Monthly Archives: May 2013

Lily of the Valley – Finland’s National Flower

One of the most beautiful parts of Finland is when Spring finally arrives. Finland truly comes alive with so much lush green beauty and then dabs of color with all the beautiful flowers. One such flower is Lily of the Valley. Most people might be familiar with its sweet fragrance. It is a wonderful smell to come upon as you walk through the Finnish forest and there is a light breeze. I will have a different picture in my mind the next time a soak in a tub with Lily of the Valley bubble bath.

Lily of the Valley grows in the cool temperate Northern Hemisphere like Asia, Europe and the Southern Appalachian Mountains in the USA. The flowers look like little tiny white bells. They are very popular with weddings and can be quite expensive. The thing I did not realize was how toxic Lily of the Valley is. The entire plant and the red berries are very poisonous. Lily of the Valley has about 38 different cardiac glycosides. (Drugs used with treatment for congestive heart failure and cardiac arrhythmia)

We happened across the plant when riding our bikes on a trail. We saw an older couple and the Finnish woman was picking something. We kept going and stopped to take a break and the couple caught up and I noticed she had a small bouquet of white flowers in her hand. I was guessing on what I could see that they were Lily of the Valley. My grandmother (Granny) would be so proud of me knowing my flowers. The next day I confirmed what the couple was picking because I noticed the same plant across the street from our house in the small forest. I was so excited! I started picking the flowers so that I could try and have that sweet fragrance fill our home. It was all of this that caused me to do a quick research – thank you Wikipedia for all your information- on Lily of the Valley. The girls were not pleased to hear how toxic the flowers are. I think they were a little upset that I let them pick them.

The other really cool thing we learned was that Lily of the Valley is Finland’s National Flower. Fun to see in the wild in our “front yard” and to be able to pick them and have them in our home.

Below are some pictures of us finding Lily of Valley in our forest.

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Cinco de Mayo or Viides toukokuuta Celebration in Finland

Many Finns have asked us, “What is Cinco de Mayo?”

I ask my American friends What is Cinco de Mayo?

Most would guess it might be Mexican Independence Day or some might say it is an excuse to drink Mexican beverages and eat lots of Mexican food. Both of these are incorrect. Their Independence Day is actually on September 16. Actually, Cinco de Mayo is only a national holiday in one area in Mexico called Puebla. Cinco de Mayo was American created back in the 1860s in the American West. It has to do with a battle that took place in Puebla, Mexico where their army unexpectedly had a victory over the French. Latinos in California celebrated this day and up until the 1950s or 60s. It spread to the rest of the US. In the 80s the beer marketers got involved and made it what it is today. Basically a drinking excuse, but I like to think of it as away to celebrate our neighbors to the south and their culture and heritage.

Christian and I were drawn to a marketing poster here in Espoo from what we thought was a Finnish beer company, OLVI. A brightly colored beer can so we thought . I had cooked up some quesadillas and tacos and I picked up some fresh limes to go with our Mexican beer and then to my surprise it poured out red. We quickly learned that our beer was some sort of exotic fruit drink. We now mix three cultures and learn that Lonkero means long drink in Finnish. A long drink or tall drink is a mixed drink. They typically tend to be a gin drink in a can. This lonkero beverage originated in Finland and is one of my favorite new beverages here and now we have adopted to our American-Finnish Cinco de Mayo Celebration!
So Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

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Breakfast OUT

One thing this American Family misses most is a good American Breakfast! Of course this not healthy, but here it is truly just once in a long while. It took us 17 months to find. Part of the problem is the €€€ to eat out in Finland. This has been brought to our attention even more after spending 9 days in Central and Eastern Europe (France, Germany and Turkey).

I don’t think American breakfast sausage exists and I’m sure scrapple has never been heard of as probably most Americans for that point, but we Mid-Atlantic peeps know what’s good!
Some of you might not think of bundling up and hopping on your bike to head to local petroleum station for breakfast or for that matter lunch and or dinner. Although I recall heading to the Iron Skillet (Truck Stop) for many lunches when working for W.L. Gore in Newark, Delaware. On Sunday, we decided to hit the bikes in the rain and head to the ABC Deli for breakfast.

We got two pancakes, loads of bacon, one over easy egg, a panini, orange juice and a coffee for €7.99 ($10.48). Good news we did not eat it all. we took lots of bacon and the paninis home. This meal was almost a Blue Ribbon Special like at Tom Jones Family Restaurant in Brookhaven, PA. This was a favorite for me and my old college friends especially after the party nights. The special there included 2 sausage, 2 bacon, 2 pancakes, 2 eggs (any style), 2 pieces of toast (white, wheat or rye), orange juice or soda and coffee or tea. All back in my day for $2.49(€1,90)and now it is $3.89(€2,97). Available all day and Tom Jones was open 24 hours!!

We enjoyed ourselves! We even told the cashier this was our first breakfast out. She told us she has never had breakfast out. We felt a little at home yesterday. We are very spoiled in the US with the availability to eat out inexpensively. Now that I did the currency conversion I’m not sure what a great deal it was, but it made us happy and a little less homesick.

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