These rare moments continue to be.. exceedingly rare still

Last night I spent five-and-something hours applying for national identity cards for my children. The process itself is definitely quite easy, and usually much faster, too. It seems my limits of patience have now reached their furthermost optimum. I might have been a monk in my previous life, kneeling cross-legged in a prayer, slowly growing moss between my ears.

How hard can it be, I asked myself, rhetorically, and was proved, once again as per usual – wrong. Very very wrong.

It was a rare, silent and eerily quiet evening when I realised I needed to finally get this documentation situation sorted. Kids need the cards. Real soon.

Thank goodness of the rainbow-coloured power of Universe, I live in an e-country, where people are so introverted that they avoid having conversation with strangers at any cost, so you can get your sorry buttock online and fill out some applications and feel psychologically undisturbed. Heh.

Alright, let’s do this. So, this browser won’t let me save the bloody pre-filled application. No biggie. Let’s try another one, shall we? Ah, crap. Same story. How about that one? Uhm.

No.

Fine. Don’t work.

I’m a technological prodigy, mastermind, I breathe computers and bureaucracy. I’m above this. Filling applications is “ma thang”. I will download this damned thing and fill it then.

Ha.

Take that you stupid application!

Wait, no. What is this thing? Why do I have to pay Adobe for signing a document? Why do I even have to sign it with Adobe?

I remember the dial-up time of the internet and I swear, it took me the same amount of time for me to fill out one form that it took once upon a golden time to load a fuzzy picture of your mum’s finger instead of the portrait of your siblings she was taking.

Nothing I tried was working. But wait, I have done it once before, haven’t I? I wondered what I did differently that time. Lucky for me, I had the previous application, from two years ago, on my laptop, still. Bless that lazy arse of mine. And it still worked! And I could fill it out and save it too. Well, fuck me, right? Amn’t I the greatest? Even at three a.m. in the morning.

Done.

Easy as pie.

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Best things that have happened.. So far

  • I had kids. They sort of happened and have made my life so much more interesting and so much more difficult fun.
  • I got married to my soul mate, had a pretty awesome party too. And I got to wear a fluffy dress. So not like me.
  • I am now a co-owner of an apartment. It’s exciting to own a home. Responsibilities also are kind of weighing me down, that’s a bit of a bummer, though.
  • Pam and Jim got together. Yes, that ‘The Office’ couple’s evolution still gets me, even after fourth time of watching. Come on.. They’re so perfect for one another. Bears, beets, Battlestar Galactica.
  • I have discovered baking. My scales hate me. So do people who live close by. I don’t really know why. I didn’t exactly force them to eat that third helping of chocolate cake..
  • I’ve got to live a quiet, coveted ‘first world’ life so far. Would like to keep that going.

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Cinnamon buns

I love cinnamon. I even love the way you say “cinnamon”. Cinn-ah-mon. Mmm. I am instantly thinking of chai lattes, Indian food and above all, the Swedish (for me, at least) pride and joy – kanelbullar, more commonly known as the cinnamon bun. I have made this recipe quite a few times now to know the way yeast dough works, the little things to do that yield the fluffy, yet moist, texture inside.

For the dough, you need:

  • 2 cups of milk (of any choice, it also works with plant-milks or plain water)
  • One sachet of dried instant yeast
  • 1/3-1/2 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 cup of butter
  • 1-2 tsp of cardamom
  • about 5 cups of flour (if more is needed, add tablespoonful at a time until reaching the desired consistency)

For the filling:

  • 1/3 cups of sugar
  • 2 tsp of cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp of butter

In order to make the dough with dried yeast, the liquid has to be heated a tad bit hotter than lukewarm. That ensures the activation of yeast. I mix the sugar and yeast in a big bowl. Next, I heat the milk with butter on medium heat – when I see slight steam rising from the surface, I take it off the heat and leave it until butter has melted.

I add, whilst stirring, the slightly hot liquid (I’m usually able to hold my finger in it for longer than three seconds) gradually to the yeast-sugar mixture, until yeast is well incorporated and sugar is almost completely dissolved. Now, some people would add all the five cups of flour at this stage, let the dough rise until doubled and be done with it.

But not me.

Yeast is a delicate thing. It works best if not burdened by a lot of flour. It thrives best, initially, at least, in a more liquid dough than the one where gluten has developed. So I add 2-3 cups of flour to the yeast mix and stir until no big pockets of flour remain. Then I cover it with cling film and leave it at room temperature to rise for an hour or so, less needed if the room is relatively warm.

