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3 Finnish Things I’m Grateful For

Here are 3 Finnish things I’m grateful for: non-nonsense coffee, electric kettles, and the lack of door knobs. You heard me. No door knobs.

No-Nonsense Coffee

Finns drink more coffee per capita than anyone else in the world. You might think this means they’re on the cutting edge of exotic coffee drinks, but it’s quite the opposite. When you walk into most cafes in Central Finland you will find dozens of delicious baked goods and one kind of coffee. Yes, there are places where you can get cappuccinos, espressos, mochas, cold brews and all of that. They are the exception. Almost no one gets coffee to go. You sit down, drink it from a proper cup, and enjoy it. There is one size, but you can pay for refills when you order. If you don’t want caffeine, drink herbal tea or water.

Electric Kettles

This isn’t specifically a Finnish thing, but a general European thing. Rather than microwaving a cup of water, or heating a regular kettle on the stovetop, everyone has an electric kettle. Fill it with water, click it into a base that’s plugged in, and switch it on. In about a minute you have hot water for tea, to make coffee in a press, or for any other purpose you come up with. It doesn’t whistle, and when the water it hot it automatically shuts off. Mine is stainless steel, so the water stays hot for about an hour. Fast, easy, and a small footprint on my limited counter space.

No Door Knobs

I’m sure they exist somewhere, but in six years I haven’t seen a single doorknob. Doors have handles that you wrap your fingers around and twist down. This makes them accessible to everyone, and a lot easier to open the door when your hands are full. The entrance doors to buildings just have push- and pull-handles, but a lot of those are currently being retrofitted due to COVID-19. They’re equipping the bars with a large plastic hook that you can put your forearm into and pull the door open, so you don’t need to touch anything with your hands. My favorite thing, though, is that apartment doors have no handle at all. There’s just a keyhole. You put your key in, turn it, and pull the door open with it. My appreciation for the keys here is the subject for a whole other post.

3 Finnish Things I’m Grateful For

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Resisting the Urge to Bake

During the early days of lockdown, I went on a bit of a baking spree. A lot of people got deeply into creating their own sourdough starter and making their own bread. My personal mania extended to cakes, pies, biscuits, muffins, rolls, pastries, you name it, I probably took a swing at it. Some of that was a control thing. It falls under the same category as stocking the pantry to ridiculous levels in case I couldn’t leave the flat for a month. A lot of it, though, was just an excuse to make things. I enjoy baking almost as much as I enjoy eating. Which is why, at the moment, I’m resisting the urge to bake.

Things are pretty under control here in central Finland, COVID-wise. The number of new cases, and the number of new deaths, can be measured in single digits per week. It’s no reason to get sloppy, but I also have no legitimate reason to panic. The stores are open, and we’ve returned to the old routine of twice-weekly shopping trips. If nothing else, it’s nice to talk a walk in the summer weather and enjoy fresh produce.

Even though the temperatures here are moderate (people seem to think 24°C / 75°F is “hot”), it gets too hot inside the apartment to turn on the oven. A tasty treat doesn’t seem like an even trade for the hours of sweating I would need to endure while I waited for the kitchen to cool down. Plus, I can go out and buy something. It is ice cream weather, after all.

I also have far too much to do right now. Prep takes time. Baking takes time. Cleaning up takes time. I used up oh so much of that during the early days of lockdown, when nothing felt pressing and we wondered if this was going to be the end of the world. While we can’t rule out apocalypse just yet, it hasn’t happened yet. So until doomsday does arrive, I’ve got to focus on work.

Resisting the Urge to Bake

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June 10 2020 Daily Proof of Life Post

7:00 am EEST (GMT+3). This is the June 10 2020 daily proof of life post. I hope everyone is safe and well, and that the events of your day are happy and healing.

Yesterday I woke up at 5 am. I hadn’t slept well, and finally gave up. By 7 am, when I make my proof of life entry, I’d edited 5 pages of a WIP and written 3 blog posts. Since it was still cool in the apartment, I also baked banana muffins. Then I did two loads of laundry, requiring four trips up and down two flights of stairs on my screaming hip. At that point Katie was getting up, so I made breakfast burritos. By 9 am I’d cooked enough macaroni and chopped enough vegetables to make enough pasta salad to last a week. I also made yogurt rice to use as both a side dish and a snack with future meals. Then I cleaned the kitchen to a spotless condition, leaving no evidence of how busy I’d been.

