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.


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.


New to Me: Jordan Nassar Embroideries

Arts & Crafts

I’ve been meaning to share this for a while now, but something or other was always supposedly more important or interesting. No more! 🙂

Jordan Nassar creates intricate, painting-like embroideries that mix traditional stitching with a modern approach, color scheme or subject-matter – or all of them.

The way he repeats a simple stitch en masse and creates an image with color (in contrast to varying the stitching) is fascinating:

Jordan Nassar The Arab Apocalypse

The Arab Apocalypse. Jordan Nassar.

Also intriguing are the pieces with rows of traditional symbols that, beneath an unaltered row, are reflected or refracted:

Jordan Nassar Haifa

Haifa. Jordan Nassar.

On his About page, Nassar’s work is described like this:

“Nassar’s work addresses the intersection of craft, language, history, (geo)politics, and technology. Beginning with the intricacies of identity and cultural participation, as a Palestinian- American, Nassar treats traditional craft more as medium than topic, examining subjects such as cultural heritage, ownership, exchange and absorption; emigrant nostalgia for the ‘homeland’ and its generational repercussions; geography, politics, and orientalism; symbology, codes and language systems; superstition and religious belief; post-internet visual language; and representational and geometric abstraction.”


I think my favorites are the monochrome pieces that remind me of traditional Finnish textiles like ryijy or käspakka. Of course it helps that his are my favorite color, blue! 🙂

Jordan Nassar Untitled 8 Pointed Stars

Untitled (8 Pointed Stars). Jordan Nassar.

For more, visit Nassar’s web page or follow him on Instagram.

Found via design*sponge.

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

New to Me: Himmeli-Style Hanging Planters Made from Brass

Design & Designers, Stunt Double

Mandi Gubler at Vintage Revivals shared a tutorial for making himmeli-style hanging planters:

Vintage Revivals Mandi Gubler Himmeli Hanging Planters

Mandi Gubler at Vintage Revivals.

Hers are made from brass tubing and leather thongs for durability. I like the updated materials! I’m not so sure about the modern shapes, though – I’m fond of this particular Finnish tradition, but I do realize turning a traditionally-shaped himmeli into a planter would be very difficult (see some examples in a past post of mine).

Visit Mandi’s blog for the video tutorial in stop-motion.

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

Finnish Folk Hop Ensemble Tuuletar Lends Wings to Game of Thrones Ad

Arts & Crafts, Movies & TV, Thumbs Up

Alku (‘Beginning’), a piece by the Finnish vocal folk hop ensemble Tuuletar, appears in a Game of Thrones commercial. The band’s website says,

“’Alku’, the opening track from Tuuletar’s debut album “tules maas vedes taivaal” has been sold for the use of one of the most popular tv-series in the whole world, HBO’s Game of Thrones. The song will be heard in the season 7 DVD and Blue-Ray [sic] commercial, which will be broadcasted worldwide. The deal was made together with Finnish record label Bafe’s Factory and ThinkSync Music from London.”

The ThinkSync news page on the sale links to a German-language DVD / Blu-Ray trailer for GoT season 7 on YouTube with Alku in the background:

GAME OF THRONES Staffel 7 – Trailer #2 Deutsch HD German (2017) by Warner Bros. DE

Tuuletar mashes up a cappella, beatboxing and Finnish folk music and poetry into a unique combination. Their debut album, Tules maas vedes taivaal (‘On Fire and Earth, in Water and Sky‘), won the prestigious Emma Award (the Finnish version of a Grammy) for the best ethno album of the year in 2016.

Tuuletar IMG_0510-1024x683


Vocalists Venla Ilona Blom, Sini Koskelainen, Johanna Kyykoski and Piia Säilynoja make up Tuuletar. More videos at YouTube or Tuuletar website.

Congrats, Tuuletar! I first blogged about the band two years ago just before they released their debut record, and am absolutely delighted to see them doing so well. And Alku is so amazing it gives me chills – always a sign of greatness!

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

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).


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: Himmeli Video Tutorials

Geek out!

The world is marvelously international these days. Evidence A: Magdalena Franco at Unleash Creative in Australia made a video tutorial of how to make three simple Finnish himmeli-style hanging straw ornaments:

Himmeli 3 ways – Tutorial for creating geometric hanging decorations using straws by Unleash Creative

Such lovely versions. I especially like her use of bright colors, and the tassels are a nice addition. I’ve used beads myself. (If you prefer voice instructions with your video, this tutorial by HGTV Handmade is pretty good.)

Magdalena’s himmeli number 2, an octahedron, is what I’m used to thinking as the himmeli shape. It’s used as a building block in making the large, traditional himmelis like this one from a 1909 encyclopedia:

Bonsdorff 1909 Tietosanakirja p270 himmeli

Wäinö Waldemar Bonsdorff: Tietosanakirja, 1909, p. 270. Via University of Toronto / Internet Archive Book Images on Flickr.

(I don’t know what the things hanging down from the bottom corners are. Strips of fabric? Ribbons?)

Himmeli shapes can also vary a lot and be very ornate like the one below photographed by sparkleice on Flickr:

Flickr sparkleice himmeli

Himmeli by sparkleice on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

The name himmeli is based on the Germanic word himmel (heaven). They were originally made to ensure a good harvest – the bigger, the better – but turned into Christmas ornaments.

