Saturday, July 18, 2015

Painted Postcards - Suomenlinna and Estonia

Another round of cards done! I'll need to really hop on these to send to my whole list before I leave!
 A tiny house, on a tiny island, in the bay near Helsinki

 Bunkers and gun posts on Suomenlinna, Helsinki across the water.

Ruins of the University Church in Tartu

 A tree lined road at the Manor in Oluvestere.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Finland Travels - Suomenlinna Islands

 On our third day in Finland we found our way out to the island of Suomenlinna, or Sveaborg as the Swedes call it. It is a group of islands in the Bay of Helsinki, the swedes built a fortress complex from 1748-54 to serve as a defense point against the Russians. Complete with cannon bays on all sides facing the water.
 Fortress walls with cannon positions evenly spaced. The walls are built in the "Star" style with protrusions at the corners of the fortress and long solid walls. It didn't work. The Russians took the island eventually and used it themselves.
 Inside the cannon positions. Large stone rooms with earthen floors and tiny ports looking out. Nice and cool in the heat of the day, rather dark, and with stalactites starting to form from the dripping of water .
After Finns gained independence from Russia, POWs were put to work restoring the fortress walls. The old tunnels are surprisingly sturdy and well maintained.

The island is a very popular summer destination, this was a rare shot of the main route through the fortress when it was not clogged with Chinese tour groups! Finns seem to come for picnics, and they hang out on the beaches and wild spaces.

 During WWII (The Continuation War, as the Finns call it.) a series of modern positions were added, anti-aircraft guns and naval guns. Each one had a protected position, crew shelters, and ammunition caches.
 This is a naval gun installed during the Russian period, probably about the middle of the 19th century.

 Troop shelters built under each position. Each one was a short curving tunnel, lined with stone. Rather nice and cool on a hot day!
 My boyfriend, the military history enthusiast,  pontificating. These are the protected positions where the guns would be mounted.

 Lovely little hillocks, with a less than lovely purpose. Nature is taking back her island.
 A powder magazine for ammo storage. These were very large and went rather deep back into the hill. Despite the rough look, they are not that deteriorated inside.

 The Finnish WWII submarine, Vesikko. Note the ice-breaking points and the black and white camo stripes.
 Inside the submarine, three torpedo bays in front. It was a very tight space! Supposedly 20 men would have served in the sub, which would have been awfully tight quarters. With untrained tourist, 5 people was stuffy...

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Painted Postcards - Iceland

In my downtime on the trip (Ha!) I'm starting to paint postcards for folks back home. It's hard to decide what kind of nice view will be good for painting, and what is interesting enough to receive it in the mail! I've been idealizing a bit, which solves problems of lighting, and of course all those (other) pesky tourist standing in the way.
 This first batch is Iceland! A lovely vintage boat a the Maritime Museum.
 The view of Hallgrimskirkja from the Perler - the water tower for the whole city. Funny thing - since it's all geothermal heat, the hot water actually arrives in the house in a separate pipe, it flows through radiators for heat and makes every shower into a hot springs. Pretty awesome!

Looking out across the Bay from downtown Reykjavik. It was a short swing through this wonderful city, I will have to make plans to return again!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Classical Architecture in Helsinki

Hello Followers! I'm currently traveling in Finland, enjoying the great food, beautiful nature, and fantastic hospitality of the Northlands. First, of course - Helsinki!

The capital of Finland is not, in fact, a terribly old city. It was built up in the 17th-18th centuries first by Swedish nobles, then by Russian merchants. The old grandeur of the city is still visible, mostly in the grand churches, but also in the little details on the most mundane buildings.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Embroidered Offering - Balance

The wheel of the year keeps turning, so that all thing remain in balance! I recently took an Oath in my spiritual path, and promised an offering. My oath was very much based on the theme of balance, so I thought my offering ought to be too!

It was a smallish piece, just one hoop's worth of stitching. I started out by divvying up the linen into quarters. I've learned that pencil lines wear off rather quickly, so I used regular sewing thread to baste in marker lines.

I did trees for the four seasons. (This is a favorite of mine!) complete with an appropriate amount of foliage - from little buds to nothing! 

