Simple pleasures

November Light

by tableofcolors

The day before yesterday, the kitchen was full of little people. Everyone wanted to participate in some way and I was needing to use my imagination in creating cake-making jobs of equal importance. Equality was the theme of the day. One of the kids remembered who had made most of the Mother’s day cake and in her opinion it would be unfair if this wrong was to be repeated again. Diplomacy skills were in need and of course a bit of organization. And I wouldn’t be surprised if she became a human right’s lawyer.

father's day breakfastIn November my kitchen is full of soft light that quickly disappears in the afternoons and yesterday we had a Father’s day breakfast that supposed to be prepared quietly but in fact, but due to the excitement the children didn’t always remember to be so quiet. Erik asked at one point if he could go wake up Bella, as she would prefer to sleep in every morning, just pulling the blanket a little higher and requesting for just another little cat nap before getting up for the day. He crept upstairs, and climbed to the top bunk to wake her up. She must have not protested this particular morning as soon I heard a giant thump and a scramble as they were probably racing to see who reached the stairs first. But they did creep down the stairs again, to try not wake up Isi this morning.

isänpäiväHe probably was awake when we finally made our way upstairs with our tray of breakfast and a song, but he did his best to pretend to be asleep so that the children could wake him up. Happy Father’s day! You are so very important to us <3

making no-bake mango cheesecake

Lemon-Mango No-bake Cheesecake (to be made the day before serving)

about 14-16 digestive cookies or 12-13 graham crackers, crushed
50 g/1.8 oz butter, melted
3 tbsp sugar


2 dl/1 generous cup of heavy whipping cream
400 g/14 oz marscapone cheese
500 g/17.5 oz quark
1 dl/ 1/2 c sugar
Juice of 1 large lemon
2-3 tbsp lemon curd
zest of one lemon
five gelatin leaves

(boiling water to dissolve the gelatin leaves with)

mango topping
250 g/9 oz puréed mango
1 gelatin leaf

mango no-bake cheesecakeThe Father’s day cake had to be simple enough for the kid’s to make by themselves with a little help and guidance. This cake is easy.

Place the gelatin leaves into a bowl full of cold water to soak for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile crush the graham crackers or cookies and line a 10 inch spring-form with baking paper on the bottom. Place the cookie crumbs in the lined form along with the sugar and melted butter, stir to combine and them pat down using the bottom of a glass to form a crust. Next whip the heavy whipping cream until thick and fold in the marscapone cheese, quark, sugar, lemon juice and zest and lemon curd. Taste and add sugar if you prefer a sweeter tart.

Boil water in a teapot or saucepan and while it is coming to boil, remove five of the gelatin leaves from the cold water. Squeeze the gelatin leaves to remove excess water and place in a very small dish. Pour in just enough boiling water to dissolve the leaves and fold in the hot gelatin mixture with the filling. Pour the cake filling on the prepared cookie crumb crust and smooth the top.

Take the last gelatin leaf and squeeze it free of excess water. Repeat as done above with the boiling water, making sure not to use too much water. Mix the gelatin mix with the puréed mango and spread over the cheesecake filling. Refrigerate.

father's day breakfast 2Father’s day breakfast menu: Popovers, one filled with a dab of butter, Maasdam cheese, lettuce and tomato and other filled with a dab of butter and cloudberry preserves. Blueberry smoothie with kale, mango cheesecake and the coffee was freshly ground Kaffa Roastery’s Indian Monsoon Malabar Barista Blend.

While the children where making the no-bake cheesecake, I decided to roast my two pumpkins I had on hand. One was of the Hokkaido variety, which I tried out for the first time. The pulp was much more denser in comparison to my other pumpkin. The other pumpkin had served double duty as a decoration waiting to be oven-roasted, drained and then puréed. They will become our Thanksgiving and Christmas pumpkin pies.

