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Lastenkaupunki

I was beyond thrilled when I was invited to participate in the Childhood Unplugged photography collective. It’s a group of photographers I’m really humbled to be associated with. Once per month each of us shares one image showing what did we do with our kids to unplug. It’s all about letting go of technology and encouraging our kids to get back to the art of play.

We are fairly strict with screen time for the little ones. We don’t have a TV in our house (yep), but still… at times it’s so easy to just plop the kiddo in front of the computer, hit play on “Pikku Kakkonen” and have an hour (or three if kiddo knows how to operate da machine to find new episodes to watch) all to ourselves. I remember fairly clearly the moment we put super strict and uptight limits on screen time. I won’t share the (gory) details, because it’s just way too embarrassing :D But OK, it got to the point when Ingrid refused to eat at the table and wanted to eat all her meals while watching something. The worst days were the ones when she watched something in the morning. That was basically like like shooting my own foot, because after watching an hour worth of cartoons her brain turned into mush and she didn’t want to get out of the house or DO anything. Janet Lansbury explains this more eloquently here. So we went cold turkey. Cartoons once per week, on a Saturday. And even that is limited to two hours or so. It was hell at the beginning, I can tell you that. But it was worth it. Sure enough, we do slip sometimes- sickness, travel, that kinda stuff. But in principle, it’s just that one session per week. It constantly forces us both to be better parents. We try to find things to do together, encourage participating in housework, do outdoorsy stuff. Or let her be bored and figure out something to do. But it’s hard. Really hard sometimes. And somehow we still didn’t get any medals of recognition… Weird, eh?

Below are pictures from one of our mini-adventures- a trip to Lastenkaupunki (Childern’s Town) in the Helsinki City Museum. Honestly, it must be one of the greatest places to visit with kids in Helsinki. The ground floor is dedicated to Helsinki in 18th century, complete with shoemaker’s workshop, wig-maker’s shop, ship loaded with spice cargo, horse-carriage and a store. Best part? Kids can touch and move everything they want. It’s very un-museum like :D One of the rooms features a puppet theater- complete with a stage, curtains and a huge basket of puppets. Next to that is a dress-up room- two wardrobes chock full of costumes in kids’ sizes. After we all put some funky costumes on Ingrid decided we should play in the store. So she was dressed up as a bee, selling sausages, fish and pretzels. The second floor was more museum-like- very nice display of doll houses (some were possible to play with), a classroom and “Mummola” (Grandma’s place)- apartment with decor straight from 70s.

We all absolutely loved this place and will definitely be back. Oh, it’s free. Always.

I scribbled down one of the exhibition notes, it fits so well with the theme of “unplugged”: “Formerly, social status and gender defined a child’s life. On the other hand, infant mortality was high in all classes. Only after gaining independence did the social differences in Finland stabilise little by little. In addition, health conditions improved and equality and free tine increased. For a long time, parents were the undisputed authority, and children had to obey and respect them. Independent of social class, children had to get used to working. A child of a working-class home had to start real work early on, whereas the offspring of wealthy families got a better education and were encouraged to take up hobbies. Furthermore, children have always had a social culture, games and hobbies of their own. However, the communality of the olden days is fading away and yard games are disappearing. The ways practicing  hobbies and spending free time have changed.

To see which image I chose to be featured for this month’s edition of Childhood Unlplugged, head here. Also, check out Childhood Unplugged on facebook and play along on Instagram by tagging your unplugged moments with #childhoodunplugged.

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Childhood Unplugged – February 2014 | - […] Karolina Baszarkiewicz | Halituli Photography […]

Monica Calderin - Looks like you had fun! So glad you are on board!

Butterflies, spices and canopy walkways

OK, so it’s been quiet around here. Reason being we went walkabout, escaping winter and charging our solar batteries. When we left there hasn’t been much winter to worry about. Except the darkness maybe, which is anyway the hardest bit. Anywayz :D

We had the awesomest family holiday on Pulau Pinang in Malaysia. As a family we follow a few very simple principles for traveling: independent (sometimes for places that are difficult to reach we book a tour with a local travel agent, but we don’t do pre-arranged holiday packages in resort-type places), light (ie no checked-in luggage), unique (avoid chain characterless hotels), tasty (try as much local food as humanly possible). And go with the flow. That’s it really.

