Day 30: Proekt 365 (A little streaming sunshine)

Day 30: Proekt 365 Lovely streaming sunshine to brighten my day

Day 30: Proekt 365
Lovely streaming sunshine to brighten my day

My close personal relationship with my desk, keyboard and computer screens continued today, finding me pretty much locked in my desk chair and focused on the tasks at hand. So, I was thoroughly delighted to be able to turn off the desk lamp for even a brief bit of time today as the sunshine streamed through the windows and brightened the room around me with dazzling winter sunlight.

Glorious, lovely, bright sunshine. If you look closely at the photo, you can see my transition lenses darkened a bit. Yes, it was just that bright.

We may have only had a brief window during which there was no need for any additional light. But, I’ll gladly take it. A month ago, it was ‘dark’ (think very, very grey) all day and completely dark by about 3.00-3.30 in the afternoon. Here we are heading into February and the days are longer and, more importantly, brighter. I swear, that plant in the corner along with all the other plants in our flat perked up as soon as the first traces of sunshine hit. That same plant looks rather sad just now, sitting in the darkness.

We may be expecting a bit of snow over the weekend, which will be very much welcomed by this household. But, it is such a relief to see the days lengthen and the sun rise that much higher in the sky each day. Winter may be here, but summer is coming.

Day 29: Proekt 365 (Che Fufu loves her birdie)

Day 29: Proekt 365 Che Fufu loves her birdie

Day 29: Proekt 365
Che Fufu loves her birdie

Precious few hours this week have been spent anywhere other than sat right in front of my computer screens. Most likely, that trend will continue. My desk is a mess of papers and pens and paperclips and tea and coffee stains. I’d say I’m sick of it, but … I’m not.

One daily respite is when The Cuban and Che Fufu put in a little kitty cardio and she chases her little birdie from one end of the flat to the other. She leaps. She slides. She shakes her butt and looks vicious. She attacks. (And, if we’re very lucky, she launches herself towards one piece of furniture or another only to miss it completely.) Lovely moments. And, extremely entertaining that kitty cardio.

Today’s image doesn’t capture Che Fufu in all her playful glory. Rather, it shows the aftermath. Sweetly curled up sleeping soundly with her beloved birdie. How she can go from chewing and clawing the little thing as if it was a real bird she wished to rip the head from to then curling up with it as if it was her security blanket, I’ll never understand. But, then, I do not think ‘cat’. I especially do not think ‘Che Fufu’.

Sleep well, darling beastie. For tomorrow you shall hunt. Same time. Same place. Same precious birdie.

Day 28: Proekt 365 (A note of adoration)

Day 28: Proekt 365 Silly notes in random places from my adoring husband

Day 28: Proekt 365
Silly notes in random places make me smile

We are fond of silliness in this home. Very fond.

One habit we formed very early in our relationship was the random placement of notes to one another in places we’d least expect to find them. These are not the ‘I’ve gone to the supermarket / work / gym / ice fishing’ type notes. They may or may not have something to do with a household chore, but normally they are just little message that we’ll ‘get’, but others would find puzzling or just plain weird. I love them. I love that he normally illustrates his notes to me.

This afternoon, as I was rooting around for some afternoon grub, I found the above note on top of the leftovers from my dinner last night. Not being a huge fan of chicken, my husband wasn’t shy at all about letting his feelings be known about this particular dinner item. Evidently when he put the container in the refrigerator last night, he was inspired to share his thoughts. Through a note.

It took me completely by surprise when I found it today. It made me giggle. And, that’s the point. A little random bit of silliness to make us smile and hopefully giggle.

(And, to remind me in case I’d forgotten that he is not a fan of chicken!)

Day 27: Proekt 365 (The frozen familiar)

Day 27: Proekt 365 A familiar spot frozen over

Day 27: Proekt 365
A familiar spot frozen over

The contrast between the seasons in Helsinki is mind boggling. At this time of year, we normally have quite a bit of snow and everything is covered in a sparkling layer of white. This year, we have the sub-zero temps finally and most things are frozen over, but there is precious little snow. No matter—there is still much loveliness to be found.

