The Dog on the Tuckerbox

Guess what I’m up to this weekend?

Okay, I’ll let you off the hook, you don’t have to guess. I’m hosting a restaurant! Last year I wrote about the first time I attended Ravintola Päivä (Restaurant Day) and I closed the post by expressing a vague desire to maybe have my own restaurant for a day.

Fast forward 12 months and here we are… on the verge of being restauranteurs for a day.

Perry posing for Restaurant Day

Perry posing for Restaurant Day

Here are some of the more important details:

  • The name of the restaurant is The Dog on the Tuckerbox.
  • This name is borrowed from a famous Australian landmark situated on the Hume Highway, just north of Gundagai in NSW.
  • The theme is Australian and dog friendly.
  • The menu includes some yummy treats for our four-legged friends and some Australian classics for the two-legged types.
  • I’ll be flying the Aussie flag and playing Aussie music – a little old, a little new, something for everyone.
  • You can find me in the Rajasaari dog-park 🙂
  • Here is the official invite on Facebook!
  • Here is the link to the official Restaurant Day page.
  • Mr. 13 is unhappily helping out for the day.
  • Perry will be with us of course, and will have the best four hours of dog fun he has ever had!

Is there anything I’ve forgotten? Probably. I already have a long list that I keep tweaking. I’m sure I’ll miss something. Anyway, it’s a learning experience.

Possibly I’ll blog from the restaurant if things are not so busy. More likely, I’ll wait until I get home. Either way there will be a follow-up!

PS. Is that not the best looking dog you’ve ever seen (excluding your own of course!)?

Back to school

Huh! A big panic for ABSOLUTELY no reason.

Please consider this an official thank you to your like and comments to my six word Saturday of August 4. I’ll try to get back to them individually in the future.

Yesterday I rolled up for official registration and managed to slightly confound the staff by producing Finnish id. Then I got a very pleasant surprise in the form of my id tag: country of origin was listed as Finland/Australia.

I was doubly chuffed to be able to stand up twice in the roll call of nations!

Even better, so far every one I have spoken to are studying just for the heck of it – no credits needed, no degree in sight, or at least no degree that relates to the summer school course they are taking.

In two short hours I made contact with Australia, China, Finland, Germany, Italy and Korea. Only another 54 countries to bump into! The official welcome party is later tonight and I’ll be there for a quick hello and to see if I can find any more of my class mates, and possibly one or two beverages.

The university heads (Dean? Chancellor?) all had great speeches welcoming us to Helsinki Summer School 2012 and also imploring us to HAVE FUN!

In the words of Mr. 13, that’s easy 🙂

PS: The pre-course reading and assignment was terribly dull, and in a few spots even felt like common sense. Is this what it means to be a mature age student? 😉

A gift for the hostess

Today I had my date with neighbour K to practice our respective languages. Last night she sent a text message asking if we could change our plans a little and meet at her place for coffee.

Tea caddy filled with Geisha chocolates

Here it’s considered extremely impolite not to take some sort of thank you gift for the hostess, especially the first time. I had this tea caddy sitting high in the cupboard  gathering dust (too small for our purpose) and the chocolates came from the box our dinner guests delivered last weekend.

We chatted all sorts of stuff and agreed to meet again when she returns to Helsinki in the autumn. She and her husband plan on moving to the summer cottage next week and there they will stay until summer is over…

My new best friend

Feeling chatty? Here is Stevie Nicks doing Talk to me. Love the hair, love the dress. Hmm, those were the days 🙂

Today was Talkoot* day. The day when all the civic-minded residents of our apartment block work in the yard and do a little spring cleaning. In autumn we get to do it all over again in preparation for winter.

Those that arrive early get the ‘best jobs’. I got to rake the yard and collect weeds, sticks and other assorted rubbish. Right at the beginning one of the ladies from the next stairwell came running up, saying excitedly welcome, welcome! This is most unusual, as most of the house usually speak Finnish with me. Anyway, I tried to set her straight and said no, no we can speak Finnish, it’s much better. To which she replied, oh but I want to practice my English. I’ve been studying at adult education.

So we agreed she would speak English and I would speak Finnish. It worked an absolute charm and we both understood what the other was talking about. So, off we went on our respective jobs. Towards the end of the work our paths crossed again and so I took a very big brave step.

I asked my neighbour if she would be willing to meet once a week for talking and language practice? She didn’t even have to think about it and agreed immediately!

