Saturday, July 28, 2007

Best of Finnland 2007


public transportation

felt nativity scenes

daylight at 11 pm

Finnish hospitality

4 door Smart cars

scrambled eggs and swedish meatballs

visual arts

music everywhere

onion domes

rug washers


On Location
Helsinki Finnland
Got up bright and early yesterday to walk the deserted city and take some pictures. The streets are absolutely filthy at 7 am and spotless by 730 am. Same with the restaurants and coffee places. Filthy dirty. Cleaned right up. We watched a college age kid lay in the gutter below our hotel windowö the two girls he was with tried and tried to get him to get up out of the gutter and wondered if he was okay. We were as surprised as they when they kept finding a pulse. Three black+shirted polis appeared out of nowhere and he hopped up, staggering, and allowed himself to be walked wobbily down the street as the polis looked on grim faced, hands on hips. The kid would have been laying in the gutter still, despite his friendsä best efforts, if the cops hadnät showed up.

We hied it down to the hotel breakfast buffet and gorged on lovely croissants, rye bread and some square things they call pancakes, but I think are blinis of a sort. They had one whole section of the buffet that was every different kind of break possible and it was the section that all the guests used. We are staying at a lovely business hotel near the grand terminal so there are no children and the business center is well equipped. Ä9 The Asians ate lots of vegetables with their riceö a porridge of sorts, too. No seaweed, though. We had lovely scrambled eggs with swedish meatballs. And they were not bearballs but beef meatballs. Quite tasty. Real eggs, prepared just right. Joe Montana had, of course, bratwurst. They were the size of the little meat sticks I used to give the baby boys to eat. He was quite pleased. The coffee was dark and thick, quite good, and so we were off on our way to a beautiful summer day in Finnland.

We wandered down to the Lutheran Cathedral, again to my thinking, a contradiction in terms. If it aintä of the holy roman church, it canät possibly be a cathedral. At any rate, it sits high on a hill and the tour buses roar up and park and the little touristas jump out and photo and get right back on the bus. Even our people wouldnät venture to climb the stairs. Increasingly disgusted at these candy+assed Nancys from New York, JM and I did the stairs twice, with him taking two at a time. With big smiles for all at the end. The inside is a beautiful hue of green and is quite well done. Itäs spare as the guildebooks and guides will tell you. I didnät find it austere in the least, but really well executed. After we spent some time in the cathedral, we bounded down the steps again and crossed over to the open air market on the bay.

There were two things that separated this market from every other wonderful open market with fabulous fruits an vegetables+ the pea pods were the size of bananas and the gypies were selling rabbit pelts, dyed white and black. In fact, there are lots of gypsies all over Helsinki (HELLseenkey). We saw a tee shirt here that showed a moose sitting down receiving Finalandia in his mouth through a tube and the Finlandia going through this system coming out his penis into a dish marked Absolut<. Just cracked us up!

The Finns ease and faculty with English is embarrassingö they snicker behind their hand when you attempt Finnish. Ah, well. Not the first time international travel has humbled me. Tourism is highly promoted here and as such, you as accepted and served with a gracious willingness. Finnland, though, seems frozen in time. As you move about the city, there are long moments of complete desertion, desolation almost. There are whole streets of empty storefronts right in the heart of the city. The architecture here is an awkward blend of neo+classical and early 60s ugly, industrial ugly. All side by side. There is an utter lack of and a complete disgard for any retail pursuit or consumerism. My read is that the Finns just donät want it and probably never will. Itäs not who they are.

I was in an art gallery and found a piece with master technique that touched me deeply. It was of a girl, laying on the back of a bear, her suitcase gripped firmly in hand. I was lucky enough to meet the artist and she told me she had a dream where she was travelling and she met a huge bear of the forest and she was afraid. But then he offered to help her travel. So she climbed on his back and it was much easier and less dark for her then as she made her way on her journey. When she woke up, she remembered the dream in every detail and was filled with sublime peace and energy for days an days. She said, "You know I am from Lapland and that is why I am special with the animals and the forest." And I said, involuntarily, I am from Lapland, too.

It was a moment.

