Wednesday, October 28, 2009

ICELAND SAGA: Revisiting Akureyri's Botanical Garden and Getting Back to Reykjavik

On our last morning in Akureyri we just had to go back to the Botanical Garden and see the bees again--plus, I was going to kick myself if I didn't take some decent pictures of those amazing flowers.  We encountered something I had never seen before.  An overwhelming majority of the busy bees we had seen working away two days before were resting on the flowers.  Do bees do this in the morning?  I was almost sure the first one I saw was dead, but I soon realized there were a ton of bees like this.  I guess they knew I was coming and decided to pose for me to make photographing them easier.

I love this picture.  The fence going around the perimeter of the garden was so neat.  This shot was taken from the outside looking into the garden.

Here's a wider shot of the fence.

Our guesthouse here was my least favorite: it was a little far from town, the shower backed up quickly (gross), and worst of all the hot tub was empty--as if we wouldn't notice!


Once we made our way back to Reykjavik we were greeted with the tail end of the Gay Pride Festival.  Unfortunately we missed the parade, but we did get to see crowds of people making their way to the city center for a free concert (of music that we could not understand the words to).

That evening we went to the outskirts of the city to take a dip in their once beachy-type geothermal pool.  That long pool of water was nice and warm, but not hot.  I didn't have the guts to walk wet in mid-50 degree weather to the open water.  I was confused as to whether or not that water was chilly, save for that small circle of water marked by those three little poles.  I guess I'll never know.

Joe was determined to, at some point on our trip, go to a "Euro Trash Bar," and he had his eyes set on the bar at Hotel 101 from day one.  We have enough class that we didn't take pictures inside, but that didn't stop us from taking pictures by the sign outside.  Our martinis cost $18 a piece.

The next Iceland post will be the last one, folks!  Woo hoo!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Trix: This Dog is Not Just for Kids

Meet Trix.  She's one of the Stray Rescue dogs currently at the Manchester shelter.  Yesterday Trix and I went for an outing to Forest Park where she got to romp, relax, and of course what I'm pretty sure was doo doo.  Trix is a very happy dog, and getting away from the stress of the shelter for awhile made her personality shine even more.  If you're looking for a fun loving friend who LOVES belly rubs and petting in general Trix is the gal for you.

Rolling, rolling, and very proud of herself for all the rolling.  That huge smudge on her neck in the third picture smelled terrible.

For information on how to make Trix your friend visit Stray Rescue here.  To see more pictures from our adventure click here.

Monday, October 19, 2009

ICELAND SAGA: Day Trip to Husavik

This post may be a bit...unsettling...for a couple different reasons.  I apologize in advance.

One of the activities we were most excited about on our trip was the day trip we were taking to Husavik, about a one and a half hour bus ride from Akureyri, to go whale watching.  We bought our tickets that morning through Gentle Giants for an early afternoon tour and headed to the Husavik Whale Museum to kill time, which was so neat.  They had really great displays on the various species of whales, and the similarities and differences between them.  I seriously didn't even know that narwhales existed.  The "unicorn of the sea," these whales have long horns on their heads, possibly used for combat.  The museum also had about 8 real skeletons from whales that have beached over the past few decades.  Sad, but fascinating.  After spending a couple hours at the museum, plus I was (eh hem, still am) reading Moby Dick, I was totally ready to head out to sea and look at a real whale in its natural habitat first hand.

For those of you that have not ever been whale watching, perhaps like me, you may have pictured it to involve getting on a small boat and going into the middle of the ocean, where you would then drift along for a couple hours and see what you could see--hopefully some whales, but you're not expecting it to be guaranteed. This was so not the case. The entire tour felt like we were on an adventure, on a hunt. Everyone was constantly on the lookout for any possible movement in the water (Was that a fin? Did I just see a fin? Or was that just a little wave? See that dark shape underneath the water? What dark shape? Maybe that's a whale?), and when something was spotted in the distance the captain of the boat would rev up the engine and get us to the distant blob as quickly as possible. I admit, this was exciting. Joe and I were right at the front of the boat, and if I closed my eyes (which I didn't) I could have imagined I was flying like Kate Winslet. "I'm flying, Joe! Ha ha! I'm FLYING!" "No you're not, Julie." "Yes, I am! I'm really flying!" It was exciting to go fast in a boat knowing I was about to see a real live whale. That was cool. What really did not sit well with us the more we talked about it after the tour was this: So, we get close to a whale, which is great. The particular species we ended up spotting, the bottlenose whale, comes up for three or four breaths and then goes back under for about a five minute dive. There are a good 30 seconds between each breath, and no one can tell exactly where the whale will surface each time. So, if it comes up the first time at the boat's 10 o'clock and surfaces the second time at the boat's 3 o'clock well the captain hurries up and starts the engine to point us to the 3 o'clock. And if on the third surfacing the whale is at our 11 o'clock, the process is started all over again, which I feel is completely unnecessary and disruptive to the whales. It felt incredibly exploitative, and no aspect of the tour embraced everything one may consider a whale to be: majestic, peaceful, gentle, graceful. All so we could see the back of a whale.

This is the view of Husavik from the middle of the harbor.

A boat very similar to the one we were on.

The boat we were on.

I would love to try whale watching again, but I want to make sure to do the research better.  For me, it is imperative that the watching be done in a non-disruptive manner.  A girl we met on our trip said she had a friend who went on a tour in the Northwest, and they were in a paddle boat the whole time making their way along the sea and coming across whales--not chasing them.  I think that sounds amazing and breathtaking, unlike the tour we went on, which was disappointing and troubling.

