Wednesday, 23 December 2015

All set for the holidays?

The big unmentionable is almost upon us, but due to unfortunate circumstances, such as battling stubborn cold viruses, my preparations have been... not quite what I planned. But I've got the most important things covered and the rest is all about being in the right mood, which should be easy enough.

There is one thing, though, that I planned well in advance. Among my reading quirks, I've mentioned the habit of carefully choosing my holiday reads. This year, I'm going with Manda Scott's latest, “Into the Fire” and Kaari Utrio's "Haukka, minun rakkaani". The first will take me to the 15th century France and the latter to the 14th century Finland. I've been saving both and already look forward to diving into their world with a box of chocolates within my reach...

And so, without further ado - Joyous Yuletide! Read, eat chocolate and be merry!

Monday, 21 December 2015

December – the month of Yule

Last month I blogged about November’s Finnish name and thought, why not make it a monthly feature? Wrestling with words is what I do, and names are fascinating, so here goes...

The name of December in Finnish is joulukuu. It seems straightforward enough: joulu means 'Christmas' and the whole month has been named after that feast. The Finnish word joulu, in turn, comes from the Old Norse word jól – yes, the very same that gave Yule its name. So, in Finnish, this midwinter feast still retains its pagan roots even in its name (I could go on about various traditions, but that’s a topic for another time).

I said it seems straightforward enough, didn’t I? Which means it has to be more complicated than it seems. Well, December wasn’t always known as the month of Yule. Up until the 17th or 18th century, it was known as talvikuu, ’winter month’ (or ’winter moon’... I like the sound of that). That makes sense; December is usually when winter begins and it’s the time of Winter Solstice (talvipäivänseisaus in Finnish). However, as Yule gained more and more importance as a yearly holiday, the name of the month also changed. Considering that winter seems to arrive later each year - in fact, the weather we have now in Midwinter doesn't much differ from the weather of last Midsummer! - it seems that the name talvikuu would no longer even be very appropriate.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Yulish questions

I recently received another set of questions from my friend and fellow blogger at the stunningly beautiful Almond Valley! This time, the questions are Yule themed, as befits the season... So, here goes! All sorts of musings about the holidays. :)

1. Are you going to give any presents you made by yourself?
I’m thinking... chocolate! Yes, perhaps; if I can find the time. It's not looking very good at the moment...

2. What’s the best present you’ve ever received that was made by the person who gave it to you?
This one’s easy! Woollen socks knitted by my mother-in-law. My feet are always cold. Always. My mother-in-law knits awesome socks; they’re pretty and soft and warm. They’re a gift that I use every day (yes, even in summer) and particularly special since she makes them herself – I could never knit a sock!

3. Have you ever made your own advent calendar?
I used to make them as a child. Now I no longer actually make them, but we have one which is basically 24 boxes that have to be filled... with chocolate! :) And little notes for my daughter that tell her to go treasure hunting to find tiny surprise presents.

4. What puts me in the mood for Yule is...
Candles. Music (I particularly love Loreena McKennitt’s Midwinter music). Scents – gingerbread, cinnamon... The first mug of mulled wine (or glögi).

5. What’s your best Christmas recipe?
A date cake laced generously with rum. My DH actually bakes them, but since I developed the recipe, I think I can claim some credit. ;) This cake is extremely moist and sort of caramelly because of the dates... it’s almost as good as chocolate cake!

6. Have you ever spent the holidays abroad? Where and what was it like?
I’ve spent the holidays in Canada, first in 1995 with my mother, father and sister, and then in 2004 with my husband. The first one was lovely, some traditions, some new things, and the second one was actually our first holiday without our families, just the two of us. We had some decorations, lots of candles, and a friend even gave us a tiny tree! We had smoked salmon and rye bread that I’d baked... and I cooked a turkey breast with plenty of pesto! Not very traditional, but we thought it was delicious. We had eggnog and chocolate... I missed sauna, but we took a bubble bath in candle light, and it was lovely. I had an elf costume that my DH found very... shall we say, entertaining. ;) There was much reading and relaxing and no obligations to do anything. Definitely one of the best holidays ever!

