Date Archives May 2016

Hallgrímskirkja Reykjavik

Hallgrímskirkja can be seen from almost anywhere in Reykjavík, and if you’re new to the city, is an excellent landmark around which to orient yourself. It’s also an ideal place from which to see the city–for a reasonable fee, you can take an elevator to the top (well, almost to the top, there are a few flights of stairs involved) and get a 360° view of Reykjavík. I tried to go as close to sunrise as possible for the beautiful morning light and also because I wouldn’t have to plan my day around it the way I would if I aimed for sunset. What am I doing in the afternoon? Lots. What am I doing at the asscrack of dawn? Generally nothing. Plus, you know, if I’m going to be struck dead for crossing a church threshold, better to get it over with early in the day so my pile of smoldering ashes can make the evening news.

clock view

The elevator goes to the clock level, and I couldn’t help but peep through the grimy windows to get a sense of what I was in for once I climbed the remaining stairs. What I glimpsed was enough to get me to hop the stairs two at a time to get to the level with an unobstructed view.

sunrise

reykjavik harbor sunrise

reykjavik harbor

Dang, Reykjavík, you’re beautiful. And Hallgrímskirkja, you’re a looker, too, inside and out. While I was back on the ground floor, I kept trying to get a peep of the stained glass that I knew was there, but all I could see was a sliver from around the enormous organ. So I sidled over to the elevator ticket seller and asked if there was any way I could go up to the floor where I could see the stained glass better. She led me to a side stair, and BAM: stained glass. And a replica of the church rendered in Lego!

organ

lego replica     stained glass

 

stained glass detail

I made sure to drop some extra cash in their donation basket on the way out as thanks for both the peep at the glass and also for the lack of smiting. My future making stupid jokes on the internet is, for now, secure.
 

Long ago in days of yore, it all began with a god named Thor: The Saga Museum

 

saga museum exterior

saga museum statue

Well, a bit after the time of Thor, actually. The Icelandic Sagas are narratives based on the 9th, 10th, and early 11th centuries (essentially the Viking age), about the struggles that early settlers faced in the harsh climate. The Saga Museum has rendered these histories in silicone to give you a visual representation of their great heroes, infamous villains, and everyone’s favorite, the black plague. I took the audio tour, but to be honest, I did not retain much information at all–I was distracted by the couple behind me who started the audio tour something like five minutes after me, which should have kept us a consistent distance apart, but they were up my butt almost immediately and stayed that way for the entire museum. I tried skipping ahead, I tried waiting long after the audio portion of an area had ended to let them pass, but they stuck to me like my backside was giving them oxygen. It was really distracting. If this were a professional travel blog, the writer in question would probably not post about the museum at all so as not to pass along disinformation. This is not a professional travel blog however, so instead I am going to make all the jokes I couldn’t make because of the aforementioned butt-clingers. At least until I get to the really important part. You’ll know it when you see it.

 no i am not busy at all please tell me about your band“No, I am not busy at all, please tell me about your band.”

i swear to god i will do it if you mention politics one more time at this brunch marci“I swear to god I will do it if you mention politics one more time at this brunch, Marci.”

yes hello did someone mention they needed the talents of a man or a dog“Hey did I hear boobs popping out of a shirt? Just checking”

snorriI do remember that this guy’s name is Snorri, and based on that information and also his haircut, I am going to assume that he’s one of the dwarves who stayed home.

i changed my mind lets play rock paper scissors instead“Oooh, I forgot I left the oven on, let’s continue this battle later byeeee”

no really i am very interested in this book of your vacation photos“No really, I am very interested in your dream journal. I’m not staring off into space, I’m, uh…contemplating the significance. Yeah.”

someone is having a bad day“Hey I changed my mind I am definitely not a witch, it was just a phase. It was just a phase!”

saga museum“This arranged marriage is working out great. Super great. Sure, there was that incident when I found him on AdultVikingFriendFinder but other than that, it’s been really, really, really great.”

bellows“Please tell me more about how hard that level in your video game is. Go on.”

your caption hereYOUR CAPTION HERE

areyouatrueviking

After the, uh, learning was done, it was time to determine whether or not we were true vikings, a process which involved putting on costumes and flailing around weapons wildly. It’s possible that I didn’t need to make fierce battle screams, but at the same time, I wanted to make it clear that I was in no way struggling with that twenty pound shield so as to better ascertain TRUE VIKING status. I think it’s safe for me to put it on my resume now. TRUE VIKING. But in which section? Accomplishments? School? Hobbies? All of them?

just a couple of vikings

viking

true viking

bear battle

hee hee fighting a bearThe background for this epic bear fight is pretty lame, though.

thatsbetter

Aaah, that’s better.

