Saturday, 31 July 2010

Park Here

I had one of those mornings when it just took me forever to get dressed. I started with a colourful corset top that I bought yesterday at UFF's everything-for-2-euros sale, and tried at least five different skirts with it. Then I gave up on the top (for today, that is) and switched skirts again. I settled for this Forte_Forte skirt, added a t-shirt and a couple of chunky necklaces. I was pleased with the Wuthering Heights-meets-Blair Witch Project outcome. After I was done, it amazed me that something this effortless took so much time and energy.

The whole process got me thinking that I should have taken pictures of each outfit I tried on, to show you guys how crazy it can get, and how the final outfit is born. I think I will start doing that occasionally; it would be a fun read, and because I refuse to take my style too seriously, it would also provide everyone with good, heart-felt laughs every once in a while.

I found these ballet flats at UFF, too, for 2 euros.

T-shirt: Only
Skirt: Forte_Forte / Nina's
Ballet flats: second hand / UFF
Blair Witch Project (not really) necklace: Hietsu flea market
Vintage necklace: Aino flea market

Thursday, 29 July 2010

My Mother's Place

My mother and stepfather moved far away to the countryside about two years ago. It had been their dream for a while to go back to their roots, to live in the area where their own parents and/or grandparents were born. My siblings and I had a really hard time seeing them go. To this day we have been making fun of the countryside, its people and the lack of cultural activities, probably out of jealousy and fear of loss. For a while a part of me thought that if I dismissed my mother's love for the place long enough, they would perhaps move back to Helsinki. It is now obvious that it will not happen. They made their dream come true: they now live in a big house by a lake, listening to the whispers of their ancestors, and they are surrounded by all the peace and quiet they could ever want.

After having visited them for a few days, I decided that from now on, I will stop insisting that their decision to move was the wrong one. (I will, however, reserve the option to make fun of it all, especially during the moments when I miss my mother.) They seem truly happy, and I guess in these surroundings it would be difficult not to be.

Dress: H&M, Tuuli's old
Belt: mom's old

Monday, 26 July 2010

The Trouble with Vintage Dresses

I found this dress at the recycling centre, which, by the way, has become my favourite thrifting location in Helsinki. The prices are right, and the people who work there are friendly and warm. The dress in question cost four euros, and I could bet any money that UFF would have charged me 20 euros, and Fida at least 10 for something similar.

Anyway, the title of this post refers to my difficulties wearing vintage dresses in the summertime. I am not one for head-to-toe, one-decade-at-a-time type of vintage. Don't get me wrong - I like seeing intense vintage looks on others, but on me I think they'd just look (to borrow Tim Gunn's favourite phrase) costume-y. Vintage separates are easy: I can combine a vintage skirt or a blouse with something that doesn't quite match, and the ensemble will end up looking like it was my own. By itself, a vintage dress just often looks like, well, a vintage dress. I'd wear this dress with a long cardigan, a chunky necklace and a pair of platform ankle boots if the weather agreed to that, but sadly, it doesn't. I can't think of anything weather-appropriate that would make the dress look less vintage and more like my dress. I guess my current haircut doesn't help either.

Summa summarum: I love vintage dresses, but I seem to be more comfortable wearing them in cooler weather. I am not sure whether this realisation really required a blog post.

Dress: thrifted at the recycling centre
Belt: mom's old

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Farewell to Legs

Two summers ago I noticed an odd cluster of bright purple veins at the back of my left knee. It wasn't a bruise. It was the first warning sign of me having inherited my mother's legs and the troubles that come with them. I have had my share of body issues in the past, but the one thing I have always been perfectly happy with have been my legs. They are pretty long and well formed. I will never forget a comment an ex-boyfriend's mother once gave me: "it is strange that you are otherwise so skinny, but that you actually have legs." When I was in my late teens I'd try to disguise my small chest and bony elbows, but I never had any trouble wearing hotpants or miniskirts.

Since that first cluster of purple veins appeared, my legs have started going through a rather rapid transformation. The veins at the back of my knees have become a lot more visible, and similar clusters have started appearing all over my thighs and ankles. To some, they are hardly visible. To me, they are a constant reminder of my future: that things will not get better, they will get way worse.

