31 December 2015

New Year's Musings

I I'm currently sitting on the train, on my way to Jyväskylä to spend New Year's Eve with the BF's sister, her husband and their friends. I've never met any of their friends, but I'm sure it'll be a really nice night. We are going to play some board games and hang out, and probably go out to watch the fireworks at midnight, I think.

The fact that I'm feeling happy and relaxed on New Year's is kind of strange. You see, I've never liked the loud bangs and whistles fireworks make and usually feel super anxious on New Year's Eve. This time I'm armed with my trusted earplugs and the BF to hold my hand. ;)

It seems to me that 2015 whizzed by incredibly quickly. I know, I know. Everybody says that. But I truly mean it: a lot happened during the last year and, suddenly, here we are. At the brink of a new year, a new start.

Last year there were lots of changes, big and small, and I had to do lots of growing up. It wasn't always easy, but I'm thankful for every moment. Every obstacle and failure, every realization and every single moment of pure joy is stored into my memory and I will cherish them for as long as I can remember or there is someone to remind me. During last year, I began to find what feels good to me and started listening to myself more. I feel stronger and healthier, both mentally and physically, than I did this time last year.

Thank you for being patient with my inconsistent bursts of blogging and my long silences. There were times when I took myself offline to concentrate on my studies and my job. But every time I took a break, I found myself missing my blog. So, even though I can't promise consistency and regular upload schedules, I'm determined to keep writing about anything, everything and nothing in particular.

What else am I going to promise this New Year's Eve? Well... A friend of mine just shared a list of resolutions on Facebook from (you can read the original in Finnish here). It's a list of 5 things we should promise to ourselves. The list struck a chord with me, so I'm going to translate it here and try to stick to these resolutions:

1. I won't set unrealistic expectations towards myself.
2. I won't be so critical towards myself.
3. I won't treat myself any worse than other people.
4. I won't focus on negative thoughts.
5. I won't forget to have fun.

What are your New Year's resolutions? What are you most looking forward to in 2016?

Take care,

23 December 2015

Snowflake Decorations

(This post was published on the 23rd of December. It showed up on Bloglovin but for some weird reason has disappeared from my blog altogether. I only noticed it now on the 30th and am very sorry about it; I wanted you to have this little craft for Christmas. I hope you enjoy the post anyway!)

I was scrolling through Pinterest and ran into decorations made out of salt dough and soda dough. Since our apartment seemed a little in-Christmassy at the time (it isn't now, we've added been adding small touches during the last couple of weeks), I decided to try making my own version of ornaments. I'm pretty sure most of us can remember making salt dough creations as a kid. For that reason this made me feel a bit nostalgic, to be honest. :)


For the salt dough, I mixed 2 cups of plain flour with 1/2 cup of salt and 3/4 cup of water. You may need more or less water, just eyeball it. The important thing is that you end up with gingerbread-cookie-dough-like-consistency (what a word!). The dough needs to sit in the fridge for a couple of minutes, just so it becomes a bit further and easier to handle. Oh, and you get a lot of dough from this!

I used my trusted snowflake cookie cutter just because it seems like we're not going to have a white Christmas in southern Finland. At least there'll be snow somewhere, right? The holes were made with a wooden barbeque skewer, but you could use pretty much anything, a straw or toothpick could work nicely.


Salt dough is super easy to make and pretty durable, to, but keep in mind that it needs to be baked in the oven for quite some time. I baked mine in 150 degrees C for an hour or so. Baking tends to color them a little (or a lot, depending on how long you leave them). I'm fine with the rustic, slightly yellow/brown look of the baked ornaments, but if you prefer pure white, I suggest you try soda dough or some sort of white clay that you can air dry.


I think the string of decorations looks really cute on our window and I'm really happy with the end result! :)

XO, Anna

22 December 2015

Recent Knits

Here's a couple of knitting projects I've been working on recently. Small ones, the kinds you can do while sitting at lectures. First, I knitted a pair of socks for myself out of leftover yarn. (Yarn that I had used to knit a hat and mittens to replace the ones that were stolen from me at the uni...) I needed a pair of socks with longer legs, because they're so great to wear with wellies. And boy have my wellies seen some action in the past couple of months!


The second small project was a pair of mittens that my sister requested. She chose the stripy patterned yarn (Novita Polkka) and I think the mittens turned out really well! They're just an ordinary pair with no frills or lace or anything, but I like that kind of simple look. The red thumbs were a nice limitless detail that I'm really happy with. :) Since I had yarn left, I also knitted a quick little headband to match. I think my sister liked the set well enough!


I have been working on other projects as well, but since it's leading up to Christmas, I'm afraid I won't be sharing them just yet! ;) I can't believe it's the 22nd already!

xo, Anna

12 December 2015

Hectic and Happy

This week has definitely been the busiest one of the year! Well, no busier than the last few weeks of the semester usually are, to be honest. I've been running around like a headless chicken trying get everything done: I've had classes, choir practice, four choir performances, a couple of deadlines and a group assignment to finish. This weekend I'm doing full shifts at work, too.

