Thursday, June 04, 2015

This blog has moved

It's time to move away from Blogger. All the old posts of this blog and my Jordan and Syria blogs, as well as new posts from this day forward, can be found at Bridget of Arabia.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Apartment hunting, Finnish style

It has been years since Jeremy and I have been in charge of finding our own place to live. We were handed this villa on a silver platter when we moved to the UAE five years ago, and despite some things that we don't like about our free house, it was a relief to not have to worry about finding it in the first place.

Not so with Finland. The apartment hunt is in full force right now, even though most listings show an available move-in date that is too early for us. But I keep looking because the more I look, the more I know exactly what we're looking for. And then when a suitable place gets listed, we can pounce on it right away.

The website we're using to peruse listings is Here are some of the things I've learned about Finnish apartments.

1. Even tiny apartments have saunas. We will probably be in a 80-90sqm apartment - that's 860-960 square feet. There are a lot of things I would do with a spare corner or closet-sized area in a smallish apartment, and put in a sauna is not high on the list. But these places almost all have them - probably 80%! And since we will probably only have two bedrooms, I keep joking with people who say they're going to come visit us that they'll have to sleep in the sauna. But the joke is, they literally will have to because it will be the only free space available.

2. Almost all the apartments have balconies. And these are not token, tiny balconies that allow enough room to step outside and turn around - no. They are often glassed-in, with quality flooring. I don't think they're counted in the area of the house, but some of them should because they offer a chance for additional living space.

3. High-speed internet is wired into the apartment and included in the rent. Almost always.

4. Water is dang expensive. Charges are estimated up front and then your payment is adjusted if you use more or less. We will be paying at least 100€ per month for water, according to the rates listed. I'm hoping I'm misunderstanding something but I actually asked an agent and she seemed to confirm that.

5. We could live in an old wooden house. Jeremy is not a fan of this possibility, but I confess I find it appealing. They are all over the center of the city, especially toward the port area, and they date from the turn of the century. The interiors have been updated, of course, but there are still cool things like brick walls and old fireplaces. Here's a pink one:

6. Most of the places have washing machine hookups, but many also have communal laundry facilities on site. And guess what? You sign up for the time you want to use them! I think that is the best! Because one of the worst things about gearing yourself up to do laundry and trekking it all down to the machines is then finding them all in use. UGH.

7. Turku's municipal websites are so helpful. If I find a place we'd hypothetically be interested in (if it were available during our move-in period), then I head over to Turku's map system and start looking at things like nearby schools, bus routes, bus stops, parks, etc., all of which I can set to show up as layers on the map.

8. There are almost no bathtubs. I think in all the dozens of listings I've looked at, I've only seen one bathtub. Those telephone-shower things are the norm.

9. Finally, the most confusing thing about apartment hunting online is that in Finnish real estate listings, a living room is counted as a room. So a "3-room" apartment only has two BEDrooms. Or, even more confusingly (and disappointingly), it could only have one bedroom, but have a dining room and a living room. I find this annoying because when I am wondering about how many rooms an apartment has, I am specifically wondering about bedrooms. Oh well.

I'm anxiously awaiting the next few weeks as apartments in our time frame start showing up! For now, it's lots of fun looking at listings with no thought of commitment, but the stakes are about to get higher.

Monday, June 01, 2015

Weaned? Or: CAFFEINE.

So Sterling is weaned, maybe? When I went to Finland at the end of April and didn't nurse him for three days, I thought that would be the end of it. But when I got back, he picked up again with no problem and I was so engorged that I was happy to let him do it. (Side note: dealing with engorgement issues in a foreign country right before a job interview just to get my bra to fit is not something I ever envisioned myself doing. Life is surprising sometimes.)

Then he got a stuffy nose. That's how Magdalena ended up weaning herself - she couldn't be bothered to nurse with a blocked nose. Sterling put up more of an effort but for the past few days he hasn't minded missing or skimping on his brekkie nurse - the only feeding we still had.

Well, with all the moving preparations and the stresses and business of everyday life, I have been feeling so run down and exhausted. On Thursday, it occurred to me that since I wasn't really nursing Sterling anymore, I could have - dun dun DUN - caffeine! So I picked myself up a Coke Zero on the way to work and it was AMAZING. 200mLs in and I felt like I could conquer the world. I played the piano like a boss and was chipper in class even though my students were like zzzzz. I didn't even care that it was blazing hot outside when I rode my bike home. I got stuff DONE and I felt good doing it.

It had been a long time since I'd been able to rely on a small drink of Coke for a little pick-me-up, and let me tell you, I'm so glad I had a day of caffeine to put the spring back in my step. I feel like my energy meter has been reset.

And happy weaning, maybe, to Sterling!

Sunday, May 31, 2015

May 2015 books

Code Name Verity (Code Name Verity, #1)Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Second reading 30 April 2015. Not as good as I expected the second time around. The implausibilities were so much more...implausible. I'd probably give it four stars now, but as a first-time read, five stars still stands.

A Kim Jong-Il Production: The Extraordinary True Story of a Kidnapped Filmmaker, His Star Actress, and a Young Dictator's Rise to PowerA Kim Jong-Il Production: The Extraordinary True Story of a Kidnapped Filmmaker, His Star Actress, and a Young Dictator's Rise to Power by Paul Fischer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

4.5 stars. The only way I could have loved this book more (like a 5-star rating) is if I were a film buff, especially an Asian film buff. Since I'm not, the first half was a little slow-moving for me.

