It’s back!

What is back? I hear you ask. The daily theme tune is back! * Without any further fuss:

Blinded by the light / Manfred Mann

Why? Sunshine, clear skies and white white snow 🙂

*In coming days I’ll share the origins of the daily theme tune – it’s late, I’m tired and the search function on my own blog gave me some interesting results :/

It’s not a resolution!


For many years I went through the motions of making new years resolutions. I would resolve to stop doing all sorts of things. Never once did I resolve to start doing better things. No, I just decided that it was better to stop. I won’t bore you with my list of resolutions, just think of any vice, and there is a very good chance it made it to my list of things not to do.

The BIG problem with stopping certain behaviours is that all the triggers are still around. It’s really hard to stop just one action when it’s driven by at least one or two other actions. So, inevitably I would end up caving in and picking up where I’d left off. Admittedly, sometimes it took a little longer than others… still the things that weren’t so good for me came back.

A few years ago The Engineer and I decided to stop eating lollies (candies, sweets, chocolates etc.). We went cold turkey and it was pretty easy. Once we changed our purchasing habits. No more picking up a bar of that with the grocery shopping or a packet of this when we tanked the car. The hardest part was explaining to friends and family thanks but no thanks, we’re on a lolly strike.

There was one exception: if the lollies were included in the dish being served then we could eat them. So for a few years, we were really good, no lollies, no chocolate and no salmiakki. The last was the hardest to refuse when it was offered. Then as time went by, we became a bit lazy and not so vigilant at saying no. Of course, once we started saying okay, just this once, it was a very slippery slope. Soon the old habit was gone and chocolate and lollies were once again being consumed regularly.

Christmas was spent in Sweden this year, and to get us all there in one piece we took the ship. If you have every sailed between Helsinki and Stockholm on one of these cruise-ferries, you’ll know that a good deal of their business is through the tax-free sales. Including chocolates and lollies. Of every shape, size and flavour. Usually in packaging that you can’t get in the regular stores (bigger!). On the outward journey we stocked up on supplies for Christmas. The homeward bound trip was all about our own cupboard: some beer, wine and yes, lollies. In the intervening days between our return and NYE, we decided that the lolly strike has to start again. So, starting from today no more lollies or chocolates. That includes the lovely little blocks of chocolate that come with your cappuccino. Today Mr. 16 scored ours and then promptly said that he didn’t want to eat all three. Proud parenting moment there 😉

Please note this is not yet another New Year’s resolution. Definitely NOT. Just a change in behaviour 🙂

Here’s to a lolly free 2016!

Here’s the daily theme tune! Back for 2016:

Erase and Rewind


Are you a Cardigans fan? I am. It’s a fitting title for todays post. Although there will be no erasing, there definitely will be some rewinding going on over the next few weeks.

Of course once the title popped into my head I had to go and find a clip to share. I used to do this a lot, share music – it’s a nice habit to get back into.

Why the Cardigans you ask? The year was 1998 and the sublime Gran Turismo album was released. Shortly before that release I was stationed in Germany for a brief while. The Engineer and I met earlier in the summer and we had been inseparable (and probably a little insufferable) up until the day my ship sailed. Hard to believe it’s been 16 years (pretty much to the day) since that ship sailed 🙂

You’ll get another post from me today – not only am I taking part in the blogging 101 programme / challenge / course, I’ve decided to undertake the writing 101 as well. Stay tuned 🙂

Blogging from school!

Today I’m sitting in room 302 at Helmi-Liiketalousopisto taking part in a blogging class. So far I am a little ahead of my classmates, if only for the fact  that I already have a WordPress account and an active blog. My neighbour just asked why I am here, to which I answered that I am always looking to learn new things!

I’ve just created a new blog, however I’m not ready to share it with you just yet.

In the meantime, let’s examine my spam that has arrived in the recent days:

In response to my tongue-in-cheek Hat post came this little gem: Wow! This can be one particular of the most useful blogs We’ve ever arrive across on this subject. Basically Wonderful. I am also a specialist in this topic so I can understand your hard work. Glad to know that I’m not the only specialist in this area!

