Showing posts from December, 2009


The whole town is lit up


For three days, I have contemplated whether or not to call yogahusið and reserve a spot in the classes that start in January. The 7:45am Orku Yoga sounds really good, only problem being that I call California at 3am, so I am not sure exactly how much orku I will have in the mornings. Still, getting oneself on a regular schedule with exercise is definitely the thing to do. That was terribly easy in California, actually, good weather most days and such, but I think I would be much more pleased with myself for working that out here in Iceland.


I was mighty surprised to see the delight in my young cousin's faces when they opened the Christmas gifts from their grandmother. She had given all three of her grandkids a new bedding set, and they raved about it. I blinked my eyes, a bit confused. Then I read a blog (I think Matthias?) saying something about having washed his bedding Christmas eve or day. My anthropological nose was sniffing. What was the deal with bedding and Christmas? A co-worker explained how nice it feels after the big Christmas eve meal and busy day to get into a bed with clean and new sheets. I do not doubt this, but I rather suspect that this as a Christmas tradition in Iceland probably has something to do with the days when Iceland was a little less well off than it is nowadays. At any rate, we in the U.S. do not make an especially big deal about bedding around Christmas time. Still I think it is a nice idea, and thus I decided to put a different blanket on my bed last night. It is one full feather duvet

Blandaðu meira

Yesterday at Vikingaheimar, we had a pitcher of malt out for our visitors. I had bought both Egils Extramalt and Íslenskt úvalts malt for the occasion, where upon my co-workers quickly informed me that only Egils Extramalt was worth serving. That seems to be the unanimous opinion among Suðurnesjamenn; I am not sure if it holds true everywhere in Iceland. So I am left at home now with 10 cans or so of Íslenskt úrvals malt. Perhaps, to try to fit in, I should not drink it at all. But, since I am not that much of a strict purist, I decided it must surely be OK to use this malt in "blanda". Blanda is the "traditional" Christmas drink whereby Egils orange soda is mixed with malt. Which makes me think Icelanders are related to the Wapani Woo somehow. Here is an old Icelandic review of the film from which this reference comes , for those unfortunate enough to have never seen it.


The worst part about my holiday was that I never hosted a meal at my house. Instead, I ate other people's cooking. And I ate a lot of it, as always. Whether I especially like a dish or not, I eat it. I also brought along my own dishes, since actually I like cooking and baking. Two out of three were disasters, really. An unsweet dessert for experiment #1, and a runny spinach dish for experiment #2, icky. The Viking bread I made was the only really good thing, and it actually was not supposed to be terribly appetizing (the Vikings were not the world's best bread makers). This may have reduced the possibility that next year, people will want to come to my house for dinner during jól. For Christmas in the States, I had gotten in the habit of making kleinir for all the Christmas holiday parties, whether at the office or at school. Nice thing about those is that no one in the States knows what they are supposed to taste like, so even if I sprinkle them with powdered sugar one year, o

Vetrar hátið á Víkingaheimum, 27. des!!

This Sunday, Vikingaheimar will hold its first annual Vetrar hátið. We hope you will join us for this day of family fun. New exhibits and games just for kids have been installed, we'll have our resident Viking on hand to show off his blacksmith skills, and a sybil might even show up, to tell kids what 2010 holds for them. Plus we have our World Tree all lit up, and we will smoked lamb, Viking bread, and malt for everyone. Admission is free for kids under 14, and adults get half price (750 kr). Vikingaheimar is open from 11am to 6pm. Please come see us if you are in the mood to get out of the house a bit this Sunday!

Ho! Ho! Ho!

Í tilefni dagsins, sá Bandaríks jólasveinn Happy Holidays.

On Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve it turns out is a much bigger holiday here in Iceland than Christmas Day. In the United States, some families celebrate together Christmas Eve, some do it on Christmas Day, some do a little each day. But my cousin stopped by today and explained to me the rule about gift giving here, that it is all supposed to be done by 6pm Christmas Eve, and then all the presents open after dinner. Good to know, although I had already arranged things such that I have presents to deliver tomorrow. As an American, I reserve this right, I think. And anyhow, the main thing with a gift, any gift, is that one have in mind the needs of the recipient, and give them something you think they do not already have. A gift like that is always really, really appreciated, in my experience. With warmest holiday greetings to all that read this. May you enjoy tonight, and tomorrow, and have a feeling of peace in your heart.

Long sunsets

For anyone who likes to see clouds turn pink and purple during a sunset, Iceland is the place to be in the winter time. Sunsets here last all day long. Photo coming soon.

On-line ordering

Thank goodness for online ordering! I have managed to get gifts sent to my family members flung far and wide in the United States thanks to how easy it is to order and ship stuff. Some sights even let you include a personalized Christmas card! Wow! If this was up to me buying something and shipping it from here in Iceland, there is no way it would get there by Christmas. And it is really cruel to leave a child waiting until February or March for their Christmas gift, especially when they have been waiting all the way since last Christmas. Reyndar, eg steingleymt afmaeli daginn hans Nathan fraenda.


