Home Bound – In Transit

Travelling with a baby is a kind of an extreme sport in any case. Add to the mix that there are two babies, who have just learned to walk and you have been away for three months and have six big suitcases to carry, and oh did I mention that we were going to meet our au pair for the first time at the airport? Well let’s just say that the stress levels were soaring.

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In order to lower the stress levels we decided to stay the night at an airport hotel to give us all a break after the three hour drive from the summer house and take the first flight in the morning.

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The Hilton hotel at the airport was really great. Big, nice rooms and very friendly staff (not always to be expected in hospitality establishments in Finland). The boys felt instantly “at home” and started moving all furniture around before taking a lovely bath.

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The hotel provided two travel cots at no extra cost and the two rooms that we had booked were next to each other with an adjoining door.

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This meant that when boys went to bed, our au pair stayed in the other room, looked after the boys (and ordered some room service)  and we went downstairs and enjoyed a lovely dinner. What a great way to end your time in Finland, a super yummy Nordic tasting menu along with a glass of ice cold New Zealand white wine.

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The hotel started serving breakfast at six which left us just enough time to get ready, pack our bags, have breakfast and then walk five minutes to the terminal building to catch our flight to London.

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The flight went surprisingly well as the boys slept the most of it, but they were awake long enough to make us cancel our plans to take them to New Zealand next year (to meet that side of the family). A three hour flight is bearable, but two twelve hour flights to Auckland is a different ball game, a game that we dont want to participate in just yet.

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Yes, we were all a little bit tired and weary, but we were home.

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When You Love Two Countries

Another year has gone by, my maternity leave has come to an end. Three months have passed, our time in Finland is over and it is time to go back to our home in London. Goodbyes await, yet again.

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Anyone who spends their life living in two or more countries knows what I’m talking about. You are always saying goodbye to something.

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When you are in one place, you miss the other, but when it is time to go it is so difficult to say goodbye. It will be a whole year until we return to Finland.

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This year I got to stay longer at the summer house than I have probably ever stayed and so I do feel like my roots have been truly watered…but I can’t help to feel melancholic.
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I’m trying very hard to take mum’s advice; it is a richness to have such a wide circle of life and to love two countries. Whenever we return it is always exciting, special, memorable and fun. And how wonderful to get to go back home to London.

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All these photos were taken at our summer house during this cold, rainy summer and I will store them all in my heart forever.

Finnish Summer Ends

…relatively early. As the rest of Europe start their summer holidays in August, in Finland children are back to school and adults back to work.

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And the Finnish summer ends for us as well. On our last day at the summer house I wanted to immerse the boys in all things Finnish in the hope that some of it would perhaps stay with them….? A smell, a taste, a feeling?

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We went to see the Moo-Cows one last time and then went blueberry picking.

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Boys were picking and eating blueberries, sitting on moss and blueberry bushes and I holding back the tears. My little Finnish boys…when will we be back?

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The one positive thing about a cold, rainy summer is that the berries and mushrooms are everywhere! The blueberries, wild strawberries and raspberries are big and tasty.

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It was easy to pick a cup full for the evening porridge.

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We also found some chanterelles and made a lovely creamy chanterelle pasta for lunch. Everyone loved it, including the boys.

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In the evening we celebrated the “Ultima Noche” with some champagne and crayfish.

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We have been together with grandpa and grandma for so long now….

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How will we manage to be apart? Tomorrow we travel back home.

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Christening

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And so came the time to christen our boys. Usually in Finland babies get christened when they are two months old, but in our case the chaps didn’t even have passports at that age and I couldn’t consider organising this celebration anywhere else than at our beloved summer house. That is where we got married four years ago.

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Following the pattern of this summer, the day before and the day after the christening the weather was stunning, but on the day itself it was rainy and quite cold. But that didn’t matter as somebody suggested the great idea of taking the family portrait the day before and on the day itself we spent majority of the time inside.

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To organise anything with two little ones in tow can be quite challenging, so the stress levels were soaring as we were hosting 30 people for the party, 20 people stayed over and I had the fabulous idea of baking and preparing all food by myself.

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But it was a true family effort, all our loved ones (friends and family) did so much to help by organising, cleaning, baking, taking care of the boys, getting our Dadda from the airport in the middle of the night, taking photographs and much much more.

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So despite the stress, tiredness and craziness, it was a wonderful celebration and such a happy day. I was so proud of my little chaps and our little family.

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I think there aren’t enough parties and happy celebrations in life and that’s simply why we should go through the trouble of organising them sometimes. How wonderful it is to get the whole family together, pause for a minute, catch up and just feel grateful and happy.

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I read a poem to the boys at the christening:

“…that you would trustingly go and find what for you is good and beautiful and right…

…It is ok to make mistakes and try again, to change direction and opinion…

Always believe in dreams and hope for the impossible….” (Irja Askola) 

Kayaking – Our Style

After a couple of days of lousy weather and a not so promising weather forecast (partly cloudy, +15 degrees) we were surprised to say the least to be waking up to this.

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And a quick dash down to the pier confirmed the positive news, yes, the weather was good!

