Magical Iceland... Part 1!

Mar 2, 2017

From the moment that we landed in Iceland, I knew that it was going to be an interesting vacation. It would be the type of trip more deserving of daily chronicles of our adventures as opposed to a quick summary of the week once we'd arrived home.  Prior to this trip, I knew little about the island.  I knew that it was expensive, sparsely populated, and that in 2010 a volcanic eruption here cancelled my glamorous European layovers and left me stranded in Dubai.  We might not have gotten off on the right foot, Iceland and I, but this trip has been full of pleasant surprises.

Without further adieu, the adventures of Ryan and Krysta in Iceland. Some of the photos may not match the descriptions, but I'm on vacation and too lazy to upload and edit them all until we are home.

Day 1:

Leaving Paris was bittersweet.  I was sad to say goodbye to the city that had stolen my heart, but excited for the adventures ahead.  We had one last Parisian breakfast, packed our suitcases and caught an Uber to Orly airport.  We arrived to discover that our flight was delayed... rookie move, we forgot to check the status prior to leaving the hotel.  As it turned out, Iceland had experienced a record breaking snowfall the night prior, and all flights were understandably late to depart Reykjavik. We spent 3 extra hours in the airport, stuffing ourselves with the last few bites of glorious pastries and perfect espresso. When it was finally time to board, we crammed onto buses to take us to the remote stand where the aircraft was parked.  I felt a tinge of nostalgia as we watched a Boeing 777 taxi to the runway.  International airports always make me long for just a few cabin crew days.
We finally boarded the aircraft and the flight over was quick and easy.  It is remarkably easy to fly without an infant on your lap.  As we began our descent, you could see the beautiful coastline and mountains. A thick layer of snow blanketed the entire island.


Upon collecting our baggage, we circled the arrivals area a few times, cluelessly trying to find our rental car company.  We eventually discovered that we needed to take a shuttle bus, and made our way out into the cold.  Though it was about 10 degrees warmer than back home, it felt extra cold after a week of mild weather in Paris.
Once we had our car we hit the road, bound for our first ever Air BnB accommodation. We didn't expect much of the room, and it is probably good that we kept our expectations low.  We arrived to find a basic room in a basement suite with a mattress and box spring on the floor. A photo of sheep stared at us from the wall, a random pair of glasses were left on the nightstand, and we couldn't find the washroom for the first 20 minutes.  But alas, it was a place to sleep.
We set out in search of dinner after a long day of airports and flying.  As we drove down the street we were stopped by what looked like a construction crew, but the man who came to our window informed us that we'd have to wait a moment as they were filming a movie.  We watched as a car drove down the street, and an actor got hit by what I'm assuming was a food truck.  The empty street filled with people as actors and extras suddenly came running from out of nowhere. A few seconds later we were sent on our way.
We found the restaurant area of the city and trekked through the snow looking for a restaurant. The temperature hovered around freezing and all of the snow was a slushy wet mess. I was thankful for my boots, and Ryan was wishing that he'd packed some.
We dined at Laundromat Cafe.  Upstairs was a busy restaurant and bar area, downstairs was a laundromat and a kids play area. Iceland is strange and wonderful. I had the meatballs, not quite ready to brave traditional Icelandic cuisine. We spent a small fortune, but the food was good! It may be grocery stores and drive thrus from here on out.
Back at our room we tried to quietly get ready for bed without waking the other guests... no easy feat with squeaky doors and small spaces. We managed to get a decent sleep in preparation for the next day and the adventures that it would bring.

