Iceland: Expectations For Our Upcoming Trip

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I’ve mentioned to y’all that my family and I are traveling to Iceland this summer to celebrate my dad’s retirement. After months of anticipation, we’re now just days away from leaving for the Nordic island that’s about the size of the state of Kentucky. We leave on SATURDAY!

Over the past few weeks, we’ve had fun splitting up our itinerary, planning excursions and making reservations at stops along the way. (We’ll be traveling counter clockwise around the Ring Road, for those of you familiar with the country.) Kevin and I sent out periodic “Icelandic Inspiration” newsletters to my family (I know, we’re nerds) as a way to learn some fun facts about the nation we’d soon be visiting. (Some highlights? The fact that 80% of Icelanders truly believe in the existence of elves, the webcam stream of the last McDonald’s meal in Iceland, and learning that all baby’s names in Iceland have to be approved by the Icelandic Naming Committee.)

Between putting together our portion of the itinerary, researching facts for the newsletter, and reading blogs of others who have traveled to Iceland, I’ve developed a few expectations for our upcoming trip. I thought it could be fun to share those expectations pre-trip, and then report back once I’m back Stateside on how things actually shook out. So here goes!:

  • Climate: It’s going to rain often. Every blog I read about what to pack for Iceland in the summertime reiterates the importance of as many waterproof items as possible. Temperature-wise, it’s going to be in the 40s and 50s for the most part, which sounds like a positively delightful change from this gross upper-90s heat we’ve been having this month here in the Southeast. It’s also going to be light alllllll day (and night!) long. I’m looking forward to experiencing that, for sure (and am hoping for good blackout curtains at all our hotels).

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  • Culture: Icelanders seem to be hearty and artistic folks, by all accounts. Hearty, thanks to the island mentality and the weather there, and artistic for perhaps the same reason. I remember watching a Sigur Rós documentary a few years ago, and hearing one of the band members comment on how everyone in Iceland was always creating something. If you aren’t creating art, it seems, you are in the minority on this island. They are known as being happy and fulfilled, they value family (though have some different interpretations on family — particularly romantic relationships/marriages — than most of the world), the environment, and healthy living, and seem to be quite modern folks. Most everyone speaks English, which will make our lives much easier. (Interestingly, too, there’s no word in Icelandic for “please.” Apparently the “please” is communicated through inflection.)
  • Food: This part’s going to be fun! Of course, we’re all (and by “we,” I mainly mean Kevin and Marty) pumped to try some famed Icelandic delicacies, such as putrid shark (or hákarl) and sheep’s head, but I’m also excited about the abundance of skyr (which I adore, and apparently is eaten by Icelanders nearly every day, any time of day). I recently learned, too, that hot dogs are EVERYWHERE in Iceland. Gas stations, restaurants, hot dog stands, and the like, with fun toppings like fried onions. YUM! (We have a reservation at Dill in Reykjavik — known for its “new Nordic” cuisine — on our last night in the country, which I’m especially looking forward to.)

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  • Landscape: I fully expect to be awestruck daily in Iceland. There’s such a variety of landscape, from glaciers to geysers (an Icelandic word!) to volcanoes to waterfalls and more. (Did you see the movie Interstellar? The scenes from the lovely and haunting ice planet were shot in Iceland.) We’re also visiting a lava field where NASA sends astronauts to train for moon landings, because the surface is remarkably similar to the moon. Also on the itinerary: whale watching, hiking, and speedboat riding. Can’t WAIT!

Horses being herded through the lava fields near Landmannalaugar in southern Iceland on September 21, 2011. Photo by: Lindsay Blatt / Herd In Iceland About the Project: In September and October of 2010, Lindsay Blatt and Paul Taggart were worked in Iceland on their short film and photographic project documenting the historic herding of the prized Iceland horses.  Each year traditional herdsman take to the  back country to round up thousands of the country's hardy horses, which have spent the summer grazing in the highlands.  Throughout the three weeks of production Lindsay and Paul shot from land, air, foot, and hoof across the vast Icelandic landscape, following and living with the herdsmen.  The team has brought together a collection of media for print publications, as well as a short documentary film.  In September of 2011, the team returned to conduct interviews for the film, and to produce a new selection of large format portraits to accompany the landscapes for future exhibitions.

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  • Driving: We’re renting a van so the six of us can drive around the Ring Road, and my dad and I are the two registered drivers — yikes! I’m definitely going to be watching the speedometer, as speeding tickets are no joke in Iceland.

(And, as a bit of a humble brag, Kevin and I have been listening to the Land Ho! Iceland playlist I shared with y’all back in March, and it’s REALLY good. I recommend giving it a listen if you haven’t already! My favorite artist from the playlist is Ásgeir, who’s kind of like the Icelandic Bon Iver and whose music is mesmerizing. Happy listening!) 

