Friday, January 29, 2016

Candle Stick Upgrade

This is actually an old project I redid. I bought a set of blue handmade candlesticks at a thrift store a few years ago for 1€ each. I thought they'd make a nice project and I painted them white and added some beads which I also painted white. But they never felt quite right and after awhile ended up on the top self of my closet. 
When I recently went through that closet I rediscovered them. They sparked no joy, so I was about to send them back to the thrift store, when the upper string holding the beads gave up and scattered on the floor. And I thought "hmm this looks much better with just one string of beads, and might look even better with beads of a different color for a bit of contrast."

Luckily, I have a huge basket full of wood colored beads I got at a thrift store for 2€, I think the were originally a car seat cover. It took about a minute to change the beads and now I love these candlesticks.
Isn't weird how they look completely different with that one change?
Here they are on our kitchen table. I've been lighting the candles even if we are just eating take-out kebab and I have to say they really set a nice mood.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Finland Timelapse

I'm a little late to the game, but have you seen this absolutely gorgeous time lapse video of Finland? Sometimes I forget that the place where I live is beautiful too.


FINLAND | Timelapse from Riku Karjalainen on Vimeo.

Friday, January 22, 2016

No-Buy Month

Now that I've gotten those hauls out of the way, I'd like to announce I'm going to do a month long spending freeze! I think it'll do me good. The idea is basically to not buy anything except the bare necessities for a month. 
An un-realted picture from my daily walk.
I've actually done this before years ago when I was in Uni. I did it to get my spending habits in check and kick-start saving money. I was pretty much spending every cent that came into my possession. On things I had to have, of course. I intended to do it for a month, but ended up doing the entire summer. I was quite pleasantly surprised with how easy it was once I got started. And it really was very helpful. I've been thinking of doing it again almost every year since, but just haven't for some reason. I can't really explain why.

I have gotten much better with my spending habits since. I save a bit every month and don't just spend everything I have. But I feel like I could do better. As I've been de-cluttering, it's been quite sobering how much stuff I've accumulated. 

I think not buying anything for a while will be good for me. Hopefully I'll learn to appreciate the stuff I have more, learn that I don't need to constantly shop. Or rather, think about shopping. While I try my best to buy just few good things, and make informed decisions on what I bring into my home, it's really a quite a time waste browsing shops, doing research on weather I should by this top or this one, or that face cream or the other one. I'm definitely a maximizer. It drives Jake nuts how much time I spend umming and ahing over things. Days or weeks, sometimes years. It would take less head space just to buy the thing. I think it'll be good to just stop for awhile, and not even browse those web sites or visit the flea markets.  

And really I have enough. I'm not lacking in anyway with I have right now. So I'm going to just stop here for now.

There are several variations of no-buy month, some people don't buy anything, but stock up on food etc. before hand and then just use what they have and if they run out they just do without. Some people don't buy anything new, so for example thrift stores would be OK.

For my project I've decided to follow these rules:

Allowed:

  • Basic foods (that is, foods we eat everyday, milk, bread, meat, potatoes etc)
  • Necessities: medicine, toilet paper etc. ( but only if I run out and need a replacement immediately)
Not allowed:

  • Treats (no cookies, candy, crisps etc)
  • Non necessary items (but this top is on amazing sale! no)
  • Flea markets
If I feel like I need something besides necessities, I'll write it down and when the month is over I'll buy it. If I still want it. I think this will be interesting to see.

Hopefully this will cut my browsing habit as well. And instead of buying, I'll hopefully get to doing things.

I think people usually do this for a calender month, for example February, but once I got this idea I wanted to start straight away. So I'll just do it for a month starting NOW.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Small Health Food Shop Haul

I recently ordered a few items from an Internet health food store. And since these items are in the line of reducing plastic, natural options and trying new things, that I've mentioned lately, I thought I'd share them.
This is really the reason I went looking at the site in the first place: raw apple cider vinegar. I couldn't find raw one anywhere where I live, so I decided to order some. I've read a lot about the health benefits of apple cider vinegar. I'm not sure I'll be able to make myself drink it though. But I read it could be used to remove moles naturally. I have one on my side I'd really like to get rid of. TMI?

Well, while I was there, and paying postage, I thought I'd just look around!