Day 2:

Our true tourist experience began on day 2, as we ventured to the popular Golden Circle.  It is a loop of attractions not too far from Reykjavik, perfect for a day trip.  We were off to a slow start, as we found ourselves at a standstill on the road behind a long line of cars. We stayed there for awhile as powerful wind gusts threw snow at our car.  Apparently a few vehicles ahead were stuck in the deep snow. 
The police arrived and we were eventually on our way to our first stop... ├×ingvellir National Park. We walked between the continental drift, took many photos of the gorgeous snowy views, and hiked up an icy hill to a waterfall.  
Next on the Golden Circle was Geysir, which is just what it sounds like... a geyser.  It erupts every 5 or so minutes, surrounded by eager, selfie-taking tourists.  I loved seeing everyone stand in anticipation.  Every time it would so much as bubble, all of the photographers would quickly lift their cameras just in case.  We watched it erupt about 5 or 6 times before I finally convinced Ryan that we should continue on.  
Next on the itinerary was Gulfoss, a large waterfall.  We weren't completely mesmerized by it, but the strong winds and ice pellets hitting our face probably played a role. It was pretty, but we spend our summers in the Canadian Rockies so waterfalls have to try pretty hard to impress us these days. I'm sure that we'd feel different had we visited in summer.  
Last but certainly not least on our circle tour was the Keri├░ crater.  We arrived just as the sun was setting, which I'm sure made it even more spectacular than it would have already been.  The trail was steep and icy, but totally worth the effort.  We watched the sun set from the crater rim as the mountains surrounding us turned gorgeous shades of pink and orange. When we finally got back to the car, I could no longer feel my toes, but I was totally okay with it. Iceland had officially won me over and it was only our first day of exploring.  


Our day wasn't over yet.  Hungry from a day of eating nothing but skyr yogurt, we stopped at Ikea for a meal that wouldn't drain our bank account.  Once we were full we headed to the car to return to our room, but a glimpse of the aurora and we quickly set out in search of dark country roads in hopes of a beautiful northern lights show. The aurora did not disappoint, and we spent a good deal of time taking photos as it surrounded us no matter which direction we looked.  


It was tough to call it a night, but it had been a long day and we were exhausted, so it was back to our basement suite.  When we arrived, we found ourselves with 2 new house guests. We fell asleep to the sounds of them partying and playing music, and we were thankful that it was our last evening there.  

Day 3: 

On our third day, we drove from Reykavik to Akureyi, in northern Iceland.  It was a long day spent mostly in the car, but the views were gorgeous and we made several stops for photos, snacks, and washrooms.  We took a brief detour in search of a beach that promised to be home to seals, but it ended up being way further than anticipated, on worn out gravel roads along the side of a cliff.  We turned around and accepted defeat.  


We finally arrived in Akureyri and we were so excited to check into our hotel. It was nothing special compared to some of the places we've stayed, but it was amazing after our Air BnB adventure. We had our own bathroom, a cozy bed, and a view of the sea! 
We briefly explored the area, ate an expensive and mediocre diner meal, and then called it an early night. 


Day 4:  

I woke up to the smell of food and could barely contain my excitement for the free hotel breakfast. I was even more excited to discover a beautiful spread of pastries, meats, cheese, waffles, and coffee.. glorious coffee! I feasted, trying to eat enough to justify skipping lunch.  
When Ryan was finally able to drag me away from the buffet, we began our day with a drive to Lake Myvatn. Turns out, it was mostly frozen. We did see some gorgeous reflections in the water that were worthy of a photo stop. We walked through the Dimmuborgir lava fields and made the decision to hike to the top of the Hverfjall crater. It was a steep, but quick hike up. We spent a good amount of time at the top admiring the views before finally descending and continuing on with our day.


It was late afternoon and we didn't know where to head next, so we made the impromptu decision to drive to the village of Husavik. It was a great decision.  
We stumbled upon a picturesque black sand beach, and a long walk along the shore led us to a trail up the side of a cliff, where we discovered the most incredible views just in time for a perfect sunset.  We were both in awe, and despite taking dozens of photos, nothing could justify the beauty of seeing it in person.  By the time that we got back to the car, 2 hours later, we were absolutely freezing but thrilled with our day.  


We dined at the only restaurant in Husavik that was open. It was expensive, but delicious. We ate lobster soup and shared a seafood pizza and by the time that we were finished eating my toes were finally warm again.  We went back to the hotel, climbed into our cozy bed, and fell asleep after another perfect day in Iceland.

