Mökki party

There are roughly half million summer cottages in Finland; I suppose we just can’t get enough of our nearly 200,000 lakes, plus we need some more space and privacy, and some time off from our neighbors. I am still learning how to love the cottage life in our family summer house near Kuopio, but sunny, warm weather and parties like the one last weekend certainly make it easier to go to the woods and listen to the mosquitos.

The "White House"
The “White House”

Vaajasalo, our cottage, hosted a summer party of 63 people: we even had a military tent in the yard to accommodate the residents, since the guests occupied all the indoor space! I didn’t know pretty much any of the guests (most of who were over 50), but it was still fun!

Muurinpohjalettu, flipping pancakes from a bucket
Muurinpohjalettu, flipping pancakes from a bucket

We had food including traditional summer dessert, “muurinpohjalettu” pancakes, followed by sauna and swimming in the lake…

 

Partying in sweatpants, cottage-style!
Partying in sweatpants, cottage-style!

3 sets from a 5 person band playing in our front porch, followed by a rave with popping champagne…

Who needs festivals when you can have your own
Who needs festivals when you can have your own?

All in all, not your typical a) weekend or b) summer party.

By the way, in case you are ever in Kuopio or in the near-by area: there’s a winery in the same island as our cottage (Vaajasalo). They have a smelly, huge pig, some peacocks and an ostrich. He (she?) Was a weird-looking fella.

Weird neck and bigger eyes than brains
Weird neck and bigger eyes than brains

Ostriches are the fastest 2-legged species. The kick of an ostrich can kill (not surprised). Usually they live in Africa. I wonder, if the one in Alahovi winery goes to Africa for winter holiday…

 

 

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Back home

I came back to Finland on Thursday, and somehow it seems as if I never even left! Some things have changed to the better in Tampere, but mostly everything looks scarily familiar. I have been occupying myself with loads of fun things this weekend – coming back has definitely felt like a good decision! Seeing friends and family after almost a year, going to all my favorite places…so far, so good.

View from the balcony: perfect for the morning/afternoon/evening tea
View from the balcony: perfect for the morning/afternoon/evening tea

Besides enjoying the sun and the fact that it is light even at midnight, I have been pleased with the green nature and fresh smells of blooming flowers. I also realized, how much I’ve missed biking around!

My sweet ride
My sweet ride

This weekend I’ve got the chance suit up: first to a graduation party, then to my mom’s birthday brunch, which was in a fancy old-fashioned hotel, serving local food at its’ best.

Something I learned in Asia, doesn't work here
Something I learned in Asia, doesn’t work here

I’ve been to my favorite organic stores to catch up and see all the new things, I’ve visited the farmers’ market and market hall, eaten fresh strawberries, whirl the blender, seen kids drunk on their school ending day…ahh, Tampere! The only thing I am missing is my dog, who is taken care of by my grandma in Kuopio right now. Next week I’ll luckily get her back (probably fatter than ever). Next week I’ll also start a new job, which I am really excited about. More about that later. For now, it’s all about the sun and 28C, no humidity or mosquitos!

Our private "junk" boat on the lake
Our private “junk” boat on the lake

See, Finland is not all that bad, no matter what I might say…

Week END?

Constantly building something, view of Admiralty
Constantly building something, view of Admiralty

My last weekend in Hong Kong couldn’t have been better, even if it had been sunny instead of raining! On Friday we had a delicious, (almost vegan) dinner in one of the best Thai restaurants in Hong Kong (Cafe Siam).
The following day, I ventured to more art and explored an area I hadn’t been before; the industrial, artsy Chai Wan hosted Chai Wan Mei, a satellite event to the megalomane Art Basel.

Master chef at home
Master chef at home

Part of Chai Wan Mei included Bread Elements, a new – you guessed it – bakery. This company’s bread is not the pillows and other “breads” you find in the supermarkets; it is real, rustic artisan bread, hand-made from premium ingredients. I was lucky to visit the open days of the old factory premises, and talk to the master chef and cookbook authorGregoire Michaud, who previously worked for for example The Four Seasons hotel for several years!

Gluten-free raisin loaf, made with rice -, and tapioca flour
Gluten-free raisin loaf, made with rice -, and tapioca flour

It was truly inspiring to exchange ideas and opinions about the essence and quality, or the lack of quality bread, and the methods of making bread. We discussed the current gluten free trend and the reasons for the increase of gluten sensitivities (low quality, processed wheat was the chef’s suggestion). What comes to bread – it’s my Achilles heel. I think that bread should always be highest-possible quality, made without any additives or enhancers. At Bread Elements, I got to see the Mother of the breads, the sourdough starter, which makes yeast unnecessary. And I got to say, that oh man these French know how to bake a baguette!

