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The recovered couch

February 20, 2015

Long ago the Mr. and I purchased our first home together and we went hunting for the perfect couch for our new living room. The perfect couch was well-made and as I mentioned back in December 2014, I was vehemently against getting rid of it.

So after a little bit of searching around and getting the Mr.’s approval (it took some convincing to get him on-board) we brought our much-loved couch to Verhoilu Vilja, owned and operated by Inka Vilja in Vantaa. I sent her an e-mail with a few photos of our couch and requested an estimate.

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We actually had a chance to go and see what kind of fabrics she had prior to bringing the couch to her. When we were checking out the fabrics, Inka pointed out ones from Annala, a Finnish producer.

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Well, that was it – all other choices were off the table. She even let us bring home a few samples so we could see the fabrics in different lighting conditions and banter about our thoughts. That was a really good move because it took us a few days to really figure out what we wanted. Our colour choices flip-flopped between beige, red, orange (!) and the final colour we chose, blue.

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In these challenging economic times I have decided it is pretty important to do all I can to support Finnish products from Finnish companies that support our local workforces.

It took Inka about five days or so to do all of the work and that included adding some extra padding and recovering the couch. We were pretty happy with the end product. Materials and labour cost about EUR 1200 altogether, but getting a good couch brand new would cost about that much or more.

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The recovering doesn’t end there. The. Mr. has some chairs that belonged to his grandparents (and later to his parents) which were last recovered in the 1970s. They are solid and in good shape, I look forward to the transformation that they will undergo at some point.

In any case, this was a good choice and I am really glad we went through with this. A big thank you Inka for her work, and for being a good sport by allowing herself to be photographed with the finished product.

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Picture of the Day

February 6, 2015
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We had some snow recently and evidence of our local blackbirds looking for pickings in our yard. Nice to know they’re still around.. :)

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Cruising to Sweden

February 4, 2015

(Sorry I haven’t written lately – busy and distracted…)

I know this is something I haven’t blogged about yet.

It is really easy and relatively inexpensive to travel on short holiday hops to Tallinn, Estonia or Stockholm, Sweden by cruise boats (or fast boats to Tallinn). The selection of cruising options has increased over the past few years and it is also possible to go to St. Petersburg, Riga and locations in Germany and Poland (I believe).

Going on a Silja Line (Tallink) or Viking boat cruise to Sweden is a favourite past time of many Finns. It’s fun now and then to get away from it all and enjoy good food and drinks and the entertainment.

A cruise from Helsinki to Stockholm is two nights on the boat and a day trip in the city. It’s a great opportunity to take in some of the sights and enjoy the time away from the rat race. My favourite part of Stockholm (though I have to admit I have spent little time exploring anything outside of the old town area) is Gamla Stan, the old town of Stockholm.

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We went this past weekend, for the first time in ages. The Little Miss was so excited the day that we left that she woke up realllly early.

The weather was really windy and the seas were rough. Staff at the reception desk give “sea sick” pills to anyone who may need them. I took them, because I did notice the rough seas, it was kinda hard to put out of my head. Our (window) cabin was right at the front of the boat, so the sound of the hull hitting the waves was pretty loud sometimes. I must admit, I didn’t sleep well because of the rough (and noisy) seas.

Our cabin was great! This is the second or third time we have had a cabin with a window. Even though it was night time when we embarked on our cruise, you could still see outside. It was nice to sit in silence and gaze out the window. My favourite part of the cruise is sailing in and out through the Stockholm archipelago. It is so nice!

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Virtually all cruises headed from Finland to Sweden stop in Maarianhamina (the capital of the autonomous Ahvenanmaa Islands), which enables passengers to shop tax-free under EU rules.

There were plenty of things to do for kids on board: the playroom, scavenger hunting, shopping in the store, karaoke, swinging with the band, family-friendly shows and performances and so on…

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When in Stockholm we took in the Vasa museum, which is arguably one of the country’s busiest museums. You can easily spend a few hours there examining and reading everything about the ill-fated ship. Downtown Stockholm is spread out among several islands and you can even get around by water taxi to cut down on what would be some long walking trips. If you’re an architecture buff, Gamla Stan, the old town is a great place to go. If you can avoid some of the cheesy souvenir shops on the main street, it is actually a cool place to visit. There are plenty of cafes and restaurants to please anyone’s taste.

