Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Undiscovered Countries...

I'm cheating here a bit: this is not wilderness but a national park, about an hour from where I live...

When BonnieKaeleneSammy and Van invited bloggers to write about their travel bucket lists for this week's Travel Tuesday link-up, I was at a loss. I don't have a travel bucket list, I thought. There's no place I really want to visit (except the ones I keep going back to). My husband and I travel all the time, both together and separately, but the truth is, I have no wanderlust to explore new destinations...

And then it hit me: I do have a travel bucket list. There are two countries my husband and I always say we would like to explore a bit more, one day:


Confession time: I live in Helsinki (or rather, that is where Homebase 1 is located...), but I have hardly ever ventured outside the capital area since I moved there (a very long time ago). Thus, there are dozens of places in Finland I've never been to: the archipelago, Lapland, the eastern border region... and lots of things I haven't done (hiking in the wilderness, swimming in a lake, seen reindeer or the northern lights..). 

I wasn't born in Helsinki, though. I spent my childhood in various places around the country, and I have fond memories of living by a lake as a little girl. I remember picking blueberries in the forest with my mother, wearing wellies and a raincoat, or taking the boat and going fishing... That's all just part of a normal childhood for any Finn: spending endless summer days at the family summer cottage in the middle of nowhere (and I hated it; I was always a Big City Girl at heart...).

While I have successfully avoided the Finnish countryside most of my adult life, Professor M and I have of course visited family members in other parts of the country (besides the capital), and sampled a few smaller towns nearby on day trips... But we've never ventured very far north, or east. Every now and then Professor M suggests we should go to Lapland, and my standard (cliched city-girl) answer is 'what are two snobbish city-dwellers supposed to do there?' It is a valid question: Lapland is a great holiday destination for people who like outdoor activities (hiking, swimming, skiing...), getting off the beaten path and exploring the wilderness. But I don't think it has a lot to offer to someone who thinks having to go to the neighbour town to get to the airport is a drag (that would be me)... And a winter holiday is of course out of the question (as I made a promise to myself when I left school that I would never ever have to go skiing again because I hated the cold and the snow so much), and there are too many mosquitos in summer (or so I've been told). 
On the other hand, maybe we should go, just once, so that he gets to see what a real forest looks like... (I've learned that the Central-European idea of  what constitutes 'a forest' is very different from the Nordic one). 


While I spent my childhood summers in lakeside cottages (and still somehow failed to learn to swim...) and running around forests, Professor M used to to go hiking in the Alps...
And every year he suggests we should go and see all those places he saw as a child... Or just tour his native country a bit.
Of course, I have visited my husband's native country on several occasions. I've seen the house where he grew up, met his relatives, and... well, that's about it. Whenever we go to Germany together, we seem to have a lot of things to do and people to see, but no time to see anything. We did go to Berlin once, for a weekend trip, though...

So, while we spend quite a lot of time in Britain (in Homebase 2 or having fun shopping or playing tourists in London), keep going back to Barcelona, and occasionally find ourselves in odd places around the world, it seems we have neglected the places closer to home.
Maybe we should explore our respective native lands a bit more, one day...


Linking up with BonnieKaeleneSammy and Van for

Travel Tuesday


Sunday, 27 July 2014

Dressing for Hot Weather

Would it be terrible if I said I don't really like summer? I mean, I like the idea of summer. Just the reality bites a bit too much... And by that I mean of course the hot weather, which really makes me suffer (or stay indoors). And no jokes about my ethnic background here: genetically modified to suit cold weather etc... I dislike winter and cold weather maybe even more than I dislike hot summer days...

Which brings me to the topic of hot weather dressing. What do you wear when all you want to do is pour some ice water over your overheated head...

Linen is supposed to be the summer material, right? I certainly seem to have quite a collection of linen trousers. Only one jacket, though, the one I'm wearing here. I bought the jacket because I thought it would be nice and cool in the evenings, or maybe I could wear it to work. The jacket is still on its probationary period, I haven't quite decided whether I like it or not...

