Visiting Daddy’s Alma Mater: Saint Vincent College

Hey guys! I am so excited to share this particular Portait Session with you all because I have waited far too long to photograph this adorable family! These sweet babes, Jake & Elliana, were one of the first sessions that I ever did. Elliana wasn’t more than a month old the last time I had these 2 in front of the lens and I am so pumped to see how my work has evolved since then.

If you don’t know them, it is past time you met the Greece Family! Tony, his wife, Emily and their two adorable kiddos are my first cousins. Tony is a local school teacher and Emily is the girl you go to when it’s past due for a new hair “do”. Just this past year, they moved into a new home in Latrobe, PA and I wanted to help them decorate their house with new family photos.

TONY+EM_07.17-13

We chose to set up the shoot at the Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve at Saint Vincent College mainly because Tony graduated with his masters here not too long ago but also  because the scenery here would make the perfect backdrop for their shoot! Located just off of Route 30 in Latrobe, this place around sunset is a gorgeous stroll.

I wanted to get the “Family of 4” shots done first simply because kids have no patience and I wasn’t about to test the patience of two small Greece children. We set up the first image along the driveway into the Reserve. The flowers are in full bloom this year and the image would look perfect with the Cathedral in the background.

After running around in the flowers for a bit, we managed to make our way down to the big red barn located near the entrance. Since the little ones have the shortest attention spans, I figured I would start shooting the individual portraits of Elliana first and boy, is she a ham! This girl was sniffing all the pretty flowers and showing me all the pretty bracelets she had worn for her shoot. Though chalk full of giggles at first, this Mama’s girl made sure we knew who runs the show!

After snapping a few photos of Emily and Elliana in the gardens, we headed to the back of the barn to snap a few of Tony and his little guy, Jake. I was thinking of different Father-Son poses when my little buddy suggested that he sit on Daddy’s shoulders. With the barn in the background and my little buddy squealing “Angaweena!!!” to get my attention, the moment was picture perfect.

Like most Family Sessions, my sweet cousins wanted to focus on the kiddos but I always make an effort to get a few good pics of Mom and Dad together. It’s almost like after kids come into the fold, couples forget that their love story should be documented too! But, I wasn’t about to let them get off scot-free. I made sure to get a few photos of Tony & Emily posing “prom-style”.

We made our way down to the historic Lochry Block House and snapped a few more of the whole family together in the adjacent garden before we decided to head for a walk around the paths in the park. We passed a small pond and marched our way towards the Observation Deck all the while catching up on life and what we’ve missed since my last visit home.

It was so nice to catch up with them. But, even better spending time with the little ones. I feel so lucky that after all these years, Tony and I have remained close. Like most cousins, we have this shared history of family dysfunction but beneath the surafce of forced family interaction, Tony, Emily, Russ and I have formed this genuine friendship. When they got engaged, we got the call. When we got engaged, they got the call. When they found out that their family would be expanding, we heard the news of Jake’s arrival first. Through a flood of Facetime tears, I met Jake just hours after he came into this world and when I found out they were expecting their 2nd baby, I immediatey bought my plane ticket to be there when Ellie was born.

During that visit back home, I had the great pleasure of photographing my new baby cousin for the first time. She was so perfectly pink, just the prettiest baby I ever saw. She had big blue eyes and the tiniest little toes. I couldn’t of imagined then but later that day, Tony and Emily would honor me by asking me to take on the role of being Elliana’s Godmother. Cue the ugly tears guys.

We ended this shoot by wrapping up quickly and heading to the Red Brick for pizza with our friends and family! I am so thankful for any time that I get to share with these guys especially because our time together is few and far between since I am in Texas. Tony, thank you, for being such a great role model and constantly encouraging me to chase my dreams. I’ve always looked up to you and I am so happy to see all your dreams coming true. Emily, thank you, for being the best addition to the Greece Family. You are kind and God-fearing, ambitious and graceful. I could not imagine a better match for my big cousin! Jake, thank you, for dubbing me “Angaweena” and for just being the smartest cookie in our family. You are one crazy little guy who always knows how to put a smile on my face. And, Elliana, thank you, for reminding me that life comes full circle. You remind me so much of another sassy little girl we all used to know. Though we miss her everyday, you help keep her memory shining bright. You are a light in the world little girl and I can’t wait to see what the future has in store for you.

For more information on how to book your Family Portrait Session, please contact me through email at therustienailhead@gmail.com and I will provide you with our Pricing and Packages! If you would like to book a session or to inquire about our Fall Mini Sessions in the Laurel Highlands and our Travel Dates, just give me a ring at 724-216-8185 and we can get you all in the books!

