The Door Within

watercolor tee black pants red kitten heels by 14 shades of grey

Last week when I posted the inspiration for SIA, “The Door Within” by Jean Fetman, which was found by this week’s host Erin in a dumpster (!), I said I didn’t know if I could participate or not because I had nothing that colorful in my closet. But then Jen and Erin persuaded me to try, so try I did, and lo and behold, I did find something – this top!

So maybe it’s not as colorful as the painting, but the painterly quality of the print on the front is an OK match. To pair with it, I chose my black pants and burgundy heels because there is a bit of black and dark red in the painting, and then topped it off with my “house” pendant – the title is “The Door Within”, so I wanted to include “a door within” in my outfit as well. I’m just happy that I did manage to put together an outfit for SIA after all, but the outfit itself is not that bad (even if I do say so myself.)

I wore this to a faculty meeting last Saturday – school hasn’t officially started yet, but we’re slowly getting back to the everyday grind. I am not looking forward to it…

watercolor tee black pants red kitten heels by 14 shades of greywatercolor tee black pants by 14 shades of grey

watercolor tee house pendant by 14 shades of greyblack pants red kitten heels by 14 shades of grey


Top: local shop, Pants: thrifted, Heels: Zara, Necklace: hand-me-down

Iceland Diary #3: All Of The Waterfalls

The third day of our Iceland road trip saw us starting towards the coast to get on the Ring Road, the main highway of Iceland, and away from the “Golden Circle” – an area around Reykjavik with the most sights and tour activities (Thingvellir, Geysir, hot springs, etc.) However, before we left, there was one last stop in the Golden Circle that we needed to check out – Gulfoss, or the Golden Waterfall.

It isn’t the most powerful waterfall in Iceland (that one’s up north), but it is huge. The pictures can’t convey the size and power of it, even though I did try to include people in my photos, so you guys can imagine the scale. We felt the spray all the way from the parking lot, and I was really glad I got my waterproof jacket and boots with me. There were tourists walking around in sandals and flipflops (I guess they didn’t want their shoes wet?) and I admit, I side-eyed them really hard.

Coincidentally, our drive to the Ring Road also took us past two more famous waterfalls, and they’re literally by the side of the road, so we didn’t have to go out of our way to see them. First up is Seljalandsfoss. It’s most well-known for the fact that you can walk behind it (and why most packing lists for Iceland recommend that you bring rain pants – but honestly, the spray wasn’t that bad.)

The second waterfall is Skógafoss, which is right in the backyard of our hostel. We planned on walking there after dinner, but when we arrived, it started raining. We didn’t mind too much – it was the first rain we encountered in Iceland – though by the time it stopped, we were too tired, so we decided to turn in early and saved Skógafoss for the next morning.

It turned out to be a great decision, because the next morning was clear and sunny, and it allowed us to even see a rainbow by the waterfall.

skogafoss waterfallThe obligatory cheesy rainbow photo

With that crossed off our list, we continued along the coast, onto our next destination!

Iceland Diary #2: Þingvellir & Geysir

On the second day of our Iceland road trip, we drove back toward the east and headed for Þingvellir (or Thingvellir, as its anglicized name) National Park. This is where the rift between the North American and the Eurasian tectonic plates lies, and also where Iceland’s parliament was first held, so it has both natural and historical interests.

We spent half a day hiking around, had a picnic by the lake, and also filled our water bottles from Silfra, where you can dive between two continents. The water was incredibly clear, ice cold, and tasted amazing. Too bad we didn’t have the money for a diving session.

drinking from silfra

(Actually, we tried to avoid paying extra money for activities as much as possible – on the first day, we stopped at a cave by the side of the road, and promptly turned around when we learned it cost money. Still, the sights are so gorgeous that we didn’t feel like we were missing out on anything.)

In the afternoon, we drove on to Geysir, aka the thing that gave English the word “geyser”. Geysir itself has been dormant for years, but the other big one, Strokkur, did erupt quite regularly – three or four times while we were there. You just have to make sure to stand upwind to avoid getting a noseful of that rotten egg smell.


 After a quick dinner at our hostel in Laugarvatn, we went to the Secret Lagoon (which is actually not that secret.) It was one of the few activities we paid for, but at 2800 krona (about $24), it’s half the price of the Blue Lagoon, a lot less crowded, and more relaxing. It was just the thing we needed after the Thingvellir hike.

secret lagoon

Iceland Diary #1: Snæfellsnes Peninsula

Even though it wasn’t the first stop of my Euro trip, I decided to start my travel diary with Iceland, because I figure that’s what everybody wants to see the most, and I want to write it down while it’s still fresh in my mind.

