Tag Archives: Memories

A Sentimental Journey. To My Roots and My Toothless Smile.

After two weeks in Stockholm, my sister and I embarked on a 3-day journey to Finland. You see, we had not managed to bring home our dad’s photo albums when we put his house on the market last fall and subsequently sold it. We left all these memories with our friend, to be retrieved later. And we had to take care of issues related to the forest dad had left us. Two city girls living abroad and forest ownership was not a great combination. We badly needed advice on how to best take care of this precious natural resource. So now was the time for a ‘sister trip’ to the heart of Finland.

cruise ship 2 ud165We hopped on a big ship that cruises between Stockholm and Turku on a daily basis – a newer sister ship to the one pictured above. Slowly this giant navigated the tight fairways in Stockholm archipelago. And we enjoyed the sights of small islands with countless summer houses, an occasional old fort and a magnificent sunset from one of the outer decks.

boat deck ud169

stockholms archipelago ud169

old fort ud169

sailing boat at sunset ud169We sat out there quite a while with a glass of wine before getting something to eat and then retiring to our stateroom for the night.

sunset at Baltic sea ud169

on the boat 169

moon over the Baltic Sea ud169We arrived in Turku the next morning and after a 4-hour drive we reached our dad’s village in central Finland where our ‘business’ was to be conducted. We met our forestry consultant at a café we used to frequent as kids. It was still there, fresher than ever, and the view from the tables outside was as beautiful as I remembered. A sparkling summer day.

on the top view Lankipohja ud169After that meeting, we received all dad’s pictures from our friend and then decided to visit this year’s summer exhibition at the nearby art center, Leporanta, like we had done so many times in the past.

leporanta ud169I just love the rolling countryside where this art center is located right next to a lake.

leporanta 2 ud169An exhibition there always starts in the front yard of the main building. This year there was a charming collection of cows made from scrap metal. Those cows gave us a big smile. One cow was going from the morning milking session to a dance party in the evening – on a tractor. We thought she looked fabulous. You go girl!

from morning milking session to evening dancing session LR ud169Another one was going on vacation. With a big tiger-cat, mind you.

Summer Holiday LR ud169

detail ud169A third demonstrated milk delivery balancing on a unicycle. What a hoot!

skillful milk delivery LR UD169Another new exhibit was the “Heads” of three important looking men. We noted that some very self-important men had just visited Helsinki earlier in the week. Maybe there was a connection…you just never know. These three men were tight-lipped about their meeting.

heads LR ud169The metal eagle some of you may remember from last year was still there. It had wintered well, like most eagles do.

steel eagle LR Ud169From there we entered the barns that housed the art works, mostly oil paintings, of several Finnish painters. The barn entrances hosted other types of art…

We walked though the barns and a few paintings caught my eye, like these two works by artist Markku Uitto titled “Flowers” and Fall Harvest”.

And these two by artist  Leena Raussi, titled “Flowers” and “Summer Forest”.

There was so much more to see, but I’ll leave you with these amusing metal critters exhibited on a table in one of the barns.

bugs LR us169At the end of the day we drove to our hotel in a neighboring town – past our dad’s house. We decided not to stop there. It was our childhood home and we wanted to remember it just as it had been last fall when we left it.

koivuranta finland home ud142Looking at dad’s old photos, I found pictures of the house being built when we were very small. In the first picture our mom is still pregnant with my sister and in the second one we are both there, pictured with mom and an aunt visiting with a baby cousin. The house was still under construction. It took several years to build as dad built it alone in the spare time he had from ‘real’ work.

The next morning we visited our parents’ resting place at a nearby cemetery and planted a flower. All important issues now taken care of, we wanted to tick off a longstanding bucket list item. We would visit the tiny village in eastern central Finland where we used to spend our childhood summers at our maternal grandparents’ farm. I hadn’t visited that village since I was 16, but remember promising myself that I would come back one day. After getting some directions from our uncle, we took off trusting the GPS would eventually take us there.

kärkisten silta ud169We remembered that there was a small ferry that used to take a couple of cars at the time over a big river. It was always exciting to be on the ferry and, indeed, we passed a road leading to the ferry harbor. Instead of taking us there, the GPS took us over the river on a beautiful bridge built fairly recently.  And eventually we arrived to the ‘town center’ of the municipality where the small village was located. We found the church and planted a flower on our maternal grandfather’s grave at the cemetery.

joutsan entinen keskusta Jousentie ud169The ‘main street’ we remembered as a lively place with many shops and a nice ice cream parlor, was very quiet. Most of the shops and restaurants were now located in a shopping center half a mile away.

