Wednesday, 25 May 2016

New blog feature

I’ve been putting this off for several months now – I don’t know why, but it makes me nervous. However, I've been told that I should have an “About me” section somewhere here in my blog, so... there it is now. Up there, below the title image (or whatever that’s called, I’m not familiar with the terminology... but that would be the picture with the sword) you can find links to my Facebook page, Goodreads author page and now to the “About me” section.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Review: Marabou: Milk chocolate with raspberry and chocolate fudge (Happy Birthday limited edition)

I was going to take a little break from writing chocolate reviews, but then I saw Marabou’s latest invention and I simply couldn’t resist! After all, it has chocolate fudge (yum!) and raspberry fudge (I love raspberries!). I had to have a taste.

The wrapping is typical of Marabou’s milk chocolate tablets with just some variety in terms of colours and images. The scent is simply sweet; without knowing what’s in this chocolate, I don’t think I’d be able to guess.

The milk chocolate is the typical Marabou milk chocolate, which, although rather sweet, is a good, solid milk chocolate which forms a perfect background to various additions. The chocolate fudge bits are soft and chewy and chocolatey – and very sweet, but that goes without saying. The raspberry pieces are a little too few and not quite tart enough to provide much of a contrast to the chocolate or the chocolate fudge bits, but they are delicious - and they're bits of raspberry fudge, which explains why the taste is not particularly intense. Lately, I've tasted so many chocolates with something crunchy and hard and brittle that I welcomed the change in this one; the additions are soft, and, together with the melt-in-your-mouth chocolate they form a silky combo that caresses your tongue.

This combination is very sweet, but is that a bad thing? No! I have to say that I liked this a lot. I mean, chocolate in chocolate!!! And raspberries, my favorite! (Well, one of my many favourites... I also love cherries and strawberries and...) This is a limited edition, a specialty that Marabou launched to celebrate their 100th birthday, so grab it while you can!

Monday, 16 May 2016

May - the month of sowing

We've come to May, or toukokuu.

This is another example of month names that refer to farm work done during a certain time of year. Touko is a familiar word to most modern day Finns in the connection of toukotyö. Työ means work, and toukotyö is farm work that is done in spring; ploughing, sowing etc.

Interestingly (I would say so, wouldn't I?), touko is generally considered to refer to the springtime work on the fields or the growing crops themselves; however, one source I happened to come across mentioned that it originates from an ancient Finno-Ugric word which means 'spring'. Incidentally, Touko is also a Finnish given name, although not a common one these days.

Since I don't happen to have an image of ploughed fields at hand, I picked a picture of some wood anemones instead. They blossom abundantly around our house right now.

Monday, 9 May 2016

Review: Whittaker’s Artisan Collection: Marlborough Sea Salt & Caramel and Waikato Grown Aromatic Oolong Tea

Look at this gorgeous pair... These chocolates were a surprise gift from dear friends from their holiday to New Zealand. How thoughtful was that? I am very lucky to have such wonderful friends - and not just because they send me chocolate. ;)

The wrappings are among the most beautiful chocolate wrappings I have ever seen. They’re very elegant yet a bit exotic with their delicious colours and pretty patterns. And they come from New Zealand! They’re definitely something of a rarity, a special treat that you can’t get anywhere in Finland.

The darker chocolate has a cocoa content of 50 %. The first thing I noticed was the scent. It is strange – not unpleasant by any means, but it took me a while to find a word for it. When I did, that word was flowery! Yes, I think I can smell flowers here. My daughter distinguished orange, and, after hearing that, my DH found it there too.

This chocolate, however, contains neither flowers nor orange but tea, oolong tea. I’ve never tried chocolate with tea before, so this was an interesting experience. I’m not a tea drinker (I kept trying, but I just couldn’t bring myself to like the taste so much as to actually drink tea for enjoyment), but I have to say that I can't taste the tea here - or if I do, it doesn't resemble the aroma that I associate with tea. The dark chocolate is fairly mild – definitely not bitter – and very smooth, and it has to be the tea that gives it a lovely, flowery yet delicate extra aroma. It is unlike any other chocolate I’ve tasted before... for some reason, it reminds me of honey, the kind where you can almost taste flowers and the sun!

The milk chocolate comes with caramel and sea salt – my very favourite combination! The scent is very mellow; I could only distinguish the sweet aroma of milk chocolate.

The milk chocolate is smooth and sweet but not overly sugary – it has a fairly mild taste, but the additions make up for that. The caramel brittle is nice and crunchy, not too hard, and has that lovely, toasted burnt sugar flavour. The salt granules enhance the flavours of chocolate and caramel (now I must brag a little... as we tasted these chocolates, my seven-year-old daughter expertly commented that the salt was delicious and that it enhances the flavour of chocolate. She’s been paying attention! :D). Unlike most chocolates with sea salt where you can find just a few small salt granules, this one is fairly generous with salt, and I like that! I could get addicted...

Overall, I liked both of these: the darker version with tea, because it was definitely different and new, and the milk chocolate because it combined my favourite flavours - and did it beautifully.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

"Synthesis" is out!

I’m very excited to share this piece of news with you: Fantastic Books Publishing recently published a science fiction anthology "Synthesis", and one of my stories is featured in the book!

In 2014, FBP organised a short story writing competition for stories of 1500 words or shorter. That isn’t very many words, and there was a time when I would never have even considered attempting to condense a story into such a short form. If you meet me in person, you’ll find that I don’t talk much, but if you let me write... a different story (haha!) altogether. Back when we had to write English essays at school, the word limit was something like 200. I always ended up with maybe about 500-600 words. The cutting took much longer than the actual writing, and that is not the way to write a story. Luckily, when this competition came up, I had already written a few short stories so I gave it a try.

When the results were announced, I was stunned to learn that my story had received the third prize! That was unexpected, but, naturally, wonderful news.

And now it's out - an ebook and a paperback edition of 27 science fiction stories (Amazon has it, too). Most of them are entries from the competition, but the collection also features stories by authors who were invited to contribute. I’ve read some of the stories already, and while they’re bite-sized pieces, they gave me much food for thought. If you’re worried about science fiction being all about space battles and aliens or some sort of technical stuff that only an engineer or a physics professor would understand, no need to worry – there’s much more to this collection. I’m honoured to have my story “If We Start Killing” in this anthology.