As you can tell, it's been pretty hectic. When that happens, I usually have to cut down on my extracurricular activities. This time, however, I managed to plan my time more successfully: I've made it to the gym a couple of times and had time to do little crafty things in preparation for Christmas (a blog post on that coming soon!). I even squeezed in some Christmas shopping on Tuesday!
Despite the hustle, I've been able to stay extraordinarily positive, probably because it's almost Christmas and because I enjoy everything I'm doing at the moment with my studies and with the choir. I can't deny it might also be down to the fact that I've been very good at taking my vitamins and iron supplement lately. ;)

Running to a choir gig in the rain!
I'm going to get to my studies now, since I still have one learning diary to finish by tomorrow night. I want to wish luck to all of you other students struggling out there! Try to do your best but please remember to take care of yourself while doing so. It's not long until Christmas, and I know you can do it! If all else fails, try to think about how much better all of that chocolate is going to taste like after this squeeze! :)
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6 December 2015

This is my home, the country where my heart is


This is my song, O God of all the nations,
a song of peace for lands afar and mine;
this is my home, the country where my heart is;
here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine:
but other hearts in other lands are beating
with hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.

My country's skies are bluer than the ocean,
and sunlight beams on cloverleaf and pine;
but other lands have sunlight too, and clover,
and skies are everywhere as blue as mine:
O hear my song, thou God of all the nations,
a song of peace for their land and for mine.

Happy Independence Day! There are a lot of translations and versions of the Finlandia Hymn, one of the most important Finnish national songs, but today I wanted to share this one with you. I want it to remind us all to cherish our roots and to  respect the fact that there are other countries that other people hold as dear as we do our own.

My Finland is a country with clear lakes and rivers, green forests of pine and spruce, snowy fells and vasts landscapes. I also want it to be a land of peace, feedom, equality and diversity. I don't believe Finland is for Finns only, as I way too often hear people claim. I wish for it to be a place where everyone is welcome despite their country of origin, the color of their skin and the language they speak. A little bit more compassion, understanding and respect is what I'm hoping for.

XO, Anna

5 December 2015

Making the Most of Every Minute

On Wednesday I had 20 minutes free between classes and work. Instead of sitting in the break room at my job, just waiting for my shift to begin as In usually do, I went for a walk in the park. It got me thinking: why don't I do stuff like that more often?

If ever I have a moment to myself, I take out my phone and start scrolling aimlessly. I do so without even thinking about it. When I did start to think, the habit began to annoy me. I'm way too passive and I'm letting precious moments pass me by, moments when I could be out there, seeing things, feeling things and experiencing things. I decided that I want to be present and more mindful. It's going to be difficult, let me just tell ya!

I'm thinking maybe I should start by having a digital detox (like Esteè Lalonde aka Essiebutton did). Then I could maybe learn to use the time I spend online more productively. Maybe that way I would be more mindful and present on social media as well!

What are your thoughts on "digital detox"? What are you doing to make moments count?

XO, Anna

3 December 2015

Advent Sunday: the Beginning of Christmas

Advent Sunday has always been one of my favorite days during the year. I love Christmas time in general, and the first Sunday in advent is the beginning of it. It's the day when I finally allow myself to become excited (who an I kidding, I'm excited for Christmas most of the year!)
We had a pretty traditional Advent Sunday. We woke up early(ish), had some breakfast and headed to church to seeing Hosannah, which is always sunny in the Finnish Lutheran congregations on the first Sunday in advent. I don't know about the other dominations' advent traditions, but please do let me know! I would love to hear about them. :) We don't go to service every week, but I do wish we did and I think we'll try to from now on. It's a peaceful and calming start to the following week, I think.
After church we came home, changed into something more suitable for outdoor activities and went for a long walk in the woods. We both like hiking and spending time in the great outdoors. Walking in nature gives me lot of energy and I feel so much happier after a couple of hours of wandering around. We live really close to the Näsijärvi lake, which has great scenery and loads of really good trails to follow. 

Since it was a Sunday and the weather was okay, there were lots of other people around, too. But if you dare to venture to the less used trails like we did, you rarely run into anyone. We saw about 4 people within the hour or so we spent on the smaller paths. It's one of the things I truly appreciate about living in Finland: you're never too far from nature where you can spend some time alone and recharge your batteries. I do like spending time with people, but I need time alone too. I'm a bit of an introvert, to be honest.
With our bellies grumbling and our legs tried from all the walking, we came back home to cook Sunday roast (of a kind): sweet potato fries, salad and chicken with goat's cheese, sundried tomatoes and basil. The BF is the best cook! The rest of the evening I spent knitting and watching Charmed on Netflix. Ooh, the nostalgia! I was into it in my pre-teens, so I'm really enjoying watching it again now.
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P.S  If you are looking for an advent calendar and happen to like crocheting, please head to my friend Janni's blog! It's Finnish but the instructions are usually in English. And the pictures are nice to look at, too!

2 December 2015

(Pre-)Christmas Party with the Colleagues

It's rare that all of my closest colleagues are able to be in the same place at the same; usually at least two have to be (surprise surprise) working. Customer service never ceases! Saturday was a rare exception. We had colleagues from other teams covering for us while we went out to have a Christmas celebration.

My boss had reserved tickets to the Tamper Theatre play Tiputus (literally drop or drip), a comedy/parody of a popular Finnish sketch comedy TV-show Putous (drop or fall). Not a fan of the TV-show or the type of humor it tends to present, I didn't have high expectations of Tiputus, either.

Tampere Theater main building

I have to admit I liked it even less than the e TV-show, which has some witty moments at least. If I hadn't got the ticket free of charge, I definitely wouldn't have bought one. I'm not saying it was awful and you shouldn't go see it. If you have a fondness for simple humor that derives from slapstick, crudeness, dildos and hangovers, then it's definitely for you. I just like more "sophisticated" humor, I guess.

