Posts Tagged With: Finland

The Negatives of Living Abroad

One thing about living in a foreign country is that I’m very conscious about what I say about my host country.  I think about what I would want to say if I was back home and a foreigner expressed negative views about my country.  “If you don’t like it, leave.”  Of course, it’s not always that simple, I know.  But there’s certainly a bit of that protective instinct that takes over, even if you agree with the what the person is saying.

In general, I try to stay positive about my stay in Finland.  I actually really do like this country – I love how safe it is, I love the spring and summer seasons, I love that I can get anywhere in town I need to go just by walking.  I love the quietness of Finland, where there’s not a need to fill every silence with words.  I love long summer days and having 20 hours of daylight.  I love the random crazy holidays and competitions and television shows, the ones that make you go, “Only in Finland.”

I try very hard to defend this country when others say negative things, and I get very uncomfortable when fellow Americans say unfair things.  Have I said negative things?  Of course I have.  You can’t live somewhere and not occasionally express displeasure about your lot in life.  First World Problems like “I can’t find Italian Ice” and “I wish we were closer to The Big City.”  And of course I miss things about living in the US – being able to go to the grocery store at midnight on a Sunday, being able to find just about anything I could possibly be looking for, going to Target.  But negativity doesn’t make living abroad any easier, and it doesn’t account for all the great things that come with being an expat.

So, yes, I could start a category labeled “Things I can’t find in Finland” and fill it with a hundred posts.  But I’m not going to.  When I do complain, as I did in my last post, I try to do it with an ironic tone and convey that my complaint is really about nothing substantial.  Can I live without Italian Ice?  Of course I can.  I can live without a lot of things, I’ve found.  Tostitos Hint of Lime chips.  Jiffy peanut butter.  Good Tex-Mex.  I’ve learned how to substitute for things I can’t find, thanks to the Internet, and how to make my own Bisquick, limeade concentrate, egg nog.  I’ve survived two years without Wheat Thins and Thin Trisquits, I’m sure I can survive another couple.


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

Things I can’t find in Finland, Item #14

Italian Ice.  A light, tart, frozen substance.  I can get ice cream to my heart’s content, but I really would love a simple Italian Ice.

Let me be clear – this is not a pregnancy craving.  It’s simply that I like a good Italian Ice much more than I like ice cream, usually, and I feel a whole lot less guilty eating it.  And I love lemon “sweets” that refresh, rather than coat your mouth with cream.

Today at the grocery store I found one box of popsicles that looked less like “cream” and more like “ice.”  I got them home, ripped into one, and found it was still a bit creamy for my taste.  What’s a girl to do?

Whenever the other American women take a trip to the US, they ask if they can bring back anything for anyone.  I usually say no, except for some OTC drugs.  Unfortunately, frozen goods are simply not something anyone is willing to bring back to me.  But if anyone wants to give it a try…

Luigi’s Real Italian Ice, lemon flavor.  Mmmmmmmmmm………


(There is no “Things I can’t find in Finland #anything else,” I just chose a number at random.  However, perhaps I should make it a new category?)

Categories: Finland | Tags: , , , , | 11 Comments

Single Digits!

32 week bump

32 weeks

This week is Week 32, which means ideally I can count the number of weeks left on my hands.  I will state here and now, however, that I fully expect this kid to be as late as possible.  Call it a hunch.

Things are going well.  A quick rundown on the pregnancy:

