Thursday, 31 January 2013

Hunting down some down

Another improvement to the life of my Mister recently came about (at least partly) thanks to my gentle persistence. You see, he was fed up with rushing from store to store trying to find a coat warm enough to keep him comfortable in the coldest of weathers but nice enough to wear anywhere, not just for leisure. All the coats we could find were either sportswear, disappointingly bulky and heavy, or the wrong kind of design or colour. That’s what generally happens when you are hunting down something very late in the season.

I’ve had a domestic Joutsen down coat for years so I knew it would be ideal for him, too. A goose down coat is not only light to wear and warm in frosty temperatures but also an extremely good thermal regulator in practically all kinds of wintry conditions. So I suggested we should drive to Riihimäki, a small town some 70 km north of Helsinki, to visit Joutsen Finland’s factory outlet.

There were rows of down coats hanging in the shop. It’s no surprise most of them were ladieswear but my choosy Mister did find a coat exactly to his liking. The correct size in his preferred design and colour wasn’t on display so the saleswoman just called the warehouse for someone to bring a few units of the right item for him to handpick from. Most of the designs, including the chosen one, werent on sale but the outlet discount was 10%.

A hood is essential for a coat to be ideal in our arctic conditions. He chose one with a detachable hood fringed with Finn raccoon fur. Judged from the selection in the shop fur seems to be very much à la mode. Many of the new Joutsen designs had a hood garnished with natural or died raccoon and I immediately started to contemplate about an upgrade for my coat if I should find a fitting second-hand fur to rim the hood with. Other than that my coat is completely up-to-date and in perfect condition after several winters of heavy wear and a few machine-washes. Quality does stand time.

I simply couldn’t manage our winters without the down coat. Highly recommendable to everyone with problems in standing the cold not only in the Nordic region but further south as well, and so are the Joutsen down bedding quilts and pillows. Do check the outlet out if you ever are in the neighbourhood and need to update your winterwear. They even had a very light jacket-type of a design that can be squeezed inside a small bag you could carry in your handbag anywhere. A clever and handy item for anyone (except for me because it was black, I’m afraid).

PS. For those unfamiliar with my mother tongue, joutsen is the Finnish word for swan.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Storming & blowing

We’ve had a couple of winters with loads of snow and this one started to show similar signs already in early December. My husband couldn’t face the risk so my persuasions finally paid off and he agreed we should acquire a snow blower.

In mid-December, he ordered the device from an online store that promised delivery in two working days. Naturally, it took a week to reach us – because of Christmas panic at the post office logistic services they claimed – and of course it wasn’t assembled. So it was only on Boxing Day that he made the first rounds with the blower in our yard. I suppose it’s needless to add it was around this time that snowfall ceased completely, the temperature rose and the heaps he had piled up with so much effort and manpower started slowly flattening down. Not that it wouldn’t require manpower even with the blower; I had a go and the device certainly was harder to maneuver than I had expected.

However, these days any phase in weather seems to be only very temporary and soon enough we had a new period of heavy frost and then more snowfall. As you might guess, now that we would have needed all the help we could get we encountered another incident with the new device. The blower just didn’t begin to rotate. It turned out the V-band generating the spinning was broken after less than two hours of operation.

Another week of waiting, now for the spare part. Another morning for him fighting with the assembly, now lying down on the freezing floor of the garage to replace the band. But today the latest episode was completed: the blower was again rotating and throwing snow through the chute as high as ever. Just in time for the wet snow storm we’ve had since this afternoon.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

HT 3: Cross stitch cushion

This is just a quick one to keep my Handmade treasures series going. A glimpse of this item could already be seen in my previous post of this series so I thought I could as well let you have a closer look.

This lovely retro style cross stitch cushion is made using thick wool yarn. The close-up shows the yarn is so chunky the cross is most of the time almost invisible. Thanks to the pattern of stylized daisies and the delightful colours it would have been absolutely impossible for me not to salvage this charming cushion when I spotted it at a flea market a couple of years ago. Now I can admire it every day on the bed in the alcove of my upstairs ‘studio’.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Freezing beauty

Friday night was the coldest we’ve had this winter: our thermometer dropped to -31.7°C (-25°F), which is very cold I can assure you. Even Jack prefers to stay indoors when the weather is that arctic. However, freezing temperature and a clear sky always go hand in hand so Saturday was very blue-and-white, and bright and beautiful for a change.

A fox had crossed this field, just like shown in a post of mine from last February.

By the time I stepped out in the afternoon, it was already some 10 to 15 degrees milder, ‘only’ something around -15 to -20°C (5 to -4°F). It’s not that easy to handle a camera even in that kind of frost. I was wearing woolen mittens but my fingers were soon freezing and I had to run back to the house. Still, everything was so beautiful that the few minutes I could stand the cold were enough to record some of the icy wonders.

