Sunday, January 31, 2010

wild weekend

Just got back from a bus trip to Helsinki with the little ones to see Disney on Ice. We had a great time.P1030020 I know, Joel doesn’t look particularly thrilled, but he really did enjoy it – he just hates smiling for cameras . . . It was fun to sit behind them because I could watch them look at each other with glee when something funny happened on the ice.
We stayed at a fairly new hotel, which was great. It’s my new favourite hotel. Will definitely go back. It was attached to an indoor waterpark, so we spent 3 hours there this morning.
P1030022 This is how the munchkins handled the 6 hours on the bus each way. They travelled really well.
The only down side was that Sofia didn’t sleep so well – it was her first hotel stay since “gotcha day” (and we don’t really count that) . . . . And, she’s used to sleeping alone in her room . . . so it was hard for her to sleep in a strange place. She kept getting up to use the bathroom and wasn’t exactly quiet. Once when she was up she peeked through the curtains to look outside, but left the curtains slightly open, so the rest of the night we had a bright light shining in from the shopping mall next door . . . I never sleep well in hotels if it’s just one night . . .
The big boys stayed home and had plans to go see that movie about blue aliens on Saturday, but the plumbing in our house had other plans. On Friday night we had trouble flushing the upstairs toilets. On Saturday morning it was even worse. Apparently, by Saturday afternoon, *matter* started coming up through the drain under the bathroom shower. Gross. Anyways, Stefan fixed it before the plumber had time to arrive, so he saved us some bucks. They did manage to go see that movie today.
We’ve had the coldest December and January for a long time here, and now they (whoever “they” are) are saying February will also be cold. Yesterday morning was –22 C (-7.6 F), but this evening has warmed up to –5 C (23 F). However, it’s been snowing like crazy . . . .
These photos are from last Sunday:
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These are not photos of our main road, but the dirt road to my in-laws' cottage.

