torstai 2. elokuuta 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!

lauantai 23. kesäkuuta 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!

perjantai 1. kesäkuuta 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!

perjantai 18. toukokuuta 2018

DIY Project: Resizing A Thrifted Dress

I haven't presented my this year's summer capsule yet as I'm willing to wear hardly any of my last year's dresses. Back then I still had a few fast fashion jeans, but my last pair ripped sometime last october. One of my classmates followed me to the toilets to discreetly informe me of my ripped pants. I was quite amused about how sorry she was for me, since I just found the whole situation so deliciously tragicomic! Anyways, at this moment I have two skirts and maybe three dresses for the summer. This is because many of my last year's summer pieces were just a bit too short or deep cut. It was annoying to have to wear a tank top underneath a dress to hide my chest when it was 38 degrees outside. So yeah, I have been keeping my eyes open for some new, light but modest summer dresses!

I finally found this beautiful 100% linen dress at a thrift shop but the only problem was that on me it looked like a tent. Well, as I have my sewing machine which Q got me last Christmas, I decided to try to make some alternations myself. The dress cost me 8 euros and even though if in the worst case I ended up ruining it I would still have learnt something. In case of failure I had also thought of making some small pouches, pillowcases or accessories out of the fabric. Well, I managed to find a tutorial on how to resize a dress with sleeves and I realised that I would have to completely remove them if I wished to succeed in this thing. That was a bit scary, I got to confess, but somehow I managed and I'm very happy with the results! I also shortened the dress a bit so it hits just above my knees which I think is still a decent but youthful enough length for me.

 This experiment has definitely left me excited to attempt making more alternations myself and maybe even sew some pieces of clothing!

perjantai 11. toukokuuta 2018

Back To Sharing It All

I know I have been gone for a while, but now I have just so much to talk about that I don't even know where to begin. These past three weeks have been quite a journey in more ways than one. First of all I have to tell you that we have spent two weeks in Italy with a couple of friends who had asked us to join them as they wanted to return home for the holidays. We have been back in France for about a week now and even though we loved Italy, I have had to deal with the aftermath of all the socializing and overstimulation of the trip. We were able to experience so many amazing things and have many beautiful moments with friends, but for an introvert it is very tiring to be with people all day everyday for an extended period of time. But to be honest, there's more to it than that and I wasn't really sure if I wanted to share the whole story here. You see, I think I have been lately quite lost with the direction of this blog as I have grown more and more reluctant to talk about my hardships which was something I did without hesitation in the beginning. It's been only two years since I started this expat journey, but as I'm so hard on myself I feel like I should already have it all together. Before our trip in Italy I was even thinking of erasing my blog and all of my social media accounts related to it as I'm a failed expat and all I really wanna do is whine. Then one day we were in Bologna and I happened to spy a group of expat women seated around a round table, having apéro, drinking wine and chatting. The atmosphere around the five of them made me curious and I was able to casually linger around long enough to hear these words, pronounced with emotion: "...and I didn't know if this was normal...I'm I supposed to feel like this? Do others feel the same or is it just me?" I saw her face and her little smile, bright eyes that looked to the others as she wished to be understood. And they did understand. I  understood. It's so  easy to feel alone with these feelings of isolation, sadness and not belonging. It's even harder to pronounce them out loud since it seems so wrong and ungrateful as we get to live in such beautiful places. In the eyes of our friends back at home we have the perfect life with millions of possibilities.  

So, I sort of felt like this post should be about how amazing Italy was, how lucky I am to have been there and how I'm just overall living my best expat life. Yes, I had a good time and I am lucky, but today I am going to talk about something else. The Italy-posts are coming a bit later since I just have this strong urge to let it all out. Everything I have been holding in too scared to tell you how I really feel about life here in the Provence.

The thing about following your spouse to his or her homeland is that you are most likely gonna be there without your own family and friends. So, I myself tried to look for that support and love within my husband's family. In the beginning everything went well, but during last autumn until recently there's been more and more times that I have been feeling hurt after leaving my in-laws' house. I must say that they are extremely kind people and they are most likely not aware of the effect they have on me. This is what I like to think and I hope it is the truth. 