This being the first cruise with the Little Miss since she was a baby meant a whole different outlook as a parent this time around. And I can warn you about one thing right now: Do not (and you should not) leave your kids alone anywhere on these boats. On the trip to Sweden and the return trip to Finland, we had adults who were incredibly interested in the Little Miss… When we were at supper, some guy kept tapping her on the shoulder every time he walked by. (?!) In the karaoke club (which is all ages), I was incredibly taken aback by the behaviour some men who were out on the dance floor dancing with little kids (who were obviously not their own). One parent put a stop to it rather quickly. Kids are cute and all, but come on – dance with people your own age. Watch your kids like a hawk!

I asked other foreigners living in Finland what they thought about cruising between Finland and Sweden (and other places). “Hey! I will be writing a blog post about cruising by boat to Sweden and Tallinn. Are there any favourite things you like about boat cruises? Anything you want to warn people about? Would love to hear from you!

Here is a selection of their (paraphrased) responses, many thanks to everyone who responded!

Maybe drunken behaviour on board? Could be risky for cruise safety.

We do a family cruise during the summer to Stockholm when the Moomins are on board. Fun for the whole family.

Taking a dog with you is a nightmare. Unless you get put near the potty areas. They have a small sand box but usually you find beer cans and cig butts in it….

On the Viking Helsinki-Sweden trip, I was really impressed by all the activities for the kids. My daughter had such great fun doing arts and crafts, making buttons and swimming on the ship. She couldn’t have been happier.

We always take a private sauna when we go over a weekend. A great way to relax and unwind after the work week. But pricey!

We did the St. Peter line last year, and the cabin bunks were so, so, so uncomfortable. I had to beg for extra duvets to cushion it with. But overall the cruise was fun.

I love the sheets… They are so soft!!! The second best thing is the buffet but it has become a bit costly…

My advice would be to go during the week if you want peace and quiet. The sauna on Viking Gabriella was next to empty, too (price 8 euros/person). There is a small steam room as well as Jacuzzis. Loved it.

Depends on when you go but in the summer just standing on the deck, feeling the breeze and looking at the view is amazing! Besides that, the return trip its funny to see how many people buy loads and loads of alcohol.

Got fairly ill (flu) on the Gabriella (Viking Line) to Stockholm. Our cabin was nice enough considering cheap price.

The ‘entertainment’ can be really awful! (Viking Line overnight FIN-SWE / SWE/FIN). The best thing for me was buffet breakfast looking out the window at Swedish coast.

Banning tobogganing: Could it happen in Finland?

January 16, 2015

Last week I was listening to the local morning program from my hometown on the internet and nearly flipped out when I heard the headlines surrounding one story: Cities in Canada are banning tobogganing.

Tobogganing, sliding down hills: An integral part of childhood for any child who lives in a country where it snows in the winter. When it is done safely and with adult guidance and supervision, it can be a really safe and fun activity.

But it seems in increasingly risk-adverse (and law-suit squeamish) Canada, municipalities and schools are outright banning unstructured activities for kids in fear of being sued when someone gets injured.

I was furious, and I wasn’t alone. My first thought is why can’t people take responsibility for their own health and safety when they participate in outdoor recreation activities? There is no need for the over-the-top mitigation of risk by municipalities, schools and organizations. Take care of yourself and your loved ones for heaven’s sake!

I mentioned to several friends and to the host of the morning program I was listening to that in Finland the liability laws do not work like they do on the other side of the pond. In Finland, if you’re dumbass enough to get hurt while doing something questionable, the healthcare system will take care of you, but you’re not going to be able to sue anyone. Fortunately there is still an element of “at your own risk” here and aggressive, in-your-face personal injury lawyers – unheard of. Thank goodness.

