Cranberry Walnut Bread

Cranberry Walnut bread

Homemade bread is, maybe, next best to the very best you have ever tasted any food! The aroma is so inviting that everyone gets drawn towards fresh, home-baked, bread. Cranberry-Walnut, combination, provides that tart and nutty taste that makes it irresistible when you slather with butter. Besides, it is healthy food for staying healthy! You know the ingredients! It works very well as the sandwich bread for chicken and even turkey!

It is relatively easy to make and most of the time you cannot go wrong. Healthy baking or healthy cooking was a well known virtue of the European families and it resulted in well being of the entire family. Mothers felt proud of their contribution to the heath of the family. Cranberry walnut bread is one of those forgotten traditions. It is low in sugar and fat.

Ingredients:

Cranberry Walnut Bread

875 grams of bread flour

40 grams of sugar

11 grams of salt

28 grams of melted butter

250 grams of walnuts – coarsely chopped

200 grams of dried cranberries

16 grams of instant yeast

620 grams of water

1 gram of orange zest

Vegetable oil for greasing

In a bowl, add yeast to water and stir the mix. Set it aside for 10 minutes. Then add half of the flour (by rough estimate), butter, sugar, salt, zest and start mixing them. Add flour, gradually, and knead for 10 minutes. You may use a stand mixer, instead. Add the cranberries and the walnuts to the dough and knead them, slightly.

We need to oil a larger bowl and transfer the dough. We need to roll dough or make sure that the dough is coated with oil. Cover the bowl with a plastic bag or wet kitchen towel and leave it at room temperature. Dependant upon the effectiveness of yeast, in 50 to 70 minutes, the dough should rise to be double.

Once we find the doubled dough, it needs to be punched and set on parchment paper. Cover the dough for another 50 minutes.

In an oven, preheated to 175 C or 350 F, place the baking tray in the center and bake for about 40 minutes to get a nice, brown, bread.

Enjoy the bread! This bread can be frozen for use in a month or two. Best, indeed, is, when served fresh!!Cranberry Walnut Bread

My personal mission is to share all I know. Holiday season is coming and I would like to stress the need for staying healthy, eating healthy, cooking healthy. One of the ways is to keep the family healthy and happy is to cook or bake, when possible. I have known a great many senior executives who take cooking as a hobby or past-time and cooking or baking is a means of relaxation for them.

Sandholt - fantastic bakery Reykjavík Iceland --www.the-sum.com

Iceland Trip-Tips to save some costs

Iceland is a dream destination. It is beautiful and has a lot to offer. It can be expensive for most. Once you are on vacation, you do not want to cut corners and that’s the normal attitude.  On the other hand, you want the most out of every dollar that you spend.

Sandholt - fantastic bakery Reykjavík Iceland --www.the-sum.com

Sandholt – fantastic bakery Reykjavík Iceland

Tourism accounts for more than 10% GDP of Iceland – a country of 350k residents that serve about 3 million tourists.

Reykjavik Iceland - www.the-sum.com

Reykjavik Iceland – www.the-sum.com

If you have been to Iceland then, you, perhaps, know it fully how to cut costs but there may still be some scope. No list can be comprehensive and an attempt is being made to help, the unwary.

In order to budget your trip expenses, you may use this as a guide. You may use this to convert the Icelandic Krona to your currency.Iceland Trip - Tips to save some cost

Here are the ways you can save:

  1. VAT or Consumption Tax in Iceland is levied on the purchase of goods and services at 11% or 24%. If you are not a resident of Iceland, you are entitled to a refund of VAT paid during the trip.  As such, you have to keep your receipts for every payment. The refund centers are located at Keflavik Airport, Seydisfjordur Port, Akureyri, and Reykjavik. Before leaving Iceland you can get this processed. At Keflavik Airport, before you proceed for security check and after collecting boarding pass, you to go to this counter.

