We Went to Lappland! – And I Made Bread

PB and I went on a short trip to Lappland for Valentine’s day.

Obligatory Photo With Reindeer

Obligatory Photo With Reindeer

Our intent was to see the Aurora Borealis, but it was overcast for the whole three days, so no luck. (Even though we paid a lot of money for a safari. Well, next time we might just rent a car for the same amount and just drive somewhere on our own.) We went to Rovaniemi by overnight train. It was extremely comfortable and very quiet, to my surprise! (I’m used to Italian overnight trains, though) We even had our own bathroom with shower! Now that we know how easy it is to get to Lappland we will probably just check the weather forecast a week or so ahead and go search for northern lights without much planning.

So here are some pictures of what we did. We decided to do the touristy stuff full on, to get it over with.

PB at the Polar Circle - In Santa Claus village (typical tourist ripp off place)

PB at the Polar Circle in Santa Claus Village

Arctic Museum - Very nice building and mostly interesting exhibitions

Arctic Museum – Very nice building!

Channelling Japanese? - Not so much, just being silly, really

View on the Kemijoki? Ounasjoki? – I don’t know, they meet here

Danger, Danger!

Detail View of Ounasjoki or Kemijoki – It’s not as stable as the Jyväsjärvi, it seems

Snow Shoe Hike

Snow Shoe Hike – Not as exhausting as I feared

Some Trees at the Hike - You can interpret all sorts of things into these

Some Trees at the Hike – You can interpret all sorts of things into these

That was what we did in 2 days. The 3rd I spent in bed as I had underestimated the cold and got sick. Silly, I know. However, we still had a fabulous Valentine’s holiday, as we got to spend time together, just the two of us.

Apart from being away for this trip, we’ve had a “steady stream of visitors” as one of our Finnish friends put it. This might sound like a complaint, but I love to host people (one of my secret dreams is to one day run a guesthouse, like Corthna Lodge in Skull, Ireland, where I used to work). Also because I get to perform culinary experimets on them. Mwahahahaha!

Most of the stuff I tried came out great, but I’m still in the process of refining, so I will reveal the experiments’ outcomes some time later. However, upon popular (well, just 1) request, below there’s a recipe for bread.

I started making bread just recently, even though I took a course in 2008, when I was in a “I need to cook everything from scratch” phase. I re-discovered the recipes from that course when unpacking my cookbooks. On a side note, here’s where they reside now:

The Kitchen Bookshelf - I found it in the common room in the basement

The Kitchen Bookshelf – I found it in the common room in the basement

This is opposite the stove etc. In the background you can see the living room.

Anyway, bread (this will take you to a silly song on youtube, be warned!). While many things in Finland are really great, bread is not one of them (I’m not talking about the delicious black and rye breads, through). It isn’t easy to find a bread with a crunchy crust. So I gave it a try again and have been rather pleased with the outcome, so here is my simple bread recipe:

Ingredients
500g flour (I use Sunnuntai rouheinen sämpyläjauho at the moment)
15g salt
15g fresh yeast (or 7g dried yeast)
300ml water (room temperature)

Preparation
Mix the flour and salt in a bowl. Only for fresh yeast: dissolve the yeast in the water. Otherwise stir dry yeast in flour. Add water to flour from the center and knead until smooth “like a baby’s butt” (teacher’s words…). Let rest at room temperature covered with a wet towel for 1 hour (dough should approximately double in size). Knead very shortly to get rid of big bubbles and form bread, cutting some diagonal slits in the top. Bake for 30-40 minutes in a preheated 220°C oven. The bread is ready when it sounds hollow when you tap it on the bottom with your knuckles.

I am usually too eager to eat it, so no pictures, sorry!

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A Rant About Winter(s)

Kind of hard to believe, but I think about winter quite a lot lately. 😉 I have been known for expressing the opinion that “I don’t like winter!“. Well, I’m slowly changing my mind…

o_O right?

What the heck has happened? Well… This country is doing strange things to me, as you might already have read here and here. Want another example? I went and did PHYSICAL ACTIVITY in the OUTDOORS! I hardly know myself anymore. 😉 But, well, I found some advantages of winter here. Behold:

Look Who's There! - We have a lot of occasion to see the moon at the moment

Look Who’s There! – We have a lot of occasion to see the moon at the moment. I like!