A bit of backstory first: like I said, this trip was the result of much planning between myself and my friend Debbi. After I decided to stay with my friends in the Netherlands before going to Iceland, we invited them along as well, and thus the idea of a road trip was born. We spent months looking through all the sample itineraries, and finally settled on south-west Iceland for a week, instead the whole island – we didn’t have the time or the money, or frankly the willpower, for that kind of trip. Most of the sights are concentrated around the lower half of the island anyway, so we figured we wouldn’t miss out on a lot. (Pro tip: we based most of our itinerary on the sample itineraries on Hostelling International Iceland, and we also booked our car rental + hostel package through them. It came out to about $750/person, which is not cheap, but it’s cheaper than most self-drive tours out there, considering we were there during the high season.)

So, on the first day, we met up in Reykjavik and went to the grocery store to stock up for the trip. Eating out in Iceland is notoriously expensive, and most days we were going to be in the middle of nowhere anyway, so cooking was the best and cheapest option. The thing is, we were staying at a new hostel every night, so we could only take food that can be easily transported and kept. I still can’t look at a boiled egg or hot dog without thinking of Iceland.

Then, on the next day, we set out for our first destination: the western peninsula of Snæfellsnes!

iceland day 1The adventure begins!

It was our first day on the road, so we didn’t know what to expect. After we got out of Reykjavik and headed into the wilderness, I think our minds all got broken a little bit at the vastness and emptiness of the landscape. Every few minutes, at every turn, there was something that made us want to stop and get out of the car, to snap pictures or just to simply take in the view with our mouths hanging open.

Soon after we started, we got to meet the famous Icelandic horses – it was a good thing we decided to stop then and there, because for the rest of the trip, although we saw a lot of horses, they were never this close to the road.

iceland horsesMaking friends!

We also stopped at a museum displaying the carcass of a whale – you have to admire the very prosaic sign. Yes, that is indeed a dead whale:

The journey should be just a little over two hours, but because we were stopping so much, it took us nearly five hours to get to Snæfellsjökull, the glacier which, according to Jules Verne, holds the entrance to the center of the Earth.

Like I said, the landscape broke our brains a little

We drove around the glacier for a bit, then stopped at our hostel in Grundarfjörður, a nearby small town. After dinner, we took a walk to a lovely waterfall we saw on the drive there (which turns out to be Kirkjufellfoss, so named because it’s right next to Kirkjufell, or Church Mountain). Finally around midnight, we crawled into bed and got treated to an epic sunset from our hostel window. All in all, a very good first day.

Church Mountain, and an actual local church

Europe Packing List

I’ve been home for a week now, but while I’m settling back into my old routine, let’s look back at my epic summer trip, starting with the usual: the packing list.

I lost count of how many sample packing lists I looked at during the months leading up to the trip. My main concern was that I was going to be in Iceland, and how cold it could be, and how much the cold-weather clothes would add to the rest of my list. This is what I ended up taking with me:

packing list by 14 shades of grey

(I had so much fun doodling my packing list last time that I did it again. I got the illustrations online, mostly from goodobjects, then traced them and colored them myself.)

The list includes: 3 short-sleeved tees, 3 long-sleeved tees, 1 chambray shirt, 1 flannel shirt, 2 sweaters, 2 cardigans, 4 pairs of jeans, 2 scarves, 1 jacket, and 3 pairs of shoes. Not included here are the big waterproof jacket and blanket scarf I packed especially for Iceland.

Though that doesn’t seem a lot for a 5-week trip, I actually over-packed. I didn’t realize that 65 degrees in Europe feel very different from 65 degrees in Vietnam, and packed too many warm items. Since I could afford to do laundry quite often, I could’ve done without the striped turtleneck, the extra sweater and cardigan, the light-washed jeans, and the flats (which are my “just in case” shoes, and those I almost always end up never wearing). I guess you learn something new with each trip you make, right? Now that I’ve recorded this, I’m definitely going to pack more wisely for my next long trip!

SIA Inspiration: Jean Fetman

This week’s SIA inspiration comes from Erin, and she has a really interesting story behind it. But first, the painting:


This is a painting that Erin found in the dumpster of her apartment building, can you believe it? She doesn’t have a spot to hang it in her house yet, but I hope she does soon, because it’s really a great painting, with lots of bright colors and a surprising sense of depth in the composition. The back reveals the title to be “The Door Within”, and the artist’s name – Jean Fetman, from Highland Park, IL. A quick Google shows that she may have passed away in 2013, so it’s good that Erin managed to save her painting.

