Travel theme: Snowy

mmp sept29

 

 

chiniophilen

A few days ago, I saw this meme referring to those who love snow. Yeh, that’s me, for sure! My hand’s up, waving frantically in enthusiasm for snow and the colder elements. People in the northern hemisphere must think I am stark raving mad, and I can see where they are coming from, when cold surrounds them for the majority of the year. However, not only do I love the snow and cold, I crave it! I am even married to a man whose nickname was Snowy!!! My holiday destinations usually encompass snow in some form as you will see here.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
There is plenty of Snowy scenes in Iceland in winter

A friend who knows me very well saw the meme and said, “This is SO you, Amanda!”

She knows! I thought.She knows me so well. She knows for instance that I have a preference for low light, that I hate the blazing sun and glare and suffer from the effects of it; and she knows that I feel energized when it is cold and finally she knows that being in a snowy place fills my heart with contentment!

Skellefteå
Skellefteå – Swedish Lapland

You think I am crazy too? Then I challenge you to find me a person that feels energized on a 37 degrees plus day (97 for Fahrenheit readers), and I will be genuinely surprised. Even the Spanish/Mexicans etc need a siesta at high noon!

28th April MM photo
Iceland

There are many that claim they crave warmth and heat. Chionophile deniers, I accuse them, under my breath! These are the people who can’t wait to travel to tropical island destinations for holidays or go out in the heat and glare of the midday sun, without hats and sun protection. And yet, it is these same self-confessed sun ‘worshipers,’ who are spotted at these tropical destinations – exactly WHERE, I ask?

Mostly you will find them languishing on a hammock/bar stool/ beach towel/ or a day bed dotted with cushions in trendy colours. Yes, languishing in the SHADE of course! Why? Because it is SO HOT, they state wafting their limp hand back and forth in front of their face in a vain attempt to create some a cooling air flow.  

They seek out a beach umbrella, covered verandah, or simply the protective branches of a shady tree, out of the sun they so dearly love, and they sit, often accompanied by cool drinks, lathered with swathes of ice, sipped in an effort to do what….. to COOL down! A little hypocritical, don’t you think? Perhaps the sun-worshipers are closet chionophiles at heart?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
A Sunny snowy day – but no heat, thank goodness, in Norway.
Snowball Zermatt
Switzerland  delivers on the Winter Wonderland
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
This is one of my favourite Snowy photos. The blue light exudes calmness.
Lunch with Edmund Hilary at 760 metres at MT Cook /Aoraki
Probably not the best place to put my hand for the photo!!
Lunch with Edmund Hilary at 760 metres at MT Cook /Aoraki
Magnificent awe-inspiring Mt Cook – what is not to like?
Lunch with Edmund Hilary at 760 metres at MT Cook /Aoraki
Snow is so much fun! And the reflection is not bad, either.
Lake TekapoNew Zealand Christchurch to Queenstown cont'd
I love the contrast between the stone and the snow here

Of course, my comments are only in fun. (These days in social media platforms, words can be misconstrued so easily!), so I want to make it clear that I am only having a friendly jibe at these sun ‘worshipers.’ For whilst I love the cold and it gives me energy to get about and do three times as much as I would have accomplished on a hot and sultry day, I too crave a bit of a balance. I can be out in the snow all day but do enjoy coming home to a wood fire and a warming cup of cocoa or wine!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Feeling blue? Not me!!!

I hope you enjoy some of my travel photos from my contented or snowy places! They make me feel cool just looking at them.

Linking to Ailsa’s Travel theme- Snowy

Snowy places are Something I always Ponder About

Save

Save

Advertisements

Not Your Average Crime Novel – ‘Unwanted’

kristina ohlsson book review
kristina ohlsson book review
Unwanted

‘In the middle of a rainy Swedish summer, a little girl is abducted from a crowded train.’

Suspicion immediately falls upon the husband who has previously been violent towards his estranged wife in the past, but is he really the killer? Despite hundreds of potential witnesses about on the platforms, no one notices that the girl  is taken from an arriving Stockholm train. Days later, she is found, dead, her body dumped outside the emergency department of a hospital, in the far north of Sweden.

