Au revoir, my friends!

Not really a good-bye, but a “come on along!” invitation to my new blog, hosted on Blogger. I’m moving to France, possibly in January 2016 (maybe before), and with this move, I am taking the opportunity to move my blog over. It’s a new one, titled “From Finland to France“, and it’s going to detail my efforts in getting us ready for the move, then to report on life in our new home. We’re only going to be gone a year, so I’ll be back to publishing FinlandAdventures again, but most likely on the Blogger platform.

So come see me over in our new home, and follow along with the odd mix of reviews of Finland for the next few months, along with my encounters with the bureaucracy of moving to France.

Hope to see you there!

Voting Day!

Actually, it was Sunday, and I started a post to try and explain it, but I failed. So here I am today, armed with a new infomercial. I had my Finnish husband actually explain the system, so here it is:

Here are alllll the people running for those 200 seats.

Here are aaaalllll the people running for some of those 200 (somewhere around 22) seats from Helsinki.

There are 200 places in the Finnish Parliament, although the chairman doesn’t vote nor ask for the floor, leaving 199 voting representatives.

Keskusta (Center party) got 21.2% of the popular vote and 49 seats (24.5%).

Perussuomalaiset (True Finns) got 17.6% and 38 seats (19%).

Kokoomus (Coalition party, capitalists) got 18.2% and 37 seats (18.5%).

As you can see, it is not exact match since you can have the last candidate just barely squeezing above another one in a district, but it is a lot better than having 1 representative representing just one party from a district.

At the low end, we have Kristillisdemokraatit (Christian Democrats) with 3.5% of the popular vote and 5 seats (2.5%).

Small parties which did not make the 3% popular vote cut and hence did not get any seats, got about 72000 votes altogether, about 2.5% of the popular vote. The number of people who didn’t get their ‘representative’ is not too bad.

The system has been criticized that it favors the big parties and it does. The 3% cut also makes it harder for little parties to make the cut, but they can form those election alliances, in which case they are treated as a single big party instead for election purposes. There has also been talk about just having national elections, treating the whole country as one district. Then they could also just dole out seats based on strict proportionality: if you got 20% of the vote, you’ll get 20% of the seats (40) and those seats would be divided based on the personal vote numbers within the party.

Here is a page (in Finnish) which shows those different election districts:
http://fi.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eduskuntavaalit_2015
The number of seats per district is based on the number of residents.

I can’t vote in these elections, but apparently I can vote in the smaller, more local ones. I guess I better learn some Finnish before then!

Cooking Adventures

My mom runs a cooking forum called Cook’s Talk. My alias on there is the “AntiCook”, because really, I don’t cook, while my mom is a self-taught chef. So, on this forum, her handle, “Madmom” has become an verb — to “madmom a recipe” is to improvise on it (when you may not have the ingredients called for). Now, I have become an adjective — something can be “Michele easy”, meaning that it is such an easy recipe that it ranks right up there with boiling water.

One of the members posted a video for a dessert and said it was “Michele easy” and looked nice. So, obviously, I had to try to make this and see if it really was worthy of being called “Michele easy”. We might have to change it to “Anticook easy” just because it looks weird to have my name up there.

Because of limited space, the photos are on Flickr, but I’ll give you a running commentary here. In addition, here is a picture of the finished product (spoiler alert! they turned out delicious and pretty!)

Ta-da!

Ta-da!

First off, I unrolled the dough too early, so it thawed a bit crackly. Added some moisture and tried to roll it out. My mother practically wet her pants laughing at all the ways that went wrong.

Eventually got it rolled out in to some semblance of something that I could cut six strips from.

Then, when getting the apricot preserves ready, my mom said it was a cup of water to add to it. So I did. “This doesn’t look right” I says. She double checks the recipe, “Oh, it’s two tablespoons.” Derp. Since you can’t really separate the preserves from the water, we brought in a substitute…strawberry!

Oh, the apples. I butchered those seven ways from Sunday. It was a struggle to find enough halves that would work. But the mandolin functioned beautifully, and I even remembered to wear the protective glove so I didn’t slice my fingers like SOME people tend to do.

I had to put up with my mother chortling through the entire construction process. She’s such an elitist.

I finished making them (a bit sloppily, I’m afraid), and popped them in the oven, and they were very delicious! So nyah.

It’s been sort of dreary here lately, temps in the low single digits, along with rain and some sleet. I did see a rainbow the other day, but the pictures barely came out.

Other than that, life has settled in to a routine, although that’s all about the change – -trips to Greece and Italy are planned, plus my youngest daughter and her friend will be here in about a month! So excited!