I don’t know if I’m going to be able to participate in this SIA or not, because I can’t think of anything in my closet that has all of the colors like this, but I’m going to look forward to your interpretations. Just remember to send them to Erin ( by Monday, August 22nd!

Where I’ve Been #12: East Coast, Winter 2010

Welcome to Travel Month on 14 Shades of Grey! While I’m off to Europe, please enjoy these posts about travels I’ve done in the past.

If you’ve been reading my Where I’ve Been series, you’re probably wondering why I didn’t travel much in the US, considering I was living there at the time. The reason is simple: you kinda need a car for any serious travel in the US. I didn’t have a car, and no friends with the same wanderlust tendency. Still, in the winter break of 2010, I did manage to spend Christmas and New Year on the East Coast.

My first stop was Washington DC. One of my friends from high school was going to grad school there at the time, so I stayed with her (hooray for having friends all over the world willing to let you crash on their couches!) I went to all the monuments and museums, of course. I didn’t go inside the White House, but my friend convinced me to check out the Capitol, and even I had to admit it was pretty impressive.

Georgetown University during the day and at night (with Santa making an early visit – can you spot him?)

Colorful houses in DC

The super cool walkway underneath the National Gallery of Art

As Christmas approached, we took the bus up to New York. We intended to spend Christmas there, before going up to Boston to visit my friend Debbi (whom you may remember from my travels around Vietnam). New York has its moments, but it’s way too big and there are way too many sketchy bits mixed up with the nice bits that I couldn’t really warm to it. Still, walking around Manhattan on Christmas Day and going up on the Empire State Building on Christmas Eve were awesome. We even tried going into Macy’s, but we barely made it through the front doors when I shrieked with horror at the heaving throngs of shoppers, and fled.

The obligatory Times Square shot

Strawberry Fields mosaic and the Dakota

A couple of shots from Central Park

Grand Central Station

The view from the Empire State Building

But my NYC adventure didn’t end there. The day after Christmas, I went to the Met (my friend doesn’t like art museums so she went to the Intrepid Museum instead.) The weather had been super nice – clear, bright, and sunny. Then, that morning, as we left our hostel, it began to snow. I was quite excited – I’d never seen snow in person before. I happily lost myself in the Met, but throughout the morning, whenever I glanced outside, the snow just got thicker and thicker. At first I told myself it was no big deal. As the day went on and it showed no sign of stopping though, I began to contemplate the idea of living in the museum and picking pennies out of the fountains for food, like the kids in E.L. Konisburg’s From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.

It started out like this, until there was nothing but white

Of course, I didn’t. As the museum closed at 5:30, I plunged into the swirl of whiteness with the other visitors. Somehow I found the subway. Our hostel is in Brooklyn, and when I came out of the station, I honestly thought I wouldn’t make it. I’m terrible with directions at the best of time, and now, with all landmarks rendered unrecognizable by the snow and the wind driving ice particles into my eyes so hard I couldn’t see straight, I thought, “That’s it. I’m dead.” Luckily, I was saved by the US way of city planning – everything laid out in grids. By counting the intersections, I managed to find my hostel. If this had been Europe, I would’ve probably ended up like Jack Nicholson at the end of The Shining.

It turned out to be the first snow storm of the season. Just my luck. We were supposed to leave for Boston the next day, and now everything was cancelled. Still, we were more fortunate than most travelers that we got to stay at the hostel, and after a day and a half of frantic phone calls, eventually we were on our way to Boston.

We had to cut our Boston trip short, but we managed to visit Debbi’s hometown of Rockport, a ramshackle but super cute harbor town east of Boston, home of the iconic Motif Number 1.

On the way from Boston to Rockport

The most often-painted building in America

Debbi’s house

We did all the touristy things in Boston too. We walked the Freedom Trail, went to the Museum of Fine Arts and Boston Public Library, and wandered through the shops of Faneuil Hall, before going back to DC for New Years’ Eve, and I went back to LA.

Faneuil Hall at night

The Charles River

It was a fun trip. It showed me a different side of the US, other than the concrete desert that is Los Angeles, and even though it didn’t make me wish I’d traveled more within the US, at least it made me glad that I had traveled some.

And that’s the end of the Where I’ve Been series. Europe diary coming up next!