Mildly Enthusiastic Reviews of Things: Anniversary

It’s been a year of writing my Mildly Enthusiastic Reviews and I must say they have really revived my interest in blogging, which I had thought dead. Maybe I just like filling in questionnaires but this form allows me to look anew both at blogging in general and at writing about things I come across. And, most of all, it works as a kind of diary of the mostly fun things I enjoy in my spare time.

Speaking of things I enjoy, if you didn’t know before how much of a friendless nerd I am, here’s something that should make the picture clear: I love making infographics. I could blame it on my work but no, I loved drawing fun graphs before I ever thought of being a designer. I think it’s either a rare or a secret hobby: I’ve basically only know of me with my yearly book summaries and that other guy from high school who did graphs of how much money he spent but, guys, that’s just weird, right?

So, here’s a short, hand-drawn (why not) summary of the last year of reviewing.


So far I’ve written 82 reviews even though I originally planned to only post once a week. But the list of unpublished reviews was growing too fast. Now, however, I’m back to the once-a-week schedule (mostly because of my not-quite-fully-myself condition).

er-merot-infographics3I’m not as huge a movie buff as this would suggest (quite the opposite) but movies just take the shortest to get to know in full. Also, just to make things clear, I don’t review everything I read. Just saying.


I tend to write about things I like, mostly because not being a student and not getting money for any of this I am not forced to finish stuff that bothers me.


I truly expected “vampire” to make it to the list and “Victorian” to end up higher but sometimes those things surprise you. That’s why infographics are so much fun.

Sounds of Music

Songbook: At Seventeen

If I’d known this song in high school I’d probably have checked the closet to see if Janis Ian was not hiding there. Just kidding, of course (I didn’t have a closet in my room) but some things in this song sounded uncannily true to me when I heard it for the first time – though not all of them, and I’m not saying which is which.

“At Seventeen” by Janis Ian

Album: Between the Lines

Year: 1975

Category: Classic charmers

Why it rocks:
For the reasons I hinted at in the introduction: it’s an incredibly well-put description of a certain kind of adolescence. It feels very personal and thus relatable. It creates a nostalgic feeling with its swaying bossa-nova tune but the words clearly oppose any nostalgia – and I’m all for this kind of tension in a song.

Favorite bit of lyrics:
We all play the game, and when we dare / We cheat ourselves at solitaire / Inventing lovers on the phone / Repenting other lives unknown / That call and say: ‘Come dance with me’ / And murmur vague obscenities.”

Favorite moment:
The introduction itself shows you immediately all the strength of the song. And all the moments when her voice gets stronger.

Best for: Feeling glad you’re no longer 17.


Mildly Enthusiastic Review: IKEA

This is a bit unusual, I guess, but I spent a lovely half-day in a local IKEA store and I thought to mix it up a bit with an extremely unobjective and unresearched review of the IKEA experience. Side note: IKEA, sadly, is not paying me for all the nice things I’m going to say (as is no one else for the rest of nice things I say here; too bad). Also, I know they are a corporation and so are, probably, inherently evil and bent on taking over the world but I haven’t noticed so far. (I do acknowledge that YMMV more than usual with these reviews though.)

er-ikeaShopping in IKEA

Category: Pastimes

Find it: Around; it’s probably somewhere there

What it is:
An international network of stores with furniture and other home accessories (which you knew, of course). It originates from Sweden and has a lot of environmental concerns in its brand image, which I generally approve of. Each store has a cheap restaurant and a lot of examples of (very) affordable minimalist design. Seriously, it’s quite hard to buy such a simple bookshelf as Kallax at this price anywhere else.

How I found it:
Honestly, I’m old enough to remember when the first IKEA store opened in our (broadly understood) neighborhood and even then it was a treat for us kids to go there and just browse. Well, it was mostly about browsing then because our parents couldn’t afford many of the things that were being sold, what with the crazy 90s economy around here.

Summary judgment:
I love a morning in an IKEA store. I know it’s more of a quirk than anything else, particularly as I’m not a great fan of shopping in general, but these trips are like going to a fun park for me.

