Things that make this weekend awesome:

- picking 38 pounds of raspberries. I actually had three buckets going at one time.  Just call me a professional.  (Not so awesome, figuring out where to put the berries until we can deal with them.)
- having even more family visit.  My aunt and uncle drove over to join my other uncle and cousin. It's getting a little crazy here.
- My mom's (tomorrow) and my dad's (today) birthdays!!! Even though my mom isn't here, we'll be celebrating with her in spirit.
- all the delicious food that goes along with birthdays and family visiting.
- Sunshine!!!!
- finally getting all my clothes put away. It was a bit of a challenge with people visiting and my sister moved back home. Our house is full.
- getting a sweet birthday present from my cousin via Goodwill.
- still having all of Sunday left for fun!

I hope everyone else is enjoying themselves, too.


Cousins get made over.

Yesterday was makeover day here in the land of not-quite-summer.  While the rest of the country appears to be sweating it out (and Chicago fights throw sheets of rain), we've been lucky to spot the sun.  Okay, fine, this weekend was gorgeous.  But that was only two days.

</end rant>

Back to the makeovers.

I knew when I got back from my trip I was overdue for a haircut.  Heck, I had been overdue before I left.  Plus, I needed to change things up just a little.  I've been happily redheaded for about 9 months or so, and felt the need for a little change.

My sister and cousin decided to join in on the fun.  So we made appointments to get our hair cut together.  I went to see one of my closest friends from middle school and high school.  Though we haven't stayed as close over the years, it's always fun to see her and catch up.

Of course, makeovers wouldn't be complete without before and after pictures, just to prove how much we really needed help.  Our sad faces took a lot of work, too.  You don't even know how hard it is for my sister to do a straight face.

Without further ado, the new and improved Michelle (cousin), Stephanie (sister), and me!  (in that order)

The trip pretty much convinced me I need a live-in hair stylist.  That whole curling-your-hair-with-a-straight-iron thing...I can't do it.  Someday maybe.

The real test will be when we wash our hair next.  Can I handle the bang?


Ten on Tuesday: Movies and Nails

First of all, let me say how much I appreciated your "happy birthdays."  It made my day.

Our plans didn't go quite according to plan for the day.  Touristy activities turned into shopping in downtown Seattle when it rained the. whole. day.  Lovely.

Also, my dad's flight got cancelled, so I'm headed south to pick him up in just a few minutes.

Here are my Ten on Tuesday picks.  Feel free to pay along over at Chelsea's blog.

1. What colour are your toenails painted?
I looked at the name, but have forgotten already.  It's OPI and an iridescent blue/gray/green.  I like it a lot.

2. What color are your fingernails painted?
Currently, OPI White Crackle and Cuckoo For This Color.

3. What is your favourite brand of nail polish?
OPI, Essie, Butter London, Ginger and Liz.  I have a few.

4. As the norm, do you DIY your nails or get main/pedis?
DIY, for sure.  I treat myself every once in a while, but usually do it myself.

5. Have you ever had a gel mani? Do you recommend it?
I have not.  My nails would take forever to recover.

6. What is the last movie you watched on television?
Currently watching 27 Dresses and we just finished The Proposal.

7. What is the last movie you watched in the cinema?
Harry Potter 7 Part 2

8. Is there a movie that everyone talks about as if it is a classic but you haven't seen?
There are many.  Monty Python.  Anchorman.  A lot of old movies.

9. What is your favourite movie soundtrack?
I love What a Girl Wants.  Corny, I know.  I'm like a preteen girl.

10. Have you ever seen a movie and thought it was better than the book it was based on?


Monday, Birthday Monday

I'm in total vacation mode, in case you haven't noticed.  I got back to the States, jet lagged and travel weary and the pace of life slowed down.  That's not to say I don't have pictures and stories to share, but blogging just hasn't been a priority.  And, to be honest, it's been nice to have a break.

However, I plan to get back at it soon.  Exciting things are happening in the next couple months and I can't wait to share them all as they unfold. 

Today, speaking of exciting, is my birthday.  I just completed my 26th year of life.  Crazy.

To celebrate, my sister, Cousin Michelle, and I are headed down to Seattle to bum around and get into trouble.  It should be a fun time.

And I really do plan to be back soon to share, well, something.  For now though, happy Monday!  I hope everyone is keeping cool out there.  (And we finally have had some warm weather.  Finally.)


A Week Back Home

I should start by saying the jet lag has been rough on this end of the trip.  Until the past day or so, I wasn't sleeping for a full night and hadn't been able to catch up.

