Friday, November 30, 2007
DAY 5: Reykjavik Grand Tour  
Now that we had used up all our energy on walking on a glacier and going to Greenland for the day, we kept it light on Day 5... a bus trip around the capital of Iceland.

First stop was at a modern church (Hallgrimskirkaja) which had a statue of Leif Erikson (donated by the US government, acknowledging his discovery of North America) in the front. It was near a Masonic temple which piqued my interest (found out later the Masons have had a presence since the early 1900s).

Past the harbor (highlight: boat painted gold which was to be a disco in the Caribbean but now just abandoned), past the house (Höfði) where Regan and Gorbachev met in 1986... wait is that a McDonald's?... to the Pearl (Perlan). The Pearl is a rotating restaurant/giftstore on top of six hot water containers. Only five of the containers hold hot water for Reykjavik residents, the other one contains a viking museum. The view from the observation deck was fantastic and of course, windy.

The last stop was the
National Museum of Iceland. We were not permitted to take photos of the artifacts (except for the room where you could try on traditional viking dress... Great photo of Lucky with a sword and helmet!) and many of the areas were dimly lit to protect the items. Instead of taking the bus back to the depot after 15 minutes, we opted to stay at the Museum to get a free guided tour. Honestly, it's what made the bus trip worth it (the rest seemed very touristy).

Our guide had a woolen cape and a pointer, and with her bright red hair seemed very much like an instructor at Hogwart's! The museum was well mapped out, starting from when the country was first inhabited to the switch to Christianity to current day (WWII items to Björk albums).

We walked back to our hotel, stopping to get some Chinese food. As some of you might know, it's a thing I do when I travel)... But we only got wonton soup. At $10, it was the most I was willing to spend on my whim. We ate it at the hotel with my leftovers from the Thai restaurant.

Finished with lunch, we ventured back out and noticed some luggage in the foyer... It was Franz Ferdinand's! The band was staying in the hotel and were going to be performing Friday night... Alas, we were leaving Friday afternoon.

We used the valuable tourism guide with the coupons in the back for another "cheaper" meal at Cafe Victor. A lovely seafood risotto and fish & chips. Mostly tourists in the restaurant, perhaps since it was near many hotels. It was the first time we had been close to any American tourists and wowee! I think it was the walking and TALKIN' Texas sterotype lady at the table next to us which made us cringe the most.

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Thursday, November 29, 2007
That Would Make A Great Band Name  
On Tuesday night, we went to a wake... Not the most cheery reasons to get together with friends, but we made the most of the two-hour total drive (+/- 15 minutes of getting lost because of bad Google directions) by having good conversation.

Somehow the phrase "Mormons on Speed-Dial" came up, and we decided that it would make a great name for a band. Of course, we debated whether "Amish on Speed-Dial" was funnier (because of the whole ludditesque thing) but the final decision was "MOSD" just sounded better.

It will now join "Living in Sin with Hal" as names we will be submitting to Dave Barry.


Wednesday, November 28, 2007
DAY 3: Þingvellir  

Originally uploaded by TheJerseyTomato
The last stop on the Golden Circle tour was the most spectacular. Thingvellir is a national park which has been added to the list of World Heritage (certain places on Earth are of outstanding universal value and as such should form part of the common heritage of humankind). It is where the Vikings first met as a government. The volcanic ridges caused by the continental shifts have changed the area a bit since the last millennium but you can feel the awe that they must have felt years ago. Because it is protected, the park has almost no buildings around... nature's hug is a bit strange since we now come from a place where you are never away from the sound of cars, airplanes, and mini-malls. Again, a feeling with an intensity that really can not be described

How do you finish such a spectacular day? Go out for tapas!

The day before, one of the British couples recommended a restaurant because of a coupon. A discount in Iceland? Considering the price of eating out, we took advantage of this offer... spending "only" around $100. Among the many dishes... kangaroo and puffin (served with a blueberry sauce). Everything was delicious... the puffin had a smooth beefy taste. It's a traditional meal in Iceland and Greenland. If you are in Reykjavik, you definitely have to visit Tapas.


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Tuesday, November 27, 2007
DAY 3: Geyser  

Strokkur Geyser
Originally uploaded by TheJerseyTomato
Next stop was the Geysirs of Haukadalur.

Geysir is the one which all geysers all named after (accounts date back to 1294). It used to be a magnificent sight, spouting upwards to 60 meters. Now it rarely erupts... in order for it to show off, tons of detergent are dumped down the shaft, but due to environmental reasons they don't do that anymore. Strokkur (meaning "The Churn") is a two minute walk from the granddaddy of them all and we "made due" with Strokkur's 20 meter burst every five minutes or so. Lucky was amused by the bunches of people surrounding Strokkur in complete silence with cameras positioned just right.

