Fun Fact: I spent 15 Euros on candy last Sunday

I realize it has been a long time since I have posted anything.. and so much has happened since my last post. I haven’t really had much time off lately, so I will try to catch y’all up briefly.

First – I got to visit my cousin in Berlin. Long story short, my team made it to the second round of the EuroCup, which was to be played in Russia (against a kickass team that won the thing), but my visa would not go through in time for the game, so I had a few days to travel. This ended up being an amazing foodie adventure. I LOVE food. I freaking love all of it, crazy food, ethnic food, breakfast food, any food. I follow more food accounts than human ones on Instagram now just so I can see the delicious food of America waiting for me (out of those food accounts, most of them are donut shops). Eating out in Finland is not cheap and I think I can count on my hand the amount of times I have eaten at a restaurant. When I went to Berlin, food was incredibly cheap. My cousin and I dedicated my last day simply to going to the Christmas Market and tasting all of the food (pizza, cheesy bread, pancakes, mulled wine, you name it). It was great to get to central Europe and relax, I really enjoyed my time there.

Second – for EuroCup we played the Russian team; first in Russia, then they came to play here. This was by far the best match I have been a part of in my life (and we played Penn State twice every year!). On this Russian team was apparently the world’s top outside hitter, a lot of members of the Russian National Team, and a Brazilian who had won the gold medal in the Olympics. I definitely felt like a peasant playing them, but it was a really cool experience to play such great players.

Third – Christmas. I did not have much time off for Christmas break either, but the time I did have off, my team/staff were so nice to invite me to their houses, so I could celebrate with them. In Finland, Santa comes and the whole shebang happens on the evening of the 24th. Imagine as a kid having to sit through dinner to wait for Santa to bring your presents! (Fun Fact: in Finland, people sometimes hire a dress up Santa to come to their house for their kids!) So, on the 24th, my trainer took me over to her house for some glogi (mulled wine, vodka, and spices) and dinner. It was really nice and I really loved glogi. I loved glogi so much that during the Christmas sauna, I decided to try a typical Finnish swim in the snow to cool off. The next day my teammate, Noppi, picked me up in the morning to go to her mom’s apartment. They recreated the typical Finnish Christmas (as if it was the 24th) for me, which was so cool; I am really grateful for them. The meal (this is the same every year, the foods don’t change): first, we had a lot of raw fish like lox, herring, etc. Since wine doesn’t go well with this stuff, somehow Noppi’s mom already knew I liked beer (I guess Noppi had told her we had drank a few together) and insisted that I have the best Finnish beer there is: Sandel’s. Then the next course was hams and cheeses and salads. Finally, the actual dinner was ham, a lot of casseroles (cabbage, carrot, potato), and beets, pickles, etc. After dinner, I was sitting on the couch when Noppi’s mom was teaching me these Finnish Christmas songs. After we sang a few, out comes Noppi’s sister dressed as Santa and this Santa brought me some sweet Finnish gifts, like a Christmas cookie cutter in the shape of Finland and some Finnish Fazer Chocolate. She also got me a kid’s book with all the Finnish Christmas songs AND it is a music book so if I press buttons it plays the tunes of the songs! Another Finnish tradition is visiting the cemetery. If you have had a family member pass away, you light a candle and say a few words on Christmas. When we went, the cemetery was so beautiful with the snow and the candles. We went back to Noppi’s house and on the table was all kinds of cookies and pastries. My favourite was this date bread. I really have no portion control, so if you leave out 1 cookie, I will only eat 1, but if you leave out 30 cookies, somehow my stomach can handle all 30. It’s a blessing and a curse. Impressive, but dangerous for one’s health. I am really so thankful for the people who made my Christmas here so memorable. Yes, I did get soft talking to my family back home, and my mom made me say hi to every single family member while that was happening, but what can I say? Who doesn’t look hotter when they are crying?

Fourth – the rest is kinda just random. Personally, I can honestly say I have never felt more exhausted (physically, mentally, emotionally) in my life. With all of the injuries on my team, I have been lucky to be healthy, but this also means that I have had a lot less time to recover. With that being said, yes I do workout a ton, but Noppi, Riikka, and her boyfriend Panu find time to celebrate another week of survival by buying candy and drinking wine. I have this limit I usually set at the candy store (my life is so exciting!) of 2-3 Euros because it is by the weight of your candy (3-4 euros was obviously a bad day, 3-4 euros plus a mini ice cream.. you can probably guess). Last Sunday we played a hard game in the Finnish Cup Finals, and so we went to the candy store naturally. The lady told us the store was closing, so we all got really nervous like the world was going to end if we didn’t try everything and our bag ended up weighing 15 EUROS! How does this happen? I tell myself it all went to my boobs or some body part like my tiny calves or head that really need it.

