Tuesday, May 29, 2012


Song booklet, finished main course and still some schnaps in the glass!

Sitsi is an academic sing-along dinner. Sit and sing, sitsi - that's easy to remember. Today afternoon 800 student from different university faculties had an open air sitsi at Senaatintori.

The plot and the rules for sitsi are:
  • Place yourself next to the other gender. Women are not supposed to sit next to woman or opposite to woman. Mix it.
  • You can expect at least three course menu including the drinks.
    • Schnaps for the starter
    • Wine for the main course 
    • Punch or cognac with coffee, after the dessert
  • Sing about your drink, and drink of what you sing about.
  • Take a sip after each song. No bottoms-up or you'll miss the main course.
  • After singing, before drinking, you're supposed to toast:
    • Ladies toast first to left, then to right and eventually across the table.
    • Gentlemen toast first to right, then to left and finally across the table.
  • You're supposed to look in the eye the person you're toasting to. If you avoid eye contact, you'll be doomed for bad sex for seven years. On the other hand, bad sex is probably better than no sex at all.
  • The eagerness to sing is more important than the sound. There are song booklets for those who don't know the words.
  • If someone speaks or starts singing, you're supposed to put down your cutlery and join the song.
  • If you're able to finish the starter while it's still cold or the main course while it's still hot, then you haven't sung enough.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Bachelorette party

I've understood that American style bridal shower is something where you stay at somebody's home with the girls, have brunch and give presents to the soon-to-be-wedded bride. That's far away form the bachelorette parties I've been to - they have been full of action all day long. Sometimes even for two days.

The basic idea of the contemporary bachelorette party is to wander around the city and do some exercises. It can be sports, culture, some handicrafts, serenade, sports, and of course eating well. I guess in the 90's the idea was to humiliate the bride by dressing her up and make her sell something, but that hasn't been the case in any of the bachelorette parties I've been to.

However, none of the action things are tradition Finnish preparations for the soon-to-be-wedded bride. The traditional bridal act is (surprise, surprise) sauna - bridal sauna with lots of magic:

A mild way to sit on nettles
  • The sauna crew is supposed to hit and kick the wall of the sauna to scare away the bad spirits.
  • In sauna the bride is supposed to sit on nettles - to get the first taste of the wedding night and to be reminded, that life is not always just flowers and roses. 
  • When the bride can't no longer sit in the heat of the sauna, the girl who's able to sit on bride's place first will be the next bride. 
  • The bride will be scrubbed with salt and flours to get rid of the "old salt" (i.e. past love) and to ensure the wealth.
  • The fertility is ensured by breaking an egg to brides head. 
  • The bride is of course supposed to use vasta (a bundle of birch branches and flowers) in the sauna. After the sauna the bride throws the vasta to the roof of sauna. 
    • If the handle of the bundle points to the roof ridge, the first child will be a boy.
    • If the handle points to the eaves, then it's going to be a girl.
  • The bride is supposed to run around the sauna naked. While running, she's supposed to shout the names of the ex-boyfriends - one round per each ex. That's how she'll eventually let go of the past loves.
  • After the sauna the hair of the bride is done on braid. Braid symbolizes the two lives that are now tied together. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The art of wearing hat

The baby princess Estelle of Sweden had her christening yesterday. Because of the close neighbor relationship, the president of Finland usually has the front row seats for the official family events organized by the Swedish royal family. Tarja Halonen was sitting on the front row in the wedding ceremony of Victoria and Daniel, and yesterday Sauli Niinistö and Jenni Haukio were having a close look at the baby princess as she was dipped into holy water of Öland.

Yesterday all of the royal ladies and majority of the other lady guests wore a hat or a fascinator of some sort. Jenni Haukio didn’t - even though it would have suited her well. And she has even been spotted with fascinator earlier, in her first official visit to Sweden (image below). But I guess that’s the difference between us republicans and the monarchists: If you invite a representative of a monarchy into a big fancy daytime event (as you probably often do), she will naturally wear a hat or fascinator, while her republican sister will most likely have no head-wear what so ever. As a statement.

Anyway, the hat industry must be very grateful to the monarchs of the world. If there were no monarchies, the only hatters to survive would be the cap-makers. Because that’s what we, citizens of a republic state, love to wear.

Saturday, May 19, 2012


Imatra is a small town in South Karelia, about 300 km to North East from Helsinki. Imatra is living upon paper mills, ruled by social democratic party and the demography of the citizens is heavily turning to the senior side. I’m not sure which of those three characters are causes and which are consequences, but they are definitely going hand-in-hand. Due to the paper mills the smell in the town is sometimes quite thick. The aboriginals don’t care about the stink – ”it’s the smell of the money”, they tend to say.

