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 heard our mob approach, but lesson learned: 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. 

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