Saturday, December 24, 2016

Holly Jolly 2016 Christmas Greetings

Merry Christmas everyone,

It’s that time of year again for the Clan’s catch-up. All in all, 2016 was a pretty quiet year. No big holidays or adventures, no big tragedies, little victories and lots of time together. I guess you’d call that a win.

The kids are all doing well. Mouse is 10 and in 4th grade and growing up fast. He still plays guitar and is getting quite good. He’s also been doing well at swimming, passing his first techniques class. He’s a reading demon, always with a book stuck to his nose. He, Foo and Bumptious have all discovered Pokemon Go and quite enjoy it, though they don’t go on as many treks as they did in the first months, but the sub-zero weather might have something to do with that.

Foo is 8 and in 2nd grade. He’s doing well in school and has lots of fun. His Finnish is brilliant and he’s beginning to help me and Mouse improve ours. He’s struggled a lot this year with his legs. There was a big mix-up with the hospital that took me a while to identify and fix, but it meant that he was without physio from January until August, so his walking deteriorated a lot. To the point that he needed a Botox treatment in both legs to relax the spasming muscles. This was followed by 3 weeks in lower leg casts to help stretch them. He wasn’t allowed to jump or run, but it didn’t stop him getting around. The first thing he wanted to do after being allowed to walk in them was to go hunt for Pokemon. His legs have improved since the casts were removed, hopefully the benefit will last.

Bumptious is 6 and in her kindergarten year which is held in her same nursery. She’s keen to learn to read and write, but they don’t really start that here yet, though they help her do her own math and writing projects. She started ballet in January and performed in her first show last week. She was totally excited and did really well, smiling and waving at us. She also completed her beginners’ swimming course.

Pudding is 3 and started nursery in August. It was a big adjustment and it didn’t go smoothly at the beginning. But she is now very happy to go and learning lots of Finnish, though she won't speak it at nursery yet. She unfortunately just missed her first Christmas show due to a stomach bug, but I know she can sing all the songs. She has become a bit of a threenager with starting nursery which I guess is to be expected. And for Christmas she is getting Chicken Pox, poor soul. Not looking forward to this, but she's the last Wean to get them so that phase of childhood will be over in the Clan house.

As I said we haven’t really had any family holidays but spent the summer visiting local attractions. My mum came over in June and our friend C came over in June and October, so we tried to find new places to take them. I also went for a quick visit over to Ireland to visit C and do some genealogy research for the Chief. The Brexit vote (the UK’s decision to leave the European Union) left his job at risk, so he applied for Irish citizenship through his grandfather. We’ve actually just had news that his application was approved, so his job and our life in Finland is safe.
With Pudding going to nursery, I’ve been child-free for a few hours in the day for the first time in forever. I’ve continued to study Finnish and took an online creative writing class to work on my novel. Between those, Foo's physio and all the kids’ lessons I haven’t really had much time, but it’s amazing how much more you get done without a kid or 4 in tow.

We have no idea what the next year holds for us, but The Clan and I wish you a very Happy Holidays and a Happy 2017 where it may find you.

Lots of love from Finland.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Whit's a Ceilidh then? Why Dinnae Ye Ken?

A ceilidh (prounounced kay-lee for those who are wondering) in Scottish Gaelic means a visit, but over the generations the word has transformed to mean a gathering where music, dancing and often eating takes place. The Finnish Scottish Society which has recently been formed to promote Scottish culture in Finland had its innaugural event last night in Helsinki - a St Andrew's Day Ceilidh and the Clan went along. St Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland, his day is November 30 and it is often used to celebrate all things Scottish. 

The day started with a family event with a bake sale full of Scottish treats, face painting, Christmas cake decorations and children's stories in Scots. It was a nice way for families to meet up before the craziness of the ceilidh later on.

The Chief started the story time with a reading of The Gruffalo in Scots which was a good giggle. They had another FSS member to read to all the kids later on so this was just a taster. 
My contribution to the bake sale. Remind me I never want to make tablet again, it turned out to be a bit of a palaver and I'm still finding burnt sugar all over my kitchen.
Pudding's Christmas cake. She loved eating the frosting and sprinkles. There was a craft table as well.  

After the day event we dropped the Weans off with a babysitter and put on our gladrags for a smashing evening. The Chief had invited some of his workmates from Romania and Poland so we got to introduce them to some traditional Scottish dancing. 