Garden Party with the Foley Sisters

Hey guys! I am just getting back from another whirlwind vacation home to the Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania and I am so excited to share a few sneak peeks of the Portrait Sessions that I crammed in during my visit. My first session was a long overdue play date with my younger cousins, Kaylee and Ryan! Their Momma is my first cousin and we have been trying to work her family into my books for months now!

We decided to meet at one of our family’s favorite restaurants, Rizzo’s Malabar Inn. In fact, Russell and I had our Rehearsal Dinner here. Settled into the quaint, country farming community of Crabtree, Rizzo’s has grown and evolved over the last 75 years from a small sub shop during the coal mining days into a fine-dining establishment with a massive banquet hall and outdoor patio!

After initialing launching Bar Rizzi, the company chose to adapt the space to fit the needs of their clientele. They turned the Bar into a Banquet Hall. Weddings, company meetings, baby showers and many other events have graced the adjacent ballrooms but the staff still felt like something was missing. Just this year, Rizzo’s chose to add on an outdoor ceremony site, a gorgeous water feature and they even added a Fireworks Package for those who book the space.

Because these little girls have a Daddy with a major hookup at Rizzo’s (He’s one of the longtime chefs!), we were able to sneak out onto the property and use this location as our shoot site! I must say, Rizzo’s has done a fantastic job with the space! The pergola is simply decorated with Boston Ferns and the water feature was exquisitely designed making this site a perfect backdrop!

We spent the first half of the morning frolicking through the freshly planted flowers and practicing our best dance moves! Kaylee was her usual self; quiet, reserved yet silly and polite at the same time. From the time that she was little, she was always good at taking direction and this shoot would be no exception. She patiently waited for instruction and followed them meticulously. You could tell that she has come into herself over the years. She knew which side was her “best” side and which smile was her “best” smile. She has become quite the little lady and I am so proud of her for being so responsible all the while maintaining her childlike wonder!

Ryan, on the other hand, is Kaylee’s opposite. She is crazy and wild and has a short attention span. I guess that’s the way it goes with sisters. Ryan is constantly moving. Whether she is exploring a new place or telling a story, there are always a lot of ideas running through her little mind. She told me all about her summer plans and how NOT excited she was to go back to school in the fall.  Ryan is a handful, in the best of ways. Even when she was a baby, she could find a way to keep the whole family in stitches. We are kindred spirits in that sense and I am so happy to see that someone else on the Miller side of the family, besides me, got the “wildchild” gene.

We ended our shoot by jumping in the water. I had promised them in the beginning that if they were good, I would let them get dirty and play in the water feature. Both girls were so excited when I told them it was time to make “Martha Washington” hair! They built houses with the rocks they found in the riverbed and even tried to climb into the massive water bowls at the base of the fountain. We ended the shoot by drying them off and giving them both their first photography lesson. I let each of them have a turn at taking a few photos! I loved getting to spend some time with my baby cousins and I look forward to seeing them every time I come back to visit!

For more information on this location or how to book your next event at Rizzo’s, head to www.rizzosmalabarinn.com. And for information on how to book your Portrait Session or to learn about our Pennsylvania Travel Dates, shoot me an email at therustienailhead@gmail.com.

Travel Guide: Kansas City

This past week, I had the opportunity to check a few more states off my list when I visited Kansas City! My brother and his favorite lady moved here about a year ago and it was past time that I check out what Kansas City is all about. Our first stop after flying into MCI was the National World War I Museum in downtown. From the top, you have an amazing view of the metropolis.

Our next stop was to walk around in a shopping and dining district dubbed Country Club Plaza. This area had so much to offer. Fine architecture, elaborate fountains around every corner and an assorted array of florals line the ornately decorated streets. We spent time walking near a canal and then proceeded on to lunch.

Where to Eat? Located on a corner lot in Country Club Plaza, Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue was our first choice. Every blog and website suggested that Kansas City BBQ should be on the top of our list so I trusted my brother’s judgement when he said that this place had the best Burnt Ends in town. And, he wasn’t lying. I had the Corn and Half Chicken. I recommend asking for the spicy BBQ sauce too. It was lip-smacking good, especially on the lamb ribs!

