Monday, June 16, 2014

Pre-order my book A YEAR IN FIRE AND ICE!

Finally! That day has come! Reserve your copy of my debut photography memoir A YEAR IN FIRE AND ICE by July 13th and save 25% off using the discount code "PRESALE" at checkout!

Monday, March 10, 2014

A Year in Fire and Ice

Oh, hello there. I'm sorry the blog has been a little bit of a ghost town lately, but I have a good reason for my absence! I'm very excited to announce I have been working incredibly hard on my book that chronicles my time in Iceland. Though that means most of my blogging has come to an end for now, I am happy I'll be able to share more of my stories and photos with you in a beautiful coffee-table book format. I have saved so many photos just for the book, and I'm thrilled to finally publish them for you! Check back for updates on how to pre-order soon!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

When I Learned Iceland Doesn't Run Out Of Fireworks

The fireworks started the evening of December 29th. Every five minutes I heard a pop that made my eyes dart to the nearest window to see if I could catch a glimpse. You see, growing up in Utah meant "big fireworks" (ie, real ones and not the pathetic little ones that sit on the ground and scream) were illegal, and therefore rare except for the few firework shows a year. Bottle rockets snuck across the border from Wyoming were about as big as you'd get in an average neighborhood full of thrifty Mormons. They have since legalized big fireworks in Utah, but 23 years of conditioning doesn't fade easily. It's like I grew up in the depression era of pyrotechnics and thus every precious firework must be savored no matter how many I see. Because of this, hearing crackles of fireworks every few minutes started to stress me out. Don't people know they need to save the fireworks til New Years Eve!? What if I miss all of them!? I WILL MISS ALL OF THEM, PEOPLE, AND I PROMISE I'M NOT BEING NEUROTIC RIGHT NOW.

My tension builds over the next 2 days and the frequency of crackels grows to about every other minute somewhere in the vicinity of my ears (but rarely my eyes). I have convinced myself that New Years Eve in Iceland won't actually be as good as what everyone says, because this year all the Icelanders decided to use up their stashes early. Ugh. What jerks.

Rúrik and I went to his house for a absolutely delicious New Years Eve dinner with his mom and brother, and then we all walked down the street to a bonfire. Rúrik asked me earlier in the evening if I had been to a bonfire before. Sure, I told him. They're a pretty common occurrence and my family has had one or two.

Ha. What I learned is I've actually been to big campfires, not a real bonfire.

It was huuuuuge.

And there was a great fireworks show all around us. OK Iceland, I thought, I'll admit you win for saving enough fireworks for a good show tonight. It's only 9:00PM, so surely you'll run out at this rate. But even so, I'm thankful for the show I got to see (eeeeven if it's a little indulgent to use them all before midnight).

After a couple hours of bonfire shenanigans, we walked back to Rúrik's house to watch the annual year in review comedy TV show the national broadcasting channel puts together. The fireworks ceased as everyone, I mean everyone, sat in their living rooms with friends and family to watch. It was the quietest 30 minutes in days.

And then the moment the show ended, about 30 minutes til midnight, it started.

It was unlike anything I had ever seen. And it didn't stop for over an hour. There was a major crescendo in the 15-20 minutes following midnight that ignited the entire capital area in one enormous fireball. It was face meltingly spectacular enough for me to forget to smooch my honey at 12 (don't worry, we got a good one in a couple minutes late).

Dear Iceland. I'm sorry for thinking you're a big selfish jerk and doubting you had enough fireworks for a good New Years Eve. Please forgive me. You showed me the greatest fireworks show I've ever seen in my life (and will probably ever see). I saw more fireworks last night than I had seen in my entire life combined. You win New Years. You win life. Thank you. Thank you. THANK YOU. (Looove you.)

2013 has been one of the best years of my life and it was nice to show it out with a bang. I have more love, peace, joy, and creativity flowing through me than ever before. Bring it on 2014!

Friday, December 27, 2013

This is Why Christmas in Iceland is Awesome

Christmas in Iceland is the best. Seriously. Let me explain.

