Friday, July 30, 2010

Blog Cabin, Day 20--More Food I Love

Here are some more food products that I can't get enough of here:

Drinkable yogurt. Valio is the best brand. SOOOO yummy. My brothers love the "fruit bomb" flavor best. I love the orange yogurt.

Karjalanpiirakka. Or Karelian pie. Or, as my kids call it, a Pappa Sandwich. Basically a rice filling inside a rye/wheat flour crust. Most Finns top it with butter, cucumbers, cheese, sandwich meat (suola makkara or ham), sliced eggs, or egg butter.

Finnish pancakes. Refer to Day 6 for more info.

Makkara. Basically a sausage or bratwurst. I love cooking them in the sauna stove until the skins break open and turn crunchy. It's great with Finnish mustard and limsa (see below). They have some interesting flavors: chili, garlic, cheese, BBQ, etc.
Limsa. It's great after sauna and with makkara. It's basically orange-flavored soda (although there are some other flavors now, too), but less sweet than American soda.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Blog Cabin, Day 19--Some of My Favorite Finnish Foods

We went to the marketplace this morning to have one of my favorite Finnish staples: a lihapiirakka. They are essentially fried hamburgers, but that makes it sound really gross. And they are not. Calorie packed, yes, but not gross. Basically they are fried dough with a meat and rice mixture inside. They are steamed at the marketplace to keep them hot. They slice them open, and you can add what you want: ham, sliced boiled eggs, ketchup, Finnish mustard, etc. At the grocery store you can buy them premade and then heat them up in the microwave. I wish I could eat one of these every day for lunch.

Another Finnish food that I love is pulla. It's basically a sweet coffee bread. Sometimes they roll it up and add cinnamon like below, other times they braid it and slice it. But the secret ingredient to pulla is cardamon. Cardamon is a spice that you can only find whole or in powder form in the United States. Here in Finland it is ground but is still chunky. It has a powerful aroma and taste.

I fell in love with pulla the summer before I went into 2nd grade--my dad claims I gained 25 kilos that summer, but I'm sure it was more like 5. (25 kilos on a 6 year old would be like doubling their weight!) So the story goes: my aunt would offer me some, and I'd keep eating it and taking more. My dad would tell me to stop, but my aunt just kept giving me more. I don't remember this, but I'm sure I gained some weight; I do every time I come here.

My parents make pulla a lot, but they have Americanized it by adding frosting. I can make it, too, but it never tastes quite as good as my dad's. (He doesn't use a recipe).

Ice cream in Finland is a bit different than in the States. Here they use real cream, sell it in a box that deconstructs when you open it, and slice it to serve it. The ice cream doesn't have a lot of fillers, like cookies, fudge, etc., but it still tastes so good! My favorite flavor is pear.
Check back tomorrow to find out about Karjalan piirakkas and makkara.

Blog Cabin, Day 18--More Cabin Chores

I've never found household chores as satisfying anywhere else as they are here. I like to work here. I want to work. And I can't figure out why. I even enjoy menial household chores, like:

doing dishes:Without a sink and running water, dishes aren't quite as easy. To do them, we boil lake water in the sauna stove, then pour it, along with cold lake water, into two buckets until the water is hot but not scalding. Add soap to one, and leave the other for rinsing. Scrub, rinse, then drip dry.

My favorite part of doing dishes is dumping the water over the balcony:

cleaning rugs:
To clean rugs here, you lay the rug on the dock, folded so it fits, and with a bucket, throw water on it to get it wet. Then you squirt some mänty suopa on the rug and scrub it with a bristly brush. Mänty supoa is an all-natural cleaner than is safe enough to pour directly in the lake. We use it a lot here, being so close to the lake with no plumbing. After all folds of the rug are scrubbed, you take buckets and buckets of water and throw it on the rug to rinse out the soap. Then you lay it over the dock railing to dry in the sun. I really enjoyed cleaning the rug I just bought until the paarmas discovered I was there and sent out troops. Soon I was flailing my arms around, all over my head, trying to shoo them. We've recently dubbed it the paarma dance. And then I was annoyed.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Blog Cabin, Day 17--New Tricks

