Simple pleasures

Tag: midsummer

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! ❤

Midsummer and Crepes

by tableofcolors

During midsummer it seems as if our internal clock goes into a summer mode. Usually the kids are in bed at 8.30 pm and the wake up is at 7 am during the school year. But once school is out it takes about three days to go into summer schedule where bedtime is closer to 10 pm and wake-up around 9 am for the kids. During midsummers bedtime tends to go even a bit later. Mom, however prefers an earlier bedtime for the kids and after the weekend we try to aim for the 10 pm bedtime.  It is so easy to lose track of time when the day is so long and light. This midsummers we were at home enjoying our new little Hugo, who has been a super baby. We made crêpes on a couple of occasions, as they seem to go hand-in-hand with summer, spending time together and have won the “kid’s choice” award in our house. Making crêpes is somewhat of a whole family affair. In Finnish crêpes are called lettu, lätty or räiskäle, depending on the region or the dialect.

Our little fisherman had gone fishing with Dad one evening. He was quite proud coming home with two rainbow trout.
We had oven-baked fish one evening and for the next evening we made savory nettle crêpes and rainbow trout filling with the leftover fish. Smoked Salmon could be easily substituted in and would also make a wonderful filling.
lohi crepe

Rainbow Trout filled savory Crêpes


1.5 l/6.3 c milk
1 tbsp sugar
2 tsp salt
1 dl/ 1/2 c wheat bran
2.4 dl/1 c dried nettle
11.8 dl/5 c flour
4 eggs
1/2 dl/1/4 c oil

Mix the ingredients and whisk until smooth. Fry on medium hot griddle with a little oil. This is a fairly large batter so you may prefer to halve it to better fit your needs. Serve warm with the Rainbow Trout filling.

Rainbow Trout filling

160 g/5.6 oz Rainbow Trout or Salmon
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
200g/7 oz sour cream
handful of fresh dill, chopped
2 tbsp lemon juice
black pepper
little mustard according to taste

A couple of evening after having our Rainbow Trout-filled crêpes, I was trying to think of a evening snack/supper after a long day of being outdoors and swimming. Since my husband had just gotten our summer kitchen fixed up we decided to give it a try and so Crêpes or lettuja won the popular vote. This time we made the sweeter version.

letun paisto

Sweet Crêpes

1.5 l/6.3 c milk
1 dl/ 1/2 c sugar
2 tsp salt
1 dl/ 1/2 c wheat bran
11.8 dl/5 c flour
4 eggs
1/2 dl/1/4 c oil

Combine ingredients and whisk until smooth. Fry on a medium-hot griddle until golden brown. Serve warm. Feel free to halve the recipe if making for a smaller crowd. Serve with a topping of your choice, berries, whipped cream, jams or preserves, ice cream or a simple sprinkle of sugar.