Small Joys: Gardening

My mom and grandparents have always been the green thumbs of the family. As a kid, I saw the garden and its associated chores more as a punishment then a pleasure. But the just like my blue eyes and shorter stature, there are certain passions that inevitably pop up and take root in my heart that I can only blame my parents for passing on. This year, that gardening gene, 25 years dormant, flared up. Unable to resist my DNA, I had to dig in the dirt and grow little plant. 

I've made some mistakes, learned much and enjoyed every minute of it. Compared to my mother's half acre gardens, I've started small with just three 4'x8' beds and a couple flower beds around the house.

At our old house, I never planted anything I cared about and had no interest in landscaping. I think deep down I felt it was best not to invest too much into a place we might not stay for a long time. This new home has been the opposite. I've put effort and work into long term investments. I haven't hesitated to let my heart fall in love and let my dreams fill this place. This is home. I can feel my own roots digging deep into this place just as much as my little plant's are.

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Gathering up things that brought joy this week and taking a moment to be grateful.

These lilies surprised me. They were a bonus that came with the house and I didn't know about until recently. As they grew and put out buds I could barely contain my excitement to see what color they would be. They did not disappoint. I don't think I've ever seen this color lily and I just love it.

The same happened with a couple rose bushes I found hiding in our flower beds. They're done now, but I loved visiting them every day they were blooming and seeing their pink blossoms swarming with bees.

My vegetable garden has been doing so well, even though I'm the silly goose who planted enough broccoli and cabbage seeds to fill 10 beds with only those two plants. My mom is an expert lettuce grower and I'm working on my own skills in that category. So far so good, but not quite big enough for a salad yet.

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My peppers have baby peppers! I'm so excited to make some salsa this summer and can barely wait for it.

Along our garage someone planted three lavender plants along with strawberries. I'd never heard of this combo. My best guess is that the lavender is meant to keep pests away from the berries? This past week the lavender was ready for picking. So far I've harvested 4 bunches and have them hung to dry in our bedroom. I can't get over how amazing fresh lavender smells compared to all the scented products that claim to be lavender. The real thing is infinitely better.

Nothing has made me feel more like a real gardener than when I said "I need rubber boots." I haven't had a pair since I moved away from my parent's farm. They are completely linked to garden and farm work in my mind. I found L.L.Bean wellies that are easy to pull on and will hopefully last a long time. Now my feet don't get wet when I'm working outside. 

Love of red geraniums are another trait I inherited from my mom and this plant I bought last year fulfills every dream of deep red flowers I've ever had. Somehow I kept it alive on my dryer all winter and now it's putting our the most beautiful red petals. I've propagated a couple from this plant and I'm hoping its babies have the same color blooms.

Finally, I'm so grateful for sunsets at home. I've been spending the last hour or so of every day our in the yard tending to my plants. It's cool enough for transplanting and watering. A bonus is that it's also the most beautiful time of day. We allowed the back half of our yard to grow out instead of mowing it. Every evening I catch my breath when the wind and sunset play across the long grass. 

I’d like to add some beauty to life,” said Anne dreamily. “I don’t exactly want to make people KNOW more... though I know that IS the noblest ambition... but I’d love to make them have a pleasanter time because of me... to have some little joy or happy thought that would never have existed if I hadn’t been born.
— L.M. Montgomery, Anne's House of Dreams

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Small Joys: XIII

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There are two ways to get enough. One is to continue to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less.
— G.K.Chesterton

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At the end of April I turned in my computer and keys and left my graphic design job. It was my first full time, adult job and I would have celebrated four years with the company this summer. It was an amazing first job. I learned more than any college class could ever teach. The guy who started the company still walked by my desk every day and genuinely cared for us as people. My coworkers had become friends. But once we moved and I started working remotely, it just wasn't the same anymore. So after four months, it was time to move on. 

