Thursday, May 28, 2009

stocking up.

expats everywhere have hoarding tendencies to a certain degree when it comes to things they miss from their native countries. it seems foods are the most common type of longed for items, but cosmetics are also popular and i've heard of even a token panty-hose afficionado. finns typically miss salmiakki, dark sour rye bread and finnish milk chocolate, and you're bound to find a stash hidden somewhere in their homes after every visit(or from) home.

my sister's list is always the same: carelian rice pies, liverwurst, hk blue bbq sausage, aura blue cheese and rye bread. after over a decade in london, she still prefers to start her mornings with a finnish-style open rye sandwich...

during my years abroad i hardly remember missing anything from finland. i get too excited and preoccupied with world cuisines to start reminiscing familiar flavors. the case might be different if i spent several years at the same spot, but so far i've managed quite alright with local offerings.

nonetheless, i do form habits whilst abroad. here's a list of locales and acquired tastes:

1. my first long term exposure to another culture was in the beginning of the 90's and in toronto. i still remember fondly "timbits", small donut balls that are (i guess) the centres of actual donuts available at tim hortons. different flavors in small mouthfuls of sugary goodness. i am not sure a lot of people know this, but canadians are donut crazy...

2. the next period was san francisco in the late nineties where i was introduced to mac cosmetics. for years everyone i knew carried back small black'n'white plastic bags full of make-up because of my addiction. that is, until the brand became available in finland a couple of years ago. in cali, i also became a fan of peanut butter chocolate: my trips to the states begin with a visit to the drug store and a bag full of butterfingers and reese's peanut butter cups.

3. before the millenium i spent a few months in london that got me hooked on muji, the japanese no logo brand. they make the best cotton camisoles and the only pens i like to write with. there isn't a visit to london that does not include a stocking up visit to muji. i also like buying vegetarian "bangers" (i.e. sausages) from there and the coffee at harvey nichols is amazing.

4. i've written about my kiehl's habit before, but new york had plenty of additional things to cause dependence. american apparel was an instant love; i don't exactly wear any other kind of underwear. luckily they have a european online store and shops around europe these days. moreover, i formed a permanent love for dean and deluca's coffee after walking every morning to fetch my cup from their broadway store around the corner from where i lived in soho. after my move to williamsburg, i still stopped by the store every so often. furthermore, i miss a lunch consisting of an h&h bagel with hummus and fresh tomatoes followed by a beard papa's cream puff. yummy.

here are some of the essentials i needed this time in london. i was also pleased to find a new fragrance at kiehl's: pear. i'm not usually fond of fruit scented cosmetics because of their artificial sweetness, but this one smells like a real, plump pear. beautiful!


do you tend to miss things from finland when abroad? have you formed preferences for items only available in certain other countries?

Friday, May 22, 2009

insta-boost.

today i was busy running errands, and after reading stella's post on change and realizing they had 50% off on all bras, i decided to pop in.

it's a known fact that most women (at least in finland) wear brassieres that don't fit properly. i probably should start by telling you that i haven't been one of them for the past 12 years; i had my bust professionally measured at the tender age of 19, and have not alienated the tape measurer or eager sales people during the years that my body has changed.

the chest of a woman is a delicate issue. preferences vary, but certain things seem to apply to everyone: we desire a nice firm shape whether large or small. similarly, we all lose the firmness and follow the journey towards the waistline like an inevitable decline. just the same as every woman, my size has fluctuated. depending on my fat ratio i've hovered between 32c and 34dd (the double d's were a brief period, i might add). i have been stuck at 32d for quite a while now and prefer bras that flatten my chest rather than accentuate it.

the size i am has always created trouble: 32d is not available in most places and only in few styles. moreover, my problem has always been that 32" becomes loose after a while of wearing and i need to visit the store again. a small ribcage is inconvenient in many ways, let me tell you -- the only reason i look anywhere near proportionate is because of the milk glands which aren't as grand as the letter might suggest...

the reason for my eager visit was that i desperately needed some t-shirt bras. i heard that change carries size 30", but was also aware that they follow a different kind of a measuring system: their cup sizes are smaller than usual. therefore, i grabbed a 30dd and headed towards the fitting room. after facing my reflection with four boobs i went up a size. and went up. and went up.

eventually, i left the store with two bras sized 30f (and still battling a slight four-boob problem). my sister was pleasantly surprised to find that she went up two sizes. wtf?!, we both thought.

talk about an instant boob boost! could it be that change is following an inverted form of vanity sizing perhaps? are people really buying into this? i think it's hilarious!

rhub, rhub, rhub.

