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over and out

At the beginning of May, we embarked on an adventurous undertaking.   A few months prior, my dad had invited us to join him on one of his semi-regular excursions to France.  Intrigued, we sat on the idea for many weeks trying to decide if international travel was something we wanted to try with a four year old kid.  I had been to Europe roughly 15 years ago after studying abroad in Ireland and longed to return.   Nick had never been overseas, limiting his travel to the countries of North America.   Jonas is quite the homebody and would possibly be completely disinterested in the trip.   Eventually we decided to take the plunge and hope for the best.   Fortunately, we were not disappointed.   

Iceland:  Snaefellsnes Penninsula 

We planned our journey to France with a 4-day stopover in Iceland.   Icelandair flies direct from Seattle and offers up to seven days of stopover with no extra charge (and in our case, the tickets were actually cheaper!).  This idea was a stroke of genius.  We embarked for Keflavik on a Saturday afternoon and after a 7-hour flight, we found ourselves in the rugged wind-swept country of Iceland.   Luckily, Jonas slept 4 hours on the flight and was rested enough for the time being.   We picked up our rental car and began driving north towards the capital of Reykjavik.  

Lesson 1:   No matter how simple the roads in a country look, one should always stop and get a map.   

After many turns, roundabouts and explorations of the suburbs, we navigated closer to the city center.   We really had no destination in mind, except perhaps a cafe serving breakfast.   However, after much searching, we found very little open on a Sunday morning.   The skies were bright and sunny, but the wind was chilling us as we walked the street of Laugavegur.   Eventually, shops began to open their doors and we found a place to get some eggs, bacon and bread.    I had spied a good looking bakery under some scaffolding, and stopped after our breakfast to get some bread for the road.   The Sandholt Bakeri was amazing and I wish I had bought more.   It was bustling with Icelanders and I picked up a loaf of seedy bread, a piece of apple cake and some hazelnut sables.  

We had decided to stay up on the Snaefellsnes Pennisula rather than in the city, so our next stop was a grocery store to get supplies.   Since the majority of the population live in Rekjavik, we weren't sure how many opportunities we would have to stock up on food once we were out in the country.  Eventually we located a Bonus shopping center and waited patiently until noon for the store to open.  

Lesson 2:   Nothing opens until noon on Sunday in Iceland.  

Once inside, we navigated the aisles to find some simple foods for our two nights in a cabin.  All of the labels were in Icelanic (or another scandanavian language), so it took a little bit of time to find what we wanted.  We got some cheddar, smjor (butter), mjolk (milk), a dried sausage, dried apricots, muesli and black tea.  Our lone piece of produce was a cucumber.  Now we were ready to hit the road.   Nick knew we should be on Highway 1 and eventually we found it.  Unfortunately, we headed in the wrong direction.  For an hour.   We immediately found a gas station, picked up a map and got back on track.   Our plan was to do a hike at the back of one of the fjords about halfway to our destination.   At this point, neither Nick nor I had had any sleep.   I managed to nap an hour on the drive to Glymurfoss, the waterfall we were hiking to.  Nick kept himself awake navigating the dirt roads and looking at the scenery.  

The hike up to the waterfall was just what we needed to make it through the day and get ourselves over jet lag.  Jonas was a great sport, despite the wind and cold.  The landscape was rough and uneven, with golden grass covering the rocks.  Parts of the waterfall were still frozen and a large snow-covered mountain loomed in the near distance.  And, at the same time, we could still see the sea, sparkling in the sun.   In some ways, the landscape reminded us of the parts of the big island of Hawai'i, minus the tropical feel.   Ultimately, Iceland was really like no place we had been before.  



Reaching our home for the evening, we settled in to our cabin at Snorrastaðir.   Many of the working farms in the country have lodgings for tourists and we had found this place through Icelandic Farm Holidays.   The family that owned the farm lived in their house across a small inlet and we had run of one of the small cabins.  The cabin was perfectly equipped for our needs, very cozy and had great blackout curtains.  We fried up some grilled cheese sandwiches and then all stumbled into bed.   

Jonas had an amazing 14 hour sleep and Nick and I had a pretty restful night as well.  Nick went out over the frozen ground in the morning to explore the volcanic Eldborg crater nearby while I read and drank tea.   Close to noon, Jonas emerged from his room, and we soon left to drive round the pennisula and explore.   

We had picked this area out of all of Iceland because Jonas had pointed it out on a map when Nick asked, "Where do you want to go in Iceland?" Snaefellsnes is part of a larger area called the Vesturland.  We drove empty roads through small fishing towns, walked a coastal hike between the two villages of Hellnar and Arnastapi (warming ourselves with fish soup at a small cafe afterwards), watched the waves at an deserted black sand beach and drove home through the mountain pass at twilight.  

Before we left Snorrastaðir the next day, we stopped in the barn to visit with the animals.  The woman who lives and works the farm was doing the feeding and we discovered that the sheep and goats had recently given birth to their young.   Jonas was enthralled with all of the animals and we spent some quiet time watching them before heading off to our next destination on the island.   



desk overhaul

There is something about a nice desk that makes a room feel lived in.  Both Nick and I had desks in our rooms growing up and I loved having so many drawers at my disposal for stashing art supplies, treasures and journals. Although Jonas might be a little young still to take full advantage of a desk, we happened upon a nearly discarded desk with "good bones' so to speak, and I decided to re-finish it to make it suitable for our boy's room.

