Pale as Hail Goes to a Bachelor Party

We all know that since I moved to New York my life has been a fast paced smorgasbord of unique and thrilling urban experiences. By that I mean, yes I did see “Hamilton” once last year and no I have not had any money to leave the house since then (and the ticket was given as a gift). I’m lucky, I have a lot of friends who are all kinds of cool who invite me to do grown-up things in places I would typically cross the street to avoid because they are too hip/fancy/have a dress code above leggings and black hoodies. Nevertheless she (and by “she” I mean “they” because this is 2017 and I can DO THAT) persisted, and I occasionally do cool things. Occasionally that cool thing is watching the Bachelor. And occasionally I call that thing, “going to a Bachelor party” to make myself sound mysterious/hip/like I’m going out and wearing something other than leggings and a black hoodie. Let’s reflect. 

Last year Christian and I became friends with a group of couples who collectively look like they came out of a Topshop catalog. These long, lean, put together people are intimidating to look at, let alone hang out with. Their Instagram accounts tote urban ballet, product photography, the life of the ad-man and AD-WOMAN OBVI, there’s even a foreign (Canadian) in the group! And what do all of these well made millennials have in common? They watch ABC’s “The Bachelor.” And we were as confused as you are. 

These are all my lady friends. I found out that a quick google search for the clothing line keeps men and women COMPLETELY separate. My Amish ancestry (that does not exist) would certainly approve. 

These are all my lady friends. I found out that a quick google search for the clothing line keeps men and women COMPLETELY separate. My Amish ancestry (that does not exist) would certainly approve. 

These are my dude guy friends. I found out that a quick google search for the clothing line keeps men and women COMPLETELY separate. My Amish ancestry (that does not exist) would certainly approve. 

These are my dude guy friends. I found out that a quick google search for the clothing line keeps men and women COMPLETELY separate. My Amish ancestry (that does not exist) would certainly approve. 

Getting introduced to “Bachelor Nation” feels like being invited into a cult. Initially, these people you talk to seem so kind and happy and fun and they are just that; kind, happy, fun. You watch them from afar, have quick engaging conversations about similar interest, and want to get to know them better. Then you get invited to the picnic. Where you continue with your happy interesting conversations until you slowly see their eyes start to shift downward. This, although you are unaware at the time, is the juicy spot where the introduction officially begins. “So” a tall, brown-eyed, male member of the group says to my husband and me, “Have you ever heard of The Bachelor?” At this point everyone in the group looks simultaneously joyful, excited, and yet as if they are suppressing some dark secret. You cautiously say “No” and drop a chip into the pre-packaged dip you brought for the picnic, hoping to avoid eye contact. And, almost as if they have a rehearsed script given by Chris Harrison himself, the group begins to talk to each other about the show. Staring from its classic history 20 or so seasons ago and moving to the present, each member has their time to share what “the show” has done for them. What they have been given. How each contestant deserved to win/lose/die. You’ve avoided “the show” for years. But these people are happy/cool/inviting you in. You succumb. You watch one episode. You cannot escape. That, in exact detail, is how you become a member of “Bachelor Nation.” And you will never leave it. 

There is something (wonderful) about tv culture. Because now, for those of us who do not understand how to connect with anyone on an ESPN level, we have an easy form of communication fueled mostly by our light and life, Netflix. Television shows make it easy to connect with people who may otherwise be very different from you. Although Christian and I had never felt inclined to watch The Bachelor, it was an easy way to connect with new friends. And l needed all the help I could get. Making friends is hard when you have a terrible personality and an unclear Instagram aesthetic.

So began our life with The Bachelorette, JoJo. Our very first season of The Bachelor series, JoJo was a perfect girl with a strong personality, sensitive soul, and (alas, most importantly) looked fantastic crying in stilettos and a skin tight blue sequin dress. We watched as she eliminated a new man every week in hopes of finding her one true love and YOU GUYS her future husband. The goal at the end of the show is to get ENGAGED to the person who is last on the list. (Just FYI, Grandma. Letting you know here so I don’t catch you watching this trash to understand my blog post.) Everything is overdramatic and unbelievable. Their dates are out of this world, the contestants are too beautiful with not enough to say, and the plot twists are about has twisted as a Red Vine licorice stick (and with that failed analogy I mean to say, tasteless and waxy) and we loved every single second. 

Weeping. Angel. 

Weeping. Angel. 

Moving on to the present (and by present I mean last night, not the literal present where I am in my underwear holding a cat and typing a blog post to convince myself not to take a Melatonin and sleep through this East Coast snow storm) with one full season of The Bachelorette down, one season of Bachelor in Paradise, and our very first season of The Bachelor at its end, we partied with the cool cult kids in celebration of another year around the sun having been blessed by “the show.” 

It’s not every day that you get work off in order to watch a television show. But it was a Monday and I did it that day. Our plan was to have a movie party in our friends’ LITERAL theater. Recently, friends of ours moved into one of the new (I believe the technical term is “Fancy-A”) apartment complexes in downtown Brooklyn. Although they will deny it, I think it has something to do with being at the top level of the Bachelor Nation cult. And although they will deny it, I’m pretty sure there is an actual dress code to be allowed in. Where, upon arrival, the staff escorts you to the correct floor and announces your presence by name, spouse, and occupation. Okay, maybe that didn’t happen IRL, but it happened so much in my head before going over there I feel like it needs to be a part of my reality. To prepare for the party (as I do every party) I first put on a pair of pants clearly two sizes too small (on account of they fit last fall but then Halloween/Thanksgiving/Christmas/Feaster-just around the corner happened) and then I nap in them to get them to stretch and fit. Or, as I like to call it I, "get skinner." I then take them off because it didn’t work. But I will try it again for the next party. To enter their fancy home, I decided to sport a Madewell coat I got three years ago for 300% off and some snazzy cropped jeans, because rich people show their ankles. 

It takes about 13 seconds of looking at this photo from the first night to know the entire premise, season, and final result of this typical reality tv show. It also helps better explain the need I felt to dress up for the event. 

It takes about 13 seconds of looking at this photo from the first night to know the entire premise, season, and final result of this typical reality tv show. It also helps better explain the need I felt to dress up for the event. 

Thanks to my respectable dress code I was allowed inside the fancy Bachelor Nation apartments and met up with these party animals. And my spouse. While sitting in a personal theater getting personal with the leather Lazyboy chair I was bequeathed, we watched the final episode of The Bachelor. It was fine. He picked the wrong girl. I’m taking it personally. In fact, the end result was such poor television that the host, Chris Harrison, brought it up. The 3 hour special was full of teasers leading us toward thinking something exciting would happen. I was in a room with lovers of the show and yet at one point it got so ridiculous we all began to complain until my husband said, “Guys, just make yourself numb and believe in everything they are saying and it’s more fun.” And that is the story of how we became part of a cult, our dearest love, Bachelor Nation. The end. 

…The Bachelorette starts up again in May. Don’t miss it. Also, want to go on a picnic? 

Kale as Hail

I imagine everyone and their over-instagrammed cat loves reading about my ever-changing diet plans. So I’ll dedicate another drawn-out post to the food plan I currently indulge in. I’ll over-emphasize the healthy parts (like the title of this post) to make it seem like I eat far healthier than I do, even though I know my physique is not fooling anyone into thinking I’m a kale-shake Soul Cycle connoisseur. Fortunately for my self-esteem if I eat exactly one carrot I think I’ve bestowed upon myself a six pack (and the rights to consume and entire cheesecake alone for Valentine’s day, while my Valentine sits beside me and watches). Let’s talk more about that carrot. 

Currently, I am eating a carrot because I love the crunch and I hate myself. It’s one of those big carrots that makes you think you really know your way around a farmers’ market. The kind you eat and think “this could totally replace a meal/all this chewing is tricking my hunger center/I think I deserve to polish off that cheesecake now/it’s amazing the sacrifices I’ll make for my healthy body.” In my mind one carrot completely eliminates the leftover Chinese I had for lunch. Oh, we’re over the carrot talk now? That’s fine. I’ll move on to kale. 

I wasn't kidding about that Valentine's cake. I also took a photo of the carrot, but Christian said it was inappropriate. 

I wasn't kidding about that Valentine's cake. I also took a photo of the carrot, but Christian said it was inappropriate. 

I’m 23 and I’m really aware of how unaware I am of who I am (that exact sentence keeps me up at night, for emotional and grammatical reasons). Although what I know for sure is that my self esteem level is directly related to the amount of salads I eat in a workweek. For the next few weeks I am occasionally manning a kiosk in Grand Central Station. Our store is being remodeled and until it is finished we are selling small amounts of our product in an unheated hallway in the Graybar Passage. Historically speaking, the hallway is restored beautifully and keeps the integrity of the building. Physically speaking, I want to tear the whole place down and turn it into one giant tanning bed themed heated hallway. It’s cold. Not only does working in a kiosk make me feel like the scum of the earth (the last time that many people avoided eye contact with me and walked quickly away from me I was walking the streets of Brooklyn in a cheetah onesie) but it makes me feel like I deserve something warm and toasty for lunch. Like soup, or a whale steak. The doors are always open and the cold air always gets in and I’m always hungry for warm comfort food to stick to my stomach and replenish my birthing hip circumference. Back to salads… 

There are elements to a salad I enjoy. Well, there is element to a salad I enjoy. That element is kale. I love the stuff. I’ll eat it raw, cooked, in a cake, anything goes! But for some reason once kale has become a “salad” I resent it. I work down the street from a Chop’t and can easily access an overpriced and under flavored salad if I walk about 15 steps. I rarely do this, convincing myself that walking an extra two blocks will burn enough calories to justify the half off sushi lunch the waitress at Amaze has usually prepared for me before I even walk in. But I do try to eat salads for lunch as often as I can. I load them up with eggs and edamame and squeeze lemon instead of dressing and I am exactly no pant sizes smaller. Fortunately, my ego takes a trip and I take 10 pictures to remind people that I know what a salad is, even if I consider my third-floor walk up exercise for the day. And every time I eat a salad I laugh at my own joke as I whisper “kale as hail” before every bland bite. 

Christian and I now live above a charming family owned grocery store and we take full advantage of their well priced produce. Because of this, our diets have drastically changed from our good old Clinton Hill days when we lived above a bodega with a Twinkie fetish and a pizza place worshiped by locals. (At one point a designer made a night light of Luigi’s pepperoni slice so that everyone could dream about eating it when we were not awake and thus, eating it.) 

Doesn't this place look like the land of milk and honey? It isn't. It has produce and organic cereals. 

Doesn't this place look like the land of milk and honey? It isn't. It has produce and organic cereals. 

We do prefer to eat healthy and cook our own food. It just took living above a grocery store to make it happen. A typical week now consists of fresh fruits and vegetables (I loath the word “veggies” and I blame my unreciprocated love for Bob the Tomato from Veggie Tales for the distaste to this day) and a LOT of recipes with kale. My secret Pinterest boards (which is almost all of them, trying to keep up a cool kid so not suburban image here) have hundreds of kale recipes just waiting to be inside my needy stomach. It feels great to eat healthier than before. If I live past 60 I will have the produce section of Food Train to thank for it.

Food will never stop fascinating me with its monotonous necessity. If you’ve ever had a conversation with my husband and I at the same time, then you’ve heard us talk about Soylent. Soylent is our veganism and our new hot yoga routine. Wait. You haven’t heard of it?! Well let me blog all about it so you will be in the know, like us! It’s a drink that you drink and you get everything you need in a day from it. That’s it. (I’ll save the real spiel for when I see you in person, I just can’t do it any justice without all my choreographed hand movements.) We drink Soylent in the mornings, fend for ourselves for lunch in the city, and come home to make simple meals before simply going to sleep. We splurge on weekends and bad work days and eat delicious dinners in cool places (cool places like, our couch, where we can have any food in the world delivered to us while we watch The Office in our matching pajamas and complain about the wait time). It’s crazy that we need our diets to survive. And until we no longer need it to survive, I’ll probably keep writing about it. I’ll write about how I try to eat healthy and sometimes do, and how sometimes I’ll order so much Chinese food the judgmental delivery man gives me three forks instead of one (that happened today, and most other days). 

"If she writes another blog post about her eating habits I'm gonna barf!" 

"If she writes another blog post about her eating habits I'm gonna barf!" 

Pale as Hail Picks up the Pace

I took some time off from my blog last year. And by that I mean, I forgot I had a blog last year. Because of this, I am now homeworking myself blog assignments. (Auto-correct is not loving my use of the fake word, “homeworking” even though I’m certain someone on TLC made it a thing at some point- I’m also certain you must think I watch a lot more TLC than the zero amount that I actually do with how often I bring it up). I want to make sure I write often enough that I’m keeping a fresh account of my life. Which reminds me, I have yet to apply deodorant today. 

Okay, now that THAT train of thought has managed to become my first paragraph… I’m picking up the pace. I’m writing more often. I’m figuring out what’s important for me to remember. And today that importance is… picking up the pace. That doesn’t mean writing my blog more frequently, but literally figuring out how to keep up with the pace of New York City. Because it is currently 2:30pm on a Saturday after a basic 5 day workweek and I’m in bed “writing my blog” which is really “taking a nap with my hands on the keyboard” because I’m exhausted. This city never sleeps, because I am doing enough sleeping for all of us. And throwing in the occasional blog post between dreams. 

You are not able to tell because of my incredibly steady hand, but I had to move very quickly to snap this shot under my umbrella while keeping up with the traffic behind me, in front of me, and to my sides. Both sides. 

You are not able to tell because of my incredibly steady hand, but I had to move very quickly to snap this shot under my umbrella while keeping up with the traffic behind me, in front of me, and to my sides. Both sides. 

Adjusting: 

The trick with this faced-paced city is how slowly it tricks you into moving along with the current. When we first moved here, I was working long shifts three days a week with plenty of time to rest and Christian was freelancing-giving him plenty of time to think about not resting. I would be completely tapped out after 11 hour work days but once I was home I’d spend every minute finding interesting places to go and things to do. And that means walking. A lot. And quickly. 

I didn’t realize how far I had begun to casually walk until I had people visit me. Often, people want to visit us now that we live here. What that translates to is people wanting a free place to stay and a free travel agent. With some familiarity and love. I’ve walked friends all around as I’ve frantically tried to come up with things they would want to do and see. And after showing people an interesting (if somewhat normal) day here, they’ll be totally tapped out. After shopping on 5th avenue/Broadway and touring Williamsburg and eating at Coney Island our visitors will refuse to walk anymore. (Yes I did just add Coney Island to a “normal” day here, because yes I do go there an abnormal amount of the time. No, I am not proud of it. No, I am not stopping anytime soon.) And that's all before picking up groceries! We walk now. Everywhere. Fast. We carry everything we buy home. We easily spend our Saturdays roaming around Manhattan for 10 miles on foot and think nothing of it. I remember once while living in Provo I walked from my house to the 7/11 (which was 7…or 11 blocks from us) and thinking “Good thing my pioneer ancestry prepared me for all this walking!” I thought that.  

Part of keeping up the pace is keeping up the image. This crazy crazy image. At one point this fall I tried to out-crazy Brooklyn. A good friend of mine was visiting who was going through a hard time and had come here for a break. I translated “break” into “carrying heavy bags of clothing and treats around Manhattan on foot every day” when really, all she wanted was to go to Target without her toddler. Finally, I registered that and attempted to make Target a real New York treat. 

