Monday, July 25, 2011

How Mother Nature OWNED Us

I can't believe it's been over a week since my last update! Suffice it to say that there was NOT much going on last week - you better believe that with the onset of that Godawful heat wave, my activities were quite limited to those of the indoor, air-conditioned sort.

Let's just say- I do NOT do extreme weather conditions. I mean, wasn't it just yesterday that we had a blizzard of historical proportions come barreling along our way? I'm all about the four seasons but this is seriously taking the four seasons to all KINDS of extremes.

Anyway! Since I'm the epitome of all things sunshiney goodness (duh), I've taken it upon myself to focus on the bright side of this heat wave. A list, if you will... a list of...

How Mother Nature OWNED Us - Making Lemonade Outta Those Heat Wave-y Lemons

1. The SUN! - You know me, a victim of Seasonal Affective Disorder if ever there was one. I NEED some serious sunshine in my life and... well, I can safely say that last week certainly sufficed. That sun was beaming its little rays down on us all the livelong day. Even though I was too busy taking cover in the shade and, more likely, in air-conditioned hotspots, I still have to say that I liked LOOKING out at sunshiney goodness.

2. No running! - You know me! The picture of love and devotion for this fine pastime we call running. HA. Needless to say, some executive decisions about my running schedule were made by about 7:15 each morning last week, as I would watch Al Roker dutifully unveil his Heat Wave map and... well, GOD! That map has never SEEN so much RED! (Red=Heat Warning, just a friendly FYI) And, well, I couldn't put my health at risk for a run, now could I? I mean, what if I fainted? Or, heaven forbid, ended up puking out on a public street? Ew. Decision was MADE - nooo running!!!! Weeee!

3. Air conditioner CENTRAL - Since frugality is pretty much my middle name, I like to minimize my use of the air conditioner because... MAN, can it skyrocket your bills! Well... let's just say last week was the exception to THAT frugal little rule. You better believe that air conditioner was blasting its pretty little heart out and I had absolutely NO QUALMS about it. Nothing feels better than coming into a nice, frigidly air-conditioned space from the outdoors where you literally feel like the sunshine's rays are going to burn you alive... but I digress.

4. ...

Ummm. I honestly sat here for a good three minutes, trying to figure out another lemonade maker outta those heat wavey lemons we got dealt last week... but, well... nothing! Nada. Not a single positive thing more could be said about the strike of Mother Nature's wrath last week.

Oh, screw it. Screw lemons and lemonade! Screw me being the picture of sunshiney goodness! Mother Nature TOTALLY owned us last week... and it was GOD-Awful.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

My First 5K!

That's right, ladies and gents! Today, I completed my very first 5K! I signed up for the Fleet Feet Women's 5K race about a month ago, primarily because my half-marathon training schedule me to do so. And you KNOW whatever that training schedule says, I will FOLLOW!

Needless to say, I was not the ideal 5K'er this morning. It all started with my bad decision to stay out till about 1 AM, despite fully knowing that I had a 6 AM wakeup call this morning. Come 6 AM, my alarm went off, and I... well, just groaned, turned my alarm off, and continued to lay in bed, seriously contemplating just skipping the race.

Sure, I was tired, but I think what was mostly contributing to this lack of motivation was the knowledge that it was going to be one scorcher of a day. To say I'm a wimp in heat is pretty much one of the bigger understatements one can make.

Sigh. After about three minutes, I just forced myself outta bed and focused on getting ready... my brand new race shirt certainly helped matters along, not going to lie! :) Yess!

Since I was having some trouble waking up and/or thinking positive thoughts prior to the race, I unfortunately did not snap a single "before-race" picture. Sad, I know.

I have to say, though. Fleet Feet knows how to make a race FUN!

We started with some pre-race stretching, sponsored by Accelerated Rehab. I'm not going to lie... this pre-race stretching was kind of like a workout in and of itself. Let's just say I was DRIPPING with sweat by the end of it... and I still had the race to run! The 90+ degree weather at like 7:15 AM was certainly NOT helping matters.

Shortly after the pre-race stretching (read: workOUT)... we were all corralled together to get ready for the big race! The theme of the pep talks being given in the last ten minutes? Hydration, hydration, hydration!

