Otherworldly Fog in the Icelandic Landscape

The other night, a fog rolled in after 11 pm. Yes, the light you see in this picture is the Arctic (practically) Midnight sun, illuminating the fog and the valley we will live and work in for the next three months.

The area we live in for the summer is like an alien planet at times. It is very familiar, and yet so different. The ground is soft with moss that must be nearly a foot thick off the roads. The lake is crystal clear and a shade of blue that makes it look like someone poured landscaping dye into it. The kind used in golf courses.

We drank from a stream yesterday. When we commented that it felt very strange to drink from a stream, our house mates (Icelandic) told us that one can drink from any body of water in Iceland. It might not always taste good, but it will not hurt you. That seems alien, indeed, after a year in Shanghai where you can’t drink the tap water.

Bizarre, that something so natural as drinking water should seem so thrilling. Humans must be so generally out of touch with the natural world.

The fog followed us home until it was so thick that the sun was blocked out. The way across the power plant’s bridge became like something from a video game, where we led our bikes across and couldn’t see more than about 20 feet. A huge change from the bright sunlight.

Beautiful, changeable Iceland.


Into the sunny fog


Over the Lake, near Midnight

Makeup: Five Minute Face

This year and last, I had to get up and out the door in less than 40 minutes on Saturdays and Sundays. Saturday mornings were particularly brutal, with what I refer to as a ‘Clopen’ shift (a term from my days in a London bar, where you close the bar at night and then open it in the morning). I regularly got about five hours’ sleep.

But makeup, although not indispensable, is a big part of my routine. It makes me feel professional and put-together, even when I didn’t sleep. It’s my “War Paint.”

Especially as a stressed-out ESL teacher, I needed to put time into my face. I just didn’t have much to allocate to it.

Hence, I got really, really good at doing my hair and makeup in about ten minutes flat. That gave me time to put the kettle on for coffee, make the coffee with my POS funnel and cloth filter system (DIY), get dressed, have a shower, gripe about getting up so early to my sleepy husband…not necessarily in that order.

I regularly do my makeup in five minutes or less. Full face. I even do winged eyeliner. The keys have been repetition and repetition. And repetition. Once I become practiced at a new technique, I am able to incorporate it into the routine and speed up its use for busy mornings.

To prove it, here’s m five minute face from today. I’m giving a talk at a local high school about travel, and I need to look put together. The video is poorly framed and unedited, but this captures best how I actually do my makeup every day.

The formula is: 

  1. Cover giant black circles under eyes with foundation and blend. Optionally add foundation to the rest of the face. 
  2. Bright blush with a kabuki brush. 
  3. Eyeshadow, blending from darkest color to lightest in layers. 
  4. NYX Milk on the inside corners of the eyes. 
  5. Darker eyeliner in the crease and blend. 
  6. Big, fat, sharp wings in liquid liner. 
  7. Two coats of mascara. 


And Ta-Da! Ready for action. If I have more time, I add filling in my brows with powder or brow mascara. Most of the time, I’m just fine with them being invisibly blonde.

How much time do you spend on your makeup? Do you think makeup is essential to a professional look in 2016? 

Makeup: “No Makeup”

I’m on vacation at home in Colorado, and I have a lot of time on my hands for the next few weeks. Expect many makeup posts!

Today, I went for the opposite of yesterday’s heavy-duty vintage look. The “No Makeup” look is very popular, even though I have a lot of makeup on to achieve this style.


The most important thing is to be able to look put-together in about five minutes. I have practiced enough that it’s pretty easy now (barring some kind of mascara-in-the-eyeball-oh-dear-god-why moment). Maybe I’ll post my makeup that I wore for work this year tomorrow, with a timer and video to prove it is in fact only five minutes.

Due to having more time on my hands, I should be able to crank out the rest of the TEFL for Newbs series this week. Let me know if you have topics that you want to see covered, especially for new teachers living abroad.

How long does your makeup routine take? What do you prefer between the more natural look and the heavier eyeliner? 

Makeup: Old School

I fell in love with the vintage look while living in London, and it just keeps getting more refined as I go on.


Winged eyeliner is my every day look now, along with bright blush and defined eyebrows. I finally was able to purchase some more makeup after a year of living in China and not buying much because it’s too expensive.

I’m managing to put the makeup on blind, too! I had an eye problem and cannot wear my contact lenses at the moment, and with -7.50 myopia in both eyes it’s hard to get close enough to the mirror to see clearly.

Do you like the vintage look? What makeup tricks do you recommend to me? 

Mt. Hua (Huashan): One of the Best Days in China

I’ve been off grid in terms of ability to upload photos lately, because our contracts in Shanghai ended and we had two weeks to travel in China. After 36 hours of travel beginning at 7AM on Hainan and :

  • five airports
  • a four-hour delay in Sanya
  • three planes
  • four taxis
  • several buses
  • some the worst air in Shanghai in quite some time
  • bingewatches of both Cosmos and Game of Thrones

I am back in Colorado!

This morning I finally had the opportunity to look at my photos from our hike of Huashan near to Xi’an, which were taken a couple weeks ago. My tiny HD camera makes it like the old days of waiting for film to be developed. It has no sight for looking through, and I couldn’t plug it in to look at them until now, my laptop having been killed outright by the humidity in our apartment.

It was worth the wait.

Huashan (华山) is 75 miles outside Xi’an, but you can just get the 300kph train and then a slightly overpriced taxi. We opted to take the gondola up the North Peak, which is best summed up by the video below.

it was so much cooler than i would have even imagined. A giant adult-sized playground hanging between heaven and Earth. The drops on all sides were very intimidating, and after the gondola up we had both pretty much decided we would not be able to muster the courage (nor the clean underwear) to do the famous ‘Plank Walk’ on the South peak.

As the day wore on, clouds came blowing upwards around the peaks. We had talked beforehand about whether it was scarier to be able to see the 1000-foot drops, or not to have them occluded by the whiteness.

Definitely the latter. Definitely more terrifying. I’ll take the known void over the unknown any day.

Mt. Hua has been a sacred mountain in China since at least the 220s BCE, around the time that the First Emperor united the warring kingdoms. Without the assist from gondolas and carved out stairs (and hotels!), the mountain could be a brutal climb. As it is now, it stands no less impressive, but much more accessible. A 70-year-old grandmother climbed up a rock ‘ladder’ just ahead of us on the West Peak.

That day, we wandered in a loop to all five of the peaks. North Peak, WuYun Peak, East, South, and West. It was so much fun, and worth it. Probably the best day of traveling that we had in China, followed closely (if not tied) with the day we climbed up the Great Wall.

I’m going to get out of the way here and let the pictures speak for themselves.


It was one of the best things I’ve done while travelling. So very much fun and a wonderful day that I will never forget.