Monday, June 27, 2011

Picnic in the Park

Nyt on kesä. It's now summer (officially) and to celebrate, Niko and I had a picnic at a local park. I found a nice roll and store blanket at Antilla, and for food we brought potato salad from LIDL, patongit (baguettes) from Picnic (how appropriate), Pringles from S-Market (yes we have Pringles in Finland), and I got  a pear flavored drink from S-Market. I should explain that in USA, I never had anything pear flavored, but here in Finland it seems to be almost a national flavor. Pear ice cream, pear drinks, pear candies, you name it, it's everywhere. And none of them actually taste like pear, but they all have the same flavor that is associated with ,pear,. I find it extremely tasty.

In addition to it being summer, it's bright all day and all night. Sun set here is right before 11pm and sunrise is around 3am. But it never gets dark. The above photo was taken on the longest day of the year, somewhere around 1 or 2am. That's night, folks. That's as dark as it gets.

Knitting is continuing. I finished a dishcloth this past week and my other projects are getting quality time.

T. Kati

Friday, June 17, 2011

Taita ja Nauti

International Knit in Public Day was June 11, so Niko and I grabbed some yarn and needles and found a bench and just sat and knit. It was nice weather and quite relaxing to just sit outside and knit. I ended up finishing the Taivas Varjele shawl later that afternoon, which had been in progress for over a year.

Every month our local supermarket chain puts out a 35 or so page booklet that you can pick up for free at the entrance of the store. Inside are recipes, specifically ones that use the Pirkka brand, which is found all over the store. On many of the recipes is a date stamp. And if you turn on mtv3 everyday at various times of the day, you will find a show called Mitä Tänään Syötäisiin? (What can we eat today, loosely translated).It's a five minute show and in it, the guy picks a recipe or two from the booklet and shows how to make them. While you can't make a meal in 5 minutes, you do get to see the cooking techniques involved, which tools are needed and the show pictures of the ingredients so you can find them on the shelves. And lately I have actually managed to watch a few of the shows and made a few of the recipes.

For starters there was a watermelon ginger drink.

Then I made a pesto-egg spread to go on top of Karjalanpiirakka. These little pies are traditional Finnish food and often topped with munavoi, an egg and butter combo. But the pesto variation was also quite good.

And lastly, I made some Hedelmäropposet, which I will extremely loosely translate as Fruit Tarts. They are pastry dough covered with a cream cheese-vanilla-nectarine combo and topped with strawberries. These are quite good.

One interesting food item we bought this week was Pullava. The word pulla is a general term that means some sort of dessert bread. It can be as simple as a bread roll with cardamon or can also have fruit with it. But this Pullava is a specific brand item from Fazer and has individual pieces you can break off and eat. On the top is some sort of fruit on one side and a custard on the other. If that wasn't exciting enough, the edge pieces are also filled with custard.


 In other news, Niko and I had an offer on an apartment which we accepted, so we now know where we will be living in August and beyond. It's a nice 3 story building, centrally located and has a little market right behind it. And of course, it has sauna. It is Finland.

Until next time...

t. Kati

Friday, June 10, 2011

Residence Permit!!!

Today was a huge week because my residence permit was approved and I am now officially a legal resident of Finland. In case you've forgotten, this is good for one year and can be renewed each year. And after 4 or 5 years I am eligible to apply for citizenship, though most people wait much longer and just keep renewing their permits. 

On Tuesday we were just having a normal morning, doing things around the apartment when I get an sms on my phone. It reads ,You are kindly requested to deliver your passport to Kouvola police station,. Needless to say we immediately hopped in the car and drove over. And after a short meeting and some more form signing, I got an official stamp in my passport that says I am a legal resident. 

It is very surprising that it took such a short time. Luckily my case got handled solely within Kouvola and never had to get sent to the immigration office in Helsinki or anything. For most people, it takes 4, 5, 8 months to wait and wait and wait for the resident permit to even process. Mine took only 3-4 weeks from the time I turned the first forms in. 

 The next steps were to get Kela card (covers everything from social security, unemployment, health ,insurance, etc all in one system) and open a bank account. The Kela card is now in process and may take a few weeks but I now have a bank account (hello euros). 

Would you like to see what part of our city center looks like? There is a Kouvola webcam located on the top of a tall building that gets updated now and then and on one of our errands Niko had to go to the 10th floor of the building, so I took a photo while we were there.

 The tall building on the left is just apartments but there are shops in front of it. To the far left in the distance is the (now defunct) ski jump. And that cluster of buildings on the right is Hansa, our little shopping center that sells clothes, shoes and has some small food places in it, for example Arnolds, our donut place. 

As you can see the snow is now just a memory but I am reminded often that it will come back (how could I forget?), but for now and especially today, Finns are sweltering in excessive heat of 30C/86F. And may I remind you, here is no air conditioning. 

Here is part of the grilli menu
But wait, that's not entirely true. There is air conditioning in grilli! Grillis are like little kiosks where you just walk up and order food, usually burgers, sausages, french fries, standard greasy delicacies for a reasonable price. And then you can sit around outside at tables and eat or there can be a small inside section to eat in the cool air conditioning. The closest thing I can compare them to are those stands at pools or lakesides. The great thing about grillis for me is that every one I have seen thus far  has vegetarian options. All have veggie burgers and the one we went to yesterday while in city center had vegetarian pita, which was delicious. And what grilli food is complete without something to drink. I had orange juice with my pita and I really like the straws here that they use on these small juice boxes. They have two bends in them. Niko had milk in cute little cups. The fun part about milk here is the little cow on the front of the container. On these milk cups, the cow is riding a bike with a helmet on. But depending on what type  of milk (1.5%, fat free, whole) you buy, the cow is doing something different. Going fishing, rollerblading, all sorts of fun stuff. And the cow on the bike originally was riding without a helmet, the helmet got added later on. But the pictures and activities change on a regular basis so it's fun to see what the cow is doing next. This cow only exists on the Valio brand milk, the other brands just have basic cow or nothing at all.

