Saturday, 30 July 2016

Picnic


So, this July Professor M and I had a little staycation in Helsinki. This is very unusual, especially in summer as we usually spend our summers in the U.K.

OK, a long story short (if you're new to this blog), hubby lives and works in the U.K., whereas I (mainly) live and work in Finland.

Complicated? Not really. We both work long hours, so spending weekdays apart is no problem. And we spend weekends together, which means that one of us has to travel (which one depends on our respective work schedules). But in summer, or whenever I have a bit more time off, I usually spend more time in our home in England. In other words, in our household 'having time off' means less travelling and more time spent in one place. In theory, anyway.

In July I travelled back and forth between Finland and England a couple of times, with a few days or a week or two in one place. But, probably for the first time ever, both hubby and I actually had a few weeks off at the same time, i.e. we could actually have a longer (than a few days') holiday together...

And we decided to spend hubby's last week of holiday in Finland. And what's more, this was going to be a proper holiday, even though we were staying at home. So, none of the usual cleaning/sorting/doing-the-laundry etc that usually keeps us busy at home (let me remind you: we have two homes, so that's twice the usual cleaning/sorting/doing-the-laundry etc). We were going to do the touristy thing: a bit of sightseeing, going to restaurants and just relaxing.

The Touristy Thing...

So, what do tourists do in Helsinki? Well, we thought the best way to kick off our relaxing staycation was to have a picnic in the historic sea fortress, Suomenlinna (a cluster of interconnected islands within Helsinki, about 15 minutes from the mainland by ferry)

Suomenlinna
Suomenlinna

The tower-like structure is a church/lighthouse. And the salmon pink building on the seafront houses a tourist information centre and one of our favourite restaurants, among other things. Yes, this location has been featured on the blog before. What can I say? It does make a great backdrop for photos, doesn't it?

Suomenlinna

So, Suomenlinna has residential areas, restaurants and coffee shops and several museums (including an old submarine). It also houses a cost guard station and  the Finnish Naval Academy.

But what most tourists, and locals, do is go for walks on or along the old sea fortress walls, or have picnic by the sea. Even though Suomenlinna is a World Heritage site, and a historic landmark, you can walk around freely (well, almost freely: I would stay away from the coast guard station or the Naval Academy... Fortunately, these are clearly marked, in several languages).

summerk skirt

However, it is not a park in the traditional sense: there are no well-maintained flowerbeds, and the footpaths are not lined with benches. There are cobble stone streets, well-trimmed lawns, and neat looking houses. But there are also dirt roads, wildflowers, rabbits and hills. And steep, wooden staircases going down to small, secluded beaches. And of course the old fortress walls, and several of these old cannons.

sunset

Outfit details:
skirt: Ralph Lauren / t-shirt: Gap / cardigan: Soyaconcept / shoes: Clarks / 
sunglasses: Michael Kors / necklace: Purificacion Garcia
location: Suomenlinna, Helsinki

How was your summer holiday?

Tiina
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Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Setting the Stage

casual pattern mixing

How to stage a spectacular setting for a photo shoot

Do you ever wonder how style bloggers find such fabulous settings for their photo shoots? Well, it must be your lucky day because I'm going to spill the beans and reveal some tricks of the trade. You know, how to find the perfect backdrop and set the lighting etc...

Right, so the objective here is to take this rather casual, plain outfit (which I wore to dinner at a nice summer restaurant) to a setting that makes it, well, less plain...

The ideal backdrop should be simple, and not too colourful so as not to distract too much from the subject of the photo (i.e. yours truly). And of course the light should be kind to the somewhat frazzled middle-aged model. I also wanted the red in these pictures to pop, and the blue and white of the outfit to blend in harmoniously with the surroundings. OK, so far so good, we have many ways to do this.

over 50 blogger
gingham bag

However, I also wanted to showcase the stereotypical, almost mythical Finnish landscape that travel brochures are so good at depicting... If we're talking about stereotypical landscape pictures (in southern Finland, that is), we have two choices:  trees, trees and yet more trees or water (sea, lake, river, whatever). And this time we're going to the seaside... So, where can we find a remote, uninhabited island bathing in the glow of late summer sunset?

Behind the scenes...

OK, so we found an island (not so remote, but who cares about such minor details anyway?), and it's just before sunset (i.e. just before 10 pm). If you don't want to destroy the magic, skip to the end now.


1. See that bit of rock in the picture, in the background, with some boats in front of it? Yep, that's the island we're going to. I took this photo standing on the pier waiting for the shuttle boat.