At least I had a good seat

After the play, we went to dinner at the Trattoria which is located in the Hotel Tammer smack in the center of Tampere, right next to the Tammerkoski rapids. The restaurant had a great atmosphere, it was dimly lit and felt really cozy in the cold and windy November evening. 

The food was good, solid Italian food. Everything was tasty and simple, and there was plenty of courses to choose from. I do have to admit getting a bit envious of my neighbors choice of dessert (why did I go with the fruit platter when I could've eaten panna cotta, huh?) But that's nobody else's fault except mine! :) I've already dropped hints that it would be perfect for a date night. We'll see if the BF takes the hint!

Didn't manage to snap a good picture of my main, sorry!

The best part of the evening was actually managing to have conversations with my colleagues for once. Our jobs are hectic and this fall we've been busier than ever. It was nice to just relax and talk about stuff that is totally unrelated to our job.

P.S. Sorry for the poor quality of pictures. Again, I was using my phone. I really need to invest in a small camera!

27 November 2015

The Phantom of the Opera

If you are a Finn, you probably know that The Phantom of the Opera is on in the Finnish National Opera this year. The media has been buzzing about ot for a while and all of the performances are fully booked at the moment.
I managed to get tickets almost a year ago now when the hype was not as huge as it is now.  They were a Christmas present for my mum (hi mum, if you're reading this!) and for myself, too. As my grandmother says, it's nice to have things to look forward to. :) We were both really excited about the performance, and even more so when my dad happened to get a ticket to the same performance as well!
The Phantom of the Opera was totally worth the hype, in my opinion. The orchestra was amazing and the set design incredible. It waas great that they hadn't dropped the electric guitars, because they really do belong to the theme song. I was captivated from the first bars, and the set took my breath away. The huge, breathtaking chandelier suspended above the audience and the Opera basement (and the whole scene where the Phantom and Christine descend to it) were both awesome.
But most of all, the Opera Ghost himself was as disturbing and vulnerable and sarcastic as he ought to have been. Ville Rusanen played the part impeccably, in my opinion, and his voice had just enough rock 'n' roll for my taste. I've never really understood the whole romantic side of the Phantom; he is a violent creep. A bully that has been bullied all his life and should therefore be pitied, maybe, but the way he demonstrates his "love" for Christine is just wrong.

Speaking of Christine, she was a heroine, not just a maiden in distress. I think it was great that the director (Tiina Puumalainen) emphasized that side of her and made her into an active character instead of a passive object of admiration the Phantom and Raoul fight over. She even gets frustrated at Raoul when he starts making plans to catch the Phantom. Sofie Asplund was strong and sweet in her role, and I think she had a nice, gentle voice.
Oh, and if you're hesitant about the fact that there are a lot of non-native speakers singing in English, don't be! Nobody's pronunciation bothered me one bit, and I'm a total grammar nazi. ;)
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25 November 2015

Christmas Carol Choir Camp

I've had Christmas carols going around in my head for a good few weeks now and I'm not complaining! :) The weeks leading up to December are always really busy in our choir, because we are rehearsing for our Christmas concerts. This year we have two, one on the 10th and the other on the 11th - that's in two weeks, you guys! It's crazy how quickly this fall has flown by!

Last weekend was a choir camp weekend, which basically means singing for about 6 hours a day. It's a good thing we (all 50-60 of us) get along really well. During camp, we go through the whole set in detail and sing our parts again and again and again and... It's exhausting but effective! The songs really start to come together a lot more during practice weekends.

Combine singing with knitting and the day couldn't get much better. ;)

Besides, there is nothing like 12 hours of Christmas carols to get you in a festive mood, let me tell ya! I'm beginning to feel really festive, even though the first snow we got last week is pretty much gone now... Fingers crossed for a white Christmas!

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20 November 2015

Party Hopping

A little disclaimer: Please know that even though I write about my fun weekend in this post, I'm in no way trying to dismiss what has happened. Last weekend was a horrible weekend all around the world, mainly Beirut and Paris. I'm very sorry about what happened and pray for world peace and all the victims and their families. Still, I want to keep this blog a relatively happy place, if possible. Now you may carry on reading, if you wish.

We took a train to Helsinki on Friday evening, and I thoroughly enjoyed every second of the journey. I recently bought Robert Galbraith's third novel, Career of Evil. Finally, I had time to just sit down and read! I'm enjoying the book so far, like I did the previous ones. Highly recommend them.

On Friday we had a small family celebration because I just got my Bachelor's certificate. My family had bought me the cutest charm for my Thomas Sabo bracelet that I wear all the time! On top of that, my lovely little sister made us incredibly yummy turkey burgers and she had even baked carrot cake! I felt so lucky and spoiled. :) I know that becoming a Bachelor of Arts is not a huge achievement, but it's an important milestone for me. Especially because my papers were pretty good, even though I say so myself!

Mum said she wanted to get me something "cute with a cat". I think she did good!

Saturday dawned in a very different type of atmosphere, of course. We had been invited to my cousin's 25th birthday brunch. Even though I felt really sad, scared and anxious, there was nowhere I'd rather been than among family members. We had a really great time just chatting away with my cousin, my sister, and my grandmother, all of whom we don't spend as much time with as we would like. My cousin and I pretty much grew up together, since were born only about 8 months apart. She has been a friend for life and as kids we were inseparable. 

Unfrtunately we had to leave her birthday party before six (a long brunch, I'd say, especially because we were among the first to leave) to go to my friends house for an early Christmas party. I had been looking forward to seeing them, because we haven't seen each other since August. I was pretty exhausted and wasn't able to be the life of the party, to be honest. I just enjoyed listening to them talk about everything and anything. Even so, I was really happy to go back home and get to bed. Well, the mattress on my parents' floor.

