Visually Descriptive Vocab: Appelsínuhúð

Hello, Internet!

It’s been forever, I know, and I’m not going to spend too much time at the moment rehashing the time gone by. Suffice to say that I took three translation-related MA courses last semester and worked harder than I maybe have in university ever (and I’ve been in university for a long time now), and whoa was there just a lot to do. So any blog posts that I might have managed during those lost months would have been less cheery/informative/interesting and more along the lines of this.

That bit’s over and done now, though, so I’m going to see about getting back to posting here at least every so often. And what better way to start than with fun vocab!

I was reading through my email this morning and opened one from a local home-delivery website that has daily deals—basically, discounted vacuums and home goods. And one of today’s deals—a product that claims to help one reduce cellulite—yielded up an amazing new Icelandic word. Observe:

Appelsínuhúð

The caption reads: 20 day treatment that reduces cellulite. The Icelandic word for ‘cellulite’? Delightfully, it’s appelsínuhúð, which literally means ‘orange-skin.’ Which is a perfectly apt and yet totally imaginative way of describing cellulite, isn’t it? Skin that is covered in little pocks or dimples, like the peel of an orange.

orange peel close up

I don’t think I’ll look at cellulite (or oranges) the same after this, but I will probably remember this word, so that’s something.

And with that, happy 2016, everyone! It’s not a particularly seasonal start to the year, but it’s good to be back, all the same.

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Merry Christmas (If I Feel Like It)

Well, December has begun and we’re all in full Christmas-mode here in Iceland. That is, when those of us who are at university aren’t studying for exams (I know, poor us).

Also, there was a magical snow storm last week, which added to the general atmosphere:

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But in between the snow-storming, the studying, and the examing, we’ve managed to get in a lot of seasonal candle-burning, cookie-baking, and Christmas music-listening.

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Gleðileg Hinsegin Dagur!

Reykjavík Pride‘s signature event—the gleðiganga, or Pride Parade, took place this afternoon (a most perfect sunny day, as you can see). This was our first time in the city for Pride, which is actually a six day event called “Hinsegin Dagar,” or Queer Days (“hinsegin” actually just means “different,” but is the general word used to refer to queer people), and after a little “Diving and Divas” (a concert/diving exhibition at the indoor swimming pool downtown) earlier in the week, I was really looking forward to the parade. (Fun Fact: the Pride Parade is, I’m told, the only parade on the city’s calendar.)

By parade standards, Reykjavík Pride is, admittedly, pretty small. But you wouldn’t know it from the size of the crowds that gather. I’m told that somewhere around 120,000 people came out to see the parade and the following concert this afternoon. Just think about that: 120,000 people. That is just short of the city’s total population which is, at last estimate, 121,230. And that is amazing.

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Summertiiiime…

Like the lady says.

So since the Great Dandelion Triumph (which yes, was super triumphant) things have really picked up speed. We had two guests and saw another friend/former colleague on his way through Reykjavík, which increasingly, seems to be a thing (people just happening to be in Reykjavík, I mean). Actually, there have been/will be a bunch of people passing through on their way to and fro from Iceland this summer which is super nice because it makes one feel really at home, I think, to have a community, even if that community is often in transit. Otherwise, work is still chugging along for me, Mark got a part time job working at a local café (yay!), and we got assigned an apartment in university housing (OMG! We move next weekend! OMG! We need furniture! IKEA time!).

The downside to all of this is that my best laid plans of doing a lot of grammar review/translating/reading in Icelandic/blogging/not-work writing have been a little slow to come to fruition. But I’m telling myself that some downtime is rejuvenating and it’ll be possible to get on a nice, leisurely-but-productive summer schedule soon. Any luck, I’ll have everything totally in order by the time September rolls around and it’s time to go back to school…

Anyway, another reason I’m not fussing too much about having spent a little less time hunched over my computer these days is that the weather has been—periodically—absolutely amazing. I mean: amazing. Full sun shining, light breeze, warm-enough-to-take-off-your-sweater amazing. For whole days in a row, which happened, conveniently enough, to coincide with a weekend. Observe:

OMG. It's cutoff season.