2. There's a boat every 20 minutes or so, and the trip takes all of 2 minutes. Really.

3. This rather modest looking building is the island restaurant, and the dinner was wonderful.

4. The light brown building in the background is a yacht club on the neighbouring island. Yes, the neighbour island (and another marina ) is just a stone's throw away...

The Magic of Photography

So, the aim here was to show the severe yet fragile beauty of Nordic nature, with the late summer sunset giving everything a hazy, romantic glow...

Helsinki archipelago
summer
summer in Finland

Outfit details:
t-shirt: Zara / trousers: marks and Spencer (old) / pashmina: Balmuir / 
bag:Coach (old) / shoes: Clarks / sunglasses: Michael Kors

Outfits photos by Professor M, all other photos by Tiina L
location: Sirpalesaari, Helsinki

So, how did we do?

Tiina
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Sunday, 24 July 2016

How to wear a vintage kimono

vintage kimono

I bought this 1920's kimono in a vintage shop last year and have been wondering ever since what to do with it. I don't really wear vintage, or second-hand for that matter. And I certainly don't wear fancy silk dressing gowns at home (I'm more of a ratty old t-shirt and yoga pants girl..). But as soon as I saw this kimono, I just had to have it. Let's call that a temporary mental disorder, shall we?

Anyway, I'm not a collector (as far as clothes are concerned, that is; books and art, now that's different), so having something in my closet and never wear it is against all my principles. I had to find a way to wear this fabulous piece, if for no other reason than to justify the amount of money I spent on it.

Maybe I could wear it as a wrap dress? Accessorise it with a wide belt and pearl earrings, a retro evening bag and shoes that are a nod to the 20's flapper style? Well, I'm not totally convinced, but this  is an experiment...

over 40 blogger
vintage kimono
vintage

Outfit details:
silk kimono: vintage, from Annie's Vintage / bag: L.K.Bennett (old) / 
shoes: Hotter (old) / belt: Andiata (old)

Any suggestions how to style this kimono?

Tiina
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PS: Have you seen the new DILETTANTE ARTIST post?
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Saturday, 23 July 2016

Currently...

currently

I suppose I could say this summer hasn't exactly turned out the way I had hoped. It's not that I had elaborate plans or anything, but I had hoped to de-stress and relax and recharge. You know, what people usually do when they take time off from work. Oh well, life has a way of surprising you, and not all surprises are good.

Let's just say that I've been doing a lot of thinking, re-evaluating my priorities, goals and dreams. I'm nowhere near anything resembling a plan, and I'm not going to moan about it here, either.

But I'm worried about what's going on in the world. No, let's rephrase that: I think the world is going to hell in a handbasket (to use an American idiom, for change), what with Brexit, terrorist attacks and populist politicians running rampant here and there. But enough of that. This is what I've been up to lately:

A staycation in Helsinki

The advantage of having two homes is that you can always escape one when things get a bit too much and spend some time in the other one. And if one home reminds you of work, a holiday is just a plane ticket away. Yes, this is staycation 2.0: go away and stay at home...

We often spend July visiting some of the wonderful British seaside towns and resorts. However, this year, Brexit and the ensuing negative attitude and even outright hostility towards EU nationals (I'm from Finland and Professor M is from Germany) has made us reconsider both our long-term and short-term future plans. And because we felt that we could really use some time to relax, we decided to spend Professor M's last week of holiday in Finland.

espa
Esplanadi park. the polka dots are an ongoing art project.
So, what can we do in Helsinki in July? Given that July is the summer holiday month, there are mainly just tourists and die-hard city-dwellers around (everyone else is chilling in the countryside), which means that it is a lot less crowded (as far as a town of about 600 000 inhabitants ever gets crowded, compared to most European capitals, that is) on trains, restaurants, parks etc.

However, we decided to take it easy and do what we always do when we're on holiday: not much.

over 40 blogger

So, there are walks by the sea, trips to the nearby islands, leisurely afternoons spent in seafront coffee shops...


And some architecture spotting, of course... which reminds me:

What is the difference between Art Nouveau and Jugendstil?

Jugendstil is simply what Art Nouveau (or Modernisme, as it is called n Spain or Catalonia) is called in the Protestant Northern Europe, mainly Germany and the Nordic countries. Yes, there are some stylistic differences, most notably that Jugend, or Jugendstil, is heavier, darker and more angular.