When does the expat stop being an expat?

This is the ONLY song that I could even consider using as the theme tune of the day. A very young Sting and Englishman In New York. This ‘legal alien‘ business has been on my mind quite a bit lately for a whole heap of different reasons. It is a little bit more serious than most of my more recent posts, then again it’s something I’ve been contemplating quite a lot lately and want to get off my chest.

The bother really started with the term expat. Expatriates are in my mind the types that move to an another country for a fixed period of time. The whole family may or may not accompany them. I know families in both camps. Sometimes it’s easier if one parent stays ‘home’ while the children carry on normal life (school, hobbies etc). In other cases it makes sense that the whole family is in on the adventure. Either way it’s for a finite time, 1 year, 2 years maybe five at the most.

I thought I’d hunt down a definition and this is the first response I got: Noun – a person who lives outside their native country. Yes, I fit into that particular box. Adjective: Living outside one’s native country. I detect a pattern, and again this is one box that I fit into. Verb: Settle oneself abroad. I don’t like this pattern one little bit. If we get into synonyms then words such as exile, emigrant, banish, deport and relegate come up.

Wikipedia gave this as the opening entry: “An expatriate (in abbreviated form, expat) is a person temporarily or permanently residing in a country and culture other than that of the person’s upbringing. The word comes from the Latin terms ex (“out of”) and patria (“country, fatherland”).” See here for their full entry which continued in the vein of the living outside one’s native country. My Finnish dictionary gave me ulkomailla asuva henkilö (person living overseas) for expat, and then went straight to maanpakolainen (exile) for expatriate.

While also contemplating my own expat status, I started to wonder why refugees aren’t called expats, after all they are residing outside of their native country. I wonder why immigrants aren’t called expats, again living outside of their native country. There appears to be an unwritten rule (except now it’s in Wikipedia!) that it’s a term reserved for professionals sent abroad or hired from abroad to fill a gap in the local labour market.

My own contemplations return. I’m a member of various groups that label themselves ‘expat’. The funny thing is, all of these groups I’ve joined in recent times and long after the ‘expat’ tag really ceased to apply in my mind. I know I shouldn’t worry about these labels. The thing is I don’t feel Finnish and I don’t feel Australian (or Tasmanian) even. Please don’t tag me as an international resident. Yes I’m an Australian that lives in Finland, and while I’ll never be a Finnish Finn, the longer I live here the less Australian I feel.

In my Finnish class we are a truly international bunch: from Australia to Afghanistan, from the Ukraine to the US and every continent in between. Most of us have lived here a long time, and our Finnish is pretty good. We are all the same when it comes to describing our language skills: I speak my mother tongue and a little Finnish! Crazy, we all speak lots of Finnish, yet every last one of us downplayed our skills. Why? Are we afraid that by admitting to being fluent in Finnish that we will lose a part of ourselves. Instead we should be shouting from the rooftops: Hah I speak Finnish! Actually Häh, mä puhun suomea! Are we afraid that we sound bad or our accents are showing? Like our teacher reminded us today, we need to speak badly before we can begin to speak well. As for accents, well I’m well aware that my Finnish sometimes has the Helsinki ‘whine’. I actually quite loath a full on Helsinki accent, so this is a little ironic!

Speaking Finnish and English brings us to bilingualism. From day one we decided to follow the one parent one language model. I speak English, The Engineer speaks Finnish and thus Mr. 13 speaks both. Beautifully, naturally without thought or hesitation. It is a beautiful thing to behold and really took not much effort. More effort is required for the cultural side and I’m starting to sense that I may have strayed here. I think had I moved to Finland as an Australian family it would have been easier to maintain Australian customs. We don’t do much Australian ‘stuff’ and seriously, Australia is far from my thoughts when it’s -10 and I’m shoveling snow out of the car-park. We do Australian stuff when we go to Australia which is not that often, and probably not often enough from anyone’s point of view. I don’t keep up with the minutiae of Australian life; it’s hard enough keeping track of Finnish life sometimes 🙂

