Day 2 in Iceland

Day 2 in Iceland was jam packed. I’ve hardly had the chance to sit down and write about this trip because we’ve done so much each day and I come back to the hotel totally wiped out. I’ll try to keep this short.

After breakfast on day 2 we immediately hopped in the car and headed out. We came across an area that had incredible, flowing turquoise water. All I could think was that it would make for the most perfect lazy river to tube down if only it were warm. Alas, I found it was not when I stepped in a marsh of it hidden by grass and soaked my foot. Womp womp.

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Our next stop was a huge waterfall called Gullfoss. The weather kept changing and I was grateful I brought and additional layer because it was cold there, especially with the water spraying everywhere. It’s a big tourist attraction so it was busy to the point where you most likely will have to crop people out of your pictures but the site was beautiful nonetheless.

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Pro tip – the majority of sites we have been to have required some level of steep climbing and a high chance of getting hurt if you slip and fall. This isn’t to freak anyone out, but flats or booties are definitely out of the question (I say this as someone who has seen others wearing those.) I’ve been alright in my running shoes because they have decent grip/traction but a solid pair of hiking boots wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Gullfoss had an awesome little gift shop and cafe area that had some good hearty sandwiches if you wanted to grab lunch there. There were also bathroom facilities, which cost 200 kr (2ish dollars) took cash or card, and were clean.

From Gullfoss we headed to the geyser right near by. I didn’t get any great pictures of it because it was huge and I’ve been keeping my zoom lens on however, it was really cool, really busy with tourists, and a quick easy stop because the geyser shoots up every 6 minutes or so.

When we left the geyser we were pretty hungry so we stopped by an N1 to get gas and pick up lunch supplies. We got some snacks and sandwich stuff and stopped off in a little trail area to eat. It came to around $51.00 for 4 of us, including a can of beer and a few candy bars in addition to the sandwich supplies.

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Trying the candy here has been fun.

While we were driving we saw a sign for an attraction and decided to check it out. It ended up being an amazingly beautiful crater in the earth with the most unreal lake/pond at the bottom. The sun was shining bright in this area of the island and it really made the colors stand out.

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While we were on the top of the crater we noticed a crazy colored mountain in the distance. We had nothing really pressing on the agenda so we decided to drive around and try to get up to it afterwards.

It took some sleuthing and admittedly, the site had a sign saying it was “under surveillance” but the view was incredible. A few other cars had the same idea as us and we all sort of stood in awe for a few minutes. Thinking back to it, it’s still one of my favorite things I’ve seen. It reminded me of the desert in Disney’s Aladdin.

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We headed back to the hotel to rest before dinner at Minilik, a nearby Ethiopian restaurant. I’d been dying to try Ethiopian food and it did not disappoint. The restaurant was super low key and had great vegetarian options. My only note would be that the portions are a bit small. I’d recommend an appetizer in addition to the entree.

After wine and great food, I was ready for a good nights sleep. Stay tuned for my day 3 recap!

chelsea

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Day 1 in Iceland

After an extremely long day of traveling, I am finally well rested, showered, and about to have breakfast at the hotel.

Chris and I took off from Boston on Saturday around 9pm. There was a slight delay because of some thunderstorms in the area but once we took off the flight was smooth and felt relatively short.

Due to the time difference we were expecting to land in Iceland around 6am the next day. I promise you, I did my very best to sleep on the flight. I woke up early that day. I drank a lot of red wine. I got a work out in. But alas, I was extremely uncomfortable and MAYBE got a max of 90 minutes of sleep. I think it was closer to 45 minutes, honestly.

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*The higher the pinkies the fancier*

One thing that I’m glad I caught during the flight was flying over Greenland. The clouds cleared a few times so I could see the terrain and it occurred to me that I would most likely never have seen Greenland in my life otherwise.

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It said on the flight info screen that the air temp at our altitude was -58 degrees Fahrenheit.

We landed in Reykjavik on time and met up with Chris’s parents, who flew from New York and arrived shortly after us. From what I experienced, the airport was very clean and modern. It also had some of the coolest bathrooms I’ve ever been in, just sayin’.

We picked up our car rental and headed out. I’ve never seen such a diverse terrain as I did in our first day driving around. I’ve actually never seen anything like this country ever. Iceland is a volcanic island and as a result there’s a lot of really cool rock formations and unusual lava fields. Suffice to say, it wasn’t long before we pulled the car over to take photos.

