tableofcolors

Simple pleasures

Harry Potters all three

by tableofcolors

I don’t quite remember when we have had such a fickle summer. In 2004, it was perhaps the most rainy, but now if the sun shines and it warms up even a bit, the children start to plan a swimming trip. And there is reason to their logic. In two hours it may be that the sun is gone and we might have a shower before the sky clears up and the gives us a dramatic sunset.

dramatic sunsetBut I must say that even without the warmth that is traditionally associated with summer, it has been a good summer. The children have had time off from school and time for free play. Harry Potter is what they have been playing lately at our house as our soon to be nine-year-old has read them all and is reading them now for the second time and is directing the play. I overheard our six-year-old saying “…I don’t want to start from the beginning as it is so long…can we start from part three?” I wonder it he meant book three? The game can go on for days, taking a natural break at times and then continuing on the next day with new inspiration. This type of role-playing was my favorite way to play as well as a kid.

Harry Potter all three...

Harry Potters all three…

This afternoon I made the kids a homemade chocolate pudding for snack. I thought I had some extra milk that needed to be used up, in fact I didn’t as they had guzzled it up while I had been at the store. I thought they might like it and in the end, the homemade version has a lot less sugar than the store-bought versions.
Homemade chocolate pudding (gluten-free)

makes 9 servings

1.5 liters/3 pints of whole milk (farm fresh if you can get it)
2 dl/1 c sugar
1 tbsp vanilla sugar or one vanilla pod
1 dl/ 1/2 c cocoa poweder
about 12-15 tbsp cornstarch
3 egg yolks
little water

Place the milk, sugar and vanilla pod or vanilla sugar into a pot and bring to a simmer. Make sure it does not boil over. It does not need stirring at this point. Meanwhile in a separate combine the cornstarch and cocoa with a little water to make a paste and whisk in the egg yolks. As the milk starts to simmer, let it simmer for a few minutes. Remove a cup or two of the hot milk and mix with the cornstarch mixture. Whisk until smooth. Make sure the milk is on low at this point. Pour the cocoa mixture in a stream into the simmering milk and sugar mixture and whisk constantly. Cook until the first bubbles have formed and then remove from heat. Spoon into glasses or small serving bowls and sprinkle with sugar to prevent a “skin” from forming. Chill and serve…maybe with a dollop of cream.

homemade chocolate pudding collageI have a few butterflies in my tummy. I’m kind of a city-slicker and we will be going with my husband, just the two of us, into the wilderness of northern Sweden and northern Norway. We will climb the nordic fells and cross the border to go see the fjords. Exciting and definitely a little bit out of my comfort zone. But I’m sure it will definitely be an unforgettable trip. Welcome back in a little over a week or so for pictures from our trip or follow my instagram #tableofcolors and #jenkkimutsimaalla for on-the-spot photo updates. Wish me luck!

All the King’s Men

by tableofcolors

We told our children that we were planning a little trip while they are on summer vacation. One of them asked immediately, “Are we going abroad?” No, we were not planning to go abroad, but rather somewhere much closer to home and only a couple of hours away. We drove through the beautiful and vast lake country to Savonlinna which is actually situated on an island. The city of Savonlinna was founded in 1475 and along the same time the contruction of Olavinlinna was started.

olavinlinna

June has been really quite rainy, but we were lucky and the past weekend was perfect. I was excited to bring the kids to a medieval castle and see how it would affect their imaginations. We have been borrowing books from the library that tell of life in times past, of knights and castles and of course princesses. We took the tour that brought us through skinny passageways and uneven and steep steps. The castle was originally built to protect Finland which was then under the rule of Sweden from the East. The city of Savonlinna comes to life in the summer as the international Opera Festival is yearly held in the castle in July. Even as we were there, we could sense the buzz. Along the waterfront, there were people dressed in summer dresses and pressed shirts waiting for the evening performances to begin. And inside as I was photographing, delivery boys came in bringing in crates of water bottles and a box of flower bouquets perhaps for the performers.

all the king's men olavinlinna finland

The interesting thing is that Aunt Elma also visited Savonlinna and Olavinlinna as they were building the large stage for the opera festival. The Savonlinna Opera festival was initiated by Aino Ackté, who was an internationally renowned opera star at the turn of the 20th century. When we lived in Helsinki, we lived right by her summer home which I would often run or walk by several times a week.

Elma relates in her texts of her trip in Finland in the 1930s, that she arrived to the island castle of Olavinlinna by boat. Today there is a small bridge that allows for pedestrians to cross. She said that you could hear new times comes with the banging of the hammers as they built a theater to seat a thousand. The opera festival has three different stages. Two are inside the castle and one is outdoors encircled by the walls of the castles creating wonderful acoustics that Aino Ackté originally fell in love with. When we were there, there would have been an opportunity to go on a back stage tour, but as we had our children with, we thought that the day might become too long for them to do both tours, so we opted for just the basic tour of the castle.

opera stage

In the photo above, you can see the tent structure covering the outdoor stage. But Oh, Elma! I had to laugh when I was reading her accounts from her trip. I suppose it was quite exotic in the 1930s for someone to come all the way from America and as I understood she was introduced to the actors and stayed at the same place as well.

