26 August 2012

An August weekend

We put our bikes on the car on Saturday, and zoomed through Joensuu to Noljakka. Here's Orb and M racing along the ski trail...

...towards the lake, and our favourite view.

M's new Islabike (a Beinn 20) is fantastic - the gears mean we can finally all ride at a reasonable speed, and go up and down (small) hills without lots of whinging. Result!

Sunday involved skating school in the morning for M, while I revisted some knitting I'd started in March and then got sidetracked from. I have one and a half legwarmers, which will apparently be perfect for skating practice once I've finished the other half...

It was such a beautiful sunny day that we drove to Koli. We climbed (and climbed and climbed) every large rock we could see, and trekked along the trail from Ukko-Koli. It was beautiful - the first time we'd seen all the views with greenery (our previous trips were in October, March and April, so it looked a bit different!).

But two hours of trekking about makes a small family very hungry, so we decamped to the service station for buns and coffee. I love the service station at Ahmovaara. It's a souvenir shop, supermarket, burger joint, cafe, bar, posti, otto machine, petrol station and kids playground all rolled into one. With an appropriately diverse range of customers...

All in all, a great weekend!

08 July 2012


It's holiday time, yay! I have a month off, which is fabulous. There's so much we want to fit in, it will be a miracle if we manage everything...

The most exciting news is that we'll be moving to our new house in a couple of weeks, as the sale has gone through. It's been relatively non-stressful, thanks to an excellent estate agent and mortgage advisor and the lovely HR people at my work, who have been so helpful with all the bureaucracy. It's certainly a much speedier process than the UK (also helped by the fact that we've already sold our Gateshead house). So now we own 4,000 square metres of Finland. Wooo!!

Aside from that, so far this month we have mostly been occupied with sitting on the beach at Avaranta. This week has been hot and sunny, so we headed there most days after work. I even swam in the lake, which is something of a minor miracle given that in May it still had ice in the middle. I can report it was a bit on the chilly side...but still warmer than the North Sea! On Saturday we spent the whole day there, eating takeaway pizza for lunch, and launching The Enormous Walrus, M's new boat. She took to rowing pretty quickly (luckily we have a rope attached, so she can't zoom off across the lake...) 

30 June 2012

June, part 2

The rest of June disappeared into a fog of work, but we did find time for a few other things:

1. We investigated the world of Rallicross at Ylämylly. This turned out to be fabulously trailer trash, and incredibly entertaining. It had the excitement of cars streaking round a 1km track what felt like inches from your nose (with characteristic Finn disregard for health and safety, the spectators were sat on small banks, with a stretchy piece of tape stopping them from getting too close to the track), combined with several grilli stalls, a pit lane/section you could wander round and see the cars being worked on, and a large proportion of trollied Finns, kicking back with 97 cans of beer. It was extremely dusty, dirty, and excellent fun! There was much high speed barging of rally cars (and lots of bits falling off, including rather worryingly a wheel at one point, which careered down the track, bounced through and over a crowd of spectators, and landed on some poor person's car in the car park. Here's a driver's eye view: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yTzqY-wolEU (though sadly not of the wheel-escape incident!).

And here's me and M watching, post-makkara (hence all the ketchup). We like the ear defenders...

Despite the drunken Finns, there were lots of kids and dads having a nice day out, and everyone was very friendly. We'll definitely go again next year!

2. We celebrated Midsummer in style, with our friends Anu and Heikki, including a sauna, grilli and kokko (bonfire). Here's us (and about 5,400 mosquitos) at 10.30pm. We went to bed about 1am, and it still wasn't dark...just white twilight.

3. We went on some more cycle expeditions, mostly through the woods in Noljakka. Here we are on our way to our new favourite place (Avaranta beach).

The trail through Noljakka is excellent - all the more so because we tried it on skis in the snow. It looks very different now! (M's bottom-sliding hill is now covered in tall green grass, and the vast plains of white on either side are now revealed as fields...).

16 June 2012

June, part 1

So far this month, we have:

1. Grown salad

2. Created a mökki for Captain Jack (as you can see, he's got a rather nifty sleeping bunk, a sofa (with stripy cover), a chair, and a boat (doubling here as a table, with his saucepan and plate on top). He also has a fishing rod. Maybe a grilli next?

