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.

Free Printable Heart Gift Tags

Arts & Crafts, Bits in Spaaace!, DIY

This year, I’m attempting to organize everything holiday-related well in advance. (The operative word being “attempting.” Eek – it’s six weeks to Christmas!)

I made these minimalist gift tags inspired by my Nordic roots. And I made them specifically to share with you – read on for the link to download yours!

Red Xstitch Heart Gift Tag on Box

Heart is a popular Christmastime ornament in the Nordic countries, and not reserved just for Valentine’s Day. I made the cross stitch heart and interlaced tag outline with a photo editor.

Red Xstitch Heart Gift Tags 2016

Then I trimmed them into rectangles, but you can either cut along the outline or create whichever shape you prefer.

Red Xstitch Heart Gift Tags2 2016

Download as .pdf (9 per letter-sized sheet; free for personal use only).

Enjoy!

 

Online Finds: Scandinavian-Style Fuse Bead Xmas Ornaments

Arts & Crafts, Colors, Fabrics & Materials, Stunt Double

Bea at Sew and So Ideas shared a fuse beads tutorial for making traditional Scandinavian-style Christmas tree ornaments:

Sew and So Ideas Hama-Bead-Decorations-802x1024-1

Bea at Sew and So Ideas.

Lovely! The combination of red and white (or sometimes red and grey, at least in Finland) and the embroidered details definitely remind me of the Nordic countries.

As it so happens, I’m sharing a related printable freebie tomorrow. 🙂

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

Happy Halloween!

After Hours, Design & Designers

I was scrolling through old photos looking for something else when I came across this Halloweeny picture:
Griffin Helmet Fitting Nat Mus Denmark

It’s a griffin-shaped metal item, probably a helmet fitting. It was found in Roman period Denmark, 2nd to 3rd century, and is currently in the collection of the National Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen. Photo by Husband.

Happy Halloween to those celebrating!

Colors: The Story of the PGH Logo

Behind the Scenes, Colors, Design & Designers

I was asked what the Playfully Grownup logo is and where it comes from. I’ll give you two answers: a short and a long one.

Short answer:

I created it on the basis of a piece of historical embroidery from Finland. It’s meant to evoke a window or a house and to appear in multiples with a rainbow-like effect rippling through the squares. The different colors refer to inclusiveness and human diversity, both physically, mentally and culturally.

Long answer:

I created the logo on the basis of a piece of historical embroidery from Finland. When I was brainstorming the logo, I looked at everything I could think of. For a while, I was working on a pattern I got from photographing a print fabric, cropping a section and re-coloring it in various ways. In the end I wasn’t very taken with it, so out it went. Not to mention the potential copyright issues – this fabric was still in production a year or two ago, and even if my usage might be considered de minimis *and* transformational, it was a can of worms I didn’t want to open.

I was also inspired to look at my old textile history files. I got into textile history originally through the Society of Creative Anachronism (SCA) and live action role-play (LARPing), but I also chose topics related to textile history in my formal studies. One of my minors at the university was Finnish and comparative ethnology. In addition to barn type distributions, oven types vis-a-vis food traditions, wooing customs, informant interview techniques and whatnot, I read on Finnish folk costumes and traditional Finnish hand sewing techniques and materials. (Come to think of it, so much of my textile history reading was outside school. I really should have been smarter and found a way to get credit for it!)

There was a pattern book I was particularly interested in and used a lot. I *think* it’s Theodor Schvindt’s book Ompelu- ja nauhakoristeita (publ. Helsinki SKS, 1992). Unfortunately, my notes and the copies I made from the book got separated, so I can’t be sure anymore. In any case, I copied a few of the patterns into .bmp files. (Quaint, eh? 🙂 ) Here’s one of the images I painstakingly created:

Kuvio2 w Arrow

Some Finnish folk embroidery patterns. The red arrow points to the section I used as the basis for my business logo.

The image has several snippets of embroidery patterns. I believe most came from apron hems or hand towel endblocks or similar flat textiles. I mostly copied just enough to see how the pattern elements repeat; the full patterns / textiles were quite magnificent. In this image, the pattern on upper left caught my eye, especially the center of the rightmost motif. (I’ve blown it up and circled the motif center in the image.) I grabbed that section only…

SquarePNG…and started playing around with it. Here’s a collage of just some of the intermediate stages in the development process:

Logo Development Collage

1. Turning the original design 45 degrees and multiplying a small section. 2. Copying the original design as a tile. 3. Making a panel with two rows of the original design and experimenting with different colors.

Turning the original design 45 degrees and multiplying a small section didn’t pan out – see (1) in the image above. Copying the original design as a tile (2) looked more promising. Nothing really grabbed me, however, until I made a panel with two rows of the original design (3). That created a whole new focal point, the “window”, and I decided to use that as the basic building block for my logo. Then it was just a matter of experimenting with different colors and repeats. At one point I even played around with adding a “roof”, but that idea didn’t live long.

