Tuesday, 6 November 2018

International Lifestyle // Foreign Influences

When I got together with Q I was asked the question: "Why never a Finn?" Fair enough, I have never dated a man from my own country but this was never a conscious decision. Since the age of 17 I have led a very international lifestyle which my family described as me having always one leg outside the borders of Finland. Therefore it was just statistically more likely for me to date foreigners instead of Finns. However, I have recently begun to realise how my choice of lifestyle has slowly but surely left me with traces of cultures I have encountered along the way.

It was our last trip to Finland and the interactions with my family and old friends that got me thinking about just how much life in France has changed my views and habits. Sometimes I even felt like they all lived in a bubble which I was now observing from the outside. I'm not saying this to criticize or to belittle my countrymen but to describe the feeling of thrifting away from the cultural atmosphere of my own country. For instance, last time visiting I was taken for a snob for ordering an espresso instead of filtered coffee while for me the choice had nothing special about it.

Anyway, then I realised I have also been influenced by other than the French culture. My exchange year in Japan and a long term relationship with a Filipino have definitely left traces on me. These are all things I do, feel or think instinctively without even giving it a second thought. Life in Japan has  for example left me with the eternal doubt that someone might be hiding their negative feelings from me while putting on a smile. In the other hand, my experience has made me capable to wear that mask also myself when need be. The Japanese wear these "masks" firstly to spare others' feelings and  to avoid an open conflict. While this custom of reading between the lines works out fine in the land of the rising sun, it's not always working out for me here in Europe. I think why I adopted this behaviour is that it caused me a lot of pain and confusion in the beginning of my stay in Japan. The way I still remember those first months is that I had this invisible gun pointed at my head while the person threatening me told me to smile. I had to break myself into pieces and adapt or they would have sent me home. Despite of the hardships I really loved the country so I did what was necessary to continue my stay. I think the great effort it took to fit in is the reason why this bit of the Japanese culture is still a part of me. Surely, there are some other, more superficial, remnants left such as:

  • To ask a person to come over I turn my palm towards the ground with fingers together and move my hand up and down. Doing this gesture with the palm up is concidered rude as it's generally used for animals.
  • I always straighten out a bill before handing it to the cashier. Maybe this is common sense but I did not do it so consistently before Japan.
  • Holding bowls and cups without a handle the traditional way.

As I mentioned, I have been in a long-term relationship with a Filipino. Obviously, when you spend a lot of time with a person you start to match your communication with theirs. So here I am almost 5 years later and I'm still using my mouth to point at people and objects. Yes, my mouth. If I need to for example point you where the remote control is, I'll push out my lips (basically like before a kiss), simultaneously tilt my head and point at the direction of the object with my lips. I'm sure though I'm the only one in my entourage who realises the origin of this behaviour.

As I continue living in France, I'll surely absorb more and more of the local culture. In a way the process is faschinating and enriching but it does worry me a little that it might make it harder to connect with people back at home. What do you think? Do you recognize bits of different cultures within yourself?

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Latest Sews // 3 Dresses // 2 Tops

I have accumulated quite a pile of new makes since my first major sewing post. As I dragged my sewing machine all the way to Finland, I was even able to finish a couple of projects during our stay.

It's no secret I'm crazy about all Sew Over It patterns. All those lovely vintage inspired dresses and cute blouses...It was really hard to decide which one to try out first! However, I ended up purchasing the Betty Dress pattern and the add-on pack in order to have more versatility. My intention was to start with something that could become a staple in my wardrobe. So, I finished my first Betty just the night before we departed for Finland. I opted for a blue cotton with small red and white dots and a v-neckline. The instructions were really easy to follow especially with all the step-by-step photos. I was so in love with my new dress that I even wanted to wear it for the whole 7 hour car ride until our first night at a camping in Strasbourg. I must say though that I made a slight mistake with my choice of fabric: this kind of cotton creases like crazy. As the dress has a full circle skirt, there's a lot of fabric around my legs and bum which is hard to keep from creasing as I sit down. Also, I find the dress just a little bit too long for my height. Next time I'll probably make it about 10 cm shorter so it hits above my knees. The pattern includes also a sleeve option which I'm quite excited about for the colder months!

