I’m Going to Iceland!

This October, my brother-in-law and I are going to Iceland! I’m stoked – Iceland has been on my must-see list for quite some time. We’ll also be going at a time when seeing the Northern Lights is highly likely and for as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to see them.

October is the beginning of Iceland’s winter season, so I’m a little unsure exactly how the weather will be. After reading MANY blogs, I plan to dress in layers, take a water proof parka, hats, gloves, warm boots and scarves. Everyone says the weather can be unpredictable, even in summer, so I’m going to try to be as prepared as I can.

Here are a few things on my packing list.

Shoes

I already have a pair of Sperry Topsider duck boots that I wore in Alaska. They are insulated and great for hiking or rain, so I plan to take those. I also bought a pair of Sorel Emelie waterproof boots that are fur lined and super cute. Amazon has them on sale, but I’ve also linked a pair. I’ll also take my Hunter packable rain boots along and my fleece Hunter socks. Both of those came from Nordstrom Rack!

Coats

I plan on taking a lightweight thermoball jacket from North Face as well as a North Face water repellent parka. Both of these were purchased on Poshmark but you can still find the styles elsewhere. Also packing my Kate Spade rain jacket for city wear.

Accessories

Hats! Gloves! Scarves! And probably a fleece blanket. I’ve also read I need to buy a quick dry towel, so I’ll probably buy one of those on Amazon as well. I’m pretty well stocked in the accessory department already since Indiana winters can get really cold, but think I’ll invest in another pair of gloves.

 

Fleece and Thermals

The under layer is just as important as the outer layer. I plan to pack all my thermals – my Free People laguna thermals are my favorite because they also have thumb holes. This Socialite thermal was part of the Nordstrom sale and will also be a great layering piece.

I already have several fleece pullovers and plan to take them as well.

 

Base Layer

This is something I don’t have and need to purchase. Other bloggers suggest a wool base layer, so I’m going to buy these to wear under my denim and fleece lined leggings.

I cannot wait to go! If you’ve been to Iceland before, let me know in the comments!

Weekend Trip to Washington D.C.

Back in the spring, Hanson announced two special concert dates that had them playing with symphony orchestras. I’d just finished complaining about the lack of a new album (it’s been FIVE YEARS) and saying that I was tired of them touring on the old stuff and would rather forfeit a couple years of concerts in favor of getting some new songs. But you know how it goes – even though you’re slightly irritated with your favorite band, you just can’t quit them.

So my friend Lacy and I decided to make a weekend trip out of it – she’d never been to D.C. before and it had been about seventeen years (getting old!) since I’d last visited the nation’s capitol. I decided to drive out and fly back, which enabled me to get the West Virginia, Maryland and Virgina state signs.

I left Indiana around 7:30 a.m. and made it to our hotel in VA by 6 p.m. Lacy and I didn’t do much that evening other than eat at a nearby thai/Chinese place called Big Bowl. It was really good, with big portions and I’d definitely eat there again!

Friday morning, we were up super early to catch the Metro for the 45 min. ride to downtown D.C. Our day started with a tour of the White House, which seemed fairly short compared to the amount of time we spent waiting in the security line to get in. Once inside, we toured the East Wing, which has lots of historical artifacts and presidential portraits for visitors to see.

Following the White House tour, we grabbed a quick snack, then headed to the Holocaust Museum for a few hours. This museum is definitely not for the feint of heart – it’s a very sobering place and you will leave with a heavy heart.

From there, we quickly took in the Library of Congress (amazing!) and met up with the intern from Todd Young’s office for our tour of the Capitol building.

By the end of the tour, we were starving and took an Uber to Founding Farmers, a restaurant owned by the North Dakota Farmers Union. All ingredients for their dishes are locally sourced and the money goes back to family farms. The food was outstanding – I had cornbread, chicken fried steak, green beans and macaroni and cheese. Lacy had a french dip type of sandwich. We both said we could have eaten there every meal. Highly recommended if you find yourself in the D.C. area!

After lunch, we went back down to the National Mall to visit the remaining memorials we hadn’t really had time to thoroughly see, starting with the WWII Memorial. We hadn’t been there very long when it started to pour down rain, so we tried to take cover under the trees and started walking up to the Lincoln Memorial where we waited the rain storm out. I had changed into my rain boots that I’d been lugging around in my backpack all day, but Lacy’s feet were soaked so instead of walking around the Tidal Basin, we decided to call it a day.

Saturday we slept in a little, then took the scenic, toll-free route to Arlington National Cemetery. We spent about three hours there, visiting John and Jackie Kennedy’s graves and watching the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider. That was an amazing experience that I don’t think you fully appreciate as a kid.

From there, we drove down to National Harbor to eat at Succotash, which was underwhelming. Both Lacy and I agreed that we should have just eaten at Founding Farmers again!

Then it was time for the REAL reason we were there – Hanson at Wolf Trap for their String Theory show with the National Symphony Orchestra. I personally am not a classical music person, so I really had no idea what to expect but I was sonically overwhelmed by how beautiful the arrangements were. It was also a much more relaxed atmosphere – the show was seated, which almost never happens at a Hanson concert – and people weren’t fighting to get front row or crowding each other to get closer. After 32 shows, I needed a break from all that and it was so nice to just sit back and enjoy the music.