Blogging When I Don’t Feel Like It

When I started this blog a few years ago, it was important to me that it be an outlet I enjoy. After all, I already had a list of things I do because I HAD to. This blog was supposed to be a happy place. A place where I wrote when I felt inspired — not obligated — to do so.

Delightfully, I’ve been able to remain true to that promise to myself most of the time. This blog has become a space for me to share thoughts, recipes, ideas, and more, and the kind words I’ve heard from readers has been beyond flattering. (Thanks to everyone who reads my blog! Y’all are the absolute best.)

I love the actual writing of posts. I enjoy coming up with ideas for posts, and typically have a running list going on my phone, adding to it when I feel inspired.

Inevitably, though, there come times when I feel guilty for not posting — maybe I haven’t posted in a while or something — and also don’t feel like writing anything new. Sometimes it’s because I don’t feel like I have much to say at the moment. Sometimes I just feel lazy and don’t feel like writing. Sometimes I just plain can’t think of anything to write about. (Today is one of those days, by the way.)

So I guess this post’s purpose is twofold:

  1. I think it’s important to challenge myself to write on those days I don’t feel like it, from time to time. I still definitely believe that this blog should be a place that isn’t fueled by obligation, and yet at the same time, sometimes it’s good for me to write when I’m not exactly in the mood — maybe even just to say “hi!”
  2. I’d love to hear from y’all about what type of Curiouser & Curiouser posts you like the most. Do you like recipes? Hearing about my workouts? Reading lists of my latest wardrobe loves? Let me know — I’d love to know what you enjoy the most to help spark ideas for future posts.

And with that, I leave you with a “hi!” and with a hilarious photo of Fulton taken during our drive to Atlanta last weekend. Hey, buddy!

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My MRT Test Experience: Part 1

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There’s something you guys should know about me: I’m a weirdo.

My weirdo-ness exhibits itself in many ways, but right now I’m talking about the type of weird that leads me down strange rabbit holes and makes me rather obsessed about something until I try it. (My friend Jodi calls this trait “curiosity,” which is kind of her.) In this case, it has to do with a food sensitivity test called an MRT.

Y’all know I’m hooked on Pure Barre, and I often read blog posts about fellow Pure Barre lovers. In a blog post back in March, I was reading about a Pure Barre goer’s experience doing Pure Barre while pregnant, and she just mentioned having taken an MRT test, in a bit of a fleeting way. (“I was wavering around a size 8 and later dropped to a size 4 after my dedication to Pure Barre and the results of my MRT test,” she wrote.) I’d never heard of this test before, but became interested as I read more about it.

Essentially, MRT is a blood test that gauges whether certain foods and chemicals/colorings/spices used in foods cause an immune reaction in your body. That immune reaction could exhibit itself in the form of migraines, IBS, poor sleep patterns, and more.

The more I read about others’ experiences with taking the MRT test, the more interested I became in taking it myself. I don’t experience the standard symptoms of having food sensitivities (I don’t have intestinal issues, I tend to sleep well, I don’t have skin problems, etc.), but I kept thinking back to when I was doing the Conscious Cleanse a couple of years ago, which is all about food elimination with the purpose of identifying sensitivities. I’ve never felt better than when I was on that cleanse. I was sleeping better than ever, had tons of energy, and felt strong and healthy.

This is me at my sister’s wedding right after finishing the Conscious Cleanse. I felt great!:

Me at my sister's wedding, right after having completed the Conscious Cleanse

It was that feeling that I got when I was doing the Conscious Cleanse, coupled with the fact that I love all things personalized medicine (knowing what’s right for MY body, not just what’s healthy for MOST people), that made me pull the trigger on getting the MRT test done. Plus, it’s more accurate and complete than traditional elimination diets, and that was appealing. I wanted to learn what foods I should — and shouldn’t — be eating in order to feel my best.

A couple of weeks ago, I got my blood drawn, sent it off to a lab in Florida to be analyzed, and received my test results over the weekend. The results are split into three categories: reactive (red), moderately reactive (yellow), and non-reactive (green). You get a report showing categories of food split into these three categories, along with a card containing all your red and yellow items for you to carry with you for reference:

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A couple of my reactive items (avocado! strawberries!) were a little sad, but I was most upset by my moderately reactive items. Many of those foods are things I consume daily, like grapes, lettuce, apples, and caffeine. The good news was, my red and yellow foods were free of grain, most dairy (aside from cottage cheese), and bean/nut (aside from pintos) sensitivities. I thought it was pretty funny that the chemical I’m LEAST sensitive to of all the ones they tested for was…wait for it…MSG. Ha!