My mother had an old Marimekko tablecloth which she hadn't used in years anymore. I was quick to ask, of course, if I could use it for a sewing project. She said yes and I ended up making another Orla dress. Once again, I made the choice to skip the sleeves, but this time I find the bodice looks a bit boxy which was not the case with my other Orlas. I'll try to fix that for next year as it's already time to put my most summery dresses away.

This little red dress is a mix between the Betty and Orla! I didn't have enough of this viscose fabric  for a full circle skirt so I figured the Orla skirt would function just as well. I find this version to be slightly more wearable as the soft viscose doesn't crease and the skirt length is just right. 

I try to be very intentional about the patterns I purchase as I want to end up with a selected few which I will want to recreate time and time again. The SOI Silk Cami was my choice for a simple, timeless sleeveless top. I have already made two versions of it: one in black viscose with a pattern of dandelion seeds and branches and one in gray viscose with flowers on it. I made first the gray one and was at first a bit annoyed with the neckline facing which kept popping up and was even a bit tight around the chest. Luckily my fabric turned out to be lower quality than I thought so as it stretched out the facing stays better in place too! I don't know what went wrong with my first cami but I didn't have such fitting problems with the second one. They are perfect to pair with both low and high waisted bottoms; here I'm modeling one in a pair of low waisted rdw jeans which I haven't had the heart to throw away despite of their ripped crotch (need to mend that or bid farewell)...

Voilà, that's it for my latest makes! I'm pretty sure the Betty dress and both camis will hang around for my Fall/winter capsule but it's time to say goodbye to all the summery dresses. There's a few patterns I have been wanting to purchase for the coming season but we'll see which I'll end up getting!

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Grape Picking In Provence

It's 5:30 in the morning when an annoying ringtone sets off and pierces the silent darkness in a small bedroom in the South of France. I wake up with the impression of having closed my eyes five minutes ago. My husband is quickly out of bed and already making coffee downstairs. I love coffee in the morning but I can't have any on the days I work since it makes you want to go to the bathroom. I get up and head also downstairs to have breakfast which I wouldn't really have the appetite for. At 6:40 I dress up, slather some bb-cream with sunscreen on my face, pack my snacks and lunch and make a last visit to the bathroom. Twenty minutes later Q and I are in the car on our way to Chateuneuf-du-Pape, famous for its prestigious wines.

In the dark of an early morning, we sit in silence listening to Indochine's J'ai demandé à la lune:

J'ai demandé à la lune / I have asked the Moon
Et le soleil ne le sait pas / And the Sun doesn't know about it
Je lui ai montré mes brûlures / I showed her my burns

Et la lune s'est moquée de moi / And the Moon made fun of me
Et comme le ciel n'avait pas fière allure / And as the sky didn't look great
Et que je ne guérissais pas / And that I was not healing
Je me suis dit quelle infortune / I told myself what a misfortune
Et la lune s'est moquée de moi / And then the Moon made fun of me

J'ai demandé à la lune / I asked the Moon
Si tu voulais encore de moi / If you still wanted me
Elle m'a dit "J'ai pas l'habitude / She told me: " I'm not used to
De m'occuper des cas comme ça" / Taking care of cases like this"
Et toi et moi / And you and me
On était tellement sûr / We were so sure
Et on se disait quelques fois / And we would tell ourselves sometimes
Que c'était juste une aventure / That it was just an adventure
Et que ça ne durerait pas / And that it wouldn't last

The car ride is soon over and Q pulls over to drop me off in front of a hangar with a bunch of people waiting around. A quick kiss of goodbye and I'm already on my way towards my colleagues. We are all there for the same purpose: to complete the harvest of the wine grapes for 2018. It's 7:20 am and another long day is about to begin. I hop on one of the vans and my work pair drives us to today's location. I try to focus on the present moment and not think about the long hours of manual labour ahead until 5 pm and being able to reunite with Q again.

