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