Sunset Glow - that was actually the direction facing away from the sunset!

Sunset Glow – that was actually the direction facing away from the sunset!

Winter Wonderland - things you get to see when you're about in Laajavuori

Winter Wonderland – The things you get to see when you’re out and about around Laajavuori (Jyväskylä)

As you can see these were taken while cross country skiing. It was my first try at it and I surprisingly liked it. Maybe because it went better than I had expected, but not without some sort of casualties:

PB and His Dad - I was the one with the camera, hence no proof of me falling (which I did)

PB and His Dad – I was the one with the camera, so there’s no proof of me falling, mwahahahaha!

But apart from beauty, and some slapstick fun, there are also very practical reasons to like the cold winters here:

Walking on Water - Ok, it's frozen, but still kinda cool!

Walking on the Jyväsjärvi – I hadn’t walked on a lake in 10 years!

The walking distance from home to university and downtown has gone down by about 15 minutes! Now I can just cut across the lake and be there in about half the time it usually takes. Yay!

But what makes the Finnish type of winter different from the Swiss (valley or city) type of winter is the snow. You see in Switzerland’s lower regions I experienced snow and temperatures mostly at just above 0°C. Of course it gets colder than that some days each winter, but for most of the season it’s around 0. Therefore the snow usually gets soft and slushy during the day, just to freeze over night and transform into a slippery icy coat. (The use of salt on streets and sidewalks doesn’t help much, as it only increases the problem of melting and freezing.) No wonder I resorted to walking during winter. Not much use, though, as I still used to fall several times each winter. Just by thinking about it I get that annoyed feeling again!

Here, however, temperatures are usually under 0°C, even during the day. The snow therefore stays in its cristalline form. It is, therefore, quite dry and pulvery. To me it’s more like sand than the annoying white slushy/frozen stuff I used to call snow back home. Apart from the fact that you can’t form snowballs, the other advantage is that it’s not slippery! So two of the most annoying attributes of winter do not occur here! I can happily use the bike (provided the snow isn’t too deep), which is what everyone does here. Remember that picture?

Wild Bycicle Parking - A Normal Sight After the Students Arrived

Wild Bycicle Parking – A Normal Sight After the Students Arrived

Here’s how the same spot looks like now:

Wild Bycicle Parking - 5 months after last picture was taken

Wild Bycicle Parking – 5 months after last picture was taken

The other day I even went out in my georgeous high heel overknee boots. They have very flat soles and in Switzerland I rarely wore them because of the aforementioned conditions. Here I was able to walk in them from home to downtown and back without much trouble (PB’s father used my bike while he was here). I slid maybe twice, but didn’t fall. I like this place!

EDIT: Well, kind of edit as I haven’t published the post yet, but anyway: Karma seems to be a bitch (I just don’t know yet what it was a bitch for). Just after writing the above I went out for dinner. As soon as I left the building I felt warm. The horror! This could only mean one thing! A glance at my new smartphone confirmed my fear: it was plus 2°C! I was unhappy.

The unhappiness started to increase as soon as I entered the city center. Slush! Grey slush! I was ready to cry. Only the delightful company that evening could lift my mood. That, however, lasted only until the next morning, when, as predicted, the streets and sideways were covered in ice. As was my bycicle’s lock. So I resigned to walking again. On the upside: I didn’t fall (yet).

On another, just slightly related note: I made a rug! As it’s in the shape of a snowflake, I thought I’d dedicate it to winter and hope he’ll turn up in all his cold glory again.

Winter Invocation Snowflake - let's hope it works

Winter Invocation Snowflake – let’s hope it works

I crocheted this according to the free pattern by Snowcatcher. I used a 15mm hook and two strands of shoelace like material. Unfortunately I ran out of yarn on the last 5% and had to buy a new skein (1kg). So now I have almost a whole ball of this left. I’ll probably make another rug, albeit a simpler one. Speaking of balls: While I was making this, AC/DC’s “Big Balls” was playing in my head pretty much constantly. Here’s why:

I've Got The Big Balls!

I’ve Got The Big Balls!