The Ceilidh was sold out so it was a tight squeeze to dance in the hall, but the Society got a great dance caller James who broke us up into groups and taught everyone the steps. We did some old favourites: The Dashing White Sergent, The Gay Gordons and the complicated-until-it-all-clicks Strip the Willow. A wee burl was had.

There were two bands: a ceilidh band whoes name I missed and a rock band that covered some Scottish hits called Poverty Bar. Having a real ceilidh band really made the dancing so much more fun. The night ended with Poverty Bar's take on the traditonal Runrig's version of 'Bonnie Banks o' Loch Lomond' and 'Auld Lang Syne'.

Some of the Society members cooked up Haggis, Neeps and Tattie pie for the day event and Stovies, a vegetarian leek soup and cranachan during the ceilidh and even some late night snacks for after the dancing. It was some top scran. 
Dishing out the stovies and soup.
The Society was established just at the end of this year, so they will be properly starting in 2017 by asking for membership fees and will be hosting a Burns Supper some time in January/February. The group is open to anyone interested in Scottish culture. If you would like to become a member of the Finnish Scottish Society, please, join the Facebook page linked above and they will contact you soon.

There is also the Scots in Finland Facebook page which is a good place to be kept up to date with all events Scottish in Finland. 


Sunday, October 23, 2016

Suomenlinna Go!

Our other adventure started this week due to the Autumn Holiday / syysloma that all the school kids get. We took the girls out of nursery as well and the Chief took off work, so we've been looking for something to fill the time. Enter Pokemon Go. Not my idea of fun, but it got the boys to go out of the house without threats from me. They went out on 3 walks that first day, with all of us, on their own and Mouse went by himself. We then walked to a local restaurant and took the long way home so we could Pokehunt. Foo again was exhausted with all the walking, but he kept up.

A day later Mouse was saying we needed to go to Suomenlinna because there were tons of rare water Pokemons there. He had researched the best places to catch Pokemon in Finland and Suomenlinna as one of the best sites in Helsinki. 

Obviously lots of other kids had done this research as well because when we took the ferry over to the island it was totally full of kids on phones and tablets playing Pokemon Go. They must have some sort of lure to attract Pokemon right at the harbour on the island as the boys could barely walk 3 steps without another one popping up. It makes walking a very slow process, but we got out. 

Suomenlinna is beautiful right now, the colours of the trees and the hills, but it is very cold. We bundled the kids up in their winter coats and suits, but the wind cuts right through you. It was overcast, but still a lovely day now that all the kids can walk on their own. We still took the buggy for tired ones, so dragging it across the cobbles and up the ramparts is a pain, but you can kick the occupant out so you're not carrying their weight. 

Our usual stop of Cafe Bar Valimo was closed so we tried out Cafe Chapman. It offered a decent, nothing fancy, Finnish style buffet, good for warming us up before we headed back out. We ran through one battery and downloaded the game on a second phone by the time we got up to the walk along the cliffs. They seem to be doing a lot of work on the paths near the high cannons, but you still can get around most of the island. 

Some things never change. Foo flinging himself down a hill.

We did catch a lot of Pokemons and the kids ran about over rocks and along the paths. Well worth a trip for both. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


Our well-travelled friend C just completed his 10th visit to our home here in Helsinki. We love seeing him and he keeps us on our toes to discover new destinations while he's here. We planned to go to Porvoo, but car problems meant we were stuck in town. I remembered that the Chief had noticed a place where you could sunbathe on the roof and I thought I'd look it up. 

Yes, I realise it's October and sun-bathing is the last thing we'd consider in Finland just now, but Löyly Helsinki offers more than that. Löyly translates as 'steam' and this sauna, sea swimming bar and restaurant looks like a lot of fun. We didn't go for a sauna, but I'd love to try it sometime with friends. It has communal saunas and a fireplace room which has glass that overlooks the sea. I saw people eating sausages and ice cream in the fireplace room, others who left the sauna for a quick dip in the sea and a few who braved the sea air to sit outside. The Finns are hard-core about their saunas.

