.
When they were ready to head back to the house for some pancakes I split off and went to the cafe that one of the folks I’d met in Akureyri had recommended to me, Mokka. Unfortunately, it was packed and some kiddos were loudly goofing around (I’m not a big fan of crowds or screaming and the Seafarer’s Day event had me exhausted already)… and there was no wifi. I forgot to ask about the wifi until after I ordered so I enjoyed my drink, which was lovely, and chatted with a nice man next to me. He thought I was Icelandic (the third person that day to do so!) and began chatting at me and I had to stop him and say “Sorry?”. He smiled and said I looked very Icelandic so he just assumed. I’ll take that as a compliment! He was sitting at a small table piled up with his lunch dishes, a few open notebooks and writing utensils and his glasses. He is short and a bit portly, has long wavy grey and white hair and a small beard, smiling eyes and a rolling briefcase covered in duct tape on the handle. He kind of looked like a wise sansei, and he proudly told me he comes from Iceland and many other countries when I asked him if he was a native. I told him that I was mostly Irish and German, with a minuscule amount of Comanche blood mixed in a few generations back (Dad told me that this year, I had never known!). He asked what Comanche was and I was embarrassed that I didn’t know anything about them and their history. After chatting a bit I told him I was sorry but very much needed to get some work done and he smiled and said, “So do I,” and we quietly worked next to one another for a while longer. When I was ready to post to the blog I boogied up the street to use the wifi and get another latte at my tried-and-true favorite, Cafe Babalu.
I wrote and edited for a couple hours and then Skyped with my dad, step mom, sister, brother-in-law and husband while they were all celebrating my dad’s birthday back home. I wanted to be there when Jason gave dad the present I got him. Thanks to some trading of photography skills earlier in the year I was able to have a very talented glass-blowing friend make me a set of handmade marbles for him. Dad makes these beautiful hardwood game boards that use marbles and dice – a sort of Sorry game. I wanted him to have a special set of marbles made just for him so that we can use them when we play as a family. It’s been so hard keeping this secret for nearly six months! I was so excited that I almost gave them to him the day they were delivered.
Dad and my sis playing after our Skype call. 🙂
Marbley goodness. They’re slightly bigger than standard marbles and apparently that’s a good thing. 🙂
The new marbles on the 6-player board Dad made.
When I got home Stu was at work and Sigrun and Andy were relaxing. I went out to the car for the evening to relax and talk to Jason. We giggled and chatted for a while until a US phone number persistently kept interrupting us. I finally answered it and it was the gentleman from the Colorado Bee Keepers. A few weeks ago I had seen a Facebook post about how they were looking for backyards to host bee hives. I had been contemplating learning how to keep bees in the future and thought this would be a perfect baby-step for me. They take care of the hive every two weeks and we’ll get to have our very own pollinating specialists all summer and keep a quarter of the honey in the fall as payment. I’m hoping to pick their brains throughout the year and get a good feel for it so I can take care of my own hives down the road.
The man, Cameron, said he was ready to come by and install my bee hive! I told him I was still in Iceland but Jason was home and to head on over. I called Jason back to let him know what was happening and then I (not so) patiently waited for him to call me back and tell me how it went.
Jason called me back and said the 6 folks that came to install the hive were extremely nice and loved our yard. They were very happy with the place we chose for the bees and they set up the hive so quickly Jason could hardly believe it. He said they plopped down two support blocks, sat the hive box on top, slipped in the comb slats and queen, then dumped the bees. I wish so badly I could have been there to experience and document it, but Jason did send me a couple of photos:
See the queen on the far right? Jason said she was moving pretty fast. It’s probably so stressful for them to be relocated like that!
I know the marbles and my bees have nothing to do with Iceland, but I’m very excited about both of them. Today was one of those days I wished I could be in two places at once. 🙂
When I got off the phone with Jason I noticed I’d gotten an email from Thubten saying to meet him at the Harpa concert center tomorrow morning at 9. Holy moley! I was so excited that I’d get to photograph and attend the Startup Iceland event I could hardly sleep.