After the so-called bulk fermentation, I knock the air out, add the rest of the flour, along with cardamom, pour the mix onto the table and knead until the dough (about 5 minutes) is smooth, elastic and only slightly sticky. I usually put the dough back into the bowl I used for mixing, for another rise, as well as using the same cling film as before to cover the bowl.

I turn on the oven to 180 degrees Celsius (160C for fan) and line two baking tins with parchment paper.

After the dough has doubled in size and a hole poked into it does not refill, I turn the dough onto the table, knead it a bit more and cut it in half, and work with each half in turn. I like to alternate the fillings – adding marzipan, chopped nuts, chocolate etc instead of cinnamon.

I usually roll the dough out into rectangles, layer with a bit of butter (or oil), and sprinkle on the sugar-cinnamon mixture, fold the two thirds of it and fold the rest on top of it, giving three layers. Then I cut it all into 3 cm strips perpendicular to the folds, cut those strips almost in half – leaving about a cm from the top attached. Taking those two strips, I firstly twist them on themselves and then tie them together to form a bun shape. This way, the filling is more exposed, the rolls (or buns) turn out more unform in size, compared to the traditional rolling method, where the rolls cut from the middle section are three times bigger than the ones that come from the ends.

All is left then, is to proof them and cover in egg wash and pearl sugar. I stick them into the middle of the oven for about 12 minutes or until they are slightly golden brown.

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Describing 2015

I can sum it up by saying that 2015 was..

Busy.

Crazy busy. And pregnant. Crazy pregnant.

I learned that having two kids isn’t much harder than having one two year old (maybe my baby girl has been unreasonably kind to me so far). I read a lot of books, became one year older (and closer to 30, scary), didn’t travel or do anything, other than making a baby. But that, actually, is bloody amazing too. So there.

Did I make any resolutions for the next year? No, not really. I’ve always thought that if I don’t bother doing something (like exercising, making plans) straight away, then it isn’t really something important to begin with. Besides, life kicks you in the balls when you make such lists. Or plans.

The year is dead. Long live the New Year! 

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Cakes and bakes (but mostly cake)

It all started with lusciousbake’s recipes. Her wonderful recipe for chocolate and hazelnut cake has become one of my staples. What’s there not to love about a luxurious hazelnut sponge or ample amount of creamy chocolate mousse? Besides, it’s very quick and easy to make, even easier to modify to suit your own likes and that fatless sponge has yet to fail me.


I mean, I added a few chocolate sponge layers (replace ground hazelnuts with cocoa powder), bit more of chocolate filling and went a bit crazy with decorations.

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With a cup of coffee, it is one of the most wonderful cakes I’ve ever had and believe me, I’ve had plenty.


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It’s the most wonderful time of the year..

Ding dong.. 

Christmas seems magical as a kid, but in my opinion, it is just as magical to see your child’s face light up with excitement opening his Christmas presents.

  
This year, we decided to have a tree and I made these wonderful decorations out of bicarbonate of soda, starch and water. Yup, that’s right, soda and starch. They create such a wonderful contrast with the dark green spruce and red ribbon I used to hang them onto the tree. I’m getting handy at this DIY stuff, it seems.

I baked gingerbreads (due another batch soon) and cake, received a wonderful book of Japanese cuisine from my hubby, soaked up the holiday atmosphere with my (extended) family. 

  
I hope everyone had a wonderful time with their loved ones. 

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Best soup.. ever.

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Roasted bell pepper and tomato soup warms your body as well as your soul. It’s very simple, really fast to make and tastes excellent.

In my version of the classic, I use tinned chopped/whole tomatoes, which, in my opinion, retain far more flavour than pureed counterparts. You can find a whole bulb of garlic in it, too.

Ingredients:

2 red bell peppers

2 tins of chopped tomatoesIMG_3579

3 onions

whole bulb of garlic

thyme

salt & pepper

olive oil

balsamic vinegar

pumpkin seeds (to garnish)

IMG_3566Cut the bell peppers in half and remove the seeds. Sprinkle them with olive oil and place skin side up onto tin foil and roast them at 180ºC until their skins are slightly scorched. Chop the onions, peel garlic and roast in the pot on a low heat until aromatic and slightly caramelised. Add thyme and cook for another five minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes, stir, bring to boil. Turn the heat down to low, add the IMG_3597roasted bell peppers. Using an immersion blender, blend the whole lot until smooth.
Alternatively, pour the contents into a normal (smoothie) blender, blitz the heck
out of it and transfer back to the pot. Season to taste with a splash of balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Serve with some scrumptious pumpkin seeds sprinkled liberally on top alongside a touch of olive oil.