 

Give me one of every animal you have: Grillmarkadurinn Reykjavik

 

grillmarkadurinn exterior

grillmarkadurinn interior

fish and chips

thorsmork

It’s no secret that before I go somewhere that involves a flight, I do exhaustive research. Not because I’m a monster opposed to any and all spontaneity, but because I want to maximize my time. I may also be a monster opposed to any and all spontaneity, but I’ll leave that determination for a therapist. My obsessive planning reduces the chances that I’ll show up on a museum’s doorstep on the one day of the week they’re closed, that I’ll eat dinner at a crummy restaurant when there’s one I would have enjoyed more just down the street. First, if any friends have been to that area, I’ll pump them for personal recommendations. On this trip, my friend Shannon was an invaluable resource–she’s the one who warned me it gets much colder at night and that I needed to invest in some waterproof fleece-lined pants. It’s not her fault that I didn’t wear them…once. I did, however, keep them strapped to my ass the rest of the time, grateful for her suggestion. I also scour travel guides, blogs, and anywhere else that I think their tastes may align with my own–because that’s important, too. I don’t want to get recommendations from the same people in my local facebook community who would wholeheartedly recommend papa murphy’s as the best pizza place in the entire city: just because any pizza is generally pretty good (because it’s pizza), if I want something remarkable, I want a recommendation from someone who has also eaten a lot of pizza and knows what’s remarkable. I don’t want a recommendation from an unbearable douchebag. One place that has always knocked it out of the park for me recommendation-wise are the makeupalley boards, which may seem weird at first, but once you consider that it’s mostly women, generally in my age range, not afraid to try things and share their opinions and it starts to make more sense that I’d use it as a resource. One of the places that came highly recommended was Grillmarkadurinn.

We happened to be in the area around lunchtime, and stopped in. While I couldn’t have been more delighted with my fish and chips and my twenty-three dollar (USD!) fancy-pants drink, a Þórsmörk, the thing I really wanted to try on their menu, they don’t serve at lunch: a horse fillet. Hear me out: in addition to being beautiful and fun to ride and what have you, I have heard that they are also delicious. When I was a horse-crazy kid, I received a lot of books about horses for birthdays and other holidays, and checked out many more from the library in my quest to absorb all things horse. I vividly remember that one of them spoke about a European (French?) ruler (king? general? fancypants aristocrat? This was over twenty years ago, cut me some slack) who loved the taste of horseflesh so much that he would literally bathe in horse broth, eating floating chunks of meat as it pleased him. This is something that made quite an impression on young Mellzah. Not enough to be able to find any evidence of it actually being a thing, no matter how many internet searches I did for the story and for the book in question, probably borking up my amazon recommendations forever and ending up on some kind of list of potential internet weirdos. Be that as it may, whether the story is true or not (probably not), I was bound and determined to try horse if given the opportunity, so I made reservations for dinner at lunch.

When I came back that evening, some of the staff recognized me and gave me a queer look. “Weren’t you just here for lunch?” Yes, yes I was. Don’t judge me, love me.

The restaurant was much more crowded at dinner, so I didn’t feel comfortable whipping out a camera or a phone to take photos of the meal. I’m not one of those bloggers who feels no shame and stands right up on their chair to get that perfect snap, wafting my butt in a neighboring table’s face space so I can make the internet jealous of my meal while it slowly gets cold and less palatable as I arrange and rearrange the table. That will never be me. So help me god, if you’re out with me and I do that, do the right thing and pull the chair out from under me while coldly asking if I had mistaken the establishment for a jungle gym. Be the hero the world deserves.