First I want to wish my hubby, Jason, a happy Vesuvio anniversary! On May 31st, 2011 he and I climbed to the top of the volcano, Mt Vesuvius, in Naples, Italy and privately said our vows to one another on a ledge overlooking Naples Bay as the clouds rolled over misting us with cool, wet air while lavender butterflies fluttered around us (no joke, it was truly epic). It was one of the best days of my life and I’m so grateful to somehow be even happier with him today than we were on that idyllic day. I love you, sweetheart! I am so grateful for your support and encouragement while I’ve been traveling and left you home with all the responsibilities. ❤
Now back to today: The weather in Reykjavik has turned rainy again. It’s a gentle constant mist that somehow soaks your clothes more efficiently than larger drops. At least the temperature has warmed up now. It’s been about 52-57 degrees during the day and only 48 degrees at night. It makes for much more comfortable car sleeping. 🙂
I’ve been ailing from harshly negative dreams this week. Generally, when I have an extraordinarily good day the following night’s dreams are the exact opposite. For example; if I have a fun-filled day with Jason I will then dream that he and I fight and call it quits over something awful. I wonder if it’s my mind’s way of balancing out my endorphins and stress hormones? I suppose since I’m having such bad dreams it must mean I’m having far too much fun here in Reykjavik!
Sigrun and Andy headed over to Cafe Babalu and I went downtown to return the camping stove I had purchased at the beginning of the trip. When I had realized it would be so expensive to buy one here I made a promise to myself that I would only open it and use it if I really needed to. I shouldn’t have even bought it because I had absolutely no need for it once my mind was set on returning it. Any time I made my little cup-o-soups on the road I was perfectly happy eating them cold because it meant I could still return the silly stove.
I went into the Marmot store and the man remembered me and asked how my trip has been. We chatted a bit and then I asked him if I could return the stove. He said I could only return it for store credit. I decided not to take no for an answer (you know, since I’ve been practicing being bold and doing things I wouldn’t normally do). I stood there and looked around then said “but my trip is over, there’s nothing else I would need here that I could fit into my luggage.” He stared at the receipt a bit and then pulled out the (fairly hidden) signage saying returns beyond 24 hours will result in only store credit. I mirrored his silence and read the sign for an uncomfortably long time, chewing on my lip with a worried look on my face. Just as I was about to give in, because I was getting so uncomfortable in the silence, he said “Okay, for you I will make an exception. Because you’re so nice.” I smiled as big as I could possibly manage and thanked him. I told him I will give him rave reviews online and he laughed and said “Good, but don’t tell people that I let you return this for money back.” I laughed and gave him my word (aaaand I’m just now realizing I’ll be blowing that promise…).
Because I was able to get the stove returned when normally I would have accepted the initial answer of no, and then would have sulked about it all day, I felt like I was queen of the universe! I walked back onto the street with my head held high and mentally added another item to my list of Things I’ve Learned and/or Done Out Of My Comfort Zone In Iceland.
I popped into a few chic art galleries along Laugavegur, chatted with shop-keeps and felt right at home in the city. I hadn’t realized how often I tend to create things at home until I have now spent so much time traveling. I think I’m having withdrawls from being handy! Each time I find something cute that I might consider buying my brain snaps and says “Oh hell no, you can make that for cheaper when you get home!” I’ve been taking photos of all the cute things I want to make and the list is getting frighteningly long. 😉
Sigrun jokes about how Icelandic people park wherever they want to. This is a perfect example.
My favorite street art shot so far. ❤
This is my favorite indoor-gallery piece I’ve seen so far. It’s by Tolli. It’s so beautiful and large in real life. It’s on my “if I win the lottery” list of buys 🙂
I stopped at a cafe-by-day bar-by-night called Tiu Dropar (The Ten Drops). I ordered a latte and tried an Icelandic donut. The coffee was not so good but the donut was really yummy. It tasted like a dense funnel cake without the powdered sugar.
I walked home in the rain and stopped in to a few more shops. I found an extremely cute teacup and saucer – it was so simple and white and elegant – but when I flipped it over and saw the price was close to $50 USD I boogied out of that store as quick as possible before I broke something I couldn’t pay for. If you ever go to Iceland know this: you will spend a fortune if you don’t want to live off of peanut butter and crackers nor forgo souvenirs. Even the crappiest, made-in-china-plastic-keychains are at least $15. I even found an 8” stuffed animal for $100 at a particularly chic store. Chic must be Icelandic for expensive. 😉
I ducked into Bonus, a grocery store chain, and picked up some milk, apples and tomato sauce. I was thinking we could maybe make pizza sometime this week with the leftover shredded cheeses from when I made the quiche. I really enjoy cooking at home and doing so here in Iceland for everyone has made me feel even more comfortable.
When I arrived back at the flat Stuart had joined Sigrun and Andy. Joanna had taken her flight out of the country that morning and now Stu will be living here for the next few weeks until his new place is ready.
