Joshua Tree National Park video tour with Tomi Hinkkanen and Wandering Finns Tiina Purtonen, and Kimmo Heinström

Joshua Tree National Park video tour with Tomi Hinkkanen, Tiina Purtonen, and Kimmo Heinström

To celebrate wondering Finns Tiina Purtonen and Kimmo Heinström’s return to Los Angeles after a very busy year on the road (http://wanderingfinns.tumblr.com/), Finntimes is releasing an amusing yet informative video tour to Joshua Tree National Park with Tomi Hinkkanen, Tiina Purtonen, and Kimmo Heinström.

In Finnish only for now (English subtitles will be added soon).

Welcome back, buddies.

Cameraman: Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

AROUND LA WITH AVA®: Let Them Eat Cake

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AROUND LA WITH AVA®: Let Them Eat Cake

Happily, life and its stages involve celebrations.  Virtually all cultures celebrate with a cake of some kind.  Each of us has childhood memories of cakes as part of celebrations that can bring a smile on reflection.  Cakes mark a passage of time, a milestone in life, a welcome for a dear friend… .

“Let Them Eat Cake…” as some other Lady once said!

“Let Them Eat Cake…” as some other Lady once said!

Some cakes are for show.  Some cakes are to let you know.  “Let Them Eat Cake…” as some other Lady once said!

Beverly Hills Celebrates 100 Years

Lavish lifestyles and ‘over the top’ celebrations were the operative words to describe the Beverly Hill’s Centennial extravaganza.  Select BH dining and shopping establishments joined to donate a portion of their proceeds to a community charitable foundation during the event.

Select BH dining and shopping establishments joined to donate a portion of their proceeds to a community charitable foundation during the event.

Select BH dining and shopping establishments joined to donate a portion of their proceeds to a community charitable foundation during the event.

A 4,000 pound cake made to feed 15,000 guests on Rodeo Drive stood 10 feet high with a 15 foot width and a length of 20 feet.  The cake was modeled after the Beverly Hills City Tower and surrounding buildings.  Carnival games and entertainment (including a band and fireworks) were fitting accoutrements.  The staff of The Luxe on Rodeo Drive served the largest chocolate cake in the world to the event guests.

A 4,000 pound cake made to feed 15,000 guests on Rodeo Drive stood 10 feet high with a 15 foot width and a length of 20 feet.

A 4,000 pound cake made to feed 15,000 guests on Rodeo Drive stood 10 feet high with a 15 foot width and a length of 20 feet.

Strawberry Fields Forever

While bakeries in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, Paris, Helsinki, and other centers of world gastronomy offer most beautifully crafted and exquisite, delicious confections, there is nothing quite as special as a token of love than a good, well-crafted, homemade cake!

While bakeries in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, Paris, Helsinki, and other centers of world gastronomy offer most beautifully crafted and exquisite, delicious confections, there is nothing quite as special as a token of love than a good, well-crafted, homemade cake!

While bakeries in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, Paris, Helsinki, and other centers of world gastronomy offer most beautifully crafted and exquisite, delicious confections, there is nothing quite as special as a token of love than a good, well-crafted, homemade cake!

The traditional American layer cake that originated in the ‘40s and ‘50s was so delicious—and popular, that it has now been duplicated with ‘store-bought’ cake mixes and ready-made frostings of unpronounceable ingredients.  In this Finnish mind, dry crumbly perfect layers of cake with gobs of very thick, sweet (but fake, as if made from ‘scratch’) sugary frostings are best used for photographs, not friends!  Some of those ‘manufactured’ cakes are constructed more sturdily than many American houses—some could not be knocked down in an earthquake.  They stand lovely and lonely on pedestals in their high glory: the red velvet, the pound cake, the coconut concrete, the lemon whatever… .

The ethereal, unctuous, wet, strawberry field of dreams featured in the special Princess Castle.

The ethereal, unctuous, wet, strawberry field of dreams featured in the special Princess Castle.

If you are making a wedding cake perched on columns for display, go for it!!  There is lots of money to be made in the cake ‘construction’ business.  [As a former wedding cake hobbyist, I made quite a few tasty ‘show’ cakes as gifts for friends in my new land.  From my experiences (good and bad), use a pound cake if you are doing a tiered cake.  The ethereal, unctuous, wet, strawberry field of dreams featured in the special Princess Castle version pictured herein is the caveat exception!!] But, back to our focus on the Finnish spirit and sensibility that comes with our LA summer.

Fun Finnish Food for a Sweet Finish

As a token of appreciation and love for our regular readers, I am going to share my most special 5th generation family (Finns and progeny) celebration secret sweetness.

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As a token of appreciation and love for our regular readers, I am going to share my most special 5th generation family (Finns and progeny) celebration secret sweetness.

As with so many parables on the mysteries of life, there is no specific script or scientific scenario to follow.  The directions, the techniques, the instructions, and the secrets you will discover are just ‘hints’ gathered along the way from generations of loving hearts and hands that have been assimilated and adapted from across the Atlantic by the best recollections of this FOB [‘fresh off the boat’ 7 year old] who packed her heritage in her heart and brain along with her pinafores in her suitcase.  How else could it be?  After all, my adult 6 burner/2 oven cooking equipment is not fired by burning birch logs from my front yard.  Relax, enjoy, smile, be joyful; fixing fine food should be fun—sharing things we have learned from others and by our own failures (and recoveries) should be one of life’s pleasures!

Recently, I found an old article from the Finnish Kauppalehti blog about Finns’ favorite foods.  The usual ‘suspect’ dishes were there such as freshly caught lake fish, new potatoes, and the like.  The Dessert category highlight was the märkä mansikkavispikermatäytekakku (wet filled strawberry cream cake).  Bingo!  Now we are talking the same language!

Recently, I found an old article from the Finnish Kauppalehti blog about Finns’ favorite foods.  The usual ‘suspect’ dishes were there such as freshly caught lake fish, new potatoes, and the like.

Recently, I found an old article from the Finnish Kauppalehti blog about Finns’ favorite foods. The usual ‘suspect’ dishes were there such as freshly caught lake fish, new potatoes, and the like.

The märkä mansikkavispikermatäytekakku is a moist, unctuous, fragrant, divinely flavored cake layered with a berries and fruit concoction topped with decorated whipped cream to delight us and our loved ones.  Here we can create the freshest and finest flavors and textures to celebrate summer, weddings, graduations, birthdays, family, friends, foreign guests, and everything fun that Finnish nature offers in summer!  How can that not be fun?!

How To/To Do

Now in the interest of Finnish greatness, culinary supremacy, and the joy that needs to be spread to make the world a better place, my intent is to share with you what has brought happiness to each and every generation of my family in the US since at least the ‘50s.  This is the 7th decade that this exact same cake has been made in my family for everyone’s birthday cake [unless they ask for something different—no one has, so far].  With all of those same cakes, none was really the same.   But, there is a lot of good karma in this kermakakku.  I hope your family, friends, and you feel the love.

How High the Moon?

While our project works best as a ‘not-too-high’ layer cake, it has been made into a Castle for a Princess themed birthday party.  A cardboard round perched on wood skewers kept the ‘second floor’ steady.  This requires a PhD* as a pastry chef—you may want to stay on the ‘ground’ the 1st time around!                                                                           *[piled higher and deeper]

To be my special cake, it ‘must’ have fresh strawberries, in season or not.  Here and in Finland, June and July are the prime strawberry months.  During the season in Finland strawberry sweepers are as bad as the mushroom maniacs in August.  At my favorite place in Finland, we drive through prime strawberry field country heading from Lahti toward Jyväskylä.  The local farmers of my youthful vision hunched over while berry picking with their straw baskets have aged, but they have been replaced by blond bikini-clad young female Estonian berry pickers—a startling sight the first time around!  At work rain or shine, the girls wear raincoats over their bikinis as the weather warrants.  Enough ‘eye candy’ for gentlemen customers already; save those crops!

To be my special cake, it ‘must’ have fresh strawberries, in season or not.

To be my special cake, it ‘must’ have fresh strawberries, in season or not.

Strawberry Cake Success Secrets

Before we get started, there are secrets other than the necessary strawberries you need to be aware of: timing**, some serious cognac is involved, and the supreme secret –as in so many childhood fairy tales, you learn there really is no recipe!  However, there is a right way to do things.                                                                   **As in life, timing is everything when making a cake.

In making Ava’s Finnish Strawberry Fields Forever Whipped Cream Cake you need to “give it time”!!  Why?  …because: “you can’t hurry love”.  Or, as they say in Finnish, the cake must vetäytyä  [try saying that three times fast!] .

A direct, functional translation of vetäytyä might be that the cake needs to “suck” or ‘sop up’, but that is not quite correct here.  What really happens is an absorption or maceration process involving all of the solids and liquids of the cake, the juices, the cream, and the fruit that results in the ultimate moist and delicious product.

It is important to begin 3 to 4 days ahead of your celebration.  On the first day, bake the cake layers.  Once cooled, remove the cakes from their pans and wrap.  Let the plastic wrapped layers rest overnight –at least.

The next day, cut the layers in half horizontally making two equal circular rounds from each baked cake.  Place the first round on the serving plate upon which we are going to build the tower of taste.  Follow the same process for each of the first 3 rounds as the tower grows.  Moisten each round [once set on the plate or the completed lower round] with cognac and peach liquid; spread on a layer of strawberry jam [homemade, if you have it]; spread a layer of whipped cream; place sliced bananas, peaches, and strawberries onto each round except for the final (top) round.  On the last (top) layer or round, drizzle the top with cognac and/or peach liquid.  Wrap the whole constructed cake [tower] in plastic wrap and let it sit until the next day, at least.

It is vetäytymisaikä time!!

Who Hosts Oddities

The Finnish Birthday and Name Day traditions have an odd hosting component to them.  If you are the päivän-sankari (the Birthday or Name Day person), you automatically become a host.  And, you provide your own cake!  Forget about being pampered, you get to do the pampering of yourself—but that means you can practice what you are learning here!!

You may get calls from people asking “…is the coffee pot on?”  Some folks may just show up at your door, especially if it is a ‘big digit’ Birthday and you have not advised people that you “…are traveling” in the local news where pictures, age notations, and other personal information are freely published.  [Good luck trying to stay ‘29’ forever!]

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make a nice, wet, juicy Finnish Strawberry Fields Forever Whipped Cream Cake and take it to the Hollywood Bowl when Esa-Pekka is conducting or to enjoy with the Beatles’ 50th Anniversary show this August.

Sometimes there are benefits to staying home in the USA where protocol says you do not ask someone’s age unless they are under 10 or over 80.  If, in fact, you are enjoying a Los Angeles “staycation” but dreaming of the Finnish countryside, make a nice, wet, juicy Finnish Strawberry Fields Forever Whipped Cream Cake and take it to the Hollywood Bowl when Esa-Pekka is conducting or to enjoy with the Beatles’ 50th Anniversary show this August.  Of course, you can always crank up your coffee pot (or grab a cold quart of milk) and put on a Finnish CD before going out on your balcony, into your back yard, or to a local beach with your Dream of Finnish Strawberry Fields (Oma Maa Mansikka) Forever —‘poof’ and you are there, just like the Princess!!

Keep on Dreaming Oma Maa Mansikka –and keep on baking.

Ava’s Finnish Strawberry Fields Forever Whipped Cream Cake

Ingredients

Eggs

Sugar

Flour

1 teaspoon baking powder [this recipe]

The first three ingredients are in equal amounts [Practiced pros may use ‘eyeball’ or ‘hand’ measures, but I recommend using 3 matching measuring vessels (see picture).  Did I mention that baking is an ‘art form’?]

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(click to see full size image)

The cake pictured has 6 large eggs and, therefore, the same equivalent volumes of sugar and flour.

Processes 

Cake

Grease and flour two 8 or 9 inch cake pans.  Cut parchment paper circles to fit the bottom of the pans.  Grease and flour those also. 123 Whip room temperature eggs and sugar until light yellow, voluminous, and airy.

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Fold flour and baking powder together gently into the egg mixture with a spatula, lifting as you fold so as not to lose air from the batter.

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Pour equal amounts of batter into each pan.

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(click to see full size image)

Bake at 350º F for approximately 20 minutes or until tops are golden to slightly brown. ava_august13 Let cake cool in pans.  Remove cakes from pans carefully.  Then, wrap each cake in plastic wrap. [Cakes can be frozen at this point.]  The wrapped cakes can be kept in the refrigerator for up to a day or two.

Filling Ingredients

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(click to see full size image)

2 cups whipping cream, whipped

½ cup strawberry jam (cloudberry jam is also divine)

2 to 3 bananas, depending on their size and your interest

1 cup sliced strawberries

½ cup cognac (preferable; but juice of fruits can be substituted)

1 15 oz. can of sliced peaches in heavy syrup (saving the liquid and about 6 peach slices for later top decoration, if desired)

Combine cognac (or juices) and peach liquid to make the liquid drizzle (kostutus liemi)

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Assembly Instructions

Cut the 2 cakes to make 4 equal circular layers or ‘rounds’ using a serrated knife

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Put the first layer round down on a serving plate [Don’t worry  if the cake breaks during assembly, just ‘pat’ the piece(s) back in place—the cake is very forgiving at this stage!]

IMG_0947 Drizzle cake layer round with approximately ¼ of the liquid (until layer looks slightly saturated) IMG_0951 Spread with 1/3 of the strawberry jam; then, with 1/3 of the whipped whipping cream

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Slice 1/3 of the bananas and place on the round with1/3 of the peaches and 1/3 of the strawberry slices—distribute evenly

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Repeat the same assembly instructions on the remaining cake rounds, except the top round

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(click to see full size image)

Place the top layer round and drizzle the remaining liquid over that top segment.  Finish top layer with whipped cream Cover the whole cake with cling film Let the cake rest (preferably overnight) covered and refrigerated

Day of the Event

Frosting and Garnishing

2 cups whipping cream, stiffly whipped

2 tablespoons granulated sugar (use powdered sugar for stability if the cake needs to sit out for a long time)

1 teaspoon of vanilla (optional)

Combine ingredients

Frost the top and the sides of the cake, setting aside some cream for piping/decoration, if desired

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(click to see full size image)

(click to see full size image)

Use whole or sliced strawberries and/or the reserved peach slices for decoration.  Often I use fresh blueberries for ‘writing’ a name or message on the cake top. ava_august11 CONGRATULATIONS! You have made Ava’s Strawberry Fields Forever Whipped Cream Cake now in its 5th generation of pleasing my extended family! IMG_0972 At its core, this is a basic 4 layer cake.  Someone [—was it Marie Antoinette or Ben Franklin??] said “…necessity is the mother of invention”.  Sometimes you just need a large, special sheet cake for a lot of people.  Then, use the same processes, but bake the batter in 4 rectangular baking sheet pans by quadrupling the ingredients—no cake slicing needed!  This works well for a huge birthday or other event.

ometimes you just need a large, special sheet cake for a lot of people.  Then, use the same processes, but bake the batter in 4 rectangular baking sheet pans by quadrupling the ingredients—no cake slicing needed!

ometimes you just need a large, special sheet cake for a lot of people. Then, use the same processes, but bake the batter in 4 rectangular baking sheet pans by quadrupling the ingredients—no cake slicing needed!

A more adventurous and courageous soul (my daughter-in-law) made a Castle Cake with a second tier built on the standard base for a ‘Little Princess’ birthday party.  It even featured a coconut path and a moat.  She had fun successfully using her imagination to build on a good/known base, her daughter was ecstatic with the glorious resulting presentation, and her daughter’s friends thought the whole thing was awesome!  All of that –and great taste and texture too!!

 

A more adventurous and courageous soul (my daughter-in-law) made a Castle Cake with a second tier built on the standard base for a ‘Little Princess’ birthday party.

A more adventurous and courageous soul (my daughter-in-law) made a Castle Cake with a second tier built on the standard base for a ‘Little Princess’ birthday party.

If you do try to tier, be sure to cut and place dowels on the bottom layer to support a cardboard round the size of your top layer.  Party on like the little birthday Princesses did!

Family Cake Back Story

I always look forward to visiting my Aunt Kaija’s home in Finland.  She is my lifelong culinary muse and idol.  She and my uncle are my Godparents.  As such, they may have felt obligated to take me under their wing when my parents shipped me off to Finland to spend summers as a child.  I was delighted and excited to be there with them!

I always look forward to visiting my Aunt Kaija’s home in Finland.  She is my lifelong culinary muse and idol.

I always look forward to visiting my Aunt Kaija’s home in Finland. She is my lifelong culinary muse and idol.

My favorite childhood ‘thing’ was to watch my Aunt Kaija in her kitchen.  My uncle (as former Head of the French School in Helsinki) is much revered at home and abroad –and was often honored by the French.  [He still wears a beret when he gardens.]  They often had French visitors, so Aunt Kaija had to excel in French, as well as, Finnish cuisine.  And, does she ever!  She is the only person I have visited and been served foie gras and Chateau d’Yquem at a Finnish lakeside cottage.  Aunt Kaija is tré chic et tré magnifique!

Aunt Kaija always has her special Whipped Cream Berry Cake as the piece de résistance when she has Coffee guests.

Aunt Kaija always has her special Whipped Cream Berry Cake as the piece de résistance when she has Coffee guests.

Aunt Kaija always has her special Whipped Cream Berry Cake as the piece de résistance when she has Coffee guests.  She must have trained for pastry skills under Lenôtre in Paris. The cake she served on our last visit is pictured here.  Do you know anyone else who can make a basket weave design out of pure whipped cream?   (Try that in LA when we are in “triple digit” heat and you will have “hanging baskets”, guaranteed!!  Take it from this ‘basket case’ of an LA baker who tried recently.)

Just as every Finnish hostess has her special pulla recipe, Aunt Kaija has her celebratory cake recipe.

Just as every Finnish hostess has her special pulla recipe, Aunt Kaija has her celebratory cake recipe.

Just as every Finnish hostess has her special pulla recipe, Aunt Kaija has her celebratory cake recipe.  These family recipes are usually very secret and are passed on as tradition from generation to generation.  Each of you Finnish or Finnish American readers probably has this as part of your inherited tradition and kitchen repertoire —if not, welcome to mine!

When/How/Where to Serve the ‘Prize’

There is so much to be said about the Finnish Coffee tradition.  It is the 15:00 [3 p.m.] rival counterpart of/to the British 4 p.m. Tea.  In the Anttila family Coffee, the five distinct Courses are not immediately discernible to the novice observer, but they unfold in inexorable fashion culminating in the divine Whipped Cream Cake at the end.  My Strawberry Fields Forever version of that special celebration cake is our topic herein.

In another column one day, we will delve into what is also an incredible edible from our Finnish heritage, the celebratory sandwich cake (voileipäkakku).  When I served this to my great friend Mona, she was excited to serve it for her San Marino friends at a ladies tea—perfect choice.  I can’t wait to share my recipe and special California technique soon.

Back to the special celebration cake from my family:  I first learned much of what I know from my paternal grandmother [Pih-Mummi of Makkara fame from a previous column] when I was so small that I sat on the table she used for baking so I could see every fascinating thing she was doing.  That table was on the porch of the family summer home—a birch forest ‘path’ away from Aunt Kaija.

Baking day converted into a ‘little bakers’ wonderland.  My compatriot toddlers and Pih-Mummi’s sous chefs were my cousins Aarne and Marja.  We were all under the age of three.  We loved these simple and delicious lessons.  And, it was a great way to pass the rainy days so frequent in the Finnish summer.  [Somewhere there is an old photograph of three of us sitting topless in our skivvies in the summer heat on the green painted table that was used for meals in the old house.  So much for our adult dignity aims!]  Aarne (especially) loved the sessions involving pulla dough where he could make long ‘snakes’ out of the dough using raisins for eyes.  I was more interested in the piece de resistance with the “wow factor” for the Coffee Ritual soon to follow: the divine Whipped Cream Cake With Fresh Fruit!

I can tell you that as a little kid sitting through the Coffee courses of pulla, cookies, dry Bundt type cakes (all homemade and quite delicious, of course), I behaved nicely knowing that the moist, multilayered, creamy, fruity sweet, beautifully decorated taste of Finnish summer soon to come was worth waiting for—even worth the long plane ride from California.  As a child, you felt special and knew that your hosts were really glad to see you if they showed their welcome with this most awesome treat!

The berries (often wild) were usually just handpicked from the forest or newly purchased from the local tori for your arrival celebration.  What the Finns lack in words speaking their welcome they certainly make up in communicating with their handpicked, hand chosen, handmade treats that become their special cake for you.

Strawberry season is winding down now in our Homeland.  In prime season, not only are the toris (the farmer’s markets) full of berry perfections, literally at the entrance to every grocery store there are booths and stands offering nature’s beautiful bounty picked from local fields, farms, and gardens.  The summer harvest cycle moves from strawberries to blueberries, to lingonberries, and, at the end of summer, to the glories of mushrooms.

Strawberries are an essential part of “the cake”, both fresh and as jam.

Strawberries are an essential part of “the cake”, both fresh and as jam.

Strawberries are an essential part of “the cake”, both fresh and as jam.  In the off-season, the price of fresh strawberries often seems as if they flew ‘1st Class’ into town.  Frozen berries offer an economical alternative, but I usually splurge for a few beauties to glamorize the top.

LOCAL NEWS

Suomi Kerho Midsummer Party

Birch branches decorated the club house space, divine snap worthy makkara grilled on an open fire, delicious salads were chilled and waiting, while freshly baked pulla graced the buffet table to help make for a great Midsummer celebration party at the North Hollywood Suomi Kerho location.  There was a great energy in the room as people gathered to celebrate the bright Midsummer sunshine lasting long into the night.  Even non-Angelenos know that the seasonal ‘marine layer’ of high level fog rolling in from the Pacific in many parts of our City of Angels this time of year (sometimes referred to as “June Gloom”) can put a damper on early summer celebrations.  Not this year.  This special night was calm, balmy, and perfect.  While all present thought fondly of nights in our Homeland and our loved ones there, we did not miss the rained out grilling or mosquito invasion experienced this year in Finland for Midsummer.

There was a great energy in the room as people gathered to celebrate the bright Midsummer sunshine lasting long into the night

There was a great energy in the room as people gathered to celebrate the bright Midsummer sunshine lasting long into the night

Strawberry Fields Revisited and Beatle Beetle News

The Hollywood Bowl will commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Beatles’ first Bowl performance this August 22-23-24.  Plan your Strawberry Fields Forever baking schedule now!  [Information and tickets @ HollywoodBowl.com]  

Did you know the Beetles killed the Beatle tree?

Did you know the Beetles killed the Beatle tree?

Did you know the Beetles killed the Beatle tree?

A tree in honor of Brit Beatle George Harrison planted in LA’s Griffith Park has been killed by a beetle infestation.  “With a little help from my friends…”, quick response forces were utilized and a replacement tree was planted in its place —“…no worries”, as the songs go!

Suomi Soldiers Summer Session Veterans_Suomi2014-116 Almost 50 Friends of Finland assembled at my house on Sunday, July 27th for a casual, fun afternoon.  The beautiful Finnish flag flew proudly from our 35’ flag pole to properly greet our Guests of Honor.

This was the second Soldier Summer Session—a follow-up to last year’s luncheon built around a visit and presentation by Olli Kivioja, former Surgeon General of Finland and a President of Pilvenveikot (the Finnish War Pilots’ organization) who was traveling in the US with his daughter and granddaughters last July. Veterans_Suomi2014-65 The local Finnish War Veterans and Lottas had such a great time last year, a follow-up seemed worth doing.  When Jim and Sirkka Aldridge agreed to present a program focused on our Vets’ Russian wars, the party was on!

Sirkka and Jim Aldridge brought much of their extensive archive collection of Finnish military material and memorabilia from the days of the Winter War and the Continuation War for guests to see firsthand.  Sirkka wore an authentic Lotta uniform and Jim gave an informative presentation on the history, geography, and tactics of the Wars.  Jim’s presentation used an enlarged map of the War Theatres which served as a remembrance trigger for the Veterans and the Lotta who were the honored guests. Veterans_Suomi2014-100Consul General JP Markannen extended greetings to the Friends assembled and offered the Finnish government’s special thanks to the Veterans and Lotta for their role in preserving Finland’s independence.   One American present suggested that the event was the equivalent of having lunch with the US’s 18th Century Minutemen who responded to Paul Revere’s cry “…the British are coming!!”  What a thought!  What a day!  Big smiles –and a few proud tears! Veterans_Suomi2014-87

End Note

Happy summer celebrations!!  I hope you have been busy making memories and Dreaming of Strawberry Fields –wherever you are!

Southern California is a fabulous and fun place to be –if you cannot be in Finland during the summer.  Really stimulating things happen here, if you know where.  Seek them out.   Your scribe has lived, raised my family, and worked in Los Angeles for a lot of years.  I learned so much from so many as a youngster in Finland that I cannot look at a strawberry today without thinking of my dear mentors and muses: Pih-Mummi and Aunt Kaija.  Still, an escape to the Homeland [even if it happens in my LA backyard with an illustrated Finnish history lesson] permits bridging both worlds and I cherish that opportunity.  Sharing the good, the bad, and the fabulous/ugly is what AROUND LA WITH AVA® seeks to do.  All things Finnish are celebrated wherever and whenever just ‘because’.

ALWA topics are catholic—history, culture, traditions, work, play, sight-seeing/sightings, local ‘hang-outs’, public/social service, travel, faith, food, people, LA/Finnish life, fun, events past and pending, politics, the history and the future of the world…whatever.  Whether you are an intellectual, a food critic or just one of us regular tasty food loving folks; a Strawberry Sweeper or a Mushroom Maniac or just one of us little observers sitting on a baking table; a ‘mover’ or just one of us ‘squiggly’ kids on the table in our ‘skivvies’, welcome to AROUND LA WITH AVA®.

We applaud those who learn how to make the Finnish Strawberry Fields Forever Whipped Cream Cake!  We love those who share their final product!

SWEET !

ANTTI WANTS TO SELL YOU A PIECE OF FINLAND

Antti Kosunen is selling small plots of land in Salla, the Finnish Lapland.

Antti Kosunen is selling small plots of land in Salla, the Finnish Lapland.

How would you like to own your little piece of Finland? Now almost anyone can. Antti Kosunen, 48, is an entrepreneur and a dreamer with an absolutely unique business idea: The father of five children is selling small parcels of land in the Finnish Lapland for 399 euros (543 dollars) a piece on the internet. Don’t worry about the paperwork – it’s all taken care of. And anyone can buy, but Kosunen targets his service mainly to ex-pat Finns.

Entrepreneur Antti Kosunen

Entrepreneur Antti Kosunen

Finntimes recently interviewed Antti Kosunen while he was on a trip in Thailand. This is how he describes the philosophy behind his idea:

-One should have a possibility to buy a dream – experience a place that you can visit every time you close your eyes. The most important thing is that it is something real – a place of your own that you can visit. This lot is yours – that’s the whole idea.

The name of his real estate business is Unelmaa.

-The word is a combination of a dream and land, Kosunen explains.

Antti Kosunen loves nature.

Antti Kosunen loves nature.

He is not new to business.

-I’m an entrepreneur. I have founded and the sold software companies. For the past ten years I’ve been a business angel. We also established our own fund two years ago. Currently I’m an investor investing in technology companies.

Marshland near Salla.

Marshland near Salla.

How did you come up with the idea for Unelmaa?

-It wasn’t really my idea. We are four guys – friends, and we all have an international background. We’ve been living in different places. I have lived in the United States and Asia.

-In the U.S. I lived a year in Silicon Valley in 2001-2002 and before that I was an exchange student in New York.

Antti Sihlman surveys the swampland in Salla.

Antti Sihlman surveys the swampland in Salla.

Kosunen and his business partners developed the idea together.

-The idea of having something permanent was something we were thinking about. There should be a possibility for people with Finnish heritage to have something by which they can show themselves and their families where their roots are.

543 bucks will buy you this piece of land.

543 bucks will buy you this piece of land.

-We decided to buy a big piece of land and divide it into a hundred square meter (1,076 square feet), parcels and sell them. That would give people a feeling that they are closer to nature and Finland and have something real.

Salla borders Russia in the Finnish Lapland.

Salla borders Russia in the Finnish Lapland.

Unelmaa Company’s land is located in Salla, Eastern Lapland, by the arctic circle and bordered by Russia. The vast municipality covers an area of 5,872.21 square kilometers (2,267.27 sq mi), but only has some 4,000 inhabitants. So, one is basically alone up there.

Salla is vast but sparsely populated.

Salla is vast but sparsely populated.

The partners started the endeavor a few months ago but haven’t marketed it yet. So far they have sold a couple of tiny parcels to friends. They have a capacity to sell a whopping 12 thousand lots!

-Frankly, we don’t know yet whether this is a business or a hobby. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Taiga - or northern forest in Salla.

Taiga – or northern forest in Salla.

What is going to happen to that land?

-It’s a piece of nature that stays there whether people visit the place or not. But we would recommend people to visit the land. Salla is a nice place. When you visit your land you form a bond with it. Somebody actually said he would like to place a plaque there – something that would be permanent. It should be a place that anybody could visit – have a cup of coffee, make a fire, camp for a day or just visit with a local guide and perhaps pick some berries on your own land.

A bird's nest in the forest.

A bird’s nest in the forest.

How does a person locate his or her particular parcel?

-With a GPS coordinator. We have been discussing with local people in Salla to provide different kinds of services for visitors – such as locating their parcel. Someone will take you there and help you set up camp, make fire, or have a glass of champagne – whatever you wish. And if there is an item – like a family heirloom – you wish to place on your property, we can also have that done.

Antti Kosunen mountain climbing in Finland.

Antti Kosunen mountain climbing in Finland.

Let’s say you are flying from the United States to Finland – how do you get to your property?

-You can fly from Helsinki to Kuusamo and take an hour bus or train ride that takes you to Salla. After a half an hour car trip and another half an hour walk and you are on your lot.

Summertime in Salla.

Summertime in Salla.

What kind of a connection do you have to Salla?

-I spent quite a bit of time hiking in Lapland as a kid. That’s where I get my warm memories of nature. I enjoy hiking and camping in the wilderness. I love to listen to silence.

What is the nature like there?

-It’s a forest and a swamp. There’s a lake next to it. And when I say forest, it doesn’t look like a forest in Southern Finland, the trees are smaller, but it’s a forest nevertheless.

Visitors can enjoy a lake view on their own land.

Visitors can enjoy a lake view on their own land.

What’s a good time to go there?

-Anytime is good. It’s always a very different experience. We acquired the land in the winter time when there was snow on the ground. At that time of the year you see reindeer and snow, hear nothing but silence, everything is white – it’s like a Santa Claus country. In the spring everything wakes up. I personally like the forest the best but foreigners seem to prefer the swamp.

In the fall you can see “ruska” – autumn colors as trees turn. In the dead of winter the sun never rises and in the summer there’s no night but you can experience the midnight sun.

Different seasons offer different treats in Salla.

Different seasons offer different treats in Salla.

-One of the most unique experiences there are the northern lights, aurora borealis or “revontulet” in the winter.

-We figure most of the lots would be sold to people with a Finnish heritage. Another group would be Asians – Chinese and Japanese, because Finland is exotic to them. And the idea of owning a piece of land is impossible in many countries. There’s mystique in it.

Kosunen might have just the gift idea for that uncle turning 50 or that aunt who already has everything.

-We are no longer collecting things – we don’t want stuff but on the other hand would like to have something permanent. We are hoping a piece of land would be that “something”.

013 UNELMAA

For more info go to: www.unelmaa.com

 

AROUND LA WITH AVA®: Manors and Manners

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

AROUND LA WITH AVA®: Manors and Manners

Most little girls go through their ‘Princess’ stage; pretending they live in a castle where everything is just as it should be.

Most little girls go through their ‘Princess’ stage; pretending they live in a castle where everything is just as it should be.

Most little girls go through their ‘Princess’ stage; pretending they live in a castle where everything is just as it should be.

Finnish Manors

There are lovely historic old Manor Houses in Finland –mostly in the southern areas.  The logic of location by population concentration is amplified by the unique historic evolutions of Finnish Church and State.  ‘Kings Road’, Lutheran/Swedish/Russian control…: our past is fascinating.  Some Manors remain as such; some are now restaurants, museums, and/or hotels.

Haikko Manor

Haikko Manor

One such Manor is less than 35 miles from Helsinki on the way to the beautiful, historic town of Porvoo right on the Gulf of Finland.  Haikko Manor now houses a hotel, conference center, and spa.  Haikko sits on breathtaking, seaside grounds.  Non-the-less, the crowning glory is the stately Manor House.

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Haikko Manor

Arriving at the renowned 5 Star Resort at Haikko is like coming “home” –returning to a familiar place of wonderful past, memorable times.  The long entry road that leads to the majestic circular driveway with the white Rolls Royce parked in front of a light blue Manor House is the stuff of dreams.

A sturdy, tall, bright white flagpole stands proudly sporting the Finnish Flag snapping and waving in the ever present breeze that comes from the sea just below.  A long, slow, deep breath is needed at this sight.  Yes, the blue in the Finnish flag and the blue in the Finnish sky are a perfect match—a fact, not the ‘stuff of dreams’!

 A long, slow, deep breath is needed at this sight

A long, slow, deep breath is needed at this sight.

Which Came First: The Manor or The Manners?

“To the Manor born…” is a commonly used phrase with uncertain origins and vernacular.  But, should it be to the “Manor” or to the “Manner”?  In many languages there are words that are spelled the same but mean something different in context; other words are spelled differently but are pronounced the same—and so goes the linguistic roulette!

Does the phrase refer to the English nobility vernacular about a stately mansion or to the effete, worldly, mannered/cultured people properly trained in etiquette and the social graces?

Haikon Kartano

Finland’s Haikon Kartano chooses “both” as the answer to the question pending.  Haikko is a stately mansion and grounds on the seaside coast with superb, exacting ‘white glove’ service and world class cuisine “…where everything is just as it should be”!

Haikko History

Only 50 km from Helsinki, Haikko is one of the oldest and best known Manor Houses in Finland.  Its history dates back to 1362 when the Manor was owned by the Dominican Monastery of Vyborg (Viipuri).  One of its subsequent owners hosted members of the Russian Imperial Family.  Finnish artist Albert Edelfelt was also a guest.  For 24 Summers Edelfelt painted in his nearby studio, just a short walk from the Manor.

After the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, Russian Grand Duke Kiril Vladimirovits fled to Finland.  When the exiled Grand Duke, his wife, and daughter were in town, they stayed at Haikko Manor.  Son Vladimir was born and christened before they moved on.  Vladimir would go on to be head of the Romanov family.

The Vuoristo family bought the Manor in 1965 and opened it as a hotel for the first time.  The spa, hotel, and conference center came later in the ‘70s and ‘80s.

Today, the old Manor House still brings guests back to the world of the Russian Imperial era of the Tsars and the Russian aristocracy.  The oval Yellow Room with paintings by Edelfelt remains a lovely spot to entertain visitors for high tea.  It is easy to conjure those days as you look past the terrace outside to the beautiful views of the Gulf of Finland and the Manor grounds.

[On my last Haikko visit, my Dad and I hosted a Finnish couple and their American traveling companions for a spot of tea.  Our guests were on their way to St. Petersburg with their Seattle visitors from The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  I hope we did not spoil the Hermitage for them!]

Back to “Both”

Having made the trip from the modern Finnish highway into the historic Manor grounds, I was warmly and graciously welcomed as an old friend would be.

Here in LA we call that initial interaction “checking in”.  As good as it feels, fantasy lasts only so long these days, so I did what I usually do after checking in to a hotel–I plopped on the bed in my room.  It felt good.  I felt good.  Life was good.

Haikon_Kartano

After a few good ‘ceiling’ moments, I remembered my room overlooked the sea!  I looked out through the treetops and realized that I had been removed from harsh civilization and had been transplanted into a Finnish forest!  What had felt good, got even better.

It is always fun to become familiar with the written materials, brochures, room service menu, and the like as you settle in to your temporary home.  As I perused the materials about Haikko Manor history, my mind was half a globe from San Diego.  Then, a photo of our beloved Southern California resident Armi Kuusela [the original Miss Universe from Finland] jumped off of the page and demanded my attention.  Ms. Kuusela was pictured with her husband Albert Williams in the late ‘70s.   Among other photos featured were Finnish President Urho Kekkonen laying the Haikko Spa’s headstone in 1973 and President Mauno Koivisto and his wife at a Haikko expansion ‘opening’ in 1983.  With such folks in residence, I am sure all guests and staff used their best Manners at the Manor!!

Of course, as a premier resort, Haikko rooms have premier amenities.

Of course, as a premier resort, Haikko rooms have premier amenities.

Of course, as a premier resort, Haikko rooms have premier amenities.  I was interested in something more mundane.  I turned on my television set when I remembered that I had not seen Finnish TV in years.  I found my fingers longing for channel surfing with the remote that is an everyday occurrence in LA.

Old Home Week

Literally, within the first hour of selective ‘surfing’, it was like old home week.  Seemingly with the press of a button, I could go from Porvoo to LA and back—with no evidence I had left!  Clicking channel to channel I found: my actress friend Anna Easteden with her new show; LA ‘wonder kid’ and friend Sauli Koskinen with his new show about ‘friends’; and long time friend Lasse Viren’s parents featured in retrospective interviews about their iconic son’s 4 Olympic Gold Medals and his more recent Parliamentary career—oh, incidentally, Lasse and Päivi had their wedding celebration at Haikko ‘back when’.

Clicking channel to channel I found my actress friend Anna Easteden with her new show..

Clicking channel to channel I found my actress friend Anna Easteden with her new show..

Still within that hour, a program on the TV Station featured Candy Spelling in her special series Selling Spelling Manor (Spellingin Kartano Myynnissä)–of all things.  It was like “It’s A Small World” overload hour.

Work Break

I was having way too much fun in my Haikko room—it was beginning to feel like a vacation!  So, it was time to plug in the laptop to get caught up on what was happening AROUND LA and elsewhere.  Checking e-mail is a pretty routine, almost rote activity in today’s world.  Not today.  Not the way things were going.

When my mail opened, there was a message from Anna Easteden.  She told me she was checking in from Zion National Park to say “HI” and tell me about her latest project.  As I read Anna’s e-mail from the US, I was watching that very project [hosting Wipeout] on Finnish TV.  Is this fun—or what???

Anna Easteden by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

Anna Easteden by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

It is such a pleasure to follow the careers of the young fun Finns in our City of Angels.  Anna Easteden has taken Hollywood by storm.  She was the MC at the FinnFest Gala in San Diego a few years ago.  Lively, lovely, and talented, Anna did a great job as Master of Ceremonies there and now is doing the same on an international TV show.  It was such a pleasure getting to know her and her husband Rob.  Following her life and career is a delight.

Next on my ‘tube’ watching agenda was Sauli Koskinen’s Finnish show about his ‘best friends’ in LA.  This ‘wind-up-toy’ of a show host is already ‘best friends’ or ‘hope-to-be-best-friends’ with all of us who have met him or who follow him on his Ilta Sanomat blog.  Since Sauli barely stops to take a breath, his Finnish audiences may come away with the idea that ‘best friending’—and everything else, happens quickly in LA.  [And, maybe it will once again once the 405 construction is finished!]

Sauli Koskinen

Sauli Koskinen

To complete the ‘friends in strange places’ circle of TV viewing, one more click and there were the Spellings: Candy and Tori.  It was somewhat surreal to be at a Finnish Manor watching people I have known since my sons’ childhood talk about selling their home in LA (always known locally as “The Manor”).  The Manor is—or was, the largest home in Los Angeles with the ultra-exclusive Los Angeles Country Club and its two golf courses in its ‘back yard’.

.. program on the TV Station featured Candy Spelling in her special series Selling Spelling Manor (Spellingin Kartano Myynnissä)–of all things.

A program on the TV Station featured Candy Spelling in her special series Selling Spelling Manor (Spellingin Kartano Myynnissä)–of all things.

Much of the current Spelling episode showed Candy making decisions on how to compress her living space into only two full floors at the top of a new skyscraper being built in Century City—look for the shiny new oval building near where the Finnish Consulate used to be, but south of what was the Century Plaza Hotel.  With Aaron’s death and Tori living with her husband and children somewhere on another TV channel, Candy felt it wise to consolidate her space into what is now known as the “Manor in the Sky”.

 Candy felt it wise to consolidate her space into what is now known as the “Manor in the Sky”.

Candy felt it wise to consolidate her space into what is now known as the “Manor in the Sky”.

It is always interesting to follow the lives of your children’s classmates.  I must admit that, even in my strange life, this is not usually the way it happens!  I laughed at my tie to fame: Tori’s mother and I shared a page on a school cookbook fund raising project.  Her recipe was for popovers, mine for muffins.

I laughed at my tie to fame: Tori’s mother and I shared a page on a school cookbook fund raising project.  Her recipe was for popovers, mine for muffins.

I laughed at my tie to fame: Tori’s mother and I shared a page on a school cookbook fund raising project. Her recipe was for popovers, mine for muffins (double click on picture above to view enlarge).

Haikko Pool and Spa

Meanwhile: LA is known for having the most beautiful and spectacular swimming pools.  Personal homes and hotels/resorts spare no expense to provide “…the best Poolside experience in the world” and they deliver ambience, service, …, and sunsets daily!  For example, after visiting the Playboy Mansion one of my neighbors from the Spelling schoolmate era fashioned their new pool as a replica of the famous “grotto” there.  [George Clooney’s aunt now swims in that purloined pool.]

For an AROUND LA girl to go to Finland and ‘go gaga’ over a swimming pool should take some doing, nes’t pas?

 The swimming pool at the Haikko Manor took my breath away.

The swimming pool at the Haikko Manor took my breath away.

Well, it happened.  But, it happened because the pool was so Finnish!  The swimming pool at the Haikko Manor took my breath away.  The pool is indoors for reasons that need no elaboration.  When you get into the Haikko Spa pool, you are instantly in the treetops of a birch forest facing the Bay. You are enveloped in water and are swept away by real currents.  There is no edge to the pool, so a moment of panic can set in before you realize that you are not going to be driven out to sea!  It is an infinity pool.  The heated water moves and caresses you like a newborn just out of the womb.  You feel like you are bobbing up and down in a Finnish lake in the Finnish forest while (at the same time) coming to life as a newborn Finn.  [Finnish technology being what it is, you can push a button and, violá, you have the ‘swoosh’ of waves—too bad my surfboard would not stow safely in the overhead compartment!]

The Haikko Spa is a real adult playground.

The Haikko Spa is a real adult playground.

The Haikko Spa is a real adult playground.  Since I was almost always by myself when at the pool, I could easily fantasize the Ronanov life—even if the Spa had not been built then.  Back and forth to/in and out of …the sauna and the hot tubs with varying temperatures.  There is even a  minus-110º C Cryonic Treatment—if you dare!

Take it from this LA insomniac, you will sleep like a newborn Finnish baby after a Haikko Spa visit!  If not, you can turn on your TV to see some ‘best friends’ from LA!

Treatment of Veterans

I was at Haikko Manor to accompany my Dad [as required by the Finnish government for him] to attend his “rehabilitation” (Kuntoutus).

 was at Haikko Manor to accompany my Dad [as required by the Finnish government for him] to attend his “rehabilitation” (Kuntoutus).   On behalf of a nation grateful to its sons and daughters who preserved Finnish freedom against the Russian attacks in The Winter War and The Continuation War, the Finnish government has hosted a fully paid* ten day Spa Retreat [several premier locations about the country] with physical therapy and other amenities for its War Veterans.

On behalf of a nation grateful to its sons and daughters who preserved Finnish freedom against the Russian attacks in The Winter War and The Continuation War, the Finnish government has hosted a fully paid* ten day Spa Retreat [several premier locations about the country] with physical therapy and other amenities for its War Veterans (Photo: Finnish war veteran Ari Antiila with daughter Ava)

On behalf of a nation grateful to its sons and daughters who preserved Finnish freedom against the Russian attacks in The Winter War and The Continuation War, the Finnish government has hosted a fully paid* ten day Spa Retreat [several premier locations about the country] with physical therapy and other amenities for its War Veterans.  This awesome benefit of gratitude has been offered for decades without great fanfare, as is the Finnish way.  I am writing about the grand benefit now because the special program is going away quietly as our heroes and heroines pass the age where travel is safe or beneficial.                                           [*For my Dad, not me!]

The Veterans at Haikko Manor

About a dozen Veterans were at the Manor as part of my Father’s group.  Most of the ‘crew’ were from local areas: Helsinki, Espoo, the lake regions … .  My Dad was the only one who made the trip from abroad.  The War Veterans were all in their late 80s.

About a dozen Veterans were at the Manor as part of my Father’s group.

About a dozen Veterans were at the Manor as part of my Father’s group.

The Conference Center/Hotel section was the center of Veteran activities with our properly pampered octogenarians shuffling about in ‘uniforms’ of slippers and terrycloth robes as they worked their way through a tough day of saunas, swims, massages, facials, pedicures, and other specialties of the Spa.  The mini-platoon moved en masse.   Breakfast and lunch were mere steps away from the Spa facilities which were mere steps away from the guest rooms when rest breaks were in order.  Conversations were as animated as Finnish men’s conversations get.  The volume tended to be loud—whether that was because of hearing issues or enthusiasm was not apparent.  There was always a friendly hum and a warm greeting for new friends and familiar staff.  The guys were having a really good time—buddies, one and all.

It was great to hear everyone’s stories; their recollections, their thoughts, and their perspectives.  Of course, their responses to my interrogation on their family traditions, on fishing techniques, and on preferred food preparation were eagerly absorbed and noted.  Most of the conversations I was privy to took place at the dinners at the Manor House dining room.

Manners at the Manor

Dinner at the beautiful Manor House in the exquisite main dining room was the highlight of the day.  The Veterans who were received promptly at 17:00 were always properly turned out in jackets and ties.  [While my Father and I were there promptly and never late, we were still the last ones to arrive—how can you be on time and be late/last?  I guess that is the American way.]  Other than Veterans’ family/aides such as me, no one else was in the dining room.  The white-gloved staff was there to respectfully serve these beloved War Veterans and Lottas.

Dinner at the beautiful Manor House in the exquisite main dining room was the highlight of the day.

Dinner at the beautiful Manor House in the exquisite main dining room was the highlight of the day.

Meals at the Manor proceeded with military precision.  Salad, Sir; main course, Sir; dessert, Sir.  Everyone evacuated as quickly as they had arrived.  No lingering to absorb the ambience or to dally in idle after dinner conversation.  The ‘crew’ was out of barracks and on protocol!

Retrospective

My parents had many memorable visits to Haikko through the years.  One year, the daily flag lowering ceremony was to be in honor of the gathering Veterans.  Apparently my late Mother who had a beautiful singing voice was the only one who showed up.  No matter!  Nothing was going to stop her Lotta spirit.  She started belting out Siniristilippumme with all her might.  Needless to say, she gathered quite an appreciative crowd in no time.  There was not a dry eye around that flagpole that night.  A national representative of the Lotta organization was there for that performance and made sure my Lotta mother was recognized and honored.

Lotta Raija Anttila

Lotta Raija Anttila

Seeing that flagpole each day of our last visit made me smile—and let a tear well up, as well.

The staff at Haikko is always welcoming and gracious.  But, somehow, I think they winked at each other in years past when they saw this cute elderly couple (my parents) arriving because they remembered them as the ones who kept regularly sliding out of bed onto the floor and calling for help.  My Mother said the sheets were slippery.  But, there may be more to the story than needs to be said here.

Things to Ponder

Cultural differences can be fun to observe and ponder.  I have written about and been a speaker on cross-cultural differences in customs, processes, and social/business practices.  It is a fascinating subject.   For example, consider this: one of the most remarkable—and significant, differences between the Finnish and American ways of doing things is “Arrival Time”.

Arrival Time Manners

Finns new to America and Americans going to Finland (business or social—matters not) take heed!

In a Finnish environment (social or business), people arrive early to be polite and to be ‘ready’ when the ‘doors’ open promptly on schedule.  Really early, by American practice.  It may be as a sign of respect for your host or the guest of honor; it may signal that you are happy to be there; or it may simply be because that is the way Finns do things.  Most Finns do not talk unless necessary—and, certainly not about anything they assume you know, or should know.  Consequently (and without instruction) plan to be ‘on location’ well ahead of the scheduled hour—do not be surprised to be in line waiting to ‘enter’ at the established hour.  Each event has its own ‘life cycle’ or timing—for now, just follow the lead of the natives.  Have no fear—they will know when to leave!

If you are invited to a Finnish home for dinner at a specific hour, you are expected to be prompt and you are usually escorted right to the table and served food.  But, that is another column for another day!

If you are invited to a Finnish home for dinner at a specific hour, you are expected to be prompt.

If you are invited to a Finnish home for dinner at a specific hour, you are expected to be prompt.

If you are invited to an American home for dinner—well, that is a horse of a different color.

There is quite a difference here in the United States, not just here in ‘laid-back’ LA.  The general ‘rule’ is that you arrive 15minutes later than the appointed hour—particularly for a dinner party.  This 15 minute ‘buffer’ is to give the hostess/host a little breathing time to get herself or himself ‘together’.  Do not expect dinner to be served until 1 to 1½ hours later.  [However, it is considered impolite to arrive after dinner has been served—particularly for a ‘sit down’ dinner.]

Americans like their ‘social’ aka cocktail hour.  Mixed drinks, wine, and hor’s doevres are usually served at a location other than the dinner table for this duration.  Back ‘when’, non-alcoholic libations required a special request—now, not so often.  Cocktails and socializing usually occur at a free flowing location that facilitates interaction and conversation.

Look carefully at what is being served. Once what I thought was a hot appetizer (bagna cauda) was actually a potpourri mixture of flower petals in perfumed oil with a flame under it to produce a nice aroma!  And, keep your shoes on during your visit—unless you see a stack of mixed leather at the door.  Usually Americans do not remove their shoes when entering a home.

Usually Americans do not remove their shoes when entering a home unless they have just stepped in “something”.

Usually Americans do not remove their shoes when entering a home.

Manners As “How”

Social Manners are just protocols showing kindness and proper respect for others.  (Hyvät tavat) Manners are the way we act, interact, and perform in specific situations—or should.  In a different day and in a different way, the ‘rules’ were clear and specific.  If you were not certain of the proper way to respond or act, you could actually look up the ‘rule’ in a book or ask an elder.  Manners were meant to shape a frame of mind receptive to civil interaction.  The ‘rules’—written and unwritten, defined a culture.  I guess they still do, but it is harder to be sure!  The base concept of kindness and proper respect for others has eroded, dimmed, disappeared, or otherwise become indefinable in a ‘by-the-numbers’ rule.  Does rudeness rule by default?  Can noblesse oblige survive in some fine form?

Manners and Veterans: Here and There

Finland’s remaining War Veterans are held niinkuin Herran kukkarossa (like in God’s wallet) and like Guests of Honor wherever and whenever they appear.  Because Finland is such a young country, many of us today are in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th generations of free Finns and we feel the recentness of our Independence.  Our history is part of how we think and feel as Finns since our parents, grandparents, and great grandparents ‘wrote’ Finland’s story with their blood and treasure.  Most Finns alive today know someone who was there when the bombs began to fall.  Our freedom is so recent that it can remain ever fresh in our minds.

Our local Finnish War Veterans and Lottas at the 80th Independence Day event (1997) PRR947

Our local Finnish War Veterans and Lottas at the 80th Independence Day event (1997)

AROUND LA WITH AVA® took me to the regular June meeting of the Southern California Finnish War Veterans club [Veteraani Tuki]Suomi Kerho opens its clubhouse to our Veterans, honoring them by giving them a home, a meeting place, a meal together, and even a movie in Finnish.  Our hearts are warmed by the Veterans presence even as their own memories of their valor fade.   Respecting them and thanking them is ongoing.  Future generations will read of their role in our lives—we are privileged to live with them and love them as family.

Gary Maisack with his mother Lotta Elma Maisack at the Veterans' Meeting on 6/11/14

Gary Maisack with his mother Lotta Elma Maisack at June meeting of the Southern California Finnish War Veterans club [Veteraani Tuki].

In the United States, Memorial Day is as sad as Thanksgiving is joyous.  Both share the distinction of being focused on gratitude—not “getting” things!  Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer in the United States.  In many parts of this country that get Finnish type winters, the month of May brings sufficient sun and warmth to permit the snow and ice to melt enough to let folks believe that summer and real warmth will arrive one day soon.

There is a National Cemetery near my home—like Arlington Cemetery in Virginia near Washington, DC, that is run by the Veterans Administration.  The Cemetery is on Sepulveda Boulevard just off of the 405, north of Wilshire and east of the massive Veterans Administration Hospital campus.

There is a National Cemetery near my home—like Arlington Cemetery in Virginia near Washington, DC, that is run by the Veterans Administration. The Cemetery is on Sepulveda Boulevard just off of the 405, north of Wilshire and east of the massive Veterans Administration Hospital campus.

On Memorial Day we follow proper flag Manners and fly our American flag on the 25’ flag pole in front of our house.  The flag is set at half staff until noon in memory of those who gave their lives—then, the flag is raised to full staff to fly proudly for the freedoms earned/preserved by those who served.  Such is the prescribed protocol.  Such is our practice.

There is a National Cemetery near my home—like Arlington Cemetery in Virginia near Washington, DC, that is run by the Veterans Administration.  The Cemetery is on Sepulveda Boulevard just off of the 405, north of Wilshire and east of the massive Veterans Administration Hospital campus.  Each grave of the thousands there is decorated with a flag placed by hand by Scouts who honor our passed American heroes each year.  I drive through the Cemetery as a personal moment of pause as we approach each Memorial Day.  Being inside the gates, with or without flags, creates reflection, awe, and honor.  It is quite inspiring.

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My dear friend, the late Greta Peck had that spirit of honor for the Veterans.  Though she was born in Finland, she “…grew where she was planted” here in our City of Angels.  Greta was truly a humble, though often secret angel.  For 50 years—over half a century, Greta drove from Beverly Hills to the Long Beach Veterans Hospital with sandwiches she had made herself; with magazines and books; with grooming products and special things she bought or made to hand out to the Veterans hospitalized there.   Wounded in body and mind, they knew Greta was their friend.  Greta’s spirit and smile were irresistible.  Most important to the Vets was the knowledge that Greta would be back next week and next week… .

My dear friend, the late Greta Peck had that spirit of honor for the Veterans.

My dear friend, the late Greta Peck had that spirit of honor for the Veterans.

Greta exemplified the perfect combination of committed American volunteer spirit and Finnish hard work, dignity, and humility.

Manors, Manners, or Both

YES

OTHERWORDS OR NOTEWORTHY

Liisa Niemi

We learned over Memorial Day weekend that Patrick Swayze’s widow, our Finnish Liisa Niemi, remarried.  Blessings, peace, and joy to Liisa and to her new husband.  He will soon know for himself what so many of you already know “…Happiness Is Being Married to a Finn”!

Blessings, peace, and joy to Liisa and to her new husband

Blessings, peace, and joy to Liisa and to her new husband

FACCLAFF Creatives Night

May 15th was a record setting heat wave of a night in our City of overheated Angels.  A networking event for the Creative Finns, Finlandia Foundation, and the Finnish American Chamber of Commerce was held in the garden at my home.

My philosophy generally (and for this night specifically) is that authentic Finnish home cooking brings out a spirit of bonding, cooperation, and fellowship whenever expatriate Finns assemble.

My philosophy generally (and for this night specifically) is that authentic Finnish home cooking brings out a spirit of bonding, cooperation, and fellowship whenever expatriate Finns assemble.

My philosophy generally (and for this night specifically) is that authentic Finnish home cooking brings out a spirit of bonding, cooperation, and fellowship whenever expatriate Finns assemble.  So many are so busy making their way in a challenging new world that they do not have time (even if they have the interest and resources) to pursue preparing our heritage cuisine.  Since I have that passion, I took the time because I thought it would be fun and a nice way to facilitate comfortable interaction and stimulate conversation.

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I should have checked the weather forecast before I volunteered to do the cooking!

I made gravlax, poached salmon, smoked whitefish with sauces, and various salads.  I made pea soup, cabbage rolls with lingonberry sauce, and individual meat pies.  There was a large dish of boiled New potatoes with dill, of course.  Desserts included: rhubarb crisp, fresh strawberries and blueberries, with a large mound of vanilla ice cream (a must on this hot night).

There was a large dish of boiled New potatoes with dill, of course.

There was a large dish of boiled New potatoes with dill, of course.

As the meeting hour approached, the temperature kept creeping up.  We were now into “triple digits”**.  An ‘ice run’ to Smart and Final was in order—for me, if not for the beverages that needed chilling.  A trunkful of ice and cases of Carlsberg were loaded up and brought home.

Despite my stated “Philosophy”, I quietly “deep sixed” [i.e., ‘buried’/eliminated] the hot and hearty pea soup from the menu.  On this night, even the most imaginative ‘creative’ could not conjure an image of us feeding the Finnish troops on skis in the winter.  The cabbage rolls and meat pies even seemed wrong for the season, but there was not enough time to re-do the menu—or my philosophy.  Usually LA nights are cool even on the hottest of days, but not this one.  It felt like we were in the tropics.

With enough ice and Carlsberg, the stoic Finns carried on.

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Let me tell you, there is something special about sitting under a two hundred fifty year old oak tree in LA on a warm summer evening sharing heart to heart with the likes of Niina Sallinen.

Let me tell you, there is something special about sitting under a two hundred fifty year old oak tree in LA on a warm summer evening sharing heart to heart with the likes of Niina Sallinen.  Having long been a big fan of Niina, it was fun to hear of her latest news.  She was in Macedonia for a One Person Show Award Ceremony recently.  I was able to give Niina personal congratulations and good wishes on her latest two Awards!

The event was designed to give locals and newcomers to LA an informal opportunity to meet and to spend a few enriching moments together.  Juulia Merisalo and Heidi Luukkonen are two new dynamos working at the Consulate who got to ‘meet and mingle’ with some of their interesting constituents.  Their boss, Consul General JP Markkanen shared his vision of teamwork in the Finnish community.  We toasted his efforts and service as a catalyst to bring us all together for a productive and pleasant evening.

[**Triple Digits means over 100º Fahrenheit = over 37º C.]

The Scandinavian Center Brown Bag Lunches

The Scandinavian Center at Cal Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, CA concluded its Spring Brown Bag Lunches on May 29th with Finnish Consul General Juha (JP) Markkanen speaking on “The State of the Finnish Economy”.   Quoting Fred Tonsig, he noted that the Finnish economy is “hot”; Finnish international trade is “hot”; innovation and invention in Finland are “hot”; the prospects for the future are “hot”; and the Finnish people are “hot”.  Certainly no one who had been in my garden for our earlier quiet assembly was going to argue with his assessment!

 The Scandinavian Center rounded up its Spring Brown Bag Lunches Finnish Consul General Juha (JP) Markkanen


The Scandinavian Center rounded up its Spring Brown Bag Lunches
with Juha P. Markkanen

Friends of Finland

Another great event was hosted by Consul General JP Markkanen for what he labeled the “Friends of Finland”.  The Consul General invited leaders of various organizations, journalists, artists and other creatives, business people and other professionals, our Lutheran pastor, and others to share their backgrounds, ideas, and visions in a brainstorming roundtable.  We liked being called Friends of Finland—and everyone felt that the time spent and the information shared were very worthwhile.  Our gratitude and thanks to the Consul General for bringing his spirit of cooperation to the community.

The Consul General invited leaders of various organizations, journalists, artists and other creatives, business people and other professionals, our Lutheran pastor, and others to share their backgrounds, ideas, and visions in a brainstorming roundtable.

The Consul General invited leaders of various organizations, journalists, artists and other creatives, business people and other professionals, our Lutheran pastor, and others to share their backgrounds, ideas, and visions in a brainstorming roundtable.

Spring Is Breaking Out All Over

You know it is Spring in Los Angeles when the jacaranda trees come alive with bursts of blue all over the city and the adorable hummingbirds are building their tiny nests on the most fragile of branches.

You know it is Spring in Los Angeles when the jacaranda trees come alive with bursts of blue all over the city and the adorable hummingbirds are building their tiny nests on the most fragile of branches.

You know it is Spring in Los Angeles when the jacaranda trees come alive with bursts of blue all over the city and the adorable hummingbirds are building their tiny nests on the most fragile of branches.  My garden path is a blue carpet of fallen blooms.  Three tiny, pea sized eggs sit in a golf ball sized nest waiting to come into their tiny lives in this wild, ruthless, gargantuan civilization called Los Angeles.  Good luck little ones!  I hope those pesky crows and neighborhood cats mind their Manners and do not invade your cute, munchkin Manor.

 Three tiny, pea sized eggs sit in a golf ball sized nest waiting to come into their tiny lives in this wild, ruthless, gargantuan civilization called Los Angeles.  Good luck little ones!

Three tiny, pea sized eggs sit in a golf ball sized nest waiting to come into their tiny lives in this wild, ruthless, gargantuan civilization called Los Angeles. Good luck little ones!

End Note

Southern California is a fabulous and fun place to be any time of year—even at 105º F.  Really stimulating things happen here, if you know where.  Seek them out.  Occasionally, Finns need a fix of fresh Finnish air, too.  Your scribe has lived, raised my family, and worked in Los Angeles for a lot of years.  Still, an escape to the Homeland permits bridging both worlds and I cherish that opportunity.  Sharing the good, the bad, and the fabulous/ugly is what AROUND LA WITH AVA® seeks to do.  Some of our friends even show up on TV.  All things Finnish are celebrated wherever and whenever just ‘because’.

ALWA topics are catholic—history, culture, traditions, work, play, sight-seeing/sightings, local ‘hang-outs’, public/social service, travel, faith, food, people, LA/desert/Finnish life, fun, events past and pending, politics, the future of the world…whatever.  Whether you are an intellectual, a TV celebrity or just one of us regular folks; a Manor Manner minder or just one of us observers; a ‘mover’ or just one of us ‘shakers’; a seasoned traveler or just one of us wide-eyed wanderers, welcome to AROUND LA WITH AVA®.  We applaud those who learn the Manners of the Manors you visit!

Ava Antilla

Ava Antilla

AROUND LA WITH AVA®: Flower Power

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

AROUND LA WITH AVA®: Flower Power

Coachella Bound

The road trip to the Concert venue was complete with psychedelic vans, “magic buses”, cars with signs, RVs side-by-side with stretch limousines –all caravanning out toward the desert for the Easter weekend session of the Coachella Music Festival.  It was like Berkeley and the days of Woodstock, all over again!!  Those were the days!!!

 It was like Berkeley and the days of Woodstock, all over again!!  Those were the days!!!

It was like Berkeley and the days of Woodstock, all over again!! Those were the days!!!

Just like the ‘good ole daze’, the road was crowded with vehicles filled to overflowing with bare-chested, tanned, excited young people with “Coachella” signs and painted slogans—someone’s adventurous progeny sharing rides for the big happening.  One car had painted a sketch of a snail and the labeling word “Slowchella” on its side*–an appropriate ‘moniker’ for the state of the traffic out to the desert in Coachella Valley!

* The reference was likely a recollection of last year’s notable art: a 30-foot-tall snail slowly slithering its way across a field. 

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…the road was crowded with vehicles filled to overflowing with bare-chested, tanned, excited young people with “Coachella” signs and painted slogans.

The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival [commonly known simply as ‘Coachella’] started in 1999.  Coachella takes place over two Spring weekends in Indio, California—near Palm Springs.  Continuous music (hip hop, rock, indie, …) takes place on several stages among sculpture installations in the midst of what was once a polo venue in the California desert.  It is one of the largest (and most profitable) music festivals in the United States.  Last year’s festival has been estimated to have made over $60 million.

Hot Rocks Rock Hard

Apparently this year’s Coachella tickets sold out immediately.  They ‘ went like hotcakes’ or niinkuin kuumille kiville (like onto hot rocks) even though ‘regular’ tickets cost $450 per person per weekend [the steerage level cost only $375]!   And, boy, were there hot rocks out there in that 100º+F heat even before they cranked the hot rocking music!

Actually, Coachella has become so ‘in’ that premium packages have begun to evolve in our ‘see and be seen’ society.

I was tempted to ask, rhetorically, how people can afford such steep admission rates in this ‘iffy’ California economy, but I remembered that we all choose our priorities, all fun has a price, and making decisions is part of growing up.  Actually, Coachella has become so ‘in’ that premium packages have begun to evolve in our ‘see and be seen’ society.  Oh well, it is a very well run, well publicized, and social media hyped event.

Who ‘s News/What ‘s New?

This year’s festival included Arcade Fire, Lorde, Outkast, The Replacements, Pharrel Williams, Beck, Queens of the Stone Age, Preservation Hall Band, and many others.  [Yes, the old ‘coots’ from Preservation Hall in New Orleans still kick jazz that rocks in the 21st Century!]

The security for such an event is cleverly designed and involves specially activated bracelets that are sent to you along with your ticket materials in a fancy, cigar box like container.  They know you are coming from a mile away—literally!

