Wednesday, 15 June 2011

uke gotta be kidding

Gábor and I like to give our children musical instruments to play with. We have; a roll-up piano, a selection of pipes, whistles and recorders, 2 bodran (proper size and a mini one), another kind of drum that is a bit like a djembe, an ocarina, plenty of maracas (and other rattle type percussion), a triangle, a thunder tube, a güiro and a ukulele.

We have all these instruments around the house, yet the kids hardly ever see me playing any of them, I don't know how to. I used to play the violin (until I was about 11 but quit because my teacher wanted me to sit exams, I just wanted to have fun - at least that's how my anti-authority adult self remembers it, perhaps my mum would tell a different story) and I also played the clarinet but gave it up as teen (when I gave up everything else that actually required some effort (like school for example)).

Gábor has written a few times now about Ernő serenading us on the ukulele, he is surprisingly good and tuneful (both his singing and playing) considering her is only 21 month old. We originally got the ukulele for Lily but she has never been particularly interested in it (occasionally it was incorporated into some dressing up and imaginative play - imagine Lily, in a kimono, draped in beads, strumming the uke while singing Finnish children's songs...magic(these side notes get pretty long and even have their own side notes (I wonder if it is possible for people to follow my thoughts in my writing))) she prefers the piano, so we have allowed Ernő to claim it as his own. That is until now. Now I want a bit of the action.

As part of my teacher’s education, I had to choose to learn either the guitar or the piano. It was a tough choice; guitars are mobile, I can take it to any classroom and beyond – but I had had a go with guitars in my teens without any success. With pianos, you can’t exactly take one with you (most Finnish classrooms are equipped with a piano, but the likelihood of me teaching in Finland is pretty slim) but I have always wanted to play. In the end piano won out but I still wanted to play an instrument that I can whip out and acompany my students' (and my own kids') singing.

Like I said we already have the Uke and the more Ernő became interested the more I played with the idea of learning, partly so that I can teach him to play when he is a bit older.Plus, if I want my kids to grow up enjoying music and inspired to make music, then the have to see us making music and going through the process of learning to make an instrument actually sound good. So it is my parental duty to learn (isn't it?). 

Over the last year I have accidently stumbled across these 2 youtube videos both of which almost brought me to tears and completely sparked my interest in the instrument:

Then I came across this.

In case you can’t tell what it is, it’s a knitted then felted ukulele case, the pattern for which can be found on Knitty. Our uke doesn’t have a case so not only could I learn a fun instrument, I would get to knit it cute accessories for it too. It just gets better and better.

The deciding factor though was this. The editor of Knitty wrote this blog entry with all sorts of links and tips about teaching yourself to play the ukulele. It is like the world is telling me this is it this is my purpose (perhaps that is putting it a bit strongly). It is decided. I will learn the to play. And what better time to learn than on a road trip. Two and a half weeks of hanging out with the family, exploring the world, driving in our Lada, cooking on campfires and playing the uke. What a dream and I would be so fracking (yes, I’m a sci-fi geek) cool.

Then, just a few days after I had made my decision I saw this! It turns out that the uke would make me “cool” – right up there sitting on the band wagon cool. But I will not be deterred. Most of the time I think I am cool and for once in my life mass culture agrees with me

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

photo challenge

Since digital cameras came onto the scene back in the day, I have become a bit trigger happy when it comes to photos. I have become careless and just snap and snap until I get the shot that I want. I have thousands of photographs but only a handful that I like.

So, to force myself to think about each shot more I have bought myself 1 single 36 exposure, black and white film for my beautiful old camera (which in the last years has been more of an ornament than anything else) which should last for the (aprox) 20 days of the road trip. Less than 2 photos per day.

I am thinking about going fully low-tech and developing them myself in the dark room at uni. It has been almost 10 years since I've been in a darkroom but luckily I have a course in Photography and Developing next semester as part of my Art minor so I will be able to get back into the swing of things

Sunday, 12 June 2011

School Choice - Help wanted!

Friday was Lily's last day of 1st Grade...well until she starts 1st grade again in August. Different country. Different system. Different language of instruction.

Before we came to Hungary we had wondered whither she would go to 1st or 2nd grade after a year here but (I think) we are (fairly) certain that she will go to first grade. Yes, Lily can read confidently, can interact well, is creative; she has no problem in school - so you may be wondering why she is repeating. Well, most first graders in Finland can read when they start school (and those who don’t learn pretty quickly), are interactive and creative. Children, when allowed to be children, can learn these skills without force or institutionalisation. Lily, after a year in school, is on a par with her non-schooled Finnish peers.

