Monday, August 7, 2017

Pirate Pottery

We've been in and out of the country on holiday jaunts so I've fallen behind with my posts. 

Just before we left for our last trip Suzanne from NiiloVilla Studios brought by the kids' pottery from her Pirate Pottery Summer Camp. It was lovely to have the big reveal as a whole family so we could watch the kids' reactions to their own work.







The kids really did a great job. They listened to advice and took Suzanne suggestions and managed to make their bowls and their treasure chests in their own particular style, exhibiting their particular talents and interests. 

They even made treasure to go inside:



The kids really enjoyed themselves and are so proud of the final results. I'm sure I'd have no problem interesting them in another workshop. 

For details on upcoming workshops for adults and kids check out the NiiloVilla website.

I'll catch up with the rest of summer's posts soon. 

Monday, June 26, 2017

The Hazy, Crazy, Glazey Days of Summer

School finishes in Finland around the first days of June. Most Finns head for their summer cottages by Juhannus - Midsummer - and are often away until August, not always both parents though. But in the meantime you have school children off and parents still in work. So in Finland kesäleirit/ summer camps are relied on heavily to cover those early and late summer weeks when parents need to work. 

Summer camp here is not like back in the States where I grew up with tents, overnight stays, campfires and dodgy songs, though that kind of camp may exist. The ones I'm speaking of are daytime activities organised for children around various themes: sports, crafts, outdoors, science, anywhere from 3-7 hours a day. It gives parents help with childcare and keep kids occupied and entertained. Most parents I know who work use at least one week of summer camp in the 10 or so weeks of summer. They're not cheap, but a child minder wouldn't be either and we've been impressed with them so far. 

As I'm a SAHM I don't strictly need child care in the summer, but we have been taking advantage of the summer camps in Helsinki the past two years. I made the mistake of having all the kids home for the 12 weeks of summer one year, never again. The nursery-aged ones stay in until Juhannus and the school-aged kids go to camp for at least a week, last year just before school started up and this year not long after it finished. Then we space out any holidays we are going to take or the Chief's time off, so I'm not their only source of entertainment for weeks on end. 

Last year the boys went to the science centre Heureka's Summer Camp. They loved it. They got to do all kinds of experiments, watch short movies about various scientific subjects and had time to run about the centre during their breaks. The only downside for Mouse was that it was only in Finnish, but he managed to charm his teacher into speaking English to him. Foo and a Finnish friend from Mouse's school went along as well, so when the friend's parents said that their son would be attending the Helsinki University of Helsinki's version of science camp in English - Little Scientists in Viikki, we jumped at it. Unfortunately as the camps are now finished I can't really link you to any info for that specific camp, but here is the list list for the science camps and this is where they will be advertised next spring. Most are in Finnish, but hopefully they'll include a few more in English next year.  

The boys had a great time, telling me everyday at about what they did, tripping over each other and their tongues to fill me in, which is a good sign that they enjoyed themselves. The camp ran from 9-15.00 which makes for a long day for the kids, but they seemed to enjoy every minute. 

They used the natural areas around the Biokeskus 3 University site to go on bug and flower hunts, visit a local farm, played games in the grounds. They used microscopes and gels for growing bacteria. They grew peas, saw their own DNA and looked closely at insects, onion cells and did a presentaton at the end of all their activities for the parents. 


Foo had a wee accident the 2nd day of camp where a boy fell on his foot and possibly fractured it a tiny bit, but it didn't dampen his experience and the staff were great with taking a bit of extra time to help him get around the next day. 

I hope they have a new theme next year that will challenge the boys even more as they really enjoyed this one. 

Last week the kids attended a pottery workshop at NiiloVilla Studio where I made my bowl a few months back. It's a 3 day workshop for only 3 hours a day with just my 3 eldest and a friend's little boy. Less physical than the science camp, but they were still tired at the end of every session.

Learning the same techniques I did when I did my workshop, the first day they made cereal bowls and pirate treasure coins. They then worked on building and decorating their pirate treasure chests. There were lots of different ways to decorate, pressing lace or stamps into the clay, adding cut out shapes, scoring, so each could find their own style. The last day was pre-glazing their work.

All photos here courtesy of NiiloVilla Studio, thanks for permission to use them.






The kids obviously loved it and it really got their creative mojo flowing. I can't wait to see the finished projects later in the summer. The reveal is here.

And time for my big reveal. Check out this post for the handbuilding of my bowl. Last month I went back to NiiloVilla and did the glazing on my own bowl. I have to say glazing is boring, I was basically putting mud gray paint on a mud gray bowl. But the more effort you put into it, the better it turns out, so it's worth being diligent and bored. And the friendly chat of the other glazers made the time pass quickly.

Here's my bowl fully glazed. 


The fun part is picking out the glaze which we did when we made the bowls at our first visit. Only a selection of colours and effects we could choose from. 


And my bowl turned out brilliantly. The inside colour is really deep. It seems the glaze dripped down as it fired, so the outside isn't as dark, but I may have not focussed on getting enough colour on there. It was really hard to see how thick and even my coats were with the glaze I chose. Other colours may be different. I really love how it turned out.




NiiloVilla is in the process of moving premises out of Helsinki, but Suzanne will continue her work in Espoo and Helsinki with schools and youth groups, so get in touch with her if you're interested in hosting an event or would like to join in a workshop. 

