Nude Finnish Girls

Happy New Year! For Helsinki it has meant low temperatures and lots of snow, which means more light, good moods and fun ways to commute.


Sharing a sled

WordPress sent me some stats on Hey Helsinki’s year in review – here’s a quick look at some of my most popular posts in 2015:

#1 – Helsinki Underground


This surprised me but as someone said, ‘When you arrive in a city the first thing you want to know is how to get around.” I hope this post has been useful  – & that people found reassurance in the fact that it would be very difficult to get lost on the subway in Helsinki.

#2 – How to make the best korvapuustit


This post went nuts thanks to my sister-in-law Ilona and her baking tips on how to make three Finnish sweets with one dough.

#3 – 101 Reasons to visit Helsinki


Linnanmaäki Amusement Park

This post grew from a project at work where I was looking through all my photos from the previous year.  I could have come up with more reasons but, like dalmatians, 101 is a pretty good start.

#4 – Finland’s oldest public pool, swimsuits optional

Yrjoönkatu uimihalli Photo credit: Cafe Yrjo

I can see on my stats page the search terms entered into google that lead people to Hey Helsinki. Time and again the most common thing people are looking for is ‘nude Finnish girls’ which seems to then lead them to this post where I went skinny dipping in Finland’s oldest public pool. Popular with the general public it was also a hit in the German nudist community.

#5 – How to dress a child for Finnish winter


With temperatures as low as -26 celcius lately (-15 F), this post has resurfaced as people search for help with one of life’s major challenges. As we are outside everyday, it’s essential to dress properly which means multiple layers and accessories, such as neck warmers (imagine a turtle-neck sweater but with no sleeves or torso) as kids don’t generally wear scarves. As someone at work said recently, ‘Every time you dress a child for Finnish winter, a little part of you dies’.

And where do you come from?

Well Finns or people in Finland overwhelmingly make up the largest group of readers. I guess people who’ve moved here are looking for tips and for the locals, well we all like to know what others might think of us. Thanks also to friends and family at home in NZ & Australia for following along.

Screen Shot 2016-01-15 at 13.56.35.png

I’m going to take a little break from writing this blog as we prepare to make our first trip home in nearly two years. I’ll be in Asia for work and then have a month in New Zealand. I can’t wait! You can follow along on Facebook or Instagram for updates.

I’m also working with Laura Iisalo of Creating Helsinki on a book about the people who make Helsinki the city it is.  It features tips from locals on their favourite places & things to do, with recipes you can try at home of Nordic classics made with a contemporary twist.

It will be released by Cozy Publishing in May 2016 & I’ll keep you posted about the launch. In the meantime, thanks so much for reading and for all your comments over the last year.


Me signing our publishing contract. Photo: Laura Iisalo

And for those who accidentally got here while searching for ‘nude Finnish girls’, here’s a picture of me in my underwear today.


I told you it was cold!




Until the reindeer pees…

A friend at work has lent me a book that compares English and Finnish proverbs. While the meanings are similar I love the way the Finnish versions all have a local twist, usually associated with the seasons, the earth or Finnish wildlife.

For example, where I’d say: ‘straight from the frying pan and into the fire’, a Finn might say ‘Kun menee sutta pakoon, tulee karhu vastaan’ ( When you flee from a wolf, you run into a bear).


Similarly, the months of the year in Finnish are also tied to life.

Here are the 12 months of the year in Finnish and their meanings as far as I can tell. When forming the name of the month, you add kuu (moon), for example tammikuu is January.

1. Tammi – oak, or heart in some dialects. Sometimes attributed as being named for the ‘heart of winter’

2. Helmi – pearl. Possibly named for the sun shining on droplets of ice, giving a pearl like effect.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

3. Maalis – maa means earth or ground. Some theories say this is the month when the earth is again visible as the snow melts away.

4. Huhti – a time when trees were cut and burnt so as to add nutrition to the soil (in English this is called ‘swidden’, something I’d never heard of before)


5. Touko – crop, a time to plant crops for the next harvest

6. Kesä – kesä means summer and June is considered the first month of summer in Finland


7. Heinä – hay, make it while the sun shines!


8. Elo – elo means life and elonkorjuu is the Finnish word for harvest

9. Syys – autumn is syksy in Finnish and September is considered the beginning of autumn in Finland


10.Loka – dirt or mud, probably due to the slush on the ground as the first snow falls


11. Marras – death, a time when the plants and trees begin to die as the days get increasingly shorter.IMG_5273

12. Joulu – an old festival gradually replaced by Christmas and now associated with the Christian festival. Joulupukki (now meaning Santa Claus) actually means ‘yule goat’ and comes from the story in Norse mythology of Wōden and Thor embarking on their Wild Hunt on a flying wagon pulled by goats.