Cultural differences came up in my travel class too. If I have mentioned this fact before, I apologise in advance for repeating myself! My first two years here are a total blur. I have absolutely no recollection of how I got through day-to-day living. That’s culture shock on a major level. I must have managed, we’re alive and well, yet the only incident I can recall is trudging to the foreigners police station to submit my paperwork. Sitting in the waiting room for hours on end with a cranky toddler amongst other cranky toddlers. It’s catching, trust me… On the surface there might not seem to be so many differences, yet you don’t have to go very deep to realise things are very different.

The Engineer says I’m an Australian Finn, Finland says I’m a citizen and Australian says I’m a non-residential citizen. Mr. 13 calls me mum and I call myself numerous names, and wonder why I’m getting so worked up about this now of all times. Perhaps it’s because all of these elements have landed on the table in the last few weeks in different guises and discussions.

Now I’m dumping the expat tag. I’m Kanerva, Heta or Heather depending on where and how you know me. I’m someone who lives in Finland that happens to have been born somewhere else. As Sting so rightly points out: “It takes a man to suffer ignorance and smile; Be yourself no matter what they say”

What do you think? Am I making a mountain out of a molehill? What springs to mind when you hear the term expat? I actually have a very clear picture in my head of a couple that I worked with when I was on-board. Is bilingualism and multiculturalism part and parcel of being an expat? For me that’s part of being an immigrant! I’d really like to hear, especially if you’re living in a country that is not your native country.

It’s a new day, a new month and a new year!

Happy New Year! Onnellista Uutta Vuotta! I hope that your new year celebrations didn’t leave you too worse for wear! Our family had the quietest NYE in a long time. We did buy a few fireworks and Mr. 13 accompanied The Engineer out to let them off about 9:00 pm. At midnight the neighbourhood show got a bit more noisy, although Perry the puppy was pretty much oblivious it all (luckily, he was quite happy to sleep through most of it).

There is a ‘2012 in review’ post in draft status. I need to find a couple of photos to finish it off 🙂 In the meanwhile, a huge thank you to all the great visitors that stopped by this year. An extra thank you if you liked a post and if you left a comment, well my gratitude knows no bounds.

The new year has gotten off to an admirable beginning. The Engineer and Mr. 13 both have Spotify accounts. I have quite a large iTunes library (mostly my own CD’s) and didn’t really want to double up as I saw it. What a mistake! I opened a Spotify account over Christmas. Then I managed to create a few playlists and collect a couple of hours worth of music in a short time this morning. I also decided to create a playlist of all the songs that I’ve featured as the daily theme tune. This way I won’t be able to double up (hopefully) although sometimes one song is so great that it fits a multiple of occasions.

Today it’s Teemu Brunila’s The Crash and Still Alive. For no other reason than I love this song! Sadly the band is no longer together, although their music lives on 🙂 Although it’s fair to say that it’s a great reminder for me to put behind all the garbage that’s been going on ‘out the back’. The song is so catchy you can’t help but smile! I’m paving a new path, hopefully or at the very least trying to create a positive frame of mind.

Looking forward to sharing more interesting things: music, food, family, dog (yes there is a dedicated dog post on the way) and what ever else happens to take my fancy!

Independence Day Foolishness

It goes without saying that the music choice for today is Maamme-laulu (Our Land). After all, it is Finland’s 95th anniversary of independence. There are numerous YouTube offerings, and the one I have chosen features the amazing voice of Tarja Turunen (formerly of Nightwish). I’m not sure where the broadcast actually comes from, except that it was broadcast on YLE (Finland’s national broadcaster) for Independence Day 2007. I have an added dilemma of trying to weave in birthday celebration wishes to one of my loyal followers. In the end I decided that two theme tunes are better than none, so here is the other daily tune 🙂

Hippo, birdie, two ewe;
Hippo, birdie, two ewe;
Hippo, birdie, dear El Guaaaapooo;
Hippo, birdie, two ewe!