We spent that night ordering Pizza Hut and watching scary movies on the couch but the next day, we were determined to have an adventure. We headed to Black Hoof Park, a recreation area located adjacent to Lake Lenexa, a 35 acre, deep water lake. The dam and spillway at the park are an architectural feat. We spent time walking my brother’s pups around the lake and photographing the flora. We managed to see a few fishermen and even a kayak out on the water, something I will have to remember for the next time I visit.

After the park, we headed to a Mexican restaurant in Gardner, Kansas for lunch. Fronteras had a $2.50 Margarita Special and an appetizer plate that my bro and I scarfed down in a matter of minutes. We spent the afternoon sitting under the cabanas on the patio laughing about our crazy family and planning our next adventure.

That night, we headed into downtown Kansas City. Our first stop was Manifesto, a speakeasy with some premium bar drinks. My favorite was the Beautiful Red Bell, a gin martini that tasted exactly like a red bell pepper. It was delicious! Lit by nothing but candlelight, this place has a 1920s vibe and some classic drink choices.

KansasCity0617-88

After drinks, we headed into the Kansas City Power and Light District. We strolled through the massive venue and then made our way to dinner at the Yardhouse up the street. After throwing back a few Boulevard Heifewiezens, I munched on the Ahi Tuna Poke Stack and a few of my brother’s girlfriend’s nachos! Everything was really yummy!

I was told over and over that the Kansas City sunsets were beautiful. And, I bet they were. I just kept napping on the back porch every night and missing it. But, I did get to catch the sunrise on the morning that I left. 4:45 came bright and early and with it, a gorgeous display of color and a gracious reminder of time. How fast it flys by and how lucky I am to have the opportunity to stop and enjoy it every now and then.

KansasCity0617-95

We have got a lot more travel guides coming up in the next few months but I don’t want to ruin the surprise just yet. Where would you like to see The Rustie Nail head to next? The beach, a national park maybe or an amusement park you’ve been dying to check out! I love hearing suggestions on where to head to next. Leave you’re comments below!

Texas Tulips: A Girls Day in North Texas

A few weeks back, my bestie and full time petal pusher, Tiffany of Wanderlust Floral Designs, headed out to the U-Pick Tulip Farm in Pilot Point, Texas. Just north of Denton, you can find this traditional Dutch tulip farm. Truth be told, this was our 2nd go around at this particular farm. Last year, we headed there bright and early but were soon swarmed by Spring Breakers. To check out our last trip to the Tulip Farm, click on this link. I’d like to say we prepared better this year but I’d be wasting my breath. Though we managed to beat the crowds, we happened to go on a particularly dreary day.

Thank goodness we brought our coats because the sun chose to hide behind the clouds most of the morning. It was chilly!! Luckily for us, overcast makes for some pretty great floral photos.

The colors were so vibrant and the variety was insane. They must have had 50 variations of tulips in every shape, color and size. From fringed parrot heads to to willowed lush petals, we found an interesting array of Holland’s best known blooms.

TXTULIPS-10

We strolled the rows and rows, picking one of each kind it seemed like. I was going to bright and lush. I love the way they float from a vase. Tiff was more interested in the pastels. Her arrangement felt a little earthier than mine which I am always envious of. Tiff has a way with picking the right bouquet. She knows which sizes and colors are going to coordinate well together. You really do need to check out her work, she has been up to some pretty exciting things this season. Follow along on her Instagram at @wanderlustflorals.

 

TXTULIPS-24

Did I mention it was chilly? Ya, and muddy. Very, very muddy. We may have beat the crowds, but we didn’t get any better at planning. Case in point, check the shoes yo. Neither one of us dressed appropriately for our girls day. Word to the wise: Check the weather.  By the end of our romp around the farm, we were soaked and caked in mud. We got a good laugh out of it but ended up stopping at Ross to buy a new pair on the way home.

 

 We witnessed photographers out on shoots with little girls in their Easter hats. You could easily see the potential for an amazing backdrop. Seriously, could this place get any more adorable?

TXTULIPS-26

At $3/cover and $2.50/stem, this place can add up quick. But, we agree, it was totally worth it. We soaked up the aroma and beauty of this little piece of heaven in North Texas and we will be back again next year!  For more information on how to visit Texas Tulips, head here to www.texas-tulips.com.

