Sunday, December 21, 2014

Kauneimmat joululaulut -oh dear!

In Finland we have this thing called Kauneimmat joululaulut. It refers to a Finnish custom; people gather in churches around Christmas time to sing or to listen to the kauneimmat joululaulut, i.e. the most beautiful Christmas carols. I like Christmas, but I never attend these concerts. Why? Because I don't want to become depressed and miserable.

You see, Finnish Christmas carols (or the Christmas carols sung in Finland) are extremely sad and depressing. Many people call them solemn; I just call them sad and depressing. The melody is in the minor, and the lyrics are usually melancholic (to say the least). Life is awful and miserable, little children die, people are alone, birds are left without any food etc. How nice! Somehow I thought that the birth of Christ was supposed to be a joyous occasion, and hence, Christmas a happy holiday ...?

Of course, there are also Christmas carols sung in Finland that are more cheerful, but unfortunately, I don't like them either. The problem with these songs are that they go to the other end of the spectrum: they are just too cheerful! Christmas carols like Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer (yes, we do have it in Finnish as well..) or Kilisee, kilisee, kulkunen are such jingles that I have a hard time believing that anyone would actually like them.

Okay, I'm trying to stop whining now. Actually, there are Christmas carols that I like very much; they are just not sung in Finland. I think that the English-speaking countries have succeeded in this field a lot better than we have: there are many English Christmas carols that make you feel like Christmas without sounding like muzak or making you feel miserable.  White Christmas, The First Noël, The Twelve Days of Christmas and Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow fit into this category just fine, in my opinion. So, instead of attending a Kauneimmat joululaulut in our church, I'll listen to my A White Christmas By Bing Crosby and Friends -CD and enjoy my kinds of Christmas carols.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Wednesday, December 03, 2014


Just like hundreds of thousands of people in Finland, I've also been watching the extremely popular TV-series Putous. It is a live entertainment show that combines pre-rehearsed comic sketches, improvisation, different tasks the actors are given, and most importantly, a vote for the best comic character of the year. There are eight characters at the beginning of each season, and every week one character is voted out.

Putous has now been running for several seasons, and I've noticed one common thing about many of  the comic characters that have been victorious or done really well in the show. It is that they have been characters where a woman has been dressed up as a man or vice versa. This year a clear front runner (and who eventually became second) was a character called Kissi Vähähiilari, a male actor dressed up as  a woman working out for a fitness competition.

Kissi Vähähiilari, a fitness-babe

I've been thinking about this phenomenon, and naturally the gorgeous film Some like it hot came to mind. The contrast between Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis' fake-feminine and Marilyn Monroe's ultra-feminine looks is evident, and Lemmon and Curtis show their talents in making their characters seem too masculine to really pass for women. I suppose this view is starting to be a bit old these days; today people don't necessarily want to see clumsy or awkward attempts of a female actress trying to look like a man or a male actor trying to look like a woman. These days people want to experience the "wow-effect" (that is: how does he/she do it?!) I think the main reason for the popularity of Kissi Vähähiilari on Antsku (the winner of the Putous 2013 season) was the sheer talent of the actors. It was said (and rightfully so!) that Antsku was the most beautiful woman in Finland, and it was really amazing to see how cute and adorable the actor Jussi Vatanen was able to make this character. Kissi Vähähiilari was also stunning, and it became obvious to the audience that the actor behind this character, Antti Holma, has been to the gym quite often... It was baffling to see how well these two men were able to capture the essence of femininity in their characters, because both characters were so plausible that you could easily believe they really were women! It makes me wonder if there's something so distinctively feminine in all women that it is possible to take and imitate. Maybe that something is what we call femininity; it's difficult to define but easy to recognize when we see it..

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Halloween and All Saints' Day

We celebrated both Halloween and All Saints' Day a few weeks ago. Traditionally, we haven't celebrated Halloween in Finland; it has landed into our country only recently, and I think mainly children and young people are interested in it. We normally celebrate All Saints' Day by bringing candles to the graves of our departed loved ones, and that's the way we Finns see the meaning of that day; as a special day to reminisce our family members, friends and relatives that have passed away.