There were plenty of other geysers and hot springs in the area which is prone to earthquakes. The earthquakes affect the activity of these natural phenomenons. A museum in the gift shop demonstrated the most recent earthquake. It also had a nice display about farming in the late 19th/early 20th century.

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Monday, November 26, 2007
Everytime a bell rings, an angel gets his wings  

Little May Bells
Originally uploaded by TheJerseyTomato
Yesterday, Baloo's father passed away. He had been suffering from inoperable cancer for quite some time. But was very stubborn and lived every day to the fullest. He was a great storyteller and even when he was sick, had a sparkle in his eye.

He will be missed.

Sunday, November 25, 2007
DAY 3: Remember to Kiss  

Remember to Kiss
Originally uploaded by TheJerseyTomato
The Gullfoss (or Golden Falls) is one of the biggest fall(s) I have ever seen. This photo is from a viewing stand far up and away from the falls.

Someone had written "Remember to Kiss" on the barrier, and we did :)

Icelanders seem to believe in the Darwin Theory, and there were only guide ropes on the path to the waterfall. The path is narrow and occasionally wet from the spray. But the payoff is big... being able to be at the edge of the first fall (topleft corner of the photo; the second one plunges down a ravine and is harder to see from close up.

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Saturday, November 24, 2007
DAY 3: The Golden Circle  

Kerith (Kerið)
Originally uploaded by TheJerseyTomato
After walking in the rain on a glacier, we took the next day pretty easy. The fact that we were almost 30 years younger than the average tourist on the bus would give you some idea.

The Golden Circle is THE touristy thing to do (other than the Blue Lagoon) since it shows off many of Iceland's natural wonders.

First stop was in the town of Hveragerði, a town built around the industry of "greenhouse vegetables." The tomatoes that we ate every morning came from this town... a weird orangy, thin skinned,sweet-sour tasting fruit er...,vegetable, as did the more normal tasting cucumbers. This town of barely 2,000 also grows the most bananas in Europe.

This stop was primarily a tourist trap... we stayed for about 45 minutes to use the "facilities" and buy plastic trolls, postcards, etc at the Eden-themed giftshop/restaurant. It was filled with fellow Golden Circle-ists (two buses full).

We were in the German/English tour bus so everything was said in duplicate. I warned Lucky that I might accidentally talk to him in German because I could hear in my head the merging of languages that happens whenever I'm immersed in German. The seats were very cramped and I seriously considered switching to the other bus but luckily we didn't...

On the way to our next stop, the other tour bus somehow got into an accident with a compact car and was delayed waiting for it all to be sorted out.

That stop was Kerith (Kerið)...a volcanic crater lake. It was amazing. The water is a stunning turquoise blue and the red rock was covered with moss and lichen.

Day 3: Part 1

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Friday, November 23, 2007
Happy Unpaid State Holiday!  
Ah, yes... those poor state workers who had to use one of their precious vacation or sick days to go shopping. Those poor state workers who only get THIRTEEN paid holidays. Oh, and work only 35 hours per week. And get up to 15 sick days, and 5 weeks of vacation.

I might not have voted for Corzine but I applaud what he is doing.

Interesting OpEd


Thursday, November 22, 2007
Happy Thanksgiving!  

Pie Pie Pie
Originally uploaded by TheJerseyTomato
I saw a TV segment which was about how much turkey you should make per person... apparently you should figure 1-1.5 lb per person (2 lb if you want leftovers!) Even if you add the bones and skin... that still seems a lot of turkey to me!

Today, they showed off the new Shrek balloon. They've been pushing the Shrek theme at Macy's. A smaller version is sitting over the main entrance of the Herald Square store (btw... this year's windows are based on "Miracle on 34th Street" YAWN... like they haven't done something like that before!). I was personally very happy to see the Hello Kitty balloon (I could easily live in a Sanrio store, living on Hello Kitty waffles.)

A few years ago, Lucky and I tried to see the balloons T-G eve (all tucked in their mesh) but the lines were incredible and it was really cold. We went out to dinner instead.

PS: The PR secret guest was Sara Jessica Parker. Disappointing. She gets all the credit for her SITC outfits when it was really Patricia Field (whose basement store I used to visit all the time, lusting after skull printed dresses and drag wear and who is having a 20% off sale tomorrow).


Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Bon Jovi on Project Runway?  

Van Halen at MSG
Originally uploaded by TheJerseyTomato
That's the rumor... that's more star power than a Nikki Hilton, and I'll be watching tonight to see if it's true or not (not like I actually watch the show religiously :lol:).

