12 March 2015

Thinking of Malta


A Reluctant Love Poem
Mhux Veru
( pronounced moosh veruu) : an un-truth in Maltese
I do not 
miss you
Your dusty roads....
Your stretching fig tree arms over ancient rubble walls....
Your wild purple poppies and artichoke fields
Your open windowed gallerias
Your one eyed observing stray cats 
Your chariot like carts, held by weathered old hands, along the quiet back roads.
Your silent city on the hill, still wrapped in golden grandeur
Your old women on door stoops, catching the evening breezes
Your bright colored luzzi gently rocking in the Marsaskala bay
Your Imqaret, still hot in the hand smelling of dates and cloves
Your gbejna, peppered and fresh from the goat farm
Your Hobz biz Zejt, to eat by the sea
Miss you
I do




06 March 2015



March
Here March is much like it was in my home state of Wisconsin, only here it is not quite so bitter cold. The winter snows are pressing on with no hint of spring yet. Wind storms with their arsenal of rain, sleet, ice and then wide thick flakes keep up their regular barrage. The newspapers here say that it has been the windiest winter in Iceland for over 20 years.

There is a one sliver of brightness though, which is the days are rapidly changing, we now have a sunrise that almost catches my three children on their walk to school and a sunset that joins us at our dinner table around seven pm. This lengthening of days seems small but is actually very uplifting, energising,  it feels like someone has started to pull both ends of the day and it is noticeable longer and capable of carrying far more inside it.

With this changing of light has come another change, our smallest child, has been offered a place at a near by nursery school. He turned three in January and has been so keen to play with other children his age, so we happily accepted. I can say with some authority that Icelandic parents do not stay home with their children beyond the first year.

The new school is entirely in Icelandic (like the older children's school) so our little Malteser is being dropped head first into another language and culture. Already he has talked about the lunches (they cook the children a hot lunch every day on the premise). Some days this is white, fish, potatoes and salad other days vegetable soup and home made bread or meat balls, jam and potatoes. It is required by most Leikeskols here in Reykjavik for the parent to stay with the child the first three days. So I was fortunate to get to have some first hand experiences (apologies I could go on for some time about my observations of the nursery schools here, which largely are very positive) but I will spare you that long winded post. I do feel the need share something that impressed me, I was sitting with eleven two and three year olds, I watched them sitting quietly calmly, putting on their own cloth napkins and eating with a knife and fork ....for nearly 45 minutes! No one complaining about any part of the meal! Not something our Beppe is used to, he is ready to get up and move after 20 minutes and is not so keen on things like peas or gravy, so there will be a learning curve on many fronts but he seems happy and I am surely relieved to have a little 'toddler' free time. Also impressed by the mandatory outside time, no matter the weather the children all go out to play for an hour. On one of the 'settling-in' days I was with Beppe it was six below zero, VERY windy and the yard covered in ice. The kids were dressed up in snowsuits, hats and mittens and all ushered out to play, which they did happily. Today it is windy and sleeting and I am sure they are out running around playing.

The only down side to our smallest starting 'leikeskol' is it  suddenly means we have to cut out all the local mum and toddler  friends we have made (largely these have been foreign women in the same boat as I found myself in). The minimum hours here are half days five days a week.  Beppe has a Brazilian friend, a half English half Icelandic friend, a Danish friend, a Dutch friend, a Costa Rican/American friend and a little German friend and I have been blessed to have made friends with these respective mums which now call Iceland home. This has been  through library sing along mornings, Tuesday coffee club sessions and playgroups, it has been wonderful.  Reykjavik is small and because there are so few of us at home with little ones you quickly start to recognise each other and cross paths first unintentionally and before you know it  you are meeting  3-4 times a week and it is something intentional and lovely- a pop up community of sorts as we all see each other so often. It has been an enriching and inspiring element of my time here and I hope I can maintain some of these ties but our daily rituals will change (thus I do have time to write again). It has been many weeks since I last managed to squeeze in enough time.
 March a month of changes.



