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Thursday, October 26, 2017

ICELAND: My Travel Agent, I Heart Reykjavik

My family was very happy with all the trips we have taken on this vacation in Iceland.



I want to give most of the credit to Auður and my travel company, I Heart Reykjavik, who listened to what we wanted and helped us pick out the perfect tour operators to plan every day.



We paid her, and then she handled paying all the tour companies and getting us all the vouchers for our tours.

She used a very cool online system to compile all our tours.



Also, definitely do one of their walking tours of the city with them. We learned so much from Hrannar, in a casual non-scripted way. It was a great introduction to Iceland on our first day.

Because some people have asked, the tour companies pay her a commission, and we don't have to pay her anything.

So please go through her to book your trips. It will make all of your Iceland trip planning so much easier. And she responds quickly to emails.

Here are some of the tours we chose:

Private Super Jeep Tour of Northern Lights



Inside the Volcano



Golden Circle and Magical Nights



Blue Lagoon and Airport Transfer


Image: Courtesy Blue Lagoon

ICELAND: The Best Places to Eat in Reykjavik

We had an amazing trip to Iceland and were not disappointed in the food. We had great meals everywhere, for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Here's a list of places we ate and enjoyed. All good!



The Laundromat Cafe
Great for breakfast! It was so good, we went here twice. In addition to the breakfast, the coffee was delicious.







My cousin said that these were the best pancakes she's ever had in her life!





From their website:
We opened in 2004 in Elmegade 15 in Nørrebro, Copenhagen.

The idea was to combine laundry and socializing in nice, comfortable surroundings where you could eat, drink, read, do your laundry and browse the Internet.

Then we opened some more ;)!

2006 Århusgade 38 Østerbro Copenhagen.

2011 Austurstræti 9 in Reykjavik Iceland.

2011 Gammel Kongevej 96 Frb Copenhagen.

We offer a varied menu off homemade food, cakes, juices, milkshakes, coffee, tea, wine and around 40 kinds of beer, all served with a smile.

BRAUD & CO BAKERY

Everything fresh baked and amazing!





Hverfisgata 12


Image: Courtesy hverfisgata12



Casual pizza place. Famouse for their locationa dn not having a sign. We heard that they secretly opened up, and people started coming to them, and they became popular. We were lucky to get a provate room for our table of eight.

I went upstairs to the MIKKELLER & FRIENDS bar, to chat with the bartender and grab a beer from their amazing selection, and bring it back to the restaurant.

From their website:
Located in one of the most iconic buildings of downtown Reykjavik, Hverfisgata 12 restaurant & bar is an eclectic mix of American rustic, old carnival and part museum, designed by renowned set designer Hálfdán Pedersen.

MIKKELLER & FRIENDS - REYKJAVÍK, ICELAND



Great beer bar! Really fun, Came here twice and would have made it three days, but they weren't open in the afternoon on our last day.

The English Pub



My friend who has been to Iceland every year for hte past 15 years told me, “You MUST go and spin the BEER Wheel.” Well, according to my calculation, it wasn’t worth it for us to try. ;-)

My friends and I gave the Guinness a thumbs up, then we switched to Gull. I din't have a bad beer in Iceland.

Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur - Best Hot Dog in Iceland
Tryggvatagata 1, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland






Next door to Raddison Blu 1919. The way to order here is to get a one with everything, which means a pork, bef and lamb hot dog with onions, sauted onions, ketchup, sweet mustard and mayo relish. You can give your index finger a twirl when ordering. There's also a special that includes soda, but I don't drink soda. There is always a line here and people are eating hot dogs morning, noon and night.

Fun!

Jamie’s Italian

New restaurant by Jamie Oliver. Tourists love it which requires you to make a reservation in advance.

Good Italian.













I had Icelandic Cod, which was served in a spicy red sauce. Everyone in my group loved what they had. We again got a private room.

