Five by Five

Ten years! Oh my god, you guys.

Honestly, the 5-year mark felt much bigger. That was probably when this thing peaked. (It’s also back when people were still blogging.) 5 years ago, I really lived in this thing because I didn’t have much else.

I mean, I had—and have— amazing friends, but they were all in relationships, planning weddings, going on double dates, etc. The more I surrounded myself with them, the more I felt alone. I was always dating someone, or at least flirting, but they always let me down in the end.

I had a job, but aside from friendships, it was the worst and I hated it. The management was pretty abusive and it drove me to therapy, repeatedly. One by one, all of my friends quit, so I was miserable and lonely there. (My old job is where I ended up doing the most of my blogging, just to give me one part of the day I could look forward to.)

I didn’t sleep. At all. And I didn’t know why. I took drugs that were not meant for me (at a dosage that the FDA has finally realized was too much) for a very long time and they made me depressed and insane.

 

Just after the 5-year mark, I was so incredibly lonely and miserable that I made a vow to go out and meet new people. And almost immediately, though we unknowingly circled each other for 10 years, I met Justin. I knew my love of TV would get me somewhere.

I finally decided to take a stand and find a job that made me happy and fulfilled (or at least didn’t make me cry on a daily basis). And I didn’t just find a new job—I found my dream job. I’m still a little in shock.

Someone finally figured out what was wrong with me, and now I can sleep! There are still restless nights every now and then, but for the most part I get the sleep I need. Sleeping on Justin’s shoulder helps immensely. And I haven’t taken Ambien in 4 years!

I got a niece, who made my heart grow in a way I didn’t know it could. By Halloween, I’ll have 4 nieces and nephews total. And in 5 years, maybe I’ll have a kid of my own, and my heart can grow in an even weirder, more wonderful way.

All of those friends I made, plus the old ones that I love more than anything? They all came together to help me through the scariest, most painful time of my life. That concert was one of the few bright spots that year for my entire family, and we’ll be forever grateful to all of you.

I moved four times in the last 5 years! But nothing was harder than packing up the house where I grew up, where my dad died, on Father’s Day. I drove by there the other day, just to see what it looks like, and it still hurts. Even though taking care of my dad was so hard and heartbreaking, I’m forever thankful that I got to move back home and see him every day, and to appreciate my childhood home with adult eyes.

I lost some things, too … my dad most of all. And my very best friend, my Grandma. I think about them every single day and I don’t think that will ever change. But I think it’s just one of those pains you get used to, like a bad back or a sore knee. It’s just a part of getting older.

But again, the biggest thing I’ve gained in the last 5 years—what made these years so different, and so much better, than the last 5—is Justin. From all of our weird adventures and roadtrips to our wedding to Iceland and beyond, I can’t imagine my life without him and I’m so lucky that I get to wake up next to him every day.

I came across this post on Humans of New York the other day and immediately fell in love:

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This, I think, is the biggest difference between the way I am now and the way I was when I started this blog. Back then, I wanted to be noticed. I wanted to get writing gigs. I wanted the cool people on the internet as friends. I wanted my ex to want me back. I wanted to be special. I wanted to be extraordinary. And you know what? In the first 5 years, back when this was called Shortcake, all of that happened!

But these days, that isn’t important to me. In fact, these days the internet is such a nightmare that the last thing in the world that I want is tons of attention online. More importantly, I don’t want to hang out there. I just want to hang out with my friends in person, travel places, do things, make things, write things that matter.

I mean, I get to go to my dream job every day, come home to my dream loft and spend time with my dream man, or some of the coolest friends (with the biggest hearts) in the world. Once again, I’ve hit my goal. And for now, it’s perfect. I don’t need to be extraordinary to other people. I’m content. I’m amazed by my life every single day. And that’s enough for me.

Thanks for being a part of it.

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Catching Up With My Frans

We’re getting veeeeerrry close to the 10 year anniversary of this blog, and I’ve been veeeeerrry bad about writing in here, so before I do some big-ass retrospective (or realistically, a lazy “woooo!”) I should tell you what I’ve been up to for the last few months.