At the time, I had been begging my husband to buy me a cheetah onesie Target was selling (this was around Halloween, but not “appropriate to be wearing a cheetah onesie outside” close to Halloween.) I imagine he was stalling because he knew the magic would wear off after my favorite holiday, but my best friend and enabler went to Target with us and she bought me my animal skin adult pajamas. (After only a little bit of begging.) In my mind, I knew she’d get a kick out of me wearing the new attire on our walk home. She’d probably even laugh. One of my hobbies is putting myself into compromising positions (it’s not like I'm flexible) in order to get that laugh. 

She bought it. And in the middle of Target I jumped into my new outfit, zipped it up, and was officially on the prowl! 

And boy, did she laugh. 

To be fair, she was under an immense amount of stress at home. And to be fair, the year before I was walking around Reykjavík as a giant golfball, so this was nothing new for me. It was absolutely only the stress relief that made her laugh like she did, but I was all too encouraged by her chuckles and my husband’s look of distress to stop! I began walking down the streets (well, proudly prancing) on my way home. And then, Brooklyn won. It was late at night when we had stopped to shop and as we walked down an ally outside of Target a man began meowing at me. Not cat calling, literally MEOWING. And I don't blame him. That’s how I would communicate to the dancing cheetah across the street. And (because I have no limits and no common sense) I meowed back. Short story shorter, it was weird, it was a little bit funny, we walked home, my bestie laughed a lot. It as totally worth it. But I’ll never try it again. Likely. 

Here is an old photo of me in said onesie. It was laundry day. 

Here is an old photo of me in said onesie. It was laundry day. 

Alone Time: 

In an effort to keep up with the pace of New York City without completely wiping out, I’ve worked very hard to find ways to slow down and take a break. I’ve realized that I’m working myself harder than I ever have before and I need a personalized way to relax. I call that personalized way-get this- “personal time” and I hate it. I’m no lone wolf, I am an ultra-needy newt and I don’t like to be by myself. My favorite “alone time” is when I commute home and read a book on the train while grinding (sometimes unintentionally provocatively) against the hundreds of people I'm in one train car with (because there is no classy way to balance on a moving train with a book in your hand) and if it were up to me (and not my well-meaning conscience) that would be all the alone time I need. But I genuinely believe personal time to meditate and reflect on my day is important, so I’ve homeworked myself some alone time. 

I often read on the steps of Grand Central Station before work and during lunch. I never get over the fact that I'm reading on the steps of Grand Central Station before work and during lunch. 

I often read on the steps of Grand Central Station before work and during lunch. I never get over the fact that I'm reading on the steps of Grand Central Station before work and during lunch. 

Alone Time One: 

After 1,095 days living a life where I am brutally aware of my lack of a bathtub, I now have a bathtub. My greatest stress relief, the bathtub is where I go to relax, feel better, and shave 80% of my body hair. It is my real best friend and the very best way to be alone (if it were up to me, it’s the only time I’d be alone. And even still I sometimes throw the cats in with me. Ooh don’t think that’s a joke!). My SaBath day is a special time for my to think about what is most important; whether to use my organic honey bubble bath or fair-trade lavender bath bomb. After three years without a bath I finally moved into an apartment that had what I needed (it was literally the top of our properties) and it is grand. 

Now, it’s grand, but it’s nothing special. When we signed the lease on our apartment I promised myself a wonderful first bath. Some girl’s romanticize their honeymoon, I romanticized having a poorly lit and spackel-covered bathroom with a toilet from the 70’s and a tile theme straight out of your Floridian grandmother’s retirement home. But, there was the bathtub. It is deep *enough* and clean *enough* and it’s the greatest way to be alone. But there are other times I am alone with a slow, relaxing pace. They are not so great. 

Alone Time Two, Too, and Also: 

This kind of alone time is called bachelor girl time and it happened last night and I hate it. Let’s reflect. Christian is working at a fast-paced design studio in SoHo (I know, sooo cool kid NYC, right? He’s trying way too hard.) and last night he had to work until almost midnight to get some furniture designs to some fancy London ladies (OMG give this boy a New York themed Rom-Com already!) which meant that I was alone and I was supposed to enjoy it. So I did everything I could think of to enjoy my three hours of alone time…

…at 1:30am, when I saw a leftover Chinese noodle in the Ben and Jerry’s New York Super Fudge Chunk ice cream I was cradling like a first born son and just went on eating, I realized how much I have my husband to thank for my being a developed adult in society. If I were allowed more alone time, I would literally accept my main food groups to be frosting and pimento stuffed olives. Oh, you think I’m kidding. Let’s take a look at my refrigerator. And then let’s never let me have this much relaxing alone time again. 

This is IRL. There's also an entire produce shelf full of nothing but kale. You know, because I'm healthy. 

This is IRL. There's also an entire produce shelf full of nothing but kale. You know, because I'm healthy. 

The pace here is crazy. I’m constantly trying to keep up with events, workdays, obligations, and mealtimes. I walk a lot, carry everything I own, work as much as I possibly can, protest with the best at everything that matters most, travel near and far for tasty food, plan trips, keep true to obligations, write when I’m actually paid for it, write more when I’m not, explore the new neighborhood, explore the old cemetery, cradle the cats, and then sleep like a rock and miss most of the things I want/need to be doing. Someday I’ll get with the pace and life here won’t completely exhaust me. But I think that exhaustion won’t come until I’m less overwhelmed by how much I love it here. And I just don’t see that love fading anytime soon. Even if I’m fading off…  

 

 

Pale as Hail Still Lives in New York City

 It’s finally here. One year. The day I promised to myself (exactly a year ago) that I would leave New York City. I remember sitting, terrified, in our broker’s office a year ago as she kindly kept conversation going to ease my ruined nerves. I was about to spend half my life savings on three months rent, a security deposit larger than a house payment in my hometown, and an absolutely insulting broker’s fee. I was exhausted, elated, and counting down the days until I could say I had lived in New York for one year, and then get myself out. After being offered a coffee, which I refused, a tea, which I refused, and a water, which I could not have sipped without shaking even if I wanted to, the broker asked how long we planned to live in Brooklyn. “One year.” I said without the slightest hesitation. She smiled in a way that can only be described as an all-knowing New York real estate sneer and said, “I moved here thinking I’d be here two years, It’s been nine.” Last week, we signed another year long lease. For a great apartment. In a great part of Brooklyn. You know, the kind you could see raising kids in. Remember the beginning of this paragraph? When I thought I’d only be here a year? Me neither. 

 There are two things I have learned to love truly, deeply, madly in my life. The first is Christian. He was my short and silent neighbor with a whole lot to say, once I got him to say it. I met him and thought, “He’s sweet.” I got to know him and thought, “I need him.” The second thing is this city. This massive and loud land that, having visited as a 12 year old, I thought was “nice.” After living here I’ve realized, I need it. 

When Christian first mentioned he wanted to live in New York, I told him that I had no interest. He married me and promised me the Pacific North West. Maybe the occasional foreign country. But not New York. I was never the person who romanticized NYC, I grew up constantly hearing people say it was a life dream to live there, even for a short while. (Meaning they'd try it, it'd be too hard, they'd hate it and come back home-I thought) I didn’t want it or need it. The summer is hot, the winter is cold, the apartments are small, and the train has rats. Well, I wear shorts in the summer, coats in the winter, and have two cats that look like sewer rats, so I guess those issues are null. I love it here. Specifically Brooklyn. But I’m sure it will get a long and lovey blog post soon enough. Today, I just want to dedicate a couple paragraphs to two random things I've loved about this year. 

I realized early on I wasn’t writing a blog to anyone in particular, that the goal wasn’t readers, it was for me to remember my life, so when I go on about how I stalked the shelves of a restaurant bathroom trying to find out what toilet paper they used, know that that story isn’t to entertain you. It’s so that I remember to find that magic toilet paper in this magic city. 

I do actually have a photo of the roll of perfect toilet paper I found at a Mediterranean chain restaurant but this photo of a Nathan's hot dog is slightly more blog-appropriate. 

I do actually have a photo of the roll of perfect toilet paper I found at a Mediterranean chain restaurant but this photo of a Nathan's hot dog is slightly more blog-appropriate. 

 Things I do Differently in New York

    I am more than aware that there are thousands of blogs about living in New York. Blogs taken seriously and written eloquently. Initially, that's what stopped my writing. I wasn't in the mood to look like I was competing with legitimate blogs. Then I remembered I loved the sound of my own (written) voice, and that this is for me. This isn't a "How to New York" blog. If you read this and learn anything about what it’s actually like to live here, let me know. Because I certainly haven’t figured it out. What I have learned is how to do things wrong and get a kick out of it. So, if you want a blog about New York this isn’t it. I’m still vain and young and it’s still all about me. And occasionally about the other 8,550,000 neighbors I’ve got. 

Book Club: 

    Reading has become a crucial part of my day-to-day life since I moved here. I quickly learned that it is unacceptable to make eye-contact and smile at everyone on the subway. I also learned that having nothing with you to look at makes you an unprepared weakling who deserves to sit and stare at their shoes for the full 45 minutes it will take the G train to remember how to get to Queens so that you can get to Manhattan before your job shuts its doors on you forever.

Originally, I felt that modern technology had me covered. I own a cellphone, the window to my Instagram (body) and Pinterest (soul). Unfortunately, I learned that the tunnels of the New York City subway are an endless game of “It’s Cute How You Thought You’d Have Reception Down Here.” One stop will have full bars and you’ll say, “Thanks, T-Mobile!” then you’ll try to see how many likes your most recent Gossip Girl-themed cat photo got and you’ll remember that T-Mobile is a dirty liar that likes to play with your emotions. By that I mean, no, you don’t actually have any bars. Which is okay, because your 500th cat photo isn’t getting any likes anyway. 

    So I learned about the “book.” First, books on my phone. I read every single Maya Angelou e-book throughout the election and after to ease my worried heart. But I quickly realized how many people on the train were reading actual books. The ones bound with paper. LOL JK JK… no really. These people were risking their lives attempting to hold their groceries, backpacks, skateboards, and the pole of the train with a BOOK in their hands. And I dug it. After running out of Angelou’s reading material (as if that’s really possible) I began jotting down every book I saw someone reading on the train. And I started a bookclub with myself (and the 1.7 billion commuters this year.) Whenever I see someone reading an actual book on the train, I write down the title and add it to my list. So far I’ve read everything from, “Hard Choices” by Hillary Clinton to, “In A Dark Dark Wood” by Ruth Ware. I use those titles as an example of how drastically different the literature I’ve delved into is with my system, but let’s be honest, life as Secretary of State and a British bachelorette party murder mystery… maybe a little too similar. 

    I mark down books I see read multiple times and compare it to the current best seller list. My favorite count is the amount of times I’ve seen a girl on the train reading “The Girl on The Train.” So far I’ve seen it six times, but I’m sure I’ll update you every time the list grows. I know you get the same satisfaction out of it as I do. 

    In a funny way, my personal public book club has helped me from being the wide-eyed tourist who stumbled onto the subway in search of Times Square, to the critical thinking commuter with a genuine interest in her community. It makes me feel more connected to those on the train with me (which is hard to do when your hand is clamped on the shoulder of the woman in front of you while the child behind you has wrapped his umbrella around your leg and the gentleman above you has sneezed into your freshly washed hair-we’re all pretty close regardless). New York has reminded me I love to read. 

This is a photo of trendy food complimented by good lighting. It has nothing to do with what I am writing about, but I know a good New York blog has photos of trendy food! 

This is a photo of trendy food complimented by good lighting. It has nothing to do with what I am writing about, but I know a good New York blog has photos of trendy food! 

Hobbies: 

    There are dozens of “mini-traditions” Christian and I have adopted since we moved here. We spend full days traveling to different parts of the city in search of cute food, we ride above-ground trains when there is a blizzard, we laugh when we say we will cook dinner instead of ordering from Seamless while we are drooling over delivery Indian cuisine, but the hobby I want to write about today is one that brings me the most joy (and is, coincidentally, the most mundane), penny collecting. 

    I came up with the idea for collecting lucky pennies as I was walking down Atlantic Ave in Brooklyn. It was raining, almost hard, and yet I was still looking up at the sky because I’d found a gorgeous building I’d never seen before. At that exact moment, in an effort (in vain) to dodge a rather murky looking puddle I’d noticed too late (on account of the building gazes) I saw a lucky penny. I realized then that had I been looking at the ground I would have missed the puddle easily, but also that looking down let me find something shiny (all my feminism weeps inside me as I write how excited shiny things make me) and to top it off, if I started to look at the ground more often I would no longer be the dorky tourist with an extended vacation in the city who is always looking up and slowing down traffic. So, yes. I started this “hobby” to literally stop myself from looking up all the time. I work in Manhattan, people are moving non-stop, I wanted to stop looking up with my mouth open because 1) I needed to keep pace with fellow commuters and 2) a homeless person spit in my mouth once and kinda killed the magic. 

    You want to know how to be new money in New York? Collect lucky pennies. I’ve literally, LITERALLY made one whole swanky dollar since I started this a few months ago. That is ONE HUNDRED pennies! But it takes hard work and dedication. I’m not always proud of how I get my lucky pennies. There was this one time, in a bathroom stall at Grand Central, where I was sitting doing what my body demanded of me, and I noticed a penny in the (occupied) stall next to mine. While sitting with my pants down, I scooted my foot slightly under the next stall, stepped on the penny, and slid it to me. I did that. But also I’m pretty sure my bathroom companion is not in the bathroom penny collecting business, so we’re good. On Christmas day Christian and I were on our way to China Town for Dim Sum (BECAUSE OBVIOUSLY WE ARE DOING THAT) and I found seven, SEVEN lucky pennies at the foot of the stairs on Canal Street. I literally thought Christian had put them there as a Christmas present for me. 

    I could go on for an entire blog post (and probably will) about my penny discoveries. And I’m still not exactly sure what I’ll do with them, or when enough will be enough. What I can say is that every single time I see one and pick it up, I am reminded how incredibly lucky I feel to live here. Last week after signing the lease for our gorgeous tiny Park Slope apartment I found a lucky penny at our new train stop on 7th ave. It’s from 1981 and it’s plenty shiny, and extra lucky. I’m pretty excited for another year of subway book club and penny hunting in New York. 

This is not a photo of the rainy day in Brooklyn when I decided to collect lucky pennies because I did not realize on that day that my penny collecting was actually going to become a real thing (I rarely take my inner-dialog seriously). This is, however, a perfect example of my stopping in the middle of the sidewalk to take a photo of "up." 

This is not a photo of the rainy day in Brooklyn when I decided to collect lucky pennies because I did not realize on that day that my penny collecting was actually going to become a real thing (I rarely take my inner-dialog seriously). This is, however, a perfect example of my stopping in the middle of the sidewalk to take a photo of "up." 

Ending: 

I have more to say. A lot more. And I’m gonna say it. But that lucky penny ending was totally honest and oh-so poetic, so I’m gonna leave it at that (and leave you in suspense about that toilet-paper adventure, gotta leave you wanting more!)