7. The prettiest flower arrangement for Christmas is made how?
Are you asking me? I have no idea! As for typical flowers of the season, the amaryllis is gorgeous, but the one flower I always want to have is the hyacinth! Their scent is one of the scents I associate with the season, so I usually get some just because of that.

8. Your most beautiful DIY Christmas decoration?
Hmm... I’m going to say the gingerbread wolf wood! This is a bit of a private joke... our family name, Susimetsä, means wolf forest, so, last year we decided to make this - three wolves and a forest:

9. Do you have any new ideas for wrapping gifts?
I’m afraid not...

10. What’s your Christmas tree like?
It’s an old (almost 15 years!) plastic tree. The ornaments are mostly red and gold... we have some very nice ones we brought back from Canada and ornaments that my mother collected... but we haven’t even taken them out of their boxes for years, not since our daughter was born. Accidents happen, and it’s better to keep those precious ornaments wrapped up and waiting. We have enough ornaments to cover the entire tree even without them.

11. Holidays aren’t the holidays without...
My husband and daughter. As long as I’m with them, we could spend the holidays anywhere. If I have to mention something else... well, you guessed it: books and chocolate!

Monday, 14 December 2015

Review: The Girl King (Tyttökuningas)

Last spring, I blogged about the exhibition of movie costumes for ”The Girl King” (Tyttökuningas), a movie about Queen Kristina (1626 – 1689) by Mika Kaurismäki. Now that I’ve actually seen the film, I thought I’d write a few words about it. You can also read my husband's review over at Wolfwood's Corner.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve always been interested in the 17th century, mostly because, growing up, I was an avid fan of The Three Musketeers. Queen Kristina, in turn, is a fascinating historical figure: a queen of Sweden who was brought up as a prince (her hobbies included hunting and swordplay). She was fiercely intelligent, interested in arts and philosophy and led an unconventional life - sexually, politically, etc: her short reign ended when she abdicated her throne and converted into Catholicism (catholics were her father’s old enemies, so to speak). I entered the theater hoping to see a swashbucklerish historical adventure with a bit of romance (pretty much my favourite type of movie... even better if you can throw in literature/books there somewhere).

Did I get what I wanted? Let’s see.


Mostly yes. I’d say the attention to historical detail – setting, costumes, props – was fantastic, considering that this was a (mostly) Finnish film (”mostly”, because it’s actually a Finnish-Swedish-German-French-Canadian collaboration) and thus the budget must be about a fraction of Hollywood blockbusters. The swords received some criticism from my DH, but other than that, things looked great. I particularly admired the lush and luminous costumes, which, to me, seemed authentic enough, apart from a couple of exceptions. (For a more detailed analysis of the costumes, I recommend this article by Frock Flicks.) Other limitations of the budget showed in Turku doubling as Stockholm (I recognised many of the locations, including castle rooms, and kept forgetting we were not supposed to be in Turku) and in less than impressive crowd scenes (for example, the queen’s coronation feast). But these were minor details and did not bother me.

Since the film was about Kristina (Malin Buska), she was clearly the main character. It’s a nice introduction to someone who knows nothing or very little about her, but those wishing to learn more might be a little disappointed. I’d have loved to see more about Kristina as an actual ruler – making decisions concerning her kingdom, struggling with challenges that a young woman inheriting the throne inevitably must have faced (yes, they went on and on about her need to marry, and that must have been a big concern, but surely there were others?). In addition, the end, her decision to give up her throne, remained a little... under explored? However, Kristina was and remains an enigmatic figure; much of what we ”know” about her is pure speculation, guesswork, rumours... and thus a film can only be an interpretation and cannot possibly explain everything.


