Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Construction micromanagement

I've tried to highlight the good sides of Espoo whenever possible. But now Espoo deserves few words of criticism.

A new hospital will be built in Jorvi. The construction project is worth 200 million euros. According to yesterday's Helsingin Sanomat (the paper version), Espoo city council were not convinced by the competence of the project lead. Therefore the council decided that a member of city council must be involved in leading the hospital construction project. In my opinion this is either a very stupid decision or the decision was really poorly written.
  • Being a member of city council is more or less of a hobby. Folks are doing their city council duties in the evenings, besides their "real" work. 
  • 200 M€ construction project is huge. To give some perspective, the construction of the largest leisure time activity center in the Nordic countries is worth 100 M€. Helsinki music hall was a project worth 150 M€. The planning and construction costs of Guggenheim museum in Helsinki have been estimated to 150 M€. Länsimetro is a project worth 700 M€.
  • Leading a construction project worth 200 M€ is not a hobby. 
As a tax payer I'm disappointed to the arrogant decision. Leading a large scale project is challenging for any professional - why on earth would anyone (31 members of city council to be precise) think that appointing a random amateur into lead would be the solution? The one who orders and pays the project has his role in the construction project - but the role is not positioned in the lead of the project.

The election of the city council will be arranged next fall. You don't need to be Finnish citizen in order to vote, anyone having permanent residence in Espoo for long enough is entitled to vote. I urge you to ask from your candidate, what did he/she vote for on February 27th - and more importantly, why.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Girls, get ready, tomorrow is the leap day, which means that it's officially ok for women to pop the question. And if the guy is not willing to marry you, he will need to purchase you fabric for your skirt. If that happens, better make it a maxi skirt with lots of layers.

Layers - check. Tiara - will do as well.

Monday, February 27, 2012

As they saying goes: never mind

Maansa myynyt. One has sold one's land.
If your friend has sold his land, he may have failed, and he could use some warm words to comfort - for example the following phrases:

Sattuu sitä paremmissakin piireissä. It hurts also in better perimeters, or it happens also in better circuits.
A sentence that you can use to comfort when something has gone wrong: it can happen to anyone.

Antaa piut paut. To give pius and paus.
You can give pius and paus to something, and it means that you don't let it bother you.

Viis'veisata. To five-sing.
You don't need to five-sing about the bad things, i.e. you don't need to care about them.

Viitata kintaalla. To refer with a glove.
In some cases it's ok to refer with a glove for the sorrows, in other words, it's ok to ignore the worries.

Häntä pystyyn! Tail upwards!
Cheer up!

Ei auta itku markkinoilla. Crying doesn't help in the marketplace.
You shouldn't get stuck into your sorrows and whine for too long time, because crying doesn't help in the marketplace.

Eteenpäin, sanoi mummo lumessa. Forward, said the grandma in the snow.
Get over it and move on. Grandma knows.

The mother of all the comfort and cheer up songs. The Finnish version is not as comforting at all.

Saturday, February 25, 2012


Weddings are wonderful! I can't think of nicer party concept than wedding: all of your dear friends and family gather to celebrate your love. Most of the weddings I've been to have actually been surprisingly traditional. Or let's say conventional. And I'm not saying this as criticism, I just recently realized that my parents' generation was much more radical what comes to wedding. I've listed some of the common features of today's wedding:
  • The couple is in their thirties. They've been living together for quite some time already. This makes the gift side a bit tricky, because they most likely already have what they need.
  • The bride is wearing white. Even though white dress is supposed to refer to virginity. Which luckily is not the case in reality, usually.
  • No rehearsal dinners.
  • There's the official wedding ceremony - either in the church or a civil ceremony. In about half of the weddings I've been to, the father has walked the bride down the aisle, in other half the couple has walked the aisle together. We don't do vows, simple "I do" will do.
  • The guests are throwing rice on the couple as they step out the church. Except that in downtown rice is not allowed, because it gets mushy and it's not good for the pigeons who will eat the leftovers anyway.
  • After the ceremony there's the actual reception. 
    • Reception starts by shaking hands with the parents of the couple and congratulating the couple.
    • Usually the food is at the buffet. 
    • Modern couple doesn't like traditional games, such as highjacking the bride.
    • Some DIY-stuff is included in the reception: wedding candies, decorations, placing cards - something is for sure self-made.
Wedding candies without the candies
    • There might be a stack of firewood (i.e. hidden bottles) somewhere close by the reception venue.
    • After the main course it's time for the speeches.
    • The couple starts the cake. Whoever kicks the ground first right after cutting the first piece, he or she is going to "show the location of the cupboard".
    • Then comes the dance, usually starting with waltz by the couple.
    • In the end of the evening the bride tosses the bouquet. The groom catches the garter with his teeth.

