Monday, 29 April 2013

The Willow Report

Our joy was short-lived. Willow has been diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma, a very aggressive type of cancer. She will be spoiled rotten and intensely loved for as long as she'll be around.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Stripes and red

What a gray day it is here. Rain, rain, rain, all day... and that results in bad light, which in turn makes my photos all grainy. Ugh! I'm including the pictures anyway, because I felt really happy wearing this outfit today. That doesn't happen every day, even though it should!

I'm wearing all second hand, except for the socks. Pretty much everything in the outfit was thrifted recently. Chris and I had to wait for hours for Willow to be able to leave the vet's office on Tuesday, so we killed time and stopped by at some flea markets in Seinäjoki, the biggest town in our area. Overall the prices were pretty high and the clothes weren't all that great, but I grabbed a few things on the cheap. The cotton sweater was 1.50€, the red trousers cost 4.50€ and the brogues 2€. Now I have to think of three pieces of clothing to let go of. Shouldn't be too tricky, and now that I think about it, I might have to start posting about that process in detail. It's interesting, really, to compare one item to another, to weigh the options, and then make the decision: what to keep, what to recycle. I think it might make an interesting read.  

Hmm, looking at the photo above, I think the brogues might need some TLC.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

The relieved cat owner reports

We got home from the vet a little while ago. Thank you so much, everyone, for all of your kind wishes for Willow! Things went well, although completely differently from what we thought was going to happen. The surgery specialist, whom Willow saw for the first time today, gave us a whole new diagnosis: what other vets thought was a tumor on Willow's chin is actually enlarged bone tissue, which is growing to replace bone loss that Willow has suffered due to severe teeth problems. It appears that Willow's lower jaw is very fragile, and the bone growth under her chin is trying to compensate for the lack of bone under her teeth. To confirm this new diagnosis, the specialist took a big biopsy of the enlarged bone tissue. A part of me is hugely relieved, the other part slightly pissed off that they didn't take a bone biopsy in the first place, and that they gave us news about a malignant tumor when the tissue sample was insufficient for a proper diagnosis. Okay, I'm more than  just slightly pissed off about how the other vet messed things up. But still, mostly relieved!

Here's the champ now, all zoned out. Even though the vet only took a bone biopsy, Willow has been out for over five hours and she is just starting to come around. She has a handful of stitches, she to wear the collar for the next ten days, and she's on antibiotics and pain killers. Poor kitty - although I can only imagine what things would be like if the vet had gone ahead with removing the extra bone tissue and all that. Recovering from a big operation like that would have been a whole different ball game!

I wore somewhat spring-y clothes today. And yes, a short wool jacket, cotton-and-wool mix tights and proper boots count as spring clothes! The snow is melting fast, but it's going to be a while before I can skip the tights and the boots!

Monday, 15 April 2013

Willow and I

Willow will be in surgery tomorrow. She has a malignant tumor on her chin - the thing is attached to her jawbone. The vet says that Willow has a pretty good chance to recover fully, even though a part of her jawbone has to be removed alongside the tumor. Here's to hoping that everything goes well. Say a prayer for us, if you have a moment.

Friday, 12 April 2013

The Waves tackles officewear, Part II - Borrowing from the Boys

I have a long torso, long arms and small boobs, so women's off-the-rack blazers never fit me properly. There is always too much room for the chest, the sleeves are too short, and the fitted cut flares out in the wrong place. I can occasionally pull off a women's blazer with rolled-up sleeves, teamed with a high-waisted skirt, but that's about it. That's why most of my blazers are from the men's section. 

I'm lucky that I'm tall and slim, because it means that small men's slim-cut blazers work pretty well on me. No, they are not tailored to perfection, but at least they don't look completely ridiculous on me. The sleeves and the overall length fit me rather well (the sleeves are almost a tad too long), and more often than not, the top button still closes, just the way it's supposed to, according to menswear rules. But does it look like I'm wearing men's clothing?  

I don't think so. It's a matter of teaming up the boys' items with garments that have smooth textures and pretty colors. It's only after you start paying attention to the details - like the side the buttons are on, or the coat tails, that anyone will notice. Not that I'd really care even if it was more obvious. 

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Just crazy enough; and the Departure of the Grammar Police

"Is this outfit crazy?", I asked Chris this morning. I was already late for work. "Umm... yeah, it's pretty crazy", he said. "Okay, good, but is it Sarah Jessica Parker-crazy, or is it more... Helena Bonham Carter-crazy?", I continued. For the record, I love both SJP- and HBC-type of clothing-related craziness, but only one of those is potentially suitable for the office.

Chris said that the outfit was more SJP-crazy, so I wore it to the office, and was only five minutes late. 

