Wednesday, June 29, 2016


I suppose it's no surprise being an expat that I didn't want the UK to leave the European Union. Even though I'm not officially European. I had no vote, no voice. The Chief did and voted to stay in.

It's over now and Leave won. I felt shock but now I feel nothing, though the repercussions of this vote will possibly hit our family quite hard. The Chief and my children are British, so we are expats in Europe. Where does this leave us?

I feel nothing now because the Scottish Referendum wrung all hope out of me. This referendum feels like a rehash. Everyone's surprised that people believed the media's and politicians' lies, they want a revote, they blame the other side for being ignorant and isolationist, are angry, sad, lost, fighting with family and friends who voted on the other side. None of this surprises me now.

We don't really know what's going to happen over the next few months. Politicians are resigning, back-sliding, demanding change and more time. There will be negotiating, new treaties, but it will all take time. Healing will take time.

Some people are turning to Scotland for a life raft, but its future is as unclear as the rest. A 3rd Referendum is being suggested (yes, everyone forgets the first 1979 referendum) and I hope it goes through but I have lost any hope that it automatically means that Scotland will get independence and that they will be able to negotiate a way back into the EU and that they'll be able to do it anytime soon.

My family will be affected if the UK leaves. We're going into survival mode, trying to figure out what can we do now to protect our way of life. I would like to fight, join my friends in the UK with positive political and community action, but I can't. I'm not there, I have no voice and I have lost all my fight.

We will batten the hatches and ride out the storm.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Helsinki Päivä / Helsinki Day in Herttoniemi

Having visitors that have been to Finland several or more times has really upped our hosting game, forcing me to find new places to visit. Or in this case revisiting old haunts to discover a hidden gem. 

Helsinki Päivä, Helsinki Day, is on June 12th and somehow in our first six years here it has passed us by. I've been vaguely aware of it, but this year someone on my expats' board posted a link to the programme which is massive and includes hundreds of events of all types. 

We decided to head back to Herttoniemi where we lived our first two years here. It's still one of my favourite areas in Helsinki, lots of green spaces, friendly people, easily accessible to the city and lots of different things to do. We started out with a quick visit to an open day at Gymi, a children and teens' sport club that specialises in gymnastics type activities. My 3 eldest attended sessions there and loved it, unfortunately the open day was so popular they had to limit everyone to 30 minutes which had Bump in tears. 

We then headed out to Herttoniemi Manor Herttoniemen Kartanon which includes a manor house, a large formal gardens with a duck pond and the Knusbackan farm behind the manor house.

The manor wasn't open when we arrived and usually is only open on some Sundays for a few hours, so please check the website if you want to go inside. We had a picnic lunch in the gardens and then went back to the farm. The tractor trailer ride was lots of fun and there was no real waiting time even though the place was jammed with people. 

They had a working horse and a small petting farm. 

Knusbacken was my favourite bit, an old farm museum with a preserved farmhouse. We've recently been reading the Laura Ingalls Wilder series so it was nice to be able to show the kids all the things we've been reading about that are totally foreign to 21st century kids like a loom, butter churn and harrows. I can't find any info on the website about when the farm is open normally so might be worth contacting them before going if that's what you're interested in. 

There's also a popular restaurant on the grounds called Wanha Mylly The Old Windmill, but we didn't stop as we had remembered to bring a picnic lunch for once. The gardens are both formal and wild and the ducks a nice distraction. 

The manor did open after a while and the kids did a run through, old furniture is just not their thing, but one of them took some random photos for me.

We finished off the day at a local cafe we used to frequent for ice cream and a visit to a favourite park. We all enjoyed Helsinki day and being back in the old neighbourhood. 

Friday, June 17, 2016

Suggested for a Reason - Seurasaari

When you ask locals and expats here in Finland where you should visit to get a feel for the country you usually get variations of the same list with Suomenlinna and Seurasaari topping them. We've been to Suomenlinna lots of times, but have only been to the open air museum of Seurasaari once.