Ahem. So given that I’d eaten lunch not terribly long before, I elected to split the horse filet with Jason, so I’d have a bit of room left in case I felt the need to try any more weird licorice candy on the way back to the hotel (that is a need that I generally always have in the presence of licorice) and so I’d also have room for puffin and langoustine sliders, another special they don’t serve at lunch. In my post-Iceland research (looking futilely for horse soup bath verification), I learned that most people consider horse to be a leaner, drier meat. I don’t know if Grillmarkadurinn lards their horse fillets (filly-ets), but my meal was juicy, flavorful, and rivaled some of the better steaks I’ve eaten–between this horse steak and the imported A5 kobe I tried (the gold beef standard), I’d actually pick the horse, as A5 is almost unpleasantly rich. I’m not going to start bathing in it, though.

Who would have thought a whale could be so heavy? Whales of Iceland

whale skeleton

It took some doing to find the Whales of Iceland building–it looks like a nondescript warehouse in a street filled with nondescript warehouses. Compounding things, it had some confusing signage on the outside and it didn’t look open. “Nuts to that, I’m cold and I’m going in,” I declared. Thankfully, what could have been my last words before I ended up in Icelandic prison turned out instead to just be yet another bit of complaining before ending up exactly where I meant to be, which is often the case. My most uttered sentence may well be “Where in the hell is–oh, there it is.”

Whales of Iceland has to be in a warehouse-it’s the only sort of building large enough to contain its displays: life size whale replicas. It’s hard to fathom the size of some of Earth’s largest inhabitants, hidden beneath the waves as they are, until you’re standing beside them. It’s still hard to comprehend, even then. At some point, my brain just kind of shuts down in a loop of “That’s really, really, really, really big. Like, really, really, really, really, really big.” Like, rilly.

For example, when I went whale watching, the boat had to maintain a pretty solid distance from the whales (I’m not complaining, I’m just saying), so it was difficult to get a sense of scale. At Whales of Iceland, you can definitely get an idea as to which species you could conceivably ride should you find yourself in the ocean with the power to command whales. You could definitely get an even better idea of rideability if Whales of Iceland would go ahead and fit all the whales with saddles, just saying.

orcaRideable.

baby orcaNot rideable.

orca smileRideable, and very amenable to being ridden. A++

narwhal frontUseful as a mount and a weapon.

narwhal

pilot whalesRideable.

belugaNot rideable.

actual right whaleThe SUV of whale mounts, eminently rideable.

right whale

baleen smileRideable.

blue whaleRideable, the double decker bus of whale mounts.

humpback whale

iceland whalesRideable, rideable.

sperm whaleRideable but may turn on you.

whale at whales of icelandIs this joke getting old? It’s getting old. Would still ride, though.

whale scale

whale

whales of iceland

interactive whale display

In addition to wandering around, pretending all of the underwater carnage you’d cause as Poseiden, lord of the sea and rider of whales, there is a educational display where you could learn about whale anatomy and physiology–the display itself would change as you learned about different functions, animating or playing video to illustrate the point that was being made. They also have a “swimming with whales” VR experience, though I had to specially ask for it at the cafe. My best guess is that having to check it out makes it less likely that the headset will, uh, walk away with a guest. Each entrance also comes with free coffee or tea, so you can warm up, sit, and contemplate your place in nature.

drinking coffee among the whales

Or flip through the guestbook, where people have drawn some remarkably detailed whales.

guestbook

guestbookdrawing

whale eye

…and vulvas. “Whale eye,”  indeed. THAR SHE BLOWS!

Ahem.

Once you’ve absorbed as much whale as you’re physically able, you exit through the gift shop (of course). In addition to the t-shirts, magnets, and keychains, they also sold what I believe can only be described as an orca whale that has been stretched on a torture rack and turned into a whale-shaped whale whip, for all of your whale riding needs. Seriously, guys, make with the saddles. Think of the photo ops!

loooooooong orca

whale of a time

Spotted on the Roadside: A Monument to an Online Empire

 

eve online monument iceland

eve online monument

eve online player monument

j monument

player names

tile lifting

Once upon a time, about a decade ago, there was a young man in the greater Seattle area who seriously considered dropping out of school to play Eve Online, whiling away his days in his parents’ basement, eating cheetos, and engaging in virtual space warfare and corporate espionage. I think it’s a pretty safe bet that if that young man had followed through with this course of action, there’s no way he would have ever visited this monument to the game and its players that was dedicated in 2014 and we wouldn’t be married. His name would have been on the monument, though, so I guess all decisions come with sacrifices. The End.