My name is Angelina Norris. I am natural light photographer based in Dallas-Fort Worth, with roots in the Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania. I specialize in family and lifestyle portraiture with an emphasis on play. I believe that the best portraits are a combination of  genuine intimacy and playful experience. I live for the opportunity to test out the waters of new shoot locations and discover new places all around the globe. Photography Services start at $300. If you would like to book your unique portrait session, shoot me an email at therustienailhead@gmail.com.

the rustie nail logo

Travel Guide: 3 Days in Edinburgh, Scotland

Alright y’all. It’s past time I share all the goods on our trip to the United Kingdom. Truth be told, this would be my first trip across the pond and I was beyond giddy about traveling internationally for the first time. After having spent 3 days in Iceland, we jetted out of Keflavik and straight into Edinburgh, Scotland. Did we have a set plan? Not really, but what unfolded was an incredible look into the world of J.K. Rowling, a few happy tears while photographing the stained glass that ornament the halls of St. Giles Cathedral and a whole new appreciation for the architecture of the past.

Day One:

We arrived bright and early on a Friday morning and immediately headed out into the city. Our plan was to get dropped off at Waverley Bridge and make the hike through the Princes Street Gardens to our hotel in the Grassmarket, doubly name The Grassmarket Hotel. This place was the perfect place to start our day. The receptionist, Stephen, was so helpful. He made “the best fish and chips” suggestion (City Restaurant is BOMB) and even booked us a few tours for the following day.

 A few friends had suggested we stay in Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and boy are we glad we did. The curved cobblestone streets and quiet closes could be found around every corner and our hotel was in walking distance of all the major attractions on our to-do list.  The pubs on Victoria Street were just an added bonus.

The best advice we got was to jump on the Hop On Hop Off Tour. For $19, we managed to snag a 24 hour pass that tours the city and introduces you to the history of this ancient town. Though it was a bit chilly sitting on the top, my camera was loving the natural light and the surreal views. This is a MUST DO if you are traveling in this area.

After chowing down on some mushy peas and cod, we headed down the Royal Mile. At first, we were just walking around, taking it all in. But then, I remembered reading a Blog that said for a few Euros, you could take photos inside St Giles Cathedral. We headed in that direction, I snagged my permit and I set up my camera inside the massive beauty where Franciscan monks had once occupied. To say I cried is an understatement. The stained glass ornamenting every wall, the woodwork of the Thistle Chapel, the structure of the organ, it was all just so beautiful. Not gonna lie, I spent a good amount of time soaking it all in. I had never seen anything quite so enchantingly detailed.

We even headed back that Sunday for the 1st Lenten Mass. Their service was enlightening and the choir was incredible. The acoustics of this space + 30 out-of-this-world voices makes for one awesome concert. No matter your faith, I highly recommend attending a service.SCOTLAND-66

Day Two:

After a few G&Ts and an incredible dinner at The Doric, we hit the hay early and started Day Two fresh. We had booked a tour with Rabbies through Viator to view Stirling Castle and a portion of the Highlands. Most of you will recognize Stirling Castle as the site of the William Wallace statue (cue Mel Gibson donning blue facepaint and screaming FREEDOM). Though most of Braveheart can be taken with a grain of salt, the  importance of the Forth River during the Independence Wars and the ancestral houses that reigned here still linger with a royal importance. Stirling’s history is laden with baptisms, marriages and parties of grandeur. We toured the Castle for over an hour and then headed down the cafe to snag a coffee and some treats to tide us over until lunch. I highly suggest the Millionaire Shortbread and the Caramel Apple Loaf.

Though Mel Gibson is full of crap when it comes to embellishing the history of Scotland, a few things remain true. The history of Mary Queen of Scots is felt in every inch of this fortress. At just 5 days old, she became Queen. However, her life was ill fated and plagued by those who wished to unseat her. After a life of tragedy, her son, King James VI/I became the King of both Scotland and England. His style and borgias appreciation made Stirling an impregnable palace.

Once we were done gobbling down the Scottish treats, we jumped back on the bus and headed to Duone Castle. Featured in hit TV shows like Outlander and Game of Thrones, this castle lies in the midst of a small town. After seeing the Red Lion Inn along the main drag, I understood how this place came to be Tywin Lannister’s Casterly Rock.

Our next stop on our tour led us to Aberfoyle, a quaint town in the Highlands. Though most of this area is littered with “summer homes” aka PALACES, one can certainly feel the country vibe. There are sheep roaming most fields and hairy coos along the side of road. I was most excited to see the irises and various wild flowers popping up outside. We stopped for lunch at The Forth Inn and I had the local salmon with a red pepper pesto. Yummy.  Acclaimed for the Faerie-Tree and the likes of Rob Roy, this small town had a cozy holiday feel to it.

