Tuesday, December 22, 2015

2015 - Where Has it Gone?

2015 has been a blur, so I'm struggling to know where to begin with this annual review.

The year started with a bump when the Chief lost his mum just after Christmas. We rushed off to Scotland for the funeral and while it was lovely to catch up with everyone briefly, it was a tough visit.

The early part of the year was organising Foo's entry into primary school, Finnish paperwork galore. He 'graduated' from Esikoulu, kindergarten, only a little worried about what the next autumn held in store, but after visiting the new school his mood changed to excitement so that made the summer much easier.

The Chief took a skiing trip to Sweden in the early spring and I took a short break to Barcelona on my own in May and had a lovely, relaxing time. It's been a long time since either of us have travelled by ourselves, it's nice to know we can still do it.

The big holiday was in June and July to the USA to visit my family. It was a crazy, packed 2 weeks of family, food and festivities with the 4th of July in the middle. The kids loved meeting their American cousins, doing local things like a boat on the Mississippi, fishing, watching the fireworks and spending time with the Grandma.

The rest of the summer was spent being lazy and spending time with friends who would soon be heading away from Finland. The weather wasn't great, so it wasn't a beach summer, but lots of time in parks, islands, zoos, etc.

August was back to school. Foo started first grade, Mouse third with a new teacher and Bump went to nursery on her own for the first time. The kids are all really busy with their various activities: swimming, guitar lessons, Foo's therapies and playdates, so I'm kept jumping all day. 

I also started taking a Finnish course through the Chief's work. It's the first course in a long time that's been at the right level for me so I've learned tons, filling in the gaps in my random self-taught knowledge. I really enjoyed it and am looking forward to starting again in the New Year. Pudding has been spending that time with a babysitter. It's been a slow process, but she's happy to be with her now which will hopefully help with the transition to nursery next year. It's still lovely to hear her say 'I miss you when you're at your English class' - she gets it mixed up with Foo's English class.

We've had a few visitors this year which has been lovely. One was some friends with a daughter the same age as Bump. She was overjoyed as she doesn't have a lot of friends her age and gender except at nursery. We did a few day trips, though for our second guest our car died so we couldn't do as much as we liked. We're still trying to sort a new car, it's hard to find something big but cheap. We're currently renting one that's a tight fit. 

The last few months of the year has just been maintaining the status quo which is a full time job. The kids all got their report cards and nursery reports this week and they were all good. There's always wee things to work on, but their teachers are all happy with them. We've had Christmas shows and parties this week as well, but now the kids are out of school so we'll relax and do Christmassy things at home. 

We wish you all a happy holiday season and lots of Christmas love. We miss you all and hope to catch up over 2016. 

Friday, December 4, 2015

Warming Up to Christmas

There's no snow yet, and it can stay away a bit longer in my opinion, but it's definitely December or Joulukuu - Christmas month. I guess I should start getting ready, but as usual I'm not prepared or even willing to take my head out of the sand. I have next to no presents for the kids and no ideas what to get them. Luckily, they don't start selling the real trees until later in the month so I can put off decorating. I really need to give the house a good clean beforehand, but that is unlikely, so it will be cleaning as the tree goes up as usual. 

But some winter and Christmas traditions, both Finnish and from other countries, I do enjoy. Cookie making, crafting and taking advantage of the cold weather to put on the fire, wrap up warm and eat loads of yummy warming foods. 

To be honest though, I'm not getting to eat most of these foods. Since I've become gluten-free I've discovered I have to stay gluten-free or I pay the price. Half a slice of homemade bread and a gingerbread biscuit in the evening yesterday left me in agony half the night. So I'm trying to find gluten-free treats. So far they've been a disappointment. Gluten-free gingerbread that was as hard as a rock and not terribly tasty. Sorry, A, thanks for the recipe, I'll maybe try to tweak it a bit.  

What started as an impromptu idea to keep the kids from going stir crazy one weekend became a big project for me. I started out getting Foo to sew on buttons on his gingerbread man, but Bump wanted so many decorations that I ended up sewing everything as her glue wasn't really sticking. I only managed two dolls, but may make the others before Christmas. Or maybe not. 