According to the weather forecast, we should see more blue skies with slight frost in the coming days. The rising temperature may release the ice crystals now decorating every stem and branch. Whatever the consequences to the present outdoor beauty, January has been so cloudy it’s about time we were given some proper sunlight!

Friday, 18 January 2013

More light on Helsinki

More on the Lux Helsinki event but first I must return to the video installation ‘Emergence’ projected onto the Helsinki Cathedral I told you about in my previous post. I managed to be patient enough to upload my two videos on YouTube. The first one was supposed to contain the complete 10-minutes but it is a bit short at the end. The second one, however, is an extract of a couple of minutes from the end including the part I missed in the first one.

We saw many other inspirational lights in downtown Helsinki last week, such as ‘The Blue Line’ in the above photo. It was not part of Lux Helsinki but was launched in December as a joint project of two 2012 festivity organizations marking the closing of the Helsinki World Design Capital year and that of the Helsinki jubilee year commemorating the 200 years of Helsinki as the capital of Finland.

The installation is a laser projection drawing a line from the Helsinki Observatory to the Kallio church tower marking the inner city’s longest undivided street axis, the so-called Union Axis. It was along this street that Emperor Alexander I of Russia came to Helsinki in 1819, seven years after having promoted Helsinki as the capital of the Grand Duchy of Finland. The installation is planned to be active until the end of 2014. They say visibility will be best in foggy weather but I wonder whether it can be seen at all during summer and the light Nordic nights. We will have two summers to experiment with that.

Twinsen Ho’s work ‘Little Spirits’ on the exterior and in the courtyard of the Helsinki City Museum, the Hakasalmi Villa, was inspired by a Finnish book of elves the designer had found at a flea market.

Philippe Morvan’s light and sound installation ‘Cosmogole’ created a solar system of 14 metres in diameter in the amphitheatre outside the Finnish National Opera. This work was previously shown at Fête des Lumières in Lyon, France, in 2011.

Mika Haaranen’s ‘Memory of Stone’ decorated the granite structure that used to be an industrial railway tunnel passing under the Helsinki main street, the Mannerheim street, but now serves as a cycle path.

The impressive light installation on the Olympic Stadium tower changing from basic colours to a colourful spectrum of a rainbow was repeated from last year. It was not only spectacular but also most appropriate for this time and age as the rainbow used to be regarded as a symbol for hope. The work entitled ‘Variant Spectrum 2’ was designed by Jukka Huitila and the laser beam projected from the top of the tower could be seen all over the city.

When I was shooting the tower standing a few hundred metres away by the National Opera House I happened to notice that the colours on the spine-like structure of the tower were reflected on the high glass windows of the Opera lobby in fascinating shapes resembling a lizard or a crayfish.

We also saw the event turn the Hesperia Park into a park of lanterns that were created by dozens of design students plus a few professionals. I’m afraid, the below lantern is the only one I could capture a more or less presentable photo of in those conditions. This was the second year for a ‘Lantern Park’ so maybe next January... I bet if I lived in downtown Helsinki I would walk through the Lux Helsinki area every day during the 5-day event, wouldn’t you?

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Reflections on a Cathedral

Time flies and we are in mid-January. It’s incredible this is my first post in 2013.  It has been quite an extended festive season for us but now we cant help but admit it came to an end on Sunday and there’s no longer any excuse. I must shape up.

Well, I haven’t been completely idle. I’ve been entertaining guests, doing a lot of knitting, mostly while watching movies, and attending a few cultural events such as the Lux Helsinki happening. It is an annual event letting the light loose for a few nights during the darkest season of the year.

This time 13 installations lit up downtown Helsinki over the first weekend in January. Despite the unfriendly weather – the temperature was only some -10°C (14°F) but the wind made it feel colder – we decided to drive the 45 minutes and take the chill. The event certainly was worth the uncomfort.

The most impressive of this years works was the 10-minute video installation projected nonstop onto the Helsinki Cathedral. The installation entitled ‘Emergence’ was designed by the German Casa Magica duo formed by Friedrich Förster and Sabine Weissinger. The work referred to the location of the Cathedral by the sea above the city (as can be seen from the photos on an earlier post of mine here) on a spot where the clouds could be imagined to merge with the foaming sea.

I have seen other video projections on the white neoclassical Cathedral above the Senate Square before but ‘Emergence’ may have been the most powerful combination of film and sound shown there ever. We hadn’t read any descriptions of the individual installations beforehand and felt it symbolized not only the emergence of the place we now call Helsinki but that of life on Earth altogether.

I couldn’t help filming it even though I have no practice whatsoever in shooting videos. Should you be interested in an amateur’s poor footage I’m planning to publish links to the two videos, my second and third ever, as soon as I’ve figured out where to upload them. I will let you know.

PS. The videos are now on YouTube: the longer version here and the shorter one showing a couple of minutes from the end here.