    Breathtaking-lanscape Iceland - www.the-sum.com

    Breathtaking-landscape Iceland

  2. Fly cheap. Did you know that Icelandair offers stopovers of 1 to 7 days at no extra cost and this is offered for most transatlantic flights?  You may plan to visit Iceland during a stopover. There are intelligent options for choosing luggage at the time of booking flights rather than paying higher for unplanned luggage. Please note that Icelandair has rather firm rules regarding luggage.
  3. Go Camping. Camping is the cheapest way to stay in Iceland.  On average, it costs about US$ 11-23 per night, depending upon the vehicle or camper. For places outside the list, there is a tourist information counter in every town which may help. Use campingcard and save better.
  4. Travelling on your own. Renting what is known as a camper van which is smaller than the Minivan in the US. The smallest configuration has two seats and two bags. It may cost US$ 50-70 per day. There are some limitations like highlands for which one may choose a better alternative. Buy some Olis or Orkan discount gas cards to save further. On the other

    Some color landscape Iceland - www.the-sum.com

    Some color landscape Iceland

    hand, Public Transport or hop on and off may offer cheaper options and viable in many cases. Tour buses and guided tours may suit those who prefer not to drive. In case you have a group of 6 or even 8, it may be viable to arrange for a private tour where you hire a vehicle with a driver.

  5. Choice of season. June to August is the peak tourist time. Prices and rates the highest. If possible, choosing a non-peak time may result in savings.
  6. Book early. Last-minute bookings will cost much more in Iceland. Early booking offers better rates and terms and options.
  7. Insure intelligently. Having no insurance is called self-insurance. Insurance, typically, is a small fee charged for underwriting the perils or risks that you seek to cover. For most parts, insurance is for peace of mind. When you reach home, without an incident, your insurance money is well spent! However, in the case of an eventuality, your insurance cover will help you.

    Approach to Glacier Iceland - www.the-sum.com

    Approach to Glacier Iceland

    While in Iceland, you are subject to the laws of Iceland. In Iceland, for renting a vehicle, basic, third party liability, insurance, is mandatory. Know the deductibles and learn the cost of every risk you would like to cover and seek the best suitable balance. Also popular is the Travel insurance, which may cover part or whole of travel, medical, lost or stolen luggage cost, depending upon the kind of risk and policy you may opt.

  8. Pack for Iceland. Iceland is not very cold but can be wet and windy. Pack everything waterproof, rain gear. Dressing in layers may be needed. Get a waterproof cover for the smartphone. Pack your hiking shoes, binoculars, swimwear and other accessories that you own and are part of your plan. Buying these accessories in Iceland may be far more expensive. In summer months, the Sun is out for most of the time – packing sleeping eye masks, Sunglasses, a hat may be advisable. A quick-drying towel may be useful for a trip to the geothermal pool. Woolen hats of nordic design are popular with tourists with prices starting at US$ 40.
  9. Plan your meals. There are no cheap restaurants in Iceland but it would certainly cost less to buy pre-made sandwiches, snacks, cheese, cracker-bread, crispbreads, snack bars, Skyr (a type of yogurt). Coffee is readily available and carrying some instant coffee, may help as you can get hot water, very easily.  Fish (haddock) and chips may cost US$ 25, a buffet, two-course meal may cost US$ 50-80, without drinks. IKEA in Reykjavík is a popular place to eat fresh food on a budget. Alternatives are like buying groceries at Bonus, Netto, or Kronan and cook on your own.
  10. Alcohol. The cheapest source is the Duty-Free shop at Keflavík International Airport, upon arrival. Do not drive with any alcohol in your system. You may get arrested as the laws are very strict.
  11. Water. Do not buy bottled water in Iceland. Tap water is as safe, everywhere. Carry your own water bottle.

    Sunrise Akureyri Iceland - www.the-sum.com

    Sunrise Akureyri Iceland

Enjoy. The part that is so subtle – there is no admission fee to any waterfall or mountain.  There is no third party contractor who will stop you from carrying your own camera and taking nice photos. Northern lights are free. Several geothermal pools are free. Have fun! Iceland is a peaceful country with a small population -let’s be good visitors. Create memories to be cherished.

Iceland

Plan for Vacation Trip to Iceland

Iceland

Map of Iceland

Iceland is an excellent choice for a vacation. Depending upon the objectives, it provides the opportunity for a wide variety of experiences. For most parts, it is most exciting to visit the island nation irrespective of the time of year. The Nordic country is full of hospitality that starts as soon as you arrive at the capital and largest city is Reykjavík.

Iceland as a country has a higher cost of living. In other words, it is as

Ice Cave on Katla Glacier, Iceland - www.the-sum.com

Ice Cave on Katla Glacier, Iceland

expensive as Switzerland, Japan, Alaska or Hawaii. It is worth the effort to plan and estimate the expenses because one can have options. The planning and its follow up with bookings and reservations need to be done well in advance.

The following factors may be considered:

  1. Duration: Most visitors plan a 10-day trip and go very pleased. It is possible to plan a shorter trip when you have a specific short itinerary. The most popular route is ring road which takes about 6 -7 days with very brief stops in the day and night halts.

