Here’s Your Future.

I recently learned of the Finnish New Year tradition of predicting the year ahead via the unusual medium of recast tin horseshoes. I have no idea how this passed me by last year as it combines my twin loves of half-arsed folksy magic and naked flame.

The little ceremony involves putting the small, aforementioned, tin horseshoe on a spoon over a fire/hob until it resembles a tiny, liquid state, T-1000, pouring it in a bucket of water then using the shape of the resultant re-solidified piece(s) to get an idea of what the year ahead holds in store.

You’re supposed to do this on Hogmanay/New Year’s day but we were in Scotland so caught up a few days later. Not sure if this compromised the science or not but what the hey, melting stuff is always fun and there’s something really satisfying about introducing hot metal to cold water (who among us hasn’t, on occasion, unnecessarily fried something just to put the frying pan under the tap afterwards?).

Anyway, here are the results…

Pihla…

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Clearly something horrendous involving an old hag/demon. Good luck with that, Aaltonen.

Me..

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Death by plane crash it is then. Oh well, so it goes.

Independence day larkery

In Finland, between 17.30 and 21.30 on the 6th of December every year not a lot of happens. This is because half of the population are tuned on to the biggest tv event of the year, this:

presidentit+Linnan+juhlatLinnan Juhlat, deeply fascinating to all Finns, most mesmerizing if you’re not one. Why is everyone in this country hypnotized for 3hrs by a never-ending snake of people shaking hands with the president? I’m, like, so bored….

Well worry not my dear expat, here at Mike & Pihla we have a solution for your Linnan Juhlat – boredom: let’s play a fun game! The game is called ‘Spot the Finns’ and next year you can play it too! Let us demonstrate with these handy images: redeemos

You need a piece of sturdy card, any colour really. This is your ‘Redeemer Card’ that you play with. For every Finn you recognise correctly whilst watching the endless handshaking you get a half-star (recognise their occupation but not name) or a full star (occupation +name). It is left to the best judgement of your Finnish playing partner (and confirmer of ‘spots’) what you can redeem in return for your (hopefully full) star card.

Here’s Mike in action with his card: miske

Result card… and it’s not even full-time yet!: starz

At 19.15pm the last of the shaking was over. Mike’s result was 2 drinks in an establishment of choice and one in-house favour. Not too shabby, but he vows next year will be even better. Maybe YOU will play along too?

Thank you, and good night.

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A fun quiz for all the family!

If you answer the questions in our fun quiz below, we will collate the results in story form as a piece of interactive performance art. word.

QUIZ HERE

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crappy craftin’

So I’ve been doing a bit of arts and crafts recently to get my creative juices flowing, and I’m finding it delightful. Crafting gives my brain time to think deep thoughts about life whilst my hands are busy doing some un-challenging and monotone task that unfortunately always seems to be a precursor to life’s diy wicker basket xmas wreath bead earrings, ooak. I of course, as the hero of mine own life, follow no instruction on my craft journeys and my materials are always what unsuitable left-overs I may find in the take for free -basket at my local recycling centre. I want to show you my recent creations:

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in my series ‘these are the only left-over paints I have in my house’ I present to you hand-painted bits on a windowsill, yesterday. I found wood-coloured (ie boring) candle holders and a rust-coloured pot for free (the best price!) at the recycling centre, and pimped them with some furniture paint (who cares). I think they look cute. Absolutely no time was spent on design or particular preparation and I sure as hell ain’t got before and after photos. That shiznit is for upper middle class ladies called Poppy or Catherine, possibly living in Vermont (sorry for typecasting!).

hipster diy barf

Kapow-pow, these really are the only paints I own! I achieved the straight-ish lines in the painting with the aid of masking tape, top tip for you fellow crap crafters. You can see the ugly logo of a german logistics company underneath the turquoise layer, but only if you look real close. Result!

 

dolly parton

Ooft, look at this babe of design and colour-cohesion. Well, I needed a pin cushion and this is what I maded. It’s made from left-over Marimekko fabric (as seen) so I’m pretty sure a Japanese tourist would pay top dollar for it if I ever decide to sell. Ps. look at my beautiful floor!

handsome mcpocket

You think they’re pockets but they ain’t. For some reason I thought I would make an interactive cushion cover with flaps that you can play with when the mood strikes. So there they are, sewn on from the top only, ready to flap in the wind or be touched by the paw of human. But then, it’s art, I don’t have to explain myself. I am just pretty happy the cover fitted the cushion inside, that was my main aim in this project, and the flapping’s just a welcome bonus really.