Still a few more weekends before Christmas and then we have no plans over the holidays, so there's time for more crafts and food. 


Sunday, November 15, 2015

WeeGee: Five Museums, So Little Time

I've seen the sign to WeeGeeTalo many times as I passed to a friend's house near Tapiola, Espoo. The name is intriguing, especially coming from Scotland, but I never knew what it was and had never seen any suggestion that it might be worthwhile visiting. But recently I put a query on an online forum asking for suggestions of what to do with kids and WeeGee was mentioned. 

WeeGee is an exhibition centre that houses 5 different museums: EMMA (the Espoo Museum of Modern Art), KAMU (Kaupunki Museo, the City Museum), Helinä Rautavaara Museum, the Finnish Toy Museum Hevosenkenkä and the Finnish Museum of Horology (Clocks). The name which is pronounced roughly vey-gey in Finnish, comes from the fact that the building is a former publisher's house and their initials were WG. 

There isn't a lot of info about what to expect. We hoped that there would be something to entertain the kids in at least the Toy Museum. We weren't disappointed. Kids go in free which is a total bonus when you have 4, but it is 12 euros for adults. The museums we visited wouldn't be worth going to for that price on their own, but since they're all together you get your money's worth. 

The City Museum had lots of interactive pieces that showed Espoo through stone age to more modern times, but it also had a temporary exhibition about gladiators which was a big hit. Not all of it was translated into English which the more permanent exhibitions have sorted, but there was a kid's zone and you could try on gladiator helmets and watch a video that showed the gradual growth of the Roman Empire, from just Rome to the edge of Scotland and into Africa. And lots of gladiator dummies, weapons, armour, etc to look at. 

We had lunch at the nice cafe on the ground floor, but be warned that on Sundays the regular 10 euro salad buffet is replaced by a mega-expensive 20 euro bunch buffet. Not sure if it was worth it. 

We then went up to the Toy Museum. The kids didn't even look at the toy displays, they were totally caught up in the excitement of the circus activities: fun mirrors, a slide, a ring where you can dress up as a strong man and try juggling and a caravan where you can dress up as a fortune-teller or magician. There was also an art room where you could do anything you wanted with piles of boxes, tissue paper, ribbons and other crafting supplies. We had tears trying to get them away at the end.  

We were there four hours, including lunch and we didn't make it into the other museums. The Futuro House was closed so we didn't get to go in the big spaceship thingie that looked interesting. Not sure how much the art or clock museums will interest the kids, but we'd happily go back to revisit what we've already seen. 

WeeGee get the Clan's thumbs up. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Belated Birthday Photos

I wish this boy would stop growing up so fast. 

I'm sure he wishes Mum would stop taking photos of him. 

Happy 9th Birthday, Mouse. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Autumn Flair

Autumn has been pretty spectacular this year. Mostly dry and lots of colour. I love taking photos this time of year in Finland because of the amazing oblique light, it is already so heavy and golden. 

We've had visitors as well which always brightens up life. We took them to Hämeenlinna to see the castle and the colours on the way up. 
After our visitors departed we took a quick trip to Kaivopuisto for more photos and fun. 
A rare capture. 
The boys love their sword fighting.

The girls have their own interests. For a brief moment it was like watching an Am Dram rehearsal. 

Another rare moment. 

This is more true to life. 

A nice selfie while in town. I wisely managed to crop my girning face out. 

We have spent a lot of time at home as well, clearing up the millions of leaves as per usual this time of year. 

I bought some much needed assistance this year which has lead to much amusement.

Some things never change.

We've visited the local par
k as well.

And the pumpkin festival at Koiramäen Pajutalli, a local willow farm that grows, weaves and sells wicker products as well as other objects. We've gone the past three years and though it doesn't really stand up to American pumpkin patch farms, it's a big space to run about with a willow maze, candy floss, korvapusti, mini-goats that were freaking out with the low flying planes overhead and a few pumpkins. 

With Halloween coming I hope we get a few more weeks of lovely weather and activities. Autumn is my favourite and my best, but it never lasts long enough. 

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