Rather than giving in to the temptation to stay in and hibernate the winter months away, we try to get out and about during the brightest bit of the day (or at least before the sun sets each day). Today, we were a bit late in getting out due to other commitments. A standard part of our walks has us passing over the above bridge. In the pools on either side of this bridge, a family of ducks can normally be seen scavenging for the bits of bread crusts and seeds our neighbours take to them or paddling about in the waters still unfrozen and quacking away the days.

It’s shocking to see this nearly frozen solid. But, frozen it is. And, lovely as ever it is.

The family of ducks must have wandered to another spot less frozen over. All that remained of them today were their footprints in the snow covering the ice. Small bits of water still show and the water is flowing under all of that ice. Alas, no ducks.

But, it’s a different world in this normally tranquil paddling pool, much as the world around us looks so different at this time of year to what it will look like six months from now. Rather than a familiar world frozen and darkened by the burden of frost, snow and ice, everything will be alive with green and colour and the varied songs of the many birds who call our neighbourhood home. And, also familiar.

Still tranquil, but not quite so quiet. Yet, always lovely.

Day 26: Proekt 365 (She hoo shall be named ‘Cheek’)

Day 26: Proekt 365 Owl? Or Queen of Cheek?

Day 26: Proekt 365
Owl? Or Queen of Cheek?

Today, I was quite fortunate to have been graced by the Queen of Cheek honouring me by settling on my lap for all of 15 minutes. Does she do so looking sweet and thoroughly cat-like? Does she curl up in a little ball and wrap her tail around her head? Nope. She comes wearing her owl face.

Oh, Che Fufu. I keep expecting you to hoot.

The affections of my cat come when she wants to give them. Yes, I know. If I wanted unconditional and constant affection, I should’ve gotten a dog. But, you see…Che Fufu is my cat, but my husband’s dog.

When I call her, she looks at me as if I were an annoying mosquito or puppy that jumps and keeps inviting her to play, with an expression that says, ‘You must be kidding, human’. Yet, my husband calls her, and she runs and leaps over furniture to get to him as fast as her little legs will carry her and flies through the air with much grace and ease.

I’ll take what I can get and enjoy her attention when she gives it. The remainder of the time we have an understanding: I, human with opposable thumbs, will feed her, clean her littler box, clean up her hair, hairballs and stray bits of litter that are constantly tracked through the house and play and pet her when she wishes; she, cat with a mind utterly her own, will grace me with affection at her own pace, when she wishes and will also leave signs of her love in the form of hairballs and bits of stray litter everywhere.

But, isn’t she lovely?

Day 25: Proekt 365 (Here’s to Finland’s Maternity Box)

Day 25: Proekt 365 Here's to Finland the the Maternity Box)

Day 25: Proekt 365
Here’s to Finland’s Maternity Box

Finland’s approach to ensuring its citizens and residents live a quality life and have equitable access to such a life from the youngest of ages impresses me. Today, whilst having lunch with a few expat friends, one of whom has an adorable baby girl who was born here, I was reminded of just how early that focus begins. If you have never heard of the Finland Maternity Box, look it up. I’ve marveled about this briefly before, but today I was particularly impressed with it for whatever reason.

Last year as the world awaited the birth of one prince or princess in particular, news focused briefly on the brilliance of the Maternity Box. For more than 75 years, Finnish mothers-to-be have received these boxes, which contain an impressive collection of clothes, toys, personal hygiene items for baby’s first bath (and for Mom), outerwear and various other necessities for newborn babies. All of the items are packed neatly into a decent-sized cardboard box, which can also be used as a baby bed — the package also includes all of the items for baby’s first bed, including a mattress that ingenuously fits snugly in the box.

Mothers can also opt to get cash. But, the loot which comes in the box far exceeds in value the cash disbursements (€140 as of 2013). So, most of the moms I know opted for the loot. I would! The picture above is an item my friend received in her Maternity Box when she was expecting her daughter. Not only is it as cute as her precious little girl, but her daughter LOVES the little bug and kept herself quite busy playing with it when she wasn’t concentrating so completely on being cute. Who wouldn’t love that bug?!