Nevertheless, I have been mentioning a few times here on the blog about some toxic comments on my body made by my in-laws. To be honest, I have received small remarks on my size from time to time ever since we moved to France, but I have just tried to ignore them in order to maintain a good relation with them and so on. So, the day before we left for Italy, I was taken to do some shopping with a few members of my extended family as they wanted to buy me a birthday gift in advance so I would have it for the trip. I was very excited as I had already a few dresses in mind that I wanted to try on. So, once at the store I got in the fitting room with a bunch of dresses while they waited behind the curtain. I  tried on one dress and opened the curtain to show them. They looked at me and said that it looked strange around the waist and was a bit too long on which I agreed with them. As I was preparing to show them the next option I hear one of them tell another: "Try on that dress with this belt. You can do it as you are skinny." Well, I opened the curtain once again and got the same feedback as for the last dress. Too long, weird around the waist; makes me look massive. As I was taking off the dress I heard from behind the curtain: "She doesn't have a normal waist. It's a woman with  a waist that is...*searches for words*" The funny thing is that she hates to call people "fat" despite of indirectly letting you understand that you are big. I heard the awkwardness in the voice of my other in-law as she tried  to save  the situation by finishing her sentence (as she obviously was aware that I could hear everything through the curtain): "...standard size." I honestly would have preferred my waist being called fat instead abnormal. She knows that I have suffered for my body although she has no idea of how much exactly. I still carry the visible scars of those times that I used to hate myself as a young teenage girl. Inside the fitting room I felt like someone had just kicked the air out of my lungs. It felt just so absurd. I tried to take long deep breaths and not cry as my hands started to shake. There was still one dress to try on but I didn't have the mental strength to go through with it. I made a huge effort to bottle up my emotions in that moment until I would be in a safe space to access them. I managed to finish the rest of the shopping trip without bursting in tears, but once in the car alone with Q I was finally able to break down. And I cried not only for having been shamed behind my back, but for the emotional consequences of it all. It meant that I'm not safe with his family. I cannot even confront them on this because we already had a huge dispute last autumn which already caused a trauma for everyone involved. So, the next day after the whole fitting room incident Q and I left for Italy and during the trip I didn't have a chance to go through my feelings and thoughts. It's been only during this past week that I have started to work on it and to be honest I don't know how to feel about it or if I should talk about it with them or not. Even when we came back and were at their house to pick up our cats, someone leaned towards me and said: "So you didn't gain weight then?" I was like: "Excuse me?" I got the answer: "I thought you would be like thiiiiis *blows out his cheeks and spreads out his hands to demonstrate." I was too baffled to answer but I have made the mental note to exit the house the next time someone comments on my body.

Then there was the return to Provence and the reality of our everyday life in this region. I have never said this out loud before, but we do not like Provence. We love its old villages, historical cities and vineyards but its people are killing us. Seriously, they already make your life miserable in all of the other places and then they also try to kill you on the road. The atmosphere of this region plagued with crime and unemployment is so negative and most of the time we don't feel safe. I have been harrassed on the streets a number of times to the point that I can't walk alone freely in the city. I have to always keep on mind to stay where there's enough other people in sight. Avignon has been working hard to brush up its image but the homicides related to its drug cartels aren't really helping. A few months back a man was shot next to my University while the evening was still young. We live in an atmosphere of danger and negativity. I have grown tired of the ever-present corruption. The locals don't either like foreigners which makes it hard for me to relate with them. It was Italy that made me realise what we are missing living here. In the city where we stayed the women could enjoy a night out and walk safely home even after dark and the children played freely outside. Q has never felt at home in this region and his dislike for Provence and its people drove him to leave for Finland. Thanks to which decision we were able to eventually meet.

So why do we live here if we don't like it? For Q's work as he cannot ask for a transfer this early in his career. We will definitely look into the possibility of moving as soon as possible. This region is great for a vacation, but not ideal to raise a family in.

This post is one of the most honest ones in a long while, but I feel like this blog has hardly any value if I keep hiding important parts of my story. This is not a blog about how to be a successful expat, what you should do or how you should feel. This is my story with all of its ups and downs and feelings that are or aren't justified.

lauantai 14. huhtikuuta 2018

Fitness Update // Dark Humor // Isle of Dogs

It's Saturday morning which means that I get to lie on the couch drinking coffee and eating chocolate! I switched up my diet a little bit since about one month ago and I decided to limit eating sweets to just one specific day per week. At the same time I also committed to working out at least half an hour five to six days per week. I had already been doing yoga almost daily since the beginning of January, but around mid-March I felt ready to integrate some more challenging exercises. The thing is that I have quite a fragile body that gets really easily injured if I go too crazy with exercise. So I have been making sure to avoid all jumping and stick to low impact alternations of jumping jacks and such (the bright side: no bra needed!). I have been loving the content of POPSUGAR Fitness on Youtube. They have so many good quality workouts which almost all include suggestions for low impact modifications. One I have been loving is this 30 minute barre sculpting workout! So, today it's been one month since I switched up my routine and I have so far lost almost 2 centimeters off my waist. It's also obvious that my body has also toned up and sculpted quite a bit since the beginning which is exactly what this is all about: building a strong, healthy body.

