Author Archives: Sara

Lapland, Part 3 (of 3)

On our last night in Lapland, we splurged and stayed in one of the glass igloos at the Arctic Snow Hotel. You can spend the night in the snow hotel itself, which stays at a constant temperature of about 30°F.  The glass igloo, on the other hand, was nice and warm, especially during the day when the sun turned it into a greenhouse! Beware, though:  the bathrooms are freezing at night! Even so, the igloos were absolutely lovely.

Interior, glass igloo, Arctic Snow Hotel

They are fairly new, built last fall and opened to guests in December. The showers are amazing, with fabulous water pressure and optional rainfall shower head. The igloos are equipped with an aurora alarm that buzzes when the northern lights make an appearance, so you can fall asleep and not have to worry about missing them. And since the igloos have adjustable beds, there’s no need to put your coat and boots on if you don’t want to, just crank the bed up and enjoy the show!

Northern Lights, seen from glass igloo

I do have one complaint, and you might be able to tell what it may be in the photo above. It seems the people staying in the other igloos didn’t know that in order to see the stars and the northern lights better, it’s best to minimize your own light pollution. In other words, turn your flipping lights off, dumbasses! I left a comment card with the hotel saying they should “suggest guests turn lights off after 10pm unless absolutely necessary.”

Glass igloos, lights ablaze

Another very minor thing I found funny – the bathrooms have frosted glass, for privacy while you do your business, which is appreciated (although, the ceiling is open to the room, so you had better be comfortable enough with your traveling companion if you’re going to do anything particularly noisy or smelly!). However, just along the edge of the bathroom there was a slight gap, so that this was my view as I got out of the shower, naked.

IMAG0409

(Made me wonder if others could see in!)

 

In addition to the glass igloos, there’s the snow hotel itself. It’s built new each year, so the rooms look different year to year. You can visit the snow hotel easily from Rovaniemi (it’s about half an hour away by car, and many of the tour companies offer this tour), and of course it’s tourable if you’re staying on site. The intricate designs are spectacular!

Room, Arctic Snow Hotel

Room, Arctic Snow Hotel

IRoom, Arctic Snow Hotel

There’s also a super friendly reindeer on site:

Reindeer

Since Baby J was sick, we opted to have dinner in the lodge (possibly our best meal on our entire trip), but they also have a restaurant in the snow hotel, along with an ice bar. The ice bar doesn’t open until 10pm, though – we would have had a drink there if there had been a bartender on site in the afternoon.

Ice restaurant, Arctic Snow Hotel

Ice restaurant, Arctic Snow Hotel

Ice Bar, Arctic Snow Hotel

Ice Bar, Arctic Snow Hotel

It’s pricey, but certainly a once in a lifetime experience.  We saw a shooting star, a couple of satellites, and so many stars.  And, of course, if you get to see the northern lights, it’s even better!

Night sky

Night sky

IMG_2873

Check out Part 1 and Part 2 of our trip for more photos!

Categories: Finland, Travels | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

This or That: London or Paris?

You must pick one, and you must explain why.

I’m asking this one for myself, actually, having never been to either (other than driving to CDG in Paris – oy!). We’ve been considering a trip to one this year, but not sure which would be better/easier with a baby. From what I hear, Paris is smaller, everything is closer together, whereas London is very spread out. But in London, there’s less of a language barrier. Eating in Paris with a baby who’s bedtime is 7:30 will be difficult, since many restaurants don’t open until later.

So, what say you, readers, which city do you like more? Which would be easier with a baby? Let me know in the comments below, and you’ll be entered to win a 5×7 print of one of my favorite photos:

A view of Mont St Michel through the poppies

Mont St Michel, Normandy France

 

Last week’s This or That generated a lot of comments, and Coke is the clear winner! Kudos to Jay Dee for pegging the problem with Pepsi – it tastes like flat coke! The winner of the Northern Lights photo is Christie – Christie, I’ll get with you on FB to get your mailing address.  🙂

Categories: This or That? | Tags: , , , , | 8 Comments

Lapland, Part 2 (of 3)

Our second day in Lapland, we traveled about an hour southwest to the Ranua Zoo. A lot of the animals were sleeping, hiding, or hibernating, but we saw a lot of owls, and the polar bears were great! They seemed to think we had brought them some food in the form of a baby.

Polar bear

Fee Fi Fo Fum

Polar bear

I smell a little baby, Yum!

Polar bear

Did you bring me lunch?

"Did someone say lunch?" "They're not sharing."