We went to the restaurant which was quite busy on a crisp cold October Saturday, even most of the outside seats were taken by people snuggled up under the provided blankets. I can just imagine how busy it is mid-summer. After a lovely brunch of sandwiches, eggs and savoury and sweet waffles (which ran out just as we tried to order another 2, we managed to grab the last one) we went outside to climb up the building and take in the view. 

Hernesaari is an area just down from Kaivopuisto and Eira that we've never explored before. It was a perfect autumn day and we got to see lots of sailing ships come into the harbour there. After the kids had enough of the building we walked around the harbour. Hernesaari translates as 'pea island' but is not an island as far as I can tell, more a small penisula. I can't give you any interesting historical facts, but it borders along what looks like an industrial estate. They have built up the water's edge nicely, with a sandy beach to play at and areas to ride bikes or walk. Even in October we had to restrain the children from heading into the icy water. 

We walked all the way to the maritime monument and then along Eiranranta to Cafe Carusel. Quite the walk for Foo but he really enjoyed throwing stones into the water and climbing along the rocks. I'd definitely go back for lunch and maybe a sauna experience at Löyly and a walk along the shore at Hernesaari. 


Friday, October 14, 2016

Autumn Birthday Colours

Autumn is my favourite time of year, unfortunately it also is a big birthday time for us, especially October, with lots of birthdays all crammed together which makes it a hectic season. So sometimes I don't get to enjoy it as much as I would like. We missed the pumpkin festival at the willow farm this year because I thought it was held closer to Halloween rather than mid-September. I have a pile of pumpkins from my plot that need to get cooked down into something. 

It's now the autumn holiday /syysloma in Finland so hopefully I'll be able to catch up on some of those autumn activities that get pushed aside. I'm heading off to another spinning session at the weekend so I can spin some of that wool I brought home and haven't touched since. I need to dig up the rest of my walnut-sized potatoes and turn over the plot for winter. I hope we can do a road trip somewhere as we've been stuck in Helsinki as a family since last summer due to low funds and I'm desperate to do some travelling. 

I have managed to get my autumn birthday portraits done for Mouse and Pudding. And since the light was so lovely I also took photos of the kids together as we don't have any recent ones. I can't believe Mouse is 10, double digits of being a parent. Pudding is 3 and feeling it. Going to nursery has brought out her strong will and I'm definitely feeling it. 

So a photo break while we have a well-earned rest. Enjoy. 

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Fiskars Briefly in Autumn

The weather has been beautiful lately and the trees in Helsinki are at their best, so I thought we'd take advantage of the Slow Food Festival taking place in the village of Fiskars, an hour or so away, and check out the autumn foliage in the countryside. 

Unfortunately, the birches were past their best, but it was still a nice drive. I did get flashed by a speed camera, but the speed limits out Fiskars way are crazy, shifting randomly between 60, 80 and 100kph. Not looking forward to that piece of post. Update: I was only 4 km over the limit so they gave me a break this time.

We came to Fiskars a couple of years ago to attend a gathering for the Highland Games. It's a craft village, home of the Fiskars ironmonger company, the famous knife makers. Supposedly there are lots of little craft and gift shops and places to watch blacksmiths and glass blowers, but both times we have never managed to see any of that. 

This weekend there was the Slow Food Festival which I would have liked to spend some time looking in on, but there was so much for the kids to do, that we never really got to look at the food exhibits, except for a quick recce when we were looking for a sit down place to eat. We parked at one end of the village where they had a nicely laid out carpark in a field and our first stop was the pony riding for the girls. 

Then we popped into the Assembly Hall where they had crafts for children and a tasting test. 

Suolainen, karvas, makea tai hapan - salty, bitter, sweet or sour? 

We then had to hunt about for a suitable place to eat and we ended up at the Laundry Cafe. They were lovely, modifying their menu a bit for the kids and setting aside some delish pullaa for us so they wouldn't sell out before the kids finished their proper lunches. 

Beside the Laundry was an old steam engine which the kids loved. 

We fed the ducks, wandered through a small outdoor market and played in a fab playpark. The village is gorgeous this time of year and I'd be happy to go back anytime, maybe with another adult or two so we could divide and conqure its craft side.
Yes, that little pink trousered figure at the top is Pudding who has no fear climbing, but also no ability to climb down. I'm the figure in gray at the back trying to scramble up after her. I'm not wild about heights. Crazy child. The Chief, of course, just stood there and took pictures. 

Have a colourful autumn.  

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