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We stopped quickly for breakfast at a little cafe and went to Kronan, a local grocery store chain to pick up snacks for the road. I love going to grocery stores in foreign places. It’s interesting to see how people eat and shop.

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After that, it was time to hit the road. Our hotel was in Reykholt, a little over an hour’s drive from the airport. Check-in wasn’t until 4pm so we decided to drive around a bit and sightsee. So worth it. We found a road on a map that drove through a valley and it was by far the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen.

I don’t even know where to start in explaining it. I read somewhere that when you visit Iceland you want to take pictures of every single thing you see. It’s true. The photos come nowhere close to how genuinely magnificent and vast the landscape is. It was mind blowing. There were miles and miles of land, broken up only by enormous, towering cliffs. Every body of water we encountered was perfectly crystal clear.

 

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You can’t tell from the photo but those are giant mountains!

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The drive on this remote, single road was roughly 3 hours (we had to go slow for a long portion of it because it was unpaved) and we saw no more than 5 other cars throughout it. The landscape was not only vast but varied as well. Some stretches were lush and green and with one turn we would be surrounded by nothing but what seemed like rocky desert.

 

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When we finally made it out of the valley we stopped for a quick bite to eat at gas station/rest stop. The restaurants in Iceland are expensive but the gas stations often have reasonably priced groceries available. We went to the bistro and split a plate of nachos for about $28.00 before heading on our way.

While we were on the road we noticed a lot of cars stopped in one area so we decided to check it out. We couldn’t tell what the attraction was from the parking lot but when we got closer we found that it was an incredible waterfall/stream.

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It’s so difficult to relay the true scale of these sites because they’re so massive and look so underwhelming in photos. A good opportunity to just be present and enjoy the matter at hand, I guess.

When we finally got to the hotel after a bit of confusion and a 2 hour detour, I thought I’d be ready for bed. However, after napping intermittently in the car I still had energy to walk around and explore the grounds and I figured if I could stay up later it would help with the jet lag. We settled into our rooms and washed before heading to dinner at Restaurant Mika, where I got the Cheese Dream Pizza. I’ve never had cheese pizza with raspberry chili sauce but it ended up being delicious. The restaurant has been recommended online and I can say after visiting that the service and food were both excellent.

Finally, after we finished dinner around 9pm (still bright as day outside btw,) we were ready for bed. I crawled under the covers and slept like a rock until our alarm went off the next morning for breakfast. All things considered, it was not a bad first day at all.

Stay tuned for my day 2 recap!

chelsea

The Importance of Self Care

My body and I have a long history. A whole lifetime, in fact. As a child I thought very little about my body. I was too busy running, jumping, playing, screaming, crying, laughing and being a kid to think about it.

Fast forward through puberty, weight gain, weight loss, dieting, stress, grief, injury, therapy and college, and here I am, figuring out adulthood and what it means to take care of myself. There are the basics–work, shelter, food. But as I’m finding out, the real kind of soul nourishing self care has to come from a place of self love–a somewhat unfamiliar territory for me.

2016 had a lot of ups and downs for me. I accomplished goals I never thought I could  and other goals turned themselves on their heads, leaving me feeling more confused than ever.

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In the past, “taking care” of my body came from a place of hate and insecurity. I ate healthy and exercised to lose weight, not to thank my body for all that it does. I took my body for granted. I pushed it through sleepless nights to finish papers and to party with friends. I bottled and dismissed my emotions when they didn’t fit into the image of who I wanted to be. And in the end, I always ended up unhappy and far from the life I wanted to lead.

Within the past year I’ve come face to face with growing pains and had to get real honest with tough choices. It’s been uncomfortable to say the least but I’ve begun to realize the value of patience. I like to think I know patience with others but I have never known patience with myself.

Patience with yourself and your life and your journey is the foundation of self love and self care. Buddhism teaches that the desire to end suffering causes more suffering. We need to sit with our discomfort to know contentment.

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If you’re like me and think “well what the hell does that mean?” when you read that, I can’t say I have all the answers but I can tell you what it means for me.

For me it means that life is shitty but it’s not shit. I can suffer and feel pain but it does not mean my life is bad. I can experience confusion and guilt and jealousy but it doesn’t mean that anything is wrong. To be human is to suffer and to be alive is to be in a constant state of flux. Pain will flow in and out of our lives and it doesn’t mean life is bad.

