Oh Iceland, I Love You!

Iceland has been on my radar for a long time because I wanted to see the Northern Lights and visit the Blue Lagoon. Being deceived by the name and fearful of the cold, I waited and waited and waited. But when I saw a flight deal from WOW airlines (a European budget airline) for $99 one way, I pounced. And I’m so glad I did! I loved Iceland so much, I plan to go back again.

Here’s a quick recap…

Pano view of Reykjavik from the top of Hallgrímskirkja church. My iPhone takes dope pics!

Pano view of Reykjavik from the top of Hallgrímskirkja church.

1. Logistics…

I booked my flight through WOW Airline for $245. There is no online check-in so you have to arrive at the airport at least 2 hours before departure. The flight out of BWI was almost perfect…the return, not so much. Actually, both flights were fine. But the check-in process for the return flight at KEF airport was kinda bootleg and we left over an hour late.

I did not rent a car. I explored by foot and tour. Iceland winter is brutal and their roads are subject to unpredictable weather so I didn’t trust myself driving.

I stayed in the Center Hotel Klopp and paid around $360 for 4 nights (including a basic European breakfast). My hotel was city center and one block from the Main Street, which made it very easy to explore the city by foot. The “Center Hotels” is a popular chain in Reykjavik, Klopp is mid-range in quality, but you can’t go wrong with any of them.

That’s about where the deals end. Iceland is expensive! Credit cards are accepted everywhere, even to buy a cup of coffee or food from a street stand. The exchange rate is approximately $1 = 128 krona. Sounds great, right? But that doesn’t mean a thing when a cocktail is $15. Sheesh!

2. I only visited 3 regions, but based on what I saw, the country is beautiful. The city of Reykjavik is very clean and walkable, the water and air are refreshing, and I felt very safe being solo.

Thingvellir National Park, a UNESCO World heritage Site. Game of Thrones was filmed here.

Thingvellir National Park, a UNESCO World heritage Site. Game of Thrones was filmed here.

3. The people are VERY nice. It’s a chill, laid back culture. They drink A LOT, there are bars EVERYWHERE, and they hang out ALL night long. LOL! I didn’t see many brown people, but it was nice to be treated as an individual without any stereotypical assumptions based on race.

Their stories and superstitious beliefs about trolls and elves are hilarious.

Their stories and superstitious beliefs about trolls and elves are hilarious.

4. Do the CityWalk Reykjavik walking tour (http://citywalk.is/). It’s #1 on Trip Advisor and will help you to familiarize yourself with the city streets and Icelandic history. The tour is technically free, but you pay whatever you think it’s worth at the end. The owner/guide was friendly, entertaining, and knowledgeable, so I paid 1,000 krona – less than $10. He also became my unofficial point of contact in the city, which was unexpected icing on the cake.

Hallgrímskirkja church

Hallgrímskirkja church

5. Reykjavik must see/do: visit the historical Hallgrímskirkja church (views from top are stunning), perlan, harpa building, sun voyager sculpture, national museum, national gallery, and penis museum. Yes, you read that correctly. Also, try the lamb and skyr, and eat a hot dog from the street stand. Oh, and enjoy a night out – restaurants turn into nightclubs after midnight.


Blue Lagoon

6. Tours: Based on my experience, I’d highly recommend the Blue Lagoon (BL), Golden Circle, South Shore Adventure, and of course, the Northern Lights (NL). My very first stop was at the BL via flybus transport from the airport-BL-hotel. Enjoy ALL amenities, have a cocktail (2 free with the premium package), and have lunch at the LAVA restaurant. FYI – the BL is closed Jan 5-21 for construction. I also made NL reservations for my first night because sightings aren’t guaranteed. If you don’t see them, you can go again each night until you do (up to 3x). I used Reykjavik Excursions for all tours.

7. I found myself saying “WOW” every single day. I was in awe whenever I witnessed God’s art work. From the natural hot springs to the geysers, waterfalls, ice glaciers, and northern lights…SIMPLY AMAZING!

Amazing views! It was freezing cold on this day, but you can't tell by the pics.

Amazing views! It was freezing cold on this day, but you can’t tell by the pics.

