Sunday, December 30, 2012

Gingerbread Business near Christmas Part 1

My brothers and I would always bake gingerbread cookies with my mother around or during Christmas. My mother would actually not make the dough herself but buy it in blocks from the grocery store. There would be a few blocks to roll out and work into manageable pieces that we then would get manic on with our cookie cutters.

Pilvi and I decided we would honor some of our Finnish traditions and make gingerbread cookies!

It was actually a very hasty made decision. I took it upon myself to look up a recipe. I printed the first recipe which seemed yummy enough. We got all the ingredients from the store and headed back to Pilvi's place.

I can honestly say that I did not know that gingerbread cookies consist of about 90% sugar. Slightly scary, but I'm afraid it doesn't make them tasty any less delicious.

I had asked Pilvi before we had a recipe to our disposal: "But how does the dough get the distinctive brown colour?" I can tell you: By adding a whole can of treacle into the mixture! The recipe noted that a large amount of sugar should be used but we went with brown sugar. 

We were going to buy some treacle while we were in the shop but I had a faint notion of seeing a jar of treacle in some dark, forgotten corner of my cupboards.  I made a stop at my place before returning to Pilvi's place and indeed I was clutching a jar adorned with the word "treacle". We did discover that it had expired about 18 months ago but after a quick sniff/taste/look of the product as well as a google to make sure it wouldn't make us ill, we decided it would be safe to use it.

We had a bit of a hard time grinding up the cardamom into a powder, but once both Pilvi, Daniel and I had taken turns in giving it a go, we did manage to break it down into something finer than the big pods we started out with. We blended in all of the ingredients into the paste and started mixing it. The mixture changed colour a few times during the process. It looked and smelled the way it was supposed to so you can imagine that we were feeling very proud of our efforts.

The dough had to set for at least 10 hours so we found a place for the mixture in the fridge and felt incredibly productive. 

Friday, December 28, 2012

Artsy Temporary Place to Rest my Head

I staid four nights in Hege's place and was fortunate enough to not have to sleep on some uncomfortable couch. Instead I had my very own spare room to my use which had a spacious double bed as well as an en-suite. The room is Hege's spare room but she keeps it as her studio, where she does some of her art work.

I only stayed a few nights but I came equipped with a large, heavy suitcase. I didn't want to have to go back to my own place if I needed something and brought a few changes of clothes. I tend to be a little bit messy so after the first two (ahem, one?) nights my stuff was spilling out of my suitcase. Hege had a peep into her spare room when she came back and she made a comment about it later that I was a very messy person and how it was interesting how I had managed to create a mess within such a short space of time. I guess I can't help it.

(And yes I know that this all happened ages ago but I've been so low on energy lately that I never got around to sharing until now.)

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Red Star

Hege bought this Christmas star/lantern in Germany. It's made of paper. It's a very Nordic thing to hang these in your window. Instant Christmas feeling as well, I love Christmas decorations.

Early Nordic Christmas Dinner

Hege had invited a few people to come over to her place for a Nordic Christmas Dinner on Saturday. Everybody were told that they must upon arrival wear something Christmas-y.

Hege was a busy beaver in the kitchen and ran around multitasking like a champion. I offered to help but she didn't seem willing to accept too much help. To be honest she did everything a lot better than I would have been able to. Hats off for Hege.

We crammed everything onto the table like so.

Malika brought gingerbread cookies which she and her boyfriend had made from scratch. They were in a cute metal tin but Malika complained that her boyfriend had been agressively shaking the tin so that most of the gingerbread cookies were deformed in some way. Here is a picture of an amputated horse which I enjoyed.

Deirdre told us that she didn't really have a big interest in Christmas. She was a good sport and arrived in reindeer antlers though. I was wearing a Christmas jumper but happened to have an extra with me. My reindeer jumper with the fluffy red nose completed her reindeer look.

We had a few goodies on the table for dessert. In the background you can see a bowl of cream/mascarpone/prune concoction which I had made from a Finnish recipe. I'm not sure of the name o the dessert but I love it and it's an incredibly easy dessert to make.

Chucky was sleeping on an armchair behind us. He wanted to feel apart of the evening.