    Hallgrimskirkja Church - www.the-sum.com

    Hallgrimskirkja Church

  2. Weather: Weather is a big factor. Rain can be around any time and true waterproof jacket and trouser is a must. In the US, REI is an excellent source for travel-related merchandise, especially, clothing. Other layers are season dependent. Iceland is not very cold but wet and windy.
  3. Food: Food is excellent. Some American food chains like Subway, KFC, Dominos have a presence. Excellent coffee is available though not from chains in the US. Bye the way, in Iceland, they consume 4 times more coffee, per capita than in the US or Canada. Food in restaurants is good and expensive. A buffet may cost US$75. Fish and chips may cost US$25. Offering gratuity or tips is not the culture. Some may feel offended if you offer them a tip.

    Kirkjufellsfoss Waterfall - www.the-sum.com

    Kirkjufellsfoss Waterfall

  4. Drive: Iceland has vehicles drive on the right side of the road, just as in the US or Canada and the steering wheel is on the left side of the vehicle. All road signs are in Icelandic and not possible to be guessed from the English base. The traffic speeds are in KM. In the cities, the speeds are maxed at 50 and on highway 80. Most roads are single without a median.
  5. Currency: Credit cards like Visa and Master Card are accepted everywhere. American Express, too, is accepted but, maybe 20% places it is not accepted. American Express offers a card without a foreign exchange conversion fee of 3%. It is smart to use that and if insisted upon, use Visa or Master Card.

    Rangárþing eystra -www.the-sum.com

    Rangárþing eystra

  6. Rentals: If you plan on driving in the country, you need a rental vehicle. There are a number of options from an SUV to a Camper Van. You need to plan well ahead of time. There are very smart ways to plan this through the specialist. It works to your advantage if you buy some prepaid fuel cards.
  7. Hotels: It is always better to book in advance most of the hotels. Some hotels have restrictions on check-in after midnight. Typically, the check-in is at 2:00 p.m. and check-out at 11:00 a.m. Nearly all hotels accept a request to inform you if Northern Lights are visible but you may have to request for it.
  8. Language: English is spoken and understood, by nearly, everyone. All official business is transacted in Icelandic.

Choosing the itinerary is a tough thing because Iceland has a lot more than one can cover in 10 days trip. Some of the most visited places are:

Snaefellsnes National Park.
Blue Lagoon, Grindavík.
Landmannalaugar Nature Reserve.
Maelifell Volcano & Myrdalsjökull Glacier Park.
Skaftafell Ice Cave, Vatnajökull National Park.

lake Seydisfjordur in iceland - www.the-sum.com

lake Seydisfjordur in iceland

Dynjandi – Westfjords.
Stóruð – East Iceland.
Landmannalaugar – The Highlands.
Vestmannaeyjar – The Westman Islands.
Snæfellsnes peninsula.
Þingvellir national park.
Akureyri – North Iceland.
Flatey – Breiðafjörður.
Skogafoss falls.
Hraunfossar falls.

Hot Springs
The Blue Lagoon
Mývatn Nature Baths
Secret Lagoon
GeoSea Sea Baths
Fontana Geothermal Baths

Geothermal Hot Springs
Seljavallalaug
Grettislaug
Kvika Foot Bath
Krossneslaug
Guðrúnarlaug

Kirkjufell and Kirkjufellsfoss Waterfall - www.the-sum.com

Kirkjufell and Kirkjufellsfoss Waterfall

Taking a Tour has the advantage that you will be driven around. The guide and driver would narrate some background and at times will join you. The journey becomes easier but you are part of a group. The bathroom breaks or restaurant stopovers become much bigger which may eat up the time for otherwise interesting stops. Definitely, there would be time-management that makes sure that you are not lost and most of your needs are met.

Typically, a family of 4 or more or a private group of more than 6 would enjoy better to have a private tour or drive on their own than joining the regular tour bus which would have as many as 14.

 

northern lights iceland

Northern Lights Photography – made simple

northern lights icelandNorthern Lights are a phenomenon that creates a spectacle rare for most of the population of the world. It is beautiful and breath-taking. Those are the two primary reasons we have a strong attraction. Experiencing the visual is exhilarating beyond expression for many. Capturing the moment in camera as a photograph is a good means of sharing, re-visiting, boasting and so on.