Pale as Hail Needs Her Space

There are a few things that make it particularly difficult for me to keep up with a blog. For one thing, I am absolutely invested in the generational belief that I am the greatest thing to hit the internet. My blog is funny, creative, and completely original and different from everything else out in the world (I know, right) so WHY AM I NOT FAMOUS YET? Without a whole lot of hand holding and praise, I lose interest. I don’t write. I forget about the cool things going on. But here’s another issue, there are SO many cool things going on! I’m in New York where everything is happening all at once and I want to do it all! That ends up leaving no time to write about what’s already been done (although it does seem to leave plenty of time to binge-watch 90’s sitcoms-don’t judge my priorities, you’re watching them too.) And lastly, I’m a very caring pet giver now and if I sit down to write but my small cat decides that is the perfect time for her to sit on my keyboard, well then I better let her do it! She deserves it! 

But more than anything, I haven’t written because we’ve been in a constant state of “what are we doing/ how are we going to do it/ will we have enough money for dinner this week/ look at all the cool places we need to go spend all our money/ the shower handles fall off when we turn them/ wouldn’t it be cool to start a garden on our porch/ visitors visitors/ the cat is lonely/ let’s make dinner it will be fun/ we think we’re vegan/ time for Shake Shack/ we teach a class of 9 year olds every week/ maybe we should add furniture to the house/ AND SO ON” over the last few months. So when I’m home I spend time watching Netflix, attending to the cat, and letting my brain shut off. But today I’m here, I’m awake, and I’m ready to blog again and hash out what has been going on over the last few months. Because it’s a hectic history to remember, and it’s all been awesome. 

Today I want to give a nice update about our about the decorating situation. Because out of all the things I could be writing about the last 5 months we’ve spent here, I’m most interested in talking about the multiple trips to IKEA. This is all just Iceland all over again. Here’s the thing, I’m a nester. I like everyone and everything to have their own special place in the house. I like to have the house look organized, planned, Pinterest approved.  But I’m also Mallory, and when she takes over, none of those things stand a chance. I mentioned the orange in our apartment before, but it's only grown since my last post. Our apartment is small, we knew we wouldn’t have much space to hide things, even if we needed them. And the Mallory side of me got it in my head that the house would be orange. Why orange? Because it would match the long bright orange extension cord we needed to get electricity to the top of the loft. We couldn’t hide it, so I embraced it! Unfortunately for our apartment, IKEA is totally into the orange idea. And it had everything my overzealous heart desired. Our home now has orange curtains, an orange desk, orange dinner table, and large orange “mystery box” that I won’t tell you houses the litter box when you sit right next to it during dinner. TLC would hate me, or love me, if Stacy and Clinton ever switched from fashion to interior design, I’d be their girl. And my minimalist BFA husband would be the first person to call me onto their show. 

I'm thinking fire breathing polar bear quilts will go great with the rest of the house. 

I'm thinking fire breathing polar bear quilts will go great with the rest of the house. 

Along with the orange we have a collection of items that sounded really fun to me at the time. The large walls of our home needed to be covered and I happened to find a real treasure at my toy store. A six foot poster of Brooklyn that you can color in yourself. It’s large and in charge and until the vintage barbie photographs I have begun collecting from a photographer who sells them on the streets of SoHo take over, this poster is definitely the discolored accent piece I never intended for it to be. 

At some point in our life we may be grown ups. We may have enough space for all of my treasures. I’m thinking a luxurious two-bedroom apartment. That would be enough room for all of my dismembered taxidermy squirrel arms, my food pun crab cake prints, and my life size porcelain Persian cat collection (currently there is only one and her name is Purrrl). There will be room for all of those, and Christian’s workshop, and our future baby’s (or cat’s) black and white carnival/interstellar space station/day at a gloomy beach in Washington-themed nursery. It’s all gonna be there. And it will be a gorgeous chaotic mess. 

Until then, I’m happily sitting at home in my studio apartment. I’m still propping my feet up on our $7 Ikea coffee table/dining room/guest bed dreaming about the cat tree we are putting in the closet so that Blair will have somewhere to be other than my lap…top. (Where she happens to be this very second) I’m enjoying the exposed closet, the corner of the room that has been completely taken over by Christian’s 3D printer, sewing machine, spray paint, and rendering projects. It’s aesthetically daring. Ironic. Because none of it actually belongs in a living space. I love the small space outside we insist on referring to as the “back yard.” I believe it’s the roof to a shed. You can only get to it by climbing through the kitchen window. But we do. And it has astro turf. And it’s a yard. The kitchen cabinets won’t close, the bathroom would scare little children (and adults with weak constitutions) but It’s all just fine. Because I’m going to add a new vintage Barbie painting to each of those spaces. And paint the walls orange. That will help.

Pale as Hail Gets a Pet (Part One of a Far Too Long Series About yet Another Internet Cat)

The Bambino cat is a mix between the hairless Sphynx and the Munchkin. It has short front legs and a long spine, making it’s shape quite similar to a dachshund. It’s highly social, extremely affectionate, and adjusts well to living with children and other animals. It’s hairlessness makes it incredibly high-maintenance. In 2005, a Bambino litter was officially introduced as an experimental breed by TICA. Also mine is named Blair and I have one of these cats.

I'm not kidding about the short leg thing. Look at that front paw! 

I'm not kidding about the short leg thing. Look at that front paw! 

The moment I was out of my pet-hating-parent’s house I wanted a creature of my own. I then married a pet-hating husband. Now, I get their disdain for the canine/feline companion. I understood the downside to pets. They are needy, they give nothing back, they cost money you otherwise would not spend, they shed, they bite, they whine, they poop, they lick, they smell, they break things, they don’t attend church, they are little hellions waiting to bombard your life and tear up your toilet paper. And also I wanted one. Badly. For three years Christian and I lived in apartments that didn’t allow pets. And for all of those three years I would beg Christian for a dachshund for Christmas. Even Facebook supported me. More than one person asked me on Dec 26th if I’d gotten the puppy they’d all had to watch me ask for in my statuses. But it was a half-hearted attempt. I knew that as long as we lived somewhere that didn't allow pets I would have to consider my impressive pillow collection as my fake pet to love. 

Eventually Christian caved slightly and I managed to walk out of the local Mega Walmart with a grocery store Betta Fish in each hand. One was red and one was blue. Initially I was allowed one fish, but we happened to have two identical vases from our wedding registry and, what luck! we could put one fish in each! I named them Toni and Candace after the Women and Women First bookstore owners in Portlandia. Because everyone knows the beautiful beta fish are male and everyone also knows they are avid supporters of modern-day feminist literature. In reality I imagine Christian let me get the fish because he imagined they would live exactly one week and one half of one other week. I had chosen each fish from the very back of the shelf at Walmart because I was worried no one would see them and they would die. But live on they did! And what little personalities! Candace, the red fish, was a real fire cracker! He would bang against his fish bowl any time you put your face near him. Toni was the thespian of the pair. Often when he felt he was not being given enough attention, Toni would float limply at the top of the fish bowl. More often then not this would happen when we had guests over, he always loved an audience, and they would awkwardly ask us if the fish was alive. To which I would respond (perhaps only worrying our house-guests more) oh yes! That’s just his way of playing! At one point I had a girl from our neighborhood feed our fish while we were on vacation. I got a tearful message from her letting me know she had killed one of my fish. I texted back and asked her which fish was causing problems. When she responded that it was, in fact, blue fish Toni that was lifeless, I let her know that he wasn’t dead – just depressed and overreacting. Maybe I should have warned the 12 year old about the drama fish beforehand… 

After two years our fish finally faded away. Only after I gifted them to my 5 year old sister as we were about to move. Although I’m still pretty sure she killed them, the funeral invitations she made were so well done that I imagine I will be able to forgive her at some point. And also maybe giving a child two year old grandpa Walmart beta fish wasn’t the tenderest of choices, but I certainly wasn’t going to be able to handle them dying! Glad she was there to take care of that for me. 

Unfortunately, this new move meant I had no pets at all. And we brought so little with us I didn’t even have my pillow collection to dry my pet-less tears. I spent my free time in Iceland watching dog training videos, came to the grueling realization that a dachshund would not work with our work schedules, and so I went to the only other animal I had ever truly fancied-the hairless cat. 

For months, all Christian heard about was hairless cat facts. I know them all. I would spend hours looking at photos online, watching youtube videos (I know every Cats 101 episode of every hairless cat by heart), and stalking/talking to American breeders. Because I had fallen in love with a cat that did not even exist in Iceland. What with the hairlessness and the freezing winters and all. 

The day Christian and I decided to move to New York I got a gleam in my eye that he knew was not going away. I had found a fantastic breeder in the states who had a type of hairless cat known as a Bambino. Named after the word “baby” in Italian, Bambinos are known for their kitten-like stature. Being bred to stay kitten sized with short legs and a long body these cats were also known for looking like… dachshunds! And then there was no stopping me. Which sounds even more impressive when I tell you the part about how the cat was living in Arizona. 

IMG_4433.JPG

This didn’t set me back, I had a plan. First, I had a name. Blair Waldwarf. It was a play on the name Blair Waldorf, our favorite character from our favorite show, Gossip Girl. And when you find a cat that has a short shape which allows for name puns, you will overcome every obstacles in your way to get it. And that I did. My closest friend, Charity Jan Bowles, lives in Arizona. She was going to be visiting New York the week after we moved into the city. She was willing to bring me the cat! And it only took one call and a LOT of tears to convince her! This girl deserves the Nobel Peace Prize (or maybe just a nice BFF bracelet) after all she did for me. The night of her trip, Charity got my cat from the breeder, wrapped her in a diaper and baby onesie, and flew that little kid on the plane, on her lap, with a transfer in Georgia, all the way to New York. I now know the only way to repay that kindness is to bare her children, and as soon as science finds a way I will do just that. (Charity, for real, thanks girl. Also boyfriend Doug scored all the points that day. He must really love you to deal with you dealing with friends like me. All the love your way.)

Blair wearing her onesie from Auntie Charity and playing with her home made cat nip needle felted martini. Because it's what Blair Waldorf would want.

Blair wearing her onesie from Auntie Charity and playing with her home made cat nip needle felted martini. Because it's what Blair Waldorf would want.

There were a few issues with my fabulous plan. One slight hiccup was the fact that I had purchased a cat before finding a home for the cat to live in. But, you know, details. We were lucky enough to find an apartment quickly and (although it had nothing but two suitcases, a foam mattress, and a 10ft plank of wood that we bought for Blair so she could climb up into the loft) we had a house for ourselves and our little rat-cat. 

The next shout out goes to Christian. Because this cat was not something he needed. And he was okay with the fact that I did. It may have been the months of cat videos I watched, or that time I started crying when I got an email from the breeder letting me know the seal-point kitten was still available, but he was willing to accept that being married to me also meant having an exotic species as a pet to have and to hold. And since we got her, this derpy little feline has twisted her way so deep into his heart he carries her on his shoulders, sleeps with her tucked under his arm, and worries when she (stupidly/constantly) runs into doors/walls/chair legs. They’ve become pretty close while I’m at work. And it is a very huge deal to me that he loves me enough to keep her around. Particularly when her life expectancy is about a decade longer than my feminist fish.  

These two are attached at the hip! (PUN ALWAYS INTENDED)

These two are attached at the hip! (PUN ALWAYS INTENDED)

I realized how long this post is far too late in the writing game. There will be a part two, about actually living with this creature, some other day. Good night! Go take all your little pillow collections out on a walk for me! 

Pale As Hail Is Moving In

“I would have written sooner, but life has been crazy!” Says every blogger mom ever. And I now have a cat (the 22 year old version of having a child) and that means I can call myself a blogger mom when it suits me and it suits me today as I say, I would have written sooner, but life has been crazy! And I’ll say, a somewhat spontaneous international move is, to put it lightly, crazy. Crazy stressful, crazy busy, and crazy fun. Last November we talked seriously about leaving Iceland after a semester of school, last December we visited New York, January 6th we decided to move to New York, January 28th we did. We moved here without a house, without a job, and without a clue. We’re still pretty clueless, but we’re getting away with it because we both have large glasses and we’re feeling the Bern, so Brooklyn has welcomed us with open arms. 

After our first week roaming around Manhattan a good family friend (who has lived in the city for the last two decades) let us know that after another nine years and eleven months we could officially call ourselves “New Yorkers” But I recently killed my first indoor cockroach. So I’m pretty sure I’m New Yorker now. (Or maybe I’ll let myself be a New Yorker after I figure out what shape the state of New York is. Or what a bodega is. Or why no one want’s to chat with me on the subway.) I might not feel like a New Yorker (I’d be shocked if I ever did) but we feel at home here so far. Because we’ve really lucked out. When we made the decision to move here it was strange how quickly little things began to fall into place. While in Iceland I applied for exactly one job in New York. And I got it. After we moved here we found an apartment. In two days. And the most important proof of our good life choice, every day as I walk the streets of Brooklyn I have a stranger tell me they like my glasses. After seven months of Icelanders staring hard and being so befuddled by my “weird” (because they always said weird) choice of glasses, it’s felt pretty great to drown my vanity in the compliments of kids here. Thanks for getting to them, Iris Apfel. 

So much has happened since we moved here that is worth writing about! And so much has happened that isn’t even worth mentioning. I’ll probably write novels about both. But to create an idea of organization (if only you could see my brainwaves recoil at the use of that word) I’m going to write all about the fast-paced and engaging experience of house hunting – and decorating! TLC, come at me! 

Let’s first discuss the countless hours I spent searching for apartments on Craigslist, Rentler, and Zillow. Let’s then talk about how all of that was completely useless, because I got it in my head that we would move to Disneyland and I spent all my time in Iceland looking for places in LA. It must have been because of the cold. Because we aren’t in LA, we’re in New York. And spoiler alert, contrary to what my husband lead me to believe, riding the subway is nothing like riding Radiator Springs Racers. Rockefeller Center does not look like Sleeping Beauty’s Magic Castle. And New York is NOT Disneyland. Despite that glaring fact, I agreed to move here because I am young and easily seduced by places where major musicals are set. And I may have already lost the lottery for Hamilton 12 times, but it’s close enough that I can walk by the ticket holder line and see all the faces of those excited to be seeing Hamilton, and isn’t that the same thing? Oh, right, we’re talking about houses. (Feeling my brain once again recoil in frustration – thinking my self proclaimed adult ADD had bested my blog again.)

The more time we spent online looking for houses the more we realized we had no idea how to get a house in New York. At the time, we were staying in an Airbnb southeast of Prospect Park. We walked in, exhausted from our flight, to burning incense and I choked down sobs after seeing the hair and mold in the bathtub. This bathroom was, without a doubt, home to the very shower where The Grudge first made her mark. So I began apartment hunting. That night. And I learned about brokers, and guarantors, and paperwork that proves if you want to live in New York you have to really want it. More than that, I wanted to leave the apartment that was home to so many candy-bar sized cockroaches, so we figured our things out and began to house hunt. We initially attached to a recently updated basement apartment. There were no windows in the living space, Christian’s head touched the ceiling in the kitchen, and the back wasn’t completely sealed shut (ie, there was about half a brick wall behind half a white wall and it could have used a few more bricks to keep out the cats and rats and smaller children.) But with a large wall of painted white brick, the house was very instagrammable, and that’s what counts. We shared the viewing with a charming-but-too-well-dressed-and-intimidating couple who had recently moved here from San Fransisco. Both women were short enough to fit inside the apartment (a feature we previously thought was our win – these ceilings really were low, guys) and they had moved to New York because it was cheaper than living in San Fransisco. We bonded over having cats and having concerns about the cats getting out of the almost-wall in the back. And ultimately, we knew the place belonged to them. Because they embraced the fact that the area was up-and-coming. Christian and I had just landed here, we wanted a place that was already, you know, a place. I like to think that couple is living happily in the cozy basement and that their cat’s animal instinct has kicked in kept the worst of the rats away. Although their cat IS from San Fransisco, so it’s probably a vegan.

