29 Feb 2012

How to get confetti in your underwear

The answer is easy, just go to the Viareggio carnival.
Viareggio is a rather boring town for most part of the year, but during February they celebrate one of the most important carnivals in Italy, it lasts one month and every single weekend there are street parades, music, food stands, lots of smiles and people dressed up in the most original costumes.

Hippie van escaping from a dinosaur (or vice versa)
Barbie and her friend G.I. Joe
Super Mario Bros taking a picture of a cowboy
Demons on wheels

The only problem was the impossibility to scape from to the confetti war, we brought so much confetti home that it looks like there was a small carnival in our apartment while we were away.
Consider yourself warned. 

Confetti issues aside we had lots of fun in Viareggio, the atmosphere was really nice and the papier-maché floats where just amazingly well made.

Me looking at Angela Merkel riding a cannon with sadomasochism outfit
Run for your life!!!
European economy
Sarkozy looking pretty happy
It was the first carnival for Thomas, who never ever likes to dress up, and he actually promised something unimaginable: next time we will get a costume for us! (applause please!!).
We still have an issue though, carnival does not exist in Finland. I must find another celebration.

Dressing up on Christmas eve might be a bit awkward so that leaves us with Vappu as a second choice (which is a day for Finnish people to get a bit crazy and do whatever they want). Let's see if I succeed, meanwhile I will think about a great costume, it is going to be a bit cold so I have something like this in mind:

28 Feb 2012

Do you wanna hide something?

Our lovely landlord has left all her things in the apartment, everything from panties to magazines, including shoes, medicines, books, alcohol... and all kinds of random stuff.

However, she created a great system to hide all the things she left in the apartment and did not want anybody to see. It is widely used around the house, specially the bathroom.

I have called it “the kitchen paper system”, and it consists in hiding things with kitchen paper.

“Hidden” make-up in the bathroom

So, moms of the world, if you want to keep your children away from the medicine cabinet, just wrap it up with kitchen paper! Extremely effective and cheap!

26 Feb 2012

In love with Sicily, Part 3: Cefalú

On Sunday we took the train from Palermo to Cefalú, a very nice village on the coast.
It is supposed to be really touristic in summer, but at this time of the year it was quiet and beautiful.
As you can see we where the only ones on the beach.

There is a Saracenic castle on the top of the rock that, of course, we had to climb (due to Thomas' conqueror spirit, which follows us everywhere).

It was totally worth it!! the views from up there were stunning, and we even found some sheep having lunch.

On the way down we saw a bunch of padlocks, the symbol of Italian love, I have seen them attached to many bridges around Italy but this is the first time I find some by the sea.
It seems to be fashionable over here and I guess the hardware stores are pretty happy about it.
This is how it works: Lovers write their names on the lock, attach it to the bridge and throw the keys in the water while promising eternal love to each other.
I would say it is a pretty good alternative to the love graffiti, also very popular in Italy, this is definitely much nicer than finding "Laura ti amo! sei la mia vita!" written on your home's wall.

24 Feb 2012

In love with Sicily, Part 2: More Palermo

I could write several posts about Sicilian food but let's just say that it was great.
The cannoli where delicious, but I do recommend to buy the small ones or cannoli piccoli for two main reasons:
1. The small ones are so cute!! 
2. You will not die of a sugar overdose: one real (big) cannoli is probably equivalent to one week of sugar intake.

In order to find a decent place to eat, the best thing to do is to ask the locals, about 88% of the times they will be right. That has worked well for us so far, specially in Italy.
If locals are not available, or you don't speak Italian, then you may want to follow these easy steps:

Another choice that probably cannot go wrong is the street food, there are plenty of food stands around Palermo, specially near the markets.

One of the most picturesque quarters is La Kalsa, the medieval center of Palermo, a network of dark narrow streets that are a must see. However, I will definitely not be walking alone there at night.

The animals there seem to be pretty relaxed though
In this area there is the Ballaro food market, where you can experience the funniest chaotic situations ever (such as a car trying to drive right through the middle of the market, which is of course super packed with people and food stands).
And before you leave, make sure you don't miss the nicely decorated doors and the curious little corners:

Do not miss: 

22 Feb 2012

In love with Sicily, part 1: Palermo

I am probably about to break some stereotypes about Sicily, sorry about that.
It just took a couple of days to realize that La Sicilia is much more than just sandy beaches and Italian men with Speedos... and I loved it! 

from here
We had a super nice weekend (Thanks Thomas for the best present ever!) and I enjoyed every minute of it, even if I did not see many guys with Speedos (it is February after all).