Disappointingly little. Kristina did wear her sword in several scenes, but there was (as I recall) but one where she actually used it. Very little fencing was demonstrated by other characters as well. Then again, it was a court setting; people could hardly be swashbuckling their way around the castle.


Very litte. Mostly just court intrigue. But there was a murder plot or two! However, if, like me, you’d find a 17th century autopsy to demonstrate the location of the pineal gland and theories about its function fascinating, then, well, you’re in for a treat.


Plenty. As I mentioned already, I’d have loved to see more about Kristina as a queen. But rather than her as a ruler, the movie focused on her love life – her persistence on solving the mystery of love (interesting, and nicely connected to not only her love life but her relationship with her parents), the demands made on her to marry and her love affair with her lady-in-waiting, Countess Ebba Sparre (Sarah Gadon). Well. I love a good love story, and I love the relationship stuff, and there definitely was plenty of it here. I particularly loved the fact that even though it was the good old ”even a queen (or particularly a queen) can’t have whomever she wants” theme, the romance was shown to be not only passionate but also very sweet.

And a bonus!

Books and literature!!! Kristina was a very well educated woman with a thirst for knowledge, and, it seems, a fervent book collector! There was some philosophising (always a nice thing in a movie), letter writing scenes with quills and ink bottles (oooooh, sexy!) and huge, huge piles of beautiful manuscripts! When you’re a queen, you can fill your castle with books... and have sex on top of the Codex Gigas (the Devil’s Bible). Sigh. Life is so unfair.

Overall? I had no idea what to truly expect from this movie. I sincerely hoped it would be good – one of my favourite periods; a controversial, sword wielding queen; my favourite genre... I’m happy to say that despite a few flaws, some scenes that seemed irrelevant to the plot and a couple of clumsy(/-ily delivered) lines of dialogue, I found the movie very entertaining (almost forgot to eat all my chocolate!).

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Review: GEPA Grand Chocolat Espresso Caramel

This was a gift from dear friends (thank you! :)) and what a thoughtful gift it was! For one, I don’t think you can get this chocolate in Finland, so it’s a rare treat – and it was clearly selected by someone who knows my preferences. (The lovely cloth under the chocolate was a gift from another dear friend – thank you! :))

The chocolate is organic fair trade chocolate, which is always a good thing. As far as my German serves me correctly, even the milk is organic and the sugar used is raw sugar.

I love the wrapping: luscious, earthy colours combined with a bit of luxury in the form of gold lettering. The fairly thin tablet is divided into sizeable squares. The scent is mild at first, mainly that of milk chocolate, but then I distinguished some deeper aromas, hints of something warm and even something smoky. Interesting!

The milk chocolate is smooth and sweet (but not overly so), and what makes it really interesting are the additions. We have crunchy, crisp, dry espresso bits that are almost (but not quite) bitter and reveal a wonderful earthy taste. And we have caramel granules that are sticky and chewy and have a delicious full-bodied burnt sugar flavour. They stick to your teeth (hence the lovely aftertaste of caramel) and cause an instant craving for some more.

This combination of textures and tastes is fascinating, especially in that it’s somehow both complex and unassuming at the same time! There’s something very organic, robust and natural in it. I'd say it makes a perfect, comforting companion for these dark, dreary not-yet-quite-winter evenings.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Review: A Year of Ravens: A Novel of Boudica's Rebellion

You've heard her name. Of course you have. Everyone has. And when you've heard it spoken, you've heard the hushed awe of her admirers or the grudging respect of her enemies. You've heard her legend.
Because she did not fight merely for lands or even for freedom. She fought for the humanity and the dignity of her daughters. Because of that, her name will always serve as a rallying cry for those who seek justice. 
- Stephanie Dray, A Year of Ravens: A Novel of Boudica's Rebellion

Those who know me know that I'm one of the admirers of Boudica, the Iceni queen and warrior who raised a rebellion against the Romans. The first novels I ever read about my beloved heroine were the four “Dreaming...” novels by Manda Scott. I fell in love with these books. They became so much more than books to me. Since then, Scott's Boudica has been my Boudica, her story the story of Boudica to me. This, however, hasn't stopped me from enjoying other takes on the same subject.

