Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Grocery Shopping in a Foreign Country

I was told that one of the most challenging things about moving to a new country is grocery shopping. And this is true.

A Few Points -
  • I cannot read nor speak Finnish.
  • Grocery stores range from the size of a 7/11 to the size of a Target. The ones I live around are about the size of 7/11s.
  • Just like in the US, there are 50 options for one item. (example: yogurt or butter)
  • A challenge is not necessarily a bad thing. When thinking about my food shopping and cooking, I thought, "challenge accepted!" I was ready for something new.
I've gone to the grocery store almost every day that we have been here. I would have gone everyday, but the holidays, during which the stores were closed got in my way. I love the European style of food shopping, which is to shop for what you need almost daily. To make sure you follow this custom, the refrigerators are all small.

There's one store right across the street from our temporary apartment (awesome! would have been better if it were a small Wegmans, but still great). I've found our basics in there, like the needed produce of garlic, lemons, lettuce, tomatoes, apples, and grapes.  The produce is actually decent, not the best I've ever seen but certainly not the worst (I'm looking at you Harris Teeter in Shirlington). Good thing about the produce is I don't have to read anything, I can pretty much figure those items out without reading. I do need weigh them myself, which I've forgotten to do a few times.

I also found whole milk, soy milk, cereal (a knock off of Cheerios multigrain), store brand yogurt (which was actually really good), pasta, olive oil, vinegar, salt, butterish, eggs, and ice cream. I'm pretty sure I bought some sort of margarine instead of butter, but I could not find the butter, which seems silly since it's a pretty basic item.

The first night here I made pasta with sauce (just jarred because we had just gotten off the plane that morning. I'm sure my father is shaking his head right now). We also had a nice salad. I was really proud of myself for going to the store and making a successful dinner, on an electric stove top too.

Well things have gotten harder since then, people are demanding something other than pasta!

I'm not a fan of buying meat and fish out of a cooler in some tiny grocery store. I'd like to make sure it's fresh. So today Sam and I went to the paradise of grocery stores, Stockmann. Yes, it's that nice. I've been to nice grocery stores in the US and this is among the best. Beautiful design and amazing, fresh food. You may be confused if you go to the website because it looks like a department store, like a Macy's, but it's the most amazing and enormous department store with a grocery store. I picked up some fish, beef, and curry marinated chicken. The staff working the meat and fish counters spoke English, so this was easier.

Now to figure out how to use the oven.

Sorry there were no pictures, but I've been spoken to before at grocery stores for taking pictures of how wonderful they are (side eye Wegman) so I avoided that situation.

Passing Judgment: Award Winning Lemon Cookies. I Didn't Win the Award

I made these award winning lemon cookies I found on Pinterest today. This was a challenge considering that I had to find powdered sugar and baking soda in the Finnish grocery store. Luckily Google Translate and some other shoppers helped me.

Lemon Cookies

Lemon Crinkle Cookies
Makes 2-3 dozen

½ cups butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 whole egg
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoons baking powder
⅛ teaspoons baking soda
1-½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cups powdered sugar (I would have used granulated sugar here, I'm not a big fan of powdered sugar)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease light colored baking sheets with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Whip in vanilla, egg, lemon zest, and juice. Scrape sides and mix again. Stir in all dry ingredients slowly until just combined, excluding the powdered sugar. Scrape sides of bowl and mix again briefly. Pour powdered sugar onto a large plate. Roll a heaping teaspoon of dough into a ball and roll in powdered sugar. Place on baking sheet and repeat with remaining dough.

Bake for 9-11 minutes or until bottoms begin to barely brown and cookies look matte {not melty or shiny}. Remove from oven and cool cookies about 3 minutes before transferring to cooling rack.

*If using a non-stick darker baking tray, reduce baking time by about 2 minutes.

Source- Thank you to the LDS community for this recipe.

Judged as, as Greg said, "The best cookies you ever made."

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Patrona: A Mexican Restaurant in Helsinki

I went out to my first dinner since officially moving to Helsinki and it was to a Mexican restaurant. I know this seems strange, but in my defense, Greg and I had visited a few weeks ago and at that time we ate at a number of classic Finnish restaurants. I just didn't get a chance to write those up because of the move. They were all very good and I'm glad I have to go back so that I can take pictures and do a write-up. 

Okay, onto Patrona. I was invited to a girls night out by one of my new mom friends here in Helsinki. There was 10 of us for dinner and a 7 course menu was established ahead of time due to the size of our group. This was great because I was able to try so many dishes.

I'm not going to drone on about every dish (truth: I didn't take a picture of every dish). I'll provide some highlights. Oh also, Patrona is owned by a man from Mexico and is credited as being the only authentic Mexican in Helsinki. So this is legit.