This year the 1st of November in our house included elements of both of these two very different celebrations. In the afternoon we had a Halloween -party at home. Our five-year-old daughter had requested a Halloween party for her and her cousins, and so I decided to throw a small-scale party for them. We had some Halloween -decorations inside the house, served some snacks and cake and candy and most importantly: we all had Halloween costumes on. I myself have been to a masquerade -party only a few times, and getting dressed up like that is quite strange to me, but this time it was actually great fun! My daughter wanted to dress up as a fairy (we slipped from the original theme a bit), and I dressed up as a witch! We both chose our clothes and jewellery carefully, did our hair (I wore a wig, so doing my hair was easy), and even put some nailpolish on which suited the roles of a fairy (nice red nailpolish) and a witch (black nailpolish, of course). The guests were just as enthusiastic about the party as we were, and as a result, we ended up having a small fairy, a little beautiful princess and an Indian princess (Pocahontas, maybe..?) in the party. The witch served as a waitress and a general hostess, and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.

Later in the evening when it was already dark outside, we went to a cemetary to take some candles to the graves of our deceased family members. You can't believe how beautiful the cemetary looked with hundreds of candles twinkling in the dark! When we were walking back to the car from the cemetary, I couldn't help but thinking how the same day entailed two opposite things; a children's party full of life, and an evening reminding us of death and dead people. It seemed amazing but in a way very comforting to see how these two things could actually intertwine together quite easily. I guess that's what they do anyhow; life and death are never that far apart.


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Mutual understanding

We had our autumn break a few weeks ago, and my family and I travelled to Legoland, Denmark. Our kids were immensely enthusiastic about the whole thing; their first flight was an exciting adventure, and naturally the destination itself was basically heaven on earth for them both!

A pretty scary Lego-pirate. ARRGGHH!

Surprisingly lifelike lions!
The weather was not terribly good, but we didn't mind; there was so much so see and do in Legoland. There were Lego-figures of all shapes and sizes, and there are actually a lot of activities there as well, since Legoland is actually an amusement park nowadays. Some of the water slides etc. were closed (quite understandable in October), but still we had no problem in finding enough to see and do while we were there!

Mount Rushmore; the real thing or...?

Mexican style!
We stayed at Hotel Legoland, which is right next to Legoland. It was interesting to see how children from very different countries all had similar interests: they all loved to play with legoes and build all kinds of constructions. It was endearing to watch children gather around a large container filled with legoes and try to make the images in their heads into real Lego-constructions. The children didn't have a common language, but they seemed to understand each other surprisingly well. If someone was going through the legoes trying to find a particular piece, someone else might realize what that person was looking for and hand over exactly that kind of piece! That showed me that children are very much the same regardless of where they come from, and they somehow have this mutual understanding that doesn't even require the use of words! I suppose us adults should follow their example and try to understand each other better. My guess is we would succeed if we tried a bit harder.

Elephants in the wild in Denmark?!

Which one of the gorgeous girls is real...?

Friday, September 19, 2014

A brand new tablet girl

I am a proud owner of a brand new tablet computer. I bought the thing for a couple of weeks ago, and I must admit that I like it quite a lot! I've tried to familiarize myself with different functions and applications, and now I find myself connected with the Intenet, Facebook, Messenger, Viaplay, Netflix and Vanity Fair just to mention a few. I've also altered my newspaper subscription so that from now on, I'll be getting paper newspapers only at weekends; I'll be reading an electronic newspaper from my tablet PC from Monday to Friday. My son plays The Clash of Clans and Minecraft on the tablet, and I've downloaded for instance a princess -game for my daughter where she gets to dress princesses from head to toe. I probably don't need to tell you that the kids are also pleased with my new purchase! 

It is interesting to see how people's opinions -even your own- may change quite drastically over time. I myself am not a technology-enthusiast at all, quite far from it. If I learn how to use my phone, TV, computer or any other electric device, I definitely would not like to change it for a newer, better model. No way! Instead, I'd like to keep using my own familiar and comfy gadget for as long as it works and not change it for anything. You see, I hate the learning period and process that you inevitably have to go through with each new machine, device or appliance you buy. That's why I was very reluctant to start using tablet PCs for a long time; I didn't want to go through the trouble of learning how to use them. What changed my mind was watching people use their tablets and it seeming so easy and effortless. Finally I ventured into trying my mom's tablet myself, and came to the conclusion that it might actually be quite easy to learn to use one. So, here I am, a brand new tablet girl!

