21 December 2011

Winter solstice

Today we had a 'midnight feast' in our pyjamas to celebrate the longest night. The tonttu (elf) hat is for tomorrow's school play, but is being worn in.

Our feast included Karelian pies with egg topping, sausages on sticks (we had one lonely sausage left in the fridge which needed putting out of its misery), salad, fruit, haggis rolls (I'm sure they don't have haggis in, but they taste like haggis-flavoured sausage rolls), gherkins, and a selection of leftover doughnuts and biscuits. Well, you have to raid the fridge on these occasions...

Just for the record, we had 4 hours and 54 minutes of 'daylight' today. The sun rose at 9:32, and set at 14:26.

06 December 2011

Independence day

Today was Independence Day in Finland - it's 94 years old today. It's a public holiday, so we celebrated by making almond buns, creating a wreath (it's amazing what you can do with some garden twine, newspaper and lots of ribbons), and going for a splodge around in the snow at Lykynlampi.

We had two or three centimetres of snow this morning, so all the trees looked beautiful in the still air. There were no birds to be heard, but we did see a squirrel run across the road on the way there, so there is still some wildlife lurking.

28 November 2011

Spot the difference

Yes, that'll be the 16cm of snow which landed in my back garden last night then.

This morning was our first experience of 'snow work' - shovelling the snow off the driveway so the car could get down it. Most of the roads had been snowploughed, apart from the little roads in our estate in Marjala (but even these had been done by the time we got home at around 2pm). It was my first time driving around in proper snow, and wasn't too bad (there was the odd bit of sliding about, but I'm now a HUGE fan of studded tyres. And estate cars big enough to stick your snowboots, shovel, blanket etc etc in). I'm also a big fan of my lovely neighbour Tiina who helped me shovel the driveway this morning at 7.30am...

Apparently Finnish school is brilliant because you can go and play king of the castle on the enormous snow heaps thrown up by the snowplough, and the school actually has a box of sledges you can get out at playtime. There may also have been meatballs today, which just added to the excitement.

22 November 2011

A weekend in Finland

Friday: Rustle makes some new friends:

Saturday: We stack wood in the garage. Two square metres is quite a lot of tessellation...

Sunday: We go ice skating at Joensuu ice hall. I attempt to wobble round without falling over, in only the second time I've been ice skating since about the age of 10. M uses the cunning ruse of 'pushing a chair round'. It's surprisingly good fun. Even if my ankles have been complaining ever since.

Sunday also happens to be -8 degrees, sunny and stunningly beautiful:

We have a lovely afternoon with some friends. And the whole day is rounded off by a firework display for the opening of the Christmas season in Joensuu. It was too cold to take my camera out, so here's a picture of a small Michelin child instead:

09 November 2011


View across the square on my walk to work this morning:

A lunchtime stroll by the river

05 November 2011

Bonfire night, Finnish style

It's been quite a test of my history knowledge, explaining Bonfire Night (and why we don't have it in Finland) to the six-year-old. You can't exactly rely on the old historian's excuse of "that's not my period". Between me and Orb, we managed to get the story about right, with the correct monarch (James I) and century (17th, just).

Today, we managed to have our own bonfire in the middle of Lykynlampi, the lake area where we often go for a walk. It was quite a cold, grey day as you can see (probably a couple of degrees above zero), and it started to snow a little as we walked round.

Orb built us a small fire (there's a shack full of firewood for you to use), and we had a Moomin-style picnic. Not sure we've ever picnic-ed with snow starting to fall before...

Instead of fireworks, we went to the ice hall this evening, to watch an ice hockey game. Joensuu Jokipojat were playing Sapko, a team from Savonlinna. Sadly, Joensuu lost 5-3, but it was great fun to watch. Neither team showed much mercy in terms of shoving the opposition into the sides of the rink! The small girl thought this was hilarious...

Last of all, we paid a visit to Joensuu cemetery, as it's All Saints Day here in Finland. It's celebrated by placing candles on the graves of family members - and the graveyard was a sea of lights. Every grave had a candle or lantern, with the lines of lights stretching as far as you could see into the darkness. The war memorial was especially moving, as it was surrounded by a low wall of flickering lights.

We've lit a candle, and put it outside our house in memory of Grandpa.

23 October 2011

Sunday views

View across the river at Utra

Forest girl

Zebra trees

22 October 2011

Crafty days

Yes, I know I spend most of my time posting pictures of lakes...This is the view from Joensuu's marina, tucked away at the other end of town, past the horse racing track. It's still only five minutes away from work by car, so we went for a walk there after work on Thursday. M is reading Swallows and Amazons with Orb at the moment, so there were lots of technical details to be pointed out, like rowlocks, cleats and the like. Most of the boats had been taken out of the water, and thoroughly wrapped in tarpaulins against the winter. But a few were still merrily floating in the harbour, and there were a couple of hardy souls kite surfing on the lake, despite the chilly weather.

