up. down. up. down. up.

Oy vey, what a day! Ever had one of those days where it starts out up here….flies pretty high…then comes crashing down…only to level out and then climb back to a reasonable height again? I hope so, coz I’d hate to think it was only me!

First off…we saw sunshine today!

20150130_104201[1]

This was around 11am, after the hunting/gathering was done and on my way back home to unload my kill. Came home to mail — Kela deposited my reimbursement for my meds into my bank account, so that was a good thing, and didn’t really take all that long, considering the red tape. Good stuff. Had a killer long walk with Tracie this morning, almost five miles and at a decent pace, too. Keep in mind that we’ve got Shiva with us, and this morning was two stops at dog parks, plus all the stop-n-sniffs, plus accounting for ice, and I don’t bother to pause the program. One day, we’ll do a walk without Shiva during a clear day, and we’ll see what our pace is really. 🙂

MapMyWalk30.1

 

Got home, got the laundry put away, another load started, bed made, things cleaned up, progress made, and then Tracie came by to pick me up for a trip to Ikea. Day is definitely on the climb. Found the couch I want to buy, but since it’s not on sale, there’s no rush. I can wait for Uncle Sam to deposit my refund first. We come back by the apartment (shhh, we don’t talk about the reason is because that I forgot to snuff out a candle before I left), I drop off my stuff, and I head back out with Tracie to go to Kaari mall to do more shopping. Yes, this day is going really good.

Go to Musti ja Mirri to buy some dog food and treats, go up to the counter and I realize I don’t have my Musti ja Mirri customer discount card, but never fear, I have my number in my cell phone, in an email…wait, I know I had my cell phone. It has to be in my purse. My back pocket? My jacket? Shit….where did I leave my phone!? I look in Tracie’s car. No luck. Hmm, I must have laid it down at home out of habit. Sure, that’s where it is. Only it’s not.

Day is definitely plummeting with that realization.

In the meantime…I stub my toe on the riser between the kitchen and hallway. Ow.

I go to pick up my iced tea, which I drink out of a glass that has a screw-on top because I am a klutz…aaaaaand the top comes off and I spill iced tea all over my keyboard. I couldn’t take a picture because I DON’T HAVE MY PHONE…but here is a reenactment:

spill-keyboard

My day is sucking.

Let me take you on a little segue here. If you have an Android phone, make sure you have the Android Device Manager turned on and you’ve made your account.  It’s free and doesn’t cost anything in battery power, either. I finally remembered that I have done this (remember, I have CRS), got on my computer, signed in to the program, and voila, it located my phone. I locked the screen remotely, adding a message to the lock screen that said, “This is a lost phone. Please call.” and then entered my number. Haha, totally blond moment…I had to go back and change that to my HUSBAND’S phone number. Now, if some stranger had found my phone, they would see a screen with that message and a green “Call” button, which would have connected them to my husband’s cell phone. As it was, the phone showed it was at Tracie’s location, so I figured it was in her car and I had overlooked it in my desperate search. About the time I went to email her, she got to me first, saying she found my phone in her car. 🙂

All is well. Mr. Tracie dropped it off to me when he was heading out to go see a hockey game.

lostfoundcell

So, day is shaping back up again, although it is closer to evening at this point. At least I won’t have to go to bed not knowing where my phone is. And, with still one more walk-the-dog for tonight, here’s my step count for today (so far):

fitbit30.1

And then I’ll leave you lastly with a link to something light and fun to watch that my eldest daughter turned me on to:

 

Tallinn…and shopping

My dear hubby booked us on a day trip to Tallinn again, and we went today. As many of you may have read, the ferries to Tallinn (day trip version) are mainly for the locals here to buy booze there. Apparently it is cheaper. Viking Line was running some pretty deep specials; our tickets were 3€ each, for a total of 6€, round trip. Heck, you can’t get to IKEA on that. For us, the allure wasn’t the alcohol, but the meat. We bought some fabulous wild boar and moose that last time, and were looking to restock. Meat tends to be cheaper. Also, my nails needed doing, and I had heard that services were cheaper in Tallinn, so we figured we head out and give it a shot. Good way to spend a Saturday.