Pappa and Spencer made a new swing together. I encouraged it, hoping that Spencer would practice pumping and learn to swing himself. He's five--he should be able to do it by now! For the two weeks we've been here, he has begged people to push him rather than try to do it himself. Then suddenly yesterday, out of nowhere, he did it. Something just clicked.Maybe it was because I told him that I saw two kids who were 3 or 4 years old who were swinging by themselves at the park last week. Maybe it was because I kept telling him that if he didn't learn before kindergarten, then no one would push him during recess, and the other kids might make fun of him. Or maybe he just got tired of us telling him that we won't do it anymore. Whatever it was, I'm sure glad he can do it!

I've been putting off serious potty training with Waimea for months now. I made half-hearted efforts, by wasn't devoted to doing it. Being here was the perfect opportunity to make it my primary focus. And now, after less than 3 weeks, I can say she is officially potty-trained. She now refuses to wear a diaper, and will even grab one out of my hands and throw it far from me when I try to put one on her. (I have to slip one on her after she's asleep, just in case of a middle of the night accident). She's woken up dry for a good week and a half now, hasn't had ANY accidents in over a week now, and now tells me when she needs to go potty. Both kinds. She will even wake up in the wee hours of the morning, tell me she needs to go, goes, and then goes back to sleep. I've even taken her into town and been gone for 6+ hours with no accidents. I mean, really--it's just about perfect.And all it took was some serious devotion the first week to sitting her on the potty every few hours, keeping her in panties, and not letting her get off her potty until she went. I think it helped that for the first week I sat the potty on the lake shore, so that when she sat on the potty, her feet were in the water. Slowly I moved the potty away and to different locations, and now she will go just about anywhere. In her potty, anyway. We'll see how things are when we return to NJ and she doesn't have her little "princess potty" anymore.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Blog Cabin, Day 16--A Day of Odd Experiences

We woke up to rain this morning. And cold. And wind. We normally have many days like this every year we come, but this year has been an odd year. I left New Jersey thinking I would have a nice break from the heat. Usually it is rare to have weather above 25 C. Since I have been here I think we have only gotten below 25 C maybe 3 or 4 times, and even then, it was still above 20. Most days this trip have been near 30. But today's high only reached 15 C. We had oatmeal for breakfast. Lit a fire in the fireplace. Odd. It would have been a great day for sitting inside and ....???? being cozy?

But we were all out of supplies--milk, lunch meat, bread, cheese--and with it being Sunday tomorrow, it meant a day into town today. Spencer was pretty set on going, and Waimea likes to do everything Spencer does, so it was me, the kids, and the (grand)parents who went into town today. I wasn't expecting anything out of the ordinary to happen, but we had an extraordinary day.

Here's a summary:

To start we had to put all our raingear on--rain pants, rain coat, boots--just to get to the car. When we got to shore, my dad forgot to raise up the motor, so it got stuck in the lake "mud." That was fun getting out.

We stopped at a second-hand store on our way into town. My kids found the helmets and stationary bikes/exercise equiptment and had a heyday. I'm sure all the Finns thought my kids to be unruly Russians. I'm sure it didn't help that I was taking pictures of it all, my dad was laughing hysterically and encouraging me to take more. I did find a woven rug (4x6 size?) for 5 euros, though. Not bad!When we got into town, we followed a 3-wheeled car just to get a picture (which turned out to not reveal that it was a 3-wheeled car), scaring the poor old man so when he pulled into his home, he wouldn't even get out of the car until we drove away. (I told my dad to stop, but he really wanted a picture of a 3-wheeled car). He probably though we were Russian mafia. Here's the best shot I got:
My kids embarassed me at the KKKK grocery store by throwing fits and making us the center of attention. (The Finns are so QUIET! I don't even think they have music playing in the background. My kids are always the loudest people in the store). I guess I shouldn't consider this an odd experience. I get embarassed by them a lot.