OMG. It’s cutoff (shorts) season.

Now, allow me to remind everyone that Mark and I have never been around for summer in Iceland. We’ve been here as late as the end of May, three times, but we’ve always missed June, July, and August. These are essentially the months that justify your living here over the winter, and although they are not always so super dependable (last year depressed everyone), they are still at least a little warmer and maybe a touch less damp than autumn, if you’re lucky. A drunk guy on a porch struck up a conversation with me on one of these great summer days and I mentioned that I had never been here over the summer—just the winter. “Well then,” he said. “You’re an idiot.” And you know, maybe Drunk Guy was onto something. Because sunny summer Iceland is pretty sweet, if elusive.

There is an amazing manic energy that seems to take hold of everyone on a perfect sunny day. It’s like everyone in the country has to be outside, and doing every amazing summery thing, all at once, right away, lest the weather suddenly change. On Sunny Saturday, a group of us former Fulbrighters and Friends of Former Fulbrighters went out to lunch with one of our own who was, yes, passing through. We then walked around, were made a bit jealous by the kids-in-balls-in-a-water-pit (see photos below) who were splashing around in a square downtown, overheard a mini Reggae festival from another square, and camped out on some grass with half of Iceland for the better part of a day. We had originally planned to go to the beach, but didn’t manage to work up the energy to do much other than just sit outside.

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The next day, Sunny Sunday, a few of us did make it to the beach, and although it was a bit colder, Mark did brave the ocean swimming with me and, like a hero, accompanied me on a short circuit around the shoreline since I am a’feared of the ocean and really don’t like the idea of going around by myself, even if I am always within stretching distance of the shore. So even after he came in with me and then got back out (because: cold), he swam back in and cheerleaded alongside of me, all the way around the bay, particularly when a patch of seaweed sneaked up under me and I nearly hyperventilated.

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(If that part doesn’t sound fun, it was really, just the kind of fun that is actually kind of hard because you’re like, growing as a person, and that’s rough.)

Then, after a good soak in the hot pot (filled with kids, most of whom crawled over us at some point, and two particularly intrepid boys who were snorkeling around knees and over feet from one end to the other), we found a nice grassy vantage point to enjoy a can of summer beer and watch the sailboats (which yes, mom, apparently do exist here!).

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It’s amazing what two days of nice weather can do for a person. I think I became 7x happier than I had been (which was not unhappy) after absorbing all that delicious UV and Vitamin D. (To live vicariously and see more awesome sunny day photos, see here.

Dandelion Harvest

Or, the uppskera túnfífils, I believe.

One of the most easily recognizable signs of summer’s arrival here in Iceland (what equates to a cold spring for most of the rest of you) is the sudden profusion of dandelions everywhere. I always found these pleasant enough to look at (that is, when the little puff balls weren’t making me sneeze) but had never thought much about trying to do anything with them until this year, when a particularly enterprising friend of mine mentioned that you can make all sorts of things out of them—wine, in particular.

Well, dandelion wine sounded quite romantic, and I do like make-your-own sorts of projects. Also, I am up for any and all opportunities to forage around for edible things, particularly in Iceland (see: MUSSELLING!). So I set about doing some research on how to make dandelion wine, found a number of recipes/websites/videos/tutorials explaining the process, and decided to set out this weekend in search of some lovely soon-to-be-wine.

(Happily, I found a perfect white wicker basket with a handle a few weekends ago, so I got to hop around the fields and ocean-side paths swinging a basket along with me as I collected flowers. It was seriously picturesque.)

Well. I waited until midday when the dandelions visible from my doorway seemed to be opening and ripe for plucking (I had read that it is best to pick them when they are fully open) and then went out and picked myself a whole blooming (pun!) basket of flowers. My hands were basically mustard-colored by the time I got done.

Observe:

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Gleðileg Páska!

Happy Easter, everyone! We’re in the midst of Iceland’s five day spring holiday here, which is conveniently timed to allow for more dedicated study time, as my last two exams are at the end of the month. We also have a few friends in town who are celebrating their honeymoon amidst what can only be described as some extremely Icelandic weather: sun, immediately followed by hail, immediately followed by rain and black clouds, immediately followed by sun, and then back again.

