Is anyone else having a hard time believing that May is almost over? Gosh, was it busy. Not in a bad way, either. But in between writing, work, trips to Cape Cod, and life in general, I also worked on the online photo album of my Iceland trip that was one of the promised GoFundMe perks. (FYI: If you’re one of those donors, I hope to have the link ready within the next week or so. Sorry for the delay!) As a result, I’m on a social media hiatus (except for Goodreads) until the photo album is done, and then things should return to some sense of normalcy.
So what kinds of things made me happy in between all of May’s busyness? Would it surprise you if some of those joys are lingering reminders of Iceland? 😉 And as always, feel free to share the things that made you happy this past month in your comments on this post.
I Switched from “American-Style” Yogurt to Skyr
One of my favorite foods I tried during the Iceland Writers Retreat was skyr, or Icelandic-style yogurt. It’s similar to Greek yogurt in that it’s thick, tart, and high in protein. But with few exceptions, it’s made from non-fat milk and contains less sugar than Greek or “American-style” yogurt, making it a healthy alternative to Dannon, Yoplait, and other yogurts that are packed with artificial colors and sweeteners. And from what I observed during my trip, skyr is served for breakfast, lunch, or dessert, and often with honey, granola, and/or berries. So it’s not just popular with Icelanders, but also a part of their cultural identity.
Well, imagine my joy when I found not one, but TWO brands of Icelandic-style skyr at my local grocery store after my trip! I can’t say whether I prefer Icelandic Provisions (right) or siggi’s (above) yet, though siggi’s tends to be 20 to 25 US cents cheaper. But each brand offers a variety of flavors, and I’ve been happily trying whatever I can get my hands on for lunch – and I can’t list favorites because I’ve enjoyed them all so far! (If you do want to know which flavors, though, just let me know in your comments.) It’s been delightful to savor a bit of Iceland every day while knowing I’ve made a good “healthy food” choice.
I’m Watching “American Gods”
After reading Neil Gaiman’s American Gods over the winter, ohhhhhhhh was I out-of-my-mind THRILLED for STARZ’s TV adaptation. And so far, it’s blown away my every expectation. What’s delighted me most, I think, is that the show has been amazingly faithful to the book so far. Gaiman’s re-imaginings of the “old” gods and creative choices for “new” ones, the places and people that Shadow and Mr. Wednesday visit during their road trip, and the underlying themes of race, power, and faith – they’re all there. Plus, the new material that’s been woven in to further flesh out characters and Gaiman’s wider mythos for American Gods is true to the original story’s spirit.
Not to mention the show is visually stunning. A couple bits have been over the top (did anyone see the ‘Coming to America’ segment featuring the Vikings? *shudders*), but most everything else has taken my breath away. And did I mention that Ian McShane is PERFECT as Mr. Wednesday? Or that Ricky Whittle captures Shadow’s brooding, laconic demeanor? No? Well, now you know. 🙂
I Also Watched “Gifted”
If you like family dramas, young characters who are as smart as they are cute, or films that exude heart and wit, then “Gifted” might be for you. It’s about a 7-year-old math whiz named Mary (McKenna Grace) who’s offered a scholarship to a private school for gifted children. Her uncle and de-facto guardian (Chris Evans of Captain America fame) turns it down, reluctant to deny his niece a normal childhood. But when his estranged mother files for custody of Mary, stating that her granddaughter should be tutored for a mathematics career, the question becomes, “What truly is best for this little girl: love and nurturing, or privilege and ambition?” The movie also stars Octavia Spencer as Roberta, Frank’s landlady and Mary’s part-time babysitter.
And gosh, did “Gifted” tug on my heartstrings. It’s not an Oscar contender, but it’s sweet and endearing thanks to its cast and a plot that blends emotion, well-placed humor, and a sensitive handling of intrafamily conflict. McKenna Grace steals the spotlight over and over (and made me laugh out loud!) as the precocious Mary, who craves intellectual stimulation just as much as she craves love. Chris Evans was also convincing as her laid-back, philosophical uncle Frank. It’s the first time I’ve seen him play a role other than Captain America, so it was refreshing to see him as someone who’s not larger than life.
I’m Sipping Arctic Thyme Herbal Tea from Urta Islandica
It hadn’t occurred to me before my trip to Iceland that Icelanders might use their native flora to make herbal teas. So imagine my joy when I discovered a slew of Urta Islandica’s bagged tisanes in two shops in Reykjavik! 😀 I resolved to take home one, and it was a tough choice, but eventually I picked blóðberg, or “arctic thyme” in English.
Arctic thyme is a species of wild thyme commonly found in central, southern, and western Europe and produces flowers ranging in color from bright pink to magenta-red to violet. The tea uses both greens and flower petals; and when brewed, it doesn’t have a particularly strong fragrance, but each sip has a mellow, soothing flavor that’s lightly floral with hints of (what else?) thyme. And according to Urta Islandica’s description, arctic thyme tea is good for insomnia, head colds, and bronchitis, among other things. (I definitely agree that it’s a good nighttime tea.)
Click here to visit Urta Islandica’s website and learn more about its arctic thyme tea, as well as its other tisanes and herbal products. If you’re curious: $1 US is currently equal to about 100 Icelandic krona, and one Euro is roughly 112 krona.
I’m Listening to Guilt Machine’s On This Perfect Day
Here’s another album I was recently revisiting thanks to a story idea. Guilt Machine is one of several music projects led by Arjen Lucassen, a Dutch rock guitarist / singer / songwriter / producer / insert anything else and he probably does it better than you and I can. Basically, Arjen is incredibly talented and prolific, and one of the most passionate and all-around nicest people I had the pleasure of interviewing during my Sonic Cathedral tenure. And out of the many albums of his that I own, Guilt Machine’s On This Perfect Day remains one of my favorites.
Music-wise, Guilt Machine is progressive rock with a metal edge, melancholy atmospheres that contrast and compliment the heavier elements, and evocative vocals by Belgian singer Jasper Steverlinck. The lyrics focus on the destructive nature of guilt and regret and the need to confront one’s demons. It sounds bleak, but it’s also a deeply personal album for Arjen, who has said that he and partner-guitarist Lori Linstruth wrote On This Perfect Day as a means of coming to terms with depression. And if you listen to each song closely, you’ll find threads of hope and light among the darkness.
For a taste of Guilt Machine’s sound, check out the YouTube trailer for On This Perfect Day above. If you like what you hear, I recommend starting with the song “Over,” mostly because it’s the shortest track on the album. (Most of the songs are over 10 minutes long!) But if you’d rather start with my favorites, then take the plunge with either “Twisted Coil” or “Green and Cream.” 😉
What were some of the things that made you happy in May? Have you tried any new foods? What movies or TV shows have you watched recently?