Saturday, January 29, 2011

Finns on Ice

It has been over a week since I last posted on my blog. I have to blame the weather! We have snow and some not too chilly days. I am trying to spend as much time outside as possible. When you move north of the grits line everyone advises you to get outside in the winter to stave off the inevitable depression. They tell you this while you are stocking up on polar fleece everything. I still haven't found a polar fleece bra, but I am fully outfitted in everything else. Not too shabby for a Georgia girl.

I am taking down hill lessons at Pat's Peak and Joe Ayotte is teaching me how to skate ski. As much as I am willing to play in the snow, I have no urge to play on the ice. Too hard. But where there is ice, there is hockey.

This weekend has been great for hockey here in the capitol city. Just around the corner from our house is the Black Ice Pond Hockey Championship. We have watched our friends, local firefighters, lawyers, you name it, playing hockey on the pond. But I have been in the mood to do something Finnish so we rounded out our day by driving to Henniker (the only Henniker on earth) to watch our favorite twin Finns play hockey for New England College.

I grabbed my large Finnish flag and some more polar fleece blankets so we could cheer Aki (44) and Niko (8) on in comfort. New England College (The Pilgrims) has 3 Finnish players, 3 Swedes and a Russian. There are many Swedes playing hockey in New Hampshire. If you want to see a Svea hat, just go in any local hockey rink. We saw one last night and knew we were in the right place. The large wooden pilgrim was also a clue.

Aki and Niko each scored, but Trinity won in the last second. It was a heartbreaker. While I didn't see NEC win, I did enjoy chatting with the local Finnish fan club.

Joanna Broom (with the Aki sign) and Dominique Grant (with the Niko sign) are both juniors at New England College. They are friends with Aki and Niko, but were asking me questions about Finland. It will come as no surprise to any Finnish readers to learn that Aki and Niko don't brag about Finland--so I did! I told Joanna and Dominique that Finland is Newsweek's highest rated country.

We had a great time rooting for the Finnish Pilgrims despite the last second loss. I hope we make it to another game so we can check in with Dominique and Joanna. It will be great if they read my blog--in true American fashion I can and do brag about Finland.

Friday, January 21, 2011

More Snow in Tiny Town!

I just received the robo-call from the Concord School District-another snow day for Sophie. I had planned to drive her to school today because the sidewalks have been so treacherous here. The streets are plowed and the driveways are plowed, but the sidewalks are an afterthought. Small children and poodles have a hard time struggling over the walls of ice and snow left by the slush and then they plummet to the street hoping the cars will stop.

I appreciate being able to drive my car in all weather, but sometimes I wish the streets weren't plowed. There would be less salt and less ice and we could ski and sled to our destinations.

Concord does have an ordinance about keeping your sidewalks clear, but it is not enforced. In Finland there are criminal penalties when a property owner fails to maintain safe conditions for pedestrians. At least one person has died in Helsinki this year and it is possible that the building owner could be charged with involuntary manslaughter as a result. You can read the story here on YLE.

I found the picture of the old timey snow roller here. It makes me want to move to the Northeast Kingdom.

Monday, January 17, 2011

FinnDisco Redux

Chris and I puzzled over today's Selkouutiset story about a Finnish dance instructor. As we parsed the vocabulary we had one question-what dance instructor has 2 million euros. According to the story on YLE, a Finnish dance instructor sued Nordea Bank because of poor returns on an investment. The dance instructor, Ake Blomqvist, was asking for 1 million euroa damages. There is an article, in English, on Hesari here.

I thought that Ake Blomqvist looked strangely familiar. Back in my pre-Finland days I posted a video of a Finnish dance instructor teaching disco. The hip thrust was memorable. With the magic of You Tube I found that I was right! Ake Blomqvist of the law suit and the Finnish disco sensation are one and the same.

Here is another Ake Blomqvist video for your viewing pleasure:

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A bittersweet welcome to the sun

I read this article last night on Selkouutiset. The gist of the article is that the blue light is waning in northern Finland and the sun shone for the first time, if only for 10 minutes.

