Day 45: Proekt 365 (Me & My Valentine)

Day 45: Proekt 365 Me & My Valentine

Day 45: Proekt 365
Me & My Valentine

What more do I really need to say? I love this man. And, I love that he is in my life each and every day.

I’m grateful that he came into my life not just because he is my love, but because he is my best friend. And, in Finland, Valentine’s Day is about more than love — it’s about friendship and letting your friends know just how important they are to you.

So, here’s to my bestest friend on the planet. Thank you, sweetpea, for being so incredibly awesome!

Day 44: Proekt 365 (Snail mail surprise)

Day 44: Proekt 365 Surprise snail mail

Day 44: Proekt 365
Surprise snail mail

Remember snail mail? Yeah…other than bills, junk mail and the occasional order from, me neither.

Today, though, this little postcard of sweetness dropped through our mail slot with a few bits of junk mail. What a treat it was to see — the postcard, not the junk mail!

A close and dear friend once again planned ahead when I did not and sent this to show me her gratitude for our friendship in honour of 14 February — otherwise known as ‘Friendship Day’ (Ystävänpäivä) and a Finnish tradition which I gladly embrace, but always forget. The caption on the card reads: ‘Friendship makes the world a better place’.

Indeed, it does. And so do pictures of cute, adorable cuddly kittens!


Days 42 & 43: Proekt 365 (No complaints here)

Day 42: Proekt 365 Good thing the deadline was yesterday....I have no complaints!

Day 42: Proekt 365
Good thing the deadline was yesterday….I have no complaints!

I spied this sign yesterday at my new favourite lunch spot–Roslund. I can’t imagine that they’d have any complaints at all because the food is fabulous.

But, this sign also resonated with me for other unrelated reasons. I’ve found that by holding off on immediately reacting to situations, things seem less dramatic, less pressing and dare I say less annoying. Even if something is troubling or a bit of a concern, mulling it over or letting it lie helps. At least that seems to be the trend as of late.

Plus, given that I had several large and looming deadlines this past Monday, I loved the whole ‘deadline’ synergy.

Day 43: Proekt 365 A bit of pastrami and an (unreal) taste of home

Day 43: Proekt 365
A bit of pastrami and an (unreal) taste of home

Today brought another little bit of simple pleasure to my world.

A friend of mine who lives in Pennsylvania has been torturing me the last several months with pictures of mouth-watering mounds of pastrami. Not intentionally torturing me, but… each photo reminded me of just how much I love pastrami. Pastrami. I miss pastrami. Desperately.

Yesterday, I finally found proper pastrami at a butcher shop. (Insert the ‘I scored’ dance here!) It wasn’t cheap, but it also wasn’t prohibitively expensive and I didn’t have to figure out how to make it myself. (One day, I will. But, not now.) An added bonus—the butcher sliced it incredibly thin, so it’s perfect for sandwiches. (Seriously, if you can’t find me elsewhere, chances are I am camped out at Roslund’s.)

For lunch today, I made myself a sandwich. Just a simple little sandwich. And, I swear, I nearly cried it made me so happy. There is nothing quite like a big deli sandwich in my book. Today’s may not have been quite the same height as a pastrami on rye from one of my favourite haunts in New England, complete with fresh rye bread, fresh and not swimming-in-sauce cole slaw, crispy fries and deli pickles. But, oh… pastrami. How I love thee.

Nope. Not a complaint in sight. Regardless of the deadline for their submission, I have no complaints at all.

Day 41: Proekt 365 (The joy of cooking)

Day 41: Proekt 365 The joy of cooking

Day 41: Proekt 365
The joy of cooking

My current copy of The Joy of Cooking is tattered and looking a little less than pristine. But, those are only marks of love and affection. Last night, the break from a frenetic work pace allowed me to think a little about what I wanted to cook and afforded me the time to actually put something together without worrying about time or time schedules. What a treat.

What did I make? Roasted butternut squash risotto with a kick and sauteed tiger prawns.

The prawns were easy; but, the risotto takes time and patience, neither of which I’ve had much of lately. Perhaps that’s why yesterday evening’s  preparatory process was so therapeutic.

Peel, de-seed and cube the butternut squash; mix the cubes with a little ancho chili powder and olive oil; roast until tender; and, then, purée most of the roasted butternut squash reserving a few of the roasted cubes.

It’s the process of making risotto, though, that I love. Prepare the stock (in this case vegetable). Sauté a little garlic (and whatever else you want—I added a bit of crushed red pepper for a little extra kick), brown the risotto just a touch and then ladle in the stock, stir, simmer down and repeat until you have a luxurious, shiny bit of cooked risotto. Add in your flavours and cheese of choice (in this case, ~1 c of butternut squash purée and two heaping tablespoons of soft chevre) and mix completely. Then, fold in the reserved cubes of squash, serve and enjoy.

There is always a moment during the process of cooking risotto when I panic that there either isn’t quite enough stock or that I’ve added too much liquid at one point. It invariably turns our alright, and just requires a little more patience and resolving not to panic. But, panic, I do. Every single time. Yesterday, patience won out (once the panic subsided). And, dinner was lovely.

After not really having the time or energy to spend that extra time cooking lately, yesterday’s meal was a treat, both as a way to spend an evening away from my desk and in terms of a tasty bit of sustenance.

The joy of cooking, indeed.

Day 40: Proekt 365 (Anything and then some…)

Day 40: Proekt 365 I'd do anything, and then some...

Day 40: Proekt 365
I’d do anything, and then some…

The life of an expat is filled with bittersweet moments, just like life lived anywhere. It is a great life for the most part, although not quite the ‘adventure’ that most envision. It’s certainly not a life I ever thought I’d find myself living.

