Sunday, April 29, 2007

What I did this weekend

I went to my beloved Vesturbæjarlaug

I sat on a couch in a cafe and continued reading a book

I stopped by city hall to listen to the platforms of the different political parties regarding immigration (in English), then went to a political party's office (the Social Democrats) for free coffee and pönnukökur

And finally, I worked on some Icelandic lessons, mostly online

Sunday, April 22, 2007


Today, Jo and I went horseback riding east of Reykjavík. It was a trip organized by some group at the university of Iceland, but you didn't need to be a student to go. So we went!

I should point out that I have only gone horseback riding once before, last year in the US. Although, it turned out to be muleback-riding, which I deduced after:
  • Looking at the animal
  • Reading the fine print in the stable's documentation, which pretty much stated that any four legged horse-like animal could be called a horse
  • Seeing the competitors next door putting up posters that said 'No mules here!'
Anyway, horses in Iceland were originally imported from Scandinavia along with the viking settlers. They're small, and shaggy haired. Now, though they may be pony sized, you cannot call them ponies... Icelanders will get upset, supposedly! Icelandic horses also have an extra gait, named tölt. Not that I have any idea what it is like...

I was given a horse named Flugur, which I promptly renamed Flugvöllur. As we went for the trail ride, it wasn't necessarily that responsive (mostly it was following the horse's ass that precedes it) but I was able to get it to walk outside of the line for a bit. At one point, the horses started trotting quickly, which made the trip very bouncy, but still fun.

I'm looking forward to more horseback riding trips in the future, with more independent riding.

On our mighty horses


Thai time

Last week, Jo and I went to a Thai festival (Song Kran, the water festival). It was was a fun event, with many members of the Thai community participating.

The festival was quite long, and crammed with events: dancing (mostly by little Thai and Thai-Icelandic girls), singing (a Thai woman from Akureyri, with comically dressed backup dancers), a concert by a band of teenager boys, a beauty contest for teenage girls, and more.

And of course, Thai food. Mmmm (I also found out that people from Isan [NE Thailand] make a spicy Som tam!).

It was quite cool to feel like I was in a different country for a few hours, surrounded by Thai sounds, sights (mostly the dresses for the performers), food and jokes (Thai people tend to be quite laid back, informal, and irreverent; save for certain issues like the king, buddha, and respect for older people and hierarchy).

Also, it was the first time I saw so many half-Thai, half-Icelandic kids. So this is what Jo must've looked like as a kid! :)

That night, we went to a Thai karaoke place with a mixed couple (Thai/Icelandic, that is). Everybody was singing in Thai, but Jo and I sang a few songs in English.

And yes, if any body's wondering, we did our usual duo of "Total eclipse of the heart". Tuuuuurn aaaaaround....

Singing "Proud Mary" in a Thai karaoke joint in Iceland...

Monday, April 9, 2007

Food blogging

Today I was in the mood for some Lebanese food. This being Iceland, I had to cook it myself. I'm posting the recipes here in case someone else is interested, but also so that I know where to look them up next time :).

So, I had two variations on a main theme: dough + food on it.

The dough is made this way:

3.5 cups flour
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp salt
1.5 tsp yeast, dissolved in 1 cup of water + 1/2 cup of milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Mix it all and knead well, adding water or flour until the dough doesn't stick too much to your fingers. Roll the dough in a ball and place in a covered bowl, put in a slightly warm oven for an hour or so until the ball has expanded enough. This should be enough dough for rolling 4 personal pies.

Now, 1st variation: lahm bi agin (aka meat with dough)
300 g ground beef or lamb (or both)
2 tomatoes, diced
1 onion, diced
salt, allspice, cinnamon as desired (the allspice I use is a Lebanese 7-spice mix)

Mix it all. This should be enough to cover 3 pies. Put it in the oven at 200 degrees Celsius, for 12 to 15 minutes (at least until the dough is golden). Squeeze some lemon juice on top before serving, add cayenne pepper if desired.

Lahm bi agin

Second variation: Man'ouche (zaatar pie)
Mix zaatar with just enough oil so that no amount zaatar is left dry. Spread over the dough. Cook at 200 degrees in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes. I tend to make mine quite zaatar heavy, of course :).


The pool

We finally went to the neighborhood pool today. We sat in the hot tubs (not the 42-44 degree one, but the 38-40 degree one), and swam in the main pool. Life is good.

There is a country beyond Reykjavík

On Friday, we finally ventured outside of the city limits. We went with some relatives of Jo to her grandparents' old place, a parish named Prestsbakki at the base of the Westfjords. This is where here grandfather, a priest, was posted for 40 years; and where her father grew up too.

Once you get out of Reykjavík (and its suburbs), things change very quickly. You'll find a town every once in a while, but mostly it's just long stretches of road, with mountains visible all around. We stopped by the remains of a volcano and walked around those for a few minutes.

Then we spent the afternoon in the (now abandoned) parish. It consists of: a church, a house, a sheep shed, and a cemetery. It's located right by the water, and far from everything. It's both peaceful in its remoteness, and sad in its abandonment.

Lava fields

Volcano crater

The church

The parish

Thursday, April 5, 2007


I got a free páskaegg yesterday. A páskaegg is a big chocolate egg full of candy inside, and it's quite the Icelandic tradition! My company was having some sort of SMS contest where people could win those eggs. Obviously some where left over, so they were given to us.

This egg is from the Nói Síríus candy company (makers of the delicious Opal licorice) and is the Nr.7. The bigger the number, the bigger the egg. I think this one is the biggest one they sell, it weights 750 grams and costs about 30 dollars in the supermarket...

So, here is the egg with its structural integrity intact:

And here it is a few seconds later:

That's quite a bit of candy.

The Grótta Lighthouse

Today Jo and I took advantage of the first day of the Easter holiday by walking towards the Grótta lighthouse. This lighthouse is at the North-Western tip of the peninsula that contains Reykjavík. It's actually located in a neighboring (tiny) town named Seltjarnarnes.

It's quite a nice walk to get there, by the waterfront, with mountains visible nearby. Today, despite being a bit chilly, was quite sunny and had very little wind, so it was a great time to go there (the wind can be quite rough there at times, since it's basically open on the North Atlantic).

The following map shows the location of the lighthouse (North-West corner) relative to the central pond (in the South-East corner).

The aforementioned map. We live a bit west of the pond.

Jo pondering over the meaning of life

Me posing in front of Esja

A cat we encountered along the way

A fish drying shack

The fish within

The lighthouse

... And Jo


Pictures from France

Lyon first

Preparations for the party

The door at my aunt's house

Jo and I at the party

Whispering flowers, on a trip the next day to the nearby park

A lemur in the zoo there

Barbapapa = daddy's beard

Then, Paris

Jo in a Cafe

Me in Montmartre

A close up of the Institut du monde Arabe

Playing with the camera at the Sainte Chapelle, with its large stained glass windows

Many thanks to Jo for taking the majority of these pictures :)