So, when a dear friend (yes, another Boudica fan!) let me know about “A Year of Ravens: A Novel of Boudica's Rebellion”, I immediately added it to my TBR list and, a while later, bought the book... and couldn’t wait but started reading right away.

The novel is actually a sort of anthology consisting of seven stories by seven authors who all – as far as I know – have experience of writing fiction set in the period in question: Ruth Downie, Kate Quinn, Stephanie Dray, Vicky Alvear Shecter, S.J.A. Turney, Russell Whitfield and E. Knight.

What's different from a typical anthology where stories may focus on the same theme or take place in the same world or be otherwise more or less loosely connected is that the seven stories actually tell one tale, i.e. although the main characters and narrators vary, the stories form a (mostly) chronological, consecutive whole. It may be possible to read only some of them, but I'd say you need to read them all to get a proper picture of what happens.

What I like about anthologies is that you get different stories and different voices in one book. As I may have mentioned, I like variety. Another reason I like anthologies are the bite-sized stories; sometimes you just are in the mood for something quick. That's also their drawback, however; if you really enjoy a particular story, it will end much too soon. That, in turn, leads me to what I think is the very best feature of anthologies: they can serve as an introduction to new authors. You get a good sample of the work of different contributors and maybe find something you like and want more of.

This anthology's writers include some authors whose work I've been meaning to sample, some I'd not heard of before and only two (Russell Whitfield and Kate Quinn) whose books I've actually read. Therefore, I was very interested in this collection and potential new favourite authors I might discover.

Now, one thing I have to point out: this anthology is called “A Year of Ravens: A Novel of Boudica's Rebellion”. Note that it is a novel of Boudica's rebellion. It is not a novel about Boudica. The stories are narrated from the point of view of other characters while Boudica herself remains a rather distant figure. This was something of a disappointment to me, but then, I should have realised this before buying the book… not that it matters; I'd have bought it anyway. It's close enough. ;)

As a whole, the novel is fast-paced, well written and the feel of the period authentic. There were some scenes that failed to maintain my attention and I found my thoughts drifting away from the book, but these scenes were fairly few. The many main characters and thus the different points of view – queens and slaves; warriors and druids; Britons and Romans – guarantee variety. This, however, also meant that the main characters disappeared for long periods of time, and even if some of them reappeared, they were (often) supporting characters in someone else's story. I suspect that this is why I did not find the book as emotionally engaging as I had hoped.

I'm not going to go into individual stories here, but I will mention that I particularly enjoyed Stephanie Dray's “The Queen”, which not only made an interesting, sympathetic character of Queen Cartimandua but was also written in a beautiful language; Russell Whitfield's “The Tribune”, which mixed brutality of battles, humour and even some light philosophy into a very enjoyable read, and Kate Quinn’s “The Warrior” with its lively dialogue and the poignancy with which it handled both bloodshed and relationships, especially the often painful ones between fathers and sons, mothers and daughters.

I'm definitely going to take a look at other works of some of the authors here, and was pleased to discover that they have collaborated on a similar novel before, titled “A Day of Fire: Novel of Pompeii” (now on my TBR list).

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

What to read next?

If you are an avid reader like me, you probably never have the problem of "what to read next". Your problem is more likely to be the good old "so many books, so little time".

I can't help you there.

But should you need help with choosing what to read next, or if you just like playing around with all sorts of book related things (What do you mean, I should get a life?), I'd like to share something I discovered the other day.