Friday, February 24, 2012


Yes, it's a royal tea bag.

My best imaginary friend crown princess Victoria of Sweden and prince Daniel got their first child yesterday. Today the palace announced that the baby princess is called Estelle Silvia Ewa Mary. Good names. Too bad that the names of the royals are no longer translated into Finnish. For example Victoria's dad, king Carl Gustaf is Kaarle Kustaa in Finnish. Queen Elizabeth is called Elisabet and all the king Georges are called as Yrjö in Finnish. Kate Middleton's full name is Catherine Elizabeth, and I must say I'm truly sorry for the future queen of England not having her name translated into Finnish (the fact that my full name is Katri Elisa has nothing to do with this issue).

Let's see if the popularity of Estelle picks up - since 2010 six little girls have been given the name Estelle in Finland.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

As the saying goes: love

Finnish language is rich in phrases. Using phrases smoothly makes a hit, so let's go through some of the phrases related to love - with direct translations and some kind of attempt to explain the meaning. Usually these are doomed attempts, but let's try out:

Teerenpeli - game of black grouse
Vispilänkauppa - sales transaction of a whisk
If two people have game of black grouse or sales transactions of a whisk with each other, they clearly have something going on. But this is very early stage, nothing official yet.

Pihkassa - in resin
When you're in resin, you've fell in love. In a light, cute and blushing way.

Suu messingillä - mouth on brass
Obviously young love makes you just smile all the time, in other words, your mouth is on brass.

Purjehtia avioliiton satamaan - to sail into the harbor of marriage
And if things are progressing, one day you may end up getting married - sailing in into the harbor of marriage, that is.

Näyttää kaapin paikka - to show the location of cupboard
Eventually the one who's more dominant in the relationship is the one to show the location of cupboard.

Monday, February 20, 2012

It's spring. Officially.

The spring is here, officially. This morning I was exposed to many unquestionable pieces of evidence:
  • It was light when I walked to office. I went to office a bit later than usually, though.
  • Birds were singing.
  • It was warmer. Feather jacket was almost too much.
  • I saw a mosquito. A live one.

And if those were not enough, here's some more. Dear winter, you may go now, you've given all you've got to offer:
  • The official snowstorm of the year (actually many of them) - checked.
  • Sledding - been there, done that.
  • The best and the last Runeberg's torte of the year - it was perfect until it lasted.

Sunday, February 19, 2012


It's laskiaissunnuntai, the Sunday prior to the Shrove Tuesday. For us in Finland the Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day is not just Tuesday, it's also the Sunday before the Tuesday. Laskiainen is again one of those days that has been cleverly explained by the bible, but obviously the roots of the celebration is somewhere much deeper.

Sled and skate board have the same shape but since sled has no wheels beneath I suppose it's ok to park here. Read more about positive experiences in parking the sled.

According the religious explanation, laskiainen refers to verb laskeutua (to settle) - to settle for the fasting that lasts 40 days until the Easter. In my opinion word laskiainen refers to laskea mäkeä (sliding), because on laskiainen you're supposed to go and slide down the hill with sled, toboggan or piece of whatever-slides-in-the-snow. You're supposed to shout for "pitkiä pellavia" ("tall flax" in English, I guess) while sliding: the further you slide, the taller your flax will grow and the better quality fiber you'll get for your linen to be weaved.

