Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Can Mother Nature squeeze just a little bit more out??



Yep.. SNOW was what I woke up to this morning....

Not much snowfall really, but when you've just begun to feel that Spring/Summer is finally coming.. it's a bit of a downer first thing in the morning! :D

I really shouldn't be surprised.. I do this to myself every year now! As I said in my last post...it isn't over.. until it is over!





So, it was back out with the long handled car snow brush... I didn't think Mark would have to use that again so soon... a useful tool, as you can see from the short video snippet.

video





The road was like this at 6.30am... Cool and calm...


The river which is nearly melted now, was choppy with ice rafts...





Yep.. REALLY Spring like! :D (Welcome to Lapland! LOL!!)

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All content, unless otherwise noted, is © ArcticRainbow and may not be reproduced in any form without express permission from the author, except for credited links directly to articles or to the main site. (I don't bite...just ask!) :D

Sunday, April 26, 2009

It's not over, till it's over...


Winter that is!

The snow can surprise you, right up until the last day.. then the summer starts with the arrival of its friends.. the mosquitoes!

I've been meaning to run a blog for some while now, but what with work and being unwell the last week with a horrid bug.. it just didn't happen.. so this is a little late.. but better late than never... after all, once out of the internet, this might be read in a weeks time, a months time or even a years time or more.. (I also have lots of snow time images to share with you... I will try to do that soon...)

The melt of Spring has been upon us for a while now.. back at the end of March I took several photographs to show the ice in town as it was receding.. it's lovely at this time of year.. (NOT).. the snow can melt and refreeze several times over to create vaste skating rinks.. primed for creating many of annual visitors to the casualty dept.. Indeed my first winter/spring thaw time here, I slipped and broke my left elbow.

Normally I wear my yaktrax.. but on this occasion, one had broken slightly (after MUCH use) and I decided rather stupidly to not wear them at all. BIG mistake. In case you do not know what I mean.. they are an invaluable tool that you wear over your shoes, boots etc.. and if you are coming to Lapland and are worried about falling, I do highly recommend them. They are lightweight, easy to wear and like a certain bank card.. one should never leave home without them!


You can find them HERE

Anyway, here are the photos.. in slideshow format. What looks like snow on the road is in fact ice.There is also one image of the frozen river, with all the skidoo tracks on it (now it is virtually defrosted) and like many of the official iceroads (frozen rivers) opened during winter to skiiers, skidoos etc.. is now closed unless you have a deathwish.

The other yucky side to the snow melting is that it all goes a yucky grey or brown at the road sides, a reminder of how much emissions a car puts out! Ive tried to steer clear of those images.. but there is one pile of grey snow in the slide. It is also very hard to discern but the photograph on the pathway (by the railing of the rivers bridge), was actually trying (and failing miserably) to show you that the receding ice there was about 4" thick. We did have some beautiful blue skies in March though.. as you can see.



Anyway, Winter is not so willing to give up the reigns here so easily. Just when you think that the snow had stopped its visits.. it surprises you! Here are two videos.. taken on Monday 20th April. Same day..morning and afternoon on the same road. It had been snowing heavily, although you can't see it, it still was slightly. If I'd have taken the video earlier all you would have seen was a white out! Later on in the afternoon.. everything was back to normal! :D The first video is rather long.. the afternoon one is much shorter. They are a bit grainy.. sorry about the quality! As you can see.. our roads are 'uber' busy LOL...!!!!





Now we are left with the middling stage...what snow there is in the forest, has little density and is hard to walk on. There is little colour and a rather drab landscape. Spring here is rather boring in my view..I do miss the masses of tree blossoms, the burgeoning daffodils, crocus' etc.. Soon enough, the snow will all be gone and Summer will march on in... the midnight sun of Lapland is not so far away. Indeed, the nights are already much lighter here and very late at night, it is not a deep dark sky.



On Friday.. it actually RAINED! We were in town and we all commented on it. "Ugh.. what's this wet stuff?" LOL.. one of the main signs that it is nearly over..plus..this afternoon my husband was greeted by his first friendly mosquito of the year.... Yes, that little fella at the top of this blog is waiting.... OH NO!!!!!!!!!!!!

