Sights from the North Sea

The world is so amazing! I love every minute of exploring it. Today I will take you on a mini-photo journey visiting intriguing lands I never dreamed I would see. A cruise ship is my favorite home away from home.

The photo from last week was taken on the Faroe Islands. They are self governing, but considered part of Denmark. Torshavn is the port. We drove north, crossed the Atlantic on a bridge to reach another island. We stopped in the small village of Gjagv (I have no idea how to pronounce this name). The guide informed us only about 60 people live in this village and there are no children there. We did see children, but they were there on vacation or visiting relatives. The pure innocence of their play was a joy to watch.

This could easily be a jigsaw puzzle picture. It was such a beautiful place.

This could easily be a jigsaw puzzle picture. It was such a beautiful place.

Reykjavik, Iceland was our next stop. We joined seven others on the Golden Circle tour by bike. The guide would drop us off so we could pedal to the sight. This tour would last eight hours. No need to worry about getting dark on us, as the sun doesn’t set until around 10:30. The first sight of this trip was the Gullfoss (Golden) Waterfall. The power of the water was incredible to witness!

Can you see the people on the flat rocks? This was huge!

Can you see the people on the flat rocks? This was huge!

Next stop was the Geysir geothermal area. This is actually were the term geyser originated.

The final sight of the Golden Circle tour was Thingvellir Parliament plains which is in a rift valley where the tectonic plates of North America and Eurasia are separating. This area is of great historical relevance to the country of Iceland. It was a fascinating journey.

This looks back up the downhill road we traveled to reach Thingvellir National Park.

This looks back up the downhill road we traveled to reach Thingvellir National Park.

This is the place the first parliament of Iceland met 1,000 years ago. The rock wall is part of the continental rift.

This is the place the first parliament of Iceland met 1,000 years ago. The rock wall is part of the continental rift.

Our next stop was in northern Iceland, Akureyri, which is just below the Arctic Circle. Namafjall Mountain was our first stop. We drove over and around mountains full of snow to reach this desolate landscape. There were hissing fumaroles of steam and boiling mud pots gurgling a sulphuric odor. This land reminded me of Yellowstone.

Snow was deep on the mountains in the distance.

Snow was deep on the mountains in the distance.

A drastic change in the landscape as we entered a geothermal region.

A drastic change in the landscape as we entered a geothermal region.

We hiked around Dimmuborgir, a lava landscape with interesting formations of columns and arches.

The guide said this was part of the tectonic plates division.

The guide said this was part of the tectonic plates division.

Then it was on to Lake Myvtan and the pseudo-craters. The name means lake of the midges. Midges are like gnats. Fortunately we were not plagued with them at this lake, but we did see columns of them swarming in another area. Fortunately we were safely in the bus.

Lake Myvatn and the pseudo craters

Lake Myvatn and the pseudo craters

The final stop for this tour was Godafoss (Waterfall of the Gods). Another powerful waterfall cascading over the rocks and amazing all the tourists.

Legend has the chieftain threw his pagan god columns into this waterfall .

Legend has the chieftain threw his pagan god columns into this waterfall .

Our most northern location was actually the warmest day of the whole trip. It was eighty degrees. I did not bring clothes for that temperature. I was prepared for mid fifties. It was amusing to see sunset: 11:45 pm and sunrise 3:00 am. I don’t know if I could get used to that.

Now we leave Iceland and head for the fjords of Norway. Geiranger is our first stop. We were the first ship to use their new floating dock. This dock unfolded and came out to meet our ship. What a mechanical marvel that was! The other four ships had to tender their passengers into the port. It was a lot of fun walking past the long lines of passengers waiting for their ride back to their ship.

This waterfall is called The Seven Sisters. The captain spun the boat around so we had a 360 degree view of this waterfall.

This waterfall is called The Seven Sisters. The captain spun the boat around so we had a 360 degree view of this waterfall.

My husband and I went in different directions this day. I went up and over the mountain to visit a summer mountain farm. They walk the animals (goat, cattle, and sheep) up the mountain to pasture for the summer. It is illegal to keep your livestock down the mountain in the summer. It was incredibly beautiful.

The summer farm in the mountains, that is grass growing on the roofs of the houses.

The summer farm in the mountains, that is grass growing on the roofs of the houses.

Here is my view above the port. Our boat is the one farthest in the bay. Notice the road on the left we traveled down.

Here is my view above the port. Our boat is the one farthest in the bay. Notice the road on the left we traveled down.

My husband went to the other side of the mountain. They were driven to the top and given bikes to ride down the mountain. No pedaling was required on that trip. Fortunately it was a bright sunny day. We were both happy with our tours and we were able to get pictures from two different perspectives.