It's called Whichbook, and it is a book recommendation service which enables you to discover books in various ways. There are lists, for example, alphabetical title lists, author lists and categories such as "short and sweet", "bad luck and trouble", "slapstick" and so on. It also includes menus where you can find books with certain kinds of characters, settings or plots, and scales where you can move a dial between two opposites, such as "happy" or "sad", "beautiful" or "disgusting", "gentle" or "violent" etc. Whichbook will then give you recommendations based on these criteria along with short descriptions and even sample passages from these books.

While I certainly have more than enough books on my TBR list (my list on Goodreads is over 100 titles long and that does not include books I've already bought but haven't read yet)... and even though every time I step into the library, books seem to just fly from the shelves onto my arms, begging "Take me with you! Take me home!"... I found Whichbook immensely interesting. All right, I have a cold and lack the energy to do much anything, and this is one way of amusing myself. ;) Apart from one area of improvement ("settings" choices only include geographical settings, while historical periods would be extremely useful for historical fiction fans), it seems that Whichbook is quite clever in its suggestions: many books recommended to me sounded fascinating.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Review: Divine 70 % Dark Chocolate with Raspberries

I’ve never tasted Divine chocolate before, but I was attracted to this little tablet because of the beautiful wrapping. Look at it! Isn't it pretty? (I'll confess that I’ve eaten all the chocolate but I still have the wrapping!)

When I open the wrapping, out wafts a rich, tempting aroma. It’s dark yet intriguingly fruity.

And the taste? Does the chocolate live up to its name? Remember, we’re looking for something divine here... and it doesn’t disappoint! The dark chocolate is indeed fairly dark (70 %) with an exciting intensity but no hint of bitterness. It has a satisfying snap but once you put it into your mouth it has a lovely velvety feel and will melt on your tongue. The raspberries with their fresh fruity tang provide a terrific counterpoint to the dark, sweet chocolate. I love raspberries, and, unlike in some other chocolates, their flavour here is clear and authentic. It’s a perfect combination with the rich dark chocolate.

Divine is also a fair trade chocolate, and that’s definitely a big bonus. It’s somewhat pricier than the normal supermarket varieties, but I’d say it’s worth it – save it for those special occasions!

By the way, you might want to check out Divine Chocolate’s website. They have lots of information about chocolate and a large collection of mouth-watering recipes.

Monday, 9 November 2015

November (marraskuu) – the month of the dead

One of the interesting things about language (for a word wrestler, anyway) is the origin of words. I find these particularly fascinating when it comes to everyday words that we use without thinking about the origins of their meaning – or even unaware of it.

For example, the Finnish name for November, marraskuu. The name contains the word marras (kuu means ’moon’ or ’month’). Not many people these days know the meaning of the word, but it refers to death. Marras can actually mean various things from a dead body to a dying person, from a spirit to an omen of death, and it is of the same root as the English worda mortal and morbid.

The saying “maa makaa martaana”, the ground/earth lies dead, reveals what the word marras means in the name of November: it refers to nature’s death. I find it a very fitting and even a hauntingly beautiful, although a rather morbid, name.

Monday, 2 November 2015

Halloween Party

This doesn’t have anything to do with any of the so-called themes of this blog, but since I’ve never cared about that before, why start now? ;)

Last weekend we celebrated Halloween – a fairly new custom in Finland. There are ancient Finnish traditions which are not entirely dissimilar... but fascinating though that topic is, this post is not about that. (I’m trying so hard not to digress!) Anyway. I thought I’d share some pictures with you.

I call our Halloween party the world’s smallest Halloween party, since there’s usually just three of us. Sometimes, however, we’ve received reinforcements as my sister-in-law has visited us, and she was able to join us this year too. (Apparently, we haven’t scared her off with our weirdness. Or goofy dancing to frighteningly awful Halloween party music.) That was lovely, we had a good time! :) And it also meant that I was able to delegate decorating to her and my daughter. This way, everything was organised excellently, as my sister-in-law has a good eye for things like that, being very creative, and I had more time to dedicate to the preparations in the kitchen, with my DH as my dutiful slave helpmate. In addition to obeying my “grate this”, “peel that”, “chop those” commands, he also carved our first ever pumpkin! It turned out beautifully, as you can see in the image at the top of this post (that would be the bigger pumpkin in the centre; the one behind it is actually a ceramic lantern).