The margaritas were awesome! Made to order with fresh lime juice meant there was a bit of a wait between drinks, but it was worth it.

The chicken enchiladas were also excellent.

To finish up the meal they served a cold lime cake. This was the best part. The creamy lime filling with the not overly sweet pastry was perfect.

Judged as a place I would certainly go back to when we have a craving for Mexican and margaritas.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Great Escape

Fourth day in Finland -

Greg, Sam, and I decide to have a nice brunch at a cute little cafe downstairs from our temporary apartment. Brunch is going well, food is good, baby is happy. Then I hear a weird noise and think to myself, "it sounds like they have a tiger back there." No, it's no tiger, it's our dog howling his face off.

Me: "That noise, it's Bona."
Greg: laughs
Me: laughs and cringes 

We are just guessing that since we are so close to our place, we must just be hearing him from the apartment. We joke that he's in the courtyard outside, but decide that, that's not possible.

The rest of the meal we discuss whether or not we will continue our day or go upstairs and check on him. Since the barking is continuous and Sam seems tired we decide to head back into the apartment. Upon our arrival, we discover that Bona is in the main hallway. Luckily, some very nice neighbors are also there, they explain that Bona has escaped the apartment three times and they have kept putting him back.

The reason Bona was able to escape the room we put him in was because of the door handle, which he was easily able to jump up and hit, the main door to the apartment also has a handle like this. Knobs would have kept him in.

Bona is going in the crate for a while and we owe our neighbors some wine.

Judgment: Our dog is too smart and we are idiots.

A List for Moving to Finland

Here is a very general list of the things that needed to be done to move to Finland:

Our belongings
 1. Sell Condo/House and car
2. Obtain passports and other paper work
3. Doctor visits - obtain any needed prescriptions and paperwork
4. Decide on shipping methods/company
5. Plan for child care in Finland - daycare, babysitter
6. Buy clothing and products that you would like/need while abroad
7. Buy adapters, most of your electronics and appliances will not work
Our friends singing a going away song :(
8. Find out what is needed to fly your dog - call the airline
9. Coordinate with your vet for the paperwork and vaccinations needed for the dog
10. Say goodbye to your friends and family
11. Find a place to live in Finland
Waiting for our flight
12. Find temporary housing for when you first arrive and none of your belongings are there yet
13. Complete paperwork once in Finland gain access to childcare, transportation cards, supermarket cards, and a bank account
14. Coordinate with the movers to bring your belongings into your new place and unpack
We're on our way to Finland!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Moving to Finland: Moving across the world with a husband, toddler, dog, and all our stuff.

A number of people have told me that I need to journal or write on my blog about my experience of moving from Washington, DC to Helsinki, Finland. Yes, this is probably a good idea. Problem is, I have been really busy moving to Finland!After organizing our stuff for the millionth time, all I want to do is sit down with my bowl of ice cream and mindlessly watch (hmm, what do a I watch, it's so mindless I can't remember) HGTV.

Flying to Finland. How did we get here?

So I'm going to give a brief recap of how this went down:

2008 - 
Greg, "There are some great opportunities to work abroad when you are a manager."
Me, "Okay, that sounds awesome." (Thought Bubble: This probably won't happen)

Moving to Europe is brought up over the years and is still a possibility.

2011 - 
Our son, Sam, is born.
Greg is promoted to manager.
Greg gets sick and has his colon removed.
I'm thinking moving abroad is out of the question.

2012 - 
Greg is better and conversations start in earnest.

Sometime in the Fall -
Opportunities are discussed in the UK, Sweden, Amsterdam, and Finland.

October -
While out of town for work, Greg calls, "What do you think about Finland? It's a great opportunity!"
Me, "No." 
Me again, "It's really cold there and really far away."
Greg, "We'll buy warm stuff, it's not much colder than Syracuse."
Me, "One of the major reasons I left Syracuse was because of the cold."
Greg, "I think it will be a great opportunity and .... (lots more reasoning, that was good, he really knows how to make an argument)."
Me, "Okay, let's do it."

Greg watching SU basketball on a tiny TV.
Piles of stuff

November -
Break the news to family and friends. While everyone was happy for us, they would really rather we stay (I think they really wanted Sam to stay).

December -
Start packing stuff and organizing.

2013 -

January -
Pack stuff, sell stuff, and organize.

February -
Sell condo (I love my condo. Tears), Go to Helsinki and find an apartments (success! I think. We'll see how we like it), pack, organize, sell stuff. Paperwork, lots of paperwork.

View from new apartment
Living room in new apartment

Thursday, February 28 -
The movers arrive for a two-day packing extravaganza. We will be without most of our belongings for about 5 weeks.

Okay, so that should get us up-to-date. More to come (hopefully).

Moving to Finland Judged as a Crazy Logistical Challenge.