In case you're not keen on harvesting top quality flax, you can leave the shouting part, and simply enjoy sliding and focus on the food. Traditional dishes of laskiainen are pea soup and laskiaispulla, a bun filled with cream and strawberry jam or cream and almond paste. And that's the eternal debate: jam or almond paste? You can only find out by trying out.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Wee? Gee!

Despite the nasty connotation WeeGee is the best museum center in Helsinki region. It really is. Forgive them, they probably didn't think about the name in English context. Despite the funny name and messy website, WeeGee is without a doubt the only museum in Helsinki region which is worth purchasing an annual ticket (40 euros for unlimited access for a year).

There are five museums in WeeGee: Espoo museum of modern art (EMMA), Espoo city museum, Helinä Rautavaara museum (presenting different cultures), toy museum and watch museum. Each of the museums hosts on average couple of exhibitions per year, and EMMA has great art collection even without the themed seasonal exhibitions. And on Wednesday evenings 6 PM to 8 PM they have free entrance.

WeeGee also serves something for the hippies - a nice brunch on weekends: bread, lettuce, cheese, turkey, eggs, omelet, sausages, pesto, hummus, juices, smoothie, porridge, brownies, pancakes, yoghurt with all kinds of müsli and seeds, fruits, coffee, tea and sparkling wine. The brunch doesn't seem so special if you just look at the titles of the dishes, but the dishes are made of quality ingredients. I liked especially the oat porridge which had a hint of coconut and banana in it. The restaurant is quite spacious, so also larger groups and families with kids and trolleys are able to fit in.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Salmon with chanterelle sauce

Here's an easy and delicious recipe for salmon and mushroom sauce. This isn't any special traditional dish but it's a good example of Finnish seasonal food - especially when the winter season does not have too much to give. I'm really bad with the amounts, since I don't do measuring at home, but this is approximately for four persons.

Set the salmon into a pan, skin side down. No need to remove the skin. Remove the bones, if needed. 1,2 kilos of salmon will do for four. Grind some salt and black pepper on the salmon. If you prefer a natural version, you're done with the preparations now! If you want to kill two birds with one stone and prepare the side dish on the same go, chop two big fennels on top the fish. Grind some salt and splash some olive oil on top of the whole thing. Cover with foil. Set the package into oven, 180 degrees celsius for about 40 to 50 minutes.

Then the sauce. Chop one big or two smaller onions into small pieces. Defrost half a liter of chanterelles and chop into small pieces. Fry the onion and mushrooms gently in butter for about 5 minutes. Mix one table spoon of wheat flour with onions and mushrooms, if you prefer thicker sauce. Add some three deciliters of cream and the water that was melted while defrosting the chanterelles. Spice up with some salt and grind black pepper. Finalize the sauce with couple of table spoons of fine coffee.

Serve with salad. Cooked potatoes and carrots are suitable side dish if you chose not to go for the fennel.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Public sauna

If you think Finns are always quiet and never talk to a stranger, you're wrong. Very wrong. Public saunas are the places where Finns talk to strangers, proactively and even actively. And now I'm not talking about swimming hall saunas or spa steam rooms, but real public saunas with no swimming pool, no jacuzzi - only sauna, shower, dressing room and a kiosk where you can buy soft drinks and juice.


The houses built in the 50's or earlier may not have a sauna of their own, because in the old days there has probably been a public sauna somewhere close by in the neighborhood. There has been about 100 public saunas in Helsinki, but nowadays there are only few left. Sauna expert friends of mine took me to Hermanni public sauna, which is a small, cosy and maybe not that well-known public sauna with a gentle electric stove. Kotiharju sauna with wood stove is bigger and more popular among tourists, and sauna Arla is famous of its gas stove.

I warmly recommend to try a public sauna, it's a living piece of urban history in Helsinki. I can't think of any other place where people would be more equal than in public sauna: sitting and sweating naked in dark heat, side by side regardless of your background, income or opinions. That's an atmosphere you simply can't sense by reading a guidebook.

One-time ticket is around 10 euros, beverages cost couple of euros a bottle. You can bring your own towel but they also borrow towels for couple of euros. There are back washing services available, but you need to book that in advance. The real hard core adventurists may even try out kuppauscupping.

