Monday, December 23, 2013

Is there time to make someone smile today?

This is something I have been asking myself more and more lately. Do I have the time for this? How to do the benefits compare to the amount of time I spend at it?

Do I really have time to write Christmas cards to everyone? What will I get from it?
Do I have enough time to get the cross-stitch project for my grandparents done before Christmas? What will I get in return for it?
Do I have enough time to drop off a donation at SCAT? What will I get out of it?
Do I have enough time to go to Gilles' hockey game? What's in it for me?
Do I have enough time to exercise? What do I get back immediately from this?
Do I have time to go to church? What will the consequences be if I don't go?
Do I have time to write in my blog? What use is it to me?
Do I have enough time to start a new knitting project? Do I have enough time to see friends for New Years? Do I really want to start volunteering?

All of these questions I have asked myself in the last month. While many of them I have conducted and many of them have resulted in me appearing selfless or good of heart, I am ashamed to think that the second question is always tied to the first. Yet even when the only answer I could come up with was 'Nothing', I still got immeasurable return from my actions.

 I got many, many smiles from sending the Christmas cards, both in the process of creating them and in the flood of Christmas cards and letters that I got in return. I got the joy of creating the cross-stitch project, the satisfaction of finishing it, and the tender and loving knowledge that it and the effort put into it will truly be recognized and appreciated by its recipients. I got the satisfaction of knowing that a few less cats would go hungry over the holiday season as everyone turns their faces toward family and friends and forgets about the little ones in our shadows. I also got to spend a full hour surrounded by a dozen friendly, more-fortunate-than-they-once-were felines. So on, and so forth.

True, some of them despite my best efforts did not occur. Sometimes there really isn't time. I didn't exercise as much as I wanted this holiday season. Instead I focused on getting the sleep I desperately needed to stay healthy. I didn't always make it to church, although I have been making it more often than I once was. This is the first time I have written in my blog in what feels like a very long time.

But as I look at the last three questions, the ones that are still waiting for their answers, I try to stop myself. It isn't always about me. The knitting project? Okay. This one is about me because it is for me. (A project I have been waiting almost 3 years to start). But visiting family and friends for New Years? If I took myself out of the equation it would be no question. The volunteering? Also, no question. Especially if I get the post that I want, helping immigrant high school students with their homework, helping them slowly learn and understand the English language at the same time.

When it comes down to it, it isn't about the time. I need to stop asking 'Do I have the time?' and instead ask myself 'Will it make someone smile?' because in the end, when my time has stopped I'm not going to look back or be judged on how much I did, or whether it was 'worth' the amount of time that it took. In the end, all that is going to matter is the difference I have made in the lives of everyone around me. I want... I need to make a difference. It isn't about me. It is about a smile.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Meal Planning, Freezer-Style

This blog post is a follow-up to my last post, Project Lifestyle. For the full backstory, follow the link. However, a basic summary was that I wasn't finding I had enough time to make my healthy, meal plan meals and that was resulting in my falling back into old, negative eating habits.

After trying and failing to return to my healthy, daily cooking I started to think about what alternatives I had. The best idea that came to mind is how I like to premake meals, a few at a time, to pack in my lunch (rather than having frozen, prepackaged food for work.)

I decided to extrapolate on that idea, and make frozen meals so that each night that I didnt' have time to cook a healthy meal, I would merely have to take a frozen meal out of the deepfreeze. It would be fresh and healthy, yet still allow us to be out the door quickly.

After doing some research, I decided to try out a subscription website, It promised that you could do all of your cooking for the entire month in one weekend, and provided several different menu options. Best of all, it portioned the meals and made your grocery lists for you. Subscription cost $8 a month, but I decided that based on the time saving alone it was worth it.

So I bought the subscription, and then Friday went out grocery shopping. About 4 hours and $500 later, I had everything I needed. The website said to expect prep work to take 2-4 hours and cooking to take 6-8. I had some prior engagements on Sunday, but I figured I could get the whole thing done in one day. I would just start early. Well, I got up at 8am Saturday (early enough), but after eating breakfast and doing some laundry and cleaning, it was 11:30am by the time I started pulling items out of the fridge to prep. 'It's okay,' I thought. 'It'll be a long day, but I'm resilient.'