Spencer choked on some candy while waiting for my parents to get some paint at K-Rauta. Literally choked. I had to reach my finger in and sweep the stuff out.

My parents actually decided on the paint color for the cabin. If any of you know about my parents and paint, you'll know this is an odd experience!!

While in Prisma I wandered off for a bit. When I found my parents, they were speaking with someone. I recognized who it was by the back of his head--my dad's younger brother/look-alike, Juki. I thought it was my dad from behind, but knew it wasn't because I could see the front of him. Here is an unposed shot of them together, taken a few weeks ago:
We came out to our car after shopping at Prisma and found a key stuck in the passenger side of our car, bent. We were surrounded by Russian cars on all sides. We think they were trying to get my zebra rain boots out of the back. (What other possible explanation could there be?!)

Later at home, we went to the sauna, and while Waimea was in the water, she decided to push down on her ring floatie and lean over just so. She ended up upside-down with her legs flailing in the air, near drowning (she panics when water gets on her face). Needless to say, she was done with sauna for the night.

Despite the cold temps and wind, I still swam out 150 meters 4 times just to get some exercise. I came back into the sauna numb. I'm sure the neighbors thought we were insane. They didn't even venture into the water.

No sunset. Because there was no sun today.

So there you have it. My odd day. And here is something not-so-odd--my kids eating their ice cream after Prisma--it's the reason they come into town:

Finnish phrase for the day: "Älä seiso sateessa." Don't stand in the rain.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Blog Cabin, Day 15--Poop holes

There comes a time, every few weeks, where the outhouse bucket gets too full. A hole must be dug, the contents of the bucket disposed of and buried, and the bucket sanitized. Thankfully, my parents have always assumed the responsibility of taking care of this chore. (Seems to be a parent's lot in life to clean up their children's poop, regardless of age).

Here are my parents, reaching in to the back of the outhouse to retrieve the bucket:

Dumping the contents of the bucket:

Covering the contents with soil and leaves. Spencer really likes to help with this part of the job. Waimea is more interested in eating her Prisma candy:
I find it interesting that the greatest number of baby trees are located right around the outhouse and hole-digging area.

Where is Mike Rohe when we need him? What do you think? Is it worthy of being on "Dirty Jobs?"

Sunset, day 15
a storm's a brewing--tomorrow is only supposed to be 15 C
Finnish phrase for the day: "Missä vessa on?" Where is the bathroom?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Blog Cabin, Day 14--Feasting on Fish

Between the fish we caught yesterday, some fish we caught earlier this week, and the smoked muikku that my uncle Jorkku brought to us this morning, we have been feasting on fish.

My dad coats the fish in either lemon pepper or citrus grill seasoning (my personal favorite), and then fries it in butter over a wood stove.

The muikku can only be caught in nets. My uncle catches them in hundreds, and then smokes them in his smoker. Every year he brings us a batch (50-100 count), and we just down them. They are good cold or hot. And they are super easy to eat--we just take out the backbone, and then eat the rest of it.

Another important chore is cleaning out the sauna. It needs to be done every few weeks or else the floor gets really slimy, the benches get dirty, and it starts to stink. It's a great job for Spencer to help with, and it usually ends in a water fight, which is Spencer's favorite part.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Blog Cabin, Day 13-Fishing

I'm no expert fisherman. I don't even really like it most of the time. But here in Finland we only do it for about an hour every couple of days, and we do it after sauna when the kids are in bed. And it's just part of living on a lake. So I go.

After 4 previous attempts with no success, I finally had a lucky day. I caught 3 fish--2 ahven and 1 pike. Ahven are perch. Don't ask me why we call the perch by the Finnish name and the pike (hauki in Finnish) by the American name. That's just how we've always done it.

If you want a picture of what I'm talking about, watch the Disney movie "The Sword in the Stone." There's a part where Arthur gets turned into a fish and is chased by a bigger fish--the bigger fish is the pike and Arthur is the perch. Perch don't get very big, but they have sharp, spiny needles across their back. They taste better than the pike, but there usually isn't much meat on them. Pike, on the other hand, are larger and meaty. (And slimy). But you really have to flavor them well for them to taste anything other than bland.