Traveling

First up, Seattle, which was amazing! I definitely want to go back. The best part was hanging out with Erin and seeing old friends like Courtney, Graham, Mike, Dan, Carrie and CHARLIE!

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We also spent a weekend in Snoqualmie, aka Twin Peaks. Highly recommended! We took a self-guided tour with maps that we found online. A lot of the back roads were closed due to flooding, so we had to follow a moving GPS dot through the woods and hope for the best. This was the most fun we’ve had in a while.

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Also: we stayed at The Great Northern! Hi!

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Seattle is a sister city to Reykjavik (where we spent our honeymoon) and Twin Peaks is how we met, so it felt like an early anniversary trip.

I also went to Milwaukee and Minneapolis for work. Both were a great time, with cool projects. Downtown Minneapolis is almost identical to St. Louis, and Milwaukee = cheese.

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Finally, a long weekend in Hamilton, Indiana. Doesn’t sound glamorous, I know, but Justin’s mom, grandma and aunts all live lakeside.

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Speaking of glamor, Justin’s aunt Penny told us that since we’re the only people who appreciate her painting, we’re inheriting this someday.

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Up next? We’re going to Washington, D.C.! My brother got promoted and they’re having a big ceremony at his work (a little place called The Pentagon). I’m really excited, especially because I get to meet my nephew!

What’s That? A Nephew?

That’s right! It’s okay to be confused. Technically he is still 2 months away from his due date. But he’s already here.  He’s been here for a while.

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Meet my nephew Will, born over 3 months early at 24 weeks. 22 weeks is the youngest you can be born and live. He had a 50% chance of survival, and a 50% chance of everything, but so far he is kicking serious ass. He is such a strong boy, and he will need that tenacity to deal with his tough-as-nails, adrenaline-junkie sister.

Losing Weight

I’ve lost about 10 pounds so far–not enough to notice, but enough to motivate me to keep going. This is mostly from running on a big incline, crazy interval training, not eating crap, and …

Wheat-Free

It’s getting hotter again, which means I need to avoid wheat again. I’m trying to say “wheat” instead of “gluten” because of that study that said gluten-intolerant people may actually be affected by a different protein–giving half my Facebook feed the freedom to call people like me “retarded” because they can’t read one article past the headline.

I read the book Wheat Belly and it was pretty life-changing. I don’t like that it’s so focused on weight, but I have the feeling that’s what sells. Anyway, it’s been about 2 weeks and I feel awesome. I don’t miss any of the food at all. Honestly, the biggest challenges are feeling like a bad guest when people cook me things, and people talking to me like a fucking idiot.

Writing

I wrote Act 1 of my movie for my screenwriting class and … I got an A! It was so addicting. I definitely want to keep it up, and then workshop a full script once I have something I love.

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Honestly, the best part of the class was walking down the hall and visiting Justin at his job. We both went to that college but didn’t meet until 10 years later. Walking down the halls together, kissing in the parking lot, and cramming for finals felt so right … like we were making up for lost time or just erasing 10 years that we wasted looking for each other.

Married Life

Speaking of us, we celebrated our anniversary! I surprised him with an Icelandic continental breakfast and he designed some cool art for me. We ate the top tier of our wedding cake and watched Eurovision (a honeymoon highlight).

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We’ve also been trying to do more stuff together despite our schedules. The cheesier, the better!

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And finally …

Renovating

Not exactly by choice, but the building I live in recently gave us all new cabinets, counters, appliances, bathroom vanities, a new rooftop patio, etc. We had workmen wandering in and out of our place for months, which led to some very awkward moments. However, the place looks great!

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In addition to building renovations, Justin rebuilt our giant bookshelf and built a crazy IKEA workstation with a floating ceiling. (His computer is in the ceiling, so he can plug in a monitor and work on the island without worrying about cords.) Add in the views of North City, the City Museum, Windows on Washington and holy shit.