It always puzzles me when people ask what’s the point of traveling to faraway lands with small kids. As in: “they won’t remember anything, what’s the point?”. At some level the “remembering” part is probably true. Our 10 month old won’t “remember” much in a way we think about remembering. Four year old will probably remember a blur of things and a few highlights. The giganormous butterflies. Peeling off the bark of cinnamon tree to check how it smells like. Being afraid to step onto jungle canopy walkway and going nonetheless. Meeting the orangutans. And that blur? That’s what our life is made of. It shapes who we are. Nobody remembers everything, every day, every detail. It’s far more important to live it and allow the experience to influence us. I also believe traveling as family helps us grow. As family. Sure, having the little people in tow calls for all kinds of trouble and can be frankly really (REALLY) annoying at times. Like when you have a overnight layover and need to catch a flight early in the morning, kids wake up at 2 am, ready to rock’n’roll. The jet-lag explanation prep-talk? They are not having it. But now as I type it out, it was actually a pretty hilarious night. Or when kiddo sits down on the sidewalk (um, what sidewalk? cars blazing by and us squished on tiny trail of gravel bordering a really deep ditch) and announces that this is it, end of story, not one step more. I’m not really diggin’ these moments and I usually announce it pretty loud and clear. Which in hindsight is not the best strategy, not at all. But it all makes us grow. It brings us closer together. We learn more about each other and ourselves.

Funnily, I didn’t really take a lot of pictures during the trip. I think a whooping total of maybe 200 frames in three weeks. I didn’t always feel like whipping up my huge DSLR. Maybe I should embrace my iPhone more (there, that’s my resolution for 2014).

The first thing we noticed about Penang as our Cathay Pacific flight from Hong Kong was approaching is GREEN. The island is covered with thick, luscious jungle. Our first stop was George Town. It’s famous for its food, architecture (it’s a UNESCO Heritage Site) and street art.

The architecture is simply amazing. Malaysia is a cultural bomb, mixing Chinese, Indian, Malay and Arabic influences. It’s amazing. There were two buildings that really impressed us. First was the Fatt Tze Mansion. What interested Ingrid the most was why people build big houses like that if they die anyway (people that is). So we talked about leaving legacy, it was a great discussion. We also loved the Khoo Kongsi, a huge and really impressively decorated Chinese clanhouse. Then we went to a Buddhist temple and talked about Buddha and his teachings. As we were wrapping up the day we heard the muezzin called for an evening prayer so we talked about Islam. Seriously, isn’t this better than any school?

We arrived on New Year’s day and most places had “Merry Christmas” signs plastered. Soon they were replaced with Chinese New Year signs and decorations. Red, red, red. I wish we were able to experience the actual celebration. Some other time.Since its inscription as a UNESCO Heritage Site George Town has embraced street art. There are dozens of murals, big and small, gracing the buildings and steel rod caricatures standing on street corners. Time Out Penang has a fantastic article about the phenomenon. Food. Peanag is often called the food capital of Malaysia. It’s just out of this world great. It’s so good that people travel from Kuala Lumpur just to grab a meal. Whole streets turn into restaurants in the evening, they are lined with hawker stalls left right and center. Most specialize in one thing- a soup or noodle dish for example. Most sell small portions (and it’s very economically priced) so you can just go from one to another until you are bursting from all the goodness. Street food and food stalls are where it’s at in George Town. Restaurants are great, but yeah. Food stalls.From George Town we went to Batu Ferrinhi, further on the coast line. The picture below will be appreciated by anyone who is making laundry daily. Our clothes. Washed, ironed, folded and packed. 1€ per kilo. That’s it.Penang Spice Gardens. Absolutely enchanting place complete with a tea station where we could grab a cup of ginger-lemongrass-stevia tea. We finished the day with a dinner on the terrace overlooking the ocean. We saw a lot of butterflies in Malaysia and they are breathtakingly beautiful. One day we went to visit the butterfly farm. There were thousands flapping their wings in perfect silence. If that’s not magic then I don’t know what is.I want this insect-eater plant in our cottage in Lapland. Good-bye mosquitoes :DThese were our favorite butterflies. Looked like dried leaves, but then one opened the wings…No holiday is complete without building a sand castle (yes, we totally had to buy the bucket and take it back home to Finland).And this… A walk in world’s smallest national park. Jungle. And a canopy walkway. I think this was my favorite day. Ingrid was a bit scared at the beginning, the walkway was really high and narrow and bouncy. But then she went. And loved it.Public transport on Penang rocks. Buses are clean, cheap and (reasonably) on time.Durian was in season. We could definitely smell it on the streets. You just cannot miss that smell, not a chance. Quote from Wikipedia: “the smell evokes reactions from deep appreciation to intense disgust, and has been described variously as rotten onions, turpentine, and raw sewage.” Um, yes, that pretty much describes it. No wonder it was banned from public transportation and hotels. As for the taste… some people say it’s fantastic, king of fruit. To me it’s just OK. This is from our hotel in Kuala Lumpur. We spent there couple of days on our way back home. Obligatory visit to KL Tower (we skipped Petronas, it’s close to impossible to get the tickets if you are not an early-early morning person). Then some walks in park and playgrounds, more food and we hopped on a plane back home.

And now we are back, settling into the winter. Finland welcomed us with temperatures well in the -20s. Wow. Fun times. Good thing I love winter :D But we started missing Malaysia the moment we stepped on the plane. We will definitely go back.

Thanks for reading and watching. Where are you heading in 2014? Share in the comments!