3. We've also gone swimming (in the pool - the lake is too chilly yet to do more than paddle!), cycled a lot, baked lots of cake, and agreed to buy a house. The next couple of months will also be busy!

03 June 2012

Summer's here!

Here's M (at 1:13-1:15) helping 6,000 other elementary schoolkids in Joensuu celebrate the beginning of summer on the 1st of June. They sang some lovely Finnish songs (including our favourite, Terve, to the tune of YMCA...), backed by a military band. The sun shone, and everyone clapped along. Fab...

14 May 2012

A Finnish mother's day

It started with breakfast in bed (yoghurt, banana and toasted bagels), and was followed by an expedition to Outokumpo to the nature park:

We had a picnic in the sunshine (soup and karjalan piirakka). It was a bit chilly, which is why we still have our winter hats on.

And then we trekked around one of the lakes - which took us across boggy bits, over bridges, up and along steep ridges, and in and out of the trees. We saw butterflies and frogspawn, and heard lots of birds. Here we are at the bottom of a particularly steep bit:

And at the top:

We walked for about two and a half hours, so it was a good job we had the Karelian pies first. There was also a small amount of bribery halfway round with chocolate Easter rabbits which we'll gloss over.

After that, we headed home in the sunshine for a barbecue in our garden. A perfect day...

06 May 2012

Sky and birds

We had an expedition to Noljakka today, to the Lintutorni. It was a beautiful spring day, with the clouds scudding across the sky and a ridiculous number of birds shouting in the trees. It's rather strange hearing them all again, as the woods have been so silent all winter.

We walked out along the ski trail, which looked very different as a path (and was much longer than I remembered, we must be much faster on skis!). Once you get to the edge of the nature reserve, there's a boardwalk, which takes you through the boggy parts to the edge of the lake.

The view from the edge of the lake was beautiful - all you could see was this huge expanse of water and sky. From the tower, you could see that the lake was still frozen in places, but ducks were swimming in small pools at the edge.

05 May 2012

May 1st, and there's still snow in our back garden (in fact it's still here now, and today's the 5th). It feels quite springlike though (the blue skies help, and leaf buds are starting to appear on the trees).

We've also had three barbecues in the last week, which is probably more than we had in all of last year. So far, sausages, frikadellen and koftas have been on the menu...here's the junior chef in action!

28 April 2012

Pre-Vappu celebrations

Pretty good tiger, no?

I get the feeling we may be turning Finnglish...

  • We own 4 Moomin mugs, several rugs, and a Marimekko/Iittala glass bowl.
  • We love skiing, skating, piima and rye bread. Karelian pies and munavoi produce shrieks of delight.
  • We've grilled sausages in a grilli hut in the middle of the forest in the snow.
  • It's normal to sit naked in the sauna with a bunch of strangers (at the swimming pool), or with friends.
Mind, there's still a few things we need to work on. Salmiakki is the work of the devil, and mammi is just plain weird. And it would be nice if spring came a little sooner...

Anyway, the final evidence comes with the fact that we bought a proper bbq today, for the first time ever (our last one cost 2.99 from Wilkinsons). Here's how it arrived:

With a bit of judicious screwdriver work (not from me, I might add, I was busy doing some gardening), it then looked like this:

Ta da! The final result:

Soon we'll be able to grill sausages to our heart's content on our back verandah. As soon as we've tracked down a gas bottle...

31 March 2012


It's been a busy week.
We went skiing at Lykynlampi on Sunday in the sunshine.

M's skating school had their end of term performance on Monday (the tinies were hilarious). The bigger ones, especially the formation skaters, were just amazing. Here's M's class in the middle of their routine...
On Wednesday, I made Easter decorations with the Martat ladies. We covered eggs in paper and fabric, and us (and some of the table in my case) in glue.

Thursday was the last of the miniliga races at Pärnävaara, which was great fun. M came in a very respectable 7th. Everyone won a medal or a cup, ate lots of grilli makkara and went home smiling.
Today we've had a girl's morning out in town (including buns at Houkutus), followed by skiing on the lake in brilliant sunshine.

All in all, a top week!

18 March 2012


Yesterday we learned how to make vatruskas, with our lovely ex-neighbour Taina (who used to work in a bakery in Illomantsi). Best of all, we then ate them with munavoi.