Aunt Elma's experiences 1930s

The castle walls with windows made for a picturesque theater and the large trees that surrounded gave it a green ceiling and natural curtain, and the midnight sun would give the light. Aino Actké, the prima donna of Finland, and other famous singers were in the program. Our guide, who was able to speak English showed us the armory, the womens’ room, the chapel and confessional and the dungeon that had contained Olaf for fifteen years (as to which Olaf is in question, I am not certain as St. Olaf after which the castle was named lived around the year 1000 and I was not able to find more detail). In the Savonlinna city they presented a play called Matkan pää or roughly translated The end of the Journey that took place during war time. It was too sad. Although it was late, they had to release the curtains in order to make ‘night’. In the morning as I came down the stairs, I met one of the actors. I was surprised and exclaimed, ‘I thought you died!’ ‘No’ He exclaimed, ‘It was only acting’. He then introduced the other actors to us. The director then explained to the others, when I spoke or acted in an unladylike manner according to Finnish standards, so that they would not get the wrong impression, ‘Look, she is American and so free.’ ‘Our Finnish made them laugh.’ I said that I had worn out a pair heels (heel of the foot) climbing in Olavinlinna. ‘My dear friend, not your heel (as in heel of your foot) but heels (as in shoes).

st olaf's castle finland

After our tour of the castle we walked to the local market square to buy a local delicacy called lörtsyt. Basically it is has a fairly thin yeast-raised crust that has meat inside. The version with the reindeer and blue cheese was the best.

savonlinna market square tori

waterfront savonlinna

From Savonlinna we continued on our way to Liperi which is about a half hour drive from Joensuu in Eastern Finland. We had reserved a room through airbnb that would house our whole family. It was a literally a pleasant surprise as the pictures on the airbnb site did not do justice. It was an old school that had been renovated and currently is a yoga and wellness center called Sun Ahonlaita. They offer among other things art and yoga coarses. As it is midsummer here and Finland is known for the amount of cabins that it has per capita, the permanent residents that live at the yoga center were not there and were perhaps visiting a family cabin. That meant that we had the old school to ourselves. The interior was colorful but peaceful at the same time. Our kids really liked the small sinks on the side of the hallway that were remnants of passed days. They were at the perfect height for them to brush their teeth and wash their hands.

Sun ahonlaita airbnb

Our room had four bunk beds with a total of 8 beds. One for each of us. Perfect! The gym turned yoga studio, living room and kitchen is in use for guests. Of course if others are there you will need to remember to be courteous. Since we didn’t have to share this time we were able to let the children run out their evening energy out in the yoga studio. I wouldn’t mind having one at home either!

yoga studio

yoga studio sun ahonlaita

And in the evening light close to 11 pm after the kids had gone to bed we enjoyed a some vendace baked into a rye crust that we had bought from the market square in Savonlinna. Really a perfect end to a perfect day.

muikku kukko vendence

Other posts about Elma: Elma’s travels, Some Mean Coffee, Easter Mummus a Bobcat and our very own Wild Thing, Following Elma’s footsteps, Keepsakes in my Kitchen, Elma, In My Kitchen in the bleak Mid-winter,

The Magic of Midsummers

by tableofcolors

We haven’t had any typical summer weather yet this year. We haven’t gone swimming yet once as the wind has been strong and temperature quite cool and nearly everyday we have had some showers. But the weather has been perfect for the fairies. I doubt they fly if it is too hot and the air still.

keskikesän taika keijujenmaaMidsummers is upon us and since it has rained a bit in the early evening the ground is moist. As the day comes to a close, the sky clears and a magical misty fog rolls in. It moves gently and from far away the top of it curls and then uncurls again. But it is impossible to capture on camera, because as you approach it, the details that can be seen from farther away vanish. Just like the fairies that fly on midsummers and rest occasionally on the flowers that all seem to bloom just in time for this day.

foggy landscape

As you might imagine, the children had been asking what our plans are for St. John’s or midsummers. We really didn’t have any plans and or even the energy to plan a trip somewhere as we had just got our Daddy back. Over the past 11 months, he would be gone during the weeks and sometimes a couple of weeks in a row. Maybe the kids weren’t tired, but the adults were. I thought perhaps we could think of something low-key just at home with our family. The idea originally came from a friend. I had thought many times that it would be fun to do with our family as well and so I presented the idea on Thursday. A hotel breakfast. It would give everyone something to do in spite of the rain and cool weather.

hotelli aamiainen suuret herkkusuut collageThe day before I made the florentine base. I was inspired by this BBC good food recipe but along the way it changed so much that the end product barely represented the original.

Gluten-free florentines with coconut, dried blueberry and apricot

 

120 g/4.2 oz demerara sugar
20 g/just under 1 oz brown sugar
100 g/3.5 oz clear honey
200 g/7 oz butter
150 g/5.3 oz rounghly chopped mixed nuts (some may be chopped finer and others may remain a little larger)
100 g/3.5 oz dessicated coconut
4 tbsp (35 g/1.2 oz) gluten-free flour
25 g/just under 1 oz dried blueberries
45 g/1.5 oz dried apricot finely chopped

Measure the sugars, honey and butter into a medium size sauce pan and melt until the sugar is dissolved. In a separate bowl mix coconut, gluten-free flour and dried blueberries and apricots. The original recipe used sliced glacé cherries and almonds. Mix the dry mixture into the melted sugar and butter mixture stir until combined. Spread the florentine batter on a baking sheet that is lined with grease-proof parchment paper and has small sides.

Bake at 180 C/350 F for about 10 minutes or until a rich golden brown. If I was remake these I would reduce the bake time by a minute as mine got a bit dark, so keep an eye on your batch as every oven is different.

florentine baseAfter the base is baked and cooled, flip unto another pan and remove the paper. Melt about 200 g/7 oz dark chocolate and in a separate bowl melt about 100 g/3.5 oz white chocolate. Spread the dark chocolate over the cooled florentine base. Drop dollops of white chocolate on the dark base and proceed to make a marble pattern of your choice.

strawberry goat cheese florentine collageAllow the chocolate to set. Take a cookie cutter and cut out simple shapes. Cookie cutters with small corners such as stars do not work nearly as well.