So, with that understanding, I am coming to know self care. These days, self care for me is sleeping in until I feel fully rested, even if I have a day-long to do list. It’s eating nourishing, enriching food when I’m hungry because I genuinely feel better when I do. It’s journaling regularly to check in with myself and unravel the jumble of thoughts in my brain. It’s running at my own pace, for pleasure, or not running at all and resting when I need it.

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I saw a quote once that said something like “A lifetime is a long time to hate yourself” and I wondered then if I’d ever get to a place of self love. I am still on that journey but it feels like a sigh of relief to at least know what it really looks like.

But, perhaps most importantly, I believe that self care and self love is different for everyone. What makes me feel good and nourishes me  might not be the same for you or even your loved ones. Recognizing that my self care isn’t the same as someone else’s has been half of my battle.

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It’s so easy to idealize someone else’s version of healthy and neglect yourself and your needs in the process. So, that being said, take some time to be honest with yourself about what makes you feel good. Not “I would feel good if I could make myself do this because it would align with the idea of who I should be” Things that you do because you enjoy them and feel a little lighter afterwards.

For example, I avoided yoga for a long time because I didn’t regard it as a “real work out”. I figured if I wasn’t sweating out calories on a treadmill or building muscle with squats and sit ups, it was a waste of my time.

Within the past few months I sought out yoga, not as a work out but as a way to calm my nerves, and I’ve really fell in love with it. It feels like I’m taking care of my body and my mental health.

But maybe you hate yoga. Or self care for you is spending time with your loved ones. The point is, make space in your life for the things that make you feel good, outside of your self improvement goals. Then, go from there.

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Snow Day in Portland

Recently Chris and I decided we’d take a day trip up to Portland, ME. It’s about a 2 hour drive from where we are and Chris just got a new car so he’d been dying to drive it around a bit.

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Not including a slight detour for some lunch, it took us about 2.5 hours to get there because what we thought was a snow sprinkle turned out to be windy, freezing rain for most of the day. But that didn’t deter us!

The way I like to experience a new place is to plan a few things ahead of time, but leave lots of flex room for walking around and changing my mind.

Chris and I were both a bit sleepy after lunch (thanks, pasta) so our first stop in Portland was Bard Coffee.

I got a standard coffee and Chris got a fancier one that they gave to him on a tray. The interior had a sort of minimalist vibe with high ceilings and simple furniture, which was balanced out by a really cool wallpaper print.

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They also had non-dairy milk available for no extra charge, which is always a plus in my book. The weather outside was more severe than it was in Boston so a hot coffee was just what we needed.

Word for the wise: don’t wear heeled booties to Portland in the winter. I didn’t even think twice about it when I left the house because there wasn’t a speck of snow on the ground in Boston but Portland had whole streets shut down because of the snow and ice.

After finding to our dismay that we would not be doing a walking tour of Portland, we got in the car and headed over to a place called The Holy Donut, which we were told by friends we couldn’t miss out on. Luckily, by the time we got there there were still some donuts left.

The donuts, which are made with potatoes, were unlike any I had tried before. It was somewhat later in the afternoon so the donuts had been sitting out for a number of hours and I didn’t want to set my expectations too high.  They were still amazing. I expected them to be hard and stale but they were a magnificent combination of fluffy and crispy.

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There were also some interesting flavors that I had never tried on a donut before. We got one of everything they had left: Churro, Maple, Lemon, Pomegranate, Chocolate, and Wild Berry. My favorite was the lemon. It didn’t have that super sweet lemon-like flavor, but more of a mouth puckering meringue taste.

The shop’s interior was very much no-frills with old coolers and furniture but it almost gave it an authentic old school feeling.

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Note my poor shoe choice

Our next stop was slightly outside Portland but was one Chris had been excited about all day: The Maine Beer Company. We were worried the tasting room would be closed because of the storm, like so many other places but we called ahead to make sure.

Maine Beer Co.’s Peeper Ale is a beer that I’ve only noticed in the Boston area in the last 8 months or so but it, along with other MBC beers have really become popular. Aside from having good, sustainable beer, Maine Beer Co. also donates a portion of its profits to environmental and animal charities, hence its slogan: “Do What’s Right”. A beer after my own heart, I tell ya.

