I am not really a porridge person but there are days when I could kill for a nice bowl of warm porridge. Especially when I have cooked something that left drippings in the pan, add that to good old fashioned rye porridge and it's the best dinner in the world! I think my Ukrainian roots are showing in that but heck, it's really the fat that adds the flavour and the rye porridge adds consistency that one can't really have with oatmeal porridge. I baked some chicken for lunch and used the dripping from that and let me tell you, good stuff, good stuff!
Sweet porridge is also nice on cold days, but for that oatmeal really does work best.
All that brings me to the fact that I will miss the selection of porridges at any given tiny shop in Finland. At my local Alepa there are many 10 kinds of cereal, maybe, probably fewer than that… but there are at least 20 kinds of porridges. Anything from oatmeal to rice to rye porridge, with or without sugar, with or without flavouring, to prepare by just adding hot water to the kind where you have to actually cook it for 15 minutes.
|It's kind of both sad and funny that the other day I tried finding local apples at the Alepa I usually go to and they didn't have any. Apples! Is there any fruit that's simpler than an apple? That's the fruit that should always be picked a few kilometres away! Alas, the best looking ones were from China but it didn't feel right buying apples that came from China. There were also some from Chile and Brazil, but in the end I settled for some from Holland. Still, I guess everyone buys the local ones when they're fresh in the autumn and winter and then it's all imported ones. In the smaller shops, at least… I can't remember the last time I went to a large shop to buy groceries though. |
That said, most of the stuff for my salad was Suomi-grown. And, no, the local tomatoes still haven't developed any kind of taste… sometimes I wonder why do I even bother with them.
|One of my main achievements this past week has been being able to sit in the sun reading without getting a sunburn. A couple of hours by the sea on Saturday, an hour yesterday, and not a single sign of turning into a lobster! |
This is also where societal pressure comes in. Just writing the two sentences above has made me feel bad about myself, "you're freaken 27 years old and that's what you call your main achievements for the week?" Obviously I am exaggerating things quite a bit on here but there is always a grain of truth in every joke and exaggeration.
So, no, my mid-life crisis is not over yet.
|I have my priorities right, let me tell you that! So what if I now have a book with an actual ISBN number to my name? Who cares about that… when there is cycling to be done at temperatures around -18C!|
I've never really felt more badass than this morning. Even my commutes in blizzards have never made me feel that badass. Because you know, nothing screams badass like wearing layers upon layers of thermal underclothes! Nothing!
Here, let me show you the amazingness of what my morning was made up of. The size of the image is probably proportional to the badassness. [Edit: second thought, let's make this a bit smaller...]
Yes, it's scary just how much winter cycling excites me. As with most of my crazy pseudo-adventures, I feel like this gif is appropriate:
I had a weird "discussion/encounter" with a dude this morning. I was on my bike at the bottom of that one hill on my commute, it's really annoying because there is a crosswalk right at the bottom and it can get tricky with all the snow around. But anywho, I was just riding across the crosswalk and this guy was going perpendicularly to me and stopped and asked if I knew where I was going. Or at least that's what I think he said, you know with the whole "limited Finnish skills are even more limited while trying hard to stay upright on a bike" business. I just smiled at him and told him I didn't speak Finnish and went on my way.
I ended up catching up with him really close to Otaniemi, apparently all roads lead there in the morning, and he absolutely wanted to talk to me again and asked if I was from far away like Australia, in English this time. I came to the conclusion that I probably look like a baby deer on ice when I'm on my bike and therefore he first thought I had no fucking clue where I was going and then decided I must be from somewhere where cycling on snow is a rare thing.
So there, adventures. If my life got any more exciting than this, I'd have to write a book and sell the film rights to Disney. Or something.
And speaking of interesting…
… I'm already mentally preparing for tomorrow. I think that -17 calls for an extra thermal layer.
(dear gods in charge of sanity, why did you let me develop such a strong affection for winter cycling commutes?)
|You guys, I can't. |
Really, I love my local library. I love the Helsinki area library system. But sometimes I can't. They amuse to me to no end.
Remember that time I wrote about the ebrary and their weird way of categorising books? They've now translated the same categories to physical libraries! At least to the English book collection. I clearly remember that before "romance fiction" books had their own category. And "sci-fi/fantasy" did NOT contain Nora Roberts books… now we have this:
(please excuse the badly collated photos, keeping angles coherent with my phone is not one of my gifts)
You have Poe next to Pratchett next to Rice… next to Nora Roberts? It just boggles my mind. At least non-sci-fi/fantasy and crime fiction still remain in separate categories.
Unless Nora Roberts has started writing sci-fi/fantasy novels. In which case I must read them because they can't be any worse than the brilliant *cough*not*cough* stuff I read back in the day. That reminds me that I never did get around to reading those books with the covers forever!beheaded MacKade brothers like this or this or this. Only logical conclusion: they must all be rather weird looking eyes.