Cream and Goat Cheese filling
2 dl/ 1 c heavy whipping cream
50 g/1.8 oz soft spreadable goat cheese (cream cheese style)
sugar to taste

Whip the cream until thick. Mix in the goat cheese and mix until combined. Do not overmix. Add sugar to taste. Spoon a spoonful of goat cheese mixture on each florentine and garnish with fresh strawberries.

juhannus päivän aamiainenrieskanäkkäri ja kananmuna aioli 2Spelt and Barley thin crisps with Egg aioli with mushroom and Kale (I used a local thin bread from a bakery just down the road, Leipomo J Martin)
200 g/7 oz mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
10 free-range eggs
1/2 onion
60 g/2 oz celery, finely chopped (about two thin stalks)
rosemary
oregano
a few leaves of fresh basil and chives chopped
25 g/1 oz roughly chopped kale, fresh or frozen
salt and pepper to taste

100 g/3.5 oz- 150 g/5.3 oz aioli
mushroom egg bake kananmuna sieni paistosChop the vegetables and herbs and set aside for a minute. Whisk the eggs and combine with the vegetables and herbs. Add the salt and pepper.  Bake at 160 C/320 F for about 30-32 minutes. Allow to cool until lukewarm. Break up the baked eggs with a fork and mix in the aioli. Serve with crisp bread of your choices. Garnish with fresh herbs and leaves of baby kale.

breakfast brunch collagesuuret herkkusuut hotel breakfastjuhannus auringlasku sunset on midsummersHappy Midsummers and Happy Father’s day! <3

Motherhood in my Kitchen

by tableofcolors

Do you ever have days when you reflect back over the past year or years. Think of whether the job you are doing is good enough. School just ended for our children. Traditionally in Finland the children and parents will sing the suvivirsi or summer hymn. In my kitchen I had children practicing the song for their last day of school last Saturday. Some schools will have a hour long spring program at the school starting in the morning and other schools have spring church which closes their school year. After the spring program or church the teachers will hand out the report cards in the church yard or classrooms. We have children in two schools and so we have a bit of both traditions. The video clip below is of the children and adults singing the suvivirsi at the Kannus church.

The song pulls on my heart strings. The children are so excited to give their teachers little gifts and start summer vacation and on the other hand I wonder where another year went. Two of our six children have severe dyslexia, and I often find that on the last day I wonder if we had done enough or if there might have been another opportunity that we might have realized or delved into. I have found that with dyslexia success needs to be found outside the standard measures of academia. Often they know how to be quite creative as thinking outside of the box is norm for them rather than the exception. It is, I believe the secret to their success. But finding that secret and the toolbox of skills is like a long treasure hunt. Every stone needs to be turned and every method tried but fortunately there is always next year and a new opportunity to try again. But carefree summer is here. We’ll put it all aside for moment and just enoy lunches eaten out on the patio and the rustle of the leaves on the trees and maybe when it warms up, we’ll go for a swim.

last day of school collageThe last day of school is also graduation day for the high schools or lukio. This year our trusted babysitter graduated and received her white cap as is the tradition here. So in my kitchen I had a gluten-free and milk-free cake that I made for her graduation party. Congratulations and best wishes Lotta!

gradution in finlandGluten-free and Milk-free chocolate cake

3 eggs
1 dl/85 g/ 1/2 c sugar
3/4 dl/ 50 g/ 1/3 c brown sugar
225 g/8 oz light naturally gluten-free flour mix (I used Viljatuote)
75 g/2.5 oz dark unsweetened cocoa
dash of salt
1 dl/ 1/2 c olive oil

20 cm/ 8 inch cake form, buttered with vegetable fat and floured with gluten-free flour

Beat the eggs and sugars until it is light in color and thick. Fold in the sifted flour, cocoa and salt. Mix in the olive oil. Pour the batter into the prepared cake form and bake in the oven at 170 C/340 F for about 22 minutes or until the test skewer comes out clean. Do not over bake, as the texure is somewhere between a cake and a brownie.

If your cake does not need to be a milk-free version, you may use dairy whipped cream. For this version, I used a soy cream.

Frosting

2 dl/ generous cup of heavy whipping cream or whippable soy cream
sugar to taste

rhubarbI can’t tell you how much joy spring and the beginning of summer bring. It is so much fun to watch as plants grow and over years become larger, fuller and produce more fruit. Our apple trees we planted last summer have a few delicate blooms on them. Another measure of time. In the very back of the yard is the new home for the rhubarb. We noticed that they did not really like the planting box that was in direct sunlight and prefers the partly shady patch under the trees in our Pikkumetsä or Little Forest as the kids call it. It truly is little. We built our house on what used to be an agricultural field and a mere fifty years ago was a lake bottom. In the back triangular corner of our lot there is a little group of trees, five in total and some shrubs and tall grasses. That is the Little Forest. And so, the other day I went to go inspect their growth and decided to make Gramma Reeni’s Rhubarb Tart, which has become a tradition in the early summer. Gramma Reeni or Irene is my Great-grandmother and lived many years outside of Rochester, Minnesota. The photo below is taken before she was married. What a pretty lady. I’m assuming that the photo would have been taken in Southern Minnesota, as travel required a bit more effort than today and was not quite as common.

gramma reeni collage This time around I served the tart with whipped cream to which I had added a carton of créme fraîche and just a touch of sugar. It got rave reviews as always with this tart, as it is a foolproof recipe and one that even those who do not like rhubarb might like. Click on the link above to go to the original recipe posted two years ago.

hobby horse

In my kitchen yesterday, I had bits and pieces of string and yarn everywhere. The situation was, that there where not enough hobby horses. And so we had to make a couple more, or rather the kids made a couple more. I happened to have a pair of my husband’s wool socks that he has not used for probably thirteen years, if ever and so they were now donated to the children to be repurposed. Erik ran to the Little Forest and hauled a couple of sticks back to the garage which I helped saw and remove the bark to reveal a smoother surface. I found some left over cotton filling and wool socks that had holes in them to be used as the filling, and although I am not really an active sewer or knitter, we did have enough wool yarn for them to make a mane. The project turned into an all-day project, and every once in a while I would leave my baking that I was doing in the kitchen to help out or be their judge for the competition complete with hurdles.

hobby horse raceshobby horse race track demoIrene and DarleneIn the photo is Great-gramma Reeni and Gramma Darlene as a baby. I suppose even then, or perhaps always, mothers have reflected on their success as mothers. Some days we are more successful than others, but truly I think we try almost harder on the days we are not.