The school-starting-age is, in my opinion, the first area (of many areas) where the Finnish education system gets it right.

The decision we have to make however is – Which school should she go to?

Should we continue our relationship with Waldorf-Steiner education and have her go to Oulu Steiner School OR should we go with Norssi, the university practice school (and more than likely our local/neighbourhood school?

Cast your vote:

I am only joking with the poll but actually I (we) would appreciate thoughts on this from people since many of you have experience of being a student, a practicing teacher or a teacher at one or both of these school, while Gábor and I have fairly limited experience of them. We really should have made this decision a few months ago but have been having such difficulty making a choice. In the very same moment I can think that both are the best choice – The problem is, both are good choices it becomes difficult to say which is the best.

What makes it worse is that almost everything I can think of can be both a plus and a minus and Gábor and I really over analyse things. For example:

Without even considering Pedagogical Philosophies, let’s take something as simple as location. The Steiner school is much further from where we will be living (well about 4km) compared to Norssi, which is about 500m plus it is straight across the road from the Education department  of the university where I will spend my days.
Blue = schools, Red = home, Green = uni

Going to Norssi would mean safe and easy trips to and from school, and she would be living close by to her school friends. Steiner would be much longer journeys and are we as parents brave enough to let her go it alone? It would also mean here friends would  be scattered around the city, creating 2 communities; the school community and the home/neighbourhood community. But then Norssi would have 2 communities too. The (all powerful) teacher is normally from outside the local community and  I don’t think parents become part of the school community in Norssi to the same extent as in Steiner. Perhaps even the trip to school is a good thing; it gives Lily the chance to be responsible which would be denied from her if she were to remain in the security of Syynimaa. It wouldn’t exactly be a dangerous trip, it is cycle path the whole way with only one road (with traffic lights) to cross plus a little bit of exercise is an excellent way to prepare your mind and body for learning. But ...what about those mornings in February when it is -30 degrees, perhaps it is a bit cruel for her to have to cycle in that, maybe closer is better...

You see this is how back and forward we go with “location” so imagine what we are like when it comes to pedagogy.

Any comment/suggestions/recommendations are welcome (just try not to confuse me even more).

Friday, 10 June 2011


I went to the immigrattion office today to "sign out" of Hungary. It is one of the most unhelpful offices I have ever been to. The gate however,was surrounded by lovely honeysuckle. I love honeysuckle, we had a big bush of it at the bottom of our garden when I was a child; my nose would be overwhelmed by the smell every time I went out the back gate to play.

After the immigration office, while strolling past a buiding site, I inhaled a polystyrene ball through my nose. The hypecoondreact in me is convinced it is going to lodgeitself in my brain and relese petrochemicals and I will die a slow painful death.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

I've been busy

I had promised myself that I would spend a bit more time on this blog after having left is for 2 months, while I have never been a diary person I am starting to find the writing a bit therapeutic. I still haven't really figured out who I am writing to, or why, or what I want I want to say, but still; I am enjoying it so it should have some time (although I am still not quite ready yet for a full refection on life in Hungary).

But in the busy-ness of packing to move back to Finland, time is something I have very little of. And that little time gets easily taken up by other things. This last week though, it has mostly been taking up by fun making things.

After realising that my yarn and fabric stash can fill two moving boxes I realised I really should take some time to turn my stash into stuff. I fell off my bike a few weeks ago and tore a hole in my last pair of trousers (warning- jeggings do not make good cut-offs so don’t bother trying) so I decided to whip up a quick skirt. As I said before time is limited so it is very basic; 2 rectangles of fabric, hemmed and a thick elastic waistband. I loved it...until it struck me that the stripy fair-trade fabric and its simple shape made it look a bit like a shepherd costume from a nativity play. What do you think? Does it look like I should be acomanied by someone dressed in a white pillowcase with some tinsle tied around their head?

Gábor and Ernest were away last week so with the toddler out the house there was finally time to give Lily the sewing lessons she had been begging for. I got a few good tips about sewing with children (best one is to put the pedal on the table and have them sew with their hands) and discovered my own top tip (use stripy fabric, having a line to follow makes a world of difference).