The concert lasted about two hours with a short intermission in the middle. My favorite was Yearbook, but I also really loved how Siren Call and You Can’t Stop Us sounded with orchestral arrangements. A few songs seemed out of place to me (Where’s the Love) but I understand why they included them.

Sunday morning I had to be up bright and early to catch my 6:30 flight back to Indy. Such a great weekend in D.C. and I can’t wait to see the guys play at the Indiana State Fair this weekend!

Eating My Way Through New Orleans

I just got back from my first national library conference in New Orleans. I had been to the Big Easy several years ago but only for a couple days, so I didn’t get to extensively try the food. I more than made up for that this time though! In my opinion, it doesn’t get much better than southern cooking and I was not disappointed.

My plane landed around noon, so I picked up my rental car then quickly dropped my bags off at my AirBnB, then swung by Johnny Sanchez for lunch. I had the empanadas, which were SO GOOD and filled with plantains and chorizo, covered in cotja cheese and served with a cilantro ranch dipping sauce. They were excellent, although the portions were more appetizer sized and the prices on the high side. It helped tide me over through the opening conference session and until dinner.

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The first amazing meal was technically not in New Orleans, but in the small town of Slidell, which is north of the city. I met up with a friend at The Blind Tiger and tried some of their mahi mahi fish tacos. I’ll be upfront with you here: I’ve never had a fish taco and I really don’t care much for fish unless it’s fried or mild, like tilapia or mahi mahi. So I went outside my comfort zone here and IT PAID OFF. These tacos were so delicious! I highly recommend stopping at this local joint if you find yourself in Slidell. I’m sad to say, I forgot to take a photo of my food, but here’s one I snagged off Trip Advisor.


This photo of The Blind Tiger is courtesy of TripAdvisor

For breakfast on Saturday morning, I got an Uber to Elizabeth’s which wasn’t open yet but already had a line forming outside. They’re noted for breakfast, especially the praline bacon. I opted for Bananas Foster French Toast and wow was it good. I couldn’t finish it all – the portions were huge. I was unprepared for the type of bread they used – it was more like a french bread and not the typical sandwich bread we all use here in the Midwest.

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Saturday night in New Orleans, I met up with my library director for dinner at Coop’s Place in the French Quarter. It was not what I expected! It was a tiny, hole in the wall bar but it had been highly recommended so we tried it anyway. I got red beans and rice and while it was good, I honestly think I’ve had better. It was still a fun experience and there are other things on the menu that look delicious too.

Coops Place

Sunday I was way too busy to leave the convention center so I had pizza for lunch (boring) but Sunday night, I had my best meal of the whole trip at The Rum House on Magazine Street.

They specialize in Caribbean infused taco dishes and of course, rum drinks! I got two tacos with plantains and black beans. SO GOOD. The jerk chicken taco was topped with mango salsa and the Carolina BBQ taco was topped with corn relish and BBQ sauce. There were so many to choose from. I probably should have eaten here twice because the menu is so extensive and it was hard to choose what I wanted. I also indulged in a rum punch that really hit the spot and also went well with my dinner. I thought about key lime pie but was too full to eat anything else that night.

Monday was kind of my sleep in morning, so I skipped breakfast and once again ate lunch at the convention center because my afternoon was very busy with things to do. That evening, I decided to walk down to St. Roch Market, which was near my AirBnB. It was such a cute place and they also have a location in Miami. It’s located in an old factory that they’ve re-vamped and there are lots of different food vendors to order from and you can eat inside or out.

It seems I can’t stay away from Mexican food, because I ordered a burrito bowl with street corn on top. I got a mint lemonade from another vendor and it made for a really delicious dinner. Saint Roch area is an up an coming neighborhood, so if you’re ever looking to escape the French Quarter, I suggest checking it out.

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Tuesday was my last full day in the city and I was all finished with my conference, so I met up with my friend Shana who graciously showed me around and did all of the driving for the day. We started the morning at Cafe Du Monde for some glorious beignets.

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After breakfast, we walked around the French Quarter then headed to Oak Alley Plantation (more on that in another post). We spent a couple hours there, then headed back to New Orleans, where we walked through their unique cemeteries before having lunch and ice cream on Magazine Street.

I got chicken schwarma from Anatolia, which is a Turkish/Mediterranean restaurant along the main drag. The portions were huge! And there’s a really good variety to choose from.

Finally, we ended our day with a scoop of ice cream from Sucre, a fabulous sweet shop with ice cream, macaroons and other sweet treats. Also located on Magazine Street, all goodies are made in house.

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New Orleans Packing List

I’m traveling again this week to a work conference in New Orleans. I expect it to be much hotter than Alaska! Since I’ll be in a professional environment, I plan to mostly pack cool, yet comfortable skirts and dresses along with comfortable shoes.

Here’s a peak at some of the items I’m planning on taking with me.