After lunch, we made our way to Loch Lomond. It was a dreary day but the calm of the water was the perfect spot to stretch our legs and grab an afternoon beer at the local pub. We traipsed our way around the Loch until our driver said it was time to hit the road.

That night, we headed back to City Restaurant in downtown Edinburgh. Russ munched on yet another “fish and chips” dish while I chose the Antipasta Platter. Goodness gracious! After dinner, we headed back to our hotel which was appropriately located next to the busiest pub on Grassmarket, Biddy Mulligans! We chatted up with a good deal of other travelers and danced the night away to the live music.

The next morning, we woke up bright and early to the sound of bagpipes out of our hotel window. Though loud, it was an awesome reminder of how little time we had left to enjoy this country and its’ culture. We downed a bunch of Advil and headed out into the city to explore.

Day Three: 

Once I figured out that Edinburgh is basically the home base for the inspiration behind the Harry Potter Series, I went in search of J.K. Rowling’s muse. So, we headed GreyFriar’s Kirk to search the tombstones that inspired the professors names (Dumbledore and such). This was eerily cool. We strolled along the real-life Diagon Alley. As we passed the Magic Shops, book stores and a man holding an owl, I found myself wishing I had a wand to hunt down the Leaky Cauldron. We headed to the Elephant Room, a coffee house where J.K. Rowling began working on the Philosopher’s Stone. Looking out the front window of the shop, you have Edinburgh University in front of you, Potter’s Row to your left and 1000s of children in their uniforms walking past. One could only describe it as magic or the beginnings of an epic tale.

As we walked around the city, we stumbled into Mimi’s BakeShop for Mars Bar Muffins, stopped to admire the architecture of High Street and put our butts on a double decker bus to Queens Ferry to check out the famous Forth Bridges.

Our last stop was Edinburgh Castle.  I guess you could say we saved the best for last. High atop a volcanic edifice, this castle houses a destructive powerhouse, Mons Meg, and the Crowned Jewels of Scotland. We leisurely toured every inch of this place. From the dungeons to King James nursery room to the Chapel built in the 1400s, we explored the history of this great city.

Why Scotland? Well, our number one reason was the flight. Out of Keflavik, our trip to Scotland only cost us $120 Round Trip. Secondly, my husband is a tad obsessed with golf so we had planned on heading to Saint Andrews. Lastly, they speak English. We only had a short window of time and we wanted to skip the language barrier in order to enjoy the most of our vacation.

Though we did not get to see everything that we wanted to while we were there, we hope to head back. Russ wants to attend the Highland Games and head to St Andrews for a round of golf and I would like to head to the Isle of Skye and the Botanist Distillery. Scotland has so much to offer and I can not wait to see where this adventure takes us next!

HOW I GOT THE ITCH FOR TRAVEL JOURNALISM & WHERE ARE WE HEADED TO NEXT:

In the spring of 2016, I had the great pleasure of interviewing Carolyn Anderson, a landscape photographer based out of New Alexandria, Pennsylvania. After our chat, I made it a point to try my hand at capturing the highlights of our adventures. We traveled so much in 2016. Our East Coast Girl’s Trip was my first attempt at Travel Journalism and since then, we’ve traveled around and through the state of Colorado, through the southwestern corner of Pennsylvania and to Broken Bow, Oklahoma. Mr. Norris and I just got back from Reykjavik, Iceland and Edinburg, Scotland so keep an eye out for our Travel Guides for those trips in 2017!

IS THERE SOMEWHERE YOU WOULD LIKE TO SEE THE RUSTIE NAIL TRAVEL TO? LEAVE YOUR COMMENTS/SUGGESTIONS BELOW!

If any of you out there have more questions about our trip, feel free to email me at therustienailhead@gmail.com.

Travel Guide: 3 Days in Iceland

Hey guys! As most of you know, my husband and I just got back from an amazing vacation abroad. During our 8 day trip across the pond, we visited 2 countries, Iceland and Scotland. Today, I’m going to let you in on some of the fun we had while traveling near the North Pole! Our time in Iceland consisted of touring the Golden Circle, road tripping to the southern most point of the island and soaking in the geothermal pools of the Blue Lagoon. It was a once-in-a-lifetime trip for us and I am excited to share this guide and the fun we had on our adventure! If you’re thinking about heading far north, I have provided a bunch of tips and tricks to make the most of your time while exploring the last true frontier!