It sure wrinkles easily... and yes, I do wear linen trousers, so I'm familiar with the problem.  and I do have an iron. At least I think I do... maybe not. I haven't seen one for... ups, I think I just outed myself. Yes, I admit, I don't iron... I'm just lazy I guess. And in hot weather the last thing I want to do is stand over the hot iron...  Besides, linen wrinkles when you even look at it, so it's really waste of time and energy, don't you think?

I like the jacket because it's fitted and goes with most of my clothes.It's also unlined, and washable. So, the real test comes when I need to wash it... Will it look nice enough without ironing? Because if it won't, it probably won't see the light of day until next summer...

What do you like to wear in hot weather?


Linking up with Patti for Visible Monday
and with Paige for Stylish Tuesday

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

I could get used to this...

Our recent 7-day visit to South Korea was part business trip (for my husband), part pleasure. And we decided to travel in style and indulge ourselves for the private part of the trip... I'm just afraid that this sets a dangerous precedent, I can get used to luxury so easily... And Professor M never misses an opportunity to use his 'snobbish' wife as an excuse to give in to his own indulgencies... (all those fancy restaurants he wants to try, because they would be 'nice enough' to meet my 'standards', or all that sweet pastry he keeps bringing home, for me to try, when we both know that if it's not chocolate, I'm not interested... ).

Because this was a very long flight, we booked business class seats. You know those seats that convert into a bed? With privacy screens, so you don't have to look at other passengers? Yep, that was us.
I've only ever flown business class twice: on our honeymoon, to London (used up all my air miles), and once as a student when I missed my flight at Heathrow and didn't have any money (and a non-refundable economy class ticket), so I pretended I couldn't really understand English and was scared and all alone, in order to make the nice lady at the British Airways counter take pity on me... which she did, and put me on the next available flight, on business class, so that I would get home safely...

But I'm digressing here... I usually take a budget airline, get my sandwich and a bottle of water at the airport and pay for my coffee onboard... all of which is fine for the two-hour forty-minute Helsinki-Gatwick flight.

Now I know that a) airplane food can be delicious (see photos) and b) champagne makes a long flight bearable.

For the private, or 'inofficial' part of the trip we stayed at Conrad Seoul, on two occasions: first for one night on Monday when we arrived, and then for two nights when we got back from Daegu on Friday.

left: the amazing staircase / right: impressive yet simple flower arrangements

For our first night in Seoul we had a suite on the 28th floor... which was probably bigger than most flats I've lived in. It was wonderful... well, almost. They charged extra for wi-fi, and the minibar had several brands of whiskey but no wine... I had to say that.

And the bathroom was huge...

...and had a bathtub with a view...

...which Professor M hurried to hide by lowering the blinds as soon as I started undressing to take a bath. When I complained that the whole point of having a massive window in front of the bathtub is to admire the view, he explained that he was just worried about a peeping tom getting it off watching me. I rolled my eyes at his Central-European prudishness and pointed out that a peeping tom would need binoculars, and if anyone went to that much trouble to spy a middle-aged woman in the bathtub, my Scandinavian let-it-all-hang-out mentality couldn't care less...

The second time we stayed at the same hotel, Friday-Sunday, we had a significantly smaller, yet still quite nice, room on the 14th floor. Sadly no view from the bathtub, though...

Yes, luxury travel has its perks: sleeping off your jet-lag in a comfy bed, hitting the gym when you wake up at 3am, room service round the clock... I could get used to that...

Have you ever stayed in a luxury hotel? 
And would you be willing to pay more on long-haul flights for better seats?


Linking up with BonnieKaeleneSammy and Van for

Travel Tuesday


Monday, 21 July 2014

White: Cool or Not?