Had a chance to go to NY for the premiere party last week but the night before I was watching Diamond Dave and the boys at MSG. Which reminds me... I owe you a review. DAMN... that was a fine concert! The energy was great. In addition to several top hats and bandleader jackets, DLR had a smile the entire time, even during "Oh, Pretty Woman" when he stopped to say "F**k, I forgot the lyrics!" (he picked it up after about 12 beats). And Eddie Van Halen had his shirt off the entire concert.

The seats weren't the best in the world (almost behind the stage) but there were many who wished that they had even our seats. I've never seen so many people begging to buy tickets. The band did make sure that we weren't ignored, DLR blew us kisses, and EVH (and his son Wolf) played to us as well.

Definitely, a recommend (and this is from someone who likes VH but wouldn't call herself a FAN)

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007
DAY 4: Iceberg!  

Kulusuk Iceberg
Originally uploaded by TheJerseyTomato
After the show, we took a boat back to the airport. It was because "we were behind schedule and this would save time," but I got the guide to admit that that wasn't the whole truth.

The $25 ticket went mostly to the fishermen, as a way for them to earn a wage (and also to avoid begging). The money was worth it... as you can see we got really close to an iceberg. Close enough that we could see how true that "top of the iceberg" saying is... the ice was a teal blue in the clear water. True beauty.

Our day in Greenland was at an end... we took the plane back, eventually got a taxi (surprisingly, the taxi drivers don't speak English as well as everyone else we met!) back to the hotel.

For dinner, we had a traditional Icelandic treat... a hot dog! At a place called Texas Grill (that's right, leaving NJ and we still find a Texas Weiners!)... their version is called "Pylsa." A hot dog on a steamed bun topped with ketchup, mustard, crunchy fried onions, raw onions and a remoulade. It's the cheapest meal of the week... about $6 for a hot dog and soda. For dessert, we had a rolled crepe with cinammon sugar. YUMMY!

End Day 4 (yes I know I screwed up... Day 3 is coming)

Monday, November 19, 2007
DAY 4: Culture  
After buying our pricy goodies at the gift shop, we walked down to the bay for a cultural demonstration.

First, a Greenlander traditionally dressed, complete with sealskin boots and a drum made from polar bear stomach, performed a drum dance. Although most drum performances are now done for tourists, the drum is still considered to be a important part of the Greenlander culture. Drum dance was how their history and lore were passed down. This particular story is about a raven and goose that fall in love during the Greenland summer. When it's time for the geese to migrate, the raven decides to go with the goose. He will rest on the goose's back when breaks needed to be taken since ravens can't swim. But across the ocean, the goose remembers that the raven can't be trusted since his kind steal goose eggs and doesn't let the raven rest. The ravens eventually drowns. (Reminds me off the Silverstein boa constrictor poem).

Greenland Fisherman
Originally uploaded by TheJerseyTomato
Then another local demonstrated traditional spear fishing in a kayak. A kayak is especially made for the owner, based on the size and height of the person so that it is as balanced and watertight as possible.

DAY 4: Part 3

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Sunday, November 18, 2007
DAY 4: Kulusuk  

Greenland: Blue House
Originally uploaded by TheJerseyTomato
As we walked from the airport to the village of Kulusuk, we could hear the yapping of the dogs. After a few minutes, we were able to walk up a hill near the cemetery to see the village in the distance... small, brightly painted houses.

The cemetery had lots of plain white crosses. There were no names on the grave markers because, although most of the Inuits had converted to Christianity in the last century, there was still some remnants of their "pagan" religion. One being that, a person is made of three parts: the spirit, the body, and the name. When someone dies, his spirit goes on, his body decays, but his name is still alive.

The village was pretty small; perhaps 30 houses. Most of the residents stayed inside, except for some children playing ball. The general store was similar to one in the Poconos, complete with a gun rack (except this one had lots of dried fish jerky). The gift shop was different though... you could take home a polar bear skull, seal skin, or do as we did and get a tinyhandcarved polar bear made from reindeer horn (and a bracelet made from sealskin and gut).

Day 3: Part 2

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Saturday, November 17, 2007
Gobble Gobble  

Ford Mansion, Morristown
Originally uploaded by TheJerseyTomato
Today was the Turkey Drive and Holiday Open House. I've been working for 8 hours straight with no sitting or eating. Customers brought in about 30 turkeys and lots of canned goods for the FoodBank.

Friday, November 16, 2007
Problems with Blogger  
For some reason, Blogger is not seeing my email as a valid one and so I can't do traditional posting. So ... a sad statue represents my mood.

Tomorrow is the Turkey Drive I'm sponsoring. So it will be an early morning (and a late night since it's also the store's open house)

Mailing away my ornies for the ornament swap. Can't wait to see what I get in return!