The paper industry originally landed on Imatra’s soil because of lake Saimaa and river Vuoksi. And those are definitely the most beautiful things in Imatra. River Vuoksi has been dammed for energy production, but in the summer time they open the gates and let the river run wild every night.

The basic tone of Imatra is a bit depressive for the most of the year, although in summer the town starts blooming. The tourist guides always highlight the river Vuoksi and its white waters, hotel Valtion Hotelli and the Church of Three Crosses as the best tourist attractions, but in my opinion these are the best sides of Imatra:
  • Virkkukoukkunen – adorable, colorful and cheerful handicraft/design shop at the center of the town. Really one of the kind.
  • Enso/Svetogorsk border crossing station - the money of the Russian tourists keeps the local business alive.
  • The visa services of Itämatkat – professional visa services for Russia with more affordable prices than what you get in Helsinki region.
  • Vuoksen piirakat – the best  commercial rice pies (nothing beats self made rice pies, of course). You can find Vuoksen piirakat also in the freezers of the grocery stores in Helsinki region.
  • Restaurant Buttenhoff – the best restaurant in Imatra. Their vegetables come from local farmers. It’s not fine dining, but the place really stands out from the crowd of the local competitors: 5 pizza-kebab-places, Rosso, Café at ABC gas station and McDonalds.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Bless you! Terveydeksi!

It's been the worst allergy year in 20 years, some say. There's been huge amount of pollen in the air.

You can buy anti-histamin and other drugs to relief the allergy simply by walking into pharmacy, but you need to pay less for the medicine if you have doctor's prescription. Some common allergy relieving pills are for example Kestine and Zyrtec. If your eyes are itchy, maybe Lomudal or Zaditen eye drops will help.

Pollen (or the anti-histamin) can make you tired. The allergy relief drugs may help with the running nose, sneezing and itchy eyes, but it won't help you agains the tiredness. Old school power naps are the only thing that helps. Also drinking good amount of water throughout the allergy season will help in relieving the allergy symptoms.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Sweet rhubarb soup

Apologies. It's likely that from now on there's going to be more talk about food. That's because the lovely summer season with fresh vegetables, berries and all the goodies is about to begin!

Yesterday I got the summer's first bunch of rhubarbs from my mother in law. I decided to make sweet rhubarb soup, kiisseli (I have no idea what's kiisseli in English, I've seen the following options in various lunch menus: kissel, pudding, fool, soup). Kiisseli is an ordinary every-day dessert in Finland, and it's often served at lunch places.

I went for Hans Välimäki's recipe. However, I took the liberty to modify the two-michelin-stars-chef's recipe - because he didn't explain all the kiisseli-tricks that my mother has taught me. And after all, it was Mothers' Day.

According Hans I would have needed 1 liter of chopper rhubarb. However, I barely had 4 dls, so I added some raspberries and lingonberries to compensate.

I cooked them in 7 dls of water and 1 dl of sugar. Hans's recipe said 2 dl of sugar, but I'm not used to that sweet. Cooked them for about 10 minutes. I also added a hint of salt into the pot. Hans didn't advise me to do that, I've learnt it from a mother (not my own, but my friend's mom). Salt enriches the flavors and prevents the flat taste of water.

I mixed 4 tbl spoons (Hans said 5 tbl spoons, but it sounded like too much) of potato flour with 3 tbl spoons of cold water, and poured the white stuff into the hot stuff while mixing.

Then I poured the soup into bowl, and sprinkled some sugar on top of the soup. Again, Hans didn't say anything about the sugar, but my mom has told me it prevents the formation of "skin" on top of the soup.

I let it cool down and served with whipped cream. Hans suggested vanilla ice or milk, but my mom served cream with the dessert soups.

With all due respect, Hans, you may be the champion of fine dining, but when we're talking about everyday food, nobody can beat the moms. I'm sorry, but that's the way it is.

Friday, May 11, 2012

National traumas

Yesterday I attended a cultural awareness training. This particular lesson handled the (United States of) American culture, and the trainer was native American. I've attended cultural trainings also earlier, but this was the first one that didn't focus on comparing the American and Finnish cultures - which I found very positive. Why so positive? Well, firstly I think it was thoughtful, since not everybody in the audience were Finns. Secondly, we Finns are very eager to know what others think about us, so a comparison will eventually just strengthen our own self-image, and we forget to focus on the culture we came to learn about.

There was a quiz in the training, we had to do it in groups. One of the questions handled the US history: the trainer asked, what are the two biggest traumas in American history (according some official source, I didn't write down which one). The correct answer was the civil war and the great depression. Our group suggested 9/11 and Vietnam war. The trainer kindly advised us to hush about Vietnam.