Spotted in the old Reykjavik harbor, Iceland.

 

Iceland’s Golden Circle

I staggered back to the hotel around three am after looking for the northern lights and slept like the dead…for three hours until my alarm went off to rouse me for the golden circle tour. Almost every single part of me wanted to stay in that bed, save for the part that wanted to shatter the alarm clock with a rock first and then go back to bed. What kind of sadist tour agency books an early morning tour immediately after a late night tour? I mean, granted, that’s probably something I would have done anyway if I was in charge of scheduling as I subscribe to the “cram as much as humanly possible into one trip, sleep is for the dead” school of thought…at least until that alarm goes off in the stark cold morning and I’m the coziest hedgehog that ever curled into a blanket burrow and then I think “sleep is for me, sleep is for meeeeeee.” Either way, I always get up, looking forlornly at the bed, and this sullen state of mind usually continues until I get some food in me, also known as the Pre-Food Grumps™.

Iceland’s “golden circle” is a ~200 mile loop that comprises a number of tourist destinations, primarily Geysir, Gullfoss, and Þingvellir. Reykjavik Excursions must be familiar with the Pre-Food Grumps™, as the first stop on their golden circle tour is Friðheimar, which you will note is not on the list of three things I mentioned above. Friðheimar is known for growing tomatoes year round in greenhouses under artificial lighting. As you may or may not know, Iceland is a young land, geologically speaking. It’s still developing, and is very volcanically active. Natural forces bring Earth’s heat close to the surface, which allows the country to use inexpensive and clean geothermal energy to heat and light their homes…and to power these sorts of greenhouses to grow crops. Through the use of these greenhouses, they’re actually able to grow local bananas, a fruit you would never expect to find in their climate.

On the way to Friðheimar, our tour guide explained a bit more about food production in Iceland. Now, I am not mocking her at all–she was knowledgeable, well-versed in English, and I liked her quite a bit–but occasionally she would come up with a turn of phrase that just boggled the mind. For instance, when talking about geothermal activity in Iceland, she went on to explain that in some areas, the ground is too hot for people to bury their dead and that thinking about that problem was something that “put a little smile” on her face. Yes,  I often get a little smile when thinking about the problems of others, but generally that’s not something one discusses among company one doesn’t know particularly well. As we pulled into the Friðheimar parking lot, she told us that these were the best tomatoes we would ever eat, and they were grown completely without the use of “shamicles”. You would be wrong if you thought that “shamicles” has not worked its way into my regular vocabulary, and not always as a substitute for the word “chemicals”. As an example, the homeopathic natural remedy section at Whole Foods is FULL of shamicles.

tomatoes

so many tomatoes

marys menu

At Friðheimar, there was signage everywhere proclaiming that NOW is the best time of the day for a bloody mary. Jason is particularly suggestible when it comes to this sort of thing (I may or may not have tricked him into marrying me by leaving photos of wedding bands laying around) and this is how he ended up with the world’s finest bloody mary at 9am. At 9:01am, he learned that he doesn’t actually like bloody marys. I, too, am not a fan of the bloody mary,  though I briefly considered the “healthy mary” (green tomato, lime, honey and ginger, served chilled with sparkling water) or the “happy mary” (the healthy mary, but with added gin, hence the happiness). If you really want to get your motor revving bright and early, you can also elect to purchase a hollowed out tomato filled with schnapps. It was a little early for me to be hitting the sauce, particularly at the start of an all-day tour, so I passed. However, I remain intrigued by their dessert menu, which includes a green tomato and apple pie, tomato ice cream, and cheesecake with a green tomato cinnamon jam–so much so that I’m considering importing some of their products to try at my leisure.

bloody mary

Our next stop was Geysir, the periodically spouting hot spring from which the English word “geyser” also spouted. One of our fellow bus riders was so anxious to witness the phenomenon than he stood up and began grabbing his bags before the bus came to a stop, which prompted our tour guide to scold him with “You must listen to me or you will fall down and hurt yourself very badly!” to which Jason followed up with a whisper in my ear “and then I’ll get a little smile on my face!” which caused me to erupt in raucous laughter, like a different (more obnoxious) sort of geyser.