8. My absolute favorite experience that will forever be etched in my travel memory bank? Climbing to the top of an ice glacier! As many of you know, I had major surgery last year and could barely walk. I never imagined this would be possible exactly 12 months later. So after I made it to the top and looked around at the expansive landscape, I said to myself… “look at God!”‪#‎bucketlist‬ ‪#‎travelgoals‬

9. I can’t wait to go back in the summer so I can visit thermal pools that the locals frequent (Blue Lagoon is a tourist trap but worth a visit), go snorkeling, ride horses, and truly enjoy the black sand beach.

Sun Voyager sculpture on the harbor

Sun Voyager sculpture on the harbor

10. But wait…did I say Iceland was expensive? Ok good. :-)

The Price of Beauty


So…I’m on a 52 week journey to (I hope) perfectly straight teeth.

The entire process involved lots of prep work, 26 aligners to be changed every 2 weeks, some discomfort, a little over $3,600, and time off work for follow up visits every few months.

The goal is to close a gap and correct an overbite. My orthodontist said bio-mechanics and function are more important than vanity. I told her “Umm…I can chew just fine. My decision to spend nearly $4,000 is for cosmetic purpose only.” She probably wanted to karate chop me.

I chose Invisalign over braces because they are more visually appealing to me, and I “heard” they were easier and painless. Psssh! That last part is a crock.

When the technician put the first set of aligners in my mouth, it felt like a vice grip on my teeth. Dude, I thought this wasn’t supposed to hurt!?! After a few hours, the pain subsided. But then…

It was time to eat.

Side Note: For most effective results, I’m supposed to wear the aligners for 22 hours per day. Those 2 hours of freedom are for eating, drinking, brushing, and flossing. I cannot eat or drink ANYTHING, except water, unless I remove the aligners first. No problem, right? Ha.

The first time I tried to remove the aligners, I thought my brain was going to explode. I have a pretty high pain tolerance, but tooth pain might be the death of me. It radiates to my head then throughout my ENTIRE body. So imagine ALL of my teeth hurting at once. Lawd!

I stood over the bathroom sink with saliva running down my chin, the aligners halfway on and halfway off, and tears forming in my eyes. I looked in the mirror and cursed MYSELF out – in the past, present, AND future for good measure. Whoever said beauty is worth pain, they ain’t worth the ink on their birth certificate!

After a good 10 minutes, I finally removed them and I was ready to grub. I think my first meal was a steak burrito. I bit down into that little piece of heaven called a sandwich and thought I was going to pass out. My teeth were so sore, I couldn’t even chew rice, much less steak. Lawd, but I was HONGRY!!

I gave my daughter the burrito – it seems she’s benefiting the most from this process – and made myself a green smoothie instead. After I DRANK my dinner, brushed and flossed my teeth, and reinserted the aligners, I vowed to never eat again. EVER.

The next 2-3 days were more of the same, plus ibuprofen. As long as I kept the aligners in, I could deal. I’d go looooooooong stretches without eating, but when my stomach threatened to cause an uprising, I had to prepare for battle. One time, I was removing the aligners and had memories of Scandal when Huck removed Quinn’s front teeth with dirty pliers. In comparison, my situation felt worse because it was slow and self-inflicted. I’m convinced, the little buttons on my teeth that hold the aligners in place were creations of the devil. Ugh!

By day 5, either my teeth shifted into position with the aligners or my brain adapted to the pain. Probably the latter because it doesn’t hurt anymore. But due to the 22 hour rule, I still only remove them when it’s ABSOLUTELY necessary. And whenever I remove them, I use the stopwatch on my iPhone to make sure I don’t exceed 2 hours per day. If I go over (usually when out socializing), I cut a meal short the next day to make up time.

On the bright side, my habits have changed significantly.

I’m more mindful of what I eat and when I eat. Because of soreness, I don’t eat a lot of meat or anything chewy or sticky. Also, because of the effort it takes to eat (removing aligners, chewing food, brushing, flossing, cleaning aligners, etc.) I rarely, if ever, snack in between meals. Never thought I’d say this, but a cookie isn’t worth it. And finally, because I’m concerned about plaque build up on my teeth from wearing the aligners 22 hours per day, I eat very few sweets and only drink water (with an occasional glass of wine). My regular dentist would be proud.