We head to St Petersburg todayö regretfully. We loved it here in Finnland, and as one of the pierced, tatted rowdy boys on the bus said last nightÖ

"Bless me and fok the rest"

On Location
Helsinki Finland

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Well. Here we are. Travel is always is always an opportunity to expand, to know more, to push yourself hard. This trip is already proving to be just that. After British Airways at Christmas, we all said, hands down, that that trip provided the worst flight in the history of civilization. So now we have a new personal bestÖ FinnAir, JFK to Helsinki. Jesus Mary and Joseph. But we made it. Left our Hermes shawl on the plane, not due to the ever present jet lag, but the sauna+like atmosphere, which left the temperature no less than 80 degrees for the duration of the 7.5 hour flight. Funny thing. We made it. Ö=

We are with Joe From The Bronx and he will not leave 10 cents, let alone 10 cents euro, on the table. So we take the FinnAir bus into town for 5.2E each. Pleasant but actually eery. Helsinki was completely deserted at 10 am. And for those who must know, Helsinki looks like Seattle from the air, but is the size of Spokane in the actual. But on the approach it was like driving into Murray, Idaho. Wonderful trees everywhere, but no damn people or nuthinä going on.

The town, apart from the trees and the water, looks like San Jose California or Redmond Washington, architectually, which makes me wonder if tech isnät the prevalent industry. There is money in this town, too. Strolled after dinner and saw the shops. Tourists donät typically buy Hermes and Chanel handbags. Ö= Actually, looks like thereäs tons of money here. Weäll buy crystal and ship it home. Although our hotel is right across the street from a big post office and the post office museum. This led Joe Montana to wonder at dinnerÖ if the real criteria for selecting a hotel itäs proximity to postal or shipping facilities_ Freaking smart ass.

Talked to people on the street who told us to go to The Virgin Oil Company for dinner. Being dutiful, we did just that. The Virgin Oil Company is a Finnish Italian Restaurant, which actually, was more interesting that American Italian restaurants, who take themselves quite seriously. The vodka here is smooooth and icy and the beer is tall and warm. We loved that combination and sat and drank vodka and beer, Finnish boilmakers, for quite some time before ordering dinner. We wonder if we really are those people who have always had kids. But we didnät linger on that point for too long. Ö=

Some of the more interesting things on the menu included Blueberry and Mushroom Risotto, Risotto with tomato, grilled globe artichoke and semi+dried tomatoes. That was tasty. The drink of the night was a Rapartini Classico, Finlandia mango Fusion, DeKuyper Sour Rhubarb and Cranberry juice. We didnät have that but those vodka shots were fabbbo! fabbbbooo! FABBOOO, followed with Stella and Budar dark. I ordered salmon and Helsinkis is a place where they know how to cook fish that swims in cold water. Ö=

We strolled and strolled after dinner, itäs past 10 and still as light as noon, and delighted at the city, which is quiet. The Finns are quiet and surprisingly, good looking. Very blond with tawny, creamy skin. Of course, not as good looking as the Prussians, but certainly, good enough. I loved our waitperson who was blond, wore the black VIRGIN t+shirt with a knock+off Tiffany heart and a nametag that said äLauraä.

We were fortunate to persuade the Rockwood Clinic into prescribing a whole month of Ambien for us, so along with the vodka here, freaking sublime, Joe Montana and I believe this is going to be a good trip. Ö0 Sorry about no pictures. When I get back to Bellemaison, Iäll update all the posts, to show you what Iäm talking about.

On Location
Helsinki, Finnland

Monday, July 23, 2007

But First...

Orcas Island

soooo cloudy and rainy this past weekend!



The 'Kan EWA

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

one week from today
The 'Kan EWA

Monday, July 16, 2007

Marmitetoasty wrote in and said it's so cold in the UK she needs a good cup of hot soup. Okay. We aim to please.