After we deboarded, we carefully made our way to the hot springs, as the constant water droplets cause the pathways to turn into sheets of ice. Nearby trees were crusted with ice solely on their geyser-facing side. The surrounding landscape was almost otherworldly, with smoking holes bubbling gases into the air, and every few minutes, the heavy sigh of Strokkur pluming boiling water into the sky. Geysir itself erupts infrequently.

In case the wonder of nature wears off, thankfully, there’s an adjacent gift shop with some really upscale items, like fur hats that I couldn’t stop petting until I worked out the price conversion and gagged a little…and then petted them some more because there was no way they were coming home with me. There were also some items that looked suspiciously like walrus pajamas, from the Danny Devito line for well-dressed walruses.

geysir hot springs

alien landscape

punching the sky

coated tree

walrus suits

After we’d had enough of water shooting up, it was time to watch water go down at Gullfoss. Gullfoss (or “golden falls”) is so named because of the way the waterfall lights up golden when the light strikes it just so, and has nothing at all to do with another phrase you may have heard, golden showers. I didn’t personally see the water glitter golden (it could have been the wrong time of day, too many clouds, or some other factor), but it is a gorgeous falls nonetheless. The popular legend about Gullfoss is that foreign interests wanted to turn it into a hydroelectric plant in the early 1900s, but that the daughter of the farmer who had leased the land, Sigriður Tómasdóttir, was so opposed that she fought a legal battle to prevent this from happening, walking to Reykjavik barefoot more than once, bleeding due to the rocky terrain, and she even threatened to throw herself into the falls themselves should she not prevail in court. Some sources say this story is true, others claim it’s false,  and since I’m not a research librarian and from all available evidence, you mostly read this blog out of pity for me and for jokes about butts, not accurate historical information, all I’ll say is thank you for your pity, and butts butts butts.

jason gullfoss

gullfoss 1

dont walk

gullfoss

gullfoss water

gullfoss pano

gullfoss iceland

 gullfoss flare

Next to Gullfoss is another gift shop, in case you found yourself with a desperate need of a keychain between your last stop and this one. I took a quick pass through (because you know me, I like stuff) and it was basically the same stuff I’d seen everywhere else on the trip. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, per se, I guess I just would have expected a little more variation from place to place–things that spoke more specifically to the exact place at which one is standing (“Sigriður Tómasdóttir threw herself into Gullfoss and all I got was this lousy t-shirt”, etc) but that just might be my American consumerism talking.

After reboarding the bus, the tour guide told us that we were coming up to her favorite part of the tour–the part where she stops talking for an hour, so if we’d like to nap and not miss anything, now would be the time. It seems all I needed was for someone to reassure me that I wouldn’t miss anything, as I fell asleep in seconds, drool running down my chin in a poor imitation of the waterfall. By the time the tour guide started talking again, I was feeling a bit more refreshed and a bit less like a member of the walking dead, saliva nonwithstanding. We had arrived at Þingvellir national park, the place where the north american and eurasian tectonic plates meet. You can actually see the continental drift between the plates, and walk along the Almannagjá fault, which is what we did. Other tours are available to go snorkeling between the plates in the Silfra fissure in the Þingvallavatn lake, which supposedly has some of the most crystal clear water in the world. I’m not the world’s most avid snorkeler, so that’s not a claim that I can personally verify, electing to spend my time doing something other than panicking quietly in a drysuit.

boulder cliff edges

cliff

walking path

rocky cliffs  pathway    j bundled             t walkway

church    

running water

pano

As we were leaving the park, the weather turned nasty. The skies grew dark, rain lashed at the side of the bus, and someone driving behind the bus felt the driver was taking things a bit too cautiously, laying on the horn the entire time he passed us. We saw him a few miles up the road being dug out of a snowdrift.

…It put a little smile on my face.