Monday, September 08, 2014

Language teacher, language student

The autumn term is just about to begin, and I start my teachings tomorrow. Even though I've been a teacher for years, it is always a little bit exciting to start a new term. There are new students and new groups, and it takes a while for people to get to know each other and the teacher, and vice versa, of course. This autumn is new and different for me also for another reason: I'm going to take on the role of a language student myself!

It's been my dream for a long time to learn to speak Italian. I've been to Italy several times, and it's always just as frustrating not to be able to communicate in their own language when the fact is that I would like to know Italian at least somehow. In my youth I studied French, so I believe that learning Italian might not be impossible for me, but starting tenacious, long-term study of a new foreign language has not been possible until now. Or, so it seems at the moment, but let's see how I'll find the time and the energy to study during the dark months in the winter. As a language teacher I am very much aware that learning a new language from scratch takes time and effort, and you'll learn to master any language slowly and gradually. But anyhow, I'm still excited, and as you can see from the picture, I'm an eager student who already has bought herself books and pencils and is ready to start. Uno, due, tre, parliamo l'italiano...

Friday, August 15, 2014

Greetings from London!

I was able to visit London at the end of my summer holiday; here are some examples of the different things you can see or do in London. You can, for instance...

 ..visit the beautiful and lively Covent Garden market. It is a former fruit and vegetable market, now a popular place with various things on sale.
 ..visit Greenwich and Cutty Sark.

..go and have your picture taken with the Beatles.. of course at Madame Tussaud's.

..see the beautiful Tower Bridge on your way ..

 .. to the Tower. Check if you see the ravens and the beefeaters, see traitors' gate and be amazed at the Crown Jewels!

..enjoy the all-English dish of fish and chips!

..hop on Europe's tallest Ferris wheel!

If you're into second-hand clothes, antiques or other small things, then the Portobello Road Market is the place for you!

History enthusiasts -and others- find Hampton Court and its gorgeous gardens well worth the visit! 
Musicals, Harrods, double-deckers, pubs, concerts, sports events, history, you name it. In short: there's something for everyone in London, and it really is true that "if a man is tired of London, he's tired of life!"

Friday, May 16, 2014

A new telephone!

My previous telephone broke down, which meant that I had to get a new one. Buying a new telephone is a serious matter; you'll have to consider all the possible options well before making a decision. Why? Because your phone is your constant companion these days, and if you're stuck with a model you don't like, it makes your everyday life a lot more difficult every day.

For instance, if the logic of different functions in your new phone is incomprehensible to you, it's nerve wrecking to always face the same problem: Where do I find..? How do I ..? In comparison, if all the functions and applications you need are easily found and used, your life with your phone is easy, effortless, comfortable. Especially people like me (who are not particularly fond of technology, we just want gadgets to work!) can't stand situations where we have to spend time and, through trial and error, find the means to use the alarm clock, delete a name from your address book, add a new application, find a good ringtone etc.

This story has a happy end. I was able to find a new phone that seems to meet all my demands, and is understandable to me. It's also good-looking, the size is suitable for me, and it wasn't terribly expensive either. I've had this new phone for a couple of weeks now, and I can say that I'm compeletely satisfied. I have a feeling that this will be "the beginning of a beautiful friendship"....

Sunday, April 06, 2014

I believe, therefore it's true

During the last few days I've given a lot of thought about the powerful effect of our minds. I mean, it is a known fact that if we believe something to be true, it is true to us. The placebo effect is surprisingly strong  with different kinds of medication, and I just read somewhere that the same effect has been found in for instance knee operations!

