Sunday, June 30, 2013

Icelandic Pancakes (Pönnukökur með þeyttum rjóma)


For a special treat, enjoy this traditional recipe for Pönnukökur með þeyttum rjóma. It is basically a dessert crêpe filled with jam and whipped cream. My Icelandic friend, Margrét, kindly shared this recipe long ago in Keflavík. It was one of the delightful “treasures” I brought home with me.
Ingredients:

1 ½ cups flour
2 Tablespoons butter (melted)

½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda

2 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla
Milk  (enough to make mixture very soupy)

Preserves, jelly, or jam (strawberry especially good but any are fine)
Whipped cream

Powdered Sugar (Optional)
Also Needed:

Flat crêpe pan

Directions:
  1. Beat together flour, melted butter, baking powder, baking soda, eggs and vanilla and add enough milk to make mixture very soupy.
  2. Bake crêpes until golden brown on a hot crêpe pan
    • Pour small amount of batter onto hot pan; tilt pan as needed so batter will cover pan’s surface. Hint: If you’ve ladled too much onto the pan, not to worry. Simply pour off extra batter back into batter bowl. These should be paper thin.
    • Turn over when golden brown (a long spatula is very useful for this). Cook briefly then transfer to plate. Yields about 8 crepes.
  3. Spread crêpe with one tablespoon preserves, jam, or jelly and 1-2 tablespoons whipped cream.
  4. Fold into triangles.
  5. Dust with powdered sugar just before serving. (Optional)
Serve with afternoon coffee/tea or as a dessert.


VIDEO:  Enjoy this video demonstration for making pönnukökur. No, this is not the same Margrét, but she is utterly delightful. Her basic recipe is slightly different, using 2 cups of flour and a bit more baking powder and soda, and makes 10 pancakes with that amount. She also demonstrates a variation, sprinkling the pancake with sugar and rolling them up. Delicious however you serve them.



 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Adventures in Iceland: Volcanoes, Geysers, Hot Springs, Boiling Mud and More


Courtesy Bill Large
Just as we were about to wing our way to Iceland to start a two-year tour of duty in 1972, my mother-in-law sent a clipping from her local newspaper — an island had just disappeared off the coast of Iceland. Oh dear. An entire island. I mentally crossed myself, hoping that Iceland itself would still be there when our plane touched down.

It was, of course. The island was born out of the sea eons ago due to a violent submarine explosion. It sits atop the mid-Atlantic rift and is the most volcanically active place on earth. Flows of lava regularly add to the land due to new eruptions both above and beneath the sea.  Wholly new islands, such as Surtsey in 1963, have been thrown up out of the ocean. On the other hand, numerous active volcanoes, such as Hekla and Katla, cover the island. Their recurrent eruptions have been recorded since the Norsemen arrived in the ninth century. Vatnajökull and Eyjafjallajökull of recent memory (2010) are examples of glacier-covered volcanoes, giving Iceland the name of the “Land of Ice and Fire.” Eruptions of these ice-capped volcanoes understandably lead to massive flooding.

 
The volcanic activity beneath Iceland’s surface naturally heats the water in the depths of the earth giving rise to spouting geysers, boiling mud, hot springs (of varying temperatures) and mystical looking steam rising from the land. In Iceland, this hot water is harnessed to heat homes and businesses, cultivate plants in hot houses, generate electricity, and even warm outdoor swimming pools to name a few.

Geysir at Hveragerði

According to an old brochure distributed by Icelandair in the early ‘70’s, Iceland a World of Difference, “There are more than 700 natural hot springs in Iceland, either boiling or warm, down by the seaside, up in the valleys, or high in the ice fields themselves . . . The most famous and remarkable of all the hotsprings is the Great Geysir (Gusher), which spouts a column of boiling water and steam to a height of more than 150 feet.” Unfortunately, we never had a chance to see its spectacle, but did delight in the displays of other smaller ones.
Courtesy Bill Large

Eden, Hveragerði’s Greenhouse and Gift Shop for Tourists 1973
(Mr. KK holding our toddler, center)
 
One area of hot spring activity not far from the capital of Reykavík is Hveragerði. Here the steam is used to heat numerous tropical greenhouses where flowers, fruits and vegetables are grown – even bananas and grapes. We used to enjoy visiting the wonderful gift shop, Eden, there and indulging in goodies at the snack bar, as well as coming away with plants and “glitware” — pottery to which “glit,” or solidified volcanic ash particles, had been decoratively applied to the exterior. These lovely items were handled with care as the “glit” (small jagged bits of rock, minerals and volcanic glass) was a bit sharp to the touch. 

The kids having fun at Eden Gift Shop, Hveragerði 1974
 Sadly, Eden burned down, July 22, 2011.
 
Camping at Lake Mývatyn with Bill & Anna
One of our camping adventures took us and our good friends, Bill and Anna Large, to the north of Iceland and to Lake Mývatn, another area of hot spring activity.  We were all utterly captivated by the breathtaking panorama of the lake and its geological features. It was formed several thousand years ago during a volcanic eruption when molten lava was spewed into the lake creating bizarre columns and strange shapes of basalt.