Best things about it:
It’s entertaining for me. I like finding out about IKEA’s new solutions and designs, particularly that many of them have been working well for us. For most products the relation of price and quality is good too, unlike in many other similar stores.

Worst things about it:
I wish they put more of their money where their mouths are and did even more for ecological and sustainable furniture production and selling: more certified wood in furniture, more recycled paper in their instructions, more recycling in general. However, as I said, I didn’t really research any of this, it’s only my general idea drawn from reading labels and I might be unfair.

Other pluses:
I really like their restaurant: it’s cheap and fast and you can usually find something interesting there, as you can in their little store with Swedish products. Strawberry milk drink is my favorite thing and that elderflower drink is pretty good too.
Some of their designs are classics, and rightly so, for their smart lines and the simple elegance that, I feel, some people don’t give enough credit to.
I didn’t care so much before I had a kid but some of their toys are brilliant and one of our son’s favorites. He learned many words with their toy food and the rats serve as his security blanket. Now I’m always curious what new toys they have come up with because some of them are really surprising but the toy department is probably the one where I actually have to exercise my will power not to buy unnecessary things.
I like how IKEA is at least talking about clean and sustainable solutions and how, for instance, they have started (supposedly?) using exclusively wind power. I hope they will continue with this direction because it gives me hope.
Sometimes you can buy really pretty cookbooks in their store.

Other minuses:
If you choose a day wrong, you will be stuck among sooooo many people.
And a little nerdy trivia: not so long ago IKEA used to use their special custom Futura typeface for everything, which was incredibly beautiful (seriously, it was like the Sistine Chapel for a type nerd) but then they replaced most of it with Verdana, which is, well, not beautiful. And now whenever I remember how much better everything from signage to packaging could look, it just makes me sad.
There is also a special kind of IKEA experience, which is way less fun, and it’s buying huge pieces of furniture. You first find their locations in the magazine, then you locate the packages on the shelves and you struggle to put them onto the carts which never seem to go straight (and good luck trying to make the magazine employers help you). Some of them will always be in a different magazine where you need to go separately. Once you’ve done your waiting in the checkout queue, you maneuver the unwieldy cart into the transport station to order transportation (and there’s invariably another queue) and voila, you leave it there for the drivers to take care of. Was I really personally needed to take the packages from shelves and carry them those couple of meters to the transport station? No. No, I wasn’t. That’s DIY taken too far.

How it enriched my life:
Honestly, that’s probably not viewed as very classy by many of you, but probably a half of all the furniture we have in our house comes from IKEA (in case that wasn’t yet clear). And I always have fun when I go there to buy something, unless it’s very, very heavy.

Fun fact:
For my husband’s last birthday we actually went to IKEA instead of to a real restaurant, stylish people that we are. Sure, it was partly to save time and buy some things we needed but it was a nice kind of celebration all the same.

As they didn’t have the color of coffee cups we needed we’ll be going again some time soon(ish).

Recommended for:
People who are not snobby about their furniture, don’t hate shopping too much and can enjoy simple things in life found in surprising places. People whose children don’t go into fits when their parents refuse to buy them something, I guess.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Next time: Inhuman Condition


Winter is so coming

I’ve said it about a million and seventeen times but I’m going to say it again and rest assured it won’t be the last time either: I detest with all my being when Daylight Saving Time is over and we’re back to Gloomy Time. Yesterday it was dusky at five o’clock. Today it was night. I feel so (probably unreasonably) strongly about it that I’ve been known to get personally offended when people say they like the change because they get to sleep one hour longer. You know it doesn’t make any sense, you lazy people you.


It’s My Birthday

And 30th at that.

Here’s a little poster we developed for the occasion with tons of information about what I can’t do.


Despite what this suggests there are some things I can do, too, but hey, at least there’s a lot of challenge for the future. More info and details on the poster can be found on our design blog.

Frankly, I imagined myself in a different place at 30, if I thought about myself so ancient at all, but that’s not to say things are bad. I turned out to be a later bloomer in some respects but I’m actually enjoying the whole journey. And as I always considered birthdays personal holidays, I’m going to spend the day doing fun things.


