Tag Archives: London

Takk fyrir

Mostly, I wanted to tell you about the light.

About how, on my last day in London, it glistened on the River Thames, making everything seem sepia-toned. Making us all nostalgic for events even as they were happening.

Is there a term for that?

No matter.

I went back to the Tate Modern’s Rothko room, where I had spent so many hours so many months prior. A friend of mine commented on the quiet that surrounded us when we walked in, and I spoke of waiting there back in late October; of how I took solace from the hushed tones and subdued images. Being back was like revisiting a favorite book. The plot the same but my reading different, colored by the intervening time, because I had been.

It felt good to return and even to be leaving since it was on my own terms this time. Even so, it was far too soon. But, I was off.

When we arrived in Reykjavik, it past midnight and looked like it was barely dusk—midnight sun and all that.

Again it comes down to the light.

If I could write the way that J.M. Turner painted, I would conjure up images of clear skies and endless open vistas and tell of how the days seemed long in all the right ways; satisfying and tiring and filled with exploration.

Þingvellir National Park

Instead, I’m stuck with the same hackneyed phrases and a new found appreciation for Monet’s haystacks, which previously stuck me as pointless and, frankly, evidence of his failing eyesight. I think that, at last, I understand the appeal. When we were standing atop the first lookout point at Þingvellir National Park, my friend Mike commented on the radiance around us. It was, he said, the sort of thing that none of us would have taken notice of when we were younger.  So, it seems, we’ve all grown.

On that first night in the city, we four were determined to stay up to watch the rising sun. The hours passed until it was just me and Ben, the ice cubes slowly melting in our drinks, making the bouquet more and more fragrant. I thought then about how the last time we had done this was the weekend of his wedding, sitting beside a roaring fire in the Scottish Fall, the air charged with the excitement of things about to unfold. I thought, too, of how it took me being stuck in London to want to return so desperately.

We missed the sunrise by all of a quarter hour. In the end, it didn’t really matter; it had never really set.

osar

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From the ruins

lavender lemon shortbread

Years and years ago, when I first moved back to London for graduate school, I was lucky enough to live in a furnished apartment. Or, almost. The one thing that was missing was a desk *, which seemed essential at the time, given that I was a student.

My roommate—who I had met through a mutual friend but not actually met in person—and her parents knew this and mere minutes after I arrived, whisked me off to Ikea. Or, it felt like that anyway.

I was still bleary eyed from the red eye transatlantic flight and the surreal experience of presenting the customs officer with a notarized acceptance letter and a bank check for thousands of GBP made out to University College London. And, I was in need of everything that didn’t fit within the confines of two suitcases. And, also, very, very tired.

By the time we got to the bays holding the desks, I was dead on my feet. But, it hardly mattered. I knew what a wanted—an understated blonde wood one that would blend in perfectly with the rest of the furniture in my bedroom. I pointed to it, my roommate’s father helped me get it down and then it sat in my flat for two days before I had the energy to open up the box and build it.

When I did, it was bright orange.

Stay with me here. There’s a point, and I’m getting to it.

I was alone in my flat and started to laugh aloud, like a crazy person. This wasn’t what I wanted at all. But, I had no access to a car, and no easy way of getting to Ikea to return the desk without one. I had no choice but to start building. The funny thing was that, as I did, I realized that aesthetically, the orange desk worked and, in fact, made my bedroom look far better than the beech wood version ever could.

The recipe below was meant to be something different.

I had visions of flaky buttery cookies sandwiched between tangy lemon curd. There would be just enough acid to counterbalance the richness and just enough heft to the cookie so that it would be easily stackable. They would be delicious.

And, then the cookies came out of the oven and they too flaky.

I tried to dollop some lemon curd between two and they fell apart. Once I got over the initial disappointment, I realized I was right about at least one thing—they were delicious and tender enough to almost melt away.

All of which is to say, from the ruins: shortbread.

Lavender Lemon Shortbread

1 cup butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 TBS lemon zest
1 tsp dried lavender
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup corn flour
1/4 cup cornmeal, plus more for dusting
3/4 tsp salt

Cream the butter and powdered sugar. Add in the vanilla, lemon zest, and lavender until it is well blended. Sift the flours and salt together, then add it into the creamed butter/sugar and thirds. The mixture will appear sandy at first. Beat util a soft dough forms, taking care not to over blend.

Roll into logs about 1″ in diameter, coating in cornmeal. Cover in wax paper and refrigerate at least one hour.

When you are ready to cook, heat your oven for 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Slice the shortbread into rounds 1/4″ wide. Place on a parchment lined baking tray and bake 12-14 minutes. The shortbread will be pale. Allow it to sit for at least 10 minutes on the baking tray to crisp.

Photos courtesy of Michael Landry

*Actually that’s not entirely true. For the first two months in the flat, we were also missing dining room table chairs. How we finally got them is another story.

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