However, things are improving.  I make it (almost) to 7am most mornings now.  My cousin and I also went on a run.  Though the run was rough, it at least cleared out some of the cobwebs (and offset some of the ice cream consumed on the latter part of the trip).

Another negative of being home so far is the weather.  While 99% (approximately) of the country is experiencing a heat wave, we've had rain, clouds, and temperatures under 70 or even 60 degrees.  Basically, it's been March.

The first part of the return home was dedicated to Harry Potter.  We watched the first seven movies before we went and saw the premiere on Friday morning.  I was so thankful we didn't see a midnight showing.  The movie was good and we got the matinee price.  Victory.

After the movie, Michelle and I went on the aforementioned run.  We drove out to Birch Bay, where the temperature was inexplicably 75 degrees, visited our old house, and stopped by Sonic for Happy Hour. 

Saturday included a visit to the farmer's market and a couple stores in town.  And today was devoted to shopping.  Michelle came with a list of things to purchase and money to save since the Euro is stronger than the dollar.  She actually bought 4 pairs of much needed shoes and a few other items. 

Our shopping included a stop by the Nordstrom Anniversary sale.  Both she and my sister got boots.  Nothing like saving a little money before the fall (a.k.a. prime boot wearing season). 

We kept our energy up while shopping with a stop by our favorite Indian restaurant in Seattle and a frosty from Wendy's.

Now we're relaxing with Sherlock Holmes and a little apricot ale.  Now if only the sunshine would come out to play.


Photo Evidence that I was in Finland

I've been back in the States for not quite two days now and I'm no where near caught up on sleep.  Today, I was up and about by 5:30am.  Not okay with me.  I can only hope to catch up on sleep eventually.

But I am home and somewhat settled.  And trying to sort through pictures.  Somehow five weeks of travel results in a lot of pictures.  It's rather overwhelming.  The tiredness does not help my concentration.

I have pictures to share though to prove that I really visited Finland.  Enjoy!

Strawberries at the market.

Taking the ferry to Fortress Island

A view of Helsinki from the ferry.

My cousin Rachel and I defending the island.

Michelle and I walking home after enjoying drinks on the river.

A dog riding shot gun through Porvoo.

Rachel and Michelle by the river in Porvoo.

Rachel and I posing with the naked men. 

Posing in front of the Helsinki Cathedral.

On the ferris wheel at the amusement park.

Walking through Tallinn, Estonia.

We weren't lost at all.  Nope.  Not us.

Rachel and Michelle on the boat to the zoo.

Ice cream, a daily snack.  Literally.

Mr. Lion enjoying the sunshine.

Minigolf. In the ridiculous heat. 
So there are a few snippets from the trip.  I haven't actually edited any photos yet.  It might happen eventually, but for now this has to be good enough.


Ten on Tuesday revived.

Since I'm back home, I thought I'd start back up with Ten on Tuesday. Plus, I'm waiting for my boss to finish up a meeting, so I have some time on my hands. Don't worry though, I'm off the clock.

Here are today's questions, courtesy of Kyria at Travel Spot. You can also join up at Roots and Rings.

1. When you are on a plane and the kid behind you is kicking your seat, what do you do?
In all honesty, probably nothing.  I'm not confrontational by nature, at all.  Unless it's my brother, then all bets are off.

2. What food that you KNOW is bad for you and you shouldn’t have, but you love/eat it anyway?
Anything related to ice cream.  I just can't help myself.  This morning I even had a blended ice-cream base coffee drink that I've been craving the whole time I was gone.

Also, sometimes I just crave soda, which has exactly zero nutritional value.  I don't drink it often, but when I do, I do not do diet.

3. What is your favorite book of all time?
I have to choose one?!  I loved reading the Anne McCaffrey books about the dragonriders of Pern growing up.  I still have a few, though I'd love to add to the collection.  In high school, my favorite book was In These Girls Hope is a Muscle, about a high school basketball team.  There are a ton more that aren't coming to mind though.

4. If I came to visit you in your town, where would we eat?
Depends on what your favorite food is.  We have some good eats in the area and some of my favorites involve happy hour.  Chihuahua's is an amazing Mexican restaurant about 20 minutes away and probably one of my top choices.

5. You have 500 dollars and 40 minutes to spend it at any store you want. Where do you go?
Probably Nordstrom for that time and amount of money.  I could get a couple quality wardrobe pieces.  And some makeup.  Or a really nice bag.  Maybe some shoes.  Needless to say, I would fine something or a few things.

