November 27, 2014

Was today Thanksgiving?

Yes, I am well aware that today is Thanksgiving.  How could I not be with all of the Facebook, Instagram, Snap Chat, Twitter, and text reminders.  It seems everyone I know is getting together with friends and family wherever they are to celebrate life and to give thanks.  Thanksgiving is a holiday that always seems to bring people together.

Initially I was planning on making my Thanksgiving day blog post about how Thanksgiving came to be, and what we are celebrating.  I will VERY quickly summarize what I was planning on creating a whole post about: President Lincon proclaimed a national day of "Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens".  That is just a very short summary of a much longer answer that I found on Wikipedia, (Much more information can be found on THIS LINK).  There you have it, that is why we celebrate Thanksgiving. 

Thanksgiving this year was absolutely ordinary for me.  By ordinary I mean, an absolute ordinary day, a ordinary 'the boys are on a road-trip' day.  Yes, I spend the majority of the day alone (with Raylan) and I am ok with it.  We are planning on celebrating with some other teammates this weekend, when it fits into our hockey life schedule.  The boys have been gone since monday morning and won't get back until the wee hours of tomorrow morning.  In 'this hockey life' you get used to being alone, you get used to rearranging the dates of 'holidays', you get used to missing everything going on at home, and everyone that is far away.  All of that might get to some people, and yeah sometimes it get the best of me, but today I am thankful. I am so thankful for 'this hockey life' and everything that comes along with it.  Instead of listing specific things, I created a thankful circle of some things that mean a lot to me. 

Today I stumbled upon an article written by a nurse in a hospital here in Lappeenranta.  The article talks about how so many patients are fans of SaiPa hockey and they watch from the hospital rooms when they are unable to make it to the games.  She also talks about the great joy going to the hockey games brings to so many people.  She emphasizes how much the SaiPa hockey team means to so many people here and how it is such a big part of their lives.  In the article she says that even when SaiPa is playing an away game, they are not alone because so many are watching from their TV's and cheering from home.  This article meant a lot to me, because without the fans, there would be no SaiPa, the fans are what make it all possible.  I am so grateful for the SaiPa hockey fans and the love that they show towards the boys whether they win or loose, home or away.  It is so nice to know that it is more than just 'hockey' and that it makes people so happy and gives them something to look forward to and be excited about.  

Thanksgiving isn't always about big things, but instead all of the little things that we might not think about every day.  Year after year, on Thanksgiving I find myself beyond grateful for my health, and love.  It really doesn't matter if I am here in Lappeenrata by myself, or back home with all my family and friends, I am so thankful for all of the wonderful parts of my life this Thanksgiving. 

Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving. 
- W. T. Purkiser

November 25, 2014

Bandy Rink

The other day we noticed that the outdoor bandy rink by Sam's arena was all ready for the winter!  My first thought was that we had to go skating ASAP!  In Oskarshamn, Sweden we used to go skating on the outdoor bandy rink a couple of times a season and it was always so fun!  The ice for a bandy rink is HUGE, and it is perfectly smooth and well 'groomed'?  I clearly do not know the correct terminology for hockey rinks.  

Bandy is a very popular sport over here in Scandinavia.  The ice is much bigger than a hockey rink, so it can really only be played outside (unless there is a huge indoor arena).  The ice is supposed to be the size of a soccer field/football pitch.  They also sometimes play a variation of the game on a hockey rink sized ice, but then it is called rink bandy.  The players wear hockey skates, and limited padding.  They have sticks, but they are much shorter than hockey sticks and have little plastic bottoms.  The point of the games is to put a ball (not a puck) into the opposing teams goal to score.  There are eleven players on the ice at a time, and the game is broken into two 45 minute halves.  It is a little bit like hockey, football, floorball, and field hockey.  The players may not intentionally touch the ball with their heads, hands, or arms.  

In 2006 the women's World Champioship for bandy was held in Minnesota! It is currently in the process of being include in the Olympic games, but is currently not one of the 'official sports'.  

Here is a link to a video of a World Championship game between Sweden and Russia. 

We went skating with some friends at the next possible opportunity!  Bandy rinks make very good hockey rinks! After we took these pictures the zamboni resurfaced the ice, and it was so smooth!  I didn't realize how much faster I would be a able to go on freshly resurfaced ice! 

Playing keep-away, you can probably guess how long that lasted.. 
Hope everyone is enjoying all of the snow and finding fun things to do outdoors, even when hot chocolate by the fireplace sounds like the only way to stay warm.  