Later that day we visited a studio apartment on the other side of Prospect Park that was a bust, and walked home feeling rejected and nervous for the rat race ahead. What we didn’t know was that that race was going to last another 45 minutes, and only because I was about to slowly walk a few miles in high heels. We got a call from a relator who had a loft just come on the market in Clinton Hill. 17 year old Mallory swooned at the idea of a Brooklyn loft and we briskly, but uncomfortably (cool high heels, remember?) walked to meet her. 

We bought this poster to help us figure out where everything is in Brooklyn. The cartoons help me find my way far better than Google Maps. 

We bought this poster to help us figure out where everything is in Brooklyn. The cartoons help me find my way far better than Google Maps. 

The apartment itself is on the last block of a really fantastic neighborhood. Originally, Clinton Hill was home to many wealthy families. It was thought that living on a hill was healthier, so many beautiful homes were built in the area. Or at least that’s what Christian tells me, but he also told me Manhattan was Disneyland. So. The building was the only ugly house on the entire block, but ugly it is! It’s flat face and garbage-level-entrance is not exactly picturesque. The graffiti on the window and massive slab apartment buildings across the street are not things I would call “charm city” but the detailed gargoyles living on Cathedral at the end of the block were calling my name, and I was stoked to go inside. 

If I could give anyone a “tip” about moving to New York it would be to move here after having lived in Iceland. It may be one of the only other places in the world that can make moving to New York seem like a financially comfortable step up. We walked into the 450 sq ft apartment and were, literally, moving up in the world. An above ground apartment with three massive windows, a kitchen in its own (albeit impressively small) room. A bathroom with a door!? And a loft. Sure, the bathroom is covered in excess spackle, the handles fall off of the shower, sink, and toilet, there is DEFINITELY something living under the paint in what we call “the spooky shelf” and the shower is the size of an 15th century adolescent’s coffin, but we hadn’t seen sunshine in 3 months and those massive windows were letting the heavens shine down on us. We were attached, we were willing to make sacrifices, the loft was ours! 

Blair working on removing the paint from our pretty pipes. 

Blair working on removing the paint from our pretty pipes. 

We moved in just a few days before our cat was coming (that’s a whole other blog for a whole other day) and my nonexistent parental instinct was kicking in and I needed our house to feel homey, stat. But I’m working part time at a toy store and Christian is freelancing his way to a studio, so money was not something we can throw around lightly. Remember my great TLC food show? The one someday that I will start on my channel with all my other TLC shows? Here’s the next one! It’s called Decorating After Dorms and it’s all about how to furnish a new apartment as a newly graduated (and thus drowning in student loans and debt) American. (Unrelated PS, going to a Bernie rally tonight.)

Try to ignore the fact that I stole this photo from my cat's Instagram (you read that right) and pretend it's as high quality a photo as the cool kids with real blogs would post. And don't ask me why I didn't just take a current photo. If you're reading this you know me well enough to know my house is never clean enough to just take a photo of it to show the internet. And no, I didn't think to clean it. Next time. Ignore all that, look at the cool donut pillow and shoulder cat. And I guess all the orange. Since that's the reason I posted this in the first place. 

Try to ignore the fact that I stole this photo from my cat's Instagram (you read that right) and pretend it's as high quality a photo as the cool kids with real blogs would post. And don't ask me why I didn't just take a current photo. If you're reading this you know me well enough to know my house is never clean enough to just take a photo of it to show the internet. And no, I didn't think to clean it. Next time. Ignore all that, look at the cool donut pillow and shoulder cat. And I guess all the orange. Since that's the reason I posted this in the first place. 

Christian and I had to get creative while finding furniture and decor. Our theme was “Match Everything to the Oversized Extension Cords Going Up The Loft” and we did. Our house is entirely white and orange. And you know, it’s working for me. Fortunately, we got a lot of freebees from this place. Outside our kitchen window is a small balcony. I’m pretty sure it’s the top of a shed for the garden level apartment, but it’s definitely been used as a tanning spot before (says the year old bottle of sunscreen we found among the empty potted plants) and we’ll be taking all the advantage of that, our new “back yard.” Our doorframe is also so massive that our bed (a small foam mattress on the ground of the loft) has it’s own headboard! That’s definitely going to be another tip on my show. Giant doorframe bed frames. People will get it.

I'm posting this photo now even though it's a post winter dead plants photo because with me as a gardener the plants are likely to be more dead this summer. 

I'm posting this photo now even though it's a post winter dead plants photo because with me as a gardener the plants are likely to be more dead this summer. 

Yup! That's our front door! 

Yup! That's our front door! 

This place is an adventure. We are in love with our home, filled with $7 IKEA tables and hidden litter boxes, our neighborhood, the perfect mix of family-style city and snobby Pratt student artistry, and each other, because we don’t know a lot of other people who would make the choices we do and we’re glad we get to do it together. Let’s see where this next adventure ends up! 

Pale As Hail Gets A Tan

It’s quite possible that I am addicted to change. I say this after reflecting on how I handle the many changes I’ve had early on in my young adult life. I don’t believe this constant change of scenery is intentional, and I don’t always think it is for the change itself. I like doing new things, but more than an addiction to change, it’s addiction to nostalgia. I crave that bittersweet longing for something I once had. The memories flood like a rush of endorphins after a runner completes a race. (Everyone roll your eyes at that last sentence. I thought the imagery was pretty accurate, but we all know I’ve only run once, in a three-legged race and that ended in a kicked shin and tears. Not a rush of exercise induced endorphins.) But I’m sticking with it because although it may burn exactly none calories, that nostalgic rush gives me an energy I am constantly seeking. Because I so enjoy that rush I feel that, at times, I even choose to give up things that define me. And that is why, after years of accepting my skin and identifying my personality with my pale complexion, I decided to get a tan. That’s right! I, Pale as Hail, went to a tanning salon. 

I couldn’t do the tanning bed because my skin really was too pale to handle UV anything, let alone RAYS. And also because tanning beds are naked people cookers, and I’m not much for sharing a claustrophobic light bed shaped like a coffin. Just me. So I went the spray tan route. I got really lucky because when they saw me in my skivvies they offered to let me do two sessions in a row. They had never seen someone so pasty. I think they would have preferred I schedule eight. Getting a spray tan feels like being hosed down by toxic mud. But I mean, pretty toxic mud. So I took them up on their offer and went in a second time. I am so thrilled to rid myself of my lily white skin and show off my new and improved bronze tone! I'm now officially Tan As Hail! 

 

I call it my “glow tone” 

 

Wait… 

 

I don’t think I like this…

 

Tan As Hail is not catchy and/or cute and/or clever...

 

It looks like I got in a fight with an orange sharpie…

 

Which means I look like Donald Trump...

 

Oh my gosh, here comes the nostalgia….

 

All the wonderful pasty memories are flooding back…

 

Nostalgia nation...

 

Where is my pale skin?!

 

 

…It’s right here. Because I April Fooled you all. I did not tan. I do not tan. I’m still Pale As Hail. 

Pale as Hail Goes On A Date

Over the holidays Christian and I spent 3 weeks abroad. Before leaving for the trip I had to make the heartbreaking and life altering decision many millennials face in their lifetime; I left my computer at home. Unplugged and lonely, my 2.03lbs shiny gold internet box silently served its time in solitude. Being away from my MacBook gave me the chance to live life unattached to a world of strangers, to enjoy the moment free from distractions, and for three weeks reminded me what’s most important in life, my blog. I’m back! And I’ve got more one-liners than ever before! 

As some of you may have read on the front page of People Magazine… I mean my personal Facebook account… Christian and I made a spontaneous decision. Because we like earning money and because we collectively have the attention span of a high functioning Black Moore Goldfish, we’ve decided to leave our home of 7 months and head to another island. It’s called Manhattan. But before you throw this blog off your radar, before it becomes another high sprung spec of static in the white noise that is white girl New York blogs, I have a couple weeks left on a European island and a few more things to say about it. This week? I’m talking about what it’s been like to date Iceland. 

This courtship has been short, sweet, and to the point. Iceland and I have been on one perilously awkward first date after another. It’s true that Iceland and I have had our moments together. At best, she is the exotic dancer/finance major you reconnected with 5 years after high school. She is lively, surprising, and simply the most beautiful thing on two legs (or rather, 18 million years of volcanic lava and moss). At her worst, Iceland is the bro-dude you met at a Mets game your father made you attend, who insists on your first date being a movie called, “Gnarly Scars and Babe Warriors” which you see with him because he shares your political views, but neither of you laugh in the same places. Iceland is, to quote the Goddess of relatable life quotes, Elizabeth Lemon, your “settling soulmate.” 

We spent the late summer driving the coast of the island. We were entranced by black sand beaches and came upon waterfalls as often as you’d hit a Kum N’ Go during a road trip in the Midwest. We scaled basalt columns and took selfies with volcanoes. We stayed up as late as the sun and couldn’t wait for the winter, when we knew the aurora would make up for the lack of vitamin C-mainly in awesomeness-we still have to take a bunch major load of vitamin C. Because eventually, the winter did come. With the aurora came freezing rain, police-enforced house arrest level windstorms, and Christmas-tree sized icicles that literally impale people over the holidays. In the winter, Iceland becomes the super hot and super (in the words of my Ukrainian friend, Olya) “bed sheet crazy” love. 

You have to work for Iceland’s love in the winter. You must cover her in expensive salts, to melt the ice so you do not fall and break your back. You must be willing to endure her wild fits of rage and the intense solitude you experience when the weather is so bad you stay inside. Forcing yourself into the nature-based silent treatment. But it’s all worth it. Because on freezing nights when you wear six scarves on your neck, legs, and arms to go get groceries, you can look up and see those incredible lights and look down and see snow that sparkles like diamonds. But whatever you do, don’t look straight ahead, if you do the wind will knock your glasses off and pelt you with sharp snow. 

Socially, Iceland and I simply don’t get each other. I respect, and wish I could better connect with, the slow and comfortable pace in Icelandic life. Where things will get done when they get done, work is just work, and play is more important. If you want to spend a few hours simply sitting and making a scarf, go for it. I tried that one. The relaxation scarf making. I ended up assigning myself the job of making 18 scarves with a steep deadline. By the time I was done I had burns on my fingers and a creak in my wrist from the constant non-stop knitting work. I think I did it wrong. 

The biggest difference Chris and I have seen in Icelandic life is at the movie theater. For one, you never walk into a theater and look for the easiest escape in a shooting. But you also never get an audience so jazzed about a premier that they clap at the beginning and laugh out loud in the theater. It was during one of these date nights that I knew I wanted to write about dating Iceland. Because as Christian and I went to our first movie here we laughed, loudly, in all the wrong places. We were not understood by our fellow movie-goers. When we saw Star Wars (a day before America at the Icelandic premier-which we bought tickets for THAT DAY), with tears of joy streaming down our face as the yellow words displayed the story we were about to be shown, the almost-but-not-totally filled room was silent. In fact, the only moment in the entire movie when we heard the crowd laugh aloud was when Chewie complained about the cold. Iceland gets cold, but they don’t get movies. 

All this being said, I might be in an unrealistic, at times abusive relationship, but I sure don’t want to get out of it. The promise of jobs and 24 hour Chinese take out may have swayed us to move back to the states. But we’ll be back to visit soon. Until then we’ll be dreaming about a life where we ate lunch on a cliff at an abandoned lagoon. Where we happened upon a 3 mile deep cave while driving to a fish drying farm. Where we see houses, constantly, the size of a dog house where the Hundefolk live. We have loved living in a place where the government protects moss covered rocks because it is thought to be a church of the elves. Or really, simply, because it is beautiful. We’ve loved living where New Years lasts a month because so many fireworks were purchased there were not enough hours in the day to use them. Where the landscape is so unique movies use it to represent other worlds. We love it here. We will miss it. And we will be back very soon. (I’ll probably bring my computer along on that trip though). 

Pale As Hail Is Stir Crazy

At the beginning of this week Iceland had a hurricane. It was said to be the worst storm in 25 years, but they always say that, and afterwards I always believe them. The storm changed school schedules, closed all roads and almost every store (aside from the trusty hot dog stand – I’m not kidding) near us. After reading the warnings online we bundled up and rushed to the grocery store to buy food to last for three days inside the house. This happens more than you’d think (or maybe exactly as much as you think, considering it’s Iceland) and meal planning here, it’s tricky. For the next several paragraphs I will be writing all about what it’s like to stay inside and cook in a studio the size of my childhood bedroom with ingredients limited to foods that have the endurance to survive Icelandic conditions (which is to say, not a lot of food.) Being cooped up inside gives me a lot of time to think about who I am, why I'm here and what I'm having for dinner. 

Donuts. We are having donuts for dinner. 

Donuts. We are having donuts for dinner. 

Before you mention the obvious, we’ve thought about it. There is no room for a toaster oven or crock pot. Need I remind you, our refrigerator is the size of the mini fridge you had in your last Marriott hotel. Unless you were in a nice suite, that one is bigger than ours. Our fridge is our bedside table is our kitchen counter is our shoe closet, and it can’t even fit a box of a dozen eggs inside. I suppose we could have counter space if we considered putting the toaster in the sink. But something in the back of my mind says that water and electricity don’t tend to mix. I’ll look it up. So I swear, the hotplate is our only hope. 

For the last few months that we’ve lived here it’s been genuinely fun trying to come up with different meals to make. Different, in that they have different names, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves because they all involve canned diced tomatoes and cumin. Every. Single. Time. Over the last seven days I have made 6 meals using Cumin. It would have been seven, but I found the cinnamon I needed for my stuffed French toast (pro tip, cinnamon and cumin look the same so your husband will just think the cumin has gone bad if you add it to the french toast-fortunately, it didn’t come to that.) Why all the cumin, you ask? Because I don’t speak Icelandic. 

When I first moved here a friend taught me that when saying hello, "Gódan Daginn" it sounds like you are saying, "I'm Dying." And I am, because I'm starving while trying to translate what foods are in Icelandic. In Icelandic, Cumin is spelled “Kúmín.” This is the same language that spells “Herbs” “Villikrydd.” So no, I do not buy spices. I’ll look for the ones that seem almost like something I could sound out, and I buy those. They are also expensive, so Christian and I have taken to calling any spice that sound exciting to mean “Italian Seasoning.” We use that for everything that is not Cumin. Remember pepper? I don’t. 