Target Striped Skirt, Black V-Neck, Toms Lexie Sandals

BP straw Fedora from Nordstrom, Express Denim Dress

Striped T-Shirt dress, Gray Converse

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Black v-neck dress from Dottie Couture (also comes in pink too!)

Free People Lace Dress (thrifted from Poshmark – similar), Free People Denim Jacket

Cruise Vacation to Alaska

Alaska has been on my must-see list for years and coincidentally, the 49th state became my 49th state to visit. We talked about going last year but decided on Italy and Greece instead. This year, we made it happen though and were not disappointed!

Instead of flying and driving through the state, we opted for a seven day cruise as many places can only be reached by plane or boat anyway. Our ship, the Ruby Princess, left from Seattle, Washington and took us to Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay National Park, Ketchikan and finally Victoria, British Colombia before returning to Seattle.

Our first full day was spent at sea – it’s 902 nautical miles from Seattle to Juneau so we had a lot of ground to cover before docking early on Monday morning. It was kind of nice to have that first day to explore the boat, enjoy the food and take in some of the on board activities around the ship.

I booked two excursions for Juneau – one that Adam and I did together and another I did alone. We took a short bus ride to Mendenhall Glacier, hiked a trail that took us to a waterfall and a great view of the glacier, then hiked back to get warm in the visitor’s center before catching our bus back into town.

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(Camo hoodie, beanie, boots)

I grabbed a quick lunch, then set off on my second tour of the day – Sled Dog camp! The bus took us up into the mountains where we met several teams of sled dogs, many who had run Iditarod races. They divided us up into groups of six and we all got to ride behind in a “sled” while the dogs raced through the forest. I was really surprised at how fast a team of dogs can run and impressed that they were pulling about 1,000 lbs. of weight with no problem. We then learned about the dogs, met some PUPPIES and had hot chocolate before heading back to the boat.

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Our next port of call was Skagway, Alaska. An even smaller town than Juneau with less than 1,000 people living in the area, Skagway was once home to the White Pass Railroad, an important part of Alaska’s mining past. Now it takes tourists to the top of the mountain and back.

Skagway has no dentist or doctor – residents in need of emergency medical care have to be flown elsewhere for serious medical care and our tour guide told us most carry a special insurance plan that covers the cost of medical evacuation.

The weather in Skagway was beautiful. Sunny and mid-50s, we only needed light jackets even when getting out at the top of the summit. Most tourists take the train, but in my quest to get photos at all 50 state signs, taking a small bus was the only way to achieve that in Alaska. I’m actually really glad we did this tour anyway, because hearing people talk about the train, you aren’t allowed photo stops and we definitely enjoyed seeing the scenery.

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(Jean jacket, striped thermal, ripped black skinnies, Converse)

Our fourth day on the cruise was spent taking in the beautiful scenery of Glacier Bay National Park. Park rangers boarded the boat and provided commentary about the glaciers that we sailed by as well as nature talks in the theater.

The captain of the ship stayed at the most famous glacier, Margerie Glacier, for about an hour and we sat outside on the deck to take in the cool clue/green waters, calving glaciers and fresh Alaskan air.

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Day five took us to Ketchikan, where we disembarked fairly early in the morning and only had a few hours in the port. I had scheduled a hike through the Alaskan Rainforest Sanctuary in hopes of seeing some more wildlife and we had another pretty good weather day for that. It misted a bit but nothing heavy and stopped pretty much right after we started our hike.

No bear sightings, although we did see signs of them. In addition to the rescued bald eagles they had on site, there was a pair nesting up in some trees and that was neat to see. After our hike, it was back to the boat for another day at sea.

I was a bit disappointed we didn’t really get to explore the town – it would have been nice to have a couple extra hours so we could look around on foot but at least we got to see it from the bus.

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Our sixth day at sea seemed incredibly long – we pretty much exhausted all the trivia contests and game shows on the boat that day and also went to the final “Voice of the Ocean” competition. About half of day seven was also spent sailing until we got to our final port: Victoria, British Colombia.

We weren’t there very long either and arrived in the evening, so daylight hours were short. I booked a whale watching excursion at the last minute because at that point, I’d only seen one humpback whale and really wanted to see more. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, although the tour company really tried to find some they’d located on the tour just before us. We got back as it was getting dark, so they took us on a boat tour of the harbor, which was lit up at night.

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From there, it was back to the states and we were one of the first groups off the ship the next morning. We picked up a rental, drove 3 1/2 hours to Spokane so I could get the Washington and Idaho state signs, then flew home on Sunday.

It was an amazing trip and I highly recommend taking an Alaskan cruise if you can! We would have loved to have seen Denali National Park and Anchorage, but time didn’t allow for those stops this time – maybe someday we’ll get back!

We used Princess Cruise lines, which I have used twice before – once for a British Isles cruise and also to the Caribbean. The boats all seem the same to me, but the service, activities and food was exceptional.

I’m not sure where we’ll go next – I have a couple short trips before the end of the summer but we’re exploring traveling internationally again as well as either going to the east coast (which I tend to neglect) or San Francisco.

So much to see, so little time to see it all đŸ™‚