April 2019 Recap

Ahem Ahem!

Like last month, I’ve done some prototype work this April. For a while I’ve wondered about using felt as interfacing in various projects. We’ve already been using my two placemat prototypes for over six months; they seem to be holding well.

This time I started a purse. Here are the fabrics during the color test / fabric selection phase:

Purse Prototype Fabrics

I had two golden ribbons to choose between; if you look carefully, the one on the right has tone-on-tone striping. In the end, I decided on the plainer ribbon. I may have regrets, though…

A major roadblock for this project has been an 8-point applique star. I started that already in March by making a pattern. As this was to be a prototype, I wanted to use up some scraps from my remnants bin. In hindsight that wasn’t a very good decision; I had an inordinate amount of trouble with the star, since I foolishly selected two very slippery, knit-based fabrics: crushed velvet and faux chamois.

I did finish the star eventually, after much cursing and procrastination.

Applique Star WiP Pieced

Now I just can’t decide whether it’s good enough to apply on the purse. I guess that means not.

Well. You win some, you lose some. That’s just the nature of the creative process.

But: Having finished my taxes earlier than usual, I also had ample time to rearrange my workroom. That invariably meant flinging the smaller bookcases around. In addition, I took the opportunity to death clean some of my possessions, and all that lead to restyling my shelves. I made a curtain to hide some of the less than handsome binders and folders:

Bookcase Curtain Finished

The rest of the shelves aren’t quite there yet, but the curtain is looking great, don’t you think? 🙂

Since I moved my desk, my office phone handset was displaced. I made it a tiny end table out of two upcycled oatmeal containers, posterboard and a round tablecloth:

DIY Phone Table Finished

Here’s a secret: the tablecloth is actually one of my SCA veils, naturally well-washed and pressed. (SCA here means Society for Creative Anachronism, Inc., i.e., a group of medieval re-enactors.)

In early April, we finally lost the last of the snow and got to enjoy the first leaf buds and flowers, albeit a little late. Spring is my favorite time of the year! 🙂

2019 First Dandelions2

Flowering Pear First Flower

We continue to experiment with new foods due to dietary restrictions. Here’s a dessert that happened to be all vegan: poached pears, roasted & salted cashews and almondmilk vanilla ice cream.

Poached Pears w Pecans

Will I sound too childish if I say OM NOM NOM!?! 🙂

And, of course, at the end of the month we saw Avengers: Endgame. I’m still mulling it over, but it definitely is a one-of-a-kind ending to a one-of-a-kind series of independent but interlinked movies.

Cake Toppers That Look Like Flowers, Embroidery, Geodes and More

Design & Designers, Food & Drink, Thumbs Up

My Modern Met shared some amazing buttercream cake toppers in an article. They are the work of Leslie Vigil, California-based artist and cake maker. And they are. So. Beautiful! All of them!

Among the most interesting to me were these three toppers that include embroidery-like elements:

Instagram Leslie Vigil Cake Collage Embroidery

Leslie Vigil on Instagram; collage by Eppu Jensen.

Her geode cakes would make great treats for theme parties for N.K. Jemisin The Broken Earth trilogy:

Instagram Leslie Vigil Cake Collage Geodes

Leslie Vigil on Instagram; collage by Eppu Jensen.

There are also a few explicitly geeky ones, like this Groot cake:

Instagram Leslie Vigil Groot

Leslie Vigil on Instagram.

Visit the My Modern Met article and Vigil’s Instagram for more – there are so many designs to love! Almost makes me wish I were in California, too. Then again, I’m sure my doctor would be much happier if I were to stay away, far away, from cakes. 🙂

Found via Good Stuff Happened Today on Tumblr.

Note: I wasn’t paid or perked to mention this; just passing along a good thing.

Finnish Prune Pinwheel Tartlets for Christmas

Food & Drink

I’ve talked about Finnish foods a bit before, for instance sour cream pie, liver sausage and blueberry soup. I don’t think I’ve done more than mention the joulutorttu, though, the baked Christmas dessert filled with plum jam.

Joulutorttu

Back in the day when you had to make the puff pastry from scratch they must’ve taken a good while to produce. These days, with store-bought puff pastry, they really are a cinch to make:

  • cut thawed puff pastry sheets into 9 evenly-sized squares
  • separately for each square, cut every corner in half as if you’re cutting a line diagonally from each corner to the center BUT leave about 1” in the center intact
  • fill centers with about a teaspoon of plum jam
  • make a pinwheel shapes by bringing every other half-corner together in the center
  • if desired, brush beaten egg on exposed puff pastry surfaces
  • bake about 10 minutes in a preheated oven (400 degrees F / 200 C or according to package) or until golden brown
  • let cool and dust with confectioners sugar

(These instructions fit U.S pastry sheets and measurements.)

