September 30, 2014

Honeymoon Outings.

It is finally time I share a little about our wonderful honeymoon in Aruba.   In this post I will be focusing on the 'excursions' that we went on during our stay there.  Back in April when I booked our honeymoon I wrote about a few things that I wanted to do while we were there.  Here is a link to that blog post.  

We ended up doing all of the excursions that I wanted to, plus a little more!

One of the first things we did was go on a Jeep Tour of the island.  The tour took us around the whole island for four hours showing us the main sights and eventually lead us to Aruba's Natural Pool.  We went swimming in the pool and saw some fish with our snorkel.  On our tour we had some fairly unintelligent people with us that led two of the fourteen people leaving bleeding.  One man (at least 55, so old enough to know better) dove head first into the pool.  He hit rocks at the bottom and cracked the class on his goggles and then cut his head, he was shocked that it was so shallow... Then next unintelligent man was about thirty five (on his honeymoon) who went running across the slippery rocks to jump into the pool while everyone else was crab walking on all fours into the pool as the guide suggested.  He slipped and fell and nearly cut off the whole tip of his thumb.  Our guide said it was the first time in his twenty years that anyone had ever gotten hurt on one of his tours.  They rinsed their wounds with some alcohol and we rallied on.  We got to see a couple of natural stone bridges and a historic gold mine and California Lighthouse on the tour as well.  It was a dusty dirty, bumpy, tippy, fun ride.  We were very ready to jump into the ocean and relax in the sun after we got back.  




After the jeep tour we were ready for a Catamaran and Snorkel tour of Aruba.  When I booked this tour I knew that there was NO way I would be jumping into the Caribbean Sea in hopes to be surrounded by fish.  All of that changed after a few days of swimming in Aruba's crystal clear turquoise water.  We had so much fun boating on the tour, but also snorkeling!  We went to two snorkel sights.  The first one was about 40 meters off of a little peninsula's coast. The biggest fist we saw were about three feet long.  We were surrounded by HUNDREDS of fish. Normally I would have been terrified, but the fish were beautiful. Anytime I was scared I just would grab my husband's hand and/or jump on him underwater with a panicked look on my face making him think I saw a shark.   The next snorkel spot was slightly more spine-chilling to me, the sight of a 1940 ship wreck.  The water was much deeper, colder, and darker and the fish were bigger and there was a huge SHIP under us that probably was full of terrifying creatures.  I only lasted a few minutes in the water at this stop.  That was huge for me, I haven't gone snorkeling since 2008.  In 2008 I was snorkeling with my family off of the coast of Cozumel in Mexico with my family when I was surrounded by Barracudas. Apparently its normal and safe, but it scared me so badly that I have been scared of the ocean/sea ever since!   It was more fun on the Catamaran anyways, they served tropical drinks and even let me play captain for a few minutes.  




I also convinced Sam to go on a horse tour of the island.  Our group was small, only four people and our Dutch guide.  The horses were not as well trained as they are back in the US, so we had some interesting experiences.  Apparently three of the four horses we had were used to being lead horses, and the guide's horse was in training.  So the horses all wanted to be running and passing each other tiny little trails on rocks, Sam really didn't like this.  We got to a spot on the island where we could gallop if we wanted to.  I was the only one who wanted to.  The guide was tying up the others horses when mine dropped to the ground (with me on him) and started rolling over back and forth and kicking its legs.  I jumped off.  The guide told me that the horses like the soft sand and liked to roll around in it.  So I got back on my horse and we took off galloping down the beach, it was amazing.  Sam's horse was in love with mine so when I took off his started rearing!  After I got back, the rest of the group got back onto their horses and we went back to the ranch.  Sam told me that he probably wouldn't be doing that with me ever again.  He said it wasn't terribly, but it wasn't great.  He said the best part was seeing me so happy, awww.  





We had a wonderful honeymoon and hope to go back to Aruba someday!

xoxo Mrs. Lofquist

September 18, 2014

SM- Liiga Magazine


Last week I mentioned how Sam was interviewed and photographed for the magazine for his hockey league, the SM-Liiga.  Once a year the magazine does a season preview. They have a few pages on each team in the league and pick one or two players from each team to focus on for each team's section of the magazine.  I do not know if I have mentioned before but Sam has a REALLY fast shot and they chose him and focused on his shot for most of his interview, that is also why he is posing next to a cannon in the pictures.  

I finally took the time to translate the article the very best I could, Finnish does not translate online very well to English and often you have to guess about what point they are trying to get across.  Any of my comments have a ( - Cacilie), they are to hopefully help to understand what they are talking about.  

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He is a man cannon. 