Here’s what the Fruits section of the report itself looks like (for me) to give you a sense of how that information is laid out:

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The next step will be for me to work with a certified nutritionist to work through a few phases of diet, where I try eliminating all reactive and moderately reactive foods for a while, then try introducing moderately reactive foods to see what the right balance is for me to feel my best. I’ll be carefully monitoring what I’m eating and recording how I feel when I eat those things. Eventually, I hope I’ll be able to eat moderately reactive foods from time to time, but may not want to move them back to the “everyday” category for me. I’m interested to see if I notice a change during this process. (I’ll keep y’all posted!)

Have any of y’all taken an MRT test? If so, what was your experience with the test and its results?

Bathing Suit (And Cover-Up) Wish List: Summer 2015

Now that it’s June, we’re into full-on beach season (a.k.a, my favorite time of year).

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Kevin and I spend as many weekends at the beach (our go-to spot is Oak Island, North Carolina) and, in fact, are headed there this weekend with some friends. (Can it be Friday already?)

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With that in mind, I wanted to share a few bathing suits I’m loving this year, as well as a handful of cover-ups I love. (Why is it that good cover-ups are always so hard to find? Does anyone else run into this issue? And, too often, they’re waaaaay too pricey, too. Anyway, I digress. Let’s get to the beachwear.)

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Happy beaching, y’all!

Chobani’s #BreakYouMake Campaign

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I’ve been a Chobani fan for years now. I love the fact that they use hormone-free, locally sourced milk to make their Greek yogurt. I love their commitment to the communities they’re in. And I also LOVE their flavors. (The blood orange is my absolute favorite. That stuff is SO GOOD.)

Chobani has launched a campaign called #BreakYouMake, and part of the idea behind the campaign is recognizing awesome people in your life who truly deserve a break. When I think about who I know who really deserves a break, the person who comes to mind is someone super special and incredibly accomplished: my husband, Kevin.

Kevin is the best person I know. He’s also one of the busiest. Between juggling his job at Hanes, pouring hours into his men’s grooming start-up, Fulton & Roark, getting in time at the gym, and making time to hang out with me, this guy is booked solid. And yet, he rarely complains, and is always on top of things. I’m continually impressed.

Shout-out to you, Kevin Keller, for winning at life. Let’s grab a Chobani Flip and take a little break soon, huh?

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Who in your life deserves a break?

Brown Sugar Pound Cake To DIE For

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Recently, I was looking for a new recipe to try that used ingredients I already had on hand. I wanted something on the simple side (not calling for a bazillion ingredients), but reliably amazing. For that, I turned to Food52 — a trusted source for all things food.

They have a recipe for Brown Sugar Pound Cake that met the limited ingredients (and all things I already had in my pantry/fridge) criteria, so I gave that one a try. It was an excellent decision. Not only is this cake amazingly simple, it is also amazingly tasty. (I highly recommend enjoying a piece before it’s cooled completely. It’s especially incredible with a cup of coffee.)

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Brown Sugar Pound Cake

Ingredients (for cake)

  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Ingredients (for glaze)

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2-3 Tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a large loaf pan with non-stick spray. Set aside.
  • In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the brown sugar and butter until very light and fluffy (3-5 minutes).
  • Add the eggs — one at a time — then add the vanilla.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  • Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients, beating until just incorporated.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan, smooth the top, and bake for 50-60 minutes (until a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean).
  • While the cake cools a bit, whisk together all of the glaze ingredients (add more milk, depending on how thin you want the glaze to be).
  • Remove the cake from the pan and place on a cooling rack, then drizzle the glaze on top (I used a spoon). Enjoy! (As mentioned above, I highly recommend trying a slice of this cake while it’s still slightly warm.)

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My Favorite New-To-Me Beauty Products

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Though I’m a creature of habit when it comes to beauty products, I do try to add a few new options to my line-up every now and again just to keep things fresh.

(By the way, does anyone else get stressed out by samples of beauty products? The idea of Birchbox makes my skin crawl. It’s not that I don’t like trying new products, in theory. It’s just that having tons of samples makes me feel pressured to use them ALL, or keep them tucked away in some drawer until I do use them. Ultimately, I end up throwing most of them away, after keeping them in said drawer for far too long. I’m trying to work on being okay with chucking them sooner if I know I don’t want to use them.)

However, when I get recommendations from trusted sources (such as friends, fellow bloggers I love, my hair stylist, etc.) or when I seek out new products I’ve been reading about, I love trying new things — sample sizes or not.

I know — I’m a weirdo.

So with that craziness in mind, I give you my favorite new beauty products. These are all things I’ve added to my regimen over the last few months and give two big thumbs up!:

  • Two-Faced Tinted Beauty BalmI was excited to try BB cream, because I’m not a huge fan of foundation, but like the idea of evening out my skin tone and such. This BB cream fits the bill. I’ve tried a handful of different kinds, and this one’s by far my favorite. It’s just thick enough (but certainly not in an overwhelming way) and offers just the right amount of coverage, as far as I’m concerned. I apply it with a large, flat make-up brush (and a little goes a long way, which is great news for the lifespan of this product).