Before the bus to Akureyri came we had a couple hours left in Husavik, so we decided to pop into the most bizarre museum I can think of and have ever come across.  Know that I was uncomfortable the entire time we were in there.  It was like a car accident.

Ta dah!  It's the Iceland Phallological Museum!  First of all, I don't think that "phallological" is a word.  Anybody know?  Secondly, with over 100 specimens of nearly every type of animal found in Iceland, this museum takes its subject completely seriously.  I did not take many pictures inside, because I was too busy trying to wipe the shocked expression from my face.  Note: the man at the front desk encouraged the taking of photographs.  This place was CRAZY.  Here is Joe standing next to a walrus penis.  As you can see, it starts at his hip and is taller than him.  As you can also see, there are specimens mounted on shields, as if they are moose heads.  One of them is coming out of Joe's head.  Sorry, Joe.

Did you know that a sperm whale's penis measures longer than 5 feet?  I learned this because this specimen is as tall as me.  I do not know what is on the wall behind me.

One of the smallest specimens at the museum was a hamster penis.  I'm pretty sure this was the smallest actual penis on display.  The only things smaller were a few hamster penis bones that could be viewed with the assistance of a magnifying glass.

What I did NOT take pictures of were the just absolutely terrifying looking horse specimens, many of which were crammed into mason jars--most of them coiled around until they stuck out of the surface of the formaldehyde.  Just picture (Hmm, should I give you this mental picture?? Yes, yes I should.) a withered looking elephant nose with lots and lots of extra skin.  I also didn't photograph the several lamps made out of goat scrotums that were for sale.  You can use your imagination.  Why, you may be asking me right now, would they do this?  My only answer is I don't know.

Alright then, I refuse to end the blog post on that note.  Enjoy these pictures from around Husavik and the bus ride on the way back to Akureyri.

This is a view of Akureyri.

And how about another look at that church with the neon cross to get your mind off things?

Here is the dinky neighborhood Catholic church that I can't help thinking all the Lutherans giggle at every time they pass it.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

My Ego Has Suffered a Blow Thanks to PVC and Marshmallows

Dear Log,
Yesterday my ego was taken down a few notches at the hands of sports-team-theme fleece blankets and marshmallow guns made out of PVC.  I was seated among the two at the St. Joseph's Band Craft Fair in Cottleville where, much to my chagrin, the marshmallow guns (pea shooters, basically) sold out within three hours and my work was continuously passed up for fleece Mizzou scarves.  Granted, this was in a school cafeteria, and children aren't going to give a hoot about my photography work, and the stitching along the edges of the blankets and scarves did look very nicely done.  It's just so frustrating for multiple people to come up to my table and compliment my work (I heard the words "great idea," "unique," "stunning," and "cute[?]" several times), not buy anything, then move to the table next to me and go crazy over a Curious George fleece item.  Needless to say, I did not do as well as I wanted, and this is not the first time I've felt this way.  The past few shows I've been in have been shows put on by cool people, and I've found myself more frustrated than having fun and more irked about the time and money I spent on creating my items than keeping a positive attitude.  So I ask you, Log, where do I fit in the crafting world?!  Do I keep my chin up and keep making coasters, magnets and note cards?  Or do I try to get rid of the rest of my inventory and tell myself that I gave it a year and it's time to move on?  My thoughts are that I should stop trying to craft for an income supplement and do it as a hobby instead.  I am just about IN love with the people I have met through the Craft Mafia, Show Me Etsy, and EtsyVeg, and I don't want to stop associating with them.  This would mean, though, that I would have to switch up the craft entirely, because photography crafting to me right now only connotes a semi-failed attempt at income.  Perhaps I'll take up cross stitching and stitch silly phrases for fun instead.  Or I could cross stitch the likenesses of my favorite people over and over and over again.  I could have a Christian Bale cross stitched piece on every wall of my apartment...

Thanks for listening, Log!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Mama Dog and Her Boy: Belle and Truman

I love this story.  Belle and Truman came to live with my friend Meghan's mom, Marsha, about four years ago.  She and Meghan had recently lost their bichon frise, Mr. Beast (the cutest little man dog in the world), to an unexpected and very sudden death.  Marsha found a website (The name escapes me.  Marsha, help??) that is basically a place for people to talk about the pets they have lost, and it really provided a great outlet for her.  A woman ended up contacting her about a bichon (cue Belle) who was recently rescued from years of being at a puppy mill, and she was about to give birth to another litter.  The woman asked if Marsha would be interested in one of the pups (cue Truman).  After some thought, Marsha decided that she was ready for another furry little man in her life, and she agreed to take Truman.  When the puppies were ready to be separated from Belle, and the time came for Marsha to meet her new friend she also asked what would be happening to the mom and mentioned that she would be willing to take her, as well.  While this normally isn't common practice, the organization allowed Marsha to take Belle, also.  Belle arrived to her new home extremely nervous--she had no clue how to do normal dog friend things like walk on a leash.  But after a couple years of patience and devotion from Marsha, Belle came around and is now a very happy dog.  She likes going on walks, and she is always following Marsha around the house.  I got to see her snuggling first hand when I recently house sat for the pups.  I just love that Marsha was able to find the breed of dog she is particularly drawn to without supporting nasty breeders and cruel puppy mills.

Belle and Truman were so much fun to be around for a weekend.  Truman is quite the little charmer, and both are quite content to lounge in the sun.