We swapped numbers and have agreed to meet for coffee this Friday. I figure if we do different things each time our respective vocabularies will build. She is very keen and this will be a win win for both of us!

What I’ve learnt so far is that she is retired and will be away from the city for most of summer! Last autumn she and her husband were in Croatia and she has never been to Lapland. She knows that I have one son who is currently in bi-lingual class at school and will be going to local high school in the autumn, I’ve been to Lapland twice and I’m starting my own business. Not bad for 15 minutes, whilst enjoying the traditional post talkoot refreshments of grilled sausage and beer.

* Talkoot – working bee.

Thank you… 13 years later

Today’s music is proudly sung by Stockholm’s Gay Choir and What shall we do with a drunken sailor? I had occasion to sing this last Saturday night, along with 150 ship building professional and partners. The occasion was the 65th anniversary of LRK (Laivanrakentajain kerho) or Shipbuilders club. These men and women have all studied the noble art of shipbuilding and the many disciplines within. In other words, they are all engineers. That’s only half of today’s topic. First I have to get to the Thank You part!

Shortly after Mr. 12 was born it was very obvious that my pre-pregnancy wardrobe was not going to cut it. My body shape went pear-shaped. Literally. All of sudden things were sticking where earlier there had been no issue. Enter my mum who was at that time working at the TAFE Library. The campus housed students studying trades and skill based professions: hairdressing, fashion, carpentry, plumbing, metal work to name but a few.

One day mum mentions that the fashion classes were selling off their work and would I be interest in anything? She mentioned long skirt with matching top. They were nothing fancy or elaborate, jersey fabric and an elastic waist. I bought two: one red and one black. They could be mix’n’matched with other items, folded to nothing in the suitcase, washing and drying were a breeze.

In the years since the red set has been my Christmas day outfit here in Finland. It fits Finnish Christmas so much better than anything else I own. The black I have worn a few times, and last Saturday it saved the day. You see, LRK’s 65th party was Formal (yes with a capital F). Now we get invited to maybe one formal event each year, and so far I’ve managed to get by with some creative wardrobe pieces and bending the rules a little. Not this time.

Of course, I hadn’t taken too much notice of the invite. Midday Saturday I start looking in the wardrobe. Two outfits take my fancy. As the event started with a harbour cruise I wanted something I could move about the boat comfortably in (and still look good!). Outfit selected, I thought I’d check the invite and programme one more time. Then I realised that it said juhlapuku!* Now I started to feel a little numb. In the words of The Engineer, “you have to be ready if you ever get invited to the Presidents Ball”, to which I replied, “when that happens I’ll get a new dress thank you very much”.

My chosen outfit was perfect cocktail. It was far to late to buy anything, anyway my wallet was empty. Thinking thinking. Then I remembered my long black skirt. It was long, it was black and seriously who is going to notice that the fabric isn’t silk or satin. I figured I could dress up the top, and play down the bottom. That’s exactly what I did.

THANK YOU to the student who made this fantastic skirt. You saved my night and I hope that the intervening years have been good to you and you have gone onto bigger and better things since.

Formal outfit... just and just

Black on black. Can’t go wrong

The next issue to tackle was make-up. Those that know me in the real world (in the time of living in Finland) have probably realised by now that I don’t do make-up. The reasons for this are worthy of their own post. Suffice to say the men in my life crack lovely jokes about me looking ghoulish and vampirish when I do get around to putting a face. Their biggest complaint is that I put too much on. Naturally I become a scary beast when you never see me with a little mascara and lipstick. For a formal evening it was probably too little as opposed to too much. There is no photographic evidence anywhere to disprove this theory. So we’ll just leave it there.

In the meantime The Engineer was having his own wardrobe dilemma. Finally I’m ready, and FIRST for a change. Sitting quietly and looking at the clock knowing that the boat was leaving at 15:15 and we didn’t really want to miss it… Finally we are ensconced in the taxi and heading to the harbour. What is the first thing I see on arrival? Another guest with “fresh from the salon” hair piled high and a glorious dress. I turned to The Engineer and said something along the lines of being under-dressed. Silly I know, especially as I felt quite good in the outfit. We women can sometimes be our own worst enemies.