  •  I’ve had some swelling recently, and my nurse told me to up my water intake from 2 liters a day to 3.  As if I wasn’t going to the bathroom enough as it is.  My ring is on and off my finger as needed.  My mother-in-law sent me a ring holder necklace for my birthday, just in time!
  • Walking for exercise is difficult – my tummy gets tight and sore, and, you know, with all the water, I have to stop every ten minutes to pee.  The weather is getting nicer, and I’d love to go for a long walk outside, but the bathroom availability is scarce.  Now I’m really glad we got the treadmill!
  • As of my appointment last week – week 31 – I’ve gained 30 pounds.  The nurse didn’t say anything, but she did get this look on her face.  I don’t know what to do about it.  I don’t feel I eat poorly – I certainly don’t shovel a pint of ice cream in my face twice a day.  My normal daily menu consists of an apple, a slice of toast with PB and honey, less than a carton of yogurt with muesli mixed in, and then whatever we have for dinner, including a veggie starter.  I’m drinking my water, and I’m on the treadmill for 40-50 minutes at least 3-4 days a week.  Other than the fact that Stephen keeps calling for that 17 pound baby (asshole), I can’t really account for the weight gain.  But I’m trying not to worry about it too much – my glucose test came back fine, so until the nurse freaks out, I’ll try to remain calm.
  • The nurse scheduled a sonogram last week to check the size of the baby – she seems to be a bit worried he’ll be on the big side. :-/  But the doctor said he’s average for his age, so hopefully no 17 pound baby, as Stephen keeps predicting.
  • Around Christmas, I had been having trouble breathing at night, so started using Breathe-right strips, but then I stopped.  Lately I’ve been having some issues, not with breathing, per se, but I’ve felt like oxygen hasn’t been getting to my brain – kind of light headed feeling, but not really feeling like I’m going to pass out.  Stephen made me start using the strips again, because apparently I’ve developed a bit of sleep apnea at night.  “You stop breathing for a minute, and it freaks me out!”  I told him he does that, too, and his response:  “I’m not growing a baby.”  Anyway, the strips have helped, and I haven’t had that oxygen-deprived feeling since.
  • My blood pressure has been remarkably good, considering I was on blood pressure medication before I got pregnant.  My nurse is always so excited about my blood pressure – “It’s so good!” she says every time.  We’ll see if it shoots up in the next few weeks – I’ve read that it can do that in the third trimester.

I’ve been working on sewing some burp cloths, but ran into a small bump (er, burp!)  last week.  I’m adjusting my construction plan and hope to get them all sewn up this week.  Stephen doesn’t get it – “You’re making cute things the baby is just going to puke on.”  Well, yeah, but it’s a small thing I can do.  His mother pointed out that I haven’t had the opportunity to do a whole lot of nesting, and I guess she’s right – I guess that’s what this is.  Since we’re in an apartment, overseas, making a nursery seems kind of a waste.  Besides, the baby will more than likely be in the room with us until next February, which is currently the “go home to the US” date.  So, no nursery decorating.  We’re also trying to keep the amount of baby stuff small, for the same reason – the kid won’t need much before 7 months, which is when we’re currently slated to  go home, so why buy a bunch of stuff?  Now if we sign up for another year, we’ll have some serious purchases to make.

The other issue – the one that’s causing me the most stress – is that we’re supposed to be moving apartments soon, but we don’t know when.  We’ve put off buying a bunch of baby stuff, because why buy it then move it?  But I’m getting close to the “baby could come at any time” time, and we don’t even have things like diapers.  We figure even if we find out about a new apartment this week, it’ll still be about a month before we’re in the new place, and that puts me around Week 35.  Week 35, and I don’t have diapers, a car seat, a thing to clean the baby’s nose out, or things I’m going to need postpartum.  Oh, and I want to make a bunch of meals to freeze, but our current freezer is tiny, so I need to wait until we have a bigger freezer.

If I start thinking about it too much, I start really stressing.  Oddly, the fact that we don’t have what we need stresses me out more than the thought of labor and childbirth.  I’m still remarkably calm about that.

We did get the baby box, though!!  Photos to come soon – I finally gave in and started washing the clothes, so once they’re all clean and folded I’ll take a picture.  But that link will show you essentially what I got.  Since I’m not part of the Finnish healthcare system, I had to buy it off someone else.  Still, it’s totally a Finnish experience I want!  🙂

So we’re set on a bed for the baby, we certainly have plenty of clothes to start off with, and really, as long as I don’t have any problems breastfeeding, newborns don’t need a whole lot.  So hopefully we’ll be able to make do – but we still need those diapers and a car seat….

