Leif Garrett and Leif Eriksson are not the same person

On our recent trip to Iceland we stopped by a cathedral in Reykjavik to climb the bell tower and look out over the city.  In front of the church was a statue of Lief Eriksson and the plaque said, “Iceland’s Son.”

“Look, it’s Lief Eriksson,” my sixteen-year-old daughter pointed out.

With surprise I asked,” Lief Eriksson, the pop singer?”

“Ah, Honey,” my husband said, “I think you are thinking of Leif Garrett,”

Meg chimed in, “Lief Eriksson was the first European to discover North America.”

“Umm, that would be Christopher Columbus,” I said, with perhaps way too much conviction, because a second later my entire family, including my three-year-old, were looking at me with a mixture of pity and shame.  Apparently, Lief Eriksson beat Christopher Columbus to North America by about 500 years.  I am not sure where I was during history class, but I can say with confidence that Lief Eriksson never had a center fold in Teen Beat Magazine.

Leif Garrett, 1970s pop star

Leif Erikkson

Leif Eriksson, first European to discover North America


the half-flush option

It is no secret to my family that I am obsessive about a clean bathroom.  I make my teenagers clean our bathrooms every Saturday morning,  and every Saturday morning they complain that the bathrooms aren’t dirty.  It is our weekly dance.

“Clean the bathrooms.”

“They’re not dirty, whah, whah, whah, blah, blah, blah.”

Then, I level them with the stink-eye, and my bathrooms get cleaned.

Members of my family are rarely sick, and I contribute this in part to my strict bathroom disinfecting regiment.

So, you can see why I was surprised while vacationing in Iceland to discover the countries option for a  half-flush.  When using the toilet, they have a button for a full-flush and a button for a half-flush.  This raised serious concern on my part.  First of all, my fourteen-year-old son can’t keep track of his own shoes.  How can one trust him with the half-flush option?  And my husband with his laissez-fair bathroom attitude will certainly be half-flushing all day long.  Then, you have my three-year-old who often believes one needs to flush two or three times.  Surely she will spend all day in the bathroom–half-flush, full-flush, half-flush, full-flush.  It is too great a responsibility.

No one was more shocked than I to discover that a half-flush is, more often than not, a perfectly adequate choice.  I found myself half-flushing with surprising frequency.

Now the question is why aren’t we allowed to half-flush in the US?  Can one import a toilet from Iceland?  And can said toilet coexist with American plumbing fittings?

Rise up followers.  Join me in my quest for the daily half-flush.  It will change your life!

an American’s guide to Reykjavik

As I mentioned, I have been in Iceland (again, please don’t break into my house and steal my stuff).  I am in Paris now, but took copious notes on Reykjavik and can tell you everything you need to know about the culture (you’re welcome).

Reykjavik is the most adorable city of all time.  It looks as if Ikea came to visit and vomited up a town.  Everyone speaks English, except the one weird cab driver who looks exactly like Barney Rubble from the Flintstones and didn’t understand a lick of what we were saying.  Also, shop keepers are super nice to tourists ’cause we are the only ones who will buy their itchy wool sweaters and viking hats with plastic horns.

You can have Kentucky Fried Chicken, Taco Bell, Rice Krispies, and Doritos, but you can not have a Big Mac.  McDonald’s used to operate out of Iceland, but there was a big uproar over cooking french fries in whale blubber so Ronald took his cheese burgers and left the country.  You will also not see policemen, playgrounds, non-fat milk, or dogs over thirty pounds.  These things probably exist but are kept hidden on a Viking war ship somewhere in the Atlantic.

Ninety-three percent of homes in Iceland are heated with geothermal energy.  I was given this statistic by a taxi driver.  I have no reason to believe he would lie, but then again, if I were a taxi driver I would make up crap all day long.

Basically, there is so much volcanic activity that all you need to do for energy is drill down a ways, capture some steam, use the steam to heat water and then pump it through pipes in your house.  It works incredibly well.  So well that when it is 15 degrees outside, it is 132 degrees inside.  You have to wear a parka, boots, hat, mittens, and four layers of long underwear to go to the market, but once you get to the market you have to undress and buy your groceries in panties and a bra.