It's ice cream season in Finland. Ice cream stands are open everywhere, ice cream shops opened their doors long ago and set out tables, and even the ice cream truck can be heard playing it's music driving down the street (at 9pm I might add). In supermarkets you can also buy individual ice creams and yesterday Niko and I got some on a trip out. There is one brand called Pingviini (penguin) and I have been seeing it's commercials on tv for some time for a popcorn ice cream. Intrigued, I had to try and I must say it was delicious.  It's vanilla ice cream with some yellow color mixed in that tastes like popcorn butter, in a sweet way. And then there is a caramel spot in the center that tastes like popcorn caramel. The cone is lined with chocolate and has that chunk of chocolate at the bottom. And at the top of the ice cream are little popcorn kernels, but they are soft and chewy like candy. Whoever created this deserves a medal.

T. Kati 

Friday, June 3, 2011

Polkupyöra, Knitting and an Award

Ah the time has gone by since my last post. My parents came and visited us for some time and before and after their visit, not much happened outside the usual studying, working, etc. The weather is warm now, in the 20s (that's 70s for you F folks) and so the windows in the apartment are wide open and there is green everywhere we walk. Lately I haven't even needed a jacket, which is exciting stuff.

The biggest thing to happen lately is that I got a bike! It's white, 28", Jupiter brand (made in Finland). It's quite retro but very sturdy. It's a 3 speed, which is great. In the front there is a little bell by the brake. In the back there is a small rack where I can put things and maybe in the future put a basket to transport groceries easier. There is also a pink flag with a reflector on it that can be pulled out (like in the photo) or just normally alongside the bike, so that if I ever would ride at night, people can see me easier. But the most fascinating thing to me about this bike is the lock. Most bikes in Finland don't use the coil or U-lock locks that I am used to, that you attach to the bike and then to whatever it is you are locking it onto. Instead, most bikes in Finland come with locks attached to the bikes on either the front or back (mine's on back) wheel, between the spokes, so that when it's unlocked it is out of the way and you can ride freely, and when it is locked, you can't move the tires at all. So you can just put the bike on a rack (this one is in front of the apartment btw), lock it and walk away. I like it.

The actual ,getting, of the bike was an adventure. We found the ad in a local newspaper and actually called about a different bike listed. The owner lives in Valkeala, which is 11k from here. But the bike we called about wasn't in great condition when we saw it in person. Then the guy told us about a different bike he had that wasn't listed in the paper, namely, this one. This one was much much better. So we bought the bike but had no way to bring it  back to Kouvola. So we went out and got me a helmet (blue and white, like Finland flag), and then posted an ad in our building, asking if anyone had a bike rack we could borrow. But alas no one responded (I don't think anyone reads the board) so we planned our expedition. We would get a (car) ride to Valkeala and then I would ride the bike back while Niko jogged alongside. And we did. The whole 11k. In 70+ F temperatures, which in Finland is devastatingly hot. It was quite an adventure. But we made it and now my bike has a home on the bike rack out front and when it rains there is also a bike room on the ground floor inside where it can stay dry. 

I made this
Niko made this
For those who don't know me I am an avid craftster and knitter. I always have at least one project going at a time and it's quite common when I have free time to sit in a chair, listen to a knitting podcast and knit some project. When I visited here last June I taught Niko the knit stitch and this past week we went out and got some yarn and he got a refresher course and we have spent the evenings just sitting together and knitting. It's very nice. He is a very fast learner. He has already knit up a dishcloth and two sports wristbands. At the same time, I knit up a dishcloth too, so that he could see the same stitches. My next project is a hat, using circular needles. Hopefully it ends well.

Lastly, my friend and fellow blogger (and craftster) Anna has bestowed upon me a Stylish blogger award. Apparently those who get the award have to write 7 facts about themselves, link back to the person who gave it, and give it to 4 new ones. So here goes.

1. I live in a little town in Finland and Finnish is my fourth language. (The others are English, German and Danish)

2. My hobbies include learning languages (which atm is 100% Finnish), knitting, sewing, reading, watching movies and cooking/baking. I introduced cream of potato soup to Niko last week and he made us Pannukakku this week. It's like a giant sweet pancake baked in the oven and then covered with jam or fruit.

3. I am a process knitter. I find it more fun to plan a project, enjoy the project as I am knitting and then before I am even finished, start planning the next one. The opposite of a process knitter is a project knitter, those who know exactly what they want to make and then make it. Me, I could be happy with a hat or scarf or anything as long as I have needles and yarn in my hands. And if there's some interesting new technique involved, all the better.

4. I like supermarket ads. In any language, from any country. Whenever the mail comes, I always jump to check out the latest sales and just see the interesting food items available. The LIDL ones in Finland amuse me because you can see ads for bread, milk and hardware tools and paint all in the same ad. And it's a small store. I am also a pro at finding the good deals and identifying which ones are just spaving.

5. I like to watch movies (even in English) with subtitles. This works out great with Niko. :)

6. My favorite board game is Scrabble. I brought this travel version from the US and the tiles actually stick into spaces so you can close the board/folio anytime and open it back up to play later and the tiles are still there! It's super nice. Niko and I have also played Finnish Scrabble at the local library, which is also very fun. Unfortunately, the photo from our game is on my cell phone and I have no idea how to get the photos off from there. :)

7. I always order extra cheese on pizza (extra juusto, tupla juusto).

That's all for today, folks. Happy knitting!