Sigrun and I took the car to run some errands. It’s fun to be able to help in that way since they don’t normally have a car at their disposal. We dropped off the recyclables and collected the money for them – enough to buy a fancy bottle of wine! – then we went to pick up a loaned folding bed for Stu to use while he’s staying. We got a little lost at one point but it’s fun getting to see more of the rural outskirts of Reykjavik. It’s such a beautiful area, and the old apartments we visited were absolutely charming!
Back home we decided to rearrange the entire flat to fit Stu’s new fold-out bed and make better use of the limited space. We even moved the refrigerator to a new location! It was fun; like Tetris, but with furniture.
Once the furniture shuffling was completed we ran to Vin Budin to get our wine with the money from the recyclables, and we picked up some ginger beer that Sigrun had been wanting to try. Just like most everything else I’ve tasted here in Iceland, the ginger beer was delicious. We were all a bit tuckered out so we kicked back and watched the first Xmen movie, which I’d never seen before, and then Stu cooked us all an amazing asian inspired blackbean sauce pasta. I have to learn how to make that.
Though I’m really loving this slow-paced week of playing in Reykjavik it’s making me miss Jason all the more. I cannot wait until he arrives so I can show him all my favorite places and we can reconnect. My heart starts to pitter-patter just thinking about it!
My morning was filled with writing, a powdered latte and a quick visit from Stu and Jo when they brought over a few suitcases since Stu will be moving in with Sigrun and Andy for a couple weeks until his new apartment is ready.
I have begun to feel like I’m wasting the day away if I don’t at least stroll downtown for a few hours. I know I’m going to miss Reykjavik like mad when I go home so I keep trying to soak in as much as I can, always finding new art and shops during each trip I take. While I was out I visited the museum Reykjavik 871(+/-2) and it was fascinating! In 2001, while constructing a new building downtown some old artifacts were found. Construction ceased and careful excavation begun. Check out the above link for further information, it’s pretty cool. When I visit old settlement sites I always have an intense reaction. Regardless of if I’m walking through a grain factory from 1893AD or Egyptian tombs from 1300BC – it’s still amazing to me that I am witnessing bits of my ancestors’ lives.
When I came out of the museum I could hear hundreds of children yelling and cheering. I followed the sound over to a public square that is normally filled with skateboarders. Today it was filled with primary school children dressed in 4 distinct team colors. There was an announcer dressed as a cow and all the teachers/coaches were wearing superhero capes. Everyone was screaming and cheering. It took me a while to understand what was going on but once I saw the make-shift go karts I realized it was a race. The children all had their own team chants and were all impressively in sync with one another as they chanted their little songs.
After I’d had my fill of screaming children (it didn’t take long, haha!) I headed South of the square and found a charming cafe. It was a Te & Kaffe (which seems to be the Icelandic counterpart to Starbucks). I ordered a mocha latte and quickly understood why it was a popular joint. It easily made the top 3 lattes I’ve had in Iceland. I daydreamed in the comfortable cafe and watched the rain pour down for about an hour before heading out into it again.
On the way home I snapped images of more street art, then finally stopped by a bakery. Every single one I walk by is so enticing that I finally caved and bought a big round loaf of bread and a gorgeous little creme-filled pastry to share with Sigrun and Andy after dinner.
I headed home and got started on making another quiche, by request. It makes me so happy everyone has liked my recipe! Sigrun and I chatted while I worked and by the time Andy got home we were ready for dinner. I absolutely love cooking while I’m here. It makes me feel so at home.
After dinner we took a walk down to the old cemetery that I had told them about a few days before (I couldn’t believe I was introducing the locals to something new in Reykjavik, woo hoo!). It was so interesting to look at the names and dates of the gravestones. So many long lives, and so many short lives. We found one unique mosaic headstone for an artist who had died at 33 in the 1890’s, and several infant gravestones for kiddos who never made it past their first year… so sad.
After our quiet walk we stopped into a pub for a brew. We were enjoying our drinks and discussing travel and movies when a man who had already pestered Andy when he went out to smoke came in and started trying to chat up a group of young women sitting near us. They were clearly annoyed by him and he was completely oblivious. He eventually got the hint and wandered away. We shook our heads and kept talking. We were deep into a conversation about the most effective teaching methods we had enjoyed as kids when someone pulled out the chair next to me and sat down. It was the Drunken Pest. He immediately started asking me questions. Where was I from? Was I Mormon? Why am I in Iceland? I knew he was intoxicated so I mostly returned his questions with the same questions about himself but he refused to answer any of them – or did so in a cryptic manner. I quickly decided to show him my mean face because he sat down, uninvited, and interrupted our conversation with his questions while never answering any of my returned lobs. Sigrun thought my mean face was pretty funny and said she’d have to remember that one. I felt bad for being cross with a stranger but he was far too aggressive and I’ve learned if you’re nice to people who already aren’t respecting your space it never ends well so it saves time to nip it in the bud. ;P
I’m thoroughly enjoying this week of pretending I live in Reykjavik. It’s been so relaxing and has given my mind a break from always being on the move. There are less photos being taken some days but grand memories being made none the less. I suppose I would be comfortable saying 4 weeks of nonstop photos has earned me a week off?
