Tuesday, October 21, 2014

My Intro to Iceland, and Gorgeous Gullfoss

One year ago, I went to Iceland for an awesome whirlwind of a long weekend. And for some reason, I never shared it here on the blog! So here's my first post about the gorgeous country of Iceland! There's not a whole lot of information in this post. But there's a bunch of pretty pictures. The adventures and stories will be coming in future posts.

This first photo is right around the corner from our hotel (Icelandair Reykjavik Natura).

Obligatory money shot (Icelandic Krona):

Picturesque random street downtown Reykjavik:

Our giraffe friend:

The Hallgrimskirkja. This church holds the record as the tallest building in Iceland, at 244 feet.

The interior is pretty sparse and basic, but houses a beautiful pipe organ. It's rumored that the bell tower has the best views in the city, but we were too late in the day to find out.

This may seem like a random photo, but it's the one that best captures the strange feeling I had the whole time. Unlike any other place I've been, the sky in Iceland seemed so close, the clouds so low, like I could reach out and touch them if I wanted to. Like the sky loved Iceland too, and was giving it a big hug.

After this little walk our first day in town, we were exhausted, but it was too early to go to bed. The hotel TV only had 5 channels (only 2 in English), so we were going to crowd around the Kindle except...

Sad day!  We wasted away the hours flipping the channels and trying to figure out how to order a pizza. That was our first adventure in Iceland. The website was only in Icelandic, so we called, and the man who answered the phone didn't know our hotel by name. So he asked for the address....which we couldn't pronounce and I attempted to spell....until: "umm, I don't have that letter in my language. It's like a curvy 'd' with a cross?" Thankfully, someone there knew where we were and we got our pizza!

Our first excursion was to the Gullfoss waterfall. But even before we got there, we had beautiful sights! Like these random hot springs seen from the bus:

The tour made a quick bathroom and coffee stop at this little strip mall that happened to be the victim of an earthquake several years back. The powers that be made the best of it by lighting the crack, laying some thick glass, and making it a tourist attraction. I felt super brave standing over this 6-foot-deep crack!

Then it was onto Gullfoss!

Fun story: see the first group of people in the above photo? That's approximately the spot where I slipped on the ice and slid downhill a good 10 feet, briefly wondering how Chrissy and Kathryn would explain my death-by-icy-Icelandic-waterfall to everyone back home (this would not be the last time this trip I had that thought...but those stories are for another post).

It's easy to see why this place is one of the top tourist destinations in Iceland. It's stunning.

So. Stinkin. Beautiful.

So I leave you with a group shot.

Have you been to Gullfoss (or Iceland in general)? What did you think?

Friday, October 17, 2014

"The Categorical Universe of Candice Phee"

I usually use stock photos of book covers for my reviews, but look at the cute certificate that came with this book (adorable old dog just for because he's asleep on me)! You can find the book here.
Okay, on with the review.

Some people label Candice as being "on the spectrum", but she just knows she's different. She takes things literally, she's caused her pet fish to have a religious crisis, and her best friend is from another dimension (maybe). On top of all that, her family is falling apart and she's the only one who can save it. Well, with a little help from her dad's estranged brother, Rich Uncle Brian.

I don't usually go for middle reader books (I didn't realize that's what it was when I requested it), but I really enjoyed this one! Jonsberg has written a witty kids book featuring a lovable, quirky character that's a little out there, but still relatable. It was an entertaining read as an adult, and I definitely would've felt the same as a kid! Go ahead and pick this one up.

3/5 Stars

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a review.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

"Impact: Get Rich! Be More Awesome! Change The World!"

I really enjoyed this book, and read the whole thing in one day of flights and airports. Casey Lewis draws on his personal experience to demonstrate what a healthy financial plan can do for even the most dire circumstances. He lays out a step-by-step process to get you in financial shape, no matter where you are in the journey, making it easy to get your money in order. More importantly, he makes a case for why you should get it in order.

This might get me in trouble with the FPU crowd, but I like Lewis' book more than Dave Ramsey's (if I get trampled by a gazelle or run over by a snowball, you all know why). Why can I say that? They share pretty much the same information and have a similar plan, but Lewis is very relatable in his writing style, it's quick to read and implement, and he makes it really easy to understand how to handle your money in a wise and responsible way.

If you're looking to get your money in order to have a healthy financial future, you need to read this. As grateful as I am for Ramsey's resources helping me get started on my own financial journey, Lewis' Impact is the book I'll be recommending more often than other financial books.

Highly Recommended, 5/5 Stars
I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, September 19, 2014


Acceleration is a down and dirty, no-nonsense book about getting things done quickly and efficiently, providing you with maximum impact and influence.

In his first book, Matoga explains how to succeed in business and ministry using his nine time-tested Principles of Acceleration. These simple principles are explored through each chapter with a blend of business acumen, common sense, and Biblical standards in a simple but powerful way.