If you have followed my blog for any length of time, you will almost certainly know that I have a predilection for crime fiction. Especially Nordic crime fiction. Many of the Scandinavians write in a highly descriptive way that gives a depth to the narrative and the  visual imagery. This sets them apart, I feel, from crime writers from other regions. And it doesn’t help that I like the dark, rain-sodden, fog- filled descriptions of the Scandinavian countryside! Well, I am a winter person, living in a sun- soaked country where everything is hot and dry and brown, so can you really blame me?

‘UNWANTEDis a brilliant first novel by Swedish author, Kristina Ohlsson and gives me  no reason to change my overriding view of  Scandic crime novels. Yet it is better than your average read. Far better. Whilst the crime might be a tad more unsavory than that found in other novels, the reader is spared the goriest of details, yet remains fully aware of the terror taking place.  Skilled writing, I think!

In this novel, you are very much taken along for the ride with the detectives, seeing what they see, thinking what they think. Readers are given more insights into the police process and procedures. We see how it is they try to piece the murder puzzle together: what steps must be followed, what angles have to be investigated, when discovering a new lead and how collaboration reveals important snippets of information. I’ve not found this in other crime novels. So it comes as no surprise to find that Kristina Ohlsson herself has worked for a police organization in Sweden and no doubt this makes her writing all the more authentic, and readable. It seems like real life!

Many crime novels reach their climax via a detective/investigator fitting the pieces of information together by having a private epiphany of sorts, which is only partially  shared with the readers until the final reveal; thus the reader is usually left to figure out his or her genius in crime analysis, for themselves, before a later explanation is given.  But not so with Kristina’s writing. She takes you along, on the roller coaster, with her characters, and I found this terribly appealing and definitely a ‘can’t put down’ factor.

The reader is also reminded that police detectives are humans with their own sets of personal entanglements and dramas and the policeman’s families also suffer from a case. Peder, a mid level detective on the team, with ambitious, slightly misogynistic leanings, begins to have marital problems as he tries to juggle the needs of his infant twins, his tired depressed wife, his long working hours and his own personal needs outside of work. At one point, he breaks down and it is his Mother who attempts to console him in a profound statement:

‘Things will change, Peder,’ she says. ‘Misery has its natural limits. There comes a point when you know for certain that things can’t get worse, only better.’

Now that we have been introduced to Peder, I am sure his personal journey will continue in subsequent novels, in this crime series. I will surely ponder about that.

Overall Rating: 9.5/10

CPD (Can’t put down) Factor: 9.5/10

The good: Wonderful descriptive writing and imagery without being over the top

The bad: Haven’t found anything bad about this book yet.

The Ugly: We learn that police make blunders and have to live with that, somehow.

What will you think of it?

Will you enjoy it as much as me?

Who are your favourite crime authors?

 

Sally D’s Mobile Photography Challenge: Travel

I have followed Sally’s blog for some time and her regular weekly feature with changing themes gives photography buffs a good array of choice and inspires creativity. I am thrilled to have a chance to blog some of my favourite travel photographs in her Challenger’s choice week.

p1000902-2

A perfect day on the river!

Sally D’s Mobile Photography Challenge

20160623_204028-k A Great spot for lunch!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A world like no other!

Joyously or not the photograph becomes the source of reality, but it can also become a dreamlike force for interpretation. So if photography is memory, then the image is the moment–a moment of sanctuary in a lifetime of them. [Source: Sally D]

Even when I am so old I can no longer travel, I will have my photos and memories to ponder about.

Save

Save

Three Seconds – To the Dark Side

It is a strange feeling when you start to feel support for a villain, even if it is just a fictional character. If  on reading this post, you’re thinking that sounds a tad like the so-called, ‘Stockholm Syndrome,’ you’d be right, – because I have just finished reading Three Seconds, a Swedish crime novel, set in Stockholm, an offering from writers Anders Roslund and Borge Hellstrom.

city hall stockholm
Stockholm in Winter

Being set in Sweden, with vignettes in Denmark and Poland, was enough to pique my interest in the story, but that increased tenfold when I began reading about Ewert Grens, the ageing Swedish detective. He is the kind who stubbornly refuses to give up on unsolved cases, and the plot contrasts him with another character, Piet Hoffman, a man with a secret life, who risks everything he loves every single day. As I read on, I thought, ‘Could these men ever be free of the choices they’d made?’