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All content, unless otherwise noted, is © ArcticRainbow and may not be reproduced in any form without express permission from the author, except for credited links directly to articles or to the main site. (I don't bite...just ask!) :D

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Easter Food in Finland


So, what are you eating during Eastertime? Hot cross buns? (Oh how I miss those!) The options here are a little different.. and I thought I'd share them with you.

The word for Easter in Finnish is "Pääsiäinen" and it literally translates as "the ending of Lent fasting". It originates from the verb päästää - which means 'release'.

Paschal lamb, which symbolizes the Lamb of God is the main choice for Easter here apparently. I am sure my husband would love it, but even the smell of Lamb cooking throws me into a horrid frenzy for finding the nearest toilet and being sick! (sorry!)

Normally the Lamb is eaten with a mint sauce, boiled eggs, sweet bread, Mämmi, Pasha and coffee. (Finns love their coffee and have no idea what 'real' tea is..LOL - not that I myself like Tea, but the men of my house do and my poor mother has to post Tetley out frequently to accommodate their love of it!)

We are having Turkey this year. That said, a Turkey in Finland is SMALL! It's not a lot bigger than a large Chicken is in the UK! (and you should see the size of Chickens here!!...more like Sparrows!) Our 3.4kg Lidls Turkey is a treat to us...at 17 euros! (How much is the same thing in the UK these days?) I miss Icelands buy one get one free deals...so 17 euros seems an awful lot to me!

So what is this Mämmi and Pasha you may be asking? They are actually desserts. The first looks like something most people would not want to eat. Indeed most people when they see it for the first time, are likely to refuse it! LOL!

It's really not the most elegant or delicious looking thing! I like it though...and I am the only one in the house that does! Some Finns have joked with me that eating Mämmi, I pass the acceptance of Finnish/Foreigner status!

An Easter symbol of the unleaven bread, Mämmi looks like (and this really is the nicest description) - grainy and pureed chocolate fudge cake. Made like a porridge from rye bread, water and molasses it is eaten as it is, cold, with lashings of cream and sugar.

In days of old it was baked very slowly in baskets crafted from Birch bark. Nowadays it is ready made and sold in cardboard boxes, that are printed to resemble bark! Very few people probably bother to make it at home... so much easier just to buy it off the shelf. It is of little doubt, the oldest of Finnish Easter traditions - originally it used to be a food at Lent, eaten cold or spread on top of a slice of bread. I think I am glad to eat it these days.. with the cream and sugar! :D



When Finland gained its independance in 1917, Finns searched for typical social symbols and the folk dish of Mämmi was readily taken on as such. Whereas it had previously been a delicacy known mainly in south west Finland from the 18th century, it became a seasonal product to all and an integral part of Finnish homemaking and cookery books.

If you would like to try it.. here is a recipe!

Mämmi

INGREDIENTS:

Half a Kilo of Malt
1.25 Kilos of Rye Flour
Half Teaspoon of Salt
5 Litres of water
6 Tablespoons of Seville orange rind
Molasses

METHOD:

Mix to a thin consistency, a quarter of the malt amount with some of the rye flour and add one litre of the water. Cover the surface with a thick layer of malt and rye flour. Cover the saucepan well and put in a warm place for 1 hour. This helps to sweeten the mixture. Beat the mixture well and add some more water. Cover the surface with malt and flour again and leave to sweeten for another hour. Repeat until all has been used. The water should NOT be boiling hot but very gently simmering.

This mixture is then boiled and spiced up with the orange rind and molasses (to taste), whilst stirring frequently. Take off the heat and beat the mixture until it is cooled. Empty into shallow square cardboard boxes - or another kind of oven proof container - and bake slowly in a moderately heated oven for a couple of hours or so. Do not bake on too low a temperature or it can turn bitter. Do not fill too high, as the mixture will rise whilst baking! Don't forget to serve with lashings of cream and sugar!