For Mel
1 lovely big ham hock
1 lb. split peas
2 qts. water
6 carrots, diced finely
1 large onion, diced finely
6 stalks celery, diced finely
Thoroughly wash peas and combine all ingredients in a slow cooker. Season liberally. Cook on low for 24 hours. Guaranteed to please.
The 'Kan EWA

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

I've been asked to post my gazpacho recipe because it's just the thing for these hot July nights. If I remember, I do not puree the cilantro and parsley, but stir them in before chilling because the gazpacho then retains its beautiful red color.

for the tomato days of summer

3 1/2 cups tomato juice

8 plum tomatoes, seeded, cut into 1/4 inch pieces

1 English cucumber, cut into 1/4 inch pieces

1 red bell pepper, cut ino 1/4 inch pieces

1 medium onion, chopped

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

3 T fresh lemon juice

1 green onion, chopped

1 1/2 t minced seeded jalapeno chili

2 cloves garlic, minced

Combine 1 cup tomato juice, half of tomatoes, half of cucumber, and half of bell pepper in blender. Puree until smooth. Pour into large bowl. Stir in remaining tomaotes, cucumber, and bell pepper; add onion, cilantro parsley, lemon juice, green onion, jalapeno, and garlic. Transfer 1 cup mixture to blender. Add 2 1/2 cups tomato juice to blender and puree. Pour back into large bowl and stir to combine. Thin with additional tomato juice, if desired. Season with salt and pepper. Cover; chill 2 hours. Serve cold.

The 'Kan EWA

Monday, July 09, 2007

WHAT A BABE! She's a bon vivant...
Yet a thinking, cerebral woman...

A trickster...

An adoring cousin...

A patriot...

Friend to all...

Possesses superior dental hygiene...

Superb athlete...

A helluva dancer...

Always wearing the exact right thing...

Rode the Hiawatha before it WAS the Hiawatha...

Conquers every older man she meets

Never at a loss for a lap...


Happy Birthday Peedy!
Was there ever a little girl more cherished and adored by one and all?

The 'Kan EWA

uh oh!

scanner won't work.....

The 'Kan EWA

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Being of sufficient opinion and cheek, it seems perfectly meet and right that we comment on the Coeur d'Alene Garden Tour of today, July 8, 2007. We haven't been to the tour since the garden club boated everybody across the lake to The Hag's, where His People got 40 roses from Tower Perennials on the Palouse Highway, put 'em in the ground and pronounced it a rose garden. Boys and Girls, we have been to gardens of the world (read that: 'Stourhead') and they ain't in Casco Bay. Not that we don't think the Coeur d'Alene Garden Club is well intentioned; we do. We just don't trundle out on a 90 degree July afternoon to see another spoiled millionaires' wife's latest indulgence. Read that: it takes a lot more to build a garden than "help" and "bushes". So off we go today to Coeur d'Alene because we see they are featuring some gardens in our old neib, that being the Central School neighborhood.

First stop: 901 Bancroft Avenue. Our old friend Debby lived down on Bancroft, which strictly speaking was on the other side of the tracks. It has always been a working class neighborhood, featuring well built little houses on tidy lots. Many of these homes fell into ruin as Coeur d'Alene followed the national trend of flight to the suburbs, in North Idaho it's the subdivisions, and only in the last several years are people buying these wonderful houses and painting and repairing and getting storm windows back on them. It is a fabulous neighborhood. We would live there in a second as it's an easy walk to Tubbs Hills, Sanders Beach, downtown Coeur d'Alene and yum! the new Coeur d'Alene Public Library. So this garden that wraps around the house that sits on the corner is quite divine, thank you very much. It is a proud garden featuring fruit and vegetables, flowers and grasses, trees and shrubs; thoughtfully laid out and with all small gardens, an expert, ingenuous use of the space. You enter the garden through a lane bordered with tall green grass that has been bunched for a lovely, artistic effect and you involuntarily owoooow! delicious! as you scrunch your shoulders; not of course, in your out loud voice. This garden is chock full of small, luscious artistic effects that launch you right into bliss. And you continue on your way, sighing contentedly. So you walk straight into the raised vegetable garden planted with the precise perennials and annuals that will attract the beneficial insects that will in fact, protect the vegetables as they bloom, set and mature. Fabulous. They know what they are doing here. There are raspberries along the back fence and espaliered pears on the other back fence. You turn the corner and go up the other side of the house and pass lovely vines, roses, little arbors and smashing uses of a variety of hues of green. They have got green everywhere, of many, many shades and it's a plaid that might exist elsewhere only in The Land of Oz if it even exists elsewhere. This garden has it all: a tri-color beech, shrub clematis, an exquisite English rose and a deft, sure touch that's unmistakably green. We love this garden. We give it FIVE SPADES.