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After we finished, a friend asked if I ever stand in my apartment, look around, and marvel that I live there. I said, “Every day. Every single day.” And it’s true.

 

 

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Where Have I Been?

I’m doing well on all of my New Year’s Resolutions, surprisingly, except for one: writing here once a week. Additionally, a few friends have recently asked me why I don’t write here as often. I used to be obsessed with this blog and it led to a lot of amazing things in my life, so I gave this question a lot of thought and here’s what I’ve come up with.

(I want to be clear that this isn’t a criticism of anyone else who still writes all the time. These are just my own experiences and feelings. If I read your blog, it means you’re doing something right (or I’m hate-reading you, in which case PLEASE CONTINUE). Again, my own reasons.)

It’s Been (Almost) 10 Years

After a decade of shameless oversharing, you tend to cover everything. Favorite travels? Bad break-ups? Ambien Adventures? Check, check and check. If there’s a great story to be told, I’ve told it–probably more than once. I could think of something new to share with you every day, but that’s for micro-blogging. The guts, they have been spilled.

Happiness is Boring

By boring, I don’t mean bad at all. I love my life right now. I’m lucky as hell. But I’m not going on dates. I’m not breaking up with people. I’m not stirring up shit. I don’t hate my job. I don’t have a hit tracker anymore, but I’m willing to bet that any stalkers or ex-boyfriends that used to read this are long gone. My friends and I play with babies more than we party. I’m not going to bars that often–and when I do, it’s with old friends and consists of nothing but inside jokes.

Aside from my constant workout goals and/or weight struggles (which no one cares about), I’m simply content. I’ve hate-read enough Christian mommy blogs to know that reading about someone’s happiness and gratitude is at best boring and at worst insufferable and annoying. But on the same note…

Negativity is Contagious

Things bother me. People piss me off. Life is unfair. Check out this idiot. I could write about this stuff all day, every day, but all that does is pass the negativity on to you. Some people can write this stuff and be funny, and some people can read that stuff and not be affected, but I don’t want to contribute to it unless I feel my complaint is worthwhile. (Example: I’ve been contemplating writing about the crazy religion I was raised in and how it’s gotten even crazier, which is much more valid than writing about how I got cut off in traffic.)

I recently held someone’s hand while they died and watched them use all of their strength for each breath–literally holding on for dear life–and it made me realize how important those breaths are. Every second of my life matters. Every second of your life matters, too, including the ones you spend interacting with me. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how to use them wisely. Focusing on negativity and spreading negativity is a waste of life, at least to me.

I Am Wrong About Everything 

If there’s one thing Facebook and comment sections have taught me, it’s that people will bitch about anything. But if they’ve taught me anything else, it’s that there is always another side to the story. If I’m angry about something and bitch about it, there’s a 90% chance that I simply don’t see the big picture. So when things bother me, these days I go looking for the other side. In most cases, it just takes a little empathy. (There are some clear black and white issues, like of course we should have marriage equality, but mostly it’s a little gray.) Even this entry, even with my disclaimer, it will piss off somebody and they will need to tell me why they write all of the time. It’s just inevitable. I certainly have an opinion about everything, but I rarely pick a side anymore.

Parroting

This is more of a Facebook complaint, but it has happened on blogs and Twitter, too. Memes are one thing. And writing is fluid; you pick up little phrases and you use them, and then you drop them when you get sick of it. But sometimes I will want to use a cute phrase because it makes me laugh, and within a day another friend will use it, too. I get that I don’t own the English language, but when I throw something like that into a sentence and it makes me laugh, I’m proud of myself. When other people do it right after I do, it depresses me. It’s not plagiarism and it’s not something you can generally complain about, so it just festers in me. Yuck. I know I do it, too, but I’ve also caught myself and deleted it. Nowadays, I collect the nuggets and save them for something bigger, rather than spending them on a throwaway joke that other people claim as their own.