After a late lunch we continued towards the small village. We soon found ourselves on a gravel road. It was the road we remembered from many decades ago, nothing had changed. Closer to the center of the municipality we found a few newer houses, but the further we drove, the fewer houses we saw. Sadly, most of them badly run-down. After driving for about four miles we recognized a few houses and the hill leading to what used to be our grandparents’ farm. The house was still there, like forgotten by time.

harjumaki 2 ud169We knocked on the door and a man who lived there kindly allowed us to walk the grounds and take some pictures of the house and the dilapidated cowshed and sauna that were no longer used. Nobody was farming here anymore.

Harjumäen navetta ud169

jousan savusauna ud169This was the place where we had spent many summers, sleeping in the attic bedroom, playing in the yard and the meadows behind the cowshed. It was surreal and quite emotional to stand there with all the happy memories flooding in. In my mind’s eye, I could see us all gathered there, like in the picture taken when I was almost four years old (our family on the right, our grandparents in the middle and mom’s sisters on the right).

I was happy we had finally managed to get to this part of our roots, but a bit sad to see this tiny village all but abandoned. It started to drizzle, we said our goodbyes and drove back to the lively small town where our hotel was located, about 90 minutes drive away. In a completely different world. We ate dinner at a nice establishment and sat late in the evening in our comfortable suite remembering our adventures and all the mischief we did as kids. And we laughed a lot!

The next day we drove back to Turku and met with a dear friend and her lovely poodle. It was wonderful to see you after so many years Anja and Hertta! In the evening we boarded the overnight ship back to Stockholm. Now it was breezy. I was watching the somewhat subdued sunset over the Finnish archipelago soon after departure and my hair almost blew away. Here’s the picture evidence.

windy 2 ud169That was a trip to remember. Thanks sis ❤ Remember my toothless smile and the little ‘play corner’ we had as kids?

sisters and parents in the play corner Thank you for coming along on this nostalgic journey. My next post from the artsy quarters of Stockholm will complete this travel series. You’ll find Part 1 and Part 2 here.

Christmas. And Stockholm in My Heart.

Darkness fell early. Around 3 p.m. But it wasn’t really dark. Stockholm, my former home town, was lit up for the holiday season. Chandeliers and Christmas stars lit up almost every window of the respectably old buildings in the city. And the streets were decorated with Christmas lights.

drottingatan X17 UD146The day before Christmas Eve, I decided to take a pre-dinner walk down the memory lane in the historic Old Town. Coming up from the metro station I was happy it wasn’t raining. My puffer jacket proved its worth in the near freezing temperatures and I felt ready for a long urban hike.  A man selling Christmas flowers greeted me from inside his tent.

flower stall X17 UD146I walked the narrow cobble stone alleys admiring the old buildings, a few built as early as the 13th/14th century, most in the 15th to 19th century. All of them modernized for comfortable city living.

Walking on one of the main streets, I made a nostalgic discovery. Our favorite Italian restaurant from the late 70s and 80s, Michel Angelo, was still there.

restaurant Michel Angelo UD146.jpgI walked closer and snapped a picture of a very special table. Husband and I sat there one cold night in February over 30 years ago. And got the fastest service ever. You see, I was expecting our son. And it was obvious he would arrive soon. The waiter politely asked me when the baby was due. I responded truthfully that he was due two days ago. I will never forget the expression on his young face. Needless to say our pizzas arrived in record time. Quattro Stagioni with different toppings for each quarter, like the four seasons.

rest michel angelo table ud146Here I was, so many years later, a reflection in the window of my memories.

I continued my walk trying to find my way to Stortorget, the main town square in Old Town, where the traditional Christmas Market has been held every year since the 1920s.

street in old town 2 X17 UD146My sense of direction has always been poor so I ended up enjoying many an old building on my way. I came to a smaller square, Järntorget, where a big tree lit up the surrounding buildings. And tomtar, reindeers, dala horses and viking helmets filled the shop windows.

jarntorget gamla stan UD146_edited-1

shop window in Old Town UD146I crisscrossed a few more alleys and finally heard the music and saw the familiar sights of the Christmas Market.

xmas market X17 UD146I lingered there between the stalls for quite a while. I was looking for a Yule Goat, just like the one husband had bought over 30 years ago. And found the last remaining one! It is now continuing the tradition in our son’s family glogg UD146_edited-1home. I also found warm glögg and enjoyed a small cup with a ginger bread cookie in the company of visitors from Japan and Poland.

It was all so familiar. Heartwarming. I felt at home right there standing in the crowd sipping my glögg.

Now all warmed up, I continued my journey through the Old Town finding many interesting buildings and churches built starting in the latter part of the middle ages.