Next: 822 Garden Avenue. This place, sits on the corner, is up the street from our teacher, Mrs. Driessen, who God rest her soul, read us 'Charlotte's Web' on those hot first days of the third grade. She could do no wrong thereafter and was arguably our favorite. So we are at this darling white house on her block that features the quintessential shady front porch that flies the American flag. This ladies and gentlemen, is our childhood. We take a shady path on the side of the house to her back garden where we break into full sun patio. We are immediately frustrated because we want to be at a party here and we want all these people to be our oldest Coeur d'Alene neighbors and pals. They aren't. We don't know who the hell these people are but this garden is still simply scrumptious it is sooo inviting. The Head Gardener here has built privacy screens with flowers boxes built in that feature inviting and happy annuals and she also sports architectural pieces with pots and garden memorabilia and accessories. She has an old 9th Street street sign that hangs on her fence; our eyes narrowed and squinted when we saw this. We would commit a felony to have the same old sign from our street, just 3 blocks up. It would read, of course, Pennsylvania Avenue. And that we would make a brazen pitch such as this with our birthday mere days away is disconnected completely to this whole conversation. Completely. Okay, back to the garden: as fabulous as her patio with that incredible old table that could seat 20 easily was, it was the alley that sealed it for us. We had alleys in Coeur d'Alene, in the Garden District, and there was all sort of activity and negotiation that went on in those alleys involving every member of the family. God, we'd give anything for an alley at Bellemaison. She has hers planted with variety of perennials and vegetables, sunflowers! and she composts here, too. The exposure is perfect. This is a killer use of the ground. We give this garden FOUR SPADES.

Across the alley: yep, that's right. 823 Wallace Avenue. The garden club chose back door neighbors for the tour,something we don't think we have ever seen. It was terrific to trip across the alley into the neighbor's back garden, the path flanked by tall sunflowers. These people built this garden with and for their kids. They speak of the sandboxes and big wheels going and the little vegetable gardens coming as the kids grew up. Pottery fashioned by every member of the family abounds in this garden. These people and their values are transparent and form a charming garden experience: they make a wonderful vegetable garden that runs parallel to the alley. Again, that hot, full sun exposure will set and ripen that fruit by August with no problems at all. They make a delightful dining area where barrels full of multi-colored lettuces form the boundary for the next garden room where they display family artwork and sculptures. We were mentally car-jacked when we spotted plastic lemons on a plastic lemon tree tucked back into a corner off a pair of french doors. Whaaaaat? Even though these people are organic, we deduct a whole spade for the plastic and give them only THREE SPADES. What the heck are they thinking? We were damned distraught when we got back to the car and headed up to midtown.

930 5th Street. This, of course, is the Dingle house. We stood next to the current owner as she chatted with another tourer. She has not lived in the house long and and was saying that when she inherited the garden, there were sooo many shades of green, this is true, that it's her intent to put some color in the garden. Her greens are all shade greens and don't give off the green sparks like the garden on Bancroft. She said further that mostly she just wants to honor the garden and keep it in good form for the next owner. Utterly lovely woman. She really does have a sense of color as she put this whiskey barrel full of annuals on this stump. The barrel and the stump were the same color and texture. The garden features magnificent, old deciduous trees and it was a wonderful, cool haven on a hot July day. We give it and the owner FOUR SPADES.

12582 Strahorn, Hayden. Dear, dear, dear,dear. This was the northernmost leg of the tour and was your quintessential gauche garden experience. Had the gate, the lake, the lawn, the waterfalls and the bronzes. Had every silly touch of a wanna be/poser a garden could have. The head gardener here has probably moved 1,000,000 yards of soil onto this place. But let's start at the beginning: they hand you a separate program at the beginning of this tour that pedigrees both owners and the house. Do I care about these people's careers? Hardly. Not only that the program does not use the botanical name for the prodigious list of shrubs and trees they have planted, which is a taxonomy foul with no forgiveness. To be fair, maybe the labels at Home Depot don't give you the species and genus. The house is an utter yawn, a nouveau riche yawn. Dear god, they claim it's reminiscent of the houses in Southern France and Northern Spain. Clearly, as pedigreed as these owners are, they have not actually been to Southern France or Northern Spain. They do not attribute their art, they say it's unknown and although they refer to the artist who built Grandma's Tea House, they just don't give credit by name. And actually, that's the whole deal with this garden: the back patting and self congratulatory good ones! of this bizarre horticultural outpost are deafening and to hear them tell it, these gardeners were, are and will be real garden in the area for all time. I don't think so. We give them ONE SPADE. They use llama manure and oddly, given their pedigree, can't spell it. These people have much more money than sense. Or taste.