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My brother and my future sister-in-law are now holidaying here as well and when mum and dad offered to take care of the boys so that we could go out for a little kayaking tour we didn’t hesitate. “Let’s go!”

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On a day like this there is nothing better than kayaking, basically no wind, lovely and warm and no one else around.

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We kayaked slowly across the lake to a nearby “Panther Island” (name given by my late grandfather, only known by our family), at times paddling harder and at times letting the kayaks float in the water. The key is to close your eyes, lean back, lift your legs on the kayak and indulge in a bit of sunbathing at the same time.

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A fellow boater in a small motor boat passed by, waved his hand and shouted “That seems like quite a relaxed way to travel!”. You can say that again.

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We Are Sailing

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A funny thing happened earlier in the year. Dad visited a boat fair in Helsinki, fell in love with a little sailing boat and put in a very low offer thinking it would never be accepted. Of course a week later he got a phone call saying the offer was accepted. And so we all became part owners of a small Windmill sailing boat.

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What makes it funny is that none of us of course knows how to sail. Talk about impulse purchasing!

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So we had to call in the big guns, my uncle who has been sailing all his life. He came over to give us a first introduction to sailing.

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Ok so it was definitively less “Gant-catalog” than what I had envisioned (I blame the bicycle helmet), but my goosh it was a lot of fun!

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As an adult with not many hobbies (I don’t think watching Netflix, reading blogs or pinning on Pinterest count as hobbies) and two babies to take care of you don’t often get to try out new things or learn new skills.

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So I absolutely loved our little sailing school. It wasn’t scary, it didn’t seem too difficult (of course we had the master captain to take care of everything) and the fact that you can make this little boat move really fast without any engine or petrol is simply fantastic!

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I already see the boys in ten year’s time, in their pre-teens perhaps complaining about having to spend yet another summer at the summer house but being lured there with the help of the sailing boat. “Come on boys, you can take the boat out for the whole day.”

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So turns out that Dad’s accidental purchase turned out to be a good one. I’m sure we will be all enjoy our little boat in the years to come.

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Summery Strawberry Cake

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This week we celebrated our boys’ first birthday! Everybody loved the cake and it’s super easy to make, so I thought I would share the recipe here.

Cake base

  • 125 g butter
  • 1 dl sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1,5 dl flour
  • 2 ts baking powder
  • 1 dl milk

Whip butter and sugar, add egg yolks, flour and baking powder (mixed together) and milk. Place on an oven tray and bake in a pre-heated oven (180 degrees) for 10 minutes.

Meringue 

  • 2 egg whites
  • 1,5 dl sugar
  • 1 ts vanilla sugar

Whisk egg whites and add the sugar. Take out the cake base from the oven and pour the meringue on top of the base and put it back in the oven for another 10-15 minutes.

On top and between

  • 2dl whipped cream
  • Strawberries
  • A couple of mint leaves

Assemble the cake with layers of base topped with whipped cream and strawberries. Done!

 

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Midsummer Magic

This is the first time in ten years that I’ve been able to spend the whole summer in Finland thanks to my maternity leave. Of course the summer turned out to be the coldest in 100 years. Isn’t that ironic?

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But bad weather is somewhat mandatory for midsummer. I can’t remember any midsummer from my childhood or youth with good weather. Cold temperature, rain and a cloudy sky only add to the magic of midsummer. The nature is green and fresh and incredibly beautiful.

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Although the name suggests that it is middle of summer, us Finns consider the summer to start from midsummer.

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When living abroad midsummer is the time of year that I miss home the most. So this year I was really going to enjoy this holiday. Bring on the rain, thunder and stormy weather, who cares!

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So what is it exactly that happens at midsummer? Well not much. As with all Finnish holidays, it usually involves alcohol in some shape or form. For us it meant cooking some lovely summer food with new potatoes and fish, having a drink of champagne and celebrating the nightless night.

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We went for a walk and picked some wild flowers. For the boys it was of course their first midsummer and probably the only one spent in Finland for a long time.

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We looked back on the year we’ve had and felt really grateful. Little chaps are almost one year old. A friend of ours said that with little kids you feel that the days are very long but the years are short, how very true!

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And then what happened next?

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Winter Travel Edition

We spent 4 weeks in Finland over Christmas and this put our Donkey through the ultimate test. In Helsinki it was still going good, there was a little bit of snow on the ground and a couple of minus degrees, no problem.

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Then we traveled to my hometown about 3 hours north of Helsinki and suddenly the weather got a lot colder.

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When it got to -15 degrees our trusted Donkey came to a halt. Its front wheels froze and we had to look at alternative methods of getting around. When you have two babies to transport you can’t use a baby carrier unless you are two people and to be honest with my already sore back I try to avoid carrying my almost 10kg babies as much as I can. So what to do?

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Well we took our Maxi-Cosi car seats and put them on sleighs. The boys were strapped into the car seats and tucked under blankets to keep warm. Little chaps proved that 50% of their blood is Finnish as they seemed to love this winter adventure.

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This solved our transportation issue, we were able to continue our daily walks and the boys were happy. They didn’t mind all the attention that they attracted, actually they seemed to revel in it 😉

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