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A Game of Crones: Mellzah’s 34th Nameday

Last year, I set thirty-three goals for my thirty-third year (you may recall, as I’ve talked about and backlinked to it nigh-endlessly). Unfortunately, I wasn’t 100% successful–I managed a good 2/3rds of the list, but a combination of over-ambitious scheduling, somewhat under-achieving, and a few other factors (weather and the like) prevented me from getting all the way there. At first, I was a little mad at myself–“I couldn’t manage to do thirty-three things in a year? Seriously?” especially given that I’m lucky enough to have much more free time than most: no kids, no job, etc. But on the other hand, it was partially my desire to have a well-rounded list, not just things to see but things to achieve, that was my own undoing. It’s one thing to make a list that says do/make/learn on it with an arbitrary timeline, and another to cast hundreds of resin brigandine armor pieces while learning a language and trying to do art for several different projects and…it was all just too much.

But even when I didn’t achieve my goal, I often made good strides toward it–I didn’t reach my goal weight, but I lost 70 pounds, while changing the fact that I had been slowly disappearing from my own blog for the last few years as my weight ballooned. I didn’t finish my sketchbook but I rediscovered my love of drawing. I didn’t run a 5k, but I learned just how much I actually hate running. And the successes I had changed my life for the better– my new recipes tried per week averaged way higher than one, which meant I tried so many new things, learned new techniques, and didn’t suffer the crushing boredom that usually comes with extended dieting. The peach tree I planted last year has little baby peaches on it now–a few years from now, it should produce enough to bake with as well as eat fresh. Either way, I’ve decided to not up the stakes with 34 things this year: I don’t want to spend the next year rushing from thing to thing just to check it off my list or feel guilty for not having done so. Instead, I’m just going to jot down some things privately and when I’m dinking around on World of Warcraft, maybe it’ll give me a reminder about the longer term goals that I have and how I could better be spending my time.

Speaking of spending my time, around January this year, I decided that I wanted to have a big, fabulous birthday party this year, akin to some of the parties I’ve thrown of old. A magical, wonderful, fantastical, frabjabular party. And since my birthday weekend neatly coincided with the season premiere of Game of Thrones, it seemed like an excellent opportunity to have a grand Westerosi name day celebration. Planning started in earnest almost immediately: this wasn’t the sort of thing I could half-ass and achieve the effect I was going for, which meant that just about everything had to be made from scratch or altered in some way to live up to my standards.

lsp

First up were the invitations. I used this template from Inn at the Crossroads and printed it out on some natural colored cardstock, and “gilded” all of the yellow elements on the card with gold tempera powder. Each invitation had a black feather stuffed inside and was finished off with a wax seal with a “hand of the king” impression…and no return address. Mysterious!

 

invitation

invitations

I asked guests to send a raven to RSVP, and many of the “ravens” I received in return were very clever, with my two favorites being the Poe poem “The Raven” altered to fit the theme, and the other being a raven finger puppet with a message of regret in Dothraki.

To set the scene, I wanted some large, eye-catching props, so to create the feel of a tourney ground in my backyard, I cut a number of vinyl shower curtains in half and painted house sigils on them. This was a lot more cost and time effective than rendering them in cloth, which is what I did for my Midnight Carnival (eight freaking years ago!). Instead of shelling out $100 for the officially licensed dragon eggs, I made my own from styrofoam ostrich eggs and about a jillion thumb tacks. Instead of shelling out $150 for the officially licensed map markers, I made my own crude ones with some air-cure clay.  Instead of shelling out $30,000 (plus shipping) for the officially licensed iron throne replica, I cobbled one together using an adirondack chair, yardsticks, fun foam, a glue gun, and some spray paint. I also bought and polished a number of silver servingware pieces from thrift shops (many for just a couple of bucks while the brand new ones in department stores are going for several hundred!) so that my feast could be appropriately schmancy. The idea was to save where I could so I could splurge elsewhere.

got house sigil banners

finished dragon eggs

iron throne

servingware

I also made my dress (which was supposed to be heavily embroidered but I ran out of time/ambition beforehand), covered an archery target with burlap and Joffrey’s stupid face, fixed up a foam bow and arrow toy set so it looked a little less plastic-y (there was no way I was going to let a bunch of drunk adults shoot real arrows in my backyard, a decision that was justified the first time an arrow launched over the fence and pegged a car), aged some “lost Nymeria” posters, and in proper Song of Ice and Fire fashion, made (and bought)  a fuckton of food:

