Dec 24, 2015

Merry Christmas!

Hello everyone,
It is Christmas. They thought it was a great idea to take this picture, but I'm not fully convinced. I do love the warm scarf but those red hearts...perhaps a bit too feminine for my taste.

But oh well, whatever buys me a treat. I can be flexible.

Urho's Christmas pose (photo by Alice Pittacolo & Nani Annette)

Don't know what is it with these people. They just keep coming up with new projects, and fail to capture the essence of easy life. They should learn from us dachshunds. Sleep in, stay warm and position yourself as close to food. Procrastination is an art.

But other than that they are pretty harmless. And they have their moments - for example now when the Ibérico Bellota arrived. I think I've almost broke them. They will soon get careless. Pieces of meet will eventually start falling. At that very moment, I will be there.

So I mind as well stick around for another year. This team needs someone with a sparkling intelligence and solid leadership skills. They need someone to revolve around, me.

But hey, now it is time to take it even easier and enjoy even better treats than usually. Therefore, may your Christmas be very relaxing and filled with delicious surprises. Let's enjoy the art of doing nothing.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


Dec 23, 2015

Concrete steps, part 2

So the mold was ready and it was time to mix the mud. Pekka borrowed a concrete mixer from his friend Stenkka, whose tools and knowledge have been invaluable during these 3.5 years of renovation. Once again, thank you!

Concrete mixer

Mixing and pouring concrete to the mold is an iterative process. You start from the bottom of the stairs and work your way up. Every now and then you need to get a rid of bubbles inside the mix. In case of a small mold like this one, this was simply done by hammering the mold from various directions.

One down, seven to go

We knew it would be a bit of a gamble with the weather. Thus, Pekka worked the entire day to get the job done at once before the temperature would drop. Luckily, the weather stayed warm enough through the process.

Concrete man

These were quite intense moments. Step by step Pekka worked his way up the mold, but even if he had 3D-modelled the structure in order to estimate the amount of concrete needed, he wasn't quite sure how close he was, would there be enough concrete.

Fresh-out-of-oven concrete stairs

Finally, just before the darkness fell the all the steps were ready. It also seemed the mold was holding well and out of the 37 sacks of concrete, he had used 34. Perfect!

Daughter & Father team

Sofi of course helped. For a three year old, what could be more exiting that making mud and playing with it with her father. She is such a great apprentice, and truly interested in everything renovation related. One of her most frequently asked questions at the moment is: "How has this been made?"

Wrapped in a zillion layers

Apparently it requires approximately 400 C / hours for concrete to harden. At the moment the temperature in Southern Finland varies between 0 - 10C, Pekka wanted to minimise the risks. Therefore, he first wrapped his precious mold with a felt, then covered it with a tarpaulin to prevent contact with water. He also set a 110W light bulb to create heat underneath the cover and monitored the temperature carefully by adding a thermometer. Nearly as in a scientific experiment, the end result was stable 8C.

Sound a bit extensive? Yes, we would need to agree.

And what is revealed underneath?

One week is a long time when all you can do is wait. Would it settle? Would the rhythm of the stairs be convenient to walk?

Brand new stairs

In the end, everything went as planned. Yes, the concrete has some visible bubbles, but is not a problem. Next spring Pekka will cover the steps with the same slates we used downstairs and at the terrace. So exciting! It will be the first summer with a yard, instead of a muddy mess!

Dec 22, 2015

Concrete steps, part 1

For a moment the backyard looked okay. Slate terrace nicely laid, ready for winter to be completed next spring. But then the construction bug bit again, Pekka started playing with his 3D-modeling software and suddenly he was out there again, building stairs.

Earth moving manually 

After digging a big enough hole, Pekka started with some 50 mm Finnfoam thermal insulation to minimise the impact of ground frost. Next, in the spirit of recycling and minimising the amount of concrete needed, he piled the rest of the concrete blocks which used to be our old terrace on top of insulation.

First two stairs

The first two stairs were fine. Approaching the third, Pekka found something we had completely forgotten: a big stump, a remain of a big pine tree which was cut down right after we moved in. Right on the way of the third step. Of the two options, either moving the stairs or getting rid of the stump he chose the latter.

Half cut tree stump

The way was clear again. One step at the time Pekka continued all the way up.

Reinforcing steel wire

Next, he build a steel wire to support the concrete structure.

Building a mold

And finally, a mold for the concrete.


And a few weeks after the bug bite, the stairs were ready for concrete. Even if wishing for a white Christmas, we now crossed fingers for the weather to stay warm as the concrete requires +10C to settle and harden...

Will it hold?

Dec 9, 2015

Handmade stars

So it is December.

Unfortunately at the moment, the chances of having a white Christmas look a bit slim.

To beat the greyness of the weather, we have started decorating our home for the Holidays. Sofi is already old enough to get thrilled about everything Christmas related, including decorations. How many years we will be able to avoid the pastel coloured glittering ornaments is another story, but for now warm, earthly tones are still accepted by her.

A while back Minna ran across some beautiful wooden stars on a local online flea market. She soon found out the stars were handmade by Kalle, an 86 year old gentleman who lives in Kivijärvi, Central Finland. First, Kalle has cut down the birch trees, then dried the wood, cut the wood chips and finally shaped the delicate strings to form stars. A process which requires skill and patience.

Many times we have discussed how important it is to create our own Christmas traditions. We already have a few. A Christmas poem reflecting a bit of the year passed. Watching the Snowman movie and Declaration of Christmas Peace. And now these beautiful, timeless stars in the kitchen window.

Oh, almost forgot. Besides the wooden stars, there is another tradition to be launched this year: Ibérico Bellota. Proposed by Pekka, and eagerly supported by Sofi and Urho. Difficult to say which one of those three will be drooling the most when the delivery arrives.