10 Things I Never Heard Of… Until I Moved To Iceland

Last night I watched the Icelandic handball team playing in the world handball championship tournament, and while I was listening to H shout some Icelandic phrases of encouragement (or rude remarks as the team was losing) it got me thinking, had I ever even heard of handball before moving to Iceland?

The answer is, no, definitely not, I had no idea handball was a sport or that it was played at large.

My mind then went on a tangent for the rest of the game (because again, Iceland was losing so the game was not interesting) and I started thinking about all the things I had never heard of until I moved to Iceland. Of course there are many new cultural things that I am learning about Iceland all the time, but these things are different from that. Little quirks and traits that I didn’t know was a thing like, anywhere. You never know what you will learn abroad!

10 Facts About Iceland

1. Handball, it’s a sport, and Iceland is good at it!

Has anyone else heard about handball?? I remember when H first mentioned it to me I thought it was something like tetherball, you know the game Napoleon Dynamite was always playing? Anyways, handball in Iceland is a big deal, especially after the Icelandic handball team placed 2nd in the 2008 Olympics. The sport to me seems like a mix of basketball, soccer, rugby, hockey, and a dash of every other sport you can think of. Basically it fascinates me and I am glad I have discovered it!

2. A president’s number listed in the phone book

Yes, you read that right, want to call the Icelandic president, just look him up in the phone book and give him a ring. The first time I heard this I thought they were kidding. Coming from a country where the president is never without security I could never imagine having the presidents number listed in the yellow pages! Here in Iceland though it is just normal and they don’t think twice about it, just goes to show how safe life in Iceland is.

3. Sidewalks that are heated

Imagine stepping outside in the middle of winter and not worrying about slipping on the ice covering the sidewalk. Sounds like a dream right? Well here in Iceland this dream can come true. Thanks to the abundant geothermal energy steaming all over the country some sidewalks have hot water pipes that run underneath them helping melt the snow and ice away.

Travel IcelandThank you geothermal energy!

Of course I am not lucky enough to live by one such sidewalk but they are all over town and for awhile I thought they were magical sidewalks that deflected the snow. Little did I know that they were heated by the hot water pipes underneath them, who would have guessed.

4. Fish oil that comes in liquid form

Before moving to Iceland I knew all about the benefits that taking fish oil had and tried to remember to take my daily fish oil pill. What I didn’t know though was that fish oil came in something other than the massive Kirkland bottle filled with fish oil pill capsules. My first time trying the liquid form, lysi, I was really wishing we could just have the capsule form of fish oil. H though was adamant on using only the liquid and while I still don’t enjoy it I take my spoonful of lysi every morning like a good little girl. Until I return to the states that is, then it is going to be right back to Costco to stock up on fish oil in capsule form.

5. Not naming your baby until it is a few months old

Up until I moved to Iceland I had just assumed everyone had their babies name picked out before they were even half way through their pregnancy. I never even thought it was possible to leave the hospital before writing the baby’s name on the birth certificate. Here in Iceland though it would be out of the norm to already know what you were going to name your baby. And it makes total sense to me now, how can you possibly know what name will best fit your baby until you have met him/her?

6. Winter solstice

Polar Night Iceland Okay so I had heard of Winter solstice before moving to Iceland but I don’t think I fully comprehended it. Only seeing daylight for a few hours a day for several weeks is something I just never really thought was real. Unfortunately I have learned it is real, very real, and I am oh so happy to be leaving those dark winter days behind. Bring on the midnight sun!

7. Maternity leave, that is longer than 6 weeks

When people ask me about life in the US I often get a lot of work environment related questions. Things like, “Is it true you get little vacation time?”(yes, 5 week vacations are unheard of) and “How long is the maternity leave?” I don’t know who is more shocked, me when I learn that you get up to 9 months of maternity leave, or them when I tell them you get 6 weeks, more if your lucky.

In Iceland both the woman and the man get three months leave as well as an additionally three month between the two of them, equaling to 9 months of leave with the couple able to choice how it is divided! To my American readers, could you imagine 9 months of maternity leave? It just sounds unreal to me, and also makes me question why we don’t have this in the states?

8. A naming committee, who can approve or disapprove of any name

Back to the whole not naming your baby right away thing. On top of that you also have to be sure that the name you chose is on the approved list of Icelandic names. There is even a committee that checks to make sure your name is Icelandic approved. Is not they will just list the individual as girl/boy in the national registry until the name is changed to an approved one. Crazy right, my name is definitely not on that list!