Since then, I've kept busy. I'm not actively searching for a new job yet. Dave and I decided that I should take the summer to help my sister get married, work on finishing our house projects and decorating, visit my grandparents, and generally enjoy summertime. 

To say that the past few week have been fun would be an understatement. I feel like a kid on summer vacation, except I've learned what it's like to go to work every day during the summer, so I appreciate these blissful days all the more. I walk around filled with so much gratitude for life and all the little joys that fill my days.

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Gathering up things that brought joy this week and taking a moment to be grateful.

I got to go strawberry picking this week. It was so fun to fill the box and bring them home. We've been popping them in our mouths at every opportunity. There's nothing quite like fruit when it's in season.

My mom taught me her sourdough recipe and we've been enjoying real bread almost every week. I love the rhythm of feeding the starter, letting the bread rise and then forming the loaves. It feels therapeutic in a way. There is so much beauty in simple things. 

We finally bought a couch. It took us years of secondhand, craigslist finds with sheets to cover nasty upholstery to bite the bullet and go to a store and bring home a couch we love. It's been so much fun to have a comfy living room. I also have to admit, our house all of a sudden feels like a place two adults live.

When we moved to the new house, I found a flower bed that had 3 lavender plants in it. This week the blooms were finally perfect for harvesting, so I have the cutest bundle of lavender hanging to dry now. The best part is that the plants have way more still waiting to be picked.

And finally, I've always dreamed of having enough flowers in my garden that I can pick some and bring them inside whenever I want. This year we're still planting and investing in the flower beds, but we've had enough that I can keep this little bud vase full. It's the best.

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Wishing each one of you the sweetest weekend and a moment or two to soak in all the pretty things that this wonderful season has to offer. Happy Summer!

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House + Home: the kitchen

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Here it is! Our new kitchen in all it's bright and beautiful glory. So excited to finally share it with you.

Of all the things we did to this little house, the kitchen is the one that gives me the most daily joy. 

It may sound silly, but since we finished things up on this remodel, I find myself enjoying chores like doing the dishes and if you know me, that a huge deal. Dishes have always been the bane of my existence. Now I just want my cute little kitchen to be clean and the work to get it tidy is 100% worth it. We spent almost 2 months cooking with only a toaster oven and electric kettle, so you better believe I was over the moon once I got to start cooking in a real kitchen again.

In case you'd forgotten this is what the kitchen used to look like:

The glorious light streaming in makes the room look so much cuter than it was. But those drawers were only boxes with handles that if you pulled too hard, would dump their contents on your toes. The sink was a grand total of 6 inches deep. I could not reach the handles on the top cabinets without standing on my tip toes. The fridge opened up to block the main walkway into the living room. It wasn't the worst, but it was a handmade kitchen from the 1950s and not functional or pleasant.

After alot of imagination, a blizzard drive to Ikea, some really hard work and a whole lot of love, we now have this: 

Now, I know the room basically stayed the same. We didn't change the layout, size or general function. We didn't remove walls or install new windows. We even left some of the old cabinets up and didn't redo everything. But it still feels like a completely different room. 

Isn't she a beaut!? I can't get over that before/after myself. Here are a few more angles:

For our budget, this is a whole lot of bang for our buck. Our goal was, in the words of Dave, to "spend as little money as possible." 

I spent days brainstorming, sketching, researching and dreaming of what we could do to make this into a cheery space. Since I love to cook and can easily spend hours in the kitchen, it was extremely important to me.

When we added everything up at the end of the project the total for this came in under $2500. That includes a brand new dishwasher, all new lower cabinets (9 drawers!), sink, and faucet. I wasn't actually going to say how much we spent, but I just added it all up and was so proud of us for keeping things reasonable, I had to share. Considering the 2017 average kitchen renovation budget is 20k, I couldn't be happier with not only our results, but our costs as well.