We did go ahead and spring for the buffet on the way back, which did add about 50€ the price of our trip, but we eat out so rarely, and for eating out, that price isn’t too ungodly (plus, it gives us a place to sit out of the crowd for about 3/4 of the trip back). The buffet is great if you like fish, and only good if you don’t. They have the creamed potatoes, bread, sausage and a pretty good roast for those of us who don’t like the things that swim in the sea, and if you like wine, you can get ‘wine on tap´’ at the beverage station at no extra charge.

Wine on tap

Wine on tap

We sat in the bar on the way there, listened to some karaoke; there were some pretty good singers! Towards about two hours into the three hour trip…well, there were some pretty drunk singers, too. The opening act, per-karaoke, was a guy singing mostly classic country songs (Johnny Cash, some Elvis, etc), and he was actually pretty good. I enjoyed the karaoke mainly because I would watch the screen and try to figure out the words to the Finnish songs. Yeah…I got about one in a hundred, if that.

20150117_114725

We got off in Tallinn with the rest of the herd (mooooooo), and walked over to the ‘mall’. We found our usual (hahaha, I love saying that for our second visit) meat counter, and let her talk us in to wild boar roasts, moose sausage, garlic cheese and about four pounds of filet Mignon. The whole thing came to about 70€ total, which is not bad at all.

Then we headed up to the salon for me to get my nails done. The price wasn’t great, but it was maybe 5-10€ cheaper than in Helsinki. So I didn’t feel like it was a waste of time, but it wasn’t the great deal that others have said it was. It might be that you have to actually go into the city for the better prices. We only had 3 hours, and I didn’t want to chance it. I opted to get my nails cut down short and just a clear gel on them, until the two I broke off grow back.

20150117_150243 20150117_192413

On our way back, I picked up some more of the ‘cat’ bowls that I had started collecting for my eldest, including another bowl and plate for the other two to fight over.  In addition, I found the wool inserts for my wellies that are like 7€ in Prisma for just 2€ there. So all in all, a nice little shopping trip.

20150117_220006

Tallinn haul

 

On the way back, we sat upstairs to wait for our seating time, and Wellu quizzed me on my Finnish. Oh, I still have such a long way. I need to go back to just studying the vowels. I am having a really hard time remembering ö, y, e, a, ä (I’ve got ‘i’ down pat), and additionally, I am having a really hard time hearing a double letter when a word is spoken at a regular rate. I guess it’s just a matter of training the ear to hear that little ‘stop’.

20150117_114747

When it was time, we headed to the dining room and took our place at the feeding trough. It wasn’t anything special, just decent food, although none of it was actually ‘hot’ by the time I dug in. Still, it was nice to have a place to just veg after walking, before queuing up with the herd to head off the ship.

20150117_180628

Fish, fish…

20150117_180647

…and more fish.

After the meal, we signed me up for a Viking Line card (free, and gives me access to the specials, too), and wandered around the shop a bit. Didn’t buy anything, but saw some candies my mom needs.

20150117_194450

Nothing more of note…got home, walked the Shiva dog (who had missed us all day!), and am going to shower and head to bed. I think I will sleep in tomorrow. 🙂

Downtown Helsinki

Shiva made her directorialship debut. I fitted her with the GoPro camera on the harness and took her for a walk for a trial run. The film is long and a bit monotonous at times, but it’s not as bad as I thought it would be (or as good as I had hoped for). I’m still working with some software to learn how to pare it down so that I can post some canine perspective of Helsinki when we get out there ‘for reals’. 🙂

Afterwards, I made it a point to head downtown to see the Christmas windows in Stockmann’s. Stockmann’s is sort of like the Macy’s Fifth Avenue, with a Christmas window, Santa, lots of lights, and besides, it takes up practically a whole city block (and then something like five stories up and down).