Since I haven’t found plum jam in stores here, I’ve developed a super-duper easy way: I soak prunes in hot water until soft (approx. as long as the pastry takes to thaw) and use them to fill the tartlet, one prune per square. I also use toothpicks to skewer through both the pinwheel corners and prune in the center so that the tartlet won’t open while baking (the tips will burn easily if they do). And since I’m not terribly fond of confectioners sugar, I usually skip it.

While flipping through a back issue of Country Living magazine, I spotted the very same pastries except with a summery filling: jam and cream cheese.

Country Living 7-8-2016 Jam Pinwheels

Country Living July/August 2016, p. 20.

Country Living magazine gives credit for these jam and cream cheese versions to Kayley McCabe; visit the post at Handmade Charlotte for her writeup and tips.

They sound absolutely delicious – I’ll have to try some time!

Note: I wasn’t paid or perked to mention this; just passing along a good thing.

 

Experimental Cooking: Popcorn Nachos

DIY, Food & Drink

Due to various dietary restrictions (some old, some new), we’re trying out different versions of old favorites and recipes completely new to us. This means food experiments! Here’s Husband’s latest: popcorn nachos.

Experimental Cooking Popcorn Nachos

It works surprisingly well, even if the result is a bit crumbly. As long as you’re using a fork, it’s fine.

You don’t need a recipe as such, but here’s the how-to:

  • Pop a batch of corn and pick out the unpopped kernels. Spread in the bottom of a baking dish.
  • Top with a light layer of salsa, chopped peppers, olives, mozzarella, etc. – whatever you’d put on regular nachos.
  • Bake in the oven at 350 Fahrenheit / 175 Celcius until the cheese melts.

Did you try it? What did you think?

Early Start to Christmas: Food!

Food & Drink, My Spaces

Usually we’re not ready for Christmas by the time December rolls around, but this year has been different. We sung our first carol – in Finnish, for which I give full props to Husband! – at the end of October. I pulled out the ornaments before Thanksgiving, and Husband brought home the first Christmas foods just afterwards.

I really like my Finnish Christmas food. When Husband and I got married, we had to fit our respective customs together into a combination that included both of our favorites. Fortunately that turned out very easy, because his New England family traditions and my Finnish ones are quite similar. Instead of turkey and cranberry, we make ham and prunes with various sides. They tend to vary from year to year, but always include some form of potato. 🙂

And the desserts! We decided to include a small amount of a wide variety, so there’s space for both traditions. When I can’t get Finnish gingerbread cookies, I’ll choose the Swedish brand Annas pepparkakor. We’re also stuffing ourself with clementines.

Xmas Foods Annas pepparkakor

Xmas Foods Clementines

I’ve really grown to like eggnog a lot. Due to my lactose intolerance, we tend to look for non-dairy alternatives, though. This new-to-us nog turned out pretty yummy.

Xmas Foods Non-Dairy Nog

I like the fact that this one is only lightly sweetened – the only place I prefer lots of sugar is in my alcohol – but I felt it lacked some creaminess. Quite nice, however, especially with a splash of vanilla soy milk.

I’m also looking forward to making and eating joulutortut and rice porridge (rice pudding).

Joulutorttu

Christmas Rice Porridge

What are your favorite end-of-year holiday foods?

Note: I wasn’t paid or perked to mention this; just passing along a good thing.

Online Finds: Gilded Insect Cookies for Halloween

Arts & Crafts, DIY, Food & Drink, Stunt Double

We do Halloween in a very minimal way in our house. I do, however, love seeing what creative decorations and tips other people have shared. This year, Claire’s gilded cookies top it all:

The Simple Sweet Life Claire Gilded Insect Cookies

Claire at The Simple Sweet Life.

How elegant! And such detail – wow. Learn more from the tutorial by Claire at The Simple Sweet Life.

Note: I wasn’t paid or perked to mention this; just passing along a good thing.

Two Finnish Blueberry Soups

DIY, Food & Drink

By accident, at my local library I ran into a maritime Massachusetts cookbook, In Cod We Trust by Heather Atwood. I was very surprised to find several references to Finns in it. I know immigrants from Finland settled in various places around New England and the Midwest in the late 1800s and early 1900s, but I had assumed that their numbers in Massachusetts were nowhere large enough to make a lasting impression. Lo and behold, I was quite wrong!