Day 5: 

Today was day 5! After another huge hotel breakfast, we hit the road with our destination still unknown.  Ryan had his heart set on taking the longer, more scenic route that involved many kilometres of driving through long tunnels.  It would add a substantial amount of driving, but we had no timeline.  We drove through the tunnels along stunning cliff sides, and it was worth the detour.  
We eventually ended up at a cute hotel at the base of Eyjafjalla, the volcano that erupted in 2010.  We opted for the hotel buffet and it was a delicious meal that I ate far too much of.  When we asked about drinks, the chef told us that he didn't know how to make cocktails and that the bartender wasn't working this evening.  He told Ryan that he was more than welcome to hop behind the bar and make the drinks himself, so he did just that. He served us up some delicious long island iced teas.  
Now we are back in the hotel room, brainstorming about where tomorrow will take us.  One thing is for certain, we just keep falling more in love with Iceland and can't wait to see more of it! 



To be continued!

A Week in Paris

Feb 26, 2017

Bonjour from Paris Orly airport!  We are sitting here waiting for our delayed departure after a glorious week of eating, walking, and being tourists.  Perhaps the biggest thing to note is that I am currently sipping a cafe au lait in Europe while my daughters are asleep in Canada.  Though I desperately miss my sweet babies, I feel incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to take a vacation with my husband in celebration of 5 years of marriage.  It's been a week since I've changed a diaper, had my meals interrupted, or tried to reason with a 1 year old.  Gosh, I miss them.  
This was neither mine nor Ryan's first trip to Paris, but it was our first time visiting the city of love together, and it was my first time traveling for a vacation as opposed to work.  


The primary focus of our week was to eat, and eat we did.  We ate beautiful macarons at Laduree and Pierre Herme, sipped dozens of lattes in cute cafes, ate crepes beside the Eiffel Tower, strolled the streets with baguettes in hand, devoured our body weight in crossaints, and even had a taste of France's fine dining.  


Each morning began with breakfast... petite dejuener.  The typical French breakfast is fresh squeezed orange juice, bread with jam and butter, a fresh crossiant, and coffee.  It was always good, and my favourite part of the day. We may now need to purchase a juicer for our kitchen counter.   


On the first day of our trip we learnt the art of baking our own croissants. It's unbelievable how much work goes into each batch, and I'm not confident that we'll be able to successfully replicate the recipe at home.  It was fun to learn though, and the fresh from the oven crossaints were amazing.  


A daily trip to the Eiffel Tower was a must. I'll never tire of the gorgeous landmark, particularily at night when the lights twinkle on the hour every hour.  
Our only escape from the city was to act like children at Paris Disneyland. It was my first non-pregnant Disney trip since pre-married life, so I was thrilled to ride the rollercoasters and fast rides.  It was a cold and windy day and I felt guilty for being there sans children, but we had a ton of fun and Ryan was excited to finally have someone to ride the rides with.  


One of the other highlights of our trip was lunch at the Montparnesse Tower. On the 56th floor is the Ciel de Paris restaurant, where we enjoyed incredible views of the city and the Eiffel Tower.  We sat there until they not so sublty started dropping hints that it was time for us to leave.  

The week went by quickly, and before we knew it, it was time to pack our bags and say bon voyage.  We ate 3 more crossaints and bought another box of macarons for good measure.  Though more adventures await, it is always sad to leave Paris. I am thankful for a great week with my love, and the fact that my pants are now much tighter than they were a week ago means that our trip was a success. 
Bon voyage, Paris, until we meet again.

moving on.

Jan 18, 2017

Tonight we go to bed for the very last time in our very first house. As someone who grew up moving from house to house and then spent the first half of my twenties living out of a suitcase, I'm not one to typcially get attached to any of my residences.  But this house... it's different. Though I have no doubt that we'll make incredible memories in our brand new home, nothing will ever come close to the ones that we've made here.  
Every little piece of this house has a memory to go with it.  
For instance... the front door. The door that we walked into the first time we saw this house. The door that we walked into as first time home owners, living together for the first time. Walking through OUR front door was a dream come true following a lengthy long distance relationship. 


The island. That beautiful granite counter top. The island where I sat, hand addressing our wedding invitations. The island that I spent many hours at, typing up blog posts and editing photos.   The island with the most perfect reflections for photos.  