The crafting goes on, at the moment I am making a ryijy which will undoubtedly take several decades to finish. But I’ll show it to you then, if the internet still exists. 

Ok bye for now, happy crafting!

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Advanced Cookery 101.

As a human, my body requires fuel in order to operate correctly so several times a day I have to orally ingest calories. Sounds like a drag, right?

Well it doesn’t have to be, for with the following cheap and easy recipes my pal Heston taught me I never find myself lacking the nourishment needed to take on the long, drawn out, punch in the face that is existence.

So, without further ado, here are some cracking little culinary doozies to ensure your next dinner party doesn’t turn into a ‘kitchen nightmare’!

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1. Nutrition Gruel.

Ingredients,

1 stock cube
Porridge oats (a quantity thereof, tailored to suit your hunger/greed level)
Cream cheese
Disease free water

(As with all savoury recipes the addition of fried onion, garlic and marmite will be in no way detrimental to the overall effect if you can be bothered putting in the extra effort.)

Method,

Apply heat to the water and pour it into a normal sized mug. Add the stock cube and swoosh the water about a bit with a spoon or fork or something to encourage dismemberment. Put the oats in a bowl or pot of appropriate size, add the stock and cheese and mix with vigour. Once the oats go mushy you’re all set.

This is a dish best consumed whilst sat on a hard wooden floor, using a less than ideal utensil (like a knife or a finger) so you can pretend you’re in a Victorian work house or prison ship.

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2. Savoury Birthday Cake.

Ingredients,

1 sweet potato
Chick peas (1 tin of)
1 thing of broccoli (‘thing’ in this case can mean either a head or a frozen bag)
1 packet of cream cheese and/or a tin of coconut milk
onion
2 eggs
mashed potato (instant is fine)
curry powder

Method,

Slice the swotato and use half to cover the bottom of a deep baking tray or casserole dish then put the chick peas, onion and broccoli on top.

Mix up the eggs, curry powder and cheese/coconut milk/cheesy coconut blend in a bowl or large cup and pour them over the top. Put another layer of sweet potato on top and bake it in an oven until it looks all bubbly and cooked.

Finish off by spreading mash over the top like you’re icing a salty cake and put it back in the oven to add a bit of crispness. It’s probably even better if you mix crushed up salt and
vinegar maize snacks into the mash but I can’t confirm or deny this as the idea just came to me there.

Pretty much Michelin star quality food from the comfort of your own home. Give it a go, you will not be disappointed.

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3. Risasta

This one, apparently, came about one time Heston wanted risotto for tea but couldn’t be bothered cooking rice so used pasta instead. Like he always says, when it’s a choice between two bland tasting carbohydrates go for the easy option every time.

Don’t forget the soup sachet for a flavour hit that’ll blow your guests’ minds.

Ingredients,

Pasta
Cream cheese
1 sachet of instant soup powder
Stock cube
Liberal splashing of Vinegar
Vegetables (mushrooms are good, as is the standard onion and garlic mix)

Method,

Cook the pasta the famous way but don’t pour the water away at the end. Instead, add the other ingredients and mix it together until it looks like some sort of pasta and sauce thing.

That’s pretty much it, eat and enjoy.

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4. Flavour mush

Ingredients,

1 sachet of instant mash
1 sachet of instant soup

Method,

Simply mix both powders together with hot water until a creamy paste emerges.

This is the definitive way to enjoy both these foods. A very simple, very quick way of creating a meal that is as delicious as it is entirely lacking in nutrition.

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Bonus section – Foods that, at time of writing, exist on a purely theoretical level but that you should try anyway -

Cereal sans cereal,

Everybody knows that the best breakfast cereals are the ones that include clusters of nuts, chocolate coated flakes, marshmallow pieces, dried fruit etc etc. The problem with these, however, is uneven distribution of the non-cereal content resulting, all too often, in a disappointingly bland, fibre heavy, bowlful.

Admittedly this is costly alternative but it’s long been an ambition of mine to buy a whole load of cereal boxes and sift out all of the treat parts. If I ever do it I’ll enjoy the experience al-fresco while birds flock around me to peck at the discarded flakes.

Entirely cheese pizza,

In Finland there is a traditional food called juustoleipä which is a halloumi-esque substance that’s sold in large half moons and tastes just swell. One of my short term life goals is to buy two of these, put them together to make a full moon, spread them with cream cheese and top with an array of other cheeses.

Pizza is one of the many foods that is essentially just an excuse for cheese so why not take the concept to it’s logical conclusion? It’s sure to be the next big thing, just remember you heard it here first.

…and that about wraps it up for today. Happy cookings!