I picked up this wooden dish brush with replaceable heads. I know a lot of people use sponges to clean dishes, but I've always used a brush. My old one was plastic. I've seen these wooden ones before, but for some reason assumed they would be really expensive. But they were just a few euros for each part. It's much prettier than my old plastic one (an important point) and once it gets old you can just remove the head and throw it in the compost. I've used it a few days now, and it's really working well.
I also got this pot brush. For, you know, cleaning pots, I guess? Really, I think I'll use it to clean the sink and such.
And last, but definitely not least, I'm so exited about this. A make your own kombucha kit! I've tried kombucha once and really liked it. But again, you can't find it where I live, so I was so excited when I saw this. I really, really hope I'll be able to make some. I confess, I'm slightly terrified.

I'll let you know how it works out. Wish me luck!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Easy Fabric Covered Book DIY

This is really the easiest project in the world, but here goes.

First you need a book. I'm determined to learn to play my ukulele better this year, so I ordered this Ukulele for Dummies book. Tells something about my amazing ukulele skills! 

But it's a really good book. It starts with very basic things and moves to, from what I can tell from glancing it through, very complex ones. Everything is explained very clearly, including the strumming. When I tried to learn it from the Internet (as you do), most of the advice was on the lines of here are the chords, just strum what sounds the best. Er... Can't do that, I'm afraid. But Ukulele for Dummies explains it beautifully.
Now, my one problem with this book is the cover. Yes, how shallow! In my defense, it's bright yellow and looks like a sale notice. I've been keeping it in a drawer so I don't have to look at it all the time, and getting it out when I wanted to practice felt like a chore.
So I covered it with fabric.
This project is seriously super easy and only takes a few minutes. I just took an old striped pillow case, cut it up and just glued it straight on the cover. That's it! 
It is slightly see through, but not enough to trouble me.
I think if you have several books you'd like to cover, they would look really cool covered with different patterns. Flea markets are always full of old mismatched pillow cases. You could even use handkerchiefs or scarfs.

I'll never suffer an ugly book cover again!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Hama Bead Mario Wall

Jake expressed a wish before Christmas that he'd like to have a wall that looks like a Mario game. Well, well. As you wish. I'd previously only done snowflakes with Hama beads, but thought it was great fun and jumped at a chance of doing more.
I was a bit worried because I haven't really played any Mario games, except Mario Kart and Super Mario World and I couldn't really tell if the images were "correct" or from the same game (seriously, this is the stuff I worry about). But luckily Mario Maker came out, and I decided since they were doing it, it was OK for me to combine elements from different games too.
I got all the patterns from Pinterest (where else?), except the princess Peach in a cat suit which I had to improvise. I based it on a picture of Tanooki Mario.
I'm quite happy with how it turned out, and I think Jake was too when he opened them on Christmas Eve. At least, he posted them on Facebook straight away. That's always a good sign. 
It's not quite the whole wall, but it's a start and there's always next Christmas!

Monday, January 11, 2016

A Huge Thrift Haul

My intentions seem to be split between simplifying and de-cluttering, and scouring thrift stores for new treasures. I'd like to think that I'm more intentional now at picking things that are useful and necessary, but as you'll shortly see, this is not the case... But! These did "spark joy" à la Konmari, so possibly they too are serving a purpose?

These were not bought on one trip, I wish! But one item here, one item there. And several trips where I found nothing in between. That's the way with flea markets.

I was at the Red Cross second hand shop (my favorite) with Jake's grandmother and she convinced me to buy this salt lamp on the left (for 5€) and now I'm obsessed. I keep it at my desk and it gives out the most beautiful rosy glow. So, the next time I went I grabbed a salt votive holder for the living room, and it's like a flowing jewel when it's lit. Now, I'm on the lookout for more. I definitely want one for my bedside table. And the bathroom. And Jake's room. Maybe the kitchen.
Wooden box for 6€. This was a bit expensive in my opinion, but I don't have any drawers on my current desk and I really wanted something in which I could hide all the miscellaneous nicknack's that litter my desk. You know, lip balm, eraser, notepads... It's handmade and I fell in love with the simple design.
Pencil holder for 0.40€ and hair tie holder for 0.80. That's what I'm using them for anyway. I'm really into natural materials at the moment. I especially like the holder, because you can't see inside it, so it keeps my hair ties accessible, but out of sight.
Linen curtain for 4€. It's one of those folding curtain things, but it is missing all the bits to make it actually fold. But I bought it for the material really, it's a big piece and linen can be quite expensive.
Tin tray for 2€. Well, I confess I don't know what to do with this, yet. But I'm sure I'll figure something out. I just really liked the look of it. And you can never have enough baskets and containers, I always think.
Which leads us to this tree bark basket for 3€. I thought this was amazingly cheap. It's a good size and baskets can be quite expensive, even at flea markets. And tree bark baskets are surprisingly hard to find for a traditional Finnish item. This would be perfect for magazines, if we had any.
These two stainless steel bowls. I've been on the look out for something like this, for baking and such. The plain one was 1€ and the one with the little handle was 1.20€. I just love that little handle. Worth the extra 20 cents! I'm sure I drew some odd looks in the shop delightedly demonstrating to my self how to pour imaginary stuff from the bowl while holding the handle. Happy times.
Four table mats at 1.40€ each. These are originally from Ikea, but as there is no Ikea near me, I was happy to find them. I'd like to have six total, so I'm on the lookout for two more.
A wooden cake stand for 2€ and a wooden plate for 1€. I've been looking for a wooden cake stand, because frankly, they are all over Pinterest and Instagram and I wanted one too. So, there. Super happy about that. The plate is handmade, I think.
Well, now we are getting in to the area where you are welcome to judge me (if you already haven't).