We were enjoying a relaxing holiday morning at the house; I was writing and letting my pesky blister heal, Sigrun was feeling even more ill so she was resting and watching Dr Who while Andy went for a walk. Down the street the Hallgrimskirkja church bells started going off at 10:30am and just kept gonging. We thought maybe there was a wedding or something but they didn’t stop. We discussed it for a bit until Sigrun said “Wait, today is a Christian holiday. That’s why we have the day off of work.” and we both laughed that we never made the very obvious connection. I later read that the holiday is called Ascension Day.
Sigrun did a little house cleaning and I needed a break from writing so I headed to the Hagkaup market to buy ingredients for the quiche I was planning to make for Joanna’s going-away party that evening. After I got back from the store Andy fried up some Welsh cakes for the party and they were so delicious! I will certainly be adding these to my baking repertoire from here on out.
We relaxed the afternoon away until Sigrun had to go to her gymnastics meet. I started making the quiche and for some reason I was so nervous it wouldn’t taste good but, really, I suppose you can’t go wrong with eggs and cheesey goodness. It was fun cooking in a new kitchen and figuring out how to convert Fahrenheit to Celsius, and cups to deciliters. The only thing I messed up on was adding too much salt, but it was still quite tasty!
When Sigrun returned from gymnastics we walked over to Joanna and Stuart’s flat a few blocks away. I was introduced to one of their friends named Freddie who is from Denmark and currently employed as a bartender while working on her thesis on TEDx and the spreading of innovative ideas. Everyone I’ve met here is so fascinating!
We sat down for a dinner of quiche, a delicious veggie pizza that Stuart made, the Welsh cakes Andy made and some Pimm’s that Emily and Keir, the lovely couch-surfers from the UK I’d just met, had left behind. If you’ve never tried Pimm’s, I highly recommend giving it a go. I’m told it’s a wildly popular summer drink in the UK and if the sun is shining then out comes the Pimm’s!
We laughed and dined our way through the evening. My favorite moment of the entire evening was when Stuart noticed I’d used dill in the crust of the quiche and told us all what he thought that dill was comparable to a crying strong-man. Because, he explained, spices are supposed to pack a punch and give a distinct flavor but when you taste dill it’s this wimpy whisper of a flavor. We had a good laugh about that brilliant description.
Since Joanna and Stuart will be living apart for the next several months they’ve decided to make an extremely creative website to connect their two worlds. They will be posting songs, images, poems, etc. from their respective corners of the world and lining them up together each day finding way s to connect the two together. I think it’s fantastic! They asked if I’d take a photo for the website banner so we walked down the street to a uniquely painted joining of two buildings to use as our background.
Back at the flat we moved on from Pimm’s to Vodka-Cokes and then we sampled some Brennivin. Brennivin is an unsweetened Icelandic liquor made of potato mash and flavored with caraway, cumin and angelica. It tastes mildly of licorice and pumpernickel bread. I liked it a lot but probably couldn’t drink it often.
We talked the evening away until Sigrun and Andy headed back home since they had to work in the morning and poor, sweet Sigrun was still feeling so ill. I stayed a bit longer to chat until I had enjoyed far too much drink and figured I better head back before I was unable to.
I said my goodbyes to Joanna and wished her well since I may not see her again before she moves back to New Zealand on Saturday, was given some clothes-hangers to take to Sigrun, thanked the three for a lovely evening and off I went.
My home-away-from-home neighborhood ❤
I walked home in the midnight sun. The night was the warmest one yet (summer is nearly here!), with my little quiche dish in one hand, an armload of colorful clothes-hangers in the other and a giant grin on my face. Halfway back to Sigrun’s I stopped and sat on a stone wall for a minute to soak in the moment. There were still a few quiet birds murmuring in the trees though it was midnight, and I could hear the sounds of traffic and a few laughing voices from an open window nearby. A lanky orange cat with a big blue collar walked atop the mossy stone fence and stopped next to me. I gave him a nice pat and told him to remember this moment. “No one else will experience this exact moment beyond you and me,” I told him, “We are very lucky to be in Iceland, and in this beautiful weather, and to be happy and healthy and safe.” He rattled a purr in answer.