“Did someone say lunch?”
“They’re not sharing.”

"Bastards." *sniff*

“Bastards.”
*sniff*

It was neat seeing polar bears in something close to their natural habitat:

Polar bears walking in the snow

On day 3, we went to a husky park and went dogsledding. We got a brief lesson in driving, including the suggestion that if the sled tips over, to hold onto it, because the dogs will keep going and leave you behind. Stephen drove while I held on to Baby J for dear life – and if the sled had tipped over, I would rather walk than be dragged along by the dogs, TYVM.

While on the trail, our guide stopped to let everyone change drivers (we opted not to), and he pointed up. “Look.”

This is the one photo I didn’t get that I so wish I had. We looked up and saw a crescent sun. Yes, a crescent sun, because where we were, right at the Arctic Circle in Finland, we had an 85-90% solar eclipse happening. It was just cloudy enough that you could look directly at it and see it without, you know, burning your retinas.  It. Was. Awesome.

Meanwhile, Baby J fell asleep on the sled.

On Day 4, we went out to Santa Claus Village – Home of the REAL Santa Claus! 😉 We visited with Santa for a bit, and Baby J was fascinated.

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I sent out a few postcards to friends’ kids, letting them know I had met with Santa and he said to tell them hi. We had intended on going on a reindeer ride, but Baby J was sick, so we opted out.

Side note:  If you have kids that you’re trying to break of the pacifier addiction, I thought this was a really neat idea. Have them send the pacifier to the baby elves at Santa’s Village!

Bin of Pacifiers with note

We may not have gotten to take a reindeer ride, but that night there was a reindeer race in Rovaniemi! We found a spot to watch from, and I got the camera ready. The first race happened so fast I literally missed it – man those suckers can move!! Was able to catch the second race, though:

Stay tuned for Part 3 of our trip, with photos from the Snow Hotel and more Northern Lights!

Read Part 1 and see my pictures of the Northern Lights!

Categories: Finland, Travels | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Visiting Lapland – Part 1 (of 3)

Lapland, home of Santa and reindeer and the northern lights. And after three years of living in Finland, we finally made it!

We left home on March 17 and took the overnight train to Rovaniemi. Incidentally, the 17th was the night the northern lights went crazy! My neighbors took photos from our backyard, they were even seen as far south as Helsinki! And I was stuck on a train. *eye roll*

The train ride was nice, the beds were actually pretty comfy. The cabin was tiny, of course, but what do you expect? We had a private bathroom with a shower, but there wasn’t any hot water, at least on our trip north. The train had a car carrier, so we were able to take our car with us. Load it up, sleep the night away, then drive the car off the train in the morning. It’s a pretty nice setup!

Sleeping cabin on train

Our cabin on the train – Stephen’s leg is propped against the left wall (to give you an idea about the size).

We arrived in Rovaniemi around 11am the next day, too early to check into our hotel. So we went for lunch, then checked out the Arktikum museum. The museum was…boring. Or I was tired. One of the two. Actually, the museum had some neat exhibits, and it would be a lot of fun with a kid around 7 years old. Note to self – take Baby J back when he’s older!

Ceiling of Arktikum Museum

The ceiling of the Arktikum museum

I braved the cold that first night and went out to a spot I had read about online, on the river by the museum. I set up the camera on the tripod and spent some time fiddling with the camera settings. Once I had the camera focused, I stood back and waited.

Night Sky

Night Sky, Rovaniemi

It was a mostly clear night, just some thin high clouds every once in a while. I was still close enough to the city to have quite a bit of light pollution, but I could still see the stars. I watched the thin clouds come and go for about an hour, then I saw one cloud that looked a bit…odd. And was that a hint of green? I took a picture, waited for the 30 second exposure, then checked the screen. I’ll be damned – that was it.

Northern Lights, Aurora Borealis

My first glimpse of The Northern Lights!

And this is where I want to address the issue. The Northern Lights, at least what I saw, despite the photo above, were not what I would call amazing. To the naked eye, they looked like exactly what I described earlier – light bouncing off high thin clouds. Yes, some of them had the minutist green tint to them, but for the most part, they just looked like clouds. The camera, with a longer exposure, is able to bring out the colors, and they are beautiful. But standing out there in the cold at midnight, I was quite disappointed. They didn’t dance across the sky like I had heard.  I found a post by another blogger that talks about the color of the auroras, and the author does a good job at explaining the difference between what your eyes see and what the camera sees.  I just wish I had read it prior to seeing it for myself – maybe then I wouldn’t have been disappointed!!