Here's my interpertation of the world tree. Please come down to Vikingaheimar to see it in person! We are also getting some new children's hands on activities together, for the families that come visit. Vikingaheimar will be a lively place!


Well, this is probably more Facebook than blog, but since it is related to my move here to Iceland, I elect to proudly announce here on this blog to the entire world that a major event has occurred in my life. Ready? Drum roll please: My stuff has arrived from the U.S.! The boxes I shipped (literally, on a cargo ship, none of this air freight mumbo jumbo), plus some kitchen ware and a baby bed now awaits customs declaration and ground transport arrangements in the Vöruhotel at the harbor. I love the name of that place, Vöruhotel - a hotel for things. It strikes a cord with my whole material agency interest, and seriously I can imagine the objects all hanging out in the lobby. Right, OK, I know I am babbling. I am tired and excited, a dangerous combination.

New Year's Traditions

I am going to be spending my first New Year's Eve in Iceland this year. Icelanders like to tell me how great it is, and actually I am sure it will be really nice, a lot like Menningarnot I am guessing, with people downtown late and then going for fireworks. Should be fun. But I think nothing will beat, ever my entire life, the New Year's Eve party we had in 1991. New Year's Eve is also my dad's birthday, so my mom had always organized a party that night for their friends. But in 1991, it was my dad's 50th birthday, so she decided to do something special, and she included lots of extra people, including a lot of our friends, and it was so cool, all of us siblings hanging out with mom and dad and all of our closest friends. I'd started college and felt like one of the crowd, totally, we were all in a festive mood. Just before midnight, a magician my mom worked with at the elderly care center showed up. He did magic tricks for us (some of them not very good but all


When I was growing up in California, there was an explosion of all you can eat buffets, in my mind starting with the casinos in Las Vegas but soon becoming common place in chains throughout the US. The Simpsons have done a good job of making fun of this little bit of bizarro American excess. "Help Yourself to Our All You Can Eat Buffet!" Only of course you aren't helping yourself, you are making yourself overweight and contributing to rampant overconsumption, global warming even if you get down to it. A person is crazy for even walking into a place like that, because the odds of eating moderately are basically nil. On the other hand, you are also crazy for not eating a ton, since it is afterall an all you can eat place. I have always taken it as a sign of reasonableness here in Iceland that these sorts of restaurants do not exist, though of course some places do have a buffet at lunch time for expediency sake. When Christmas rolls around, things change. All of a sudden e

Komin í jólaskapi

Today I am working on setting up Yggdrasil at Vikingaheimar, it being of course the original Christmas tree. I'm a bit proud of myself for coming up with this one, especially using mythological figures for ornaments.


Icelandic has a phrase, Glöggt er gests auguð, which as far as I understand it translates as "the visitor's eye sees much"; that which is noticed can be both a good or a bad thing. I was over at my friend Claire's house last night for a party; they rented the place fully furnished, meaning not just the furniture but also the art work and decorative pieces throughout the house. I found myself looking at an embroidered silk pillow she had, and it seemed to me it had been purchased abroad, because actually, with some notable exceptions, embroidery is not the art form here in Iceland it is elsewhere in the world. Knitting on the other hand excels here. For many years, I had a cloth that my great grandmother on my father's side had embroidered. I used it as a table cloth, but my father recalls that his grandmother had used it as a bedspread, back when people really did distinguish between bedspreads and blankets. I recently gave it back to my father, and I wondered if


It took a really long time, but there is no doubt about it. The sun is actually rising.


Boy, and I was so proud of myself for remembering to buy laundry detergent when I went to the store. Only I should have read the label.

Social calendar

I have long maintained that I have more friends in Iceland that I do in California, even before I moved here. This is not saying much, since I also say that it is extremely hard to make good friends in California. A few years ago, I started to realize maybe that was not true, that actually I know a lot of very interesting people in the U.S. But this week has at least confirmed that I have more social friends in Iceland than I do in California. I have had social engagements all week, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and now tonight. Which is of course very nice. But I do find myself also appreciating that there is then a wee break, before festivities this upcoming Friday.

Pre-dawn meeting

Today I'm meeting with Gunnar, who is in the midst of building something outside. So he asked me if we could meet before the sun came out, since he needs to use all the daylight he can. One does not get too many request for pre-dawn meetings in the United States unless of course one is planning a military raid. But one adapts here in the land of the midnight sun (and noon darkness).

Good to know

I'm reading through some articles for my dissertation, and am having such a great reaction to it, I just have to babble about it. Although it may be a bit premature to do so, I am rather pleased to find myself happy and focused and relaxed and optimistic at the prospect of writing this darn thing, finally. I created a file yesterday called introduction and one today called conclusion, and actually wrote something in both files. Bububadi bubadadi boop!


The jólaborð for the cultural division of Reykjanesbær last night was catered by a local company (of course!) and I must say I was really impressed by the food. A huge variety, very flavorful, interesting combinations. It was a nice treat. The hostess also commented that it was an incredibly good value! "Never has the cultural division gotten so much for so little" she said, and she added that the business owner may have been particularly generous, since he knows what good work we all do. Not sure if that was all just a bunch of hyperbole, but anyhow, it certainly was a lovely dinner, and a nice chance to catch up with colleagues and meet some new people. The name of the company comes from a neighborhood in New York, which suggests high ambitions for this relatively new addition to the Reykjanesbaer culinary scene.