Friday, January 29, 2010

buying a car

The other day, my husband informed me that someone could actually make a tv show about the things that happen to me .. . ya know – a show about nothing (like that popular sitcom from the ‘90’s). A lot of really bizarre situations happen to me. This post is going to focus on my misadventures in trying to buy a car.
Maybe you remember that I’ve had lots of car trouble recently . . . I hit a deer, my car has died, not once, but twice, and the dash has lit up like the 4th of July on more than one occasion. Not to mention that our family is rapidly outgrowing our 7-seater Toyota Avensis. Not in number! I mean literally! Sam is just about as tall as Stefan now and it’s not too comfortable for him in the back, especially on long trips. Mattias is showing all signs of being a tall, long-legged boy, too. So we had started thinking about getting a new car. . .  We’ve searched the internet and decided what kind we’d like, and lately we’ve been checking all the ads, looking for one in our desired price range with all the options we want it to have.
Last Wednesday, while driving to town for Mattias’ violin lesson, all the dashboard lights came on again and I resolved that this was it . . . the time had come. So, the next day Stefan and I arranged for the grandparents to look after the kids while we went car shopping. After running a couple of errands (which included getting the Toyota inspected [something we had overlooked]), we decided to drive almost 300km north to look at one of the vehicles we had seen on the internet. Well, we didn’t really like it . . . it was missing some of the options we had on our list so we thought, “let’s go to the next one – it’s only 1½ hours from here.” As you can probably guess, we didn’t like that one either for the same reasons. We were now about 450km from home, but only 5km from IKEA, so I did what any self-respecting Scandinavian woman would do . . . went shopping. It was almost 11pm by the time we got home . . .
After that wasted trip (okay, maybe not totally wasted because of IKEA), we were beginning to think that maybe we would just contact a local dealership that specializes in importing cars from auctions in Europe and you can give them a list of the options you want and they can specifically look for that. But then on Saturday night, I found on the internet a new listing for a vehicle that seemed perfect for us. I told Stefan, “this is THE one.” I kept checking every day, and it was still there. So, yesterday (Thursday) – the only day in a week we can go anywhere – we drove 300km (south this time) to look at it. It looked awesome. It had everything we wanted, even some of the things on our “sweet” list (options that would make it even sweeter). The price was good. The kms were fairly low. We took it for a test drive and decided to make a deal. Now, car shopping here is a totally different experience than anything I ever experienced in Canada. First, when he asked us if we wanted to take it for a drive, he just handed us the keys and let us go. No tagging along. No copy of a drivers’ license. Heck, he didn’t even check if had drivers’ licenses. Then, when we were making the deal, we told him we had a trade-in and pointed it out in the parking lot. He looked it up on the internet, and based only on year, make/model, kms, transmission and fuel-type suggested  a value for it. (Here I must point out that our salesman was a very nice young man – almost boy . . . maybe 20 years old?) Stefan said he was hoping for more, so Martin went to get a second opinion from the other man working there – an older man in his 40’s who seemed to be the one in charge. Again, only with internet information, and confirming that it was a 7-seater, he offered us significantly more – the amount we were hoping for, in fact. Neither of them went outside to look at the car. Maybe because it was –20 Celsius (-4 F) and snowing?
Anyways, we went ahead to make the deal, but the dealership had to make some phone calls . . . they are a new dealership (just opened in October) and their management is based in Estonia (Stefan had already guessed this based on their accents) so they didn’t have their own financing arranged yet (soon, hopefully). In the meantime, the financing set-up at another dealership is helping them out. Because we still have financing on the Toyota, there has to be some financial transfers done, etc. Unfortunately, there was a problem yesterday and because of somebody being away, our financial paperwork couldn’t be done. So, we’ve been told that the bank financing our Toyota loan will call us to confirm the new arrangements,the dealership will remove the ad from the internet and when all the financials are worked out they will drive the car ½ way and meet us so we can do the trade. We didn’t sign any papers. We only shook hands. So, we don’t really know what’s going to happen now. We don’t know if it was something else that happened, or what. And we’re not holding our breath. I really like the vehicle . . .  but who knows . . . maybe I’m not done car shopping . . .
On the way home, I nodded off in the car (gosh, I’m old to be nodding off at 3 in the afternoon . . .) and Stefan told me that when I was sleeping, we passed a couple that had pulled their car off to the side of the road . . . the man was standing by the side of the car and the woman was sitting on a snowpile in front of it, crying. I can’t figure out why she was outside crying . . .  it was –20 for pete’s sake!

Friday, January 15, 2010

two down, one to go . . .