Crocheted tops, layered long skirts, and floppy sun hats are perfect for the 100º degree weather and seemed to abound

Crocheted tops, layered long skirts, and floppy sun hats are perfect for the 100º degree weather and seemed to abound

For the adventurous, camping and RV spots have been available on site for the last few years […show me the way to go home!].  Recent additions have included showers, charging stations, and free Internet/WiFi facilities.  At Woodstock, the only showers came from the sky—and left lots of mud behind!  No mud (but lots of sweat) in the desert.

Ambience and glamour seem to have taken over Coachella.  For those dropping in for VIP tents, lawn parties, and late-night mansion soirees seeking to be free of the “carpoolchella” sweat snarled traffic, a $1,500/30 minute flight on SurfAir provided roundtrip convenience.  Or, you could enjoy life in a $6,550 “safari” tent (for two) that includes concierge service [whatever that means].  The paparazzi are there to catch photos of ‘whatever’ as long as ‘whomever’ is in frame.  Some celebrities try to go incognito—some celebrities bring stylists along for preparing their Coachella wardrobes/styles that will be watched and copied as new ‘trends’.  [Doing both when the paparazzi are nearby is the new PR gimmick.]  Clothing companies are promoting their lines and their brands.  Crocheted tops, layered long skirts, and floppy sun hats are perfect for the 100º degree weather and seemed to abound.  It is clear that this has become America’s most glamorous Music Festival and a “must be seen” destination for Young Hollywood.

Sounds like next year’s “…sooo last year” to me!

Old School/New School

Jackknifed trucks, downed motorcycles, and the normal Friday get-away traffic were relatively painless for me since my Son was driving the family van with GPS traffic apps that he actually knows how to use, 4+ freeway lanes our way, and a rolling Cineplex showing Disney movies to the most precious human cargo—the little ones.  While he was sweating the details of idiot drivers, alternate routes, and fuel consumption, I stopped video watching long enough to produce a great charcuterie: bacon wrapped blue cheese stuffed dates matched with French cheese (Delice de Bourgogne) on Finn crisp, which I passed front from the back seat.  Except for the children wondering what the ‘funny smell’ was, the trip was quite pleasant even with a GPS suggested detour through Chino.  The Chino jaunt took us along surface roads lined with prisons on one side and cattle grazing behind their enclosures on the other side.

Was that smell cheese or Chino??  Or, were we just getting close to Coachella???

Splash Down

Jumping into a cool swimming pool at your destination is a nice punctuation point to a pleasant trip.  I so enjoy breathing in the lovely desert air—it feels so fresh and ‘light’.  Turning down the RPMs for several days makes the ‘voyage’ worthwhile.

 I so enjoy breathing in the lovely desert air—it feels so fresh and ‘light’.

I so enjoy breathing in the lovely desert air—it feels so fresh and ‘light’.

The Springs in Spring

An Easter family reunion with my younger generations happened at The Springs in Palm Desert this Spring.  I was the only Boomer around and did my best not to spoil everyone else’s fun with ‘been there/done that’ stories. Though I was daydreaming of the past… Flower Power rock concerts attended in the ‘60s and ‘70s: Jimi Hendrix, Iron Butterfly, the Rolling Stones, Glenn Yarborough, Sonny and Cher; in the ‘80s: Oingo Boingo, Poison, the Rolling Stones… . 

Spring is the perfect time to make a drive to the desert, or anywhere out of LA.  Spring flowers abound.  That is what Spring is all about.

The wildflowers put on quite a show.  Here, in our City of Angels, orange poppies (the California State Flower) are popping out of cracks in the sidewalk, as well as, exploding on the sides of the freeways.

The wildflowers put on quite a show. Here, in our City of Angels, orange poppies (the California State Flower) are popping out of cracks in the sidewalk, as well as, exploding on the sides of the freeways.

The wildflowers put on quite a show.  Here, in our City of Angels, orange poppies (the California State Flower) are popping out of cracks in the sidewalk, as well as, exploding on the sides of the freeways.  Even with California’s serious drought (and alleged lack of Seasons), Spring is here –and the flowers prove it!

Of Poppies and Flower Power…

Marimekko’s Unikko celebrates its 50th Anniversary.

Maija Isola’s iconic Unikko (poppy) print pattern dates to 1964.  This year is a big celebration.

Maija Isola’s iconic Unikko (poppy) print pattern dates to 1964. This year is a big celebration.

Maija Isola’s iconic Unikko (poppy) print pattern dates to 1964.  This year is a big celebration.

Probably every Finn has some item with the Unikko pattern.  Sometimes you cannot stop creative impetus—or “Flower Power”.  Apparently Armi Ratia (the founder of Marimekko in 1951) was adamant that there would never be a “floral” pattern in the Marimekko line.  Somehow, Maija Isola’s creative spirit won out –and, look where we are now!

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I ran into Tuula Markkanen, wife of the Finnish Consul General in Los Angeles carrying (wait for it…wait for it) a Unikko bag, of course!!

Morning coffee comes from a Unikko tin and is drunk from a Unikko cup set on a Unikko tablecloth poured from a Unikko pot held by a Unikko potholder before the day starts but after drying off from our shower with a Unikko towel which we store in a Unikko bag along with our cell phone in a Unikko pouch, next to our Unikko notebook, Unikko cosmetic bag, and Unikko eyeglass holder. Whew!!  I am out of breath and worn out—and that was just the first minutes of a Unikko day.

Apparently Armi Ratia (the founder of Marimekko in 1951) was adamant that there would never be a “floral” pattern in the Marimekko line.  Somehow, Maija Isola’s creative spirit won out –and, look where we are now!

Apparently Armi Ratia (the founder of Marimekko in 1951) was adamant that there would never be a “floral” pattern in the Marimekko line. Somehow, Maija Isola’s creative spirit won out –and, look where we are now!

As I was contemplating all of this glamorous history and composing the ‘clever’ construct, I went to the Post Office on Sunset and Barrington.  I ran into Tuula Markkanen, wife of the Finnish Consul General in Los Angeles carrying (wait for it…wait for it) a Unikko bag, of course!!

Consul General Markkanen had the Finnish American Chamber of Commerce Board for a business breakfast meeting at the Consular Residence recently. We were all inspired and delighted with the lovely Spring table that was set with the pink and green Unikko tablecloth.  Darn, I had the exact pattern in matching clogs I could have worn for the occasion!  There I was in my new Marimekko Converse ‘high tops’ that matched my outfit.  I doubt that the Consul General noticed, however.

Darn, I had the exact pattern in matching clogs I could have worn for the occasion!

Darn, I had the exact pattern in matching clogs I could have worn for the occasion!

So, Unikko is ubiquitous.  Don’t you find a smile on your face and feel a twinge of Finnish delight when you get a glimpse of that pattern while out and about anywhere in the world?  Someone else loves Finland too—whether they know it or not.

A Marimekko Flower Child Hosts A Global Cultural Event

My Berkeley classmate of ‘then’, Joanne Jackson (famous woman LA architect, ultimate Finnophile, and Marimekko fan) hosted an event featuring international scholar, Kalpana Sharma.  Ms. Sharma was in LA by special invitation to speak elsewhere on her decades of writing about women’s issues in South Asia.

My Berkeley classmate of ‘then’, Joanne Jackson (famous woman LA architect, ultimate Finnophile, and Marimekko fan) hosted an event featuring international scholar, Kalpana Sharma.

My Berkeley classmate of ‘then’, Joanne Jackson (famous woman LA architect, ultimate Finnophile, and Marimekko fan) hosted an event featuring international scholar, Kalpana Sharma.

Joanne’s home is her own beautiful architectural creation with an awesome view and a most interesting visual perspective of LA.  That magnificent setting was the scene of the event.  Joanne’s assembled friends responded with interest and enthusiasm to Professor Sharma’s presentation.  Her research and her vast experience as a reporter, columnist, and author of four books made for an informative session that offered perspective on current day India and its upcoming elections.  Ms. Sharma’s lifelong pursuit has been to advance the rights of India’s 500+ million women in a fast-changing society.  This world we live in is fascinating, indeed.

LA can be such fun and so stimulating.  Spending an evening in a beautiful home as the guest of the person who conceived and executed that beauty would be a great time for most anyone.  Add in interesting guests such as, for example, Freida Mock [an Oscar winning filmmaker, producer/screenwriter and co-founder of the American Film Foundation whose documentary on Anita Hill has just been in theaters] and other comparable talents who listen to, consider the work and thoughts of, and pose questions to a UC Berkeley Visiting [from India] Professor from their own perspective and you have to go home thinking: Wow, that was fascinating—can we do this again next week?

pending an evening in a beautiful home as the guest of the person who conceived and executed that beauty would be a great time for most anyone.

pending an evening in a beautiful home as the guest of the person who conceived and executed that beauty would be a great time for most anyone.

While I do not have the capacity to synthesize the evening’s dialogues, unequivocally I can say accept any such invitation you receive.  When the focus issue(s) is outside of your expertise, competence, or comfort zone, there is even more reason to be there.  I think we all benefit from an occasional reminder of how connected we all are globally –with our cultures and with the issues we face.  Our solutions are often disparate because our histories, cultures, and processes are disparate.  If we learn nothing else, we learn how important it is to be informed and to stay engaged.

What a wonderful, stimulating life we can live right here in Los Angeles!

THINGS TO PONDER CATEGORY

 ...who took the first bite of a lobster or a crayfish—and why?

…who took the first bite of a lobster or a crayfish—and why?

Did you ever wonder how the very first person decided ‘something’ was edible?  For example,  who took the first bite of a lobster or a crayfish—and why?  Dead, they become slimy and they smell.  Live, they are really hard, difficult to handle, and they bite back—really hard.

An Edible California Flower: The Artichoke

The same goes for the California artichoke.  Some who encounter this ‘armored flower’ for the first time (even now) wonder what to do with it.

Some who encounter this ‘armored flower’ for the first time (even now) wonder what to do with it.

Some who encounter this ‘armored flower’ for the first time (even now) wonder what to do with it.

When my family first moved to the Bay Area in Northern California as immigrants, some local people took us to Castroville, the “Artichoke Capital of the World”.  There we saw field upon field of tall bushes with strange looking green, spiky flowers.  As a kid from Finland, I did not ‘get’ what all the excitement was about.  Confusion reigned when ‘they’ talked about eating these strange ‘things’.  Then, when I was instructed that to eat one, you had to painstakingly remove each leaf individually and ‘scrape’ the bottom off with your teeth!  After all that hard work, you got to the inedible center with a dry, scratchy, hairy thistle inside that needed two handed surgery to remove.  [Not exactly a kid-friendly ‘happy meal’ prospect to this then 7 year old!]  It took several years before I warmed up to artichokes but, since then, I am fascinated by them.  Playing with artichokes can be rewarding if done properly.

When my family first moved to the Bay Area in Northern California as immigrants, some local people took us to Castroville, the “Artichoke Capital of the World”.

When my family first moved to the Bay Area in Northern California as immigrants, some local people took us to Castroville, the “Artichoke Capital of the World”.

When Springtime comes (and the ‘flower’ prices drop) cooking, serving, and eating artichokes is actually a treat.  Artichokes are a special California ‘delicacy’ that I often prepare for my Finnish visitors who stop in when they are exploring California.  [Yes, that delicacy descriptor is used intentionally, but cautiously!]

When Springtime comes (and the ‘flower’ prices drop) cooking, serving, and eating artichokes is actually a treat.

When Springtime comes (and the ‘flower’ prices drop) cooking, serving, and eating artichokes is actually a treat.

Once you know how to handle artichokes, there are some fun ways to serve them.  Begin with my secret to perfect artichokes:  just boil the heck out of them!  The rest is easy—and tasty.

Ava’s Way To Play With Artichokes

(aka: ‘Artichokes For Dummies’)

Preparing Artichokes for Boiling:

Pull off the little leaves on the stem and discard

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Cut off the stem (optional—keep stem if you are going to cut into quarters)

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Cut ¼ of top off of artichoke with a serrated knife.

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Trim tips (if desired) of the bottom leaf layers with a scissors
(This will keep the tip thorn from ‘biting’ the leaf remover during dining.)

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Put the artichokes in pot with water enough to cover

Add a sprinkle of garlic salt and the ‘squeeze’ of half a lemon

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Cover and boil for 40 minutes to 1 hour depending on the size

Artichokes are done when a skewer or toothpick (poked in the ‘bottom’) meets no resistance and/or a leaf pulls off easily

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Remove each choke from the water and cool upside down so the water can drain

If serving hot, keep covered with foil until serving time.  Serve individual artichokes with melted or browned butter (bagna cauda is also nice).  This makes a nice first course.  [Be sure to have a ‘used’ leaf collector dish (known in Finland as a risteiliä) available for the debris.]

For an appetizer [as featured in the photos on the yellow platter], place one artichoke on a serving plate and spread out the outer leaves gently. Remove and discard the light- colored leaves.  A hairy hockey puck-like ‘choke’ is left.

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Remove the remaining hairy center of the choke by pulling or cutting carefully with paring knife.

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Remove any ‘fuzz’ gently with a spoon.   Put a container of your favorite homemade dip near or even in the artichoke bottom.  [Tell your novice guests that to eat an artichoke you put dip on the bottom of the leaf (wide end) and pull that bottom section of the leaf (inside down) over your bottom teeth to scrape off the dip and ‘meat’ –discard the leaf and repeat as desired.]

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The artichoke “money-piece” is the remainder round bottom left after the leaves have been cleared.  Many consider this their reward for all of the work.  The heart can be cut into small pieces to be eaten with a fork and knife by itself or to enjoy the dip remaining.

Some Recommended Artichoke Dips

Mayonnaise, plain

Mayonnaise, with curry powder

Mayonnaise, with cumin

Mayonnaise, with lemon juice (add dill for a Finnish touch)

Note: In a future column I will share my fabulous, but easy artichoke

tree centerpiece I have been making for years.  It will be a fun project !

Vappu Party

LA Realtor Maria Rowe –a new addition to the Finnish American Chamber of Commerce Board, hosted a Vappu party on May 1 as is Finnish tradition.  Consul General and Mrs. Markkanen joined FACC Board members, new and old, for the festivities, the refreshments, and the good company of fellow Finns.  Fun was had by all!

LA Realtor Maria Rowe –a new addition to the Finnish American Chamber of Commerce Board, hosted a Vappu party on May 1 as is Finnish tradition.

LA Realtor Maria Rowe –a new addition to the Finnish American Chamber of Commerce Board, hosted a Vappu party on May 1 as is Finnish tradition.

It had been a long time since the FACC had a Vappu party.  This year’s celebration brought back memories of what had become an annual tradition of fun Finn times: Vappu at Greta Peck’s home, the California Yacht club, and even one at my home that was dubbed “Silli de Mayo” because the celebration day fell between May 1 and May 5 (Cinco de Mayo is the Mexican holiday celebrated enthusiastically by all in LA).  No, don’t worry, we did not serve herring tacos!

Those FACC Vappu parties were lots of fun.  We had homemade sima, makkara, song sheets, and a great sing-along!!

Thanks to Maria for ‘raking the coals’ and breathing some oxygen onto the embers of the memories.  Hopefully, the flames will burn brightly again in future years.

Pacific Council on International Policy

Proving that it takes stamina and a facile mind to thrive as a Diplomat in Los Angeles, Consul General Markkanen quickly shifted gears and led a delegation of local Finnish leaders to a major international policy event in downtown LA the very next day.

Proving that it takes stamina and a facile mind to thrive as a Diplomat in Los Angeles, Consul General Markkanen quickly shifted gears and led a delegation of local Finnish leaders to a major international policy event in downtown LA.

Proving that it takes stamina and a facile mind to thrive as a Diplomat in Los Angeles, Consul General Markkanen quickly shifted gears and led a delegation of local Finnish leaders to a major international policy event in downtown LA.

The exclusive California Club was a proper setting for what was billed as “A Conversation with The Honorable José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission”.  Barroso, the former Prime Minister of Portugal, who is serving his second consecutive term as President of the European Commission, spoke on TRANSATLANTIC TIES THAT BIND: Deepening EU-US Cooperation.  The Honorable Mickey Kantor, a former member of President Clinton’s cabinet as Secretary of Commerce, introduced the guest speaker and former United States Ambassador to Finland and to the European Union Rockwell Schnabel moderated the program’s lively question and answer session regarding the current European situation.  The large audience was populated by thought leaders and super stars from many local and worldwide endeavors.  With the Russian bear licking his chops in Eastern Europe, the titled Cooperation has major consequences for our Worlds.  Of course, the local Diplomatic Corps was out en force.

Driving home after such a thought provoking and informative event, I had a moment of flashback to a similar occasion 11 years ago when, as President of the Council of European American Chambers of Commerce, I had the honor to welcome then President of the EU Commission in Washington, Dr. Guenther Burghardt to an event we sponsored with the venerable Los Angeles World Affairs Council.  That was at the time the EU was beginning its rapid expansion and Dr. Burghardt’s presentation EU Enlargement: Confronting New Unknowns anticipated some of the possibilities that are today’s realities!

In the interceding decade, the Europe Union has blossomed; it has bloomed, evolved, matured, and survived a multitude of problems and issues.  Some were anticipated, some were not.  Some were easy, most were not.  Going forward will certainly not be challenge free.  Where the opportunity occurs to be witness to the movers and shakers as they anticipate problems and grapple with solutions, be there!  Connect the ‘dots’ between what you hear and what happens—it is fascinating.  And, know that the people who build the ‘roads’ from here to tomorrow are worthy warriors who often work out some of their most difficult challenges just so they are prepared to answer the questions they are afraid some member of their audience may ask!

I remember vividly having breakfast with former President of Finland, Tarja Halonen when she was Finland’s Foreign Minister and was in Los Angeles for a major policy speech to the World Affairs Council.

I remember vividly having breakfast with former President of Finland, Tarja Halonen when she was Finland’s Foreign Minister and was in Los Angeles for a major policy speech to the World Affairs Council.

I remember vividly having breakfast with former President of Finland, Tarja Halonen when she was Finland’s Foreign Minister and was in Los Angeles for a major policy speech to the World Affairs Council.  Our small morning ‘coffee clatch’ gave her the opportunity to try out responses to important questions involving Finland’s position on joining the EU and adopting the Euro.  Of course, she was exceptionally well prepared before she left Helsinki—after all, she was a major player in the formation of those positions.  Still, her response to one of our intimate group’s questions about the pending NATO participation requirement for full EU membership was telling.  First, she took a slow, deep breath and smiled.  After a pause and a fleeting glance at the ceiling, Minister Halonen bought time by declaring the question to be interesting, important, and difficult—given Finland’s vaunted Neutrality.  Without hesitation, but with clear indication that she was thinking of her answer as she was giving it, she smiled broadly and turned off any need for follow-ups with her answer.  A few hours later, after her fine speech to hundreds of ‘movers and shakers’ at the World Affairs Council luncheon, the same question was asked by an audience member.  Again without hesitation but with clarity of conviction and a twinkle in her eye, the future President of Finland, Halonen gave exactly the same answer she had formulated around the breakfast table—with exactly the same results!  Her breakfast audience had smiled approvingly—her luncheon audience roared with applause!  Just another fun day in LA.

Living in one of the world’s greatest cities, our own City of Angels, we are fortunate to draw such distinguished leaders to our stage for important discussions.  I cannot help but feel that seeds are planted at these occasions.  I have been present in the past as the ground was cleared and cultivated, the seeds planted and nurtured, and life cycles evolved into fine, if not perfect, products.  As complicated as the world is today, the process really does work over time!  So, while Juha (J.P.) Markkanen as Consul General has stated that foreign policy in not on his agenda, he has reaffirmed in his goals and theme of “cooperation”.  By fostering Finland’s active participation in events such as the Pacific Council on International Policy program building US and EU ties and by sustaining the relationships with highly visible friends of Finland such as Ambassador Schnabel, the Consul General practices a most effective form of foreign policy.  This Spring’s cultivation and seed planting is bound to ‘blossom’ ahead.   May a thousand Finnish flowers bloom from each seed planted here in LA!

I admire the ‘sowing’ effort, will help with the watering, and, hopefully, will be around to enjoy the blue and white blooms!!!

Stay tuned.  More beautiful things will happen.

End Note

Southern California is a fabulous and fun place to be any time of year.  Occasionally really stimulating things happen here, if you know where.  Seek them out.  Your scribe has lived, raised my family, and worked in Los Angeles for a lot of years.  Sharing the good, the bad, and the fabulous/ugly is what AROUND LA WITH AVA® seeks to do.  All things Finnish are celebrated just ‘because’.

ALWA topics are catholic—work, play, sight-seeing/sightings, local ‘hang-outs’, public/social service, travel, faith, food, people, LA/desert life, fun, events past and pending, history, politics, the future of the world…whatever.  Whether you are an intellectual, a celebrity or just one of us; a diplomat, a visitor or just one of us; a ‘mover’ or just one of us ‘shakers’; a planter or just one of us pickers welcome to AROUND LA WITH AVA®.  We applaud those who plough, plant, water, weed, and harvest ideas and actions that make our world a better place.  Grow where you are planted.  Keep on keeping on—but, do stop to smell the Unikko!  Better yet, take a sniff and carry the stem to the next person who invites you to a session where new ideas are explored!

Sharing the good, the bad, and the fabulous/ugly is what AROUND LA WITH AVA® seeks to do.

Sharing the good, the bad, and the fabulous/ugly is what AROUND LA WITH AVA® seeks to do.

 

WACKY, WONDERFUL INVENTIONS

REPORTER : TOMI HINKKANEN – SAN DIEGO

Last week 73 inventors from around the world  – including Finland – gathered at the annual Response Expo trade fair held at the Bayfront Hilton in San Diego to present their products to the marketing people. They hoped to get their innovations to the consumer market. Only one out of ten ideas succeeds.

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The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office receives over half a million patent applications a year. Approximately 300,000 are accepted.

Dephillia McClenon invented the toothbrush holder.

Dephillia McClenon invented the toothbrush holder.

Larry Moad invented the T-Bone Luggage Handle Extension – a suitcase handle extender.

-Many of the handles for carry-on luggage are short enough to cause lower back pain. Also, you have to turn your wrist around, so that your wrist is facing forward, which is not an ergonomic position. It can create muscle fatigue, carpal tunnel, arthritis, etc.

Inventer Larry Moad and his Larry Moad and his T-Bone Luggage Handle Extension

Inventor Larry Moad and his Larry Moad and his T-Bone Luggage Handle Extension

With his handle the bag is pulled like a garden hose. The idea came to him at an airport cafe.

-I was between flights. I had lower back pain, because I had walked this long concourse with my bag. I was in a café and watching all the people walk by. One guy who stood as tall as I, had a bag similar to mine with wheels. He was carrying it under his arm like a briefcase. I thought he is having the same problem as I. They just don’t make those handles long enough, I thought. Then I looked over to the cash line. There was an older woman who was waiting for her sandwich. Her handle was extended, but she was rubbing her forearm like she has discomfort from pulling her bag, the inventor recalls.

There and then Larry outlined the first draft of his invention on a napkin, then chopped it into pieces and put the cutting in two trash cans -  just in case.

-I got home, went to the closet, took out a wire hanger, pliers, tin foil, McGuyvered up my first T-Bone. I still have it.

Then the real work began. Over time he designed and finessed the handle, applied for a U.S. patent and hired an engineer to do a three-dimensional CAD drawing of it. That was used to make the mold and out of the mold the actual handles were produced at a workshop in Mission Viejo, California. The process took eight long years and tens of thousands of dollars.

-I have 950 T-Bones in the garage ready to go. Last year I sold 80 and this year 30 handles at a price of $16.95 a piece, Larry says.

He rented a table at the fair with $300 in hopes of finding a niche on the handle. He got lots of media publicity – like an appearance of the local Fox affiliate morning show.

Telebrands founder and CEO AJ Khubami invented the slogan " " as seen on TV."

Telebrands founder and CEO A.J. Khubami invented the slogan ” As seen on TV.”

Over the last 30 years Telebrands has sold hundreds of millions worth of products in a hundred countries around the world. They are impulse purchases, goods which the consumer does not even know they needed, such as the collapsing garden hoses and a three-legged walking canes. At the end of each Telebrands commercial the consumer is asked to call a phone number or to order the item online. This selling method is called direct response advertising.

A.J. Khubani founded Telebrands right after college in 1983. The company finds innovative products, manufactures, markets and distributes them in 100 countries world wide. Some of the recent Telebrands successes include the Trusty Cane and the Pocket Hose.

-People who have an invention can submit to . We have a staff of people who go through all the ideas, A.J. Khubani tells.

He is a dark-haired man with an air of a high-powered CEO.

-If we like anything, we offer them a license agreement. It’s like a book deal for an author. The inventor is like the author and we are the publisher. We never ask the inventor any money at all. We invest all the money. If the product is successful, we pay them a royalty. A.J. explains.

Only a few of the ideas will sell.

- I would say that 10 per cent of them have a chance, AJ knows.

Mercury Media CEO Dan Danielson examines Larry Moad's T-Bone Luggage Extension Handle.

Mercury Media CEO Dan Danielson examines Larry Moad’s T-Bone Luggage Extension Handle.

At any given time one can see 30 to 40 marketing company Mercury Media’s infomercials play on TV channels across America. The company is based in Santa Monica, CA with offices in Philadelphia, Chicago, New York and Boston

-We do media placement with direct response commercials and infomercials on TV. We get a lot of inventors knocking on our door – we probably talk to an inventor once a week, Mercury Media CEO Dan Danielson says.

His company builds an advertising campaign around the product.

-Some inventors have money, some don’t. So, we help them either to find money or with the resources we have, use their money wisely, create an infomercial, figure out what TV station to put it on, work with the telemarketers, credit card processing, creating a website and all the digital marketing that goes on as well.

Danielson’s main job is to decide whether an invention has commercial potential.

-That’s the biggest decision we have to make. It’s a very expensive business to get into. So, if it’s not a product that is suited for TV, we tell them to go do print, radio, internet, multi-level marketing. We direct them to another channel of marketing, if it doesn’t meet the basic criteria of TV.

In order to meet the demands of TV, the product must answer “yes” to the following questions:

-Does the product appeal to a mass audience?

-Does it have a good enough cost –selling margin?

-Has there been success in that genre?

If a product retails for $30 or less, Danielson will sell it with a 1-2 minute TV commercial. If  it’s more expensive than that, a half an hour infomercial is required. A commercial costs $100,000 and an infomercial $200,000 to make.

 

The Multi-Function Glove is for people, such as open market vendors, who want to be able to write down anything quickly. It combines a glove, a pen and a notepad.

The Multi-Function Glove is for people, such as open market vendors, who want to be able to write down anything quickly. It combines a glove, a pen and a notepad.

Director Jessica Delich from the United Inventors Association advises inventors to do their homework before investing their life savings to the invention.

- Make a Google Patents search to find out if someone else has already come up with the same product. Patent the invention. Do not fall in love with your idea, but ask people what would you change to make it even better. And do not ask for it from your mother, who thinks that everything you touch is as good as sliced ​​bread.

-A good invention has to solve a problem that a lot of people have – a common problem. So, that when you are running media on it, people relate to it immediately.

Inventors should check the United Inventors Association website www.uiausa.org for useful tips.

The Fly Swoop - captures flies without killing them. Once you vae caught them, you can release them back to the great outdoors.

The Fly Swoop – captures flies without killing them. Once you have caught them, you can release them back to the great outdoors.

And now to those other  inventions.

Raymond Thomas’ Trunk Savior enables you to hang grocery bags neatly in your car trunk.

Raymond Thomas’ Trunk Savior enables you to hang grocery bags neatly in your car trunk.

Raymond Thomas from New Jersey was trying to sell his invention, the Trunk Savior – a rack to hang your shopping bags in the car trunk. The idea came to him from his own life.

-My wife and I do fresh juicing – vegetables, fruits. They come in a lot of shopping bags. I have a sedan. When we put it in the trunk, by the time we get home, the potatoes and watermelons are all over the place, so you have to dive in the trunk to get them, Raymond explains.

The Trunk Savior installs in the ceiling of your trunk. The hooks bend behind as not to obstruct the trunk space.

Kathryne Walker's ComfyTape helps women with high heels.

Kathryne Walker’s ComfyTape helps women with high heels.

Kathryne Walker invented ComfyTape – an adhesive plastic strip that gets rid of the rubbing shoe pain.

-With my product you can wear your shoes and be comfortable all day. Bandaid is our worst competitor but it only works on the friction part and doesn’t take away the pain. Comfytape is clear and reusable – you get 4-8 uses out of it. It also works on different parts of the foot, Kathryne tells.

Hanger Station promises to keep your clothes on the door and off the floor.

-It’s for or wet, just ironed clothes, or when you are staging an outfit or packing or don’t have a closet. The product is a strip of plastic. Each strip holds 8 articles of clothing. You take off the adhesive tape and stick the strip over your door and you can hang hangers, inventor Mike Owens clarifies.

Wine maker Stephen Sublett from the British Columbia came up with the Ultimate Box Clip. The little plastic clips easily seal and subsequently open any cardboard box.

-One day I was bottling my wine at home and wanted to close the cardboard flaps. I got frustrated tugging the corners in and thought there’s gotta be a better solution. I pondered it for 15 minutes and came up with a simple design.

Christine Charpentier from the bayous of Louisiana became an inventor out of necessity.

-I have a daughter who got poison in her baby milk when she was five months old. She is 35 now. I still have a 160,000 dollar hospital bill left. I’ve been paying it off 100 dollars a month for all these years, Christine reveals.

She invented Microwave Pot Holders – cotton mittens that you can heat your microwave food without burning them. The secret is the material in between the layers, which Christine won’t reveal. She sells them for $20. That gets you a assortment of three pot holders in different sizes.

Andrew Yaros of Solana Beach, CA pitches Trio, his all-in-one toilet paper and personal hygiene wipes system.

Andrew Yaros of Solana Beach, CA pitches Trio, his all-in-one toilet paper and personal hygiene wipes system.

Andrew Yaros’ Trio is a combination of two bathroom fixtures. He is looking to get a retail licensing deal for his brainchild.

-It’s a toilet paper and disposable wipe dispenser. You put it in a regular toilet paper mount, Andrew explains.

However, you can’t just use any old wipes – only three companies make biodegradable wipes that you can flush down the toilet, one of them being the Finnish Suominen Company, whose wipes Yaros uses in his dispenser.

Ryo Masukawa presents CordRite - different size sleeves to organize cords.

Ryo Masukawa presents CordRite – different size sleeves to organize cords.

Ryo Masukawa introduced the CordRite – a sleeve to keep all your electric cords in order.

-I was looking at the mess of my cords. I wanted to make it safer for people so that they don’t trip over cords.

CordRite offers different size sleeves for different size cords. They proved to be useful and easy to install in test use. The product is available at Amazon.

Lunch Sense neatly packs your lunch in a small bag.

Lunch Sense neatly packs your lunch in a small bag.

Many inventors have tinkered with kitchen items. Lunch Sense organizes food items in plastic boxes that fit neatly in a cube-shaped box. Lid Gripper is a tool to open tight lids.

Handle It - provides a quick to install handle to any bottle.

Handle It – provides a quick to install handle to any bottle.

Handle It provides an easy-to-pour handle to any plastic bottle. Calendar Sponge relies on the idea that the sponge is the dirtiest thing in your kitchen and nobody knows when to change it. Experts agree it should be changed every month, so  the way to know when to change it is to write the name of each month to the side of the sponge. Thus a 12-pack covers your full year.

Norman Strohdach and the Cats of Thrones

Norman Strohdach and the Cats of Thrones

Norman Strohdach’s eureka moment was to invent Cats of Thrones – a $75 system to train your can to use a human toilet.

-It teaches a cat how to use a toilet in an average of 3-5 weeks. You start with a full litter box and gradually train the cat in the six step system. In the final stage you only have a seat for the cat – a small platform without sand, you don’t share the seat with the cat. We tested this on 1300 cats and we have 100% success rate, Norman beams.

Antti Leppäkorpi introduced his Stem Maid weed guard. You place it around a newly planted tree to prevent weeds from growing around it.

Antti Leppäkorpi introduced his StemMate weed guard. You place it around a newly planted tree to prevent weeds from growing around it.

Antti Leppäkorpi from Jyväskylä, Finland traveled all the way to San Diego to try to distribute his invention, the StemMate weed guard to the American market.

-StemMate prevents the growth of weeds or grass on the base of the tree. When you plant a tree, you put StemMate around the tree. When the tree grows, it will grow along with it and finally breaks down. It does not kill the tree, Antti says.

The product has been tested in cold and snowy Finnish winters. Antti is selling the StemMate for $20 a piece. You can order yours by writing to:

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS 2014: ADVANCE VOTING IN THE UNITED STATES

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS 2014: ADVANCE VOTING IN THE UNITED STATES

The European Parliamentary Elections will be held in Finland on May 25, 2014. The advance voting is arranged abroad between May 14 and May 17 2014, the exact dates vary in different polling stations.

Entitled to vote in the European Parliamentary Elections in Finland is:

  • Every Finnish citizen who will reach the age of 18 by May 25, 2014.
  • Every citizen of another Member State of the European Union, who will reach the age of 18 by May 25, 2014 and whose municipality of residence is in Finland.

Voters are required to present valid photo identification to the election officer. It is recommended to bring along the notice of the right to vote, but that is not a prerequisite.

Information about the advance polling stations in Finland and abroad and their opening hours are published at the elections website of the Ministry of Justice, www.vaalit.fi, and on www.finland.org website. More information about the elections can be obtained also from the Embassy in Washington (+1-202-298-5800), the Consulate General in New York (+1-212-750-4400) or the Consulate General in Los Angeles (+1 -310-203-9903).

The following advance polling stations will be open in the United States:

 

Washington D.C., Embassy of Finland

3301 Massachusetts Avenue N.W.
Washington D.C. 20008
Tel.  +1-202-298 5800
Open:
May 14-16, 2014 4pm-7pm
May 17, 2014 10am-2pm

________________________________________

New York, Consulate General of Finland

866 United Nations Plaza, suite 250
New York, NY 10016
Tel. +1-212-750 4400
Open:
May 14-16, 2014 1pm-7pm
May 17, 2014 10am-3pm

 ________________________________________

Los Angeles, Consulate General of Finland

Consulate General of Finland
11900 W Olympic Blvd, Suite 580
Los Angeles, CA 90064
Tel. +1-310-203 9903
Open:
May 14-15, 2014 12.30pm-3pm
May 16-17, 2014 10am-1pm

________________________________________

Denver (Highlands Ranch), Honorary Consulate

10197 S Stephen Place
Highlands Ranch, CO 80130
Tel. +1 303 3462502
Open:
May 16, 2014 5pm-8pm
May 17, 2014 9am-1pm

________________________________________

Ferndale, Polling station

(WECU) Whatcom Education Credit Union
5659 Barrett Rd
Ferndale WA 98248
Tel. +1 360 961 4000
Open:
May 17, 2014 9am-2pm

________________________________________

Honolulu, Honorary Consulate

Chateau Waikiki
411 Hobron Lane
(5th floor party room)
Honolulu, HI 96815
(door code ##352)
Tel. +1 808 943 2640
Open:
May 14, 2014 9am-1pm

________________________________________

Lake Worth, Honorary Consulate

523 Lake Avenue
Lake Worth, FL 33460
Tel. +1-561-582 2335
Open:
May 14-16, 2014 10am-5pm
May 17, 2014 10am-3pm

________________________________________

Portland, Polling station

Finlandia Sauna Products Inc.
14010-B SW72nd Avenue
Portland, OR, 97224-0088
Tel. +1 503 684 8289
Open:
May 16, 2014 12pm-8pm
May 17, 2014 9am-3pm

________________________________________

San Diego, Polling station

House of Finland
2212 Pan American Plaza
San Diego, CA 92101
Tel. +1 619 993 4436
Open:
May 17, 2014 9am-1pm

________________________________________

Seattle, Polling station

Living Hope Lutheran Church
Finnish School of Seattle
7305 208th Avenue Northeast
Redmond, WA 98053
Tel. +1 425 885 7320
Open:
May 17, 2014 9am-4pm

 

AROUND LA WITH AVA®: CREATIVITY

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Ava Anttila

AROUND LA WITH AVA®: CREATIVITY

The creative process is fascinating.

Who knows when and how that moment of vision clarity will trigger an avalanche of inspiration that translates into greatness and the sublime satisfaction of an idea fully, properly developed.

Is it a single vision, or is it a glimpse that launches a domino effect? Is it a thought, a sound, or a smell that starts the process—perhaps a memory?

criativw

While some have used the ‘thunderbolt’ as a symbolic ‘striker’, I have always associated ‘quiet’—peace as a prerequisite, with the creative process. Imaginative responses may be triggered by attack or impending doom, but grand ideas of consequence require contemplation.

Stress, interruptions, and ‘noise’ block creativity.

Los Angeles Unleashed

In our dear City of Angels, we are truly at the center of a creative universe—and have been for a long time. Visionaries and creatives have come here with their dreams, their talent, and their imagination. Some have found success—and their alter egos continue to come. Here, good ideas are welcomed from any source and the ‘creators’ are rewarded handsomely!!

holl11

LA has long been the ‘pot of gold’ for talent—and currently is the ‘gold standard’ for the arts, research, medicine, music, writers, entertainment, high tech industry, and anything fun.

LA has long been the ‘pot of gold’ for talent—and currently is the ‘gold standard’ for the arts, research, medicine, music, writers, entertainment, high tech industry, and anything fun. We have the most awesome temples of artistic greatness [Disney Hall and the Getty Center, to name just a few] and you can find the working locations of literary and artistic greatness in some of the lowliest and unassuming places imaginable [e.g., not too long ago my son got excited when he accidently found the ‘signed’, historic Bukowski house in a back alley – he was looking for a parking place on his way to see his Mummi in her (then) nursing home].

OK! New York, Chicago, and a few other places have edifices and back alleys too. But, our ‘gold’ includes the pleasant warmth of sunshine in the winter and the cooling Pacific breezes in the summer!

Peace, Quiet, … and Warmth

I think often of the Creative Finns who are here doing wonderful things, expressing their genius by creating art, music, theater, film, games, and the like. Things are so different here on the other side of the world. There are cultural differences that can cause loneliness, confusion, and homesickness even though adults are not supposed to admit to that. There is traffic, daylight, and the other irritations of everyday life in this new environment. It is easy to feel like “…a stranger in a strange land”.

 Some may attribute Finland’s success to a refined and homogeneous gene pool.  Some may even suggest that the harshness of the long winter’s nights and the utter boredom entailed lead to the ‘Angry’ Birds  and the macabre Finnish films that enter Hollywood film award derbies.

Some may attribute Finland’s success to a refined and homogeneous gene pool. Some may even suggest that the harshness of the long winter’s nights and the utter boredom entailed lead to the ‘Angry’ Birds and the macabre Finnish films that enter Hollywood film award derbies.

The World recognizes and celebrates Finnish creativity: art, architecture, music, textiles, education, science, technology, furniture, genetics, and, now, gaming. Some may attribute Finland’s success to a refined and homogeneous gene pool. Some may even suggest that the harshness of the long winter’s nights and the utter boredom entailed lead to the ‘Angry’ Birds and the macabre Finnish films that enter Hollywood film award derbies. Still others who have worn a Marimekko garment or who have watched Esa- Pekka Salonen conduct know that there must be some ‘sunshine and blue sky’ in that great land up north!

Still others who have worn a Marimekko garment or who have watched Esa- Pekka Salonen conduct know that there must be some ‘sunshine and blue sky’ in that great land up north!

“In the still of the night…” the creative juices can flow. With peace and quiet—and time to contemplate, the mind can examine the familiar anew. That, to me, is the genesis of the great Finnish creativity.

Go ‘Home’ Without Leaving Town

Sometimes when you are away, just a little slice reminiscent of home may cheer you up. A few scraps of ‘nothing’ or a familiar scent may provide the alchemy needed to reassure you that you have brought the best of your old world with you to this strange new land.

Sometimes when you are away, just a little slice reminiscent of home may cheer you up.

Sometimes when you are away, just a little slice reminiscent of home may cheer you up.

May I suggest making a loaf of bread.

Making a loaf of bread may not be a Golden Globe production or a Grammy worthy composition, but it does take beginning with a few scraps of nothing and following a simple path to a successful end result that is so satisfying. So what if your creation is not an Oscar winning film, a NY Times bestselling novel, a Pulitzer prize winning Internet column, or a quirky game that spies for the NSA and makes you a ‘kazillionaire’ to boot. You will have created something from nothing (well almost, except a few easily available ingredients). And, your creation will look good, smell like ‘home’, taste great, and make lots of friends –if you choose to share!

May I suggest making a loaf of bread.

May I suggest making a loaf of bread (Ava Anttila making Finnish sourdough rye bread for her father at Christmas)

So, by golly, when you are feeling down, when those crazy outside influences are setting up ‘road blocks’ to your success, or when you are just waiting for ‘things’ to come together, take a ‘time out’ and bake a loaf of rye bread! The bread-making process from beginning to end is great therapy.

The Zen of Motorcycle Maintenance

A simple act such as bread baking can unleash ‘writers’ block’ by providing a sense of accomplishment, a moment of joy, a diversion. Then, the taste of comfort (even if not the perfect re-creation of your Grandmother’s Finnish rye bread) can transport one’s memory and mind to another place. In my experience, the simple, seemingly insignificant everyday act or chore of yore can bring you a sense of transcendence.

A wonderful book I so enjoyed in the ‘70s, The Zen of Motorcycle Maintenance (by Robert M. Pirsig) often comes to mind.  You guessed it: the book was not about Zen Buddhism as a religion or accurate factoids about motorcycle parts per se.

A wonderful book I so enjoyed in the ‘70s, The Zen of Motorcycle Maintenance (by Robert M. Pirsig) often comes to mind. You guessed it: the book was not about Zen Buddhism as a religion or accurate factoids about motorcycle parts per se.

A wonderful book I so enjoyed in the ‘70s, The Zen of Motorcycle Maintenance (by Robert M. Pirsig) often comes to mind. You guessed it: the book was not about Zen Buddhism as a religion or accurate factoids about motorcycle parts per se. And, yes, I was at Berkeley ‘then’, but the ‘take-away’ from the book was the transcendence that a simple task can bring. [“Give us this day our daily bread…” has always meant someone had to bake it first—no supermarkets in Judea!] Isn’t it better to feel our spirituality in everyday tasks rather than feeling them as drudgery? This is about the “arki” everyday, i.e., finding your Finnish spirit in a simple act that is performed with such committed focus that the transformative power of the ordinary task provides you with the depth, vision, and clarity that sets you free.

“…Love The One You’re With”

Love The One You’re With [“When you can’t be with the one you love, honey, love the one you’re with…”] was a popular song by Crosby, Stills, and Nash decades ago (the ‘70s again). Before using the lyrics to make my point, I decided I had better look up the actual words just in case [I know someone will hit the Net or someone else will have a better memory than I].

Love The One You’re With  [“When you can’t be with the one you love, honey, love the one you’re with…”] was a popular song by Crosby, Stills, and Nash decades ago (the ‘70s again).

Love The One You’re With [“When you can’t be with the one you love, honey, love the one you’re with…”] was a popular song by Crosby, Stills, and Nash decades ago (the ‘70s again).

Oops!! Good check. It looks like the songwriter was talking more about sexual relationships and not what my innocent Pollyanna brain was telling me at that innocent time in my life.

Soooo:

Bloom Where You Are Planted

I certainly would not want anyone to feel that I advocate infidelity—nor do I want to be listed as “Also Named” in a “dissolution” action or a “Marvin” suit.

The phrase “Bloom Where You Are Planted” has always been a favorite, life affirming theme of mine. There is greater clarity of meaning, as well. The point I wish to make is: make the best of any situation in which you find yourself—make your life beautiful in the ‘world’ in which you are, wherever you are, or in whatever the circumstance you find yourself! [There is some Finnish Sisu in there too, I think.]

Whose taste buds do not remember salmiakki, Fazer chocolate, pulla, Karjalan Piirakkas, homemade licorice, or Alder smoked salmon the way they were/are in the old country?

Whose taste buds do not remember salmiakki, Fazer chocolate, pulla, Karjalan Piirakkas, homemade licorice, or Alder smoked salmon the way they were/are in the old country?

We Finns are perfectionists; we have high standards for ourselves and for each other; and we are not known for compromising. We like things just as we remember them. Whose taste buds do not remember salmiakki, Fazer chocolate, pulla, Karjalan Piirakkas, homemade licorice, or Alder smoked salmon the way they were/are in the old country?

Our minds celebrate the magnificent Finnish products and their flavors as we remember them. If we are lucky, our taste recollections are enhanced by the memory of the sights, sounds, and aromas that were created along with the ‘goodies’ we cherish! Some ‘hard core’ Finns –like my Dad, seek out sources where favorites can be ordered by Net, call, or mail. Of course, it is always nice when dear family and friends understand our ‘cravings’ and lovingly bring an object of our desire (some Reissumies, a loaf of Oululainen—or whatever) when they visit. Such simple gifts assure warm hospitality and fond memories of their visit! Eikö niin?

Of course, it is always nice when dear family and friends understand our ‘cravings’ and lovingly bring an object of our desire (some Reissumies, a loaf of Oululainen—or whatever) when they visit.  Such simple gifts assure warm hospitality and fond memories of their visit!  Eikö niin?

Of course, it is always nice when dear family and friends understand our ‘cravings’ and lovingly bring an object of our desire (some Reissumies, a loaf of Oululainen—or whatever) when they visit. Such simple gifts assure warm hospitality and fond memories of their visit! Eikö niin?

Bread

Finnish bread is known to be the healthiest and best in the world. That is a Truth you already know. But, I will try to tell you some things you may not know—and show you something you can do that you did not know you could do!

Finnish sourdough rye bread is a cult onto its own.  Most of us who learned to bake (or even eat) Finnish Sourdough Rye Bread [FSRB] are fanatics.

Finnish sourdough rye bread is a cult onto its own. Most of us who learned to bake (or even eat) Finnish Sourdough Rye Bread [FSRB] are fanatics.

Finnish sourdough rye bread is a cult onto its own. Most of us who learned to bake (or even eat) Finnish Sourdough Rye Bread [FSRB] are fanatics. To the purists, “hapanlimppu” (FSRB) defines our homeland. It must be made with no other flour than rye flour. The leavening must be a sourdough “starter”, not yeast. The most fortunate baker of bread is one who has a wood-burning oven (leivinuuni joulupukki, ole hyvä). [I have made it as far as a charcoal fired ceramic “Green Egg”—but, please, one day… .]

Fundamentals

Believe me, your author has been a FSRB Fanatic since childhood. Making FSRB has been a passion since I was a little kid. I played with ‘starters’ like a ‘lab rat’ using strange liquids acquired from grandmothers, aunts, village ladies with FSRB ‘reputations’–nursing the ‘starters’ along like a mad scientist as my life moved on.

Making the perfect Finnish sourdough rye bread became a quest once my family moved from Finland to the USA. My FSRB dedication was fueled by the recognition that what my dear Father missed most about Finland was the bread!

My FSRB dedication was fueled by the recognition that what my dear Father missed most about Finland was the bread!

Some years, FSRB was the only gift I could think of to give Isä as a gift for Christmas or his birthday. Never once did he complain! The smile on his face at first bite was my delight.

For decades now, I have read everything I could get my hands on regarding traditional FSRB methods. I have watched Finnish ladies in farmhouses and home kitchens—always eager and ready to learn the tiniest new detail of the craft. Each expert emphasized the importance of their ‘starter’—sometimes by the little they said about the importance of their magic elixir!

Frankly, some of my ‘starters’ have come and gone. A move here; a power failure there—no sense in taking a chance with food safety. My current official ‘starter’ is now safely tucked away in a secret location in the bowels of an extra refrigerator. Let’s hope we don’t have any long term power outages.

Even to the most dedicated FSRB fanatics, it seems ‘over the top’ to do as purists do in Stockholm where, for a price, there is actually a “hotel” (like a kennel for a dog or cat) where Swedes take their ‘starter’ for care and safekeeping when they travel!!

But hey, maybe this is a great new business idea. Here in LA we have pet sitters, house sitters—why not ‘starter’ sitters? Do you know where your bacterial culture is spending the weekend?!?

From The Ridiculous To The Sublime Without Slime

Regular readers of AROUND LA WITH AVA® already know that I like fun things. So, it will come as no surprise that I like to ‘play’ with food.

I have been taught by some mighty fine ‘aprons’ and I have learned a great deal from my own experiments and experiences. I have driven past the growing fields on my way to the mill in Vääksy where the farmers bring their harvested grain for grinding into the flour I use for baking. It’s that Zen, again!

I love to learn from the best. They always work hard, but make it look effortless. They know what they are doing—and they love doing it! There is pride in perfection. The real MASTERS rarely work from recipes, so don’t ask for one. Rather, observe the ‘methods’ they use; feel their understanding and reverence for their ingredients [they can see, feel, smell subtle differences in the various ‘grinds’ of rye flour and make adjustments for the terrior, the rain, or whatever]. ‘Notice’ anything ‘different’ that they do. They will appreciate you as a student.

Americans tend to be more ‘paint-by-the-numbers’ cooks, so some of my recipes and techniques have been published in various cookbooks. Preliminary discussions have begun on putting together my process cookbook –one day, maybe.

My fanatic FSRB quest has come from my Finnish heart –with quite good results. So, please don’t call me a ‘sellout’ for what follows. We will deal with the real hapanlimppu –the ‘true rye religion’ another time, I promise.

Look Ma, No …

Imagine I told you that you can make your own rye bread (or a reasonable facsimile thereof) in about an hour –and you don’t need a ‘starter’ (or even yeast) and you won’t get sticky hands. Would that ‘make your day’? Since we live near Hollywood, we get to ‘fake it’ every now and again.

This recipe came to me one day when making the crust for Karjalan piirakkas. That crust requires a rye flour/white flour blend. Then, I thought: “…since buttermilk is often a starter ingredient, let’s see what happens”. What happened was fun!

If you have never made a loaf of bread, this is for you!!

Even though I ‘chickened out’ earlier, you can call this: ‘Love the Loaf You’re With… Bread’. It is a quickie (—quick bread, that is). If you are a FSRB purist and fanatic, you may simply call it:

Blasphemy Bread

5 cups rye flour* [some ground up Finn Crisp* can be substituted for part of the flour]

3 cups white flour

1 ½ tablespoons salt

1 ½ tablespoons baking soda

1 quart buttermilk

Ingredients

Ingredients

Blend the dry ingredients together; pour in the buttermilk; stir with a fork.

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Once the mixture comes together as a dough, take half and form it into a rounded ball (or “limppu” shape) and place it on a baking stone or cookie sheet. [No need to “knead”!]

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Cut slits across the limppu top in a grid pattern about ½ inches deep to make a decorative surface

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With the tip of a knife [I use my favorite one with a Karelian burl birch handle made by a Japanese company], poke holes throughout the loaf all the way to the bottom to allow air to escape as the bread bakes.

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Bake the loaf in a preheated 350° F oven.

After about a half hour (when the top has risen and starting to brown), flip the loaf over for another 10 to 15 minutes.

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Allow to cool before slicing and serving.

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[This is the hardest part of this recipe! Kill time by baking the 2nd loaf, getting out the butter, slicing a little makkara,making coffee, or whatever you can think of doing to keep from burning your tongue. Sensual sniffing works well—and feeds the memory meter.]

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Enjoy the Zen of the bread baking experience.

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I hope you had fun! May the aromas of your bread baking hold you over until we get started on the real FSRB Rye Revolution –one day soon.

* Note: Rye flour used to be available in the ‘bins’ at Whole Foods. Now, look in the baking aisle. Also, rye flour is available online. Finn Crisp can be found in LA at most Cost Plus World Market stores and, always, at Vicente Foods in Brentwood (San Vicente @ Bundy). [Psst: Vicente Foods is always good for celebrity spotting –Elliott Gould dropped by the last time I was there.]

Happening Finns

Did you miss Vellamo? Shame on you!

In Finnish mythology, Vellamo is the goddess of the sea. In March, in the South Bay, Vellamo was the performing and songwriting team of Pia Leinonen [Lapland] and Joni Tiala [Kokkola] who have just released their 1st album. They write songs in English and Finnish—and, they perform traditional ballads from the Finnish, Celtic and Scandinavian folk traditions. Pia combines her love of Finnish folk music with the western story-centric, singer–songwriter tradition. Joni—the skilled guitarist, is also a founding member of the renowned Finnish progressive rock band, Moonwagon.

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The Vellamo Concert was such a delight. Friends of the Torrance Library brought this Finnish band for a performance before a nicely large audience. Hardly a spare seat was available. Most of the audience was local, non-Finnish/Nordic. The adults and children (including a few familiar faces) in the audience thoroughly enjoyed the music and the charming tongue in cheek humor of Pia, the female vocalist. The ensemble had the audience eating out of their hands. A bright, fun, engaging audience participation sing-along brought the program to a spirited conclusion. You know the program was a hit when the crowd is eager to meet the performers and to purchase their CDs.

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It is always fun to see the Della Roccas and the Covarrubias in the audience. But, the most delightful treat for me was to find the iconic Dr. Tuula Stark and her son seated quietly in the back of the Hall.

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Finland made some new friends that day. Old friends had fun, too.

LAFF

The following day, the Los Angeles Finlandia Foundation had its meeting. It was the annual St. Urho’s Day celebration: a unique American Finnish ‘made up’ holiday involving grapes and grasshoppers [Yup, from the ‘70s]. Conveniently, the party date was set for right about St. Patrick’s Day.

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About the same time, I happened to hear a feature on the radio where a bartender at St. Urho’s Pub in Helsinki was interviewed about the ‘occasion’. He confirmed that no particular celebration takes place at his establishment. Apparently, fake fun is had only on this side of the pond.

Hauli Huvila

The Hauli Huvila fundraiser was held at the Burbank Spa. The featured event was a sauna night which was appropriate since the proceeds were to go toward a new sauna at the Reedley,CA HV facility. It is wonderful to see that the renovations and improvements are going forward and that the fruits of these labors will serve and preserve the Finnish spirit for generations to come.

The Hauli Huvila fundraiser was held at the Burbank Spa.

The Hauli Huvila fundraiser was held at the Burbank Spa.

–30–

Several FSRB Back Stories

I marveled at how Ulla Saarela [the former wife of prior Consul General of Finland, Tapio Saarela] kept a beautiful wooden Finnish vessel on display in the kitchen at the Consul Residence. The vessel edges were proudly lined with remnants of previous rye bread batches. She told that the family ‘starter’ tradition had been kept that way for generations and that she used that ‘starter’ to make her bread.

And,

While, as you may imagine, there is great pride (and ‘some’ competition) among local FSRB bakers, the word was that Marjatta Coughlan made the “best ever” Finnish sourdough rye bread. [Many of you know Marjatta from her years of work at the Finnish Consulate. She is now retired—from the Consulate.]

I put in a request to watch the “best ever” in action. I wanted to see and learn from a ‘States-side’ FSRB fanatic in action. Marjatta graciously agreed. It took many years before we were able to get together, but the experience was worth the wait!

One day Marjatta invited me to her home on Bonnie Brae. That prime location near downtown LA was where many of the early Finns who came to Los Angeles and Hollywood first made their homes decades ago. It felt as if I were going back in time to a grand era where Finns had found their place in LA.

It was such a treat watching Marjatta at work. I was fascinated to observe her process, part of which involved a full 45 minutes of hand-kneading per loaf. All the while this tiny little lady was kneading, she had her large gray parrot, “Pepe”, on her shoulder! I wish I had brought my camera for that one! Actually, I should have interviewed Pepe to learn what ‘secrets’ Marjatta had kept ‘up her sleeves’.

End Note

Southern California is a fabulous and fun place to be any time of year. Your scribe has lived, raised my family, and worked in Los Angeles for a lot of years. Sharing the good, the bad, and the fabulous/ugly is what AROUND LA WITH AVA® seeks to do. All things Finnish are celebrated just ‘because’. If you ‘sniff the air’, you may learn why there are FSRB fanatics. Better yet, try making the Blasphemy Bread and get a local taste of Finland!! That may spark your Finnish creativity!!!

ALWA topics are catholic—work, play, sight-seeing/sightings, local ‘hang-outs’, public/social service, travel, faith, food, people, LA life, fun, events past and pending, history, …whatever. Sometimes we just have fun! Sometimes we even get to eat the mess we make!!

Welcome to AROUND LA WITH AVA®

AROUND LA WITH AVA®: And All That Jamzz

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

A Quiz:

What took place in Los Angeles on the recent three day Valentine’s/President’s Day weekend?

  1. The government shut down the  405 Freeway for 3 nights of construction naming the project Jamzilla.
  2. The University of Southern California Marching Band led a parade to a Downtown LA construction site to celebrate a concrete pour.
  3. The LA public transit system ran a Valentine Special rail car with heart decorations and official “facilitators” for citizens on a ‘rolling hook up’ speed dating event.
  4. A person was attacked by a runaway camel on a rampage in a quiet neighborhood.
  5. None of the above.
  6. All of the above. Just another wacky weekend in our City of Angels.  The answer is 6.

ON ONE LONG WEEKEND

This is what happened in Los Angeles around Valentine’s/President’s Day:

1        The 405 Freeway was totally shut down.  You would think that another weekend would have been preferable to one where thousands descend on our wonderful City of Angels for the cultural, social, and sports events scheduled to attract visitors ready for a long weekend of leisure, fun, and great weather.

The 405 Freeway was totally shut down.

The 405 Freeway was totally shut down.

Jamzilla [a sophomoric contraction of traffic jam and Godzilla, I suppose] was well publicized and came off without conflict.  Well… unless you were a ‘newbie’ trying to follow a ‘MapApp’ or a knowledgeable native’s directions to the PGA golf tournament at Riviera Country Club […405 to Sunset/west to Capri] or the key PAC 12 basketball game at UCLA […405 to Sunset/east to Pauley Pavilion parking].

Jamzilla Sympathy Sale in Manhattan beach.

Jamzilla Sympathy Sale in Manhattan beach.

2        Downtown LA featured a Guinness World Record Book ‘Concrete Pour Parade’ led by the USC Marching Band.  Pourzilla was LA Mayor Garcetti’s Twitter suggestion for memorializing the 20 hour concrete pour on the foundation for the $1 billion hotel that required 2,000 truckloads of cement to ‘fill’ the 18’ deep pit where the Wilshire Grand once stood.  Standzilla would have worked just as well because downtown LA traffic was put to a standstill to permit the Guinness World Record for the largest concrete pour in history.

Downtown LA featured a Guinness World Record Book ‘Concrete Pour Parade’ led by the USC Marching Band.

Downtown LA featured a Guinness World Record Book ‘Concrete Pour Parade’ led by the USC Marching Band.

Where else would pouring a building foundation become a ‘made-for-TV’ weekend long competition for the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremonies?

3        The METRO [our mass transit system; funded by tax dollars] decorated cars with hearts and promoted a Valentine’s “Speed Dating on the Red Line” special train schedule between Union Station and the North Hollywood Station.  “Metro staff wearing safety vests will be on board to facilitate the event.”

 [No, I don’t make this stuff up—the quote is from the ”How It Works” portion of their promotion!]


[No, I don’t make this stuff up—the quote is from the ”How It Works” portion of their promotion!]

[No, I don’t make this stuff up—the quote is from the How it Works portion of their promotion!  I did add the underline emphasis to safety vests, however.]

4      And, in the High Desert, a rampaging, runaway camel attacked a man.  The neighbor who owns the camel was not available for comment—and the ostrich was not talking.

A picture of the attacker

A picture of the attacker

Yes, God Winters in So Cal—and, He/She (Hän)  has a sense of humor!!

We need politicians with a sense of humor—or, at least, some imagination!

TALK ABOUT GOVERNMENT INTRUSION IN OUR LIVES

Every year in the beginning of the year, a new set of laws comes into effect.  Some of those in California—and nationally/internationally, are ‘head scratchers’!  Government seems to be getting more into the everyday lives and choices of individuals.  That is confusing, if not offensive.

I am not talking about NSA storing our telephone conversations for future reference because they assure us they won’t listen to them unless necessary.

I am not talking about NSA storing our telephone conversations for future reference because they assure us they won’t listen to them unless necessary.

I am not talking about NSA storing our telephone conversations for future reference because they assure us they won’t listen to them unless necessary.  Nor am I referring to the recent British admission that they have had to issue special warnings to staffers who review Social Media ‘images’ they pilfer from ‘thin air’—it seems the good but naive Brits capture their own racy acts and transmit them via Social Media to such an extent that reviewers could claim a ‘hostile work environment’.  So, there really is a difference between “1984” and 2014—HD with vivid color and instant re-play!

HIGH UNEMPLOYMENT/TAX REVENUE SHORTFALLS

Follow my confusion: After decades of quietly and enthusiastically collecting tax revenue from the “adult film” industry which also provided lots of direct and indirect ‘non-performance’ jobs, our politicians chose an extended period of high unemployment and economic Recession to legislate the use of “latex protection” in the films.  Result:  Last year the adult movie industry (a long time and big economic boon for the area centered in the San Fernando Valley) was chased off to Las Vegas because of the new “latex requirement”.  And, of course, “…what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”.

“…what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”.

“…what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”.

[The politicians did not take a moral stand against sin, they simply dictated how ‘sin’ was to be performed!]

LATEX LAWS EXTENDED

This year, the ‘law’ is about latex in the form of gloves.  All food handlers must now have latex coming between them and their craft.

All food handlers must now have latex between them and their craft.

All food handlers must now have latex between them and their craft.

The Sushi Chefs are particularly upset, saying they need to feel each grain of rice on their exquisite creations.  Most restaurateurs, as well as, much of the eating public feel washing hands is a more efficient germ foil.  “Wax On/Wax Off”…’Gloves On/Gloves Off’.  We know where our hands have been—who keeps track of those gloves?

No Pandemics had been experienced, so no Pandemics have been avoided.

Protests and appeals continue.

AND THE BEAT GOES ON

Finnish Events and Activities

The month started with Finnish Church services at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Santa Monica.  What a wonderful opportunity this assembly of Finns and friends has become to worship, to welcome new faces and ‘regulars’, and to refresh the goodness in our lives.

Many were in attendance at 1 p.m. on Super Bowl Sunday afternoon despite the 3:30 kick-off.

Many were in attendance at 1 p.m. on Super Bowl Sunday afternoon despite the 3:30 kick-off.

Many were in attendance at 1 p.m. on Super Bowl Sunday afternoon despite the 3:30 kick-off.  American football has been called a ‘religion’ onto itself.  Over one third of all US households tune in to the game—some to watch the outrageously expensive commercials [$4 million per 30 seconds!!], some to watch the game.  Football is a little violent for me, but the ads are usually worth the watch.

Fittingly, this day’s church focus was on love, not ‘war’.  Pastor Tarkki emphasized that Finnish Valentine’s Day is actually ‘Friendship Day’—rejoicing in friendships rather than being a romantic celebration.

Also, fittingly, the post-service gatherings have been a special time of friendship and fellowship for the local Finnish community.  Wonderfully skilled Finnish bakers/cooks proudly share their treats and talents with a wide range of age groups who come to church from near and far.  Nothing like a ‘finnishing’ Coffee to help Finns thoroughly enjoy these special Sundays.

Finnish Veterans

The Finnish War Veteran’s Group (Veteraani Tuki Ryhmä) met at Suomi Kerho on February 15th.  Their meeting was piggy-backed with the Suomi seniors.  All enjoyed a delicious lunch prepared by the vaunted Suomi Kerho ‘Ladies of the Kitchen’.  A movie was enjoyed by the whole group.   The film was a 2006 Finnish comedy Kalteva Torni [Leaning Tower (as in Pisa)] directed by Timo Koivusalo.

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All enjoyed a delicious lunch prepared by the vaunted Suomi Kerho ‘Ladies of the Kitchen’

All enjoyed a delicious lunch prepared by the vaunted Suomi Kerho ‘Ladies of the Kitchen’

Finnish Women and the Entertainment Scene

Nina Sallinen performed her magnificent Poor, Poor Lear on the Suomi Kerho stage on January 23rd.  Nina’s talent has been an ongoing source of pride for the Finnish community.

Nina Sallinen performed her magnificent Poor, Poor Lear.

Nina Sallinen performed her magnificent Poor, Poor Lear.

The first female Finnish filmmaker to be nominated for an Oscar as Director of a Short Film is Selma Vilhunen.  Ms. Vilhunen was in our fair city and at the Consular Residence with her screen writer Kirsikka Saari and her producer Elli Toivoniemi.


Selma Vilhunen’s short film ‘Do I have to take care of everything?’ is the second Finnish film ever to receive an Academy Award nomination.

Finnish ‘Football’ on Ice

The Winter Olympics brought us full circle from Super Bowl Sunday.

Hockey is a passion to Finns and Finnish Americans –much like football is to Americans.

Our little homeland beat men’s and women’s international hockey super powers.  And, even when the score was not favorable, the Lions and Lionesses performed with beauty, grace, skill, determination, and dignity!!!