Nowadays himmelis aren’t used just at Christmastime, though. For example, I’ve seen pictures of colorful himmelis used as decoration for a summer patio or deck. I leave mine out in the front hall year-round as a lovely reminder of my roots. There are also all sorts of wonderful adaptations, like this diamond himmeli from Kotivinkki magazine:

Kotivinkki joulukuu 2012 salmiakkihimmeli

Project by Anne Ventelä based on the book Himmeli by Eija Koski (Maahenki, 2012); photo by Hanna-Kaisa Hämäläinen. Kotivinkki joulukuu 2012 /

Looks like himmeli (along sauna) is on its way to becoming one of the very few Finnish words known around the world. The ornaments themselves certainly deserve to be more widely known.

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

Discoveries: Tuuletar Folk Hop Ensemble

Arts & Crafts, Thumbs Up

The Finnish folk hop ensemble Tuuletar has almost entirely taken over my playlist this month! They mash up a cappella, beatboxing and Finnish folk music and poetry into a unique combination. Some of the elements they incorporate even sound like yoik to me.

Tuuletar Promokuva1_WEB


At first I was baffled, not really being a fan of beatboxing, but the songs tend sneak up on you and before you notice, they stick around. Some of my new favorites are linked below.

In 2014, they made a go to be the Finnish representative in the Eurovision Song Contest with the song Ruhtinaan tyttäret, made in collaboration with the Swedish producer Fredrik Arvidsson:

Ruhtinaan tyttäret (AUDIO) – Tuuletar feat. Fredrik Arvidsson via Tuuletar Vocalensemble

A 2014 live performance with audience participation at restaurant Kahvilla in Tampere, Finland:

Tuuletar – Tuu-kerää – LIVE Ravintola Kahvilla (25/7/2014) via Sini Koskelainen

Another live performance from the same year, this one at Klubb Ankaret in Göteborg, Sweden:

Pohjan Neito – Tuuletar – LIVE at Klubb Ankaret (22/10/2014) via Tuuletar Vocalensemble

Such innovative work – and you can tell they’re having fun themselves. 🙂 Tuuletar is about to release their first full album, expected in May 2016. I definitely need to remember this group!

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

Discoveries: Antique Pattern Library

Arts & Crafts, Bits in Spaaace!, Colors, Design & Designers, Fabrics & Materials, Inspiration

Antique Pattern Library is a non-profit project that collects and publishes old craft patterns online. The textile history nerd in me was immediately interested, so I spent some time browsing the site.

The purpose of the library is preservation and access:

“This ongoing project is an effort to scan craft pattern publications that are in the public domain, to preserve them, so we can keep our craft heritages in our hands. Most of these scans have been graphically edited to make the images easier for craft workers to see, and to reduce file sizes. They are available, for free, to anyone who wants them, for educational, personal, artistic and other creative uses.”

The site has several sections, including calligraphy, carpentry, drawing, paper crafts and sewing, and various forms of yarn crafts like crochet, cross-stitch, knitting, lacemaking and tatting.

Each section has a number of resources ranging from a handful to several dozen. Mostly they are pdf scans of old paper publications or detail images posted as individual webpages. Some patterns are available as either part of the pdfs or as separate webpages. Unfortunately, the resources listed also include things that are not yet published online. The woodworking section, for example, is almost entirely made up of placeholder thumbnails with basic accompanying metadata. It does look like items are added as they are processed, though.

I’ve included some favorites below to give you a tiny taste of what Antique Pattern Library can offer. First, a fancy bird from a booklet on handwriting, copyrighted in Pittsfield, Mass., in 1881:

Intro Real Pen-Work p30of54

Screencap from Introduction to the Real Pen-Work Self-Instructor in Penmanship, 1881; via Antique Pattern Library.


This handwriting guide has one of those quaintly over-long titles: Introduction to the Real Pen-Work Self-Instructor in Penmanship. (Phew!)

I was particularly impressed by the needlework resources. Below are three embroidered borders from a booklet drawn from Bohemian, Moravian and Slovakian museums, possibly from 1920s:

Czecho-Slovakian Embroideries p23of53

Screencap from Czecho-Slovakian Embroideries (DMC Library), ed. by Th. de Dillmont; via Antique Pattern Library.


Some of the patterns and color selections look surprisingly modern, like these snippets from a booklet on art nouveau designs (of unknown date):

Point de Croix Nouveau Dessins 6meSer p10of25

Screencap from Point de Croix Nouveau Dessins, 6me Série (Bibliothèque DMC), ed. by Th. de Dillmont; via Antique Pattern Library.


In general, many of the library’s publications come from northwestern or northern Europe, but some American works are also included. I have studied Nordic and German patterns in libraries and museums back in Europe. As I don’t have access to them at the moment, the Antique Pattern Library is a very welcome find. I especially appreciate being able to look at Slavic and Dutch sources, since I haven’t really had a chance before. It’s also nice, albeit a little intimidating, to be able to stretch my less-often used language muscles.

There’s so much on the site that I didn’t even scratch the surface. I definitely see myself returning to Antique Pattern Library again and again!

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