This post is part of Celia’s In My Kitchen Series from Fig Jam and Lime Cordial. Check out her blog for links to kitchens around the world.

All of my favorite places

by tableofcolors

Summer is almost here and perhaps some of you are planning a trip to Helsinki. The city offers many young people summer jobs and so many young adults flock to the city and during their off-hours enjoy the parks and everything that summer has to offer.

Part of my job is to know what others are doing in the coffee shop and café business. So whenever I have a day with meetings in Helsinki, I dive into the city and find the places that people on social media are buzzing about and see if they are as good as they are claimed to be. Here are some of my most recent finds.

Street performers in Helsinki

Street performers in Helsinki

The street performance above took place just across the street from the famous Stockmann’s department store which is like Helsinki’s Selfridge’s and the clock in front is a popular meeting place. In the summer there are many street performers in the downtown area. Sometimes it seems like there is one on every corner. Almost like free little concerts and among them you may choose a performer which best fits your taste.

helsinki street performers

Along the Esplanad, which is a parkway right in the center of town can be found Café Esplanad, known for their gigantic cinnamon rolls that should almost be shared. But less than a ten minute walk away situated at Bulevardi 9 is The Grand Old Dame of Helsinki Cafés, the Ekberg Bakery and Café that has been around since 1852. The bakery and café both have their own entries but are situated right next door. The first time I walked into the door of the bakery, I breathed in a smell from childhood. It smelled just like the Wuollet Bakery.

ekberg collage

Ekberg and their Napoleon

If you were to continue the walk down Bulevardi to the harbor area there are some old brick factory buildings that have gained a new purpose. Moko Market and Kaffa Roastery are treasures of a place that I will certainly be returning to and are located at Perämiehenkatu 10. Moko Market has a café and fresh salads and lunches daily along with a large interior design store. Right next door and sharing a walk-through doorway on the inside is Kaffa Roastery. They pride themselves with their expert knowledge in coffee. Today the old industrial area is part of the trendy design district.

Moko Market

Moko Market

mokomarket cafekaffa roastery

Returning from the scene of the old factories there is another treasure of a place that even won an award for their ambience. Fleuriste is located on Uudenmaankatu 13. It is tiny but so cozy and you may stop and enjoy their French influence in this quiet little niche right in the heart of the city. In addition to their lovely things to eat, the owner makes beautiful flower arrangements to order.

Fleuriste

Fleuriste

Or you could take their Fleuriste’s lovely homemade sandwiches or sweet treats to the Old Church parkway, just a few blocks away right on Bulevardi and neatly tucked away from the main drag, Mannerheimintie.

Vanha Kirkko  or Old Church taken in to use in 1826 and designed by Carl Ludvig Engel, Lönnrotinkatu 6

Vanha Kirkko or Old Church taken in to use in 1826 and designed by Carl Ludvig Engel and can be found at: Lönnrotinkatu 6

Just a stone throw’s away is Hotel Torni at Yrjönkatu 26, which was for years the tallest building in Helsinki. It has a colorful history full of politicians and celebrities. Today there is a sky bar that has a wonderful view over Helsinki. Taking the elevator up and climbing the round staircase to the top is free and on both sides there a large outdoor patios. Definitely a place to go visit. And as you can see from the cityscape, the Old Church is just below.

Hotelli Torni, cityscape of Helsinki

Hotelli Torni, cityscape of Helsinki

If you might have a few days of time I would recommend using an afternoon to visit Suomenlinna which is the fortress right off of Helsinki. There is ferry that takes off at the Market Square about every twenty or thirty minutes and the ride takes about 10 minutes to the island.

Suomenlinna

Suomenlinna

A twenty-five minute bus ride (bus 24, leaving from Lasipalatsi) will bring you Seurasaari which is a free outdoor museum on a little island with a bridge connecting it to mainland. It is the perfect place to enjoy a picnic if the weather if fair and learn a little about Finnish history as there are many old dwellings brought from all over Finland that have been reconstructed on site.

Seurasaari

Seurasaari

These are some of my favorite places, and I feel the list could go and on. So I’ll leave you with a couple of newcomers that just opened their doors to customers during the past couple of months.

The Cock

The Cock, Fabianinkatu 17

 The Cock is a high class neighborhood eatery and a place that I would like to revisit. They serve breakfast until 10 am and their lunch menu looks delicious. They are open into the evening so really any time of day will do.

friends & brgrsWhile I normally don’t mention fast-food, I do need to mention Friends & Brgrs, located on Mikonkatu 8 right in downtown Helsinki. They pride themselves on housemade mayo, using never-frozen beef and making each burger to order. Their fries are homemade using a special process and when I stopped by at lunch time the place was hopping. Be prepared to wait twenty minutes for your burger. I thought it was worth the wait.

grass-fed beef burger with onion and aoiliAnd this is my Friends & Brgrs inspired home-made burger made with grass-fed organic (never-frozen-directly-from-the-butcher) beef with aioli, baby kale and carmelized onions. Oh, and a slice of manchego cheese.

 

Welcome to Helsinki!