I remember when the days started to get longer when we were in Finland. I felt a little mournful because I knew I would miss the protective cover of the dark. My friend Mari expressed this same thought to me recently. You can feel very exposed in the bright light of day.

Winter and all its fun has finally arrived in New Hampshire just as the days are growing longer. We have been trying to cram our winter fun into this very short season.

And this season is growing shorter. 2010 was one of the warmest years on record. Snow and glaciers are melting at a rapid pace around the globe. You can read the New York Times here about the exposed mummies in the Andes. But the new Republican majority will do nothing to try and slow global warming. I guess the maple syrup lobby isn't sweet enough.

Kaamosaika on päättynyt Pohjois-Suomessa

Aurinko näkyy vähän kaamosmaisemassa.
Aurinko näkyy jo vähän kaamoksen jälkeen.
Kuva: YLE

Kaamosaika on Utsjoella ohi. Kaamosaikana aurinko ei nouse Suomen pohjoisimmassa osassa. Kaamosaika alkoi marraskuussa. Sunnuntaina aurinko näkyi Utsjoen taivaalla jo 10 minuuttia.

Kaamosaikana ei ole täysin pimeää päivällä. Silloin valoa on sen verran, että maisema näyttää siniseltä.

Pohjois-Suomen kaamosaika johtuu siitä, että alue on maapallon pohjoisnavan lähellä.

More Fintango!

Here is Marko Maunuksela, the Tango King of 2010, with his entry for the ever popular Eurovision contest. Chris tells me the name of the song is "The Gloomy Country's Tango". And you can follow this link to read more about Finnish Tango. Marko Maunuksela was crowned the Tango King in Seinäjoki, the second city of Tango (after Buenos Aires).

I posted about Finnish tango at this earlier post.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Look what we missed--Loistava!

Some enterprising person has already posted this video on You Tube:

Tonight! in Turku

I wish I were in Turku today! This weekend marks the opening of the year where Turku reigns as the Capital of Culture.

Here is the description of what is happening tonight:

Thousands of Turku residents will be part of the opening spectacle

The spectacular opening brings fire and love above River Aura

Turku will open the Capital of Culture year 2011 with a three-day weekend full of events and activities on 14–16 January 2011. The opening performance “This Side, The Other Side” on the evening of Saturday 15 January is the single largest event of the year.

Walk the Plank

I don't know whether I will be able to see anything from a web cam which you can access here. I might be clinging to the side of Sunapee at the proper time.

I was reading about the Capital of Culture events on YLE and learned that Talinn is also a European Capital of Culture. Today is the first day that the Euro, rather than the Kroon, can be spent on culture in Estonia. There is a lovely story about the Kroon in Estonia on NPR. You can listen to it here.

Meanwhile, I think I will make plans to visit Turku in 2011. And I will visit both sides of the Aura: this side and the other side!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Silly pet tricks

David Letterman has a feature on his show for stupid pet tricks, but who would ever believe that a stupid pet trick could lead to surveillance and questioning.

Here is the dog, Jackie, with his owner, Tor Borg. You can read about this footnote (pawnote) in history on the Helsingin Sanomat here or in the New York Times here, but I will summarize if you don't want to go to those venerable journals.

Jackie lived in Tampere with his owners Tor and Josefine Borg. Josefine was German and known to dislike the Nazis and Tor owned a pharmaceutical company that did business with the Germans. An anonymous source reported to Nazi officials in Berlin that the Finnish dog had been trained to raise its paw in a mock salute at the command "Hitler". In 1941, Tor Borg was ordered to appear in Helsinki to answer questions about his dog. Borg denied calling his dog Hitler, but admitted that his wife had called the dog Hitler several times in the 1930s. The Germans ordered some businesses to stop trading with Borg's business, but Borg avoided court.

You can imagine the Wikileaks fallout from learning that a dog was mocking Hitler. Just look to Tunisia. Part of the cause for the rioting is apparently the Wikileaks report about:

A gracious dinner at Mr. Materi’s home was detailed in a cable from the American ambassador to Tunisia that was released by the antisecrecy organization WikiLeaks and fueled at least some of the outrage: a beachfront compound decorated with Roman artifacts; ice cream and frozen yogurt flown from St.-Tropez, France; a Bangladeshi butler and South African nanny; and a pet tiger in a cage.

