Golden Circle Day Two

Posted on July 28, 2015

First order of business for our second day in Iceland was finding a lopapeysa. Lopapeysa are traditional Icelandic wool sweaters made from these handsome fellas…

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…and they are pricey but so so pretty and I really wanted one. I was also counting on it for warmth as we were going to be spending quite a bit of time exposed to the elements. Once we left Reykjavik, I knew that stores would be few and far between and prices would reflect that scarcity. So…after much deliberation I did some research and found Thorvaldsen’s Bazar, an 111 year old shop run by the oldest women’s society in Iceland. The shopkeeper was so friendly and helped me find just the right one.IMG_1951

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The day was so sunny and clear and not all that windy. We weren’t expecting to get so lucky. After my little shopping excursion, we began driving to Þingvellir, or as I like to call it, tectonic rift-y park. Along the way, we saw a large snowy field on the side of the road with a beautiful view and just had to hop out of the car to hike around a little, we were that excited to be in the nature of Iceland we had dreamed about for so many months. It was fun to watch Julian figure out how to walk in his puffy snow suit-he actually did really well.

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We saw Þingvellir, then Gullfoss-the first major waterfall of our trip, then the field of geysers and geothermal pools at Geysir. It was all very beautiful but after that we went to Secret Lagoon and it was totally the best part of the day. Splashing around with your baby in a natural hot springs pool in the middle of farm country with black pebble bottom and perfect temperature water; what more could you ask for? We got back in the car and stopped at Cafe Mika where they sell fancy chocolates, and they let me buy some even though they had closed a few minutes earlier. So many of the people we met there were so generous and went out of their way to help us if they could.

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The chocolates were delightful to snack on as we drove to Kerið, a volcanic crater surrounded by colorful, almost fake looking scenery. Julian was sleeping by that point so we took turns hiking around. Ted even FaceTime’d his parents from the top! Good son! Then we had two hours of driving to our place for the night in Fossatun outside Borgarsnes. I felt so giddy when we got there. It was a little valley tucked away from any kind of city with a small river running through and waterfalls all around.

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The proprietor had asked us to call him when we arrived so he could come meet us with the key, but Ted’s phone was almost dead and he was having trouble figuring out how to make international calls. There was a small moment of panic, but somehow we got in contact with him and he showed us to the airbnb house just a little down the road from the main guesthouse area. We talked to him for a bit about the area, his side job writing books about trolls (!) and the northern lights. He said there was about a fifty fifty chance to see them that night and suggested watching from the hot tub close to the main building. If only! But we didn’t feel good about leaving Julian in a strange shared house. The house itself was really cool-had kind of a hunting lodge vibe going on but unfortunately there was a little fly problem. We made some spaghetti for dinner, got sweet Julian (who had been such a good sport all day without much of a nap) settled and went out to watch for northern lights and stargaze with no luck because it kept getting more and more cloudy.

Reykjavik Day One

Posted on July 26, 2015

IMG_0137 IMG_0852IMG_0154Travel days with Julian are tough, exhausting hard work. But there were a couple delightful things about this particular trip. We started our trip by driving to Toronto and he slept the whole time. Then while we were at the airport he was having such a good time wandering around and interacting with people. Out of nowhere he went up to a little girl and held his arms wide for a hug then he hugged her! Nobody taught him to do that. And then he did it again to another little toddler girl. All the adults in this situation were cracking up. On the airplane, he loves looking out the window at the luggage being loaded and all the vehicles driving around. Like, he was in the middle of a meltdown when we showed him out the window and he sat there transfixed for the next 20 minutes until we had taken off. After some vigorous rocking, Julian fell asleep about an hour into the flight, but it was really fitful sleep. He kept waking and shrieking and squirming into uncomfortable looking positions. Then finally he face planted into my lap and didn’t move for the next two hours. My leg was completely dead by the time we arrived but it was completely worth it! And then a guy let us skip to the front of a very long customs line because we had Julian. Anyway, it wasn’t easy but every once in a while, he does something that makes everything so great.