Anyhow, I couldn't be more relieved that we have made it to the weekend. It's been one long, rainy, boring week. By the end of it I was feeling so tired that the smallest of things would make me laugh hysterically. Yeah, when I'm tired that's what happens and everybody thinks I'm crazy. But seriously, I would never have thought that a class full of different nationalities would be such a delicate environment especially when it comes to humor (it's obvious though when you think about it...) I feel like it's so easy to hurt someone's feelings by laughing at the wrong moment. This makes me miss Finns so much. I love that despite of our depressive tendencies, we do have a wicked sense of humor. Luckily we had a skype meeting with my parents yesterday so my mom and I got to cry-laugh to our hearts' content.

Since the week had taken such a toll on me, I didn't have much inpiration to do my homeworks on the Friday afternoon. Q decided to take a look at how I was doing and we ended up howling with laughter since my foul mood couldn't have been more obvious. Here's how I had decided to complete the sentences of one exercise:

1. Bien qu'il soit beau, il n'est pas intelligent. 
Even though he is handsome, he's not intelligent.

2. Il ne fait rien quoiqu'il devrait.
He doesn't do anything even though he should. (Q: Is this for me?)

3. Malgré sa richesse, elle est malheureuse.
Despite of her wealth, she's unhappy.

4. Sans eau, il n'y a pas d'espoir.
Without water, there's no hope.

5. Elle ne veut pas le faire cependant elle y est obligée.
She doesn't want do it, however, she's obliged to.

6. Il est audacieux en dépit de ses échecs.
He is daring in spite of his failures.

Anyhow, Q and I wanted to wrap up the week with a nice movie night as Wes Anderson's new film, Isle of Dogs, is finally out. Well, the movie started at 21:50 which has never before been a problem for me. However, half an hour into it I started to feel more drowsy by the minute which I tried to fight the best I could. It was a struggle to no avail: next thing I knew was my head tilting unconrollably to all possible directions and then bouncing back after a few seconds of unconsciousness. I managed to feel a bit more awake for a moment after I thought the protagonist had died, but even that wasn't enough to save me from my body's all consuming tiredness. At one point my eyes were completely closed and I  was just imagining the scenes based on the sounds. The funny thing is that meanwhile Q was so wrapped up in the movie that he was completely oblivious to the struggles going on next to him! So, in the end I can just say that the  Isle of Dogs by Wes Anderson seems like a very good movie, but can't really give my word for it as I basically slept through the whole thing.

Apart from eating lots of chocolate and drinking espresso from mugs, this weekend is going to be actually quite a busy one as we are involved in a few house renovation and moving projects. We will surely find some time to drink some wine too, of course.

Have a great weekend!  

torstai 5. huhtikuuta 2018

Gathering Experience To Level Up

Q and I have both been lately in a true "I got goals" state of mind. I keep working on perfecting my French and waking up early to strengthen my body and mind. Q plays his viola and writes. I think that this personal development enthousiasme has a lot to do with the fact that we are both nearing the end of our twenties. Yeah, as much as we love adventuring and living on the edge, I think we have had quite enough of that. The last few years have been so turbulent that now we both just crave for stability in life and in order to reach that we need to level up. In my case this means that I need to gather enough experience to level up my language skills. My university studies will be done in may which means that I will then finally be ready to apply for jobs. I feel that this time studying has really helped me to get over the somewhat desperate state of mind I was in last year. Even though I'm constantly talking about improving my French, it's not something that I would be anymore vulnerable about. If a native French now tried to bully me for the way I speak, I would be able to answer back very clearly.

So, as a part of this whole "let's be the best versions of ourselves" -movement, we have started hiking. During the Easter holidays we managed to get through a three-hour track that included lots and lots of uphills. Actually this was only the second time we went hiking in like three years buuut we are definitely planning to make this a weekly habit from now on. Funny story: the first time we completed a three-hour hike we headed straight to a chinese buffet to stuff ourselves. A bit like the time we went to a nutrition coach and then decided that we deserved a banana split. Grhmmm...We have really come a long way.

Here's some pictures I took during our hike which we started and finished in the beautiful village of Venasque!

À la prochaine!