17 May 2015

New address

A while back, the grass started to look greener on Wordpress. Some months ago, I finally took the step towards the greenness and moved my Lines I drew to a new platform. It took me a while to settle down and unpack the digital moving boxes, but now it's official:

you can follow my blog at http://linesidrew.emmiojala.eu

Hope to see you there!

2 Mar 2015

It's a freelance life: Getting out of your pyjamas

Just like every job, also freelancing has its pros and cons. You are free to plan your own schedule and enjoy peaceful mid-day visits to the supermarket with all the grannies and stay-at-home moms, but you can't always count on being able to pay for your bananas. You are free to take a day off when you are ill, but no one will pay you for lying in bed. Although you can work in pyjamas without anyone questioning your choice of outfit, no one will ask how your weekend was or suggest a coffee break either. The first time you have a real face to face conversation (note: saying hello, thank you and have a nice day to the supermarket cashier doesn't count) is probably when your housemate comes home. That's the first time someone might point out that it's 6 o'clock and you are still in your pyjamas.

When I started freelancing a few years ago, I always worked from home. It was great in the beginning, but by time it got frustrating. There were too many distractions, too many dishes waiting to be washed and too many dust balls to get rid of. The house became shinier and the fridge got fuller, but I didn't feel efficient no matter how many hours I would have worked in between all the chores. My days were a blur without clearly defined mornings, afternoons and evenings. At the end of each day, I would either have a day's worth of speech waiting to be splurted out to the first living soul who would be willing to listen or I would swell deep in my solitary despair, melodramatically questioning my career and everything I could think of. Either way, it wasn't really my idea of an ideal working day.

Sticking to a schedule, waking up early and working from 10 am to 6 pm helped a bit, but it wasn't until I forced myself to jump out of my pyjamas and actually go somewhere that things started rolling. My boyfriend had been urging me to start going to the library instead of working from home, but each time he had suggested this, I had come up with a ridiculous excuse for why it wasn't such a great idea (after all, I had so many things I would need to carry with me and it would be so much trouble to drag everything around. I would need at least a dozen bags and yada yada yada...). However, after a few very frustrating days last year, I finally gave in. I stuffed my pencils, notebooks, laptop, camera and drawing tablet into a backpack (all of which fitted in just fine!) and headed to my new office. After having gotten to the library and set up my working station, I had to admit that it hadn't been troublesome at all. To add some motivational social pressure to "force" myself to come to the library every, I decided to start documenting my days there by taking one photo a day and posting it on Twitter with #freelancerslibrarychallenge.

Now, I've been working from the library for over half a year. The strangers there have become my imaginary colleagues and the librarians my imaginary bosses. Some days, I take the liberty to stay at home, most of the times just to realise that going to the library would have been smarter. Quite often I forget to take a picture and post it on Twitter. Nevertheless, most of the times I am in the library, sitting in my usual spot surrounded with PhD students, other freelancers, teenagers and elderly, who come there to read the newspapers. I can't go to the supermarkets at the same time with grannies and stay-at-home moms anymore, but let me tell you, working from the library is a lot better!

If you are stuck in your pyjama zone, here are some tips that might help you get out of there:

1. Don't be stubborn
If you are not at your most efficient at home, be open to trying other places. Renting a studio is a great option, but working from study cafés or libraries can be just as great! You can also team up with a fellow freelancer and visit each other's home offices for a change.

2. Make it fun
Come up with something that will motivate you to get out of pyjamas. Maybe it's a great take-away coffee on your way to your new "office", maybe it's a lunch date with a friend or a fun podcast you can listen to whilst working (I highly recommend The Fizzle Show!). If you want to take a more playful approach, set yourself a challenge: work in a different place every day, rate them with stars or document your journey to Super Efficient Me.

3. Add a bit of pressure
It's easier to fall for chocolate if no one knows you aren't supposed to eat sweets. Make a deal or a bet with a supportive friend and promise to start working from somewhere else than home. If you know a fellow freelancer who is struggling with the same issues, meet up or call each other every day to report your location and how things are going. That way both of you will also get the daily doze of social interaction that you would get in a real office - a win-win situation!

4. Repeat
The more often you work from somewhere else than home, the sooner it will become a habit and the quicker you will get rid of your frustrations and longing for pyjamas.

5. Reward yourself
If you can't find motivation to stick to your new routine, try a carrot-and-stick approach. Maybe each successful week of working somewhere else than home will finish with a slice of cake or your favourite movie...and if you have failed to get out of your pyjamas, you might have to deliver that piece of deliciousness to a friend or a fellow freelancer!

What about you? Are you able to work from home or do you need a change of scenery to be efficient?