And why is this relevant here? Well, Helsinki is practically a case study of Jugendstil architecture (or, as we often call it, National Romantic Style), with over 600 well-preserved Jugendstil buildings. Which makes it a wonderful place for anyone interested in architecture.

Helsinki architecture
Jugend

And then there's the urban wildlife...

Why did the geese cross the road?

Well, to go to the spa, of course.

????

OK, let me explain. There's a park, separated from the waterfront by a busy street, populated by a lot of geese. But these are not just any geese but urban geese.

Urban geese???

Yes, these birds clearly know their traffic code and do what any pedestrian does before crossing a busy street: look both ways and signal the motorists their intention to cross the street.

Of course, they also believe in safety in numbers. So, first they form a tight group, cross the street quickly in this military formation, then regroup into an orderly line and march to the waterfront with the determination of seasoned spa visitors...

urban wildlife
Helsinki

And then there are the sunsets that last for hours... The nights are quickly getting darker again: sunset is already after 10 pm and sunrise a bit before 5 am. But I like the darker late summer evenings. And Professor M has been asking for years why we never spend any time in Finland in July. So, perhaps this has been a good holiday after all...

Helsinki

How was your summer holiday?

Tiina
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Thursday, 21 July 2016

Travel Capsule Wardrobe: Mix and Match

travel wardrobe

Capsule wardrobes seem to be 'in' at the moment

At least in the blogosphere. I mean, which self-respecting blogger hasn't dabbled in that concept lately? But this is not one of those posts telling you how to create the perfect capsule wardrobe. I'm not one of those women who plan their outfits in advance and curate a minimalist capsule wardrobe with a certain number of items. I'm not that organised.  So, there will be no charts or flatlays explaining how to mix and match everything. No, this is more of a capsule wardrobe in practice, done on the fly.

In a way I could say that all my clothes put together form a huge capsule wardrobe. But I don't believe in limiting my choices to a certain number of items. To be honest, I don't know how many items of clothing I own, and I couldn't care less. And I'm sure there are all sorts of odd bits and bobs hiding at the back of my wardrobe(s), and a thorough spring cleaning / culling is long overdue.

However, I seem to be wearing a somewhat limited set of seasonal clothes over and over again, let's call them the current favourites, or 'the flavour of the month', for lack of a better term. They're simply clothes that I feel comfortable in and that seem to serve my purposes at the moment. And yes, they do mix and match quite nicely, so I suppose we could see this as a sort of a lazy girl's version of the capsule wardrobe.

These are some of the outfits I was wearing in Germany

It was 7 days in late June. We were travelling by train: first the Eurostar from London to Brussels and then by another train to Dusseldorf. This meant comfortable, loose clothing. The weather was a bit moody: anything from sunshine to rain, so I packed a little bit of this and that to cover all situations and weather conditions. And yes, I packed a medium-size suitcase.

So, when deciding which clothes to pack, my guiding principle was that everything had to be comfortable (for the long train journeys) and suitable for both hot and sunny and a bit cooler weather.

It goes without saying that everything had to mix and match perfectly, to give me enough choice to put together an outfit depending on the weather and my mood on the day in question. That's the theory: in practice it translates into a combination of either a long skirt or trousers + a t-shirt + cardigan. And of course, any of the t-shirts / cardigans could be worn with either the maxi skirt or the patterned trousers. I also packed a tote bag, 3 pairs of shoes and 2 pairs of sunglasses, all of which could be used to accessorise whatever combination of clothes I was wearing.

maxi skirt
styling a maxi skirt
summer travel wardrobe
capsule wardrobe
summer travel wardrobe

Do you like capsule wardrobes?

Tiina
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Sunday, 17 July 2016

Dressing for my shape: a fitted shirtwaist dress

shirtdress

Preppy, Retro and Figure-Flattering

That's what I thought when I saw this chambray dress. And even before I tried it on, I knew it would fit me like a glove, and I just had to have it.

I often find shopping for my body shape very frustrating. Finding a skirt that fits well is a challenge; finding trousers is nearly impossible. Even most sheath dresses tend to be tight around the chest and hips and have extra fabric around the waist. It seems that clothes are cut for a more athletic (i.e. straight up and down) figure these days, whereas I have the classic 50's hourglass figure. I'm also long-waisted, which means that the waistline in most dresses sits just a bit too high, above my natural waist.

I doesn't help that shops are full of shapeless sack dresses, which no doubt look fabulous of slim and tall models but would make me look frumpy. It is almost impossible to find something with a clearly defined waist. I know, because whenever I find something like that, I buy it.