Onto the party itself. A welcoming drink on-board. Some small speech as the boat pulled away from the pier. Shortly after the majority of the crowd moved to the upper deck where there was a band playing. We sat downstairs for a while talking with to one of the professors and a colleague. Eventually we too headed to the upper deck where I met (finally) a gentleman that I have been mailing occasionally, and billing often. He asked me to dance and was not at all perturbed when I said I can’t dance (true, I cannot waltz to save myself). We danced anyway!

Our cruise took us around the harbour, close to Suomenlinna, the island fortress that is definitely one of Helsinki’s crown jewels. As The Engineer commented the next day, it’s quite unlikely that the majority of the group noticed where we were!

Important note here: our welcoming drink had been sponsored by AARC, and that included the glass it came it. We were instructed to hold on to our glass if we wished to enjoy some bubbles on stage II of the event.

Our party was a little Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Our boat returned to harbour and our merry bunch was spilled out of the boat and onto buses. There were bottles of bubbly moving through the bus, and out came the glasses. It’s a little difficult drinking bubbly drink on a bus as it drives over cobblestones. Warm bubbles up the nose make you want to sneeze.

We headed west to the university campus and arrived at the student hall where our dinner was taking place. From the outside it resembled a concrete bunker (with a couple of windows) and a strange protuberance over the front door.

Isn’t it cool and weird at the same time! Inside we followed the curve of the building up a ramp to the coat-check and finally into the main hall itself. As always there was a queue for the lady’s toilet. I discovered that the upstairs toilet had not queue at all. Shame it took me half the night to discover that!

The food was good (and plentiful!), the company was friendly and pleasant and the songs with accompanying toasts kept going and going! Luckily our menu was also the song book so we could sing along.

The table hopping started after main course, so I hopped to the sonni ** table to greet some colleagues and old acquaintances. This was THE men’s table. Solo travelers, whose partners have decided that perhaps it’s better not join on this occasion. Apparently the parties get a bit wild later in the evening. It was nice chatting with them, apparently I scored points because I went to their table before The Engineer! In his defense he arrived shortly after.

After the food and before the dancing started I got the opportunity to talk with this years student president. I was maybe a little harsh in my comments about the seating arrangements. All of the current students were on one table and everybody else spread over the other three tables. I asked why it couldn’t be mixed up a little more? The answer: this is what the guests want, to sit with former classmates. I’ve never attended any type of reunion so perhaps that is what people want , although it would be nice to sit with a student from now, even if to just swap notes on how things are different (or the same) between now and then!

We headed home after some mingling, a short walk to the taxi rank, where we were in luck. It was a queue of one (actually I think a queue needs at least two to be a ‘queue’) and the light was glowing. As we traveled over the bridge heading towards Lauttasaari the ‘super moon’ was hovering some way of the horizon. Nice ending to a fun night out. Now I have to get around to finding myself a decent juhlapuku.

* Type juhlapuku and run a Google picture search.

** Sonni is Finnish for bull, as in the large male bovine.

My first restaurant review

There’s an old saying that if you  have a good experience you tell 1 person and 5 people if it’s a bad experience. Well I thought I should do a little research and it turns out that these numbers aren’t so exact. Rule of thumb seems to be that you’ll pass on the good news to one or two people and anything from 5 – 10 will hear about the bad experience.

Well, I’m here to turn that around. I had a great experience at Ravintola Motti earlier this week. The head chef I’ve known for the past 6 years (his daughter and Mr. 12 have been classmates during that time) and he’s also known from TV appearances. Before that, Risto has been a great  contributor to our class events! Guaranteed, if we arrange for everyone to bring a plate, his plates are always empty first. For a little taste of Risto, you can find his blog (in Finnish) here.

So, my colleague K and I had a girls night out. Well, not really. We spent the whole night talking. I was home by 22:00 (10 pm). (Come on!  it was a school night).

The food was sublime. Swede Cappuccino with this fantastic fennel foam. Potato macaroni and a white current dipping sauce. Crab ice-cream for K and a reindeer roulade for me. Melt in the mouth stuff. Beetroot and chévre mini tartlets. Beetroot is one of my favourite vegetables and I will eat it whenever it’s on the menu. Tarte Tatin for dessert, with creamiest apple ice-cream I’ve ever tasted. This is Finnish food at it’s best. Silvio Berlusconi  and Jacques Chirac were mistaken. Badly.

The table setting was simple, classic crockery and glassware. The bathrooms are really cool without being ‘too cool’. The service was attentive, the wine was paired very well and I’m sure I know the head waitress from somewhere. Two days later and I’m none the wiser. It will come to me eventually.