We learnt another Finnish saying recently. As reindeer cannot pee and run at the same time, one way to measure distance was the length a reindeer could travel before having to stop to relieve itself (max distance estimated to be 7.5km). Known as poronkusema I’m not sure we have an English equivalent, but you never known when it may come in handy.


Drink dispenser at a recent Christmas party

Hyvää Joulua! Merry Christmas! x



Let them eat porridge

Growing up in NZ, porridge seemed a very Scottish breakfast to me, thanks especially to a young boy on TV telling us we were making it all wrong.

So I was surprised to hear how popular porridge is in Finland and that it is considered a traditional dish.

Made with oats or barley it’s not unusual for people to visit cafes daily to get their porridge fix, often served with a spoonful of jam.

Apparently you can also buy it at some gas stations and of course, from the porridge truck.


Elovena seems to be an iconic brand, with a range of flavours available at stores.


At Christmas it’s traditional to eat rice porridge, cooked with milk for a long time over a low heat. Similar to the coin in the British Christmas pudding, the person who finds the single almond in their porridge is considered the lucky winner.


Today we visited Seurasaari to walk the Christmas path and knew from last year to take along a bowl to be served some Christmas porridge. My friend’s mother told me that as rice is imported it was considered very exotic years ago and so this dish was traditionally eaten only by the rich.


Although popular in NZ, I’m not sure we quite match the Finns in our love of porridge – although this bizarre news story suggests some of us may know of the place it holds in their hearts.

New Zealander feeds Finnish hostages porridge



New Zealand and Finland have a few things in common. While at opposite ends of the globe our positions geographically are not too unlike and we are both strong in beautiful nature. Of similar size and population we also both know what it is like to have big neighbours.

The Maiden of Finland

The Maiden of Finland

While NZ’s relationship with Australia could be likened to that between Finland and Sweden, we’ve never had to contend with a neighbour like Russia. Today is Itsenäisyyspäivä, when Finland celebrates 98 years of independence from the Russian Republic.


Even Google is celebrating

I made my second visit to Russia earlier this year when my parents were visiting from NZ. While many Finns have never been and say they never will go, we felt having travelled from the other side of the world it was worth making a visit.


We could enter visa-free for 48 hours by arriving on a certain ferry, so we travelled one evening, sleeping on the boat. We arrived early in St Petersburg the next day, where we queued for 90 minutes at the passport check before being allowed to enter the city.


Not the ferry we arrived on

Obviously it’s impossible to see St Petersburg in a day but we managed to visit sites of note, including St Isaac’s Cathedral and the Saviour on Spilled Blood.



We also visited the State Hermitage, where I realised the enormity of the place after spotting a ‘small cloakroom’ designed for a population bigger than a town I grew up in back in New Zealand.


There is a huge collection of art …



… and historical displays….


…. and rooms dripping in gold.


For when understated is overrated


Tips on redecorating your entranceway abound

While fascinating, to be honest I found the displays of wealth that so many could benefit from, at times felt a little grotesque.


Not available at IKEA

As we left we found a military display taking place in the square outside.



Despite the tanks, guns and number of personnel there was a moment of levity as we watched a group of women practice their dance moves to the side.


Heading back to the boat we queued again for nearly two hours to get through security and customs, with checks continuing onboard as food and electrical items are not allowed on.


While the visit was nice, we have no plans of defecting to Russia, especially as Finland prepares to celebrate its centenary of independence.

Hyvää itsenäisyyspäivä Suomi!

Independence Day Finland


Santa for Hire

Christmas is coming and there are a few new traditions for us as we celebrate in the northern hemisphere.



For one, the day is celebrated on the 24th December in Finland, which in New Zealand is traditionally a day of last minute shopping as we prepare to open presents and feast on the 25th.

Finnish Christmas fare

Finnish Christmas fare

Another difference here is that Joulupukki (Santa) is expected to appear in every home, to deliver presents himself.

Miko & Joulupukki last year

Miko & Joulupukki last year

In NZ, we put the presents under the tree and leave out a plate of cookies, a carrot (for the reindeer) and a glass of milk or beer for Santa. In the morning we wake to find – Oh! Santa must have been (entering via the chimney) as the cookies are gone, the beer bottle’s empty and there are a few more pressies either under the tree or in our Christmas stockings.

