Foo Fightin, Jamming & Scatting

So this Anzac weekend was really a fruitful one for me and mostly focused on music. So Matty and I got a frantic call at the start of this year. It was a friend who called to let us know that the foo fighter tickets that we so desperately wanted (ever since a few years back when we sat in the car park listening to the concert for lack of tickets) were now on pre sale and if we got on the net and jumped through a thousand hoops for a couple of hours, we could get those tickets. So the big day came and we were right there. I cannot count the number of rock concerts I’ve been to, but this was right up there. and I made sure I was as close to the front as my strength would allow me (about 3 people from the front) with my best friend who is dainty and about 5 inches shorter than me. so the whole place was packed and needless to say that it hurt to breathe for the days following.

For those of you who don’t know me very well or haven’t picked up on my obsession with music, I am ridiculously in love with music. Some people choose alcohol and others choose crack but mine is music. I play the piano and I sing and I write music on and off.  So I got sick of procrastinating and on Saturday I went over to a uni (college) mate’s house who is amazing at guitar and we practiced cover songs we’d done before and songs that I’d written and he’d enhanced with his guitar part. But for the rest of the day we jammed, which means one of us would play anything, a bunch of chords, a melody, and then the other would improvise over the top. What eventuated was the forming of ideas which we then recorded to remember (very important when you have the memory of a goldfish). So now its my job to write the lyrics … Any suggestions on topics??????

And finally on saturday night I went out with a friend and his family to see this AMAZING jazz singer, Kurt Elling, sing with the symphony orchestra and world-famous jazz musicians. Can I just say that from the first minute of the concert I was at the front of my seat grinning. The timbre of his voice, like butter and his stage presence, suave, I was captivated by this type of old school jazz with the fullness of the string section. He also did some of the best scatting which I must admit made me laugh.

So I experienced a full musical spectrum this weekend which has inspired me to really go ahead with my writing. Here goes!


A Life Truly Lived

ok So last year in my creative Writing for the Media class we were challenged in one of the assignments to write a profile on someone for a newspaper feature article. After much tooing and froing I decided that I would write one on my Nana Soininen. She is an interesting women whom some of you will have met and I have heard many stories from her life but I wanted to piece them together. What resulted was a 5 hour interview where I learnt much more than I ever thought I would. It isn’t as affectionate as I would have written but I needed to have a certain level of distance in the writing for it to be suitable for a newspaper …So here it is …. Enjoy





Terttu-Liisa Soininen has lived a long and tumultuous life. It is one that has left an indelible impression on her face. Just ask and you will find a woman whose past is littered with memories and experiences. With a cupboard full of pure silk, old photos and Finnish books there is much more to her story.


We meet in her one bedroom flat. Smells of fresh baking fill the air as she urges me to eat more pulla (a Finnish bun). She struggles to understand me a little, and then when the question is clear, she unravels stories of joy and heartache. Her hearing loss and my inability to speak Finnish means that I am literally shouting across the table.


Her appearance is neat. Her grey hair is brushed carefully and she is wearing a blouse and cardigan. A different woman from the fresh face in the black and white photos, “My friend used to tell me that I was skinny, but I never told her she was fat.” Her humour is stifled as she catches sight of my bare feet. She rushes to get a bath mat for me so that I “don’t catch a cold.” This act of kindness is unnecessary but is indicative of the way she lived her life.


“I was very naughty when I was young”, she says, “I used to go into the cellar and eat jam from jars but it was ok because there were no windows, and God couldn’t see me.” Born in Mynamaki, Finland, 83 years ago to Senja-Matilda and Hjalmar Rosenlof. Her mother died giving birth to her. There is a sorrow in her eyes as she feels somewhat responsible for the loss. Resolutely she remarks “I had a very hard childhood, but my mother’s death wasn’t my fault”. With two daughters, her father remarried two years later to a woman with two daughters of her own.


This was far from the Brady Bunch though, “My step mother didn’t like me at all and either did my stepsisters”. After wiping away a tear she then says resolutely, “If you let hate in your heart it will grow, I am glad I have never had enemies even if someone is nasty to me.” She then goes on to say “I pray for my stepmother everyday.”


At 13, she was moved to a small Finnish town, Naantali where she completed two years of technical night school. “During the day I was a slave for my stepsister, I used to have to carry 34 litres of water from a well 1.5 km away. We used metal buckets that were originally used for lard”. They lived on top of a dance hall and restaurant. Liisa would also be forced to take extra trips to the well to supply the restaurant with water as well.


Despite the unscrupulous demands on such a small girl, she recalls with joy and a cheeky smile, “Wednesday and Saturday were dance nights, and they were the best times of my life. I would dance the Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot, and German Polka till 3 am sometimes.” Then she motions to me “Have you ever danced around with a chair?” Her cheeky smile gives a sense of the little girl still inside of her.


The war played a large part in her life as she had to endure the trials it dealt out and the lack of resources. “We didn’t know what food we (would) eat this week and next week, but I would think, I am alive.” She would eventually move in with a war widow and her three children. “I cooked and cleaned for this woman for no money because I wanted to help, it was my pleasure.” She would continue to help the widow, even when she got married and pregnant at age 17 to Aaro Hakkinen, a cook in the navy. She would also often cook Pulla for the navy.


One thing she prides herself on is her sewing. “I used to make dresses for the rich and the famous, even Miss Finland.” This is a thread that has woven itself throughout her life.

At the age of five she would make dresses for her dolls and made her first pair of mittens. Then at 12 years old she made her own dresses. She would make clothes for herself, her family, and friends and often at no charge. She recalls “I would sit at the sewing machine and my children would snuggle on my lap as I sung them hymns. Sometimes I would even sew through the night.”