The mudroom, where I envisioned my future puppy living.  The mudroom where he slept when we brought him home, and where he has eaten his kibble ever since.
The master bedroom. The bedroom where we hid from the world on lazy Sunday mornings.  The bedroom where I walked to Ryan clutching a positive pregnancy test.  
The guest room.  The guest room that we jam packed with aviation decor, where friends slept when they were visiting from overseas or when they were too tired to drive home.  The guest room that became a travel-themed nursery, that became a little girl's beloved bedroom.


The office. The office that housed all of our important files and Ryan's computer.  The office that Ryan was evicted from to make room for our second baby. The office where I cuddled our sweet little sleep-hating baby in the wee hours of the morning.  


The kitchen. The kitchen where I ruined many meals and had a few successes. The kitchen where I learnt to bake and meticulously decorated for my children's birthday parties. 


This house. This house that will always be our very first home, despite the fact that we've outgrown it. This house that we moved into as a young engaged couple, and that we will move out of as a family of 5. (The dog, I'm counting the dog.)


It makes me happy to think that some time soon someone new will occupy this house and make their very own memories here.  Meanwhile, we'll be busy watching our girls learn and grow in our new home.  
Goodbye house. Thank you for the hospitality over the past 5 years! 

Hello, 2017!

Jan 17, 2017

Oh my goodness, where does the time go?  We are 2 weeks into 2017 and it has been a crazy busy year thus far.  So much has happened since my last post, and I have had so little time to fill you all in... so here's a bit of a catch-up.

Christmas! Christmas came and went and it was wonderful as per usual.
December with a 3 year old was so much fun.  This year, Aaralee made her own gingerbread house, helped bake and decorate cookies for Santa, helped decorate the tree, and melted my heart as she sang in her first ever Christmas concert.  Briley of course thoroughly enjoyed the holiday season as well, but is still a bit too young to really grasp anything that's going on. The girls were graciously showered with gifts and treats but the contents didn't excite them half as much as the actual process of gift opening.  I wasn't joking when I said they'd be happy to receive empty boxes.






Ryan and I are pretty excited about our Christmas gift... we'll open it later this week.  We bought a new home! We've made so many memories in our current home, but since adding 2 kids we've longed for more space. I can't wait to finally be finished packing and to be moved into our brand new house.   


We rang in 2017 on a beautiful beach in Mexico. It was the best trip that we've been on since having kids.  Aaralee had so much fun splashing and playing in the pool and I was blown away at how brave she has gotten since our last trip.  Briley loved running around the resort, chasing the coatis and napping on me as we floated around in our donut pool float.  After months of Ryan working out of town, it was the perfect week away as a family that we needed. 



Our camera (okay, Ryan's camera that I have adopted as my own) decided to stop working on that trip, which was rather disappointing.  Not only because it meant going half of the vacation with only phone photos, but it also meant that I'd be without the camera at home. As of recently I've been trying to take more photos of other people, aside from my children.  After a busy December of taking Christmas photos, I felt like I was just getting into the swing of things. Fortunately, I still have my own camera, and though it's less fancy, it still does the trick! I have a Facebook page now, should you feel so inclined to contribute to the "Camera repair" fund. 


That's pretty much all that I've got for updates and I believe that I've now procrastinated packing long enough. I can't wait to show you our new home and tell you all about the adventures we have planned over the next few months! 
Wish me luck, as it appears that I'll be without internet for the first few weeks and I'm not sure that I'm capable of quitting cold turkey.  

Oh Christmas Tree.

Nov 25, 2016

Since the very first time that Ryan and I brought a Christmas tree home together, we've opted for real trees.  They are a lot of work and a huge mess... but in our opinion, they are worth it.  Absolutely nothing beats the appearance nor the smell of a real, live tree.  For us, getting a tree is an experience in itself and an annual family tradition that I'd be sad to give up. 
Today we set out on our journey to find this year's perfect tree. Last year we discovered an amazing tree farm south of the city called Fir Ever Green.  We loved it so much that we had to return.  Upon arriving at the cute little log cabin, we were led to fields of row after row of beautiful, perfect trees.  Ryan held a saw and I pulled our girls on a sled as we set off in search of a tree to call our own. 