3 months until I am back.. crazy. I cannot say it enough, but I would really like to think I have the best family and the best friends back home, because they have been so great to keep me in the loop with their lives, make sure I am surviving, send me funny jokes (that mean tons, I usually laugh out loud), etc. I am so excited to see everyone in person, but also gonna Finnish strong here (I am so punny)!

In Lieu of Thanksgiving

Funny fact to start: I made this Food Menu plan for this week because Thanksgiving got the best of me and today’s menu read:

  • Breakfast: overnight oats/chia seeds/banana
  • Lunch: Salad, Fish
  • Snack: Advent candy and 1/2 banana (chug water)
  • Dinner: cauliflower pizza, salad, 2 apples

What really happened:

  • Breakfast: overnight oats
  • Lunch: Salad, Fish
  • Snack: Advent Candy and 1/2 banana and lots of water
  • Dinner: cauliflower pizza, salad, 2 apples, 2 clementines, 4 spoonfuls of cookie butter, 6 gingerbread cookies, a handful of candy corn, 1 more spoonful of cookie butter

So, this past week was Thanksgiving, and ever since Ally Sabol and I watched Hoosiers and ate chile rellenos in my South Quad dorm room alone freshman year, without anyone else occupying a room in the whole building, it has become my favourite holiday. Each year in college, we would have practice in the morning and then after I got to feast with my classmates and their amazing and extremely entertaining families. It was always a time filled with too much wine, end of Big Tens, and the only football game we got to seriously tailgate for, the OSU/UM game.

This year was no different. I am so so so lucky that my mom got to come for the entire week to visit me 🙂 We got to catch up and cook a ton of food together, which actually went pretty smoothly, minus a minor turkey freakout when we realized my oven might not be big enough for that sucker to fit in there. We decided that we should invite my team since they have never experienced Thanksgiving since here it is not really a thing, so I just threw it out there that we were gonna feast and anyone could come if they wanted. In seconds my phone was blowing up, and ultimately my entire team said they would be there along with the team’s masseuse, Tuija. We were about to attempt cooking Thanksgiving for 16 people, and up to this point, the most complicated food I had prepared for myself was a sunny side up egg. BUT, I am not lying when I say this was the best Thanksgiving food I have ever eaten. The beautiful, beautiful turkey, the carrot soufflé, the potatoes, the pies, even the brussel sprouts were top notch. I am so thankful that everything turned out and my team got to all hang out together!

Speaking of things I am thankful for, here are a few things I am thankful for that have happened over the last couple months: my mom (I really did not want her to leave), my coaches because on Thanksgiving they decided in practice that my position would hit around 300 balls each (straight for 1.5 hours), so I did it with a smile thinking of the extra pieces of pie that were to come, my grandpa who made my day by not understanding how to use FaceTime in any way and held the phone to his nose, my new italian speaking teammate who informed me that retardo is not “retard” in italian.. it means “late” (all this time I thought my coach kept saying “Lexi, you are a little retardo”), alone time that allows me to sing and dance to JT in my apartment in half-calfs and huge T-shirts, evaporated milk, I could drink that stuff, new friends and being forced to sit in a car while spinning out/drifting in the snow, dive bars, SAUNAS, and my mom trusting me enough to drive stick through the streets of Hämeenlinna. Thankfully (ha), I am a natural.

Note: One thing I am not thankful for is Usher, who cancelled his show in Helsinki. I know it’s cold, but damn.

Volleyball is going well, we only have one loss in the league and are still in second. This coming week, we play in Russia for the EuroCup, however, I will not be going because apparently it is 2-3 thousand Euros for an American to get a Russian Visa for a 4 day visit. I am getting used to playing in a skirt, however, those things are not made for those who might have larger than average asses.

Finland is beautiful in the winter and I am really excited to do all the cool winter-y things. I have my chai tea latte mix, hot cocoa mix, coffee, and sleepy time tea all ready for the cold months ahead.

 

Celebrity Shot

Hello friends, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Taylor, and I am one of Lexi’s two younger sisters. I am currently a junior at Emory University, which funny story, someone giving a presentation yesterday mentioned as being a “Top 20 University”. Truth be known we’ve dropped to 21…a fact that many of us (including myself) are extremely bitter about. We’re curing Ebola for crying out loud; I think that deserves a ranking too young to order its own drinks.