I Write For A Living

Copywriting and ghostwriting. And now: school, too. I think about words all day, when I get home the last thing I want to do is write. Also: I have a career that I value now, and there’s no such thing as anonymity on the internet anymore. Someday a client is going to find the entry where I list all of the things I have missed about all of my ex-boyfriends. I just have to accept that, since I like that entry too much to delete it. But it makes me very hesitant to put any more of that stuff out there. And I sure as shit won’t link to this blog on Facebook anymore, since all of my co-workers are my Facebook friends.

I’m Married

For all the railing I used to do about independence and co-dependancy , I have to admit that it’s different now. I share 100% of my life with another person. We have our own interests and do our own thing, but he’s always present and we have no real secrets. So the more I share about me, the more I have to share about him. Justin is pretty amazing in that he doesn’t read this blog at all (on our first date, he said he never would because he wanted to learn about me through actual interactions), and he seems okay with all the stuff I put out there on other networks. He has never drawn a line regarding his privacy or what I can and can’t share. But one just naturally appeared for me.

When I blogged about dating or break-ups, it was really about how I was feeling, what I was learning, etc. But now that I’m married, it feels like these are our feelings, our fights, our struggles, our happy moments and our victories. It feels intrusive to share some of those things with you because they are not simply mine to share. The feminist in me is totally gagging over this paragraph, but that’s how it is. (P.S. I have friends in long-term relationships who either can’t or don’t want to get married–I’m sure they have reached this point, too. Marriage was just the defining point for me.)

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I think that’s it. Instagram and Twitter and Tumblr (all @SecretlyStephie) are a better fit these days. But I do miss this blog, and I really am trying to figure out how to keep this in my life. Either way, thanks for sticking around.

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Iceland, Day 7

Last day! So sad. 969720_10200706584163488_1046122564_n
So when I last left you, we were at Lebowski Bar. Mood Music!

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We weren’t in Reykjavík on the weekend, but apparently the entire city turns into a rave and goes insane. We partied in Reykjavík on a Monday, and holy shit. The bar was packed and people were still tanked at midnight. Every time someone walked into the bar, the whole place would cheer and everyone would hug. “It’s a Viking thing,” some guy from New York told us, “It comes from centuries of drinking together in huts or something.”

This was midnight. The sidewalks were packed with smokers from the bars.

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The inside of Lebowski Bar was obviously bowling themed. For 5 króna, the bartender would spin that wheel and you’d get either a ton of shots or nothing.

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There was a great stage area in the back that looked like a 50’s diner, but the highlight was the bathrooms:

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These were the stall doors:

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This is the entrance to the men’s room:

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We finally stumbled home–still in the daylight–and fell asleep. In the morning, our driver from the first day drove us to The Blue Lagoon!

The Blue Lagoon is a geothermal spa. The bright blue water is HOT and it feels incredible. There are boxes with silicone masks around the edge that you can slather all over yourself. There are places for massages, plus a water massage that feels phenomenal.

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(Click to enlarge!)

Aaaand they let you drink champagne in the water!

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This is literally the first time I’ve gone swimming in over a decade. The deepest water came up to my chin, but I could still float around. I forgot how much I like the water.

The Blue Lagoon is pretty touristy, but worth it. A popular thing to do is go there directly from the airport to ease in the jet lag, but we arrived in Iceland too early on the first day. However, the driver told us that we were lucky to be there when it wasn’t crowded.

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Usually a flight home from Europe totally sucks, but our flight was almost entirely empty! Justin and I each got our own row. I settled in and watched like 3 movies that I’ve been wanting to rent forever. Honeymoon!

FEATURED FOOD: Happy Marriage Cake! I didn’t eat it, but this was offered on the plane.

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ECSTATIC PICTURE OF JUSTIN OF THE DAY:

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Iceland, Day 6

Today could best be described as The Day We Ate Iceland. Mood Music!

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(The “blurred lines” are our stomach linings. In hindsight, I have no idea how we did this.)