last summer i found the hidden gardener in myself. let's make it clear that my minute internal green thumb truly is tiny and easily ignored, but can be woken up if necessary. i still am very much an urban being.

one of the perks of being finnish is the tradition of summer cottages. my sweetie and i share two summer houses: one by the sea and one with a green garden. we experiment with a variety of veggies at the latter in addition to always growing potatoes, onions, tomatoes, carrots and grapes.

most of early spring is spent waiting for sprouts and all sorts of development (of which i understand very little, i might add...), but there are culinary perks early in the spring, as well. anna wrote about all kinds of young wild leaves which i don't recognize, but there is something i definitely do: it is rhubarb time!

here's a recipe for a large, simple rhubarb cake, best enjoyed with vanilla cream, custard or ice-cream.

5dl all purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ginger
2 tsp vanilla sugar
125 g butter
2.5 dl sugar
2 eggs (room temp)
2.5 dl sourmilk, sour cream or yogurt
5-6 dl chopped rhubarb (remember to peel!)

crumble:

2.5 dl all purpose flour
1.75 dl brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla sugar
125 g butter cubed

preheat the ovet to 175 celcius.

mix dry ingredients. mix soft butter with sugar. add the eggs one by one and mix for about two minutes. add dry ingredients and sourmilk/sour cream/yogurt in three batches and mix quickly until smooth. pour the batter into a greased, loose based cake tin. add the rhubarb pieces on top, and press lightly into the batter.

prepare the crumble topping. mix the flour, brown sugar and butter until crumbly (about 2min). add on top of the rhubarb.

bake on the lowest level of the oven for 45-60min, until the middle rises and the cake feels solid when the tin is shaken lightly.

enjoy!

(i made this yesterday for the family and will add a pic later once i have all my gear...)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

graceful goth.

i have been wanting to write a post about delfina delettrez for months now, but i was unable to find a picture of the piece that moved me in the first place. until now.



a version of this boney hand brooch was available at colette but is sold out. the macabre beauty of it in some magazine caught my eye and i instantly knew there was something going on with this young girl. the same collection holds her almost bionic sceleton hand jewelry, available also at luisaviaroma and probably one of the most stunning pieces of jewelry i've seen in a while. no, wait, ever.

delettrez is 21 years old, daughter of silvia venturini fendi, and already known for collections celebrating nature and human anatomy with a ghoulish glamour twist. while i am always drawn to skulls, i don't particularly like her frogs, snakes, spiders and such, but the intricate beauty of her artwork is truly admirable.

cheap(er) copies sure to follow.

foot candy.

when i heard of the collaboration between bernhard willhelm and camper i was under the assumption that camper's online store would sell the sandals. well tough luck, it seems they didn't for a while. therefore, one of my goals was to find the sandals during my trip to london knowing that at least there they'd be available.

later the willhelm collab was online. although i am no newbie to the internets the camper website feels difficult to access and finding everything is a hassle, there still isn't but a fraction of the line available.

little did i know when i started my search offline. the exclusivity of the collaboration surprised me. we're used to not having access to limited edition lines here in finland, but i was not prepared to run into problems in one of the fashion capitals of the world. sure, things sell out and there are waiting lists, but the fact that entire lines are not available anywhere strikes me as unbelievable.

their website was unsurprisingly uninformative on the matter which is freakin' annoying and frustrating: there are no lists of retailers anywhere. i finally found out that a single camper store on kings road carried the line, and even there the selection was very limited. that is, they had two styles of sandals. moreover, it was extremely difficult to find if there were additional locations in london and the otherwise helpful people at camper had no idea.

luckily the store had one of the styles i had in mind and i got my flatties for summer. they're bright baby pink, soft leather and like bubble-gum sweetness on my feet.



now we only need some warm weather in finland...

there are still some available in black at opening ceremony online store. i saw some high-heeled ones at my o my in helsinki, as well. until camper gets its online act together (pun intended), i recommend supporting yer local store.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

beth is back!

i absolutely love the gossip and their lead singer beth ditto. she has become an embodiment of talent and values that challenge the stereotypical pop culture icon of our age. she's sensitive and strong simultaneously, never pushy but demanding and assuming respect both for herself and from others.

i had the pleasure the meet her briefly at accelerator festival in stockholm a couple of years ago. i complimented her on the show, and she instantly hugged me softly and genuinely. during our little chat she seemed warm and cheerful -- the sort of person i'd want to appear and know i fail to.



i am stoked that the gossip is back with a new album, music for men, due to be released 22 june 2009. the first single "heavy cross" sounds amazing as an original, but i particularly like this fred falke remix already out because of the disco vibe. the french dj and producer is responsible for the song rubicon (with alan braxe) and some brilliant remixes, this one being no exception.

at this time in my life, the lyrics are more than fitting: it's a cruel cruel world to face on your own, a heavy cross to carry along...