A few years ago, in a fit of something I can only call 'an acute mental disorder' in retrospect, I got a white dress... I say I must have been out of my mind because white is most definitely not my colour (have you seen how pale I am??!! And this is me when I'm "tanned"...), and I've never had anything white. No, wait, there was a white jacket, years ago... A funny thing, whenever I was wearing it, I somehow managed to pour my coffee all over it, every single time... Since then I've only had white T-shirts to wear with something more colourful.

Vivienne Westwood dress

But about the dress... I had this idea that I needed a white sundress, having seen so many people look fantastic in their white beach dresses or romantic lace... As I said, I must have been out of my mind:  I don't do romantic... I am the most unromantic woman on the planet (and my husband would surely agree), and even my wedding dress wasn't white.

Vivienne Westwood dress

I don't wear this dress very often, usually only when the weather gets hot. I love Vivienne Westwood dresses for hot weather: they're made of cotton and can be washed, the skirt is wide (as much as I love fitted dresses, in hot weather I need something loose and not so close to the body...). Now, you're probably wondering "how many Vivienne Westwood dresses does this woman have?" The answer is 4, the blue one I showed you a week ago, a pink one and a black one.

What's your hot weather style?

Linking up with the always fabulous SacramentoRosy and Elena  for Share-in Style

Friday, 18 July 2014

Weekend Graphic Novel Segment

Tiina Lehtoranta

I love Film Noir, the old films from the 1940s, with wisecracking Femme Fatales and sarcastic detectives. I also like illustration and art that takes its inspiration from cartoons and graphic novels. I'm combining these two interests in my hobby: turning old photographs into illustrations. I use quotes from classic Noir films and (mostly) old photographs of my mother  (well, she always looked fantastic on camera, and some of these old photos lend themselves quite easily to this project), although I have worked on a few pictures of  myself or some friends, too, as well as some modern photographs of buildings, scenery etc. What you see above is an example I put together for this blog.

And these are the original photographs. I photographed the "Slippery when wet" sign in San Francisco in 2011.  I just put it through a few Photoshop filters to make it look like an illustration. This is something that anyone can do in an hour or two.

The photograph on the right dates back to the early 1960s, and the woman in the picture is my mother. The cartoon version is a drawing (made using Photoshop Elements, working on layers but no filters. Very complicated and technical, also time-consuming, we won't go into details here...) .

What do you think, how long did it it take me to finish the picture on the right? 

Have a nice weekend, 

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Isle of Wight: Ventnor

One of my favourite holiday destinations in the U.K. is Ventnor on the Isle of Wight. This Victorian beach resort is the perfect place to relax, enjoy fresh air (with or without sunshine) and delicious, no-fuss, locally sourced food.

Ventnor has a lovely beach, but if that's not your thing, there are other things you can do. As the town is built on a steep hill leading to the beach, whatever you do, you will get plenty of exercise walking up and down the streets and stairs...

There are nice walks around the town, too: for example the 20-30 minutes' walk to Steephill Cove along the beautiful coastal path. This little bay is only accessible by walking (parking is available in the nearby  Botanic Gardens), and there are a few self-catering holiday lets, beach huts, and a few small restaurants. What a perfect place to go swimming and sunbathing, or just relax for the afternoon.

If you're hungry after your walk, you can stop by the Crab Shed for a delicious sandwich  or fish pie.

And after lunch you can check out the Botanic Gardens just a short walk away. And if you don't feel like walking all the way back to Ventnor, there is a bus back from the Botanic Gardens...

And you're back just on time for dinner at the legendary Spyglass Inn, right where the coastal path leading to Steephill Cove started.

So, it's a pub... Now, let's make something clear: I don't go to pubs (just not my thing, and I don't mind if you call me a snob; I am a snob...). But this place is no ordinary pub. They specialise in locally sourced fish and seafood, and there is live music on most evenings.

The perfect evening includes a portion of their fabulous Greenlip Mussels...


...watching the sun set and night fall over Ventnor...

Yes, Ventnor is the perfect place to relax, enjoy good food and beautiful scenery.