Public saunas

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Kiss(-Kiss)es on Valentine's

Shame on you, Stockmann! I wanted to buy those big boxes of 25 Brunberg's kisses for Valentine's Day, but only pathetic small six-packs where available. Well, Kiss-Kiss candies were valentiny (that's supposed to be an adjective) enough to do the trick.

I bet it's been something like 20 years since I ate Kiss-Kiss candies. I'm pretty sure that 20 years ago the hard sugar shell was thinner and there was huge amount of syrup filling in the candy. Those were the days.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Movie shows

One of the nicest services in Tapiola is the old cinema, Kino Tapiola. It has been recently renovated, and the end result is a nice combination of modern technology and old architecture.

The advantages of Kino Tapiola:
  • Plenty of room for your legs
  • Minimum amount of commercials before the movie
  • Love seats in the back
  • Beautiful vintage neon lights outside the cinema
  • No need to reserve tickets in advance and hurry get them one hour before the show
  • Seats are not numbered, you can pick whichever seat you want
  • Lack of screaming video/dance/rally games in the waiting hall
And anyway, movies are a safe place to go to even though you didn't speak Finnish. Almost all of the non-Finnish movies are subtitled, not dubbed. Usually only kids movies are dubbed in Finnish, but in nearly 100% of the cases the original English version is running at the movie theaters at the same time with the dubbed version.

Larger map

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sushi in old Tapiola

I've lived in Espoo for almost twelve years now. During that time I've stayed in Otaniemi, Leppävaara and now for couple of years in Tapiola. Tapiola is the first place that actually feels like home. At first I wasn't able to deal with my approach towards the city, but the longer I've lived here the more I've learnt to like Espoo. Maybe it all comes down to the fact that based on the population Espoo is the second largest city in Finland, but somehow it has managed to stay very unurban. And that makes Espoo a bit comical city and difficult to categorize. But when you realize that there's simply don't need to categorize Espoo, then everything goes nicely.

As an ode to Espoo I decided to challenge myself to write about the good and vivid sides of Espoo. Don't worry, I won't concentrate on Espoo alone from now on, but I just want to lift up some highlights every now and then, something that I can warmly recommend for others as well.

One of the places to recommend is a restaurant called LN Sushi Art. LN Sushi Art has been at Mäntyviita, the old center of Tapiola for about one year now. It's not the number one sushi place in Helsinki area (Umeshu and Gyosai are the best in my opinion), but definitely a decent place and it has absolutely no reason to be shamed of their sushi. Meal number 3 containing lots of salmon works for me.

Larger map

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The day of friends

Valentine's Day is here soon. Ystävänpäivä in Finnish, a direct translation would be something like "the day of friends". The Finnish word ystävänpäivä is actually quite describing, because for us February 14th is more about celebrating friendship, not that much of romantic love.

Then how do we celebrate ystävänpäivä? According to the people of post office Valentine's Day is the second busiest time of the year in terms of sending post cards and letters. That's why they publish a special edition of stamps around the Valentine's. In addition to sending post cards we celebrate Valentine's Day by eating candies. The sales figures of heart-shaped jellies and Brunberg's kisses take a small peak in mid-February. Bakeries have tried to create and advertise all kinds of Valentine's pastries with pink icing, but those ideas haven't flied too far; the February pastry market is already saturated with Runeberg's torte and Laskiaispulla, so there's no room for Valentine's pastry.

In Finland the Valentine's Day is quite minimalistic. Restaurants don't have a Valentine's menu for two, supermarkets are not selling loads of pink confetti. However, I'd like to propose a tradition for celebrating Valentine's Day in Finnish style - since ystävänpäivä was included into Finnish calendar officially in the 80's, let's celebrate it in the style of 80's: dig out a waffle maker (a piece of luxury from the 80's) from somewhere, invite your friends over and make a huge pile of heart-shaped waffles - since the heart-shaped waffle irons used to be the most common (and the only?) model available in Finland.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Weird and wonderful Tampere