I noticed that the one pumpkin was filled with little holes made with pen or pencil one morning. I asked the kids, who might have made little holes into my pumpkin? Our two-year old Hugo heard the question, walked over and proudly showed me with swinging motions of his arms of how he had made the holes into the pumpkin. He doesn’t speak much yet, but he understands everything and manages quite swell with a few words, expressions and impressive sign language that he has made up himself. His smile was so wide and his bright blue eyes shone. How could I be mad. Afterall they were going to be roasted and the outer skin was going to be discarded anyways. Recipe for making homemade pumpkin purée can be found here.

roasting pumpkinsroasted pumpkinMy kitchen in November is full of yellows and oranges, candlelight to light the dark mornings and evenings and the soft light from outside. Sometimes the outside light is a shade of gray as it was today and sometimes it too, has golden hues and bright blues.

morning sunNovember morning sun from our dining room window. Happy November!


This In My Kitchen post is part of Celia’s monthly series hosted on Fig Jam Lime Cordial, providing links to kitchens around the world.

Little Angel

by tableofcolors

little angel

This weekend Halloween is here, but in many cultures in different areas of the world, All Saints’ Day and the Day of the Dead is celebrated. It is a day of remembrance of our loved ones who have passed before us. Even in Finland, traditional Halloween as known in the United States, has made its way into mainstream culture. Schools host Halloween parties and yesterday I had meeting in Helsinki and I had to quick come up with a costume plan for the party-goers, long-distance. We happened to have some cheap, white curtain fabric from Ikea that had sat in my cupboard for about 11 years, never serving the purpose they had been intended for. And so my husband used it to make the kids into mummies. Cheap, effiencient and I got another space in my cupboard cleaned out.



They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

excerpt from the poem, For the Fallen by Robert Laurence Binyon (1869-1943)

Tomorrow the stores will all be closed and so I just returned home from a quick last minute run to the grocery. The lines were long. I suppose everyone else had the same idea as well. As I drove to the grocery store that is close by, I drove by the large white church surrounded by cemetary. It was already dark and so the whole church yard twinkled with the lights of hundreds of candles. Such a calming sight.

As I was driving, the news was playing on the radio. We have had a very different October weather-wise. Traditionally in Finland, October and November are quite dreary and it might rain and the sky might be gray for weeks on end. Or that is how it feels. We have had more sunshine this month than ever has been previously recorded. Of course in between the sunny days there have been a few misty ones as well. Along with the coming of fall, it has felt good to eat and drink things that hold a bit of sunshine and are full of vitamins to help make it through the darkest time of year.

green smoothiesGreen smoothies for two

juice of two oranges
juice of one lemon
3 cm/1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and cut into smaller pieces
1 or 2 leaves of kale, with the stems removed and ripped into bunches
1 banana

(for a change in color, add some blueberries (frozen or fresh) to the mix above)

Place all of the ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Enjoy immediately.
kale smoothieenjoying green smoothies

little angel 2May your weekend be peaceful and may the angels accompany you.

I Heard your Voice in the Wind today -unkown

I heard your voice in the wind today
and I turned to see your face;
The warmth of the wind caressed me
as I stood silently in place.

I felt your touch in the sun today
as its warmth filled the sky;
I closed my eyes for your embrace
and my spirit soared high.

I saw your eyes in the window pane
as I watched the falling rain;
It seemed as each raindrop fell
it quietly said your name.

I held you close in my heart today
it made me feel complete;
You may have died…but you are not gone
you will always be a part of me.