On Sunday the BF wanted to go window shopping, and there was no way my sister and I could say no to that! ;) All we bought was some knitting yarn and an Arsène Lupin novel collection. We also went to Starbucks! It was my first Starbucks experience and it was really weird but fun, although I think I prefer smaller coffee houses with less crowds.

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18 November 2015

Skavabölen pojat: A Tale of Two Brothers

Another rambly post about a play. Brace yourselves! :)
A while back we headed to the theater - yet again. We had been talking about maybe going to see Skavabölen pojat for some time, so one weekend I decided there is no time like the present, walked into town and bought tickets for us.

Skavabölen pojat (lit. The Boys of Skavaböle) is a drama that tells the story of two brothers, Rupet and Evert. The storyline focuses on their childhood in the towns of Kauniainen and Hyrylä (Skavaböle in Swedish) in the 1970s.
The story begins when the boys and their parents move to a new apartment in Kauniainen. The future seems bright: Mum is an artist, Dad has a great job that pays well. The boys play cowboys and indians and have playground romances with the girls next door. Everything is perfectly normal and blissful - at least on the outside.
Then Evert finds a letter and everything starts falling apart. Dad is having an affair,and during Christmas Mum gets mad at him and is taken away to "rest" for a while. The parents file for divorce and Dad moves out. Things are messy and ugly to say the least, as they too often are when parents decide to separate. And they keep getting uglier as the play goes on.

Having said that, I also want to highlight how funny the play is, as difficult as it may be to believe me. I actually laughed out loud at the boys antics. The boys were extremely relatable. I mean, who hasn't run around playing with the neighbourhood kids? Who hasn't stolen their sisters candies and gotten into trouble because of it? I liked how the whole play is depicted from the kids point of view. Thanks to it, the play wasn't gloomy and dark all the way through, but whimsical and boyish.
The actors were all amazing, but I was especially impressed by Heikki Hela, who plays the Dad, and Jaakko Ohtonen and Eemu Korpela, who play the boys. As most Finns, I knew Hela from the comedy crew Kummeli and had never seen him in a more serious role. All of the actors parts were both physically and psychologically demanding. I imagine it to be quite draining to act in such a tough drama.
I laughed, I cried, I was scared and distressed. And when we left the theater, I felt emotionally drained and deflated. It was rough and moving in so many ways. A true katharsis, you could say. I really recommend it. It might not be the best play for a first-date, but it is deeply moving, if you're in the mood for that.
You can check the Tampere Theatre website for more information:
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1 November 2015

The Monster Inside

I've turned into a right old monster for Halloween, it seems. Thank you very much, hormones. I'm sure some of you can relate to this horror story: PMS. My feelings are all over the place: half the time I'm totally annoyed at everything, mostly about the fact that I'm annoyed when there's nothing to be annoyed about. The other half of the time I spend crying about insignificant things. The Boyfriend is a real hero for putting up with me. Today was particularly difficult: I was a total mess, to be honest. Thank goodness we decided to head to the gym this afternoon!

I know it's annoying when people tell you exercise helps. All you want to do at that moment is bite their head off and tell them how it's damn near impossible to walk with all the cramping. But please, for your sake (and for those around you), try. Go for a walk, do yoga, go to the gym. Take some you-time in whatever way feels best. Once your muscles are warm and the endorphins start to kick in, you'll feel so much better. That's what happened to me today.

I put on some punk rock, lifted weights and embraced my inner Hulk. And within the hour I managed to get some of the negative feelings out and calm down. I usually do yoga to calm myself down, but today I was too mad to focus like that. It was nice to let it all out in a slightly heavier way. I feel like I'm more prepared for next week now. The pumpkin cake and tea I just had while watching every single youtuber's october favorites might also have something to do with it... ;)

My kinda night. Bliss.

Speaking of next week, it's going to be a loooooong one, I have loads of assignments and lectures and meetings, and on top of all that, work. I hope I've Hulked out enough, because being a total monster wouldn't be easy right now... I think I'm going to call it a day, put on my pj's, watch a film and go to bed. Maybe tomorrow will be easier.
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31 October 2015

A Calm and Comforting All Saints' Day

Happy Halloween (to all who celebrate it)!

Slowly but surely, Halloween has landed here in Finland as well, of course, but it's nowhere near as big as it is in other parts of the world (namely, North America). There is Halloween candy or sweets, pumpkins and "scary" decorations in stores, but for most Finns, this is a day of quiet remembrance.

Instead of Halloween, Finland celebrates All Saints' Day today. On this day, we remember those who are no longer with us. Not as festive as Halloween, maybe, but there is a certain warmth to it.

On All Saints' Day, the Boyfriend and I walk up to the cemetery to light candles for our loved ones. Tonight, there were around twenty people at the memorial site for those who are buried elsewhere. Suddenly, a couple started singing an old, familar hymn. People all around us joined in, and so did we. There was something deeply moving and comforting about it. The hymn filled me with hope and calmness that I carried home with me.

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12 September 2015

Back to Uni Ups and Downs

The first few weeks of school and uni are always an exciting - an quite stressful - time, aren't they? Lessons get loved moved from classroom to classroom and you keep running around like a headless chicken. More so if you are a freshman and have no clue about the campus layout. I feel for you, I really do. Even though I'm not a freshman, I felt like this autumn is a whole new beginning and a fresh start. It's been really stressful and chaotic at work for a couple of weeks now, which has made me even more excited to get back to school. I have pressed the refresh-button during the summer, and now I'm ready to take on a new academic year.

