Sunday, March 31, 2013

whenever I'm with you...

Home. It's such a loaded word.

Both Sara  and Mary have written beautiful, deep posts about what home means to them, and reading those posts I felt both puzzled and inspired.

What is home? Where is my home? Do I belong here, or there, or some other as of yet unseen place?

For the last eighteen years it has meant many different things to me.

I left my childhood home, the building, my family, when I was sixteen, driven by a powerful sense that I  did not belong. I left that podunk town behind and never looked back. I lived by myself. I damn near starved. I traveled, I lived in foreign countries, I got lost and found and lost again. 
If you'd have asked me where home was, I would have shook my head and taken another swig of my drink. By the time I was twenty-one though, I knew. It was a love that dare not speak its name, an idea so unlikely I wanted to keep it all to myself.


Home is not just a country, a county, a city block, a house, a climate, a bio-region,  or a language.  It's not just your family, or your friends. It's not the land you own, or the apartment you rent. It's not the constellations in the night sky, or the taste of the weird fermented foods you eat. It's not the smell of changing seasons that you recognize instantly, or the familiar species of fauna stalking your yard. It's not your childhood things, or your carefully picked decorations.
It's not just the memories you've made and attached to every corner, ridge and field.
It is the sum of all those things, and many more, some strange alchemy of belonging.
As much as I loved my time in Finland, I felt overwhelmingly more at home the moment I set foot on this Island. The moment I saw my husband at the airport and bit into some familiar food and walked down the beach to see my friends.

It was evident in the smell of spring, daffodils and nettles and blooming trees. The warm days and chilly nights. This is my place in space. It seems fitting that it was around this time thirteen years ago that I first came here and instantly, magically fell in love.
I have no words to explain it, but from that first day on, I never wanted to leave this place. Though it took nine years and two more countries, a part of me always new that I would live here one day.  Intuitively, I knew it was home.
At the time it made little sense, I was planning, destined for another life, yet again and again the opportunity to return arose, beckoned, and again and again, I came back, lived, loved and broke my heart leaving.
If you find a home on the edge of the world, against all odds, a place that brings you to yourself, that brings you your love, it seems too much like fate.
So if you ask me now, I can tell you exactly where I'm from and where I belong.
This place and I, we chose each other. Honey, I'm home.

Friday, March 29, 2013

All the money I've had is gone (but it was so worth it!)

"I've been high and I've been low/ I've been East and I've been West/
the way it goes/ I'll never get any rest/
'cos all the money I had is gone"
If I had some money/
I'd be on the run/
but all the money I had is gone/ 
but all the money I had is gone
I can weep and I can cry/
I can wonder why/
but all the money I had is gone/
all the money I had is gone"

-The Deep Dark Woods-
So long Iceland, it has been hands down the most magical 48 hours of my life, and it ain't over yet, but in about eight I'm gonna head home, home sweet home, to my sweetheart, my cats and my projects, my life.
I'm taking with me my short stories, my travel journal, my hundreds of photos, my one roll of film, my new used 4000 Krone Icelandic sweater, the one zine I could afford, and as many stories and memories as I can; how my new friend Jess cried with joy when we finally saw the Aurora around two AM this morning, the taste of the glacier water I drank from the stream while the rest of the tour bus petted horses, sharing snacks and beers on top of the foothills with people I had just met and will never meet again, swimming in sea water partially heated by geo-thermal water, how much the hills really look like trolls in the night...
In my short time here, I've amassed enough experiences memories to fill a month. Good thing they're light to carry, because I'm taking all of them home.
Oh, and of course the one last crone in my pocket.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Wanderlust/from island to island

"What do you do when you get lost in a forest in Iceland?" The answer, my friends, is not to find a bona fide Icelandic hipster bar, full of jocks (how are there jocks in every country, by the way?) and bimbos because everyone knows that Icelanders don't actually go out until after midnight. This is possibly because booze here is so ****ing expensive. It's a Scandinavian thing. You wouldn't understand, what with your $4 IPAs. You bastards. 
I've said so long to Finland, her egg-anchovy sandwiches and frozen seas and here I am. Hipstering it out with the best of them. 
I haven't seen Björk yet, or anyone else important for that matter, since it seems that everyone here is actually a tourist as well, but I did find me a bona fide Icelandic hipster bar. According to my Icelandic trend barometer house-music is making a comeback. Be afraid. Be very afraid. 
Also, I'm wondering: is it a hipster bar if it looks like one, but there's not a hipster in sight, only jocks and bimbos? These are the existential questions of our time.