Elma’s travels

by tableofcolors

Last weekend we escaped for 24 hours. I have come to think that they are almost one of the best kinds of retreats. Certainly it does not offer the opportunity to travel somewhere far, but I have realized that often we don’t really explore all of the neat places that are close to home, not to mention that traveling close to home is often quite budget-friendly and usually organizing a babysitter is a fairly easy task. We drove a little over an hour East to Imatra which is almost right at the border between Finland and Russia. It was a place that Elma* had visited during her travels to Finland as well. She had come with great expectations, as there is a the State Hotel in Imatra that has been built in 1903 to represent a jugend-style castle. There had been two previous wooden hotels in the same location looking over the waterfalls and rapids but both had burned. It was a location favored by the Russian aristocracy and it can be called the oldest tourist attraction of Finland as even Russian Empress Catherine the Great visited in 1772. And so Elma had significant expectations. state hotel imatra salonIn her writings she describes the carvings of the animals that she thought were rather funny and the art that could be found in all of the rooms. She felt that she saw more art in one stay than in a normal year unless one visited art galleries. She described that the interior was rather simple with the crowning element in each room being a round green enamel wood-burning fireplace. The simplicity left room for the artwork, which in her opinion were not always of the highest quality, but were an improvement over the “The Lone wolf” print that could be found in nearly every waiting and sitting room in the USA (1930s) at that time.

state hotel imatraRight below the hotel is a small canyon that used to be full of rushing water. Today it is void of water except on certain days when they run water for show. I guess she had heard of it called the Niagara of Finland and wrote that they had heard too much and had imagined it to much wider and larger. But the nature in the area and in all of Finland found a place in her heart. She said that just five minutes outside of Niagara the spell is broken, but in Finland the enchantment continues all around.

imatra“In Imatra, the forest, roads and villages all give of themselves to afford an befitting view. Indeed, when traveling in any direction in Finland the enchantment does not break. In between there is changes (in landscape) but this natural picture has no gaps and it flows like a poem. The plentifulness of wood and the force of the water are ideal for the factory. Practicality and beauty are combined. The company’s railroad goes through picturesque forest and the factory looks like a large vacation home situated right above the river. The workmens’ wives use a shared laundry room, which they are able to use on certain appointed days along with the laundry machines and wringer. And while children play the talkative tongues of the mothers’ make this difficult work day a day of joy.”

saimaa fallsThe Imatra Falls enjoyed their peak in tourism during the late 1800s and early 1900s. St. Petersburg was only about 40 kilometers away and during that time Finland was an autonomous part of Russia meaning that travel across the border was simple and wealthy Russians came to Finland as it was so much closer than central Europe. But as often happens with the advance of technology and industry, a dam was built in 1929 which dried up the falls except for on certain days.

These two links show the Imatra falls in the old days. The one above is a slide show of old postcards that showcase the landscape of the rushing falls. The link below is series of old photos of people posing at the falls. Perhaps this is the scene that met Elma when she arrived in Imatra.

We didn’t stay at the old State Hotel, rather we stayed at the Holiday Club Saimaa which is about 16 kilometers outside of Imatra. The scenery is beautiful there and we enjoyed a walk along the shores of the Saimaa, Finland’s largest lake and Europe’s fourth largest lake.

saimaaJust a few weeks back the landscape was quite brown, but with all of the rain, there are buds and sometimes even small leaves on trees. The green is the fresh spring green, that comes and goes just as quick before the deeper greens of summer. Even the hotel restaurant, Le Biff had light greens on it’s menu as it had a separate asparagus menu which I tried.

asparagus tart starter le biff

Asparagus tart and small salad with pesto dressing

As a suprise, all diners that evening received little cups of fresh asparagus and pea soup before their starter. The flavor was fresh and peppery and so I decided to give it a try at home this week.

asparagus and pea soup

Fresh aspargus and pea soup

600 g/21 oz fresh or frozen peas (I used frozen)
One bunch of asparagus, trimmed and washed
enough water to just cover the vegetables (or half and half water/vegetable stock)
juice of one lemon
handful of parsley, chopped
salt
black pepper

Wash and trim the asparagus. I always use a vegetable peeler and peel the woody parts away on the stalk. Chop into bite size pieces and place into a medium size pot. Add the peas and cover with water. Alternatively you may use half water and half vegetable stock. Place on heat and allow to simmer until the asparagus is tender. Add lemon juice, salt and black pepper and a handful of chopped fresh parsley.

Using an immersion wand, mix until fairly smooth. I left a bit of texture. Serve as a starter or as a lunch with fresh crusty bread and garnish with black pepper.

fresh asparagus and pea soupquality time

*Elma is my Great-great Aunt and a colorful persona who lived in the Finnish quarter of Minneapolis and visited Finland in the 1930s.

Previous posts about Elma: Some Mean Coffee, Easter Mummus, a Bobcat and our very own Wild Thing, Following Elma’s footsteps, Keepsakes in my Kitchen, Elma, In my Kitchen in the Bleak mid-winter, Memories of times passed

historical resource: Historical pages of the city of Imatra

May

by tableofcolors

My bucket list of places to see in Stockholm seemed to just grow after visiting there. Three days was clearly enough to whet the appetite. We did have the opportunity visit some restaurants and the old market hall or Saluhall in Östermalm and Rosendals Trädgård, a beautiful garden center with a lovely café and bakery. The bakery has a wood burning oven with which they bake their breads. I could see the smoke rising from the chimney into the blue sky. The bread was perfect. Perfectly moist and chewy on the inside and a crusty crust that crunches a bit when you bite into it. Rosendals, meaning the Rose Valley, has a long history of gardeners going back to the later 1700s. It is located on the island of Djurgården which is situated behind Skansen, a historical outdoor museum and zoo. While we did not have time to visit Skansen, it is a place I will be taking my girls. But I do think they would have liked Rosendals as well, and am very grateful to the lovely Mizz Marzipan for all of her suggestions.rosendals collage

Rosendals has a lovely café and everything they serve is organic. During the growing season they try to serve as much of their own produce as possible.