Few players in the world have a shot as hard as SaiPan bomber Sam Lofquist. (His team is SaiPa - Cacilie)

Last spring SaiPa did well and had a great year financially with 760,000 Euro profit after last season, which is fantastic. 

Sam Lofquist was nicknamed a name that represents Swedish society, by his Oskarsham Coach, Fredrik Soderstrom.  This nickname is Caviar Sam.  (Nicknamed after a tube of caviar that is very popular is Sweden - Kalles Kaviar - which features a picture of a blond boy who many thought looked like a younger version of Sam - Cacilie)

The image on this Swedish delicacies resemblance to the United States Sam's face is evident. 

One might ask, did he get the nickname because he is like Caviar? 

"No, No.  I play with energy, passion, and if necessary I play rough/hard." - 24 year old Lofquist stresses

"That nickname is undoubtably apt because I have been told many times that I have a resemblance to the character on the tube." - Sam Lofquist

"I never learned to enjoy Kalles Caviar.  I think it is hard to enjoy for people who have not had it growing up to acquire a taste for it." - Sam Lofquist

 (They actually have hilarious commercials for Kalles Caviar going to other countries and serving it to locals and they always hate it. Here is a link to one that took place in Tokyo - Cacilie)

Lofquist has a special skill set.  He shoots at a speed many can not even reach in their car he can blast on the ice.  

The American shot a record last winter in Sweden.  They officially measured/tested Sam Lofquist's shot and timed it at 170km/hr.  The only one faster is Zdeno Chara who made a record shot of 175km/hr in 2012, in the NHL all starts competition.   Aleksandr Ryanzantsev according to Russian radar shot 183km/hr.  

"I am able to shoot directly and supply even more power when the puck is not stationary.  When the puck is moving towards me and I'm moving towards it, the shot gets even harder."  - Sam Lofquist

Would be interesting to know how hard the shot of Lofquist is in a match! 

The American has skills, they appear to be some kind of gift.  However it is not as if he was dropped down with this shot by a stork. 

"I have developed the skills/gift through endless training.  Growing up I would often shoot a thousand times a day. No exaggeration.  Now the shot is a big part of my game.  Using my strength in my shot is really fun." - Sam Lofquist

Lofquist says he inherited and learned his work ethics from his father.  His father played in the NFL for the Minnesota Vikings.  He played a very tough position. 

"I asked my father at age three if I may start playing hockey.  My father denied me, because the game of hockey was not the sport he wanted to see.  Fortunately I also asked my mother, she game me permission immediately. " - Sam Lofquist

Lofquist moves and plays offensively as a defenceman and helps to score.  It depends on how many of the shots will go straight into the goal and the number of other places it will hit. 

First there needs to be a situation which a shot can be made.  If the puck gets to the goal and it does not go in initially, hopefully the goalkeeper will be in a challenging position from his shot and make it possible for someone else to get the puck into the net.  

When the shot is fast and accurate, it is always dangerous.  However a hard shot is not terribly useful if it stops along the way.  Whether that be by other players on either team, or going past the goal.  

Lofquist represented the US in the World Cup for the U18 team.  He played three seasons in the Swedish Allsvenskan before he moved to SaiPa.  During the 12/13 season he had the most goals of any defenceman in the league with 13 goals.  He played one game in the AHL in 2010, and hopes to play in the NHL someday.  

His skating and his offense from the defense are his strengths.  The ice was much bigger in Sweden with more space.  He will have to adapt to the smaller ice here in Finland.  

Lofquist strongly believes that he will be able to help SaiPa using his strengths.  

"I heard the team is fast, action-packed and puck moving.  I suppose that I am in the right place at the right time in my career at this stage." - Sam Lofquist

Only time will tell whether SaiPa is a good fit for Caviar Sam.   

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This is the video that Sam's team mad last year of his shot being timed.  

Once again: this is a very rough translation and I did my best, but it could still be quite off from what Sam really said/the interviewer wrote.  This translation is just for fun for friends and family who are curious! 

xoxo Cacilie



  



  

September 12, 2014

Helsinki

Last friday we found out that Sam had not only Sunday off, but also Monday! If we have learned anything in our three (going on 4) seasons abroad it is that you should always take full advantage of two days off in a row and treat them like a vacation.  






So, I planned a little trip for us to Finland's capita, Helsinki.   We decided to drive, and it only took us two and a half hours to get from our apartment in Lappeenranta to our hotel in Helsinki.  Almost everyone here in Finland says, take the train to Helsinki its so great and fast (2 hours) and only 100 euro round trip per person...  so thats $258 for two people. Kind of sounds like a terrible price to me, considering how short of a distance it is.  I also do not believe you save much, if any time (with checking in, getting to your seat, getting to and from the train station etc.) taking the train vs. driving.  We were able to leave when we wanted, stop when/where we wanted, bring Raylan, go to our exact destination, and we were able to do a driving tour of Helsinki!  