It wasn't until I was well into my teens that I realized that there are many ways to fish. I don't know what they are other than the bob fishing, where you sit and stare at some bob until you see it go under. We don't do that; way too boring. We do cast fishing, where we cast a lure into the lake, preferable near the reeds, and immediately reel it back in. Exciting stuff, let me tell you.

As a child we used to go for hours and hours at a time. It seemed that way, anyway. I've never really been good at catching fish, so I spent a lot of time just watching. There are two experiences I remember better than the others. The first was when I was about 5 or 6. My older brother, Jeremy, didn't reel in his lure in far enough. So when he cast it, it was too long, and instead of flying out of the boat, it flew into his head. And got stuck there. We had to go to the hospital to get it surgically removed. I still have fears of fishing near people sometimes because I'm always afraid they are going to hook my head. So far only my clothing has been hooked.

The other experience was some especially hot "hellepäivä" day. The paarmas were out in full force. And I was not happy. I guess I must've been complaining a lot because my dad, in his strong accent, very forcefully said, "Katri, stop it! They are just paarmas!" (This story will only be funny to those who can imagine my dad's accent, or if you can imagine Arnold Schwarzenner saying it).

Here are some pictures from tonight:

My first fish:
Jokke, showing how it's done:Our lootSunset, Day 13

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Blog Cabin, Day 12--Moose Crossing

We come across these signs all the time:
In all the time I've been here over the years, I've never actually seen a moose. Reindeer, yes. Moose, no. Until today. Ironically, it didn't cross our path as we were driving on the road, it crossed as we were driving the boat to shore to go to town. Who'd have thought that moose could swim?
Or that they could swim so fast!! We couldn't believe it. We sat and stared in astonishment. And then tried to follow it in our motor boat. I never thought I'd be able to say that moose swim faster than I do.

Sunset, day 12:

Monday, July 19, 2010

Blog Cabin, Day 10--What happens in Finland on an average day

Mitä Suomessa tapahtuu keskimäärin yhden päivän aikana:

Lapsia syntyy 173 (173 babies being born)
Kuolee 134 henkilöä (134 people dying)
Solmitaan 72 avioliittoa (72 people getting married)
Maahan muuttaa 28 henkilöä (28 people moving into the country)
Maasta muuttaa 23 henkilöä (23 people moving out of the country)
Otetaan 36 avioeroa (36 people getting divorced)
Tapahtuu 127 tieliikenneonnettomuutta (127 people getting into a road accident)
10 986 henkilöä matkustaa lentokoneella (10, 986 people traveling on an airplane)
Valmistuu 129 asuntoa (Apartments being built)

You're probably thinking, "why is she posting this?" Because I have no pictures to post for today. And because I want you to try to say "tieliikenneonnettomuutta."

I do have a story to tell. While visiting in town today, I went with my kids for a short walk down to a playground by the beach near to where my aunt's home is. It was my first time (ever, I think) without being accompanied by a Finnish speaker. Thankfully no one spoke directly to me. But Spencer had a run-in with a little boy who was also playing on the playground. I had warned Spencer that no one would understand him if he tried to talk to someone. He seemed to understand that until he actually tried talking to the boy and the boy tried talking back. Kids aren't very understanding at this age--the boy pointed to Spencer and said something to his dad. His dad gave him a sharp reprimand, but I have no idea what it was. Spencer was still eager to try and play with the boy, but the boy would have nothing to do with Spencer.

I'm sure Spencer has completely forgotten the whole experience, but I still think it's funny to think about. I'm just glad I didn't have a similar experience.

Finnish phrase for the day: "Minä en puhu Suomea." I don't speak Finnish.

