♫ Owl And Moon (Instrumental)

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Original (instrumental version) song composed by Elaini (Annastiina Salonen). All rights reserved – if you wish to use this track, please ask from: ama.elaini@gmail.com

This track is for the friends of owls and those whose spirit animal the owl is. Owls are faithful to their mates by nature and this one is waiting for his own to return, with the moon as his only company.

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Hand of Varda

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My artwork as published in ArtStation:

This is the portrait of Varda, also known as Elbereth Gilthoniel without showing her face, but rather her essence. She is a Valië, one of the fourteen Valar and their seven females.

Valar are basically god or archangel like beings in Eä, the universe of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-Earth stories. Each embodies an element or a state of mind. They could change form if needed or even be without one.

Varda is the most beloved by the Elves. They call her as the Queen of Stars but it’s more like a title from how the Elves got to know Varda. She’s essentially the embodiment of light itself and not stars alone. She’s also not the queen of night which Estë is notably more fond of. These quotes reveal why I think so:

The Silmarillion
Valaquenta — Of the Valar

With Manwë dwells Varda, Lady of the Stars, who knows all regions of Eä. Too great is her beauty to be declared in the words of Men or Elves; for the light of Ilúvatar lives still in her face. In light is her power and her joy.

The Silmarillion
Of the Sun and Moon and the Hiding of Valinor

Now Varda purposed that the two vessels should journey in Ilmen and ever be aloft, but not together; each should pass from Valinor into the east and return, the one issuing from the west as the other turned from the East.

Because of the waywardness of Tilion, therefore, and yet more because of the prayers of Lórien and Estë, who said that sleep and rest had been banished from the Earth, and the stars were hidden, Varda changed her counsel, and allowed a time wherein the world should still have shadow and half-light.

The Lord of the Rings — The Fellowship of the Ring
Three is Company

Snow-white! Snow-white! O Lady clear!
O Queen beyond the Western Seas!
O Light to us that wander here
Amid the world of woven trees!

Gilthoniel! O Elbereth!
Clear are thy eyes and bright thy breath!
Snow-white! Snow-white! We sing to thee
In a far land beyond the sea.

O stars that in Sunless Year
With shining hand by her were sown,
In windy fields now bright and clear
We see your silver blossom blown!

O Elbereth! Gilthoniel!
We still remember, we who dwell
In this far land beneath the trees,
Thy starlight on the Western Seas.

These are the reasons why my personal image of Varda is a pale angelic being, and also snow white haired because she is basically the anti-shadow statement. She’s notably radiant like a lamp but not so much that she’s blinding unlike Arien.

For Varda I have also taken some inspiration from the fair Pohjola’s Daughters of Kalevala, decribed to be sitting at the sky. They are described to be exquisitely radiant because their very translucent bodies with light shining all the way from their marrows. I’m aware of Kalevala’s influence to Tolkien’s work but I cannot tell if this is a coincidence or not, yet I went with it.

♫ Elven Galliard (Instrumental)

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Original (instrumental version) song composed by Elaini (Annastiina Salonen). All rights reserved – if you wish to use this track, please ask from: ama.elaini@gmail.com

Galliard is a form of Renaissance music starting in 15th Century Europe, often accompanied by the court couple dance known as the Volta. This track is not the traditional version of galliard, but it’s rather in the fantasy ballroom setting with Elves, featuring a full orchestra.

Liisa’s Caramels Recipe

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Liisas_Caramels

This family recipe comes from my grandmother Liisa and making them is a tradition that I’ve kept each Christmas. These candies remind me of my childhood like nothing else and they’re very rich in cream which condenses as the mix boils, creating a unique flavour to love. The texture is a bit flaky and it melts right into your mouth.

The ingredients are few and common, but what’s even more important is the technique and patience.

Liisa’s Caramels Recipe

1 tbsp of butter
1 tbsp of unsweetened cocoa powder
300 ml (1,27 cups) of whipping cream
300 ml (1,27 cups) of granulated sugar

Also needed:

Small dish with cool water
Heat resistant dish
Baking paper or tinfoil
A bit of cooking oil

Instructions:

  1. Choose a large kettle compared to the amount of caramel you are going to make. Leaving at least ⅔ of empty space in the kettle is very much recommended because in the beginning the caramel mix will foam a lot while boiling, but it will settle later.

  2. Line the heat resistant dish with a baking paper or tinfoil. Take a small amount of cooking oil on the sheet and use a paper towel to rub it on evenly, making it stick proof. The caramel will be cooling down in the dish and the sheet makes it easier to lift the large solid bar onto a cutting board.