My oral hygiene is also on point. I carry a travel toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash, and floss with me everywhere I go. Before every meal, I sneak into a restroom to remove, rinse, clean and store my aligners. When I’m eating at home, I let them soak in a solution of warm water and peroxide to kill bacteria and keep them clean. Immediately after every meal, I brush, floss, and reinsert my aligners. When I’m at home, I also gargle with peroxide to kill bacteria. Rinse and repeat 3+ times each day.

I was given 5 sets of aligners until my next ortho appointment. Each set of aligners are worn for two weeks and I plan to take pics at the end of each set. In a few days, I will begin set 2. I’m prepared for the discomfort this time, so I’ll change them at night before bed, pop two ibuprofen, and eat a liquid diet for a few days.

By set 10, I’m sure I will have this process down to a science with minimal discomfort. If not, I’ll just curse myself every 2 weeks until July 2016. Oh, the price of beauty. :-)

First Half of 2015

The first half of 2015 was kind to me. I had quite a few memorable moments, loved on my family, and overcame several obstacles.

As of June 15, exactly 8 months post-op and for the first time in 4 years, I’m pain free. GTG!

As of June 30, I’ve begun my one year journey of Orthodontia discomfort…by choice. Ha!

My travels have been pretty low key. I’ve been to Florida, North Carolina, and California. But before the year is out, I will add Iceland and Kenya to the list.

Oh, and I’m going camping with my family this summer. Me…camping? *cackles*

My finances are good. My health is great. And my BabyGirl’s 23rd birthday is tomorrow. Woot!

To the second half of 2015, I’ve been expecting you. Let’s make ish happen. On purpose.

Afternoon Tea


My daughter planned a mother/daughter date and decided that we were going to have a tea party. She knows me well because when I found out where we were going, I was excited! Everything was so pink, so pretty, and exceeded our expectations. The ambiance in the tea room reminded me of a fairy tale and the entire experience was a girly girl’s dream. :-)

Happy Friday!


I don’t have anything special to say, but I felt like blogging.

So how y’all doing? How ya mama ‘n ’em? The kids ok? Good!

For those of you who have been reading me since Fabulous Financials (*waving* heeeey!), I know you remember my BabyGirl because I started blogging when she was about 12. Well she’s 22 now and has a birthday coming up this summer. Man, time flies! She left the nest 4 years ago and those 4 years have been full of ups and downs, but she’s learning valuable life lessons. Oh, the joys and pains of early adulthood! She’s slowly figuring out who she is and what she wants out of life. I, on the other hand, am learning how to parent a young adult by giving less direction/correction and more support as a coach/mentor. We’re actually growing and learning together. It’s true what they say…a mommy’s job is NEVER done. :-)

You might remember me blogging about my little brother too. Well he decided to pursue a career in finance and finally landed a very nice gig. I’d like to think I had some influence in that. *pats self on the back* We are VERY far apart in age and I left home when he was only a toddler, so I’m surprised we’ve developed such a close relationship. He’s constantly calling me for life and financial advice. I love that he reaches out to me for guidance and respects my opinion. Now that he has a real job, I told him I will start charging him a consulting fee. He said all of his friends think he’s a financial guru (he shares what I teach him), so he’ll charge them first then pay me. Ha! Talk about a hustler mentality. Love it!

My mom just celebrated a birthday last month and came up to spend a few days with us. That senior citizen (yes, she gets discounts now lol) has more energy than me. Lawdymercy, she loves to shop and explore DC museums, but she wears me OUT. After 2 days, I put her off on my daughter and told them to have at it. I couldn’t keep up anymore. *hangs head in shame*

I’m getting Invisalign soon and I just found out my insurance company is covering more than I originally expected. Yay! My out of pocket costs are still in the thousands, but hopefully in 12-18 months, the before and after pics will show me it was all worth it. If you have/had Invisalign, I’d love to hear about your experience.

I’ve been reading and researching all things Kenya. I looooved South Africa last year, but I’ve never been to east Africa so I’m super duper excited about this trip. *in my Dr Seuss voice* Oh the places I’ll go… *big cheesy grin* I’m just some chic who grew up in the inner city ghetto of Newark, NJ and became statistic as a teenage single mom. The odds were stacked against me, so sometimes I have to pinch myself to make sure my life is not a dream. If you’ve ever questioned God’s grace and mercy, just look at what he does for me. I’m soooo thankful.