It’s been an interesting challenge buying food with a budget. In Iceland, everything is imported (we’ve talked about this before) so for every half an hour on Pinterest filtering through the “stovetop” recipes that are actually always “crockpot” recipes I spend an additional hour finding “cheap” meals that could also be cheap in Iceland. None of the meals are cheap in Iceland. Chickens are not feeling the vibe. Produce isn’t really into the whole desolate subarctic tundra thing. And it’s the middle of December with not a chocolate orange in sight. The bananas are never ripe and like magic, they consistently go brown the very day they are edible (this is a real thing, ask anyone), and I can’t remember the last time I saw an avocado without mold (although you can buy a frozen bag of avocado chunks for $15.) It’s different. What these setbacks have done though, is make me really really appreciate how good a simple meal can be. Recently I saw a persimmon at the grocery store, bought it, ate it, and cried I was so excited. 

I can remember just about every meal we’ve made now and the list is this (can you guess how much free time I have when I am able to write down every meal we’ve made in the last 5 months?) Chili, Pesto Pasta, Lemon Cod, Mashed Potatoes, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Garlic Boiled Potatoes, Garlic Burgers (I forgot to mention all the garlic we have and come up with some charming vampire quip), Blue Cheese Burgers, Blue Cheese Cranberry Salad, Blue Cheese Omelets, Macaroni and Cheese, Enchiladas, Stir fry, Meatballs and jelly (because we’re Nordic so we can DO that now), Burritos, Shakshuka (because I needed to jazz up my life and make something I couldn’t pronounce, it had tomatoes and cumin), Mexican Quinoa Dinner, Fruity Quinoa Breakfast, Skyr Breakfast, Skyr Dessert, Fried Fish, French Toast, Cannoli French Toast (plain old French food wasn’t good enough for us, we needed a little help from the Italians), Fajitas, Rice Pudding, Brussels Sprouts,  Gumbo (there were a LOT of things that did not go in our gumbo that were supposed to be in our gumbo), Ratatouille, Creamed Corn, Skillet Lasagna, Pancakes, Egg Variations, and also a whole lot of dyeing wool. (Christian decided to dye wool to entertain himself during the hurricane. This had mixed reviews in our small home because the smell was overwhelming and if we opened a window for fresh air the hurricane would, you know, hurricane the window off its hinges and shoot icicles into the house. So we smelled like vinegar for 48 straight hours.)

I really only ever post food things on snapchat because it will go away before you realize how simple the food actually was. But I had a picture of the Shakshuka, so here it is! (I am most certain it does not look like it is supposed to look.)

I really only ever post food things on snapchat because it will go away before you realize how simple the food actually was. But I had a picture of the Shakshuka, so here it is! (I am most certain it does not look like it is supposed to look.)

The meals have been good and they’ve been fun! Who knew how fantastic Skyr (Icelandic yogurt) with heavy cream could be? Everyone. Because mixing dairy with dairy is always the best. (Also it was that dessert that finally tipped me off to my lactose intolerance and forced me to be a grown up and go to the Pharmacy for pills—worth it!) And Shakshuka was a delight to make. Rarely have my husband and I felt the camaraderie and pride that came from successfully poaching those eggs. And the Cannoli French Toast is the field of dreams of food. 

Overall, being cooped up at home is pretty cozy when the hot plate is clicking and something is heating up. Sure, we’ve cursed a few times as searing oil has scalded our sides, not having enough room to back away from bacon grease, and slapped the hot plate over it’s face when we assumed it was on but it wasn’t because the only setting on the contraption are “off” and “burning your food.” It’s okay that there is no such thing as “simmering” on our hot plate because my arms have gotten really strong from all the lifting and setting down of the pots on the plate to keep them from burning. 

We’ve had fun getting creative with storing leftovers. Our kitchen came equipped with two bowls, one cup (which is okay because we aren’t all freaked out about sharing saliva on account of the whole marriage thing), two forks, five spoons, one temperamental bent pan, a large pot, six shot glasses, and 18 espresso cups. We’ve made it work. We turned an ice cream tub into a container (the tub of ice-cream only fit in our freezer if we put a spring underneath it to lift it up at an angle) and Christian recently ate 800 cookies so that we had containers we could use to take to our Friendsgiving dinner. It all works! 

We like to think our Vitamin D and Omega 3 add a little spice to a simple dinner. 

We like to think our Vitamin D and Omega 3 add a little spice to a simple dinner. 

Moving here has been out of our comfort zone. But the kitchen was never our comfort zone. Being in a studio that forces us to be in the kitchen at all times has been good for us. Cooking every day, and looking forward to the challenge, is a treat. The hours on Pinterest are also a great way to kill time in a blizzard. Bon appetite! 

(Also please send me more ideas for stove top food thxxx.)


Pale As Hail Gets Back To Her Roots

 Christian and I moved to Iceland for many reasons. But the overall understanding was that we moved here to experience change. A change of pace from a life we felt we had outgrown, a change of comfort level to the extreme, and a change of perspective. And, as I’ve said before, I take things too literally. For me, the change could not just be internal. I moved to Iceland to experience it all, and that meant changing on the outside as well. As I watched long haired blonde vikings walking down the streets of Reykjavik, I wanted to experience that difference. I wanted to be native and go blonde. Having been a redhead for all of my young adult life, fitting the color in personality and palette, I decided to embrace change and go for the gold (so to speak). And although I say I did this to mark this new stage of my life, the honest answer is that I was aching for some familiarity in a foreign land. And a trip to an Aveda salon would be just that. 

 I am overly fond of smells. Ask anyone who knows me well and they will say (although I’m chattier than a youth high on marijuana with a plate of brownies on his lap) that my favorite form of communication is pheromones. Smells are cool. They teach us a lot. And my sense of smell taught me at a very young age that I loved a product line called Aveda. My aunt had bottles of the shampoos and conditioners at her house and I would beg to use them on my own hair so that I could smell of Madder Root and Rosemary. That interest never left me. As I grew older I became even more fond of the product line, their business model, and the idea of getting my hands all over Aveda. Eventually, my interest in the product became an interest in a career. I applied to Aveda Institute Provo and spent a year and a half learning everything I could about Cosmetology and the company. Although I felt like a life with Aveda would be a non-stop spa, hair school was no sanctuary. I was not a natural stylist. I could look the part and act the part, but it took a full year to feel even somewhat comfortable behind the chair. To compensate for my lack of natural talent, I mastered the art of manipulative communication (more specifically, letting guests believe the mistakes I made on their hair would be the next big thing in fashion.) Despite the stress and struggle involved in becoming a stylist, I also gained a lifelong commitment to the Aveda world. That commitment became a comfort when I moved to a new home with little I recognized. It was while walking down the unfamiliar streets of this new country that I found a salon with Aveda products on the shelves and knew that when I needed to feel a piece of home I could slip in a chair, do my hair, and smell something sweet.

Recently that homesickness hit, so I spent all of last night online trying to maneuver my way through Icelandic salon websites and ratings until I found the one I was looking for. I didn’t know the name exactly, and knew for certain that I wouldn’t be able to pronounce it even if I did, but I knew the location. And I knew I needed to go. Slippurinn is in the kind of space you stop and double take when you walk by. And I tend to judge a salon by its aesthetic as voraciously as I judge a book by it’s cover.  With cork walls, modern furniture, massive mirrors, and a staircase so cool it goes straight to heaven (the shampoo room) the setting made quite the scene, and I needed to be seated. After multiple attempts at booking a color service on location, and each time managing to get there ten minutes after they closed, I straightened my glasses and braved the confusing world of google translate to schedule an appointment online. After finding the salon’s minimalist website (not in a cool way, in a 1997 internet is hard way) I spent 15 minutes trying to sort out and translate each service into English. In the end all I came up with was that the name of the salon, Slippurinn, means “Shipyard.” After too many conflicting translations I was worried the whole experience would end up being more of a shipwreck. I wanted to bleach my hair, not my nostrils. 

After admitting defeat last night I woke up this morning, ravenously ate a spearmint flavored antacid for breakfast, and picked up the phone. I called, booked an appointment, and powered through the winter wind on my way to the salon. I have been hoping to find a salon and stylist I can connect with. For the most part, it’s because my social life has been limited here and I enjoy good conversation. But it’s also because dying my hair will be a long process. I’m going from red to blonde which means months of extensive bleaching, making my hair brittle and breakable – because I like my hair to be as damaged on the outside as I am on the inside. So I needed to find a stylist who would respect the integrity of my hair more than I do, who could give me good “in-between” colors and make sure I take my time to heal my hair and reach my goal. I found that at Slippurinn. My stylist was focused and direct and I left her chair with a gorgeous light blonde color. This was monumentally better than the last time I dyed my hair in Iceland, where I left with highlights that can best be depicted in any photo of Kelly Clarkson from 2002. That experience just left me grateful it was seasonally appropriate to wear hats. Today I was not only thrilled with the new look, but greatly enjoyed the experience. 

My time in the salon was the most I have talked to another person (who isn’t my husband) for so long in weeks. And on a note of snobbery, it was grey and storming against the large window I sat beside and the salon was playing Portishead, my personal musical preference for that kind of weather, and I was well pleased. The familiar scent of Aveda’s aromatherapy, tea, and color made me nostalgic in the most comfortable way. I spent my time flipping through Icelandic magazines and asking the stylist overly specific questions about the formula she was using –enjoying her confusion at how well versed I was in the products until I told her the reason I knew it so well – and I left with a happy head of hair. 

Living somewhere new is hard, it can feel isolating, but I’ve noticed that with a little effort I have been able to find simple comforts that make this my home. I have found a salon whose products I recognize and can enjoy every 6-8 weeks. And nothing makes me as comfortable as remembering my times in hair school, and realizing I never have to do it again. 

Blondes have more fun... hanging out by themselves in public bathrooms while taking selfies. 

Blondes have more fun... hanging out by themselves in public bathrooms while taking selfies. 

Pale As Hail Is Losing It

I have the kind of grandmother that is overly supportive of everything. If I come to her with stress or feelings of inadequacy (the amount of times it took me to get the spelling of “inadequacy” right made me feel painfully inadequate just now), she dispels those concerns with grandmotherly cheer and support. She makes me feel like everything I do is “Just wonderful, Mallie dear!” And I mean everything. Once while I was on a vacation in London I texted her at 5am my time, having been up the last two hours, to let her know that I was so off schedule I knew what time the sun rose. She messaged me back saying, “Oh Mallory! How wonderful to know the timing of the sunrise! That is a great skill to have, I am proud of you!” Jet lag. My grandmother was proud of me for my jet lag. That’s real love and real support. And it’s important, because I have a hard time recognizing my personal success. Now, that’s not to say I’m not successful. I’ve found success in my life, even with this blog. Recently I received a text from my brother letting me know what a huge deal my blog is back at home. He told me that recently he was at a family event and spent quite a lot of time with my grandfather and his printer. Because my grandpa was making him print out my blog posts. With COLOR ink. If that's not success I don't know what is. And although it’s occasionally hard for me to recognize, I had a simple moment of success earlier this week that led to some serious inspiration (the word “serious” is being used here ironically, you will come to understand that soon enough.)

These two cuties though. 

These two cuties though. 

My grandpa and my youngest sister are best buds. It's the sweetest thing I've ever seen. 

My grandpa and my youngest sister are best buds. It's the sweetest thing I've ever seen. 

Earlier this week my husband and I found an old scale in the large storage hole in our apartment. We call the hole “The abyss” and usually stay out of it because it is full of nails and tools and furniture left by the old tenant (also because of the occasional animal noises that escape from the space) but it’s a hole in our wall the size of a small person and exploring it gives us something to do when it’s too cold outside to run about. We grabbed the scale and both hopped on. I wasn’t thinking much of it, mostly we were enjoying seeing how much we weighed with all our winter gear on, but I realized I had actually lost 15 pounds since we moved here. And really, it was by accident. Not in a “My metabolism is just so fast I eat chocolate and watch Zumba tapes to lose weight” kinda way, but a “My metabolism is shoddy at best but I’m too poor to eat in this country and it’s really working for me” kind of way. 

Due to this surprise “success,” I’m planning on starting my own travel-focused weight loss plan. The trick is to move from a country that eats delicious delicious burritos the size of an obese infant and instead live in a country that eats poisonous rotten shark. I call it, “Iceland, It Works!” I’ve realized that not having the money for a car gives the same results as a $500 personal training session. I walk a mile and a half to the grocery store, fill two grocery bags with canned food (cheap, and heavy) and carry those a mile and a half to the house. In a personal training session you can have simulated wind resistance in your work outs for three easy payments of $29.95, or just live in Iceland where the wind chill comes free! The colder it is, the faster you’ll try to get home, and the more calories you’ll burn! 

It also helps that Iceland does not believe in the cupcake. Recently I was missing home and began craving a dessert I hardly ate in the states, the cupcake. I couldn’t place my finger on why I wanted one, but I was determined to find and consume the treat. That’s the next part of my weight loss program, “The Cupcake Trek.”. Desperate for a sugary taste of corn syrup frosting, i.e. home, I walked to every bakery in the city, weaved through cobblestone streets, and peeked into colorful homes where I smelled baked goods… not a cupcake in sight. Iceland doesn’t have a close history with sugar. This means most of their desserts are not covered in frosting, food coloring, or cheer. And usually I love that (the bakeries really are great), but that day I wanted a cupcake and I did not get one. Instead, I got 4 miles of speed walking and another 400 calories off my muffin top. 

It isn’t that we eat particularly healthy food now either. We’re still having hot chocolate and pancakes occasionally and I definitely ate an entire package of mashed potatoes when we first moved here (ask me about that experience in detail sometime, the words “digesting solid clay” will come up. It’s a party.) but unhealthy food isn’t inexpensive here like it is in the US. Back home, we’d eat out because we were in the studio until 2 am, our paychecks didn’t go in until the next week, and Wendy’s was open with $2 burgers calling our name. Here, if we wanted a crummy burger, we’d be taking a bus to the other side of town and waiting half an hour for a damp $30 burger and fries. There’s a reason McDonald’s didn’t last here. 

Icelandic Salt

It’s also interesting to live somewhere where the local food is the cheapest food. Nearly everything is imported and everything imported is pricier. Which is fine, because I’d pick this stunning box of salt over a box of Lucky Charms any day. Although I do miss chicken. Chickens won’t survive in Iceland. And the fancy imported chickens cost $14. I miss cheap chicken. 

Now, I know I shouldn’t base feelings of success on my looks. But I realized that without having thought about it, I had conservatively lost just over a pound a week. I'd been trying to do that for ages before moving here. And with results like that, I may just put on my tennis shoes and enjoy this simple accidental success. Christian and I have missed the ease of having a car to get around, we’ve realized how much harder it is to balance a food budget in an expensive area, and we’ve felt tension while learning how to adjust. I’m learning now how to embrace my silly struggles because sometimes surprisingly good things come of them. Like my great new weight training healthy life system. Tune in next week for an Icelandic inspired health drink of my own invention- “Sheep Face Shake.” Patent pending. My grandparents are going to love it. 