We saw lots of Christmas decorations while we were there.  Apparently, Icelanders love to celebrate the holiday.  In a country with only four hours of daylight during the winter months, strands of twinkly lights are a must.  They love Santa, and family gatherings were they get to eat whale and sheep testicles (a delicacy I did not try), but they don’t care so much about Jesus.  Again, my information comes from taxi drivers, but one driver told me even the Christians think going to church every Sunday is too big a committment.

I have to go now ’cause I am in freakin’ PARIS!  My rule is that I must eat four croissants a day, and I am about due for my third.

I’m afraid of the arctic monkeys

I have been in Iceland.  I didn’t want to tell you I was in Reykjavik ’cause I didn’t want you to steal  my stuff while I was gone.  Now I realize I don’t really have much cool stuff and also I have an alarm system.  Her name is Vicky, and she lives across the street.

We landed in Iceland on the eighteenth.  We were standing on the street, trying to unlock the apartment we had rented when I saw a critter swing quickly through a tree.

“Oh my God,” I screamed.  “Is that a monkey?”

The taxi driver, hoping for a large tip, said slowly and completely without judgement, “No, Ma’am.  That is a C-A-T.”

In my defense, it was the middle of the night.  It was dark.  I was cold, hungry, and had been on an airplane for a full day with a three-year-old.  Plus, the cat had simultaneously swung and leapt; a very primate-like motion.

The next morning, we were heading out for breakfast, which was really lunch ’cause we had slept until noon.

My three-year-old started crying.  “I don’t want to go,” she said.

“Don’t you want to get something to eat?”

“Yes,” she sniffled.  “But, I’m afraid of the arctic monkeys.”

the sleigh is pretty heavy

I already wrote about how Christmas is a season of temptations.  This rings true for my neighbor.  To protect her identity, we should call her Sam (We should call her Sam, ’cause that is her name) (I’m just kidding, Sam is not really her name) (Yes it is)

Sam found the Christmas present her husband bought for her.  She carefully unwrapped it and inside the box found a gorgeous necklace and hideous earrings (her description, not mine).  After a gleeful dance for joy, she carefully re-taped the wrapping paper, and placed the gift back in its original hiding spot.  As the day passed, she worried that her cover-up may not be entirely convincing, so in the end, she took the gift back to the jewelry store and had the sales associate re-wrap it.

This reminded me of the year my brother found our Christmas gifts in the attic.  He was so excited, he encouraged me to go up with him and look through the loot.  I did.  In my pile I found a teddy bear and clothes for my Barbie, then we tucked everything back in the shopping bag.  The funny part is that when all these gifts ended up under the tree on Christmas morning, I still totally believed Santa had put them there.  I convinced myself that Santa had to stash gifts early or risk weighing down the sleigh.


just an early morning snuggle

When my three-year-old woke up this morning she climbed into the big chair I was sitting in and snuggled up next to me.  She sat quietly while I drank my coffee.  After awhile I thought I smelled something.

“Did you toot?” I asked her.

She shook her head.  “No.”

“Hmmm,” I said.  “‘Cause I thought I smelled something stinky.”

Ella replied, “It’s your breath.”

fool-proof tree stand

Growing up, my parents would occasionally splurge on things.  We took a couple trips to Disneyland; I remember shopping with my mom for a new sofa, but for the most part, my parents squeezed each penny.

To other suburban families, a Christmas tree stand was an inexpensive necessity, but to my parents, a tree stand was an unnecessary extravagance.  Instead of a traditional stand, we had a coffee can.  We never replaced the coffee can; the same one was used year after year.

“But,” you ask, “didn’t the weight of the tree tip over the can?”

That is an excellent question.  Normally, a tree would tip over a can, but Ed Fallon had a fool-proof method for securing the tree–wire and nails.  Dad would wrap wire around the tree trunk, make a small loop in the opposing end of the wire, and use that loop to hold a nail.  He would then NAIL the wire to the floor and repeat this process with several more lengths of wire until the tree was tightly fastened down and unable to tip over the can.

“But, wait!” you exclaim.  “You’re telling me he hammered nails into the floor every year?”

Yes, my followers, that is what I am telling you.  If one pointed out that there may be other ways to hold a tree upright, my father would comment, “We have shag carpeting.  You can’t see nail holes through shag carpeting.”

All of this is true; you couldn’t see the holes through the carpeting, but some years he miscalculated the distance and wire stretched halfway into the room.  You had to be very careful where you stepped or the wire would trip you and slice into your shin.

Ah, holiday memories!