 DAY ONE:

We arrived bright and early, courtesy of Iceland’s up and coming airline, WOW air. Upon our arrival in Keflavik, we immediately headed to pick up our rental car. We chose to rent through SADcars. Days before our arrival, Reykjavik was hit with the biggest blizzard since 1952. We were worried about what the road conditions would be like considering that we had planned on driving during most of our stay. Though our Subaru Forester was a little rusty and the check engine light was on, I must admit, this little car got us where we needed to go.

Our first stop was The Blue Lagoon. This spa is located in Grindavik, Iceland, about 20 minutes away from Keflavik International. We arrived shortly before sunrise. After checking in, we jumped into our swimsuits and headed into the geothermal pool. Our favorite parts of the Lagoon included sipping on raspberry ICEES, heading into the steaming grotto and basking in the waters with our silica and algae masks. If you’re questioning on whether or not to splurge on this luxury, trust me, it’s worth it. This was a great way to relax as soon as we got off the plane and an even better way to explore the Reykjanes peninsula!

Located just south of Reykjavik on the Atlantic coast, Kalfatjarnarkirkja church boasts fantastic views of the Gerdistangi Lighthouse. Founded in 1891, Kalfatjarnarkirkja is the largest rural church in all of Iceland. If you are looking for a picturesque way to explore the coast on your way to Reykjavik, this is the perfect pitstop. We strolled behind the property to find a famous whale bone and admired the nearby golf course.

 

After our pitstop on the coast, we began our journey into downtown Reykjavik. I had booked us a room in Heida’s Home. It was a lovely hostel located just south of the main drag, Laugavegur. We were within walking distance of the bars, restaurants and all the major attractions in Reykjavik. To boot, Heida was the best. She gave us great advice on where to park to avoid crazy fees, where to check out the best street art and our room had a quaint balcony for us to enjoy our coffee in the morning.

By 3 pm that day, we were pooped but hell bent on staying awake so as to adjust to the time change. After checking in, we decided to walk around downtown and check out some of the attractions on our “Must See” List. Our first stop was Hallgrimskirkja Church. This establishment is the tallest building in Iceland and for around 8 bucks, you can take the elevator to the top floor and check out the views from the North, East, South and West! The massive organ, located just inside the entrance, consists of 5275 pipes and was designed by Johannes Klais of Bonn. Construction of the church began in 1945 and was not completed until 1986. This architectural feat and the statue of Leifur Erriksson, the first person to discover America, is a labor of love come to life.

After snapping a few photos from the tower above Hallgrimskirkja, we decided to head downtown and find a bite to eat. After getting a little lost, we managed to walk right into the famous hot dog stand, Baejarins Beztu Pylsur! Everyone raved about these so we made sure to snag a few to munch on while we walked around. I was told beforehand to order them the Icelandic way “ein meo ollu“, which means everything on it! After grabbing a Gull beer at a local bar, we made our way down to the harbor for some dinner at Saegriffin or “Seabaron” to try the humarsupa, lobster soup, with some fresh bread and butter. No joke, there was a whole half a lobster in my soup and it was just spicy enough to warm me up for the walk back to our hostel.

After dinner, we managed to walk past the Harpa, Reykjavik’s Opera House and then on down to the Viking Sculpture, Solfario, to watch the sunset. Dubbed the Sun Voyager, Jon Gunnar Arnason completed this sculpture in 1990! The mountains in the backdrop make this site a perfect photo opportunity.

DAY TWO:

Day Two was all about road tripping the Golden Circle Tour. Though there many companies offering bus tours of this particular part of the country, we decided to make the trek ourselves so we could make the most of our day. After stopping at Mokka Kaffi for a café Americano and their famous waffles and jam, we started out on our adventure. The first sight would be a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Thingvellir National Park. This park is special because it is said to have been the site of the first Alping, a parliamentary meeting place. Though covered in a fresh blanket of snow, the blue skies reflected beautifully off the Thingvallavatn Lake.

The next thing on our must-see list was the great geysir, Stokkur. Located in the Haukadalur valley, this famous geysir erupts about every 5-6 minutes and boy is it a site to see! I will warn you though, the temperature of the water is around 484 degrees so keep your distance and make sure to bring durable shoes. The geothermal activity will melt the bottom of your shoes if you don’t watch where you are stepping.

Located about 10-15 minutes away is the incomparable Gullfoss Falls. After viewing the immensity of the falls from the southern entrance, we climbed the stairs to the overlook. From there, you can see the mouth of the river flowing into the staircase of falls that form the colorful display in the Hvita canyon. There were literally too many rainbows to count though I kept my eye on the looney tune who dared to surpass the barriers and climb down onto the side of a massive cliff. One thing is for sure, there are no shortages of daredevils in this unknown land.

