December 28, 2012

Looking Back at 2012

The final days of 2012 are a good opportunity to take a look back and sum up a few favourite recipes and other highlights of the year. It has certainly been a whirlwind year with many happy events, but also one particularly sad memory, with a passing of my dear grandmother at the end of the year. 

I started the year off with a 21-day vegan challenge that somehow prolonged itself to 9 months. I really enjoyed the challenge of creating new recipes with no animal products and looking back I absolutely love the colours and vibrancy of the foods I created.  

Our wedding in my home town back in June and the honeymoon in France was of course the highlight of the year. We had the loveliest time celebrating our special day with our closest friends and relatives, and France in its all summery glory was everything (and more!) we expected. I would love to go back one day, as there is so much more left to experience and see.

The end of the year saw me going back to my roots (literally, as well!) with more traditional Finnish recipes and more and more interior and craft inspired posts that I've enjoyed so much. I am looking forward to all the new ideas and challenges that the new year will bring.

I thank you all for following my blog in 2012 and I wish you all the best for the new year!

December 21, 2012

Christmas Treats - Cranberry Toffee and Finnish Prune Tarts

I had somehow managed to convince myself that Christmas is still a week away and was wondering what all this "last minute" fuss is all about. A quick flip through my calendar shows, however, that Christmas is indeed a mere weekend away and I still have a lot to do before Monday. 

We have had some hot summery weather here in Sydney and I have not spent a lot of time sweltering in the kitchen. Nevertheless, I have managed to make a batch of super-easy cranberry toffees and some traditional Finnish Christmas tarts filled with prune jam. Those tarts will be a perfect treat for myself when I work my way through the final preparations for the festivities. 

I wish you all a very Happy Christmas!

 Joulutortut - Finnish Christmas Tarts
(makes about 20)

Prune Jam

250g pitted prunes
2 tablespoons sugar
250-300ml water

Christmas Tarts

250g butter, slightly softened
250g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
100ml cold water
(1-2 tablespoons cognac, optional)

1 egg, for brushing

1. Start by making the prune jam. Add all ingredients in a saucepan, bring to boil and let simmer until the prunes are completely soft. Use a hand mixer to purée the mixture into a smooth jam. Set aside.

2. Add butter, flour and baking powder to a large mixing bowl. Use your finger tips to massage the butter and flour into a crumbly mixture. Add water (and cognac, if using). Form into a smooth dough, but avoid kneading. Refrigerate for half an hour.

3. Roll the dough into a square and fold the top and the bottom half in the middle. Turn the dough (so it looks like a book), then roll again. Repeat three times. Wrap the dough in cling and refrigerate for about 2 hours or overnight.

4. To make the tarts, roll the dough into a large square (1/2 centimetre thick) and cut into about 7 x 7 cm squares. Make a diagonal cut in each corner of each square, add about a teaspoon of prune jam in the middle, then fold every other 'point' into the middle. Pinch the points to 'glue' them together, then transfer the tarts on a baking tray and refrigerate before baking.

5. Preheat the oven to 225C.

6. Brush the tarts with egg before baking. Bake for about 15 minutes or until golden. Cool on a wire rack. These can be frozen.

Cranberry Toffee
(makes 10-15 pieces)

200ml  cream
160g sugar
2 tablespoons dark treacle
1-2 tablespoons butter
about 80g dried cranberries

1. Add cream, sugar and treacle in to a saucepan. Turn on the heat and let bubble for about 20-30 minutes or until the mixture has reached a temperature of 120C. Keep stirring every now and then to avoid over-boiling. 

2. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in butter and cranberries. Pour the mixture in to a square dish (15 x 20cm), lined with greased baking paper. Refrigerate for a few hours before cutting into small squares. This will keep for about 2 weeks in the fridge.

December 18, 2012

Deck the Halls

I have been playing Finnish Christmas songs, decorating our home, baking Christmas treats and wrapping gifts, but it still doesn't quite feel like Christmas. We are in the midst of summer here in Australia, with plenty of sun and warm weather; so the atmosphere is undoubtedly different to the one in Lapland at this time of the year. Nevertheless I'm trying to make the most of a couple of weeks off and spend time outdoors, with friends and my husband.

Here are some decorations I've been playing with lately. Most of them are handmade by me, but the decorations in the top photo I brought with me from Finland. If you are yet to make your decorations, I hope these can be of some inspiration for you. With only one week left until Christmas, I hope you are feeling relaxed (!) and happy!