The desk how we found it had some crude stencil painting on the wood top (with several layers of yellowing varnish) and the rest of the desk was painted black and mint green. I say the desk was very nearly discarded, and it was, by us.  It belonged to Nick's dad and when we were going through his house, the desk ended up on the curb with the ubiquitous "FREE" sign attached.   In the moment, we had so much to deal with that neither of us could envision fixing up the desk.  However, the next day the desk was still sadly sitting at the curb and I decided it should be preserved after all.  

The desk sat in our garage in its black and mint glory for a year, plus or minus, in various stages of refinishing.  I sanded the top of the desk into submission with my orbital sander and did a light sanding on the rest of the painted wood before priming it with an oil based primer.  I like the look of the unpainted wood top and wanted to get down to bare wood again for staining.  The drawers had suffered from use and aren't in the greatest condition, but i didn't have time or patience to fill any of the imperfections with wood putty.  We'll just say that desk is a bit broken in.

The colors on the desk might look familiar, since they are the same colors I used for Jonas' play stove a year ago (which is getting lots of use these days).  I used some stain we had left over from staining his bedroom dresser.  The only thing I think I spent money on for this project were the new pulls.  Overall, I was pleased with the makeover and glad the trusty old desk will get more years of use.  



Someone had a birthday.  We had started the countdown to this birthday many months ago with the gradual increase of the fraction that came after 3 ( 3 & 1/2,  3 & 2/3, 3 & 5/6 and so on).  So when the day finally rolled around and Jonas became officially 4 years old, we all felt a sense of accomplishment.  In the preschool world, 4 is a big deal.   Jonas has become much more talkative, even with folks we meet around the town, and he will not skip a beat in telling them his name, how it's spelled and that he is four, often without taking a breath.   This fast spree of words is often lost on the interested (or semi-interested) adult, but Jonas doesn't seem to mind.   Nick and I agree he is much more outgoing than we were at his age.  At his preschool, he usually keeps to himself and if he does engage with someone, it is much more likely to be another parent or teacher, rather than a peer.  Still, a few small friendships are forming and we sit back and try to sprinkle some water on them from time to time.  

As a present for this birthday, I made Jonas a collared shirt in a striking owl print I noticed at the fabric store a few months back.  Owls are one of the animals that interest Jonas from time to time and their quiet, observant behavior seemed a good match for his personality.  Furthermore, a 4 year old is one of the only people who can pull off a brightly patterned shirt with pearlized snaps.  And pairing it with car-printed corduroy pants -- genius!

The pattern is an Oliver + S classic, the Sketchbook Shirt.   The printed pattern comes with a shorts pattern as well that I hope to try out soon.  I made the shirt in a size 5 which is nearly too small for him already -- so I'm encouraging him to wear it often.   I used a few scraps of a chambray fabric as well to break up the pattern and give the shirt some added detail.   Everything came together amazingly well and I would definitely make another shirt from the pattern again.   

Here's looking at you -- big kid.   Happy Birthday, little owlet.  


Inky Little Honey

When I inherited two colors of yarn from another knitting project that didn't quite come to fruition, I wasn't quite sure what I would do with it myself.   I searched the patterns at Ravelry looking for something with the right gauge and yardage to fit my stash.  When I chanced upon the Little Honey pattern, I knew the striped ragalan sleeved sweater, with the little pockets, would be perfect.   I went all the way up to a size 6 for the pattern just to make sure it would last at least one season. 

Even though the sweater fits Jonas just right -- he doesn't care to wear it much, saying the sleeeves feel "rough".  However, at the same time he's hitting me up for a purple sweater, so I suppose I have my work cut out for me to find a nice soft yarn for my next project.  

I think the sweater looks adorable though and will still encourage him to wear it -- roughness and all.  


giraffe boy

Halloween snuck up on us quickly this year, probably due to the lovely warm October weather and the leaves changing later in the season than usual.   We were excited to see how Jonas would react to the festivities, especially trick-or-treating.  

Jonas decided early on he would be a giraffe this year for Halloween, which pleased me since the costume would be relatively easy to put together and because it is still a sweet, gentle creature and I'm not ready for my little boy to want to be a ninja or an action figure.  I was also lucky enough to find some nice giraffe print fabric which was soft and cuddly.   Generally, I re-made his bear costume from when he was 1 with some tweaks and using larger patterns (of course).   To design the ears, tufts and mane, I used felt and just winged it with the design and shape.  The tufts were the hardest to pull off and flopped over like the ears.   The mane is probably my favorite element of the hat.  We even visited the zoo the week of Halloween to check out the giraffes that live there and their lovely orange manes.  

The pants are made from the same pattern I've used before (Made by Rae's Parsely Pants) and have a rear seam that was perfect for inserting the tail.   Tails always seem to be the most fun part of an animal costume for a kid -- and Jonas still enjoys wearing his giraffe pants around town and shaking his tail.  

My brother was in visiting and took Jonas out for some fun Halloween evening (I had to work) and Jonas quickly became hooked on trick-or-treating.  So much in fact, he made Nick take him out again to houses on our street when they returned from trick-or-treating in another neighborhood.   Yes, kids in Seattle do go out to the neighborhoods for trick-or-treating, but usually swarm to certain areas of town that are more conducive than our own poorly lighted, dead-end street.  In fact, the only trick-or-treater we had that evening was Jonas. Good thing he picked out candy he likes.