Unlike life in my home country, my circles of friends tend to shift each year if not every few months. (I intentionally say ‘circles’ since at this point there are circles of friends in Moscow, Amsterdam and Helsinki as well as all those in the US and those who live all over the place and don’t necessarily fit neatly into any of the other geographic circles.) The shift, however, is not a result of any sort of fickleness within me or amongst my friends. It’s just the nature of the ‘community’.

Rather than finding a job, buying a house and settling for several decades in a particular neighbourhood, life abroad is a very large game of musical chairs of sorts. Individuals and families drift in and out on a fairly regular basis. Contracts and assignments are temporary and tend to last several years at most. Unless one has strong family ties to a particular country (such as when someone’s spouse happens to be from that particular country), the community is in a constant state of flux as people come and go and move from one place to another.

It must have been a year or so ago that I read a fantastic blog about the intensity of expat friendships in particular. (I wish I could find it, because it struck a cord with me in so many ways.) It’s difficult to describe just how intense those bonds can be between expats. They form incredibly quickly and with an urgency and intensity that are rare in one’s home country. Perhaps it’s because we all know the temporariness to the time we’ll physically spend in that shared place and space. For whatever reason, they are immensely meaningful and powerful. It is also incredibly difficult and painful when friends move on to the ‘next’ place, and it happens far, far too often.

I do not like that ‘moving on part’ of the expat life, whether it is our own or watching a good friend leave. But, I’d not give those relationships up for anything in the world, despite how gut-wrenching it can be when it is time to say farewell to a fellow traveler.

Today’s image was from a send off for one such friend. Part truth (in that I’d do just about anything for these particular friends in whose company a lovely afternoon was spent) and part humourous (in that it’s not clear if the ‘deer’ was meant in an ironic way or simply an instance of ‘funny English’), it provided a nice backdrop over lunch on an otherwise bittersweet occasion.

And, to the girlfriend leaving, this is not farewell, but until we meet again, my deer (I mean, dear).

Day 39: Proekt 365 (More than just afternoon tea)

Day 39: Proekt 365 More than just afternoon tea

Day 39: Proekt 365
More than just afternoon tea

Today is not a standard Caturday of fun—I’m once again sat behind my lovely desk pounding away at the keyboard in a desperate attempt to meet my Monday deadlines. As I hit that afternoon lull that always greets me between 14.00–16.00, I contemplated a re-dosing of coffee before deciding to have a spot of afternoon green tea. I’m glad I did.

Not only do I love this particular teapot— a total impulse buy found on sale at Indiska several years ago—but, every pot of tea reminds me of some lovely friends in Amsterdam and various Caturdays spent doing all manner of things silly and fun. To keep my tea warm, my friends Brad and Christopher helped me acquire not just this particular tea warmer, but also a twin of its which suffered an unfortunate and mysterious accident after I became thoroughly attached to and dependent upon it. (Said tea warmer still functions, but looks a little less lovely.)

That first teapot warmer was found on our first outing to an antique market in Haarlem several years ago, which necessitated an insanely early morning alarm for someone who had imbibed a little too much the night before. (Nope. Wasn’t me. I swear.) These two darling friends took great care of me that day, and indulged my immediate infatuation with the idea of a teapot warmer by helping me score this beauty. Every time I use it, I am reminded of Christopher’s race to find the very best antiques. He searches carefully, keeping tabs on the behaviour and movements of his competitors and, then, swoops in at just the right moment to find that special something. It’s a lovely sight. Brad had told me that the closer we’d get to the market, the quicker Christopher’s pace would become. A more apt description I’ve never heard!

It’s an incredibly fun way to spend a day, even if it does start early. And, reminds me of just how much The Cuban and I need to get to Amsterdam to visit all those friends we haven’t seen in far, far too long!

But, today is also made special because of the particular tea in the teapot. Those same friends  also turned me on to one of my favourite teas these days — Bigelow Mango Green Tea hits the spot on a chilly, grey winter afternoon. It’s so perfect, I might just go for two pots today.

I may be trapped at my desk today. But, at least I’m surrounded by reminders of more relaxing days spent in fine company. (And, as soon as possible, we will get there for a visit, guys!)

Day 38: Proekt 365 (Solidarity)

Day 38: Proekt 365 Well played, Google!

Day 38: Proekt 365
Well played, Google.

I’m tipping my hat to Google today. They deserve it. As do all those who stand up to oppression.

I’m sure that there will be loads of posts about this today. And, that isn’t a bad thing at all. If anything, more agencies should be voicing their concern and dismay at an incredibly bad policy with very real consequences.

In case you’ve been living under a rock, Russia enacted a law in June last year which essentially makes life incredibly difficult for its country’s LGBTI citizens and residents. (I’ve already written at length about my own thoughts on this elsewhere.) There has been loads of coverage about this insane law given that the Winter Olympics in Sochi are starting this week. Most of that coverage is focused on what it means for those who will be competing and spectating, with far less devoted to how it affects LGBTI community. There has been plenty of outrage voiced from various countries and ‘VIPs’, but not nearly enough and certainly nothing on an organised, large scale. And, far, far too little action, IMHO.

A few days ago, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on participants to promote equality and non-discrimination during the games (I’d say, why not extend this to the host country, but…nevermind). And, today, the Google Doodle makes a statement loud and clear. I like these statements and I applaud them.

Yet, the (most expensive) Olympics are continuing. Violence against LGBTI in Russia goes on unchecked.

Borrowing from Google, I’ll end this post with the bit of the Olympic Charter we all need to be reminded of during these troubled games:

The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.

In solidarity…