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

23 Dec 2014

Burning questions and Christmas greetings

Last day of work before the holidays! Tonight I'm heading off to my family in Brussels. Until then, I'll be working with one hand whilst stuffing my bag with pepernoten (gingerbread kind of Christmassy cookies) and presents with the other. The biggest questions at the moment are the following:

1. Can you compensate the lack of snow with an excessive amount of Christmas carols?
2. Will I be able to get up early enough tomorrow to watch Santa's hotline?
3. Will Santa accept phone calls also from people at the tender age of 26?
4. Will the Christmas turkey be as delicious in Belgium as it is in Finland?
5. Will I be able to persuade my boyfriend to taste gingerbread cookie dough?
6. How will I wrap a hula hoop?

Merry Christmas to you all, lots of chillaxing and Glühwein!

11 Dec 2014

A therapeutic doggie bag

Having something that you made coming from the printer looking _exactly_ like you dreamed it would is almost as rare as giant pandas. Yet, a while back the giant panda of printing happened, and for that I have the printer and a comment of a friend to thank for:

After I had designed a cat bag for SUPERSWEET x moumi collection, a good friend of mine complimented it by saying that she would order it, but she is more of a dog person. Without realising it herself, her comment put me on a serious mission called Doggie Bag. Inspired by our shared history of studying psychology back in high school, joking about Freud and his theories and even visiting his house in London a few years ago, I decided to draw her a dog with a therapeutic twist.

Now, anyone who has ever gotten their designs printed probably knows that usually there is always something - even just a tiny little detail or tint of colour - that isn't quite as perfect as you'd like it to be. On top of the usual risk factor, this was also the first time I was to have a digital design printed on textile, so I really didn't know what to expect from the result.

When I went to pick up the bag from the printer, that's when the giant panda of printing came along, making me a broken record repeating "thank you" and "it's perfect" over and over again. If I was any more sentimental, I would probably have had tears in my eyes! I was just so incredibly glad with the result, the bag looked just like I had hoped it would! It truly made the happiest and most thankful critical customer the printer had seen in a while.

I hope the dog and the memories of the times when our minds were filled with Freud-jokes (of questionable quality, I may add) and theories of psychological development will accompany my friend to many supermarkets, libraries, beaches or wherever tote bags go!

Now, I have a few of these bags left, so if you know a dog person or would like to carry a tribute to dogs over your own shoulder, you can get this tote bag for 22 euros + shipping. The doggie bag is 100% off-white cotton with long handles and no leftovers inside. If you are interested, just raise your hand and leave a comment or send a pigeon straight to e.m.ojala@gmail.com!

16 Oct 2014

The list of curious souls

One day last winter, on the 30th of January to be exact, my boyfriend and I were sitting in Café Brecht, one of our favourite places in Amsterdam. Sipping our drinks in the old armchairs, we noticed that the small table in between us had two drawers. Curios to see if there was something inside, we opened them. The drawers were empty.

"Should we put something in there...?" I pulled a small folded poster out of my bag, ripped it in two and wrote the following:

The list of curious souls
This is a list of all the curious minds who have opened the drawer, peeked in and found this note. Give your curious mind an applause and leave your traces here.

To Brecht's staff: Great, you're cleaning the drawers! :) However, keep in mind that bad karma will follow those who throw treasures in the bin...

A few months passed until the next time we visited the cafe. We were excited, of course - would someone had found our note? Would we have some messages waiting for us? However, much to our disappointment, the drawer wasn't there anymore. "They probably changed the furniture." We accepted the fact that we might never find out what had happened to the drawer, the note or if anyone had ever even found it.

Last weekend, after strolling around the city, we ended up in Café Brecht again. The place was quite busy, but we found ourselves two armchairs in the back of the cafe. It wasn't until we sat down that we noticed a small table between us. The table had drawers. "It's not the same one, is it?" My boyfriend opened the first drawer; nothing. The second drawer…well, see for yourself:

Ever single name and date on the list made us smile like crazy, and especially the small doodles on the paper's edges were hilariously sweet; a visualization of karma being a beach and a wurst from Vienna (see top right corner) were our favourites!

FYI, the note is still there, hidden at Café Brecht with an extra page attached! ;)

7 Oct 2014

The (almost) perfect pogacas

Pencils and papers aside, it's time to talk about something else!

The topic of the day is pogacas, the amazing Turkish pastries that rank just as high on my list of Awesome Edibles as savoury scones (I was about to pass out of happiness when I tasted the ones in the cafe of Victoria & Albert Museum a few years ago). Pogacas are kind of like bread rolls with herbs mixtured in the flour, filled with cheese and/or potatoes. The first time I ate pogacas was in Turkey in a small seaside village called Gümüslük. We were drinking tea, when my boyfriend decided to pop into a bakery nearby. Without knowing that he was about to give me a piece of heaven, he bought a simple dill and feta cheese pogaca. Ever since, I have been more or less (mostly more) obsessed with those pastries. We can find them here in Amsterdam in Simit Sarayi as well, but as I find them quite rip-offish, it has become my mission to learn to make them myself.