Christmas 2014 in Lappeenranta

Christmas 2014 in Lappeenranta

The fact that Santa himself comes to call in Finland is really nice, but it can create a problem for anyone with a quick-witted child who notices that Santa arrives just as Dad seems to leave….and what about families where there is no suitable male to take on the role?

Christmas elves serving porridge at Seurasaari 2014

Christmas elves serving porridge at Seurasaari 2014

Well, that’s why many people hire a Santa, a big business in Helsinki with websites dedicated to it. Here you can find men who upload photos and a brief description of their experience.

NZ Santa (Source: Reasons to Believe )

Santa in New Zealand (Source: Reasons to Believe )

The best are those who advertise themselves as  ‘sober’, ‘non-smoking’ and often ‘well-masked.’

Although a job is a job after all. A friend of ours who doesn’t celebrate Christmas told us he instead goes to his local pub where all the Santas end their rounds for an after work drink.


Source: – Santa Service website

November Reign

I read recently that Finland has five seasons: Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter and November.  While it’s true this month is dark and wet, here are a few reasons it’s not all bad…

Warm weekend breakfasts at our favourite cafe


Galleria Keidas

Practising the art of Christmas ginger biscuits


Taking the shot before Miko steals the dough…

Discovering ‘new’ bars that are old favourites of friends


Just a spritz of alcohol behind the ears….@Strindberg

Buying Norwegian salmon cooked over hot coals outside work



Enjoying wine tasting and dinner on a wet Thursday night



Photo: Angela Lee

Still getting around without full winter gear


Anticipating the best parts of a good Finnish winter


Natural History Museum

Remembering that Santa will soon be on his way (on a bicycle powered by oars)


Talivisirkus (Winter Circus)

The chance to wear my favourite boots to work


Having to use Miko’s umbrella when I can’t find mine


Seasonal office attire

New winter socks

New winter socks

Finding out my bank thinks I’m a dame

Bathroom door at my bank

My bank’s bathroom door

….and waking up to a ground cover like sugar on cornflakes.

First snow of the season

First snow of the season


Summer Daze

I interviewed a photographer earlier this year who said he enjoys the shorter days of winter as it gives him time to go over all the work he did in summer.

Flow Festival 2015

Flow Festival 2015

While it’s not that dark yet, I do enjoy going over the pictures I took when we were too busy to stop and look.

Flow Festival 2015

Flow Festival 2015

Such as these photos from Flow Festival, which we attended in August and I included as one of my 101 reasons to visit Helsinki.

Held over three days this music and arts festival was established in 2004. As well as big acts it showcases bands you may not have come across but are bound to hear more of over the next 12 months.

Flow Festival 2015

Flow Festival 2015

Held in the former industrial area of Suvilahti, the easiest way to arrive is by bicycle and there are also free buses from Central Station.

Flow Festival 2015

Flow Festival 2015

The site was once home to a power plant and the organisers make great use of the space.

Flow Festival 2015

Flow Festival 2015

On Sunday there’s also family-friendly time, with activities set up for children.

Flow Festival 2015

Flow Festival 2015

The food is great, with some of Helsink’s top restaurants represented, each offering a vegetarian option.

Entree from Farang

Seafood entree from Farang

Drinks are not cheap but there are recycling stations around giving one euro back for every can returned, meaning the festival grounds are nearly spotless.

Can return station

Can return station

In some ways it feels like a ‘grown up’ festival with bars serving specialty beers or selling only gin-based cocktails.

Gin and lime

Gin and lime

There were loads of different seating areas…

Marimekko corner

Marimekko corner

…with lots of different seats….

Birch seats

Birch seats

….and bands performing indoors and out.


I’m always struck by how well-behaved people are at events in Finland, as while there is loads of alcohol consumed the feeling is generally aggression free.


As the sun went down we watched Beck and Florence and the Machine before it was time to get me home.


I had enjoyed too many cocktails and as I unlocked my bike nearly started a domino effect involving 2000 bicycles before Jonathan intervened.


Something else to reflect upon perhaps over the coming dark winter months….