Normally in sport, to the Gold goes the Glory.  At this Olympics, however, the Hockey Tournament’s Most Valuable Player was our own Teemu Selanne of the Bronze Medal Team Finland.  Even a week after the Olympic close, the LA Times put our guy’s performance in the headlines and went on to say “In Russia, Teemu Selanne was hockey’s hero.”

the Hockey Tournament’s Most Valuable Player was our own Teemu Selanne

the Hockey Tournament’s Most Valuable Player was our own Teemu Selanne

As I listened to the NBC Olympic commentators and as I read the press summaries wax poetic about the stamina and skill of our 43 year old playing on a much larger rink with much younger players—and out-playing them, it was clear this Finn is a great role model of sportsmanship who made us all proud and in a mood to celebrate.  But, that was something I already knew.

Back ‘in the day’ when the Finnish American Chamber of Commerce was the ‘go-to’ organization for Finns needing help in the western States, the Finnish Heart Association was looking for support in a US fund-raising effort.  Long story short, the local Finnish groups rallied for a grand event where Teemu and some of his friends showed up to help.  By help, I mean Teemu showed up with autographed hockey sticks, jerseys, pucks—and whatever, for auction.  He brought his guitar and, though Finnish modest, he played and sang like a professional for the enthralled audience.  Meanwhile, one of our regular volunteers was washing dishes in the back of the hall’s kitchen when another ‘guy’ asked where he could find a dish towel to dry.  When the washer looked up to point to the towels, there stood Jari Kurri with his sleeves already rolled up!  Teemu had brought some of his friends to ‘help out’.

One of our regular volunteers was washing dishes in the back of the hall’s kitchen when Jari Kurri  asked where he could find a dish towel to dry.

One of our regular volunteers was washing dishes in the back of the hall’s kitchen when Jari Kurri asked where he could find a dish towel to dry.

Needless-to-say, the event was a great success!!

OLYMPIC OSCARS

My life has been blessed in many ways.

High on the list are the friends I have made through the years.  The Oscars and Olympics have brought contact from two dear Finnish friends around Friendship Day.  Both are great people of accomplishment in their own right, but are better known to the world as the great women behind men of Finnish fame and greatness.  My friend Bitte is the wife of Oscar Winner [among many other things] Jörn Donner.  My friend Päivi is the wife of Olympic Gold Medal Winner [among many other things] Lasse Viren.

My friend Bitte is the wife of Oscar Winner [among many other things] Jörn Donner.

My friend Bitte is the wife of Oscar Winner [among many other things] Jörn Donner.

Great, loyal, lifelong friendships are indeed a blessing.  Over the years, events trigger a trail of recollections and connections that line up like dominos ready to lay down their fascinating pattern.

One example should suffice to illustrate the ‘6ºs of separation’ our lives permit.  Bitte is a journalist who sends me articles of interest regularly.  A recent receipt included a Helsingin Sanomat article about Markku Lähdesmäki, the award winning photographer.  Markku’s wife is Anne Kauranen.  Anne Kauranen and former Deputy Consul General in Los Angeles Anne Huhtamäki along with Bitte were instrumental in the founding of Suomi Koulu [the Finnish School] here.  Any recent reader of AROUND LA WITH AVA® will know the high regard in which I hold Mira Scott and Petra Kess who have done so much to make the Finnish Lutheran Church come to life in Santa Monica for the joy and betterment of all of us Finns.  Mira and Petra run Suomi Koulu in Los Angeles and Orange Counties.  ‘Dots’ connected—story told.  Simple.

Anne Lähdesmäki is printing out an image of Don Rickles, a subject of their recent ad campaign

Anne Lähdesmäki is printing out an image of Don Rickles, a subject of their recent ad campaign

BAGGIN’ IT

For those of us having experience shopping in Finnish grocery stores, you know you have to bring your Tori Kassit [shopping bag(s)] with you.  It has been a long time since anyone in a Finnish store asked you—or anyone, the familiar refrain from American stores: “…paper or plastic?”

No problem—insert a coin to get a grocery cart, bring the ‘take out’ bags in to the store, shop, bag and weigh/price your produce, unload the cart at the checkout, load your bags, return the cart to the ’cart line’ to get your coin ‘deposit’ back, and hope you get out of the parking lot before the person in the ‘check-out’ line behind you shows up to ask why you take so long to bag your goods.

I have felt the ‘pressure to perform’ in the check-out line as a ‘bagger’, but that pales against the pressure I feel trying to figure out what ‘bills’ to use—coins take longer.  I think I have finally figured out the ‘bottle deposit’ game—after all of these years.

 The City of Los Angeles joined Santa Monica and others in Los Angeles County in the ban when studies concluded that LA residents used and disposed of two billion single use plastic bags annually.

The City of Los Angeles joined Santa Monica and others in Los Angeles County in the ban when studies concluded that LA residents used and disposed of two billion single use plastic bags annually.

After a few shopping trips in the old country, I do start to feel like a ‘native’ again.

That given, why do I now still leave my empty grocery bags in the car whenever I go into a US supermarket?

After two months of the Los Angeles area bans on ‘single-use’ bags, I should be up to speed but am not. But, I am not alone.

Shoppers at most LA retail grocery stores now have to use their own reusable bags to carry out their purchases even though the ‘checkers’ still ‘bag’ your purchases—at least for now.  The City of Los Angeles joined Santa Monica and others in Los Angeles County in the ban when studies concluded that LA residents used and disposed of two billion single use plastic bags annually—more than 110,000 tons of junk to ensnare our birds, clog our drains, and forever line our dumps.

New solutions bring new problems, of course.  Without the endless supply of clean, single use bags, food safety has become an issue as consumers use and reuse bags that contain dirt, bacterial salmonella, and ecoli germs.  In our warm climate and our constant car culture, such environments can cause bacteria to multiply rapidly.  Educating the public to clean, sanitize, and safely discard their used bags is worthwhile.  Still, I am not ready for a ‘mandated’ semester course on Managing and Sanitizing Your Grocery Bag Inventory.

There are compulsives among us who are urging us to designate specific bags for meat, fish, veggies, and so on.  Of course, you are expected to wash the bags in soapy water after each shopping trip.  Following shopping, loading/unloading the car, and putting your groceries away, you are told to give your bags a bath!!

May I take those bags into the shower with me?  Must I wear latex gloves?

Hey Legislators:  There is a drought in this state!  Well, there was until this last whopper of a storm.

CONCLUSION

Last week I went into Hollywood for a party.  The pre-Oscar parties were in full swing as traffic came to a standstill on Sunset going east just where you hit the Sunset Strip.  I like Cynthia as a good alternate back road to get around traffic in that area—‘she’ did not disappoint.

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Oscar tent in Hollywood Blvd during storm before the Academy Awards

The giant Oscar statues were covered in clear “protection” plastic for the rain scheduled right up to Oscar Sunday evening.  Even though “…it never rains in Southern California”, “…when it rains, it pours”.

Even though “…it never rains in Southern California”, “…when it rains, it pours” (My party tent crushed by downed trees before the Oscars).

Even though “…it never rains in Southern California”, “…when it rains, it pours” (My party tent crushed by downed trees before the Oscars).

 

I wonder how many politicians considered claiming Stormageddon or Rainzilla would hit LA with a wallop and drafted an emergency ban on Manolo Blahniks and Jimmy Choos on the Red Carpet without rubbers (galoshes) protection?!?

End Note

Southern California is a fabulous and fun place to be any time of year.  Your scribe has lived, raised my family, and worked in Los Angeles for a lot of years.  Sharing the good, the bad, and the fabulous/ugly is what AROUND LA WITH AVA® seeks to do.  All things Finnish are celebrated just ‘because’.

ALWA topics are catholic—work, play, sight-seeing/sightings, local ‘hang-outs’, public/social service, travel, faith, food, people, LA life, fun, events past and pending, history, …whatever.  Sometimes we just have fun!

Welcome to AROUND LA WITH AVA®.

AROUND LA WITH AVA®: EARTH SHAKIN’—EGGS BREAKIN’

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

AROUND LA WITH AVA®: EARTH SHAKIN’—EGGS BREAKIN’

January 2014 in LA

Blink once; then, again.  Two decades gone –it seems like yesterday.

The date was January 17th 1994.  The location was my then house on The Strand in Manhattan Beach.  At around 4:31 AM, when the deep sleep is best just before the dawn, I was in the cozy embrace of a pleasant dream.  There is something special about sleeping by the ocean—the rhythmic rumble creates a strange stillness over the dark waves that is calming.  I was at peace in ‘never/never’ land.

Manhattan Beach homes on the Strand

Manhattan Beach homes on the Strand

THEN—the Pacific Ocean seemed to erupt in huge explosions, complete with sharp flashes of brilliant light!  Had the bombing started?  Was this World War III??  Was Manhattan Beach going to be the next Pearl Harbor???  My Dad watched the bombing of Helsinki.  Was his Daughter to witness the same here????  Was this my 1939 in the City of Angels?????  Would I become an Angel??????

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It is totally amazing to go from ZZZZZZ to such thoughts while your body is catapulting itself out of bed and into the pretend safety of the door frame to hold on for dear life.  Holy Shnikey, where are my shoes?  I need to find my children!

The human mind has capacities unexplored … .

Californians are so familiar with the ‘rock ‘n roll’ of earthquakes they do not get too excited about a simple ‘shaker’.  But, when the shuttering house started twisting with the timbers creaking and the sound of glass breaking all around, it was time to get excited!  We have been waiting for the “Big One”—this one felt like “it”.

When an old house at the beach built on a ‘bedrock’ of sand gets whacked with severe, heavy-duty jerking, good sense suggests that it is about to come crashing down at any minute.  Turns out, those seismic ‘shock waves’ travel rapidly through all sorts of terrain, but come to a jolting stop when they hit sand—sort of like the car crash tests insurance companies like to put into commercials to convince you to buy a car with lots of air bags.  Since the house had been built maybe 70 years before, it did not come equipped with air bags, but it had survived some serious quakes before.  Tough timbers—real plaster.  Saved from a disaster!

Back In The Saddle Again…

This was not my “first rodeo”.  I do not refer to the horse-bucking sport, nor to the shopping venue in Beverly Hills.  Earthquakes teach many lessons.  After one quake in the late ‘80s in my office downtown where bookcases came crashing down on my desk and the loss of electricity stopped elevators from functioning, I decided having a portable, battery operated radio would be a must.  You really do need to find out how bad things are and what actions to take, roads to avoid, and when the ‘all clear’ signal will sound.  [Mind you, all this was before anyone knew what a cell phone was, let alone carrying one—no instant ‘AP’s then.  Dial phones (transmission line powered) were the norm.  Or, if you were ‘outdoorsy’, you might have a set of limited range ‘walkie-talkies’.  Going down to the ocean front wall in the yard to watch the sunset in my high heels at the end of a long work day was about as ‘outdoorsy’ as it got for this career girl.]

On that January ’94 morning, 6.7 on the Richter Scale was the most violent ground motion recorded in what would ultimately be the most expensive ($20 billion—with a “B” ) earthquake in Los Angeles to date.  Still they say, the “Big One” waits its day!

What is called the “Northridge Earthquake” lasted only about 20 seconds.  Maybe that was the time lapse in Northridge, but it felt like 20 minutes in Manhattan Beach.  How could my head go from a down pillow to fighting falling down in a doorway with all of those thoughts—and more, running through my head.  Yes, the mind is amazing.

On that January ’94 morning, 6.7 on the Richter Scale was the most violent ground motion recorded in what would ultimately be the most expensive ($20 billion—with a “B” ) earthquake in Los Angeles to date

On that January ’94 morning, 6.7 on the Richter Scale was the most violent ground motion recorded in what would ultimately be the most expensive ($20 billion—with a “B” ) earthquake in Los Angeles to date

Though it was named the Northridge Earthquake, the devastation was all over our City of Angels.  The telephone transmission lines were down and the exploding transformers took care of any standard electricity powered equipment, so my battery powered portable radio was really good to have.

For those of you who were not here twenty years ago, a re-cap of what was happening at that moment may be instructive.  Freeways were crumbling; homes, apartments, and stores were collapsing; trains were derailing; fire engines were pinned under their own ‘homes’ while over 800 fires were reported starting.  Terrible devastation and crumbling buildings in Santa Monica, the collapse of the 10 Freeway in the Fairfax/La Cienega corridor, a CHP (California Highway Patrol) Motorcycle Officer racing to report for duty in the pre-dawn dark drives off of a Freeway overpass that was there when he came home the night before—and so it was.  [If it were not real, Hollywood would have been accused of exaggerating in creating this nightmare.]  In fact, in the real aftermath, 57 lay dead or dying with more than 9,000 trapped or injured.

The news was not good, but it was good to have the news.

No News Is Good News?

Flash forward:  It is now January 2014—a busy news cycle is upon us.  Stop the presses!  Critical developments need to be heard by all!!

The “Breaking News”: A notorious baby-faced teen scofflaw had been reported to have graduated from driving 40 MPH in his 20 MPH gated neighborhood to throwing eggs at a neighbor’s house.  No word yet on whether the projectiles were cooked or raw.  “Stay tuned.  Details at 11”.

Like a Humpty Dumpty behind a wall about to have a fall, the devilish little celebrity has been formally accused of “egging” his neighbor’s house.  As in the children’s nursery rhyme: “All the King’s horses and all the King’s men…” couldn’t put Justin in cuffs again.  But, in this ironical scenario, a dozen police officers arrived in an exclusive gated community and, based on evidence, secured and executed a search warrant on ‘star’ Justin Bieber’s home where they seized new evidence and arrested one of the Rock Kid’s friends for ‘public’ possession of a controlled substance [not eggs, so ‘it’ must have been in plain view!].

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Sometimes I think that the News writers are trying out for Comedy Central!  A dozen eggs—a dozen cops—two felony arrests.  I cannot help but wonder if the ‘Keystone Kops’ swept in to the crime scene in vans shaped like the Styrofoam egg cartons chain grocers favor.  I wonder what was on the mind of the Security Guard as the gate was opened for the major ‘invasion’?

The human mind has some capacities probably best unexplored … .

The egg ‘egg-travaganza’ was all the over the ‘news’ for weeks.  The harassed neighbor claimed $20,000 in damage to his home, thus raising the purported offense to a felony level and earning free-lance legal commentators nice TV guest appearance fees.  [Really??  Could $20,000 be an ‘eggs-ageration’???  If not, the neighbor’s housekeeper, gardener, and painter surely cannot complain about their attorneys’ hourly rate!]  Apparently the ‘Kops’ had a search warrant to look for evidence of the crime: empty egg cartons, omelet leftovers, brown or white egg shells in the trash perhaps??  This ‘eggs-travagant’ use of Police resources seems a little over-easy …I mean, over the top!

As ridiculous as the prior paragraphs are, the “news” is straight out of the “Bad Boy” Celebrity School of Headline Generation Handbook—and, the ‘noise’ is certainly cheaper than taking out full page ads in the LA Times or signing on for a Super Bowl ad.

The ‘next chapter’ was back to doing 60 MPH in a 30 MPH zone with Daddy Bieber blocking the cross street with a SUV so Sonny can get arrested without dying—or, so it seems.  But then, when in Hollywood is anything quite like it seems?

Forecast

They say Southern Cal has a 97% chance of being hit by a quake larger than the Northridge Earthquake in the next 30 years.  They keep saying the real Big One is coming—it is not “if”, but “when” they say.

Usually I ignore whatever “they” say.  Unfortunately, these “they”s are the smartest people in the World.  To work at Cal Tech [California Institute of Technology] rumor has it that even novice janitors must have at least PhDs from MIT!  Between big quakes when the red lights of the TV cameras are not blinking in their direction, these “they”s keep studying, analyzing, recording, and discovering supporting data confirming the same things.  “They” arrive at the same conclusions.  I believe these “they”s because they really know their ‘stuff’.

They say Southern Cal has a 97% chance of being hit by a quake larger than the Northridge Earthquake in the next 30 years.  They keep saying the real Big One is coming—it is not “if”, but “when” they say

They say Southern Cal has a 97% chance of being hit by a quake larger than the Northridge Earthquake in the next 30 years. They keep saying the real Big One is coming—it is not “if”, but “when” they say

So, expecting that the Big One will be upon [+ under, around, and beside] us one day or night when we least expect it, what will it feel like?  Our Cal Tech experts explain that each whole number on the Richter Scale marks a 10 x increase in quake magnitude.  Thus, a Magnitude 7 (considered big) is 100 times bigger than a Magnitude 5 (considered moderate).  [7 – 5 = 2; 10 x 10 = 100]

If Northridge At 6.7 Was Not The “Big One” …

Remember when I said the “official” Northridge Earthquake time lapse was 20 seconds but felt to me like 20 minutes that early AM in Manhattan Beach?  While Cal Tech does not do the arithmetic this way, my simple mind figures with a 1Richter ‘point’ increase, 20 seconds becomes over 3 minutes [20 x 10 = 200; 200/60 = whatever that equals, but it is over 3] which would feel like more than 3 hours of shaking.  Truth be told, I could probably handle a ‘real’ 3 minutes even if it seemed to last forever, but the multiplier refers to force, not time.  That is beyond my comprehension –or even contemplation!

So, What Happened Next in ‘94?

Anyone who has experienced a major earthquake (…or any other natural or man-made disaster), knows that the end does not come when the shakin’ is done.  After a few deep breaths and a mini-prayer of Thanks, the adrenalin recedes and a different shaking takes over.

If you are still standing, you collect your thoughts and composure enough to reach for the shoes and flashlight you know are [supposed to be] under the bed at all times.  You take stock of your immediate surroundings to determine whether there are imminent dangers or other urgencies requiring attention before taking your first steps into your newly shattered world.

I found the shoes quickly, but the flashlight had ‘moved itself’ to a nearby bookshelf.  At least it was close by.

Shoes on and light in hand, I began the necessary ‘sniff’ and ‘scan’ tests to determine whether there was fire, a gas leak, or other hazards that dictated an immediate survival response.  Only when that hurdle has been crossed do you even notice overtly the shambles surrounding you.  Losses/breakage of ‘things’ are noted somewhat abstractly as the ‘emergency checklist’ you never wrote out is traversed as properly progressive as possible under the circumstances.  Near the top of that list is finding the battery powered radio to get news reports that describe the facts of the moment—as best they are known.  Done.

The news was bad—frightening, to be frank.  Southern California was in shambles.  The infrastructure lay in ruin.  Our little corner of the world was a developing disaster and serious aftershocks were expected.  In other words, things were likely to get worse—and, better was not in sight.

Despite urgent Emergency System warnings to stay inside and off of the roads and sidewalks because of debris and downed power lines, a Mother’s “1st Responder” instinct propelled me to where my children had spent the night—at their Dad’s house a bit over a mile away.  With the power off, my garage door opener was worthless but I knew the ‘secret’ cord to pull to manually lift the heavy door.  Done.

The car started—and I had a full tank of gas.  First light was dawning so I did not have to rely on my headlights to spot the downed power poles or the high voltage wires they were supposed to support.  I decided to drive because of my panic-fed urgency, the distance, the danger—and because I could.  I figured I would drive as far as I could and walk from there.

Surprisingly, the trip was uneventful.  There was no traffic, period.  I breathed a huge sigh of relief as I made the final turn and saw that the newly built house was still standing and was not on fire.  The entry gate was electric, as were the intercom and the door bell.  With no electricity to call in on the intercom and no way to get past the iron gates to the front door to knock, I tried shouting my childrens’ names but the triple pane windows that were meant to keep the street sounds out did just that.

I retreated from the Mom’s Panic Mode when I realized that my ‘babies’ were inside a safe house that had survived the quake.  Actually, I learned later that both had slept right through the whole episode!

On the Road Again

A long recovery in the City of Angels left most of us thankful just to be alive.  Each time we make it through the experience of a serious earthquake or a wildfire we give Thanks and ‘book’ some more important lessons on preparedness.

New technology presents new opportunities—and new threats.  Even with a new, fully charged cell phone we may or may not be ahead in our Wi-Fi world when the “Big One” hits.  If cell phone ‘repeater’ towers go down or fiber optic lines are severed, we could be ‘off line’ for some time.  Additionally, our dependence on computers and the Internet for so many basic functions could bring horrendous problems.  Consider: Having a gas generator to power your computer and charge your cell phone will not help you get cash out of a ‘dead’ ATM.  Proper preparation requires that each of us consider how we will operate for 3 to 30 days without anything electric or electronic: —no Clouds—no Net—no nothing.

A Few Personal Hints*

Have a portable battery operated radio, a flashlight, and some hard soled/easy-on shoes under your bed and in your car. [Keep fresh batteries on hand at all times.]

Know how to shut off the gas and water to your house.  [Be sure to have any tools needed at the ready.]

Have an ample supply of candles and matches.  [Caution: Remember to thoroughly do the “sniff test” to check for any gas leaks before lighting up.  Mistakes can be fatal!]

Order medicine re-supplies so that you always have a reserve.  [While it is important to keep medications secure, be sure you can get to them when the roof falls in!]

Know how to open your garage door without electricity.  [Practice without your car in place so you know how it will work—no need to dent or scratch your vehicle now.]

Know how to use what is in your first aid kit (home and car) and/or add things you may need that you can handle.

Have a sharp knife (puukko) and a can opener that you know works [not electric].

Always have enough gas in your car to get you way out of town.

Have a wad of cash stashed.  [ATM/credit card machines will not be working.]

*  Get and follow LA City/County disaster supplies recommendations for water and canned goods for each person for more than several days.


An Early Warning System

There has always been talk of developing an early warning system for earthquakes.  So far that has not worked out, but progress is being made.

“Now scientists at Stanford University and MIT have figured out a way to use ocean waves to simulate the ground motion that occurs in real earthquakes…
The “virtual earthquake” technique is being used to better understand the effect of shaking…
When the “big one” hits, it could create shaking in Los Angeles that’s three times stronger than in surrounding areas…
Ocean waves create seismic waves billions of times weaker than the seismic waves produced by earthquakes.
Together, these waves are known as the ambient seismic field, but scientists have another word for it: noise.”
LA Times 1/27/14

A Finnish Early Warning System

The best earthquake warning system I have heard of was a cat—a Finnish cat, of course.

Pauli and Marja Uskali (former owners of Design Finland) credit their cat Misu for saving their lives during the Earthquake.  Misu’s insistent meowing woke them from a sound sleep and got them out of bed just before a very large armoire crashed onto their bed when the quake hit.  But for Misu, they would have been crushed where they lay.  The Uskalis’ home and store were near 3rd and Robertson in Beverly Hills—closer to Northridge than my Manhattan Beach home.

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Animals do seem to have a ‘sixth sense’ in predicting earthquakes.  Soooo, if you do not have a pet, get to know your neighbors—or, at least be nice to their dogs or cats.

Or, move to the beach and sleep with an ear to the sand!!

Shifting Gears

All this serious talk about natural and numbskull disasters reminds us that we must also occasionally switch gears, ponder our perseverance, chill, and –when all else fails, have a party!

After all, with January temperatures pushing 80º F, there is no Winter in our City of Angels.  This is the Season of Awards, Red Carpets, Film Festivals, Super Bowl Parties, and, of course,  Valentine’s Day.

This is the Season of Awards, Red Carpets, Film Festivals, Super Bowl Parties, and, of course, Valentine’s Day

When you come to a party at my house, you will almost always find gravlax and deviled eggs on the sideboard.  My newest version was inspired by this month’s egg breaking incident and researched with ever-present Finnish spirit.

Deviled eggs are always an ‘any party’ hit because they look nice, are tasty, are compact, are ‘hand held’, and they can be stuffed into your mouth ‘whole’ when that someone you wanted to avoid comes up to talk with you.  Besides, they make those cute little plates with ‘indents’ to hold—and show off, your Finnished product we are about to make together.

Rosolli is not just for Finnish Christmas anymore.  Last year I used it (finely minced on rye squares) for open-faced sandwiches that I took to the Finnish Lutheran Church for the after-Service social.  The new sandwiches seemed to be a hit with the congregation.

This dish is a pretty item to serve at a ladies luncheon, a bridal shower, a Valentine’s party, or even your Oscar bash.  It may be too ‘girlie’ in its pink incarnation for the Super Bowl party, but if the game is good/close or the commercials are provocative, the guys will never notice!  [Your excuse, if you need one, can be that the rosolli-type garnish makes it very Finnish.]

Deviled “Just(In)”Time Eggs

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Red Carpet Rosolli Eggs

1    Dozen Eggs

¼   Cup Mayonnaise

1    Tsp. Horseradish

2    Medium Sized Beets (roasted or canned); Minced Fine

2    Boiled Carrots; Minced Fine

1    Dill Pickle; Minced Fine.

Salt

White Pepper

Vinegar

Fresh Dill

Boil room temperature eggs to hard stage [about 15 minutes].  Plunge into cold water.  Peel.

Boil room temperature eggs to hard stage [about 15 minutes]. Plunge into cold water. Peel.

 

Boil room temperature eggs to hard stage [about 15 minutes].  Plunge into cold water.  Peel.

For ‘pink’ eggs: soak peeled eggs for several hours or overnight in a bath of beet liquid (drained from 2 cans of beets) and 1 tablespoon of vinegar.

For ‘pink’ eggs: soak peeled eggs for several hours or overnight in a bath of beet liquid (drained from 2 cans of beets) and 1 tablespoon of vinegar.

For ‘pink’ eggs: soak peeled eggs for several hours or overnight in a bath of beet liquid (drained from 2 cans of beets) and 1 tablespoon of vinegar.

Cut eggs in half length-wise and remove yolks.

Cut eggs in half length-wise and remove yolks.

Cut eggs in half length-wise and remove yolks.

Mix yolks with mayo, horseradish, and about a tablespoon of beet liquid –salt and white pepper to taste.

Fill egg white halves with the mixture.

Fill egg white halves with the mixture.

Fill egg white halves with the mixture.

Chop 1 tablespoon of the dill and mix with the minced beet, carrot, and pickle.

Chop 1 tablespoon of the dill and mix with the minced beet, carrot, and pickle.

Chop 1 tablespoon of the dill and mix with the minced beet, carrot, and pickle.

Artfully add the mix to the top of the deviled eggs.

Artfully add the mix to the top of the deviled eggs.

Artfully add the mix to the top of the deviled eggs.

Garnish the ‘mince mound’ of the filled eggs with fresh dill sprigs.

Garnish the ‘mince mound’ of the filled eggs with fresh dill sprigs.

Garnish the ‘mince mound’ of the filled eggs with fresh dill sprigs.

End Note

Southern California is a fabulous and fun place to be any time of year.  Occasionally bad things happen here, as elsewhere.  Your scribe has lived, raised my family, and worked in Los Angeles for a lot of years.  Sharing the good, the bad, and the fabulous/ugly is what AROUND LA WITH AVA® seeks to do.  All things Finnish are celebrated just ‘because’.

Ava Anttila

Ava Anttila

ALWA topics are catholic—work, play, sight-seeing/sightings, local ‘hang-outs’, public/social service, travel, faith, food, people, LA life, fun, events past and pending, history, …whatever.  Whether you are a celebrity or just one of us; a visitor or just one of us; a ‘mover’ or just one of us ‘shakers’ welcome to AROUND LA WITH AVA®—please proceed with ‘eggs-tra’ caution when the alert sounds and do your best to avoid ‘eggs-tra’ noise.

ALASKA DIARY

STORY AND PICTURES: TOMI HINKKANEN – ALASKA

Kenai Peninsula in Alaska has breathtakingly beautiful scenery

Kenai Peninsula in Southern Alaska offers breathtakingly beautiful vistas.

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 15TH, 2013

I am on a non-stop Alaska Airlines flight 157 from Los Angeles to Anchorage. Exciting! The estimated duration of the trip is 5 hours 45 minutes, but we start landing about a half an hour early at Ted Stevens International Airport. From the plane window I see snow-glazed mountain tops everywhere.

Snowy mountaintops near Anchorage.

Snowy mountaintops near Anchorage.

The weather is crystal clear as we touch down this state billed as the last frontier. There are stuffed animals – a bear and a buffalo – on display at the airport. Not in a million years would you see something that in the politically correct California.

Stuffed animals "greet" travelers at ted Stevens International Airport.

Stuffed animals “greet” travelers at Ted Stevens International Airport.

I march to the rental car counter. After refusing the obligatory sales pitch for insurance, I pull my luggage to a brand new red Toyota Corolla. This will be my sweet ride for the week. The weather outside is about 60 F / 15 C. Although it’s only September, it feels like October in Southern Finland (Anchorage is on the same latitude). I have an appointment in the southern outskirts of Anchorage to meet some local Finns at their club house. The streets are straight, wide and well-maintained. Suburban Anchorage looks like outskirts of any city in the U.S.

The scenery outside Anchorage looks nondescript.

I stop for a bite to eat at a fast food restaurant. It is about 4 pm and it looks like the sun is setting. I better get to my destination before it gets dark (As it turned out, the sun wouldn’t set for hours. At this time of the year, the sun in Alaska appears to be in a perpetual sunset position low on the horizon). The Finnish Hall looks exactly like dozens of others around the U.S. It could be a town hall somewhere in rural Finland. Birch trees in front of the building are starting to turn yellow. I park my Corolla and step in.

Alaska Finns have their own club house in Anchorage.

Alaska Finns have their own club house in Anchorage.

 

There are about a dozen people inside. Jyri and Riitta Larm are running a cleaning service. The are in their 40’s and have lived in Alaska for 20 years. As a result, their teenage kids don’t speak more than a few words of Finnish. The 70-somethings Seija and Matti Raja have braved the subarctic weather for the past 45 years now. Matti made his career in construction, Seija was a homemaker. Both are now retired. Tuomo Latva-Kiskola, 50, found a wife and career in Alaska. He is a physical therapist, who enjoys fishing and hunting in his spare time. The couple has three children and a beautiful house near a lake. Many of the Alaska Finns – there are said to be about a hundred in all – are from Western Finland. Oftentimes they first migrated to Canada and then found their way to Alaska. Many work or worked in honest-to-goodness blue collar jobs. Many felt they were somehow left behind in the Finnish system.

Inside the Finnish hall.

Inside the Finnish hall.

Winters here are awfully long and cold. One needs to keep oneself busy in order to maintain sanity in such harsh conditions. So people belong to church and different kinds of clubs. Anything to keep themselves occupied on those dark winter days. I am being escorted to my downtown Anchorage hotel by Ulla Rantalainen. More of this interesting woman later. Downtown Anchorage is ugly. There, I said it, but there is no other way to describe it.

Downtown Anchorage

Downtown Anchorage

One-way streets are lined with sterile 1970’s hotels and office towers. There is no street life. A massive 9.2 magnitude earthquake destroyed most of Anchorage back in 1964. After that, the city was quickly rebuilt with little thought for aesthetics. The city leaders ought to be ashamed of themselves! Everything quiets down at sunset and this city of 300,000 turns into a ghost town. My hotel is the Econo Inn on one of the main fares. It is a somewhat drab place that has seen its best days but it’s clean and hey, at 70 dollars a night, who’s complaining. Besides, I only intend to sleep in my room and it’s for two nights only. Since there’s nothing else but fast food places open, it’s a Big Mac meal for dinner. After watching the local news I call it a night.

Econo Inn in downtown Anchorage offers modest and cheap accommodation.

Econo Inn in downtown Anchorage offers modest and cheap accommodation.

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 16TH

This morning I have a date with Tuomo Latva-Kiskola, the physical therapist. He and his wife have a comfortable two storey house on the southern edge of Anchorage in the Sand Lake district.

Tuomo Latva-Kiskola in his yard. Tuomo enjoys fishing and hunting.

Tuomo Latva-Kiskola in his yard. Tuomo enjoys fishing and hunting.

Tuomo drives us to the lake where rich people have their houses at the water’s edge, complete with private seaplanes docked at the end of their piers, ready to take off at their owners’ pleasure at any time. In fact, other people are clearly uninvited to enjoy the lake. There are signs posted everywhere declaring it’s a private area.

Sand lake - the stomping ground of the Anchorage well-heeled crowd.

Sand Lake – the stomping ground of the Anchorage well-heeled crowd.

Only winter brings a little bit of equality to this affluent suburb. As the lake freezes over, the locals get to go ice skating and skiing on the lake. Anyway, by that time, most of the rich people have taken off on their planes to Florida or somewhere else for the winter. After I bid adieu to Tuomo, I stop at City Diner for lunch. At $16.95, the old-fashioned pot roast with mashed potatoes sounds a bit pricey but I decide on it anyway. After waiting for what seems like an eternity, my entrée is brought to me. It is delicious.  After lunch it’s time to explore the city. Not much to see in Anchorage, unless you’re into a mall or a museum. I find the charming little Elderberry Park at the end of the 5th Avenue. With a paper cup of hot coffee, I sit down at one of the park tables to write my assignment for that night, watching people walk their dogs and kids play at the playground. Another fast food dinner, TV and bed.

Tomi Hinkkanen in Eldenberry Park, Anchorage.

Tomi Hinkkanen in Elderberry Park, Anchorage.

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 17TH

I am up bright and early at 6.30 am, since I have a long drive ahead of me. I am heading to Denali National Park, some five hours to the north. It is the shoulder season, so regular tours of the park are not offered at this time of the year. However, I have reserved a five-hour bus tour with Aramark Company, still offering some of the last tours of the year. I check out of my hotel, since I have another accommodation for that night. It is freezing outside. The rowan trees on the parking lot are full of blood red berries. Old-time Finns know it means it’s going to be a cold, snowy winter.

Rowan trees are full of berries in Anchorage - a sure sign of an upcoming cold and snowy winter.

Rowan trees are full of berries in Anchorage – a sure sign of an upcoming cold and snowy winter.

I head north on Glenn Highway. It’s starting to drizzle. After about 20 minutes I pass Wasilla, a small town perhaps best known for its one-time mayor, Sarah Palin. I fill the tank – wouldn’t want to get stuck in the middle of nowhere with an empty tank. After about a half an hour, the four-lane highway turns into a two lane country road. There are very few cars anywhere. The fall colors are spectacular. As I get close to the park, I stop at a vista point to take a picture of the mountains.

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The tallest peak in the entire North America is here – Mount McKinley. Most days the park is overcast, but I think I manage to capture it before the clouds set in. The Denali National Park is huge – six million acres. That’s over 24,000 square kilometers, folks – larger than the state of Massachusetts. As I enter the park grounds, I feel the same vibe as the in the Stanley Kubrick horror film The Shining starring Jack Nicholson. There’s even a hotel on a mountainside (The Grande Denali Lodge), that looks like Overlook Hotel in the movie.

The Grande Denali Lodge can be seen on the mountainside.

The Grande Denali Lodge can be seen on the mountainside.

As it turns out, my comparison is not so far-fetched. I and about 25 others that are taking today’s tour are one of the last visitors to the park this season. After that, the tours end for the season, the visitors center, hotel (buu) and most activities shut down. Only a small skeleton crew remains over winter as caretakers.

Denali National Park visitors' center.

Denali National Park visitors’ center.

Tour guide Caroline welcomes our group gathered in the visitors center. We are given box lunches and onto the bus we step. Caroline doubles as a driver as well. With a headset on, she narrates through the five hour tour, talking about the flora and fauna of the park.

Denali bus tour takes you through the national park.

Denali bus tour takes you through the national park.

The mammals that make their home here include bears, moose and wolves. It is a tough place to live. The temperature hovers around the freezing point and it’s only mid September.

Fall foliage of Denali.

Fall foliage of Denali.

The fall colors in different shades of rust are mesmerizing. Twice we disembark the bus and take a little walking tour through the wilderness. At the end of the tour we spot a moose by the road. Cameras click as everyone jockeys to capture the animal on their memory cards.

Tourists view Denali's natural wonders from a vista point.

Tourists view Denali’s natural wonders from a vista point.

After the tour I thank and shake hands with Caroline, who has been such a knowledgeable guide. The shy woman doesn’t want to be photographed. Even though I had an inkling of Alaska’s vastness, it still took me somewhat by surprise. I booked myself a cabin for the three remaining nights in Cooper Landing, located in the Kenai Peninsula, 200 miles (320 km) away. And we are not talking about freeway miles either. The estimated travel time is six hours.

IMG_2230

As it turned out, at this time of the year the road construction workers are frantically trying to finish repaving roads before winter sets in. So, I had to wait about a half an hour in one spot before we motorists were let to proceed. I strike up a conversation with two fellows, who had been moose hunting. Their catch lay in pieces in the back of the guys’ pick-up truck. This topic is definitely out of my comfort zone.

Hunters and their catch in the back of their red pick-up.

Hunters and their catch in the back of their red pick-up.

Even though it is already pitch dark as I get to the Kenai Peninsula, I immediately realize I have come to a very special place. At 1.30 am I pull in the parking lot of the Kenai Drifter’s River Lodge in Cooper Landing, a township of some 300 residents. The manager kindly comes out to hand me the keys to my two storey cabin named after the late George Nelson, a game warden, hunter and trapper.

Kenai River Lodge sign at night.

Kenai Drifter’s River Lodge sign at night.

My cabin has all the comforts of home. On the first level there’s a bathroom with a shower, a kitchenette with a stove, microwave and a refrigerator and a living room area with a couch, table and chairs.

The cabin has all creature comforts.

The cabin has all creature comforts.

A sliding door leads to a balcony overlooking the Kenai River. I stock the fridge with food items I purchased on the way. After a hot shower and a snack I climb upstairs and fall asleep in my queen-sized bed.

My cabin  Jack Lean on grounds of the Kenai River Lodge.

My cabin on grounds of the Kenai Drifter’s River Lodge.

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 18TH

After yesterday’s long drive, I wake up late. I walk down the path to the green Kenai River flowing fast by. This is a prime area for fishermen. In fact, the Kenai Drifter’s River Lodge organizes fishing expeditions that leave early in the morning. One such trip has just concluded and the happy fishermen walk past me with their catch. I have a chat with one of the lodge maids – a California girl from San Diego. She has spent her first summer in Alaska and intends to stay over winter at another resort. The River Lodge will close in two weeks for the winter.

You can rent a cabin at Kenai River Lodge.

You can rent a cabin at Kenai Drifter’s River Lodge.

Later on I see many places that are already closed. To me it’s a plus. It is peaceful and serene. I feel far, far away from civilization and all its troubles. I take a little drive, keeping the radio turned off, take in the breathtakingly beautiful scenery – and take lots of pictures. The clouds hang low on mountainsides. At one moment it’s sunny, the next it rains. A perfect time to cuddle on the sofa with a good book and to just relax.

Kenai River

Kenai River

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 19TH

I am on my way to Seward, a town an hour and a half away from Cooper Landing on the southern tip of the peninsula. Again, I run into some road construction and have to wait, but no worries, I have all the time in the world. Seward was named after the Secretary of State William Seward, who negotiated the purchase of Alaska from Russia for 7 million dollars in 1867. Seward was ridiculed for this and the deal called “Seward’s Folly”. It goes down in history as possibly the best real estate deal ever and Seward himself as one of the best secretaries of state because of it..

Seward is located on tip of the Kenai Peninsula.

Seward is located on tip of the Kenai Peninsula.

But Seward the town is a small place of some 2600 people nestled in an inlet surrounded by snow-capped mountains. In the nearby small boat harbor there are fishing vessels and tour boats ready to take you for a ride. It’s time for lunch. I settle for Alaska Nellie’s Roadhouse – a modest-looking diner on the town’s main drag. As it turns out, a big mistake. Without thinking twice or looking at the price, I order fish and chips (after all, one should have a sea food meal here). The food is mediocre, but the bill is not – 27 dollars for the meal and a Coke! So, with a small tip that comes to 30 bucks! As I leave, in front of the restaurant I see the manager (Nellie herself, I presume), talking to a friend about her plans to winter in Florida (Yes, with money from suckers like me, I fume to myself). I walk around Seward. At summertime this is a touristy town and also the cruise ships stop here. So there are plenty of souvenir shops and restaurants to choose from.

Downtown Seward is small and touristy.

Downtown Seward is small and touristy.

At the waterfront I run into an interesting bearded man. He is working for Nokia’s Here Business, mapping the highways of Alaska. Here Maps is a similar service to Google Street View. The man says it takes him five weeks to map all Alaska highways. Once in a while he runs into a bit of trouble in his business. In certain neighborhoods people don’t appreciate their homes being photographed. Ironically, the resistance normally happens in either very wealthy or very poor neighborhoods.

This man is mapping Alaska highways for Nokia's Here Business.

This man is mapping Alaska highways for Nokia’s Here Business.

I have a date with Tuula Hollmén,  a professor at Alaska University and bird researcher at the Alaska Sea Life Center in Seward. The center is located in a foreboding-looking concrete building. My guess is it never won any architectural prices. The interior is more interesting. It contains everything you ever wanted to know about Alaskan sea life. Aquariums have different kinds of fish swimming about and there is a large pool for sea birds that the audience can see. Tuula Hollmén is a delightful woman in her 40’s. Like her subjects, she is tiny and bird-like herself. She has made a stellar scientific career researching sea life, sea birds and eiders in particular. I interview her for a newspaper story.

Bird researcher Tuula Hollmén sits outside Alaska Sea Life Center in Seward.

Bird researcher Tuula Hollmén sits outside Alaska Sea Life Center in Seward.

She is married to an American judge. They live in town. She has lived here for ten years and describes summers here as “cold Finnish summers” (Burrrr). The plus side is that since it is windy year round, at least there are no mosquitoes. Alaska is a bird researcher’s paradise.

Tuula Hollmén has carved out a career of researching birds in Alaska.

Tuula Hollmén has carved out a career of researching birds in Alaska.

Tuula can’t wait to embark on one of her bird expeditions that take her to all kinds of faraway places in this huge state. After saying goodbye to Tuula, I decide to take a long drive to the other side of the peninsula, to a town called Homer. After all, this is my last full day in Alaska.

The northern side of the Kenai Peninsula is sparsely populated.

The northern side of the Kenai Peninsula is sparsely populated.

My trip takes me virtually almost completely around the peninsula, the reason being that the road doesn’t go completely all the way around. The northern side of the Kenai Peninsula is even more sparsely populated than the south side. I drive miles and miles without seeing any human habitation, only scrawny small coniferous trees. Caroline at Denali National Park had told us those trees can be 200 years old but remain small due to the subarctic weather. I reach Homer at sunset and stop at a vista point to take this picture, which by the way is not altered or color enhanced in any way.

A view from Homer at dusk.

A view from Homer at dusk.

Next I head to the beach. There are some locals there, walking their dogs, but as it is getting dark, they too hurry to their cars. After my long drive, nature calls. There are plastic lavatories on the beach. I check into one of them. After finishing my business I try the door. It won’t open. I already envision the headlines: A man freezes to death in Alaska restroom. Is this the end for me, in a place that seems to be in the end of the world? Thank goodness, no. The door was just a little tricky. I get out safely.

Homer, Alaska seems like the most faraway place in the United States.

Homer, Alaska seems like the most faraway place in the United States.

Now I’m hungry. I drive aimlessly the streets of Homer, population 5,000, but everything seems to be closed. There are all kinds of houses of worship to satisfy any creed from Christian Scientists to Jehovah’s Witnesses but no place to eat. There is a roadhouse, but it looks kinda rough, and I don’t think I would fit in very well, so I pass. On the long trip back to my cabin I come to a town called Soldotna. By now it’s late and dark. I stop to ask a local man if there’s a restaurant nearby. He directs me to the Caribou Family Restaurant. There are only a handful of people in this cozy-looking place. I order a chicken dinner. It turns out to be the best meal of my entire Alaska trip. The satisfaction of a good meal washes away bad memories of Alaska Nellie and her outrageous prices. This dinner is half the price and ten times better. Again, I arrive at my cabin late and turn in.

This hungry voyager found a delicious meal at the Caribou Family Restaurant in Soldotna, Alaska.

This hungry voyager found a delicious meal at the Caribou Family Restaurant in Soldotna, Alaska.

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 20TH

The final day. After packing up I go to the office to thank the manager of the Kenai Drifter’s River Lodge. It turned out to be a wonderful place to stay at a very reasonable cost of 150 dollars a night. The nature around the cabins is beautiful, the sounds of the river soothing and everything is very peaceful. The management didn’t make a fuss but left me alone, which is exactly the way I prefer.

Kenai River Lodge offers a peaceful place to stay.

Kenai Drifter’s River Lodge offers a peaceful place to stay.

My final date is with Ulla Rasilainen. Her story is the most interesting of all the people I met in Alaska. Ulla started her career as a streetcar driver in Helsinki but yearned to be a pilot. At 25, Finnair said she was too old for their pilot training! So, Ulla moved to San Francisco and got her pilot’s license there by taking private lessons. After working as an entrepreneur and flying FedEx cargo planes, Ulla moved to Alaska and worked as a bush pilot, delivering people and supplies in small villages in Alaska. About a year ago she got a job as a medivac pilot with a company contracted by the Alaska Regional Hospital in Anchorage.

Captain Ulla Rasilainen at the helm of her plane.

Captain Ulla Rasilainen at the helm of her plane.

She rescues sick people from dangerous and faraway places and flies them to the hospital. We tour her twin turbo engine plane at a hangar in Ted Stevens Airport. It accommodates a crew of four and there are two sick beds in the passenger compartment. She has landed this plane in -50 degree temperatures and inclement weather, rescuing among others, elderly cruise ship passengers, who have broken a hip or suffered a heart attack. It takes a special person to do this kind of a job and Ulla is that person. I truly feel we became good friends.

Ulla on a mission in Sitka, Alaska. Photo courtesy Ulla Rasilainen.

Ulla on a mission in Sitka, Alaska. Photo courtesy Ulla Rasilainen.

Then it is time to head to the passenger side of the airport, turn in my car (no accidents, thank you), and fly back home after a marvelous trip. Looking through the plane window the icy mountain tops disappear into the distance, I say to myself: I will return to Alaska.

_DSF5301

AROUND LA WITH AVA: “…JUST RIGHT”

 

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

The Christmas Holidays: Not Too Hot; Not Too Cold; …Just Right

by Ava Anttila

The “flurry” around LA this month is not snow, but a whirlwind of activities that began the day after Thanksgiving and will end on January 6th –the Day of Epiphany.  That is the day most people here take down their Christmas decorations, including their trees. 

tree

The terms “holiday season” and “happy holidays” are used here in the US as a descriptor and as a greeting.  To those of us with European roots, they have an odd sound since “holiday” –to us, means “vacation”.  My ‘take’ is that we have mutated “Holy Day” meant for Worship to “time off” –“…and on the 7th day He rested.” 

Unfortunately, you rarely hear “Merry Christmas” as people try to be ‘politically correct’ toward those of other religions who do not celebrate Christmas.  Somehow, to me, it seems more respectful to understand, honor, and celebrate the differences in beliefs rather than to deny them.  But then, I am a Finn!  “On this day a Child was born…” 

Pikkujoulu

Pikkujoulu

We Finns are crazy about Christmas!  We get our Pikkujoulu on as early as we can.  I guess there are some advantages to ‘monotheology’!  Thank you, Martin Luther. 

Season Settings

This year, the Christmas season news has been all about the hot and the cold.  Super cold nights require outer garments and extra blankets for comfort, but daytime trips in the car require the air conditioning to be running.  Of course, my temporal reference is to Southern California where 65º F to 75º F is our ‘custom’—not to Minnesota where I almost spent this Christmas.  There, everyone is happy if the night or day temperature gets above 0º Fahrenheit, not Celsius! 

Minnesota snow

Minnesota snow

And, despite the cold, YLE News from Finland reported that this last November was the “hottest” in weather history! 

Heslsinki in November (2013)

Heslsinki in November (2013)

We did get to have our LA Thanksgiving Feast outside in the yard, despite earlier predictions of cold, wind, and rain.  A few days later, the most beautiful Christmas carols at the Finnish Church services brought tears to our eyes and our thoughts to our ‘still cool’ homeland.  Our minds began and our ‘tummies’ continued  the transition of Holidays as we all enjoyed delicious treats [prepared lovingly by Finnish community volunteers] in the downstairs Parish Hall of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church.

We did get to have our LA Thanksgiving Feast outside in the yard, despite earlier predictions of cold, wind, and rain

We did get to have our LA Thanksgiving Feast outside in the yard, despite earlier predictions of cold, wind, and rain

Holiday Traditions

Pasadena was already all set up with bleachers for the New Years Day Rose Parade as I hit town for my friend Mona’s Annual Christmas Luncheon at the stately Valley Hunt Club.  The historic Club is the originator of the Annual Rose Festival that includes both the Rose Parade and the Rose Bowl.  The Club’s beautiful décor and Christmas decorations make the perfect setting for a Christmas Season kick-off.   The program is always a truly inspirational way to get into the spirit of the holidays.  A live concert by the Citrus Valley College choir made it an ‘over the top’ experience.

Pasadena was already all set up with bleachers for the New Years Day Rose Parade as I hit town for my friend Mona’s Annual Christmas Luncheon at the stately Valley Hunt Club

Pasadena was already all set up with bleachers for the New Years Day Rose Parade as I hit town for my friend Mona’s Annual Christmas Luncheon at the stately Valley Hunt Club

As with most traditional events, mini-traditions evolve.  For as long as I can remember, Mona has given an early Christmas present of an elegant tree ornament as a ‘table gift’ to each of her many guests.  The Season got off to another perfect start. 

my friend Mona’s Annual Christmas Luncheon at the stately Valley Hunt Club.

For as long as I can remember, Mona has given an early Christmas present of an elegant tree ornament as a ‘table gift’ to each of her many guests

Just when you think it cannot get any better, it does.  This year, Mona herself received a special Christmas present.  Her first Grandchild [part Finnish] was born the very next day! 

The Club’s beautiful décor and Christmas decorations make the perfect setting for a Christmas Season kick-off.

The Club’s beautiful décor and Christmas decorations make the perfect setting for a Christmas Season kick-off.

Get There Early …Stay For The Fun

Suomi Kerho held its Annual Bake Sale and Christmas Dinner to a packed house.  The Hall looked Christmas lovely and was filled with Finns and friends having a wonderful time.  Everyone enjoys the delicious traditional foods served, but the Bake Sale sells out way too early! 

 Everyone enjoys the delicious traditional foods served, but the Bake Sale sells out way too early!

Everyone enjoys the delicious traditional foods served, but the Bake Sale sells out way too early!

Kids of all ages were excited to welcome Joulupukki [Santa Claus] who was introduced by lovely Mistress of Ceremonies, Liisa Linnala.  Liisa asked Santa how his trip to North Hollywood went.  Joulupukki happily reported coming from Korvatunturi [the North Pole] via Finnair and was really enjoying the warm California climate.

Kids of all ages were excited to welcome Joulupukki [Santa Claus] who was introduced by lovely Mistress of Ceremonies, Liisa Linnala.

Kids of all ages were excited to welcome Joulupukki [Santa Claus] who was introduced by lovely Mistress of Ceremonies, Liisa Linnala.

EASAC Turns 10!!

The European American Sheriff’s Advisory Council celebrated its 10th Anniversary at the Annual Holiday Luncheon held at Sheriff’s Headquarters in Monterey Park

The European American Sheriff’s Advisory Council celebrated its 10th Anniversary at the Annual Holiday Luncheon held at Sheriff’s Headquarters in Monterey Park

The European American Sheriff’s Advisory Council celebrated its 10th Anniversary at the Annual Holiday Luncheon held at Sheriff’s Headquarters in Monterey Park.  As a Founding Member, Finland has provided continuous support and leadership to EASAC.

Consul General of Finland Juha Markkanen

Consul General of Finland Juha Markkanen

The Annual Holiday Luncheon provides EASAC and the Sheriff an opportunity to welcome the Consuls General of the European nations with representation in Los Angeles and to hear from some interesting speakers.  Those speakers included the Consul General of Uruguay who is Dean of the LA Consular Corp, two Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) stars, and Sheriff Lee Baca himself.  As EASAC President, Elizabeth von Schlesinger served as MC, Vice President Jim Lynch reviewed the major events of 10 years, and, as VP, I got to give an overview of the EASAC history, identity, purpose, direction, and priorities.  Elizabeth, Jim, and I were given really neat Certificates of Appreciation by Sheriff Baca for our 10 years of work and support of the Sheriff’s Department and our European communities. 

Those speakers included the Consul General of Uruguay who is Dean of the LA Consular Corp, two Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) stars, and Sheriff Lee Baca himself.  Elizabeth, Jim, and I were given really neat Certificates of Appreciation by Sheriff Baca for our 10 years of work and support of the Sheriff’s Department and our European communities.

Those speakers included the Consul General of Uruguay who is Dean of the LA Consular Corp, two Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) stars, and Sheriff Lee Baca himself. Elizabeth, Jim, and I were given really neat Certificates of Appreciation by Sheriff Baca for our 10 years of work and support of the Sheriff’s Department and our European communities.

The strong Finnish presence at the EASAC Luncheon included Finland’s new Consul General in Los Angeles Juha “JP” Markkanen, journalist Tomi Hinkkanen, photographer Jonny Kahleyn, and yours truly.

Sheriff Baca got a warm welcome from his important guests and many friends on the Council.

Sheriff Baca got a warm welcome from his important guests and many friends on the Council.

Sheriff Baca got a warm welcome from his important guests and many friends on the Council.

SuomiKoulu/Katirilli Soirée

A cold night in Costa Mesa turned to a warm and welcoming Hall for the joint Suomi Koulu/Katirilli Christmas party.  How can you see a large contingence of adult elves with rosy cheeks and not get a smile on your face??

Mira Scott and Petra Kess led the festivities.  Children enjoyed crafts and play.  A Christmas tree was decked out in Finnish flags.  And, delicious Christmas food was served.

Mira Scott and Petra Kess led the festivities. Children enjoyed crafts and play. A Christmas tree was decked out in Finnish flags. And, delicious Christmas food was served.

Mira Scott and Petra Kess led the festivities.  Children enjoyed crafts and play.  A Christmas tree was decked out in Finnish flags.  And, delicious Christmas food was served.  Mira reported a very large attendance this year. Lots of people having fun set the tone for the Season and reminded us all what great joy can be found in the faces of children—even when we are all grown up!

Lots of people having fun set the tone for the Season and reminded us all what great joy can be found in the faces of children—even when we are all grown up!

Lots of people having fun set the tone for the Season and reminded us all what great joy can be found in the faces of children—even when we are all grown up!

Speaking of generations, as I was taking a picture of the cutest little girl playing with the bell on  her seatmate’s tonttulakki [elf cap], someone identified the munchkin as the Great Granddaughter of Eila Kartiala, the Founder of the  Katirilli Dancers.  My, how time flies—and what hope plays before us!

How can you see a large contingence of adult elves with rosy cheeks and not get a smile on your face??

How can you see a large contingence of adult elves with rosy cheeks and not get a smile on your face??

After finding some great bargains at the used book sale, it was time to head out for another event in Santa Monica.

I was taking a picture of the cutest little girl playing with the bell on  her seatmate’s tonttulakki [elf cap], someone identified the munchkin as the Great Granddaughter of Eila Kartiala, the Founder of the  Katirilli Dancers.  My, how time flies—and what hope plays before us!

I was taking a picture of the cutest little girl playing with the bell on her seatmate’s tonttulakki [elf cap], someone identified the munchkin as the Great Granddaughter of Eila Kartiala, the Founder of the Katirilli Dancers. My, how time flies—and what hope plays before us!

Food Bank Party

‘Back in the day’, the kids who went to U.C. Berkeley were ‘cool’!

guests were invited to a Foodbank to pack boxes of food for the less fortunate.  Each of us made a monetary donation, rolled up our sleeves, and went to work packing—definitely a different LA party!

Guests were invited to a Foodbank to pack boxes of food for the less fortunate. Each of us made a monetary donation, rolled up our sleeves, and went to work packing—definitely a different LA party!

My friend from Berkeley days [J.J. –now a renowned architect] hosted the most wonderful LA Christmas party in a refrigerated warehouse –brrrrr, it was COLD.  Actually, guests were invited to a Foodbank to pack boxes of food for the less fortunate.  Each of us made a monetary donation, rolled up our sleeves, and went to work packing—definitely a different LA party! 

After the hard work, guests mingled out back on the loading area that was decked out with Holiday décor and a forest of outdoor heaters –ahhhhh, WARMTH.  Fabulous refreshments included a punch bar, an artisan ice cream vendor, a hot dog cart, and a huge food truck from the famous “Two Hot Tamales”

After the hard work, guests mingled out back on the loading area that was decked out with Holiday décor and a forest of outdoor heaters –ahhhhh, WARMTH. Fabulous refreshments included a punch bar, an artisan ice cream vendor, a hot dog cart, and a huge food truck from the famous “Two Hot Tamales”

After the hard work, guests mingled out back on the loading area that was decked out with Holiday décor and a forest of outdoor heaters –ahhhhh, WARMTH.  Fabulous refreshments included a punch bar, an artisan ice cream vendor, a hot dog cart, and a huge food truck from the famous “Two Hot Tamales”.  Nice people, great fun, and rewarding help for the needy made for a meaningful evening.

Tasty Holiday Traditions

Speaking of tamales, you will see more tamales than rutabagas here in LA.  The food cases in supermarkets are filled with masa, the cornmeal paste that is spread on dried corn husks before the yummy fillings of green chile and corn, pork, or chicken are wrapped into pretty packages to be steamed in the Latin American mode.  Tamales are fun to make, but are so much work!  Still, tamales are definitely fun to eat!

We have been told that on Tapaninpäivä [Boxing Day —the day after Christmas], we will be receiving some of the best homemade tamales anywhere.

We have been told that on Tapaninpäivä [Boxing Day —the day after Christmas], we will be receiving some of the best homemade tamales anywhere.

We have been told that on Tapaninpäivä [Boxing Day —the day after Christmas], we will be receiving some of the best homemade tamales anywhere.   They are being made by the Mother of my late Mother’s helper.  I hope to twist her arm to give me a lesson next year –I would like to see a master at work and to learn her secret techniques if she will share them.  Maybe she would trade me for a Finnish kaalikääryle demonstration!
tamales fixins'

tamales fixins’

Fun Holiday Shopping

Shopping at The Farmer’s Market is always a must for me.  There is no Stockmann’s Food Hall here, but The Farmer’s Market (3rd and Fairfax) really has had the best offerings in LA for as long as I have been here—even before The Grove opened next door.  

Shopping at The Farmer’s Market is always a must for me

Shopping at The Farmer’s Market is always a must for me

As I entered The Market, a Caribbean steel band was playing.  Smiling people were gathering their Holiday meal goodies.  A little boy asked his Mother why those green “wastebaskets” were hanging on the tree.  If you are a regular, you know the iconic wooden carts that have been used since the early days by shoppers for their purchases as they go from farmer’s stand to farmer’s stand sort of like a golf ‘walking cart’ without the clubs!  If you are not a regular, at least you now know that those green things are there for your use—no charge!

  If you are a regular, you know the iconic wooden carts that have been used since the early days by shoppers for their purchases as they go from farmer’s stand to farmer’s stand sort of like a golf ‘walking cart’ without the clubs!

If you are a regular, you know the iconic wooden carts that have been used since the early days by shoppers for their purchases as they go from farmer’s stand to farmer’s stand sort of like a golf ‘walking cart’ without the clubs!

My favorite butcher told me of an upcoming Sausage Class he will be teaching this Winter.  His last class had a U.S. Supreme Court Justice as a ‘student’.  Yes, I know who it was, but I will defer!  Maybe I should sign up for that next course.

My favorite butcher told me of an upcoming Sausage Class he will be teaching this Winter

My favorite butcher told me of an upcoming Sausage Class he will be teaching this Winter

Back to my shopping:

  Ground beef for Christmas Eve meat pie  

  Center cut salmon fillets for gravlax

 Valencia oranges for fresh squeezed juice on Christmas morning

  International sausages for Christmas brunch

  Primo piece of beef for Christmas dinner

√√ A smile for my face, a bounce in my step, –and a grand lift for my spirit  ☺☺☺☺☺

Now, off to see Seija Gerdt [formerly Anttila] for the Finnish artist’s annual pre-Christmas sale.  Her studio and home are always so festive and fun.  I have been collecting her work for years.  Only very ‘good little girls and boys’ get on that list, however.  A jolly FACC President, Heidi Crooks, was spotted helping ‘Finnish Commerce’ and doing some good ‘elves’ work!

 A jolly FACC President, Heidi Crooks, was spotted helping ‘Finnish Commerce’ and doing some good ‘elves’ work!

A jolly FACC President, Heidi Crooks, was spotted helping ‘Finnish Commerce’ and doing some good ‘elves’ work!

Holiday Entertaining: Giving, Guests, and Gifts

While Finnish liqueurs used to make for a wonderful tuliainen or a nice Christmas gift for special friends, the ‘security’ liquid restrictions make it more difficult to bring these delights home these days. 

Thus: 

Following is a recipe I created many years ago after being inspired by those wonderful Finnish cream candies like Omar and Maija.  It is also reminiscent of the after dinner drinks our Irish friends make that our national airline has available to help us ‘off to dreamland’ on those long flights.  It does remind me of Finland.

You may recall that earlier I wrote about my dear friend Veli Matti who would come by every now and then after a hard day of studies at the UCLA Anderson School –always with his ‘patented’  inquiry: “What is happening in the Kitchen Laboratory tonight?”  Sometimes I was preparing a meal—sometimes I was concocting something new.  This concoction was one night’s “…what’s happening?” answer. 

And, your humble ‘mad scientist’ correspondent is here to guide you through the process.  No special equipment, oven, or stove is needed.  Just drag out and dust off those old bottles* you have stored in your attic for next year’s sima and let’s begin:

AVA’S ‘BAILEYS’ HOLIDAY SWEETNESS

This is a great “no cook” recipe you can whip up in minutes.

AVA’S ‘BAILEYS’ HOLIDAY SWEETNESS

AVA’S ‘BAILEYS’ HOLIDAY SWEETNESS

1 14 oz can      sweetened, condensed milk

1 cup               Irish whiskey [or cream soda for a nonalcoholic version]

1 tablespoon    chocolate syrup

1 tablespoon    vanilla extract [or 1 teaspoon Finnish vanilla sugar if you have it]

1 teaspoon       instant coffee crystals

1 cup               whipping cream

1 tablespoon    canned, sweetened cream of coconut

ice cubes

Finnish candies for garnish

Combine first 5 ingredients in blender; blend until coffee crystals dissolve.   Add whipping cream and cream of coconut; blend. Transfer to pitcher or decorative bottle.  Cover and refrigerate until cold, about 2 hours.

Combine first 5 ingredients in blender; blend until coffee crystals dissolve.  

Add whipping cream and cream of coconut; blend.

Transfer to pitcher or decorative bottle.  Cover and refrigerate until cold, about 2 hours.

This makes 8 servings.

 

To serve: Fill glasses [beautiful Finnish glasses, of course] with ice cubes.  Pour stirred, chilled mixture over the ‘rocks’ and serve immediately—and often**, if no one is driving.

Alternatively:  Shake with ice and pour into a martini glass with the rim dipped in decorative sugar such as demerara

For Gifting or Storing:  Add a small ‘name card’ or label on the bottle reminding recipient that the contents need to be refrigerated when not ‘in use’.

Add a small ‘name card’ or label on the bottle reminding recipient that the contents need to be refrigerated when not ‘in use’.

Actually, small ornate bottles from oils and vinegars decorated with ribbons and ornaments make perfect vessels for giving if thoroughly cleaned. Especially nice is the cobalt blue glass in which some bottled waters are sold –if you can find them.

* Actually, small ornate bottles from oils and vinegars decorated with ribbons and ornaments make perfect vessels for giving if thoroughly cleaned.  Especially nice is the cobalt blue glass in which some bottled waters are sold –if you can find them.

**Enjoy responsibly.

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL AND TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT!!!

Whether your Holiday is hot or cold, I hope it is warm with Love.

The Most Beautiful Christmas Songs – Kauneimmat Joululaulut

THE MOST BEAUTIFUL CHRISTMAS SONGS

The Finnish Lutheran church services in L.A. culminated this year with the Christmas worship on the 8th of December at the beautiful St. Paul’s cathedral in Santa Monica. The theme of the day was The Most Beautiful Christmas Songs – Kauneimmat Joululaulut. Our pastor Jarmo Tarkki gave an uplifting cermon and the talented Terhi Miikki-Broersma from Washington State served as cantor. Finntimes videotaped the service and offers it now to our readers as a Christmas gift. Here it is in its entirety – The Most Beautiful Christmas Songs – enjoy!

Finnish Lutheran church services in L.A. Kauneimmat Joululaulut.

AROUND LA WITH AVA: “ASK NOT…”

AROUND LA WITH AVA: “ASK NOT…”
by Ava Anttila

Fifty years ago President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was assassinated.

President-Kennedy

President John Kennedy with daughter Caroline.

There was a time when I thought History was something that happened to other people in another era. Now, I know that History is but a record of lives lived, events experienced, challenges embraced, and results accomplished.  It is different when you are there.

It was late morning on November 22, 1963 when a little Finnish girl in Mrs. Holdbrook’s class was told by her crying teacher to “…go home, the school is closing—class is dismissed—the President has been shot.”  And, home my classmates and I went, not really ‘knowing’ what was happening or what we were to do…or think.

jfk

The details of that fateful morning came back into focus with a new clarity as the World stopped to reflect on a ‘reality show’ like none anyone had experienced in ‘real time’. That weekend the country witnessed the live murder of the assassin on television. Oh, how real it was!  For a new immigrant child who thought she had arrived to a place of safety and security, the World turned upside down.