Top row: yarn pom pom and felt star garland, bottom row: felt ball garland

The decorations for this sugar lace mobile are made out of 250g icing sugar, 2 egg whites and a teaspoon of water (recipe). I piped the patterns on paper and let them dry before hanging them.

This clay decoration is made out of air-dry clay using three different sized circles. 
I finished off the decoration with white spray paint.

December 13, 2012

Makeshift Christmas Tree

This year our makeshift Christmas tree consists of a few branches I've painted white and a changing array of decorations from crocheted amigurumi balls to yarn pom poms, clay snowflakes and stars. I'm keeping the colour scheme white and grey and adding a touch of light wood.

December 07, 2012

Arctic Winter

Greetings from Lapland!

I came back home for a short visit to attend my grandma's funeral. We are in the midst of winter here in Lapland and the temperature has been around -20C. The winter here is so serene and beautiful; the frozen rivers, snow capped trees and the 'blue haze' we get during the day when the sun barely rises above the horizon. I feel right at home here.

A frozen river
Rapids on the Swedish border

December 03, 2012

Rye Gingerbread Cookies

Here's the recipe for those rye ginger bread cookies I promised! I love the dark, moody tone that rye flour gives to the dough and of course the dark treacle and the traditional spices add to that. 

Hope you enjoy!

Rye Gingerbread Cookies
(makes 30-50 cookies)
(recipe from

125g (organic unsalted) butter
85g raw sugar
100ml dark treacle syrup
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground bitter orange spice (optional)*
1/2 teaspoon ground clove
1 (organic) egg
about 250g rye flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
rye flour or plain flour for baking

* this is a spice commonly used in Scandinavian baking, but can be difficult to find elsewhere. You can leave it out, if you don't have it.

1. Combine butter, sugar, treacle and spices in a saucepan. Bring to boil then leave to cool. 

2. Add egg. Combine rye flour and soda and add to the mix. Stir until smooth then leave, covered, in the fridge overnight.

3. Work the dough in batches, rolling in to thin discs, then using cookie cutters to cut out shapes. Place the cookies on baking sheets lined with baking paper and bake in 200C for about 8 minutes.

4. Cool on a wire rack, store in airtight containers (or in the freezer to keep them crisp).

November 28, 2012

Christmas Mood Board: Brown & Red

It's time for another Christmas mood board! As much as I'm a fan of modern white and grey colour scheme for Christmas, I quite like the more traditional take with brown and red as well. I used mostly natural materials to create this mood board; paper rosettes made of the pages of an old book, brown paper wreath was made using craft tape, brown paper wrapping topped with decorative ribbons, doilies, coloured wooden beads, and wooden numbers and wooden scrabble tiles to personalise packaging and gift tags. Handmade red felt balls give a nice festive twist to my plain wooden beads.

The little cubes are made out of natural straw and are a part of 'himmeli', a traditional Finnish Christmas decoration I am still putting together! As you may know, I am a huge fan of good old plywood and those tags with little snowflake cut outs, as well as the plywood deer are amongst my favourites for this Christmas.

PS. I have a recipe for those rye ginger bread cookies you see in these photos. I will post that too soon!


November 24, 2012

DIY Felt String-Tie Envelope Advent Calendar

I'm continuing the grey & white colour scheme with this DIY Advent calendar made out of felt string-tie envelopes. It's an easy, but a little time-consuming project seeing that you will have to make 24 envelopes! I used this template on white acrylic felt and fabric glue to close the seems. This is much quicker than hand-stitching, but you can do that too if you have the time (and patience).

After cutting up and glueing 24 envelopes, I drew the numbers on grey felt using wooden numbers as a template. Then I cut them up and glued at the back of each envelope. Finally I cut 2 x 24 round discs out of grey felt and attached two on each envelope with silver brads and cotton string.

These envelopes are a perfect size for little Advent gifts like wooden Christmas decorations, lollies, and cute messages or pictures. I used white wooden pegs to hold the envelopes on a cotton string.

Hope you have a lovely (crafty) weekend!

November 20, 2012

Grey & White Christmas

This year I'm sticking to pure whites and different shades of grey for my gift wrapping. I'm using a variety of materials and textures, such as yarn, felt, paper and clay to create decorations and gift tags. I've used plain white paper with ribbons and strings, clay tags and buttons to personalise parcels. Hand stitched string-tie envelopes are another fun way to pack cards or even small cookies or lollies as gifts.

Yarn pom pom dotted with hand-stitched felt stars is a fun and easy project to make (you can look up yarn pom pom instructions anywhere online, there are heaps). I will do a round-up of different holiday garlands too sometime soon.