Saturday, October 27, 2012

I like Big Butts!

Yep, that's right, I like big butts. I mean they are so big, come in different shapes but are roughly all the same, they rock gently when moving, are so much fun to be on and eating on one is just an experience.......... no i'm not some weirdo, i'm talking about boats. Ever since I saw 'Finding Nemo' I have called boats, Butts, and now my wife also calls them such.

So why were we on a butt? Well Tanja had come up with an idea back in September that we could tag along with the rest of the family to a trip to Helsinki and then get on a mini-cruise to Tukholma (Stockholm to those who don't understand Finnish). So we left at 0700 on Tuesday morning with a nice warm -2oC to help us knock that fog that forms in your head when you sleep out of our heads. After picking up her two brothers we hit the road. Our butt was leaving till 1730 and Helsinki is only about a 6 hour journey but we had to leave so early because of breaks to stretch our legs and also food. On our first stop we encountered our first bit of snow, about an inch and very much near ice than snow but still I was excited. Our second stop was for Brunchfast (basically brunch but for those who didn't have breakfast) was at Scan Burger, a small fast food chain, and I got some massive burger that decided on the first bit to try and escape. It was a tasty burger but nothing special, however that chips were good, stayed hot and crunchy till the end of the meal, not like the soggy, cold McDonald's ones.

We soon were dropped off at the docks in Helsinki and waited to board our butt. It was really funny because we had to sit outside the waiting room waiting to get in, then had to wait some more to get onto the butt. When we get to our cabin and I was impressed. We were on the top deck and it was a fairly big room, enough space to spread out. We were soon under way a leaving Helsinki harbour. I went outside to watch Helsinki sink away in the distant. We passed through the Kustaanmiekka strait between the fortress island of Suomenlinna  and another small island. Then we were out in the open sea, the Gulf of Finland to be precise.

The crossing was very smooth, you could hardly tell that we were on the water. At 2000 we went for our dinner, it was an 'autumn' buffet and man it had everything. I managed six plates, 2 starters, 2 mains and 2 desserts, yeah I know what you are thinking but hey I'm on holiday. They had a lot of game dishes, bear stew, roasted deer, moose casserole, cold smoked reindeer, game mousse etc as well as numerous other dishes. Some were not all that tasty like the mushroom terrine but some were out of this world like the game mousse on small rye breads. The desserts were pretty sweet too, the tiramisu was a bit overpowering though. After getting really, really stuffed we retreated back to the cabin for our wee nap. The nap lasted a while but we wake up to watch something on the TV and pop open some alcohol free sparkling wine. Soon after we decided to call it a day and fell asleep to the vibrations of the butt.

In the morning we went to the breakfast buffet which was also very good, it was very crowed though. Smoked salmon, gravlax salmon, all different kinds of bread, eggs, bacon, and numerous other items were on offer. I managed four plates washed down with tropical and orange juices whilst admiring the scenery of the islands and coast of Sweden. We were soon docked and disembarked near Gamla Stan (Old Town in Swedish and where the Royal Palace is), after hearing the name of the place I automatically equated it to Gangnam Style and once we found a sign I did a small dance next to it (video will be uploaded at some point).

Gamla Stan was very cool. Narrow streets that reminded me of Peel back on the Isle of Man. The streets we all cobbled and with stairs going to parallel higher streets, it was similar to Bayeux in France which I visited and stayed in when I was 18. We soon came to the Royal Palace and that place was big. You could feel the history of the place. It had Guards posted at various places around the building. A small fact I found out, after the assassination of Gustav III of Sweden in 1792, the Royal Guard always carry loaded weapons. With this fact in mind, it is a good idea not to go up and pull faces at these guards like the tourists do to the Guardsmen in London.

We crossed the bridge going through to back of the Swedish Parliament and into main centre of Stockholm. We went through the main street that seemed littered with tourist shops (we the usual fun, cheesy and random nick nacks). After travelling around, we stopped to write some postcards and then decided to return to the butt. It was leaving at 1630 so we wanted to get in around 1530. As we were heading back we passed a few guys fishing opposite the Swedish Parliament building, soon one caught a fairly big Salmon. After walking passed the front of the Parliament building, we passed the Palace again and this time we saw an inspection of the guard. But soon the fun was over and we were back on the butt in our cabin, exhausted.

We relaxed until the butt pulled away and I went to watch us leave Stockholm behind. Then it was another buffet, however not much had changed, only a few things. I am never eating white fish tartar again but the Game sticks were very nice. After only managing 5 plates this time Tanja and I went shopping in the tax free shop for some goodies. We were soon back in the cabin watching TV, washing up, chatting about the day and munching on small cheese and meat sticks. I went out to watch us dock at Mariehamn in the Åland Islands and then returned to the cabin to call it a day.