This book is an easy read packed with information to help you excel, and organized in an easy-to-reference format. You can easily pick it up anytime to get a quick refresher of whatever material you want. While several of the principles in the book have been stated before, Matoga uses his unique voice and outlook to make them pop, and strings them together to create a fool-proof attack plan for success.

If you're a leader in business or ministry, check out this quick primer to accelerated success.
Recommended, 4/5 stars.

This book is not yet released. I will post the link here when it is available.

I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

"Dirty Faith"

Christians are called to serve "the least of these", but what does that really look like? What does it mean to be a follower of Christ, and not just a believer in Christ? Nowell outlines this kind of life with a mix of personal stories, statistics, and scripture analysis to stir readers into action. Using his experience with street kids in Brazil, Nowell has a clear vision of what loving the orphan, widow, and prisoner actually means, and he does a good job or clarifying this call for the reader.

Dirty Faith is the latest release in the Christian social justice explosion, and I put it on par with David Platt's Radical. The message isn't radical or new; it's the foundation of a biblical Christian lifestyle. But in today's culture of self-centered faith and easy sacrifice, it's an important starting point for anyone looking to get back to New Testament Christianity. For those already involved in serving the least, this  book will not present anything new, but will confirm what you're working for. I'd recommended for anyone wanting to make a difference and not sure where to start, for anyone who feels like something is missing from their Christian walk.

3/5 Stars, Recommended.

I received this book from the publisher through LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Giant's Causeway and Northern Ireland

This post is part of my British Invasion 2014 series. For all posts in the series, click here.

We've reached the end of my Ireland posts (for this trip anyways). I think that's why this post has been so delayed. I felt like writing it means the trip is officially over with a capital "O". In reality, this isn't true, because the best trips never really end. They live forever in the mind of the traveler, replaying the memories over and over. So allow me to share my last day in Ireland with you, the Giant's Causeway/Northern Ireland day tour with Irish Daytours and our driver Bud. 

Warning: this post contains lots of pictures because they were all beautiful and I couldn't narrow it down to just a few.

This was a long day, since it's a lot of driving to get to Northern Ireland from Dublin, but it is a beautiful drive. The day started off rainy and foggy, so you couldn't see much of the scenery, but it made for it's own type of beauty. There's a big hill behind those clouds.

The rain and the twisty roads made for a bit of motion sickness, but the iconic Irish vistas helped a little.

We made a stop in this sleepy little riverfront town called Carnlough....or Larne. There were signs saying both, so I have no idea what it was actually called, but I enjoyed it.

They have a monument to a pigeon named Paddy here in Carnlough/Larne. It's got a plaque as big as the one commemorating a shipwreck.

Even in the fog, this is a beautiful and serene place.

After another while in the bus, the sun finally broke through the clouds, just in time for us to venture across the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge.

The Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge is suspended a hundred feet over the water, connecting the main land to a small island. In the past, this bridge (the scarier version, anyways) was used by fisherman. Currently, it's purpose is to make tourists like myself feel brave and daring. 

The noise of the waves, and the wind whipping my hair around made it a scary walk, though not as bad as I expected it to be. If you look closely at this picture you can see both the terror and excitement in my eyes as I cross. 

 Once you make it across, though, you're rewarded with beautiful views and the most stunning colors I've ever seen in real life. This whole day was like walking through a 120-count-box of Crayola crayons.

 I'd love to come back here someday with more time to explore the hiking trails all around the area.

Lunch was a quick stop at the very touristy -but delicious- Chilly McCools. I've seen mixed reviews online, so here's my two cents: It's Irish fast food. It doesn't claim to be anything super special, and it's obviously a tourist stop, with a cafeteria style. But they did have good food. I had the Steak and Guiness pie. Yum.

Then it was on to the main event: The Giant's Causeway! FYI, when I have a husband and kids, I plan to be this family:

As hard as it is to narrow down my favorite part of this trip, Giant's Causeway (this whole day, really) comes close.

It's so classically Ireland, and there's just something magical about it. So unlike any other place, while still being familiar. 

I mean, it's basically a "beach", right? Ocean meets land, just like home. But the rock formations make it something so different, so foreign, unlike anywhere else. 

Then there's the little surprise ecosystems happening in some of the crevices.

I can't put my finger on why I loved this place, I just did. So much. 

 Really wish I could've stayed longer, just relaxing on these rocks. Someday.

I couldn't resist putting my feet into the "wrong" side of the Atlantic, thinking about how crazy it is that this same water touches the shores of my home state.

Some visiting tips: Avoid the visitor center. According to Bud (we didn't test it ourselves), the visitor center charges just for admission to the building! We just headed straight to the Causeway. There is about a mile walk from parking to the Causeway. They do have a shuttle service for a pound each way, if you need it, but if you're able, I recommend the walk. It's gorgeous, and not difficult.

Our last stop of the day was in Belfast. We didn't have long, and we arrived late in the day, so almost everything was closed, even the church-headquarters-turned-mall. All we did in Belfast (besides take a few photos of the gorgeous architecture) was eat dinner at the famous Crown Liquor Saloon.