Once at the vineyards, I prepare myself to work: put my cap and gardening gloves on, grab my vine cutters and a black bucket. Here we go...A row of vine is assigned to me and I get to work. We work in a bent position, cutting and grabbing the grapes as fast as possible, not forgetting any behind. My abs and back are soon burning and I get an occasional numb feeling around my tailbone and buttocks.  I throw the grapes into my bucket which I carry with me as I move forward. I hear my colleagues criticizing the work of others: that one there is too fast, that one too slow and so on. I don't want to be targeted so I try my best to keep up with the others and go unnoticed. However, I'm the only first timer so sometimes it can't be helped that I fall behind. 

We work 4 hours nonstop in the morning and 3 and a half in the afternoon. I have learnt how to regulate my water intake so that I can make the whole day without reaching an unbearable need to go to the bathroom. I drink only when I absolutely need to and only enough to quench the worst thirst. Sometimes the day's location has enough bushy vegetation so I can safely drink as much as I want as long as I can hold it until the lunch break.

At noon we have a break of an hour and a half. The work is physically and mentally demanding so sometimes I just want to eat in silence in the van and maybe have a nap to kill some time. Otherwise, our team looks for some shade and we all eat together.

I'm always happy when it's finally 13:30 and we get back to work. It means there's only 3 and a half hours to go. When you do monotonous manual labour,  such amount of time can literally feel like an eternity. In order to push through I have learnt to meditate while working: no past, no future, only the present moment exists. To keep going there's only one repetitious thought on my mind as I grab and cut the grapes: cut, cut, cut, cut...My back hurts and abs wouldn't want to keep holding my torso in that bent position so I catch myself holding my breath. I force myself to keep my breaths long and regular. At this point the temperature has climbed close to 40 degrees: my eyes are burning from the sweat and I can feel the heatrash get worse under my humid gloves. I fantasize about water and delicious cold  drinks. But time never stops, no matter how slow it feels, and at 5 pm the boss shouts: "Empty the buckets!" I have survived another day. 

Once back in the car with Q, he immediately hands me a fresh soft drink which I accept with the greatest gratitude. Returning home, I feel beaten but I force myself to shower and eat before falling on the couch for the 3 hours I have left of the day. Q slathers balms on my sunburns and aching back. Soon it's time for bed again and I ask myself: how many more days is there still to go?


The grape harvest finally finished last saturday. The only reason why I accepted the job of picking grapes was that we were assured that I could work at my own pace and that the work conditions were very good. I was also told that the job would last maximum three weeks. Last week I ended up picking grapes six days in a row and until the very last day I didn't know when we would be finished. There was no information whatsoever on the matter apart from speculations and rumours. In the end the harvest lasted 4 weeks. 

The description above of my typical work day is to give a realistic image of what working at a vineyard really is like. I thought that if I just told you I had finished working at a vineyard in Chateuneuf-du-Pape, the whole thing would have seemed a bit too glamorous. I have done manual labour before but this was really the hardest job I have ever had. However, I do treasure it as an experience and am glad I managed to finish the season. People around me asked why I didn't quit earlier but to be honest I was just too stubborn to give up. Also, of course I wanted to earn some money. Thanks to this last month I will be able to for example offer myself a new camera.

I know many youngsters and travelers are fascinated and attired by grape picking in countries like France and Italy. I honestly think that I would have myself enjoyed the job more had the language, culture and country been new to me and had  I a companion of travel to share the experience with. At the vineyard where I worked everyone had already worked there for plus 20 years or they were directly related to the bosses. This made me feel quite left out.  In addition to this, I could understand all the racism and backstabbing activities going on around me. Sometimes it's just better not to know.

So, grape picking? It was definitely an experience, but I'm thankful it's all just a memory now. 

Friday, 14 September 2018

Finnish Thrift Finds

Thrifting is one of the things I was looking most forward to doing during our stay in my homeland. Unlike in Provence, thrifting is not viewed as "a poor thing" in Finland. People from all social classes love shopping second hand. This means that there are a lot of thrift shops of high quality. The items are most often clean, well displayed and reasonably priced. I find that in France thrift shops are either too fancy or horribly shabby. What seems to be increasingly popular and the most socially acceptable way to sell and buy second hand is to take part in a vide-grenier. Basically this means that people gather in an empty parking lot to shop other's used goods. The vide-greniers usually take place  on sundays from early  morning until noon, but some big ones last the whole day. Hopefully the success of the vide-greniers will eventually change the way buying second hand is viewed in the French society.

