The year that was (the other side of 2011)

Here is my other year:

January: Snorkeling is perhaps the scariest thing I have ever done. Not an experience I wish to repeat. An overwhelming feeling of ‘I’m going to drown’ destroyed the first few minutes of wonder.

February: As soon as the temperature falls to freezing I dry up. My skin looks ancient, my hair stands on end, I become a walking, talking static generator. The skin on my hands cracks and bleeds. The solution: smothering my hands with hand cream and popping them into cotton gloves overnight. Except I heat up and have to rip the gloves off because my hands are so sweaty.

March: See February.

April: My head was caught by the lid on the rubbish bin as it was closing. Result: headache which lasted a week. Prognosis: wait 2 more weeks then come back if you’re still having headaches.

May: Returned to doctor who recommended proper eye examination. Eye examination duly followed. Prognosis: left eye is doing all the work. Glasses and quickly!

June: Terrible sunburn to the small of my back. The cycling outfit rides up as I ride along…

July: Realise that body is not quite as resilient as it used to be. The mornings after the night before drag on a lot more these days.

August: Yet another eye exam, this time for my drivers licence. Reason: 45th birthday.

September: Another 45th anniversary inspection: work health this time. Prognosis: keep up the good work, watch out for the winter lazies…

October: Mammogram. I nearly pass out from the pain. Prognosis: all clear, come back in two years or earlier if you feel any suspect lumps.

November: Healthwise nothing exciting. Workwise: too much and no end in sight.

December: See November. Except there is an end in sight. Hooray!!!

Happy New Year / Hyvää Uutta Vuotta!!

Platform 11, Friday 0645

20111230-064355.jpg

Very quiet and far in the distance there is a circle of lights. Helsinki’s amusement park Linnunmäki is closed for winter. That doesn’t stop them from decorating all the rides with lights to see us through this dark season. The circle is the Helsinki Wheel (Ferris Wheel).

Soon my train is here, and hopefully I catch some zzz to make up for lost sleep last night 😦

The year that was (2011 in review)

The new year rapidly approaches. We have fireworks (and safety glasses) ready. We travel west this year to see the new year in with old friends. The menu is planned, the drinks have been organised. Snow would be nice. A little would go a very long way. The forecast is not promising. I may or may not post between today and the 31st. Likelihood of getting another post out of me this year is 50 /50 as Mr. 12 would say. Read on for the year that was…

January: We saw the New Year in onboard a ship sailing over the Atlantic. Once on the other side, we took in a few days in the parks of Orlando. I discovered two things: snorkeling is NOT my thing, scary fast rides are! It was to have been a once in a lifetime trip. However it looks like we’ll be repeating the journey. With a few changes. Stay tuned.

February: Plenty of snow in Helsinki. The Engineer escaped to Miami for a work gig while we dug our way out… Mr. 11 skated and swam through his spare moments.

March: The farmari (station wagon) went to the shop for repair and insurance covered a replacement car. I fell in love immediately! If ever we become a two car family and I get to choose … I know exactly what to get. It’s only got three doors. Totally impractical. I WANT!!!!

April: In 2010 we’d already taken our Platypus out of storage. Not this year. Easter came and went and still we couldn’t get to the sea. Training for my road races started and The Engineer kept himself busy with new servers and storage in the sky. I mean in the clouds. Something, somewhere, just not in this physical world.

May: The Engineer was basking in the Venice’s spring sun, while Mr. 11 and I celebrated May 1st in blustery, windy conditions. We watched Havis Amanda * get her foamy bath and I struggled to get online at the same time. Too many people in the one spot all using 3G. Platypus returned to the sea again. Finally…

June: My first road-race of the year. Seriously hot and sweaty by the end. My time was 15 minutes longer than the previous year. 30 + degrees in the air, 50 + degrees on the road probably had something to do with that. Mum and Dad arrived for their second visit to Finland, just in time for Midsummer **. They took off on a midsummer cruise around the Baltic while we took Platypus to a local guest marina and grilled up a storm. Mr. 11 became Mr. 12.