*Note: I know talking about money can be tricky and that to some what we spent is a measly sum and to some it's crazy expensive. However we did buy the house knowing it needed updating and budgeted a certain amount. We consider it an investment that we get to enjoy along the way. :)

We had some pretty lofty goals for the kitchen and by the time we finally finished we had:

  • Removed linoleum and had the floor refinished
  • Demoed bottom cabinets
  • Built and installed new cabinet lowers
  • Put in new countertops, sink, and faucet
  • Added a dishwasher
  • Switched the stove and fridge placement
  • Removed the weird backsplash "arcs" 
  • Tiled the backsplash 
  • Painted the upper cabinets to match the lowers
  • Updated the cabinet hardware
  • Gave the whole room a fresh coat of paint
  • Exchanged the overhead light fixture
  • Installed a new/brighter light fixture above the sink and added a switch
  • Built shelves for the north wall

Phew, listing it all out makes me feel tired. Dave and I did all the work ourselves with some help from his brother with the cabinets and a professional electrician when necessary.

As far as the style, I love country and farmhouse style and knew that it was important to keep the room bright. There is only one window and my goal was to help the light as much as possible. That window needed no changes itself because it's been perfect all along. The view is lovely and the light that streams in is the best.

The first big issue to figure out was the dishwasher. There wasn't one and it was a condition on us buying the house that we would add one. Because our kitchen is so small we had to figure out how to fit a sink, stove, dishwasher, and as much cabinet space as possible in that small stretch of wall.

A small dishwasher was fine with me, so I found the one with the best ratings and ordered it right up. Then I realized that I didn't really ever use the double sink in the old house and actually liked the look of the one basin farmhouse sink better anyway. We kept the full size stove and still had room for 2 large stacks of drawers. I couldn't be more happy with the fact that I can stand next to the dishwasher and unload most of it into the drawers next to it without taking a step. 

The countertops were an easy decision. I wanted butcher block for our old house and we'd decided against it, but this time I knew it was worth insisting on. At first I felt like they were too yellow, but now I haven't even thought that in a long time. I also find I actually love them more with wear marks and imperfections added. It gives them a lovely character. The only thing we have to be careful about is making sure we oil the areas around the sink often enough to keep them water resistant.

The sink is probably my favorite part of the entire kitchen. I've dreamt of a farmhouse apron style sink for a long time. They can be pretty pricey, but good ol' Ikea has affordable options. Believe it or not, we ended up getting ours for half price by finding it in their As Is section.

I was worried I might end up missing a standard double sink, but this basin is huge. I honestly feel like I have more room because the one sink is so spacious. It can have a good amount of dirty dishes in it and is still usable. It also cleans up super well. I give it a good scrub with this every couple days and it shines right up.

The backsplash is my handiwork. Dave was a bit intimidated by such a large surface, but I loved the project. More than anything else, as we added those tiles, we could feel the classiness of the kitchen increasing. So much satisfaction from an afternoon of work. I'm itching to tile other things now (bathroom maybe?).

We also moved our magnetic knife board from the old house and put it back up under the cabinets. It's so handy to have them out of the way, but within reach. 

The finishing touch on the whole kitchen was our shelf/cart combination on the north wall. It had been empty of anything and left the room feeling extremely lopsided. Once we put up the shelves and placed the card there, all of a sudden the room felt balanced and weirdly complete. It was the perfect touch. We keep our toaster oven and a couple crates on the cart. The shelves store my most commonly used pantry items and an ever changing display of flowers, cook books, vases, bowl, and knick knacks. They fulfill my desire for open shelving without compromising cabinet space.

I love my little kitchen so much. It was a big project for us, but the rewards match the effort. I am finishing this post filled with gratitude for how our new house is turning into a home. 

Sources:

Sink, countertop, cabinets, dishwasher, faucet, cart, shelf brackets, tiles, light fixture, sink light, hardware, fairy lights, soap dispenser, storage jars

 

Iceland Part 4: Of Hotpots and Glaciers

This is the 4th (and final!) part of my Iceland trip summary. If you've missed the first or second or third part of our Iceland trip you might want to read those first.