As long as the sun shines…
the wind blows…
the rain falls…
You will live on inside of me forever
for that is all my heart knows.

little angels 3

Friendship in my Kitchen

by tableofcolors

My kitchen often reaches a state of mess, or perhaps I should state it another way. It attains a lived-in feel. As I write, I can hear my oldest and fourth and fifth oldest making carrot sticks and dip for a snack and the youngest is asking for samples. Occasionally his voice becomes high-pitched if the hand-outs do not come fast enough. With so many little ones and hands, messes are bound to happen. But all around the kitchen are little tokens from friends or from my children. Tokens of friendship and love, and they brighten up my kitchen even if there is a grand mess to greet my eyes. Messes can fortunately be cleaned up.

hay papertowel holder and flower stand

I used to have an issue with my paper towel roll, that I would tuck it into this drawer or that cupboard. It just didn’t look appealing to my eye, until I received this Hay paper towel holder from some friends for my birthday. Everyday I enjoy this little thing in my kitchen and move it around to where there are sticky little hands and bright eyes looking at me, or a spot of juice on the floor. Underneath the flower pot is a blue wooden flower stand made with love by one of my daughters at school. She had chosen the paint color and thought it might bring a pop of color.

japanese graterThis Japanese grater was a gift from a friend and a souvenir from the Helsinki design expo, Habitare. The idea has been brought from Japan, but the grater has been made locally about an hour and half away, in Porvoo. It is so pretty that it can hold a block of parmesean cheese at the table so that each may grate their own cheese on to their pasta or salad.

green tea marimekko teapotOne day a friend stopped over and brought me a little bag of the most heavenly tea. Many teas smell wonderful but often the flavor does not match up. This green tea with little pieces of dried strawberries tastes like it smell. It is from a little tea shop in Helsinki called The Ounce. And as the name suggests, they sell tea by the ounce which is certainly a rarity in Finland. The Marimekko teapot is one of my favorite little things and is perfect for brewing tea as it has a ceramic sift on the inside that is easy to remove and wash. The pot came to be ours by accident. We were buying a group Christmas present and I noticed that they had great sale at Marimekko in November that was held on only that particular weekend. So without consulting any of the others, I popped in and bought it. Well it came to be, that not everyone was as keen on the idea of a teapot and together we came up with another good idea. And so in the end, I had a teapot all wrapped up pretty perched on my wood-burning oven. I asked my husband, if it should be our Christmas present that year. Really I didn’t mind, as I was in love with the pot and had been eyeing for a few years already.

party cakes with chocolate garnish

Last weekend we celebrated my father-in-law’s sixtieth birthday. My mother-in-law had made the cakes, but asked for a little help with the garnishes. With a little help of a youtube video I decided on these chocolate circles.

circles for chcocolate garnishes

Lay a sheet of foil on your work surface. Next, using a piece of parchment paper, cut out circles of different size. Melt and temper your chocolate. I feel that tempering the chocolate is the most challenging part of the process. Basically tempering chocolate involves melting chocolate that is not higher in than 70% in cocoa solids, and then cooling it down while mixing or working the chocolate. Basically what happens is the fatty acid crystals separate and in the tempering process they brought back together giving them all of the wonderful qualities that are desired of chocolate. In Finland, I usually use the Fazer taloussuklaa or baking chocolate which has a cocoa solid percentage of about 55%. I’ve noticed that chocolates with a higher percentage do not behave the way I wish. I have used these two sites as my tempering guide when working with chocolate. Chocolate tempering guide by cookbook author David Lebovitz and Chocolate #101: Tempering at home, by the lovely Celia who also hosts In My Kitchen every month.

diy chocolate garnishesThen very carefully remove the paper and allow to harden.

drying chocolate garnishes

A true friend freely, advises justly, assists readily, adventures boldly, takes all patiently, defends courageously, and continues a friend unchangeably. –William Penn

Aggie & Ray's cousins etcTo end I thought to share a couple of keepsake photos that I have been looking at. The one above is of cousins having a good time. I wonder what the occasion might have been, might it have been a wedding? They certainly were dressed up splendid.

Elma & SofieAnd in many previous posts I have followed the travels and stories of great-aunt Elma. Perhaps some of the photos that have survived can be attributed to Sofie Wuollet who is standing next to Elma in the photo above. Sofie was a photographer capturing many images that had an every-day quality to them in a time where most photos are quite posed. But how lucky we are today to have these photos. Friendship carries, even if your kitchen is a mess.