20141212_131253 20141212_131231

I got some pictures of the windows, and the little outdoor market there. There were probably about fifty little huts with craftspeople selling things made in Finland (mostly), as well as silver from Ireland (pretty!), roasted almonds (yum!, sweaters from Peru (llamas!), and more. Prices were a bit high, but to be expected from a holiday market, to be honest.

20141212_131720

20141212_133742

I then headed over to the Senate Square to check out the Christmas market there. Here there were over a hundred little wooden huts with all manner of goods. The vast majority of these were Finnish items, and I was convinced to buy a few things, as well as mentally file some things away to come back and get next week. I tried several different sorts of gingerbread cookies, some Christmas bread (coming back next week for some to take to Oulu), and I even tried my first glöggi. While not something I would go out of my way for, it was good enough that I felt inclined to buy a bottle to share up at the cabin when we go to Lapland over Christmas. I did find these black truffle potato chips from Spain that were TDF, so I had to buy a bag of those, too. The cheese-filled 20141212_174254pastries are handmade, and delicious, and this is the place that has the Christmas bread that I am coming back for.

While I was there, I watched a young man working some metal in a small fire. It looked really interesting, and the display of finished items were certainly impressive! (scroll down to the bottom to see the video)

20141212_140903 20141212_140920

There’s a huge Christmas tree in the square, as well as a carousel, which is free for the kids to ride. Even with the drizzle going on, there were still lots of people braving the wet weather to get out and shop, lending the place a festive air in spite of the gloom.

It was there I met Wellu and we wandered a bit, then headed out to eat, and then back home to walk Shiva (in the rain, of course). Walking to the bus stop through the Helsinki city streets was so magical!

20141212_143214

I managed to get our luminaire (from Ikea, of course), up in the window, and it looks rather homey from the street. Now, I just need to get some Christmas lights out on the balcony and the place will look festive enough. 🙂

20141212_174044

Quick note on the cold brew tea: Thanks everyone for the suggestions. I did a little reading up on cold brewing, since the main reason I was doing ‘cold brew’ was convenience. Plop 2 tea cold brew tea bags in a quart pitcher of water, put in the fridge, and approximately 15 minutes later, you had tea! And since I only drink iced tea, it tasted just like the stuff you get in the restaurant that has been hot-brewed. I didn’t realize that (it seems) any tea can be cold brewed, it’s just the method, not anything special with the tea. This opens up a world of possibilities for me! I had just assumed that the tea bags that I had been buying were labeled ‘cold brew’ because something special was done when processing the tea leaves. Those marketing geniuses…charging more for what is probably the same product, but just giving it a different name!

Day 12 Challenge: Are you looking forward to Christmas? Why or why not? I most definitely am! Several reasons…I will be spending Christmas Day itself with my husband’s family in Oulu, and that will be very nice and special. Most importantly, it means that my daughter is on her way, and she arrives on the 27th, and then we head to Lapland, for a very special Christmastime in the snow! I’ve missed her, and it will be so good to see her for a little over a week! The only downer is that I will be missing the rest of my family during this time.

Busy, busy day!

Today was one of those days that was really busy, but I didn’t get anything done, really. But I did ride a bunch of buses and run all over town, so you get to see pictures from my errands!

First off, the day started late, as I slept in rather late. I had napped yesterday–I swear, I laid down at 3pm for a nap…but with the cool air and it getting dark already…I slept until like 7pm. Which meant I was awake until…past 1am. So anyway, I slept in, meaning my day day didn’t get started until 10am already. The apartments had a notice that they were cleaning and waxing the floors today from noon until 1330, so could people please refrain from going in or out during that time. That meant only one thing to me–I needed to plan to go shopping during those hours so that I wouldn’t leave tracks on the newly polished floor!

I have been jonesing for a really good burger (Spoiler alert: haven’t found it yet), and there was a place in the Center called Stones that has a reindeer burger. Got there, but the burger alone is like 17€, and that doesn’t include a drink or anything on the side, plus it has onions in a sour cream sauce and all sorts of stuff I wouldn’t want on it, so at that price, I passed. There is a Hard RFB_IMG_1415878281922[1]ock Cafe right around the corner, so I figure some good ol’ American place would have a decent burger.