It was shortly after we first arrived and Bump was only a few weeks old. I remember liking it but thinking it was very expensive for what it was. Please remember we had only been in the country for less than 2 months, so hadn't adapted to the ridiculous cost of living in Finland.

So with a friend visiting last weekend I thought we would try it again. Our friend has been to visit us six or seven times, so we're running out of places nearby to take him. We had planned to go last autumn with him, but our car broke down and one thing I definitely remember from our last visit; taking the bus to Seurasaari is not for our family. Before we just had 2 toddlers, a newborn and 3 unfit adults. We didn't know about Foo's leg issues back then and didn't realise there was a long (for us) walk (just under a kilometer) from where the bus stops to the island's bridge. It was also the hottest summer we've had in our time here. We were all exhausted, hot and grumpy before we even got on the island and then it's just walk, walk, walk from there.

Being older, wiser about Finland and doing activities with kids this trip was different. We drove right to the bridge where there's a small car park. And we didn't pay anything to go on the island. The tickets available are to go into the buildings which you don't have to do. They have moved and restored old buildings from all over Finland, giving tourists a representation of Finnish life from the 18-20th centuries. There's a church, boat house, manors, farmsteads, but it's mostly old furniture, boats, tools. There are occasionally some guides that do things like spin wool, etc, and will talk you through the buildings, but we didn't see many this weekend. To be honest, my kids run through places like this without spending time looking at much, so we decided to forgo the tickets which actually aren't that expensive: 9 euros for adults in summer, 3 euros for children over 7 and family tickets for up to 4 kids for 20 euros which is an absolute steal in Finland.

We may have snuck into one building, so yes, there was furniture. 
At Midsummer Juhannus there are big bonfires on the island which we've never attended as I have a feeling it would be mobbed, but worth looking into if you have older kids.

We managed to keep 4 kids entertained for 4 hours without the museums. You can still walk around the buildings, just can't go in. There's lots of rocks, little bays and forest paths to keep them busy. There's also a nice restaurant, a couple of cafes and in high summer they'll be a few ice cream kiosks, I'm sure.

Seurasaari, a good mix of nature and history if you're interested with lots of space to explore. We were actually planning on joining a wildfood foraging event a friend had organised on the island this weekend, but the torrential rains have cancelled that. Seurasaari is back on our radar, now that we have the car and know the score, we'll be back soon. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Rendahl's Petting Farm, Kirkkonummi - Step Out of the City

This was part of a longer post, but I thought it warranted its own separate post as I have updated photos and information. 

May 2015 - We've made a new discovery. We were going to go to our favourite petting zoo in Inkoo, but when we arrived with our picnic lunch we discovered it was closed until next month. Luckily the owner was happy to suggest that we go to his rivals 20 minutes up the road in Kirkkonummi, Rehndal's petting farm. It's not quite the same thing as it's more of a working farm and has less exotic animals than Lemmikkipuisto, but there was plenty to justify the 10 euro ticket. We had to pry the kids away after 3 hours.

There are lots of horses and ponies, micro pigs, sheep, alpacas, donkeys, cats, dogs but everyone's favourites were the bunnies. They have a small enclosure where you can get up close to the bunnies or in Pudding's case, you can try. Some are happy to be petted, others will let you get very close before hopping away. 

2016 update - we ended up at Rendahl's again yesterday by default, but it still fit the bill. There were kittens, a new foal and a chance to ride a pony, Pudding's first time. They seem to have redone a few things including brightening up the picnic area and rebuilding the playpark's climbing area/ slide/ swings. Everything done in lovely red wood with a fairy/ troll house feel. 

The price feels a bit steep as everyone over 2 is charged 10 euros and then they charge 5 euros each if you want to do a quick pony ride. It would be nice if they had a family ticket for mobs like us. 

Hobby horse obstacle course. 
The picnic area seems refreshed. There's a grilling area as well. 
Trampoline and troll house. 

There's a lots to do; a pirate ship, a big hill to climb, a troll play-house and lots of patient animals, so it's possible to while several hours away when the weather's lovely. 