“My best friend is a man who in wishing me well wishes it for my sake.” –Aristotle

This post is part of Celia’s monthly In My Kitchen series, check out her blog for links to kitchens around the world.


Sand sculptures and picnic lunches

by tableofcolors

School was about to begin and we decided with another Mom friend of mine to take the kids on one last outing before they would need to go to school. Just about an hour away is Lappeenranta, which is right next to the Russian border and is has been built on the shores of the great lake area, the Saimaa. Every year the city opens a park full of sand sculptures. This year the theme was heroes. There were all sorts of heroes featured, superheroes from the comic books, athletes and everyday heroes such as doctors. Since the beginning of the summer had been so rainy, some of the sculptures had suffered a bit and were being fixed up.

lappenranta hiekkalinna

It was not long after we arrived and it was almost noon, so we decided to give the kids a little snack of watermelon, as we would have our picnic lunch later in the afternoon. My four year old was sitting on the bench eating her watermelon when a reporter for the local YLE (Finnish national public radio) radio station stopped by and asked if she interview one of the children. Bella just happened to be right there.

Have you been here before? “Yes, many times.”

Did you think the sculptures are better this year than before? “Yes, much better.”

Which is your favorite sculpture? “That castle over there” (It was the only sculpture that we had had a chance to look at since we had just arrived.)

What is your favorite thing to do here? “Eating” (munching on her watermelon, all through the interview)

I do have to mention, that she had never been to Lappeenranta before nor had we ever visited the sand sculptures before. She just conveniently came up with answers to the questions. After the interview, we had to let the reporter in on this little detail. I’m not sure I would have handled an interview so smoothly at four years old. At least she did give her correct name and age, when asked! And I forgot to take a photo of the whole deal. I was concentrating so hard on listening to her answers that I completely forgot even if I was holding my camera the entire time.

lappeenranta sand sculpturesrakuuna dragonlappenranta finland sand sculptures

It was quite late into the afternoon before we left the sand sculptures and went to find a greener park with shade for our picnic. We found a park that had a pavilion that the kids enjoyed creating their own performances and large trees that brought us a bit of shade after being in the sun all afternoon.

roasted vegetable salad

I had made a salad bar style salad, with a basic salad base and then different options all in their own containers. This was the most convenient since we had different age eaters and sometimes the little ones haven’t really learned to eat nuts or if there is someone with a dietary restriction everyone is able to build a salad to their taste.

Roasted Vegetable salad

Roasted vegetables

1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into sticks
1 generous handful of string beans, washed
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper

Prepapre the vegetables. Peel and cut the sweet potato into sticks. Wash the string beens and cut the tips off. Spread on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and lightly toss with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Bake in the oven until tender and the vegetables have gained a bit of color at 180 C/ 350 F. Allow to cool and then place into a separate container.

Mixed greens (Romano, kale, curly endive lettuce, spinach…)
Cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
Grapes, sliced in half
Cucumber, cubed
A few sliced strawberries (I happened to find a few last strawberries in my patch)
light vinaigrette dressing (lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, handful of parsely, or other gardern herbs, finely chopped)

Toss the salad and place into a larger container.

In separate containers pack with: roasted and shelled peanuts, cashews, dried cranberries, cheese cubed, pumpkin seeds, or anything else that takes your fancy.

picnic lunch

Lappenranta picnic

fixing the sand sculptures

I’ll be back someday

by tableofcolors

norwegian fjords fauskeThis time for In My Kitchen, I thought to share a bit of our trip to Norway. While we were in the wilderness in Sweden (previous post) and camping in Norway we used a Jetboil that boils water very quickly to which it is easy to add dried packaged food or oats for oatmeal. I was actually a little worried if we would have enough to eat as my husband can go for hours between meals, but I usually eat every few hours to keep my blood sugar in balance. We did have a trailmix with that we made before we left and I had bar of good quality of dark chocolate as well as some hearty rye bread and butter. Beyond the pictures are the inspiration that I felt once returning to my own kitchen. You may indeed be surprised. I made English muffins and they were delicious even though they did require a bit of effort.