I left of with us heading back into the wild after restocking groceries in Akureyri.

We weren't going to see the sun for the next 36 hours so we decided we'd try and hit up any hotpots that we could on our way. Hotpots to Iceland are like Saunas to Finnland or pubs to Ireland. Everyone, every age gets together to soak in hot water pretty much every day. It started in natural pools where water gushes from the earth already the perfect temperature for a relaxing bath and now every town has a pool/hot tub and it's a huge part of everyday life. 

Once the sun disappeared and the possible outdoor activities dwindled down due to crazy winds and sideways rain, we found ourselves understanding the Icelanders love of hot water pools. It's a great way to enjoy the outdoors even when the northern weather doesn't want to cooperate.

We headed along the northern coast of the island through the rain and decided to try our luck at Grettislaug, a hot pot I'd read about in the hotpot guide book our rental company had loaned us.

We arrived at the little cafe and dock at what felt like the end of the world. It was right on the coast and the only thing separating the pool from the stormy waves was a rock storm wall. We were the only ones there when we arrived. Everything was shut down and it felt like something out of an apocalyptic movie.

I honestly did not feel like undressing and jumping in. I was cold in my winter coat... and it was a good 100 yards from the changing hut to the warm water. But just as we were thinking about turning around and heading on our way, a car full of Canadian tourists pulled up and they ran hooping and hollering around. Their excitement energized us and we decided we'd regret not jumping in.

I wore a stocking hat with my swimsuit and my winter coat over it as we ran to the water and plopped in as fast as possible. Another car pulled up and for a short time we felt like we were a part of the funniest little pool party — a couple Canadian guys, a Dutch couple, a frenchman, and us Americans. Somehow we learned all about their travels around Iceland and their political opinions about the US and I remember thinking "I will never forget this."

We stayed in the water as long as we could and then bundled back into the car and made our way to our campground for the night.

That night we could feel the wind rocking the van as we fell asleep. Our hanging lantern swayed from it's hook and running to the campground bathroom was necessary to keep from being blown over. That night and that storm were insane.

The morning brought no respite from the rain and that day we had planned to head into the West Fjords. We were halfway through driving around the first fjord (fjord — a long, narrow, deep inlet of the sea between high cliffs typically formed by submergence of a glaciated valley) our van's clutch started giving out. We realized that each fjord would take 40-60 minutes and we had at least 6 more before we reached the first sight we were aiming for. At this point we decided it would be best to abort our west fjord plans. While this was the right decision, the next one we made was probably more questionable.

Iceland has rough, off roads called "F-roads" and while our van had 4 wheel drive and was technically rated for these F-roads, it also had tiny doughnut sized tires and we had already used our only spare tire. Anyway, for some reason we decided we'd risk heading through a pass we found on the map to the far side of the fjords were we could meet up with the main road and head back toward mainland Iceland. 

Oh, and the map showed that we'd have to ford 2 rivers, which we hadn't done yet and if we failed we'd end up with fines, not to mention we'd only seen one other car on the road all morning, so I'm sure we would have been stranded for hours before anyone could come get us. Though at this point we didn't have cell service, so I'm not even sure how we would have been able to call for help.

We did it anyway.

This is a shot of Dave crossing the first river. He made it, though he said he could feel some of the tires lifting off the riverbed and being pushed by the current. Also, while I was taking that picture, we forgot that the van was my ride and I was left stranded on the far side of the water. Even though I was wearing rubber boots, my feet weren't dry when I got to the other side.

The next river we crossed I stayed in the cab. 

Up until this point I would have said Grettislaug was the most at the end of the world I had felt. This jaunt through the pass was past the end of the world. We didn't see a single man-made sight except for the rough two track road for 2 hours.

We had the go pro mounted to the windshield for a while and I sped it up to give you an idea of what it was like:

When we finally saw the sheen of water on the other side of the pass and began the descent to the non-F road. The huge clump that had formed in my stomach finally began to loosen and I began breathing normal again.