We had been taking it easy and enjoying it and agreed to make a goodbye and thank you present for her teacher. We thought we had plenty of time sew it but on Monday Gábor realised that this week (not next week) is the last week of school! (Thanks for that my Love).


I would cur and pin all the pieces in the evening after the kids went to bed, Lily would sew them up after Ernest was asleep right before her bedtime, then I would sewthe more complicated bits and pin the next lot of pieces for her to sew the next day. We managed and Lily did a damn good job for her first sewing project. I can’t think of a better gift for a 1st grade Waldorf teacher. Perfect.

Further frantic making ensued when a party invitation came home with Lily from school the other day. Just the day before I had packed up a bad full of old crayon thinking that once we cet back to Oulu they could be recycled into pretty new crayons. They came right back out of the box, as did my muffin tins. I had to boost it with a pack of new crayons too though, even so what that became was so much better than a bring pack of crayons.

It was another kid’s birthday today, party invitation is imminent. Any suggestions for a last, last, last minute homemade gift that requires so craft supplies (they are all packed)?!

I managed to squeeze in one more little sewing project; Ernest’s car seat is made of some horrible plastic fabric which is hot and uncomfortable to sit in when it’s 30oC so I cut up an old baby towel and cot sheet and made a nice cotton liner so that he can survive a summer road trip in a car with no air conditioning. After seeing me sewing with Lily, Ernest was desperate to join in too. I had a hard time getting him off my lap and he would occupy my seat the instant I stood up. The dials have strawberry juice smears on them because I happened to stands up at one point while he was having a snack. That kid is fast.

We have about 25 boxes packed and only essential items still left out...yes, my sewing machine is essential.
Waldorf-Steiner pedagogy is kind of against media technology for young children and we are inline with that as far as computer games (are all these gadgety things still called computer games) and television is concerned - watching TV is passive and constantly bombards us with advertisements and gender role stereotypes (although our lack of TV has more to do with the fact that I am a bit of a TV-addict and having television in our living room would be a bit like a recovering alcoholic having a bottle of vodka in their jacket pocket). However, we diverge from Waldorf when it comes to computers and internet. Lily wants to know everything, her questions are becoming more and more complex and my standard answer is fast becoming “let’s google that”. Of course we also throw in occasionally “let’s see if we can find a book about that at the library” or “let’s cut it open and see” but google invaluable.

There is also the Flat Lily blog which she eagerly watches for updates and loves to check the statistics of who has been reading, where and when. But today she took the next step in the technological world. Today she posted her very first post on her own blog. She was chose the background, the fonts and the colours. She decided what her first post was going to be about, how it was going to be. She took the pictures herself and selected the ones she wanted to use, she chose the post title. This is all her.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Look at the Pretty Kitty

This is Kitty, isn’t it pretty (not “she” or “he”, I don’t agree with binary gender assignment with people so I am most certainly not going to do it with my car). Kitty is going to take us home (well with some help from Gábor).

Kitty is a 1979 (yep, 3 years older than me) Lada 2103 and it runs like a…well it runs ok, it is a Lada after all but it is in pretty damn good condition for its age. I suspect you may some questions…the name perhaps, where did it come from? And then of course there is the question that we are most frequently asked “Why the f*** do you want to drive across Europe in a LADA!?

I'll answer the first question with the help of these visual aids:

all 3 pictures from wikipedia

  1.  One of my all-time favourite albums by one of my all-time favourite artists, and really the title matches with the lada perfectly. The Lada has a bit of a reputation for being…well, junk but it is fantastically retro so it certainly has the KITSCH part in the bag. The SOVIET is obvious, inside Kitty there are little reminders everywhere, under the bonnet and over the dashboard all the text is Cyrillic.
  2. I don’t think I need to comment – this is a car with personality.
  3. Ernö has 2 great loves in his life at the moment; cats (kitties) and our car (Kitty). We saw 10 cats, including 3 little kittens in the synagogue garden today and was squealing and giggling with joy.

As for the “why a Lada?”, well there are so many reasons why:

We borrowed a big people carrier type car to drive to Hungary in, it was fairly new (at least relative to our car) but before we even started, the air conditioning broke. I am not precious, I can live without air conditioning, however the air conditioning was connected to the built in fridge-cooler-thingy in the dashboard, which was connected to the water in other parts of the car. As a result of all this interconnectedness, water was leaking out of the cooler all over the car floor. We had to get it fixed which cost us 200€ before we had even left Oulu. Ladas don’t have fancy gadgets – fewer bits means fewer things to break. Actually I don’t think Kitty has any air conditioning (besides winding the window down).