2484 East Woodstone Drive, Hayden. This is a lovely home in a posh development. The Head Gardener here uses a plethora of pink geraniums to create a terrific curbside vignette. She uses lots and lots of petunias in front of flowering shrubs in all her beds. In fact, here's the program for this garden, in total. April: prune the shrubs. May: plant and fertilize the petunias. October: pull the annuals out and toss. This is not a garden, but well maintained grounds. The Head Gardener on Woodstone has put in yet another water feature, apparently there's code in North Idaho that says that you absolutely must have a water feature on your property or your children will be mocked and scorned and will never amount to a thing. To be fair, this water feature is quite lovely but good god! she had plastic lotus! Enough said. This gardener/groundsman has such an eye for color, why doesn't she really do something with these grounds? I give her TWO SPADES. She needs to mix it up and get dirty.

1256 Bogue Court. This was another sub-division garden but this Head Gardener dropped in some dazzling touches. First, we must chide her for keeping the flower beds parallel to the lines of the property. She is so creative; why is she doing this? She employs a great mix of perennials and annuals in her beds and plantings, along with flowering shrubs and a few trees. Bravo on the imagination. And her water feature has a big nasty red orb! God, what the neighbors must think of this rebel! She also sneaked into our heart and laid down roots with her scarlet runner beans climbing along the fence; we just didn't see that coming. But it was the home stretch that made her a man among equals, those equals down in the Garden District that is, again blind siding us with some dazzling garden magic. We turned the corner to exit the garden and found this:

This is the space she carved out for the children in her life and it completely rocks. Best kid area of the day. We give this garden THREE SPADES. This garden is only three years old; we are expecting great things from this Head Gardener in the coming years.

We love the irony of the finest garden of the day being the smallest garden and costing the least to build. We love the surprises that can lay in the subdivisions. (note: don't count the suburbs out.) We love the renaissance in the old neighborhood and gratefully (okay, tearfully) thank the new neighbors. You rock, too. We're out now. It's cooled down enough to barbecue here. Another gorgeous North Idaho day, in the books.

The 'Kan, EWA

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

From my cousin, a new immigrant, to his family back to Germany:

June 22, 1846
Indiana, USA

" I deem it my duty to let you know where I am and how I am faring. In the first place, there is but little to write concerning the voyage, because these voyages are so frequently described . We were on the ocean for seven weeks, suffered and experienced many heavy storms, and yet the danger is by no means so great as people imagine. I would advise no one to give up his intentions of coming to America for fear of the voyage which I have discussed with many and the majority were satisfied...

All men are equal here and no one thinks that he should have greater respect shown him or that he should enjoy some higher title than his neighbor; it is all the same whether he fills some office or whether he lives by hard work. All stand on common footing. Officials are chosen for one or two years from among the people. The president of the country is elected for four years. Every man who has lived here five years can become a citizen. It costs him one dollar and he can vote on all questions and help elect public officials. There are two parties; democrats and aristocrats, the latter known as Whigs. There is great excitement when there is a governor to be elected, the excitement becomes greater at the time of a presidential election, for the election depends on the majority of votes. As you all know what democracy means, you may know that the greater number here are democrats because they have never been aristocrats anyway. There was a presidential election last year at which the democrats were the victors by a considerable majority. It was said during the campaign that if the Whigs should gain the victory, no German could thereafter become a citizen after less than a twenty-five year residence. Indeed the views of the Whigs are such as to limit our freedom.