In the morning Tanja and I slept until about 30 minutes before docking as we had opted out of breakfast. After getting everything packed and washed ourselves, we had docked and were disembarking the vessel. We walked from the harbour to the hotel that the rest of the family were staying in. A smart idea, it is a self catering hotel with no reception, all you get is a code that works from the day you booked till midday the day of our leaving. The beds were very soft, i'd say too soft for my liking. The day was sunny but a little nippy on the wind. After grabbing brunchfast in Picnic (a sandwich chain store) we headed back to the hotel room to get suited and booted. Jani (Tanja's younger brother) was going to be set apart as a missionary. As we only had one car, Tanja and I elected to go on the metro system. We got to the mission president's house about ten minutes after the rest of the family got there, the taxi had dropped us at number 16 and not 6 but he came and got us when he realised the mistake. The setting apart ceremony was different to what I thought it would be and i'm not entirely sure what I was expecting. Everyone said there bit with lots of tears to accompany the wishes of good luck and miss you's. After Jani was set apart, the family were offered cookies and drinks and I was taken into a small office by the mission president. Today I was going to find out about a chance to get rebaptised into the church. Well we got the green light, it has taken two years of constant struggle, pain, hurt and upset but finally the road has come to an end. This is the right move I believe for me and now it is up to the branch president in Oulu for how we go from here, I am talking to him on Sunday about it. The president and I joined the rest for cookies and drinks.

2 and a half hours after we arrived at the Mission home, we all squashed into the car (Janne, Tanja's youngest brother lying over us three in the back) and headed to find a place to eat. We decided (after some debate) on an Italian place called Mario. Tanja and I were banned from taking the meatball pasta for two by her mother, think she had visions of us recreating lady and the tramp at the dinner table. The meal was good, I had taken a grilled Chicken breast with Goat's cheese, roasted vegetables, herb potatoes and balsamic sauce. The guys took burgers, which looked pretty good, coming in baskets with 'newspaper' greaseproof paper. Tanja took grilled chicken breast with garlic mash and a citrus sauce. Her mother took a pasta dish and her father took the same as me. It was very tasty and we all decided (except Janne) to take dessert. Mine and her mother was chocolate brownie, Tanja was citrus panna-cotta and I cannot remember what her father and Jani had. The brownies came in jam jars and Tanja's came in one of those jars with a lid fixed by a wire, it was good looking and had a novelty factor. After this Janne and I were 'abandoned' to find the Metro system and get to the hotel. We flipped a coin and elected to go in one direction of the shopping centre, luckily for us it was the right direction and we were soon on a metro tram on our way to downtown Helsinki. We must have looked like a pair of young men who worked in the business sector, being all suited and booted as we were. We got out of the tram and walked about 15 minutes in 0oC to our hotel. By this point I was bushed, my legs were cramping up and as soon as I got into our room I got undressed and lay on the bed, paralysed. After watching some random TV shows and got a few move pages into the book I bought in Stockholm I turned off the light and went to sleep.

When I woke up in the morning I peered through the curtains only to see white, it was like some giant had dusted the street with icing sugar. We packed up all our stuffed and took it to the car, we wished Jani goodbye, as this would be probably the last time we would see him for about 2 years. We then headed into town for breakfast which we took at Stockmanns. After this, it was time to do some sightseeing. We went to the harbour and bought some Bebe's (they are a Finnish tart with fruit jam and icing on them) at the market there, passed the Presidential Palace, took a look at the bridge of love, climbed the steps at the Cathedral and then went inside the World Trade Centre. It was at the WTC that we met up with Janne and went to the 'America' store, which is a shop that stocks foodstuffs from England and America. I sneaked in a packet of pork scratchings and got a couple of cans of Irn Bru. Tanja and I spent 50 Euros there but we did get a lot of goodies. We soon headed back to the hotel where we waited with her mother for the father to come and pick us up. We then all went to Chico's for lunch, chicos is one of Tanja's favourite restaraunts, it is an America style restaurant. Tanja and I had mini burgers for starters, I had the cajun chicken kebabs for my main. Everything seemed to contain some form of spice in them and soon we were all talking about the tingling in our mouths from the chillis etc. For afters Tanja and dared Janne to get the Big Dream dessert which was six balls of ice (strawberry, vanilla and chocolate) with caramel sauce, whipped cream, chocolate bits and M&M's. He managed it all, how he did it I have no idea but he did.