We arrived into Norway in the evening and the sky was taking on shades from the setting sun. We drove to Fauske, visited a grocery store and even found some lefse. Certainly not quite as good as the homemade ones that Gramma Renie would make for Thanksgiving and Christmas when I was a child. Once I find her old recipe or another one that works great I will share. Since we were camping and have a big car, we decided to pull over at a rest stop for the night and sleep in the car. Not necessarily the most glamourous way to travel but we were on a budget and our scenery was certainly beautiful. My sister and her family lived in Norway for a couple of months this past summer and she had told me before hand that Norwegians are really into their hi-tech sports gear and you will see people walking around town in good quality sports wear. I figured we might just fit in.

norwegian fjords fauske 2There was something so peaceful in the shapes of the fjords and the water nestled right next to each other. I could just feel my soul rest.

2015-07-22 07.38.00

Morning sun in Fauske, Norway

The next morning, there was hardly a cloud in the sky and the soft pastels of the evening before had changed into intense blues and greens.


We drove to the small coastal city of Bodø which is on the Artic Sea and was about an hour away from Fauske.

bodø harborI could have easily spent a few more days or a week here if we would have had the time. On the other hand this just whetted my appetite and I certainly would like to go back.

Artic Sea in BodøWe didn’t go swimming in the Artic Sea, as the water was quite chilly and air was cool, but we did dip our hands in the water. Perhaps if the day had been different we might have attempted swimming.

old train station and bridges in Fauske

It would be interesting to know the story behind the boat that was situated behind what looked like an old train station used for industry.

scandinavian mountains CollageI was quite ready for a hearty meal after eating our camping foods. In Finland they do not sell ready made English muffins and for some time I had been toying with the idea of making of my own. So one Saturday I set out to try my hand at it and the result was delicious even if the process was quite tedious. Next time, instead of doubling the batch I think I will quadruple it so there might be some for the freezer as this time they were all gone by the next day, except for two which I stashed away. I was pleasantly surprised by how well they kept until the next day. Nearly as good as on the first day.

I used the recipe for my English muffins from the Food52 website and tutorial was great. If you would like step-by-step photos of the whole process visit their site. My recipe is slightly changed below and mainly because I did not have buttermilk in the fridge so I substituted it with yoghurt (which in Finland has a very buttermilk-like consistency, in other words it is drinkable). Many recipes that I found used milk, but I preferred the slight tangy sourness the buttermilk or yoghurt brought to the dough.

  • 2 1/3 tablespoons active dry yeast (a little less than the contents of two 1/4 oz packets)
  • 1/2 dl/ 1/4 cup lukewarm water
  • 4 dl/ 1 3/4 cups buttermilk or yoghurt
  • 9.5 dl/ 4 cups bread flour, plus more as needed
  • 1/2 dl/1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 2/3 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 70 g/5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • Nonstick vegetable spray
  • Cornmeal or polenta

english muffins going into the ovenCombine the yeast and water into a bowl of a standmixer with a dough hook. Mix until yeast is dissolved. Microwave the buttermilk or yoghurt for about 20-30 seconds, just so it loses it’s refrigerator chill. Add it into the water and yeast mixture. Add in the flour, sugar and salt and mix until it becomes a droopy dough.  Add in the room temperature butter a tablespoon at a time. Make sure the butter is room temperature so that you do not need to overwork the dough. At this point it will not form a ball. Knead for 7-8 minutes until is starts to hold its shape but is still tacky.