And I’d be wrong.

It was ‘okay’, but it was underseasoned and generally bleh. Not bad, but nothing I would cross the street for.

After that, we headed out to go pick up my Moomin duvets which arrived. They didn’t come to our local pick up place, but instead were shipped to Valentatalo, and that was a new bus for me. Once that was done, we did return back to our R-Kioski and picked up our new digibox. But the real star of the mail delivery service are the Moomin duvets! These will be on the bed by tomorrow!

Arrived!

Arrived!

Opening!

Opening!

Ta-da!

Ta-da!

I can’t wait to get these on the bed and take pictures. I am such a fool for this Moomin stuff! I love these little characters — possibly because I identify with the little round-shaped figures.

We went to the Arabia Design Center, to go check out the Finlayson, Fiskars and Ittala outlets. Even as outlets, these places are way out of sight in prices, even for 2nd grade items. Did get to see the Fiskars ‘museum’, which had a few cool displays, and some interesting history on the Fiskars scissors.

20141113_122301 20141113_122247 20141113_122239 20141113_122201 20141113_122146

These are frying pans.

Those are the iconic orange handled scissors hanging down in what is a sort of creepy dangerous chandelier. 🙂  I think if the zombie apocalypse hits, this is definitely one place to come get weapons…no one would think of a museum right away! Look at all those splitting axes; just perfect for splitting undead skulls.

I got this amazing Moomin find on Facebook, for just 10€. 20141112_140531The key to wind it up and play music is missing, so I am using it as a desk organizer where I can see it every day. 🙂

Is this not the cutest thing? I wish I could hear the music, but I’ll need to find a broken music box to steal the key from.so I can hear it at some point.

20141112_140541

In schooling news, I am struggling with the very basics. Why couldn’t Finnish be more like Spanish? I am still in toddler classes, learning colors, numbers, basic vocabulary, and I am having so much trouble making it stick.

20141110_102454

This blank board is like my mind. I just can’t seem to get it. The language just refuses to stick to my Teflon® brain. Although, in all fairness, every once in a while, I do manage to recognize or remember a word. I just wish I could do so in context.

20141113_193226[1]

I have so many books, websites, phone apps a20141110_142920nd you’d think it would come easier.

However, I have to continue to believe that once I really get in to it, maybe it should be better.

I was studying my flash cards on my phone app, and managed to miss my bus stop this morning! I was cursing under my breath as I got out of my seat, and the girl next to me asked me what I was grumbling at and I told her I missed my stop. She laughed and said she missed hers, too.  At least I’m not the only one having to cross the street and take the bus back one stop!

20141113_151036

Speaking of bus stops, I managed to take a picture of this backpack at the bus stop this afternoon. These things are EVERYWHERE! Of course, I want one, so I can be like the rest of the cool kids, but in looking them up, I find out just how expensive these are… 70+€ for the basic backpack! I haven’t paid anywhere near that for any backpack that I’ve owned. I suppose I will have to get a closer look at them to see if maybe they are lined in gold or they carry themselves or maybe they are some sort of Bag of Holding so that they can carry everything!

If you’re feeling ambitious, you can look at the Fjallraven Kanken website to see if you find something you like. According to the website, these backpacks were originally designed for Swedish schoolchildren back in 1978. Of course, now I want one. Damn peer pressure.

I think I will end with just a few photographs that I took around town that shows the winter season descending upon us.

Berries against a winter sky

Berries against a winter sky at Helsinki University

Inside the Forums Mall

Inside the Forums Mall

The Stockmann's corner

The Stockmann’s corner in downtown Helsinki

More snow!

We got snow again, yesterday. The kind that comes down in big, fluffy puffs of white, and actually sticks around for a while. Not that anemic, dandruff-y looking stuff that I’ve seen a few times in the past in Southeast Louisiana! I have a few photos and videos to prove it, although sadly, it was all gone by this morning.