Speaking of books, last year during the holiday season I read Demon City Shinjuku (and then got to visit Shinjuku, which made the whole thing even more awesome), this year I've started another young love story - Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion and so far it's been an awesome book. I tend to rather dislike first person POV but here it works. There is this borderline cynic edge to the narrative I quite like. Still, we'll see how it goes once the whole love story arc starts… I also tend to not really get people's obsession with zombies, but here it works well.
|I will have to say that the snow that Helsinki has been experiencing can be considered as "a lot" even by local standards. On some days it's been clear that the people who take care of clearing off the roads, sidewalks, etc. were just overwhelmed and some parts of the city never even came close to being cleared off. It seems that as of last week I even managed to develop a sixth sense of when the snow would not be cleared off the cycling paths decently (as in, there would be more than just one or two centimetres of snow left in the morning… alas if it snows during the day, the centimetres can add up quite quickly). Last Thursday I just decided to walk to work (Finland: that country where it's normal to sometimes just walk 7.5km to work in any weather conditions) and, boy, was I glad I was not on the bike! Deep snow everywhere! And deep snow is hard to cycle on. |
Sticky wet snow is even worse, it gets stuck to everything and you bring back tons of it attached to the bike. As my road bike is domesticated (wait. what?) it has to stay in my tiny bathroom while the snow melts off a bit as not to soak the rug by the front door.
That's pretty much all of my bathroom. Tiny Finnish bathrooms, how do I love you...
This is, perhaps, a better angle. I'm standing sideways in the doorway, my bike is in the "shower" section. You see the sink right under the tiny mirror cupboard, and the toilet is in between those two. I should measure the full surface of the bathroom, it wouldn't surprise me if it were under 2sq.m.
|Happy Independence Day, Finland!|
Let's see if anyone will be wearing anything worthy of international news like last years at the presidential hand shaking thing tonight. Highly doubt that there will be another Angry Birds dress... hard to outdo that one.
(and to celebrate, we have a typical Finnish winter day - light snow [but it's picking up slightly right now], doom and gloom. Could be colder though, after the -15C we had yesterday morning, this -3C seems quite warm.)
|If I have one flaw, it's that I often overestimate just how cold it's going to be. Many will think it's hard to dress too warmly for a bike commute when it's -12C and below without everything being too bulky but it's not. Those Finns and Norwegians sure know how to make good clothes. |
Either that or I prepared myself mentally so much for it to be really, really, really cold that in the end my mind was just so into my body not being cold that it wasn't. The mind is a rather powerful thing.
And possibly off topic but this still has to do with cold weather - as long as you're shivering, you're still good… once it stops, that's when you've got problems. To some degree. If I remember correctly some stuff I read last week. When you're really cold, you start shivering and eventually when hypothermia really settles in the shivering will stop because your body is out of energy, but then when your organs start failing some glycogen may be released into your bloodstream and you'll start shivering again even though you're in a coma, suffering from severe hypothermia and in the last moments of your life. So basically if you're shivering, that's good unless you're already in a coma.
Back to this morning. The road conditions, those were interesting. The snow was definitely way more compact than during last week's snowfalls and rides and that made some thing easier because the grooves weren't as bad. There a few parts that were tricky because of tiny mounds of snow that had been formed when the snow had been cleared off the roads/pathwalks and a thin layer of ice formed on top.
Nothing as bad as this mound I saw on Saturday, right where the cycling path I usually take to the city centre is supposed to go.
Still, this is all so exciting! It's so, so, so nice to have snow before Christmas! Now if only we could get a bit more sunshine, then my life would be complete.
|Short recap of what Thursday evening's commute was like - an adventure!|
If you've ever been on top of the Olympique Supérieure on Vars on a very snowy and windy day or perhaps on one of the tops in the valley between Risoul and Vars, then you know what kind of conditions I'm talking about. Except here I was on a bike instead of skis and I was crossing extremely windy bridges instead of skiing on mountain tops. There were three or four centimetres of snow on the ground by then, nothing like what we have today but none of them had been cleared off so it was like riding on very clingy sand. My CX tyres held out pretty well, the trickiest part was definitely a bit of cycling path next to a road where the cars would send slushy snow over and cyclists would form grooves that would instantly freeze… and if you've ever tried cycling in grooves that are not very regular, you'll know how hard that is. There were very few bike commuters out there but 99% of us looked like Bambi when he was trying to learn to walk on ice. I don't think I ever "déchausser" (what is the English expression? lose my pedals?) but my wheels were definitely a bit shaky here and there. It was extremely tiring but also extremely fun!
Now that I think about there was another tricky bit where wind tunnels formed. Snow and constant 15m/s winds tend to create huge snow ridges and sometimes those will form right in the middle of a cycling path. So you're riding along, you're happy there isn't much snow on the ground and then your wheels sink because you just came to a huge mound of fresh snow. It's the same as in skiing except that if you're a decent skier you usually manage to glide along the surface. Bike wheels are not skis and they will sink and you will be all "oh mummy, this is like sand but only worse." But it's still fun. Then again I am starting to think my definition of "fun" is weird.