This is my fifth year at the uni. The fifth is supposed to be the year when you wrap up your studies and write your master's thesis. I'm not starting my thesis this year, however, mainly because I don't know what I want to write the bloody thing about, but also because there are many courses I still want and need to take before leaving. I'm pretty happy with how this year started. There were some ups and downs, but all in all, it was a good week.

As you might know, I am a translation and multilingual communication major. Some of the courses I need to take are compulsory for my major. Instead of actual translating, I'm currently taking a few courses on proofreading and editing. Editing interests me more than actual translating at the moment. Editing courses are interesting and I feel very much at home there. This fall I have one course in English, one in Finnish, and both of them are challenging, of course, but I know what I'm doing and I'm learning a lot. It was great to go back to editing after taking a break during the summer.
I like to edit because it makes me feel like I'm helping the person whose paper I'm reading. I'm giving them my suggestions and tips on how to become a better writer (not that I'm an expert, at least not yet). I like the nitpickiness and preciseness of the work. And I love working alone at my own pace. The detail-orientedness (is that even a word?) feels right, somehow.

Most of the courses I want to take during this year are optional studies, however. For me that means information sciences. I'm attempting to study 60 credits worth of the stuff, which would make me a qualified librarian (it's always good to have a back-up plan, guys!). That's a lot. Like, 12 courses. I started two of them this week, and boy was it hard! I'm like a fish out of water when it comes to information science courses. Sometimes I feel like the teachers assume that we students know more than we do (or at least more than I do).

Information science teachers really love to make us work in groups, which is why I decided to drop out of one of the courses I started (gosh, that makes me sound like an idiot, doesn't it?). One course includes team work, which is cool, but the other is entirely team work. No lectures, no meetings, no seminars. Just working in your group of 6. I decided to say no to that course, it just isn't for me.

I do understand the charm of learning together and working together; working in customer service, I do a lot of team work and working with different types of people on a daily basis. It can be really rewarding and really exhausting at the same time. I am usually beat after a day of working, which is why I like my studies to be me-time, if you know what I mean? When I study independently, I don't have to explain or negotiate or have long conversations with other students that I don't know. Group work is sometimes just as exhausting as customer service, because you are trying to please everyone.

Besides, in my experience group assignments just never works like the teachers think it does. Out of six people there usually are 2-3 who actually do things, the rest just hang around, stare at a desk and nod from time to time without taking any responsibility. Maybe it has something to do with being a Finn? I dunno...

Furthermore, I dislike the idea of being evaluated on the group assignment only. How can a teacher give you a grade based on the end result only? They only see what they are given. They don't see who did what and how, and that bugs me. I'd rather work on my own and do my own work and take the grade I'm given for that. Or, if there is group work on a course, I wish the teachers would at least make each student write a report on the project and what we did, why we did it, and how we did it. That way they would have the bigger picture on how each student actually performed.

I've changed my attitude about studying (and life) a bit. I'm going with the flow and keeping it real. It'll all work out in the end. So, I dropped out of the course that was all group work? It's okay, I can take others to compensate. I'm really motivated to be a qualified librarian and to start my masters a year from now, so I'll find a way to make it happen, one way or the other.

Whoops, this became a rambly post all of a sudden. Sorry about that! Basically, it was a hectic week and I'm keeping my head up and looking forward to the rest of the year. :)

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5 September 2015

Billy Elliot at the Helsinki City Theatre

The first time I saw Billy Elliot was in the movies with my mother. Our local movie theater had a dance movie week, and my mother took me to see Save the Last Dance and Billy Elliot. I was probably about nine years old at the time, and it was a pretty big deal to go to the movie together with her and without my siblings. So, when I heard that Helsinki City Theatre was going to have Billy Elliot in their repertoire this year, I was super-excited.

This time it wasn't just me and my mother, though. We gave a ticket for my grandmother for her 80th birthday, and my aunt, cousin and sister also came with us to see the musical. It was nice to have almost all of the women in our family together for once (apart from my other aunt, who was out of the country).

The show itself was a-ma-zing. There are a lot of kids in the cast, and they were all really talented and invested in what they were doing. You could see they enjoyed being on stage and performing to an audience. They aren't professionals or child wonders who have taken acting, singing and dancing classes since the age of two, but in my opinion that's what made Billy Elliot even more appealing: it was more believable, in a way.

This version of Billy Elliot was funnier than I had anticipated. When it comes to comedy, Billy's gran and Michael (Billy's best friend) were the highlights of the show. Michael is a young, flamboyant, gay kid living in Northern England in the 1980s (not the easiest character for a tween to take on!). Michael seems to be so fine with who he is that you can only admire him. Such a good role model for everyone of us, I should think. When it comes to Billy's gran, I believe my grandmother especially enjoyed her wittiness and could relate to some of her opinions, too. 

I highly recommend you go see Billy Elliot for yourself! Oh, and if you do decide to get tickets, remember that the actual Helsinki City Theatre building is being renovated this year, so you'll need to head to Peacock Theatre in Linnanmäki amusement park.

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30 August 2015

Confessions of a Netflix Junkie: House of Cards

I'm Anna and I'm addicted to Netflix. Like, seriously. The Boyfriend subscribed to it sometime last spring and let me just tell you, I've spent hours on it this summer, mainly because June and July were kind of disappointing here in Finland (think rainy and cold). As a translation student I do need to comment on the subtitles on there, though, because let's face it, they are pretty appalling sometimes. You can see that the people doing them don't have a lot of time or experience.