Now in hindsight, this doesn't even look all that crazy to me. A little probably-got-dressed-in-the-dark, perhaps, but whatever - I kind of wish that I had added a big chunky necklace, too. Which reminds me: I haven't worn any jewelry (with the exception of my ring) in ages. None. Imagine that! I think I might have to change that. There is plenty more officewear craziness to be had with the help of jewelry.

Once again, everything is second hand. 

Just to give you guys the heads-up: I've decided to not be so anal about the text I produce for my blog posts. Since I no longer live in an English-speaking community, I have to work extra hard to keep my English in check. It takes me so freakin' long to double- and sometimes triple-check grammar, spelling and potential repetition, so I've noticed that I sometimes skip posting because I just don't have the time or energy to pay attention to language. So please forgive me if the quality of my writing is not quite what it perhaps once was! I hope you all agree that it's better to post more often than to fixate on grammar! 

Okay. Before I go, I have to admit that I just googled "give the heads up", because I wasn't sure if there was an apostrophe. And I just checked to see if "apostrophe" ends in an e. 

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

I, the Coat Lover

I guess most of us tend to have a particular category of clothing (or a group of accessories) that just seems to multiply in our closets. For a lot of women it's high heels, for others, handbags or jeans. Some hoard skirts. My can't-seem-to-have-enough items are jackets and coats. I have many. They just seem like practical items to have (they keep me warm), the types that are easy to throw on to change an entire look. My coats and jackets are in steady rotation - although there are times when one gets worn weeks on end. 

When I first started contemplating on the something comes in, something comes out-wardrobe control, I thought that it had to be eye for an eye - meaning that if I bought a jacket, I'd have to get rid of a jacket. But I looked at my numerous jackets and coats and thought there was no way I was letting go of them (although eventually I did let go of four.) And I also knew that there were more coats and jackets to love in this world. I decided that the item that left the closet could be of any variety: I couldn't think of any rational reason why I couldn't exchange, say, a handbag for a sweater. And if one's style seems to revolve more around shoes than hats, so be it. Maybe it would be interesting to see what types of clothes stay and what goes out. In the course of the past six months I've accumulated new jackets and coats, and lost a lot of skirts in exchange. Who knew that jackets and coats were so important to me, and that I'd be ready to give up on a lot to get a new coat? Well, with offerings like this, who could resist?

Okay, so it's a little oversized - but the cut is so simple that size becomes secondary. The surface of this suede coat is the softest I've ever felt in my life. I'm crazy about the color - especially teamed with blues and navy. Typically, when I grab something at a thrift store, I typically try to think of a piece of clothing to get rid of if I'm planning to buy something for myself. With this coat, I didn't stop to think about it. I don't care what I have to let go of to keep this one.

I don't know what it says about a person that they get so much pleasure from loving clothes. Or what the truth is behind someone being obsessed with coats and jackets. There are plenty of people who just don't care so much about what they wear - and that's okay. But I care. I feel passionate about my favorite pieces of clothing, I truly do. I like to think that my life is pretty balanced, that I have so much to be thankful for. I have a great husband, wonderful kitties, a good job, a beautiful house, family that I love to bits. I feel happy and I feel like I live a full life. And then there are moments, like when I laid my eyes on this coat, when I think that it can't possibly be healthy to feel like this about clothes, that there has to be something wrong with me.  

And then... I took the coat home, put it on, and just felt happy that I had come by such a gem. I look at the beautifully finished seams, the overall cut of the coat. I appreciate the work that went into producing this garment. I admire it. There's at least one thing all of this says about me: I'm the happy owner of a pretty awesome coat. Perhaps that makes me a materialist, but so be it. I can live with that.

I'm wearing all second hand - yay! The coat cost me 10 euros (yeah, I know!). In total, I think, my outfit probably cost less than 20 euros, boots and all included.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Hail the casual!

Needless to say, this is not a work outfit. I've noticed that when I have the chance to wear something casual, I choose to look as laid back as I possibly can. I'll even admit to wearing sweatpants around the house a lot. Workwear often feels like a real drag. I am a laid back person, and officewear makes me feel like I'm pretending to be someone I'm not. It's a costume. 

I haven't fully figured out yet how to feel completely comfortable in officewear. It is what it is: I wear the types of clothes to the office I would not normally choose to wear. That's a tough one. It's not that I hate my work clothes - they are all perfectly fine as pieces of clothing - but the way I must combine them just doesn't feel like me a lot of the times. I mix and match, I try to make the clothes work for my own style as much as I can... but it's the must of looking like a professional that I detest. Even if I like the clothes, it's the need to look polished and put together that makes me feel uncomfortable. I am against having to look a certain way to be taken seriously. The end result is that I look fine, I like the individual pieces of clothing, but I don't feel like myself. That's why I cherish the days when I can wear whatever I want, and look just as casual as I choose. That freedom is a wonderful thing, and it should never be taken for granted.