We walked past some modest, reasonably sized trees, but they just weren't right.  We wandered and wandered until we spotted it. 
The one. 
Our tree. 

I felt like a bride saying yes to the dress as I giddily danced around it and proclaimed it to be ours.  It was wide and full and would without a doubt take up half of our living room. It was perfect.  
Ryan got to work with the saw and after some hard work and sweat, it was down on the ground and ready to transfer to the car.  


Speaking of car... 
Ryan's beloved green Subaru has been parked for quite some time now, as he's been taking his newer, more reliable car to work up north.  However, we aren't ones to mess with tradition, so he put insurance back on it for the day and we all loaded into the cramped little car because getting a tree with any other car just didn't seem right. It was Briley's second ever ride in Daddy's car, the first being our trip to get a tree last year.  
Ryan hauled the tree through the field, back to the vehicle, and we both rolled it up the hood and onto the roof. Perks of driving a beater car: You can roll a tree onto it with no worries about scratching the paint.  It was massive, but we have no shame in our Griswold game.  


Back at the log cabin, Ryan and the owner forced the tree through a baler and then secured it back on the roof of the car. We paid for it and set off on our journey back home. We made a quick detour for some hot chocolate... because what is more Canadian than taking your freshly cut Christmas tree through the Tim Horton's drive thru?  


Back home, we set the tree up and removed the twine to watch the branches fall.  Our living room quickly disappeared and pine needles went flying... and we were happy.  The first day home with a Christmas tree always makes me feel like a child again.
Tonight as our girls slept in their rooms, we covered the tree in twinkling lights so that they can come downstairs tomorrow morning to embrace the magic that is the Christmas season.  Of course, a tree this big requires more lights than we accounted for, so we'll have to return to the store to purchase some more to fill in the gaps. After that, we'll decorate it as a family and then Briley will undecorate it on a daily basis for the next month.  


It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas at our house. Please feel free to come visit, smell my tree, and admire its beauty while eating baked goods than I plan to make in the very near future.  'Tis my favourite time of the whole entire year.  


Guess Who's Back?

Nov 16, 2016

Oh hey, it's me, Krysta... former blogger.
I'd ramble off a list of excuses as to why I've neglected to post in what feels like forever, but if we're being honest here... I've been lazy. My husband was working out of town for about 80% of the month of October and hasn't been around much this November either. Solo parenting is draining. When I finally get the kids down for bed I barely have the brain capacity to watch endless hours of HGTV, let alone write words that string together well enough to make any sense. That last giant sentence? That's just my end of day rambling.
It's not easy taking care of the kids on my own, but I'd take this any day over working away and only seeing my girls during nightly 5 minute FaceTime conversations. We are so thankful for how hard Ryan works to provide for our family, even if we really, really miss him some days.
Here's what we've been up to over the last little while:

We went to Ontario! It was so much fun to visit my family and to introduce Briley to some people that had never met her... or Ryan, for that matter.
While we were there we went to Niagara Falls, crossed the border to shop in Buffalo, and visited Toronto. Aaralee mentions the CN Tower on a daily basis since we've been home, and already wants to return.

Briley learnt to climb. Everything.  Stairs, chairs, couches, and shelves. I came out of the washroom one day to find her proudly standing on the kitchen counter.  If she can't reach something, she'll push over a toy or books to use as a stool. She's into everything, and throws epic tantrums when things don't go her way. 

Aaralee is in preschool and loving it! I'm so proud of her and how far she has come from the hysterical, scared little girl that I dropped off on day one.  She's learning new songs, making friends, and occasionally coming home with artwork that I'll keep forever.  


We celebrated Thanksgiving with my family and it was delicious! I really missed having my husband home for one of my favourite holidays, but still I have so much to be thankful for. Primarily the sweet little turkeys that I spend my days with.  