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Chris and I wanted to try all of the beers so we decided to split their $18.00 variety flight. They had a few board games available to guests so Chris taught me Texas Hold Em while we sampled and read about the beer. Side note: You’ll never find me at a table in Vegas.

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We started to get hungry so we finished up and made a quick stop before heading to dinner at the LL Bean Store. I always knew LL Bean was from Maine so I was expecting a pretty big store. I was wrong. It was an entire LL Bean campus. There was every LL Bean product you could think of. Fortunately for my wallet, neither of us felt much like shopping so Chris snagged a quick picture with the boot and we headed out.

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Our last stop of the day was a highly recommended spot called Duckfat. It was a cozy little restaurant with craft sodas and awesome food. Chris and I shared an order of poutine (the small was big enough for 2 to share) and a cup of their lentil soup for starters.

For an entree I got a roasted delicato squash panini with pickled cauliflower, turnip & leak slaw, boursin, and brown butter-sage mayo. It was refreshing to see a more interesting vegetarian option than the standard veggie burger or caprese sandwich that you usually find in restaurants. Chris got the house smoked turkey panini wit buttermilk fried shallots, swiss, frisee, and herb mayo. His was good but we both like the squash sandwich best.

Satisfied and full, we wrapped up our left overs and headed home. For a cold, wet day it was still a pretty successful trip. I’d love to see the city again in the summer.

 

My Year in Books

2016 was a year of many ups and downs but one of the things I most enjoyed was getting back to reading. They say that if you want to travel in time to read a book and truly, there are few things I enjoy more than doing just that. I smile thinking back to when my mom, a voracious reader herself, would make me sit with her and read my American Girl books. I hated it! I was just learning to read and my mom wanted to make sure that I developed a love for it like she did. Silly, but it really was a gift in a way.

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As the years went on and I was required to read more and more for school, my reading for pleasure kind of took a back seat. I did enjoy some of the reading of course— Gatsby, The Scarlet Letter, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (I highly recommend taking a Women in Pop Fiction class)—but as my required reading list grew longer, it seemed more daunting than relaxing.

So, in the past year while I was decidedly straying from screen time (more on that in another post) I found reading again. I cranked out around 30 in total, give or take. Admittedly some of the books I read this year are embarrassing—I love a good self help section at Barnes and Noble—but here are some that aren’t too bad :o)

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    ⁃    The Happiness Project
    ⁃    The Defining Decade
    ⁃    What French Women Know
    ⁃    The Inferno
    ⁃    The Opposite of Loneliness
    ⁃    Crazy Rich Asians
    ⁃    Fifty Shades Darker
    ⁃    Lucky
    ⁃    Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
    ⁃    Brain on Fire
    ⁃    America’s Queen
    ⁃    The Circle
    ⁃    Hollow City: Sequel to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
    ⁃    The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets Nest
    ⁃    Girl On The Train
    ⁃    The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up
    ⁃    Wild 10/4/16
    ⁃    Satan’s Advice to Young Lawyers 10/10/16
    ⁃    Water For Elephants – 10/18/16
    ⁃    The Help 10/25/16
    ⁃    At Home with Madame Chic – 11/8/16
    ⁃    Fifty Shades Freed – 11/16/16
    ⁃    My Year with Eleanor – 12/1/16
    ⁃    The Beautiful and Damned 12/20/16
    ⁃    Harry Potter and The Cursed Child 1/1/17

Around October I thought it would be fun to start including the dates that I finished each book so that’s why you see those there. I also did not include any books that I did not finish, or any books that I’m currently still working on.

Of all of them, my favorite book was probably The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets Nest. I love that entire series and am so upset that it was meant to be one of 10 books instead of three. RIP Stieg Larsson. I also enjoyed America’s Queen (Biography of my idol, Jackie Kennedy Onassis,)The Miss Peregrines Books, Crazy Rich Asians, Inferno (anything by Dan Brown, really) and The Defining Decade.

Some books I didn’t quite enjoy but felt the need to finish because I had already started them, like The Happiness Project, The 50 Shades series, and The Opposite of Loneliness. There are probably around 10 books I started this year that I just could not push myself to read through, no matter how loudly my OCD protested. I summoned my inner Marie Kondo and dropped them off at the Goodwill to bring joy to someone else.

I didn’t begin the year with any particular book list and looking back I am actually surprised by how female-centric all of them are (not a bad thing, of course.) However, I do have a book list started for 2017. Side goal: stop buying more books when I already have so many to finish.