The above is taken from the New York Times.

And now...back to Jackie.

The most mystifying part of this story is that the Germans were spending time on a Finnish dog just months before embarking on Operation Barbarossa. I am reading about Operation Barbarossa in the new book, Bloodlands, Europe Between Hitler and Stalin by Timothy Snyder.

Just to give you a taste of some of the facts from this book here is a sentence from page 182 that I read last night.

"As many Soviet prisoners of war died on a single given day in autumn 1941 as did British and American prisoners of war over the course of the entire Second World War."

The aim of Operation Barbarossa was to make Germany, "the most autarkic state in the world". These are Hitler's words from page 159 of Bloodlands. I had to look up autarkic--it means self-sufficient. Germany would use the Soviet Union to supply food, but first it would have to kill everyone in the way--all 31-45 million of them.

But back to Jackie and Finland. Both survived the Nazis. Tor's business flourished and is now Tamro Group. One can only imagine that Jackie did well. And Finland? Well you only need read Newsweek to know how Finland is today.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Snow and all that it entails

A big storm is blanketing Concord with snow today. Anyone with a school-age child received a wake up call from the superintendent at 5:30 warning us that we could stay in bed. I got up, built the fire, and made pulla!

48 of the 50 states have snow today. Different parts of the country deal with snow in very different ways. You only have to check out your friends on facebook. In Atlanta and Athens, where people are less likely to own sleds, my FB pals are posting pictures of kayaks gliding down snowy hills and empty bread shelves in the local mega-market.

One country that does know how to handle snow is Finland. You only have to compare the response to 5 inches of snow at Heathrow with any given winter day at Helsinki-Vantaa. To read about the pre-Christmas travel horror at Heathrow, I recommend this article from the New York Times. You will never fly again.

If you do fly again, and there is no pesky ash cloud, fly though Helsinki. You can read this article on YLE, but I posted it in full here at the bottom of the post.

We suffered our own travel delay in ATL on Christmas Day. Here is the foreshadowing interview in Logan Airport. After a 2 hour de-icing, our take off was halted when the check engine light came on. My father was a big advocate of covering those lights with a little black tape. We did arrive in Argentina safely, if a little late. In the immortal words of my father, "Time to spare? Go by air."

Now, I must don my puffy pants and run out to play in the snow.

Finnish Ploughs Keep Planes off the Ground

published Mon 11:25 AM

The message about Finnish snow removal expertise is getting through.

Image: YLE / Antti Kolppo

The expertise used by Finnish airports to deal with snow is drawing interest from abroad. The snowy conditions across Europe this winter have raised demand for Finnish snow removal equipment.

Finland is ploughing ahead of the rest when it comes to keeping airport runways clear of the white stuff. In recent weeks Finnish snow removal equipment manufacturers have had an influx of queries from abroad.

"The number of requests for further information including technical information about our equipment has increased a lot during the last two weeks," reveals Veikko Möttönen, Director of International Sales for Fortbrand Services.

Finnish snow plough machines not only plough but brush and blow to ensure snow does not ground planes in bad weather. Manufacturers now intend to make the most of the increased demand and there is talk of further capitalising on Finnish snow removal expertise in the future.

"We could try to sell this as a new Finnish export product as Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb suggested before Christmas," Möttönen adds.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

What you Will, Shakespeare that is!

Today is a holiday in Finland, loppiainen. Shops and banks are closed and the trains are running on a Sunday schedule. We arrived in Turku during the Christmas holiday and realized that normal schedules did not resume until after loppiainen. Loppiainen, the Finnish term for the day of Epiphany refers to the "end" of Christmas time or loppu.

Here loppiainen will pass unnoticed by many. Christmas trees are already out on the curb and tinsel has been boxed up for another season.

