Can’t shake this cold!

March 6, 2015

March 6, 2015

Well, in more ways than one. It’s still winter outside, in spite of the cleaning trucks going around and cleaning up the gravel. I had been assured that seeing those trucks out was a sign that spring was coming (much like that whole ‘first bluebird of spring’ malarky), but that same day it was snowing big ol’ snowflakes. So, winter is still here. I don’t think Finland has the equivalent of a Punxsutawney Phil — probably they just figure that spring comes when it comes, and they don’t need some rodent to tell them anything. Given how often Phil gets it wrong…

And I still have my cold. Sore throat in the morning, which makes me want to call the doctor, but by the time I get home from school, it’s been gone all day. Started with a cough though. That’s no fun. I figure this thing is going to linger for a while. I’m going through menthols, hot tea, and tissues like there’s no tomorrow.

I went and got blood drawn and an EKG the other day. I went early, and despite the fact there were like 30 people in the waiting area, it went pretty fast. Nothing really unique about the visit that makes it stand out from the States, except for not having to wait all that long. Got there around 8:15am and was out by 8:45am. I have my MRI set up for June, just got that letter in the mail. Then a doctor’s appointment for August, and another blood test just before that. At least I’m not having to worry about paying for these.

Annnnd. It snowed again today. I am hearing that it can even snow in May. Seriously? Ugh. I’m sorry, Finns, but I am really hoping for a warm summer. They’re short enough as it is. Put up with a bit of heat. 🙂 It won’t be like the Louisiana summers that last for nine months of the year.

The walking trails are starting to clear up, which is nice. Just a few spots of ice, but nothing to be too worried about. I know this area here is going to look gorgeous in the spring!

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My crock pot arrive today! I am so stoked. I don’t cook much, but I am looking forward to putting some dishes together with this thing so we can mix up our meals some. First thing I might cook is some good mac & cheese….it’s been a while, and I’ve been having a hankering!

Yucky day!

Today was one of those days that I was warned about. It was cold, wet and sleeting, and to top it all off, the wind was blowing. Taking the Shiva-dog out for a walk this morning was not a pleasant activity.

January 8, 2015

January 8, 2015

It snowed later on this afternoon, then sleeted some more. Dreary. I stayed inside and did a bit of baking and cleaning. Okay, more cleaning than baking, because that’s not my thing.

I made this, though:

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Screwed it up by twisting some of the pieces around the wrong way, but it wouldn’t be an AntiCook masterpiece if I didn’t do something wrong! And at least it tastes good!

Made a vet appointment for the Shiva Dog for next Friday, for her to get checked out and stuff. Just to get her on record here with a vet. Hung some lights up outside to fight the gloom.

Laughed at this:

Because. Love.

Because. Love.

That’s all folks. Not much in the way of words of wisdom. Maybe next week. Moi moi!

Enrolling for school!

Wow. Today was essentially the day to sign up for the Spring language classes, and for the one I really wanted (as it had a discount available), it opened at 11am, but I was in class. By the time I got to a computer to sign up, the class was full. Wah. But I am number two on the waiting list.

However, that really doesn’t matter any more, as we went ahead and paid for a full time class that starts January 12, and I snagged the last opening in that class. I go five days a week, 9:30-12:00. Plus homework. Real homework. AND I signed up to go to a twice-weekly night class with a friend, so that’s Tues/Thurs from 5pm-7:30pm. Having a study buddy might help, plus we are talking immersion here!

I’ve enjoyed the free class at the Familia Club, but I haven’t really invested the study time that I should have, as there are no tests or anything to get prepped for. Still, I think it was a good experience, especially for my first time, and I have a better idea of what I need to do to step up my game.

I got my FitBit charged and synced up when I got back, and my goal is to hit 10k steps a day (at least to start). I took Shiva out for a long(er) walk this evening — in the rain, I might add, just so I could hit that 10,000+ step goal. Additionally, I find myself taking the stairs whenever I can, and when I feel like my knee is up to it.

Here’s a picture out of the kitchen window at 8:45am this morning:

December 8, 2014

December 8, 2014

Day 8 Challenge: What happened today at 6pm?