Lightly spray a large mixing bowl with oil and move the dough to it and cover with cling wrap and allow to rise for one hour. After if has risen, place the bowl into the refrigerator for 30 minutes to chill. This will make the dough easier to handle. While the dough’s resting, line a couple of baking sheets with baking paper and then generously cover with cornmeal or polenta. Next, very lightly dust your work surface with flour. Turn the dough over on your work surface and knead it a few times to remove the air bubbles. Form it into a fat log. Pinch of pieces about he size of a handball (60 g) and roll into a ball. Once it has formed into a ball, transfer on the baking sheet with cornmeal and slightly flatten and then gently flip it around so the other side gets a coating of cornmeal as well. At this point you may cover the baking pans with cling wrap and place in the fridge for 30 minutesif you like, for easier handling and if you do not have time to bake the English muffins at the moment, they keep in the fridge up to three days.

Heat your oven to 120 C/250 F and take out your cast iron skillet. In the photo above the four on the right have been toasted on the cast iron skillet and are ready for the oven and the row on the left are still waiting for the cast iron skillet treatment.

The original recipe recommends baking them in the cast iron skillet for 4-5 minutes on one side until it domes on very low heat and then flipping them over for another 4-5 minutes and then continuing at a higher heat, flipping every 2-3 minutes. I did not skillet bake them as long, as my skillet is fairly small and a double batch would have taken all day. Instead I opted to for the first stage of skillet-baking for 4-5 minutes per side and then moving them back onto the baking sheet and baking them in the oven for a longer time of 15-20 minutes instead of the 10 minutes prescribed in the original recipe. Do as you feel is convenient in your kitchen.

Fortunately I had a Sloppy Joe filling ready to go in the refridgerator that had been leftover from our dinner the night before, and so we had Sloppy Joes with our English Muffins and everyone loved them.

sloppy joes

Sloppy Joe filling
500 g/18 oz ground beef
1 onion
5 dl/2 c broth (or you may substitute with one package of organic onion soup and 5 dl/ 2 c water)
300 g/10 oz crushed tomatoes
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp tomato paste
salt and pepper to taste

Brown the ground beef with onion. Add in the broth or onion soup, crushed tomatoes and tomato paste. Allow to simmer until the consistency becomes thicker. Mix in the balsamic vinegar and season to taste. Spoon a generous spoonful on an English muffin half, garnish with grated cheese and put the top into place. Enjoy with a freshly tossed garden salad.

diy egg mcmuffinWhen I was a teenager, I worked at McDonald’s for about three years. I must say that it was a great job that taught me lot about producing food that always had the same consistency. And while some may scoff at a job at McDonald’s I feel that the training I received created a base for the work I am doing now. I haven’t had an Egg McMuffin for years. I’m not even sure I had one when I worked there but I thought to make my own DIY version. The stash of two that I had stuck quick into the freezer became a lunch for me and snack for my son after he returned home. And he ate the whole thing even if he is not real big on eggs (unless they are hardboiled) and cheese.

DIY Egg Mcmuffin
Split two English muffins and toast (butter is optional, I didn’t miss it at all)
Slowly cook two eggs, sunny side up
sprinkle the eggs with salt and pepper
slice two slices of good quality cheese of your taste
a few leaves of spinach and parsley for garnish

Put your sandwich together with the cheese on the bottom and next the warm eggs and finishing off with the spinach and parsley. Enjoy!


owl eyes eggs in a panSo this month in my kitchen I had a set of owl eyes in my cast iron pan, a bit of adventure and comfort food for the days that are whispering fall. (And since I only had one egg form, I used a cookie/pastry cutter for the second one and it worked quite well.)

Travel expands your horizon a little wider

This post is a part of Celia’s In My Kitchen series that she hosts each month allowing readers peeks into kitchens around the world.

Hiking the Swedish Nordic Fell in the Summer

by tableofcolors

I’ve had a  small hiatus from blogging, but am happier than ever to be back. Sometimes life hands little surprises and although they might be positive in nature, they have the tendency to stir the pot and mix everything up. The natural rythym of bedtimes and wake-up times have returned, even for the teenager, as school has now started. Although I love the freedom of summer vacation from school, by the end I am looking forward for to school to start and for that natural rythym to begin.