Then we parted ways with the mother who was going to do some shopping before going on a plane. We (Father, Janne, Tanja and I) were going to drive the way back to Oulu. We left at just after 1500 and after a few stops, travelling through patches of snow, fog and ice we arrived back home at just after 2200. After checking up on my emails, editing the photos of the trip, I retired to bed.

So overall it was an great trip. I got back to a letter from my father and also got a letter back from the registration place and I have a social security number for Finland. So not long left before I am fully sorted in this amazing country. The snow is about  6 -10 inches outside and I am going to now brave a walk to the store to get some lunch. Hope you all have superfun my friends.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Animal Noises

Well I promised to write another blog before the wife and I left for our trip this week, so here it is.

Tanja and I were talking the other day and the topic moved somehow onto animal noises. Now I have heard that different countries have different 'sounds' for animals and they even made a joke about it during an episode of Family Guy. So Tanja and I had great fun laughing at the different noises Finnish and English Animals make.

 So as we know Cows go moo, Dogs go woof woof, Ducks go quack quack, Horses go neigh, Pigs go oink oink, Roosters go Cock-a-doodle-do, Sheep go Baa and Owls go hoot hoot. Well in Finland they make totally different sounds. Cows go ammuu, Dogs go hau hau, Ducks go kvaak kvaak, Horses go ihahaa, Pigs go röh röh, Roosters go kukkokiekuu, Sheep go mää mää and Owls go huhuu. So as you can see completely different.

On Sunday I cooked for the Family as Tanja's Brother Jani is going away on his Mission this week. So her mother asked would I cook and could I do Lamb. I made a Roast Lamb dinner that I marinaded for two days with Rosemary, Lemon and Garlic and slow cooked for three and a half hours, it was so gorgeous, very tender. I accompanied it with Roast Potatoes, mashed carrot and turnip, home made stuffing balls and Gravy.  We also had Salad, Various breads, Cheese, smoked Salmon, Ham and Salami. Only in Finland can you possible get a roast dinner with Salad and bread. It went down well with everyone who ate. One of the best things about it was her Grandma ate, I had been told that her Grandma cooks for others and not the other way round very often, so I was pleased with myself. For dessert I made Sticky Toffee Pudding and we also had Ritva's Winter Dream (It is cream, rahka, domino biscuits and caramel sauce. Very nice). By the end of the meal we were all stuffed, so stuffed that I couldn't even think about a bowl of Mämmi, which is a Easter dessert made with malted rye and molasses, which I enjoy but not many others I have met do.

I got some good news on Friday, I got my Registration papers back from the Police. So I officially have a Right of Residence in Finland which is great news. That is stage 1 of 3 completed to become fully registered in Finland.

So now, we are just sorting out what things to pack to take on our trip to Helsinki and Stockholm. We both cannot wait to go on the mini cruise but we also know that by the end of the trip Jani will be a missionary and we won't see him for 2 years. He will be missed by all but he will have a good time in the UK and he will benefit from it, as I am sure we will all learn from his experience.

So I will write with pictures etc from our trip when I get back. So until then have Superfun my friends.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Twenty Sixthaversary

On Wednesday Tanja and I have been happily married for 26 days.

You all must be thinking, what's so special about 26 days. Well nothing really except, those that know Tanja, 26 is her favourite number. So what did we do for this 'special day'? Originally I was going to cook a full three course dinner but unfortunately I have not been so well these last few days. So instead we got pizza, but before pizza I created a starter which consisted of toasted rye bread topped with grilled cheese, cashew nuts and cheddar cheese.

It was nice but it needed something else. Tanja and I thought either cream cheese on the bread or maybe a savoury marmalade of some sort. Whilst we ate this and the Pizza, we had the Proposal on. Those who have not seen the movie, it is very good, funny and well put together. For dessert I made Blueberry and White chocolate Panna Cotta. Tanja loves both those flavours and so I couldn't possible go wrong on this account.

For those who would like to recreate this, here is the recipe:-

  • 3 cups fresh blueberries (substitue thawed and drained frozen blueberries)
  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 sheets of unflavour gelatin
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped (substitute 2 teaspoons vanilla extract)
  • 1 cup whole fat buttermilk
  • 100g bar of White Chocolate

First put the Blueberries, Water and Sugar in a sauce pan and reduce by at least half. 

Put the cream, vanilla pod and beans, honey in a sauce pan, bring to boil, then cover and leave for 30 minutes. Break up the white chocolate and add to buttermilk, heat up the buttermilk until all the white chocolate is melted. Melt the gelatin in a little hot water and pour through a strainer into the cream mix, remove the vanilla pod and combined the buttermilk and cream together.