I love thrifting for a number of reasons but one of the best things is to find items of excellent quality for an affordable price. The condition of a garment once I find it in a thrift shop tells me everything I need to know about its potential lifespan in my own closet. There's no need to fear for it to disintegrate in the first wash if it has made it so far. Most of the clothes I still own are actually old second hand finds and this is thanks to two things: their quality and timelessness. The latter meaning that I don't shop according to trends but my own personal style. This way I end up with gems I really love and want to hold on to.

While in Finland, I was lucky enough to visit a number of thrift shops in different villages and cities. Recently I have been on the hunt for tops, cardigans, skirts and a cropped jean jacket. It's such a feeling of victory to find something I have been looking for such a long time! Such was the case when I found for example the jean jacket I had been wanting for over a year. When shopping clothing second hand it's not only the style  and quality that matter but also the size. As my size is more common in Finland than in France, my options were numerous and I made many finds that need no adjusting whatsoever.

I must say that trying to take proper pictures of my finds in our little dark house with a 50 euro camera has made me pledge to buy a better device as soon as possible. I have already been putting some money aside and hopefully in a few months I'll be able to step up my photography game!

Look at those flowers! This lightweight viscose blouse is one of my favorite finds from this summer. Thanks to its cropped length it pairs well with high waisted skirts and jeans. I finally have a pair of pants now as I went through my closets back in Finland and found some long lost high waisted black jeans. 

This orange cardigan is 100 percent wool and its style is right up my alley. In Provence it's still way too early for it but before we left Finland, I actually got a chance to wear this cozy beauty.

The blue flower print -cardigan is the first piece of clothing from Gudrun Sjödén I have ever come across in a thrift shop. That's not the reason I bought it though but because it is made of organic cotton and is incredibly lightweight and soft. Its length also makes it nice to pair with my many dresses.

Yes, it's another cardigan! I do confess that I love the way a cardigan looks with a dress or a skirt. This one is also the perfect cropped length with 3/4 sleeves plus it's 100 percent cotton.

Before the summer I had hardly any patterned tops so I was really happy to come across this fun leopard print one. I'm usually not a fan of animal prints so I'm surprised that I have recently bought not only one but two leopard print garments.

Here's THE jean jacket I mentioned earlier! It really seems to be of great quality and I'm looking forward to the denim softening and getting that slightly worn out look.

This t-shirt is a curious mix of wool and viscose but it feels so comfortable on plus fits perfectly. I didn't really have anymore any basic top like this.

I forgot to mention earlier that Noki worked hard as my photo shoot assistant for this post! Here he's making sure my leopard print scarf is nicely fluffy for the pics. Seriously though, this scarf is just what I needed for the windy provençal winter. I had already a few prior to this one but they are the huge blanket style and thus not very practical.

It turned out quite challenging to photograph this one but I'll be doing a series of ootd posts soon so you will get a better look at the clothes. Anyway, this one is another soft blouse in viscose with a fun pattern and fluttery sleeves.

Time for the last item: a retro leather handbag. I'm not sure from what year this one is exactly but I would guess 80s or 90s. I like that it's smaller and lighter than my other a bit similar bag but I can still fit my wallet and phone in it. This is the last bag I will buy in a long while as I now have all the big, small and medium sized purses a girl needs. The little Marimekko coin purse peeking from the bag is not a second hand find but a gift from my mother. I find it goes well with the vibe of the bag so I keep them together.

Huhhu, that's all for my finnish thrift finds. I'm happy I was able to find items I had already been seeking for a long time and I actually need. How about you? Do you keep a list of the things you want to buy second hand?

Have a lovely weekend! 

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Greetings From Finland

Visiting Loviisa!

It's been already a bit over three weeks since the day I finally got to open the door into my parents' home, my childhood home, after the long wait of one and a half years. The reunion was full of rejoice and I was actually jumping up and down with tears in my eyes  while yelling: "I'm HOME!! I'm HOME! I'm finally HOOOOME!" Grhm, it's quite obvious that I really needed this time in Finland. It makes my heart so full to think that I have got an amazing husband who is ready to drive across the whole Europe to bring his wife to her family. That being said, the drive didn't really feel that long nor tiring. My family has always traveled by land and being on the road again, spending nights in campings and seeing all the landscapes between each destination brought back so many good memories. We enjoyed the trip so much that we are actually looking forward to the drive back!