Linking up with BonnieKaeleneSammy and Van for

Travel Tuesday


Saturday, 12 July 2014

The Blue Dress

Anglomania dress

I don't like wearing black; and black certainly does me no favours... So, whenever I want to dress in dark colours I usually go for navy, instead. It is certainly kinder to my pale skin.

I've had this Vivienne Westwood Anglomania dress for ages, and I wear it as a sundress. I don't believe in saving clothes for special occasions: there are so few of those, and nice clothes need to be worn. I've actually worn this dress to work on several occasions. The best thing about the dress? It has pockets!
On this occasion, however, I was actually going to a very nice restaurant (nothing fancy, just the weekly Saturday evening dinner out with Professor M), so I did accessorize a bit more, and went for a classic pearl necklace look.

Vivienne Westwood Anglomania
dress: Vivienne Westwood Anglomania (old) / pashmina : Fenwicks / bag: Diane von Furstenberg Carolina Lips Clutch
My hair is a mess, but that's nothing unusual. You might want to ask why I haven't done my hair, too, since I'm going out... well, I have a naturally curly hair that has a mind of its own and reacts to temperature and humidity. And as it was hot and humid, there's absolutely nothing bar a teflon coating  to keep it from getting all crazy... so, why bother.

DVF Carolina, Miu Miu
clutch bag: DVF / sunglasses: Miu Miu / watch: Viceroy / small antique watch and bracelet: my grandmother's and my mother's
The bag is a Diane von Furstenberg Carolina Lips clutch (you've seen it here before), one of my favourites for summer as it looks great with anything blue (and doesn't take up much space in a suitcase, which is always important), and the sunglasses are my latest crush (seen here before).

Do you have special occasion dresses? And how often do you wear them?


Linking up with Patti for Visible Monday

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Seoul: impressions

South Korea

Arriving at the Incheon airport, my first impression of South Korea was more or less what I'd expected: everything was new, very tidy and clean, blond wood and neutral colours, free wi-fi... everything was very... Scandinavian / Nordic, and for a brief moment I wondered if we'd ended up in Helsinki instead...

My jet-lagged brain kept seeing similarities, as if I'd ended up in a slightly warped version of my own reality: everything looks familiar yet out of proportion at the same time, as in a dream. It was Alice in Wonderland in reverse: everything is suddenly multiplied and exaggerated in size and quantity, and I'd suddenly turned illiterate...

After spending almost the entire Monday at our wonderful hotel jet-lagged and sleepy, we were ready to start the 'working' part of our trip on Tuesday. This was after all a business trip for Professor M, and I had a part to play as 'the Professor's Wife' at a lunch with the representatives of a local university. This was the part I had dreaded most: from what to wear to what to say, and was thus very glad that it turned out to be rather hurried affair.

After lunch, we were given a private tour of the campus by a lovely young lady. We also got to see the museum, which is open to public, and featured an interesting permanent collection exploring the lives and dress styles of Korean women during the Joseon Dynasty as well as a temporary exhibition on idealism in Asian art. As we had the cultural portion of our trip served on a platter this way, we felt no need to explore any cultural sites during the 'private' part of our visit...

EHWA Womans University campus
After the university campus tour, we left Seoul for Daegu (more about that in an upcoming post in August...) for a few days so that Professor M could attend a conference, and only got back to Seoul on Friday afternoon. Unfortunately, this meant that we had about a day and a half before our flight home on Sunday morning...

So, what does a Bad Tourist do in such a short time? 

A quick bus tour in the evening to get an idea of all the places we might want to visit, if we only had more time, and a targeted shopping excursion and some aimless wandering around on Saturday. I'm not even going to pretend that these pictures, or my ramblings, represent anything more than passing observations and fleeting impressions...

Now, this is where my idea of South Korea as 'the Asian Scandinavia' fell apart... These wires hanging over the street, are they for telephone lines, electricity or what?