The entire month of November just past seemed dedicated to recollections and reflections on one of the most monumental and earth-shaking events for anyone around on that fateful day.

Time Compression

We all remember where we were and what we were doing at the time of significant events during our lives. This is our History as we lived it: television/color television; the Moon landing; hearing of the death of John Lennon, JFK, RFK, Princess Diana; the Challenger disaster; the Northridge ‘quake; 9/11; and on and on.

In truth, I rather welcome the perspective that is brought by a significant anniversary, memorial, or celebration. When we look back at the 50 years since John Kennedy’s assassination, it does not seem so long ago that another assassinated President [Abraham Lincoln] gave his Gettysburg Address even though that happened 150 years ago.

The original Gettysburg Address

The original Gettysburg Address

President Lincoln was a great orator.  And, History classes taught us that he was responsible for preserving the Union of States and bringing an end to slavery in the United States. ‘In the day’, each American school age child had to memorize the Gettysburg Address.  Those words about the greatness of this country were heartfelt by this young immigrant. Your humble correspondent was one who knew and can still [almost] recite “Four score and seven years ago …///…of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from this earth”.

My Father was born four score and eight years ago!   Whoooaa!!

 Today

Even without the current year’s benchmark anniversaries, this is a memorable and meaningful time of year. Veteran’s Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Finnish Independence Day have calendared close together and force our thoughts to consider the meaning and importance of these themes.

Finnish war veteran Ari Antiila with daughter Ava

We fly the flags to salute our Veterans—here and gone. We feast with friends and family on Thanksgiving, mindful of how truly fortunate we are in our lives. We place the proper candles in our window on 6 December and join Finnish hearts to applaud our remaining Veterans and Lottas for their sacrifice and service preserving Finnish Independence.  Of course, December 7th  and the bombing of Pearl Harbor abruptly bringing the US into WWII continues to be “…a day that shall live in infamy” as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt so resolutely stated.

Each November my Father relives the start of the Winter War by describing his witness of the Russian bombing of Helsinki. Each year as I drive my Veteran Dad home from the Consul Residence Independence Day festivities, I am ever-so-mindful that he and my dear, departed Mom [a Lotta] helped preserve Finland! They fought the fight—my parents [and many others we know and love] are Finnish History!

Members of Finnish voluntary auxiliary paramilitary organization for women

Members of Finnish voluntary auxiliary paramilitary organization for women

“Ask Not…”

“Ask not what your country can do for you.  Ask what you can do for your country… .”

President Kennedy’s Inaugural ‘challenge’ served as inspiration for generations –and continues today in many forms of generosity and giving. While Congress hones ineptitude and the extremes in talk/print media bloviate to/at each other and themselves, the American people continue to reach out with amazing caring and generosity toward folks who need help around the World. That philosophy and way of life describe what I have seen, experienced, and tried to emulate my entire life since arriving here as a young girl.

 

American Red Cross workers assist at a community run shelter at Bastrop Middle School after wildfires sweep the region, driving thousands of people from endangered neighborhoods and burning hundreds of houses to the ground.

‘Let Them Eat Soup…’

My Dad often reflects fondly on pea soup and his Finnish Army experiences.

Each time I bring him a bowl of Finnish pea soup and he happens upon a piece of meat, he makes the comment: “Oh, look sattumia [special happenings or ‘finds’]”. His delight reflects how special it was for the troops to find a real piece of meat in their nourishment on the cold battlefields of Finland during the war. Despite a current life of comfort, war and all its shortages our heroes experienced left grateful memories of a ‘find’ in the frozen forest.

Heroic resistance: Finnish troops battle against the Red Army in December 1939.

Heroic resistance: Finnish troops battle against the Red Army.

During the wars, the Finnish Forces [helped by their Lottas] had to set up makeshift kitchens to feed the troops. Dried peas and water cooked in a big pot can feed a crowd. Scraps of meat, a ham hock, a bone, or even a left-over makkara tossed in the pot can add great flavor, aroma, and nourishment. Pea soup is basic, hearty, humble, unassuming, laid back, and enduring –just like the Finns who love it, including our beloved Veterans.

Finnish children being evacuated during the Winter War

Finnish Pea Soup

Although I have made different kinds of pea soup through the years, I love to serve ‘tricked out’, fancy, playful ones with fun garnishes in ‘different’ presentations for dinner parties or elegant occasions. When I am going for a ‘Finnish touch’, the authentic, basic recipe wins out!

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Finnish war veteran Ari Antiila with daughter Ava

I make Finnish pea soup for my Veteran Dad each week—or so it feels.  I stick with the simplest, most authentic version. My ‘improvements’ are not with ingredients or accoutrements, but in process. After years of watching a pot boiling on the stove and steaming up the kitchen, I moved to cooking in a simple ‘slow cooker’. You can buy one in practically any store in the U.S. for very little money. Sometimes they are referred to by the funny term “crock pot”.

The slow cooker is a California dream for a busy person.  All ingredients are thrown in the sturdy pot in the morning. Once temperature and cooking time are set, the ‘batch’ can be left safely unattended for a whole day at the office or on a movie shoot without worry. You will be greeted with an olfactory hug of Finnish nostalgia [without any additional human involvement] upon your return.

Life in the Slow Lane Pea Soup

Recipe

1 one pound bag of split peas (even better, but harder to find are the whole peas)

1 to 1½  quarts cold water

1 meaty ham bone (from leftovers) or a smoked ham hock  (can omit for vegan version)

1 tablespoon salt (a few dashes of pepper to taste)

2 teaspoons marjoram

2 tablespoons dried minced onion or one whole onion finely chopped

1 one pound bag of split peas (even better, but harder to find are the whole peas) 1 to 1½  quarts cold water 1 meaty ham bone (from leftovers) or a smoked ham hock  (can omit for vegan version) 1 tablespoon salt (a few dashes of pepper to taste) 2 teaspoons marjoram 2 tablespoons dried minced onion or one whole onion finely chopped 

Put all ingredients in slow cooker. Water should cover everything by several inches.  Set on ‘low’ for 6 to 8 hours.

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Remove bone(s) and discard. Chop meat into bite sized pieces and return to pot.

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Stir and serve.

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The soup will thicken as it sets. If too thick the next day, add a bit of water and stir.

Soup keeps 2 to 3 days, but also freezes well.

This is a great party dish for a crowd if you double the recipe. My crock pot is a 7 quart cooker and suits a doubled recipe.

For a party, serve in a large, heated soup tureen and ladle into mugs or demitasse cups—with a sliver or crouton of rye bread. Or, simply serve in bowls as a first course.

You can also serve soup ‘Shooters’ as appetizers –as the centerpiece of a celebration or a fundraiser. Or, if you practice enough, as a course in your own restaurant!

Regardless, your soup will be a success if you have Finland –its heritage and history, in your heart and on your table!!

ACTIVITIES IN LA

Veteraani Tuki Ryhma

The local Vets met on November 11 at Suomi Kerho.

The Veteraani Tuki Ryhma has had the ‘behind-the-scenes’ ongoing support of Henri Aspen and Pauli Majamaki in arranging for their events.

The Veteraani Tuki Ryhma has had the ‘behind-the-scenes’ ongoing support of Henri Aspen and Pauli Majamaki in arranging for their events.

Suomi Kerho has always been the stalwart port of Finnish activities. The Veteraani Tuki Ryhma has had the ‘behind-the-scenes’ ongoing support of Henri Aspen and Pauli Majamaki in arranging for their events. It took some wrangling and pleading just to get them to stand still for a photo, but a big kiitos is in order for all their efforts and kindness for our local Veterans and Lottas.

Majamaki Family Greenscapes

The Bulletin Board at the Suomi Kerho facility showcased the Majamaki family and its landscaping successes in a big Daily News feature. What a beautiful greenscape they have created on their property.

Suomi Kerho’s Neighborhood

I wrote recently about the gentrification of the Suomi Kerho neighborhood, including the new Senior Creative Arts Colony nearby. I had to chuckle when I saw the new Salami Studio sign that just went up on the block!  Finland and sausage just can’t get away from each other—even in Hollywood!

 I had to chuckle when I saw the new Salami Studio sign that just went up on the block!  Finland and sausage just can’t get away from each other—even in Hollywood!

I had to chuckle when I saw the new Salami Studio sign that just went up on the block! Finland and sausage just can’t get away from each other—even in Hollywood!

Los Angeles Finlandia Foundation

The LAFF meeting on 11/7 featured Ray Halme as Keynote Speaker.

Ray’s program centered on the Finns living and working in Hollywood from 1900-1950s. Ray had previously presented this program at the FinnFest in San Diego. There were so many fascinating programs going on at the same time at the FinnFest, I had to miss Ray’s program.  I was thrilled to get a call that Mr. Halme’s presentation was being repeated for the LAFF November meeting. There was a full audience at the Gidding Room and the presentation by Ray gave everyone background that brought that era to life.

The LAFF meeting on 11/7 featured Ray Halme as Keynote Speaker.

The LAFF meeting on 11/7 featured Ray Halme as Keynote Speaker.

The LAFF business meeting followed with various issues.

Maria Kizirian [who was present] was introduced as the replacement for Finlandia Foundation National’s Christina Lin who has returned to the East Coast.

Come Celebrate Christmas at the Finnish Lutheran Church on 12/8/2013

Join us for a sing along of the most beautiful Finnish Christmas Carols at Santa Monica’s Finnish Lutheran Church on December 8, 2013.

St. Paul’s Lutheran Church is located at:

958 Lincoln Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA 9040

Kauneimmat joululaulut

AROUND LA WITH AVA: INTERMEZZO

Ava Anttila

Ava Anttila

AROUND LA WITH AVA
by Ava Anttila

Esa-Pekka Salonen was in town last month marking the 10 year intermezzo since the building of Disney Hall.

Esa-Pekka Salonen was in town last month marking the 10 year intermezzo since the building of Disney Hall.

Esa-Pekka Salonen was in town last month marking the 10 year intermezzo since the building of Disney Hall.

For any Finn living in our City of Angels, Esa-Pekka Salonen is such a source of national pride—a phenomenal icon.  It must be hard for him to remain a humble Finn when the entire world is his adoring public gushing with enthusiasm and accolades.  But then, who suggested greatness is easy!!

Disney Hall.

One of the fringe benefits of decades of volunteer activities in all things Finnish is that you get to visit with ‘newbies’ before they achieve ‘icon’ status.  I am reminded of an informal welcoming event the Finnish American Chamber of Commerce had for the young –and even younger looking, Sibelius Academy star alumnus when he first arrived in Los Angeles.  Before the Maestro’s face was a fixture on promotional banners on San Vicente Boulevard—and elsewhere, he told of being ‘carded’ at Vicente Foods when buying beer.  Esa-Pekka Salonen shared the story with a good sense of humor and a smile on his then cherubic face.  Still, while the tale was funny when told in the self-deprecating Finnish way, it must have been humbling for him.  Those were the days….

The ebb and flow of a musical composition.  The ebb and flow of the creative process.  The reflection between two occurrences.   Perspective comes from time to reflect.  To get a peek into the minds of two accomplished creative geniuses twice between decades [prospective and retrospective] with the benefit of time passing in between for all of us is quite a gift.

Disney Hall 10th Anniversary Celebrations

Many years ago when the Disney Hall concept was but a ‘twinkle’, über architect Frank Gehry and Esa-Pekka Salonen came together for an evening of sharing their respective passions for music and architecture—what a special night!

Many years ago when the Disney Hall concept was but a ‘twinkle’, über architect Frank Gehry and Esa-Pekka Salonen came together for an evening of sharing their respective passions for music and architecture—what a special night!

I was lucky enough to be there to hear the magic as a creative genius team came together.  The music and the metal melded producing a collective ‘progeny’ we Angelenos now proudly call Disney Hall. That evening over a decade ago was one of many unforgettable times I spent with my dear friend, the late Greta Peck*.

Greta Peck

Greta Peck

Greta and I joined others at the Brentwood home of former US Ambassador to Finland Rockwell Schnabel.  Esa-Pekka Salonen and Frank Gehry were there to discuss architecture, music, and how they intertwine.  What followed was a most inspiring and eye-opening view into their creative minds at the cusp of their respective, momentous works here in LA.

“The rest is history…” as the story goes.

Dejá Vu –Again = Salonen/Gehry Event at the Hammer: a Full Circle Ten Year Intermezzo

Last month news spread that Esa-Pekka Salonen and Frank Gehry would present “a conversation” about Disney Hall at the Armand Hammer Museum in Westwood.  L.A. went all abuzz.  The October 15th event was free, but became “sold out” with priority reservations from Museum Members and with a line snaking around the courtyard for available general public seats.  The turnout was such that outdoor screens and folding chairs were set up under the stars for the adoring masses that showed up.

über architect Frank Gehry and Esa-Pekka Salonen came together for an evening of sharing their respective passions for music and architecture

über architect Frank Gehry and Esa-Pekka Salonen came together for an evening of sharing their respective passions for music and architecture

With Greta now gone, I was happy to meet up with Finnish American Chamber of Commerce President Heidi Crooks at the Gehry/Salonen presentation.  Heidi brought with her newly arrived UCLA Medical Center visitors from Finland, Dr. Heikki Miettinen and his wife Merja Miettinen.  FACC Board member Dr. Michael Berlin joined us, as well.  The setting was impressive, but significantly less intimate than Ambassador Schnabel’s living room!

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The presentation was moderated by Pulitzer Prize nominated journalist Nikolai Ouroussoff  [formerly Architecture Critic for the Los Angeles Times and for the New York Times] who pointed out that the auspiciously named corner of Grand and Hope Streets in downtown LA is home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Master Chorale where Maestro Salonen was the Conductor for 17 years [between 1992 and 2009].

In the audience that evening was YasuhisaToyota, the celebrated acoustician of Disney Hall.  How proud he must have felt with the results he helped achieve.

Architect Gehry kept musicians in mind during his collaboration with Conductor Salonen in order to make “the perfect instrument” –which is what Mr. Salonen calls the Hall.

Salonen told about Ernest Fleischmann’s visit to him to discuss the Utopian idea when Esa-Pekka was in Florence.  Mr. Gehry told of then Music Center Executive Fleischmann teaching him about classical music and the idea of a “democratic” hall [“He also scared the….out of me” Gehry said!].

Disney Hall

Looking back at the ten year intermezzo of life since that Schnabel evening with Messrs. Gehry and Salonen [and listening to them both on the same topics after their exquisitely successful collaboration on the Disney Hall project] was fascinating.

Proof Is In Performance

Esa-Pekka Salonen feels the Hall has a beautiful, luminous sound.  The Hall creates intimacy, despite the volume [size/space].  Maestro Salonen said the Hall’s intimacy makes it feel like he is playing to each individual who is personally able to experience the music.  And, with such personal scrutiny being reciprocal, he professed the need to even pay attention to the type of socks he wears while on the podium!

Esa-Pekka Salonen

Salonen noted that with most music in concerts, you hear it but it lacks ‘intimacy’.  In Disney Hall, the same music hits you in the stomach –you ‘feel’ it, like with rock music.  The term he used was “psychoacoustics”.  The Concert is a personal experience, aided by what is called the Hall’s “vineyard layout”.

[Note to Perfectionists:  Salonen described how the orchestra ‘practiced seating’ together at Royce Hall/UCLA.  Also, they even ‘tried’ the proposed new Disney Hall ‘risers’ in the Chandler Pavilion at the old Music Center downtown before they were installed in Disney Hall.]

Acropolis at the Top of the Hill

The “Acropolis at the Top of the Hill” is how the panel saw the LA Music Center before the new Disney Hall.   And, Mr. Salonen described traditional classical music as a German idea brought to the US.  He said the old European Germanic model needed a change to drive LA and he thought of ways to do just that.  He said Disney Hall was one way to do it.  What was needed was a high caliber “instrument” for the orchestra, not like the Chandler which was a multipurpose hall.  Gehry said Disney Hall needed to be a symbol of LA, not like the existing facility which to him was a ‘box’ copying New York’s Lincoln Center.

Rats to Immortality

Esa-Pekka said that Disney Hall has changed the idea of concert halls forever.  While there is perfection all around, Frank Gehry still feels the foyer has not lived up to the Hall.  He would have liked to open it up to the street with garage-like doors, but apparently the Health Department had concerns about rats entering.  Who knew?

Frank Gehry shared his thoughts about Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Finnish heritage and he reflected on his own Canadian heritage.  Alvar Aalto was his hero.  Mr. Gehry had some classic funny observations on Finnish shyness such as the Finnish extrovert noted for looking at another’s shoes instead of his own during conversation.

Frank Gehry shared his thoughts about Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Finnish heritage and he reflected on his own Canadian heritage.  Alvar Aalto was his hero.

Frank Gehry shared his thoughts about Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Finnish heritage and he reflected on his own Canadian heritage. Alvar Aalto was his hero.

Gehry’s and Salonen’s bond and friendship was beautifully consummated as they stood together holding hands as they heard the first sounds in Disney Hall.  I will bet each was holding his breath as well!  The first sound checks were made even before there was a stage.  [Can you imagine Mr. Toyota’s heart rate immediately prior to that initial sound check?]

The pizzicato of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony was the testing piece.  Maestro Salonen described the faces of the players in the orchestra as they christened the solemn ‘air’.  With tears streaming, one musician said he had ‘wasted’ four decades.

As the two concluded their most critical design performance test, Esa-Pekka turned to Frank and said simply: “We’ll keep it!!”

Program Post Scripts

During the evening Esa-Pekka Salonen kept referring to the Hall as “my instrument”.   Think about that.  It speaks volumes.

The juxtaposition of the two events/over 10 years apart—the same people reflecting [before and after] on their collaborative project and views on their creative crafts was marvelous.  It was like being a sanctioned voyeur to the creative process of World Class multi-discipline geniuses.  And yes, I have attended concerts at Disney Hall.  As great as my enjoyment/appreciation was, it had to pale in comparison to Esa-Pekka Salonen’s and Frank Gehry’s personal/mutual experience.

Isn’t it great “…when a plan comes together.”

When asked by an audience member about other places, travels, plans, personal feelings, and Los Angeles, there was a collective sigh when the Maestro said:  “LA is home.”

When asked by an audience member about other places, travels, plans, personal feelings, and Los Angeles, there was a collective sigh when the Maestro said:  “LA is home.”

When asked by an audience member about other places, travels, plans, personal feelings, and Los Angeles, there was a collective sigh when the Maestro said: “LA is home.”

AND, IN OTHER NEWS

European Jazz at UCLA

October was the month for music.

The Consulate General of Finland joined with Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, and Switzerland to present European Jazz in concert.

Olli Hirvonen Trio, Finland

Olli Hirvonen [chosen as Artist of the Year at Pori Jazz, one of the highest awards for a jazz musician in Finland] performed on October 12th at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music’s Schoenberg Hall.

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The well attended Opening and Reception was held at the Italiano di Cultura di Los Angeles in Westwood

The well attended Opening and Reception was held at the Italiano di Cultura di Los Angeles in Westwood.  Finns intermingled with other Europeans enjoying Italian delicacies, wines, and espresso.

Finnish Consul General Juha Markkanen and wife Tula

Finnish Consul General Juha Markkanen and wife Tuula

FACC Annual Meeting and Election

The Finnish American Chamber of Commerce on the Pacific Coast, Inc. held its Annual Meeting and Election at the Bel Air home of Heidi Crooks, Chief Nursing Officer of the UCLA Medical Center.  Heidi was elected President; Ava Anttila, Vice President; Kielo Stevenson, Treasurer; and Heikki Ketola, Secretary.  Ulla Bowers will be the new Information Officer.  Joann Scott and Dr. Michael Berlin were elected to the Board as well.

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The FACC began the celebration of its 50th Anniversary with a special dessert served at the Annual Meeting.

The FACC welcomes a new FACC, San Diego chapter.

CREATIVE FINNS

The Creative Finns held their monthly meeting at The Next Door Lounge, a Speakeasy style establishment in Hollywood.  The well attended gathering (—sharing food, drinks, and catching up) was fun.

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Kielo Stevenson, Ulla Bowers, Laura Laaksonen and Liisa Evestiina

FACC Event: Finnish Cardiologist

In the rhythm of life, our beating hearts need healthy attention.  Dr. Heikki Miettinen, Cardiologist from Kuopio Hospital [Finland] presented a ‘latest developments’ overview to the FACC at their October Meeting.  The program stressed prevention.

Dr. Miettinen was born in Eastern Karelia during what he calls the “black period” when men were dying at early ages from heart related issues.  Causal research in the Karelia Project effectuated changes in education and lifestyle.  Dr. Miettinen explained that while aging, gender, and genetics present 2/3rds of the risk factors we cannot change, the other 1/3rd are factors that we can and should manage/change.  Lifestyle changes such as smoking, obesity, and stress are key factors everyone can work on.

Dr. Miettinen was able to explain the use of statins, various fad diets, herbal teas, and even the use of dark chocolate [Oh yes, bring on the Fazer!] for health improvement!

Responding to audience questions with the latest research, Dr. Miettinen was able to explain the use of statins, various fad diets, herbal teas, and even the use of dark chocolate [Oh yes, bring on the Fazer!] for health improvement!
LAFF Event: Annual Honoree Luncheon
The Los Angeles Finlandia Foundation held its Annual Honoree Luncheon on October 27th in Glendale.  This year’s Honoree was Dr. John Ogren.  The event Program featured cellist Pauliina Haustein with her beautiful musical renditions in one of her final performances before moving to Finland.  Following her intermezzo, we look forward to Pauliina’s return.

The event Program featured cellist Pauliina Haustein with her beautiful musical renditions in one of her final performances before moving to Finland.

The event Program featured cellist Pauliina Haustein with her beautiful musical renditions in one of her final performances before moving to Finland.

AND, IN OTHER INTERMEZZOS

Some intermezzos are longer than others.  For those naïve enough to have believed it when ‘they’ told you that the 405 construction was to be completed in 2013, that bridge to Brooklyn is still available—but the cash price has just gone up again.  So sorry.

For those naïve enough to have believed it when ‘they’ told you that the 405 construction was to be completed in 2013, that bridge to Brooklyn is still available—but the cash price has just gone up again. So sorry.

‘They’ just announced construction will require another year and a half before it is done—no reliable $ estimates available.  So, sit tight, grit your teeth, turn up the radio tuned to some Sibelius, call on your Finnish resilience, and get ready to “sit-a-spell” a while longer.  Those 15 minute runs to the store for a quart of milk or to the salon for a quick hair trim will take the 2 hours you have gotten used to for a while longer.

May your inner Finn enjoy the interchange intermezzo in the interim!

*Greta Peck Redux

Every now and then there is a fun ‘back story’ that would distract from the main theme that is worth telling non-the-less.  This is one of those times, but I will do my best to stay focused on relevant events and not attempt a full-on biography—as tempting as that is.

As you likely recall, Greta Peck was a beautiful Finn who was once married to iconic actor Gregory Peck.

Gregory and Greta Peck

Gregory and Greta Peck

Greta and I became good friends.  Despite a significant age difference, we shared our mutual Finnish heritage; our experiences as single mothers; and our love of art and culture, fun and good times.  Greta loved to attend every possible Finland-related event—and I seemed somehow to be involved with ‘producing’ same in one way or another.  As it evolved, we ended up going together often.  Arriving early and staying late—which I usually needed to do, was just the way Greta liked it!

Whether I picked her up on Summit Drive in Beverly Hills or she came down the hill to meet at my house, I was always the driver –except for the one Schnabel/Gehry/Salonen night.  The reason will become apparent.

Going anywhere with my old, dear, late friend Greta was always an adventure.  That particular night was one I will always remember.

Greta was a proud Finn and a patriotic American.  She was one of the most dedicated and generous people you could imagine.  Her good works on this earth are legendary—but must wait for another column.

As noted, Greta was always up for any Finnish related event.  Whether the venue was down the street at the Beverly Hills Hotel or in San Diego, Orange County, or wherever, she was raring to go.  

On the Schnabel/Gehry/Salonen event evening, Greta arrived at my house at the agreed hour for the short trip to Ambassador Schnabel’s home in Brentwood Park.  Greta had what I call a “land yacht” of a car –a massive, long, wide gold Lincoln Continental she drove for many years.  Since she was a diminutive woman who seemed to ‘shrink’ with each passing year, it was hard to even see her behind (and peering under) the huge steering wheel.

I had never been her passenger before so, this time, when she offered to drive to the close-by location in Brentwood, I accepted her gracious gesture.  That was before I noticed that one side view mirror was missing and the other was dangling on a lone wire!  [When I asked about her mirrors, she dismissed my concern with a casual “…the buses here keep getting bigger”.  Had I heard her correctly—what did that mean??  Too late—we were under way.] 

Greta was her usual bubbly self as we headed out toward Sunset Boulevard for the half mile or so trip to the Brentwood Park area.  In making the right hand turn to go west on Sunset we ended up head-on in the opposing direction traffic lane.  Greta was chatting away as the horns blared saying “…it’s OK, we don’t have far to go!”  She was always such an optimist—even in and about LA traffic!

Since I am writing this vignette, clearly we made it to the Schnabels and back.  Never a dull moment Around LA with Ava—or with Greta!!!

 

AROUND LA WITH AVA: MUSHROOM MANIA

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

AROUND LA WITH AVA
by Ava Anttila

MUSHROOM MANIA

With people shooting up Naval Bases and shopping malls at home and abroad—to say nothing of the ‘dude’ who tried to re-create a video game experience by crashing into things in a real car, why would anyone want to write about Mushrooms??

Chanterelle mushrooms

Chanterelle mushrooms

If you are moving your cursor toward the ‘escape’ button, I know you have never been in Finland during the late Summer when the days are still light, the weather is sunny and warm, and rains are followed with Finnish flag blue skies.  School is open, people are back to work, Winter is still a good idea, and the lake-side cottages have not been shuttered against the snow.  Then, weekends are special times in Finland—and for August/September vacationers.    It is Mushroom Season!!

Nature’s bounty is there for the taking—free!  Flowers in May, strawberries and blueberries in June and July, followed by cute red lingonberries in late Summer

Nature’s bounty is there for the taking—free! Flowers in May, strawberries and blueberries in June and July, followed by cute red lingonberries in late Summer

Finns are hunters and gatherers.  Nature’s bounty is there for the taking—free!  Flowers in May, strawberries and blueberries in June and July, followed by cute red lingonberries in late Summer. Gathering the ‘goodies’ is a lovely thing to do.  [I have an Uncle who hunts, but hearing the horn starting duck season followed immediately by the ricocheting sounds of small arms fire at mid-day was a bit scary.  Hanging around for the opening of moose season was not happening!]

There is nothing that inspires (or obsesses) Finns more than mushroom season.  It is like a cult.   Mushroom foraging is serious and soul driven.  TV programs, flashy magazines, weather reports, GPS‘apps’ for your smart phone, and hints for the forager are everywhere

There is nothing that inspires (or obsesses) Finns more than mushroom season. It is like a cult. Mushroom foraging is serious and soul driven. TV programs, flashy magazines, weather reports, GPS‘apps’ for your smart phone, and hints for the forager are everywhere

There is nothing that inspires (or obsesses) Finns more than mushroom season.  It is like a cult.   Mushroom foraging is serious and soul driven.  TV programs, flashy magazines, weather reports, GPS‘apps’ for your smart phone, and hints for the forager are everywhere.  I spotted a special glossy magazine called Sieni [yes, “Mushroom”!] in its own special display rack with multiple duplicate issues crying out to be snatched up for consumption by the aficionado –whether amateur or professional.  

Special maps, accessories, clothing, shoes are all there for those who want to be ‘styling’ while in the woods

Special maps, accessories, clothing, shoes are all there for those who want to be ‘styling’ while in the woods

Special maps, accessories, clothing, shoes are all there for those who want to be ‘styling’ while in the woods. The local gossip is all abuzz sharing hints about newly found places for the treasured treats. [Actually, the prime locations are carefully guarded secrets—mine is on a moss covered giant granite rock just outside my bedroom window where I can watch the beauties pop up while having an early morning cup of Presidentti.]  

The aroma of the woods filled with mushrooms after a rain can set the endorphins pulsing in your brain as you are on the hunt

The aroma of the woods filled with mushrooms after a rain can set the endorphins pulsing in your brain as you are on the hunt

The aroma of the woods filled with mushrooms after a rain can set the endorphins pulsing in your brain as you are on the hunt.  While you feel as if you are already in Heaven just being there, you are aware that you walk the dangerous ‘edge’ knowing that if you pick a ‘wrong’ mushroom (or cook it incorrectly), the mushroom can kill you.  This ‘walk-in-the-woods’ makes for a strange obsession, not unlike that Fugu fish sushi you hear about (but the smell is much better).

There is an actual term: sieni höperö for those afflicted with the mushroom addiction. I use the term “addiction” because there is a compulsion to keep at the forage for the thrill of the hunt and the jackpot reward

There is an actual term: sieni höperö for those afflicted with the mushroom addiction.  I use the term “addiction” because there is a compulsion to keep at the forage for the thrill of the hunt and the jackpot reward.  Like the proverbial ‘little old ladies’ at the slot machines in the Vegas casinos moving from one penny slot machine to another pulling the lever just one more time.  The quest of the sieni höperö is to go further into the woods, around the next bend, or over the next boulder to find that ‘pot of gold’, i.e., that bountiful patch of mushrooms for your basket.  The endorphins in the brain pulse to the thrilling conquest as the basket fills, rewarding and fulfilling the Finnish soul.  

I have heard that some lie awake at night haunted by the thought that there are untouched patches of mushrooms in forest areas that are there for the picking if only they could be found!  [Only a small percentage of the wild mushrooms that grow in Finland are ever harvested, in fact.] 

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The search process becomes ‘personal’ the first time you re-trace yesterday’s steps and find a ‘patch of gold’ where none was visible the day before.  It is as if the fungi have ‘chosen’ you to pick them and are calling your name!  It is kind of like shoe-shopping at Nieman Marcus! 

Truth be known, my dear, late Mother was one with the “mushroom madness”.  My Father even called her Rouva Sieninen (Mrs. Mushroom).  She knew every ‘secret’ trove in our little compound.  She loved the ‘hunt’!  Even in her later years, she risked life and limb just to get beyond the next hill in her foraging.  

Today, we would have had a GPS on her because she knew no limits –or fear, in her ever expanding search.  And, remember that despite all the talk about ‘good’ places, the real treasure troves remained ‘secret’.  On one of her more recent adventures, she actually took a tumble in the forest and was unable to get up.  Fortunately, she had a voice that carried and someone from a neighboring farm came to help.   

Ӓiti was a determined soul who knew her daughter loved those chanterelles.  She committed herself to bringing them home from her summer vacation in Finland.  Each year she would lovingly take needle and thread to each mushroom, creating long garlands that were hung in the rafters to dry.  [Fresh mushrooms were prohibited by US Customs.]  My annual tuliainen was a jar of dried chanterelles –handpicked/handhung.

This year my appreciation of her annual gift went from “how nice” to “wow!” as I became a forager, stringer, and importer.  I lived the labor of love that went into my tuliainen!

The Cult

There are television programs that feature mushroom preparation methods and recipes for one’s bounty.  What rational person would miss hours of instruction on mushroom preservation and pickling?  Naturally, there are even experts for hire to teach your dog how to hunt mushrooms, just like wild pigs do in France –for truffles!  I know Sohvi-koira (as a beagle) would be up to the task!!  [She did sniff out a long lost Easter egg in the yard once.  Unfortunately, she also proceeded to eat the darn thing!]  Sadly, the dry climate here in LA is not conducive to growing wild mushrooms in our own gardens.

LA  Alternatives

Finding wonderful wild mushrooms is as simple as a Wednesday visit to the mushroom vendors at Santa Monica Farmer’s market in the Fall.  Bristol Farms, Whole Foods, and other upscale grocers usually carry premium mushrooms in season.  Their prices are prohibitive for daily consumption.  Remember, mushrooms do shrink when cooked.  Still, there is nothing like ‘mushroom magic’ to ‘dress’ a dish for a special occasion!

Finding wonderful wild mushrooms is as simple as a Wednesday visit to the mushroom vendors at Santa Monica Farmer’s market in the Fall

Finding wonderful wild mushrooms is as simple as a Wednesday visit to the mushroom vendors at Santa Monica Farmer’s market in the Fall

FINNISH HAPPENINGS IN LA

September 8: Finnish Lutheran Church Service at St. Paul’s in Santa Monica

The first church service this Fall was very well attended and included a blessing of the school children as they began their new year.  The reception following the service was quite festive.  The congregation joined in celebrating the 80th birthday of John (Jukka) Vuorenmaa, a venerable and much loved member of the Finnish community.  The Vuorenmaa clan provided a beautifully ladended table of Finnish treats and a birthday cake.  

The congregation joined in celebrating the 80th birthday of John (Jukka) Vuorenmaa, a venerable and much loved member of the Finnish community

The congregation joined in celebrating the 80th birthday of John (Jukka) Vuorenmaa, a venerable and much loved member of the Finnish community

To add to this fun occasion, the presence of our new Consul General in Los Angeles (Ambassador Juha “J.P.” Markkanen and his family) made for quite a special celebration.  The Consul General introduced his wife, Tuula, and children, Maria and Juho.  The Consul General told of his Savo background and he shared his enthusiasm for his new post.  His motto of “cooperation” will define and be the spirit of his tenure.  We welcome these dear people to our Los Angeles community and look forward to much positive interaction in the name of Finnish cooperation and promotion.

To add to this fun occasion, the presence of our new Consul General in Los Angeles (Ambassador Juha “J.P.” Markkanen and his family) made for quite a special celebration.  The Consul General introduced his wife, Tuula, and children, Maria and Juho

To add to this fun occasion, the presence of our new Consul General in Los Angeles (Ambassador Juha “J.P.” Markkanen and his family) made for quite a special celebration. The Consul General introduced his wife, Tuula, and children, Maria and Juho

September 11:  Veteran’s Support Group Veteraani Tuki Ryhmä

Suomi Kerho was the setting for the Veteran’s support group which held its meeting along with lunch and a movie with the Suomi Kerho Senior’s Group.  Veteran Mark Salo was presented a beautiful medal from the Finnish Government for his service.  After the lunch provided by the Ladies of Suomi Kerho, those present enjoyed a viewing of the film Pohjanmaa.

Veteran Mark Salo was presented a beautiful medal from the Finnish Government for his service

Veteran Mark Salo was presented a beautiful medal from the Finnish Government for his service

September 15:  Finlandia Foundation of Los Angeles Meeting

Finlandia Foundation Lecturer of the Year, Yvonne Lockwood (Hiipakka) was introduced by LAFF President Ellen Harju for her presentation on Traditional Material Culture in Modern Finnish America.  Ms. Lockwood’s theme focused on how hand-crafted objects connect us to one another.  Her lecture covered food, textiles, woodworking, boat building, ski making, sauna building, bird fans, Christmas ornaments, and looms—quite catholic. 

Finlandia Foundation Lecturer of the Year, Yvonne Lockwood (Hiipakka) was introduced by LAFF President Ellen Harju for her presentation on Traditional Material Culture in Modern Finnish America

Finlandia Foundation Lecturer of the Year, Yvonne Lockwood (Hiipakka) was introduced by LAFF President Ellen Harju for her presentation on Traditional Material Culture in Modern Finnish America

The topic of ‘rag rugs’ was a particularly interesting area of her research.  Ms. Lockwood noted that Finnish frugality, humility, and functional talent made for memorable treasures prized as graduation and wedding gifts.  The rugs are made from old clothing –and even other recyclables such as old audiocassette tapes.

It was fun to hear about Finnish American immigrants efforts to duplicate the traditional Finnish Viili (that drippy sour milk delicacy) and “squeaky cheese”.

In Memoriam: Alvar Kauti

The Finnish community has lost a wonderful, long standing member.  The passing of Alvar Kauti was sad news to all who knew and admired him.  Alvar was an active member of many Finnish organizations, providing service and support to all.

Alvar Kautii with family and friends. Photos by Ellida Maki.

Alvar Kautii with family and friends. Photos by Ellida Maki.

The son of Finnish immigrant parents in Los Angeles, Alvar went on to become a teacher, football coach, and administrator for 38 years at Pasadena City College where he also served as Dean of Students.  He founded a Sauna business that he ran for over 20 years.  Alvar was devoted to education and served as LAFF scholarship chairman for many years.  He gave much of himself to our Finnish American community.  We will all miss him.

Golden Globes:Two Finnish Film Screenings

Two Finnish films were presented at the Hollywood Foreign Press Association screening at an official Golden Globes pre-event held at the Real D Theater in Beverly Hills.  The Finnish Consulate General was principal sponsor and as Consul General “J.P.” Markkanen introduced the film makers and thanked fellow sponsors and those in attendance.

The Finnish Consulate General was principal sponsor and as Consul General “J.P.” Markkanen introduced the film makers and thanked fellow sponsors and those in attendance.

The Finnish Consulate General was principal sponsor and as Consul General “J.P.” Markkanen introduced the film makers and thanked fellow sponsors and those in attendance.

The Disciple by Ulrika Bengts was shown, followed by a reception.  Above Dark Waters (directed by Peter Franzėn and produced by Markus Selin) was presented after the reception, followed by a sit-down buffet dinner in the beautifully decorated grand atrium festively decked out in Finnish blue and white.  [Other sponsors included The Finnish Film Foundation, Lumene, Glove Hope, Saintex, Design Paola Suhonen, Amazon Publishing, Fazer, Leaf, and Finlandia Cheese.]

President of Finlandia University Visits LA

Philip Johnson, President of Finlandia University in Hancock, Michigan visited our fair city last week.  Dr. Johnson and Finlandia’s VP for Business and Finance Nick Stevens had important meetings in the area, but managed to find time to stop by for an evening of conversation, conviviality, and some Green Egg ‘Possum Pork Chops’ […sounds like another column to me]. 

It was my pleasure to introduce Philip to our new Consul General, Ambassador Juha Markkanen and his wife Tula

It was my pleasure to introduce Philip to our new Consul General, Ambassador Juha Markkanen and his wife Tula

It was my pleasure to introduce Philip to our new Consul General, Ambassador Juha Markkanen.  JP and his wife Tuula honored us by hosting a lovely breakfast as their first official visitors to the Consular Residence!  Much good information was shared about mutual goals.  Parting wishes for success and cooperation reaffirmed the value of the meeting and the prospects for beneficial future contacts.

Marimekko Magic

Marimekko Beverly Hills held a presentation of its Fall home collection featuring a fabric workshop on September 21

Marimekko Beverly Hills held a presentation of its Fall home collection featuring a fabric workshop on September 21

Marimekko Beverly Hills held a presentation of its Fall home collection featuring a fabric workshop on September 21.  Fabric wall hangings and custom tablecloths were the order of the day.  The workshop fun was very ably facilitated by the always knowledgeable, helpful, and enthusiastic Marimekko staff:  specifically on this occasion, Jasmine, Cheryl, and Caroline.

Mushrooms ReDux

Chanterelle mushrooms have such an exquisite taste.  The taste is hard to describe but, as with other wild mushrooms, there is what is described by the Japanese as umami (the 5th taste) which is an earthy, savory, musky flavor.  

There have been books and articles written about chefs –and even ‘death row’ inmates, on what is their most favorite dish [for the latter, their desired last meal].  But, I digress…

Kanttarelli Kastike (Chanterelle Fricassee) served over salmon with potatoes does it for me!  [OK, maybe we need to include cheeseburgers, Tapio Serenius’ bouillabaisse, and a few others, but it is right up there!]

Chanterelle Fricassee* over Seared Salmon

*(A fricassee is a meat cooked in its own juices; then, thickened with cream

—since these mushrooms are “meaty” I use this term loosely, but reasonably.)

1   pound fresh chanterelle mushrooms [larger ones torn into strips]

3   tablespoons butter (European, e.g., Plugra, Kerrygold, or Luripak preferable)

1   shallot minced

½  pint heavy cream

     dash white pepper

     salt to taste

1   filet of wild salmon pre-cut into 1½ inch servings.

Brush any dirt residue off of the chanterelles, but do not wash.  

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Place in a cold frying pan. Turn heat to medium high.  The chanterelles will release their water.  Keep stirring until the moisture is reabsorbed.  Add butter and shallots, stirring until mixture has softened and become fragrant (about 10 minutes).  Add cream and cook until a lovely consistency is achieved.  Add pepper and salt to taste.

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(Hint: this is great served in a baked potato or worked into a risotto!)

Keep mushroom mixture warm while cooking salmon.

Heat pan over high heat (or prepare your grill).  Add 1 tablespoon of butter into pan and immediately place salmon pieces “presentation side” (non-skin side) down and sear for 1½ to 2 minutes, undisturbed.  

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Flip pieces and cook for another 1½ to 2 minutes, keeping the center of the salmon slightly pink and moist.

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Serve Chanterelle Fricassee over salmon with boiled potatoes.

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Final Mushroom Musings

If you are missing the mushroom madness of Finland in our City of Angles, do not be dismayed. There are no Sieni Höperös (Mushroom Maniacs) here, like in Finland.  Though, after reading this you may think otherwise. You know what they say: “…it takes one to know one!”

If you are truly hardcore, you may be booking a flight to catch the final days of the season. 

Oh, did I tell you that I found a place today for you to score your chanterelles that is cheaper than an off-season air flight to Finland: Costco — of all places.  These ‘golden globes’ will probably not be there for long and do not match the flavor or aroma of those outside my lakeside window, but they are a mere fraction of the price of the “gourmet” grocery stores.  Let this be our little secret!

Happy hunting to all you höperös!

SIX LIVES OF GABRIELLA NEJMAN

Gabriella had to memorize 78 pages of dialogue for Ghosts.

Gabriella Nejman as Mrs. Helen Alving in Henrik Ibsen’s ‘Ghosts’.

REPORTER: TOMI HINKKANEN – WEST HOLLYWOOD

PHOTOS: JONNY KAHLEYN

Gabriella Nejman is a lovely and talented 22 year old Finnish actress with an unusual background. Her mother is from Finland and father from Israel. Gabriella has lived in six countries. She is a classically trained dancer, who moved to Los Angeles a year ago to pursue an acting career. For the past year she has studied at the renowned Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute in West Hollywood. Finntimes recently met with Gabriella and her mother Outi, as the young actress made her theatrical debut at her school’s production of Henrik Ibsen’s Ghosts.

Gabriella landed the coveted female lead in Ibsen's Ghosts.

Gabriella Nejman as Mrs. Helen Alving in Henrik Ibsen’s ‘Ghosts’.

Gabriella Nejman can truly be called a citizen of the world, she  speaks English, Finnish and Hebrew.

She was born in Helsinki, Finland, and at the age of a year and a half moved to Israel. She also lived in South Africa, New Zealand and at the age of 17 she moved to Australia. Gabriella studied dancing at Dance World Studios in Melbourne. Then, when Gabriella was 19 she moved back to Israel. She took dance classes and met choreographers and they booked her for various events. She was in a production for six months, dancing and touring in a production called iFestigal. She describes the production as an amazing experience performing  four shows a day.

Gabriella with her mother Outi in the green room after the performance of Ghosts.

Gabriella with her mother Outi in the green room after the performance of Ghosts.

Were you always interested in dancing and acting?

“Since I was 15 I wanted to be a professional dancer. So, I went to train full time. I only saw myself as a dancer at the time. Everywhere I went it was dance, dance, dance. I was trained at Classical Ballet, Jazz, Contemporary, Hip Hop and Tap, I did some Salsa and Flamenco as well. It was only after I turned 18 that I discovered I wanted to be an actress. It happened while I was in Australia training to be a professional dancer. I went to a performing art school. We had singing, drama and other classes aside from dancing as well.”

Gabriella’s great uncle was a famous Finnish actor  Pekka Niskanen.

Gabriella shows a picture of her late grandfather, Yrjö Niskanen.

Gabriella shows a picture of her great uncle, Pekka Niskanen.

Gabriella tears up when the discussion turns to her beloved late grandfather Yrjö Niskanen. When she visited his house in Kuopio, she found an old photo album that had belonged to her great uncle, Pekka Niskanen.

“I saw the book and suddenly I recollected my grandfather always showing me that photo album as a child. It had pictures of different roles my great uncle was in – Romeo and Juliet, pictures of him in the theater and postcards made of him. They are beautiful pictures. I realize now that my grandfather was always hinting that acting has always been in my blood.”

The Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute in West Hollywood.

The Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute in West Hollywood.

How did you come to study acting here at Lee Strasberg?

“Well, I did my research before I came here. I went to see different acting schools just to get a feel of which one would suit me the best. When I came here, I audited a class – a method class taught by M. J. Karmi. 

A French man, Louis-Karim Nébati, who plays Pastor Manders in Ghosts, was on stage that day. He did a monologue about a rapist that I will never forget. He was living it. I believed every single word he said. I got so involved with it that I said to myself, I want to come here.”

Gabriella performing Ghosts with Louis-Karim Nébati. (photo Lee Strasberg Institute)

Gabriella performing Ghosts with Louis-Karim Nébati. (photo Lee Strasberg Institute)

Gabriella made her theatrical debut in August at her school. Tell me about the production of Henrik Ibsen’s Ghosts?

“We started rehearsing seven weeks prior. First there was quite a big round of auditions for this. We had to prepare a monologue by Anton Chekhov or Tennessee Williams – one of the classics. I did a monologue from Uncle Vanya by Chekov. I did Sonya as an audition and got a call-back the next day. 20 girls and 10 boys. I got sides got sides for Mrs. Alving but also for Regina Engstrand. I went to the audition thinking I would be playing Regina. Then the director told me I would be playing Mrs. Alving (the female lead). I was thrilled.”

In the play, Gabriella plays a middle-aged woman, although she is only 22. Her birthday was April 5th. Amazingly, she pulls it off with flying colors. Her mannerisms, the way she talks and carries herself are all that of a 50 year old woman.

In Ghosts, Gabriella had to portray a middle-aged woman.

In Ghosts, Gabriella had to portray a middle-aged woman.

How did you prepare yourself to play a middle-aged woman? 

“I started to understand my character by breaking down the whole elements of who is Mrs. Alving – what has she gone through. I created her back story. Then, to be honest, my mother is that age. I was observing her – her actions. I am wearing her earrings right now to feel I am an older lady. That’s my secret!” 

After seven weeks of rehearsals, the play was performed for three times only. Do you learn lines quickly?

“I learned the 78 pages with great joy.”

Gabriella emulated her mother and wore her earrings to be able to play a middle-aged woman.

Gabriella emulated her mother and even wore her earrings to be able to play a middle-aged woman.

Tell me about studying at Lee Strasberg?

“Well, my first semester, I was in uncharted waters. I had no idea what relaxation and sensory was. In the first class we did the coffee cup exercise – getting the sense of the smell, weight, temperature, who’s the first person that comes to mind…these tools have become second nature to me now, and I will live and continue to grow as an actress within this working process each day. I’m so very grateful to learn and understand this ‘method venue’, and as actors, I realize our true size as artists is never finished; we simply develop more understanding and skill, as we continue to enjoy and survive real life.

Gabriella Nejman and Louis-Karim Nébati in Ghosts (photo Lee Strasberg Institute)

Gabriella Nejman and Louis-Karim Nébati in Ghosts (photo Lee Strasberg Institute)

The method class is four hours long. The first two hours we do relaxation and sensory. We relax the body. Sensory consists of different exercises. Then we do scenes from different plays. I’m here from Monday ‘til Friday. Some days I’m here from 9.30 am to 11 pm. Others are shorter days.”

Where do you live?

“I live in West Los Angeles area with my boyfriend he was a soccer player and now is studying finance and business at Santa Monica College.”

Gabriella Nejman with boyfriend Yarin Ohayon.

Gabriella Nejman with boyfriend Yarin Ohayon.

When she is not acting, Gabriella likes to dance.

“I did a performance not long ago for the EOTM awards here in LA. It was for upcoming artists. I also just joined a dance company called Keshet Chaim Dance Ensemble in Los Angeles.”

Cosmopolitan Gabriella is now on her sixth country. What are your future plans?

“I really want to stay in LA. This is my sixth country. I like it here, I love the people and the weather is perfect. Opportunities are here and I fell in love with this school.”

How often do you see your family?

My family visits me often and I normally go to Finland in the mid summer for Juhannus.

Kuopio, Finland will always be a home base fro Gabriella Nejman.

Gabriella Nejman as Mrs. Helen Alving in Henrik Ibsen’s ‘Ghosts’.

But no matter how many countries I’ve lived in, the one place where I have a base is Kuopio. That house was built  by my grandfather’s father and mother. They lived there. I’m very much influenced by their heritage and by the Finnish culture. It is something I put in this play.

Finntimes wishes Gabriella all the best in her life and acting career. Something tells us we are going to hear from this young, lovely and talented woman in the future!

SAN DIEGO NOKIA-FINN REACTS TO MICROSOFT DEAL

REPORTER: TOMI HINKKANEN – SAN DIEGO

DATE: Sept 10th, 2013

Jari Juntunen has worked at Nokia's San Diego R&D for the past two years.

Jari Juntunen has worked at Nokia’s San Diego R&D for the past two years.

Jari Juntunen, 48, has worked at Nokia virtually his entire professional career – 21 years. The last two years he has been working at Nokia’s San Diego Research and Development Center. Along with his wife Agneta and a nine-year-old son Daniel, the family has made their home in “America’s finest city”.

Now that Microsoft has bought Nokia’s cell phone functions for 7.2 billion dollars (5.4 B euros), Finntimes went to San Diego to ask Jari Juntunen, what he thinks of the deal and how it affects Nokia.

Jari Juntunen’s job description is test manager. His team of about 30 people test out new cell phone apps.

-Many people here read Finnish newspapers, like Kauppalehti and Taloussanomat. All kinds of coffee table conversations have been swirling around for quite some time now, Juntunen acknowledges.

Nokia Research and Development Center in San Diego

Nokia Research and Development Center in San Diego

A lot is on the line. We are sitting at an outdoor patio of a German coffee shop. At the next table there is a group of Romanians, who have come to work at Nokia’s San Diego R&D Center, having previously worked for the cell phone maker in Finland. Juntunen estimates that people of at least 30 different nationalities work for Nokia here. Among them are some one hundred Finns. Their very livelihood was put to question as Nokia’s fortunes fell.

-We heard the news about the Microsoft deal simultaneously with everybody else. All of a sudden my calendar was filled with different in-house information conferences. They basically told us the same things that had already been stated in press releases.

-The message was that there was an offer to buy Nokia from Microsoft that was accepted. Then, they explained how the regulatory approvals will go and what will happen during the time before the authorities are expected to deliver an opinion. We will continue as before, and so will the design work, the engineer tells.

Juntunen is happy about the Microsoft deal.

Juntunen is happy about the Microsoft deal.

There were no Microsoft people at these briefings, nor was there any talk of lay-offs. The mood among the Nokia employees was upbeat.

-I would say that more than 90 per cent of employees were in a very positive mood. This was a very good outcome, if you compare options. We were aware of the cash situation of the company and the fact that there wouldn’t be enough money indefinitely. There was a limited amount of money to invest. And, unfortunately, it was also evident in the phase the Lumia products have spread. Now, we got together with a company that has money. Hopefully, the result is that the Lumia ecosystem will grow and spread further, Jari Juntunen opines.

Juntunen is optimistic about the future.

-I see a lot more positive than negative things . When you have been with the firm for more than 20 years, you’ve seen ups and downs. For me personally the discontinuation of the Symbian operating system three years ago was a bigger shock than this. We’ve been working with Microsoft  for about the same time now – three years. Our collaboration has steadily improved. By know we know how each partner operates. Now that we are one and the same company, we can talk freely about everything without certain bureaucracies.

How about possible lay-offs to eliminate duplicate positions between Microsoft and Nokia?

-I see this thing the other way around . Microsoft has always been a software house. I think that people at Microsoft are more confused than us at Nokia. Microsoft has now purchased the knowledge of what Nokia has to offer. The deal comes with hardware know-how and phone factories. They are totally new things to Microsoft. Press statements have told who will be the leaders of a new unit. Joe Harlow and Stephen Elop will continue. Microsoft will probably move people to the new unit. So I think that the confusion is greater there than on our side.

According to Juntunen, this is an unusual business deal.

-This is going to be exceptional to the normal transaction. The fact that the big chiefs from Nokia will continue and not be replaced by Microsoft people, I think, is a clear message that Microsoft has admitted that Nokia can make good cell phones. They don’t want to mess that up. Barricades have been removed and now we will be making phones faster and better.

Juntunen has worked his whole life in the phone business.

Juntunen has worked his whole life in the phone business. On his spare time he likes to play golf.

There is also a question of work visas, on which most foreign-born Nokia employees work in the U.S. – what will happen to these employees, including Jari Juntunen himself, when Nokia no longer is their employer but Microsoft?

-Our green card process is so far along that I think I will have it in my hand before the authorities approve this trade. Thus, the visa thing is not to touch me personally. There is no certainty yet how the immigration officials will see this. Since all the functions of the unit will move to another company, Microsoft, the most likely scenario is that the visas would follow along with it.

Juntunen is eager to continue working under the new employer.

- Of course it is a bit bittersweet to lose the Nokia name. After the completion of my studies, with the exception of a few internships, I have worked my whole life at Nokia. The company is familiar and so are the people. But I love the phone sector. It is a fast -paced business that never stops. I like it. If my contract continues, such as the higher-ups are saying, I see no reason why I should get into something else.

San Diego is a home to thousands of Finns. Many were brought there by Nokia. Now that the cell phone maker is no longer headquartered in Finland, will this stream of Finns to San Diego come to the end?

-I don’t think so. It has been stated clearly that the core functions of the phone business will remain here. San Diego is going to continue as one hub, even if the sign on the roof will change. Also in Finland, the R & D centers remain. I do not see any reason why the flow of Finns to San Diego should peter out.

NOKIA 2

NOKIA FINNS OF SAN DIEGO

Who are these rather insular people? A typical Nokia employee in San Diego is an IT engineer. He is a male in his 30’s or 40’s with a Finnish wife and two small children. The family usually owns a large, comfortable house in the San Diego suburbs, such as Escondido, Poway, Rancho Bernardo or Rancho Peñasquitos. The mother, who oftentimes herself is highly educated and was working in Finland, typically finds herself at home with small children in San Diego. She is instrumental in looking after them, driving them to school, hobbies, etc. There is not a whole lot of cultural or other “city” activities in these sleepy, far-flung suburbs, only houses, strip-malls and business parks. Typically all kinds of exercising is on top of their agenda. These elite Finns’ immigrant experience differs greatly from previous generations and the vast majority of today’s immigrants. The Nokia Finns start out with H-1B-visas (exceptional ability), arranged trough the company attorneys. Later on they will become eligible to receive a green card and citizenship. There is hardly any financial hardship, since the Nokia employees enjoy ample salaries and perks. However, that doesn’t help them assimilate into the American society any faster than anyone else. At least in the beginning, these newcomers tend to stick to other Nokia Finns and organize activities together. They also spend long vacation times in Finland, which prolongs the assimilation process into the American society. Eventually most Nokia Finns end up staying permanently in the United States.

Jari Juntunen chats with other dads while waiting for his son at Rancho Bernardo Suomi-Koulu (Finnish school).

Jari Juntunen chats with other dads while waiting for his son at Rancho Bernardo Suomi-Koulu (Finnish school).

AROUND LA WITH AVA – A POSTCARD FROM FINLAND

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

AROUND LA WITH AVA

A POSTCARD FROM FINLAND

Photographs by Ava Anttila

HERITAGE

The gift of Finnish ancestry brings with it the most abiding love of nature.  Mere arrival on Finnish soil completes the spiritual connection, welcomes the heart home, and beckons the Finnish soul to grand adventures available nowhere else on Earth!

The photos of lake scenery I took on my arrival the first night are from the very spot I have stood from the time I was a small child.  This is my secret paradise.

Dear reader, I hope this Postcard helps you feel the joy of my time on Finnish soil.  The sights, sounds, the gifts of nature… . 

Circumstances kept me away for the past 4 years—I missed my almost annual ‘transfusion’.  

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We each have our own story.  It may have been a long time since you have been in Finnish nature and you miss it so, too.  Perhaps you have never been in a Finnish forest or dipped your toes in a pristine Finnish lake, but you would like to one day.  No matter what the delay, do do it one day!!  Find your paradise. You will never be the same!!!

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HASSLES

When you are used to full throttle entrances into speeding freeway traffic where you need to be over 4 lanes to exit onto another whizzing mass of cars in mere moments, the idea of getting to the airport 3 hours prior to an international flight presents certain ‘adjustment’ requirements.  Of course, we use the same freeways—or the ‘secret six’ alternatives we have learned through the years, to get to the airport.  The frenetic pace continues through check-in and security clearance.  That is our way—we are in shape and the adrenalin pumps.  Then, out of breath and perspiring from the unusual humidity, we are seated outside the gate we will soon enter to fly away.  It dawns on us—the flight does not leave for 3 hours!  On a good day that is enough time to get from LAX to the LA County Fair in Pomona for a deep-fried Twinkie and back. 

inside LAX

inside LAX

No option, vacation must start now.  “Almost Heaven…country roads.” 

The stresses of life in LA, the urgent pace grinds to a halt.  Cares begin to shed like layers from a Tootsie Pop.  Patience is certainly required when almost 14 flying hours, 10 time zones, and the usual arrival airport ‘rig-a-ma-rol’ are involved.  Once at Vantaa Airport in Helsinki, anticipation builds. 

Vantaa Airport in Helsinki

Like any major metropolis at home or abroad, Helsinki is ringed by freeways to whisk you wherever.  After all that travel, I always look forward to the trip to the lake.  Driving time is 2 hours—the direction is due north!  The transition is from super highway to major highway to macadam road with opposing traffic to country road to 2 different dirt roads before we make the turn into the compound my grandfather acquired in 1937 for his bourgeoning family. 

As we turn into the two ruts in the grass that pretend to be a road in the birch and pine forest, the car stops for my exit—the final meters are always on foot for me!

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The air is so soft; the sounds so silent.  The birch and the pines wave their welcoming branches, like greeting a long lost friend home.  With eyes closed, the scent of the forest offers a familiar hello/hug.  I was literally brought to my knees and overjoyed with excitement at the most beautiful sight welcoming me “home”—the exquisite newborn chanterelle mushrooms, just sprouted after a gentle rain.  You must know there is no better taste on earth than newly picked chanterelle mushrooms carefully cleaned and cooked when fresh from the forest.  Simple fact.  Trust me.  [Actually, I will have quite a bit to say, with pictures, later on—it will be worth the wait!]

lovely chanterelle mushrooms

lovely chanterelle mushrooms

HEAVEN

Shedding my clothes, walking into the lake in my altogether to become one with the water and nature is the moment I have waited for all this time.  The Finnish baptism and renewal of body and spirit; this communing with nature is a rejuvenating experience.  The battery charging has begun.

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This little spot from whence I came has stood through the decades.  The same choices for entering the lake remain—dive off of a humongous granite rock or walk gently, gradually into the depth from the tree shaded beach.  Each year, the little sandy beach is prepared for the young ones.  Just as my parents removed the reeds and leaves that appeared on the shore during the winter for me and I prepared the same place for my little tykes, they will be doing the same next summer for their young ones.  My Grandchildren will be the 5th generation to play in that little patch of water. 

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When their Grandchildren feed the ducks and catch the frogs, they can be assured even though my body has shed its mortal coil; my spirit will be felt and continue to be on this very spot.

When the water is still, the lake becomes like glass –a real Lapin Kulta ad*.  You cannot tell which side is up and which side is down.  You are just in the middle loving it like Alice Through the Looking Glass.  The reflection becomes a new dimension.   A hyper reality and a fourth dimension seem to set in that envelops you as you enjoy such peace, exhilaration, and Finnish spirit.  The island across the narrows looks like a giant green Oreo cookie with green filling.  [I heard this year’s new Oreo flavor was watermelon –yes, that’s it!]  No Mad Hatters here, just the spirit of Vainamoinen and the Kalevala.  The Impi is rising from the water. 

*[The Finnish beer company packaging and ads feature spectacular sunsets—the beer is good too!] 

THINGS TO PONDER: FRIENDS AND THE FINNISH FOREST

There are over 13 million people in Los Angeles County.  Each day we are just a little cog in a giant wheel of life in the City of Angeles as we go through our paces pursuing our endeavors. Putting one foot in front of the other (…or on the accelerator of our car to get on the 405 safely), we do our little part in our own little way.  We are an infinitesimal speck in our Southern California wonderland –anonymous strangers passing in the day and in the night.

Still, TMZ and Star Tours will show you where the ‘special’ folks live(d)—and you can even find them picking up prescriptions or plums in the same stores where you shop.  Of course they pretend to be as anonymous as we actually are unless they are promoting a new project.

Then, again…

Have you ever traveled to “the ends of the earth” –far, far from LA, and run into someone you know from LA?  It seems to happen to me all the time.  For some reason, the same people/places are involved even though there has been no planning or prior communication. 

It used to be the dear, late Vivi Friedman and/or Ernie and Mirja Covarrubias.  Year after year, whenever I was far from home, they would be there too.  It was so ‘spooky’ we could only laugh.  Was there/is there a secret plan with our travel agents, with the great Almighty, or a metaphysical raison d’être that we run into people far from our home?

Several years ago while making a quick stop in Stockmann’s in Helsinki, there was Veli-Matti Mattila, husband of former Deputy Consul General for Finland in Los Angeles, Anne Huhtamäki.  Veli-Matti, now CEO of Finnish tele-giant Elisa, used to visit us in LA regularly when working on his MBA at UCLA’s prestigious Anderson School [we were at his graduation].  Is it serendipity when friends from homes 10,000 miles apart meet in the men’s underwear department of a store?  Actually, the coincidence was even ‘weirder’ since Veli-Matti and son were waiting for Anne and daughter who arrived almost simultaneously!

Veli-Matti Mattila

Finns claim Stockmann’s has everything—and they are right.  The very next year, a visit to the Department Store produced former Finnish Consul General in LA Erkki Huittinen right on schedule –he was shopping for an Oiva Toikka bird for his wife’s birthday gift.

A prior Finland visit brought me to the “boonies” on a very quiet Sunday.  As you probably know, in Lutheran Finland there is literally nothing ‘open’ [except Church] on Sunday morning.  So, finding a little store open and ready to sell me some groceries and a few other necessities in a little …forsaken grove of pine trees in the middle of “nowhere” was a welcome, but totally unexpected event.  As I am searching the unfamiliar aisles for my necessities, I hear a strangely familiar voice calling “Eeva”.  Of course, hearing the name is not special since Eeva is a popular female moniker in Finland.  It is as common as “Jennifer” or “Kathy” in the US.  I barely looked up from my grocery search.  The insistent voice calling “Eeva” was familiar because it was that of friend Tuula Stark: long time LA resident, educator, Finnish language guru, and Official California Court translator.  Tuula rarely even comes to Finland!  A strange and wonderful meeting in a most unlikely place—a little store in a cross-road in the Finnish woods!  What is “serendipity’ in Finnish?

This year, a trip to Lahti to look into locally usable cell phones during our stay brought us face to face [actually, side by side since we were in a queue] with a decades old friend from the SF Bay Area –a regular Skype buddy of my Dad’s.  Neither knew the other was going to be in the area.  [What do they talk about each week???]  No, it was a DNA facility, not an Elisa office.

Again this year, minding my own business while taking my Father to the shoemaker in our nearby little village, LA super star Finnish artist Kari Walden’s head pops in to the cobbler’s shop with a “…what ‘s going on”?  He had seen me go inside and stopped to say hello.  Even the Village Philosopher—the cobbler, was confused.  He thought he knew everyone in town!  Once again, it was “old LA home week” in the “boonies” of Finland.  

Kari Walden

Kari Walden

The column is called Around LA –well, LA is quite large sometimes!

These moments happen almost every time I come to Finland –and almost always in the most unlikely places.

When I mentioned these phenomena to a movie producer friend [former head of big studio] in LA, he had the perfect explanation/rebuttal:

Ava, he said in his movie producer way, there are really only 300 people in the world –you see them at the airport or when you travel, the rest are “extras”!!! 

How is that for a Hollywood perspective?

 Gallery:

The photos of lake scenery I took on my arrival the first night are from the very spot I have stood from the time I was a small child.  This is my secret paradise.

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PAULIINA HAUSTEIN’S SUMMER AT THE BOWL

STORY: PAULIINA HAUSTEIN

REPORTER AND PHOTOS: TOMI HINKKANEN – LOS ANGELES

DATE: SEPT. 3RD, 2013

Cellist Pauliina Haustein has been a part of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra during its 2013 Summer season.

Cellist Pauliina Haustein is a member of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra this Summer.

Hollywood Bowl’s summer season is soon coming to an end. The spectacular outdoor venue again hosted some of the music world’s biggest stars, starting with the opening concert that starred Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, Patti Austin, and John Legend. The house orchestra of the bowl is called the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. Finnish cellist Pauliina Haustein won the coveted position as a stand-in player in the orchestra. Finntimes met the young cellist to talk about her life and music career.

Pauliina Haustein, neé Pölönen, was born in Klaukkala, Finland 26 years ago. She was a musical child from the very beginning.