Seriously though, it's Easter weekend, which in Scandinavia means that oh everything is closed so I might just have to book one of those expensive tour things to get the heck out of Reykjavik, because frankly, it really is just a street and an awesome opera house. (Of which I did not take a picture. Yet.)
There are tons of cats everywhere in the old town though, so it can't be all bad, and I already found Bæjarins beztu pylsur  which is the town's best  hot dog stand apparently, so things are looking up for old me. I just need to keep drinking. Even the bartender is drinking. 

Beer, if you're interested, is 850 Kronor a pint. Yeah, that's what I said. Peace out for now. 
Oh, and in case you were still wondering: "You stand up."

Friday, March 22, 2013


Instablog! I had this whole other post planned for here, but drinking beer and looking out the window took precedent and now it's sunny outside and I'm in Helsinki, the Paris of the Baltic, the New York of Nowhere, so screw this blogging thing, I'm outta here! Have a happy weekend and see you guys on monday*!

IMG_6481 IMG_6473

*Any promises about the timing and promptness of any future blog posts are automatically null and void upon arrival. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

White Girls Of The North

I can hardly wait for that feeling of freezing off your butt while still trying to stay true to your own extremely stylish self. This is what I'm looking forward to experiencing in about six hours.

There's something special about my old stomping grounds, some form of arctic madness channeled into creative dress.

I don't really care what New York City, Paris, or Milan have to say when it comes to style, but I will always keep my ear to the ground to listen to the murmurs of these lands of alternating endless nights and endless days.

See they speak to my own heart clear as a sunny midwinter day. They speak of:

Crazy flea-market layers.

Dashes of mad color.

Scarves bigger than your head.

Sensible shoes for slipping on icy/slushy pavement.

Dressing like a white winter wraith.

Dressing like you don't live in the third most ass-freeziest country in the world.

Trying to make the best of an ass-freezy situation.

Having the only legit reason ever to wear (secondhand) fur. Possibly.

How do you think you'd fare in -20℉ weather?

all images from the utterly original street fashion website

Monday, March 18, 2013

Saint Anne Of Houseplants

Anne, dear Anne. I was trying to think of how long I've know this long haired thrifter, magic momma, lover of great rock 'n roll and houseplant maven, but sometimes it just seems like you've known someone for a long long time, even if you've only met them once in real life. 

I think that probably it's been about three years since I discovered Anne's blog, or possibly she discovered mine (I think Missa is the connecting link here, maybe?), but I have loved her style, awesome photography and kind heart forever.  

Now, what I wonder about is: do you talk to those plants of yours Anne, or are they just thriving on your mad skills and good vibes?

IMG_0357 hi there! i'm anne from A Cup Full of Sunshine and i'm here today to talk about plants. whether you have them indoors or out they are sure to add quite a lot to a space. this weekend was very warm (in the 80's), perfect  weather for getting out on the patio to re-pot some succulents and give my indoor plants a good soak with fertilizer. IMG_0269 2 IMG_0366 succulents are my favorite for outdoors. they are easy to keep alive, simple to propagate and come in an endless variety of colors and shapes. almost all the plants in the two pictures above were clippings from plants of my friends and family. did you know that many plants, vines, cacti and succulents will continue to grow from a clipping? some, like heart-leaved philodendron, will even grow in water! i have a wonderfully informative book that i thrifted titled Foilage House Plants. it has so many useful tips and has taught me a lot about keeping my plants healthy and alive. plus, it's from the 70's and has some really awesome pictures. IMG_0381 IMG_0263 IMG_0265 i am also currently obsessed with vintage ceramic pots. they are perfect for displaying any of your plant friends! collage so, what plants do you enjoy? do you have any helpful advice that you'd like to share? thank you so much milla for having me here! safe travels my dear! ♥anne

Friday, March 15, 2013

"If the cauldron's bubblin' don't come 'a knockin'!"