Well, at 4pm I finally finished the prep work. I was already exhausted, but at this point I thought 'Well, there's no going back now. I've got to just do this and get it done'. I was listening to Eat, Pray, Love on audiobook, so at least I had that to keep me otherwise occupied.

At about 11 at night, having still not taken any breaks I was about 4 recipes into the meal plan. It felt like there was no end in sight. I was losing steam in a big way. Around this time Eat, Pray, Love ended as well. I started listening to Huckleberry Finn and dug back in.

At about 3am, I crashed. I had two recipes left, and I just couldn't do any more. I packaged up and froze what I had completed, and put away all my ingredients. I got up the next morning and started again.

I had other plans that day, (get-together for work) so it was imperative that I get this completed ASAP. I did, and just in the nick of time. I packaged up the rest of the food, cleaned up, showered and hit the road.

Since this weekend, the meals have been a godsend. Gilles and I have both been using them frequently for our lunches and suppers. Going forward, I will continue to do this, however I will give myself a full 3 days to do so. I may also just get a larger freezer....

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Project Lifestyle - Getting back on track.

I don't make it a secret that I take my summers "off" from dieting. I don't typically go crazy, I just relax and stop calorie counting and meal planning for a little while.

This year, I did go a little crazy. The fact that I could eat dairy while in Iceland caused me to gain 5 lbs in those two weeks alone. (I really, really like Ice cream and chocolate cake). Compound that by the fact that I was travelling for work before and after Iceland, and a little weight gain can be expected. But the problem is, I didn't right myself when I got back. I figured 'Okay, it's almost September. I'll diet again in September.'

September has come and gone, and I still haven't dieted. It isn't as though I haven't tried... I even when so far as to plan out the first week of a new meal plan, and buy the groceries for it. Problem is, somehow we have gotten even more busy in the evenings this year than last year. Gilles is playing for two hockey teams this year instead of one, I am working a new job with 10 hours days (less one day a week), and Gilles has a new job where he isn't home until 6:45! Combine that with the fact that we were still taking dance classes and I was still running 3x/week... Well, I tried. I didn't make a single one of the recipes, and back to Kraft Dinner and frozen pizzas it was. (They're fast!)

I stepped on the scale yesterday and it read 193.4!! When I was at my lowest before summer, I weight 176.4. In other words, over the summer I gained almost 20 lbs. Yikes.

Stepping back to analyze the situation, I quickly realized that in compensating for our busy lifestyle I had fallen into old habits (re: processed food) in order to be able to make 'home-cooked' meals. I know that I don't have extra time during my work week to modify this habit, so it is time to make a new one. Enter Operation Freeze.

Okay, not this Operation Freeze.

My version of Operation Freeze is simple, and will be in effect immediately.

First, I premake healthy, portion controlled meals. This is done on weekends, when I have some extra time. I then freeze each portion individually, so that it may be pulled out of the freezer for supper at any time. There are lots of great resources online for healthy premade meals, including:
- thislady'

I have purchased a white board to hang on the wall beside the freezers. On this white board, I have attached a marker and an eraser. I will use this board to keep an updated list of premade meals available in the freezer, and how many portions are available.

I'm doing the first of my "freezer cooking" this weekend... my goal is to have four large batch meals completed, so that we have one new meal to try for each worknight next week.

Stay tuned for a new post, with the results of the weekends cooking!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Project: Raised Flower Bed

Almost immediately after it became apparent that I couldn't keep my flower beds in front of the house (See Project: Water-wise Landscaping), I decided that I wanted a new flowerbed, in the front corner of our yard. Many of the homes on our block had taken a similar approach to their flowerbeds, moving them from the foundation out toward the street. It was easy to get Gilles on board with the idea of moving it, especially as we were redoing the lawn. What wasn't quite as easy to convince was my web-inspired "Oh, and I want it raised 2 feet".

At this point in time I had seen many pictures online of beautiful, raised flowerbeds that showcased the flowers in an obvious but sophisticated manner. I was thrilled at the idea that one of these beauties could be mine.