15 February 2015

Boardwalk



I am not a T.V. person, in that I have little patience sitting to in front of a screen waiting for the right thing. So in the last few years my other half and I have turned to indulging in an evening ritual of tucking into a series. No time for binge watching as parenthood leaves us close to collapsing by the time we reach the post (kids) bed.
As we rounded into autumn we stumbled into Boardwalk Empire, overlooked for years, it fell into our laps here and we unexpectedly got drawn in. Into the world of prohibition, of Al Capone, crocked cops, new immigrants and post first world war vets. To be honest the gangster slugs and hit men  were only tolerable because not only is the acting so good, but the characters complex. It is though the side stories which I find so rich and engaging.... it was certainly a very particular and unique time in US history. I haven't even mentioned the costumes, oh swoon.... for this alone give it a peek.















22 January 2015

After the holidays



Trying to find that moment of pause to write, has been harder than anticipated,
to catch it all up and try to paint the picture of these last weeks,
of gingerbread houses and visitors, 
of nostalgic schmaltzy Christmas music, 
 pine needles and puzzles, 
the quiet peaceful together moments 
candles lit, faces of the children rapt with anticipation
and later, days later the awe and bang which ambushed us upon New Years. 


But before the night of explosions was the evening of the bonfire,
families young and old all streaming down towards the water, 
to the huge roaring pyre down by the sea, a night where most everyone in our neighbourhood and perhaps beyond came to the frozen beach to watch the tall flames lick the sky. 
To lean in together and taste the smoke and hear the crackle and roar. Feel the heat. 



Our Christmas here was merry and bright,
 full of the stuff of Christmas cards, and childhood memories. 
The faces of smiling grandparents were missed, but aunts and uncles blessed our small home 
and added to the coziness and sense of something special.


Now it is the business of the new year...returning light...
finding the correct path to tread for 2015. 

These recent days have come with gentle rosy Nordic skies. 
Unlike anything we have seen in Malta. 
So soft and kind,the pastel pinks and purples giving backdrop to the bright white mountain peaks to all sides, (my photos do no justice).
 I am savouring these views, for I am certain to miss their presence in years to come.






11 December 2014

Winter


This last week has brought days and nights full of snow, the quiet gentle kind at first, lining the trees and houses like frosting...and leaving an air of hushed peace. The photo I took above is from a walk last Thursday morning into Reykjavik.


 There were days filled with flurries, busy bees of snow, wistful and floating horizontal rather than falling vertical. Then the strong winds arrived, a night of rain turning to ice and followed by what felt to all accounts like a proper blizzard. A blurr of white when we peeped out the windows after breakfast, there was the dark sky but a a mad haze of white. Accompanied by hurling howling sounds. Blinding waves of snow. But life carried on as if totally normal, kids walked to school (ours squealing in frightened glee, eyes pinched nearly shut and leaning fully into the wind) . People out scraping off their cars... (Other than us ....who were in complete awe)....there was no drama, no unusual stress.


Now there are layers of snow everywhere and it feels like we are in the middle of proper winter and really truly in Iceland! It's been marvelous, sledding, snowman building, even skating on the lake in town! Truly a time of winter magic....houses aglow...happy rosy faced children, excited to recap the days snowball fights. Humming Icelandic Christmas tunes. Inside we have filled the house with baking, with embroidery ( something my eldest daughter has been learning in school and is keen to work on) as well as  knitting projects  and all sorts of christmas decorations.


For a girl from the Midwest,( home to truly bitter cold winters) these last 14 years have felt ....well like something important was missing....and here we are...the feel of completeness, that missing piece. For once my children, raised in Malta, are getting to know the feel of snow, the difference between the wet- good packing snowmen kind and the powdery light fluffy perfect for sledding type. They are getting used to the different sounds snow can make when you step through it and how it feels to bundle up to where only your eyes show as you walk out the door.



Winter has arrived here.





02 December 2014

Sail away

Is there nothing as grand as being swept out to sea  by a good book?


It is the book Ahab's Wife by Sena Jeter Naslund that I am enjoying right now. 
A sea faring tale from long ago, well written and very engaging. 

Here far north amid the storms swirling round Iceland you can find us tucked inside a cozy flat. Fiercely lashing wind, rain, sleet and snow beat at the windows, it is the perfect time to be cuddled up inside, turning the pages of a book.

