Simple pleasures

Category: Photo Challenges

The texture of snow and little gifts

by tableofcolors

Snow crystals

Snow crystals

The winters in Finland are dark but on the days the sun comes out it turns into a winter wonderland. Today the sun came out and when I noticed how everything was glistening I was in a hurry to make it outside before the sun would sink behind the trees. But with the little ones, going outside takes time. As we are getting ready, someone informs that they are hungry. A Quick snack and then back to dressing. Dressing properly is key to surviving here in the cold months. School children spend a fair amount of time outside during recess and when we shop for snow pants and jackets they always make sure to ask me if they are water resistant/ or water proof. I know, it gets a bit high tech but they use them everydat from late fall until the end of April.

Snowflake princess

Snowflake princess

But we made it out in time to capture the light! Even though I’m more of a summer person I really do like the snow. I love shoveling snow while the kids play. Since we have a fairly long driveway, I get a free workout while the kids play. When Mom’s happy and the kids are happy!

Winter wonderland

Winter wonderland

I promised the kids that after we come inside and organize the house we could do few Christmas things. During the holidays there is often a situation where a small present would nice to give. Nothing to break the bank but something personal and possibly handmade. Below are the recipes for an easy and delicious caramel sauce, a chocolate ganache and a strawberry and lingonberry or red currant melba. A Perfect gift for a teacher or a neighbor.

Sauces for ice cream and other treats

Sauces for ice cream and other treats

Chocolate ganache
3 dl/1.3 c heavy cream
250 g/8.8 oz dark chocolate, chopped into pieces

Microwave the cream until it is boiling. Remove from the microwave and mix in the chocolate. Stir until smooth. Pour into a clean glass jar. Store in the refrigerator. This will stay fresh for about a week. When serving, heat up the ganache for just a few seconds in the microwave.

Caramel sauce

5 dl/generous 2 cups of heavy cream
4 dl/1.7 c brown sugar
1 vanilla bean partially slit open
2 tbsp butter
dash of salt

Place the cream, brown sugar and vanilla bean into a heavy bottomed pot. Allow to simmer for 20 minutes. Remove the vanilla bean. Rinse the vanilla bean and allow to dry. It can be reused the next time you make this recipe. Mix the butter and salt into the caramel sauce and stir until smooth. Pour into a clean glass jar. The caramel will stay fresh in the fridge for about two weeks. Before using, heat up the amount desired in the microwave for a few seconds.

Strawberry and lingonberry (or red currant) melba

This recipe is a bit different from the ones above. This is best eaten either on the same day or the next day. The lingonberries or alternately the red currants complement the sweet strawberries nicely with their touch of tartness.

250 g/8.8 oz strawberries (may be frozen)
1 dl/0.4 c lingonberries of red currants (may be frozen)
4 tbsp lemon juice
sugar or a light syrup according to taste

Using a food processor or wand mixer, combine all the ingredients until a smooth melba is formed. Enjoy with your holiday treats.

I’m participating in the online adventure travel magazine’s Wild Weekly Photo Challenge for bloggersThis week’s Challenge is: Texture in Nature!


First Snow and Crock Pot Lamb

by tableofcolors

The forecast called for snow and I did have a few doubts that we might actually see a few flakes in the morning. The sun was shining and everything looked like it was sugar-crusted. My Godchild however, was very sure that it would snow. I told the kids that a forecast is a prediction and sometimes the weather does not follow the forecast. I could tell that they did not really listen to me, they were so excited to see the first flakes and had wonderful plans of what all they would do once the snow fell. It was about minus 5 degrees Celsius in the morning.

Sugar encrusted landscape

Before the snowfall

Sure enough my Godchild was right. A few hours after the bright morning sun the sky clouded over and soft snowflakes started falling.

My husband had spent the previous evening butchering our summer lamb that had grazed on our neighbors field with their lambs. We had quite a few pounds of fresh meat on hand. Most of it was put into the freezer but the ribs we decided to put in our Crock Pot for the night. It actually worked out great to have dinner halfway finished. I had a 2 kg bag of starchy potatoes in the fridge and peeled them all for mashed potatoes. Since it was a cold day I decided to make a warm vegie side, turnip fries. Or that is what I called them when the kids asked me what they are.

Sautéed turnip fries, carrots, celery and onion

I sautéed the vegetables in some olive oil, a little balsamic vinegar, black pepper, a little freshly ground chili flakes and a sprinkle of sea salt.

Peeled spuds


Dinner included mashed potatoes, “turnip fries”+ a few other vegies, slow-cooked lamb and a lingonberry sorbet to go with the meat.
The lingonberry sorbet I have learned from my Mother-in-law. It is simple to make and a perfect way to use the tart berries. Using a wand mixer or a food processor purée about 1 cup/2.4 dl of frozen lingonberries and 1/4 cup/ 0.6 dl sugar (or more if preferred) until a sorbet is formed. I usually mix in a few whole berries in to give it some texture.

Recipe for the Crock Pot lamb (this recipe is very simple but it works)

Ribs of one lamb

1 liter/4.2 cups of water
2 tbsp sea salt (mix until dissolved into the water)
Garlic minced
Black pepper
Place all ingredients into the Crock Pot and set the timer for ten hours on low.

First snow

We got a little snow, not enough for winter wonderland but enough to make the roads and landscape a little whiter and brighter. I did not have to coax the children outside, they were eagerly filling their sand toys with snow and making “snow soup”.