Thursday, November 15, 2007
DAY 4: Greenland  

Landing in Greenland
Originally uploaded by TheJerseyTomato
The morning we were to catch the flight from Reykjavik Airport to Kulusuk (an island off of East Greenland), it was rainy and very windy. That kind of weather didn't help me with my nervousness.

I had wanted to go to Greenland for a long time (Smilla's Sense of Snow helped with that)... but knowing that I would have to go on a prop plane was what was making me nervous (Didn't know the size of the actual plane but had heard enough horror stories about friends on prop planes...). I had taken my little orange pill and was wearing my pressure point bracelets. The plane was delayed for over an hour because it was late returning from the other side of Iceland due to the bad weather. Great!

We received our tickets which were printed like a receipt. The back had some sort of acknowledgment of risk, I guess... just wished I knew Icelandic so that I could be certain I didn't promised to give away my first born!

Finally it was time to board... we first went through the security check. I was surprised that it was as through as it was. They also had a limit on liquids but luckily it was larger than 3 oz at a time (heard that Greenland has 'skeeters so brought the spray). Then we waited until the crew boarded... wait there's a flight attendant and a group of Japanese tourists are coming with us... it's going to be a pretty big plane!!! (phew)

The ride was pretty smooth and the lunch was delish for airline food. Two hours in the air, seeing icebergs in the ocean below. We land on a gravel strip near a mountain. Tikilluarit to Greenland!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007
When is "Too Early"?  
Last night, I passed this house all lit up (including the hedge in the front). Thanksgiving hasn't even happened!

This is what we get for all the bigbox stores shoving Santa down our gullets in October.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Might as well JUMP!  
Tonight, I'm having a girl's night out with Froggie in NYC. We're going to see Van Halen. Hopefully, the band won't fall apart in front of our eyes.

Monday, November 12, 2007
DAY 2: Waterfall  

Seljalandsfoss: Front
Originally uploaded by TheJerseyTomato
We finally nestled into our seats on the van. Maybe nestled isn't the right word... squooshed in is more like it. My hair was wet, my clothes were wet, my shoes were wet... my husband and his backpack were wet.

Luckily, one of the other couples had some Harðfiskur to share and distract us from our soggy tushies. Not the tastiest thing in the world... the dried fish slowly expands in the mouth when met with saliva and gets spongy. The smell is extremely fishy catfood-esque. Apparently it's popular with Icelanders as a snackie or as trail food. I wonder what food that's popular in Jersey would get a strange reaction from tourists... Taylor ham, fried hotdogs?

On the way back, we were treated to the chance of seeing Seljalandsfoss. This waterfall was made famous in Amazing Race 6 (one of the worst kept secrets prior to the airing... Considering that there are only 300,000 people on the entire island, and most live in the Reykjavik area, anyone who doesn't look like a local is going to stand out!)

The waterfall is gorgeous to look at, glacier water cascading down 60 meters off what used to by the former coastline thousands of years ago but it has a great bonus. After doing some light rock scrambling, you can actually go behind the waterfall. As you can see from the photo below, the cliff is hollowed out by about 30 feet. It was an amazing site.

What amazed me was that not everyone went behind the waterfall... some didn't even leave the bus! They definitely missed out on a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Shame on them.

Seljalandsfoss: Back

::END OF DAY 2::

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Sunday, November 11, 2007
The Jazz Singer  
Last night, Lucky and I went to the Loews Jersey to see the Jazz Singer... this one not this one (which apparently my mother has seen numerous times. She still surprises me!)

The Jazz Singer (starring Al Jolson) was considered to be the first "talkie," or rather the "talkie" that caused the industry to realize that there was no turning back!

It was a fun movie that has held up pretty well... the story of a guy not wanting to go into the family business (in this case, being a cantor) and following his dream (...being a jazz singer). What did not hold up was the wonderment of the audience. There were some sound issues in the beginning, and within minutes, some of the audience was grumbling, and during the film when there were skips in the film, they would continue to make negative utterances. The film is 80 years old; this is the only 35mm reel in existence... have some understanding, people!

A special gem was the 1929 "Baby Rose Marie" featurette. Yup, that Rose Marie with the black hair bow from the Dick Van Dyke Show at 6 years of age. She had some pipes... like a 20s version of Christina Aguilera! From my understanding, it's part of the Jazz Singer's newest DVD set.

I will be missing out on the Otto Preminger film fest but just wait for Mary Poppins... I am so there!