There are tons of recipes for pogacas online, and I have tried about 5-6 different ones. First batches I made were pretty far from the heavenly pastries I was aiming for; no matter whether I used baking powder, soda or yeast, my pogacas just wouldn't rise as much as I wanted them to. As a result, they would always end up too firm, flat and chewy.

A while back, I decided to continue with my battle against the chewy pogacas. I just knew there had to be a recipe for the perfect pogacas hiding somewhere in the depths of internet! I asked Google "how to make pogaca soft" and found a recipe from a blog called Mum! What's for dinner?. The blog belongs to Donika, who had found her own solution to the chewy problem. I decided to give her instructions a go and followed them with a few alterations.

As I was working my way through Donika's recipe, my expectations began to rise with the dough that was doubling its size in a bowl. And indeed, when I took the pogacas out from the oven, they had risen beautifully and were soft as cotton balls! My greatest achievement in the kitchen since learning to flip pancakes, no doubt!

Here's my version of the recipe (original version here) for the almost perfect pogacas with a few tricks and some tad bit healthy, fiber-rich changes.

  • 1,2 dl (or 1/2 cup) yogurt
  • 1,2 dl lukewarm milk (or 1/2 cup)
    The milk shouldn't be too warm, otherwise the yeast will refuse to grow and prosper!
  • 1,2 dl olive oil (or 1/2 cup)
  • 1 egg
  • 4 dl all-purpose flour
  • 3 dl whole wheat flour or oat flour
    Oat flour is super easy to make - just grind some oats into fine flour with a blender!
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp yeast
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • at least 1/2 dl dried dill - the more the better, if you ask me!
  • around 200 g crumbled feta cheese

Dissolve sugar in warm milk. Mix in the yeast with a non-metallic spoon or fork and let foam rise. (Apparently, there isn't any scientific proof of metal killing yeast, but the fist time I made pogacas with yeast, I used a metal spoon and the dough didn't rise properly. Maybe it was the metal, maybe it was me, but anyway, I thought it'd be wise not to take any risks.) Be patient, because this will take a few minutes. Add the yogurt, olive oil and egg to the yeast mixture and whisk together till blended. Pour in the flour with salt and knead till you have a soft dough. Cover the bowl of dough with cling wrap, put it in the fridge and let the it rise overnight. (If you are impatient, you can also place the bowl inside a bigger bowl filled with very warm water. The warmth will help the dough rise and make it ready for baking within an hour or two.)

When the dough has risen, add the crumbled feta cheese and dill to the mixture. (Some people prefer their pogacas with a filling, but I like them better when the cheese and dill are nicely spread all over the pastry.) If necessary, add some flour to make the dough easier to handle. Take small portions of the dough and roll them into balls. Place them on a baking tray. Brush the pogaca balls with egg yolk or water for a nice, golden colour and garnish with sesame seeds or black seeds. Bake in the oven in 200°C for about 20-30 minutes until the pogacas are golden. Voilá...or what ever they would say in Turkey!

After all this praise, you might be wondering why I call these master pieces just almost perfect. As my very critical jury aka boyfriend pointed out, despite these pogacas being much better than the earlier tryouts, the texture was still not quite right: apparently, they were a bit too spongy and lacked some crust. Therefore, my experiments shall continue ― one day, I will master the art of baking perfect pogacas with a crust and no almosts attached!

20 Jun 2014

What happened after 279 hours and 30 minutes of illustrating and a few months of waiting

Some months ago, I wrote about what happens in 279 hours and 30 minutes. Time has passed, and after the process of designing, proof printing, revising and finally printing, I found a very pleasant package waiting in front of the door when I returned from Istanbul last week: a children's book called EGGS, the very first children's book I have illustrated, wrapped inside a white package with an Australian stamp on it!

If you're happy and you know it, take a pic! (snap, snap) 

EGGS is an imaginative picture story book about six eggs, who each have their own dream of becoming something different. The book is written by Ebony-Jane Carroll, an Australian kindergarten teacher and passionate writer, who created the book specifically with children and teachers in mind. Next to illustrating the book, I worked with her to create a set of free educational activities from colouring pages to word games. I think it's really brilliant that also parents can have fun with their kids after reading the book by printing out some activities accompanying the story. The activities could also be a good way to keep the kids in the back seat happy with a few less are-we-there-yets on summery road trips, hint hint!

It's been a yearlong relationship I've had with those six eggs, which makes it the longest and the most intense (and polygamous?) illustrator-character relationship I've had so far. Finishing the last illustration for the book in January felt sentimental. Sending in the last design for the educational activities felt sentimental. Holding the book in my hands feels sentimental. It's been a great year, and those little dudes will always have a special place in my heart. I will miss drawing their oval shapes. (Luckily, there's a new illustrated character I'm busy with at the moment, and she is quite chubby, too - a great round rebound, I'd say!)

The book that Ebony-Jane sent to me has a personal note saying "thank you for making my dream come true!". I could say the same to her.

Oh sob. Where are the napkins…?

Amongst other places, EGGS is now available on Amazon and Book Depository.