Yesterday I visited Tampere. Business, not pleasure - but it was fun anyway. I bumped into couple of funny things and learnt something about the local public transportation culture:
  • You're not supposed to stop the bus by waving your hand, as you do in Helsinki and Espoo. I felt myself as a hillbilly while being the only one waving at the bus stop.
  • I saw at least ten, maybe fifteen people wearing Reino slippers. In a public. Outdoors. On a freezing day of -15C. What the...?
  • People of Tampere were talking about midgets. I don't know why and I didn't dare to ask, because I'm allergic to LARPing - but they were talking about midgets. On a positive note, they were honest and straight forward and didn't talk about "vertically challenged" or "smaller fellows". 
Tampere is a weird town with industrial edge. People of Tampere don't talk posh, they are straight forward and humorous. That's why I've always liked Tampere.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Four classics of Finnish literature

KalevalaElias Lönnrot collected traditional poems into national epic. Nowadays there are huge amount of streets, suburbs and companies in Finland named after Kalevala. Nerds, attention: J.R. Tolkien was inspired by Kalevala, and the outcome of his inspiration was the Lord of the Rings.
Plot in a nutshell: An old guy falls in love with a young girl. A younger guy has also his eyes on the girl. The old guy sings the young guy into swamp. A blacksmith makes a money-making machine. A bitch from north tries to steal the machine, and the old guy and his folk try to protect the machine.

Seitsemän veljestä - Seven brothers. Written by Aleksis Kivi. Kick-off for realism in the Finnish literature. Also a kick-off for respecting Finnish language within Finnish literature (until this the Finnish writers were writing mostly in Swedish).
Plot in a nutshell: Seven brothers are trying to learn to read. The youngest of the brothers starts to read first. Heard of bulls are chasing the brothers, the brothers survive barely by climbing on top of a stone. Some of the brothers get married.

Tuntematon sotilas - Unknown soldier. A mediocre war novel about Finnish battles in WW2 written by Väinö Linna. The whole story relies heavily on the stereotypes of Finnish tribes and dialects. Due to the dialects the English translation just doesn't work.
Plot in a nutshell: Finnish men are called into duty in summer 1941. The war starts. Some die. Some are not taking orders. Finns are fighting persistently against the giant foe, but still they loose the war.

Nuorena nukkunut - The maid Silja. Written by F.E. Sillanpää, who's the only Finnish writer awarded with Nobel prize in literature. 
Plot in a nutshell: There is a servant girl named Silja. She gets laid once and misses the guy until her last breath. I've read the novel twice, but I can't remember anything particular about it. Which probably tells something.

If you're planning to tackle a classic piece of Finnish literature - especially translated into English - I can't recommend any of the classics listed above, to be perfectly honest. They are meaningful stories and they have their place in the history, but they may not be the nicest ones to start with. If you want to read fine Finnish novels translated into English, I'd recommend you to grab on The Egyptian by Mika Waltari or Purge by Sofi Oksanen. I'd like to recommend also Vadelmavenepakolainen ("raspberry boat refugee") by Miika Nousiainen, but unfortunately it's not translated to English (yet).

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Haircut in English

Today I visited my hairdresser. While she was cutting my hair, an English-speaking guy popped in and asked if anyone in the salon would cut his hair in English. I didn't realize that cutting hair in English could be an issue, but according my hairdresser it's relatively common problem. Weird!

     He must have used the same hairdresser since the 80's.

Monday, February 6, 2012


Sisu is something we like to see as a unique Finnish concept. Sisu is all about persistency, stamina and guts to do something. Maybe I'm a traitor, but I think quite many cultures and languages have a concept for such a willpower that makes one go even through a rock - so in that sense sisu may not be too unique, Finnish-only type of phenomenon.

Sisu is also a candy. And yes, it's called Sisu, not Gifu, the font is a bit misleading. As a candy I think Sisu is pretty unique, I've never tasted anything like Sisu candies. Sisu tastes a bit like liquorice mixed with a hint of mint or eucalyptus. Sisu candy also has a very characteristic smell, you can immediately tell if someone in the room has eaten Sisu. In mouth Sisu feels a bit like if you were having a piece of tyre in your mouth, and it looks like a piece of tyre too. Not that I'd have experience on tasting tyre, but I can imagine how it might feel like.