Regardless, I am glad I got the chance to see them and photograph them. I feel like I did fairly well with focusing in the dark, and with exposure, although they may be a bit overexposed. The pictures turned out amazing, even if the real time experience wasn’t as spectacular as I had hoped.  🙂

Northern Lights, Aurora Borealis, Rovaniemi, Lapland, Finland

Northern Lights, Aurora Borealis, Rovaniemi, Lapland, Finland

Northern Lights, Aurora Borealis, Rovaniemi, Lapland, Finland

Stay tuned for Part II of our trip!

Categories: Finland | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

This or That: Coke or Pepsi?

You must pick one – bonus points for telling me more about your choice.

Me? I’m a Coke girl all the way. Most people I know are Coke people, and I wonder if it’s a regional thing. Where I come from, “Coke” includes all flavors and colors of the fizzy drink category, as in:

  • “Get me a Coke.”
  • “What kind?”
  • “Sprite.”  *actual conversation

Sadly, at some point in the last ten years, after moving out of Texas, I switched to “soda” as the all-encompassing category. Doesn’t make me less of a Coke person though. It’s my go-to medication for migraines and hangovers, and NO, Pepsi does NOT cut it. Not even close.

Is Monopoly money ok?

So what’s your choice: Coke or Pepsi? Leave a comment below by next Thursday and you’ll be entered to win a 5×7 print of this photo, taken on our recent trip to Lapland (where I had a hard time finding a Coke, those darn Pepsi people…):

Northern Lights

Winner of last week’s This or That is Tracie!  Tracie, email me your address and I’ll get that photo sent out to you (I also have a little something else for you!).  sara_sligar at hotmail dot com

Categories: This or That? | Tags: , , , | 11 Comments

Inspiration Tuesday

Castle Ruins

Ruins, Erice Sicily

 

Before moving to Finland, I had never been out of the US (except Mexico and a Caribbean Cruise).  Despite that, or maybe because of it, I’ve always had a fascination with ruins, particularly castle ruins.  Imagining what the walls and floor and ceiling used to look like, who lived there, how they lived, touching a wall and wondering how many other people had touched that same spot over the last five or six or ten centuries, who they were, what thoughts were going through their head.

A former beau told me this story from his visit to Rome.  His tour guide took the group into this back alley, nothing special about it, no signs or markings or anything.  There was a well there.  She showed them this smooth spot on the well, had them run their hand over it.  “Feel how smooth it is, how it’s worn down?  That’s because people for centuries have been coming here for water, and that’s where they rested their hand while pulling up the bucket.”

I love that story.  It’s so remarkable in it’s normalness.

Your actions, even the smallest, most common ones, can reverberate through time, into the future.  They can connect you to a stranger, make them feel something.  Inspire them.

Categories: Inspiration Tuesday | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Easter in Finland

This is what happens when you quickly, with about two hours before an Easter egg hunt, make an Easter basket and decorate some eggs. Pretty impressed with myself, actually.  I just grabbed what I had on hand in the craft pile and went crazy.

Easter eggs in basket

After four Easters here in Finland (has it really been 4?!), we finally tried mämmi, a traditional Easter dish here.  Mämmi is made with rye flour and rye malt (among other things) and allowed to sweeten naturally before being baked.  I picked some up from the grocery store and put it in a bowl with some vanilla cream.  It tastes like molasses, and after the first bite Stephen was done with it, but I finished the small bowl, and although the texture was a bit grainy, I will say that the taste grew on me with each bite.

Mammi

Easter is a great weekend to travel around here, because both Friday and Monday are a holiday, so it’s a good, long four day weekend.  The stores are also closed for most of the time – Friday, Sunday, and Monday, all day, since those are official holidays.  On Saturday, the grocery store is open, but the Post Office and Liquor Store are both closed.  It makes me wonder what the sales figures are on the Thursday beforehand, since everyone is out shopping like Southerners bracing for an inch of snow…

Oddly, we’ve never traveled for Easter Weekend, mostly because we put off planning anything until it’s too late.  Honestly, after our trip to Lapland a few weeks ago, we’re rethinking our travel plans for the year.  Traveling with a baby is hard!  I hope it was mostly because Baby J was sick, and it’s really not as difficult as it seemed.  Our takeaway lesson #1 was: get an apartment, don’t stay in a hotel.  Maybe that will help.  I should plan something relatively easy so we can find out.  Hmmm…..where to go…..

 

Categories: Random | Tags: , , , , | 7 Comments

This or That: Lie or Tell the Truth?