Upon realizing the scope of my project, my husband informed me that we would have to wait until spring to complete it. I was disappointed, but no matter. I was going to get my flower bed.
The delay to spring lasted about a week. My father-in-law decided that it would make more sense to build the flower bed immediately, instead of waiting. As he was essentially the 'project landscape' foreman, we could hardly argue. Inside I was singing.

I started by measuring out the approximate dimensions, and deciding what kind of brick we wanted. We ended up going with EasyStack by Cindercrete, in grey. I then went to the closest local distributor to figure out how much I needed. Note: When we did this, the distributor quoted us for 4 full rounds plus the capstones. As the yard is slanted, in order to put four full rounds and have a level top, we would have to bury the first three rounds in the ground. Instead, we staggered the lower layers in a manner that looks as though they are going under the ground, but didn't force us to 'bury our money'.
Here is the first load of bricks that we brought home, of four:
Once we managed to finish bringing home all the brick, we started playing with it to see how the end product would work. (I admit, I wasn't actually here for this step. I was in Regina running the Queen City Half Marathon. Before I left I showed Gilles and his dad the shape I wanted the bed to take, and they were just finishing this step when I arrived home. 
It may not look like much yet at this point, but for me it was the first time that I could truly see what it would look like finished.
I wasn't a lot of help after this point - I mostly just brought brick and supplies while Gilles and his dad did the rest of the work. They did a great job. It isn't visible in this picture, but not only did they size the brick so that it would work out perfectly, they also included a pipe underneath the flowerbed so that in the future I could get sprinklers added in.

The gentleman who sold me the brick at the distributor told us that we would not have to cut any brick. Unfortunately this didn't end up being the case; we needed to cut one brick per layer to make the pattern fit properly. Luckily this didn't cause us any problems.

The only place we used adhesive on the lower layers was on the cornerstones - the rest of the bricks had little nubs that fit into grooves on the next layer, allowing easy stacking and more importantly, ease of removal if ever necessary. Every brick was carefully leveled as well.  We did use a thin layer of adhesive on the top layer, deciding that it was worth not having the bricks moving. The only drawback of this is that if we do end up needing to dismantle a portion of the flower bed for any reason, the bricks with adhesive on them may have to be replaced.

The completed flower bed is a beautiful sight, isn't it? The pile of dirt behind us is of 9 cubic yards - we used it between the houses to increase the ground height and add a "trough" and slope to promote watershed. Oh, and we also filled the flower bed with it :)

What do you think? Is there anything you would have done differently? Have you made similar projects? I'd love to hear your thoughts.


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Project: Water-wise Landscaping

My husband and I bought our first home in January. It is a bi-level home in on of the higher areas of the city. Despite this, we found water seeping into our basement this year as the water started to melt.

It was frustrating, to say the least. Not only had the previous owners signed a form saying that there were no known water problems, but we had also had a home inspector in, who found no sign of such problems.

We brought the home inspector back in, and he claimed that our issues were "due to the ground being too frozen for the quick melt to get to the weeping tile" and that it wouldn't be a problem once the ground thawed. We were disappointed, as we live in Canada after all, frozen ground isn't exactly a rare occurrence.

Imagine our surprise later in the spring when the ground had most certainly melted, but upon a heavy rainfall we began to see water seeping into the basement again! (This was the first of several times through the spring that this occurred).

Back came the home inspector with his new fancy moisture detection tool - he decided that the water was most definitely coming in through the corner, and that there wasn't a crack in the foundation, it was just seeping in because there was too much moisture in that area. We were no longer convinced.

After seeking guidance from some family members, we decided that we needed to find the crack in the foundation (that we were sure was there at this point), and seal it. In addition, we needed to fix the grading in our yard so that water would no longer collect alongside the foundation.

As you can (sort of) see in this picture, the previous owners had a flower bed along the south side of the house. What you can't see is that the flower bed is at least 2" lower than the rest of the lawn, and that much of the lawn slopes toward it. In addition, the lawn also slopes towards the front corner of the house, where the water cannot escape due to a raised driveway.