 

rosendals stockholm collagerosendals  organic roastbeefFor lunch they had three different lunch time options in addition to the sandwiches and sweets on display on a large table. We had their roast beef that was nestled on top of a roasted endive half and a spring onion that still had its roots intact. The roots were actually quite delicious as they had become almost crisp from the grilling. Lunch starts at 11.30 and we arrived a bit before. As soon as lunch service started, the parking lot off to side began filling up and the line became long. It clearly was a popular place to come enjoy the beautiful spring day.

specerietOne evening we had dinner at a restaurant called Speceriet which is located in the Östermalm area of Stockholm. Instead of having separate tables, there were three community tables. Our timing was perfect. Just a bit after we were seated the place began filling up. As they do not take reservations, it all depends on your luck and timing. I think that it is a place that would be easy to come to by yourself or with your friends and family. We had goat kid that rested on a bed of roasted beetroot and goat cheese.

goat kid speceriet stockholmAlso situated in Östermalm is the old Market Hall or Saluhall. We found it slightly by accident as we were wandering about and ended up visiting it twice. Once we had lunch there, and my lunch plate of pickled herring reminded me of our family’s summer go-to fast-food when we are in rush.

old saluhall stockholmplate of pickled herringEvery summer when we have been spending the day outside and there is not the desire to linger in the kitchen longer than necessary, we boil up a batch of new potatoes and open a jar of pickled herring and make a quick salad. I think it could be the perfect lunch for May Day as well since the sun is shining today. This time around I sautéed a bit of asparagus in coconut oil. It turned out delicious and a bit crispy.

sautéing asparagus in coconut oilmay day food

Yesterday I had a meeting in Helsinki and afterwards there was the opportunity to walk around the city and observe the city as it had donned their caps for Vappu or May Day. It is traditional for people to wear their white gradution cap. Some of them are already old and yellow but perhaps even more prized than the clean white ones, as it was not as common for everyone to have graduated from lukio or the Finnish high school back in the 1920s, 30s, or 40s.

helsinki may day vappuhelsinki cityscapeBack at home the kids were just as excited if not more so with their contagious energy.

clown

vappu ballons mayday at homeHappy May Day to all of you my dear readers!

Torpatoffeln shoes made in Sweden

Torpatoffeln shoes made in Sweden

I almost forgot, Lisa! Here is a snapshot of the shoes I bought in Sweden that I promised to post…they are comfortable to wear and I do gain a few inches of height. :)

Some Mean Coffee

by tableofcolors

When Elma was on her tour of Finland, she visited Stockholm for short while crossing the Gulf of Bothnia by ship. Elma is my Great-great-Aunt, and I have been sharing bits and pieces of her travels and her writing. The ferry over is still the typical way to travel from Finland to Sweden, but last week we decided to fly with my sister Kaija, who is currently on her tour of Europe. Taking the ship across takes the whole day or night, depending when you leave and we felt we just didn’t have that extra time. In addition, plane tickets were actually less expensive.

tukholman matkaWhen Elma had been on the ship, she had ordered “Kalt Watten” at dinner but the waitress did not understand and brought mineral water.

I requested normal water and one gentleman came to help. He interpreted and asked if I would like drinking water and I answered, “Of course, I do not wish to bathe.” She then brought me water, but it was not cold. This man was a Swedish journalist, who had been in Finland writing about the Lapua movement (which was a radical nationalist and anti-communist movement and was banned after a failed coup-d’état in 1932.) He praised Finland but was happy to get away. Although he had visited Finland many times, he felt they were brusque. I told him that the Finns were the best, the most honest, solemn and as deep feeling as can be, but that for their own protection they have a hard shell into which they escape. But once you break the shell and win their trust, you will have a friend for life. He laughed and said that I have been sold to my own nationality, but did admit that what I said was true. A nut is sweet to eat if your teeth do not first break biting into the shell.

gamla stan

Elma did not write of what she might have seen in Stockholm, as it seemed like she was in a hurry to get back to Finland. She only had a couple more days after returning before her boat to America was scheduled to leave. And so I will share something of what we saw and experienced.

kings castleIt had been years since I had been in Stockholm last, 17 to be exact. We were with a group of teenagers focused more on having a jolly time instead of actually enjoying the city. I remember that some of us tried to make guard at the Royal Palace smile or lose composure. I think that we did not succeed very well. This time I just took photos like all well-behaved tourists.

kungsträdgården cherry blossoms kings garden

Just the beginning of the cherry blossoms in Kungsträdgården, The King’s Garden

Before our trip, I sent Marissa from Miss Marzipan a note asking her for suggestions of where we should go. I received a whole list of wonderful suggestions. We only made it through some of them, giving a good excuse to plan a new trip in the future. I could imagine that my older girls would absolutely love the Drottningholm castle and gardens and everything there is to see. Perhaps we will make a mother-daughter trip there sometime, as Stockholm is really quite accesible from Finland.

airbnb södermalmKaija had reserved us a room through airbnb, which is a service on the internet that people may rent out rooms from their home or even an entire flat. This time we had a room and our host Siwa, made us feel so welcome and comfortable in her cozy apartment right in the heart of Södermalm. I really like the vibe in Södermalm which is full of old building built in the 1700s. We saw parks full of moms giving their babies a ride in the swings and lots of dads pushing their little ones in perhaps Emmaljunga prams. I saw several nice looking second hand shops and we stopped in one. I really liked the fact that they had made an effort to organize the used clothing by color. Sometimes I just feel overwhelmed at the flea market when everything seems to be in one giant unorganized pile, that I almost do not know where to start looking. I suppose that is a skill that some just naturally acquire and others have to practice.

RödaKorset Hornsgatan 54

RödaKorset Hornsgatan 54

In all truth, we didn’t really shop at all, but at one point we needed directions to the pharmacy and so we decided to stop in a shoe store that almost seemed like it was calling our name. It became an expensive way to find the way to the pharmacy as we both left with contemporary wooden clogs, made in Sweden. And I love them.

