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6 posts from November 2006

November 21, 2006

Home!

Sunday night we arrived in Detroit after a weird and confusing trip to the States...mind you the weirdness and confusion began once we arrived in the States.  I have now decided that 1. traveling within Europe is somewhat preferable and 2. I absolutely detest BWI and 3. well, just plain sick of the whole 'no-liquids' business...

Anywho, we did have a relatively pleasant car rental experience for a change.  We rented from Enterprise and they were so professional and courteous.  Basically, unless they don't have a car we need, they have our business from now on.  Absolutely fabulous and less expensive than most competitors.

So, we headed to Toledo and found the hotel with no problems (thanks, GPS).  We stayed at a Hampton Inn, but think we will be back to opting for the Courtyard or similar in the future.  The pool area was nice, but the room was smaller than we expected and the closet was a tiny armoire - a little too close for home for us (we are so tired of not having real closets) and it really put the squeeze on us.  Would have loved something more homey, a B&B perhaps, but family-friendly ones always to not be located anywhere near where we are staying. 

We spent most of Monday simply catching up and visited with Grandpere at his new villa.  He now lives in an retirement area, um, well, a smaller condo that is within a community of like-minded folks?  However, he is still very independent.  Yes, he moves a little bit slower, but extremely sharp as usual.  We were so glad to have time with him, as we had not seen Grandpere or many other members of the family for over two years.

Tuesday morning found us at the pool and the hot pot.   Not a real 'hot-pot', though, as "Children age 14 and under are not allowed to use for health reasons".  Ugh, I am so tired of the U.S. and the weird rules that pop up.  I totally forgot about the over regulation that goes on.  They ban the healthy things in life and then serve you too much over processed food almost everywhere you go. 

So, we swam and of course the girls stuck their feet in.  Good grief, after swim lessons here, we go outside in freezing cold rainy weather and sit in a warmer hot pot with everyone, babies included.  It has to be the "anyone could sue" mentality...the lawsuits are just getting ridiculous these days.

After the swim, we headed off to lunch at Tony Packo's  famous cafe.  We ordered our chili macs, the kids picked their lunches and I paid....$11.93 for lunch.  No, not for my beverage, for our entire meal!  Apparently, kids eat free on Tuesdays.  Okay, despite my grumblings on TMF (too much food), it was nice to not have to pay a 'car payment like' bill just to eat a meal out.  I do have to say, though, that it would be nice if restaurants could consider cutting the kids meals, oh, in half? 

I would not mind paying the same price for less food.  They give way too much, and frankly, I don't want them eating that much.  The 'clean plate club' has always bothered me, especially in this day and age when kids are often encouraged to overeat.  I am not one for wasting, but it is impossible to not waste when the portions are so huge and not always that healthy.

But again, $11.93...how does that happen?? (Don't worry, a rhetorical question...)

We finished up and headed to COSI, the Children's Science Museum in Toledo. We spent most of the afternoon there and the kids had a blast.  Kid-friendly (natch) and large enough to keep them occupied for several hours.  This one focused on science for the age 5 and over set, but also included a huge play area for the younger ones, with everything from a pretend ambulance to a tree house.  Definitely recommend if you are in the area and have the time!

We ran a few errands and were lucky enough to join Uncle Bill and Grandpere for dinner at Ruby Tuesday.  They did have a great kids menu, to include our favorite, steamed broccoli!  Always a treat, especially as while it is not 'rare' here, like other produce, not always at its best.

Basically a pleasant day and a good, relaxed start to a busy weekend...more to come on that very soon.  For pictures of the kids at COSI, see the badge!

November 19, 2006

2 - 4 inches of snow? Try a foot!

Img_0509Reykjavik received its first real snowstorm of the year on Saturday night and it was a doozy.  The 'weather channel' for Iceland had predicted 2 - 4 inches, however, that was clearly not the case.  It was absolutely gorgeous until we woke up Sunday morning and realized that most of our 100 foot long driveway (on a steep grade) was covered in a foot of snow.

Unlike many in Reykjavik, we do not have a heated driveway.   Of course, for other reasons (not our fault), we do not even possess a snowblower.   So, one shovel and two hours later, the driveway was passable.  And thus we made our way to the airport to enjoy Thanksgiving American style.