On our way back into Reykjavik, we decided to stop for lunch. Before traveling to Iceland, I had read about Fridheimar, a greenhouse where we could purchase tomato soup and bread. I know, it doesn’t sound like much but this was most definitely one of my favorite parts of the trip. Imagine walking into a huge greenhouse, tomato plants are everywhere, from floor to ceiling. While bumble bees fly above you pollinating the plants, you can start snipping the fresh basil from the plant that adorns the table. Add a little bit of the cucumber slaw or sour cream to your endless bowl of soup and throw in some bread that was baked in the geothermal ground and you’ve got the recipe for the perfect dish. Give the Bloody Mary a try too while you’re at it. You can thank me later.

Our last stop on our road trip was the Wall. For those of living under a rock, this WALL is the WALL, the Game of Thrones, “we are watchers on the wall”….wall. Or it’s at least where they’ve shot a few scenes. It was immense and beautiful and I turned into a total fangirl in search of Jon Snow while we were there.

ICELAND-84

That night, we headed out on a Northern Lights tour with Reykjavik Excursions. I loaded up all my camera gear (TRIPOD is a MUST) and headed out with high hopes of capturing the aurora borealis. Our tour was heading just south of Selfoss, the 2nd largest town in Iceland. Shortly after we departed the capital, we noticed the green hue dancing across the sky out of the bus window. For an hour, we drove in unison with them. I even cried. It was beautiful but to my dismay, when the bus stopped so did the lights. So sorry to disappoint you guys but I don’t have any amazing Northern Lights pictures to show you. But, I will forever have that memory of watching them dance their way along the sky.

Iceland-Northern-Lights**This picture was taken from a Google Image Search!**

DAY THREE:

Day Three was all about driving down the Southern Coast. After indulging in a typical Icelandic breakfast of smoked salmon at Grai Kotturin, we set out on the ring road!

Our first stop was around sunrise to check out the Seljalandsfoss Waterfall. Even from far off in the distance, this waterfall would be hard to miss. This massive fall juts out and descends 166 feet from the cliff above. Another thing to mention is that when it isn’t layered with icicles, you can actually climb behind the fall for a really amazing photo. Unfortunately, the day we went would have required krampons. I was nowhere near brave enough to attempt the slippery slide behind the falls. I did manage to have a good laugh watching others attempt it though!

Just a few minutes down the road lies the Skogafoss Waterfall. We managed to beat the bus crowds which made for the perfect photo opportunity. The full rainbow glistening above us and the birds nesting in the sea caves as we trekked through the waters was something out of a movie. Check out the Secret Life of Walter Mitty to catch the Skogafoss cameo. I had to keep my distance in order to protect my camera otherwise we would have been soaked! Dropping 200 feet from the massive plateau above, this place is magical and a must-see if you are traveling along the southern rim.

Our next stop on our trip was to Seljavellalaug, a “Secret Swimming Pool” located near the Eyjafjoll Mountains. A 15 minute hike through an iced over rocky stream will lead you to this small geothermal pool built into the mountainside. The water is piped in by a hot spring so make sure to bring your swimsuit and don’t worry, there are changing rooms.

The next stop on our journey was Numero Uno on my list. Dyrholaey Lighthouse is a tough spot to get to if you don’t have a 4×4 vehicle. After climbing the side of something that slightly resembled a mountain, we arrived at the most magical of places. To the west, black sand beaches and glacial mountains adorn the coastline.

To the east,  Reynisdrangar, a set of exquisitely shaped basalt sea stacks, ornament the southern most point of Iceland. We spent the majority of our time here watching the birds nesting along the cliffs and the waves crashing below. I loved every single minute of this peaceful oasis. Word of advice, skip the bus tour and drive it yourself so you can soak up the sun and spend some quality time with the Atlantic Ocean.

Our last stop was Vik. Located at the southernmost point of Iceland, this quaint small town plays host to the black sand beaches and the feat that is Reynisdrangar. According to folklore, the stacks were once trolls who were dragging a treasure to shore but when the sun rose, they froze in their place. Though I highly doubt any of it happened, the stepping stone formation of the basalt stacks and the cave nearby add an enchanting element to the landscape. The beach was crowded and we were exhausted so we stuck around long enough to take a mental note of its beauty but then we hit the road to head back to Reykjavik. Watching the sun set during our 3 hour drive back to Reykjavik was the perfect ending to this amazing vacation.