I’m not the only one who wished El Guapo a very happy birthday! There was a whole bunch of us, all with very different tributes. Here are a few links to get you started: Alex, Frank, Ginger, H.E. EllisLe Clown, M3, OMGJDWIS, and The Cheeky Diva. Check out the pingbacks in the comments here also. Then head over, answer the Friday Foolishness poll and wish him a belated happy birthday!

Independence Day is celebrated in true Finnish style. It’s the day we told the Russian Empire, thanks for everything, we’ve had enough and it’s time to do our own thing. Yes, that is a very simplified version of events and history buffs can start by looking here to get a better idea of the background.

It is public holiday today, and so there are always huge queues in the supermarkets the day before. Never mind that the very same shops will be open tomorrow. I never understand this, although I contribute to the last-minute crowds every time too! This year we’ll be eating Vorschmack and then we’re going to sit back and watch the party at the castle (Google the phrase ‘linnan juhlat’ and swap to pictures – it’s something else!).

The first time I saw this spectacle was 2001 and my reaction was along the lines of ‘you have to be kidding me, what foolishness is this’. The president and their spouse stand in the official ‘castle’ entrance hall and a long line of who’s who in Finland pass by, say hello and continue on to the reception. It’s televised and so there is continuous commentary of who the people are, who their avec is, in the case of the women who designed the dress and on and on…

I was lucky that my MIL gave the people’s version of who’s who. This one used to be a Miss Finland, this one married three times already, this man is from Rauma (where I was living at the time). Very different to the official commentary! We got to ooh and aah over the dresses, roll our eyes as some of the more ridiculous outfits paraded past the cameras and generally had a fun night. I’m fairly sure it is a scene repeated across the country.

I’ve left out one small step. At 6 pm we light two candles and place them in the window. It’s a tradition that harks back to the times when families could advertise safe accommodation to travelers fleeing the Russians.

That first year set the pattern for my every Independence Day since. The food varies, everything else remains the same. As each year goes by, more and more faces become familiar and now I understand the broadcast and the little subtle comments that pop in here and there. MIL and I will swap text messages during the evening until one of us breaks and rings with the ‘breathless’ comment ‘did you see that dress!!!!’

As well as captains of industry, the diplomatic community, veterans and sporting heroes, regular hard-working citizens get invited also. This year I actually know one of the invitees and she deserves her invite 110%. (Her work is with youth that have fallen out of the system and helps them develop their skills and find the path that works best for them – it’s the Vamos Project and unfortunately I can’t find anything in English.)

Google Finland's Independence Day Tribute

Google Finland’s Independence Day Tribute

This was on my home page this morning and Mr. 13 asked if all Google sites have the same. I went to Australian Google and it was just regular, Sweden the same and when I tried it brought me back to So I am none the wiser. Perhaps one of my followers can enlighten me!

That got me thinking though: should Google celebrate every event on all sites or keep it local. Because I live in a democracy here is a little poll to get the process started. If you’d like to leave a comment, please add some means of identification. If we’re still around next Independence Day I’ll publish the results!

Back to December the 6th and El Guapo’s birthday for just a second here. His Friday Foolishness posts and polls are the best thing published on Friday. Tying equally for first place is the great community that follow him and take part in said polls. I’m honoured to be one of them. I think I look forward to the other answers and his comments as much as the actual polls themselves.

I discovered him around the time of this anniversary post. I was very new to the blogging world and not quite sure about the etiquette of commenting to complete strangers. More fool me. He’s a guy with a really big heart who knows the word for green in more than one language and Finnish to boot, although for the life of me I can’t find that particular post.

