Making memories

On Sunday we drove to the cabin. In Finland everything stops in July and a pilgrimage to the cottages begins. Bureaus and offices are usually open but temporary personnel fill in and most things happen at a sleepy pace if at all. Most paperwork sits and waits until August and the return of the permanent personnel. At first I had a hard time adjusting to the idea of a nation in which everyone vacations at the same time. Vacation and free time is a significant part of the life style here. Common questions asked upon seeing an acqaintance in the summer is about vacation. Have you been on vacation yet. How long was it this year. And if it was under three weeks, you might hear condolences about how short your vacation was. But I have become used to this land of people that all down-shift at the same time and look forward to a slow-paced month where only the absolutely necessary errands are made. All other time is spent enjoying summer even if the weather has not been quite as summer-like as usual.

boat house collage

Finland has over 180,000 lakes. The shores of these lakes are dotted with summer cabins and cottages. Many are the traditional mummonmökki or a small grandmother’s cottage with just a room or two and often do not have running water or electricity. Cottages often have a history and you might find things that are tens of years old and full of stories to be discovered. The toilet paper holder might have be whittled out of wood at the end of the dock on a breezy day, or the matchbox holder might be a from a wood shop class in the city. In the bedroom there is a chest full of old Donald Ducks, some of them as old as your dad. The beds are covered with heavy and well-made spreads that would probably be considered vintage. Then there are the cabins that are large and contemporary and have all the conveniences of city homes. The blueprints might have been made by a well-known architect and the windows have Marimekko curtains. Both of these cabins dot the shores side by side. Some new and some old. One thing they all have in common is the sauna. The sauna is usually in it’s own small building close to the lake. When we visit the cabin, we take a sauna every evening. The sauna is the place to relax and socialize. Sometimes with a group of women we have been in the sauna for two or three hours. In the soft heat of the large sauna, the world has been made a better place and problems solved. Every once in a while we wrap ourselves in towels and sit outside or go for swim before another round of steam in the sauna.

choosing a boatPappa made sailboats out of thick slabs of pine bark. One for each grandchild. Then he made little wood chips that each had a number. Each grandchild drew one chip and had a turn to choose their boat according to the number they had on the chip. The kids all went on the dock to send their boats off to America. A little while later Pappa took the rowboat and gathered each one. They were brought to the city as souvenirs of times spent at the cottage.

setting the boats off collage

Our Erik decided that fish soup is now his favorite food. It even passed up macaroni and that is quite an accomplishment. Mummo made fish soup on one of the days while we were at the cabin. After returning home our refrigerator was completely empty except for a jar of relish, some eggs and some apricot marmelade. I ventured to the store and decided to indulge Erik and make a soup with rainbow trout. The store was full of fresh local produce. I had a hard time limiting myself. I would have liked to bring it all home.

vegetablesSoup made with salmon or rainbow trout is a very traditional dish in the nordic countries. Many grow their own dill and I really think that the fresh dill is the perfect match with the fish. I tried to keep my version fairly simple, as often at the cabin the selection of seasonings might be not be as large. Many towns have little outdoor markets once or twice a week and larger cities have them daily, and so fresh produce is readily available during the summer.

rainbow trout soup 1

Rainbow Trout Soup

knob of butter
onions, three small spring onions or one large onion finely sliced into rings
3 carrots, peeled and cut into cubes
2 small turnips, peeled and cut into cubes
600 g/21 oz peeled waxy potatoes, (I used new potatoes)
generous 1 liter/ 1 quart of water
black pepper
white pepper
1/2 tsp mustard powder
2 tbsp lemon juice
sea salt
small bunch of chives, finely chopped
handful of fresh dill
1 kg/ 2 lbs filé of Rainbow trout or salmon
3 dl/ 1 and 1/3 c heavy cream