Anyway, I've recently become hooked on House of Cards. I'm a bit late to the party, because the series started already in 2013. It's an American political drama television series adapted from the BBC's mini-series of the same name. It's actually based on a novel by Michael Dobbs. The series is set in present-day Washington and focuses on Frank Underwood, a South-Carolina democrat and House Majority Whip (google it, I can't really explain how it works).

Underwood is a ruthless son-of a-bitch, who manipulates pretty much everyone around him. A true Machiavellian character, you might say. Kevin Spacey is brilliant as Frank Underwood, just right for the role. I had forgotten what a good actor he is, I love the way he brings out all these small gestures and habits of a character. Before House of Cards Spacey had been going under the radar for a while, at least under my radar.

I have to admit that I'm not exactly very interested in politics. I mean, I do vote and have been to a demonstration or two, and I follow the news and stuff, but that's pretty much the extent of it. But then again, you don't really have to have a deep understanding about medicine to enjoy hospital dramas or about law to get into Matlock, right? ;)

House of Cards is intense and dramatic. The pace shifts a lot, sometimes things start happening at a really fast pace, sometimes it's just people talking and plotting and backstabbing. It's just great entertainment, and I love how the show blatantly break the fourth wall. Smack in the middle of a scene Frank Underwood suddenly starts addressing us viewers, giving insight to what or why or how he is going to do something or predicting how others will react to him. I find that really unusual for a drama series, and quite enjoy the fact that we get to know the character through his own words. Frank Underwood's wife, who doesn't address the audience, remains distant and I really haven't been able to figure her out yet.

Have you watched House of Cards? What do you think of it? What are your Netflix favorites?

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26 August 2015

How I Learned to Feel Comfortable in My Own Skin

I've always been a really self-conscious person. Looking into a mirror I've only had eyes for all the "flaws" and in my opinion, there were always so many. I compared myself to others around me and wished I was taller, shorter, skinnier, fitter, or had longer hair, blue eyes, bigger boobs... I'm sure many of you know the feeling, right? I shied away from photographs because I didn't like looking at pictures of myself.
Lately, however, I've had a real change of heart about a lot of things, most importantly about myself, and I thought I'd share some of my thoughts with you. It's gonna be a long one, so go grab some tea (or whatever you might be craving)!

Let's start with my skin. I started suffering from acne at the age of thirteen. It was devastating. My skin just wouldn't get better no matter what I tried. And believe me, I've tried pretty much everything, except make-up. Even though I wanted to at some points in my life, I have never worn make-up to cover it all up, mostly because I was terrified it might make my face flare up and because I felt like I would've had to put a ton of stuff on. And honestly, I don't like the feeling of make-up on my face. People (mostly my mother) would tell me to wait it out and keep taking care of my skin. It would pass. And it did! It just took a whole ten years to get better. 

My skin isn't perfect and it quite possibly will never be. I still get breakouts from time to time (hormones, I hate you) and I still have quite a lot of scarring and discoloration, but I don't care. I've learned to appreciate my skin as it is and I've grown to love my freckles. During the last year my skin has cleared up wonderfully. One reason for it is time, as I mentioned. The other reasons are definitely a healthy diet, lots of water, and the right type of cleanser and moisturizer.

In addition to having really bad acne, I've always been a chubby girl. In elementary school, other kids  used to call me names and tell me I was fat. I tried to shake it off and not listen to them, but pretty soon I started believing I was fat, and what do you know, also started gaining weight. My family would always tell me that I looked pretty, and on some days I actually did feel pretty too. But on most days I felt pretty insecure and miserable about the way I looked. Most teenagers probably do at some point in their lives.

I've told you guys before that I started doing yoga this year. I haven't gone to classes, just because they don't fit my irregular schedule. If you have a chance to sign up for a class, I highly recommend you do so! Yoga has improved my flexibility, strength and endurance (keeping in mind that I used to be as flexible as an iron rod). But most importantly, it has helped me to get to know my body better. Focusing on yourself and learning to move in a new way can be a true eyeopener. There have been many moments when I've just been amazed that my body can actually do something I never thought it was capable of.

The same goes for going to the gym. In a previous post I said the Boyfriend had introduced me to our local gym. At that point I was totally clueless and said I can only commit to going twice a week. Well, in the last month I've been going three times a week and I'm loving it. Never would I ever have thought I would say this, but I can hardly wait for the next time I get to go to the gym! I started working out because I disliked my body. Now I'm working out because I like it. My appearance hasn't changed much, but I feel stronger and happier and much more energetic.

My body definitely isn't fit and flawless but it's the only body I have. It's healthy and able to do amazing things, things I never even dreamed it could do. I have two strong legs that carry me around. I have arms that lift and pull and push.  I have a big bum and a round belly and broad shoulders. And I love my body. I love myself, and I'm not ashamed to admit it.

Not even sorry about my sweaty face!

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21 August 2015

Inspiration, where are you?

Hello. I haven't died or disappeared or lost the control of my fingers or anything horrible like that. Lately I've just felt really uninspired to write about anything at all.

Let's be clear: I lead a really ordinary life and am extremely happy with who I am and where I am and what I do on a day-to-day basis. I just don't think my life is always interesting enough to do a blog post about. Especially during the summer when all I'm doing is moseying about. I go to work, come home, go to the gym or for a walk or a run, watch reruns and go to bed.