But you know me and my feelings about water. I hate to say it, but I decided to kind of turn a deaf ear to all those pieces of advice (being blared from every megaphone available).

But soon enough, off we went! I'm very open about how I'm not a fast runner by any stretch of the imagination. My primary goal with any race is to just FINISH it running. Therefore, I was perfectly content positioning myself around the 10:30 pace section, since I'd been pacing at around a 10/10:30 minute mile during my other runs.

And imagine that. Mile 1 went by just like that! I was feeling just fine and dandy, despite my worries about still being sore from my five mile run (!! I know, right?!) on Friday. I felt like I could go on all day long.

But then Mile 2 hit. And hit HARD. I swear, that sunshine was beaming brighter than ever and the shady parts of the path had gotten to be quite few and far between.

I'm not kidding, I felt like death was coming a'knocking.

Okay, maybe I just felt like the heat and beaming sunshine was significantly slowing me down, but whatever. You get the idea. I ended up feeling better about halfway through Mile 2, primarily because I was just thinking "Alright, the faster you pick up the pace, the sooner you'll be done with this DAMN RACE".

Talk about real healthy, positively reinforcing, completely non-abusive thoughts. Oh well. I tried.

Just as I was mentally reconsidering why I'd EVER touted the glories of "sunshiney goodness" (GOD, that sun is INSANE today), sweet Jesus, would you look at that?

I did it! I did it! I finished the race, running! Huzzah!!

Sigh. Don't I look so genuinely happy and refreshed... and not totally ready to keel over from heat stroke? HA. In my DEFENSE, this picture was taken like RIGHT after I finished, when I was still trying to figure out whether my body was going to let me live or die by this point.

It was kind of funny because I hadn't taken advantage of any of the hydration stations Fleet Feet had set up (God bless Fleet Feet- they SO know how to take care of their runners), despite all that hydration encouragement to which I'd turned my deaf ear (hey! I told you at the beginning I wasn't the ideal 5K'er this morning!). However, I ended up snagging a bottle of water that was being handed out at the finish line.

But I got quickly distracted because...

Weeee! There were those Gatorade people, handing out little cupfuls of Gatorade deliciousness. Before I even THOUGHT about opening up that bottle of water, I JETTED on over to the Gatorade guy, snagged a cup of Gatorade deliciousness and pretty much took it like one would take a shot of vodka. I guess I was thirstier than I thought. Whoops.

But man! Talk about a parTAY after the race finish! There were all KINDS of goodies and tents set up for individuals to peruse at leisure. Of course, I first made myself at home at the Luna tent... free samples? Hello.

Next, I decided to get my knee all checked out (it's been pretty swollen the past few days) with a free injury screening at the Accelerated Rehab tent.

After getting myself armed with a sports doctor referral, I decided to make myself right at home at the Moji tent. Before this race, I hadn't really known what Moji was, but BOY, am I glad that I found this tent. Moji is like this special type of icepack which, quite frankly, is heaven. ESPECIALLY in the 90+ degree weather. You basically can get icepacks strapped to you, and it's SO much more flexible than a standard icepack. Anyway, you KNOW it took me no time at all to get myself all nicely situated and start icing my knee.

Very ladylike, I know.

I ended up staying for a little bit longer, checking out the New Balance fashion show, partaking in some post-race stretching, and staying for part of the awards show (umm! The fastest runner had like a 5:53 PACE?!?!? WTF?!). What can I say? Once the race was actually over, I was totally all ABOUT it! Haha.

All in all, a success! Granted, my time was slower than I would have hoped, but I was happy to have just finished this darn thing, given this ridiculous heat wave nonsense.

And the best part? I totally have my day's workout all over and done with by about 10 AM! FAN-tastic! Now I can finally focus on the REAL priorities for today... celebrating National Ice Cream Day! Yessss!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Dance Party Time!

Who doesn't love quintessential Chicago summer evenings? Yesterday was nothing short of that. Perfect sunshiney goodness, perfect gentle breeze, perfect LACK OF HUMIDITY... you couldn't ask for anything better.

I ended up going to Millennium Park to hear this band that a couple of my friends wanted to check out. Since I'm not the biggest music person, I was tempted to nix the outing and go with my previously scheduled plans. Those thoughts of hesitation quickly flew out the window when I heard that the band was called... Funkadesi. Well, OBVI, there was no way I could say no to THAT.