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  • Rusk Wired Flexible Styling Creme. This is another product that came recommended by my hair stylist (thanks, Jodi!), and now I use it almost daily. Just rub a bit into your hands and work it lightly into wet hair before blow drying to give your hair great memory for styling.

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  • Maybelline Baby Lips. Since Kevin and I spend as much time as possible at the beach over the summer, a good lip balm with SPF is essential, and this has become my go-to. It’s ALWAYS in my beach bag!

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  • Fresh Black Tea Age-Delay Eye Concentrate. Yes, this stuff is pricey, but it’s worth the splurge if you ask me! First of all, this tiny little jar lasts forever, as a tiny bit goes a really long way. Also, I’ve seen great results from it in the few months I’ve been using the product.

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What beauty product are you loving lately?

Workout Wardrobe Wish List: Summer 2015 Edition

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These Workout Wardrobe Wish Lists have become a bit of a tradition over here at Curiouser & Curiouser. They’re super fun for me to put together, and I hope y’all enjoy these seasonal round-ups as well!

This summer, I’m completely infatuated with florals, and you’ll see that pattern make a frequent appearance in the list below. I’ve included some items I own (and LOVE), and lots I’m just lusting after. Hopefully these pieces will arm you with the motivation you need to keep moving all summer long.

Without further ado, let’s get to the latest Curiouser & Curiouser Workout Wardrobe Wish Lish, shall we?:

  • Women’s Printed Double Strap Tank Top in Classic Daisy (Calia by Carrie Underwood). This is one of the pieces I already own, and I’m OBSESSED. I have to pace myself so I don’t wear it to Pure Barre too often. (I want to get it in the other print just so I have two versions of this top!):

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  • Soffe Dri Capri (Soffe). Soffe’s one of my clients at the ad agency I work for, and I’m happy to report that their activewear is really great. I’ve tried out several pieces, and especially love these wicking capris. (Rest assured: This brand has grown up since you rolled down the waistband on their shorts way back in middle school.):

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  • Mesh Back Tank (GapFit). Crisp and white, this top would be great for a barre class, a run, or a summertime tennis match:

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  • Antigua Bra Cobalt (Albion Fit). Because it wouldn’t be a Workout Wardrobe Wish List without an Albion Fit pick! I have the Antigua leggings  in pink and ADORE the print. This bra gives a fun pop of floral to any workout outfit:

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  • Carefree Cut-Out Cami (Beyond Yoga). I’ve been longing to add this piece to my Pure Barre wardrobe for a while now, and think it might just be time to pull the trigger:

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  • Macy Run Short (Lorna Jane). These are simple, but they look so comfy and their color is so perfectly summertime:

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  • Women’s Essential Printed Tight Fit Capris (Calia by Carrie Underwood). These I don’t have yet, and would love to add them to my summertime workout wardrobe. They come in five adorable floral prints, but this one’s my top pick:

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What are you longing to add to your workout wardrobe this season?

8 Perfect Summer Bras

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(Is it weird to talk about bras on my blog? I’ve become a little desensitized about bra talk, since Kevin works in marketing at Hanes in the bra department. There’s lots of bra conversation in our lives these days, so I’m pretty well desensitized.)

This season of sunshine also brings with it a conundrum: what to wear under those tanks, rompers, and dresses? There are so many adorable summer clothes that require bras that need to be part of the outfit because the straps and/or back will be visible.

Thankfully, these days there are lots of options when it comes to these bras (kind of like a bra meets cami, in many ways). My go-to is the “bralette,” which doesn’t offer too much support for you more well-endowed ladies, but is SO comfy and is the perfect way to solve this summer clothing challenge.

Here are a few perfect-for-summertime bras that have caught my eye:

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What are your go-to summertime bras?

Links I’m Loving

It’s FRIDAY! Wahoo! I don’t know about you, but I feel like it’s been a particularly earned weekend this time around.

Hopefully these links — which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this week — will bring a smile to your face as well:

  • If you only watch one YouTube video today, please, please make it this one of an owl pooping on his friend and running away. It’s 14 seconds VERY well spent:

  • If you’ve flown Delta in the past few years, you’ve probably seen one of their awesomely amusing safety videos. Well, get pumped: they have a new one out, inspired by all things Internet:

  • As though I didn’t love Chris Pratt enough already, this video sealed the deal:

  • My friend Bethany posted about this letter on her blog today (along with her own version, which is also amazing), but I just had to share it with you as well. So. Damn. Funny.

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  • I’m sure y’all saw this yesterday, but if for some reason you were spending your Thursday under a rock, you’re welcome. (It features Justin Bieber, but please watch even if you’re not a fan of his.):

Happy holiday weekend, friends!

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