хорошо.

attending a eurovision party yearly feels obligatory although i'm a fan in an inconspicuous way. i love the energy and the snarky remarks true fans bring to the event. even if the songs are mostly crap and the performances ott and cliché, the tradition inspires me. i don't want to sound cynical, but the lack of nuance and subtlety in the efforts each country makes reminds me of the naïve honesty of days past. romantic cynicism.

this year we were invited to attend a party held at nakkisauna courtesy of friends at elokuvamuonitus nakki, a film set catering company. the theme for the night was obviously moscow. plentiful and yummy food was on offer and the guests stuffed themselves with borscht, blinis, pelmenis, sauerkraut and such.

the dress code was "russian glam" for girls and "waldo" for boys. not everyone was dressed up and some boys decided to come as girls, but many people wore amazing outfits, such as my friend's modern take on russian folklore and these two deliciously dressed ladies. shiny fabrics and hair extension ruled the space. we did our best to fit in: i wore a pair of sequined pants in leopard print (which do not exactly have a slimming effect), a black tank, towering high heels and glitsy jewelry. needless to say, i topped the whole thing off with a fur hat.

as for the competition itself, my judging criteria followed "the tartier the better" -code. therefore my votes went to romania, albania and ukraine. completely unrelated to my guiding theme, i also gave points to portugal for wearing vivienne westwood shoes (how relevant!) and loved the in-yer-face "please love me cause i'm a barbie doll" (in)sincerity of iceland.

we left very soon after it was clear norway would win. i hated the performer's mannerisms that made him look like a ventriloquist's doll although the song was ok.

did you watch? which one was your favorite?

Monday, May 18, 2009

loss.

the past three years of my life have been a waiting period for the inevitable. at times the proximity of loss has felt more acute, but since mayday and finally on mothers' day i knew that an era in my life was nearing an end.

i've felt excruciating pain, thought i'd choke, and lived through regrets of negligence and not being the best daughter in the world. i've also tried to create meaningful moments and felt lacking in so many ways. i have immersed myself in work and meaningless activities only to find myself lost in feelings of inadequacy and humbling grief.

last night my mother passed away. three years ago she received a diagnosis giving her three months to live. but she didn't go easy, not on herself or on us close by. needless to say, i have said my goodbyes several times already, but there is nothing comparable to the actual loss.

she's gone. as my friend who just lost his mother accurately said: now i have the rest of my life to not forget.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

revolution baby.

one of my ultimate teenage idols was wendy james of transvision vamp. continuing in the footsteps of kim wilde she fits firmly in the lineage of cool blondes that maja ivarsson of the sounds represents today.

wendy was the ultimate über-blonde whose style choices oozed sexy seduction but somehow she pulled off the tartiest outfits effortlessly without appearing cheap or desperate. her wardrobe is a mixture of innocent insinuation and full-blown glamour of satins and glitter, but she never looks over-styled like madonna or lady gaga.

the pop tunes of transvision vamp are a mixture of punk and rock'n'roll, and some of the catchiest anthems of the end of the 80's that fill a dance floor instantly with bouncing girls. in case you don't know them, you better listen carefully to the two following videos.

"baby i don't care"


"i want your love"


by the time she started her solo project racine in 2004 the look had toned down a bit, but this song "grease monkey" remains a favorite of mine.


i am stoked, intoxicated with glee to tell you that wendy is back and the songs have the same rough appeal they did before. download the song "you tell me" via rcrdlbl. and she still looks incredible at 42...

Thursday, May 14, 2009

good artists copy, great artists steal.

anyone who's ever had a discussion about art -- and i presume that is everybody -- will have come across the debate over whether art is best enjoyed intuitively or educated. it is an ongoing debate scientifically and socially like so many others where the dilemma appears real, in the sense of being genuine, i.e. both sides have relevant arguments for their view.

the "intuitionists" claim that an uneducated experience is more authentic because knowledge distorts one's natural reaction to art. the "educationists" consider knowledge an asset which adds to the experience and provides tools for understanding. it could be said that the debate is between feeling and understanding art.

needless to say, both intuitive and educated are fluctuating and debatable terms: there is probably no pure tabula rasa art experience nor does any amount of knowledge about art explain every individual work thoroughly. depending on cultural background and personal history so-called subjective experiences can be extremely laden with academic or other cognitive detail, albeit often unrelated kind, and sometimes an educated opinion is extremely narrow-minded and limited.