Img_0510

November 18, 2006

Snær!

Img_0507 Or snow!  Finally, we have a decent amount of snow.  Sadly, the girls won't have much time to play in it as we are departing for our Thanksgiving trip to the States tomorrow afternoon.  Perhaps we will have time for a few pictures by the now frozen pond before we leave.

We have had two dustings recently, which gave us enough for snowballs, but not much else.  Normally, the issue is that it is not cold enough and even when it does snow, the ground isn't cold enough for it to stick for very long.  However, this week we haven't reached freezing once, i.e., the temperature hasn't 'warmed up' to freezing.

Yesterday had to be the coldest at -11 degrees Celsius.  Nothing compared to most of the Scandinavian winters, but pretty cool for Reykjavik and it has  begun to affect the tourist attractions. 

On Thursday, I took Caitlin and two of her friends, Amber and Katya, to the Blue Lagoon. Caitlin loves to go and since they are all still free at this age, it is almost cheaper than going to a local pool.  Given how cold it was, bound to be warmer, too!

We made the drive out to Blaa Lonid and as the wind buffeted the car on the highway, I realized how little I missed the drive to Keflavik.  Without the base, we are spending  6 fewer hours in the car per week. 

So, we wound around the road to the Blue Lagoon.  As we passed the Health Clinic, we noticed the icy blue water that normally flows out to the road.  Note the word, icy.  Yes, the normally warm and bubbling water was frozen solid.  I was thinking this did not bode well for our trip, but we forged ahead anyway (slightly miffed I had forgotten my camera).  We arrived at the parking lot and I was a bit surprised to see no more than 8 cars.  At almost 1 p.m. on any given day, the lot should be at least half full.

We hopped out of the car, grabbed our bags and turned around to face an earnest looking man in his typically tiny European car.  He apologized profusely and let us know the Blue Lagoon was "permanently broken".  I am fairly certain he simply mixed up his vocabulary words in his haste to reassure us that we could still soak in the soothing salt water, but we would have to do so at the health clinic.

So, we headed off to the clinic and enjoyed the smaller, yet still calming waters.  Unlike the regular lagoon (as it is under construction), the Health Clinic still has the indoor entrance to the pool.  This is much more preferable on an extremely windy and cold (minus 8 degrees Celsius?) day.  We managed to float for about 45 minutes before hunger (and windburn) pushed us back inside.

Despite the smaller dressing areas and lack of a cafe, it was still a pleasant experience.  Oh, and the best part?  Apparently, customer service is alive and welcome at the Blue Lagoon.  For the inconvenience of not being able to use the regular area, my visit was free. 

So, unless this turns into a raging blizzard, this time tomorrow night we should be on our way to the hotel.  We will be visiting my dad's family, most notably, my 93 year old grandfather, Grandpere.  He recently downsized to a condo and we are excited to see it for the first time.

We have not seen my grandfather and most of my father's family for two years.  Caitlin and Kelsey spent the day making cards for their cousins and Caitlin wondered aloud as to what her cousins would now look and sound like.  Despite the fact that they are actually my first cousins, Caitlin is 10 months younger than my aunt's daughter, Maggie, and Kelsey is two months younger than Maggie's sister, Casey.  Apparently, Casey and Maggie are also aficionados of Stephanie (from Latibaer), so I know they will have a lot to talk about upon our arrival.

So, if we are too busy to blog for a few days....Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

November 15, 2006

Just Drop Me Off at the Door...

We were on our way to choir practice on Monday, and as we passed over Laugavegur and I contemplated the parking situation, Caitlin uttered those words.  Up until now, she seemed content to have me park and then go upstairs with her.

In fact, in the very beginning, I worried that the choir may not be right for her.  Not because it is not her 'thing', as singing most certainly is one of her strengths, but due to her fear of being the only (primarily) English speaker in an all-Icelandic choir.   She was extremely nervous the first day and didn't want me to leave her side.  I think she may have even shed a tear or two when I did finally leave the room.