First of all, they have not one Santa Clause but 13. YEP, THIRTEEN. These Santas are trolls called Yule Lads or Yulemen (or just Santas), and their role is to come down from the hills starting 13 days before Christmas and leave presents for children who leave their shoes on the window sill (or in my host family's case, Christmas stockings hung on their closet). Thirteen days of gifts, people. Thiiiiirteeeeen.

As you can see, each one of the Yule Lads has a unique and mischievous personality, but the kicker is their mom, Grýla. Grýla is an ogress who eats the bad kids. Don't be fooled by that caricature of her above with her lazy husband, the following portrait is much more horrifying:
And if that nightmare isn't enough for the kids, Grýla also has a Yule-Cat (or jólakötturinn) who eats anyone who doesn't receive an item of clothing for Christmas. What? Man eating cat? Don't worry, here are some socks.

On December 23rd, all the shops in downtown Reykjavik stay open until 11pm for all the last minute Christmas shoppers. There is a quaint Christmas village, carolers, and all other manner of holiday loveliness that would make anyone's heart grow three sizes that day. My favorite part were the incredible male opera singers whose duets could be heard echoing in between the buildings. Be still my heart! I'm a sucker for opera. Doubly so when a male duet is involved. 
My beau and I snogging by a Christmas tree. Aaawe.
Then comes December 24th. At exactly 6:00pm, everyone (I'm talking the entire country) sits down for a formal Christmas Eve dinner with their family and friends to officially start Christmas. After dinner you exchange and open all your presents. Yep, you open everything on Christmas Eve, not just the pair of pajamas your Mom bought you. The rest of the evening is spent relaxing (and most likely drinking... this is Iceland after all).

After sleeping in on Christmas Morning, since there is no reason to wake up early, one might attend a Christmas service at one of the many churches. or watch a movie, or even start a game of Monopoly (spoiler, we did all three!). Whatever you do, round it off with more family time and more food. 

Ah, what a good Christmas Eve and Christmas day, I wish it could last longer. GOOD THING YOU'RE IN ICELAND! Haven't you ever heard of the third days of Christmas? That's what the 26th is for. Another day of Christmas, guuuuuys. Another day spent cuddling up to your boyfriend, watching whatever on TV, finishing the Monopoly game (and dominating everyone), and of course eating like calories and guilt and shame don't exist! 

So let's recap for a second as to why Christmas in Iceland is awesome:
- 13 Santas meaning 13 days of gifts for the kids (it's amazing how great this incentive is for putting a 6 year old to bed!).
- Terrifying folklore including a ogress who eats babies and a cat who eats anyone unless they get clothes as a present. 
- Adorable Christmas festivities on the 23rd before all the shops close for the next few days.
- 6:00pm dinner on Christmas Eve followed by opening all presents (aka, 1st day of Christmas).
- Christmas day. No fat man and a chimney, just sleeping in and relaxing with friends and family (aka, 2nd day of Christmas).
- Third day of Christmas! Just in case you need to relax from your relaxing Christmas day. 

And to top it all off, word on the street is the official Christmas season doesn't end until January 6th (er, 7th?). Most shops will start to open back up by the 27th, and I'm sure things will start to de-Christmas-ify, but perhaps not in such a stark way I'm used to in the States. Cool, right? I'm a fan.

Anywho, if you'd like to learn more about Iceland and Christmas stuff, a local newspaper wrote a great article. You can find that here.


Thursday, December 12, 2013

10 Months!

I've been in Iceland 10 months. TEN. Crazy. Although Iceland and I are at the point in our relationship that I feel comfortable in sweatpants and no makeup, I still feel the same gushy infatuation I did when I first got here. The novelty has not worn off. I'm still in love.

In honor of my 10 month mark, I've decided to write about 10 idiosyncratic things I've started to take for granted since living here (I decided I should probably share them before I forget that I once didn't think they were normal).

1. I have a enormous respect for people who speak another language. It's not that I didn't respect them before living in Iceland, but now I have almost a solemn awe of them. In other news, I suck at learning Icelandic and it makes me want to cry.

2. You always pay for bags at the grocery store and you bag your own items. Icelanders are unworldly in their bagging speed. I'm always the silly foreigner holding up the line while frantically move things out of the way and into my bag. Stress, people, stresssss.

