Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Blue (1997-2012)

It's been a while. I haven't really felt like blogging because there has been so much going on - almost to the point where life has felt a little overwhelming. The move, the house renovation, being apart from Chris and the kitties... as if that wasn't enough, we had to make a tough decision regarding our oldest cat, Blue. Blue was diagnosed with a thyroid problem earlier this year, but medication was available and she was doing fine. Soon after I had left the United States Blue started showing all sorts of strange symptoms. Tests revealed that her kidneys were failing. There were also signs that suggested that she might have suffered from intestinal cancer. We could have tried a myriad of treatments and maybe given her a few months to live, but considering Blue's age and our overall situation, the vet advised us to let her go. This past Saturday Blue left for her final journey.

Chris tells me that the other cats in the house have been looking for Blue. Not Masa and Illusia though - they have arrived in Finland safely, after a rough day in the cargo. Chris will join us in about two weeks, with Audrey, Lyric and Willow in tow.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Forest spirits

This is how glamorous I've looked recently! Impressive, no? The net-hoodie is a necessity in the forest due to some really evil little moose flies that dig their way into your hair and cause havoc on your skin - hence the protective gear. It's not exactly stylish, but hey, what can you do. My mom and I have spent some relaxing moments in the forest recently, looking for mushrooms. The ones below are pretty but poisonous.

It's been wonderful to spend time roaming around the forests. One huge reason is the flora I can recognise. I don't know if I've ever really mentioned it here on the blog, but I was a major nature nerd growing up. I knew all the birds and the plants. I knew animal tracks and sometimes woke up at 3 am in summer mornings to go listen to nightingales. Even though my active nature-loving subsided a little bit as I grew up, I cherished all the things I had learned over the years. As silly as it might sound, one of the toughest things about living in the US for me was not knowing the bird calls or even the names of the local weeds or the most common plants on the side of the road.  

Now, back in Finland, I enjoy knowing what grows around me more than I can really express. It seems like such a silly thing, really, but it is immeasurably meaningful to me.

When my mom and I walk in the forest, I go crazy with the camera. I am like a child, photographing familiar tree trunks and different types of moss. 

 And like a child, I enjoy finding the mushrooms I have known for so long.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

House renovation under way, and Reader Request: Sauna interior

When I wrote that our new house was rough on the inside, I wasn't kidding! The interior is pretty raw at the moment. The previous inhabitants had done some work in the house in the 1980s, but the choices they made back then weren't exactly our cup of tea. The old wood floors were covered with cheap linoleum and the walls with ugly paneling. Radiator pipes and electric wires were drawn on the surface of the walls and the ceiling. We could see that the house had a lot of potential, so we decided to reverse the house to its original condition and then work from there. After two days of intense wreckage, the 1980s kitchen is gone, the linoleum is gone, the paneling is gone, the radiators and the pipes are gone. At the moment the house resembles an empty shell, but the old wood floors, as banged up as they are, give me some hope that one day the house will live to its full potential. As the old structures of the house are being revealed from underneath the layers, little glimpses into the life that once was, emerge. Below is where the old phone used to be. Back then, phone numbers had only five digits, and the wall was as good of a place as any to serve as a phone book.

And now: Reader Request! Terri of Rags Against the Machine asked to see more pictures of my mother's old sauna building. This sauna was built in the 1940s.

Here are some pictures of the interior.

Above you can see two wood-burning stoves-of-sort: on the left is what us Finns call kiuas. The burning wood heats up the stones, and when water is thrown on the stones, wonderful hot steam is released into the air. On the right is the container for hot water. Old saunas don't have plumbing, so water is either pumped or carried manually in buckets into the sauna from the lake. A portion of the water is heated in the wood-burning container, and the hot water is then mixed with cold water, in buckets, until it is comfortable to use for washing up. 

Here is what the rest of the sauna looks like.

The floor is concrete but wooden floor panels are put on the floor before one enters the sauna, for comfort and cleanliness. In the picture here the wooden floor panels were lifted up to dry on the right-hand side. The buckets of cold water are usually kept on the floor or on small benches, but here they are still waiting to be placed on the floor as the paneling is still up, and they are on the seating area instead. In this sauna there are three levels of seating: the heat is the most intense on top.

 The best time to relax in the sauna is in the evening. The lake shore is quiet and the water still.