20141106_124849[1]

As mentioned, it was pretty much all gone by this morning, leaving behind just wetness. But even though I was a bit nervous about going out in it, it wasn’t all that cold, considering. I actually just wore a sweatshirt and a windbreaker, and was fine.

I trudged out in the wet to go grocery shopping, where I decided to take a photo (surreptitiously, of course), of another oddity for me here: gambling in the grocery stores! Back home in the States, we have pretty strict gambling laws. Other than a few places (Las Vegas, Atlantic City, Indian reservations, some places on the Gulf Coast), we don’t have gambling, and even in those place20141107_141140[1]s, it’s pretty restricted, especially from the young’ns. Most places are 21+ just to enter, and other than Las Vegas, all are in their own buildings or closed off rooms. It’s apparently 18+ in Finland. And in this SMarket (as well as other places), folks have their grocery carts next to them, and are just spinning away. It’s just something odd for me to see.

Of course, it’s just a gamble for me to go into the grocery store and try to figure out what I am supposed to be buying! I went today to buy some meat, and must have texted a half-dozen pictures to Wellu at work, asking him to clarify what animal I was contemplating purchasing. Fortunately, I was able to get the appropriate counseling and purchase the correct beef. Naudan ulkopaisti. Although I really wanted to buy the naudan entrecôte for myself. 🙂

Spent some time yakking on Facebook with a new Brit friend of mine about the costs of goods from ‘back home’. There is a place here that carries them, but, bloody hell, the prices are enough to make you happy to just wait until you can get a trip back home. I do foresee that my kids will be traveling here with suitcases laden down with ‘back home’ goodies, and can return with ones filled with souvenirs. 🙂 An example is that a box of Jiffy cornbread mix, that we pay something like 29 cents for back home costs around 3,99€ here. That’s over $4 in comparable US dollars!

Just want to give a shout out to Anh Le and her blog “Hello Helsinki”. She’s doing a cool business idea, with a ‘coffee bike’! I wish I liked coffee so I could look for it, but for now, I’ll just do that service for the actual coffee drinkers who read here. Go find her and buy a cup of coffee from her bike!

Just 15 more days and I get to see my ShivaDiva! ❤

I met the president of Finland

Not really.

What I did do was get on the bus and sit directly across from the one crazy Finn who wanted to talk. And as she greeted me and I managed to mutter out a barely comprehensible “en puhua suomi.” she delighted in telling me that she spoke English. And she was the president of Finland. And that…some other stuff that I couldn’t quite make out, as apparently the presidential position must not allow much time to get dental work done, and she was missing all but about three of her teeth. The lady behind her was giving me sympathetic looks and trying not to laugh out loud. Thanks. The ‘president’ of Finland went on to tell me that she had four cars, and then asked if I had a boyfriend. I told her I was married, and she said she had a girlfriend. Progressive country, this Finland is. I wish I had asked her if I could take a picture of her, since she was famous and all, but my stop was coming up and I just didn’t think quick enough on my feet (or on my butt, as the case may be). She was quite dapper in her house shoes with duct tape on the heels, polyester pants, tshirt, flannel shirt, and down jacket and multi-color scarf.

To be fair, she was friendly, and not at all threatening. I’m finding that about the drunks in Finland. So far, I haven’t met any intimidating drunks. They are friendly, outgoing, and quite willing to discuss all aspects of their lives with you, real and imagined. She didn’t smell, and she wasn’t dirty, so she might have just been eccentric, rather than a drunk. But, it was a rather interesting start to my day, I will say that!

And then I saw this guy on the bus. Thank you, but I’ll just wait for the next one. I did see a few people dressed up and riding the buses or walking in the city. Kind of makes you look twice, but I guess it’s just as popular here as it is back home.

20141031_104622[1]

I popped in to the Kumplan campus of the University to use the paper-cutter to trim my homemade flash cards. They look quite nice, and should do until I pick up the ones that Mom is making for me back in NC. Now, I just need to practice 27 hours a day and I might learn a word or two!

Passed this sign in the hallway. I know there is some major secret research going on here now!