Good Luck! LOL!!!!

The other dish, "Pasha" is made from sour milk (otherwise known as Quark), it also has naughty things such as cream, butter, vanilla, sugar and orange marmalade in it! Traditionally is is moulded in wooden moulds like this, available from...www.puutalli.fi



They are marked on the outside with an X and a B which means "Xpuctoc Bockpece" in Russian! Why Russian? Well, this was introduced to Finland at the same time as the Orthodox religion and it was originally an Orthodox Easter feast fayre. It's a custom from the former region of Karelia, between the White Sea and the Gulf of Finland, that then belonged to Russia. The desserts name is derived from the word "Pasxa" - meaning Easter.

Here is an image from a Finnish blog -
http://kulinarist.vuodatus.net/blog



If you don't have a wooden mould to make it in.. you can use other things... the following recipe site advises using a terracotta plant pot with a hole in the bottom. Please ensure its brand new of course and line it with some muslin! LOL!! Failing that you can use a plastic coffee filter - again lined with muslin.

Here is a really good recipe!
http://www.theworldwidegourmet.com

And a good blog on it too.. here...
http://cloudberryquark.blogspot.com

Boiled eggs should also be served on a Finnish Easter table! This year, I might put them inside the Turkey for a laugh!

There is also Limppu - which is a soft, slightly sweet and subtly malty loaf of bread, but it also appears at Christmas. There are two versions, light and dark and I prefer the dark. It is made with a little syrup in it, which is what makes it slightly sweet. I've bought the brand Vaasan this year. Surprise, surprise the packaging has a Witch on it! LOL....



We also indulge in drinking Sima at Easter too. It is traditionally drunk for the 1st of May, the day when the Finns celebrate that spring has arrived and also 'Labour Day' - but we can't wait till then! It is often described as a mead, but to me, mead is alcoholic and Sima is not really alcoholic unless you have left it way too long. If I have time, I make it myself, but you can buy packet mixes of it and there are nowadays lots of ready made bottles of the stuff to guzzle away on! The best way to describe it is as a lighter version of Lucozade! Yummy!

Here is a Sima recipe.

You need to use a large plastic bowl or bucket kept for food use only. It needs a lid. I use a bucket.

The rind of a Lemon, roughly cut not grated finely.
500g sugar
4.5 Litres of boiling water
1 packet of dried yeast
The juice from the lemon
Raisins
Bottles, preferrably glass.

Wash, dry and grate the lemon. Juice and reserve the liquid. Place in the bowl or bucket. Add the sugar and water. Cover and leave to cool. When lukewarm, add the yeast and the reserved lemon juice. Leave to stand for two days. Put a teaspoon of sugar and a few raisins into the bottles. Sieve the Sima into the bottles. Cap each bottle tightly and place in a cool place. After about a week or so, you will find that the raisins will have floated to the top. This is a good way of telling that the sima is ready to drink.

Last, but not least.... one of the unusual things that Finland has to offer at Easter is.. The Fazer Mignon egg. This is a solid almond hazelnut milk chocolate that has been set inside a real egg shell. It is totally handmade and the second oldest Fazer confectionery of Finland - dating back from 1896!

LOOK at the stats! OMG! 100g is 570cals and 40g fat! Each egg is a little over half of that! They are so sweet though, you can't eat more than one! Thank goodness too!






You can buy them individually or four in a pack, which is actually an egg box! Not so easy to eat.. but a bit of fun!

HAPPY EASTER EVERYONE!


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All content, unless otherwise noted, is © ArcticRainbow and may not be reproduced in any form without express permission from the author, except for credited links directly to articles or to the main site. (I don't bite...just ask!) :D

Friday, April 10, 2009

A Witchy Easter to you! Hyvää Pääsiästä


I love the header image - it really tickles my funny bone!

It says.... 'Pääsiäinen on täynnä yllätyksiä' - Easter is FULL of surprises!

