Archive for February, 2009

February 22nd, 2009

California, here we come!

After long discussions between my and Sanna, we’ve finally reserved a trip to California on end of April and beginning of May. I’ve been in need of visiting a certain business contacts there for half a year, so it is a good time to go there.

The flight tickets are pretty cheap now — we got an excellent deal from KLM to San Francisco and Los Angeles. We’ll fly to San Francisco, spend a few nights there and in Silicon Valley area, coupled with a trip or two to East Bay. Then we’ll drive to Los Angeles, and finally to San Diego.

The return flight leaves from Los Angeles, so we can skip driving back north. In fact, it was cheaper to fly this way instead of returning from San Francisco. Flight ticketing has mysterious ways… But this time, I don’t complain.

The whole family comes with me, and the trip has been carefully planned to keep boys active and satisfied while allowing me and Sanna to conduct business of our own, too. Hopefully it rolls out as we’ve been figuring it out.

Good sushi in mall surroundings

Good eateries are usually far and between in typical American malls. The best bets for me have been sushi restaurants, as the food is fresh and there is no fat to speak of — compared to other stalls deep frying everything, and having probably one third of fat in total.

Most of the times, mall sushi restaurants are ok, despite the sorry environment. Sometimes, they are downright awful, and other times, rarely, they are better than you would expect. Sarku Japan in CambridgeSide mall happens to be on the last category.

We enjoyed a fast dinner there, and the sushi was good; fresh and tasteful. It partially avoided the fusion syndrome, i.e. stuffing mayo to most of the entrees. The price was decent as well. The surroundings remind of any and all fast food chains, but you can always go outside to the small park with a pond — if the weather allows.

www.sarkujapan.com, 100 Cambridgeside Place (inside CambridgeSide mall), Cambridge, MA, USA, +1 617 577 7658

Hearty pizzas and okay pastas

When travelling with children, one starts to appreciate restaurants that provide easy and tasty food, fast service, and some small items for the younger ones to kill the waiting time. California Pizza Kitchen, a chain of pizza restaurants around the United States, provides all that — and with decent prices.

As name implies, the focus is on pizzas. And they are not the usual fatty fare found in every corner, but imaginative and delicious combinations of usual and not so usual ingredients. They serve also other Italian style food — Americanised, of course, but still quite good — such as pastas, salads, soups, and sandwiches.

www.cpk.com, 100 CambridgeSide Place (inside CambridgeSide Mall), Cambridge, MA, USA, +1 617 225 2772

February 14th, 2009

Groundhog week(s)

I’ve been working the last weeks with quotations — for the past four or five weeks (I’ve lost count already) I’ve written a new quotation and submitted it on Friday. Writing a good quotation takes about a week among normal daily and weekly routines.

This week we submitted two, and the spell seems to be broken — there is no new quotation for the next week, so I can finally pursue on other things that I’ve neglected during the process.

And yes, we’ve got the first deals from this set already.

The southernmost full ski resort in Finland

Tahkovuori is the southernmost full scale ski resort in Finland. Located about 60 kilometers up north from Kuopio, and thus about 450 kilometers from Helsinki, Tahko boasts an impressive set of activities around the year. The first and foremost focus is on skiing, downhill and cross-country, but there are a lot of other sport possibilities as well.

The slopes are not very high, but good for skiing and snowboarding. There is a good selection of cross-country skiing tracks with varying difficulty. If you are afraid of slopes, you can always ski on the frozen lake. For other winter-time activity, consider Tahko Spa that offers also bowling, badminton and other indoor sports. For people not interested in sports, Tahko has all kinds of motorised fun, such as snowcats or rally cars on the lake.

Golf is the biggest attraction during summer. There are two golf courses and third one is being built (situation in 2009). Hiking, rowing, and biking are also good ways to burn calories in summer.

The easiest way to get to Tahko is to drive by car. There are direct buses during winter weekends from major cities in Finland. The nearest train stations are in Siilinjärvi and Kuopio, about 45 and 65 kilometers away, respectively. Airport is somewhere in between the train stations. All have bus or taxi connections to Tahko.

