Friday, November 29, 2013

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

I'm still working on getting  back to my more regular posting routine, although not entirely there yet.  I was lucky (sarcasm) enough to get a nasty case of shingles in my eye and the past three months have been a bit of a blur.  Never had shingles or don't even know what it is?  Run as fast as you can in the opposite direction or do whatever you can to avoid it.  There is a preventative shot available although I've heard mixed reviews on the effectiveness.  So after three months of pain moving to burning and itching, I'm glad to have seen the worst of it (fingers crossed) and hopefully my eyesight will return to normal.  Thank you so much Psychgrad for being the pillar of the blog.  You did a great job even with your hands full.  And, of course, I can't forget "R" who always inspires me with his wisdom and sense of humour particularly around our now famous city mayor (shaking head)

Once I started to actually be able to see things with font sizes doubled, I celebrated with a most remarkable trip to Europe with actor boy.  We were in Poland and Sweden researching geneology.  I was actually born in Sweden and hadn't been back since the age of 2 so safe to say it was a couple of years at least.  Other than rain every day, there were so many moments of "WOW" and "no way" and food that resembled manna from heaven that I don't even know where to begin.  Most people in the larger cities (i.e. Warsaw and Krakow) do speak some English.  We had a videographer who accompanied us; a Polish woman who now lives in NYC.  She was amazing as an interpreter in all the small towns we visited and never led me wrong ordering in restaurants.

Surprisingly, through the whole trip I didn't try ANY sweets at all.  I know... I don't understand it myself.  I guess we were so busy chowing down on comfort food and sampling every local beer we could find, it just didn't seem important.  I also don't understand completely why a sweet craving took over as soon as I arrived home.  Thankfully, I had enough ingredients in my freezer to pull together a quick crisp to satisfy the craving.
My favourite and super easy favourite for Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp is found on the Foodland Ontario site.

  • 4 cups (1 L) Ontario Strawberries, washed, hulled and sliced
  • 4 cups (1 L) Ontario Rhubarb, washed and sliced into 1-inch (2.5 cm) chunks
  • 3/4 cup (175 mL) granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp (2 mL) cinnamon

  • Topping:
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) butter, melted
  • 1 cup (250 mL) each of all-purpose flour and large-flake rolled oats (traditional style)
  • 1 cup (250 mL) lightly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp (2 mL) cinnamon

In mixing bowl, combine strawberries and rhubarb. Stir in sugar, flour and cinnamon. Spoon into greased 13 x 9-inch (3.5 L) baking dish.
Topping: Combine butter, flour, oats, sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle evenly over top. Bake, uncovered in 375 F (190 C) oven 40 to 45 minutes or until fruit is tender.

The only item missing in this perfect (for me) scenario was some ice cream to go with it.   

Monday, October 21, 2013

Iceland: Part II

We spent a lot of time debating what part of Iceland to visit after our time in Reykjavik.  Looking at tourist information, travel posts, online images, etc. from Iceland shows that beautiful scenery can be found everywhere.  So, which to choose if you only have 5 days and a baby that won't tolerate long days of driving?

Based on recommendations we received from friends, we decided to go south-east.  We were kind of late on booking our accommodations, so the way it worked out is that we drove to Hofn (B) and made our way back toward Reykjavik (A), while spending a couple of nights near Vik (C).

View Larger Map

Excluded from the map is the hour and a half "detour" we took when we got lost.  I don't know how we managed it, but we went a full 45 minutes the wrong way, even though we were taking the same route we had already driven (albeit in the other direction).  Thankfully, the toll booth operator didn't charge us twice, when we told him that we just went through the toll both going the other direction 5 minutes before.

By some miracle, E had a record length nap in the car (thank goodness for small miracles), so we made it all the way to Vik (approximate midpoint), even with the detour, before E woke up.  The second half of the drive was a bit more challenging with a wide awake baby, but maybe it's for the best because it encouraged us to stop and enjoy the scenery.

After a long day of driving, we made it to our accommodations, near Hofn.  We stayed in a guesthouse, a type of accommodation that is common in Iceland.  They're kind of a variation on a bed and breakfast; accommodations connected to a home (usually) with kitchen facilities.  Breakfast is usually not included.  

Apparently, the weather usually nicer on the west side, but this year the opposite was true.  From what I experienced, it seems like there is a pretty distinctive spot, around Vik, where the weather changes.  It was very pronounced -- look west and it's grey and cloudy.  Look east and it's blue skies.

The views from the farm were beautiful!

Our neighbours weren't bad either:

The next day, we spent some time walking around Hofn.  Hofn is Icelandic for harbour, or so I'm told.  As the name suggests, Hofn has a large harbour area that is quite beautiful to walk around. 

There are a lot of great outdoor activities in Iceland.  But, travelling with a baby limits some of this.  It's just not practical to go glacier climbing or on 4X4 treks.  Really, anything that required being awake in a car seat for extended lengths wasn't great.  So, we had to break things up and find entertainment.

One of her favourite things was tearing up tourist information pamphlets.  So, the back seat of our rental car looked like a paper shredding company.  Whatever works!

After a visit to the tourist office, we decided to explore a bit and visited a little zoo.  E is really interested in animals.  The zoo was pretty basic and unassuming, as are many of the non-nature based sites.  But, it was nice to walk around for a bit and this reindeer was very social.    

That night, we went to a nearby hotel that had a restaurant.  I ordered the lamb and R had lobster, both local to the region.  We don't often go to small, quiet restaurants with E.  But, everyone seemed very accepting of the occasional shrieks coming from our table.  

The next day, we headed back toward Vik.  But, planned to stop at two of the "must see" locations.