We arrived in Helsinki around noon, checked into our hotel and went to Starbucks.  The end, what an amazing city, great time! Pumpkin Spice Lattes all around! 





Actually we did more than that.  We walked with Raylan down to the Market Square and grabbed some market fresh snacks before heading out on a ferry to Suomenlinna (Click links for more information).  The ferry ride only lasted about twenty minutes and was full of beautiful views of Helsinki!  The sky was clear and sunny, and it was about seventy degrees.   The ferry we took only made its round every hour so we walked around the sea fortress for two hours before heading back to Helsinki.  












Just checking out the rifling on the inside of this cannon.  (Dad, see I do listen when you are super excited and talking about boring things)


Once back in Helsinki we went back to the hotel, and dropped off our tired puppy.  Sam and I went out in search of a good restaurant for dinner.   We took our time choosing and finally picked a nice Italian restaurant very close to our hotel.   After dinner we went to get some chocolate for desert and on the way saw a magazine for the Liiga (Sam's hockey league) and bought it because it has a special on him and his slapshot (I think, I have yet to translate).  They took the photos for the magazine earlier in August by the old cannons on The Fortress of Lappeenranta.  I'll post more on that next week.  

 Then the tough part of the night came around, finding our Raylan some grass to go potty.  We ended up finding a little tiny patch of grass and walking her up and dow and up and down until it was time to go back.   



The next morning we had breakfast at our hotel.  It was a beautiful breakfast (European hotel breakfasts make most American ones look like such jokes) and the best part of it was that it had a whole gluten free section!  I was happy and very full of unnecessary carbs.  

We tried out Fatzer cafe.  Fatzer is one of (if not) Finland's largest brand of chocolate.  They have three factories, one of them is in Lappeenranta.   We along with Raylan tried some chocolate, coffee and a Budapest.  It is a beautiful pastry, that I didn't realize was banana flavored when I bought it for Sam.  He had one disgusting bite, and then the rest was for me! Many of you may not know but I can almost guarantee you Sam would rather eat any other food (i.e.: a bowl of dog) than have a bite of anything banana.  






We spent the morning shopping a bit around the city and then left to go back to Lappeenranta around two because I had a class that started at five Monday evening.  

We will definitely be going back to Helsinki later on in the season! 

September 4, 2014

The Fortress of Lappeenranta

Having a dog means that every day you get to go on at least one walk. The walks here are all surrounded by water and old city charm, pretty typical stuff (old buildings, cobbelstones).  I was not expecting to find a Fortress dating back to 1649 literally a two minute walk from our apartment!  After our walk I was dying to get home and learn a little bit about the place, turns out it has quite the history.  




The Fortress of Lappeenranta:

The Fortress of Lappeenranta is a unique place in South-Eastern Finland. Inhabited and full of life even today, it once formed part of a defence system that also included the fortress of Suomenlinna in Helsinki and the fortress of Hamina. 

Although different in size, all three of these fortresses are of a similar nature and share the same passion for development. While seeking to protect and preserve these areas through careful land use planning, they also aim to increase services and levels of activity around the year. 

The Fortress of Lappeenranta was born and built squeezed between east and west. At first, the town of Lappeenranta developed in the shelter and safe vicinity of the Fortress, gradually expanding to the surrounding countryside known as the former parish of Lappee. The Fortress became the 'Old Town', which has nevertheless remained inhabited and full of life.


For centuries, Sweden-Finland and Russia fought against each other. The Fortress of Lappeenranta was constructed as a border fortress, forming part of the chain of fortresses between Finland and North-Western Russia. Over the centuries, the Fortress was alternately held by the Swedes and Russians. 


After the treaty of Nystad in 1721, Lappeenranta became the easternmost town of Sweden, and the fortification works were initiated. Following the Treaty of Åbo in 1743, the town remained on the Russian side of the border and Russians continued the fortification works. The present Fortress structures, renovated by Finland's National Board of Antiquities, are mainly based on the fortifications built at the end of the 18th century. 

This information was taken from this website and more information can be found there.  I also found another more interactive website that had some more detailed information about the Fortress.  If you are curious about the bigger picture, wiki has a great page all about the South-Eastern Finland Fortification system, the link is right here.

We had a lot of fun walking up the Fortress walls and watching as Raylan barreled full speed ahead and fell down small cliffs.  

Raylan didn't see that one coming! 

A view of the harbor from the Fortress wall. 










Now I am off for a run with Raylan!  Any guesses as to the route we will be choosing?? Hint, its old....er than the rest of the town.  

xoxo Cacilie