Anywho. Yesterday, I decided against commuting by bike because they promised (here the weather is promised, not predicted) extremely high winds and snowfalls all day and those happened. We had a decent blizzard going on! It was fun to watch… but imagine having to cycle on this…
… the easiest is just to say "fuck this" and get off the bike and walk. Unless your name is Marianne Vos, in which case you just look at the snow and laugh at it up until it recoils in fear (and respect) and just gets out from under your wheels.
|To quote a friend, "OMG snöööö". It seems that Finland does not escape the usual "first large snowfall = everyone panics" and this morning we had a few peeps late to class because they were stuck in traffic. I personally had no problems, last night I finally gave in and changed my tyres from slick summer ones to cyclo-cross. |
That's a thing that's supposed to take ten minutes, right? Wrong. In Gali-land, that task took about an hour and a half and even though I thought I had cleaned the tyres and rims well, I clearly had not.
In the end though, it was all worth it. Best commute ever! I didn't even mind the wind all that much.
Going back home shall be interesting, it's been steadily snowing all day and the wind has definitely picked up quite a bit. Still, another quote from another friend, "the white balance has finally been adjusted."
|Will I ever stop considering the weather as the most fascinating thing on Earth? Not very likely. Many things in life do not change but we're lucky around here that it seems that the weather is going to be changing a bit.|
Just look at the end of the week that's they're promising us!
No, I do not have issues. I am genuinely happy that we're going to be getting snow, that it's going to get colder and everything. It's been a rather warm and wet autumn and those are never fun. White snow on the ground, it adds something to life. And maybe I will finally get to change those bike tyres…
Let's make this more interesting though…
|Working with environmental issues has turned me into the most horrible cynic in the world but I have my utopic moments where I think, for a little bit at least, that everyone will see the light and we will no longer doomed. During my lectures on environmental aspects of product development peeps probably think I'm schizophrenic. |
Overall, though, the cynicism also invades other aspects such as the whole bio-food and fair-trade market stuff. Studies on the subject often come up with contradictory results and people get really opinionated easily so there have been extremely few objective debates (if debates can ever be objective). A tiny part of me hopes that my choice in bananas this morning somehow made life better for someone else but I can never be certain of that, can I?
|A bunch of everyday things. And because everyone will be discussing politics right now, let's discuss something else! |
First of all, yesterday was Swedish Finnish Heritage Day and I must say that I, for one, am glad that Swedish still has such a presence in Finland, especially on food labels. I do have to admit that these days I usually just check the label in Finnish and skip over the Swedish. The other day though, I was looking into what was in a packet of a dried fruit mix and after reading the ingredients in Swedish, I actually checked in Finnish to make sure I had understood correctly. So you know, five years after first moving to Helsinki, perhaps I can understand more written Finnish than I give myself credit for... that doesn't mean that my spoken or written Finnish have improved.
Speaking of Helsinki, was there some strike going on with trash collecting or was my building really successful at producing trash last week? The bins were full. On Sunday the main trash bin had been cleared, the cardboard recyclables bin was still overflowing though.
And in cycling news, same old, same old. City bike when it looks like it might snow or the ground is totally frozen. Road bike with normal tyres on other days. Yes, I'm still putting off switching to cyclocross tyres, but overall it seems that temperatures for the next week will mainly be oscillating between +1 and +5C. I guess now I'm waiting for them to be oscillating between -3 and +1C or something.
But hey, let's look on the bright side, as winter comes closer, there are fewer and fewer road works out there! Now I can cycle to the city center (in skirts, man, I'm classy) and not have to deal with random bits of places just being closed off. Lauttasaari is still hell with road works. Tapiola keskus too, I was there yesterday and that wasn't fun at all.
|I hope everyone who could vote in Finland voted today (including all the foreigners who have lived (and registered as living) in Finland for over two years)! I think the early voting system at the post office is quite nice but still there were some peeps who waited till the last second... I got stopped on the street today and asked where the voting center in Töölö was. I honestly don't even remember where it is, it's certainly further away from my flat than the post office so I honestly did not store that kind of information in my brain. |
Early voting, early everything... except my photo posting! Here is some local late August. Those red berries that make birds drunk in the wintertime were already there.
Those red berries certainly didn't come out too well in tiny. They're clearer in hq over in the jux slideshow although the chromatic aberrations are quite present in the bright photo of said berries. Quite a shame, it seems it will only live on in mq.
|Have you ever wondered what 99% humidity and 0C look like? Something like this... |
... heading off into the unknown to go ice fishing. That was one brave dude. I can see why one would sit on a bucket for hours on end on ice when it's sunny, but when it feels like you're in a cloud with tiny particles getting everywhere, I really don't see it.
( +7 - just wandering around the beach and stuff )
|A couple of months back they had those "Crazy Days" over at Stockmann. I don't think there is anything more Finnish than that. People everywhere with those yellow bags, everyone trying to find a good deal. It's not quite Black Friday craziness, I don't believe that Finns would go as far as pepper spraying other shoppers to get a good deal and I doubt anyone has ever been trampled but, if I can, I stay away. This year I had to go to the centre anyway so I dropped by the food section and stayed away from all the other floors...|
( +1 - grapes and cheese )
That was back then... soon the Christmas craziness will start. At least my change-countries/flats on a yearly basis is making it easy for me - if it's not edible, not deodorant, toothpaste, or soap, then it has no value for me.