Professor M has a soft spot for parks, and as a Finn I'm used to seeing something green (lots of it, in fact) around, so we headed to the little park near the hotel.


When Professor M went to check out a the Youngsan Electronics Market (boys and their toys...), I braved the underground and the frustrating ticket system to go to Shinsegae department store. To use my own international department store classification system, I would describe it as a cross between Harrods and Selfridges, or Saks and Neiman Marcus for my American readers. The Main Building is definitely more Harrods / Saks, but the new building featured some interesting Korean brands (especially handbags and costume jewellery).
Professor M also found his oasis in the midst of the urban jungle: the 6th floor Café Payard (Main Building) serves excellent coffee and sweet treats, which you can enjoy on the beautiful rooftop terrace, Trinity Garden, and admire the interesting artwork and scenery while watching the sunset.

Trinity Garden, Café Payard

So, Seoul definitely deserves a second and a closer look, and maybe we'll get back there one day. In the meantime, stay tuned for my posts on the more luxurious and frustrating aspects of the trip, on the 22nd of July and 5th of August, respectively.


Linking up with BonnieKaeleneSammy and Van for

Travel Tuesday


Monday, 7 July 2014

Denim Remix

denim jacket in summer

One of the tasks I set for myself for this summer (while I'm on holiday and supposedly have a bit more time) is to organise my wardrobe(s) in both Homebases. Needless to say it hasn't happened... not yet, anyway. But I have been sort of busy with other stuff, travelling, blogging etc.

I finally decided to see what's lurking at the bottom of the wardrobe in Homebase 2, and dug out a few pieces that haven't seen the light of day for... probably years. So, They're due a 'performance evaluation' to see if I should keep them or toss them. And as I wanted to take part in  Sacramento's fabulous Share-in-Style link-up party featuring all things denim, it is the perfect opportunity to put together a little bottom-of-the-barrel outfit remixing old pieces.

wearing pink 40+

The dress is by Ghost, the clutch bag (which also has a metal strap) by Minna Parikka and the jacket... I have no idea where that came from. The only items I wear on a regular basis are the Tom Ford sunglasses (I love them, they go with anything...) and the necklace, which is one of my favourites (you've seen it here before), by Snö of Sweden (Snö means Snow, in case you're wondering... Yes, I did study some Swedish at school, and no, I cannot really speak the language)


So, what do think? What should I do with the dress and the jacket, toss or keep?


Linking up with Sacramento for Share-in-Style  
Go and see all the fabulous bloggers sharing their denim ideas.


Tuesday, 1 July 2014

I'm a Bad Tourist because...

bad tourist

Hello, my name is Tiina and I'm a Bad Tourist...

I've been to London / Paris / Barcelona / New York etc several times. Yet, the list of 'must-see' tourists attractions that I have never seen is impressive: the London Eye, the Shard, the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Sagrada Familia, Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty...
And I have no plans to visit any of them any time soon, or ever.

Why? Because jockeying for prime position with other tourists is my idea of hell.
Call me lazy if you want, but I don't queue for anything, whether it's Mona Lisa or summer sales. Life's just too short for that. I'd rather peruse local antique markets or small galleries. Yes, I know you can book tickets in advance, and if there is an interesting exhibition I might do that. But usually I don't like to plan too much in advance.  A holiday is the time to ditch the 'to do' list, not add to it.

Bad Tourist

But why do I call myself a Bad Tourist? 

I seldom plan my trips in advance; I often 'do my research' on the plane, that is if I manage to find a guidebook at the airport...
I don't really have the wanderlust, either; I have no burning desire to see new, exotic places. In fact, I seem to have a seasonal 'migrating pattern' that takes me at regular intervals to places I already know quite well.
Now, I'm not saying that I dislike travelling. It's just something I do, like some people drive a car (I don't) or sail (ditto). I'm not even sure if should call what I do travelling... Let's just say that I have been living out of a suitcase and / or flying around most of my life.