Pale As Hail Buys A Black Coat

As far as genetics go, my husband won the big prize. His genes gave him great hair, a strong brow, and the metabolism of a 5 year old. My genetic pool gave me the family chin, a hot chocolate intolerance, and chronic, paralyzing toe cramps. And although my genes also gave me fantastic calves and pretty clear skin, it was my stepmother who helped shape what I look like on the outside. Because she let me express what I felt inside. Sure, there were moments when she rolled her eyes and even more moments when she panicked at the length of my short skirts, but she never made me feel discouraged by having my own look. One of my first memories of her support was at the mall when she and my father were seriously dating. My dad complained about me wearing my hair up with two long strands of hair in front of my face. Mama Liz (who was “Dad’s attractive lady friend Liz” at the time) told him it was in style and I was just fine. Even though it was so not 2000 and it was so not in style, she defended my choice and made a lasting impact. When I accidentally dyed my hair a mortifying dark purple she said she liked it. To which my dad replied after hearing her response, “Was she lying?” And she may have been. But she let me be me while teaching me how to properly match patterns and how to follow basic clothing rules. Rules I would never have learned on my own. (For context: when I was living with a single father I wore an XL Elvis Presley T-shirt almost every day.) She was quick to compliment and even quicker to remind me that if my father didn’t like something I wore, that I was to remember he had once worn a shirt covered in pictures of salmon on one of their dates, because she had mentioned she liked to eat fish. Meaning, he had no say. It was her acceptance and guiding eye that let me find out how much I enjoyed expressing myself with statement pieces. Even though our looks are drastically different, I credit her for helping me discover my drive for personal fashion. Even if I may have taken that drive far too far. 

I’ve recognized while living in Iceland that the basic attire is all black. I’ve avoided that at all costs, preferring black to be a statement as opposed to a mandatory “cool but conformed” choice. Because of this, I brought a bright yellow rain coat to Iceland. Apparently that was the wrong choice. 

A few weeks ago Christian gave a presentation to a board in charge of the development of Reykjavik’s harbor. I went to cheer him on and add another body to the room in case few people showed up. The presentation was with members of his class and a few other students from Lístahaskóli Íslands who came to support. The event itself went well. Christian was introduced in Icelandic by a man who kept the crowd in peels of laughter–we sure wish we knew why–and ultimately it seemed people responded well to the ideas Christian's group designed. To celebrate, we all went to a cafe for brunch. I was on a social high. It’d been a long time since I had been around that many people and I absorbed personal stories with vigor as I heard about people moving here from Mexico, South Korea, Italy, and Ireland because they shared an interest in Iceland. During our brunch (which was on the top floor of a fishery) we ran into the American Ambassador. Cool.

Our numbers began to fade as people left to continue their day and we soon became a small group of four. Let’s set this stage properly: a German, an Icelander, and two Americans sit inside a coffee shop. One of them does not belong… the punch line to the story is that guess what guys I was that one. Having been distracted by the silliness of living in a country small enough it only took a month to run into the Ambassador, I phased my way halfway into the conversation the three were having. They were complaining about tourists. Humorous, I thought, considering the German and American (my husband) were definitely not Icelandic. This is the common snobbery I expect from the design-minded. Because they make the world look better they find fault in many things. Today, the fault was about foreign tourist fashion. The Icelander said tourists would bother him less if they didn’t all wear the same coat. As far as fashion goes for this kind of people, it’s all black or else. And I’ve done all black–I get the appeal. Everyone looks good in black. It’s sleek, bold, and dramatic. It is not, however, unique. After years feeling like a cool kid in my black wardrobe I realized I was missing out on actually making an individualized wardrobe. I wanted my fashion to be personalized and patterned. And to this day (although I still seem to get a chill of intimidation down my spine when I see the hoards of black-clothed students at the design school) I realize that I expect more originality from a designer’s wardrobe. 

But black is still the rule for anyone not trying to look like an “annoying tourist” I learned as their conversation continued. The German girl agreed stating, “If only they would try to look less like tourists all in their bright colored water proof coats.” At this point I pushed my neon yellow waterproof J Crew jacket farther down my lap and under the table. Dread setting in as the German and Icelander stood up, put on their identical unisex coal black jackets, and invited us to go to the cheese shop across the street. I wanted cheese. But I stood up with not one ounce of pride or humor as I slipped on the yellow cheese colored jacket that made me look like the tourist I apparently am. 

This spurred my black coat goal. With not a lot of money but more than enough gumption I began stalking thrift shops waiting to find the perfect long, black, normal coat. It needed a hood and it needed to be good in the wind and it needed to look like everyone else’s. I have glasses that are larger than life, that’s certainly enough personality. The rest can match those around me. And finally, after weeks of looking for a sophisticated conservative coat I could afford, I went inside a store called Nostalgia. And I found it. My perfect, sensible, similar black coat... 

I endearingly call it the, "Giant Purple People Eater." 

It fits in as well as I do... 

It can be as moody as I am... 

I have no regrets. 

And for the record, it compliments my yellow rain jacket, and my personality, perfectly. 

Pale As Hail Is Halloween

Halloween is my very favorite holiday. I love dressing up and decorating and trick or treaters. I love haunted houses and scary movies. I love pumpkins and fall and seeing kids jazzed about being whatever they want to be for the night. I’ve always taken pride in my Halloween costume ideas, and have often taken them way too seriously. In October of 2004 my little brother and I were in 2nd and 4th grade and we knew exactly who we wanted to be for Halloween. President Bush and President Elect John Kerry. As a bizarrely political 10 year old, I had already broken family ties and declared myself an avid Democrat. I informed my younger brother that I would be John Kerry because he was taller than President Bush so it made the most sense for me to portray the Senator from Massachusetts while he would be the cowboy-boot wearing Texan/President. Although I did favor the left side of life, my true intention was a completely holiday based scheme. I would get the most candy. We were trick or treating in downtown Salt Lake City, Marmalade District. A magical land full of liberal intellectuals and happy homosexuals (don’t think as a 10 year old I didn’t know who they were and who they would be voting for.) And boy was I right! Had my Halloween candy bag been any indicator of who was going to win the election, Kerry had it by a landslide! Each house we would go to would see our costumes, ask if our parents put us up to it, we’d respond enthusiastically that it was our idea, and I’d shout out, “Because I wanted to be John Kerry!” then they’d give me an extra candy, or two or three. My bag was too heavy to hold by the end of the night and I glowed with politically apt satisfaction. Until I went home and saw my brother’s lighter bag. It was then that the true socialist within me shined and I evenly distributed my extra candy with my little brother.

It was that same desire to bring together cultures through holiday fun that lead me to my Halloween costume choice this year. Initially, I figured some typical current costume choices would suffice. With supplies limited to what I could find in my closet and on my couch, I grabbed a yellow rain coat, two IKEA pillow cases and came up with these…

Jon Snow Costume
Minion Costume

 

Although Christian being Jon Snow makes about 80% of my dreams come true and even though back home everyone and their dog and their baby is a Minion, I felt like sticking my husband's arms in pillow cases and tying my jacket too tight might not be enough for Iceland. Halloween has never been a part of Icelandic culture. Over the last five or so years, they’ve acknowledged the existences of Halloween and tried to nurture the idea onto the island. Occasionally there will be a vampire on a candy bar in a back isle of the grocery store and it’s even possible to see a child in a costume but it’s either Anna or Elsa and it’s not for Halloween, Iceland is just still really into the Nordic princess situation. This lack of interest in All Hallows Eve left me distraught, and determined. I had to find a better way to make Iceland understand what Halloween is all about. I racked my brain to think of something that thrived in Icelandic culture that I could turn into couture. What I ended up with was golf. 

Iceland has the highest number of golf courses per capita. In the world. The small country has 66 golf courses which equates to 1 golf course per 4,825 people. And the locals are using them. You know that midnight sun we have over here? Apparently it’s just so they can get in more tee time. There are several websites dedicated solely to midnight sun golfing. midatalatic.icelandair.com puts midnight golfing right beside swimming in blizzards under Icelandic leisure and sports. Golfing comes up in casual chat and competitive conversations. Golfing, I decided, is the way to an Icelandic heart. And an Icelandic Halloween. 

It was the perfect plan. I would dress up as a golf ball and all the Icelanders would love it and love me and love Halloween! The plan was foolproof. The first step was where I got creative. I’ve spent the last month “creatively” coming up with ways to celebrate Halloween without anywhere to buy real decorations for the holiday, or even a Walmart for that matter. Our bathroom sports the traditional halloween orange and black of the holiday as we have far more black clothes than the average witch hunter and our laundry cord is the kind of neon orange that is the only shade in the 50% off bucket at the mall. The very same shade of orange that’s marked up in The States from September 1st-Oct 31st because we know celebrating means consumers will spend more money to be festive. Our white laundry draped across the radiator makes for excellent ghosts. The common laundry room has that whole House at the End of the Street/Blaire Witch Project vibe that’s all the funs on Halloween. It’s the kind of room that makes you sneak around the corner waiting to see whose’s standing still facing the wall waiting to demon-creep you while you grab your colors. It’s festive.

By Oct. 15th exactly one store was selling exactly 3 Halloween decorations. I bought all three. Unsatisfied with the small hanging spider, pumpkin, and AA-battery jack-o-lantern lights, I vamped things up with a large skeleton made entirely out of travel magazines left here by tourists.

Halloween Decorations

Finding a satisfying amount of success with those limited supplies, and with the added bonus of being married to the Industrial Designer who made a BB-8 droid in a day, I got the naïve idea that we could create an incredible golf ball costume in one night made entirely out of things we had at home. In case you were wondering, extreme naïveté combined with blind determination will successfully make a golf ball head out of nothing but tape and the white plastic cups you found in the back of your sink. And you can have it all in as little as 4 hours.

I was ecstatic that my golf ball costume was finished. That, coupled with intense sleep deprivation (we stayed up until 4am to make the freaking thing) gave me a confidence that got me out the door today in an overcoat, heels, and a giant golf ball head to show Iceland how Halloween is done. 

Golf Ball Girl strutting her stuff down the street thanks to a clever costume and complete anonymity.  

Golf Ball Girl strutting her stuff down the street thanks to a clever costume and complete anonymity.  

Initially I wanted to do a few things just for me. With my surprisingly supportive husband by my side (he’s had to deal with me being choked up without Halloween for weeks now) we headed to Reykjavik’s cemetery. Because that’s the Halloween I know and love. When you think “cemetery,” you have actually always thought of the Reykjavik cemetery without even realizing it. It has old weathered headstones with skulls and cross bones, covered in moss and mushrooms and un-raked fall leaves. The gravesides are protected by overgrown, overhanging trees and a black wrought iron fence that looks like it came straight out of a “How To” guide for making spooky fences. The cemetery is always quiet and cool, but it does not always have a girl walking around dressed as a golf ball. I figured the ancestors who made golf happen here would appreciate the gesture. 

Reykjavik Cemetery
Halloween in Reykjavik's Cemetery
Perfect spooky fence. Giant golf ball head. 

Perfect spooky fence. Giant golf ball head. 

Halloween in Reykjavik's Cemetery 3

After spending some time enjoying the setting cemetery sun I knew we needed to treat the day for what it really was, a normal day just like every other. We had errands to run and a walk for fun and I figured that the best way to let locals know about Halloween was to be where the locals were on Halloween. They’d see my golf ball head walking down the street and getting groceries and they’d realize they forgot to put on their costumes! Then they’d realize how silly it is to be out doing errands on the best holiday ever! They’d go home, tell their families about how there was a girl in a golf ball costume and that they love golf and they could do it too! And then they’d have a surprise Halloween party! Halloween golf ball costumes for everyone! That was my intention. It did not play out as I had planned. 

I shared my holiday spirit while shopping…

Icelandic Fashion
Reykjavik Shopping

Went to iconic locations to find locals and talk about golf…

Golf Ball Head Reykjavik
Golf Ball Head Halgrimskirkja
Golf Ball Head

I waited in unnecessary lines while quietly humming “The Monster Mash”…

Golf Ball Head

I even showed everyone how fun Halloween is at the grocery store…

Golf Ball Head Grocery Shops
High Fashion Groceries

Eventually I got hungry. Focused on keeping the magic alive and not removing my golf ball mask we went to grab a snack at the only place I could eat…

Golf Ball Head
Golf Ball Head
Golf Ball Head Eats

Unfortunately, no matter where I went or how many people stopped to compliment the creative look, no one mentioned the clever connection to famous Icelandic golfing, which meant not a single local was feeling my intended Icelandic Halloween spirit at all! It was the tourists who taught me why. 

Next week is Iceland Airwaves. It’s a huge event where musicians from around the world will be performing in a globally known music festival here in Reykjavik. Many Icelanders come, and tourists from all over. It was these music-loving tourists who stopped me on the street. Again and again. Asking for my photograph. 

Bjork or Golf Ball
Bjork or Golf Ball

…Because they all thought I was Bjork. Or at least, dressed up as her. Having created a Halloween costume hoping to best connect with Icelandic culture I had inadvertently dressed up as the most iconic Icelander in the world. But really I was just a golf ball. 

Bjork Halloween Costume

Happy Halloween one and all! Here's the last shot from the cemetery of me and the ghostly orb who wanted in on the fun. 

Haunted Iceland

Pale As Hail Lights Up

I am part of a combined family. This situation gave me exactly one step brother. I also have a step sister and half sister and three full biological siblings, but they will have other paragraphs some other day. This paragraph is about that one step brother. His name is Andrew. We don’t talk much, but I like him. This paragraph is also about the Beetles, sort of. I know exactly two things about the Beetles. 1) My step brother loved them to the point that it made me hate them. And 2) Yoko Ono broke them up. But also people say that fact is not in fact, a fact. There’s also the part where Yoko Ono has her own island in Iceland and her very own local holiday where she lights up a massive “peace light” that can be seen by all of Reykjavik. It stays lit until December. It is taken very seriously. Iceland must not know about fact number 2. And probably they don’t know about fact number 1 either. 

Christian and I are both impressively anti-social. Although we prefer spending time alone, we like all kinds of people, as long as they think and act and dress exactly like us. This social awkwardness usually causes us to spend time in our home. Alone. Where we live a routine of making food, watching movies, and consistently finishing each other’s sentences. Although we are happy and comfortable the way we are, we believe it’s healthy to branch out. So we try to gradually increase our human contact. Usually we do that by going to events with large crowds where we only have to talk to each other. I’m pretty sure that counts. Because of our desire to assimilate into the human race we decided to go out on a Friday night, leaving the comfort of our instant ramen and predictable Grey’s Anatomy episodes at home, and visited Viðey to see Yoko Ono’s peace light get lit. 

Months ago Christian and I had heard about Yoko having an island dedicated to her work for world peace and we thought the locals were pulling our leg. My legs were pulled right out from under me when I found out it was actually real. Due to this discovery, my legs pressed on as we ran to a bus stop to revel in hipster fun and see this impressively iconic/ironic place. The weather was brutal. The wind cut at our coats as we waited for a bus. There was a massive group of people waiting with us. Once a bus was in sight, hoards of activity-goers ran to it and attempted to board even though it was out in the road, having passed our stop completely. We watched as many were asked to leave and, although rejected, saw their eyes hot on the prowl for the next approaching automobile. Their keen focus helped us and we chased after them when they chased after an approaching bus heading to our ferry stop. 

