Monday, April 25, 2011

Turning Twelve in Tampere

Happy Birthday!
Hyvää syntymäpäivää!
Whipped cream and strawberries on cake - yum. It was store-bought, but it was a tasty birthday cake, nonetheless.

Brooke with her birthday loot!

Pretty necklace from grandparents Denny and Becky, on a pretty gal.

Brooke's request for a birthday dinner: bacon, mashed potatoes, steamed broccoli and fruit salad. I added a homemade fruit punch, and we were set.

Bonus Photos:

A Finnish memento for her birthday, Brooke picked out this mug. It's made by the famous Finnish company Marimekko, known in the U.S. mostly for its textiles (see links below). When I was growing up, my parents valued Finnish things, partially because they like Finnish/Scandinavian design and partially as a way of honoring my dad's Finnish heritage. So, Marimekko has always held some allure for me, and I'll be happy to borrow Brooke's mug (if she let's me!). Note the multiple colors of nail polish, a b-day present from Grandma Susan and Grandpa Grant.

Studying about the Roman Empire

Brooke has taught herself to make bagels. Boiled and then baked, they are delicious. She hopes to start a Saturday bagel-baking tradition. If you plan on visiting us, ask Brooke to make some of her bagels, and you'll be in for a treat.

This photo pre-dates her birthday, but I put it here since this post is about Brooke. Brooke made this sauna ladle in shop class at school. She chiseled out a bowl shape in the block of wood you can see in her right hand. Using that shape as a form, she pounded out the ladle's copper bowl. She used a lathe to form the wooden handle, stained the wood a variety of colors and then attached both the ladle's bowl and handle to the twisted metal piece in the middle. It is one of my favorite things, and we will use it frequently in our sauna here in Tampere and back home in Wisconsin. If you are not acquainted with saunas, see the link below. By the way, do me a favor and pronounce sauna like the Finns, who are credited with its invention. Sauna is pronounced "sow-nah." Thanks, or Kiitos!


Brooke saying what she liked about her birthday

Singing Happy Birthday to Brooke

Curious about Marimekko? Here's a link:
Know that their things are not cheap, but the designs really pop, so a little can go a long way. If nothing else, seeing some of the patterns serves as inspiration for creative pursuits.

Evidence of Spring

Happy Spring (Hyvää Kevättä!)
What is the evidence that Spring has reached Tampere? Is it the calendar, which shows that Easter 2011 occurred yesterday? Is it the snow and gravel giving way to patches of green grass and spring flowers covered with bumble bees and butterflies? Is it ice giving way to boats on the southern lake, Pyhajärvi?

Perhaps the biggest evidence of spring is actually that toddlers and babies are finally not wearing snow suits. It seems that Finns want to make certain that their young children are not chilled AT ALL. Snow suits went on in the fall, well before snow arrived, and they stayed on, outdoors, until we'd had several days over 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15.6 Celsius). I like the coziness of this approach, and it extends to strollers and sleds, which during colder weather were often lined with a sheep's skin, making sure that children are extra warm.

Now, people are out in hoards, walking, eating outdoors at cafes, reading books on benches, picnicking with friends, skateboarding and generally enjoying the weather.

Bonus Photos:

Our girls sillouhetted against Lake Pyhajärvi. Above, Brooke. Below, Analeise.

Frog eggs in a pond!

Analeise greeting Bryan, home from a business trip.

The girls are happy to report that there are several ice cream stands set up throughout the city. Here, Analeise is with her mango ice cream in front of Tampere's main library, The Metso, the day before Easter 2011.

This photo shows Brooke near the northern end of the boulevard called Hämeenpuisto, which runs between the lakes that make Tampere an isthmus. In the background on the left, you can see the view tower at Särkäniemi amusement park. It's the tallest observation tower in Finland, set inside the country's largest amusement park. We like the park, which is smaller than most major ones in the U.S. It offers several roller coasters and other rides, an aquarium and dolphin show, a petting zoo and a modern art museum, all within site of beautiful Lake Näsijärvi. You cannot see the lake in this photo, but even this late in the spring, it still is coated with quite a lot of ice.

Easter Egg!
We found German-made markers that are designed for decorating Easter eggs. Fun!

Our last snowball fight of the year!


This is a link for the Särkäniemi amusement park in Tampere. If you're in Tampere during the spring or summer, I'd recommend going. Note that you can pay to visit only the observation tower or the art museum without having to pay general admission to the park.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Spring Break - Dog Sledding!

Spring Break is called Ski Holiday in Finland. The government divides the country into three regions for the purpose of assigning each a week during which to take the break. That way, schools and universities are on the same schedule, making it simpler for families to take vacations.

We started the break by attending Teijo and Eerika's wedding (see "A Wedding!"). After that, we were happy to stay around Tampere. It is traditional to go skiing during this holiday, but we spent our time going to movies and the library, taking walks, visiting an art gallery and reading - basically taking it easy.

Kate's favorite painting at the Willa Mac gallery.
It's by Taneli Stenberg (see links, below).

The week started with a wedding and ended with dog sledding! Bryan was recuperating from a sinus infection and the flu during the break, but he bolstered enough to go along with the girls and me for the memorable experience.

Erki owns and runs the dogsledding company. Here he and Brooke and some of his dogs are on frozen Lake Pyhäjärvi.
Kate's haiku:
Dogs barking, "let's go!"
We are pulled on ice and snow
The wind whipped our cheeks.