“The West Barnstable Finns brought their affection for fruits and berries to Cape Cod, where local blueberries and cranberries made them very happy. Jewel-like fruit soups find their way to Finnish tables in West Barnstable all year round. They are served as a light lunch, a first course, or as dessert. They are served warm and cold. They are served alone for a light, refreshing, and healthful dish, and they are served by the tablespoon luxuriantly over a bowl of rice pudding.”

Heather Atwood, In Cod We Trust, 2015, p. 105.

Here’s a Finnish blueberry soup recipe from West Barnstable, Massachusetts, according to Atwood:

West Barnstable Finnish Blueberry Soup

West Barnstable Finnish Blueberry Soup from Heather Atwood: In Cod We Trust (2015).

(Serves 4 as soup / 6 over rice pudding)

  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups blueberries
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon mace
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons arrowroot (or cornstarch)
  • 3 tablespoons cold water
  • ¼ cup port
  • yougurt or whipped cream

“Bring water to a boil in a saucepan and add blueberries, sugar, mace, cinnamon, and salt. Add arrowroot (or cornstarch) to cold water, and mix into a smooth paste. When the berries have cooked about 10 minutes, slowly stir the arrowroot mixture into the boiling soup. Cook 2 minutes more, or until thick. Add port. Remove the cinnamon stick. Serve warm as is, or chilled, with a dollop of yogurt or whipped cream on top. Again, this is also delicious served over warm rice pudding.”

Sounds both familiar and unfamiliar, for the everyday recipes I grew up with don’t have port or spices, just sugar and the berries. Around Christmastime you might make a soup out of dried fruit and/or berries, or a fruit medley, and include a Christmasy mix of spices in that. Berry soups of various kinds taste very good on cold rice pudding, too, and make a nice snack even on their own. Also, traditionally we use wild berries, not the cultivated ones, but I find that which kind to choose is merely a question of preference.

To compare, here’s a berry soup recipe I learned in home ec class:

(Serves 2)

  • 2 cups / 4-5 dl water
  • scant ¼ to ½ cup / ½-1 dl berry mash or juice
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons potato starch
  • 4 tablespoons / ½ dl cold water
  • scant ½ cup / 1 dl berries, fresh or frozen

Bring the water to a boil. Add the berry mash or juice and sugar and cook for about five minutes. Do not overcook. Blend the starch and cold water into a smooth paste. Lift the pot from heat and slowly stir the starch mixture into the berry water, mixing thoroughly while pouring. Return the pot to heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until a few bubbles rise to the surface (soup shoud be clear and thick).

Pour fresh or frozen berries into the serving dish. Pour soup on top of the berries and sprinkle with sugar to discourage a skim from forming. Chill and serve. (If a skim does form on the surface, just stir it back into the liquid.)

Dinner2 Dessert

You can substitute corn starch for potato starch, or whatever is commonly used in your cooking culture to thicken liquids that doesn’t have a strong taste of its own. Also, by adding or subtracting starch, it’s easy to adjust the thickness of the soup to desired consistency. Thick, rich soups take 4-5 tablespoons and lighter soups 2-3 tablespoons per quart / liter of liquid.

Now I want berry soup! 🙂

P.S. We used a variant of this very same berry soup in our Lord of the Rings dinner project.

Note: I wasn’t paid or perked to mention this; just passing along a good thing.

Raspberry Sour Cream Pie Recipe

DIY, Food & Drink

A sour cream pie made with our first raspberries! Berry pies with sour cream are quite popular back home in Finland, and very summery.

Raspberry Sour Cream Pie

Here’s my favorite recipe converted into American measurements from metric.

Ingredients:

For the crust:

  • ½ cup butter
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 ¼ cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ cup water

For the filling:

  • ca. 1 cup fresh or frozen berries
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 egg

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 F / 175 C. Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the baking powder and then flour a little at a time, mixing well in between. Add the water last. Mix gently. The crust should be a little flakey, not elastic like bread dough.

Pat evenly on the sides and bottom of a 9” pie plate with well-floured hands. Spread berries evenly on the crust. The berries should fill the crust but not overcrowd it; a few gaps are fine.

In a bowl, mix together the sour cream and sugar. Add egg and mix. Pour on top of berries.

Place pie plate on a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper in case of spills. Bake for approx. 45 minutes or until slightly browned at the edges.

Tastes best when cooled and keeps well in the fridge for up to a week.