22 November 2014

Up the street


Not long after we moved here, a little cafe opened up at the end of our street (featured above).
In the weeks before they opened we would pass regularly on our way to the local shop, on the way to the pool, on the way to take the recycling, on the way to basketball ( so in essence all the time).
The owners happen to have dogs, a big sweet black one and a chocolate brown lab who without fail offered a tail wagging-straining-the leash greeting every time. Always ready for some petting and attention. Being that my kids love dogs (and we have yet to get one of our own) , we had the pleasure of petting these dogs regularly and as a result often ended up talking with the owners and their families and friends who were helping with the refurbishing of old doors, windows, tables and chairs, painting of awnings, etc. as the setting up of the cafe was underway. So it was very nice to see it finally open its doors, ohhh the temptation-  homemade fresh crossaints just a few doors away!
It has a warm inviting glow and a I like the subdued blue grey palat of the inside.  Thus far it has been a success ever since the moment the doors first opened! The owners are three friendly fathers from the neighborhood. So if you happen to be in the Vesturbær area do give it a try, it is a stones
throw from the pool and across the street from the beloved little Melabuðin Shop.

19 November 2014

Icelandic Clothing

Today for you, some Nordic clothing inspiration from a few of the local Icelandic brands. 
Enjoy.
*The links in orange below will take you to their home sites. 















A few to start with, more in a later post...perhaps I will have to share a bit of the other Scandinavian brands that you find here, as they are new to those of us coming from Southern Europe. 


















17 November 2014

The transition


Life in Iceland is a HUGE shift from Malta, in so many ways. 
I admit the knowledge that it would be a significant change for the children worried me for weeks before we left, how would the children take it, would they adjust....would they blame us and miss home every minute of every day? Would they wish for their grandparents ( so much a part of our day to day life in Malta), and their friends? would they long for the heat and sun? Their house? ( and toys?). We came with one suitcase each.  Left all the rest behind. Somehow I was convinced in my mind  that regardless of the difficulties we would surely face, it would be something positive for the children in the long run ( even in the face of some doubtful friends and family members),  who questioned the move, the children's schooling would suffer etc.


I am here to tell you, now that we have been here  almost five months, that from the very start it has been a surprisingly smooth and wonderful( in every sense of the word) transition. The children ( ages 10, 9, 7 and 2) have made such a swift and easy transition that my husband and I were truly amazed. They are all thriving in such a clear way, that we have already been confirmed in our decision to move here ( for a year), they are happy in the local school, confident, independent ( in a way they never could have been in Malta) and picking up the language very quickly. They are so chipper and free spirited, and with friends they can call on (and who show up almost daily after school to play). We were lucky that  the neighbourhood we live in is very family friendly, kids everywhere, parks down the street, natural geothermic pools at the end of the block and an easy 15 min walk to the center of Reykjavik. 
I think we were lucky when we found this sabbatical home swap. 
The local school ( which the children attend) is at the end of our street.



My husband and I too have been surprised by how quickly we felt at home here, have made friends and fallen into a gentle routine. Bike rides by the sea to work replaced daily traffic jams. Clean air and wide quiet streets. Kids walking on their own to friends houses, to basketball practise or the local shop for milk. Reykjavik feels like a very safe place, and the approach to children very loving but free, kids are allowed to play and really be kids. There are no annual exams for elementary or middle school children here, very little homework and there are cooked- on the premise healthy lunches every day, (fish and potatoes for example ). A far cry from the exam oriented very serious and not so creative quality of schools in Malta.  so far it seems there is in addition to the usual subjects of science, math, literacy, history, and study of world religions, textiles, cooking, woodworking, art and music. Music interwoven throughout actually. 
So many things have been an eye opening shift for us as parents.
Iceland may be small in population ( less than Malta!) but this island too is very rich in culture, history and nature and I won't even go into the love of books and high rate of authors here or musical talent. 
It is indeed a special place and we are enjoying our time here.
So any of you out there who are thinking of making a leap to a different land, kids in tow, consider doing it. It is bonding as a family and such a rich adventure to have as memories for the future. 
Have already probably said more than enough so I will end here.
May your mid November days be healthy and hopeful.




13 November 2014

and who can resist this salt?


I fell for the combination of blue and orange
and the details, 
 the sliding front opening and the map of exactly where in Iceland the salt has come from.
It reminded me of an old timey food container and I gave in to buying it.

11 November 2014

Street Art of Reykjavik

Since arriving in July I have been snapping photos of murals around the city. 
Here are a few ...





























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