Blitz the Blueberries until smooth. Then pour half the cream-buttermilk mix into the blueberries and mix together. To assemble the panna cottas, spoon some of the mix (either one) into a glass (we used wine glasses)  and leave for 20 minutes in the fridge. Then spoon the opposite mix on top carefully and put back from 20 minutes. Then pour the rest of the mix on top and leave for 2-3 hours in the fridge before serving. I hope you enjoy the recipe.

I didn't get Tanja a gift as I presumed she would state that she didn't know about gifts and so didn't get me one. Well appears she got me a gift and so I felt a little bit daft......... oh well got the rest of our lives to make up for it. Tanja bought me a book which contained tradition Finnish recipes from the different regions of Finland. 

So how have my studies been going? Not bad, I only went to class once this week though because of feeling unwell and I left early because of feeling unwell still but I am going to the class that is held at the local LDS Chapel tonight. In a week I have learnt a lot and got confused a whole lot more. Pronunciation is very important as I found out, Kylä means village but Kyllä means Yes and then Vireä means active but Virheä means Green. So as you can see for learner like myself, we could be misunderstood very easily.

It snowed as well the other morning but it only lasted an hour or so before it turned to rain. I do like fall, I mean real fall where the colours on the leaves change to fiery reds, bright oranges, greenish yellows and all other amazing colours. The downside though it has been so wet lately that everywhere looks a little dull and sad but soon the snow will come and everything will been pure white and shiny. It will also mean time to make snow tunnels and do random things in/with the snow just because we can.

Well I think I will sign off now, got housework to do. I will write another blog entry before next Tuesday, Why? Well Tanja and I are going down to Helsinki with her Family, on the Tuesday till Thursday morning Tanja and I will be going on a mini-cruise to Stockholm in Sweden and then on Thursday we will see her brother Jani be set apart as a Missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He will be serving in the Manchester Mission in the UK, who knows, he might serve some time on the Island. We come back on the Friday and we might stop off Parola Tank Museum, I hope we do. 

So that's all from me for now. Näkemiin (See you later)

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The tastes of Home.

So what have I been up to since I last wrote on my blog?

A friend of Tanja's and I, Sonja, texted Tanja the other day to inform us that Lidl was selling Manx cheese. So we decided that we would have to go and buy some of this Manx cheese on Friday. I went to meet up with a friend and have a catch up before going to see Tanja for when she finished work at 3. I had persuaded Tanja to come to the Northern Ostrobothnia Museum (Pohjois-Pohjanmaan museo in Finnish). It was a pretty cool museum, they had an exhibition about the Doghill Kids which is a children's storybook series first written in 1980 by Mauri Kunnas. Within the exhibition there were headbands with ears so children (or in this case Tanja and I) could be the different characters in the books.

They had a section on the shipping industry of Oulu, which was a big factor in the towns growth right up until the mid- 1900's. An area about fishing, they had a video of traditional fishing and they were catching Nahkiainen (European river Lamprey) in the Oulu river. There was an exhibit about the military history of the area, this was of much interest to me because of my other blog. So I spent at least 15 minutes within this area just taking photos.

They had a very interesting area on the Lapps, they had a 'grave' which showed that shamanism was alive and well in Northern Finland/Lapland. On the ground floor there was a scale model of Oulu from 1938, two years before it was bombed by the Soviet Union during the Wars.

So after an hour and a half of dragging my lovely, understanding wife around the museum, which I found highly interesting but think she only found half as interesting, we met up with Sonja to cycle to get Cheese. It turned out that the Manx cheese was put under the company name Deluxe and they had three different kinds of cheese, Vintage Manx, Mature English and Mild Coloured Scottish. Turns out all came from the Isle of Man creameries and so we bought the Mature and Vintage.

It tasted so good. We finished that night by watching the Snowwhite movie and the new Underworld, which was accompanied by meatballs and pasta and 12 euros worth of Sweeties. The Snow white was a good movie but the Underworld was a let down, they had changed the director and writers and it appeared it was just fight scene after fight scene with no real storyline but just bits thrown out there and not explained.

What other things have I been up to? Well I went to the local library. Now that was fun, it is massive, spread out over 4 floors, tons of books but sadly most were in Finnish. they have a big archive section which I am sure I will make use of in the future. 

