Reykjavik: History, GoKart Races & A Drunken Pest

May 30

My morning was filled with writing, a powdered latte and a quick visit from Stu and Jo when they brought over a few suitcases since Stu will be moving in with Sigrun and Andy for a couple weeks until his new apartment is ready.

I have begun to feel like I’m wasting the day away if I don’t at least stroll downtown for a few hours. I know I’m going to miss Reykjavik like mad when I go home so I keep trying to soak in as much as I can, always finding new art and shops during each trip I take. While I was out I visited the museum Reykjavik 871(+/-2) and it was fascinating! In 2001, while constructing a new building downtown some old artifacts were found. Construction ceased and careful excavation begun. Check out the above link for further information, it’s pretty cool. When I visit old settlement sites I always have an intense reaction. Regardless of if I’m walking through a grain factory from 1893AD or Egyptian tombs from 1300BC – it’s still amazing to me that I am witnessing bits of my ancestors’ lives.

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When I came out of the museum I could hear hundreds of children yelling and cheering. I followed the sound over to a public square that is normally filled with skateboarders. Today it was filled with primary school children dressed in 4 distinct team colors. There was an announcer dressed as a cow and all the teachers/coaches were wearing superhero capes. Everyone was screaming and cheering. It took me a while to understand what was going on but once I saw the make-shift go karts I realized it was a race. The children all had their own team chants and were all impressively in sync with one another as they chanted their little songs.

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After I’d had my fill of screaming children (it didn’t take long, haha!) I headed South of the square and found a charming cafe. It was a Te & Kaffe (which seems to be the Icelandic counterpart to Starbucks). I ordered a mocha latte and quickly understood why it was a popular joint. It easily made the top 3 lattes I’ve had in Iceland. I daydreamed in the comfortable cafe and watched the rain pour down for about an hour before heading out into it again.

On the way home I snapped images of more street art, then finally stopped by a bakery. Every single one I walk by is so enticing that I finally caved and bought a big round loaf of bread and a gorgeous little creme-filled pastry to share with Sigrun and Andy after dinner.

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I headed home and got started on making another quiche, by request. It makes me so happy everyone has liked my recipe! Sigrun and I chatted while I worked and by the time Andy got home we were ready for dinner. I absolutely love cooking while I’m here. It makes me feel so at home.

After dinner we took a walk down to the old cemetery that I had told them about a few days before (I couldn’t believe I was introducing the locals to something new in Reykjavik, woo hoo!). It was so interesting to look at the names and dates of the gravestones. So many long lives, and so many short lives. We found one unique mosaic headstone for an artist who had died at 33 in the 1890’s, and several infant gravestones for kiddos who never made it past their first year… so sad.

After our quiet walk we stopped into a pub for a brew. We were enjoying our drinks and discussing travel and movies when a man who had already pestered Andy when he went out to smoke came in and started trying to chat up a group of young women sitting near us. They were clearly annoyed by him and he was completely oblivious. He eventually got the hint and wandered away. We shook our heads and kept talking. We were deep into a conversation about the most effective teaching methods we had enjoyed as kids when someone pulled out the chair next to me and sat down. It was the Drunken Pest. He immediately started asking me questions. Where was I from? Was I Mormon? Why am I in Iceland? I knew he was intoxicated so I mostly returned his questions with the same questions about himself but he refused to answer any of them – or did so in a cryptic manner. I quickly decided to show him my mean face because he sat down, uninvited, and interrupted our conversation with his questions while never answering any of my returned lobs. Sigrun thought my mean face was pretty funny and said she’d have to remember that one. I felt bad for being cross with a stranger but he was far too aggressive and I’ve learned if you’re nice to people who already aren’t respecting your space it never ends well so it saves time to nip it in the bud. ;P

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Reykjavik: Relaxation & a Goodbye Party

May 29

I’m thoroughly enjoying this week of pretending I live in Reykjavik. It’s been so relaxing and has given my mind a break from always being on the move. There are less photos being taken some days but grand memories being made none the less. I suppose I would be comfortable saying 4 weeks of nonstop photos has earned me a week off?

We were enjoying a relaxing holiday morning at the house; I was writing and letting my pesky blister heal, Sigrun was feeling even more ill so she was resting and watching Dr Who while Andy went for a walk. Down the street the Hallgrimskirkja church bells started going off at 10:30am and just kept gonging. We thought maybe there was a wedding or something but they didn’t stop. We discussed it for a bit until Sigrun said “Wait, today is a Christian holiday. That’s why we have the day off of work.” and we both laughed that we never made the very obvious connection. I later read that the holiday is called Ascension Day.

Sigrun did a little house cleaning and I needed a break from writing so I headed to the Hagkaup market to buy ingredients for the quiche I was planning to make for Joanna’s going-away party that evening. After I got back from the store Andy fried up some Welsh cakes for the party and they were so delicious! I will certainly be adding these to my baking repertoire from here on out.