Anyways, this week we decided to switch blogs. I am actually the author of another blog, focused on dealing with the struggles of being a Christian in college. It’s called Faith and Risk. But this week I’m attempting to channel my inner Mindy Kaling and make people laugh, which has always been Lexi’s job. I have been given the huge honor of being able to say “Yeah you know those professional athletes? Well I’m related to one.” But I think the best way to describe my feelings toward my sister being a whole world away is to explain it in the stages I’ve experienced so far.


Stage #1: There was the day when she accepted. I still remember it like a fresh #tbt on Instagram. Hannah (our youngest sister), Lexi and I had decided to go play bingo for a night. You don’t think bingo is for young people? Imagine a room full of 500 people with an average age of 25, bringing in boxes of pizza, bottles of cheap liquor, and a heart full of the hope of winning a blackout bingo board worth $400. It’s a serious business. Lexi opened an email containing her contract, and I videotaped her responding “yes”. Seconds later, I won the blackout bingo board. Good night? The best.


Stage #2: The packing up day. As my title of the “stylish” Erwin implies, I have historically been the closet that gets the most stolen out of it. But this was MY day to steal. All of the clothes too cold to take to Santa’s Village? Mine. The non-essentials? Mine. A sweet pair of rain boots? Checkmate. I currently am wearing a super oversized sweater that was Lexi’s, so thanks sis. Owe that one to you and your closet. We laughed all day as we looked up how to say words like “beer” and “bar” on the Finnish translator app and also when we had to unpack EVERY suitcase to try to find some sleeping pills my mom had packed in there for the plane…not sure if we ever located them.


Stage #3: My current stage. Luckily thanks to technology, I am still very connected with my sister, whether it’s iMessage or FaceTime or her sending me her classic snapchats, you know the ones of a close up of her face. (Oh yeah. The best part of waking up isn’t Folgers in your cup; it’s Lexi’s snaps on your phone) I am doing my best to be the supportive little sister I should be, because holy crap who gets to say they played PROFESH volleyball in Europe every day? But what we both didn’t realize was what exactly this separation would be like for both she and her family. For us, it’s kind of like she went back to UMich, but there is no Rick’s in Finland (to my knowledge). She is literally braving the storm for the next five months, and we all miss her more than anything. For me I would say I miss her more than Netflix, because that’s when you know it’s real. So Lex, I love and miss you and am so proud of you. Näkemiin ladies and gents.

All-You-Can-Eats make me smile

As I start to write this post, I realise that last night I snap chatted me eating an entire pint of Ben and Jerry’s, so it really doesn’t help the credibility of this blog post about my eating, but everyone can have cheat day(s) and it was the Greek yogurt kind, so it was the good fats (all 46g of them).

First, I will talk about the Finnish food/food culture in general. The food here is really not that different than food in the US, however; from what my teammates tell me, food in Europe is much healthier than the states because of the stricter food regulations. Pretty much everything here is all natural, for example, they don’t have a big selection of the fake butter, anything “fat free” or “diet” because they don’t use a lot of chemicals in their foods. The typical Finnish meal, from what I am told, is: bread, salad, POTATOES, and beef (sometimes reindeer), and the people put jelly on the beef. Salmon is also really popular and cheap, as there are a lot of lakes, it is more popular than chicken. There is always a salad bar! It is awesome. Wherever you eat, once you order your meal, you can hit the all-you-can-eat salad buffet. My teammates know I love buffets more than most other things (especially breakfast ones), so every time we eat at a buffet they all ask me how excited I am. Things that all Fins eat a lot of: bread. There are always baskets and baskets of bread before every salad bar. Coffee: I love this part of the culture and will bring it back with me. After every meal, there is coffee time. This is the part of the meal where you get your coffee, sip it slow, and get to catch up with whoever you are with. Pineapples are eaten with salad, chicken, pizza, everything. Cottage cheese is this new thing I am really into, except from what I remember in the states, people usually eat it with fruit, kind of like a dessert. Here, it is what you put on your salad. Dessert Pudding: this is harder to explain what this actually is. After the meal, restaurants usually have a mixed berry cream pudding, but I think someone told me it is made from cottage cheese. It tastes like a sweet berry cloud if you could imagine what a cloud tastes like.