After moving to Turkku, her fun but troubled marriage was dissolved 3 ½ years later and she would meet her new husband through her soon-to-be ex. “Aaro was in the markets, drinking, and he met Erkki who wanted to sell mantels from the army to people who could make them into coats.” By this time Liisa was a professional seamstress. “He brought him home when our divorce was almost final, so Erkki (clearly smitten with Liisa’s beauty) asked Aaro if he could take me out on a date.” His bargaining chip was a bottle of alcohol and all parties agreed to the arrangement.


After a year’s engagement, Liisa and Erkki were married. After bearing another child, she continued to work as a bartender for several years. Her husband, in 1958, insisted that they leave Finland and move to Australia, much to her dismay. She would have “nightmares of never seeing Finland again and would cry for months after the move.” She went on to say “When we moved to Australia, Erkki worked on the railroads and I made tents for the army.” They would eventually raise five children together until Erkki passed away in 1999. Liisa would also spend much of the rest of her life as a seamstress for her children and grandchildren.


It is now almost 50 years since leaving Finland. After many hardships, including two hard marriages and several accidents and sicknesses, she puts her hands in God. “We are all from Adam and Eve and we should all love each other.” She says about the past decade, “Only now can I do things my own way, nothing is more lovely (than) when you can do things your own way.” You can see a real twinkle in her eye. “I really enjoy everyday and every minute, I think it is wonderful.”

I did it!

so I did it! … I put on my shoes and ran out the door and when I got to the vicinity of where I thought the hip hop dance class would be, I had no idea how to get into the place. After running around a bit I realised that you had to go round the side and climb some stairs and then take an elevator but I got in just in time. I really really enjoyed the class. It’s a 4 week course where they start a new song and routine. It felt a little bit like the first day at school, entering the unknown, not sure if I wore the right outfit and trying to make new friends. The class was fun and I was definitely not one of the most uncoordinated so I was pleasantly surprised. So I’ll keep going back to the hip hop class, now the trouble is getting myself to the break dancing class where I fear that the name will take on a literal meaning and I’ll break something while trying to do the dances. Oh and thanks everyone for the words of encouragement. I seriously love all this blogging contact and support.

So you think you can dance?

So I have wanted to take dance lessons for years. Despite the Soininen ‘inflexibility gene’ I have always loved to dance and had been saying for so long that “one unspecified day” I will get around to taking lessons. So I decided to be proactive last week and googled “dance lessons in the Adelaide region” I soon realised that most of the places required couples to join and seeing as I see no prospects for partner anytime soon I persevered in the solo dance classes. After much searching I found a hip hop class (no laughing please) and a break dancing class (ok get back on your chair). So I booked in for this Tuesday for the hip hop class which I’m pretty nervous but excited about. But the break dancing class was last Friday and it requires no bookings which means that most of the people there are probably regulars who have some skill in the sport (my only experience with it would be several days of YouTube self-taught lessons). So I suited up, having no idea what to wear to a break dancing class and after a battle in my mind of inadequacy I put on my sneakers and ran out the door to catch the bus to the class. Half way down the street the bus ran past and at that very moment the fight in my mind was won by the scaredy cat and I ran home. So now I have to wait till Tuesday where I have resolved that I WILL go to the class. Until then I will continue to watch “so you think you can dance” and think to myself that I could totally do that! … maybe…

I’m a geek :)

So I had a fantastic weekend filled with a dance on the friday and my best friend’s geek or glam party on the saturday night …  We had visitors from Sydney and Melbourne and we got our groove on even if it was slightly resembling the moves of Napoleon Dynamite. Anyway I thought I would put up some photos for your amusement 🙂

Lucky Me!

Today was the day. It is true that in the last couple days I had actually been dreading this day. The thought of renting a cap and gown ($45) and getting my parents to spend 15 bucks each on tickets to a ceremony where I would be on stage for a total of 20 seconds and then sit through 30 to 45 minutes of watching others do the same. But I did it … I donned a cap and gown and  4 months after I actually handed up my last assignment, I stood on the wings of the stage. The one thought in my head ( what if I’m in the wrong order and i walk out only to hear ” Fred So-and-so” but then I was soon overcome with a real sense of joy and accomplishment. Sure it was just a bachelor of Arts and my 3 years could never compare to some others who seemed to live at the uni, but  I had done it and standing there in my oversize black robe with a blue sash and a hat with a strange square on the top, complete with tassel, I was smiling from ear to ear. No sooner had I walked out on stage but I heard the Chancellor say something that could loosely resemble my name … “Ellen Liiiiiisa Swinoinineninonenskdkjh”  ….

So afterward it was good to embrace the proud parents and if dads propensity to take photos of me every two seconds was any indication, mine were proud. After we went to Star of Siam (one of my favourite Thai restaurants) and mum and dad gave me a green glass charm for my pandora bracelet and some flowers. I gotta say that I’m one lucky girl and now I guess its up to me too continue to create my own luck.

Much Love

Here Goes Nothing!

So I have a confession to make … I had made a blog before … Well ok I had saved the URL and made the page all pretty but when I actually sat down to write what was on my mind I had such high expectation of myself and everything I wrote felt lame and unimportant compared to the great things I had seen written on other’s blogs. I spent ages looking for a cool name and cool quotes and cool songs and this all seemed too great a task so I shut the browser and never opened that page again. After contributing to the family blog that Sharry had set up I was thrilled to be able to communicate with family and friends that I missed and even those living in the next room. So here it is … I guess I figured out that the cool name and funny quotes were unimportant but what was important was to form a connection with those I cared for the most and have a little fun in relaying the quirky in a relatively ordinary life.

So I will soon have music and photos up here but bear with me as I am a little slow in all things blogging. In the mean time I will be keenly reading your blogs … with a smile J