For accommodation, there are a few hotels, several chalet apartments and numerous amount of cottages. There is more than a dozen restaurants, some providing also take-away options. Check Tahko’s homepage for more information.

www.tahko.com, Tahkovuorentie 1, Nilsiä, Finland

Excellent pizzas (and also hamburgers)

When skiing, pizza is a good choice to tackle the hunger — lots of energy and everyone can customise their own to suit to personal tastes. Kotipizza is the biggest pizzeria chain in Finland, and one of the numerous joints can be found in Tahko.

Kotipizza has a long menu of different pizzas, andn one of them — “Berlusconi” — has been elected the best pizza in the world in America’s Plate International pizza competition in 2008. Worth trying. I personally suggest their “Monster” pizzas with five toppings of your choice and extra dough bars on top of the pizzas for dipping (dip sauce included in the price). Our family of four is easily fed with that.

The Tahko restaurant has also take-out possibility, and they sell hamburgers and fries under brand “Joke’s” — unlike other Kotipizza joints. I haven’t ever tried these hamburgers, so cannot say about the taste. Portions looked big, though,

www.kotipizza.fi, Tähtitie 2, Nilsiä (Tahkovuori), Finland, +358 17 263 3388

February 4th, 2009

Visited Tahko

We spent last weekend in Tahko in eastern Finland. I’ve been unable to write about it earlier due to work pressure, but finally there is some time to share the experiences before dozing off.

Tahko is a big ski resort near Kuopio, about 450 kilometers away from Helsinki. It is the biggest in southern Finland, especially with regards to services and accommodation.

We got a good deal from Spa Suites (see separate review), three nights’ accommodation in two bedroom suite with less than 250€. The only catch was that we had to participate in two hour weekly shares’ sales meeting. The sales guy was really relaxed and somehow the whole thing was way cozier than the usual weekly shares’ sales events. We haven’t made our minds yet.

Anyhow, we packed our stuff to the car and headed towards north on Thursday. The trip took about six hours, and boy were we tired. The boys dozed off pretty fast, and I could focus on some work items that needed my attention. The suite was equipped well, and there was a good Internet connection among other things.

Friday morning, we attended the sales pitch; the boys were ushered into play area and supervised by a nanny provided by the sales organisation. Nice touch! After the sales, I run some errands in Kuopio and Sanna spent time with a sled and Aapo.

After I got back, my parents joined us and stayed for one night in the extra bed. We visited also a friend of mine back from the university. Haven’t seen him for more than five years, so it was a good time to have a reunion.

Saturday was a cold day, -23C or so in the morning. We went to the spa, and soaked ourselves until lunch. Then it was time for boys to have a nap and my parents to drive back to Polvijärvi. Sanna’s brothers and their families joined us in the evening to celebrate Niilo’s first birthday — yeah, it has been a year already. Time flies.

On Sunday, Aapo and Sanna tried skiing with moderate success. Then I and Niilo joined them for a short sled session. Then it was already time to move on, eat some pizza for lunch and pack the car. Driving back to Espoo took six hours, and I felt once again drained. I deftly continued to work on an offer that I submitted on early Monday morning…

The trip was excellent in that sense that it moved our focus away from the daily grind, and the accommodation was luxurious enough to be really enjoyable — especially the sauna with always hot stove was splendid; it heated up in five minutes. Luxury!

We didn’t catch that much of snow time that we expected, and at the end the boys didn’t see much difference between Tahko and the hill next to our house. Maybe that will change in the next five years or so, and then we will go again…

Baths and beyond

Tahko Spa is a full-fledged, albeit a bit small, spa in Tahko ski resort in Nilsiä, Finland. It offers various possibilities to break away from skiing for a while. The choices include a spa with various swimming pools, bowling lanes, gym, a sport area for floorball or badminton, one bar, and a restaurant. There is also a small shop selling some groceries, toys, and souvenirs. A big and well equipped play area for children can be found at the downstairs. The spa can provide childcare on request.

The spa itself consists of Finnish and Turkish saunas — separate for both sexes — and a pool area with 25 meter big pool, and various smaller pools for children, and a hot tub / jacuzzi. There is also an outdoor pool, but it was closed due to cold weather (-23C) when we visited the spa. Remember to bring your own towels, unless you want to rent them for three euros a piece.

Treatments, such as massage or facials, are available, too.

www.tahkospa.fi, Ahopellontie 1, Nilsiä (Tahkovuori), Finland, +358 20 747 9900