I am trying to find my blogging shoes again! I'm sorry it's taking so long, guys. I'll be back soon, I swear. And I don't swear often, believe me!

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19 July 2015

Sun-kissed in Tallinn

Here comes the first blog post regarding our summer vacation trip, as promised.

As I said in my packing post, we got cruise coupons from my sister and decided to head to Tallinn for the day. We traveled on the Viking Xprs (the ship's so quick they don't have time for vowels, it would seem) that left Helsinki at 11:30. We arrived in Tallinn at two, and had about three and a half hours there.

It turned out we had picked the perfect day to go: it was sunny and about 23 degrees all day. We spent the few hours we had in Tallinn just walking around and basking in the sunlight. It was amazing to spend time just the two of us doing absolutely nothing together. It was a perfect summer day! We came home happy, sun-kissed and carrying way too much candy (tax free is always so tempting...)

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18 July 2015

Long time, no see...

Hi guys!

I know, I know. I promised I'd blog more during the summer, but life happened. And by life I mean limited access to a computer and to wifi. And limited amounts of time to actually stare at a computer screen and write anything, because the last four weeks I've been running around like a headless chicken. Seriously.

Tonight I'll sit down and write a couple of blog posts about our travels around, like promised. They'll be up tomorrow and next week.

I'm soooo sorry. And soooo happy to be back! :) Here's a cute picture of my cat (to distract you from the fact that I'm a really terrible blogger)!
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12 June 2015

What's in my backpack

Our big summer vacation tour has begun, yay! :) We are going to be away from home for a few weeks, travelling around the south of Finland to see family and friends. After our Britrail trip last summer, I became very good at packing, if I do say so myself. I thought I might share a bit of what I'm taking with me this time.

I always start my packing process by making a list (I'm one of those people who love to make lists). I jot down everything I need so that I can check and double check that I have everything I need. I take out everything on the list and set in on the couch or bed so that I can see if I'm missing anything. When I actually start packing, I roll up my clothes in stead of folding them. That way the clothes won't get wrinkled and I can fit more things into my bag.

My backpack is from Asaklitt and it holds 65 litres. I bought it before we left on our rail trip a year ago and I prefer it to other kinds of bags or suitcases. It fits a lot of stuff, it has a decent amount of pockets and compartments, it's easy and comfortable to carry and the best thing is that you have both hands free at all times. What else could you ask for?

Because the Finnish summer is what it is, that is to say incredibly unpredictable, I had to pack for all types of weather. We also have all kinds of stuff planned for the time that we are gone: we are going to be working out (I'm happy to say that I'm still going strong with the gym thing on top of yoga and running), babysitting three kids under ten, going to a summer cottage, and celebrating my best friends wedding, among other things.

- Garnier Skin Naturals All Fresh Cleansing Milk for normal to combination skin
- Garnier Skin Naturals All Fresh Toner for normal to combination skin
- Garnier Skin Naturals Moisture+ Soft for normal skin
- Nivea In-Shower Body Milk Skin Conditioner for dry skin
- Nivea Stress Protect antiperspirant
- Aussie 3 Minute Miracle Frizz Remedy Deep Treatment for misbehaving, frizzy hair
- Cien Sun Cream spf 50
- Dermosil After Sun Lotion
- toothbrush, shaver, etc.
- medicine

I don't wear make-up on a daily basis (actually, I wear make-up only a couple of times a year), so I don't carry any. I'll be staying with my sister at the time of the wedding and will borrow her make-up - she has loads! My toiletries are centred around skin care, since I have sensitive acne prone skin that tends to get dry very easily. I also don't worry about shampoo, because we'll be staying with our families while we are away and there will be shampoo and such there.

Basic clothing:
- trousers
- jeans
- black shorts
- 4 t-shirts
- 2 vest tops
- white jumper
- 2 dresses
- playsuit
- bikinis
- socks, underwear, leggings, etc.

I'll have access to laundry machines while we are away (except at the BF's family's summer cottage), so I'll get a chance to wash my clothes as often as is needed. Of course I'm taking the clothes that I'm wearing today, too. That means basic jeans, t-shirt and beige cardigan. And I wouldn't go anywhere without my purse (that holds my phone, wallet, etc.). That's basically it, though. 

"Other stuff" that's not in the picture:
- rain coat and trousers
- scarf
- hat
- fitness gear: trousers, shorts, shirts, shoes and sports bras
- 'formal' shoes (for the wedding)
- sandals
- laptop and charger

I know the list seems long, but when you think about it, I'm not taking a lot of things with me. I'm not going to be carrying the backpack on long hikes or anything, but I still don't want to be hauling too much stuff around the country. There are more shoes than I would normally carry around; on our six week long rail trip I only had trainers and flip-flops and I got on really well with just them.

We left home last night and came to Helsinki to my parents' apartment. Today the BF and I are actually going on a day trip to Tallinn, because my lovely sister got hold of some coupons that make travelling extra cheap: 2€/person! So, even though I told you guys we'd be sticking to travelling in the homeland this year, we are going abroad - again.

I'll keep you posted on what we get up to on our tour de south of Finland! :)
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29 May 2015

Gym Newbie

I went to a gym on Wednesday. Me! I went to the gym. It was, like, the first time in forever or, at least, after high school (if the Frozen song just started playing inside your head, I'm not sorry. Not in the slightest).

Gyms can be intimidating places, if you ask me. This is for two very obvious reasons: 1) I don't know what to do there and 2) there always seems to be a lot of people who do know. At least in Finland, gyms are very quiet (quiet Finns become even quieter in them), so I've always felt that every sound or move I make is noticed by everyone else in the gym.