The science behind the Northern Lights, also known as aurora borealis, briefly, is that they are the result of disturbances in the magnetosphere caused by the solar wind. When the cumulative effect is strong enough to alter the trajectories of charged particles in the solar wind

Aurora_Kp_Map_North_America

Aurora_Kp_Map_North_America

Aurora_Kp_Map_Eurasia

Aurora_Kp_Map_Eurasia

and magnetospheric plasma, we are presented with the phenomenon. It is the ionized particles of atmosphere that emit light of varying color and complexity, in bands, depending upon the participating particles. A similar phenomenon occurs around the south pole and is called southern lights or aurora australis.

Aurora_Australis_From_ISS

Aurora_Australis_From_ISS

It is always better to plan for viewing Northern Lights. Ideally, darkness is required. The best observation of Northern Lights happens at locations high in latitudes and closer to the poles. The most intense Northern Lights area is Alaska, Iceland, Northern Scandinavia, Canada (Yukon and Nunavut). The lights can be observed from mid-September to mid-April. The reasons for this trend are due to the March and September equinox. The time can be anywhere between 6 p.m. and 4 a.m. though the probability and intensity can be higher between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. During peak activities, one can expect several flares.

Here is a photo that was taken with the elements: nearly full moon on the horizon, a few sodium vapor street lamps, a few commercial building lights.

Northern Lights in Iceland September 2019 - www.the-sum.com

Northern Lights in Iceland September 2019 – www.the-sum.com

The Kp-index for the night was less than 3 which is relatively mild but the sky was clear and Northern Lights could be seen.  If you are lucky, you may find yourself in a place where the horizon is clear, the sky is clear and Kp-index is high.

For photography, you need the following:
1. A sturdy tripod
2. A remote shutter release with an intervalometer
3. A camera with manual setup
4. A wide-angle lens with sharp infinity focus
5. A headlight or flashlight – for working with your equipment.
6. Warm clothing including cap, gloves, boots, depending upon how well you can deal with the elements
7. Spare battery and disk for the camera

Depending upon how long you have had the equipment and circumstances that you have used, it may be strongly recommended to practice using the equipment in the dark. I have seen people getting disappointed. There is no certainty of the duration of the Northern Lights and you come under pressure and that makes it worse. You need to know, exactly how you are going to do it and how to set up the equipment. Your kit has to be ready.

The most important would be to learn setting up your camera to manual mode and shoot at infinity focus. It works fine in the day. For it to work at night, you have to set up your camera on the tripod – in aperture priority mode, manually focus, in the smallest f stop(the widest) where your lens performs the best (for most it would be something like f2.0 to f4.0) on bright light, farther than 30 feet and try to refine focus with magnified focus.  There are lenses where you can lock the focus ring and if you have such an option you can do this in the day.  There are other lenses like Irix 15mm which would click at Infinity.  Once this is done, dial your camera to manual mode. Set shutter speed to be 6 – 8 seconds. Change the ISO to be between 1600 and 6400. You may have to experiment with shutter speed and ISO to get the best out of your equipment. After a few shots review and if need be, adjust.  Besides this, you should set your camera to shoot in RAW plus JPG. Set JPG to be the highest quality and maximum size. Set camera to AWB.

northern-lights-in-Iceland www.the-sum.com

northern-lights-in-Iceland – www.the-sum.com

This photo was taken on September 21, 2019, using Sony A7III with Irix 15mm lens canon mount + mc11 adapter.

If your camera has an intervalometer, then set the repeat cycle and set for the number of shots. Normally, newer cameras have this built-in intervalometer otherwise you may use the remote release. It is advisable to remove all filters from the lens when shooting the Northern Lights.

As part of the preparation, it is useful to identify the foreground and access to it during the day. This adds to the overall result.

It is possible to use smartphone to take photos of North Lights which entails using an application that would take long exposure shots. You have to still place your phone on a tripod and allow for the steady shots. Samsung S10 or S10 plus has camera app with PRO mode and that should make it possible to take photos of Northern Lights.

Please remember that processor of a full frame camera produces the cleanest and manageable noise levels in photo. Any camera, including that of smartphones, will produce, relatively noisy and less clean photos at night. It may be best to research to choose from between your options.

In real world situation, supposing you are visiting, say, Iceland. You may be moving from location to location and visiting various falls,  lagoons, geyser or other attractions. By the end of the day, after a couple of beers, it becomes a challenge to look out for Northern Lights. But since this is on your agenda, it is upon you to organize in a manner that you are on the look out and have a plan.

As a matter of full disclosure, I have some affiliate links which will earn me a small commission without impacting the product or service you may get.