Over the course of a weekend, Gilles, his parents and I were able to find the crack in the foundation, determine (luckily) that there was no damage or mold inside the wall, seal the crack, and build up the dirt along that wall. We also removed all of my plants from the flower beds in front of the house, filled them with clay, and graded them so that water would run away from the house. This was step 1.

Step 2: Our beautiful birch tree in front of the house was unfortunately, dying. We had a treeing company come in and remove the tree, as it had only a year left.

Step 3: Kill the lawn, front and back. We then treated the front and back lawns with RoundUp, so that they would break away easier as we graded them, and wouldn't come away in such large clumps.

Step 4: Bring in the heavy machinery. It would have taken far too long to grade the entire yard by hand, so instead we hired someone to come in with a Bobcat and regrade the front lawn for us.

Step 5: After this, we attempted to get someone in to install sprinklers, but were informed that no one (we tried 20 companies) would be available until next year.

This concluded the grading portion of the project. After this we moved into creating a raised flower bed for the front yard, optimizing the soil and grade, and seeding grass. More posts to come on these subjects.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Caught in a whirlwind

Fall has begun, and with it a whirlwind of activities. Yes, I still intend to post more about Iceland and bring a special feature on Boston to you... but until I have time to put that together, you get to hear about my super fantastic normal life.

If you are someone who has 'friended' me on Facebook or follows my Twitter account, you'll know that there has been a lot going on, and all of it is awesome. (If you aren't, I assume you don't actually know me, which is cool because I've actually reached you. But seriously, follow my Twitter. It's @CParentSK)

First, I spent more time in airports than at home in August. Okay, not necessarily the coolest but that means I got to spend a heck of a lot of time out of Saskatoon and being an explorer.

Second, I have awesome family and friends that took care of my garden, my cats and my fish during this time so that I wouldn't come home and be really, really sad. Unfortunately I forgot to instruct anyone to water my houseplants, and when I got back my spider plant looked something like this:

(not my plant, but you get the idea)
That said, when I got home my cousin-in-laws (is that a thing?) were visiting, so there was a houseful. Then as soon as they left, my grandpa was due to have his hip replaced so I again had a house full of visitors for the week, as the surgery took place in Saskatoon.
Meanwhile, there have been lots of little extras going on. I ran a half marathon again on Sunday, this time with my sister - and I am still on a high from it.

We also broke ground (literally) on our landscaping project. Previously we had fixed the crack in our foundation and had the tree removed from the front yard (it was near dead). Now we brought someone in to regrade the front yard, and now we are working on building a raised flower bed. We will also be regarding the sides of the house and reseeding the front and back lawns, in addition to removing the poplar tree from the backyard, putting in sprinklers in the front, and planting a new tree in the front (likely a Linden).

Adding to our long list of exciting happenings, we will be running a colour run (a 5k where you get coloured powder thrown at you while you run, so that you look like a rainbow when you're done) this weekend, and Gilles' cousin will be moving in with us (for a short stay) in two weeks!

Yup, life is pretty good.

Tell me! What is new in your neighbourhood?? Let me know in the comment box below!


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Iceland - Language

One of the first things I noticed when we arrived in Iceland was that everything in the airport was in English as well as Icelandic. We assumed that this was due to it being an airport - while we knew that most young Icelandic people could speak English, we weren't under the impression that it was such a dominant language in Iceland. 

We soon discovered that English was just as dominant in the city of Reykjavik. Most signs and menus were in Icelandic first, with English "subtitles". 

My next thought was that it must've due to the increasing tourism industry in Iceland - they must want to cater to as many people as possible. But then, why was there only Icelandic and English, and no other languages? Surely there were a lot of tourists from Japan and China as well.

My questions were put to rest the following day, while we were on our first tour. We were taking a buggy tour, and the young man (he was 21, so I'm allowed to call him that) who was touring us around spoke English without any catches. 

We first asked about the languages they learn in school, and were told that most people speak Icelandic in school until about grade 3, when they start taking English in the same manner that we learn Core French. Then in secondary school (high school) they must also learn Danish, a relic from when they were under Danish rule.

That still didn't fully explain why he could speak English so well though. Quite frankly, I can "speak French" too, but you wouldn't find me speaking nearly so well as he did. It was quickly explained though when Gilles asked again why he could speak English so well, specifically. He responded, looking sideways at Gilles with a sheepish expression on his face, that the only television in Icelandic was the news, the rest is in English.

