Friday, March 30, 2012

The Opposite of Finland? Aruba!

Sad to say, vacation is over! We are flying back to Finland, where, unfortunately the forecast is STILL calling for snow. We really thought that by the time we got back to Rauma, the snowy season would be over. I have an appointment on Tuesday with the tire "hotel" to remove our winter tires and put back on the regular tires -- I hope I don't have to re-schedule!

We spent a wonderful week in Aruba -- this really is one of our favorite places, and we visit at least once a year. So you can imagine how hard it is to leave sunny and temperatures in the 80s (Fahrenheit) and return to snow and the 30s (Fahrenheit)!

I've been getting together lots of food and special toiletries to bring back with us. I originally was going to ship a boxful to Rauma, but the cost to ship a medium-sized box with Jif peanut butter, Bisquick, ranch salad dressing, cookie mix, chocolate chips, marshmallows, and a few books was going to cost over $100! I couldn't believe it! So we're just going to tote back as much as we can in our checked bags and our carry-ons.

One thing I'm definitely bringing back is a bottle of Skinny Girl White Cranberry Cosmo. I took a bottle to Aruba, and it was delicious (and of course, you can't find that in Finland -- yet!). Reality TV star Bethenny Frankel created this yummy concoction. It's lighter than a traditional Cosmopolitan drink, fewer calories and not so sweet. Perfect over ice with a slice of lime.

I'm also bringing back plenty of Easter goodies for some of the American expats' kids in Rauma, as many American magazines as I can handle, and all that stuff that I was planning to ship.

If only we could just "beam" to Rauma like in the old TV series, "Star Trek," and avoid that horrendous overnight flight. 

Here's a link to the Aruba pictures:

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Spring in the U.S.

Memorial Gardens in Concord, NC

Hi, everyone! Well, the weather here in Concord, North Carolina, is certainly wonderful. It was sunny and 80 degrees F. today (about 27 degrees C. for those of you in Europe)! And it's getting even warmer tomorrow! I have been working in the yard, mainly pulling weeds and pruning my roses and other bushes. My crocuses have already bloomed, my yellow forsythia bush is budding, as are my dogwood and cherry trees.

The photo at right was taken at Memorial Gardens here in Concord. It is an old cemetery owned by First Presbyterian Church, and it is known for its beautiful flowers. I ran into a friend there, Linda, who works part-time tending the beautiful flowers. Just like Rauma, Concord is a small town where you almost always run into someone you know!

THIN chips and queso/bean dip
For all my friends back in Finland, I especially wanted to share with you photos of food from our favorite Mexican restaurant, since I know all of you are tired of hearing how much we miss Mexican food in Europe, especially the special cheese. A few of my friends and I went to El Vallarta last night, and it was soooo good!

I know many of you say we can buy "Mexican" items at the grocery store, but they are just not the same. The chips in Europe are thick -- the chips we prefer are the thin, crispy ones (see the photo). Most importantly, we can't get the Monterey Jack cheese that really make  the Tex-Mex food so good. Sure, this kind of food isn't the best health-wise, but it's very popular here.
Kim, Lynn, Sara and Pam at El Vallarta


Speaking of health, as I made the rounds of doctors while home, I found out that I have a severe Vitamin D deficiency. Imagine that! Could it be related to having to stay inside during the dark, dreary winter in Finland? Who knows? Some of my friends -- who spend plenty of time outdoors here in the U.S. -- also told me they have the same problem. Maybe it's related to global warming. All I know is I now have to take a prescription Vitamin D pill once a week.

My friend Lynn and I are going to the Southern Part of Heaven tomorrow, otherwise known as Chapel Hill, home of my alma mater, the University of North Carolina. Then we are heading to Wolfpack territory to vist our sons at North Carolina State University in Raleigh.

Another perk of coming home this time of year is that "March Madness" is going on. For those of you in Europe who may be unaware of this awesome event, it is the championship tournament for college basketball. Two of the favorites are my team, UNC, and my husband's team, the University of Kentucky. One of the favorite pasttimes here is participating in "pools," in which you have to pick the winners of all the games during the championship; valuable cash prizes are involved. It's always lots of fun.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Brussels and D.C.

The Grand Place, Brussels
Wow! It's been a busy few weeks! I am currently home in North Carolina after spending a few days in Brussels, then a few days in Washington, D.C. It's in the upper 60s F. here in Concord, which is a nice change from the freezing temps in Rauma!

The Atomium, built for the 1958 World's Fair
I enjoyed my visit to Brussels, which was a city I had wanted to visit for some time. The weather was chilly, but at least there was no ice! I took a bus tour around the city, visited the famous Atomium, saw the European Union, shopped a bit, sampled lots of chocolate, and tried some Belgian beer. I especially enjoyed my visits to the Magritte Museum and the Museum of Musical Instruments.

Last Wednesday, I flew to Washington, D.C., to visit my daughter. We had a great time, although it was colder and windier there than I would have liked. We toured the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, the Holocaust Museum, the White House, the Supreme Court and the U.S. Capitol. Had some wonderful meals and did a bit of shopping.

The U.S. Capitol
My parents picked me up in Charlotte, and we went to our favorite cafeteria, the K&W. I came home to lots of weeds in our yard, plus the surprise of two trees that had fallen in our back yard. Apparently, we had some vicious wind in this part of the country, too. The pear trees are blooming, which has brought out the seasonal allergies. Still, it's great to drive everywhere, eat decent Mexican food, go to my favorite grocery store, and especially Target. My friend Lynn and I took a nice walk around the neighborhood today, and I hope to visit with more friends soon.

Haven't gotten to see my son yet, as he is currently on a spring break Caribbean cruise.

To see all the pictures of Brussels and D.C., click here:

Hope everyone back in Finland is doing well!