I've understood that Queen Elizabeth always carries a box of mint candies in her purse. Maybe Sauli Niinistö could equip himself with a pack of Sisu as a president of Finland. Congratulations Sauli and good luck for the new challenges! You will most likely need both sisu and Sisu.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Material girl survives in the freeze

February is usually the month of crispy freeze. Luckily February is also the shortest month of the year. Fighting against cold is all about material science. Forget the two-striped sports socks. They are made of plastic, and simply useless in sub-zero temperature (and anywhere in public places). Forget cotton as well. You need to sweat just a little, and immediately cotton looses its ability to keep you warm.

Wool is good. If normal wool makes you itchy, try merino or angora. Prefer several thinner layers instead of one bulky sweater. Long Johns are good. Not very sexy but practical. Before investing into woolen Long Johns, check if it's ok to wash that particular piece of wool in the washing machine. Because if it's not meant to be washed in machine, but you do it anyway, you'll end up having felted, shrunk Long Johns... which will probably help you to sing like a soprano, but are awkward to wear. Wool does "autoclean" itself if you let the woolen clothes to recover in the fresh air after wearing them, but for the sake of the environment you will anyway need to wash your Long Johns every now and then. Felted Long Johns may not be the nicest possible clothes, but felted woolen mittens are great. They will keep both cold and wind away. And anyway, mittens are warmer than gloves with places for each finger separately.

In addition to lamb's wool there are other good material to keep you warm, such as silk, alpaca and some artificial fibers. And even though I was mocking the plastic socks in the beginning, it is ok to have small amounts of plastic in your socks - for example if you're planning to knits socks. Within sock yarn it's important to have some artificial fiber (e.g. 25 % acrylic) in addition to wool, to make for example the heels of the socks more durable. You don't want to have holes in the precious self-knit socks only after wearing them few times.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

More snow-how in traffic, please

Talvi yllätti autoilijat, indeed. Despite the humor built into the sentence there is nothing funny in a pile-up at the motorway. In the past two winters we've been proud about our snow-how: how we manage and organize our daily life despite the snow. Our snow-how may be world class what comes to bulldozing the snow out of the streets or finding innovative ways to store the excess snow in downtown, but snow-how in the traffic is our Achilles' heel.

A small survival dictionary/guide to winter traffic:
  • Turvaväli - safety buffer. Do not drive right next to the bumper of the car in front of you. Don't. Icy roads are slippery and it takes quite a long way to really stop your car.
  • Tilannenopeus - hmm, no idea of the English word related to this. You need to adjust your speed according the weather and surrounding traffic, no matter what the speed limit signs are saying.
  • Talvirenkaat - winter tires. Either studded tires or friction tires. According to law you must have winter tires from November to Easter.
  • Ajovalot - headlamps. When you're driving in a heavy snow storm, it's ok to adjust lamps of the car to improve the visibility - the clue is to have the lamps on, not switched off. Redirecting the headlamps, turning on the sumuvalot (the fog lamps?), or using the lyhyet valot (short distance mild lights) instead of pitkät valot (long distance bright lights) may help if the snow is blurring the visibility. But do not use the emergency blinkers unless you're in real emergency.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Draining cupboard

Meet a marvelous Finnish innovation: draining cupboard. It's a kitchen cupboard without bottom, having only metal grids as shelves. You can set your hand washed dishes into cupboard to drain. The water will fall into sink as these cupboards are always placed on top of the kitchen sink. You don't need to sacrifice the precious table surface for clumsy draining racks, and you don't need to roll your precious porcelain around with a towel.

A cupboard with sealed bottom. Luckily the dish washing machine reduces the need of the cupboard.

It's strange how come this innovation has not become popular globally. Maybe it's due to the big kitchen dealers and their bad adaption of the cupboard: for example Ikea and Kvik have sealed the bottom of the cupboard - which means that the water stays in the cupboard and air cannot flow freely. Which again leads into one thing only: mold.