Hmmm . . . why does it feel like I always start my posts with, “it’s been busy ‘round here . . .”? Well, it has. Right now, we’re sitting in the middle of Birthday central, and I’m taking a few minutes off my feet to update this blog . . . Since I like pictures, and pictures with captions is the easiest route for me, that’s how this post is gonna roll . . . :
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07.01.2010 – as some of you have already noticed, we’re growing out Sofia’s bangs. We were trying to get a shot of the cute little “knot” that is our go-to way of keeping the bangs out of her eyes. In the background you see a patio lounge laying on its side. We have been using it as a fence to keep Max in the kitchen. He has been able to jump over it for about 2 months now, but obeys when we send him back over, and it gives him a place to escape from Pepsi when she goes all “small-dog-syndrome” on him. Two days ago, we were finally able to get rid of the fence and our house is now barrier-free – thank goodness, for Sofia . . . her legs were just a little bit too short for her to clear it, so it hasn’t been so easy for her to get in and out of the kitchen.
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Can you believe that this little dog (Pepsi) can put Max in his place? (Max can rest his head on the kitchen table . . .)
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This is what a night guard looks like after the dog has been “playing with it”.
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We had some seriously cold weather for awhile, but the kids have enjoyed being outside sledding, regardless. On this particular evening, it was about –25C.
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08.01.2010 – Sofia and Joel played Twister while I chatted online with Cheri.
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10.01.2010 – Stefan, Sam and Mattias went to the in-laws’ summer house to plow the road. Beautiful, but cold (check out the the side of the cottage . . .)
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The view from the cottage . . . looking towards Sweden.
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11.01.2010 - “red sky at night, sailor’s delight”
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The temperature had finally warmed up, to about –5C, so I ventured out for the first time in awhile (I don’t really like the cold).
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14.01.2010 – Mattias celebrated his 12th birthday. The morning had started a little chaotically (more so than usual). Sam left for school as the others got up. We brought Mattias breakfast in bed. Joel and Sofia gave him their gifts. After everybody finished eating, things got real busy . . . I remembered that I had to send a new party invitation to the sisters in Joel’s class for the next day (they had been absent when he handed them out, and he thinks they got lost, and the sisters are from Estonia and don’t speak Swedish, so we needed to make sure they understood what was happening), but I couldn’t remember what time the party was supposed to end, so I sent a message to a friend’s mom. While waiting for a reply, I started Sofia’s hair. Then the phone rang – Uncle Steve calling to wish Mattias a HB, but Mattias hadn’t opened his gift or card yet, so Stefan had to find it by me shouting directions from the bathroom. Then Stefan’s cellphone rang – Sam calling . . . his moped ran out of gas on the way to school – in the exact same spot he drove into the ditch a couple weeks earlier. My phone was beeping with an answer to my earlier message. Then I remembered that Joel and Sofia needed to take art shirts to school so we raced around and tried to find something that would work. Despite everything, everybody made it to school on time. All Mattias’ classmates, and the students in grade 3/4 as well, came home with him on the bus to have a party for a few hours after school. I was so proud of him while he was opening the presents . . . he acknowledged each person and made a nice comment about each gift he opened before thanking the giver. It was a pretty low-key party. They watched some Star Wars, played Wii, played with the dog and ate and ate and ate . . .
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15.01.2010 – Joel had a Kung Fu Panda birthday party with his classmates. We started with some warming up to Kung Fu Fighting music. While the kids watched a bit of the movie, I took pictures of them individually dressed up, in a Kung Fu pose. Then I glued them onto a paper and laminated them so they could be taken home:
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The cake was supposed to be the “Dragon Scroll”. . . .
There was also a treasure hunt . . . they had to correctly answer trivia questions about the movie to get the next picture clue to where the next question was. In the end they were led to the treasure (in the sauna) which was the goodie bags. After playing with the junk toys in the their bags, I herded them outside to sled while we waited for parents to come pick them up. Joel was thrilled with his party and had a really good time.
Tomorrow is Joel’s actual birthday, and it’s gymnastics, gymnastics, ballet, then the family party for both boys. I’ve already made the cake . . . the rest of the eats will be purchased tomorrow . . . I’m too tired to actually make anything else.
Well, time to start the bedtime routine . . .

Monday, January 4, 2010

reading

Just thought you’d enjoy this:
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This is Sofia (beside her dad) reading the newspaper.P1020924 
 She does this ev.ery.day. She loves reading. I mean LOVES it. How many 7 year olds do you know that go for the paper as soon as it gets to the house? It’s really funny because it’s so unexpected . . . the boys read the comic strips and then they’re done . . . they’re not quite so obsessed as she is . . . The down side is that she usually reads out loud. Because it can be distracting if something else is going on, she’s often reminded to read quietly (but it’s never silent . . . you can still hear the “r”’s rolling . . . .


The Holms

Denmark Road Trip

The outskirts of St. Pete

St. Petersburg

Saint Petersburg: Sankt-Peterburg, Russian pronunciation: is a city and a federal subject of Russia located on the Neva River at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea. The city's other names were Petrograd (1914–1924) and Leningrad (1924–1991). Founded by Tsar Peter I of Russia on 27 May, 1703, it was the capital of the Russian Empire for more than two hundred years (1713–1728, 1732–1918). Saint Petersburg is home to more than two hundred museums, many of them hosted in historic buildings. The largest of the museums is the Hermitage Museum, featuring interiors of the former imperial residence and a vast collection of art. Celebrating the 300th anniversary of its foundation, Saint Petersburg was selected as the main motif in a recent Finnish commemorative coin, the €10 Mannerheim and Saint Petersburg commemorative coin, minted in 2003. The reverse of the coin features a view of Saint Petersburg, with the Peter and Paul Fortress and its three turrets. In the coin the words "St. Petersburg 1703-2003" can be seen.