I'd never heard of this group before, but one of my friends had heard a-mazing things about them. Quite frankly, I just couldn't wait to see what people who were willing to go with a band name like Funkadesi looked like. Haha.

So, off to Millennium Park we went! I wasn't at ALL surprised with the brilliant turnout it had.

I mean, Millennium Park is well-known for their fine array of outdoor events during the utopia that can only be Chicago summers. And with such a GORGEOUS evening ahead of us (after a pretty rough start to summer, let's be honest)? Well, if there WASN'T a good turnout, I would have been a bit flabbergasted.

Up first? You guessed it... Funkadesi.

Unsurprisingly, I was delighted with the music. I say "unsurprisingly" for two reasons: 1. I'm not all too particular about the music I like... meaning I like pretty much everything and 2. How can music really be bad if you mix in some Indian beats? Seriously.

The fact that Funkadesi totally got the crowd to learn how to "bhangra" (a traditional Indian dance that 100% exudes energy, flair and FUN!) was only brownie points. They'd quickly won me over within their first few minutes of music.

Delightfully enough, ANOTHER band was performing right after Funkadesi! And... would you look at that? It was a Cuban band! Sigh. Totally brought back memories of a certain vacation...

I love Cuban music! I think it's primarily because I love Cuban DANCING!! So festive, so MERRY! Granted, I have pretty much no rhythm, so maybe I should clarify that I love watching Cuban dancing moreso than actually partaking in it myself...

Let's just say it literally took no time at ALL to get the crowd on their feet, swinging their hips and doing some seriously fancy footwork. It was one of the more festive public events I've witnessed... since, well, that Oprah Flash Mob Experience which I was part of a couple of years ago (that's right, a claim to fame if ever I had one). I couldn't BELIEVE how many people were getting into it!

Seriously. Don't these last two pictures just make you want to get up and DANCE?! Come on, go for it! No one will judge you... not at all.

What more can be said? All in all... just pretty much one perfect Chicago summer evening.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Best Books EVER - An Unbiased Review

With all the hubbub ongoing about the Harry Potter final movie premiere tonight, I started thinking about what is that It factor about the Harry Potter series that turned it into, well, the phenomenon it is today.

I'll admit it- I'm not the biggest Harry Potter fan. I just never understood what all the fuss was about. Granted, I've heard that you have to get a few books into the series to truly appreciate its addicting quality, and I only read the first book before formulating my grand judgment. I do think I'll give it another chance (I can't COMPLETELY miss out on a worldwide phenomenon!), but let's just say it's not exactly at the top of my priority list.

There are just so MANY good books out there! As such, I have taken the liberty of outlining some of my favorite books of all time.

1. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee - Hands down, my favorite book of ALL TIME. I try to read it at least once a year, and each year, I seem to pick out new little details that I'd seemingly overlooked in the past million or so reads. You just can't HELP but fall in love with Jem, Scout and Dill. And who are we kidding, everyone should aspire to be an Atticus Finch.

2. Nicholas and Alexandra, by Robert Massie - I love history. I love royalty. I love intrigue. I love suspense. There is absolutely NO better story to fulfill all of the above-stated interests than the Romanov legacy. This book reads like a story, yet simultaneously brilliantly weaves together all the historical facts involved with this family. It's long, sure, but I can assure that you will NOT be able to put this down (if you are interested in the Romanov tragedy... which you should be).

3. Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides - This book was a big surprise to me. I picked it up because it was super popular, but I didn't think the story would appeal to me all that much. I was dead wrong, to say the least. The reason this book quickly escalated into a "favorite" of mine is because of the amazing way the author details the (wide) variety of stories across multiple generations of a family.

4. The Shopaholic Series, by Sophie Kinsella - Without fail, ALL of the books in this series cracks. me. UP. I have to say that my favorite would be the first one (Confessions of a Shopaholic) but you really can't go wrong with ANY of them. The main character is so ridiculously off the wall with her spending habits that, while I can't relate at ALL (I hate shopping), I still LOVE reading about how she gets herself into (and out of) her little life pickles.