9. Giving out your social security number, to basically everyone

Coming from the US where you hold your social security number near and dear it has taken me awhile to get use to using my Icelandic social security number here for basically everything. Gym memberships, store purchases, calling into my language school, my social security number is handed out almost daily and no one thinks twice about identity theft. I remember telling my Dad this and at first I think he was a bit concerned that I was being careless with my id number, but now I think we have all come to terms with the fact that things are just so much different, and safe, here in Iceland.

10. Easter holiday

I feel like Easter in the US is not celebrated properly, I mean we don’t even get a day off to recover from our large Easter Sunday brunch! I had no idea that while my family was cramming all the Easter fun into one Sunday afternoon there were others around the world enjoying 5 days off for the Easter holiday. Now that I have experienced the joy of the Easter holiday I can’t imagine not having it! Its like a nice break mid-way break between Christmas holiday and summer holiday, and I like taking full advantage of it by traveling somewhere fun, like Amsterdam this year and the South Coast of Iceland last year!

South Coast IcelandThe things you learn when you leave your comfort zone! I swear everyday I learn something new, always an adventure that is for sure!

Question of the Day?
What have you learned about during your travels? Have you heard of handball?

Weekending – Capturing The Little Things

During the weekends I tend to unplug as much as possible and not bring my camera out to capture the little moments. This past weekend though I tried to keep my blogger hat on and capture my weekend so I could show up here today with a little recap for you all. I will admit, I still suck at this, but I did manage to take a few pictures of the most important things from this weekend that have me still smiling this Monday morning.

One | Game night

Weekend in IcelandOn Friday night we finally got to bring out Cards Against Humanity for the first time, let me just say the game did not disappoint. I seriously laughed so hard I cried, this game is so wrong but so hilarious. Adding to the humor of it all was my equally hilarious friends and the several misunderstandings of the American slang words on the cards. If you have played this game you could only imagine the words I had to clarify for my friends.

Two | Redecorating our bedroom

Weekend in IcelandWeekend in IcelandI grew up in a house full of color in every room. Our flat in Iceland though is was full of white walls, making me feel like I was in a hospital. I had already convinced H to paint our living room and successfully got my way, but as soon as we finished painting that room I wanted to redecorate the bedroom. Finally, on Saturday morning we got our paint, laid down the papers on the floor and we H got to work while I took pictures in my pjs.

In my defense I did help paint a little bit.

Weekend in IcelandWeekend in IcelandOkay I am kidding, I only took the paint brush because I wanted my picture taken and once that was done handed it back over to H to resume his job.

Weekend in Iceland

Three | Shopping spree at Ikea

Weekend in IcelandWhile the paint dried H and I spent our Saturday afternoon in Ikea. The amount of time that can be spent in that store amazes me! Anyways, whenever we go to Ikea with one item in mind I find a dozen other items that I absolutely must have as well. Thankfully H is the voice of reason and puts those items back, but this past weekend, well I was given the green light! I just love redecorating a room, it makes it feel like a whole new place, and putting my style into the flat makes Iceland feel that much more like home.

Here is a little before and after shot, amazing what a little paint can do.

Before:

Weekend in IcelandAfter:

Weekend in Iceland I am so happy with how it turned out, we still have some finishing touches to add but so far I am loving my new bedroom look!

Four | Frozen yogurt

Weekend in IcelandSaturday night after putting the bedroom back together we headed off to get some frozen yogurt before settling on the couch for a cozy night in. True story, there is a frozen yogurt place just a block from my house. It took me over a year to realize that was what the place was. I had assumed it was some sort of restaurant from the outside and the name of the place. This is probably all for the best as I love frozen yogurt and would have made many trips there when I was home all day waiting for my visa.

Five | A rainy Sunday afternoon spent reading

Weekend in IcelandH thought he was being so sneaky taking my picture when I wasn’t looking. The real reason he was even coming into the room was to see if I had fallen asleep, just so he could prove his point that I am a grandma and require naps and early bedtimes. Joke was on him, I stayed awake the whole afternoon, although I wouldn’t have turned down a nap.

Weekend in IcelandTo me the perfect Sunday is spent with a good book. I just started reading “The Girl on The Train” and am hooked! I have already read 5 books this month towards my goal of reading 50 books this year, any book suggestions I should add to my list??

I just love a weekend with a good mix of productivity and relaxation! And H loves it even more when my to-list shrinks and he doesn’t have to worry about me hassling him for another weekend project, for a little while at least :)

Question of the Day?
Are you a fan of reading weekend recaps? Do you prefer a relaxing weekend or a productive weekend?