Oh, this is an exciting answer…watching Elementary on TV and eating dinner (pasta). Sorry, no picture as I didn’t think to check the challenge questions today before everything was cleaned up and put away. And sorry it wasn’t that interesting of an answer. 🙂

Winter is here! Snow!

I woke up this morning, went to the window to go take my daily picture, and gasped! Snow! At that moment, it was just a light dusting, but it got better (worse?) as the day wore on.

We had an errand to run this morning; going to pick up my replacement suitcase because my old one couldn’t be fixed. The snow was coming down, sticking to the roads and everything! For a Southern gal, this is really exciting, and more than a little bit scary. I was bundled up like crazy, so that Astrid had to ask just what was I going to do for winter. I figure I’ll just double up on everything I wore today!

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High fashion!

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It’s like a Finnish burkha.

I have another errand to run this afternoon, and as I look outside the window, the sidewalks and streets are white, snow is accumulating on the roof tops and tree limbs. I’m just amazed at how different the landscape looks, so quickly. And I’m worried about my ability to adapt to this snowy wilderness! I want warmth back already!

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In spite of all my whining, the outdoors isn’t really all that uncomfortable. The air is dry and the wind isn’t blowing, so it’s not too terrible if you’re bundled up. I can imagine that with rain and wind, it would get pretty miserable. In any case, I guess winter is actually here, and this is the beginning. My child was telling me yesterday that it was a nice high 60’s back home, getting to the mid 80’s during the day, and then back down. Those are the good days. 🙂

Tallinn, Estonia…and snow!

OMG…it is really snowing here! I mean, I knew it would, but I am still just amazed at it. And a bit scared.

But first, about Tallinn.

Yesterday (Wednesday), Wellu and I left for Tallinn aboard one of the Viking Line ships. Tallinn is an easy day trip from Helsinki, and a lot of Helsinki-ites (?) head there to buy alcohol. You’ll see them board with folding carts, empty suitcases and duffel bags, and return with cases of beer and cider, all loaded down (and many are simply loaded, too! 🙂 )

Tallinn is a very old city, and the place we were to visit is a walled older city within the city of Tallinn itself. The original Tallinn, if you will. The old town is actually listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city was founded sometime in the 1200’s, so it’s pretty damn old.

You have to line up early in the terminal, because the seating is a bit limited on the ship, and you want to get a good seat for the approximately 2.5 hour ride there. We managed to snag a decent seat in the corner of the bar area, although the view out of the window wasn’t too great. And it was too cold to go outside and take pictures, so all you get to see is the interior!

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The ship had a trivia contest, although we didn’t enter (we should have!), but we played along and got most of the questions right. They post them up on some video monitors located around the bar area so you can see the questions. Which are all in Finnish and Swedish, of course.

I was feeling a bit nauseated when we got to the ship, so I went to the bar and ordered a Coke and some chips to settle my stomach. I tried to order my Coke (and glass of ice) in Finnish, but since she confirmed and spoke to me in English after that, I guess my Finnish was lacking. Darn it.

We just sat and read for bit, and then another couple came and sat with us. After a while, we struck up a conversation. She was Rose, from Beijing, China, who was visiting her friend, Harold, in Helsinki. It was her first time to Helsinki, and first time going to Tallinn. She plays keyboard and guitar in a band in China, and later, they are going to go visit their former keyboardist in Frankfurt.  We had a rather enjoyable conversation, and then split up to go stand in the herd to get off the ship.

Relaxing on the outward bound trip

Relaxing on the outward bound trip

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March of the Penguins

March of the Penguins

Once we got off the ship (and through the terminal), we walked the short distance to the entrance to the walled older city. We didn’t really have anything on our itinerary, just wanted to take a little day trip somewhere nice. I wanted to take the time to finally poke my head into all the little shops that I had to pass by before, and I wanted to go to the market, maybe find some Christmas gifts to take back.

Unfortunately, the market wasn’t going on, but I did get to do a lot of window shopping. Lots of linen, lace, wooden carvings, amber, and wool items. Go figure. 🙂 We popped in to a few of the more unusual shops, although I had to admit that some of their prices were very high. My personal quest was for a wooden butter knife and a bread basket. I have bought probably two dozen of the butter knives as souvenirs for friends, but I never kept one for myself! The bread basket is actually this thicker cloth that ties at the corners to lift the sides and keep the bread inside. I just like the look of them.