On our way home, we had to stop for a few minutes to let the cows cross. It was a great way to end our first Irish adventure!

Have you been to Carrick-a-rede or the Giant's Causeway? What did you think?

Disclaimer: I am not cool enough to have affiliate links or sponsors (at least not yet). All opinions are strictly my own, and all links are shared because I think they're awesome.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A Day in Moher and the Burren

This post is part of my British Invasion 2014 series. For all posts in the series, click here.

For our third day in Ireland, we took the Moher and Burren tour with Extreme Ireland led by the friendly guide, Mac. Our first "stop" was at Ollie Hayes Bar in Moneygall, famous now because President Obama stopped in for a pint a few years back. Frankly, I didn't find it very interesting (especially since it was about 7am, so it was closed), but the flower boxes above the bar were beautiful.

The main attraction for the day was the Cliffs of Moher (pronounced like "more"), but as we came to expect from Extreme Ireland, there were several other intriguing stops along the way. Plenty of them on this day, especially!

The first was along the River Shannon in Limerick, where we had a perfect view of King John's Castle. Well, one of them. Apparently there's more than one "King John's Castle" in Ireland. 

The site where we stopped is famous for this rock:

The Treaty Stone is where a peace treaty was signed between the Irish and the English after the Battle of the Boyne in 1691. It was later installed on this pedestal to prevent the stone from being ruined by people.

Then it was on to the Cliffs! They were beautiful. So much green and blue!

The tower was closed, so I got a little artsy with the doorway.

After a few minutes around the tower, we headed to the other end of the cliffs, following this path:

That photo above seem familiar? It's been in a few small movies...like Harry Potter.

I call this next shot my Nike Ad.

We didn't see any of the puffins that are known to live on the cliffs, but we I did get a little gutsy and live on the edge for a few minutes!

After a while exploring the cliffs, and using the free wifi to post some awesome shots to Instagram, the tour moved on to lunch. We stopped in Doolin to eat at McGann's Pub.

McGann's is this warm little pub with some pretty good food. They've got these police, fire, etc. badges all over the walls near the bar. At first, we just thought it was cool decor. But looking closer, we noticed some familiar names. Many of the badges come from the towns near my home in Massachusetts! According to the bartender, there's a McGann's in Boston, too!

The next stop was in the surreal Burren in County Clare. It's this vast space of limestone overlooking Galway Bay that makes you feel like you're on another planet. Because of how the sun hit the limestone,  the colors of every photo I took came out differently!

Someday, I'm coming back and doing what the lady (that you can't see very well) in the middle of this next photo is doing: Sitting in the rocks, with a book and a drink.

I feel like this should be the alien landscape in some Doctor Who adventure.

From the Burren we went to Corcomroe Abbey, built sometime in the 11th century. Like many other spots in Ireland, it's a beautiful, slightly ruinous chapel that is now home to a graveyard.

What set this one apart, for me at least, was what our tour guide said when we got in: that there's a crypt you can stick your hand/camera in and maybe get a picture of the bones inside. He said he never believed this rumor until he recently saw another tour guide's photo, but that no one on his tours had captured them on film...or whatever the proper term is today.

So I made my way over to the crypt, going to the narrow space between the crypt and the window:

In this space just a little wider than my body, I got down on hands and knees, as Mac directed me to the ground-level opening in the center of the grave. At his instruction I nervously put my hand, camera attached, into the tiny hole, blindly pointed my camera to the left, and clicked. On my first try, this is what I came away with:

Look! Bones!! A skull!! Others took turns, all unable to get a glimpse of the elusive bones, then I went back for another chance. Stuck my hand in and shot at a few different angles, and wasn't disappointed. 

A full skull! What I assume is a femur!

I have no idea why there's a hole in the crypt, but this was a cool, albeit a bit morbid, experience. And I'm proud to say that me and my point-and-shoot got the shots no one else, with any camera, was able to get! Mac seemed pretty happy, too.

Thank's to Mac's tour guide buddies, we had an unplanned stop. There was a new chocolate factory up the road, so it was kinda mandatory that we stop. Hazel Mountain Chocolates was a cute little place, but seemed a bit pricey. However, it smelled delicious, and you could watch the chocolates get made, so it was a fun extra stop.

Our tour for the day wrapped up in Kinvara, an adorable little town on the water that is home to Dunguaire Castle and the annual Hooker Regatta.

According to Mac, the castle is owned by a wealthy English woman who now lives there and opens it up for banquets. A future goal of mine is to go to one of the banquets. Also to own a castle.

Hookers, for the unenlightened, are boats similar to this one, ancient in design, and prized by many Irishmen. Another goal is to go for a ride on one of these hookers.

The colors of the buildings here are beautiful.

This day was a bit dreary weather-wise, which caused some sleepiness and motion sickness, but overall it was another fabulous day in Ireland!

Disclaimer: I am not cool enough to have affiliate links or sponsors (at least not yet). All opinions are strictly my own, and all links are shared because I think they're awesome.
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