Swans taking flight

Evening sun

Wild Weekly Photo Challenge – Fall and Cream of Mushroom soup

by tableofcolors

For me fall represents a chill in the air, the leaves turning bright colors, gathering berries and mushrooms and soup. Rarely do we eat soup in the summer. Summer fare includes grilled vegies and meat and bright salads but when the cold weather sets in, soup warms up the soul. I need foods to warm me in the cold season since I get blue lips and cold easily.

Since living in Finland I have been learning the art of dressing warmly. Not that I didn’t have hats available as a teen but at the time it just wasn’t cool to go to school with a hat on and so I would walk to the bus stop everyday without a hat.  It would have messed up my hair. Thank goodness the trend has changed.

The forest has had an abundance of the Trumpet Chanterelle this fall and when you find one, you might find a patch of hundreds. At times this fall we have had so many mushrooms that our dehydrator has been running non-stop and there has been enough share.

The Trumpet Chanterelle

Part of the excitement of mushroom picking is exploring the forest and seeing and hearing birds and other animals.

Bird watching

In the midst of trees, a remnant from the ice age era

Below is a Cream of Mushroom soup recipe for those days that have a chill. I used the Trumpet Chanterelle but many other mushrooms work as well.

Cream of mushroom soup

Cream of Mushroom Soup

400 g/14 oz Trumpet Chanterelle, cleaned and diced
1 large onion, chopped
2 stalks of celery sliced thinly
2 tbsp butter
1/2 l/generous 2 c chicken stock
4 dl/1.7 c cream (may use a lighter cream or half and half)
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
fresh chives and parsley chopped
2 tbsp corn starch

1 loaf of day old bread cut into cubes
olive oil
fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Prepare the croutons first and set aside. Cube the loaf and place on a lined baking pan. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper and a little chili if preferred. Bake at 350 for about 5 minutes on until golden brown.


For the soup, sauté the onion, celery and mushrooms in butter until the moisture has nearly evaporated. Add the chicken stock and allow to simmer. Add the cream, salt, pepper and white wine vinegar. Check taste. Thicken with corn starch that is mixed in a half cup of cold water. Garnish with fresh parsley, chives and croutons. Enjoy!

I’m participating in the Wild Weekly Photo Challenge! This weeks Challenge is: Fall

Weekly Photo Challenge: Happiness

by tableofcolors

Weekly Photo Challenge: The Granola bar for solitary moments

by tableofcolors

WordPress posts on a regular basis different kinds of writing and photo challenges to give blog writers inspiration to look at topics from a slightly different angle. This weeks photo challenge was Solitary. Here’s my take.

I’ve grown up with lots of people around me and I really enjoy being with others. I have noticed though that the more hectic life gets I start to feel the need for my own personal solitary time. Some of us would like to have more solitary time and there are others who have too much solitary time in their lives. Maybe their kids have flown the nest and they wish that their grandkids would occassionaly come an fill up the silence with the pitter patter of their feet.

Our life at the moment is full of the sounds of running footsteps, giggles, squeals and sometimes someone cries when they fall. It seems like soltitude is very hard to find in this situation. Really it is not that far away. It is right outside the door. We live in the middle of the field a little ways from the residential area. There is wheat growing on one side and barley on the other.

Now that fall is in full swing, it is a busy time of accomplishment. School begins for the kids, there are art classes to take, friends to meet, meetings to attend and more. On the other hand it is a time of soltitude. The birds are gathering to fly south, the leaves will soon float to the ground leaving the trees barren. And we are in the middle of the field, a place where there are no street lights. In the fall before the snow falls, the evenings are dark and the sky is immense, full of stars.

I was chatting with my hairdresser and she told me that one of her favorite memories from her childhood is grabbing the Donald Duck comic book from the mailbox and enjoying the quietness of the house before everyone else comes rushing home. Donald Duck has a special place in the hearts of Finns(as does Tex Willer, a spaghetti cowboy, but we’ll leave that story for another time). Wednesdays in Finland are Donald Duck days. I notice our oldest daughters really enjoy the chance to spend a little quiet time by themselves. The house is silent, there is a fresh new Donald Duck comic book in the mailbox and a snack ready on the table.

This granola bar is intended for those little moments of soltitude. It has chocolate on both ends so that you don’t have to make the hard decision of whether to eat the chocolate first or last.

Homemade energy bars

These are delicious snacks that are chock full of healthy ingredients. The dried fig gives the bar a chewy texture.

Homemade energy bars with figs, cranberries and walnuts

50 g/1.8 oz butter
generous 1/2 dl/1/4 c canola oil (cold pressed oil works great)
1/2 dl/little under 1/4 c sugar
1 dl/ little under 1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 dl/ little under 1/4 c honey
3/4 dl / 1/3 c molasses
Boil the sugars, honey, butter, oil, salt and spices until the sugar has melted and is not granulated.
Take off the heat.
Mix in a separate bowl the following ingredients.
4.5 dl /2 c oatmeal
1 dl / slightly under 1/2 c wheat bran
1 dl / slightly under 1/2 c flour
1 dl /slightly under 1/2 c whole wheat flour
70 g/ 2.5 oz of chopped walnuts
100 g/3.5 oz of chopped dried figs
50 g/1.8 oz of dried cranberries
1/2 tsp salt
Combine the still warm molasses mixture with the dry ingredients and stir. Spread on a lined 9x13inch(23x33cm) pan and bake in the oven at 175C/350F for 8 to 9 minutes. Let cool for bit and cut into bars. When completely cool dip both ends of the bars in melted dark chocolate.

a lone branch

Enjoy in soltitude with a good comic book and a glass of milk.

The photos of the sky and the lone branch are by my sweetheart.