Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Spring, Swiss Roll, Donuts

The first day of spring came and went in Finland. As you can see, the snow is melting. You can begin to see some green from the trees. And you can even tell what color the cars are under the snow. When walking to the market or to class, pavement peeks through. The top layer of packed snow melts which reveals a layer of ice underneath with some more snow underneath that. The snow piled up on the side of the roads has melted some so you can actually see the cars in the street as you walk past.

And then it snows again.

We actually had some warm days here in Kouvola. The sun shone brightly and the temperatures reached +7 (40s F). And for one day the ice on the walking paths melted even more so there were places big enough to put your shoe in without snow. The snow melted into small rivers at points which flowed into the walking tunnels that are built under roads to get pedestrians across the street without having to cross traffic. The tunnels are decorated too; there is one I walk through to get to school nicknamed the Dolphin Tunnel due to the dolphin art inside. And the snow melted enough that we were able to discover that that car on the right... is white. I was betting orange, Niko bet red. And at the moment there is little to no snow on the trees. But it's a warm day today, +2 (low 30s), though tomorrow and the Friday it will fall back down again to -4 (low 20s).

But enough about the weather and eternal snow of Finland. It's more fun to write about food. Like Swiss Roll. And bagels. And donuts.

Last night after class/work Niko made us Swiss Roll. Unlike the Hostess/Little Debbie version, there is no chocolate, but it consists of dough, whipped cream, jam and fruits. Last night's version used strawberries and banana slices. It was very tasty and we plan to make many more versions in the future.

This morning, after running an errand, Niko and I walked to the shopping center and stopped by Arnolds, a wonderful little bakery/coffee shop with donuts, coffee, muffins, cinnamon roll (Spinny) and...bagels. Real bagels. I had a delicious veggie bagel (with artichoke-so hard to find here!) and they had a special deal where if you buy a bagel you can get drink and donut for cheap as a sort of combo so I got a hazelnut donut and Niko got a fudge one. After the bagel sandwiches (which taste just like American bagels btw), we decided to save the donuts for tonight, which is the only way I could have managed to take a photo of them. Donuts in Finland (at least the ones I have tried) are more cake-y compared to a Dunkin Donuts or Krispy Kreme but they are still definitely delicious. Plus the flavors are completely different here, like white chocolate and licorice and the mysterious pomade-is it strawberry? cherry? apple? no idea...)

Life is always an adventure here.

kevät : spring
kääretorttu : swiss roll
ostoskeskus : shopping cente
donitsi : donut
sataa lunta : it's snowing (literally: it's raining snow)
mansikka : strawberry
banaani : banana

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Helsinki and Jytky Day

We went to Helsinki yesterday and there's really not much to report. It was my first time in the city and I can't say I was much impressed. Lots of construction, lots of car, taxi, bus, trolley traffic, lots of people, lots of English, lots of noise.That being said, the variety of restaurants are massive and all the food looks and smells good. Before I went to the Embassy we stopped by Wayne's Coffee where we ate muffins and drinks. The muffins were way sweeter than the standard muffin from America but it was still very tasty.

After getting out of Helsinki as soon as possible (wouldn't want to live there, wouldn't want to visit there), we went to IKEA. Which is extremely similar to the IKEAs from USA and Germany I have been to as they sell the same products and everything is still in Swedish. I did like the kitchens though, with the different stoves and ovens. We went to the cafe there and had some very good food for an even better price. I ate some spinach crepes. The Swedish market itself was small, but I suppose that's because it's not like you have to look further than the supermarket to find Swedish food here.

But when we got back from our trip we got a fantastic surprise! Our neighbor's name is Matti and he has this huge wonderful dog named Jytky. Always happy, and have I mentioned huge? When the dog walks in the elevator only one other person can stand in it too. I have run across Matti and Jytky many times when they go on their walks but I have never had my camera handy but I had it in the car from the Helsinki trip so I took advantage of the opportunity. So I present to you, Jytky.

päivä : day
muffini : muffin
iso koira : big dog
hissi : elevator

T. Kati

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A Little TV, A Little Food

Albert speaks Finnish
Finnish television shows are very multicultural. There are shows in Finnish from Finland, shows from America, the UK, Australia, Germany, Spain, Sweden and more. But everything,  that isn't spoken in Finnish, is subtitled in Finnish. The only exception are children's shows which are either in native Finnish or dubbed. It's very helpful for a non-native Finn to turn on shows like Gimoren Tytöt (Gilmore Girls) or yes, even Pieni Talo Preerialla (Little House on the Prairie) and be able to follow the vocabulary and grammar while reading along.

There are also shows filmed in America shown here that I have never even heard of back in the states, like ,America's Worst Driver, where terrible drivers have to complete obstacle courses and the worst ones get their own cars destroyed. And of course there are lots of cooking shows here too like MasterChef Suomi (Masterchef Finland) and Top Chef Suomi (Top Chef Finland). And who can forget Muodin Huipulle (literal translation something like Fashion to the Top), the Finnish version of Project Runway, with bonus wanna-be Tim Gunn. Too bad he's not.

We get American Idol here too, though I have no idea how many weeks behind it is shown here, or maybe none at all. Of course, it is subtitled too. And there is even...Idols. The Finnish version of American Idol, which has been running for many years. They sing songs in Finnish and in English. One of the early favorites of the judges and viewers was one Lassi (pronounced like the famous television collie) but he ended up not making the semi-finals. Listen to Lassi sing in English and Finnish here.

And what is the perfect way to settle down and watch some Finnish television? With some Finnish food like blueberry soup and strawberry viili. The Finns love blueberries and they also like to put everything they can into these cartons, like yogurt. Just pour it into a mug or glass and drink away. There are even fruity blueberry pieces in it. I had this for the first time on the flight with FinnAir on my first trip to Finland and it is just as good each time I have it. Now viili.... that's quite another story. There is no way to describe how viili tastes or even what it is. It's like some Finnish farmers were making yogurt and left something sitting too long or threw in some random ingredient and there was an explosion in the factory and boom! viili was born. A dairy product that looks deceptively like yogurt but sits on the spoon like Jell-o and can almost even be chewed in the mouth. It is the strangest thing. Even Anthony Bourdain would be confused.

In other news, the snow is melting and the temperatures are in the teens and twenties (Fahrenheit). That means it's still pakkasta, below zero in Celcius but the Finns are happy and saying it feels like spring. I think they're nuts.

tyttö - girl
pieni - little
talo - house
preeria - prairie
Suomi - Finland (what the Finns call their own country)
keitto - soup
astetta pakkasta - degrees below zero

T. Kati