A huge part of Finnish culture is the candy culture. I have never seen so many candy stores in my life, and I am a sweets fanatic on a mission to seek out any and every sweet shop available to me. If I have to choose a last meal on this earth it will be an entire carrot cake with cream cheese icing, Zingerman’s size. So, I love sweets and so do the Fins. There are candy dispensers (the ones where you use the scooper and weigh your candy) in grocery stores, in gas stations, pretty much everywhere, and the worst part is they strategically place them right before the checkout. (I am becoming addicted to chewing gum in the grocery store, so I resist the temptation of the sexy chocolate covered toffees staring right into my soul). Another sweet that I love from Finland is pullah. Pullah is this pastry that is kind of like pull-apart bread with jelly inside.

So, this is how Fins eat, but I became aware my first couple weeks here that this is not how volleyball players eat. We had a meeting with our coaches in the first few weeks about food and how our body and what we eat is part of our job. They also said we eat way too much bread (LOL). I never thought about this before because at Michigan if I wanted cheesy bread, I ordered it. If I wanted Franzia (you know you’re broke when you want Franzia), I drank it. I never really understood this concept, until now. If I eat shitty before practice, I feel really shitty in practice. If I don’t eat enough before practice, I feel like a zombie with no brain and the slowest reaction times ever. It’s funny to me, because some of you may be working all day on whatever you work on in an office, but because we get our body fat measured pretty often, eating is my work. Kinda cool, kinda weird. (And yes, on saturdays I eat 5 donuts if I want to.)

I am realising this wasn’t my funniest post, I apologise, but here are some highlights of my past weeks. I gambled for the first time and won 3 Euros. I got really nervous after I won twice (betting a whopping .20 cents) and decided to stop. I played badminton with these 3 guys and it was a really hard workout. Badminton is no joke and there is a lot of trash talk! I won one game and the other games I lost 21-6, they really had no mercy on the noob. I am have really been thankful for my family lately, who, even when I am not feeling my best, remind me of my strengths. A new bar opened in the city and it is much more age appropriate for my teammates and I. I am also looking forward to when we actually make it to the karaoke bar, because I made a promise that I would sing the Finnish National Anthem for my song. We play in Austria in 2 weeks and I am really excited to travel and see a new country!

Time to catch up on The Mindy Project! Moi!

 

My yoga pants fell down in practice today

Something that is different here than in the states: you can wear yoga pants in practice. I resisted for a long time because I love spandex, they are like a comfy pair of underwear that covers your love handles. However, my legs get cold in practice now that it is snowing here, and today I tried the yoga pant trend. The problem is I tried a pair that were not exactly the skin tight material you need for ultimate coverage in all situations. I am warming up like normal, and then we start to do this drill where you stand on the court with the coach and he just throws a ball barely off of the ground wherever his heart desires and you have to just kind of dive and somehow manage to get the ball back to him. (Apologies for the run-on.) Well, I dive and realize that my ass is way out, only because I hear tons of laughing. Think twice before following the crowd and stay unique people.

Last weekend the team flew back up to Santa Claus Village and this time I got to meet up with an old friend from Michigan Volleyball camp, Joe. It just so happened we didn’t fly home until Friday afternoon and were done Thursday, so my teammate and I met some of their team at karaoke. It was a blast, and now that I think about it, Joe and I were the only ones who actually sang any of the songs. I was really nervous to sing at first, I guess it has been a while, the last time I “sang” was The Jug in June when Sabol and I rapped Candy Shop. So, naturally, Under The Bridge was a song that hit the low notes, the super high notes, and got the good singing vibes going. (Maybe some shots of whiskey, too). There even was a cougar who dedicated her song to one of the guys and had some very sexy words for him after the song, thank goodness for the Finnish guys who could translate! It was a really fun trip altogether, and I am glad we got to meet up!

Another big thing: Noppi and I are going to see Usher on February 23. I am beyond pumped because I honestly haven’t been to that many concerts in my life. My grandma works for a Christian Radio station, so I grew up at Reliant K and Switchfoot concerts, which are great no doubt, but a chocolate R&B concert?!?! It is a beautiful thing. We have a countdown going. I am also trying to convice Noppi to go to a nude beach with me (sorry Mom). I am not going for the naked people, but I think you should say yes to new experiences at least one time (not everything… but most things), and I have heard it is freeing to just completely put yourself out there. Maybe we should make a bucket list.

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Community Showers are my Happy Place

Today marks a very important day in Hämeenlinna, Finland because it was the first day that there was a dance off in the shower. Now, I love the new arena. It is clean, huge, but my favourite part right now is the sauna and the showers. I come home later and later each day because I spend more and more time in the locker room, hanging out in the shower.