It’s impressive. Mighty impressive really when you consider the reasons behind and history surrounding the Finnish Maternity Box. Their distribution is designed to give all children born in Finland an equal start in life — regardless of socio-economic background, geographic location, family composition or cultural heritage. Every child born in Finland is entitled to receive the box (or cash equivalent) with just one condition placed on its receipt. Mothers wishing to receive the box must have visited an OB-GYN clinic by the fourth month of her pregnancy. In the late 1930s when the boxes were originally distributed to the poorest families, infant mortality in Finland was quite high (65 per 1000 births). Once the programme was expanded for all women and families in the 1940s and then following reforms to ensure all residents in Finland had equal access to all types of healthcare, infant mortality dropped and fewer complications were reported. Now, infant mortality is negligible.

Infant mortality over time has dropped incredibly in Finland

Infant mortality over time has dropped incredibly in Finland

The contents of the box are brilliant. Items are gender neutral (so that they are suitable for boys and girls) and are now chosen for their sensitivity to the environment. They are also durable and not cheaply made or designed. Many of the items in the box would be prohibitively expensive for the poorest families. Snow suits alone are incredibly pricy despite their necessity given the length and depths of winter we experience here in Finland. The contents even include baby’s first books. Yet, every mother is entitled to the box. And, every child can start life out with the same basic necessities. Well done, Finland. Very well done.

It doesn’t at all surprise me that Finland is ranked top in terms of where its best to be a mother. When you get a box like this to welcome your little bundle of joy, how could it not be pretty fab for moms? It should be. And, I’m delighted to live in a country that takes its newest and youngest residents so seriously, and which helps out its moms in the process.

Day 24: Proekt 365 (Afternoon / early evening tea)

Day 24: Proekt 365 A spot of afternoon / early evening tea (and chocolate)

Day 24: Proekt 365
A spot of afternoon / early evening tea (and chocolate)

I love cups of tea, particularly on cold, grey winter days. Add a side of chocolate, and my afternoon is pretty much perfect.

This particular cup was a gift from a dear friend who a) knows how much I love large cups for tea and coffee; and b) was acutely aware of the pain I suffered last year when I clumsily shattered my beloved coffee cup one morning. (I think she also knows me well enough to understand that I frequently spill my coffee / tea / beverages all over myself / desk / floor / counter when I fill them too full and the cup itself is too small. No such worry with this cup, which is perfect.)

Today has been a rather grey and extremely cold winter day in Helsinki. Some snow fell, which was lovely. But, it’s a sleepy sort of end to another frenetic, crazy week. My afternoon cup of tea today was a bit late in the making, but I’m enjoying it all the same. Paired with some chocolate and sipped from my lovely cup, this isn’t a bad way to end this particular week.

Here’s hoping that your weekend is relaxing, filled with laughter and warmth and that your cups runneth over (err….sort of), regardless of what is actually in them.

Day 23: Proekt 365 (The perfect lunch)

Day 23: Proekt 365 The perfect lunch

Day 23: Proekt 365
The perfect lunch

Apologies to the vegetarians in advance, I love burgers. And, bacon. Today, I am immensely grateful to have been introduced to the absolute best burger in Helsinki — Roslund Butchers did not disappoint.

Not only was the meat fresh and juicy and perfectly cooked, but the bun was light and flaky (not normal for Finnish bread), the salad was insanely gorgeous and big, and the fries were that perfect blend of crunchy outside / soft inside. Oh…and did I mention the bacon? Thick sliced, slightly smoky and perfectly cooked as well.

I’ve died and gone to burger heaven (nearly).

It wasn’t terribly cheap (~€15 for a burger and salad; fries are extra but worth it), but it wasn’t insanely expensive either. For taste, quality and freshness, it was more than worth it. Outside the market hall where this particular branch is located, you can smell the lovely deliciousness of Roslund burgers. Follow that scent — you won’t be disappointed.

As an American and a Texan in particular, I miss fresh, quality beef, burgers most of all. This was truly perfect. Not too much burger, not too many fries, and not too much bun.