The bus was packed full of hippy-dippies off to see the Imagine Peace Tower. There were some tourists, but they were far outnumbered by the many locals of all ages. A man helped adjust the hood of his 1 year old daughter’s snow suit next to me as an elderly woman stood beside me and held on to the rail. I offered her my seat and she refused. And to be fair, she was Icelandic, so although she was in her early 80’s, she was in far better shape than I’ll ever be. 

ferry boat

By the time the bus made it to the ferry stop the weather had changed from “bothersome” to “in fact quite a ruckus.” The wind was harsh and the rain was hard. Christian and I quickly realized we would be enjoying this adventure blind, our glasses already completely covered in rain water. Through the blurred view of my oversized Prada frames I saw the line for the ferry. I saw the line even in my legally blind state, because it was overflowing from a neat and crowded cue and blending into a large and looming crowd. A woman in charge of crowd control told a few of us heading off the bus to turn and go to the next port. Although I was confused about leaving the only dock large enough for a ferry I rushed through the crowd of people like the sheep in a herd that I am. More to use the protection of the group to hide from the elements of the storm than for any real sense of direction. Because had I known where we were taking ourselves I would have opted for enduring the bad weather and waiting it out for the ferry to make its way back. Instead of the large safe ferry, we had been sent to a minuscule, worn down, fishing boat. The kind of boat that could comfortably hold five… and was about to hold a very compact 35. The boat tugged along slowly. The storm was much worse in the water than it was on solid ground. Each wave rocked our small sanctuary so far to its side the waves touched the windows. We continued to be pushed back, the boat simply not strong enough to crush through the waves. Eventually the ferry charged in front of us, nearly knocking us over, in an attempt to block us from the worst of the waves. I’ve never been in a situation where lifelong fishermen had to maneuver that cleverly to keep me alive. I’d prefer never to do it again. 

The close quarters caused my claustrophobia to work overtime. But it was the storm, and my impressive knack for getting motion sick in a movie theater, that made me think I wouldn’t make it to shore. I wasn’t the only person to sport the pale fear of sure sea sickness. The tough elderly woman who refused to take my seat on the bus sat clenching her husband in tears during our perilous boat ride. An Australian traveler spoke wide eyed about how someone would throw up before we made it to shore, and it would probably be her. The general look of all aboard was that of fear, fear for their lives as the waves tipped the boat sideways and fear for the best of their lunch ending up on their shoes. At one point a kind Icelander who sat beside me talked me down and told me to face the back of the boat and look outside to keep from being sick. It calmed me and truly seemed to help. Even though I knew he just wanted me to not face him when I puked. As I turned to watch the ocean through the back of the boat I noticed a group of Brits bobbing up and down, their spot emphasized by the waves as they sat in the far back. They were absolutely unfazed by the crashing waves. Instead of the utter pain of seasickness sported by every other passenger, they gabbed about what they planned to have for dinner, describing each course in agonizing detail as the boat rocked my stomach back and forth. I’ll give the British that much, they have an impressively strong constitution. 

By the time our boat reached the island it was pitch black outside. We still only had a very faint idea of what was actually going on on this island. With no clear signs for direction, we chose to follow the random line of candles through the dark, trusting they’d lead us to the event and not off the edge of one of the many cliffs. The end of the candles led us to the peace light, still unlit, and we climbed a nearby hill to get a better view through the packed crowd. 

After an hour standing in the cold wind and rain I checked to see if all ten toes were still intact. Although they were, I cursed myself for my outfit selection. As I stared at my closet before we left (the sun shining through my windows, I might add) I decided I wanted to look cute. So I wore a coat two sizes too small.  Because of the tight fit, I couldn’t wear a thick sweater (or much of anything) underneath. I figured it wouldn’t be too cold and if I looked hot it wouldn’t matter that I only had a short sleeve shirt underneath. My vanity always trumps any semblance of sanity. I didn’t bring mittens because I didn’t want to look weak. I’ve spent days outside where I feel like I’d be much more comfortable with gloves, but I refuse to wear them until I see locals doing the same. But I hadn’t seen the locals at an outdoor night time event. If I had, I would have known they all brought gloves. I had not. And instead of looking weak, I just looked daft. 

Don't think wearing glasses in Iceland means you'll be able to see.

Don't think wearing glasses in Iceland means you'll be able to see.

Before the actual lighting of the Imagine Peace Tower (whose purpose I had yet to figure out at the time) there was an hour long set of entertainment. The mayor talked about who Yoko was and why she brought the light to Iceland. At one point, he talked about the influence she had had in Iceland and in “more remote countries like the USA” at that, I laughed out loud. Loudly. I was also the only one. 

Next up were the musical numbers. Iceland’s men’s choir is a very big deal. And they are very good. I’ve taken it upon myself to chose what activities to go to in the country purely based on whether they will give a performance. I’m pretty sure the Icelandic men’s choir will call me up to heaven. After sitting on the side of a cliff, Christian’s Barbie sized knees attempting to block the wind, I thought I may freeze to death while listening to men sing about being vikings and waiting for Yoko Ono to light a giant candle. Obviously a worthwhile way to go. Because of this, I chose to risk it in the freezing cold and listen to them sing instead of heading into the warm refreshment tent. I was so cold I was starting to feel sick, but I’d had donuts for dinner the last three days. So if the frostbite wasn’t going to take my toes I figured diabetes would. 

The event itself was confusing. For one, I didn’t realize Yoko Ono was alive. Which made her appearance all the more impressive in my eyes. The announcer stated her arrival, and the crowd of Icelanders went crazy. They were absolutely thrilled to see her. And I have to say, I was pretty impressed. This tiny piece of woman had two large guards blocking her, not from the crowd of peace loving, adoring fans, but from the wind.

yoko ono

She gave a great talk. She talked about world peace and about why Iceland, having no military and housing no foreign military on it’s land, was the perfect place to emphasize the beauty of world peace. And as music began to play and the peace light lit up the sky, I thought seriously about just how incredibly peaceful Iceland is. How safe and happy I feel here in a country with an average of .3 murders a year, where children can feel safe in school and where the police don’t carry guns. Yoko Ono had chosen a country where peace was genuinely lived. And while she spoke about this peace, Icelanders crying around us, Christian turns to me and says, “This’ll make for a great Two Truths and a Lie.” 

And it’s true. So let’s play a round:

1. My name is Mallory Ann.

2. My favorite animal is a cat.

3. I once spent an evening on an abandoned island in Iceland with Yoko Ono.

…I’m gonna win this game every time for the rest of my life. 

peace light

Pale As Hail Bails

I don’t know much about Canadians. Once while visiting my great grandmother in Washington my cousin and I decided to cross the small amount of ocean that separated us from the giant Canadian mountains on the other side. We trudged through the shallow water, determined to reach our goal and sneak into the foreign country with the focus of two fiercely independent and adventurous 8 year olds. By that I mean we got distracted by a purple starfish and turned our backs to Canada because we named him “Buckles” and he wanted to live at Grandma’s house in Seattle. The next close encounter I had with Canada was with my 5th grade teacher. She wasn’t Canadian, but her husband was. And she also knew the metric system so basically I was getting a Canadian education. I knew exactly one Canadian before I moved to Iceland. The Canadian I know is Kristen Homer. She and I went to Aveda Institute together. One time I asked her if she would make me a ball gown entirely out of caution tape, because I had an idea. She made it, it was perfect, and that is why I love Canadians. It’s also why I decided to go on a weekend road trip with three Canadians while I was on the dark side of a 48 hour flu. Let’s talk more about that. 

For the most part, I blame Yoko Ono because if she hadn’t been hanging out in Iceland to light up a massive peace light on an abandoned Island off the coast of Reykjavik none of this would have happened. I’ll give that run on sentence a proper post next week. Until then, just know that Yoko Ono gave me a debilitating flu. I chilled with Yoko on Friday night and the road trip began Saturday morning. Friday night I lay in bed, sat up in bed, felt squeamish in bed, ran to the toilet, felt squeamish by the toilet, and lay by the toilet, on repeat, all night. I chalked it up to exposure from the long cold Beetles-filled night and told myself I’d feel better in the morning. Although sleep did not come, the morning did. I fought in an internal battle with my mind. By 6am I willed myself to have the courage to bail on the Canadians. I began writing a message to the lead Canadian, Julianna, letting her know I was just too sick to join in on the fun. The battle continued as my mind convinced my hands to delete the honest message and go on the trip no matter how I was feeling. I was not weak. I told my body to stop being so dramatic and to get over itself. And, because I spent three years of high school in debate and am a master manipulator, I got up, got dressed, threw up, threw clothes on, and left for our adventure. I got in the car with my road trip companions and kept my trap shut. Because I didn’t want to tell them I felt sick and have to miss out on the fun. And also because I didn’t want to throw up on the rental car’s upholstery. 

Julianna and I have been friends since my first week in Iceland. She’s the kind of person who can start up a conversation with anyone and who is willing to turn even someone with my surly attitude into a good friend. She’s also a tough, no-nonsense scientist whose babies will definitely be at the top of the food chain. The flu would not slow this Canadian down…(*check to see if Canadians can even get flu*) Because of that, and also because we were going to the glacier lagoon and you do NOT mess up seeing the glacier lagoon, I decided to power through. 

The girls were the most delightful strangers you could ever be asked to blind-date-friendship-make on a two day road trip. The two I had just met were related and knew Julianna before she moved to Iceland. They were traveling from Italy, to Turkey, and then Iceland. If that random assortment of stops doesn’t make you want to be their best friend, I don’t know why you even make friends. I loved it. They were funny and easy to talk to and so darn delightful they’d interrupted my internal battle which was saying, “Mallory. Sometimes you are very dumb. This is one of those times. Go home.” and they seduced me into staying with their charming Hosier ways. 

By the time we were just outside of the city I knew I wasn’t going to make it. I was really sick and really not getting better. I started thinking of where I could get out and take a bus back home. It’d be at least an hour on the bus, but I had no choice. I was going to throw up. I finally racked up the courage and let the ladies know that I was sick. That I had been all night and was hoping I’d get better, but that was just not happening. They hesitated and said we could turn around after the first stop. I agreed. I agreed, because I didn’t realize what the first stop was. As the nausea hit me like a wave, a smell hit me like a ton of bricks. The first stop was a fish drying farm. Although the images should speak for themselves let me give you a little background. Iceland loves to eat inedible foods. These dried fish happen to be a part of that pallet. The smell of the drying fish is so bad these farms have to be placed far away from cities where humans might reside. While we stepped outside to take photos of the rows of dry fish, I dry heaved by the back of the car.

Noped my way past this guy's face. 

Noped my way past this guy's face. 

Feeling queasy, breezy, beautiful.

Feeling queasy, breezy, beautiful.

Because that experience wasn’t enough, I decided to keep going. Because Julianna asked me if we could hit one more stop before driving me back. I figured that if I could handle nausea and the smell of thousand of decaying fish, I could handle whatever was coming next. That’s because I didn’t know what was coming next. 

I decided to run across the beach under this cliff to see if exerting energy would erase my nausea. It was a foolish idea because running makes me nauseous even when I'm not sick. 

I decided to run across the beach under this cliff to see if exerting energy would erase my nausea. It was a foolish idea because running makes me nauseous even when I'm not sick. 

If you’ve read my blog before (which I’m sure you have because I know that if you are reading this you are… 

1. Related to me and know I’ll ask if you’ve read it yet.

2. My Grandma, also related to me but reading this because you’re the best Grandma ever and I love you.) 

Which means you know how I feel about the smell of sulfur. Julianna said she wanted to show the girls Krysuvík before we turned back for me. She called it by name because she is a sneaky Canadian and because, “The place where all The Walking Dead zombies go to hang out in natural jacuzzis” might make you think it’s the set of a movie, instead of more freaking nasty natural hot springs that smell like the earth is literally cooking the flesh off of the living dead. In case my rant just now didn’t make sense, I knew this place. It was a hot spring Chris and I drove to back in our rental car days. While Chris and I waked through the valley and up the mountainside I heaved and curled over from the unearthly smell nature was expelling. And that was a day my stomach felt great. That’s why I knew that for this trip with these ladies, my view of Krysuvík was only going to get as far as the parking lot. In the car. With the windows sealed tight. 

Believe me when I say you'd want to smell this about as much as you'd want to drink it. 

Believe me when I say you'd want to smell this about as much as you'd want to drink it. 

The girls continued on and I waited in the car. I was enjoying being able to lie flat across the seats and feel the nauseous gurgling of my stomach in peace. Then things got less peaceful. I rushed to the rustic public bathrooms and pulled on a slightly open door. I then promptly met a woman washing her hands, having not shut the door all the way. I chose the next bathroom. I went in, was sick, and came out. After taking the three steps down to the parking lot I realized I was about to turn around and repeat myself. My newly Christened bathroom was taken, so I chose the one where my lady friend had been. I realized why she hadn’t closed the door. It was stuck. But nature was about to have it’s way with my intestines, so I pulled hard and shut the door all the way. I once again expelled my insides and grabbed the door to walk out. I pushed, nothing. I pushed again, thinking my worn out body was being weak and needed a second try. Nothing. 

There is something briskly embarrassing about being trapped in a bathroom. I suppose it’s not the first time that’s happened to me, because I clearly recognized the feeling of mortification being locked in gave me. It’s like we are admitting to the world that yes, in fact, we do defecate. But that no, World, we can’t seem to do it without locking ourselves in and announcing to all around that it just happened. I shook the door and pushed my body against it, that rabid fear growing inside me letting me know that yes, I was trapped in here forever and yes, I was going to die in a smelly outhouse on the side of a quiet road beside repulsive hot pots. And that no, no one was going to notice the smell of my decomposing body over the smell of the acrid natural springs. Noting my inevitable death, I had a little weep. I had the flu, wanted desperately to go see the glacial lagoon, but because of both things, I was going to die next to a toilet. I knocked on the door. A concerned Icelandic man called out to me asking if I was stuck. I responded with an affirmative high pitched, “uh-sniff-huh.” And my rescue attempt began. 

Spoiler Alert: I was freed. After much pulling on his part and pushing on my part I once again saw sunlight and could take a deep breath of fresh sulfur-infused air. I got back in the car and sprawled out just in time for one of the girls to say, “Feeling any better?” “I got locked in the bathroom.” I said. And I left it at that. 

The road trip didn’t end there. Because I’m too stubborn to admit when I’ve had enough. Having survived my near death experience I was elated. The girls cheered me up and the glaciers were calling my name. I kept going, and kept feeling worse. To make me feel better, the girls told me stories of times when they threw up and then felt better. Hmm. They told each individual story in great detail while passing around a bag of mini cinnamon rolls. Who would have thought it would be the site of a cinnamon roll that would spark my one and only suicidal thought?

This is a gorgeous place to stop and watch the unique Icelandic horses graze. It is also a particularly stunning spot to stop and rolph out your Mama Chia Seed apple sauce. 

This is a gorgeous place to stop and watch the unique Icelandic horses graze. It is also a particularly stunning spot to stop and rolph out your Mama Chia Seed apple sauce. 

Although the smell of the cinnamon made me want to jump out of the car, these girls were fantastic. They felt for me, kept me as distracted as possible, and didn’t complain in front of me when I finally told them to just leave me in whatever town we were in and I’d find my way home. Which is exactly what I did. I ended up getting dropped off in a town called Selfoss. The girls carried on to a town called “Hella.” Fat chance I was going to survive if I had had them leave me in a town named after Satan’s vacation spot. I found the local library. Or, more specifically, the library’s bathroom. And frantically messaged all the people I knew in an attempt to get myself back. I was very far from home, very sick, and very stressed out.