 Next, faces! I had never done faces in stitchery before, if is a very interesting challenge. I have a masculine and feminine face, and I tried to make one old and one young. (They both look a bit old, hazards of hard shadows.) I'm fairly happy with how they turned out, but most importantly, the camera thought it was a person!

The final touches were some weather. Sunshine for the spring and summer, rain and snow for the fall and winter. All the things in their own time. Everything in balance.
We had a good bonfire for midsummer, and offerings were made. Welcome to the warm times! But, the days are now getting shorter, good news to keep us from getting too hot. Also good news for us travelers - I'm writing this in Iceland, the sun only set for about 3 hours last night, and it never got dark. I'm loving it in many ways, but sleep is also good! Here's to Balance!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Finds - Blessed Bees

Summer has finally appeared in earnest, the mosquitos are thriving after months of rains, the slugs are eagerly attempting to eat as much as they can before they dry up, earwigs are hiding in every blossom. But there is one thriving insect that I am always happy to see more of, the Bees!

The Bees are happily at work in the peas and the sage, waiting patiently for the catnip and lemon balm to bloom. But they can brighten your house year round - lovely watercolor from TheTastyPainter.
Or, a tile for an outdoor space. Perhaps to encourage them to hang around a bit. Handmade tile from Gianar, who also has several other colorways to choose from!
If you have an indoor garden, perhaps sized for a fae's allotment, it need not be without its own skep! HelloLittleCloud has this dainty little hive to bring honey to the wee folks, perfect for the diminutive gardener in your life...
When enjoying the garden in the morning, and letting those hard workers inspire you to jump-start your day, how about a handmade mug? This stamped pottery with wonderfully flowing glaze from LeslieFreemanDesigns could bring that garden memory back year-round.
For us crafty folks, you can bring the Bee friends into the house with your own needle and thread! (Well, actually that comes with the kit, but you get the idea.) This kit from SarahHomfray is ready to become an easy crewel bee, and that hexagon mount is super sweet.
If you want a bit more freedom in your creative endeavours, this amazing art yarn should spark your fingers to make something awesome! Spun by YarnWench, let those little bees become something strange and wonderful.

We owe so much to the bees, the assistance in pollination, and the honey to boot! I'm always happy to see them finding a chemical-free, flower-filled, sanctuary in my yard!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Wormwood - Poison, or Healing Herb?

The Green Fairy 
The absinthe craze of the previous centuries has given Wormwood a rather large, and fearsome, reputation. Poets would claim it gave them visions, authorities would claim it poisoned drinkers. Some folks still claim it has properties, both magical and psychoactive. But this silvery leaf, "bitterest of herbs" is more mundane than we realize (I do not mean that as an insult!)

I discovered, some time ago, that the fragrant, soft-leaved plant growing next to my shrine is a member of the Artemisia family, most likely A. absinthium - wormwood. It makes a robust tea that causes the lips to tingle. But, isn't it dangerous? In the 19th c. there was great concern about the dangerous wormwood, supposedly laced with toxic wormwood in great quantities and causing madness in those who consumed it. 

However, it is far more likely that unscrupulous makers were attempting to get that prized "fairy green" color, and using toxic additives for color, including mercury compounds. And of course, Absinthe is a strong drink, perhaps in attempting to obtain an exciting high from the Thujone, people were simply becoming drunk!
A "dangerous" plant, looking rather innocent.
Modern testing to determine the usefulness of wormwood as a drug have shown that the Thujone content can vary wildly, growing conditions and strains can impact the concentrations in a variety of ways. But even the strongest plants had very small amounts, hardly enough to "get high". Similarly, the alcohols made from Wormwood (Which include Pernod, vermouth, and chartreuse) very in thujone concentrations, but are never very strong. (Let's be clear, they are strong in booz-ocity!)

But, as an herb it has many uses besides summoning hallucinations! It's soothing on the stomach, improves circulation, brings on the menses, and as the name suggest, it helps to expel parasites.  In fact, some people suggest its use around the house to repel insects! It can, however, if taken in vast quantities damage the kidneys. Then again, so can black tea.

Dried bundles for smudging.
Magically, it is connected with the graveyard. It is often used around Samhain for rites and cleansing, and to summon the spirits of the dead. I suppose that's a bit like having visions, but not quite how the romantic poets described it...