If I wear a pair of shorts or a shorter skirt to town (and I still do, but for how long, I don't know), I will hold my purse on my lap, hoping that the person next to me on the bus will not see the ugly little veins on my thighs. Every once in a while I catch myself looking at other women's legs and ankles (just like Charlotte), trying to figure out if their legs look better or worse than mine, if they are older or younger than I am. My sister and I compare our clustered veins and make fun of it all. It makes it easier to have someone who shares the same destiny.

It seems now that the first (and for a long time, the only) thing that I was comfortable with in my own body will be the first thing to go. Seeing my legs change, I question my future self-image. I am not scared of aging though. People whose faces and bodies look somehow "lived in" have always seemed very beautiful to me - but of course it is easy to say that now. Despite the first tiny wrinkles around my eyes, I look younger than I am. How self-conscious will I eventually become? Will this body of mine, one day, become something I loathe because it will look ugly to me? Will I have the courage to be brave, or will I hide? Will I see the same beauty in myself as I see in the faces and bodies of others? The optimist in me thinks that I will. I am in no hurry to issue a farewell to my legs.

Blouse: Tuuli's old
Shorts: thrifted, recycling centre
Belt: mom's old
Loafers: thrifted Bally, for 1 euro, recycling centre

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Going, going, going...

The sun and the unusual heat hasn't changed the fact that it is late July. Today is the first cool, cloudy day since I got to Finland. Today I can already smell the end of summer. I took these pictures in my brother's garden. He and his family lives in the house I grew up in. Perhaps that is why I notice the passing of time there better than anywhere else.

I am having a slow and quiet weekend. Everyone is out of town, and I am looking after my sister's cats and my brother's house.

I bought the dress at UFF this week. It was on sale for 5 euros. I love how the pattern on the dress changes from colourful in the bodice to black and white, and then back to colourful toward the hem.

Old Hats, and random ramblings on languages

These amazing pictures are from an old hat magazine, published in 1964. The magazine might be my grandmother's old - she worked in a hat factory when she was young. Seeing these types of pictures always makes me a little sad. I wish people still wore hats.

I figured I'd answer a couple of questions regarding language.

Modesty is Pretty asked me about English, and about the English books in my bookshelf. In Finland all children start learning English either at the age of 10, or at 13. I started at 10, and always loved it. The main reason why a fair amount of my books are in English is because I lived in London for quite a while during my studies.

My books are a strange mix of Finnish, English and Hungarian originals, and Finnish and English translations of various other languages. I wish I could read more books in the original language though. I have always wondered about the quality of translations that are available to me of the Russian classics, for example. It seems to me that especially Finnish translations of Russian originals tend to exercise a strange, romantic, more soulful form of Finnish that doesn't really exist. I have no idea if they are good (or bad) translations or just odd Finnish, because as much as translation can be an art form in itself, it can also be a mode of butchery. (Never, ever read the English translation of Arto Paasilinna's Jäniksen vuosi, or The Year of the Hare - it is horrible, and does no justice to the original book. Also, steer away from the English translation of Kosztolányi's Édes Anna - the translator doesn't know Hungarian as well as he should, and as a result he gets the most important scene in the book completely wrong.)

Charlotte asked if Finnish and Hungarian are similar. The answer is both yes and no. The languages are certainly related, and share some similar structures. In pronunciation, the stress is always on the first syllable in both languages. In grammar, both languages are agglutinating in character, have a relatively flexible word order, and share the notion of vowel harmony. Noun cases are comparable, if not quite similar. Less significant similarities include gender-neutral third person and the strongly onomatopoetic character of both languages. The vocabulary is very different, and the avarage Finn would not be able to notice any of the similarities I have mentioned here just by listening to Hungarian.

Vasiliisa: yes, I was at Seurasaari! I didn't see you though, but I was probably too busy catching my breath after having biked there from Kannelmäki. In that heat, you can imagine how I was feeling...

Modesty is Pretty: our cats are doing okay, thank you for asking! They are at home with Chris, and he is taking good care of them. I do miss them (both the kitties and Chris) horribly, but we will all be reunited in two weeks' time!