Epiphany comes from a Greek word for manifestation referring to the actual manifestation of God in the baby Jesus. It is traditionally believed to be the day the 3 kings or magi arrived to worship the child. Rushing from one holiday to another, Epiphany is also a kick off day for Mardi Gras. No reason to stop overeating yet.

I will celebrate Loppiainen at the traditional Christmas choir white elephant gift swap and my pot luck will be a king cake from the Frugal Feasts blog:

King Cake

1 package frozen bread dough, defrosted

6 tablespoons butter, softened

⅔ cup sugar mixed with three tablespoons ground cinnamon

1 small plastic baby (see note)

1 cup powdered sugar

¼ cup heavy cream

purple, green and gold sanding sugar (see note)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Roll dough out into a long rectangle, 6 inches wide by 18 inches long. Smear with the butter, leaving a ½ inch plain border around the edge. Sprinkle liberally with the cinnamon sugar.

Bring the two long sides of the dough together so that they meet in the middle in a long seam. Wet the edge with a little water and press together to seal. Place on greased cookie sheet and arrange in a loose oval, seam-side down. Pinch the ends together to seal.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden and hollow-sounding when tapped. Cool completely.

Make a small slit in the bottom of the cake and stuff the plastic baby into the slit.

Place the powdered sugar in a bowl and slowly add enough cream to make a thick frosting. Spread on the cooled cake. Decorate with the three colored sugars.

Note: Plastic babies and colored sugars are available at Chandler's Cake and Candy Supply at 7 Perley St. in Concord, 223-0393.

And, we must not forget the play Twelfth Night, subtitled What you Will!

Turku-an ant city?

Here is a video from the European Capital of Culture:

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Culture anyone?

If you need to inject a little culture into your life, head immediately to Turku. Turku is the 2011 European Capital of Culture. I am still receiving emails from Turku and long to take advantage of the special events. Anyone up for Turku Castle Knight Days? You can see a calendar of events here.

Here is a short video to give you the flavor of events in Turku:

Monday, January 3, 2011


How does a blog about Finland cover a holiday trip to Argentina? With a discussion of the tango of course!

Chris, at the top, is probably the closest thing to a Finn at this tango show. He is so stiff he scarcely has joints. Michel, my brother-in-law, being a Belgian, has a little more flair. Both knees are slightly bent.

Chris, Sophia and I headed way south to visit our nieces-now residents of the beautiful city of Buenos Aires. I will post holiday pictures at my other blog that you can find here, but for this blog I will focus on the tango.

We went to a tango show in Buenos Aires and were impressed with the athleticism of the dancing. The dancers pressed tightly together and their feet flew in quick kicks between their partner's legs or around their partner's body.

The history of tango is said to come from the louche underbelly of 1880s Buenos Aires. One web site reports that the dance represented the relationship between a prostitute and a pimp. The bandoneon, like an accordion, was adapted from Germany and became the instrument for the tango.

By the turn of the 20th century, Argentina had the 6th largest economy in the world. Argentina's influence as a world power spread the tango to Europe where it became the latest rage. Maybe the tango craze has diminished in the rest of Europe, but it remains extremely popular in - ta dah!- Finland.

According the this article from the Christian Science Monitor, the tango invaded Finland in 1913 and by the 1930s Finns were composing their own lyrics for the tango. The melancholy lovelorn yearning of the tango fit in perfectly with the Finnish language.

Perhaps the most famous Finnish tango is Satumaa. It was even performed by Frank Zappa!

There’s a land beyond the vast sea
Where waves wash on the shores of happiness
Where beautiful flowers always blossom
Where worries of tomorrow can be forgotten

Oh if once I could go to that fairytale land
Never would I leave from there like a bird
But without wings I cannot fly, I’m a prisoner of ground
Only in thoughts that reach so far can I ever there be

And now- I highly recommend watching this entire clip of Morley Safer in Finland. I don't know how old it is (the currency is pre-Euro), but it is informative and amusing! P.S. I think the Finnish radio announcer is poking fun at us--the U.S.! And to follow, a Kaurismäki clip of Satumaa. You can never watch too much Kaurismäki.