So I think banning tobogganing in Finland would probably never happen… But, you never know.

Just the other day, the Little Miss’ friend came over and said, “Let’s go sliding!” No problem, I went along too even though the friend protested at first. “No adults,” she yelled. My reasonable little girl insisted that I go along after a lengthy explanation as to why an adult should be there to supervise… And that was okay…

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I am pretty sure that tobogganing has never been banned in Finland, although I did hear about a story in Vantaa of a family who has made their own ice rink for years being told they couldn’t do it anymore because presented a “slip and fall” risk. Ummm, ice rinks are just that, slippery – and they have done this for years – why the ban now?

Then there is Sami Päivike who has plowed a 25km track on Kemijoki Lake near Rovaniemi. He did it for fun, so that locals can enjoy skating and other outdoor activities. His hope is that the authorities don’t put a stop to his activities and he’ll continue clearing a path on the lake to keep people happy and active. Even the BBC got in on reporting on Sami Päivike’s activities.

We should be able to enjoy outdoor activities all year round at our own risk and our municipalities should not have to walk around on eggshells in fear of being sued by its citizens.

Life in Finland gets plugged by other media

January 15, 2015

I’ve done a couple of interviews for some people lately and I thought I’d share those links here.

Adrian Doyle is an entrepreneur and has a business doing language editing at Englanti Editing for clients in southern Finland. He is currently diving into the world of Englishes, so I gave him some commentary on Canadian English and bantered a bit about life in Finland. See the interview here.

Before Christmas I was contacted by Elina Eronen Piper of Expedia. She blogs for Expedia Finland and wanted to know more about my thoughts on Finland. She summed up my responses here (in Finnish). In addition to that she writes on a large variety of other topics and places. Be sure to to check it out.

Finally, last September I was in Umeå, Sweden where I presented the abstract of my final research project that I did to fulfill the requirements of my Master’s degree at Athabasca University. I met Kate Ashbrook, who is the General Secretary of the Open Spaces Society, Britain’s oldest national conservation body, which campaigns for commons, greens, open spaces and paths.

Kate writes about “the commons,” spaces that are for public use, a very popular concept here in Europe and much different than how people in North America view property and land. She has been writing summaries of some of her experiences from the 3rd European IASC Conference. She kindly gave my research a plug, I was flattered. :)

I’d like to thank Adrian, Elina and Kate for their interest and getting Life in Finland some traffic.

And thank you to everyone who surfs on in here and reads and comments, you make it fun!

Things I didn’t know last week

January 8, 2015

(This is actually a compilation from before Christmas.)

I learn a lot of new stuff by browsing through magazines. Often the text is simple enough for me to understand and glean information from – yes, I will learn Finnish someday!

I wish I had more time to browse book stores because I often come across great finds like this one. I bought five copies of this book as a gift for kids – and teachers! It’s a book of great ideas for art projects.

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(From the 12/2014 edition of Yhteishyvä, the costumer magazine of the S-group.) ‘Tis the season for falling. The statistics are grim. Every year some 390,000 incidents of falling and slipping accidents are recorded in Finland. 145,000 of those are reported between November and March. Every winter some 20,000 people are injured in falls outdoors. 160,000 visits are made to doctors because of falling. Falls touch 40-50% of those 15-74 years of age and some 70% of those over the age of 75. Be careful out there.

(Also from the 12/2014 edition of Yhteishyvä) Palliative care is slowly growing in Finland and there are only about 2000 trained volunteers in Finland. About 15000 people a year require palliative care services.

Volunteers are trained by church parishes, the Finnish Cancer Society and palliative care homes.

To sum it up, here’s a new Finnish word for you if you didn’t know the translation for palliative care: Saattohoito

Happy New Year! Hyvää Uutta Vuotta!

December 31, 2014

Dear friends, I would like to thank you for jumping on-board and following along throughout 2014. It has been a busy year.

All the best to you in 2015.

Celebrate responsibly, don’t drink and drive, arrive alive and use safety glasses if you’re messing around with fireworks tonight!

Look for more fun stuff soon!

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