I’ve never been a big fan of April Fool’s Day, so I tend to ignore it as much as possible. I love the idea of a good gag, but it seems people get mean more often than not, so instead of a fun gag it’s a men-spirited practical joke. I just don’t see the fun in that.

As if April Fools Day wasn’t bad enough, apparently Tell a Lie Day is coming up in a couple of days. Because people dont lie enough as it is, we need to have a day dedicated to celebrating and encouraging lies. I just…I can’t even.

So here’s today’s This or That. Two scenarios.

  • One classic Hollywood: You see your best friend’s spouse kissing another person – do you tell your friend, or not?
  • And another classic: Your wife/best friend asks if this dress makes her look fat – do you lie or tell the truth?

Personally…Oy. That’s a rough one. Do I tell my friend her spouse was kissing someone else? Yes. Do I tell her that dress makes her look fat? “I don’t think that fabric would do anyone any favors. Here, try this dress instead.” Which is a yes.  I really dislike lying.

What about you? Lie or Tell the Truth? Let me know in the comments – everyone who comments by next Thursday will be entered into a drawing to win a 5×7 print of this photo:

Rauma, Finland, covered in frost.

Rauma, Finland, covered in frost.

Also, I need to announce winners of the last two giveaways!

  • For This or That: Chris or Liam – Jen, as the only blog commenter, wins! (I did have some other people comment on facebook, and Chris is apparently the winner all the way around. That’s okay – more Liam for me!) Jen will be receiving a lovely postcard I picked up in Rovaniemi!
  • For This or That: Chocolate or Vanilla – Megan wins a lovely postcard from Rauma!
Categories: This or That? | Tags: , | 7 Comments

Inspiration Tuesday: Nine in the Afternoon

I’ve always wondered if the Panic! At The Disco’s song “Nine in the Afternoon” was inspired by the Finnish summer.

9pm on a summer day in Finland.  Yes, really!

9pm on a summer day in Finland. Yes, really!

And for your listening/viewing pleasure:

Categories: Inspiration Tuesday | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

On Mombragging, the Finnish School System, and life

I’m so embarrassed. I had a friend come over last week to help administer Baby J’s medicine, and before she left I said, “Oh, look what he did for the first time today! He picked up the ball and put it in the hole and pushed it down! ….ohmygod, I’m that mom, I’m bragging, I’m so sorry.”

Apparently, the Finnish school system, long touted as being amazing, is changing its curriculum. They will be teaching by topic now rather than by subject, which seems…awesome. Instead of a history lesson and a science lesson and an economics lesson, let’s study the Black Plague and look at what happened, the science behind it, and the economic, political, and historical ramifications. To me, it seems like a much better use of time, and a way to keep kids more engaged. After all, life isn’t math and science and history, it’s events, and they affect and are affected by multiple things. (I think some home school studies do it this way as well, which I find intriguing…)

While in the hospital last week, Baby J got a jar of peaches. He had not tried them yet, because I was hadn’t seen them in the stores fresh (I have yet to buy jarred food for him). He enjoyed the peaches, but I may not be able to give them to him again, because for the rest of the day I was singing, “Peaches come from a can, they were put there by a man, in a factory dooooowwntoooowwn.”

I’m feeling really overwhelmed again, like I can’t cope and do everything I need to do. Part of it may be the “recovery” from vacation followed by a hospital stay, trying to catch up on everything. But part of it is certainly that Baby J is more mobile and curious and able, thus requiring a lot more watching. I used to be able to do dishes while he was awake, now I can’t have the dishwasher open or he’s in it. I used to be able to do laundry, now he’s pulling up on and mouthing the toilet. I can’t let him play on the landing while I’m on the computer, he’s in there with me playing with cables or trying to get himself run over by the office chair. And since naptime was supposed to be writing/office time, and now it’s dishes/laundry time….well, you see where I’m going with this. For a couple of months now, I’ve been playing with the idea of getting someone in to watch him a few hours a week, and its becoming more and more necessary, at least if I want to get anything accomplished. I think I may need to cut out a bit of time spent with Stephen in the evenings, as well.  😦

I’m almost done editing the photos from our trip to Lapland, so I hope to post about that soon. I took 399 photos (not including the ones I took on my phone), and I’ve edited that down to 177, 77 of which are photos of the Northern Lights. Those are actually the only ones I have left to edit, and they will likely take me a couple more days. Until then, I’ll leave you with this:

Northern Lights

 

Categories: Random | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments

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