Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Lapland's Autumnal changes start...

I keep meaning to say to you all that Lapland's "Land of the Midnight Sun" is well and truly over.. some while back... Whoops.. I'm sorry, I forgot!

It's quite dark around half past nine at night now.. and creeping in more and more every the wheel of the year turns back until we reach the 'Kaamos' of Winter time. That is the opposite to the long Summer sun when we have long days in Winter's darkness, but with an incredible blueness that is quite surreal and beautiful.

I'm still yet to see a star up in the sky though.. or the Moon! I love it when I see them again! Such a long time without them!

The temperature has certainly changed and whilst this summer has not been the greatest.. (not unless you were a mosquito) - you can really tell that Summer is pretty much over now and Autumn is stepping up to greet you. Personally, I think it's a little early this year.. but with the global warming, it's really of little surprise!

A subtle change in colours starts...

There is a distinct chill in the air and the skies have been dull for the last few days. The trees have also started to do their thing.. and the change of colour can come hard and fast now. Autumn is generally very short here. The leaves on the deciduous trees cannot handle the deep freezes overnight and when they start in earnest they rapidly change their hues. By this I mean a vibrant change of colour!

One small tree outside my house today.

Ive not seen Autumns other than in the UK, so you will have to pardon me, but that's all that I have to relate it to. (Although I've heard that Japanese Autumns are beautiful too) The colours here are beautiful and I hope that as Autumn progresses I will be able to take more photographs to share with you. I remember last year that I saw several trees that looked like traffic lights. Red, Yellow and Green in layers up the whole tree.. quite fascinating to see bands of colours like that. Some trees just go red, others bright yellow. Tourists come to Lapland during Autumn JUST for the trees.. it can be that pretty...but you have to time it right of course!

The berries are also starting to they had better be quick! Finland is an wonderful place to pick berries and it becomes a popular pastime in late Summer and Autumn. There are everywhere! - I think that I have already told that wild blueberries are right outside my home. They are everywhere in Lapland and very common. There are many types of berries too... such as the normal ones like Strawberries and Raspberries, but there are the Blueberries, Bilberries and Puolukka (which is an ultra sharp berry otherwise like Lingonberry/Whortleberry/Cranberry.

Blueberries.. these are outside my house today.

Puolukka ripening outside my house today.

They will eventually be like this.. this picture from last year...

Of course there are the Cloudberries but they came earlier in the season and are rarer.. growing only on the marshland bogs.

Cloudberry (or Hilla as they are known here).. pictured in a recipe book.

Berry picking is an arduous and messy task...but a little easier with the Finnish equipment! A clever picker that scoops through the bushes.. the teeth gently knocking off the fruits, landing in the housing compartment....SO MUCH EASIER than having the blue of blueberries staining your fingers!

You will have to forgive the following batteries died as I took the photo - so it's a bit blurry! However, another sign of Autumn is the amount of wild mushrooms and toadstools all over the place. I NEVER TOUCH THEM!

But the nicest sign of Autumn or Syksy as it is known in Finnish...(to me anyway) is the arrival of the Reindeer! They are all on their way back home to their owners. My husband probably wouldn't agree with that though. He has become quite Finnish in his thinking - that they are a menace on the roads. He is quite right though, they don't have many brain cells to rub together and they do cause a lot of road accidents.. as do Moose.

However, it does mean of course that Santa is out there somewhere! :D

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Who's turned Two?

It has been just over two years since I first started trading as ArcticRainbow. I cannot believe how time flies!

Around that time, my Finnish Best Friend Minna gave birth to her daughter Sara. Consequently a few days back.. she was two also!

The celebration took the form of 'Open House' and we, that is my husband Mark and I went round to spend some time with them.

Here is Sara waiting for guests to arrive...

Its actually quite hard to know what to buy a two year old for a birthday present, clothes are always an option.. but not so much real FUN for a toddler. Most toys are for over 3 year olds however, so toy options are limited.. so I opted for the good old standby of crayons, colouring book and a nice Winnie the Pooh zip up container for her to keep the crayons in.

Sara really enjoyed them and she hadn't had them before, which was great! I think Mark enjoyed it just as much as she did...he happily got on the floor and helped colour in! :D

We shared Minna's home made strawberry juice drink, coffee and traditional pulla bakes and blueberry cakes! Naughty but nice. Blueberries grow pretty much everywhere in Finland.. I have them growing, along with other berries.. right outside my house!

Some of the local children were outside in the communal play area, playing the traditional Finnish game called Mölkky. It's a cross between the game Skittles and Boules, except that instead of those pieces, there are twelve little logs, all cut on an angle with the faces marked from 1-12. It's a points game..and the first one that gets to 50 wins - the catch being that they have to get exactly 50 points and scoring more gets you penalised by half! It's a little complicated to explain, without playing it... so here is a good page to read about it:

Mark went and joined them and snapped a couple of pics of the lads having fun.

Keeping score...

Of course, we also had Birthday cake! In fact this was the second Birthday cake during the 'Open House'!! Sara loved blowing out the candles! It was a lovely cake with the hugest strawberries on them and a lovely rhubarb filling!

I have to say that Birthday cakes in Finland are NOTHING like the ones in the UK.. whereas Brits have cakes generally smothered with a very sweet butter icing, fondant icing or even rock hard icing..and even more often shop bought, here in Finland, it's a fresh cream topping on layers of cake (often akin to Swiss Roll slices) with fruit layers...most often sliced bananas. 99.9% of the time homemade. REALLY nice.. and more like a gateaux.. eaten with a small spoon instead of your hands.

It was also a nice chance to practise our Finnish..and I happened to meet a work colleague of Minna's - who asked what I did for a living - it turned out that her Saami mother makes and sells her own traditional I hope to make a new contact there for my Arctic Rainbow customers!

So, it was a nice afternoon spent together. Here's to many HAPPY returns!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Honouring our Pets... Part II

Sorry that I've been on the missing list, for the last couple of weeks.. A combo of a bit of RSI of my hands from all the typing I do, compounded with a shoulder issue and just plain being busy! :D

We recently completed stage two of our pets grave work. We collected from numerous places, some of the local rocks that are covered with ancient Lichen. It gives such a lovely affect of green mottling on the grey and such character! We still have to create the headstone, but with the addition of a deeply recessed metal plant pot and a cemetery candle holder.. it is really beginning to come together and a truly special place and way to honour our darling pets, George, Arnie and Smokey.

It was a beautiful sunny day... but LOTS of mosquitoes.. who just happen to run Lapland like a dictatorship during the summer months!

I dug up one of the wild Heathers just nearby and placed it in the keeping with the surroundings..and I know it will last and come back again year on year...its ready made to cope with the weathers! :D

Although it's not totally finished yet, we are quite happy with the look of it so far...