It has been immensely gratifying to share our adopted town with such enthusiastic visitors, and it’s given me some nice chances to go to favorite spots (the lopapeysa stall at the back of Kólaportið which is always staffed by the same lovely old lady), and finally go to some new ones, too—like the top of Hallgrímskirkja for a great view over the city. (I’ve also had an incredible Icelandic track record this weekend—not one, not two, but three people have said to me, mid-conversation, in Icelandic, “Oh, you speak Icelandic” and not kept talking in English, but rather, switched back to Icelandic. The woman who sells the sweaters had a whole conversation with me, even. It was. The Best. So, thank you, Iceland: my confidence brimmeth over.)

Here are some shots of Reykjavík from the Hallgrímskirkja tower:

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It’s Bun Day!

A delicious, delicious cream bun. (Photo by Anne Cathrine Nyberg via Wikimedia Commons)

A delicious, delicious cream bun. (Photo by Anne Cathrine Nyberg via Wikimedia Commons)

As you may remember from last year, Bolludagur, or Bun Day, kicks off a holiday spree here in Iceland just before Lent. It revolves entirely around one vital mission: to acquire and stuff yourself with as many cream buns as possible.

This is obviously totally pressing, breaking news, so I’ve written it up for the Grapevine (here).

But more importantly, we have upped the ante this year and yesterday—because, internet, we are heroes—we made our very own vatnsdeigsbollur (they weren’t hard at all, actually) using this recipe, with additional reference to this one, which even has a video. They came out amazingly, due in no small part to the fact that Mark decided it would be a good idea to make lemon cream for the filling. So: lemon cream buns with mixed berry jam and melted chocolate topping. I think we won. For-ev-er.

After which, we consumed the buns, a process which I can confirm was a lot like this (just sub in “cream bun!” for “cook-ie!”)

Now, I will post pictures to make you all very, very hungry. (I promise, I did some of the work. It just wasn’t documented.)

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Bolla, bolla, bolla!

Irreverent Icelandic Lessons

Or, Icelandic the fun way.

Icelandic language studies at the university may be characterized by a good deal of national pride in Icelanders’ great literary heritage, the nation’s veritable slew of firsts and per-capita records, it’s unique nature and uniquely bonkers weather patterns, but there is also a fair amount of irreverence mixed in, a willingness to poke fun at certain aspects of Icelandic life or the (stereotypical) Icelandic character, as well as slightly more scandalous (depending on your leanings) mix of study materials and subjects. This has been particularly, delightfully, evident to me in the last month or so.

As many of you might know, the pagan festival of Þorri begins at the end of January and lasts for a month. Þorri feasts, or Þorrablót, have been very popular in Iceland for several decades (the tradition sort of died out and then was revived by an industrious restaurant owner in the late 50s) and, due to the let’s say…exotic…nature of much of the food, have been the subject of a number of televised, gross-out food adventure programs, such as  Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations” (he goes to a Þorrablót during his extremely irritating Iceland episode).

Þorramatur, via Wikimedia Commons. The jellied slice with white orbs is, you guessed it, the rams testicles, and the hákarl is in the dish. The sheep’s head is called svið.

I had heard a lot about Þorrablót and þorramatur (Þorri food), but didn’t have the opportunity to go to a celebration last year. This year, however, I got to go to one held by Reykjavík’s Ásatrú association—you know, “on assignment.” A sample of the experience, from my article (full text here):

Filling my plate, I ended up with a veritable rainbow of sausages and pressed meats: pink, red, brown, grey, and a queasy marbled white. Not wanting to look greedy—and honestly, a little unsure that I would make it through the full plate—I skipped the svið the first time out. By accident, I also missed the slices of pressed ram’s testicles. (Full disclosure: I did end up trying the former—it’s…chewy—but skipped the latter. No regrets there.)