- I have been told that I started to sing before talking. In the morning, when my eyes opened, I started singing and continued throughout the day. At five, I knew lyrics of 60 songs – all the verses, Pauliina laughs.

Music was in Pauliina's blood from the very beginning.

Music was in Pauliina’s blood from the very beginning.

When she was four, the family moved to Corvallis, Oregon, where her father Ilpo did his doctorate in sustainable agriculture. Meantime back at the ranch, her mother Jaana took care of the children. In the often rainy Oregon, Pauliina became bilingual. A year and a half later the family returned to Finland. To maintain her language skills, Pauliina was enrolled at the Kaivoksela English language elementary school.

Pauliina's family came to see her perform at the Hollywood Bowl's opening gala. From the left: Mother Jaana, father Ilpo, brother Perttu and husband Martin.

Pauliina’s family came to see her perform at the Hollywood Bowl’s opening gala. From the left: Mother Jaana, father Ilpo, brother Perttu and husband Martin.

The Pölönen family has four children – Pauliina is the oldest. Her siblings are also musically talented. Sister Juulia is studying the 36 -string concert Kantele (harp), and brother Perttu film composing – both at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki. Though he also has an ear for music, second brother Pietu became an economist. Pauliina studied the cello at the Conservatory and then at the Sibelius Academy, graduating with a BA in music.

In the summer of 2009, Pauliina and her cello headed to Sárospatak Christian music festival in Hungary. On her penultimate day, she met a German man named Martin Haustein, who worked there as a volunteer.

- He is a native of Wilkau-Haßlau of the former East Germany. He was 10 years old when the wall came down, Pauliina tells. The couple hit it off at first glance.

-I was living in Finland and Martin in England, where he was making his doctoral dissertation in Neurobiology. He found me on Facebook and Skype. During the first six months we met a couple of times in both countries. We found out that it was serious enough between us to begin to date, even though we couldn’t live together for the first year, Pauliina chuckles.

They married August 6th, 2011. At the end of the month they moved to Los Angeles, where Martin had gotten a job as a researcher at UCLA. Pauliina began house hunting. In addition to having lived in Oregon as a child, she had toured the United States with the Chamber Ensemble Halo, but had never been to Los Angeles before.

Pauliina practices the cello for several hours a day.

Pauliina practices the cello for several hours a day.

-I got daily panic attacks in the LA traffic. Even the idea of having to ​​leave the house and hit the road kept me awake at nights, she sighs.

Eventually they found a suitable apartment in West LA.

- Two days later I was sitting in the traffic and waiting at a red light. Someone rear-ended me at full speed. As a result, my car crashed into another vehicle.

It was a hit and run – the culprit fled the scene and was never caught.

- We had not yet paid for the car. So, every month we had to make payments on a car, which we didn’t have. Our insurance refused to pay for the damage that incurred to the other car. We had to hire an attorney and fight for almost a year before the insurance company finally agreed to pay, Pauliina fumes.

Pauliina suffered a whiplash injury.

-For several times a week for months I had to see a chiropractor. It took me six months to get back to the rehearsing rhythm, she recounts.

For a year Pauliina biked everywhere and through it learned the traffic patterns in different parts of the city at any given times. As we are driving toward Hollywood, she gives advise on what routes to take to avoid traffic jams as if she had lived here her entire life.

Pauliina has acclimated well to Los Angeles.

Pauliina has acclimated well to Los Angeles.

Haustein is practicing the cello up to four hours a day. She is also taking music lessons. Having recovered from the accident, she began building her musical career in the City of Angels.

-My friend, an Israeli-French pianist Pascal Solomon had married a woman who had a green card in the United States, and they had moved to Santa Barbara. We started putting together a concert program. Then I met local Finns. I got gigs through them, Pauliina gratefully acknowledges.

She then got wind of a TV series looking for musicians. There was no mention of the name of the show in the advert.

-I sent them an application with my picture attached. A month later, I got a call to come to the set of Glee at Paramount Studios. They sent me the song that I was to play the day before shooting. Based on that I wrote the notes for the cello, Pauliina explains.

Matthew Morrison is one of the stars of Glee.

Matthew Morrison is one of the stars of Glee.

The scene in question took place at the school’s gym. A string quartet played a song from the musical Jesus Christ Superstar. One of the actresses sang.

-The scene was filmed with four cameras from different angles. We worked on that three minute piece for eight hours. We played for real, but what is heard in the final episode was prerecorded somewhere else, the cellist explains.

-The Actors were nice and interested in the fact that I am from Finland. I had not seen the show before, so I wasn’t star-struck. Only afterwards I realized that the guy I spoke with for 15 minutes was one of the main stars.

The gig paid $320. She has revisited the series twice since.

-The compensation was not great, but how else could I have been involved in a Hollywood TV series, Pauliina asks rhetorically.

Pauliina Haustein has gained success in California in a very short time.

Pauliina Haustein has gained success in California in a very short time.

She has worked at a steady pace – weddings, retirement parties, church concerts, and as an assistant in local orchestras.

Hollywood Bowl is an amphitheater that seats 17,000 people.

Hollywood Bowl is an amphitheater that seats 17,000 people.

Then, Pauliina heard that the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra was seeking musicians. Entrance exams were held at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. In the first round, 20 musicians played from behind a curtain, so that their appearance would not affect the jury. Pauliina and five others made it to the finals.

- At the end the jury applauded and congratulated us. Then they offered me an assistant position. I am now on  the list as an assistant to the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, Pauliina smiles.

Pauliina's parents Jaana and Ilpo watching their daughter perform at the Hollywood Bowl.

The orchestra consists of musicians from the Los Angeles Philharmonic, as well as studio musicians. To play with them at the world-famous Hollywood Bowl with 17 thousand people watching is definitely the greatest accomplishment so far in the young musician’s career. Pauliina played in the orchestra during the opening gala with Steve Tyler. The old crooner took a liking to the young statuesque Finn and winked at her. The summer 2013 season at the bowl concludes later in September.

Pauliina Haustein spent the Summer 2013 performing at the Hollywood Bowl.

Pauliina Haustein spent the Summer 2013 performing at the Hollywood Bowl.

SUMMER: COMINGS AND GOINGS

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

AROUND LA WITH AVA 

SUMMER: COMINGS AND GOINGS

Summer is here!!

“No more pencils; no more books; no more teachers’ dirty looks…”

Do you remember those glorious days of yesteryear when the final school bell of the year rang and we burst outdoors for the start of a grand period of “freedom”?  Everyone had plans—even if they were going nowhere!

Do you remember those glorious days of yesteryear when the final school bell of the year rang and we burst outdoors for the start of a grand period of “freedom”?

Do you remember those glorious days of yesteryear when the final school bell of the year rang and we burst outdoors for the start of a grand period of “freedom”?

Not much is different today—except we are the ‘teachers’.  Now, not only are there people coming and going as part of their plans in Southern California, but new projects and annual rituals are playing out as well in the City of Angels.

June 2013

On Sunday June 2nd, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Santa Monica was filled with beautiful music and over 70 attendees in the Finnish Congregation.  This Mass of Music included kantele, piano, cello, and voice offerings.  The sermon was delivered by Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, filling in for Pastor Jarmo Tarkki.  Bible readings were by Maiju Boele and Jonny Kahleyn Dieb.  The Finnish Folk Dance Group Katirilli performed an assortment of delightful dances during the coffee hour.

The Finnish Folk Dance Group Katirilli performed an assortment of delightful dances during the coffee hour

Treats at the coffee table included open faced sandwiches, cinnamon rolls, cakes and Karelian pies, and deep-fried lihapiirrakkas.

Traffic was horrendous in Santa Monica, but the outstanding Finnish Lutheran turnout was not the sole problem.  Obviously, the tourists have come to Southern California to celebrate their Summer —and our schools are out!  The local “weather-casters” had billed the day as “…perfect beach weather”.  An hour of worship, followed by Finnish fellowship and feasting before a dip in the Pacific—now that is a perfect LA Sunday!

More, please!!!!!!

The Bowl

One of the most anticipated events of the Los Angeles Summer season is the Opening of the Hollywood Bowl.  From Portland, Maine to Portland, Oregon—and most villages in between, concerts ‘on-the-lawn’/’in-the-park’/’at-the-Center Square’ are standard fare.  Everyone knows they are coming—no big deal—we’ll be there—strike up the band.

The Hollywood Bowl

The Hollywood Bowl

Well, not in LA.  Here Hollywood requires a ‘production’ of some sort.  On a recent Saturday at mid-day after wrapping up a FACC Board meeting at a member’s home high on Mountaingate near the Getty, we actually witnessed planes skywriting overhead announcing of the Grand Opening of our favorite, beloved, outdoor venue in the City of Angels—The Hollywood Bowl.

my most favorite Bowl memories are of being in the last row of the Bowl where the $1 seats permitted my then younger boys to take an after-dinner nap on the bench under the starlit sky

My most favorite Bowl memories are of being in the last row of the Bowl where the $1 seats permitted my then younger boys to take an after-dinner nap on the bench under the starlit sky

Each year when the written Bowl Program arrives in the mail, we quickly scour it for Finnish conductors and soloists—or pieces by Sibelius.  What a great excuse to pack a Finnish-themed picnic with your Marimekko tablecloth, Iittala candle holders and stem ware for a fabulous night under the Summer stars.  Actually, as glamorous as it is to be in a ‘front and center’ Founders’ Circle box with all of the accoutrements and ‘star power’ neighbors, my most favorite Bowl memories are of being in the last row of the Bowl where the $1 seats permitted my then younger boys to take an after-dinner nap on the bench under the starlit sky while Esa-Pekka Salonen conducted the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra playing Sibelius –how great a lullaby is that???  [Actually, I am not sure if it was the hour of night, a great meal, the classical music, or the ‘funny’ aromas wafting from the bushes behind the last row that brought the ‘nukkumatti’ (sandman), but it worked—and the kids love classical music to this day!]

This year, there is a Sibelius piece on July 11th : Violin Concerto performed by the LA Phil conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas.  Rimsky-Korsakov and Tchaikovsky are also on the program.  Also new this year: world famous LA restaurant Patina has just opened a full service tapas and wine bar at the Hollywood Bowl.  Chef/Owner Joachim Splichal certainly can cook—and tapas are a perfect start to a perfect Bowl evening

This year, there is a Sibelius piece on July 11th : Violin Concerto performed by the LA Phil conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas.

This year, there is a Sibelius piece on July 11th : Violin Concerto performed by the LA Phil conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas.

Check it out: www.hollywoodbowl.com

LAFF SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM

The Los Angeles Finlandia Foundation held their annual Scholarship Picnic on June 9th.   This fund raising event helps LAFF support Finnish related educational opportunities for worthy young people.

SUOMI  KERHO JUHANNUS BLOW OUT

Suomi Kerho cranked up its annual Midsummer celebration on June 22nd.

Suomi Kerho cranked up its annual Midsummer celebration on June 22nd

Suomi Kerho cranked up its annual Midsummer celebration on June 22nd

Seppo Kotajarvi was at “Makkara Central” manning the grill.  Perfection was achieved with the taste and the snap factor on those wieners—an A+.  There were a multitude of delicious salads thanks to my favorite ‘Kitchen Ladies’.  Freshly baked pulla warmed our hearts.  Background music set the mood.  Lovely new table runners made by the ‘Sewing Circle Ladies’ decorated the dining areas.  Beautiful birch branches hung from the rafters [freshly cut from Eila Korpinen’s tree that morning].  All we needed was a lake to make the transformation to Finland complete.

Seppo Kotajarvi was at “Makkara Central” manning the grill.  Perfection was achieved with the taste and the snap factor on those wieners—an A+

Seppo Kotajarvi was at “Makkara Central” manning the grill. Perfection was achieved with the taste and the snap factor on those wieners—an A+

A properly adorned hall, traditional Finnish food, music, a libation or so, and, you guessed it, Finns from all around the community were in great spirits!

A properly adorned hall, traditional Finnish food, music, a libation or so, and, you guessed it, Finns from all around the community were in great spirits!

A properly adorned hall, traditional Finnish food, music, a libation or so, and, you guessed it, Finns from all around the community were in great spirits!

SUMMER IS NOW OFFICIAL!!

SYMPOSIUM ON FINNISH EDUCATION

As one of her final events as Consul General in Los Angeles, Kirsti Westphalen hosted a meeting in conjunction with the FACC that focused on Finnish Education.  The film “Finland Phenomenon–A Documentary” was followed by a Panel Discussion moderated by Andréa Hautala McAleenan, PhD [Special Advisor to the President, Azusa Pacific University].  Dr. McAleenan was joined by panelists Carl Cohn, PhD [Professor of Education, Director of the Urban Leadership Program, Claremont Graduate University], Jaana Juvonen PhD [Professor of Developmental Psychology, UCLA], and Dennis Sheridan, PhD [President of Educational Leadership, California Lutheran University].  A lively discussion followed.  With an audience of educators, journalists, film producers, current and former teachers, and some regular people, there were many perspectives aired.

Andrea Hautala McAleenan, Ph.D., Special Advisor to the President, Azusa Pacific University (moderator)  Carl Cohn, Ph.D., Professor of Education, Director of the Urban Leadership Program, Claremont Graduate University  Jaana Juvonen, Ph.D., Professor of Developmental Psychology, UCLA  Dennis Sheridan, Ph.D., Professor of Educational Leadership, California Lutheran University — with Carl Cohn, Ph.D., Professor of Education, Director of the Urban Leadership Program, Claremont Graduate University, Jaana Juvonen, Ph.D., Professor of Developmental Psychology, UCLA, Dennis Sheridan, Ph.D., Professor of Educational Leadership, California Lutheran University and Andrea Hautala McAleenan, Ph.D., Special Advisor to the President, Azusa Pacific University (moderator) at Bel Air, Los Angeles.

The film “Finland Phenomenon–A Documentary” was followed by a Panel Discussion moderated by Andréa Hautala McAleenan, PhD [Special Advisor to the President, Azusa Pacific University]. Dr. McAleenan was joined by panelists Carl Cohn, PhD [Professor of Education, Director of the Urban Leadership Program, Claremont Graduate University], Jaana Juvonen PhD [Professor of Developmental Psychology, UCLA], and Dennis Sheridan, PhD [President of Educational Leadership, California Lutheran University]. A lively discussion followed.

Chef Sirpa Welch served up additional Finnish pride which featured delicious Salmon and rice piirakka, Caesar salad, and sweet bites and berries as refreshments.We were all reminded of the breadth of impact of Kirsti’s tenure here in Los Angeles when Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca had a Certificate of Appreciation presented to our own Dean of the Los Angeles Consular Corps.As Kirsti and Mouf go off to Thailand, we salute them as well.  We will miss their enthusiasm, their Finnish focus, their leadership, and their friendship.  Kirsti and Mouf: a “fond farewell” and a “welcome back soon” from your many friends.

Ava Anttila, VP of the European American Sheriff’s Advisory Council presenting Consul General Kirsti Westphalen with a Certificate of Appreciation from Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca

[Through the years, I have been fortunate to know and work with many of Finland’s Consuls General in California—even one whose daughter attended the French School in Helsinki with me as a little tyke.   It is always sad to see a Consul General and family move away.  It seems like they just get here, get acquainted, do their great work in representing Finland and the local Finnish community, make personal and national friends –and it is time to leave.  Each is different, each makes their own ‘mark’, each stamps “Finland” with a different hue in this Southern California Finnish tapestry, each is appreciated –and, then, they are gone (not forgotten, however).]

INSPECTOR COMING = STUFF GOING

It is fun to have visitors—many come through.  Some amazing people have been here –“…if walls could talk”.  One of my most precious possessions is a photograph taken by and given to me by an internationally renowned Finnish photographer.  The beautifully framed photograph depicts an old Finnish building with large lettering on its side that says Kansantalo (the house of the people).  The sentiment he expressed when presenting it to me means so much: that this is a place where all are welcome –to share thoughts, ask questions, get helpful hints, have strong coffee, eat a home-cooked meal, and to learn something about the ‘American way’ [some So Cal freeway tricks, too] –a place where someone cares.  There is always an ear, a shoulder, and a warm hug [for almost everyone].

There are some “visitors” who come who are not as welcome as others.  Those who have followed this column for any time probably know that this gal’s plate is normally quite full.  Off to many places, doing many things.  The daily schedule is highly unpredictable –I may be able to tell you what I am doing for the month of August, but not know where I will be on Monday!

My ‘day job’ is attorney—lots and lots of paper, most of which must be kept for 7+ years.  Others may know that my dear, recently deceased, Mom was a dedicated ‘garage sale’ maven who took great pride in her various and sundry collections and clothes—lots and lots of clothes!  When my folks moved into my home about 5 years ago, we absorbed the contents of a 4 bedroom/3 car garage home—yes, that is a lot of storage space for 2 people!

So, when my home insurance agent called to say that my carrier wanted to send out an inspector to measure, photograph, and “inspect” every inch of my property inside and out, I thought it best to suggest a delay.

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As it turned out, the dreaded inspector was quite a nice fellow

Southern California property owners know that each May 1 the LA Fire Department begins inspections of all properties in any potential fire hazard zones.  The requirements are quite specific and quite demanding—and the consequences of non-compliance are equally severe and range from losing your house to fire to thousands of $s in non-compliance penalties/costs.  Yesterday, the DWP picked up over 150 45 gallon trash bags (plus allowed loose items) so you know lots and lots of work was done to pass the ‘Fire Inspection’ and that some of my Mom’s stuff did not make the ‘give-to-charity’ cut.  Still, the process was somewhat chaotic and took a long time to accomplish.  If nothing else, just the sight of 150+ 45 gallon trash bags waiting to ‘go away’ is enough to delay a ‘photo inspection’.

The DWP picked up over 150 45 gallon trash bags (plus allowed loose items) so you know lots and lots of work was done to pass the ‘Fire Inspection’

The DWP picked up over 150 45 gallon trash bags (plus allowed loose items) so you know lots and lots of work was done to pass the ‘Fire Inspection’

A persistent “insurance inspector” insisting that he urgently needed to inspect, to measure, to photograph, and to do whatever else both inside and outside my home in order to make a report was about as welcome as a root canal without anesthesia!

The inspector’s coming reminded me of how we need to learn to luopua or give up things we hang onto.  Ӓiti did not have luopua in her vocabulary—did I?   Could I say goodbye to enough ‘stuff’ to pass a penetrating inspection?

As it turned out, the dreaded inspector was quite a nice fellow.  He was so excited about his son’s imminent graduation from UCLA—the teaching job awaiting the son in Italy was at least as important as not having to write any more tuition checks!  He told of his recent visit to inspect Eddy Murphy’s place [a 34,000 square foot crib with a shooting range and a bowling alley!].  I thought of telling the inspector man my Eddie Murphy/Ivy restaurant story shared with FinnTimes readers earlier, but things seemed to be going well and I was guessing that Mr. Murphy did not have 150+ 45 gallon trash bags sitting in his yard.

We Finns have always lived “green” with the ‘waste not/want not’ philosophy while Americans have been more a ‘throwaway’ society.  Sometimes people carry things too far.  For example, an elderly client of mine was so happy when I visited him at his place in Finland because he was able to show off the lampshades he had woven out of used Paulig coffee bags!!

Here is the question:  Is it better to use your used coffee bags to make a decorating/fashion statement as my “crafty” Finn did in his living room, or should the trash go directly to a landfill?

Difficult call n’est, pas?

GOING IN LA

One of the most delightful, often breathtaking, Los Angeles sights is the snow-capped mountains that hug the LA basin.  You can get a great long distance view heading East on Culver Boulevard in Culver City […someone else should be driving!].  My favorite view is on Santa Monica Boulevard just under the 405 –if you are stuck in traffic, it is a delight.  Looking East, past the Century City skyscrapers, as the West setting sun spreads its pinkish glow toward the snow capped mountains, a traffic jam is a welcomed pause in our go-go-go world.

One of the most delightful, often breathtaking, Los Angeles sights is the snow-capped mountains that hug the LA basin

One of the most delightful, often breathtaking, Los Angeles sights is the snow-capped mountains that hug the LA basin

I cannot believe I just voted for a traffic jam to remind us of LA’s favorite boast to non- Angelenos of skiing on a mountain top in the morning and swimming or surfing at the beach in the afternoon.

I love LA!!

GOING, GOING IN LA

Rumor has it that the “snowcapped” part of our wonders of Nature may be going away, forever.  By mid-century, scientists say that 30-40% of the snow will disappear from our local mountains.  Boo Hoo—traffic jams will turn nasty!

GOING, GOING, GONE IN LA

The Wilshire Grand Hotel [originally, The Statler and, later, a Hilton] in downtown Los Angeles has been a landmark since it opened in 1952.  The hotel was a competitor of the glamorous Biltmore as a center of business, legal, and society activities for as long as I can remember.  When LA was ‘famous’ for not having a ‘downtown’, the hotel was popular with international travelers and had a near ‘lock’ on the activities on the Southwest downtown business.

The Wilshire Grand Hotel

Heading up Figueroa on my way to Court the other day, I saw the huge empty pit with lots of demo going on at the corner of Wilshire where the Wilshire Grand once stood. GONE!

Early in my legal career, I worked near downtown and had many meetings, seminars, and meals at the hotel.  (Lots and lots of good memories.)  Somehow, we expect that places that were always there will always be there.

Heading up Figueroa on my way to Court the other day, I saw the huge empty pit with lots of demo going on at the corner of Wilshire where the Wilshire Grand once stood.  GONE!

Currently, they are working on the demolition of the underground garage.  Massive digging will begin in August.  The $1 billion Korean Air skyscraper will eventually grow taller than the US Bank Tower [what Angelenos still call the Library Tower].  The new structure will become the tallest building West of the Mississippi River.  The plans include a hotel, offices, restaurants, and stores.  Double-decker elevators and an observation deck will provide views to the ocean—and to my mountains (with or without snow—no traffic jam required).

This Korean Air skyscraper will rise in place of the now demolished Wilshire Grand.

This Korean Air skyscraper will rise in place of the now demolished Wilshire Grand.

Actually, “GOING, GOING, …GONE” is what Vin Scully et al scream into their broadcast microphones when Yasiel Puig or some other Dodger [or Angel] star hits another ‘4 bagger’ [aka homerun]!  While there are some signs of improvement lately, for a while it did not seem as if either local baseball team knew whether it was COMING OR GOING.

COMING OR GOING

The adage of “…justice delayed is justice denied” has been parsed by those trying to explain the latest cuts to the LA County Court System funding.  Seven regional Courthouses will be closed and more than 500 jobs will be eliminated.  Budget cuts!

California’s largest Court system [here] has about 4,400 employees and approximately 540 Judges.  Last year’s operating budget was about $734 million.

Be ready for higher filing fees, longer waiting times, and further travel to your Courthouse.  Civil Courts (rather than Criminal Courts) have borne recent cuts more heavily with effects like: lines around the block/waiting for hours to dispute a traffic ticket have become commonplace.  If you are anxious to get a divorce, sue your landlord, have a custody battle, settle an inheritance matter, or get a certified copy of an essential document, be ready to pay more, “take a number”, and be patient!

The Clerk who helped me file a critical document looked harried and worried.  He has been there forever and really knows his ‘stuff’.  He said the latest ‘cuts’ had just kicked in—and more were coming.  This guy looks like he could play for the Lakers or the Clippers –I’ll bet he wishes he did!

Pondering:

How can we start building a ‘super train’ no one will ride between Fresno and Bakersfield before we even own the needed land [or have the $ to buy it], but we can take 30 days to process a Probate closing that used to take 3 days?  

BEEN THERE/COMING AGAIN

Two hundred eleven (211) Hollywood ‘stars’ have just been sent to “rehab”!!  No, I did not just ‘scoop’ TMZ.  I am referring to the ‘gold’ stars planted in the Hollywood Boulevard sidewalks, not the ‘humans’.  This ‘nip and tuck’ of the famous Walk began in September and will continue for the next 3 years –to the tune of $44 million!  As Governor Arnold used to say: “…I’ll be back!!!”

Two hundred eleven (211) Hollywood ‘stars’ have just been sent to “rehab”!!

Two hundred eleven (211) Hollywood ‘stars’ have just been sent to “rehab”!!

Stolen Lotus Blossoms Repatriated/Thief Thanked.

Recently, the annual Lotus Blossom Festival at Echo Park has had to be cancelled—no lotus blossoms!  For years, the quantity and quality of the lotus blossoms declined as the ‘stank’ and pollution of Echo Lake increased.  Finally, there were no blossoms to be ‘festive’ over and the event ‘disappeared’.  It was sad.  It was sooo sad….

A project was launched to re-do and ‘purify’ the Echo Park lake

A project was launched to re-do and ‘purify’ the Echo Park lake

Then, a project was launched to re-do and ‘purify’ the lake.  Too late—the lotus plants had died a cruel death in the stagnant waters.  The lamented loss was remedied when a ‘sheepish’ citizen came to the rescue.  It seems that our hero had ‘borrowed’ some of the grand plants when they were still thriving and had propagated more in his own clean pond.  Our thief was prepared to share his ‘bounty’ in exchange for amnesty!  The Lotus Blossom Festival at Echo Park should be on again soon!  No word, yet, on whether the lake will be re-named.

The lamented loss was remedied when a ‘sheepish’ citizen came to the rescue.  It seems that our hero had ‘borrowed’ some of the grand plants when they were still thriving and had propagated more in his own clean pond

The lamented loss was remedied when a ‘sheepish’ citizen came to the rescue. It seems that our hero had ‘borrowed’ some of the grand plants when they were still thriving and had propagated more in his own clean pond

Echo Park Lake with lotuses and all is now better than ever.

Echo Park Lake with lotuses and all is now better than ever.

ICONIC/WHO CARES

The TMZ and other Star Tours busses always visit—or at least talk about, the Capitol Records Building in Hollywood as they ply their fantasies about ‘tinsel town’.  Tourists from around the world include it as a ‘must see’ sight even if they have never seen a stack of phonograph records that the Building is supposed to resemble!!

The Capitol Records Building in Hollywood

The Capitol Records Building in Hollywood

Looking to boost its sagging circulation through controversy—real or imagined, the Los Angeles Times recently ran a piece highlighting the speculation surrounding, and the opposition to, two proposed towers that would “tower over” the iconic Capitol Records Building.  Rather than ruminating on the ‘appropriate’ height of the two, tall, circular buildings developers are proposing and architects are drawing, it seems the debate should focus on whether tourists will be attracted more to three ‘stacks of records’ than one when most do not know what a “record” is, was, or could be used for in today’s technology!   What is Chinese for “…why are we paying good US$s to look at 3 round buildings?”

WHO CARES/ICONIC

On to more ‘important stuff’!  Rumor has it that:

Going down the street in Brentwood, Harrison Ford was stopped for using his cell phone in his classic Jaguar.  Despite claiming he was on speakerphone, it did not set well with the officer.   

for_d

I CARE/CAREFUL

Crows (not Russell or a rock group) have come and they not going—well, perhaps I should clarify:

I know that there is an Alfred Hitchcock movie festival in town and that The Birds was one of his most notable films.  If you have seen that film—or even a promo, you already know that crows can be scary in the hands of a master film maker.  Let me tell you, they can scare the AH out of you in ‘real life’ too.

My quiet little neighborhood has been invaded.  It has been taken over by a loud, ‘swacking’, rowdy invasion of crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos).  These birds are huge; they are loud; they are scary; and they are destructive.  Do we have to live the Hitchcock nightmare on a daily basis when the film is in re-runs???

My quiet little neighborhood has been invaded.  It has been taken over by a loud, ‘swacking’, rowdy invasion of crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos).

My quiet little neighborhood has been invaded. It has been taken over by a loud, ‘swacking’, rowdy invasion of crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos).

Seriously, LA, not only do they destroy the lawns we try so hard to keep looking nice, they “decorate” our cars, lawn furniture, and other indiscriminate targets with their output/offerings.

Two crows were fighting on my roof yesterday.  Hearing the ruckus, I went to investigate and was almost crashed into during their scrimmage.  The crows have gotten so big (like haukkas), I am afraid they are going to swoop down and carry off Sohvi-Koira!

While not quite as big, the crows have become like the coyotes who are not scared of humans –mere ‘shooing’ them away does no good.  Both are omnivorous scavenger pirates.  The crows have become the bullies of the bird world here lately.  Apparently they have become prolific all around LA and are here to stay.

I read recently that pesky birds (seagulls, in that case) are causing similar problems in Helsinki Harbor marketplace. We empathize.

Splat, splat be sure you wear a hat!!!

YOU CARE/CONSIDER CAREFULLY

Tuliaiset: Souvenirs and Hostess Gifts

If you are going to Finland for a visit, you may be thinking of what special things to bring along.

The tuliainen is brought to your Finnish host and presented upon arrival.  It is usually a thoughtful souvenir or ‘pre-thanks’ hostess gift for someone you are visiting –especially if you will be staying in their home.  It is always nice to bring a little touch of the USA, California, and/or LA with you.

Some like to bring a touch of Finland back home for “someone” –often ourselves when Finnish chocolate is involved!

In the US, wine or a floral arrangement is nice to bring for a dinner party.

In the US, wine or a floral arrangement is nice to bring for a dinner party.

In the US, wine or a floral arrangement is nice to bring for a dinner party.  Here, a hostess gift can be presented upon arrival or sent after a stay at someone’s home.  A handwritten note provides a nice personal touch.  [Linens, stationery, a book, or an interesting household item are also appropriate.]

Gone are the days when an Angeleno going to Finland could be a ‘hero’ by bringing a nice bottle of California wine to a Finnish host/aficionado.  The new weight and liquid restrictions make the wine next to impossible.

[NTF:  You can get ideas from your Finnish friends who visit here from what they purchase to take back home.  Recent ‘discoveries’: Victoria’s Secret items are huge, even for the teen set; Apple computer products, especially new releases; cedar wood ‘moth’ balls for closets; and corned beef are among a few of the things I have seen packed for the homeland by Finns.  Of course, any official NHL game jersey with a Finnish star’s name on the back is pure gold!  When in doubt, ask.  As you know, there are some things Finns do not tell you unless asked!]

Whenever I am planning a trip to Finland, I try to remind myself that the best thing anyone can bring is your joy, love, and appreciation –it does not hurt to carry-on the makings of a California celebration for your friends, as well.

Even before I leave, I start to think about what I can bring home –I plan for suitcase space accordingly.  We all have our favorite Finnish things that best remind us of our stay: the tastes, the fashions, the art and design for the home, the little ‘reminder-things’ that will keep the memories of experiences alive as long as possible, or that make it easier for you to share with those back home.

‘Tis a shame, but that six pack of Lapin Kulta is better enjoyed while in Finland.  Liquids will be hard to transport even if there is a legal way.  I cannot help but think of my American friend Mona who is a converted conscientious cloudberry fan.  I always brought her a bottle of Cloudberry Liqueur –she now gets a Lumene Cloudberry Face Cream purchased in the US.  [Don’t tell her please –this will be our little secret.]

Lumene Cloudberry Face Cream

Lumene Cloudberry Face Cream

Things in my ‘coming home’ bag, always: smoking bags (available in any Finnish supermarket), tubes of mustard, Fazer chocolate bars, licorice (best purchased freshly-made from a farmers market), Oululainen’s hapankorppu, tubes of cardamom seeds, and anything not ‘sniffable’ by the NSA beagles […remind me to tell you about the accidentally hidden makkara one day].

Whether you are GOING, COMING, or just HANGING –HAVE A HAPPY SUMMER!!

Or as Arnold ‘Governator’ would say:

“Hasta LA Vista, Baabee!!”

 

JARKKO SIPILÄ’S LIFE OF CRIME

REPORTER: TOMI HINKKANEN – SANTA MONICA, CA

DATE: 7/5/2013

Crime author Jarkko Sipilä in Santa Monica, CA.

Crime author Jarkko Sipilä in Santa Monica, CA.

Crime pays – at least if you are a successful crime fiction writer like Jarkko Sipilä. And he knows what he is writing about. Jarkko is also a crime reporter working for the Finnish TV network MTV3. The author is currently on a U.S. tour. He recently appeared at FinnFest in Hancock, Michigan to publicize his latest novel, Cold Trail. Finntimes caught up with Sipilä on Independence Day in Santa Monica, California.

He is a big and tall guy of 6’4’’, who cuts an impressive figure walking down Ocean Avenue. When some writers express themselves better on paper, both in his books and in person Jarkko comes across clear and concise. He is a story teller. Jarkko and the family are about to finish a tour of The United States that took them among other places, to the Great Lakes region.

Jarkko Sipilä's book tour took him to the Great Lakes region.

Jarkko Sipilä’s book tour took him to the Great Lakes region.

-I came to Minneapolis about three weeks ago. We did some book promoting over there. It was ten days of work, work, work. After that, my publisher let me have two weeks off in California, so I’m here now.

-I have written 18 books in Finnish, of which four have been translated into English. In addition, two books have been translated into German and two in Italian.

Which books were you selling at FinnFest?

-I have written four Helsinki Homicide books. The latest one is called Cold Trail, which came out in April. In Finnish they are called Takamäki Books and they are about a detective by the same name, who works at the Helsinki police department’s Violent Crime Unit. Hence the name Helsinki Homicide.

Sipilä's latest book translated in English.

Sipilä’s latest book translated in English.

What is Cold Trail about?

-In Finland, Cold Trail was the seventh in the Takamäki series. It’s a story about a convict, who escapes from his guards at his father’s funeral. It’s up to the Helsinki PD’s homicide unit to bring him back to prison. They start digging into his story and the crime he was convicted of and find strange things. The question that arises is: How far can you go to take the law into your own hands.

In light of the Trayvon Martin murder case, it is a very American as well as current question, isn’t it?

-it is a universal topic.

Sipilä has been touring the U.S. with his family for three weeks.

Sipilä has been touring the U.S. with his family for three weeks.

Scandinavian crime literature is red hot right now in the U.S.. Stieg Larsson’s Millenium trilogy has been made into movies. When are you going to see a movie version of one of your books?

-Hopefully some time. I actually met with some Hollywood producers in Burbank. They have been reading my books, as well as Harri Nykänen’s crime series. They are trying to pitch them to TV networks and film companies. Maybe something will come out of it, or then not.

-The company is called New Wave Entertainment and it is akin to an agency. I met with one of their producers. We had a nice hour long chat.

-They have read Cold Trail and three other books of mine and they like them, but you never know… These are police stories and a lot of such stories have been made into TV series. But at this time we don’t have in the U.S. or anywhere else, for that matter, this kind of very realistic story telling. Stories and characters we see currently on TV are exaggerated and eccentric. In my books, the plot lines and characters are more realistic. The events could happen in real life but are still exciting.

If Cold Trail was made into a movie or TV series, could it be set in the U.S. or would it work better if actually shot in Finland?

-I don’t think it matters where you set it. It could be set in LA,  Northern Minnesota, Texas or even Johannesburg, South Africa, because police officers’ mind set is pretty much the same all over the world. Not every cop is corrupt, but want to get to the truth instead. That’s what good cops are made of.

Jarkko Sipilä's crime fiction has universal appeal.

Jarkko Sipilä’s crime fiction has universal appeal.

You have a brother who is your partner in crime – tell us about him?

-My brother Jouko Sipilä used to work as an investment banker on Wall Street in New York and got out of that business in 2008. The next year he moved to Minneapolis started a publishing house called Ice Cold Crime, which publishes Finnish crime fiction in English. In addition to my four books, we have two Harri Nykänen’s books and one by Seppo Jokinen. Anja Snellman’s Pet Shop Girls is coming out this summer and next fall we will probably have Jari Tervo’s Among Saints (Pyhiesi yhteyteen). So, we have very good books coming out.

Jarkko is always on the lookout for good story ideas.

Jarkko is always on the lookout for good story ideas.

What’s next for you – are you perhaps researching for a new book here in America?

-We did one book with my brother’s friend, who was also a New York banker. It’s a story set in NYC at the eve of the financial crisis. It’s a detective story about two bankers – how they handle the events leading to the crisis. I wrote the Finnish version of it. In the U.S. it is published under Scott Stevenson’s name. It’s called Decay Time. You always think about stories when you are on vacation.

Have you seen any crimes taking place here?

-I saw police helicopters circling above our hotel. You see policemen everywhere here. You don’t see that in Helsinki.

The mindset of police officers is the same everywhere in the word, says Sipilä.

The mindset of police officers is the same everywhere in the word, says Sipilä.

Are there differences that you have seen between the Finnish and American police?

-Like here, in Helsinki every cop has a Glock or another type of a gun. Maybe not the detectives but street cops. In terms of crime, Finland is quite similar to Minnesota. We have about as many people (5.3 million), and homicides as Minnesota does. The cold and snow cool people down, unlike here in LA where it is always warm.

You are not only an author but also a crime journalist – tell us about that?

-It kind of works hand in hand with the writing. You get a lot of ideas from working at MTV3 network’s news. I’ve been doing crime reporting for over 20 years now. At first for the Helsingin Sanomat newspaper and since 1996 for MTV3.

Why is crime so interesting to you?

-It’s not that it is interesting to me but to the TV audiences, readers, web surfers and radio listeners. I think people need and like to know about bad things that are happening in the society. Crime is a little like a magnifying mirror that you have for applying make-up and so on. That makes all the bad things appear bigger as well.

Unlike Wall Street's Gordon Gekko, Jarkko Sipilä says greed is not good.

Unlike Wall Street’s Gordon Gekko, Jarkko Sipilä says greed is not good.

-Greed is a big problem these days. You have criminals that are greedier than before. If you have a lot of violence in a society, like in the U.S., with wars going on, then crimes are also more violent. It maybe one of the reasons we don’t have that many violent crimes in Finland or Europe.

What’s your take on gun control?

-Well, of course you have to realize that shooting is an Olympic sport. In Finland it has some historical value with the long eastern border and wars with Russia. Finns used to think it was beneficial to have lots of guns in case of an enemy invasion. Putting up a militia type of resistance would be easier. If you don’t shoot as a hobby or you are not a hunter, maybe you really don’t need a gun.

If you are not a target shooter or a hunter, perhaps you don't need a gun, the author suggests.

If you are not a target shooter or a hunter, perhaps you don’t need a gun, the author suggests.

What kind of sentences should be handed for violent crimes – harsh ones like in the U.S. or light ones like in Finland?

-It depends. Maybe we should have tougher sentences for repeat offenders in Finland when it comes to violent or sex crimes. Sentencing should escalate more than it does nowadays in Finland. But being in prison really doesn’t make anyone a better person. The rate at which ex-convicts end up back in jail is high. Maybe the best way to control crime would be prevention, helping some of these people before they commit crimes. They are doing it in Finland. But of course you have high youth unemployment and that can lead into criminal behavior. That and drugs are a big problem in Europe. In my opinion, they are only going to get worse.

Where can people buy your books?

-The best way is to go to Amazon.com.

Are you working on a new book?

-My latest one was published in Finland about a month ago. It’s called Valepoliisi (Fake Cop). It may take until fall before I start working on a new one.

Finntimes publisher Tomi Hinkkanen and crime author Jarkko Sipilä in Santa Monica, CA.

Finntimes publisher Tomi Hinkkanen and crime author Jarkko Sipilä in Santa Monica, CA.

THE MERRY MONTH

ava51

AROUND LA WITH AVA

THE MERRY MONTH

May is always fun.  It is a mad-cap month of May frolics, Motherly celebrations, Mexican fiestas, and Memorials.  May is a long month that always goes by so quickly!  Perhaps that is because it begins with back-to-back-to-back parties and, then, before we can recover it melts into what has become a long four day Memorial Day weekend that marks the semi-official start of Summer in America.*   Even though Californians have Jacarandas in flower and roses budding instead of the “April showers [that] bring May flowers”, ice tsunamis, or floods to mark our Spring, we do find everyone buzzing with new energy finalizing Winter projects and setting up Summer plans.  To those who have lived in Finland […to say nothing of those still there!], the prospect of Summer ‘right around the corner’ is intoxicating.

Jacaranda Trees on Alta Drive in Beverly Hills

Jacaranda Trees on Alta Drive in Beverly Hills

Finns sense the impending arrival of Midsummer even without the benefit of a calendar.  For those of you going to Finland for the Summer Solstice celebrations, you are lucky! [Have your umbrellas and rubbers handy!]

Here, or there–now is the time to start planning your Finnish Midsummer Night using your ‘inner Finn’ as your guide.  Or, if you like, you can get a little LA help from ‘yours truly’.

Actually, if you live in Los Angeles where 70º F and blue sky/sunny by noon is a daily occurrence, a Finnish Midsummer celebration has less urgency to be on a specific date.  Here you can party outdoors on almost any night –Summer or not!  We can make our own heavenly Juhannus without worrying about whether or not the lake ice has fully melted.  [In case you are compulsive—or just like to pretend you are in the homeland, I will give some easy/fun suggestions and a recipe for Juhannus in this column.]

May Day

May Day is not really big in LA.  There is always a labor parade downtown, but that is usually pretty grim—more about immigration issues these days than the ‘springing of Spring’.  I know of only one May Pole with multicolored ribbons to be braided on the pole by dancing maidens with fresh flowers in their hair.  When The Archer School for Girls [Brentwood] bought the ‘old folks home’ on Sunset near Barrington, they kicked the ‘grannies’ and ‘grunties’ out to make their school but they actually kept the May Pole that used to grace the front lawn of the property each May.  A beautiful tradition continues to mark May!

maypole

Maypole at the Archer School for Girls in Brentwood

Cinco de Mayo

While it has been some time since Southern California was a part of Mexico, each 5th of May we re-live and celebrate a major Mexican military victory with a blast that has the same party-until-tomorrow ‘enthusiasm’ as Finnish Juhannus.  In March, Angelenos become Irish for a day.  In May, we all become Mexican for a long, joyous day—and many of us actually speak Spanish!

Cinco de Mayo celebration in downtown Los Angeles

Cinco de Mayo celebration in downtown Los Angeles

Mother’s Day

The second Sunday of May is Mother’s Day in the US.  Mother’s Day is big.  And on the 365th day, Mother rested—or something to that effect.  A day of rest and futile attempts by families to prepare breakfast-in-bed for Mom has morphed into a major shopping spree and a restaurateurs’ retirement plan.  But, as a Mother, I have no complaints!!

Mothers Day Brunch reservations are booked early even in ‘walk-in’ places.  Grand hotels and country clubs stage celebrations around LA that can be truly “over-the-top” extravaganzas.  This year, I got an “E Ticket”!  [For ‘newbees’, an E Ticket got you on the very best rides at old-time Disneyland while A, B, C, & D tickets got you onto/into lesser attractions.]

My younger Son made reservations and was host.  When I arrived at the designated location at the indicated time, I found myself in a ballroom sized room with numerous buffets, carving stations with prime rib and turkey, presentation tables with delicacies, a made-to-order omelet bar, a French macaroon display, a gravlax table with all the trimmings, a cold buffet, a hot dish table at least ‘a mile long’, a raw bar, multiple cheese platters, appetizer trays, side dishes, and salads!  Phew!

IMG_3024

The jumbo shrimp on the ice sculpture with “Happy Mother’s Day” inscribed on it was my favorite course

The jumbo shrimp on the ice sculpture with “Happy Mother’s Day” inscribed on it was my favorite course.  While such a lavish ‘spread’ could conjure diet-busting guilt, here there were ‘no worries’ –enjoying these myriad delicacies involved a lot of exercise walking to the stations and back!

The food was extravagant  and included a made-to-order omelet bar

The food was extravagant and included a made-to-order omelet bar

[I must admit to being a bit apprehensive as I headed toward Manhattan Beach that Sunday morning.  This was my first Mother’s Day, ever, without my dear Mother.  Still, it was special to be invited to be with my ‘local’ Son and his family.  The company was great, the setting was fine, the food was extravagant, and they gave me some cool Marimekko gifts. What a fun experience it turned out to be!]  

Finnish Community Happenings

Finnish American Chamber of Commerce and the Creative Finns

On May 15th, Laura Laaksonen gave a presentation to the FACC about her research on the Creative Finns currently burgeoning in the area.  The diverse group has an age range spread from 21 to 60, holds monthly meetings, and is up to 200 members now.

Ms. Laaksonen’s survey received 80 responses.  She found that the group is in film, television, and music –most of the members having a high level of education.  The Creative Finns are looking forward to working together with local service providers, to taking part in government and private fundraising, and to exchanging ideas with those in the education and scholarship fields as well as their own disciplines.

Laura noted that the next CF meeting would be the upcoming Friday night at the “Pink Taco” in West Hollywood.  Needless to say, your intrepid reporter ‘needed’ to be there!  While I pride myself in staying in touch with what is ‘happening’ in our tinsel town, I have never really been into the Friday night pub crawling scene.  So, first, there was need for some research so I would be at the right place at the right time.  As locals know, LA is crazy with multiple locations, several places (and even streets with the same names) in proximity to one another, and the same street changing names as you move from one ‘area code’ to the next.

[Schedule Note:  On June 12th, the Consulate General of Finland and the FACC will present an evening panel discussion event on the Finnish Education System.  Mark your calendar and be there to learn why and how Finnish education is ranked #1 in the world!! ]

Creative Finns Monthly Meeting On May 17th

I had not heard of the Pink Taco where the CFs meeting was scheduled.  But, enjoying both the color pink and tacos, I liked the cute name and wanted to be sure I got to the right location.  Searching the Internet for proper coordinates, I found that apparently the name is not so cute to some and that there are two locations in LA.  Leaving the controversy aside [check it out if you like—it did make the late night talk shows], the two locations presented a challenge to be solved before heading out.  [Actually, the’ pink taco’ is a menu item that has pickled onions in a lovely shade of pink as an accoutrement and garnish.  An opening promo did feature a poor donkey that was shaved and painted pink with the name “Pink Taco” on its side.]

Creative Finns Meeting at the Pink Taco

Creative Finns Meeting at the Pink Taco

Having found the meeting place even without the donkey to wave me in from the street, it was great to be with young, vibrant, Creative Finns.  Laura Laaksonen was there, as well as, Pekka Pekkala who writes his poignant observations in a column in Helsingin Sanomat.  What fun it was to sit with the ever-charming, effervescent Sauli whose blog about his life in Ilta Sanomat is such a kick to follow.

Truth be told, the hard driving, loud music made it difficult to have a conversation with anyone more than a few feet away.  [Ooooh—someone is not a ‘20 something’ anymore!]

Ava and Sauli Koskinen

Ava and Sauli Koskinen

The afternoon ‘happy hour’ was morphing into ‘Friday night on the Sunset Strip’ as the sun was setting into the Pacific.  Having retrieved my car from the valet, I did manage a quick handshake through the car window and an ‘air kiss’ with Kirpi Uimonen who has ‘arrived’ in Hollywood where many CFs dream to be one day!  Here was a mentor arriving to share experiences and give insights to the next generation of ‘stars’ –surely there are exciting things ahead for many members of the CF group.  We will be proud for their individual and collective accomplishments to come.  Finland and the local Finnish community needs to be supportive and helpful to the CFs –and will be, if I have anything to say on the matter.

“Kokko-itis” [Bonfire-Ban-Itis] Comes Home

Celebrating Midsummer [Juhannus, i.e., the Summer Solstice] in LA used to be easier.  If you have lived or visited here, you know the vastness of the beaches –our entire West border is the fun, scenic rim of the Pacific Ocean.  Southern California Summers are all about singing around a fire and roasting marshmallows at the beach. [Adult beverages are prohibited by local Ordinance, but occasionally consumed nonetheless.]  If you have lived in or visited Finland, you know that virtually every person able to be there is at the edge of a body of water at Midsummer to enjoy the “kokko” [bonfire]—and an occasional adult beverage.

The latest buzz on the California bonfires is that some local residents are said to be objecting to the smoke emitted.  One of the most popular local LA beaches with fire rings permitting bonfires is Dockweiler State Beach which lies almost directly under the LAX runways.  Having lived on the beach a mile or so from Dockweiler, I can testify that the air pollution problems near that beach do not come from 15 or 20 per evening kokko, when 15 to 20 jet planes take-off per hour and 4 lanes of cars stream by on Playa del Vista day and night.  Actually, the real offenders are the Scattergood Sewage Treatment Plant which is immediately South of Dockweiler and the Chevron Oil Refinery next door, both of which run 24/7.  [Have you noticed that reporters sometimes seek quotes that suit their story and ignore facts that do not?  Besides, what would you rather inhale—a burning birch log or the ‘stuff’ that comes from those other sources??  I rest my case!]

One of the most popular local LA beaches with fire rings permitting bonfires is Dockweiler State Beach which lies almost directly under the LAX runways

One of the most popular local LA beaches with fire rings permitting bonfires is Dockweiler State Beach which lies almost directly under the LAX runways

Next target: home fireplaces.  The Winter nights do get cold here—even Summer evenings at the beach.  There is something romantic about a bear rug in front of a cozy fireplace.  What is a Finn to do?  We need our flame!

But –why are we talking about fireplaces when May is about planting and planning “…the start of Summer in America”.

Midsummer in LA “102”

We begin our ‘course’ at102 because just having some Finnish blood justifies skipping the basic introduction materials.  Let’s get on with some advanced fundamentals.

One:  Heat your sauna –or call a friend who has one and ask them to “crank it”!!

Two:  Get some birch branches.  We really do see some beautiful birch plantings in LA.  If you are Finnish, you know you know where they are!  Now, I am not advocating you trespass to get your hands on some prime birch branches.  [Use your imagination: You could offer free tree trimming which is always badly needed in this lush growth spurt time and take away the discard.]  Do get enough for the vihtas you will need for your sauna and for decorating your doorways, interior and exterior.  The local birches lack the signature aroma of the Finnish variety, but topping off your sauna with birch scented shampoo and soap for your ‘wash up’ will give you that shot of olfactory nostalgia you need on this holiday.

sauna birch branches

sauna birch branches

Three:  Take that sauna!

Those lucky enough to have a pool to enjoy know what to do on your Juhannus sauna.  Otherwise, improvise: buckets, washtubs, a plastic kiddy pool, a garden hose, or any ready source of cool, clean water.  We have a cold water outdoor shower for a quick ‘shot’.  If all else fails, try turning on the lawn sprinklers and running naked through the mist.  [Don’t knock it until you have tried it!  Back yard please, not the front!]

Take a sauna!

Take that sauna!

Four:  Light the bonfire!!

Even if you are not on a fire permissive beach or do not have a fire pit on your back yard, safe substitutes are available.  Not long ago at a small Albertson’s, I found Estonian sliced pine trunk mini bonfire kits you can light for your adorable little “mini-kokko”.  When all else fails, just put a multitude of candles together and call it a bonfire –and raise a glass to the Finnish Juhannus tradition.

Light the bonfire!!

Light the bonfire!!

Five:  Drink a beer –maybe more than one if you are going to do the fun sprinkler run!

Just as it is for a Finnish Christmas Eve meal, beer is essential to Finnish Midsummer rituals. [If you are one of those aficionados into sahti, knock yourself out –you are on your own.]

Unless you brought home a case of Lapin Kulta from your last trip to Finland, you will need to settle for what is available locally.  Many years ago, there was a beer called Finlandia sold in California.  I had a special space in a closet just for my ‘stash’!

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Summer Solstice is a cream ale style beer brewed by Anderson Valley Brewing Company in Boonville, CA

 An adequate Scandinavian substitute we have used for years is Carlsberg, a good Danish beer.  I even like Kronenberg (French).  Both are hard to find.  I get Carlsberg for Finnish dinners at a place on the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Berkeley Street in Santa Monica.

An adequate Scandinavian substitute we have used for years is Carlsberg, a good Danish beer

An adequate Scandinavian substitute we have used for years is Carlsberg, a good Danish beer

Things to Ponder Category

Why has no one imported some good Finnish beer?

If you are into stronger libations, you can make infused vodkas as schnapps.  I like to infuse Finlandia vodkas with various fresh essences such as lemon, dill, berries, and spices.  Shelf life is not a problem given the medium.  I enjoy serving them in ice encased Finlandia bottles for Midsummer, as well as, other Finn-themed parties. 

[If you have a lot of Finnish friends, you probably do not have to wonder when your next empty vodka bottle will appear—you just have to allow enough time for the infusion flavors to mellow and the ice to form encasing the bottle.  Hint: rinse out an empty paper juice or milk carton—boil some water and let cool before pouring around the vodka bottle you are going to put in the freezer over night (boiling makes clear ice)—insert some ‘seasonal’ decorations (e.g. birch bark and leaves for Juhannus or holly leaves and berries for Christmas) into the water before freezing.]

Ooops!  If you are going to sauna, drink beer and schnapps shots, run naked through the sprinklers, and mellow in front of a kokko, you had better serve some great Finnish food!

The Main Featured Recipe: Pih-Mummi’s Special Sauna Lenkki

Pih-Mummi’s Special Sauna Lenkki

Pih-Mummi’s Special Sauna Lenkki

This special recipe is a makkara preparation my Paternal Grandmother used to make.  I watched and learned.  (There is probably a similar recipe in every Finnish household!)  We called her “Helsingin Mummi” or “Pih-Mummi” because she lived on PIhlajatie.  Go figure –but, she “rocked”!  Pih-Mummi was a grand lady, a concert pianist, and a little Finnish girl’s idol.

Speaking of the Mothers/Grandmothers we celebrate in May, apparently the ‘baby-boomer’ generation here (now becoming Grandparents) are bristling at the titles “Grandma” and “Grandpa”.  They are trying to come up with alternatives: something less “old-sounding” and/or more “hip”.  NaNa, GaGa, G-Mom, Gummi, NutherMother, BonBon, and such are now becoming popular.  The pair that got me is the couple who have actually asked their Grandkids to call then Chablis and Cabernet!  Only in California!!

But, I digress.

Speaking of wine….

Buzz in Bel Air

I digress again…but it is worthwhile.

If you have been to the Finnish Consular Residence, you have been by a winery in Bel Air!  The most expensive real estate in the world and grape vines are planted on the rocky sloped back yard!  If you take the Getty tram to the top, look East SouthEast and you will have a spectacular view of the Vineyards of Moraga.  This stunning prize of a Bel Air property was ‘uncorked’ by none other than Rupert Murdoch of News Corp fame.  Kippis to you, you lucky fellow!!

Vineyards of Moraga in Brentwood

Vineyards of Moraga in Brentwood

The 16 acre property brought in the range of USD$30 million.  The seller was businessman Tom Jones (no, not the singer with the tight pants) who lovingly created magnificent –and very expensive wines.  The expense comes from the exceptional quality and the limited production.

tomjones

I used to see Mr. Jones in his Prius with wooden cases on the back seat

I used to see Mr. Jones in his Prius with wooden cases on the back seat.  Often, he was headed for Wally’s in Westwood making a delivery to one of the best wine shops in the country.  [OK, OK –I did follow him once out of curiosity to be sure my hunch was right and to be sure that nectar got to a place it could be found when the time was right.]

Changing of the Guard—and Consuls General

Kirsti Westphalen and Juha Markkanen welcome Andrea Hautala-McAleenan to the residence.

Kirsti Westphalen and Juha Markkanen welcome Andrea Hautala-McAleenan to the residence.

I was thinking of the Jones/Murdoch property transfer while on my way to the Finnish Consul Residence for the official “Goodbye” to Consul General Kirsti Westphalen [and husband Mouf] prior to her posting as Ambassador of Finland to Thailand.  The “Hail and Farewell” event at 1100 Moraga Drive was also a grand “Welcome” to Consul-General-In-Waiting Juha Markkanen [“…call me JP”] and his family who will soon hold court beneath the Moraga Vineyard.

[Please see Tomi Hinkkanen’s recent interview of Minister Markkanen for FinnTimes.]

The Finnish Consul Residence is such a proud property.  The Residence lends dignity to any event—and Finns are always pleased to be invited there to greet, learn, or celebrate.  The grace and dignity of the facility is enhanced by the culinary wizardry of Finnish Chef Sirpa Welch who sets a ‘mean’ table of tasty homeland specialties.  I so enjoy her enthusiasm and her skill.

Sirpa Welch oversees the lavish buffet

Sirpa Welch oversees the lavish buffet

 Now to the Nitty/Gritty Serious Makkara Recipe??

First, another detour.

A Most Important Décor Suggestion

You already have the birch branches absconded from your neighborhood, now go get some river rocks!  Since the Los Angeles River (and its kin) is lined with cement, you will have to look for the large, smooth gray pebbles at Home Depot or your local hardware store.  Gray is nice, but if you can find some recycled blue ‘sand glass’, that is all the better.

Next, in most any good grocery store produce section they sell cubes of wheatgrass or catnip.  You will also need some little tea lights which most Californians have in their household for emergencies and most Finns have just because we Finns must have our candles!

Now, form an undulating creek bed down the length of your table with the stones.  Place the wheatgrass alongside of the rocks as if it were the lawn or reed grass along a Finnish stream.  Place tea lights strategically in the wheatgrass down the length of your table.

If you can get your hands on those little ‘toothpick’ Finnish flags to place into the wheatgrass “tablescape” for your party, your guests will exhale Oohs and Aahs complimenting you with your creation in tribute to Finnish Summer and Finnish Greatness!  The Finnish Tourist Board website will get a ‘kazillion’ more hits from your friends saluting your efforts!!

Finally, The Food: Makkara/Grilli-Linkki with Boiled New Potatoes and Dill

Some Finns like to cook on their sauna rocks.  To me, that is like Americans who strap food to their car engines so it can cook while they drive.  While these ‘techniques’ may make a great TV Tip Clip on multi-tasking or eco-sustainability, some ideas just don’t work!  I prefer to keep the sauna rocks—and my car, as pure and pristine as possible without the stench of burned salmon when I get trapped in traffic on the 405 Freeway!  [If you do put the makkara ‘on the rocks’, it should be a ‘no brainer’ to wrap it well in heavy duty aluminum foil.  If you strap it to your engine block, watch out for melting cheese—it burns!]

In the oven, makkara is best baked uncovered on a cookie sheet or in a sturdy oven pan.

Pih-Mummin Makkara

(4 Servings)

1  Ring Bologna  – This is as close to a Sauna Makkara or Sauna Lenkki as you can get in LA.  You can also use a Kielbasa which is spicier, but may be easier to find.

Brown Mustard in a tube or squeeze bottle

1  Onion, thinly sliced

1  Tomato, sliced (Roma preferred because they handle heat better)

3  Pieces of a white cheese, sliced into strips (Finlandia brand, of course)

 

Ingredients: 1 ring bologna, brown mustard in a tube or squeeze bottle, 1 thinly sliced onion, and 3 pieces of white cheese, sliced into strips (Finlandia brand, of course)

Ingredients: 1 ring bologna, brown mustard in a tube or squeeze bottle, 1 thinly sliced onion, and 3 pieces of white cheese, sliced into strips (Finlandia brand, of course)

Directions:

Make an incision running the length of the top of the sausage about ¾ of the way down into the ‘flesh’ to create an opening.

IMG_3104

Put the top of the tube or the bottle of mustard into the incision and squirt mustard all along the incision bottom.

IMG_3106

Put slices of cheese, onion, and tomato all around, stuffing the makkara opening as neatly as you can.

IMG_3109

Place sausage on a cookie sheet or oven pan and into a 375º F oven, baking for about 20 to 30 minutes until the sausage begins to brown and the cheese melts.

IMG_3114

Serve with additional mustard.  New potatoes boiled with dill sprigs make a nice accompaniment.

IMG_3115

Ice cold beer is the perfect drink.

HAPPY SUMMER PLANNING!!!!

*Memorial Day in America honors those who sacrificed to make and keep America free.  It is not just a day of barbeque and shopping.

To experience the solemnity, pride, and joy that makes Memorial Day so special, visit the United States Veterans Cemetery in Los Angeles that runs from Sepulveda to Veteran between Wilshire and Montana.  Worthwhile visiting anytime, it is a sight to behold on Memorial Day weekend each year when the 88,000 graves of the fallen are decorated with flags reverently and precisely placed by local Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.   
Ava-June1a

HELLO AND GOODBYE

Kirsti Westphalen and Juha Markkanen welcome Andrea Hautala-McAleenan to the residence.

Kirsti Westphalen and Juha Markkanen welcome Andrea Hautala-McAleenan to the residence.

REPORTER: TOMI HINKKANEN – LOS ANGELES

DATE: 5/23/2013

At the Consul General’s residence in Bel Air, a change of guards took place Wednesday night. Kirsti Westphalen, who has served as Consul General of Finland in Los Angeles for the past five years, bid a fond farewell to the local Finnish community and friends of Finland. Then she introduced the new incoming Consul General, Juha Markkanen. Finntimes was there to record the memorable evening and to interview both the incoming and outgoing Consul Generals.

Outgoing Consul General Kirsti Westphalen introduced her successor Juha markkanen to the audience.

Outgoing Consul General Kirsti Westphalen introduced her successor Juha markkanen to the audience.

The nature of the event was evident already at the front door. Both the old and new Consul Generals were there to meet and greet the guests. They then mingled in the crowd. People were eager to say farewell to Kirsti Westphalen and to meet her successor.

Susanna Golche and Ava Anttila

Susanna Golche and Ava Anttila

Henry and Eeva Syvänen, Kirpi Uimonen-Ballesteros and Tiina Purtonen

Henry and Eeva Syvänen, Kirpi Uimonen-Ballesteros and Tiina Purtonen

 

Scandinavian Film Festival director Jim Koenig and actress Irina Björklund

Scandinavian Film Festival director Jim Koenig and actress Irina Björklund

David and Mira Scott

David and Mira Scott

The new Consul General of Finland in Los Angeles, Juha Markkanen, will assume his post September 1st, 2013

The new Consul General of Finland in Los Angeles, Juha Markkanen, will assume his post September 1st, 2013

Juha Markkanen has had a long career in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland. He has worked in the  EU secretariat and the embassies of Tokyo and Bonn. His latest post was in the Embassy of Stockholm, where he served as Minister. He has also worked as Editor-in-Chief of the trade policy magazine Kauppapolitiikka and as Director of Information in the Department for Communication and Culture. He is married with Tuula Markkanen. She will be working on her Master’s thesis in education while in Los Angeles.

Juha and Tuula Markkanen get refreshments at the residence.

Juha and Tuula Markkanen get refreshments at the residence.

We sat down with Juha Markkanen for a chat.

Please introduce yourself to us.

-My name is Juha Markkanen. I think I’m going to use the name JP Markkanen – it’s easier here. I’m the new Consul General of Finland as of the first of September here in LA.

-I am 50 years old and I’m coming from Stockholm, Sweden. I have been in foreign service for the past 22 years. I hope to be of assistance here in promoting Finland in various ways and deepening the Finnish – U.S. relations. That is my task and I need co-operation with the locals. Let’s make this a win-win situation!

What did you do in Stockholm?

-I’m the number two at the Finnish embassy in Stockholm – the Deputy Chief of Mission. That work entailed a lot of administration and also reporting on various subjects.

-Here in California, I will also deal with Arctic issues, since Alaska is one of the states under the Consul General’s territory. In Stockholm I was evaluating the Arctic perspectives.

-Last week in Kiiruna, Northern Sweden, we had a ministerial meeting that the Secretary of State, John Kerry attended.

Juha Markkanen with Abdellatif Moufakkir, the spouse of Kirsti Westphalen.

Juha Markkanen with Abdellatif Moufakkir, the spouse of Kirsti Westphalen.

You couldn’t come to a more different place than that – Los Angeles – have you been here before?

-No, unfortunately I haven’t. We have only been here since this past Sunday – four days.

What are your first impressions?

-It is an enormously interesting and challenging city and state – huge traffic problems, but very friendly people.

Juha Markkanen will become the next Consul General of Finland in Los Angeles.

Juha Markkanen will become the next Consul General of Finland in Los Angeles.

Tell me about your family?

-I have two children – daughter Maria, 16, and son Juho, 18. We are now seeking high school options for my daughter and a college or university for our son. We have considered both public and private high schools. I have asked people’s opinions tonight and I also learned about a couple of schools nearby.

Your son could complete his undergraduate studies during your four-year term?

-Yes, that’s his wish. I think Santa Monica City College will be his starting point.

When you formally start this fall, what are the first items on the agenda?

-I need to have a chat at the office, because we have moved to a new, more affordable premises. Kirsti Westphalen fought for the survival of the Consulate General of Los Angeles (that was under the threat of being shut down). I need to meet with many people to gain knowledge on issues in order to start my work.

You don’t come in with a set agenda?

-No, no. I need to learn, I need help from my friends – Finnish and U.S. citizens, the media… This is a collaboration.

Is there anything that surprised you upon arriving here?

-Well, I knew that people would be friendly here, but that turned out to be an understatement. I have been received very warmly – also at the schools I’ve been evaluating for my children. After having spent four days in California, I am starting to understand how it is up to oneself to accomplish one’s work. You are on your own.

-I had a chat with the former Consul General Maria Serenius two months ago in Helsinki and got good advice from her. I highly respect both Maria Serenius’ and Kirsti Westphalen’s work here. We have had two excellent ladies here. Now it is a man’s turn here and I am trying to do my best.

-I am enormously excited!

Honorary Council of San Diego, Kathryn Mautino, gave Kirsti Westphalen a picture depicting San Diego.