Blog Cabin, Day 11--Sauna

It's not supposed to be pronounced "saw-nah," it's "sow-nah," (sow, like a pig--or ow!, as in, ow! that hurt!) Sauna. And it was invented in Finland. (Although I'm sure the Swede's claim that, too). There are more than 2 million saunas here, and it is such an important part of the Finns' lives that they usually build the sauna before they build the house. Most homes have one, at least one is located in every apartment building, and it's an essential part of every Finn's summer home. Saturday is traditionally the sauna day, but when the Finns are at their summer home, they do sauna every day. Which is what we do.

Here's how it's done:

1. Light a fire in the sauna stove.
2. Keep adding wood periodically until the temperature reaches this:It usually takes 1-2 hours to heat up the sauna. Keep in mind that the thermometer above is in degrees CELCIUS--the Fahrenheit temperature would be 185. And that's not the hottest we do it at.

3. Sit and sweat. Thoroughly. Throw water on the stove. A lot. Stay until you can't stay any longer.

4. Jump in the lake and swim. On warm days like it has been, the swimming takes 10-15 minutes. I've even been swimming out about 150 meters or more (which, if any of you know of my irrational fear of lakes/murky water, is a big deal). On cold days, it can be a quick plunge. In winter you just sit outside or jump in the snow.

5. Repeat step 4 and 5 until you are beat and/or thoroughly relaxed.
6. Wash in the sauna using lake water.
7. Relax and dry off.
8. Drink and eat a little.

Sunset, day 11:
Finnish phrase for the day: "Tottuuko näihin paarmoija" Does one get used to these paarmas (biting flies)?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Blog Cabin, Day 9--This and That

On Friday, I stayed back at the cabin with the kids while everyone else went into town to pick out paint colors for the cabin. (The cabin was decked out in wonderful 70's fashion when my dad bought it, and my parents have been slowly renovating it). We had fun together, but most of the day was spent waiting for everyone's return. The kids had fun in the hammock, overlooking the lake, getting excited whenever a boat drove by.
There are multiple buildings on my dad's property. One of them is "the hut." It's a dinky little room, probably 3 meters by 4 meters, just enough for either two twin beds or one queen, and maybe a few feet of space otherwise. My brothers, Jokke and Erik, have claimed it as their own sleeping quarters. The door is kid-sized, so any adult has to stoop to get in. But it's the perfect size for kids, and even has an old-fashioned key. Therefore, my kids love it. They like to go play in it, and pretend it's their house. Then they go off "to work," aka go swing. There is also a tiny porch out front where they sit in some chairs and just pretend it's their house. It's really kind of cute. Thanks, Jokke, for letting them invade your space.

Waimea has taken a liking to cooking with Mummi. She's a good little helper. Thankfully, she has a short attention span.
We went fishing in the evening after sauna. Everyone declared it was my turn to drive the boat. Most of them didn't know that I had never done it. So here is my first boat-driving experience:

Sunset, day 9Finnish phrase of the day: "Mahtavan hyvää" Mighty good. (My dad's favorite phrase in English; it may possibly become the name of the cabin.)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Blog Cabin, Day 8--Blueberry picking

Underbrush in Finland is full of berries. Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, etc. Blueberries are especially abundant on our property. Most summers, when the weather is normal, blueberries are everywhere. This summer, because of the extreme heat and lack of rain, the blueberries are a little harder to find, and they are a lot smaller. But find them we did. Well, Andrea did, anyway. The rest of us lasted about 20 minutes before the paarmas and heat drove us inside. But Andrea picked enough (with the sproradic help of Waimea) for my mom to make Finnish blueberry pie.

Here is my mom's recipe that she adapted from my aunt Tupu:

1 1/3 cubes butter
3/4 cups sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla

Mix together, then add:

3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder

Mix, then pat into either a springform or tart pan.

Cover the crust with a generous amount of blueberries, fresh or frozen. Sprinkle with sugar. Then mix the topping:

1 1/2 cups sour cream
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
1/2 cup sugar.

Spread over blueberries. Bake 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes, or until the topping is set.

Try it; it's delicious!!

Sunset, day 8
Spencer's quote of the day: "Hey!! My underwear is crunchy!" (Reread laundry post, day 7)

Finnish phrase for the day: "Puhutko englantia?" Do you speak English?