20141031_095446[1]

I got off at Sörnäinen, and still had a couple hours to kill before my appointment, so I went to the nut and candy shop down in the Metro, and stocked up on some nuts. Much cheaper than back home for cashews and pecans, I’ll say that. When done, I then stepped into the Kaiku Free Trade shop, since I pass by there each time I go to the drama workshop, but they’re closed. The prices were a bit on the high side, although not outrageously so, and for handmade crafts that come from folks being paid fairly, it’s worth a bit more. But still, I’m on a budget. I did get Victoria some ‘worry dolls’, since she is having so much stress about school.

After that, I still had some time, so I popped into the Uff second-hand store to see what that was like. It was like a small Goodwill, although better organized as far as pricing and clothing. I found an insulated snow bib for 5€ which will come in handy this Christmas. I also looked at some insulated pants (3€) and a jacket (5€), but I didn’t have the cash on me for them. I will definitely be back! Visitors and newcomers to the city should definitely check them out for winter wear on the cheap.

What is with the naming of bars in Helsinki? Some have really odd names, like this one:

20141031_114707[1]

Bronco Cowboy Peyton Place. Is this like a cowboy bar with lots of soap opera-ish drama? People fooling around with other people’s people? There are other oddly named bars around the city. I might do a whole series on them.

Finally, met my appointment at 12:30 and got my Moomin tea tin for just 5€! Sure, it’s of the Poliismestari on the front, and not of Mummimamma or Snorkmaiden, but I can live with that! It’s just adding my growing collection of Moomin stuff!

20141031_155549[1] 20141031_155558[1]

The rest of the evening has been pretty quiet. I like that I am finding a routine now, and feel like I actually /live/ here. This is home. It’s comfortable and quite nice.

Oh, nothing planned for Halloween, either. And apparently most shops are closed tomorrow, which is an odd concept for me. Who closes on All Saints Day??

Finnish is Hard!

Wow! Today was quite a busy day and it hurt my head! However, it was an exciting day in its own way. Remember me mentioning the language class that I had signed up for through the Family Club? The one that is supposed to be for people who are illiterate, so I figured that maybe I’d be able to keep up? Well, today was the first day of that class. However, I think something was lost in translation (ha ha) in that everyone could write (at least, they were writing something down), but just couldn’t speak Finnish. So it appears we are all on the same level. Well, except for one of the older guys from Iraq who figured that the teacher would give him higher marks if he answered quicker and louder than everyone else, sometimes even before the teacher finished speaking. Fortunately, she did shut that down pretty quick. I got the impression that he has either taken the class before, or was at the very least, known to the teacher in some capacity.

The class is taught almost entirely in Finnish, and you pretty much just have to figure it out from her gestures, pointing and context. It actually wasn’t quite as hard as I thought it might be to do that. I managed to keep up with most of it. But it does make sense to teach the class in one common language (that no one else speaks!), as not everyone speaks English. The class is pretty multicultural, with 3 folks from Iran, 3 from Iraq, 2 from China, one from Cambodia, 1 from Taiwan, 1 from Afghanistan, and 1 from the U.S. Guess who that is? 🙂

I learned some words, wrote them down, and wrote them down a bunch of times each while saying them. Plus we’re going over the alphabet and pronunciations, which is where I am having some issues. I did write down one word ‘lokakuu’ and thought i was for ‘month’, when it is actually for October (close, but no cigar). However, I am feeling pretty stoked about the classes, and for ‘free’, they’re the right price.

Day 1 study notes

Day 1 study notes

After the class, I left for Elisa to try and argue my case about the service charge for technical support. Unfortunately, my powers of persuasion were not enough to sway them. I felt it was a smidge unfair that I called about unlocking a phone from the States, stated specifically that I needed an English technician, yet at no point did anyone think it was important to inform me that the recording at the beginning of the call (in Finnish and Swedish) was warning me about a 2+€ charge per minute for the help. Ah well, I will just have to consider it an ‘account activation fee’ in my mind, which makes it more palatable, since it would be nearly twice the cost back home. A downer, but not majorly so.