After practising yoga all spring, I've gathered some much needed self-confidence. I decided it was time to face my fears and try something new. If I can almost do a hand-stand, I bloody well man up and give the whole gym workout thing a go! So, on Wednesday morning I put on my workout gear and headed to the gym with the BF.

It was completely deserted!

I could try things without fear of making myself look like a tool (which, let's face it, I am most of the time anyway, but let's keep that just between us ;) ). The BF was super-helpful, too. He showed me how stuff works and walked me through every move. He even stood beside me and cheered me on while I was lifting my pathetic, teeny-tiny weights. It was great!

So great, in fact, that I'm going to go again. I'm not committing to any type of regime yet, but I'll try to go twice a week for a start and see how I get on.

This blog is never going to turn into a fitness blog. There are plenty of those around, and to be honest I'm not really interested in that sort of lifestyle (But if you are, good for you! I admire you for making your own choices and choosing that path. :) ) However, if you would like me to write about my new experiences at the gym, I'd be happy to do so. If you are new to the whole gym-world like me, I'd also love to hear about your first steps. Maybe we can start a gym newbie support group?

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27 May 2015

Life isn't a competition

Why am I writing a post with a title like that, you might ask. There is a simple reason. For a long time, I've been watching two relatives making snide remarks and mean comments on each others' posts on Facebook. Now they've started commenting on other relatives' posts, too. I've grown cautious about publishing, commenting or liking anything on there. I'm not looking forward to seeing them in person either, to be completely honest. I don't want to take sides. I'm not in the least interested in what's going on between the two of them, but it really disturbs me that they are being mean to others as well.

Just to be clear: I'm not writing this post to humiliate anyone. I just felt like I needed to say something, because this type of behavior seems to be way too common. I actually almost didn't post this, and I'm truly sorry if I make anyone feel bad by anything I say.

How you treat others is a says a lot about the person you are. You paint a picture of yourself with every word you let out of your mouth. Or every word you type, for that matter (that's what makes blogging so scary sometimes ;) ). Basically, putting others down and thus drawing attention to yourself doesn't make me feel like I want to talk to you. It makes me angry, especially when this type of behavior is directed toward my friends and family.

It's sad to see an adult trying to be the center of attention by belittling another person and their experiences. It may be that the other is happy and you are spoiling things for them. It might be that the other is going through some rough times and you are making it worse. Words can hurt more than you think.

Life isn't a competition. What's the point of competing for attention? It only makes adults seem like desperate, little kids. I know that's not a nice way to put it, but there you go. I don't think belittling others paints a nice picture of a person. It definitely doesn't make anyone want to be your friend.
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25 May 2015

Stockholm in May

A week ago the Boyfriend and I went on a cruise to Stockholm with my parents and my sister. I had been looking forward to the trip since January, when mum bought the tickets. It's likely to be the only trip abroad this year, so I had decided to cherish every moment. Besides, I have always liked Stockholm and was excited to go there with the Boyfriend, since we've never been there together before.

The weather was amazing on Sunday when we departed from Helsinki. It was sunny and warm and almost felt like summer! We left at 17:00 from Helsinki and would arrive in Stockholm the next morning, so we got to spend the night on the ship. We spent the evening exploring the tax-free shops and, more importantly, eating in the buffet. What else can you do on a boat besides eat and shop? ;)

In the morning, after a great breakfast, we left the boat and took the tube to the Old Town (Gamla Stan). I love walking along the narrow and winding cobbled streets, admiring all the old buildings and squares. I could have spent even more time just wandering around, but unfortunately it started raining pretty heavily, so we had to take shelter in a quaint little café called Chocoladkoppen (I wasn't too sad about taking shelter there, trust me). We sat in the café for quite some time, enjoying our hot drinks and the atmosphere.

It was still raining when we had finished our drinks, so we headed to the center, to NK to be exact. NK is a high-end department store from which I couldn't even dream of buying anything. :D I do, however, love to look at all the pretty furniture and clothing. I especially love the store's toy section. They actually carry a lot of retro and vintage toys. All the little cars, airplanes, robots, teddy bears and dolls just look so adorable!

Before we left, my sister had looked up the address of a Sephora just around the corner from NK. My sister is a total make up junkie, unlike me. I mean, I know the names of products and what you're supposed to do with them, but I'm hopeless when it comes to actually applying the stuff. I wish I wasn't, but I'm too lazy to start learning how to paint my face. I only wear mascara a couple of times a year, and that's pretty much it! Anyway, going to Sephora was like paradise for my sister. I think she could have spent hours in there if it wasn't for me and the Boyfriend looking completely out of place and uncomfortable.

While we were in Sephora, the weather cleared up a bit and we could walk around a little more. After strolling around window shopping, we popped into Wienercaféet, a lovely, old-worldly café that serves French and Austrian cakes and pastries.

Then it was time to hop on a bus and get back to the boat! I was pretty beat, to be honest, but my mother had reserved tickets for the ship's musical, Fame. It was fun, although me and my sister would have recast every actor. I mean, what's the point of having an amazing singer in the mix if they don't get to do the title song?!

The show lasted for about an hour and a half. My dad had booked us a table on the ship's Italian restaurant, La Tavola. We had an amazing meal there. I ate a super-creamy bufala mozzarella and tomato salad and ricotta and asparagus filled ravioli. It was a lovely evening, the rain had stopped and the sun was setting while we cruised past the Swedish archipelago enjoying good food and even better company.

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