Saturday, December 31, 2016

Year 2016 Recap

Despite falling off the blogging wagon a 'little' while ago, I am going to attempt a recap of our year, and include the missing fall months as well. It has been such a different year for us, being a little more stationary than usual, but that has been good, too. And we haven't been that stationary (wink).

To compare, you can read our Year Recaps here: 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015.



We welcomed the new year in Maine, and enjoyed snow and winter very much. We had a fun group of friends visit us from Australia, and while our teens had to fly back to Florida and their dual-enrollment classes, the Captain, little girls and I stayed up in Maine a little longer. We also visited with more of the Captain's side of the family.

My mom flew from Finland, and had a freezing time in Florida with our teens while we were still in Maine. Yes - it gets cold in Florida, too!

Then the Captain flew to Florida, and Little Miss, Mei Mei and I flew to San Diego, California! Mei Mei got to finally meet my sister and her family. My mom flew from Florida to my sister's house, too.


Early February my sister and I attended a photography workshop with our other photographer friends (some have popped on this blog, too) near San Diego. This workshop had major influence on my photography 'career'. I almost gave up before starting, haha. But it was all so, so good. And I highly recommend this workshop (if interested, ask me!).

And then it was time to fly back to Florida. My mom came back with us. She was supposed to fly back to Finland a few days later, but we got to keep her a bit longer. We had a wonderful visit, even made it to the beaches, and saw manatees. And she got to go to Missy's Rubik's cubing competition.

MARCH 2016

Little Miss turned double digits! Yes, ten years old!

We (some of us, anyway) had a road trip to Atlanta, Georgia, for Mr. T's Debate Tournament. Mei Mei wasn't a fan of quietly watching the debaters, but she did love the pool at the hotel. We had a great trip! Another little road trip brought us back to St. Pete where we walked down Memory Lane (we so love St. Pete Beach!).

APRIL 2016

April brought us a cross-town move, which ended up being a lot more work than we anticipated! Instead of loading everything into a big truck, we made countless trips back and forth the two houses, and thought it would never end.

Our four dual-enrolled students had finals, too, and between those two events we were barely alive at the end of the month.

MAY 2016

In May our older students still continued high school studies, and Little Miss and were racing to finish fourth grade. We were settling into our new home, and met many neighbors (most of them had four or more legs, or none at all.....)

Mr. T traveled to debate nationals, and did fantastic!

Mei Mei had her cleft clinic in Tampa, and got a great report. Mr. A and mama both got glasses... The doctor prescribed me with 'fortyitis', as I needed reading glasses.

JUNE 2016

Mei Mei turned three in June! And started potty training. Mama used documentary photography as a survival mechanism.

The boys flew to Virginia, visited friends, and attended iGovern - a camp by Generation Joshua. The Captain, Missy, Little Miss, Mei Mei and Mama packed up the Mothership, and on our way up to Maine we picked the boys up.

The Mothership sadly had all kinds of trouble, and we limped our way up to Maine to our camp. But we made it in time to see the lupines! June is always full of work at the camp, before our renters come. This time we also opened moving boxes from our move back in 2011.

My photography business launched legally, but only with behind the scenes work.


Early July Little Miss, Mei Mei and Mama had tickets to fly to Finland for a month. My sister was already there with her kids. We had a very special (if not completely crazy) time with our family. There was a wedding, too! The first nephew got married, and it was just a wonderful celebration. Other than the wedding in Helsinki, we stayed at my parents' summer place where I spent all my childhood summers, too. (Check Finland blog posts here, here, here and here.)

We celebrated having Mei Mei for one year!

Our teens attended Summit in Colorado during July, and the Captain spent time in Maine and New Hampshire.


Early August we all met at our camp in Maine again, and had wonderful visitors there, too. A fun time before our teens needed to head back to Florida to start their dual-enrolled classes.