I'll most likely need a couple of posts to share the Sicilian adventure, but let's start with Palermo.
We stayed in Attic12 , which I recommend. It's very small B&B with a very big roof top terrace, the perfect combination. It is located on the top floor of a 12 storage building, so you can imagine the great views from the terrace... and well, if you cannot imagine, here are the pics:

Stunning views from our terrace
It is difficult to describe how Palermo looks like, I got the feeling that it is made out of little pieces from many cities combined in a single one. 
One corner reminded me of Porto, then we walked by a square that was looking exactly like a Buenos Aires plaza and just beside it, there was a Moroccan-like street near a Turkish market surrounded by old Mafia built buildings.

Notice the mandatory "balcony lady" looking at you

This city is such a surreal combination of chaos and charm that makes you laugh every once in a while. I really got the feeling that even the most random stuff can happen in Palermo.
For example, let me introduce you to the curious phenomenon of "balcony shopping":
Here you have the cauliflower guy, who happily posed for the picture, he sells stuff in the middle of the road (almost) by the parking slots. You can clearly see that he is so proud of his cauliflowers.

My friend the cauliflower guy
I guess you are by now wondering who the hell stops their car to buy cauliflowers (or orange bags), I thought the same but suddenly I heard a lady shouting very loud, from a 5th floor balcony on the other side of the street, asking how much were the cauliflowers; the guy shouted back with the price and she ordered a couple of kilos.
Later on, she probably let down a little basket by a cord from the balcony (which seems to be a very common practice in Palermo) with the money inside and the cauliflower guy placed carefully the goods in the basket which went all the way back to the lady's house. 

I wish we could also buy stuff this way in Helsinki, it would be very handy when it is -25 ºC and you realize that you have run out of cauliflowers.

Do not miss:
In love with Sicily,part 2: More Palermo
In love with Sicily, part 3: Cefalú

21 Feb 2012

Happy birthday to me!!

We are back from our super great weekend in Sicily (which was my early birthday present from Thomas), it was really nice and I will be reporting about the trip very soon, I just need a bit of time to sort out the million pictures we took.

Anyway, today is the "official" birthday day, and I'm a bit melancholic because it is going to be the first year that I cannot celebrate it with all my friends, since we are a pretty far away from Finland.
However, we are still going to throw a little party for two this evening. Thomas even promised that in honor to my birthday we are going to go running a bit longer than usual. Yaay! I could not be more excited.

A bit nicer than a "running" party, was my last year's "cake competition" birthday party:

Cake competition birthday party
We organized a cake competition with my girlfriends where everybody had to bring a cake to the party. We ate sooooooo much cake that I think this year I am just going to put a candle on top of an artichoke and wish that all my friends will be here with me to have an artichoke competition party!

I miss you guys!!!

16 Feb 2012

The best Birthday present ever

Next Tuesday is my birthday and I got from Thomas the best early birthday present ever: A weekend in Sicily! Yaaay!!

The plans for the weekend are still secret, all I know is that we'll take the plane tomorrow to Palermo and that we are going to eat lots of cannoli siciliano: ricotta mixed with chocolate and wrapped in a fried pastry roll... oh! my... I truly think that this kind of stuff should be forbidden!

from here

I asked to my Italian colleagues what should we do in Sicily, the answer was unanimous: we must try cannoli. Who cares anyway about monuments, museums and cathedrals, right?
Therefore, my mission for this weekend is to have fun and look for the best cannoli in Palermo (and report about it on Monday).

By the way, my colleagues also told me that Sicily is like the Bronx of Italy... just in case I am going to take this with me:

My dear friends from Finland gave it to me as a farewell gift when I moved to Italy (that must be the second best resent ever!), it's about time that I take it into use.

Have a nice weekend!!!

15 Feb 2012

Challenge accepted: fabrics!

The guys from muymolon.com, a Spanish blog I have been following lately, came up with the great idea of having a creative monthly challenge.
They will propose a theme every month and people can send their crafty projects related to that theme, all the ideas will be collected and the most original ones will be shown at the end of the month.