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Toddlers and reading

Mother reading. And not to the toddler, just a regular, grown-up newspaper. Or a book. You know, the one without pictures? From that big pile on your nightstand that is inexplicably growing taller with each visit to the the bookstore? With the toddler in the same room and she is not worried he wreck havoc in said room. Isn’t that a total dream? Also, coming back from work and not having to immediately serve food or clean up, but instead have a quiet, snugly moment. Yep, totally possible.

Just like that:

 

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Poetry of the everyday

I don’t know about you, but to me sometimes life looks like a jumbled mess of strings. There are moments when I’m simply overwhelmed by being a mother, wife, homeowner, entrepreneur, foreigner… Life. Bitten by that feeling that nothing will be right ever again. That kids will always have tantrums, teething pains and that I’m just lost. What helps me find focus and go back on my path is noticing these small weaves of my life’s canvas that seem ordinary, but are beyond beautiful. They are tiny things, nothing fancy. My daughter’s big feet always crack me up. Or how she runs around trying to get her share of attention when I’m nursing the baby. My baby son’s fatty knees. My husband’s tangled hair. My dog’s twisted leg and lopsided ear. Small imperfections that make life perfect again. And I push forward.

Photography serves as my glasses in noticing these small slivers of reality that are more than just reality. The pockets of peacefulness in the chaos. The things that we take for granted, that we think won’t ever change, but then we look back and they are gone. The things that years later we will wish we have somehow recorded, in all their glorious beauty and annoyance. The things that define who we are, but not explaining it directly in some kind of “for dummies” handbook. Where you see the mundane detail and there is no staging and no beautifying and yet you notice something more. The heroism of pushing forward. The perseverance. The fight to find the path and be who you want to be. It’s the moment when the truth peeks through the clutter and shows its face. The moment when you see clarity in the chaos. When that jumbled mess of strings turns out to be a beautiful needlepoint masterpiece. You just had to turn the frame.
I call it the poetry of the everyday and I will capture it for your family with my camera. So that when that feeling ever bites you, you will be able to just turn the frame and see the masterpiece your life is.

poetry 001

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Meatball soup

I agreed with Lluvia that we will meet for the Day in Life session as early as possible on a Saturday morning. Kind of around 8. Or something. I texted her from the road and she replied in horror “we are in PJs!”. I texted back: stay as you are! And so they were: in PJs, just starting their laid-back day. Cups of espresso. Aili rummaging through closet to pick up an outfit worthy of a Saturday morning. She picked a cape and a gown and she didn’t care what anyone else thought. Then she found a totally random kitchen tool (meat tenderizer, anybody?) which was promptly turned into a magical weapon of some sort. And she totally wasn’t jumping on the sofa, never in a million years. She is just so… real. True to herself. Proud. I hope she stays like that. Eki was trying his best to watch skiing or some other winter sport competition, but kids were just… you know… kids so he had to “go fishing” and talk on the imaginary phone and help Aili become a bat and a hundred other things. Gael aka Kalle is now at the stage which should be officially called “invincible”. When babies start moving around they think they are omnipotent tiny gods of the whole universe and beyond. Who can do anything and everything and who can bend the laws of physics at will. Only they don’t know about the laws of physics yet and have to learn them. The hard way. By falling, bumping and bruising. The first lessons of interdependence witnessed by parental horror and near-heat-attacks. And then there was Lluvia’s magic soup. THE soup. It’s seriously to die for. Make.it. The recipe is at the end of the post.

When I first screened through these pictures I immediately thought of this song by Jónsi.

You wish surprise, will never stop wonders
You wish sunrise, will never fall under
We should always know that we can do everything

I could just put this song on a loop and watch these pictures.

Jónsi – Go Do from Jónsi on Vimeo.

Click play and then scroll down :)

Lluvia’s meatball soup

(makes a small boatload)

Meatballs:

500g minced meat (beef-pork mix)

finely chopped onion

finely chopped red pepper

3 tablespoons of uncooked rice

salt & pepper to taste

Soup:

3l water

4 teaspoons smoked paprika

3 teaspoons oregano (here, Lluvia says Mexican oregano is a totally different beast than European oregano, so next time you are in Mexico bring a stash with you)

3 cloves garlic, crushed

1 large onion, halved and sliced

500g potatoes, peeled, halved and sliced

3 large carrots, peeled and sliced

salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot bring the water to full boil. Add crushed garlic, onion, smoked paprika, oregano and salt. Let it boil for 5 minutes and meanwhile mix the meatball ingredients together and start rollin’ small balls. Add the meatballs to the boiling broth, one by one, gently and carefully. Wait for the water to boil again in between adding the meatballs because they bring the temperature down. Low temperature = broken meatballs. Ugly. So. Go slow. After you’ve added all, let it cook for about ten minutes. Add sliced carrots and potatoes.
Cook for about 30-40 min, season to taste with additional paprika, salt, pepper and oregano. Serve with good, crusty bread.

You will be in heaven.

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