In September the little girls and I took a quick trip to Virginia to visit my sister and her family (she had moved from San Diego back to Virginia), and left all seven kids with my brother-in-law, as my sister and I attended another photography workshop:)

Our original plan had been to continue down to Florida, but we returned to Maine for the rest of the month. Little Miss and I started homeschooling, which was quite challenging, as our books were in Florida.

My photography website went live, and I started booking documentary family sessions.


Hurricane Matthew! Our Florida home was in mandatory evacuation zone, so our teens secured our house with the help of a family friend, and left town. They had a great visit with St. Pete friends! When they got back to the house, we found out our downstairs level had flooded, and there was damage. It could have been so much worse, so we're thankful.

A few days later Little Miss, Mei Mei and I returned too. And we really have been busy with the house ever since. The Captain arrived about a week later, too.

Little Miss started a homeschool music class, and has enjoyed it tremendously. Mei Mei is very jealous.


We had some fun travel in November. The Captain flew to New Hampshire, and picked up the Mothership, which was being repaired by our friend. Mr. A dropped Little Miss, Mei Mei and me off at a rental car office, and the three of us drove all day to Virginia, and made it to my sister's house! And a few days later the teens joined us, too. We cooked and baked together, enjoyed hanging out, and visited Busch Gardens Christmastown. It was a nice break from working on the house and from schoolwork.


We had planned on going to Maine for Christmas, but with our Florida home still torn apart, we decided it really would be best to stay put and continue to work on it. We had some hope that it would be ready before Christmas, but no. Not before New Year's, either. (It was a tempting thought to go to Maine!) We did take two road trips, one to St. Pete and one to Orlando:)

All of us are enjoying a break from school work, which feels so wonderful. It was a very tough fall, and everyone felt the squeeze.

Our teenagers are now eighteen, and we also celebrated Little Miss' 10th Gotcha day, Adoption day, and mama's birthday.

We've had a quiet break, as our family has been hit with both head colds, and a tummy bug. All that will pass though, and we do count our blessings.

God is good. All the time.

"Give thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever." Psalm 136:26

"For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever." Psalm 117:2

We wish you and your loved ones much joy and many blessings in the New Year of 2017.

Hyvää ja siunattua uutta vuotta 2017 jokaiselle lukijalleni!

Friday, October 28, 2016

The Sauna

The sauna culture is big in Finland. When I first brought my American boyfriend to our summer cabin in Finland (way back when), he found out my parents had three different types of saunas at the cabin, and one outhouse. Yes. You read that correctly.

They now have, in addition to the three saunas and one outhouse, two indoor bathrooms.

So, naturally, I needed to write one blog post of our Finland summer, devoted to the sauna, alone.

The one in the picture above, is my favorite sauna in the whole world. It was built by grandfather. It now belongs to my older sister's family, and we warmed it up almost every single day while we were in Finland. Since this was my grandparents' sauna, my parents have one attached to their cabin as well. Later they built one with a bedroom closer to the shore, and they also added an electric one to their new cabin next door.

This sauna is a wood burning sauna, so you need to start by getting enough wood to heat up the stove, and the hot water barrel.

You can pump water for washing (there are showers at the other cabins, but we prefer the old way of washing from basins in the sauna) either from the lake, or from the well. We usually used well water. One person would pump the water by the hand pump, and one person would make sure the water at the other end of the hose would make it to the hot water barrel and the cold water bucket.

My sister and I would take turns at the "job" of heating up the sauna. Usually the other person would keep an eye on the seven kids, so you can see how we had to take turns. You needed to build and feed the fire under the stove, as well as under the hot water barrel.

And then you'd wait. Sometimes in blissful quietness. Sometimes, not.

In the very first photo of this blog post my dad is making vihtas, and in this photo Mei Mei is in the sauna holding one. I persuaded her to smell the vihta, made from birch branches, but she wasn't a fan of whacking herself with it, which is what we native Finns do. Why? It feels good!