STEIKHÚSIÐ — THE STEAK HOUSE
Tryggvagata 4-6 101 Reykjavík
Tel: +354 561 1111





Opening hours:
Sunday - Thursday 17 to 22
Friday - Saturday 17 to 23


We ate here. Excellent steak. Seriously. So good. The unique thing for us to see on the menu was a steak choice of LAMB, BEEF, or HORSE.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

ICELAND: Golden Circle Tour and Magical Nights Tour

I Heart Reykjavik booked us for the Golden Circle Tour and Magical Nights Tour with Icelandic Mountain Guides.

This was a FULL day. It went from noon to midnight.

I was really interested in seeing more than just natural sights on the Golden Circle route, so the addition of visits to farms, the spa, and a restaurant broke up the tour nicely.

Here's the tour map:


Let's take a look at the stops:

Þingvellir, Iceland


Friðheimar
At the local greenhouse, Friðheimar, we learned about the farm and their massive tomato growing facility. We sat at community tables and had home made tomato soup, served with freshly baked bread for lunch. Note: The butter was amazing!







Gullfoss
We took a short walk to the Gullfoss waterfall. Unlike Niagara Falls, you can get really close to this waterfall and there was almost a constant rainbow when we were there.



Geyser
The Strokkur geyser spouts hot water every 6 - 10 minutes. People gather around to see it and grab a photo. I found some interesting images after the geyser went off too.





Farm Efstidalur
At the farm we met one of the owners and sampled farm-produced Skyr, delicious ice cream, whey and feta cheese. We learned about the history of the family owned farm and their expansion into a Bed and Breakfast. It was also fun to see the cows!







Fontana Spa
Geothermal spa Fontana was nice to visit later on in the day. As you do at all spas in Iceland, you shower first, there were private showers, and then enter the geothermal spas in your bathing suit. Each pool was a different temperature so you get get into as hot water as you liked. I enjoyed it and took a shower outside in 54 degree weather, before heading in to shower inside.


Image: Fontana Spa courtesy Icelandic Mountain Guides

Lindin Restaurant
We all enjoyed a two course dinner at the local restaurant Lindin, just across the street from the spa. The night we were there our choices for dinner were Lamb, Artic Char, or Bean Steak (vegetarian). They also had a nice selection of local Icelandic beer.



Northern Light Search
Search for the magical Northern Lights


ICELAND: Inside the Volcano

Inside the Volcano is an experience of a lifetime!

THE VOLCANO
"Thrihnukagigur volcano is dormant – it last erupted over 4,000 years ago. There are no indications of it erupting again in the near future. The volcano’s name, mostly unpronounceable for anyone other than locals, would be directly translated as ‘Three Peaks Crater’. The name comes from Árni B. Stefánsson, who was the first to explore the vault and who has pleaded the case for making it accessible for years."

INFO FROM THE SITE


TOUR FACTS
Operation dates: From 15 May – 15 October
Tour departures: Several departures every day. The first tour at 8:00 and the last tour in the afternoon.
Duration: 5–6 hours (about 35-40 minutes inside the volcano).
Fitness level needed: Moderate (the difficulty is 2 out of a possible 5). No knowledge of hiking or climbing is required. It’s not an uphill walk, but the surface is partly uneven. This is NOT a tour for those in no or limited physical shape.
Distance walked: Approximately 3 km (2 miles) each way. The walk usually takes around 45–50 minutes (depending on the condition of people in the group). A guide will be with you at all times during the walk.
Minimum age limit: 12 years (we can and have made exceptions on the age. Contact us if you want to convince us that your kid is up for adventure).
Price: ISK 42.000, approx $400 US.

We booked our tour through I Heart Reykjavik, who was indispensable in helping coordinate all our Iceland tours.

The Inside the Volcano Mercedes picked us up and drove us outside the city to the Inside the Volcano Welcome Center Base Camp.


Image: Van

From there, were hiked, 45 minutes through a lava field, to the Base Camp at the foot of the volcano.


Image: Hiking


Image: Hiking

The scenery on our moderate hike was amazing. You had to keep telling yourself to stop for a moment and look around.







We had two guides, one was at he front, and the other brought up the rear.



Here you can see the volcano and it's sister mountains ahead. This gives you an indication of the walk.




Here we arrive at the second base camp at the foot of the mountain.



There are three WC (bathrooms) here.