So, when I find an easy-to-wear, low-maintenance shirtwaist dress that flatters my body without restricting my movements, I'm over the moon. Finally a dress that looks as if it was made for me! And the best part? It has pockets!!!

50s style dress
Seasalt Cornwall dress
over 40 blogger

Outfit details:
dress: Seasalt Cornwall / cardigan: Club Monaco (old) / bag: Gloria Ortiz (old) / 
shoes: Clarks (old) / sunglasses: Marimekko

Do you find it challenging to shop for your body shape?

Tiina

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Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Bad Tourist in Germany

Bad Tourist

So, this is the report on my great tour of Germany in June...

Actually, it was just one night in Dusseldorf, two nights in Dortmund and two nights in Cologne...

But it was a long-awaited trip to my husband's home country, and this time we were actually going to stay a few days and visit several cities.

Of course, I've been to Germany a few times, but it's been at least 6 years since my last visit. Professor M visits his home town  (and his extended family) once or twice a year, but usually when I'm really busy at work and can't accompany him. So, I was really looking forward to this trip. Not  least because it was great to see my husband's relatives again.

There was also a lot of great coffee and cake, and all these lovely little pastry shops (and I don't even like sweets or desserts! Other than chocolate, that is) with cute decorations.

chocolate shop

This may come as a surprise to you, but I don't speak German... 

I know, I know, that is just unbelievable, given that Professor M and I have been together for over 20 years. And yes, he knows some Finnish (enough to read election results in the newspaper and order in a restaurant).  So, how is it possible that I've never learned German?

Well, before I met professor M, I always avoided learning German (besides the mandatory English and Swedish, I studied French and Spanish at school). No, nothing against the language, and I'm not put off by 'long words' (please, Finnish words are at least three times longer!). No, it was because I always thought that German words have way too many consonants. And I'm dyslexic; how could I possibly ever get all those consonants in the correct order?

Still, surely I should have made an effort to learn the language by now? After all, I'm married to a German, I've had 20 years for heaven's sake! Yeah, well, I do plan to learn German. One day. When I retire. At the moment, taking a language course is the last thing I want to do.

Actually, I did take a beginners' German course once, years ago, in summer university. I was bored out of my mind. I ended up explaining (over and over again) grammatical terms to my fellow students, and finished the grammar exercises in half the time the others needed. Hell, I could have taken two or three courses in that time! No, I'm not 'brilliant' or anything. But I've studied a lot of languages in my life. And more importantly, I had to take a few linguistics courses as part of my university studies. All of this means that I know how languages are constructed, and therefore it is easier for me to learn a new language.

So, given all that, I really have no excuse to not learn German, right? Other than taking a language course is absolutely the last thing I want to do on my day off. Let me remind you what I do for a living: I teach a language (English as a foreign language). When I'm not teaching, I really need to do something completely different (from work) to avoid going bonkers. So, I take Photoshop courses, I read newspapers (in several languages) and I watch all sorts of crap on TV. But I absolutely refuse to think about grammar rules and vocabulary and inflections.

Dortmund
Dortmund

But, you probably want to know about the trip...

So, in Dortmund we spent the day with Professor M's relatives, but there was some time to 'soak in the atmosphere' (= walk around aimlessly, pretending we're sightseeing), too.
Instead of museums and tourist attractions, I prefer seeing ordinary neighbourhoods where people live and work. And if you've been following me on Instagram, you know that I always photograph random architectural details instead of landmarks. That's because I want to record my impressions rather than the must-see, one-size-fits-all guidebook destinations.

And what struck me here was how familiar everything looked to me. The architecture, both old and new, reminded me so much of my own home town, Helsinki.


And then there are the locals...

This cute couple caught my eye in Cologne. Yes, Herr und Frau Ente (= Duck) didn't have time to stop for a chat because they were on their way somewhere, wherever ducks go on a busy Tuesday afternoon... But Herr Ente was following the lead of the very determined Frau Ente, just like dutiful husbands everywhere (Professor M's observations, not mine).


And there was the inevitable river cruise (in Cologne):

Köln
Cologne

And some more architectural detail spotting, of course...

My own taste in architecture and design is very modern, spacious, Scandinavian (obviously), but in my 'sightseeing mode' I love to explore both the old and the new.

So, what makes me take out the camera, then? That's easy: anything that is interesting, unusual, inspiring or impressive. And in Cologne it was this:

Cologne
Köln
Cologne
Köln

What about my travel wardrobe?
Well, that's for another day and another blog post...

Tiina
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