November 23, 2014

Autumn is LONG gone


Looking back on some of the slightly warmer times in Lappeenranta before the Snow took over in a big way I was noticing how incredibly beautiful it was here! It still is pretty, but all of the colors are now the same.  It always seems as though the leaves turn colors in one day and then they all fall off just as quickly.  

Strange thing, Autumn.  The food is most certainly the best part of the season!  Squash, Soup, Caramel Apples, everything baked, pie, pumpkin (PSLs), they should just have a seasoning called 'Autumn'.  Scented candles laced with dangerous toxins are everywhere this time of year, I love them! I do however already miss summer, so so so VERY much. 

“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says "Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.” 

- Lewis Carroll


November 21, 2014

Mockingjay - Part 1 - Finnish Style

A couple of days ago I randomly asked Sam to check on what was playing at our local movie theatre here in Lappeenrnata.  Every other time we have checked since we arrived in Lappeenrata the movie selection has been either Finnish, or something neither of us wanted to see.  I expected this to happen again.  However, when Sam checked he informed me that the new Hunger Games movie was playing in the little town Imatra (just twenty miles away).  What an exciting surprise! I just thought, wow I am so out of touch with the 'movie world' back home that I didn't even know it was released.  Usually we have to wait a couple of weeks before we get to see any of the new movies, if they even come to the smaller town theaters.  Last year I was able to catch the premier of 'Meet the Millers' in Minnesota, and then three weeks later catch the premier again in Stockholm, they had a little bit different name of the movie you can read about it in an older post. 

Going to the movies is a different experience here than back home, and if you do not follow the proper protocol you might not get a seat next to your sweetie or you might not even get a seat at all.  This is because you book your tickets ahead of time and pick your seats.  It is often something done days in advance.  In Oskarshamn the theatre was so small and we would have to go to the theatre early in the day and pre-purchase our tickets and pick our seats off of a little chart and they would pencil in an X in all the seats that were pre-chosen.  Last year in Stockholm all of the theaters had the same system but it was online, there you could even pay more for a seat with a little more foot-space and a great view.  I personally thought paying $25-35 per ticket (depending on the movie) was already too much so I just always reserved seats in standard seating.  Thankfully in Oskarshamn and Lappeenrata the tickets are only about $13-15. 

Anyways, we tried pre-booking our tickets for the Mockingjay and there was no way to do it online, so Sam called the theatre and they reserved two tickets over the phone.  She said we better get there early tonight to get seats.  Once we arrived (30 minutes before the show) the whole (tiny) place was crowded. People were lined up outside of the theater doors with their popcorn and candy in hand.  The theatre was so old and had clearly not seen a renovation - EVER, that it added to our amusement of the sardine feeling we felt as soon as we walked inside.  At the register we were informed it was cash only and we also bought a nice big cold popcorn.  I have asked many people here if they ever get warm popcorn and they can never give me a straight answer.  They say it might be hot if it is fresh out of the machine (no really?) but for some reason they always have it pre-scooped and just sitting out for who knows how long.  Whether it be at a sporting game or a movie I am about twenty for twenty on my popcorn being absolutely cold (well room temperature) when I get it.  We still get the popcorn every time and are just used to it by now.  

Now it was time for us to get in line/join the clumpy formation of people waiting to get into the theater.  Once it was time, the doors opened and a man was collecting our 'tickets' at the door to the theatre.  He was dropping them left and right and I couldn't help but laugh.  Right before it was our tun to go in he was scurrying around the floor trying to pick them all up.  We went in an were surprised of the size of the theatre and got two great center seats right in front of Ms.Giggles 1 & 2.  

Every movie we have been to in Sweden (tiny theatre or HUGE) has had a theatre worker come in and in Swedish say something along the lines of, "We hope you enjoy the show, please no phones or talking."  As soon as they say that they usually open the curtains (yes, drapes covering the screen) and the show starts.  It is very dramatic and I laugh every time.  They didn't do this at the Mockingjay here in Finland.  

The movie was so well done.  Which is what I expected of it.  The story line is not as interesting to me as it used to be in the previous two movies/books, just because the first and second books were so much better than the third.  I guess they were both building up to a revolution, so it is just what has to come next.  Thankfully there were no children succesfully killing each other in this movie.  I won't say any more on that, but we did really enjoy the movie and almost our WHOLE tub of popcorn.  

After the movie I learned two things.
1.  That The Mockingjay - Part 1 had not come out in the states yet! I was so shocked.  
2.  That I am pretty sure they re-use the cardboard popcorn tubs... as soon as the lights went on and people started shuffling out they were all dumping the remains of their popcorn tubs into a trash and stacking the tubs neatly, and according to size. Ewwwe.  Guess I will not be getting a cold popcorn next time.


November 18, 2014

Ship Show.