We all got a safety tour explaining what was to come.



Here's the gear everyone gets before descending into the volcano.



Here we are hiking up the mountain to get to the opening of the volcano.



We look like professional hikers in a mountaineering magazine!

View from the top!



Next up, our German-engineered elevator is ready for our decent.



Here we are heading down 700 feet.



There is lighting inside the volcano that allows for taking some amazing photos of the rock formations.



The tours are kept small so it doesn't get crowded. Once at the bottom, you are free to wanter around. There are ropes to hold on to as you make your way along the rocky bottom of the volcano.



Monday, October 23, 2017

ICELAND: Private Super Jeep Tour of Northern Lights

We did the northern lights tour, on the Saturday we arrived in Iceland, with a company called Mountain Taxi. They picked us up in a modified Mercedes Sprinter. They take a standard Sprinter van and replace the standard suspension and tires.


Image: Courtesy Mountain Taxi

For northern lights, our Icelandic travel agent Auður Ösp of I Heart Reykjavik told us that it's always better to go with a smaller group and vehicle. The bus tours are the cheapest but you might end up with 400 people and it's just not as nice. She also likes the super jeep tours since they can take you to areas the buses can't (and therefore you won't be surrounded with the aforementioned 400 of your fellow travelers).

Auður was right, we had a private tour for eight, and that made it really special.



We drove outside the city and made a few stops, looking for the northern lights.



We caught a glimpse a few times, then stopped at a secluded lake, and started to see bands of green coming us from the horizon. We sampled some local schnapps called Brennevin, and they was a treat.



After the stop at the lake, as we were driving through the darkness, our driver, Gisli Pall, thought he saw something in the sky, safely pulled off the road, and told us to all get out quickly!

We did, and then the real show started.

The Northern Lights in all their glory. Dancing green and purple lights, going in and out, moving across the sky, and painting a ribbon above us.

Our group was exclaiming with joy about what we were seeing. It was a once in a lifetime experience.


Image: iPhone attempt at capturing a bit of the northern lights.


Image: Our driver, Gisli Pall

This video shows what it looked like:


ICELAND: Blue Lagoon



We visited the Blue Lagoon on the way to the airport. The transfer from Reykjavik was provided by Icelandic Taxi Tours.

The taxi was a nice big Mercedes van, and easily fit our party of eight, and all of our luggage. It was not a problem.

Taxis are able to pick up at hotels. We were picked up at 11:00 AM and arrived at Blue Lagoon at 11:45. Our reserved time was for 12:00 to 2:00 PM. The standard time for Blue Lagoon stops is 90 minutes but you can add extra time in the lagoon if you feel that’s not enough. The price for extra time in the lagoon is 5400 ISK, ($51.21) as of today, for 30 minutes (2 hours total). That turned out to be a perfect amount of time.



On arrival at the Blue Lagoon, the driver parks in a waiting area and stays with your luggage for the duration of your visit.

The walk to the Blue Lagoon from the parking lot was windy on the day we arrived because of the remnants of a recent hurricane.







We sprung for Premium admission which included:
Entrance to Blue Lagoon
Silica Mud Mask
Use of Towel
1st Drink of your choice
Algae Mask
Use of Bathrobe
Slippers
Reservation at LAVA (optional)
Sparkling wine if dining at LAVA
Pre-booking is required and you can't just show up there an buy tickets. When we arrived, we heard that they were sold out. Make sure you book this in advance.

Here is some background on the Blue Lagoon:
Situated in a vast lava plain on the south coast of Iceland’s Reykjanes Peninsula, the Blue Lagoon holds nine million liters of geothermal seawater, covers an area of 8700 square meters, and has an average depth of 1.2 meters and a maximum depth of 1.6 meters. The lagoon’s water is sourced directly from the Svartsengí geothermal field and its recirculation interval is 40 hours.

The wellspring of the Blue Lagoon’s beneficial powers lies 2000 meters within the earth, at the boundary of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. In this subterranean frontier of porous lava and searing heat, seawater and groundwater converge, giving rise to a hybrid fluid known as g eothermal seawater. Under immense pressure, this fluid surges to the earth’s surface, integrating the elements through which it passes and emerging enriched with unique concentrations of silica, algae, and minerals – the primary, rejuvenating components of geothermal seawater.