6. What blog do you read every day/the most often?
The past five weeks have been pretty hit and miss with travel, but I pretty much always read my mom's blog.  There are a handful of other blogs I try to stay caught up on as well.

7. What’s the longest you’ve ever been stuck at an airport?
I don't really have any horror stories.  I spent 6 hours at JFK, but knew it was happening beforehand.  My cousin Michelle, who is here visiting now, got stuck at Heathrow for three days last Christmas when she tried to come visit.  It took her a week to get home.  That was probably the worst experience of someone close to me.

8. What’s your daily makeup/face/cleansing routine?
I wash my face morning and night.  I put on lotion with sunscreen in the morning and at night I use Hope in  Jar.  If I have a lot of eye makeup on, I also use remover at the end of the day.  The amount of makeup I wear varies drastically depending on the day, what I'm doing and the weather.

9. Where is your farthest away friend?
Probably my cousins who live in Finland.  I also have some blog friends that live quite a distance away.

10. Where is your favorite place to go hiking (or to enjoy nature)?
We have some great places right around where I live.  Some of my favorite hikes are along the water and I love taking advantages of the different islands in Puget Sound to get my nature fix.


Leaving for home (and my last few days)

Guys, guess what?

I fly home tomorrow. As in, 14 hours from now I will be at the airport. I can't quite believe that it's been 5 weeks.

Also, traveling across the globe takes a really long time.

But before I get there, there are a few events that have taken place here in Helsinki.

Yesterday was hot, like 30 degrees celsius hot. I don't do farenheit anymore, at least until someone else does. To take advantage of such glorious (read: sweltering) weather, the cousins and I headed to minigolf.

After an exhausting round of 18 holes, Michelle came out the winner by 8 strokes. Also, I'm not good at golf.

Next up was lunch at the mall food court. I should specify that their food court was a little nicer than what I'm used to. Think less every fast food place you can think of, and more what ethnic sit-down restaurant would you like to try.

I had a salad the size of a small child that featured chevre (the fancy name for goat cheese).

Then we shopped, which was a running theme for my visit. I might as well have bought stock in Iittala and Marimekko.

I stayed with my cousin Rachel, last night (Saturday). We relaxed together and watched two movies (Princessa and Wurthering Heights).

This morning we met my Aunt Kris and Michelle at church. Then Rachel helped Mummi (their grandmother) prepare a feast for us.

I was soooo full. Soup with bread and cheese, beef and pork with potatoes, carrots, and onions, a nice mixed salad, beets, herring, and two dessert courses (peaches with chocolate pudding and whipped cream, and blueberry cardmom pie). We didn't move for a while after that.

This afternoon involved more Yahtzee and Scrabble. Now we're relaxing and having a little snack. Plus more ice cream.

Tomorrow my aunt is planning to make us pancakes and then I'm off for 24 hours of travel. While I can't wait to be home, I am somewhat dreading the lack of sleep.

But this whole trip was totally worth it, more than worth it.

When I get home I plan to share some things I learned, pictures from Finland, and other very important information. After that point, I'll have everything related to Michelle's visit to share as she's headed to the States tomorrow as well.

You won't hear from me for a few days though, so have a happy start to your week! Moi moi from Finland.


Washing Rugs, More Shopping, and the Zoo

The heat definitely returned, so after Michelle got off work on Wednesday, we loaded up the car and headed to the sea for rug washing.

There was a dock set up on the water with tables for the washing and racks for drying. There was even a press for getting out the excess water. These Finns have quite the system.

With four of us working, all the rugs were finished in fairly short order. We treated ourselves to ice cream for all our hard work and sat by the sea. I even went for a little swim.

Wednesday afternoon, my cousins, Michelle and Rachel, and I headed to squirrel island. We had a bag full of nuts to tempt the squirrels with, but were quite unsuccessful.

Michelle was able to get one squirrel to eat out of her hand. And I fed a pigeon from mine. It was very remarkable.

Rachel had trouble with her bike and by the time she joined us there were no squirrels to be found.

Instead we found a picnic table and sat down for a few rousing games of Yahtzee. We've been playing that along with Scrabble almost nonstop the past few weeks.

On Thursday, Rachel and I went to the flea market in the morning, while Michelle was working. We browsed through the tables, Rachel got a cute shirt, and I found a Marimekko jacket that was lovely but overpriced. Also, I didn't have cash.