The embroidered navy blue blouse and the slouchy cardigan are second-hand, the cords are J. Crew and the boots Max&co. I love how Audrey is working her poses!

Monday, 8 April 2013

So... I attended a style lecture

Last week my employer organized a lecture for us at the office - a local style consultant gave us two hours' worth of style advice. According to the lecture invitation, the consultant was going to talk about the meaning of dressing well, about body types, the latest trends and etiquette rules. I was, of course, fascinated. It's always interesting to hear other people discuss style matters, and even more so, when that person is someone who helps people get dressed for a living. It's a tough job. People are relying on you to give them the right type of advice. In a way, you become responsible for a lot of people's ability to give a good first impression. Make a mistake, and your client might become a target of ridicule. It's a big deal, to make someone look good.

I am not a huge fan of catch-all rules when it comes to style - that shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. I don't always believe in dressing according to one's body type either. I personally feel that it's more important to love what you wear. But when it comes to people who just don't really get excited about fashion, or people who have trouble seeing what fits them, I think it's really cool that there are people out there who can help. It turns out that there are a lot of women like that in our office: women who don't quite know what suits them, women who don't have the time to think about style. I wouldn't have thought that, actually. The women in our office dress mostly conservatively, but they wear colors and prints, and they don't wear boring, standard uniforms. They all have style.

The lecture started well enough. First the consultant talked about the importance of finding beauty in whatever body type one might have, she talked about how important it was to feel comfortable in what we wear. That was cool and important. She discussed the issues of balancing out one's body, and your usual "find the colours that suit you"s. Still good. But then she ventured into the typical descriptions of apples, pears and Y-shapes, and she told the women what to wear and what not to wear given one's body type. That would have been fine, but as a former clothing-industry professional and somewhat of a style connoisseur myself, I began to notice that I didn't really agree with her about the stuff she was talking about. She told pear-shaped women to wear tight-fitting skirts that flare out at the knee. She told the women that their legs would look shorter in wide-legged and boot-cut trousers. She told big-busted women that they'd look great in fitted blouses teamed with a knitted vest. She told small-chested women to never, ever wear revealing necklines. So fine, I didn't think she was exactly giving her audience the right type of information to work with. That's one thing, and maybe in part it's a matter of opinion. I just happen to think that it looks nice when women with small chests wear their blouses buttoned only half way up. And I don't like knitted vests on anyone, really. What upset me was that the more she talked, the more I noticed the women in the audience glancing over at each other, taking quick looks at what they were wearing at that moment. The way the lady spoke, she was mostly pointing out the mistakes that everyone might have been making. I wanted to jump out of my seat and tell the women that our style consultant wasn't exactly right about a lot of this stuff, that it's a common rule of thumb that boot cut trousers suit everyone, but of course I couldn't. She was the professional giving the lecture, not me. But I strongly got the impression that not only were her style rules out of place, she was also taking advantage of her audience's vulnerabilities.

That became evident when she began to discuss this season's trends. It turned out that she owned a clothing store in a nearby town, and that she wanted to tell her audience what great trends she had stocked up in her own store. What she considered trendy was romantic lace pieces, feminine peasant skirts, 1980s neon colors and zebra prints. I don't know what had happened to the 1960s mod-styles, to the structured minimalism, to the iridescent fabrics, the Asia-inspired pieces, or stripes and neo-grunge of S/S2013 - all this stuff that the fashion magazines are now pushing. It was obvious that the trends that she had chosen to portray were the trends that she had picked out for her store. She went on to say that she gave individual style consultations at her store for a hundred euros.

Okay, so the lecture was a huge disappointment. I could have lived with that. I could have gone home, told Chris what nonsense the consultant was spewing, maybe written a few lines about my dissatisfaction on Facebook (all of which I did). I could have concluded the whole ordeal by saying "fine, my own taste in style and fashion is a huge part of why I'm upset". Style consultants aren't necessarily for those who have a strong desire to play around with clothes in the first place. They are, perhaps, more for those who are a little clueless or just not all that interested. I could have even lived with the fact that the advice she was giving wasn't, in my opinion, correct - the consultant is entitled to her own opinion, just like I am. I could have done all this. But instead, I am still pissed off. Really, really pissed off. Here's why:

I went back to work the next day. The women in the break room were talking about how they had gone home after the lecture to only see that they had "wrong" clothes in their wardrobes. Almost all of them had measured themselves to find out which body type they were. Even with the measurements, some of them weren't sure, and they were visibly confused. They were all talking about what parts of their bodies they needed to hide. Some of them said that they needed to buy new wardrobes entirely. Overnight, the women at our office had gone from having perfectly fine style to suffering from total style-related chaos. They had gone from being able to get dressed in the morning to feeling like they needed to pay 100 euros for a personal consultation. One woman in her early 50s was almost distraught. I had seen her at the office before, wearing cute stripy tops teamed with casual black trousers, playful and practical clothes, looking confident, looking perfectly fine. She had realized, after the lecture, that she was top-heavy, and what was she going to do now, because she liked to wear her pink horizontal stripes but the lady had told her not to. I sat down with her and tried to tell her that the most important thing, regardless of what the consultant had said, was that she liked the clothes that she wore. It was a tough sell. A professional consultant's opinion was obviously weightier than mine. 