Two of these elves. I bought one for 2€, then found another one later for 1.50€. Clearly, I had to buy them both. They remind my of the book Gnomes. I was going to paint them white like this (I can't help it, painting things white is what I do), but then started to hesitate. The paint job on them isn't that good, but if you don't look at them too closely they are kind of cute. So they get to stay as they are. For now.
OK. So. This happened. An angry ceramic bear. It was 4€ and I couldn't leave it there. Well, I did at first, then hurried back to buy it. I have a feeling our glass cabinet in the living room will eventually turn into a cabinet of curiosities for the weird things I drag home. But isn't it nice to have that possibility?
Rawr.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Goals: Fix My Skincare Routine


So. I've decided this is the year I'll fix my skincare. How's that for a lofty goal? But really, it's something that has turned into a bit of a pressing issue for me.

I've actually always had a pretty good skin. It's always been a bit dry and sensitive, but then I never had to deal with the oily skin some (most?) people seem to have to deal with. I've not have acne or big breakouts. Even as a teenager I never had more than the occasional small pimple that would clear on it's own in a few days. And by occasional pimple I mean like twice a year. I'd never popped one until Jake insisted I squeeze a nasty one in his back. The joys of dating! But I digress. What I'm trying to say my skin was pretty good without any effort from me.

I became a vegetarian when I was 16. It sparked a interest in me for more natural cosmetics, but to my disappointment, they didn't suit my sensitive skin. I'm guessing products back then were too potent for me. After trying several and angering my skin each time, I stopped trying and just stuck to regular products.

Then I started university and almost immediately started to develop an angry rash on my hands, elbows and sides. I thought I had the plague at least. I was diagnosed with atopic eczema. I'm not sure that's the correct translation, but it's basically like having asthma of the skin. You are sensitive to everything and can never be sure what will push it over the edge. I don't know why I so suddenly developed it, maybe the stress of uni was too much for my system. From then on I had to be even more careful with what products I use. It was still pretty much a case of trial and error, and resulted in a lot of disappointments, angry rashes and wasted money. I did find a few products I could use, and then pretty much stuck to those.

Few years later, still in uni, I started to develop blisters around my eyes. Freaked me out, I can tell you. I went through a few diagnoses and a round of antibiotics, before send to a cosmetic allergy test. I was diagnosed with a methylsothiazolinone allergy. Sigh. It's a preservative, and turns out it's in everything. I had to throw away my shampoo and conditioner, all my cleaning products, and all my make-up. Groan. I had even less products available to me. So, I just gave up. I resigned to the fact that there was one soap that didn't irritate my hands, one shampoo that didn't give me a rash, one moisturizer that didn't make scratch my skin off. Quite a few products, such my cleansing oil and lip-balm, I made myself. I knew that methylsothiazolinone isn't used in natural cosmetics, but I figured because of my other sensitivities and past experiences, that those too were out. The products I was using were working OK, at least I wasn't getting any rashes or blisters, but they weren't doing anything special for my skin either.

Fast forward to last year, when I at a friends recommendation looked into a company called iHerb. I browsed through their products on their web site and read reviews on the products, a lot from people with sensitivities. The products were very affordably priced too, compared to natural products in Finland. So figuring out I had very little to loose, I decided to order some. And then a few more. And a few more. And these products were a far cry from the natural cosmetics of my teenage years, when natural products seemed to be mostly olive oil and a cocktail of essential oils that burned my skin. These products were very much like "normal" products and not only natural, but gentle, too. I could, after all, use natural products.