Saturday, November 10, 2007
DAY 2: Glacier Walk  

Glacier Drop
Originally uploaded by TheJerseyTomato
We woke up early on Monday, put on our thermals, winter wear, and waterproof jackets, and made our sandwiches. Then went down to breakfast. It wasn't as expansive as the one the day before (which had herring, eggs, sausage, and crepes that you made yourself) but definitely filling. I fell in love with the bread that was similar to the wonderstuff but fresher and grainier.

A minivan picked us up at the hotel and drove us to the bus terminal where we met us with the rest of the adventurers. Half of them were going to go snowmobiling on the glacier; the other half joining Lucky and I on the walk. We were the only Americans. Another couple was from Australia, two from England, and others from other European countries. A couple of people commented how "prepared" we were which kinda surprised us... I mean really, it's rainy, we're about to walk up a big hunka ice, wouldn't you want to be prepared?

After a few hours, we arrived at our destination, a dingy grey-aired place with gritty black gravel and spongy, mud moss (the Solheimajokull glacial tongue of the Myrdalsjokull Glacier, the southern most, and fourth largest glacier in Iceland). A river streamed past us filled with water coming from a glacier cave, and frozen rain pelted our faces. We were greeted by our guide in a bright orange skisuit. He geared us up with crampons (which were attached to our hiking boots), and ice-axes. Those who were wearing fashion sneakers and no rain gear... or thin plastic ponchos (hello, you are on a trip to Iceland. Do you not read about the weather?) received spare leather hiking boots and better rain gear. And he taught us the basics about walking up and down the glacier.

Up was not a problem, but down was a complete different story. You have to trust the crampons, bend your knees and put your balance point behind you like if you're on rollerblades. But that fear of falling which doesn't allow me to stop while using blades (I step onto the grass to stop) made me had some mini panic attacks.

But up and onward we walked, stomp stomp... legs wide so there's no accidental spiking of the calves, hand on the top of the ax so there's no accidental swinging into a fellow adventurer. Watching out for crumbling ice and crevices. Occasionally, we would go by a large mound of black rock. But it wasn't really rock, just a mound of ice that had been covered by volcanic soot. That soot would eventually travel down the glacier in a stream. Yes, glacier water isn't exactly what the marketing departments of aqua refreshment companies lead you to believe!

We only went about 4 miles or so, but the ice cold rain which not only hit our faces, also eventually soaked down into my socks which soaked my "waterproof hiking sneakers." Plus somewhere along the line, I realllly needed to go to the bathroom (ya, that didnt happen) and I also started to feel a bit faint. Luckily, we had brought some water and licorice (which was rock-hard) so that I could bring my blood sugar back to normal.

Our guide would stop us every 15 minutes or so to show us large crevices... endless pits, some with waterfalls, others glowing with "blue ice." BTW, "blue ice" isn't really blue; all the air bubbles have been squeezed out and so it's actually clear. It's blue for the same reason that the ocean is blue (something about the red end of the color spectrum being cancelled out blah blah blah).

One of the coolest things was when the guide showed us these bubbles rising from a crevice filled with water. Those were air bubbles from about 70 years ago. Scientists are able to figure out what the air quality was like years and years ago by boring samples at different depths. One of the scariest things was finding out that there was a thermal lake under the glacier that would lift the top of the glacier and overflow into the valley (like boiling water in a pot). When that would happen was only a question of time.

I now see earth and am a bit disappointed that trek is over; I finally had gotten my stride. But wait, the walking isn't over... the bus hasn't returned with the snowmobilers yet. And we're in a dead-cel area. So the guide takes us to the river and shows where the glacier used to start, (apparently this glacier goes back and forth in size but there is a greenhouse effect at work as well). Then back to the parking lot; still no van, and now it's starting to get cold since we aren't walking as much. So the guide gets us to walk down the road toward the backup parking lot about a mile down the road ("You walk, you get warm.") And perfect timing... the van arrives!

:: DAY 2: Part 1 of 2 ::

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Friday, November 09, 2007
I took this photo at the Loews Jersey at the Boris Karloff Film Festival (we only saw Frankenstein)...

It shows the scar of where a wall used to stand. In the '80s, this grand movie palace was converted into a multiplex, and the owners just slapped up some dividing walls with no regard to the ornate plaster details.

Now, the theater is owned by Jersey City and being restored by a group of volunteers. They've made it functioning including the organ, so now they are starting to be able to deal with cosmetic issues like touching up the plaster which was painted to look like gold and marble. But should they fix this scar? No.

Because history is constantly happening. One second ago is history. And like it or not, the '80s are also history. I'm not proud of my lee press-on nails or long t-shirts with tails, and it also doesn't seem that long ago (there are registered voters younger than those t-shirts) but it happened.