July: Two weeks in a cottage by the sea. A first for us, and not as bad as I had envisioned. Took some getting used to though, by the end of the second week we had a very nice routine. Sauna and a swim everyday helped. Mr. 12 attended his first concert: Roxette and of course in the spirit of all true concert goers has the t-shirt!

August: I decide that if I’m moving, now is the time. I set in motion something that I’ve been talking about for over a year now. I’ve been thinking about it for many more. Mr. 12 starts 6th grade. The Engineer hits the road again after the summer holiday season draws to a close. We head east for the traditional end of summer party. Location was Kaunissaari (Beautiful Island) where we oohed and aahed to the fireworks. The neighbouring boat’s crew decided to party until dawn. I don’t mind that, if only they’d play some decent music 😉

September: We traveled to Estonia for a weekend away. Coming from Australia, where you need to fly 8 hours just to leave the country, it has always amazed me that a neighbouring country can be so close. Thanks to Schengen rules, there’s no passport control and very little in the way of customs inspections. The annual school sports day has a different approach this year due to the sports ground being renovated. Mr. 12 and his fellow students walk for The Baltic. They get to dress up in a sea / marine theme and raise money at the same time.

October: Platypus comes out of the water for winter storage. We make a long weekend out of the transfer trip, stop one night at a spa, the next night the northern-most guest harbour in Åland, where again we swim and sauna. Sunday is spent removing anything that could possibly get mouldy, emptying the tanks and general maintenance. Our return to Helsinki is hampered by track works. Our train trip became a bus trip, with The Engineer, Mr. 12 and I all sitting on different rows.

November: MIL has a cockatoo called Ippe and for many years we’ve commented that his cage sucked. Too small, too crappy. Not a nice place for a cheeky bird to live. This year we went to the pet show with the idea to see what sort of cages are available. A little internet research beforehand gave us an idea of price (big) and quality (strong), along with some hints on just how much space one bird should have. Before we knew it, we were the proud owners of one slightly used cage. (Previous use extended to housing the birds on display at the pet show.) Fast forward to the next weekend, we sprint to Rauma, throw a cage together after washing piece by piece, transfer Ippe to his new home and sprint back to Helsinki for a rare adults only night on the town.

December: Christmas and Christmas parties. The Engineer is either on the road or on the phone. School breaks for a two-week Christmas holiday. Presidential election fever grows. My replacement at work is confirmed and her starting date set. I started blogging. New Years Eve preparations well in hand. Mr. 12 gets to celebrate with old, not so often seen friends. The Engineer gets to celebrate with the same good friends (plus a 50th birthday party earlier in the day). I get to make lots of yummy food, and chaperone Mr. 12 and co. Not that they need so much watching… however, teenagers + fireworks has the potential to end badly. Finally I also get to celebrate with all of the above.

On a final note, there are no new years resolutions from me. Been there, done that, didn’t work. Only when I really wanted something did a resolution of mine work. It wasn’t at new year either.

Wishing you a safe and peaceful new year.

* Statue located in Helsinki’s city centre. Traditionally students from one of the universities wash her every May Day and place a white student cap on her head. Much sparkling wine drunk.

** Midsummer is sacred time for Finns. We all leave town and head for the cottage by the lake or the sea. Often the start of one’s annual summer holiday.

My internet presence

or am I spreading myself too thin? Or worse still, repeating myself and boring the pants off everybody?! Is this every bloggers nightmare? Or typical newbie blogger paranoia? Is it possible to have too many pies on the go? I have to ask this, as I’ve seen some twitter accounts incessantly tweeting the most ridiculous and inane guff.  Their Facebook accounts aren’t much better, and  if there is too much repetition why to look any further.

I’m pondering this as I toy with the idea of creating a new blog for my culinary endeavours of 2012 and then yet another blog for a once in a lifetime trip that is coming up very soon..