Back at the table, my dinner companion gustily carved into her sheep head and explained to me the best method of eating ear cartilage. I took her word for it and tried to show my sympathy when she discovered that her svið was, in fact, missing its most delicious eye. We swapped various unidentified meats. Feeling appropriately decadent, I made a return circuit of the buffet, filling up again on some of my familiar favourites—smoked lamb, salted lamb, and a dark red sausage of a jerky-like consistency. If the woman on my right had not caught me mid-bite and summarily informed me, while daintily cutting up her headcheese, that she did not eat horse “on principal,” I’d have never known the difference.

Well, it just so happened that as I was writing this article, we were also reading about Þorri in one of my classes (I quoted one of my class readings in the piece, actually). It’s one thing to read about þorramatur, however, and a whole ‘nother thing to eat it. So for those of us who had not yet had the opportunity to attend a Þorrablót, our teachers decided to bring the partý to us. So instead of a coffee break, we had a þorra-break, with big tupperware containers of hrútspungar (pressed rams’ testicles) and hákarl (that fermented shark that you’ve heard so much about) for us to sample (much to the dismay of our olfactorily-sensitive vegetarian). “Sure, but did you bring any brennevín?” one of my classmates laughed. “Oh yes,” said my teacher very seriously, placing a full bottle of the “black death” on a desk and asking the student sitting there to start pouring shots.

Which is certainly one way to get students to participate a little more freely. Fun discovery, though: I suddenly didn’t hate brennevín. I’ve had it before and it made me want to die, but third time ’round, standing in class, munching on rotten shark? Yeah, it was pretty good.

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A Good Sort of Shock

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Remember that whole sea swimming thing I started doing, Internet? Well, my article about it was published in the new issue of The Grapevine. (Soon, there might even be a video piece, too…) So in case you want to live through the experience gasp by gasp, here’s a snippet:

It’s worth admitting from the get-go that when I proposed the idea of writing about Reykjavík’s Sea Swimming and Sea Bathing Association, I didn’t think that I would be actually getting into the water myself. I grew up in the landlocked, Sonoran desert of Arizona, and have nursed a lifelong suspicion of large bodies of water. I’m also petrified of being cold, and am a strictly two-scarf sort of lady. But when I found myself invited to join a few members on their weekly swim, it seemed churlish to decline. And anyway, I figured, this would be a great thing to Have Done: Arizona Girl Bathes in North Atlantic and Lives to Tell the Tale.

Get the full effect here.

Takk fyrir það gamla!

Hæ, hæ, everyone! Gleðilegt nýt ár og takk fyrir það gamla! (Happy New Year and thanks for the old one!…the old year, that is.)

Last New Year’s Eve, Mark, our friend Graham, and I went for a really nice dinner at Skólabrú, which now seems to be our go-to fancy restaurant around the holidays, and then made our way up to Hallgrímskirkja watch the fireworks from the liftoff zone. We had a very good night with all the other foreigners (Icelanders don’t really go out-out on New Year’s, more anon) and had somewhat similar plans this year—mainly that we were going to watch the fireworks from the church. But our plans ended up diverging quite a bit, to unexpectedly good effect.

We ended up celebrating New Year’s Eve with our landlady, her daughter, and sister-in-law, and had what I believe was a rather traditional—that is to say, family-style—celebration. While in many cities (New York, for instance) New Year’s Eve is a rather crrrrazzy holiday for going out  with friends and drinking a lot, in Iceland, it is a really home-based, family-oriented one. That doesn’t mean that people don’t still drink a lot, for the record—just that they do it with their gramas.

On New Year’s Eve, people here tend to have big, fancy parties with their whole family and perhaps a few close friends (or boyfriends/girlfriends). Walking around our neighborhood we noticed (because people turn on all the lights, light all the candles, and leave the windows open) that most people weren’t just dressed up for the occasion: they were in full formal wear. Men in tuxes—or at least suits—and women in evening gowns and cocktail dresses. (A good rule of thumb for going to Icelandic parties and events: always dress up more. Whatever you are wearing is probably not as dressy as what most other people will be wearing. So don’t be afraid to throw on the pearls, or add the sequins or, at the very least, a tie.)

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