The Best Welcome Home Party Ever

I can’t believe it has already been almost a month since I was back in Oregon celebrating Christmas with my family! My entire time in Oregon was amazing and full of wonderful memories, one of those great memories being the painting party I had with my favorite ladies during my first week back home.

Knowing that I would be rushing around trying to see everyone when I returned home my mom and I began talking about ideas for how I could meet my friends all at once. My mom suggested having a painting party, which I laughed at because I am no artist, and then thought what a great idea!

Getting all your friends together to listen to someone convince you that your totally an artist as you follow along to their steps, all while drinking wine, well it is a guaranteed good time!

Painting PartyDuring our three hour class three important things happened. I laughed so hard I thought I might pee my pants, I seriously regretted my decision to attempt a painting, and I learned 5 very important things.

1. The possibilities are endless with a blank canvas

Painting PartyAt the start of the class we were all seated at individual stations with everything set up and ready to go. I am pretty sure at this point we were all feeling pretty confident that we were going to nail our paintings and walk home with a masterpiece.

Painting PartyOur instructor, poor guy didn’t know what he signed up for.

Painting PartyPainting PartyAs we sat listening to the instructor tell us the first few steps the sound of giggles and comments like “oh crap, I am screwed” filled the room. I am pretty sure our instructor knew he was in for a long day, but hey at least we were a fun bunch there to have a good time!

2. My friend is pregnant

Painting PartyMy friend surprised us all by telling us she was pregnant! She chose an apron that had a somewhat creepy image of what was suppose to be a baby inside the womb and once she put it on she jumped in the middle of the room with her hands in the air to tell us all. I am so happy I caught this moment on camera and couldn’t be more excited for her. I am looking forward to meeting their little one this summer!

3. Drinking wine brings out the artist in everyone

Painting PartyOne of the best things about the painting class was that we were able to bring in our own snacks and drinks. Throughout the session we were given little breaks, aka mimosa refill time. Not sure if all those mimosas helped my painting skills or not but it sure was a blast!

Painting PartyPainting Party Painting Party Painting PartySome of us had a bit too much fun, but hey its my party, I do what I want.

4. My sisters are the artists in the family

Painting PartyPainting Party This may have to do a bit with the fact that they actually paid attention while I, well you can see what I was busy doing in point 3. I seriously considering swapping one of my sisters painting with mine, but then I came back to reality and realized no one would ever believe I painted it so I let my sisters keep their masterpieces.

5. A painting class with my friends and family was the best welcome home party ever!

Painting PartyThis really was a highlight of my trip. Many of these wonderful ladies I have know basically my entire life and it was so great to have them all around me again. I felt so special and loved that they all came out to see me, one of the best welcome home parties ever.

And in case you were wondering what happened to my beautiful masterpiece, well you better believe I bubble wrapped that stunning piece of art and brought it back to Iceland!

Painting PartyH is so proud of his little artist. Although he did comment as we were hanging it up that this was just temporary, I think what he meant was that it was just temporary in the bedroom, soon it will be in the living room for all to see and admire:)

Question of the Day?
Have you ever gone to a painting class/party? To my fellow expats, do you have welcome home parties when you visit home?

15th Month in Iceland By The Numbers

15 months in Iceland, really?! It sounds so strange just typing that out. I guess Iceland is truly becoming home!

This past month was cold and dark in Iceland but that didn’t bother me as I spent most of the month soaking up lots of family time back home in Oregon . Spending the holidays with my family after over a year away was the highlight of my month so this post is going to be full of lots of Oregon fun!

Let’s start this 15th month recap right, with pictures of Azora of course!

Dozens of pictures taken with my favorite pup

Azora Azora CuddlesA tie for the goofiest face

Azora No such thing as personal space with this one

Puppy KissesAzora KissesAzoraWhen I arrived back home I was greeted to an excited pup who spun in circles while peeing, thankfully not on me, and I jumped up and down squealing like a little girl who just got a puppy for Christmas. I have missed my dog so much this past year so being back home with her was wonderful. I had to refrain myself from posting a hundred pictures of me and Azora, it was rough.

Two of my favorite foods enjoyed

Cafe YummTwo food items I have missed the most this past year, Trader Joe’s almond butter and a delicious yumm bowl from Cafe Yumm. I will admit, Trader Joe’s was so overwhelming to me I couldn’t stay in the store longer than 5 minutes, just enough time to get my favorite almond butter. And Cafe Yumm, ahh I already miss that place!