Here is the view from my husband's side of the bay. This time our boat is the closest one to the front. If you look closely you can see the road I came down.

Here is the view from my husband’s side of the bay. This time our boat is the closest one to the front. If you look closely you can see the road I came down.

Our last stop was Bergen, Norway. We made our way into town and found the funicular that takes you up Mt. Floibanen, 1,000 feet above the town. We wandered/hiked for a bit, but once again it turned into another warm day. The woods were full of ferns and pine trees. It was amazing to see a huge pine tree growing out of a rock.

This was attached to a tree in the woods. Do you suppose they have a problem?

This was attached to a tree in the woods. Do you suppose they have a problem?

The world is amazing and I am so thankful I can get out and explore some of these unique places.

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More Slicers Met

I have found the perfect way to make my heart happy and put a smile on my face. Are you curious? Do you want to know how you can achieve this level of joy? It’s easy. All you have to do is meet someone that you’ve known for several years. Let me explain . . .

Last Wednesday I had the privilege of meeting two more Slicers. Michelle and Judy were heading to Branson to pick up their future in-law at the airport. Judy had the marvelous idea of contacting me to see if I was available. Absolutely I was available!

Through email we decided to meet up at the Branson Landing shopping area right outside the Bass Pro Shop. As I walked toward the entrance, I scanned the people looking for a mother, daughter, and two small twin daughters. No one seemed to fit the bill until I saw a lady step out of the store. Immediate recognition was in her face. She knew who I was, which then let me know who she was, it was Judy.

Hugs and introductions were the first order of business. Then we headed back inside the shop where the girls watched the fish for a bit. This allowed the adults time to talk. Once again, the familiarity of knowing our stories brought us together as friends.

We wandered about the shopping area looking for a place for lunch and giving the little girls a chance to stretch their legs. The giant ice cream cone sign caught their attention, but first we stopped for hamburgers and fries.

Unfortunately, the day became hotter and hotter as we looked for a shady spot to sit and visit. The fountains were entertaining for a while. However, the girls enjoyed crawling in a rocket ship, a car, and boat even more. When did those mini rides get so expensive? They used to be a quarter, but now you need four quarters to make them go.

Ice cream was a cooling treat as the afternoon heated up. Shortly after that treat we needed to say good-bye so they could get to the airport. But before we parted a quick picture was in order.  We snagged a young man as he came out of Bass Pro to snap our picture with our phones.

What a joy it is to get to meet the person behind the words! Thanks for a fun time Michelle and Judy!

michelle judy

Have You Met Mayapple?

Every spring I begin the hunt for the mayapple. This is a plant that grows wild and usually it I find it in ditches alongside the road, but sometimes it is growing in the midst of a group of trees.

It is a plant that you might notice because it usually grows in colonies. My research tells me that these plants may be connected underground through  systems of thick rhizomes. (Rhizomes are subterranean stems of a plant often sending shoots and roots from its nodes.)

Also called hogapple, Indian apple, mayflower, umbrella plant, wild lemon, wild mandrake, American mandrake  or "devil's apple"

Also called hogapple, Indian apple, mayflower, umbrella plant, wild lemon, wild mandrake, American mandrake or “devil’s apple”

The leaves are large and umbrella shaped. If that’s all you see, you are missing the magic of this plant. Each stem splits and a flower grows in the V.

bud 2

bud

Here is a young bud, but look below and see the fully developed flower. Some must be shy or else the view is better looking away from the road. So delicate and beautiful!

flower back

flower

Just like an apple blossom from a tree, this flower develops into a miniature apple.

apple

The ripened fruit is edible in moderate amounts, though when consumed in large amounts the fruit is poisonous. I wonder what a massive amount is. The apple is no bigger than an M & M. The American Indians used it for medicinal purposes. It can also be used topically for warts.

Interestingly it is not the apple that develops in May, but the blossom appears in May. Apparently the apple develops later, so maybe I have not seen the fully developed apple. When the weather gets hot the plant seems to wither away until next year.

Now you have met Mayapple, perhaps you will be seeing it as you drive country roads.

I Knew It Was Spring . . .

Check out more slices at Two Writing Teachers

Check out more slices at Two Writing Teachers

I knew spring finally arrived when my husband announced, “It’s shopping time again.” No, he was not telling me to head out to the nearest mall and find the latest styles for my wardrobe. He was referring to the birds who come to my small bicycle planter.  It seems that coco liners are just what the birds need to create that special touch in the nest.

For about two weeks the birds land on the rim, take stock of what they see, then they begin the process of dismantling the dirt filled liner. Robins are the greediest, but wrens have been spotted pulling out their fair share. They peck, pull, pluck until their beak is full. Off they fly to construct their nests. Moments later someone else is back on the rim gathering another beakful.