It was great to read the whole story behind this incredible sequence of events, which in newspaper articles about North Korea is usually allotted a standard, once-sentence "by the way" treatment. It is a CRAZY story.

North Korea continues to just be the worst, though.

An Ember in the Ashes (An Ember in the Ashes, #1)An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm not entirely sure this one will hold up to a second reading, but hot dang was it a great read the first time around.

It started out a little clunky and silly, but by about a third of the way in, I was hooked. I loved the Gladiator/ancient Egypt vibe, the incredibly high stakes, and all the interesting characters with their conflicting (and often hidden) motivations.

Some people have truly awesome imaginations, and Tahir is one of those people. This is a very rich world she has created. Plus, "Blood Shrike" has got to be one of the best government titles ever.

Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass, #1)Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a jumble of Graceling, The Thief, and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. But Selena (so help me I can't even with the names in this book and this is how I pronounced it in my mind SO THIS IS HOW I WILL SPELL IT.) (THAT GOES FOR YOU, TOO, CALE.) isn't as formidable as Katsa, or as endearing as Eugenides, or as sharp as Hermione, and the book suffers for it.

And Dorian, bless him, is supposed to be the charming rake, but he is no Thorne or Sturmhond.

But dad gummit, if it wasn't fun to read this book despite all of that. So yes, I will be reading the rest of the series (I hear there is a scene where the heroine burns all her ball gowns. CANNOT. WAIT.).

The Scorpio RacesThe Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Second reading May 2015: Delicious, delicious book. I loved it even more the second time around. This was the book that made me give The Raven Boys a chance when it came out, and I'm so glad I did. And now I can see aspects of certain Raven Boys characters in The Scorpio Races.

Plus, Sean Kendrick is the original Mysterious Loner Dude, am I right? Except better somehow. And obviously not literally the original since this book is from 2011, but the term was invented for him to eventually fulfill to the max, FOR SURE.

Also, I cannot stop laughing at this line: "Dory is what Mum used to call a 'strong-looking woman,' which meant that, from the back, she looked like a man, and, from the front, you preferred the back." I put the book down and just giggled to myself for a few minutes at that one. And then I read it to Jeremy and cackled some more. Classic Maggie Stiefvater.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Spring 2015 repertoire, ranked

This semester for my accompanist job, I learned 27 pieces. Twenty-seven! Tomorrow is Juries, where each of the seven applied voice students sings two songs for a panel of professors. One song is chosen by the student; the other is selected by the panel. So tomorrow I will be bringing ALL THE MUSIC with me and be ready to play whatever.

Here are the songs ranked in order of how much I enjoyed playing them. This is NOT a ranking of how well the students/choir sang them, or how difficult they were for me to learn. It's just my gut ranking of how I feel when I think about or remember playing them.

Will There Really Be a Morning? THE BEST.

Don't Rain on My Parade. Super fun once you get past some quirky rhythms and tricky passages.

Sure on this Shining Night. I love that the accompaniment is a counterpoint for the voice performance.

Amor. Once I got past the hate, I found...LOVE. However, this piece has left me with a lasting fear of sixths.

Deep River

Voi che Sapete. This piece is single-handedly responsible for giving me some kind of freakish tendonitis in my left hand/arm that I am, even as I type, treating with ice in preparation for tomorrow. Also, SIXTHS. But lovely and a fun romp if you can get through the tricky bits.

I Dreamed a Dream

Ole Muie Rendera. More fun to sing than play, but I just jammed along on the piano as best I could.

Als Luise Die Briefe...THE original break-up song!! (The title is "as Louise burned the letter from her unfaithful lover.") So dramatic to play!

An die Musik. Ah, bouncy Schubert.

Was ist Sylvia? See above.

Vittoria Mio Core. I thought I had this piece down and then the professor was like, um, it's supposed to be played twice as fast. DANGIT. Also, it has an unfortunately difficult last line - the stakes are very high at that point, you know? You can't end on a wrong note!

Ave Verum. Clear, predictable Mozart. Bless him.

They All Laughed. Magdalena: "Mama, that is a really weird song." Yes it is, sweetie. Yes it is. But it is fairly fun to play!

Anything You Can Do. Hard to follow along with the performers but always a crowd-pleaser.

Sebben Crudele. Another Italian aria in the "play this as fast as you can and then double it" category.

Light of a Clear Blue Morning. Fact: I still randomly break into the "liiiiiiiight of a clear blue" refrain.

Nel Cor Piu Non Mi Sento. Yawn.

Lullaby (from The Consul). SO WEIRD, seriously!

French song whose name I can't remember

Razzle Dazzle. Richard Gere = eww.

Tu Lo Sai. Yawn again.

Long Time Ago. Lots of potential, but the accompaniment is all over the place. Also, there is no correct tempo for this piece. No matter what, it drags, or else sounds rushed.

Give Me Jesus

Let It Be. I could play this in my sleep.

Take Care of this House. This song and the one below are the only songs I really didn't like this semester.

All the Pretty Little Horses.

What a wonderful semester of music it has been!


Related Posts with Thumbnails