I (of course) decided to have a go at it, not only because I think it is a nice excuse to do something creative but also because this months' theme is "fabrics".... and fabrics make me so happy!

Here it comes, idea number one: Jar candles 

I made this ones for our wedding with some fabric stripes that where left from making the table runners and fabric garlands. 
It is very easy and cheap to make, specially if you need many and your budget is not so big.

from here
Here are the ingredients:
- Stripes of fabrics.
- Glass jars
- A good pair of zig-zag scissors
- Glue in spray
- Beach sand
- Candles

1. Get some recycled glass jars (I had my mom collecting them for half a year )
2. Clean and dry the jars (or ask nicely to your mom to do so).
3. Cut 2 fabric stripes, one thick and one thin, large enough so that you can wrap the jar with it.

4. Spray the ends of the fabric pieces with the glue and attach it around the jar.  

5. Take the thinner fabric stripe and tie a nice bow around the jar.
 6. Fill it with sand and put the candle in the middle.

They ended up looking very nice together with the table runners and the rest of decoration.
As you can see it was not one of those fancy weddings... but we had so much fun!

If fabrics also make you happy, I encourage you to send your ideas here.

P.S. Our wedding pics where taken by the best photographer ever: Mireia Cordomí, check out her blog!

14 Feb 2012

Hyvää Ystävänpäivää!!

By far my favorite way to celebrate Valentines day is the Finnish way.
They call it "Ystävänpäivä" (I know, it almost hurts my mouth) which literally means "Friends day" and as you may guess, it is a day to celebrate friendship.
While in other countries it is a day exclusive for lovers, in Finland the friends send cards and gifts to each other, which in my opinion makes much more sense.

Here in Italy I saw many stores displaying the joy of Valentine's day in their windows, with red hearts, fluffy teddy bears and all that cheesy stuff... but then I saw this sign outside an old bookstore:

In English: 
14th of February
Valentines Day
A book is the only gift that
can be opened many times

Are things like this that keep me from losing all hope in humanity.

Hyvää Ystävänpäivää!! Happy Friends day!!

13 Feb 2012

Don't let the pink walls fool you

Our bathroom deserves a post.
It is one of the most fascinating parts of this apartment, so full of funny/scary stuff that it is worth a small tour to check out what our landlord is keeping in here (I know I should say landlady because she is a woman but it feels more cool to have a landlord)

Let's start taking a look at the walls, there are many paintings and photos hanging from them, but these are by far my favorites.

Seriously, I don’t know whether to laugh or to call the Child Protection Department...

There is also a thousand years old radio (which I am too afraid to try it out) that gives a hipster feel to the bathroom.

And the mandatory tile that went wrong.

The last thing I want to show you is our shower killing system (also known in Italy as water heating system). To be able shower with warm water, you have to plan it well in advance, there is need to put on this (1) and turn this (2) clockwise, at least 3 hours before taking the shower.

Don't let the pink walls fool you, this is a dangerous place to be:
Someone had the great idea of putting a plug on the shower wall (where the water heating system is connected). Nice touch!

I love to feel the adrenaline while we take a shower, thinking that a drop might go to the plug, very exiting.

12 Feb 2012

How to shower, Italian style

Our Italian shower only gives us a few drops of warm water at a time; showering here takes forever and you easily get cold and annoyed.

With time we developed a very sophisticated showering system, what I call the “mökki” shower, because it reminds me of the way Finnish people usually shower at their summer cottage (“mökki” in Finnish), after taking a sauna.

So, if you are a proud owner of an Italian 100 years old shower like us, here are the easy to follow instructions for a perfect "mökki" shower:

1. Get 2 buckets, one big and one small.

2. Take a big bucket and fill it with warm water; this step might take a while. Be patient.

3.  Fill the small bucket with water from the big bucket.

4. With the small bucket in your hand, place yourself in the starting position.

5. Pour the water over you head. Be very careful not to spill water near the plug on the shower wall (I don’t know if it is something typical, but we do have a plug in our shower wall where the water heating system is plugged, very clever indeed)

6. Apply shampoo and body soap very quickly until you are sufficiently clean, (sorry no time for conditioner in the Italian shower)

7. Repeat step 5 until all the soap is gone.

8. Congratulations, you are clean!
Now get wrapped fast with a towel, do the victory sign and go and get a cappuccino.