So, I’ll throw caution to the wind and share a little bit more of me here…  yes I’m on Facebook (FB), although I haven’t shared this blog with my FB friends just yet. I’m still finding my voice a little… My FB account is (with the exception of a couple that I ‘connected’ with long the way – we clicked in the right way :)) strictly for those that I’ve met in the flesh.

I have a LinkedIn account, which I call my FB for grownups. There is some overlap with FB, old work colleagues etc, although many of my more recent connections have been based purely on email contacts. I’m not so active updating the information, although lately I’ve made a concerted effort to add or update at least one detail each  week.

Twitter I have… you can see at the bottom of the page (I hope it’s there anyway!) and I try to use this as a mix of personal, work, and the blog.

So, crunch time! Two new blogs or a series of postings under this blog? On one hand a series makes it easy to categorise, tag etc. On the other hand, these other subjects are not at the crux of being a Taswegian in Finland. To bore or not to bore, that is the question. My future is in your hands!

Boxing Day update

Coffee with my girlfriend was great! So much to say and so little time. The good things that came out of our catch up was that now we have up-to-date numbers and email addresses. We have that rare friendship that endures time and distance so that it is like we have never been apart.

The rest of boxing day was spent in the car returning to Helsinki. There was massive storm overnight and not only was the roadside strewn with fallen trees, all the highway signage was dark and the fuel stops had to shut shop as there was no electricity to pump the fuel. Luckily we tanked before we left …

We were all still full from Christmas day feasting so at least no-one was in any hurry to stop for a snack along the way. Toilet breaks were a different matter, so we had to find a safe place to pull off the freeway so Mr. 12 could gain some relief 😉

The Engineer and I have a great system. I drive when we are outside the city (which means every long trip) and he drives inside the city. I really don’t like narrow cobblestone streets and he tends to get a bit dozy on the open road. System works perfectly! Although sometime The Engineer likes to play with the buttons while we’re moving along. Nothing brings your attention back like the hazard lights flashing for no discernable reason. I get much better fuel consumption than he does (the secret is not to use cruise control)!

 

Boxing Day

I had planned to post about our Christmas tree. Then I received the Versatile Blogger nomination. (Big thanks to Jenbeads :)) So I should read up on that and do a posting. Last week I read an article about a day in the life of Finland and thought that might be a good blog topic. (Teaser: we send 11 million sms messages EVERY day). However, today I’ll do something even more important than blogging (I’m still new at this, so perhaps the veteran bloggers shall disagree!!!).

Instead, an old friend is coming for coffee and cake. We met when I first moved to Finland and our sons were in the same play school. I moved away and although we’ve seen each other every now and again over the years, this is the first time since 2002 that we’ve managed to take the time to sit and chat.

How did you / will you spend Boxing Day?

Bah humbug. It’s Christmas

Now, let me explain. It’s not as though my childhood Christmases were terrible. On the contrary, we had the best Christmas celebrations. When I was quite small it followed a regular pattern: a tree from either our own property or a neighbours forest; opening the presents that Santa had so thoughtfully deposited under tree. Breakfast, church and then a lavish christmas lunch  with paternal grandparents and then hopefully a somewhat lighter dinner in the evening with our maternal grandmother or the other way round.

The family farm was evolving and so as we grew older the way we celebrated  Christmas changed. We were all a lot busier around that time, and so there was less emphasis on Christmas per se. Still, not enough for the bah humbug feeling to grow.

That is a very recent phenomenon. One of my annual tasks is the Christmas Card list. I hold the dubious honour of being the one who cajoles and convinces the workforce to sign the cards. Before the cards are even printed, there is THE LIST *. Customers and suppliers, they are all there. Sometimes we get away with just one card for a company, in other instances we have to send a separate card to three or four individuals from the same company. Still, someone has to be in charge of it and make sure that not only are all the right people there, also they are listed under the correct company. Our industry is quite small, and it’s not uncommon for one person to leave an employer and then pop up again working for the competition.