We usually have some sort of icky/weird/funny foods for Halloween, such as these mice...

...but my daughter pities the poor mice too much and so I wasn’t allowed to make them. Instead, we had witches’ fingers (made of turkey sausages):

And Jack-o’-lantern shaped quesadillas:

Plus mandarin orange pumpkins and banana ghosts:

This candy platter with its skulls, worms, brains etc. delighted my daughter:

And for dessert, there was also a flourless chocolate cake (which I've made before) with a licorice spider (I should have put some thought into the web design and the spider in advance rather than just hastily throwing everything together... I mean, improvising... right before serving the cake, but, you know... you can’t plan everything. ;)) The cake turned out very moist and intensely chocolatey, and I received plenty of requests to make this cake more often... I believe the actual words were "all the time" :D

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Autumn scenes

Well, since I posted some winter pictures last winter and even some summer reading pictures, I thought I might as well post some shots of autumn scenes. These are from last weekend:

Monday, 26 October 2015

Chocolate making, trial run

One of the things I’ve always wanted to try is making my own chocolate. All right, maybe not always, but at least ever since I saw the movie “Chocolat”. And by making chocolate I mean more than just melting leftover chocolates and pouring the mass into molds, which is what I sometimes do.

But I’ve never quite known how and where to start and somehow never just got around to doing it. However, the other day a mysterious parcel arrived... I had no idea what it was, I hadn’t ordered anything, didn’t expect any package. It was a gift from a dear friend and it contained chocolate making materials! Wow. Just look at that gorgeous package:

There’s cocoa butter, agave syrup and cocoa powder with cocoa beans and some vanilla. And a pretty mold:

I was so excited!!! And very, very grateful to my friend who had decided to cheer me up with a surprise – and that she certainly did!

Now, I had to do some reading before I started, and I have to say I couldn’t quite figure out the correct ratio of each ingredient since every recipe I found was somewhat different. Some advised using extra virgin coconut oil in addition to cocoa butter, others used only cocoa butter. And the portions of each ingredient differed wildly. So I figured I’d start with a tiny, tiny batch and just... improvise. Which means that even though I started out measuring the ingredients, I kept adding this and that and in the end had no idea of how much I used each of them. Well. No matter. This was a trial run only, and yet, there are a couple of things I learned:

1. Cocoa butter, though it sounds delicious, doesn’t really have much of a flavour (yeah, of course I had to taste some, I was curious!).

2. If you add some coconut oil, you’ll end up with glossy chocolate that is easy to pour into the mold. However, the tasting jury strongly disliked the flavour of coconut oil.

3. If, however, you only use cocoa butter, the chocolate can become a little grainy (although that's mainly how it looked, the texture was fine when tasted) and less glossy. It also sets rather quickly – it was already becoming solid when I poured it into the mold (which explains the uneven look). I tried to warm it up gently, but to no avail. More experiments are needed to correct this. The taste, however, was far superior to that of the chocolate with coconut oil.

4. A little bit of agave syrup goes a long way, especially if you’re not trying to make very sweet chocolate.

5. If you give a seven-year-old free rein with decorative items to be added to chocolate, she’ll make an attempt to cover every inch of the chocolate rather than just sprinkle some here and there.

I wasn’t going to post a picture of the end result because I can’t get a decent photo (it’s too dark, so the chocolate looks kind of grey which it isn’t really) plus they don’t look particularly fabulous. :D And they're all in bits and pieces because, naturally, we had to sample some once soon as they were ready. However, since this was just a trial run and a learning experience, here we go...

As decorations/additives, we (my daughter was my (over-)enthusiastic assistant) used dried cranberries, bits of dried apricots and chopped almonds. The molds worked perfectly, it was very easy to get the finished chocolate out of them without breaking any.