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unravelling, unravelling

Ah! Yet another project, another hope, dream, disattaches itself from my interest sphere (yes it’s a thing, it may be a concept I made up as I was writing, but it’s likeable, oui?). I commemorate my photo a day -project that fell on it’s face within two weeks of lift-off with a photo of Michael in the wilderness, taken not when I was still trying to breathe life into the grey dead lungs of the proverbial child which was this project, but when I was genuinely interested in the light of the evening sky (on the longest day of the year, 21.6.13) and the fierce, all-consuming nature which was at hand, almost a jungle, in the centre of a large city (our own, Helsinki). See, you cannae force art! Pictures come when they do. I’m too flaky to remember to take one every day. If I’m at work, I see rail tracks, the same path to work, porridge and supermarkets. There is nothing to photograph on a daily basis. I am not a designer. Nor am I constantly buzzing with ideas, things to involve myself in, impromptu picnics, motherfucking peaceful protest cycles around town. I got life about thrice a year, when I go on holiday. THEN I will report back with photos of scenes more interesting than my photo-a-day life. Peace out.

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photo-a-day summer challenge

hello to you! i got my first ever smart phone, the shame is raw but i am trying to redeem myself by utilising the fancy camera to bring you summer fun in pictorial form from the land o’formerly frozen tootsies. behold! week one:

kervokerava city centre on a sunny day. a town with a bad reputation, unfortunately. it’s actually lovely, full of bikes and happy squirrels.

malmiunderpass school youth art untainted by ‘tags’ and ‘vandalism’. near our house in malmi, represent.

puksuoh what an evening it was when we went a’walkin to a play park near our house in pukinmaki. an excellent park, it included a parkour practice obstacle course, a mini gym, an artificial mountain and a flying fox, true story.

greensgreenery, tampered with, our garden.

oulunkylafountain in oulunkyla, on my way to work. suffering mike face, it was too hot for that jaysket.

juicescots in their natural habitat, a lovely pub in kallio featuring several brewdog varieties.gigcool poster in town, good finnish electronic beat combo advertised.

Bugs this bunny…

Today I feel irate, so I take to the internet for some venting. Let’s get some background info: ever since Mike and I have been back in Finland I’ve been pretty depressed. This is not new, as I’ve been so since I was 14 – old hat, first world problems, existential woe etc etc. However things have gone so downhill that my ability to function is lowered itself to a level where I’ve so far quit about two jobs as I was miserable and exhausted in them and at the moment working only part-time hours whilst ‘seeing people’ for these woes. Whilst I like to contribute my woes usually to my inability to deal with life events, feelings and negative emotions in a constructive manner, today I woke up just feeling angry. My anger condensed itself down to a shining resentment diamond representing the clarity I suddenly have about one thing: it brings a man (woman/ prefer not to say) down to not be appreciated. I’ve just now (the cogs they turn, slow) realised how big an effect a lack of recognition of skills can be. Let me explain further, and tell you that this sobstory does not concern but me…I sorta feel this is an issue this country needs to address for others like me too.

I left Finland a year after finishing high school. In the year I completed a lower college course (HNC level) in Communication and Journalism. However all my Higher Education I completed in Scotland. I have an HND in Sociology/Media studies, a Master of Arts (Hons) in Philosophy and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Community Learning and Development. Before I came over to Finland I was working in HE  – at the University I completed my MA/PGDip at. Today I am a personal assistant (ie lowest level care worker) – a job I am grossly overqualified for. There is a discrepancy partly caused by the fact that a lot of the jobs I am in the eyes of the UK qualified to do (social education-y, community work-y, youth work-y stuff…) in Finland require a qualification from a Finnish Applied Sciences University (or AMK in Finnish). In fact, at a couple of interviews I have been invited to (did not get the job, quelle surprise!), the interviewer has recommended I apply to a Finnish institution and get a local qualification.

Here I was thinking spending almost 10 years abroad was an asset. Here I was thinking the fact that I pursued studies in a country I didn’t  know anybody in (actually, the first time I visited the UK was when I arrived to start my studies in September 2002), and independently established myself as a productive, functioning member of that society (ie working and paying taxes, volunteering and doing other stuff to intergrate myself) was kinda cool. Here I was thinking that getting a 1st in a Continental Philosophy Dissertation in a language that wasn’t my first, or to be thought of as a local after becoming so fluent in English that I could totally get away with being ‘Scottish’, was sorta neat.  Apparently not so. Extensive voluntary and paid experience in mental health work, community work, working with young people, people with a wide range of disabilities means little cos I can’t add ‘Sosionomi AMK’ after my name, or a similar Finnish title. Makes you feel a bit disheartened. I sure was, perhaps more than I realised before today. I’m prone to thinking very little of myself anyway, and I feel the last 8 months or so in this country have done no good for how I feel about my abilities. Of course, as you are the hero of your own life, you have the power to change and other self-help phrases ad infinitum, I don’t want to blame ‘the system’ about sinking into a bluer place…but it is what has happened to me.