I’ll be back to Roslund. Frequently, something tells me.

Day 22: Proekt 365 (Getting back tenfold what you put out there…)

Day 22: Proekt 365 There is not better thanks than this

Day 22: Proekt 365
There is no better thanks than this

When friends of mine from Moscow decided to move back to Europe after a few years in Asia, I was delighted to make their young son a few wooly items to help ward off the winter chill. That his mother is a fellow knitter made it all the more special for me.

The logistics of making things for someone so far away aside, this was a delight of a project. All of the items were made not using patterns available, but by modifying existing ones (I guess you could say that I designed them, but I am by no means a designer). Finally mailing them off last week to welcome these fine folk to their new home gave me a bit of a thrill, I confess. Whilst I was anxious that a) they’d approve and b) everything would fit the little darling well and allow him to grow a bit, shipping off that particular care package was a real treat. The wait for them to arrive safely has been torture!

Today, I received a notification that a photo had been posted in which I was tagged to find the above image. If you aren’t smiling, you should be. I certainly am.

No thanks is required really when images like these land in your inbox. At least not for me. Today has been that sort of day — another friend finally received her welcome blanket for her soon-to-arrive daughter, which was another lovely image on my desktop, and another friend received a little something to brighten her day.

Just knowing that those things mean something to each of these people who make  my world better is enough. The thanks and pics are added bonuses. If I can’t be there to personally hand them over to their new owners, I’ll gladly take the photos. They make the time and effort infinitely rewarding and worth so much more.

Be warm, you adorable bundle of cuteness! And, when you grow out of these, Auntie V will gladly work on some other wooly bits for you.

Days 20 & 21: Proekt 365 (Why my husband is awesome)

In case you missed it, yesterday was lovely (</sarcasm>). A particularly sudden and thoroughly lovely stomach bug finally reared it’s ugly head, leaving me feeling miserable and sleepless all whilst facing a deadline. I missed my deadline, but was graciously given an extension by that particular and amazingly understanding client (I owe you HUGE). But, I was pretty much a mess by yesterday evening. Think weepy and whiney and not particularly pleasant in any way.

Enter my awesome husband.

Day 19: Proekt 365 My husband chanelling South Park

Day 20: Proekt 365
My husband channeling South Park

(Whilst I may not have actually posted this pic yesterday, I did take it.) Not only did he provide the support and care I needed, but he also braved the Arctic blasts once again to get me and my unhappy tummie crackers. On top of that, he provided a little comedic relief at a key moment. Yes, he is just that awesome.

Once I finally gave up on finishing work yesterday and migrated from my desk of misery to the sofa of suffering, he tucked me in, made sure I had all of the necessary items to help me feel better, brought me whatever I’d forgotten and gave reassuring kisses and glances until I finally passed out. What would I do without him? (I honestly hope I never have to experience that reality again.)

As if all of this awesomeness wasn’t enough, I woke up this morning (feeling much improved, thankfully!) to find the following:

Day 20: Proekt 365 Who doesn't love a clean screen or two?

Day 21: Proekt 365
Who doesn’t love a clean screen or two?

Not only does he get what I need when I’m sick, but he also gets that I cannot stand dirty screens. So, knowing that I would probably want to clean my desk today (which I desperately do), and, in particular, give a bit of extra attention to my monitors (which need it), he left the screen cleaner on my desk for me to easily find. I repeat, he is just that awesome.

We recently had a bit of a discussion in our local electronics Mecca about buying another bottle of screen cleaner so I wouldn’t have to rifle through his desk / office to find the bottle he bought. He thought I was being silly, which I was. But, I honestly don’t want to disturb his desk, not because I think it would bother him. But, because it would bother me (not him looking through my desk, but me looking through his). I know he doesn’t have anything to hide (nor do I). But, it’s ‘his’ space….and I don’t want to somehow taint it. (Silly, I know.)

So, deadline monkey has been firmly removed from my back, my tummie is now a bit more tolerant of things other than water, weak tea and crackers, and my desk is in thorough need of cleaning. But, most importantly and more consistently than anything else in my life, my husband is awesome.