Today's been cold and rainy, so we went inside the Joensuu Areena to a massive craft fair. Handicrafts are big in Finland - everyone seems to be either crocheting a rug, knitting a pair of socks or creating something out of wickerwork. The Areena was filled with stalls selling wool, others selling hats, and many more with candles and silverwork (pendants made from cutlery are very popular). There was a fabulous set of exhibition cases with Barbie dolls from the 1960s onwards (and a lone Sindy), some beautiful dolls houses, and a random antiques corner selling the usual overpriced nonsense. Oh, and a fashion show, which was very...Scandinavian, with lots of felted hats. We had a lovely time - M made a spider with wire and beads with the nice ladies from Joensuu's arts and crafts centre, Taitokortteli, and Orb and I ate our own bodyweight in buns. I may also have had to be restrained from buying most of the wool and craft projects on offer from Taitokortelli - they have the most amazing stuff.

09 October 2011


We've spent this weekend either eating fish or gardening, not something you get to say very often.

The fish came in at Joensuu's Kalamarkkinat, which was held down by the harbour. There were lots of stalls selling the usual kind of thing (woolly jumpers and socks, dried flowers), but this time there was lots of food too - we tasted olives and pickled gherkins (good), corned fish (like eating cat food), a strange sort of porridgey/oatmeal mix (good, but bizarre), all sorts of rye bread (excellent), and some smoked salmon (amazing, so we bought some). The 'Best of British' stall was hilarious - lots of flavoured cheddar, Wills and Kate celebration mugs, and an awful lot of overpriced lemon curd and jams. It was interesting seeing what is considered 'exotic' enough to export...

There were also some 'interesting' karaoke singers, who won points for effort if nothing else. We never did work out if you had to sing songs about fish (the advert for the event had said there would be 'fish karaoke'), or what the man playing the accordion was singing about.

We had lunch at the market too - no fish and chips or kipper in a bun like at home, but small whitebait-style fried fish (muikku), and some hot smoked fish with fried potatoes, vegetables and a garlicky sauce. M demanded grilled sausage, but then proceeded to demolish the muikku... We couldn't move afterwards, but it was so worth it.

The gardening must have worked off some of the calories, I think. Our landlord has bought a whole load of plants and trees for the (rather bare) garden, which we have agreed to put in. So we have dug lots of holes (surprisingly easy on the sandy soil), and planted 10 shrubs and two lilacs. There's still three fruit trees to go - this may be a bit harder as the holes for them need to be a metre deep. We may need more fish before we can tackle that one...

02 October 2011

Next time Debenhams need catalogue models...

We've got this pointing lark down to a fine art...

25 September 2011

Just another standard Sunday in Finland...

They have strange squirrels near Kontiolahti:

And even stranger Dr Who-style lichen:

We also saw a lesser-spotted Orb:

24 September 2011

Trees, and more trees

The Finns really love their forests and trees. Here's M's science workbook - in Grade 1 they are already learning about the different trees and their names. Love the giant purple mushroom too...

It's not very surprising though, when there's scenery like this. Here's a view of our bit of the lake, about 5 minutes' walk from our house:

22 September 2011

Preparations for the winter...

It's rainy and blowing a gale outside, but that doesn't matter, as we're safe in the knowledge that a cubic metre of wood is neatly stacked in the garage, waiting for the stove to be lit.

Today's the first time it's felt chilly in the house since we've been here. It's getting dark quite early now (7pm Finnish time), and starting to feel like proper autumn, so we'll have to have the stove on soon.

M and I have some snazzy new Finnish wellies to deal with all this rain - but hopefully it'll be nice over the weekend, so we can go hunting for pine cones in the forest. If we were true Moomins we would of course be eating pine needles and covering the chandelier so we can hibernate for the winter...

15 September 2011


My daughter is obviously changing into a Moomin (probably the Snork Maiden)...

09 September 2011

The nights are drawing in

When we arrived at the end of July, it was light until about 11pm at night (and even that was early, compared to silly o'clock during my visit in late June). Now, it's going dark at about 8.30 - everyone on our little estate has got their lanterns out. I guess there's no point lighting them on summer evenings...

04 September 2011

Moomin cake!

Well what else do you make a Moomin-obsessed girl for her sixth birthday? It was appropriately Finnish, as was the trip to Kitee Zoo, where we saw bears, arctic fox, elk, lynx and the cutest woolly pigs (I kid you not) I have ever seen.

27 August 2011

Joen Yö

We went to Joen Yö 2011 on Friday - it's the equivalent of Museums at Night in the UK, with the museum, art gallery, theatre etc staying open late and putting events on. There were all kinds of stalls down by the river, and lots of bands playing some interesting music on the stage in the marketplace. Here's one lot, who didn't err towards the heavy metal as much as some did:

We sat and watched them while eating some rather good bratwurst, courtesy of a German stall (the marketplace was full of stalls selling food, sweeties, heavy metal t-shirts...).

We had a lot of fun wandering around and discovering what was on - we loved the folk dancing on the marketplace stage, but the absolute highlight was a steel pan band playing Europe's The Final Countdown. Aces.

21 August 2011

More blueberry rambles

As is traditional on Sundays, M and I headed off to the forest. We went back to Lykynlampi for a stomp around the lake (and quite a lot of blueberry eating). We followed most of the yellow trail:

We saw several huge dragonflies, lots of people with baskets full of huge mushrooms or buckets of blueberries, and many, many trees (rowan, pine and birch).

We also found a mysterious set of steps, which we had to climb (all 167 of them):

But the view from the top was worth it!