5. Nineteen Minutes, by Jodi Picoult - So Picoult is one of the most prolific writers ever, but unfortunately, her books are totally hit or miss for me. I've read QUITE a few of her works, and while I liked a fair amount, I disliked a fair amount as well. Nineteen Minutes is the one work of hers that I absolutely fell in love with. Granted, it's about a school shooting and to say it is a bit depressing is an UNDER-STATEMENT. I was literally crying in my car at points, when I was listening to this book on tape as I drove to work. Amazing.

6. Something Borrowed, by Emily Giffin - This book was a surprising delight for me. When I read the synopsis, I really didn't think I was going to enjoy the story, since it starts OFF with a guy cheating on his fiancee with her best friend. But you'll quickly realize WHY this story won me over, despite the seemingly questionable morals initially portrayed. You really grow attached to the characters and, oh who are we kidding here, this book is HILARIOUS. Yet another one of those laugh out loud ones. Consider yourself fairly warned, in case you decide to read it in a public setting. :) Something Blue is the "sequel" to this book and is also quite a gem, but Something Borrowed by FAR reigns superior in my mind.

7. The BabySitters Club series, by Ann M. Martin - I grew up on these books and to say I was addicted is an understatement. I wish there were more childrens' series like this in today's day and age. I know that they've brought back the BabySitters Club series, but sadly, I don't think it's nearly as popular as it was back in the day. A travesty, in my opinion. These books are timeless- teaching you all about friendships, family, running a pretty SWEET business, etc...

8. The Undomestic Goddess, by Sophie Kinsella - Clearly, when I find an author I like, I stick with her. Again, this book is quite literally LAUGH out LOUD funny. I read this one over and over again and without fail, am bound to laugh aloud multiple times.

Sure, some may call it an eclectic collection. Some may call it a random collection. I prefer to think of it as a unique, well-ROUNDED collection, thank you very much. A collection to suit anyone's reading needs, if you will.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Friendship - An Introspective Review

Hooray! I just submitted a piece for a blogger contest that I saw advertised a few weeks ago. In 300 words or less, I was supposed to talk about "Who I am most surprised to be friends with". When I first heard about this topic, I figured it would be easy peasy Mac n Cheesy.

But the more I got to thinking, the more I struggled with the topic. "SURPRISED" to be friends with? I've never been asked that question, let alone pondered it of my own accord.

It got me thinking about my closest friends over the years, and sigh. Talk about a sentimental sojourn, if you will.

I've always been a fairly social creature by nature. What can I say? I get a (completely natural!) high being surrounded by people! I used to LOVE a good social gathering of sorts. The larger the gathering, the more excited I would get. But as the years progressed, I quickly realized that, while I'm grateful to be one of those people who makes friends pretty easily, I am pretty much the worst friend with whom to keep in touch. I just lose track of time and, well, frankly put, I hate talking on the phone.

All I have to say is God bless the inventor of all things Internet.


Instant messenger...
TOTALLY my saving graces in this whole "keeping in touch" thing.

But still. There's something to be said about that personal touch that only a good old-fashioned phone call or, heck, a handwritten letter (remember THOSE?!) can bring. Who would've thought, right? The tools and technology at our fingertips to maximize our connectivity as inherently social creatures... inherently lending to just increased isolation.

Deep, RIGHT? Hahaha. But still, as I've grown up (and, I like to think, matured into a young adult), I feel like I am so much more appreciative of the quality of my friendships, rather than quantity of friends I have. More and more, I find myself making a concerted effort to shoot a quick email, send a quick text, send a quick Facebook message or (imagine THAT) even pick up the phone for a quick (or hours-long... if you're one of the Select Few!) phone call.

I just feel like I have a renewed value for LEGIT friendships. Oh, who am I kidding? I'm likely just getting lazier with age and don't feel like making small talk with newfound acquaintances right and left. I mean, the sheer EFFORT... sigh. Oh, I could go on and on.

See?? Isn't it amazing to see the introspective little treat this simple blog contest's topic culminated into? You're so welcome in advance for this week's edition of Deep Thoughts by Christie Maliyackel.

My ultimate goal? To ultimately have something like THIS...

Or this...

Or hell, even this... a girl can plan 80 years down the line, right?

Or, of course... something like this. Can't go a blog post without referencing The Oprah, herself, right?