I guess what I'm trying to say with this post is that personal style is a fragile thing. It is linked to our sense of self, to our self-worth. The ones who make a living from it should be very, very careful. They can make or break a woman.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

How green was my jacket

I think I might have found the perfect spot for outfit pictures. Standing next to our wonderful leivinuuni (meaning that big brick oven), I have the great opportunity to include cats in the pictures and stay warm. That thing puts out heat like nothing else. Audrey seems to approve! 

I thrifted this green suede jacket/shirt some time ago. It was a part of a deal which allowed me to stuff as many clothes and shoes into a huge plastic bag as I could and pay ten euros for everything. Everything else in that bag went to Frida marina (including two pairs of wonderful leather boots, some vintage dresses and whatever else), but I'm still holding onto this jacket. I know it's not exactly my style - it's really 1970s with that big collar and everything... but I can't seem to let go of it just yet. It's pretty worn, too, but there's just something about it I really, really like. I like the cut, I like the length, I like the pockets, even the ruggedness.

I thrifted these cute shoes last fall but didn't get the chance to wear them before it got way too cold. I put them on today just for the outfit shot, and now I think they are a tad too small. Must investigate further. I see an opportunity here - I could get rid of the shoes and keep the jacket. That's the wardrobe control rule these days: something comes in, something must come out.

I don't know. I do like the jacket an awful lot.I think I'll keep it for now, and let go of it one day if I fail to wear it.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Inspired by: Lula, and a few thoughts on fashion magazines

I am probably "too old" to read Lula. I say that jokingly, because ageism is stupid. I do recognize, however, that the intended audience probably doesn't include working 35-year-olds. The magazine often features fragile-looking, melancholic child-women, and yes, it is sometimes a little disturbing. But I still find myself drawn to Lula's dreamy, softly shot imagery - probably because it is distinctive and different. 

I have the world of trouble finding fashion magazines in my current surroundings. The supermarkets stock only Finnish fashion mags, which aren't all bad - in fact, I quite like Trendi and Olivia. Occasionally the bigger supermarket here has British Marie Claire, which I haven't bought (I still have a bone to pick with them after they, years ago, asked to interview me for a story about women's body issues, but then drew back their request after I told them that my issue had to do with being too skinny, not too heavy - they didn't think skinny could possibly be a problem). Anyway, long story short: I currently lack the option of going to a store to pick up a fashion mag after work. I haven't been a super-active fashion magazine reader in a few years - in the US I subscribed to a couple of magazines, mostly because they were so cheap. But I like looking at fashion in print form, and I still have occasional cravings. Sometimes the online imagery just isn't quite enough.

I'm thinking about perhaps subscribing to some fashion magazines, even though it is quite expensive for where I live. I just feel deprived. I've considered Lula and The Gentlewoman (the latter of which I have never seen in print, but it sounds fascinating), and even the Aussie mag Frankie, which I hear a lot of good things about. It would be cheaper to subscribe to some American magazines, but I am completely over US Vogue and Harper's Bazaar. Glamour seems too shopping-centered, and Elle seems to lack focus. I once loved Vogue Italia, but it just seems too high-fashion and artsy for me - same with Vogue Paris. It's been so long since I've read British Vogue or Elle that I have no idea if they'd be my cup of tea. So perhaps I will try to get Lula or/and The Gentlewoman shipped to my countryside neck of the woods. Any other suggestions, my dear readers, of magazines that combine smart and pretty?

Lula pictures via

Monday, 1 April 2013

New, old traditions

There are days when I feel like spring is just around the corner. The days are sunny and getting warmer, the birds chirp like there's no tomorrow. Then I see a car racing on the lake. The ice is still thick enough for that. The days are getting longer though, especially now that we've officially "sprung forward". The sun sets at 8 pm. 

I hope you all had a lovely Easter. On Saturday we waited until sunset...

...and then joined our neighbours, who introduced us to the local Easter bonfire tradition. I was not aware of a tradition like this - it only goes to show that as small as Finland is, there are still plenty of regional peculiarities to go around. The bonfires light up the lakeshores on Saturday night before Easter Sunday.

The bonfires are burnt to chase the witches away. This old pagan tradition coexists with the Christian ones in these parts of Finland - not that people really believe in witches. It's peculiar, though, mainly because the church still has a strong footing in the minds and the hearts of the people here. But there they were, the neighbour's kids, staring into the fire, trying to make out silhouettes of witches and their cats in the flames.