Stephen sent this to me last week, and I got a good giggle out of it:

Baby Translator (may not be SFW)


Categories: Here Comes Baby | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Random things making me happy lately

  • Love, love, loving this New Orleans style cover of “Sweet Child of Mine,” complete with clarinet:
  • This one has made the rounds online, but it’s a video of magician (Finnish!) making dog treats disappear.  I love the ones where the dog looks at the camera/owner, like, “WTF?”
  • Another Finnish related video – this Jimmy Kimmel commercial break cracked me up.  He talks to a couple of Finns in his audience and finds out they’re not the most chatty of guys.  Q: “What do you do [in Finland]?”  A: “I work.  I live.” Q: “You have short conversations?”  A: “Yeah.”  Well, he answered the question….  (I was seriously giggling so hard at this!  “That’s just how Finns are.”  Indeed!!)
  • Thanks to a friend notifying me about it, I got to take an online seminar last week about giving birth in Finland.  It was geared towards foreigners, focusing on the way pregnancy and childbirth is done here that may be different from other parts of the world.  The class was run by a doula, Finnish by birth, who had spent some time in the US, and come to find out she does online childbirth classes in English!  I was already looking into online childbirth classes, because while they do have classes locally, they are not in English.  When I found out this doula did them, I jumped on the opportunity.  Much better to get a more local understanding of childbirth than a US based class could offer.
  • Speaking of, I’m officially in my third trimester!  Baby J is getting stronger, and he’s still fairly low.  I tend to feel him moving primarily below my belly button, with occasional kicks on the upper right side.  I never feel him on the upper left.  I also often feel something knobby about a quarter inch directly above my belly button – a knee, perhaps, or an elbow?  I wish I could figure out how he’s situated in there.  I’ve started getting more pregnancy symptoms – swelling legs/ankles/feet, mild heartburn.  As long as the kid stays off my bladder, I’ll survive.  (I think he was sitting on it last week like Miss Muffet on her tuffet.  For two days I couldn’t go ten minutes without needing to pee.)
  • The weather is getting warm again – it was almost 50F today, I think.  We may need to take the down comforter off the bed – we already sleep with the bedroom window cracked open at night, and I’ve had it open over the last couple of days, as well.  The afternoon sun streams in the windows from about 2-7pm, and it really warms the place up.
  • I’ve got some baby projects in the works, including burp cloths and washcloths and a diy-Moby wrap.  I asked my mom to get me some fusible fabric, the kind you can run through your printer and iron onto clothing.  I’ve “made” a few onesies, and I have to say, they are so darn cute!  I’m totally geeking out, have plans for Firefly and Dr Who and Buffy related designs, but here’s one that’s not a total copyright infringement:
  • Onesie with bird and worm

What’s making you happy lately?  Any fun videos or blogs or events in your life?

Categories: Random | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Angel Food Cupcakes – Personal Kitchen Challenge #19

The problem with making egg nog at Christmas is that you have a ton of leftover egg whites to deal with.  Last year I made fortune cookies with said egg whites – this year I really wanted to make angel food cake.  Only one issue:  I don’t have the correct pan with me here in Finland, and I really didn’t want to go out and buy one, since I have one in storage back home.

So I did some searching and found a recipe for Angel Food Cupcakes – perfect!  I followed this recipe from, topping them with fresh whipped cream and fresh berries.  Of course, the recipe called for cream of tartar, to help stabilize the egg whites.  That’s one of the things that kept me from making angel food cake last year – cream of tartar doesn’t seem to really exist in Finland.  So last summer I asked my mother-in-law to bring me some from the US, so I would be prepared if I needed it in the future.

I made the batter, filled the cupcake tins, and couldn’t help but but lick my finger.  I know I shouldn’t have, raw egg whites and everything, but it’s just a habit – you scrape the spoon with your finger, and when you’re done, you lick your finger before washing up.  Don’t tell me you don’t do it, too!  Anyway, I only did it once, because then I remembered I shouldn’t be doing it, and I scooped up a spoonful of batter and fed it to Stephen.  It tasted like marshmallows!!