The mere mention of the card list sends my pulse racing. This year we were running late. I thought I had managed to pass the job off to someone else. regrettably, the ball was dropped and ended up in my lap again. Still we got it done, and last night I made the last delivery to the post office with  sending away 27 calendars around the world. Now I can relax and concentrate on my own Christmas.

This year I took the easy way out for the family in Australia. I went on-line and with a click or three, managed to get everything done in time. I believe that all the parcels have arrived in good time. I did miss the wrapping part. I like wrapping. Here is a link to a week full of great wrapping ideas. So I think next year, I’ll get organised early and send presents that I’ve wrapped myself.

Now, it’s almost time to start work. A few more hours and then we pack the car and head to Anoppi’s place. The Christmas Tree! The Christmas Food! The Christmas Sauna! Father Christmas even! Bah humbug my foot 🙂

If you’re taking time away from the blogging sphere, wishing you a very merry Christmas! (Hyvää Joulua!)

 * THE LIST: In our case covers all our customers, suppliers and former employees. Most people receive a card, some lucky ones receive a calendar in the shipping theme.

My little luxuries # 1

20111219-195920.jpg

Everyone deserves a little luxury and Vanity Fair is mine. This arrived in the mail today and now my evening will go something like this: dinner, dishes, washing to the machine, me to bed and reading VF cover to cover. Actually I start at the back cover and work my way through the articles back to the letters section.

So what is your little luxury?

Hope your Monday is Marvelous 🙂

Tuliaiset *

20111218-132202.jpg

The Engineer has returned bearing gifts (and dirty laundry).

English newspapers, foodie magazines and Harrods goodies.

My weekend is complete!

Enjoy your Sunday 🙂

* Tuliaiset are gifts either when you visit someone (hostess gift) or returning from a trip.

Decisions, Decisions

Mr. 12 heads to upper primary school next autumn. * Yesterday the guide-book for the Helsinki school district came home, along with a second guide-book for grade 6 students. Now we have to work out from the myriad of options, which school?!

First some language background. Mr. 12 is bi-lingual. We operate the one parent one language model at home. The Engineer speaks Finnish, I speak English. The common language is mostly English, although maybe Finnglish is a good description. Finland also has two official languages: Finnish & Swedish. Depending on your mother tongue, instruction in the 2nd ‘domestic’ language starts anytime between 3rd and 7th grade. Our Mr. 12 started in 4th grade, and although it hasn’t been an easy experience for him, his pronunciation is quite good as is his comprehension.

Anyway, back to the decision! Do we stay with the bi-lingual schooling? Along with the rest of his friends? The upper school actually offers 100% Finnish, bi-lingual and then 100% English. The catch: aptitude and skills test to be admitted. The 2nd catch: there are not enough spots for all the students who want to do the bi-lingual line. The third catch: Mr. 12 doesn’t do tests well. Now I hear you say ‘no one does tests well’! Unfortunately Mr. 12 does them REALLY BADLY. Luckily we’ve had a lot of support from his teachers working with this. Still there is no getting around the test.

The Finnish system is such that in urban areas the local school should be within walking distance. Here in Helsinki, the city covers the trip to & from school on public transport **. We have a really efficient network, so Mr. 12 gets lifts to school very rarely. So, we could of course, just go to the school that is our closest or local school. This school offers extra tuition in art, which is something that Mr. 12 enjoys. The catch: there’s a test 🙂

This one is a really tough decision: stay bi-lingual? Do we go 100% Finnish? Do we go to the local school without taking the art test? With the art test? Right now all we can do is mark a heap of dates in the calendar for the first three weeks of January in order to attend the information sessions for prospective students and families. We mark the last day of submitting paper work. We discuss with Mr. 12 (he’s stated his preference is the upper school), we look at the schools and read up on anything we can get our hand on.

What other criteria should we examine?

* Grades 7, 8 & 9.
** if your school is outside your local area and the door-to-door journey is more than 2 km.