I suppose the building time has passed, as no one has been to the planter for a few days. I know they will return as soon as we put in the new liner and dirt.

The following robin pictures were taken from inside the house with the lens zoomed to catch the shoppers in action.

Easy picking or should I say easy pecking for the nest.

Easy picking or should I say easy pecking for the nest.

She checks out the possibilities with a critical eye.

She checks out the possibilities with a critical eye.

Do you think you could get another strand in that beak?

Do you think you could get another strand in that beak?

The current condition of the bike planter.

The current condition of the bike planter.

See the gap in the tree? A wren found a new home.

See the gap in the tree? A wren found a new home.

Soon we will have new neighbors on the side of our house.

Soon we will have new neighbors on the side of our house.

I knew spring would finally arrive. I just had to be patient.

Colorful Ride

Finally, spring seems to have blown into town so I was able to take my bike out on the road. As I pedaled along, the colors of spring waved to me from the side lines. I had to hop off the bike and snap a few quick pictures to remember the vibrant colors of spring. (Just in case there are days ahead that aren’t quite so bright.)

Spears of grape hyacinth put the grass to shame.

Spears of grape hyacinth put the grass to shame.

Who wins the competition in the category of yellow?

forsythia

daffodils

These poor blossoms looked like they were in jail, looking for a way to escape.

These poor blossoms looked like they were in jail, looking for a way to escape.

The trees didn’t want to be left out. They waved their branches as I pedaled by. They reminded me of those students who wave their arms wildly saying, “Ooo, ooo!”

pink

Did it snow?

Did it snow?

I savor the evidence of spring’s arrival, finally!

A Free Ride?

Tap, tap, tap my fingers move across the keyboard in my lap. My iPad sits beside me. Ding! That sound tells me I have a new email message. I finish my comment then head over to the mail tab that is open on my screen.

As usual the iPad has downloaded the message before the laptop. I click the “Check mail” button and wait the few seconds to see who sent an email. Maybe it’s a notice that someone commented on my slice. Maybe it is notice that a blog I follow has put up their slice for the day. Or maybe it is a friend dropping me a note. It is none of those options.

The From tab says Info-Toyota; the subject tab says Avalon-Complimentary Rental. “What’s this? I ask my husband. He reads car blogs all the time, so if Toyota had a deal, he would know about it. He has no clue what this is about. I open the email and read Try Before You Buy. Complimentary 2013 Avalon Rental.

“I wonder why we got that?” I muse. My husband quickly sends a message to his friend who works at the Toyota dealer to see what he knows about this deal. The response is immediate. He writes back, its a deal, you should take advantage. They only sent it out to certain people.

“I wouldn’t mind driving one for a day,” my husband says. “We could go to St. Louis for the day.” He wants to visit the REI store. I wouldn’t mind because then I could finish reading my book plus that means I’m not cooking either. Sounds like a win – win situation for me.

So we now have a hybrid 2013 Avalon car reserved. Should be a fun day and a comfortable drive. However, it could be an expensive day if my husband decides he’d like to own this car. But I’m not too worried.

Step Back in Time

Do these words mean anything to you: Black Cow, Slo Poke, Squirrel Nut Zippers, Mary Jane, and Teaberry? They are candies and gum from my childhood. Are they in your memory too?

My husband and I went to a restaurant, new to us, in St. Louis this weekend and stepped back into time.  This is where the  Ingalls family would shop for all the needs of the family. The walls were lined with kitchen gear, books, wine, candles, and all sorts of knick-knacks to tempt you.

You order at one counter and you get a numbered card. Take that card to another counter where the hostess jots your number down and how many are in your party. Then you wait and mill about until she fetches you to sit at a community table.

While I was waiting my eyes wandered and landed on the candy counter. Candies I had loved as a child jumped out at me. There was the black wax mustache and enormous red wax lips. I slipped back in my mind, remembering the warming of the wax in your mouth, then the chew, chew, chew. My jaws started to ache as I recalled that ball of wax chewed until the last bit of flavor was gone. The Slo Poke and Black Cows used to be suckers that lasted all day as you worked on softening up the caramel. The Squirrel Nut Zippers were unknown to me, but the Mary Janes were another jaw exercise.  Finally, Teaberry gum was one of my favorite flavors. It wasn’t as readily available as the Wrigley gum flavors, so I always savored those sticks of gum. As I noted the candy of the past, I saw they also had candy from the present. Razzles and gummy  burgers were lined up next to candy cigarettes, Lemonheads, and Boston Baked Beans.

Should I need a candy blast from the past, I know just the place to visit.

candy 3

candy 2candy 1