And don't forget to throw water on the stove to make the sauna all hot and steamy. No dry saunas for the Finns! Some people prefer the temps hot, like around 250F, but I personally like it when it's around 150F, then it's the best for throwing water on the stove.

When you get too hot, you go for a dip in the lake, and/or sit outside, typically sipping a beer (I'm a rare Finn, and don't like the taste of it, my choice was a can of grapefruit cider). And repeat. And repeat. And stop reluctantly once you absolutely have to go put your little ones to bed.

(The towel around Mei Mei is purely for the photo's sake, I knew I wanted to blog about the sauna eventually.)

While my youngest little Chinese girl enjoyed sitting in the sauna, she definitely enjoyed bathing outside the sauna in a tub, much better. All the littles love it. And for the bigs, there is now a wooden barrel, a 'hot tub', too! Heated by wood, of course. You can see a glimpse of it in the very first photo.

After the sauna, you feel so relaxed, warm and clean. It is a big part of being in Finland, and being a Finn.

I already miss it.


Halusin kirjoittaa ja kuvata suomalaista saunakulttuuria, mutta taidan jättää tämän postauksen vain englanniksi. Eiköhän me suomalaiset ymmärretä saunomista, ilman, että käännän tekstin suomeksi.
Ja kyllä, me tarvitsemme ehdottomasti saunan Mainen mökillemme. Rakas mieheni rakennutti saunan New Hampshiren kotiimme, eli eiköhän se saada Maineenkin joku päivä. Floridassa saunaa ei kaipaa ihan samalla lailla:)

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Summer in Finland, Part 2/Suomi, osa 2

I've had these photos here weeks now, waiting for the text, which does not seem to appear on their own. So. I decided to let the pictures speak for themselves, and hit publish, so I can keep going on our summer posts.

Most of our Finland trip we spent at my parents' cabin where I spent all my childhood summers. It is so sweet to see my girls doing so many of the special things I did with my siblings and cousins. And my little girls got spend this time with their cousins, too. This place is precious!

Seven of our parents' youngest grandchildren all in the same frame - documentary style! The sand pile was a favorite hangout spot!

I took one half day trip to my parents' house in Seinäjoki to run some errands. I just love seeing my littlest sitting in my parents' retro kitchen chairs - same ones my mom sat when her water broke - with me.

I have one or two more picture posts from Finland, then we'll move onto Maine:)


Suomikuvia vielä, tämänkin jälkeen on tulossa yksi tai kaksi postausta, ennen kuin jatkamme Mainen puolelta. Yksi kuvista on Seinäjoelta, kävin äidin ja Mei Mein kanssa siellä pyörähtämässä yhtenä päivänä, kaikki muut kuvat ovat mökiltä - samalta paikalta missä itse olen kesäni viettänyt sisarusten ja serkkujen kanssa, ja nyt nämä ihanat kiinalaiset pikkutyttöni saivat olla samassa paikassa omien serkkujensa kanssa. Mansikkapaikka!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Blueberry Picking in Finland/Mustikassa Suomessa

We were in Finland just as blueberries started to ripen. Yum! Mumma headed to the woods with some of the grandchildren to gather enough berries for a blueberry pie.

The forests in Finland are so beautiful.

Mei Mei learned to love blueberries in Finland.

I don't think Mei Mei saved any berries for pie, but fortunately there were other pickers, too.

The wild Finnish blueberry grows low, and not in bunches like in Maine fields.

Ummm, maybe the pie berries all were picked up by Mumma, and not by the helpers....

Yes, yes it was. Delicious. (We did find that the Finnish honey tasted stronger, so next time we'll use a little less than this recipe calls for.)


Tottahan sitä piti mustikassa käydä Suomessa ollessa! Kaunis on suomalainen metsä, ja suloisia pikkupoimijoita meillä oli mukana:) Piirakkakin maistui herkulliselta, tosin kävi ilmi, että suomalainen hunaja on voimakkaamman makuista, joten ensi kerralla sitä vähemmän kuin tässä reseptissä.