Flow Festival

101 reasons to visit Helsinki

  1. There is a pub tram

    Helsinki's pub tram

    Helsinki’s pub tram

  2. Visit Estonia & be home for dinner

  3. Loads of personal space

  4. These changing sheds

  5. Mushroom season

    Market Square

    Market Square

  6. Pop over to Russia

    St Petersburg

    St Petersburg

  7. Inspiring interiors

    Helsingin Yliopisto Kirjasto

    Helsingin Yliopisto Kirjasto (Helsinki University Library)

  8. Reindeer pate

  9. A new kind of hopscotch

    Lauttasaari bridge

    Lauttasaari bridge

  10. Forest sauna

  11. Beautiful tramways



  12. Really old festivals


    Baltic Herring Festival – 270 years old

  13. Rum bars

     Navy Jerry's

    Navy Jerry’s

  14. Exotic creatures

  15. Picnics in summer



  16.  Historical spaces

  17. Growing cafe scene



  18. Art nouveau suburbs

  19. Island pizza bars

  20. Beautiful sculptures

  21. Summer cabins in winter

  22. Blini



  23. Nude public swimming

  24. Foggy nights



  25. Galleries for children

  26. Design pilgrimage

  27. Coffee and doughnuts are pretty much staple

    Kahvi ja munkki

    Kahvi ja munkki

  28. Oases of Silence

  29. Tropical landscapes

  30. Sand sculptures just two hours east

    Lappeenranta annual sand sculpture event

    Lappeenranta annual sand sculpture event

  31. Frozen harbours in winter

  32. Midsummer bonfires

  33. Modern Art

  34. Great public libraries

  35. Saunas for hire

  36. Fun at the fun park

  37. An old island fortress

  38. Death penalty themed cocktails


    Liberty or Death

  39. Finding local treasures

  40. Huge indoor playgrounds

  41. Long summer evenings

  42. Pop over to Stockholm

  43. Find good falafel

  44. Walk over to islands

  45. Wooden bicycles

    Helsinki bicycles

    Helsinki bicycles

  46. Central Station



  47. Rye bread sandwiches

  48. Neo gothic architecture

  49. City sunsets



  50. Finnish products

    Juuri Rye Whiskey

    Juuri Rye Whiskey

  51. Views from great heights

    Torni bar - on the 13th floor

    Torni bar – on the 13th floor

  52. Seaside cafes

  53. Moomin & friends live just two hours west

  54. World class festivals

    Flow Festival

    Flow Festival

  55. These at every cafe

  56. Wild flowers in summer

  57. Iconic design

    Design Museum

    Design Museum

  58. Soviet bars

  59. Wild animals

  60. Long golden autumn



  61. An artist village only 2 hours away

  62. Dedicated cycle-ways

  63. A church carved from rock

  64. Summer kiosks

    Seahorse kioski

    Seahorse kioski

  65. Colourful festivals

  66. An island dedicated to sauna and hot tubs

  67. Days where the city becomes a restaurant

  68. Moomin at the library

  69. Summer cafes

  70. Cute locals

  71. Cavorting seals

    Havis Amanda

    Havis Amanda

  72. Danish sandwiches

  73. Wonderful book stores

  74. Less than an hour to Latvia

  75. New ways of commuting

  76. Santa Lucia

  77. Thousands of chocolates

    Fazer Cafe

    Fazer Cafe

  78. Forest walks in the city

  79. Boat shed cafes

  80. Oases of green

  81. Sauna boats

    Sauna boats

    Sauna boats

  82. Christmas shopping



  83. So many cakes

  84. A cafe named Fanny

  85. Loads of antique stores

  86. Sauna cosmetics

  87. A day trip to Porvoo

  88. Boat cafes


    Relandersgrund – open in summer

  89. Streets that are heated

  90. You can meet Santa

  91. Summer time cruises

    The archipelago

    The archipelago

  92. Blueberry pies

  93. Moss graffiti

  94. Meat in a can

  95. Beautiful islands

  96. Fish n’ chips by the water

  97. Boating canals



  98. Finnish cocktails

    A21 Cocktails

    A21 Cocktails

  99. The porridge truck

    Porridge truck

    Porridge truck

  100. Spring blossoms



  101. ..and it’s not Vegas
    View from Cafe IPI

    View from Cafe IPI




A very Finnish birthday

Miko turned four recently and I felt a bit stuck when planning his party. At home it’s early summer and we would usually celebrate at home and on our lawn. Parties are often held in the morning or over lunch, whereas here they often start at 4pm.


In Finland it’s late autumn and while this one has been amazing, it can be cold and wet. Our apartment doesn’t really have space for a group of excited children so it was great when a friend suggested we hold a joint party for Miko and her son, who was turning four around the same time.