However, we still have four weeks left of our stay. I have been enjoying every moment of our time here. When we first arrived, I was so so excited to speak Finnish and it was so amazing to be able to just talk. For the first time in ages I could express myself without wondering if I was speaking correctly or if people would get my references or jokes. It was like getting my wings back: everything around me made sense again. I felt like I could handle anything and everything seemed so childlishly simple after living life on the hard mode. The funny thing is that now it's Q who doesn't get the logic of things. These are his words: "I become instantly a retard in Finland!" Poor him! He's doing much better already though! 

The first week of our stay was such magical time as I rediscovered so many nostalgic items I had left behind at my parents'. I know one is not supposed to cling on things but the truth is that those items made me feel like somebody again. They reminded me of my past and that I do have roots here. During my time in France I must admit that I have often felt invisible and disattached from my surroundings. Less so since we made common friends with Q, but with his family or old friends I'm  still just "the wife". This is not to say they wouldn't like me, but their relation is firstly with my husband and they don't really know me. Even less so as they don't know my culture nor my life prior to living in France. This is normal though and there's nothing to do about it. I know in the years to come I will start to feel like a real person in France too but right now it feels so good to be at ease and enjoy this feeling of  belonging.

We visited the Fiskars Village.
Remember when I said I was looking forward to doing some thrifting in Finland? Well, we have been to a bunch of second hand shops already and I have been able to make great finds. I'll share those with you in another post! I would still like to check out a few thrift shops but I have to wait a little since Q told me he has had quite enough of them for now...

Since we arrived here by car, it's been great having the liberty of coming and going according to our own wishes. We do spend a lot of time with my family but we also want to make little trips here and there just the two of us. Our favorite getaway so far has probably been the one to Tampere. That city just has such a nice architectural style and atmosphere! We drank coffee, ate some mustamakkara with cold milk, went to a thrift shop and visited the Moomin Museum. Since one day wasn't nearly enough to discover everything, we are planning to go back and spend a night in a camping since we have our tent!

As it's just the two of us and we have so much space in the car, we were able to bring along items "just for fun". Q brought his instrument and I my sewing machine. I have actually managed to finish some garments during our stay! My mom even let me sew a dress from an old Marimekko tablecloth which I'm very pleased with. I'll of course be sharing my makes here on the blog in the near future.

That's all for now! I hope you are having a lovely summer too!

Saturday, 23 June 2018

Crazy About Sewing

June is nearing its end and summer has arrived to Provence with all its might after a historically cold beginning of the season. To tell you the truth, Q and I are both built for a colder climate and we are quite happy to escape to the north in just a few weeks! Speaking of which, it's crazy how fast our trip  is approaching. One thing is sure: despite of all the time in the world we have had to prepare ourselves, the last day is going to be full of chaos. We are just a couple of hopeless daydreamers...

Anyway, I have got a confession to make. During these past few weeks I have become completely, utterly immersed in the world of sewing. Since the beginning of June I just sort of transformed into this person who wants to from now on sew her own clothes which is quite a daring proclamation from someone whose last me-made garment was sewn some 13 years ago in junior high school. I think though that this resolution is the inevitable outcome of wanting to follow my own values. Ideally, I would shop mostly second hand garments but despite of my efforts that just doesn't seem realistic where we live. Then I told myself I would buy new but to last from as ethical brands as I could afford. Well, that didn't go so well as there was the fitting room -episode  and I didn't find anything that would fit my curvy figure (why are all ready-to-wear dresses in the shape of a rectangle?) I was also disappointed in the quality of the clothes. Let's just say I got a strong urge to no longer be bossed around by "the system". I no longer want to rely on the stuff that is readily available. 