The summer has gotten off to an busy and creative start, long may it continue.


Friday, June 9, 2017

Making the Most of Summertime 2017

I've posted about Pihlajasaari before, but we decided to make a return trip last weekend to take advantage of a bit of warmer weather. If you look at the map you'll see there is an East and West Rowan Island. Last time we visited the bigger western island, but this time we turned left off the ferry and headed to the smaller island with the lagoon for a different experience. 

The cafe Ravintola Pihlajasaari was nice enough to put a sign at the ferry dock that it was closed to the public due to a booking, probably to do with a graduation party as it was graduation weekend, so we ate at Cafe Carusel which was super busy due to the above, but you can see the ferry from the outside seats so it's a good spot to wait. I'm pretty sure the the ice cream kiosks on the western island don't open until after Juhannus, so maybe take water and a snack.

While the western island is mostly wooded hills with the big beach the eastern island doesn't have the sandy beach, but has rock pools which the kids loved and lots of rocks for climbing. 




Be warned there is a naturalist beach on the eastern island which we bumbled into. The naturists were most understanding and started to cover themselves as soon as they hear our mob approach, but it's best not to just randomly climb over fences, even if they're not marked. 

Pihlajasaari is a good family island because of the sandy beaches and nice paths for walking. There are picnic and bbq spots, saunas on both islands though I'm not sure how you book or can use the saunas. 






The weekend before we returned to Villa Elfvik to share the place with some friends. We've been tons of times and it is always a new experience. We walked all around the nature trail this time from the house and got lucky with the weather again. 




The weather has been a bit changable since, so it's great that we've been able to do something fun with the nicer weather.
Enjoy it while you can. 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Medieval Fun in Pakila

A nearby neighbourhood Pakila celebrated its 600 year annivesary this last weekend with a Medieval Fair. It was the first weekend of proper summer weather so it was perfectly timed to spend the day out on the Pakila school pitches, watching knights battle, wizards wander about and eating lots of yummy food. 

The kids (Foo only stayed for a bit as he had a birthday party nearby to attend) really enjoyed themselves though Mouse was gutted that we didn't find the sword making area until after they were out of supplies. I'm actually grateful, but don't tell him that. They did get to make crowns though.


Much of the organisation was done by volunteers, including the Lions Club and the school associations, and it was really well done. There were a few craft stalls, things like bees' wax candle rolling for the kids, archery exhibition (which we missed), musicians, magicians. Three hours just flew by. 


The knights battling was interesting, but not easy to see behind the big barriers. And the microphone seemed to only work on the other part of the football pitch so we couldn't hear the commentary, even if we could have understood it. They were really getting into it though, even with the heat and all the heavy equipment. 



The kids had a chance to joust a bit themselves and to ride hobby horses around a course. 






They were fascinated by the 'wild boar'. Mouse has been reading the Asterix comics lately, so tore into a plateful without a blink, just like Obelix. 


The event was considered such a success that they're considering holding another in 3 years. We'll be there if they do. 

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Takatalvi and Curling

Easter was last weekend and while the snow has melted, it was still really chilly to be looking for eggs first thing in the morning. The Easter Bunny hid them a bit early the night before so the boiled eggs were frozen. My egg salad breakfast had to wait while they defrosted and some were inedible due to a change in texture. But the kids had fun and found tons. 



The cold snaps and snow flurries we will continue to get right into May is called takatalvi - a return to winter. Sad that they even need a term for it, but I'm taking advantage of to add a quick mention of another winter-ish activity I recently joined.

Curling. A Scottish sport in Finland. Invented to be played on frozen lochs, it is perfectly suited to Finland. I'm lucky to have a curling hall local to me, but I didn't even realise until the British Women's Association (BWA) organised a taster lesson this week with the Oulunkylän Curlinghalli. Sorry the site is in Finnish, but you can do a 2 hour lesson for up to 10 people for €170. I'm guessing the hall is open all year long, but I can't find anything on the website to confirm. If you look at the Facebook page, it also looks like they have a teen group.

I didn't know what to expect or what to wear, so I'll warn anyone considering trying this, the hall is cold. Wear thick soled comfortable shoes and warm layers. You spend a lot of time standing on the ice not moving much, so you will feel the cold. 


That said, it was fun. I wasn't particularly good. My first attempt at pushing the stone, I fell flat on my stomach, but my technique improved. We had a instructor who taught us the basics and the rules and then showed us how to play a game and then left us to it. 


It's not a strenuous sport, but you feel that postion the next morning. My thighs are still aching 2 days later. I have bad knees but they weren't bothered.

Practicing our sweeping.



In two hours we managed to learn the game and play 4 sets (I'm not sure of the terminology). My team won 3-1 and I even scored one of those points by clinging on to the edge of the blue circle while everyone else got knocked out. 

Our group enjoyed it so much there's talk of doing it again. If you're local to Helsinki, it's worth looking into the BWA. They organise monthly coffee get-togethers and other social and cultural acitivites like curling, museum visits, trips to other towns. It's a great way to meet new people and get to know Finland a bit better. There is no longer any requirement to be British, so all women are welcome. 

Come and join us. Happy Spring!



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