For the topping, I used a pint of heavy cream, 3 tbsp of sugar, and 1+tsp vanilla extract, whipped it all up (it took forever!) and felt no guilt licking that bowl.  Fresh raspberries and blueberries made the cupcakes colorful and even tastier.  

Angel Food Cupcakes

Cupcake with raspberries

I’m intentionally challenging myself in the kitchen, working with new ingredients, attempting more challenging dishes, and doing it all while grocery shopping in a foreign language. Read more about my Personal Kitchen Challenge here.

Categories: Personal Kitchen Challenge | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

What’s so great about Finland?

Thanks to facebook, I stumbled across this BuzzFeed article:  12 Surprising Things In Which Finland Is The Best In The World.  I felt the need to share, and comment on parts of the list:

  1. Least corrupt government in the world.  We just got back from a trip to Prague, where we asked one of our tour guides about the Czech Republic getting on the Euro.  Our tour guide told us that Czech Republic is one of the most corrupt countries in the world, with top-down corruption, and until they get it somewhat under control, they won’t be allowed to use the Euro.  I didn’t think much of it at the time, but I find it interesting that Finland is the least corrupt government in the world.  Not surprising, though (see #10 below).
  2. Most heavy metal bands per capita.  Not being a heavy metal fan myself, I could never have name a band (or singer) from Finland.  My husband, however, has been an Apocalyptica fan for years, and we have friends that used to live here who knew (and went to see) a lot more bands.
  3. The best education system in the world.  I think this is well know by now, with so many articles about it lately.  It’s interesting, because the kids seem to have a lot more freedom and spend less time in the classroom.  I’m always seeing 12-year-olds out and about during what I think of as “school hours,” and the high school kids seem to be let go early or allowed to come in late all the time.  But I think part of it is the integrity and honesty that Finns exemplify.  (Again, see #10.)
  4. The country with the heaviest coffee consumption in the world.  Which is kind of funny, considering every non-Finn I talk to says the coffee here sucks.
  5. (skipping – no comment)
  6. Most saunas per capita.  3.3 million saunas for 5.3 million people.  Most apartments, and probably all houses, have a sauna.  Those apartment buildings without private saunas (like mine) have a sauna in the building.  Then there are the saunas at office buildings, hotels, and gyms, plus the public saunas.  Oh, and let’s not forget the saunas at the summer cottages that everyone has!  Stephen went to a coworker’s house one night, and there were two saunas there.  So, yeah, lots of saunas.
  7. Best country in the world to be a mother.  Well, obviously I’m quite glad to hear this one, even though I won’t reap some of the benefits that come along with being a Finnish mother.  Low risk for maternal death, low infant mortality rate, and let’s not forget the lengthy maternity leave (and paternity leave) available.  Kela, the Finnish healthcare, pays a maternity allowance for 105 working days, starting at least 30 days before the delivery date.  Paternity leave is good for up to 54 working days.  Plus, some towns will pay you to have children.
  8. The country drinking the most milk per capita.  Finns often drink a glass of milk with their lunch or dinner.  In fact, the prenatal vitamins here don’t have nearly the amount of calcium in them as vitamins from the US, I think specifically because Finns drink so much more milk.  (The Finnish vitamins I picked up have 300mg Calcium per dose.  I get mine at the healthfood store, and they’re from either the US or the UK, and they have 650mg per dose.)
  9. (Skipping – no comment)
  10. Helsinki is the most honest city in the world.  I can’t comment on Helsinki in particular, but I can comment on Finland, in general.  My friends and I often comment on, when we go to a cafe to eat, how safe we feel about leaving our purse at the table while we go to the register to order.  I try not to let myself get into that mindset and be so lax, but it’s simply safe enough to do so.  One day a few months ago, there were two purses on top of the table about 5 feet from the door, while the owners were about 20 feet away in the other direction, not even looking at them.  It would be so easy for someone to come along, grab the bags, and be long gone before anyone noticed.  But it doesn’t happen here.  The locks on our bikes are ridiculous, but they don’t get stolen.  People leave cars unlocked, strollers outside (heck, they leave babies outside), bags unattended.  I love it here.
  11. (skipping – no comment)
  12. (skipping – no comment)

The article goes on to note other lists in which Finland is high up, but not number 1.  One of the happiest countries in the world.  In top 10 of Candy consumption (ohmygosh, if you could see the candy stalls here – it’s insane!!).  Second best workers in the world (again, I will point you to #10).  Second best in gender equality.