Helsinki's market is something we can never seem to get enough of!  This was already the fifth time I have gone there since August, it is that good!  They have so many variations of reindeer, salmon, fruit, and souvenirs that it is always a new experience.  

This time, there was a ship show!  There were probably about 20 huge, beautifully preserved ships docked next to the market.  The ships were open to the public to go aboard and look around.  I couldn't stop thinking about why anyone would want a ship that big & pretty? What use could they have for it?  

This HUGE ship (I do not think it was part of the show) came all the way from Brazil.
After looking at the ships and enjoying the market, we took a long walk around the city.
Icebreakers we saw on our evening walk! 
Helsinki is beautiful in the evening! 

November 13, 2014

Fishing in Finland

When Karl was here we went out fishing on Lake Saimaa on a friend of a friend of Sam's from Saipa.  The drive took us about 45 minutes each way and included having our car transported across the water to an island by a boat.  It was an absolutely beautiful drive!  Once there we got to see a stunning Finnish cabin and got to enjoy Lake Saimaa from the water on their boat!  

We were out for a couple of hours with the fishing lines all in the water the whole time and caught nothing.  The experience was one of a kind and very fun!  I believe we were fishing for Salmon. 

  xoxo Cacilie

November 10, 2014

Kroll Cabin

Before our very first hockey season in Sweden, four seasons ago in 2011 my family bought a cabin in northern Minnesota.  Sam and I do not go up there nearly as often as the rest of my family, but every time we do we fall a little more in love with the place. 

Here are some of my favorite things about our 'Kroll Cabin' 

1. Uninterrupted family time in close quarters with limited (only phones) internet access.
2. The freedom and joy Raylan has 24 hours a day there going in & out of the water every few minutes.
3. How cute my mother has decorated the cabin like a 'cabin' not like a house so there is no confusion as to where you are -- and that you should be relaxing and letting lives worries stay far away.
4. I love that people are constantly going out boating and there are constant invites to go out on the lake.  (Sailing, Fishing, Swimming, Pontooning, paddle-boating, leisurely boat rides with excess 'hydration')
5. Freshly caught fish for dinner.
6. Our cabin neighbors are the nicest people, some of the kindest most caring people I know.  Once when I was there they gave us a GALLON of fresh raspberries!
7. There is a guest/bunk house that is separate from the cabin and you can always go there if you need some space.
8. There has never been a unspectaclular sunset there, they are all absolutely incredible.
9. My parents are happy.. giddy every minute there.
10. The breeze off the lake.
11. The instant warmth of a wood burring fire, indoors and outdoors!

There are many more wonderful things about our cabin.  Sometimes I really miss it! 

Here is a little compilation of some of our great memories we have made at the Cabin.  Boton really loved the cabin, I think it was his favorite place.  He got to spend the last couple days of his life up there. 

xoxo Cacilie (Kroll) Lofquist 

November 8, 2014

Oulanka National Park

When Karl, Raylan and I went up to Lapland last month (click here for blog post about the whole trip), we went hiking.  We went hiking in Oulanka National Park which is so close to the Russian border, that is actually borders with Paanajärvi National Park in Russia.  We spent the night in a nearby ski town and headed out relatively early in the morning to start our hike.  

Oulanka National Park is in the middle of nowhere it seems, gravel roads for about thirty minutes with the occasional sighting of a car or reindeer.  Then we got to the park and the had a rather large and nice visitor center (quite unexpectedly due to the remoteness).  We were informed that the longest hike in that area was only 6km, but if you drive all the way back out of the park and then up and around the park and then all the way back in from the top... you could find another hiking place with an 8km hike.  We decided to do both.  The lady looked at us like we were crazy and told us that each one was its own 'day hike'.  

6 km + 9 km = 15 km (9.32 miles)  

We headed off and had a very enjoyable day, and had no problem finishing both hikes.  We didn't quite manage to tire out Raylan but we did get some beautiful pictures. 

The whole hike looked something like this! 
Crystal clear water!
The whole park was so nice!  There were fire pits every few kilometers with hot dog sticks and even wood!  They also provided axes and saws.  Something you would never see back home. 
Interesting walking paths to preserve the vegetation.  Raylan totally stayed on the proper path. 
Used during WWII for Finland to look out down at the river for boats coming through this area of the river. The river flows throughout the park from Russia. 

Karl being Karl. 

Raylan found the muddiest place in all of Finland and decided to bathe in it.
Celebrating the muddiness.
The dirty puppy.
The mud rinsing off.

If you couldn't tell... he is on a cliff. 

Super cool swinging bridge! Raylan did not love it.

xoxo Cacilie