One hour decorating our “kid” tree

Christmas OrnamentsChristmas TreeWhat is a kid tree you may ask? Well the kid tree is the small tree my mom has us girls decorate with ornaments we have made over the years. Us girls call it the ugly tree but my mom thinks all the ornaments are precious. For some reason each year the ugliest ornaments always get credited to me, I swear they are not all mine but being the least artistic in the family that’s what happens. It is always hilarious going down memory lane looking at the ridiculous ornaments (some with pictures!) we have made over the years. We may think my mom is a bit crazy for keeping some of those ornaments but it is a tradition I am thankful my mom has created with us girls.

Countless smiles on Christmas Day

Christmas 2014Christmas 2014Christmas 2014Christmas 2014AzoraWell maybe not Azora, but she was to tired to smile.

Christmas 2014This Christmas was one for the books. It was the perfect low key day surrounded with those I love, delicious food, and lots of laughs. Exactly what I needed after being abroad for so long. I will remember this Christmas for many years to come, and H won’t forget his first American Christmas either, he loved it!

Hours spent reading on my new Kindle

KindleOne of my favorite Christmas gifts, my Kindle has been getting a lot of use on all these cold winter days. Perfect for helping me reach my reading goal this year!

Twelve of my favorite people at my painting party

Painting PartyPainting PartyPainting PartyMy mom is the best and knew I would be stressed rushing around to see everyone, so to make things easier she planned one party where I could met everyone at once. Painting is not my thing (see early note about my lack of artistic skills) but this class was an absolute blast! One of my favorite things I did during my trip back home. I am still writing a full post on this, I don’t care if it has been over a month, so stayed tuned!

Five hours living it up on a party bus

Wine Tasting OregonWine Tasting OregonWine Tasting OregonWine Tasting OregonWine Tasting OregonOh my gosh, this was a blast in a glass! Over 20 of my family members piled into a party bus one rainy Saturday afternoon for a wine tasting tour that showed H the real side of my family. And by that I mean how freaking awesome we are! I don’t think I stopped laughing the entire time, this could be the wine talking but I think my family is just that much fun. I am already convincing them all we need to take another party bus wine tour this summer!

2015 welcomed with my loved ones

New YearsAre New Years was anything but crazy this year and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Being the night before we had to say our goodbyes to Oregon I wanted nothing more than to spend a nice evening with my family. Add in a few martinis and rounds of Cards Against Humanity and you have our NYE in a nutshell.

One final walk before we said goodbye to Oregon

Oregon Nature WalkDuring our visit Oregon had some beautiful sunny days that we took full advantage of. Walks out in the always pretty Oregon nature with H, my mom and Azora were just what I needed before heading back to the dark Iceland.

Evenings spent blogging in my cozy socks

winter socksMy grandma knows me well and got me the best socks for Christmas. I am talking cashmere socks that are like heaven on my toes! As soon as we got back to the cold Iceland these socks have been on my feet almost every night. I am just trying to figure out how to make wearing these socks with heels a fashion trend.

Two weeks of jet lag in the winter darkness

Grotta Lighthouse, IcelandGrotta Lighthouse, IcelandGrotta Lighthouse, IcelandJet lag hit us hard and we spent the rest of the month trying to get our bodies back on schedule. When there are only a few hours of daylight each day though it is quite difficult to get past the jet lag, like extremely difficult! At least the limited daylight makes for some pretty pictures!

Writing this post made me miss my family so much, but also reminded me how lucky I was to get to spend such a wonderful few weeks with them. January has been a bit dreary since we returned back to Iceland but the month is almost over and lots of fun things are on the horizon. And hopefully some more daylight!

Previous by the numbers month recaps:
First Month in Iceland by the Numbers
Second Month in Iceland by the Numbers
Third Month in Iceland by the Numbers
Fourth Month in Iceland by the Numbers
Fifth Month in Iceland by the Numbers
Sixth Month in Iceland by the Numbers
Seventh Month in Iceland by the Numbers
8th Month in Iceland by the Numbers
9th Month in Iceland by the Numbers
10th Month in Iceland by the Numbers
11th Month in Iceland by the Numbers
12th Month in Iceland by the Numbers
13th Month in Iceland By The Numbers
14th Month in Iceland By The Numbers

Question of the Month?
What do you do in January to make the month less gloomy? Any fun plans coming up?