She suggested we hire a clubhouse at a playground, which was an excellent solution. During the week the City of Helsinki holds activities for parents and children in them and on the weekend they are available for hire. They come with a kitchen, bathroom, toys, tables and chairs.

We went in an hour early to set up, using Star Wars decorations bought online.


Light sabers & cupcake holders transported these blueberry pies to another galaxy.


As well as chips and popcorn there was also some healthy food in disguise.



We played Pass the Parcel and when it came time to open presents one of the children had a great idea. The kids sat in a circle around a bottle, holding the present they had brought . The bottle was spun and the person it pointed to then gave their present to the boy they had brought it for.


The guests then had a chance to make their own cookies. We rolled out ginger pastry and each child cut out shapes that we baked before decorating them with icing and sprinkles.


The idea was that they would take their cookies home, but they proved irresistible and were eaten on the spot.


Then it was time for cake, which was made locally and was gluten and lactose-free. It was delicious and had layers of chocolate (possibly held together by sugar).


To end we played the fishing game, which is popular at Finnish parties. Children line up and hold a fishing line over a blanket that is suspended up high. When they pull the line up it comes back with a party bag attached to take home.


It turned out to be a beautiful autumn day and we stayed for another two hours, the kids running off the sugar at the playground and park. We got home around 7pm with one very happy boy and were eating cake for days.


May the fours be with you!


Doesn’t like wet feet ( A guide to growing indoor plants in Finland)

People often tell me they can’t keep plants alive, but it’s really not too hard. Like children and pets they do need a bit of attention now and then to keep them healthy and sustained but seriously, anyone can do it.


When moving to a new climate it does take a bit of learning about what plants do best and it helps to know a few basic steps on how to care for them. Here’s my beginners guide to keeping your apartment looking green in Finland.


Look for Clues

In homes and offices, as well as in plant shops, you’ll start to notice the same kinds of plants over and over again. This is a good way to ascertain what grows well here and also the time of year it becomes available.


This plant is really common here in Finland and is growing well in a bedroom with only two small windows. As winter approaches you’ll need to find plants that survive well with very little light so take clues from those you see doing well around you.

Move it, move it

This plant has been hanging near a window in our bedroom, up against the glass.


He was sagging and drooping like limp wet washing until I moved him last week, just around the corner and out of direct sunlight. He immediately sprung to attention like some crazy guy looking for a party and so here he will stay. Take hints from your plants and if they’re not happy, try moving them. Mix up things like direct sun, shade, window positions and shelter.


This guy is very happy in his usual window spot but I may move him in winter

Lest we Forget

My favourite kind of plants (after palms) are succulents and cacti – and you don’t need to overlook them in Finland. We don’t have the same kind of heatwaves but we do live in a cold, dry climate – much like a desert in winter.


If you think about it, cacti can withstand cold temperatures. Just don’t over water them when it’s cold and remember they don’t like wet feet (who does?) so put them in cactus soil that drains water away. With good heating and triple-glazed windows, Helsinki apartments are warm over winter so bring your cacti indoors during the colder months.


Invest in your babies

I paid 80 euro for this huge monstera, which is a good incentive for me to keep it alive.


You also need to invest your time – but I don’t mean loads of it. I take a glass of water to bed every night and hardly ever drink it, so in the morning I tip it on to a different plant each day. That’s it. A regular little drink to the one who looks like they most need it tends to keep everyone happy.

Read the signs

When you buy plants they tend to come with a plastic sign with some basic care instructions on the back. Does it like sun, shade, direct light? How often should it be watered? Sometimes that’s all you need to know to keep your plant alive.


‘Tis the season

Don’t be afraid to buy something just for winter. These heathers do really well in Finland and survive even in snow.


You can also buy small trees in pots that will survive the cold. I used to buy plants for life (mine). Now I buy them for the plant’s life, doing my best to keep them going over winter but adapting to new varieties if they don’t make it through.

Keep trying

I’ve yet to master growing something really well in these glass bulbs but will persevere because I really like them.


The trick is they need just a little water and often, because the water drips straight out. A spray bottle is a good way to wet them and my monstera loves a spray on his trunk so he gets one too on the way past.


So, there you have it. You can grow plants and you can do it well – and it has nothing to do with luck. With just a little bit of loving they’ll keep you happy and healthy all year round, just as you do for them. (Otherwise – faking it is also okay).