The picture below is one of my absolute favorites from the trip. It's a farm that was the first sign of civilization after we emerged from the pass and it's amazing how relieved we were to see it. It sums up so much about that trip to me. The growth that I saw in myself — from scared to get out of the van to braving insane backroads and river crossings. It's one of the few pictures I took that might actually capture a piece of the beauty of the real life experience.

Anyway, the rest of the day we spent chasing the sun, albeit completely unsuccessfully. We did have a good stock of gummies and licorice (ew). 

We drove up the Snaefellsnes Peninsula to Kirkjufell and Kirkjufellsfoss. This is one of the most commonly photographed places in Iceland, but we were there in such howling winds and horizontal rain that we only dared get a picture with our go pro. The other cameras didn't even make it out of the car.

At this point Dave was car sick from driving through fog and rain, so we made a plan to find a hotpot on our way to the campground and call it a day. We hadn't found any sun and we admitted our defeat.

And just like that, once we admitted defeat the day redeemed itself. We wanted to find Landbrotalaug, a cute little hot pot, I'd read about and were worried it'd be hard to find. Most of the paths to hot pots feel like you're trespassing and headed off to a dead end and then all of a sudden you actually find what you were looking for.

We found the hot pot in all it's 1 yard diameter of amazing perfect 103 degree water. We even got it all to ourselves since the larger pool in the area had attracted most of the other tourists. We felt like we'd hit the jackpot and couldn't believe it. I even jumped in first, though I half expected to find a dragon curled up at the bottom or no bottom at all and to fall into a deep dark crevice of the earth.

The water flowed out of the rock so quickly that any water we displaced, refilled within a mater of minutes. Just imagine sitting in a hole in the rock in perfectly heated water looking around at misty landscape. It was magical. We soaked it up for as long as possible.

When we were done, we passed the hot pot on to a couple of German girls who were just as excited to enjoy it as we had been.

We arrived in Borgarnes and made it in time to visit The Settlement Center before it closed. We hadn't been able to fulfill a single part of what we had planned that day, but in many ways that's exactly why it's such a memorable part of the trip. The museum was actually a perfect idea for the end of such a rainy day. It was extremely well done and a wonderful summary of the history of Iceland. We left with a better understanding of the amazing island.

We made dinner under a tarp in a sodden campground and went to sleep praying for the rain to end.

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We awoke to answered prayers and a free morning before our afternoon plans. I've written about that morning before here.

We drove leisurely toward the Langjökull glacier, took a walk through a beautiful birch forest, visited another museum, and saw two waterfalls, Hraunfossar and Barnafoss.

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We had an afternoon reservation with Into the Glacier, a tour of the largest glacier tunnel dug through the Langjökull Glacier.

Our previous day's adventure had emboldened us and we drove the F-road to the basecamp ourselves. It was stunning to approach the mountains and glacier at our own pace. The sun glinting off the snow and the dark lava stone created a beautiful contrast. Another fascinating part of the drive was to see the landscape formed by the receding glacier. It felt like young ground, freshly exposed.

The tour began with a transport up onto the glacier and we goofed off as we rode through the pristine white landscape.

First I couldn't believe we were standing on top of a glacier when we got out of the truck/tank/bus (it's actually a decommissioned and refitted nuclear head transporter).

But the surface was nothing compared to what it felt like once we walked down into the tunnel. Inside a whole other world awaited us. 

I'd never had a context for what a sad thing melting ice caps and glaciers are. Glaciers are powerful and amazing. It's heartbreaking to think we're loosing them.

The ice lit up with lights and the different layers of debris frozen into the ice surprised me. I expected it to be pretty and a great photo op, but I couldn't believe how deeply moved a felt by a bunch of ice. It was a new type of natural beauty I am grateful to have experienced.

We left the basecamp and headed south along another F-road, F550. Obviously we thought we could handle anything in our mini 4x4. This road probably took us quite a bit longer because it was so full of potholes. But on our left a mountain range reflected the setting sun and we watched snow storms up on the peaks.