I have to pause here to say that I just went in the kitchen to refill my tea, and it is really snowing outside. Real snowflakes, coming down from the sky and sticking to the ground. It’s really winter! Okay, back to the blog…

In any case, found the butter knife (after several stops), a really nice birch and juniper utensil, that I am excited to have in the kitchen. Also, got Sam a dice bag handmade with an Estonian pattern. Not sure they mean it as a dice bag, but that’s what I´m calling it for Sam. Also bought these adorable wooden cat window hangers, that are decorated with amber pieces. All made in Estonia, by hand. Very cool looking!

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My favorite piece is probably what I got for Stasia, which is a hand-painted ceramic bowl with a cat in it. There is a series of these bowls, made by a local artist, Helina Tilk. I got Stasia the ‘Dandy Cat’ one, because I loved the look on this one’s face. I plan to get her the set, a few pieces at a time, if she likes this one. They are dishwasher and microwave safe, although hand washing is suggested, of course.

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We did a bit more wandering, mainly down side streets that we hadn’t traveled in our visits here before, admiring the architecture, and then stopping in at Drakon, for a ‘decent bowl of elk soup’ and some moose sausage to cut the chill. The soup was actually more than decent, and the sausage was VERY good. There are no utensils, we drank the soup out of the earthenware bowl, and ate the sausage with our fingers. The interior is low, dark, and with heavy wooden tables and stools. It is what I imagine a tavern would look like in the Middle Ages, and it was very much that feeling in there.

After that, we did a bit more walking, then headed back to the ship. We weren’t in a huge hurry to get seats this time, as we had reserved seating for the 6pm buffet. We did meet a very nice lady where we did sit, and while she couldn’t speak English, apparently Wellu and her got along famously, chatting for about a half hour until we were ready to go eat.

And let me tell you…this was a feast! Apparently, it was ‘wild game week’ or something, because they had some fabulous foods to choose from. There was a huge selection of fish, which is not my thing, but there was herring, salmon, caviar, shrimp, and more, all fixed up multiple ways. The salad selection was also pretty extensive, but again, not my thing, with beans and mushrooms, and green stuff. 🙂 All of this was locally sourced and fresh, and you could really tell.

Main course selections is really where the action was. There was roast boar, boar sausage, reindeer steak, reindeer mousse on rye, reindeer sausage, creamed potatoes, roast beef, and more. It was a veritable carnivore’s dream! I had just a taste of everything, and it was all very good! The dessert selections were really good, as well, and I did well on that table, too.

Carnivore platter. Reindeer, boar, beef, chanterelles, potatoes, and more. Yum!

Carnivore platter. Reindeer, boar, beef, chanterelles, potatoes, and more. Yum!

Dessert plate: blueberry mousse, macaroon, chocolate ice cream, brownie, and some other sort of mousse.

Dessert plate: blueberry mousse, macaroon, chocolate ice cream, brownie, and some other sort of mousse.

I left the dining hall feeling like all I wanted to do was curl up and hibernate for a while, and let my food digest. Alas, we were still about a half hour from Helsinki, so we sat in the lounge and listened to the live band, who were actually quite good. When we got in, it was dark, of course, and getting colder. We got home, and I just about crashed into bed. I slept for a good, long while.

I’ll make a post about the snow, separately, since this one turned out so long.

Wait…she’s cooking?

Moving to a new place, with new experiences, new expectations and new roles…well, one would anticipate there would be changes to the way one views their place in their new life. Such is what I am encountering now. It’s not been a bad thing. On the contrary, it’s actually been a very positive experience thus far.

Right now, I can’t work. Not that I don’t the ability, but I don’t have the legal right to work. So I am now ‘temporarily retired’. While being retired is usually something one looks forward to, I can see why it can be a difficult adjustment. Add to this ‘abundance of time’ on my hands to also being in a strange place, well, you can probably see why I am branching out to try new things.

Like cooking.

Let’s face it. I’m not a cook. My kids will tell you that I rarely cooked a square meal in their life. They didn’t starve, but mealtime was not a ritual in our household. For me, it was something to be dreaded, as my skill never seemed to be up to par, and with the exception of one child, my girls were pretty picky eaters. So it was easier to go the hot dogs and mac/cheese route. And we’re talking the boxed, neon yellow stuff, too. It’s good, but that’s about as complex as my ‘cooking’ got. When they got older, they pretty much fended for themselves (which was fine by all parties involved, given schedules, likes, dislikes, etc).