I like open kitchens.  Even though it was a quiet night, the kitchen noises weren’t loud or disturbing during service and we could go to say thank you and farewell to Risto and his team.

One of my favourite finnish words is suosittelen or I recommend. Absolutely I recommend! As Molly Meldrum was in the habit of saying: ‘do yourself a favour’ and check this place out. One day when I’m free in the middle of the day I’m going to check out the lunch offering.

PS: Remember my two little words post from earlier in the week. Well, Ravintola Motti will get one of my cards too!

Two little words…

I’m on a mission this year. I want to bring back the humble art of saying Thank You. Previously I’ve tried really hard the day after the night before to send a little card to the host (or hostess as the case generally is for BookClub gatherings), just to say thanks for a nice / fun / enjoyable evening. My thing for 2012 was going to be: “send a note or card every day” saying thanks for … good service, good food, nice presents. You get the picture 😉

Well, we are 16 days into this year and so far I have managed just two shows of thanks – one was last week, when I returned some faulty bits to The Beader, along with a quick scribble of thanks and the second is about to hit the mail box shortly in thanks to Girlfriend M who sent me this great link with some timely advice. I would like to think that she is one of my number 4’s!

Now, I could cheat and use Christmas as an excuse to send a heap of thank you’s and catch up on the other 14 days. To me, that sort of defeats the point. It is good manners to say thank you for gifts. So I’m going to bite the bullet and find 14 things to say thank you for … and write my Christmas thank you’s as well.

Why is it so hard for people to say thank you? It’s not as though it’s a sign of weakness (is it?!). If someone holds the door for me, I always say thank you. It’s polite after all. I’ve noticed that some people just barge through, as though it’s normal for someone else to hold the door open. If I’m feeling a little cranky I’ll say ‘you’re welcome’ as they continue on. Nine times out of ten they just keep going…

So, what do you think? Am I fighting a losing battle? Does anyone bother with thank you notes any more? What would you think if YOU got a thank you note?

Election time is looming…

In two weeks time we go to the polls for round one of the Presidential elections! This is the first time I’m able to vote in the Presidential elections, second time to go to the polls (we had parliamentary elections last April). The presidential term is 6 years long. My first visit to Finland coincided with the inauguration of Finland’s first female president. She was re-elected in 2006, and as I wasn’t voting, I didn’t really follow the candidates so closely. This time I’ve been following the media coverage, and this afternoon finally sat down to do a little research. I’ll put up more in a separate post – who the candidates are and what the president means to Finland. There are some interviews in English that I’ll try to post also.

The rest of the weekend has been very domestic. One of the book club members sent a link for an apartment in our complex that was for sale. The Engineer and I looked at the photos and decided that we should do some furniture rearrangement! Now the desk has turned 90 degrees, the dining table has moved into a window corner and the plants shifted to the right. This morning felt a little odd sitting so close to the window sipping my tea.

Friday was Epiphany and a holiday here in Finland. I visited the office for some quiet work time and managed to buy some last-minute dinner ingredients from the supermarket. Previously, Epiphany has been a day of no shopping. However there have been great improvements in shopping hours. The large influx of Russian tourists celebrating their new year helps.

Friday night is traditionally ‘good food night’ at our place. As The Engineer is off at the shipyard this weekend, I invited girlfriend ‘A’ to dinner. ‘A’ has lived as many years in Australia as I have lived in Finland, so we have plenty to talk about. Mr. 12 watched Mr. Popper. Jim Carey & the penguins – recommended, although Mr. 12 correctly predicted the ending. A K3 rating guarantees that some of life’s harsh realities are given kid glove treatment! Anyway, back to the food: mustard chicken with spinach and good old-fashioned mashed potato. Plus wine. I’m sure Saturday’s head-ache was a result of the hefty swig that went into the chicken!

Now it’s late Sunday afternoon, and we’re preparing for back to school and a new work week. Some clothes to wash, report card signed off, backpack stocked, calendar checked for appointments. The first school information evening is scheduled for this week already.

Hope you’ve had a relaxing weekend and are recharged for the new week coming! Have a good one 😎

On my bedside table

20120106-165648.jpg

It’s not often I read a book that makes me want to go back in time. This one did. After reading this, I would have liked to have seen the last days of Ceausescu’s regime. Highly recommended.

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.