Here’s my 2017 book list, as it currently stands, and including a few that I just started, listed at the top:

– Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
– The China Study

– Dante’s Divine Comedy
– Library of Souls – Miss Peregrine series
– Holy Blood, Holy Grail
– The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York
– China Rich Girlfriend – Crazy Rich Asians series
– Rich People Problems – Crazy Rich Asians series
– The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds
– Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity
– The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History
– Unprocessed: My City-Dwelling Year of Reclaiming Real Food
– Steve Jobs – Biography

If I can keep up my streak, I’ll be able to get through all of these by June so I’m always looking for book suggestions! Do you guys have any book lists or reading goals for 2017? Let me know in the comments!

chelsea

Book Review: At Home with Madame Chic

Okay, confession time: I am a total Francophile. I admit it. I am the cliche American, obsessed with French culture.

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I think my obsession first began when I visited France the summer before my senior year in college. To be honest, I knew almost nothing about French culture when I visited. (Major faux pas on my part. I didn’t even think much about it until after I came home and found myself once again frustrated with the general calamity of our materialistic, productivity-obsessed consumer culture. I remembered how simple and fresh France was and sought to bring that sophistication in to my own life.

Long story short, I read a lot of books about French culture. At Home with Madame Chic came up in my reading suggestions so I decided to check it out. I’m sorry to say that I wasn’t crazy about it.

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Now, don’t get me wrong — it’s a good, general self help book. The author, Jennifer Scott, provides a lot of advice for home keeping and simplifying life at home with kids. I think, however the book is misleading. After reading the description, which cites the author’s time living in France with a French family, I purchased it in hopes of hearing about exactly that. What daily habits did the matriarch Madame Chic have in keeping her home? What kind of food did she cook? How did she approach clutter?

The book very briefly touched upon these topics. While a chapter might start off with an anecdote about Madame Chic wearing an apron while preparing dinner for that night, it would veer off and talk about what kind of music the author liked to listen to in the afternoon or how she wanted to take a nap while her kids were home sick from school. Perhaps they are relatable and delightful for some stay at home parents, but these topics are largely uninteresting to me.

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I bought the book to read about the original Madame Chic, not what kind of junk accumulates on the author’s dining room table throughout the day.Rather than  “At Home with Madame Chic” it would be more aptly titled “How I Incorporated Values I Learned In France Into My Own Home Life”.

As a single woman with no children and a full time job, there was a large portion of it that was boring/inapplicable to me. This isn’t a bad thing per se but I wouldn’t have bought the book if I knew that’s what it was about.

It also addressed the subject of family/womanhood/femininity from the author’s perspective which is  not necessarily negative, but limited if you don’t fall in to the same identity spectrum. I think a recap/interpretation of Scott’s observations in France, as implied in the title and book description,  would welcome a greater audience. If you’re interested in how to approach heteronormative motherhood with a little more grace, this is good book for you. Just don’t go in with the expectation of reading about French culture.

Post Marathon Recovery and Return

In the final weeks leading up to my race I spent less excitement on running my first marathon and more on the anticipated freedom from training. So much time for activities!

More than just the time training takes, it requires a lot of time thinking about training- planning when to run, when to eat, what to eat, how much recovery is needed, how early before work do I need to finish eating and showering to get there on time, etc.— it’s a lot.

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But, with everything being said and done, I found myself antsy to get back on the road a few days after my race. My head suddenly filled up with a mixture of starry-eyed thoughts about cool races to get under my belt and a creeping fear that I’d lose all my fitness and quickly turn into a useless slug if I didn’t immediately resume my 40 mile weeks. You can tell I’m a bit of a worrier.

However, I was relieved to hear I’m not the only one with these kinds of thoughts. They’ve even got a name for it!—PMS: Post Marathon Syndrome, ha. Although I haven’t been suffering one of the most common afflictions – regret about my performance (it was a PR, after all 😉 ) I do find myself imagining how much better I might be able to run my next race.

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So where does that leave me? My legs might be able to run a marathon but they’re not invincible — I’m still injury prone and probably tied to hip strengthening exercises for the rest of my life. Right now my focus is getting back to strength training (I missed it in those taper weeks!) and keeping my cardio between cycling and easy runs. I did find this  post marathon training plan by Runners World, which looks like a good start to getting back on track for a Spring race.

But maybe I’ll just do a half marathon this time around.

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