There's also strawberry picking nearby and last year we found a site to pick our own corn, so worth the drive out of the city. 


Sunday, June 12, 2016

Annantalo - A Great Summer Break for the Busy City

We went into town unexpectedly this week. If we need to do shopping we usually go to one of the big malls on the outskirts of town as there's less trouble parking and getting around. But we needed to pick up some ballet gear and I only know of one shop which is in the centre near the Chief's work. So since we had to go in and we have my mum visiting we decided to make a day of it and meet the Chief for lunch and find the kids something to do to make up for the boring-for-everyone-but-the-ballet-girl shopping trip. 

The schools are out for summer and while most children's activities in Helsinki tend to stop in July there are still a few things going on around the city. 

Annantalo is where we ended up just because it was near our other plans. It turned out to be a good choice. Annantalo is a small cultural centre that focuses on art and children's activities. It has a small, basic cafe with a book corner that has books in Finnish, Swedish and English and maybe some other languages. They often feature a book series or author in the artwork in the cafe and have examples of their books to read. Onni-Poika by Sanna Pellicioni is the current one. 

It has one big exhibition area that has changing exhibits that are usually interactive. And it runs art classes throughout the year. 

This summer we discovered their Kesäparkki which takes advantage of the garden in front of the building. Open until the end of June, they have made the perfect place for kids to burn off some steam and for parents to relax. They have a dressing up tent, hammocks, obstacle course and other activities. 

Unfortunately the weather hasn't been very nice for the past week, so we didn't really explore the park much, just went straight inside. I can't find info about the exhibit we visited but it was surreal for us adults but perfect for the kids. You walked in the door through a mouth with strange eyes above it and red hands hanging down like uvulas. Everything was focussed around body parts, but they were all random and odd looking. 

Kids could climb on a crochet eye on a cone that rolled around or lie on a kidney. There was a wall of ears, a single breast on the other wall, a rolling tongue and a strange flat body that you could bounce on. The kids loved it. It was all soft and kind of haphazardly and roughly made, so there was no worry of kids ripping or breaking things. It already looked like some things had been repaired with stitches that fit in with the theme. 

In the back there was another room that seemed totally unconnected from the body theme. Question words in Finnish were painted on the wall, it was dark and in the centre lit with blue light was a pool full of what appeared to be cut up foil crisp and sweets packages which made large glitter. Again a big hit, so much so that we went back after lunch with the Chief. 

They also had a balloon-decorating craft area at the back of the cafe that entertained the crafty Bump for a while.

The Kesäparkki looked like a good pitstop for any long visit to town with kids, if it isn't cold and windy, and Annantalo has always offered lots of fun for whenever we visited. 

I have several other posts waiting in the wings, but I wanted to get this one out asap as it is a limited-time event. 

See below for links to more reviews of activities for families in Finland. Enjoy.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Onwards to Summer 2016

The koivu, birch, have stopped flowering so I can go outside without crying, itching or sneezing. The weather was glorious in May for the most part and it seems to be following pattern for June. Miss Bumptious seems to be over whatever weird virus, possible strep throat, that she had for 10 days last week. School finishes in two days so summer has begun for us, the usual June birthday madness and a couple of visitors are in store for the next few weeks.

Just a quick photo catch-up of May.

Bump had her end of year show. She's a little less reserved now that she has been the past few years. I picked the wrong place to sit though and we distracted her. 
I got a bike this summer and the Chief tried it out. It wasn't to his style, so he bought himself a flash geared mountain bike that he's been riding to work. Better him than me, I just wanted something to potter around the neighbouring woods with the kids. 
Early summer means dandelions handed to me every 30 seconds 'Mummy, more flowers for you.'

This is what happens when four kids try to share a hammock. 

Bump has started pre-ballet lessons and is loving them for the most part.
Next week the school run is over, the long days begin. I can't say I'm not equally dreading and looking forward to them. We have visitors and the Chief has taken some time off so hopefully it will be a fun and wonderful summer.


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