Ylioppilas time!

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Today is a pretty special day for the graduating classes of high school. In what is apparently a tradition, the kids dress up in costume, get loaded up into the back of dump trucks, and are driven around the city, tossing candies to the crowds that are congratulating them on their upcoming graduation.

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However, their graduation is not guaranteed. This parade happens before they take their final exams, which they take after the winter holiday (which is this upcoming week).

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It seems these kids know there are risks involved!

It was pretty fun to hear the kids laughing and whooping it up. It’s a neat tradition, and reminded me so much of the Mardi Gras parades (that I’m missing, wah!).

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This whole thing is really an amazing bit of Finnish culture. The studies and the exam appear to be quite exhaustive and difficult, and it’s really great to see the kids celebrated for their academic achievements.  There is a quite long history about this that you can read here, if you are interested.

Baby’s first night away.

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Today is/was Saturday, which is a pretty slow day for me. I don’t even get close to my 15,000 step goal; usually just about half that. I woke up late, nearly to 10am (!!!), and took Shiva out. The dog park was empty, per usual, and she kept going to the gate, I think to look for our walking companion. 🙂 So I decided to take her out and about for a bit of an explore. The landscape is really pretty in the winter, and I can just imagine how gorgeous it is going to be come springtime. I can’t say that I’m tired of winter…but I’m tired of winter.

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We were leaving the second stop at the dog park when we ran into a girl and her playful pup heading to the park, so we turned around and joined them. The dogs played for a while, and we chatted about how difficult it was to learn a new language, especially when everyone around you spoke a common one (in both cases, the common language is English, but she is Finn, trying to learn Dutch, when she was in Holland). After that, Shiva and I made our way back home.

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This evening, we went to some friends’ apartment and brought Shiva. They are going to watch her while we are out of town for the winter holiday, but we wanted to give it a test run since they have a four year old and two cats. This was a photo they sent me about 20 minutes after we left (and of course, I could hear her whining as we walked away. Apparently she stopped pretty quickly).

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Anna is like way pregnant, so I feel for her taking this on, but they both said they love dogs (hopefully they still do after tonight!), and Shiva pretty much ignores Werner and the cats. So hopefully all will be okay. This is my first time since we got here that I’ve left Shiva in anyone else’s care, so I’m just like a nervous mom. So far, the worst thing she’s done is left fly a few stink-bombs….those I don’t miss!

Something about being in Finland:

Tracie and I were talking the other day about the little things that make all the difference in life. Things that are different here versus the States. One is the little fabric loop on the towels to hang them up with. I know that’s not a huge thing, but it’s so smart and convenient, and I can’t understand why it’s not done more often.

The other thing is the over-the-sink drying rack. I love this! If I build a house (or anywhere I move), this is going to be one of those must-haves. Washing dishes has become rather zen for me, and having a rack like this to dry dishes on makes so much sense. You’d think this would ALSO be on the list of common things to have, especially in apartments or smaller places.

Genius!

Genius!

Genius, too!

Genius, too!

We are heading to sauna, and since I don’t have to be up early in the morning for the walk, I think I am going to head to bed, and sleep in late. Mmm…that might be a nice change of pace. 🙂

Moi moi!

 

P.S. Ran to (and back) sauna, wearing my robe and CudleDuds (only) while the snow was falling. This is what our windows looked like when we got back an hour later (brrrr!):

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The sauna experience

This was definitely the day for it!

January 24, 2014

January 24, 2014

We finally utilized the sauna in our building tonight, and the experience was nearly as good as I recall the sauna in Lapland being. There are a few differences, mainly in that I have to be fully dressed to get to the actual sauna, and then fully dressed coming back. If you are fortunate enough to have one in your apartment/home, then you can simply go straight from sauna to shower to bed, which is nice.

The sauna is a very Finnish thing, and everything you read will tell you that it is fully ingrained in Finnish culture. There are some public saunas, but I haven’t been to one, and many apartments come with either a sauna in the apartment (nice!) or with one in the building that gets shared via a reservation system. Ours is the latter. We actually have to leave our part of the building, walk outside, and go into the next section to get to it, which kinda sucks.  However, the ‘after glow’ of the experience was still there when I got home, so I was relieved for that.

There are apparently all manner of traditions and ways to do sauna, but just a few things, I think, are really the ‘must-do’ things. One, have a towel to sit on in the sauna. No one wants to sit where your skanky bare butt was, so put a towel down. Besides, it’s probably a lot more comfy than sitting on the bare, hot wood. Secondly, take a shower before and after the sauna. It’s kinda like having to shower before you enter a public swimming pool, and then you definitely want to afterwards.