Our plan was to camp at Þingvellir and we reached it just in time to explore at sunset. I don't even have any pictures because we were jogging around to see it all before it was too dark. 

Our last morning waking up in the camper was a hurried one as we packed things up in our suitcases and made sure everything was in good shape to turn in to the rental company.

But before we did that, we had one more adventure planned: snorkeling.

We'd decided to splurge on two more expensive experiences, one was the Glacier tour and the second was snorkeling between the American and European tectonic plates.

Silfra Snorkeling is not for the faint-hearted. The water was a frigid 34 degrees. We wore insulation suits under our dry suits and I couldn't even get into my dry suit and literally had two grown men holding my suit shaking me into it.

With all those layers I couldn't bend my elbows or knees properly. I have never felt more like a penguin in my life.

In such cold water there is no wildlife, but the visibility is insanely far. The water is actually melted glacier and filters through lava rock for decades, so it's deliciously clean.

Our gopro battery didn't actually last long in the cold, but Dave got some pretty good pictures before it died.

I loved this experience. My face and hands went numb quickly, and after that I just bobbed along taking in the amazing blue hues and the underwater perspective of the rocks.

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By the end of our dip in freezing water, we were invigorated and grateful. This marked the end of our camper van experience. We drove back to Reykjavik and turned in our trusty vehicle. 

The rest of the afternoon we spent exploring Reykjavik and wandering the streets. It was fun to return to the same place our trip had begun. It felt so different only 10 days later, probably because I learned and grown so much. 

Dave usually dislikes cities pretty vehemently, but even he loved ducking in and out of shops, wandering aimlessly and exploring anything that looked interesting.

The one thing Dave wanted as a souvenir was a watch and he had read about a certain shop, so we struck out to find it. The JS Watch Company was easy enough to find and once inside the most charming, cliché watch shopkeeper showed us his handiwork and Dave walked out with a beautiful one he still loves.

We met up with an old college friend and her family for dinner. They happened to be in Iceland for a long layover and it was so fun to see them and enjoy Icelandic Fish and Chips with them.

The next morning we walked to a bakery for some coffee and pastries as we reflected on our time. As we drove to the airport and enjoyed the last bits of Iceland that we could, we left with an overwhelming amount of gratitude for the opportunity to experience such a unique and incredible country. We already talk about going back and are having a hard time coming up with a country we want to visit next. Every time we talk about where to go next, we just say "Well, we could just go back to Iceland." I'd be surprised if it takes us very long to get back.

Iceland Part 3: Of Mist and Steam

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This is the 3rd part of my Iceland trip summary. If you've missed the first part or second part of our Iceland trip you might want to read those first. It's taking me so much longer than I thought to write these up that we're already booking our 2017 adventures! 

By the sixth day in Iceland, we really hit our stride. It took us less than half an hour to pack up in the morning from our campsite. The cold in the morning may have spurred us on just a bit. That night, an Icelander was in the site next to us in a small backpacking tent. I couldn't have done that. It was consistently in the 30s during the night and mornings were brisk, to say the least. Icelandic camping was not like Michigan camp days with campfires and lazy brunches. 

We drove north that morning as the sun rose through the mist. I remember really, really wanting hot coffee, but now thinking back I don't think I got any.

Instead as we made our way toward the sites we had planned, we spotted a whole herd of caribou. At first we thought they were merely another herd of horses, then I thought they were goats, but Dave realized they were caribou. We pulled off the road at a little access drive and grabbed our cameras. They actually let us get fairly close and after snapping a couple pictures we took some time to just watch them.

We loved driving through the landscape as we made our way to Selfoss and Dettifoss. The moss was every bit as colorful as the fall foliage in Michigan, only way tinier.

Selfoss and Dettifoss are and easy walk apart. We took a look at Selfoss first and enjoyed how close we were able to get to it. 