All of that said, there are differences in the way English is spoken. The most noticeable was their unconscious use of the word "Yoy". It is used in the same way that one might use "Um..." or "Ya", when not actually answering a question. (It is inserted at near random between thoughts, or parts of thoughts).

The other main difference I noticed was the pluralization of words. Without fail, each time a word changes or remains the same to become plural without adding an 's' at home (such as mouse to mice or sheep to sheep) they would still add an 's' (resulting in 'mices' and 'sheeps'). It was a most peculiar trait, and one that I found to be quite interesting.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

It's a Jet Boat!

Summed up pretty nicely... big metal souped up motor boat (with a diesel engine, bench seats and handlbars).

It was a lot of fun - racing along the river, missing the rock wall faces by mere feet, and going speeds I really don't want to know. We did 360s and ramped rapids... it was basically tubing within a boat. Tons of fun, and a light way to wrap up our honeymoon. This tour was through Iceland Riverjet.

After that we headed back to the city, where we finished Gilles' shopping, then went and booked our shuttle back to the airport. (We get picked up at 7am  local, which means our day will begin at about 6:30am - and we will get back to Saskatoon at about 10:30pm, so it will be about 11pm by the time we get through customs. While that sounds really good, 11pm at home is 5am here... so we are in for a long day tomorrow!

We also "cashed in" our tax free forms - Gilles got about $50 back and I got about $100 (they are based on a percentage of what you spend).

\Finally, we went to pick up our last groceries... yogurt and ramen noodles (yup, we're eating like kings tonight!) Haha...

Next we need to make this apartment look like we were never here (apart from he fact that they need to clean the linens and the towels), and prepare for sleeplessness!

Just a thought before I go though -- I will still have a couple of Iceland posts after we return to Canada - there are a couple topics that I want to tackle that didn't fit into the day-to-day posts. See you back on Canadian shores!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Reykjavik by Day

Today was a pretty low-key day as we didn't have any tours scheduled. Gilles slept in again and I went and read my book - "Icelandic Folk and Fairy Tales" at Kaffitar while enjoying another cappucino croissant and a latte. Interesting fact - kaffitar translates directly to caffeine, and if you break down the word a bit kaffi means coffee. See? I have learned something.

I came back to the apartment at lunch time and Gilles and I went out to eat - as far as across the road at a nice little bistro. The food was acceptable, but nothing to remark over.

We then went to the National Gallery of Iceland - the main art gallery in the city, although it is one of several. The current exhibitions were Treasures and Memento Mori. Both Gilles and I preferred 'Treasures' it included a number of works from the 1850s - late 2000's, focusing on both landscapes and portraits. Unfortunately, no pictures were allowed but some of the paintings were absolutely spectacular. Memento Mori focused on mushrooms and insects, and was... interesting.

After that we continued to the National Museum of Iceland. There were two floor, each absolutely packed with relics, beginning from when Iceland was first populated all the way to the modern day. (Seriously, there was  pregnancy test in the museum display!)

Here are some of my favorite photos:`

Swords, axe head, spear ends, and the metal centre of a wooden shield.

Roman-style crucifix, predating those used currently with the crown of thorns.

Drinking horns, as well as the original 'clothespins' - used to pin the cloaks of men over one shoulder.

The helmet and chainmail together weigh upwards of 15kg.

Drinking horn, carved by a South Icelandic farmer in 1598AD. 

I found this particular piece particularly odd. The Danish family in question found it appropriate to have themselves painted posing beside the crucifix. In addition, the family is separated male vs female, and the male side of the family each posed for their own face, where one person posed for all three females (they all have the same face).

Traditional Icelandic knit patterns on the mittens (recently knit)

Once used as a calendar in Iceland, the wheels include the year, the months of the year, the days of the year, and the christian holidays.

Replica of a 19th century home, including many of the articles that were included, up until about the 1950s.
Possibly some of the most antique items in the entire museum, an Atari (with Donkey Kong and Mario Bros. games), and a VCR.