Honorary Council of San Diego, Kathryn Mautino, gave Kirsti Westphalen a picture depicting San Diego.

An endless stream of well-wishers inundated the outgoing Kirsti Westphalen and her husband Abdellatif Moufakkir. I finally got a change to catch up with Kirsti at the end of the evening.

Consul General of Finland in Los Angeles, Kirsti Westphalen with Finntimes publisher Tomi Hinkkanen.

Consul General of Finland in Los Angeles, Kirsti Westphalen with Finntimes publisher Tomi Hinkkanen.

We are sad to see you go. Thank you very much for the wonderful five years that you’ve been with us here. Now you are heading toward new adventures as the Ambassador to Thailand – your feelings?

-Well, we are going to be really sorry to go. We are going to have wonderful memories of California. And I’ve got to tell you: California is going to follow us in our footsteps. I have a life-long interest in anything that is new, dynamic, progressive, sustainable – that is what California is to the United States and to the world.

-So, I am sure I will be following this sort of dynamics, wherever I will be in the world.

Kirsti Westphalen with real estate agent Janice Hiltunen.

Kirsti Westphalen with real estate agent Janice Hiltunen.

Over the years, what has been the biggest surprise to you here?

-I had lived in California as an exchange student, as a youngster. I was always fascinated by the diversity in California. Through this more professional approach, it has not been a surprise, but I have been so grateful of the fact that I have gotten to know so many talented people. I have learned so much of the direction that the world is going to take in the future – how people are going to consume, how they are going to behave online, what the world is going to look like and what direction it is going to take and what California is going to predict for Finland as well.

Ava Anttila and Christel Pauli from the Finnish-American Chamber of Commerce Pacific Chapter handed a plaque of appreciation to Kirsti Westphalen.

Ava Anttila and Christel Pauli from the Finnish-American Chamber of Commerce Pacific Chapter handed a plaque of appreciation to Kirsti Westphalen.

-It has been tremendously rewarding working as a liaison, communicating what is best in Finland to California and to the United States – for example, education. But also communicating vice versa, because the world is not a two way street. The world is a place of networks. Where the best brains, that counts. And that’s where the Finns should be.

And indeed you have been very active in communicating with other countries as well, in addition to Finland and the U.S.?

-This has been a particular honor that has been bestowed upon me last year, when I became the dean of the Los Angeles consular core, where we have the representation of 98 countries altogether. Virtually the entire world is present here in Los Angeles diplomatically.

Actress Lisa Niemi and Kirsti Westphalen

Actress Lisa Niemi and Kirsti Westphalen

-Part of the honor of representing the consular core is that you have the opportunity to take part in so many events and that you meet people from all of these countries. And you meet important Californians. You get to hang out with the mayor and the governor!

Tell me about the new premises of the consulate?

-We, as a part of the Finnish government, are counting our pennies. We want to make sure that where we use money, it is wisely used and invested. So, the premises have been changed to more modest and smaller ones.

-This has brought on important savings of taxpayer money. So, while we can cut down on fixed costs, like rent, we are able to retain the basic core functions of the consulate – servicing our Finnish community nearly ten thousand strong in 13 western states.

-And the important political tasks that we have here, in communicating what is best in Finland, whether it’s education, science and innovation, clean technology, sustainable solutions, whether it is supporting our creative Finns in the “Silicon Beach” kind of thinking that is so important to the growth of Los Angeles, California and Finland in the future.

Is there a particular item that you were able to accomplish that stands out that you are proud of?

-Perhaps I can say that the new way of doing things in a wider Finnish foreign service and Finnish public service – the team Finland thinking, in which all of us have to pull together to achieve results. That is what we have done here in California – not only during my time, but the time of my predecessors.

-I’m very grateful to see that the rest of Finland is going California way!

Abdellatif Moufakkir and Kirsti Westphalen are getting ready to move to Thailand.

Abdellatif Moufakkir and Kirsti Westphalen are getting ready to move to Thailand.

And now onto the new challenge – what do you know about your upcoming post as the Ambassador to Thailand?

-Well, I wish I knew more. Our embassy in Thailand covers countries of Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia. This is a new part of the world and our employer is so kind as to always offer us new challenges, which I really will have in front of me. I have lots to learn.

-You referred to the fact that the consulate here was in danger of closing and we have been able to save the consulate through savings. I want to thank you personally, Tomi and Finntimes and all your efforts in getting the Finnish community organized and in communicating the strong desire of the local Finnish community here in supporting the activities of the consulate. Not only its service functions, but the fact that we are doing important work for the success of Finland here. So, I’m very grateful of that.

And I’m sure I will speak for all Finntimes readers in saying that we are glad we were able to help.

The Finnish community toasts Kirsti Westphalen.

The Finnish community toasts Kirsti Westphalen.

 

BEING FESTIVE—A THIN LINE

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

BEING  FESTIVE—A THIN LINE
by Ava Anttila

Los Angeles’ Spring is a time of celebrations and festivals.

Here, we have to go to the mountains to watch the snow melt.  We have to turn on TV news to see the rivers and lakes flood the lowlands with the Spring run-offs.  Our local skies are clear, blue, and sparkling—with the occasional white cloud reminding us of the Finnish flag.  We know we face ‘May gray’ and ‘June gloom’ before Summer sets us free to enjoy our magnificent climate again!  Even though we do not really have Winter, Spring  is special!!

Spring in Los Angeles

Spring in Los Angeles

We dust off our Winter cobwebs, do our Spring cleaning, put on a new mindset, come outside to enjoy the sunshine and new growth, gather with like-minded people for meaningful (and fun) activities, cheer the flutter of the birds preparing for their young to hatch soon in freshly built nests, and watch our grass and flowers grow.

BUSY AS A BEE

In the Los Angeles area, particularly during the last two weekends in April, there is a frenzy of huge annual festivals and happenings.

We just had the Los Angeles Marathon—a woman crossed the Finish Line first, by-the-way!

Aleksandra Duliba of Belarus has won the women's race and $50,000 gender challenge in the 28th Asics Los Angeles Marathon

Aleksandra Duliba of Belarus has won the women’s race and $50,000 gender challenge in the 28th Asics Los Angeles Marathon

For the last two years, the LA Marathon has used a new, different route which puts the race into the ‘showcase’ category.  Last year, the rain failed to prove anything about the new route other than that the water—and the runners, go downhill to finish at the ocean.  [And, that California can be cold if you are skinny and wear short shorts!]

A NOVEL EVENT

This year must have been such a joy for the runners from around the world who got a real ‘tour d’LA’ on a glorious day.  Instead of circling around the ‘less lovely’ parts of Los Angeles for a few hours in the ‘smog belt’ as they did in the past, the route now is like reading a great-city novel.   The story starts at venerable Dodger Stadium and gets better as it moves through the historic city, down Santa Monica Boulevard, gaining momentum as it presses with urgency toward our ever-green “Champs-Elysée” –a super-wide grass center strip shaded by Coral Trees that is San Vicente Boulevard from Brentwood to Santa Monica.  The trail tale makes a beautiful climax and denouement as it ends on a beautiful California beach just as the beautiful sun sets peacefully into the golden Pacific.  Phew!!!

Coral Trees along San Vicente Boulevard in Brentwood

Coral Trees along San Vicente Boulevard in Brentwood

THE PROS GO—AND MISS THE GLOW

The elite international athletes show up for the race, run, pop their appearance fee checks into the nearest ATM, have a quick shower and a meal before heading to LAX for an airplane snooze on their way to the next event.  I would guess that nary-a-one noticed that Los Angeles is ringed with snow capped mountains this time of year!  But, the joy of the LA Marathon is that all who can scrape up the Registration Fee are welcome to spend the day in a novel way—running, walking, or spinning their wheelchair through fan-lined streets toward a grand sunset [pot of gold] at the end of a long downhill ‘coast’!  If you are slow enough, you can even smell the roses!!

We all share in the joy of those participants who have trained, strained, and made it to the Finish Line.  We welcome them and offer our LA to them.  We sincerely hope they will take our goodwill and love with them when they head home.  Although, it is a mystery as to how they will get home since all of the streets around the Westside are blocked off to motor traffic in the vicinity of the race route and there are detours-aplenty because of the 405 construction.

SORROW AND JOY

The line between joy and sorrow is thin –or so it seems.

The thought sticks in my head this month like one of those ‘brain worms’ that haunt your thoughts for no apparent reason.  Actually, the term “brain worm” comes from the effect that a silly slogan, ditty, show theme, or song has on your mind as it plays over and over and over again.

I think my ‘worm’ was from one of Simon and Garfunkel’s most beautiful songs from the ‘60s or ‘70s:  “…..the line is thinly drawn ’tween joy and sorrow.”  It really rings true for me this month.

Having ‘waxed poetic’ about the joyfully triumphant Los Angeles Marathon and its successful new route, that thinly drawn ‘line’ was crossed in another town in which I once lived—Boston.

The Boston Marathon is the premier, by-invitation-only US distance run.  Held each year on Patriots’ Day, this year’s 26.2 miles ended at 26.1 miles for all but the most elite superstars.  The bomb blasts at the Finish Line sent people scrambling –or worse.

We Finns know and love the performers and the sport of long distance running.  Lasse Viren and Paavo Nurmi are Finnish national heroes—and, I think, a Finnish woman actually won the Boston Marathon some years ago.  Many come from many lands for the NY, Boston, and LA events. These Marathons openly embrace the international community whose residents are often the winners.  We gladly celebrate the greatness and achievement that comes to our shores.

Lasse Viren

Lasse Viren

The attack in Boston brought the joy of such a beautiful Boston tradition [celebrating Spring and Patriots past] to a collective national gasp of disbelief and horror.  A week went by with prayers, sorrow, worry, hope –and outrage.

The attack in Boston brought the joy of such a beautiful Boston tradition [celebrating Spring and Patriots past] to a collective national gasp of disbelief and horror

When the week was done, good had won out over evil –the good guys got the bad guys.  Media [and cell phones] had captured images of the brave, kind, caring people: participants, spectators, and the first responders putting themselves on the line for the afflicted.  Vivid, moving images such as that of a 78 year old runner being knocked to the ground by the first blast just before the Finish Line picking himself up for the final 15 steps to complete his journey—not knowing if those would be his last steps, but determined to ‘finish’!  The carnage could have been much worse had it not been for the selflessness and good spirit of those who came to help.
BOSTON STRONG DEFEATS TERRORISM
My head and heart reached out to my former Boston neighbors upon hearing the events unfold.  I had many memories from living in nearby Cambridge while in graduate school.  I taught Scandinavian cooking lessons to a Harvard group –I taught high school drama, English, and rock poetry in the area –I directed plays, one with a coffin … !  Memories flood back at times like this.

I had many memories from living in nearby Cambridge while in graduate school

Watertown (where “# 2 went down” last week) was across “Mass Ave” from where I lived behind the Radcliffe Library.  My experience with the Watertown Police was quite positive.  Our car had been stolen, but was found/recovered (already repainted) in Watertown.

Despite the casualties, at the end of the Boston Marathon ordeal there was a collective sigh of relief in New England, in America, and in the world.  A festival of determination, resolve, and courage erupted as the “Boston Strong” community moved forward celebrating its traditions and the spirit of its people.  The horror and sorrow turned to joy as the collective spirit came together.

Terror works only when people are afraid.  Terrorist tactics are effective only when people are intimidated.  Americans are a curious breed—they can seem to be self-absorbed, selfish, and aloof in their quest for “…life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” which is their “… inalienable right”.  They seem not to care sometimes.  Then, whether it is Pearl Harbor or the Boston Bomb, there comes a time when “enough is enough”, a ‘switch’ is thrown, and THE YANKS ARE COMING!

Boston's Defiant Spirit on Display at Fenway Park

Boston’s Defiant Spirit on Display at Fenway Park

That Saturday –less than 24 hours after the lockdown was lifted and the 2nd suspect captured, “Boston Strong” was what it was about.  The Red Sox played baseball for the first time since the bombing and, at the Bruins hockey game, even the opposing goalie wore a Boston sticker on his helmet!  At the ball game, legend Neil Diamond showed up to lead the fans in their favorite 7th inning ‘sing-along’ of his Sweet Caroline, a years-long tradition—Fenway Park rocked!!  The Metro re-opened.  Boston Common was once more filled with families, nannies pushing strollers, joggers running in memory of the victims and in defiance of potential terrorists, citizens showering law enforcement and first responders with cheers of gratitude, and the entire city of Boston earned the respect from the world.  Boston lived its new moniker:”Boston Strong”.


legend Neil Diamond showed up to lead the fans in their favorite 7th inning ‘sing-along’
of his Sweet Caroline, a years-long tradition
FESTIVE IS JOYOUS AND HAPPY

The Boston sorrow had brought forth a Festival of Life.

Collectively the Boston event cast a cloak of fear all across the country.  All large cities (including LA) went into heightened mode with security.  While the expected ‘copycat’ consequences of a surge in bomb squad calls and an uptick in fake threats and other hoaxes followed, local law enforcement erred on the side of caution and dealt professionally with the increased number of emergency calls that is the pattern after high-profile violence.

Like other major cities in America, LA stood strong, kept calm, and carried on as planned in solidarity with Boston.  Great Britain stood tall and successfully welcomed the world to their annual London Marathon which features the best and quickest for 26.2 miles!

Nothing fazed people here—or there.  They prayed (and then cheered) for their Boston friends.  The message was simple: “You go guys!  We’ve got your back!”

Huge events planned for this past weekend went on as scheduled.  Just like with Spring cleaning –once done, we dust ourselves off, get up, and start all over again.

WHAT A WEEKEND IT WAS

For the young (and the young at heart) Coachella music crowd in the desert, the annual Spring festival has grown from one weekend to two.  This year, a ‘special addition’ was a tent with air conditioning and comfortable seating for the older “baby boomer” group.

Each April, Long Beach closes their local streets to high powered racing cars that roar around temporary barriers at scary and very noisy speeds. The Long Beach Grand Prix is a major motor tour event televised around the world.  This past weekend was not a time for a casual stroll and window shopping in our near neighbor, but they do draw a huge crowd.

The Long Beach Grand Prix is a major motor tour event televised around the world.

The Long Beach Grand Prix is a major motor tour event televised around the world.

Spring means the Baseball Season ‘Openers’ in LA with the Dodgers playing under new ownership in the National League and the Angels playing in the American League.  Not to be out done, both the Lakers and the Clippers were good enough during the Winter to make it to the Spring NBA Playoffs!  Oh yes, the Kings and Ducks are still playing NHL hockey as I write.

Just to be sure everyone not cheering a local pro or college team had a good excuse to be outside exercising while avoiding Spring cleaning or the mandatory Brush Clearance prior to Fire Department inspections which begin May 1st, many Los Angeles streets from downtown to the beach along Venice Boulevard were closed to motorized traffic for a bicycling event called CicLAvia. Foot powered transit only—I believe!

FESTIVALS ARE FUN

April featured several major festivals: The Festival of Books on the University of Southern California (USC) campus and the Annual Scandinavian Festival on the campus of California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks.

What fun it was to participate in the two day Scandinavian Festival held at Cal Lutheran.  There was an awesome Finnish presence.  I was honored to stand in for Finnish Consul General and Dean of the Los Angeles Consular Corps Kirsti Westphalen who had to be away on Finland business.  The recent Finnish national preeminence in international accomplishment rankings made it easy to say some good words about the 700,000 or so American Finns—and to remind folks that ‘we’ have been here for 375 years!

Christina Lin with Finnish flag

Christina Lin with Finnish flag

Joining in the grand procession to the stage for the Opening Ceremonies was Finland Flag Bearer Christina Lin of Finlandia Foundation National.  Christina had recently been instrumental in the amazing success of the 60th Year of FFN celebration festivities.  Christina was dressed in a beautiful Finnish National Costume as she proudly carried the flag in the procession and properly displayed it during the singing of the Finnish National Anthem.

Maria and Christina Lin at reception

Maria and Christina Lin at reception

Maria Kizirian was our Finnish songbird who so beautifully presented “Maamme” laulu.  It was fun to get better acquainted as we made our way to the dais.

The Katrilli Dancers were ‘first up’ on the featured Scandinavian Festival performances.  This incredibly dedicated and talented group of dancing people headed by the effervescent Pirkko Satola-Weeres is always a treat to behold.  Finnish pride, culture, and talent were on display for all to see, hear, and cheer!

The Katrilli Dancers were ‘first up’ on the featured Scandinavian Festival performances

The Katrilli Dancers were ‘first up’ on the featured Scandinavian Festival performances

A CELEBRATION OF LIFE

The sorrow and grief of a departed Mother contrasted with the comfort and joy of family, friends, and community coming together on a sunny Saturday afternoon.  Remembering Raija turned out to be a festive occasion as we celebrated a good, long life well lived.

Ari Anttila

Ari Anttila

The day was sorrowful/the day was joyful –at the same time.  Tears of sadness/tears of joy flowed as poignant memories and funny stories brought our Dear One to mind and midst.

The line between joy and sorrow was thin and blurred!!

ONWARD…

Tiny Arrival: Incubator in Action

Hummingbird Nest:

It is always such a joy to see the miracle of nature.  Sometimes, when you give nature a chance, it makes you pause and takes your breath away.

It had been awhile since our sauna had been heated.  Preparations for Ӓiti’s Memorial Service required much attention and sprucing up for other areas in the yard.  The clutter that accumulates had been cleared and, suddenly, there it was.  Following the “If you have it, use it” adage, it seemed to make sense to follow the ancient ritual of our forefathers and mothers to relieve the stress of events and the busy activities of the last couple of weeks.  I told my Dad to get ready, I am going to ‘crank’ the sauna.

On the lowest branch of a small tree in front of the sauna I saw the tiniest, cutest, most precious, little bird’s nest I had ever seen

On the lowest branch of a small tree in front of the sauna I saw the tiniest, cutest, most precious, little bird’s nest I had ever seen

Rushing toward the sauna building to start the heating routine, I was taken aback –literally stopped in my tracks, with what I saw.  On the lowest branch of a small tree in front of the sauna I saw the tiniest, cutest, most precious, little bird’s nest I had ever seen.  Apparently a little hummingbird (colibri) had decided that this was a safe and wonderful place for its little one to be born and raised. [I got up on a step ladder to look inside the golf-ball-sized nest and spotted a tiny little egg!]

IMG_2939

If I do not answer my phone when you call, it may be because I am in the sauna ‘spying’ through the window to be sure that mamma and baby are OK.  Let’s hope that the predators leave our new neighbors alone!


Kiisseli
in a Meringue Nest:

Rhubarb has long been a harbinger of Spring.  And, there is nothing more quintessentially Finnish than raparperi kiisseli or, as my children called it, “rubberberry slime” [sorry about that!].

Rhubarb grows like a weed in the rainy Finnish climate, is used like a fruit, but is actually a vegetable.  [If you grow or pick your own, be sure to remember that the green tops are poisonous!]

I like to make my kiisseli like a compote –more fruit, less ‘jiggly’ stuff.  Since rhubarb is borderline ‘super-tart and sour’, it needs lots of sweetening if served in dessert form.

My recipe this month presents the rhubarb in a meringue nest.  It is festive in homage and celebration of the arrival of the new hummingbird nest by my sauna.

Kiisseli

6  stalks of rhubarb

1  cup sugar

3  cups water

5  tablespoon potato starch* dissolved in ½ cup water

Cut rhubarb stalks into slices.

Boil rhubarb with sugar and water until just tender; about 10 minutes.

Mix potato starch and water together and pour into boiling mixture while stirring.

Take off heat before it boils again.

Let cool.

*Potato starch may be hard to find.  I get it at an Oriental Market, of all places.

Meringue Nests

Preheat oven to 250º Fahrenheit

4  egg whites at room temperature

¾ cup sugar

Beat egg whites with electric mixer adding sugar gradually.

Beat until stiff and glossy so the mixture holds a peak when the beater is lifted.

Scrape mixture into plastic food storage bag.

Cut small opening at the tip of the bag.

Squeeze mixture into small rounds in a circular motion on parchment paper lined baking sheet beginning in the middle and working outward.

When the right diameter size, continue to squeeze as you slightly lift and continue around the edge to make two layers more to form a nest.

Bake 10 minutes and turn off heat.

Leave meringues for several hours (or overnight) in oven until dry.

Assembly

Right before serving, fill meringue nests with rhubarb mixture.

Serve with whipped cream and/or in a pool of strawberry sauce.

Alternative

Warm leftover kiisseli in the micro and pour over vanilla ice cream for a quick tasty sweet treat!

This is life in LA now.

The line is thin.

This month, this is how we roll.

REFLECTIONS ON FINNISH-AMERICANS

REPORTER: TOMI HINKKANEN DATE: April 8th, 2013

-From snowbirds to oddbirds, there’s a Finn for every occasion.

Finns gathered on the grounds of Hauli Huvila near Reedley, California in the early 1970's.

Finns gathered on the grounds of Hauli Huvila near Reedley, California in the early 1970′s.

There are approximately 750,000 Finns and people of Finnish heritage living in the United States today, according to official statistics. It is an understatement to say that it is a very heterogeneous group of people scattered across a vast geographical area. There are Finns living in every state of the union, as well as a handful of pockets with greater numbers, such as in Minnesota, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Florida’s Lantana – Lake Worth and the Bay Area. Also big cities like Chicago, New York and Los Angeles – San Diego have sizable Finnish populations. 006 LA JUHANNUS 2012 In a totally unscientific way, I have identified the following six main groups of Finns in the U.S. and  given each group a nickname:

1) ORIGINAL FINNS: Those later generation Finns, whose ancestors immigrated to the U.S. between the late 1800’s and 1920’s.

2) POST-WAR FINNS:  Finns, who immigrated after WW2 in the 1940’s, ‘50’s and ‘60’s.

3) SNOWBIRDS: Florida Finns, who arrived between the 1960’s and ‘80’s.

4) ODD BIRDS: People like myself, who came to this country between the 1980’s and ‘90’s during low immigration years from Finland.

5) OFFICIAL FINNS: The staffs of the embassy in Washington DC and consulate generals in New York and LA plus other governmental agencies, such as Tekes, Finpro, etc.

6) COMPUTER NERDS: The latest crop to land into the country are the IT-people. They immigrated in the late 1990’s to present day. As you can surmise, these six groups of Finns are very different from one another. Each have some connecting characteristics.

The Simpsons producer Bonita Pietila hails from Minnesota. She grew up in a totally Finnish family but was never taught the language.

The Simpsons producer Bonita Pietila originally hails from U.P. Michigan. She grew up in a totally Finnish family but was never taught the language.

ORIGINAL FINNS:  As a rule, they don’t speak Finnish, even though I have run into such Finnish speaking Finns in the oddest of places – like in rural Montana and a mountain village in Utah. Amazingly, also many older U.P. Finns still speak it, though many of them have never even visited Finland. These Finns are as American as Apple Pie and you would never be able to distinguish them from the rest of the population.

Taisto Liski with his alter ego. Taisto immigrated to the U.S. in 1967, built a successful car mechanic business and retired after 30 years. He lives with his wife Helka in Signal Hill, California.

Taisto Liski with his alter ego. Taisto immigrated to the U.S. in 1967, built a successful car mechanic business and retired after 30 years. He lives with his wife Helka in Signal Hill, California.

POST-WAR FINNS: They not only speak Finnish but also retain many of their Finnish habits and traditions to date. I have friends who belong to this group. Visiting their house is like going back to Finland. This generation often worked in blue collar occupations, such as maids, mechanics and construction workers and earned their living the hard way. This aging group is disappearing fast. Their children and grandchildren are now adults and usually do not speak the language.

Finntimes publisher Tomi Hinkkanen with singer Eino Grön in Pasadena, California. Eikka has lived in Florida for over 30 years with his wife marjatta. He still entertains people on both sides of the Atlantic.

Finntimes publisher Tomi Hinkkanen with singer Eino Grön in Pasadena, California. Eikka has lived in Florida for over 30 years with his wife Marjatta. He still entertains people on both sides of the Atlantic.

SNOWBIRDS: They live in Florida and are mainly retirees, although there are also some entrepreneurs and a few very wealthy business people in this group. They of course speak Finnish but oftentimes the retirees’  English skills are poor. Therefore they tend to stick together and organize activities among themselves.

Jouni Passi's Burbank Spa & Garden is a luxurious massage parlor in Burbank, California, frequented by Hollywood stars.

Jouni Passi’s Burbank Spa & Garden is a luxurious massage parlor in Burbank, California, frequented by Hollywood stars.

ODD BIRDS:  This group speaks Finnish, although those of them who don’t practice it, lose it. Oftentimes they tend to be female and married to an American spouse or divorced from one. They can be found across the country in a variety of occupations from governmental positions to private entrepreneurs. They blend in the rest of the population. Many of them never attend any Finnish events.

Kirsti Westphalen is the current Consul General in Los Angeles.

Kirsti Westphalen is the current Consul General in Los Angeles.

OFFICIAL FINNS: These government officials rotate in and out of the country every four years. Their language skills are excellent in Finnish, English as well as Swedish, they retain all their Finnish habits, build connections with Americans, oftentimes socialize with one another and after their time is up, move to the next country.

Niko Ruokosuo, CEO of P2S Media Group Inc., a photo sharing business.

Niko Ruokosuo, CEO of P2S Media Group Inc., a photo sharing business.

COMPUTER NERDS: They are mainly men, who bring along their families, highly educated, speak fluent Finnish and English and are employed in the high tech sector in high paying positions. Sometimes they are on an assignment but oftentimes end up staying in the country. They frequently travel between the U.S. and Finland and maintain close ties with their friends and family in the old country. These Finns can be found in California’s Silicon Valley, Dallas – Fort Worth and San Diego areas. These people tend to have families in which the wife stays at home with small children.

The shoe manufacturing mogul Sari Ratsula with husband jussi and son Aku in Orange County, California.

The shoe manufacturing mogul Sari Ratsula with husband Jussi and son Aku in Orange County, California.

Epilogue: Finnish-Americans hail from different eras, experiences and socio-economic backgrounds. Like all people, they are a sum of their genes, environment and experiences. Against all odds, many second, third and later generation Finnish-Americans retain surprisingly strong ties to their heritage. For them being Finnish is an inner journey to one self. Understanding their background helps understand themselves – their stubbornness, their quiet ways, their fondness for coffee. The present day Republic of Finland is a totally foreign country to them and in their festivals and gatherings they rather wish to remember Finland as it was in the days of their forefathers.

Actress Lisa Niemi, neé Haapaniemi, was born to a Finnish immigrant family in Texas.

Actress Lisa Niemi, neé Haapaniemi, was born to a Finnish immigrant family in Texas.

But it would be a grave mistake to dismiss them as merely American. They are as Finnish as members of any other Finnish group. Environment affects political views. You will find that a Finn living in a small Texas town is likely to be more conservative than a Finn living in Hollywood. The whole immigrant experience varies greatly between generations and individuals. Those hard-working original and post-war Finns got the full experience of what it is like to start from scratch. The IT-engineer hired by a Silicon Valley company directly from Espoo, Finland, not so much. But whatever the background, place, experience or generation, all of the above are Finns in the true meaning of the word. It is the task of Finntimes to try to bring all these various Finns together to celebrate our rich history and heritage.

A Finnish gathering in North Hollywood, California.

A Finnish gathering in North Hollywood, California.

WOMEN

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

WOMEN

Things to Ponder Category:

Why is there a Women’s History Month when there is not a Men’s History Month?

Women still seem to be considered a minority even though they populate half of the world.  Most men will acknowledge that we women have been running ‘things’ for quite a while, even if in a quiet, ‘behind-the-scenes’ way.  However, now that so many men now report to women bosses in the workplace, it is best not to press that issue.

hist_month2013

Anyway, I am all for celebrating.  Any excuse for a party, n’est pas?

The first Women’s Month celebration I can remember was hosted by dear friend Bitte Westerlund, wife of former Consul General Jörn Donner, during their tenure here in LA.  It was a remarkable event.  Attending were this area’s most prominent women in politics, business, film, and the like.  Nothing like this had been held before.  All of us attending were so excited to be a part of something new –we felt a universal bond.  Connie Rice [no, not the Secretary—she is a civil rights attorney], Beata Pozniak, Elina Vesara, Ruth Goldway, Dr. Leena Peltonen-Palotie, and so many others were brought together by Bitte.   It is hard to get Finns together collectively, but Bitte “leaned in” and her personal force has left an indelible mark on the LA scene and on the Finnish women’s dynamic.  We are eternally grateful in the Finnish community for her contributions during her time here.

Bitte Westerlund_Ava

Bitte Westerlund

And…:

This has been a big year for celebrating Women’s History Month.

Easter weekend marked the 100th anniversary of Suffrage for Women in the US [1913].  Finnish women gained full political rights in 1906, even before our homeland won its Independence.  Finland was the first nation in the world to have women elected to its Parliament [1907].

Women representatives at the Finnish parliament in 1907

Women representatives at the Finnish parliament in 1907

Finnish women have been particularly on my mind with their awesome accomplishments [no bias—just pride!].  I was led to reflect on the famous Finnish females who have graced our sunny Southern California shores when now retired Ambassador Maria Serenius  returned ‘home’ this March.  Maria was the first woman Finnish Consul General in Los Angeles.

Ava with Ambassador Maria Serenius

Ava with Ambassador Maria Serenius

As a ‘fringe benefit’ of being active in local Finnish groups and programs –and, if you are willing to get downtown for a 7 AM breakfast, you get to ‘visit’ with some really neat people.  Sometimes those visits are in a ‘small group’ setting as a few of us experienced with the then Foreign Minister Tarja Halonen who went on to serve as Finland’s President for 12 years.  I can remember the Finnish pride I felt as Minister Halonen answered a tricky question about Finland’s vaunted neutrality and the NATO participation requirement for membership in European Union that was in final formation stages.  The future President proved her diplomatic ‘chops’ with an answer she may have been ‘trying out’ for similar questions from a larger audience in the future: NATO participation is problematic for Finland.  Since we have the longest border with Russia, I propose that Finland secure that border and let NATO take care of the rest.  Poised, confident, and bold in her answer, there were no follow-up questions on the subject.

Finland’s First Female Ambassador to the United States Visits:

Speaking of famous Finnish females, I hope you got to meet Ritva Koukku-Ronde, Finland’s first female Ambassador to the United States on her recent West Coast visit.  The Ambassador joined Consul General Kirsti Westphalen and Honorary Consul Kathryn Mautino in San Diego before being the Guest of Honor and Keynote Speaker at the Finlandia Foundation National’s 60th Anniversary Celebration in Pasadena.

Ambassador Ritva Koukku-Ronde at Finlandia Foundation’s 60th Anniversary celebration.

Finlandia Foundation National’s Performers of the Year:

Marja Kaisla (FFN Performer of the Year 2013) and Maria Mannisto (FFN Performer of the Year 2007) each performed in concert for the large and appreciative 60th Anniversary Celebration audience.

Finlandia Foundation National’s Lecturer of the Year:

Dr. Glenda Dawn Goss

As part of the 60th Anniversary Celebration, FFN showcased their 2012 Lecturer of the Year, Glenda Dawn Goss, on Friday night preceding the Anniversary Gala.  Dr. Goss made Finland’s cultural awakening come to life through her unique presentation on the life of Jean Sibelius.  She used music, historical slides, and personal descriptions in her scholarly evaluation.  Dr. Goss’s personal perspective comes as a scholar from Georgia (in the American South) who has lived in Finland since 1998.

Dr. Goss made Finland’s cultural awakening come to life through her unique presentation on the life of Jean Sibelius.

Dr. Goss made Finland’s cultural awakening come to life through her unique presentation on the life of Jean Sibelius

Those of us in the sold-out audience were taken back in time by a description of the life of Sibelius that also detailed how the Maestro came to be such an important and recognized figure in the United States.

She declared that Sibelius created “…what it means to be Finnish” and, thereby, paved the way for the Golden Age of Arts that was to follow.  This was the awakening of the Finnish Identity.  I think Finns all have the sounds of Sibelius’s music burned in our hearts, minds, and souls –an affirmation of our Finnish pride.

I can’t wait to read Dr. Goss’s new biography: Sibelius: A Composer’s Life and the Awakening of Finland; University of Chicago Press; 2009.

A Little Girl Remembers:

Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco

Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco

As a youngster my parents would put me on a Greyhound bus, alone, headed for San Francisco  from the San Jose depot [no one would dare do that today, I know—different time/different rules].  My Pirkko-täti (a vivacious single lady in those days) would take me to a record shop by Ghirardelli Square on those visits.  I remember the shop because Sibelius played in the background, just like home!  The owner of the shop had a ‘thing’ for my aunt, I think.  Once, he bent down and told me “ …you will never be fit to marry unless you know all of the symphonies of Sibelius”.

That long-buried memory came back as I listened to Dr. Goss’s lecture.  Still, I do keep playing those symphonies!

More About FFN Lecturer of the Year Program:

LOY is a national initiative by Finlandia Foundation National started in 2006.  The program’s aim is to promote Finland and to explain the Finnish-American connection.

An early FNN/LOY I supported at the Beverly Hills Library was a fascinating presentation by Susan Saarinen (granddaughter of Eliel and Loja Saarinen) and Mark Coir (architectural historian).  That too was an excellent program with talks that illuminated the international exhibit on Finnish architect Eero Saarinen’s life and work that toured the US for several years.  Saarinen’s work in the US [TWA at JFK/Dulles at Washington, DC—and his LA work with Eames of chair fame] is well known and admired.

sarinnen

Susan Saarinen by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

These programs are so well organized, inspiring, informative, and fun!!  When you leave, you want to be sure your fellow attendees know you are Finnish too—even though boasting is not permitted!

FFN Is 60!!:

The crown jewel of activities in the Finnish community this March was Finlandia Foundation National’s 60th Anniversary Gala Dinner and Concert.  Finland’s Ambassador to the United States Ritva Koukku-Ronde was the Honored Guest and Keynote Speaker.

Marvin Suomi served as Master of Ceremonies.  With Marvin was his lovely wife Marieclaire even though the whole Suomi family was leaving for Japan the next morning when the children’s Spring Break began.

Ava with Andrea McAleenan of Azusa-Pacific University

The evening was informative and entertaining.  It was a delight to meet the many Trustees of FFN.  Tarja Silverman (a FFN Trustee from New York) was seated at my table.  Between us was one of my favorite local Finns and long time friend Heidi Crooks (Chief Nursing Officer of the UCLA Health System).  Andrea McAleenan of Azusa-Pacific University (formerly in charge of the EU Center at the Claremont Colleges) dropped by to say hello and to remind us all to attend FinnFest ’13 being held on the Finlandia University Campus in June on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  Finlandia University President Philip Johnson was in attendance, as well.

Hollywood in the Desert:   

After Awards Season in LA [aka Winter], the fancy gowns are out and everyone is still in a festive mood ready for the next big party.  When Hollywood quiets down, the real fun, social scene moves with the ‘glitterati’ to the California desert.  They are joined by the “snowbirds” from colder climates who have the resources and resolve to ‘get out of Dodge’ before the snow flies!

My dear old Hollywood friend (the late Greta Peck) loved her ‘Winter’ time with her ‘crowd’ in the warm and welcoming desert with all the activities and ‘goings-on’.  She loved to tell tales—but my lips are sealed.  In the sweltering Summer months, the place turns into a ghost town.  Now, in high season, the streets are bumper to bumper and dinner reservations at the top restaurants are a precious commodity.  The parties go on late into the night in this warm, happy party town.

Ava and Greta Peck

A desert resurgence has taken place as a new generation has taken over with second/third… homes in lavish surroundings.  Private jets now vie with commercial airliners for space at the Palm Springs Airport.  Those who can do live in leisure and luxury.  Even those who still work can carry an electronic ‘office’ and are able to shuttle back and forth depending on the season, the reason, or the event.  Smiles, tans, and good moods abound.  A strong sense of philanthropy dominates the social world and many charities benefit from those ‘goings-on’.

Golf, Tennis, Pools, and Pageants:

Golf, tennis, and pools have long been desert daytime staples.  Professional golf and tennis tours have major tournaments in the desert during March each year.  Following an afternoon of watching the professionals play, an evening of talk over cocktails and dinner, a good night of great dreams in the balmy, fresh night air, it is no surprise to find the sweet morning stillness at La Quinta Resort broken by the thuds of tennis balls and ‘grunts’.  The morning ‘jocks’ have been inspired by their heroes’ performances from the day [or their dreams of the night] before and seek to duplicate the same perfect strokes.  After a short bit, the gardeners take over with their equipment manicuring the grounds before the heat of the midday sun.  The sequential noise patterns combine to leave a ‘peace offering’ of grapefruit that have been ‘rattled’ from the trees for the guests to enjoy.

La Quinta Resort

As my friend from Washington, DC [VB] and I were quietly doing water aerobics in a small pool in Santa Rosa Cove at La Quinta we noticed Donald Rumsfeld [Gulf War I Secretary of Defense—among his many other accomplishments] ‘chilling’ on a poolside lounge chair.  Just another day at the beach—his war is over.

My concert pianist friend [DP] is also a superb tennis player.  The Tour Tennis Tournament was ‘on’ and all La Quinta televisions were turned to the tennis action 24/7 –especially in the pro shop where exquisite tennis gear can dress one for success on the court or in your dreams.

Fashion Week:   

Fashion Week is also big during this season in the desert.  That grand pageant was about to begin with exhibitions and special events scheduled back to back.  The night I was there, my architect friend [JJ] from LA was able to obtain much coveted tickets to The Fashions of Leonore Annenberg at the Visitor’s Center at Sunnylands.  [The Walter and Leonore Anneberg Estate Sunnylands is a must see recommendation for everyone.]

Fashions worn by Walter and Leonore Annenberg and modern interpretations of those outfits by designers were the focus of the Nightlife series at Sunnylands Center & Gardens

Fashions worn by Walter and Leonore Annenberg and modern interpretations of those outfits by designers were the focus of the Nightlife series at Sunnylands Center & Gardens

The Fashion Show on March 13th was abuzz with the beautiful women of the desert.  Each designer shown was interpreting (in their own contemporary perspective) the designs originally worn by Leonore Annenberg.  Mrs. Annenberg’s original gowns were on display and a runway presentation of the new designs was featured.  Among those guests present was iconic black fashion model Betsey Johnson.  A martini tasting of infused vodkas and hors d’oeuvres preceded the runway show.

[The Annenberg Estate ‘Sunnylands’ tour provides a marvelous view into American history, but must be deferred for another column. ‘Sunnylands’ (designed by US architect A. Quincy Jones) now offers tours to the public.  Tickets are hard to come by, but are worth the effort if you know you will be in the area.]

Leonore Annenberg:

Leonore Annenberg

Leonore Annenberg

Leonore Annenberg fits into the Celebration of Women for her accomplishments in the world of politics and diplomacy not only as the wife of an Ambassador, but because she held the rank of Ambassador herself when she served as Chief of Protocol for President Ronald Reagan.  More importantly, she worked quietly ‘behind-the-scenes’ facilitating the movers and shakers of American history, as well as, foreign leaders and royalty in historic preparations/negotiations in her homes.

Female Finnish Conductor Coming to LA Philharmonic at Disney Hall:

Finnish Conductor Susanna Mälkki

Susanna Mälkki, Finnish Conductor and Music Director of the Ensemble intercontemporain, will conduct the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra on April 12, 13, and 14.  The Concerts will feature works by Poppe, Stravinsky, and Brahms.   www.laphil.com.

Scandinavian Festival:

The Annual Scandinavian Festival in Thousand Oaks at the Cal Lutheran University Campus begins on April 20th.  This is always a fun event.  Come meet fellow Finns and other Scandinavians.  Shop, taste treats, see friends, and enjoy entertainment.  Stand with Finnish pride.  Come say hello!

New Los Angeles County Jail Chief Is A Woman:

The largest jail system in the country has a new manager, Terri McDonald

Sheriff of Los Angeles County is an elected position.  As we know, politicians are noted for telling constituents whatever they want to hear.  We have learned to ‘filter’ statements and responses to questions, withholding judgment of our ‘leaders’ until we see their actions.

Lee Baca has mentioned how much he admires the strength and leadership of Finnish women.  Words of a politician—words of a diplomat—words to please a constituent—words to assuage a volunteer?  Proof is in performance.

Sheriff LeRoy D. Baca has just appointed a woman to manage the nation’s largest jail system.  His appointee (Terri McDonald) has earned a reputation as a tough manager.  Previously Ms. McDonald was with the California State Prison System where she helped institute major prison reform.

Other Women Warriors:

As I close this column, the ‘wires’ are humming with the news that Julia Pierson has been named the first woman in charge of the US Secret Service.

President Barack Obama watches as Vice President Joe Biden administers the oath of office to incoming U.S. Secret Service Director Julia Pierson during a swearing-in ceremony in the Oval Office, March 27, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

YOU GO GIRLS!!!

 

FINLANDIA FOUNDATION NATIONAL CELEBRATES ITS 60TH ANNIVERSARY (PHOTOS)

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Her Excellency Ambassador Ritva Koukku-Ronde praised the foundation’s work and achievements throughout the years.

FINLANDIA FOUNDATION NATIONAL CELEBRATES ITS 60TH ANNIVERSARY

It was a memorable evening. The food and setting were sensational. Can’t forget the beautiful flower centerpieces, classy program books and the delightful entertainers. Outgoing President Anita Smiley begun the celebration with a light yet meaningful introduction, Marvin Suomi emceed the evening with style and grace, and Finland’s most beautiful woman, Armi Kussela, adorned the occasion like an angel dressed in celestial blue.

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Judy Gervais (the Columbia-Pacific Chapter) enchanted the crowd with her contagious smile.

Of course we can’t forget the presenters: such beautiful human beings sharing their hearts and minds in such a joyous occasion. I felt privileged to hear their stories.

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Her Excellency Ambassador Ritva Koukku-Ronde showed much appreciation for the work of the foundation

Her Excellency Ambassador Ritva Koukku-Ronde praised the foundation’s work and its achievements throughout the years.

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Nadia Lin, the representative of Salolampi Camp students, captivated the audience with her wit and charm.

I loved being part of the event. The glow of the event will be on my mind for a long time—and yours as well, I am sure.

Thanks for inviting Finntimes, and to all involved for combining your unique talents, and hard work to contribute to such a beautiful event.

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Singer Eino Grön and his beautiful wife

These are only a portion of the pictures taken.  All other pictures were commissioned by Finnish magazine Suomen Silta/Finland Bridge to highlight a cover story that will be published in the near future.

Please help us by naming each person as a ‘comment’ on each picture so that we don’t miss anyone.

 

 

About Finlandia Foundation:

Finlandia Foundation’s Mission

To sustain both Finnish-American culture in the United States and the ancestral tie with Finland by raising funds for grants and scholarships, initiating innovative national programs and networking with local chapters.

What Finlandia Foundation Does

As the number of first and second generation Finnish-American immigrants begins to dwindle, it becomes increasingly important to keep Finnish-Americans and their local chapter organizations across the country connected, inspired and committed to maintaining an awareness of their unique and vibrant culture and heritage.
Finlandia Foundation National raises funds to strengthen its endowment and ensure the continuation of its programs. The Performer of the Year and the Lecturer of the Year programs focus attention on the outstanding musical and academic contributions of the Finnish-American community. The winners of these two annual and national competitions travel and perform at Chapter organizations throughout the United States. Finlandia Foundation National also provides scholarships to students with a multitude of unique ties to the Finnish culture. Finally, Finlandia Foundation National makes more than 50 grants each year providing critical and all too rare funding for individuals pursuing the artistic, musical and cultural traditions that represent the heritage of Finland and the diverse interests of Finnish-America. These programs, not offered by any other organization in the United States today, are what make the strengthening of the Finlandia Foundation National organization so compelling.
Finnish heritage and Finnish-American traditions and culture are too rich and too valuable to be lost. By building a solid network of chapters throughout the United States and increasing the number and amount of grants and scholarship for Finnish-American individuals and programs, Finlandia Foundation National will continue to inspire and strengthen the Finnish-American community of the United States for years to come.
Finlandia Foundation National, a California non-profit organization, is governed by a Board of Trustees. Independent Finlandia Foundation National Chapters coast to coast are charted to use the Finlandia Foundation National’s name and logo and operate in support of the Foundation’s Mission.
For more information, visit www.finlandiafoundation.org/

 

EASTER CHURCH IS CALLING

EASTER 2013

Pastor Jarmo Tarkki

Pastor Jarmo Tarkki

What does Easter mean? What does it mean to you? The answers to these questions are not necessarily the same.

Christian Easter refers to the resurrection of Jesus on Easter morning.

Bible’s four Gospels all report the same event, but each in a slightly different way. For example, who were the first Easter morning named guests at the tomb of Jesus?

According to Matthew, Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary”, according to Mark, Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome, according to Luke, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and according to John, Mary Magdalene.

All four gospels mention that Mary Magdalene was at the tomb on Easter morning. For the other women, the stories are different.
This is, of course, a challenge, the reports are not identical. These texts cannot be harmonized. Is the Bible therefore worthless?

The Lutheran church is not fundamentalist, that is, Lutherans do not believe in the Bible literally. Lutherans take the Bible seriously, but not literally.

The Easter morning reports contain so-called “mythos” material, the stories seem to refer to an important issue without a great deal of concern about the details. Easter message is not in its literal description, but in its meaning.

Easter for Christians is a celebration of life and hope. The physical body of Jesus hung on the cross, Jesus life’s work rose from the dead. Paul describes the church as the body of Christ – it is the resurrection. Good Friday’s immense sorrow is turned into Easter morning’s jubilating joy. Jesus’ disciples left grief behind them and they became bold preachers of the gospel. Jesus is alive, the Roman mighty empire could not defeat him.

What does Easter mean to you?

You are most welcome to Easter worship service

Jarmo Tarkki
Pastor, Finnish Lutheran Church of California and Texas

Come to hear the rest of the Easter message on Sunday, March 24, Incarnation Lutheran Church, Poway, 16889 Espola Rd., Poway, CA. We will begin our worship service at 4 p.m., followed by coffee.

011 JARMO TARKKI

PÄÄSIÄINEN 2013

Mitä pääsiäinen merkitsee? Mitä se merkitsee sinulle? Vastaukset näihin eivät välttämättä ole samat.

Kristillinen pääsiäinen viittaa Jeesuksen ylösnousemukseen pääsiäisaamuna.

Raamatun neljä evankeliumia kertovat kaikki samasta tapahtumasta mutta jokainen hiukan eri tavalla. Esimerkiksi, ketkä olivat pääsiäisaamun ensimmäiset nimeltä mainitut vieraat Jeesuksen haudalla?

Matteuksen mukaan Magdalan Maria ja ”se toinen Maria”, Markuksen mukaan Magdalan Maria, Jaakobin äiti Maria ja Salome, Luukkaan mukaan Magdalan Maria, Johanna ja Jaakobin äiti Maria, Johanneksen mukaan Magdalan Maria.

Kaikissa neljässä evankeliumissa kerrotaan Magdalan Marian olleen haudalla pääsiäisaamuna. Muiden naisten osalta kertomukset ovat erilaiset.

Tämä on tietysti haaste, kertomukset eivät ole yhtenevät. Näitä tekstejä ei voi harmonisoida. Onko Raamattu siis arvoton?

Luterilainen kirkko ei ole fundamentalistinen, ts. luterilaiset eivät usko Raamattuun kirjaimellisesti. Luterilaiset ottavat Raamatun vakavasti, eivät kirjaimellisesti.

Ylösnousemuskertomus sisältää ns. ”mythos” –aineistoa, kertomuksilla näytetään viittaavan johonkin tärkeään asiaan ilman suurta huolta yksityiskohdista. Pääsiäisen sanoma ei ole kirjaimellisessa kuvauksessa, vaan sen merkityksessä.

Pääsiäinen on uuden elämän ja toivon juhla. Jeesuksen fyysinen ruumis roikkui ristillä, Jeesuksen elämäntyö nousi kuolleista. Paavali kuvaa kirkkoa Kristuksen ruumiina – siinä on ylösnousemus. Pitkäperjantain suunnaton suru on kääntynyt pääsiäisaamun riemukkaaksi iloksi. Suuren pelon vallassa olleet Jeesuksen oppilaat panivat surun taakseen ja heistä tuli sinnittömän rohkeita evankeliumin julistajia. Jeesus elää, Rooman mahtava valtakunta ei voinut kukistaa häntä.

Mitä pääsiäinen merkitsee sinulle?

Sydämellisesti tervetuloa pääsiäismessuun,
Jarmo Tarkki
Kalifornian ja Teksasin Suomikirkon siirtolaispappi

007 JARMO TARKKI

Tervetuloa sunnuntaina, maaliskuun 24. päivänä suomalaiselle kirkolle, Incarnation Lutheran Church, Poway, 16889 Espola Rd., Poway, CA.  Aloitamme messun klo 16.00, jonka jälkeen kirkkokahvit.

STAR WRECK, THE MOVIE

STAR WRECK, THE MOVIE

Star Wreck is a series of Finnish Star Trek parody movies started by Samuli Torssonen in 1992.The first movie, simply named Star Wreck, was a simple Star Control-like animation with three ships shooting at each other, but later movies featured 3D CGI, animated characters and, in the latest films, live actors. Often Star Wreck is used to refer to the latest and most popular film Star Wreck: In the Pirkinning.

Star Wreck relates the adventures of James B. Pirk (named after the Star Trek character James T. Kirk), Captain of the starship C.P.P. Potkustartti (English C.P.P. Kickstart). Other characters include Mr. Fukov, Mr. Spook (Finnish: Mr. Spökö), Mr. Dwarf (Wuf), Ensign Shitty and Mr. Info (loosely based, respectively, on Star Trek’s Pavel Chekov, Mr. Spock, Worf, Scotty, and Data).

Star Wreck (fulllength)

wreck

Star Wreck has enjoyed a relatively large niche following among sci-fi fans, but it was only the latest movie that really pushed it into the limelight. Star Wreck: In the Pirkinning was downloaded over 700,000 times during the first week after its release  and the current estimates by the hosting service, Magenta sites, are between 3.5 and 4 million downloads, including mirror sites. This has been claimed to make In the Pirkinning the most popular Finnish film of all time, topping the movie theatre viewings for Tuntematon sotilas (approx. 2.8 million viewers); the comparison, however, may not be particularly meaningful. Numerous TV and magazine interviews of the film’s authors have been published, both in Finland and abroad.

Star Wreck: In the Pirkinning has also been shown on Finnish national television, YLE TV2, on the Belgian national television channel Canvas, and Italian TV-channel Jimmy.

A new Imperial Edition DVD has also been released by Universal Pictures in Scandinavia. With the Imperial Edition release, all the space scenes with Star Trek or Babylon 5 ship models were removed and completely remade.

In 2012 a spin-off called Star Wreck 2π: Full Twist, now! was released. It is made by Swiss film makers, but Samuli Torssonen and Timo Vuorensola will have a guest appearance in their respective roles. There is also a spin-off animated Star Wreck, created by a different author who has no relation to Torssonen’s team, called Star Wreck Asskicker which tells the story of the C.P.P. Asskicker.

AROUND LA WITH AVA: PENNIES FROM HEAVEN

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

PENNIES FROM HEAVEN

Have you ever been walking and, out of the blue, looked down to spot a penny on the ground? …On the sidewalk?  …In a parking lot?  … Insignificant?/Coincidence?  …Maybe/maybe not.

As a decades-long fan/reader of the advice columns of the twin sisters Ann Landers and`  Abigail (Dear Abby)Van Buren [both now departed], I remember a many, many years ago letter from a reader who wrote about the significance of finding a penny on the ground.

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Raija Anttila

Raija Anttila

Since my last column in January, I have lost my dear Ӓiti.  She was the most wonderful, intelligent, inspirational, caring person ever –and I miss her so.
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The Candle Day event at the Finnish Church Service on February 3rd was very special and poignant.  Our inspirational Pastor Tarkki reported on the great work of the Western Congregations he is shepherding on behalf of the Finnish Lutheran Church in North America.  While Super Bowl Sunday made for a ‘female leaning’ attendance, great fellowship was the order of the day.

candl

When Pastor Tarkki told of my Mother’s passing, the hugs and support of fine Finnish friends (Pirkko, Mirja, Tiina, Linda, Tomi, Jukka, Mira, and so many others — progeny of amazing Finnish Mothers themselves) meant so much to my Father and me.

Dear friends and family in Finland were kind enough to send loving thoughts.  I caught my Finland friend Bitte in a ‘warmer climate’.  She and her family were in the middle of a paella course celebrating the big 80th birthday of her husband, Jörn.  If you have access to the most recent issue of Suomen Kuvalehti, you will be treated to an eyeful of our former LA Consul General in all his glory in his Helsinki library.

Triumphant Return—Fanfare Forbidden!

A memorable and special recent visit brought Maria and Tapio Serenius back with us in Los Angeles.  The time has gone so quickly since their tenure here.  Not just the time, but the advances in technology and innovation that have taken place underlined the exciting ‘wireless’ communication revolution that occurred during now-retired-Ambassador Serenius’ term as our  Consul General over a decade ago.  Finland was in the forefront.  Nokia commanded the cell phone market—even introducing the ‘computer phone’ before Jobs and Apple figured out the ‘app’/’touch screen’ formula.  Maria made sure the world knew this revolution was Finnish in origin even though she silently subscribed to then-Ambassador Jaakko Laajava’s admonition that Finns needed to learn to “market” [read: “boast”] –one day!

Jack and Ava with Maria and Tapio Serenius

Jack and Ava with Maria and Tapio Serenius

While billed as a drop-in-nostalgia-visit to an old “stomping ground”, I saw it as a true “victory lap”.  Just retired, Maria and Tapio celebrated her stunning diplomatic career with an ‘around-the-world’ tour—months of exotic travel for fun, not work, for a change.  I am pleased that we in LA were able to be part of an amazing career at a special place and time in California/Finland history.  Maria Serenius came to Los Angeles as our first woman Consul General of Finland.  The trail she blazed continues to shine brightly.

Maria Serenius and Ava Anttilla

Maria Serenius and Ava Anttilla

The far too modest, but typically Finnish, duo brightened our hearts with their presence.  Their warmth and their ‘specialness’ made their return conjure very wonderful memories for all of us who have known them and who were part of their ‘reign’.

Let Them Eat Soup!

Tapio –the ever charming, dapper, chivalrous “renaissance man” (who also works as a business consultant), was in my cross-hairs for a ‘brain picking’ even before I knew they were on their way to LA.  I was on a mission to learn the secrets to his Bouillabaisse.  His was a dish that had been in my culinary dreams since tasting it at a party many years ago.

Ava Anttila and Tapio Serenius

Ava Anttila and Tapio Serenius

We Finns love our fish and, especially, any kind of fish soup.  Finnish Salmon soup is on the menus of the finest palaces of culinary delight in Helsinki, as well as, on the menu at the Presidential Palace […or, so I have heard].  It has been a quest of mine to learn to make the best fish soup as ‘locals’ do it whether here on the Pacific Coast, in Marseille in the South of France, or on the shores of a Finnish lake with perch, pike, whitefish, bream, or ‘whatever’ right out of the net or katiska that morning.

Tapio delivered!!  The Bouillabaisse was awesome!!!  I will share the Serenius adventure soon.

…Or Not

Our current superstar Consul General Kirsti Westphalen is the Dean of the Los Angeles Consular Corps representing almost 100 countries in the Western United States.  Last week Consul Westphalen and her husband, Abdellatif  Mouffakir, hosted an elegant dinner for the Emeritus Members of the Consular Corps and for the Los Angeles World Affairs Council.

Consul General Kirsti Westphalen by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

Consul General Kirsti Westphalen by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

Kirsti is the perfect leader of this international group with her background in various countries, cultures, and languages.  Her warmth, charm, and inclusion brought leaders from around the World together with important ‘players’ on the Los Angeles scene.  For example, I was seated between Chris Vigueria-Crabtree, a former LA County Head of Protocol (now Program Director for the World Affairs Council), and Elga Sharpe, Chief of Protocol for the City of Los Angeles.  Elga is a whirlwind- of- a woman who serves as a perfect liaison between Hollywood and politics.  Even though no ‘personal/city/state/national/global secrets’ were breached, the back and forth stories and anecdotes at the table would have made for a fascinating article –or even a book or a mini-series!  It was especially delicious fodder considering our pending local Mayoral election.  But…my lips are sealed!

Finnish Chef Sirpa delivered a lovely and delicious meal, as always.  Each course was beautifully presented on the cobalt blue china with Finland’s Gold Lion emblem.  The first course was a codfish mousse with quail egg and salmon caviar on a rye crust.  The main course was short ribs with horseradish mashed potatoes.  Dessert was a raspberry pastry with blackberries, berry mousse, and whipped cream.  Each was a delight to the eyes and to the palate!

I was proud to be a Finn watching Finland entertain the World with such style and grace—and, beautiful tastes!  I was happy, too, that my dear Mother (–a stickler for perfect etiquette) had taught me how to navigate through the myriad knives, forks, and spoons that surrounded the glamorous plates.  Talk about a “final exam”—seated between two Protocol experts!

The Beat Goes On

While anyone stricken by the death of a loved one knows, at some point one must go forward with the ordinary tasks of life.  Life stops, but after the initial shock, Life resumes “…in its petty pace from day to day.”

The first day out of the house with my Dad required the minimum: stops at the drug store, the bank, and the Trader Joe’s in Westwood.  The Rite Aid drug store had several steps to get to street level –waiting on the steps something caught my eye: a penny.  A trip across the street to the bank and, you guessed it, there was another penny on the pavement in front of the door.  Still, we did not pay much attention.  At the last stop, Trader Joe’s where I always buy a lot and use a credit card, I ran in to buy just one item and paid cash.  The change equaled one cent.  The cashier stuffed my 1₵ into my palm with the receipt.  The coin fell to the ground.  As I picked it up, there it was: a brand new, freshly minted, bright, shiny penny.  I got the message!  My Mother was letting us know she was THERE –she had made it: she was now a newly minted Angel in Heaven.

Penny from Heaven

Penny from Heaven

Ӓiti always did have a way of getting her message across.

Looking Back

Something sweet, warm, fragrant, and Finnish coming from the oven can be comforting and help sooth Winter [and other] blues.

In the ‘70s, when our children were little, my neighbor and I were lucky enough to have Finnish Au Peres help out in our homes and with our little ones.  These lovely young ladies enjoyed hanging out with the Finnish hockey players then affiliated with the LA Kings –I think the Kings enjoyed their company too!

The girls liked going to the Sunset Strip, dancing there (and around the house) to Cindy Lauper’s “…girls just want to have fun”, and sleeping late.  One of the girls, Essi, had attended culinary school in Finland.  Her recipe for cookies is several decades old and is almost guaranteed to bring hockey players to your door!  [Yes, Teemu Selanne is married—besides, he is a Duck and may be immune to ‘King bait’.]

This is a doubled recipe.  Why?  Because that is the way Essi did it—and it works!  You might as well make the whole bunch batch: freeze some, give some away, send some to someone special in a shoe box, put some on a large platter and call over your friends for a Finnish coffee, or, now while the Kings hold the Stanley Cup, it might be fun to find out just how many  it takes to fill the Cup!  [Remember to save some for your own eating pleasure!]

Jääkiekko: Hockey Cookies

Jääkiekko: Hockey Cookies

Jääkiekko: Hockey Cookies

2 sticks (1 cup) butter, melted

3 cups sugar

2 cups raisins

3 cups flour

4 cups old fashioned oatmeal flakes

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 cup cream

1-2 tablespoons Dark Karo Syrup

Ingredients

Ingredients

Mix dry ingredients; then, add in wet.

Using a tablespoon or small ice cream scoop, drop cookie dough in mounds onto a greased or Silpat-lined cookie sheet and bake at 375º F for about 8-10 minutes.

Open a window to let the Kings catch the aroma!!

recipe

Double click on picture above to view it in larger size

§

Pennies From Heaven

By Georgy

I found a penny today

just laying on the ground

But it’s not just a penny

this little coin I found

“Found” pennies come from heaven

that’s what my Grandpa told me

He said angels toss them down

oh, how I loved that story

He said when an angel misses you

they toss a penny down

Sometimes just to cheer you up

make a smile out of your frown

So don’t pass by that penny

when you’re feeling blue

It may be a penny from heaven

that an angel tossed to you

§

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EDITORIAL: MY MEMO TO FINNISH POLITICIANS

BY TOMI HINKKANEN

Tomi Hinkkanen, editor-in-chief, Finntimes

Tomi Hinkkanen, editor-in-chief, Finntimes

The earth is flat – or at least that’s how it looks like by reading on-line newspapers from Finland. It seems as if some kind of a paralysis has struck the entire nation. There’s no purpose, drive, mission or, to put it in a more fanciful way – raison d’etre in Finland.

Naantali in winter

Naantali in winter

Finland has a colorful, even a glorious past. The story is familiar to all Finns. It was a small, brave nation, the first country in Europe to give women the right to vote. It managed to gain independence from the Czar’s Russia and later averted the Soviet invasion in WW2, paid its war reparations, hosted the 1952 Olympics, managed to stay more or less neutral during cold war and acted as a liaison between superpowers. Sibelius wrote beautiful music, Lasse Wiren ran Finland to the world map and Nokia spearheaded Finland into the 21st century. And then what? Nothing. It seems as if the Finnish story got stuck like a broken record somewhere in the turn of the millennium.

Helsinki from the Baltic Sea

Helsinki from the Baltic Sea

There’s a wonderful documentary Reindeerspotting – Escape from Santaland by Joonas Neuvonen, that brilliantly illustrates the blight of the Finnish youth living in Rovaniemi, above the Arctic Circle in Lapland. Left with no hopes for the future, the kids in the movie turn to drugs with deadly results. It’s a must see film to any parent and is available on Netflix. This particular film concentrates on a group of youths in Lapland. There could be another movie made about another group of people that feel left out from the IT-wonder of the modern day Finland, where it seems you have to be a computer engineer, a sports hero or at least a reality star to get anywhere. I get it. I get the hopelessness that many young people there are experiencing. You see, in a stark contrast, in my line of work as a journalist, I mainly meet those Finns who have made it. Indeed, here in Los Angeles, I get the cream of the crop: beauty queens, actors, directors, scientists and sports legends – exceptional individuals who are talented and crazy enough to go for the gold. After meeting them I often wonder about those people, who didn’t make it. And it does seem to me that there’s a big pool of Finns who for one reason or another feel left out in today’s Finland.

Finnish police in Lapland

Finnish police in Lapland

In a misguided effort to jump start things, Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen ordered a study to be made on how to steer Finland into the future. A memo about the venture went out to various agencies and organizations, many of whom were eager to participate. So they put a lot of time and effort into writing proposals on how they could help. But the Prime Mister had just the person in mind all along. It was a good buddy of his, philosopher Pekka Himanen.

Philosopher Pekka Himanen

Philosopher Pekka Himanen

So, the two men toured a couple of government agencies, a virtual hat in hand, asking money for the project. And guess what? The government bureaucrats said ‘yes’ to the Prime Minister – of course we’ll pitch in. It was an offer they couldn’t refuse – you don’t say no to the Prime Minister. The finished report, by all accounts, was very modest. Its biggest merit was that it contained a lot of complicated words and sentences. It ended up costing the Finnish tax payers 700,000 euros, or about a million dollars. I would be surprised if the study was worth the paper it was printed on. Most likely it will be buried in a vault deep under the granite bedrock and some researcher a hundred years from now will find it and wonder, what the hell were they thinking! Read the plan for the study here:

http://static.iltalehti.fi/kuvat/liitteet/kestavankasvunmalli_hankesuunnitelma.pdf

The debacle earned the Prime Mister a new nickname Jyrki Käteinen (cash).

Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen

Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen

The incidence is hardly worth mentioning – there are much costlier and more wasteful things politicians have sunk tax payers’ hard earned cash into. It is however, indicative of the fact that there seems to be a general lack of direction – the country seems to be drifting. Now, why is that, you may ask. Is it because everything worthwhile has already been accomplished? Today Finns live in an unprecedented wealth compared to the past. Roads, bridges, mass transportation, healthcare and education are top notch. Finland is an open, democratic society, where women are not only equal – in many cases, such as university enrollment – they have surpassed men. If that’s true, why don’t people feel good about themselves or their lives?

Winter in Finland

Could it be that the sense of equality has lost its meaning now that men and women are more or less equal? What about gays and lesbians? What about foreigners living in Finland – especially those foreigners that look different from us or pray differently from us and people of color in general, whether foreign or domestic? There’s a dirty little secret the official establishment doesn’t want to publicize: There’s bigotry and racism in Finland. The country has never openly dealt with the race or religious issues, nor the struggles of the LGBT-community the way the United States has done. Things are not perfect here either – far from it – but at least Americans don’t sweep their problems under the carpet. Finns are quick to point the finger at other countries (the U.S. being their favorite target), when things are not up to snuff. In the meantime, an ugly movement is taking root in Finland. It manifests itself in the rise of politicians and one party in particular – Finns (Perussuomalaiset) – dedicated to xeno- and homophobia, as well as chauvinism. This movement lures people with romanticized versions of the past when all was supposedly well. If only Finland didn’t have to support those do-good nothings of Southern Europe. If only gays and lesbians went back into the closet and never came back. If only those (expletive), refugees went back to where they came from. If only women knew their place between the oven and the fist. Yes, then what? According to them, all would be well again. Rubbish! Despite of their rhetoric, I bet very few of those politicians would actually like living in that non-existent past.