El Guapo is one of the special bloggers that make blogging fun. Well my friend, the earth has traveled once more around the sun. Wishing you a great and foolish birthday! If you like, you can impress your friends by sharing the fact that today every flag in Finland is flying, ’cause it’s a birthday 😉

Independence day flag_121206

Our Independence Day flag

Fathers Day

With all my six word Saturdays lately there’s been little space for daily tunes, so here is a very apt tune for today. This comes to you from my time spent in Melbourne: Fathers Day by the one and only Weddings Parties Anything. As you can see from this page, the bulk of the world celebrate Fathers Day in June, while today we celebrate Fathers Day along with Estonia, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. *

On this Fathers Day, all the fathers in my life are in different time-zones to me. Given that my dad lives in Tasmania, there will always be at least one dad far away! That’s just the way it is…

I’ve been contemplating different fatherhood’s a lot lately. My father was around all the time, we lived where we worked, my dad came home for lunch just about everyday! Mr. 13 was six weeks old before he and The Engineer met for the first time, and it was a few years before we were all living in the same time-zone.

The words are failing me today, instead tears keep running down my face. So maybe it’s best that I just stop right here.

I’m dedicating this post to two young people who are not doubt hurting more than I can imagine. Emma and Max, this is for you.

To the other fathers in my life, thank you. I think of you always. Much love, Heather xxx

* Trivia note: Fathers Day is a flag day, so every house flies the flag today, and it’s also Remembrance Day in Australia where two minutes silence is observed at 11:00 (the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month). For a few moments this morning I thought Finland was commemorating Remembrance day also. Oops.

Project work, your opinion of Finland!

School has been in for a few weeks now, and the assignments are building up! One project requires some on-line research, so I’ve posted a little question over at Heather’s Helsinki – What does Finland mean to you?

Feel free to follow the link and answer the question – or of course add your comments below! There are no wrong answers, anything goes.

It’s my humble opinion that every blog post should have either music or some eye candy and as the only music I think of is Monty Python’s Finland, I thought I’d throw some random pictures your way:

Look-out! A moose doubling as a viewing spot 😉

Maritime Museum in Kotka (the photo DOES not do it justice)

Beautiful colours

Fearless seagull (he’s a teenager, what do you expect?!)

Parklife (or a summer’s evening barbeque)

The tune of the day is really easy: one of my favourite ‘Brit-pop’ bands Blur with Parklife. I toyed with Country Life also. Since today was more about doing stuff in the great outdoors, Country Life is here as a bonus!

Because I’m certain that our lives are about to get very complicated and busy, I suggested to The Engineer yesterday that we head out for a barbeque dinner today. Originally the plan was to take the boat to one island in the west, where we can anchor, sit on the rocks  and grill in the late afternoon sun.

Unfortunately the weather was against us. Instead we headed inland:

A parking spot in the forest.

We gathered our belongings and headed down the path.

The path is dry here!

The path started out dry, and rapidly degenerated into a muddy quagmire. Luckily there were boardwalks along the way to keep our shoes dry. Except where the mud was so deep that the boardwalks had sunk.

Shoe saving boardwalk.

Eventually our destination appeared through the trees. The mosquitoes stopped nibbling just as we reached the shore.

Our destination!

Storträsk is a small lake to the east of Helsinki, very popular with fishermen and walkers alike. A water snake slipped into the lake just as we arrived, and the frogs were everywhere. There were so many we were afraid of causing them mortal harm.

One of the many frogs crossing the boardwalk.

Our family nickname for this place is Frog Lake. Late summer is great for spotting big fat frogs. It also goes a long way to explain why we usually see at least one or two snakes on every trip in summer.

Close to our intended barbeque spot, the lake is shaded and so the lilies grow abundantly.

Lilies in the lake.

While the barbeque heated up, I enjoyed a cool beer …

My favourite summer beer.

… and prepared the mushrooms.

Mushrooms ready to go!

After the mushrooms we enjoyed grilled corn cobs and juicy steaks. No pictures as I was too busy eating. Instead here is the barbeque doing its thing:

What’s cooking?

While we were eating we could hear some fishermen on the other side of the lake getting very excited. One fish went into the net, although later it would have been released (the lake operates as a catch and release fishing spot). A few cyclists came through, and stopped to catch their breath on the bench next to us.

At the end the rubbish went to the bin, and we hit the path back. The mosquitoes were just as hungry on the way out…