This was a very interesting (and a very delicious) experiment and I’m already looking forward to giving it another try. Perhaps, next time, I’ll remember to measure the ingredients... And I already have soooo many ideas for different flavours! :)

Monday, 19 October 2015

Autumn holiday & visit to a chocolate factory outlet

Last week was autumn holiday and though we spent the time mostly relaxing (reading, writing, visiting the library, watching movies – we even made it to the theatre... twice!), we also made a short little trip to Jyväskylä, the town I like to refer to as the most romantic city in the world. There is a simple reason: it was there I met my husband and thus the place where we spent the first years of our relationship. Beautiful memories! We mostly just visited memorable places, such as this park where we often went for walks and picnics:

And the university campus; the library, the book store, an exhibit about the history of the university etc.

Don’t know if this piece of installation art in front of the library was meant to be interactive, but for a seven-year-old, it was an irresistible site for a game of hide and seek:

Like so many of our holidays, this one wasn’t complete without some Indian food and ice cream... and chocolate. One of the Finnish chocolate companies, Panda, has their factory close by... and there’s a factory outlet! They usually offer small samples for tasting as well as chocolate and licorice at reasonable prices. I especially liked their new invention: chocolate with witty wrappings! Some examples:

Onnen hetkiä -suklaa – Happy moments chocolate (Well, who wouldn’t appreciate a happy moment?)

Inspiraatio-suklaa – Inspiration chocolate (Needs no explanation.)

Rohkeasti vaan -suklaa – Just be brave chocolate (Sounds like something I desperately need!)

Pystyn mihin vaan -suklaa – I can do anything chocolate (Ah. I find myself in a serious need of this one.)

And finally... After imurointi -suklaa – After vacuuming chocolate (Yes! Now I’m actually excited about cleaning days!)

Monday, 12 October 2015

An award!

Well, look at that! My blog received an award!!! Wow! Thank you very, very much to my fellow blogger and dear friend from the stunningly beautiful Almond Valley!

All right. The award comes with 11 questions, so, without further ado, let's go on and answer them!

1. Autumn is coming – what’s the cosiest place in your home?

Probably the kitchen with a bouquet of yellow oak leaves (picked by my daughter), lots of candles and a lantern glowing in the window and, sometimes, the aromas of an apple pie drifting from the oven... I love apple pies, the scent of all those spices is an essential part of autumn. And I love autumns!

2. What sorts of potted plants do you have on your patio right now?

I’m so ashamed to admit this, but... nothing. Nothing at all. I don't have much of a green thumb, and since we spend very little time on the patio this time of year, it just never seemed like worth the trouble. To be honest, only a couple of days ago I did think that we should buy some plants to liven up the place, but then I forgot. I’d love to get some heather, though, they’re lovely! The days are getting colder and the night temperatures are below the zero, so not that many plants would even survive the weather. I think heathers would? Maybe? I have no idea.

Heather (image from Wikipedia):

3. The most beautiful thing you heard today?


4. Chocolate or salty liquorice?

Do you even need to ask? Chocolate, of course! I was never much of a salty liquorice fan, although I don’t hate it, either. I just never buy any. But hey, there are some chocolate + salty liquorice combinations that I like quite a lot!

5. Your favourite beverage at the moment?

I’m tempted to say hot chocolate because it would seem ideal in this weather, but I don’t actually drink it that much (I prefer to eat my chocolate. I’m weird that way. If you can eat something, why would you drink it? Drinkable yoghurt? No, I’d rather eat it with a spoon. Smoothies? No, I’d rather munch on the fruits and berries. Milkshakes? Just give me the ice cream!). So I’m going to go with mead. Because, well, Vikings. And it’s actually pretty perfect for cold, dark autumn evenings. And summer days. And sunny spring celebrations. And midwinter. And...