  • Beef brisket
  • Chopped pork
  • Roasted chickens
  • Jalapeno artichoke dip served in hollowed out artichokes (they looked vaguely dragon egg-y to me)
  • Candied lemon almonds
  • Candied peppered pecans
  • Carrots with butter, honey, and lemon
  • Spinach salad with goat cheese, strawberries, and edible flowers
  • Spiced crunchy chickpeas
  • Brie with lavender honey and bourbon pecans
  • Fresh baked bread & salt
  • Lemon cakes topped with candied lemon slices
  • Apple pie
  • Strawberry pie
  • Salted honey rose pie
  • Spiced Dornish strongwine
  • Sekahnjebin

Plus, I had a case of red wine, and a keg of beer from Black Raven Brewing Co, so hopefully no one went hungry or thirsty or sober on my watch. These were all served on plates that looked like silver shields, and drinks were from goblets and silver coffee mugs that looked a bit like flagons, because every last damn detail has to be just so in my world, which might have something to do with me only being able to throw a party of this magnitude every few years or so lest I spend all of my nights waking up in a panic about plates and the weather forecast. I managed to take zero photos of the spread, because pretty much by the time it all comes together, everyone’s at the party and ready to eat. Besides, as I am not a food blogger, I manage to make even the most delicious food look unappetizing in a photograph. I just don’t have those skills.

I got so, so lucky with the weather for this party. We’d been having an unseasonably warm spring, and had three beautiful sunny and warm weekends in a row…so what was the forecast for my outdoor party? Rain. Cold. And every time I looked at the forecast, it got worse. Harder rain. Thunderstorms. Pretty much every screech of despair that happened in the house that week was because I had pulled up the weather forecast, save for a couple when I was trying to sew my dress and fucked it up pretty badly. There were a lot of screeches of despair that week. Luckily, the day of the party was dry and cool, with the rain holding off until past sunset at which point I didn’t care anymore. It would have been really hard to convince everyone to go outside if it was pouring, and while I could have probably fit that many people in my house in a worst-case scenario, I think everyone is much more comfortable if they have the option for fresh air.

oberyn

have you seen this wolf

So, I mentioned splurging up above. Splurging on what, you ask? On the elements of the party that I was dying to tell people about beforehand. Somehow I managed to keep my trap shut, and in the process, I probably took a couple of years off of my life holding it all in. If I have a secret, I will want to tell it. I will be dying to tell it. You should never, ever tell me a secret. First, I hired the amazing Ashley from Camlann to make fresh flower crowns for anyone who wanted them. Second, I was lucky enough to be able to hire the Seattle Knights to battle in my backyard. About twenty minutes before the knights were due to perform, I hustled everyone out into the backyard for an archery contest, with the prizes being some golden dragon eggs stuffed with small GoT swag–a hand of the king pin, a mockingbird pin, and a coin of the faceless men of Braavos. When the knights strode in, clad in plate and mail, jaws dropped. They did battle for an hour, sang me a birthday dirge, mingled with guests, took photos with anyone who wanted them, and were generally the most freaking awesome people in the world. IN THE WORLD. I may never have another party better than this one.

archery

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flower crown table

emily

house banners

joff target

joffrey target

jorrie

a and c

me and chantal

ash

 

georgia 1

 

flower crown

 

llllladies

 

j crown

 

knights battling

 

knight battle

 

 

smite

 

 

chris

 

d and j         georgia        jason 

  khaleesi

dany takes the throne

Hunting for the Aurora Borealis in Iceland

One of the things in Iceland I was most hopeful I’d see was the northern lights. The flight and hotel package included a northern lights tour courtesy Reykjavik Excusions, which was smartly booked for the evening of my arrival–I say smartly because if you are unlucky in your evening’s attempt, the tour company will take you out again and again at no additional charge until you’re successful or you run out of time. Even so, I tried my best not to have my hopes too high: there’s no guarantee that the weather and the lights will cooperate, and if I made it the focus of my trip, the big bucket list experience I was dying to have, I knew I was setting myself up for disappointment…and who the heck wants to have a big trip framed by disappointment? Thus, I kept in mind that having the best time in Iceland that I could was the focus, and the lights, if I saw them, would be a nice bonus.