We pick and choose what we think is worth saving... the '50s style generic residence hall I stayed in is slated for demo because, among some other reasons, it "doesn't look like the rest of the campus" which is becoming a georgian revival campus. Those utilitarian concrete blocks of buildings are just ugly, and therefore not worth saving.

Your own scars make you the person you are, reminding you of what happened and what will not happen again. So it is the same with the Loews.

PS: The Loews is showing "The Jazz Singer" in honor of its 80th anniversary on November 10, 7:30PM. As you may know, Al Jolson's movie introduced sound to the silent movie industry, killing the hopes and dreams of many-a attractive, squeaky-voiced chorusgirl.


Thursday, November 08, 2007
What's this? What's This?  

Movie in 3D
Originally uploaded by TheJerseyTomato
Ok, I fully admit it... I titled this post on purpose so a certain hubby will start singing it, and get his three kids to sing it so that a certain FTG will go crazy ;^P (bwa haha)

Anyways... on Sunday, we caught the last day of "Nightmare Before Christmas in 3-D." Besides us (a total of 6), there were about 5 others who actually stayed for the whole movie. Three teenage girls left after the first 5 minutes saying they didn't like it, and then realizing I guess that they couldn't sneak into anything else (a Jewish film fest was going on in the other theaters on this side), decided to chit-chat near the hallway. Arg, I WAS NEVER that annoying. Really, I wasn't.

It was a great movie. Not too much was in obvious 3-D (reminder to self, need to watch JAWS3D), but it did add some layering to the ghost effects and such. It's held up really well over the last decade. And there's something about Jack Skellington (wink).


Wednesday, November 07, 2007
DAY 1: Blue Lagoon  
Off the coast of the Reykjanes peninsula, we saw the largest gannet colony in the world (looked like a big rock covered with bird s**t, but all that was actually BIRDS... 70,000 of them). Eldey (also called Fire Island) is one of the many "famous" landmarks in Iceland. It was actually featured in the poster over our bed in the hotel!

The last stop on the tour was actually part of the package we had purchased through IcelandAir... the mandatory Blue Lagoon experience. The Blue Lagoon is a thermal water spa. Years ago, a man with eczema bathed in the waters released by the geothermal plant we had just visited. Apparently the still warm water mixed with the silica and other matter in the volcanic soil of the "lagoon" cured him of his skin ailment; and a homeopathic tourist attraction was born! (Although there were a lot of Icelanders there as well)

And now the Blue Lagoon Experience...When you enter, you must rent a towel ($6) unless you umm... acquired one at your hotel (Since we hadn't checked in yet, we didn't have that option). Then separate from your loved one and enter the gender-specific changing room. Change into your bathing attire, clean off in the shower (notice that Europeans are very comfortable in their own skin AND your body doesn't look bad comparatively), and coat your hair with conditioner (slather it on and don't rinse). Now walk outside. If you're lucky, it's not that cold. But no matter, you're stepping into a warm bath anyways. Careful not to slip on the "milk coated" rocks, you slowly get to about waist-high and start floating. Ahhhh.... If you'd like there some of the white mud some lucky worker got to scrape off the rocks that you can apply to your face or other parts of your body. It's supposed to make your skin silky smooth. Eh, didn't really work for me. Now the 45 minutes are up and you have to get cleaned up. Hey, your hair is feeling funny. How did that happen. Oh ya, you decided to float and your ponytail was soaking up that silica as great as it soaks up bleach. Shampoo and condition all you want... the next few days you're going to be wearing braided pigtails so that you don't go through with the urge to go all Britney on that hair. Consider taking some spa product home for your mom. First, gag at the prices ($10 for one bath tablet) and then consider it for later when told that at the terminal, you can save up to 30-50%.

Helga now drops us off at the Hotel Fron and we check in. We're upgraded to a lovely studio apartment (mini kitchen area with stove top and microwave, sink, pots, pans, etc) and a tv that doesn't get any reception (oh well). After a brief nap (we've been up for over 24 hours), we walk around and realize that talk about restaurants being bloody expensive was right! Finally we decide on a little Thai restaurant on a side street (meals were only $18 a person instead of $30). Still tired, and we're going to be doing the glacier walk the next day, so we call it "Sunday."

:: End of Day 1::

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007
DAY 1: Reykjanes Lighthouse  

Reykjanes Lighthouse
Originally uploaded by TheJerseyTomato
Now you're saying to yourself... what could make this tour complete?

That's right, a hydropower plant! Unfortunately, I haven't been able to figure out which one it is (will fix this post later). Helga had heard that the museum section of the plant was to have been finished in June and so wanted to see when it was really opening up. And of course, we were game.