20161015_162120

The book makes you think and such is the skill of the authors that the reader might even find him/herself, as I did, admiring the villain, who is known to you from the start. No matter how murky his world becomes, no matter how much deception or corruption this character engages in, the reader is, surreptitiously, drawn to the ‘wrong’ side of the moral and legal fence, rather than championing the side of the police hero, who solves the crime.

I began to admire the criminal’s intellect, his fortitude and his cunning, to the point that I even began to secretly wish for him to ‘to come out on top,’  to be free, to beat the odds, yet knowing that he couldn’t possibly ever win. It was then that I thought, “How could I be siding with criminality?”

On reflection, I think, it is because the villain in this story is so human. He is just like any of us, a man faulted with good and bad feelings, a man with mixed emotions. A man who shows tenderness, and hardened self-control, but also one that faced some tough choices in navigating a duplicitous existence in the criminal underworld. Yes, that is why he has my sympathy.

Freedom is a package deal – with it comes responsibilities and consequences” – Anonymous

And so the plot continues until the final reveal and ‘twist,’ that arrives almost in the very last sentence! You are on the edge of your seat until the last. Wow… my kind of writing!!!

The inclusion of a final appendix of ‘notes,’ felt as if the authors wanted to answer the questions I already had spinning around in my head. That’s a unique and welcome surprise in a crime novel, especially considering the plot is not completely fictional! Knowing that gave me so much more to Ponder About.

Winner of the Swedish Crime Novel of the Year for 2009, Three Seconds dominated the Swedish best Sellers list for 18 months and was translated into English, in 2010.

Highly Recommended.  Forestwood’s Rating: 9/10

Stockholm, Sweden
Stockholm, Sweden

Save

Save

Sweet Saturdays – Traditional Icelandic Cake

As I get a little older, (I am clearly a little in denial!), I have to watch the waistline a bit more than previously and thus look forward to the weekends to indulge in baking and eating some sweet treats, and sticking more to rabbit food rations, through the working week. This week I was reminded of the wonderful ‘Hjonabandsaela’ or Blessing of the Marriage cake at a lunch!  It is not only light and delicious, it is traditional comfort food at its best, and it originates from Iceland!20161011_101255

Fridays are the traditional wedding day in Iceland. The pagan Icelanders believed the day was dedicated to Frigga, who just happened to be the goddess of marriage! Engagements sometimes last for 3 -4 years, so after waiting that long,  it is little wonder that cake features prominently in the celebrations!

20161011_101255

At the wedding feast itself, a ‘Kransekake’ or traditional Scandinavian wedding cake, is eaten. This the wonderfully Scandinavian stack of crispy, concentric almond-based pastry rings, decorated with icing and flags, which looks and tastes incredible.

Another Icelandic tradition is for a groom to send presents to bride’s family, on the morning after the wedding.  Whilst the ancient tradition is by and large, forgotten in modern times, it is still customary for a bride and groom to exchange personal “bed gifts and cake.” The traditional religious ritual, the ‘Blessing of the Marriage’ is undertaken by the priest, after the wedding couple leave the wedding feast, when the bride and groom are finally alone! This is the cake for such an occasion!!!

This weekend’s sweet treat!

Hjonabandsæla -Blessing of the Marriage

20161011_101320.jpg

Ingredients:

1 cup rolled oats

1  cup plain flour

1 cup dark brown sugar

150 gram butter

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda/baking powder

1/2 teaspoon cardamon (optional)

Rhubarb jam or other not very sweet jam such as cranberry.

Mix  thoroughly softened  (not melted) butter with the sugar. Add flour, bicarbonate of soda and oats

Press 3/4 of dough into greased tin. Spread jam on top, sprinkle the rest of the dough on top.

Bake in medium hot oven approx  30 -40 minutes.

To Make your own Jam

Bring to boil:

2 cups chopped rhubarb

juice of 1 orange

1/2 cup strawberry or cranberry (lingonberry) jam

2 tablespoon sugar

Cook 10  minutes and allow to cool. You can add more sugar if you think it is too tart.

NB Tips:

  • If mixing by hand, use quick cook rolled oats, instead of whole oats.
  • Instead of rhubarb jam, you can try cranberry, blackberry or plum jam.

Something to Ponder About

 

Save