6. Do you hibernate?

Weeeell... maybe a little... If hibernation means that you’re less active in winter than in summer, that you prefer to curl up on the sofa with a good book and wear wool socks, then definitely yes! Winters are beautiful, the snow makes everything look like it’s another world altogether... but it’s hideously cold and the older I get, the less I tolerate the winter weather.

Books and bunny slippers. Essential components of proper hibernation. (Chocolate doesn't hurt, either.)

7. Describe your latest moment of inspiration.

Well, it has to do with writing... Yes, lately there’ve been times when my inspiration seems to have been... well, dead. But I’m currently writing something together with my DH, and the great thing about a shared project is that you can inspire each other... ;) No, what I mean is, sometimes you’re just stuck and don’t know what to do, where to go, but a chat about the text, the plot, the characters (even making fun of them!) can cause that ”Aha!” moment. And then you know what to do... and sometimes the inspiration that hits you is for a completely different part of the story, but hey, I’m not picky. Inspiration is inspiration! I'll take whatever I can get.

8. Would you rather go out for a walk/run or relax on the sofa?

That depends... okay, I can’t run (my body is broken, thanks to a stupid autoimmune disease, and it’ll get worse if I do stuff like running and jumping... which is a pity, because I used to love skipping rope!) and recently walking hurts, too. I know. Depressing. However, I don’t just sit around all day, either. I have a rowing machine and a stationary bike and a collection of dumbbells and weights... Because of the said illness, a workout session these days tends to be an exercise of imagination rather than that of the muscles – but I’m not giving up!

9. You made someone smile today – who was it?

My daughter. Not much of an achievement; she has a very sunny disposition and smiles and laughs a lot. :)

10. A topic you’d love to write a post about?

Um... this is a hard one, since I don’t really plan my posts in advance, just write whatever happens to occur to me. Well, I’ve been thinking of writing a post about my grandfather, because it was from him I inherited my love for stories.

11. What are you grateful for today?

My family and friends.

Now, the idea is that I'll pass the award on, along with a new set of questions, to some other bloggers (the blogs should have fewer than 200 members). So, here were go... these questions go to Wolfwood's Corner, Varicoloured, The Cult of Me and Drawings by Dell. Feel free to answer and/or pass the award on, if you have the time/interest.

Oh, and some more instructions: add the picture of the award to your post and mention the blog where you got it.

And, finally, the questions:

1. What's your favourite book? (You could see that one coming, didn't you?)
2. Your favourite lyrics?
3. If you could meet a historical figure (anyone!), who would that be?
4. Your favourite season?
5. What are you afraid of?
6. Your greatest strength?
7. Your biggest vice?
8. Would you want to live forever? Why/Why not? (Please specify conditions. :D)
9. What's your favourite word/expression?
10. The tastiest food you've ever eaten?
11. If you were to invent a time machine, where would you go and why? (And what would you do and how long would you stay and who/what would you take with you and...)

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Post 101

Well, it turns out that my previous post was my 100th post in this blog!

I've been blogging for about 18 months, and it seems that my original plan of posting maybe twice a month didn't quite work out... I've been posting more frequently than that.

It also seems that the chocolate reviews, which were supposed to be a bit of a joke, have been my most popular posts! Not that I complain; writing a review is a good excuse reason to eat some chocolate. ;)

People seem to find this review of Galler Chocolatier Noir 70 % Menthe - Citron Vert particularly interesting. I have no idea why. It was wonderful chocolate, though!

I was also just supposed to try blogging and see how it goes... well, there have been times when I've thought about giving it up (mainly because of the old problem: so much to do, so little time) but here we are. It's been interesting and fun... and since I mostly write here for that reason, for fun, I'm afraid any deeper reflections and trying to say something profound after reaching this "milestone" would be rather useless. (Plus, too much pressure. ;) )

One thing I want to say, however: whether you're one of the regular visitors or just happened to stop by, thank you for reading!