Markku and Eeva Hinkkanen with son Tomi at an agricultural show in Turku, 1964

Markku and Eeva Hinkkanen with son Tomi at an agricultural show in Turku, 1964

If you look at history, you will notice that every time Finland (or any other country for that matter), expanded the rights of their people, good things happened. And every time people’s freedoms were suppressed, bad things happened. You don’t need government studies written by buddies of politicians to know what to do next. You only need to do the right things. Here’s my memo for the Finnish politicians and unlike some other studies, this one doesn’t cost the tax payers one single cent:

-Increase immigration quotas and influx of refugees into Finland, at the same time setting strict limits on governmental assistance and requiring the newcomers to enroll in schools, learn the language, history and political structure of Finland. The aging country needs new blood and workers – especially in healthcare, care of the elderly and manual and low skill labor positions. Immigration also brings new ideas and energy – both which are clearly present in the United States.

-Make entrepreneurship a lucrative option. Right now in Finland (especially unionized) employees have all kinds of rights and benefits but entrepreneurs are left to float or sink on their own. Small businesses employ half of all private sector employees in the U.S. Entrepreneurship creates jobs and wealth.

-By all means support also big business, such as ship building, by granting government loans they need to be competitive.

-Tap an untapped market: Movie tourism. Lure Hollywood productions and other foreign film productions to shoot in Finland by offering tax incentives to filmmakers (look at Canada and New Zeeland as examples).

-Do more programs like Global Access Program, where Finnish high tech companies get help from abroad to expand their businesses. It is money well spent.

-The government doesn’t have to be everywhere. Lower the unbearably high tax rate by getting rid of unnecessary government agencies, bureaucracies and personnel. Ask yourselves: Does the government really need to subsidize sports, arts, literature – not to mention all sorts of studies? Do the Swedish-speaking Finns (who represent about 5% of the population), really need their own schools, universities and TV stations, or could they perhaps support the programs they want out of their own pocket? In the same vein, why can’t the Finnish-speaking people study other, more useful languages instead of the mandatory Swedish?

-Engage Europe and the world. Be very watchful with the EU, don’t let other countries tread on you or treat you as a cash cow. Offer to act as an intermediary in world conflicts. Put Finland on the map!

-The Finnish education system has garnered praise throughout the world. However, not everyone is a born computer nerd. Offer educational choices (even abroad), to differently talented youth.

-Pass the marriage act between two consenting and non-related same-sex adults. It takes nothing away from heterosexual couples but means a world of difference to gay couples and their families, who so far have been treated as second class citizens. It also puts Finland in line with its neighboring Nordic countries.

-Finland is full of bright, talented, intelligent and well-educated people. My final recommendation is: Let those people shine in their chosen field, do whatever it takes!

Turku in the springtime

 

HAPPY CAMPERS TIINA & KIMMO

REPORTER: TOMI HINKKANEN – JOSHUA TREE, CA

PICTURES: TIINA PURTONEN, JONNY KAHLEYN & TOMI HINKKANEN

Tiina Purtonen and Kimmo Heinström know how to survive in the wilderness.

Tiina Purtonen and Kimmo Heinström know how to survive in the wilderness.

Tiina Purtonen and Kimmo Heinström are a Finnish couple who live in Los Angeles. Both have their professional lives – Tiina works for the Los Angeles Unified School District and Kimmo is an entrepreneur, who manufactures custom-made furniture. But on weekends they shed their city selves and head out to the great outdoors. And you can come along, for they offer camping trips for people interested in exploring California nature.

Tiina and Kimmo's Jeep

Tiina and Kimmo’s Toyota FJ Cruiser.

Early in the morning Jonny Kahleyn and I arrive at Tiina and Kimmo’s house in West L.A. The place is already full of activity. Kimmo is in the kitchen, busily preparing some shrimp for our trip and Tiina is doing the last minute checking of the gear spread out on the living room floor. We start our three-hour journey on two cars to the Joshua Tree National Park located in the south-eastern part of the state.

Chulla cacti in Joshua Tree National Park

Chulla cacti in Joshua Tree National Park

It is a huge park – almost 800,000 acres. The eastern half of it lies within the Colorado Desert. This area’s elevation is below 3,000 feet. The western half is part of the Mojave Desert and here the elevation is 3,000 feet above the sea level. A park ranger charges us a $15 parking fee at the gate and in we go. A winding road takes us through some spectacular desert scenery.

The desert is totally captivating, thinks Tomi.

The desert is totally captivating, thinks Tomi.

Bright red ocotillos are already starting to bloom and everywhere we see the namesake plants of the park – the Joshua trees. We pull over to examine them. When the Mormon pioneers traveled this land, they thought the limbs of the Joshua trees resembled the upstretched arms of the biblical figure Joshua leading them to the promised land, and that’s how the tree got its name. They support a whole host of birds, such as the Red-tailed hawk, Loggerhead shrike and Ladder-backed woodpecker.

Joshua trees dominate the landscape.

Joshua trees dominate the landscape.

We stop at the Chulla cactus forest. They shed nasty little balls full of needles. If you are not careful, they get stuck on your shoes, ankles and car tires and will never let go. However, they do look spectacular in the afternoon sun. Several people stop to take pictures and pose alongside these cacti.

A panoramic view of the Joshua Tree National Park

A panoramic view of the Joshua Tree National Park

The desert landscape may look dead and barren in the middle of winter. Looks can be deceptive. Desert plants are opportunistic – all is needed is a good rain shower and the desert will be full of bright flowers and blooms regardless of season.

Tomi Hinkkanen, Tiina Purtonen and Kimmo Heinström

Tomi Hinkkanen, Tiina Purtonen and Kimmo Heinström

The next stop – Skull Rock – an area full of volcanic rock formations, one of them resembling a human skull. There’s another one that looks like a gigantic elephant’s head complete with the eyes and trunk. We get our exercise climbing up and down the rocks and marveling at this natural wonder.

 

Cholla Cactus Garden, Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree’s Skull Rock

We enjoy a picnic at one of the campsites. On the menu: tuna fish and chicken salad sandwiches. People have set up camps – some stay in tents, some in RV’s decorated with American flags. The trip continues to the Cottonwood Spring camping area. We luck out and are able to book the very last vacant camping spot. As Kimmo prepares the fire in a fire pit (He has brought along Estonian firewood!), Tiina gets busy preparing supper. In between these activities, there’s time for a game of mölkky. Having never played this Finnish game before, it seems like a silly game at first, but once you get the hang of it, turns out to be totally addictive. Kimmo emerges victorious. The night starts to fall.

Sunset at  Joshua Tree National Park

Sunset at Joshua Tree National Park

 

As the last rays of sun disappear behind the mountains, we sit down on camping chairs around the fire to enjoy ricotta cheese salad and Jambalaya made with rice, shrimp and sausage – delicious! Tiina and Kimmo explain their philosophy:

Tiina Purtonen & Kimmo Heinström - paella

-We enjoy bringing people along our camping trips, seeing things with their eyes. It is rewarding to see people’s expression of wonder, as they see these spectacular nature spots for the very first time, Kimmo says.

Tomi & Jonny at our campsite in Cottonwood. It gets cold in the desert fast after the sun goes down.

Tomi & Jonny at our campsite in Cottonwood. It gets cold in the desert fast after the sun goes down.

The night gets darker. Here and there fires illuminate the different campsites. Many people have brought along powerful telescopes – the starry desert sky is spectacular when you look at it even with naked eyes. Tiina and Kimmo have handy miners’ flashlights on their foreheads.

007 JOSHUA TREE

While Tiina and Kimmo will spend the night in a tent, Jonny and I start heading back to L.A. It has been a wonderful day in the Joshua Tree National Park, thanks to our jovial expert hosts.

005 JOSHUA TREE

To look at Tiina’s wonderful nature photos and for more information about Tiina and Kimmo’s camping trips, check out their website: www.reissulla.com

006 JOSHUA TREE

THEY’RE BACK: MARIA & TAPIO SERENIUS

Maria Serenius was consul general of Finland in Los Angeles 1997-2001

Maria Serenius was the consul general of Finland in Los Angeles 1997-2001

Maria Serenius has had a long and successful career as a diplomat. She joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland in 1975. Since then, Serenius has served in Egypt, Japan, Sri Lanka and Switzerland. She was the Consul General in Los Angeles 1997-2001. After L.A., Maria became the Finnish Ambassador to Turkey and then served as Ambassador to Latvia. She retired last fall. Alongside throughout her various adventures has been husband Tapio Serenius. He is known as a jovial people’s person with a twinkle in his eye, seamlessly blending in wherever his wife’s work took them.

Tomi Hinkkanen interviews Maria Serenius on February 2nd, 2013 in Bel Air, California.

Tomi Hinkkanen interviews Maria Serenius on February 2nd, 2013 in Bel Air, California.

Finntimes interviewed Maria exclusively on Saturday, February 2nd 2013 at attorney Ava Anttila’s  Bel Air home during a garden party the gracious hostess gave in honor of the beloved consular couple.

One achievement from Maria’s consular years in L.A. shines prominently even today. It is the Global Access Program she helped launch with other Finnish agencies, such as Tekes. Each year the program brings around a dozen Finnish high tech companies to UCLA. There they connect with a team of MBA students who create a business plan for them.

Maria in front of the Finnish Consulate General in Century City in 2001

Maria in front of the Finnish Consulate General in Century City in 2001

How does it make you feel that the GAP process that you started is still going strong?

-It’s a very rewarding feeling that something that one has planted the seeds has grown and has been so beneficial to Finnish companies. It has also created a quite vast network of people, who have been in contact with each other over the years. It’s been very valuable.

You introduced two new concepts to Finns – small talk and networking – what did you have to go through to get the message through about those concepts in the early years?

-It wasn’t characteristic to Finns to do small talk. We thought it was something for others to do – superficial. If somebody’s talking about the weather or something else that has no meaning or significance right away, the person is shallow (laughs). We didn’t quite understand the significance of that. Then later on they organized courses in Finland on how to do small talk. But Finns and Finland have since changed. Still there is a lingering feeling that talking about petty things is not really dignified.

 

Serenius in her consular office back in the day

Serenius in her consular office back in the day

Tell me if I’m wrong but I think in Finland the feeling is that in order for anything to get done, things must go through proper official channels but here it depends more on whom you know and who knows you?

-It’s not only here. I was serving four years in Cairo. In the Middle East and Turkey as well, it is very important whom you know and who is networking with whom. You need to know the connections. In most of the countries in the world it’s not necessarily your position in the government or somewhere else that indicates, how much influence you have in the society. An important part in the work of a diplomat is to dig out those people who are really influential and then network with them. It’s hard work. I did learn to do that here in Los Angeles, because networking is the key to everything here. The consul general in L.A. doesn’t have any position among the people here – they don’t know what a consul general is. It’s up to you to give an impression that you might be useful to people whom you are meeting. When one is an ambassador in Turkey or Latvia, the title is enough. You are an ambassador – more or less all the doors open for you. Here you need to work to open those doors.

Power couple: While Maria was scouting Finnish businesses in Silicon Valley, her husband Tapio worked as a consultant for many such businesses.

Power couple: While Maria was scouting Finnish businesses in Silicon Valley, her husband Tapio worked as a consultant for many such businesses.

And you really did that. Even on weekends you went to Silicon Valley to build relations with the local Finnish companies and movers and shakers there.

-When I came here, nobody in Finland knew what a venture capitalist is. I didn’t know either, but I wanted to learn. So, I flew to San Francisco, rented a car and drove to Sand Hill Road. That is the road where the most important venture capital funds are located (comparable to Wall Street in the stock market). So, I made appointments to meet with some of these people and I did. I started that really from the scratch. They explained the system to me. Once you have had a meeting like that, in the second meeting you must have something to give back. Otherwise you are using too much of someone’s time that is not useful to them.

Silicon Valley - home of the American high tech

Silicon Valley – home of the American high tech

So, what did you give back?

-The high tech miracle of Finland! During those years Finland was like a high tech utopia of the world. That lasted only a couple of years. Nokia was on top and we were the most wired and wireless country in the world. So, everybody in America dealing with ICT, high technology, knew about Finland. It was a unique time in history. Most companies and investment funds knew about Finland. The Wired magazine and Red Herring had Finland on their cover.

Maria and Tapio connected with an old friend - chef Sirpa Welch in Los Angeles

Maria and Tapio connected with an old friend – chef Sirpa Welch in Los Angeles

You were able to generate a lot of publicity for Finland. Your predecessor, Jörn Donner had given a statement, in which he said one can do the work of a consul general in two hours a day. With all due respect, I think he missed the point. In reality each consul general creates the job description by themselves – isn’t that true?

-Maybe he tried to concentrate on cultural affairs and and didn’t find it interesting. So yes, Los Angeles is one of the few places where you have to create the job. You have to decide the focus. You can spend 24 hours a day doing this and that here and there. But the main thing is: Is it adding value to your work for Finland – to Finnish companies, to people? That value comes only by focusing. We are a small country, a little over five million people and America is so big. So, focus, focus, focus. I was privileged to come at that time. There was momentum in my life and career at that particular stage.

Consul General Maria Serenius outside her residence in Bel Air, spring 2001

Consul General Maria Serenius outside her residence in Bel Air, spring 2001

You recognized that momentum and focused on high tech?

-I stumbled on it. I needed to do something that would be valuable to Finland.

Out of those contacts that you created in Los Angeles, Silicon Valley and elsewhere, are they still relevant today and have they yielded results?

-For Finland, yes indeed. It has created even more networking and relationships. Not all, but quite a few of them and I’m very proud of that.

Maria at the consul general's residence, spring 2001

Maria at the consul general’s residence, spring 2001

What kind of an experience was it for you to be the consul general in Los Angeles?

-It was great. It was energizing. There’s a feeling here that anything is possible, just do it! Another sentiment here is to think big. Coming from Finland, I was not used to this positive American atmosphere that anything is possible, if you work hard enough. I love that type of a sentiment. Since my time in Los Angeles, I tried to use that kind of a spirit in my work as well. Wherever I went afterwards, I always started by saying: I need you to be proactive, innovative. So much so, that people were joking about me!

Maria and Tapio Serenius said good bye to L.A. in 2001.

Maria and Tapio Serenius said good bye to L.A. in 2001.

-After L.A. I went to be the director general for Africa and the Middle East in the Ministry for Foreign affairs. I did that for three years. It was very challenging. The Middle East was higher on the agenda than Africa in those days and it still is. So, I traveled a lot in the Middle East.

-In the 1980’s I had been in Cairo for four years. So, I already knew about the mentality there and I even spoke a little Arabic. It was a great job to be the director general in the ministry.

Tomi Hinkkanen & Maria Serenius in Bel Air

Tomi Hinkkanen & Maria Serenius in Bel Air

Then you were rewarded for your efforts and you became ambassador to Turkey, a country of over 75 million people. You were stationed in the capital Ankara, instead of Istanbul, which probably would have been a more interesting place to be?

-Most of my colleagues in Ankara complained bitterly about that – why can’t the capital be in Istanbul! Being a woman there is no problem. I brought Tapio along, but for a spouse it’s quite a challenge if the spouse wants to work. In Istanbul it would have been much easier. All the companies and business world is in Istanbul. It’s a 5-6 hour drive from Ankara to Istanbul. Ankara is more or less an administrative and political capital of Turkey. So, the country is divided in that way. I did travel to Istanbul once or twice a month.

A central business district of Ankara, the capital of Turkey

A central business district of Ankara, the capital of Turkey

What was the residence and the embassy like there?

-We rented a house that had four floors. The residence was on the top of that building. It’s a big embassy. There was an office of the military attaché of Finland there. So, at one time we had 37 people working there. I had seven people working at the consular section alone.

What was your focus in Turkey?

-The focus of course deals with the political dialogue with Turkey. At that time Turkey was applying for the EU membership. All the issues related to that fell onto me. Finland supported Turkey’s membership application. Therefore I needed to follow the international political situation very closely. Turkey is a regional superpower. It is also  a very important country to Europe. I started a chamber of commerce in Istanbul. We have had business with Turkey for the past 50 years. We had about 30 Finnish companies there. Our trade was one billion Euros a year.

What sort of Finnish companies are there in Turkey?

-All the big ones – the paper companies, Kone, Ahlstrom, Nokia and a whole lot of smaller companies. They have been there for a long time. If you ask about job satisfaction, the starting the chamber of commerce in Istanbul was great.

Tapio & Maria Serenius with hosts Jack & Ava Anttila in their garden in Bel Air

Tapio & Maria Serenius with hosts Jack & Ava Anttila in their garden in Bel Air

What is the major difference in doing business between the U.S. and Turkey?

-Here you are more or less alone. There is a consular core, but every consul general is on his or her own. The co-operation between the consulates in L.A. is non-existent. We do meet, but we don’t have anything in common. If you are in the capital of a country, embassies work very closely, especially the EU countries. In my time in Turkey, Finland had the EU presidency for six months. It was a big challenge.

Tapio Serenius has adapted to his wife's various posts. here he is hugging the hostess, Ava Anttila.

Tapio Serenius has adapted to his wife’s various posts. Here he is hugging the hostess, Ava Anttila.

What is it like to live in Ankara?

-Well……(a smile and a long pause). L.A. is a wonderful location in every respect – the people, the American mentality… It does snow in Ankara and it gets quite cold in the winter, but it is sunnier there than in Finland. Summers are hot.

What’s the mentality of people there?

-Turks seem to think that we Finns are their relatives. So, we are always welcome with open arms wherever we go. People in the countryside, everywhere think we are their cousins. I did promote that concept. It’s the language. Our languages are distantly related to ne another. Turks think a few thousand years ago both peoples were living near Mongolia. We started to cross Siberia to Finland, whereas they came down to Turkey.

Maria and Ava

Maria and Ava

Is there any truth to that?

-No, I don’t think so.

Are Turks outgoing and friendly?

-They are friendly. They have a high sense of honor and integrity. They are hard working. There’s that same kind of entrepreneurial spirit there that you have here in Los Angeles.

Maria and Tapio met new and old friends on their visit to L.A.

Maria and Tapio met new and old friends on their visit to L.A.

-The Ottoman Empire, which lasted for 700 years, encompassed the whole Middle East. The Turks are not Arabs and they don’t speak an Arabic language.

-What is happening in Turkey right now, is very interesting. It is at the same time an Islamic and a democratic country. So, everybody is following, how Islam, democracy and capitalism can live side by side. All the Islamic countries are following Turkey very closely.

Hagia Sophia in Istanbul was built in the 6th century.

Hagia Sophia in Istanbul was built in the 6th century.

Did you run into any culture shock in Turkey?

-No, if you have a position of an ambassador, there is no problem about being a woman in Turkey, not at all. Not even in Egypt, where I was in the 80’s. It is more challenging to be a local woman there. But to a foreigner with a position, everyone is very friendly and helpful.

It’s a great and an important country and it was a privilege to serve there.

What is the greatest misconception about Turkey that the westerners have?

-They are suspicious about Islam. It has such a negative connotation nowadays. It’s not really fair to judge the whole population because of problems and challenges we have had lately. I think there are also some reservations regarding Turks. There is a large Turkish population in Europe, especially in Germany and Austria. It seems that those Turks that went there in the 1950’s and 60’s are more conservative than the Turkish people in Turkey nowadays. Europeans get their image of Turkey from the migrants. Those immigrants are not so interested in what is going on in the modern day Turkey. They like things just the way they were.

A siluet of Istanbul with minarets raising in the distance

Silhouette of Istanbul with minarets raising in the distance

After Turkey, Maria Serenius was appointed Finnish ambassador to Latvia.

-It’s a small country of 2.2 million people, but all the Baltic countries are important to Nordic countries. We are a part of the Baltic sea countries.

How did it feel to go from Turkey to Latvia?

-It took some adjustment. It was my own wish to be closer to Finland. Latvia is also an interesting, fascinating country. History in the Baltic states and Latvia has been very tough and painful. It is still alive there. That caused a lot of challenges – how to deal with the Baltic countries. Latvia is an EU and NATO country. They don’t have the Euro yet but they want to join the monetary union. Their currency is Lati.

Riga, the capital of Latvia is seen here from the Daugava River. It is the largest city of Latvia with 700,000 inhabitants.

Riga, the capital of Latvia is seen here from the Daugava River. It is the largest city of Latvia with 700,000 inhabitants.

-It is a small country, so for the Finnish ambassador, all the doors are open there. The Latvians admire Finland, the Winter War, our achievements and politics – their opinion is very positive.

-People do speak English, but Russian is a more important language there. 40 per cent of Latvians speak Russian as a first language. More than half the inhabitants of capital Riga are of Russian descent.

Old Riga has historical charm.

Old Riga has historical charm.

What was your focus in Latvia?

-Because both Finland and Latvia are EU countries, the focus was to follow Latvia’s EU policy and security policy, because they are members of NATO. Another task was to promote business between the two countries and culture – everything.

Latvia was the long term diplomat’s last assignment.

-I retired September 1st last year – five months ago. I was in the  Ministry of Foreign affairs for 37 years. Retiring felt great. It was my own choice to retire at 64. That was the end of that part of my life.

Maria arrives in Matamanoa, Fidzi

Maria arrives in Matamanoa, Fidzi

After retiring, you and Tapio departed for an around-the-world tour – tell me about that?

-We started two months ago. We went to Australia and did the Great Ocean Road (A 150-mile heritage road along the south-eastern coast of Australia between the Victorian cities of Torquay and Warrnnambool). We went to New Zealand and visited mostly national parks. We hiked and did other relaxing things, concentrating mainly on nature.

Tapio and Maria on the Great Ocean Road in Australia

Tapio and Maria on the Great Ocean Road in Australia

Maria and Tapio’s around-the-world tour concludes in Los Angeles.

-We are here for 2.5 weeks. It’s wonderful to be back, really great!

 

Maria with a Green Rosella bird in Australia

Maria with a Green Rosella bird in Australia

It’s wonderful to have you back. How long has this whole trip been?

-Two and a half months. We have never been on such a long trip before. I thought that it would be too much but it hasn’t been. It’s been very nice. I recommend this to the people who can do it – to go and forget about all the problems and challenges at home.

Maria toast life at sunset in Fidzi.

Maria toast life at sunset in Fidzi.

AROUND LA WITH AVA: LA “SEASONS”

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

LA “SEASONS”

How does that song go?  ‘To every season—turn, turn, turn…’

On occasion we have teased about LA’s 5 day Winters.   This year the dial did get stuck on semi-cold for a few extra days, but “cold” simply means it is not in the 70’s!

To most Angelenos, “Four Seasons” is a grand hotel in Beverly Hills –or Spring, Summer, Fall, and AWARDS!

los-angeles-6

AWARDS

That Season is now upon us: Golden Globes, Academy Awards, Screenwriters Guild, People’s Choice …and the list goes on.  Just to be sure the other entertainment moguls do not get ‘center stage’, Hollywood arranges Film Festivals from the Sea to the Desert.  [Check out Tomi Hinkkanen’s FinnTimes article…]  Some are quite ‘fun’ …but, I digress.

SEASONS

You may have noticed that this year’s build up to Christmas saw an outlandish stretch of the ‘buying’ season almost back to August .  The mail order catalogues arrived earlier, in greater frequency, and from more vendors—all of whom have their own ‘on line’ options.  The local newspapers may have finally stopped losing money hand-over-fist because o f the advertising supplements that made the papers look like they had more than a half dozen readable pages.

For Your Consideration ads are plastered all over trade magazines

For Your Consideration ads are plastered all over trade magazines

At this season, what are called the “trades” (The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, and the like) get heavy with special advertising supplements for the movie moguls to promote their latest releases: first for Award nominations and, now, for Awards.  Their payoff comes when the Awards make their product a ‘must see’.  These supplements create ‘buzz’ that provide a real money-making formula–PROMOTIONS!

PROMOTIONS

One of my favorite things about the Award Season is the series of ‘Red Carpets’ which epitomize the glamour of Hollywood as every little girl dreams it should be!  I love the ‘pre-game’ speculation about who will wear whom/what –who will come with whom, and what Joan Rivers will have to say about ‘what’!  Watching her wickedly irreverent, naughty repartee show is such fun –especially since her daughter attended the same school as my children.  Joan follows in the footsteps of the iconic Mr. Blackwell whose “Best and Worst Dressed” was a must see for decades.  I sat next to Mr. Blackwell one Opening Night at the Pantages Theater.  Having him compliment my outfit is indelibly etched in my feminine memory bank of great experiences!

 oscar01q

Truth be known, there are a lot of ‘sophisticated’ grown-ups who fantasize that special trip ‘behind the ropes’.  And, why not?  That is what the magic of Hollywood is all about—that is why designers design, make-up artists make up, and jewelers let millions of dollars of jewels walk out their doors with no money changing hands.  It is called PROMOTION.

CELEBRITIES

Celebrities become CELEBRITIES through promotion—by the studios, by the events, by the vendors, by their own ‘coolness’/’jerkiness’, by accident [misdemeanors and felonies too], and, occasionally, because of their talent and body of work.  Regardless, we build a fantastic ‘reality’ that is out of this world.  We love it—they love it—and lots of money changes hands in the end!

I love[d] it!!  Great times…grand experiences…opening nights…famous producers… actors and the like…movie premiers…mingling with the glitterati…fabulous parties…..wonderful part of my life.  As my dear Dad likes to say “…those were the days!”

Getting to know people (famous or not) as genuine friends is so precious in my life and memory bank.  That does not happen via TMZ or Inside Edition—or on the red carpet.  It can begin on a long flight, driving someone who did not ‘win’ safely home, or walking a dog.  However, it always takes time and caring—not readily available in 30 second ‘clips’. 

HOVERING

As a young student at Berkeley during the campus riots of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, it felt like living in the center of the universe.  Important things were happening all around.  Important issues had their venue.  And, I was there—so too were hovering helicopters giving an overview to the tanks and National Guardsmen (with bayonets fixed) below.  ‘Sides’ were pitted, one against the other; people were making their voices heard.  It was exhilarating—and scary!  [One day, as the only person driving a car along Telegraph Avenue, I found myself trapped in the middle with bricks from protesters going over the car from one direction and teargas canisters from the NG in the other; no place to escape, stinging fumes all around…that was really scary!]

UC Berkeley in the late. 60's

UC Berkeley in the late. 60′s

‘Where have all the flowers gone…?’

This ‘flower child’ now lives in a peaceful mountain pass [ok, it’s just a big hill] with giant oak trees, wandering wildlife, scenic beauty, and a few, mostly quiet neighbors.  As you know from earlier columns, there are hovering helicopters when there are incidents and accidents, fires, car chases, celebrity sightings, paparazzi stalking, and “breaking news” of any magnitude.

Streetview Camera Car.

Streetview Camera Car.

While I do not mind the traffic choppers taking an occasional ‘hypotenuse’ to give commuters a quick update on the latest traffic jam, I do wonder how [and why] “that GPS mapping company” and its progeny need to memorialize my private property with overhead shots to supplement shots from cameras mounted on cars traveling this little neighborhood.  Family members and Sohvi Koira were unwitting objects of the ‘eye in the sky’ memorialized in photos sent to me via Internet by a tech-savvy friend.   Suddenly, I am much more sympathetic with our local celebrities who are stalked by the paparazzi.

CHASING CELEBRITIES

Living where I do for as long as I have, there is a pattern to the ‘noise’ that intrudes on and surrounds us—much like a Finnish woodsman knows when a moose has passed through his forest and his wife knows when someone has been picking her wild mushrooms.  The other week I could tell from the combination of police car/fire engine/ambulance sirens, followed by the cacophony of news copters overhead, that something serious had happened just behind.  That was the day the paparazzo chasing Justin Bieber’s Ferrari (hoping for a ‘great shot’ when the police pulled the sports car over for speeding) was killed crossing the road.  How sad.

van

The sounds of sirens and overhead news helicopters for Prince William and his bride Kate’s post-nuptial trip to our fair City of Angels were much different, even if of similar volume.  Then, we were hosting a Finnish War Veterans’ luncheon event featuring guest speaker Olli Kivioja, former Finnish Surgeon General and President of the Finnish Air Force War Veterans’ Association, who was traveling in the US with his daughter and granddaughter.  We should have rented a microphone so our Veteran and Lotta friends could hear Olli’s presentation! 

Television news helicopters hovering over the City of Angels

Television news helicopters hovering over the City of Angels

Actually, Will and Kate’s visit ‘sounded’ very similar to President Obama’s many LA fundraising events in the political cycle just concluded….    

TRADITIONS—OR, JUST COMFORTABLE ROUTINES

The Christmas season ‘timing’ this year was just perfect for the Finn in me—bookended by weekends!  Such years on a calendar are to be relished because some of that ever-precious Joulurauha [Christmas Peace] is actually possible to try to achieve.  While I missed my Christmas sauna, my dear Dad kept the tradition. 

Not one to trifle with TRADITION, on the morning of 12/30 I had my chance to have some warmth, peace, and quiet in the sauna.  Early that Sunday morning, before anyone else was up, I tiptoed like a little tonntu (wrapped in my Marimekko towel) across the yard under the oak trees to my special Finnish spiritual sanctuary, the sauna.  Warmth, peace, and quiet.  Warmth, peace, and quiet!  Warmth, peace, and quiet!!  What a fun Finnish moment of refreshment, invigoration, and cleansing as a final, beautiful punctuation at the end of the year.  YESSSSS!!!!

Not so fast…Missy!  Another routine ritual was yet to come.  It was Sunday morning— after the first cup of strong coffee and with Sohvi Koira as co-pilot of the car, every Sunday morning involves a trip to the newsstand on San Vicente in Brentwood to buy the New York Times.  This last Sunday of the year, it was a good thing I wore more than my sauna towel! 

As we drove into the Whole Foods-adjacent parking lot to buy the paper, neighborhood pedestrians (looking like tourists) were streaming down the street –a swarm of paparazzi with long camera lenses pressed against the windows were poised for action and were ready to strike.  While a gaggle of paparazzi is not an unfamiliar sight around Brentwood on a weekend, they are usually outside some children’s karate studio hoping to get a shot of a celebrity’s child acting up in class.  Patience, working on boredom, is standard demeanor.  There was agitation and energy on this day—something was up!

Shuffling casually [cool, aloof, blasé, but driven by my journalistic curiosity] in the direction of the Whole Foods store after my newspaper purchase, I passed the swarm of cameras.  I asked my favorite clerk: “…who now?”  Before she could answer, I caught sight of Heidi Klum.  Oh, brother!!  What you have to go through to get a decent box of blueberries in this town!

‘TO EVERY THING TURN, TURN, TURN …’

After the peace and tranquility of a solitary early morning sauna in a sylvan setting, visiting the harsh reality of a celebrity’s daily existence in ‘our world’ makes you wonder if being a star is so heavenly.

The paparazzi have become an omnipresent Los Angeles reality.  You see them around ‘hot’ restaurants, shops, nightclubs, and ‘likely’ events.  They gather like jackals –athletic shoe-attired and having a smoke (expensive ‘quick draw’/long-lens cameras in hand), ready to pounce when they hear the word of a “sighting”.  Not unlike the predator animals in Kenya or Tanzania waiting, poised as the beautiful and precious prey come to their feeding and watering holes, the paparazzi live in a ‘survival’ world with few, if any, rules.

The paparazzi have become an omnipresent Los Angeles reality

The paparazzi have become an omnipresent Los Angeles reality

We all recall the paparazzi chasing Princess Diana through the streets and to her death in a tunnel in Paris.  Decades later, the same aggressive tactics [and stronger lenses] brought private moment photos of Prince William and Duchess Kate to the public whether they were wanted or not.

Shouldn’t a celebrity be able to buy blueberries or put on a bikini in peace?

…BUT LOCK THE DOOR BEHIND YOU!!!

Funny things do happen—if you have a sense of humor and take a step back.

Several years ago, a young couple came to visit Los Angeles for the first time.  While otherwise well traveled, the supposedly ‘cool guy’ husband [hereafter known as GVF as in “grumpy visitor friend”] was totally unimpressed with anything he saw or tasted, despite our best efforts.  He even wrote off our 70s and sunny Winter days with “…I like the wind and snow in Chicago”.  Okayyyy.

On one of the final days of their visit, it was off  to the Ivy for dinner –yes, the one on Robertson with the peeling picket fence and the paparazzi skulking across the street.  As usual, the beautiful people were having fun and the dining room was full, except for one table.  Our ‘grumbly’ visitor friend suddenly lit up, eyes and mouth wide open, as the Maître ‘d seated guests at the table next to ours.  His face flushed as he leaned over and whispered “…is he him??”  The question made no sense until I shifted my eyes to the next table where Eddie Murphy had just settled into his chair.  GVF was beside himself.  The aloof entrepreneur had finally arrived in ‘tinsel town’!  Star dust had melted the snowman!  Wow!!

The Ivy restaurant on Robertson

The Ivy restaurant on Robertson

Then, things went downhill.  We told GVF he could not go over and introduce himself –absolutely not!  Shortly after his table had placed their orders, Mr. Murphy got up and headed toward the front door.  GVF started to panic—“he is leaving…why is he leaving?”  Relieved to hear that the restrooms were just beyond the front entrance, GVF suddenly stood ‘bolt upright’ and made a ‘bee line’ to the head.  Mr. Murphy returned to his table and, shortly thereafter, GVF arrived himself with the biggest grin I may have ever seen.  He turned to his wife and in a whisper a tad too loud for close quarters announced “I just _ _ _ d next to Eddie Murphy.  I introduced myself—we shook hands.  I invited him to our table—he said he had guests.  I did not wash my hands!”    Shhhhhhhh!!

Even the most the ‘hard-nosed’ cool guy came unglued when seeing a celebrity in person for the first time.  Fortunately, the invitation for Mr. Murphy to join us at our table was graciously avoided—I would have crawled under that table, for sure!

And the beat goes on…

Last week, I heard that Hugh Jackman had just had a ‘Murphy-type’ experience.  Apparently he took a stall in the men’s room for some privacy.  Just when he thought he was alone behind closed doors, a beautifully-manicured female hand appeared from under the next cubicle with an autograph book and pen!  And, that was before he won the Best Actor Golden Globe!!  What grand adventures await him now?

Hugh Jackman

Hugh Jackman

CELEBRITIES ARE PEOPLE TOO

If you tuned in to this year’s Golden Globe Awards show—or were there as at least one Finn we know was, you heard remarkably straight-forward and revealing remarks from a real human being.  Jodie Foster’s acceptance speech for the Cecil B. DeMille lifetime achievement award was noteworthy for its content and candor.  While much has been said and written about Ms. Foster’s words since, I was particularly struck by her description of her life distilled from her perspective of celebrity: 

You know, you guys might be surprised, …my reality show would be so boring…  If you had been a public figure from the time you were a toddler; if you’d had to fight for a life that felt real and honest and normal against all odds, then maybe you too might value privacy above all else.  Privacy.  Someday, in the future, people will look back and remember how beautiful it once was.

I have given everything up there from the time that I was 3 years old.  That’s reality show enough, don’t you think?

Ms. Foster went on to note that she

            …want[ed] to be understood deeply and to not be so lonely.

 How can you be lonely when a throng appears as soon as you park your car?  Surely someone smart enough to earn a degree from Yale can figure that out somehow.  Then, I remembered meeting Ms. Foster at a private reception at the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences   about a decade ago.  Tiny, but poised, she struck me as ‘shy’ even though she clearly commanded the room filled with other stars. 

Jodie Foster, Helena Lumme, and  Mika Manninen at the Great Women of Film Exhibition reception

Jodie Foster, Helena Lumme, and Mika Manninen at the Great Women of Film Exhibition reception

That pleasant encounter occurred at the invitation of fantastic Finns Helena Lumme and Mika Manninen who were being feted on the release of their penetrating book of insights and photographs Great Women of Film.  That was their second book bringing the sights and insights of Hollywood luminaries to light with photos and words.  Their earlier foray into ‘fantasy land’: Screenwriters: Storytellers in Portrait actually asked each writer to tell his/her own story and H&M matched the self-tales with complimentary photos.

Helena and Mika, these masters of marketing, have moved on to other adventures and ventures as evidenced by the e-mail I got from Mika the other day signed Chief Oats Optimist!   Check out Simpli OatShake [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iMufRx3oK6Q] or simply stop by your local Whole Foods store for some ‘star gazing’ and some Sofi Award winning Oats.  Simpli divine ‘Dahling’!

 FINNS IN FANTASY LAND

Consul General Kirsti Westphalen is leading the charge in support of the emerging association of Creative Finns that is coalescing as a support group in Southern California.  The FACC is joining with the Consulate of Finland to facilitate the ‘break-in’/’start-up’ for Finnish ‘creatives’ wanting to make it big on this big stage. 

Consul General Kirsti Westphalen

Consul General Kirsti Westphalen

Helena and Mika’s story of leaving the homeland and conquering both Hollywood and the food industry while seeming to maintain their low-key Finnish ways requires more ‘inches’ than I have left in this column.  There are many Finns who can inspire –in front of and behind the camera—in the trades and in the executive suites.

Attention young Finnish creatives: it has been done—there is hope.  Erkki and Ilona Kanto wrote a book on how to conquer Hollywood:  MITEN HOLLYWOOD VALLOITETAAN? Suomalaisella sisulla menestystä tavoittelemassa-tositarinoita showmaailman mekasta. 

Erkki and Ilona Kanto wrote a book on how to conquer Hollywood

Erkki and Ilona Kanto wrote a book on how to conquer Hollywood

More later!  I hear the helicopters overhead!!

FILMMAKER MIKA JOHNSON

STORY: AARON LARABEE

PHOTOS: JACKSON BIERFELDT, JENNIFER RAY, TOMI HINKKANEN, SCREEN CAPS FROM “THE AMERIKANS”

Mika Johnson makes documentaries in Oberlin, Ohio.

Mika Johnson, a filmmaker based in Oberlin, Ohio.

Mika Johnson is an emerging Finnish-American filmmaker who is creating a body of documentary and fiction films that reveal American myths and realities in artistically excellent and entertaining new ways.

Mika’s grandparents lived in one of the exclusive Finnish immigrant enclaves of the Northwestern U.S., keeping language and customs well beyond the usual time of assimilation. Mika’s father was a restless man (a boat surveyor and commercial diver, amongst other things), and Mika himself has been quite a traveler.  Mostly raised in the Midwestern state of Ohio, Mika also lived and worked as a filmmaker internationally for six years. His wife Kaori  is Japanese.

Mika Johnson with wife, Kaori.

Mika Johnson with wife, Kaori Mitsushima.

Now based again in the university town of Oberlin, Ohio (home to the first American college to admit students of both sexes and any race, as well as the first music conservatory in the country), Johnson and his collaborator Jeffrey Pence are producing exciting work that is garnering attention.

Mika Johnson lives in Oberlin, a college town in Ohio.

Mika Johnson lives in Oberlin, a college town in Ohio.

Johnson became inspired to depict the extraordinary within the ordinary faces and places of the United States, a poetic and direct approach that blurs the line between fiction and documentary filmmaking and offers serious entertainment that stands out in the American scene. “The Amerikans” is an ongoing web series of 3 – 5 minute short documentaries that capture the unique quirks, charm, and eccentric stories of people living in the American Midwest.

Don Matis, "a human paintbrush", can be seen in an episode of "The Amerikans."

Don Matis, “a Human Paintbrush”, can be seen in an episode of “The Amerikans.”

In Johnson’s recent film, “Human Paintbrush,” the title character, Don Matis, says, “I’m a human paintbrush…and this brush is deeply rooted to my imagination, my mind, my body and my spirit.” He then demonstrates his technique, dipping his long, wizard-like beard in paint and dabbing and whipping it carefully across a canvas to create intricate patterns that recall flower-covered meadows. Matis, who peers at the camera from beneath a fuzzy purple hat, looks uncannily youthful and has an almost otherworldly gentleness and enthusiasm: he seems like a visitor from some distant time and place. In fact, he lives in Stow, Ohio, the state where Johnson has shot many of his films, where he grew up, and where he has recently found an unlikely source of inspiration.’

“In depicting Ohio – and America in general – I wanted to avoid the stereotypes of farmers, picket fences, and old industrial towns,” said Johnson.

Johnson and crew on location somewhere in Ohio.

Johnson and crew on location in rural Ohio.

To anyone who has seen The Amerikans, the series to which “Human Paint Brush” belongs, this sounds like an understatement. Along with Matis, other subjects of films in The Amerikans include a graffiti artist who writes his elaborate tag on abandoned trains (and insists on being filmed in a mask to preserve his anonymity), and a woman who has collected and meticulously categorized paper napkins for over 70 years, accumulating over 2,000 in all.

Ethel Moyers, seen in the Amerikans'" episode "Napkin Tales," has collected over 2,000 paper napkins.

Ethel Moyers, as seen in “the Amerikans’” episode “Napkin Tales,” has collected over 2,000 paper napkins.

Then there is a writer who has commissioned a silicone model of his head so that his likeness can be preserved in the event of global apocalypse. The short features blend documentary and fiction in a way reminiscent of a more cheerful Werner Herzog, the narration moving seamlessly between the subject’s daily lives and their fantasy lives.

Writer Aaron Larrabee has his head preserved in silicone in the episode aptly named "Head."

Writer Aaron Larabee has his head preserved in silicone in the episode aptly named “Head.”

The Amerikans has garnered attention from PBS and gained an international fan base. It is an unexpected reward for Johnson, who began the series as a side project to a feature film. Johnson returned to Ohio to begin work on his feature, Amerika, after working in the film industry in Japan, Europe, and New York. Amerika, which has recently begun production, is a dark portrait of its title country. It tells the story of Kat, a refugee from a hostess club in Tokyo who flees her homeland and crisscrosses America in the company of various dreamers, degenerates, and oddballs. Johnson lists Finnish-American director David Lynch and famed Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki among his influences. Like Lynch, Johnson is fascinated by the grotesque and mysterious elements of the American landscape. Like Kaurismäki, his work features unhurried pacing, a mixture of trained and non-professional actors, and deceptively simple storylines, techniques he has employed in his previous films, Yonder and The Mountain of Signs.

There's an ever increasing cast of oddball characters in the series "The Amerikans."

There’s an ever increasing cast of oddball characters in the series “The Amerikans.”

“It’s this minimalist style that goes back to Bresson, Ozu and Melville that appeals to me,” says Johnson. “Except for Jim Jarmusch, you rarely see this deliberately pared-down approach in American cinema.”

Amerika has begun shooting on locations in Ohio, and Johnson has sited a variety of locations around the country: scenes of both iconic grandeur — the Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore — iconic ruin — the urban ruins of Detroit — and everything in between.

Mika's film shoot took him to the iconic location of Mount Rushmore, South Dakota.

Mika’s film shoot took him to the iconic location of Mount Rushmore, South Dakota.

“My goal for the end of the film is to work with dancers from various Native American tribes in a large ritual,” says Johnson, adding, “That will take some arranging.”

Johnson’s collaborators on the project include his producer, Jeffrey Pence, a professor of Cinema Studies at Oberlin College, and his wife, Kaori Mitsushima, who plays the role of Kat.

Kaori Mitsushima plays a role of Kat in Mika Johnson's movie Amerika.

Kaori Mitsushima plays a role of Kat in Mika Johnson’s movie Amerika.

Amerika also features a cameo appearance by Johnson’s father, Dick, the son of Finnish immigrants from Centralia, Washington, a Finnish enclave whose residents assiduously preserved their national culture, traditions and language long after assimilation.

Mika's grandparents lived in Centralia, a Finnish enclave in Washington.

Mika’s grandparents lived in Centralia, a Finnish enclave in Washington.

“Growing up,” says Johnson, “I rarely thought about my Finnish heritage. But now I’m proud when I see the influence of Finnish designers on my work, or a shared aesthetic with directors like Kaurismaki or the filmmakers who did the documentary Steam of Life, Joonas Berghäll and Mika Hotakainen. As a filmmaker, I’d love to discover those elements of Finnish culture that are still expressed in my family, generations later. I have this daydream of being able to visit Finland with my father, who has never been there, and document the process.”

In the meantime, Johnson is keeping busy, between working on Amerika and finishing the last two episodes of The Amerikans. After years spent travelling and working overseas, he says it’s been exciting to discover the creative potential of the American heartland. The latest episode of The Amerikans, Johnson says, is about a beekeeper in Wellington, Ohio, who believes in the healing power of bee venom and treats people by stinging them.

Mika Johnson has found the creative potential of the American heartland.

Mika Johnson has found the creative potential of the American heartland.

“I’d never seen anything like it before,” says Johnson. “People swear by it. They get bee stings on the scalp, on the hands, in the mouth. And the beekeeper has enlisted a whole community around this, helping to take care of the bees and even to apply the stings to each other. When I tell my friends in New York and L.A. about it, they think it’s totally exotic. But it’s completely American.”

Mika Johnson's "The Amerikans" series shows a different face of America.

Mika Johnson’s series “The Amerikans”  shows a different face of America.

The Amerikans can be seen at www.theamerikans.org

DEBT CLOCK

REPORTER: TOMI HINKKANEN – LOS ANGELES

Capitol_-_west_front

After months of partisan bickering, the U.S. Congress finally agreed on taxes and cuts on New Year’s Day. The American Taxpayer Relief Act seems to please very few people, and no wonder why. It offers “relief” only in a sense that had the lawmakers not come to a deal, taxes would have gone up for everybody even more than they do now.

The top tax rate will go up from 35 to 39.6% for individuals earning more than $400,000 and for couples making $450,000 or more. The additional tax is subtracted only on the amount exceeding those figures. The inheritance tax will go up from 53% to 40% for estates worth more than 5 million. All wage earners regardless of how much they make – about 77% of the population – will see their paycheck shrink this year due to the comeback of the payroll tax. For an average earner of $50,000 it means an expense of $1,500 a year – roughly the cost of filling the car tank twice a month. The act extends tax credits for college students, low income families and families with children and limits deductions for individuals with incomes of more than $250,000 and couples with incomes of more than $300,000.

congress ext - capitol building

These measures will generate $620 billion over the next ten years – less than five percent of the gigantic national debt, which is 16.5 trillion and mounting. 16 trillion is 16 million million, or 16 thousand billion with 12 zeroes. If one was to pay off the debt with hundred dollar notes, tied in packets worth ten thousand each and organized in standard pallets stacked two pallets high, the payment would fill 16 football fields. You can see the national debt here (WARNING: Not for the faint of heart):

Bob Foster is an Adjunct Professor at UCLA Anderson School of Management. He visits Finland each year to recruit high tech companies to take part in the University’s Global Access Program, GAP. In the program, fully employed MBA students work with the companies for six months and create a business plan for each company wanting to expand their business beyond their country borders.

Bob Foster is the director of the GAP program at UCLA Anderson.

Bob Foster is the director of the GAP program at UCLA Anderson.

Mr. Foster characterizes the American Taxpayer Relief Act as a middle of the road bill that does little more than kicks the can down the road.

“It only defers more serious decisions for two months. If you are a corporation thinking of making big purchases, you are concerned about the economy anyway. You also have to be concerned about the very large national debt – the largest we have had in our history. What are we going to do to get that under control,” Professor Foster asks.

Two months from now the congress will face yet another cliff – the raising of the debt ceiling.

“I can’t remember the gov’t being so out of control in my 70 years,” professor adds.

He says at the root of the national debt is a structural problem.

“I believe one out five people are sick or incapable of working for different reasons. We have a moral obligation to take care of those people. I hear about 42% of Americans pay absolutely zero income taxes. It appears to me that something is wrong. Every citizen of the country should pay something – even a small amount.”

In other words:

“20% of the population falls under social support network. I think there’s another 20% of the population that are taking advantage of the many loopholes, there’s fraud in the Medicare, social security…There is something fundamentally wrong here. We have to fulfill our social obligations but at the same time live within our means.”

Professor Bob Foster has an extensive background as a CEO of various companies.

Professor Bob Foster has an extensive background as a CEO of various companies.

Foster, who describes himself as a Blue Dog Democrat, says the Republicans’ reluctance to “tax the job creators” argument is not as valid as they claim. However, he notes that the U.S. cannot fork out the money to pay off the national debt just by taxing the rich.

“If you take the one percent of the top earners and take 100% of their compensation – not just some but 100% – it wouldn’t even begin to solve the debt problem. There’s just not that many of them. They cannot finance everybody else.”

Foster’s solution to the problem:

“Simplify the tax code, eliminate a lot of the exceptions that complicate the tax code. Clamp down on those individuals who are fraudulently benefiting from the system.”

Bob Foster would like the government to crack down on tax cheats.

Bob Foster would like the government to crack down on tax cheats.

His advice Finnish companies wanting to expand into the U.S.:

“Our recommendations to any company wanting to come to the U.S. is make sure you hire the services of knowledgeable lawyers and tax professionals to prepare your accounting and tax returns in order to be aware of what the law requires and to maximize profits legally.”

Businessman Heikki Ketola serves as a judge in the GAP program at UCLA Anderson.

Businessman Heikki Ketola serves as a judge in the GAP program at UCLA Anderson.

The Finnish business community in the U.S. has mixed emotions about the tax bill. Malibu-based bar code entrepreneur Heikki Ketola doesn’t mince words scolding the congress.

“They have done nothing but delayed the decision by two months. At the same time they bicker about the debt ceiling. It’s American antics. The congress has already signed off to certain things – building of bridges and aircraft carriers. Now they have to separately decide, whether to pay for them!”

Heikki Ketola calls the debt ceiling negotiations American antics.

Heikki Ketola calls the debt ceiling negotiations American antics.

Ketola laments the lack of willingness to compromise. Instead, the two parties are at each others’ throat instead of working towards solving the problem. He predicts the impasse will continue and fears filibuster when it comes time to decide on the debt ceiling.

Esa Ylä-Soininmäki is the owner of the furniture company Monte Allen.

Esa Ylä-Soininmäki is the owner of the furniture company Monte Allen.

Esa Ylä-Soininmäki is the owner and CEO of Monte Allen, a company that manufactures custom made furniture. His company employs 40 people and generates sales between two and three million dollars.

“I think the 450 thousand mark for a tax increase is reasonable. President Obama wanted to set the limit at 250 thousand. It would have hurt too many small entrepreneurs who file taxes as individuals,” Ylä-Soininmäki says.

He himself has an S Corporation, in which the profits are passed on to the shareholders, and are taxed on personal returns. Therefore, if his revenue exceeds the $450,000 mark, Ylä-Soininmäki will stock on inventory at the end of the year to lower the revenue and thus avoid the tax increase.

Esa Ylä-Soininmäki with wife Anne

Esa Ylä-Soininmäki with wife Anne

“On the other hand, the middle class and the low income earners will suffer, because of the return of the payroll tax. In all reality it is a tax increase – the amount of the paycheck after taxes is smaller than before.”

Esa Ylä-Soininmäki says the tax bill did nothing to alleviate his uncertainty about the future.

“It is just as unclear as before. My business is going well and we are even going up a bit, but with all these cliffs and talk about the national debt, one does not feel like investing any more than is necessary.”

He says the uncertainty has lasted for the past few years and also reprimands politicians for the lack of leadership.

Monte Allen has many celebrity clients

Monte Allen has many celebrity clients

Monte Allen deals with celebrity clients who want the very best. Lately Esa Ylä-Soininmäki has acquired two more star customers – Michael Richards, who played Kramer in the TV show Frazier and Jane Fonda.

“Michael Richards has a Mediterranean style house in Pacific Palisades with a gorgeous view of the Pacific. He is as funny as in the show and I always feel like laughing going there. We’ve made him some modern furniture.”

Jane Fonda, 75, is one of Monte Allen's star clients.

Jane Fonda, 75, is one of Monte Allen’s star clients.

Jane Fonda knows what she wants.

“Jane Fonda has purchased a house in the Trousdale Estates section of Beverly Hills. We’ve been furnishing it since the end of the year – desks, shelves in the media room that are of eclectic, modern style. Jane is a very determined lady, who knows exactly what she wants and is not shy about it. She also takes responsibility of her decisions and is easy to work with,” Esa describes.

President George W. Bush signing a $1.35 trillion tax cut into law June 7, 2001.

President George W. Bush signing a $1.35 trillion tax cut into law June 7, 2001.

Here are my two cents:

The current debt crisis was born during the presidency of George W. Bush. He put two wars on a credit card and at the same time lowered taxes on everybody, including the rich. Therefore, it was necessary to take on debt starting at the end of President Bush’s presidency in the fall of 2008, when the economy was on the verge of a total collapse. It was equally important to salvage the banking sector, the car industry and to stimulate the economy in the beginning of President Barack Obama’s first term in 2009.

Presidents Bush and Barack Obama in the Oval Office.

Presidents Bush and Barack Obama in the Oval Office.

Now we have to find ways to start reversing the dreaded debt clock. The American Taxpayer Relief Act starts to do just that by taxing the rich their fair share. The wealthy still get off easy, since their earnings are oftentimes in the form of a much lower taxed capitol gains, not wages. For example Mitt Romney only paid 13% in taxes. The obvious way is to reverse the debt clock is to create more jobs to generate more tax revenue. The other way is to cut expenditure, including military spending. There are over a thousand U.S. military bases around the world. Now that the Iraq war is over and the war in Afghanistan is winding down, it is time to take a serious look to see if all this U.S. involvement is really necessary. Other painful cuts have to be made as well. There is nothing so fundamentally wrong with the U.S. economy that it couldn’t be fixed. This country is full of bright people and entrepreneurs. There’d be even more of them, if the broken down immigration system was fixed. Nobody wants to create another Greece, nor duplicate the British style austerity measures that are so harsh that they themselves drown the economy. What is needed is a golden middle road. It is time for the political leaders to stop bickering and to come together for the good of the country.

U.S. House Committee in session.

U.S. House Committee in session.

AROUND LA WITH AVA: ELVES, IMPS, ANGELS – AND PRUNES

Ava Antilla by Jonny Kahleyn

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn

Elves, Imps, Angels –and Prunes
by Ava Anttila 

What a fun, positive, activity filled December it has been in our City of Angels. [Finns always count on the contribution of Elves and Imps to help us with our chores at this time of year!] For me and mine visiting elves and local Tonttus have been in abundance. The energy of the season is exciting!

Preparing for Christmas is unique for us here where Winter is often 5 days long. When it seems ‘natural’ for Santa to hang from a palm tree wearing surfing shorts and sun glasses, it is hard to dream of a white Christmas!! Yes, we do get/give the season a unique “Hollywood spin”. And, somehow, the planets seem to align each year in a way that only those of us experiencing LA can embrace and fully appreciate.

Are You Wearing Your Elf Hat?

Let us begin with two strange contrastingly divergent (yet so “LA”) concepts: the Hollywood Sign and the prune. Before your ADHD internet-wired-attention-span wants to do something else, hear me out!  We will ultimately come together for a warm Finnish Christmas LA community hug.

First—‘breaking news’:  the most photographed ‘star’ in Southern California has had a major facelift!  Yes, the beloved, iconic Hollywood Sign has had a makeover.  After many months, lots of money, hundreds of gallons of paint, and much hard work, the Sign is once again brand-spanking new and beautifully ‘snow white’!

While it can be dangerous to look up from the freeway during our annual week of rain, if you let someone else drive [for a change], the rain turns to snow on the mountain peaks that surround –and make, the LA basin. The rain clears the smog and our ‘rings of mountains’ provide a beautiful white frame for the again white Sign! When the sun comes out, the sky is a spectacular Finnish blue that takes your breath away! Check it out!!

Now, About the Prune:

Speaking of makeovers, the LA ‘flack artists’ [publicists] have done their jobs well. If you are new to America or are just trying to find a cookbook with recipes and ingredients to do some traditional Finnish Christmas cooking, you may find yourself in a quandary. That is especially true if you want our Finnish Christmas icon, the prune, for our beloved delicacy: the Joulu Torttu.

luumu kiisseli

If you are looking to make luumu kiisseli or luumu torttu, remember the word “prune” has had its “Hollywood Makeover”. A few years ago, ‘it was decreed’ that the lowly “prune” had to be renamed, remade, and re-titled as a “dried plum”. While, in fact, the prune has always been a dried plum, the new image is meant to go ‘upscale’. You will not find “dried plums” in your old family recipes. And, you will not find “prunes” in your local market!

A few years ago, ‘it was decreed’ that the lowly “prune” had to be renamed, remade, and re-titled as a “dried plum”

The name “prune” had image issues that the industry wanted to ‘facelift’. The not so attractive, shriveled fruit had become a descriptive adjective, not a delicacy to be savored. In fact, it was the butt of crude jokes. Even in the comic strip Dick Tracy, popular since the ‘50s, there was a villain “Prune-Face” whose name alone conjured a clear picture of the character. How do you take the ‘intestinal broom’ for the elderly and broaden its market appeal?  Simple!  Call it something else!  Hey!! This is Hollywood—so the effort to rehabilitate a beautiful, well preserved fruit launched a big ad campaign to eradicate the word “prune” from our lexicon. Done deal. Dried plums rule!!!

As Shakespeare said “…a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” –or something like that.

A favorite of the Finnish Christmas table is Luumu Kiisseli.  It is a dried fruit compote that is just delicious. The dried fruit (prunes nka* dried plums, apricots, apples, pears, and raisins) are poached, seasoned with cinnamon, thickened with potato starch (or cornstarch), and chilled. I have a large, clear pedestal glass vessel I use to ‘show’ the wonderful flavors awaiting. Despite my ‘packaging’, to this day my adult sons use their childhood term “Prune Slime” to refer to this wonder of Finnish Christmas!  Somehow, “dried plum slop” does not have the same ring and has not made it onto our menu.

*now known as

Activities in the Finnish Community in LA

This month has been incredibly active. The local and visiting elves, imps, and angels have been especially energetic and energized.

Entertainers and Organizers for Suomi 95

The December 1 celebration of Finland’s 95th anniversary of Independence was a great success thanks to the support of the Consulate General of Finland, Suomi Kerho (as well as, other sponsors), and the effective and dedicated Committee that reached out to our Finnish American community who responded enthusiastically to a memorable—and fun, evening. It was especially touching to have a number of our remaining Veterans and Lottas present as our guests to receive our heartfelt appreciation for their sacrifice and success—and that of their compatriots who preserved our precious freedom.


SUOMI 95, Los Angeles

Pepe Wilberg (featured entertainer), other visitors from Finland, and Team Suomi 95 came by my home to experience some local Mexican cuisine [Chicken Mole] cooked by a Finn (…yours truly) the night before the Independence Day Gala.  Since there was no reference to Montezuma the next evening, I guess all went well—we did serve wine instead of water, of course!

Pepe Wilberg by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

President of Finlandia University Visits Southern California

Philip Johnson, President of Finlandia University in Hancock, Michigan visited the Southland recently. Dr. Johnson has maintained, but re-shaped, the historic Finlandia ties to Finland and the Finnish history, culture, and traditions that are so much a part of his Upper Peninsula, Copper country University formerly known as Suomi College. The challenges of running—and funding, a small, private university in the current economic and educational climate are great. Philip’s vision for Finlandia has been influenced by his Lutheran ministry, his admiration for leaders in innovative educational approaches such as in Finland, and his commitment to provide a stimulating, life-shaping experience for Finlandia’s students, faculty, and staff. During the five years of his Presidency and during his visits to Los Angeles, we have had conversations long into the night that resumed again in early morning. The development and implementation of ‘visions’ is an evolutionary process fraught with challenges when it is your job to ‘make it work’. The real-time ‘issue wrestling’ is challenging, energizing, and frustrating, but seeing growth, progress, and results based on the premises postulated is heartwarming.

Philip Johnson, President of Finlandia University in Hancock, Michigan

Esa-Pekka Salonen

There is a wonderful feeling of pride whenever our own Esa-Pekka Salonen comes back to Los Angeles for performances. As Finns and as music lovers, we are inspired and overjoyed with the magnificence of his work. [I won’t call him an ‘elf’ even though I can remember the story he told of being “carded” while buying beer at a Brentwood market early in his tenure here.] We were blessed to have our Finnish Maestro on our LA podium this holiday season. I hope you were able to be present for a performance.

Esa-Pekka Salonen (courtesy of LAPHIL)

Seija Gerdt: Art Exhibition and Sale

Seija Gerdt is our own treasure and creative genius in the local Finnish community. Each December Seija hosts an event no Finn –or anyone who appreciates art and artistry, should miss. She is the supreme local artist in glass.

Finnish artist Seija Gerdt

For many years, Seija’s pre-Christmas show and sales event has been an opportunity to see her work and to purchase hand-blown glass and artwork as gifts made by a very talented local Finnish artist of international reputation. This year I was [pardon this] ‘blown’ away by the variety, extent, and beauty of Seija’s work and talent. New visions, techniques, and materials presented in her offerings this year were so inspiring.

Art Exhibition and sale by Finnish artist Seija Gerdt

This event should be any Finn’s first stop for holiday shopping. Forget Rodeo Drive, make Seija’s on Cedar Street in Santa Monica your first stop next year [--or call her for an appointment sooner.] The Glögg is on the stove and a lovely table of nibbles is offered for those stopping by. Sieja is truly a dedicated elf working all year producing magnificent creations for Joulupukki!

Seija Gerdt: Art Exhibition and Sale

Did you know that “Seija Gerdt” used to be “Seija Anttila”. That is how I first got to know her several decades ago. Seija’s [then] husband was a professor at UCLA. Around Vappu, I would get May Day greeting calls from revelers in Finland –some 10 time zones away, starting at 4 AM. Her friends were looking for any “Anttila” in the L.A area. No wonder she changed her last name to Gerdt.

Suomi Koulu Katrilli Party

Speaking of Elves [Joulu Tonnttu], it was a veritable invasion and infestation of the jolly, mischievous, life sized, apple-cheeked creatures that came to life in a ‘conga-line’ formation at the Suomi Koulu gathering in Costa Mesa on a recent December Saturday. The Katrilli danced to the delight of young and old at the holiday celebration and fund raiser for Suomi Koulu. Fun was had by all.  My Granddaughter asked if we could bring her little Brother next year!

Suomi Koulu gathering in Costa Mesa

Suomi Koulu gathering in Costa Mesa

An Angel Passes

One of the dearest members of the Finnish Community, Annikki Wiikari, was celebrated and laid to rest on December 1. She was a long time member of the Katrilli dance group. The Katrilli danced in her honor and provided a Finnish meal for attendees.

an angel passes

Annikki was part of a trio of great Finnish cooks at Suomi Kerho [including Rauha Loponen  and Eila Korpinen] who always provide supreme cuisine at events. I remember fondly that Annikki made the most lovely tippaleivat for a big Vappu event we held at Greta Peck’s home a number of years ago. She was a beautiful soul and great Finnish inspiration for us all.

Consul General Westphalen Addresses European American Sheriff’s Advisory Committee

Sheriff Lee Baca hosts a luncheon each December for the Southern California based European Consuls General under the aegis of his European American Sheriff’s Advisory Committee. Finland is a founding member of EASAC which meets monthly to learn about and communicate with the Sheriff on matters of interest in and impact on our local communities.

consul general of Finland Kirsti Westphalen with her husband TV journalist Abdellatif Mouffakkir and Ava Anttila at the European American Sheriff’s Advisory Committee luncheon

This year, Sheriff Baca welcomed the Dean of the Consular Corps –our own remarkable Consul General Kirsti Westphalen, as keynote speaker. Consul General Westphalen’s address was a thought-provoking presentation concerning the survival of the EU (and the US) in these challenging economic times. The social and political pressures on the Euro and the dollar have been compounded by the global recession. The potential consequences are real and pressing. The audience of diplomatic representatives, community leaders, and public officials was impressed and appreciative.

EASAC (European American Sheriff’s Advisory Council) Holiday Luncheon group photo

Holiday Shopping

This was a great year for holiday shopping for things Finnish. I have already spoken of my soiré to Seija’s annual bash. Of course, we are all excited about the new Marimekko store.

Still, one of my favorite events is Suomi Kerho’s annual Christmas Bazaar preceding their Christmas dinner and visit from Joulupukki. This year there was an unbelievable array of baked goods. Laatikkos were on one side of the table with purchasers ahead of the starting time armed with large bags to receive the goods. [The earliest elf gets the most goodies.] Pulla, karjalanpiikarras, spice cakes, Finnish cookies, and an assortment of laatikkoswent ‘like hotcakes’!

Suomi Kerho’s annual Christmas Bazaar preceding their Christmas dinner and visit from Joulupukki

Most Beautiful Christmas Music at Finnish Church

In a beautifully decorated St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Santa Monica, Pastor Jarmo Tarkki led a joyous crowd with the singing of our favorite Finnish Christmas songs. The sing-a-long included our classic childhood hymns, nicely provided in a booklet. In his endearing, impish way Pastor T led us in a favorite ditty “Porsaita Ӓidin Oomme Kaikki” translated as “We Are All Mother’s Little Pigs” –sung in both Finnish and Swedish. A ‘groaning table’ of Finnish treats followed in the Parish Hall of the Church –all delicious contributions by attendees. Thank you all for making this new event a warm and welcoming part of Christmas.