She was worried about going the next week and feared she wouldn't be able to learn the songs.  Her director was quite understanding about this issue and gave her copies of the songs to work on before the next practice.  Just having the words in hand gave her a huge boost, and she spent 3 hours that night reviewing the songs and trying to play them on the piano.  The following week, she was a little jittery, but one of the directors shuttled her off to the practice area before either of us realized what happened.

Slowly but steadily, her confidence has grown.  Last week as we hurried into the building, several girls called out to her as they hopped out of the car.  She did not know a single person in the choir when she started, so I was relieved to see that it seemed as though some friendships were developing.

And then, this week, as I drove through the intersection of Laugavegur and   Rauðarárstígur, Cait (or Katla as she is known here), said, "You can just drop me off at the door, so you don't have to find and pay for a parking spot".  So I turned around, made a left onto Laugavegur and pulled up in front of 116.  Cait hopped out, looked back for a second and then headed through the door.

And as I drove off, I was touched, but not because I was embarassed that my child did not want me to escort her to class... but happy that she had adjusted so well.

November 06, 2006

And the trampoline is still standing

but apparently the Dinoia family trampoline was the only one properly secured in Reykjavik.  Alert reader, Tom K., also known as Greempa Kirk, sent us an article this morning about Saturday's wind storm to verify the severity of the vedur.

Honestly, we really didn't notice that much, which is going to really make us immune to any weather conditions when we are back in the States and winds don't generally reach 50 m/s (yep, gale force).    We had gusts of them Saturday night and many people lost trampolines, windows, you name it.  Our biggest excitement was hearing the top of the barbecue blow off and hit the house just after we went to bed. 

Naturally, I thought it was one of the kids falling out of their bed.  I was relieved to find out that was not the case, as the bunk bed situation is actually working for us this time around.  Lest I digress even more, I checked out said article and found a modicum of truth this time.

One has to understand that I am not fond of English language publications in Iceland.  Many of them are thrown together with the assumption, "Well, it is in English, it must be good!"   The Grapevine and Iceland Review both tend to fall in these categories.  While Iceland Review may have occasional interesting articles in their actual magazine, their online edition could use a little spiffying up.

As for the wind, well, it has since died down and today we actually had..snow (flurries)!  We are hoping for more, but after the pathetic snow season last year, won't be holding our breath.

In other (more exciting) news, we had our bi-annual parent teacher conference with Hallfridur, one of the leikskolar kennari (conj?), at Njalsborg.  Basically, they love Kelsey!  I know, who wouldn't, but still, it is always refreshing to hear it from someone who has really not known her for a terribly long time.

I think the fact that she is almost bilingual is quite impressive to them (and to us!).  We (somewhat gleefully) found out today that she is part of a regular lunchtable threesome with her friends Ronja and Nikolina.  We are so proud that she has created and nourished these relationships in another language so different from her own at age 4.  Frankly, it just knocks our sokkar off (thankfully, though, not our sokkarbuxar)!

And Cait?  Her conference is also this week, on Friday morning...but I have no doubt we will have nothing but good news to report.

Note:  Some (new) older pictures on the badge, but still worth viewing, of course.

November 04, 2006

Bailey er hérna á Reykjavik

Img_0502_1 Já, já Bailey has been released from his prison.  We paid the $2000 ransom and were awarded our kottur, much to the delight of the girls. 

For those of us who think us crazy for spending so much, well, we might be.  However, in light of everything that happened last year, we realized that life is sometimes just too short.  The girls desperately missed both animals, but Bailey is far younger and in better overall health than Maggie.  We figured of the two, he had the best chance of making it through quarantine.  Risking with Maggie would be too risky, as well, if the animal gets sick or simply doesn't adjust, the authorities take it into their own hands.

So, seven months after beginning the process, Bailey is living 'happily' with us.  He has already been introduced to some of Cait's friends as they had a special play date just for his arrival.  And lest any ASPCA officials lurk on this site, I should probably not mention that the girls have continued their habit of carting him around like a piece of luggage.  Despite the temporary discomfort, he does seem to enjoy the attention.

Of course, as illustrated in the photo, he immediately scurried to the top of the highest piece of 'comfy' furniture he could find.  He is apparently in some sort of competition with himself to see just how many frames and other obstacles he can avoid whilst jumping and then relaxing.

Velkommen til Island, Bailey-kisa!