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We arrived at 2:00 am Rochester time, 6:00 am in Reykjavik. I barely dozed on the plane, but felt weirdly awake maybe because the sun was up or maybe because we were finally in Iceland. We picked up our rental car and were given the rundown of all the things that could go wrong. For instance-never leave a car door open, even for a second, because the wind might blow it off. The drive to Reykjavik was otherworldly-the ground is all black and mossy and we kept glimpsing a huge plateau in the background. We made it to our dormitory style rental house in a truly perfect location in Reykjavik and wanted nothing more than to crash onto the bed and not move for the next few hours. But Julian was having none of that. Everyone else living in the house was getting breakfast in the kitchen right next to our room. When I literally couldn’t stay on my feet any more, I mumbled to Ted to just let Julian roam around and fell asleep immediately. Ted, who luckily didn’t listen to me, finally got Julian to fall asleep and we all had a brief but very necessary nap. We woke up groggy but ready to see the city and get prepared for our road trip.

IMG_0868 IMG_0870 IMG_0204We headed out to find some groceries at the neighborhood Bonus and stumbled into the cool part of downtown while we tried to figure out the foreign street signs and how to drive stick on hills simultaneously. There were some close calls. We had a great walk around downtown that made me wish we had more time in the capital. The air was brisk, there were delicious smells coming from all over, people were friendly, and there were stylish cozy looking shops all around. The wool shop I was excited about was closed before we made it there, but we found a record store and a couple book stores to duck into out of the rain. We enjoyed dinner at veg friendly restaurant Glo, then went back to the house for bedtime at 9:30 which turned into crying from 10-midnight while I rocked him and finally around 12:30, we all got to sleep.

Iceland? With a Baby???

Posted on July 1, 2015

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When we first started planning our trip to Iceland, almost every single person we told about our trip asked “Why Iceland?” The connotation was clear; why on earth would someone want to go somewhere even colder than Rochester in April and drag their poor baby along. And it’s not like they didn’t have a point. The few days before we left I was going crazy with nerves. There were so many things that could go wrong-snow storms making the mountain roads impassable, Julian being miserable the whole time we were in the car, one of our Airbnb rooms being a disaster, wind storms damaging our rental car, rain keeping us inside the car the whole trip. So yeah, I could see where people were coming from when they sounded skeptical.

But Iceland is an amazing country and that makes all the risks and inconvenience worth it. There is a reason that three months later we’re still talking about the trip and dying to go back. If you, like me back in January, are desperately scouring the internet for validation that you can survive a trip to Iceland with your toddler-the answer is you should absolutely go for it.  And you don’t just need to stay in Reykjavik the whole time either.

On that note, here is our

10 DAY ICELAND ITINERARY

Day 1: ROC–>Reykjavik

stay at Perfectly Located Historical House

Day 2: Reykjavik–>Golden Circle–>Borgarsnes

some of the most popular sights in Iceland, stay at Fossatun Guesthouse 

Day 3: Borgarsnes–>Akureyri

Lots of trolls, geothermal activity, settlement museum, and a beautiful drive, stay at Paradise North of Akureyri

Day 4: Akureyri–>Myvatn

second biggest city in Iceland, Lake Myvatn and surrounding areas, stay at Nice Night at a Farm

Day 5: Myvatn–>Egilsstadir

Geothermal soak, snowy hike, and our longest driving day, stay at Cottage With a View

Day 6: Egilsstadir–>Kirkubaejarklauster

Glacier Lagoon, mossy landscape,, stay at Icelandair Hotel Klauster

Day 7: Kirkubaejarklauster–>Vik

 Skaftafell park and black sand beaches, stay at Grand Guesthouse Gardakot

Day 8: Vik i Myrdal

Waterfalls, more black sand beaches, stay at Grand Guesthouse Gardakot again

Day 9: Vik–>Selfoss

Backtracking to a canyon we missed, waterfalls, Blue Lagoon, then staying close to Reykjavik at Luxury Rooms with spa Access