keeping all this variation in mind, the question of intuition versus education still remains plausible, but appears most meaningful as a question of subjective preference. personally i hover somewhere in between. i have found relying on emotion sufficient for many forms of art, such as sculpture and many contemporary artists. knowing techniques and historical references have brought very little to my enjoyment or dislike of certain pieces of art.

nevertheless, i did study art history for a while (and had the tendency to fall asleep during slide shows of which there were many...) and have been interested in many artists' personal and career history in ways that prevent an intuitive response -- if 'intuitive' means "without pre-knowledge". luckily i was a mediocre art student with narcoleptic tendencies and not much of the information stuck. in this case my poor memory also helps. thus, my contact with different art forms is more often than not uncontaminated by related knowledge.

on the other hand, i also enjoy informative tours and well-constructed exhibitions tremendously. the best ever experience i had in prado, madrid, where our guide took us around the expansive museum and showed us only seven artworks. her analyses of them taught me more about art history than any of the lectures i had taken. most importantly, i learned a skill or two about looking at paintings.

in london we visited the national gallery where they had a small showing of picasso. my scholarship on picasso is limited to the horrible movie starring anthony hopkins and the images of his artwork on pages after pages of (history) books. yes, i know he invented cubism. i was also impressed by guernica at reina sofia, but most of his more famous works i don't especially like. the man himself is an icon, but not many people -- myself included -- actually really know his art, it seems.

the collection was gathered around the theme of referencing picasso to art history, namely masterworks of art. the thesis was to show picasso as a follower and admirer of tradition rather than a rebel challenging and denying the past; someone who desired a position in the lineage of great artists producing masterpieces. through different thematic selections and comparisons the argument was defended with clarity. i cannot assess the superficiality of the claim because i lack the prerequisite premises, but it seemed convincing enough for me. more importantly, i enjoyed the learning experience.

as much as i believe in remaining "pure" when it comes to art, i also think understanding can be tremendously rewarding. it may be that an increase in knowledge prevents emotive responses. for example, i have certainly noted lately that my background in natural science makes me incapable of taking part in dystopian speculations of genetic engineering and such -- even when i realize that they are serving the purpose of social chit chat.

as a recovering academic i do listen differently to argumentation and catch haphazard generalizations and logical gaps more keenly than many of my fellow citizens. this applies to every subject matter whether i am familiar with it or not, and at the picasso showing i caught a few strange interpretations thrown in the air. nevertheless, i embrace the increase in information i got and actually enjoy picasso's artwork more than before.

the exhibition was excellent and i wholeheartedly recommend it if you're around london before june 7th. experiencing art personally always surpasses discussing it...

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

chimera.

london was full of seductions. i got to fondle a balmain military jacket at liberty and drooled over some kirkwood sandals. the odd shapes of both had me enchanted and i wish i had an extra 3000 quid lying around somewhere so i could get both. nevertheless, i held my cool and my credit card will thank me later...

i did feel the need for a little something out of the ordinary, though. these sandal boots from office did the trick, cheaply i may add, and they've got a cool antwerp vibe going on. rather outre for not being quite a sandal or a boot, they're an interesting footwear chimera. i am looking forward to summer, tanned legs and short skirts when the scrunched folds get the limelight they deserve.

since today was warm enough, i wore them with an acid wash tee from american apparel, denim leggings, an i know why no -necklace and my good old trusted henrik vibskov scarf.

london london.

back from the uk. it seems spring crept in while we were gone, and i am absolutely loving it!

i had a terrific time, as always. my visits to london are regular since my elder sister lives there, and seeing her is always important to me. staying at her place in new cross feels like home every time. an up'n'coming area, the proximity of goldsmith college keeps the neighborhood vibrant and her local pub, the royal albert, is cosy, laid-back and filled with indie kids (i managed to snap a few photos of the decor)-- some of whom played great music for us on a saturday night.



the biggest perk of this spring's visit was definitely the slump of the gbp. hence, my shopping got a little out of hand, and you'll see some of my indulgences here soon. many of the things i got i had planned beforehand: camper together x bernhard willhelm sandals and jeremy scott adidas track top have both been mentioned in my blog, and i feel rather ecstatic over finding them.

while it is certainly bad manners to feel glee over the fact that the city obviously suffers economically, i will not feel sorry saying this was the first time i did not feel ripped off instantly after walking out the door: travel was affordable and food (and beer) cheaper than in helsinki. low-cost yummies make my day!



i also had the opportunity to meet anna briefly at portobello market. since we've had trouble being in the same city in finland simultaneously, we met in london! she was every bit as sweet as she appears in her blog and we seemed to have quite a bit in common both historically and when it comes to ideas. a pleasure indeed.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

songstress.

sometimes sedative, but always full of seduction like tori amos, feist and cat power, lia ices pulls you in with a piano, vocal and not much else. careful listening in the wee hours recommended.