Once Michelle found us, we went for lunch at an all-you-can-eat pizza buffet. And we got our money's worth. Our family is good at eating, what can I say?

After lunch, we decided to do some more shopping instead of visiting the zoo as the temperature had heated up and our energy levels were rather low. I found a couple more gifts and cute dresses (and socks--woohoo).

My aunt had plans for the evening, so we were left to fend for ourselves for dinner. Rachel made us some delicious grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches. Then we played a horribly long and painful game of Scrabble.

Today we finally made it to the zoo. We rode out on the ferry after meeting Michelle outside of her work (last day until after the trip!).

The zoo was a lot of fun and we saw a ton of different animals, including the leopard being fed. The low point of the zoo visit came when birds pooped on Michelle's camera bag and my back. No fun.

We treated ourselves to drinks at a beer house after the zoo. I had cider (typical), Rachel had a mojito (a summer fave), and Michelle had a really delicious cherry beer.

My aunt made us a delicious stir fry for dinner and now we're waiting for a Skype date with the family back home.

This weekend is full of plans, including a trip to the minigolf course tomorrow. May the best woman win!


A Full Few Days

Greetings from here in Helsinki. We're just recovering from the past few days and have grand plans to sleep in until whenever we happen to wake up, which hopefully won't be early.

When I last left you we were being lazy. That trend continued through the weekend as the temperature stayed hot and our motivation stayed low. I did go to church on Sunday and understood almost none of it, except for kiitos, which means "thank you".

After church we continued our practice of eating and playing games, mainly Scrabble and Yahtzee. We can only play so many games of Scrabble as I have a slight advantage of speaking English all the time.

Monday, July 4th, was celebrated with a visit to the amusement park. We had purchased passes last week and used them to go on as many rides as possible. I am a complete rollercoaster addict and had a blast going upside down and round and round.

We also made sure to celebrate with lots of food. Not that we usually need an excuse to eat large quantities of sugar, but it's nice to have an excuse.

The weather made a complete change, with temperatures dropping below 20 degrees celsius the past couple days. I even had to get out the coat today, though on Monday, I stubbornly continued to wear shorts and a t-shirt.

Monday night I made cinnamon rolls, from my dad's world famous recipe. I've already had two today. Whoops.

Today was a day cruise to Tallinn, Estonia. Finland, and more specifically Helsinki, are not that old. Finland hasn't actually been established for a hundred years yet. Estonia, on the other hand, is very old. It was fun to explore the old city and see some gothic and other architecture.

We also wandered in and out of shops, and continued to eat our way through the day. The day started very early and the boat was pretty crowded, so we returned early enough to secure comfortable seats.

We've made it home now and are quite exhausted. After sleeping in tomorrow, except for Michelle who has to work at 6am, we hope for warm enough weather to go wash rugs at the sea. Fingers crossed for some sunshine and heat!


Heating up in Helsinki

Yesterday morning, my cousin Michelle had to work in the morning.  Rachel and I used that time to check on the plants in her apartment and pick up any accumulated mail, as well as some new clothes. 

Then we met Michelle downtown for lunch, before meeting Aunt Kris to pick up cruise tickets to Talinn (we're going next week!) and do a little shopping downtown.  I made a dent in my bank account thanks to Ittala and Marimeko (again), but feel confident that I've pretty much gotten all the gifts that I need to.

While downtown we also visited the cathedral, the library, the Fazer cafe(chocolate), and picked up our passes for the amusement park. 

I have many pictures to share, but am enjoying my visit with the family too much to take the time to upload them.  Plus, my aunt has generously been sharing her computer so I can get online and I don't want to hog it all the time.  I check my email enough as it is.

There's a bit of a heatwave going on here in Finland.  Today it got up to about 30 degrees (85+ farenheit).  We decided the heat was the perfect excuse to be completely lazy.  We did a few loads of laundry, played a lot of Yahtzee and a few games of scrabble (not salad), and Mumi, my aunt's mother, made us an afternoon snack of pancakes with cream, jam, and strawberries.  Today felt like it was spent laying around and eating, which is alright with me.

Tomorrow we don't have too much on the schedule.  We're headed to church in the morning, but it's supposed to be hot again and we're not in a hurry to make big plans.  Those are coming on Monday and Tuesday.

I'm sorry to say that I haven't had much time to read blogs.  Though, in reality, I'm not that sorry at all.  I'm on holiday and loving every minute of it.

On a completely unrelated note, I'm excited to share that I won a giveaway over at Love, Shellsea for a free ad for July.  Thanks Shellsea!!!