I saw the Northern lights for the first time the other night too. Amazing, words fails me on how to describe it to you. It was only one ribbon and very faint at times. It lasted about 20 minutes, a dull, hazy green, constantly changing shape but wow, breathtaking. I love this country and that made me fall deeper in love with it. I feel so privileged to know that I can see that regularly throughout the winter.

Anyway it is late here and so my bed calls. I hope to write some more on my other blog soon.

Hyvää yötä (Good Night)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Back to School


Well I have just come home from my second day at 'School'.

I am lucky that here in Oulu they have a lot of expats from all over the world. They have many language courses for those willing to learn. I found a course at somewhere called Villa Victor which is a international activity centre for immigrants and Finns. It is designed to helped ingratiation and prompt understanding between Finns and those who have moved to the local area.

 I am enjoying the learning, it is really hard though as Finnish, like I explained in an earlier post, has a different background than English and as such many words and grammar constructions are totally different from what I am use to. I have tried learning from CDs and books but it just helps to have an interaction. I feel I have learnt move in the last two days than I have in the last year I have been trying to learn. We have about 6 people in my class, all from different places, like Greece, Thailand, Hungary and Spain. We all get on and the teacher is pretty cool. So far we have learnt things like how to shop, asking how you are, countries, numbers and other basic things. So now I have till next Tuesday to relearn and help stick in my mind all my notes from the last two days.

Today is also the first 'Flag Day' since I have arrived. Flag days are specific days in which a Flag is flown in honour or celebration of something like Independence Day or a historical event. Todays Flag day was in celebration of the Birthday of Aleksis Kivi who wrote the first significant novel in the Finnish Language Seitsemän Veljestä (Seven Brothers), it is also the Day of Finnish Literature

I was thinking the other day that even though I am not homesick there are some things I do miss. The most important is the familiarity of the surroundings I had back home, I knew most of the places on the Island and knew how to get everywhere, the people I knew, the people you bumped into randomly (even though it has happened here in Finland at least 4 times). Another most important thing is my friends, I do have friends here in Finland and I am slowly meeting new people but back home I knew people for many years, knew their likes and dislikes and some people I could even have a pretty good guess at what they were thinking. Another is working, I know I have only just got here and will get work eventually but working here will be different and maybe I won't get employment in the same area of work as I am use to. Also I have not seen a single jar of Bovril anywhere.............. think I am going to have to ask my Father to send me some over.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Star shaped Omelets and Gangnam Style.

Sometimes you really should not say something to your wife that she will make you do at some point in the future. This happened when, after watching the Gangnam style video, I stated I could dance like that.

Well I can now safely say that maybe I should reduce my dancing career to dark nightclubs where no one can recognise me and everyone else is dancing like a loon.

Learning a language can be really hard but learning Finnish is just harder, for those who speak English, English is part of the language family called Indo-European and has many things in common with German, Swedish and other Western European languages like grammar construction, words, pronunciation etc. Well Finnish comes from the Uralic language family and has very little in common with English or Western European languges. Even basic words and letters are pronounced differently than we English would pronounce it. I mean 'Y' is pronounced 'ew'. So I have been struggling to learn from CDs that I have acquired but it is just noise and I have such difficulty sometimes understanding them. But today I rang up a place that offers courses for beginners and as off next Tuesday I will be going to 'school' in a manner of speaking. I cannot wait, get to see new sites, learn new things and hopefully start putting some language together.

My Wife has been an assistant in a music class for this week instead of her normal student and as such I have had the pleasure of making her packed lunches this week. I bought her a pink hello kitty lunchbox a few months back but we then found out her lunches would be paid for when she was with her Student. Last night we decided to make omelets but using star shaped pastry cutters that we in a drawer. The first two examples didn't worked but like true pioneers we perceived. We soon produced 6 different flavoured and sized Star shaped omelets, one even contained candy eggs that you get in Haribo sweets.

So fun was had by all. But now I better sign off and do some house work. Enjoy everyone.

Monday, October 1, 2012


Well doomsayers did say 2012 would be the end........... for Oulu, we had a Zombie Invasion but luckily they didn't bite anyone and went home after an hour or so walk around the city.

 It was very cool, having never seen one of these fabled Zombie walks that happen all over the world, it was something different. Last year, the Oulu Zombie Walk had about 200 people taking part, this year I think they may have done a wee bit more than that. Everyone seemed to have fun and there was a big crowd of tag a longs and people lining the main streets watching.

The zombie leaders giving an inspirational speech

Even Zombies obey the traffic signs

Some are even literate

Fuelled by monster Energy

I would've hugged him but was holding my camera.

An unfortunate bystander

I also have a video of the event which I am editing, so will post on my youtube account when I have done it.