One of my pet peeves of last year (and remember, there were many) was that I didn't make it down to California to meet Teeny along with all the other Moon Sisters. Teeny has been one of those steadfast inspirations in this strange land of blog for me; she's a kind and eloquent reader and writer, as fiercely honest in her comments as she is in her own posts. Girl has mad style, as well as mad sewing skills and  another one of those wicked senses of humor that always makes me swoon. I'm honored to have her here with her kitchen witching. Thanks Teeny!

Hello everyone! I'm Teeny and feeling oh so privileged to be able to write to you here at Milla's space. I know you are all anticipating the health of Spring and hopefully over the Winter maladies, but you never know, you might just need this magical natural remedy anyway.

What I'm going to share with you today is a very simple, delicious, thrifty and effective health syrup. If the new season, or stress, or busy times brings you that pesky feeling of low and less than best, or a sore throat or even a full blown cold - reach into your pantry and grab the following:

One lovely onion (anti-bacterial) Two big tablespoons of honey (the higher grade is best- in NZ that would be Manuka Honey) (anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory) A clean jar (sterilise if you can) A piece of clean cloth to cover your mixture while it seeps. Simply chop your onion into rounds (chop smaller if you need to fit) add it to your jar, and then simply drop your two tablespoons of honey on top - cover with your fabric (I fastened with a rubber band) and leave overnight.

In the morning you'll have yourself a good amount of golden looking health tonic in the bottom of your jar - remove the onion bits and refridgerate.

Generously dose your patient with a tablespoon of the honey liquid three - four times a day. (I'm sure it wouldn't hurt to dose up more, but that amount worked well for our family)

The tonic will last for about three days in the fridge. It tastes divine, trust me; but do keep a mint nearby if you're conversing with people that day, there can be an onion-y aftertaste later on. I believe this remedy has been around a long time, but I came across it only recently in a little independent New Zealand magazine extra curricular for creative folk, issue 10

Health and joy to you all! And happy holidaying Milla! Teeny xoxo

ps. Check out this Teeny post for some really interesting discussion on parenting.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Ice, snow, cultural cliches and kicking sleds...

They say you can never go home again, meaning that you can never return to the place you grew up in, as the person you once were. And, change being the only constant, it is definitely accurate to a certain degree, but really I've found the opposite to be true. Maybe you can't ever get back to your childhood self and maybe the places you remember growing up are long gone, or the people have moved away, never to return, or to be seen again. But at the same time, the moment you return to the place(s) you grew up in you begin to capture little bits and pieces of who you once were.
For instance, it sure seems to me that whenever I return home, my mother starts organizing my life like I am a kid again, sending me to hairdressers and dentists and shaking her head at my dress, silly ideas and eating habits.