Before my tour, I had a little time to check in to my hotel and get settled, post horseback ride. Given that I was so exhausted from the flight, I elected to use a little of that time to try and take a nap, saving a couple of hours before the tour bus picked me up to go eat dinner. This short time window was when I learned something important about Reykjavik: if you don’t have dinner reservations, you aren’t getting in anywhere, even mid-week. I tried no fewer than four restaurants and was turned away from them all. My hunger grew larger as my time grew shorter, and ultimately, I had to buy dinner from the Icelandic equivalent of 7/11, 10-11. My healthy purchases included a sandwich called a “pepperoni taco”, a bag of mini cinnamon rolls, bacon maple syrup popcorn, and a couple of kinds of candy I’d never seen before, including one called “Dracula Blood”, which was easily one of the worst things I’ve ever eaten (and just let me remind you that I’ve eaten salsa stuffed with mealworms and a centipede flavored jellybean). Dracula Blood tastes of salty pennies and licorice, and just when I’d gotten past the salty penny coating to the more pleasing licorice part, I discovered it was filled with salty penny gunk as well. One pastille was more than enough, regardless of the recommended serving size.

dinner

With dinner down the hatch, I made my way to the lobby to wait for the bus. So far, Iceland hadn’t been as cold as I’d been anticipating, so I elected not to wear my outermost snow pants. They were a little snug in the gut region (it couldn’t be all that candy for dinner, could it?)  and I’d already managed to break the zipper once, because I’d bought the cheapest possible pair online. Why spend the evening worrying about whether or not my long undies were showing through my fly when I could be in relative comfort without them? This was a decision I almost immediately regretted when I stepped off the bus into a snowdrift that went up to my knees, soaking my pants.

The cold was unbelievable. I have no doubt that I’ve been spoiled (weakened) by mild Washington and California winters; I’m no longer the same Wisconsin kid who could wait for the bus in sub zero temperatures wearing only a hoodie, the kid who looked cool* but didn’t feel cold. Lately, I shiver when the temperature in the house is a balmy sixty-five, and my poor husband has to tolerate the icebergs, formally known as human feet, that I plant on him under the sheets every night. I have never implied that being married to me is a treat, so if you ever found yourself thinking “Oh wow, Mellzah is so cool and wonderful and beautiful, I only wish she had a clone that I could make my bride,” you should know that you’d be signing up for a lifetime of tantrums and torture.

I’d brought along a few packets of hand and foot warmers, which barely made a dent in the bone-chilling cold. At first, I stuffed my hands in my pockets, but eventually, I pulled my arms out of my jacket sleeves and kept them pressed against my torso in the hopes that they would not need to be chopped off later due to frostbite. My feet, tucked inside waterproof boots and thick socks, went numb almost immediately. The icy wind bit at my cheeks as I stared futilely at the sky. I didn’t know what I hoped for more–the aurora borealis in the sky or the warmth you’re supposed to feel when you’re close to freezing to death. After thirty minutes or possibly much less (time has a way of stretching when one is in misery), I’d had enough and trudged back to my bus to await the trip back to the hotel.

The tour group, however, was not ready to call it quits, possibly because they’d reached bus capacity. The bus that picked up tourists from our hotel and several others met up with something like twelve other buses before we headed out, and if we went back before seeing the northern lights, that’s twelve busloads of people who would potentially be back the next night demanding a free second outing…in addition to any new bookings. With the limits of their bus fleet in mind, we trekked on to a different spot while I tried to rub feeling back into my toes. It was there that we got lucky. Our tour bus driver said that the aurora we saw that night was the best we could hope to see under the circumstances–those circumstances being that we were only four days away from a full moon, and the sky being so brightened by the reflected light not making for ideal viewing conditions, which, come to think of it, is probably why the week I booked the trip was significantly less expensive than one a week earlier or two weeks later.

I made my way off the bus, up an ice-slicked hill, looked up at the sky, and saw what I can only describe as a dirty gray smear that may or may not have been moving, and if someone hadn’t told me it was the aurora, I would have assumed it was an unremarkable cloud. It was certainly not the spectacle of dancing green lights I had come to expect from years of looking at photographs of the aurora, and even with my “anything you see is a bonus” mindset, I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointment.

aurora

Cameras, however, can capture things that would otherwise be invisible to the human eye, and sometimes, post processing reveals things one didn’t notice at the time.

 

better aurora

 

…ah, that’s better.

 

*I was never cool.

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