Image courtesy of Blue Lagoon

I wasn't able to take a photo like this because I don't own a drone.

Here are some details on what it's like when you arrive and the showering situation.
WRISTBANDS & LOCKERS

When you arrive you will be given a wristband, which acts as a key for your electronic changing room locker. You can also use your wristband to buy drinks and refreshments while you are in the spa. It works like an in-water credit card – you just pay for anything you charge to the wristband when you leave.

We recommend that you store all your valuables inside your locker, including jewellery, shoes, cameras, etc. Be sure to check that your locker is properly locked before you walk away. Blue Lagoon is not responsible for any lost valuables.

SHOWER WITHOUT BATHING SUITS
Cleanliness is a fundamental aspect of a geothermal spa experience. Prior to entering Blue Lagoon, a full body shower - without a bathing suit - is absolutely essential. Everyone benefits when everyone is clean. This same aspect of spa culture is found at every pool in Iceland. Private shower cubicles are available in both man and women changing rooms.


Click here to see all photos

We had a fun experience. Floating around the lagoon, putting on silica mud and algae masks, showering in the amazing Icelandic water, and stopping for a nice cold beer before going back to our taxi for the short ride to the airport.



This is the way to end your Icelandic vacation.

Everything was booked through Auður Ösp, owner, blogger, and photographer at iheartreykjavik.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Buying Decision Process for an Inkjet vs. a Laser Printer

My existing EPSON WF-3520 stopped working when I installed 3rd party EZ Ink. It was a lot less expensive than the ESPSON ink, but I should have believed one of the commenters who said that it made his printer useless.

Next up was the decision on what to get. This lead me on a journey from COLOR INKJET to a Black and White Laser Printer.

I asked my friends on Facebook what they liked, and they were helpful in guiding me to my final decision.

I kept notes!



I ruled out HP based on a poor experience with the life of a previous printer. I also ruled out Canon after deciding that I wanted to go with a FASTER BLACK AND WHITE LASER PRINTER.

I decided to get my photos printed out at CVS for now.

My neighbor has the Brother HL 2280 DW and likes it, so I narrowed in on that, and then saw the Brother HL-L2340DW reviewed on The Wirecutter.

My neighbor's HL 2280 DW supports a hard wired Ethernet connection and the new above model is wireless only. I don't think that it will be a problem.





I bought this one, Brother HLL2380DW Wireless Laser Printer (affiliate link) and Brother TN660 High Yield Toner. I liked the upgraded LCD display on it. The High Yield Toner is rated for 2,600 pages, so that should last a while.

I also noted thatt there is a way to allow the printer to continue past the page counter life of the ink cartridge, until it is actually empty by setting this up.

"For the HLL2380DW there is a continue mode in settings. Press X then Settings then All Settings then General Setup. Then scroll down to Replace Toner and change it to Continue."

Wish me luck.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

SD card reader for iPhone

Just imported a photo from an SD card, into my iPhone, via an SD card reader for iPhone. Sweet!



GoldFox SD Card Camera Reader for iPhone iPad [Upgraded] Trail Game Camera Card Viewer Reader for iPhone 6/6s/6s Plus/5/5s/7/7 Plus/iPad Mini/Air, No App Needed

(affiliate link)


Image: Import screen

This is the screen you see on your iPhone when you insert the SD card into the reader.

Select the phones that you want to import, keep them on the card or delete them.

Then they are copied into your iPhone Camera Roll.


Image: Imported Photo

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The original Toll House cookie recipe

The original Toll House cookie recipe
via Maria Stephanos



3 1/8 cups of King Arthur all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon of hot water to dissolve baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon of salt

1 1/2 cups of Crisco shortening
1 1/8 cups of sugar
1 1/8 cups of brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla

3 eggs

Chocolate chips
Walnuts optional

Bake at 350 degrees for 12-13 minutes

PREHEAT oven to 375° F.

COMBINE flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl.

Beat Crisco shortening, sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

BAKE for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.