I began to think what would be the two biggest traumas in the Finnish history. I guess part of the official answer would be the civil war in 1918, but honestly, how much does it affect on the life in 2012. Then there's of course the second world war, but in my opinion the second world war wasn't a national trauma, it created our national identity; individual level traumas are a whole different story then.

I think Finland's relationship to Russia over the times could be named as one of our national traumas. But what would be the other big national trauma? Self-evaluation is quite difficult. It's much easier to point out other cultures' traumas.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Finland vs. Spain

This is not about economical debate at European parliament. This is not about football - Finland would get beaten badly. This is not about ice hockey game either - Spain would get beaten. This is about a cheese.

Posing with a celebrity: Manchego (left) and Juustoportti Gruyére (right).

In my last post I mentioned Manchego cheese. It's without a doubt one of my favorite cheeses. Until recently I've thought that Finnish cheese cannot have character. That they're all about Oltermanni or Edam. But I've found a new Finnish favorite: Goat milk Gruyére by Juustoportti. It's representing completely different cheese type, so you can't compare it with Manchego, but this one is definitely good. Try it with salad and nuts. And some red wine won't hurt either.

Monday, May 7, 2012

It's nettle time!

The summer food season starts with nettles. Those itchy, burning weeds that grow everywhere they shouldn't. But they also turn into great food and contain lot of vitamins, iron and whatever good stuff.

If you want to pick nettle leaves for food, the time is now - you only have couple of weeks. Picking nettles is every man's right in Finland, as long as you don't go to anybody's backyard. I recommend not to pick them right next to a road (because of dust from the cars) or pedestrian paths (because of peeing dogs), but close to a jogging route will do just fine. Take scissors and gloves with you. I've picked only the leaves and left the rod and the roots into forest.

Once you come back home with the catch, you need to wash and cook the leaves: 5 minutes in loose, boiling water will do it. Pour away the water, let the nettles cool and grind them in a food processor. Then what to do with mashed nettles? Well, whatever you'd do with spinach: soup, pancakes, omelet, or even pesto.

For pancakes you need about 1 dl of nettle pure, 5 dl of milk, couple of eggs, a little bit of salt, some couple of dls flour and butter for the pan. Serve with smoked fish, salad, Manchego cheese and sour creme.

If you think weeds are waste and not good enough for you, I want to remind you that crown princess Victoria of Sweden had nettles in her wedding menu. If it's good enough for Vickan, it's good enough for you too.

Saturday, May 5, 2012


Ice hockey marketing people know how to target the message. I'm well aware that I'm not part of the hockey target group, and it was only until yesterday when I realized there's going to be world championship tournament. Hosted in Finland. Starting yesterday. Congratulations, well addressed marketing. And this wasn't sarcasm, I'm honestly happy the message didn't reach me until the opening day - I was able to enjoy the peace and harmony for as long as possible.

Finland has won the world championship twice: in 1995 and last year. Both times we've battled against Sweden in the final game, which has made the victory even sweeter. Both in 1995 and 2011 there has also been enormous street party in Helsinki on the day the team arrives back home. In fact, the ice hockey world championship and Lordi winning the Eurovision song contest are the only occasions when Finns are really having party on the streets. But if you compare the hockey party and the Eurovision party, I think the hockey party is more aggressive and it's somehow considered as a common entitlement to misbehave.

    A day after the last world championship

I'm not a fan of ice hockey, and I can bear with people commenting the games in Facebook (although last year I remember wondering who the hell is Granlund, what on earth is ilmaveivi - Michigan in English, I suppose - and why are these unknown terms appearing in my Facebook feed). But I do have one wish for the world championship games: if Finland accidentally wins the whole shit, please don't break the city.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Vappu in pictures

Vappu is the only real carnival in Finland, and therefore it deserves its own post in pics. Pictures tell more than words.

It all started on May Day's Eve at restaurant Allotria. Good swing, good food, good mood.

Vallilan vapputanssit, dancing in the park at Vallila.

Puhvetti stands for affordable home-made snacks.

Watching the May Day's Eve over the roofs of Helsinki.

Please don't pee on the street.

Sitting Bull crossing the Pitkä silta with quite a speed. I wonder if he's a working class hero or capitalist.

Manta a.k.a Havis Amanda bathing in the morning sun on the first of May.

Julkku magazine, made by teekkarit, sold by teekkarit for teekkarit.

Kaivopuisto and Ullanlinnanmäki in Vappu morning.

Yes, Vappu is the celebration of students and other folks wearing overall.

These were invented long before OnePiece and other trendy jump suits.

Retuperän WBK playing newer French horn music.

People, take off the cardboard stiffener from your hat! Nobody's cap is that stiff in real life.

Delicious picnic sandwich.

Some doughnuts and pavlova.

Now that's what I call uniform! Cap, beige spring coat and a glass of bubbly.

It was a hauska vappu!