Overall, Finland really is a wonderful country to live in.  I’m so glad we got the opportunity to experience it firsthand!

(Note:  I did not link to or cite any references above, because they’re all referenced in the original BuzzFeed article.  Please go check the article out for yourself to learn more!)

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

World’s 50 Most Unusual Churches

A couple of days ago, I saw a slideshow on HuffPost titled “The World’s 50 Most Unusual Churches.”  I’ve been to a couple of them, but the biggest surprise was the one they missed one.

The Churches on the list that I’ve been to:

The one they missed:  Temppeliaukio Kirkko (The Rock Church) in Helsinki.  Even Stephen was surprised.  He walked in while I was scrolling through the list, and said, “Oh, yeah, the rock church in Helsinki has to be on there.”  It didn’t make the list!  WTH?

Temppeliaukio Kirkko is built into a rock outcropping and is topped with a gorgeous copper dome.  Windows above the rock face let natural light in, and the rock walls have small trickles of water seeping through in places, making it seem like the rock is a living thing.  The acoustics in the round church are amazing – we were there one day when a pianist was playing, I can only imagine what a full orchestra would sound like.  According to wikipedia, the rock church “is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city; half a million people visit it annually.”

Rock Church, interior, Helsinki

Rock Church, interior, Helsinki

The Rock Church, Helsinki

Temppeliaukio Kirkko, rear exterior view

Check out this pinterest search for more photos of this church (be sure to check out this one of the exterior at night).

Do you know of any unusual churches that were left off the list?

*Okay, I haven’t been to Sagrada Familia yet, but I will be there this month, so I’m counting it.  🙂

Categories: Finland | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Sum Sunday, July 14, 2013



  • Say you have a flathead screwdriver in your hand, but then you notice that you’re dealing with a Phillips screw.  Why do you now need to change to a Phillips screwdriver?  I mean, the flathead screwdriver will still work (assuming the tip isn’t too wide for the screw).  I never really understood that.  Of course, I’m just as likely to use a butter knife for all my screwing needs…  (Oh, wow….)
  • After listening to a podcast this week where they talked about the movie The Heat, I’m dying to see it.  It doesn’t come to our local theater here until the end of September.  Boo!

Writing Progress:

  • I’ve been doing well this week, keeping up with the Magic Spreadsheet, writing every day.  Yes, indeed…
  • I’ve been reworking a story idea I had years ago – wrote about 15-20k words with my usual MO (strong beginning idea, no middle, rush to the end).  So far, I feel pretty good about it.
  • Random crazy search terms this week:  “Hot Mexican Men,” “Popular Handguns,” and “DEA information.”

What’s Making Me Happy this week:

  • I’m really happy I’m not in the US right now, to be perfectly honest.  Between the abortion circus in Texas and North Carolina, the recent Supreme Court decisions, and the Zimmerman trial, I’m quite glad to be thousands of miles away and not have to hear about it nonstop.  It’s bad enough hearing the bits I do hear…
  • On the flip side, I’m quite happy living in Finland.  According to this recent article in The Atlantic, Finland is home to “people who have for decades opted for equality and security over keeping more of their paychecks.”  I think that’s kind of boiling it down too much, but I’ve often noted that this is more of a “What’s best for everyone” state than a “What’s best for me” state.  The article goes on to say that Finland is “inarguably one of the world’s most generous – and successful – welfare states, the country has a lower infant mortality rate, better school scores, and a far lower poverty rate than the United States, and it’s the second-happiest country on earth.”  There are arguments that Finland has a smaller population than the US and is much less diverse, in terms of race, distribution of wealth, and political views.  All of this is true.  But it’s a damn good country to live in, regardless.