My mom, on the other hand, is an excellent cook. I have memories of some rather great meals when I was younger, though I have to admit that most of them included the words fried, potatoes, gravy, breading, etc., and rarely a vegetable. But they were very good tasting. Still, my mother says that she enjoys cooking, and always has. Over the last decade or so, especially on her own now, she has branched out into some pretty esoteric stuff (like making her own mascarpone cheese, making her own yogurt, making pasta from scratch, etc). And she is really good at it, too! She even runs a cooking forum on DephiForums called CooksTalk that has a whole passel of people who love to cook, and many who cook for a living. They are artists with food!

My mom and I took a cooking course in Florence, Italy while on my honeymoon (yes, my mom came on my honeymoon with us. Another story for another time! 🙂 ) We enjoyed the heck out of it, and I actually made pasta from scratch. By hand. And it was edible! And easy! No intimidating machinery, no hard to find ingredients. I started to feel this sort of ‘Hmm, I could maybe enjoy this’ kind of feeling. I returned home, but was busy packing for my cross-world trek that there wasn’t time to explore this new thing.

Mom and I at the cooking class in Florence

Mom and I at the cooking class in Florence

Tiramisu--I made it myself!

Tiramisu–I made it myself!

Now, I’m here in Finland, and I have many a daytime to myself. A few days ago, I wanted to make that shepherd’s pie, but couldn’t find pre-made pie crust. So I…made it. I had leftover dough, which stayed in the fridge until today, when I decided to just wing it, and made these magnificent little…pies. I guess that’s what you’d call them. I used glass votive candle holders that I got from IKEA the other day, to put the crust in. I made four strawberry and three lingonberry. Below are some pictures of the process.

Preparing for the oven

Preparing for the oven

In the oven!

In the oven!

Final product, served with vanilla ice cream

Final product, served with vanilla ice cream

I learned a few things from this little experiment that I will do differently next time, but nothing too earth-shattering to call a ‘mistake to be corrected’. I enjoyed the process of asking myself, ‘I wonder if this will this work?’, then trying it, and finding out that it does. I’ve made dinner nearly every night that I’ve been here, be it something simple (steak and fries), or more elaborate (the aforementioned shepherd’s pie). The point is, cooking has always been something I’ve never really enjoyed. Something I considered a chore, a drudgery to get over and done. I’m actually enjoying it now, and feeling like I would like to do more.

I want to take a pause here, to apologize to my kids for not cooking more when they were younger. It seemed like such a pain, and I just didn’t enjoy it. Maybe now that I’m older and have less demands on me, I can focus on it more. At least you weren’t poisoned by my cooking when you were little! I know that all three of you already cook more than I ever did, and I’m so proud of you for the things you create. Each one of you has surprised me with a wonderful dish at one time or another.

To follow through on this new hobby, I’ve looked through the Familia Club pamphlet for the end of the year, and there are a couple of cooking events going on in November. I’m going to sign up for them and go explore. Sure, Finland is not known for their cuisine, but what the heck, cooking is cooking, right? As long as it isn’t pickled herring or something vegetable-centric, then I’ll be fine. 🙂 And as a plug for the Familia Club, for a mere 20€ annual cost, they have a lot of really neat free (and nearly free) classes, excursions and events that they offer. You can check them out at http://www.familiaclub.fi (something I recommend!).

In the meantime, I’ll bore you with my cooking exploits until someone says, ‘Enough already! So you can cook! Tell us about something more interesting!’, in which case, hopefully I will have something more interesting to talk about. 🙂

In other, brief news, it was COLD this morning.

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I was a bit a’feared of going out today, but I really didn’t need to be. In spite of the temperature, it was actually rather nice, if one was dressed appropriately. I actually wore a sweatshirt out to the store later, as my heavy coat had been almost uncomfortably warm. I think it helped that it was dry and calm today. When it’s raining and windy, I’m sure I’ll sing another tune.

I did forget my phone when I went out, so you don’t get any pictures of the landscapes today. Maybe tomorrow!

Thanks for reading and see you tomorrow!