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Second time around – the inevitable (and somewhat scary) hospital bag.

Warning! This post may contain.. information that is too detailed. Ahem.

As of writing, I am in my 32nd week of pregnancy. It means that the due date is only eight weeks away. If this baby is going to be anything like her older brother, she will be making her appearance rather sooner than later and I ought to be prepared for that. Yet I’m sort of not.

I admit that I’m not very good at packing. I’m the kind of person who would usually pack the kitchen sink. Just in case. You never know when you might have a need of a kitchen sink, right? This time around, I think I will employ more of common sense and less of that sweet sweet unawareness that was the first pregnancy/birthing experience. I brought so many useless things to the hospital that I never really used or even took out of the bag.

I have absolutely no idea how well the hospitals in other parts of Europe are equipped, but in general, any pregnant woman in labour ought to be able to waltz into any hospital without nighties, slippers or kettles in her handbag and manage just fine. Not maybe as comfortably, but fine nonetheless. Here, in the far northern-east corner of Europe, you could literally walk in with two hands in your pocket and hospital will give you all the essentials. Since I am a bit picky about things, I prefer to bring my own stuff to enjoy. As much as you can enjoy pressing watermelons through the keyhole.

So where did I go wrong the last time? Let me start with the wardrobe. I brought night shirts with buttons, thinking that it would be easier to breastfeed. It was easy access, alright, only when I left the buttons undone and that was pretty much useless. A good tank-top would have served me so much better, considering that it was roasting hot in the ward. Also, there is absolutely no use for your own clothes during the delivery. It’s a messy affair and hospital robes are perfectly fine. Believe me, the last thing on your mind at that time is to make some kind of a fashion statement. Or any statements. The baby would only need an outfit for coming home. Bring comfortable underwear. Thongs might make your ass-cheeks look curvy but are really impractical, as would be boy-shorts. The best ones are your good ol’ granny pants or briefs. Imagine you are on a really heavy period with pads that are thicker than the slab of butter your gran likes to have on her toast. And boy, does she like butter on her toast. Okay, so that’s the kind of under-side problem you have to deal with, so any panty with some support is pretty much the way to go.

Another thing that I didn’t have in my first bag, was a breast pump. Alright, so you may have decided not to breastfeed for some reason (not that anyone would let you off the hook as easy in this country), you might still need it. Because whether you want it or not, you will most likely get to know what it’s like to be a milk vessel anyway. To ease some of the pressure and escape the horrible torture that is mastitis (do not google it), it can come handy. I used Tommee Tippee manual breast-pump and it worked fine. It might take a few tries with different pumps and not all breast-pumps suit all women, so it’s a bit of a hit and miss. My choice for this time around would be an electrical pump (such as the Difrax btob pump) and I hope to be able to purchase one soon enough. Also, if needed, breast compresses can come handy. They are also quite pricey. Instead, a head of cabbage in the fridge is all you need. Just apply a cold leaf of cabbage (make holes for your nipples or patch them on around your nipples) on your boobs. It works. It really really does. And it is quite inexpensive too.

Another thing to remember is food and drink. Food more-so for your significant other or birthing partner and energising drinks (not energy drinks!) like juice or herbal tea for yourself. I only brought water the last time and felt too tired, much so than I should have, because whilst water is good for you in general, more glucose is needed for this kind of marathon.

So this time around, I won’t be bringing any nail scissors or books (to imagine, I thought I’d be well enough to read during labour. Ha.), creams, lotions, piles of clothes, nappies and pads (some are needed, not two months worth), towels or sheets (what was I thinking?).

I will be making a post about what actually will be in my bag once I have managed to gather all the bits. You know, for a laugh.

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I refuse to regret

I have no idea where the time is going. That, of course, is meant metaphorically. I have a pretty exact idea how I am spending my time.

Our life has given us a rather sweet lemon – baby number two to be more precise. I thought about writing down some (second) pregnancy-related thoughts, give a good overview of couple of baby and non-baby hauls and chit-chat about life in general. It seems reviews get a good deal of attention in this blog, so I intend to keep it going with those. I have an ample amount of beauty related things I should write about and review.

Ahem. Onwards it is. And I’m not taking any duties as to when and how much I’m going to blog from now on. Seems the free spirit in me rebels anything too strenuous as a chore. It should all be about enjoying writing, publishing and happy days.

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