Our daughter was infected with stomach flu on Friday, and since it's very contagious, the rest of the family has been afraid of catching the same virus. We've been washing our hands and using hand sanitizing lotion fiercely, but still we've been dreading for the unpleasant virus to strike at any moment. I've noticed the placebo effect in myself: since I am aware that this virus is difficult to avoid, I've felt nauseous all weekend even though I've actually been healthy. It must be my mind that is playing tricks with me, and since I believe that I'm just about to start throwing up, I feel exactly like that. Thank goodness it seems that our daughter is on the mend, which will probably mean that also I'll get rid of this icky feeling!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Shopping online

I like new clothes, shoes and jewellery as much as the next girl, but I can't stand going shopping. I hate going to the shops, because when I go shopping I usually end up feeling tired, hot, hungry and upset after spending an entire day running from one place to the next feeling tired, hot and hungry, queueing to fitting rooms and finding out that I didn't find anything useful after all. Besides, the mirrors and lights in the fitting rooms make you look absolutely dreadful! Anyone I've ever talked to say the same thing: when you're in the fitting room looking yourself in the mirror, you feel so depressed and shocked ("Is this really what I look like?!")  that you wouldn't want to show your face anywhere in public again! At least for me this kind of feeling doesn't inspire buying more clothes. Quite the opposite; it just makes me feel like quitting shopping and going home.

Online shopping is definitely for me. I like to leaf through brochures or surf on the Internet, and then place my order in the comfort of my own home. Also waiting for the package to arrive is a nice thrill, and I find it nice that I can try on new clothes at home. I've also purchased other things via the Internet than just clothes; tickets to concerts and to the cinema, jewellery, bed clothes, tablewear, carpets, curtains, and even cloth diapers for the kids when they were smaller. Just a few weeks ago I bought tickets to the Sagrada Família in advance, and it's good that I did! The queues outside La Sagrada Família were enormous, and had we not had tickets, it would have taken us many hours to get inside the church. Now it took for about twenty minutes to get through the gates, thanks to the ticktes I had bought online.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Refreshing winter holiday!

Last week we had our winter holiday, and we went to Barcelona. As I expected, the weather was better and warmer than in Finland, but actually not terribly warm, yet. Sunglasses were useful, but so was a warm coat as well, since it was quite windy when we were there. The windy weather didn't bother us, though; there was so much to see and do there.

La Sagrada Família was even more gorgeous than I had expected. The basilica is pretty amazing on the outside, but the interior is absolutely breathtaking! Also La Ramblas(s) is very charming, and the market hall La Boqueria sells all kinds of things fresh, and all the items are laid very beautifully and invitingly. If you visit La Boqueria hungry, you will probably feel like buying everything you see there!

On our way back in the airplane, I thought of what kinds of tips I could give to people travelling abroad. One thing that instantly came to mind was that if it's possible, you should always buy tickets for tourist attractions in advance. Fortunately, we had purchased online tickets both to La Sagrada Família and to the Picasso Museum, and it was difinitely worth it! We saved a huge amount of time (and nerves) when we didn't have to queue for hours and hours.

Secondly: if it's possible, try to walk to places as much as possible. In my opinion, you see much more when you go to places on foot instead of using public transport or a taxi. And thirdly: if you intend to walk a lot, make sure you're wearing comfortable shoes!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Gold for Finland!

Finland had a great day in the Sochi Winter Olympics on Wednesday when we got two medals on the same day! For a small country like Finland that kind of thing doesn't happen all the time; in fact, hardly ever. This time, however, both men and women got medals from cross-country skiing; women got silver and men gold!

It was great to hear the Finnish national anthem, Maamme, after a long period of time, and it was wonderful to see the joy in the athletes. Even though the extensive use of doping has -unfortunately- cast a permanent shadow on sports, it still is rousing to be involved in a major sporting event such as the Olympics. The spectators really feel involved, and the excitement is often very intense indeed. I guess those are the fundamental things in sports; to compete, to support, to feel excited, to feel exhilarated or to be really disappointed.

Today there is an exciting day for us Finns again, when the Finnish ice hockey team, Leijonat, is fighting against Sweden. The stakes are high: the winner gets to compete for the gold medal, whereas the loser will fight for positions three and four. Actually, the game is about to start as we speak, and if I hurry up, I just might catch a glimpse of the 3rd period when I get home...

Thursday, February 06, 2014

The Winter Olympics about to begin!

