Thursday, December 30, 2010

Inspired by Artists

Young artists surrounded by artists making art and feeling inspired at NES, Skagastrond.

There is no doubt that Roland, Shiloh and Uma's presence here in Skagastrond has been wonderful for all of us. Zelia and Uma have hit it off and enjoy playing and making art together. Jacob and I have loved spending time with all of them.

So, I would not say that, as of yet, Zelia has shown great interest in artistic things such as drawing and painting, although she clearly prefers to paint. Her interests seem much more geometrical, building with legos or the widgets and making puzzles. That said, she LOVES going to NES to see Uma and, there, surrounded by professional artists and Uma who clearly enjoys making art she gets an opportunity to really explore and partake.

The first set of pictures are from about a month ago, the second set from two days ago.

It at least, as a sample of one, makes a nice argument for surrounding children not only with art but with artists who are making art.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Soap Making - making the soap

We were finally ready to make our soap. We took all of our supplies to Jacob's lab and got started. here are the Christmas milk containers we were going to use for our soap molds.
Jacob measured out the lye and water and was able to use the hood to keep from inhaling the fumes.
Stirring the lye into the water with a pippet with the exhaust on until all the crystals are desolved. the mixture got up to about 130 F, which was much cooler than we expected. While that was cooling we began measuring and melting the fats

This is the coconut oil, to which we also added the Tallow.
Labs are great places for babies:)
Once the hard fats were melted we mixed in the olive oil
Then when both the lye mixture and the fats were between 110 and 115 we mixed them together
using a stick blender we blended for less than 10 minutes until we got this nice trace.
At this point we added the pulverized oatmeal and the essential oils
Then it was poured into our milk molds, we got a total of 4 liters of soap. We brought it all home and 24 hours later we cut it into bars. Now they are curing for about 4-6 weeks, to evaporate the water and make the bars harder.

Now we are planning the next recipes:)

Soap Making - Rendering the Tallow

Here it is the vacuumed seeled suet we got from the slaughter house in Blönduós.
Places in the food processor to make into small pieces....the smaller the pieces the more tallow you get.

Then the Tallow is put in a large pit with water to melt....about 40 minutes per batch

Not everything will disappear, but you strain out the solid bits at the end anyway
After this Jacob put the water and melted fat in a container outside. The fat immediately came to the top and before too long was solidified. From about 15lbs of suet Jacob made about 5 tallow cakes that went into the freezer

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Winter light

I have been saying for a while now that I find Iceland far more beautiful in the winter than the summer. People who haven't been here or only think of darkness that a word?
Well, I now think that the three days around the winter solstice, when the days are the shortest, are the most fantastic of all. I am by no means a photographer but decide for yourselves.

The big boat in the picture is the trawler that comes in here. They hosted the Skate lunch today. It is a tradition to eat fermented Skate on December 23....the community center was full of people coming in for lunch and we could smell the amonia as we got closer. We each took a bite with a lot of butter but really stuck to the ryebread, potatoes and some salt fish.

Tomorrow, both Jacob and Zelia will be home and we will head to Christmas Eve dinner with Uma, Shiloh and Roland. Then on Sunday at 3pm is the Christmas ball, when the kids get all dressed up, head to the community center and dance around the tree.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Hannukah and 4 months

Hannukah has come and gone but we had a blast. Danielle came to visit us to help celebrate and we had a ittle Hannukah party on Saturday with her, Halldor, Sigga, Oli and Gudrun Anna. It was a lot of fun preparing levivot and Jacob made a delicious brisket - good good food. Plus the final event - sufganyot, they were SO good especially fresh out of the oil rolled in sugar. It was a great recipe, Martha Stweart actually - no don't turn your nose up, yummmm. Next year I will spring for the tip and pastry bag to ensure all are filled with raspberry jam, those were the best.

We actually prepared and ate more levivot this year than I personally ever had before. On Sunday we got to work on more to bring to leikskoli Monday for lunch. We rushed around getting them done before heading to the church for a singing performance. The next day we transported them to school, and our car stunk of them! We heated them up and, well, the teachers LOVED them:) It was very nice to be able to go and in share this with them. I brought the Hannukia as well and showed it to the teachers. Then the kids enjoyed their fish!

This month is JUST filled with lots of communal and fun activities as Christmas nears. Later in the week we went to the fortune tellers for story time. All the kids were sitting in the small, dimly lit room that had a traditional Icelandic Christmas tree- wood sticks, covered in a wreath with candled burning on the ends, beautiful, and of course there were homemade cookies! The next night after dinner we headed to the community hall for a cake buffet - man that was good. The women's organization puts it on every year to thank the community for their support. A boy read a story, the librarian a poem (I think) and then three men played some music and everyone sang. It was SO sweet.

At school each kid brought in an old shoe which was decorated, we have Zelia's now on the window. Every night leading up to Christmas one of the 13 Jolasveins comes and drops a little something. We have opted for fruit, although she tells everyone at school she is getting candy...clearly what the other kids are getting:)

This past weekend we headed to BLonduos to a jolahladbord with Olafia, Shiloh, Uma, and Roland and had a great time getting out and going out. The kids had fun playing and we enjoyed quite a feast. This tradition is actually Danish but has been adopted by Icelanders and I can see why. There is a HUGE buffet with smoked and grav salmon, reindeer pate, fish pate, salads of all sorts, hangikjot, ham, trout, salt fish, goose carpaccio, goose and vegetable soup, bread, sauces. Then the main meal was brown sugar potatoes (this time with cream, yummmm), lamb, pork and turkey. Then came dessert, there was skyre cake, white chocolate mouse and of course chocolate cake and coffee. Lovely.

Then on Monday we were busy making a turkey, stuffing and gravy for the holiday party for Jacob's office. We headed up to the summerhouse in the valley by the good blueberry picking. Everyone who works in the building was there, full of kids and adults preparing food and enjoying. Then there was a hub-bub outside when a Santa Claus came riding in on an ATV bringing clementines and ice cream:) Too funny. Moslty the kids payed upstairs making housese from all the mattresses!

Then last night we had an Indian pot-luck with the artists which was delicious, really fabulous. We had dropped Zelia off with Uma earlier and Jacob and I drove to Blonduos to meet the driver's Ed teacher for some quick studying before today's written test! You laugh, but it isn't easy, yes it is in English, but not well translated and the multiple choice questions can be any and all answers! 50% fail, ugh. Cross your fingers for us today.

On Thursday we will be heading to Reykjavik. On Friday morning Terri lands and Jacob has to get his shot and then we are off for an amazing weekend.....Hotel Ranga