Archive for 2010

December 28th, 2010

Christmas travelogue

This year, we decided to visit Sanna’s parents for Christmas festivities. As they live quite far north (800km for Helsinki) and the holidays were short this year, we drove first to Kuopio to meet Sanna’s younger brother and his girlfriend, spent one night there, and then headed again towards north. This approach cut the distance into two almost equal-sized pieces that took “only” five to six hours. We did the same maneuver while driving back to Helsinki with my parents house in Northern Carelia.

The whole season was extra crispy regarding the weather, temperatures never rose above -10C — and some days were just frozen, as the temperature dropped to -30C or below. We got a lot of advices what to pack in order to survive if there would be an issue with the car or we would be in an accident; pack warm clothers, remember to have a flashlight, and so on. We dutifully packed all that stuff with all the presents and other stuff, and still managed to fit in to our car.

The boys still believe in Santa Claus, and one visited us on Christmas Eve. The boys were nervous, as usual, and Sanna had to do most of the talking with Santa. Despite that, the presents were plentiful. Toys dominated, including my Lego Tower Bridge (over 4.000 bricks!), but there were some other cool stuff, including books and a Hermès scarf for Sanna. The Christmas day was spent in reading (and I coded a bit, too), and on boxing day we started our journey back to Helsinki. As said, one night was spent in my parent house — again very relaxing experience.

It had snowed once again while we were gone, and I had to plough our way through 15 centimeters of snow. It is weird that Helsinki has the most snow in whole Finland by far.

December 13th, 2010

Relaxation at Polvijärvi

I’m writing this in my old room at my parents house in Polvijärvi. There’s some business in Joensuu that I need to attend to, and Polvijärvi is a good base to spend some time and to prepare for the meetings. I did the same maneuvers with the boys a couple of times during this year, but this time the flight tickets were priced so high that I decided to leave the kids home and ride a train alone yesterday.

The train trip was blissfully quiet, and I spent most of my time coding — got a load of stuff implemented. I stopped working when the train arrived at Joensuu, and continued around 9.30 today.

I spent the time between eating well, having a hot sauna with my dad — he provided vastas (sort of a racket looking whip made of a bunch of birch branches with leaves) and we had relaxing hitting-ourselves-with-vastas session. After that, all my pores were open and muscles were tingling. This might sound a bit crazy for people outside Finland (and Russia), but trust me, it is a heavenly feeling.

Then we just discussed, and my mom served cookies. I watched an Indiana Jones movie from the telly, and then dozed off. It was fabulously stressless and relaxing evening.

December 2nd, 2010

To Switzerland despite the strike

Finnish stewardesses have been on strike from Tuesday afternoon onwards. This means that most of the flights have been cancelled. I should have been in Joensuu today, but instead I’ve been at the office. Tomorrow, I’m going with my family to Basel, Switzerland. Fortunately for us, the strike was settled for Blue1, the company we are flying with, while the strike continues with Finnair.

We have been so busy with everything that there are no plans for the trip. Maybe a visit to a museum or two, some shopping, and then just having good time.

By the way, I popped over to Stockholm during this Tuesday; took ferry on Monday and returned on Wednesday. The reason for the trip was business, but I was able to take family with us — boys absolutely loved the boat, especially the playground and the tax free shops with shock full of toys and candies.

November 26th, 2010

Winter has arrived

Finland has been a true winter wonderland for a couple of weeks. Seemingly permanent snow fell in the north almost a month ago, and the couple big snow storms during the past week have covered the ground also here in the south. Yes, I know that “south” is a bit relative, so south for us Finns.

Boys have loved every aspect of the early winter, they have skied, sledged, and generally fooled around in the snow. I’ve been mostly focused on keeping the yard clean that is one of the best full-body exercise ever.

Now it is almost -15C and it still November. Crazy! But wonderful.

November 14th, 2010

Instead of Japan and Korea, spent a week in pneumonia

Two days before our trip to Japan and Korea, I felt ill. It first seemed like some ordinary and thus short fever, typical for situations in which you’ve just finalised a number of tasks and the body starts to relax — dropping its guards. No other symptoms, no cough, no sneezing, no headache, just fever.

Next day (Wednesday), I visited doctor and she was almost as puzzled as I was. I could maybe travel or then not. On Thursday, the travel day, I visited the doctor again, and while the fever had not dropped, I had dry cough from time to time. This resulted having me x-rayed, and pneumonia was discovered. No flying.

I was devastated and sorry for my family — who by the way took the news better than I did — and had to cancel the trip. I felt lousy both mentally and physically. Fortunately, the pills I got were pretty powerful, and I was quite ok already on Monday. Recovery was surprisingly slow, though, and I was up to the speed on Friday or Saturday, about ten days after the start of the illness. I’ve also come to accept my fate, and somehow been able to regather my thoughts to be able to focus on work and life fully again.