I'm sure nobody is unaware that the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi are just about to begin. Actually, the first preliminary events have already taken place, and we Finns are happy to know that three of our slopestyle -skiers were able to make their way directly to the finals. It has become apparent in recent years that Finland has some top competitors particularly in snowboarding and freestyle skiing along with cross-country skiing and ice hockey. There has also been an interesting change in the attitudes of the participants: the traditional -and very understandable- attitude has been that competitors are aiming at winning, but these young freestyle skiiers and snowboarders are in for the fun! They seem surprisingly relaxed even in the biggest of competitions, and the reason for this is probably that they don't focus all their thoughts on possible victory or defeat, but in the notion of being able to ski in brand new slopes or half pipes etc., meeting other people enthusiastic about the same thing, and being a part of a big sporting event. The feeling of enjoying what you are doing really shows in their performances, and I think it's one of the reasons they have been so successful. It's been said that us Finns have a colossally low self-esteem, and that we fear failure so much that succeeding is therefore difficult for us. Fortunately, this seems to be changing.

We had a discussion about the 2014 Winter Olympics with my Coffee Mornings -group on Thursday, and we all took a guess of how many medals the Finnish athletes are going to receive this time. My guess was four medals, and this is how I came up with that number:  I think the young snowboarders or freestyle skiiers are going to bring home two medals (even though the Finns are good, the rivals are tough as well), the Finnish female ice hockey team is going to get a medal, and we'll get one medal from cross-country skiing. I'm afraid there won't be any medals for us in ski jumping, men's ice hockey or Nordic combined. We have one good biathlonist, but I don't think she'll win a medal. She'll be close to the podium, but not quite on it.

Okay, there you have it; my guesses on how the Finnish team will do within the next couple of weeks! Hopefully I'm wrong and the Finns will win a lot more medals, but I was trying to be realistic in my estimates. We'll get back to this issue when the games are over and see how I did with my opinions!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Freezingly cold!

We've had a peculiar winter in Finland this year. First it seemed that winter wouldn't come at all; we had surprisingly high temperatures in December and January, and all the snow that we had had so far melted away. Then the weather suddenly got cold and it's been like this for several weeks now.

The lack of snow causes many problems. Naturally, people who like to ski or downhill ski are annoyed because their skiing season cannot start, but also farmers are worried about their future crops because of the combination of terribly cold weather and lack of snow. Snow works as a good insulator, and also many animals who live in the wild are unable to find shelter.

I can relate to these problems, but personally, I really didn't mind that we didn't have a 'proper' winter a month ago. I'm constantly cold in the winter, so relatively mild temperatures suited me just fine, and since I'm not a winter sports' enthusiast, I didn't miss snow that much. Of course, it's nice if you have snow at Christmas but that's about it if you ask me. Actually, I wouldn't mind being somewhere warm right now, dressed only in a bathing suit and sipping a cold drink to keep the heat away. Tahiti or Mauritius; that would sound nice...

Monday, January 13, 2014

Week 2; back to normal

Now that we've had Christmas and New Year's celebrations, it's time to get back to the normal everyday routines. Many people have actually said that it feels good to get the holiday season out of the way and the usual rhythm back. It might take a while to get it back, though, because it seems that quite a few people -including myself- have been extremely tired in the morning during the past week, and in the evening it seems difficult to go to sleep early. I've been trying to console myself saying that getting up early in the morning will get easier; it's just this post-holiday period which is always difficult. And it is a fact that we have passed the Winter Solstice about three weeks ago, which means that we are heading towards more light every day!

January is also a time for New Year's resolutions, and it's a known fact that fitness centres, gyms and all kinds of health clubs get loads of new members every January. "New year, new me" seems to be the goal for many. I don't normally make New Year's resolutions, but this time I've promised myself that I'll try to struggle myself out of this sugar addiction I seem to have developed over the holidays.

I actually came up with one long-term goal for myself: from now on, I'm going to spend the rest of my life trying to make sure that my children will never become astronauts or any kind of space engineers. The reason for this notion is that I went to the movies yesterday and saw Gravity on 3D, and the experience was so scary that I don't even want to think of having someone I love working in space!