It wasn't close to being finished. The mannequins were still wrapped up with bubble wrap looking like victims in one of the more twisted CSI episodes. We heard some noise upstairs and found artists working on creating planets. They were nice enough to give us a tour of the place, and dug that we were familiar with the "artistic process" and could really appreciate all the problems they had to deal with, etc. The artists were imported from England since working on creating scenery was their specialty. About 10% of the people living in Iceland are foreigners. They either do jobs that require specific skills but also just general construction (jobs that require lots of workers such as creating dams).

After leaving the soon-to-be museum/energy plant, we followed a path that led us to the ocean. The gravel path was occasionally spotted with grills so we could see the sulfuric water rushing underneath our feet (although knowing that it was boiling hot, I walked on the side when I started thinking to much about it). The water let out into the sea, making a bit of a sizzling noise when the hot thermal aqua hit the cold of the Atlantic Ocean. The steam was incredible and you could feel the heat. Definitely one of those "Not in Kansas anymore" moments.

We drove past the Reykjanes Lighthouse (or "viti" in Icelandic) on the way to yet another Icelandic landmark. Built in 1908, it's Iceland's oldest, and is the landfall light for Keflavik and Reykjavik. The original lighthouse stood only eight years before being destroyed by an earthquake in 1887. The area is pretty thermally active (you can see the steam in my photo) but it doesn't seem to bother the Icelandic horses.

:: End of Part 1A of 2 ::
fully admitting to lengthening the posts about our trip so I don't run out of things to say :)

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Monday, November 05, 2007
Find inspiration everywhere...  

Kane is Able
Originally uploaded by TheJerseyTomato
I found mine on the PA Turnpike near Valley Forge. It's not the first time I've seen these 18 wheelers. The Scranton-based fleet are always around the other tristate area (not CT-NY-NJ but NJ-PA-DE).

According to their website, The “Kane Is Able” slogan was created by the company’s owner, Mr. Gene Kane, Sr. It started as a simple play on words, but has truly developed into the company’s philosophy of our team approach to meet and exceed our customer’s expectations. As for the “Be Kind, Be Careful, Be Yourself” message, wouldn’t you like to see a positive message as you’re sitting in traffic? Mr. Kane’s belief in being the best person you can is a message he strongly supports and is the ethical backbone of our 75 year old company.


Sunday, November 04, 2007

Originally uploaded by TheJerseyTomato
Went shopping again for the store... this time in the city. Saw these cute shoes in the window of a Broadway shoe store. According to the BC Footwear company website, these bunni-rific "Wildlife Preserve" shoes are $55. They don't have a "kitten" heel but a slight wedge.

Maybe a bit too zanny for my feet, but the other styles they have look great (and most importantly, come in sz 11).

PS: If you ever get the urge to hire a bike-taxi, don't do it. We didn't ask the price first... and it was $35 for 10 blocks (figured it wouldn't be that much more than a taxi at $5). Considering that later on, we walked almost 70, it was a big big mistake. But if you get the urge to go to Zum Schneider for a beer and some German grub, go with it... Alphabet City ain't what it used to be in the 80s!

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Saturday, November 03, 2007
Oh why did it have to suck?  
My mom and I travelled to Valley Forge for business (it's called shopping for the store. Isn't that a wonderful concept? We get to shop for hours and then sell the great things that we haven't gotten immediately attached to).

Anyways, we decided in order to get first dibs, we would stay the night before. The hotel offered a "shopping package"... stay on the concierge floor, get sleep-number beds, $50 Visa card to use at King of Prussia Mall, free TV movie, and some other stuff. After doing the math, we figured, they actually would be giving us some free money, so we took the deal.

Spent the Visa card at Legal Seafood since it was on my mom's list of things she needs to do. The fish was fresh, and they do this cool thing where the wine glasses are marked so that you know that when you order 6 oz of wine (or 2 oz for a sample), you get what you pay for... unfortunately, it was very expensive for what we got. The atmosphere and food was more of a TGIF but the prices were like, uh, a TGIF by Grand Central Station (past experience of an $18 pasta dish which was $12 in NJ).

Walked around the mall... Santa's headquarters is almost finished! I really hate this pushing the season forward. Apparently the Yankee Candle stores have been playing Christmas music for over two weeks now. This will not happen at my store... We are having Thanksgiving! (sorry, mini rant over)

Got back and watched "Knocked Up" (it was between this and "I now pronounce you... Chuck and Larry" which was the other movie my mom wanted to watch when it was in the theaters.) What a horrible film!