We should get our money back first from the travel agency, and the rest from our insurances. The bills have not yet been settled, but this should happen during the upcoming week. The next logical step is to start to think a new trip, but for the time being I’m too tired to do that. Maybe around Christmas.

October 24th, 2010

In Lego event with Aapo

As frequent readers know already, I and Aapo have been preparing for a Lego event throughout the summer and early fall. The concept of the event is that people bring their own built models, specifically houses to a huge Lego city, for everyone to admire.

I found out the event back in May, when I was in Germany and just going to visit Legoland near Münich. I spent quite a lot of time in the shops selling individual blocks… Fortunately I did that, as some of the blocks were invaluable.

At then end, I and Aapo — at least somewhat — built two houses. Red hotel for the old town, and a white department store to the new town. There was also a country side area, but I didn’t have enough time to build anything there — I had plans, though.

Lego Hotel
Lego Department Store

Building these took around a month and a half of calendar time, maybe around 10-20 hours each house. The hotel was more complicated to build, as it has a lot of details on the facade.

The event was held on the last weekend, and on Saturday I packed the Legos along some clothing and other essentials to our car and drove with Aapo to Ilmajoki, some 350 kilometers north from Espoo. The original idea was to go there with Aapo’s cousin and his dad, and then met another five years old from Oulu, also travelling with his dad — but both had to cancel due to illness and last minute schedule conflict. So I ended up being on the road just with Aapo.

While driving to Ilmajoki, we popped over to Ideapark near Tampere and raided about ten stores in an hour. We found something worth buying in every store except one. Aapo and Niilo got some Legos, DVDs, CD, and I got a couple of books. A shopping success in every aspects, as most of the items were on sale. After that spending spree we arrived finally to Ilmajoki, put our buildings on their places in the town plan, chatted for a while, and then drove to Seinäjoki for the hotel. Ilmajoki is such a small place that there are no hotels, so Seinäjoki was the first choice for accommodation.

The hotel, Sokos Hotel Lakeus, had seen its best days like a decade ago, but the room was tolerable and with a recently built sauna. We visited the city centre of Seinäjoki just to found out that everything was already closed. We ended up to a pseudo-TexMex place, Amarillo, and ate surprisingly good food. Maybe we were hungry. After that sauna and then Aapo dozed off. I spent my time reading the second part of Stockholm Noir trilogy by Jens Lapidus.

Sunday morning was frosty and we had summer tires under our car… Fortunately the temperature was above zero after the breakfast and the roads were just wet. The event would open at noon, so we had some time to spent and went to swim — not to a lake, but to the local swimming hall. After that we visited local Prisma to get even more Legos and some food for the afternoon.

We spent around five hours in the event, I took around 150 photos and spent time by chatting with other builders. Aapo checked everything, grew a bit bored, and then spent rest of the afternoon driving radio-controlled cars. The event ended at six, and we packed our buildings in a hurry, and sped off towards Espoo. The temperature was dropping all the time, and I wanted to get as far as possible while it would be above zero. Aapo watched DVDs on the back seat and we stopped only once for a convenience break in Tampere. The roads were dry around Tampere and the temperature never dropped below one centigrade, so we had no hassles with the weather.

I’ve uploaded the photos to Flickr, check out my PiiPoo 2010 set.

Abysmally slow service

Le Cercle des Voyageurs is a nice looking restaurant next to Manneken Pis statue in the epicenter of Brussels. We had a huge amount of people, around 40, having dinner, and experienced really, really, really slow service.

It is understandable that it might take some time to cook and serve food for such a big party, but the whole dinner took more than four hours. First, we waited for the starters for two hours and then only one waitress took care of serving us. It took almost fifteen minutes to get food for everyone, and some were already eaten while others waited for the food. Then we waited for some for the main course, and again for the dessert.

The best parts are yet to come: a) all portions could have been made beforehand, as we had salmon carpaccio, meat pot, and tiramisu; b) the food was not that good — except for the tiramisu (that didn’t taste like a real tiramisu — I don’t like as it contains coffee — but something else that was better suited for my taste).

I left before the bill was given, so I cannot say how much more the people had to wait there.

Good food in relaxed atmosphere

Babeko is a bistro style restaurant in the centre of Brussels, located among other similar kind of restaurants. I visited the place during a conference trip, as the first night dinner was hosted there.

The food was good, and the service was relaxed in a positive way — no fuss, no hassle, just working and kind service. Three course set menu was served in less than three hours for 30+ people, and there were always enough wine and bread on the tables. The price and quality ratio was good.

Babeko, Place Sainte Catherine 26, Brussels, Belgium