Now Bread Elements only supplies to high end hotel chains and restaurants, but maybe soon Hong Kongers get to enjoy real bread from normal stores, too! Oh, yeah, there was other stuff than food in Chai Wan, too. Like 3,000 red-covered diaries from the Revolution era.

The Governor?
The Almighty Governor?

Saturday was topped off with some more art, wine, tapas, cocktails and dancing the night away in some of the fanciest clubs in the city with some rather interesting new friends.

Chilling at the gym
Chilling at the gym. Notice the mosquito-eaten legs!

Sunday dawned too cloudy to go to a beach, so I opted for a gym and rooftop pool instead. The sun even peaked out to say hello!

I could do this more than once!
I could do this more than once!

Summa summarum: the weekend definitely left a positive feeling and good memories about Hong Kong. Who knows, maybe this won’t be the end for me.

Hong Kong Vappu

I have never been a big fan of Vappu, as Labor Day or May Day is known in Finland, so it was not a big deal for me to to be abroad and “miss” the holiday and all the drunkness that annually invades Finland for few days. Here in Hong Kong Labor Day is a public holiday as well, and our Finnish team did the best we could to have some vappu feeling.

 

Munkki, just like at home
Munkki, just like at home

Last Saturday me and my dear roommates cramped into our tiny kitchen to prepare the traditional munkki pastries (donuts, basically deep-fried pulla dough), which apparently turned out just right! Team work at its’ best, one might say.

 

Sugar and syrup, yeast, lemon and raisins make the other staple Vappu treat
Sugar and syrup, yeast, lemon and raisins make the other staple Vappu treat

Last Friday I prepared sima (mead with raisins) to be ready for Vappu. On Tuesday we had few other Finns outside of our office gang to join us for a lovely evening -at the office- of listening to a myriad of 90’s songs and memorize our dear Motherland. The actual Labor Day, vappupäivä, was rather different than the usual picnic in the park – I got to cross another thing on my to-do list: junk boat!

 

Junk Boat with a nice sunny filter
Junk Boat with a nice sunny filter

 

Even though the weather was rather homey (cold, windy and almost rainy), the day on a boat was really nice!
Junk boat trips are usually organized in the warm months; basically you gather about 20-30 people to spend the day on a boat, chilling and doing some water activities. Not bad, unless you burn yourself or jump off the boat in a weird angle.

 

Sunny filter for brave swimmers
Sunny filter for brave swimmers

 

I hope I get to go on a junk boat trip again, and the next time the weather would be warm enough for me to actually get in the water and try wakeboarding! (Okay, I was about the only one not swimming, but it was damn cold.)

Did I miss the Finnish version of Vappu? Not a bit. We shall see where I’ll be next year!

Gong hey fat choy – Chinese New Year

This year I am lucky to have experienced New Year’s celebrations twice – both of them completely different than anything I’ve experienced before! In Japan I missed the annual fireworks, but today my “loss” was made up in the Hong Kong’s Chinese New Years fireworks spectacle. Yesterday I, along with probably few million others, got to witness the New Year’s parade, and the day before that I was smushed in the crowds in Victoria Park’s market.

Enthusiastic shoppers in Victoria park
Enthusiastic shoppers in Victoria park

The Victoria Park (flower) market resembled the Finnish Vappu (mayday) market quite a lot, except that here you couldn’t really see any of the stalls since there was so many people. The flowers and fruit trees were beautiful, but pretty much everything else on sale was carnival crap. I am glad to have stumbled upon the market on my morning “jog” (which turned to walking and eating in the market area).

The (non-Chinese) carnival spirit
The (non-Chinese) carnival spirit

The Parade in Tsim Sha Tsui was rather popular, to say the least. We were there few hours early, and the streets were already packed. I have to say, that the parade was a slight disappointment, specially after such a long wait. It was interesting, and definitely worth it, but not that “Chinese” since half of the groups were from somewhere else.

Hong Kong Disneyland partying
Hong Kong Disneyland partying

The parade had some interesting costumes and talented performances, so it was nice to see. However, the subway ride afterwards was a “bit” hectic and cramped. It is funny how much I have been in crowds these past few days, although most of the shops and restaurants have been closed and the streets have seemed almost deserted. Almost!

Blasting in the air for 30 mins
Blasting in the air for 30 mins

Today’s fireworks were spectacular, and definitely made up for the ones I missed on our new year. I am not that familiar with the Chinese traditional customs, but I doubt Gagnam style as background music for fireworks has not been that common for celebrations. I wish I knew half as much about the Chinese New Year’s traditions as I know about the Japanese oshougatsu, but this weekend was interesting as it was, everyone was happy and festive and we got an extra day off! Looking forward to the next festival, which seems to be in few weeks!