St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Santa Monica

Mira Scott (the angel/elf of the Suomi Koulu and of the Finnish Church) has been instrumental in making good things happen with her great work this year. We all appreciate her in the LA area. She is an inspiration –one we all should emulate. And, Anniina Lukiini-Johnsson’s work for this amazing bringing-together of the Finnish community has been literally a “God-send”.

A ‘groaning table’ of Finnish treats followed in the Parish Hall of the Church –all delicious contributions by attendees

Christmas Preparations

As this column goes to press we are all working to bring a Finnish Christmas experience to our family and friends. While I write, the aroma of rutabagas is percolating from the stove ready to become lanttulaatikko, the piparkakku taikina is set for action, the graavilohi is working in the refrigerator. Rosolli is in the works, the boiled rice is about to go in with pureed carrots for porkkanalaatikko. The one “laatikko” [casserole] I just love to serve because the name is a great topic of conversation is “imellettyperunasoselaattikko”. I like the funny, long Finnish word that I have fun putting on a ‘menu card’ when I serve it to those new to Finnish cuisine.  It is basically a simple dish–malted potato casserole from the Province of Häme.

Back to the Prunes…Ooops, Dried Plums!

You probably just finished your shopping, wrapping, basic cooking, cleanup, set up, and are now officially exhausted. Here is a simple dish to make you a star in your own kitchen.

Joulu Tortut (Christmas Stars)

Joulu Tortut (Christmas Stars)

Take a 1 pound bag of pitted prunes (or, now, the politically correct/rebranded “dried plums”). Dump half into a pot.  Add enough water to cover the fruit plus ¾ cup of sugar. Boil until soft. Cool. Chop or puree the ‘product’ in a food processor.

Using ‘store bought’ frozen puff pastry dough [thawed, of course], roll out to about ¼ inch. Make squares with a knife or a pastry roller. Score cuts from center to each corner.

Using ‘store bought’ frozen puff pastry dough [thawed, of course], roll out to about ¼ inch. Make squares with a knife or a pastry roller.

Place a nice dab of filling in the center of each square. Bring alternating edges of the pastry to the center, dabbing with water and pressing so they stick to each other. Brush with beaten egg.  Bake on a cookie sheet at 400º F for about 10 minutes. Cool. Dust with powdered sugar.

Double-click on picture above to view it full size

Stars are born! You –and the plum!

double-click on picture above to view it full size

Hauskaa Joulua!!

There is a nice saying occasionally seen on ‘bumper stickers’ in LA:

“Practice Random Acts of Kindness!”

Let us all be Finnish elves, imps, and angels who do just that—all year long!!

“Practice Random Acts of Kindness!”

THE DAYS OF YRJÖ AND LEONORA PALOHEIMO

 

Fenyes Mansion has gone through a complete renovation and is now open to public.

The fabled Fenyes Mansion in Pasadena recently reopened to the public after a three-year, 1.7 million dollar renovation. It is a fine house indeed, but it is the people who used to occupy it – Yrjö and Leonora Paloheimo – that makes the mansion so special to the Finnish community. This is their story.

On a spectacular Sunday afternoon a group of people gathered in the Pasadena Museum of History got a special treat. Paul O. Halme, Chairman of the Board of the Paloheimo Foundation, gave a special presentation, a look into the lives of Yrjö Paloheimo and his wife, Leonora Curtin Paloheimo and a tour of their home. This power couple built a bridge between Finland and the United States that still stands today.

Leonora and Yrjö Paloheimo in front of their home, Fenyes Mansion

Yrjö Paloheimo was born in Finland in 1899. The youngest of five sons of Kerttu and K.A. Paloheimo, he was born to luxury and privilege. K.A. was a wealthy industrialist, who owned saw mills around Finland. But he was not just another businessman. K.A. was also interested in establishing a cultural identity for Finland, struggling under the Tsar’s Russia. This would be brought about by establishing an artists’ colony on the eastern shore of Lake Tuusula. It would combine literature, visual arts and music under one special place. Lucky for K.A., he had friends in the very fields. Together with novelist Juhani Aho, painters Pekka Halonen and Eero Järnefelt and composer Jean Sibelius, the colony was realized.

“The sons of K.A. Paloheimo were called “the lazy sons”, since they married their neighbors’ daughters – one son married Sibelius’ daughter, the other one Halonen’s daughter and the third one Järnefelt’s daughter,” Paul Halme bemuses.

Attorney Paul Halme giving a tour of Fenyes Mansion in Pasadena

The sons also went into business with their father. One exception to the rule was the youngest son, Yrjö. He studied agriculture at the Helsinki University. After receiving his Master’s degree, the young man set out to west. He first arrived in the United States in the 1920’s. He lived and worked in Los Angeles and Ojai, a mountain community 83 miles north of L.A. In much the same way that a college student in these days would, he experimented with different philosophies, trying to find his own voice. There were other Finns living in Ojai as well at the time. Yrjö held discussions with them about topics such as religion, of which he was said to have liberal views. After this sojourn, Yrjö returned to Finland. But not for long. In 1933 he returned to the new continent, this time for good. Paloheimo was employed by the consulate general of Finland in New York. He was promoted to be in charge of travel promotion. In this capacity he had a chance to shake hands with presidents Herbert Hoover, Franklin Roosevelt and became good friends with Roosevelt’s mother, Sara. In 1939, New York hosted the World Fair. Paloheimo was in charge of the construction of the Finnish pavilion as a commissioner. That same fall the Soviet Union attacked Finland. Yrjö mobilized the American Finnish community, working as a Field Secretary for Help Finland, a relief organization. The enthusiasm in which the U.S. Finns embarked on their mission, never left Paloheimo.

A Finnish machine gun brigade near Lemetti, Karelia during Winter War

After the war Yrjö, now an American citizen, found himself in his mid-forties and unmarried. Things were about to chance – big time. In Washington D.C.,  socialite Leonora “Babsie” Curtin, daughter of the late newspaper tycoon Thomas Curtin, was working at the Smithsonian Institute, studying dialects of the Pueblo Indians. One evening in 1946, a family friend called Babsie and invited her to a dinner party in New York. Yrjö was at the same party. They met, fell in love and married later that same year. Their honeymoon took them to his homeland, Finland. Leonora brought an armada of luggage along wherever she traveled. And as to make up for all those years both had been single, in rabid succession, between 1946 and 1949, they adopted four orphans – Nina, George, Eric and Eva – from Finland. They were promptly dispatched to the best boarding schools America had to offer.

Leonora “Babsie” Curtin Paloheimo dedicated her life to her passions – culture, arts and Indigenous peoples.

Leonora and her family had many cultural interests. Her grandmother, Eva Fenyes, was a businesswoman, painter and pot maker, who traveled extensively. Wherever she went –Egypt, Venice, India – instead of buying a postcard, she painted a picture of the local scenery instead. American Indian cultures were especially close to Eva’s heart. She built houses in Santa Fe, New Mexico and Pasadena, California. After she passed away, it was Eva’s house in Pasadena, called after her Fenyes Mansion, that the Paloheimos settled in. It is a beau arts style house that has three floors and 16 rooms in over ten thousand square feet.

Fenyes Mansion has been a setting for several movies, including the satire Being There starring Peter Sellers,1979.

Yrjö was named Honorary Consul of Finland to the Western United States. So Fenyes Mansion also became the Consulate of Finland. With his excellent connections and people skills, Yrjö Paloheimo set out to put Finland on the map in America.

“If Yrjö Paloheimo was in this room, he would make you feel like you were the most important person. He could come up to you and say, I feel safe because you are here. And you would believe it,” says the family attorney Paul Halme.

Yrjö Paloheimo ran his consular affairs from this desk, displayed in Fenyes Mansion.

“He was a diplomat. And he always went and sought out people and shook their hands. He lifted the Finnish presence here. The consular core from Sweden, Norway, etc. – they really enjoyed him. And all of a sudden, the Finnish presence in Los Angeles was something different than it was before,” Halme adds. Before Paloheimo, Finland in Los Angeles was known mainly for its maids who at the time were working in the better households around town.

In the meantime, Leonora was no shrinking violet either. Throughout her life, she remained focused on her projects and studies.

“She continued to promote art and folk art. She was writing. Leonora and her mother and grandmother owned lots of properties. They had gas stations, etc. But they had hard time doing business, because they were women. Men had a hard time dealing with these women,” Halme points out.

Yrjö Paloheimo served as Honorary Consul from 1948 until 1964. Amazingly enough, at that same time, the Paloheimos were also able to find time to do business, engage in cultural affairs, take care of their children and travel around the globe. And there was still one thing Yrjö wanted to achieve. He yearned for the days when all Finns despite of their political views pulled together to help Finland in need during the war. In that same spirit, in January of 1953 he gathered nine of his most trusted men in the sauna building next to Fenyes Mansion. There Finlandia Foundation was born, in a Finnish sauna. Family friend Jean Sibelius agreed to be its first patron.

Composer Jean Sibelius agreed to be the first patron of the newly formed Finlandia Foundation in 1953.

As you know by now, the Paloheimos were involved in a myriad of businesses, foundations, property, cultural affairs and what not. As they got on in years, it became necessary to put their affairs in order. Fenyes Mansion was the first to go. The Paloheimos donated it to the city of Pasadena as a museum in 1972.

The Paloheimos moved out of Fenyes Mansion and into their other home in Carpinteria, California in 1972.

But there was still a lot of work to be done. Enter Paul Halme, attorney at law. His father- a Lutheran minister in a missionary – had been good friends with Yrjö Paloheimo.

“Yrjö used to talk to my daddy. He said you are my brother. They were very close doing Finnish cultural things together. My father was born in a Finnish family in Massachusetts but as a child he went back to Finland and was raised in Viipuri,” Halme, now 72, explains. He himself was born in Los Angeles.

“Yrjö was bringing me in to handle their affairs because he was concerned. I used to say, well, I don’t know which one of you is going to die first and he said, I’m going to die first. He was worried about Leonora and wanted her protected, because there would be lots of relatives showing up and so forth. Yrjö was the insulation, handling all the business affairs. He was trying to find someone to be in a position to protect her.”

A salon in Fenyes Mansion

Very soon the vast scope of the task dawned on Halme.

“I had to get my head around this whole estate and to try to see what the issues were, because they had many different documents. They had five trusts set up and they had a lot of different moving parts.”

At that point the Paloheimos had three residences in Carpinteria, CA, Santa Fe, NM and Järvenpää, Finland.

“I had many meetings with Yrjö. We would sit down for a couple of hours. We would meet in Carpinteria and sometimes he brought me to Santa Fe. He said, let’s bring Leonora and talk to her, let’s have fun! So, we’d go to the country club and have lunch. He was always very precise about everything. He was not a casual person, nor was Leonora. So, we’d go to lunch. He’d say, OK, where are the women going to sit and where are we going to sit,” Paul Halme reminisces.

Attorney Paul O. Halme runs the Paloheimo Foundation as the Chairman of the Board.

In 1985, the year before his death, Leonora and Yrjö traveled to Finland for the very last time. They had often spent their summers there, staying in their Kallio-Kuninkala house in Järvenpää, near Helsinki. The main building was in disrepair. It had recently served as a restaurant. There Yrjö met Ellen Urho, rector of the Sibelius Academy. Perhaps because of the old Sibelius-connection, Yrjö told her that he would like the place to be associated with music. It was agreed that the academy would take over the buildings and convert them into a learning center. Yrjö Paloheimo never saw the completed work. He died in the spring of 1986. The following year the Kallio-Kuninkala Course Center opened.

Yrjö Paloheimo was a distinguished, formal man with exceptional people skills.

By now Paul Halme had become the lead attorney handling all the Paloheimo affairs. For the last 20 years of her life, Leonora was deaf, so it took an extra effort for Paul to communicate with her.

“She was a very bright woman, very intelligent. She loved humor. I used to put a joke in the letters I sent her. Because she was deaf, I would send a letter in advance. Then she would read it and be prepared to give me answers,” Paul recounts.

A painting of a young woman adorns one of the rooms at Fenyes Mansion.

Leonora passed away in 1999 – 13 years after her husband. Today Paul Halme is the Chairman of the Board of the Paloheimo Foundation. Making his home in Carpinteria, he is busier than ever, dividing his time between Carpinteria and Santa Fe. He tells me he is trying to renovate the New Mexico style Paloheimo house there. Paul’s wife is in a bakery business. Their four children are all grown up now and the Halmes have ten grandchildren. In the meantime, Finlandia Foundation is stronger than ever, giving out grants totaling a hundred thousand dollars a year. They are also a major force behind Finlandia University in Hancock, Michigan. 2013 marks their 60th anniversary, so in March the storied Fanyes Mansion will once again come alive with music, clinging glasses and laughter, as Yrjö Paloheimo’s life work is befittingly celebrated in the place where it all begun so many years ago.

Fenyes Mansion will be the venue for Finlandia Foundation National 60th anniversary, March 22-23, 2013.

For more info about Finlandia Foundation and the upcoming celebration, go to: www.finlandiafoundation.org

INVENTOR SANTTU WINTER

Santtu Winter – a civil engineer and an inventor

It was 1985 when Pertti and Eila Winter packed up their bags in their home town Iisalmi in Eastern Finland and headed west to the Washington State. They settled in Seattle, where Pertti had a job waiting as a pulp and paper consultant in a Finnish company called Ekono. Eila worked in accounting for another company. Nine months later Santtu was born. At the time the family lived in Bellevue, a suburb of Seattle.

“Adventure was definitely a big part of it. They wanted to explore the world a little bit, Santtu, now 27, thinks about the parents’ big move.

He enrolled in the University of Washington, majoring in Civil Engineering and graduated from there in 2007 with a Bachelor’s degree. When he turned 18, Santtu got a dual citizenship. His parents moved back to Finland in 2004, this time in the capitol region. The young man stayed behind in Seattle. He fell in love with Amy Schlilaty, a lovely brunette from the affluent neighboring community of Issaquah They got married in the Summer of 2008. That same year Santtu started working for CH2M Hill, an engineering company.

Santtu and Amy Winter now make their home in Portland, Oregon.

“I’m enjoying married life. I think one of my favorite parts of it is companionship. My wife and I are the best of friends,” Santtu testifies. In fact, it was Amy’s studies that brought the couple some 200 miles south to their current home in Portland, Oregon.

“My wife Amy got a residency at a hospital here. She is going to be a dentist. We moved just five months ago. I work for an engineering consulting company dealing with waste water,” Santtu explains.

In addition to his day job, Santtu has been tinkering something with his friends in a garage for quite some time now. It all started when his parents came from Finland to visit.

“They brought a game called Mölkky (mul-kuh), with them. We were on an Oregon coast playing it. It was a lot of fun. When I was in Finland a year or two later, I picked up my own Mölkky set, brought it home and played it at the park with friends. And people would stop and ask, what are you playing,” Santtu reminisces.

 

Santtu created his Palikka game from an old Finnish tossing game called Mölkky.

Mölkky is a tossing game. There are 12 wooden pins that are 5-6 inches tall and they are numbered 1 through 12. You set them up in a tight, little group. Then you have a slightly larger log that you toss underhand and try to knock off as many pins as you can. The object is to get exactly 50 points by lobbing the tossing log at the tossing line – about three lumberjack steps away from the numbered pins. If a player knocks just one pin down, he or she gets the value of that pin’s number. The same goes with multiple knock-outs.

“So, me and a couple of friends decided that we should take the idea from Mölkky and try to expand on it and make it more versatile. That’s how the idea for a new game was spawned,” Santtu recalls.

“We tried to make it more like a deck of cards or like a dart board. You can play a lot of different games with the same game pieces. The only change we made with the physical set is that we added a 13th pin that is unnumbered. That opens up a lot of doors of different ways to play. You can play the Finnish game Mölkky and the Swedish game Kubb on the same set, Santtu explains.

Santtu tossing.

The new game is called Palikka, which means “block” in Finnish. It is a labor of love of three men: Santtu Winter came up with the original idea. Kevin Kotecki deals with the business aspect of things. Ryan Boyett is a carpenter, who actually builds the sets in his garage. Another Finnish-American, Marko Wallenius, is an artist, who created the Palikka mascot and the company website.

“We got into it for a couple of reasons. One, it’s a great game. The other was just the adventure of starting a business. I’ve never done anything like this before. So, there’s a lot of learning in how to develop a product and make in profitable. It’s also fun to develop something with your friends,” Santtu lists.

For anyone out there, trying to find a Christmas gift that is not made in China, why not consider a truly original gift – a Palikka set.

“We have a website www.palikkagame.com. You can buy it there on-line. It costs $39.50.”

Santtu and Amy playing the Palikka game.

Santtu and company have sold around 160 sets so far.

“At first I expected most of the sales to come from the Seattle area, because that’s where we started building them. But as it turns out, we have found customers from throughout the U.S. We have shipped Palikka sets to 25 different states. People hear about it from a friend, or they want to get the game for a friend or for a Christmas gift.”

Speaking of Christmas, Amy and Santtu plan to spend it up north.

“We are going up to Issaquah, where Amy’s parent’s live. That should be a lot of fun.”

Winter in Issaquah

MARIMEKKO ARRIVES IN BEVERLY HILLS

A festive crowd celebrates the opening of the latest Marimekko store in Beverly Hills.

The Finnish clothing and home textile brand Marimekko opened a store in Beverly Hills Friday. The grand opening was preceded by an invitation-only star-studded party Thursday night. Finntimes was there and met the CEO of Marimekko, Mr. Mika Ihamuotila.

 

The CEO of Marimekko, Mika Ihamuotila with his wife, Helena “Kitty” Ihamuotila.

You have been busy opening stores abroad lately, haven’t you?

-Yes, I just returned from a two week trip to Asia. Last week we opened stores in Sydney and Melbourne, as well as Tokyo and Shanghai. Last week we opened a store in Palo Alto, California as well. In the middle of it all, I flew into Helsinki to open our new store there.

There are also spanking new Marimekko stores on New York’sFifth Avenue and Newbury Street in Boston.

-We wanted the best possible location in each city. The new stores are big as well.

Ihamuotila, 48, admits that the opening frenzy is not business as usual for Marimekko.

-This if far from ordinary for us, these are exceptional times.

The Beverly Hills store is the 103rd Marimekko shop. Since Ihamuotila took the helm of Marimekko some five years ago, the company has opened 20 new stores a year – most of them in Asia and the United States.

Guests arrive at the new Marimekko store, located on 370 North Canon Drive in Beverly Hills.

-If we did not do brisk business, I wouldn’t have the courage to expand so vigorously. We are doing really well at the moment. Our collection has been well-received around the world. Our show at the New York Fashion Week received praise from fashion magazines. A week ago we published our quarter annual report. In it we told our international sales have increased by 23% and our revenue has doubled. It looks good, but one has to remain humble, as the economic situation in the world looks troublesome.

 

The children’s corner was temporarily turned into a bar on the opening night. The bar served tasty Marimekko drinks, of course.

The Beverly Hills store offers a wide range of Marimekko products.

-Fashion has become an ever important part of Marimekko. Here we have separate departments for men’s and women’s fashions. Then we have bags and even iPad covers. In the new Marimekko stores, our fabrics have been placed in the very center of the store. Many other fashion brands have forgotten their roots. We want to shine a spotlight on our fabulous fabrics. There is also a children’s corner here and all the glassware and ceramics can be found in the back of the store. They are rather new product categories that we didn’t have five years ago. There are also wooden and fabric jewelry here.

 

Barbara Tuuri tries on a Marimekko fabric. Mika Ihamuotila wants to honor the history of the brand by displaying fabrics in the center of the store.

How well do Americans know about the Marimekko products ?

-We have ten shop-in shops in Crate and Barrel stores. We are increasing our visibility with these new Marimekko stores. Our ambitions are on a totally different level than at any time in the company’s history.

Now that we are in “Hollywood”, do you have celebrity endorsers?

-Last week Sarah Jessica Parker was photographed wearing Marimekko, Elton John wore Marimekko shoes in Saint Tropez and Anne Hathaway has been seen wearing our clothes almost weekly. It seems to me that we are at a time when marimekko clothes are being widely used.

 

Irina Björklund performs at the Marimekko opening in a Marimekko dress.

Ihamuotila has no plans to use star power in advertising.

-We have no such plans, nor do I think we will use stars in the future either. We think of Marimekko in organic terms. If someone likes our clothes, fine. However, I don’t like the idea of paying a star to wear Marimekko. It doesn’t seem to fit our values. Many other brands pay actors up to hundreds of thousands to wear their clothing.

The marketing is done mainly via media articles and public relations.

 

TV journalist Abdellatif Mouffakkir and his wife, consul general of Finland Kirsti Westphalen, were taking pictures and trying on mittens at the grand opening of Marimekko.

-We employ one of the best PR firms in the United States. I have had nine interviews with American news media. Through these news articles we aim to inform the public about Marimekko’s values, history, production and design. There’s less emphasis on advertising.

How do you feel now that the Beverly Hills store is reality?

-It feels really good. As I was walking here tonight I saw the store full of people. I passed a restaurant next door that is a favorite place for actors and directors to dine in. They were curious to see what was going on in our store next door. As I saw the bright Marimekko colors through the large windows, I felt proud about our brand and people. It feels incredible but it is true!

 

Colorful Marimekko dishes are the latest addition to the Marimekko line of products.

Mika Ihamuotila comes from a famous and prestigious Finnish family. His father Risto was the chancellor of Helsinki University and uncle Jaakko was the long time CEO of the Finnish petroleum company Neste. His gradfather Veikko served as a minister in the Finnish government and his mother was a textile designer. The family still owns a manor house in Espoo named Hista.

 

Mika Ihamuotila discusses with actress Anna Easteden at the Marimekko opening.

Mika Ihamuotila became the CEO of Marimekko in 2007 after acquiring 13% of the company stock. Just a year earlier Ihamuotila underwent surgery to remove a brain tumor. It took him months to recover from the serious procedure. Last year he was once again under the knife for the same reason. But you would never know it by looking at the man. He looks tanned, healthy and strong – not to mention handsome as hell. I ask the famously private man about his health.

-Perfect, couldn’t be better, he responds.

Mika Ihamuotila is married to Hannele “Kitty” Ihamuotila, née Mandelin. She was beaming at the store premiere by his husband’s side. They have four sons. Mika Ihamuotila’s hobbies iclude reading, tennis and nature, especially the Finnish archipelago and the Alps.

 

Kitty and Mika Ihamuotila opened the 103rd Marimekko store in Beverly Hills.

It was a fun opening indeed that read like who’s who in the LA Finnish circles. Consul general Kirsti Westphalen was having fun with her husband Abdellatif Mouffakkir. They were taking pictures at the Marimekko photo booth and trying on mittens. Barbara Tuuri from Warner Bros. was there. The patrons of everything Finnish, Mirja and Ernie Covarrubias were mingling in the crowd, sipping Marimekko drinks. Mirja met up with media personality Sauli Koskinen, who was there with some friends.

Mirja Covarrubias connected with Sauli Koskinen.

Sauli Koskinen came to the Marimekko opening with his friends.

Finnish actresses Susanna Finn and Marjo-Riikka Mäkelä were present, as was the ever so lovely colleague Anna Easteden. Magician turned movie mogul, Iiro Seppänen had just returned from a six-month vacation to see the wonders of the world. Iiro’s Pan Pacific Entertainment focuses on U.S. -China -collaborations. His latest endeavor was a Chinese TV series featuring wing suit jumpers.

These days movie producer Iiro Seppänen spends half of his time in China.

Janne Kouri, who runs a gym for the paraplegics showed up with his banker-wife Susan.

Gym entrepreneur Janne Kouri with wife Susan.

The crowd was entertained by the lovely actress-singer Irina Björklund and her five man band. Irina sang and played the saw – yes, the saw. She recently recorded a brand new album in France in which she sings in French.

 

Irina and her band, all dressed in Marimekko. From the left: Janne Haavisto, Joe Karnes, Janne Lappalainen, Irina Björklund, Peter Fox and Markus Nordenstreng.

The store looked fabulous. Everything was bright, elegant – and I’m afraid quite expensive. This is definitely not a store for the bargain hunter. A canvas shopping tote for 21 dollars, anyone?

A couple browses Marimekko products in the brand new store.

However, if you want to remember that special someone this holiday season, you cannot go wrong with Marimekko. Finntimes wishes the new Marimekko store the best of success.

Marimekko marketing director Tiina Alahuhta-Kasko was happy after a successful opening.

TEKES/UCLA’S GAP (GLOBAL ACCESS PROGRAM): THE HISTORY BEHIND IT

LOS ANGELES CONSUL GENERAL KIRSTI WESTPHALEN, EX-CONSUL GENERAL S MANU VIRTAMO AND MARIA SERENIUS TALK CANDIDLY ABOUT THE VERY SUCESSFUL TEKES’ EXPONSORED PROGRAM CALLED ‘GAP’ (GLOBAL ACCESS PROGRAM) . GAP HAS FACILIATED THE PARTNERSHIP OF INNUMEROUS FINNISH COMPANIES WITH THE UCLA ANDERSON SCHOOL OF MANAGEMENT IN AN EFFORT TO CONQUER THE US MARKET. A FASCINATING STORY IN FINNISH/ENGLISH (W/ SUBTILES).

THIS ‘N’ THAT 2

Costume designer Susanna Puisto at Disney Studios in Burbank

SUSANNA PUISTO & DANA DELANY

Our Hollywood costume designer in residence, Susanna Puisto, is busy these days working her…um, behind off at the Disney Studios in Burbank. The hit series Body of Proof started shooting its third season there in August. The show stars Dana Delany, whom viewers may remember from the series Desperate Housewives and before that China Beach some 20 years ago. Dana and Susanna met on the set of The Right Temptation – a thriller that was shot in Utah 12 years ago. At that time Susanna was working for another star, Rebecca De Mornay, but ended up helping Dana Delany as well. Dana never forgot the sexy but stylish outfits Susanna created for her in that movie. So, when Body of Proof moved production from Rhode Island to LA, Dana remembered Susanna and invited her to become the costume designer for the show.

The star of Body of Proof, Dana Delany, tailor Syros Roshandel and costume designer Susanna Puisto at a wrap up party of Body of Proof in Hollywood.

Body of Proof is a procedural crime drama. The lead character, played by Delany, is a coroner, who used to be a neurosurgeon but after an accident that injured her hands, had to change careers. An eerily similar accident happened to Delany just as Body of Proof was about to start production of its first season. Dana was driving in Santa Monica. She came to an intersection. There was a car behind her. The female driver kept honking her horn at her, urging Dana to make a left turn. She finally relented and tried to turn left, but a bus crashed right into her car. The lady driver behind Dana fled the scene, leaving Delany in her smashed up car. They never caught the driver. But Dana says she believes in karma. She injured her hand in the accident just as the character she plays in Body of Proof. Dana believes there is a lesson in the accident – never to let anybody push you into doing anything you don’t want to do. Now Dana’s hand is better.

Dana Delany as Dr. Megan Hunt in Body of Proof

Susanna Puisto is the head of the costume department for the show. There are tailors, seamstresses, shoppers and other assistants working under her. Some clothes are purchased at the best boutiques of Beverly Hills, others are made from scratch. She and Susanna are the same size, so Susanna personally tries on clothes designed for Dana and emails the pictures to her. Susanna then supervises the first shot of each scene to make sure the new costume works out OK. She has to be constantly a few steps ahead of production schedule. Dozens of outfits are created for each episode. Many a woman might envy Susanna – she gets to shop Gucci, Prada and Dolce & Gabbana. But make no mistake – the working hours on the set are long and she also has to design less glamorous items, such as lab coats… Hey, who are we kidding – Susanna Puisto is in her dream job and just loves every minute of it!

Susanna Puisto on the set of Body of Proof

GAP

Finnish companies have been participating in gap – the Global Access Program at UCLA for 12 years now. In the program, MBA students create business plans for Finnish companies.

The executives of Vianova Systems Finland Ltd. The company creates visual models of large infrastructure projects, such as the subway extension to the city of Espoo.

The way it works is this: The Finnish technology agency Tekes collaborates with UCLA Anderson School of Management. Tekes and UCLA staff scour Finland and look for high tech companies that have a potential to expand their businesses beyond their country borders. They then gather up suitable and willing companies and bring their executives to LA to meet with the UCLA Anderson’s fully employed MBA students. Each company gets a team of five students to work for them. Together the executives and students discuss the needs of the company. Then the students start their research. They talk to at least a hundred people in the field – competitors, distributors, potential customers and the like. Then the students prepare a 30 page, investor quality business plan. It contains detailed recommendations on what to do and not to do – how to expand the business and where. It will be unveiled to each participating company executives and outside judges in a formal presentation in December. This year 12 Finnish companies are participating in the program. There are 53 companies in GAP 2012 altogether from all over the world. The Finnish GAP companies have revolutionary inventions ready to be monetized. One company makes bone out of a patient’s own stem cells, the other has come up with a gadget that recharges your cell phone cordlessly and the third turns you into a press photographer who can make money out of your pictures. The GAP program has been an enormous success. Over the years it has helped 133 Finnish companies grow and expand their businesses to the U.S.and elsewhere. For more information, go to: http://www.tekes.fi/gap

Kristian Tornivaara, CEO of Surma – a ship design company, with a member of his MBA team on the UCLA campus.

LONG, HOT SUMMER

As Labor Day is upon us, it’s time to glance at this past Summer. I hear it was chilly and rainy in Finland. The same cannot be said about the Summer here in San Fernando Valley. After having lived on the Westside for a few years, we relocated in the valley in June. Within the city limits, the weather in L.A. can vary immensely depending on which part of the city you live. You can have 68 degrees F on the coast and 105 in the Valley at the same time. At first, a fan in every room cooled us down sufficiently. However, come July, the weather started to heat up. When those days of a 100 F (38 Celsius), hit, we had to go and buy an air conditioning unit in the living room. It is a big, bulky thing standing in the corner with the gigantic exhaust pipe propped to the window. Not exactly an attractive conversation piece in the living room – more like a big, white elephant!

AC unit in the living room

That was OK for a while. However, the AC in the living room did nothing to the other rooms. The fan in my bedroom was blasting in full force but it was still too hot to sleep. In my utter desperation, one night I even brought coolers from the freezer to bed with me. The second AC we got is the kind you install on the window. It alleviated the situation considerably. My Summer days started and ended with a cold shower. In the meantime the plants in the garden were suffering in the blazing sun. I had to move some of them in the sun room, where – despite of its name – it is shady.

The ferns like it in the sun room.

The azalea didn’t like that either – it was too hot for it there, so I moved it back out – this time to a shady corner. I started taking our pit bull Monty out for our daily walks early in the morning. After 9 am it was way too hot to venture outside.

Monty the pit bull has made new firends in the neighborhood. His favorite buddy is an all white hybrid wolf named Osso.

I started organizing my other activities, such as going to the store, after sunset. Little by little you learn to live with the heat, just as people in Finland have learned to live with the cold. At least I’m a bit wiser now than some years ago, when I attempted to wash my car in the heat of the day. As I sprayed cold water from the garden hose onto the windshield, it cracked!

El Timo the cat has found a cool place on top of the refrigerator.

FINLAND LURES HOLLYWOOD

Tourists pose with movie character impersonators in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

Movie productions bring money and work to the filming locations. Therefore many states and countries offer incentives for film productions to come and shoot their movies in their turf. So far Finland has remained passive in the matter. But  after the formation of local film commissions a few years ago, plans are being hatched on how to lure Hollywood to make movies in Finland.

Warren Beatty directed and starred in the 1981 movie Reds. Though the film was about the Russian revolution, it was largely shot in Finland.

During the cold war Finland had the dubious honor of playing the Soviet Union in several Hollywood pictures. The Kremlin Letter, Telefon, Reds and Gorky Park were all shot in and around Helsinki. It was a perfect match – Hollywood needed a location that looked like Russia. And since filming in the actual Soviet Union was impossible at the time, Finland, namely Helsinki, filled the void. With its similar architecture, all that was needed were a couple of red banners, a Lenin’s picture, plus a few Russian signs and voilà – you were in Moscow!

Helsinki’s Uspenski Cathedral was used for its Russian style in the 1970 thriller The Kremlin Letter.

This, of course, is no longer the case. Today’s filmmakers can simply go to real Moscow – or any other part of Russia for that matter. That has left Finland cold. International movie shoots rarely film anything but nature documentaries there. And why would anyone want to film there? For its natural beauty? A little doubtful in the case of a feature film – there’s a lot of equally spectacular nature to be found in the United States and Canada – for a lesser price. However, Finland does have some historic sights, such as castles, churches, other old building and European streetscapes totally lacking in North America.

Finland offers splendid nature to enhance the look of a movie. Pictured: Repovesi National Park in Eastern Finland.

Hollywood productions are being lured by various countries with tax exemptions, free shooting permits and tax-free purchases. Hollywood favors low cost and cheap labor countries, such as Bulgaria, Romania and to the lesser extend –  the Czech Republic. However, the much more expensive New Zealand has also managed to enchant Hollywood.  The Lord of the Rings movies, King Kong and the Russell Crowe blockbuster Master and Commander: At World’s End, were all shot there. This summer the Hobbit, the Emperor and the Evil Dead were filmed in New Zealand.

Milford Sound is one of New Zealand’s most famous tourist attractions.

New Zealand Film Commission Director Michael Brook says that under certain conditions they reimburse film producers 15 percent of the money spent there. The island’s other attractions  include natural landscapes and opposite seasons compared to the northern hemisphere. So, summer scenes can be filmed there in January. Also, Canada’s Vancouver – a city about the size of Helsinki – has established itself as a Hollywood staple. The city can accommodate 40 big film productions simultaneously. Vancouver will pardon a third of the taxes, if the film crew  uses mostly local talent. Also 40 U.S. states offer incentives. For example, Louisiana and New York give a 30 per cent tax relief to movie productions that shoot there.

Finnish film commissioners Päivi Söderström and Teija Raninen at the Scandinavian Locations event in Los Angeles.

Finland and the other Nordic film commissions have come together under the banner “Scandinavian Locations”. Finnish film commissioners Teija Raninen and Päivi Söderström recently visited Los Angeles in this capacity with their Scandinavian colleagues to market Finnish locations to Hollywood producers. There are four regional film commissions in Finland. Oddly enough, Helsinki does not have one. So any inquiries from Hollywood or other international film producers are directed to the local production companies or the city tourism office.

Consul general of Finland, Kirsti Westphalen and film commissioner Päivi Söderström at the Scandinavian Locations event at Hotel Figueroa, downtown LA.

The Finnish film commissioners advertised Finland in Hollywood as a naturally beautiful country with many industry professionals ready to be hired and eager background actors willing to work for a meal. Other advantages of shooting  in Finland include flexibility and security.

Turku Castle was seen in the 1967 Ken Russell spy thriller Billion Dollar Brain, starring Michael Caine.

Finland cannot boast about low prices or incentives, though. A free three day search for shooting locations hardly counts as a tempting incentive. Finnish film officials have not even considered tax relief. Instead, the film commissioners have proposed a quirky solution: The producers could apply part of  the money back that they used in Finland. The reimbursement would be subject to a scoring system. Criteria would include artistic content, local employment, whether the movie has a Finnish co-producer and whether Finland will retain any intellectual property rights. A jury would then assess each production separately.

Päivi Söderström – a film commissioner from Finland travels once a year to Hollywood to tell film producers about the benefits of shooting in Finland.

Such a system, however, would be highly complicated and impractical to a film producer trying to make his budget. How is he or she to know the outcome of that assessment in advance and be able to accurately calculate the real costs of shooting  in Finland? A simple tax credit would be far better. It could include some conditions – such as having to use a certain number of local talent and crew, just like in Canada.

The 2011 action movie Hanna featured breathtaking Finnish winter sceneries. the movie was partially shot in Kuusamo, North Eastern Finland.

It makes a lot of financial sense to try to get movie productions to come and shoot in Finland. Economic benefits can be sizable – especially in rural areas struggling with recession. Motion Picture Association of America – a lobbying arm for the movie industry – recently published a study on the financial impact of movie shoots. According to the study, film productions and state incentives are a boost to the local film professionals and other industries, such as hotels, restaurants and caterers. Producers go to the cheapest possible locations that meet their artistic and other needs. For example, the TV series Body of Proof moved production from Rhode Island to Los Angeles, because the show got better tax benefits in LA. And this despite the fact that the story is set in Philadelphia!

Costume designer Susanna Puisto works on the set of Body of Proof at Disney Studios in Burbank .The show recently relocated to Los Angeles because of more favorable tax benefits.

In late winter of 2010, an American action movie Hanna shot for five days in Kuusamo. The production left a million dollars to the area suffering from high unemployment. Other economic opportunities film productions provide include product placement, geocaching and film tourism.

The 1965 musical the Sound of Music was shot on location in Austria.

The Sound of Music premiered back in 1965. The musical was shot in the beautiful Austrian locations. Even today, the film still draws tourists to Austria. Therefore, it is important for Finnish officials and politicians to come together and come up with a comprehensive scheme that includes heavy tax advantages to lure Hollywood movies to shoot in Finland. Movie shoots bring money, work, fame and visibility to the shooting locations. They boost tourism and interest in the country and benefit the local economy.

Lake Pielinen in the Koli National Park, Eastern Finland

AROUND LA WITH AVA – SUMMER IN LA: CELEBRITIES & CELEBRATIONS — ICONS & INCIDENTS

Ava Antilla by Jonny Kahleyn

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn

Shades of Gray –Linda, That Is  –Dallas Is Back!

Hugely popular in Finland in its first incarnation, the TV show Dallas was iconic.  We will have to wait to see if the reprise here is picked up there, as well.  I must confess, I have become a ‘regular’ for reasons other than the nasty plot lines: Linda Gray is back as Sue Ellen!!!

Linda Gray with others on my patio

While my only personal contact with Larry Hagman (arch villain, J.R.) was bumping ‘chair backs’ with him many years ago at Chinois [Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant in Santa Monica], Linda and I serve on a Board together [Arts Olympus –an arts/cultural support group].  What a lovely, giving, and charming person she is in ‘real life’.  As an actress, she is more than willing to use her ‘elbows’ and to mix it up with the ‘bad guys’.  It will be fun to watch as Linda’s character Sue Ellen runs for Governor of Texas in the new series.

Big Birthdays for Celebrity Landmarks and Hideaways

I was born at a very early age in a very cold place a certain number of years ago—and qualified for a Finnish ‘major’ celebration and inclusion in Suomen Kuvaleheti’s [Finland’s Time] back page ‘mug shots’ this year.  I can remember as a kid looking at that back page of black and white photos of Finns as they aged through the “big” years.  Somehow, those folks looked a lot younger this year.  For this article, I choose to focus on some other ‘LA ladies’ who have worn their years quite well—and, they are older than I.

Warm, welcoming, elegant, pink –with mysterious and charming feminine energy, the Beverly Hills Hotel celebrates its 100 year birthday this year.  If you have been there, you understand why someone described arriving as “…walking into a birthday cake”.  The hotel with its iconic restaurant, The Polo Lounge, is the quintessential Hollywood landmark.

The hotel was built in 1912 –before Finland won its independence.  In the early years, Charlie Chaplin, Will Rogers, John Barrymore, and W.C. Fields were frequent visitors, as were Johnny Weissmuller [Tarzan], Joan Crawford, and Katharine Hepburn.  The famous swimming pool and the private bungalows were and continue to be “…if walls could talk” nuggets of Hollywood gossip.

Greta Peck and The Polo Lounge

In my years here and in Finland, I have been fortunate to get to know some really fascinating people.  I have always treasured the time I got to spend with my dear friend, Finnish-born Greta Peck who was the former wife of mega-actor Gregory Peck.  She would tell stories of the desolate landscape surrounding the Beverly Hills Hotel with people riding horses up and down Sunset Boulevard when Gregory and she first arrived in Hollywood from New York!

Greta Peck loved The Polo Lounge.  It was her home away from home, as it was for many others in the movie world.  Gregory Peck and Lauren Bacall shot the 1957 film “Designing Woman” at the hotel.

In fact, Greta’s ‘home’ home was just a few blocks up the canyon from the hotel.  She loved to bring guests to The Polo Lounge for a meal.  Arrival there with Greta was a ‘life experience’ as a gauntlet of staff greeted her.  From the valet attendant to the Maître d’Hôtel, she received personal welcomes and bows suitable to the movie star royalty she was.  During dinner, there was no better, attentive service that I have experienced. You truly felt honored to be there in her presence.

Polo Lounge- Ava with friends at a birthday luncheon

Fond Greta memories were triggered recently when another friend’s daughter had a surprise birthday luncheon for her Mom in the lovely garden patio. [I recommend the McCarthy salad, a classic dish named for former polo player/lawyer to the stars, Neil McCarthy.]

The Bel Air Hotel

Bel Air Hotel newly renovated dining terrace

After a two year closure to remodel this romantic hideaway, the Bel Air Hotel is celebrating 90 years.  An oil tycoon and the founder of the residential area now known as Bel Air, Alphonzo Bell, originally built the main structure as his office with stables and a riding ring. The lush Hotel gardens have over 200 plant species.

The Bel Air Hotel has been a favorite escape for celebrities and a venue for Angelenos’ special occasions.  The facility is tucked away in a secluded Bel Air canyon off Sunset Boulevard, across from UCLA.  As a hideaway for the rich and famous, it was used by the Rockefellers and the Kennedys, among many others who still prefer to remain ‘nameless’. Stars seeking privacy such as Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, Sharon Stone, Tom Cruise, Gary Cooper, Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, and Sophia Loren found serenity on the beautiful grounds.  TV anchors and national political figures either ‘miss’ each other or pretend that they have not just seen the other—if you can believe that!

Bel Air Hotel’s outdoor lounge (photo by Ava Anttilla)

With two ‘special’ occasions this year, it was time to check out the new ambiance and cuisine for a lunch and a dinner.  From the outside, the pink exterior [like the Beverly Hills Hotel] welcomes guests with its feminine energy –like a hug from a favorite aunt.  The famous white swans are still on the pond, but….  It used to give both a breath of exhilaration and a sigh of peace as one passed over the bridge into another world of beauty, refinement, calm, and elegance.

Bel Air Hotel's Steak Tartare, Angus Burger and Sashimi Salad

Bel Air Hotel’s culinary delights: Steak Tartare, Angus Burger and Sashimi Salad (photo by Ava Anttila)

Through the years, the Bel Air has been the home of mahogany, leather, and sophisticated genteel  refinement.  Now, the bar, dining room, and outdoor terrace are a strange combination of modern wooden beams, hard surfaces, torch/glass heaters, and an apparent attempt at ‘new’ Hollywood glam.  Some old friends (including descendents of Bel Air’s founder) are so disgusted and heartbroken by these changes they refuse to return.  To me, however, for a chance to eat Wolfgang Puck’s cooking, much can be forgiven. I just close my eyes and taste the food.  Now, if they would just get rid of the horrible soundtrack….

I do miss the elegance, peace, quiet, and calm so apparent and so appreciated by celebrities, Finns, and friends in the days of yore.

Anna Easteden

Anna Easteden by Jonny Kahleyn

Anna Easteden by Jonny Kahleyn

Finland’s Hollywood hope, Anna Easteden, checked in to tell of her summer news and activities:

In addition to remodeling projects in her home and hosting foreign exchange students, Anna mentioned her new role with the actor who plays Eric Forrester in The Bold and The Beautiful, another Finnish favorite television drama.  ‘Eric Forrester’ plays her father in an indie movie in the works.

What a great dramatic actress Anna is, but your humble correspondent would love to play Ethel Mertz against Anna as Lucille Ball. With her gift for comedy and uncanny characteristics, she would be brilliant.

OK…OK… I will let Cathy Bates take the Ethel role so I can get on with writing this column!

Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe by George Barris

Marilyn Monroe by George Barris

In 2012 we commemorate the 50 year anniversary of the death of Marilyn Monroe.  Brentwood resident Marilyn Monroe was known worldwide and she dominated popular culture in her day—and still does.  [Next time you go to Palm Springs, check out the 26 foot statue on Palm Canyon Drive.]   She died in her home on 5th Helena [of the many Helena Streets in Brentwood].  To this day, there is ongoing speculation as to the cause of her death.  She was 36 when she died.  She is buried in a cemetery in Westwood.  You can visit her if you like.

Varpu Lindstrom

Varpu Lindstrom

Varpu Lindstrom

A sad milestone: the passing of a Finnish literary and academic icon. Varpu Lindstrom died of brain cancer on June 21, 2012 at the age of 63.  Professor Lindstom enjoyed a stellar career as a scholar and teacher of History and Women’s Studies.

In one of my particularly vexing legal cases, my familiarity with and admiration of Varpu’s scholarship paid major dividends.  She had written about the unique Finnish ‘piika’ tradition of young women who worked for ‘families of the fortunate’ living with the family as if members of the family even though their role remained as a servant.  Since my case involved Finns, and the facts/ages aligned, I invited Dr. Lindstrom to testify as an expert witness at trial.  Long story short—we won the case and it became precedent California law.

While all lawyers like winning trials and being part of a quotable, precedent case, my real reward was having the opportunity to spend a significant number of hours with a Finn whom I admired greatly.  We had dinner to become comfortable with each other—and spent additional time exploring the relevance of her scholarly insights into the facts of the case.  What a delight she was!  Warm and personable, her facile mind quickly grasped the complexity of the case and the degree of difficulty in explaining a foreign cultural phenomenon to an unfamiliar and skeptical audience.  She smiled with calm assurance as she quietly answered all opposing counsel questions during a brutal attempt at cross examination.  Checkmate!

Varpu Lindstrom being applauded by colleagues

Later, after the trial was long over, Varpu and her equally brilliant husband, Borje Vähämäki (also a renowned scholar and leader in the area of Finnish Studies), came to speak at a Finlandia Foundation event in Pasadena.  What an added pleasure it was to have them for dinner at my home while they were in town.  We sat around the table privately hearing of and enquiring about their research and work in Finnish language, culture, and history.  It was an enriching experience for which I am so grateful.  What minds!

Olympics and 60!!!!

60 years ago, the summer Olympics were held in Helsinki.

1952 Summer Olympics

1952 Summer Olympics

60 years ago, Queen Elizabeth took the British throne.  This is her Diamond Jubilee.  If you watched the opening ceremonies of the current Olympics, you likely saw David Beckham driving the Olympic Torch up the Thames in a motor yacht in the grand caldron ‘lighting’ ritual.  The last time I saw Mr. Beckham and family in celebration was more modest—just balloons, not giant torches.

David Beckham & Family

And, if you stayed up late enough to see the ‘closing’ of the ‘opening’ Olympic ceremonies, you got to hear the assembled masses sing along with Sir Paul McCartney on a “…NaNaNaNa” Beatles modern classic, “Hey Jude”.  You may have even joined in….  Instead of singing, I smiled with recollection of my favorite aunt [see Bel Air Hotel segment] greeting another Franklin Park regular dog walker by remembering his dog’s name, but having to ask to be refreshed on the owner’s name.  His answer: “Paul—Paul McCartney”.

P.S.:  Happy 1st Birthday to Finntimes!!!!

PASTOR JARMO TARKKI SERVES WESTERN FINNS

Story, pictures: Tomi Hinkkanen

There’s a new pastor in town. Jarmo Tarkki began his tenure as the Lutheran pastor of California and Texas Finns April 1st, 2012.

 

Pastor Jarmo Tarkki

 

“And that’s no April fools joke,” he quips about his starting date.

The very first impression of the man is that he smiles a lot. I get to attend the first sermon at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Santa Monica. Tarkki involved the audience in the proceedings by quizzing their knowledge of  charismatic protestant movements of Finland. He also performed a baby boy’s baptismal to the horror of the boy himself, who kept crying throughout the rite. Afterwards there was a coffee and cake reception for the new pastor. A week later we sit down for an interview with the good pastor at the Glendale Hilton, while he was attending a meeting of Lutheran pastors.

Jarmo Tarkki at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Santa Monica

His official title is Finnish Minister of California and Texas Finns. It is an office of American Evangelical Lutheran Church, but by agreement, his salary is paid by the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church. There were 17 applicants to this job. Previously Tarkki had a post in the Danish Lutheran Church in Solvang, California, where he still resides (Although he does not speak Danish, he tells). Jarmo Tarkki first came to the United States in 1978 while working on his doctoral thesis on the subject “questioning religious authority.” After receiving his Ph.D. in Theology, Tarkki served as the pastor in Siuntio, Southern Finland and has also served as a prison minister. In the 1990′s he briefly dappled in politics, wrote newspaper columns and appeared as the host of a popular TV talk show “Mars and Venus”. He returned to the States in 1999 and has lived here ever since. This new post as the pastor to the Finnish immigrants just might geographically be the largest Lutheran congregation in the world.

Pastor Jarmo Tarkki

“The congregation consists of the whole of California, Texas and Mexico. I also serve Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico. It has been estimated that there are approximately 60 000 first, second and third generation Finns in California who still identify themselves as such,” the pastor knows.

He has an unusual way of getting around his vast congregation.

“I have my own airplane, Cessna 172, with which I fly from Solvang to San Diego and San Francisco.”

To longer destinations, such as Dallas, he flies on a commercial airliner. Each congregation has a distinctly different flavor.

A reception after services given by Pastor Tarkki in Santa Monica

“Dallas has younger Finns, 30-40 years old, a lot of families with children – Finns who moved there to work for Nokia Siemens Networks and other high-tech companies. We had 105 people there for Mother’s Day worship.”

The pastor squeezes in several functions on these longer trips.

“I flew there Thursday and came back on Monday.  All day Friday, there were many meetings. We had a church that evening, the Council meeting and the new pastor’s barbecue party. It was held in a local Finnish home and was attended by about forty people. On Saturday, there was the end of semester celebration for the Finnish school with children and families involved. Then I held confirmation rehearsals for four  four candidates for confirmation. On Sunday, there was church service, which culminated in the confirmation. After that I went to the home of one newly confirmed, whose family threw him a reception.”

The new pastor was well-received in Dallas.

“The majority of the Dallas congregation are Finnish, though some of them have American spouses. They are open, cheerful, positive people, who keep in close contact with each other out there, even though the newer entrants are fluent in English. However, there is this sort of Finnish community. It is of great importance, especially on holidays such as Mother’s Day or Christmas.”

Pastor Tarkki gave the Easter service in San Diego.

“Beause there is a Nokia research and development in San Diego, it resembles somewhat Dallas. Then there are the academics – researchers, scientists and the like. There are also a few older folk – Armi Kuusela among others participated in the worship, sitting in the front row with her husband Albert. She promised to come back the next time. The San Diego Finnish congregation is a nice, active community.”

Tarkki has a touching memory from his last trip there.

“I went to see an elderly Finnish woman in a retirement home there. She died only a few days after my visit.”

Los Angeles feels like a typical Finnish community to Tarkki. About 40 people attended his inaugural worship in Santa Monica.

Pastor Jarmo Tarkki with Suomi-Koulu (Finnish school), teacher Mira Scott at St. Paul’s Church in Santa Monica

There is an entirely new congregation in the making in Silicon Valley.

“I assume that in Silicon Valley there are probably similar people as in Dallas. In Berkeley, there is a Finnish Church, the Lutheran Church of the Cross. They had a Finnish pastor there before. There is a Finnish deaconess there, who has presided over services there from time to time.”

The idea is to have Finnish church services in each of the locations six times a year. In addition, Tarkki will travel to Mexico City on December 15th to give services there to the consular staff.

Jarmo Tarkki wants to invite all western Finns to his church service.

“I want to inform Finnish residents that such a possibility of  having a worship service now exists six times a year in these different places. And if someone has a need to contact the minister – whether it be a discussion of pastoral care, baptisms, weddings or funerals – so they can now be handled from here.”

“The idea is to integrate the local Finns in the American Lutheran Church, rather than creating Finnish ghettoes here, where services are given only by Finnish pastors.”

Pastor Tarkki points out that this approach differs from the Swedish model, in which separate Swedish congregations are encouraged.

“In this sense, the Finnish model is really good. When there are no Finnish church services, the congregation is encouraged to attend the American Lutheran Church.”

What is amazing is that Tarkki does all this without any help – he doesn’t even have an assistant. So, this reporter encourages you all to give generously when the collection times comes. There is always need for extra this and that in the church.

Tarkki’s new Finnish congregation differs from his former Danish-American one.

“In Solvang, I did a lot of pastoral work over the phone. People called on all sorts of things. Some Finns will call as well, but the threshold for them to call is higher than for Americans. They are more used to it.”

Church plays a significantly larger role in American lives than it does in Finns’  lives.

“I don’t think there are big differences in terms of religiousness, but the social interaction is totally different here. Our American churches have a strong social function. Many younger people use them as dating venues. The church also has a networking task – reaching out to people. Americans move a lot. If you are a member of  the Lutheran church, by joining a new Lutheran congregation, you will instantly gain a network of a couple hundred people. Among them, there is almost certainly a person for every purpose, whether you need a lawyer or a doctor.”

Jarmo Tarkki says that church plays a large role in American lives.

In Finland, on the other hand, the church no longer plays a significant role in connecting people.

“In Finland, there is substantially less need for that. People move around less and they create their networks in other ways. When no one attends church, it is difficult to create any kind of a network.”

In some ways the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church can blame itself for becoming irrelevant. YLE 2 – a TV channel in Finland aired a gay-themed night in the fall of 2010. The Finnish panelists affiliated with the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church largely condemned homosexuality, causing tens of thousands of Finns to resign from the church within weeks of the broadcast. Jarmo Tarkki has dealt with the issue in his own church and former congregation.

“The U.S. Lutheran church made its decision three years ago. After all, it has ordained openly gay people as pastors for a long time. The burning question was: Can a person living in a homosexual relationship be ordained. It had previously been prohibited, but even that was permitted at that time three years ago.”

Tarkki agrees with the decision.

“In my opinion, the American Lutheran Church has acted in a fine way and set an example that this should now be followed elsewhere.”

The American Evangelical Lutheran Church was present at this year’s Gay Pride march in West Hollywood.

He says he has no problem presiding over same sex weddings.

“I could do it even today. It is a matter of state law. When California allowed same-sex marriages, I announced that if anyone should ask such a blessing, I’m willing to wed them and I do not see in any kind of problem in it.”

Tarkki extended his offer to his parish in Solvang, but in the rural community no such couples stepped forward. He had earlier held a series of discussions on the subject with his parishioners.

“There were some people who presented loud and strong views. Others are made equally strong views of an opposite opinion. We had agreed beforehand that this is a secure location to speak. Everyone has the right to express their views, but must also listen to others. We dealt with these things so much that when the  American Evangelical Lutheran Church finally made its decision, it was no longer a novelty.”

Tarkki criticizes the church as a whole on human rights.

“The church should always defend the human rights of those who are in need of defending. This includes all minorities, whether racial, religious, or of sexual orientation. We should now be in the world today where the Church has no right to discriminate. It is a shocking situation that a private employer cannot discriminate a person based on his or her sexual orientation, but the church can. It should be the other way around – the church should have led the way.”

Jarmo Tarkki thinks the church leaders in Finland are too timid on human rights as not to “rock the boat”.

“I once had a long person-to-person meeting at the Cathedral Chapter with the Helsinki Bishop Eero Huovinen. We talked about this. Bishop Huovinen thought, as many of the bishops think, that the bishop’s main role is to ensure that the church ship does not sway. I said to him, that it is difficult to rock the church boat, when it’s already half submerged!”

He says in Finland the church is known mainly for the things it opposes.

“The Church has distinguished itself by what it opposes, not by what it is for. That the Church opposes abortion, stores being open on Sundays – supposedly on the grounds that if the stores were open on Sunday mornings, people would not come to church. Well, they will not go there anyway! And then the gay debate. I think that people will form the impression that the Church always opposes something.”

Pastor Jarmo Tarkki criticizes the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church on being known mainly for what it opposes.

The immigrant pastors work sometimes takes Tarkki to unusual places and situations.

“I received word from a prison priest in Finland that I know. He said there is a Finnish inmate in a Las Vegas detention center – if I could visit him? Well, I flew to Vegas on my plane. It took a full day to arrange the half an hour meeting at the Clark County Jail with the detainee. He was visibly surprised and delighted that a Finnish pastor came to see him. It was an interesting meeting. I told him we can talk about anything he wants. That started the conversation. Now, this is exactly what I think the actual work of  Church should be.”

Then there was a rather unusual baptismal the pastor was sent to perform.

“I got a request from Ridgecrest to baptize the child of Finnish couple. Ridgecrest is located in Indian Wells Valley, the middle of a desert. Again, I flew there on my plane. The child’s father came to pick me up and was glad to know that the pastor comes from the sky. Then we went to his house. The mother’s parents were visiting from Finland. It turned out that the father is a Finnish Air Force engineer. He develops the F-18 fighter jet Hornet’s computer systems in the nearby China Lake Naval Air Station. We had a completely Finnish baptismal with hymns and all.”

Pastor Tarkki reminisces about unusual situations that his work sometimes gets him into.

There was also a very untraditional wedding that Jarmo Tarkki performed.

“A Finnish couple wanted to get married in San Diego. It was Saturday, and I had to fly there from Solvang. We had agreed that I’d be there that morning. But that day it was still foggy at noon, so I couldn’t take off. Finally at 1 pm the fog had lifted and I was able to get on the way, flying there over Catalina island. I had called the couple before taking off, telling them I was in a tight spot: I had a wedding rehearsal back in Solvang that same evening. I asked them to come to the airport, so I could marry them right there. They were very excited. So, I married them at the end of the runway and had the reception in a nearby private air terminal. Then I jumped on my plane and flew back to Solvang, just in time for the wedding rehearsal.”

Jarmo Tarkki and Dean Nelson, Bishop of the Southwest California Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America

Pastor Jarmo Tarkki will be officially sworn in as the minister of the Finnish congregation by Dean Nelson, Bishop of the Southwest California Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. The ceremony is set to take place in Santa Monica, California on October 21st, 2012.

See you at the worship services!

VICTORY – CONSULATE STAYS IN LA!

Reporter, pictures: Tomi Hinkkanen &  Jonny Kahleyn

Last October the Foreign Ministry of Finland announced plans to shut down the Consulate General of  Finland in Los Angeles and move its operations to Silicon Valley.

Consul General Kirsti Westphalen at her Bel Air residence during an independence ball.

Finntimes mounted a vigorous campaign to keep the consulate in L.A. where we feel it rightfully belongs. Our readers really stepped up to support this cause. In a couple of months, 641 of you signed our on-line petition. An additional 142 signed the petition at the Scandinavian Film Festival in Beverly Hills. That’s 783 signatures in total. They were delivered to the deciders in Finland, including the President, Prime Minister and Foreign Minister.

Film director Renny Harlin signing the Finntimes petition to save the Consulate General of Finland in Los Angeles at the Scandinavian Film Festival in Beverly Hills.

Now our efforts have yielded results. The Foreign Ministry has revised their plans and made the absolutely right decision to keep the Consulate General of Finland in Los Angeles after all. We have won!

Consul General of Finland in Los Angeles Kirsti Westphalen

Consul General of Finland in Los Angeles, Kirsti Westphalen, has worked tirelessly to secure this monumental decision. She spoke exclusively to Finntimes right before the decision was made public.

What was decided about the future of the Consulate General of Finland in Los Angeles?

“Well, I’m happy to tell you that the Consulate General of Finland will continue its operations in Los Angeles, but with a reduced budget. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as other actors in Finland continue to be under tremendous economic pressures. The Ministry reviewed the issue in light of the cost benefit that might have been accrued from moving our Consulate General to the joint premises that we have in Silicon Valley. But as it turned out, the savings were not as substantial as were previously thought. The prices in Silicon Valley have turned out to be exorbitant. This was one of the factors. We will be able to achieve savings and at the same time retain and keep the core functions of the Consulate General – servicing the Finns, who are entitled to consular services.”

Between 7,000 and 9,500 Finns  live in the 13 western states that the consulate serves. Many of them reside in SoCal.

L.A. Finns celebrating Juhannus – midsummer – at the Finnish club in North Hollywood.

What will be cut from the budget?

“The major savings will come from our rent costs. Currently the Consulate General occupies an office in Century City. We will be looking at cheaper alternatives, which will not be too far from the current location. We are aiming to relocate in the 405-corridor in West L.A.. Substantial savings can be achieved this way. We also have to cut from our operating expenditure, but in such a way that we still hope to be able to retain our core functions to be of service to Finnish citizens and public diplomacy work on education and clean, sustainable solutions, including the support to creative Finns in Los Angeles.”

Kristian Jokinen is the clean tech expert at the Consulate General of Finland in Los Angeles.

So, you will not cut any personnel?

“We will be able to maintain the personnel that we have at the moment. We are under staffed as it is and people are working very hard. We are eight persons altogether.”

One major event had to be cut from the Consulate General’s social calendar, though:

“Already this year we will be very careful with our budget. Thus, this year we will not be holding the traditional Independence Day Party at the residence. We want to put our budget into activities that directly contribute to the success of Finland here in the U.S.. I hope that in the years to come, when the budgetary situation will be better, we will be able to get together to celebrate the independence of Finland with a party at the residence. This year, however, there are plenty of opportunities to celebrate independence in the Bay Area, here in Los Angeles and in San Diego, where local Finns are planning independence day celebrations.”

Who made this decision?

“All these very painful decisions were reviewed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs along with very highest of our decision makers, including the President of the Republic.”

Even though Los Angeles was saved, some other representations have to be shut down.

“Consulate General of Hamburg, Germany and Consulate in Sydney, Australia will be closed during 2013 and our mission at the Organization of  Security and Co-operation in Europe, OSCE, will be merged with the Finnish Embassy in Vienna. So, this is an ongoing process. These are in addition to closures that have been announced already earlier.”

Finntimes publisher Tomi Hinkkanen promoting the petition to save the Consulate General of Finland in L.A. at the Scandinavian Film Festival in Beverly Hills.

Do you think that the petition on Finntimes played any role in saving the Consulate General of Finland in Los Angeles?

“I am sure it played a very important role. It was duly noted that the support of the Finnish community on the U.S. West Coast was strongly in favor of maintaining activities of the Consulate General of Los Angeles. It had an important role, as the decision was being reviewed. That in the addition to the fact that the government decided earlier on this year in the so-called “Team Finland Report”, where we are trying to reinforce the activities of Finnish missions abroad, that one must have a strong Finnish presence here in the  U.S.  West Coast.”

Kirsti Westphalen wants to personally thank our readers.

“My personal thanks goes to you, your readers, Finntimes and your article and petition on retaining  the consulate here in Los Angeles.”

Virpi Sidler of FACC and Kirsti Westphalen at the Finnish Community Roundtable event at the Consul General’s residence in Bel Air.

And Finntimes and myself want to thank Consul General Kirsti Westphalen for playing a key role in successfully defending the Consulate General of  Finland in Los Angeles. As the icing on today’s victory cake, Ms. Westphalen will stay on an extra year in L.A., until the Summer of 2013. And a million thanks to all you readers, who signed our petition and made this happy outcome possible.

Consul General Kirsti Westphalen by Jonny Kahleyn

Thank you, Consul General Kirsti Westphalen for saving our consulate!

Links: 

SAVE THE CONSULATE GENERAL OF LOS ANGELES

CONSULATE GENERAL OF FINLAND IN LOS ANGELES

THE HARTIKAINEN FAMILY STORY

Story, pictures: Lena Hartikainen – West Palm Beach, FL

The Hartikainen family - from the left: Nico, Seppo, Lena and Robert

It was May 1999  in  Helsinki. My husband, Seppo Hartikainen came to me and asked, “If I was to be offered a job in America, would you go with me? Spontaneously I replied: “Sure as long as it is not Florida!

Lo and behold, its now 2012 and I’m writing this, out of all places, in Florida. But back to 1999.  My husband is a Lutheran pastor and in August 1999 he was offered a  job to serve at the Finnish Lutheran Church in Seattle,WA.  We though it would be a nice one-to-three-year experience. Our sons, Nico “the drummer” was 12 and Robert a first grader. We are still on that same trip.

The Hartikainens settled in a Seattle suburb called Edmonds, purchasing a fixer-upper there.

When our good friend in Portland, Oregon heard that we are moving to Seattle, he predicted it will take us exactly five minutes to get used it. It proved out to be true. Naturally, the fact that we had both spend quite a bit of time in Vancouver, British Colombia, Canada, which is literally next-door, helped, as we had many friends in the Pacific North West region already.

We loved every minute of the seven and a half years that we lived there, except the traffic. My worst traffic experience was on Monday after Thanksgiving in 2006, when I got stuck on the freeway for nine hours in an ice and snowstorm!

The first years were a bit of a struggle financially for us, as it took longer than we expected to get work permit for me. So I spent the first two years renovating an old house built in the 1950’s . For a city girl from Helsinki, who has never even held a hammer in her hand, I have to say I did pretty good job. I learned how to paint, sand hardwood floors, build drywalls, lay tiles and you name it.

Lena renovated the Hartikainen family home by herself.

I loved every corner of that old house. It was a house with an unfinished basement, which we totally finished adding some 1, 000 square feet of  living space. Eventually we even added a sauna. The house was located in the suburbs of Seattle in a little town called Ed