And finally arrived at the Royal Palace. It has over 600 rooms, but looking up from the darkened court-yard only a few windows were lit here and there. A soldier stood guard at one of the entrances.

royal palace X17 UD146

Royal palace court yard UD146_edited-4From there I walked down the castle hill and continued towards another island, Riddarholmen, the Island of the Knight. You see, while the earliest findings of human activity in the Stockholm area date back to the stone age, about 6000 B.C., the city of Stockholm was built starting in 1180 and was officially established in 1252 on Stadsholmen, or the Town Island now broadly referred to as the Old Town. The city then gradually expanded onto several other islands connected by bridges.

slottsbacken X17 castle hill UD146From there I could spot Kungsholmen, the King’s Island, were we used to live in our early years in Stockholm. And where we got married at the City Hall seen in the distance.

mot kungsholmen X17 UD146From the bridge to Riddarholmen I also spotted the Royal Opera House lit in changing colors for the festive season.

the royal opera house UD146I then walked over the bridge to the beautifully lit city center…

bridge to old town X17 UD146

sergels torg 2 X17 UD146…and took the metro a couple of stops back to my sister’s home, also located in a century old building in central Stockholm.

gathorna X17 UD146 Once inside, I was wrapped in the warmth of the Christmas spirit…

xmas cheer X17 UD146

xmas star in te window X17 UD146

amaryllis X17 ud146…served delicious traditional meals, loved and hugged by family.

julbord X17 UD146 And I was kissed by a sweet boy. He did a great job in comforting me when I missed Dylan. my sweet boy UD146While being the first without my dad and husband, this Christmas truly nurtured my heart and soul.

Thank you for being here, and for all your encouragement throughout 2017. I wish you all good health, renewed joy, love and peace. May your light burn bright in 2018.

fire X17 UD146_edited-1

Yule Goat.

Snow boots. A hooded winter coat. Gloves. Leggings and jeans. Wool sweaters. Layering tops. Christmas gifts. My trusted carry-on refuses to collaborate. It will not close. And don’t dare to sit on it. I give up and go to fetch my large suitcase. The Florida girl is going to Sweden.

I feel emotional. Browsing my photo libraries for pictures of Christmases past. I travel back in time. All the way to our son’s very first Christmas. He’s crawling under the lower branches of our live Christmas tree. Mesmerized by the lights and the sparkling tinsel garland. It’s Christmas in Stockholm.

MJ first ChristmasOur home is filled with seasonal aromas. Ham and rutabagas, potato, carrot and macaroni casseroles. Meatballs and spicy sausages. Jansson’s Temptation and herring salad. I’m in the kitchen cooking traditional Christmas dishes for my little family. Husband and son play in the living room. The camera clicks.

Christmas foodsSnow. I taste the word. Cold. Fluffy. Beautiful. And again I’m back in Stockholm. Playing in the snow with my son. Husband taking pictures. Those precious moments frozen in time.

Mom and son StockholmAnd soon I will be there again. Same city, different time. Christmas. Hopefully white. Long walks with my sister’s family and their poodle. Beautifully decorated streets and shop windows. Delicious traditional dishes. Christmas market in the historic Old Town.

I look at the old yule goat on my dining table. Its yellow straws and red ribbons are still fairly intact, after faithfully standing on whatever table it decided to jump onto for over 30 years. Every Christmas, on three different continents. It asks me if I remember. I nod.

yule oat 2It is a crisp, snowy December evening. The Old Town is wrapped in Christmas spirit. Seasonal music streams from the market stalls. Warm glögg and lussekatter. Husband stops at a stall and the yule goat becomes part of the family. Life is good.

Now silently conversing with the yule goat Love wraps me in a warm blanket. So much to be grateful for. I wish you all a wonderful, soul-warming Christmas and a happy holiday season. Feel the spirit.

Tears. Gratitude. And Change.

As you may have seen, I have already unpacked my recent travels in Italy. I started fromme 4 years old ud142_edited-1 the top of my suitcase right after opening it. But there is more. And it’s much harder to unpack. The bottom layer of my ‘virtual suitcase’ is heavy with memories all the way from my childhood. Some now wrinkled, others still vivid.

After having to say the final goodbyes to both my dear dad and husband last summer, I had to go back to Finland mid September to take care of dad’s estate with my sister. That’s where my recent trip started. At my childhood’s lake house in Finland. The quiet, peaceful place in the north that’s had a great influence on who I am today.