I liked "Freaks and Geeks," and LOVED "40 Year Old Virgin" but "KU" was crude without being funny and the character development was totally unbelievable. I felt like I was watching a final project by an NYU student. There was absolutely no chemistry between the two main characters and I found myself wishing I was watching "Chuck and Larry". Except maybe with some different actors... just like in "40YOV" the heat generated from Paul Rudd and Seth Rogan could not be denied :)

Oh... and the Sleep Number Bed. I'm still recouping from that fiasco. What is a Sleep Number bed? It's basically a mattress with a two inch aerobed on top. You get to decide how much are goes into the top so that you can adjust the firmness. It's supposed to save marriages because on the larger sizes, there are dual controls. Unfortunately, firm or soft doesn't translate into cuddly. I went to sleep on a "50" woke up, changed it to "70" woke up, changed it to "35" Then to "30" then to "50" again trying to figure out why the bed was so uncomfortable.

There are many different hotel chains that are promoting "their" mattresses... and the certain R-named hotel chain was no different. Too bad, the mattresses are horrible (my mom had the same experience). HOWEVER, so that I don't sound like a total grouch... the shopping trip was a lot of fun and the breakfasts were great (concierge floor had free continental breakfast, the registration area had free continental breakfast, and we got a free breakfast buffet as part of the package deal). I felt like a hobbit.

PS: If you want a good night's rest at a hotel, try the Crowne Plaza. Each room comes with a sleep kit (lavender spray for relaxation, a soothing CD with a mediation program). Sooooo nice.


Friday, November 02, 2007
DAY 1: Rainbow in Iceland  

Rainbow in Iceland
Originally uploaded by TheJerseyTomato
As promised, I'm finally blogging about our trip to Iceland.

Lucky and I arrived at Keflavik Airport at 6 AM GMT. We were met by our tour guide, Helga who drove us to a hotel to have breakfast and adapt to the time change before we got on a boat and see some whales.

Unfortunately, it was pouring on and off... and no one else was as adventurous. So no whale trip :(

Instead, Helga drove us around the Keflavik area on an impromptu tour. The Reykjanes Peninsula covered with lava fields. Low brush, moss and lichen sticking to the sooty rocks, with patches of green grasses. Mud pots (hot water gurgling to the top of the earth and mixing with the dirt) threatened to take over the gravel road.

We first visited the site of a future Viking village museum... see photo! It will have replicas of Viking buildings in the style of when Iceland was first colonized. Already some log and stone furniture has been created, and the outline of where a future longhouse will be built was laid out in stone. They are building the "museum" on the property of a 20th century turf house filled with old farm equipment (apparently sued to be rented out to tourists but now will be used for educational purposes. The boat in the photo sailed to Greenland, Newfoundland, and New York City back in 2000. The "Icelander" is an exact replica of an old Viking-ship called the "Gaukstad-ship" which was excavated from an ancient burial mound in Norway in 1882. The preserved ship was dated back to 870 AD, the time of the settlement of Iceland. It was brought back last year to be a part of the "museum" and will be moored in the river nearby (cranes in the distance). A whole rainbow appeared (with a duller one underneath) and we all raced around the area trying to capture it in its entirity (without falling down through the boggy moss).

Helga then hustled us in her little red compact to the abandoned Keflavik United States Naval Air Station. I remembered when I had last been to Iceland (TWO decades ago!) how the base had all these vehicles coming and going. Now, it was completely empty. Well, not completely... some of the buildings were being turned into housing for college students. The US/NATO closed the base with almost no warning back in 2006, leaving Iceland with no military protection but with a great place to show indoor "drive in movies" (the largest hanger was going to show "American Graffiti").

The "Leif the Lucky" Bridge spans the Alfagja rift valley (60 feet wide and 20 feet deep) near Grindavik that marks the boundary of the Eurasian and North American continental tectonic plates. It was built in 2002 as something to show the tourists, and was next on our "tour." My own Lucky and I kissed by where the two continents met, delighting in the science-kitsch. The continents are slowly separating but Iceland isn't splitting in two, because as soon as the split is deep enough, lava fills in, creating new land.

It was by this bridge, that we saw the most cairns (pyramids of rocks balanced on top of each other). Partly because people (like us) wanted to leave their mark. But also because many hiking trails were nearby. Since there aren't many trees in that area of Iceland, they use cairns to keep hikers on track.

Reykjanes Ridge Cairn

END OF DAY 1, Part 1 of 2


Thursday, November 01, 2007
So I'm going to try to blog every day. Of course, this isn't the easiest thing for me to do. Take a look at my archives and you'll see that I have a tendency to live rather than blog. But considering that I did a lot of stuff this summer. I'm going to blog about it now.

Those of you coming from the NaBloPoMo site, you might be wondering what the cartoony couple in my profile are... they are Barbapapa and Barbamama. I loved the books growing up and in September, saw them all over Iceland (the vacation will be getting a bunch of coverage).


The Past:
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