Ladas have a bit of a bad rep (in the UK at least) for being rubbish, breaking down and falling apart. I remember when I was 13 in our English class we had to give a presentation; (the topic was free but we had to include visual aids) one of my classmates gave her presentation on her mum’s Lada, the visual being the door that had fallen off on the way to school that morning. Yet despite the reputation, there are still hundreds (thousands even) of Ladas still on the roads here in Hungary. The new car we drove here in on the other hand is unfit for another trip across Europe. Ladas were built to last - not with planned obsolescence like newer cars. On top of this because they are sturdy and simple, if it does break down Ladas are easy to fix.

Gábor and I were pretty uncertain about taking the step to become car owners, we have been pretty critical of car users and producers in the past and both agreed that new cars are not for us, no matter how “eco” they claim to be. There is very little that is eco about manufacturing processes of the ever increasingly gadgety cars. Ladas have already paid their dues when it comes to carbon footprint from manufacturing.

I guess there may also be some people wondering about our route but I will write about that later…the plan still needs a little more planning.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Theme song

Rarely can I find the right words to explain what I feel or what I think and when I try, somehow or other, I end up offending someone. And so, when I stumble across something or someone that captures my feelings it brings me to tears. Today was one of those days.

 Music writen and performed by Tanya Davis, Video and paintings by Andrea Dorfman 

In my little bio thing I said that some days I think of myself as an A/r/tographer and others I don’t, truthfully - more often than not – I don’t (although pretty much everyday I want to be). I constantly doubt myself. I know that I have the technical skill in textiles, ceramics (even drawing and painting but I seem to have developed a phobia of these medium somewhere along the road and perhaps should examine why in some more detail...but not right now because this side note has grown pretty long) I have confidence in my craftsmanship BUT I have almost no belief in my imaginative capacity. I don’t really believe that I have anything new to say or even a new way of saying it. I don’t really believe that I have anything of interest to say (or anything at all to say for that matter ...look at the title of this blog for goodness sake!)

In primary school I was always the best artist. I remember my third day of primary school I was sent to the head teacher’s office to show him just how wonderful the 3 clowns I had drawn were (the first day we had drawn 1 apple, day 2 was 2 balls). I was the only child who helped with the “teddy bear picnic” wall display in primary 2 and in primary 7 I was solely responsible for  the classes contribution to the giant school calendar (December). Secondary school however was a shock. There were plenty of wonderful artists among my classmate; then came weekend art classes at the art school, portfolio preparation classes and eventually Art College. I was increasingly surrounded by people who could see and create wonderful things but rather than being inspired I was intimidated. I dropped out of college. 

Actually it was more than dropping out of college; I dropped out of Art.

Slowly I am finding my way back in, very slowly indeed. Like I said, I am almost phobic of painting and drawing (well actually it’s kind of similar to my feelings about doing the dishes – I enjoy doing the dishes when I do them but in between times I forget this and use every trick possible to avoid doing them). I have a bunch of sketch books, barely used (if used at all); this one is too big to fit in my bag, that one is too small and makes me draw too tightly, that white paper is so pure and would be ruined by my marks, that one’s paper is too thin, that one’s pages are to good and thick for simple sketches, I have special plan for that one but I don’t have time for it right now. But every now and the one of them is graced with a sketch or a visual map or an exploration and I am learning to look at work of other artists and be inspired rather than intimidated and to use it to generate new ways for me to interpret myself, the world and our interactions. 

The next great challenge is to actually share what I do with other people. I was hoping that by the time I wrote this all down I would be ready to say “and hey, this is the place for it. I commit to using this blog as a space for exhibiting my artistic enquiries!” but no, I am still to scared for that so I guess it’s just “we’ll see” and “I’ll try”.

I guess I have a longer way to go than I hoped.

The tone of this entry isn’t quite what I had thought it would be. Oh well. Here's an extra bit with a different tone:

Andrea (who did the video) has 9 videos on her  youtube channel with text either writen by herself, her boyfriend or her friends, but each of the could have been writen by my (if I could write in a playful, witty way) and I may need to dedicate a post or two to some of them in the future but I leave you with this one. I swear, if it wernt for the freckle line I would think she was inside my head. She even has Gábor's dance down.

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