By the time I got back to my bed I was even more intoxicated. Be it from the alcohol, the incredible circumstance of this past month of my life, or a perfect combination of both; I was punch drunk either way, and fell asleep with a big dopey grin on my face.
. . .
Quiche a’La Lanna
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup iced water
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 scant tablespoon tears of a strong man (dill)
Blend flour, dill and salt in mixing bowl; combine oil and icewater together and whisk until cloudy; combine flour and oil mixtures (knead it only enough to form a clump, no more, to keep crust flakey); press into pie dish and set aside.
~3/4 milk (more milk, less eggs for a fluffier quiche; more eggs less milk for a more substantial quiche)
2 tablespoons butter
1 small to medium red bell pepper [I love to do a mix of red, yellow and orange peppers in the quiche to make it pretty then eat the remainder of the peppers with a creamy dip while I bake the quiche… but it’s not necessary ;)]
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1-2 cups of any other shredded cheeses you like. More mozza, cheddar, feta, gouda or any herb cheese are tasty choices
3 whole green onions
Salt and black pepper to taste
Dice the white portion (about 2-3″ worth) of the green onions and dice the peppers into small uniform chunks, sauté together in 1 tbs butter. Chop the remainder of the green onions. Blend eggs, milk, shredded cheeses, green onion, salt, black pepper in a bowl and set aside. Preheat oven to 375f/190c. Once the sautéed peppers are finished, let cool for 5 minutes and combine into egg mixture. When ready to bake, pour egg mixture into crust and use a fork to squish the edge of the crust down to hug the egg. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until golden brown. Let it cool 15 minutes before slicing. Enjoy!
Andy and Sigrun had already left for work, and I enjoyed a hot cup of coffee while Emily and Keir packed their bags. They had to leave for the airport that afternoon and thought they’d take a dip in the hot-pots before they go. I think that’s the perfect thing to do before taking a long flight!
I loaded up my day bag and the three of us walked down to the pool and said our goodbyes. I wish those two the best of luck in all their amazing adventures. I can’t wait to hear about their WWOOF experiences.
I continued on towards downtown and realized the blister I’d earned yesterday on the ball of my foot was becoming fairly painful. I perused a few chic stores and then stopped in Eymundsson bookstore to give my foot a break and try a latte and a chocolate muffin. The store is 3 stories tall and resides in a beautiful building with a glass-roofed cafe inside on the 3rd floor. You can sit at a bar along the front windows and watch all the people below while you sip your caffeine. I enjoyed my muffin and hunkered down to write.
For whatever reason I had trouble focusing on writing. My calves were sore from walking too much yesterday and my foot was stinging quite a bit. Ouch! I kept finding myself daydreaming while staring at the building across from me. I wonder if the people inside thought I was trying to stare into their souls.
The sun peaked out and warmed the city street below me. The buildings and art here during the cloudy days are already colorful and beautiful but then the sun comes out and the city just glows under the bright blue sky.
I eventually gave up on writing and convinced myself to make the journey back to the house and planned to lay down for a just bit because I just wasn’t feeling 100%. I awoke much later and both Sigrun and Andy were home from work already. Sigrun said she had also felt unwell during the day and we all agreed it’d be nice to have a quiet night staying in even though tomorrow would be a holiday. The night before a holiday in Reykjavik is usually a busy time for downtown and it’s popular for young folks to go out and pub crawl until the wee hours of the morning since everyone will have the next day off. I was happy they were also wanting to stay in so I offered to get us a sixer of beer to enjoy while we relax.
Sigrun and I drove to the closest Vinbudin, which is the only kind of liquor store in the country and is government run. We thought it’d be fun to try more new beers so we picked 4 different brews and then got two of the ones we had loved the most from the night before.
When we got home I remembered I had a packet of an Italian pasta meal mix that I had bought when I first left Reykjavik. I had figured I might cook it on my little camp stove (you know, the one I never opened and need to return?) so we cooked it up and added some extra noodles to stretch it further. It was pretty darn good!
We hung out and tried the different beers, and Andy taught me that Puffins don’t always have a fancy colorful beak like the ones you see in all the photos. In the summer they look like this:
But then in the winter they look more like this:
Sigrun continued to feel worse and worse with a stuffed head and sore throat so I drove her to the pharmacy to get some medicine. Poor thing. Being ill is just no fun.