After our time on the lake, the dogs really wanted to be pet. They had been so eager to go once they were all tied together. When the run was over, they were mellow and affectionate. Going dogsledding was not inexpensive, but it was worth every cent. A lot of people go to Lapland in northern Finland to have this experience, but we were not able to do that. If you are around Tampere in wintertime and would like to try dog sledding, I'd recommend Gegwen Getaways (see links below).


The dog sledding operation near Tampere:

The Willa Mac art gallery, shown in the photos above (it's lovely and free!):

The artist, Taneli Stenberg's website:

Friday, April 22, 2011

A Wedding!

Analeise and Brooke and I kicked off their spring break by attending a family wedding! My cousin Teijo Tiirika married Eerika Fisakkila at the Espoo Cathedral, a beautiful stone church dating back to the late 1400's. The acoustics were wonderful, which was great since the majority of the service was sung by the pastor, which our cousins tell us is unusual.

What were some of the differences between Teijo and Eerikka's wedding and those that I've attended in the US? There were more familiarities than similarities. There was a reading from the bible during the service. A friend sang a song. They exchanged rings. During the reception, we feasted and danced, many photos were taken and wished the couple well. These are the main differences that I noted:
  • Those in attendance at the ceremony seemed quite somber, with laughter and big smiles saved for greeting the newlyweds outside the church, after the ceremony.
  • The bride and groom were not pelted with bird seed or rice upon their exit from the church; their friends and family members instead formed two lines, with many of us holding sparklers, and they walked between us.
  • Gifts to the bride and groom were not wrapped. If they did come wrapped, the Maid of Honor would have unwrapped them and then placed them on the gift table. I asked a cousin about this, and she simply said that people know newlyweds don't have time to open a lot of gifts. It seemed very sensible, and many gifts, although unwrapped, did boast a pretty ribbon or bow.
  • The cake was not on display during the reception. It was kept cool in the refrigerator until just moments before serving. When I asked a Finnish cousin about this, she was disgusted to hear that cakes in the US are left out for hours before being served. A chef I know back home assured me that our cake recipes allow for our cakes to safely stay at room temperature. The cake at this wedding was delicious, by the way. It had a caramel-like coating and lots of real cream and was served with coffee.
Behind the cake, cups are set on the table with small dessert napkins pulled through their handles. This is a common way to present a dessert coffee cup, and you eat your cake with the same coffee spoon with which you stir your coffee.
  • The bride, Eerika was "kidnapped" during the reception by the groom, Teijo's friends. He had a choice of some potentially embarrassing tasks to complete in order to win her back. He chose to recite a poem and to sing a song, and his sister, Taina helped him.
Eerika being carried away by Teijo's friends.

Taina, with two of her daughters, Maria and Ilona, and Teijo.
  • Once Eerika was returned to the party, the same kidnappers stole the alcoholic punch, and Eerika had to do something to get it back. She played a song on the piano.
  • The reception included not only toasts by the Best Main and Maid of Honor, but also a very sweet toast by the bride's father and a slideshow narrated by Teijo and Eerika about their international travels together.
  • There was also a song by Eerika and her friends and a formal gift-giving to the Best Man and Maid of Honor, thanking them for all their help and friendship. There was also a time during the party, in the beginning, when everyone there was asked to stand up for various reasons (if you went to elementary school with the groom, if you went to university with the bride, if you are related, etc.). This was a fun way to involve everyone there but also let guests know how everyone was connected to Teijo and Eerika.

We ate wonderful food (homemade cheese, various salads, creamy and cheesy potatoes, beef and more).

Brooke was taught several dances by our cousin Terhi Välisalo, and it was fun to watch cousins Maikki and Maria dance together, too. What a great wedding!

Maria and Maikki dancing, with Eerika's dad nearby.

Bonus photos:

Seija and Terhi Välisalo before the wedding, with the Espoo Cathedral in the background.

Flower girls and sisters, Maria and Elli

Analeise and Brooke, about to greet the married couple!

Matti, Seija and Kalevi leaving the cathedral, on their way to the reception.

Arriving at the reception.

Sister of the groom, Taina, with daughter Ilona and Brooke and Analeise

Yum! These women stayed quite busy!


Tero, Topi and Elli during the reception

Eerika and Teijo, about to cut the cake. After they cut the first pieces, guests were invited to line up, and we cut our own pieces of cake. This seems very sensible, as we could take the portion size we wanted.

Seppo, Eerika, Elli, Maria, Teijo and Taina

Liisa, Elli, Eerika, Maria, Teijo and Veijo.
Liisa and Veijo are Teijo's parents.


Eerika, just about to dance with her dad.

Elsa, Riikka, Saara, Pasi and Silja Kuusijärvi

Silja with drawings she made during the reception. Teijo and Eerika very intelligently had a table full of games and art supplies for children to use during the party. Good idea!

Virpi and Marika, cousins of the groom

Juhani, Virpi and Hannes

Marika, Markko, Rebecca and Nicole Kuusijärvi

Analeise, Brooke and me. Believe it or not, Brooke was taller than me within two months after this photo was taken.

Analeise and Kate

Analeise and Terhi

Teijo's mom, Liisa, with his niece, Ilona.

Analeise and Brooke saying goodbye to Teijo as we left the reception.