Dettifoss is impressive in it's volume, but its appeal was mostly in its power. Also, there were lots of people around, so we had a hard time enjoying it.

After the waterfalls, instead of heading back to the ring road we took a back road further north to the northern coast. We loved this part of the day. It was so peaceful to see mountains, coastline, and farms nestled in between. 

We followed the coast west and back down until we hit Húsavík, a small fishing town. The charm in this place was almost too much. The harbor had a background of snowy mountains and the sail boats were taken care of so well that their wood and paint gleamed. The water was so calm, the whole time we were there it felt like we had discovered a place that had been asleep for a couple decades. 

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We found some fish and chips and sat, eating, and soaking up the scene. There wasn't much else to do. We wandered around and explored, but decided against the whale watching tours.

Dave touched the water. We chased a jelly fish. And we wished we could have stayed longer.

It was late afternoon when we headed back south toward Myvatn. As we approached the light started to glow. One of the best parts of this region was their trees. Iceland doesn't have many trees (though they are planting more every year) and the yellows and oranges of the trees around Myvatn were a special treat.

Our first stop was Hverfjall, where we had our biggest accident of the trip. The driveway into the parking lot for the crater was narrow and full of potholes. A car coming out wouldn't share the road and forced our right tire off the road where it hit a sharp lava rock. When we parked and got out I heard the telltale hiss of a punctured tire. Luckily the van had a spare tire on the roof rack and we had that tire changed in a jiffy. I think it was done within 10 minutes. I love that Dave understands and knows his way around cars so well.

We headed up the incline of the crater at sunset and hit the top during twilight. It was a huge round black sand dune with a hole in the center. It was such a other worldly natural formation. I don't think I've ever seen anything like that or probably ever will.

By then we figured we might as well go to as many other sites that we could in the area while we still had light. The Hverarönd/Hverir geothermal area was close enough that we zipped up the road and experienced the multi-colored sulfurous mud springs, steam vents, and fumaroles in the rosy post-sunset glow. It was pretty stinky, but we stayed for quite a while because the bubbling mud and hissing steam vents were so fascinating. I imagine this is what prehistoric earth looked like.

On our way to the campground for the night, we made the impromptu decision to check out Myvatn Nature Baths. We had originally decided against it to save some money, but we were sore and tired from such a long day and a soak in hot water was just what we needed. The last bit of light faded in the west while we enjoyed moving from the hot pool to the hotter pool and back. We even glimpsed a flicker of the northern lights while lounging in the hot pool. The perfect end to a wonderful day.

The sun rose stunningly over the little town of Reykjahlíð. We drove around waking up and soaking up the beauty of the morning golden hour. 

We finally felt up for a hike and drove up to the volcanic area above the Krafla power station. There we hiked into the heart of the area where nine volcanic eruptions happened between 1975 and 1984. If ever I felt like we were on another planet, this was it.

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Everywhere we turned cooled lava stretched around us and steam seeped out of the ground. I'd never realized how colorful and beautiful lava is. It was stunning and scary and insanely cool.

One side effect of all the geothermal activity in Iceland is that they produce much of their electricity from it. I love that the country puts such an emphasis on clean energy and preserving the beauty and integrity of the island. Something to aspire to! 

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We left the Mytvatn region behind as we drove west to Goðafoss. After seeing waterfalls left and right for days, we figured this one would be like the rest. But it really gave us pause and we took our time enjoying it. It's not the tallest or biggest, but the horseshoe shape and mist made it one of the most beautiful we saw.

Akureyri was our next stop. It's the closest thing to a big city that northern Iceland has. The population is oncly 18,00-ish, but after days of tiny villages, it felt huge to us. 

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It was rainy and kinda gross, so we grabbed some delicious fish soup for lunch and did some souvenir shopping, before grabbing some staples at the grocery store and heading back into the countryside. Akureyri left me with a really cozy and cute impression. And what I wouldn't give for another bowl of that soup!