So! Long story short. I've decided that this is the year I'm going to find and invest in good products that are both effective and work for my skin!
Ha-ha, can you tell I never take selfies? But I felt a long post about my skin should have a picture of the said skin. So here ya go. A picture of my bare face. I've just woken up and moisturized  my face. Just... just ignore the hair.
The current situation is this: my skin is still pretty clear and good. Even color, no pimples. It's also as dry as Sahara. You don't even have to stand that close to see it flaking. Sometimes in the winter, especially after showering it get's almost painfully dry and red. I have a prescription of cortisone ointment, but I prefer not to use it. But there have been a few nights I have had no other choice, and it feels so good when I do, such a huge relief I can almost hear my skin sigh, even though I know it's practically poison.

Now that I know many natural products will work for me, I'd prefer to take care of my skin with them, if possible, without having to resort to cortisone. I'm not looking to have a medicine cabinet full of tubes and bottles of skincare, but I'd like to replace my very basic products with ones that actually enhance, and please, moisturize! my skin.

This is my current, very basic, skincare routine. My doctor advised me to use water as little as possible so as not to dry my skin. So in the morning I don't wash my face. I brush my teeth then I put on moisturizer, eye cream and lip balm. That's it. In the evening I wash my face in the shower with a homemade oil cleanser (one part castor oil, nine parts extra virgin olive oil). Sometimes I use plain baking soda for exfoliating. I moisturize my body when it's still wet from the shower to avoid friction. I've never used anything on my face at night, because when I was a teenager I read (from Dr Hauschka, I think) that your skin gets rid of toxins and renews at night and it should be left to do that in peace. Well, anything apart from the occasional cortisone ointment. I wash my hair twice a week after sauna with a bar shampoo. I don't use a conditioner. That's the whole deal. Whoa. Writing all that down it seems even more bare bones than I thought. Hmm.
Here's a sad picture of everything I have in my shower: from left
neti pot, baking soda, oil cleanser, cuticle stick, shaver, shampoo bar and soap bar.
My plan now is this. I want good, excellent if possible, products, not just something I'm not allergic to, my criteria so far. I want at least to replace all my existing products with effective ones. So, that is a good moisturizer, eye cream and oil cleanser. I like my current lip balm, so that can stay. I recently ordered a toner, which I intend to start using in the mornings. I'm also contemplating on getting a serum or a face oil or, gasp, possibly both. And with my skin so hot and tight in the evenings, I'm even thinking of foregoing my "nothing on my skin at night" rule. Maybe a serum? I'm happy with my soap and body moisturizer. Neither is natural, but they work so well for me that I'm going to continue using them for now. I'd also like to do something to my hair, which is pretty dry and frizzy, but it's not as pressing an issue right now.

So there. If anyone read this all, I'm amazed! If you have any recommendations for good products for very dry, sensitive skin, possibly something anti-aging, I'd love to hear. Or if there is a type of product that I'm not using and should. In any case, I'll report back on my progress.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Reducing Plastic

One of the effects of trying to simplify my surroundings (and life) has been a growing interest in more sustainable things. I've read quite a bit on more natural and reusable products. I've also become more... aware, I guess, on how harmful plastics are for nature and for us. The big waste hub in the middle of the Pacific. Animals who`s digestive tracts are clogged with tiny plastic bits. Toxic chemicals in food containers.

I can't undo all the plastic I've bought so far, but I've been trying to do better choices now. I've especially made am effort to switch out of plastics that are in contact with food. Instead of plastic I've focused on stainless steel, glass and wood.

There`s also the issue of what to do with the plastics we don't use anymore. Throwing it away doesn't (obviously) seem like the right course of action. So, I've been donating it.

Here are some of the things we used to have in plastic.
Cutting board. This was really the thing that kick-started it all. I read an article about a study that found that plastic cutting boards are pretty much covered in bacteria while a wooden one will self-disinfect. And when you cut on plastic small bits of plastic can end up in your food. Ugh. No, thanks. And I have to say a wooden cutting board feels a lot nicer somehow.
Straws. We don`t use straws that much, they are nice to have at hand. I bought these stainless steel ones from the flea market for no more than about fifty cents each. They can just be thrown into the dishwasher for easy cleaning.
Glass containers for leftovers. The lids are plastic, but they don`t actually touch the food, so I feel much better about storing leftovers in them. Apparently putting hot food especially in plastic containers is a big no-no.
Glass containers for bulk-foods. These I found on sale. Added bonus: they look neat.
Spatulas and ladles. These again are in contact with very hot food, so I made it a priority. I've yet to find a really good big wooden spoon, they are for some reason really shallow compared to the plastic ones we used use. 
Mixing bowls. I have two big ones and two small ones. Absolutely love these. That tiny handle kills me. They seem so sturdy I think I`ll be using them for the rest of my life.