Wish me luck! Off to start making some phone calls, touting my renewed appreciation for some of my closest ones and onlies!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

In a Funk? Have a Cupcake

I woke up in a funk this morning after one rather ridiculous phone call last evening. I figured I'd just dwell in my funk for a few hours in the morning and then move along my merry way, being the glass half full kinda gal that I am.

For some reason, the funk still remains (and it's currently 2:53 PM CST).

I didn't go outside for lunch today, despite the ridiculous sunshiney goodness (that's right, folks- summertime Chi has FINALLY arrived!) taunting me through these office windows. As such, come 2:30 PM, I figured a break was much needed. A break from the office, a break from the funk, you get the idea.

I headed out with no real plan in mind- just intending to take a few moments to enjoy some delicious sunshiney goodness.

But then... well, somehow I just HAPPENED to stumble upon...

If a cupcake can't cheer a person up, I just don't know what CAN. Without a MOMENT's hesitation, I made myself right at home. I mean, this place's selection is Ridiculous (with a capital R and everything).

In the end, my practicality got the better of me- I knew I would feel absolutely SICK for the rest of the afternoon if I ingested one of those ginormous specialty cupcakes. So, instead, I opted for a plain Jane vanilla-vanilla cupcake. Aaand added a couple more specialty cupcakes for some fellow coworkers of mine... gotta deflect any and all guilt I was feeling for indulging in such a rich treat on a regular old Tuesday afternoon, after all.

In the end, I must say, cupcakes really do solve all the world's problems. The delicious sunshiney goodness was only an added bonus. :)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Five Miles and Under the Weather

Boooo. I hate being sick. Fortunately, I'm one of those lucky ones who doesn't tend to get sick all that often.

Until this weekend.

All was fine and dandy come Saturday morning when 5:45 AM's sunshine came around and woke me right on up. I was actually kind of dreading getting out of bed because I knew I had a "long" run scheduled for the day. Considering I'd missed my long run last weekend (that's what vacationing will do to you, I guess), I was more than a little nervous that five miles this weekend was going to be more than a little torturous.

But would you look at that?? It actually wasn't! And you know the best part? It wasn't even just a mediocre, "thank God I made it through this run" run. I actually felt GREAT when I finished it! Granted, running is probably a glorified term for what I was doing (think more along the lines of jogging and/or speed walking for some), but STILL. All I'm trying to do is FINISH this darn race.

At least I know what my goals are.

So there I was, all on my endorphin-y high by about 7 AM on Saturday morning. Isn't it the BEST feeling to get your workouts outta the way so you can just enJOY the rest of your day? Well, "enjoy" isn't exactly the word I would use to describe the rest of my Saturday. In the course of about three hours, I developed an AWFUL headache that simply wouldn't go away (not a migraine, by any means, but still). So you KNOW I was popping that Advil like there was no tomorrow (if there's one thing I canNOT stand, it's a headache).

Maybe it was the heat? Maybe it was dehydration? Who knows. All I know is that after some legit pill-popping and water-guzzling, I took a two hour nap on the couch... usually the solution to most of my headaches.

Not this time. That darn, dull ache was STILL in the back of my head when I awoke.

Thankfully, over the course of the evening, it tempered itself out a bit, so I was all ready, set, in the clear.

Until Sunday night. Which happened to be the first time in YEARS that I ended up vomiting (for reasons completely unrelated to excessive alcohol consumption). Isn't that strange?

I had gone to a picnic and then a barbecue that evening, so I don't know if it was something I ate or a combination of the one bottle of beer and one glass of wine that I consumed... but over the course of like four hours? Really? Yeah right.

Or maybe, just maybe, it happened to be this medication I took when I got home that shouldn't have been combined with alcohol.

Wowza. Whoops.

Chalk this one up to just plain stupidity on my end, folks. Just. Plain. Stupidity. It's just that, quite frankly, I didn't even THINK that the alcohol would still be in my bloodstream considering a) how little alcohol was actually consumed and b) I hadn't remotely felt its effects at all throughout the evening.

Scary (not to mention disgusting!), huh??

Needless to say, this weekend was quite an adventurous health roller coaster, if you will. From the highs of that long run of mine to the lows of separate, completely unrelated (yet equally painful!) health issues over the course of a measly two days... which just happened to be a weekend with ABSolutely perfect weather.