Hege wore pajama bottoms and slipper socks and was both comfortable and festive. I eyed up her slipper socks because they look incredibly comfortable.

Somebody had brought mince pies and we put them in the oven for a few minutes. We didn't keep them in the oven as long as the packaging advised us to, but they still came out a little bit burned. I didn't try one because I don't like them. 

We chatted and laughed well into the night. I was falling asleep and was finding it hard to keep my eyes open but I didn't want to be rude and go to bed. It was a great night but I was happy when people started leaving. I had a very long weekend and I needed sleep!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Experimental Jolly

Would you believe that the below images are of the lights of Hege's Christmas tree?

I had a blast having a little bit of an experiment with her lights and the settings of my camera. 

I absolutely love some of these!

Peer Pressure and Tinsel

I found myself an utterly exhausted mess after such an eventful Thursday. I had thought about taking Friday off, but as I couldn't quite make up my mind about it I never put in a request. Had I known that I was expected to take Chucky for a long walk, also in the morning before leaving for work, I would definitely had taken the day off. 

As my alarm went off I grudgingly got out of bed at a time which I had never gotten out of bed on a Friday before. I made my confused body take Chucky for his walk and then hurried to make my way into work. Due to temporarily residing in Dublin suburbia the commute would take quite a bit of time longer than usual. 

After a bleary eyed day at work I arrived back home and again took Chucky out for a walk. I thought I would have a very uneventful Friday at home for the rest of the evening: Me, Chucky and the Christmas tree. The most exciting thing I had planned for the evening was to have a hot bath.

What happened was that I collapsed into a pile on the couch as soon as I got back from Chucky's walk. I tried to picture myself getting up and running a bath but I wasn't sure whether it would be possible. I did actually take some pictures of Hege's Christmas tree. The effort was very minimal as I was sitting on the floor for most of it. 

At some stage I got a text message from David asking me to come out to a friend's place for a few drinks. David lives very close to Hege and his friend's place was even closer. I politely declined but this resulted in him calling me. I kept trying to explain there wasn't much energy left in me and that even if I did decide to join him and his friend, I would still have to have a shower and get ready which would take about an hour and it was already late. After being verbally prodded for 15 minutes over the phone I finally agreed to go. 

I let Hege know I would be going out and as she would be getting home that same night I was advised to put her keys in her mailbox as she had the key for it. I was only gone for a few hours and I arrived back home at the same time that Hege did. It was a good night.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Crab Legs and Fairy Lights

When we felt we had seeped in enough of the sea air and gotten frozen enough to want to head indoors we decided we should get something to eat. I was starving! 

We decided to try a place called The Brass Monkey which we had passed earlier. The short street we walked down actually had quite a few restaurants on it but The Brass Monkey looked so cozy we thought we couldn't pass it up.

The person who did this should be very, very proud of themselves. I love it!

Look, they even had adorable tables and benches outside!

The place was busy enough and we chose a table by the window, giving us a good view of the street but also  of the inside of the restaurant. I'm a big softie for Christmas decorations so I fell in love with this reef. Annika fell in love with the big radiator which it was hanging off of. She got very cozy with it.

I actually always struggle to pick what to order and I do believe Annika agreed to suffer from the same problem, but we managed to make up our minds rather quickly. I guess hunger will have that effect on somebody. Annika got the seafood chowder. I've never had chowder. She said it was wonderful. I loved how dramatic the big crab legs made the soup look.

Fairy lights! I love fairy lights, they are so cozy.

I was rather hungry so I chose to go for a goat's cheese tart with some type of mini salad on the sad as well as a main. Om nom.

There was a picture of a facepalming monkey just beside us. 

My portion of lamb was not only huge but also very, very tasty.

A smiling Annika looking very festive with the facepalming monkey and the Christmas reef behind her.

These are the empty shells of the mussels that were in Annika's chowder. The cool crab leg is peeking out from underneath them.

It was dark by the time we left and headed back to the trainstation. I had an absolutely time and it was so nice to catch up with Annika. I'm not sure when I'll see her again but hopefully when I do the catching up will be as hearty and the food as tasty. Until next time!