Miss Marzipan suggested that we check out some of the local coffee shops and much to our delight a couple of them were situated not far from our home away from home in Södermalm. The following places serve up wonderful coffee. Loved the window seats at Johan och Nyström’s. It’s the perfect way to people watch and check out whats going on in the street. One benefit of traveling outside of traditional tourist season is that you are able to observe everyday life as people come and go to work, spend time with their families and run errands.

Just as we were getting up to leave from Johan och Nyström’s an older gentleman biked up to the window. His bike had a dog bed in front of the handlebars and his dog sat in it all well behaved. He lifted his dog down and soon they were inside ordering a cup of coffee.

Drop Coffee Roasters Wollmar Yxskullsgatan 10

Drop Coffee Roasters Wollmar Yxskullsgatan 10

Drop Coffee Roasters is just a stone’s throw away from Johan och Nyström’s and is a place that would be perfect for a little meeting or for doing work outside of the office. There were several rooms and nooks and crannies. That is the beauty of old buildings. They are comfortable and have a charm that newer buildings just don’t seem to have.

Mean Coffee Vasagatan 38

Mean Coffee Vasagatan 38

Normally I do not drink coffee since I am so sensitive to caffeine, but I made an exception on this trip. I had a cup at Mean Coffee and Johan och Nyström’s. The flavor was smooth and tasted wonderful since I rarely am able to have such a treat. At Drop Coffee I had their ginger tea, made from real ginger and tasted quite similar to the ginger tea I have been making. It was the perfect thing to have after having caffeine. Mean Coffee is situated in the downtown area and is small but well designed. Everything is proportionate so it felt comfortable. The menu was quite simple, but effort had been put into the quality. For example they had two different smoothie options instead of six. I had their avocado spinach smoothie and it was lovely. And they do serve a cup of Mean coffee. Go try it, I promise you’ll like it.

Brandstationen Hornsgatan Vintage Shop

Brandstationen Hornsgatan Vintage Shop

evening sunset and the trains

Easter Mummus, a Bobcat and our very own Wild Thing

by tableofcolors

It seems to me that children have always loved dressing up as someone that they are not. I remember as a kid that whenever I dressed up, I was transported in my imagination and play into another time period and another place. Often play was significantly inspired by the books we read and often we would play Little House on the Prairie. This past weekend on Palm Sunday was the day when children all around Finland dress up as little Easter Mummus or bunnies or, like in our case since we didn’t have any bunny costumes, we had one Bobcat and one Wild Thing. Earlier in the week the kids had decorated pussy willows  that they brought to neighbors in exchange for a small chocolate egg or treat. They recite a poem that wishes the people of the house fresh and well wishes for the year to come.

Easter mummusAccording to Wikipedia, the tradition of Virvonta, originated from Orthodox Eastern Finland. The decorated pussy willows would be brought to the church the day before to be blessed and symbolized the palm branches that were used to greet Jesus as he rode the donkey into Jerusalem. The tradition of virvonta has spread across the country and there are slight variations in different areas. In some areas the children are called trolls that drive away bad spirits. Basically they are all dressed the same with rosy cheeks and freckles and colorful mismatched clothes and scarves.

virvonta oksatI was looking through the old photos of Elma and concluded that certainly children liked dressing up back then as well. Elma had, as I have understood, made costumes for the kids. The kids are my Grampa Jim’s siblings, Reino and Margaret. I wonder what they might have played back then. They look a little chilly just as my kids do, as there is snow in the background.

Margaret and Reino in  Finn costumesAlthough Margaret and Reino are now much older, I think they look almost the same. Perhaps it is the eyes or the shape of face, but I think that there is a small child in all of us that never really ages.

Andersons

Andersons having fun. Elma, top row on the left

On her trip to Finland, Elma visited the Eastern part and Viipuri or Vyborg which today is a part of Russia. She said that Finland had a tradition of asking all sorts of questions from the two women travelers when they wold check into a hotel. Sometimes the questionnaires would be two pages long. She reckoned that it was a remnant of border control practices that were used during the war between Finland and Russia. registering in hotels Elmas letters

“Name and address, where are you going and where are you coming from?” “rank?” I said that I do not have a rank (in society) “Well what do you do?” “Oh–what kind of work do I do?” That was easy to answer to. “Age” At first we would diligently write our age, but when we realized that they did not check our answers, we just wrote down an age that we felt like and one that we thought we could get by with. When you have lived for half a century in one place, where everyone knows everything about us, we didn’t want to carry all of our past from home with us and so we became younger and younger as our trip went on.

Perhaps it was the little child in her, that giggled silently, bubbling in her chest trying to make its way out when she had written 27 in the age box, although some telltale signs of gray could be seen. I giggled too, but not silently and when I told my neighbor about it we had a good laugh.

tasting 2It could be entirely possible that she might have tasted these rahkapulla as I believe they have originated from Eastern Finland. Then again maybe not, since they are traditionally made for Easter but some home bakers will make them year round. I think she would have enjoyed them as much as our Isabella did.

Rahkapulla

Make a double batch of pulla dough that can be found in the link here.
Once the pulla dough has proved, lightly flour the counter and pour the dough onto the floured surface. Knead it a bit and divide it into 6 parts. Roll out each of the six parts into thick rods and divide that into 6 parts. Roll the small pieces of dough so that they forms small balls. Place onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Allow to rise. Meanwhile make the rahka filling.

500 g/17.5 ounces quark or alternatively a thick Greek or Turkish yoghurt that has been drained could be used
2 eggs
1/2 dl/just under 1/4 c heavy cream
1 dl/ 1/2 c sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice
zest of one lemon

Gently whisk the ingredients for the filling until combined.