3. Tipping isn't a thing. That's awesome. And you pay at the register as opposed to getting a check at your table.

4. I've seen many a potato peeled after its cooked. It actually makes a ton of sense to do it this way. The skin just slips right off.

5. Cream cheese on pizza is unfairly delicious. And really, pizza in general in Iceland is remarkably good. Apart from Naples, Italy (which shouldn't really count because Italy), Iceland has the best pizza I've ever had.

6. There is an intermission during movies at the theater. I thought I'd hate this, since it would disrupt the storyline and I'm a bit of a movie snob with unrealistic theater preferences, but on the contrary. I love being able to take a pee break, talk about the first half of the movie, get a treat I decided against at the beginning of the movie, or just relax for a little while.

7. It's hard to speak Icelandic and smile at the same time, so I've noticed most people smile before or after and use animated inflections to come across friendly/humorous. This is also another reason I'm bad at speaking Icelandic, I try to smile too much when I speak.

8. Read this about Reykjavik's mayor. And his Reddit AMA here.

9. People's names are cool. Þor (Thor), Ragnar, Freya... everyone's a viking.

10. The Reykjavik Grapevine is where I read up on all my Icelandic news.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Horse Riding: Viking Style

Last weekend, Rúrik took me horseback riding. What a babe. This is something I've wanted to do since before I came to Iceland. Somewhere in my various pre-move googlings, I stumbled across some videos of Icelandic horses (which I promptly made all my friends and family watch, because are you serious!?). It's been on my bucket list ever since.

I loved it. LOVED it. We took a tour through Laxnes Farms, who were completely friendly and helpful. My horse had a ridiculously smooth ride (though I was still pretty darn sore the next day), and the most glorious mane of all time. It was fa-reezing, so be sure to wear your layers underneath the super sexy winter suit they give you (which I didn't do, and promptly froze my bajeezers off). 

It's pretty impossible to take a whole bag of photography gear on a stormy winter ride, so Rúrik's phone photos will have to suffice.
I may or may not have murdered the person behind me...
Frozen Iceland takes the term "winter wonderland" to new meaning. So beautiful!

Just a couple of hobbites.
I can enthusiastically recommend doing this to anyone coming to Iceland. It says a lot when something is a total blast even when your toes are frozen and hail is pelting your face. The only problem is you will want to steal one of the horses and take it home with you... which might be a little tricky.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Teaching Iceland How to Halloween

Though some of my Icelandic friends would argue otherwise, Iceland does not do Halloween. 

Yes, people here know what Halloween is, and the kids even learn about some Halloween traditions in school, but the unique spirit and practice of the holiday is completely absent. There are no jack-o-laterns on porches, no corn mazes or haunted houses, very few decorations can be found in stores, no annual Halloween parties, and no kids dressed up in costumes going trick-or-treating (full disclosure: There is a holiday in February where kids dress up and sing for candy at shops, but I was here for it this year and it's NOT the same)

So you can imagine how delighted I was when R wanted to throw a party this year for her friends. Since no one had ever hosted a Halloween party before, I became the official expert in residence. Creating a Halloween party with almost no pre-made resources? Challenge accepted. 

Sugar cookie "witch fingers"? Check. (Also served, various worm and intestine-like gummy candy, chips, and mummy hotdogs.) 

Cauldron of "bile and hearts" complete with dry ice (not pictured)? Check.  

Gross pumpkin puking homemade edible worms (which I made without any Jello or directions in english, I'll have you know)? Check.

Spooky cobweb chandelier made with something unlike small squares of cheese cloth and some spooky silhouette cutouts in the window? Check and check.

Paper bats hung from the ceiling? Garbage bag spider webs? Paper jack-o-laterns? All the tall candlestick holders I could find in the house? Creepy halloween music playing in the background? Check, check, check, check, check.

A bunch of happy ghosts, mummies, witches, devils, and skeletons? CHECK!

After dinner the girls watched The Addams Family (we couldn't find my personal favorite, Hocus Pocus) and were eager to upload photos and videos of the night to Instagram. That counts as a success right? Even the parents were excited to see all the decorations as they picked up their girls at the end of the night. I don't know, but I think my party might have been good enough to start a revolution here in Iceland.