I did discover the Moomin Shop at the Forum, and just HAD to get myself a little something. Of course, after purchasing it, I did realize that I didn’t have anything leftover to put in it! ha ha. No seriously, it wasn’t too bad, as far as Moomin stuff goes. I think I will go back and get a reflector for my backpack. They’re just so cute!

Moomin sussie!

Moomin sussie!

Afterwards, I met Wellu for lunch at his favorite place, and we noshed there, while I tested out my new knowledge on him. He corrected a bit of my pronunciation, plus the aforementioned month/October snafu, but overall, I did well. I had some thoughts about going back to the mall, but instead decided to head home to clean up, which I didn’t do before I left (since I was running late, as is usual it seems).

I took a short nap, cleaned like crazy, and was ready to go about the time Wellu got home. Drama club! We were interviewing two potential actors for the part of our Finnish male lead, and I wanted to get there on time. We actually had three males show up, but one decided to take on the other male parts we needed, and the other two tried out for the lead. We’ve made our decision, although the guy is pretty quiet and we just hope he’ll be able to project well on stage. But he was definitely the part.

Got a letter from the Poliisi today about my application for my residency permit. At least we know it is in the system. Apparently, they want a copy of our passports to show proof that we actually did travel to see each other when we said that we did. Also, I have to bring in some form of proof that I live here. So that’s a trip for tomorrow! But it is in the system and working its slow way through the sea of red tape.

And the snow is gone

One day. It was exciting, though. Well, for a Southern gal, that is. Everyone else was probably like, “Eh.” and moved on. 🙂 I woke up late this morning, and when I went to the window to take the picture, most of the snow was gone, with just the memory of it all in small white lines against the grass. But I’m sure it will be back.

October 24, 2014

October 24, 2014

We were going to run in to the City Center together to get his new credit card (I mean, of course!), then catch some lunch, and then I planned to come back to study some more. We got in to a long conversation on the bus about long and short sounds, and it went round and round until it was finally clarified that those terms mean something very different in Finnish and in English. Pronunciation is going to be the hardest thing to get right in learning Finnish. There are plenty of websites, blogs and YouTube videos dedicated to learning Finnish, so I won’t go into it here, except to complain about how hard it is!

Some guy interrupted us, saying in a thick Russian accent, “You two back there speaking English. Russian state will collapse in two years!” then he turned back around. Not sure what that had to do with our conversation of the long i and short i sounds, but hey, whatever. 🙂

We did some walking around the city, at lunch at his favorite place, went to Stockmann’s so I could buy an English version of the Helsinki Times, and then made a break for work and home.

I just love the Tiger stores!

I just love the Tiger stores!

Helsinki city corner

Helsinki city corner

I did the laundry, made the bed, washed the dishes, and generally played a bit of Suzy Homemaker. (Fun Fitting in to Finland Fact (FFn2FF): there are washers, but typically not dryers. You wash your clothes, then hang them up to dry. Either outside on the line, even in the freezing weather, or in the drying room, or bathroom. Means you really need to plan your laundry day!) Then I sat down with my reference cards on Vowels and Dipthongs, practiced those, watched some YouTube videos, looked at some of my textbooks, and then cried in despair.

20141024_212414[1]Flash Cards

I did call up Avery, and we had a good, long chat. It was really nice to talk to someone from back in the old country. Sigh. Back in the day… well, not to get all nostalgic and stuff. But yeah, today I had an attack of the homesickies, and was feeling blue for a while. I decided to try and snap out of it by doing something constructive, so I made some amendments and additions to my reference cards, and went to reprint them. I decided to label my printer with what direction to feed the paper in to do two-sided printing, and in rummaging around for my EU plug adapter, I found money. SHOPPING! Boom! Good mood returns!

For dinner, we decided to break out the wild boar that we bought from Tallinn. Oh. My. God. It is so tender, so delicious…I could have eaten it all in one go. But we didn’t, wanting to save some of this deliciousness for tomorrow! I have decided that this is my new favorite animal. We also bought some moose sausage, so we might have those for tomorrow. I will certainly report on that.