The government offers an option where you can undertake a process to get your foreign qualification recognised in Finland. The process currently takes around 3-4 months to complete from sending in the forms, costs 238 €, and there is no guarantee, of course, of its success. So far, out of principle, I have refused to fork out such money, as I think the system is discriminatory and I shouldn’t be the one to pay, but my principles are fading in time….the form is sitting on my desk, half-filled in. Maybe I’ll send it off someday soon.

What bugs me a lot about all of this though takes me back to early 2012, when, in my last job in Scotland, I was reading through and provisionally scoring applications to said University from Finnish applicants. Bearing in mind it is not the biggest or most famous University in Scotland, the amount of applications (over a hundred), was impressive. Some of those who had applied had the correct grades and/or experience and therefore had a chance of getting in. What then becomes of these kids? They will get the exciting opportunity to study abroad for a degree. They’ll grow in worldliness and as people, which is all very good and recommendable in my opinion. But if they choose to come back to Finland to work, how will they fare? Kids are pushed abroad by establishing internationally-minded high schools here there and everywhere in this country…yet when these kids want to return and give back what they’ve learned on their world tour, the doors start closing. I bet they don’t all realise how hard it can be to return when they’re bubbling with the excitement of leaving their small home town for London, Edinburgh, Dublin etc. My irateness I guess is combined with concern for these younglings.

I’ll work it out…anger and annoyance is a good thing. In fact, feeling any sort of feeling is a good thing. Evenings are getting less and less dark, I am growing in energy slowly, and soon I hope to pursue what I believe belongs to me – a job that employs my skills and experience and makes me feel good about myself and the work I do. I hope there will more discourse on the issue of acceptance of foreign qualifications in Finland, and I hope the system will change. Maybe someone will write a well-researched article on this…my ramblings here for sure are incoherent. Perhaps to be continued some day, stay tuneage

Yours,

picalilly

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Telly Addicts – A pop culture exploration by Mike.

Lately my life-force has been sustained by whatever happiness nutrients I can suck from a routine of fluctuating shift patterns and too little sleep. In the bizarre twilight world I inhabit every other week I find myself turning more and more to that latter day opiate of the masses, the television set, for distractutainment purposes.

While I’m a big fan of a lot of TV, some of the programmes you all watch these days trouble me. I’ve chosen four of these to look into in an effort to understand them and, by association, my fellow humans. The shows I selected are all from the United States and of the ‘comedy’ genre, two of which I’d heard of, two which I hadn’t.

Programme 1 – The Big Bang Theory.

Premise – Some people are nerds – deal with it.

Cast – Peter Tork, a 1970’s racist cartoon depiction of an Indian, an Asperger’s sufferer who can only convey the emotion of smarm, forgettable other guy and a stereotypical air-headed blonde woman.

Pecentage watched – 100.

Laughs – Zero.

A guilty secret of Pihla’s is that she’s watched The Big Bang Theory through choice in the past so she guided me through my first proper experience. While, in times of emotional crisis, the utterly insipid nature of the smash hit TV sensation has a distracting and relaxing effect on her it left me feeling numb in more of a spree killing than calm way.

A favourite of a lot of people I worked beside in Scotland, this is the only of the four I had any prior experience of as snippets of it often soundtracked my violent staff room fantasies. I honestly tried to approach it with an open mind but after about 2 minutes (of a typical episode I’ve been assured) I had made up my mind that I hated it more than life itself and a short while later I was staring through the screen like it was a defective magic eye picture. By the end the only feature that registered on a conscious level was the canned laughter track, which went apeshit throughout, as my train of thought led me through all the mistakes and regrets of my past.

Programme Two – Don’t Trust the B…. in Apartment 23.

Premise – Classic odd couple scenario, in this case a psycopath and a naive small town gal find themselves living together in New York City.

Cast – Zooey Deschanel badly painted onto a stick, Dawsons Creek, stereotypical airheaded blonde woman.

Percentage watched – 100.

Laughs – One, but in response to an unrelated matter.

The problem with this show (besides the dreadful writing, wooden acting, far fetched plot devices and absence of humour) is that between the characters there’s a grand total of no redeeming features.