Apparently the relics of the 20th century are laptops, collectible barbies, velcro shoes, alarm clocks, cell phones, McDonald`s toys (even though there is no McDonald`s in Iceland), and pregnancy tests... (yikes!)

Tomorrow is our last day in Reykjavik, before we fly out Thursday morning. We will go for a ride in a jet boat early tomorrow afternoon, after brunch. Tonight we filled out all of our tax-free forms, so tomorrow we will also be bringing them into the travel office for our tax rebate! (Yay for "free" money!)

Monday, August 12, 2013

Helicopter Ride & Whalewatching Take 2

Today was certainly an entertaining day! We started the day out by getting lost attempting to find our way to Nordurflug for our helicopter flight. (In my defense they told us it was at the domestic airport which is where we went - unfortunately they forgot to mention that it was at a private hangar on the opposite side of the runway, so we had to get a cab around).

We arrived there in plenty of time though - time enough to fill out their manifest forms and enjoy a couple of cookies while waiting for our helicopter to arrive and be refueled. We partook in the Waterfall & Valleys tour by Nordurflug, and bought out the third seat so that we could have a private tour.

The views were absolutely outstanding. Unfortunately I learned that while I do not get airsick in planes or seasick, I do get motion sickness from helicopters. Fortunately we had one stopover in a valley full of geysirs timed at the perfect moment so it allowed me to gather composure a little over halfway through our ride, and I didn't actually get sick.

The views were absolutely outstanding. You are able to get so much closer in a helicopter than in an aircraft - in some cases we were clearing mountain faces by barely a metre. Here are some of my favorite photos from the tour.

After our helicopter tour we went out for dinner at a cute little Italian place around the corner from our apartment - I had a personal lasagna and Gilles had a pizza sandwich (it was literally a pizza folded into a sandwich, with a salad inside).

We then did a little bit of shopping and then headed out for attempt 2 at whale watching. Our first attempt was in awful weather (very windy, cloudy and cold) and we didn't see a single thing. They gave us a voucher to come again for free, and boy am I glad we did - this time we found three Minge whales together (that kept coming up again and again, too many times to count), along with some harbour porpoises, and the birds were diving and we saw some puffins! We definitely didn't strike out this time. I managed to get one decent photo of a minge whale.

Tomorrow will be a lazy day while we check out some museums and galleries, and then on Wednesday we will be partaking in our last tour - a jet boat ride.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Snorkeling in the Silfra Fissure

Today was an interesting day from the get-go. We didn't start our day until about 1:30pm so I went out to a coffeehouse while Gilles slept in. From there I was able to people-watch, while enjoying an amazing latte and croissant. (Apparently a cappucino croissant means a croissant with a slight bit of coffee ground dust on top, and melted chocolate in the middle... yum!)

I went back to the house at 11:30 to pick up Gilles, and we went out for a pizza lunch and then did a bit of souvenir shopping before heading to the depot to wait for our snorkeling pickup.

It was a refreshing ride after yesterday's - our driver was personable and happy... even when we came to a huge car accident that blocked the entire highway. We sat on the side of the road for about 15 minutes while he talked on the phone (presumably with the depot) to find a side road for us to take to get around the accident. Eventually they were able to tell him that there was a gravel road about half a mile back that we could take - only catch was that we would have to drive through a river to do so. (Bad pic, but you get the gist).

Sidenote: Deaths via car accidents are very rare in Iceland. There were a total of 7 in all of Iceland last year. This year they are up to 9. They have a car and truck that got into an accident up on poles beside the major highway, alongside a wooden board that holds a tally of the number of deaths in the current year.

Once we reached the dive site, we were instructed on how to put on the base layer (called a teddy suit, basically a one-piece snowsuit), then the dry suit, then the hood and finally the gloves. The hood and gloves were made of wet suit material. Once we had all of this on we had to open the neck of the dry suit (which was uncomfortably tight) and crouch down to push as much air out of the suit as possible. Essentially, we vacuum packed ourselves.

Unfortunately the gloves were very clumsy so this is the only photo we took of snorkeling - but take our word for it, it was absolutely beautiful. Because it is glacier water, the water was very cold (2 degrees Celsius), but it was also very very clear. At the deepest point, we could see clear to the bottom 100 metres down.