First, I’ve mentioned the superiority of Iceland’s continental breakfasts many times, but this one was the best that we had.

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We left Rangá and headed back to Rekjavík. On the way, we stopped in a teeny, tiny town for some of their famous lobster. 300 grams of lobster, to be exact:

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We wanted to go to the haunted house next door, but they were closed. So instead, we stopped by a craft collective. I browsed through tons of wool sweaters, lava jewelry, gnome ornaments, gnome everything, but nothing spoke to me.

Then I spotted a small room in the back with a stack of afghans in the corner. I picked one up and immediately fell in love. I was in the middle of talking myself out of it based on the price, but then Justin appeared next to me, glanced down and said, “That looks like you.” That settled it.

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At the register, the woman told me that it was knitted by a 90 year-old lady in a nursing home! I told her to tell the lady that a couple on their honeymoon bought it, and they would treasure it for the rest of their lives together. Okay, I wasn’t that cheesy, but that’s how I felt. My Icelandic blanky is my favorite thing in the world.

(I did not eat it, but I love it so much that I could.)

When we got back to Reykjavík, Justin made us walk to Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur, aka “The Best Hot Dog in Town.” That’s right, the most famous restaurant in Iceland is a hot dog stand. Bill Clinton has been here!

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On our journey, I noticed blue footprints painted on the sidewalk and followed them to this:

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It looks cute, but we accidentally stumbled into the Portlandia of Iceland. The woman looked straight out of Reality Bites, nose-ring and all, and the dude had long blond dreadlocks and a resting bitchy face. They were not happy to see us, or anyone I think. This was a vegan cookie shop, which I didn’t realize until after I bought the cookie. Vegan food can be delicious, but this tasted like dirt. I threw it away after one bite.

For dinner, we went to a famous tapas restaurant! It was underground and so cozy!

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We could have eaten a ton of weird stuff, including whale, elk and puffin, but I mostly stuck with lamb and some bacon-wrapped dates.

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Final stop: oh my god.

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I knew I would love this place right away:

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We ended up staying here past midnight, so I’ll talk about it next time!

FEATURED FOOD: baked goat cheese with honey. Don’t tell Justin but this was maybe the best orgasm of my honeymoon. (At the very least, it was a tie.)

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ECSTATIC PICTURE OF JUSTIN OF THE DAY:

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Iceland, Day 5: Part 2

I’ve never been a big moody music fan (I like it, I just won’t pick it over fun stuff) but I recently started playing Sigur Rós while I write. The first time I gave them a serious listen, I started crying. It’s exactly what Iceland feels like. Exactly.
Mood Music!

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After our adventures at Skógar, we headed to Vík, a black sand beach!

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We pulled into a pretty remote parking lot to park, and guess who was right behind us?

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Needless to say, we fled soon after. Even though Reynisfjara Beach is just on the other side of that cliff in the first picture, we had to drive about 10 minutes to get there. Instead of black sand, we were greeted with smooth rocks!

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The closer you got to the water, the smaller the rocks became. I could make a million dollars selling bags of this at Pier One:

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The rocks were so weird to walk on! It was incredibly zen. The coolest part was when the tide came in. Instead of retreating back out to sea, the water would roll in and then immediately sink into the rocks, leaving a little foam outline as it vanished. I could have watched it forever.

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Reynisfjara is also home to a huge, gorgeous cave called Halsanefshellir and the famous Basalt columns.

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Here’s Justin standing in the cave for scale:

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Our stalker pulled up just as we were leaving. I think we lost him here, unless he’s hiding in my treehouse as I type this.

Our first stop of the day was supposed to be another waterfall, but it was raining very hard when we arrived. Justin was incredibly sad about it, so I said, “When we pass it on the way back, the sun will be out and there will be a rainbow.” AND GUESS WHAT.

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YAAAY!

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Seljalandsfoss is one of the most well-known waterfalls in Iceland because you can walk behind it!

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More magic moss!