Jokulsarlon (Glacier Lagoon -- the real reason we decided to go to the south east of the island).  This has to be one of the top 5 most beautiful sites I've seen.    

Also beautiful was Svartifoss, a waterfall surrounded by lava columns. It is about a 40 minute hike each way, but well worth the trek.

The scenery is just amazing, if only you could bottle it up and take it with you.  Shortly after mentioning to R that I was missing out on one experience -- seeing sheep on the road -- I caught this:
I still hope to get the "can't move your car because of a herd of animals" shot some day.  But, a few sheep on the side of the road was cute to see.

We really wanted to stay somewhere more remote and rustic while in Iceland.  So, we were quite pleased with the cottage we stayed at outside of Vik.  

Between the long gravel road, leading up to the cottage, that supplied hours of entertainment for E (picking up rocks, chasing a ball, walking up and down)

and all of the farm animals (dog, sheep, horses and cows)

there was a lot for E to explore.

While near Vik, we visited the black sand beaches that they're known for.

Reynishverfi Beach was quite cool too, but we arrived at the same time as two tour buses (the only time it felt too touristy during our trip). 

On our second last day in Iceland, we went from Vik to Keflavik, the city where the airport is located.  Along the way, we stopped at Skogarfoss and the Skogar museum

The Skogar museum was surprisingly impressive.  You generally only see pictures like the one, above, of the museum.  In fact, the museum is quite a bit more than that, including a newer Transportation Museum.  Definitely worth checking out. 
We also stopped at Selandjafoss.  It would be beautiful to walk behind the waterfall, but between the pouring rain and a sleeping E, I didn't get out of the car for that one.
We closed out our trip with an overnight stay in Keflavik at a nice guesthouse. 
Overall, a great trip.  If you're into visiting places that feature beautiful scenery, sparse populations, laid back travel, adventure activities, and so much more, Iceland is a great place to visit! 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Iceland: Part I

More often than not, when we mentioned that we were planning a trip to Iceland or had recently returned from Iceland, the response we got was: Why?  I think it is a general unawareness about what Iceland has to offer or perhaps different travelling styles.  Some of our favourite trips are ones where we rent a car, stay in apartment-like accommodations, and travel independently in rustic, picturesque and outdoorsy locations.  Iceland offers all of these things (and much more).  

We started our trip in Reykjavik. Neither of us was looking forward to a long day of travel.  Plus, travelling with a one year old adds a whole other layer of effort. You can't just sit and lose yourself in a movie or a book.  When R asked me what I was looking forward to most and, at the time, I wasn't lying when I said, "arriving at our accommodations in Reykjavik." #firstworldproblems

We spent our first day exploring Reyjkavik.  It was raining off an on, so we quickly grabbed some of the hot dogs that Reykjavik is known for...

 and then headed to the Harpa (concert hall)

The interior is really neat.  It's a large space, but they've done a really good job of carving out more intimate spaces, like the ones you see below.

We were still hungry, so we grabbed some cake and hot chocolate at the restaurant.  

Since it was raining, we looked for other indoor options and decided to visit the National Museum of Iceland.  Here's E looking ditzed out (jet lag?) in an costume top at the museum.

The museum is a mix of exhibits from different eras in Iceland's history.  This picture was taken in an exhibit on silver.  

After the museum, we checked out some shops on the main street and retreated to the apartment.

The next day, we did one of the main tourist attractions, The Blue Lagoon.  It's hard to describe the experience.  But it's a large lagoon, heated geothermally, that you walk around. It was another cool, rainy day, so it was misty and hard to really get a sense of the size of it.  Several football fields in size. We basically walked around the lagoon, gave ourselves mud facials and relaxed.  It's one of those must see things in Iceland.

On our third day, we did another one of the main tourist attractions in Iceland: The Golden Circle.  The Golden Circle takes you to three main sites, Thingvellir National Park, Geysir and Gulfoss, along with multiple areas to stop along the way.  Our first stop was just outside of Thingvellir, where we saw this field of stacked stones.  

We stopped relatively quickly in Thingvellir to see the fissure that has been created between two tectonic plates, the North American plate and the Eurasian plate.

After leaving the national park, we saw an opportunity to stop and take pictures of Icelandic horses.  I saw a field with several horses, along with another car and two women standing in the area.  I figured it was other tourists.  But, when I got out of the car and had a woman yelling at me in Icelandic, I realized that they weren't tourists.

I stood there looking dumb and asked if they spoke English (which the majority of people do in Iceland).  Turns out, they were really glad we were there because they needed help to coral the horses.  It's a three person job and with only two of them, they weren't getting anywhere.  They promised me that I could take as many pictures as I wanted once we got them in a specific area.

Next, we went to Geysir.  Everyone gathers around a hole in the ground, waiting for the geysir to build up and erupt into the air.

The next main stop off point is Gulfoss, Iceland's most famous waterfall.

On the way home, we stopped in Hveragerdi for dinner.  This area is known for its geothermal activity and their uses of it.  For example, earth cooking uses steam from the earth to cook food.  

Although our meals weren't prepared this way, we both enjoyed our dinners.

Thankfully, the days are long during the summer, so we didn't have to drive in the dark. It was a full day, but very enjoyable.

On our last day day in Reykjavik, we stopped for breakfast at Ten Drops.  It has a bit of a "grandmother's basement" feel to it, but it is a laid back place that makes a good breakfast.

We spent time taking in the festivities associated with Culture Night in Reykjavik and the marathon that occurs on the same day. We also walked along the water and visited the church, where we listened to the choir rehearse and went to the tower to look out over the city.  I also fulfilled my goal of purchasing Icelandic wool to bring home with me to make my own Lopapeysa.

I better stop here and continue the rest of the trip in another post or else this will never see the light of day StumbleUpon
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