Lia Ices "You Will" from Rare Book Room Records on Vimeo.

i heart studs.

i've been immersed in work these past two days to stay within my deadlines. i've been writing copy and quite honestly typos just swoosh past my eyes and i seem to be losing track with reality. nevertheless, i felt guilty taking a couple of hours off for a proper lunch and some errands. i quickly ran through some stores and decided to buy nothing even though i feel i've definitely earned myself a treat.

the reason for my asceticism is self-explanatory: tomorrow i'm off to london for five days and my plan is to steer clear of (almost) everything work-related for the entirety of the trip.

but... i saw this beautiful clutch bag: swirling suede and studs galore! the bag is a piece of jewelry in itself i am sure to cherish for a really long time. it seems zara just never fails me, and with a price tag of less than 100€, i just had to give in.



the rest of my cash will stay put until i reach london. promise.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

peachy!

i am forever a fan on peaches. the queer electro starlet is capturing on stage, her music has oozing basslines and raunchy lyrics down put, and her new album i feel cream isn't making an exception.

the first single "talk to me" is produced by soulwax, a belgian duo responsible for example for the best compilation/remix cd ever i.e. 2 many dj's as heard on radio soulwax pt.2.



the second single "more" i find particularly appealing because of the more familiar sounds and the fact that my sweetie's got the rare talent of turning balloons into the most inventive forms. often just as xxx-rated as peaches... and i want that motorcycle she's riding in the beginning!!



seems we're getting a little bit more than we asked for... happy that we are. yay!

monki say, monki do.

i'm not sure whether building a working business concept requires a story. when successful, it may help in distinguishing brand essentials. oftentimes a perfectly good story is left floating in thin air without rooting it firmly into the product or experience on offer. increasingly brand storylines seem completely detached from the products themselves because it seems marketers have come to believe a nostalgic story is all that is needed to sell an otherwise average product.

but it ain't so.

swedes are great at branding their creations and can even work nostalgia into a brand in ways that seem fresh. walking the streets of downtown stockholm celebrates the success of swedish fashion labels: huge global chains all based in sweden is really something to marvel.

an example of a strange attempt of inserting a rather random appearing story into a line of fashion is monki. the story starts:

Not long ago, an unexpected chemical reaction in an old factory released a batch of plump black Monkis. Waddling on tiny chicken feet from the still-smoul-dering chimney, the little creatures flapped their wee clumsy wings in an attempt to fly into the wide world

and continues with a distinctive visual imagery and graphic expression with these little creatures living partly in forest, part marsh and part imagination.

the brand identity of monki is clearly visually pushed, but the background story of "chernobyl" critters remains unexplained at the stores themselves. with neon bright pop colors, led-lit dressing rooms with enough mirrors to create nausea, and little islands popping from the floor that hold the clothing, the stores themselves are reminiscent of your worst idea of an acid trip. at the same time, they're perky and fun.

what's great about monki, is the fact that they catch the core of young swedish street fashion.

i still remember the time when a trip to sweden would instantly inform the tourist what was fashionable and what wasn't. the homogeneity of stockholm residents is probably still unsurpassed, but because of street style blogs and the explosion of variety in affordable fashion, swedes no longer stand out as much. when it comes to us visiting the capital of blonde fashion ambition, we're nowadays usually well aware of what is in and what is out...

h&m has long gone from offering the height of trends although they still succeed in pushing out imitations of high fashion at remarkable speed. monki seems to pick up what the trend setters wear and create an entire collection around the södermalm indie kids who lead the fashion pack.

it is the dedication of the brand that i admire. they offer their interpretation of what is the "ultimate now" and they sell it cheap. very cheap, actually. it seems that swedes realized a greater trend coming our way at the launch of cheap monday and later, three years ago, at monki. everything at the store seemed to be less than 400 kronor (about 45€) and the prices were honestly marked at even hundreds and tens. none of your 99-insinuations here.

and what is in fashion, then? everything inside the store was about recreating the early 90's semi-auntie look: big flowery dresses, high waists, denim shirts and loose'n'boxy jackets. they did not offer a choice. it was either that or nada. the trend was already visible last summer, but the attitude was stronger and less compromising.



and since they had a basic grey sweater with a lacy twist (from their collaboration line with ida sjöstedt) i just had to get me one. you can never have enough of grey sweaters, right maire?