Big fat SIGH.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Bill Clinton, Jake Gyllenhaal and Carrots n Cake... oh yeah, and Icelandic Deliciousness

I can't believe it has taken me THIS long to write about the FOOD we encountered in Iceland! Typically, that's the first thing I would be focused on... I guess my mindset is a'changing since I'm now such a rugged, outdoorsy girl.

Sadly, the food in Iceland was nothing to write home about though. I mean, everything we ate was quite delicious, but it didn't seem that Iceland had a lot of native, exotic cuisine. I guess they would be most known for their seafood (particularly whale) since it's all fresh and free of any chemicals (only Americans would have to specify "free from chemicals" when describing food, right?). Unfortunately, I only ate seafood one night while I was there and proceeded to get sick. I'm not exactly sure why since everything Icelandic is so fresh and so pure? Maybe my body has gotten so used to processed, preservative-filled foods that it rejects anything fresh and pure. God bless American diets.

One of the things that most surprised me is that Iceland is known for their... HOT DOGS?! What the heck. Who would have thought? I guess it has something to do with the way they process their meat (ie: the "dog" is a combination of lamb and beef, which is SO not what an American "dog" is like). Anyway, one of our first stops in Iceland was to this little hot dog stand that is only like the most famous thing ever.

This was at the TOP of my priority list because guess who has a hot dog named after him?

That's right! My man, BILL! Sigh. No matter how many years pass, I will always have a soft spot for this favorite president of mine.

Any excuse to use (read: shamelessly self-promote) that picture, let's be honest here.

Anyway, this hot dog stand was BUMPIN' with all kinds of people... the young, the old, and... well, only the most ADORABLE BOY EVER!

Can you believe he wasn't even POSING for this picture? I'd initially taken the picture to capture the adorable little hot dog holders this stand had (what a fantast idea, RIGHT?!), but I can't believe how much of a GEM this picture turned out to be with its audience! Sigh. Hearts and flowers and all that.

Aside from that, it was pretty much coffee shop CENTRAL for the two of us. I mean, check out downtown Reykjavik:

If this downtown doesn't SCREAM coffee shop central atmospheric conditions, I just don't know what does. One of my favorites? The Laundromat!

It was only after we enjoyed a good ol' fashioned cozy cup of coffee that my sister informed me that this coffee shop... umm... just happens to be where JAKE GYLLENHAAL was seen (you know, because HE weekends in Iceland as well! Hahaha). Weeee!!! I guess it makes sense though... I mean, LOOK:

If that doesn't scream warm and cozy goodness, I simply don't know what DOES!

And who would have guessed? I am in LOVE with Iceland coffee (although, it must be noted that there is seemingly little to no caffeine in these beverages, per my sister's and my experiences). I don't know what they put in this stuff, but it is just so TASTY to me... as opposed to the bitter, chokable stuff I find here in the States (read: Starbucks). While my sister ordered a few specialty drinks here and there, I was perfectly content just sticking with straight-up coffee.

Now onto my primary sustenance in life... DESSERT! While Reykjavik's oldest cafe was a historical treat in its own right, they also are QUITE famous for serving up some pretty legit waffles.

And let me just tell you, these things were spot ON. Soft, fluffy, with a slightly crisp outer coating... divine. But my favorite part? The whipped cream! So light, so fluffy and, ironically, not all that sweet! Who would have guessed that whipped cream, in its purest form, is actually not supposed to be sweet? Makes you really wonder what's going in that stuff we call Cool Whip, huh?

The waffles were great and all but... my favorite dessert in all of Iceland? Plain jane... carrot cake! They sell carrot cake at EVERY coffee shop possible and, quite frankly, they just do it so RIGHT. I literally had a piece of carrot cake each day I was in Iceland (yes, even the day that I had those waffles, thank you very much).

But I couldn't help it! So moist, rich and holy beJEEZ, they know how to do icing RIGHT. You KNOW that each time I helped myself to a piece of carrot cake, my sister's and my conversation would naturally segue on over to our favorite blog... Carrots n Cake (! My sister introduced me to the blog quite a few months ago, and to say we are addicted to it is, um, an understatement. We seriously talk about Tina (the blogger), Mal (her husband) and good ol' Murphy (their a-dorable little pug... and that's a lot coming from me considering I am NOT the biggest fan of animals!) as though they're our friends/neighbors. Ridiculous? Yes. AWEsome? Even moreso. Who knew how much entertainment one blog could provide?!