This is the part where I give a shout out to the unique kindness shown by Icelanders. Because my friend Shirah messaged her in-laws, who happened to be near me, who were willing to pick my sick self up, shoot me up with some essential oils, and get me home safely to Reykjavik and bed. Here’s the thing. I was in the middle of far away from Reykjavik Iceland and had locals pick me up. I was locked in a bathroom and received a strong and helpful hand. I was sick as a dog, had to bail on the glacier lagoon, but still had a delightful time. All because I got to hang out with three very cool Canadians. I’d probably do it all again. 

Pale As Hail Does Laundry

The best things in life are free. Vomit inducing, obvious clichés are a white girl’s go-to when it comes to beginning a blog post. But no judgement. I’m not one to shy away from a cliché term when I believe it to be true. I’m also not one to shy away from a cliché term when I don't believe it's true, but it happens to be a great opener for what I am going to write about. Because, white girl. Which means that today I say the best things in life are the things you don’t have to spend a penny on. I have to think this because I moved to a country with the intention of spending a great amount of time exploring natural wonders and enjoying the great outdoors. But I’m over that. You’ve all heard about it. The reason I’m stating an overly vague finance-based cliche is because I no longer have to shake my piggy bank and filter through pennies, nickels and dimes to find the three quarters I need to do laundry at the local laundromat. Now my laundry is free. And that’s the best. But also half my laundry is done in the sink, hangs above my toilet, and makes my fun-sized apartment feel like that expensive sauna your in-laws put in their backyard and force you to “enjoy” on family visits. But it’s free, so it’s the best.

Back in the civilized world (Provo Utah College Town USA) the local laundromat was as luxurious and sketchy as you expect from your typical laundering experience. Rows of overpriced and underwhelming washers worked day and night cleaning the clothes of your fellow peers and wanderlust hobos. The laundromat was a hub for social events and late night parties. In Provo everyone has full loads of whites, and everyone waits until Saturday night to wash them. Which means we all smelled sweet and freshly pressed by the time church began on Sunday. I’m fibbing about the clean laundry smell part. The laundromat was next door to a Little Caesar’s and not once did I do a load of laundry that smelled like anything other than $5 pepperoni pizza unsuccessfully masked by that of my Summer Flower Fresh fabric softener. Laundry was a social occasion. It had to be. Unless you were brave enough to leave your $100 Anthropologie dress unattended at the ‘mat (which you probably were if you were naive enough to put it in the washing machine to begin with – which I was) you’d spend time socializing with the other procrastinating college kids who swore they studied better while eating pizza and getting grease stains on the clean clothes they were folding. Laundry necessities were not detergent or fabric softener, but a Poli-Sci text book, double pepperoni pizza, and a pile of whites/colors you shove in the same machine and hope the colors don’t bleed because it will save you $1.55 to do it all together. That was laundry back home. That, along with insisting on carrying two loads at one time (time saver) and the moment when those loads fall to the ground and you have to pick it all up (exercise) made for a chore you would do as infrequently as possible. And that system was fine with me. But now, laundry has taken on new challenges… foreign ones. 

Before moving into our apartment we read the old Airbnb comments about the location. More than one past traveler complained about the noises the washing machines next door made. Christian and I prefer white noise (we’re those people who have a fan on in December and freeze so that we can hear the air move through the room) so we had no problem with that set back. We thought about the downsides to having the laundry room so close. The apartment was said to come with a common laundry room and I planned for coin ops and finding other people’s socks in the dryer. I was wrong about both things. First, there are no coin ops because no one shares machines. You buy your own. Second, I wouldn’t have to worry about neighbor’s clothes in the dryer, because Iceland doesn't believe in dryers. 

Hang drying clothes is archaic. It’s something hipsters do to feel cool. Something the Mediterranean does for tourists. But it’s not something I planned to do in my teacup pig sized apartment. While I was moody and complaining Christian came up with an innovative and brilliant hang-dry system. Innovative, in that he found a way to drape and hang several articles of clothing in our small bathroom using cord and command strip hooks. I find it brilliant, because he had to hang them high enough so that we can still use the bathroom while drying clothes. In order to make that possible he had to hang them so high that I can't reach them, which means Christian will be the only one able to hang dry the laundry. Score one for hang drying.  

Fabric softener is a thing of the past. Soft fabric is a thing of the past. Iceland doesn’t do comfort. Iceland does survival. Clean clothes are as cushy as it’s gonna get on this island. With no dryers comes no fabric softener. I used to laugh in the face of fabric softener. I found it an unnecessary expense. But once when I mooched off of my friend’s kindness she laundered my delicates and added softener. The world around me then opened up. My heart was softened like my newly washed American Apparel slip, and I embraced change. After that it became a necessity. Until Iceland. Many buildings have rooms heated by the hot water in pipes against the walls. These rooms, we were told, were hot enough to dry clothes quickly and eliminated the need for dryers. Now, after a two hour wash cycle (because the two options on our washer are 3.3 and 4 and we don’t know what that means but our landlord said to NEVER use 4) we hang dry what’s washed, watch the heavy items fall to the ground, call the 5 second rule, hang it back up and leave. Once a week has gone by, some of the clothes are dry. They are also stiff as a board. Good one, Science. Stiff necked fibers scratching my skin…mumble grumble etc. 

For the first few (by few I mean many but I want you to think I’m cleaner than I really am) weeks we didn’t have a washer at all. Our landlord changed his mind about housing us and found someone else to buy the place and deal with two confused American tenants. Landlord Numero Dos had a washing machine for us… allegedly. Fortunately Christian and I collectively packed enough clothes for 6 people so it took quite a while for us to run out of outfits. Unfortunately, Iceland doesn’t really do the whole public laundry thing. I’m not sure why, but all the research we did showed us that just isn’t their thing. And I get it, carrying a load of laundry in a blizzard while walking on ice sounds like more a hassle than it’s worth. But I’ve dropped my fair share of laundry loads on the ground, so I was willing to keep an eye out. There is one place, and not far from us, called The Laundromat Cafe. The idea behind it is great. Wash your clothes while enjoying a catalog and croissant. The problem is that no one actually uses it as a laundromat. It’s just kitschy. And I don’t have the self confidence to be the awkward American kid washing her unmentionables at a place that turns into a 25+ dress code necessary night club after 8pm. That’s just me. But it’s also everyone around me, so I needed a plan two. And that plan is called the sink. 

More than anything our socks needed to be washed. I can wear a wool sweater without worrying about cleanliness, but after day two in the same pair of tights I begin contemplating the fungus that is surely growing between my toes. So while we waited for a washer, I washed our socks. The sink in our bathroom is the size of one of those vomit trays used in hospitals. In fact… it might be exactly that, repurposed… I’m gonna get back to you on that. So there really was only room to wash socks. Eventually more than socks needed to be scrubbed. Because of that I got crafty. And then this idea happened.

Washing your clothes with you in them is a major time saver. I’m going to spread the word and make it big! Get ready to see my name in lights. 

Despite sinks, showers, and a radiator covered in wet clothes, Chris and I both bring up how convenient it is to do our laundry in our apartment. Despite the constant sound of machines pounding against our walls and the Norwegian washing machine we believe has a destruct button, we love having our apartment so close to the laundry room. And despite all my complaints and complications, our laundry is free! So I swear you guys I really do wash my clothes regularly now. Kinda. 

Pale As Hail Goes Out To Eat

Iceland does not have McDonald’s. Iceland has dehydrated fish, Japanese noodle houses, an unnervingly thriving chain of Kentucky Fried Chicken, and yet not a single solitary McDonald’s. There is not a quick stop for fast almost-edible happy meals. And that makes me happy. There is a time and a place for a happy meal and that is never and in the trash.* Although my waistline is thrilled to have unhealthy cheap eats out of reach, my taste buds miss the adrenaline rush that came from my midnight runs to buy french fries with a side of milkshake and a side of a double cheeseburger…protein style, to watch my figure. I love going out to eat. Eating out was a typical date night. Either with my husband or with my mistress (you know who you are because your name is Charity and I just wrote it on here to clear that up.) But Iceland’s restaurants are expensive, fast food is limited, and I take things too literally, so when we moved here I decided to start going out to eat. 

Iceland is a fantastic place to live if you want some stellar date nights on a budget. That’s because Iceland has wholly unique natural landscapes and, unless you are buying something off of Bob Ross, landscapes are free! Nature is cool like that. It’s not asking for your cash. It’s got enough green, so to speak. Now, let’s play a fun game where we’re going to ignore the fact that gas is $7 a gallon on a good day and that driving to stellar locations 6 months out of the wintery year will almost certainly end in, to put it lightly, certain death. With all that out of our mind, Iceland is a fantastic place to live if you want those budget date nights! Here you’ll read about a few times we’ve entertained ourselves with dates involving more than just food. There will be hikes, hills, water, thrills. But who am I kidding? The scenery is great, but we’re all really more interested in the road trip snacks. So I’ll include those too. 

 

Hot Chocolate, Powdered Donut, Massive Waterfall 

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Seljalandsfoss is a waterfall on the south end of Iceland. It drops 200ft off the original coastline. You can also walk behind it which is basically rad. If you brave the slippery metal grate steps leading up the side of the fall and wear waterproof clothing, walking behind Seljalandsfoss is one of the most unique and visually/physically surprising experiences you can have while outdoors. (That that I said just now? That’s 20 year old white girl traveler talk for “I slipped on the path and my phone got wet.”) Once you are behind the fall the mist hits like fog in a Stephen King thriller and the sound of the water falling to the ground shakes your bones. On the way back up and out of the fall you climb slick rocks and pretend you’re not praying to break a leg instead of breaking your iPhone. It really is the coolest. Also while we were here we got hot chocolate and a powdered jelly donut from the cute dachshund owners who had a food stand near by. I highly recommend the donut. 

 

Roast Beef, Beached Plane, Bollywood 

One time Chris and I went on a date to see an old U.S. plane crash and ended up behind the scenes of a Bollywood smash hit! You think I’m making this stuff up. Sólheimasandur is a beach on the coast of south Iceland made semi-famous by semi-adventurist tourists because of a United States Navy DC plane that crashed on the beach in 1973. The plane ran out of fuel and crash landed (safely, I might add. USA USA!) on the beach. Soon after crashing, they found out the pilot had switched to the wrong fuel tank and they weren’t actually out of gas (just ignore that part. USA USA!). The site itself is cool enough to brave the rugged beach “road” as long as your car has four wheel drive. You could go ahead with front wheel drive but you will get stuck and it’s illegal and probably you’ll die. We got to the abandoned wreckage after twenty minutes of insanely bumpy terrain which seemed to revel in the desperation it was causing my over-active bladder. But all thoughts of urine stained rental seats ceased as soon as we saw the plane. It was a shock to see such a large foreign object in the desolate coast-line. It was a greater shock to see dozens of lights, cameras and RV’s surrounding the plane. It was an even greater shock to see the lean man in tight pleather pants standing atop the curved head of the plane, chest exposed and puffed out, trying desperately to not be blown off by the wind while…dancing. 

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I appreciate an attractive Middle Eastern man showing off his dancing skills as much as the next over-sheltered suburbanite, but as I nervously watched him sway forward and back in the 20mph wind, I worried he and his Bollywood beauty would be blown off the 42 year old plane crash. Fortunately they were professionals and by the time the scene was shot I had watched both pleather pants and his lady friend pose dramatically and romantically on top of the aircraft. The only moment of genuine worry was watching the actress attempt to climb off the plane with the train of her dress acting as the mainsail to a 95lb lady shaped boat. She didn’t fly away, they didn’t fall down, and after half an hour of perfectly timed fist pumping and hip gyrating, they left us to explore the plane on our own. I brushed the crumbs of a roast beef sandwich off my pants and thought about my exclusive behind the scenes look at some Bollywood work. I also thought about how tasty my sandwich was. It had cabbage and pickles and a sauce that would have gone very well with some naan.

Also guys, this was real. I am not making it up.


Basalt Columns, Lava Fields, Carbonated Water 

When I say, “date night!” you say, “2 1/2 hour drive to see some tightly stacked dirt!” Because that was our date night. Last weekend was my birthday. This means my husband gets to hear equal shares of, “I can’t stand people who obsess over their birthdays” and “I need my birthday to be extra fun but I don’t want you to ask me what I want to do and I want you to plan it and I want it to be a surprise but I don’t like surprises to be too surprising but make sure it’s fun and please don’t mess this up because this is my special day and our family and friends are all far away so this is on you and if you love me you will make it literally the best day of my life.” I’m not lying when I tell you I said that, but also I only take 3 minutes to put my make up on, so I’m a pretty low maintenance wife. These mood swings, complimented by light crying and an overzealous outdoorsy streak, lead my husband to the only obvious birthday activity: basalt columns. 

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I have been wanting to go to the basalt columns in Vatnajökull National Park since I first saw Jonsi’s music video for Go Do. In the music video Jonsi (in bird-like attire, because, Jonsi) sits atop a massive field of these natural columns. The Svartifoss, Black Waterfall, has these columns and is something I want to see occasionally more than the face of my future first born. Because Iceland is big and because we had a pot luck at our church the next day (we don’t mess around with free food), we didn't have time to go to east Iceland. Chris found the next best thing. A small road trip out of Reykjavik will take you to Gerðuberg where there is an upset of earth in an otherwise flat plateau of, you guessed it, basalt columns! Tightly packed dirt for the win! I climbed up the steep hill to the base of the columns with the grace of a newborn giraffe on roller skates. That is to say, I slipped. A lot. Chris got photos of it, but I’m not showing them because this is internet life and in internet life I pick the photos to post and those photos say I never have breakouts, have no double chin, and hiked up those hills like a pro. The columns were awesome. Something I’ve never seen before. But then I thought about food. I had a Prince Polo candy bar in the car. It’s “meh” on the scale of candies I’ll give calories to. But it scores very high on the scale of causing thirst after consumption. I had the Price Polo. I was thirsty. And Chris had a solution up his sleeve. 

In Iceland, we go out to eat. In Iceland, anyone can also go out to quench their thirst. Yeah, sure, for outdoors and adventure, but also literally. The glacial water is clean and cold and satisfying. But this is Iceland, which means glacial water is normal, average at best, and it’s not too hard to up your nature game. Which is why after seeing the basalt columns Chris took us down past an extinct volcano, through a lava field, and brought our empty soda bottles to be filled with, soda. There was a small carbonated spring beneath another breathtaking waterfall (I know, “yawn” right?) that you could get to quite easily, if you were willing to trek through a lava field. I was. And it was all delicious.

Merry Birthdaysmas one and all! I hope you all go out to eat in my honor! Just FYI the outdoors are great and all, but I prefer Cafe Rio. 

Lava Field
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*This term was used once by my Kindergarten best friend. Although she used it to describe decaf coffee and at the time she was not five. Katherine, just like our time together at the Red table in Mrs. Barton’s class, I still use you as a source of inspiration and steal your stuff when I know it will get me a gold star. Also I love you and I'm glad we moved past my being in first grade with your twin instead of with you.