Place the peeled and chopped vegetables, except for the potatoes into a heavy bottomed pot with the knob of butter and turn to medium heat. Allow to sauté until just slightly tender. Add water, potatoes, black and white pepper, mustard powder, lemon juice and salt. Allow to simmer at very low heat until the potatoes are tender. While the soup is cooking, remove the skin from the fish and any pin bones that might be remaining. Cut the fish into small bite-size cubes.
rainbow troutOnce the potatoes are tender, add the salmon, cream, fresh dill and chives. Allow the soup to come to boil. Check the flavor and adjust salt and seasoning if needed. Serve with a dark rye bread.

rainbow trout soup 2

canoeing on the lakerocking the dock


  1. Wow, I was almost transported to one of those lovely cabins and into the sauna. Beautiful post, mesmerizing really and I love the fish soup, Looks delicious I can see why Erik loves it so much,

  2. how cool! I’ve spent time in Sweden at people’s summer stuga’s which sound very similar. I wish Australia had the sense to have a similar change of pace in the middle of our summer… the world wouldn’t end and we’d be a lot happier and healthier for the time away from work. Thank you for sharing such a beautiful story.

    1. I’m sure the Swedish stuga is quite similar…and I have certainly come to realize that the world does not end even if everyone is one vacation. The American and Finnish work mentality regarding vacation and time off definitely differs a little. 🙂

  3. I want to be a pilgrim in Finland! A holiday in a cottage by the lake sounds like heaven. What an awesome (and truly sensible) way of life. Love the photos and the essay!

  4. This piece was just grand, Laila. Sure brings memories back to surface. The soup sounds very delicious. May just have to give that a try:) Love the pictures.

    1. Thank you Gramma. I’m sure it brings back memories from some of your past trips to Finland. I think I remember looking at some pictures…glad you have the photos, they are fun to look at ❤

  5. Such lovely photos Laila and your prose captures the nothing-happening August. I know in Italy it is the same – Ferragosto – and nothing is open. I love the idea of a mass holiday. It feels oddly soothing. Sophie x

    1. I do believe that quite a few central European countries are on holiday in August. My children have really taught me to stop and enjoy the mass holiday…without them I just might be a workaholic.

  6. A beautiful post. i love it when you take us to the Finnish countryside or holiday spots. The lovely hand made things, sepecially the little boats, will be the things that your children remember forever. That soupd looks so simple and nourishing too. I am there!!!

    1. So glad you enjoyed the post and I thought those boats were certainly treasures to keep. Yesterday they were brought with to the beach for an outing. Hope you have a chance to try out the soup.

  7. I saw the kids in your photos and happened to think that they are so blessed to have these precious moments as their beautiful childhood!

    1. They always look forward to going to the cabin. They love spending time playing and roughhousing with their cousins. It is indeed peaceful and serene until they get really going…but yes, they are making memories.

  8. Such an interesting insight to summer in Finland. Thank you.

    We were surprised by the Scottish attitude to holidaying in August, but after living there, it made perfect sense, In Australia we are spoilt by weather that is reasonable most of the year, so we can scatter our holidays.

    1. So glad you stopped by. And yes, after living here it all makes sense just as you experienced in Scotland. The midnight sun has a magic way of energizing the nordic countries.

  9. Oh how I LOVE this post! Everything from what you wrote to the subject to the beautiful pictures… This helps me end the day on such a bright positive enchanting note… Thank you!

  10. How delightful that holidays are given so much respect. Wonderful. I am sure this relaxation does wonders for the general health and happiness of the nation.

    1. It is a serene place, away from large cities. The closest town has two very small grocery stores and one gas station and a little parking lot that is also the market square a couple of times a week.

  11. Yes, delightful memories are made at a cottage on a lake. Your soup sounds delicious and will remind you of your time spent there each time you have it.

  12. The soup looks yummy.
    I grew up having fish soup on a regular basis although our version is sour and would normally have the fish head. 🙂

  13. These are such beautiful scenes. I adore the little handmade boats! And the children! The meal makes me want to come knocking at your door. I am headed to the Montana hot springs with a friend right now… a version of your saunas. Maybe someday I’ll get to Finland to see your wonderful sights. Thanks for the great post.

    1. I thought that the boats were just perfect…a great little keepsake that Pappa made for the grandkids. 🙂 Maybe you will be able to come to Finland someday and make your own pilgrimage!

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