The newspaper men really control the situation, especially in a presidential election. Everything comes of reading the newspaper. I wish greatly that the people of Germany might be able to read newspapers of this kind so that they might appreciate the future action of the Whigs. It is certainly necessary, therefore, that the presidential candidate must be a man of spotless, blameless character, for each party tries to belittle the candidate of the opposing party, and even the record of his earliest youth is carefully studied to discover whether he had made any serious mistakes or committed any wrong. At the last election the Whigs went so far as to publish a caricature representing their candidate as a fox, because they thought their party would be successful, and that of the Democrats as a rooster which was already in the clutches of the fox. The Democrats were not frightened and awaited the results. When the election decided in favor of the Democrats, the processions that usually turn out to celebrate such an event marched through the streets and instead of hurrahing, they all imitated the rooster's crowing and the foxes retreated to their holes.

Independence is the greatest of earthly blessings, and when one goes in to the cities on the Fourth of July, the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, one finds such festivities going on as excel all similar celebrations in Germany. It is a celebration that declares Independence over again, speeches are held in English and German, and the people exhorted to do all in their power that this freedom may be preserved; a heartfelt tribute is paid to the men who gained the precious freedom of our land. After the conclusion of the speeches, it is not the custom to give three cheers for the public officials, but all affirm that the United States form a nation of sovereign citizens who recognize no superior power but God. Expressions of this character are so numerous that they might fill whole pages and everyone is filled with enthusiasm, especially a German who hears all this for the first time. It seems impossible to him that there is really a country on earth where the worth of the individual is so recognized as it is to him a delight to hear people say, "Thank God, I am an American!"..."

Finally he closes as I do on this most special of days:

"Many thousand greetings to you from me, my children, and my friends as well as yours. My dearest wish remains that we may soon meet. "

The 'Kan EWA

Sunday, July 01, 2007

I'm packing heat.

Here at Bellemaison we take great pride in the fact that we are herbicide and pesticide free. We allow no chemicals to be used and rely on natural predators to keep noxious pests in check and use hot water and salt to eradicate weeds we pull with no success. We The Man. As a result, Bellemaison is home to all kinds of creatures that live in peace and harmony and that breathe freely. Until today.

We have a hundred or so newly hatched baby birds at the moment; they arrive when the roses are in full bloom and I have been lucky to get some wonderful pictures of them in their greediness as Mama scurries around Bellemaison, collecting their dinner. I was awakened early this morning by the dread sound of The Horsemen of The Apocolypse, the garden crows.

The crows come and take the baby birds from the nest as they cry for their mother. It is a fearsome sight to witness and the one and only reason why we have 75 birdhouses. The birds will still nest in the trees and in the tangles of roses but at least I know it was their choice. The crows came to raid this morning and when I rushed down to the garden, it was eerily quiet except for the raucous cawing of these demons. The squirrels are the only other sound and presence in the garden, making that strange chirp they make as they run up and down the tree trunks giving the birds latitude and longtitude of the black beasts. You do not see nor hear a bird or their babies; ; they are tucked into the houses that hang everywhere. And how the mothers quiet them fascinates me. But they do. The birds are safe as long as they stay in the houses.

There were eight crows who hung around here all day, screaming and calling and intimidating the very air. The Chow Nation paced and were restless. Sunday is a big sleep day for them and they didn't sleep all day as the harrassment of the crows continued without ceasing for the entire day. At a point, I would go out into the garden and angrily confront the crows; they were sooo scared of me. They just perched higher in the trees. Until Joe Montana came home.

Then the tables turned. He got out his pellet gun, his pellet gun he had on the Rez as a little kid, and loaded it for me and Justice Was Served. OtisGlikes to talk about the Joe and the time he spends there. Now Otis is a nice guy but I seriously doubt he learned to swim, shoot and fish on the Joe like I did. And it's a known and bitter fact that I was the best shot and caught the biggest fish in the family. Except for my dad. So I knew exactly what to do and was completely confident with my gun from the Rez. I sights me some crows sitting side by side on the wire and pfft pfft pfft! Ghandi. I caught the CSs who were perching higher mid air as they were making a break for it. Got off a couple more rounds to signal the Brave New World here at Bellemaison. Circled the patio to see if there was anything more that needed to be done. Seeing none, I put the gun away. The Chows were high fiving.

And this evening the birds sing and chirp as they criss cross the garden with bugs and worms for their babies. Everybody, most of all me, is happy. And I am just about postive you can be organic-certified and still carry a gun. I mean, why couldn't you?

The 'Kan EWA