Lake Mývatyn
We camped toward evening looking out on the lake, grilled dinner, enjoyed the camaraderie of our friends, and thought how perfect a spot this was and that we must come again. But, when we poked our heads out of our tents the next morning, we were beset by a black cloud of a kazillion little midges. They were in our eyes, our mouths, absolutely everywhere. We stuffed our panicked kids into the car, tore down the tents as fast as we could and headed into the town of Akureyri. We later learned that Mývatn translates to “fly (midge) lake”!


Lake Mývatyn
For a timeline of volcanic eruptions in Iceland dating back to approximately 900 A. D. visit:


To view current information on Iceland’s individual volcanoes — the scale of their activity or dormancy, including live webcam’s of each — visit:

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Congratulations Winners!


Congratulations to the 10 winners of THE VALIANT HEART Goodreads giveaway! We shipped out each of your trade paperback copies today via USPS Priority Mail (including the one to Canada). You should have your copies in a couple of days. THANKS for your interest and support!

 
Don’t miss the Goodreads giveaway for 10 copies of THE DEFIANT HEART (the second book of the HEART trilogy), which is now underway! It ends on July 20th.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Dragonships have sailed . . .

 


The second book of the HEART Trilogy is now available.
Enjoy.

The North Sea, 915 A.D.

The mighty fleet of drakken swept north, carving the fogbound sea. Swift and silent they coursed, triumphant high-prowed dragonships, their hulls heavy with plunder — serpents in the mists.

Onward they plowed through trackless ocean and sunless haze, bearing their precious cargo — ivory, gold, and womanly flesh — far from the Isle of Eire, far to where gelid shores and hoarfrost lairs brinked the earth.

Sample chapters are available on my website:


 
 

Celebrating the new release, THE VALIANT HEART, Book #1 of the Trilogy
 is being offered at a reduced promotional price.

Sample chapters are also available on my website:


 

Next blog: Iceland, Vikings and a special treat—Pönnukökur með þeyttum rjóma.
 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Iceland, Vikings and the Birth of the “Heart” Trilogy



Gullfoss, “Golden Falls”
“Where do you get your ideas from?” is a question often posed to authors. Being a sharing type, I secretly enjoy the query and confess to a small delight when my answer brings looks of surprise and raised eyebrows.

Truth to tell, the seedlings of my “Heart” trilogy took root long ago, in a chilly land far away, one that sits just beneath the Arctic Circle —  the “Land of Ice and Fire” and of sagas — Iceland.

It was there, while living on this rugged island, that my interest in the Norsemen was fired and later led to my penning three Viking-age novels: The Valiant Heart, The Defiant Heart, and The Captive Heart.

Sod-roofed farm house, Árbær Museum, Reykjavík

Incredibly, forty-one years have passed since I stepped off the plane in Keflavík, Iceland, with a two-year old daughter and five-month old baby boy in my arms. That was in June of 1972. We were joining my husband for his tour of duty at the NATO base there. Thankfully, he met us at the plane, for I found myself standing against a wall of wind, feet moving on the tarmac and going nowhere fast. And I was freezing in my summer clothing! Once inside the terminal, I flung open my suitcase and disappeared into my winter coat for the next two years.
 


A warm woolen Icelandic sweater lurks beneath the trench coat!
Ah, but what an adventure those years held for us. The day of our arrival, Mark drove us to the shore at Sandgerði. As we stood looking out over the ocean, the sun blazed high overhead. It was midnight! Dusk arrived in the wee hours to briefly “kiss” the horizon before lifting again for another sunny day.

Winters, of course, were quite the reverse, for Iceland’s year is divided between six months of darkness and six months of daylight. During those months we were treated to the dazzling spectacle of the Aurora Borealis as well as to “winter whiteouts.” Blizzard conditions were broadcast as “Alpha,” “Bravo,” or “Charlie” to indicate whether to take shelter quickly or to not move from a location at all.



Typical gravel road
Spring and summer were the best times to tour the island. In the early 70’s there were only two paved highways in all of Iceland — one between Keflavík and the capital city of Reykjavík and the other in the major city in north, Akureyri. We invested in a “poppy red” Land Rover, joined the Base’s “Rover’s Club” and set out in convoy to see the sights.
 
Rovers’ Club

Our first trip took us through the interior “moonscape” of Iceland where astronauts trained for their missions. The first night I ever camped in my life was between two glaciers — Vatnajökull and Hofsjökull. Did I mention that Vatnajökull is the world’s largest glacier with ice a mile thick? Or that our heater went out during the night? I woke up so cold that I thought I had already died! Thankfully our lamp provided enough heat to see us through the night.  

A curious thing we discovered in Iceland’s desert interior was vertical stacks of stones along the roadside, every so many kilometers. These turned out to be “guideposts,” so to speak. They lead to small refuge huts and remain visible in deep snow.



Delightful companions, greeting us one morning
A great “plus” for camping in Iceland is that there are no wild animals or slithery things to worry about.  Only gentle sheep roam about and we awoke to their company more than once.

Next blog: Continuing adventures in Iceland