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Here’s another rainbow. You had to climb up this insane pile of wet rocks to get back to the path. I was so relieved when I reached the top of this that I started laughing like Sloth from Goonies.

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Finally, we went to our hotel… but the adventures were not over! Hotel Rangá is awesome! It’s the only 4-star resort in Southern Iceland.

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The hotel felt like the Great Northern from Twin Peaks, which was appropriate considering how we met. There was even a backwards “Laura” on the rug in our room. Creepy!

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We think that the tour company told Rangá that we were on our honeymoon, because we were surprised with an upgraded suite!

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This was the view from our balcony. Every room has a balcony or a patio because when the Northern Lights happen, the hotel will give you a wake-up call.

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The game room was also stellar:

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We loved this puzzle so much that we bought a poster version of it in Rekjavík.

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FEATURED FOOD: We ate a 4-course dinner, sitting right next to the window, but the restaurant was really fancy and I didn’t want to be tacky by taking pictures. (This was like the only time I didn’t wear my awesome hat on the trip.) However, I am 99% positive that lamb was involved. I ate lamb almost every day. So here’s a picture of a dope lamb kabob that I ate a few days earlier.

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ECSTATIC PICTURE OF JUSTIN OF THE DAY:

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Iceland, Day 5: Part 1

Mood Music! Justin put this on a mixtape when we first started dating, and that’s how we discovered we both loved Iceland:

Today was so full of stuff that I’m splitting it in two.

We started the day at Eyjafjallajökull, the volcano that blew up in 2010 and stranded a million people in Europe, including my ex-roomate Dan. This volcano is literally someone’s backyard.

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The people who live there did what anyone would do in that situation: they built a shack across the street and made a museum! There were tons of crafts made out of volcanic ash and lava, like candle holders and soap. This is where I got my second-favorite souvenir (it means “I don’t speak Icelandic”):

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This is also where we encountered our stalker for the first time. At first I was like, “Oh, that is the cutest van!!” but then we saw it everywhere and it was like a Japanese horror movie where the adorable child is actually a demon who swallows people whole:

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Up next, Skógar Folk Museum and the Communications Museum! We made friends:

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Skógar Folk Museum is full of amazing Icelandic art:

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There was also a taxidermy room, where we discovered us in a past life (the mouse in the background is Chauncey).

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The Communications Museum was incredible: old rescue vehicles, exhibition gear, and literally every piece of technology that has landed on that island. My AV Club President husband was in heaven:

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Next: TURF HOUSES! TURF HOUSES! HOBBIT HOUSES! OMG!

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Found my birth parents.

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Sure, these homes are covered in dirt, but they are fancy as hell on the inside!

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These homes were exactly my size. We came across one room with cots lining the walls. Your arm span is equal to your height, so here is proof that I fit in hobbit beds:

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Look at me. Just tickled to death.

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Justin was waaay out of his element, but my people and I did not run him out of town with pitchforks:

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There were at least 10 structures, and I fawned over every inch of them.

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There were even a couple two-story turf homes! Justin is literally 2/3 down the staircase here:

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On the same property was Skógafoss! Pictures never do these things justice, but just look at this son of a bitch:

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That guy in the red jacket on the bottom left? That is our Happy Camper Stalker, in the second of many sightings. At one point, only the three of us were left and when he walked past Justin, I thought my husband was going to get stabbed. Did I mention he looked exactly like Jen’s uncle Bob?

He stood in the same pose for a long time. No, like: a loooooong time.

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Anyway, this is the day we really got to experience all the green magic moss. Justin took about 6,000 pictures of it. I felt like I was in New Zealand or on another planet.

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Justin bought us rain jackets and rain pants for the trip, so we could go right up to the bottom of the waterfalls and stuff. Plus, it was a little drizzly all day, but with our outfits it didn’t matter.

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I mean, really: Spirit Animals? Past Lives? Twinsies?

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FEATURED FOOD: Cool American Doritos.

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ECSTATIC PICTURE OF JUSTIN OF THE (HALF) DAY:

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