My job sent me to a seminar that was designed to teach the principles from Stephen Covey’s popular book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” Man oh man, I really enjoyed it! There were so many useful nuggets, but the most important take-aways for me were: a) understanding and relating to people through their mental map, b) organizing my tasks into the 4 Covey quadrants and spending the most time in quadrant 3 (not urgent/important), and c) learning to become a more active listener (hard!). I’m glad my employer sees value in investing time and money into building soft skills for the management staff.

Speaking of building soft skills, my employer also pays for us to have executive coaches. Each manager is paired with a trained and certified psychologist that specializes in organizational behavior. We meet with our coach once per week for 12-14 weeks. During those hour long sessions, we review and analyze our 360 assessment results (input is received from our manager, colleagues, subordinates, family, and friends), our personality and management style, our normal and adaptive behaviors, and our strengths and weaknesses. We also discuss and brainstorm solutions for any real-time issues we may have, our career goals, and a plan to achieve the next step. The objective is to address our professional AND personal needs to make us more effective managers (side note: an unintended benefit is a confidential outlet to vent lol). It’s truly an invaluable experience. This will be my third year participating in the program and I look forward to reconnecting with the same coach I had last year.

Hmm…what else? I’m just rambling…

I don’t tweet anymore and I only read a handful of blogs. Interesting how my online habits have changed in a year. Whenever I need downtime to relax, my preferred activity is to watch youtube videos (one of my faves), listen to podcasts (one of my faves), and read (currently on my nightstand).

Oh, do y’all still watch Scandal? I fell off for a while because Season 3 was so boring, but my mom drew me back in. She talks about it ALL. THE. TIME. Now I’m hooked again. Papa Pope is a BEAST, love him! Which reminds me, I missed last night’s episode so let me go catch up.


When Hard Knocks Change Your Life…to Make it Better

A few days ago, I reviewed my expectations for 2015 and it reminded me how blessed I am. Over the past few years, I’ve experienced hardship after hardship that would probably lead a normal person into a state of depression. But it’s drawn me closer to Christ. When I walk hand in hand with Him, I feel more centered and experience a level of peace that I can’t explain. Actually, the word JOY comes to mind, which in my opinion, is far greater than happiness.

I am no longer focused on the circumstances or what I believe has gone wrong. My thoughts are not consumed with how to fix my problems or the next goal that needs to be accomplished. I read His word, pray about what’s on my heart, and trust that He will lead me. I am learning that life is truly a journey and I don’t need to define every single step. I still have a vision for what I’d like to experience in my lifetime, but it’s more of an outline, not a detailed turn by turn master plan. I don’t know if this change in perspective is a result of life’s lessons, maturity, or spiritual growth – maybe all three – but I like it. :-)

Since this post was inspired by a review of my 2015 plans, here’s a quick update…

Extensive dental work. All of my medically necessary dental work is complete (ouch!). Now I’m super obsessed with my dental hygiene and floss randomly throughout the day…just because. The cosmetic work is in process and my pockets are a little lot lighter, but it’s worth it.

Invest 50% of my gross income. I invest a little over 45% of my income and my net worth has increased almost 6%. To be honest, everything is on auto-pilot and I haven’t paid much attention to my money lately. It actually feels like my spending has been out of control, but payroll allotments keep me on track until I’m ready to make more active decisions again.

Travel. I started the year with a list of what I’d consider bucket list travel dreams but thought only 2 were really possible. Since then, I’ve been swimming with dolphins, held a baby alligator, and embraced my big kid excitement in Downtown Disney. It. was. so. much. fun!


I also plan to visit a friend in GA (milestone birthday), a friend in CA (new baby), and booked a flight for another dream vacation to Kenya (I love Africa). Whew, and it’s only May! While awaiting those trips, I’ve also discovered new travel and cultural adventures in my own back yard at the Around the World Embassy Tour and the Funk Parade. I love living in DC!


Change my hair. I’ve straightened my hair several times this year and colored it too. I’m not a fan of straight hair so it never stays straight for long, but the color is growing on me. I think.

Study the word of God. I haven’t been studying as much as I should, but I do it with intention and more often than I used to. Not only do I study His word, but I also make a conscious effort to apply what I learn. Through the trials, God is changing my life. I think I am more considerate, patient, relaxed, and well…as much as you can expect from a Type A personality. LOL!

How do you balance your goals/desires with unfortunate life events out of your control?