That's what I'm hoping people will be saying about the Maliyacular one fine day, at least...! A girl can always dream, right?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Iceland! In Brief

Some of my friends kind of balked when I mentioned I was weekending in Iceland (sigh... doesn't "weekending" ANYwhere sound so, I don't know, classy... weekending in the Hamptons, weekending in the mountains, weekending in Cincinnati... well, whatever, you get the idea).
I'm not exactly sure WHY people would be surprised. I mean, Iceland is known for its natural beauty and outdoorsy-ness, and if I'm not one to fully and wholly appreciate nature and... well, outdoorsy things, I don't know who IS.

Okay, okay. So maybe I'm not exactly the most outdoorsy/rugged/sporty kinda gal. But I DO love being outside (so long as the temperature is within 65-80 degrees, preferably with minimal to no humidity)! And I DO love hiking (for a few hours at a time, that is. People who go on these hiking trips for like days at a time really deserve a medal, in my personal opinion)! And... well, enough justification. I wanted to see Iceland!

I was more than a little shocked when my sister agreed to come with me on this journey. Why? A picture says a thousand words, right? HERE is what she decided to bring along as her little tote bag for our outdoorsy adventures.

Yes, my friends. You are seeing things correctly. That is, in fact, a Marc by Marc Jacobs bag (how/why that's different from a normal Marc Jacobs bag is beyond my realms of caring)*.

And I'M not outdoorsy?

Anyway. Moving quickly on...

Feel free to help yourself to a handy dandy dose of outdoorsy, nature-y goodness... Maliyacular style.

1. Iceland! Part 1: Frigidity with a Side of Whale Watching

2. Iceland! Part 2: The Gold Mine That IS The Blue Lagoon

3. Iceland! Part 3: Stuck on a Deserted Island

4. Iceland! Part 4: The Golden Circle - A LEGIT Photo Essay

5. Iceland! Part 5: Horseback Riding and... Well, That Should Pretty Much Say It All

*Apologies for the sideways shot... why in heaven's name you can't rotate pictures in Blogger is beyond my realm of understanding.

Iceland! Part 5: Horseback Riding and... Well, That Should Pretty Much Say It All

And so, my friends, we come to our final full day in Iceland. Read: the BEST day of our trip!

We had the grand idea of signing up for a horseback riding tour through the lava fields of Iceland which, again, sounds like all kinds of nature and outdoorsy goodness that my sister and I don't exactly exemplify.

Ah well. When in Rome and all that.

I have to say, when we first signed up for this tour, I was a tad terrified. I've only ridden a horse once in my lifetime and that was in fifth grade in India and... well, okay, so I fell off the horse.

DON'T LAUGH! It was terrifying!

Sigh. I don't know why I bother telling you half the things I do. Anyway, as soon as we arrived, we were instructed to watch a brief introductory video about "bonding" with your horse for a few minutes before hopping right on that saddle. I distinctly remember that intro video closing with "Now, don't be scared- there's nothing to be scared about. Some people may require a little work to get close with their horses, while for others, it may just be love at first sight."

I was opting for the latter, really. But please. Me and animals? We don't exactly have the best track record. So I can safely assure you that I was not holding out ALL that much hope for that latter option.

So we get all decked out in quite possibly the most unflattering attire EVER... but since we are clearly the epitome of rugged and outdoorsy, why should we care, right? HA. Let's just say you will NOT be seeing any pictures of my sister in this post, per her deliberate request.

Anyway, off we went to that corral to get assigned our horses (based on experience level).

And here, my friends, is where I was introduced to my pal Pila. If this doesn't scream love at first sight, I just know what does.

Sigh. Can she LOOK any more annoyed with me? I guess it doesn't help that those instructors explicitly mentioned never to let go of the reins when we are standing by our horses but... well, minor details. I had some blog pictures to take! Shortly after this shot, you better believe I dropped those reins to snap a few shots from different angles. But none really captured the essence of Pila's emotion as much as this one does.