So, three weeks ago I had all of these thoughts floating around in my brain, but my resolution of becoming a sewist became final only after stumbling upon the channel And Sew On on Youtube. Mesmerized, I watched all of Lisa's videos. After devouring all of her channel, I moved on to others such as: I sew a lot, Sew Happy! and Sew Over It. I found a whole community of women who shared their plans and makes with the world. I was excited not only for the realisation I could create perfectly fitting garments but also because I could make anything. Can you imagine the amount of sewing patterns that exist in the world? This means that I can make any garment I have ever dreamt of having. A huge plus is also the fact that I can use any fabric of my choice! I have fallen in love with Sew Over It's vintage inspired collection of patterns. It's so exciting to find a resource of patterns which is right up my alley.

When I first found the patterns of Sew Over It, I was hesitant to purchase one and give it a try as I really wasn't sure of being able to pull it off. So, I chose to minimize the pressure by choosing a free pattern which I still liked a lot. That free pattern ended up being the famous Orla dress by French Navy. Excited to give it a try I purchased some pink cotton fabric with a funky print. My first attempt turned out to be a success and I came to the conclusion I wanted to recreate the dress in a few more fabrics. The beauty of sewing is that when you find a pattern you love there are no limits to using  it. So now I have three orlas: one in linen, in cotton and in viscose! I left out the sleeves  which were part of the original pattern as I had so much difficulty inserting them neatly. To be honest, I much prefer the sleeveless version as it is more practical for the Provençal summer.

The Orla dress in pretty linen.
In light viscose.
I feel like this cotton one has some Ivana Helsinki vibes!

Voilà! I'm now taking a break from sewing dresses as I also urgently need some sleeveless tops to pair with my skirts. My next project will therefore be the Sew Over It's Silk Cami!

Friday, 1 June 2018

DALF Results // Summer Plans

Hello there!

We are enjoying a beautiful sunny day here in the south after days of rain and some epic thunder storms. I'm writing this up in our little office/storage room with Finnish biscuits and a mug of espresso. The loudspeakers are blasting music and I'm in a good mood!

I received an e-mail a couple of days ago from one of my French teachers which was to let me know that I had succeeded to pass my DALF C1. It was such a blessing that she thought of doing that for me even before sending out the official results as I had grown more anxious by the day ever since the exams. A few nights before receiving the e-mail I had told Q at 4 am out of the blue in the darkness: "You know what, I think it's now sure I have failed." Of course a failure wouldn't have been a catastrophe but it sure as hell feels good to know that I have not been wasting my time at the Uni this past spring. This means that in two years I have went from French level A1 to C1. I have reached the goal I set for myself last autumn and now I'm definitely done with courses. I have enough tools to carry on by myself and let my language mature on its own. You can do only so much to learn a language fast. There comes a point when you just need to lean back and let time and your brain's natural capacity to learn take care of the rest.

Anyway, I should probably finally mention that we are leaving for Finland in just one month! We'll travel by car which is not that crazy effort considering we'll be staying for about two months up in the north. The last time I met my family was a year and a half ago when we spent the Christmas in Finland. Already back then my heart ached to leave them behind so soon as we stayed only for two weeks and our schedule was super busy as I had to finish passing my driver's license while trying to spend time with my family and friends. This time I will put my family first and make sure we have the chance to catch up properly. I think the ideal time between visits for me would be about six months. Unfortunately this time we were held back by our financial situation but hopefully from now on our visits will be more regular.

Things I'm looking forward to doing in Finland:

  • Picking and eating strawberries (which are the best in the world if you ask me)
  • Drinking my Mom's blackcurrant leaf juice.
  • Swimming in lakes.
  • Hiking in the woods.
  • Eating Finnish candies.
  • Go to bar and get tipsy from tasteless Finnish beer.
  • Enjoy the Nightless Nights.
  • Play Nintendo with my brothers.
  • Have a road trip.
  • Enjoy speaking my mother tongue.
  • Go to the super market and discover all the new things (mostly food).
  • Buy yarn.
  • Buy design products from Iittala, Arabia, Pentik and Marimekko.
  • Thrift shop!
Here's  a clip (go to spotify for full version) of the song I have been listening to all afternoon:

Have a lovely weekend!

PS. A shout-out to one of my readers whom I met at the traffic lights next to the bus stop right after my exams. I'm sorry I didn't even ask your name as I had to run to catch the bus. It was really nice to meet you!