For my business card, I made a few rows of blocks for the top and bottom:

Business Cards 1st BatchI initially had the same design on this website, but I found it visually too heavy. Only one row of blocks looks much better.

The logo block is also less effective singly than as a panel. I think it still works just fine because two colors are more interesting than one. Below is the banner for my Etsy store’s front page:

PGH Etsy Banner 100x760

I picked the blue block as the default stand-alone doohickey, since greyish blue is my favorite color. I’ve also started to use the stand-alone block for reserving my Etsy items when I get a request:

Reserved Listing Purple

The logo is really meant to appear in multiples, however, with a rainbow effect rippling through the squares:

Thin Banner 1102x350I chose the rainbow-like effect because I like having color around. For me, colors are an aspect of happiness, and increasing my happiness was one reason for starting this business. I was also thinking of inclusiveness. It’s staggering how diverse both physically, mentally and culturally humans are. While I’m not interested in everything we humans do, I find such variety amazing. Finally, it’s also a subtle nod towards the gay pride rainbow flag. (I am not gay, but I am an ally. As a geek who has received her fair share of prejudice and dismissal for my “weird” interests, I will not intentionally inflict the same kind of pain on others.)

I also quite like how the different colors change from one block to another roughly through the color spectrum with the possibility of endless repeat. No individual block is monotone, just like people are rarely reducible into one stereotype.

The “window” logo fit my business idea (home textiles) particularly well, I thought. However, I was a little concerned over potential Microsoft Windows logo infringement accusations. (If you look at my initial color experiments in the development image, the resemblance is stronger.) It was definitely a consideration in creating the final form of the logo and why in the end I chose two-colored logo blocks for single appearances and the rainbow-like effect for multiples.

Many of the choices I’ve made are highly personal preferences. I’m under no delusion that my creation holds universal appeal. The logo works hand-in-hand with my business idea and visual taste, however, and that is quite enough for the moment. Also, it’s the first time I’ve designed a logo. It was a fascinating process, and almost as satisfying as creating something tangible. 🙂

Colors: Invoking Autumnal Nature

Arts & Crafts, Colors, Design & Designers, Inspiration

Marimekko’s latest home décor line, Sääpäiväkirja (Weather Diary), was inspired by Finnish nature in the fall: wind-blown trees, rustling reeds, glowing golden grasses, storm-soaked rocks and misty archipelago mornings. I grabbed my favorite dishware into one collage:

Marimekko Saapaivakirja Collage

Sääpäiväkirja pattern by Aino-Maija Metsola / Marimekko; collage by Eppu Jensen.

I am certainly reminded of sky and water when the weather is changing, or of seeing a golden sunrise through mist.

In the design process, I’m fascinated by the number of iterations a pattern might go through before “the one” emerges. Below is a photo with the Sääpäiväkirja coffee mug and some of the sketches:

Marimekko Saapaivakirja in the making

Sääpäiväkirja pattern by Aino-Maija Metsola / Marimekko.

If you’re at all interested in the design process, you should definitely visit the U.S. Marimekko site for more photos of sketches next to finished products.

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

Discoveries: Gudrun Sjödén

Colors, Design & Designers, Inspiration, Thumbs Up

Gudrun Sjödén is a Swedish designer who has run a store by the same name for almost 40 years. I just discovered the company today, and I’m blown away!

They carry home textiles and women’s clothing of Gudrun’s design. One of her lines for the 2013 winter season (both home textiles and clothing) drew inspiration from Estonian folk art, but I see modern design as well:

Gudrun Sjoden Collage1

Gudrun Sjödén; collage by Eppu Jensen.

Gudrun Sjoden Collage2

Gudrun Sjödén; collage by Eppu Jensen.

Gudrun Sjoden Collage3

Gudrun Sjödén; collage by Eppu Jensen.

Some of the clothing reminds me of Marimekko or of Eileen Fisher except for the colors. Have a look yourself:

Gudrun Sjoden Clothing Collage

Gudrun Sjödén; collage by Eppu Jensen.

Granted, the designs are not for everyone – a NYT article from this April described the style “as if Putamayo, Marimekko and Eileen Fisher had a love child.” (Someone else sees similarities between Gudrun & Eileen Fisher, ha!) They definitely embody the company’s idea, though, which is to make “colourful clothes and home textiles in natural materials with an emphasis on Scandinavian design” (quoted from Gudrun’s World). A lot of her designs do feel familiar.

Although the Gudrun Sjödén stores are mainly found in Europe, they have a store in New York City, too:

Gudrun Sjoden New York Store

Gudrun Sjödén’s New York Store.

I wonder whether I’ll have to add the store to my things-to-do-next-time-I’m-in-NYC list…

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