  3. Add the butter into the kettle and melt it. Add the cocoa powder and mix them even.

  4. Add the cream, then the sugar. The mix will look greyish in this point, but it will get more colour soon. Keep the heat continually gentle though high enough to keep the mix simmering. See that the yet foaming mix won’t boil over.

  5. Every once in a while mix from the bottom to top to keep the caramelization even and the bottom from burning.

  6. Keep the cool water near you to test the readiness of the caramel. If you wish, you can stop boiling the caramel as soon as the biggest foaming is over and you’ll end up with a sauce like butterscotch, to be used in a similar way.
  7. If you wish to keep going until the candy will be solid enough for cutting, boil until the bubbling is notably slow and leaves small, glossy humps on the surface. To make sure it’s ready, use a small drop of the caramel and drop it into the cold water. The candy should harden immediately and even form ribbons or curls that stay in shape.
  8. Pour the caramel onto the dish and let it solidify. You can also speed it but putting the dish into a cold water bath.
  9. When the caramel is solid and yet still warm, cut it in pieces of the shape and size you wish. When they’re completely cool, they can be served immediately and kept for a long time (unless they have disappeared first, of course).

Pepparkakor Recipe

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Pepparkakor_recipe

Pepparkakor (or in Finnish: piparit) are traditional Nordic holiday cookies which are somewhat similar to gingerbread though the main spice isn’t ginger, but rather cinnamon.

The dough is based on spiced caramel and has quite “waxy” texture when uncooked, and it’s the recipe that I use each year.

Pepparkakor recipe

125 grams (4,41 oz) of butter
100 ml (0,42 cups) of molasses
150 ml (0,63 cups) of granulated sugar

1 egg
500 ml (2,11 cups) of wheat flour
2 tsp of baking soda

Dry and ground spices:

2 tsp of cinnamon
1 tsp of ginger
½ tsp of clove

Optional dry and ground spices (which I always add):

1 tsp of bitter orange peel
1 tsp of cardamom

On the day of making dough:

  1. Mix the baking soda into the flour.

  2. Put the butter, sugars and spices into a kettle. Stir from bottom to top while they melt as a mix and let it boil until it’s a bit caramelized. You can boil it as long as you like, but if you boil it long you’ll probably get a dough that’s harder to work with and has small hard bits of caramel. But in the end it’s the matter of taste and effort.

  3. Take the kettle off the stove and keep stirring slowly so the caramel’s temperature stays even and won’t only harden around the edges. When the caramel shows signs of cooling a bit by thickening but is still being easy to work, add the egg and mix it even.

  4. Start adding the flour mix into the caramel mix. The flour can be stirred in with a tool at first but once the dough starts to get a lighter colour and thicken the rest would have to be kneaded in – with delightfully sticky fingers.

  5. Press the dough into container(s) and let it settle in the fridge at least overnight. It can also be frozen if you want to save it for later use.

On the day of baking:

  1. Before you start to work the dough into cookies or house parts, let it warm slowly in room temperature so it’s easier to work with.

  2. Heat the oven into 200°C (392°F). Dust the surface with wheat flour and start to stretch the dough out with a rolling pin, making a thin sheet. Use cookie cutters of your choice and have fun. I usually make the next batch right when the previous is still being baked in the oven.

  3. The cookies will first slightly rise and puff, then they settle down and brown slightly and that’s when they’re at their best. When you take them out they’re still a bit soft when they’re hot, but quickly harden when they cool down.

Fun fact: If you’re making a pepparkaka house you can still shape them while hot which makes the round towers possible if you have round dishes to shape them with such as glass bottles.

Decorate the cookies as you wish, using royal icing with sprinkles, candies, edible dust etc. They will keep for a long time, and even get better with age as more aromas are coming out.

Goodbye Deviantart, Hello ArtStation

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I have decided to delete my DeviantArt account altogether, and focus on my ArtStation account as my main way to publish my visual art.

The reason is mainly realizing which social media I truly need for my visual art. I experience that ArtStation as a site has more focus on quality, advanced graphic design, artistic value and realism which I’m always striving for.

As opposed to that, Deviantart has more quantity with a medley of things, including screenshots, generator images without the personal artistic touch and the forms of interest in fandoms that I’m not into. There has been an influx of those things in the site, especially in the past few years and so the site is no longer what it used to be.

I based the group in Deviantart called Tolkien-Voronwë since as many might know, I am into the books of JRR Tolkien (more so than the fan of the movies), especially the Silmarillion and I will remain as such. The group has been my main reason to stay in the site, and now I will transfer the ownership of the group to my co-founder Yvan Strong. May she take a good care of it.

As for myself, I will remain as a Tolkien fan, but my ways of expressing it will change. I will still be checking DeviantArt from time to time, to see what my favourite artists there have created. But I won’t be contributing there any longer.