Imagine Seinfeld if Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David had been lobotomised and Kramer was replaced with a common or garden sex offender. Some drugs references were thrown in to make it seem edgy but all in all it was by the numbers crap. The best thing I can say about it is that it came and it went and I didn’t turn it off.

Self Inflicted Punishment 3 – Two and a Half Men

Premise – Not entirely sure. But from what I gathered it has a coastal setting and is about two middle aged men, one of whom is a hit with the ladies.

Cast – Charlie Sheen and Duckie off of Pretty in Pink.

Percentage watched – About 15.

Laughs – One, but it was to disguise a sob.

Since I don’t live in a cave (I used to live in a flat that resembled a cave but it had an internet connection) I’m aware that A; TaaHM is awful, B; TaaHM is very popular and C; Charlie Sheen is insane. Putting these 3 elements together I made the Holmesian deduction that B must be the result of a bizarre synthesis between A and C. Confusing, then, to discover that the show is nothing more than a laughter track triggered by a (possibly sedated) Mr Sheen’s every action (such as the raising of eyebrows or, in one case, a distinctly uncomedic opening of a door).
After a few long minutes it got turned off and feelings of anger and embarrassment were replaced by a deep, lingering sadness.

Number four – The Carrie Diaries

Premise – Irritating narrator from Sex and the City and her inflated sense of entitlement travel back in time on an ill equipped cash cow.

Cast – Stereotypical airheaded blonde girl, stereotypical teenage rebel, others too many and uninteresting to note.

Percentage watched – 50.

Laughs – None. Pretty sure this isn’t supposed to be a comedy though.

I’ve actually witnessed a couple of the sagas of Horse Face, Old Slapper, Butch and Dullard so despite never having heard of this tie in series before, I had some basic and low expectations (which were more than met) and approached it with suspicion. This is a prequel, set in the ’80s, wherein we follow the adventures of a young Horse (who is, confusingly, still in school despite being about 60 in the original series). I lost interest very quickly and threw in towel at the half way point. Out of the four shows watched this seems the most likely to be axed after one series, lacking, as it does, the collective lack of charisma that made Sex in the City so special.

Conclusion – Just don’t.

Mindsprings, 1/2013 edition

Today’s MindSpringer is local auteur Michael a. Lennie, interviewed by Randulph Possum

Randulph: Hello Michael! How are you?

Michael: Hi Randulph, nice to meet you. I am fine, how are yourself?

R: Enough about me, let’s hear about you. How is 2013 treating you so far?

M: Quite good. I am entering into the year of optimism, although things haven’t really settled down yet so I don’t really have a ‘feel’ of what the year is yet. But I can’t complain and I aim to attack it from a positive angle.

R: Very good, very good. And are you happy with how last year was for you?

M: Very happy with last year. There were ups and downs as there are in all years, but I did a lot of things I’d wanted to do. At the end of the year I also felt my life was in a place I was happy with for the first time in a long time.

R: Great. Tell me one memorable moment from 2012?

M: Just one? There were many to choose from! It’s very very difficult to choose just one…ehm…ummm…you don’t have to write down all of the ehm ummm parts by the way. Let me empty my mind and see what pops into my mind. It was quite early last year but I guess the moment when myself and my partner, lover and moral compass in life, Ms P, booked our world tour of the world and went to a local establishment for a celebratory drink. It was then that I had hope of escaping my shitty shitty job and life for at least some time. Everything I had planned was slowly coming into life and adventure was afoot!

R: Tell me a bit about your plans for 2013…

M: More travelling would be nice, both internationally and in Finland. Because although 2012 was really nice for the most of the year I was unemployed and panicking, whereas this year financial restrictions will hopefully be lesser so I can get to know my adoptive homecountry better. I also hope to gain some hobbies and do creative things, which I feel was missing from 2012 to some entext due to the aforementioned financial restrictions. I also have some things to cross over from my Things to do before you’re 30 list, so if you can find me a Colombian passport, a unicorn and 2 Puerto Rican strippers that would be great.

R: Chuckle, chuckle…ooh Michael, you’re a character!

M: So I hear.

R: What is time?

M: It is not but a lense through which we use to understand the human experience.

R: Poetic. And finally, who do you think would win in a fight, a one-legged Sean Penn or a moomintroll?

M: A moomintroll, even if it was a two-legged Sean Penn. Their ferocity and sadistic nature wasn’t really touched upon in the kids stories.

R: Thank you on behalf of MindSprings.

M: Thanks for having me, it’s been educational for both of us I’m sure.

rahrah

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