Here's the recipe:

For the dough you'll need

1 litre mashed potato
1 egg
1 dl flour
1 teaspoon salt

For the filling:
some cooked rice (1/2 litre water, 1.5 dl rice, 1/2 teaspoon salt)
a little melted butter

First of all you boil the potatoes (which should be a nice floury variety) without peeling. Once cooled, peel (as M's demonstrating here, it should just come off with a blunt knife).

Mash, and add the egg, flour and salt. Mix together, to make a very soft dough.

Then make the dough into a round stick. Cut into 10 pieces, and pat flat, in a rough half-moon shape.

Take your cooked rice, and add a little melted butter. Place a teaspoon of rice on each half-moon.

Fold the dough over, patting gently down. Use an upturned mug to shape into a half-moon (from the offcuts, you should get another 5 vatruskas).

Bake in an oven at 300 degrees (or the hottest it will go) for 10-15 minutes.

Once they're done, brush with a little melted butter. Then top with munavoi (egg butter - yes, there's lots of butter involved here), and scoff...

...very quickly, before the small child eats them all!

13 February 2012

An energetic weekend

Sundays are quite busy in our house. Yesterday, we skated at the ice hall, ate buns at the ABC caf, then headed off into the wilds of Noljakka for some skiing and potkukelkka-ing.

It was great fun, even if I did get overtaken by a lot of supercharged grannies (bet they all had porridge for breakfast). I may need to practice a bit more, as the hills were really hard - or maybe it's the fact that I had scones for breakfast, not porridge. Hmm. The brown ninja did a good line in running alongside, anyway, while Orb manfully potkukelkked up the hills.

When we got to the end, the brown ninja decided to throw herself down the massive mound of snow you can see here. She knows no fear at the moment.

The rest of the day was rather more sedate. A trip to Citymarket to do the weekly shop, followed by chicken pie in front of the Frozen Planet. The cat has rather taken a liking to the penguins, and sits glued to the screen.

31 January 2012

Lunchtime walk in Joensuu

It was -25, so I didn't stay out for very long, but the sunshine was too good to miss.
I saw the strangest thing - the river 'steaming' in the cold.
And the boat is certainly going nowhere at the moment...

29 January 2012

Small girl, large snow mountain...

We had a fantastic day playing out in the snow on Saturday. Orb took his potkukelkka out, I went on skis, and the small brown ninja ran around like a mad thing. We tried some of the cross country trails in Noljakka which were breathtakingly beautiful - the trees are laced with snow, and you could see the flakes of ice dancing in the air.

I'd forgotten how much fun going down hills (albeit very small ones) on skis is. And I discovered just how much work going up the hills on cross country skis is too...

In the evening, we went to watch Jokipojat play at the ice hall, as it was a free match. We were squidged into the standing area, and had to carry M so she could see, but it was fantastic - a really exciting, end-to-end game. After being 3-2 down for much of the match, Jokipojat managed to equalise in the last minute, and then won on penalties. M had never been in such a big crowd before - and I think the enormous roar when they equalised was rather a surprise.

Today's been very cold (it's about -25 now, and is forecast to be -30 when we set off for school tomorrow morning). We walked about 10 minutes from the car park to the cinema this morning, and ended up with tingling noses and quite cold fingers and toes. Puss in Boots was on in 3D, and in the original English version, and was great fun. M and I had never seen a 3D film before and were quite impressed. It was pretty much designed to appeal to a cat-obsessed six-year-old, I think. I'd love to know, though, how on earth they dub Antonio Banderas' Spanish accent into Finnish...?

Sadly nowhere open in town had good buns on offer on a Sunday (normally Houkutus, the library cafe or Taitokortelli would be our first points of call, but they were all shut), so we came home and baked some of our own. The butter buns from the Nordic Bakery Cookbook turned out to be fab, and I may have scoffed at least two. Don't tell the small ninja...

15 January 2012

Before and after

My little girl is growing up. Gone is the tiny IKEA chair and table, scene of much painting, colouring, play-dough, baking and eating (she used to eat here breakfast at it in our old kitchen). In its place is a brand new 8 euro desk from the recycled furniture shop...

01 January 2012

Happy New Year!

New Year's Day, Lykynlampi.