We relaxed the afternoon away until Sigrun had to go to her gymnastics meet. I started making the quiche and for some reason I was so nervous it wouldn’t taste good but, really, I suppose you can’t go wrong with eggs and cheesey goodness. It was fun cooking in a new kitchen and figuring out how to convert Fahrenheit to Celsius, and cups to deciliters. The only thing I messed up on was adding too much salt, but it was still quite tasty!

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When Sigrun returned from gymnastics we walked over to Joanna and Stuart’s flat a few blocks away. I was introduced to one of their friends named Freddie who is from Denmark and currently employed as a bartender while working on her thesis on TEDx and the spreading of innovative ideas. Everyone I’ve met here is so fascinating!

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We sat down for a dinner of quiche, a delicious veggie pizza that Stuart made, the Welsh cakes Andy made and some Pimm’s that Emily and Keir, the lovely couch-surfers from the UK I’d just met, had left behind. If you’ve never tried Pimm’s, I highly recommend giving it a go. I’m told it’s a wildly popular summer drink in the UK and if the sun is shining then out comes the Pimm’s!

We laughed and dined our way through the evening. My favorite moment of the entire evening was when Stuart noticed I’d used dill in the crust of the quiche and told us all what he thought that dill was comparable to a crying strong-man. Because, he explained, spices are supposed to pack a punch and give a distinct flavor but when you taste dill it’s this wimpy whisper of a flavor. We had a good laugh about that brilliant description.

Since Joanna and Stuart will be living apart for the next several months they’ve decided to make an extremely creative website to connect their two worlds. They will be posting songs, images, poems, etc. from their respective corners of the world and lining them up together each day finding way s to connect the two together. I think it’s fantastic! They asked if I’d take a photo for the website banner so we walked down the street to a uniquely painted joining of two buildings to use as our background.

Back at the flat we moved on from Pimm’s to Vodka-Cokes and then we sampled some Brennivin. Brennivin is an unsweetened Icelandic liquor made of potato mash and flavored with caraway, cumin and angelica. It tastes mildly of licorice and pumpernickel bread. I liked it a lot but probably couldn’t drink it often.

We talked the evening away until Sigrun and Andy headed back home since they had to work in the morning and poor, sweet Sigrun was still feeling so ill. I stayed a bit longer to chat until I had enjoyed far too much drink and figured I better head back before I was unable to.

I said my goodbyes to Joanna and wished her well since I may not see her again before she moves back to New Zealand on Saturday, was given some clothes-hangers to take to Sigrun, thanked the three for a lovely evening and off I went.

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My home-away-from-home neighborhood ❤

I walked home in the midnight sun. The night was the warmest one yet (summer is nearly here!), with my little quiche dish in one hand, an armload of colorful clothes-hangers in the other and a giant grin on my face. Halfway back to Sigrun’s I stopped and sat on a stone wall for a minute to soak in the moment. There were still a few quiet birds murmuring in the trees though it was midnight, and I could hear the sounds of traffic and a few laughing voices from an open window nearby. A lanky orange cat with a big blue collar walked atop the mossy stone fence and stopped next to me. I gave him a nice pat and told him to remember this moment. “No one else will experience this exact moment beyond you and me,” I told him, “We are very lucky to be in Iceland, and in this beautiful weather, and to be happy and healthy and safe.” He rattled a purr in answer.

By the time I got back to my bed I was even more intoxicated. Be it from the alcohol, the incredible circumstance of this past month of my life, or a perfect combination of both; I was punch drunk either way, and fell asleep with a big dopey grin on my face.

. . .

Quiche a’La Lanna

Iceland_20140529_Reykjavik-8_WEBThe Crust-

1/4 cup oil

1/4 cup iced water

1 cup flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 scant tablespoon tears of a strong man (dill)

Blend flour, dill and salt in mixing bowl; combine oil and icewater together and whisk until cloudy; combine flour and oil mixtures (knead it only enough to form a clump, no more, to keep crust flakey); press into pie dish and set aside.

The Filling-

4-5 eggs

~3/4 milk (more milk, less eggs for a fluffier quiche; more eggs less milk for a more substantial quiche)

2 tablespoons butter

1 small to medium red bell pepper [I love to do a mix of red, yellow and orange peppers in the quiche to make it pretty then eat the remainder of the peppers with a creamy dip while I bake the quiche… but it’s not necessary ;)]

1 cup shredded mozzarella

1-2 cups of any other shredded cheeses you like. More mozza, cheddar, feta, gouda or any herb cheese are tasty choices

3 whole green onions

Salt and black pepper to taste

Dice the white portion (about 2-3″ worth) of the green onions and dice the peppers into small uniform chunks, sauté together in 1 tbs butter. Chop the remainder of the green onions. Blend eggs, milk, shredded cheeses, green onion, salt, black pepper in a bowl and set aside. Preheat oven to 375f/190c. Once the sautéed peppers are finished, let cool for 5 minutes and combine into egg mixture. When ready to bake, pour egg mixture into crust and use a fork to squish the edge of the crust down to hug the egg. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until golden brown. Let it cool 15 minutes before slicing. Enjoy!