Anyway, it was then time to, well, actually MOUNT the horse. Umm. Let's just say there will be absolutely NO photographic documentation of this spectacle. I can safely say it was pretty much one of the more graceless moments of my life. But at the end of the day...

I mounted my horse! Yess!! (See what I mean about that attire? Heavens.)

And!! Since Icelandic horses are notoriously shorter than most other horses around the world, it wasn't even all too terrifying! Given my overwhelming fear of heights, trust me, this was more than a major area of concern for me. Second only to my fear of getting thrown off my horse... yes, again. Lightning can strike twice and all that.

So! Step one- done. But obviously, mounting the horse was just the beginning. Then we actually had to start RIDING these suckers. I wish I had something more humorous to share (I mean, how can stories about me riding a horse NOT have some sort of ridiculous story involved?), but you know what?? It actually turned out to be QUITE FUN! I got the hang of the easy pace pretty quickly... so much so, that confidence overcame me and I even took one hand off my rein to... well, snap some blog pictures.

Sigh. It really does all come back to the blog, doesn't it? But it was totally worth it! We were riding through some lava fields and, man, does horseback riding really let you see a whole new WORLD outside the standard roadside tours or WHAT?!

Since my sister and I had been separated for the majority of this tour (clearly, our horses were the masters and we were the followers, no matter WHAT that intro video told us), I ended up befriending the little girl who happened to be riding in front of me and the tour guide leading the way. I love this picture of them! Totally captures the moment, if you will.

At the end of it all, my sister and I firmly agreed that this tour was our absolute FAVORITE part of our trip to Iceland. It was such a great experience for novice horseback riders AND we got to see some SERIOUS hidden Icelandic beauty.

What ever happened to dear Pila's and my relationship? Well, even after a solid couple of hours together, I can safely say that I don't think Pila and I will be missing each other all too much. That look she had at the start? Yeah, pretty much the same look she had at the end... if not even MORE downtrodden! Geez, girl, what did I DO to you?!

Sigh. So much for love at first sight.

Iceland! Part 4: The Golden Circle - A LEGIT Photo Essay

Day 3 of our journey was total tourist central... but SO well worth it! If you go to Iceland, you are 99% likely to embark on the Golden Circle tour, which takes you from Reykjavik to central Iceland. While the tours may vary in terms of the stops that you make, you are DEFINITELY going to be hitting up the national park (Pingvellir), a waterfall (Gullfoss), and this valley (Haukadalur) which contains two popular geysers.

It really was quite amazing to see some of Iceland's finest natural beauties. I couldn't get over how well-PRESERVED everything was! This is what happens when people actually have respect for and take care of their environment as a natural duty in life. Sigh. Love those Icelandic folks.

The BEST part of the tour was our GUIDE! His name was something that sounded like the name of that volcano that erupted last year, so instead, he went by the name of Gummi. Sigh. Heart goes pitter patter. My only, ONLY regret of this day trip was that I didn't snag a picture with good ol' Gummi. SIGH- he seriously is a winner in that Adorable Little Old Man department. He knew EVERYthing about his country and the PRIDE that he had in Iceland's history and folklore was clearly evident. PITTER PATTER PITTER PATTER is going that heart of mine, believe you me!

In any event, I think the pictures from this trip speak VOLUMES more than I can justify in the writing of a blog post (a first, I know), so without further ado, I present to you some highlights of the beauty that can only be the Golden Circle of Iceland...

The start of our tour... not such a bad view, huh?

Gullfoss! AKA: One spectac waterFALL.

One of my favorite pictures of the entire trip... just a simple little stream, but with the most unbelievably clear water you can imagine (unfortunately, the picture doesn't do the water clarity justice...).

Just driving along... you know, the usual.
Weee! Mountains!
I'm not sure WHAT this was, but doesn't it look like such marshy goodness? It's hard to tell we're even on planet Earth at this point.

Speaks for itself, yes?

If you squint just a tad, you can make out the glaciers in the (VERY) far distance!!

That geyser was just about ready set to ERUPT.

I want to frame this.

An amazing crater that was one of the last stops on our trip... check out those COLORS! Unreal.

Sigh. A+, Iceland. Gigantic round of applause, if you will.