I have always felt that the many moods and expressions of and around the small lake reflect my life. Dark skies, bright skies, strong colors, soft colors, fire and passions, peacefulness and sadness. I love them all. And I will remember them all.

lake-in-the-fall-2-ud78-16x9

lake after sunset Finland Aug16 UD142

sunset 2 on the lake Finland UD142

sunrise fire at lake sulunjarvi finland ud142

sunrise on the lake finland UD142

rain on the lake ud142

moon lake Finland Aug16 ud75After losing our mother to cancer in our teen years, we “the sisters”, were blessed to have the world’s best dad with us until this past July. A WWII veteran, despite of failing health in the last couple of years, he was sharp as a knife until the day he passed on. Here pictured at 19 in his military uniform and on his 90th birthday a few years ago. An ironman with the heart of gold. His love is still vividly felt and his wise counsel missed on a daily basis.

While going through all the papers and photos gathered over so many decades we found remarkable things. Among those was an old newspaper article about our dad. He was carrying the Olympic torch as it traveled through Finland to the 1952 Olympic Summer Games in Helsinki. I had heard of it, and knew he had been a great athlete, but never before seen this ‘evidence’. It made me proud…and teary-eyed.

Olympic flame carried by Mikko in summer 1952 UD142_edited-1.jpgIt was hard to put dad’s house on the market, the house he built with his own hands and where we grew up. But since none of us could live there, it had to be done. My sister and I remembered how we used to have a ‘grocery store’ right under the enclosed front porch. Among other neatly packed goods, we ‘sold’ sand in used wheat flour bags…to whomever walked by. Great for pancakes, we used to advertise. So many happy memories.

Mikkos house at night 2 Finland Aug16 UD75In the last picture I took of the house, the wild wines seemed to form a colorful heart on the wall. Symbolic of the love that lived in this house. And that is how I will always remember it.

koivuranta finland home ud142I packed what little I could carry in my suitcases, the most precious memories. When I left for the last time on that overcast Saturday morning, they were filled with melancholy and gratitude.

two suitcases ud142The old Loon I had seen on every visit in the past few years made an appearance far out on the lake, as if saying goodbye.

the loon finland ud142I traveled to London. I would have a Sunday stopover in this familiar city before continuing to Milan for work early on Monday. I would pull myself together.

That evening I took a long walk on the darkened streets and ended up at a small restaurant reflecting on life. Full of twists and turns, but at the end delicious like calamari. If we had the courage and took the time to taste it.

late night snack in London ud142_edited-1Sunday was a gorgeous autumn day. I rode double-deckers, took a boat ride on the Thames and walked for miles. The brilliant fall colors in Hyde Park reminded me it was the season of change. But that was hard to accept.

hyde park ud142I wanted to dwell on memories crafted with my husband in this city. I revisited places I remembered from our honeymoon and several subsequent visits. I passed the Trafalgar Square, where were used to walk among the pigeons. Nelson was still there.

Nelsons Column in Trafalgar Square London UD142I passed the Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s Cathedral, where my husband had photographed the beautiful interiors such a long time ago.

Westmister Abbey London ud142_edited-1

st pauls Cathedral 2 London ud142I walked around the Tower of London, where we had fun adventures as newlyweds. The landscape around it had changed remarkably. The famous Gherkin, the Shard and other modern glass towers now filled the skyline.

tower of london and the gherkin ud142_edited-1

tower of london and the Shard ud142The newest tower was still under construction, but already invited prospective buyers to visit model apartments. This reminded me that while the old and familiar was still there, new experiences would be added to the fabric of life.

londons newest glass tower apartments UD142The Big Ben at the Parliament buildings had fallen silent. At some point age tends to catch up. But hopefully, when the extensive repairs have been completed in 2021, its famous chimes will be heard again.

the houses of parliament and big ben london ud142The 3500 years old Egyptian obelisk at the Thames, Cleopatra’s Needle, brought back both our honeymoon and our last visit to this city just a few years ago. I could still see myself behind the camera and husband sitting on that sphinx on the right.

cleopatras needle London UD142And passing the London Eye, I realized I had to learn to look into the future, however difficult and meaningless that may feel at the moment.

the London Eye ud142I knew that sooner or later I had to cross that misty bridge to the next phase of my life.

tower bridge 2 london ud142And with that I was on my way to Milan and my Italian experience, grateful for what had been and what was yet to come.

the shard and the plane ud142It was, indeed, the season of change. And I had to accept that.

hyde park in fall colors ud142_edited-1

Always Here

Africa painting by Mike
Africa – oil painting by Mike

So many memories of priceless sunsets.

Countless journeys into the wild.

Untouched nature touching the soul.

A continent balancing the past and the future.

Struggle mixing with hope.

Dynamic, changing, yet the same.

Perfectly captured in a simple painting.

Always in the heart, always here.

Silent Dreams

Newly frozen lake

Bright reflections of life

On crystal clear ice

Spellbind her heart.

In her silent dreams

Beautiful thoughts

Like vibrant flowers

Bud in the snow.

Reality curves outward

her mind turns inward

stillness floods the canvas

and she just is.