For Beta

KitchenAide mixer

I was babysitting for a church friend of mine the first time I saw a KitchenAide mixer, many years ago in Southern California. It sat there gleaming on her countertop, a far more substantial looking mixer than the one my mother had at home, and truly beautiful. I put a KitchenAide mixer on my first wedding registry, but it was not until my second wedding that I actually got one. Boy did I feel like I had arrived. I was an adult. I could make a cake without batting an eye. When I moved here to Iceland, the mixer stayed in California. But a few months ago, I noticed that I was staring at the KitchenAide mixers of my friends and cousins here in Iceland, clearly missing my own. In August, the mixer went into storage in Southern California, and that really started to bother me, my lovely KitchenAide mixer sitting there unused (the worst part being it was stored inside my car, incongruously resting on the central console -- long story. Except I will add that the mixer itself was unhappy with

Charitable giving, Icelandic style

When I was in California, I had two envelopes from my favorite charities, Habitat for Humanity and the ASPCA. The enveloped included a stack of Christmas cards and preprinted return address labels, and a cover letter thanking me for my gifts earlier in the year. The letter went on to discuss the needs they were hoping to meet this holiday season, and there was a return envelope should I be so inclined to send more money to them before year's end. All very nice. I get back here to Iceland, and was doing a little online banking today. Knew I needed to pay my cell phone bill, so I click on the electronic bill pay option. Only to discover that 4 different charities had sent me a bill, which showed up just like any other unpaid invoice. Huh? In the US, I get to decide how much I give, first of all. Second of all, I am not obliged to give anything. But here it is like "pay this amount or else get a late fee"? I went ahead and gave a little something to the fatlaður, but the kra


The researchers here at Arnastofnun have a tendency to change from week to week. One never knows when one walks in the door who exactly will be here. So I was very pleased this morning to discover no new faces. It is the same batch of folks that was working here in late October and early November, just before I left. Everyone gave me a friendly greeting, and it reminded me a tiny bit of what it was like to work at an office back in the US.

A day of flying

Everyone is familiar enough with the difficulties of long flights that I have no desire to rehash the travails of a day that started 7am in Los Angeles and ended 8am in Iceland. Except to share a nice anecdote from the Los Angeles to Seattle flight, and to give props to the lovely SeaTac airport (I did not take photos, but the views out the window over the mountains, and the artworks displayed everywhere, are really neat). I hope Icelandair can make that route stick. SAS had it for years and years, and they had a loyal customer base there. I hope that transfers over to Icelandair. OK, now to my story. I flew Alaska Airlines from LA to Seattle. Alaska Airlines is what they call a full service carrier, instead of a discount carrier. Basically, this means there is still an inflight magazine. I was pleased with the magazine, not only because it had a piece on the history of museums which showcased four new museums, but also because it highlighted two of the airlines charities. They regular


Well, I suppose I am making progress on my talk for tomorrow about mapping medieval manuscripts (mmm). But the whole question of maps and literature is really so tricky. I can trust the data 100%, know it is coming from good sources that have been triple checked, and yet still, to see it put onto a computer generated map instills some sort of disquietude, probably generated by the advertising agency, and their reliance on the visual to constantly sell us things. If I use the same register as them to create an academic argument, do I run the risk of conjuring the same mistrust? Or is the rhetorical power of the visual worth taking that risk? These are the questions I am grappling with this fine Saturday morning.

Whole persons

We are having a very interesting conversation here about place, biography, and chronology. Through technology, and visualization, biography could be revolutionized to allow the reality of a networked individual instead of a discrete individual to become apparent.


I am at a conference in UCLA, and there are lots of Scandinavian (plus two Australians and a person from Switzerland) here. Returning to my hotel room after the reception last night, I heard one Danish attendee asking the front desk about how to get to the beach, using public transportation, a perfectly reasonable request coming from a European perspective, where trains and buses are well coordinated. The front desk lady then began to explain the four different busses and all the transfers and places to wait necessary to get to Santa Monica. You would think the beach was on the other side of the state, instead of the other side of the freeway from here. What the front desk lady should have just said was, "No one really uses public transportation in LA. If you want to go somewhere, rent a car." Seriously, it is only a 10 minute drive.


Last night we went shopping at Target, which is by far the best of all discount retail chains in the United States. I hear they have some discriminatory hiring practices, or used to, but never anything like Walmart. Other than that, I think they are a really good company. One gets that impression just walking in the store. Things are neat and well organized, and merchandise, including some of their own labels, is well-made. But really, what sets Target apart from other stores is that it is not too big. I don't know if that makes any sense, but honestly, Target feels more like Hagkaup than Costco or Walmart. Those places are seriously exhausting to walk into. Every department in those stores is huge, thus the building is huge, it is confusing, it takes forever to get around. Every electronic, everything for the house, an entire grocery store in the middle of a huge clothing store overstocked with racks and racks of clothes. It seems there is no product not for sale at those places.