Why Iceland? Literally, everyone has asked me this question and truth be told, I was not even sure until we got there. Forbes named Iceland one of the top 10 places to see in 2017 and as a photographer, I knew I would have an opportunity to see the Northern Lights if I traveled during the low season but I could not have imagined how much I would fall in love with this country.  After all, it is not very often that you can see glaciers and volcanoes in the same day.

 I have always said that I would never visit the same place twice but I am already ready to break that rule. Iceland gave me major Fernweh, Wanderlust, whatever you call it. I want to see more. I want to see the Highlands and the West Fjords and the Snaefellsness Peninsula and Kirkjufell. I want to see Jokulsarlon, a glacier that comprises 30% of the entire island. The list goes on and on and I hope I get to share more of our adventures in Iceland with you in the future.  Until then, stay tuned for Part II of our trip. We jetted out of Iceland and straight into the United Kingdom. Scotland is up on the Blog next week! Check back in!

HOW I GOT THE ITCH FOR TRAVEL JOURNALISM & WHERE ARE WE HEADED TO NEXT:

In the spring of 2016, I had the great pleasure of interviewing Carolyn Anderson, a landscape photographer based out of New Alexandria, Pennsylvania. After our chat, I made it a point to try my hand at capturing the highlights of our adventures. We traveled so much in 2016. Our East Coast Girl’s Trip was my first attempt at Travel Journalism and since then, we’ve traveled around and through the state of Colorado, through the southwestern corner of Pennsylvania and to Broken Bow, Oklahoma. Mr. Norris and I just got back from Reykjavik, Iceland and Edinburg, Scotland so keep an eye out for our Travel Guides for those trips in 2017!

IS THERE SOMEWHERE YOU WOULD LIKE TO SEE THE RUSTIE NAIL TRAVEL TO? LEAVE YOUR COMMENTS/SUGGESTIONS BELOW!

If any of you out there have more questions about our trip, feel free to email me at therustienailhead@gmail.com.

Proposal in Rocky Mountain National Park

Over the summer, my husband and I had the great pleasure of road tripping through Colorado. While on our adventure, we made our way into Rocky Mountain National Park. Little did we know, they had just opened access to Trail Ridge Road. This scenic byway is a 49 mile long road connecting Estes Park to Grand Lake. Though closed due to weather conditions throughout most of the year, we were lucky enough to have stumbled upon this snow laden path during it’s first week of availability.

This road soars high above the treeline to 12, 183 feet. As you climb to meet the Alpine Tundra, you can feel the climate change a dramatic 20-30 degree colder. I was happy to have my jacket, to say the least. As we started the epic climb, we were mesmerized by the abundant wildlife, streams and wildflowers. We made our way to the Tundra World Nature Trail and happened to notice that something special was going on near the entrance.

At the top of the mountain, Mike Wojtowics got down on one knee to ask Heather Lamberson if she would be his forever. I waited until after they had celebrated a bit and came down to introduce myself. I congratulated them and asked if they wouldn’t mind if I snapped a few pictures of them, ensuring that I would email them the images when I made it back to Texas.

I was thankful to have witnessed something so beautiful in such a magical place. After a few back and forth emails, Mike was nice enough to fill me in on the details of their love story. He told me that they had met where he works, building boats for the military, last March. Two months later, they were an official couple. Mike chose to propose at the Alpine Visitor’s Center for 1 of 2 reasons. He explained that this locale was actually where they had their first date and that those mountains were particularly special to him. Mike called it his “safe place”. He said, “On top of one of the other peaks is where I picture myself when I need to free my mind during stressful times, so I figured bringing her to my safe place would show her that I was letting her into my life 100%. No holds bar!!”

Mike will tell you that Heather had no clue that he was about to propose and from the look on her face, I’d have to say he was right. It was a genuinely beautiful moment. The couple has yet to set a wedding date but they are thinking of tying the knot in the fall of next year, in the mountains, of course! And, as if this love story couldn’t get any cuter, Mike & Heather announced to the world just this weekend that they will be adding Mom & Dad to their resumes in 2017. The couple are expecting their first child this April and we could not be happier for them! Congrats to these two lovebirds! We wish you all the happiness in the world!

To find out more about our epic 9 Day Road Trip around Colorado, head to this link. We whitewater rafted Clear Creek, kayaked Grand Lake, hiked St Mary’s Glacier and took an off roading Jeep tour in Rocky Mountain National Park amongst many other things. Our entire adventure is outlined for those of you who are thinking of traveling to Colorado!