This is obviously an ongoing process. We have plenty of plastics in the house, and even in the kitchen still. And probably always will. But I`m working on it. Now, every time we need something new, when possible, I try to choose a natural material over plastic.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Word for the Year

At the beginning of each year I pick a word for that year (haw-haw, this is really only the second time I'm doing this, but I do intend to do this every year!) as a kind of a overarching theme for the year and to remind me what I'm striving towards.

Last year my word was CLEAN, and it was mildly put a very appropriate word for me in 2015. I got a rid of a lot of stuff that was cluttering our home, but I also simplified a lot of other things like activities and hobbies, and even thoughts and beliefs I felt weren't necessary and that weren't contributing to my happiness. In short, I let go of a lot of baggage. Weirdly, this was also the year The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up came out, which just fit right into my theme, and provided me with a lot of the tools I needed.

I'm still going to continue "cleaning" in 2016 (right at this moment my room is a mess as I've pulled everything out of the closets on to the floor), but my theme and word for the year are going to be something completely different.

My word for 2016 is going to be

FLOURISH

Talk about opposites, right? But I feel that now, with all the space I've added in my life, I have room to expand. And I definitely do not mean filling all the space I've cleared with new nicknack's. Not at all. I mean to expand myself. In the past year I've done a lot of self-reflecting. I've pulled back to basics, only kept the things I love, my favorite books, my favorite clothes, my favorite activities... And I feel now free, and curious, to explore, to expand, and to discover what else is out there. And especially, to grow.

So, this year I'm going to flourish. The Internet dictionary that I consulted defined it as "to grow luxuriantly", and that sounds just wonderful and exiting to me.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

In December

December, literally "the Christmas month" (joulukuu) in Finnish. Christmas just is not the same as it was when I was a kid, but dang if I'm not trying my hardest.
On independence day (6.12.) we invited Jake`s parents and grandparents over for coffee. I made blueberry quark pie and two-ingredient-fudge. It was very nice. In the evening I watched the president's reception on the TV (alone, Jake thinks it's humbug) and drank glögg.
I really enjoyed our new glass cabinets in the living room. It allowed me, for the first time, to decorate for Christmas in a collected manner without sprinkling stuff everywhere. I felt it made a nice Christmasy impact, without straining on my need to have clear surfaces.
We went to buy some more decorations for the tree as it was looking a bit bare, and ended up buying two fake fur pillows and a blanket for the couch. Jake modeling them for you here. I can't tell you how cozy they are. I think they look a bit like reindeer fur. Hopefully no-one is creeped out about that...
We played through two new Mystery Case Files games. Two! So spoiled. There's always a struggle over who get's to hold the mouse. We usually switch when one person get's stuck, then diss each other when we notice something the other didn't. It's great fun!
We rarely go to the movies preferring to watch them later at home, but really, we had to go see the new Star Wars. It was amazing! Easily the best movie of the year. It was funny, and moved along very nicely, there were no horrible misunderstandings (my pet peeve), and none of the characters were annoying. And a lot of references to the old movies. And I was so happy to see everything rusty and dirty and old, just like in the originals. None of the gleaming, airbrushed photoshop. Ten stars.
We had a very nice Christmas, which is celebrated in Finland on Christmas Eve. We watched Snowman, I went for a walk and then we had sauna. We ate Christmas dinner at Jake's parents. There was ham, salmon, casseroles, potatoes, the works. I made banoffee pie for desert, but everyone was too full to eat any. We visited the graveyard and lighted candles for relatives. At home we opened presents, and then I called my parents. A lovely day.
We spent Jake's Cristmas vacation playing Donkey Kong 64. Really into older games now. After we finished that we straightaway started Banjo-Tooie.
After Christmas Jake went back to work (to his room, he works mostly from home now) and I felt an urge to purge some of the crap in our home for the new year. I have this idea of having cupboards and closets where there aren't things behind other things, where everything is in just in a single layer, if you know what I mean. And where things aren't crammed together, but there is air in between. I don't know if that's actually doable.

That was our December, now on to the new year!
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