Day 10: Reykjavik–>Roc

OTHER STUFF…

Iceland is an expensive country, as most islands are, so we saved where we could. We found most of our accommodations through Airbnb where we could rent a room in someone’s house. This ended up being one of the coolest parts because we got to spend time with Icelandic people who were all so friendly and kind. For food, we survived on peanut butter and jelly, cheese and crackers, and the occasional orange. We went out to eat twice along the drive, and they were both chain sandwich shops (and both times it was surprisingly delicious.)  Spring turned out to be an awesome time for us to be in Iceland because weather was fine, prices were lower than during the high season, and we got to see the northern lights. But if we go back again (and I’m already planning it out in my mind) I want to go sometime when we can backpack through the highlands and see the Westfjords (one of the families we stayed with told us they were by far the most beautiful part of the island) and when everything is all green. We didn’t get to explore the Snaefellsnes peninsula and would love to do that someday. I can also see spending a week just around the black sand beach area in the south being amazing.   It’s a small country, but clearly it contains multitudes.

Road-Tripping the Midwest

Posted on June 5, 2015

 

 

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We ended up staying for two nights in Ann Arbor with our friends. They just finished med school in Cleveland and their youngest daughter is just a few weeks older than Julian so we never run out of things to talk about. We had a couple fun late nights with them talking and eating treats. While the kids were awake we got to explore the college-ey neighborhood around campus, campus itself with all the classic architecture and brick buildings and had a beautiful walk through the arboretum full of windy paths that I wanted to explore. I could imagine spending many a Sunday afternoon there.

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Before leaving we went to, I am not exaggerating, the most amazing deli for sandwiches-Zingerman’s. I was just sad that we couldn’t try every salad, every type of dessert and every sandwich they had there. It was a wonderland of food. It was only about a three hour drive to Chicago and we listened to our audiobook while Julian took a short nap, then chattered in the back seat.

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Somehow, the best deal on hotels we could find was for the Hard Rock Hotel on Michigan Ave. After we checked in we went to Millennium Park to see the Bean and stumbled into a magical free concert in the Jay Pritzger pavilion. We had some extra cheesy Chicago pizza for dinner and walked around a little more until we got to the Buckingham fountain, stopping at the coolest playground on the way. The next day we went out to Navy Pier and rode on the Ferris Wheel. We had the best lunch of tacos, chili cheese curds, and an horchata milkshake from Antique Taco, then drove on to Wisconsin.

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I am so glad we got to stop in Wisconsin to see my aunt and uncle and cousins who we haven’t seen since our family reunion at the Oregon Coast right after we got married. It was Sydney’s birthday the day we arrived and we felt lucky to get to celebrate with them. I had never met my youngest cousin in their family, Harper, and she is so sweet and funny and Julian had such a good time playing with her. They live in “Lake Country” because they are surrounded by so many little lakes, and we got to go to one of the nearby lakes with them and splash around and some of them even polar bear plunged. I was really impressed at my brave cousins. One of the highlights for me was getting to cook dinner with Cameron who was such a fun and great helper in the kitchen.

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The next day, I better write about quick, before I completely block it out of my memory. The best part of the day was getting to sing to Sydney for her birthday and eat her delicious birthday cake for breakfast. We made it to the end of a sacrament meeting then started driving. Julian fell asleep pretty early on in our drive but didn’t keep sleeping very long for some reason. After lots of stops to let Julian stretch his legs we made it to Des Moines where Ted’s cousin Christian is going to med school. We stopped just to say hi, but he was super busy studying so we moved along pretty quick. I drove the next leg and it was going well until we stopped for gas and Julian woke up. The next two hours until we made it to Kansas City, he was either whining or full-on screaming. It was so sad and we felt terrible for him but we also just really needed to get it over with.

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We stayed with the parents of some of our friends from Rochester who grew up in Kansas City. It was nice-and kind of a relief-to see the place where we are going to live after next year. There is so much unknown in our lives right now so now at least I have been to one of the places where we will live for residency. And it actually seems pretty cool! We decided to make a last minute change of plans and use some flight credit we had to get Julian and I a flight to Salt Lake City while Ted drove the rest of the way on his own. It was kind of sad to break up the roadtrip crew, but after the awful day we had all had, we felt like it was the right decision.

Heading Out to Seek Our Fortunes

Posted on May 27, 2015

First let me backtrack a little bit.