After the pulla has proved, sprinkle with a little sugar and take a glass or cup and press it into each round pulla to make an indentation. Brush round edges of each pulla with eggwash. It is easier to do this at this stage. Spoon a generous tablespoon and a half into each indentation. Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes at 200 C/390 F.

making rahkapullaMay you have a Happy Easter.

cutting easter grass

Cappadocia

by tableofcolors

pit stop

It it nearly two weeks since I returned from Turkey and it seems like it all took place in another world and time. But I keep going back in my mind. I must tell you now, since we are nearing the end of the year. My husband has been gone during the weeks for training and work since last August. I have been surprised how well it all has gone. A couple weeks before my scheduled Turkey trip I was really feeling the toll. Maybe there was too much going on, even if I have tried to really empty the calendar of everything extra. But the truth is that everything cannot be removed from the schedule. And so the trip to Turkey came at the most perfect moment. Usually things work out better than expected if not planned too perfectly in advance. Maybe it is the fact that then the expectations are not so high as well and all sorts of pleasant surprises come along the way.

mevlana and dervishes

Mevlana Monastery Museum and the Whirling Dervishes

After our day in Manavgat we started our drive to the Cappadocia region that we would be spending the next several days. Every two hours we would stop for a comfort stop as our guide called it, and often in public areas there were stray dogs that would lazily walk around. On the way to Cappadocia we stopped in Konya which is the ancient Iconium and place where Paul and Barnabas visited and preached to the early Christain congregation in 47-48 AD. It is also the place of the Mevlana Monastery which is currently a museum but also a place of pilgrimage for some. It is the birthplace of the Mevlevi order which joined ideology from Islamic and Buddhist traditions. The monastery had been a place of training for the Dervishes and the Mevlevi Order was well established during the Ottoman empire. In 1925 the Mevlana Order was outlawed but later some parts of the spiritual rituals have been allowed because of it’s tourist appeal. During the actual performance the Whirling Dervishes fell into a trance-like state. They requested that no photos be taken until the end when they would give a short demonstration for photos.

Ürgüp

Ürgüp

Göreme National Park

Cavusin, Göreme National Park

On the right hand side of the photo above, carved into the rock is the Church of St. John the Baptist. Some of the climb was a bit steep and slippier due to loose sand. Our own tour guide could not bring us there as we needed to do the climb at our own risk. A local fellow took us up there and the funniest thing happened on the way down. He told us that we must go down a different path since the one we came up would be too dangerous to descend. I differed in opinion. It really was not that dangerous. But we all followed him down a different route. The reason for this turned out to be that the path he brought us down would go past the shop of his friend and skirt some of the others. As one of the other young men noticed that he was taking the tourist group and potential customers a different route, there was heated debate in Turkish. Too bad I don’t understand the language! Every once in a while the other miffed shopkeeper would yell out to us in English, “Too dangerous!”  He thought the path that went past his shop was safer.

göreme national park collage

Monk Valley

The unique rock formations is due to the volcanic eruptions of the three volcanoes: Mount Ercyies, Mount Hasan and Mount Melendiz. Underneath the harder layer of basalt was a softer rock that erosion weathered away making for incredible formations that are often called fairy chimneys and look like they could be straight out of a storybook.

Fairy chimneys

Fairy chimneys

Elisafairy chimneys 2I have been thinking that I must explore some of the savory dishes that they make in Turkey especially once fresh local vegetables come into season. This past week I tried my hand at Baklava. I used a ready to use frozen filo pastry dough from the grocery store and it turned out to be quite simple. I think that the flavor would have been significantly better had I used a homemade version. Next time. The secret to Turkish pastry is that they make a honey sauce that is then poured over after it is baked. The same is true with the Baklava.

baklava outside

Baklava with Rosewater and Honey (inspired by the recipe from taste.com.au )
50 g/ 1.75 oz pistachio, roasted
100 g/ 3.5 oz walnuts, roasted
150 g/5.3 almonds, roasted
1 package 375 g/13 oz of frozen filo pastry (allow to thaw for 1.5-2 hours in package before using) and trim to size of pan
zest of one lemon, grated fine
125 g/4.4 oz butter, melted
50 g sugar
cinnamon

 

Honey sauce

100 ml/1 dl/ 1/2 c water
125 g/4.4 0z honey
100 g/3.5 oz sugar
juice of one small lemon, about 30 ml
1 cinnamon quill

1 tsp rose water

nutsAllow the filo dough to thaw in its own package so that it does not dry out. Place the nuts on a parchment lined oven pan and roast gently at 160 C/320 F for about 7 minutes. Let cool and grind semi-fine either with a chopper or a food processor. Set aside a little of the ground pistachio for garnish. Combine the finely chopped nuts with 50 g/1.75 oz sugar, lemon zest and cinnamon.

Warm your oven to 190 C/375 F.  Brush your square cake pan 25 cm/10 inch with melted butter and layer it with 6 layers of filo pastry dough, brushing each layer with melted butter. Add one third of the nut mixture and then add another three layers of filo dough, each brushed with butter. Add another third and repeat with another three layers of filo brushed with butter. Add the last third of nut mixture and finally add six layers of filo dough brushed with butter each time. Brush the top layer with butter and score the top layers with a sharp knife into 24 servings. I cut them part way through as I had noticed that it was the method used at our hotel Gypsophila Holiday Village. (You may see the Baklava in the photo below on the right hand side) Bake for about 20-30 minutes depending on your oven.

gyphsophila holiday villageMeanwhile prepare the honey sauce. Combine the ingredients above in a small saucepan and stir until the sugar dissolves over medium heat. Allow to simmer for 5 minutes on low heat and remove from heat. Discard the cinnamon quill and add in the rose water. After removing the Baklava from the oven, pour the honey sauce over the it while still hot. Sprinkle with ground pistachios and allow to cool before cutting all the way through.

daily lifeThere are so many pictures and stories to tell that sometime in the future, when I make a Turkish dish I will share more. If you have never been to Turkey, I definitely recommend it.

red tractor

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