2015-07-21 09.20.15We made it back from our hiking trip to northern Sweden and Norway. To me it seems like almost every Finn I have talked to, have at some point in their life gone on an hiking expedition in the very north. Some hike trails and others rely on the compass and enter the wilderness where there is no visible sign of people nearby. We opted for the wilderness as my husband has a lot of experience trekking in unmarked territory and for him, hiking along trails is not quite the true wilderness experience. We drove to Arjeplog, Sweden and left our car on a patch of gravel, off the road and out of anyone’s way. The drive was about twelve hours from our house, and once arriving it was nice to get out and get some exercise. The weather was not real promising and at times we felt a few drops as we changed our clothes and gathered our gear.

wetlands and rivers swedish laplandI have been hiking in the Nordic Fell once before on a winter hunting trip, but this was completely different because there was no snow, or actually hardly any snow covering the landscape. The landscape from far looks like it is gently rolling as shrubs and trees cover the remains of the last ice age: large moss covered boulders and in between are the valleys full of wetlands that feel like a spongy waterbed to walk on.

snow in the summer

waterfalls in swedish laplandI was surprised to see so many waterfalls and hear bubbling and gurgling water at almost all times. The water is so clean that we would just take our kuksa, a cup carved out of wood, and scoop a cupful whenever we seemed thirsty. Usually the creeks and waterfalls might not be rushing at such full force in July, but as with the rest of Scandinavia, spring had arrived late this year and some of these waters were meltwaters from the previous winter.

fisherman and stern fairy


tunturipuri marsh creekSometimes in the middle of a marsh, connecting to a pond was a small creek. Mind your step, as the sides were steep and they can easily be a couple of meters deep of clear water.

bed of rocksI often wondered as we walked about the landscape of sound during the end of the ice age as the giant glaciers moved, moving huge amounts of boulders into one pile or how the top of the Nordic fell is gently littered with rocks, as if they had been just randomly dropped, one here and another there. Our original plan was to set up camp and climb to a peak of about 1800 meters with a lighter day pack. Since the weather did not quite favor us we shortened our hike a bit and carried all of our stuff and decided to climb to 1000+ meters instead.

climbing the nordic fellgnarled tree

In between the peaks and patches of rocky beds, there might be a meadow full of blooming flowers to be discovered. It seems as if nature is in a hurry in the very north as the summer is so very short, especially this summer.

meadow flowers in lapland

After a two day hike and one night in the Swedish wilderness, we decided to go see if the sun was shining on the other side of the Scandinavian mountains. And it was.

norwayThe flowers of the cloudberries had just withered and they were forming berries. Some years and with a warmer summer, we might have had cloudberries to pick and pop into our mouths as we hiked. The recipe below is for a berry smoothie, on top of which I sprinkled a few cloudberries I had in the freezer. If you might have cloudberries on hand, I would suggest to not blend them in the blender as they have a raspberry like seed, although a bit bigger and it is more pleasant to eat the berry whole rather than having a smoothie full of pieces of the shell of the seed.

smoothie collage

Berry smoothie with kale


1 dl/ 1/2 c strawberries
1/2 dl/ 1/4 c black currants
1 large leaf of kale with the steam removed and ripped into large pieces
juice of 1/2 lemon
2.5 dl/ 1 and 1/4 c plain yoghurt

If using fresh berries, add a few ice cubes into the blender to make the smoothie cold. Blend until smooth and serve in a glass. Garnish with cloudberries.
*for a dairy-free version replace the youghurt with orange juice. You may also substitute other berries that you might have on hand. We had ready-to-pick strawberries in our own patch and ripe black currants in the bush and so this time that is what ended up in the smoothie.

In my next post, I will bring you to Norway. As a preview and a little sample of what is to come, here is a video I put together of our trip.

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.


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)
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.


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.


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