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So back in March we found out that we matched into a Transitional Year program in Spokane, WA and dermatology in Kansas City, KS. It was really one of the most exciting days ever being in the atrium of the nursing school with almost all of Ted’s classmates where we counted down to twelve noon before opening the envelopes that told them their fate for the next 3-6 years. There was so much emotion in that room, it was amazing. And so exciting to find out where all of our friends were heading too.

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Then in May both sets of our parents and Ted’s aunt and uncle came out for graduation. Graduation was a pretty big deal and we were glad to have family around to celebrate with us. We got to play tourist with them at Niagara Falls and the Lilac Festival art fair. Graduation was another really exciting day, but I was feeling all conflicted because of being really overwhelmed by everything that was changing and all that we needed to do before leaving.

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^one of our favorite Rochester spots for the last time^

I think now we’re all caught up until our road trip. The morning before we left we were scrambling to get everything jammed into our pods and our apartment all cleaned. We hired someone to come help us with cleaning, and still somehow I was frantically scrubbing tiny black marks off the wall five minutes after our landlord was supposed to show up to check us out. I’m so glad that he was a little late so I was able to have a small quiet moment to walk around our empty house for one last time, cupboards all empty and wood floors gleaming.

We left around lunchtime, and there was a restaurant I had been meaning to try and never got around to while we actually lived in Rochester. I got a Dhosa-an Indian crepe made of rice and lentils filled with spiced potatoes and onions, while Ted ran next door to his favorite sandwich shop in Rochester-Dibella’s. We split a custard/Italian Ice from Rita’s in the same plaza and then got on the road.

Julian fell asleep almost as soon as we started driving and blessedly was out for about four hours. I guess all our packing and cleaning wore him out too. About an hour into our drive, we crossed the border into Canada. It was a pretty uneventful trip until we stopped at one of the ubiquitous En Route truck stops and accidentally got Julian an eight dollar quesadilla from Taco Bell. What’s up with that, Canada? When we crossed back over the bridge into the US we were in the outskirts of Detroit.

After taking care of a blowout (thanks Julian) and replacing our leaky air mattress, we only had a short drive to Ann Arbor where our friends had just moved the day before. They are renting a two bedroom apartment until they find a house to buy, so they and their three kids were so kind to let us take up some of their already limited space. Not only did they welcome us to set up shop on their living room floor, they welcomed us with hot brownies and ice cream. These are the kinds of friends you want to have, people.

Surprise Mother’s Day Girls’ Weekend

Posted on May 5, 2015

IMG_0942Last Thursday, Ted told me I would need to find a sub for teaching my primary class because he and Julian had a surprise for me on Sunday. I definitely didn’t suspect what the surprise was…two whole nights at a beautiful cozy farmhouse near Ithaca with nine other lovely ladies. We went out on the town, we hot tubbed, we did yoga. It was a practically perfect weekend in every way. IMG_0959

Road trippin’

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We hit up the Ithaca farmer’s market Saturday after our morning runs/walks/sleep-ins.

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The library was having a sale and we all found some treasures.

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Hiking around at Buttermilk Falls. So cool how the falls just continues along the path as you walk up. Hayley is our yoga specialist. She is in training right now to become a yoga instructor and I love hearing about the stuff she’s learning.

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Mr. Tate was the only boy allowed on the trip, and was so fun to snuggle. His mama was so chill about the whole thing and definitely gave me respect for mothers of more than one-he is her fourth. Some of us went for pedicures and they had quite a full service treatment.

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Moosewood got mixed reviews from our group but I loved the dish I ordered-the Rumbledethunps. We all loved the restaurant we went to the night before though. It was a tapas place and they had an asparagus brown butter dish that…oh man…it was just the most delicious thing. They kept bringing out plates of beautiful food and we were telling first kiss stories and it was great.

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So relaxed! Nobody’s schedule but our own for the weekend!

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The yoga studio at the property where we stayed was built by the owners in a cottage by their creek. It smelled amazing inside like wood and sunshine.

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Our conversations ranged from the very silly to the deep and thought provoking to the scandalous and it was all very restorative and necessary. IMG_0940 IMG_0941  IMG_0957 IMG_0958

I feel really grateful for all the husbands that made this happen. I am getting really sad about leaving Rochester and this was such a wonderful last chance to have some quality time with these friends who all inspire me in different ways.

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