And, as surely as late-in-season snow storms seem to pass over this country again and again since I've come here, memory after memory starts drifting up from wherever we hide our old selves. I start remembering all the small things about my homeland, my younger self; "This is where I kissed this boy or that." "This is where my climbing tree was, the one who's leaves I spent so many summer days reading Anais Nin and Sylvia Plath." "This is the way we walked to school and to town, hand in hand with my best friend." Or simply "That is a magpie. A rabbit's foot print in the snow. A Weeping Willow."
I remember things I don't even recall ever learning. Words for activities I no longer participate in, for holidays I don't celebrate, ideas that have no more meaning to me. I remember lyrics to hymns I've not sung for years. Whole chapters of books I've not read in years. I remember how to skate backwards and make Russian fish-stew.
There's a few things most people elsewhere in the world seem to know about Scandinavian countries (I have no illusions. They are all kind of interchangeable in people's minds.); how everyone has access to a sauna and a summer cabin, no matter their social standing, how it's cold and dark in the winter and how the sun never sets in the summer. How everyone's blond and wears bright Marimekko-colors and eats meatballs and weird fish. How there's more wild nature than people, but how all those people have smartphones, or whatever the latest technology happens to be. And none of those, or most other pre-conceptions of Scandinavia are wrong, it's just that underneath all those cliches, there's a million little things that no one else knows, that make this country feel like home.
There was a snowstorm that followed me here from Iceland the day I arrived (and prevented my luggage from making it all the way with me), and standing on the bus stop without gloves, hat, or winter coat, the smell of snow felt overpowering, the feel of it scratching under my feet so overwhelming that I felt totally transported for a moment.
Being here is a little like visiting a museum dedicated entirely to your former selves, each taste evokes some small avalanche of childhood, each old toy and cup speaks this language I feel like only I can understand, yet at the same time every candy bar and street sign and the theme song of the evening news is universal parlance shared among every Finnish person.
I look at people my age in wonder and realize we grew up with same kid's shows and political scandals and those weird rubber mud-suits and you guys have no idea what I'm talking about do you? That's 'cos I've never seen a rubber mud-suit in America, or anywhere else in the world.

I feel like a part of me is completely understood and free here, never having to explain fermented milk, or mandatory paid maternity leave, or yösää to anyone ever.

Yet another part of me is constantly alert to the fact that I no longer belong at all. That I've grown and changed in ways that don't fit those old places anymore.
That from here on out, I will always just be a visitor here.

And that's really okay. This place will always be a part of me. I'll carry its storms and frozen lakes and magpies, oven-baked milk custards and millions of library books and all my friends and family with me wherever I go.


Each time I come here, I feel a little more at ease that I'll probably never really live here again.


I love looking at my mother's amazing collections and hearing family stories and revisiting memories and words.
My mom has one of the best decorating tastes I've ever seen, mixing decades colors and patterns effortlessly. For the last almost thirty years she's worked as a set and costume designer, so it's not wonder of course. Sometimes I wonder if it's because of growing up in such a unique and carefully curated environment that I've always been rather more relaxed about my decorating style.



At the same time, I feel like I've definitely gotten my love of old things, instead of new from her, my taste in folklore and romantic styles, and my utter indifference to minimalism.
It's fun to look at your family and see aspects of your own self reflected back. Of course sometimes it can be more than a little painful too.


The older I get too, the more I enjoy spending time with my family, the more it's just fun and less wrought with tension.
My mom and I like to play games, look at photos and go thrifting together. My aunt and I discuss the latest books we've both read. With my cousin we discuss our parents, their weakening memories, their idiosyncrasies. We remember our childhoods. Laugh at our past selves, but rather tenderly.

There are so many things I want to do, so many places I would like to visit.
Yet a strange timeless inertia also always makes an appearance. Since I have very few responsibilities, I am free to roam and write and read, completely unlike at home where there's always some chore waiting to be completed, some social event to attend.

This freedom too, brings me back a little, to those years growing up in small town, with nothing to do, but dream, nowhere to go but walk around the empty streets.


Of course we've already done tons of things. These images, for instance, are from my parents country place, half an hour outside town, where we've visited neighbors, kicked our strange sleds around the hills, watched for the tracks of rabbits and foxes and lynxes.


I've collected the smells of earthen root cellars and attics and other familiar places. Eaten countless buns (pulla) and drunk more coffee and tea and fermented milk than is probably good for me.



I've walked on the frozen lake and sat in the sauna and bought potatoes and carrots from a man in the market place dressed in ice-fishing overalls and gone out to pee in the middle of the night in -20℉ temperatures.








It's good to be home. Even if it isn't my only one any more.

Where do you call home? Is it somewhere you live or somewhere you're a visitor? Do you have many homes or just one?