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Yellow with books

My first yellow book is Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited. So what if the author came to dislike his own work later on (he was "appalled" after re-reading it in 1950) - I still love it. Whenever I see Brideshead Revisited at a bookstore, I always feel the need to buy it. I have two in English and one in Finnish, and I will probably buy more of them if I find a cover I really like.

My second pick is The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks. It was recommended to me by my former flatmate Izumi, who studied neurology back in the day. The book is full of interesting (true) stories about our brain, about how it works, and how disturbances in our brain can change the way we see the world and ourselves.

Next up is Elfriede Jelinek's The Piano Teacher. This is one of those uncomfortable books that I am glad I read but would never want to re-visit.

My last yellow choice is István Örkény's One Minute Stories. It was one of the first books I was able to read in Hungarian, and it has a very special place in my heart. The stories are superbly humorous, sometimes absurd or grotesque. If you like short stories by Daniil Kharms, you will love Örkény. Speaking of Kharms, a collection of his short stories would have been a part of this post - it is yellow - but I couldn't find it.

Stripy tee: second hand / Salvation Army
Cardigan: Zara
Silk wrap skirt: Hietsu flea market
Unicorn brooch and necklace: Tuuli's old

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Blue with books

Sorry about the blurry pictures, I don't know what happened! Since I am wearing blue today, it is time for some of my favourite blue books. Just a couple of words about organizing books by colour: I have been doing it for a while, and have found it to be the perfect system. It seems that I always tend to remember not just the colour of the cover, but also of the spine. I could see the arrangement becoming potentially problematic if I acquire loads of new books though - say, if I had an entire bookshelf of red books. Anyway, my books are now stacked away at my mother's apartment in Helsinki, not by colour, and it took me forever to find what I was looking for. For example, blue books that are missing from this list include the diaries of Helvi Hämäläinen and Virginia Woolf, and Kolakowski's Main Currents of Marxism, Vol 2. I know they are blue, but they are packed away in boxes and I couldn't find them!

Anyway, my first blue pick is Orwell's 1984. I was seduced by the book early on, and it got me interested in politics and totalitarian regimes, and how to overcome them. Consequently I studied post-communist politics for four years.

My second choice is Frantz Fanon's Wretched of the Earth. I haven't actually read this Finnish translation, but the English translation was required reading when I studied the history of colonialism. Reading this book kick-started my process of becoming very critical of development aid and the neo-colonial world we still live in.

Conrad's Heart of Darkness is a magnificient study of humanity falling into abyss.

My fourth pick is Sagan's Bonjour tristesse, just because of the sun and the sea.

Top: second hand / Fida
Skirt: vintage Laura Ashley, Tuuli's old
Kitty cat brooch: Tuuli's old
Shoes: second hand / Fida
Bracelet: Hietsu flea market

P.S. An odd thing happened today: Blogger notified me of several comments that had been sent ages ago. I hope no one was thinking that I wasn't publishing them on purpose!

Monday, 19 July 2010

Green with books

Since the green seahorse print on my top matches the green of my skirt, I figured that I'd throw in something else green for you to see. These are my favourite green books. (I like arranging books by colour.)

My first choice is Matti Hagelberg's graphic novel, Kekkonen. In it the longest serving (1956-82) president of Finland, Urho Kekkonen, is raised by squirrels, cracks bad jokes, is eaten by a whale Jonah-style, rises from the dead, and goes cross-country skiing with Elvis (among other things, not in that order.) Considering that Finland tends to be awfully protective of its historical figures, the scope of this book is astounding.

My second choice is Italo Calvino's The Baron in the Trees. I first read the book when I was in my teens, and was caught up in its environmentalism and the intense love affair between Cosimo and Viola. I guess literary critics tend to find the book childish, but I don't mind. It is still one of my favourite books of all time.

Third, Jeffrey Eugenides' The Virgin Suicides. I am a huge fan of Eugenides.

Last but not least, I chose Eino Leino's letters to Aino Kallas. Both Leino and Kallas were such fascinating characters and talented writers. I always thought there was something deeply mysterious about their love affair, and I like keeping it that way. I have never read this book from cover to cover, because I am afraid of what I might find. I browse through it occasionally, reading one letter here, one there.

Tops: H&M (white), Mango (seahorse print)
Chiffon kirt: second hand / Fida
Pendant: Hietsu flea market