Getting Married Feels Like Easter

Posting has been less regular than I planned because last Friday we got married and, let me tell you, it’s a hassle.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s worth it, but there is much to organize that I didn’t account for because in general we wanted something very, very simple. This basically meant no all-night wedding with dancing and ridiculous fun-and-games – and boy, were we glad we skipped that because I’ve no idea how people manage not to drop from exhaustion around midnight. We only had reception dinner for family, which was fine except in the middle I found myself not hungry at all and generally worn. But it passed and the rest went just fine.

On the next evening we organized a small get-together for friends in a club where I used to go dancing with a friend (hello, J) all the time when we were students. And dance we did, most of us, quite a lot, except I had remembered the place as quieter away from the dancing floor. Unfortunately, our tables were just above the floor, which meant a good vantage point for those who wanted vantaging but very poor conversation conditions. You could only talk with one person at a time, which resulted in many fragmented conversations and I do wish there’d been at least five of me to be able to spend more time with everyone.

Saturday was frankly a little stressful for that but Friday, when the actual ceremony took place, less so than I’d expected. Even though we had to work like crazy the week before wedding and didn’t have time to concentrate on the details, everything worked out sufficiently well. When people asked me if I was stressed, I actually wondered why I would be. And I only had one bridezilla attack just before leaving for church when I decided my dress didn’t fit as it should but, mercifully, there was no time to dwell on that. I feel sorry for those who overplan their wedding though, because I can’t even begin to imagine how stressful that must be. Had I bothered about the color of napkins during dinner and the flower arrangement in the church, I would probably be curing a migraine up till now. But going with the flow as we did, we found the chocolate-brown napkins just fine and didn’t mind when the priest knocked over the flowers and spilled the water all over the floor during the ceremony. As he did.

Even though I don’t usually do that, I’ll post you a picture or two once I get them from the photographer, whenever that might be, because that will make more sense than describing my dress – and nothing in the whole affair caused so much trouble as the dress, so it’ll be worth mentioning.

So far my vast experience of married life is not so different from my experience of (old) maidenly life – which is to say, it’s been really good. I’m really grateful to everyone who came to wish us well and made the whole thing grander. And the best idea we had was to ask for bookstore vouchers instead of flowers. Today our first package of books came and it actually feels like Christmas to get so many books at once.


Do you always watch for the longest day of the year and then miss it?

Where I live summer is indeed the best part of the year (but isn’t it everywhere?), particularly if you define it broadly as most of the period of summer saving time. Even though as a teenager I tried to be original and claimed not to like summer too much, that was only because teenagers are famously stupid and I was no exception because – what’s not to love about summer? I guess, maybe bugs, hot stuffiness and sweaty people on buses, but there’s so much more to love. Like these Five Best Things About Summer (as creative a title as they get):

1. Gloriously long days! From fall to mid-spring when I return from work and eat dinner it’s the middle of the night and all I can do is slump in front of the screen and watch TV shows. True, I’ve seen a lot of good TV this way, but I prefer to be able to read some Arnheim and work on posters and then clean the basement… well, okay, I don’t necessarily prefer that but I love having options.

2. Summer reading. I don’t know why but almost every book reads better in sunshine. When it’s bright outside I visualize better and recall scenes from books later almost as if they were movies. Of course, it fits especially well with stories happening in summer.

3. Berries. All sorts of them: strawberries, blueberries, raspberries. And also currants, despite their misleading name, and cherries – but not so much gooseberries. On a related note, I love how eating greens stops being a chore and happens naturally because, unfortunately, I’m the kind of person who has to remind herself to add a salad to dinner. In summer, I hardly ever bother.

4. Also, ice-cream. Particularly with berries.

5. Walks in the woods – where everything is green and smells of summer and invites you to touch it and makes you realize that a genius invented the word lush because it describes the woods perfectly with its very sound.

Bonus 6, because there always has to be that extra one. Meetings with friends when the afternoons and evenings are long and everybody seems to have more time.

I probably write affirmative pieces too rarely but this is it, as affirmative as anybody could ask (nobody asked though). I’d ask what you love about summer but then no one would answer and it would just look silly.