Halloween was so much fun this year.  Aaralee now has a full understanding of trick-or-treating, and she talked about it for weeks in advance. My girls dressed up as Cruella Deville and a dalmation... and it was awesome. It took me 3 days to be able to brush through Aaralee's hair afterwards, but it was more than worth it.  We went trick-or-treating with my mom and the girls quickly accumulated mass amounts of candy that I'd consume with guilt in the week that followed. 


Last weekend Ryan was off of work, so we took advantage and headed to Banff. It was supposed to be a blissful weekend getaway, and it was... until Briley came down with a fever and spent half of the weekend miserable and refusing to sleep.  On the bright side, we got to ride the gondola several times (thanks, season pass!), visit Lake Louise, and reunite with some of my friends from Dubai!  Oh, and we went on a date. A real date, with a babysitter that was not one of our mothers, for the first time ever.  We only went across the street and we came back early, but it was still awesome. We had a seafood feast followed by a visit to the chocolate shop, and I didn't even have to share. Babysitters are magical. I can't believe that it's taken me 3 years to make this discovery. 



Other than that, it's been life as usual lately. We go to the gym, occasionally visit with friends, watch a lot of Sesame Street and read the Berenstain Bears way too often. 
As hard as I try to appreciate every single moment, I'll admit that I find myself counting down the hours until bedtime every single day.  I'm looking forward to the day in which Ryan comes home for more than a few days at a time. 
Well, I'm mostly looking forward to it. I have grown pretty fond of sleeping at an angle across our king sized bed.  

Welcome, Fall.

Sep 22, 2016

It's official: Autumn has commenced.  Just like that, summer 2016 is over and done with.   Of course, if you live in Alberta, you're well aware of the fact that summer has already been gone for quite some time. The leaves are falling, the temperatures are dropping, and everything in the vicinity is pumpkin flavoured.  
To celebrate the last day of summer, I took my girls on a spontaneous day trip yesterday. Just east of the city lies Elk Island National Park, a little gem that is beautiful and rarely busy on weekdays.  I always want to go on little road-trips but rarely actually go.  All of my kid-free friends work during the week, and my parent friends typically prefer to plan ahead. It dawned on me that there is absolutely no reason why I'd need another adult to accompany me.  My girls are all the company that I need! 
I'd be lying if I said that we've had a great week. Between a nasty cold and teething, Briley has been a miserable, sad, sleep-refusing baby.  As a result, we were all rather exhausted and maybe a tiny bit grumpy. Perhaps a little bit of fresh air was the remedy that we needed.  
I packed a picnic, and away we went! The weather was perfect.  It was just cool enough outside that I could dress the girls in adorable fall sweaters and justify accessorizing them with unnecessary (yet adorable) infinity scarves and tiny boots.   


There were a few families and a school group, but for the most part the parking lot was empty and we had plenty of room to roam and explore.  Aaralee ran down the paths, crushing every single leaf that stood in her way.  We watched the birds and wandered the boardwalk by the water.  The girls absolutely loved exploring the teepee, running in and out and around in circles.  


My girls even sat miraculously for approximately 3 seconds... long enough for me to snap a photo of them both, looking at the camera, together.  All of you moms of 2 or more can appreciate my sense of accomplishment in that feat.

 

The highlight of the day was when we came across a big pile of leaves.  Despite her usual aversion to anything messy, Aaralee was happy to throw the leaves in the air and roll around listening to them crunch beneath her back.



  She showered Briley with leaves, which left them both laughing hysterically.  



After such a busy few weeks it was so nice to take a little break with my kids to let them just have fun and be kids.  Seeing the world through their eyes is my favourite thing in life. 


After plenty of running around and playing, we had a snack and then packed up the car. There was some serious eye rubbing occurring and I could tell that it was going to be a peaceful car ride home with 2 kids asleep in the backseat. 


We'd had so much fun, and we even spotted a bison on our way out of the park, much to Aaralee's excitement.  As predicted, they slept the entire ride home as I sang along to the radio and snacked on cookies.  
Saying goodbye to summer is never an easy task, but days like these make it better. When you have tiny, fun loving little people in your world it doesn't seem to matter what season it is. Every day is an adventure, and I can't wait for all that autumn has to offer. I feel like we have more day trips in our future, as long as the snow holds off for awhile longer.