When I was a freshman in college, I had never, ever been in a community shower before. I heard about them and instead of being nervous to mess up at volleyball in my first practice, I was more nervous to strip down in front of a bunch of girls who I was not yet comfortable around. I remember, after practice I would take my time, visit the trainer and postpone the shower as long as possible because I was not ready yet for this coming of age. However, that shower in Cliff Keen was one of the most fun places on campus for me during my four years. My teammates at Michigan can get down. Yes, in the shower, but also in the locker room. It was the first place where pulling my jersey up over my face and flailing myself to “Wild For The Night” was accepted and encouraged. It was a place where Courtney Fletcher (almost Wilkinson wow) came up with a signal that could alert any volleyball player in Rick’s that it was time to bust that dance move from the locker room that no one on earth has seen before. Most importantly, I learned a very valuable lesson that every one has something that they want to change about their body, but everyone has their weird thing, so embrace it and dance in that shower.

Today was a rough day at practice, yes. There was a lot of yelling, a lot of swearing, a lot of mistakes, BUT, there are always speakers and there is always a shower. And this is my happy place. This is not weird. If you haven’t experienced a community shower before, maybe you should. It is a freeing experience that can make you feel more comfortable in your own skin!

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I can be your Lance Armstrong

A lot of firsts going on over here! The first first (LOL) is that we have moved into the new arena, which is beyond sick. In our locker room we have showers (pretty standard unless you aren’t in to that), a sauna, a massage table, and shelves are being built so we can have food and PROTEIN SHAKES/supplements. There are 16 of these locker rooms in the arena, and this has been the first week where I have seen people from other sports like hockey and gymnastics, because we all use this arena now. This leads into the second first which is the arena is a little farther than the old gym we were practicing in.. It is actually about 2.5 miles away, so I have also started my Tour de France training. I am actually not a very good bike rider.. I never really have been. When I tried to learn, I remember I was in some grass and my mom stood me up on the bike and I think I was too scared to pedal so I just tipped over on my side. This is weird to me because spinning is my favourite work out? AND, this leads me to my third first: It has snowed. It didn’t stick on the ground, but there were flakes. It was September 23 when this happened, and I don’t think this is the best sign of the winter to come. I have heard from my teammates that in the East, there has already been about 3 inches.

Another first: the first full weekend plus Monday off. I cannot even explain to you the excitement I had after we were done with our “friendly match” on Friday (even after getting our butts whooped). Not setting an alarm has never been so awesome. Off days are dangerous. They are scary because you love them so much you don’t want to return to your daily schedule that you previously had been a part of. This was very true of my off days. Saturday was me in bed pretty much all day.. I watched some rom-coms on Netflix along with some Mad Men (Christina Hendricks is so sexy), and then Noppi and I went out. I bought this whiskey/brandy (?) from the liquor store because a bartender once told me that “all of the Finnish rockstars drink it,” and being like a rock star is what I live for. Kidding, but it sounded cool. Highlights from the night: requesting Anaconda with Noppi and getting it changed after 30 seconds, a 3 Euro cookie that I apparently did not care was extremely over priced, and getting a huge pizza (that was my first Finnish pizza). I love that they put pineapples on pretty much everything, because I love pineapples on my pizza. Sunday was another pretty chill day, I had a sugaring appointment, the equivalent to American waxing, went on a run (when I was pretty far out, it started to pour), and made this avocado banana hair stuff that hasn’t really done anything for my hair.

MONDAY. Monday really made me want to make something that will make me billions so I can live in a big city, never work, and just look fly for life. I went to Helsinki and this time I really wanted to check out the Design District. They have some really cool museums like the Finnish Architecture museum, the design museum, the art museum, etc. I am a nerd for big cities and the design of them because that is what I studied in college and if I had enough money to buy the clothes that I pin on Pinterest, I would look fly in the city. Also, I had my first pumpkin spice latte and paid the American equivalent of 9 dollars for it (that is what the selfie is of.. completely basic, but completely necessary). I drank that thing so slow and can honestly say that I got my money’s worth. I also had my first macaroon which I am now addicted to. Macaroons, to me, are like edible pillows of sugar. Find something bad about an edible pillow of sugar and we can chat. I got to go to an art museum that explained the HUGE peeing boy statue in Helsinki by the market square, and this artist is kinda freaky. He has plenty more peeing statues, I saw them all in his section of the museum. He said something like he just molds stuff together and is always surprised by what comes out of it, but I don’t know… Can an artist really not know that what he is molding is going to make a peeing boy statue?

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