20141024_193700[1]

I’ve been chatting with the kids off and on today, just general stuff. I think we’re all feeling the miles, but it should get better. I do miss my girls. However, for now, we’re kicking back, with an exciting Friday night, catching up on episodes of The Flash. A bit slow to start, but the reviews I’ve read said that it really has potential, so we’ll see.

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!

20141022_121144 20141022_121150 20141022_113826

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

20141022_140153

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!

20141023_124429

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.

20141022_224540

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.

A fruitless search.

Or should I say ‘cupless’?

The day dawned rather dreary and wet, but the temperature was a balmy 48°, so just a turtleneck and windbreaker would do. And I use the term ‘dawn’ rather loosely, as I didn’t actually get up until after 8:30am, and by the time breakfast was done and we’d piddled about the apartment some, it was nearly 11am. I am getting rather spoiled about my mornings!

In any case, I decided that today I would make the trek to Itäkeskus, catch the (free) IKEA bus to IKEA, and purchase a set of measuring cups, so that my new-found baking hobby wouldn’t have me running from computer to kitchen doing measurement conversions. Sounds simple enough, right? Wrong. I decided to be efficient, and pack up all the garbage and recycling to take out with me, as well. So I get my backpack ready, get the bags and boxes all gathered at the front door, put on my windbreaker and shoes, and gather the IKEA cart, and head into the hallway, nudging the door shut with my hands full.

Remember in my earlier post, talking about how the outer doors are constructed without exterior door handles? Makes it hard to grab when you suddenly realize that you’ve not checked to make sure you have your key with you and the apartment locks when the door is shut. Yup. Locked myself out of the apartment. I verified this when I went ahead to go take out the garbage and realized that I needed that same key to get into the rubbish bins. Fortunately, a neighbor came by and opened that up for me, and I was able to at least dispense with those items.

Then, I called Wellu, informed him of my rather bonehead move, and set out to go to the Kumpulan kampus stop to meet him to get the extra key. By then, we were nearing on 1pm, but he tells me I can take the bus to Sörneinen and then take the Metro to Itäakeskus, and catch the 2pm IKEA bus. I get to Sörneinen, then decide that surely the Lidl store would have measuring cups. Nope. I’d already checked the local S Market to no avail. I figure, aw screw it, I’ll go tomorrow, and head to the bus.

On the way back, I realize that I am coming to the Arabia Shopping Center, and surely the Tarjoustalo store (‘Bargain Store’) will have a cheap set of measuring cups. They are located on the upper floor, so as long as I am on the ground floor, I go ahead and check out the markets (S and K, respectively), but no luck. So up I go. I scour every inch of this bargain store, and while they certainly do have lots of stuff (candles, hockey sticks, clothing, candy, food, hygiene, cookware, linens, yarn, toys, sauna supplies, and more), they do not have any measuring cups.

What? Are measuring cups disallowed in this country? Heck, I think nearly every dollar store, gas station and grocery store back home carried at least one set to choose from. I can add these to index cards, on the ‘nearly impossible to find items that should be everywhere’ list.

To clarify, that’s not to say I could not find ANY measuring items. I could find plenty of the first item, but none of the second item pictured:

measuring bowl measuring cups

If I want to measure just a quarter cup (or the metric equivalent) of something, using a huge mixing bowl is rather…inaccurate, to say the least. And especially when I need the bowl to mix in, and then also need to measure wet and dry items for the same recipe. Not saying that it can’t be done, just that it’s a royal pain for someone who isn’t all that enamored of cooking in the first place!

But, I am returning to the States in November, and from there I will have a set of civilized measuring cups and spoons, with both metric and imperial measurements on them, waiting for me. So I’m not completely despondent over the issue. Just perplexed. 🙂

So, all in all, the day was mostly a bust, although I did get the laundry washed and hung up. Sheets are still drying out on the balcony, where they will likely stay until morning.

I did add another picture to the Changing Seasons page, which shows my main tree becoming more and more bare. It’s happening so fast, I’m glad I went to taking a picture at least every other day. I think it’s really going to look impressive by next spring!