Bad Tourist
Daegu, South Korea

But let's start at the beginning...

Once upon a time there was a little girl who used to take the plane all by herself... Actually, it was the 1970s and it wasn't very common for children to travel unaccompanied. Yet, there I was taking the plane to go see my father, a few times a year. My mother took me to the airport, handed me over to a friendly and slightly nervous flight attendant (air travel was so much less complicated back then...) who escorted me to the plane and then handed me over to my father after we landed. It was really exciting for a little girl to be travelling alone, except for the name tag the flight attendants put around my neck. Now, that was humiliating... I mean, what am I, a piece of luggage?!? I'm a frequent traveller, a woman of the world, I'm almost ten!!!
And of course there was the time when my always calm and composed mother would accuse my father of 'losing her child' when he was due to ship me back the same way... He had failed to mention that it was not a direct flight, and that I was safely stowed away in the flight attendants' break room while I waited to board my connecting flight. What neither of my parents knew was that there was a frantic flight attendant running around the airport looking for a little wannabe globetrotter who had had enough of being treated as cabin luggage and had wandered off to do some 'taxfree' shopping (= buy chocolate)...

Bad Tourist

Fast forward to today: I'm one half of a multicultural (three languages, two countries) couple commuting between our two homes every week. This means that I take the plane to either Gatwick or Heathrow (depending on the airline) at least once a month (and my husband, Professor M, does the commuting when I don't). The excitement I felt as a little girl is long gone; these days I find air travel frustrating and boring, a bit like taking a bus that is crowded and stuck in a traffic jam...
To make life easier, I have streamlined the whole process of getting from Homebase 1 to Homebase 2 with the least amount of hassle, with or without luggage. I check in online, book the same seat whenever possible and pack anything I might need during the flight so that I can find it easily. Commuting between Britain and Finland has become routine. So much so that I operate on autopilot: arrive 30 minutes before boarding, head straight to security control, then to e-passport gates, stop to pick up a bottle of water and a magazine, gate 37.... Last winter I was on my way to Copenhagen for a weekend trip, and I was about to hoist my cabin luggage onto the conveyor belt at security control when I suddenly realised that not only was I heading to the wrong gate, but I was in the wrong terminal...

Bad Tourist
Daegu, South Korea

What about holiday trips?

There are two types of holidays Professor M and I take together: a long weekend / a few days' city break, usually in a place we already know, and a work-related trip (for him) followed by a weekend somewhere further away.
The first type of holiday is a break from our complicated and hectic lives (e.g. I have two homes in two countries, 5-7 employers, and a job that keeps me running from one place to another). Therefore,we have high demands for the hotel (good location and amenities, preferably with breakfast), but there is no itinerary or schedule and very little advance planning as far as activities are concerned. We don't go sightseeing, unless you count wandering around more or less aimlessly as that... And while we both hate 'touristy' activities, we might take a boat cruise or and excursion if the mood strikes us. We aim to go to one museum or an exhibition per trip, but only if we happen to come across something that interests us (and usually it is a small gallery with local artists' work that we end up going to). The point is, we don't plan ahead. Still, even after ten years of going to Barcelona once a year, we always manage to find new areas to explore. And maybe one day we get to see Sagrada Familia, too (provided there is no queue outside...).

Bad Tourist
Daegu, South Korea

The second type of trip is a bit more stressful. Obviously, Professor M is attending a conference whereas I'm on holiday (and quite capable of entertaining myself in a strange, new place) ... I hardly see him, except in the evenings, and then we  might have different plans: after being cooped up indoors the entire day, he is dying to go out, whereas all I want after a day in sweltering sunshine is a bath and room service... This type of 'holiday' only makes sense once we get to the after work weekend part and can have a day or two to revisit the places I saw while he was working.

What's you preferred way of travelling? And do you distinguish between holiday trips and other trips?

Coming soon to an airport near you...


Linking up with Bonnie, Kaelene, Sammy and Van for

Travel Tuesday

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