Here is one surprise that you might not be aware of....Last Sunday was Palm Sunday and that is a BIG day for kids here in Finland...it's similar to Halloween although unlike Halloween there are NOT lots of Tricks going on.. purely the treating aspect - although in the past, some have played tricks in other areas, I read!

The event is called 'Virpominen' or 'Virpoa' and it's the stand-out Finnish Easter tradition! The Finnish verb ‘Virpoa’ comes from the Russian ‘Verba’ meaning ‘Willow’ It has it's root in the Latin ‘Verbanae’ or ‘Holy branches’.

Apparently, it all started about 200 years ago as part of Karelian Orthodox religious customs. Belonging in part to Finland (pre WW2), it is nowadays in Russian territory. Gradually it travelled from Russian/Finnish areas to be merged with the then Finnish and Swedish tradition of children walking around between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, disguised as witches and ‘trullit’ (trolls). This was from the old belief that, with Jesus in his tomb, evil figures were free to move and haunt people.

Virpoa-ing on Palm Sunday, commemorates when Jerusalem greeted Jesus with palm branches on the road. Instead of palm branches, willow sprigs are used. (Much nicer and easier to get hold of around here... LOL!)

The children dress up as 'Witches' (although my husband reckons they look often more like female russian tractor drivers LOL). They carry Catkin branches, gaily decorated with coloured feathers, strips of crepe paper, coloured pipe cleaners and easter egg stick ons. They stand on the doorstep gently waving them in the air and then recite a Virvon poem

(For those interested in the Finnish language - The P in the word Virpoa changes to a V when you add an ending case to it. In this the ending A is removed, then there is the added N case (as in possessive) - like an English 'S would be. So Virvon = Virpoa's - Sort of!) Yep, it's an unusual language for sure!

The poem is a gift for good health in the coming year and then they ask - do have something for them? I love it. Every year I make lots of little mixed bags of sweets for the kids that call.

Here are some Easter Witches that visited in previous years (this year I didn't take photographs..I just enjoyed the event!) Here they are with their feather branches of Willow... as you can see..it is also always still snowy at Easter...(although on the melt).






This is what they say...
"Onnentoivotus! Virvon, varvon! Tuoreeks, terveeks! Tulevaks, vuuveks! Vitsa sulle, palkka mulle!" (Good Luck Wishes! Virvon, varvon! Wishing you a fresh, healthy upcoming year! A sprig for you, a reward for me!) At least, that is what they say if the person is female, there are other versions, depending on if you are male or perhaps and elderly person.

You then have a lovely bunch of colourful twigs in your home (in my case they are too much of a tease for my cats..so they are generally put up high and away from them!) You must put them in water though, so that the buds of Catkins can bloom!



Another surprise is that here 'Good Friday' is 'Pitkä Perjantai' which translates differently...as LONG Friday!

Easter is in general, a really popular time here in Finland... lots of Easter decorations on sale, many houses are decorated with either real or fake springtide flowers. Tiimari, a Finnish dept store sells all manner of Easter things, wreaths that you can decorate yourself, with feathers, chicks, eggs etc. The slideshow below shows some of the pages of their magazine. Another popular thing to do is to buy a pack of seeds and grow grass in the house. Yes, odd isn't it! :D Egg painting is also very popular! You can buy polystyrene eggs for the kids to paint.

There are chocolate Easter eggs in the shops, but NOTHING like the UK ranges! They are generally small eggs, rarely do you see large ones..and it is quite uncommercialised in that they don't arrive on the shelves straight after Christmas, like they can in the UK! LOL....

As you can imagine Easter things also often feature Witches too, especially Easter cards or postcards as they generally are. Most people dont give cards here (really expensive here at around 4euros/£4 a hit! So, it is postcards instead!


Hyvää Pääsiästä! - Happy Easter!
--------------------------------
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All content, unless otherwise noted, is © ArcticRainbow and may not be reproduced in any form without express permission from the author, except for credited links directly to articles or to the main site. ( I don't bite...just ask!) :D

* This information has always been at the end of my blog pages, but as it is not immediately visible, I have now elected to add it to each blog as well - so there is no doubt.