16 Feb 2015

Non-mushy Valentine's day

Valentine's day is not only a good excuse to fill your day with sweetness (this year, I chose scones), but it's also a great reason to rebel against syrupy greetings cards with non-mushy illustrations! For the last few years, I have drawn cards inspired by superheroes and their sidekicks. The first card, "Let me be your sidekick"was followed by "Every bat needs a robin", but this year I ended up changing the heroic course and decided to draw something else. The requirements for this year's non-mushy card were the same as before:

- no excessive amounts of hearts, 
- no overuse of colour pink
- something that can be given to friends as well as to lover(s)

Whilst looking for inspiration and browsing through different songs about friendships and love, I ran into the lyrics of the song above (a real tongue twister, I may say!). Suddenly, the idea hit me like rama lama llama ka dinga da dinga dong!

End result: eight tiny hearts and one pink corner. That's fairly non-mushy for a Valentine's day card, I suppose.

How about you? Was your Valentine's day mushy or non-mushy?

5 Feb 2015

House fairy's muffins

House fairy:
noun: house fairy; plural: house fairies
a dominant or less dominant characteristic in a person. May give a sudden urge to vacuum clean, polish silver cutlery, mend socks, knit or bake. "This floor is shining - what a house fairy you are!"
See also: 50's housewife spasm

Sometimes, I take great pleasure in pottering around the house and arranging nice little chores for myself. Today was that kind of a day, so I decided to put on my mental apron  and bake some muffins - for the first time in my life, I may add.

I love comparing different recipes and doing extensive research into tips and tricks of baking. What kind of muffin cases should I use? As stiff as possible. How do I make sure that the muffins will become moist and soft instead of turning into sweet stones? Use yogurt instead of milk, mix the dough as little as possible and don't leave the muffins in the oven for too long.

Equipped with a brand new muffin mold, paper cups with polka dots and all the knowledge I could find about making perfect muffins, I swang into action following a recipe from a Finnish blog called Voisilmäpeliä, written by Eeva Kolu. I also improvised a bit according to what we had - or didn't have - in the cupboard.

(makes about 10 medium muffins)

3 ½ dl whole-wheat flour

3/4 dl sugar
(I replaced part of the sugar with honey)
3 tsp vanilla sugar
2 tsp baking powder
½ dl sunflower oil
1 ½ dl plain yogurt
1 egg
2 ½ dl frozen blueberries

¾ dl whole-wheat flour
¾ dl sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp soft butter

Mix flour, sugar and baking powder together in a bowl. Take another bowl, and mix oil, yogurt and egg. Add the liquidy mixture into the dry mix and mix just until they have blended together. Put some flour on a plate, and roll the blueberries in it until covered with a light layer of flour (this will prevent the berries from sinking to the bottom). Fold the berries into the dough gently, trying not to break them.

Put the dough into molds, and prepare the crumble: mix flour, sugar and cinnamon together and add 2 spoons of soft butter in small pieces. Using your fingertips, rub the butter into the mixture until you have a bread crumb-like texture. Sprinkle the mixture on top of the muffins and bake in 200°C for about 20 minutes. You can test whether the muffins are done by poking a toothpick through to see whether it comes out clean or with raw dough.

11 Jan 2015

New year, new logbooks!

Putting up the sails and heading to the metaphorical sea of the new year with 2015 carved on the ship's figurehead is all the more festive if you have a brand new logbook waiting to be filled. To make sure that my January wouldn't start without a new agenda, I started my hunt already a few months ago. Usually I have bought cheap and simple agendas from random supermarkets and pimped their not-so-beautiful covers at home with my own illustrations, but this year I thought that supporting small businesses instead of cheapskating between supermarket shelves would be nice for a change. On top of that, I happened to have a gift card to Etsy, and having spent many clueless hours browsing through pretty earrings, bags, hand-made watches and such, unable to decide what I should get, it seemed sensible to spend it on something that I'd actually need.

After diving into the rather endless sea of pretty paper goods on Etsy, I eventually ran into a brand called Nauli. Nauli is an initiative of a German sister duo Eva-Dewi and Johanna, who have named their shop after their Indonesian grandma. All their products are hand-made, and I simply fell in love with the colourful geometric patterns and earthy floral designs on their covers. Vintagy and fun, totally my cup of tea!

Whilst browsing through Nauli's collection, drooling over their beautiful paper products, I figured that next to ordering an agenda, I should also get myself a new diary. Having spent some hilarious moments reading through my old diaries recently (a wonderful saga that begins with the wise words of my 10-year-old self, stating that I will become a vet, because I can't imagine anything better than taking care of puppies and curing the toothaches of foxes), it seemed only fair to make sure that my 40-year-old self would have something amusing to read, too.

So, let me present to you: the official logbooks of 2015, a very compact new agenda and a diary with a floral print. Shall their pages get filled with many nice things!

Notebook and agenda made by Nauli