There wasn't any fish to see or anything like that, but there was lots of plant life, and it was interesting to see how the earth was essentially splitting apart there.

Once we finished snorkelling, we were able to do a bit of cliff jumping again. This time the cliff was only about 3 metres high, so it was easy after the rafting cliff yesterday. That said, it did look higher as you could see right down below the water for a long distance.

On the way back from snorkeling we stopped at a service station with another 3D map, where our guide described how the plate tectonics are working in the area - essentially we were in no-man's land, the space between the North American and Eurasian plates. He also talked about some of the folk tales in the area, as well as explained how the different mountains and volcanoes in the area were formed, and how the water was filtered underground through the volcanic rock many kilometres before actually joining a lake about a kilometre from where we were snorkeling. I found it very interesting especially since we were told a similar story by another one of our guides (on the snowmobiling day) but each story focused on a different area based on their areas of expertise. The place where he is holding the key is where we were snorkeling today.

On the way back I talked to him some about the Icelandic Sagas (I took a class on them in University), and he recommended his favorite, which I had not read. Unfortunately I cannot remember the name of it now, but I do know that it is one in which Thor and Odin are in an epic battle, so I will keep looking until I find it.

Our journey is nearing its end. Tomorrow we are going on a helicopter tour, then likely doing a bit of shopping and then going whalewatching again (we have a free voucher). Then we will be likely going on a jet boat the following day, and taking in the 'Viking Nightlife'. We will likely then cap off the trip by visiting some museums on our final day before flying out.

Then it is back to real life again for a few days at least, before flying out to Boston for the Inbound Marketing Conference! (For work).

Saturday, August 10, 2013

River Rafting in Iceland

Just a note before I start - I know lots of people have been reading these posts but I don't know who -- so please, leave a comment at the bottom, even just to say hi!

And now back to the original program!

Today we went river rafting on the Hvítá River. It was a different tour from the rest, because while all of the other were completely customer service focused, this one... not so much. We started by riding in a van where two of the four guides in front of us were fast asleep, one was listening to music, and the other was completely focused on the road and didn't offer any comment. (Okay, so we weren't exactly talkative at this point either, but we have been spoiled so far since we got here, so we were expecting the guide to take the lead, and start telling us about what we were driving though, etc. The ride was 75 minutes, then we arrived at the place where we suit up for rafting.

At this point it became clear to us that no, even though we were the only two in the van we would not be the only two people rafting - there were 51 passengers (a far cry from the 5-10 that we had grown accustomed to!) They had everyone wait in the main lobby until all of the groups arrived. Then they herded us into the "big room", where they explained how the wet suits, splash jackets, life jackets, and helmets would work. I must admit that they did much better at this point.

We were directed into two changing rooms (one for the men and another for the women), where we put on the apparel. I had read many reviews ahead of time with people talking about how cold they were, so I wore a coat between my wet suit and my splash jacket. I knew that it would get drenched, but I also knew that it was a good quality coat that would keep me warm wet or dry. After putting all of these on they gave us wet shoes to wear, and we were off to two, full-size large school buses.

It was difficult to take pictures during this trip (didn't want to lose the camera!) but the swells got to be about a metre high at their highest point while going down the river. We rode (and paddled) in these beauties:

About halfway through the run we stopped at a cliff, where we literally got to jump off a cliff. We weren't told exactly how high the cliff was, but I'm guessing about 10 ft. The picture below shows the cliff in the background as a few jumpers swim back to the boats (the piece of cliff jutting out on the right hand side of the photo).

After we were done river rafting for the day, we headed back to Reykjavik where the Gay Pride festival was in full swing. It was so exciting to see, especially after Putin made it illegal to even tell children that gay people exist yesterday. So frustrating. Anyway, I digress.

When we got back to the city a party was in full swing. Cotton candy being made on the corner by our apartment. A mainstage set up a few blocks down with live music playing. People EVERYWHERE.

Unfortunately we caught the very tail end of the celebration - by the time we got our groceries and had supper the celebrations were over. That said, it was still wonderful to experience what we did see!