Other than that, you can sort of mix it up.

  • You can and should go naked, but you can wear a towel or bathing suit if you are going with others that you’re not comfortable being naked around. But you might actually end up feeling more self-conscious if you’re not nekkid!
  • Men and women don’t sauna together unless they’re married. And I think even in the public saunas, you are strictly separated by male or female, regardless of marital status.
  • Saunas are not places for sex, anyway. Seriously, in that heat??
  • You can bash yourself with birch branches or not. I hear it’s great for the skin and circulation, but I’m not there yet.
  • Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate. And apparently, it’s kosher to hydrate with beer while in the sauna. And you can cook sausages over the hot rocks. I wouldn’t suggest doing that last part in your shared sauna, though.
  • Know your limits. You’re not competing for any sort of world record. Try to get a good ‘burn’, so to speak from it, but don’t push. Definitely leave if you are feeling light-headed or dizzy.

My own experience with the sauna was an eye-opening one. I have MS, and anyone with MS will tell you that heat tends to exacerbate the symptoms. And during the summers in Louisiana, I would get light-headed, dizzy, nauseated, and my fingers, arms, and legs would tingle if I was out in the midday heat for too long. So I dug in my heels with the sauna. The one time I tried it, I stayed in for like fifteen minutes, and thought I was going to die. I was so sad, because I really wanted to experience it!

Fast forward another year. My neuro had told me that in low doses, the heat might actually do me good. So to just take it slow and easy. While we were in Lapland over this past winter holiday, I tried again. Lower temperature (about 80-85°C), and only stayed in for about 5 minutes. It was like an epiphany! I couldn’t believe how good I felt that night after the sauna and shower. No dizziness, just a feeling of being so very clean, and actually feeling energetic. Not in the sense of wanting to go out run laps, but more of being alert, in a good mood, that sort of thing. Very ‘positive energy’. I slept quite soundly and woke up feeling refreshed. We did the sauna nearly each night, and not once did I have a bad reaction! Also, my back was less sore, my complexion was clearer and I just, overall, felt better.

Coming home, I was downright depressed to realize that I was going to have to give up the sauna, as we don’t have one in our apartment. However, we do have a ‘shared’ one in the building, and my darling Wellu emailed the landlord to see if there were any slots available. Out of the few times that were available, we settled on Saturdays at 2100. It’s a bit of a bother as we have to actually walk outside to get to the part of the building that houses the sauna, but having done it tonight for the first time, it’s not so bad. And come spring, I see a bathrobe and flip flops in my future. 🙂

If you’re new here, and haven’t tried the sauna because you weren’t sure what to expect in the lower recesses of your apartment basement, let me put your mind at ease. Now, not saying that they are all the same, but given how ingrained this is in the culture here, I would hazard to guess that most of them are pretty similar. I grabbed a few snapshots to let you in on sort of what to expect.

First off, a large dressing area, which can be locked, and so you are afforded complete privacy. Well, from anyone outside of those you are going to sauna with.

Dressing area

Dressing area

Next, is the shower:

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Shower

This is attached to the dressing area, through a door. You can see the door to the sauna to the right of the picture. Ours has two showers. You can rinse here first, then move straight into the heated sauna. Because the sauna is attached to it, this room stays pretty warm and comfortable, too. You can see the wooden bucket laying upside down on the bench. You just put some water in it and bring it into the sauna with you to splash on to the hot rocks.

Sauna

Sauna

Here you can see the sauna. You lay your towel down on the wood bench and then just sit and let the heat soak in to you. I managed to not get it in the picture, but within the wooden railing area is a metal box with some rocks in it. You can ladle water on to the rocks to give you steam.

In our case, you get an hour reserved for you (and your guests, if any) to use the sauna. Etiquette suggests that after you shower, you squeegee the floor, empty the sauna bucket, turn off the lights, and leave everything cleaner than when you came in.

For me, I have decided that I am definitely a convert to the sauna culture. I love it, and actually missed not being able to have a sauna in the evening. Once a week will be better than not at all, and while I don’t think I’ll get into the birch branches and beer-drinking (don’t like pain, don’t like alcohol), I do love the way it makes me feel. I’ll always probably be at the ‘toddler’ stage in terms of heat and stamina, but I don’t care, I love it!

Here’s some links to read more on the sauna culture in Finland:

Join Finns in the Sauna

Facts about Sauna

Finnish Sauna Culture