What’s making you happy this week?

Categories: Random | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Family Vacation (Part 1)!

Stephen’s parents came to visit us over the last few weeks, and it was great seeing them!  We spent a few days around Rauma, then took the ferry to Stockholm, and ended our trip with a couple of days in Helsinki.  So much to see, so little time!

Nordic Museum, Stockholm Sweden

Nordic Museum, Stockholm Sweden

The obligatory trip to the Vasa Museum in Stockholm -

The obligatory trip to the Vasa Museum in Stockholm –

I had heard wonderful things about this museum, and it certainly is worth a visit!

I had heard wonderful things about this museum, and it certainly is worth a visit!

Changing of the guard, Royal Palace, Stockholm Sweden

Changing of the guard, Royal Palace, Stockholm Sweden

Changing of the guard, Royal Palace, Stockholm Sweden

Changing of the guard, Royal Palace, Stockholm Sweden

Changing of the guard, Royal Palace, Stockholm Sweden

Changing of the guard, Royal Palace, Stockholm Sweden

We also went to Skansen (the open air museum), the Swedish History Museum, and took a lovely canal cruise.

One afternoon, I went out to the Woodland Cemetery, a UNESCO site.  It was lovely, but it was still a cemetery – I didn’t see why it deserved World Heritage status.  The cemetery was split by a road, or so I thought.  When I crossed the road to the other side, I found the actual Woodland Cemetery.  I have no idea which cemetery I was at to begin with!

*Not* the Woodland Cemetery (but lovely in it's own right)

*Not* the Woodland Cemetery (but lovely in it’s own right)

Woodland Cemetery

The *real* Woodland Cemetery

Woodland Cemetery

Woodland Cemetery

While in Helsinki, we went to Suomenlinna (the fortress island off the coast), as well as Seurasaari (the open-air museum).  My back was absolutely killing me, so I left the camera at the hotel for the most part while we were there.  I did take the obligatory photos of the Cathedral, though:


Helsinki Cathedral

Part 2 of the family vacation will come in a couple of weeks, when my mom comes for a visit.  So excited!

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

Sum Sunday, June 16, 2013


  • The search history of a writer is really something to behold.  I’d love to know what kind of dossier the PRISM program can put together from a writer’s information.  I remember this fun drawg on the blog c’mere, and I think of it every time I do some crazy search.  One day this last week I searched the following terms:  “Assassination attempts on the President,” “Undetectable poisons,” and “Ukranian word for penis.”  Yeah….

Funny Sh*t Online:

Writing Progress:

  • I’ve been listening to this podcast that keeps mentioning a “magic spreadsheet” for writing, so decided to check it out.  It’s kept on Google Docs, and it’s basically a point system to get you to write every day.  I decided to give it a go…then promptly missed three days.  I’m going to keep trying, though, and I hope it makes a difference.
  • I spent most of this week working on a scene outline and back story for a new novel, tentative title:  Assassin. I’ve been bouncing ideas off Stephen all week to see how it looks outside my head, but I still have some kinks to work out.

What’s Making Me Happy:

  • Adobe put together a stunt to promote Creative Days on June 11. “The Adobe pranksters – a photographer and a Photoshop wizard – installed both the digital ad board and several cameras in the stop, then waited for unsuspecting bus patrons to notice themselves get digitally retouched and morphed every which way in real time.”  Very cute, and it happened at a bus stop in Finland!  Embedded video below-
  • 20 hours of sunlight.  Midsummer is next weekend, and then the days will start getting shorter again, but in the meantime, we have very little darkness around here:
Official sunrise on Saturday, June 15th, was 3:56am.  This photo was taken at 3:30am.  Although the sun set at 11:15pm the night before, the time inbetween is officially twilight, as it never really gets dark.

Official sunrise on Saturday, June 15th, was 3:56am. This photo was taken at 3:30am. Although the sun set at 11:15pm the night before, the time in between is officially twilight, as it never really gets dark.


Categories: Random | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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