I’ve written about this before, but cooking is control for me. I can’t do anything to fix what’s happening in the world, but I still have dominion over my own kitchen. Food is safety and security. No matter what happens, the pantry is stocked and we’re not going to starve. This is how I manage my anxiety.

June 10 2020 Daily Proof of Life Post
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Guess What My Go-To Snack When Writing Is?

What’s your go-to snack when writing? Mine is… nothing. Even though my office is literally the kitchen, I don’t eat at my desk. When I’m writing, I need to give all of my attention to that. On a break, I get to focus on my snacks and appreciate them, rather than gobbling them mindlessly.

My Go-To Snack When Writing

I’ve said this before, and I will continue to preach it: When you work at home, you need to clearly separate work from not-work. Eating at your desk is not respecting the division between work-time and you-time. We have been conditioned by toxic corporate doctrines that the goal is to be productive all the time.

Human multitasking is fake. Computers might be able to do it, but you are not a computer. Constant context-switching makes you less efficient. When you’re mixing in something pleasurable (a snack), you’re not only depriving the work of your full attention, you’re depriving yourself of a moment of joy. Stop it!

Sometimes the most productive thing you can do is to have a peaceful moment to yourself, to rest, process your thoughts, and enjoy a snack.


The Merry Writer is a writer’s game on Twitter run by Ari Meghlen (@arimeghlen) and Rachel Poli (@RPoli3). Each day there’s a new question, and each month there’s a new theme. In these posts I expand upon the answers that I’ve posted on my Twitter.

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May 9 2020: Shortages, Flexibility, and Prioritizing Your Panic

May 9 2020: To shake things up this past week, we had Pizza Tuesday and Taco Friday. I know, I’m a rebel. It was driven by the fact that I didn’t have the stuff to make tacos on Tuesday, and we went to the grocery store on Wednesday.

When I wrote about our trip out the other day, I didn’t mention shortages. Back in the early days of this thing, I’d take pictures of the toilet paper aisle in the stores to show that Finland was well-supplied. There was another early trip where they were out of yeast and shelf-stable milk. For the most part, there hasn’t been a lot of disruption.

What I noticed this past week is that the price of pork has risen substantially. Beef and chicken were about the same, which is odd because most of the meat is produced domestically. All I can think of is that Finns are big on pork. I think they eat more pork than any other meat other than maybe fish. Folks stuck at home might have been panic-buying and packing their freezers.

One thing they were absolutely out of were tortilla chips. They had every other variety of chip you could imaging, but no tortilla chips. I wonder if it’s because the bulk of the world’s corn comes from the United States, and that’s where the disruption is. Corn tortillas are nigh-impossible to find here. It takes a special trip to the Turkish market (which I’m not sure is even open) to get masa. So I couldn’t even make my own. I ended up buying large burrito-sized flour tortillas, making crispy quesadillas, and using those to scoop up taco meat and other toppings. It worked.

Prioritizing Your Panic

I know people who’d lose their damned minds if the store were out of something they wanted. Katie and I once spent 45 minutes in a grocery store because her mother could not find the gallon-sized Diet Peach Snapple and would not leave until someone assured her that it had not been discontinued and could tell her when they’d be getting more in stock. Then there are the incidents I’ve written about in the past, where people shoot fast food workers because they left bacon off a burger or were out of chicken nuggets.

Which is why I’m not surprised to hear about Americans’ ridiculous behavior regarding the shutdown. Consumerism has promised them that they can have what they want when they want it. As long as they can afford it, they’re entitled to it. Having to wear a mask, or not being able to sit down to eat at a favorite restaurant, seems like a stupid hill to die on. Except the mildly inconvenienced people aren’t the ones dying, they’re the ones doing the killing.

May 9 2020

  • If you get anything out of these blog posts, consider buying me a coffee. You can also purchase one of my books or zines from Gumroad or DriveThruRPG.
  • I check all email and Twitter DMs, personal and professional, three times a day. Responses are made as time allows; if it requires some thought or research on my part, it will take me longer.
  • I am actively avoiding news and social media to focus on writing. Please take your information from reliable sources and certified experts, not the Mad Carrot and its puerile cultists.
  • Today is Day 54 in isolation.